Leonard gets off his shift at seven thirty tonight, which means he’s going to need to speed on the way home, because the grocery store closes at eight-thirty and he’s out of milk. He sighs as he climbs into his car. It was a surprisingly short shift, but he’ll be making up for it tomorrow.
He makes it to the Kroger by eight even though it’s forty-five minutes from the hospital. The clerk gives him a dead-eyed stare as he scans Leonard’s gallon of milk and lone Almond Joy. Leonard expects nothing less, and offers the teenager his own blank stare in return.
He’s walking back out to his car, jug of milk in one hand and Almond Joy in his mouth when he sees a light across the road. There’s always been an empty lot over there, but it looks like there’s a bookstore there now.
Leonard hmmphs to himself and wonders when exactly that happened. He does survive on huge amounts of coffee and far too little sleep, so it’s quite possible the place has been there for a month or five. He rubs his eyes with the back of his hand and looks to see if it has a name.
It doesn’t. He shrugs and puts his key in the car door. He’d like to say hello to his mother for more than five seconds before he goes to bed, but maybe he’ll check it out sometime.
Leonard forgets about it for two months, until he’s driving home at two in the morning, eyes blurring slightly around the edges with how tired he is. He knows he probably shouldn’t be driving right now, but he’s been at the hospital for nearly two straight days, and he wants his own goddamn bed.
It takes him a moment to register that there’s a pool of light emanating from the lot across the Kroger- not just night time security light, but the bookstore is lit up like a Christmas tree. He slows down passing it, but there’s nothing that looks like a robbery or anything, so he keeps moving. He’s two turn offs from home when he slaps his steering wheel and swears.
The bookstore is still brilliantly lit when he parks in the empty parking lot. The sign on the door says open, and the door gives when he pushes. A bell rings, and he nearly jumps ten feet, but it’s just the bell on the door and not an alarm.
“Hello?” Leonard asks, hands shoved in his jeans. He peers around, trying to figure out if he actually needs to call the police. He walks a little farther into the store and discovers a desk, with a dark-skinned woman behind it. She’s stunningly beautiful, and he feels suddenly awake when she smiles slightly at him. She appears to have been reading a book, but she put it down quickly and he didn’t catch the title.
“Hello,” she says. “How may I help you?”
He scrubs the back of his head with his right hand, his left hand still trapped in denim. “Ma’am,” he says, trying to figure out exactly what the fuck is going on without being rude. “It’s two in the morning.”
“Two oh seven,” she corrects, not glancing at a clock or anything. “Can I help you this morning?”
Leonard is kind of astonished and definitely awake, so he mumbles something about just looking and ducks into the nearest stack of books. He leaves after some indeterminate amount of time with a new cookbook and no actual idea of why he felt the urge to buy it. He gets in his car and stares at the dashboard clock. He just spent half an hour inside a bookstore in the middle of the night for no good reason. He has no fucking clue what he’s doing with his life, and the world feels as if it’s been tilted on its axis.
“Get yourself together, McCoy,” he tells himself. “Go home and go the fuck to sleep.”
The cookbook stays in his car for a month, but it’s buried under sweatshirts and various detritus within three days, so he doesn’t think about it when it’s five am the next week and he’s driving home.
The bookstore is still open. He doesn’t know whether to be surprised or feel validated that there’s definitely something weird going on. It is five in the morning, though, and he really doesn’t think he actually has the energy to do anything except go home and crash on the couch. He’s being realistic. His bed is probably not happening. So. Bookstore in the morning, if it’s still there in the morning/definitely early afternoon when Leonard is awake.
Which it is. He’s wearing sweatpants and had two tomatoes and a dry piece of toast for breakfast/lunch/first meal of the day, but the bookstore is open, and he can’t help his rudeness when he pushes the door open and finds the woman sitting behind the counter, still looking as beautiful as she did the last time he saw her.
“Um,” he says eloquently. “Do you ever sleep?”
She raises an eyebrow and looks him up and down. He knows it’s incredibly obvious he’s only been awake for forty minutes, but she could have the grace to pretend it isn’t.
“Well,” he says, suddenly feeling the urge to tuck his hands behind his back like a chastised little boy. Again, with the ducking behind the closest pile of books.
He eventually leaves with a book for his niece, something about dragons and lemon cleaning water, and a distinct urge to return. The woman doesn’t have a name tag, nor has she ever offered her name, nor are there any business cards on the desk.
The receipt for his purchase today doesn’t even offer a name for the bookstore, which is really, really weird, but Leonard’s the one who entered the place at two am and again today, so he doesn’t feel like he has the right to get too weirded out by it.
And then- it kind of becomes a habit of his. He doesn’t know exactly why, but he keeps going to the weird ass bookstore with no name after he gets off his shifts. It’s always open, and always the same nameless woman rings him up. There’s some small talk here and there, and she recommends a book for his sister-in-law once, but she never says her name and he never feels up to actually asking for it. He buys books for his mom and himself, and his nieces and nephews, and his brother, and for Jim, who reads voraciously but acts like he doesn’t.
Okay, fine. Leonard is frequenting this bookstore for some very specific reasons.
One, it gives him something outside of the stress of his job. He tried gardening, and watercolor, and yoga, and all kinds of shit, but nothing appears to relieve his stress right now like going and buying a new book. He even reads the ones he buys for himself.
Two, the woman who owns (?) the bookstore is beautiful. She is, and he’s not going to lie to himself about it. Plus she has a nice voice, and is always very well-dressed. And her book recommendations are always really good.
Three, there’s a feeling that the bookstore has. It’s almost like a hotel hallway, or an airport. It has that sense of impermanence, no matter how many times Leonard visits it. A liminal space, he thinks they’re called. Places that you go through, but don’t stay in. Which is really weird, because he’s never been in a bookstore that didn’t feel cozy and like he could stay there for twenty-four hours straight in perfect comfort.
Leonard makes the mistake of mentioning the bookstore to Spock in passing, while they’re both writing up charts. It’s September, when the leaves are turning but the air is still thick and warm. The bookstore has been around for nearly five months, by his count.
“What bookstore by Kroger’s?” Spock asks, his eyebrows lifting even though his eyes remain glued to the chart he’s going over.
“You know, the one without a name. The same woman is always in there, all hours of the day. It’s open twenty-four hours a day, I’m pretty sure. At least super late.”
Leonard pauses writing when Spock is far too silent in response.
“Leonard,” he says slowly. “There is no bookstore by Kroger’s. There never has been. And that’s ridiculous, a twenty-four hour bookstore with no name?” He makes a noise in the back of his throat- utter disdain at the barbarity of such a dignified place as a bookstore being open like a Walmart or liquor store. At least, that’s what Leonard’s assuming. Spock is more predictable than he’d like to be.
“Yeah,” Leonard replies, just as slowly. “I know it’s ridiculous. I’ve still been buying all my books there for almost five months now. Jim can vouch for the reality of the books from the place. I can show you receipts, if you’d like.”
Spock drops an eyebrow but leaves the other raised almost to his hairline. “Is that so.”
“Yes,” Leonard practically hisses, clicking his pen way harder than he needs to. “It is. Come with me after we get off, and I’ll show you.”
Spock agrees, but his skepticism is absolutely oozing from his pores. Leonard debates hitting his stupidly good-looking face for far longer than he should.
God, why does he make friends with good-looking sort of assholes? Why is this his life? Single, in his late thirties, frequenting a weird bookstore, and hot asshole friends. He has no fucking clue how he ended up almost forty like this. No fucking clue.
The parking lot is completely empty when Leonard puts on his turn signal to turn into it. Just faded asphalt for a couple hundred square feet, faint white lines delineating spaces on one side of the rectangle.
Spock gets out of his truck, walking around to stand by him. “There’s no bookstore,” he says, like he’s Captain Obvious or something.
“Yeah,” Leonard says, with a weird feeling in his gut. The bookstore was there this morning when he drove to work.
“This lot has been empty for decades,” Spock says. Like Leonard doesn’t know that- like he didn’t grow up in this podunk town.
“There was a bookstore here this morning,” he insists anyways, even though there’s sure as hell no bookstore here now. He has no fucking clue what the hell is going on, but maybe his sense of impermanence was right and he’s dealing with some freaky shit. Like, confirmed freaky shit, not just a feeling something might be a little off.
“Leonard,” Spock says, but the man in question is turning to yank his door open and fumble through the cupholder until he produces the receipt for a volume of World War I poetry.
“See,” he says. “I’m not making shit up.”
Spock takes the receipt, turns it over, reads it carefully, then looks up at his friend. “Leonard,” he repeats. “This is a receipt for Krispy Kreme.”
Leonard snatches it back, staring at the line that says “2 DOZEN DONUTS- ASSORT $14.99” and feels the distinct urge to pull some teeth out. Maybe from his mouth, maybe from Spock’s, maybe from the perfect white smile that lady in the bookstore wears sometimes. Just- yanking some fucking teeth out sounds really good right now.
“Goddamn it,” he says, then puts up with Spock’s concerned face for five minutes before driving home and angrily reading the book of World War I poetry he bought three days ago.
He knows something is up, and he is not having a fun time looking like an idiot in front of his friend.
The next day, he’s driving home from the hospital at seven pm, actually a decent time for once in his life, and the light is on in the bookstore. The bookstore is in the fucking parking lot, like it’s supposed to be. He swears very loudly, slaps his hand on the wheel so hard it stings for almost a minute afterwards, and pulls into the parking lot.
Leonard yanks open the door, feeling royally pissed off at the dinky little bell, and even more so at the smile the woman greets him with.
“Hello,” she says brightly.
“Where the hell were you yesterday?” He practically growls, feeling a little awful at being so rude, but only a little. Spock thinks he’s gone wonky in the head now, and is probably making concerned faces with Jim behind his back now too.
Her smile doesn’t waver. “I had some business to attend to.”
“I thought your business was right here,” he says, and gesture widely at the shelves. “And where did the entire store go yesterday? I tried to bring my friend here, and there was nothing. Plus, your receipt turned into one for Krispy Kreme when I tried to show that to him, so I think I’m maybe owed an explanation.”
Her grin turns practically feral. “Leonard,” she purrs. He can feel it in his spine. “I don’t entrust this shop to just anyone.”
Leonard can’t help the shiver than runs through him. God, this whole thing is so fucking weird, and he should definitely be leaving right now, but he isn’t. He kind of doesn’t want to.
“That’s not an explanation,” he says, instead of getting the fuck out of there.
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” she says, her voice still liquid honey, pouring down his spine and melting sticky sweet into his ribcage.
“Try me,” he says, and steps closer.
She takes a sip of her coffee, except Leonard could have sworn the desk was empty just a second ago. She doesn’t say a single word.
He squints at her, shoves his hands in his pockets, and says, “If you’re an angel, I’ll eat my hat.”
“You’re not wearing a hat,” she says.
He shivers again, all over, and takes a careful step forwards. There’s still a lot of space between him and the desk, but he decides to go for feigned nonchalance that she probably can see through if that’s what’s actually happening here. Might as well put on a good face if he’s about to be royally fucked with.
“So, does that mean you’re up with the man upstairs, or what?” He asks.
She laughs, and that noise. It’s definitely not human- dissonant and harmonic somehow at the same time, high and bright regardless. It cuts through his confusion and tugs at something in his gut.
And then Leonard’s stepping towards the counter, without even really thinking about it, and she’s leaning over it on her elbows, looking at him- looking into him- and he, like the goddamn fool he is, places his hand on her wrist. He’s not entirely sure that he’s in control of all his faculties right now, but he’s probably touching an angel right now, so his body is just one giant question mark.
She looks down at where he’s touching her, and then she does something he is not- and is at the same time- expecting. She leans up and kisses him.
Mouth to mouth with an angel, and that startles a laugh out of him that she hungrily swallows. The second her tongue runs along his mouth, he opens to her, deep and slick and oh, it’s a trip and a half, kissing an immortal being, all colors behind his eyelids and none in front at the same time, her skin warm and cold, smooth like a river stone and rough like scales, her hair somehow in his hands- and she isn’t a she for a moment, and instead it’s a stronger jaw in his hand, a larger hand on his own- which he doesn’t mind at all, really, it’s just this kiss is the weirdest and best of his entire life.
Leonard pulls away at long last, feeling distinctly like his internal organs have settled more firmly inside his body. His skin feels tingly where her hand was a moment ago, and he thinks he maybe just did something very stupid.
But she wanted it. She was definitively kissing him back. And there’s that smile she’s wearing.
“So, Leonard,” she says. “Are you still angry with me?”
“A little,” he says, and it’s not true, not a single bit. He wants to kiss her again.
He takes a step back, though, because he might have done some stupid things, but he isn’t a stupid person.
“Do you,” Leonard falters for a second, then forges onwards. “Do you want to get coffee sometime?”
She grins, sharp and beautiful. “I’ll call you.”
“Okay,” he says, and tries to think if he really needs another book for himself or anyone else this soon, but his brain feels a little blank after that kiss. He’s not sure he can think of anything except the feeling of his mouth touching hers.
He drives home in a bit of a daze, a book on Art Nouveau in his passenger seat. He spends the rest of the evening like a teenage boy, staring out of windows and sighing for no damn good reason. He kind of hates himself, and kind of can’t stop replaying that kiss.
Leonard dreams about her that night, her lips searing through his skull, cleaving skin to bone. He wakes up feeling like there’s an itch inside his blood. He showers, he eats, he goes to the hospital.
Jim mentions that he looks a little funny.
Leonard hums in response, not feeling like he can form words outside of “I think I kissed an angel yesterday.”
“No, like, dude. Bones. Seriously, you look like you’re high. You aren’t high, are you?”
“I’ll piss in a cup for you if you really want,” he says, and there’s hardly any of his normal venom in his voice when he says it.
Jim gives him the weirdest look, but he seems satisfied by Leonard’s normal pupils and ability to walk a straight line. And also the fact that Leonard’s gotten high exactly five times, and that was when he was a stupid teenager and before his mom found out and that was the end of that.
Leonard almost doesn’t stop at the bookstore on his way home that night. Almost. His curiosity wins, though, so he pulls into the parking lot and decides his mom could use a book on gardening probably.
The woman is behind the desk, because of course she is. He thinks the fabric of the universe might fall apart if she wasn’t by this point.
“Leonard,” she greets him, and it has taken his brain until now to realize that he never once told her his name, and he’s paid for everything he’s ever bought with cash. Maybe she snuck a peek at his license when he was digging for cash once, but that seems highly unlikely.
He also realizes that he doesn’t know her name. And he’s kissed her well enough he definitely should have learned it by now.
“I don’t know your name,” Leonard says, instead of saying “Good evening” like he usually does.
“Nyota,” she says, after a hesitation so small he doesn’t catch it until he’s replaying the interaction over and over again in bed later.
“Pleased to meet you, Nyota,” he says, tipping his baseball cap ever so slightly.
He disappears into the shelves, uncertain exactly what to say to her after the kiss and her saying she’d call. She didn’t say when, and he doesn’t mean to sound like a fool, but he wants to kiss her again. Preferably not over a counter, and definitely for longer.
Nyota rings him up, and her fingers linger in his palm when she hands him his change. “I’ll call you,” she repeats.
It takes her two days to call Leonard, and he’s technically still on shift, but when a number he doesn’t recognize shows up on his phone, he answers it. He has a feeling that it’s her, and he really doesn’t want to play voicemail tag- especially since she’s said nothing about texting.
“This is Leonard,” he says, feeling slightly out of breath despite actually being somewhat in shape and not having done anything to get his heartrate up except answering the damn phone.
“Hello, Leonard,” Nyota says, her voice melodic even over the phone. “This is me calling you about coffee. Come by tomorrow at eleven in the morning, and I’ll take you for coffee.”
He’s pretty sure he can do eleven if he cuts into his sleep a little, but he doesn’t really care about that.
“Sounds wonderful,” he says. Wonderful. Like this is a job offer or something and he needs to be extra enthusiastic. “I look forward to seeing you.” Can he just get a grip and talk like a normal person maybe?
“As do I,” she purrs. She almost immediately hangs up after that, which is both good and bad. Good because he’s in the middle of a shift, and bad because he wanted to listen to her voice a little longer.
Leonard shows up at ten fifty-three and sits in his car for four minutes, trying to decide if Nyota is actually physically taking him to coffee or if he should clean up his car a little bit. He cleans up in so much as he shoves everything to the back seat.
Nyota isn’t behind the counter for once. She’s not very tall, which he suspected, but her presence makes her feel taller somehow.
“Leonard,” she says, without turning from the book she’s shelving. “You’re early.”
He shrugs even though he knows she can’t see him. “Only a couple minutes.”
She steps down from the stepstool and turns to him. Her hair is down today, soft curls framing her face, and her shirt is a shade of yellow that makes her brown skin shine.
He swallows hard and says, “You look beautiful today.”
She smiles. “Thank you.” It doesn’t feel like she’s being insincere, but there’s something off in the way she responds that he can’t place no matter how long he thinks about it.
She drives. She has a gorgeous car that Leonard is pretty sure costs more money than he makes in a year, and she drives fast. Speed limits are something of a suggestion to her, and he’s pretty sure cars shouldn’t go that fast for that long at once.
They go to a place he’s only driven past before that’s a couple towns over, and he pays and they sit at a table and don’t really say much, but he’s perfectly content just to look at her.
An angel literally asked him on a date. Goddamn.
(Or not, all things considered.)
He wants to kiss her when they go back to her car, but he also doesn’t want to presume anything so he clenches his hands in his lap and waits until they go back to the bookstore. Nyota reaches for his cheek and practically pulls him over the gearshift and this kiss is just the same as the last one.
Leonard thinks he’s drunk on kissing her. It takes him a full ten minutes of sitting in the parking lot, waiting for the jittery feeling to leave his system and his head to stop spinning. He can’t stop replaying how incredible her kisses are. It’s like he’s never really been kissed before, they’re that damn good.
Jim says he’s acting high again, but Leonard can actually say he met a woman as an excuse (albeit a lame one) this time. Jim waggles his eyebrows and proceeds to pester him for details.
Leonard does not comply.
After that, he refuses to let her drive, stating that he’d rather not have their dates be interrupted by cops. His car actually gets cleaned out and vacuumed regularly now. She sometimes puts a hand on his knee while he’s driving and every single time he almost swerves into the other lane.
They drive out into the middle of nowhere and just sit in the grass. They watch sunrises and sunsets and they talk about the books they like. They get coffee and sandwiches and cakes and pretty much every kind of food there is to find, and they eat with their thighs pressed together on stumps and rocks and fields.
Leonard never dares to ask her explicit questions about what it’s like, being her. He’s a little afraid, and doesn’t want her to be angry with him. Besides, she’s very evasive about it all. Better to focus on things they both like and want to talk about.
He also never dares to have sex with her. It’s not that he doesn’t want to. He can’t imagine the high he’d get off of an orgasm with her with what happens when they’re only kissing. She’s beautiful, and he is very attracted to her. But she’s also an angel, and he’s not exactly sure he wants to be the person who corrupted an angel. If that’s even a thing? He’s not really sure. He really doesn’t want to press his luck.
Anyways: they kiss, long and languorous, and very often. They do not have sex.
That is, until Nyota takes matters into her own hands. She tells him to come upstairs after a couple of months, even though he was positive there wasn’t an upstairs before.
He’s wary climbing the steps behind her, and even warier when he’s confronted by the view of a bed- presumably hers, but it doesn’t look slept on and he’s not surprised. The room has soft lighting, and the comforter is light purple.
Leonard turns to her, and asks the only question rattling around in his head. “Do you really think I’m stupid enough to have sex with an angel?”
She stares him down. “I never said I was an angel, Leonard.”
He opens his mouth, then closes it again.She’s not wrong. That is an assumption he made and she was evasive about answering.
“Fine,” he says. “Do you think I’m stupid enough to have sex with an unknown immortal being?”
“First of all,” Nyota replies. “You aren’t stupid.” She starts taking pins out of her hair and setting them on the table next to the lamp. It’s the middle of the day, but there’s curtains over the windows. If he hadn’t just been outside, he’d think it was evening.
It feels like evening, in his bones. It’s an odd thing to think, but he feels the twilight creeping up his calves, wrapping around his thighs.
“Second, you know me.” She looks up, meeting his eyes with her fathomless brown ones. “I want to have sex with you. Come to bed, Leonard.”
She starts undoing the buttons on her dress, inch after inch of skin appearing. He can’t help following the movement of her hands, those dexterous fingers he’s held what feels like a hundred times. He wants to kiss her hands, to taste the salt of her palms and the bitterness of her slick.
Leonard’s throat is dry and his hands feel sweaty. This is far from the first time he’s been with a woman. He isn’t even sure Nyota is a woman, no matter that she isn’t human. Still- her body looks familiar in those aspects and she is so very beautiful.
He wants her. He is not sure he has ever been gripped with want the same way he is now.
She goes to the bed and sits down, as elegantly as she does everything else. She pushes her dress off her shoulders, the slow slide of fabric a soft sound in his ears, and she looks at him as if she knows the want inside him intimately, pulling tenterhooks low in his groin.
Leonard’s certain there’s a version of these events where he leaves and doesn’t take her up on this; that the niggling feeling of straight up weird that has surrounded most of his interactions with her overwhelms his desire. He will leave and not return to her store or see her laughter again. He will drive home at two am more often, exhausted and alone. He will climb in his bed, turn into the chill of his pillow, and choose the monotony of his life before.
He goes to her.
If Leonard thought her kisses overwhelmed him afterwards, he feels like he’s been drifting in the clouds for a hundred years after sex. He swears his hair feels softer, that his skin is not as worn with calluses as it used to be. He feels as if he has more energy, so he sleeps less. He reads more, and he buries himself in work at the hospital, far more than he could ever handle without breaking down before.
Jim and Spock ask him if his girlfriend broke up with him and all he can do is smile and say no. Leonard doesn’t tell them that he’s absolutely sure she was straight up physically actually really glowing with light while he was having sex with her, or that she isn’t an angel, but she also isn’t human. He doesn’t tell them shit, his best friends of all these years. He thinks he should feel bad about it, but he can’t find it in him to actually summon that guilt.
Nyota feels like something precious to be guarded, especially after the whole debacle with trying to show Spock the store. She feels like the best thing that ever happened to him. He can’t believe he ever doubted anything about her. He wants to marry her, maybe. If that’s a thing she does. He hasn’t considered it once after Jocelyn. But he would do anything for Nyota. Absolutely anything.
He’s not sure what the hell he did before her. He is sure he doesn’t want to think about an after without her. The before was bad enough.
Jim asks Leonard if he did something to his hair a couple months after he starts sleeping with Nyota.
“It just looks so-” he gestures a little wildly, “-thick. Luscious, even.”
Leonard shakes his head. “I haven’t been doing anything.”
Jim squints at him. “I don’t know how the hell you look the best you ever have while working your ass off at a pace that’d kill the rest of us, but I swear your skin is glowing. ”
Leonard shrugs. “I don’t know either.”
He suspects, though. It’s not a coincidence, all this happening directly after having sex with Nyota. He doesn’t really need much sleep, if at all. He got a papercut and watched it seal itself up in the course of five minutes a couple weeks ago. He eats less, and odder things, and his sex drive is comparable to his teenage years. He feels like being a human being is easier- that is, if he’s really even human anymore. He’s not sure about that, what with all the weird things.
He asks Nyota once, after they’ve had sex in the room above the bookstore. He supposes it’s technically her room, but it feels odd to say that when she doesn’t sleep and appears to spend her time either in the store itself or with him. His head is turned into the soft skin between her neck and shoulder, and her hand rests predatorily on his thigh.
“Am I still human?”
She laughs a little. “Probably not. Are you upset about it?”
Leonard doesn’t even have to think, pressing a quick kiss to her skin. “Why would I be?”
“Well, I didn’t exactly warn you,” she says, but her hand stays exactly where it is, and his head does too.
“If I was going to be warned off of you, I would never have kissed you,” he says, then rises a little to kiss her again. And again.
Leonard gives his two-week notice a year and a half after that first night, when he entered the bookstore at two thirty-seven am and met Nyota for the first time. Jim asks Leonard if he’s actually sure he’s not on drugs and Leonard laughs and says he’s moving with his girlfriend to New Mexico.
“The one we’ve never met?” Spock asks, his right eyebrow in its perennial quirk.
“Yes,” Leonard says. “And she works weird hours, I told you.”
“Yes, you most certainly have,” Spock replies, and gives Leonard such an odd look that Leonard is half afraid he’s going to be forcibly sat down for an MRI.
He’s not, though. Chapel and the rest throw a going away party for him, at which he eats three cupcakes with electric blue frosting and thinks mostly about going to Nyota after this. Maybe having sex with her, maybe just talking to her. It doesn’t really matter. He’d rather just be with her than deal with this social nonsense.
He drinks two glasses of wine and doesn’t even get buzzed. He wavers as to whether to fake it or not, but decides acting sober is better. Jim drives him back anyways, Spock next to him in the front seat, Leonard in the back.
“We’re going to miss you,” Jim says. “Let us know when you make it to New Mexico and we’ll come visit.”
Leonard says, “Of course,” even though he’s pretty sure he’ll never see his friends again. It doesn’t bother him as much as it probably should, but he’s kind of used to the sense of detachment by now. He’s had to be careful while working, but he’s made it this far, and he’s done pretending for good after Jim and Spock are gone.
He leaves a note for his mother, because while he may be indifferent to most of humanity, he is not so cruel as to leave nothing. His books go to his niece and nephew, and his house to Jim and Spock. He knows they’ll make sure a good family gets it. Or they’ll take it, maybe.
He leaves his keys in his car in the lot outside the bookstore, and the car unlocked. He’s not taking it with him, where he’s going. There’s a note on the dash that Jim Kirk and Spock Grayson can do with it what they see fit, which will likely be paying to get it from the pound, but whatever. It’s not his concern anymore.
Leonard takes the volume of World War I poetry that’s been well-loved these last few months, and he goes into the bookstore. The bell rings, quieter than it used to, he thinks, and Nyota comes out from behind the desk to kiss him.
She turns off the light and shuts the door behind them. When Leonard turns around with her, there’s her car (the fast car he’s refused to let her drive all this time) in the lot- a few spaces over from his. He climbs into the passenger seat and takes her hand.
When they leave the lot, the bookstore isn’t there anymore. All there is is the lonely sight of his old car and the Kroger across the street. The streetlight flickers once, orange light flooding across the asphalt once again, and he turns around to the empty road ahead of them.
They don’t go to New Mexico. They go to Arizona instead, and Leonard makes Nyota give the bookstore a name, because, as he says, “There’s two of us now. You’re not the one making all the executive decisions anymore.”
She sighs, and proposes “Nightlight Books,” before Leonard barks out a laugh and says, “Nightshade seems more appropriate, doesn’t it?”
There’s a purple neon sign above the front door after that, advertising their name. And they’re closed from two to six am, because he says “I need time to love you still, even if we have the universe in our hands.”
She laughs when he says that, and then says she loves him.
And then he, because he was being something other than crass (he’s not sure what exactly, but that’s not the point), says “I’m not sure I believe in love anymore.”
Nyota looks at him quite seriously, even though she’s already taking off her clothes. “Shouldn’t you believe in it even more?”
He shrugs. “I don’t know, but I’ll happily make love to you for the rest of eternity.”
She laughs again, and the floorboards are flooded with their light.