McCoy leans back in his chair with a soft, tired noise, folding his arms across his chest as he studies the prone form in front of him. Barring the thick swath of bandages wrapped around Spock’s torso, one could hardly tell that barely an hour ago the only thing keeping the Vulcan from death was a bit of truly desperate medical magic and about a lifetime’s worth of transfusions.
“Bet you’re glad I kept making you come down for those regular blood draws now, you pointy eared bastard,” he growls, mouth screwed into a tight, forbidding frown. He had long since sent the rest of his staff off to treat the rest of the injured landing party, leaving him alone with Spock in the one private room they had. He reaches out through the bond and encounters nothing but the same still, frigid silence he had felt the moment Spock’s heart stopped.
Leonard had spent decades without the bond but after having it as a constant in his life for almost six months now, he suddenly can’t comprehend its absence. He’s afraid of what it might mean if the bond still hasn’t come back, even if Spock’s body still lives and breathes in front of him.
Slowly, he reaches for the hand on the bed beside Spock and cradles it between his own, pressing soft kisses to pale knuckles.
“C’mon, Spock. You’ve slept long enough. It’s time to wake up so I can kill you myself,” he grunts, clenching his teeth when he gets no response. He startles when the door slides open behind him and turns to look, seeing Jim standing there with an armful of blue and black and a tray of food.
“I figured you might like a change of clothes and something to eat,” his Captain says slowly, eyes flicking only briefly to Spock’s hand clutched in McCoy’s grasp before he returns to his face.
“C’mon, Bones. You’ve still got blood all over you. Nothing’s going to happen if you change and practice a little self care.”
Leonard looks down and winces, the garish, ugly splashes of dried green marring the normally pristine blue scrubs. What a sight he must have been, stalking around the med bay, barking out orders and looking like a blood soaked butcher.
“You’re such a goddamn hypocrite, Kirk,” he tries to snarl, but his words come out sounding more defeated than anything else. He gingerly tucks Spock’s hand back beside his sleeping body and accepts the clean shirts, peeling off the ruined ones with a sigh.
McCoy ignores him, and the food, slinging himself back into the chair beside Spock with much more force than was probably necessary. Jim sidles up behind him and puts a hand on his shoulder, no doubt trying to project reassurance through the contact.
“Bones, he’ll pull through. Spock’s made of sturdier stuff than you or I, and you’re the best damn Doctor in the ‘Fleet. He’s going to wake up and when he does I’m sure he’ll be less than pleased to see you’ve been neglecting yourself in his absence.”
Jim’s right, Leonard knows he is. He’s given this same advice to a thousand grieving loved ones before now, and he hates having it thrown back in his face. Does he also sound this patronizing?
“Physician, heal thyself. Consider it an order if you have to,” Jim murmurs, offering him a bowl of what appears to be mashed potatoes and gravy. He grins at the incredulous look McCoy gives him and shrugs a single shoulder, looking disgustingly pleased with himself.
“What use is it being Captain if I can’t throw my influence around every once in a while to get my best friend a little comfort food?” And McCoy… can’t really argue with that, especially not when Kirk also hands him a fresh mug of hot coffee.
“Decaf, Doctor McCoy. I need my CMO in top form and that means actually sleeping at some point,” Jim says firmly, cocking his head to the side. “Will you promise to get some rest if I leave you alone?”
Leonard rolls his eyes but nods by way of response, mouth too busy with his mashed potatoes. They were obviously replicated but he was too hungry to care at this point. When was the last time he’d eaten? Hours? Days? It felt like an eternity without Spock.
He swallows thickly, setting his bowl on the table beside the bio bed and running an anxious hand through his hair.
“I can’t feel the bond anymore, Jim,” he admits finally, and sees Jim go ramrod stiff out of the corner of his eye. “It was there this mornin’ and then it was just… gone. It’s never disappeared like this before, not even when we sleep, or we’re far apart. And I’m afraid that it means I was too late. That I failed. That I saved his body but I couldn’t save his mind, and I don’t.. know what to do, Jim.”
McCoy has never felt this bereft in his entire life, not even when his ex wife presented him with the paperwork that took his baby girl, his house, and everything else he’d ever cared about before Spock. His existence after the divorce had been one of bitterness and loneliness, afraid to let himself love that deeply ever again out of fear that he might one day lose it.
He’d told himself Spock would be different. Spock had fought off McCoy’s demons and saved him from himself in more ways than one.
The hand is back on his shoulder and he dares to look up this time, seeing the same deep sadness he feels reflected back at him in Jim’s expression.
“I can’t pretend to understand the bond and the connection you share with Spock, but you’re the closest friends I have ever known. I’d trust you both with my life, and have on numerous occasions. So, this one time, I’m going to need you to be the one that trusts me. Trust me when I say Spock will come back from this,” Jim says gently, his eyes softening.
McCoy purses his lips and looks away, twisting his hands together on his lap.
“You know I trust you, Jim. Always have,” he murmurs, hesitating before he reaches out for the bowl of food once more, taking a tentative bite. This seems to reassure Jim and he releases his grip on Leonard’s shoulder, turning to go.
“I’ll drop by once Beta shift is over. I would prefer it if you were in a bed sleeping by the time I return.” Kirk gives him a pointed stare that McCoy can imagine despite not actually looking at him. He waves a dismissive hand over his shoulder, ignoring the eye roll he no doubt gets in response.
He sets the bowl aside again once Jim leaves and takes Spock’s hand again, stroking his thumb in an absentminded circle against the palm.
“I’ll never forgive you if you don’t wake up,” he promises in a hush, biting his lip before folding his arms across the bed beside Spock, burying his face in them. “I’ll never forgive myself if you don’t wake up.”
Leonard sighs raggedly into the dark alcove of his arms, Spock’s hand still clutched between his own. He’s so lost in his own misery and self pity he almost doesn’t register the fingers that start to comb gently through his hair.
Not daring to hope, he cautiously peeks out above his arms, ready to rip Jim a new one if he’s come back to nag him some more. When he sees familiar, chocolate brown eyes looking back at him he decides he can yell at Jim some other time, probably once he’s done berating his bond mate.
McCoy allows himself one breathless, earth shattering moment of relief before he’s scowling, standing up so suddenly the chair skitters back and tips over.
“You goddamned, green blooded, ungrateful, pointy eared menace to-”
All the fight is punched out of Leonard in an instant because there’s a slow, honey sweet spread of warmth inside his mind, his mouth still slack with unspoken insults. The bond has returned and McCoy wants nothing more than to wrap himself up in it and never let go, his trembling hands slowly dropping back down to the bed beside Spock.
The Vulcan in question is giving him a silent, searching look, no doubt expecting the lecture to continue.
“I had your heart in the palm of my hand and it stopped beating. You were dead and I almost couldn’t bring you back,” is what Leonard says instead and he hears how shattered he sounds, how broken and lost.
He feels wetness on his cheeks and scrubs his sleeve across his eyes, refusing to make this moment any more humiliating than it already is.
Sighing heavily, Leonard lowers his arm to glare at Spock, twin spots of red flush misery coloring his cheeks.
“You died and I hated you for it. I hated you for leaving me behind when you swore to me that you never would, and I can’t..”
His voice breaks and he clenches his jaw, wondering if it’s ill form to punch a patient because Spock is still just sitting there, waiting quietly for Leonard to finish.
Looking down at his curled fists, Leonard falls silent, refusing to look at Spock. He’s angry and he wants to be angry because if he’s angry then at least he’s feeling something besides the bone crushing terror of having come so close to losing everything that matters for the second time in his miserable, lonely life.
Spock’s fingers nudge under his chin and force him to look up, drawing his gaze back to his bond mate’s face. He’s projecting reassurance and regret at Leonard through the bond and it hurts so much to have this back when he’d spent hours fearing he’d lost it forever.
“I’m sorry, Leonard. I hope you can forgive me,” Spock murmurs, voice low and ragged as McCoy’s ever heard it. The Vulcan always complains that his feelings are inordinately loud and distracting, even by human standards, and he’s sure to be broadcasting an unhealthy amount of fear and anxiety right about now.
Leonard swallows the lump in his throat and reaches up to take hold of the hand beneath his chin, guiding it to cradle against his hot, damp cheek.
“Maybe. Eventually. If you work real hard to earn it,” he grumbles, closing his eyes to better soak up the reassuring presence of the bond. Amusement, affection, love, colorful ribbons of Spock’s emotions wrapping around him, calming the panic and soothing away the sadness.
Leonard’s eyebrows draw together and he opens his eyes again, releasing his hold on Spock’s hand so he can curl over his prone form, brushing his forehead against the Vulcan’s with a soft, raspy sigh.
“Don’t ever do that again or so help me I will march down into Hell myself and drag you back out by your goddamn pointed ears,” he growls, though the threat comes out sounding far more affectionate than he intends.
The shadow of a smile crosses Spock’s lips for just an instant and he strokes his fingers through Leonard’s hair, leaning in just enough to slant his mouth across his bond mate’s.
All the tension bleeds out of McCoy in an instant and he allows himself to be coaxed up and onto the bio bed, curling up tight against Spock’s side so he doesn’t fall off. Spock kisses him again and again, gentle brushes of his lips that reassure Leonard without words that he’s never going to leave him the way so many others have in his life.
Leonard’s eyes fall shut when the kiss finally ends and Spock’s nudging their foreheads together once more, drinking in the reassuring heat of his mate’s body. His palm ghosts over the bandages on Spock’s chest to rest on his side just above his heart, feeling the strong, steady thud.
“You must rest, my t’hy’la, and I must meditate. The healing trance will speed up my recovery, but it takes my entire conscious and subconscious concentration. You might not feel the bond quite as strongly while this happens, but it will return once I am finished,” Spock promises and Leonard is hit with a dizzying wave of relief at this explanation, resisting the urge to tighten his arms around his injured Vulcan.
“I’ll be here when you wake up,” he whispers, lacing the fingers of his free hand with Spock’s, chasing every last bit of contact he can possibly find if he’s to be bereft of the bond for a few more hours.
Even as he feels Spock’s consciousness pulling away, he wonders when exactly this had become his life. Cuddling in a cramped, uncomfortable bio bed with an injured Vulcan. His bond mate, practically his husband in all but name.
Leonard’s mouth quirks up at the corner and he releases his hold on Spock’s side to trail his fingers through his thick black hair, tripping over the arch of his pointed ear.
“Hey, Spock?” he asks softly, getting a quiet noise in response that means Spock’s just barely awake.
“When you wake up I need to ask you somethin’. Somethin’ important,” he presses on before he can chicken out. Tired brown eyes flutter open scant inches apart from his own, warm with affection.
“The answer is ‘yes’, Leonard. But only if you let me sleep,” Spock sighs, closing his eyes again. McCoy snorts but tucks himself just a little bit closer to the exhausted Vulcan, dropping his hand to curl around the intertwined fingers between their chests.
“Why you ungrateful, green blooded menace,” he grumbles affectionately, allowing his own eyelids to droop and then shut, comforted by the presence of his bond mate despite the muted state of the bond.
“You’ve got yourself a deal.”