Spock does not flirt. It is the principle of the matter, the poorly used humor, the pandering, the nonsensical teasing. Also, he does not know how. So he does not flirt but he does look, and sometimes - on occasion, and occasions are not often suitable or ideal or enough always - sometimes this looking leads to the eventual destination that flirting would have, but never does, arrive at. For him, at least. He is well acquainted with the successes of his myriad coworkers, the stacks of napkins in the back bearing numbers, and the power of Jim’s smile across the counter, offered with a steaming cup of coffee and more often than not an accompanying wink.
Spock has never - and likely will never - drive anyone to simper in the same way that Jim can and as he does not especially want to this is convenient and not frustrating with his limitations, his persistent inability to simply do in the way that others can so easily - but the man seated at the table by the window has glanced over at Spock twice in the time it has taken him to finish his coffee, and that is twice more than nothing.
Which is likely why Spock’s phone chooses that moment to ring.
“Is there an Apple recruiter at the counter?” Jim asks into Spock’s ear.
“I am busy.”
“Microsoft? Damn, Spock, I thought you had standards.”
“The morning rush will begin in approximately-“
“-Why else would you take more than one ring to answer?” Jim asks. Then, his voice drops. “Are you dying? You can tell me.”
“Is there a reason for your call?” Spock asks.
“No. Yes! When I get back, I need the evening off.”
This. Again. “I know,” Spock says. The man has returned to his phone and his furious tapping at it with one finger.
“Cause of Bones. Spock, you’ll love him,” Jim says. Spock has been informed of this, and of the impending visit of this ‘Bones’, and Jim’s excitement, and their storied friendship - we met on a plane, it was awesome in a so-not-awesome for him kind of way, Spock - and Spock knows this and all that Jim will spout into the tinny speaker of Spock’s iPhone, so he simply wedges it against his shoulder and returns to the pastry case before him, the dozen donuts that need sorting, the croissants, and blueberry muffins.
“So you’ll cover for me?” Jim asks and Spock pulls his eyes from the man by the window. Jim will return tomorrow. Spock could - but does not bother to - calculate the probability that this is not the last time that Jim will ask - again - to ensure his time with ‘Bones’.
“You are the manager,” Spock reminds him. “You are able to take time off at your own discretion. Such as now. Currently. As we speak.”
“I’m working,” Jim says. “Pike has me elbow deep is sales graphs, I’m not even kidding, it’s like-“
“-A weekend in Mojave?” Spock eyes the fog hanging thick outside the window. The man is scowling at his phone.
“A working retreat,” Jim says. “I’m giving a-“
“-Presentation,” Spock says and places three donuts on their tray. “That Nyota designed for you. I will - as I have told you - cover your shift tomorrow evening. Goodbye.”
He ends the call with a tap of his thumb before he has to listen to - again - Jim’s despair at representing Pike’s flagship café to a group of investors - boring as all hell, Jim had called it - as if the leadership thereof is not a responsibility he leapt at, quite nearly literally - the best of the best, Spock, can you believe it - and instead bends over the pastries again.
He looks up at the sound of footsteps only to wish he hadn’t as the cafe, while not large - cozy, their Yelp reviews often term it - is still spacious enough that Spock has interrupted his task before the man is within easy speaking distance and until then, Spock is unsure how, precisely, to fill the moments that tick past.
“Another?” Spock finally asks. He dislikes his own nervousness and dislikes even more the irritation that rises in him at the realization he is nervous to begin with. He clears his throat. It is a coffee order. Not even. A refill. Nothing more. He takes the proffered cup. “Mr-“
“McCoy,” the man offers and Spock nods, for that is what Sulu wrote on the cup, the Y a cheerful underline to the rest of the name. “Doctor.”
“Doctor,” Spock echoes. Unnecessarily, in all likelihood. “Regular?”
“Good God yes,” McCoy says. His accent is Southern. And… rather pleasing. “Decaf isn’t real coffee, it’s a damn cup of swill.”
Spock does not react. He does not allow himself to react, that is, even though a response forms all the same, a response that he swallows down during the time it takes him to pour coffee into the cup. When he turns back, McCoy is drumming his fingers on the counter. Up close, his eyes are red and Spock would rethink his own interest due to the stubbled jaw and the disarray of clothes but then he is presented with a broad back as McCoy returns to his table and the line of straight shoulders and yes, Spock thinks. It is not unappealing. He is not unappealing. When he is not speaking, at least.
And he has nice hands.
Spock resumes placing the donuts in the case. Beyond the glass - cleaned with windex and wiped down carefully, streak free and immaculate for the beginning of the day - McCoy - Doctor McCoy - settles with his coffee and phone again, and Spock begins on the muffins, unacceptably and inexorably distracted.
“Let me see,” Nyota says and Spock pockets his phone.
“Your paycheck,” he says but she dodges the proffered envelope - “Direct deposit, Spock” - and pats at his thigh. Anyone else - anyone else other than her or Jim that is, if Spock is to be specific and above all else Spock prefers specificity - and Spock would twitch away. He does not flirt and he does not touch, not so simply and not so casually, but Nyota touches him and Jim touches him and sometimes - often - he thinks he would like to allow himself the ease with his friends that they take with him. But he does not - cannot, he thinks sometimes - and his hands that find strangers’ sides, their hair, the skin beneath their clothes is not the same simplicity of contact that has Nyota batting at his wrist until he turns his phone over to her.
He does not bother to sigh. They both know this was the eventual destination of the moment she saw him bent over in Jim’s rather hazardous office that is in fact an area crammed with a desk at which Spock works and Jim does not, a couch upon which Jim does work, and an ice machine, all of which are rather unfortunately one and the same space, so the sigh is unnecessary.
“There are customers,” he says.
“There are not.” She taps in his passcode. Logical, when he gave it to her, speaking to her on Jim’s phone when his own was left behind and he needed access to an email. Illogical to have not since changed it.
“There are,” he says. An inane argument. There is one patron - unmoving, at his table next to the window, frowning at his own phone - but she has not looked at the front of the cafe and will not look, not when she has come to collect her tip money, her pay stub, and whatever information she deems fit to glean from Spock’s phone.
“He’s cute,” Nyota says, her thumb sliding over a series of pictures as she flicks through them and Spock jerks his attention from where he has peered into the front room. “I’m messaging this one.”
“Oooh, him too.”
“One more,” she says. Her lips purse. “Ok. Two more. Three. Ok, I’m done.”
She is actually done on the fifth and he decides to find fortune in that she did not access his previous messages - stilted, painful, forced on his end, even the simplicity of logistics escaping him, though translated over text bubbles how contrived the communication is hopefully - hopefully - is largely lost. And it must be, for otherwise Spock would not achieve the eventuality to which such effort leads - shirts shoved up, the arch of a neck - and he would not bother.
But he does.
Which Nyota knows, rather unfortunately.
“I liked that one,” she says and tucks her paycheck into her purse and her hair behind her ear.
“There are customers,” Spock says again.
“Number four,” she calls and pushes backwards out the door, the one that leads to the alley and the bus stop and her day. “Brunette. Totally your type.”
“I do not have a ‘type’,” he says to the door that swings shut.
When the door does not reopen, he unlocks his phone. No new messages. Nyota has, however, sent a series of greetings, all but one of which is accompanied by a parenthesis and semicolon. This time, Spock does sigh.
“What’s good?” Spock hears and looks up from a myriad of erections, each picture sent with an entreaty for a submission on his own.
No, he types. “Pardon?”
“To eat,” McCoy says. He squints at the boards hanging above Spock. It exposes the line of his throat. He is in need of a shave. The man, not Spock, who has never and would never his own home in such a state. “What’s aioli?”
“A mixture of egg and olive oil. It is…” Spock pauses, considers the proper adjective. “Spreadable.”
“Why don’t you just say it’s mayo?”
“Jesus,” McCoy says. He mouths a word. Spock believes, though he is not sure, the shape McCoy’s lips move in the form of pedantic.
Spock eyes McCoy’s shoulders. And his hands. Again.
“Just a- I don’t know, a salad,” McCoy says. There is what was clearly once a tan from a wedding ring on his finger, the white line of it now nearly indistinct. Lost, perhaps. Or taken off what must be some time ago. “With nothing funny on it.”
Spock’s phone buzzes against his thigh as he arranges walnuts and dried cranberries over a plate of spinach. “Goat cheese?”
“Huh?” McCoy asks. His thumb is moving over the screen of his own phone. He locks it and looks up. The screen left behind is of a girl with pigtails and teeth missing from her smile. “No.”
When Spock drops his change into his palm, McCoy dumps the coins into his pocket, not the tip jar. Still, Spock watches him return to his table.
You around later?
Spock does not, and cannot, know if the message is from Nyota’s ‘number four’, only that the man in profile picture in question unquestionably has brown hair.
“That Jim?” Sulu asks. Spock looks up. “Texting you?”
“It is not.” A man with brown hair who is turned from the camera - Spock look at me, Nyota had said, brandishing his own phone; No. Desist, please - and Spock’s thumb hovers over the keypad. “The inventory-“
“-Brewing. That guy can put it away, can’t he,” Sulu says and tips his head towards the man at the window. Spock absently nods.
Yes, he types, deletes it, and replaces it with I am. He does not frown at his own words, but neither does he send them. I am available this evening, he finally writes and the moment he has pressed send, lays his phone on the counter. Face down on the counter. But Sulu is arranging a vase of flowers, humming quietly, uninterested in Spock’s preoccupation with his phone, the espresso machine beeping at him to be cleaned, and the family of four who have just entered, jingling the bell Jim hung over the door knob.
His phone buzzes as he is steaming milk - two hot chocolates, a double latte, a decaf cappuccino - and he has deposited the drinks into mugs and the mugs onto the counter and their change into the mother’s palm before he picks it up again.
It is not yet another unsolicited phallus. Still, it is… less than ideal.
Whenever your free. Spock does not allow himself to cringe.
He does, though, let out an exhale when *you’re pops up a moment later.
I am off work at 5, he taps out with his thumb.
Bar @ the hilton?
Married, then. Or living with someone less indulgent than a roommate. He would prefer to not know. Spock has been invited to worse hotels; he has been invited to nicer ones too and is only picky about not bringing anyone to his own apartment, his neatly ordered belongings, his space that is invaded only occasionally by Jim and far less disruptively - or loudly - by Nyota.
Nyota who, given the chance, would likely answer with another set of smiley faces or - worse - emojis. Spock simply types I will be there and pockets his phone. It is not far. A few blocks.
He has forty five - forty four - minutes until then. And a button down in his bag free of the crest Jim had emblazoned on the left chests of their shirts above his name tag.
Across the cafe, McCoy pitches his empty cup into the trash. When he leaves, he does not push in his chair. Spock watches him exit and jog across the street, worrying at the nudge of disappointment that settles in his chest.
Identifying someone from the expanse of a bare shoulder and the curve of tricep is difficult in the extreme, and added to that fact is that Spock’s only other clues are the neat edge of a haircut, the angle of a clean shaven jaw, and Leonard, of a similar age to Spock. Even so, Spock eliminates the majority of patrons immediately upon ordering - club soda, lime - as too old, too young, female, or not similarly solitarily perched with a drink, a phone, and an eye out for company.
A body slips onto the stool next to him. Spock takes in long, slim legs in pressed and creased trousers. A neatly tucked in shirt. Raises his eyes and-
“Harold?” McCoy asks.
Spock blinks. “It is my middle name.”
“Harold,” McCoy repeats. “What in ever loving hell.”
A question, technically. Spock does not answer.
“Leonard McCoy,” Spock is told with a heavy sigh. “Don’t call me Leonard.”
“Spock,” he offers in return.
McCoy lifts his eyes towards the ceiling. “Great.”
He has shaved. And his rumpled shirt has been traded for one that is neatly ironed and left open at the collar. McCoy catches him looking and an eyebrow creeps upwards.
“And this morning I thought you were staring me down, pissed I was using the wifi for so long.”
Spock’s tongue is too thick in his mouth. He is not good at this. The talking. The unnecessary chatter. The prevarication and hedging and the need to be amusing. He dislikes - strongly - anything at which he is not proficient. “You purchased a beverage.”
“Yeah, well, I was raised right.” McCoy has such nice hands, a palm laid over his phone, slim fingers resting on the bar. In his other hand, he has a glass of amber liquid - bourbon, whiskey, scotch, all drinks that Spock does not drink but will, when pressed, similarly hold a tumbler of, ordered for him but not by him - that McCoy raises to his lips and says against the rim, “I don’t really do this, you know.”
Spock would not know. Does not know. McCoy peers at him from the corner of his eye.
“How does this work?” McCoy asks and swallows a mouthful of his drink. “You want to come upstairs?”
“You do not sound particularly enthusiastic,” Spock says.
“Are you really here for the conversation?” McCoy raises an eyebrow. “Siblings? Pets? Favorite hobbies?”
Spock’s life is filled with neither siblings, nor pets, and hobbies he has, but not ones he has any particular interest to discuss.
“I presume you understand the goal of using such an app,” Spock says.
“I can barely use my damn phone. And where I’m from, we generally do dinner first.” McCoy manages to both frown and take a long sip of his drink. Then, he sets his glass down. “Let’s get this over with. You work at a coffeeshop, I’m a doctor. I’m in town to see a friend - tomorrow - which leaves my night free. It’s convenient - you have coffee, I’m on East Coast time and need coffee, and here we both are. That’s enough now, isn’t it?”
McCoy’s fingers tap against his phone. Irritated, perhaps, or nervous. Spock is far from adept at translating those small tells into anything sensical.
“Why are you here so early to meet your friend?” he asks.
McCoy cocks an eyebrow. “None of your damn business, now is it.”
It is not. And Spock appreciates, above all else, privacy.
“Very well,” Spock says. He does not flirt. But this, upstairs… he can and does.
“I got it,” McCoy says when Spock reaches for his wallet.
He leaves a dollar tip on their drinks. Spock slips out two more bills and McCoy sighs. “C’mon then, would’ya?”
In the elevator, Spock does not allow himself to hold onto the strap of his messenger bag. Instead, hands at his sides, he says, “It is a cafe.”
“We prepare and serve food. It is a cafe, not a coffeeshop.”
McCoy squints. “It’s a shop that sells coffee.”
Spock turns back to the doors before him, their reflections rendered hazy and indistinct. No, he is not here for the conversation.
There is a rather horrible beat of silence before McCoy kisses him and Spock is not used to being kissed. Or, rather, he is, but not so thoroughly, and not at such length, and not in a way that is not cursorily subservient to other… activities in which they could be engaged but are not, as McCoy is holding him quite chastely by the waist and kissing him. A thumb slips beneath Spock’s shirt. It is, in combination to the mouth tugging at his and the hand squeezing his side, rather alarming in how intensely arousing it is, that slight brush of touch on him.
“Do you want a drink?” This, into Spock’s neck.
“No.” He tips his head to the side for the mouth that travels to the lobe of his ear. Pulls there. His hand tightens on McCoy’s shoulder.
“What’d’ya want then?”
To put down his bag. McCoy pulls back and for a moment Spock is sure he has spoken this aloud. His ear is wet.
“Intercourse,” Spock says, even though it makes his cheeks heat to actually speak it out loud. Better when it simply happens, when this - when sex - is something done to Spock, done with Spock, not done by him, not in any real way.
“Cut to the chase, don’t you now,” McCoy says.
“It is preferable.” Equivocation leads to hesitation which leads in turn to contemplation and given his current circumstances, Spock would rather expedite the proceedings than engage in any type of reflection. And speaking - any attempt made at a discussion - so often fails that Spock has found logic in simply sidestepping the possibility there of. Better to simply proceed.
“What’d you do, swallow a dictionary?” McCoy releases him. There is a small duffel, the only object in the room not ostensibly supplied by the hotel or Spock’s own belongings - his bag that he does set down, his jacket that he carries always against San Francisco’s unbearable climate - and through it McCoy rummages. Spock watches the stretch of McCoy’s shirt across his back. The wide band of his belt, how his pants pull. “You could just say you’re down to - whatever the kids are calling it these days.” He straightens. He clearly does not have many items with him. The clothes he is wearing, the shirt he had on earlier draped over the arm of a chair, the handful of objects in the bag. “Netflix.”
“I have some,” Spock says when McCoy picks a nail at the edge of a box of condoms. A new box. Which he struggles to open. Clearly, the rarity of these encounters was not an exaggeration, unlike most of the other statements that come from McCoy’s mouth. “What relevance does Netflix bear?”
“No idea.” McCoy picks up the condom Spock lays on the bed, flicks open the bottle of lube, closes it, and says, “Boy scout.”
“It is prudent to be prepared.”
“I’m not really into vocabulary,” McCoy says. For a moment, they simply watch each other. Then, McCoy hooks his finger into Spock’s collar and Spock lets himself be pulled forward with the accompanying tug. “So there’s probably a joke in here about shutting you up.”
“Please do not voice it,” Spock says and there is a soft huff of laughter against his mouth just before McCoy kisses him again.
It is good. Quite good. Which is fortunate, as the pleasure provides a suitable distraction from the swearing - Jesus fuck Spock you feel oh God - and the noise of a TV clearly discernible in the next room. This and more - the chatter, incessant as it is - Been a while McCoy mutters and Spock is unsure if this is meant for him to hear - he sets aside, ignores, compartmentalizes and focuses on the rough shove of McCoy in him, the near ideal stroke of a large hand half trapped between his groin and the mattress, the sweaty, heavy weight of-
Spock is gasping. “What?”
“C’mon.” Spock’s back chills without the press of McCoy’s body to him. “Wanna see you.”
“No, in five minutes. Yes, now.” The hand unwraps from around him. Spock will not wriggle, will not allow himself to - he has standards - but he does shift his hips backwards. A hand presses into the small of his back. “Stop that, you hear.”
Spock cannot help but hear, McCoy’s mouth entirely too close to his ear for anything else. “Continue. Please.”
McCoy does not.
Spock sighs. “Fine.”
“Fuck,” McCoy says again - a convention, apparently - as he pushes in once more and Spock stares at the ceiling beyond the bow of McCow’s dark head and says “Simply carrying on would have been-“
“That’s what I thought,” McCoy says when Spock words cease with McCoy’s firm, hard thrust.
Spock pulls in a long breath. It shakes. He will admit to himself, but not aloud, that it is in pleasure. Considerably so.
“You’re gorgeous,” McCoy says, sat back on his heels. He drags a hand from Spock’s collarbone to his sternum, his abdomen, and skips down to his thighs. Spock will not wriggle and he certainly will not squirm but McCoy’s mouth widens into a grin all the same, twisted at the side and crooked as his hand edges back up. Unbidden, Spock’s hips rise into McCoy’s firm touch. “God, look at you.”
Spock does not particularly care for the eyes McCoy traces over him, that casual appraisal. Spock likes to look, but does not enjoy being looked at, not if he can help it.
“I have yoga at seven thirty,” he says. “So if you would not mind proceeding…”
“Of course you do. And a stop at a vegan juice place afterwards,” McCoy says. Slowly, he leans forward, a single, careful push deeper into Spock. He does it again and Spock feels his mouth fall open. “You gonna bother denying that?”
“Yes,” Spock says but it is in answer to the hand that draws up the length of him, tight and hard just as he likes.
Spock does not immediately open his eyes. A soft mouth touches to the corner of his own. “I’ll get you a washcloth.”
Spock licks at dry lips. He attempts to even his breathing. “Thank you.”
McCoy brings a glass of water as well. Spock cannot make sense of the man and does not try, does not sort through the push and pull of ire and annoyance and the hand that McCoy offers to pull him upright, friendly in its helpfulness.
“Is there a place for a beer around here?”
Spock pauses halfway through his water and then resumes his sip, sure that his hesitation was noted. “The Whistle Stop,” he says for it is where Jim goes, were Jim here, and where Spock is asked to go repeatedly - ad nauseam - and this week has been a break from that, a quiet span of days without incessant, constant texts of just one drink, Spock, come have some fun that will nearly certainly resume on Jim’s return tomorrow and for a moment, Spock is certain he is about to be invited again, now, once more induced to the same bar but by a different person in such extremely different circumstances.
But McCoy just says, “Enjoy your wheatgrass and kale,” and refills Spock’s glass while Spock buttons his shirt with fingers he wills to be more steady than they are.
“Nice to have met you,” McCoy says at the door. He is in only his boxers. His neck is flushed a ruddy pink. Spock’s face still feels damp with the water he splashed quickly in the bathroom.
“Have a pleasant remainder of your trip,” Spock says and they shake hands with an incongruity Spock could - but does not - wonder at.
“Thanks,” McCoy says and the heavy door settles shut behind Spock with an easy finality.
And that, he thinks to himself in one of Jim’s colloquialisms, is that.
Chekov is whistling. Without apparent pauses for breath or any consideration of the pleasantness of the morning’s silence.
For it is only five fifteen and Spock is already faced with espresso hoppers in need of filling, an empty pastry case and boxes of muffins and donuts, and a poor supply of lids left from the shift the evening before - Sulu, likely, in his hurry to be home before his babysitter had to leave. All are tasks that benefit from the quiet before the morning rush, a quiet that is interrupted by the ostensibly cheerful chime of the bell. And the whistling.
“Good morning,” Spock offers from the back room because first Jim, and then Nyota, and once even Sulu informed him that being ‘chipper’ would lead to increased customer satisfaction. Spock is, and has never been, ‘chipper’. The closest he can bring himself to such a state is to hide his irritation with the interruption beneath a thin veneer of politeness. Doubtless, he is unsuccessful. He has office work. And a morning rush to expect. And Chekov, still whistling.
Spock sends Chekov and his whistle to the front of the cafe and settles himself with the cash drawer, the computer - while not in fact ancient, as Nyota has called it with a strong smack to its monitor, nor a hunk of junk as Sulu has referred to as while fruitlessly clicking its mouse, it is slow - and a cup of tea.
Herbal tea. He slept surprisingly well.
“Regular,” he hears. He straightens. “And room for cream.”
“It is ok,” Chekov says when Spock steps behind him.
“What is?” Spock asks. A younger man stands across the counter. Red headed. Chekov brandishes a credit card and too slowly does Spock realize that yes, he has the cash drawer, and Chekov is running the card through the reader and he does not - did not - have a reason to appear.
He sits once more. At Jim’s ostensible desk and his own in all practicality, and does not rise again until Chekov calls that the line is growing. The sun has crept up and indeed there are too many customers waiting to scrutinize each new patron who sets the bell on the door chiming.
“You turned your phone off.”
Spock knocks the steaming pitcher full of milk on the counter twice. Firmly. “I was at yoga.”
“Till what, nine?” Nyota asks. “I called you at ten thirty.”
“Perhaps I was asleep.”
Her eyes lift. “Perhaps you weren’t.”
“I had to open today. And yesterday. And close tonight, and tomorrow-“
“-Tomorrow, you will yet again pull the shift that you volunteered for, at dawn o’clock.” Nyota tamps espresso with a twist of her elbow. “I was going to tell you that Sulu’s flower guy-“
“-Ben is a renowned botanist-“
“-Can’t spare the time from work to stare dreamily into the eyes of our poor Hikaru, who, as it so happens, is therefore more than willing to take Jim’s shift tonight so that you can come out with us.”
“I have been out with you and Gaila and for my own sanity, I would far rather…” Spock pauses. Considers. “Do anything else.”
“Us. Jim, us. You, me, Jim and his absolute favorite doctor.”
Spock looks over at her. She fits the portafilter into the espresso machine and flicks the water on. The machine whirrs.
He garnishes the cup in his hand with a rosette - perfectly symmetrical white in the crema of the espresso, done with a flick of his wrist and a certain amount of disinterest as he thinks - and says, “No.”
“You’ll hate him. C’mon.”
“Jim said I would love him.”
“Something like that.” Nyota balances a hip against the counter. “You need to get out, Spock.”
“I am perfectly content with my schedule.”
“Well, I’m not. How was last night?”
Spock stiffens, despite himself. “As I told you, I went to yoga.”
“Sulu said you lit out of here like a bat out of hell.”
“A colorful, but useless image.”
“If you want colorful, come out with us. We’ll have more metaphors than you could shake a stick at.” She grips his arm and gently, he twists away. “I’ll buy.”
“Thank you, but no.”
For three drinks, Nyota says nothing. Then, she once more turns to him, a macchiato brandished in her hand. “Can I say something? As your friend?”
“I would prefer you didn't.”
“It’s a night out with good company. Your mom,” Nyota says and Spock just breathes, “Would tell you to go.”
And he would not listen. Did not. Ever. When he opens his eyes again, he is still holding a shot of espresso. Carefully - precisely and neatly and excruciatingly exactly - he places it on the counter, perfectly in the middle of it. “John,” he listens to himself call out.
“Would have,” he says. He pulls the lid off a gallon of whole milk. “Past tense. Would have told me.”
Nyota’s eyes are far too warm. “Don’t do that to yourself.”
“Then don't do that, either,” Spock says and his tone matches none of the gentleness with which she once more squeezes his arm.
When Spock thumbs off airplane mode, he has no less than fourteen texts from Jim, six emails he immediately deletes, and a voicemail from Nyota.
There is less chance of indulging himself in refreshing apps - any app, and one in particular - with the busyness of his shift than in the silence and stillness of his apartment. Nyota is refilling a hopper with decaf espresso beans. Chekov is wiping off tables. Spock gingerly swipes to the second screen of apps, opens a folder - Staff scheduling, misnamed but where Jim will not delve into with curiosity idle or otherwise - and watches Chekov crumple up two napkins, unused and left with an empty cup as the screen darkens, and then loads.
Where’s a decent breakfast place? This, from forty three minutes ago. Spock does not need to, but does all the same, look at the clock. He was steaming a hazelnut cappuccino when this message was sent.
He does not flirt. Successfully, at least. Yelp exists for a reason, he types. Waits. Puts his phone in his pocket.
He does not expect a reply, which does little to explain why he pulls his phone back out again.
All it comes up with is Enterprise Cafe, the message reads as his phone buzzes in his hand.
McCoy had said that he does not do this. Spock does not either. This, that is. This this, the attempt at wit, not the ‘this’ to which McCoy was referring. That… that Spock does. Certainly.
It takes him too long to tap out, Curious.
And I said decent, comes the response, so immediately Spock is unsure whether his own message was read or even received.
Spock’s thumb is poised over the keyboard for what is likely too long. Typed. You typed it.
“Is there more vanilla?”
He does not jump. Simply calmly looks up from his phone and says, “In the storeroom.”
Nyota crosses her arms. “The assistant manager might get on your case about texting while on shift.”
“I am not texting,” he says. Technically. He is, though, messaging and tucks his phone into his palm. “The syrup is-“
“-Let me see.”
“No,” he says and pulls his phone away from her searching hand with a speed that has her raising both eyebrows.
“Is it the dick pic to end all photographed penises evermore?” she asks. “Cause then I’m definitely interested.”
“Customers can hear you,” he says. His phone buzzes. She snorts out a laugh.
When are you off? He could wait until Nyota’s attention is redirected. Until she steps past him into the storeroom. Until his actual break, twenty minutes from now. Spock’s phone vibrates once more. I could put that mouth of yours to good use.
Hands, Spock corrects. He angles his shoulder towards Nyota, who only rolls her eyes. My hands.
What a charmer you are.
Spock is not. Has never been and likely will never be.
I have a lunch break at twelve fifteen, he types, regardless.
And regardless, an ellipsis appears, followed immediately by, You know the room.
There is not no prevarication this time, but there is less, a fact Spock appreciates both for its simplicity as well as efficiency. His break is only so long.
“C’mere,” McCoy says and the hand fit behind Spock’s neck brokers no argument. He allows himself to be pulled forward. He can - and does now - see the appeal of this, the firm and open kiss, the hands running solid and slow down his sides.
“Were you joking?” McCoy asks. He plucks a finger at Spock’s collar. Spock skims his shirt off.
Spock does not know to what McCoy is referring, but the answer is the same regardless. He lays his shirt on the foot of the bed. “Likely not.”
McCoy shoves his own pants down his hips, and with them his boxers. Spock always has been and likely always will be unclear as to the appeal of the general tendency to send photographs of erections when the actuality of them is so entirely preferable.
Were McCoy inclined to ask anything else, the evident impulse to do so is apparently subsumed by the large, warm hand that is pressed to Spock’s stomach and pushes until he sits. When McCoy kneels, a beat of blood sings straight to Spock’s groin.
“What do you want?” McCoy asks.
“You’re going in the right direction,” Spock says. “You want the same?”
“Yeah.” McCoy edges Spock’s zipper down. Spock allows his hips to shift, thick with anticipation. “Then, I’m going to fuck you.”
Spock swallows. “Alright.”
“You have to wear a condom,” McCoy says. He tugs Spock’s pants down his thighs. “Because let me tell you, gonorrhea of the throat is-“
“-That’s fine,” Spock says. He has a near pavlovian reaction to the crinkle of a condom wrapper, though he prefers to think the expectancy low in his stomach is stoked by the hand McCoy draws up his inner thigh. “Though suffice to say, I do not have gonorrhea.”
“Don’t get me started on drug resistant bacteria,” McCoy says.
“I wouldn’t want to,” Spock says. “Your pillow talk, as it were, could use some work.”
Gently, Spock touches the top of McCoy’s head. His hair is soft. “Stop talking. Please.”
Given the chance, Spock may very well nap. Which he does not do. Ever. And cannot, as he is needed back at work. There is inventory. And shipments to unpack. And Nyota needs to take her own lunch, and for that, he will not be late.
Beside him, McCoy idly scratches his stomach. “Do you like your job?”
“Like it?” Spock asks. His limbs feel too heavy. His whole body, in all actuality. “At the cafe?”
“No, your other job,” McCoy says. “Jesus. Yes.”
“I enjoy my coworkers.” Spock nearly yawns. It is unnerving, this degree of relaxation. He can feel time ticking past him.
McCoy’s hand spreads palm down, tanned against his stomach. Spock had sunk his teeth just there. Licked at it with the flat of his tongue.
“Pouring coffee all day?”
“I’m a manager.” Assistant manager. He does not particularly feel the need to qualify that aloud. “Do you enjoy being a doctor?”
“Yeah.” McCoy rubs his thumb and forefinger into his eyes. “I quit, actually.”
“My job. Last week.”
“I see,” Spock says, though he does not.
Spock is never entirely clear on what specifically constitutes an awkward silence and differentiates it from a normal spell in conversation. He remains uncertain now, the long stillness finally broken only by McCoy asking, “Is it still a cafe if you do dinner, too?”
Spock turns towards him. “What?”
“Your menu. It has dinner on it, and you’re open late.” McCoy turns too, his hair rustling against his pillow. “Where I come from, we call that a restaurant.”
“We don’t offer table service.
“I’m going to use your shower,” Spock says and forces himself to sit up. Otherwise, he will linger, and if he lingers, he will be late, and if he is late, he will be faced with questions.
“I’ll take that as confirmation that I’m right,” McCoy says.
“Do not,” Spock says and cannot hear clearly over the rush of the water he turns on, but he distinctly makes out a word that sounds a tremendous amount like asshole.
He does not smile, for he did not truly hear, and steps into the shower.
They do not shake hands. Instead, McCoy leans his hip against the doorjamb. “My buddy’s not in until later tonight. But you’re working?”
“I’m available from three until five,” Spock says.
McCoy frowns. “What kind of schedule is that?”
“I’m covering a shift.”
“Huh.” McCoy has put on a t-shirt. His neck is as flushed as it was yesterday. “Bring you own damn shampoo when you turn up, would you?”
“I’ll consider it,” Spock says. He hears his own words. “The shampoo, that is.”
McCoy snorts a laugh. “Sure you will.”
Spock does not do this. Ever. Twice with someone. A third time.
Your city has terrible burgers, his phone reads.
Spock types back, Did they add goat cheese?
McCoy is traveling. Visiting, only. It is nothing.
At one thirty in the afternoon, Jim texts that he got an earlier flight and won’t be stopping by the cafe that afternoon, Chekov burns his hand on the steamer wand, and a customer rather ill advisedly calls Nyota ’Sweetheart’ for a second time, clearly misunderstanding - or worse, disregarding - the look she aims his way after the first.
I might just go pick up Bones on the way back into the city, Jim writes, Unless you’re going to fire me for not showing up to work.
I cannot fire you, Spock types back, reaching with his other hand for the first aid kit. He nudges Nyota away from her register.
Awesome, Jim writes, cause he totally got laid and I totally have to hear this story.
Spock shoves his phone into his pocket. Jim Kirk is - as ever - entirely and utterly Jim Kirk.
“I’m going to give him decaf,” Nyota says with a smile so incongruous to the tone of her words - pitched low so that only Spock can hear them - that the customer smiles back at her.
“Do not,” Spock says. Jim texts him a smiling cat, a green heart, and a thumbs up. Chekov takes the first aid kit, and to the customer, Spock says, “I’m afraid our espresso machines are in need of repair. There is a Starbucks down the street.”
The man’s forehead creases. “I just paid.”
“How unfortunate,” Spock says.
“You’re, like, open though,” the man says.
“We are,” Spock says, refunds his credit card with a firm swipe, and watches him all the way to the door.
“I’m going to call Starbucks and tell them to give him decaf,” Nyota says when the door jingles shut behind the man.
“I cannot open this,” Chekov says, fumbling at the latch on the first aid kit.
“Do not,” Spock says again to Nyota and flicks open the kit for Chekov.
“It is no so bad,” Chekov says. “Ow.”
“Please go to the ER,” Spock says. “And do not neglect completing an incident report.”
At one thirty five, Nyota is steaming a mocha - extra shot, extra whip, extra chocolate - Spock is clocking out Chekov, who cannot type in his own employee code, and Sulu reports he is unable to come in earlier than five thirty but I can still cover tonight, Spock, no problem.
It is fine. Less than ideal. But fine.
There is no need, Spock texts back.
Uhura said to ignore you if you said that, Sulu responds.
Spock does not sigh.
At two fifteen, Spock makes himself a cup of tea, sits at Jim’s desk, and opens the actual staff schedule, removing Chekov from his shifts for the following days, and then opens the folder marked the same on the second screen of his phone. After undue contemplation, he types, I cannot get off work at 3. This, he sends. Considers further. I apologize, he adds.
Can’t either, sorry, comes back the response, but there is no reason furnished. No following three dots in a neat row.
We close at 9, Spock sends after several too long minutes of prevarication, only to realize that - no, McCoy’s friend is in town. He will not be available.
McCoy doesn't answer, anyway.
Eventually, Spock stops checking his phone to see if that has changed.
Spock slips into the evening’s drizzle. Sulu is making change for a young woman. Nyota is wrestling to put a new pump on the crusted neck of a bottle of peppermint syrup. Spock closes the door softly behind him before either notice. He will, he is certain, incite Nyota’s ire for such misdirection. He does, to a degree at least, feel regret over this.
Rain coats his cheeks. He tips his hood up and tucks his hands into his pockets.
His phone buzzes against his knuckles.
Jim is, unfortunately, his boss, so Spock, unfortunately, has to answer.
“Where the hell are you?”
“Sulu is covering-“
“-We’re here, you genius.” The phone, tipped from Jim’s mouth suddenly. “Yeah, this is my place, Bones. Awesome right? That’s Sulu and you know the lovely Miss Uhura,” - she was on the plane, Spock, with me and Bones - treated to the sight of you two, Jim, a real wonderful flight that was - “Listen, Mr. MacArthur Award -“ this, louder “-Get back here, we’re going out.”
“This is your place?” Spock can hear, dim through the line, the voice indistinct.
“Yeah, the Enterprise,” Jim says, clearly not to Spock. “Long way from Iowa, huh?”
“I don’t have a MacArthur Award,” Spock says.
“Yes, but you could, and that’s the point,” Jim says into the phone once more. “The other point is that we’re going out, Spock.”
In the background, Spock quite clearly hears “Who, now?”
“Bones, he’s great, you’ll love him,” Jim says, his voice once more half muffled, the scrape of how he moves his phone from his mouth clear over the connection.
Spock has yet to reach his bike, and when he does he will still need to unlock it. He could go back.
“Goodnight,” he says instead. He puts his phone in his pocket. If it vibrates on his ride home, he ignores it.
Jim is - surprisingly - at the cafe when Spock arrives at four forty three in the morning, and moreover - and more surprisingly - awake.
“Did you go home?” Spock asks.
“Sure,” Jim says. “No. Good morning, you antisocial ingrate.”
“This is a professional environment,” Spock says. “Please refrain from such commentary.”
“We got a complaint from a customer that our espresso machines were down yesterday,” Jim says. Then, he yawns. “He had some commentary on the subject, let me tell you.”
“They are operating perfectly.”
“I leave for, like, three days and this place is falling apart.” Jim smiles, leaning back in the chair he has appropriated for his own use, his feet kicked up on a second one. “Makes me feel special, you know?”
“How is your friend?” Spock asks. The coffee machine has already been turned on for the morning, the first coffee of the day percolated through it. From the timer set on top, Jim has been here for longer than the proscribed thirty minutes coffee is allowed to sit before it is considered no longer fresh, a rule that means Spock will now have to clean the machine, refill it with fresh grounds, and brew it again before opening the cafe in twenty - nineteen - minutes.
Or, he could ignore it. It is Pike’s cafe, and Jim’s to manage, and Spock’s to assist in the running thereof, and if he is the only one who cares about the regulations that are so often and so thoroughly ignored, it is technically his job to only assist with said caring.
“The best,” Jim says with the grin he reserves for them close to him - Nyota and Sulu and Chekov and even Mr. Scott who comes to repair the espresso machines when they are in fact malfunctioning - and Spock himself, that loose, easy smile of Jim’s affection. It fades though, into a scrunched up expression that Spock cannot and does not parse. “Real squirrelly though. All night. But he’s-“ Jim waves his cup of coffee through the air “-Going through this God awful divorce. So.”
Spock unwraps a tea bag. He knows something - too much of a something - of starting over again. The frustratingly non-linear progression back to a normal so altered from what was ordinary as to be nearly unrecognizable.
“I’m glad you enjoyed yourself,” Spock says. In his mug, the splash of hot water he pours sends steam cascading upwards.
“I’d love it if you met him,” Jim says. Spock turns at the quietness of his tone. Earnest, in its seriousness. At first - so long ago now - Spock had thought Jim insincere in his ability to careen back and forth between blasé humor and solemnity. Now, he knows better, though the shift is no less arresting. “He’s only here till tomorrow.”
Spock tugs on the string to bob his teabag into the water. Jim sits up straighter, his feet falling to the floor.
Jim will inform Spock that he is well aware that Spock is not scheduled to work tonight, that he can go to yoga ‘whenever’, and that sitting alone in his apartment is not in all actuality an appropriate or suitable past time and no matter the arguments that Spock could leverage in the face of these facts, Jim will counter them with the same enthusiasm he brings to any debate. In the end Spock will not lose per se - there is no losing with Jim, just a wearing down into a state of utter exhaustion - but he will agree to an evening with Jim and Jim’s friend.
He does not do this. Nights out, not if he can avoid it. Occasionally - now - he cannot.
And it is always so much worse to protest when Jim is serious. When his boisterousness is replaced by a kindness and genuineness that is entirely more difficult to dispel.
“Fine,” Spock says. He places his tea next to the cash register. The pastry case, as ever, needs to be filled.
“It’s not a competition,” Nyota says and Spock does not need to look to know that Jim is shaking his head.
“It is so a competition,” Jim says.
“No, it’s not, cause Spock’s lattes are the best lattes,” Nyota says.
“Thank you,” Spock says and refreshes the screen on phone again.
Unnecessary. And yet he does so all the same.
“You don’t appreciate my artistic expression,” Jim says. He brandishes a pitcher of steaming milk. “I can pour literally - literally - anything.”
“You can’t point to a blob of foam and call it art,” Nyota says. She scrubs a rag over a stain of dried coffee. Working in a cafe is by far - an excruciatingly exceptional amount - a job that involves far more cleaning than the selling or making of drinks. At best Spock finds it gratifying in the neatness required. At worse tedious, the mats that must be scrubbed, the floors mopped, the counters wiped and wiped again. “Spock did flowers for Ben the other day.” She waves her free hand in the air. “For Sulu, for Ben. It was gorgeous.”
“I can do flowers,” Jim says. The milk in the pitcher he holds slops dangerously - precariously - close to the rim as he points it at his chest. “All you had to say is that you wanted me to bring you some.”
“You can do a tulip,” Nyota says. “One. Poorly centered.”
“Ouch,” Jim says, his hand clutched over his heart. “Spock, back me up here. Spock- Spock.”
The hand that grabs for his phone is unexpected and Spock pushes his phone into his pocket in a manner entirely more hurried than is truly ideal.
“You lack proper attention to detail,” he says and holds his hand over his pocket. He knows Jim. Quite well after all this time, and is entirely too well acquainted with the look of interest cast at him. “And the milk you have prepared is now too cold.”
“Everyone’s a critic,” Jim says.
“Spock’s lattes are on our Instagram,” Nyota says. “He has his own hashtag.”
“Can I have a hashtag?” Jim asks.
Nyota folds the cloth into neat squares. “No.”
“I’ll think about it.” She tosses the cloth in the sink. “No.”
“Please place that in the sanitizing solution,” Spock says.
“Who put you in charge?” Jim asks Nyota. “Shouldn’t I have a say in this?”
“No,” Nyota says and when she walks into the back room, Jim - thankfully though not unexpectedly for Nyota has always held a very particular sway over him - follows her.
Spock pulls out his phone again.
Then pushes it back into his pocket without unlocking it.
There is no need to check it. It has been silent all day.
Halfway through steaming a vanilla latte, Chekov sends a text of a photo of a thick bandage over his hand. A group text, as it so happens, for Spock receives no less than sixteen responses, each a hum against his thigh.
The seventeenth time his phone buzzes, he pours two shots of espresso over ice and adds six ounces of milk.
The eighteenth time, he finally pulls his phone out, unlocks it to thumb off all vibration, noises, and anything else besides - he is working - and reaches for a gallon of skim milk when a notification flashes across the screen.
Not yet another texted condolence - feel better soon, Spock had written, simple and to the point and sent only once - but I need to talk to you.
Spock presses the home button and returns his phone to the neat tiles of apps.
Then, he taps his thumb twice, once on the folder icon and once on the app in question, and reads the message again.
I’m working, he finally writes. True, at least, though he is technically lingering at the counter on his phone.
I know, McCoy writes, which is unhelpful, at best. That’s why we need to talk.
And nonsensical, at worst.
I’m off at five, Spock types.
Before then. When’s your lunch?
Spock was available last night. Now, he has drinks to make, cups to restock, cardboard boxes of soy milk to open, and a shipment to receive at any moment.
I cannot, he types back.
I’m serious, McCoy writes, but Spock pushes his phone into his pocket and unscrews the lid of the milk jug. He is busy.
At the end of his shift, Spock assigns his register to Sulu, refills the hoppers with espresso beans, empties the tip jar into the safe beneath Jim’s desk, rearranges gallons of milk, and pointedly ignores Nyota’s entreaties to hurry as she scrolls through her texts.
“Gaila can’t come,” she says. “Spock, nobody likes staying at work late. Let’s go.”
“You are free to leave.” He turns the syrup bottles so the labels are all neatly facing forward.
“I have strict instructions to not let you out of my sight.”
“You’re not looking currently.”
“I can hear your-“ She circles her hand around her head “-Annoyed consternation you don’t have your evening to yourself.”
“I’m not annoyed.”
“Hmmm.” She flicks her forefinger down the screen of her phone. “Sure.”
Absent Nyota’s attention, Spock does slip away, but only to the front of the cafe to straighten chairs and collect left behind napkins. He brushes what is either salt or sugar to the floor - he will have to remind Sulu to sweep - and idly watches pedestrians.
He could message McCoy now.
Less idly, he watches Jim walk down the street, towards the cafe. He’s talking and smiling and laughs once and pauses there on the sidewalk with his arms out, a hand clapped to the back of someone next to him. Hugs them, in Jim’s overly enthusiastic way that Spock normally - and largely unsuccessfully - ducks.
Hardly unusual. So it is only when Jim pulls away, a knot of people waiting for the bus move aside, and a small girl tugs on the hand of what must be her mother, pulling her along the curb, that Spock looks again, and when he looks, he notices, and when he notices, he stops midway through gathering an empty coffee mug, his fingers wrapped around the handle without lifting it from the table.
What, he thinks. No, he thinks next, now with a cold, spreading surprise.
McCoy, his mind supplies but what he truly sees is how they both smile.
Disbelief - shock, truly - settles into something chilled and tight in Spock’s chest. He does not know why he is taken aback by the sight. Spock is familiar with Jim’s… proclivities. And he has been gone from the cafe for hours - I’m out Spock, you, me, Bones, Uhura, drinks and fun, don’t forget - so it is not impossible. The opposite, in fact. And that McCoy should find someone other than Spock… no, he is not surprised. Just a cool confirmation of what he might have already expected, had he pulled himself from the headiness of the prior days.
He picks up the mug. Tucks a handful of napkins within. For efficiency. So that he can also collect two spoons, straighten the pitchers of milk, and eye a smear on the front of the pastry case. The spray bottle of cleaner has been moved - Spock deposits the dishes in a bin - and finds the windex behind the microfiber cloths - They are reusable, Jim, and therefore more a more efficient use of resources - and stands again, only to find the door jingling with its cheerful bell and an even more cheerful Jim walking through it.
“Spock,” he says and claps his hands together and Spock’s stomach refuses to unclench - this is fine, it is nothing, it is absolutely not anything at all - and behind Jim, hovering in the doorway, McCoy has his hands in his pockets. “Bones.”
“What?” Spock asks aloud this time but perhaps it should be why, or how, or - or -
“Bones, Spock,” Jim says and his hand is on McCoy’s shoulder, squeezing, drawing him forward and clearly - clearly - Spock’s mind, having stopped over the simple task of retrieving a mug, has yet to restart.
“I thought-“ Spock begins, only to stop because he did not think, not at all, for the odds of this- the probability - the statistical likelihood that… that…
All at once, the truth of the matter - the actual truth and not a hastily rushed to conclusion that might actually be preferable - catches up with him and… Oh. Oh.
“Jim,” McCoy says, “We met, I told you, I came here,” and what Spock expected to come out of McCoy’s mouth he does not know, but it was not that.
Jim, then knows… Spock looks at him. Jim does not know, for Jim would not simply be nodding and calling towards the back room “Uhura!” and grinning at Spock and asking, “Ready to go, then?”
No, he nearly says. Instead, he carefully replaces the spray bottle. “I need to get my bag.”
Jim follows him - “A second, Bones” - and Spock is clearly unsuccessful in controlling his expression - he does not like the tells he gives despite his best efforts, the opportunities others have to interpret when he himself has not disseminated - for Jim asks, “What’s going on?”
“I need my coat as well.”
“Look, if you don’t want to come- I get it,” Jim says. He holds his hands up. “I thought maybe you’d have a good time, is all.”
That Jim can be so quiet only moments after being so loud, that he can shift so completely from bouncing on the balls of his feet and rubbing his palms together to tipping his head to the side, to lowering his voice. How odd it must be, to weather that internal change. To adjust so rapidly.
“It’s not that,” Spock says.
“Bones is great,” Jim says and would he - could he - Spock would wince. “He comes off a little… I know how he can be.”
Spock is nearly entirely certain that Jim does not.
“It’s fine,” Spock says. Jim has, he is sure, made similar excuses for Spock himself. And Spock is and always will be thankful for that; though it is not the same situation. Hardly, so.
“What is it, then?” Jim asks.
But Spock cannot answer. Will not. But also cannot. Impossible to form the words.
“Nothing,” Spock says. A bold, bald lie. The discomfort of misdirection itches at him.
Out front, McCoy meets his eyes and then looks away.
Spock does not do this. Dinner, with someone. Drinks. This is not the reason - this is unforeseen, unexpected - impossible, nearly - but that fact remains.
Simpler, to divest. Better always, than to walk out onto the streets and have to face the long grind of needing to be in another’s company, when this should have been neatly shut behind the click of a door.
“Ready?” Jim asks.
Spock nods. He lifts the strap of his bag over his head. Folds his jacket over his forearm.
“Great,” Jim says. He is still looking at Spock, something soft and worried caught in his expression.
Great. All things considered, it is truly not.
“Listen,” McCoy says after three blocks and for three blocks, Spock has been waiting, though unsure as to what it is specifically that he is so dreadfully anticipating. This, apparently. Listen and his stomach unpleasantly drops. McCoy’s voice is pitched low. Spock cannot imagine the word is not intended for him.
Two streetlights ahead of them and concerned only with his story - Spock was training me on our espresso machines, Bones, and you should have seen this - this test he designed, it was impossible - Jim turns, walking backwards, his mouth moving in time with his feet. Jim is loud and excitable - and now he is excited, very much so - and he is smiling carefree. Spock does not - though it occurs to him he would rather like to - press his lips together in a tightness that would surely not go unnoticed and being unnoticed is above all else currently his primary concern.
“You’re going to get yourself killed,” McCoy calls out, louder and without the angle of his chin tipped towards Spock and Spock cannot help but wonder at what point his day - his week, his life - veered so suddenly off course.
“Awww, Bones,” Jim says and doesn’t break his stride but instead spreads his arms wide in the evening light. He is expansive. He looks so happy.
Nyota lifts her eyes towards the sky. McCoy has yet to remove his hands from his pockets.
“Don’t tell me you’re on his side, Spock,” Jim says.
“I’m not on any side,” Spock says. He is not. He is concentrating solely on walking. And yet. “However, the Doctor is correct.”
“Jim, you brought this on yourself,” Nyota says. She is also smiling - a night for it, it would seem though Spock is hardly induced to do so under normal circumstances and this, now, is hardly anything ordinary - and she is indulgent in how she tugs at Jim’s sleeve to guide him away from a fire hydrant.
“And it’s awesome,” Jim says. Spock holds the strap of his bag with one hand, his knuckles against his chest. McCoy grimaces at his shoes.
“It’s fine,” Spock offers, quietly. A handful of steps in front of them, orange numbers tick down above the street corner and Nyota says, “We always go there” and Jim says, “Not always, always” and McCoy turns to Spock.
“I had no idea,” he says and Spock has heard his voice soft like that. Though spoken against his ear and with the accompanying huff of fast breath. He wishes with perfect clarity that this were not the case.
Spock nods. “I know.”
He was not aware either. Because how could he possibly - how could McCoy be - how how.
“I didn’t tell Jim,” McCoy says.
“I know,” Spock says again.
McCoy offers a nod of his own. “Ok, then,” he says and Spock nods once more and also says, “Ok” in a poor approximation of a conversation Spock does not want to actually have.
“The Blind Pig,” Jim says. “Objections?”
“Many,” Nyota says.
“Noted,” Jim says. He jogs across the street and over his shoulder calls “It’s this way.”
Nyota follows him, and McCoy follows her - shoulders hunched against the night air - and Spock steps off the curb after them and thinks Ok.
Spock enjoys his personal space, more so than most others and likely more so than he should, and knees pressed against his thighs, the bump of elbows while cutting a steak - Jim’s elbow and Jim’s steak - and the need to lean out of the way when Nyota edges behind him to use the restroom - it is unsettling and Spock is already unsettled.
He eats the cucumbers from his salad and then the tomatoes.
The toe of a shoe knocks into his ankle and when Spock looks up, McCoy does as well and the foot is removed. Pulled back and away and Spock is sure - sure - that the cuff of his pant still bears an imprint. He can feel the press of the fabric just there, through his sock.
McCoy coats a fry into an unnecessary amount of ketchup. Spock slices a piece of lettuce in half.
“Trivia,” Jim says. “Spock. Spock.”
“I have to open tomorrow,” he says.
“You sleep like three hours a night.” Jim clasps his hands and holds them to his chest. “Please? You’re scarily good at it.”
Across the table, Nyota is texting. McCoy spins his beer glass on the table. Bubbles rise in lines through the liquid and each rotation jostles them further and Spock would frown - but does not - sure that McCoy is both warming the liquid and causing it to lose its carbonation.
McCoy’s cheeks are red. From the beer or the heat of the other patrons packed into the bar, Spock does not know.
He should argue. Could argue. And would, inevitably and as always, capitulate to Jim’s persistence.
“Fine,” Spock says and from across the table, Jim takes hold of Spock’s shoulders in a manner unpleasant but not unsurprising and grins and smacks Spock’s arm and kicks his chair back and Spock should have argued and should have known - should have predicted, foreseen, anticipated - that Nyota would go with Jim to get their scorecard - “Don’t give us a terrible team name, Jim” - and could then have alleviated - somehow - the need to be so suddenly at their small table, alone with McCoy and the slosh of beer in his glass.
The bathroom. A phone call. A text even, to the cafe and to Sulu.
But it would be unnecessary and Spock is not disposed to misdirection with any ease. He does not do much of anything with ease and smooths the napkin set beneath his glass.
“You seem pretty pissed.”
Spock looks up. “I am not.”
McCoy has a hand wrapped around the base of his glass. “Really.” This, flatly.
“I am…” Like this, Spock might say. Could say. Should say, perhaps, but he has never been able to explain himself, has relied on Jim to simply understand, on Nyota to simply dismiss his silences, his mother to…
The napkin is shredding, the more he picks at it.
“I apologize,” he says. This is not his strength - discussion, conversation, bars - and he dislikes so thoroughly anything at which he is not competent.
“Yesterday afternoon,” McCoy says, “Jim was early, he-”
“-It’s great,” Jim says and arrives to their table much as he once arrived into Spock’s life, a whirlwind - a loud whirlwind - that claps a hand on Spock’s shoulder - again - and grins at him once more. How pleasant it must be, to be so comfortable in oneself.
“Tell Uhura how great it is, Spock,” Jim says. “The Golden Gate, right? And we work together.”
“McCoy is neither from here, nor does he have the unfortunate career prospects of working for you, Jim,” Nyota says and deposits a mojito in front of her chair, a full beer in front of McCoy, and a drink that fizzes and bubbles in front of Spock.
“Doesn’t live here yet,” Jim says, “and we’re always hiring.”
“We are not,” Spock says. McCoy’s mouth presses tight. Spock knows for a fact that he’s kissed him - that they have kissed, at length - but summarily and entirely too thoroughly he cannot believe it to be fact.
“Ouch,” Jim says and listen to yourself, Spock’s father so often told him, how do you not hear how you sound to others?
Spock picks up his glass. It is cool and slippery and the beverage surprisingly pleasant. Ginger beer.
“Thank you,” he says to Nyota and to McCoy he says, “Exceptions have been known to have been made.”
“Thanks,” McCoy says and rolls his eyes but his jaw releases and Spock thinks I touched him, just there.
“It’s mathematically impossible for us to lose,” Spock says and this is disregarded by Jim holding the pen, McCoy leaning across the table towards him, and Nyota who says, “That’s not the point, Spock.”
“It’s not Germany,” McCoy says. “It’s Spain. France’s longest land border. Spain.”
“Germany,” Spock says again. It’s futile, he is learning, to argue with the man. That fact does little to dissuade him from doing so. “Clearly.”
“Italy?” Jim asks.
Spock does not frown at how the pen is currently caught between Jim’s teeth and says, “France’s border with Germany-“
“-Is shorter than its border with Spain,” McCoy says.
“The only rational answer is Germany,” Spock says.
“Write down Spain, Jim,” McCoy says.
“The three of you,” Nyota says, and grabs the paper from in front of Jim, produces her own pen, and climbs over Spock to deliver their answer to the front of the bar.
Spock is not drunk - he has not been drinking - but he is flushed and warm and Jim has adopted a sprawl in his chair that has him taking up more than his fair share of their table and their space. Spock is not surprised. Jim is loud and big in personality and intelligence and presence and now in his clear delight with the proceedings, empty glasses in front of him and McCoy and Nyota’s empty chair and a poorly drawn map of Europe on a rapidly dampening napkin.
Spock is entirely disappointed to find that the evening has not been unpleasant.
“And, the ‘Bridge Crew’ with a whopping ninety eight points,” the announcer says with a crackle of static through the sound system and a cheer from Nyota still at the bar and across the table, McCoy grins crooked.
“We got it,” Jim says and smacks the flat of his hand on the table.
“I wrote down Brazil,” Nyota says and pushes past Spock once more. “French Guiana. You’re welcome.”
They end up back at the cafe. They always end up back at the cafe, so tonight is no surprise and no different but that McCoy there, his jacket slung over his arm and his hand once more pushed into his pocket. For the hour of the night, it is not unusual for the cafe to be quiet - empty and hushed despite the bright lights in a dissonant echo of Spock’s mornings - but it is especially and strikingly still after the packed hum of the bar, the pedestrians that crowd the streets outside.
“Spock made an app,” Jim says with his head beneath the counter. “Where is- There.”
“Pike asked you to remove those,” Spock says and indeed, Jim’s - and Nyota’s and Sulu’s and Chekov’s - stash of bottles has only grown in recent memory.
“Bones, lemme see your phone,” Jim says and deposits four bottles on the counter. “Do we have more schnapps?”
“What is this, college?” McCoy asks. “Who the hell drinks that anymore?”
“For hot chocolate,” Jim says. “Spock makes a mean one. And he made an app. Your phone, I need it.”
“No,” McCoy says.
“We’re still technically open, Jim,” Spock says.
“Yeah, well, trouble is my middle name,” Jim says.
“We have kahlua, McCoy,” Nyota says.
“Sulu drank it all,” Jim says and Sulu, from the back room, calls “Sorry” and Jim untwists the top of a gallon of milk and says, “It’s this latte art game thing. Addicting as all hell.”
“Your middle name is Tiberius,” McCoy says. “And what is?”
“Spock’s app.” Jim dumps what is entirely too much cocoa into a pitcher that he fills the rest of the way with milk. “And it’s better than Horatio.”
McCoy - rolling up his sleeves and leaning against the counter and Spock has noticed his forearms before and wishes rather desperately he was not doing the same now - says, “Better than Harold.”
Jim laughs and pours peppermint schnapps into four mugs, a splash into each. Sulu emerges smiling and saying, “Really”. McCoy grins, his entire body loose with alcohol and the hour of the night and how he laughs at Jim and Spock does not react for instead he is watching the moment at which Nyota - and if there is a person in the room deserving of renown for their genius it is so regrettably her - looks at McCoy and then at Spock and then back at McCoy and realizes. Realizes everything. Quickly, too, from how her lips part and her eyes widen and her hand reaches out and grabs Spock’s elbow.
Ah. Now the the evening is unpleasant. Quite so.
“No,” she says and looks perhaps horrified or perhaps amused - you need to get out Spock she had said and responded only to his attempts at evasion - Nyota I do not want, no, please - with an concession to not use his first name as she completed a profile she knew and he knew he would never create himself - and Spock cannot pull away from her grip on him and cannot find a way to redirect her attention to the evening that continues uninterrupted around them. To Jim, she says, “Tiberius is way worse,” and to Spock, quietly, she half whispers “Oh my God.”
“Horatio,” Jim says and turns on the steam wand.
Spock closes his eyes. When he reopens them, the scene before him - this night, this day, this week - is still quite unfortunately occurring.
Spock does not allow himself to be cornered in the back room, but it happens all the same, for Nyota is not just intelligent but also driven and opportunistic in a way Spock normally so appreciates and currently very much does not.
“Really?” she asks.
“It is late.”
“Tomorrow morning, I have to-”
“Excuse me,” he says but cannot push past her without bodily removing her from where she stands between himself and the door. Her hands are braced on her hips. He knows better than to try.
“I can’t believe this,” she says as if he can - as if this night, this week, was conceivable in any realm of reasoning.
“Please,” he says.
“Are you ok?” she asks and drops her hands. This - soft concern and her head tipped so her ponytail swings past her shoulder - is so much worse than had she chosen to tease. That can be pushed back against. This…he very much would like to rub at his forehead.
There is nothing to say - Nyota trades words with her friends like Jim trades smiles and years of texts stored on his phone from her, long voicemails and longer conversations do not contain the syllables and morphemes he would need to explain - so he simply says, “Yes.”
And he is. It could be worse. Probably. It is only odd, and unexpected, and not particularly desired, this… this entanglement, but it is not terrible. Embarrassing, perhaps, and more so to have Nyota now be aware, but Spock has never been one to dwell on his own feelings.
And it is just Nyota and above all else, she always has been and always will be kind to him.
“What are the odds you’ll spill some details?” she asks and her tone is lighter and her eyebrows are raised.
“Zero,” he says and this time he does walk past her, a hand on each of her shoulders to very gently guide her to the side.
It is fine. This situation. This evening. Not ideal, not necessarily good, but fine.
He can adjust to this. And adjustment is something he does poorly, but he can manage it all the same. In time, Nyota’s flare of interest will fade. This entire week will. Spock sips his tea. This is only a peculiar and atypical span of a few days that soon he can lay to rest behind him. McCoy is after all leaving, and there will be the convenience of a continent between them and the rather appealing fact that Nyota aside, this is a private matter.
“That guy?” Jim asks over a mug filled with more whipped cream than hot chocolate - an amount likely only balanced out by the alcohol mixed in - and McCoy’s head jerks up. “The other day? How did that go?”
“Jim,” McCoy says.
“Weren’t you going to try to see him again?”
McCoy is looking at Spock. And slowly - too slowly considering that Spock has only been drinking tea, that the hour might be late but it is still not late for Spock, that he knows McCoy and Jim are friends, that their friendship is close enough to warrant a visit - entirely and utterly too slowly does Spock piece together what the expression on McCoy’s face might mean. Does mean.
I need to talk to you, McCoy had written.
It would be too fortunate for Jim to be referring to someone else and Spock is not overly adept at reading the tells in other’s behaviors, but McCoy’s cheeks are red once more and Jim had said… Jim had texted… I totally have to hear this story.
It is not often Spock wishes for a poorer memory. Now, however, he can see - so clearly can he understand - the benefit of the freedom of forgetfulness.
Nyota, quite unhelpfully, is on her phone. McCoy picks at the handle of his mug. Jim takes a sip and says, “I thought you were kind of into him.”
“Jesus, Jim,” McCoy says. “Stop.”
“Cause you said-” Jim begins and wipes his thumb at whipped cream that spills over the rim of his mug “-you said-“
“Jim,” McCoy snaps and Nyota looks up from her phone and Spock takes a too long sip of too hot tea - for the other option is to simply stand and leave, to reach across the table and put his hand across Jim’s mouth, to do what McCoy is doing and rub at his eyes with his hand - and evidently - horribly - drinking the beverage in front of him was somehow the wrong choice, for Jim’s attention turns to him and he raises both eyebrows and says, “What?”
Spock replaces his tea on the table. Not quickly enough, or too quickly, or with too much force or not enough, and he will never know - does never know - how to hold himself in situations such as these as the heat of awkwardness spreads over him. For the simple curiosity of Jim’s expression slides into one of confusion and then - and even more unfavorably - one of focus. Concentration. Jim Kirk is entirely too astute. Perceptive. Insightful. Clever. Uncanny, in his ability to put an insufficient number of pieces together and form a complete picture.
“Oh my God,” Jim whispers and pushes his mouth into his cupped hands and now this evening is worse.
Nyota snorts. When Spock turns to her, she is fighting a smile, though the hand she pats at his arm with is gentle and soft.
“Really?” Jim asks and the question is something less than a breath.
McCoy looks down into his own mug. Spock stares towards the windows, black with the dark of night beyond them. There is a mark on the lower corner, in need of cleaning.
Jim’s hands smack to the table. “You… you told me about him, Bones!”
“Jim,” McCoy says.
“I swear to you, Jim, I will-“
“-Spock you’re - you…” Jim starts and if his tea was a poor choice once, Spock attempts the same again, the rim of his mug nearly too hot against his lips. “…With Bones?”
McCoy leans close. “Jim Kirk, if you keep talking, I will promise to suture your mouth shut and make it look like an accident.”
“Oh dear God, I forgot how scary you are when you’re mad,” Jim says and shrinks back from the hand McCoy clamps to his shoulder.
“Stop,” McCoy says. His voice is low.
This could, likely, be worse.
How, Spock does not know.
He finishes his tea.
Jim, every time he begins to speak, looks at McCoy, who shakes his head.
Nyota’s thumb moves over her phone.
“How about the Giant’s game?” she asks. Under the table, she taps her knee into his and he is uncomfortably grateful for her silent support.
“Um,” Jim says as Spock turns out the lights in the backroom.
“I have to open,” Spock says. He is going to go home and think about tonight never again - not ever. His skin itches with discomfort. “It’s late.”
“Yeah.” Jim is watching him far too closely. “’Course.”
At the corner, they shake hands. Spock would give quite a bit to not have an audience.
“Nice to have met you,” McCoy says.
“Likewise,” Spock says. Jim looks between them, a fact that Spock would very much prefer to ignore. There is no need - air travel is safer than most transportation - but he adds, “Have a safe flight.”
“Thanks,” McCoy says. His hands find his pockets again.
And that, finally, really is that. So very thankfully, this is over.
Spock unlocks his bike and steers it off the sidewalk with a hand on the seat. He does not look behind him as he pedals across the intersection and up the first of many hills, the night breeze a rush of cool on his cheeks.
Spock is not yet asleep when a fist pounds on his door, but he could be, and he strongly feels this is a pertinent point. That and the hour, and the excessive, unnecessary force of the knocking.
He pulls the knob not expecting a robber or a thief or a problem - yoga is not his only form of physical exercise and he is certain of his ability to incapacitate a home invader - but McCoy standing there is even more unanticipated.
“Why the hell do you live so far from work?”
“Did you walk here?” Spock asks for McCoy’s cheeks bear a ruddy flush. Then, “How do you know my address?”
“Uhura,” McCoy says and of course. “I took a cab, after I finally shook Jim off. I wanted to talk to you, you genius, and you lit out of there.”
“I have to open,” Spock says.
“Can you not take a hint that maybe, I don’t know, I could have used two seconds of your time?” McCoy says and pushes past Spock and into his apartment.
Spock cannot take a hint. He is, however, certain that this is readily apparent without needing to explain that fact.
“Nice place,” McCoy says and whatever he has traveled here in the night to say, Spock can guess it is not this, not with how his interest is apparently subsumed beneath how he examines Spock’s small studio. He picks up a framed picture of Spock, Nyota, and Jim - You need to decorate, Spock - and touches the edge of Spock’s chessboard.
Spock suddenly, quite desperately, hopes McCoy does not ask who he was playing.
“What are you doing here?” he asks and is aware of his tone, the stiltedness of his speech, how his vowels are clipped.
McCoy pulls his hand back. “You know I had no idea that you and Jim are friends.”
McCoy nods. “Ok.”
Spock does not fidget, as a general rule. He does, however, smooth his palm down his stomach, straightening his shirt. They have been over this. And Spock does not appreciate the inefficiency of rehashed conversations, nor especially the return to this topic.
“Is that all?” he asks.
“No.” McCoy picks up a book - one of many - turns it over, and sets it down again. “You read a lot.”
It is not a question. “I do,” Spock says.
“You designed an app?”
“I did,” Spock says and he does not understand and does not particularly want McCoy touching his belongings but does not exactly know how to tell him to leave.
Nor - and quite suddenly - is he certain that if he did know how, that he would.
This is unexpected. But not… not disagreeable. Not per se.
“Colloid,” Spock says. “Is its name.”
“What the hell is that?”
“It is the term for dispersed insoluble particles suspended in another substance.” Spock is unclear as to what he should do with his hands. He is not given to jamming them into his pockets in the stance McCoy so apparently favors. “Milk fat in water, and coffee particles in water. It is-“ Inane, he could say. Spurred by boredom. A poor use of his talents - his father’s words, not his. “-Designed to replicate the creation of free poured latte art.”
Imprecisely designed, though he did his best with the controls a touch screen provided.
“I’ll tell my daughter.” McCoy picks up a second book and thumbs through it. “Is there what, a high score to beat? She spends all damn day on her phone.”
“Jim is the top ranked player.”
“Of course he is.” McCoy picks up a third volume. “You read Joyce for fun?”
“Of course you do.” McCoy sets the books down and brushes his palms against his thighs. “I’m flying home to sign divorce papers.”
Spock knows this and could say so but he is unsure that McCoy would be listening, staring as he is towards Spock’s small kitchen. So he only nods, and when McCoy picks up the queen from his chessboard, Spock straightens the stack of books. He needs more shelves or fewer books, though has done little to remedy the situation. He spends little time here, despite Nyota and Jim’s certainty to the contrary, and home was left behind with a phone call that began your mother and it is easier - has always been easier - to not play at pretend that this space and these walls could hold all of what Spock once had.
“I’m a total mess,” McCoy says and touches a finger to the edge of a card from Demora, the sole spot of color hung on Spock’s refrigerator. “This was - you were - supposed to be, I don’t know, something nice, finally, for finishing all of that. Moving on, I figured.” He scrubs his hand through his hair. “It was going to be simple. Imagine my surprise.”
His hair is sticking up. Spock says, “It’s fine.”
“Are you upset?”
It was just sex, Spock could say. He doesn’t.
And it while it is not technically fine per se, what has happened has happened and there is little - nothing - Spock can do to change that. A lesson he has finally begun to learn, that no matter how much he might wish for an otherwise that does not exist, wanting does little to bring it about. This is not an ideal situation but the one he is left with all the same. And… well. He fully knows the impulse to chase after something pleasant when the life around him is anything but.
“Jim was the one person I wanted to see this week,” McCoy says.
“I understand,” Spock says and he does, quite fully.
“Ok.” McCoy sighs. “I just wanted to say… Thanks. Or sorry. Whichever you want to hear.” McCoy puts his hand over his eyes, digs his finger and thumb against the bridge of his nose and does not look at Spock to say, “Another way to all of this I might have- have bought you a cup of coffee. I wanted you to know that, before I head home.”
Spock frowns. Both at the question that forms as to whether that would have been entirely true and also because, “I do not drink coffee.”
McCoy’s hand drops. Tired eyes stare at him. “You don’t.”
“Jesus,” McCoy says. “Of course you don’t.”
“You are leaving tomorrow?” Spock asks and thinks of letting this week end, of calling Jim to collect his friend, of the buzz of his phone against his thigh with you around later?
“The red eye,” McCoy says. His hands find his pockets again. “I guess Jim’s taking the day off, then I’m heading out. So.”
This change to Jim’s schedule is news to Spock, but as a general rule he refuses to be surprised about anything and everything involving Jim Kirk. Don’t resign and move to a home you hate just cause your mom passed away, Jim had said once and Spock had no answer to that that he could find. That’s… that’s illogical, is what that is. Stay. Here, with us.
McCoy has his hotel to return to and then his life. Which does not - and should not - include Spock, not in any rightness to the events of this universe, some reality that Spock would slip into if he could wherein none of this happened.
Though it did. And Spock knows all too well what it is to open a door to a dark room and the silence beyond. “Do you want to stay here tonight?”
McCoy looks up. Blinks. “Yeah. I do.”
On Spock’s small balcony, McCoy rests a glass of wine on his thigh - Jim’s wine, or perhaps Nyota’s, left long enough ago Spock had to retrieve it from behind a jug of almond milk and two bottles of kombucha - “Seriously Spock, you drink that shit?” - and a jar of chia seeds.
Spock does not own outdoor chairs, for his balcony is used only for yoga and birds to perch on, so they sit on the ground and Spock cups a mug of tea in his palm. In only hours, the sun will attempt to shine through thick fog. Spock cannot see the stars for the city lights, but he makes the attempt all the same.
“My dad passed away,” McCoy says. He is not looking at Spock, but out over the hills before them, the buildings set in uneven rows of rooftops and alleys. “A year ago next week.”
Spock turns from the sky above them. “I’m sorry,” he says.
It’ll get easier, It’ll be ok, Spock was told, and it was not, is not. Hollow, all of it, no match for the emptiness cleaved out of his life. The lack is worse than most anything else, the never again and the always of what Spock had and does not have now and will not have again.
“My mother died,” Spock says and does not offer a year, a time since, a temporal distance for what still feels held so near. “We were… close.”
“I’m sorry,” McCoy says.
Through the mug, the tea is warm against the night air. “Thank you.”
“It sucks,” McCoy says.
Not a descriptor Spock might have chosen. He nods all the same. “It does.”
“Cheers to that,” McCoy says and touches his glass to Spock’s mug.
Later - for Spock has long since learned that the silence of what was and what is to be no more can stretch and expand to fill more moments than it should - McCoy splashes wine into his cup and sets the bottle next to his knee. Spock watches how the rim of the glass presses to his lips when he drinks, the bob of his throat as he swallows.
“Do you do that a lot?” McCoy asks and Spock knows he has been caught staring. “Meet guys?”
“Define ‘a lot’.”
“I don’t,” McCoy says and takes another drink. His sleeves are rolled back and Spock, who finds wrist watches unnecessary when compared to the ease of checking his phone for the time, considers revising his opinion as to their utility.
“Will you continue to?” he asks.
“Maybe.” McCoy leans on one hand and kicks his legs out straight, his feet near to the railing. “It’s not really my thing, but if I do, I’ll be vetting their friends and coworkers, let me tell you.”
Spock does not smile but he does lift his mug and an eyebrow and say, “Likewise.”
To himself, he can admit a certain curiosity. McCoy came into his life with a name and a poorly composed profile picture and Spock did not - and does now - want to know more.
He sips his tea and watches a car edge up a hill and asks, “What is your ‘thing?’”
McCoy grimaces. “Hell if I know.”
“If you-” Spock swallows a mouthful of tea “-If you continue on your vein of intending to ask individuals out for coffee, ristretto shots are the best.”
“You don’t drink coffee.”
“No,” Spock says and he has sat with no one else on his balcony, ever, “I don’t.”
Standing at the foot of Spock’s bed, McCoy tugs at the hem of Spock’s shirt.
“I didn’t come over for this,” McCoy says and he doesn’t release the fabric and Spock doesn’t step away from how close McCoy has crowded.
Spock raises an eyebrow. “I have a couch.”
McCoy doesn’t turn to look. “That is generously an oversized chair. At best.”
“Rent is exorbitant.” Spock can feel the heat of McCoy’s body against his. He is unfamiliar with such familiarity. Uncertain as to what to do with it. “Additional space would be illogical.”
“Sure,” McCoy says and cups the back of Spock’s arm and kisses him. Spock is suddenly sure he will miss this, how McCoy’s lips fit to his so well.
It is good - Spock knows now not to be surprised - but there is no less swearing. In the dark, Spock cannot see McCoy above him, not in the dim cast of the light through the window. He closes his eyes and above the building pleasure tries to concentrate on what it is to be pushed into his own mattress.
“Like that?” McCoy asks and works his arm beneath Spock’s shoulder and Spock has not been held so close perhaps ever. Sweat slicks between them and his bed squeaks. “Like that,” Spock says and says, “Yes,” and lays his palms on McCoy’s back and feels how solid he is as he moves, hot and firm on top of him.
Every morning at four, Spock rises. This morning, he is impeded by the drape of an arm.
“I have work,” he tells the mass of blankets beside him. It grunts. Fingers tighten on Spock’s hip and then a palm slips between his legs.
McCoy has such nice hands and Spock - rather unfortunately - cannot bring himself to care about the time.
It is the first day ever - and ever again, Spock knows as he blinks eyes that are far too gritty and steers his bike onto BART and pays for a single use pass when McCoy pushes at the wrong buttons twice - that Spock is late to work. Nobody else is there to know or care, but Spock does both, his hand on the seat of his bike and McCoy’s arm bumping into his for the two blocks uphill and one block across to the cafe’s corner.
“Might see you around later, before my flight,” McCoy says as Spock locks his bike. McCoy’s hands are in his pockets and then his arm is around Spock’s shoulder, where it tightens and holds. Spock does not kiss on street corners - he does not do so as a rule and as a matter of course and as a simple fact - lack - of opportunity - but McCoy kisses him all the same, hard and brief and this, not regulated to a bed, to sheets and skin is not and should not be the most surprising part of these days between them.
“Enjoy your morning,” Spock says and he walks into the cafe alone, turning on the lights that brighten the windows until he can see neither the lingering night nor the figure of McCoy jogging across the street.
“I cannot break that,” Spock says.
Across the register, the man continues to hold out the hundred dollar bill he has already attempted to hand Spock twice.
“It’s all I have,” he says as if this changes anything - Spock’s mind most especially, but moreover the fact of what his cash drawer contains.
“We accept credit cards,” Spock says and again is offered the bill. “It is six fourteen in the morning and I cannot break a hundred.”
“Can I speak with your manager?”
“I am the manager.”
“It’s, like, a two dollar drink.”
“Which is why paying with a smaller denomination is necessary,” Spock says. There is a dull throb behind his eyes. Insufficient sleep, though if Spock is honest - and he appreciates honesty even though honesty with himself can be, and often is, unnecessarily challenging - the scant hours he spent in his bed- spent in his bed asleep - are only one factor.
The others - other - Spock will not dwell on.
Nor does he look outside. Past the window, and the table set in front of it. It’s empty. There is no need to continually turn his attention there.
“What about that? There’s two dollars in there,” the man says and when his chin points to the tip jar, Spock forces a slow breath in through his nose and out again.
This day is like so many others. Which is exactly and precisely the problem, a return to the normality of his life that he is sure he should be welcoming and instead is grinding at him already, when the morning rush has yet to even truly begin.
“That’s not available to you,” he says and then Nyota is there to gently elbow him to the side and offering “It’s on me” to the man and returning his smile with one of her own that Spock knows is hardly genuine.
“You’re having a day, aren’t you,” she says when she has deposited the medium coffee on the counter. She does not bother to make her words into a question and he does not bother to answer. She taps a roll of quarters against the side of the cash draw until it splits opens.
“Last night was something,” she says. “Need a break?”
“No,” Spock says. He is fine.
The cup handed to him is marked for a decaf sugar free non fat peppermint mocha with extra whipped cream.
The chocolate in the mocha and cream that is not whipped per se but forced through with nitrous oxide contain both sugar and fat, which is clearly stated on the menu and clearly… clear. Obvious.
So he does not point this out to the customer before him. Simply pours skim milk into a pitcher, pumps sugar-free peppermint syrup into a cup, and tamps decaf espresso into a portafilter with what is likely unnecessary force. He is tired. And therefore uncomfortable. He is not used to insufficient sleep and while the way to resolve such discomfort is by returning home at the end of his shift, that plan excepts the fact that he is certain the quiet of his apartment will only exacerbate the way the day drags at him.
He lets out a breath and turns on the steam wand. His shift is the same length as it always it. Soon, it will be over. He looks towards the window, and then focuses on the pitcher in front of him, the thermometer balanced against the rim only slowly registering a rise in temperature.
When the woman orders, Spock shakes his head. “No.”
She smiles at him. Tips her head. “Please?”
“Last week, you did it.”
Spock is certain - certain - it was not him who filled the order, and more over nearly entirely sure that nobody else in Jim’s employment did either.
“Two shots of espresso on ice in a medium cup is not available,” Spock says for he knows, and Jim knows, and the entirety of the rest of their staff knows, that it is a recipe for a long pour of milk from the jugs intended for cream in black coffee and thereby the completion of an iced latte, purchased for the price of a double espresso.
“In a small cup?” she asks and again Spock shakes his head.
Outside, sunshine is dappling the sidewalk, a shifting pattern as the breeze plays through tree branches.
“Um, so, do you guys do, like, lattes?” Jim asks and Spock, who has not been watching the door, does not smile. Behind him, McCoy rolls his eyes. Spock, who was not watching the door and now is not watching him, does not take in the slight shake to his head, nor how the collar of his shirt sits open at his throat, and certainly not the bag he sets on a chair.
Their eyes meet. Spock’s cheeks threaten to heat and he knocks espresso grounds into the trash.
Jim braces his arms on the counter and leans forward and only then does Spock look up again.
“Can I get one at a hundred and thirty six degrees?” Jim asks. “With three sixteenths of an inch of foam, and one and a half shots of espresso, not two, not one?”
That, Spock can in fact do. “No,” he says and Jim grins across the counter.
“Bones, one overly fancy drink? Yes?” Jim points over his shoulder. “Extra espresso for the good doctor - dear lord does he need it - and something delicious for yours truly.” He holds up both hands, palms out. “And I’ve been informed that my head will be separated from my body and fed to me if I say anything, so you’re safe.”
Spock frowns and twists the cap off a gallon of milk. “That is not possible.”
He makes Jim a dry cappuccino and adds three shots to McCoy’s drink, not looking up to take in how he leans forward across the counter to see what Spock is doing. His morning stubble is gone and he smells like clean soap. Spock had washed his face in the bathroom sink and combed his fingers through his hair and avoided - assiduously - Nyota’s attempts to tell him he looks nice having not shaved.
“Is that hard?” McCoy asks as Spock pours a perfect tulip.
“Download the app,” Spock says and hands the mug over and he had kissed McCoy just there on his jaw only hours ago.
“Enough downloads and maybe you can upgrade your mattress,” McCoy says, his voice low. Spock wonders if he napped. If he had the chance to do so, and if he did, in that bed in his hotel room. “How do you sleep on that every night?”
“Quite well, thank you,” Spock says and Nyota hands him a new cup - macchiato with a splash of milk and extra foam - and he pretends he does not know that she is listening.
“Bones,” Jim says and reaches without standing from his chair for the two drinks Spock places on the counter for them - numbers five and six and how anyone needs so much caffeine Spock does not and likely will never know. The motion causes Jim’s shirt to rise from his waistband and across the cafe, he garners the attention of more than one patron, female and otherwise.
Nyota shakes her head over the bagel she is slicing.
“Bones,” Jim says again and Spock eyes the traverse of the cups to Jim and McCoy’s table. He does not especially enjoy mopping. “I have a track record of convincing people to move here.”
“You know you want to.”
“I have a kid.”
Jim takes a long sip of his cappuccino and wipes his mouth on the back of his hand. “We’ll send you back on weekends and every other Wednesday.”
McCoy rubs his face into his hand. Spock is not listening - he is working.
“Didn’t even get that,” McCoy says into his palm.
“I’m sorry,” Jim says.
“Yeah.” McCoy continues to speak into his hand, now digging his fingers into the bridge of his nose. “Me too.”
Spock pulls a carton of soy milk out of the refrigerator and pours ten ounces into a pitcher. When he looks up again, a blonde woman has dropped a napkin on Jim and McCoy’s table and with a smile, is making for the door.
“Thanks.” Jim grins at her retreating back. Even from behind the counter, ten digits are visible.
“How do you know that’s for you, Jim?” Nyota calls from the register.
Spock should not listen. Is not listening. And should not, but does, care. He raises a pitcher of soy milk to the steam wand and turns it on.
“Keep it,” McCoy says and shoves the napkin towards Jim. “Good God, Jim, really?”
“We have a plenty of sick people here. And hospitals. Lots of them. I’m just saying, I give you a month, tops. You’re not even- see?” Jim asks and waves his coffee towards McCoy in what is a very precarious motion considering the fullness and temperature of the liquid within. “You’re not even arguing.”
“Arguing with you is never worth it,” McCoy says and Spock is not listening but he does very much agree.
“Cause you know and I know you’ll be out here.” Jim takes a sip. “We’ll see how long it takes you to admit that.”
Spock looks up from the pitcher of milk in his hand and finds McCoy watching him. McCoy quickly looks away. Spock is working. He does as well.
“Shut it, Jim,” McCoy says.
Jim gives McCoy directions to the BART station and McCoy does not say that he already knows. Nyota leans over the counter and kisses his cheek and McCoy squeezes her shoulder. Sulu waves a hand towards him and McCoy holds his out to shake. Spock nods at him and pulls a double shot of espresso for exactly twenty five seconds. He is working and could he, he would step out the back for a moment - Jim is the manager and Spock in theory only assists but in all practicality does entirely more than that - but to do so is beyond him. Spock does little - nothing - with ease and the door jingles behind McCoy as Spock taps a pitcher of milk against the counter until the foam rises through it, bubbles bursting up into the air they meet.
They said goodbye. At the corner just that morning, just there where McCoy now crosses the street and then is gone from Spock’s view of him through the windows.
He picks up a mug. In the stillness of few customers and the relative peace of Nyota counting out fives, Sulu wiping the counter, and Jim retreating to the back room, his phone in his hand, Spock stands over the pitcher of milk, the espresso in the bottom of the mug, and the next drinks lined up for him to make. He takes a breath and lets it out. The drinks are still there, Nyota is still counting, and Sulu wrings his rag over the sink. Again, Spock taps the pitcher against the counter and carefully pours yet one more latte, hardly the last he will do today.
After his shift and before yoga, Spock’s habit on nights that he has not already sought out diversions in apartments and hotel rooms across the city - and this is very much not one of those nights - is to walk through one of San Francisco’s many parks, his jacket zipped to his chin. To combat nature deficit syndrome, he had told Jim once to see if it would make him laugh, but in all practicality to walk in the city’s green parks is in some small way similar to the grass lawn behind the home he grew up in and this he will not tell others. So it is his tendency to walk and as he does, he flicks through images of men he could spend his evening - part of his evening, as he has yoga at seven thirty - with. It is routine. Customary nearly, and odd to make his way through the park without such a practiced distraction.
He is used to this. It is, for what it is worth and Spock is not always sure what the summation of parts might amount to, his life, and a fine one at that, with the word’s many and varied definitions. To return to this form of normalcy now should be simple at least, and at best natural. A form of pattern to his days and weeks that he has relied on for so long as to be second nature. He tugs the zipper pull higher and tucks his free hand into his pocket.
In his palm, his phone buzzes. The airport coffee is complete shit.
A block passes as he walks. A dog catches a frisbee and Spock’s thumb hovers over the keypad.
It’s a red eye, he finally types. You’re supposed to sleep. He pauses. Considers. He should not do this. Continue this. I would recommend decaf, he adds.
I’m deleting this goddamn app if that’s what I get.
Cold begins to course through Spock. A chill that has been kept at bay and now threatens to swamp him. Of course. He does not flirt. This… of course this is where an attempt, any attempt would lead.
That’s a hint to give me your number, you mensa grade idiot, before its one more thing I have to get out of uhura.
It’s, Spock types. A squirrel darts by.
That’s real typical, isn’t it, McCoy’s message reads and Spock takes a breath and sends his number.
His mouth is dry. Call then, he writes.
On his screen, a number from Atlanta, Georgia. Calling from SFO in all actuality.
This is unknown to him. To persist onwards with someone. To even want to.
Spock does not let his phone ring more than once. He slides his thumb across the screen and answers.