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“It says here that you are in a relationship with the first officer?”

McCoy flattens his lips into a thin line. “I was.”

She lowers her eyes back to the PADD, tracking its content with a stylus. “Ah, yes. It does say past relationship.” She looks up and smiles at him apologetically.

He doesn’t smile back.

 

~

 

(He tells whoever asks that space is lonely and boring—the worst possible combination—, that it’s just one of those things, and mind your own business, thank you very much.

He’s not lying, not for weeks and maybe months.

But open secrets are the only secrets on a spaceship, and when an email comes from HQ, quoting frat regs he never even bothered reading, with expressions like ‘conflict of interest’, and ‘liability’, and the one that after all this time still makes McCoy’s blood freeze, ‘emotional compromise’, he’s not that surprised to find himself in the guest chair in Jim’s office. Sitting behind a desk for what’s gotta be the first time in his life, Jim’s not even trying not to grin. Next to McCoy, Spock looks halfway between bored and annoyed.

They’re not telling them to stop. They’re telling them that they can either stop immediately, or make it official.

McCoy and Spock, who have exchanged exactly zero words about it, who haven’t spent a night apart since… yeah, that long. They look at each other for a fraction of a second and then Spock picks up a PADD from Jim’s desk and starts filling the relevant form, handing it to McCoy for his signature.

McCoy tries not to wonder why the hell Spock knows his date of birth and serial number. Eidetic memory, probably.

When Spock stands and nods before stepping out, mentioning an experiment to monitor, McCoy thinks for the first time that maybe it’s not quite just one of those things.)

 

~

 

“Do you remember that time we were on Risa and Gary hit on that Caitian chick and it turned out that the giant dude with the purple hair was her husband—”

“Can you give these to Spock for me?”

It’s a stack of blue uniform jerseys. Jim barely lifts his head from where he’s sprawled at the foot of McCoy’s bed, eyes cautiously following McCoy’s movements, and for what’s gotta be the very first time in his life he doesn’t make a stupid joke. “Sure.”

McCoy’s pretty sure that Spock wants them back anyway, and they take up space in McCoy’s closet, which there’s already very little of thanks to Starfleet skimping on cabin space, because apparently having a freaking bowling hall is more important than not bumping into your furniture whenever you gotta go to the head to take a piss.

It has zilch to do with the fact that the day before yesterday he accidentally wore one and didn’t realize until he stumbled out of his quarters, still half asleep, and it made him remember that other time. When the same thing happened, but Spock caught it right before McCoy headed out for his shift and tugged at his sleeve, saying something about the unlikelihood of McCoy being able to successfully perform a surgery if the differences between a half-an-inch and a one-inch stripe were beyond his perceptual abilities. Then, as unexpected as only someone who has consistently color-coded his sock drawer since childhood can be, he had taken the shirt off McCoy. And he had kissed him. First, on the mouth. And then, dropping on his knees right in front of him, he had kissed him yet again. Doing that. Making him late, so late for his shift that he hadn’t had time to get coffee, or review M’Benga’s notes from patients’ rounds, and his day had been chaotic and busy and full, full, full of Spock, Spock always interfering in his fucking concentration

McCoy had been doing a little better, before.

Hence the stack of shirts he’s depositing on his bed, within Jim’s easy reach—wouldn’t want him to forget—, trying not to see the mix of pity and curiosity in his eyes.

It’s hard. Jim’s not exactly opaque in his feelings.

McCoy clears his throat, and continues. “And for god’s sake, just don’t return them, you know, in the mess. Or on the bridge during Alpha. Giv’em to him next time you guys play chess or meet to discuss the best brand of plasma coolant.” It’s Jim ‘Sorry, Bones, I didn’t think you’d mind me using the story of you throwing up on me as an icebreaker at the yearly Starfleet ball’ Kirk that McCoy’s dealing with. This shit needs to be spelled out.

“We haven’t played in weeks, but I can just bring them to his quarters. Next to mine, anyway.”

Of course, McCoy would join the anti-vaccination movement before asking Jim something as simple as ‘really?’

Of course, Jim doesn’t need him to.

“Yeah, it’s weird. When you guys split, it’s like he broke up with the whole ship. Except Uhura.” Jim shrugs, but he doesn’t quite pull off the careless act. “He does hang out with Uhura all the freaking time, lucky bastard, so I think he’s fine.”

McCoy doesn’t let himself dwell on that last piece of information, so of course he thinks about little else.

Just typical.

 

~

 

(It begins on a whim, even though McCoy’s certainly not the type to act on whims, and he’s pretty sure that the word doesn’t even have a Vulcan translation.

Unsurprisingly, it starts because of Jim, and his stupid shenanigans, and his very own self-generating black hole of recklessness, on the day Spock drags him to Med Bay by the ear. McCoy sighs through the dispassionate tale of how the captain of the flagship was attacked by a flower. Said captain just shrugs, mumbling unapologetically that as long as he’s a member of an exploratory party, he gets to explore.

It’s the fourth torn uniform of his that McCoy rolls into a ball and tosses into the Med Bay trashcan.

They are two and a half weeks into their first mission.

“What’s your deal Jim, uh? You shit magnet. Do you do it for the attention? Do you hate me? Is that why you decided to feed yourself to a goddamn seven feet tall flower that smells like a corpse?”

McCoy can rant for hours. He can rant when he uses the dermal. He can rant while resuscitating a patient. He could probably rant in sonnets during a delicate open-skull surgery as he painstakingly tries to repair severed neural pathways one by one. That’s how inspiring his patients are to him, and Jim Fucking Kirk is the most inspiring of them all. So he’s going to keep on ranting until the end on his shift, and make Jim sit down and listen to him through every second of—

“Doctor.” He almost startles to realize that Spock is still in Med Bay, standing maybe three feet away from Jim’s biobed, all impossibly straight posture, and impassive stare, and large splotches on his uniform dyed purple by the red of Jim’s blood. “I believe that the captain’s sensation seeking behavior and disregard for his own well-being might be a symptom of a deeper psychological discomfort. Perhaps this should be probed further.”

McCoy waves his hand. “Nah. Jim here always pulls stunts like this. He’s just a fool. An incurable disease, unfortunately.” He pokes his fingers in the dead center of Jim’s wound, feeling a deep sense of satisfaction as he jolts.

“All the more so, the captain’s recklessness might be indicative of a long-term condition.” Spock stares at McCoy insistently, pointedly, like he’s trying to telepathically communicate with him or something.

Where does this guy get off? What does he want, coming to his Med Bay and telling him how to do his job? He knows his patients, and he knows Jim, who’s just a moron who’s never being taught not to act like a reckless idiot, not a—

Ah. He has to purse his lips to prevent them from widening into a smile.

“You know what? You’ve got a point, commander. A psychological evaluation might be overdue.”

McCoy’s still touching Jim’s shoulder, and he can actually feel his whole body tense. “A psych-eval? Come on, Bones. This is bullshit. I am not suicidal.” He’s paling pretty quickly. Apparently, the threat of spending some quality time with a shrink is succeeding where severe blood loss failed.

“That is often what suicidal people say, kid.”

“Bones. A full psych eval takes like two hours.”

“Four to six, Jim. I will let Dr. Markon know that she can begin at her earliest convenience.” He turns to beam at Spock. “Commander, thank you for your recommendation. An invaluable suggestion.” He can’t resist adding for once, perfectly audibly but under his breath.

Spock ignores it. “No thanks are necessary, Doctor McCoy. I am glad to be of help. I will alert the bridge that the captain will be unreachable for the next four hours.”

“Six. I’ll make sure Dr. Markon is exceptionally thorough. As thorough as she can possibly be, in fact.” He stares at Jim as he speaks. He can basically see the kid’s stomach sinking, somewhere in there.

Perfect.

When he turns, Spock is already heading out of the Med Bay.

They haven’t talked much, McCoy and Spock, since Nero, and those days on the bridge that everyone around here seems to be doing their best not mention in front of anyone who’s Vulcan. There has been some mutual ignoring, and some surreptitious mutual appraisal, and mild mutual put downs, all topped by some mutual pretending to find the other exceedingly unlikeable. Truth is, McCoy knows nothing about Spock, with the possible exception that he can’t be all that hot mere months after his planet blew up, his mother died, and he broke up with his girlfriend, that he categorically refused any counseling despite M’Benga’s most fervent recommendations, and that he might be McCoy's one ally in the doomed mission of keeping Jim alive.

Also, all of this is completely irrelevant.

Because the one thing that he’s thinking right now is that Spock looks…yeah.

Fuckable.

“Commander.” He says it impulsively, almost expecting to regret is at soon as the word’s out. But Spock spins around to face him and yes, he really, really looks… McCoy takes a couple of steps towards him. “Do Vulcans have lunch, or is it too emotional?” The tone has to be pitched low, Jim’s nosiness being what it is, but McCoy know Spock can understand him perfectly, Vulcan’s hearing being what it is.

“Vulcans habitually consume two to three meals per day—”

“Spock.” He’s not falling for the non-native speaker act, no matter that everyone else on the Enterprise seems to be tripping over each other to do so. The other day McCoy caught Chekov absorbed in a lengthy explanation of the meaning of ‘once in a blue moon’. He was drawing diagrams on a fucking PADD.

Spock looks at him appraisingly, for a shade longer than is polite, his eyes briefly leaving McCoy’s face and sliding down his body.

“We do.” McCoy must have passed muster.

“Tomorrow?”

Spock turns to leave, but not before McCoy can see the corner of his lips tilting upwards into a non-smile.

The following day, when Spock appears in his office at twelve PM, McCoy mutters something about the unexpected honor of his presence and lets him in.

Needless to say, they don’t have lunch.)

 

~

 

It’s four fifty AM on a Saturday, and the turbolift stops unexpectedly on Deck 2. Where most science labs are.

Really, anyone could be requesting it.

Except, research scientists on board rarely operate on gamma shift, unless they happen to need little to no sleep.

Except, McCoy is well-aware of that, which explains the mix of dread and anticipation in the pit of his stomach when the doors swish open.

Spock’s eyes widen, or maybe they don’t, and he hesitates for a fraction of a second before stepping inside, or maybe he doesn’t, and he looks like lost a little weight since McCoy last saw him, or maybe he didn’t.

McCoy doesn’t really trust himself anymore, when it comes to reading Spock.

“Hey.”

His peripheral vision registers a nod. “Doctor.”

The silence stretches until Spock gets off, two decks below.

And longer still.

 

~

 

(The first time’s not that good.

Not terrible, but it’s been a while—months—and Spock’s impossible to keep one’s hands off, and his eyes, calm with an edge of something else, while he just lets McCoy do the filthy things he’s imagined for the past twelve hours—weeks, it’s been weeks and he knows it, and now they both know it.

It’s a ninety-seconds shit show followed by ten minutes of cringing apologies and half-assed justifications and passive-aggressive gibes and then, then a chaste kiss and a smile and a sheepish promise that next time’ll be better, whispered low before McCoy manually unlocks the door of his office.

And a raised eyebrow that McCoy interprets as it better be. Though it could have been bewilderment at the presumption that a second time is to happen at all.

The second time is everything the first should have been, and McCoy puts his words and his fingers to use, and doesn’t let the gasps and the pleas and weeks of looking and not touching—then touching a little more but still not enough—distract him.

“Stop.”

McCoy’s hands fist in the sheets, one on each side of Spock’s body.

“Not sure—” He hangs his head, eyes shut tight. His hips slow down, stutter, but they do not stop. “Not sure I can.”

“It feels... good.” There is a trace of wonder in Spock’s tone.

He squirms and McCoy groans, pressing his palm on the small of his back.

“It's supposed to feel good, Spock.”

“Perhaps—” a gasp “—not this good.”

McCoy can’t even smile. “I know what I'm doing.”

“I am not certain I—”

“Spock.” McCoy leans on his elbow and bites the nape of Spock’s neck. Then he licks it. “Shut up and take it.”

Spock nods, forehead hitting the pillow.

It’s the second of many.)

 

~

 

“And within Starfleet, your emergency contact is still Comm—“

“No.” The man looks up at McCoy, a little surprised at the quick response. McCoy clears his throat. “Change it to Captain James T. Kirk, please.”

 

~

 

(He wakes up because Spock does, sitting up with a loud gasp and dislodging McCoy’s arm from around his ribcage.

“Computer, lights to ten percent. What’s wrong?” His hand touches the hair at the base of Spock’s nape and comes back wet—not moist, wet.

Vulcans do not sweat, as McCoy knows from the thirty-two line comprehensive briefing on Vulcan physiology that the VSA sent him at the start of the mission, so this must be Amanda’s doing.

In more ways than one.

“Spock.”

Spock turns and stares at him wide eyed, as if surprised to see him.

“Spock, tell me what—”

“Nothing. Nothing is wrong.”)

 

~

 

“You never come see me on the bridge anymore,” Jim whines.

“Yeah, well, you never come see me in Med Bay, even when you're bleeding to death or have the chicken pox, so I guess we’re even.”

 

~

 

(“I do not understand the appeal—”

“Believe it or not, neither do I.”

“—just as I do not understand your tendency to center your derogatory remarks around them—”

“They’re ears, Spock. They should be rounded. Trust me, I’m a doctor.”

“If it is so, then it is not logical that you persist—” a gasp “—in your attentions towards them.”

“Mmm. I’m tryin’ to erode the tips a little bit. Make you look less like a freak.”

“You should desist.” Spock’s words are only slightly undercut by the low moan in his throat, an involuntary response to a soft bite.

“Yeah.” McCoy pries Spock’s thighs apart with his knee. “Not happening.”)

 

~

 

The first time he volunteers for an away mission it’s three weeks after they break up, and seven different pairs of eyes zoom on him, the sudden focal point of the conference room. He opts for not counting the number of raised eyebrows.

“What?” he barks, and everyone is suddenly busy fiddling with their PADDs.

The second time it’s down to four pairs, and by the third the only reaction is Jim’s pleased beaming from the head of the table.

After the fourth time, he ends up riding the turbolift with Uhura.

“You know he can take care of himself, right?” She doesn’t even bother looking up from her PADD. “He’s not a damsel in distress. The opposite of.”

It’s her deck, and she’s out of the turbolift before he can reply and explain her that yes, thank you very much, he is well aware, and it’s not as if he chose any of this, not as if he enjoys worrying, it just happens and it makes him useless, walking around the Med Bay and snapping at the staff, constantly checking his comm for updates on the landing party that Jim is surely leading into some kind of clusterfuck, accelerating the development of that gastric ulcer that is going to kill McCoy, given the harebrained, reckless morons he keeps surrounding himself with, and if he’s there, down on the planet, which he fucking hates by the way ‘cause that’s not what he signed up for when he went to med school, but if he’s down there with them, with him, at least he can try to make sure and delude himself that he has some control over—

But Uhura’s gone, and she’s definitely not the person he should be telling all this stuff to, and McCoy probably wouldn’t have said anything, anyway.

 

~

 

(The first thing he notices is the emerald green, because non-primary colors stick out like a sore thumb in anything that’s Starfleet. Well, the green, and the blissfully not desert-like temperature.

It almost makes McCoy smile, but he’s too tired to, and he doesn’t want to anyway. He’s supposed to be in a bad mood, after this bitch of day.

He leans back on the doors as soon as they swish closed, crossing his arms. “Go get your own ugly Christmas sweater.”

Spock continues typing. “I do not celebrate Christmas, and I do not own any ugly sweaters.”

“Then replicate one.”

“I would be a waste of power, as I do not enjoy wearing ugly sweaters.”

“You’re sure enjoying mine.”

“I most definitely am not.”

“Then why did you steal it?”

“I consider it a temporary loan.”

“Yeah, you better give it back. It’s a present from my niece. Apparently, it’s my color.” It’s not. It really isn’t. I does things for Spock, though. Green on green, McCoy supposes. The reindeer looks cute, too. “I gotta wear it for the Christmas subspace comm to my sister.”

“I would be amenable to returning it immediately, should the circumstances change.” The temperature, he means.

So hard not smile. So he actually lets himself, a little, thinking that Spock’s not even looking up from whatever he’s doing, anyway—long divisions or calculating vectors or multiplying arrays or a long-winded pontification over the benefits of meditating upwards of nine hours per day to be published in the New Vulcan Journal of Medicine—no way he’s not gonna notice, except that goddamn Vulcans, do they have eyes on the top of their head?

“As Nyota informs me frequently, smugness is not considered attractive.”

McCoy snorts. “Oh, I can see why she’d need to tell you, alright.”

Spock ignores him. “It is obvious that you received help in this. Any sabotaging of the environmental controls is well beyond your technological capabilities.” Spock’s pause is calculated for effect. “In fact, the mere use of the environmental controls is well beyond your capabilities.”

McCoy huffs. “Maybe you’re underestimating me.”

“Perhaps,” Spock says, clearly meaning perhaps you’re full of shit.

Ah, but McCoy’s enjoying himself.

“Sweater looks good on you, though.”

“I am pleased that you find my discomfort attractive.”

McCoy rolls his eyes. He could state the obvious, which is if you don’t like in here, you can just go back to your damn quarters. Naturally, Spock could also point out that McCoy’s the one who told him to come here after Alpha and then proceeded to work halfway through Beta; or that the environmental controls have been fixed at a temperature that is, yes, about five degrees colder than Spock prefers, but also about five degrees higher than McCoy would have chosen, were he to consider only his own comfort.

Too cold for a Vulcan, too hot for a Human, with the idiotic result they’re both slightly uncomfortable. A terrible compromise.

A terrible idea, all in all.

McCoy needs to shower, strictly water, to wash away this double shift turned into triple shift blended into a string emergency surgeries. He walks to his desk, letting the four hypos in his hand fall in the tray by the monitor—he’s going to the bridge first thing tomorrow morning, because it’s not as if Jim follows his diet card, ever, and he has probably had around two percent of his recommended daily Vitamin intake since McCoy last saw him— and, damn Vulcans. Taking over his desk with their PADDs and their mugs of tea that smells like burnt wood and ginger and mold, working implacably through the clutter and noise McCoy makes as he empties his pockets, extending long fingers palm down, without even looking up, just a little, in that almost involuntary way that is so easy to miss or confuse for something else.

Until McCoy touches them back, just a little, in his own almost involuntary way, and then it’s not confusing anymore.

A slightly terrible idea, all in all.)

 

~

 

“Shall we start, children?”

Uhura’s expression is mild, but the impatience in her tone is clear enough that Sulu and Jim immediately break apart from an arm wrestling match that started long before McCoy even entered the room, Chekov sends one last pulsating heart to his girlfriend before closing his messaging system, and Scotty makes a valiant but ultimately useless attempt at sitting up straight.

Uhura beams, pleased.

“Shouldn’t we wait for Commander Spock?” Chekov asks.

“Nope. Only one member of the command team needs to be present on these comm meetings. We’ll have to make do with the captain.”

Jim winks luridly at her, and she throws him her stylus. He catches it in his fingers and places it behind his ear.

“But he always comes anyway, no?”

“He has an experiment to monitor,” she replies distractedly, still looking at Jim murderously. “Or something.” She tries to snatch the stylus back, but he ducks before she can reach it.

McCoy doesn’t say anything, and lowers his eyes to his PADD.

 

~

 

(The first time he notices, they are in the arboretum, a few weeks after it begins. They have a reason to be there, which is figuring out if growing a patch of medicinal Echinacea would be feasible (probably yes). And yet they start kissing, like they sometimes do when they’re alone and not technically on duty, be it in storage closets, in conference rooms, in McCoy's office at the ass-end of Gamma shift. McCoy doesn’t question it too much, taken by the heady smell of flowers disappearing into Spock’s flushed skin.

McCoy makes to cup Spock's left cheek, fingers ghosting on his temple, and Spock twists his face away. It’s barely noticeable, because this is Spock, and he easily disguises it into something else, which happens to be angling his head to press his open mouth against McCoy’s throat.

McCoy realizes two things at once.

That it’s not the first time Spock has done this. And that his fingers were brushing against Spock’s meld points.

He almost wants to ask, opens his mouth to, but Spock is quicker.

“Perhaps you should review the grooming requirements more closely, doctor.” He says it while mouthing the stubble on the corner of McCoy’s jaw.

“Perhaps you should take the regulation handbook and stuff it up your—”

“A clean shave is mandated at all times.”

“Let’s start by clean-shaving your bangs, then.”

“A most illogical response.” McCoy’s blood flutters at each L sound, when the bumpy texture of Spock’s tongue hits his skin.

He feels Spock smiles his non-smile, and makes a point of avoiding his meld points.)

 

~

 

“You know what I hate the most about being on a starship? It’s damned hard to get laid.”

“Jim.” He lets a drop fall into the test tube. The compound fizzles and immediately becomes bright pink. “Don’t you have a starship to crash into an asteroid belt? Stars to map? Shirts to rip?”

“Nope.”

 

~

 

(“The waste of water is—”

He tightens his hand on Spock’s waist.

“Shhh. It’s worth it.”

It’s worth it to see Spock’s skin glistening, and his fingers try and fail to find a grip on the slippery bulkhead, and the muscles, all those muscles, tightening under pale skin and rippling underneath the flowing water. Vulcans really don’t do well with water.

McCoy palms Spock’s hip and angles deeper, bottoming out. Spock’s breath hitches. McCoy’s does, too, but Spock can’t see him and it doesn’t count.

“Water is a finite and vulnerable resource—ah.

He bites the juncture between Spock’s shoulder and his neck, letting one of his hands rest over Spock’s on the shower wall.

Spock clenches around him, and McCoy grunts.

“Water looks good on you.”

“Water is transparent—”

“And it gets recycled, so shut it.”

“The process is complex and requires high amounts of energy—”

He pushes two fingers deep, alongside his cock, and Spock’s head snaps back, uncaring of the jet of the shower. He’s coming like McCoy has only ever seen Spock come, like there is nothing else in the world aside from them and nothing inside him aside from pleasure, like what McCoy is giving him is the end of everything.

Like he has arrived.

He always comes like this, and it’s fucking distracting, and McCoy knows that he could live without this, without him, but he doesn’t know why would ever want to. He can’t resist pressing a soft, chaste kiss on the tip of Spock’s ear.

“I’m gonna finish now, ‘kay?”

Spock nods, eyes squeezed tight.

At least he’s finally shutting up.)

 

~

 

“Emma has a boyfriend.”

Emma frowns and goes bright pink. She shoots her mom a murderous glare—the McCoy glare, inscribed in all their genes somewhere between the wide shoulders and the thick, dark hair—before, quite contradictorily, hiding her face in her lap.

“Mooom!”

Behind her, the sun filters through the shades of his sister’s living room. Early afternoon, McCoy thinks. He hated everything about Georgia, growing up, but he always loved the sunlight. Fitting that his life should turn out this way, the only sunlight seen in the past year through subspace comms like this one.

“Does she, now?” Emma is eight, and his favorite niece, for no reason other that she takes after him a ridiculous amount. She should probably not start this this early with relationships, given his track record.

“A young gentleman by the name of James.”

He mock-frowns. “Well, that’s a terrible name.” Emma’s head pipes up. “Is he an idiot? How do his shirts usually look?”

“What?!”

He waves a hand. “How serious is this, Emmie? Should I ask for leave to come to the wedding? Should I bring back a blender from space?”

Emma thinks about it for a moment. “Very serious. Super serious. We are in love.”

McCoy smiles. “Watch out, Emmie. Sometime boys break your heart, even if they love you.”

 

~

 

(“It is repetitive, derivative, and… nasal.”

“It’s relatable, easy to sing along to, and American.” He yawns. “It’s the music proud Americans listen to.”

Spock tucks his head into the pillow. “It is illogical to take pride in one’s nationality, as the circumstances of one’s birth are entirely outside of one’s control.”

“I'm not saying I’m proud to be American. Just that country is the ultimate American music.”

“Be as it may, I fail to see how any of the attributes you have listed could possibly it elevate to the status of ‘music’.”

McCoy snickers. “Y’all are just jealous because you’re stuck playing elevator music with that weird harp.”

Spock opens one eye. “Indeed. Vulcans would much welcome to opportunity to sing about driving on the open road in American-made hover trucks, their support to the Vulcan troops, or unrequited teenage love.”

McCoy bites the inside of his mouth. “That’s quite a working knowledge of country music you’ve got there, Spock.” He lifts his hand to the back of Spock’s neck running his fingers in the short hair at the nape. “I wonder what I’d find in your music library if I took a peek.”

“Not country music, certainly.” No one can pull off that haughty look with semen still drying on his belly—and between his legs. No one but Spock, of course.

“Just admit that you’re a fan.”

“Vulcans do not lie.”

McCoy tut-tuts. “Right. You’re not a fan. You just know all about the themes, and spend ninety percent of your time memorizing country lyrics—”

“As a child. I was exposed to it as a child.”

Spock’s eyes remain closed, but McCoy’s not fooled for a second. He’s not relaxed anymore, and McCoy knows from experience that there isn’t much he can say or do when Spock’s muscles are tense like this, and his shoulders, that had loosened fractionally as he gasped his orgasm in the pillow only minutes ago, are cast iron again.

Spock is impenetrable, in every way that matters. Shutting McCoy out, sealing whatever that is in.

No point in asking.

“Hey.” He shifts closer. “You forgot to mention not having enough credits and rhyming ‘girl’ with ‘world’.”

Spock softens a little. “A gross oversight, for sure.”

“Don’t worry, Spock. I’ll take you to a concert next time we’re back on earth. Get some barbecue before, make a night out of it.”

Spock stiffens again, and McCoy wants to punch himself. He should really know by now that mentions of the future are almost as bad as anything that has to do with the past.

It doesn’t leave much, really.

“What? You scared of the banjo?”

“And of the accordion.” At least that makes Spock almost smile, which in turn has McCoy’s murmur something about smartass Vulcans, and then something else altogether, that has to do with how good Spock feels, how tight he is, and how much McCoy likes hi—this.

When Spock comes, mouth slack, McCoy kisses him through it.)

 

~

 

“So, what’s the plan?”

“There is no plan.”

“Bones. There’s always at least one plan for shore leave.”

“Not one that includes me and you, no.”

“Oh, c’mon. Is it because of the last time?”

“Well, that doesn’t make me want to hang out with when you’re wasted, for sure.”

“I’m sorry, you know that, right?”

McCoy places the gel in the electrophoresis tank, throwing Jim a side glance when the amount looks good enough. It’s tricky, not to pour too much, because not enough is just as bad.

“Sorry about what? About sitting your ass on my poor lab bench? You damn well should be.”

He sees Jim shake his head with the corner of his eye. “What I said last time. I was so hammered I can barely remember, but…”

McCoy’s hands falter imperceptibly. “Jim—”

“No, really. I was out of line.” Jim’s gaze is on the protein sample in the glass case. He is fidgeting with the lid of the container of the blocking buffer, which he should really leave alone, because McCoy will need it soon. Needs it right now, actually. “I was drunk, and a little jealous of you guys, and an ass.”

McCoy exhales once. It’s a silent laugh, carrying little humor. “Yeah, well. Turns out, you were right about a few things.”

 

~

 

(The first thing he hears as they all re-materialize is, “Did you guys know that snails’ dicks are called love darts?”

McCoy didn’t. He’s pretty sure Spock did, just because it sounds like the type of vaguely scientific, mostly useless information a Vulcan would have memorized by age two and half. No way to be sure, though, because Spock doesn’t answer, and just moves a step towards Jim to catch him and prevent him from collapsing facedown on the transporter pad. McCoy sighs and pats his pockets for the tenth time, looking for something to sober Jim up, something that he obviously forgot to bring when they beamed down the planet for ‘one drink’.

Maybe he was born yesterday, after all.

He and Spock exchange a look, and McCoy thinks wistfully of the previous shore leave, the one he spent fucking Spock into the mattress of a nice waterfront hotel on Achrady VII.

Oh, well. The current one’s not over until tomorrow, so there’s still time.

“Let’s just get him to his quarters, I have a stash of hypos there.”

“No, Bones, don’t hypo me, please. Just let me be.”

“Shut up.”

“Can we watch a holovid? The one with the talking dog."

“No.”

"Why not? Laughter is the best medicine!”

“Antibiotics are the best medicine. C’mon, arms around our necks.”

It takes a minute to get Jim in a decent position, since he’s obviously lost his hand-eye coordination about four gallons of ale ago. McCoy idly wonders if on any other ship the crew would find it disturbing, to see the captain in civilian clothes, returning from leave with his first and CMO, so obviously drunk that he can barely walk. No one on Enterprise seems to find the thing noteworthy.

“This is comfy. Speaking of, Spock, be honest—” another hiccup “—what are my chances with Uhura?”

Spock looks confused. “How is this related to—”

“The other day she totally laughed at this joke I made about bound morphemes and I thought—”

“Jim, for fuck’s sake, how do you weight so much?”

He beams at McCoy. “I hacked the diet card. Oops, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t going to tell you. Anywho, Spocky, do you think she would…?”

McCoy outrage about the diet card dissipates as he hears ‘Spocky.” Spocky just raises an eyebrow, diverting his gaze when his eyes catch McCoy mouthing ‘Spocky’ with a shit-eating grin on his face.

“I do not know.”

“Right, right, but if you had to guess?”

“Vulcans do not guess, captain.”

“But if your captain ordered you to?”

Spock’s eyes meet McCoy’s again, half irritated and half panicky. Though, comes to think of, he’d probably seem completely neutral to anyone else. McCoy’s getting good at deciphering Spocky.

“Have you considered discussing the matter with Nyota herself?”

“Oh, believe me, I have but, and this is hilarious, this dude right here—” he angles his head towards McCoy, misjudging the distance a little and knocking his temple against his shoulder “—tells me that it would be sexual harassment, and I just… I kind of like her, and I really, really, really don’t want her to feel harass—.” Jim’s heartfelt words are cut by loudest hiccup to date.

“Let’s just get you to bed, Jim, ‘kay?”

“Hey, thank you. You guys know I love you, right?”

“Do you, now?”

“I mean, not like you love each other but…”

McCoy feels a surge of heat in his cheeks, suddenly finding the paneling of corridor of extreme interest. “Jim,” he says, his tone low and deep.

It’s not… not there. McCoy’s not so blind that he cannot see that. It’s just not out, in the open. And it won’t be for a while, McCoy thinks, at least judging from the wide eyed, deer in the headlight look Spock is currently giving Jim.

“Like, I wonder all the time, how does it even work? I just don’t get it. You’re awesome—” hiccup “—you two are so awesome. Seriously, you two are great.”

“One of us more than the other.”

“But I just. I don’t get it.”

“Like many other things, I’m sure…” Most other things, McCoy’s positive. “C’mon Jim, it’s about thirty steps to your cabin.”

“I mean, you’re boyfriends.”

McCoy almost drops Jim then and there. That word. They’re grown men, for fuck’s sake. “Now, no one is no one’s fucking boyfriend, here.” He risks a glance at Spock, who’s clearly flushing.

“Right, right.” Jim nods in agreement, which apparently requires him to stop moving his feet. McCoy tugs at the arm around his neck. “Of course. You’re good acquaintances. Who do things with each other.”

Things with—Is this about sex? Because if Jim wants to spend his time hammered babbling about his sex life with Spock, then McCoy would highly prefer not having to listen and just be back in whatever cabin they’re sleeping in tonight and do his sex life with Spock. Which hopefully is happening soon, although judging from the fact that Jim is walking exponentially slower than even a minute ago, probably not too soon.

“Even though. You know.” Jim makes a jerky movement with his head, almost losing his balance. “You know.”

“Nope. And I’m not sure I want to.” McCoy’s actually sure he doesn’t.

“Just. You’re sooo different. Like, even more different than Uhura and I, which really gives me hope, because, I mean—”

“Jim, shut your mouth. Were almost there.”

“Bones. Man. Do you remember at the Academy, when you said that in the end all you wanted was a small practice and a few kids and a nice, pretty wife who’d help you raise them? You said—”

“Jim, for god’s sake, shut the fuck up. Computer, open doors, authorization AS873, Dr. McCoy.” The doors slide open and Jim’s quarters are, as usual, messy to the point McCoy can’t help but worried about his immune system. What the hell do Jim’s yeomen do in here? “There should be some hypos in the desk drawers, can you try and find them? I’m gonna put him to bed.” Spock nods, and McCoy takes most of Jim’s weight as he step away and heads them for the bunk. Jim collapses on it immediately.

“You such a good doctor.” Hiccup. “Really, you’re so great. You’ve saved my life, how many times?”

“Obviously once too many.”

“I’m really happy you’re with Spock. Really. Even if I never see you anymore. Even if he’s not a nice, pretty girl in Georgia—”

“Jim.”

“—‘cause, like, he’s the only hybrid of his kind in the freaking universe which is the most terrifying thing I can imagine, I mean, what if he needs an organ transplant or something—”

“We have synthetic organs, Jim. You’re at your third liver, you should know.”

“—and sometimes I think he could drop out of Starfleet like, tomorrow, and go back to New Vulcan, and I get really scared because I have no fucking clue what I’m doing without him—”

“He’s not going anywhere. He’s here right now.” Apparently, Jim reverses to a pre-object permanence state when he’s drunk. The more you know. “Spock, where’s that damn hypo?”

“—still, I mean, he’s so—” a hiccup, “—they took everything. They took everything from him, his mother, his world, his whole fucking life, and I would be so angry, man, with nothing left—”

“Where is that fucking hy—”

Spock’s hand appears in his right visual field and McCoy grabs one of the hypos from Spock’s fingers, taking less than a second to confirm the content. He presses it into Jim’s neck without any care, feeling a deep sense of satisfaction when he protests loudly. It doesn’t last long. Jim has barely yelled ‘ouch’ and then he falls back on the pillow, snoring loudly enough that they’re probably hearing him on Deck 23.

McCoy sighs and turns to Spock, who looks mildly concerned.

“Should he be falling asleep?”

“It was that, or me punching him unconscious.”

“An excellent choice, then.”

“Which I’ve gotta rethink, now that I have your unrequested approval.”

He doesn’t say anything while Spock picks up a blanket from where it’s wrapped on Jim’s replicator—McCoy’s really going to have a word with Rand, because Jim needs to be taken in hand when it comes to basic hygiene—and uses it to cover him, thinking that really, if it were for him Jim could freeze his ass to death. Hell, he’s half tempted to take off Jim’s shirt and lower the temperature by 10 degrees. It’s Spock who also dims the lights to twenty percent and puts a cup of water on Jim’s bedside before they let themselves out, the silence between them tense as the walk to the turbolift, which lasts about a tenth of the time it did when they were carrying Jim, feels more than twice longer.

McCoy waits impatiently for the doors to swish closed, foot tapping.

“What Jim said…”

“He was intoxicated.”

“He was being a dick.”

“Due to his intoxicated state.”

“Still—”

“It is no matter.”

They are standing next to each other, shoulder to shoulder, and McCoy surprises himself by reaching around Spock to press the stop button. The lift alts smoothly, and McCoy doesn’t shift back, straightening so that he’s standing directly in front of Spock, up and close in his personal space. There’s barely an inch between them.

“Listen, most of it is bullshit. And what isn’t…” They stand there, breathing the same air, close enough that it should be—it is—weird, since they’re not kissing, or fucking, or sleeping, or leading up to one of these things. They are together in the same space so often, most of the time, but rarely like this, just the two of them and this thing, for once not drowned by this crazy attraction that always goes from reluctant to enthusiastic without nothing in between, and the endless bickering, and really, just Spock being the giant, insufferable idiot that he always, always is. McCoy shrugs. “I don’t care.”

White noise. It’s all white noise, but the signal in is there somewhere.

He leans forward and kisses Spock once, chastely. “Obviously I have space insanity.”

Spock doesn’t say anything, and he doesn’t kiss McCoy back.

But at least he doesn’t move away.)

 

~

 

It’s the uncompromising line of Spock’s back that makes him snap, or possibly that McCoy caught him throwing an almost longing look to the side of the Med Bay where Christine is tending the other injured crew members, or maybe again it’s just that small recoil, when McCoy first put his thumb on Spock’s cheekbone to check eye function.

Still, he regrets the words as soon as they’re out of his mouth, his tone hot and low.

“Not three months ago you used to practically beg me to fuck you twice a day, so you can drop the long-suffering act, commander.”

He’s already sighing with self-disgust before the sentence is over. Spock is suddenly looking intently at the stack of hypos by the biobed, lips pursed in a thin line, blood seeping from that awful gash on his neck.

Say something, McCoy wills him. Tell me to get my ears checked, because I clearly must have misheard you. Make a comment about how typically unprofessional I’m being. Ask me if i'm trying to distract you from the pain of your injury by uttering ridiculous and illogical statements.

“I’m sorry,” McCoy manages to push out, between gritted teeth, when the wound is all but medicated.

Spock keeps staring at his knees, pretending as always that nothing ever happened.

 

~

 

(He wakes up when—because, his brain provides, irritated—Spock slips out of his bunk, the sudden expanse of the mattress odd, unfamiliar after months of rarely experiencing it alone. He glances at the clock (5:12) and thinks of turning and going back to sleep, since he’s pretty sure he’s not on duty today, and actually neither should be Spock, which means that they could nap together and then resume where they left off last—

He remembers suddenly, hating himself for forgetting, even in sleep, even for a second.

“Hey.” He rolls onto his back and presses the heels of his hands in his eyes. “Where are you going?”

Spock is standing naked in the dead center of McCoy’s quarters. He doesn’t look up from checking his PADD. “I have made plans with Nyota.”

Okay. It’s okay. It’s fine. “You wanna do something today?”

Spock places the PADD on the desk and looks at him blankly. “Do something?”

“Yeah. Or talk. Or whatever.”

Spock looks around the room, stopping when he catches sight of his uniform.

“I presume today I will ‘do’ several ‘things’, and ‘talk’ with a number of people on a number of topics.” He is trying to disentangle his underwear from the fatigue pants. It shocked McCoy, initially, that he didn’t seem to mind his clothes ending up on the floor most times. Now he knows that Spock does mind, but can’t quite help himself when they…

“Yeah, well. Let me know if I make the shortlist, ‘kay?”

Spock ignores him and heads for the bathroom.

“Hey. I’m psi null, here. Can’t read you goddamn mind.” There no real heat behind the words. “Just so you know.”

Spock just closes the head’s door, and McCoy hears the sonics activate.

It’s the first anniversary of the fall of Vulcan.)

 

~

 

He enters the mess hall in need for coffee, and sees the two of them talking intensely, heads close together in thick conversation.

Uhura’s facing the back of the room. Spock’s not, and his eyes meet McCoy for a moment before sliding away.

He steps out. There’s a replicator in the Med Bay, anyway.

 

~

 

(He thinks it happens because Spock’s tired, though he cannot claim any understanding of the dynamics of it.

He knows that Spock is meditating less and less.

He thinks that Spock looks angry sometimes, at ensigns screwing up stupid shit, at Jim for being Jim, at space anomalies for happening, but mainly at himself, for being alive when so many are not. It looks like little more than mild irritation, but this is Spock, and there is nothing mild about him.

He thinks that it might be just the first drop of a flood.

He thinks that Spock might be exhausted.

He thinks, but he has no proof, and Spock, Spock is so hard to make sense of.

So McCoy thinks it happens because he’s tired, that one minute Spock is mouthing vaguely at his jaw, obviously trying to make sense of what McCoy is doing as his fingers curl inside him, and the next he is everywhere, pressing on all the corners and nooks in McCoy’s mind, and he feels at once warm and full and how did McCoy not know he was hollow before if this feels finally so—yes. Yes.

“What was—?”

“I apologize.”

There suddenly are at least three feet between them, but the distance has to be a new thing, since there’s about a gallon of come on both of them.

“What happened?”

Spock’s eyes are pointed straight ahead, but it’s obvious that his interest is turned inside, somewhere within his head.

“Spock, what the fuck was that?”

Spock dips his chin.

“Spock, I’m getting my tricorder—”

“A mind meld.”

“Oh.” He knows what a meld is, of course. It’s maybe one of three things about Vulcans that’s not a secret. “Wait, for a meld aren’t you supposed to be touching my…” He lifts his fingers to his face clumsily.

“I—” Spock looks away. In panic, McCoy thinks. Spock is panicking, as he wasn’t when a Volcano almost swallowed him alive, or when the Romulans held disruptors against him, or when the Enterprise was boarded and it looked like they would all die.

“It’s ok. No big deal. I mean, some warning would’ve been nice, but hell. What’re you gonna see, that I can never remember Deltan cranial nerves without using the dirty mnemonic?”

There’s much more. So much more, but he can expose himself a little, if it makes Spock feel less naked.

He has it bad.

Spock stands, picking up his uniform undershirt and using it to clean his stomach.

“It is not what I can see.”)

 

~

 

“Be safe down there, okay, Jim.”

He says it every damn time, and goes unheeded most of them, but some missions are riskier than others, and this is the riskiest to date. Not that one would be able to tell, from the grin Jim shoots at him.

“When am I not?”

“I’m serious. People on this ship seem to like you, though I can’t figure out why since I’m not one of them. Try to come back in one piece, ok?”

His gaze slides to Spock, standing between Jim and the transporter, finishing to zip up his environmental suit. He’s two or three steps away, as if to avoid intruding between them. His eyes meet McCoy’s and then slide away.

“Take care, commander.”

There’s more he’d like to say, but he swallows it back.

 

~

 

(“Long time no see.”

Spock’s notices him and his eyes widen a little. McCoy is very tempted to slap the expression of mild surprise from him face, but his arms are crossed over his chest and he has a tricorder in his right hand, so he decides to postpone for a bit.

He’s the goddamn CMO. Where the hell should he be, in the left nacelle?

“Thank you for finding time in your busy schedule to grace my humble Med Bay with you presence, commander.”

The mild surprise is gone. Spock has completely shut off.

“Usually Doctor M’Benga performs my yearly physical,” he says, void of any inflection.

“Yeah, Doctor M’Benga is currently monitoring an experiment. Does that sound familiar?”

Spock blinks, exactly once.

“You'll have to make do with me. Unless you don't want me to see you naked?”

“I believe that the proverbial horse is out of the barn.”

“Good.” He looks at Spock appraisingly. “Let’s see if I can finally find out what’s wrong with you, then.”

He resists until half way through the exam, trying to remind himself that whatever else Spock might be when they are in their quarters, or in his office, or wherever else on the ship, he’s nothing but a patient in this Med Bay. When he gives up, his voice is soft.

“Why haven't I seen you in four days Spock?” He is shining a light in Spock’s left pupil. Not that it does McCoy much good, since Vulcans can control most reflexes, and will irritatingly do so during medical exams.

“I have been monitoring experiments.”

“Right, you mentioned that. Must be some groundbreaking science you’re doing, since it’s worth dropping out of the rest of you life.”

No answer, but the tricorder picks up a slight acceleration in Spock’s heart rate. It lasts less than two seconds.

“So, you figured out what’s inside dark matter yet?”

“I have not.”

“Solved the mystery of life? Found the end of the universe?”

“Negative.”

McCoy clucks his tongue. “Any idea how inclined planes work?”

“Several, in fact.”

“At least there’s that. And when will your vital experiments be done?”

Spock cocks his head to allow McCoy to check his ears. “Impossible to say with any certainty.”

“No problem, since I’m sure you’ve got the confidence intervals calculated to the ninth decimal point.”

A pause, that would be filled by a sigh if Spock were anyone else. “Perhaps tonight.” Spock’s voice sounds defeated.

McCoy nods. “I’ll come to your quarters.”

It's not a request.

He tells himself not to be surprised when Spock cannot be found in his quarters, or in any of the labs, or in his office, or in the gym, or—he stumbles across him in one of the observation deck, sitting as far from the entrance as he can go without getting off the ship.

He tells himself that he doesn’t mind that Nyota is sitting next to him. They’re not even talking. Spock’s looking outside, and she’s reading from a PADD, fingers twirling in her ponytail. It takes her maybe two minutes to notice McCoy in the entrance, and she immediately smiles at him, turning to Spock and murmuring something before standing to leave. She squeezes McCoy’s arm when she passes him.

At least Spock has the grace not to pretend to be surprised when the couch dips as McCoy sits next to him.

“How was the experiment?”

“We were unable to reject the null hypothesis.”

“Mmm. Too bad.” McCoy’s tone is noncommittal. Spock has yet to look at him.

“Scientific results have no moral connotations.”

“A pain in the ass, then.”

Silence.

“Well, it's gotta be at least un-fascinating.”

He can feel, if not see, Spock’s smile. “Perhaps.”

McCoy brushes the back of his hand agains Spock’s fingers and for a second, less than a second, it washes over him, the despair that Spock holds inside himself. The buzzing of the gravity generators comes to a stop, and for moment the silence is unbearable. Quiet is terrifying, in the darkness of deep space. Probably how McCoy got himself in this whole mess to begin with. The noise restarts with a loud click, the humming a quite background to the lives of five hundred souls.

 

What do you need?

 

“Come to bed, Spock.”

Spock just nods and follows McCoy to his quarters, something resigned in his steps.)

 

~

 

“You know, that’s the thing of fallin' for someone. It’s not that you can’t do without them.” He takes a sip. Another. “It’s that you forget why you would want to.”

Scotty just stares at him, eyes glassy. “What?”

They’re at their third bottle.

McCoy just waves a hand. “Nothin'.”

He pours himself some more.

 

~

 

(“You know, when stuff like this happens, humans usually have conversations about it.”

It’s not exactly true. McCoy himself went through a pretty nasty divorce, communicating with his wife only through lawyers and resentful glances across meeting rooms. Still, returning to his quarters when he’s not supposed to be in them because someone scheduled him for attendance to a stupid seminar on hand washing practices, and finding Spock in it after days of being avoided, intent in gathering PADDs and a plush selhat Nyota got him a few months ago that never even made it to his cabin, well. That justifies a little bending of the truth.

“I am Vulcan.” Spock is impassible as he stacks the PADDs, his tone as level as it is on the bridge, when he informs Jim of the classification of the latest planet they have stumbled across.

No shit, McCoy wants to say.

“Right, I did read that somewhere in your file. Still, this relationship is three fourths human, so humor me.”

Spock’s eyes meet his for a second, and move away just as quickly.

“I must return to my work.”

It’s been a little over six months since he watched Spock deposit Jim in his Med Bay and all but offer to share parenting duties. A little over a six months of sweat pooling on his lower back when he so much as sits in his own quarters, and pretty spectacular sex, and hearing all about them fascinating space anomalies, and arguments over the annoying brightness of Spock’s PADD late at night, which McCoy always fell asleep halfway through anyway. Only to stir briefly at whatever ungodly hour Spock decided was his bedtime, when an unnaturally warm hand run through his hair.

A little over a six months and McCoy should be able to tell if Spock is lying to him. But the past few weeks have thrown him off, and now, days after finding Spock’s meditation mat missing from behind his replicator, hours after noticing changes in the duty rooster that give them exactly zero overlapping shifts, and minutes after discovering that he’s not granted access to Spock’s quarter anymore, well, now McCoy’s not sure he ever knew how to read Spock.

“Yes, you have those seventy-three experiments on mitosis to monitor. I’m well aware.” He’s standing in front of the doors. There’s no way Spock can get out, short of shoving him away, and his hands are too full of PADDs to do it. “What the fuck is this, Spock?”

Silence.

“At least say why.”

“You will have to be more specific—”

“And you will have to stop acting like an asshole. Is this about the meld?”

“No,” Spock says quickly.

McCoy nods. “Why, then?”

Spock’s hesitation lasts maybe half a second, just the time to collect himself. Once he has, his eyes don’t leave McCoy’s.

“Upon reflection, I do not believe that I feel for you as you do for me.”

The first thing McCoy thinks, is that the tone sounds somewhat… rehearsed. Even for Spock.

Then he takes in the meaning, and for no rhyme or reason a specific moment comes to mind. Of looking for Spock after spending a good chunk of Gamma getting hammered and playing hologames with Jim, and finally finding him busy doing something with the electron microscope on Lab 3. McCoy had just stood there, observing him for a few minutes, and left before Spock could notice him, thinking to himself that Vulcans calibrate electron microscopes all wrong.

It’s not that Spock’s words don’t hurt. It’s that in the end, they don’t matter much.

“It’s okay, Spock.” He shrugs, and both his shoulders and his voice feel heavy. “Hell, it’s not a goddamn race.”

Thing is, McCoy actually thinks it.

“I believe you do not understand.”

“I do. I—” He shrugs again. “We’re different. There are issues…things, to consider. I’ll take what I can get.”

Spock’s eyes skitter away.

“There is little you can get.”

This is Spock at his worst. This Spock is impenetrable, unreachable, uncompromising. Shut.

“Is there someone else?” As soon the words are out, he hates himself. He despise himself for asking, and he despise Spock a little, too, especially when the reply doesn’t come right away. He takes a step closer. “I—don’t answer that.”

“I must return to my work.”

“Spock, I…"

“Excuse me—"

"Meld with me.”

Spock looks taken aback for several moments. “I believe you are underestimating the conditions under which Vulcans engage in melds.”

“What's that supposed to mean?”

“A certain degree of intimacy is expected.”

He laughs once, hard and bitter. “I’ve had my cock, my hands, and even my fucking tongue in your ass. Not to mention that we’ve already melded. I think we’re pretty intimate by now.”

A hopeless quest, trying to convince Spock when he has made is decision. A stubborn ass, his Vulcan. “You do not want to look into my mind.”

“Spock. I… God help me, but I really do.” They stand measuring each other. “I think I can help you. I want to.”

Spock’s nostrils flare as he speaks. “You cannot. My mind shakes and shifts at the waste and unfairness of it all.”

“Spock, it’s oka—”

“I do not wish to meld us.” It’s loud, and definitive, and for a second all that anger he thinks he can feel in Spock is there, plain for him to see. It’s just a second.

McCoy swallows. “There must be something worth making an effort in this.”

Spock tightens his grip on the PADDS in his hands. “I must return to my work.”

McCoy’s many things, but a patient man is not one of them.

“Then get the fuck out of here.”

And that’s how it ends.)

Chapter Text

“He won’t stay put.”

Christine’s voice comes from the entrance of his office, sounding a little defeated and not just a little irritated. McCoy doesn’t lift his eyes from the report he’s writing. No need to ask who she’s referring to, either, since his other worst patient is safely on the bridge, ostensibly captaining, more realistically teasing Sulu about the fact that his moss just got diagnosed with some kind of weird space STD.

“Have you threatened him like I taught you?”

“I tried. It doesn’t really work without the accent.”

“Ok, then casually mention the amount of effort that goes into resuscitating someone because they left Med Bay too early and lay a guilt trip on him. Use the word 'efficiency'.”

“Shaming people into treatment compliance is a gift for the few, doctor.”

“Then tie him the fuck down.”

“Doctor…”

“Even better, club him with the neural scanner, will you? And make it look like an accident.”

“Doctor.”

“Or, you know what? If he wants to die a terrible death because he’s too cool for the Med Bay, I’m not gonna tell him what to—”

“Doctor!”

“Fine, fine. I’m coming.”

Spock is already standing, buckling a belt that he didn’t need a few months before.

“Congratulations, you have officially pissed me off. I’m assuming that’s what you were going for?”

“As I informed Nurse Chapel, I must—”

“One more word and you’re on extended medical leave until the end of the mission. Or until I murder you, whichever comes first.”

Spock stays wisely silent and sits back on the biobed. A first, if he’s ever seen one. McCoy’s gonna write it down in his medical records.

“What is it that you have to do so urgently that it’s worth ruining mine and Christine’s life for, eh? I’m assuming the latest in your series of experiments on why plants are green. You’re just so close to finding the answer.”

The space between the stars is filled with the impassibility of Spock’s blank faces, these days.

“It is important that I complete and forward the report of yesterday’s mission to HQ.”

“And it cannot wait three hours while we keep you under observation, of course.”

“Correct.”

“I can give you a device, and you can access the file from it.”

“The only copy of the file is on my PADD.”

McCoy quirks an eyebrow. “Getting lax with backup practices in our old age, aren’t we?”

Spock makes to stand from the biobed. McCoy stops him by stepping in front of him, carefully avoiding to touch him.

“Fine, fine. I’ll go get it. It’ll be the highlight of my Starfleet career, playing yeoman for the great Commander Spock. Where is it?”

“On my desk.”

“Office?”

“Negative. In my quarters.”

McCoy hesitates for a heartbeat, just the time for a flash of the last time he was in front of Spock’s quarters, unexpectedly being denied access because—

Nope. Not going there.

He nods. “I’ll use my medical override.”

Spock doesn’t say thank you, and McCoy doesn’t ask him if he needs anything else. He also doesn’t think about where he’s going at any point in the six minutes it takes him to cross the ship, letting the irritation bubble inside him, allowing the oppressive heat of Spock’s quarters to fuel it as he grabs the PADD from the offensively neat desk that not so long ago was always cluttered with hypos or tricorders or scanners, which Spock compulsively tried to arrange into some kind of order while simultaneously throwing McCoy those dirty, long-suffering looks which made him want to just slam him against the wall and show him the real meaning of the word messy

He sees it right before stepping back outside, and it’s only because after years of blues and reds and yellows and blinding white corridors non-primary colors stick out a lot, and even more in Spock’s military-neat quarters.

It’s longish, remarkably like a sleeve, and knit, and someone clearly tried to stuff it under the bed pillow in a relative hurry. It’s green, a very distinctive shade of green.

McCoy stares at it for half a minute, and then he forbids himself from walking over and investigate further.

He knows perfectly well what that is.

He spends the six minutes walking back to Med Bay telling himself not to think about it.

He hands the PADD to Spock silently, feeling his pulse in his hands, and Spock accepts it just as silently, a single nod before he powers it up and starts typing quickly. McCoy’s already halfway back to his office, when who knows what devil inside him has him whip around and open his mouth and just fucking ask it.

“Say, have you seen my sweater?”

There are people milling around, patients and doctors and nurses and EMTs and two lab technicians. They’re not alone, McCoy’s not forcing Spock into anything except a couple hours worth of non-invasive monitoring, and that only to save his life, and even injured Spock is about two times stronger than McCoy at his physical peak, which was, unfortunately, some years ago.

Which is why Spock’s cornered, panicky look, that lasts about a tenth of a second before his eyes retake that blank expression and return to his stupid PADD, is completely unjustified.

McCoy didn’t expect an answer, and he’s not surprised when he doesn’t get one.

He doesn’t get his sweater back, either.

 

~

 

He uses the conference room for paperwork because people seem to think that whenever he’s sitting in his office he is also available, and come to him with questions, and comments, and smiles, and this is a military organization, McCoy did not sign up for this level of chummy in his work environment.

Hence the conference room, which is close enough to the Med Bay that he doesn’t have to carry his PADDs for too long, but distant enough that he doesn’t need to overhear Josh when he tells Christine that yes, spinning helped him lose weight, but it did not tone his thighs as much as he’d hoped. It’s always empty, except that one time he found Scotty lovingly stroking the bulkhead while murmuring something that sounded remarkably like “I’ll take care of you”.

And today.

Uhura’s in the room, today. And Jim.

She’s wearing a bra. Barely. If holding it up on her chest while the straps dangle from her forearms counts.

Jim, on the other hand, is wearing a smile. Directed at her, of course.

McCoy immediately turns away, mainly in deference to Uhura, as if he hadn’t seen her completely naked…precisely once, he believes. Incongruous and ridiculous, a thought enters his mind that she is well past due for her yearly check up. Damn her. Damn all of them, for avoiding basic medical prevention as if McCoy were the one out to kill them and not freaking space itself, for never following his painstakingly produced diet cards, and for banging each other in his favorite conference room.

“What the fuck.” He yells it before stomping outside, and it’s not a question.

Although Jim must interpret it as one, as McCoy hasn’t made ten steps before he’s running after him, slightly out of breath for reasons McCoy doesn’t want to focus on.

He clearly forgot to put the black undershirt on, though at least he’s wearing pants.

“Sorry about that.”

“Go away.”

“No, really, we didn’t—”

“Stop following me, Jim, or I swear to god I’m gonna inject you with something that’s gonna make your dick shrivel up and fall off.”

“Does it exist?”

“I’m fucking synthesizing it. Piss off.”

“Come on. It’s not like you haven’t walked in on me seventy times before.”

Trust Jim not to see the point. “Yeah, when you were my bratty roommate. In our dorm. Not in a conference room in the middle of Alpha, captain.”

“Hey, I didn’t stop living when I became a starship captain—”

“You both have your own quarters. Why can’t you use them?”

“Come on, it’s not as if that time in your office I didn’t notice that you basically had you hands down Spock’s pants—”

McCoy stops abruptly, causing Jim to bump into him.

“What about Spock? Are you gonna tell him?”

Jim looks at him dumbfounded.

“I don’t think he’d give a shit, but…”

“You don’t think he’d give a—Jim, really? That you and Uhura are doing it? He wouldn’t care?”

Jim gasps. “Wait. You think he has a thing for me?”

McCoy throws his hands up and starts walking again, faster.

“You mammoth size egomaniac.”

“Then what—Wait, Nyota?”

The science officer who passes them takes a look at his captain wearing an inside out command shirt sans underwear with what are probably unzipped fatigue pants and does not bat an eye. Unbelievable, this fucking ship.

“What are you talking about? They haven’t been together in years!”

“Please, go back to Uhura.”

“She told me to follow you and explain! I do what she says, do you think I’m stupid? Slow down. Did you think they might be together?”

“No. I don’t know. Maybe. I don’t care. Leave me alone, I’m traumatized.”

“You thought Spock and Nyota—”

“Jim, stop following me or I swear to god I’m gonna withhold birth control form the both of you.”

“You though they were together.” Jim’s beaming, smiling so wide that McCoy can see it through the corner of his eyes. Goddammit.

“You thought they were together, too! You’ve been bitching about how they’re together all the time for months—”

“Yeah, as friends. Come on, it was obvious. My god, I can’t believe you thought they were together. She’s gonna love it.”

“She’s not, because you’re not gonna tell her, you idiot.”

“As if I could not tell her… wait.” He jumps in front of McCoy, effectively blocking is path. “Is that why you dumped him? Because you thought he still had a thing for Nyota?”

“I—What? Is that what he told you? That it was me.”

Jim shrugs. “Kind of. He didn’t say much about it. Just that you couldn’t be happy with him, or something. Bones. Hey, Bones! Where are you going?”

He uses his override to lock the doors of lab 13, tossing the PADDs on the nearest surface (a sink, dammit). He can still hear Jim yell at him, so he activates the acoustic insulation too.

Happy.

He takes a deep breath, and then another, and then he grabs one of his PADDs, messaging Christine to make sure that Nyota does get her physical as soon as possible.

Infants, all of them. And a lying asshole. He’s stuck in space with five-hundred infants and a lying asshole.

 

~

 

Uhura chooses the treadmill next to his and it makes him uneasy, because it’s five thirty AM and there are about ten more machines currently unused, because they work out at the same time every other morning and she usually steers clear of everyone after a sleepy, cursory nod, and because the last time he saw her his best friend was kneeling between her legs and no, nope, way too soon to relieve that.

She probably just got on this treadmill because it’s in front of the porthole. That’s where she’s looking at, as she sets the speed and the belt beeps into motion. She probably just doesn’t want to watch reruns of cartoons this morning, or the news, and who can blame her, since Andoria just elected a xenophobic idiot who’s likely to blow up the whole universe as their president and—

“How’s life, Len?” Her voice is, inexplicably, not at all scratchy from sleep.

Damn her.

“Fine.” He’s cooling down to a jog, so the answer does not sound as embarrassingly out of breath as it would have even ten minutes earlier. “As good as it can be expected, given that we’re all just a couple of bolts away from dying of decompression.”

She doesn’t even bother smiling. “Listen, about the other day—”

“You were way overdue for a full physical, so it was only partially in revenge.”

She turns to look at him for the first time since entering the room. “Right. Partially.”

“Forty percent.”

She raises both eyebrows.

“Maybe sixty.”

She just stares at him.

“Fine, eighty. Anyway, now you know you’re healthy, and I know it, and we can sleep tight for twelve more months. Or until the space pox gets us.”

“I knew I was healthy before.”

She knew she was—“Oh, really? Remind me, where’s your medical degree from?”

Only one eyebrow, this time.

“Sorry,” he mutters, lowering his gaze to his monitor and slowing down to a walk.

Damn her.

“It’s not about the exam. Or the… well, you know.”

“Right.” He knows. He cannot unknow. Jesus Christ.

“Jim said that you—”

“Never believe a word Jim says.”

She finally smiles. “I don’t usually, but—”

“You shouldn’t this time, either.”

“Len.”

“Also, I think I once saw him eat a live cricket on a dare. Just so you know what’s been in that mouth.”

“I was the one who dared him, and Len, what’s this idiocy about you thinking Spock and I are together?”

His treadmill stops, signaling the end of the preset cool down period, and so does hers when she pushes the big red button in the center of her monitor.

He turns his body so that he’s facing her. She does the same and looks him straight in the eyes.

“Listen, no offense, but I’d rather take a space walk than having this conversation. Without an EVA suit.”

“Where would you even get the idea?”

He closes his eyes for a second, hoping she’ll be gone when he opens them again. She isn’t.

Well, it was a long shot.

“You are together all the time—”

“But so were we when you and he… wait. Did you think that—?”

“No! I… I don’t know. He didn’t exactly deny that... Listen, I really don’t want to talk about—”

She ignores him. “We haven’t been together like that. For years. We just couldn't. And I really… wish we could have been, because he’s just… he’s my best friend—and god knows what the hell I’m doing with Jim—” she looks away for brief moment, and the latter part is mumbled quickly, like Nyota never does, like it’s not intended for McCoy at all, “—anyway, last year, Spock seemed… happy. Well, as happy as Spock can get, especially after what happened. But when you got together he finally seemed… better. But then you broke up with him, and—”

“What is this, everyone thinking I broke up with him?”

Her eyes widen. “You didn’t?”

“I—we—not—” He takes a breath. Maybe he can crawl out of the fucking porthole and put an end to this misery. Maybe he can quit and move to Risa, and go work for one of those clinics that specialize in curing STDs and have the highest medical stuff turnover rates in the galaxy. They’d take him in a heartbeat, if he wrote on his CV that he was Jim Kirk’s personal physician for years. “Nyota, please—”

“Listen, he’s not well. He will not talk about it, but…I am all he has, me and you, I thought, but if you—”

“—let’s not—“

“—don’t care about—”

“There was nothing to break up.” It comes out much louder, and harsher than McCoy thought it would. He wipes at his face, feeling the sweat cool beneath his fingertips, trying to buy time as his heart rate slows down. “He made that abundantly clear.” He picks up a towel, drying his brow while Nyota stares at his searchingly. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, your boyfriend has decided that he wants beam down on a planet full of plants today, which means I have to go to stack my med kit with antihistamine he will refuse to let me administer, and epinephrine that I will forcefully administer when it’s almost too late.”

He has taken three steps when he feels her grip on his wrist.

“Don’t let him do this to you. To the both you. Please.”

He’s not worth it, he wishes he could tell her. Or, It’s been months. Water under the bridge and all that. Why not I think I can do better than someone who used to sleep in my quarters so often that he ended up borrowing my underwear most of the time, and now can’t even be bothered to fucking say hi to me in the turbolift. Or the plain and simple truth: We were unlikely, anyway.

“He’s not giving me a choice, Nyota.”

 

~

 

Hard to find alone, Spock.

So hard, that at a certain point in the past week McCoy has started wondering if he’s being avoided. So he’s not exactly proud of the way he lingered in the conference room after the end of the senior crew meeting, nor of the way he maneuvered himself so that he is standing between Sulu and Spock, the last person in the room, and even less of how he did a 180 degree turn to face Spock and essentially position himself between him and the only exit. Although judging from the way Spock’s eyes widen briefly, and from how they dart to the air vent on the ceiling, he might just go for some alternative escape route.

“When can we talk?”

Nyota’s words have been in his mind. A lot. And he’s not happy about it, either, so Spock can wipe that half aggravated, half condescending, half panicky expression from his face.

“We are talking right at this moment, doctor.”

Except that they’re not, and Spock is trying to walk past him, to squeeze himself in the maybe three inches McCoy left between himself and the doors—

He stops Spock with a hand on his wrist, just above the stripes on his sleeve. “You know what I mean.”

They haven’t been this close in months, and Spock smells the same way he did back then, all those mornings when McCoy would wake up to find that the pillow he’d been spooning was hot, ridiculously hot, and hogging the already flimsy Starfleet-issue blankets, so that it didn’t really leave him much of choice when it came to wrapping himself around—

“I do not.”

It’s not premeditated, but it’s also not quite by accident that his fingers slide from Spock’s sleeve to his palm. He knows what Spock likes. Hell, he discovered what Spock likes right along with him, and Spock returned the favor in full, fists clenching and breath catching and nostrils flaring, just like right now, just from McCoy’s fingers pressing patterns into his palm. It’s been so long. So long, and so draining, and McCoy’s cock is filling so fast that he can feel the blood leave his brain, and it’s not ok, because this might be what he wants right now, but what he really thinks about every fucking night, when he returns to his stupid, twenty-one degrees celsius quarters is—.

It’s not so much that he wants to fuck Spock, really.

Although, of course, it is.

But it also isn’t, in a way that has everything to do with all the moments before, and after, and in between, and if it gets mixed up with sex no one should blame him, because Spock has given him little else to hold onto. And McCoy’s mistake was to let him.

“I think you owe me five damn minutes.”

Spock inhales sharply and takes a step back, taking his hand away and looking disoriented for a fraction of second before snapping out of whatever that was.

“I must return to the bridge.”

He’s gone before McCoy’s blood can flow back to his brain, and before he can point out that he’s not even due to the bridge.

 

~

 

Fuck the Federation.

And fuck giving a shit.

But fuck Spock, really, because it if weren’t for him McCoy would never have volunteered for this away mission, and would probably be doing inventory instead of being in the middle of this clusterfuck, his ankle heavily sprained and what can only be defined as a shooting happening around them.

Jim is… They’ve lost contact with Jim about twenty minutes ago. Spock is bleeding profusely from his left arm and Hendorff from his right, and the three redshirts and two junior science officers who beamed down with them ran in the opposite directions when they were attacked with surprisingly advanced weaponry on what was supposed to be an inhabited planet. McCoy cannot help but think that when he enrolled premed at Ole Miss he thought that the hardest thing he’d have to do in his life would be passing his biochemistry requirements.

Ha.

There is not much they can do, except take repair and look at each other with alarm, hoping that the natives will stop shooting at them soon. Or, an acceptable alternative would be having their comms functioning again. Give Sulu a call. Maybe get a beam out.

McCoy’s thinking wistfully about the transporter, and that’s never a good sign.

They’ve been silent for minutes, trying not to give away their location to the natives, when Spock stops playing with the tricorder and speaks.

“The magnetic field originates from there,” he says out the blue, pointing to a brown monolith-like construction, about three hundred meters from them. It’s ugly as fuck. McCoy and Hendorff exchange a blank glance.

“That is what is preventing the communicators from functioning,” Spock explains with a hint of annoyance.

Hendorff looks at him suspiciously. “How do you know that?”

“The change in electric potential across the—”

McCoy barely resists the urge to face palm.

“Just, trust him. It’s his job to figure out shit.” He can’t resist but adding. “Of course, reading the sensors is also his job, and clearly there is a tiny thing or two that didn’t get picked up down here, so…”

Spock ignores the last bit. “We need to disable it.”

“Can we do it remotely?”

“Negative.”

“That’s just great.” His ankle is throbbing. He’s never going to use the expression ‘just a sprain’ again.

“But I can do it locally, I believe.”

“Oh, that’s fantastic. Because we absolutely have that option.” The noise of the natives’ weapons' bullets clasheing agains the piece of wall currently sheltering them is jarring and loud, just in time to underscore McCoy’s words.

Spock takes another look at the tricorder. “It is our only hope.”

“Or, we could wait for Enterprise to check in,” Hendorff says.

“We will not be at the beam out place. They will be unable to get in touch and send a team to recover us, which will be in the same conditions we are currently in.”

McCoy’s a pro at contradicting Spock, but right now there isn’t much arguing with what he’s saying.

“So, how do we disable that thing?” Hendorff asks.

McCoy looks at Spock, anxious to hear the reply, anticipating an elaborate plan involving pulleys, a catapult, and the second law of thermodynamics. And that’s when he knows.

“No.”

Spock doesn’t say anything, and just looks back and forth from their hiding place to the monolith.

“Spock. No.”

Silence.

“Are you out of you fucking mind? No.”

Spock ignores him.

“Spock. It’s certain death.”

Hendorff just looks between the two of them, confused. “What? What are you—?”

“Spock, we’ll never make it there, they are shooting at us—.”

“If I go alone, there is a twenty-three point two percent probability that I reach the construction safely.”

McCoy just stares at him. “You’re not going.” See, this is why he needs to volunteer for these shitty missions. To make sure that this asshole doesn’t kill himself.

Spock looks at Hendorrf. “Lieutenant, I estimate that if I succeed the comms will be active in seven point three minutes. The doctor is not currently able to walk, so make sure that you remain with him at all—”

“Spock, you’re not going fucking anywhere and that’s a goddamn order.”

Spock is staring at him, now, and his expression is…

“No.”

Apologetic. He looks sorry, and he should fucking feel sorry, because he’s giving McCoy a fucking heart attack.

“I swear to god, if you take one single step away from here—”

He sees them before he can feel them, Spock’s fingers coming to rest on his own, covered in grime and blood from at least two different people. And when he does feel them, it’s not—not only—on his skin. It bleeds into him from the point of contact, and within the white noise —angry, yes Spock is angry but that’s not the half of it, the aching isolation, the hopelessness, the loss, the fear at the senselessness of what happened to him, to all of them— it’s there, clearly distinguishable, a tendril of something else, that stirs and unfurls and reaches out and recognizes the very same in McCoy. Wraps itself around it.

“Please. Please, don’t.”

Spock is already gone.

 

~

 

Beside the current one, Spock has been in exactly four healing trances since the mission started, and what never ceases to amaze McCoy is how he exits each one in the absolute opposite way he wakes up from regular sleep. No bleary-eyed blinks, or burrowing in blankets and tucking his face into whatever—or whomever—is closest and warmest. No fluttering eyelashes, or silent yawns, or that tired disorientation McCoy used to take advantage of to make sure Spock got enough rest.

Go back to sleep. You have two hours before Alpha.

As usual, Spock’s eyes just slam open without any forewarning, full of questions and a touch of apprehension. He looks first to the left (the bulkhead) and then to the right, taking in the tray full of hypos, the IV fluid he’s not currently—yet—hooked on, and then McCoy, sitting on a chair a few feet from the biobed, the PADD in his lap purely for show. Spock’s gaze linger on his face for a minute, focusing on his cheeks in particular, and if Spock brings up the clean shave regs again, god help him because McCoy is gonna inject him with all the strains of syphilis he can get his hands on.

Wisely, uncharacteristically, Spock remains silent and lifts himself up to one elbow.

“Jim's stable and on the mend. You were in a trance for thirteen point… I have no clue, more than thirteen, less than fourteen hours. There were no casualties on the planet, although I had to reknit a couple of tendons and regenerate what was probably a metric cube of skin, and Hendorff's left lung is currently regrowing. Reports have been sent to HQ by Scotty, but written by Sulu, who, lemme tell ya, should really be third in command because Scotty could not give fewer fucks about being in charge or making decisions here. Your crucial experiments on… the spider’s cardiovascular’s system, I’m guessing, are currently being monitored by Lieutenant Hernandez, I’m told.”

Spock blinks exactly zero times throughout the speech.

“How are you?”

This is possibly the least funny situation McCoy’s ever been in, but he cannot stop a laugh from bubbling out. “How am I—Just peachy, Spock. Just peachy. How’re you doing? Good as new, right?”

Spock hesitates for a moment. “I am at peak efficiency.”

McCoy nods. “Good. Good.”

Spock eyes him suspiciously. “Indeed.”

McCoy nods some more. “You know, that was a pretty brave thing you did down there. They’re gonna give another commendation you don’t give a shit about, stuff like that. Fearless, Sulu wrote in the report.” Selfless, also. And something about the risk to his life. McCoy’s not sure, since he stopped reading about halfway through, palms sweaty and heart drumming in his ears.

He leans forward.

“But I know better. I know that you’re scared shitless.”

Spock’s fingers tighten imperceptibly on the blanket Christine threw on him a on hour five or so. McCoy had jolted awake at the feeling of his hand, wrapped around Spock’s wrist, being suddenly covered with synthetic cotton.

“You're so scared of yourself, and of me, and of me seeing what’s inside you, that you'd throw yourself into certain death before sitting down to talk with me with five minutes.” Spock’s eyes are islands. “And I don’t know how I didn’t realize it right away.”

Of course, it’s not McCoy that Spock’s terrified of. It’s something else altogether, that McCoy just happens to be caught in.

A blessed curse, if he’s ever seen one.

His tone is low as he looks at Spock. “I can’t figure this out for you, Spock. But I can help you.” He pauses, and he can hear steps heading in their direction. Spock hasn’t moved one single muscle in minutes. “I want to help you.”

“Doctor, the captain just regained consciousness—Commander! How are you feeling?”

“He’s feeling like shit, and don’t believe him if he says otherwise.” McCoy picks up one hypo from the tray and hands it Chapel as he stands. “If he tries to leave the room, inject him with this. It should be powerful enough to make him collapse on the spot like a sack of potatoes. Should that happen, do not drag him up to a biobed, please. Leave him on the floor at the mercy of the elements, and do let his subordinates take pictures of him.”

“Um… Aye, sir.”

He throws Spock one last, smug smile. “Nice to see you alive despite your best efforts, Commander Idiot”

As he walks to Jim’s bedside, he thinks that he might have forgotten to add the most important thing.

 

I’m scared, too.

 

 

~

 

He hears someone approaching and speaks without turning.

“Hikaru, I’m afraid there isn't much I can do about this. We know how to cure chlamydia in pretty much every sentient specie in the universe, but I’m not sure moss qualifies—oh. Hey.”

He recognizes Spock when his uniform sleeve enters his field of view—there’s only one full commander in the science division on board—and turns his head a little to look at him. He looks much better than a couple of days before, when McCoy discharged him. The light in the arboretum is different from the one in rest of the ship, a little softer, more natural, and it makes Spock look really…

Edible.

Even after everything. All the more, actually.

He must have been staring a little, because there is a dusting of green on Spock’s cheekbones. “How did the moss contract chlamydia?”

“Yeah. That’s a question for the ages.”

“Is not sexual contact necessary?”

“Yep.”

“Does that mean than the moss—?”

“Don’t know. But whatever happened, it sure wasn’t consensual.”

Spock frowns. “But who—?”

“Spock, just… You don’t wanna go there, believe me.”

Spock actually lets it go, looking a little queasy.

“Will it recover?”

“Not sure. Probably not. I’m not that good a physician, unfortunately.”

Spock remains silent.

“What? Nothing to add?”

“What would you like me to say?”

“I dunno. ‘I agree with you for once, doctor’? ‘I cannot believe I lived to hear that, doctor’? ‘Finally a logical statement, doctor’?”

“It appears that my contribution to this conversation is superfluous.”

“It kind of is. Wanna make yourself useful and help me break the news to Sulu that the moss should get its affairs in order?”

“Negative.”

“I thought so. Anyway. Did you need anything?”

The lag between McCoy’s question and Spock’s answer is too lengthy for Spock’s hesitant “No” to be in any way sincere.

Which is why McCoy makes a split-second decision and stops him when he makes to turn around and leave the arboretum, in an obvious attempt to get away from McCoy and to forget about this. To go back where he came from, presumably, to his duty, and his monitoring, and his experiments, and the life he must have made for himself in the past few months on board of this ship. A life in which McCoy has no part, but that he can nonetheless imagine pretty well, since it can’t be that much different from his own.

Since the guy’s sleeping with his goddamn ugly sweater.

“Spock.” McCoy forces himself not to add for fuck’s sake, and catches his sleeve, tugging a little. It’s barely a grip, undemanding, not meant to chain, but to encourage.

Spock’s chin dips and his eyes drop, studying the tip of their boots. “You said…”

McCoy waits several moments, but Spock leaves the sentence like that, pending in the scent of the flowers.

“As we’ve all been informed of ad nauseam, you have an eidetic memory. I know what I said, and I know you remember correctly.”

Spock swallows, but he lifts his eyes and at least now he’s looking at McCoy. His voices is low when speaks, vulnerable in a way McCoy cannot recall hearing before. A first for them, for sure.

“You do not know what is inside of me.”

McCoy snorts. He doesn’t know, but he has a clue.

He doesn’t know, but he wants to.

“I’m assuming it’s mostly green sludge and misplaced internal organs.”

Spock smiles his non smile, and something heavy and thick dissolves in McCoy’s chest. Or in Spock’s. McCoy’s not sure it matter anymore.

He allows his hand to slide downward, reaching for Spock’s wrist, encircling it gently in his fingers, savoring the difference in temperature between their skin. Slowly, as if trying not scare him, he brings Spock's hand up to his face.

“You want to show me?”

Spock nods once, and shifts his fingers in position.