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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?!



Chapter Text

Twenty-eight hours after the USS Enterprise had escaped a singularity after battling the Nerada.

Scotty groaned when he sat down in the conference room chair. Kirk had called him up from Engineering for a status update with the other department heads.

This meeting honestly might be the first time he’d had a moment to sit down since he had first beamed aboard the Enterprise yesterday. Scotty couldn't remember. He had been on his feet for the last thirty or so hours.

Scotty was in love with this ship.

He knew deep down in his bones that this is where he was supposed to be in the universe. The Enterprise was the best ship in the fleet. Even though it was literally nearly falling apart at the seams and it was only his team’s skills, hard work and liberal use of creative solutions preventing the ship's complete destruction.

Since Scotty had beamed on board, it had been one thing after another. The Enterprise had lost many of her systems in the initial attacks by the Nerada. The ship had lost even more systems as they were being sucked into a singularly. When they jettisoned the warp core, that took out most of the remaining nonessential systems and a couple of the essential ones with it.  

They had lost a lot of power. With that loss of power came a loss of systems.

Luckily the life support systems were on four different redundancies that even with the loss of three power sources they still had breathable air and food.

Among the systems lost during the whole event and its aftermath was the schematics database.

That had been lost sometime during the whole fiasco, though probably not when they lost the warp core. Scotty had many days spent on that ice rock that dared to call itself a Starfleet base, dreaming about the new constellation class ships and reading (and maybe memorizing the stats of) the schematics (-who could blame him for dreaming when the constellation class looked that amazing?), so he had some idea of what was going on in the systems.

But thoroughly memorizing blueprints and schematics of a ship he had never even put hands on was even too much for him. So, for the most part, he, or any member of his new team, did not have a definite clue of what they were working on. Most of the crew was as new to Constellation-class ships as the ship was to them. Not many people had experience with them. Not yet anyway. Fixing the schematics database was the first step to fixing ship. After they stopped all of the physical fires - and most of the metaphorical ones.

Kirk had called this meeting of the department heads to start to get a full understanding of where the ship was, and how it was doing since they were no longer in the “Oh shit, we’re still on fire” mode.

Now the ship was firmly in the “Oh shit, damage control on everything. We are going to survive, by sheer determination and duct tape” mode. The senior crew and the leadership could take stock of what had happened on the ship and make plans.

Scotty brought with him a padd full of information; mostly lists and status report from his department. His new department’s muster reports were included – the records of the confirmed dead, missing, who was accounted for and where they were working or if they were in med bay. He had the damage report from all of the engineering decks and all of the engines. Many of his people lost berthing quarters, so they had nowhere to sleep, and many had lost uniforms and personal gear, so Scotty had a list of that too. Kirk also had comm'd Scotty to ask for the account of when the replicators would be up. Scotty had a full diagnostic of them too; replicators hadn't changed no matter what ship they were in.

He had more of the same lists from departments which did not usually fall under the Chief Engineering Officer’s direct command, but they had lost their department heads during the fighting and he was next in the chain of command: damage control, quartermasters, fabrications, and general repair.

He also had an itemized list of what they could do, what they needed to do once they got the schematics, what was useless but still on the ship, what could be cannibalized, what had to be jury-rigged, what had to be fabricated, what was a total loss, and what could be ignored as it was non-mission essential. He had the much smaller list of maintenance actions for what he could do and how to start it. But he couldn’t do much without the schematics.

He knew that every person here would have similar information on the pads in front of them.

Scotty looked around the room. He knew on a typical day, the table would be filled, each chair holding a department head or a chief officer.

Today the room was half full, at best. There was medical department head, a haggard doctor, about the same age as Scotty, with stress lines on his face still dressed in blue medical scrubs with faint traces of blood on them sleeping in the chair across from him; he looked as exhausted as Scotty felt. They were just as tired. Both of them were saving lives. The doctor was just doing it more directly.

Next to the doctor was a very tired looking teenager. He wore command gold. He kept staring at a padd and mumming in another language that Scotty thought was Russian but wasn’t fully sure. Scotty recognized the voice; it was the kid from the bridge. The one with the idea about hiding in Saturn's rings. The teen had been the one who was talking to Scotty about the navigation console about an hour previous. He was one of the ones Scotty had enlisted to fix their own stations because they had some skills with engineering. Scotty honestly didn’t remember the teen’s name after being awake for so long, but he did excellent work.

The science department heads, ordinarily at least ten of them now just down to four, were talking amongst themselves. They looked shell-shocked and shaken. But all of them had a determined look on their faces. They were going to survive and fight for that survival. Scotty appreciated the determination. He would need them to use it.

The ship had lost several science labs in the attack but none rest of them had been damaged structurally. Now that the physical fires were out, Scotty would need to make notes and work with the department heads to get the remaining labs fixed. The labs might not get back up and running any time soon; even if Scotty fixed everything possible, they were missing the core and most of the power that it generated.  

Kirk came into the room flanked by three others; one Vulcan in blue, one Asian man in gold, and an absolutely beautiful woman in red. All four of them looked exhausted.

The Vulcan in science blue, Spock, Scotty’s exhausted mind supplied him, sat in the seat next to the chair at the head of the table. Scotty was glad for the confirmation that Spock was still the XO, despite the fight Scotty had watched during the first ten minutes he had been on the ship between him and Kirk. Scotty was glad that he had gotten Spock off of the Old - Future Ambassador - Vulcan’s ship.  

The Asian man in command gold sat next to what was left of the science team. Scotty had worked with the Helmsman on figuring out how much power they had and what they needed to get back to Earth Spacedock. Scotty realised they had never exchanged names.

The black woman in operations red sat next to Spock. Scotty hadn’t met her yet. He recognized her as part of the crew that was on the bridge when he beamed aboard and from the few times he had been on the bridge since then. But while he thought she was from communications, he wasn’t sure.

The doctor across from Scotty woke up as two of the three settled down into their chairs.

Kirk stood behind his chair at the head of the table, but didn’t sit down. He glanced around the room, counting heads; once satisfied, he nodded.

“Afternoon everyone. Or night, I’m not actually sure what shift or time this is...” Kirk started, looking around. He looked like he hadn’t slept in days. He had bags under his eyes and a weary look on his face but he was still standing upright which was more than most of the crew could say, Scotty included. But there was a tension in his shoulders that Scotty understood. Scotty supposed that the Captain wasn’t letting himself show any weakness.

“It is officially Beta shift, Captain,” Spock spoke up from where he was sitting next to Kirk.

Kirk nodded. “Beta shift then, good to know. I want everyone to send Bones -Doctor McCoy -the lists of the dead and the list of the missing and unaccounted for. I want to see if we can get some of the people in medical assigned a name,” he said, reaching for his own padd. Scotty assumed he was emailing the doctor his own lists. The Doctor, apparently McCoy (Or Bones? Scotty wondered about the name for a moment as he sent the information to him), nodded as he received each list. After a moment of review, he said, “I got them all Jim. Let me go first?”

“Sure,” Kirk said, finally sitting. He didn’t collapse into the chair like nearly everyone Scotty had seen. He was still controlled even as he sat down - probably for the first time in hours, “Let’s go.”

McCoy sat up straighter and frowned at them seriously. “I’m going to be blunt. The bad news is that both med bay and the morgue are nearly full. The full lists of the dead will be available to you guys later today. Or tomorrow, if its Beta shift. If something else goes wrong, I’ll need more room to treat any more casualties. We’re already using the overflow in the main chow hall.” He took a moment to let that sink in for the rest of the department heads.

“On the positive side though,” McCoy said, picked up his padd again, “We will be releasing the walking wounded who can still work soon. They’ll have limited capacities, but the manpower is important for every department. We will be keeping a few of them who have some medical training. As much as you need their skills, so do we.”

Spock nodded, glancing at Kirk, who gestured for him to say whatever he was going to say. When did they become so in sync? Scotty wondered. Just over a day ago, they had been ready to tear each other’s throats out.  

“We are fine with you keeping some of them to help, Doctor. Please release them once you no longer have a need for them.” Spock said. McCoy nodded sharply, frowning lightly like he wanted to argue but he didn’t open his mouth to say more.

Kirk cut in, “And take the main rec room as more overflow if something goes wrong. If that happens, I don’t think we’ll need to use the space.” He eyed both Spock and McCoy as he said this. McCoy nodded, and Spock merely didn’t say anything, he simply raised an eyebrow.

There was some tension between McCoy and Spock that Scotty wasn’t going to poke at. At Kirk’s quick look between the two men in blue, it was clear that Kirk was going to poke at that tension with the sharpest stick he had when he found a chance. Scotty wished him luck.

“What’s the status of Captain Pike?” the helmsman asked. He also looked exhausted. But he looked at McCoy with a gaze that had steel in it. If Scotty believed the rumors that his crew had been telling each other as they worked, then on the mission that had killed the previous Chief Engineering Officer, the helmsman had volunteered to jump out of a shuttle craft and fight to save Vulcan on the space drill the Narada had used.

The question drew a tired but satisfied smile from McCoy. “He’s stable. But he won’t wake up for a while. We’re keeping him under right now, to help prevent infection. Let the crew know that he’s stable.”

Everyone at the table nodded. The crew would be relieved to hear of Pike’s status. He was well-liked as a captain even if they didn’t serve under him for long.  Or in Scotty’s case at all. But Scotty knew his team would be happy to hear positive news.

Kirk still redirected the meeting to the next department, one of the science departments. The tall, thick, and orange alien-human mix immediately launched into the damage reports for her labs and the deck they resided on as well as two other department’s statuses.

Scotty made notes as the meeting went along. His padd was filled with things like where there was damage that he didn’t know about, if they could fix it with what was available and unbroken on board, if a repair had been attempted by someone else and if Scotty should send a person up there (or down there) to verify if the repair would hold.

He took notes on the navigation systems, on the helm, on the environmental controls, on the replicators. Every part of the ship had some damage and needed some repair. Most of the repair work would be done by the department who owned the instrument itself, but some of the damage was so great that it needed Scotty’s team to make it work again.

It wasn’t until near the end of the meeting, when Kirk called for the communications department head to speak, that Scotty really looked up from his padd again.

The woman stood up and started to talk about what of her systems were still working and what was half working and what she needed them to avoid using for a while.

Scotty wrote the information down; he had to work with the communication department for some of the systems that tied into the engineering systems. According to the communications officer, they had limited external communications. Those systems, along with ones from medical, used a separate dilithium crystal as a primary power source than the rest of the ship, and the impulse engines used the same dilithium crystal as a secondary power source.  

The woman, Uhura Kirk had called her, said, “The 1MC, the ship-wide broadcast system, will be down until we can get repairs done to the main switchboard, some of the parts fried out and we need someone from Engineering to come and see if they can fabricate it. If you need to contact anyone, it would be best to send runners.” She was reading from her padd. Scotty suspected there as a long list of systems down and things to do on it, just like his.

But, while all of Uhura's speech was important, what Scotty honestly cared about was the information about what was wrong  with the 1MC. The ship needed the internal communications. Having the 1MC down for an extended period of time was dangerous. The lack of internal communication could have deadly consequences, if left unchecked. If Scotty had to shut down power to a location or there was a serious breach in the hull, or even if one of the fires had a reflash and started again, the 1MC was the best and often only way to let the whole crew know of the danger.

The Enterprise was damaged, so to fix the ship and prevent any more injury or death of the crew, Scotty needed to know what was wrong with the system.

“Do you know what needs fabrication on the 1MC? Is it a few things or is this a large project?” Scotty asked, switching the tabs on his padd to a list titled ‘to fabricate.’ He would get the framers to build and fabricate the missing pieces. Normally that wouldn’t be the Chief Engineering Officer’s job to set up the project, but the person in charge of the team was now dead, and Scotty was the next person up in the chain of command.

Scotty realized, a moment too late, that he was asking for more information than the communication’s officer might be able to provide. On his last ship, before he was sent to the hellhole that was Delta Vega, the Chief Communications Officer hated when Scotty asked him the technical questions. That officer didn’t have much idea about the technical repairs. All he could do was troubleshoot and then call for the techs if the system needed it.

“For the main circuit console Station One, we'll need circuit card 1, 4, and 7. For main circuit console Station Two in Engineering and Three in Axillary Control, we'll need most of the cards." She paused, frowning down at her padd.  "And then there are several cards which survived more or less intact but have damaged components like the logic boards and serval diodes. We’ve replaced as many resistors and capacitors as we can, but we really need a tech out to rebuild some of them.” Uhura said, reading off her list.

Scotty paused in writing his list. She didn’t seem angry that Scotty asked his questions. She didn’t even seem to notice.

Scotty looked up and raised both of his eyebrows. That was also a lot of information. More than the officer from the last ship he had been on would have given. More hard data than what most of the Communication Officers he had ever met would have been able to provide. This communications officer knew and understood her system. In Scotty’s experience that was a rarity. The fact Uhura was confident enough in the basic electronics repairs to have her team do them was astounding. Scotty was interested enough in Uhura's knowledge to forget himself and lose himself in the conversation.

“How do you know the correct loads for the resistors and capacitors? We have insufficient access to the schematics database,” Scotty asked. He had to know. If they had been doing the repairs to the communications circuit boards wrong, then it would cause more problems than it would solve. But if they had access to the schematics, then he would love to see that too.  

“The switchboard for Station One is one of the schematics we can access," Uhura said, closing her eyes and concentrating, “Numbers Two and Three, not so much, so we aren’t working on that until I can see and verify the loads. I remember them being different but I don’t know the numbers off the top of my head. I was busy that week in the academy with a short-range Subspace Interference Translation exam.” Uhura said waving a hand in the air to push away Scotty’s concerns. Her hand was covered in dirt and grease, much like his own, and, if Scotty wasn’t mistaken, her sleeve was splattered with solder and marks from electrical burns from livewire repairs.

Scotty paid more attention to the officer before him than he had before. He had to know this woman and understand her way of thinking. He  looked up totally from his padd to meet her eyes. She had been doing the repairs herself. Uhura was acting as the Chief Communications Officer. She was busy, and she was still doing the repairs herself. Scotty liked that. It showed capabilities that Scotty respected.

There was a look in her eyes that screamed undeniable confidence.

And something in Scotty’s heart was stolen by a fierce look and an intelligent mind.

“If the cards are repaired, how long will it be before we have internal comms in the ship again?” Kirk interrupted. He looked between them both. Scotty jumped slightly, he had almost forgotten there were other people in the room. Uhura didn’t seemed phased by Kirk's interruption. She glanced at Kirk and placed a hand on her padd, scrolling through the information.

Uhura frowned slightly down at the padd before answering. “Within twenty-four hours of the systems being fully back online. However, until we can get the schematics for the 1MC's Stations Two and Three, we don’t know if that will be possible until we get back to Earth Space Dock.” She said looking back up to her Captain.

Scotty agreed, ignoring how he knew that his heart was going to try to hand itself over to the woman just a few seats down from him. “If the schematics are good and the damage isn’t too bad, then my team will be able to work on it soon. The comms is a priority system.”

Kirk nodded in understanding. “Okay, then. We’ll work on that first. Anyone have anything else?” he asked the room at large. There was a general shaking of heads and mummers of the negative. “Alright, if you have anything that needs addressing right now: do it. If you need to talk to Spock or me, find us. Bones, I’ll need to talk to you about medical soon. Alright, dismissed.”

There was a shuffling as people stood up to leave. Scotty stalled as he stood up, partly to stretch and partly because he wanted to catch Uhura and talk more. Maybe about the systems, perhaps not. Scotty wanted to find out more about her.

But Uhura walked up to Spock, and they left together. Scotty watched with a sinking heart as Spock instigated a brush of their hands. Scotty didn’t know much about Vulcans, but he did know they took touch very seriously. That it was usually a sign of family or a relationship.

Scotty might have fallen for someone who would not be interested in dating him.

Because she already had someone else.

“Yes, Mr. Scott. They are dating,” came a voice from behind him. Scotty turned around to see Mr. Sulu, the Helmsman as Scotty had learned, also stalling and saying behind, Scotty knew most of Mr. Sulu’s problems arose from lack of the warp core and some of the impulse engines. Scotty had found the man to be capable and knowledgeable about his systems.

Apparently he also was very observant.

Scotty didn’t bother to hide the surprise on his face when he replied, “Please, its Scotty. How did you…?” He trailed off, not knowing entirely what he wanted to say.

Mr. Sulu laughed lightly. It wasn’t a cruel laugh, but more of a huff of surprised laughter. “Scotty, it was written all over your face. You’re lucky she didn’t see it, Uhura seems to be one of the best communicators that I’ve ever seen.”

Scotty hid a wince. He was glad then that his body language didn’t give him away. He chalked it up to their exhaustion that she didn’t see the moment when his heart had tried to hand itself to her.

“That obvious?” Scotty asked.

Sulu shook his head. “Not right now. But I think she’ll be able to tell once she’s slept more than an hour.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Scotty smiled, despite the way he felt his heart break. He had a feeling it was wobbly or a little flat. He took a deep breath, making a decision,  “If she’s happy, then I won’t bother her. Don’t mention it please?” He reached down and picked up his padd.

Sulu smiled back. “Don’t worry. I won’t.” They walked out of the room together.

Scotty had the ship to worry about right now. He could deal with the fact he had fallen in love with more than just the ship. He would need a drink after this all though.

If he payed more attention to the communication systems after that….

Well, that was Scotty’s problem. No one else’s.

-

Four months after the USS Enterprise left Earth Space Dock after repairs from the Nerada Incident.

If someone had told Jim that he would be the Captain of a ship that was as beautiful as the Enterprise was a year ago, he would have laughed. This wasn’t in his game plan when he promised Pike that he would graduate in three years. He had honestly thought he would be stationed on a ship and he would have to work his way up the ranks.

And learn to lead a ship. One rank at a time.

But now Jim had a ship, and he was still trying to figure out how to lead it.

Sure, some parts of the whole process of becoming the Captain were more natural than others. Jim had the motivating people thing down pat; most of his crew liked him, and morale was high. He understood why the paperwork existed even if he didn’t really like it.

He followed the whole final decision on how the ship allocated its time and power for things. Telling Scotty that he couldn’t power up the shields beyond standard levels for output tests that day because the Xenobiology Labs needed their super mass spectrometer to work at the same time as Communications were working on the long-range array was not exactly fun, but it was something that was necessary.

He understood all of that. Jim was starting to think he was good at it, on the day to day stuff that came with being a Captain at least.

But sometimes he wished he’d had more time in the Fleet, working his way up in the chain of command, if only to get some fellow Captains off of his back.

Like right now for instance.

“Captain Le’nooi,” Jim said to the main screen on the bridge, frustrated, and trying not to show it, “I do not understand your hesitance. These are orders from Starfleet. Non negotiable orders from Starfleet.”

Le’nooi, a Tellurite who did not like Jim and had been fighting him even more than a Tellurite would typically, frowned condescendingly down at him. “I am questioning your ability to lead, Kirk. Not the orders from Starfleet. You are a child when it comes to matters of leadership.” Jim ignored the way his entire crew stiffened. They were as protective of Jim as Jim was of them.

Jim had had enough of Le’nooi’s attitude. It was time for a change in tactics. “And I doubt your ability to follow orders that came from the Federation. Now, are you coming or not?” Jim challenged. They had been arguing for the last half hour, and Jim had tried every trick in the book to get Le’nooi to stop fighting. But the Tellurite wasn’t budging.

Le’nooi had made it clear from the moment the orders came in from Starfleet that he was unhappy with Starfleet’s choice. He had questioned the orders that the Enterprise was going to the be ship in charge of the delegation to the planet that just joined the Federation. Le’nooi had argued with the Admiralty and with the Enterprise, that his experience should have made him the lead ship.

Le’nooi had told Jim and Spock the first time they had spoken over the subspace channels that he didn’t think they should be leading the delegation. Le’nooi made it perfectly clear in that first comm call that he should have been in charge.

He had been fighting Jim the entire time since.

“I do not think I should take orders from you!” Le’nooi said. Jim could see the Intrepid crew in the background of the call, and they didn’t look happy to see their Captain arguing again.

Jim felt his temper snap. He was done with trying to play Mr. Nice Captain.

“Captain Le’nooi,” Jim said hotly, disdain in his tone when he said Le’nooi’s title, “to be at the reception on time, we need to leave in the next two hours. The Enterprise is the flagship, which means I, whether you like it or not, am in charge. I’ll give you an hour to prepare for departure. But after that hour, the Intrepid is coming with the Enterprise, or you can explain to Starfleet why your ship missed movement and wasn’t at the reception on Kalindi.” Jim paused and took a deep breath. He had to do this right, or he would be dealing with this shit for the rest of his career.

He let his voice take a light tone that completely belayed the look of death that he was giving the Captain of the Intrepid. “Or the other option is to place your ship into a tractor beam and lead you there ourselves. Then all of the Federation will know that you failed to listen to orders.” Jim let the threat hang in the air.

Le’nooi stared at him for a heartbeat. “You are bluffing.” He didn’t seem to believe Jim would actually follow through with the threat.

Jim was honestly looking forward to letting Scotty test the new capacities of the tractor beams. Scotty had been telling Jim about the further improvements for the last week. But they haven't had the time needed to test out the improvements thoroughly. By the look of glee, the Beta shift Bridge Engineering Officer, Gaila, was giving him, so was the rest of the crew.

Le'nooi could see Gaila from the viewport. Her expression wasn't one to miss.

“Am I?” Jim said with a grin that was becoming common enough that the sight of it was starting to make most of his crew slightly worried about his next course of action. But the crew of the Intrepid had no idea what was in store for them if their Captain refused to go with the Enterprise. “Be ready in an hour or be prepared to either be dragged to the reception or tell Starfleet why you felt their orders weren’t good enough to be listened to. Kirk out.”

The Beta shift Communications Officer, a tall, slender human, cut the feed the moment Jim finished. She had hit the switches to shut off the video feed with more force than was necessary.

“Well that is one piece of work, huh Captain,” the Helmsman said. They were deep into the Beta shift when the Enterprise had come alongside the Intrepid, so Jim was the only one from the Alpha shift on the bridge.

“Indeed,” Jim sighed. He turned to the bridge, “Good work everyone. You all did very well remaining professional.” He looked around and saw some of the tension that had built up during the conversation – argument, his mind corrected – with Le’nooi fade. His crew started to smile, and discussions began again.

His Beta shift Environmental Engineer and the Bridge Engineer started up a debate that Jim would have joined in a second if he didn’t have to find Spock and tell him that Le’nooi was being a problem.

And also inform him of Jim's threat.

Jim had promised to tell Spock if Le’nooi became a problem. And by the way the last half hour had gone, Le’nooi was going to be a problem.

“Lieutenant, you have the conn for the next hour or so. I’ll be back to make sure he’s on the same page as us.” Jim told the Beta shift Duty Officer.

The small woman nodded, giving the captain a small smile, “I’ll comm you if there is a problem from now until then, sir.” She settled into the Captain’s chair. "I'll also inform the engineering team that they might need to be ready to have some fun."

Jim smiled back, "Please do," and left the bridge. In the turbo lift, he pulled out his padd and looked up the location of Spock.

According to the computer, Spock was in his rooms. Great. Maybe Jim could get a chess game to calm down from that argument.

Since leaving Earth Space Dock four months ago, Jim had come to rely on Spock’s advice, even if he didn’t always follow it. They worked well together. Somehow in the aftermath of the Nerada attack and Spock staying with Starfleet, they had gelled as a team.

They were still learning the limits of that team, but for the day to day ship stuff, Jim liked to think they were beginning to get it down.

Jim started to sit with Spock during breakfasts. Spock was always there in the mornings, and Jim somehow changed his schedule from still sleeping at breakfast times to being awake, unable to go back to sleep - and hungry. Uhura, despite being all-around terrifying and incredible, did not wake up early apparently - and Bones never would wake up earlier than half an hour before his shift, and without coffee Jim just avoided him.

In the end, Jim had sat next to Spock because Jim just couldn’t let Spock sit there and eat alone.

They had started off just talking about ship’s business. Jim was asking how to do administrative things that the Captain had to do, and asking about what was going on in the labs. Then it transformed to what they were planning on doing after work; Spock mostly spent time with Uhura or worked in a lab. His idea of fun significantly differed from Jim’s. Jim spent a lot of time reading, helping Scotty, or talking with Bones.

Spock had been surprised to find that, while Jim had spent most of his time in Command courses, he also had a talent for Engineering that Jim was only slightly disappointed that he would never really use. Jim had seen that surprise and grinned.

He liked surprising everyone he knew.

Somehow those breakfasts had become the highlight of Jim’s day, and he didn’t know why.

Just that morning they had started talking about games and strategy. Jim’s discovery that Spock liked and played chess was a great one.

Now Jim had more reasons to spend with Spock.

Jim buzzed for entry at Spock's door. “Hey Spock, it's Jim.” He said as a greeting.

Spock answered the door, and Jim had to smile at the Vulcan robe that Spock wore.

“Yes, Captain? Is there something wrong?” Spock asked. The room behind him was darkened but not entirely dark. There was the delicious scent of aromatic African food in the air. But Jim wasn’t sure what the meal was. He assumed that Spock was eating dinner before mediating.

Spock seemed at ease, and Jim was glad. Spock often seemed to be too tense and stiff. Jim would generally chalk that up to differences between humans and Vulcans, but he’d seen Spock relaxed before. Sometimes it was in the mornings when he and Jim got into a debate about something stupid. Sometimes it was after lunch (when Jim had made sure to place Spock and Uhura on the same meal). So, he knew being able to relax was something that Spock could do.

Jim was just always glad that Spock could let himself relax on the Enterprise.

“Kind of. Le’nooi is still fighting me, and the orders were given by Starfleet. He’s refusing to come if I’m leading this whole mission.” Jim told Spock. He leaned against the doorway, making no move to go in. If Spock wanted him inside the quarters, Jim would have already been invited in.

Spock frowned. “He knows he should not fight the orders.”

“I know right? Anyway, I’ve given him an hour to get his ship ready for departure or be towed against their will - or be ready to tell Starfleet why the Intrepid isn’t at the reception.”

Spock closed his eyes and thought for a moment, “If Captain Le’nooi doesn’t come with us then we should tow him. If he makes his way to the reception alone, then the Kalindi will not let him in. The invitation is for the Enterprise and one other ship. The only thing the Kalindi specified is the presence of the Enterprise.” Spock opened his eyes, and Jim was struck once again with how brown and expressive they were. Jim liked how he could read what Spock was thinking about in them.

“Le’nooi is a fool if he thinks he can get away with this power play.” Uhura’s voice came from behind Spock. “It’ll just make Starfleet and the Kalindi angry.” She peeked around him and waved at Jim.

Jim felt his heart sink.

She wasn’t wearing a uniform. Uhura was wearing a lovely dress, a dress that was meant for dates. And if Uhura was wearing a date dress and Spock was out of uniform and in Vulcan robes, then they were apparently on a date.

Jim had totally interrupted a date, hadn’t he?

Jim pushed the thought that he was hugely disappointed away. There wouldn’t be any chess tonight, after all.

“Hello, Uhura! I didn’t know you were there.” Jim said. He felt bad. It was a supreme dick move to interrupt dates. And Jim was not one to do that to a friend. Let alone, two friends.

Uhura smiled and waved him off. Something about the last four months had changed her opinion of him. Jim was relieved. He had been a bit of dick before while in the Academy, but he was genuinely trying to lead the ship well. He had his reasons to act like that anyway.

Between studying his ass off to graduate a year early, dealing with professors who loved him solely because of who his father was, dealing with professors who hated him solely because of who his father was, and dealing with the students who thought he didn’t deserve to be there, Jim did have his hands full proving them wrong. And yes, maybe it was stupid looking back, but one of the ways he dealt with them was being over the top when it came to flirting. Jim did realize at the time that made him look like an asshole to people who didn’t like that, but he hadn’t cared.

Uhura was one of those people who didn’t like assholes who flirted with everyone. Not surprising that she preferred Spock over Jim.

Jim also preferred Spock. So he didn’t blame her.

Of course, now that Jim was no longer flirting with Uhura with any real sense of desire probably helped their relationship. Uhura was a remarkable person on his crew and now she was his friend.

Spock was also his friend. And Uhura was essential to Spock.

“I do not see how this is a power play, Nyota,” Spock said looking down at his girlfriend. He seemed puzzled. “There is no way for him to come above in the situation. That is the point of the powerplay, is it not?”

Jim remembered that Spock was the son of a Very Important Ambassador (and if old Spock's vague hints were a thing that might come true: might be one himself someday). Spock would be identify power plays and other political maneuvers. Even if he wasn’t going be an ambassador, Spock was a scary efficient student. He had spent far to long with his father not to pick up something .

“I didn’t say it was a good power play,” Uhura said, smirking up at Spock. Jim could see the warmth in Spock’s eyes when he looked down at her.

And something settled into the pit of Jim’s stomach that made Jim internally flinch and pull up a small frown to hide his real emotions. He would deal with it later - he had a ship to run.

“I don’t think it is either,” he said, bringing both of their attentions back to him. “Which is why I want you, Spock, on the Bridge in an hour. I think I’ll need the back-up if I have to convince him, or back-up to send the message to Starfleet if he doesn’t come.”

Spock nodded. “I will be on the Bridge.”

Uhura agreed with him. “I’ll be up there too, Kirk. You might need someone who speaks Tellurite,” she said, grinning in a way that said she was looking forward to a challenge.

“Oh yes, a good point,” Jim said. He took a step back from the doorway. “Sorry for interrupting your guys’ date, Next time, Spock, Uhura, just place that you’re on a date on the comm. I’ll avoid bothering you if I can.”

He turned and waved at them both. “I will,” Spock said before Jim heard Uhura’s soft laughter, and a softer, “Have a good night Kirk, see you in an hour.”

Jim heard the door slide shut; Jim walked to his quarters, opened his door, and went straight to collapse on his bed. He laid there for a moment before he turned over and stared up at the ceiling.

Why didn’t he see it before?

Jim was usually honest with himself about what he felt. He might not be honest with everyone else, but he never liked to lie to himself. That way only led to madness.

Jim was almost desperate for Spock’s attention. He craved it. Jim relished any time those eyes were on him. He always went for Spock's advice, whether or not he was actually planning on taking it. He enjoyed the dry humor that Spock had.

The breakfasts in the morning were the best part of his day because he saw Spock. Their conversations were notable because he wanted to know more about Spock. It was more than just team building and making sure the Enterprise was working her best.

He wanted to play chess for the challenge and... for having Spock to himself. Even it it was for a short period of time.

Jim loved Spock.

He loved the way Spock talked, acted, worked, spoke down to Jim, spoke up to Jim. He loved the way Spock’s eyes would light up if he spoke of what the labs were doing that day or how he mentored some of the junior science officers. Jim loved the quiet way Spock could support Jim. Without saying a word, Spock could tell Jim that he was making the right choice.

Jim loved him, and he hadn’t seen it before.

How the hell didn’t he see it? Jim looked back at all the interactions he had with Spock. He felt like it was apparent that Jim was quickly falling for Spock.

Jim sighed. If no one had brought it up then maybe his love for Spock wasn’t as visible as he thought.

Jim lay on his bed for a long time and marveled at his stupidity and obliviousness and just held the love he had for Spock close.

Then he got up from his bed and straightened his uniform. He was needed on the Bridge.

Spock and Uhura came up to the bridge several moments after Jim; both of them now wearing uniforms. Despite his realization that he was head over heels in love with Spock, Jim was still upset he had interrupted their date.

Uhura quickly took over from the Beta shift Communications Officer. Jim took the conn back from the Duty Officer. Spock didn’t, however, take over control of the the science station from his junior science officer.

Le’nooi was just as angry when they comm’ed the Intrepid as he was when Jim had hung up.

Jim didn’t even stand from his chair when the link opened up. A deliberate sign of disrespect.

“Are you ready, Captain?” Jim asked. He let a smirk play across his face, “Or do I have to send Starfleet an explanation as to why the Intrepid wasn’t at the reception.” He sent a glance up at Spock to check that Spock already had the two other noncompliance options ready to be used in a heartbeat. Spock merely nodded slightly. The ship was ready for whatever might come. “Or do I get to let my CEO test out some new improvements to the tractor beam?”

Jim knew what picture he and Spock made at the head of the ship.  A team. Intelligent, strong, young and willing to see the stars. They were imposing. They were a presence. Together, they were everything.

Le’nooi looked like he wanted to argue more but he frowned and spat out, “The Intrepid will go to the reception. And we will follow your lead without argument. But Kirk, know this: you aren’t worth the hype they’ve built for you.”

Jim didn’t let the smirk fall from his face. “That’s what they all say, Captain Le’nooi. Helmsmen! Prepare for warp.” He ordered both the Helmsman of the Enterprise and the Intrepid.

Once he had the all-clear for both ships, he said, “Go to warp! Punch it.”

The white lights of the stars streaked out into white lines as both ships launched into warp.

Jim stared out into the viewscreen. He loved when the ship was at warp. He was constantly reminded of how much he needed to be out here, among the stars.

He loved it out here.

And now that he wasn’t lying to himself, he loved Spock almost as much.

Uhura cut the primary connection with the Intrepid but kept a line open. She handed over the station back to the Beta shift Communications Officer.

Spock met her at the door to the turbo lift. Jim could hear the soft-spoken whispers in Vulcan as they stepped into the turbo lift. It was sweet and domestic.

Uhura was incredible with Spock. It was clear that she loved him and Jim could read Spock, so he knew that Spock loved her too.

They were perfect for each other.

Which meant that Jim needed a drink. He turned to his Duty Officer who was standing to the side. He turned the conn over to her with orders to have him called if Le’nooi got annoying.

She promised that she would, taking the conn with a grin.

Jim left in search of that drink.

He found it in the nearly deserted Officer’s Lounge.

Scotty stood behind the bar, and he was comparing two of the mixes that were kept there. He looked up when Jim entered the room.

Jim slid into a chair. “Hey, bartender? Got anything good?” he asked. “I need to forget some feelings.”

“I’ve got nothing that works that good,” Scotty sighed and poured Jim two-fifths of a glass of a bourbon that Jim faintly recognised from their last shore leave planet’s bars. “This is the best I’ve got.”

Jim took the glass and knocked it back it like a shot. The bourbon burned on the way down, but it didn’t do much else.

Scotty poured himself a similar glass and also drank it like a shot. When Jim sent him a look, Scotty just shrugged. “I’m also trying to forget some feelings.”

“Ah,” Jim said with understanding as Scotty poured them both more bourbon.

“Here’s to heartache.” He said after Scotty finished and placed the bottle away.

Scotty picked up his glass and tapped it to Jim’s. “Here’s to heartache.” He echoed.

-

Eleven months after USS Enterprise left Earth Space Dock

Sometime in the last year, Bones had begun to respect most of the crew that staffed the Enterprise. He only had the faintest idea when that started to happen.

His team of doctors and nurses had gained his trust by being very good at their jobs and never letting a patient go without doing their damnedest to fight for them. He had learned to trust them to know what they were doing, and they had learned to trust Bones when he made a call.

The trust of the Engineers had come soon after. Now, Bones didn’t trust them not to get injured in all the ways possible (and a few ways that Bones would think were impossible but he's met Jim and that boy eats impossible for breakfast) but he did trust them with the ship, and that was huge for Bones. He had spent so long being terrified of space and space travel that the idea of trusting the people who kept the ship running was almost unbelievable.

He had always trusted Jim. From the moment the kid had sat down next to him on that shuttle and looked like he needed a drink more than Bones did; Bones had trusted him. Jim trusted him too. Which was good because Bones was his sole authorized doctor for a number of good reasons. Jim had told Bones about Tarsus and some other shit from his childhood that made Bones want to hunt down some people and kill them slowly and untraceably. They were best friends - brothers even- and the trust was bone deep.

With trusting Jim now came trusting Spock. Which was harder than it seemed. Bones never fully understood how Jim could trust Spock so immediately after the way they met. The Vulcan had strangled Jim! But according to Jim, it didn’t matter; he didn’t care. Jim trusted Spock. That meant Bones trusted Spock.

The rest of the Alpha shift Bridge Crew somehow earned Bones’ trust though months of either not being idiots and not getting injured, or being idiots but listening to him when Bones ranted to them about getting hurt.

Now that the ship was nearly a year past the Narada's attack, most of the bridge crew had Bones’ respect.

None of the respect the crew had earned helped Bones now.

Because this ship was manned by idiots. The entirety of the crew were idiots.

The away mission to the supposedly friendly planet hadn’t gone the way it was supposed to.

Again.

Apparently, this occurrence was going to be a common thing on the Enterprise because this was the fourth time in the past two months. Bones had no idea how he was going to survive this madhouse.

“ANDERSON! So, help me God - if you try to get out of that bed again!” Bones yelled across the med bay, hurrying over to his worse-off patient. The man was trying to get out of the bed. This was the third time in the last half hour.

Bones waved Chapel over.

Chapel was at his side in an instant. “We’re going to have to strap him down.” She said to Bones. “This is the third time he’s tried to stand.”

“Yes. We are.” Bones agreed, already reaching for the straps that could be attached to the bed. “Anything come back in the toxicology report?” he asked hoping for good news but not expecting it.

Chapel nodded. “There was a substance on all the wounds which affects the cognitive abilities, their dopamine receptors and a few other chemicals in the brain." She paused, apparently not wanting to finish her statement.  

Bones winced following along with the explanation, "In other words: they’re are all high as kites."

Chapel nodded, "Every one of them was scratched with various degrees of severity, but they are all reacting the same. Just the rate of metabolism and strengths are different.”

Bones sighed. “Of course it is.”

Anderson had been attacked by a creature that was one of the planets dominant species’ version of attack dogs. The Enterprise away team had been aware of the tensions between factions on the planet, but they nor Starfleet had thought it had gotten that bad.

So, the entire landing party had gotten attacked and scratched by this beast soon after landing. Anderson was the worst. He had bite marks as well as scratches. The fact that he kept on trying to stand up was frustrating to Bones. Anderson kept on pulling at his stitches. He was also incredibly delirious.

Bones handed half of the straps to Chapel, and together they tied the delirious man down.

Chapel went back to treating the other patients and Bones walked over to the mess he had made jumping up to stop Anderson from attempting to walk again. There were several padds on the floor- each containing a different crewmember’s file. The medical records were kept on several different padds depending on what division they worked in.

Bones had his med bay full. Jim was on one of the benches, being seen with his shirt off by M’benga. He had three vertical scratches down his back. Jim was chatting nonstop. If Chapel was right (and Bones knew that Chapel was always right) then he was also high as a kite. Once Bones had seen to all of the injuries, he would get an update from M’benga.

Three security guys lay on the beds. Anderson was one of them, and was by far the worst. The other members of the landing party were spread out among the remaining space in the med bay.

This supposedly friendly planet, which Bones did not know the name of nor did he care to learn, had required a full away team. That meant Jim, three guards, two Science staff and even Chekov had gone.

One of his nurses came up and pressed a padd into Bones’ hands. It was the toxicology report. Reading it, Bones started to swear. He was glad that Spock wasn’t able to go on the away mission because of some science lab thing. Jim had ranted but, in the end, Spock had been forced to stay on the ship. The venom that was causing a high in all the human crew members would have killed him because of his Vulcan heritage.

“Doctor?” an accented voice asked.

Bones turned to face Pavel Chekov. Who was also blitzed. He was sitting on a bed and wasn’t strapped down. Chekov was staring around at the lights of med bay as if fascinated by them.

He wasn’t twisting around in the chest area though. Chekov was honestly holding his torso somewhat still, but his arms and hands and feet were in movement. Bones eyed Chekov for a moment and visually evaluated him.

Chekov was someone whom Bones had long admitted to himself that he had an extreme attraction to. He couldn’t help it; Chekov was everything Bones was attracted to and then some. Chekov was smart, growing more confident daily, already capable and competent. Also - hot as hell.

Bones already knew that he was attracted to competent, attractive people. His ex-wife was one of those people. They may have met in high school, but that didn’t stop Bones knowing what he liked.

“Yes, Chekov?” Bones asked as he reached Chekov’s bed.

“Will Anderson be alright?” Chekov asked, finally settling his gaze on Bones. Usually, Bones would try to avoid that. Bones always felt like his stomach wasn’t ready for the drop when Chekov looked at him. He also felt his face heat up. Nothing noticeable but still, Bones hated showing that weakness.

Bones was very, very attracted to the man before him.

Despite the fact that he ordinarily avoided Chekov’s focus, he needed it today. He had to check Chekov’s rate of metabolism for the poison that they had been scratched with. Bones started with a standard post away-mission checkup.

Bones picked up a small light and shone it into Chekov’s eyes. “Anderson will be fine. So, will you once we get the chemical that’s making you all high as hell out of your body.”

“Oh!” Chekov grinned, “I guess that’s why I feel so happy, and everything is so pretty right now!”

“Yes, it is, we’ll try to get this out of your system as soon as possible.” Bones told Chekov. He was slightly distracted while he started to input readings from Chekov’s bed to the padd. He would update the padd as he went along in the exam.

Chekov clapped his hands together and smiled again. “I know you will, Doctor McCoy! I trust you.”

Bones looked up and saw the look on Chekov’s face. It was bright, carefree and happy. It also spoke of a lot of trust. And all of it for Bones.

Bones felt more than his stomach leap at the scene. He felt his heart give a very solid thump and thought, ‘Oh no.’

The very first time Bones saw Chekov, it was in the middle of a battle and Bones was just moments from panicking. He had distinctly thought ‘Who is this child and why he is here?’.

When Chekov said something very complicated in a science that Bones did not understand he had to ask how old this kid was.

The answer was irrelevant. Bones had been trying not to freak out during that whole conversation. Knowing that the person who created a workable plan that had helped to save them was seventeen years old was hard for Bones to wrap his head around.

It didn’t stay that way for long.

By the time the Enterprise made it back to Earth Space Dock, Bones no longer thought that Chekov was a child. It was apparent that Pavel was an adult who knew what he was doing. Pavel Chekov was a man who not only deserved his place on the Enterprise but deserved Bones’ respect.

That respect wasn’t dangerous by itself. It was the little things that made Bones smile at Chekov that were dangerous. He didn’t realize that he was attracted to ‘Starfleet’s Youngest Genius’ at first, but after the initial medical checkup, Bones knew. He, to quote Jim at his drunkest, was thirsting for one Pavel Chekov.

And that was fine. That was normal. Bones was always attracted to people who knew what they were doing. Bones didn't question that anymore. He’d had feelings for people since his divorce.

Bones could deal with that. He had no plans on actually doing anything about his wants, so it didn’t matter. At first, Chekov was too young, and then it was that Chekov had no interest in return.

But this heartbeat, painful and twisting, was new.

And Bones wasn’t in the habit of lying to himself. He knew what that meant.

Leonard McCoy had a honest to God crush on Pavel Chekov. A big one.

Bones took a deep breath and grabbed his tricorder and synced it to the padd that held Chekov’s data. It didn’t matter what Bones had just figured out. He would still need to complete Chekov’s exam. They still needed the information from him.

Chekov babbled as Bones continued the exam. It was a symptom that Bones had observed in the others. All of them were talking. At least Chekov was coherent. “I was so excited for this mission, that I had forgotten that they had these large bearlike dogs. They were huge!” Chekov said, waving his arms about to emphasize how large the animal was, still careful to keep his torso still.

Bones ducked the flying arm with the air of one who was used to Jim Kirk doing the same thing. Jim liked to talk with his hands when he got excited, and Bones had learned to dodge flying limbs early into their friendship. “Seeing as just two of the beasts did this to the whole away team, that doesn’t surprise me.” He said as he restarted the reading he had been trying to get.

Chekov nodded, “ Da ! While Captain was trying to calm the situation down, one of the security guards got hurt from the dog-bear thing, and then everything went to pieces!”

“Of course, it did,” Bones sighed. He hadn’t like the way that Chekov wasn’t twisting or really moving his torso around, and when he waved the tricorder over the ribs, he saw why. Chekov had three broken ribs and two bruised ones. “Mr. Chekov, how did you injure your ribs?” he asked.

Bones hoped that Chekov would actually answer. As the months passed on the ship, Bones was feeling that it was getting harder and harder for the Alpha shift Bridge Crew actually to answer questions like that. They all liked to shrug and say they were defending someone else.

Bones had been saddled with the most self-sacrificing crew ever. He wondered if other ships’ Chief Medical Officers had to deal with this phenomenon too.

Pavel, (No! Chekov! Bones tried to remind himself, already knowing he would fail) screwed up his face in concentration. Bones thought that the expression was adorable. “I’m not sure, but I think it was when one of the bear-dog things hind legged kicked me to the side when it went after the Captain.”

Bones just stared at him, knowing there was more to come.

There was always more with this crew.

Chekov continued, “Or it may have been when I was working on the signaling device to get out of there. The natives didn’t like what I was doing, and they hit me with a… branch? I think.”

Bones looked back at the readings and tried to trace the shape of the injury. It would match the branch more than an animal kick.

“It was probably the attack from the natives. What were you doing exactly that pissed them off after the animals attacked?” Bones asked. He grabbed a regenerator for bones. Pavel needed it and soon, before his broken ribs started to knit back wrong. Bones needed to lay Chekov down on the bed. Moving him would be painful. Running the osteo-regenerator would be worse if Bones didn’t push him.

In the end, this whole process would be excruciating for Chekov. Bones would have to move quickly to prevent too much pain from happening.

“I was trying to create a device that would give off a signal over a Starfleet channel. I figured Lieutenant Uhura or Mr. Spock would hear it.” Chekov said shrugging, and then he winced. The movement had jarred his ribs. “They always do. I don’t think the Captain would have been as injured if Mr. Spock came along. He would have prevented the Captain form being hurt.”

Bones frowned at the noise Chekov made when he jarred the injury, “Alright. That’s not a good sound. I need you to lie back down on the bed.”

Chekov tried to move, but he couldn’t seem to push past the pain. Bones placed his hands-on top of Chekov’s shoulders and gently pushed back. Chekov’s face twisted in pain but he relaxed once he was lying down on the bed.

Bones pushed the very quiet, terrible thought from the back of his mind away. ‘I want to push him back onto my bed, in my quarters, not the one here in my office in the med bay.’ It didn’t help the situation. Nor did the thought help Bones keep calm about his recent realization.

Bones considered the fact that he might have more than a crush on Pavel into the back of his mind.

He would have to think about it later.

Right now, he had to deal with the fact he wanted Chekov out of his med bay. Bones didn’t like him being injured.

“Doctor? Do you think that if Mr. Spock would have been there, that Captain Kirk would have been injured?” Pavel asked, looking up at Bones as Bones prepped the regenerator.

Bones didn’t even have to think about that answer. In the last year, Spock had saved Jim from to many injuries to count in the past year. It was one of the only things Bones liked about Spock. “Yes, Spock would have done his best to prevent Jim from being injured.”

Pavel smiled and started to stare at the ceiling of med bay. Bones had to keep him talking to distract him from the pain of bone regeneration.

“Got a significant other?” Bones doesn’t know what in the world possessed him to ask that, but he hated that part of him. That was not a question that would make anything better for Bones’ new-found crush. Bones started the regenerator.

Pavel somehow brightened, despite the pain. Bones knew it probably had something to do with the chemicals in his system, but the look made Bones heart thump painfully in his chest.

Only for his heart to sink when Pavel spoke, “Yes! She works in Engineering.”

Pavel then proceeded to spend the rest of the time that Bones was fixing his ribs talking about the girl in Engineering.

Bones put on his ‘I’m a doctor’ face and nodded when it was needed. It wasn’t hard. Pavel was just talking and talking. Bones was sure that the pain in his heart wasn't the start of heartbreak. Indigestion, nothing more.

Bones shook his head. He hated lying to himself. It was heartbreak. Nothing new, nothing more.

This was why he avoided dating. Bones wasn’t in a place to put these emotions out to show. His heart fell too quick and was merely too damaged for it to survive news like what Pavel was sharing.

It was still too soon after what his ex-wife, Joycelyn, had done to him.

Bones forced himself to stop thinking about the whole thing. Pavel was done with the regeneration, and the only other thing that Pavel needed to do was to wait the poison out.

“Okay, Chekov you’re good, but you need to stay here. Can you do that?” Bones asked, stepping back and placing the regenerator down. He looked at Pavel’s medical padd and saw the information being updated to it automatically.

Pavel nodded, more eagerly than he usually would. Bones wished the labs would create the cure to the poison soon. “I will, doctor. I won’t move.” He said.

Pavel looked so trusting that Bones felt himself smile for a moment before he turned away. “Good. Stay here, and Chapel or I will be by as soon as we figure out how to cure you.” He said gruffly.

“Okay, Doctor,” Pavel said, and Bones had to leave or risk doing something stupid that he wasn’t ready for.

Instead of trying to kiss Pavel, Bones went to sit next to Jim.

Jim had a curtain drawn around his bed. M’benga had finished with the scratches and had been given a bed to do work on. Bones slid in and sat on the chair that was right next to Jim’s bed.

“Hiya, Bones,” Jim said quietly. He was still under effects of the poison from the bearlike dogs that had gotten the entire away team, so he was smiling despite the quiet tone. He also had a near-vacant look in his eyes. “You look like hell.”

“I’m aware," Bones said shortly, “You look worse.”

Jim laughed, grinning. “I always do! But are you okay? You normally don’t look exhausted after talking to Chekov. You look happy normally.”

Bones winced, “I do?” he asked. Then he paused and thought about the past few times he had interacted with Pavel. “Well, shit.” He breathed. He was happier after seeing and talking to Chekov.

Bones took a moment to really think about what that meant. Bones was in love with Pavel Chekov. And probably had been in love for a while.

Shit.

Jim studied him for a moment before speaking again, “You wanna join Scotty and me when we go drinking every once in a while? I’m sure that we can make room for one more.”

Bones looked up. Jim was wearing the ‘I’m hiding emotional pain’ smile again. Bones often saw that expression when Jim was around Spock and Uhura, when neither of them were paying attention to him. Scotty also had the same expression on his face sometimes for the same reasons.

“I think I may need to,” Bones said. “What do y'all drink to ease this?”

“Right now, whiskey, but we’ll drink whatever when it comes down to it.” Jim said, “Heartache’s a bitch.”

It may be a bitch, Bones thought, but he didn’t want to lose it if it meant losing the brightness that was Pavel.

 

Chapter Text

Three hours into Jim Kirk’s thirtieth birthday party on Yorktown space station

Scotty wasn’t planning on drinking this much at Kirk’s birthday and ‘We lived!’ party; but here he was, sitting on a barstool, at the tiny bar in the corner of the room, finishing off his scotch and waving at the bartender for something else.

He steadfastly wasn’t looking at the small dance floor that had developed in the middle of the room, despite the fact it held most of the remaining crew.

After they had admired the frame of the ship that would become the new Enterprise, Kirk had declared that it was time to party, and he wanted to dance.

So, the crew, full of resourceful and smart people who also wanted to dance, had dragged some furniture out of the way and created a dance-floor. More than half the crew was on it. Everyone was having a good time just moving to the music. There were couples, singles, and groups of friends all dancing together.

One of his teams of engineers had challenged a science team to a dance-off. Scotty could hear their laughter and the cheering. Scotty would join them, but that would force him to look at the dance floor.

And he wasn’t about to do that.

Scotty had been thinking about asking Nyota to dance, as a friend, when he saw that she had done the impossible once again. She had somehow convinced Spock to dance.

They looked so in love as they moved together.

And now he couldn’t even bear to look at the dance floor.

Keenser had disappeared with the new guy in command, Kevin, sometime early in the party to help the little species get more used to day to day life in Starfleet as a very short alien surrounded by humanoids. So, Scotty was drinking alone. He was trying to get his mind off of everything.

So of course, he was dwelling on what he was trying to forget.

He had been so relieved when they had gotten the crew on the Franklin. He had been so happy to see Nytoa that he had almost forgotten the rest of the mission.

But she only had eyes for Spock.

And that was fine. Scotty had tried to move on but it seemed that he was meant to stay in love with Nyota Uhura.

“Montgomery Scotty? Do you need to also take the edge off?” Jayla asked as she slid onto the barstool next to Scotty. She had a beer in one hand and a cocktail in the other. She seemed to be drinking from one, then the other, trying to figure out what she liked the taste of best.

Scotty looked up from his drink of whatever alcohol the bartender had brought him, which Scotty didn’t know the name of, to face her. She wasn’t even tipsy. Scotty wondered if her species was one of the ones like Vulcans that didn’t get affected by alcohol. “Ah, Jayla. No, I’m not… well… yes. Yes, I am.” He finally admitted.

Usually, Scotty wouldn’t have said anything, but he thinks that he could be forgiven today. He had been shot out of his ship, seen it burn and crash, fixed another ship to the point where it could fly, hacked an extremely powerful supercomputer, and ultimately helped to save Yorktown.

It had been a very long day.

Scotty could admit to some heartache.

Jayla watched him. Scotty respected her so much. She could read people, and it was natural to her. She may not trust them, she may not like them, but she could understand them. She would do amazingly well in Starfleet no matter what her chosen track was.

Scotty just wished Jayla wasn’t looking at him like she didn’t fully understand. There were some things that weren’t intuitive, and Scotty thought that unrequited love was one of them.

“I am taking my edge off because I’m free,” Jayla said. “Why are you?” She finished off the cocktail, knocking it back with an aplomb that impressed Scotty deeply.

Scotty looked out the dance floor and saw them.

It still amazed him that Nyota had somehow convinced Spock to join her on the dance floor, and they were dancing, slightly awkwardly, together. Scotty took Nyota’s expression, one of joy, love, and happiness. She was honestly and sincerely in love with the person right in front of her. He also saw the way Spock’s arms tightened around her every once in a while, and it was clear that Spock felt much of the same towards her.

Jayla followed his gaze. They watched Spock and Nyota for a while in silence. Then Scotty raised a glass to them and turned around.

“That’s why I need to ‘take my edge off,’” Scotty told her.

Jayla watched them for a moment longer. “I do not understand. It is clear that Uhura is Spock’s as he is hers. But it is also clear that you are Uhura’s. Why is she not yours?” she asked turning away from the center of the room to face him again.

It took Scotty a moment to understand that sentence, but when he did, he sighed. “I am hers as much as Jim is Spock’s. But neither of us are lucky enough to have them as ours.”

Jayla nodded, proving that Jim Kirk was obvious in his affections. Everyone and their mother could see that Jim Kirk was in love with Spock and would do nearly anything for him. That included never getting in the way of a happy relationship. Scotty knew that comparing himself to Jim would make Jayla understand.

She was silent for a moment as she took the information in. Then she started to talk slowly. “When I was a tiny girl, before that place and Krall, my father once said that I would find someone or someone’s who would put light into my world. That they would be my everything. He said my mother was like that for him. Is that how it is for you?” She asked.

Scotty knew that some of his surprise must have been showing on his face. Jayla, in the past week they had known each other, had never spoken about her life before Krall and Altimir. She rarely talked about her parents. She had given him a rare gift. He owed her the truth in return.

“Nyota is my everything. She helps me on hard days and is a trusted friend. We speak in Gaelic and it’s fun. She understands my love of engineering, and she likes my new theories. We often work together on improving her systems. But Nyota is more than just my love.” Scotty took a deep drink of the alcohol.

“More?” Jayla prompted. She finished off the beer, and the bartender was next to her in an instant with another new, different drink.  A glass of wine this time. Scotty liked this bartender. He was on top of things.

“More,” Scotty confirmed with a nod. “Trust me on that. She’s brilliant and wise. She can sing like an angel and isn’t afraid to show it. Nyota doesn’t need me or anyone else to support her, but she likes us all the same. I don’t think I can explain all the ways that make Nyota more. She just is.” He smiled at Jayla.

There was something that made him happy when he was talking about Nyota to other people. There was a reason Jim, McCoy and him all got together on a regular basis to talk like this. They needed the occasional shore leave to prevent their unrequited love from becoming bitter.

None of them wanted that.

They might want to fall out of love, but they never wanted to become bitter about the whole thing. It was one thing to be in pain. It was another to let themselves hate someone else because of it.  

Jayla frowned down at her wine. “You should tell her anyway, Montgomery Scotty. Many people on that planet and in my culture, were more than just one person’s.”

Scotty laughed. He hadn’t been suggested polyamory before! “If Nyota and Mr. Spock would accept that, I would in a heartbeat. But I think they are one-person people. They have each other. She loves him, and he loves her. Even if he is bad at showing it.”

“Why don’t you try to win her?” Jayla asked.

“Because she’s not in love with me, lassie,” Scotty frowned at her. “Nyota’s my friend first and foremost. I won’t be the one to get in her way. Ever. I’m not unhappy, dear girl. I’ve seen others. I’m happy in all.”

Jayla opened her mouth to argue further, but Scotty heard a very familiar voice coming closer. And he felt his cheeks turn red.

“Jayla, I’m going to do a topic change for this conversation, and you are going to go with it. Don’t tell Nyota what we were talking about.” Scotty told her as Nyota and Spock came closer to the bar.

Scotty would bet ten credits that Spock heard what they were talking about.

Jayla scrunched her eyebrows in confusion but ultimately nodded. “If that is what you wish, Montgomery Scotty.”

Scotty managed a small, quick grin before picking the first topic he could think of. “I know that you just got the acceptance to Starfleet, but do you have an idea what track you might be interested in?”

Jayla didn’t lose the confused expression, but she did answer. “I am thinking the Engineering Division? Right? The symbol from my house. I am good at that.”

“You’re thinking about Engineering, Jayla?” Nyota said from behind them.

Jayla jumped and turned to face the sound, apparently not expecting Nyota. “I am,” she said. “I liked working on my house. I am ‘well suited’ to working on ships.” Jayla glanced at Scotty. “Montgomery Scotty is a very good friend to make sure that I can get into Starfleet.”

Nyota smiled, and Scotty knew it was the alcohol talking, but it seemed warmer than before. “He is. I’m glad you and Kirk helped her, Scotty.” She said turning to Scotty.

“As am I,” Scotty said, smiling into his glass of … something strong. He didn’t care that his smile was a little besotted. Normally he would try to hide it, but not today. Too much had happened. “I’m sure that I can get her into Engineering classes if that’s what she wants.”

Nyota and Jayla nodded.

Spock shifted in behind Nyota and Scotty turned back to the bartender, waving the person over to get them more drinks. The bartender showed up with two glasses. Another wine, this one smelling much sweeter than the one Jayla had been given, for Nyota and a tall glass of something dark for Spock.

“Oh, Jayla, I’ve meant to ask you some questions on your native tongue,” Nyota asked. Scotty chuckled into his drink. Jayla’s accent meant she was used to speaking something that wasn’t Standard or English. He had wondered when Nyota would start to ask about it.

Seeing as Jayla also spoke at least one more language other than Standard, Scotty was sure that Nyota would ask about that too.

“My what?” Jayla asked, sounding confused.

Scotty listened as Nyota explained what she meant and started to ask Jayla questions about what her first language was like.

Scotty liked watching Nyota work. So did Spock apparently as he watched Nyota with the same gentle look in his eyes that Scotty had seen on so many others in love. Nyota came alive when she was talking about a new language or development in linguistics. Her occasional tangent on the etymology of a word was always so passionate. It was cute.

After a short while of watching Nyota and Jayla speak in the Common language of Altimir, (apparently a dialect of Triss – a trading planet that was near the nebula) Scotty became suddenly aware that Spock was no longer watching Nyota, but was now watching him.

Scotty stiffened, but the slight movement went unnoticed by Nyota and Jayla. It wasn't unnoticed by Spock, who raised an eyebrow slightly.

Spock placed his drink down on the bar. Scotty saw that it was a dark color that even from a few feet away, Scotty could catch a whiff of chocolate. Scotty wondered what the bartender had mixed in there.

Some of the few times the whole main bridge crew and senior leadership had actually gotten together and drank, Spock had been mostly unaffected, despite his insistence that he enjoyed the taste of the alcohol. The senior staff had gotten into a bet about finding something that would affect Spock.

McCoy had won when he did some medical research. Hot chocolate mixed with Spock had resulted in an entertaining night indeed.

There were legends about that night on the Enterprise. Scotty heard them as they passed down from new crewman to new crewman.

Spock didn’t drink chocolate with them often. Apparently tonight was one of those nights. Scotty didn’t blame him. It had been a long day for them all.

“I can’t believe that we haven’t shown you the records kept here! There is a priority line to memory alpha, and we can do research into where your language comes from.” Nyota suddenly said.

Jayla looked delighted, “Really? Federation can do that?”

Nyota nodded excitedly. “Come on. They should still be open at this time. If not then, I’ll use the ‘just saved Yorktown’ card, and that will get us in.”

Scotty watched as Jayla and Nyota both started to get up to leave. “Are you coming with us, Spock? Scotty?” Nyota asked, looking between them both.

Scotty shook his head. “I’m good, you all have fun.” As much as he loved watching Nyota work, Scotty did not want to be a third wheel.

But to his surprise and a bit of fear, Spock also shook his head no.

Spock reached up and placed a hand on Nyota’s arm and said quietly, “I need to speak with Mr. Scott for a moment. I also wish to speak to Jim, later. Do you mind, Nyota? I’ll meet you both at the Record Library when I am done.”

Nyota looked puzzled but nodded. She waved at Scotty. Scotty waved back. She leaned down with her hand out, and Spock raised his hand. Their fingers met, and Scotty looked away. He knew a kiss when he saw one.

“Goodbye, Montgomery Scotty. May we talk more tomorrow? I want to know more about those rules I will have to follow if I am to attend the Starfleet Academy,” Jayla said. She had put her empty glass down, and the bartender was already picking it up.

Scotty smiled. “Sure thing, Jayla. But let’s make it tomorrow afternoon. I think I’ll be feeling this for a while tomorrow morning.”

She and Nyota left, leaving Spock and Scotty alone at the small bar.

The bartender slid up and refilled Scotty’s drink. Scotty really needed to get his name. And book him for all the Enterprise events. He was damn good. Scotty hadn’t actually placed an order all night. The man just knew . He hadn’t made a wrong choice yet.

It was impressive, Scotty was impressed.  

Scotty and Spock didn’t speak for a long moment.

Scotty just took a drink from his glass. He wasn’t sure where the whiskey came from, but he liked it.

“I have been informed that a part of being in a human romantic relationship is that I should warn off any person who has interest in the other part of the relationship.” Spock said, deadpan, apropos of nothing. “Other potential suitors, one might say.”

Scotty coughed into his glass, spilling a little over the rim as he moved.

Of all the things Spock could say, it had to be that!

That he was threatening Scotty over Nyota! If it had been anyone else, Scotty wouldn’t have believed it. But it was Spock. Spock never did things he didn’t want to. If he wanted to threaten Scotty, he would.

“And is this your warning?” he asked once he had himself under control, his voice hoarse from coughing.  

“Apparently,” was Spock’s response. Spock took another drink of the chocolate concoction and didn’t look at Scotty for more than a glance.

Scotty considered the warning. It was a terrible warning all things considered.

Scotty sighed. “I had always wondered if you knew,” he mused. The thought sat in the back of his mind some days. What if Spock knew? What if Nyota knew? He didn’t want to lose their friendship. Or their camaraderie. “About how I feel for her.”

“I have known for over a year now. Nyota doesn’t. I will not inform her.” Spock said, frank as always, “I see nothing that would change that.”

“Whew,” Scotty sighed in relief. “I don’t want to get in the way of anything.”

“You won’t,” Spock said and while that was Scotty’s wish, to hear it said so bluntly still hurt. Scotty took a deep drink of the whiskey.  

They sat in silence for another moment before Scotty worked up the nerve to ask: “Who told you that you have to threaten all ‘potential suitors’?”

Spock was silent for a long moment. “I was observing some of the security crewmen and asked what was occurring and why it was important to human sociocultural rituals. I do not wish to be amiss in my duties to Nyota.”

Scotty laughed lightly. He could imagine how that conversation had gone! But he shook his head. “I believe that Nyota can tell suitors she doesn’t want to go fuck off on her own but I’m glad she has you. She really lights up with you.” He meant that truthfully. Nyota often looked happiest when she was with Spock.

Spock nodded in agreement. “If we were all on Vulcan then I would challenge you to a fight to prove my worth to Nyota, but I do not believe that is necessary. Nyota has been known to tell off people she does not wish to be in the presence of. She enjoys my presence and has told me repeatedly so.”

“She loves you.” Scotty said, a truth he needed to know if Spock knew.  

Spock stared at him for a moment and then nodded, slowly. “She loves me,” he paused then said, “I love her,” Spock said it quietly, but he was unwavering in his certainty.

“Does she know that?” Scotty asked. He would not be happy if Nyota didn’t know what she meant to Spock.

“Yes,” Spock said firmly. His conviction was in his eyes and Scotty believed him.

“Good.” Scotty didn’t feel the need to say more so he lapsed into silence.

They sat in silence for a long moment, each nursing the last of their drinks. Spock finished his chocolate drink and placed the glass on the bar. “I shall take my leave of you, Mr. Scott.”

Scotty grunted into the last of his whiskey. As Spock stood, Scotty grabbed his arm. Scotty and every one the Enterprise knew that Spock tolerated touch from very few people. Usually, Scotty would avoid touching him. But Scotty had a point to make, so he did it anyway.

He made eye contact with Spock and held firm.

“Don’t hurt her, Mr. Spock. She’s my friend too. I won’t let her be hurt for stupid reasons,” Scotty said, holding on to Spock’s arm, projecting his protectiveness over his friend. “No matter what. I won’t let her be hurt. Do you understand?”

“Perfectly,” Spock said, and then he took another step back and away from Scotty.

Scotty let his arm fall and turned back to the bar. The bartender handed him a cocktail that was a lurid pink and green. Happy colors. Scotty liked it.

He wanted to be a happy drunk.

Not a depressed one tonight.

-

Across the room at the party

Bones smiled into his drink as he leaned against the high table he was near.

He was alone, not talking up anyone, but that was what Bones preferred. He had long realized, in the aftermath of his disastrous divorce and his decision to drink away the pain and his and Jim's first year in Starfleet, that he was far from ready to be in a relationship.

He honestly hadn’t tried to be anything but single.

And the fact that Bones’ major crush was on a man at least a decade his junior helped keep him that way.

Usually, Bones would spend parties like this one with Jim preventing his Captain and best friend from creating an incident, but as this was Jim’s surprise birthday party… Bones figured that if anyone had the right to make a scene, it was Jim.

Not that Jim was doing anything too crazy.

Jim was dancing with a few of his Beta and Gamma shift Bridge Crew, all of them laughing so hard they were having a hard time breathing. They appeared to be having a ‘dad dance’ dance off. Bones would be embarrassed for all dads out there in the universe but if he went to stop them, then Jim would pull him in and Bones would just have to show them all how a dad actually dances.

Bones knew it was good to see Jim laughing like that again. The last year had been hard on Jim. Very few shore leaves and time off did that to some people. Jim had been consumed by all the small details of being a Captain and never gave himself time off. Bones could see the depression but wasn’t able to do much to help.

For the first time, being the Captain of the Enterprise wasn’t enough to keep Jim going. He had needed something more. And all Bones could do was watch. Jim hadn’t known what was wrong for the longest time and didn’t know how to talk about it when he finally realized what was going on.

The depression wasn’t helped by the fact that Jim hadn’t been able to get over Spock either.

That fact had been dragging Jim down for a while, and with every shore leave that became a disaster before he, Scotty and Jim had a chance to talk, and with every small ship event that interrupted date night with Spock and Uhura; that fact had pulled at Jim.

Jim hadn’t been able to get away from his love, and it began to suffocate him.

But now? Jim was laughing and smiling. He was happy that most of his crew somehow survived the loss of the Enterprise.

He was happy. It was good to see Jim confident and sure of himself again.

Bones’ communicator beeped at him from its place in his jacket, telling him that he had an incoming call.

The name on the screen declared the call to be from his ex-wife.

Bones placed his drink down on the table and caught sight of Jim looking over at him with a wave to join them. He must have really wanted to win this dance off if he was calling Bones over. Bones would be tempted, but the buzzing comm unit in his hand was calling his attention.

He waved the comm over his head to show Jim, and pointed outside. Jim frowned quickly and tilted his head. Bones had been friends with Jim for enough years now that he knew that Jim was asking if Bones needed support for whatever the call was about.

Except Bones was hoping that this call was going to have good news.

Bones shook his head no. He smiled and pointed outside again. And Jim finally nodded.

While he had organized the party with a little help from Uhura and the Sulus, it was a relief to step outside of the room and breathe the fresher air of Yorktown. All of the surviving, uninjured crew members of the Enterprise were there, the place was crowded and hot.

“This is McCoy,” Bones said into the comm as he flipped it open.

“Leonard, it’s me,” his ex-wife, Joycelyn said. Bones tensed up because this conversation could make or break his time on Yorktown. A lot of what Joycelyn did to him still caused him pain. But sometime in last year, (and Bones didn't know when) her memory had stopped causing him to relive the pain of not being wanted by the one person who promised to always want him. “I’m calling to tell you that since you and Joanna have demanded that you see her over her vacation I’m allowing it. How long are you at Yorktown?”

Bones grinned with pure happiness. He got Joanna for the summer! He got to see his daughter in person for the first time in nearly two and a half years. No more long distance comm calls or just messages. Bones would get to hold his little girl. “Long enough to keep her for several months with no problem,” he said.

He didn’t tell Joycelyn that he had exact dates of when the Enterprise-A would be launched. Joycelyn would tell the media in a heartbeat if she thought it could get her credits or a little bit of fame. Just because the thought of her didn't hurt him anymore didn't mean he trusted her. He didn’t believe her much.

“You’d better be right, Leonard. I’m only doing this because Joanna has spent the last two days asking and asking to see you.” Joycelyn sounded angry. But Bones ignored that. It was her default tone when she was talking to him. That angry tone had been standard since their marriage had fallen apart with her rising controlling behavior and his long hours at the hospital.

But the pain he still expected to feel, the sharp pain that was in his heart when he talked to Joycelyn wasn’t there. That pain was part of the reason that he never got into a serious relationship with anyone new. It was always there when he thought about trusting someone with his heart in such a way again. He knew he wasn’t in love with his ex-wife anymore and hadn't been for years, but she did bring up some unpleasant memories and pain. He knew he hadn’t been ready to move on past that pain. Even his major crush on Pavel didn’t let Bones think he would be good in a long-term relationship.

Except, now that Bones was thinking about it, he wasn’t as resentful now. He was more open and the thought of a long-term, hopefully permanent, relationship, didn’t make him wince or feel like running away. He wasn’t scared. He wasn’t in pain.  

Maybe he was ready now?

“Joanna’s vacation starts in June. In three weeks. Are you going to come to Earth to pick her up or are you going to make me put her on a week-long shuttle on her own?” Joycelyn said in a harsh tone. She really didn’t think much about her daughter’s independence.  Bones was sure that Joanna would love a week of travel on her own - she was nearly a teenager.

However, on the other hand, If Bones picked her up, he would get an extra week or two with her.

That settled that.

“I’ll pick her up.” Bones said with finality. “I’ll get a ride on a Starfleet shuttle. I’ll be there a few days after her school lets out for the summer.”

Joycelyn made an agreeing noise over the comm line. “Ok, that would work if you show up a week after she gets out. My parents want to see her so they can do so then. They’re coming to visit then. You can get her afterwards.”

Bones nodded, even though he knew that she wouldn’t be able to see the movement over the voice only call. “I’ll get tickets for then,” he said, then he asked, “Is she there? Can I speak to Joanna?”

Joycelyn was quiet for a moment. It wasn’t a happy silence. With Joycelyn, any silence never was comfortable. “She is.” She ground out. “If you can hold then I can get her for you.” Her tone was biting.

“I can wait.” Bones agreed, and the line clicked into hold music. It was one of Joanna’s favorite bands. She had mentioned it in one of her last emails before they arrived at Yorktown initially and Bones had looked the band up when they had a few free moments after getting back with the USS Franklin. It wasn’t terrible. Bones really couldn’t wait to see what his little girl had been up to in the past several years. He can’t wait to see how she’s grown. He wondered what new things that she had learned and how independent she would be now. For some things, messages and calls just didn’t cut it.

This was the first opportunity Bones would have to speak in person to Joanna since Altimir, since before they came to Yorktown originally.. He had comm’d Joycelyn once the whole station’s comminutions had come back online, but they had been on a limited line, so he didn’t get to actually talk. He was only able to leave a video message.

But now he could actually talk to her. That always made his day.

A noise brought his attention to the doorway of the hall he had planned the surprise party in. Pavel stepped out to the terrace, flushed and smiling.  He was followed by someone taller than him in a pretty dress, the shell yeoman that Yeoman Rand was training. The one with whom Pavel had been speaking to all night.

Bones felt the customary stab of wistfulness run through him at the sight of the couple.

Pavel was smiling, and it was like the sun. Pavel was happy. The stress lines of the last few days had faded and his youth showed in his face. Pavel was a very mature adult who could, and would, help fly the ship in ways that kept them all alive. But he was also dealing with stuff that Bones would have balked at when he was just twenty-one. And Pavel was dealing with them with such ability and calmness that Bones was so profoundly impressed by him.

Bones was once again blown away by how much he was in love with Pavel.

Pavel laughed at something that the new yeoman said and took her hand.

Bones swallowed against the tight pain in his chest at the swift reminder that Pavel had no interest nor want to be with Bones.  

Bones sighed; he was used to the feeling.

As they came closer, Pavel caught sight of Bones.

“Doctor!” Pavel said as he waved his free hand. “What are you doing out here?” He asked, smiling like an old friend. The new yeoman smiled at Bones, but unlike Pavel’s smile, it was the polite one for acquaintances.  They came to a stop just next to where Bones was leaning.

Bones nodded at them both in greeting. He held up the comm, “I’m waiting for my Ex to get my daughter. She’ll be with me for the summer.”

Pavel let go of the new yeoman’s hand and clapped. “That’s very good, Doctor! I’m so happy for you. Does the Captain know yet? The stories you and he told of the time your daughter came and visited the academy are always funny!”

Bones shook his head. “Jim doesn’t know yet. I’ll tell him a little later. But I’m thrilled. I’ll introduce her to you and the rest of the Bridge Crew when she gets here.”

Pavel looked delighted. “I’m happy for you! I know you miss her while we are out in the black. It’s been several years since you’ve seen her right? Since we left Earth Space Dock for the last time, right?” He put his hands on Bones’ shoulder in something that was nearly a hug. Bones memorized the feeling because he knew it would be gone soon enough.

Bones honestly didn’t think he could be more in love with Pavel than he was in that moment.

He remembered the last time that Bones had seen Joanna. “Yes, that was the last time. She was nearly ten then.”

The new yeoman (Bones felt terrible because he really needed to learn her name), told him congratulations. Bones didn’t know if she would be around when Joanna showed up. Pavel did go through girlfriends and boyfriends like they were candy, but he appreciated the sentiment all the same. It was for Joanna after all.

“We better get going.” She said, looking at her own comm, “If we want to make the show, Pavel.”

Pavel took a step back, and Bones missed the warmth of his hands on his shoulders instantly. He made sure that none of that longing showed on his face. He didn’t think he managed as well as he hoped for.

“…Yes of course. Let’s get going.” Pavel said, taking a few more steps back and reaching for the yeoman’s offered hand.

For a heartbeat, Bones met Pavel’s eyes and something connected deep in Bones’ heart, and Bones knew, just knew, what he wanted for the rest of his life.

He wanted Joanna. He wanted the Enterprise, for some God-awful reason. He wanted a serious, long-term relationship. He wanted a partner in all things. He wanted Pavel to be that person.

Bones knew he was ready to move on from the place of hurt that his ex-wife had created. He was prepared for more.

And Pavel wasn’t interested.

Pavel broke their gaze and turned to his companion. He smiled at her in a way Bones had seen before but had never been lucky enough to have it directed at him. She giggled and tugged at his hand.

Bones watched as Pavel walked with the girl around the corner. A beeping in from the hold line on his comm called his attention back to his device. A young but older than he remembered voice came on, “Daddy?”

Joanna.

God, she was growing up.

Bones smiled at the comm even though he knew she wouldn’t see it. “Hiya, JoJo. Did your mom tell you the good news?”

“She did!” Joanna cheered on the other end of the line. “I get to see YOU this summer! AND I get to see SPACE! You’re at that cool, new, space station, right?”

“I am,” Bones said as he got lost in his happiness of talking to Joanna and distinctly did not think about the fact he would need a powerful drink once he’d finished. "It looks like a snow globe in space!"

“That's so cool daddy!" Joanna said. Bones let himself get completely absorbed in the conversation with his daughter.

He’d drink with Scotty again. Ask the bartender for something to celebrate getting to see his daughter.

And, maybe, celebrate finally being ready to move on from his Ex. Even if that person he wished he could move on with wasn’t interested in him.

Small steps meant a lot to humans.

Especially if they were in space.

-

Meanwhile, inside the party, near the windows

Jim stared down at the actual paper in his hands, unsure what to think about it.  

The envelope was fading and old, and it was addressed to Spock in Vulcan, in Jim’s own handwriting. The writing was older and a little neater then he usually what wrote like, but it was undeniably his.

Jim didn’t normally write anything out by hand but he would if it was important.

The letter, when Jim opened it, was dated about twenty years into the future. Jim would be about fifty if he got the math right. Other than Spock’s name and the date, Jim couldn’t read any of it. The swirls and lines of written Vulcan escaped his understanding.

Jim really, really wanted to know what the faded letter said.

“Ambassador Spock wanted it to be given to you,” Spock said gently as he could. He was leaning against the bar that faced the large windows that displayed the USS Enterprise – A. “it was with his possessions.”

Spock wasn’t looking at the ship.

Jim wasn’t either.

“Have you read this? It’s in Vulcan, right?” Jim asked. He really didn’t need Spock’s answer to know he was right. He could identify Vulcan. He could read Spock’s name in Spock’s native tongue at least. He was no Nyota Uhura, but he did try. Some words framed Spock’s name that Jim didn’t recognize. But it was clear that the other Jim addressed this letter to Spock.

“Yes, it is,” Spock agreed, “but I have not read the message. It’s addressed to Ambassador Spock by someone who … cared deeply.” Spock shifted his weight slightly, uncomfortable with the reality before him. It struck Jim as odd, Spock rarely shifted. “The suffix and prefix indicates a… a certain type of relationship. I haven’t read any further. I didn’t believe it was my place.”

Jim could understand what Spock wasn’t staying. Spock was uncomfortable with the idea that he was in a relationship with someone other than Nyota in his older self’s timeline. It was clear to Jim that Spock didn’t understand who could love him enough to write letters like that, if not Nyota Uhura?

Jim, on the other hand, felt like crying; his eyes were starting to water. If the other Jim could manage to actually maintain a romantic relationship with Spock then why couldn’t he? “Oh… I see….” Jim trailed off.

He desperately wished that Spock had read the letter and had known that Jim was genuinely, dearly in love with him.

Jim remembered that Nyota Uhura existed and how can he , a pale imitation of the man older Spock spoke so proudly of, even compare to her?

Jim slammed that thought down quickly with a force that could have made warp.

He was not going to become bitter.

That would be unfair to them all.

Instead, he looked up at Spock and gave him a small smile. “Thank you, I’m glad he left me something.” Jim blinked away the tears that wanted to form. It was not the time nor the place that. He would grieve more openly later. When he could get a translator and read the letter in full.

Jim had the feeling he would really need to cry then. He’d get Bones and Scotty involved, and they’d keep him from doing anything rash.

Spock raised an eyebrow like he knew that Jim was pushing something mildly self-destructive away. Jim always assumed that Spock could read Jim like they were mentally linked. Because the way Spock could sometimes understand what Jim did and did not say was astounding.

That near mental link drove Jim up a wall sometimes with longing, but he was happy about it for the most part.

Except.

Except recently.

It hadn’t been working for months now. They had been drifting apart while Jim had been dealing with depression and Jim didn’t know how to stop it.

“Thank you, Spock. For giving it to me.” Jim said, folding the letter up and placing it in his jacket, next to his comm. He would keep the letter safe and protected.

“I believe the correct phrase is ‘You are welcome,’ Jim,” Spock said in return.

Jim smiled. “If I need help getting it translated, can I bring you the words? I don’t think I’ll want to bother Uhura about this.” He wasn’t going to be so mean as to bring Spock entire phrases.

Spock nodded, all previous discomfort not showing on his face. “I will help.”

Jim returned to watching the crowd. He already knew he wouldn’t bring the full letter to Spock. He was already unhappy with the whole idea of the letter. Spock was uncomfortable with the idea of the identity of the writer.

“It must have been essential for the ambassador to have kept it through everything.” Jim mused after a moment. He didn’t even realize he has spoken out loud until Spock responded.

“It was written by a bondmate, by hand. I cannot imagine not having something that precious on my own person. There is precedence in Vulcan culture that handwritten missives show more… respect and appreciation for a person.” Spock said. “I know not who wrote this correspondence, but evidence shows that they ‘cared,’ to use a human term.”

Jim sighed. Spock had never seen Jim’s handwriting. And now Jim was going to have to make sure he would never see it.

The party was still going on in the background.  Some of the guests, and some crew, had left. Jim had spent most of his time on the dancefloor with a good half of his crew. He had been having a great time just letting loose with his people. They were so happy to be alive and to see him where he needed to be.

Jim needed this party, and he was glad Bones had put it together.

The only time Jim hadn’t spent on the dance floor was when Nyota Uhura had once again done the impossible and had pulled Spock onto the dance floor. Seeing Spock awkwardly dance with her had made Jim’s night. It might have made his week.

But as always, he ignored the stab of pain at seeing Spock in the arms of someone else. Jim was bigger than that, and he would not hurt either of his friends.

“Where is Uhura anyway?” Jim asked as he reached for the drink he had left on the railing that ran along windows. It was some sort of fruity concoction. Jim liked it.

“I believe she is with Miss Jayla at the Memory Alpha Database link. I would describe them as ‘fast friends.’” Spock said calmly. “I was waiting to give this to you, and I had a conversation with Mr. Scott. I will join them shortly.” He was drinking something from a tall and slim glass. Jim thought it was terran champagne, something Jim had gotten Spock to admit he liked after a very excellent game of chess that Jim had won.

“Oh? What did you talk with Scotty about?” Jim asked, and he took another drink. He suspected it was about the power converters for science lab four, the one that was going to be the new Stellar astronomy and navigation labs.

“Apparently, I was remiss in not addressing the fact that Mr. Scott has romantic feelings for Nyota and I sought to rectify that. The conversation was fascinating.” Spock said. He nodded to the bar where Scotty was doing his best to drink the bar out of its stock.

Jim choked on his drink. “You what?! Tell me you didn’t!” he said through his sputtering.

Spock raised an eyebrow like he found Jim amusing.

Jim took that look to mean that Spock did.

Which were all sorts of scary, if Jim was honest. If Spock knew of Scotty’s love for Nyota then did he know if Jim’s love for him?

“Mr. Scott had much of the same reaction. But I believe that he gave me a better… ‘shovel talk’ than I threatened him with.” Spock said, leaning back on the railing.

“I see,” Jim said. And he did. Scotty could be scary and determined if he wanted to be. He would also do what was best for Uhura.

If Scotty thought that Spock was best for Uhura (and he was, Uhura had chosen him), then Scotty would make sure that Spock knew it and would follow it.

“How long have you known?” Jim asked, knowing if Scotty hadn’t asked then he would want to know later, during the inevitable drinking session.

“One year, two months and sixteen days. It was pointed out to me by the Freiisan ambassador.” Spock said in reply, taking a drink from the long skinny glass.

Jim winced. He remembered the Freiisan ambassador. She had been on board the Enterprise for an extended taxi ride last year. The ambassador was the first person in a long time who hadn’t wanted to sleep with Jim, but had wanted to sleep with Spock. She had spent the several weeks that she had been on board trying to get into Spock’s pants. Uhura had been very unhappy. Jim had been very unhappy. Spock had tried to deflect the situation, but it was clear to all that he was very, very uncomfortable with what was going on. The ambassador had tried to spread rumors around the ship that Uhura was cheating on Spock.

That hadn’t lasted very long. Every member of the crew who she had spoken to went directly to Jim. None of them had spread it further, nor did they believe her bullshit.  Jim had shut her down after that. Jim wasn’t surprised that she had gone to that length to fail at getting into Spock’s’ pants. “She was just a bitch. I’m sorry. Scotty took it all ok?”

Spock nodded. “He did.” Spock finished his drink. “I must leave soon to meet up with Nyota.”

Jim hummed in acknowledgment. “Have fun out there. I think I’ll need to find where Bones disappeared to.” He placed his now empty glass on the ledge he was leaning on.

Spock did the same and gave him a quick nod. “I will see you in two days, Jim.”

Jim frowned. “Two days?”

“Yes. If you find doctor McCoy, then you plan on drinking. If you also decide to drink with Mr. Scott, then you will need at least a day to recover from your hangover. We don’t have any responsibilities from Starfleet until the meeting with Admiral Chase in two days.” Spock said, once again reading Jim’s plans before Jim had a real chance to even realize that he was planning them.

It surprised Jim enough to make him laugh. It had been a while since Spock had done that. “I see, Mr. Spock! I will take that as permission. Please go meet up with your girlfriend and enjoy the next two days as well. I’ll see you at the meeting.” He waved as Spock left, still smiling.

God, he was in love.

Jim watched as Spock left. He didn’t let the smile drop off of his face. Spock knew him so well, and they seemed to be back on the same wavelength as before. Jim was happy with that. He had missed their friendship.

Now he had to find Bones.

Because he had a letter, and it was for Spock for him. And Spock knew it was from a lover.

As he walked through the party Bones found him instead.

“Jim!” Bones said as he barreled through the crowd. “Jim! I got Joanna! For the whole summer!”

Jim whooped loudly, causing several members of his crew to look their way. “Really?!”

Bones looked delighted. He seemed happier at that time in the first year at the academy, when Joycelyn let him come home to see Joanna. “Yes really! All summer without Joycelyn. I’m flying out in a few weeks to get her then we’ll be back!”

“Congrats, Bones!” Jim said. He was so happy for Bones. “Hey everyone! Bones’ kid is coming to stay for awhile! Let’s celebrate more!” He yelled into the room.

Because his crew was the best damned crew in the entire universe, they cheered. Jim grabbed Bones by the arm toward the bar where Scotty sat.

His plan to talk to Bones about the letter got pushed to the back of Jim’s mind. He would not be a sad drunk tonight nor would he drag Bones down either.

They had enough time in the future to do that. That letter was going nowhere.

-

Later that night, as the party winds down

If Hikaru had drunk more in one night than he had tonight he didn’t remember. Ben was just as gone.

“I’m so glad that we got the babysitter to stay overnight,” Hikaru said, reaching for the glass of water. He was trying to sober up. He was well aware that he was the only one who was trying to be sensible.

Ben was smiling as he leaned against him on the barstool; his last drink of the night sitting in front of his place on the bar. “Me too. I see why you guys don’t talk about the Starfleet parties if they’re all like this one.”

Hikaru laughed. “Yep. All Starfleet parties end up like this if the Brass leaves. It’s fun.” He wrapped his arms around his husband. It was still novel to be able to do that. After nearly three years of only video comms and emails, Hikaru had missed this.

Ben leaned back into the hug. They were both flagging, but it was a late night. But the party had been fun. Celebrating the Captain’s birthday and the survival of the crew had morphed into a ‘celebrate any good news’ party. McCoy’s daughter was coming to visit, the new ship would be ready in six or seven months, some of the people in communications just got the promotion lists and were telling people who got promoted.

All in all, a good night, Hikaru thought.

The one minor problem was the fact that Kirk, McCoy, and Scotty were all drunk as skunks and would probably be very, very, very hard to move. And Hikaru, out of the goodness of his heart and the fact he owed them some favors, was going to make sure that his superior officers actually made it to home to their rooms (or at least Ben’s townhome on Yorktown) before they passed out.

They had been arguing over who loves the Enterprise more. That conversation had started when a young ensign had started to cry when she saw the new Enterprise, saying she had not spent enough time with their Enterprise.

Kirk had heard that, and somehow the conversation had changed from mourning their ship to an argument. Hikaru would be hard-pressed to repeat the change in tone and topics.

“I’m saying, I have to love the Enterprise more. She was the best ship.” Scotty cried out. His accent getting thicker as he argued.

“Scotty,” Kirk said, as patiently as a person who was so drunk they were falling out of their chair could be, which is to say, not at all. “I’m the Captain. I’m sure I love the Enterprise more than you. It almost killed me to call abandon ship. She was the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met.”

“As chief engineer, I knew every inch of her. She always loved it when I got something right.” Scotty said, pointing at Kirk with the hand still holding his (what Hikaru thinks is) scotch.

And Hikaru had to agree that Scotty did know almost every inch of the Enterprise. That ship practically always handled the surprises the five-year mission had for them because of Scotty.

“As Captain, I not only know the ship more, but I also know each crew member. That’s part of the ship.”

But on the other hand, Jim Kirk was the Captain. He always had the right idea and the Enterprise always, always, always did what he said. The ship was Kirk’s.

“I think y’all’re both dumb as a box of rocks.” Scotty’s accent wasn’t the only one to get thicker after drinking a lot. McCoy’s tone was like old southern whiskey. “It’s a ship. Who cares?”

Both Scotty and Kirk gasped in unison, making Hikaru and Ben laugh. “Don’t say that about our girl, Bones!” Kirk said, flailing his arms out. “Don’t worry! She loved you too! That’s why med bay never lost power during a battle once you became CMO!”

McCoy grumbled. But Hikaru saw the pleased look flicker across his face before McCoy took a long drink of his beer. Hikaru knew, like the rest of the main bridge crew, that McCoy, for all his bluster and outright of distaste of space, could never imagine having a different life.

“Now if we are talking about who the Enterprise loved most, there is no contest.” Scotty declared.  “That was you, Captain.”

Hikaru laughed again. “Scotty’s right Captain. She loved you most.” He leaned over and punched Kirk’s arm lightly. “Always doing the impossible because you asked her too.”

Kirk grinned as he shifted back, bright and happy. “Well, that’s good, Sulu. I loved her most.”

McCoy snorted, and Scotty made sputtering sounds, while Hikaru and Ben laughed. “I take that back. She loved me more!”

Hikaru could see that this argument would go on for a while, and he started to speak up to change the subject before the argument would become a fight, but McCoy spoke first.

“Jim, you and I and Scotty all know who you love most. Don’t even think that we can be tricked into thinking that the Enterprise is your true love.” McCoy said with a tone of finality.

McCoy spoke with a father’s tone. Hikaru had to admire the steel in McCoy’s voice because it was something that Hikaru had never really mastered with Demora. Ben could do it, but he saw her every morning and talked to her every night. Hikaru never could, not while they were in space. Not when his heart was pulled in to two directions.

Kirk blushed, something that Hikaru hadn’t seen him do in years, but his smile didn’t falter. “Well, it wouldn’t be the Enterprise without him, Bones. Sorry! He makes me love the ship more.” He raised his glass at McCoy and then Scotty.

Scotty laughed. “Aye, he would do that for ya. Just like I can’t imagine the Enterprise without her. They make the ship, our wonderful lady, home.” He took a deep drink of the scotch, finishing it.  

McCoy downed the last of his beer. “I don’t know what I would do if I were stuck in space without him.”

Hikaru sighed, that emotion was something he knew very well. “You would live… and survive like the rest of us.” Ben tightened his grip on Hikaru’s hand, leading him the strength to continue. Hikaru knew that the three of them went drinking to forget their feelings for others on the ship.

The three of them nodded with all the seriousness and gravity drunk people could get. Hikaru had drunk with them before, and they all knew to respect his knowledge.

Ben leaned against Hikaru’s side, and Hikaru placed an arm around him. They leaned into each other. Hikaru caught Kirk’s expression shifting for a heartbeat. Instead of smiling, it was filled with longing and wistfulness. It was clear who Jim Kirk was thinking of.  

But then Kirk shook his head and turned back to Scotty and started talking about the limits on the new warp core of the soon to be USS Enterprise – A.

Hikaru had long known of his Captain’s love for his First Officer. In fact, he knew who Scotty and Bones had been referring too as well.

“Well, come on,” Ben said pulling away. “I think it’s time to go. Do you want to help them to their rooms?” He nodded toward the three others. They were drinking and murmuring about the new ship. They weren’t paying any more attribution to him and Ben.

Hikaru frowned. “I don’t think they are going to make it to their rooms on their own and maybe we shouldn’t leave them alone.”

“We’ll take them to our place.” Ben decided.

Hikaru hummed. “You sure? Demora is home, and these three will be loud.”

Ben smiled, and Hikaru knew he was a lucky man. “’Mora will sleep through a natural disaster. She’ll be fine.”

“Well, then, let’s go!” Hikaru said.

The act of getting his commanding officers actually out of the party wasn’t as hard as Hikaru expected it to be; the alcohol was strong enough that they were getting tired and dehydrated enough that they wanted to leave. What was actually tricky was keeping them undistracted as the group made their way to Ben’s townhouse.  

They kept getting distracted by ‘cool ideas’ in Kirk’s words and ‘awesome inventions’ in Scotty’s. McCoy seemed to feel like he was the protector of them both and was trying to dissuade them from doing anything too stupid.

Of all of them, McCoy was the easiest to deal with. He actually wasn’t the oldest, that was Scotty. But a drunk Scotty and a drunk Kirk was a combination of bad ideas and the know-how to actually get them done.

But the doctor was easy enough to point in the right direction. He would actually listen. He also was a good third of Kirk’s impulse control at the moment.

Hikaru knew that if Spock were here then he would be at least three-fourths of Kirk’s impulse control.

Nothing would be able to control Kirk completely.

Scotty was an enabler. Kirk was too. But McCoy did help Ben and Hikaru corral them in the right direction.

When McCoy did get distracted by being drunkenly overprotective of Kirk and Scotty, all Hikaru had to do was bring up Pavel and some story that happened recently and McCoy just followed him like a puppy. A very grumpy puppy but a puppy all the same.

If Pasha ever woke up to what was right in front of him, and actually saw the good doctor as someone who was actually really interested, then Pasha would be very happy.

Hikaru loved Pasha as a brother, and it was hard for him to see Pasha jump from lover to lover. He needed to settle down and Hikaru knew for a fact that Pasha was looking for that person. Pasha, always was the optimist, always believed he could find the one. But every partner he had wasn’t enough or wanted different things. Or wanted Pavel to leave Starfleet or the Enterprise. Or they wanted to move too fast. Or they just wanted the right to say they had ‘Starfleet's child genius’ in their bed.

Pavel had a lot of reasons to date people. And he had even more reasons to say no and end those relationships.

The doctor didn’t ever seem to want for Pavel to be more than himself. Hikaru had watched the way McCoy’s eyes had lit up when Pasha went into his ‘I’m a genius hear me roar’ mode on the bridge or in the mess or even on missions. When Pasha started talking about his interest in stellar cartography and star charts (something that bores Hikaru to death), McCoy actually humors him and asks questions.

The doctor would be good for Pasha.

If Pavel Chekov ever looked at Leonard McCoy and really saw…

Well, Pasha would be happy.

A burst of low laughter drew his attention to the trio of idiots ahead of him.

Ben had reached the door of the townhome and had shushed them. The three were giggling slightly. And trying to be quiet but were failing rather epically.

“I’m so glad Demora sleeps,” McCoy said. “Jo never did when things got loud.” He had a small smile on his face at the memory of his daughter.

Hikaru let him.

“Jim won’t sleep for the next two hours. You guys might want to go to bed before he starts on the wonders of Spock. Because that will get Scotty started on all the things that are amazing about Uhura. They’ll go back and forth for a while. It gets tedious.” McCoy continued as he pushed both Jim and Scotty into the house. He said this as if he wasn’t about to join them in talking about the wonders of one Pavel Chekov.

Hikaru thought that the whole conversation sounded fun to listen to.

Ben was turning on lights and walking into the small kitchen. The house wasn’t huge, but it was something that Hikaru could actually provide. It was a Starfleet officer’s house, a privilege of Hikaru’s career choice. It was better than an apartment.

There was a small sound of surprise as the babysitter came down from the upper story. Ben got up to deal with her and Hikaru glanced at the other three men. They were at looking contrite for waking somebody.

“I’ll get Demora and get the bed ready, ‘Karu,” Ben said. “You get your command triad over there settled. Come up when you’re ready.” He was smiling, and Hikaru knew he was hiding a laugh.

Hikaru smiled, shook his head, and went to the linen closet to pull out blankets.

He helped the three of them set up camp on the couch. And he absolutely did not linger to hear Jim Kirk wax poetic about Spock.

Not at all.

“The thing is… he’s wonderful. He’s so damned dedicated. And it kills me because there are days I get up early to do paperwork and he’s already finished it! Spock cares so damned much for this ship. And I can trust him to do what’s best. Even when he put in an early out chit in, that had to be the best for the ship.” Jim sighed, unaware that the other three men froze at his words.

Hikaru found his voice first. “Spock put in an early-out chit? He actively put in the paperwork and requested to end his contract with Starfleet early?” That was mind-boggling. Spock loved Starfleet. Why should he leave?

“How did you find out? Spock said he hadn’t told you yet.” McCoy asked. He sounded tired but focused.

“Yes. I don’t know why for sure but it would be something either self-sacrificing or what he thinks is best for the ship.” Kirk said then he scoffed. “Of course, I knew, Bones! Who else has to sign things like that before sending it up to the Admiralty?” He sounded incredulous. Kirk glanced sideways at McCoy. “You knew? You actually got him to talk about it? I never could. I had given up by the time we reached Yorktown. The closest I got was when he wanted to tell me about the death of Ambassador Spock.”

“Oh…” McCoy said. “I found out on Altimir. He’s withdrawn the request.”

“Good.” Scotty suddenly said. Both McCoy and Kirk jumped like they had forgotten they had an audience.  “I would have to punch him for hurting you and Nyota.”

“Don’t worry about that, Scotty. He was just as lost as I was. It’s ok. He was thinking of the ship first as I was. We’re good now.” Kirk said, smiling at Scotty. Hikaru knew that Kirk had been dealing with depression for a while. But he didn’t realize that Spock had been dealing with it too.

“Again, good. I would have told him off.” Scotty said like that would have done anything.

Hikaru laughed. “Well, I’m glad my crew is staying together.” And he was, finishing the mission without his Captain or his First Officer would have been horrible.

Kirk smiled at him. “Of course, we are! We’ve got at least two more years left! Then I hope you all stay on the Enterprise for whatever they send her to next. They will have to ban my ass off of starships before I leave the Captain’s chair.”

Hikaru and Scotty laughed.

“Aye, and they won’t be catching me retire ever if I have any say about it.” Scotty agreed. “As long as I can work with tools, I’ll be in a starship with ya.”

“That’s not how my plans work,” McCoy grumbled.

That set off another round of laughter.

Seeing as the three drunk idiots were beginning to settle into the couch and the floor, Hikaru gave them the blankets to cover up and maybe get some sleep.

Hikaru wondered as he left the room why Spock never realized that Kirk was perfect for him?

And come to that matter, why did Uhura never see that Scotty was a better fit for her then Spock?

Not that Hikaru thought anything bad about either of them for missing it.

Uhura was a goddess among people, putting up with the crew’s antics the way she did. Though her and Spock’s eventual marriage would be successful,Hikaru thought that it would be a marriage where something would always be missing. Hikaru figured they both would need more than the other could give them.

Uhura would need someone who could stand next to her and not once look down on her for any reason. She would need support, not competition. Someone who wouldn’t mind when she would lose herself in her work because they would be doing the same next to her. She needed someone who would understand her without feeling the need to quantify her. She needed Scotty.

Spock, on the other hand, would need someone who wanted intelligence, his protectiveness, and care. Someone who stood by him at all times. Someone who challenged him. Someone who would call him out on his ‘I’m a Vulcan’ bullshit. Someone who demanded all of Spock’s attention, who wouldn’t settle for less. Someone he respected enough to listen to, and then ignore. Someone who wanted to protect him, be protected by him, and care for him without stifling him. Spock needed Jim.

And neither Spock nor Uhura saw it.

Neither of them saw that while they could be happy together, doing their on again and off again thing they’d been playing around with for years; both Spock and Uhura would be happier with other people.

Hikaru sighed, it was not his place to tell them. If Spock and Uhura thought that they were well for each other, then they were right for each other.

No matter how much Hikaru thought, the Enterprise would be happier if everyone realized what they were missing.

Chapter Text

Two weeks before the first shore leave on the second five-year mission

In all honesty, if he was pushed, Spock could have recounted the conversation that led to yet another argument with Nyota, but he found he was not inclined to.

After she had stormed out less than an hour ago, all Spock had been left with was a strained voice, a shaken posture and a very empty set of rooms.

He had gone to the meditation corner of his room and had attempted thought sorting practices. The ones which had once helped at the beginning of his relationship with Nyota.  Back when everything was new, hard to understand and reason out.

After a fight, he would generally be trying to calm his emotions, and working through the reason he and Nyota had the argument and trying to find a solution. It had served him well for the past several years. The habit had preserved his and Nyota’s relationship several times.

Spock hadn’t even wanted to go through the motions but felt he needed to make the attempt.

The meditation had failed him more often than not in the past couple of months.

It was failing him now.

The conversation, if one could call their screaming argument a conversation, wasn’t the first argument they’d had, nor, Spock suspected, would it be their last.

The arguments, the fights, as Terrans called such arguments between couples, in the past months had become more frequent. And the fights, Spock felt a flash of frustration run through him at the admission, were never about opinions or debates anymore, it was always the little personality things. Things neither of them could, or would, change.

Nyota didn’t like the faint but near constant smell of incense that covered his clothes. He didn’t like the way she would hum the songs stuck in her head. It was the small things.

As the arguments rose in frequency, the meditation failed in a proportionate inverse.

Spock blinked his eyes open. He had lost the mediation.

Spock felt a little like Jim right now. He really wanted to say ‘Fuck it.’

He was exhausted. Emotionally. And he was finding that even with repeated exposure to that state he still did not care for the feeling.

Clearly, his standard solution wasn’t fixing the actual problem. That bothered him.

He might as well get some work done; the start of the second five-year mission had created a lot of paperwork. Spock, in particular, had been looking forward to reading Nurse Chapel’s study and analysis of the families now living onboard. Maybe, some part of him admitted, this would be a good distraction from his emotional turmoil.

He stood up from his meditation mat and walked to his desk. Spock sat and picked up the padd with the study report. Intent on reading and giving feedback, Spock spent the next several minutes staring blankly at his padd, filled with information from the study. He processed none of it.

Spock allowed his gaze to wander the room. It was just as empty as it had been when Nyota had left. Just as clean. Just as filled with the scent of his incense.

Just as wrong, apparently.

But something caught his eyes. But not his mind. It took a moment for him to find what had caught his attention.

Next to his bed, on the nightstand, was the last thing Ambassador Spock had ever given him.

It was a holographic photo of the Enterprise crew, ambassador Spock’s crew, dated to when Spock was in his late fifties. They were all dressed in a red uniform which Spock could only assume was a formal uniform; it looked far too stiff to be a working uniform.

They were in the bridge of a ship that looked vaguely like the Enterprise-A, but something was different. Spock could never genuinely have decided what was wrong, but some detail was off. Mr. Chekov and Mr. Scott stood to the back of the photo. Mr. Sulu was next to Mr. Chekov. Their friendship was clearly a multiverse event, as Chekov had his hand on Sulu’s shoulder. McCoy stood next to Jim on his right, standing stiff and formal, scowling at the camera.

Jim was in the Captain's chair, smiling like he was satisfied with the day’s events. He was older, and his hair was darker and curlier. Spock suspected that Jim had more weight on him than he did right now. But even with the changes, Spock couldn’t help but think that Jim was still beautiful.

In all of this, what caught Spock’s attention most, the first time he saw the photo when he was on Yorktown several years ago, and now, standing in his quarters with the remnants of a fight lingering around him, was the fact he and Nyota were standing at different ends of the picture. Nyota stood on the other side of the photo than he did.  

They weren’t touching. That lack of contact was something that Spock had noticed before. It was unusual for bonded Vulcan couples to be seen without any contact between them at all.

When he first saw the photo on Yorktown, Spock had an idea that he and Nyota looked like they were protecting their family. That thought had pleased him; they were protecting their tribe… But now, that same distance didn’t give him the confidence that they were separated to protect.

The distance made him think that they were not together at all in Ambassador Spock’s universe.

And that mere thought that he was not together with Nyota in any universe should have hurt, but it did not.

He remembered seeing the letter that Ambassador Spock had left Jim.

The handwritten one that was addressed to him by a bondmate. A bondmate that Spock didn’t think was Nyota; the script didn’t match her handwriting. He remembered feeling uncomfortable that Jim had been gifted such a letter. He wondered why Ambassador Spock did not give the message to Nyota, if indeed that the missive was from a bondmate. Ambassador Spock had given her a manuscript on differences between Vulcan spoken language he had learned and the one that was present in this universe. It was a gift from a friend. Not a gift from a lover. Spock had always wondered why Ambassador Spock had chosen that.

Now, Spock was sure that he knew.

It wasn’t Nyota’s letter.

It had never been Nyota’s letter.

Perhaps Jim was meant to hold on to the letter until Spock met the person who had written it… Spock didn't know. He stared at the photo hard. Trying to see what his logical mind was telling him was there. Trying to see what he was missing. He almost dismissed the thought that was forming in the back of his mind.

What if...

Maybe...

Maybe the letter... was Jim’s. In more ways than just currently in his possession.

Spock didn’t understand all the feelings that shot through him at that thought. They were a tangled mess of many things, hot and complicated. They were shifting, and Spock was not in a state to identify them all.

One was one Spock could identify. Grief. If the letter was Jim’s, Jim from the other universe, then Ambassador Spock had kept the message with him and had undoubtedly lost Jim long before the Ambassador had reached their timeline. But the other emotions he felt were a mystery to him.

He would have to meditate to understand them. Spock would have to attempt to meditate again. He hadn’t even gotten up from the desk to go back to the meditation mat before his door chimed. Spock started, which said a lot about his mental state and controls, he knew.  

His door beeped again, and there wasn’t even a full moment before Nyota came through it, using an access code she’d had for years.

She had a blank expression that rivaled even his father's on the day he left Vulcan.

“Spock, I believe we need to talk,” she said, her tone even.

Spock felt suddenly viscerally aware of the reason humans sometimes took a large drink of alcohol before conversations like the one he was about to have.

He found that he wanted a large chocolate bar.

Spock had, over the years, learned to read Nyota’s expressions. He had learned to read her body language and had known her thoughts and choices. He could read Nyota well.

It was a skill that had never come easily to him. Nyota could read him like a book, as the Terran expression went. She always had been able to.  Spock had never felt like he had the same ability to understand her. He had learned, but he didn’t think he was nearly as good at it as Nyota was with him.

Right now, as she crossed his quarters and sat on his bed opposite his desk, Spock could read nothing. He had no clear path.

And that blankness, more than anything else, was the hint he needed. They both knew what this conversation would entail.

He felt his heart sink, as humans would put it. “Nyota.”

Nyota took a deep breath and let it out. It shook as she breathed out. She met his gaze evenly.

“We are not working as a couple.” She said bluntly.  “We’ve been drifting, haven’t we?” Her hands clenched into fists on her lap.

Spock’s hands inevitably did the same.

“We have.” He said simply. Nyota broke eye contact.

They sat in silence for a moment. Not because they didn’t try to speak, but neither could find the words to express what was needed to say. Both tried to talk. Neither could.

Spock felt his heart sink lower.

Is this what they had become?

They couldn’t find the words. They couldn’t talk about this. They didn’t talk anymore, and when they did it was arguing. She was the best communicator on the ship. She wasn't able to express her emotions either.

Is this what the last six years had become?

Disjointed words and half-finished sentences with no real meaning?

“We have been arguing more often,” Spock said finally. He stared down at his hands for a moment before looking up again.

“We have.” Nyota agreed, shortly. She didn't say anything else.

Spock hated, hated, hated the following silence. Neither knowing where to go with the conversation. He stood up and joined Nyota on the bed, sitting next to her with very little space between.

She didn’t move away, but she didn’t lean any closer like she used to. Spock was struck by how long it had been since she had leaned into him.

It may have been months.

Nyota didn’t look at him. She remained staring at the floor before the desk.

“Do you want this relationship to continue?” She asked after a moment. “I do, but I need to know if you do too.” She shifted in her place, like the nervous energy she was filled with had finally forced her to move. "We've put a lot of effort into what we had. I don't want to lose it."

Spock took the question seriously, surprised she even asked. He had made a commitment to their relationship. Spock could possibly go into pon farr sometime in the next few years. That was what Ambassador Spock had told him. It was the only real warning that his future self-had given him.

Spock had long assumed that it was Nyota that would be with him during that trying event.

Not Jim Kirk, who was with the Ambassador, who had fought with the Ambassador, who had been at the Ambassador’s side.

Spock ignored the stab of hot emotion to which he had no name that ran through him at the thought of Jim sharing pon farr with another Vulcan. He had been ignoring emotions like that his whole life.

He wanted Nyota to be with him for the rest of their lives. He didn’t know if anyone would be his friend like she had been for the last years.

“I do wish for our relationship to continue,” Spock said after a moment, thinking of all he could lose if they ended what they had. From his research: Terran breakups often caused the end of friendships.

An unbidden half smirk, a half smile spread across Nyota’s face. “I actually believe that. I could hear you think.” She sighed. “We’re going to have work on the relationship.”

Spock nodded. He had no idea where to start. Every step of their relationship and courtship had been new to him. For some of it, he had been able to lead and not just relied on Nyota’s expertise as a human. But now he was at a loss.

“We should spend more time together, first,” Nyota said, finally looking up at him. Their eyes met, and Spock felt a hope that maybe their relationship would work. “I think part of the problem is that we aren’t doing that.”

And suddenly Spock could breathe fully again. He could also help plan.

“There is a shore leave scheduled in two weeks. I believe we should ask for the full time off.” Spock said, already thinking about how best to rearrange his schedule so that he and Nyota could spend more time together without hurting their work.

It would mean less time with Jim. That would be hard.

But Spock would do it.

“No duty or watch?” Nyota hummed a little. Spock had once thought that trait was endearing. Now it annoyed him slightly. “That would work. We have to actually talk about things. And not argue about them.”

Spock knew that they both were at fault for the arguments. It was honestly about fifty-fifty as to who started them. “That is acceptable.”

“Spock. I want us to work. I want us.” Nyota said quietly. “We should try one more time. We’ll talk about it again during shore leave.”

Spock knew that he did too. But… he also knew and understood what it meant if during shore leave they still didn’t work.

Spock would do his best to save his relationship in two weeks. If that didn’t work, then there was only one option.

Until then he would do everything needed to save his relationship.

His relationship with Nyota.

Even it meant that he had less time for Jim.

-

Four hours into shore leave

Pavel tried to keep the pleasant expression on his face.

He was sure he was failing at it.

The longer Camelia’s father talked, the more Pavel wanted to run.

This dinner was rapidly falling into a disaster, much like the way most away missions did. Slowly at first, then everything going wrong for someone all at once.

Right now, he was that someone.

Pavel had a headache building behind his eyes. A stress headache. Just what he needed.

He had been excited about this dinner. He was meeting Camelia ’s parents. He had thought that was a good thing!

Wasn’t it?

He had told Leonard when he had run into Leonard before he had met up with Camelia, that he wanted this dinner, that he was serious with Camelia. Pavel hadn’t been lying.

Pavel has thought that he wanted to be serious with Camelia. They had been dating for a while, and he was happy for the first time in a stable relationship. She was what Pavel thought he was looking for. Smart, sensible, filled with knowledge about things that interested Pavel, always just as ready to listen to him on things that interested her.

They had been good so far. Pavel hadn’t gotten bored like some of the other relationships he’d been in. Nor had he felt pressured to do something he didn’t want to. So, Pavel had thought that he might be ready for more.

Meeting her parents came next right?

At least that was the idea that he was clinging to.

He was holding on to that idea with a quickly fraying rope.

The restaurant was one of the best on the planet. Camelia’s father had picked it out, saying that since his daughter and wife were in town they should eat at the best restaurant. His ship was in orbit at the same time as the Enterprise, for only two days.

At first, the dinner had been excellent and pleasant. They had asked about Pavel’s work and his ideas. Camelia had been asked about her work, a few friends that she had from Earth, and about their extended family. Camelia’s mother had spoken at length about her latest project that had lost Pavel, but he had tried.

The dinner had been pleasant.

At first.

But as this dinner wore on, Pavel was beginning to see that maybe that being serious with Camelia wasn’t the best idea.

Because her father was charismatic, charming, and an absolute ass.

Now he was counting the minutes until he could leave and never, ever speak to Captain Warrington, Camelia’s father, again.

What Pavel thought was going to be a ‘meeting the parents’ dinner became a recruitment dinner from her father. And Camelia was all for it.

He had spent the entire time talking about his accomplishments with the Intrepid, in the six months he had been in charge of her. He sounded like what Len would describe as a ‘snake oil salesmen.’ (Pavel found it was an excellent term to describe people for a term that was not invented in Russia.)

Captain Warrington was nothing like Captain Kirk. He clearly thought he was better than Captain Kirk. The man’s sheer arrogance was driving Pavel up a wall.

“And so, as I saved my ship, the Intrepid, from certain destruction, I became aware that I need a stronger navigator. A navigator who could keep up with my genius. That’s where you come in Mr. Chekov. Camelia has been telling me about your skills and abilities in Navigation and Engineering. I believe you would make a valued member of my team.”

Pavel fought the urge to snap out his actual thoughts about that.  He had heard of the disaster that the Intrepid had been involved in. The Captain wasn’t the savior of the day. He had instigated it! Junior officers liked to talk and trade stories. All he had ever heard from people from the Enterprise was good things. Stories about how Captain Kirk had saved them or the latest cool mission. All Pavel had heard in the last six months from the junior officers from the Intrepid was how their Captain was going to get them killed with his high mindedness.

Pavel had thought that was merely disgruntled officers talking. But now he knew. They weren't lying.

But saying that wasn’t the most pleasant thing to say in the current company. Captain Warrington’s navigator sounded like a reasonable person who was good at their job. It wasn’t their fault that only Pavel could navigate that particular incident. Not that Captain Kirk would have gotten the ship into that incident at all.

Camelia was beaming from where she sat next to him. Like she was excited for whatever her father was saying.

“I see,” Pavel said evenly, taking the last bite from his dinner. The plate had been filled with fantastic food native to the planet. It was now empty, and Pavel needed to do something like actually talking.

His patience was wearing thin. He hated when people tried to ‘steal’ him away from the Enterprise. Multiple times Captains had come to him try to get him on their crew. The only reason Pavel would ever be willing to leave the Enterprise was if he got an offer to be the First Officer on a ship that was like the Enterprise, had most of the Enterprise’s crew, and if Hikaru came with him. And if the captain was Mr. Spock or Captain Kirk. And if the ship had the best damn medical team around.

In other words, it was never going to happen.

Especially right now as the second five-year mission just got started.

Captain Warrington didn’t seem to hear Pavel’s tone. Neither did Camelia or her mother.

“I told Papa that you were the best. Papa only wants the best. That’s why another person and I are transferring.” Camelia said blithely. She picked up her wine. “I can be the head nurse on the Intrepid, Pav.”

And Pavel didn’t bother to hide his flinch at the nickname. He hated when people called him Pav. He preferred Pavel. Or maybe, if Pavel really liked the person, Pasha . Camelia knew that.

It occurred to Pavel that he hadn’t given Camelia permission to call him Pasha.

Maybe that was a sign that he had understood subconsciously something that was only dawning on him now. That he maybe didn’t want Camelia.

Not in the way he thought he did.

But, he had a more important thing to worry about. The most significant thing about that statement from Camelia was the fact that she hadn’t told him that she was transferring.

He hadn’t known that.

That fact was a problem. A major one.

“You are planning on transferring, Camelia?” Pavel asked as lightly as possible. He took a large sip of the wine he was drinking. It was white and light and Pavel really, really wanted to be drinking something stronger right now. Like vodka. Or even Len’s preferred hard drink of choice: Bourbon.

Camelia looked surprised. “Of course! Papa’s now a Captain, and this will help my career.” Pavel mentally snorted. Transferring to her father’s ship would tank her career. It would show Starfleet and all others who were looking for Head Nurses or the equivalent that she couldn’t do the job without nepotism.

He didn’t say that out loud of course. It wasn’t worth it at that moment.

“I see,” he repeated stiffly.

But he didn’t.

He didn’t see how she would want to leave the crew. All of the people who worked in medical took great care to stay with the Enterprise. Len had often said that once they’d had their hands inside a crew member, literally, then that crewmember was their’s for life. The medical crew was part of the reason why the Enterprise always felt like family.

Pavel had liked that about Len, a lot.

He guessed Camelia wasn’t like that. That she didn't feel the same way.

Pavel was becoming more and more sure that a serious relationship with Camelia wasn't in the cards.

Pavel found that his anger at being put in this situation by Camelia and her father drowned out his disappointment that the relationship wasn’t going to work out with Camelia.  

“Your Captain won’t use you as you need. You won’t grow if you stay on the Enterprise like you have.” Warrington said, recapturing Pavel’s attention. He was drinking a glass of wine so red that it was nearly black.  “He hasn’t for my kin. Camelia, darling, it's just you who will be transferring.”

Camelia looked at her father, puzzlement on her face. "Just me? I thought -"

"Just you," Warrington said with a hint of anger that was gone in the next moment. "And Pavel here, once he accepts. He will be exceptional on the Intrepid and away from the stifling conditions of the Enterprise."  

Pavel turned from Camelia and faced the man. If this wasn’t going to be a meeting the parents dinner like he’d thought, then he wasn’t going to treat it as one.

“What makes you believe that, Captain?” Pavel asked evenly. Pavel shifted in his seat, trying to hide his shaking foot. He had far too much energy for this dinner.  It wasn’t a good idea to allow a recruiting Captain to know that Pavel wasn’t interested until he had all the facts.

With those facts, he could tell Captain Kirk and have him deal with Captains who liked to poach crew from others.

“You’re good. But with me, you could be great. Not wasted on another exploratory mission lead by a child who has no idea how to lead. If you want to be seen or promoted and climb the ranks, then you need to be with the Intrepid. Not the Enterprise.” Warrington sounded smug like he knew something that Pavel didn’t.

Which pissed Pavel right off. There were so many things wrong with that sentence that it was laughable.

Pavel picked up the glass of white wine in front of him and took a long sip to give himself a moment to calm down and not snap at the man.

Now Pavel wasn’t against getting promoted or climbing the ranks. He had just made Lieutenant before the end of the last five-year mission and was slated to make Lieutenant Commander when space opened up in the fleet. Hikaru was already a Lieutenant Commander, and so was Uhura. Scotty was a full Commander now. The only ones who didn’t promote were Len, the Captain, and Mr. Spock. That was because they all refused any promotions given to them. They wanted to stay on the Enterprise and being promoted would take them from the Enterprise.

It was that dedication to the ship and the crew that Pavel really enjoyed.

To hear Warrington's dismissal and belief that the Enterprise was holding him back and that the missions were worth nothing? That annoyed Pavel. Their missions had meant something the federation. The Enterprise was responsible for so much good in the universe that Pavel couldn’t help but be proud that he was a part of the ship and her crew.

But to say that Captain Kirk was a child who couldn’t lead was almost too much for Pavel to bear. Pavel had been considered an actual child for so long and by so many that he was almost offended when people use the term to insult someone. And Jim Kirk had led the ship and her crew through so many life-and-death situations, from the Nerada to Altimir and Yorktown and beyond. His leadership was worth so much.

“I don’t believe that,” Pavel said tightly. He placed his wine glass on the table just as firmly. It was empty. Much like Pavel’s patience with this dinner. His headache only had gotten worse in the last half hour. It was now pounding at his eyes and temples. Pavel had hoped it would fade. He wasn’t that lucky.

“I do,” Camelia said. She was still smiling softly. That look had been part of the reason Pavel was interested in her in the first place, but then there was something wrong.

It took Pavel a heartbeat to realize why her smile suddenly bothered him.

Her smile was the same as her father’s.

And now that Pavel had seen her father’s smug smile, he couldn’t separate it from Camelia’s.

The smile said she knew more than he did and she was used to getting her way.

“I can’t be the Head Nurse, not stuck on the Enterprise. Or at least not with the current failure of a CMO.” She didn’t seem to care that she was insulting Len. “He’s blind as a bat if he doesn’t see that keeping Chapel as the head nurse was a terrible idea. She’s too wrapped up in that new families-on-ships project to keep being Head Nurse. I’m a much better choice. McCoy is just playing favorites.” Camelia took another drink of wine.

“He’s a moron to keep you down, darling.” Captain Warrington said, smiling fondly at his daughter. “I saw your rough draft of your transfer request. You worded it wonderfully. They won’t know what they’re missing, the fools.”

Pavel was friends with Len. Len was a good man. He was everything Pavel wanted to be in a leader. He was funny and blunt. He was strong, handsome as hell, and damn good at his job. He had been there when Pavel had needed him. They were friends.

Pavel had thought that Camelia liked her boss.

I can see that she makes you happy, Pavel. She’s a good nurse. A good woman. I’m … happy for you.

Len thought that Camelia would be right for him. That she was a good nurse. He had sounded distracted when they had spoken earlier, before Camelia and Pavel had left to the planet, but that was normal. Sometimes, when Pavel spoke of his partners, girlfriends or boyfriends, Len would get distracted and Pavel chocked that up to Len’s divorce still paining him. So, he had never pushed the topic.

Len liked Camelia.

Apparently, that regard wasn’t returned.

Only now did it occur to Pavel that he put a lot of weight on what Len said and did. And then he realized that he thought Len was handsome as hell.

Pavel pushed that thought to the back of his mind. He’d deal with that later. When he wasn't in, what he now considered, 'enemy territory.'

“So, when can I expect to see a transfer request from you, Mr. Chekov?” Captain Warrington asked, smiling in that smug way that made Pavel want to punch him.

“Yes! When you transfer, I can introduce-…” Camelia was smiling, like she was getting everything she wanted. Pavel took a, probably wrong, delight in looking forward to changing that expression quick.

“Never,” Pavel said, interrupting her firmly. He drained his wine glass. “I’m not planning on leaving the Enterprise.”

Captain Warrington looked mildly surprised, like he wasn’t expecting Pavel’s response. Did everyone Captain Warrington tried to recruit just fall at his feet when he showed his Captain’s stripes? No wonder the waiting list to get on the Enterprise was over twice the crew complement of the ship.

“Why?” Camelia asked, sounding stunned. She clearly also hadn’t expected Pavel’s answer. “But we can be together on the Intrepid!”

Pavel glared at her. “I’m not transferring for nothing. The Enterprise has all I need. Why would I need more?” It may be a little cruel to speak to her this way, but he was still mad that she had put him in this position, having to choose between the Enterprise and his girlfriend. He had thought they might be ready for a more serious relationship. Might . Transferring now - for her - was much too soon. It was too big, too fast, and it was something Pavel did not want to do.

Pavel wasn’t ready to leave the Enterprise. He wasn't prepared to leave his friends. He wasn’t prepared to leave his leadership. Pavel wasn’t ready to leave Len.

“I won’t be there!” Camelia said, getting more and more flustered. She was rapidly turning red, and her expression was starting to cloud with anger. “I’ll be on the Intrepid, and you don’t like long distance! You told me that!”

Pavel nodded, ignoring how his head pounded at the action. “You’re right. I don’t like the long-distance relationships. I’m staying on the Enterprise. If that means we’re breaking up, then that means we’re breaking up. The Enterprise is far more important to me than following you right now. I won’t miss the five-year mission for anything other than death, Camelia. Not you, or the Intrepid, will stop me. The mission and my place on the Enterprise are more important. I thought my dedication to the Enterprise was obvious.”

Pavel’s head snapped to the side as Camelia’s hand made contact with his cheek and temple. He could hear the ring of the slap throughout the restaurant. The other patrons quieted to see what was happening.

Pavel should have expected that. He hadn’t, and now his headache was rapidly getting worse. The sharp from the impact of the slap now mixed with the pounding in his temples, creating a whole new, worse pain.

Oh well.

“If you really feel like that Pavel Chekov, then we are over. Don’t try getting back with me. I’m on to better things than you and that ship.” Camelia said, glaring at him in a challenge like she expected her words to change anything.

Pavel smiled despite his headache and the pain in his cheek. He stood up. He didn’t want to be here anymore, and that was the moment he had been looking forward to since her father had started to speak.

He was leaving.

“Goodbye Camelia.” He said and stood up and walked away from the table. He could hear the family talking as he left the restaurant. He didn’t care.

All he wanted to do is go back to his quarters and sleep away the headache. And maybe get a shot of whiskey from his stash if Len hadn’t gone through his things again for another ‘health and safety’ inspection.

-

The evening of the first night of shore leave

If Nyota had to describe the last two weeks in one word, it would be suffocating.

Or maybe chafing.

Or maybe exhausting .

For once she wasn’t sure of the right word to use.

She and Spock had spent more time together in the past two weeks then they had in the last three months. Every moment of their off time they could, they spent together. They had cut down on time spent with friends. Spock had spent almost no time with Jim.  Nyota couldn’t remember a time when she didn’t have dinner in the mess at least once a week with Scotty. Now she hadn’t seen Scotty in a week.

She and Spock had tried to go on dates again. They had spent time in observation lounges (a place that used to be a favorite of theirs), in the mess, and in their rooms. They talked about everything they could think of, from politics to art and everything in between. They had held hands, gave hugs, ate dinners together and meditated together.

Nothing had helped.

In fact, the more time they spent in each other’s presence made the problems that they had been ignoring or letting go come to the forefront.  

They had snapped at each other and bickered more in private than they had ever had before. Each fight ended quickly; both of them learning to hold their tongues when things got too heated but the arguments still happened.

Nyota had honestly forgotten how all-encompassing Spock’s full attention could be. How he could be almost everywhere. He was always giving her little reminders that he existed and was paying attention to her.

When she was twenty-one and in love and still finding her feet as an adult and a person, all that attention was excellent. She had delighted in knowing that Spock loved her. That he wanted her. His little actions that said he was always thinking of her made her happy. When he turned all of his intellect on seeing how to make her happy or just be in her presence, that made her feel loved.

Now she was nearing thirty, and it wasn’t working anymore.

Because when she was younger and still unsure of herself, she had welcomed his way of showing his interest in her work. He had read the papers she had written, and they had debated them. She had loved the debates because it had made her a stronger writer and helped to strengthen her ideas about how to communicate.

Now when he did that same action, she didn’t feel the happiness that he liked her work, Nyota felt defensive. Every idea Spock seemed to bring up was one that she, herself, had already thought of. It was like arguing with a mirror with a lag to the signal.

She didn’t look forward to his conversations. She actively dreaded them. They had dinner together every night for the last two weeks. The meals drained her emotionally.

Nyota gasped out loud when she realized that she had been running away from the problems for a while. She had begun to look forward to lunch because she and Spock had different shifts that didn’t overlap for the meal. She had often eaten with Scotty.

The conversations with Scotty where a relief when it came to her day. Scotty always had some exciting story from Engineering. He had challenged her several years ago to learn Scots Gaelic, saying it was one of the harder Terran languages to learn. Nyota didn’t agree (she had learned a little-known dialect of Burmese that put all other Terran languages to shame).

She had won, but Scotty still spoke to her in Gaelic regularly, and Nyota loved the challenge. It was a great distraction to the rest of her personal life.  

Except in the past two weeks, she hadn’t been eating with Scotty. She and Spock ate together for most meals. Nyota hadn’t realized how much she had come to rely on her time with Scotty to unwind.

Nyota felt relief that no matter what occurred tonight, something would change and she would not be encompassed by Spock’s full attention as before.

Spock was doing the same thing that had made her so happy for so long, and it wasn’t working.

She was ready to move on.

Nyota opened her eyes. She had been sitting on the bed trying to put her thoughts into order. She flopped back onto the bedspread and looked up at the ceiling of the hotel.

It was clear that Spock was unhappy too. He had been giving her frustrated looks in the last few days. He needed more than she was able, or willing, to give.

Holding onto the relationship was getting harder and harder.

This was unfair to both of them.

Spock came back into the bedroom of the hotel room they had rented for the week. He was holding a tray full of tea. One of the Vulcan types for him and a Terran spice one for her.

He set the tray on a bedside table and sat in a chair near the bed. Taking the pot of hot tea from the plate, he poured himself a cup. He didn’t immediately drink it, just sat holding the warm cup in his hands.

They remained in silence for a few minutes. Neither of them felt inclined to break the tension that had been building up for the last several hours.

The tension had been building for several months Nyota could see, now that she wasn’t trying so damn hard to keep their relationship going.

If they broke the silence between them, then the last several years they had spent together would be over.

Nyota sat upright on the bed and sighed.

“Spock,” Nyota said. She was done dancing around the issue.  “Do you think that we’ve fixed our relationship?” She asked. Nyota didn’t think so, but she wanted to know what Spock’s thoughts were.

Spock simply shook his head and took a long drink from the cup of tea in his hands.

Nyota reached out and took a cup filled with some of her tea as well. She waited. After years of being together, Nyota had learned that sometimes Spock just needed time to put his thoughts together when they spoke of emotions.

“No. I do not,” Spock said, placing the now empty teacup down on the table. “I have come to believe that spending more time together may have exacerbated the problems we have encountered before.” He looked down at his hands, empty now.

“I agree. Our relationship is not working. I think we should end this, Spock.” Nyota said. She gripped her mug of tea hard. This wasn’t the first time she had spoken those words. She had tried to break up with him before the Enterprise had arrived at Yorktown the first time, before Altimir. But even then, she had known that she would take him back the moment he figured out what was really going on with himself.

She had known it was only a temporary break, then.

This time was permanent.

Spock was silent for an even longer time than before. When he did speak, it was firm, like he had come to an understanding of the facts before him.

It was only logical to let go.

“I agree,” Spock said. While he had clearly forced himself to look at the logic, his slightly tense expression said that he still was in pain. “I believe the phrase is that we are now ‘Broken Up.”

Nyota felt for him. She really did. Because she hurt.  Hearing that phrase, in that voice, hurt. Knowing it was better didn’t cause the feeling to burn less.

But this was better.

And maybe they could be friends again like they were for several years before the Nerada.

“Yes, I believe we are.” She agreed.

The next few hours were awkward, to say the least, Nyota felt.

Neither of them seemed to know what to do. There had been some conversation about leaving the hotel, but in the end, they liked the view and the time off too much. Every word was short and unsure.

Nyota hated it.

Spock stayed on the couch in the main living room. As Nyota laid awake on the bed in the room that had a fantastic view and a clock that ticked on past two in the morning; she suspected he didn’t get much sleep either.  

But somewhere in the night, their friendship showed back up and decided to stay.

It was Spock who spoke first, that next morning.

After they had woken up and had carefully avoided each other for over an hour. His tone as frank and mild as ever. “Now that we are ‘broken up,’ we are not going to spend as much time together during the Beta shift?” He asked as he watched Nyota make breakfast for herself. Spock had already eaten and was calmly watching her cook. He had a cup of tea, his prefered morning blend, on the counter cooling.

Nyota huffed in surprise, a near laugh. “No, we aren’t, I guess. We don’t need to spend that much time together.” She paused when a thought accrued to her, “Although I don’t want to lose the musical practice with you. I didn’t mind that.” She meant it. She loved working on music together with him. The frequent practices were the only time they didn’t argue. They had ended up practicing a lot in the past few weeks, now that she thought about it.

Spock nodded, “I am relieved that you wish to continue our practice. From research and observation, ‘breakups’ often end with both parties no longer being considered friends. Is that not what will happen to us?” He tilted his head in curiosity, a small movement that Nyota was sure Spock never really even noticed and she had always been amused by.

Nyota turned off the heat to her food. Usually, she would just eat something small, breakfast never being essential to her, (lunch was always better). But she felt like having something substantial and sugary today.

“Normally, yes,” she said. “But I don’t want that to happen to us. So, we’re still friends.” Something in his posture relaxed at her pronouncement. He was still as straight-backed as before but the tension Nyota hadn’t noticed he was carrying bleed away.

“We will not spend as much time together as before,” Spock repeated. Nyota thought he might be trying to find the parameters of their new dynamic. It was a process she had watched Spock do before. When he was unsure of a human socio-cultural ritual or event or even a relationship he tended to ask her about what he needed to do, then he needed time to process it.

“No, we won’t. I imagine you’ll spend more time with Kirk playing chess than before or in the labs.” Nyota mused. “When was your last game with Kirk?”

Spock had spent a lot of the time he usually spent with Kirk or in the labs with her recently, as they tied to repair their relationship. She had done some of the same by cutting down her lunches with Scotty or girls night with Chapel.

“We’ve been playing a game over padd messages for about a week now. I just got a message yesterday with Jim’s next move. He took my bishop from the second level. Jim has been keeping track on a board he has in his quarters.” Spock said. “I found that with my increase of time spent with you, we had to find other means to play. Jim suggested this method.”

“Did he now?” Nyota said, and while she didn’t mean for her tone to be filled with innuendo, it was. She wanted to smack herself. They had broken up the night before. This would make it awkward on so many levels.

Then Spock did something that Nyota would have missed had she been literally anyone else.

He blushed.

It was quick, and small – just the tips of his ears, and very quickly suppressed, but there none the less. A slight, quick flush of green that spoke volumes to Nyota.

And suddenly Nyota realized that she didn’t feel awkward at all. She felt happy, and content. Like how she felt when she was having girl’s night with Chapel.

She had missed his friendship.

“You missed the time you spend with Kirk!” Nyota said, delighted. She sat down in the chair across the table from him. Spock looked quite stunned at his slip up.

Spock quirked his eyebrow. “I cannot say I’ve missed the time I’ve spent with him or not.” Spock started to say, but Nyota just looked at him hard. Spock trailed off and then simply nodded. “I have missed spending time with Jim. I find his presence… allows me to relax.”

Nyota nodded encouragingly until she processed the end of his sentence.

‘Allows him to relax…’. The last time Nyota had heard that particular phrase from Spock was when they had just become romantic. He had been talking about her.

“…Spock,” She said slowly, “are you interested in Jim Kirk romantically?”

Spock froze, a look of contemplation on his face. He looked like a hundred different memories, ideas, and thoughts rushed over him in an instant. Then he, just as slowly answered, “I may be…”

“But you don’t know…” Nyota finished for him.

Spock nodded.

“I found I have missed his presence and his friendship. He… supports me, I believe.” Spock said shifting. “I had spent a considerable amount of time last night contemplating his presence in my life.” He was always uncomfortable trying to talk about his emotions and how he felt. Nyota had learned to let him speak or stop as necessary. Spock had learned in time to open up more to her.

They had learned this back when they had been simply friends.

“And what of you and Mr. Scott?” Spock asked.  Nyota was so stunned by the question that she completely ignored the sudden change of topic.

“What about Scotty and me?” Nyota responded.

“I believe you spend considerable time with him,” Spock said. “It was clear you consider him a friend.”

“I do,” Nyota said slowly, thinking about it, “But why are you drawing a comparison between my friendship with Scotty and your friendship with Jim…” She trailed off as the sudden realization came over her.

Spock, for his part, merely drank a sip from his morning tea.  

She had a crush on Scotty!

How Nyota didn’t see this before, she didn’t know.  But a lot of things she had felt recently made a lot more sense.

How when Scotty talked to her, her day got brighter. How, when, for the last two weeks she had been missing his presence at lunch when she would eat with Spock. How she would look for Scotty in a crowded room.

How he made her old tired ideas feel new and innovative when he asked about them. How she liked his smile, and his voice and the things that made him laugh. How she always felt happy just talking about the Enterprise with Scotty. How she loved his stories about Glasgow and the small town in Scotland where he was from.

She had learned to speak Scots Gaelic for him, for no other reason that it would make him light up.

“I should have seen that sooner,” Nyota said out loud, adrenalin from a realization pumping through her vines and giving her heart a workout. It felt like she was about to ride a rollercoaster to a delightful ending.

Spock merely tilted his head. “As I should have,” his tone faintly dry.

Nyota laughed, she couldn’t help it. It was bright and joyous and so unlike the last few weeks that she nearly wondered where it came from.

But she knew.

They had spent so long trying to be in love with each other that they had failed to realize they were already falling in love with someone else!

-

Twenty minutes after leaving medical.

Pavel knew how to handle breakups.

He’d had a lot of them in the past few years.

Usually, he would go talk to Hikaru. They would drink and commiserate and, in the morning, recover and move on.

As he walked over to Hikaru’s quarters, Pavel realized something was different. For more than the reason that Hikaru had Ben and Demora with him and thus was probably not going to drink like that anymore.

Something else had changed. Something about himself.

He had never been so quick to forget the feelings he had for someone before.

Well, Pavel knew that wasn’t entirely true. In all honesty, he was still angry with Camelia. Very angry. She had set him up and then left him to deal with her recruiting father and a surprise transfer. That was not acceptable. It was cruel.

It should have been heartbreaking. Pavel had really liked Camelia. But if all he was to her was a trophy to be taken from ship to ship, and a feather in her father’s cap, then he was better off ending the relationship.

He wasn’t going to be the person that she wanted.

And she apparently wasn’t his dream either, as last night proved.

Pavel requested entry to the Sulu’s quarters. The buzzer was quieter than average. Demora was probably asleep then. Ben had complained about a week after the families had arrived on the ship and Scotty had taken the complaint as a challenge. Now all the families with children had settings for the volume of their door chimes.

Ben answered the door only after a moment’s pause. He smiled and gestured for Pavel to come in. “Good day Pasha. Demora is sleeping. The beach wiped her out yesterday.”

“I’ll be quiet,” Pavel promised. Ben smiled at him. As they walked over to the table, Ben filled in Pavel about their day at the beach yesterday. And how today was going to be a quiet day spent together and then tomorrow was planetside again.

Hikaru was at the table in their small living quarters. The USS Enterprise-A was considerably larger than the original Enterprise, but it was still cramped. The families who had chosen to live on board had to face that reality.

But Pavel was in a state of awe in how the Sulu’s had made the small space their home.

When the families signed on, there were some questions of how they would be accommodated. Pavel had seen Captain Kirk argue to the Admiralty for the moving of the members with families to expanded officer rooms. He had half gotten his wish. Anyone with a low rank but had a family on board were given better rooms but Hikaru and another department head had to stay in their original quarters.

The rooms were clean and brightly furnished.

When Hikaru was alone on the Enterprise, Pavel had known him to decorate his quarters with some of the botany lab’s more harmless and plants that were no longer needed and Hikaru’s fencing saber on the wall. The walls were as sparsely decorated as Pavel’s own rooms. A single man’s quarters.

Now, the presence of Ben and Demora had brought a new life into the rooms. Toys were everywhere, and Demora’s dance things were in a small corner of the room, hung up neatly. There were more plants in the quarters, but there were also Ben’s books and his preferred art hung up on the walls.

The small quarters where Hikaru had once lived had become a home for him and his family.

Pavel felt a small stab of desire at the thought. He wanted that. He wanted a home, someone who shared his life and his passions. Pavel could almost see himself sharing a space with someone who cared. Someone who was handsome, endlessly intelligent, who had a comeback for everything and would not ask Pavel to leave the Enterprise. Someone who loved him for him . Not for what he could bring to them, or his title, or his reputation.

Hikaru looked up from the small dining and desk table in the corner of the room. It was covered in padds. It was the middle of an evaluation cycle; Hikaru had paperwork for days. Oh the joys of leadership, Pavel thought.

Pavel had finished his own paperwork for the navigators he was in charge of as the lead navigator, and the few other people who reported to him, but Hikaru had a more significant division to work with; he was the second in command underneath Kirk for the command crew, fourth in line for command of the whole ship. “Hi Pasha,” he said, not looking up from his current padd.

“Hello ‘Karu,” Pavel said, not minding in the least. He reached for one of the padds. It was one that had a screen of all the rankings of all the enlisted crewmen below Hikaru. Half of them were checked off, completed. “Halfway done?”

Hikaru smiled, looking up. “Almost. I should be done tomorrow.” He stretched, raising his arms above his head and leaning back. “Then I won’t have to worry for the rest of shore leave. All two days of it.”

“Oh, thank god,” Ben said coming over from checking on Demora. He reached up and grasped Hikaru’s outstretched hand. Hikaru broke the stretch to smile up at his husband with a smile that was what Pavel would describe as besotted. Ben smiled down at Hikaru with the same look. “I’m tired of looking at the padds.”

Pavel forced himself to laugh lightly. He still didn’t feel like laughing much. His head still hurt from the migraine from the night before, though it was fading with every moment. Len's pills always worked.  The red mark on his cheek was gone. Ben saw the minor flinch of pain that Pavel tried to hide.

“Not feeling good Pavel? Catch something on the planet?” Ben asked, sitting down at the table with them. He had a bottle of beer in his hands. Pavel knew that on the ship while they were in space, alcohol was more controlled, (which was the “official reason” as to why his whiskey had been “confiscated” by Len. In reality, Len had asked for whatever he could find. Pavel knew it had been for the Captain so he hadn’t minded) but now that they were in orbit for shore leave, the rules were relaxed for a few days. Ben handed Hikaru a bottle, already opened.

The one that Ben tried to hand Pavel was unopened. Pavel shook his head. “I can’t. The headache meds can’t be mixed with alcohol.”

Hikaru winced in sympathy. “A migraine bad enough to go to McCoy? Everything alright?” He asked as he took a drink from the bottle. Pavel wished he could join them, but they all knew what would happen if Len found out that someone mixed pills from medical and alcohol.

The last crewman who did that still got a haunted look in her eyes when the incident was brought up. She never made that mistake again. Nor would she let anyone else do the same.

“Kind of. It's just a headache now. ” Pavel said. “But Camelia broke up with me last night.” He got a glass of water from the replicator that was near the table.  “Or I broke up with her. I’m not sure, but last night sucked.”

Pavel didn’t miss the look that Hikaru and Ben exchanged over his head at his announcement.

So, Pavel didn’t bother to hide his expression.

Pavel was upset and a little angry, but not for the reasons Hikaru thought.

He had wanted that. He had wished to have that ability to look at someone and have a thousand conversations in a moment.

“Are you okay with that, Pasha?” Hikaru asked, looking concerned - but not surprised. Pavel should have known that Camelia wouldn’t work out. ‘Karu was his best friend, and he couldn’t really get close to her. Hikaru had tried but Camelia hadn’t put much effort back. That should have been a sign. Pavel had assumed instead that ‘Karu’s and Camelia’s friendship would deepen as time went on.

Pavel was wrong about a lot of things about Camelia apparently.

Pavel took a deep breath and launched into an explanation of the whole fiasco that was dinner the night previous. From showing up and running into Len before meeting up with Camelia, to meeting Camelia ’s parents and her father’s blatant attempts to get him to leave the Enterprise. He told them of the migraine that had been getting worse throughout the dinner.

And then he told them about the way the night had ended.

“She slapped you?!” Ben gasped, he looked as stunned as he sounded.

Pavel nodded. “I can’t even blame her. I was insulting.” He shrugged and felt relief that the action didn’t make his head hurt.

Hikaru just frowned at him. “She’s not allowed do that. Are you planning to tell the Captain?”

Pavel knew that was an option, but honestly, he thought he deserved the slap, so he wasn’t going to bring it up. He shook his head. “No. I just want the issue to be over.”

Hikaru remained frowning, but he didn’t make another comment.

Pavel smiled at him, knowing his best friend well - and trying to prevent Camelia from having a moment with a mildly allergic plant by ‘accident.’ He wasn’t going to allow reprisal. He appreciated the sentiment, but he wasn’t going to allow it to happen. “I told Len about it, so I’m sure he’ll deal with it.”

That prompted another shared look between Hikaru and Ben. This one more knowing than the one before. Pavel didn't know what was being said, but he saw nonetheless.

Pavel wished he had someone to do that with. To have a conversation with just looks. All he wanted was another person who knew him well enough to know what he was asking without him trying to say it.

Like the one Pavel had almost shared with Len in the med bay, a quick look and a question asked.

Like the one look he had shared with Len…

Len who was handsome, smart, an excellent friend, and was very interesting to Pavel. He looked marvelous with the half day’s beard scruff that Pavel wasn’t able to grow just yet.

Someone whom he could trust. Whom Pavel could already give looks to and could trust he would be understood.

Pavel could share looks with Len.

Pavel felt like kicking himself.

Why was his brain bringing this up now? He had spent years ignoring this!

How many times had he pushed the thought of more away when it came Len? They were friends, dammit. Pavel didn’t date people he was friends with! He always valued their friendship more than the desire to be with them.

But now that Pavel thought about it, he really only had this line of wishful thinking when it came to one Leonard McCoy.

And before Pavel could stop himself, he opened his mouth and asked in a slightly distant voice, “How did you know it was right for you guys? Your relationship? How did you end up married? How did you know it was serious?” Pavel was looking at Hikaru and Ben. The look from earlier was repeated.

Hikaru thought about the question. “In all honesty, I don’t know what made me realize that I wanted forever with Ben. I just woke up one morning and knew I had to ask him to marry me,” he said after a moment.

Ben took Hikaru’s hand. Hikaru looked away from Pavel and smiled at his husband. “I knew I wanted to be serious with ‘Karu when we met again after the attack on Vulcan. I didn’t think I could handle not being able to support him.”

Pavel thought about that. Hard. His question had prompted Hikaru and Ben to start cooing small nothings at each other of how the other was the cutest. It would be nauseating, but Pavel was far too used to them. Pavel was practiced in ignoring them going off and doing this when they were comfortable and almost alone. Pavel thought the scene before him was adorable to watch, but not for him.

He didn’t think Len would be the type to use verbal signs of affection. He was the type to be more about actions.

Pavel still felt like kicking himself. This was Len. The man was a wonderful friend. He didn’t want to mess anything up.

But he wasn’t going to deny that he liked Len. Always had. Something about Len had made Pavel pay attention to him.

The way the man carried himself. The intelligence that was always used for doctoring but was able to follow along with Pavel’s more long-winded conversation topics. The way he cared for every patient that came his way. Len had never treated Pavel like a child. Even in their first meeting, Len may have questioned Pavel’s age but never his abilities.

Now that Pavel was letting himself think about this, he may have been looking for Len for a long time without realizing it.

“Pasha you don’t look like you really care that you broke up with Camelia,” Hikaru observed. Ben nodded along. “Last time you broke up with someone you were still upset for weeks!”

“I’m not because I think I wasn’t ready to be serious with her. I think I wanted to be, but I wasn’t. I think I’m done jumping from person to person though.” Pavel said firmly. He was done. He would take some time to be alone and figure out what he was actually feeling. Then maybe he would see if Len was interested with him.

“Good,” Hikaru said. “I’m glad you aren’t torn up about it.”

Pavel laughed. He was too.

He thought about Len’s rough smile and the fact he’d be spending a lot of time with him soon for that extra medical training. Pavel would figure this out soon.

Before he hurt himself - or Len.

-

Chapter Text

Two weeks, three days after the end of shore leave

Jim wasn’t sure how this happened to him, but he wasn’t going to keep questioning it.

“If you are available after we complete the diplomatic events on Yen’bu, then I am requesting a meeting, Captain,” Spock said, standing at attention, as always. Like he wasn’t asking to spend even more time with Jim than he usually did. Since The Breakup (as Jim couldn’t help but call it), he and Spock had spent almost every day together in some way other than just work.

They were in the turbolift just after shift end. Jim had been telling Spock that he was meeting Scotty and Bones that night. He didn’t mention that the meeting was to drink, and wonder what the hell had happened to their lives, and how the hell they all suddenly had chances with their loves. None of them knew what to do with the new information yet.

Jim knew they all needed a plan. That was the point of tonight.

“I’m free tomorrow, then. What’s up?”

Jim could see Spock visibly refrained from making a deadpan sarcastic statement to Jim’s colloquialism. “I have a… project I would like your help on, if you wish to,” Spock for some reason didn’t look him in the eyes when he asked. “I wish to begin the project after our arrival at Yen’bu.”

Jim raised an eyebrow in what he thought was a reasonable impersonation of Spock. “Really?”

Spock, for his part, merely twitched said eyebrow and echoed, “Really.”

Jim took a deep breath to fortify himself because, in the past two weeks, he and Spock had spent most nights together. They had done paperwork, played chess, talked about the upcoming mission - and wondered what would be in store for the ship after the welcoming ceremony at Yen’bu.

But this? This was new. Spock had never once in the last few years asked for Jim’s help on a project.

What Jim was good at, at least according to his Starfleet Record - Engineering and Tactics - wasn’t usually what Spock’s projects were in. Jim had no idea if he would be useful for anything Spock wanted to do.  

Jim decided he didn’t care what this was about. He wasn’t going to turn down Spock if this was how Spock wanted to spend his time after breaking up with Uhura. He was going to take what he could get.

Maybe if Jim was lucky…

Jim ignored the rest of that thought. He’d had a lot of practice in ignoring ideas like that.

“Yeah, I’ll be free,” he said. “I don’t have any projects set up for that time. I can help with yours.” He smiled up at Spock. A truth, sadly. Being Captain didn’t leave a lot of time for downtime.

Spock nodded in agreement, something in his eyes lighting up and taking Jim’s breath away. “We also must prepare for the upcoming mission,” he said, bringing up a padd and typing something into the interface.

Jim grimaced at the reminder. He knew what Spock meant.

They had to creates plans for if the truth-telling part of Yen’bu was more than just ‘unable to lie’ and more along the lines of ‘I can’t stop talking, help me !’

“We’ll do that after Beta shift," Jim said, already thinking about what he needed to do before the next Alpha shift. "Want to have dinner with me beforehand?” He asked glancing at Spock, his mind light years away from his mouth, already starting a plan for Yen’bu’s strange truth telling properties.  

Then, with the dawning horror of what he had just asked, Jim blushed; something that hadn’t happened for years.  He hadn't meant to do that. Jim hadn't intended to make that offer sound like he was asking Spock out! He had been planning on waiting longer before he made a move like that.

Spock didn’t seem to notice, but his hands did a twitch like they were about to form a gesture - but something stopped him.

Jim didn’t pay close attention to Spock’s hands though, he was too busy feeling like he was dying of embarrassment. He jerked his head away from looking at Spock to staring at the turbolift door like that sliding door was the most fascinating thing in the world.

“I would enjoy that,” Spock said quietly.

Jim whipped his head back to face Spock. Spock wasn’t smiling, per se, but there was something soft in his face that Jim knew meant that he was doing the Spock equivalent of the expression.

"Spock, I ..." Jim started to say before he trailed off. He had no idea what he wanted to say.

The door dinged open to the Officer’s Quarters level, startling Jim.

Bones’ rooms were at the other end of the hall than Jim’s and Spock’s rooms, near the other turbolift. Uhura's were near Spock's, and Jim's. Just on the opposite side of the hallway.

“I shall see you for the Alpha shift, Captain,” Spock said mildly, stepping out into the passageway, heading in the direction of Uhura's quarters. “I will be rehearsing for the Enterprise’s talent show with Nyota.”

Jim knew that Spock and Uhura’s performances were often the most anticipated event in the whole talent show. He had been relieved when Spock had informed him that he and Uhura weren’t going to stop performing for the crew. He was also glad that they had, apparently, actually meant the whole ‘We’re still friends’ thing.

Jim thought that Spock was happy about that too.

Jim stepped out of the turbo lift and nodded. “I’ll see you later then,” he said watching as Spock turned and walked down the passageway, unable to look fully away as Spock walked to Uhura’s rooms. “Have fun playing music!” he called to Spock's back. “You’ll both be amazing at the show next month!”

Jim waited until he saw Spock request entry to Uhura's quarters and then quickly moved to Bones’ rooms.

He keyed in his own code on the keypad, far too impatient to wait for Bones to open the door, and stepped into the room.

Scotty was already there, sipping a glass of dark liquid that Jim thought may have come from Andoria, but he wasn’t sure. He was leaning on the chair that was meant for Bones’ desk. Bones himself was sitting near the replicator in the corner of the room. He seemed to be trying to get the ingredients for a mixed drink.

Both of them looked up when Jim came through the door. He let the door slide shut.

Both of them looked surprised as they took in his expression. Jim supposed that it must be something entertaining to see.

He didn’t hesitate. “I may have asked Spock out. I think. Maybe? I don’t know. Help me?” he rushed out, glancing between the pair of them.

There was silence for a moment.

Bones and Scotty exchanged a bemused look that said a whole lot about what they thought about Jim. And if Jim wasn’t so panicked about maybe-possibly asking Spock on a date, he would be insulted.

Then Scotty knocked back the rest of his drink. “Lad. I think you are going to need to explain that again.”

“Yeah, Jimmy-boy. Weren’t you saying a few days ago that you were going to give him some time?” Bones asked as he walked to the desk, a thoroughly mixed drink in one of his hands. He had a bottle of beer in his other.

Jim took the beer with a grateful smile. It was a Betazed drink that could barely be called alcoholic, but Jim was okay with that. The few times Jim drank while the ship was at warp, he didn’t drink heavy. A finger of liquor in a glass or a very weak beer. Maybe, if he was feeling classy, a single glass of wine.

Tonight was a good night for a beer.

“I don’t know. One moment, Spock was asking for help with a project or something after the trip to Yen’bu, then the next I was saying something like: ‘Meet me for dinner?’,” Jim sighed. “I want to count it as asking him out but…” He took a deep pull of the beer, enjoying the flavor. “I don’t know.” Jim sat slowly on the bed awaiting judgment from the two people he knew would understand.

Bones and Scotty shared another look.

Then titled their heads at each other, each encouraging the other to go first. Scotty nodded and said, “Sorry, laddie, I don’t think you asked him out. You, Doc?”

Bones shook his head in the negative, “I don’t think so, either.” He sat on the bed.  “But it’s close.”

“Yeah, if Spock hadn’t asked for help before then…” Scotty trailed off when he realized that Bones’ face was doing something complicated.

Jim waited for Bones to understand the other part of why Jim was freaking out. He watched as something like wonder and shock ran across his best friend’s face “Wait. Spock asked for help? On what?” Bones’ disbelief was clear in his voice.

Jim shrugged. He didn’t know what to make of it either. Not to say he wasn’t over the moon about the prospect of working hand in hand (Jim kicked his brain at the reminder) with Spock, but he didn’t understand it either.  “A project, he said. I don’t know what. I don’t honestly care. I’m happy to help.”

“It’s just strange. Spock never asks for help in anything, let alone projects.” Bones said, leaning back on the wall that served as the headboard on starships. He took a deep drink from the glass he was holding.

While that was true, Spock didn’t ask for help on projects often, at least not from Jim; Spock did tend to work with someone. The resulting projects often won so many awards that the Enterprise wasn’t able to fit them all.

And Spock had chosen Jim to help him this time. Jim was not complaining.

Because in the past two weeks, it had seemed that Spock was asking to spend time with Jim more often.

They had sparred several times. Jim had thought that Spock just had more energy or something. They had played a ton of chess. They were one game from breaking the five hundred games won. Jim was doing his best to win.

Jim dismissed the idea that Spock was trying to spend more time with him for any other reason other than Jim was one of Spock’s best friends, and he now had a lot of extra time to himself.

“Maybe what he’s working on is in one of my interests,” Jim shrugged. “Maybe he’s thanking me for spending a lot of time with him recently in some Vulcan way that I don’t know.”

They all were silent for a moment before Jim spoke again.

“Speaking of projects,” Jim said, ready for a change of subject and knowing just what to use. He also let that smile Bones hated spread across his face. Bones called it his ‘shit-eating grin’. “How’s that training with Mr. Chekov going?” He let the insinuation speak for itself.

Scotty burst out laughing when Bones actually flushed and sputtered into his drink.

“It’s going fine! Thank you very much!” Bones said after a moment of coughing. “To the surprise of absolutely no one, Pasha’s a very bright student.” He tried to hide his growing flush by taking a deep sip from his glass.

Scotty piped up, “Pasha?” He glanced at Jim. That was a nickname that hadn’t shown up before. Jim had heard Sulu call Chekov that nickname, and knew the name was a sign of affection.

When did Bones start using it?

Bones, somehow, turned a deeper shade of red. “He asked me to call him that last week.” He mumbled into his glass. “I couldn’t tell him no. Not on this! The first time I did it, he grinned at me like I had brought the fucking sun to his world.” Bones got this besotted look behind the glass that almost made Jim coo at him. Sarcastically.

Instead, Jim laughed lightly. “That’s good! Don’t stop then! Tell us more. How’s he been doing?”

“He’s still brilliant. If I didn’t know any better, I would recommend him to the medical corps. He picks up things so damn fast and is very rarely wrong. He has this understanding about the body that most med students don’t get until much later, ” Bones said, smiling a little, flush fading slightly. Jim didn’t see any wistfulness on his features. “But, if I thought I could pull him away from Starships and Engineering, then I would be an idiot.”

Scotty raised his glass to that. “That, I can toast to!”

Jim laughed, loud and happy. He was glad that Chekov was getting the qualifications. He would be included on more away teams now, and he was happy that Bones was so damned happy to be spending time with Chekov.

Jim remembered something else he had heard and, as Captain, he had to know.  “How’s the situation in the med bay when Chekov comes in? With what’s going on with Warrington?”

Bones’ smile faded slightly, but the besotted expression didn’t go away completely. “Well, it’s nothing short of strange. When it became obvious that Pasha wasn’t interested in changing his mind, Warrington went from being just upset, to downright mean . She started to bad mouth Pasha to the other nurses. So now he’s having difficulties with nearly a third of my Staff. Mostly the new kids. But not all - remember my newest nurse? You remember Gillpe?”

Jim nodded immediately. He knew his crew and Gillpe was easily memorable, as the only one of his species on the ship. Jim had had to memorize the eating patterns for him.

After a moment Scotty nodded too. Scotty didn’t know Gillpe that well, but he’d seen him around. There was no way he hadn’t. The ship got small after a month in deep space.

“Well, he’s been unexpectedly excellent, in working to change that. Gillpe has been telling his own side of the story to anyone who listens to Warrington. Spreading the story of what he saw when Pasha came into the medbay on shore leave and how Pavel was treated by Warrington,” Bones said, before taking a drink of what Jim was pretty sure was a Maitai. “He’s also been assigned to Chapel. She thinks he’s got potential, and I agree.”

“That sucks, about Warrington. She had a lot of potential. This is unlike her, right?” Jim asked. He remembered that Bones was initially surprised that Warrington was acting this way. Bones had said the girl was level-headed - and not prone to vindictiveness.

Bones took a drink from his glass and fully frowned at it. “Yes, it is. I’m a little concerned, to tell the truth. I think something else is going on. But I don’t know how to approach her right now. And I don't know if it would be a good idea anyway if I spoke to her. She’s furious that I’m continuing to train Pasha. She won't say anything to anyone about that, but she just glares at me sometimes, like I'm a problem. I don't know if I can help her.”

Jim shrugged. “It may not be in the cards, if she’s acting like this. I'm told she'll be putting in a transfer after the next mission. We’ll probably be heading to a Starbase to get some supplies after Yen'bu. She’ll make her transfer there if she does leave.”

Bones nodded, and they all were silent for a moment.

Then Bones chuckled. “I’ve started to understand a couple of Russian curses.”

“Aye,” Scotty said, smiling wide. “That kid’ll teach anyone those if they work with him longer than thirty seconds.”

Jim remembered all the times that Chekov had had to keep himself from cursing on the bridge while someone significant was on the view screen. Chekov had this expression when he was trying not to swear that Jim understood on a fundamental level. Jim just had a better poker face than Chekov did. Chekov’s ability to hide what he was thinking had gotten better, though, as the first five-year mission went on.

Bones always looked like he just wanted to kiss Chekov when he pulled that face on the bridge.

Jim didn’t mind the language when they were just working, as long as it wasn’t directed at anyone. But while important bigwigs were calling, Jim made sure everyone remained professional.

At first, when he first took over the Enterprise, Jim thought it would be himself who would have the hardest time trying not to swear over open comm lines. He didn't have many years of practice with not cursing.  After years of working with his crew, Jim knew who had won the title of ‘most foul-mouthed.’ Chekov had won by a mile.

“I’ve been teaching Nyota to swear in Gaelic,” Scotty said, trying to keep his tone light but utterly failing. He was pouring himself another glass, this time with a mixer.

Bones raised his glass in Scotty’s direction. “Is that what we’re calling it these days?” Scotty shot him a look that would mean death for Engineering crewmen, but for Bones, it was just a source of amusement.

Jim leaned back in his chair. “Aren’t you guys still working on that super-secret project I’m not supposed to know anything about?”

Uhura had asked for Scotty’s help on something about the communications systems two weeks ago. Whenever Jim asked about the project, both Scotty and Uhura refused to tell him anything. Jim suspected it was about improving long-distance communication for the families now living on the ship, and that the repairs or improvements might not be what Starfleet would call 'sanctioned.'

“And you won’t be finding out from me until the plans are ready. Nyota would kill me,” Scotty said firmly. Not that Jim was digging for information. Much. “We’ve been speaking Gaelic while planning. She’s got the cutest accent. I love it.”

Jim accepted the misdirection. They’d tell him when they were ready. Besides, if it worked (and knowing Scotty it would) then he could bring it up to Starfleet and both Uhura and Scotty would get more awards, and Jim liked making sure his people got recognized.

“… We may have been having dinner every night for the past week… in my office in Engineering…” Scotty said into his drink.

“In that postage stamp of an office?!” Bones spluttered out.

“Just because your office is in the right spot doesn’t mean that mine was!” Scotty grumbled after taking a swig of his drink.

Jim had to laugh at that. No one would ever let Scotty forget that his office was tiny . Scotty’s office in Engineering was actually a repurposed storage closet that was just large enough to fit a desk. Scotty had commandeered it about six months into being on the Enterprise-A, complaining that he was too far away from Engineering. The official Chief Engineering Officer's office was on the other side of the ship, by Jim’s office.

Technically the CEO of a ship was the third in charge of the ship and therefore had an office near the rest of the leadership. Scotty hated that about the Enterprise-A, so he had given the room to Sulu. Sulu had taken the office with glee.

Bones’ office was in the med bay, and Spock didn’t use his office. He never needed one; he was that efficient. He gave it to his department heads to use jointly.

Spock just used Jim's if he needed an office for anything. He always had.

“Yes,” Scotty said. “She showed up with dinner one night last week to our meeting. How could I say no? She was saying things like how she forgot to eat and didn’t want to be rude!” He seemed to lose himself in thought for a moment, then he shook his head. “I can’t turn her down when it makes her smile!”

They all stopped and sighed at that.

Jim had long established that he was weak, and would always do things to make Spock happy. Even if Spock didn’t smile often. He knew that both Bones and Scotty felt the same.

They just wanted their loves to be happy.

Apparently, wonderfully, happily, that now meant spending time with each of them.

How was this their lives?!

-

Meanwhile in Uhura’s Quarters

“So as previously established, Mr. Scott does in fact ‘like you.’” Spock said, refraining from actually performing the very human gesture of making air quotes around the words.

Spock felt like he should be praised for his level of self-control.

He also felt they were unnecessary. Nyota understood his meaning by the glare she gave him.

“He liked me two years ago . He may not be romantically interested in me now !” Nyota said, frustration clear in her voice. “Your information is based on a conversation from over two years ago, and my few observations came from our very first meeting! His feelings might have changed, Spock. I’m not rushing this in case he doesn’t still like me romantically.” Nyota sat back on her heels, pushing the sheet of music they were still attempting to learn away.

They were sitting on an area of the floor in the corner of Nyota’s quarters that Spock had chosen to meditate in before they had broken up. Nyota had kept the spot as a music area.  He had found it was easier to play the lyre while sitting on the floor or while standing for a short performance. Sitting in a chair became cumbersome very quickly.

“His behavior has not changed in the two years since that conversation. I believe that he is still in love with you.” Spock told her, setting aside his instrument, accepting that they would not be playing that night as they had intended to do. Nyota had been arguing with him about Mr. Scott since the moment he sat down.

She was not convinced as Spock was that Mr. Scott was interested in her.

Nyota sighed. “But I’m not sure.”

That was the crux of the matter, Spock found. Nyota was unsure and was unwilling to make a move forward until she had a better idea. He had no idea how to make Nyota see that Mr. Scott was still rather deeply in love with her.

In the last few weeks, they had spent a lot of time with Jim and Scotty, respectfully. Spock had successfully spent thirty-four percent more time with Jim than he had in the past few months. Whatever time he had been spending with Nyota, Spock now spent with Jim.

The effects had been startling. Spock felt relaxed and content in a way he had been missing when he had devoted his time to Nyota. He had missed having Jim’s presence around him so often in the few weeks he and Nyota had been trying to repair their failed relationship. Spock always felt his best when he was Jim’s side.

He was frustrated with himself for not having understood this simple feeling sooner.

“I understand,” Spock said, because he did. Neither of them knew if Jim was interested in Spock. His behavior had never changed. Beyond that of a person growing closer to a friend. He was and always had been Spock’s friend. Jim was still the same.

Spock had decided to go slow. Nyota agreed that was probably the best plan of attack.

He would make Jim interested, somehow, then declare his intent to court. He didn’t want to pressure Jim if Jim never did end up liking Spock in the same way.

Though Jim would let Spock down easy if he didn’t. Jim was kind in many ways, that being one of them.

Spock was confident that Jim would remain his friend no matter what.

“I have asked Jim to help me with the project,” Spock said. “After the meeting on Yen’bu.”

Nyota gave him a quick look. “Good for you, sharing interests... wait. The project?! One that you got from the Vulcan high council?”

“Yes. My counterpart left this part of a larger project several years ago when he died, and no one was able to work on it since then.” Spock said. “Renak, the leader of the project has asked for my assistance. I think Jim will be a good addition.”

Nyota smiled. “I’m sure you will be excellent at this, as always.” She sounded happy for him. Spock was relieved. "How is Jim going to help you?" she asked, leaning forward, curious. .

"As the project involves Terran literature, I am sure Jim will be accommodating," Spock said. Jim’s quarters were covered in books. Jim often complained that he didn’t have much time to read. Spock found himself hoping that Jim would be happy to read the literature Spock was going to be working on. Spock hoped that this project would make Jim smile. Something that Spock found he wanted to see happen more often.

“Do you know when you’ll be getting the literature?” Nyota asked.

“I suspect that we will take a dignitary from Vulcan at some point soon and that I will receive them then.” Spock mused, “Or from a shipment on the next Starbase or Federation planet, perhaps.”

Spock hesitated for a moment then continued, “I may also be having dinner with Jim tomorrow,” he said. He ignored the way he felt his heart rate increase in his side, the way his words came out a little faster than normal, and the way that the tips of his ears felt flushed for a moment before Spock gained control of himself. Spock was sure that Nyota would notice the changes anyway.

Nyota raised an eyebrow in a somewhat accurate impression of himself. Jim had a better impression, but this was a fair attempt. She was an expert in reading body languages. Of course she understood what Spock was saying with more than his words. “And who suggested that? Weren’t you going to go slow?”

“Jim suggested it. I believe that since we were going to meet up after Beta shift, so we can go over plans for Yen’bu, that he wanted to make sure that I was going to eat.” Spock said. He was sure that to Jim the offer of dinner was nothing but a sign of friendship, but to Spock, it was a step in the right direction. He was sure that if Jim were willing to spend more time with him in the off hours, then maybe Jim would somehow understand Spock’s feelings - and maybe return them.

Maybe Jim would start to feel what Spock had just realized that he, himself, felt.

Nyota nodded. “That sounds like Kirk. He won’t let anyone skip meals without good reason. And you and I both know what Kirk thinks a good reason is sometimes different than other people’s reasons.” She stood from her place on the floor and went to the replicator on the wall. She ordered two cups of an English tea that both of them enjoyed. “I’m getting Scotty’s help to fine tune the intra-ship’s comm system.”

“Something that has annoyed you for the last few months,” Spock said, taking the tea and feeling the warmth that emanated from the cup. Nyota had often mentioned how she found the intra-ship’s commutation system lacking in many ways. But with the current design of the ship, Nyota couldn’t fix it on her own - or have her division fix it. She needed an Engineer who knew the ship the best.

“It has,” Nyota agreed, having spent long hours trying to fix the many minor problems with the intra-ship system before giving up and realizing that she needed to have the whole thing rewired and for that she needed an engineer. “And apparently Scotty has a few thoughts on the system and is sure that we can fix it.” She took a drink from her cup. “We’ve been eating dinner and lunch together. It’s been wonderful.”

Spock nodded. He knew that even before their romantic relationship had ended, Nyota had been eating with Mr. Scott for lunch. Mr. Scott had been very determined to be Nyota’s friend, if that was what she needed. Spock had approved, and had never said anything other than the one conversation he’d had with Mr. Scott on Yorktown. Mr. Scott had made sure that Spock understood he placed Nyota’s needs in front of his own.

“We’ve got the schematics to rewire the bridge almost complete enough to show Kirk. If he asked, you know nothing,” Nyota said, sending a stern look at Spock.

Spock nodded, taking another sip of tea. He had long learned that when Nyota wanted to not talk about something from her work, it was best to leave it alone.

They fell silent for a few moments; both thinking about the time they had spent with their loves.

“I do not think we should push both Jim and Mr. Scott too hard,” Spock said, placing his empty cup down onto the low table near the meditation area. “I believe our current plan is still the correct one.”

Nyota nodded along. “Yes,” she said. “If I get a clear indication that Scotty still might be interested in me…” She trailed off, also placing her cup on the table.

“… then I would assume you would take the reasonable course of action and ask Mr. Scott on a date,” Spock finished.

Nyota nodded eagerly. “I will,” she picked up the sheet music again. “We should finish this. The talent show is set for just after this mission while we head to starbase one-eighty, and we’ve been putting learning this last song off.”

Spock agreed and reached for his lyre again, picking at a few strings to verify the tension was still correct.

“Spock, if I see any indication that Kirk might like you as more than a friend, I’ll tell you,” Nyota said. She sounded worried. “I just haven’t. He’s acting the same as he always has.”

Spock shouldered his instrument. “I believe you and trust that you will, Nyota. I also have not seen any indication. It may be too soon. I will simply have to be slower to court.”

Nyota nodded then took a deep breath, “Let’s start at the top and go from there.” She pointed to the start of the sheet music.

Spock felt that it was an appropriate metaphor for their romantic situation as he adjusted the lyre and allowed Nyota to count them in and began to play.

-

The next day

Kirk had called them into the conference room for a mission briefing.

Scotty wasn’t happy about being pulled away from Engineering. One of his enlisted crewmen had gone from being a good, reliable, happy , member of the crew, to being a malinger and a nuisance recently. Scotty had to watch Anderson Kent closely right now.

Kent had been acting odd since the last shore leave, now that Scotty thought about it.

Scotty wondered what happened.

Most of the senior crew hadn’t arrived yet. So far, only he, Nyota, McCoy, and Sulu had entered.

“You know what this is about?” Scotty asked Nyota, who sat across from him.

Nyota hummed. “I think I do. You know how we’re going to Yen’bu?” She asked, setting her padd on the table next to her. There was a cup of water in her other hand that she took a drink from.

“Yes,” Scotty nodded, “But why? I thought that it was a straightforward witnessing of the signing of the Federation Treaty?” That was all he had heard, anyway. The Yen’bu were intent on joining the Federation, they weren’t near any contested borders, nor were they particularly rich in something other than being a good farming planet.

The Federation liked them.

“Well, they have something exciting when it comes to their actual planet,” Nyota started to say, but she paused when the door slid open.

Kirk walked in, closely followed by Spock. They were followed in by the rest of the briefing team of the senior crew, security, Chekov and a few others.

McCoy perked up when Chekov walked in. Scotty didn’t miss how Chekov also brightened when he saw McCoy. There was a heartbeat when Scotty felt the tension between them. Glancing around, he caught Sulu also looking between them, like he had just started to see the solution of a mystery that he might like the ending to.   

Seeing Nyota smile out of the corner of his eyes, Scotty knew that everyone could probably see that something was changing for their doctor and their lead navigator.

Good , Scotty thought with a sense of satisfaction. No matter what, at least one of them might have a chance for happiness with the person they loved. Scotty was happy for them.

“Well, now that we’re all here,” Kirk said like he hadn’t just walked in himself, causing a chuckle to run through the assembled group. “We’ll get started.”

The next half hour was Kirk explaining the mission, and Scotty was right. It was a simple treaty mission.

But it was when Spock got up to explain some of the science that Scotty got curious.

“While on the surface of the planet, we have been informed that everyone has to speak the truth. This is not required by law, but it seems that telling a lie is a physical impossibly while on the surface. If a person goes below ground, the ability to tell a falsehood is returned. If they travel into the atmosphere, the same principle applies.” Spock informed them. “On the mission briefing you have received, there is a more in-depth explanation based on the research of the diplomatic scientist.” The last words, had Spock been fully human, would have been said with venom. As it was, they were said with a slight emphasis that still spoke volumes on Spock’s opinion of the diplomatic scientist.

The entire room winced. The crew knew Spock thought very little of the diplomatic scientists.

Scotty didn’t think much of them either. The diplomatic scientists wrote papers based on the planet’s explanations of their own natural or artificial forces, doing very little actual research and rarely crediting the people who do the real work; and often times the diplomatic scientists received all the credit.

Spock disliked them because they also published rushed papers that didn’t fully explain what was going on. He had gone into an academic diatribe the last time the Enterprise had run into one of the scientists.

The Enterprise, on the whole, liked to avoid them.

“As such, we are limiting who can go down with the away party.” Spock finished.

The department heads nodded, or made some noise of agreement. Scotty felt some relief that as CEO he wasn't really expected to go on away missions too often and would probably be put in charge of his lovely Enterprise.

Scotty really didn’t want to deal with being forced to tell the truth all the time he would have been on the planet.

Kirk took back over as Spock sat down. “I’m going to take myself, Mr. Spock, Uhura and two people from security.” Kirk read from his padd. Scotty made a note that his team wasn’t going to send people.

Maybe Scotty would finally have time to check Kent’s system, the hydroelectric coolant system.

Then Kirk paused as if reading something for the first time off of the padd. “And Scotty.”

“Yes?” Scotty faltered, taken aback. He had expected to be put in charge of the Enterprise while they were gone. He didn’t like that part of the Chief Engineering Officer position, the part that automatically made him the third officer, but he didn’t mind the rest of it, so he dealt with it. But being on the away team?

Kirk frowned, “Do you know an Ambassador Alysia Cooke?”

Scotty started. He hadn’t thought about Alysia in a very, very, long time.

“…I do know her.” Scotty said. “It’s been many years since I’ve even talked to her last.”

Kirk sent him a look that clearly said that he would get Scotty to explain whatever was on the padd at some point soon.

“She’s requested that you also be assigned to the away team.”

When Scotty had been young, and in his third year of the academy, he had met Alysia, an up and coming diplomat’s aid. It appeared she had been promoted.

They had dated until he had been assigned to his first ship. Long before that mess with Admiral Archer and being banished to Delta Vega.

Scotty could honestly say that Alysia Cooke was his first love. But in the years since, looking back, he was glad their relationship had ended. They weren’t right together, Alysia would have never been okay with the idea of Scotty being gone all the time despite the fact that she would have been gone just as often.

“Oh,” Scotty said, surprised. It had been over a decade since he had last even spoken to her. “I suppose it would be good to see her again. It has been a while.”

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Nyota stiffen in her seat and look at him with her sharp, knowing gaze. He guessed some of his body language was telling her more than he expected it to.

“I’ll see the away team in the transporter room tomorrow at zero eight fifty ship time. That will match up to the lunch the planet is throwing to welcome guests for the signing the day after.” Kirk said. “Its a two day away mission. Overnight but not too long.”

“And you know what that means!” Jim grinned at them all. “Temporary CO and XO time.” Then Jim paused, glanced around the room and let an evil look cross his face. One that Scotty knew meant trouble. “Now, Sulu while we’re off the ship, you’re in charge.”

Sulu nodded and accepted a fist bump from Chekov.

Scotty knew that if he, Kirk and Mr. Spock were all off the ship, Sulu, as fourth in command, and division officer of the Command Division, was often put in charge of the ship if need be.

Kirk shifted his feet to a ready to run position. Half the room shifted in their seats. Scotty had no idea when this instinctive reaction in the crew had developed but he had to laugh at it.

“And Bones is your second. Have fun!” Kirk blurted quickly before racing out of the door, cackling. McCoy, who had been halfway out of his seat even before Kirk started to speak, was already hot on his heels, demanding to know why he was being put in this situation.

Spock sighed and dismissed the rest of the meeting, then left to follow Kirk and McCoy, a clear and understandable look of resignation on his blank face. Scotty had to laugh at that too. Anyone who knew Spock well enough could read the look in his eyes.

Chekov and Sulu were laughing as well as they trailed behind the command triad. Scotty could hear them planning the rest of the day before Sulu had to take over for Kirk. Family dinner, it sounded like.

Nyota stayed.  She wasn’t quite frowning, but Scotty could tell that something was upsetting her.

“Do you want to go to the mess for lunch?” Scotty asked. “I’m rather hungry right now.”

Nyota brightened. “I would,” she said immediately. As she stood up she asked, “Maybe you could tell me more about how you know Alysia Cooke? She’s one of the foremost diplomats in the quadrant right now, an expert in getting planets to join the Federation.” Nyota picked up her padd and joined Scotty walking out the door.

“She is? It’s been so long since I’ve even talked to her that I didn’t know that.” Scotty said. It was good that Alysia had done such good things for herself. He was also glad that he wasn’t a part of that.

Nyota nodded, but something in her mouth was set in a firm line. “I think she tried to get me to join this mission to Yen’bu. I got a message from her several months ago, I think.”

Scotty smiled knowingly. He and every one of the senior bridge crew got these types of letters at least once a month or more. Nyota had it the worst, her skills as a linguist were becoming more famed then Hiroshi Saito’s.

Which gave him an idea for a gift that would make Nyota incredibly happy. He would just have to find a copy of it. Kirk might have an idea where to look. Scotty pushed the thought to the back of his mind. He would work on that idea later. After their project with the commutation station was more complete.

“Did you give her the formal response or a personal one?” Scotty asked.

“The formal one,” Nyota said, shrugging. “I’ve never met her before, and so I didn’t feel the need to write a personal response.”

Sometime, about halfway through the last five-year mission, Nyota and Spock had grown tired of getting job offers and having to write new rejection letters, as well as hearing others complain about the same things. They wrote several formal template letters that anyone who didn’t want to leave the Enterprise, but also didn’t want to insult the people doing the recruiting, could use and put copies on the ship’s shared servers. Scotty had checked the stats on the files once - they were one of the most accessed text documents on the ship’s shared servers.

“Why would she ask to see you?” Nyota asked, curiosity in her voice. “Have you also rejected a proposal from her?”

Scotty laughed as they entered the mess. It wasn’t crowded, but there were a number of people there.

“In a manner of speaking,” he chuckled awkwardly. “We used to date when I first joined Starfleet. We broke up because I wanted to be stationed on a ship.” He watched Nyota as they made the way to the replicators.

Nyota’s expression was stunned, then carefully blank. Scotty had, in the entire time he had known her, not expressed much interest in anyone other than the ship and her, so Scotty could understand her shock.

“It’s been years,” Scotty mused. “I wonder how’s she’s been.”

In a very light voice, Nyota asked, “Are you interested in going out with her again?” She seemed to be fighting the urge to fidget, something she rarely did.

Scotty was already shaking his head. “ God no , that ended years ago,” he said with feeling.  “She didn’t understand why I wanted to be out here in the black. So, I broke up with her.”

Nyota smiled, relief showing on her face.

Scotty thought she looked beautiful and happy. He also thought she understood. How could someone not want to be out here, exploring the universe?

Maybe Scotty was reading into things too much, but why would she be relieved if not because Scotty wasn’t interested in someone else?

Could Nyota be interested in him? Not just as a close friend but as something more?

He had been so happy recently that he was spending so much more time with his friend that he hadn’t let himself think about more.

And now that he did, Scotty couldn’t help the light, happy, nearly giddy feeling slide into his veins.

Scotty would have to test the waters carefully.

But he might have a chance.

-

Later that night

Hikaru watched as Ben picked up Demora to take her to bed. Demora turned and waved at him from her place at Ben’s side. Hikaru waved back. He had missed this so much while he was away that he was always amazed at the bedtime rituals.

It was Ben’s turn to tuck Demora in. Ben had been telling Hikaru, before they moved onto the Enterprise, that Demora had started to talk about how she didn’t need to be tucked in. Ben and Hikaru had just thought it was a sign of her growing up.

But in the several months that they had been on board the Enterprise, Demora had gone back to wanting to be tucked in. They had asked Nurse Chapel about it and were told it was probably a response to the stress of the move and it should fade in time again.

Hikaru could understand that. His job had pulled them from place to place often. First from Earth to Yorktown, and then here to the Enterprise. Ben said he didn’t mind. He could work anywhere that he had access to a lab several times a day - his botany experiments were what had brought them together in the first place. But Demora was just a kid. She had assured him that she was happy to be on the ship, but it still had to have been stressful.

Hikaru didn’t regret a thing, though. He got to see his little girl grow up, with his husband at his side. And they were on the ship. He was living his best life.

Pasha had joined them for dinner. They had a long day ahead of them tomorrow with the away team taking a lot of the senior leadership. Pasha sat at the dining table; just looking at its surface, lost in deep thought.

That’s right , Hikaru thought to himself. He had to talk to Pasha. Because what he saw at the mission briefing was new - and hopefully a good sign.

“How’s the training with Doctor McCoy going?” Hikaru asked with a sly tone, making Pasha jump.

Pasha looked up and flushed slightly, “It’s going great. Excellent, even! Len is an outstanding teacher.” He said quickly. Like he was pushing previously planned words out. “Now that the nurses, other than Chapel and Gillpe, aren’t glaring at me every time I’m in the med bay, it’s easier.”

“The nurses are glaring at you?” Hikaru knew he sounded incredulous, but the nurse’s corps on the ship were some of the finest in the Fleet, they should have had no reason to be glaring at Pasha.

“Camelia was spreading tales. Gillpe has been spreading some back.” Pasha said with a shrug. He had always been too forgiving of Camelia, for Hikaru’s tastes. She had slapped him so hard it had bruised!

“She’s been having a hard time, and I’m honestly concerned,” Pasha continued. “She’s been acting weird since that dinner, and it’s not just me! Len thinks so too.”

“Doesn’t she have that friend in Engineering? Maybe ask him?” Hikaru said. The tall man from Engineering looked faintly like Camelia, so Hikaru thought they might be distantly related. But they had spent a lot of time together before she and Pavel had started to date. But come to think of it, Hikaru hadn't seen them together recently. Since the break up at least.

“Kent’s always in trouble, and always angry lately - so much so that I don’t want to bother him,” Pasha said. “Plus it would be weird, or Camelia might think I'm trying to get back together with her, and that's not happening. I’m sure that things will calm down soon.”

“Well, other than nurses glaring at you, how’s training been?” Hikaru asked again. He hadn’t forgotten that Pasha had said the training was excellent, and that ‘Len was a great teacher.’ That was a step in the right direction.

“As I said, great. I’m learning a lot, and I think that it will help on away missions.” Pasha was smiling earnestly. Hikaru was glad that Pasha was learning something that would lessen casualties while on away missions. The Captain always hated taking injuries - or worse.

“And how’s Len ?” Hikaru asked in a leading tone. He had to get to the bottom of this morning somehow. “Is he great?”

Pasha jerked his eyes to meet Hikaru’s and flushed slightly. “Yes, Len’s been very helpful, and patient when I don’t understand something, and very kind.” When Pasha said the last, he looked at the table, like he was feeling shy.

Hikaru had to suppress a laugh at his best friend. He hadn’t see Pasha act like this in a long time.

“Is he now?” Hikaru said, managing somehow to keep the shit-eating tone out of his voice. Somehow. Ben always could hear it, even when he was doing his best hide it, and normally Pasha could too. “You learning a lot?”

Pasha nodded quickly.

“Is that all you’ve been doing?” Hikaru asked. He wasn’t able to keep the teasing tone from showing up in his voice this time.

Pasha flushed a deeper red. When he nodded, it was small, with a glare. “Yes, that’s all we’ve been doing. Well, that and talking.”

Hikaru looked at Pasha hard. There was something different about the way Pasha was acting. “Talking about what?”

“All sorts of things,” Pasha shrugged. “Len is very easy to talk to, and has a lot of things to say.” Pasha had a small smile on his face that said a whole hell of a lot about what he was thinking.

Hikaru had to fight the urge to punch the air in victory. This was a step in the right direction. Pavel was starting to notice McCoy! Hikaru thought that something had changed when Camelia Warrington had dumped Pasha, Pasha had asked about how he and Ben knew they were ready for serious. And the time he had spent with McCoy in the past few weeks had been some sort of clue.

This morning at the mission briefing, that simple look between McCoy and Pasha had been charged with a something that Hikaru could almost feel, like a substantial presence in the room. Hikaru knew the look meant things were changing.

“You’ve got a crush on him, don’t you?” Hikaru asked, for the sole purpose of watching his best friend turn bright red.

“…yes. I really, really do,” Pasha mumbled. He leaned back in his chair and threw his arms up is exasperation. “It just came out of nowhere! It was like one moment, Camila is dumping me after that terrible dinner and then the next I look up, and Len is there with kind eyes and hands and scruffy face, and I’m just gone.”

Since Hikaru was almost sure that was how McCoy had fallen in love with Pasha, he didn’t see a problem with that. But there was trouble written on Pavel’s face like he was concerned about something.

“And now I’m spending all this time with him and let me tell you, ‘Karu! He’s wonderful. Gruff, yes, but kind and caring and he’s so damn concerned for the whole ship. And he thinks I’m interesting. I didn’t notice it until recently, but he likes listening to me talk about star charts and navigation, ‘Karu. I asked him. He says that knowing that I know the charts that well and the math that well makes him feel safer! I make him feel safer…in space ! He hates space! I don’t know what to do with this information.” He collapsed back into his chair.

Pasha took a deep breath after his mini-rant; his face flushed. He looked like he hadn’t expected to say any of that. “But I can’t tell him that I like him yet,” he said, a little less rushed.

And Hikaru didn’t know what to do about that. Pavel wasn’t one to pine. Once he figured out that he liked someone and that someone was unattached, then Pasha tended to ask them out immediately. “Why not?”

“I’m not sure if I want something serious with him, or if I’m just looking too hard in the wrong spot again,” Pasha said. “I did just break up with Camelia recently, and I thought I was ready for serious with her.”

Oh. That put a damper on Hikaru’s happiness for the pair. That was an excellent point. And if Pasha didn’t know, then it would be unfair to start going out with McCoy, who had been in love with Pasha for years, only for Pavel to realize he didn’t want a serious relationship with McCoy.

That would break McCoy.

And apparently, on some level at least, Pasha knew that.

So Hikaru did the only thing he could think of doing. He asked questions. “Are you sure you want to find out?” he asked, glancing at Pavel.

Pavel nodded, determination and hope clear in his eyes. He must really like McCoy if he was that set on figuring things out. Hikaru had an idea of what the answer was but he knew that Pavel would need to come to this understanding himself.

With a little help from his best friend of course.

“Okay then, we’ll see if we can figure this out.”

Pasha looked relieved. “Thank you ‘Karu!”

Hikaru knew it would be a long night, but they would reach standard orbit during the night, and they could figure this out before the morning.

Ben peeked his head out of the door that lead to their quarters. Pasha couldn’t see him, his back to the door, but Hikaru did. Ben smiled at them and pointed to Pasha and gave a thumbs up. Hikaru knew he had permission to get this fixed. Hikaru grinned back. Of course, his husband was listening in, and understood what needed to be done.

They could fix this.

“Well then Pasha, let’s see if we can figure out what’s going on in that heart of yours.”

-

 

Chapter Text

The welcoming ceremony party on Yen’bu.  

Jim didn’t hate the dinner dress uniforms, not by a long shot. The uniform used deep colors of gold, red, and blue - and made everyone in the crew look amazing when they wore it. He just hated how the fabric and the cut didn’t breathe.

Yen’bu was a hot, muggy planet. Jim was sweating buckets through his outfit. The heat felt worse than that one summer during the academy when Bones had dragged him to Georgia in the middle of July. Jim, until that summer, hadn't known he could sweat that much. The rest of his away team looked just as miserable - other than Spock of course.

Spock looked marvelous, more so than usual. He, with his Vulcan desert heritage, was comfortable in the heat and the humidity.  Spock was standing to the side of the room talking with Scotty and a few others. The group was fortunate to see Spock in the full, formal dinner dress uniform, because he looked like a King in his uniform.

And Jim had to bite his tongue, literally, to keep from saying that out loud.

When the natives of Yen’bu talked about how their truth was something that they had to do, they weren’t kidding.

Something on this planet made damn sure that people had to tell the truth. It almost forced the fact from people. The more a statement was personal, the harder it was to avoid saying.  Jim felt secure in the confidential Starfleet information stockpiled in his brain, but it was trying not to spill his guts about how he felt for Spock that he was concerned about.

Spock had only spoken a few sentences on the planet before his standard exclamation of “Fascinating,” was said.

Jim was glad that Spock found something to interest him here because Jim hadn’t. The Federation was already well served by the diplomat corps. But they needed a ship represented at the signing, so here was Jim - representing the Enterprise.

“Are you finding the planet too hot, Captain?” Came a voice from behind him. Jim didn’t jump at the sudden presence behind him.  He was better trained than to show how much the voice had startled him. Too many years of off-world diplomacy had taught him to be a little less of a shoot first and ask questions later kind of Captain. Mostly. One might say that he had mellowed with age.

Bones might disagree but the rest of the federation though so.

It also helped that Alysia Cooke wasn’t a woman a person could forget was in the room. A person may lose track of her but no one forgot she was there. Jim thought that Scotty was a fortunate man to have known her. Scotty had also made it clear to Jim and Bones the night before they arrived in orbit, that he felt that he was just as lucky that he had lost her too.

Jim could understand why Scotty had broken up with her. Ambassador Cooke was the type of woman who could not be a Starfleet spouse. Cooke didn’t have the patience for that. Jim could tell that Alysia Cooke was a go-getter and a doer. She was a leader. Jim could also tell, in the few moments he had spoken to her that she was not someone who could wait for another person like a Starfleet spouse needed to be willing to do.

Jim didn’t know what to make of her, quite honestly. She came off as polite, but there was something in her eyes that said she didn’t like him and what he stood for, which seemed strange to Jim. They were both federation people on the frontier and should have been standing together.

But something in Ambassador Cooke’s demeanor was dismissive of Jim and his crew. If Jim had to put a name to the feeling, it was as if she thought their work wasn’t as important, vital, or as groundbreaking as hers was. Which was strange as ships exploring the unknown was the foundation of the federation. The Enterprise was often conducting First Contact. Ambassadors such as Cooke wouldn't have jobs until well after Jim’s ship and crew had already completed their work.

“Yes, I do find the planet to be far too hot for my comfort,” Jim responded without thinking, forcing himself not to wince at the truth. He couldn’t help the words slipping from his lips the truth of his physical state was personal enough that the gravity of the planet compelled him to share. He turned to face Cooke. “But I really like the architecture and the people,” he quickly tacked on another truth when he saw the Yen’bu Empress right next to Cooke.

The Empress was a tall, heavily built humanoid whose skin was a shade of bright pink. Something Jim had been told by his anthropologist during his pre-away mission briefing was common for the equator of the planet.  His Anthropologist also made it clear that even though the Empire that ruled over most of Yen’bu was a constitutional monarchy, the empress still held considerable power.

So much power that Jim worried that he could harm diplomatic efforts if he was rude to her in any way. She was well loved by the populace and her disapproval of Starfleet or the Federation would definitely make it harder for the elected Senate to vote in favor of joining.

“I understand humans come from a more temperate planet, Captain,” the Empress said with a smile that was kind enough that Jim was sure she hadn’t minded his misstep.

“Yes. The weather is very different from Yen’bu from Terra,” Jim answered as truthfully as he could, letting it flow out of him now. “Where I’m from in Iowa, it’s much cooler normally than here. However, there are places near our equator that are just as hot as Yen’bu.”

The Empress nodded at him with a pleased expression her face.

Cooke smiled at him, a distant expression that immediately became warmer when she looked at the Empress, reinforcing Jim’s idea that Cooke didn’t seem to like him.

“I’m sure the Captain can explain more about what the Federation can do for new planets that join. He has been to many of the Federation worlds and new planets,” Cooke said to the Empress.

The Empress looked impressed and turned back to Jim with an eager expression. “Please tell me more, Captain. I am curious what the federation has done for others. My Senate is sure that this move is a good idea, but I would like to know more.”

As Jim launched into the standard speech that Uhura wrote for the diplomatic away teams, Jim made sure to put the Federation's best foot forward. The address was about the benefits of joining the Federation, from the unity of the planets to the protection Starfleet could provide to the trade that allying themselves with the Federation could open up. Jim loved to explain new ideas and understanding of the universe the Federation’s scientists were always testing. He also mentioned that Starfleet was an excellent way to expand the new concepts and share their own.

As Uhura had written the speech at the beginning of the first five-year mission, and had made Jim practice reciting it until he could say the damn thing backwards, forwards, in pieces, and in Klingon - Jim could let his mind wander.

The fact he could say the speech in its entirety on the surface of the planet was impressive, and it came out of Jim with a promptness that surprised him. He hadn't realized that he felt so strongly about the Federation. He knew he believed in it, he just hadn't known that Uhura’s speech had become something like a truth to him.  While Jim accepted what the Federation stood for, sometimes the ideas and ideals of the Federation came off to outsiders, and even Jim, as propaganda.

Jim was relieved to know that what he said was the truth.

Out of the corner of his eye, Jim saw one of the diplomatic scientists break off a conversation with a Yen’bu official and head toward Spock. Jim couldn’t hide a wince. Spock despised diplomatic scientists on a good day. Add that disdain with a planet that was known for its truth-telling properties... Jim just hoped there wouldn't be blood. Again. The Empress and Cooke followed his gaze.

“Your First Officer, I presume?” Cooke asked, glancing over to Jim. She then turned and frowned in the direction of the conversation that was starting. Spock was doing his best to be impassive, and the scientist was clearly doing his best to bluster. Jim didn't like the look she was giving the crew.

Jim nodded and physically had to stop himself from saying, ‘And the love of my life,’ because that would be all sorts of inappropriate.

But, also, the truth.

“Is there going to be a problem, Captain?” the Empress asked.

Jim shook his head. “Not unless ambassador Cooke’s scientist has taken credit for something that’s not theirs, or has incorrectly interpreted data that was in front of them.” He could remember the last time Spock got started on a scientist’s incorrect interpretation. Jim still said that was one of the best times he’s ever had at a Starfleet party. Scotty, Chekov and surprisingly, Uhura all agreed.

Jim didn’t even start that fistfight. But the crew sure as hell had finished it.

Cooke glanced at him and said, “I am sure they didn’t.” Her voice was much more scratchy then it had been a moment previous. She looked surprised for a heartbeat, before quickly turning her gaze back to the scientist with interest.

Jim just hummed, neither answering nor denying. If the scientist hadn’t, then it would be a first for the Enterprise. Jim trusted Spock more than anyone.

From the look Spock had given the man as he had been making his way to Spock’s pocket of people (Uhura, Scotty, and a few of the Yen’bu), the man had, indeed, made a mistake and Spock felt it his duty to correct him.

Jim had to rescue them from a diplomatic disaster waiting to happen, and this time it wasn’t his fault!

“If you’d excuse me, Your Majesty, Ambassador,” he said, turning to make his way to the storm that was brewing.

“I’ll go with you, Captain. I would like to say hello to an old friend,” Cooke said, following him. “And to prevent your First Officer from harming one of my scientists.”

Jim scoffed. “Spock won’t harm them physically.” Unless the scientist threw the first punch.

Jim will forever and always maintain that that was the best Starfleet party he’s ever been to. More than half the senior staff also agreed with him.

The discussion as they got closer was getting louder.

“If you dare imply I falsified records…!” The scientist was becoming irate. There was a slight wheeze to his voice that Jim knew meant trouble.

There was something defensive is posture. Clearly, the guy had done something wrong and knew it, if he was reacting this way. Jim’s body language training had been taught to him by Uhura. She could read anyone, and liked to show others how to as well.

Spock leveled a look at the man. “Of course not.” Spock sounded dismissive of the mere idea. “If your experiments were completed correctly by you, then there would be no need for concern.”

Jim was sure that only the members of the crew heard the tone of death in Spock’s voice. Spock clearly didn’t think that the scientist did the work he was claiming he did.

The rest of the group seemed to take Spock’s words with varying degrees of understanding. The security crewman was looking like he wanted to reach for his phaser. Scotty and Uhura were flanking Spock in a show of solidarity. But the Yen'bu just watched on, most looking amused by the whole situation. Jim wondered if living on a planet that forced the truth out if people gave a person a sense of humor that was weird.

The scientist looked as if he wanted to haul off and hit Spock anyway.

Jim had to intervene soon. Preferably before the man decided to throw the first punch. The Federation had come a long way on Yen’bu, and Jim wasn’t going to let his crew be at fault for jeopardizing the treaty.

No matter how awesome it was to see Spock defend himself in a fist fight.

“I did no-,” the scientist started to sputter, but coughed in the middle of the sentence. Jim knew what that meant - and so did Spock, and the rest of the away team.

Jim had tried to lie when he got on the planet initially, and he had spent the entirety of the phrase ‘My favorite color is red,’ coughing.

His favorite color was brown. The same shade as Spock's eyes.

But it meant that the entire team was well aware that scientist was trying to lie.

It didn’t matter in the end because Spock cut him off.

“I’ve read your initial findings. I would recommend putting more into the bibliography and sources that fully explain your use of the planet’s own library. Right now, the section is sorely lacking,” Spock started. He glared at the man before continuing, “And if you wish to publish your results, then I would recommend changing the written time of the experiments to be less than a year when you have been only on the planet for a third of that time.”

Jim had to bite his tongue to not let out a childish and inappropriate ‘Oooooh!’ at that. Both of the security team clearly did so as well. The man - whom Jim could no longer consider a scientist - flinched and went pale.

Spock’s look of death towards the man spoke volumes. “I do hope you send a copy of whatever findings you may wish to publish to me beforehand. I would like to read them, I am sure the paper would be an interesting read.”

The man nodded dumbly. Jim knew he would never publish the papers. Damn diplomatic scientists. Always wanting to take the credit for work they didn’t complete. Now, at least, Yen’bu’s scientists could post their work unhindered by preconceived notions and thieving former scientists.

Spock always was good for that.

He also seemed done with the man. “Captain,” he said mildly, turning his attention away from the cowardly man. “I am pleased to see you.”

Jim stopped right next to Spock, and Spock reached out and brushed his hand against Jim’s shoulder and arm. Jim felt his heart stop for a moment because Spock didn’t touch people without reason. Jim always liked the fact that Spock had always felt comfortable with Jim enough to indulge in a few touches in private, but this was an extremely public setting.

Jim realized that his internal monologue sounded a lot like complaining and promptly stopped questioning it, because if he was getting touched by Spock, then he wasn’t going to complain.

Ever .

“And I am pleased to see you as well,” Jim said, smiling. He let the truth planet speak for him. Jim was glad to see Spock. He was always happy to see Spock.

“Ambassador Cooke,” Uhura greeted. She seemed to be taking stock of the woman.

Jim was suddenly reasonably sure he had, at one point, seen a recruiting letter arrive for Uhura from Cooke.

Maybe that’s why the ambassador didn’t like him? Uhura had clearly turned her down.

“Good afternoon,” Cooke said. “I was relieved to hear that the USS Enterprise would be joining us.” She seemed to be sizing up Uhura as well.

Jim wondered why for a moment - when he realized that Uhura was right next to Scotty. In fact, Uhura was standing very close to him. Reading body language wasn’t his expertise like it was Uhura’s, but Jim did know his crew very well, and also had some training in it. Uhura was showing off a close friendship and maybe more.   

And, of course, Scotty wasn’t complaining.  Maybe Scotty would get enough courage to ask her out soon. Because it was looking to Jim that Uhura wasn’t going to say no.

Jim had the sudden realization that the project he wasn’t supposed to know about was probably their way of flirting. Or at least feeling each other out.

He hoped it worked out for both of them.

Uhura smiled. “We are excited to see what Yen’bu has to offer.”

“Indeed,” Cooke said. She was watching Uhura was with a look that was hard for Jim to read. “I am sure you will find your time on the planet agreeable.”  

Jim got the impression that he was watching a shark swim around, scenting the water for blood. Cooke was clearly waiting for an opening to strike. Uhura gave no reaction that she felt the same, but she also gave no quarter either.

As the conversation went along, the Ambassador explaining more about the culture and people of Yen’bu, Jim leaned into Spock’s side a little.

Scotty and the Ambassador exchanged a few words here and there, neither giving much of an illusion to their shared past.

Scotty seemed happy to ignore it.

Jim got the feeling that the Ambassador didn’t want to. Her eyes rarely left Scotty for long.

With a sinking feeling in his gut, Jim couldn't help but think there may be trouble soon. He would have to keep an eye on Ambassador Alysia Cooke.

-

At the end of the welcome ceremony lunch

Scotty had honestly been trying to avoid Alysia Cooke. He didn’t want to talk to her, not with the way she was eyeing him.

She looked like she wanted to eat him alive.

Politely.

Because that was the way Alysia was. That was the way she had always been, and Scotty didn’t like that. Not anymore at least. He once loved her single-minded determination and her self-assured attitude. He had like the way Alysia had gone through life with a fierce look and the belief that she was going to get her way - because that was the way the world worked. The earth was round, Starfleet operated in space, Vulcan was hot, and Alysia Cooke was going to get what she wanted, one way or another.

Scotty was so relieved that he had lost her when he got assigned to the Unity. To tell the truth, their relationship had been on the rocks for weeks heading up to Scotty’s graduation from Starfleet Academy.

Scotty had been lucky to avoid Alysia for most of the evening. He had felt her eyes on him during the short conversation with the rest of his away team.  He did not want to be alone with her for very long.

But it seemed his luck was at an end.

Alysia found him near one of the grand windows that lined the room. He was trying (somewhat successfully) to cool himself down. The room was hot and humid, and Scotty was having trouble keeping himself from telling the natives that.

The breeze that came from the window was a welcomed relief. But it also meant that Scotty could see Alysia break off a group that had been filled with Yen’bu officials and Starfleet Officers to make her way over to him.

“Montgomery,” she greeted as she came up. She was as beautiful as she was the last day Scotty saw her, but Scotty no longer found that to be as enthralling as he once did.

Scotty attempted to hide his sigh. By the look that she gave him, Scotty wasn’t successful. “Alysia,” he said in return. “I prefer ‘Scotty’ now.”

He had preferred ‘Scotty’ for a long time. But that was a change that had occurred after they had broken up; he had gained the name on his first ship. He hadn’t enjoyed being called Montgomery even when they had been dating, but he hadn’t a better name back then.

“Do you?” she asked, in what Scotty thought was a shrewd tone but Scotty didn’t understand why. He hated being called ‘Montgomery’. It was Scotty. Or Monty if it was family.

What had been the final straw on an already strained relationship was Scotty’s first orders. They had broken up after an argument about Scotty choosing a ship over following Alysia. Scotty had been the top Engineering cadet in his class at the academy, and with that honor, he had received a significant amount of offers for orders for a permanent duty station that could be either on a planet or ship.

He had chosen the USS Unity, a Farragut class ship that was new, complicated, and all sorts of interesting. Alysia had not been happy. She had tried to get his orders changed behind his back and had failed. When Scotty had found out, he had been furious.

Scotty was glad they weren't dating anymore.

“Yes,” he said in return, shutting whatever Alysia was trying to say down. He wanted to change the subject.

Scotty decided he would let Alysia lead this conversation. It would be easier to respond then to try to figure out what she wanted beforehand.

He didn’t know what she wanted - nor why she had asked for him specifically on this away mission. He hadn’t been paying attention to her career after he left earth the first time with the Unity. She apparently had been paying attention to his.

“It has been a long time hasn’t it, Montgomery?” Alysia asked, frowning but moving on to change the subject. “I’ve missed you.” She smiled, and it was more reserved then it had been when they were in their early twenties, but that’s what being an Ambassador must do to a person.

“It has, since we were, what twenty-three?” Scotty said. He was in his late thirties now, it had been years .

“Something along those lines,” Alysia agreed. “I was surprised to hear that you were still on ships after all these years. I imagined you would be doing more planet-based work by now.” She had a cocktail in her hand and took a sip from the glass.

Scotty’s own glass had been emptied for about twenty minutes now, and he wasn’t looking for more. He had just kept it with him to prevent it from being refilled by a passing server.

At her reminder of the pitstop that his career took at Delta Vega, Scotty winced. He also didn’t like the implication that he was too good for ships. That had been her argument from the start. She was wrong. He was far too good to be ordered to a planet. Scotty sighed. Of course, Alysia would still think the same thing she did when they were young.

She was always missing something about the camaraderie and family that a crew could provide.

“I was assigned to Delta Vega before Vulcan fell. But I’ve been lucky enough to be CEO of the Enterprise ever since,” Scotty said, the truth-telling ‘feature’ of Yen’bu forcing the titbit of Delta Vega out. He hadn’t meant to say that.

“Lucky?" Alysia questioned. "It’s been eight years, longer than the regular orders to a ship, did you ask for an extension or something?” She asked, the polite tone in her voice fading slightly into something dismissive. “I would be worried that I was stuck if that happened to me.”

Scotty managed to hide a flinch, and managed a response. “With the five-year missions, the crew rotations and orders are modified. I volunteered to stay with the Enterprise, she’s a great ship with a great crew.”

“I see,” Alysia coughed. Scotty knew she didn’t see or understand, but many people didn’t, so he wouldn’t push the point. “I mean, I am glad you are happy.” She cleared her throat afterword.

“I see that you have been doing well for yourself, Alysia,” Scotty said, all too willing to move on from his career. “Lead Ambassador from the federation on a treaty assignment is an awe-inspiring feat.”

Alysia glowed with pride. “I am thrilled to help the Federation. I worked hard for this, and I believe I’m doing a good job making sure the Federation and Yen’bu are being represented.”

“I’m glad for you,” Scotty said without a hint of a cough.

Her expression lit up, apparently pleased with his words. “Well, Montgomery, I wanted to ask you if-,” Alysia started to say, but she cut herself off when Jim and Nyota approached to them.

“Scotty! It’s time to go but-,” Jim started to say as he came up to them. He paused, looking at Alysia. “Good day again, Ambassador Cooke,”

Nyota also greeted her. “Ambassador, hello.”

Scotty watched as Alysia’s smile became more stilted and formal as she greeted Jim and Nyota. A distant expression came over her face, like she was seeing something rather distasteful and was trying to hide it.

“Captain, Lieutenant Commander,” Alysia’s greeted distantly.

Scotty nodded at them. “Captain, Nyota.”

“Scotty, I wanted to know if you would be able to stay down here, I have to send a man back up to be seen by Doctor McCoy. I know that originally, you were going to go back up to the ship after the lunch but now…” Jim trailed off.

Scotty knew what he meant. They needed the presence, and it was important that the Enterprise remain seen. Scotty was concerned about the man who was sent back to the ship, but he nodded all the same. Keenser was an excellent assistant CEO and could handle anything that went wrong while in orbit.

“Aye, I can. Just let me speak to Keenser and tell him.” Scotty assured Jim. Jim’s relieved look was all that Scotty needed to know that he was grateful.

Nyota smiled happily as well.

Scotty was once again struck by how wonderful she was. Sometimes, it was the little things that really got him. It was the sudden moments that reminded him how much he loved her. He smiled back and tried not to tell Nyota the truth, like the planet’s properties called for him too.

Scotty had been watching her all afternoon, as was his habit. Nyota was in her element. Part of the Federation envoy was a pair Friesians, and they seemed to be delighted in speaking their native tongue to another person.

She had also been speaking to the Yen’bu about their three native languages.

Nyota would be good as an ambassador’s aide or as a translator, but Scotty was so glad that she was as dedicated to Starfleet and the Enterprise as he was.

He was also glad their project had allowed them to spend more time together than before. He got to see Nyota’s brilliance more in person, and that always made Scotty happy.

“I’m sure that Keenser would be fine but…” Nyota said, and Scotty heard the rest of the sentence. She had been there in engineering or with Scotty, the few times Kent, Scotty’s current disciplinary problem child, had acted out or been slacking off.

Kent was on duty today, and Keenser may need more help.

Scotty would let Keenser know that if things went wrong with Kent to start paperwork up to the higher chain of command.

Alysia hummed, sounding pleased. “If you are staying, Montgomery, then I would like to invite you to dinner, as,” she coughed, clearing her throat, “colleges and friends. I would love to catch up.”

Scotty gaped at her. Dinner? As colleges?

Nyota had this strange look on her face that said she was fascinated. Like she had just seen a puzzle, and she wanted to solve it.

Jim looked like he wanted to laugh but was struggling not to.

Scotty felt trapped, “What?” he was confused and stunned. “I mean - what ?”

"Excellent!" Alysia smiled happily like Scotty had just given her the world. Scotty didn’t want to give her the world. “I will make reservations for seven. I will see you then. I will leave you to be now.” She said as she nodded and bowed slightly but quickly, a gesture that Scotty had seen several of the Yen’bu make.

Nyota and Jim repeated it. Scotty did too, after a delay.

And then Alysia was gone. She hadn’t given Scotty a chance to even say no.

Scotty felt like he could breathe for the first time.

“Dinner, Scotty?” Jim said, dryly. He always took a chance to tease his friends, but Scotty could see the concern in his eyes.

Nyota still looked like she had a puzzle just waiting to be solved.

“I panicked, okay?” Scotty said. “I mean, it will be nice to see what she’s been up to - but I don’t think that’s what she wants.” He waved his empty drink around. He could tell that Alysia wanted more. “I don’t want whatever that more is.”

“What I’m curious about is how she learned to lie, or at least walk around the truth,” Nyota said. “She was coughing, a lot but she wasn’t outright lying.”

Jim agreed.

Scotty made a note to ask at dinner how she did it, because he was weak and making Nyota smile was the primary goal in his life.

-

Meanwhile on the Enterprise

Bones treated the lone crewman who had come up from the away team. Apparently, he had developed a food allergy to a plant on the planet that no one knew about.

And looking at the records and the results and the vague look of betrayal on the crewman’s face, Bones had to sigh. Surprise allergies were always a bitch to deal with.

“Katsuki, you’ll be fine in an hour, but we’re keeping you overnight to watch the allergy fade. We have to get all the information now to prevent this from happening again,” Bones told him seriously.

Katsuki nodded slowly, the hives were accompanied by a migraine that hurt like a bitch but would fade over time.

“Good. I’m leaving you in the care of Warrington. She’ll take care of you,” Bones told the man on the bench.

Katsuki nodded slowly again. Bones placed a cold compress over the crewman’s eyes and watched as Katsuki let his body relax.

Warrington was standing off to the side. She was already updating Katsuki’s files in the padd. She was quiet for once, and was attentive. Bones was surprised and hopeful. The last few weeks, since she broke up with Pasha, she had been inattentive and distracted. She had been making small mistakes that if no one had caught would have lead to big problems.

In the last weeks, all the excellent work she had been doing had been gone. She was just as bad as that one guy in engineering that Scotty kept complaining about.

But today she was on point. Something was different, but Bones had no idea what. Bones didn’t entirely know what was going on with her, and she still wasn’t opening up to him at all, but he hoped that maybe whatever had been distracting her was over.

“Warrington,” Bones said quietly, a little distance away from Katsuki’s bed. “He should be fine but keep a close eye on him. I don’t expect many more patients today, and Sulu wants me on the Bridge for some paperwork. So, I’m leaving you in charge. Comm me the moment someone comes in, understand?”

Warrington met his eyes for the first time in weeks, and he could see they were red - and it looked as if she had been crying. Bones didn’t ask.  She wasn’t crying now, nor did she look as if she was about to start. She seemed determined to do her job.

Bones would have to trust her again.

“I will, Doctor,” she said, nodding firmly. Bones saw that she gripped the padd a little tighter than before, but her expression did not waver.

“Good. I’m trusting you with Katsuki. Comm me if he worsens,” Bones said before going into his office to grab a padd with the paperwork that Sulu needed.

Being the temporary – for the duration of away mission only – second in command was exhausting.

The daily paperwork was astounding , Bones had signed about fifty things since taking over from Spock about four hours ago. And they had the rest of that day and all of the next before the away team would be back to take back over the ship properly. Bones had hoped that he could give Sulu the second in command title when Scotty had come back to the ship and took over, but with Katsuki's illness, that idea had died.

Bones stepped into the turbo lift and sighed. At least Pasha would be there on the bridge.

Pasha had been acting differently during the past few weeks. At first, Bones had chalked it up to dealing with the break up from Warrington, but now, Bones wasn’t sure. Pavel's actions were making his heart jump through hoops, and Bones was getting his hopes up for the first time.

Bones had been spending a lot of time telling himself that it may be nothing but a new facet of their friendship developing, something he wasn't about to complain about. Bones, on the other hand, also spent a lot of time daydreaming about closing the distance between them while he was training Pasha - and kissing the other man with every fiber of his being. Just sitting with Pavel at lunch was now a test of his self-control and will.

Bones felt like he didn’t have a lot of self-control.

The turbo lift opened up, and Bones stepped out onto the bridge.

Sulu was at the captain’s chair filling out some paperwork on a padd and Pasha was on at the navigation console with a lower command crewmember, teaching her the correct way to hold orbit.

Pasha was teaching a class, apparently, because there were three other crewmen in gold shirts taking notes on padds. The girl actually at the navigation seat was the only one not taking notes. Bones knew that the new command crewmembers were still getting their qualifications, just like his nurses.

Pasha looked up and waved when Bones came in, and Bones waved back.

Sulu glanced up and called him over, “Doc, I need you to read and sign this.”

Bones sighed for what felt like the fifth time that day and walked over. “What’s it on?” he asked, taking the padd from Sulu.

“Some engineering problem that needs signatures. A crewman was asleep at his post. I don’t know what’s up with this guy, but apparently, there are notes on his record that he’s been causing problems,” Sulu said, frowning at the doctor.

Bones shrugged, pressing his finger to the ‘sign here’ locations on the padd, using his fingerprint as a signature. “Some people can’t handle the pressures we deal with. If he doesn’t get his act together, then either Jim or Scotty will transfer him.”

Sulu nodded and turned back to face the helm, surreptitiously checking that his relief was doing their job correctly. It was the truth - sometimes a promising crewmember just wasn’t able to handle the workload the Enterprise did. It wasn’t their fault, the Enterprise just wasn't for everyone. But crewmembers like that were something that had to be dealt with quickly since it could get people in trouble - or killed.

Bones liked to have no people in his sickbay at all times, thank you very much. He didn’t get that wish ever , there was always someone, but an old country boy could dream, dammit.

He would have a lot less paperwork then.

Bones signed several of the pads and winced as he realized that this, in addition to the science labs’ paperwork, was what Spock had to do every day.

They worked in silence for a good half hour before Pasha’s training class finished. The two command ensigns and one gold shirt enlisted crewman packed up their padds and left, leaving the one female crewman to take over holding the orbit distance.

Pavel came up to them, rubbing at his temples. Bones caught the motion and winced. Pasha had been dealing with migraines occasionally since the last shore leave. Bones suspected they had been occurring even before that shore leave as well, but he didn’t have data on that. Getting the Alpha Shift Bridge crew to come to medical somedays was akin to pulling teeth.

“Headache?” Hikaru asked, concern in his voice.

Pavel nodded, a small, slight movement that was barely there.  

Bones didn’t bother to hide the trained look over he gave Pavel. Sulu knew what he felt for Pavel so he didn’t hide the expression. Bones’ visual exam wasn’t comprehensive by any means, but often times Bones found it gave him a starting point. Pavel was slightly pale and had tension in his eyes. The way he was holding himself told Bones that this one was a bad one.

“Will you be ok?” Sulu asked, also eyeing Pasha.

Neyt . I mean, no. I don’t think so.” Pasha said his accent a little thicker than normal. “I may have to take something.” He was covering his eyes now in an attempt to stop the pain. Bones sighed and opened the prescription program on his padd, already hunting for Pasha’s last prescription and its dosage.

“You won’t be much use here. Or at least not until you get that headache fixed.” Sulu said. “Doc? Think you can fix him?” Sulu was still signing the paperwork and Bones nodded.

He hit send on the padd to send the prescription to medical, and Warrington. He hoped that her newly rediscovered work ethic would get the pills and hypo ready before they got down there. “I can. If you would, Pasha.” Bones said gesturing toward the turbolift.

Bones found it fascinating when Pavel’s face suddenly turned a light red when Bones used the nickname. Sulu let out a little chuckle that had Pasha glaring weakly at him.

Bones firmly ignored the thought in the back of his head that said ‘Mine. I caused him to blush because he’s mine.’ That part of him wasn’t worth Pavel’s time, even if Pavel was actually interested.

“Yes, Len,” Pavel said and walked gingerly to the turbolift.

Once safely inside the turbo lift, Bones turned toward Pavel. He took Pavel’s hand in his own and placed his other on Pavel’s forehead.

Pavel sighed and leaned into the touch. “Your hands feel good,” he said. Some of the tension faded from the corners of his eyes for a moment.

“That’s what comes from being a doctor.” Bones said, shifting his hand slightly on Pavel’s forehead, and Pavel sighed in relief again. “Cold hands.”

The turbolift started to slow to a stop and Bones reluctantly took a step back from Pavel. Taking his own hand off of Pavel’s forehead, but not fully dropping Pavel’s hand.

Pavel took what looked to be like an involuntary step forward to follow Bones’ hand.

They both stood there for a moment, just caught up in looking at each other. The moment dragged on so long that Bones could see a question start in Pavel’s eyes.

“Len,” Pavel said, taking a minor step forward before taking a deep breath. That step had brought him into Bones’ personal space, and it was the first time that they had gotten so close without Bones needing to do some medical work. “I want to ask you something…”

As Pavel started to talk, the door of the lift opened up and loud arguing could be heard from the other side of the hallway, where the med bay entrance was. Nothing was distinct, but the voices were loud enough to carry.

Bones dropped Pavel's hand and stepped away, wishing that he didn’t have to.

Pavel’s face screwed up in frustration when he looked to the side and saw who was yelling. He looked deeply upset about something. Then he winced and placed a hand up to his head.

Bones followed his gaze and saw that Warrington and an engineering crewman (whom Bones thought was called Anderson Kent but wasn’t sure. Kent was the kid from engineering that Bones had just signed paperwork for) were arguing. They were getting louder.

Bones felt a moment of pure anger. He felt the expletives run through his head and took a deep breath to calm himself. He would have to write Warrington and this Engineering Crewman up. And he would have to ask Pavel to write the crewman up. They were marginally in the same division.

Bones started walking toward the med bay. “I’m sorry Pavel. We have to deal with this. Can you wait for the migraine meds for a few minutes?”

Pavel just looked disappointed but nodded. “I can wait. For more than just the meds.” He said.

Bones stopped and looked at him. “What?”

Pavel just smiled and waved him along. “It’s nothing important. It’s about our training. I’ll ask later.”

“If you insist,” Bones hummed before putting on his ‘I’m CMO, and nothing you can do will change that so, god damn it, just listen to me’ face on to deal with one of his nurses. He did not want to explain what was going on to Jim when he got back on board.

-

Evening on Yen’bu

In all honesty, Nyota didn’t intend to spy on Scotty’s dinner with Alysia Cooke when she heard the Ambassador ask Scotty to join her.

But here she was, sitting at a table near the doorway of the restaurant with Jim Kirk sitting opposite her and both of them were blatantly listening in to the table on the other side of the partition.

Nyota had been unhappy about hearing someone ask Scotty on a date before she could, but she wasn’t going to spy. Nytoa hadn’t been too concerned that Scotty was going to fall back in love with Cooke. He had looked too surprised, and not in a happy way, for Nyota to be worried.  

But then Kirk had looked at her when Scotty had left to his temporary rooms after the welcome ceremony and lunch, and asked with a friendly smile that completely belied the worry in his eyes - “Wanna get food conveniently near wherever they have dinner?” Nyota said yes.

Nyota assumed the offer came from the fact he didn’t trust Cooke any more than she had - because usually, Kirk hated to interrupt dates. He had always looked regretful when he’d had to barge in on her and Spock.  She had felt that was genuine about him. He hated to be that dick. He was always apologetic about interrupting when he did it to anyone.

Then again, that still didn’t stop her from saying yes to spying on Scotty's dinner.

Spock had just looked at the pair of them with a faint expression of exasperation on his face. Kirk had seen it and grinned, unrepentant. Nyota had just giggled. Spock had left them to it, claiming he was going to check out the scientific facilities the Native Yen’bu had set up, but he also said that he wanted to know the results of their spying nonetheless.

Ambassador Alysia Cooke put Nyota on edge. And Nyota couldn’t put her finger on why. Maybe it was the way she didn’t like most of the crew from the Enterprise or the way she was only warm and friendly to Scotty or the Yen’bu themselves. Maybe it was the way she just dismissed the Enterprise crew as ‘not as smart’ in a conversation Nyota overheard between a Yen'bu politician and the Ambassador.

Or maybe it was the way that she called Scotty ‘Montgomery’. Nyota had to acknowledge that it may have been because of that.

In the end, the results were the same. Nyota and Kirk were spying on Scotty’s dinner. Their waiter had taken their request to be near Scotty and the Ambassador with surprising understanding. It helped that Kirk had spoken the truth about watching over a fellow crew member. They had been seated quickly while Scotty and the Ambassador had been distracted by another waiter.

At first, they had only talked about the ship and listened to Scotty and the Ambassador talk. While she trusted her Captain, She and Kirk never did spend much time together in off hours as he did with Spock or Bones. Nyota was always glad to see the man Kirk had gown into, and she would alway consider him a friend, but they didn’t spend much together.

However as the night went on they strayed onto different topics, and Nyota found something interesting. She would mention something about her best friend and Kirk would light up with happiness.

Talking about Spock put a smile on Kirk’s face that Nyota had realized she’d seen before but never fully realized it’s meaning. It was obvious that Kirk enjoyed talking about Spock - probably even more than she did. She let a small, self-satisfied smile grace her face as she tucked that piece of information away to tell Spock as soon as they returned. Spock needed to know that this was a sign pointing in the right direction for his chances at a romantic relationship with James Tiberius Kirk.

Aside from spending the entire night talking about Spock, they also spent time talking about the improvements they’d had in working since the start of the second five-year mission. Nyota finally gave in to Kirk's pestering and decided to give a hint to Kirk of the secret project she was working on with Scotty. Just a hint. He would have to wait until she and Scotty were done for the full scope of the project.

Nyota could honestly say that she was having fun having dinner with Jim.

But for as much fun as she was having, it was clear that Scotty and Alysia Cooke weren't having any . Scotty and the Ambassador’s dinner wasn’t going well.

At first, the Ambassador had been polite and friendly, like she was actually having dinner with a colleague and not an ex-boyfriend.

Scotty seemed to be content with that as well, asking questions about her career and laughing politely over the tired jokes people who travel in space often heard many times over. He had tried to ask about her ability to almost lie. Something Nyota had appreciated, knowing he had asked for her sake, despite Cooke dodging the question with the air of someone who was used to such things.

But, as dinner wore on, the ambassador’s tone began to change. Cooke started to flirt more openly. As she drank more throughout the meal, she became more aggressive and blatant with her intent. Scotty remained the same, keeping his distance and treating her just as a co-worker.

Nyota noticed that Scotty was very careful not to bring up their past. He grew more cautious as Cooke started to drink more. It was consistently Cooke who continued to try and get Scotty to reminisce.

Scotty's tone became more and more distant the longer the dinner dragged on.

Near the end of the dinner, just when Nyota and Kirk were telling their waiter that it would be one check – under Kirk’s bill (he was the Captain after all) that things went really downhill.

“Montgomery,” Cooke said, keeping her voice light and taking a sip from the third martini that she had ordered with her meal, “Are you going to hide your attraction to me for much longer?" she asked. "It is getting tiresome to continue to pretend you are going to stay with that ship when it leaves.”

Nyota stared at Kirk in confusion. She didn't know where Cooke had drawn this conclusion. That question had clearly come from out of the blue. Scotty had not given any indication that he felt more for Cooke.

"What?" Scotty asked, sounding just as bewildered.

Nyota froze up. She really didn’t want to hear an offer to Scotty to leave the Enterprise. They may not have been in a relationship at that very moment, but they were still close friends. Kirk smiled and placed a hand on her arm, reassuring her.

“You know, he’ll never take it,” Kirk said quietly. “Scotty loves the Enterprise.”

Nyota nodded. “He does. But no one likes hearing offers like this,” she replied just as quietly.

Kirk grimaced. “Can’t say I like hearing people try to take my crew away from the ship - but Scotty won’t go, so I’m not as worried.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” Scotty said, drawing both of their attention back to the conversation on the other side of the partition. His voice very mild, but his accent was getting thicker. Kirk and Nyota shared a glance. That was never a good sign. “I’m not interested in you, Alysia. I haven’t been in years.” His speech was quiet but clear.

“Please, I know you want me. It’s clear from your eyes and the way you carefully don’t disagree with me. You can’t lie on this planet, Montgomery,” Cooke said. “If you want to stay, then I can arrange it for you. You could be writing the official policy on Engineering for all of Starfleet by the time I’m done. You can be doing so much more than sitting around on a ship that will be gone for years at a time.”

“But I don’t want to write policy for Starfleet, I like being the Chief Engineering Officer.” Scotty said, sounding like he was sure that a large part of the conversation had missed him somehow. “I like being on the Enterprise.”

Cooke hummed. “Well, we can find you something better than being on that ship .” Something in her tone set Nyota’s nerves on edge. She had completely ignored Scotty.

It set Kirk’s nerves on edge too, if the sudden tenseness in his shoulders meant anything.

“What’s wrong with my ship?” Scotty asked, tone flat.

“Nothing,” Cooke hedged gently, apparently aware of the danger in his question. They were silent for a moment.

Then Cooke plowed on, so maybe Nyota had misjudged. “Except for the fact it is a ship . And ships are limiting to the people who are stationed there. No one ever amounts to much while stationed on a ship. Especially one like the Enterprise, always forward deployed, always gone.”

“There is nothing wrong with forward deployed!” Scotty said, sounding stunned. "People stationed to ships do a lot for the Federation. I have no idea what you are talking about!"

Nyota had to stop herself from saying the exact same thing. By the looks of it, Kirk had to do the same.  

Cooke sighed, her tone patronizing. “You can’t network properly, or form relationships or even romances on a ship. You are always there and then gone. Not a way to set up a life, not a way to make connections.”

Nyota could tell she honestly believed her words. Cooke wasn’t coughing, nor was she struggling to breathe - all signs of a lie on Yen’bu. Cooke honestly thought that being on the ship wasn’t a good as being planetside.

“It’s not like that…” Scotty started to say.

But Cooke interrupted him. “But, of course, it’s not,”  her voice was dismissive. Nyota couldn't see her, but in Cooke's tone, it was clear that she didn't think much of the Enterprise.  

“But it’s not!” Scotty grit out, his voice heated.

“Scotty why do you want to stay on that ship? There is no reason! I’m offering a better choice here all around. There’s me, and there is more recognition!” Cooke said. “You can get away from the ‘ship people’ who can’t even advance themselves past a ship posting.”

Scotty tried to interject, but Cooke seemed to be on a roll. “What’s keeping you on that ship?”

She stared down at Scotty and Nyota frowned at Kirk, and he scowled back. The ambassador didn’t understand. And the three ‘ship people’ knew it.

“Well…” Scotty started, clearly trying to defend the Enterprise. Nyota recognized his tone. It was the one Scotty used when he had far too many ideas and thoughts, and all of them were trying to be the first spoken.

But Cooke suddenly gasped, like she’d had a realization. “It’s a girl ! You don’t want to leave the Enterprise because of a girl!” she exclaimed with something akin to understanding in her tone. "No wonder you won't leave!"

At Scotty’s coughing attempt to exclaim, “No!” Kirk quickly smirked, the expression suddenly there and gone, like he knew what Scotty meant and was ready to tease him about it.

Nyota gaped at Kirk.  Then the realization dawned on her of why Scotty’s seemed unable to form a sentence past the coughs wracking his chest.

So, Scotty was in love with someone on the ship. Nyota desperately, but without hope, wished it was her. Something must have shown on her face because Kirk squeezed her hand and smiled reassuringly. How Kirk knew what she had been thinking, Nyota didn’t know.

Nyota hoped that his smile meant something good.

“Well don’t worry about whoever she is. She’s not worth your time,” Cooke said dismissively.  “You aren’t in a relationship right, now are you?”

Kirk winced at the casual dismissal of Scotty’s love.

Nyota may not have known who the lucky woman was, but she did know that insulting them or dismissing them wasn’t going to work on Scotty.

"Well, no, I’m not currently in a relationship," Scotty said, before saying in a determined tone, "But… she is worth my time!”  

“Then forget her and stay with me!” Cooke said, brightly, completely ignoring the second half of Scotty declaration again.

Nyota had to wonder how an Ambassador had developed such selective hearing.

“No!" Scotty cried.

"Good heavens, why not?" Cooke asked. "I'm a far better choice than some girl who can't even get off a ship in her career!"

"I won’t even think about leaving Nyota or the Enterprise!” Scotty shouted, finally getting a word in edgewise.

There was silence over both tables for a moment as they all processed what Scotty had said.

Nyota was staring at Kirk in shock. Did Scotty say what she really thought he said? It wasn't like her to doubt her own ears, she rarely made mistakes but...

Nyota didn’t know what to think.

Then Scotty realized what he said, “I mean…” Scotty coughed and tried to correct himself.

Nyota was stunned. Scotty wouldn’t leave her? He’d said her name even before the Enterprise. And Scotty loved the Enterprise like the ship was a family member. He loved the Enterprise! Why would her own name come before the Enterprise?

“He loves me more than the Enterprise?” Nyota whispered, eyes wide, looking at Kirk. Realization washed over her in a sudden rush.

Kirk looked like he was about to start to cheering. He smiled and nodded, adding in a hushed whisper, “He always has. Do me and the whole damn ship a favor? Ask him out. He won’t ask you.”

Nyota nodded quickly. She would. She had been given a chance, and she wasn’t going to waste it!

“Nyota," Cooke said flatly. "...As in Lieutenant Commander Nyota Uhura ? The translator who is on this planet with us?” Cooke sounded almost upset, Nyota thought.

"She is more than just a translator," Scotty sighed. He seemed to have given up any and all attempts to lie. “But yes. She and the ship are the best parts of me.”

“Nyota Uhura refused my offer to work here and help expand the understanding of Yen’bu’s native language,” Cooke started to sound less upset, and angrier.

Scotty nodded. “She said you gave her an offer once.” He said this in a very annoyed tone, but Cooke continued to speak.

“And did she tell you she rejected it? I gave her an incredible opportunity to be the first to break down this language as part of my diplomatic corps, and she rejected it!" Cooke got louder as she spoke. "I found her on that ship! She should be grateful ! Not preventing her own growth and preventing the love of my life from coming back to me!” Cooke cried, frustrated. There was a light bang as she slapped her hands down on the table. “She’s an idiot for not leaving that blasted ship!”

Nyota openly gaped at the partition, wishing they weren’t blocked so that Cooke could see her face. If the look on her face matched the one that was on Kirk’s, then it would be something impressive. She was stunned. The Ambassador thought Scotty was the love of her life? Based on what? A relationship over ten years ago, a few hours where Scotty had spent most of the time avoiding her, and a dinner that everyone but the Ambassador could tell was going poorly?

Cooke also apparently believed that Nyota would just jump at the chance to leave the Enterprise? What the hell was this woman thinking?! Did she really think that her offer was the only one Nyota had ever received? Nyota got at least ten offers a day for new jobs.

“They are more than just a job , Alysia,” Scotty said his voice low, and Nyota felt the heat in her face because she knew that was a dangerous tone. The deep growling was a good sound on Scotty.

Kirk wasn’t much better. He looked closer to furious. He was clenching his fists tightly

“That ship is the best part of me! Nyota is a better person then I’ll ever be. I won’t listen to you insult them like they mean nothing,” Scotty said. “You don’t understand what a ship and its crew mean to one another. You’ve never understood that. It’s why we broke up in the first place!”

"Montgomery..." Cooke was clearly resorting to pleading now that her arguments had failed.

Scotty stood up suddenly, the scrape of his chair cutting off whatever was going to come next. “I’m going to the restroom. I’ll be right back.” And he stalked away, not in the direction of the restrooms at all. There was a door that was near their table that leads outside. Scotty went directly there. The door didn’t shut entirely behind him.

He didn’t see Kirk and Nyota as he walked past their table. But they could see him, his face red with anger and frustration.

Kirk shifted as if to stand. Nyota watched him get up, also about to get up to follow Scotty, when Cooke’s voice came over the partition.

“Are you really going to try to calm him, Captain Kirk?” She asked sounding frustrated and upset.

Kirk stood, and Nyota followed.

“Yes. He’s my crew , ambassador,” Kirk replied, his tone possessive. He moved around the table and the partition to stand in front of her.

Cooke raised an eyebrow and took another sip of her drink. Nyota saw the pause where she wanted to slug the last of the martini back like a shot but forced herself not to. “And why would that matter?” she asked, just as dismissively as before. It was clear to Nyota and to Kirk that Alysia Cooke just didn't get it.

Kirk audibly ground his teeth, but he took a deep breath and tried to be as diplomatic as he could, “If you don’t understand, then it’s not my place to tell you.”

Then Kirk turned and followed Scotty out of the restaurant.

Nyota stood there, glaring daggers at the Ambassador.

The Ambassador turned her attention to Nyota. “Miss Uhura, correct? The very person who turned down my offer of employment,” Cooke sneered, “for the sake of that damned ship.”

Nyota said nothing and continued to glare at her.

“It’s amazing how many people have deluded themselves and don’t see how useless forward deployed ships are!” Cooke laughed bitterly. She took another sip of her drink. It was almost gone.

It was the metaphorical last straw. Nyota snapped. “If that’s what you feel then you will never understand Scotty.”

“You’re right. I don’t understand. What’s so great about that ship that people won’t leave for greater opportunities?” She was angry, but Nyota knew she was nearly defeated.

"The ship is the greatest opportunity," Nyota let the planet’s atmosphere guide her words. “We, as a crew, are more than just friends. The crew is our family. Our mission is important. We meet more people, learn more things, and create more alliances than you will create in your life.” Her words were steady, without a hint of a cough in sight. The Ambassador glared at her over the rim of her glass.

Nyota was telling her the truth, so she brushed off the Ambassador’s disdain with ease. “And this is something so basic to us that I don’t fully understand how you don’t get it.”

Cooke was silent for a moment. Her shoulders were tight, and her body language was screaming how upset the conversation had made her. Nyota could see her words had a visible effect on the Ambassador.

She could also see when Cooke gave up fighting - with her defeated stance - and as she changed topics. She was a desperate woman who could no longer attack the original argument and was now attacking the other person.

Nyota didn’t care about the act Cooke was about to put up. All she cared about was Scotty.

Cooke looked Nyota up and down, and laughed, a bitter thing that was hard to stand to take. “You know what? I’m glad that you turned me down,” she mused. She put on such a false causal air that Nyota had to smirk internally. The act was nearly complete, but there was a hint of desperation that Nyota could read.

Alysia Cooke was shaken, badly.

For all of her confident words, Cooke hadn’t expected Scotty to leave or to be so angry with her. She had honestly thought that Scotty would stay with her.

“Why,” Nyota said. She didn’t ask.

“For all your abilities, you missed that Montgomery Scott was in love with you. Some great communicator you are,” Cooke said, going for cutting and Nyota found the Ambassador had missed the point entirely.

Because it didn’t matter that Nyota had missed Scotty being in love with her, and apparently the fact he had been for some time. It didn’t matter because Nyota knew she loved him back. She loved Montgomery Scott with all her heart, all the little pieces of him and all the large ones too.

She would tell him.

As soon as she was done with this pathetic excuse for a woman.

So Nyota smiled, something that infuriated Cooke by the frown that spread across her face, and said, “Just because I missed that doesn’t mean I don’t see it now. Scotty and the Enterprise are my home, and honestly, I don’t care what you think anymore. Goodbye Ambassador Cooke.”

With that, she turned on her heel and left.

She had to find Scotty.

-

Meanwhile

Scotty hadn’t meant to leave the restaurant. He really hadn't. He’d just had to get out of there.

He was just so frustrated by Alysia’s inability to understand why the Enterprise or Nyota were so vital to him that he just had to leave.

He stood outside the restaurant in a hallway on a cliff that lead back to the Empress’ palace.  Scotty stared out onto the city below the palace. He was just so frustrated by everything. Alysia, the restaurant, this planet’s weird truth-telling properties, his inability to tell Nyota how he felt. All of it.

“Scotty!” Kirk called from the doorway of the restaurant. He looked harried and angry.

“Captain?” Scotty asked, immediately worried that something happened to the Enterprise. Or Nyota.

Please God, let them be okay.

Scotty had a moment of panic before Jim caught up to him, face serious.

“Everything alright, Captain?” Scotty asked the moment that Jim was close.

At Jim’s nod, Scotty felt the tension in his shoulders and stomach fade.

Then Scotty realized that if Jim was here and it wasn’t about the ship…

“Why are you here Captain?” Scotty asked. He was suspicious, but he wanted confirmation.

Jim sighed and leaned on the safety bar of the walkway. “ Uhura and I followed you and the Ambassador. We didn’t trust her. Sorry, Scotty.”  

Oh.

Scotty didn’t bother being upset at Jim for following him. He was glad to have back up. More than one mission had ended badly for the member of the away team who was separated. He hadn't liked the dinner with Alysia and was glad for his Captain's presence.

If his Captain was at the restaurant, then he had heard Scotty defend the ship. Then he heard Scotty place Nyota in front of the ship in order of things he loves.

Damnit. It wasn't Scotty's intent to tell Jim that he may love Nyota more than the Enterprise. He had a feeling that Jim already knew that, but he hadn't meant to confirm it.

That meant the whole restaurant had heard his declaration.

And…

“Nyota heard that?” Scotty asked quietly. Because Jim had said Uhura had been with him. And Nyota wasn’t stupid.

She would understand.

She would understand what it meant for him to place her higher than the Enterprise. For her to be his most important person.

But what Scotty didn’t know was if she would feel the same. They had been spending a lot of time together.

Scotty was hopeful. But not expectant.

“She did.” Jim agreed. “If it helps, she seems happy about it?” He said as he met Scotty’s eyes. Scotty felt that spark of hope deep down in the bottom of his heart. Jim wouldn’t lie to him, even if they were on the ship right now. Maybe this wouldn’t be as bad as he feared.  

“It’s still not how I wanted her to find out,” Scotty sighed, leaning against the railing and looking out to the city below. The city sparkled. Scotty couldn’t help but compare it to the view from the Enterprise’s observation room and found the city lacking in beauty.

“The Enterprise would be very different without you on it,” Kirk said, keeping his tone even.

Oh.

Of course, Kirk had heard Alysia’s offer of employment too. That had been awkward.

“Well, just like you said a long time ago. They’ll have to ban my ass off of starships before I even think about leaving,” Scotty told him earnestly, remembering the conversation they’d had on Yorktown, several years ago now.

Jim laughed. “Good to know Scotty. But let's be real with ourselves: we’ll steal the Enterprise if they ever try to force us to leave.”

Scotty smiled, knowing they might if it ever came down to it. Jim’s eyes flicked over Scotty’s shoulders, toward the back entrance of the restaurant. His face grew a little tense, and Scotty could see the hopeful emotions play out over Jim’s face.

Oh .

Nyota must be here.

“I’m glad to hear it too, Scotty,” Nyota said from behind him. He could hear the smile in her voice. "Just tell me first so I can help. You can't be in space without me to guide you."

Jim pushed against the railing to stand up straight. “And that is my cue to leave, be safe you two!” He said, and he turned away from Scotty and Nyota, heading down a corridor that Scotty was sure would take them back to their assigned rooms for the night.

Scotty watched him go, watched him turn a corner and disappear. Scotty was hoping that things would be alright but he was reluctant to turn to face Nyota. He missed her, he always did when they weren’t together, but he was scared.

He didn’t want to lose her friendship if that was all she would be willing or able to give him.

“Did you mean it?” Nyota asked quietly.

Scotty took a deep breath and then turned around.

“Mean what exactly?" he asked. "That I love you?” He was pretty sure that would be the only thing that she would be asking about, but Scotty did not want to misunderstand.

Nyota nodded. “Yes. Did you mean it when you said you loved me?”

Scotty was glad she didn’t bother to quantify the response with ‘more than the Enterprise’ but he nodded. “For years now, I’ve loved you.” Scotty felt the planet’s atmosphere pull around him, allowing him to speak the words he'd wanted to say for years.

He spread his hands out and smiled. He wasn’t sure that if the look he wore was heartbreaking or not.

“I’ve loved for so long that I’ve forgotten how it feels like to not be in love. I’ve been so happy for you for so long that I didn’t know how to help when things went wrong for you and Spock. I tried my best, but I don’t know if that was enough,” Scotty said, the words coming from somewhere within, not caring that he’d hidden the truth for such a long time. "I've loved you, and you brought out the best in me. All I ever wanted was you make you happy and proud. You are my friend first and foremost, but you are also my love."

“Oh Scotty,” Nyota said, hands coming up to her mouth and covering it.

Scotty plowed on, not liking the disrespect to Nyota but knowing if he stopped he would never be able to do this again. “And I don’t know what will happen in the future with our friendship, and I can only hope that if you aren’t interested that you’ll turn me down gently…” He trailed off.

“But I have to ask. At least once.” Scotty reached his hands out and took Nyota’s, gently clasping them and bringing one of them to his mouth to kiss. He heard Nyota gasp.

“Do you want to go to dinner with me?” he asked.

But at the same time, Nyota’s voice echoed his question.

Scotty jerked his head up. Nyota’s face was flushed, but she held his eyes. Scotty felt his face turn bright red.

“Sorry,” Nyota said, “but I had to ask too. Please tell me you will!” She stepped closer and pulled Scotty’s hands toward her.

Scotty went willingly. He would always go willingly with Nyota. He smiled at her. “I will. That was never in question. You have my heart, Nyota.”

“That’s relieving, but you’ve had mine for a while too, Scotty,” Nyota said, and Scotty froze.

“What?” he forced out.

“I didn’t realize it for so long, and when Spock and I were over, we both had to think a lot of things through, and it turns out that I had been falling in love with you for a while and never saw it,” Nyota confessed quietly. “I just wasn’t sure about how you felt.”

“Oh, Nyota, I love you,” Scotty told her. “May I?” Scotty asked, leaning forward slightly.

Nyota’s answer was clear as she leaned in and kissed him.

Scotty was so damn happy.

He kissed her right back.

-

Meanwhile

Jim smiled at the two people he cared deeply for that he was watching around the corner of the hallway. Then he turned and walked away from the new couple.

He was so happy for them.

So damned happy.

Scotty was getting his moment to start something with Uhura. Uhura was getting something that Spock would have never given her.

But in the corner of Jim’s mind, he felt a bit of loneliness that he couldn’t fight.

Jim picked up his comm and called Spock.

“Spock here,” Spock’s voice came over the comm’s speakers, sounding tinny and distant.

Jim smiled at the news he was going to impart. “Scotty and Uhura have figured things out.”  He trusted Spock to know what that meant.

“I understand. Do you want me to prepare any paperwork for them?” Spock asked. He sounded satisfied. Uhura must have told him how she felt about Scotty.

But still. “Nah, not right now, Spock. If they want to fill out any paperwork, then that is up to them. They aren’t in the same direct chain of command and Starfleet doesn’t need to know about anything less than marriages or bondings.” Jim shook his head. If Scotty and Uhura wanted to update their medical contacts and life insurance recipients, then that was up to them.

“I will keep them in mind next time reviews come up then, Jim,” Spock said. And Jim had a moment to feel delighted that even on this truth-telling planet, Spock still called him, ‘Jim.’

“You do that,” Jim said. Then he paused. “I’m going to beam up to talk to Bones for a little bit. Can you hold it down here for a few hours?”

“Yes, I can. I will comm you if we are needed for anything,” Spock said. Jim smiled down at his comm unit. Spock always understood, and he was still there for Jim.

Jim would take what he could get and enjoy everything.

“I will. Kirk out.” Jim said before getting Spock’s confirmation that he was off the line. Then he called up to the transporter room. “Kyle, one to beam up from this location!”

Once he was on the ship, he headed straight to med bay. It was late by ships time, deep into the artificial night that Jim had ordered to be strictly enforced. The hallways were dark, and the passageways were empty.

He knew that Bones would still be up. Bones was always up late doing paperwork when they were in orbit around a planet with an away team on the surface.

Jim entered the near-empty med bay with a quick look around. Only Chapel was there, but she was sleeping at her desk.

Jim shook her awake and pointed at the beds in the med bay. Chapel nodded and went off in that direction. Jim would have to look at getting her more time off if she was falling asleep in the middle of the med bay.

Bones’ door was slightly ajar with a light shining out from underneath. Jim stepped into the office with a quiet whoosh of the door. Bones looked up from a stack of padds and jumped to his feet, already reaching for a tricorder that was on the desk.

“Everything’s alright Bones. Just visiting,” Jim tried to tell him, waving his hands.

Bones grunted, disbelieving. “Don’t care, checking anyway.” Jim stood still after that. It was easier to let Bones work when he was in a mode like this. The tricorder beeped at him, and Bones stepped back from Jim with a smile. Apparently, that beep was a good thing.

“Told you,” Jim said with a grin as he sat in a chair across from Bones’ desk.

Bones just grunted and went back to his desk chair. “Well after the shit day I’ve had, I’ve come to expect the worst.”

“Oh, what’s been happening on my ship?” Jim asked. He reached for an empty glass that was upturned on the desk and Bones took a bottle out of alcohol from somewhere that Jim did not know about for official reasons and poured him some.

“Well, I broke up a shouting match between Anderson and Warrington,” Bones said, pouring himself a drink as well.

Jim raised an eyebrow, an expression he would never admit he had picked up from Spock, “Anderson? Kent Anderson? Scotty’s disciplinary problem?”

“The very same,” Bones agreed. He took a drink.

“What were they fighting about?” Jim asked.

“Damned if I know,” Bones shook his head. “Not for sure anyway. Neither of them would talk about what started the fight, and by the time I got there with Pasha, the fight had dissolved into name-calling. It was like breaking up a pair of siblings fighting by the time I got to it.”

“Huh,” Jim said. Rarely did fights occur on the Enterprise anymore; the crew was too used to each other - and they were a too well-built team. But as everyone was a free-thinking individual, and they were on the ship for five years, Jim supposed that some tempers were going to flare.

“Jim-boy. Have you received a transfer package from Warrington? I think it had something to do with that,” Bones asked. He was staring at his drink in contemplation.

Jim took a quick drink. As the liquid burned down his throat, Jim thought about his paperwork in the last few weeks.

He hadn’t received anything from Warrington. If he remembered right, there was a planned overlap of the Enterprise and the Intrepid in a few weeks at a starbase. If she wanted to transfer, that paperwork would have to be in soon.

“I haven’t,” Jim said. “Think I’ll see it soon?”

“Probably,” Bones nodded. “Now what are you up here for? You would usually just call for a status update on the ship.”  

Jim lit up. “I’ve got good news,” he announced, feeling the grin spread across his face.

Bones raised both of his eyebrows and tilted his head in a gesture to continue.

“Scotty asked Uhura out. And told her how he feels. And - she said yes,” Jim said, the happy feeling he had for his friend spreading. “Actually, she asked him out at the same time!”

“Well, hot damn! That is good news!” Bones laughed. “A drink for Scotty and Uhura!” His smile was real and relieved. “It took a planet where you have to tell the truth for him to confess!”

They toasted to Scotty’s good fortune that the girl of his dreams had discovered him. Their glasses clinked together before they both took a drink.

Bones was still smiling when he asked contemplatively, “Think we might be that lucky?”

“I don’t know Bones. I don’t know.” Jim sighed, knowing that even if Spock never showed any interested in Jim, which Jim was beginning to question, Jim would always still be happy to be Spock’s friend.

Chapter Text

30 hours after exiting orbit of Yen’bu. Seven days until Starbase 180.

If Spock had ever seen Mr. Scott this angry before, then Spock did not care to recall it.

Jim sat next to him in the Captain's chair, looking like he thought the same.

Even over the view screen, from down in engineering, Mr. Scott was flushed a deep red. He had been speaking in Gaelic so quickly that Spock suspected even Nyota was having trouble understanding what was being said when the comms request came in. The way her eyebrows had shot up her forehead when she heard Mr. Scott speak made Spock think Mr. Scott was using rather colorful language.

Jim and Spock had exchanged looks before Jim accepted the request.  

Nyota looked very concerned from where she sat at the communications station. When Spock looked to her, Nyota shook her head; she didn’t know what had happened to make Mr. Scott so angry either.

“What’s up Scotty?” Jim asked, leaning forward in the Captain’s chair, looking up at the view screen.

Mr. Scott took a deep breath to calm himself. Spock and Jim exchanged another look. This time it was of concern. Mr. Scott was never this upset.

“Captain, permission to speak to you privately? I’ve got a situation here.” Mr. Scott bit out, making an attempt to be calm. Spock was surprised. Very rarely did someone, especially a department head, ask for a session with the Captain privately when they called to the bridge. If it warranted a call to the bridge when it was important for the whole crew to know.

“Shit. Who is it?” Jim mummer under his breath. And Spock agreed with Jim’s assessment of the situation. The last time a department head had asked for something like this, it was a major disciplinary issue.

As Captain, Jim had chosen the praise in public and punish in private method of dealing with his crew. Only those involved in an incident were around when Jim needed to dole out punishments for wrongdoings or fights or mistakes. The Department heads felt the same. And it had trickled down to the rest of the crew.

Spock was sure that Jim’s leadership choices were a significant part of why the Enterprise was so well loved.

“Captain, you are expecting a comm call from Admiral Kormack any moment about our mission after Starbase 180. I can meet with Mr. Scott in the Captain’s office.” Spock said, knowing that Jim would rather punch himself in the face than miss a meeting with Kormack and have to deal with the fall out. Jim had said that exact phrase several times in the last few years when dealing with Kormack.

Spock didn’t like Kormack either, so he didn’t mind the rather violent response.

Spock didn’t have an office. He used Jim’s when one was needed, like now. He found that unless it was for a meeting, he simply hadn’t needed an office. He performed his work on the bridge where the work was always stored in a padd or an internal database, in a lab where the work had to stay, or in his quarters.

Or increasingly, as of late, in Jim’s quarters or office.

Jim nodded. “Yes, please do Mr. Spock. Scotty?” he said turning back to the main screen. “Can you get to my office? Or is this a right now type of thing?”

Mr. Scott’s grimace was not a positive sign. “It’s a sooner the better type of thing, but it’s not life or death.” The unsaid ‘yet’ was concerning to both Spock and Jim.

Spock nodded, “Then I will see you shortly, Mr. Scott.” He waited for Mr. Scott to agree and sign off, leaving the screen to go back to the view of the exterior of the ship, before turning to Jim and asking, “By your leave Captain?”

Jim waved his hand in a dismissing gesture. “Please, Mr. Spock. I’ll meet up with you later, and you can tell me what’s got Scotty so worked up.”

Spock reached out and placed a firm hand on Jim’s shoulder. Jim turned his face up to meet Spock’s eyes, and Jim put a hand on top of Spock’s arm. His grip was light enough that only a few emotions filtered through from Jim, surprise, hope, happiness, concern, and especially frustration . The first three were the strongest and Spock hoped that they were meant for him. The other two were, undoubtedly for Mr. Scott’s situation.

For a moment they lingered, but then Spock stepped away and toward the Turbolift.

He had been touching Jim a lot more recently. Spock found he couldn’t help it. Not when he knew what he wanted from Jim.

Spock loved Jim.

But he had no real idea how to proceed from this point. Spock knew he wanted to be Jim’s partner in all things.  

He thought Jim might be receptive to any attempts Spock might make in starting a relationship.

Stepping into the turbolift, Spock forced his mind from Jim and instead forced himself to concentrate on Mr. Scott’s problem.

Mr. Scott beat Spock to Jim’s office.

He was pacing outside.  Something Spock didn’t see him often do. It looked like Mr. Scott was attempting to calm himself down. Whatever had upset Mr. Scott was causing waves of anger, distress, and annoyance to emanate from the man. Spock could feel the emotions from across the room, and it was unusual that Spock’s telepathy was so affected by someone.

Although now that Spock put thought about it, Jim’s presence had pushed through Spock’s telepathy often.

Mr. Scott waited just long enough for Spock to enter the code to the door and step through before he was speaking. “We’ve got a problem.”

“So, I was given to understand, Mr. Scott,” Spock said with a wry, with a barely there smile, as he went to the desk and turned on the heating pot on the desk. “What is the emergency?”

“It’s not one yet. But it might be if we don’t get a fix on it soon,” Mr. Scott said as he started to pace. “I’m sure you remember Crewman Anderson Kent?”

“I do,” Spock told him. Spock did remember Crewman Anderson Kent, a recent member to the crew. He had come highly recommended from the Enterprise’s sister ship, the Constitution. If Spock remembered correctly, Captain Wise, the commanding officer of the USS Constitution, had even put Kent up for promotion to Petty Officer, one step above crewman.

Until recently, Kent had been an excellent crewman and a valued member of Mr. Scott’s team. But Spock had seen a disciplinary report from just a few days before the last shore leave. He had seen several more in the previous few weeks.

Something had changed with crewman Kent. But what had changed was something that Spock did not currently know.

“Mr. Spock, Kent is really out of line. He messed up, and he messed up big,” Mr. Scott started. “The HECS, Mr. Spock. He has been neglecting his assigned duties to it, and now it's caused a problem.”

“What’s wrong with the HECS, Mr. Scott?” Spock asked, raising an eyebrow. He could be reasonably sure that the aforementioned problem was what had ‘worked Mr. Scott up’ as Jim had put it.

“The hydro-electronic coolant monitoring system controls and maintenance is in engineering. It’s been due for some repairs. So I assigned Kent to get them done.” Scotty sighed and sank into the chair that was in front of the desk. “It’s his station. He’s always been in charge of it. He’s been reliable before. But he’s disappeared.” Scotty looked ready to tear his hair out. “For some reason, as of late he’s been… off , is the best way I can describe it. Something’s going on, but no one knows what it is.”

Spock nodded. “I have seen the disciplinary reports for him recently.”

Spock reached for the pot of tea that was now warm on his desk. He had set up the tea for after the pre-planned meeting with Starfleet about their next mission after Starbase 180. As much as Jim and he had wanted to know why the ship had been ordered there in the first place, meetings with Kormack were never, as Jim said, fun .

The tea had a calming influence in humans, and Spock had prepared the tea to offer Jim after the meeting. He was always tense after meeting with the admiral. Even if Spock wasn’t starting to court Jim, he would still have the tea ready.  

However, he could see that Mr. Scott needed the calming effect the tea would provide. Spock poured a cup from the warm teapot for Mr. Scott and handed it to him.

“Well, the HECS isn’t hard to keep on top of the repairs. It’s got a rather easy maintenance plan. But with Kent’s distraction and issues, he hasn’t been on top of the preventive maintenance, nor has he been correcting anything that’s been broken.” Mr. Scott said as he took the cup of tea from Spock and took a sip. Once he tasted the drink and tested the temperature, he slugged the whole thing back like he was taking a shot of alcohol. “There’s a chance he’s been writing false reports of his work. But I don’t know for sure, yet.”

Spock was impressed, that had been a full cup.

He leaned back in his chair and thought about what Mr. Scott was telling him and what he wasn’t saying yet. “How far behind is the maintenance?” he asked.

“About two months, more or less. That’s how long it’s been since we were on the last shore leave, right?” Mr. Scott said, screwing up his face in concentration. Spock nodded again, despite the fact he was sure that Mr. Scott did not care if he agreed or not. “The last maintenance job logged for the HECS was about two days before the last shore leave.”

He set the now empty cup on the table and gestured for Spock to pour him another cup.

Spock did so.

Mr. Scott did not slam this one back, Spock was relieved to see. Jim would still need the rest of the tea after his meeting with Kormack.

“I am assuming that you discovered this neglect today?” Spock asked.

Mr. Scott hummed in agreement, taking a deep drink of the tea. “I did. I was reviewing things. and I saw that there are several jobs still listed as open for the HECS.”

“I see,” Spock said, pouring himself a much less filled cup of tea. While it would not provide the same sense of calm for him as it did most humans, the drink was still pleasant.

Mr. Scott continued to talk. “It’s just that the HECS is really behind now on repairs. We were on a string with it anyway. It needs major repair when we’re at the starbase. I’ve already known that, but now it has a higher probability that it could fail before we reach it.”

Spock raised an eyebrow. “How long will it take you to complete all the repairs and the maintenance actions?”

“At least a week,” Mr. Scott sighed, “and that’s if everything goes right and I have help. Some of the preventive maintenance jobs have time limits that we can’t shorten. And that’s if I have Chekov’s help. He’s the one who trained Kent originally. Him, and LT Riley.”

Spock considered this. He would convince Jim that Mr. Chekov might be needed in Engineering to help. A week would keep the HECS running until the significant repairs could be done while the ship was docked at Starbase 180. Jim would be understanding. Dr. McCoy might not. But such things could not be helped.

“And where is Petty Officer Kent?” Spock asked.

Spock was sure that Jim would like to speak to the crewman as soon as he could. This might make for one of the few times Jim might publicly yell at a crewman, but Spock doubted he would do that. Spock was going to recommend restriction to quarters as punishment for dereliction of duty.

“That’s the damnedest thing! I dinnae know ! He’s not in his rack. He’s not at work. I dinnae ken where he is! ” Mr. Scott’s accent became thicker as he got more frustrated. “I have several crew members looking for him.”

Spock understood his frustration. Kent was not only neglecting his duties, but he also had abandoned his post. “I will place him on restriction when he is found. And Mr. Scott, he will be found. We are at warp. He hasn’t left.”

“...aye,” Mr. Scott agreed, “He’s probably in some Jeffries tube.”

Spock watched as Mr. Scott finished the cup of tea and placed the empty cup on the desk.

“Mr. Scott. Have him report to the bridge when he is found. I am sure the Captain will have some words to say to Mr. Anderson Kent,”  Spock said as he stood up and gestured to the door.

Mr. Scott stood and followed him.

Once outside of Jim’s office, Mr. Scott’s comm went off. “Scott here,” he said into the device.

“This is Riley. Sir, the reports are complete for the HECS. You might want to look them over before I get started.” Mr. Riley, a young engineer that Jim had been very excited to have join the crew when they left Yorktown, spoke in a crackled voice over the speaker of Scotty’s comm.

Spock and Mr. Scott exchanged a look. “Aye,” Scotty sighed. “I will. Let me get down there.” His face grew determined, “Scott out,” He clicked the communicator shut and turned to Spock. “I’ll send Kent up when he’s found.”

“I will inform the Captain to expect him. I will also see if I can allow Mr. Chekov to be released to your assignment for the next week,” Spock told him.

Mr. Scott looked relieved. “Thank you, Mr. Spock.” Then he turned down the hall and disappeared into the turbo lift that would take him to Engineering.

Spock turned in the opposite direction and headed back to the bridge.

Jim was worrying his lip with his teeth when Spock stepped back onto the bridge. His expression was distant and distracted.

And for a heartbeat, that was all Spock could see. He wanted to replace Jim’s teeth with his own and just kiss the Captain until he was breathless and wanting. He wanted to kiss Jim until Jim was no longer concerned about anything. Until Jim looked up at Spock with love in his eyes and Spock’s marks were all over him.

And just as quickly as the thought had arrived, Spock slammed his mental controls down flat. This was not the time or place to be feeling this way! Spock tucked the memory and the feeling that accompanied it into the recesses of his mind. He would address the feelings later.

In his own quarters.

Alone.

While wishing he wasn’t so alone.

Jim glanced up at Spock and smiled, bright and shining at his First Officer. “Mr. Spock! Can you come here? I’ve got the orders for the next mission.”

Spock went because he was helpless to do anything but follow Jim.

He was also well aware that every one staffing the bridge had glanced at him at least once before returning back to their work. They wanted to know what had happened with Mr. Scott and why it had deserved a call to bridge. Spock had long accepted the startling habit of gossip on a ship and her crew can develop.  

Jim handed him a padd with the orders for the next mission displayed on it. Spock didn’t bother to do more than glance at the padd. Jim would tell him the basics. “What did Scotty need?” Jim asked first.

“We have a crewman neglecting his work, and has put the repairs for the HECS behind by two months.” Spock pitched his voice low as to keep any of the crew from listening in. Jim would be unhappy if rumors spread before he had a chance to investigate.

Jim scowled. “Shit, the hydroelectric coolant system needs replacing, doesn't it? Will Scotty need anything?”

“Yes, to both,” Spock clarified. “Mr. Scott has requested Mr. Chekov join himself and Mr. Riley to complete the repairs. Even with assistance, Mr. Scott still believes they will need at least one week.”

Jim nodded, eyebrows pulled together in focus. He turned to his Bridge crew. “Understood. Mr. Chekov! Please call up your replacement and then report to Mr. Scott. He’ll tell you more about what’s going on.”

Spock and Jim watched as Mr. Chekov did as he was ordered. Once Mr. Chekov had called his alternate navigator, Jim turned back to Spock.

“And what of the crewman?” there was equal parts worry and anger in Jim's voice. Jim’s concern was always for the welfare of his crew and ship, and he would always be angry at those who jeopardized either of them.

“The crewman is missing,” Spock began, “but is being searched for and will report here when found. Beyond dereliction of duty and abandonment of his post, he has also been involved in several other disciplinary issues over the last several months.” Spock looked at Jim who was watching him with the expression he wore when he was in, what Mr. Scott liked to refer to as, ‘Captain Mode’. “I would recommend restriction.”

Jim nodded again and under his breath, he asked, “Is it Anderson Kent? Scotty’s been having problems with him.”

Spock nodded firmly and replied as quietly, “Yes. Apparently, he has been distracted at work.”

Jim sighed, and his expression turned stern. “He won’t be after this.”

Then Jim took a deep breath and gestured to the padd in Spock’s hand.

“By the way, we’re playing taxi,” Jim started with a tone that belayed the usual frustration Jim had for transporting "essential" people from one place to another for whatever reason.

Spock raised an eyebrow. “Whom are we transporting, and where is their destination?” he asked. It was surprising. Jim usually was very upfront about such things.

“Vulcans,” Jim replied calmly. He paused when he caught sight of Spock’s eyebrows raising in surprise. There was a spark of humor in Jim’s eyes when he continued. “We’re taking them to New Vulcan. These Vulcans were apparently part of an extended diplomatic mission for the past several years, and since it’s now done…”

“… they wanted to return home.” Spock finished. The warm feeling of thoughts of surviving Vulcans was pushed aside in favor of working on the logistics of their next mission. He would have time to rejoice in the salvation of more of his people on his personal time.

“Understandable. How many are in the delegation?” he asked, already calculating the logistics of taking a diplomatic team on board. Quarters would have to be set up, and new recipes would have to put into the replicators. Hours in the Officer’s Rec Room would have to be adjusted. The dining hall would have to implement extended hours as well.

He may have to put the long-awaited project he was going to work on with Jim on hold for another week. Jim would be just as busy with the visitors as Spock.

“Kormack said about fifty,” Jim frowned. His shoulders were tense, and his frown was more profound than it should have been given the circumstances.

Spock felt the need to reach out and brush his fingers along Jim’s hand and decided he wouldn’t stop himself. He gave Jim a light kiss with the barest brush of his fingers against Jim’s. Jim glanced at their touching hands with wide eyes, but he did not move his hands away.

“A large party, but I believe we can accommodate them with no major troubles,” Spock said, ignoring the way he could feel Jim’s emotions so much more clearly than before.

Jim was happy, and his happiness held a hint of surprise. He was suppressing some emotion that Spock couldn’t identify, but humans did that enough around Spock that he didn’t worry about Jim's emotional suppression too much.

“If I may be excused to start preparations for the delegation?” Spock asked. He would have to talk to the quartermaster.

“You may, Mr. Spock,” Jim answered with a soft and happy tone that Spock wanted to hear from Jim more often.

Spock always wanted to make Jim happy.

-

Three days into repairs of the hydroelectric coolant system. Four days from Starbase 180.

In all honesty, Nyota thought they would have a little longer than a week before their joint responsibilities on the Enterprise would pull them apart for most of the day.

She was realistic enough to know that the Enterprise, as long as she and Scotty served aboard her, would take precedence.

Nyota had merely hoped for longer than a week.

But with the orders to go to Starbase 180 so they can pick up a Vulcan delegation, Nyota’s workload doubled. Scotty was worse off because of the issues of the HECS.

While Nyota had spent much of the last few days in the long-distance sensor lab, listening for any signs that anyone had a clue that they were picking up Vulcans. The Admiralty had stressed that this mission was a secret, and the Enterprise would have to be prepared for anything. While the surrounding sector was quiet, the path from the starbase to New Vulcan was having some pirate activities.

Scotty, on the other hand, had spent most the last three days down in engineering trying to fix the hydro-electric coolant system which, according to Scotty and his previous rant, was about to fall apart.

Scotty had spent the better part of their free hour making it clear that without the hydroelectric coolant system, the ship would be in grave danger. Without the system, the impulse engines and several machines would overheat and start to create malfunctions in the system. He was also afraid that if the HECS failed, then the offloaded transfer heat wouldn’t go to the places that needed it, like life support.

Scotty was apologetic about having to miss their first full week together, but Nyota had waved him off because she was similarly engaged in the long-range sensor lab.

There would be weeks where things on the ship would be busy, and their jobs would take up much of their time. Nyota understood that and wasn’t concerned. As long as she and Scotty could at least spend a little time together, then she would be good.

Nyota found that sharing a bed was helpful.

They actually got to see each other for a little bit in the mornings and in the nights. She couldn’t wait to see Scotty at meal times, and when the ship was no longer in danger of breaking more, they were planning several dates.

But Nyota wouldn’t change a thing.

If it weren’t both of them being so busy, then it would be Scotty - who could and had forgotten what shift it was and worked for three days straight - or it would be her. Nyota had been known to get into a translators zone and not stop working until she finished her current project.  Scotty would be the one to remind her to eat when she was learning a new language. Or he would have to help her off the bridge after the Romulans or the Klingons were sending messages to each other again.

They hadn’t had much time to work their joint project either. Nyota felt like they were lucky that their planned upgrades weren’t vital, just an extra project to help messages move about the ship more efficiently.

As it was, all Nyota could do during the workday was make sure her lover ate every once in a while.

And that was her reason for making her way down to engineering once she was relieved from the bridge at the end of the Alpha shift. Nyota hasn’t eaten since that morning. She was sure that Scotty hadn’t eaten since breakfast that morning either. And that was a problem.

They needed to eat, and it needed to be soon.

“Oh! Lieutenant Uhura!” A voice said from above her when she stepped into engineering. Nyota looked up and saw Ensign Kevin Riley sitting on a crossbar above the entrance. He was covered in grease and was grinning down at her. He waved with a hand that was still holding a socket wrench.

Nyota waved back. “Afternoon, Riley.”  

“What brings you down here, ma’am?” He asked not moving from his spot. Nyota knew that to get down from that position he would have to backtrack through engineering for about ten minutes.

“Looking for Mr. Scott,” she said looking up at him. “Know where he is?”

Riley grinned and nodded, and the smile reminded her of Kirk’s when she had met him so many years ago. But on Riley, it didn’t piss her off at first glance. Maybe she had gotten used to the look. Perhaps she had grown up and realized she didn’t care.

Either way, Riley always reminded her of Kirk.

“Scotty’s back with Chekov near the main control console,” Riley said, pointing toward the main control center of engineering with the wrench. “But be careful ma’am. There’s a lot of power issues right now because of the HECS. Lots of exposed sections that have exposed wires, and some places where power is secured.” He said, twisting to show the powered down wires he was working on.

Nyota could see the red ‘DANGER!’ tags on the circuits just behind him. She glanced around and saw that the area she was standing in was covered in the red tag-outs and danger signs.

“I’ll be careful. Thank you,” Nyota said as she turned to the central part of engineering.

She picked her way around the danger tags and the exposed paneling. She hadn’t spent much time down in engineering when repairs were ever underway. It was odd to see the ship taken apart this much while they were at warp.

She had known that Kirk always hated to have his ship look like this when they were not docked safely. He was always worried when the Enterprise was damaged and needed her guts to be spilled open while they were underway.

Nyota shared his feelings. But she knew Scotty would do his best to prevent further damage to the ship.

Scotty was in the middle of talking to Chekov when she found him.

Chekov was waving his arms while he spoke rapidly to Scotty, eyes wide and frustrated. “I can’t have the power come back on here. We’ve got exposed wires and intermittent ground. It’ll cause a huge spark!” His hair was frazzled more than usual. He had smudges on his face from dust and grease. his hands were near black with oil and dirt. There was a streak of what Nyota assumed was grease in his hair, something Nytoa also assumed came from Chekov running his hand through his hair as he was prone to do.

Scotty nodded along. “You’re right, of course. But we need that to keep the generator for the first main circuit online. Nyota will be mighty unhappy if we take her comms offline without permission.” Scotty's physical condition wasn't much better upon closer inspection. He was just as messy. His uniform was stained in several places and his hands were near black with the layers of grease on them.

Both of them smelled strongly of hydraulic fluid.

“I will be, but I have runners trained for this sort of thing,” Nyota interrupted. Scotty and Chekov jumped at the sound of her voice, startled.

Nyota knew the main circuit they were referring to was the Intra-ship Communication System that broadcasted out to the whole ship. There were different lines for different areas of the ship. The first line was just the general broadcast line. It had been nicknamed 1MC by the crew. It wouldn’t be disastrous if it went down, her department ran drills just in case it happened all the time, but Nyota knew it would be annoying to have to send runners to the whole of the ship to get anything done.

This was part of the problem she and Scotty had been trying to fix before the HECS’s problems started.

Scotty quickly turned and faced her. “Nyota! What are you doing down here?” His voice betrayed his surprise at seeing her off the Bridge.

“Making sure you eat!” she replied with a smile. “I was hoping that you would come to dinner with me?”

Scotty’s face broke out into an excited grin. “Of course! In a minute though, we’re almost done with this section.”

Chekov nodded behind him. He was in a red shirt, something he had once explained hid more stains then his gold shirt would. Nyota often wondered why Engineering didn’t have more practical work uniforms, like dark coveralls. “You won’t mind having the 1MC off for several hours?” he asked. “Or possibly several of the Intra-ship Circuits, honestly. Not just the 1MC.”

“Which ones?” Nyota asked. “Because, as I said, we have a system of runners already set up in case the ship’s internal communications go down.”

Chekov thought about it. “Most of them honestly. But I think the ones from the Bridge to Medical can be left on. Maybe the Auxiliary control ones too.  ”

“But not the 2MC or any of the other engineering ones,” Nyota assumed, referring to the other circuit lines that ran from specific points of the ship. It was how she could call just for the engineering team and not have to broadcast the call out to the whole ship.

Scotty nodded. Chekov grimaced, but also nodded.

Nyota did some quick calculations, and schedule reorganizing and then shook her head. “Then no, it shouldn’t be a problem. It’s the internship system that can’t be disconnected, not the one main circuit.  We need comm connections with other ships and starbases while we’re at warp. I can’t have that system go down. But a few hours making my crewman run around won’t be a hardship.” She knew it wouldn’t be a popular choice, but when the work needed to get done, then it needed to get done.

Scotty looked relieved. “Good! That will make this easier!”

“What’s going on though? Why do you need to shut down the comm systems?” Nyota asked. She ran through everything that she knew of the Intra-ship Communication lines in engineering and what she knew of the Hydroelectric Coolant System. If she was right, then very little of the systems matched up. “I thought it was HECS that was broken.”

“It was.” Chekov sighed, running a hand through his already messy curls. “But because of the neglect of from the crewman, we’re finding all sorts of things that are wrong. Things that would have been seen if the maintenance and the inspections had been done.”

“The HECS has a lot of weakened hoses, and there is a good chance that it’ll start leaking onto a grid that the circuits boards run out of. Soon but not now,” Scotty continued. Nyota nodded, finally understanding why this project of fixing the HECS was so essential and time-consuming.

When Nyota had arrived on the Enterprise back when they were still cadets, she had been assigned to work on these exact boards, helping to control the flow of traffic and information around the ship. Her rapid promotion (not as fast as Kirk’s but still extraordinarily swift) didn’t allow her much time to learn the system organically, but she was the Head Communications Officer. She understood the importance of the system.

“It doesn’t help that the HECS system was due for an upgrade at the starbase. Most of the maintenance for the last several weeks would just be babying it to get to the starbase.”

“Well, shit,” Nyota said. Both Scotty and Chekov nodded in agreement. “Can you still take dinner? Or is this a ‘we’ll fix it and then eat’ type of thing?”

Scotty looked at the schematics that were spread out on a table near them, then nodded. “The hoses will hold. I’ll have to get the permission of the Captain to turn off the Intra-ship 1MC anyway. We can talk to him together? It will go faster if he knows I’ve got your permission first.”

Nyota nodded. “We can.”

“I can finish this here, Scotty,” Chekov said, reaching for the toolbox at their feet. “Then I’ll start working on the other things with Riley. He’s still stuck on the problems with the power converts for the HECS.”

Scotty made an agreeing noise. “Please do. I’ll send you two to dinner when I’m back.” He reached for a clean cloth on the table that still held the schematics of the HECS and the main circuits.

Chekov laughed. “Scotty, go have dinner with your girlfriend. We’ll be fine.”

Nyota couldn’t help but smile at the moniker. She liked being called Scotty’s girlfriend. Scotty flushed a slight red, but he smiled at her.

“If you insist, laddie but…” Scotty started, but Nyota placed a hand on his arm. Scotty immediately broke off what he was going to say and flushed again.

“You two are so cute!” Chekov crowed, before pushing lightly at Scotty’s chest, pushing him toward the door. “Now go!”

Nyota heard a hint of wistfulness that Chekov had almost hidden, but it was still there. She wondered if Pavel was even aware that he was obvious. He’d better make a move soon on Bones. The pining was hard to watch.

Scotty laughed and took Nyota’s hand in his and lead her out of the engineering spaces.

Kevin Reilly waved at them when they left.

“Can we go to my quarters first?” Scotty asked as they stepped into the turbolift. He almost sounded causal.  “I’ve got stuff to clean my hands better there.”

Nyota raised an eyebrow and raised their joined hands, calling his bluff. “Uh-huh,” she said with as much sarcasm she could muster. “And what are you actually showing me?”

Scotty just grinned back. “You’ll just have to see!”

When they got to Scotty’s quarters, they passed by Kirk and Spock going in the other direction talking amiably, but quietly about something that Nyota couldn’t hear.

Spock’s eyes found hers for only a moment and she was surprised by what she saw.

Spock didn’t smile, but Nyota knew what a truly contented Spock looked like. He nodded at her as they passed. Nyota nodded back.

It stuck Nyota that they were happier now. Both of them were far happier now they weren’t forcing themselves into a relationship that had long run its course. They were still friends and they were still important to each other, but this was better.

Then Nyota turned away from Spock and Kirk and turned her attention back to Scotty. He input his door code, and it slid open.

Scotty did go to the bathroom to use a special hand soap to clean his hands, while Nyota sat down on his bed.

It was still a mess from when they had gotten up that morning, neither of them all that bothered to make it, in their rush to get to their duty stations.

They’d had a late start to the morning.

“I have something for you.” Scotty said, coming back into the room. He was holding a padd. Not his work padd but his personal one that he's tinkered with a dozen different ways.

Nyota smiled and asked in Gaelic, “Do you? Well then thank you.

Scotty replied in Gaelic with a small smile, “ I hope you like it .” He handed her the padd.

They had been speaking Gaelic to each other for years, but since they had started dating, the language had taken on a new meaning. It was more than just finding common ground with a friend; now it was something they shared as partners.

Nyota loved it.

It helped that Scotty’s voice deepened when he spoke his native language. When he spoke Gaelic to her, Scotty’s speech slowed and he often became more precise with his words. Nyota had long realized that even Scotty, who was fluent in Standard, English, and Gaelic, found it easier to communicate in his mother language.Nyota would always appreciate the way Scotty seemed to settle into his own skin, at home with his first language more than he seemed to be when speaking English.

She took the padd and opened it up and her eyes widened.

Nyota pressed play on the audio file that had a title she didn’t expect. ‘Saito - 2246’

“The thing key to speaking new languages based on only hearing parts of the language on subspace transmitter or short-range comms is that often you don’t get the grammar or the nuance that comes with having a full recording. Often times when I was out there in the black. I was using languages that we had no frame of reference for! I felt a little like an explorer in the 15th century, striking out to find new languages and lands!”

Nyota nearly dropped the padd. It was Hiroshi Saito’s voice. Nyota had listened to every public recording of Saito for years.

She had never heard this one before. And it was a lecture on how to learn languages with a minimal frame of reference.

She looked up at Scotty who was smiling with a gentle look on his face.

“How did you find this Scotty? I thought I’d heard or seen everything from her.” Nyota asked. She had been obsessed in her teen and cadet years trying to find everything from her hero, Hiroshi Saito. She still had a padd chock full of information and recordings of the highly decorated Starfleet communications officer.

Saito had been an inspiration to Nyota.

And a goal. She would be better than Saito if Nyota had anything to do with it.

“I asked around and found a recording that wasn't well known. I don’t know if you’ve heard it before, but I thought maybe…” He said, sitting down next to her. “Kirk had something from when he was a kid. Probably a bonus about being the kid from the Kelvin, and who his mom is.”

Nyota stared at Scotty in slight disbelief.

“Yeah, I know! But when I mentioned that I was looking for a recording for you, he practically broke his padd trying to send this to me.”

Nyota took a moment to be grateful that Jim Kirk was really well connected, apparently. Then she realized that Scotty had not only been asking over subspace for her, but he had been asking coworkers.

Nyota hugged him. “Thank you so much, Scotty.”

“I’m glad you liked it,” Scotty told her pulling back before kissing her sweetly.

Nyota loved it when Scotty kissed her. She could feel all the love that he was still slightly too embarrassed to say out loud.

“I can’t believe you got this.” She said when they broke apart. They were still speaking Gaelic to each other.

Scotty kept a hold on her and pressed play again, knowing without words that she wanted to hear more.

“I had to guess words and then make-up of them from what I knew of the surrounding language. Kind of like when we reconstruct ancient human languages. But with weirder tonal acrobatics.” Hiroshi Saito’s voice said from the padd, she was laughing. In the background, there were children’s voices coming closer to the microphone. Nyota would guess this recording was taken later in her life based on the sound of her voice.   “Sometimes human voice boxes and throats and mouths just aren’t made to speak a language.”

Nyota smiled and leaned against Scotty, happy to listen to Saito talk about what she was best known for understanding new languages.

Scotty tightened his arms around her.

They would get dinner later, but for now, they had each other.

-

Meanwhile – several frames down, in the Captain’s quarters .

“I’m telling you, Spock, I don’t know what to do with this kid. He was excellent until about two months ago!” Jim said, frustrated beyond belief and ready to pull his hair out.

On the computer screen on his desk sat the profile of one Petty Officer crewman Anderson Kent. Assigned to Engineering after being picked up by the USS Constitution. Captain Wise had highly recommended him, even recommending him for promotion upon arrival to the Enterprise.

Jim remembered that Scotty was especially pleased to have gotten him. Scotty had been over the moon to pick up another qualified crewman.

“But in the last two months, Crewman Kent has developed a new attitude, has ignored his duty, and has caused the ship to be on heightened alert,” Spock stated. He was sitting across from Jim in the chair that sat in front of the desk. “His lack of attention to his duties has caused the ship multiple problems.”

Jim sighed and slid back into his chair. He knew. “The thing is, I can’t put the ship into a slower warp. If we’re late to Starbase 180 then not only will we be dealing with Starfleet and the delay caused by the repairs to the HECS but also a bunch of royally pissed off Vulcans.”

Jim hated to do this to his ship, to push her in this way but Scotty had been clear that all the work he was doing right now was solely to keep the HECS running for the next few weeks. Scotty was very adamant that he wasn’t going to even attempt a full repair because he didn’t have the necessary replacement parts or equipment to replace the whole console and several major components.

Jim knew that. But he didn’t like it.

Especially since Scotty was discovering more and more issues every day. Things that would keep them at Starbase 180 for several days longer than the anticipated twenty hours ordinarily given to them by Starfleet.

“I do not believe the Vulcan delegation will be ‘pissed off’ as you say,” Spock said mildly. “They would understand the need to fix the ship.” He reached out and picked up the padd, examining the file on Kent.

“As for Crewman Kent, I think a reduction in rank and restriction will be appropriate. You, as Captain, do have the right to initiate a transfer off the Enterprise, if you still think he’s a danger to the ship,” Spock told him after a moment of reading through the disciplinary files.

Jim reached for the glass of water that was on the desk. At the start of his Captaincy, Jim had found that drinking anything stronger during discussions like this was never a good idea.

But damn . This kid was making him want a drink.

“I’ll talk to the kid in a day or two when he comes off of Scotty’s restriction. See what’s going on with him. I’ll decide by then what I’m going to do. See the scope of what’s going on with him and the HECS. But I’ll take your advice into consideration,” Jim said with a second sigh. He finished the glass of water and placed it back on the table.

Spock reached for it and placed it back into the replicator and requested another glass of water.

Jim had noticed this type of behavior before. In the last few weeks, Spock had been placing himself in front of Jim more. Not only was Spock touching Jim more, but he was also making sure that Jim ate, making sure that his workload was appropriately managed.

And Jim’s favorite, making sure Jim could defend himself in a fight. Spock had started to spar with Jim a lot more.

Jim wasn’t complaining. He loved it. He had noticed the touches had started just before their stop at Yen’bu.

Jim wasn’t going to put a stop to it. He encouraged Spock’s touches the best that he could. He reached for Spock a lot more, and when Spock touched him, Jim leaned into it.

Jim had thought about bringing their new dynamics up in conversation and seeing what happened, but every time he thought about saying something, he found that he just couldn’t. Jim knew he was too afraid that things would change and Spock would stop even trying.

So, Jim stayed silent.

But he loved it. Every single second.

Jim took the glass with a quiet noise of appreciation.

Spock sat back into his chair and entered Jim’s decision into the padd. “I’ll inform Crewmember Kent that you are waiting on the full diagnostic of the HECS and its related systems for proper informed punishment.”

Jim groaned. “Ugh. All this, and then we have a diplomatic team on board bound for new Vulcan.”

“The quarters and communal spaces are already prepared, Captain,” Spock said. “I am sure you nor they will suffer greatly by their presence on board,” Spock said with a slight raise of his eyebrows that Jim knew meant he was amused by Jim’s antics.

Jim grinned back. “I would hope not, but that really depends on who’s leading the whole thing.”

Spock tapped a few things on the padd before handing it over for Jim to review.

“I believe the leader will be Renank, a Vulcan diplomat on the high council. If I remember my father’s letters correctly, he is a fair and logical Vulcan.” Spock said.

Jim looked over the file.

From what he could see, the Vulcans were a delegation searching for Vulcan texts and relics that had been off-world, mostly in the possession of traders. The delegation had split into different sub-groups, and now had reconvened to travel back to New Vulcan.

Renank was a fair leader, as far as Jim could tell. But mostly the report was just a manifest of all the Vulcan products and artifacts they had picked up from other areas of the universe.

“I’m glad that New Vulcan is looking for things from it’s history,” Jim said, smiling up at Spock.

Spock nodded. “I believe the consul was determined to keep the knowledge of Vulcan from being lost. The delegation’s leader, Renank, was one of the Vulcans who asked for my assistance in sorting through the artifacts and writings from Earth.”

Spock hadn’t had time to explain what the project they were going to be working on was, nor how the Vulcan High Council had given it to him. Jim was torn on being impressed by this Renank, who had evidently chosen the right person for the job.

Spock cared about his people and would do nearly anything to help them. For the most part, he was content to contribute as a leader and example to the Vulcans in Starfleet. Many Vulcans joined after the loss of their planet. But Jim was sure that Spock was happy to help in more tangible ways.

Jim raised an eyebrow. “Really? Did he chose you because of your father’s job as Ambassador?” Jim hoped it was because of Spock’s father’s job. If it was because of Spock’s human blood and the Vulcans were just being xenophobic again, Jim might have to punch someone.

Spock raised an eyebrow back, Jim could read what that meant. “Partly, according the message. Also, partly because as a long-term member of Starfleet, I have spent much time with humans and am better suited for helping the team identify what are authentic writings about Vulcan, it’s culture and its history, both of human or Vulcan origin, and what is not academic or useful.”

“You haven’t told me much about this project,” Jim hummed. He saw Spock flinch slightly and waved Spock’s concern away. “Its fine! I’m just surprised. Pleased, but surprised.” Jim grinned at him.

Spock raised an eyebrow, and Jim took that as a sign to continue. “It’s going be cool to read some of the anthropic writings humans have about Vulcans,” he said. He was looking forward to it.

He wasn’t sure if it was because he was in love with Spock, but reading the writings of early anthropologists who were being sent to Vulcan for the first time had to be a, dare he say it, fascinating experience. He was looking forward to the whole project.

Spock stared at him for a long moment, like he was evaluating Jim.

Then he took a deep breath.“I apologize for the delay in the project,” he said, sounding truly apologetic. “As we had previously intended to start a few weeks ago.”  

Jim smiled, waving off Spock’s concern. “Things like this happen. But hey, we can get started on it, soon right?” He knew he sounded eager, but this was Spock, and Jim loved to spend more time with Spock, and the subject was fascinating, all jokes aside.

He was also eager to help Spock and his people.

He really just wanted to see Spock happy, in his own way.

“Yes,” Spock said, “I am due to revise a data pack of writings in the next few hours. If you wish I can send a copy for you?”

“And we can work on it together?” Jim asked, because this was something that he needed confirmation on.

Jim grinned when Spock nodded.

“I would love to help, Spock. Just send the data to me when you receive it.” Jim said.

“I will-,” Spock began, but was cut off as the ship rocked violently from the sound of an explosion that rattled Jim’s teeth..

 

-

Meanwhile – in engineering

Pavel hummed to himself as he tightened the last bolt on the display unit he had been testing. He was relieved to see that there was only one more item on the list to check and repair for today.

All that was left was the HECS’s heat transfer section. It was a part of the system they couldn’t get access to without having done the work around it first.

Now that he had secured the last bit of the HECS console, and Riley had taken apart and chased the right wires down to repair them, they could tackle the heat exchange and transfer unit.

Pavel knew this part was supposed to transfer the excess heat that the hydroelectric coolant picked up from the ship systems to systems that would use it such as life support and general heating.

As the ship wasn’t currently roasting or freezing to extremes, Pavel wasn’t worried that the system integrity had been compromised. But they were still required to check it.

As he was moving away from his last check post, Riley ran up to him, holding his own toolbox and carefully avoiding the tag outs and the equipment on the floor. “Almost done?” he asked as he made his way past a few of the crew, the group of women giggling as they packed up from a job.

“Almost,” Pavel replied with a smile. “Just need to check the heat transfer unit.” Pavel wanted to get this done so he could see if he could convince Len to go to dinner with him.

They’d been having dinner or lunch several times a week now, in between the medical training that Pavel still wanted. (He was going to have that first responder medical qualification if it killed him.)

And two weeks ago, he had almost asked Len out on a real date.

But then they had gotten distracted by Kent and Camilia arguing.

And Pavel had decided to wait.

He would wait until they got to the Starbase, and then he would ask Len out to a dinner in one of the restaurants. They would both be on the same shore leave rotation this time and hopefully he and Len could have a wonderful date that may lead into more.  

Riley nodded, “Want some help? I think with two of us it might go faster.”

Pavel agreed quickly - he really wanted to see Len for dinner, and getting this done would let him actually be on time. “Please,” he said, pointing the way to the wall that the heat transfer unit was hidden behind. The component wasn’t regularly checked, but with everything else that had been wrong with the hydroelectric coolant system, Scotty, Pavel, and Riley had decided to just review everything involved with the system.

It had worked out in the end because they had found four significant faults that would cause the ship a lot of damage if left unchecked.

Pavel was glad the ship was getting a replacement as soon as they got to the Starbase. The entire system was held together by a wing, a prayer, and some inspired Scotty-based ingenuity.

To get to the mechanics of the heat transfer, Pavel and Riley had to pull paneling off of four different frames in the walls to open the unit to complete their visual check.

From the moment the first one opened up, Pavel knew they were in trouble.

While the heat transfer unit was working, it was also leaking. There was fluorescent pink, extremely corrosive fluid all over the deck inside the frame.

“Shit,” Riley said as he jumped away from the paneling, dropping it as soon as he could. He quickly peeled off his already smoking gloves.

Pavel jerked and hissed. “Shit. This component rarely fails. What’s wrong with it?” He looked at Reilly for an answer but Reilly looked as lost as Pavel felt. What was wrong would have to wait. They needed to clean this up now.

“I don’t know,” Reily yelped, “But we need to see the main hydraulic tank!” Riley hurried to the toolbox that was still at Pavel’s last job, a few feet away. He continued speaking as he rifled through the contents, looking for whatever tool could let them access the panel that hid the tank. “The coolant is a fairly strong base. It will eat through metal if it’s given enough time.” he said hurrying back.

Pavel turned to run over to the toolbox Riley had brought, reached for the neutralizer powder to clean up the spill. They would have to call for hazmat for the rest but they needed to start now to prevent further damage.

There was a light sizzling noise coming from the heat transfer panels that worried him, and an eerie panic started to set in. Pavel opened his mouth to call back to Reilly but never made it, as in the next instant the entire wall of components exploded around him.

Chapter Text

Four days after exiting orbit of Yen’bu. Four days until Starbase 180.

Fifteen seconds after the initial explosion.

Bones hit the wall when the ship was rocked by the blast, with enough force that he knew he bruised something on his shoulder.

He could feel his shoulder throb with pain, but Bones didn’t care. He was on his feet the moment the ship stopped shaking.

He was up and running an instant later.

He needed to be in Medbay.

And he needed to be there now .

An explosion that rocked the ship was never a good thing - and it always, always , ALWAYS,  meant that someone had been injured.

Bones was going to be busy .

Unlike all of the bullshit training exercises Starfleet liked to create at the Academy to prepare medical students for the reality of shipboard emergencies, the hallways leading up to Med Bay were crowded when he ran down them. They were filled with other crewman rushing to their battle stations for damage control and muster reports. Each repair locker being thrown open as reports from the bridge and damage control station started to come in. Bones could hear bits and pieces of the reports but not enough to even take a stab at what was really going on with the Enterprise.

Bones just concentrated on getting to Medbay. He ran through the ever-moving crowd, shouting “Gangway! CMO!” as he went.

The crewmen around him flattened themselves to the walls to make way as he passed. Bones had the priority to get to the med bay, and he made sure to make full use of that privilege.

Chapel was already organizing her nurses into a triage team as Bones ran in at full speed. She ordered three of the nurses to go prep the surgery tables, and Chapel told several others to get medical supplies so: “… that Doctor McCoy doesn’t have to look around for so much as a bandage! We’ll have wounded soon. Get everything ready!”

Gillpe, the new crewman who had alerted Bones to Warrington’s issues, was already in the sanitation field, making sure the surgery equipment was clean.

Warrington was right next to him, scrubbing up. Both of them were pale and tense, but neither seemed frightened.

Bones didn’t pause his run to the sanitation field. He had to get clean. “Any news?” he demanded as he pulled his blue shirt over his head. He needed to get changed into his whites. The white uniform was kept sterile at all times.

Chapel replied from across the floor, “Not yet!”

“Understood!” Bones responded, accepting the white surgery uniform from a nurse and pulling it over his head.

M’Benga ran in and raced up to the sanitation field.

He had a little bit of blood on his sleeves.

“Engineering,” he gasped. “It happened in Engineering.” He said the moment he came up to Bones. “I was near there. The response team is there.” He began changing into more suitable clothing for surgery. “Several incoming.”

Bones knew how his teams were supposed to work. The first responders were supposed to get to the point of damage (or as close as they could get) and triage as much as they were able to. Then the worst off were sent up to his med bay with a T-CFRC with them.

The T-CFRC, or trauma-casualty first responders card, had all the information the first responders had on the wounded person. It was filled with everything from what had caused the injury to what had already been done to treat the patient.

How many patients the med bay was supposed to be receiving was information that came when the first responders called up a Six-Line, the first step of the T-CRFC. Often the first responders tried to send the information via messaging. If they had to send the information on open com lines across the ship it was reported in code, so there was no personally identifiable information, or if there was something special, like say a necessary blood type or species identifiers.

Nothing damaged a person’s ability to fight or survive like knowing a friend was dead. Chapel would translate the report from code to useful information as she received it.

Bones hated it. He hated the whole damn process.

“Incoming six-line!” Chapel’s voice called out. The medbay didn't stop moving, but suddenly the noise dropped as if everyone had frozen in their places. Bones didn’t pause in his prep, but he listened more intently than ever.

An explosion and Engineering were a terrible combination. Bones felt his heart sink to his boots even as he continued in his prep. They weren’t going to get out of this one cleanly. There was going to be damage.  Bones now had mere seconds before he got the first wave of injured crewmen.

Chapel called out the six-line as it showed up translating from the code as she went. “One – stretchers: five. Ambulatory: six. Two - two urgent-surgical, three priority, six standards. Three – six human, three Illian, one shell’ill, one Andoridan. Four- urgent: human, two. Blood types: O neg and B pos. Five – more to be processed. Request more stretchers. Six – main engineering space.” She called out the Six-line information as it fed to her padd.

The six-lines were a way for medical to get the information faster about the initial triage. Each line number was standardized so to lessen confusion where people needed to be paying attention to multiple things.

“Get me O Neg and B Pos human-type blood first!” Bones barked at the nurse who was running for the supplies. The man took off, calling out his understanding. Bones turned to another nurse, “Get the surgery beds ready for two humans!” That nurse also ran to start prep. Bones turned to face Chapel, “Chapel! Send the six-line to the bridge. Let them know what’s going on with us.”

“Already done, Doctor,” Chapel was already putting down the padd. "Bridge acknowledges."

Bones didn’t doubt that. But he needed to give the orders. For his own sake and the sake of his less experienced nurses.

It wasn’t a full minute later when two stretchers carried by large guys from Engineering and Security came rushing in; all of them covered with dust, debris, and smoke.

And Bones felt his heart stop.

Because the first casualty carried in was a young man with bright curls.

One Bones was hoping to see at dinner as he had headed to the mess hall just before the explosion.

Pavel Chekov.

He was the first one into the room. Which meant he was the one priority casualty. Which meant he was the worst injured.

There was a moment where Bones felt his heart suspend and stop beating. The world seemed to freeze. Pavel wasn’t moving. He wasn’t smiling like he usually was in Bones’ presence. He was pale from blood loss, and the contrast of the burns was frightening. Most of his uniform was gone, cut off by the first responder team checking for more injuries.

Bones jerked his eyes away from Pavel’s immobile, but still breathing, form. The second litter was filled with Kevin Riley.

He wasn’t much better.

Both of them were covered in burns and blood.

The love of his life was on a table in his med bay and Bones had no idea how he was going to save Pavel.

Bones felt the panic rise up in him. Then Bones felt angry. How was he going to save Pavel if he was panicking?!

He didn’t have time for this. Pavel didn’t have time for this. None of them had time for this! For that small instant all Bones could hear was his own heartbeat in his ears. Then he snapped out of it, and the sound around him came roaring back.

Bones swore.

Then he mentally shut down everything but the part of himself that was “Doctor McCoy” and shoved the rest of his feelings into a corner of his mind to deal with later. He had crewmembers of the Enterprise to save and god damn it, Bones was going to save them.

No matter what.

The last time he had shut down everything that wasn’t “Doctor McCoy” was when he was trying to save Jim from the warp core radiation after Kahn. If Bones could do it for the man he considered his brother, then he could damn well do it for the man he was in love with.

“Get Chekov on the first table! Riley on the second!” he barked. There were already two tables prepped to be used for surgery. M’benga went to the second table with little-wasted movement.

The rest of the injured would be treated on the other tables. The nurse who had finished prepping the tables had already moved onto the others. Preparing them with the same determination and efficiency as he had the first two.

M’benga spoke up, “I’m taking Riley, McCoy.” He was reading the padd that was next to Riley’s leg. It had the rest of the T-CFRC on it. The padd detailed what was wrong with the casualty, what had already been done to them and what was left for later.

Riley was already covered in the anti-swelling and anti-burn medication. But he would need a lot more work.

Bones barked a short “Understood,” before he could stop himself. He would save Chekov. He would save the crewman in front of him.

He grabbed Chekov’s own T-CFRC. The readings were much worse than Riley. The burns were extensive, the report estimated at least seventy percent, but thankfully most of the burns looked to be only second degree. Which made it easier to treat but there was shrapnel involved.

But as Bones read through the information something in him relaxed. Pavel wasn’t so badly injured that there was no point in working on him. Bones could, and would, save him.

“Warrington!” Bones ordered, “Take over triage. Send Sanchez to help M’benga. Keep Gillpe there. Chapel, you’re with me.” He pointed at each of his nurses as he called their names. Chapel was his best surgery nurse, and he wanted no one else with him as he worked on Chekov.

Chapel nodded an affirmative. “Yes sir!”

Warrington looked conflicted for a moment, then she nodded as well. “Aye sir!” she said and turned to the rest of the med bay, already beginning to fill up with people who were injured but hadn’t been in Engineering, as well as people who were being sent up by the first responder team.

Bones knew that he wasn’t going to let himself think about what was going on. About who he was working on.

He just wasn’t.

The part of him that was not “Doctor Leonard McCoy” was crying. He was sure of it. But that part stayed where it belonged, in the depths of his mind to be looked at when there wasn’t a dying crewman on his table. He could cry later. He had a job to do.

Because the part of him that was a Doctor, had, from the day he had taken his oath to the day he would die, always been the most significant part of himself.

This was one of his nightmares, and he didn’t have the luxury to even think about it. Because that would get in the way of Bones’ calling in life: to be a doctor.

He would save the person in front of him. Then he would save the next person. And the next. He would repeat that until he had saved them all.

Only then could Bones stop and grieve and celebrate. He would save them.

-

Meanwhile – in Engineering .

Scotty hadn’t stopped running since he and Nyota had left his quarters. Nyota had split with him then with no more than a quick ‘be safe’ look.

Scotty had returned her look in equal measure

She had joined Jim and Spock running past him to the turbo lift that would take them to the Bridge.

Scotty had headed in the other direction. He had to take a different turbo lift down to Engineering.

He wasn’t surprised to see the explosion had come from there.

But he was damned angry about it.

He turned a corner of a hallway and nearly clipped a first responder in medical blue who was racing past him to the storage room just outside of engineering that held medical supplies.

Scotty didn’t stop running. Neither did the medic.

He did skid to a stop when he got to the entrance of the main space of Engineering. There was billowing black smoke pouring out of the open doors and the sweet-acidic smell of coolant and hydraulics burning together filled the air.

Scotty felt his heart stop.

“Mr. Scott!” A lower engineer crewman cried as he stumbled out of the entrance, the first in a line of five who were holding hands trying to find their way out of the smoke.

“Mr. Kyle!” Scotty said, wincing as he watched Kyle examine his burned hands. ”What’s going on?” Scotty asked as he and the first responders started to don firefighting gear. The gear had oxygen masks. “Have you seen Keenser?”

Kyle nodded. “He’s still in there. He’s got one of the short firefighting suits on,” he coughed out.

Scotty breathed a sigh of relief. Keenser, his second in command and friend, was alright and already trying to save the ship.

He was glad that the ship’s outer bulkhead hadn’t ruptured. They would all be out in the vacuum now if it had. This was an internal fire. So, whatever had exploded was near the entrance. Scotty could smell the strong scent of industrial coolant.

He had to find Chekov and Riley.

Scotty finished putting on the gear and fixed his mask over his face. He tested the seal without a second thought. The cover adhered to his face the way it was supposed to. He twisted the knob to allow the suit to start regulating the air so he could breathe.

He clipped his communicator to his suit. The device slid in perfectly and Scotty heard the connecting click. That had been one of the best projects he and Nyota had ever worked on. The seamless connection between the communicators and emergency suits were now standard issue across the Fleet.

Next to him three of the five people who came out with Kyle were already suiting up themselves after one of the first responders had checked them over and had found little to no damage. The other two were still being checked over.

Scotty was damned proud to have these people as his fellow crew.  Their dedication to their jobs, the ship, and each other was showing in every move they made.

He had to wait until he had a team of four ready before he could go in. The team was formed of two of Bones’ well trained first responders, and one of the engineers from the group of people Kyle had led out.

One of them was putting on her gear the fastest, looking angry and determined. She kept glancing at Kyle and then putting on gear even faster. Kyle was fighting with one of the medics who was telling him to sit down and that he wasn’t going back in.

Scotty understood both of their emotional reactions well. Kyle had led the group out. He had taken the brunt force of fighting their way out of Engineering and he was clearly willing to go back, despite his injuries. Kyle was just as protective as Scotty was for his people. Scotty was also sure that the woman who was putting on the fire fighting suit the fastest was one of Kyle’s mentees, a person from his workcenter. She owed him her life.

“Sir!” One of the medics called out as they came up to Scotty after putting on their gear. “We’ve already sent up eleven people. Two redshirts are the worst off, burns and shrapnel, but McCoy has them now.”

“Understood.” Eleven people already out. Six more already out. Keenser still in but fighting. Since he had smelled coolant even after placing his helmet and activating the seal, Scotty figured the two red shirts were most likely Chekov and Riley. But he would verify that when he got into the system.

Scotty also knew he was looking for about fifteen more people.

The engineer finished putting on her gear and joined him.

“Alright, fight the fire first, then damage control, Echizen,” Scotty told the woman. “Find what is the worst off and relay it to me. Start with the HECS and go from there. I can smell coolant already. We’ll get another team in here for repairs when the fire has stopped.”

Echizen nodded, her gear holding in the correct place, not a single thing shifting. “Fight the fire first. Then report.”

“Aye. Medics, you get them out of there! Send in others when they arrive,” Scotty ordered.

The two medics were already nodding. They knew how to move quickly in the suits.

As they made their way into the smoke-filled engineering space, Scotty was looking around for any of his team. He knew that most of the engineering spaces were empty. It was almost dinner time, and there were only a few people here, during the meal and shift change.

Just fifteen people.

Scotty hoped he would find them all.

The first seven they found almost immediately. They, under the command of Keenser, were fighting the fire that was coming out of a side corridor in engineering.

Scotty knew the HECS heat transfer unit was behind a panel down that hallway.

Keenser’s small group were making progress on defeating the flames. Already the smoke was starting to turn white.

Scotty caught Keenser’s eyes. Keenser gestured to the area behind him, signaling that it was unchecked. Scotty used hand gestures to ask if he needed any help. Keenser said no.

Scotty led his team deeper into the belly of the Engineering Department.

Because while the worst damage might have been from the front hallway where Keenser was stationed, there was a good chance that other parts of Engineering were also in danger. Either from the flames, or heat, or from damage from the initial explosion.

The main space for Engineering was a disaster.

The smoke was running into the deeper part of Engineering, making it hard to see. Even if the fire was starting to go down, the smoke in the room was dark and directly causing problems with visibility and air quality.

There was a crewman standing and working at a computer station, frantically trying to fix something. She was supporting a man in a chair that had seen better days as he typed into another computer. Two others were sprawled on the floor.

One of them was yelling orders out to the one in the chair. She was visibly in pain, wincing at the effort of her words.

“Scotty!” the crewman called out, catching the crewman on the floor’s attention, from where she was trying type frantically on a computer that was rhythmically sparking, but still working. Scotty watched as she dodged a large spark that lit up the room for a instant. Scotty hated what he saw in that instant.  

Scotty ran to her. She was covered in ash head to toe, making it impossible to tell who she was. Not fully human, but Scotty had a diverse team so he wasn’t as concerned as he could be.  “What’s going on?” He asked.

The medic started to check her over, but she waved them off. “I’m fine! But help them!” She said pointing to the two on the floor.

The man who was leaning on her was already being helped by the other medic.

He didn’t fight the assistance.

The first medic went to the crewmen on the floor, and Scotty trusted McCoy’s people.

“I can’t keep the thermoregulator stable! The warp-core is heating up, and we’re picking up speed. I can’t cool her down!” The woman reported , her tone only holding an edge of the panic she must feel. She was shaking slightly, but her hands never missed a command on the computer.  

Scotty recognized her now, one of his newer crew members. A young na’vi that was skilled with engineering and numbers, and little else. Scotty liked her.

“Have you tried to vent the system to the aft nacelles?” Scotty asked, skipping over two systems that would be preferred ways of cooling the core but were sparking more dangerously than the console they were using right now.

“Yes! It helped! But the nacelles aren’t doing enough!” she said, running through several more programs in the system.

Scotty thought quickly, running through every system he could think of that may even have any effect on the core temp. “The manual overrides, it’ll warm the ship’s hull a great deal, but that might work.”

Scotty !” his communicator yelled into his breathing apparatus headset.

When he and Nyota had originally created the communicator and emergency fire fighting suit integration system, Scotty had mostly been there for oversight. Nyota had brought the ideas. Scotty sent a quick mental thanks that Nyota was the best communicator in a crisis. She understood what was needed. Scotty’s radio was already connected to the bridge by the time he could even press the response button. If he needed it he could switch to Auxiliary Control or the Damage Control Emergency room with ease.   

Nyota knew how to anticipate Scotty. She already had a channel open from his communicator to the bridge before he even had to say, “Scott here!”  she would keep his line open until he says otherwise.

“We’re too hot Scotty!” Jim’s voice said from the communicator. “We’ve just gotten core warnings!” The bridge background noise was a wash of conflicting sounds. Reports from other damaged decks, med bey reporting in, and status reports were all creating a weird, disjointed soundtrack.

“Aye, I know!” Scotty said back, knowing there was a cacophony of yelling right behind him from the team that was fighting the fire and Engineering’s own warning alarms. “I’m going to have to use manual overrides to vent to the hull. It’ll get hot everywhere, but the core won’t explode!”

“What’s the max temp the hull can stand right now?” Kirk asked.

Before Scotty could answer, Spock’s voice answered. “5,000 degrees Celsius.”

“If uncompromised!” Scotty added as he took over for the Na’vi on the still sparking console as she was convinced to leave the smoke-filled area by a medic, “which I cannae guarantee right now!” He checked the readings from the hull. This explosion had weakened the starboard side of the ship, but if they vented to the hull on the port side…

“Nyota! Are there any reports of hull fatigue on the port side!” Scotty asked into his radio. Nyota would know. She had to take the Damage Control reports sent from the DC Emergency station in auxiliary control.

“None, Scotty!” She said, and even in the moment of crisis, hearing her unswerving and commanding voice was a relief. She could steady him and support him despite the fact that all she could do was give him information.

And Scotty hoped he would do the same for her.

“Then, Nyota, tell Kirk I can vent the heat. If it goes right then it’ll warm the entire Enterprise, and it’ll get uncomfortable for a while, but it will keep the core from melting.” Scotty relayed, already making the preparation to vent the core’s excess heat. “I’ll need his authorization,” he said finally.

If Scotty was wrong, then warming the hull the way he planned to would create catastrophic problems, ones they could not fix. Problems they wouldn't even live long enough to even attempt to fix.

“Aye Scotty,” Nyota said. She understood what Scotty wasn't saying.

There was a heartbeat of a moment where they waited. Both he and Nyota, on two separate parts of the ship, waiting on Kirk’s judgment.

“Need my permission again?” Kirk said with a hint of a laugh in his voice when he came on the line. It wasn’t much, and it was unquestionably for the crew around them, but Scotty smiled all the same.  

"Yes sir," Scotty told him,in the same tone.

“Do it,” Captain Kirk commanded.

Scotty didn't hesitate when he pressed the command on the console. His heart was in his throat; he hoped this would work, because if it didn’t then he would have to think of something else and he didn’t know how much extra he could do to cool the system with the hydro-electric coolant system down.

Immediately, the core started to cool down.

He couldn’t read the rest of the ship’s hull temperature, but he was sure they were climbing.

“Core temp readings are down, Scotty,” Kirk said, and Nyota’s voice confirmed that all the warnings had now shut off.

Scotty checked his oxygen, making sure that he enough to keep working on the system.

“Nyota. Patch me directly to Damage Control. I need to get working.” Scotty said.

“On it!” Nyota said.

Scotty had a ship to save.

He could do it.

-

The next ten hours were among the longest in Leonard McCoy’s life.

But he didn’t lose a soul.

And to him, that was all that mattered.

-

A few hours later on the Bridge .

Scotty hadn’t even taken off the firefighting suit when he reported to the bridge with the word that the fire was out and the core readings were looking normal again. His ordinarily beige suit was black with soot and burn marks.

Jim could smell the coolant-based smoke from the turbo lift.

He had a feeling it would stay with the ship for a while, despite the best attempts to get out of the system.

Jim had spent the better part of the last two hours running the damage control process and making sure that Starbase 180 knew they were going to be late. He’d also brought the Enterprise to a near complete halt in space.

Scotty had called about a half an hour ago to tell him the fire was out and that he had set a re-fire watch, in case the fire started up again.

Jim had been waiting to see him in person since then.

“Prelim reports say it was the HECS, Captain, that caught on fire. I don’t know if it was the cause or merely an aggravator. But the main bulk of the fire came from there,” Scotty said, swaying slightly. He was drenched in sweat.

Jim could see out of the corner of his eye that Nyota kept looking at Scotty with concern. Jim was concerned too. The fire must have been scorching to make Scotty so dehydrated that he was swaying where he stood.

Jim nodded. “I see,” he said, knowing that if the HECS was the system that was at fault and was the reason it on fire, there would be a whole hell of a lot to pay. And most of it would fall squarely on the shoulders of the crewman who was currently on restriction.

“Can we still make it to Starbase 180?” he asked instead of asking Scotty’s opinion of the realities of the fire.

It wasn’t right to ask for such an opinion from someone who had just had this adrenalin pumping type of experience. Emotions clouded the thought process, and it could cause people to make judgments they ordinarily wouldn’t make if they had time to think about what they actually knew.

Scotty nodded. “Yes, but not at more than Warp One. Anything higher will raise the core’s temp again. The hull is still a little tender from before, and I don’t trust much faster than that. We’re too hot right now. I dennae ken if the hull will survive going through another temperature venting.”  

“Okay then. Sulu, please get one of the DC crew to watch the core temp. It’s going to be boring, but it can’t raise. We’ll go to warp one until things are better or the temperature gets too high,” Jim looked to Sulu who was tense and concerned.

Sulu had been tense since they had all first gotten to the bridge several hours ago.

Jim had chalked it up to Chekov’s missing presence. The Beta shift navigator had performed expertly in Chekov’s absence. Jim had prudently not told the bridge crew where their Alpha shift navigator actually was.

But Jim wondered if it was more than that.

Then Jim remembered that Sulu’s family was on board.  

Shit .

“Captain,” Scotty said. “We have a full muster ready. All of the unaccounted for are listed,” he handed Jim a padd, and his expression said a whole heap of unhappy things.

Spock leaned over to also read the list.

There was a push of calm that came from Spock’s slight brush of his arm with Jim’s. It wasn’t much, but the emotion was enough to help center Jim.

Of course, Spock’s presence was often enough to help center Jim.  

But Jim leaned into the contact all the same.

He’d take calm wherever he could.

There were about seven people on the list of the missing. Two of which, Jim knew were in med bay for sure. “Chekov and Riley are in surgery right now," Jim murmured so that only Scotty and Spock could hear him. Scotty's expression twisted unhappily but not with surprise. He must have figured it out but had needed confirmation.  "Spock, can you check with med bay about the others? I hope they have them all.” He hoped so. But, years of being a Captain had made him a realist when it came to explosions in Engineering. They might have lost some people.

Jim wasn’t going to give up hope though.

Not until McCoy declared it so.

Spock took the padd and went directly to the turbolift. This was not something either of them wanted to be on ship’s coms. Jim had given him the task to confirm if they had missing or dead. There was no else they trusted.

Scotty relaxed when Jim mentioned that Chekov and Riley were in the med bay. He decidedly hadn’t liked the fact they were on the missing list.

Sulu also seemed to lose some the tension is his shoulders when Jim made the pronouncement. The navigators weren't supposed to eavesdrop but Jim didn’t plan on telling him off anytime soon.  

“What about the Engineer with the family onboard?” Jim asked Scotty. Jim had to remember that he had civilians on board. They’d be taken care of. Jim recalled that one of Scotty’s better crewman had asked to bring both of his wives on board with their one child. Starfleet had approved the family as one of the last before the ship had left earth spacedock. Their child was just an infant.

“He’s fine. He was off duty. His wives were in charge of the Crèche. He went with them to calm the families. He may deserve a commendation or an award for that. He prevented them from panicking,” Scotty said with a thoughtful look on his face.

Jim agreed to look into it. The engineer probably had kept the families safe and in one location so that they weren’t running around the ship in case they needed to evacuate.

Jim would have to praise that somehow. If Scotty thought it was award-worthy then, Jim would probably agree in this situation.

Scotty coughed and swayed a little more.

Jim winced.

“Scotty. Go to the med bay, get checked for smoke inhalation. If the doc’s say you’re fine: then get back to work. I know you, and that’s what you’ll do so I’m giving you permission here,” Jim said. “If you do have problems then get fixed up and head to the DC room in auxiliary control. Work from there.”

Scotty, Jim knew, would work no matter what Jim said. So Jim gave him more reasonable orders to follow.

It worked. Scotty didn’t fight him. “Aye sir,” he agreed.

“Go talk to Uhura before you go down to medical. And drink something . If I can see that you’re dehydrated, then M'benga or Chapel will IV your ass to get fluids back in your system. McCoy would let them and you know it.” Jim told him.

Scotty smiled with a hint of a laugh.  

“Go,” Jim said.

Scotty nodded and left his place by Jim’s chair to go to Uhura’s side.

Jim turned his attention to the man at the helm.  “Sulu, call your replacement.”

Sulu jumped, “Sir, my replacement? I’m fine, sir.” He said with a stiff demeanor. Jim knew his people. Sulu always called Jim 'sir' when he was stressed. His worry was painted all over his face.

“Yep, and I don’t care." Jim hummed before smiling at Sulu. "I want you to go check on the Crèche and the families there. In fact, I want you to get a team to check on them for the next several hours.”  

Sulu eye’s winded. “Sir?”

“Rotating shifts, of course.” Jim smiled. This he could do. He could make sure his people, his crew and their families were taken care of. “I’m sure you can pick the best team. Please report to me the crewmembers on the team and when I should expect you back up here.”

An undistracted crew was a crew that worked best.

Sulu nodded firmly. “Yes, sir.” He turned back around and called for his replacement.

Then he paused and turned back around, “Thank you, sir.”

Jim nodded.

His ship was going to be fine. The Enterprise had the best engineers in the universe on board.

His people were going to be fine. His doctor was the best that Earth had ever seen.

His crew was going to, as always, come out of this swinging.

All Jim had to do was deal with a lax crewman and the consequences of his actions.

-

At some point

Pavel woke up and tried to look around.

He wasn’t able to move. The last thing he remembered was the pain - red hot and burning.

Len leaned over him in a white surgical uniform. Len was saying something about how he didn’t want to join his mother’s crafting group for a reason. His expression was pinched with concentration but not fear. Pavel didn’t feel a thing but some vague tugging on the side where Len was.

Pavel smiled.

He would be fine.

Len was here.

He fell back asleep.

-

Hours after the explosion in engineering

Jim winced as he looked around. So much damage.

Spock reached out and placed a hand in Jim’s.

And for a brief moment, they observed the damage that one system had caused, hand in hand

There were several teams of crewmen moving around the burned hallway that had once led to the HECS’s heat transfer unit. The crews were working on cleaning up the foam that had extinguished the fire. The substance was terrible for electronics, but it killed fire faster than literally anything else. For a ship, ending the fire was often more important than saving the equipment.

There were other teams already working on fixing damaged systems and consoles around Engineering. To fix Engineering, it would be an around the clock effort for several weeks. Jim was relieved to know they were going to be at a Starbase in five days. A few days longer then they had expected even with the HECS on the frizz but the Enterprise would still get there under her own power.  

Jim had taken one look at Scotty when he arrived in Engineering about ten minutes ago and had sent him to bed. Scotty had tried to argue, but was interrupted as both Spock and Uhura showed up. Scotty had given up fighting with Jim once Uhura had asked.

“Mr. Scott has assured us he can fix the system,” Spock said, correctly reading Jim’s emotions from their joined hands.

Jim took a moment to savor that Spock was willing to read him so much. It was hard, at the beginning of their tenure on the Enterprise, to have Spock act on what he thought was the correct emotion.

There had been a time where Spock had tried to make himself as Vulcan as possible. There were days he had been closed to everyone, even Uhura.

But that has changed over the years, and Jim was thankful.

Because moments like this one would be harder to deal with, if not for Spock’s willingness to acknowledge Jim’s emotions.

“I know. But it’s still hard to see her so damaged,” Jim sighed.

Spock nodded in understanding. Jim quirked a small smile at him before sobering.

He had two more jobs to do before he could retire for the night.

Jim would go to med bay to make sure Bones would get some sleep, even if it was just in his office. But first…

“Okay. Now I’ve seen the damage, read the initial report. Let’s go talk to a person who’s in the brig,” Jim said, knowing that Anderson Kent was not going to have much longer in Starfleet.

Spock led the way out of engineering.

Anderson Kent had left his quarters four hours ago to be interred in the brig.

According to the guards who had a duty station there, he had come on his own. He hadn’t said a word before walking into a cell and collapsing in the room. He had burn marks on his hands as if he had tried to handle hot metal.

The guard who had called up to the Bridge to inform Jim of this said he hadn’t activated the cell door’s force field but had posted there all the same.

Jim wasn’t sure that Kent was really the one at fault, but the initial reports did say the HECS was the first thing that caught on fire.

Which meant that nothing good would happen for Kent.

Spock lead them into a turbolift that would take them to the brig.

“Mr. Kent believes he’s a danger to the ship,” Spock said.

Jim turned and raised an eyebrow, but he understood what Spock meant. "He’s feeling guilty, more like it. And he isn't handling it well."

Spock still hadn’t let go of Jim’s hand. Their fingers were intertwined, and Jim held on fast. He needed the support, and he liked Spock's hands.

Not one of the crew who had seen their hands had commented on it. Some of them started to grin when they caught sight of them. But not a single comment. Jim didn’t know what that meant but he tucked the thought away unsure what to do with that information. He had a suspicion that his not-as-hopeless-as-previously-thought love wasn’t as secret as he thought.

The doors of the turbo lift opened up to the deck with the brig at the other end of the hallway.  Jim and Spock were greeted by the sounds of yelling. Jim glanced at Spock in sudden concern. A woman was yelling, in anger if her tone was anything to go by, from inside the brig. Jim and Spock dropped their hands and raced for the brig door.

There was a guard by the entrance to the brig who looked like he would rather go into an active firefight then deal with what was going on.

Jim and Spock both came to a sudden stop when they saw why.

Nurse Camelia Warrington was shouting herself hoarse at Kent’s cell. There was a second guard who was trying to force her to leave. He had a hand wrapped around her arm and was attempting to pull her away from the cells.

Warrington wasn't moving. Jim spared a moment to be impressed. Warrington wasn't the largest of women, and the crewman who was trying to move her was one of his biggest, and she wasn’t even budging.

She was still dressed in the surgical nursing uniform. It was no longer pristine white, streaks of blood running along the front and on her sleeves. Kent didn’t seem to have noticed her presence. His lack of response seemed to only make her angrier.

“You don’t get to hide in here, Andy!” she shouted, fists slamming on the forcefield. “You don’t get to hide in here like a child!” Her face was bright red with anger.

She yelled a few choice curse words.

Kent didn’t move from where he was sitting on the floor. He was staring at the deck blankly.

Jim was livid .

Warrington did not have the right to talk to Kent like this. No one had the right to speak with Kent until Jim, Spock or Scotty did.

Because Kent was at the center of a major investigation.

And Warrington was going to make everything worse.

Kent was already drowning in guilt. He might do something desperate if people pushed him. Jim didn’t want him pushed. Jim had come down to see Kent just to get his story and put him back in his quarters.

But beyond Jim's fury at Warrington, he could clearly see that Kent was feeling more than just slightly guilty. This called for more serious measures and Kent would have to be put on watch. Jim shared a glance with Spock and Spock nodded minutely. Spock would make sure there was a suicide watch on Kent as soon as possible. Kent might not be at fault, or he might be completely at fault. Jim didn’t know, but he was sure that what Kent thought was that he was to blame for everything .

Before Jim could move to stop her, Warrington abruptly stopped yelling.

In one swift movement, she wrenched her arm away from Jim's biggest crewman and crouched down to be at the same height as Kent. “We’re both Warrington’s!” she hissed. “Act like one!”

Jim felt the surprise and confusion run through him.

Anderson Kent had no relation to Camelia Warrington in his Starfleet file, and Jim had read the file not ten minutes ago.

That caught Kent’s attention apparently too as he started and shook at her words.

“Maybe you are, Cami.” He replied slowly, his voice rough and broken. He didn’t look up from the floor. “But father has made it perfectly clear that I am not and nor will I ever be, a Warrington.”

Spock made to move forward, but Jim stopped him. Something in him said that this was the reason for Kent’s sudden downturn in attitude.

Kent’s pronouncement seemed to bring Warrington up short. “What?” She asked surprised, “What are you talking about Andy?” She was still glaring at him, but Jim could hear the trepidation in her tone.

“Dearest Dad has made it clear that he’ll never recognize me,” Kent spat out, gaze still locked on the floor.

“He hasn’t!” Warrington shrilled.

“He did,” Kent sighed, “ Captain Warrington ordered me to never tell anyone.” He glanced up at that point, just a quick movement of his eyes. Jim could see the guilt Kent was feeling written in his features.

Kent caught sight of Jim and Spock and he froze, eyes widening in fear.

“And now my Captain can see how much of a failure I am,” he shrank into himself further.

Kent wasn’t a small man by any means, but watching him curl up like that made him look like a child. Now that Jim had a better look at the kid, it was easy to see how much he did look like Captain Warrington.

Warrington twisted around and her jaw dropped. She scrambled to her feet. “Captain.”

“Shut it, Nurse," Jim snapped. "I’m not happy with you yelling at my crewman without permission.” He was closer to furious, but Jim had better control of his emotions after nearly ten years as a Captain. His anger was simmering under the surface, hot and dark, but ultimately hidden.

Warrington, clearly chastised, nodded.

But Jim wasn’t going to harp on about it. Instead, he turned to the crewman in the unlocked cell.

“Anderson Kent.”

Kent looked up quickly and then looked back down. “Yes, Captain.”

“Why are you here?” Jim asked. He needed to know why Kent had felt so guilty as to lock himself in the brig. He needed to know Kent’s reasoning before he could move on.

Kent took in a ragged breath. “Because my negligence got people killed.”

Jim shook his head. “According to Nurse Chapel and Doctor McCoy, no one’s died yet.”

“But someone could have,” Kent whispered, almost to himself. “Because I let myself be upset and ignore the HECS and my work. Scotty counted on me to do my job, and I let that asshole distract me.”

Jim internally winced. What the hell had Captain Warrington done to his crewman that it affected his performance to this extreme? Kent had been an excellent crewman until a few months ago... for this radical of a change to have happened... Jim knew it wasn’t good. While Jim thought Captain Warrington was an asshat on a good day, Kent seemed to be somewhere between angry and defeated when it came to his father.

“Well yes, the HECS wasn’t a system that could just be ignored. But Kent, early reports say it just wasn’t the HECS. There was something else too,” Jim explained. "What exactly did Captain Warrington do?"

“Dad didn’t do any-!” The Warrington currently in their presence started to say, but Spock cut her off.

“Nurse Warrington, if you wish to stay, I might recommend that you do not interrupt the Captain and Mr. Kent,” he commanded with a look that any member of the Enterprise crew knew was a glare of reprimand.

Warrington obligingly snapped her mouth shut but she didn’t look happy about it.

“What did Captain Warrington do?” Jim asked again. He didn’t want to be pulled into family issues, but as he now had a damaged ship, injured crew and a crewman so upset he had willingly put himself in the brig, Jim was going to get to the bottom of this.

“He told me that I was a mistake .” Kent suddenly snapped, ”That telling me to join Starfleet was a mistake !  That every action I take will reflect on him and he wants nothing to do with me. He told me that once Cami transfers, he wants me to never contact anyone from the Warrington’s again.” Kent got quieter as he spoke, all of his sudden fury draining out of him with every word. His voice near a whisper by the end. “My father raised me, with Camilla. We’re half-siblings. I can’t imagine not talking to her. He just threw me out like I was nothing to him!”

Jim kept his expression neutral despite how well he understood. He may have comprehended having problems with parental figures, but Jim had a job to do. He was going to get answers from a negligent crewman.

“When did Captain Warrington tell you this?” Spock asked.

Jim glanced at Spock who had a tight grip on his hands from where they were placed at the small of his back. Spock may not have had such a bad relationship with his father currently, but there was some strain on the relationship that the pair hadn’t grown out of entirely, nor would they ever.

Spock was also looking for information.

“Just before we had our last shore leave,” Kent responded after a moment. “Cami told me that she was going to transfer now that father had his own ship. So, I called father to see if there was an opening for me. Father didn’t want to talk to me. He said I was worthless. That he didn’t want me near his name again and to never call him again.”

He took a deep breath and continued, “He ordered me to never talk about him or my family again. That I was cut off from that point on.”

Kent fell silent.

Jim sighed. “So, you became distracted.”

Kent nodded. He didn’t look up from the deck.

Camilla Warrington was crying.

Jim sighed again, rubbing his hand over his eyes. “Okay, Kent. You are hereby ordered to remain here until further notice. I’m going to send one of the doc’s down to look you over and to let them fix your hands. I’ll have a guard posted outside, and no one else will be allowed in until Mr. Spock or I give the command.”

Jim was going to give the kid what he wanted for now. The therapist that Jim was going to send down would be more equipped to handle this. And the guards would now be on suicide watch, until the pitiful excuse for a Petty Officer was cleared by the therapist and Bones.

Kent nodded morosely.

Warrington opened her mouth to start to say something, but she didn’t even get a full word out before Kent flinched so severely he physically shook.

Spock reached out and took hold of her arm, gently but firmly guiding her out of the room.

Warrington didn’t fight. She seemed to just give up when Spock grabbed her. She went with him meekly.

“I won’t let her in here either,” Jim reassured Kent, with one look at Kent's expression.

Kent whispered, voice so quiet that Jim struggled to hear it, “I can’t see her right now. I love my sister but… she defends him…” he didn’t finish but Jim could guess what was going to be said.

“… and you can’t handle that,” Jim agreed. “I’ll be sure and tell the guards to keep her away.”

Kent acknowledged with a small sound that Jim took to mean agreement. He still didn’t look up.

Jim turned on his heel and left the room, unable to stand seeing one of his own so defeated with no way to help him. Kent wasn’t going to be able to do much until after he talked to a therapist. Maybe someday Warrington would be allowed in, but until then Jim would respect Kent's wishes. Just one of Bones’ doctors and a therapist.

Spock was near the turbo lift with Warrington. She was still crying, but she wasn’t talking or making any move to come back to the brig.

Spock’s eyes met Jim’s.

And for no apparent reason that he could figure, Jim knew what Spock was going to do. Spock was going to take Warrington back to her quarters, and then he would meet up with Jim in the Med Bay.

Jim nodded, showing his understanding of what Spock was going to do, before pushing the moment from his mind. He would wonder about the experience later, when the ship was safe and under control.

Jim turned to the guards. “When did you pull up the forcefield?” He remembered the original report had specified that the guards said they weren’t going to put up the field.

The larger guard sighed. “When the nurse came in. She looked so angry that I pulled it up for Kent’s protection.”

Jim sighed. That was a good call. He turned to leave.

“Don’t leave him alone and don’t let anyone in other than the doctor I’ll have Bones send down,” Jim murmured to the men. “Watch him. Don’t let him hurt himself.”

“I won’t let him out of my sight,” one of the guards said, standing and walking to the door to take post, “I’ll send a message to the bridge if something happens.”

The other gave Jim a pained and exhausted smile, "Understood, sir."

Jim accepted their understanding and left.

The turbo lift was silent. Jim slumped against the wall.

Days like today were always hard for far too many reasons.

-

Meanwhile in the med bay

Bones felt stiff all over.

Ten hours of surgery. Four of which were spent on Pavel Chekov. The rest on every other patient. Then he had spent even more time checking in with the non-surgery patients, and their status.

Bones was damned tired.

But Bones was also damned proud of himself and his team.

They hadn’t lost a soul.

The ship would not have to mourn a single one of her crew members today. Bones had done his damnedest to make sure that didn’t happen.

He’d once again fought for their lives and won. It was up to the rest of the crew to help themselves recover from here.

His crew would be fine, physically.

The rest was going to take time and effort.

Bones didn’t think that one of the injured engineering crewmen, Stott, would stay in Engineering after this experience, however. The kid from a mostly-water planet was looking a little shell-shocked. He hadn’t experienced any kind of fire like that before. It was a good thing the kid was good enough at hand to hand fighting to transfer to security.

They would do fine there.

Most of Bones’ staff had been set back to their rooms to find sleep. Very few of their quarters had been damaged by the fire and explosion.

Gillpe was asleep on the floor, tucked into a corner of the room against a wall. Bone had tried to move him, but apparently, his species couldn’t sleep in a bed anyway, so he was fine as he was. He had been indispensable running around in triage and helping Warrington sort the patients.

Bones had sent Warrington away about three hours ago. Her work during triage had helped in preventing any deaths. Despite looking dead on her feet, she’d still had a fire in her eyes. Bones was fairly certain she hadn’t gone back to her quarters upon dismissal.

Chapel was asleep in her office, and had been for the last hour. She had worked with Bones through the entirety of the ten hours he’d been in surgery. She had been his partner on the operating table, working perfectly in sync to save lives. But now they were both dead on their feet.

Bones knew he should go back to his quarters and sleep.

Or hell, there was a decently comfortable couch in his office that would be fine but…

Pavel was still in one of the three private rooms attached to the Med Bay.  

And Bones was weak.

He had stuffed that part of him that was deeply in love with Pasha in the back of his mind and now, after everything was done, he could finally, finally let that part of himself out. Bones could allow himself to feel the terror, fear, and grief that having Pasha that severely injured and on his table had caused in him.

Bones wasn’t going to leave Pasha for longer than he had to. Not until Pasha was out of his med bay and in his own quarters.

Bones pressed his hand onto the reader at the door. It beeped quietly as the door slid open.

Pavel was still and unmoving, but the monitors said that he was recovering. There was a note on the padd that collected the data that said Pavel had been waking up and then falling back asleep over the course of the last several hours.

Bones felt relief slide through him. Pasha was recovering fast. Good.

As Bones transferred the files to his padd and busied himself with taking care of Pavel’s readings and charts, he heard the med bay door open from the other room.

There was a faint exclamation of, “Captain!” from one of the on-duty nurses. Xie’s species didn’t need to sleep for more than one twenty-four hour cycle every Terran week. So Xie had volunteered to be the one who stayed on duty after days like this one. Bones was grateful to them. They were one of his more reliable nurses.

“Come on in, Jim,” Bones said, peeking out of the room and waving Jim over. “I’m in here.”

Bones might have been more tired then he realized because he honestly didn’t see Jim move from the doorway of Medbay to Pasha’s private room. He followed as Bones sank into a chair next to Pasha’s bed. He stood silently next to Bones as Bones read over the last bit of information about Pasha’s condition.

“Bones?” Jim asked. Bones knew what he was asking, Jim wasn’t asking just one question. He was asking all of them at once.

And Bones didn’t know if he had the answers to most of them.

“He and Riley will be fine, in the long run,” Bones said finally. “We’ve healed the burns and the broken bones. The burns were the worst I’ve seen in a while, Jim. But they got to us in time. They won’t even scar.” He turned in the chair to face Jim, because if he didn’t then he wouldn’t look up from Pavel for a long time and his Captain needed his attention.

Jim nodded. “I saw your report a little while ago. I’m glad the T-CFRC’s worked.”

Bones gave Jim a smile that felt weary on his face. “Yes. Please thank Uhura for me.”

“Already have,” Jim said quietly.

“Good,” Bones grunted.

Together they fell silent.

Bones, because he wasn’t ready to answer the rest of Jim’s questions. Jim was silent because, well, Bones knew his best friend very well and knew that Jim was waiting for him to be ready to talk.

They had done this type of song and dance before.

A few moments of the steady beep of the monitors tracking Pavel’s’ heartbeat and other vitals passed before Bones could put together the words he needed to say.

Pavel shifted, his monitors reading a slight speed up before resting again.

Pasha must have woken up for a moment then gone back to sleep.

Bones felt his heart shift, and he knew.

“I don’t ever want him on my table again, Jim.” Bones’ voice was hoarse. He took a deep breath, leveling a steady look at his best friend before continuing. “I’m in love with this man,  and I had to shut that part of me off while I worked on him.”

“Bones…” Jim started to say, but Bones wouldn’t let him finish.

“I can’t stop him from doing his job either. I won’t mollycoddle Pavel because that won’t help either of us. I’m just going to have to deal,” Bones said, knowing deep down what his answer was going to be. “I love him so much , Jim. I would rather learn to shut that part of me off and save him, then fail and see him go.”

Jim reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder. Bones leaned into the comforting touch from his best friend.

Jim was reminding him that Bones wasn’t alone in feeling this way.

“I love Pavel so much,” he repeated, a slight warble in his tone as his emotions surged up in the back of his throat. “I will always fix him,” Bones promised. “That’s all I can do.”  

He took a moment, briefly glancing at Pavel on the bed, then sighed, “I need a drink.”

“You’re not getting one,” Jim said firmly. His tone brooked no arguments. Bones didn’t offer anything at the order, too exhausted to even crack a joke at Jim’s expense. “You’re getting some sleep instead.” He squeezed Bones’ shoulder and let go. “Come on let’s get you to your office. I don’t think there’s a force in this universe that could get you to leave the med bay.”

“Damn straight” Bones murmured. “But I don’t think I can leave Pasha, Jim. Not right now.” He hadn’t even tried to get up.

Bones ached for the man on the bed in his Med Bay. But the Doctor in him knew that Pavel would be alright. And the man in him knew that Bones would stay by his side and protect him the best he could.

All of Jim’s determination to get Bones to a bed drained out of him at Bones’ words.  Bones knew that Jim understood what he wasn’t saying out loud. “Oh, Bones .”

Bones let a weak smile spread access his face. “I know. I know. I’ll be fine. Go check on Riley before you leave. He’ll be fine, but I know you need to see him.” Bones pointed to the next room. Riley was honestly going to be fine, but he and Jim had a….shared history to say the least. And because of that shared history, Jim was protective of Riley in a way that he wasn't with many others of his crew. Not that Jim showed it often.

Jim nodded and pushed away from Bones.

He paused at the doorway, giving Bones one last look.

“As long as Chekov is in Starfleet, Bones, you won’t be able to stop him from getting injured. He’s in Command. But you can be there to make sure he always comes back.”

Bones didn’t look at Jim, he just smiled down at Pavel. “I’ll be there for him. I’ll be his support for as long as he needs me.”

“Ask him out Bones,” Jim advised, his voice floating back softly as he was nearly out of the door. “You might be happy with his answer.”

Bones heard the door slide open in the next room.

Though Jim was long gone from earshot, Bones slumped back into his seat with an exhaled, “I know, Jim.” He reached out and took the padd of Pasha’s information again. He could feel his eyes growing heavy, but he forced them open.

He was so tired, but he was going to keep watch over Pasha.

Pasha deserved that much.

-

Four hours later

Pavel woke to murmured whispers.

Doctor M’benga and Nurse Chapel were whispering from the edge of his bed as they looked over the machines that were attached to him.

Chapel had a padd in her hand, and M’benga was leaning over the machine that hummed as it  delivered the oxygen that Pavel was breathing.

But their attention wasn’t really on the machines. Instead it on the man sleeping with his head on the bed, and holding Pavel’s now mostly-healed hand loosely in his.

A man with disheveled brown hair and a blue shirt.

Len.

Pavel still wasn’t able to move yet, his body coping with the after-effects of the pain relievers used during surgery, and having slept them off.

But he also didn’t try too hard.

Len’s hand felt too perfect in his. Pavel didn’t know when he would get to feel Len’s hand in his again.

“I can’t believe he’s still asleep,” M’benga whispered. “McCoy usually doesn’t sleep this deeply when he’s got patients in the medbay.”

“Doctor, McCoy was in surgery for a total of ten hours yesterday… and that was on top of his normal work day, and I know he didn’t stop for at least two hours after I crashed out in my office. And that was when he came in here. He was probably up even longer,” Chapel chastised, glancing up from her padd at Len’s sleeping form.

Pavel wondered at her words. If Len hadn’t slept for so long…. Then why was he here? With Pavel? Instead of in the more comfortable bed in his quarters?

Shit , Leonard, that's like twenty-one straight hours. Get some rest, will you?” M’benga quietly berated his superior officer as he finished with Pavel’s chart. His voice was fond.

Len didn’t stir.

“Sir, Riley will be waking up soon. His burns were less severe, and he’s been more restless since dermal regeneration. We’ll need to check on him.” Chapel said.

Pavel felt relief sweep through him.

Riley had been further away when the wall had exploded. Pavel had been lucky enough to have the lid of the toolbox act as a shield from most of the explosion, pavel remembered feeling the lid impact him before he blacked out, but Riley had only distance from the epicenter to keep him safe. Pavel had spared enough of a thought for Riley before the pain of the burns had knocked him out.

Riley was Pavel’s friend, and losing him would have hurt. They were both going to be okay, and it was probably thanks to the man who was holding on to Pavel’s hand like a lover.

Len . The best doctor that the Enterprise could ever have.

Pavel was sure that he loved Len. Pavel was also rather sure that loved may be too weak of a word to describe how he felt for Len. he had known for a while that Len was more than just important to him. He felt safe with Len. Len made him laugh. Len could talk for hours about his home in the American south, and his daughter and Pavel would always be interested. And the surprising thing was that Len probably loved him. When Len had started to do that, Pavel didn’t know. But something in Pavel’s gut screamed that Len loved him.

“We will check on Riley in just a moment. Where’s that extra blanket?” M'Benga said.

Chapel was already heading to the cupboard against the far wall. She pulled a blanket out, “Right here. Let me.”

She came around and opened the blanket up before spreading it across Len’s shoulders gently. “He’ll be fine now, at least until he wakes up with a pain in his neck.” She smiled indulgently at her CMO. “And then he’ll complain all about it until he’s a pain in our necks.”

“He will,” M’benga smiled as they left the room.

Pavel still didn't want to move much, but he tried to squeeze Len’s hand anyway. Len’s grip tightened slightly around Pavel’s fingers before loosening again.

Smiling at the ceiling, Pavel went back to sleep for a while longer. He dreamed of long nights simply holding Len and enjoying the closeness. He didn’t worry about what may happen next. He would be fine.

Len would be there when he woke up.

When he woke again, Pavel had no idea how much time has passed. Len hadn’t moved from his spot at Pavel’s side, his head akimbo on top of the blanket on the bed. He was still sleeping. Sometime in the few hours that Pavel was probably asleep, Len had managed to tuck himself further into the blanket that Chapel had draped over him.

He had also wrapped their hands up in the blanket together like he was making sure that Pavel wasn’t going to grow cold.

Pavel wondered briefly if Len moving their hands had woken him up. But then the low painful throbbing coming from his body swam to the surface of his awareness. He could feel the aches coming from the areas that Pavel instinctively knew had been severely burned, but thanks to Len and the medical staff had been healed to a relative degree.

Ah.

The painkillers were starting to fade. Pavel would have to call for someone soon to get his next dose. He was also probably due for another round of burn healing soon.  

Pavel shifted slightly under the covers. He was gaining control of his body more as he woke up. That also meant he could feel the pain more through the haze of lingering painkillers and sleep.

He could feel the tender skin of freshly healed burns. The growing pains of the osteo-regenerator. Pavel knew with how he felt now that he would likely be in medbay for weeks.

It still hurt to breathe, but it had hurt far worse when he’d first woken up, so Pavel knew he would recover. Pavel hadn’t bothered thinking otherwise.  

Len shifted in his sleep - just a quick turn of his head and a very quiet mummer of something that Pavel couldn’t quite make out.  

Pavel’s heart melted. Len looked so peaceful, something calm on his face that Pavel always enjoyed seeing. Len looked years younger. He was asleep so deeply. Pavel was loathe to wake him up or even move. After years of conversations they had in the mess, Pavel  knew that was hard for Len to get good rest while he had injured crewmen in the medbay.

Pavel smiled at the memory of years spent on the Enterprise sharing meals together. Most of the time Pavel had initially thought that the friendly doctor had talked to him solely because they were always slightly separated from the rest. Kirk was regularly talking to Spock. Spock had Uhura to talk to most days. Uhura would speak Scotty up and down in Gaelic. And being part of the navigators and the helmsman assigned to the Alpha shift, Hikaru and Pavel weren’t allowed to take lunch at the same time.

But looking back now, with growing suspicion, Pavel could begin to see that Len talked to him for so many more reasons.

Reasons like Len being in love with Pavel.

Pavel remembered well the look that Len had given him when they had met on Altimir inside the USS Franklin. Pavel had assumed Len’s expression was relief that he didn’t have to treat Pavel for something more than a few bruises.

But now that he looked back, giving it more thought with all he now knew about the good doctor -it was apparent that Len’s face held only a look of relief that Pavel was alive.

A million different memories of expressions on Len’s face ran through Pavel’s mind. All of them, ones he had seen on Len’s face. Things Pavel had long dismissed as mere friendship.

Now that Pavel had understood and acknowledged his own feelings, he could read Len clear as day.

Len loved him.

Pavel slowly reached with the hand not in Len's grip for the button that raised the bed slowly to a sitting position. The bed moved slow enough not to jar Pavel too much; the tender new skin still fragile and painful when he moved.

Pavel bit down on a gasp somehow, when the bed finally came to a stop.

Len shifted again. This time his words were more of a displeased sound of grumbling and less like actual words. Len moved back, trying to reach down and curl into the blankets more.

He turned, and Pavel could now see his face. Len hadn’t opened his eyes, but Pavel could see he was beginning to wake.

Pavel watched, amused, as Len’s grip on his hand tightened slightly before Len stiffened as he became fully aware. Len’s eyes flew open, and he sat up in a rush, but he did not jerk his hand away. Pavel was glad. He wasn’t sure he could stand such a sudden movement.

Len looked at him with an unguarded expression of surprise, like he hadn’t realized where he was and seeing Pavel wasn’t something he expected. But despite his surprise, Len looked happy to see him.

Pavel saw when Len’s brain finally woke up enough to process what was going on. His eyes lit up and his brow furrowed, and Pavel knew that meant the part of his brain that was reserved for “Doctor McCoy” was also awake. “What are you doing sitting up?” Len queried in a voice that was slightly deeper and heavy with sleep.

Pavel shivered at the sound. He had always liked Len’s voice, but this deeper, rougher tone was a beautiful, thrilling sound.

Len frowned at the shiver that ran up Pavel’s spine. He gave Pavel a once-over, as if checking to see if he was cold or uncomfortable. “You okay? You need a blanket…” Len trailed off as he realized there was a blanket tucked snugly around his shoulders. He looked confused as to why it was there.

Pavel smiled. “I don’t,” he said simply. “I would like some more pain relievers if that is possible? I hurt.” While the pain had somewhat faded, it was still there and loomed with the promise to get worse the next time he moved.

Len nodded and moved to stand. Pavel gasped out when Len jarred his hand.

Len froze, looking at their joined hands. “I… Sorry,” he apologized, looking profoundly embarrassed and at a loss for words.

He quickly but gently untangled their fingers, letting go before gently placing Pavel’s hand back on the bed.

“Sorry,” Len murmured again, a blush growing hot and bright on his face. “Didn’t know what I was grabbing in my sleep.”

Pavel smiled indulgently, not believing a single word. “Didn’t say I minded it. Just don’t move so quickly next time. I’m tender!” Pavel desperately wanted to hold hands again. He hoped he could convince Len of that.

Len was marvelous - one of the best men he’d ever known - and really, honestly, being nearly blown up should allow Pavel the right to ask out the man who had saved his life.

Len reached over to the machine that Pavel was hooked up to.  He reassessed the drips of the medication that had kept Pavel pain free for the last several hours.  He entered a few commands and immediately Pavel began to feel better.

“That should do it,” Len said firmly. “Other than the pain Pasha, how are you feeling?”

Pavel felt his grin widen at Len’s casual use of his diminutive . He loved it when Len called him Pasha. “Mostly tender and sore,” he answered, mentally taking stock of all the aches, and delicate places he could feel on his skin

“That’s the pain relievers talking,” Len said ruefully. “We had to regenerate nearly half of all your epidermis. You had broken several ribs and a couple of other bones from the explosion. You also had lacerations and damage to your liver, heart, stomach, lower intestines, and a few other minor organs, as well as a fairly severe concussion.”

As Len laid out the laundry list of his injuries, Pavel realized that Len was now cradling the hand that he had previously intertwined with Pavel’s. He wasn’t quite touching the palm, but still holding it as if Pavel’s hand was something precious and made of glass. His left hand was flexing and relaxing, over and over again. It seemed as if Len was trying to memorize the feeling of Pavel’s hand in his.

“Well…. Shit,” Pavel finally said, now understanding the full extent of his injuries and why he hurt as much as he did.

The explosion had been terrible, and he could remember the burning pain all over and around him. He remembered trying to reach Riley, who was further away.

“I’m told that you blocked most of the blast by crouching behind a toolbox lid, and that prevented your death,” Len said grimly, face stern.

Pavel grimaced. “Oh.”

They were both silent for a few moments, both listening to the reassuring beep of the monitors that beat out a steady rhythm that assured them that Pavel was going to be okay.

Then Len took a deep breath, and something in his frame seemed to relax. Pavel had been Len’s friend for so long that he understood what it meant. Len was no longer pushing his ‘Doctor Self’ forward. He was back to being just Len a very concerned man who had far too much medical knowledge that was probably sane for a man who cared for everyone this much.

And Pavel…

Well, he was in love with that man.

“You also showed up without food in your system, Pasha! Which honestly,” Bones sidetracked,  “that probably helped in keeping you under and sedated and without blood pressure issues but damnit Pasha! Eat when you’re supposed to!” Len grumbled, frowning in frustration. “It’s one of Jim’s standing orders for a reason!”

Pavel felt relief run through him. If Len was going to lecture him on things that Pavel could have prevented rather than just be concerned for his safety, then Pavel was going to be alright, and even Len knew it.

“Then you should make sure I eat,” Pavel replied without thinking. And then he felt his heart freeze. He hadn’t meant to ask Len like this but Pavel wasn’t about to back down now - not when this moment was here finally. His resolve solidified in his heart.

He would do this.

Even if it this wasn’t exactly how he planned it.

The statement brought Len up short. He looked at Pavel confused. “… I already do?” he asked, with the universe's most adorable bemused expression on his face.

Pavel realized Len was thinking about his own tendency to drag the senior bridge crew to eat whenever they forgot. Which, while hilarious to watch when Len showed up on the bridge to drag both the XO and CO to lunch because they’d forgotten for the third day in a row while he bitched about listening to their own orders, that wasn’t what Pavel was talking about.

“I mean on a date, Len,” Pavel said, resolute. “I want to go on a date with you. And you can make sure that I eat.” He held his breath, wondering what he would do if he was wrong about everything .

Len just stared at him for a long moment before falling back into the chair with an impressive thud. “What?” He looked like he’d just been punched across the jaw, his eyes wide and his expression stunned.

“Please go on a date with me?” Pavel rasped, the fear and anxiety beginning to bubble at the base of his ribcage. He hoped it was shock, and not something much worse. His brain was already running every worst case scenario it could think of. Pavel hoped against all hope that Len would say yes.

Len leaned back, looking at Pavel with an open and unguarded expression. “You’re serious?” he asked, his voice sounding small, like he was afraid of the answer. “Please tell me you’re serious?” His voice was nearly a whisper.

Pavel tried very hard to not be hurt by his question. He knew his romantic history wasn’t the most stable, but he had never asked anyone out as a joke. “Yes.”

Len was quiet for a long moment, allowing Pavel even more time to mentally talk himself out of his own beliefs regarding his findings about Len’s behavior towards him over nearly their entire friendship.

“Pasha,” he said, taking a breath and meeting Pavel’s eyes with an expression of hope in them that raised Pavel’s heart, “you’ve gotta mean this. I’ve been in love with you for years.” He said as he reached out and retook Pavel’s hand. His tone was rough and his expression brutally honest, and Pavel felt his heart pounding in his chest.

Years .

Len had loved him for years .

Pavel’s attention fell to their connection. Len’s grip was just as warm as it had been earlier and for a million different reasons, it made Pavel so damn happy.

Pavel understood the sentiment, (Pavel would be afraid too, if all his dreams were just handed to him on a platter) and all of his remaining hurt melted away like a spring thaw in St. Petersburg. Len was scared - but also hopeful. He wasn’t asking out of malice or judgement. He was asking because Pasha was right.

Leonard McCoy was in love with Pavel Chekov, and had been for years . He looked like he couldn’t quite believe that Pavel was offering him something he definitely wanted. Pavel had long known that Len’s exwife had deeply hurt him when she broke her promise of forever. One of the few times Pavel had seen Len well and truly plastered, drunk to the point of forgetting what he did, Len had just talked about forever and how it had meant something to him. How it had meant the world to a younger Bones.

It hurt Pavel deeply to remember how, as the Captain and Spock had dragged Len away from his place in the rec room, Len had just muttred that he didn’t place much stock in forever anymore. He had been hurt to much.

If Len had been falling for years, then Pavel did understand where Len was coming from.

“I’ve been falling for weeks, Len,” Pavel explained gently, his voice full of his newly discovered love bubbling in his lungs “I want this. I want to see if this can last. I want to see if we have that chance at forever. That chance that Hikaru and Ben have. That Scotty and Uhura have. And the chance the Captain and the Commander have, whenever they finally realize it.” He added as an afterthought.

Bones’ expression took a hit of a laugh, a surprised flash of humor running across his face, and Pavel felt his whole body warm at the sight of it. Pavel wanted that chance at forever he could taste it.

He wanted to know if Len felt the same way.

Pavel took a deep breath  in spite of the pain and smiled. “I want you, Len. Will you give that chance of forever too? I think I can give all that I have if you do too.”

Len’s eyes never moved from Pavel’s. It felt like Len was looking into Pavel’s soul. And that was fine because while he may not have realized it until recently, but Len owned Pavel’s soul in the same way Pavel owned Len’s. “You’d better be ready, Pasha, because I love you. And yes , I want that date.” Len smiled.

It was one of the most beautiful smiles Len had ever given Pavel. It was slow, but not small. It spread across Len’s face like a dawn breaking, making him look years younger. If Pavel wasn’t already so damn in love with Len then that look alone would have done it.

Because Len used to smile at Pavel before like Pavel was the best thing that had ever existed in the world.

Pavel smiled back now and Len’s grin had changed into something else. This smile was different. This was softer and more content. This was pure, unadulterated love and Pavel would be stupid to ignore it. He could live with both the expressions for the rest of his life.

Or forever. What ever came first.

“Once I get out of this bed, Leonard McCoy, I’m taking you on the best date ever,” Pavel promised.

Len laughed softly. “I’m sure that you will. Once you get released from medical.” His grin took on an edge of mischievousness and he gently squeezed Pavel’s hand lightly. “Which,” he added, “as your doctor, I can tell you won’t be soon.”

Pavel pouted, though he hadn’t really expected anything different. Since he’d started the extra medical training with Len, Pavel had begun to understand what went on with his body when it was injured, and the way he felt now was a dead giveaway that he was going to spend more time in bed than normal. He wasn’t going to push his body too fast.

“But there is something I can do for you,” Len grinned and Pavel felt his brow furrow. It wasn’t like Len could speed up his healing process, at least not any more than he was already trying. He was about to pose a question when Len leaned forward and pressed his lips gently against Pavel’s. Pavel melted at the sensation of Len’s lips against his.

Pavel smiled into the kiss.

This was definitely something Len could do. And Pavel really liked it.

-

Meanwhile

Spock watched as Jim manually closed the door to the private room in medical. It slid shut with nothing more than a wisp of a sound.

“Bones and Chekov are fine,” Jim said, smiling softly. He brushed against Spock as he walked away. Spock could feel a slight hum of happiness emanating from Jim. But there was also a sense of loss and loneliness. And a determination to ignore something.

“Jim what is -,” Spock began to ask, but Jim pushed past him, throwing him a smile. It pained Spock at his core - tt was an empty smile.

“Later, Spock,” Jim waved him off as he left the med bay. “We’ll talk later.”

Spock stood still, watching Jim leave. He wasn’t sure waiting until ‘later’ would be a smart thing to do.

The one he loved was hurting and determined to ignore his own pain. Spock wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do to fix it, but he would certainly try.

His chosen but not accepted mate must be taken care of when he wouldn’t care for himself. Spock would care for Jim when Jim wouldn’t.

Spock was perfect material for a good mate, and if Jim was ever going to see that, then Spock would have to do something. He would start by being there for Jim. He may not fully understand the emotions that Jim had, or where they had come from, but there was something clearly bothering him.

Spock followed Jim out of the med bay and back to Jim’s quarters.

Jim hadn’t locked them, but Spock knocked none the less.

The answer of “Come in, Spock. I know it’s you.” wasn’t a surprise.

Spock entered the room carefully. Jim was standing on the far side near the replicators. He was holding a shot glass.

“I thought I said later, Spock,” Jim sighed, placing the empty glass on the table.

“Is it not later than before?” Spock asked, knowing Jim knew full well Spock had understood his meaning, but Spock was purposefully using Jim’s words against him. He was rewarded with the smile Jim usually wore when Spock acted, as Jim would call it, ‘like a smart-ass’.

Jim flashed him his trademark amused smile, but it was tired, signaling that a t least he wasn't bothered by Spock's intrusion.

“I guess it is,” Jim laughed flatly. He reached for a bottle of something that Spock didn’t recognize on sight, but assumed must have been alcohol as Jim poured it into the shot glass. Jim, seeing Spock’s eyes following his movement, gestured to his full shot glass. “Want one?”

Spock shook his head with a negative. While most of the Terran alcohol did agree with his preferred flavor profiles, he didn’t want any right now.

Jim shrugged and knocked back the shot, quick and efficient.

“One for Bones, and one for Scotty. Here’s to them.” Jim murmured, before pouring himself one more. Spock wondered if Jim thought Spock couldn’t hear him. Spock’s hearing was still better than most. He wondered if he should stop Jim.

Before Spock could say something, (what Spock was going to say, he didn’t know), Jim took the last shot.

“And one for me. And my damn heart,” Jim muttered once he finished the last of the alcohol.

Spock had known that Mr. Scott, Doctor McCoy, and Jim had gone drinking together whenever they were on shore leave - and sometimes when they were off duty at the same time on the ship - but he had never known why.

Mr. Scott had begun to date Nyota almost three weeks ago. The day after leaving Yen’bu.

Doctor McCoy was now clearly engaged in a romantic relationship with Mr. Chekov.

Spock realized that Jim was alone. His friends had all found love. They no longer drank to forget their emotions. Jim was alone.

Who held Jim’s heart so much that Jim sought out alcohol to deal with it?

Spock realized he now understood why they drank. That thought caused his heart to constrict painfully.

Jim seemed to sway for a moment. Spock didn’t think that the alcohol was that strong but three shots in quick succession would do something to a human no matter their age and tolerance.

Spock made a decision.

If whoever held Jim’s heart wasn’t reciprocating, then Spock would merely have to prove himself a better choice. Spock would have to take the other party into account as he tried to court Jim. It wasn’t much of a difference than before. Spock merely had competition that wasn’t interested in the best person Spock had ever known.

But Spock would start the challenge of proving himself the better choice by putting Jim first right now, when Jim needed his support the most.

“Jim, would you care to play a game of chess?” Spock offered. Spending time with Jim always lifted his spirits, and Spock knew that quality time was a heavy point in the favor of potential mates. And while Jim knew of his intelligence, being able to battle together with their wits would remind Jim that Spock was a match for his ingenuity far more than any other potential suitors. .. Along with providing them food, “Perhaps while we eat something? It has been some time since we ate last.”

Jim looked up at him and nodded. “Sure, sounds good. I’m so hungry, I can hear my stomach growling! Let me get some food for us.” Jim pressed the right code for the replicator to create both his and Spock’s preferred late-night dishes. He moved from the replicator to the desk, the only real space to play a game. “Um. You might be better at setting the game up though. I’m starting to feel those shots.”

Spock knew this wouldn't be a long game, between the lack of sleep for both of them, the fading adrenaline and the alcohol, they would finish playing soon after eating. “I will.” He started to set up the board. He didn’t care. They would be fine.

Spock would prove he’s the best choice for Jim.

It didn’t matter who had caused Jim to drink to forget heartbreak. Spock would prove he was better.

-

Chapter Text

Two hours after arriving at Starbase 180.

Nyota was sure the first thing she wanted to do was go back to her quarters and sleep.

Scotty seemed to agree. But sadly, they were still on the Starbase, arguing over the repairs to the HECS. The base techs seemed to be at a loss at where to start when it came to the extensive damage.

Scotty and the lead repair tech had been arguing for the last hour about where to start, and had gotten nowhere.

Nyota was sure that Scotty was correct - but she was a communications officer, not an engineer - so Nyota was also confident that the lead tech would ignore her opinion.

In fact, the only opinion other than her own that the lead repair technician seemed to take seriously at all was Captain Kirk’s. The woman hadn’t pulled her eyes away from the Captain when he had explained the situation an hour ago before he left with Spock. If Nyota had to hear ‘Yes, Captain Kirk!” in that breathy tone one more time…

The woman was insistent that only her techs should work on the repairs. “Mr. Scott. I don’t care that your people have worked on the Enterprise since you were put in charge of the Engineering. They clearly don’t know anything, or the HECS would still be in one piece."

Scotty gasped like he had been physically struck.

“Now see here,” Scotty started to say, his voice starting to rise in anger. If Nyota didn’t do something this whole meeting would end up in a fist fight.

A sudden idea stuck her; Nyota placed a hand on his arm and Scotty froze.

Nyota looked at the woman; she was glaring at Scotty like Scotty was the cause of the explosion that damaged the ship. And Scotty was scowling right back.

“We’ll call the Capitan over to get this cleared up,” Nyota said, in a tone of voice that most of the Enterprise’s crew would understand. The tone of ‘follow my lead, if you want to get out of this.’  She followed it up with the code phrase the senior bridge crew created after being held hostage with guards one too many times. The phrase was code for 'Just trust me," “The Enterprise’s Captain will help us. He’s not meeting with the Vulcan delegation for at least another half hour.”

The woman paled.

“Aye. He’ll make it over here soon, or it’ll have to wait until the Captain’s meeting with the Admiral. After that.” Scotty added, following along with Nyota’s lead. He may not have known where Nyota was going, but he would follow her lead, Nyota knew. He was the one who thought up the redundancy of their code phrase. Even if Kirk was hostage along with them, the phrase worked. (If Kirk was also a captive, Spock was usually the one to save them in that case.)

Both of them looked at each other and nodded. “The Captain won’t be happy. To be bothered like this. But I’m sure we can deal with him.” Nyota said.

The woman frowned. “What do you mean he won’t be happy.” It wasn’t a question, but Nyota answered it anyway.

“Well, he knows that Scotty here was going to make sure his team was the one working on the repairs. Captain Kirk wanted Scotty, because then Scotty will know and understand the new HECS. Right Scotty?” Nyota asked. She glanced at Scotty who was doing his best to keep a straight face.

“Aye. Captain Kirk has placed his trust in me to learn the new HECS,” Scotty repeated, solemnly.

While their words were the truth, Nyota knew neither of them would just ordinarily throw Kirk’s name around like this. Kirk would, of course, hear about this later.

Nyota would probably tell Jim about this while Spock was in the room so she could watch the fun. Spock would probably try to hide his ‘I’m a good mate. Not her!’ expressions and fail entirely, and Kirk would still miss them somehow. The whole situation would be incredibly hilarious.

“Fine.” The woman huffed. “Mr. Scott and his team can stay. But only them. I don’t need some know-nothings around here, trying to make a mess.” She crossed her arms and glared at Nyota and Scotty.

“I think that’s the best we’ll get, love.” Scotty murmured to her under his breath.

Nyota hummed in agreement. He was right, the Starbase engineering team probably wouldn't give any more ground. Especially this woman. She was already too angry at them. If using her clear hero worship of Kirk was only able to get them just Scotty and three others…

Damn. Nyota had hoped to help for a little while before the meeting with the Vulcans.

“You promise next shore leave we’ll get some time off?” She asked, knowing she had responsibilities this shore leave too.

The lower crew would have the shore leave on the Starbase. The senior crew had shit to do, as the common saying went.

Scotty smiled and nodded, “Aye, love. And since the HECS will be fixed after shore leave, we can work on the communication system too. I’ll see you tonight at the formal dinner.”

“Remember to get out of here soon enough to get cleaned up for dinner. The Vulcan’s are very particular about eating with grease,” Nyota reminded, teasing.

Scotty laughed. “I forgot once, three years ago, and everyone and their Ma have to remind me now! The Captain AND Mr. Spock have already warned me to be on time.” He smiled at her.

“Mr. Scott. Any time now please?” the Engineer said, her tone impatient. She was glaring at them both with an annoyed expression,her arms crossed. Nyota had to leave. Making the woman even more angry would be a problem that Scotty would be left to deal with.

“I’m coming.” Scotty groused, exchanging a quick speaking look with nyota before pressing a quick kiss to her temple, and Nyota leaned into the gesture with a soft smile. Then Scotty stepped back, and Nyota waved him along.

Scotty would be fine, Nyota knew perfectly well.

She watched him leave back into the Enterprise with the Engineer. Once they had disappeared into the ship, Nyota turned on her heel and headed to the Starfleet base Command Offices.

Kirk had asked her to be there when they met with the Vulcans, along with Sulu.

He had also asked for McCoy, but McCoy had shut that suggestion down with a glare. Apparently, he was going to spend lots of time in the base medical fixing their crewman.

Chekov was still with McCoy in the med bay. And Scotty was going to fix the HECS.

So, it was just going to be her, Sulu, Kirk and Spock.

Just the Alpha shift bridge crew, more or less, were meant to greet the Vulcans. But the dinner that night would be all of the crew.

And based on the conversations Nyota had held with Jim for the past week, in-between dealing with the HECS and that negligent engineering crewman, Kirk had been quietly trying not to panic (and failing) over the Vulcan’s visit.

As she entered the building, she saw Sulu near the lifts. He waved at her as she got into speaking range.

“Morning, Uhura,” Sulu said, smiling at her.

“Good morning,” she said back. “Where’s your other half?”

It was starting to become strange not seeing Ben with Hikaru Sulu. They were a partnership that seemed hard to know where one began and the other one ended.

Sulu had changed since the experiment of letting Starfleet families on board the Enterprise had begun.

And Nyota was glad for it.

Something had always struck her as lonely when she watched Sulu while they had been away in space. He had always been happy and gregarious, and close friends with Chekov, but something had always struck Nyota as always off . It was as if he had always been living with a piece missing, always looking to his side for someone who wasn’t there.  

But now that Ben and Demora Sulu were on board the ship, by Hikaru’s side for the next five years, Sulu had reclaimed that missing piece.

“Ben and Demora are going to be at the Starbase amusement park,” Sulu said. Together they walked into the lift that leads to the upper conference floors. “Mora’s been excited about it for the last week. She been talking about lt like its Disneyland in Los Angeles, but it’s just this little small thing.”

Nyota nodded. “How is Demora holding up? After the explosion?”

Sulu shrugged in a ‘what can you do’ motion. “About as well as she can, I think. She had a nightmare the first night after, but hasn’t had any since. Ben and I are watching out for any signs of post-traumatic stress.” They had reached the lift and Sulu paused to let Nyota enter. He was still smiling as he followed her in. “I’m not too worried though. She’s resilient.”

“She is,” Nyota agreed with a warm smile. “What about Ben? I can’t imagine that being a civilian on a starship like the USS Enterprise can be easy.”

Sulu laughed, a bright and happy sound. “Ben’s having so much fun! He’s written two papers and has the kids in the Crèche to work with. I honestly think he’s going to take over my botany department. He keeps saying that i could so much more”

Nyota laughed along with Sulu, she was glad that Ben was enjoying himself. The Alpha Shift Bridge crew always enjoyed the few times that Ben had been able to join them on their adventures, usually in on a starbase or on earth. Nyota was glad that Ben was able to find himself a place on the Enterprise.

Before the start of this five year mission, nyota had worried that the spouses and families would have a difficult time adjusting, especially Ben, who was used to working in a lab everyday with his own Botany experiments. But everyone seemed to have adjusted smoothly to the ship.

“Tomorrow he’s going to take some time for himself, and I’m going to get a full day with Demora. We’re going to the movies, and maybe we’ll spend some time at the dance studio the base has,”  Sulu looked excited as the doors to the lift opened up to the conference room’s level. “Ben has her most days while I’m on duty, so I haven’t had some papa-daughter time in a while.”

Nyota could almost feel the happiness that rolled off of him in waves. She was glad that Sulu could spend time with his daughter while on Starbase 180. After the experience with the HECS it was nice to see someone from Alpha bridge crew experiencing some rest and relaxation.

But first, they had to get through this .

They both paused at the door of the conference room, Sulu schooling his face into his bridge officer expression - the one he wore during every call Kirk took on the bridge. Nyota wished Scotty was with her.

Meetings like this were always better with Scotty.

She opened the door to a handful of Vulcans, a few members of Starfleet, and Spock already in the room, waiting.

-

About ten minutes after the start of mission briefing

Spock refrained from looking at the door with impatience.

Two people were missing from the briefing.

One of them being the Admiral in command of Starbase 180, and the other was Spock’s own Captain.

Spock knew that Jim had a meeting with Admiral Hernandez just before the planned meeting with the Vulcan delegation about the damage that had been inflicted on the Enterprise by Crewman Kent. That meeting shouldn’t have run late.

Spock hoped that his concern and agitation wasn’t showing on his face as he spoke to the Leader of the Vulcan delegation.

It wasn’t like Jim to be late for a meeting like this.

“Commander.” The Vulcan leader, Renank spoke. “As your Captain and the Admiral have yet to arrive, may we discuss the project I have contacted you about recently?” Renank was an older Vulcan who had survived Vulcan’s destruction because he was off planet.

Spock respected him greatly. “We may. I’ve received the first of the data packets with the Terran literature.”

“As I had sent the data before the damage occurred to the Enterprise, I was concerned that they did not arrive,” Renank said. He took the padd that was on the table and opened up a program. “I’ve also been informed that we have found physical books that will also need processing. Will you be able to handle physical books along with your duties to the damaged Enterprise?”

Renank, Spock felt, wasn’t asking out of some sense that Spock wasn’t going to be able to handle the workload because Spock was somehow less. He was asking out of an actual concern that Spock wasn’t going to be able to complete the project with the damage to the Enterprise from the explosion.

Spock nodded, “I will be able to handle the books. The Chief Engineering officer will be handling most of the repairs.”

“Understood. I will arrange for the books to be separated from the rest of the literature we have found,” Renank said. “We have found more physical artifacts then we anticipated.”

Spock tilted his head in curiosity. This delegation was one of several that Spock knew of who were searching for Vulcans’ lost past. They had been sorting out cultural treasures from traders, private collectors, and a few museums.

If they had found more than they thought, then Spock was pleased. It meant more people were willing to part with the treasures or there was more on the market than previously thought.

“As I gathered when you sent a revised request for more than one cargo bay,” Spock responded to Renank. “I am pleased with the development.” He was. His father had explained that, understandably, the Vulcan species had lost more data than could ever be replaced. But there was hope that delegations, such as the one Renank was leading, could find more data and information stored in of servers or libraries which had been saved off-planet.

“Indeed.” Renank said. “It has been a fortuitous event.” He paused and handed Spock the padd, the listing of the physical books that Spock will be working with open on the screen.

Spock briefly glanced down the list. Some of the titles he could already dismiss as useless to the project, as they were propaganda. Earth, just after the first contact, had some strong Xenophobic factions that had promoted lies about Vulcan and its culture as hearsay to try and prevent peaceful relations. Such factions were unheard of in the present, but their literature was a constant reminder of their past.

Some of the titles on the list were children’s books that may or may not become a source of useful information. Spock made a mental note to look them up first. That would go the quickest.

Some of the titles were in Vulcan, and that would be a complicated read for Jim. Although, Spock knew his Captain well, and if Jim Kirk ever turned down a challenge, then it would be a surprise. Jim might just learn how to read Vulcan for this project.  

Spock was profoundly grateful that he had asked Jim to be part of this project. Jim would help him sort the information and determine what was genuine cultural writings, and what wasn’t.

The project would give Spock a place to showcase to Jim that he would be a good mate, because of his intelligence and loyalty. That wasn’t his intent when he had asked Jim originally, but it was going to be an excellent outcome, nonetheless.

Spock had been working on showing Jim that he was the best mate for Jim over the last several weeks. The explosion in engineering made it simultaneously a more difficult task, and somehow easier at the same time. For the past few days, Jim had needed to be reminded to eat as he kept getting caught up in everything: from the projects for repairing the damage done to engineering, to conversations with Starfleet about what to do with crewman Kent, and making sure the rest of the ship was still running smoothly.

Spock had been doing his very best to make sure that Jim ate, showing that he was a skilled provider. Spock made sure that Jim slept, proving that he cared for Jim’s welfare. He made sure that the ship ran as smoothly as possible - and that the crew was doing their best without being strained to the point of weakness and breaking. He cared about the crew as much as Jim did.

But it wasn’t enough.

All of Spock’s actions weren’t out of character, and were already things he had done before attempting to prove his worthiness as a romantic partner to Jim. Yet nothing  had shown Jim that he was clearly a better choice than whoever had driven Jim to drink to deal with his feelings.

And this project was going to show just that. Jim might see that Spock cared enough to share his culture with Jim. This project was more significant than both of them, and that was something precious.

Jim would understand that and, maybe if Spock was lucky, he would see what Spock was offering.

If not, then it was a start. Winning Jim’s affection and love would be a long battle, one that Spock was willing to fight.

“Commander Spock, this is one of my students,” Renank said, catching Spock’s attention. “He is the one who found many of the physical books.”

A tall Vulcan strode up to them. While most of the Vulcans in the room were wearing simple clan robes of some sort, as this was a diplomatic meeting and not extremely important, this man was wearing robes of lower social strata.

Vulcan society may have changed since the destruction of their home planet, but some habits were harder to break than others.

Social strata were one of them. It was long ingrained into their society.  Although out of necessity, that was changing too. Spock didn’t foresee the changes being complete until well in the future. Vulcans of every strata had survived, as communities prioritized who should escape the planet - by skill set, or who were children. However even with the changes in their society and culture, some of the differences were still prevalent.

Spock felt a sense of remembrance when he looked at Renank’s student. Spock was thankful for Vulcan’s perfect memory. He knew he had met the student as a child.  However, it still took a moment for Spock to place the face accurately.

“This is my senior student, who was with me while I was off planet,” Renank introduced, “Jolvek, Commandeer Spock.” The tall Vulcan nodded, his eyes on Spock. Jolvek’s eyes weren’t as blank as the others - there was something else in them too.

“Commander Spock,” Jolvek greeted, holding up the ta’al. “I believe you are Spock, Son of Sarek and Amanda?”

Spock stood, returning the gesture, momentarily surprised. Most Vulcans would just acknowledge the father of a person, not both parents. His mother was also often forgotten by most because of her race. “I am.”

“Then I believe we went to school concurrently for a period of time,” Jolvek said.

And that was when the memory of a young Vulcan, of lower social strata but not lower intelligence, surfaced in Spock’s mind. They had indeed gone to school at the same time. Jolvek was younger than Spock, they had not shared the same learning pod’s or the lessons that were taught, but Spock did remember him.

And Spock remembered how he had also done nothing when the other Vulcans had spent their time trying to provoke him, tormenting him and bullying him in attempts to elicit an emotional response. Spock could not forget the surety Jolvek had possessed of his own superiority.

“I believe we did.” Spock agreed cautiously. Something about Jolvek was, as Jim would put it, ‘setting off alarm bells’. “You are the one who found the books?” He didn’t say any more. The school was not a time in his life that Spock liked to remember. Even someone who did nothing to bully him wasn’t a person that Spock wanted to reminisce with - as they had done nothing to help him either.

Still, if Jolvek had been included on this delegation then perhaps his opinions had changed. It would be illogical to condemn him before evidence appeared

“I am, I have long had a particularly interested in Terran-Human culture. I had previously established contacts with traders and sellers who were willing to part with their collections, or who were able to find more.” Jolvek said.

He met Spock’s eyes for a more extended period of time than necessary. Spock refrained from frowning at the other Vulcan.

“I see,” Spock murmured. He wasn’t interested in where the books came from; he was fine knowing that they existed at all, but Jim might be interested.

“I am satisfied to have my work in the capable skills of yours, Commander Spock,” Jolvek said. “I was unable to parse some of the more… Nonsensically written books from the time of the first contact. I believe that you may help me understand the topics brought up.”

Spock eyed Jolvek. There was something off about the way Jolvek was acting toward him. He just didn’t know what.

“Once I’ve gone through the literature and have created the report, you will read it,” Spock said mildly. Jim would be a co-author of course. He knew instinctively that Jim would be creating all sorts of ideas and topics and theories, only by reading all of the books presented.

“I will hope for an in-person debrief,” Jolvek said, reaching out to take the padd back.

Spock calmly handed him the padd. Jolvek slid his hand up the padd to brush their fingertips together.  

Spock immediately moved his hand away, giving up the padd with a suddenness that would have been noticed by others in the room if not for the arrival of Captain Kirk and the Admiral.

The feeling of Jolvek’s hand and mind jarred Spock. He hadn’t expected it, but he could now tell that he was being flirted with in the Vulcan way.

Spock could feel Jolvek’s interest. Jolvek wasn’t as telepathically strong as Spock was. Few were. But he must have gotten something from the brief contact as he had a slightly satisfied air about him as Jim walked up to them.

Spock fought the urge to just take Jim’s hand in a Vulcan kiss, to declare that he was taken and to wipe the feeling of Jolvek’s mind from his. While the first and contact from Jolvek weren’t terrible, Spock wasn’t interested, and the sensations were jarring.

He would have to work on his shielding.

“Spock! Sorry, we’re late,” Jim said as he drew near. “ I had to deal with another Captain with an issue.”

Now that Jim was so close, his emotions practically jumped from him to Spock. Spock let the feelings of his love run over him. Jim was stressed. Jim's thoughts were harder to read. The call he had to deal with was about Kent and … Captain Warrington? Maybe. Jim was calming down, and it was a good feeling to experience.

“It is no matter, Captain.” Spock said, turning to the assembled group. “This is Leader Renank and his student, Jolvek.”

Jim gave a correct Ta’al and received the gesture in turn.

Admiral Hernandez cleared their throat. They were smiling but slightly harried looking too. “If we could get started Gentlemen, ladies, and genteel beings. We’ve got a lot to cover.”

“Yes, of course, Admiral,” Jim nodded. He took a quick look around for a headcount as he went to his seat.

Spock sat, and saw Nyota across from him. She raised an eyebrow, and her eyes flicked to Jolvek. Spock raised an eyebrow back and silently agreed to meet her later to discuss this turn of events.

After he spent some time with Jim.

-

Meanwhile in star base 180’s medical facilities

Bones did his best not to hover.

But he wasn’t the one healing Pasha, and that was hard. Pasha was currently in one of the most state of the art biobeds getting the last of the burns and internal damage fixed. Riley was right next to Pasha in a similar biobed, both of them unconscious and still.

Bones hated it.

He wasn’t able to help them. He was now forced to rely on a team that wasn’t his to fix his own crew.

Bones had led the transport of all of the patients with injuries from the explosion to the medical facilities on the Starbase. Bones refused to call it a hospital.

It wasn’t.

But it did have a far better, more capable system the what was on the Enterprise. He glanced at the digital readout that was scrolling data at quick pace and took in what the readings were showing.

It was all good things. Riley was healing faster, which wasn’t a surprise, he had been far enough away that his burns weren’t nearly as bad as Pasha’s. M’benga had done a damned good job fixing the wounds. Riley wouldn’t even scar when the biobed was done with him.

Pasha, on the other hand, would carry the scars for a while.

But Bones would fix them, or they would fade. He always did.

“You know they’ll be fine Doctor,” came Chapel’s voice from behind him.

Bones shifted in his place by the doorway of Pasha and Riley’s room to look at his head nurse with a sad smile. “I know, but it’s still hard to not be leading that charge.”

She nodded in return, understanding.

Together they watched the medical team from the Starbase work on their patients. While Bones was their primary doctor, he also was unfamiliar with the new biobeds. He wasn’t going to damage his patients - or hurt Pasha.

Part of this trip would be learning how to use the beds and getting one installed on the Enterprise.

But for now, Bones just watched.

“How’s the report on the families going?” He asked Chapel. More to distract himself with work than anything else. He would read the report of the first six months soon, but right now, this was a blessed distraction.

She smiled like she knew what he was doing and handed him the report on the pads she was carrying. “So far so good. The crew members with families on board are showing to be healthier mentally and physically than before. While the families themselves are all adjusting well and honestly, haven’t been shaken by things. It’s very promising.”

Bones had to smile at that. “Good. Hopefully, the next five years works out well for everyone.”

“Maybe you’ll get to bring Joanna for a while next time we’re near Earth?” Chapel said.

And Bones honestly felt his heart stop at the thought.

In a good way.

He could see introducing Joanna to Pavel. They had met before, but this time he would be presenting Pavel as his partner. As his lover. As his boyfriend? If that didn’t sound far too young for Bones.

Joanna would probably enjoy spending some time on the Enterprise away from her mother. According to Jocelyn's last communication, they had been fine. But according to Joanna’s previous message they’d been fighting more.  Bones believed that it was a mix of teenage angst and her mother being difficult.

Maybe he could get Joanna for a summer.

“Maybe,” Bones smiled, unwilling to say more - he didn’t want to get his heart and hopes up.

Chapel sent him a smile that said his attempts at staying cool weren’t very good. She saw right through him.

Bones shook his head. He had a great team.

Pavel shifted on the bed and Bones was at his side in an instant. He didn’t honestly care that it might have been a little impetus to do so. He was a man in love.

“Doctor, I’m going to check on the others. I’ll get you if you’re needed,” Chapel said in farewell as she turned to walk away. Bones could hear the smile in her voice as she spoke. Chapel may have not known about Bones’ feelings in the same way Jim or Scotty did, but she clearly understood it on some level.

Bones nodded. “Please do, Chapel.” He watched her go and returned his attention as Pasha began to wake up.

Pasha’s eyes opened slowly,and he smiled up at Bones. “Hi, Len.” His voice was hoarse and scratchy with disuse.

Bones was helpless to the smile that spread across his face. “Good morning, sleeping beauty,” he reached out and brushed at the curls that were messy on top of Pasha’s head.

Pavel sleepily grinned.

“So how much longer, Doctor?” Pasha asked. There was a note of hope in his voice. He wanted to leave the med bay, Pavel had spent the last two weeks in the med bay on the ship. He was eager to go.

Bones found that when Pasha called him "Doctor," it was a like a line had been drawn. Pavel was his patient in those moments and Bones liked that. He could deal with the realities of being in love with his patient without it tripping into permanent over protectiveness. It was a good way for both of them to compartmentalize.

Bones could work with just a little amount of over-protectiveness. But he couldn’t help it. Pasha was injured. He was overprotective of all of the sick and wounded of the Enterprise.

“The team says you and Riley will be out by the end of the day. You may still be tired for a few days, but you’ll be fine by the time shore leave ends,” Bones told him, repeating what the doctor in charge of the ward had told him. The readings from Pavel’s bed said the same.

Pavel nodded. “Good, because I’ve got plans for you, Len, and I don’t want your worry to get in the way.” He sent an almost seductive look at Bones. He played up the leer into something comical.

Bones laughed loudly, and light entering his chest. “I can only hope these plans of yours match up with mine!”

Pasha just grinned up at him from his bed, unable to keep a serious expression for long as Bones was finding out. When Pasha was off the bridge and not working, he smiled much more than frowned. Bones delighted in finding out parts of Pasha he hadn’t seen before, despite being friends for so long.

Bones didn’t stop smiling himself, but he did have to admit to the hot lash of want that ran through him at the thought of the plans he and Pavel might have.

There was a ping from the padd in Bones hand’s, distracting him from whatever he might have said.

“It’s from Jim…” Bones said as he looked at the message. “It’s actually for you, Pasha-love.” He hadn’t meant for the endearment to slip out, but he was an old Southern man. Endearments just tended to happen.

Pasha turned bright red at the escaped endearment. His smile turned from laughing to something softer and happier - if that was even possible. Bones liked that look on him.

Pavel looked like a man in love and Bones was still damn happy he was somehow so damn lucky that Pavel loved him.

“Oh? What does the Captain want?” Pavel asked, as he shifted in his bed and reached up and took Bones hand.

Bones absently intertwined their fingers together.

“They want to talk to you about that argument we saw a while ago between Warrington and Kent. And maybe talk about that dinner you went to with Captain Warrington,” he said as he read the padd. He was little trepidatious about bringing this topic up. “They also want to speak to Riley, as he was working with Kent.”

Pavel’s last ex was in the middle of something big that had somehow caused an explosion in engineering that had nearly killed two crewmen, and injured forty more.

Pavel didn’t stiffen up or even make a move that he had registered Bones’ words. Then he shook his head, as if clearing a thought, and squeezed Bones’ hand. “The investigators?”

Bones shook his head in the negative. “The admiralty and Jim. Mainly. I think something big is happening if the issues got pushed up that high.” Bones didn’t voice his suspicion that Captain Warrington wasn’t going to be a Captain for much longer.

Starfleet wasn’t about to let family drama do this much damage without repercussions. Especially if the person responsible was being emotionally devastated and had been ordered not to tell anyone.

Because Bones had learned from Jim that Kent had been ordered by his father to never reveal their relationship to anyone - and that if he mentioned their relationship to anyone on the Enterprise, he would be fired and cut off from his sister and their family.

No wonder Kent went from a perfect crewman to distracted problem child overnight.

Bones knew that Kent was in trouble, but Captain Warrington wasn’t going to get out of the investigation unscathed either.

“I can do that,” Pasha said. “As long as it’s alright with my doctor?” he asked with a hopeful note.

Bones had to laugh. “Yes, it’s alright with your doctor to talk to them tomorrow.” His tone was playful. “But I get you to myself for several hours after that. I want to take you on a date.” He paused, and then realizing what he said, “If that’s alright with you?”

Pavel was nodding an affirmative before Bones had even finished his question. “Yes, please! A date with you would be wonderful.”

Bones leaned forward from his place in the chair and pressed his forehead against Pasha’s. Pasha leaned into the touch. “I’m going to take you on the best date you’ve ever been on.”

Pavel smiled, and Bones could feel it on his skin. “Looking forward to it, Len.”

-

The next day

As Chekov left, he was moving slowly, still clearly healing. Bones had stood by Chekov’s side for the entire interview, both of the men in their gray service uniforms.

Jim had been relieved to find out the Admiralty didn’t want the full-dress uniforms, despite how good everyone looked in their colors and braids. Jim himself was dressed in his service uniform.

Jim sighed and glanced at Admiral Hernández. On the screen behind them were Admirals Kormack and Chase, all of them looking serious and solemn in their own service grays.

Kormack looked ready to start swearing. Chase didn’t seem much more composed. Hernández just sighed in tandem with Jim. They returned his gaze with a sad look before they turned around and faced the other two Admirals.

Jim wasn’t going to be the one to start speaking. Not with this group. Plus, he was only present on ‘observational’ status.

He had already given his testimony. Chekov and Riley were the last ones.

Now that they had all had their say, all Jim could do was watch and answer any questions.

“We’ve heard all the testimonies” Chase started. “I think we can definitively say that Kent is at fault.”

Kormack snorted. “That’s correct,” he said, interrupting Chase. “Tell us something new, Chase.”

Chase just glared at him through her screen. “As I was saying, it is Kent’s fault for missing the maintenance and falsifying records to make it look as if he had been working when he hadn’t been,” she looked at her padd off-screen.

Jim agreed with this part of the investigation. He hoped the board recognized the rest of Jim’s opinion.

Before the explosion, Scotty had been livid to discover how the HECS had gotten so bad. Kent had lied about doing the work and had created some false maintenance documents, reports, and records.

Jim had been thinking about what to do about the mess later, but he gave up when Scotty said they needed a new HECS anyway.

“I agree,” Hernández said, they closed their eyes, frowning. They opened their eyes and glanced at their padd. “But I don’t feel like he should be punished for this alone. His direct emotional state was the cause of one man.”

Jim wholeheartedly agreed.

Kormack sighed and said in a patronizing tone, “But the member should have control over their own actions. Kent should have left his personal life at the door. He should have spoken to someone. It’s his fault alone.” He readjusted in his seat. “Don’t endanger people,” he shrugged.

“Hernández, according to Kent, he had been ordered to - and then threatened to - stay silent about his emotional issues?” Chase asked.

Hernández nodded. “Captain Warrington had threatened that if word got out that Kent was his son, the member would be cut off from his family. According to Kent and Nurse Warrington, Captain Warrington also said that he could hack into their files to see what was going on with them - and had before.”

“That doesn’t mean that Captain Warrington is at fault,” Kormack said. Jim understood where Kormack was coming from. He was an asshole about it, but the logic was sound.

Jim just didn’t agree.

Just three days ago, Spock had come to him with the computer logs of Crewman Anderson Kent and Nurse Camilla Warrington. There had been several noticeable hacking entries. Some of the data had been changed, recently .

Family history and Next of Kin records, specifically, for both of them.

But worst of all was a standing endorsed order in Kent’s file. One Jim did not authorize. Nor did Captain Wise, Kent’s last Captain. It said that Kent was under orders to never reveal his family history. If he did, it was good for prison time on an asteroid jail.

Not even a prison colony. An Asteroid Jail .

Jim nearly had a fit when he’d read that order. Spock had needed to physically stop him from hunting down the only person who would have given such an illegal order, cleverly hidden underneath stacks of useless information.

Chase had taken one look at the order and rescinded it.

“No. Captain Warrington wasn’t directly at fault for the actions of Crewman Kent,” Hernández said, their back getting straighter as they arrested their point. “However, he is guilty of giving an unlawful order that created a hostile work environment that was directly related to an explosion that could have killed could have killed many Starfleet crew members and, worse, civilians. His actions directly controubled to nearly ending a promising trial for Starfleet!”

Hernández heled Kormack’s gaze for a moment, neither flinching.

Kormack sat back in his chair, conceding the argument. “That, I’ll agree Captain Warrington is guilty of.”

Chase sighed, bringing the attention to her. “I’ll send our recommendations up to the rest of the Admiralty. We’ll take the Intrepid away from him at least. He’s far from ready to lead a ship if this is how he uses his power.”

Jim felt  tension begin to drain from  him at that. Captain Warrington wasn’t going to be left unscathed from what he’d done to his son.

If Jim had a son, he didn’t know what he would do, but it certainly wouldn’t be what Warrington was doing.

“Onto Kent…” Hernández said, trailing off as they brought the attention of the Admirals back to the primary matter at hand.

Chase and Kormack fell silent.

“I think we all agree that he will be dealt with, but I think we need Captain Kirk’s opinion on what type of punishment should occur,” they said.

Chase nodded, and Kormack didn’t say no, so Jim chose that moment to speak.

“Kent thinks he’s going to an asteroid jail,” Jim said bluntly. He didn’t think that an asteroid jail was the right fit for Kent. They were for the worst criminals in Starfleet space. Kent wasn’t that sort. He had messed up, but it was fixable. “I think he would be best off in an earthbound posting where he could work with the Starfleet psychiatrists. He could learn there. Grow, recover and deal with his actions there. Maybe, in the future, he might be sent to a Starbase, but that will be up to them.”

Jim wasn’t stupid enough to believe that they would let Kent go, even just to kick him out of Starfleet. That wasn’t going to happen. Not with millions of credits in damage and several injuries. It may be too hopeful to think they might keep Kent in Starfleet.

It also probably wasn’t safe to have Kent go free without any supervision. He was still on suicide watch.

All three Admirals nodded. “I agree. I don’t think that …order… should be held up. Kent will have to be informed,” Hernández said. They also said the word order like it was a poison in their mouth.

Jim had to clench his hands to keep from immediately searching out Captain Warrington and punching the man.

“Kirk. I am going to have to ask you to leave now. We have some discussions about what to do next that you don’t have the clearance for,” Chase said, now looking at her padd and not the screen.

Jim nodded and stood. “Admirals,” he nodded, grabbing his cover from its place on the conference table and leaving the room. He didn’t want to know the formal way a Captain was removed from their post. He had hated the idea when it had happened to him. He may have wanted to punch that asshole Warrington, but he didn’t want to know how they stripped him of his rank.

Jim stepped out of the building and into the artificial outdoors of the Starbase. He placed the cover on his head and made his way to the bay where the Enterprise was currently docked.

He needed to see Spock.

But needed to see Spock wasn’t strange in and of itself. What was strange was the way that Jim was starting to know where Spock was at any given moment. Jim wasn’t going to question it much because he was in love with Spock and if his understanding of Spock had developed to the point that he could find Spock faster? Then who was he to complain? He got to see Spock sooner.

As he approached the docks, Jim saw Spock near the loading bay doors, supervising the loading of the Vulcan delegation’s freight. It was a large enough shipment that it would take several days to get everything on board.

Renank was standing near Spock, writing on a padd. Spock was directing the crew as they loaded boxes and crates of, what Jim assumed, were Vulcan artifacts. There were a couple large containers that had already been put in the ship's hold.

Jim paused as he watched his crew from a distance. He was so damned proud of them.

Jim was close enough to see that Renank was looking up at a large pallet of stacked cases that had just been pulled up. Spock listened to something as the student of Renank’s came up and gestured to the cases.

Spock nodded, and told the crew something that made them place the cases in a different location. Apparently, they weren’t ready to be placed on board.

The student gestured at the cases again, and Spock followed the Vulcan over to them. Jim was fairly sure the student’s name was Jolvek.

Jolvek opened one of the cases, and Jim saw, even from a distance that it was filled with books.

Ah! Jim was sure that was part of the project Spock had asked him to help with. The one on working with human literate on Vulcan. Jim had been looking forward to the whole thing.

It was going to be an excellent distraction from the entire mess with Kent and the Warrington’s.  

He could sink his teeth into the anthropological readings and spend time with Spock. He could flex his brain and attempt to keep up with Spock who would be in his element.

Jim was going to have fun.

Jim continued on his way to where Spock and Jolvek were talking.

He was forced to pause and talk to his crew a few times on the way there. They were ‘outside’ so they kept saluting him. Jim, per duty, had to respond.

Once he was finally closer, he could hear what Spock and Jolvek were talking about.

“As you can see, some of the books have water damage from a flood that occurred near the library they were stored in,” Jolvek was saying, gesturing to a book that had honestly seen better days.

Spock nodded thoughtfully. “Are they legible?” he asked. “I would be concerned if they weren’t. Or can they even be read? Or are their spines damaged?” Spock looked at the book with concern, his expression easy for Jim to read.

Luckily, Jim had an answer for that. He loved old books. “I’ve got something for brittle and for damaged spines in my room, Spock. If we find one, we can deal with it then.”

Neither Vulcan started at Jim’s presence, but Spock did turn to face Jim. “Captain. I believed that you were in a meeting for a while longer?” He stepped closer to Jim. He reached out and readjusted one of the star devices on Jim’s left shoulder board.

Jim quirked an eyebrow at him and received an eyebrow raise in return. Jim shook his head as he stepped closer to Spock. He was thankful that Spock was always on top of everything. Even if it meant that Spock was correcting his uniform.

“Just finished with the Admiralty,” Jim said, sure that Spock could hear the tension in his voice despite the fact few others would. Spock raised an eyebrow again. This time in question and not sarcasm.  Jim waved him off. “I’ll tell you about that later, after the dinner tonight.”

Spock nodded, accepting Jim’s deflection for what it was. A statement that whatever had happened was not to be discussed out in the open where the crew could hear them yet.

Jim turned to Jolvek, smiling politely at him. Jim had received enough diplomacy training that the smile was no longer forced.

“Are you going to be at the dinner, Jolvek?” he asked. Jim honestly wasn’t looking forward to the dinner. He would have to be in his dinner dress golds. He may look damn good in the uniform, but he also had to sit straight up and try not to stare at Spock who would be in his own dinner dress blues.

Spock would look, as always, beautiful in his blues.

“I am,” Jolvek said. He leaned forward and made as if he wanted to step closer to Spock, shifting in his place. Instead, he just stared at Spock like he was the one talking instead of Jim.

Jim refrained from frowning. “I hope you enjoy it. The Chefs here on the Enterprise have been planning for it for the past week.” He didn’t like the attitude that Jolvek was giving off. There was something off about the way the other Vulcan was acting toward them both. He was far too, what Jim could only describe as, attentive to Spock while being completely dismissive to Jim himself.  

“I am sure they have been, with Commander Spock on board,” Jolvek said. “An excellent source of information on performed Vulcan diets. He must be demonstrating a large amount of leadership. To lead the crew.” Jolvek was still staring. He didn’t even glance at Jim.

Jim noticed that Spock stiffed at some point during Jolvek’s statement. There was nothing Jim could see that was insulting but he got the feeling that, somehow, he had been insulted.

Jim didn’t hide the frown this time.

Jolvek didn’t see it.

“Captain,” Spock said, he was still looking at Jolvek, but Jim knew, somehow, that all of his attention was on Jim. “We are needed on the bridge.”

Jim didn’t know if they truly were or not, but he wasn’t about to pass up leaving the weird situation. “Yes, we are,” he said, agreeing with Spock. “Let’s go. Have a good day, Jolvek. We will see you later this evening.”

Jolvek nodded, not taking his eyes off of Spock. “Yes, I will, Captain.”

Spock frowned. He openly frowned in public with Vulcans nearby.

Jim didn’t know what had caused the conversation to be so damned weird, but it had apparently also made Spock upset. Jim was glad they were leaving.

Du ras-tukh nash hali, Spock.  Nash-veh glazhau fa'rak tor du hasu svi' ish-veh yeht shi ,” Jolvek said as they walked away.

Spock didn’t even turn around. “ nash-veh tor ri wuh khart-lan.  nash-veh tor svi' wuh yeht shi. nash-veh tor ri tvai tor nam-tor wuh ang'jmizn .” His tone was short and unhappy.

Jim stared at Spock for the rest of the journey up to the bridge, but Spock never explained what was said.



Chapter Text

During the formal welcome dinner for the Vulcan delegation.

Spock had spent the better part of the first hour of the formal dinner in deep and engaging conversation with Nyota, a young Vulcan woman named T’Renna who was a part of the delegation, and both misters Sulu.

“What division of Starfleet are you interested in, T’Renna?” Nyota asked, facing T’Renna with an open, curious expression. T’Renna had spent most of the conversation asking about the daily life of the various the crew members of the ship. And they could all tell she was working to get more information about if she would find pleasure in the daily life on a ship.

Spock was mildly interested in what T’Renna had to say. Since the destruction of Vulcan, there were more Vulcans in Starfleet. Most of them joining the sciences, but some had joined operations.

T’Renna’s answer was prompt, “I wish to be a pilot. I have what humans call a ‘drive’ to be one.” She was stiff as Vulcans normally were but there was a tension in her tone that Spock would call nervousness.

Spock nodded. He had noted the very faint scars on her hands from what looked to be burn marks. He could guess where that ‘drive’ came from. Spock remembered the stories of ships that escaped the destruction of the Vulcan that was but where damaged. The burn marks were matched the ones that navigators and pilots would have if their consol exploded.

T’Renna’s drive was one born of experience. Spock respected that.

“Then Command would be best for you,” Nyota smiled at T’Renna. “They are the ones with flight training.”

Lieutenant Commander Sulu also smiled brightly. “We’re always looking for new pilots. Especially ones who have a drive for it!”

There was tension that faded out of T’Renna’s body that Spock was sure that they could all see but was also equally sure that no one would comment on.

“I am very interested,” T’Renna said in a tone that to most humans was emotionless but the crew of the Enterprise had known Spock for far too long to miss the relief in her voice.

Spock nodded. “I will get you in contact with a recruiter who is working on New Vulcan. They can help you start the process.”

T’Renna nodded back to him. “You will find me grateful, Commander Spock.”

“You’ll see a bunch of new things while in Starfleet then. What’s been the favorite sight of your trip with the delegation?” Mr. Sulu asked.

As T’Renna answered, Spock looked around the room at the delegation.

Renank was talking to Mr. Scott. A lively discussion Spock assumed based on the way that Mr. Scott’s hands were waving wildly through the air around his person.

Doctor McCoy was talking with a Vulcan who wore doctor’s robes. Next to Doctor McCoy, Mr. Chekov and Mr. Riley were seated, both of them looking like they were still at the party out of of sheer stubbornness, t han out of any real desire to be there. They were looking well, their injuries mostly recovered, but Spock could see the exhaustion lines in the way both held themselves, as if afraid to fall out of their chairs .

McCoy kept shooting Chekov and Riley concerned glances every once in a while, but Spock could see that the doctor was not breaking away from the conversation he was a part of. Clearly, both Mr. Riley and Mr. Chekov were considered medically sound by the Doctor’s standards. McCoy would never let them out of his medbay if that wasn't the case. He also was clearly not ready to let them out of his sight but Spock believe that this may be a manifestation of jim’s declaration that McCoy was a ‘worry-wart’ more than anything more serious.

Spock glanced around the room again. He didn’t see Jim.

Spock tried to ignore the feeling of disappointment. Jim had told him that he would be late to the event.

Jim had a meeting with Anderson Kent about his punishment.

Spock already had the kitchen staff prep some of Jim’s favorite foods for a formal setting. Jim would be stressed coming from that meeting and Spock sought to make him a little happier.

He always sought ways to make Jim happier.

Spock still was stuck on figuring out how to show Jim he was a good option for being Jim’s mate. All of his normal behaviors couldn’t be amplified. Jim would find that constraining. But Spock already did a lot of what his people would expect from a potential suitor for a mate.

He was at a loss how to show Jim he loved him. How to properly court Jim.

The project was a good start but the end was still something Spock had to figure out.

Spock would have to meditate on the issue after the party.

“Hikaru, should we go rescue them?” Mr. Sulu said gesturing with his head over to the conversation Spock had noted earlier. It was the one with McCoy, Mr. Chekov, and Mr. Riley.

There was one more Vulcan with the group now.

Jolvek.

All three of the Starfleet members were clearly becoming more upset the longer that Jolvek was speaking. Even with his more acute hearing, Spock was unable to make out what was being said. All he had to go on was their expressions and they were growing stonier as Jolvek spoke. Mr. Riley actually looked like he was about a minute from punching someone.

Spock had to do something to protect his crew no matter how uncomfortable Jolvek made him.

Spock had done his best to avoid Jolvek for the entire party, for several reasons. He made Spock feel uncomfortable with his attention and he made Spock angry with his disregard of Jim’s leadership. But now Spock had to do something. The crew came before Spock’s emotions. They always had.

Seeing Jolvek speak to both Mr. Chekov and Dr. McCoy was hard for Spock to described what he was feeling. It was more than just anger. The sight filled him with a protectiveness that stemmed from a challenger Vulcan making part of his tribe upset. Jolvek sought to undermine his Captain. That was not acceptable.

After the insult about Jim’s leadership, Spock didn’t believe that he could control himself around Jolvek. He would defend Jim and his leadership.

It was one thing when Spock merely felt that Jolvek was flirting with him. Spock had been sure that Jolvek would do the most logical thing and simply ask Spock out. it happened a few times with they ferried other Vulcans before as Spock was now a hero in the eyes of his people.

However, they had all been understanding of his relationship with Nyota.

Spock would also do the most logical thing and turn Jolvek down. he wasn’t interested. He had to try to court Jim properly first. If Jim turned him down then Spock would respect the man he loves wishes and find someone else who didn’t mind that Spock didn’t (and wouldn’t and couldn't ) love them.

Jim certainly didn’t know what Jolvek had said in both Vulcan and standard was an insult but Spock did. By implying that Spock was in charge of providing the food on the Enterprise, Jolvek was saying that Spock was the one in charge. Not Jim.

The worst insult, which was spoken in Vulcan, was outright saying that Spock should just take control of the Enterprise.

Spock was glad they were already leaving when Jolvek had chosen to say that. Spock might have done something, as Jim would say, stupid.

Now, to protect his crew, his family, he would risk doing that probably stupid thing.

“I will get them,” Spock said stepping away from the group. “I will send them over here.”

Nyota nodded, concern in her eyes, “I wonder what’s going on? I can’t see what’s being said.” he heard her say as he walked away.

Lieutenant Commander Sulu shrugged. “I don’t know but I imagine that we’ll find out soon enough…”

Spock ignored them after that, intent on reaching the group that was near the doorway. He was sure that if McCoy, Chekov, and Riley were all upset the conversation was probably one of the same lines as the one he had earlier with Jolvek.

As he drew nearer, Spock listened to the conversation that was causing distress for his crew, confirming his suspicions. The other Vulcans had left but Jolvek was still speaking.

“...I don’t believe you’ve been under fire from an enemy ship have you, Mr. Jolvek.” Riley was saying, trying to keep his tone even. His posture was defensive. He was getting ready for a fight, despite his still weak injuries.

Mr. Chekov wasn’t much better. He was balling up his fists and then releasing them.

The Vulcan doctor had left the conversation apparently as Spock didn’t see him.

Jolvek frowned minutely. “I have not, but I know that logic under pressure, - “he started to say but Spock did not let him finish.

“- Can lead to many problems if one ignores their instinct and reacts solely on logic. Sometimes the logic of one’s instincts isn’t apparent until the aftermath. Captain Kirk has demonstrated these skills many times while we have explored the universe.” Spock said, interrupting him. He knew that if Jolvek was allowed to comment that thought, he would cause a scene.

The three Starfleet members started at Spock’s words. They hadn’t noticed him come up apparently but their relief was palpable. Spock stepped in-between McCoy and Jolvek. Spock was going to protect his tribe and family from threats.

Jolvek raised an eyebrow in surprise. “Logic has long triumphed over instinct, Commander Spock.”

“it has for our daily lives. However, at the moment, such as the ones that the Enterprise has encountered, the mind processes faster than normal. Creating an instinct. Pushing that aside for logic would be a fallacy.” Spock said. he could construct the past few moments of conversation he hadn’t been able to hear.

Jolvek was trying to undermine Captain Kirk as he mistakenly believed that would win Spock’s favor.

“The Captain has gotten us out of a lot of situations,” Chekov said. he leaned against McCoy, apparently tiring. Some of the tension faded from his posture when Spock spoke.

“And I am sure that Commander Spock has gotten you out of more,” Jolvek said like his word was law and he was right.

Spock took a deep breath, reached out and gripped McCoy’s shoulder to stop McCoy from stepping forward. McCoy was nearly red with anger. He turned to Spock and shook off Spock’s hand.

“He’s been insulting Jim. Stop him or I will.” McCoy hissed, his eyes cutting to Jolvek.  “Saying he’s not the ‘leader’ of the ship. What bullshit is that?!”

“Vulcan bullshit, Doctor if you want to use the crude vernacular. he is mistaken,” Spock said, keeping his eyes on Jolvek. Jolvek locked eyes with him and didn’t seem inclined to move his gaze.

Time for something stupid then.”He will acknowledge that soon enough.” Spock said, not giving one care that Jolvek would hear him.

Chekov placed his hand on McCoy’s arm. “I’m tired, Len. Can we sit down?” he asked.

Spock could see the exhaustion starting to show in Chekov’s and Riley’s faces. But it was also clear that Chekov was trying to defuse the situation.

Or at least get Doctor McCoy away from Jolvek before McCoy (or any of them really…) throws a punch.

Apparently, it’s enough as McCoy immediately goes into his over doctoring mode, ushering both Chekov and Riley away.

Leaving both Vulcans alone.

Spock watched over them until they reached the group that had Nyota and the Mister’s Sulu. Nyota and Ben Sulu immediately went to get chairs for both Chekov and Riley; while lieutenant commander Sulu and the Starfleet hopeful, T’Renna, stayed with them and Doctor McCoy.

Stratified that his family was alright, Spock turned his attention back to the threat.

Jolvek didn’t bother with any pleasantries and started to speak in Vulcan. “you are the better leader, Commander Spock. Why do you not lead this ship with the logic it so clearly needs ?”

Spock took another deep breath to calm himself.

Logic was the guidance Jolvek clearly needed.

As leadership is not always a logical endeavor, I would imagine any situation in which I would need to lead for a long period of time to be a stressful endeavor for both myself and my crew. Captain Kirk is, and always has been, a better leader.” Spock said responding in Vulcan. He was simply speaking a truth he has explained to enough people that he’s almost bored of the answer. “ I have no wish to lead a ship like this and I am content to stay here, where I belong .” He finished.

Jolvek shook his head. Spock wondered what had given him the idea that undermining Jim Kirk was the way to Spock’s heart.

you are clearly to use to dealing with humans if you believe that .” he said, reaching over to a nearby table and picking up a glass of wine that Spock was sure wouldn’t inebriate a Vulcan. “ you are clearly the leader of this ship. you should deserve the title of Captain as well .”

Spock tilted his head, feigned curiosity. “ what makes you believe that I am the leader of this ship.”

Jolvek gave him a look that said Spock was being obtuse on purposes. “y ou are the most intelligent person here. You have lead the efforts with my delegation. You have set protective orders for the crew. You are the one they turn to defend the crew from others. All of which are signs of a leader.”

Spock stared at the Vulcan before him. He was wrong on every point.

Spock was sure that, while he was among the smartest people onboard the Enterprise, he wasn’t the smartest person. That title most likely went to one of the lower command officer’s wives who was writing her fourth doctoral thesis - she was twenty three. He was also sure that on a ship full of genius, being the ‘smartest’ wasn’t much of a prize.

Spock leads the efforts with the Vulcan delegation for two reasons. One, because he was Vulcan . Two, Jim was tied up in dealing with the aftermath of the explosion in Engineering and the fallout from Kent’s mistakes. Jim didn’t have time for the politics of a formal visit and transport yet. He will soon.

He didn’t know where Jolvek had read the standing orders of the ship, the ‘protective orders’ but those were Jim’s choices of orders. Over the years, even if Spock had questioned some of them when he first read them, it had been proven time and time again, that they were good orders. They were also Jim’s.

For the last very wrong reason, it was because the crew knew that Spock would protect Jim. No matter what. Spock would protect Jim.

Spock had the sudden realization that since he was doing so much already to prove he was a good mate to Jim that maybe he should talk to Jim and ask him out.

Logically.

He would have to do research on this and more direct ways of human flirting before he would make such a move.

But first, he had a suitor to dismiss. “Jolvek, you have fundamentally misunderstood what being on this ship is like, and the people on it. Jim Kirk is a great leader that is the Captain and I will not tolerate hearing him so insulted. So, state you're true purpose before I ask you to leave the dinner.”

Jolvek looked momentarily surprised but he smoothed his expression out soon enough. “ Then, Spock of Sarek and Amanda, I would like to propose a tradition mating ceremony between you and me.”

Spock didn’t even hesitate. “ no .”

I believe that we are compatible ,” Jolvek said, completely ignoring Spock. Spock doubted that they would be compatible mentally. “we are not mated, nor promised, not anymore. We cannot have children. And we are uncommonly intelligent. We are compatible.”

Spock was pretty sure that he doubted the shared ‘uncommonly intelligent’ comment more than he doubted their capability. But he was also sure that it was his repeated exposure to his friends on the senior bridge crew that caused his sarcastic thought of ‘for us to share intelligence, then clearly I have to be deceased for several days’

He didn’t say that but he wanted to.

no ,” Spock repeated, this time firmer.

why not ?” Jolvek demanded. “ we would be excellent .”

Spock leveled him a cool look. One that did not book an argument to whatever he was about to say. The look was favorite of his when he was dealing with diplomatic scientists and new junior science staff.

“I am not attracted to you. I have a potential mate. My father would never approve. And last, I can have children. I’ve been tested for my reproductive capabilities.” Spock didn’t say that his father had asked him to find out after the loss of Vulcan.

He also was relying on his father disapproving of a match between him and Jolvek because of Jolvek’s social strata. He knew that such things were going away on Vulcan because of the rapid loss of population but some of the old traditions still held on.

Jim was a hero. Heroes, even in the post-enlightenment society of the past several thousand years, were revered. They were of the highest strata, no matter where they came from. Heroes often started clans. Jim’s father was a hero and his mother was one too; Spock had heard of the way she had fought several admirals and then many soldiers to save her son from Tarsus and the few times he had met Winona Kirk had only reinforced that belief.

Jim was from a Clan of heroes and he had carried on that legacy.

The door near them opened up to reveal Jim. Spock’s eyes were always drawn to him. Something about Jim’s presence drew Spock from where ever he was and Spock long stopped fighting it.

Jim stood in his dinner dress uniform, like all of the Starfleet officers, but Jim’s uniform was a gold that was nearly green. It made his already bright eyes, even brighter. It complimented his appearance and made him look dangerous and, with the braids on his shoulders as well as the insignia at his breast, Jim looked like a warrior.

Spock was once again struck with how much he was in love with Jim Kirk and how long he had missed it before finally understating.

Your eyes follow him ,” Jolvek said. Had he been human, Spock would have said Jolvek hissed the words out. “ He’s just a human. Your father would never approve him either. ” he took a deep drink of the glass of wine he was still holding. It was nearly empty by the time he was done with the pull.

Jolvek was still speaking in Vulcan. it was a rudeness that Spock would stop soon as Jim made his way over to them. Jim stopped and grabbed two glasses of the wine that Jolvek was drinking.

He’s a hero ,” Spock said simply, knowing that Jolvek would understand.

Be prepared, Spock. I will gain your hand .” Jolvek spat as Jim got closer.

Spock took his eyes off of Jim for the first time, side glancing at Jolvek. “ I don’t believe you will. Please enjoy the dinner. ” He said as Jolvek glared at Jim before walking away.

Jim arrived and watched Jolvek’s exit with a bemused expression. “Does he not like me or something?”

Spock said, “Or something.”

“Wine?” Jim said, holding up one of the glasses.

Spock took it. “Yes please,” he said. they both watched the party for a few moments. “How did the conversation go with Mr. Kent?” he asked.

Jim sighed, unhappy at the reminder but Spock assured himself that ship came first and this was ship Bussiness. “He understood why. He was relieved that the order to keep silent was rescinded. He’s hoping, with some time with the Starfleet shrinks, he’ll be able to be ground posted somewhere. I think it’s possible but it will all depend on him. The Admirals will decide what to do with him once he’s on Earth Base.” Jim still didn’t look happy. but nothing about this situation was good.

Spock understood. Jim was upset that a crewman felt like had struggle under pressure from an external Starfleet presence alone and it had damaged the ship. he was still upset that said crewman was still under constant supervision.

It was a hard situation.

Jim shook his head, dismissing the subject. “What were you talking about with Jolvek? You were speaking in Vulcan,” he said, turning his curious gaze on Spock.

“Merely social things,” Spock said. He had already dismissed the idea of using Jolvek to make Jim jealousy. He didn’t want to give Jolvek hope that Spock was going to be interested in him and he wasn’t about to undermine his efforts to show he was good mate by teasing that others are also seeing that.

Jim laughed. “I don’t believe you.” He said with a smile, but he also didn’t push any further. “ Anyway, you’re conversation reminded me of something. We’re still meeting after dinner, right?”

“Yes, Jim. We are.” Spock said. it was standard that they meet before either of them rests to play chess or talk.

Perhaps Spock should start there in figuring out if Jim could see him as more than a friend.

“Excellent there’s something I want to show you,” Jim said, smiling in a soft way that Spock had never seen him do with anyone other than the crew. He was also giving Spock that smile a lot more recently.

Spock decided to allow himself to feel hopeful.

-

The next day, on star base 180’s space dock.

“Pavel!”

Pavel looked up from the padd he had in his hands. He wasn’t back on duty yet but he was going to be the next day. His navigators had gotten him the information for the next warp jumps and their destination of New Vulcan.

He had been sitting and watching the crew sort the cargo the ship was taking on to be delivered to New Vulcan while reading the padd on a bench near the ship’s ramp.

Camelia was walking quickly toward him, a sea bag on her shoulders and a travel bag in her hand.

Pavel took in her appearance with surprise. She wasn’t in Starfleet uniform.

Last, he had heard, she had refused shore leave to stay with Kent, her brother. “Camelia.” He said, slightly wary. The last time they had spoken, Len and Pavel had walked into a fight between her and her brother in front of the med bay.

“I’m glad I caught you.” She said. she straightened her skirt as she reached him. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to see you before I left.”

Pavel felt his eyebrows raise up on his forehead. “You’re leaving?” he asked.

Pavel felt like he had missed a lot of the gossip while he was in the med bay that had spread across the ship. he heard some of the latest stories but not all of them. Clearly, this was one of the ones he missed. It felt like he was missing a large part of this conversation.

Camelia nodded. “The paperwork got approved today. I’m leaving with Andy.”

“Kent’s leaving tonight,” Pavel said. This he knew. Kent had asked to see both him and Riley before he was sent back to Starfleet headquarters for evaluation.

When they had gone to see him, Kent had apologized to both of them.  Saying it was his fault and he should have spoken to someone.

Chekov told him that while yes, he should have spoken to someone, he didn’t blame Kent for not knowing what to do and letting it distract him. Riley echoed the statement. Kent had looked relieved. Pavel felt sorry for Kent, but his evaluation at Starfleet headquarters will decide what happens in his career.

Kent hadn’t mentioned his sister once in the whole conversation.

Camelia nodded. “Yes, he is. I walked the paperwork myself around to get everything signed and approved in time. I’m not leaving Andy alone on Earth with my father.” She said.

That made sense with what little gossip Pavel had actually heard while stuck in medbay. If the rumors were to be believed (and with how tight-lipped the Captain, Len, and Scotty were about the whole thing, they were true) then Captain Warrington was an asshole for more concrete reasons then turning a family dinner into a recruitment spiel and Pavel was right to turn him down. He had been grounded and his ship, the Intrepid, wasn’t going to be his for much longer.  

“Oh,” Pavel said, not really knowing what to say, “That’s good. That you want to stay with your brother.”

Camelia sighed, “I just can’t leave him to face father alone. That would wrong.”

“I don’t know,” Pavel said, unable to stop himself, knowing it would probably get him slapped again, “You seemed pretty happy about being with your father last time. I didn’t find out that Kent was your brother until after the accident. You two didn’t mention him.”

He shouldn’t be so cruel but they did date for over four months before she had suggested the dinner to meet her parents. As her father was a Captain who had his own ship and Pavel, at the time, was thinking she might be the one to be serious with, agreed.

Not once did she mention her brother. She had spoken about Kent. But always as her friend never as her brother.

Camelia flinched. “I deserved that,” she said. “It’s not right and I’m going to do better for Kent. I’m sorry for never mentioning him. I’ve listened to my father and ignored the pain it was causing Kent.” She looked angry with herself. She looked away and watched the crew of the Enterprise do their work.

Pavel wasn’t sure if he could fully understand why she was so damn eager to follow her father that she hurt her own brother, but that wasn’t his place to fix. “Does Kent know that?” he asked instead.

Camelia looked back at him and paused like she was unsure of the answer. “I think so. But I don’t know if he believes it yet.” She said slowly.

“Then I would make sure that he knows it. Don’t prove his disbelief right,” Pavel said firmly. He might not know why Camelia made the choices she did or why her father was an asshole, but he did know this: if you claim to be by someone’s side always then you prove it by being there.

“I will,” Camelia said, a look of determination in her eyes. That look was new. Something that was missing in their relationship. Pavel felt pretty sure that he could trust Camelia to help Kent and ignore her father.

“Good,” Pavel said, meaning it. “Then I wish you luck, Camelia.”

Camelia smiled. “Thank you, Pavel. I wanted to tell you something though.” She said shifting her weight. Seabags were always heavy.

Pavel looked up at her in question.

She took a deep breath then said, “I hope you are happy with Doctor McCoy, Pavel. He’s a good man and didn’t deserve my insults. I am sorry that I forced you into the dinner with my family. I hope you have a good life, Pavel.”  She looked in the eyes as she spoke.

Pavel smiled, accepting the apology. “I am happy but it’s not a problem with the dinner. Just be careful in the future. Surprises like that dinner were aren’t good. And thank you, I am very happy with Len. He’s the best.”

“He really is the best at his job,” Camelia said then her comm unit beeped. She reached for it with her free hand and saw the time. “That was a reminder. I’ve got to go.”

Pavel waved but didn’t bother standing up. Camelia was a nurse. She would understand. “Then fair winds and safe seas.” He said, echoing a tradition for transferring sailors that even now in the age of space travel was still considered good luck. Good wind to go back home with and a safe sea to ride upon.

Camelia nodded again, a soft smile on her face. “Thank you. Be safe yourself, McCoy will go insane again to fix you.”

Pavel laughed as she waved and left.

As she disappeared into the crowd that was always near the docks of a starbase, a voice startled Pavel out of his staring.

“She’s right you know. Don’t get yourself injured. I’ll go crazy trying to fix you.” Len said from just above him. “Drink this. I don’t need you dropping from dehydration on top of everything.” He held out a water bottle for Pavel to take.

Pavel turned around and smiled up at his lover. “I am sure you will fix me no matter what.” He took the bottle gratefully. He was very thirsty.

For more than just water.

Len grumbled as he came down close enough to kiss, so Pavel did. “Just please do it less. You and Jim are terrible, Pasha. I don’t know how much my old heart can take.” He said after the broke apart. But he was smiling.

Pavel smiled back, he knew he looked besotted and he didn’t care. “You aren’t old. But once I’m all better you’ll be doing your best to keep up with me.” He said, just to watch the pleased flush develop on Len’s face.

And true enough Len blushes a light red. “God, Pasha, you are going to kill me.” He said as he motioned for Pavel to scoot forward slightly and he settled himself behind Pavel and wrapped his arms around him.

“Just a little death,” Pavel said cheeky, unrepented, and completely ignoring Len’s sputtering laughter. “I love you.” He said, leaning back into the embrace. He hadn’t realized that Len would be a very handy boyfriend, but every day they spent time together, Len always had a hand on him somehow. It was like Len wasn’t sure that Pavel would disappear if Len let go.

Len laughed, loud and happy. “I love you too, Pasha-love,” He said as he hugged Pavel tighter.

-

In the Captain’s quarters that night

“I’m a coward Bones.” Jim moaned from the table. He watched his friends eye him for a moment then take a drink of their beers. The three of them were enjoying some time together. Uhura had musical practice with Spock and Chekov was with the Sulu’s tonight, celebrating Chekov’s recovery.

Scotty was covering up a laugh and Jim knew it. Bones wasn’t even covering one up. He was drinking in preparation for laughing at Jim’s pain.

“Well, you should do something about that then.” Bones said, unsympathetic. “Worked out well for us.” He was sprawled out Jim’s bed, lounging like they were still at the academy and didn’t have chairs in their dorm.

Jim glared at him. “Bullshit. Chekov ask you out first! Don’t think you can trick me into thinking that you did anything there.” he cut a glance to Scotty, who was still laughing into his beer. “You don’t get to say anything either. I heard Uhura ask you out.” Jim paused and thought about that conversation. “Kind of... Anyway! It wasn’t your initiative there either!”

Jim was well aware that he was edging towards tipsy. He had finished his own beer about ten minutes ago and wasn’t reaching for another one. He had a glass of water in front of him.

He just needed something after his failure the night before.

“Captain. It can’t be that bad,” Scotty said, laughing at Jim. He wasn’t hiding anymore. Scotty was openly laughing at his Captain.

No one in this room had respect for him, Jim pouted. He took a drink of water.

“It is that bad,” Jim said, making a snap decision that he would probably regret when he thinks about it in the morning.

He was drunk enough to reach into the desk and pull a letter out from its home in the top drawer of his desk and place it on the table.

It was handwritten, clearly been opened and refolded many times, and it was written in Vulcan.

Both Scotty and Bones stop laughing to stare at the letter.

“It is that bad,” Jim repeated.

Bones reached forward from the bed and picked the letter up from the desk. he treated with caution as if he was afraid to rip the delicate paper. Jim knew the paper would be fine. He had opened the letter up often enough for the last few years since he had received it.

“Jim,” he said after a moment of looking at the letter. “Did your middle school self at heart write your crush a confession note?” He sounded incredulous. He recognized Jim’s handwriting. They had roomed together and, in the academy, Jim had a habit of writing notes on sticky paper for later review.

Scotty moved to look over Bones’ shoulder to read the letter. “It’s in Vulcan,” he said sounding surprised. “You don’t know Vulcan.” He directed to Jim.

“Apparently in about twenty years from now, I do,” Jim said. He took another drink of water.

Bones looked at the date, which was written in stardate, and clearly did some mental math. “Shit Jim. This is dated for when you’re like fifty-seven or something,” he said, looking over the letter with a new curiosity. “How did you…” he trailed off.

“The old man, the ambassador?” Scotty asked. “Did you get this from him?” Scotty was also thinking fast.

Jim nodded. “He left it to me in his will.” He shifted and held his hand out. Bones gave the letter back.

“It’s in Vulcan. Know what it says?” Scotty asked as he went back his chair in front of Jim’s desk.

“Nope. The only two people who could read Vulcan on this ship are Spock and Uhura. And I know it's addressed to Spock. From a bondmate.” Jim said and watched as Bones put it together. “It’s not from Uhura.”

Scotty, who had never seen Jim’s handwriting, was still confused. “Why then?”

“Because the old man’s vision of you wrote it.” Bones said slowly. It was like he was sounding out a problem. “He gave it to you. It’s in your handwriting. And you, the other you, wrote it. and it’s from a bondmate.”

He let out a loud sigh. “Damn it, Jim! You have to be complicated, don’t ya!”

Jim laughed. “You know I do. And well, that’s why I don’t know what it says. Spock knows it's from the old man’s bondmate. He was with Uhura at the time and knew it wasn’t from her… it seemed cruel to ask him to translate.” Jim shook his head. “And no offense, Scotty, but an angry Uhura scares the pants off of me.”

“Why would I be offended?” Scotty asked, taking another drink from his beer. It was almost empty.

“So, you never asked.” Bones said. He was frowning at Jim and the letter still in his hand.

Jim shook his head. “Nope. Never got a translator either. It somehow didn’t feel right.” He had tired on multiple occasions to translate the letter.

The most he ever got was the greeting.

t'nash-veh danik ashau tel-tor katelau Spock, au ik nam-tor t'nash-veh sa-telsu…

My most loved bondmate Spock, he who is my husband…

Jim wasn’t able to go any farther. He just… couldn’t.

He was so lost.

“You’ve had this for years.” Bones said. he didn’t sound happy that Jim didn’t tell him about the letter but apparently was willing to let it go. Jim didn’t regret his choice not to tell anyone about the letter.

He didn’t want anyone to know. He had been fine knowing that Spock was happy and was his friend.

“Yep,” Jim said, wishing he had another beer to drink.

“then what’s this got to do with you being a coward now ?” he asked. Bones gave him a look that even when they had barely been friends and had solely been roommates (this state had lasted all of a week before Jim claimed Bones as his best friend,) had been enough to get Jim to tell the truth.

It was a very effective look.

Scotty sat up and echoed the question. “Yeah, why now?”

Jim sighed and gave up the fight. he reached for another beer. Bones slapped his hand away. “No more for you. You’re done remember?”

Jim nodded, raising his hands in a placating gesture. “Fine, fine. I’m a coward because, yesterday after dinner, I almost showed Spock the letter. I almost told him.”

There was silence in the room for a moment.

Then Scotty said, slowly, “You almost told Spock. About what exactly? The letter or …” he trailed off for a moment then finished, “…Or your feelings?”

“I don’t know for sure. The letter defiantly. But maybe my feelings too? I just know that Spock has been acting differently around me and somewhere in my heart I’m hopeful and I nearly told him but I chickened out in the end,” Jim rambled. “He was here and I nearly gave him the letter but I’m a coward and didn’t.”

Bones sighed. It was a very father-like sound. “Jim-boy. You aren’t a coward if me and Scotty aren’t. Do you know how many times I wondered what would happen if I told Pasha before he confessed to me? Hundreds. I’m sure Scotty is the same way. “

Scotty chimed in. “I was.”

“We aren’t. So, you aren’t. and Jim-boy, you’ve always had good instincts. There was a reason you didn’t tell him last night. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if you know what it was. But there was a reason you didn’t tell him.” Bones finished.

Jim thought about it.

He didn’t know why he didn’t tell Spock.

He had been sitting right were Bones was. He wasn’t sprawled like Bones was but he had been sitting on the bed. Jim had asked him to come over that night with the intent on showing him the letter and asking for a translation.

He had heard the conversation with Jolvek in Vulcan and Jim had to know. It had filled him with a sudden desire that Jim didn’t know how to fulfill by any other way other than asking Spock to translate.

But something had stopped him. Maybe it was the distracted way Spock had been staring. Maybe it was that Jim hadn’t been able to get the drawer open for some reason.

Either way, he hadn’t shown Spock the letter.

Jim had shown him a piece of literature that he had thought that Spock would find interesting.

Jim was right, Spock had been fascinated.

His eyes had this look in them that said he was happy and grateful.

Jim was reminded once again how much he loved Spock.

But Jim still didn’t tell him about the letter. Or of his feelings.

“I don’t know,” Jim said.

Scotty shrugged at him. “Then you should think about it lad, right Bones?”

Bones nodded. “You should. And when you figure it out, tell him then. What’s the harm then?”

Jim laughed. “That’s what people in new relationships always say!” He would be fine. He’s got his crew. He’s got his friends. He’s got the best damn first officer in the fleet. He’s also maybe got Spock in other ways too.

Jim feels hope and allows it to stay.

-

Meanwhile in Nyota’s quarters

Spock. Kirk isn’t going to say no .” Nyota said, frowning up at Spock. She was speaking in Vulcan in the hopes that it would calm Spock down.

Spock was pacing.

An action that was unlike the Vulcan but he seemed to be taking a page out of Kirk’s book and was walking off any excess energy. And based on the ware patterns in Nyota’s floor, Spock had a lot of excess energy.

I do not see why he would ,” Spock said, responding in the same language, “ Say yes that is .”

Nyota sighed. They had been having this argument for the last thirty minutes. They had been practicing music but Spock had seemed distracted and agitated.

And for good reason, Spock was debating asking Jim Kirk out.

Nyota had spent the most of the argument, trying to convince Spock to just ask Kirk out.

Because he wouldn’t say no.

Nyota was sure of that. she knew Kirk and if a friend asked him out he would try it out. he had when Carol Marcus had asked him out on a date after he had gotten out of the hospital after the Kahn incident. It hadn’t gone anywhere but he had genuinely tried.

Kirk was much closer to Spock then he had been with Carol Marcus.

He wouldn’t say no.

Nyota had her suspicions though.

Nyota suspected that Kirk might be more than just willing to date a friend.

Nyota had watched Kirk interact with Spock for the past few months, using all of her powers of communication and understating body language to figure out if Spock had a chance.

Kirk’s behavior really hadn’t changed since that first shore leave.

He was still very close to Spock and would always seek him out for advice. Kirk still placed a lot of value in Spock and what Spock thinks. Even if he didn’t act on the advice all the time. He referenced Spock’s opinion in conversation even when Spock wasn’t in the room.

There was a lot of touching. An action that in the early stages of her and Spock’s relationship had made her very upset before she realized that Kirk was just one of those people who needed physical contact with others.

All of that was normal. All of Kirk’s actions hadn’t changed.

But what had changed was Spock’s behavior toward Kirk.

When before, Spock hadn’t discouraged the touching, neither leaning in or stepping away from Kirk’s hand on his arm or shoulder, Spock was now encouraging the touches. And at times starting them.

The first time she had seen Spock reach out and touch Kirk with something like affection before leaving the bridge, she could have sworn that Kirk blushed. It was faint but she knew a blush when she saw one.

Spock was also spending more time with Kirk than ever before. that had caused a difference in Kirk’s mannerisms that had caught Nyota’s eye. Kirk looked so damn happy that Spock was spending all of his free time with him. His gestures had gotten bigger and the tension in his shoulders had faded. Kirks’ eyes dilated and every action that he took said that he was over the moon that Spock was spending more time with him.

Nyota couldn’t help but think maybe he was interested.

He has not changed his behavior patterns ,” Spock said. He was still pacing. “ He is merely closer than he was before. Nothing more. He hasn’t shown any difference .”

Nyota didn’t hold back a snort of laughter. She had enumerated her reasons earlier. Spock didn’t believe her fully.

It honestly sounded like a conversation they had months ago; one which had been about her and Scotty. Now she could understand Spock’s frustration.

Because, as she couldn’t see that Scotty might love her, neither could Spock see that Jim Kirk might be in love with him.

He wouldn’t believe Nyota when she said had suspicions that Kirk may have been in love with him for years.

Scotty had said something a few nights ago which had grown her minor suspicions that Kirk may have a crush on Spock into something bigger.  

He had mentioned that the drinking sessions he, McCoy, and Kirk had been doing on the occasional shore leave, was going to come to an end. When Nyota had asked why Scotty said that he and McCoy didn’t need to drink like that anymore.

That his reason for drinking was gone.

And Nyota knew that Scotty started to date her, after years of being in love with her.

It would have taken a moron to miss the way that McCoy had been in love with Chekov.

So, the third member of the drinking crew was, logically, in love with someone who doesn’t love them back.

And based on what she’s seen, the only person that Kirk spent enough time with, cared about their opinion of

Jim Kirk will not say no, Spock. He likes you! A lot! So much so that I’m surprised he hasn’t asked you out yet !” Nyota said, in Andorian. She sure that she would kick Spock if he didn’t get it into his head that Kirk liked him.

Spock still hadn’t sat down and it was starting to be annoying. This is one of the reasons they didn’t work, Nyota thought to herself.

he will not ,” Spock said, responding also in Andorian. It was game they used to play a lot when they were just friends. Nyota would say something in one language and he would respond in kind. As she had grown as a communications officer she had learned languages he hadn’t so she could stump him. It wasn’t her goal tonight; she just wanted to give him something familiar to ground himself with.

Or distract himself with. He sounded so sure of his conclusion that Jim Kirk would not be interested in dating him that it made Nyota sigh. It was a good thing that Spock wasn’t the communications officer. He would miss so much.

Tell me why you have come to this conclusion? ” she asked. “ And for goodness sake: sit down! ” she pointed at the chair that was near her bed. She was sitting on her bed and she was tired of looking up at him. It was causing pain in her neck.

Spock paused in his movements. He seemed to take a moment to realizes he was pacing. Then the tips of his ears flushed green for a heartbeat before they went back to normal.

Nyota had to hide a giggle. Kirk had always prompted Spock to do emotional things.

Even if it was as small as pacing.

“because he loves someone enough that he drinks to handle the emotions,” Spock said in standard. “I have seen him partake in the activity.”

Nyota blinked in surprise. She didn’t know that he had realized that Kirk did that. “ Oh? What does that have anything to do with whether or not Kirk likes you? ” this time she spoke in Hebrew, a language that Spock had learned from his mother.

He likes this other person, Nyota. I am sure he loves them. Why would he say yes if I proposed a romantic date? ” Spock said, finally sitting down in the office chair she had. her quarters were much smaller than his first officer quarters so all she had was a small desk and chair tucked into a corner of the room. He spoke in Hebrew as well. his accent was much better than hers.

Because I’m about eighty percent sure that you’re the one who drives him to drink ,” Nyota said, calm as she could be.

Spock stiffened and then frowned.

He must be really upset if he actually frowned.

“I am not the one who drives him to drink!” Spock said in standard. Nyota revised her evaluation from upset to shaken. Spock had reverted to standard. Nyota was getting to him. He was faltering in his convection. “I have to prove to him that I would be an excellent mate. And casing him such emotion, for years, would not be a conductive way to prove my worth.”

While he hadn’t lost the frown on his face, Spock seemed sadder than angry.

Nyota sighed again. It seemed like she was doing that a lot. Spock was sad about not being enough. It was a common enough event in their relationship that Nyota had an idea how to help.

“Oh Spock, he likes you. A lot.” Nyota said, her voice firm. She didn’t let her tone be anything he could argue with.

“But he may not say yes. I will wait.” Spock said. the frown disappeared and Spock seemed to come to a decision.

“Spock…” Nyota said almost reproachfully. If he chose to wait then the last half hour of dissection would be for naught. “Spock you can- “

“Nyota, I can’t risk Jim’s friendship,” Spock said firmly. “Once I am sure he may like me, then I will ask him out on a date. But not right now.”

Nyota didn’t feel so confident. She worried that if Spock didn’t talk to Kirk soon that Vulcan who had been flirting with Spock will start to think he is actually available.

And that would be a disaster. Kirk would be jealous. Spock would be annoyed. The whole event will become a problem with the Vulcan delegation.

But she also knew that once Spock made a decision like this one there was no changing his mind. “If you are sure.” She said instead.

“I am,” Spock said, “I will wait.”

 

Chapter Text

The last afternoon docked at star base 180.

Bones sighed. He hated when the med bay got its supply delivery late in a shore leave. It always caused problems. Either pallets of necessary items were missing or something was broken.

There were working parties of people loading the pallets and were making sure objects were getting moved to the right locations in the ship, from storerooms to the mess or even in Medical itself.

Spock was directing them with help from a person from the Quartermaster's department. Spock would lead the assistant properly as the crew loaded the last of the supplies for the next several months onto the ship. The actual quartermaster was standing next to Bones, as Bones tried not to yell at him.

“Look I know you did your best but I need to have that medication on the ship!” Bones said, trying to keep his temper down. The quartermaster didn’t need his ire. It wasn’t his fault that the supply guys on Starbase 180 couldn’t do anything right.

The quartermaster, informally known as QM, was a short human who always looked ready to tear his hair out on shore leave. “Sir, I know! But it’s going to be late. There’s nothing I can do about that. The shipment is late and I can’t make it get here earlier.” The man gestured down to the padd in his hand. “It will be here before we leave tomorrow morning, but that’s the best I can promise you, Doctor McCoy.”

Bones didn’t bother sighing. “Fine. I’ll sign off on the rest then,” holding his hand out to take the padd. “I’m sure it will show up.”

QM looked relieved and passed over the padd.

Bones did sigh as he signed his name on the padd in several locations. It never did well to piss off Supply. They were vital to the ship life and to make an enemy of the supply department usually caused problems. Them, and the yeomen. He’d learned early not to piss them off either. He passed the padd back and the Quartermaster took off to deal with the next delivery.

Bones just wanted to get the shipment counted and on board. All that was left to load was his medical team’s supplies, the Vulcan delegation’s supplies, and the mess’ food order. The Vulcan delegation’s supplies and finds weren’t finished being loaded, but they would finish later in the late evening. The mess always was the last thing to be loaded, because the food would be fresher that way.

“Problems with the shipment?” Jim asked as he walked down the ramp that lead to the interior of the ship’s loading dock.

Bones gave him a long look that promised pain over being asked a stupid question. “Of course, there is. But that’s Starbases for you.” Bones really didn’t blame the quartermaster for the delay.

He blamed the Starbase.

Jim laughed and clapped Bones on the shoulder, “Yep! But QM will have it fixed by the time we leave.” He drew even with Bones. Jim was, for the first time this shore leave, not wearing a dress or service uniform. He was dressed in his gold command working shirt. Bones was relieved. Jim’s stress levels always went down when he got back into the gold shirt. Bones really didn’t understand it himself. Bones hated that uniform. But to be fair, he hated all the uniforms.

“When’s our leave time tomorrow?” he asked instead of grousing about the shipment.

Jim smirked at him like he knew what Bones was thinking. “0700 ship time, so that’s about 0900 base time.”

“Ugh, I hate the time differences between a ship and any location. Why can’t the starbases be at the same time that the ships are on?” Bones groaned. He hated having to adjust every time they docked somewhere or when they were in orbit above a planet.

Jim’s smirk only grew. They had this discussion before and at length. Bones made his opinion quite clear every time. “The Federation is... working on it. I don’t know how many Starbases now match ship standard time, but I know it’s a great deal of them. Starbase 180 just isn’t one of them yet. You’ll have to ask Scotty for a full count.” Jim knew that Bones would only grumble but never try to leave.

Somewhere along the way, Bones found out he had a home on the Enterprise.

“Ask Scotty for a full count of what?” Scotty’s voice came from behind them.

Jim and Bones jumped in surprise, turning around to face Scotty.

“How many Starbases are left that haven’t gone to the standard ship time?” Bones asked. He had celebrated the announcement that the starbases and the ships would be at the same time. it made being docked at a starbase so much easier and prevented problems like missing shipment of medical supplies from happening.

Scotty thought about it. “I think the last report said that about seventy-five percent of the Starbases had made the switch.”

“Good.” Bones grumbled. “Maybe next time we stop at a Starbase then I won’t have to deal with time differences in addition to being stuck in space.” He meant it too. If he was stuck in space then the least a Starbase could do was be in time with the ship.

Scotty and Jim laughed.

Bones had to smile at their joy.

“What brings you out here anyway?” Bones asked when the other two had finally gained control of themselves.

None of them should have been dealing with a hangover. They hadn’t drunk that much last night. it was just a beer or two with friends. So, they shouldn’t need any doctoring from him.

“Just checking out the final loading,” Jim said. He always made sure to be seen by his crew. Even if it was simple as walking around while working parties got the supply shipments on the ship. It was important to him that his crew didn’t fear him - and that he was never intimidating. Bones knew of Jim’s desire to be close to his crew of five hundred.

Scotty had a different answer. “Looking for you, Captain.”

Jim tilted his head in curiosity. “What’s up, Scotty?” he asked.

“Well, you remember the project Nyota and I have been working on?” he asked. Bones remembered the project. It was something to do with the communications systems. Knowing Scotty’s perchance for the mad and Uhura’s determination to ease communications, the project was probably borderline or completely against regulations but ultimately would be brilliant .

Jim nodded, “I know that you’ve been super-secret about something!” he was grinning. Jim looked like he couldn’t wait to see what Scotty and Uhura had come up with. Bones revered, with a familiar feeling of fond dread, that everyone on the ship was mad.

Scotty was just madder than the rest.

“Aye. Well, we’re ready to show you what we want to do.”  Scotty ginned.

Jim matched the look. “Two of my best minds, working on a harebrained project that will probably save the Enterprise when we least expect it? Hell yeah!”

As Scotty protested the use of the word ‘harebrained’, Bones glanced around.

Several of the members of the Vulcan delegation had arrived, including the leader and that one asshole who Bones had met during the formal dinner.

Bones still wanted to punch that guy in the face. He’d been so rude. The Vulcan, Jolvek, had been insulting to Jim’s Captaincy, and had spent a good bit of time trying to prove to them that Spock was the true Captain.

And any member of the crew could tell you that was a lie. Spock was a decent leader. But Jim Kirk was a great Captain.

As Bones watched, Jolvek broke away from the leader of the group to make a beeline toward Spock.

“Oh no.” Bones said, drawing the attention of the other two. Jim and Scotty ended their debate and followed Bones’ gaze.

“What’s ‘oh no’?” Jim asked as he craned his neck to see what Bones was looking at.

Bones pointed with a jerk of his thumb. “That one Vulcan, bless his stupid heart, is going to try once again to talk to Spock.”

Scotty winced. Clearly, he had been filled in with what had been going on by Uhura. “We should go to rescue Spock. Or stop Spock from nerve pinching his ass.”

“Ok…” Jim eyed them. “What do you two know that I don’t?”

Bones caught Scotty’s eye and shook his head. “We’ll tell you later. But we need to get to Spock.”  Bones wasn’t going to let Spock deal with that asshole alone again. He’d only left during the formal dinner because he’d been watching both Pasha and Riley. If Bones hadn’t been on duty watching them, then Jolvek would have been introduced to Bones’ fist several times.

“Ok.” Jim agreed. “Let’s go.”

-

Meanwhile across the loading bay

Spock knew his official task was superfluous in all honesty. He was on duty and it was his job to supervise the crew while they loaded the last of the supplies the ship needed.

It was an important task, as after the stop at New Vulcan the ship wasn’t going to be at a Starbase or a Federation Planet for several months. The ship needed gear, food, medical supplies, and the rest of the items needed to run a Starship of the Enterprise’s class and size.

But the crew worked well together. Every department was represented as the Quartermaster’s team directed the flow of traffic. From the botany lab, taking in new fertilizer and other needed items, to the engineering teams receiving pallet after pallet of parts and tools they would need. The astrophysics labs were even expecting a shipment.

The supplies were the ones that would be difficult to replicate or is just easier to have on hand.

Spock’s official job was to supervise and be in command of the loading of the supplies but he knew he was unnecessary. Jim and he demanded perfection of the crew and the crew was always willing to give it.

They didn’t need Spock present particularly, but as Jim always preferred to be seen by his crew, Spock followed suit.

He saw Dr. McCoy across the loading bay, arguing with the Quartermaster about a part of the shipment that was supposed to go med bay. The Quartermaster was always stressed during the on-boarding of the shipments but he was an excellent organizer.

The Quartermaster’s first assistant came up to Spock with a padd. “Sir. The Vulcans are asking about their luggage. It’s the last thing from the delegation’s shipment that needs to be loaded.” The woman didn’t look as harried as the Quartermaster but she was brisk.

Renank was close behind her. Spock greeted him in Vulcan and then turned to the quartermaster’s assistant. “The luggage will be one of the first things off so the pallets will be one of the last ones on. Everything is proceeding according to schedule.”

The woman nodded and moved on, hurrying over to where the messes perishable food order had just arrived.

“Your crew has worked hard, Mr. Spock,” Renank said. “I am sure the next two weeks will be calm.” He watched the crew as they moved. A part of the Vulcan delegation was moving around the last of their luggage. Doing final checks of the gear before it was placed in the holding bay. Jolvek was a part of that group.

Spock resolved to ignore the other Vulcan; Jolvek was not worth Spock’s time.

“I am sure it will be,” Spock said, turning his attention back to his own padd with the information from the shipment on it. “A peaceful journey to return to our new home.”

They both exchanged farewells before Renank left him to join his party by the luggage.

Movement caught Spock’s attention, pulling his attention from the padd.

Jim was at the edge of the loading dock. He was back in his gold command shirt. There was something right in the universe when Jim wore his command gold. Gold for the best captain Starfleet had and will ever have. Jim waved at the crew as he walked around the bay. He was heading to Doctor McCoy. McCoy said something that caused Jim to start laughing.

Spock thought he looked beautiful.

He hoped that maybe soon he would have the courage to tell Jim just how he felt. But for now, Spock would watch and try to flirt subtlety.

Spock watched as Mr. Scott came up and joined the group. And soon they were all laughing.

The Quartermaster’s assistant hurried up to him and handed him a padd. Spock saw that the padd held the missing and unable to be fulfilled list. Spock signed below the quartermaster’s signature, acknowledging the lack of items and that they would be stocked as soon as Starfleet could get a shuttle to them.

After placing his name on the padd, the Assistant Quartermaster hurried off to the next part of their job and Spock returned to what he was doing before; watching Jim.

You watch him with eyes that say a lot, Mr. Spock. ” Jolvek’s voice came from behind him. “ He’s still not worth your desire. ”  He spoke to Spock in Vulcan, something that caused the nearest crewmembers to stop and glance in their direction in confusion. The Vulcans delegation had only had spoken Standard since they had arrived on the ship. The crewmembers would recognize the change in languages.  

They were part of the communications team.

Spock refrained from sighing. It would do him no good. The communications team may not understand what he and Jolvek were saying, as Vulcan wasn’t a common language to learn despite Nyota’s best efforts, but they could read his body language well enough.

You are wrong, Jolvek, ” he said simply, also in Vulcan. He wouldn’t rise to this attempt to get his attention. He would not consider Jolvek to be a potential mate.

“I am not. I will prove it to you .” Jolvek said with enough determination that Spock looked at him fully for the first time. There was a glint in his eyes that surprised Spock. It was recklessness - a rare trait in Vulcans.

“And how do you plan to do that?” Spock asked. He placed his padd on a crate nearby, leaving his hands free. He didn’t know what Jolvek was planning but Spock was going to make sure that if he was going to fight then his hands would be free.

I will prove it to you by besting him in a contest of arms. I am the better choice. ” Jolvek said, taking a step forward in the direction that Jim was in.

Spock moved to stop the man. He placed himself between Jolvek and Jim. He would defend his mate. He would prove to Jim that he was a good mate by defending him from enemies. “ No, you will not. ” Spock nearly growled.

Spock could hear the normal loud chatter from the working parties become more muted then they had a moment before. He suspected that this tête-à-tête was catching the attention of others.

Jolvek looked angry for a heartbeat before the expression faded to just tension in his shoulders and clenched fists. “ Why? Why do you protect him? He’s not worth you or your abilities. It matters not that he is a hero! Or that he comes from a family of heroes! I am better. I can provide more than he can!”

Despite the Vulcan words, the tone wasn’t one that most Vulcan’s would use. Jolvek was angry and it was showing. The harsh, furious tone of Jolvek was carrying.

More of the chatter behind Spock faded. Spock paid the difference little attention. He focused his concentration on the person in front of him blocked out the unnecessary sound. His brain cutting out the information he didn’t need for his goal.

There was a threat to Jim in front of him.

He would defend Jim.

“I think you need to rethink your path, ” Spock said. “It is clear that you are being controlled by your emotions.” It was the biggest insult he could think of, short of borrowing from Jim and simply cursing the other Vulcan out. “I have rejected you. It is not logical to keep trying to ensnare me in a bond. I will not comply.” He kept his back to the crew, sure that they would cover him if need be.

He would not take his eyes off the threat.

Because of him? ” Jolvek asked. He sounded calmer than before but his hands were still balled up into fists. “ I can provide more! We are of similar intelligence. I have projects we can work on. I am sure that when the time comes, we will be compatible.”

Jolvek’s reference to Pon Farr made Spock flinch. His time wasn’t something he wished to think of. His other self had warned him that he was going to go through it in his future. However, with the loss of Vulcan, neither knew when that would be. “I already have a preferred mate for my time,” Spock said.

He was glad this part of the conversation was in Vulcan. Nyota was the only one other than the Vulcans who could follow the conversation and she was not there. She was currently on the bridge holding the conn.

“I highly doubt that we, Jolvek, are compatible. The Captain is much more than just merely compatible.” Spock said. it was the truth, something that Spock knew in his bones.

Jim and he had something special.

“More than compatible? Do you honestly think that you might be t’hy’la with a human, of all creatures? ” Jolvek said. His disdain when he spat out the Vulcan word for a human was nearly painful to hear.

Spock would have glared at him for the slight against his heritage, against his mother but the word t’hy’la had taken all of his attention.

Because it made sense. Jim was his t’hy’la. Jim was his other half, his other part of his soul. His be all and everything. Jim was his friend, his brother and his chosen companion. His wished-for lover.

T’hy’la.

That explained some of what Spock was feeling in his katra.

“You do. You think you are t’hy’la with a human. ” Jolvek said sounding stunned. It took a moment before all of the anger, he was feeling came up to the surface and his expression changed from one of cool indifference of a Vulcan to one of anger and hate. Jolvek’s eyes flicked over the shoulder of Spock but did Spock not take his eyes off of the threat to Jim. that’s all Jolvek was now. A threat.   “How disappointing, the best of the Vulcans thinks a human is the best he can get. I can show you much more.”

“I do,” Spock said simply. “He is the sun to my planet. Necessary and logical to life, my life .”

Jolvek glared at Spock. “He is unworthy.”

“I do not believe he is. He is, by far, worthier than you. ” Spock growled out. He was rapidly running out of patience for this conversation.

“What is going on here?” Jim’s voice was commanding and came from close behind Spock. Spock felt a moment of relief that Jim was close to him, which made him easier to protect from the threat.

Jim came up on Spock’s right side. Spock stepped forward to keep Jim behind him. Jim placed his hand on Spock’s upper arm. “Spock, what’s going on? What’s with the defensive posture?” he murmured, just low enough that most of the crew would not be able to hear what was said.

Jolvek currently could.

“I am fine Jim. Jolvek and I are merely having a disagreement.” Spock said. Despite his realization that Jim was his t’hy’la, Spock was unsure that Jim was interested in him in such a way. This was deeper than just merely agreeing to date a close friend.

This was much more. This was Everything.

Jim frowned. “This conversation looks like much more than just a disagreement, Spock.” His hand was still on Spock’s upper arm. It was like a brand. Jim’s emotions were powerful. He was concerned, ready for a fight and worried. There was something else that Spock had always felt from Jim but never was able to identify, something that was undoubtedly part of Jim’s very soul.

“It's fine,” Spock said, ignoring how the phrase made Jim’s eyebrows raise into his hairline. Jim noticed the contraction as well as his use of the word ‘fine’.

“Now I absolutely believe you,” Jim said in a tone that was full of sarcasm.

Spock still hadn’t taken his full attention from Jolvek. The other Vulcan was growing angrier.

“I demand a challenge for your hand, S’hin T’gai Spock.” Jolvek said, “I demand to fight the other suitor for your hand. I will come out victorious and you will bond with me.”

There was something changed in his tone and words that a part of Spock’s mind started to think about but the rest of him was more concerned with the illogical declaration.

Spock would not let that stand.

Neither apparently, would Jim, who could apparently tell fighting words no matter what language they were spoken in, as he attempted to step forward to fight Jolvek.

Spock held his arm out to stop Jim from moving forward.

“There is no logic in your statement, Jolvek,” Spock said, matching his tone. “For you to fight for my hand, I would have needed to accept your suit. I have not. Furthermore, you cannot fight Jim. I wish to be his suitor, not the other way around.”

There was a gasp from right next to him that took Spock a moment to realize was from Jim.

Because there was silence.

And the part of Spock’s brain that was working on the difference in Jolvek’s speech finally figured it out.

Jolvek hadn’t issued his challenge in Vulcan.

He had been speaking Standard.

And Spock had responded to him in the same language. Something he was used to doing as he and Nyota liked to play with languages while having conversations.

Then Spock realized the silence from the bay wasn’t just because his brain was filtering the excess information.

It was because the crew had stopped working to listen in.

Spock dropped his hand and stepped away from Jim. he drew himself up straight. and was unsure of what he should do. It was far too early to tell Jim how he felt. But now Jim knew. He knew that Spock was interested in seeing him romantically. The whole crew knew that Spock was in love with the Captain.

It was far too early. Jim wasn’t acting any different. They were only just friends. Spock hadn’t experimented to see if flirting was going to be well received. He didn’t know if Jim was interested.

He just didn’t know.

He avoided looking at Jim. He wouldn’t be able to handle seeing him at that moment.

Jolvek looked smug like he had won something when Spock met his eyes. Spock didn’t feel a thing as he spun on his heel and walked away from the crowd.

The crew parted and let him through. Spock didn’t register the expressions on their faces. He didn’t register anything.

He just left.

He didn’t know where he was going.

-

In the loading bay

As Jim had walked over to where Spock and Jolvek were talking, he noticed that the crew nearest them had stopped working and were instead watching the two Vulcans with rapt attention.

Jim was worried. Spock was facing away from him but he was standing in a defensive posture. It was like he was preparing to protect the crew. The lines of tension were something that most people couldn’t read but Jim could.

He could put good money on that the communications team, the nearest ones to Spock, could read him too. Uhura trained her people well.

Bones and Scotty, both just a step behind Jim, could read the tension in Spock’s shoulders. They could read the stance and they were apparently prepping for a fight.

As they got closer Jim could hear that Spock and Jolvek were speaking in Vulcan. Whatever Jolvek was staying was causing Spock to respond with a heated tone.

Apparently, Jolvek wasn’t happy with Spock’s response because he was also getting angrier. “ …Tor du nah-tor ik du lau nam-tor t’hy’la k' wuh komihn ?”

Jim didn’t understand much from Vulcan. He knew the Vulcan word for human, however. He also understood the disdain that filled Jolvek’s voice when he said ‘komihn’.

Whatever was being said had something to do with humans. Which pissed Jim off. But Spock didn’t react in any way that Jim expected.

Spock straightened in surprise. Surprised by what, Jim didn’t know. He couldn’t see Spock’s face still. Jim was close enough, however, to hear Spock mummer “T’hy’la. ” to himself. It honestly sounded like he didn’t know he was speaking.

Then Spock’s shoulders went back as Jolvek said something else in Vulcan. “Du tor.  Du nah-tor du nam-tor t’hy’la k' wuh komihn.” Jolvek glanced over Spock’s shoulder and saw Jim. Jim held his gaze for a moment before Jolvek went back to staring at Spock. “ Ra vravshaya.  Wuh buhfik t' wuh Vuhlkansu nah-tor wuh komihn tor wuh buhfik au mokuhlek prah.  Nash-veh mokuhlek gluvaya du mau weht.” Jolvek spat out.

That apparently caused Spock to snap too. Jim watched as he stood up straight and looked down his nose at Jolvek, “Nash-veh tor. Ang'jmizn nam-tor wuh yel tor t'nash-veh ek'tra.  Bolayatik heh olozhikaik tor ha'kiv.”

Jim caught his rank in whatever Spock just said. He berated himself for not learning Vulcan before. Uhura was always trying to get more people to learn how to speak the language. And Jim's got a letter to learn how to write.

Bones stepped next to Jim. “I don’t like this. Jolvek is an asshole. Who knows what he’s telling Spock right now.” He whispered. Bones glanced around at the crew and Jim followed. Most of the crew had stopped and were now making their way over to the drama that involved their first officer.

Jim didn’t blame them. It was unlike Spock to act like this. Or really, it was unlike Spock to act this way when they were on a Starbase. Spock could be just as protective of the crew as Jim while they were out in space.

Jim had been ambivalent to Jolvek’s presence on the ship, despite the Vulcan’s apparent dislike of him. But that was rapidly changing to an outright dislike of Jolvek. If the other Vulcan could draw this protectiveness out of his normally calm First Officer then Jim didn’t want him on the Enterprise longer then he had to be.

“I don’t like where this is going,” Jim said to Bones and Scotty. still watching as Spock actually growled something at Jolvek. He had to interrupt.

“What’s going on here? Spock, what’s wrong?” he asked. He stopped at Spock’s right in an attempt to move into the center to break up the fight, but Spock refused to let Jim past him. Spock took a step forward and placed Jim behind him again. Jim placed his hand on Spock’s upper arm in an attempt to steady himself. “What’s with defensive posture?”

Spock hadn’t taken his eyes off Jolvek. Despite the way, he was a defensive barrier in front of Jim. Jim didn’t know what Jolvek had said or done to reach that level of threat to Spock but Jim trusted his opinion.

“It’s fine Jim. Jolvek and I are merely having a disagreement.” Spock lied.

Jim didn’t believe him for a moment. Nothing about this situation said ‘disagreement’ and all of it said ‘impending fight’. “This looks like much more than just a disagreement Spock,” Jim said. Spock shifted and Jim didn’t move his hand, but he could feel the muscles in Spock’s arm shift and move. They were tense but he leaned into Jim’s touch slightly.

Jim couldn’t help the rush of love he felt at the gentle acknowledgment of Jim’s presence and support. He didn’t fight the feeling. If Spock hadn’t noticed before then he wouldn’t notice now.

“I’m fine,” Spock said and Jim felt his eyebrows raise.

“Now I absolutely believe you,” Jim said, putting in as much sarcasm as he could muster. Spock merely inclined his head and returned his full attention back to the Vulcan in front of him.

Jim could see the crowd around them grow to include the Vulcans who had been looking at their luggage before it was loaded into the bay.

“I demand a challenge for your hand, S’hin T’gai Spock,” Jolvek said, and that was something Jim could understand. Jolvek had switched to the standard language, instead of using Vulcan. “I demand to fight the other suitor for your hand. I will come out victorious and you will bond with me.”

Jim felt his eyes widen and then narrow. This whole thing was because Jolvek was perusing Spock? And Spock clearly wasn’t interested. But who was this other suitor?

Jim decided he didn’t care. He would fight Jolvek and keep him from trying to force Spock into bonding with him. He moved to step forward to accept the challenge that Jolvek issued. He was perfectly willing to fight.

If it meant that the other Vulcans on the ship would think that Jim was Spock’s suitor then, well, that would be even better. Maybe he would stop being a coward and he would actually tell Spock his feelings.

Spock stopped him from taking Jolvek’s challenge by moving his arm in front of Jim.

“There is no logic in your statement, Jolvek,” Spock said in standard. Jim knew that was an insult if he ever heard one. Based on the other Vulcans’ reaction, stiffening shoulders and well-concealed looks of rage, (surprisingly, the looks seemed to be aimed at Jolvek…), it was a pretty bad one.

Then Spock continued, “For you to fight for my hand, I would have needed to accept your suit.” That made sense to Jim.  “I have not. Furthermore, you cannot fight Jim. I wish to be his suitor, not the other way around.”

Jim was vaguely aware that he may have gasped aloud.

He was more aware that Spock’s brain seemed to realized something by the way he stiffened and look around, breaking his staring contest with Jolvek for the first time since the argument started.

Behind him, Jim heard Scotty whistle lightly and Bones whisper, “Oh shit.”

Jim watched as Spock looked around, saw the whole crew watching the drama. Then he stiffened up even further. He didn’t look at Jim.

At all.

Jim tried not to take that as a rejection.

Then Spock turned to the smug looking Jolvek for a heartbeat before he turned on his heel and left. He walked back to the ship and no one stopped him. The crew let him go.

Jim let him go.

That made Jim start thinking again. He took a half step toward Spock before he thought better of it. Spock was upset. Jim only had a few places on the ship he would go. He was going to find Spock.

And he would clear this up.

But first, he had something to do.

Jim took that half step and used it as momentum to turn around to face Jolvek and he slammed his fist into Jolvek’s jaw.

Jolvek collapsed to the floor.

“Challenge accepted, asshole. And you lose.” Jim spat down at the Vulcan who was on the floor. “Stay away from Spock. He clearly isn’t into you.”

That broke the silence with the crew. They began to agree. Loudly, and with vehemence. Jim also noticed some money start to change hands. He also distinctly heard Scotty’s voice say, “Looks like half my department is going to owe me credits. They all said it would take them another year.”

Jim ignored them all. He had a better idea. “Actually. Get off my ship. You have harassed a member of my crew to the point of humiliation. I don’t trust you to try not to push even further. You’re a danger. So, because of that, I want you off my ship.”

Jolvek rose to his feet, holding a hand to his cheek. “Such an emotional response. Spock deserves so much more than you.” He said, glaring at Jim.

Jim glared right back. “I don’t care what you think, Jolvek. Get off my ship. You aren’t worth the dirt on Spock’s shoes. Leave .”

Jim could hear QM order several of the crew to get Jolvek’s gear. They broke off of the crowd and went to the Vulcan’s pallets of luggage. They efficiently took the already built pallets apart and located Jolvek’s things.

“You will have to deal with my teacher,” Jolvek said. He had dropped his hand. “I’m sure Renank would be displeased that you have threatened his head student.”

“I am, by far, more displeased that you have shown such illogical tenancies,” Renank said, coming through the crowd of remembers. He had several other Vulcans head back to their supplies.

“Renank?” Jolvek sounded stunned, for a Vulcan.

Jim glanced at Renank. “I’m sorry sir, but I can’t have someone who has been harassing my crew on the ship.” He knew that he didn’t sound truly apologetic, but Jim didn’t care.

Jolvek was not going to be on the Enterprise when it departed in the morning. He would deal with the Federation, Starfleet, and the Vulcan High Council if need be. But Jim did not care.

Spock was more important.

“Do not apologize, Captain Kirk. I agree. You may not have heard what was said in while they spoke Vulcan, but we all did. I can not have a student who so demonstrates such bigotry toward humans.” Renank said. He was calm as ever but there was a hint of anger in his posture. Jim liked the Vulcan even more. “It is illogical, especially with what we study and are looking for.”

Jolvek was wearing an expression of open shock. “ Savensu ?” he asked.

Renank gave him a quick frown. “Do not call me teacher. You are no longer my student.”

Before he could say more QM walked up with several crew members and Vulcans behind him. Each of them was carrying a box or a bag. “Here you go, sirs. All of his luggage and gear.”

Renank nodded and Jim said, “Thank you, QM. Please restart the onboarding. You’ve got all the signatures you need. If not, go to Scotty.”

QM nodded then walked off with Scotty in tow. Bones stayed behind.

The crew got the unspoken order and remarkably quickly got back to work. That’s one the of the reasons Jim loved his crew. They understood when it was time to get back to work.

“I do not understand, Renank. I am your best student. Why are you letting them follow through with this ridiculous threat?” Jolvek asked, looking at his teacher like Renank would be convinced to change his mind.

“As I said. Our goal is understanding of the universe and all its differences. Bigotry isn’t something I have taught not want in my school. The pursuit of someone who does not wish your company isn’t something I have taught. You have not practiced what I have taught. Please leave.” Renank said. He looked expressionless but Jim still could see that anger.

Bones snorted behind him. “Yeah. We’re not asking you to leave. We’re telling ya.”

Jim crossed his hands across his chest. “Leave. You have your stuff.”

Jolvek looked at Renank for a moment. Renank shook his head and turned around and walked away. He didn’t say a word.  Jolvek started after him for a moment before he picked up his bags and left the loading dock.

Jim glared at him until he was out of sight. Only once the Vulcan was gone did he turned to Bones.

“I’ve got to go,” he said.

Bones nodded and pointed back toward the ship. “Go get your man.”

Jim laughed, small and sudden. He gave a bright grin to Bones. “I’ve got to get something for him. But yes.”

“He’ll like the letter.” Bones said, not bothering to hide the grin on his face.

Jim nodded. “He will.” Determination filled his veins. He could do this.

Spock wanted to be his suitor.

Then he started toward the ship. He paused just before he got to the top of the loading ramp. then he turned around. “Hey, who won the most?” he yelled down to the bustling crew.

The crew stopped in their work and glanced around, each of the ones who clearly did win something with Spock’s declaration doing a quick calculation.

Then a cheer from the where the engineering team was at. “I did, Captain!” Gaila cried out, waving her hand.

Jim laughed. “What was your exact bet?”

“Large confession, accidental, Spock said it! And then I also bet separately on the first year of this mission!” she said cheerfully. There were groans around her. Jim had to laugh.

“Enjoy it, Gaila!” Jim said as he went back into the ship.

He had a letter for a Vulcan to read.

And a confession of his own to make.

-

In the observation deck

Spock wasn’t sure why he found himself looking out to space on the observation deck.

Maybe it was because he had always felt more comfortable looking out to the stars and knowing they still called to him. That he belonged among them.

Maybe it was because the stars were always in Jim’s eyes. Jim was born among the stars and they had never truly left him.

Either way, Spock let himself stare out the window of the observation deck that faced the outside. One was unable to see the Starbase from where Spock stood. He was sitting at the bench table that ran the length of the windows.

He had a glass of some fairly sweet-smelling alcohol in front of him, untouched. He knew why he asked for the drink, but he still wasn’t sure if he would drink the beverage.

Maybe he should have asked something with chocolate in it instead.  He would have at least felt the alcohol then.

This was not what he had wanted to happen.

What Spock had wanted to do was if Jim had been receptive to Spock’s attempts at flirting? Spock would have asked Jim to a quiet dinner on the next shore leave. He wouldn’t have done it publicly either. He would have asked during one of their meetings to play chess, at the end of the night. If Jim said no, Spock would have been able to get the distance needed to get over the heartbreak. If Jim had said yes, then Spock would have used the next mediation to control his actions and not just kiss Jim, right then and there.

But all that was if, if , Jim had been receptive to Spock’s flirting. And several months away.

This was far too soon. Spock didn’t know if Jim was interested in him at all as a potential mate. He just didn’t know.

And now Spock feared that his declaration may have ruined everything.

Jim may not want to see him anymore. They would still work together as the command team as Jim wanted what was best for the Enterprise and that meant that they were in charge.

But he may not want to play chess in the evenings or eat breakfast together. Or have conversations as they walked the ship.

He may not want to be Spock’s friend anymore.

Spock sighed and tied to take Nyota’s words from the night before into account. Jim would say yes, just to try it out.

He was, as far as Spock knew, still friends with Carol Marcus, and they had dated for nearly seven months, despite her wish to be posted planetside for this mission so she could raise her child with its father, a former member of the crew.

Jim didn’t seem to harbor any ill will toward either party, dispute the fact he had dated Marcus first. He also didn’t seem to treat her any differently either, for being his ex-lover.

Maybe he wouldn’t treat Spock any differently despite the fact Spock was in love with him.

The observation deck was empty except for one other person, a security officer who had been with the ship during the last five-year mission. The woman had saved his life a half a dozen times and had been saved by him the same.

But that was true for most of the crew.

She had been behind the bar on the far side of the room. But now she was sitting in one of the stools, watching the exits. She had been in the room when Spock entered, working on her padd behind the bar.

Now she watched the exits and occasionally watched him. He knew when he was being guarded. He wondered if she would let Jim in here.

Spock understood the crew’s ability to spread gossip well enough to know that she knew what had happened in the loading dock. It was probably why she had slid him a drink of something dark and mildly sweet smelling, probably amaretto, wordlessly.

Spock wanted to dismiss her, but he also knew the crew. She would just post herself outside the room instead.

So, he ignored her in favor of staring out the windows.

He watched the stars for nearly half an hour before the doors slide open for the first time since he came in.

“Captain.” The security officer said, her tone respectful and quiet. She stood up to greet Jim.

“Miss Essa. You are dismissed. No need to post outside the doors.” Jim said. He apparently also understood why the security officer had stayed.

“Yes, sir.” She said in a tone of voice that said she wasn’t going to listen. The crew was protective of both of them as they were of them. “You may want one of these.” She must have passed Jim something and he must have taken it, as she sold out the door with little else.

Spock heard Jim’s footsteps as he came closer to him. Spock didn’t look away from the windows.

Jim settled on the bench table right next to him. In his hands was a glass of the same alcohol that filled Spock’s glass and a handwritten letter.

A letter that Spock remembered but did not dare hope for.

Jim did not take a drink from the glass he had placed on the table.

They sat in silence for a long moment.

Both of them watching the stars. Spock was very aware of Jim’s whole being. He liked to imagine that Jim was feeling the same right then.

“If you don’t return my regard or feel that you could never return my regard then I will not mention them again,” Spock said, feeling a little like he was in the Regency novels that his mother occasionally read to him as a child and still learning standard. His mother had been a rather large fan of ‘Pride and Prejudice.” Reading the story as an adult, Spock had long figured out why. He just hadn’t been able to cast himself as Mr. Darcy before.

He did not try to promise to not feel his emotions. That would be illogical. Jim was t’hy’la. He would always be the other half of Spock’s soul.

Spock spared a moment to marvel at how he had missed such a large part of himself before.

When Jim turned to face him, Spock realized that he hadn’t missed it. He had simply not known what it had meant.

“I don’t want that,” Jim said. He looked at the letter in his hand. Then he also took a deep breath. “Please read this.” He said as he pushed the letter down the table. He looked at Spock with such a vulnerable expression that Spock placed his hand over Jim’s.

In comfort or in support he didn’t know.

For his own sake or for Jim sake, he didn’t know either.

Spock picked up the letter.

It was still addressed to him in a handwriting that he did not recognize. It was still addressed to him from a bondmate.

Whoever loved ambassador Spock had loved him dearly.

He opened the letter and saw that it was dated about twenty years in the future. Whoever wrote it was in Starfleet, or in space travel. They were the only ones who wrote all dates in the standard stardate format.

It was still in Vulcan. it was also written by a man. The few gendered words that Vulcan used were all masculine.

The man who had written the letter spoke about how much he missed Spock now that they had to be stationed on different ships for a while. How he longed to see Spock again. How he couldn’t wait until this exercise was over so Spock could rejoin his proper place as second in command of this man’s ship.

Something in Spock’s very katra rebelled at the idea of being the first officer for anyone other than James T. Kirk, at being under the command of anyone who was not his t’hy’la.

He read the letter, knowing that love poured out of every written word. They had written about their day and how it was harder to deal without Spock’s presence. Whoever wrote this letter loved Spock with all his being.

Spock could have cried. Why did Ambassador Spock leave this clearly precious letter to Jim?

It was when he got to the farewell at the end of the letter, two pages later, that he read the name of the writer.

Ish-veh k'diwa heh veh vi tor ek'wak ish-veh, t'hy'la.

Jim

Spock stared at the farewell for a long moment. One that he wasn’t entirely sure that Jim breathed during.

“Your beloved and one who is forever yours, t'hy'la, ” he breathed.

He looked up from the letter to meet Jim’s eyes.

“He loved Ambassador Spock,” Spock said. “So deeply that it pained him that they were separated on a training exercise.” He wasn’t sure he believed his own senses right at the moment.

Jim huffed out a laugh. “It would hurt me for you not to be by my side, so I can understand my other self.”

Spock took a moment to absorb that.

“You knew who wrote this letter?” he asked. Spock realized that he had never seen Jim write something down. All the notes he made was into his padd, and rarely did a mission require anything to be handwritten.

Jim nodded. “Yes. I know my own handwriting. I never got past the greeting though. So, I don’t have a clue about what is in the letter.”

Spock didn’t know what to say to that.

Eventually, after a few moments of silence, Spock asked, “…You love me?”

Jim huffed out another laugh before facing Spock fully. He took Spock’s’ hand and intertwined it on his own. “Spock. I’ve always loved you.”

And though their joined hands Spock could tell the truth to that statement and he could finally understand what the undercurrent of emotion that he could always sense from Jim.

That emotion that he could never understand before was Jim’s love for him.

Spock wondered how he missed it.

Jim was nervous and he was babbling. “…Apparently, it's more than just destined. The old man and the other Jim were in love. So deeply in love. Why else would he have kept the letter?”

He would have said more but Spock leaned forward and kissed him in the human manner.

Jim didn’t pause for longer than a second before he was kissing back.

They lost several moments just kissing. Eventually, Jim pulled back. He had a serious expression on his face. “I don’t want you to never mention your feelings again. I want you to tell me as often as you want to. I want you to court me. I want to be your suitor, Spock. I want everything you are willing to give me.”

He squeezed their joined hands. Spock squeezed back.

“I want to be your everything,” Spock said back. “I was …afraid… that you weren’t interested. I hadn’t wanted to push you. I knew that you were interested in someone for a long time that…”

Jim’s burst of humor and affection that came from their joined hands didn’t exactly surprise Spock but he didn’t understand it. he met Jim’s gaze with a curious look.

Jim seemed to understand Spock’s confusion. “Spock, I am interested in you. And, as I said, I have been for years. But you were happy with Uhura. I was good being your friend. But this is better. Much better.” He leaned forward and stole another kiss.

Spock followed him back as Jim tried to pull away. Jim chuckled and kissed him again.

“You’ve always been there for me. You have been my best friend, and my other half for years. How was I not going to fall for you?” Jim asked once they pulled apart.

Spock realized something at that moment. “Was I the one who caused you to drink with Mr. Scott and Doctor McCoy?”

Jim looked surprised for a moment but then he nodded slowly. “Kind of. Well, it was like that in the beginning. We were trying to drown our feelings but then it changed and then it was a support group of sorts. The three of us getting drunk tended to just be us spending hours waxing poetic about you all.” He said, then laughed. “I think Sulu was the only one would could stand us when we got to be too deep into the sauce.”

He leaned forward and whisper like he was sharing a secret, “We spent a lot of time talking about how awesome you all were.”

Spock raised an eyebrow.

Jim sat back and shrugged, “It’s the truth.”

Spock ignored that. If the truth was like that, then it made sense that they would drink together. He was glad of Mr. Sulu for being able to help the trio. “And now?”

Jim smiled. It was like the sun after a very long night. “Now I’m the happiest person in the universe Spock.”

Spock thought about that. “I fear that we may have a competition for that title, Jim.”

“Oh?” Jim raised an eyebrow back at Spock.

“Yes,” Spock said firmly. “You love me as I love you.”

Jim flushed a deep red at Spock’s declaration. Something that Spock was pleased to see. he wanted to see more of it.

He rose to his feet and took Jim’s free hand his own, helping his believed to his feet. He would always show Jim that he was a good mate. Jim deserved the very best.

Jim followed easily. He still had the wide grin on his face. He followed Spock as Spock led them both toward the door of the observation lounge. He had the letter in his unoccupied hand.

“By the way, what does t’hy’la mean? You said it earlier and it’s in the letter, I think.” Jim asked, his tone curious and happy, just before they reached the door.  

Spock knew he could give a detailed explanation of what t’hy’la meant and how it applied to them, but he knew that Jim would prefer a more simplified truth at the moment.

“You.” He said, as he stopped and drew Jim closer to kiss him.

-

Behind them, on the table overlooking the stars, sat two full, untouched glasses.

-

The end.

 

Epilogue

About two years into the second five-year mission.

Scotty sighed in relief as he sank into the barstool. “Mr. Sulu you are a slave driver.”

Sulu laughed as he sat next to him on the bar. “Well, you asked for my help.”

“We did,” Jim sat on the barstool next to Scotty. “But now I’m more or less regretting it.”

McCoy didn’t even bother sitting down. He just leaned against the bar and gestured to the bartender. “I’m not. This Is far better than the one I got Joyclen.” He said tapping his pocket.

Inside that pocket sat a box that Scotty knew matched the box in his own pocket. He and McCoy bought theirs at the same store.

Jim had found his at the last store they went to.

After five hours of Sulu dragging them around to every jeweler shop he could find on the planet.

Scotty pulled out his box and opened it. He stared at the ring, gold and designed with a repeating pattern of small stones.

“Still a good choice there, Scotty,” Sulu said leaning over. “Uhura will love it.” Both Jim and Len leaned over and took another look at the ring.

“That’s the whole point, Sulu. I hope she loves it!” Scotty laughed. “No idea what I’m going to do about it, though.”

The bartender placed a glass of beer in front of him. Scotty took it gratefully. He was nervous as hell now that he had actually bought the ring. But he didn’t have a plan to ask Nyota yet.

Other than just blurting out the question at one of their lunch dates that is.

Len laughed, opening his own box. Inside sat two rings. One a plain band with their initials and their anniversary date written on it. The other ring was a stretchy polymer that most of Scotty's married engineers wore while they were working. That specific ring was designed so it wouldn't take a finger off if it got caught on things. Instead of breaking or losing a finger, the ring would break first.

Scotty had one of them as well.

“I’ve got a plan. But I don’t know the date.” Len said, smiling down at the box. “Gotta wait until we pass a nebula when we aren’t at warp.”

Jim got this considering look. “I think I can make that happen. I’ll let you know.”

Len smiled at Jim. “Thanks. I’m nervous but I think I’ll be fine!”

Jim laughed. “You’ve done this before so I’m sure you’ll be fine!” He reached into his pocket for his own box. Scotty had to smile. What had taken them so long was the fact that Jim insisted on finding something that could be put on a necklace and was non-conductive.

Sulu won the day that by finding a jeweler who also had the ability to write in Vulcan. Now Jim had two matching bands and one chain. Both of them had the word ‘T’hy’la’ written on it. Despite being pressed, Jim refused to tell them what it meant. “I’ve got a date…Kind of… but I don’t know how I’m going to ask.”

He paused and turned to sulu. “Why is this so hard?” Scotty had to agree. This shouldn’t be so hard, but it was.”

“Well you are asking them to marry you guys, so nerves are understandable,” Sulu said, grinning. “You’re just lucky that Ben and Demora were willing to drag Pasha and Spock along on a fun-filled science museum tour and that Uhura had that meeting with the translators of Mi’ki’laon do deal with.” He was also drinking something. Sulu had been kind enough to ignore how much of a mess they all were.

Even after more than a year, all three of them were a mess. Sulu didn’t seem to care, other than to laugh at them. But all three of them knew it was out of love.

“We are so lucky,” Jim said smiling down at the box. Scotty could see the thoughts forming in his head. They were much like the one’s in Scotty’s own.

How did one shore leave, so many months ago, change so much? Scotty never knew that he didn’t care.

He had a beautiful intelligent woman to propose to.

“Here’s to the many good years coming next!” Jim said, looking up and raising a glass.

Scotty had to drink to that.

The actual end!