The first time, Spock looks up from cleaning himself with the tissue McCoy just handed him.
“This was a shitty idea,” McCoy says, not quite meeting his eyes.
It was not an idea, Spock thinks of replying. There was little premeditation, or deliberation, or thinking involved, he considers adding. He could also play semantics: I fail to see the connection between metabolic waste and what just occurred.
“Very well,” he answers.
Spock refastens his uniform pants and exits McCoy’s office, dropping the tissue in the trashcan near the entrance.
He nods at M’Benga when they pass each other by the turbolift.
The second time does not happen until four months, seven days, and three hours later.
“Of all the things, you know what I think about the most?” McCoy whispers drunkenly in his ear, the cool ship air hitting Spock’s lower back as the doctor’s hands lift his uniform. “That fucking sound you made right before—“
Resentful, Spock remembers months of downcast eyes, pointless meditation sessions, hours spent practicing the most punishing moves of Suus Mahna, and when the knife-sharp pleasure comes, he attempts to swallow the moan back.
The following morning, he does not tear his gaze from the science console.
“Bones, why do you look like shit?”
“Years of knowing you, is my guess.”
“No, really, what time did you leave last night? I lost sight of you halfway though the party.”
“Hell if I can remember.”
Nyota snorts, amused. Sulu and Chekov snicker.
Spock adjusts the calibration of the seventh sensor.
The third time is in the middle of an argument.
The last words McCoy tells him before are “You have no idea what you’re talking about. Humans are not bacterial cultures, Commander.”
The first words McCoy tells him after are “And how are planning to reduce the risk of infection, anyway?”
Spock attempts to explain, his cognitive abilities not yet fully recovered, synapses firing sluggishly, heavy with pleasure and oxytocin. McCoy storms out a few minutes later, leaving Spock to grasp the edge of the conference table.
For a long time, Spock is convinced that there will not be a fourth time. A drop of relief dissolves seamlessly in a pool of dismay.
Then he opens the doors of his quarters to find McCoy, and something reminiscent of a le-matya cub begins to dance inside his stomach.
The cub quiets. It is late, and the shades of ship’s night catch on McCoy’s features. Spock experiences intense feelings, which he identifies with some difficulty as anger and disappointment. A touch of jealousy, perhaps.
“If only there were a simple way to find out,” he says, level gaze never leaving McCoy’s. “Computer, locate Captain Kirk.”
“Thanks, Spock, I’d never in a million years have thought of that,” McCoy mutters, eyes rolled up to the ceiling.
“Unable to locate Captain Kirk.” The computer’s voice is metallic and eerily cheerful.
Not wholly unexpected, Spock thinks. “It appears that the Captain does not wish for company at this time.” It is not unusual for Jim, especially after missions as disastrous as today’s.
“You know, one can stuff several million parsecs between what Jim wants and what’s good for him.”
How he finds himself bent over his own desk a few minutes later is unclear to Spock, lost somewhere in the illogical, overwhelming pull this man has on him. McCoy is large inside his mind and inside his body, and the surge of pleasure squeezes a moan out of him.
“Shhh.” McCoy's hand travels up and down his spine, a simple gesture of reassurance. “It’s fine. I’ve got you.”
Spock's brain liquefies.
“You know this doesn’t mean anything, right?” They have barely managed to catch their breath. McCoy is by the door again, straightening the top of his uniform.
How it is possible for something to mean nothing is incomprehensible to Spock, but he nods and does not see McCoy out.
The fifth through the eighth times take place in the gymnasium.
It shows extremely poor judgment on both their sides, as although they are in the habit of exercising very early, when the locker and sonics rooms are often deserted, there is no guarantee that they will remain so.
During the fifth time Spock’s reason is addled by the sensation of McCoy’s fingers inside him, and of his own fingers inside McCoy’s mouth. However, he retains enough presence of mind to point out the inappropriateness of the situation before the sixth.
McCoy snorts. “Oh, no way. This is a shitty idea? You think so? Tell me more.” Spock does not, and they carry on as they were, the flow of humiliation eclipsed only by the scalding heat of the pleasure running down his spine.
After the eighth time, while attempting meditation, Spock remembers his mother. She used to highly enjoy consuming processed sugary products, which she would sometimes purchase at the Terran market in ShiKhar. When Spock offered to program the replicator to include some of her favorites, she laughed. “Honey, I have no self-control when it comes to sweets. My way of coping is to make sure that the temptation is not anywhere near me.”
Spock assigns himself to gamma shift and begins to exercise at night.
The ninth time happens during his yearly physical.
The tenth time begins in the doctor’s office.
Spock is there at the tail end of Beta to discuss a sensitive personnel issue, and McCoy kisses him.
They have never kissed on the mouth before. Spock does not put much stock in human kisses, although he is well aware that Terrans usually do. The fact that the doctor has been avoiding them appears to befit their… arrangement. Therefore, when McCoy takes Spock’s head in his large hands and licks first his lips and then the inside of his mouth, Spock is momentarily petrified. Then, he is not.
Spock can taste the doctor’s desperation through his skin, is aware that something distressing must have happened. He has to restrain himself from peeking inside his unguarded, human mind.
Let me help you, he wants to say. How may I help you?
McCoy orders Spock to follow him to his quarters, and Spock complies. Once they are inside, McCoy takes off Spock’s uniform and mutters to himself, “The things I want to do to you…”
After that, they do not talk for hours.
At the end, McCoy heads for the restroom, stopping immediately outside, as if suddenly recalling Spock’s presence in his cabin.
“Thanks,” he says, looking into Spock’s eyes. “You can leave now, if you want.” He disappears, and a few seconds later the noise of the sonics is audible through the door.
As Spock stands, his skin feels tacky, covered in sweat and both his and McCoy’s semen. The sleeping area does not look dissimilar to a battlefield.
Before he leaves, Spock tidies up a little and changes the sheets on McCoy’s bed.
From the eleventh time on, it becomes routine.
Between the twelfth and the thirteenth time, the Enterprise receives a distress call from a Federation ally in the quadrant.
On the planet, Spock watches the doctor work. He studies his kindness, his determination, and his foolish disregard for his own safety. He studies his bad temper and his competence, and accepts that he is waging a losing battle.
Spock might never be at peace, but at least he is not at war with himself.
The fifteenth time McCoy tells him, “We really gotta stop doing this” even as he reaches for the lubricant on his bedside table.
Between the sixteenth and seventeenth times, Nyota wraps her hand around his wrist.
“Don’t do this to yourself.”
“I am not certain that there is an alternative.”
“Oh, Spock,” she sighs, her shoulders slumping.
She stands on the tips of her toes and wraps her arms around his shoulders. He buries his head in the crook of her neck, the warmth of her skin seeping through their uniforms and providing a measure of comfort.
The twentieth time, McCoy glances up at him.
“Stop looking at me like that,” he says before dipping his tongue into Spock’s navel.
It takes Spock a second to register the words. “L-like what?” It is challenging to properly articulate sounds, and is becoming exponentially more difficult as McCoy’s mouth trails down his abdomen.
“Like you…” McCoy looks up again and holds Spock’s gaze for a moment. He must not like what he sees, because he goes back to torturing the crease between Spock’s leg and his groin, alternating between licks and nips. “Like that.”
Spock’s head hits the pillow and he closes his eyes.
The twenty-fourth time (Spock’s quarters) is atypical.
While he is fastening his pants, afterwards, McCoy notices a book on Spock’s desk.
“Didn’t peg you for the old-fashioned book sort of guy.”
“I do not think I am. The book is a present for the captain’s birthday.”
McCoy walk’s to Spock’s desk and picks up the volume. He huffs a laugh. “What do you know about the Civil War?”
Spock raises an eyebrow. “Would you like me to list the entirety of my knowledge regarding the American Civil War at this moment?”
McCoy raises his hand. “Hell, no. Just, why not get him some Vulcan book? Surak’s digest? One hundred years of logic? Plomeek and prejudice.”
Spock cocks his head. “Are those real titles?”
McCoy smiles. “Oh, boy. Why the Civil War?”
Spock sits up on the bed, rummages around for his underwear. He finds it on the floor, partly hidden by a pillow. “I enjoy Terran history.”
McCoy snorts. “The major screw-ups, you mean? Yeah, I bet we’re pretty entertaining.”
Spock slides his boxers up his legs and joins McCoy by his desk. The room is cold on his skin; he lowered the temperature by ten degrees before McCoy’s arrival.
“I find the strong similarities between Jim’s decision making and the thought processes of the great leaders of Terran history highly fascinating. I thought Jim might, too.”
McCoy just looks at Spock for several moments. “C’mere,” he tells him, putting the book back.
They just finished having sex, and the urgency to touch, and nibble, and leave imprints and bruises is not as sharp as it usually is. McCoy’s hand hoists Spock’s thigh higher as he slides deep inside, and he brings Spock off with a fist around his cock, a litany of Does it feel good? pressed into his ear.
Before leaving, he tells Spock, “Jim’s gonna like the book.”
After the twenty-ninth time, he overhears the captain and the doctor talking in the corridor outside the ready room.
“—end up with my first and my CMO not talking to each other.”
“Jim, you’re screwing your comm officer. You do realize that her refusing to patch the Romulans through because you forgot her birthday would be way worse than things being awkward between your first and CMO, right?”
“It’s different. I lo—I really like her. You’re just trying to get off.”
“And what’s wrong with that?”
“Please, I know that he’s.… But find someone else. Just, not Spock.”
A sigh. “Whatever. Fine. I don’t care.”
Spock spins on his heels to head back to Lab 4, where there are ongoing experiments he could monitor. He does not realize that his fists are clenched until he needs to pick up a pipette.
He does not expect that there will be a thirtieth time, but the following night McCoy comes to his quarters, a new tension visible in his shoulders.
Spock steps back and lets him in.
After the thirty-third time, McCoy falls asleep in Spock’s quarters.
He performed a complicate surgery for several hours during the day, and fatigue is to be expected. Spock spends the night observing the rise and fall of McCoy’s chest, his thoughts crippled by the realization of the fragility of this indomitable, elemental, irrational man.
“Sorry about this,” McCoy says in the morning, the heels of his hands rubbing into his eyes. His voice his hoarse with sleep.
“No apology is necessary,” Spock says, handing him a mug of coffee. “I have replicated oatmeal with fresh fruit.”
Spock is not adept at reading the nuances of human silences, but as they eat he does not believe that theirs is an uncomfortable one. The doctor does not appear to become fully awake until well into the meal.
“People do stupid things.” McCoy says into his coffee, his tone holding a faint trace of surprise, and Spock wonders if the words are meant for him, or if the doctor is having a conversation with himself.
“Indeed,” he replies cautiously.
“Yesterday’s surgery. Could’ve been avoided if people in Engineering used protective gear like they’re supposed to. I tell them all the damn time. You don’t need a Ph.D. to figure that shit out.”
“Even a medical degree might suffice.”
McCoy’s sleepy frown is half smile. “Shut up. You wouldn’t have lasted a second during my OB-GYN rotation.” He stands up. “Thanks for breakfast. And for not throwing me out in the corridor when I conked out, I guess.”
“It was partially out of concern for the cleaning crew.”
McCoy waves a hand. “Yeah, I thought so. Have a good day, hobgoblin.”
“You too, Doctor.”
The doors swish closed, and Spock is alone.
After the thirty-sixth time, they immediately start talking about work.
“I’m gonna need at least three more biotechnicians if Jim wants the serum synthetized in two days. For fuck’s sake, that kid has no sense of time.”
As the blinding, deafening pleasure subsides, it always takes a measure of time for Spock to be able to satisfactorily reason again. The fact that McCoy’s hand has never left Spock’s side, right where his treacherous, stubborn heart is located, does not aid him in his endeavor.
“Two should suffice.”
The doctor’s eyebrows rise. “You mean, if they don’t need to eat or sleep? I thought you were the only Vulcan left in Starfleet.”
“Vulcans do need sleep.”
“Right. I forgot that every time you blink you take a micro-nap.”
“Just because Vulcan’s circadian cycles are entrained differently from hum—”
McCoy’s hand tightens on Spock’s hip. “Just send me three of your officers. The least insufferable ones, please, if you want ’em to be returned in one piece.”
“Everyone in my department is equally ‘sufferable’.”
In a quick move, McCoy shifts so that he’s on top of Spock. “Yeah, that’s what I was worried about.”
The kiss that follows is deep, and although Spock is well aware that it is a molecular impossibility, every atom in his body oscillates and spins and hums in chorus.
It leads into the thirty-seventh time.
The thirty-ninth time, McCoy laces their fingers as he slides deep, and does not let go until he has emptied inside Spock, and Spock has never felt pleasure but this terrible, delicious, heart-cutting pleasure.
The fortieth time, Spock is recovering from an injury.
“Here, let me,” McCoy tells him gruffly, noticing Spock’s wince while he attempts to take of his uniform.
The doctor’s hands are as tender as his words are acerbic.
“One damn inch to left, and the natives would’ve had roasted Vulcan for dinner, and it would’ve been a disaster. Not that I care, but Jim would have shed a tear or two and let’s be honest, with your body composition you’d probably be the worst meat the locals have ever tasted, poor things.”
McCoy’s palms slide over his shoulders, down his arms, and stop at the juncture of his elbows, where the thumbs slide back and forth in the sensitive, ticklish folds.
“Not to mention that Commander Spock is too cool for first aid, of course. I mean, why would someone who's bleeding to death administer himself a coagulant before helping out someone else who’s much less severely wounded. That would be just fucking illogical, right?”
McCoy’s right hand pushes on Spock’s lower back, fingers dipping inside the elastic band of his underwear. His left is gripping the side of Spock’s head, angling it to expose the jawbone to a not-so-delicate bite.
“And why would you actually be honest about the extent of your injuries for once? It’s so much more fun for everyone involved to wait until you pass out on the MedBay floor to discover that you’re at death’s door. Thank you for providing my staff with high-quality entertainment, Mister Spock.”
McCoy’s fingers keep straying to the newly regenerated patch of skin on Spock’s midriff, as if to assure himself that the wound is finally closed. Spock notices the trembling in them and covers them with his own.
The following silence is only broken by sighs, and grunts, and pleas for more. They are both on the brink when McCoy speaks again, his breath warm on Spock’s ear. “If you give me another scare like this I swear I’m gonna fucking put you on medical leave. Understood?”
McCoy drives his hips up one last time, and Spock knows nothing anymore, his throat pushing out hopeless sounds.
After the forty-fourth time, McCoy lingers longer than he ever has before, his hands lazy on Spock’s body.
“I don’t think there’s one single person on the Enterprise who wouldn’t want to be here.” He does not look into Spock’s eyes as he speaks.
“Here?” Of course, Spock’s quarters are slightly larger than average due to his position in the ship hierarchy, but so are every other department head’s. Moreover, the porthole in Spock’s cabin is inconveniently positioned, so that—
Spock thinks about it for a moment. Several crewmembers are in committed relationships, others are guaranteed to find the idea of sexual intercourse with a male unappealing, and many more are simply not likely to be attracted to Spock himself. “It appears to be an easily refutable statement.”
McCoy shrugs. “Just saying. You can do way better than me.” McCoy’s tone holds a hint of bitterness as he hoists himself upright and begins getting dressed.
Before leaving, he sits on the side of bed, leaning down to kiss Spock, his weight supported by his hands. It is a simple, chaste kiss.
“Go to sleep, Spock,” he murmurs against his lips.
“I cannot,” Spock answers, and wonders if McCoy knows that he is not referring to sleep.
The forty-seventh time is in the doctor’s quarters.
“You can stay a bit, if you want,” McCoy tells him.
Spock does not return to his quarters until the following morning.
The forty-ninth time is not the forty-ninth time, because Jim interrupts them before it can be.
“Holy shit. My growth! You’ve stunted it!”
“Unbelievable,” McCoy mutters, and his hand remains on the small of Spock’s back, pressing harder when Spock attempts to step back in deference to Jim’s delicate sensibilities. “Jim. I’ve seen you get it on with species with nine pairs of eyes and slimy tentacles. In my bed. ”
“I can’t believe you guys are still going at it,” Jim whines.
“Get used to it, infant.”
The real forty-ninth time happens during shore leave.
While not on the ship, Spock gravitates towards Nyota as much as McCoy is at the mercy of Jim. Spock rarely enjoys what passes as entertainment on starbases, anyway, and he once heard McCoy refer to them as ‘abnormal spaceships on growth hormone.’ Concert tickets are deposited in both their hands before either can finish saying “I would rather remain on board.”
After the first few notes, they exchange a grimacing look.
“C’mon, let’s get out of here.”
Spock follows, relieved.
They find a small bar with outdoor seating and a 3D chessboard.
“Wait, why can’t I do that?”
“It is an illegal move.”
“For god’s sake, you literally just did that.”
“I was using the rook.”
“And I wanna do it using the horse.”
“The knight,” Spock corrects. “And different pieces are allowed different sets of moves. As I mentioned.” Several times.
“That seems discriminatory.” McCoy’s pawn moves to g7 taking a clearly L-shaped route, and Spock stifles a sigh.
“Your king is in check. If you do not move it, I will capture it on my next turn.”
McCoy studies the board for a moment. “I can live with that,” he says, shrugging.
“The game would be over.”
“Yep. That’s why my king’s committin’ suicide. Seems like a worthy cause to me.”
“You may not neglect to save to your king. It would be an illegal mov—”
“You know, it’s really dumb to call ’em illegal moves. What’re you gonna do, arrest me for crimes against board games? Run off with my queen? She’s all yours, never liked her much to begin with.”
Chess is an old and revered tradition that deserves respect and adherence to rules. Spock tells himself that this is not amusing. For all the good it does him.
Later, during the forty-ninth time, McCoy’s fingers are exquisite inside of him, and Spock’s hand descends between their bodies in an attempt to find something, anything, to hold on to. He is already on the verge.
“Illegal move,” McCoy husks at him, his grip around Spock’s wrist an unbreakable vise.
Between the fifty-third and the fifty-fourth time, Nurse Chapel sees him in the corridors a few minutes after the end of Alpha.
“Oh, Commander. Could you give this to Doctor McCoy when you see him?” She hands him a PADD. “He forgot it in MedBay, I figured he might need it tonight.”
Spock looks at her retreating form, wondering how she can possibly know that he is heading to the doctor’s cabin.
Before the fifty-fourth time, he gives McCoy the PADD.
“Nurse Chapel asked me to bring you this.”
“Ah, yeah, I was looking for it. Good thing you bumped into her.” He tosses it on the bed. “Salad or soup?”
Spock just stares at McCoy, his throat suddenly dry.
“Right, even stardate. Salad it is.” He briefly grips Spock’s shoulder as he passes him to reach the replicator. “Didn’t mean to upset your OCD, hobgoblin.” He is smirking.
The fifty-eighth through the sixtieth times take place in Spock’s quarters over the same day, when McCoy happens to have twenty-four hours off duty. Spock is scheduled for Gamma.
“What do you usually do on your days off?” McCoy asks him afterward, while Spock’s fingers play with the pools of sweat in the indentations at the base of his spine. It is fascinating how McCoy’s body responds when they are together like this. So different from Spock’s.
“I do not habitually take days off.”
An eye-roll. “But when you do?”
“I ceased taking days off two years, six months and twenty-nine days ago.”
McCoy’s eyebrows rise and he lifts his head from the pillow. “And the CMO lets you get away with it?”
Spock feels the corner of his lip curl. “I am not certain the CMO is aware.”
McCoy mumbles something about idiots and Vulcans and early graves. Then he tucks his head against the pillow, a few inches from Spock’s. They are so close that Spock is able to clearly make out the speckles of hazel in McCoy’s eyes. “What made you stop?”
“My relationship with Nyota came to an end.”
The silence stretches far enough that Spock believes it the end of the conversation. He thinks he might be able to fall asleep for a few minutes. He has the time before he needs to report for Gamma. The patterns he is swirling on McCoy’s back slow down little by little.
“Well, you should start taking days off again, then.” McCoy’s voice is not loud, but it surprises him. Suddenly, Spock’s heart rate increases. He counts several beats before the doctor continues. “Unless you don’t want to.” The addition is tentative.
“I do,” Spock says quickly.
“Not that it matters. ‘Cause I’m the goddamn CMO, and what I say goes.” McCoy closes his eyes and pulls Spock closer, his arm solid around Spock’s ribcage. “You know my schedule,” is the last thing he tells Spock before his breathing evens.
Spock overhears it between the sixty-fifth and the sixty-sixth time. They are entertaining a Bajoran delegation on the Enterprise.
“Are you married, doctor?” It is difficult to say whether the attaché’s question is an attempt at polite conversation or is motivated by a more personal interest.
“No.” A pause. “Taken, though.”
It is after the sixty-eighth time.
Spock is awakened by his bladder. The lights are already on at ten percent, and he tries not to wake up the doctor as he gets out of bed and makes his way to the restroom. While he cleans his hands with the sonics, he catches sight of himself in the mirror.
Calm, he thinks. He looks calm.
It is not until he is back in bed that he realizes it.
He is calm.
“C’mere.” A strong arm pulls him into the warmth of McCoy’s chest. A kiss, soft on the tip of his ear. “Missed you.”
They are both asleep within the next few moments.