Chapter 1: Stretched to Breaking Point
It started with a kiss.
Or more correctly it started with an argument that somehow became a kiss. Or more correctly still – kisses.
At the time it had seemed entirely unexpected, just an impromptu way to shut each other up. But the thought rapidly changed from “how did we end up here” to “why didn’t we end up here sooner?”
Not that the kisses stopped the argument and McCoy quickly adapted to make the most of the new situation.
“Are you telling me,” he panted as they broke apart for air. “A machine of circuits and wires… could replicate this feeling?” He stroked a finger up a pointed ear for emphasis.
Spock held him as he recovered his breath, idly noting the warmth of the skin beneath his fingers. At some point he had slid his hands under the doctor’s shirt.
“It is not possible to say,” he countered. “Already we have encountered androids that believe themselves human and capable of love.” McCoy shivered under his touch. “Without the ability to experience another’s feelings, who is to say they do not feel?”
“I’ll show you experiencing another’s feelings,” McCoy growled before diving back in to kiss Spock some more.
Which was how the captain found them.
“What the hell!”
Spock and McCoy jumped apart and looked guiltily at Jim. Or at least McCoy jumped back and looked guilty. Spock merely looked curious.
“Is something the matter Captain?”
Jim honestly wasn’t sure where to start with that statement and he cast a glance to McCoy in case he had a ready answer. The doctor though was staring resolutely at his feet and straightening his shirt.
“Tell me Mister Spock.” He met the Vulcan’s calm gaze head on. “Is it appropriate behaviour for two senior officers to be kissing in the conference room?”
“I do not believe the locale is inappropriate so much as the fact we are on duty,” he answered.
Jim glared from him across to McCoy and didn’t miss the rather amused smile the doctor cast his First Officer’s way.
“Are you aware we have anti-fraternisation rules?” he demanded.
“I have considered those and do not believe they apply in this situation.”
“Wait a minute,” McCoy finally spoke up and raised his head to look at Spock. “Just when did you consider those?”
“While I was awaiting you to regain your breath the second time.”
“Green blooded hobgoblin,” he muttered.
“Gentleman,” Kirk interrupted. “This is my ship and I determine what is and isn’t allowed. I do not want to find you in such a situation again. Do I make myself clear?”
He fixed his gaze on each in turn, awaiting their nod of understanding, before turning and heading out leaving his two best friends stood uncomfortably together.
“Jim’s just surprised is all,” McCoy suggested in the awkward silence. “Maybe he thinks we’ll start ignoring him or something. Or worried that he’ll have to choose sides if we have a nasty break up,” he rambled on. “It’s a normal human reaction. I’m sure he’ll come around when he realises we aren’t going to suddenly change how we interact with him.”
“You sound as if you wish to continue our… activities.”
McCoy blinked in surprise.
“You don’t?” He tried not to sound as hurt as he suddenly felt.
“On the contrary,” Spock quickly assured him. “I would be most… intrigued to explore this new aspect to our relationship.” He looked across, fixing his dark eyes on the doctor’s familiar face. “I do not understand you,” he admitted. “You constantly confound my expectations. I find it fascinating and it makes me want to learn more. To study you – your every reaction – intimately.”
“Why Mister Spock.” McCoy bounced slightly. “That was almost romantic.”
Spock turned away again at the teasing tone.
“I will understand if this is just a momentary impulse on your part. Or if you did not wish to disobey the captain.”
“I’d have thought that’d be your problem, not mine darlin’.”
The soft voice and endearment relaxed Spock and he inclined his head in acknowledgement.
“The captain did not actually order us to desist,” he pointed out carefully. “He only stipulated he did not wish to find us engaged in such a manner again.”
McCoy couldn’t stop his grin from spreading.
“Which he won’t,” he assured the Vulcan. “It… ah… might actually be a good idea to take this slowly anyway,” he added hesitantly.
Spock arched an eyebrow enquiringly and McCoy continued his explanation.
“You drive me to distraction Spock. Always have. I’ve got so many feelings about you half the time I don’t know whether I love you or hate you.” His eyes softened. “Except I never hate you. Not really. What you do sometimes. What you say. But never you. I’d do anything for you and that’s the truth. Even when you’re being infuriating.”
Spock didn’t know what to say so he acted instead, extending two fingers to McCoy. The doctor looked bemused but copied the gesture, holding his own fingers alongside Spock’s. Who immediately stroked his over them and saw McCoy smile in understanding before continuing.
“I need time to sort my emotions. To let them settle. I need to know that this is more than the thrill of getting under your skin.” He cast a heated look over Spock. “I mean it’s fairly obvious we’re attracted to each other but I don’t want a relationship that’s all fire and brimstone. I’m looking for something steady. Something lasting.”
“I understand. While a certain degree of conflict is inevitable, and necessary for a relationship to grow, I too would want something enduring.”
“Right.” McCoy coughed awkwardly “So we’re agreed? Take things slow? See if we can get along as a romantic couple?”
Spock found his eyes drawn to the pink tinge lighting the doctor’s cheeks.
“That would be logical.”
“It’d also give Jim some time to calm down and show him that nothing’s going to change overnight.”
McCoy seemed to be avoiding looking at Spock now.
“In the circumstances,” Spock suggested. “I believe it would be appropriate to invite you to dinner, Doctor.”
That seemed to bring a semblance of normality back to the man and he rolled his eyes in a familiar gesture of exasperation.
“I have a name you know.”
“Leonard,” Spock corrected himself and noticed the pink flush return to McCoy’s cheeks.
“Dinner sounds good, Spock,” he murmured before offering his paired fingers again.
Spock was confident this relationship would be worth the wait.
Chapter 2: Breakfast and the Bridge
True to their word they didn’t rush to set up a date but simply took each meeting as it came. McCoy half expected to find them back to arguing as usual or else rushing to engage physically again. However neither happened.
They still disagreed but now their discussions were tinged with open fondness. His desperation to kiss Spock was calmed by the knowledge that he wasn’t alone in that desire. The realisation that Spock wanted him too made it much easier to wait.
So they found themselves spending pleasant afternoons together in the lab, challenging each others’ hypothesises until they were ultimately proved or discarded as false. Meals couldn’t often be shared together due to their busy schedules but they were eagerly anticipated.
The only fly in the ointment was Jim’s blatant monitoring. He now insisted on detailed reports from their lab sessions and if he ever saw them alone together he would quite loudly interrupt. Both Spock and McCoy agreed to make sure he felt welcomed despite his sometimes borderline rudeness. McCoy felt sure he’d relax soon enough and at that time he thought he and Spock might be ready to start actively dating.
The idea kept a warm glow around Leonard which had been commented on more than once by more than one person. His sickbay staff were all pleased for him (and relived that their workplace was suddenly more tranquil) and Christine had commented that she thought they’d be very good for each other. It meant that instead of his normal morning pre-coffee frown, he currently wore a look of soft contentment.
Which spread into a smile as he saw Jim and Spock enter the messhall. He swallowed his sip of coffee and watched as the pair looked his way. His eyes lingered a moment on Spock who also watched him a few seconds longer than necessary before turning to follow Jim to the replicator.
Leonard waited patiently for them to come and join him but then Jim shot him an obviously warning look and guided Spock to another clear table. McCoy blinked momentarily surprised. Then he dropped his eyes back to his own breakfast with a sigh. Not that he was especially hungry anymore. He didn’t like this ongoing paranoia of Jim’s. If the man would only act normally with them he’d see that both of them were still his same old friends – just happier.
A movement opposite drew his attention back to his surroundings.
“Doctor,” Sulu greeted him with a nod.
“Sulu,” McCoy responded automatically and waited to see if this meeting was social or business. The helmsman sliding into the seat opposite him gave him his answer.
“I guess the captain has confidential business with Mister Spock.”
Clearly Sulu had seen the avoidance tactic. That only made him feel more hurt by the manoeuvre and his eyes instinctively sought the pair again. He could only see the back of Spock’s head because Jim had quite deliberately sat them so the Vulcan could not see him directly.
“Yeah,” he agreed more despondently than he intended.
Sulu leant forward conspiratorially.
“You should swing by the bridge later. See if you can’t uncover what they’re plotting.” It was clearly meant to be taken humorously and McCoy made the effort to respond in kind.
“Why that would be entirely unethical Mister Sulu.” He stood up faux indignantly before grinning. “Expect me in an hour or so.”
He heard Sulu laugh as he made his way out of the messhall but his own spirits didn’t rise. After all, he knew what Jim was up to. And there seemed to be little he could do but wait it out.
Despite his words he hadn’t actually intended visiting the bridge. However now the idea was in his head it seemed awfully tempting. And everything was quiet in sickbay so it couldn’t hurt to pop up. Could it?
“Hey Jim,” he greeted the captain casually giving no sign of his upset from breakfast. It was easy to see all the signs of boredom in the other man and McCoy hoped that might be incentive enough for their usual chat. “Anything interesting going on?”
Jim seemed willing to engage in some distraction and glanced to him.
“We thought we discovered a previously unnoticed pulsar earlier but it turned out to be distortion in the communication console.”
McCoy leant on the captain’s chair and smirked across at the science officer, keen to use this opportunity to show Jim nothing had changed and he would still challenge their half-Vulcan First Officer.
The officer in question straightened and turned to face him.
“I was not ‘disappointed’. If it had indeed been a pulsar it would have called into question all previous surveys from this region.”
“Relieved then,” McCoy suggested enjoying this familiar banter.
Before Spock could react though, Jim interjected.
“Was there a purpose to your visit Doctor?” The curt tone to his voice was evident and McCoy turned in some surprise.
”Didn’t know I needed a reason,” he commented mildly before adding, “But you know it’s my duty to assess crew fitness, both on and off duty, especially command crew.”
“It is not however your duty to eye up my First Officer.”
McCoy was temporarily dumbfounded and he was suddenly aware of everyone’s attention switching onto him. It wasn’t that he’d wanted to keep their relationship private exactly – he had after all discussed it within sickbay – but he hadn’t intended on announcing it to all and sundry.
“That,” Spock spoke calmly in the ensuing silence, “is what I believe a human would refer to as a perk of the job.”
Surprised laughter burst out from several crew members and most had to hide their smiles. McCoy couldn’t help but shoot a fond look at him.
Jim however was not amused.
“Doctor McCoy. Please report back to sickbay. I want a full inventory completed by the end of the day.”
“But we only just did an inventory!”
“I have reason to believe there might have been an error. Do it again.”
McCoy clamped his jaw shut to avoid cursing at his senior officer.
“Yes sir,” he finally managed to bite out before turning on his heel and disappearing back into the turbolift.
He managed to hold onto his temper until he got back to sickbay and saw a notification informing him that his shifts were being switched with M’Benga – meaning he would be on a different rota to Jim and Spock.
The curses he came up with then would have made a sailor blush as he ranted about the general unfairness of it all. As Christine dutifully listened she also quietly got the med technicians busy on the new inventory.
When Leonard finally ran out of steam, and looked about to see everyone occupied but him, he gave Chapel an apologetic smile. She merely stepped forward and hugged him.
“Just don’t forget we’re your team. And we’re all here for you.”
He melted gratefully into the embrace.
Chapter 3: Diplomatic Engagement
Although many people might not agree, McCoy could be patient when necessary. After all a large part of healing involved waiting. It was true he didn’t stand fools quietly, or hypocrites, or megalomaniacs – or a number of undesirables actually – but with his friends he would put up with quite a bit of foolishness. Trusting they’d come to their senses eventually because really he was only friends with those he trusted would.
So although Jim made it clear he didn’t want Spock and McCoy to see each other at all he didn’t kick up a fuss because he knew Jim would relent before long. And even the captain couldn’t prevent the CMO and First Officer interacting in the line of duty. Rationally McCoy knew he should try to ensure those meetings were entirely professional – that had been his original plan when agreeing with Spock to continue their relationship – however he hadn’t anticipated having no chance to socialise otherwise.
Despite himself he found it hard not to get anxious at the lack of demonstration from Spock. Of course logically he knew that was what they’d agreed to show Jim they could continue much as before. And Vulcans were hardly noted for their public displays of affection anyway. Yet he couldn’t help but wonder… what if Spock actually wasn’t as invested? What if he found this renewed distance more amenable?
All his glances and hesitations over parting when they did happen to cross paths didn’t provoke much response. Which was probably just because Jim had glued himself to Spock’s side. But it could be something else too.
So although diplomatic functions weren’t usually a highlight of McCoy’s day he was willing to make an exception now. It was one event where the captain could not bar either his First Officer or CMO and they were required to socialise. So far McCoy had not actually had a chance to speak with Spock but the Vulcan had given him more than one look this evening which had gone a long way towards reassuring him. It meant he was far happier to play nice with their guests, who were actually remarkably civil.
“Is it true you have a hybrid officer working on your crew?” the Aenar asked.
McCoy briefly considered the long list of hybrid crew people before deciding they probably meant Spock.
“Perfectly true,” he agreed.
“I would be interested in conversing with them. Hybrids on our world are still considered a subspecies yet there are groups of us petitioning the government to change their status.”
McCoy nodded approvingly as he turned to lead the diplomat over to Spock.
He tried very hard to suppress his pleasure at approaching the Vulcan and seeing an undeniably warm look in his dark eyes. However he kept his words precise as he introduced their guest. As expected, the half Vulcan was only too willing to discuss the situation with the Aenar and McCoy unconsciously situated himself at his side, as he had countless times before, cutting in occasionally to offer a medical viewpoint.
McCoy felt himself relax as he hadn’t for what felt like weeks and certainly as he hadn’t at a formal function in forever. Just standing here with Spock felt natural though. Comfortable.
That was until the captain stalked into view.
“Doctor McCoy,” he interrupted with a smile. “A word if you please.”
“Excuse me,” the doctor bowed his head to the Aenar and followed Jim with a sinking feeling.
“I thought I made it clear,” Jim hissed, “that you weren’t to use this event to chat up Spock?”
“I wasn’t!” McCoy hissed back, deciding not to point out Jim had hardly spoken to him at all let alone to issue warnings. He took a calming breath. “The Aenar wanted to talk to Spock about the political aspects of giving hybrids equal rights. I was there to offer a medical viewpoint!”
McCoy rolled his eyes.
“We do occasionally have to talk in the line of duty,” he reminded Jim.
“Right. Well, perhaps you could talk to someone else in the line of duty for a while,” he hinted before moving swiftly away into the crowd. McCoy frowned momentarily as he recalled that usually he’d speak to Jim at these events. Then Christine materialised at his side.
“Is the captain still trying to stop you from talking to Mister Spock?”
“Do you know, I’m surprised he hasn’t tried to lock one or other of us in the brig yet.” He was trying for jocular but couldn’t quite pull it off. She smiled supportively.
“Wait here. I have an idea to give you some breathing room.”
So saying she slipped away again leaving him staring bemusedly after her. Moments later he understood her plan as she caught the arm of a young Andorian woman and began leading her across to the captain. There was an inevitability from that point as introductions were made. Christine departed and then the Kirk charm was turned on.
McCoy shook his head in amusement as he watched Jim lead his new companion towards the more secluded viewport room.
Almost immediately a familiar form appeared at the doctor’s side and he felt a flush of pleasure at the clear sign of reciprocal yearning.
“Your nurse is quite gifted in psychology.”
“Don’t take a genius to figure out what will happen if you introduce Jim to a pretty woman.” He turned to smile at Spock. “But Christine certainly is smart.”
Spock met his gaze and held out a hand.
“Will you join me for a dance Doctor?” At McCoy’s almost alarmed look Spock continued. “I calculate the captain will be gone long enough for us to take a turn without his notice.”
“Well, in that case,” McCoy drawled as he put his hand in Spock’s.
The Vulcan wasted no time in pulling the doctor into position and drawing him into the dance. McCoy let out a soft sigh.
“I was worried,” he admitted.
“He’s being childish but no. I was worried you might have changed your mind.”
Spock cast him a clearly surprised glance.
“Not at all. The situation is not conducive to public affirmations, and I am aware I am not adept at conveying my feelings, but I assure you they are unchanged.”
“Mine too Spock.”
“So then we are agreed? To continue developing our romantic relationship?”
“As best we can,” McCoy half laughed but it didn’t reach his eyes.
“I am confident that what we might find together will be worth the trouble.”
“All on the basis of one kiss?” This time his eyes did show his happiness.
“Several kisses Leonard,” Spock reminded him. “And a deep understanding of your character.”
McCoy found himself staring into eyes positively burning and the urge to kiss Spock again rose like a tidal wave. It was with difficulty he made himself step away but necessary if they weren’t to cause a scene. Their fingers tangled together briefly before parting.
“Thank you for the dance Mister Spock. We must do it again sometime soon.”
“Indeed Leonard. We must look for our opportunities.”
McCoy swallowed, nodded and then turned to leave without looking back, not trusting himself if he did. He had no doubt that Spock’s eyes stayed on him ‘til the last.
Chapter 4: Shore Leave
If there was one quality shared by all the Enterprise command crew it was stubbornness. Jim was amply demonstrating this and thus far McCoy had, more or less, let him get away with it. But he’d reached the end of his patience and now Jim would see just how stubborn an old country doctor could be. Or not see because Leonard had no intention of being obvious and inciting further restrictions. He could be subtle when the situation demanded it.
And this situation did demand it. In the weeks since their first frantic kiss, he had come to understand that Spock meant much more to him than he’d realised or ever allowed himself to acknowledge. It might seem overly dramatic but he honestly couldn’t imagine his life now without Spock in it. What was amazing was that the Vulcan appeared to feel the same.
And that wasn’t a situation that came along very often, at least not in his experience, so McCoy would be damned if he let petty regulations stop him from seizing a chance at happiness that he’d long assumed he’d never get. He wasn’t prepared yet to think about how far he’d go for that feeling of love, although he knew himself well enough to know it was probably further than logic would dictate, so he focused on what he could do in the here and now.
Right now that meant a quick chat with M’Benga and a short trip in the transporter. Shore leave was always a welcome break so Leonard would be happy anyway but the look of surprise on Spock’s face was enough to add a pleasant warmth to his chest and he unconsciously rolled up on the balls of his feet as he awaited the Vulcan’s approach.
“Doctor McCoy. I understood from the shore leave rota that Doctor M’Benga was due to beam down during this time frame.”
“Alright, first, what did I say about calling me Leonard off duty?”
“I was unsure this was off duty since, as I said, you are not due on leave yet.”
“Fair enough,” McCoy conceded before explaining. “I asked Geoff if he’d mind switching. Didn’t see the need to update the rota as the Enterprise still has a qualified surgeon on board.”
Spock thought about this a second and McCoy worried that perhaps he didn’t want his company or would insist he was breaking the rules. While it was true that all such changes should be recorded, it was another area where the common practise was more in keeping with the doctor’s actions.
“And Doctor M’Benga was amenable?”
McCoy let out a sigh as he understood Spock had no concern other than their possible discovery.
“Geoff said, and I quote, to enjoy our date.” He linked his arm with Spock’s. “You know this will be our first proper date?”
“And what constitutes a ‘proper’ date?” Spock responded, gently beginning to walk with the good doctor.
“Well, not having to hide is a good start.” He leant slightly into Spock’s side. “Dinner is traditional,” he added.
“I did in fact already locate a small bistro with a most satisfactory range of food available.”
“Lead the way.”
They enjoyed a rare companionable silence as Spock effortlessly guided him along. It made an agreeable change not to be under any observation and McCoy found his desire to needle Spock commeasurably diminished.
At the restaurant Spock gallantly pulled out his chair before almost presumptuously ordering for him. As he opened his mouth to protest though Spock beat him to it.
“It is a Vulcan tradition. To test one’s knowledge of a chosen partner.”
McCoy arched an eyebrow.
“I’ll be curious to see what you picked then.”
The rest of the dinner passed with the blurred ease of two people who know each other well enough to know exactly what topics will interest but also whose opinions differed enough to keep the conversation lively.
As Spock eventually shot down another argument with a supercilious eyebrow raise, McCoy decided to switch topics and throw him off balance rather than admit defeat.
“So do you want to know if I liked it?”
The instant he saw the anxious look on the Vulcan’s face he realised he’d perhaps made that a bit too ambiguous.
“The food you picked,” he clarified.
The anxious look calmed somewhat but Spock remained tense and McCoy wondered just how seriously he took this tradition. He smiled.
“In case you couldn’t tell by my clean plates – I loved it.”
Spock then had the audacity to look smug.
“I was certain you would.”
McCoy shook his head in exasperation but couldn’t help feeling his pulse pick up a little.
“Let’s get out of here,” he suggested.
“We are not due just yet,” Spock objected, making McCoy’s heart skip to realise he didn’t want them to part yet.
“Yeah, I know but… I really wanted to kiss you and that’s kind of awkward across this table.”
Spock was immediately on his feet and reaching for his hand. McCoy went willingly and as soon as they were safely outside each simultaneously turned and reached for the other.
McCoy had forgotten how good it felt – or perhaps it was better now for the trial run and waiting. His hands worked up to pointy ears while Spock’s ran around his waist, holding him in place. As if he would want to move!
Finally it was Spock who pulled back.
“We must return to the ship.” It was succinctly said, if a little breathless, and McCoy nodded distractedly as he stared at Spock’s kiss plumped lips. “You should go first. It would not do to return together.”
“No.” The reminder of their enforced shipboard separation both doused the doctor’s ardour and made him want to simply lose himself in Spock’s embrace. Nevertheless he pulled his shoulders back determinedly.
“I ain’t going back to not seeing you at all. One way or another we’ll find ways to make this work,” he declaredly stubbornly.
To his relief Spock extended those familiar two conjoined fingers to him which he eagerly matched.
“Yes Ashayam,” he agreed.
McCoy flushed at the unusual pet name and then made himself turn away before he melted back into him. It wasn’t until he was back at the transporter site and stealing himself to energise that his blush faded.
As he stepped out into the corridor of the ship again he let out a sigh.
“Doctor McCoy,” Jim’s sharp voice had him tensing unpleasantly but he turned with the most relaxed expression he could muster. “I understood you were due to beam down this shift?”
He met Jim’s accusation with an innocent expression.
“Geoff wanted to swap.”
“I see. And this would have nothing to do with Mister Spock being on this leave rotation?”
McCoy felt the familiar irritation surging up and he opened his mouth to bite out an answer when another voice broke in.
“Leonard!” Tonia practically purred as she latched onto his arm. “Thank you again for dinner. It was lovely. We’ll have to do this again sometime.”
As she bounced off, Jim stared after her and then turned back to McCoy.
“You had dinner with Lieutenant Barrows?”
McCoy shrugged, internally thanking his gossiping med staff.
“She’s a nice girl,” he commented.
“That she is,” Jim agreed with a hint of a smile. “You might want to take her up on that offer,” he suggested.
Something in Leonard burned at the remark and he fixed Kirk with a cold look.
“I don’t think so,” he replied. “Wouldn’t want to be caught fraternizing.”
So saying he turned on his heel and stalked away.
Chapter 5: Engineering Dinner
Subterfuge was exhausting. Maybe if they weren’t both such vital members of the command crew it would be easier but as it was finding times when they were both available was difficult enough. Factoring in ensuring some degree of privacy from the captain plus the difficulty in even conveying plans and it became a herculean task.
McCoy’s staff were invaluable in the later case, always willing to run messages for him but that didn’t help for when Spock found some time or had to cancel. The Vulcan also had to content with the near constant surveillance of Jim. At least McCoy could comfort himself that Jim’s abandonment of him gave him a measure of freedom.
All told though McCoy felt he was living on a knife edge and it wasn’t doing his stress levels much good. And yet – those moments when they were together – he felt such a sense of serenity. A calmness of being exactly where he was meant to be. If only he could carry that feeling through the rest of the time.
It had been another busy day in sickbay and, to McCoy’s mind, far too long since he’d seen Spock. They currently had no fixed plan to meet but he knew that could change in an instant. He eyed the time and wondered whether, if he finished on time, he might even find the First Officer was off duty and available for once.
Which was obviously when a last minute call came in.
“Sickbay here. What is it Scotty?”
“Got an engineer in need o’ medical assistance. May have a break in his foot. Dinnae think we should move him. Can ye come down?”
“Shouldn’t I send Sanchez? I could reroute him from his quarters. He won’t have set off here yet.”
“Nae. I’d rather yourself came.”
“I’m about due off shift,” McCoy commented plaintively.
“Shouldn’t take you long and then I may have a wee dram to offer ye.”
McCoy felt himself smile. How long had it been since he’d had a drink with a friend? Jim wasn’t an option anymore for obvious reasons but after his shift got switched he was suddenly without any other familiar face.
“In that case I’ll be right down.”
He grabbed his kit and set off, relieved at least that the injury sounded easily treatable. Scotty was a shrewd judge of these things and managed to prioritise his teams’ treatments as well as McCoy could hope. And it was nice that the engineer had thought of sharing a drink with him.
Arriving in engineering Scotty quickly met him and led him through the main room and into what McCoy guessed must just be a storage room or backup computer bank.
“Just through here doctor. He’s waiting for ye.”
His first thought as he stepped through the doorway was that it was far too dark for anyone to be expected to work safely in there. He was just about to admonish Scotty for that when his eyes finally registered what he was seeing.
Spock was standing expectantly, lit softly by the glowing bank of computer terminals lining one wall. Next to him was a small table covered in dishes and itself lit by a large candle.
“What the dickens?” he murmured.
Behind him Scotty grinned and ducked out with a quick, “I’ll leave you to it.” McCoy barely noticed as his eyes drifted from one familiar dish to the next – sweet potatoes, collard greens, okra, gravy on buttermilk biscuits, fried green tomatoes, black-eyed peas and, to his side of the table, Southern fried chicken. He also spotted what looked like a jug of sweet tea and a covered plate that, if his nose didn’t deceive him, contained peach pie.
“Please,” Spock spoke. “Sit.”
McCoy gaped another moment before saying the first thing that came into his head.
“Thought candles weren’t allowed?”
“I am permitted to light candles for the purpose of Vulcan rituals,” Spock replied as he gestured again for McCoy to sit.
“This a ritual then?” McCoy smiled as he stepped forward.
“It is part of the ritual of choosing a mate.”
“Wish you’d stop calling it that,” McCoy muttered as he fussed with his napkin.
“How should you like me to refer to it?” Spock queried as he leant over and poured his drink.
“Dating?” Leonard suggested as Spock finally took his own seat opposite him.
“The ritual of dating then,” Spock amended.
“How’d you manage all this?” McCoy hoped the low lighting hid his faint blush.
“I had some help,” the Vulcan admitted with his own hint of embarrassment. “Galley staff have been saving certain items for the occasion. And engineering naturally arranged the room.”
“You been planning this a while then?”
“It seemed logical to assume when we started dating that I would wish, at some point, to host a dinner. Now seemed opportune.”
“There some occasion I should know about?” Leonard smiled but internally he was wracking his brains as to whether he might have missed a significant event.
“No,” Spock replied as he began serving. “However recently I have been thinking. That is, I wanted to suggest something.”
McCoy’s senses immediately went on high alert. Spock sounded nervous. He never sounded nervous.
“Oh god. You want to break up.” It burst out of him before he could stop himself. Spock stopped, immediately blinking in surprise before reaching across to take Leonard’s hand in his.
“No Leonard,” he insisted. “Not at all. Almost the opposite in fact.”
“The opposite?” he echoed puzzled now. Spock removed his hand and sat back, clearly drawing himself together.
“I believe our relationship is progressing well, despite the limitations being placed upon us. And I have every expectation it shall continue to develop. Do you concur?”
“Yeah, I concur,” McCoy agreed in soft relief.
“In light of this, and in part because of the difficulties we face in maintaining frequency of communication, I would suggest we consider establishing a link.”
“It is a precursor to a Vulcan bond. A signal of intent. In more practical terms it would allow us to have an awareness of each other. Not telepathy but simply a sensation of being. I will admit to having experienced several distractions due to not being able to ascertain your wellbeing at various times.”
McCoy couldn’t help but feel a spike of fear at the word ‘telepathy’ and he swallowed nervously.
“That’s sweet Spock but are you sure that’s a good idea? We aren’t exactly the most compatible of couples.”
“I must disagree with you Doctor. I believe our similarities outweigh our differences.”
McCoy found himself nodding but his mind was still swirling with unwanted memories. There was a remembered itch from when other presences had scratched at his consciousness, demanding entrance. He trusted Spock but still he wasn’t sure he could deal with having such a connection permanently.
“I’m not sure if I’m ready for this linking. Can you honestly say you’d feel it was right for us if it weren’t for everything else goin’ on?”
“I am… unsure,” Spock admitted. “On the one hand I am undoubtedly influenced by my current lack of access to you. However I would not be suggesting it if I were not convinced we had a long term future together.”
“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you saying all that Spock.” He reached forward to lay his hand upon Spock’s. “I don’t have any intention of giving you up either darlin’." He ran his fingers against Spock’s tenderly before asking. “Do I have to decide now?”
“Not at all,” Spock assured him. “Please take all the time you need to consider the proposal.”
McCoy smiled and drew himself back.
“Right. Well, in the meantime let’s eat before all this good food gets cold.”
“A logical suggestion.”
Spock pulled the doctor’s hand to his lips and placed a chaste kiss there before releasing him so they could eat, each doing their best to enjoy their stolen night of solitude.
Chapter 6: Cabin Fever
Following their secluded dinner, McCoy couldn’t help but dwell on Spock’s proposal. On the one hand he was thrilled and flattered that Spock would offer such an intimate commitment. To link their minds, even if it wasn’t a full bond, was quite a statement by a Vulcan.
However every time he thought about saying yes, of actually going through with it, his stomach clenched in fear. He knew Spock wouldn’t hurt him and yet the worry persisted. Spock had even elaborated over their meal on their many similarities of thinking such as their dedication to duty, high value of all life, insatiable curiosity, intense loyalty – in fact the whole Hippocratic oath could be read as a Vulcan tenet – and McCoy understood rationally how these would ease the formation of a connection.
Nevertheless the fact remained it was only Vulcans designed to deal with this telepathic bridging. Humans could clearly survive it since Amanda showed no ill effects but McCoy was unsure if he was strong enough. What if his mind became subsumed by Spock’s? Through no fault of his except for having a natural instinct for telepathy.
His anxiety was plainly obvious to those he worked with but he didn’t feel this was something he could discuss with any of them. Dating Spock was one thing and he didn’t feel the least guilty about their friends dissembling in order to help him with that. But this? This somehow felt like a line would be crossed.
Eventually it was M’Benga who gave him the push to speak to Spock about it. Although the African doctor didn’t know any details he was shrewd enough to know whatever it was would be helped by talking about it. And if that wasn’t going to be with anyone else then he’d better damn well speak to Spock.
Which was how McCoy found himself turning up for his shift only to be steered straight back out the door with the firm instruction that M’Benga would hang on longer if McCoy took a message along to the First Officer, emphatic raised eyebrows making his point clearly for him.
When he finally made it to Spock’s door, McCoy realised he hadn’t been this nervous about seeing him since before they’d started going out. Even an undercover relationship hadn’t made him this anxious. As the door opened though, and he found himself looking at the familiar face, his anxiety at last lessened. He unconsciously licked his lips.
“M’Benga asked me to drop this by,” he announced in case Jim was within the room. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d have found Jim lurking somewhere unexpectedly. Spock didn’t drop his eyes from McCoy’s as he took the pro-offered PADD.
“Won’t you come in?” he asked politely.
McCoy hesitated, not from any unwillingness to stay but because he still wasn’t sure if Spock was alone. The Vulcan could be hard to read at times.
“I wouldn’t like to intrude.” It came out more as a question and he knew his eyes were probably broadcasting the same query.
“I would be grateful for the company.” Spock caught his hand and pulled him gently into the room. As the door shut he added, “Lieutenant Uhura informed me the captain was detained awaiting a priority call from Starfleet. She suggested she would inform me when that was finished. So I might be prepared to meet the captain for dinner.”
“And I’ll bet she told M’Benga too,” McCoy muttered, allowing Spock to pull him across to the small seating area. “He hardly let me catch my breath before sending me here.”
“Good.” Spock kept his grasp on McCoy as he sat, dragging the doctor down practically into his lap. McCoy’s arms caught onto him instinctively for balance before he relaxed and melted into an embrace. He let out a heartfelt sigh.
“Do you know, I don’t think I ever feel as calm as I do when we’re together. Yet there’s no one else can wind me up like you either.”
“Indeed.” Spock inhaled against his neck. “I confess a part of my mind is always distracted thinking about you while we are apart. Have you considered my proposal?”
“Truthfully I’ve done little but consider it,” he admitted. “And I’ve been going over and over how beneficial it might be against how much I fear telepathic intrusions. No matter how much I might trust you.” He laid a kiss to Spock’s forehead. “But I think the real problem is the same as our problem before: Jim.”
“I do not understand you.”
Leonard sighed and rested his cheek against the silky sable hair.
“This linking, it’s a big step. Almost akin to a human engagement. Yet I haven’t felt I could even mention it to anybody in case Jim found out. Its too big a thing to ask anyone to keep secret.”
He leant back to meet Spock’s eyes.
“I don’t want to make any decision like that because we feel forced. When we do it – and I hope we do – I want it to be because we want to. And I want all our friends to share in our happiness.”
“And if the captain can’t accept us?”
The question felt heavy between them – the first time they ever acknowledged Jim might not come around.
“Jim’s been my friend for years,” McCoy said carefully, “but if he can’t accept this then he isn’t the man I befriended. And what we have… I’m hoping it’ll last a lot longer.”
“It will,” Spock said with certainty. “And in that light it will make little difference if we commit now or when the mission ends.”
McCoy pressed himself back into the embrace, heart overflowing for his partner yet his mind still worrying.
“I don’t think I can keep up this sneaking around that long.”
“I doubt the captain will maintain his restrictions that long.”
“But ya ain’t sure,” McCoy pressed.
“No,” Spock agreed. “But what other option do we have?”
“I could resign from Starfleet. Go back to my father’s practice in Georgia.”
“Would that please you? You are a gifted xenobiologist.”
“I never really wanted a career in space. I’d miss the challenges but as to whether or not it would please me… I need to get out of this situation. I can’t bear being cut off from everybody like this. Not just you but Jim and all my friends who I shared shift rotations with.”
Spock could feel the sudden rigid tension of the man in his arms and soothingly ran his hands up and down his back.
“I will not leave you,” he promised.
“I can’t demand you leave Spock. I know how important Starfleet and your career is. But we’d probably have more freedom in a long distance romance.”
Spock reached out again to cup his cheek.
“Of course. The situation must be intolerable for such a warm and sociable creature as yourself. But I cannot agree to you leaving. Not without me.”
“My career will not suffer,” he interrupted. “I will be able to secure a position at Starfleet Academy as instructor. They have given many indications that I would be welcome on their staff.”
“You’d do that? For me?”
“Of course Leonard. Though if I may make a suggestion? If we were to relocate to Vulcan your skills would be invaluable at the Science Academy. As would mine.”
McCoy scanned his eyes.
“Are we really discussing this? Our future? Leaving Starfleet?
Spock pressed a kiss to his neck.
“We are,” he confirmed.
An involuntary shudder passed through McCoy and he buried his face in Spock’s hair.
“We should talk to Jim,” he muttered.
Spock considered this briefly as he continued his gentle caresses.
“I shall speak to the captain,” he corrected before adding, “Later.”
He wrapped his arms around Leonard more tightly and resolutely made the most of the opportunity to hold him safe. At least for a little while.
Chapter 7: Captain's Confrontation
Spock maintained his formal pose as he stood at Jim’s door and Kirk surveyed him analytically. This did not unduly disturb him as he was confident in his unreadable demeanour. He doubted the captain would glean much from his expression.
“Captain. May I come in?” His tone was likewise carefully modulated and Jim gestured him inside still obviously none the wiser as to the nature of his visit.
“I wasn’t expecting a social call.”
Spock was reminded that regardless of his current attitude, Jim wasn’t without context for basing assumptions on. It was true that of late their interactions had been purely mission related. Jim’s eyes watched for a reaction that didn’t happen before continuing.
“Is this about that little experiment you were running?”
His fledging respect for the captain’s intuition was squashed by his disdain for the derogatory insinuation.
“If that was a reference to my relationship with the doctor, then I must inform you the term ‘experiment’ is wholly inaccurate.”
“That current tense should be inaccurate,” Jim snapped back. “I ordered you two to stop.”
“I believe if you check Starfleet regulation you will find that is beyond the purview of a starship captain.”
“No it isn’t. A captain may order crewpeople to desist in relationships.”
“If,” Spock stressed, “they are demonstrably detrimental to the running of the ship. You have never demonstrated such a point nor would you be able to.”
“So you’re here to tell me my wishes mean nothing to you both? Is that it?”
“Not at all. The doctor and I have endeavoured to respect your feelings as much as possible. It was our hope that once you realised our changed relationship did not affect our day-to-day duties that you would change your stance.”
“And why should I do that?” Kirk drew himself up straight. “Your behaviour since starting up together clearly has changed. Both of you avoid me now and you’ve just confessed you’ve been both deceitful and underhanded. If anything you’ve proven my point.”
“Your logic is flawed. We have avoided you because you would not accept us. Our actions have been guided by your own refusal to see reason. Your prophecy has in short been self-fulfilling.”
Jim turned away and clasped his hands behind his back.
“Why are you here Mister Spock?” he demanded.
“To inform you that the doctor and I are intending to resign our commissions.”
Jim spun back around, eyes wide.
“You have left us little alternative. We have only three options. To give each other up – which is frankly impossible. To report your behaviour as an abuse of rank or outright prejudice – which neither of us wish to do. You are still our friend Jim.” He met the man’s eyes which were looking at him more openly than they had in months. “Or to resign. Again, not what we would want but the only alternative left.”
Jim stumbled and grasped at his chair before dropping into it.
“That’s just what I wanted to avoid,” he murmured.
He looked up at the Vulcan plaintively.
“That’s why I didn’t want you two together. Because I knew I’d be just your third wheel and you’d eventually leave me alone. I just wanted to hold onto you both a little longer.”
Spock shook his head in bewilderment.
“We would not be thinking of leaving at all if you had not put such severe restrictions on us. And I am certain neither of us wish to lose your friendship. It is valuable to us both and provides something we cannot find together.”
“You say that now…”
“I only say what is undeniably true. Leonard’s emotional state has suffered from the lack of human company.”
“Leonard is it?” Jim couldn’t help a wry smile.
“And I have often found myself wishing for human council in dealing with him.”
Jim shook his head.
“I’m sorry Spock. I’ve not been a good friend. I understand why you’ll want to leave. You have my word I won’t stand in your way any longer.”
Spock hesitated. Wondering what meaning Jim meant to convey by that.
“If you are genuine about not standing in our way, we would have no reason to leave.”
“Spock, I appreciate the sentiment but I can’t ask you to forgive me just like that. And while you might, Bones wouldn’t.”
“Leonard is the most forgiving human I have ever met. While I concur that his trust has been hurt, I am certain that if you apologised he would be willing to give you a second chance.”
“You have more confidence than I do.”
“I will point out that I do know him rather more intimately now.”
Jim grimaced slightly.
“Too much information Spock.”
Spock frowned in puzzlement.
“It is a mere statement of fact.” Understanding dawned suddenly. “I did not mean we have engaged physically. Leonard did not feel comfortable to do so while hiding our relationship. He likened it to ‘doing it in your parent’s house’.”
Jim waved his hands.
“Definitely too much information.” He couldn’t help but smile though. It had been too long since he’d been included in such casual talk. He hadn’t realised quite how much he’d missed it and cast a hopeful glance up at his First Officer. “You really think McCoy will forgive me?”
Spock raised his eyebrows as he considered his answer.
“He was sure you would come around eventually, although I did not understand how he could be so certain. It almost seemed he was wrong, and he was ready to give up, but he was not. If he was right then you should believe I am right now and not give up either. He will come around.”
Jim let out a sigh and nodded.
“I’ll do my best to make amends.”
Spock nodded briskly before turning to go, everything said that he felt needed to be said. Jim called to him though.
“Spock… are you happy? I mean… both of you? Together. You aren’t exactly what most people envisage as an ideal couple.”
“That is true. However we have more than enough in common to build a life upon. In fact our differences only serve to compliment each others’ weaknesses. And yes – we are happy.”
Chapter 8: Sickbay
McCoy surveyed the ragtag group entering sickbay and briskly snapped out instructions.
“Chapel – look at the captain’s leg. M’Benga – Spock. Ms Uhura, over here please.”
He didn’t know what had happened on the bridge but found out from Nyota as he carefully treated her burned hands. It seemed an alien species had taken affront at the captain smiling at them. A show of teeth clearly indicated hostility to them – something which would be highlighted for future missions to this sector.
Jim approached as he began treating her other hand and McCoy glanced up.
“Yes. Just a broken bone. All fixed now.”
McCoy nodded and returned his attention to his own patient. He and Jim were still struggling to regain their lost ease and it was easier right now to focus on his work.
“I’m surprised you didn’t prioritise Spock.”
“I can separate my duty from my private life,” McCoy snapped before seeing the surprise in Jim’s eyes and realising that wasn’t what he’d meant. He took a calming breath. “His head wound looked worse than it is and M’Benga’s the Vulcan specialist anyway. The lieutenant’s hands were the priority but we’ve got them good as new now.” He smiled at her. “Just get a cream from Christine,” he added to her.
“Thank you Doctor.” She slipped away with a smile.
“You and Spock are really serious aren’t you?”
The gentle question brought his gaze back with a start and he blinked at Jim.
“It isn’t the first rodeo for either of us but I’m pretty sure its our last.”
“I’m glad for you. Really. You both deserve happiness.”
“You deserve it too Jim.”
He smiled at that.
“I can’t see me finding anyone to compete with Enterprise.”
“You never know. I never expected to fall in love with a stoic emotionless hobgoblin but– “ He shrugged disparagingly.
McCoy felt himself blushing which was only made worse as the Vulcan in question approached them.
“Captain. Leonard,” he greeted.
“Mister Spock.” Jim grinned. “How’s the head?”
“A minor injury.” Spock frowned as he focused on McCoy. “Are you well Leonard? You appear flushed.”
“Ah’m fine,” he muttered.
“Nothing to worry about,” Jim interceded. “An emotional reaction.”
“Perhaps you need a respite. You have been on duty past your required time.”
“Well,” he coughed awkwardly. “If that’s an invite to dinner I won’t say no. Jim?”
It was Jim who flushed this time as he realised he was being invited.
“I could certainly do with getting something to eat. If neither of you mind me joining you?”
“Not at all,” Spock confirmed placidly.
“I wouldn’t have asked if I minded,” McCoy pointed out as he led them towards the exit, giving a brief wave to M’Benga on his way.
“Captain.” Spock fell into step to the other side of Kirk. “Perhaps you can settle a dispute. On the issue of machines with sentience.”
“Not this again,” McCoy muttered with an eyeroll.
“Given the captain’s insistence on referring to the ship as a beautiful woman I feel his opinion will be of value.”
“Listen – ships have been identified as female centuries. Its got nothing to do with their ability to emote.”
“Yet it demonstrates an ability to elicit emotions.”
In between the bickering pair, Jim grinned. Now he’d let go of his misdirected anger over having missed the blindingly obvious he could enjoy his friends’ happiness. And it was true what they said.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.