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Reaching for the Sky Just to Surrender

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When McCoy swam back to consciousness and cracked open a bleary eye, it was to the sight of Jim Kirk in his cadet reds marching around McCoy’s bedroom throwing clothes in laundry baskets, organizing a bunch of medpadds, and generally tidying up.

“Jim,” he meant to say, but it came out more like, “Mrluaagh.” The breath leaving his body somehow made him think he could actually feel his organs shutting down. He groaned like a zombie cow. Again.

Jim looked up, thick brows raised skyward. He paused with an empty bottle of Pap McCoy’s 140-proof moonshine in one hand and an empty bottle of smuggled Romulan ale in the other.

“You’re up,” he said, shoulders sloping downward. It hurt too much to think, but for a fleeting moment McCoy couldn’t believe the kid hadn’t shouted “Bonesy!” into his ear while jostling him up to come play.

“Damnit, Jim,” McCoy ground out past the rancid rot that had taken up residence in his mouth. “I was saving those for a special occasion.”

The blue eyes too vivid for such an early morning darted away, and Jim turned back around and set the bottles down carefully in a corner. When he straightened and faced McCoy again, he had a glass of water in hand and McCoy’s own special blend hangover hypo.

“Here,” he said. “You have to drink all of that.” He pushed the glass into McCoy’s hand and actually curled McCoy’s fingers around the cool curve of it.

“Not an invalid,” McCoy grumbled. He sat up with a pained, involuntary moan.

“Just drink it.”

As McCoy did his level best to drink and not vomit at the same time, he felt Jim’s weight settle on the edge of his tiny twin. When he came up for air, he found Jim sitting beside him, elbows on knees, hands clasped, staring at the floor while a tick in his jaw betrayed his tense grinding. McCoy pressed the hypo into his own arm and felt at once the cool rush of relief it provided. He ought to get around to patenting that. But the hypo did nothing for the way his diaphragm tightened as he watched Jim sit there so stiff, so unsmiling.

“Who died?” he asked.

Jim just shook his head and when he met McCoy’s gaze, his mouth flattened and the corners of his eyes pinched.

“So do you want to hear my theory?” Jim asked.

McCoy felt his face contort into a twisted scowl. “About what?”

“Do you want to hear it or not? I’ll give you a hint: you don’t have a choice.”

“Jim, goddamnit—” Jim pushed him down with a hard, insistent hand when he tried to get up.

“No, you listen to me.” Jim took the glass from McCoy’s grip. McCoy saw him clench both hands around it. Jim was facing forward again, and McCoy could see only his profile, marred by old acne scars. He turned away, faced forward too. In the far corner by the empties there lay a ragged towel that had seen better days. He couldn’t remember anything from the previous night, but he’d had enough of the same to realize that he’d gotten sloppy again and Jim had probably found him like that, stayed over, cleaned him up, cleaned up after him. A groan threatened to burble out from his chest again.

“Look, Jim, I really appreciate—”

“Bones. Let me talk.”

McCoy shut his mouth, rubbed a hand over his face. A day’s worth of stubble was rough on his palm.

“The thing is,” Jim began haltingly, “people have this idea of what an alcoholic is, right? Like, an old man in a stained wife-beater eating TV dinners and drinking by himself. Or a suburban housewife with the roomy air car and the uninterested husband and the fourth mimosa at noon. No one ever looks at a young guy, a smart, fit, functional guy, and goes ‘he’s got a real problem.’”

“Jim—”

“No, there are always excuses for a guy like that. ‘He’ll grow out of it,’ or ‘it’s just social,’ or ‘it only happens once in a while.’ And so no one does anything.”

McCoy found himself staring at the square line of Jim’s mandible. Everything else fuzzed out, became a blurry, distanced background. Jim’s voice was brittle in his ears.

“I’ve done the ‘stand around wringing your hands hoping he’ll come to his senses’ thing. The ‘it’s not really my problem’ thing. And you know what it got me, Bones?” Jim punched his shoulder a little too hard. “You know what it got me?”

McCoy forced himself to meet blazing blue eyes, and he shook his head.

“A dead fucking brother is what it got me,” Jim snapped. Quickly he turned back around, ducked his head and squeezed his eyes shut. He drew in a sharp, audible breath. McCoy felt his own throat threaten to close around something thick that had risen in his gullet, totally unlike any mess in the corner. In the year of their acquaintance, this was the first he’d heard of a brother, but he found he couldn’t even open his mouth to ask all the questions that bobbed up, inappropriate and inconvenient. “So the thing of it, Bones, is that I can’t watch it happen again. I can’t let it happen again. Do you understand?”

The blood in McCoy’s ears was loud, but not loud enough to drown out Jim Kirk and the tenacious thread in his voice.

“Jim, look, I’m sorry you had to take care of me,” McCoy said. “I’ll do better next time.”

Jim stood. He moved to McCoy’s chest of drawers and yanked out a pair of sweats to hand to him. McCoy finally realized he was naked, and fresh shame brought a hot blush to his face. He hoped the stubble might hide it, but he didn’t exactly live on hope.

“Your last exam is on Thursday.” Jim ignored the wild eyebrow McCoy sent him as he laid out some more casual clothes. “I pulled some strings, called in a few favors, hacked a few program rosters, but I fixed it so you don’t have med rotation duty hours for the whole summer, and I got you into that swank recovery clinic outside of Oakland. Starting Thursday night, you have a bed there.” Jim checked his chrono. “I’ve got my Tactics final soon and then Ethics, and then I’ve got to hole up in the library for like, three solid days. So I might not see you before you go.” He hovered in the doorway. “Bones?” he asked then. He sounded very much like the child McCoy could no longer pretend he was.

McCoy made some kind noise that he supposed sounded enough like a prompt, because in response, Jim said, “Don’t fuck this up.”

And then he was gone.

McCoy was sober for one-thousand, four-hundred and ninety-two days before he fell off the wagon. Actually, he didn’t so much fall off as he took a running leap and swan dived spectacularly into the floor of the seediest bar he could find on Wrigley’s. He wasn’t necessarily thinking about anyone or anything besides the incredible pressure that had been building under his skin since the mission launched. All he could think was that he knew how to make that heat stop, and why shouldn’t he?

It would be easy to say there was something that set him off. Something simple. The latest transmission from his ex, or how Joanna refused to talk to him because she was going through a shy phase and ‘couldn’t abide strangers,’ as Jocelyn termed it with an apologetic shrug. The slow, excruciating way Ensign Rivers had died the day before while McCoy looked on, helpless but to watch as the parasites ravaged her body. The constipated bureaucracy of running medbay, how the unnavigable and unending paperwork often kept him from doing his real job. Jim’s latest attempt at blowing himself up in the name of peaceful exploration. The fact that he couldn’t find the engraved copy of the Hippocratic Corpus that his father had given him when he graduated Ole Miss, even when he ransacked his quarters.

But it would never be that simple. It was everything, it was nothing. It was the fact that it didn’t matter how much time passed, he still longed for a drink at night, in the morning, when something bad happened, when something good happened, when he was breathing. It was the fact that he’d just plain buckled.

He probably should have expected the cavalry, would have if he’d had a brain in his head, but all he had was a classic bottle of Terran bourbon he’d drained by his damn self. So when Jim and Spock arrived, he was surprised. Or, he would have been, if he were coherent and able to blink both of his eyes at the same time. He was only distantly aware of them hauling him up and dragging him out of the bar while he hurled abuse at them.

When he came back to life again, he found himself on his back on a cot in his own sickbay, a saline drip keeping him hydrated. Partitions were up all around him and he heard the steady, pessimistic beat of his own vital signs. The worst thing of all was that Spock sat in a chair beside his bedside, upright and poised as ever, datapadd and stylus in hand.

“What,” McCoy croaked, and hoped it was enough.

Brown eyes flickered over him. Spock laid down the padd and stylus and pulled his chair closer to the edge of the cot. He linked his hands together in his lap like someone’s prim maiden aunt.

“Dr. M’Benga performed gastric lavage on you due to your imminent poisoning by alcohol.”

McCoy blinked a lot until the gum on his eyelids cleared away. “He pumped my stomach?” His voice felt like broken glass ground in asphalt.

“Affirmative.”

McCoy ran his tongue over his teeth. They were fuzzy. His brain wasn’t exactly performing at its level best, but Spock’s presence baffled the hell out of him; what did an emotionless drone care if he got obliterated, if he finally succeeded in destroying himself? He probably thought it was all so illogical and couldn’t pass up an opportunity to insult him while he was down. The effort to scowl was too much, though, so McCoy just asked, “So why’re you here?”

“The Captain is having a curious emotional response to finding you as we did.” Spock’s tone was maddeningly mild, and if he’d had the strength, McCoy was fairly certain he’d leap off the bed and strangle him until he turned forest green. “When we carried you from the establishment you’d chosen, his skin was touching mine. I identified anger, but also betrayal and hurt, and they were overwhelming, particularly when you began to spout invective at him. Truly, Doctor, the multivalence of human emotion is fascinating.”

McCoy closed his eyes and shifted more firmly onto his back so he wouldn’t have to look at Spock at all. He sneered.

“So what, you’re here to berate me on Jim’s behalf? Spare me that special brand of bullshit, Spock, and get the hell out.”

“I decline. I find you particularly stimulating company when you are thus agitated. It is worthy of further examination.”

McCoy snarled and threw off the hospital sheet. He twisted enough to face Spock with his most fearsome grimace.

“Now you listen to me, you pompous, supercilious jackass, you have no right to judge my goddamn choices and what I do with my body. And you have no right to be here rifling through my private goddamn medical file, and you don’t get to sit there and talk to me like I’m some kind of lower life form you scraped off your shoe on an uncharted planet! So get. The hell. Out!” Sweat sprang up along his hairline, and he slumped back into the cot, chest heaving.

Spock stared at him with that stony, unflappable face of his. McCoy couldn’t parse a single thing out about what he was thinking, and it put him on edge. He hated Spock in that moment. Hated his aplomb and equanimity. Hated the crawling, suffocating guilt that penetrating gaze ignited in his gut.

Abruptly Spock stood and gathered his padd up under his arm. A white poker chip seemed to appear in his hand out of nowhere and he brandished it in front of McCoy’s face. Handwritten on it in thick black permanent marker was a numeral: 1.

“I have heard that among your people, you approach these matters, as they say, ‘one day at a time.’ I will be in your quarters at nineteen hundred hours tomorrow night, and at that time you will have earned this.” Spock tucked the poker chip back to wherever it had come from, and he disappeared behind the partitions with his usual efficiency of movement.

McCoy just closed his eyes.

Jim could be a wily bastard when he wanted to be. After he was discharged the next morning, McCoy couldn’t pin Jim down all day. If he visited the bridge, the captain was checking up on engineering. If he trekked down to the bowels of the ship, he’d just missed him. If he checked each observation deck, each department, each nook and cranny he’d ever found Jim in before, it was mysteriously Jim-free, and of course the ship’s computer had been tampered with to disallow captain identification without an override code that McCoy didn’t have. Finally, some hours after alpha shift had finished, McCoy decided just to camp out outside the door to Jim’s quarters. He had to come home sometime.

McCoy was off-duty, but he sat there catching up on paperwork on a padd while he waited. He grumbled the whole way through. He was deeply involved in contemplation of transporter liability as it pertained to what he’d been calling “rematerialization sickness,” which struck about every one in seventy-five otherwise smooth instances of beaming. The brass had decided to sniff around his findings on it, but instead of making the effort to improve transporter technology, they seemed to want to skewer him to a bulkhead for doing his damn job. He was fairly sure his blood pressure was steadily ticking upward when he finally heard the familiar cadence of Jim’s approaching footsteps. He stood, scrambling to save everything and shut down his padd, and when Jim rounded the corner, McCoy met pursed lips, downward sloping brows and narrowed eyes that peered at him with suspicion.

“What do you want, Bones?”

McCoy adjusted his padd under his arm. He swallowed. “I just wanted to tell you I was sorry you had to see me like that.”

Jim tensed up and stepped toward him in an uncomfortably intimate proximity. The frown on his face proved an ugly gash.

“Four years, Bones. Four fucking years down the drain, and all you’re sorry about is that I had to see you like that? Jesus Christ.” He shook his head and shouldered McCoy out of the way as he stepped up to the door of his quarters. Without looking back at him, Jim said, “You don’t get it at all. And frankly, Dr. McCoy, until you do, you need to stay out of my line of vision.” He strode inside and when the doors slid shut, McCoy heard Jim’s voice call out for the locking mechanism.

A heaviness settled in the pit of McCoy’s stomach, and almost instantly it morphed into anger. He threw the padd against the corridor bulkheads and it landed on the deck with an anti-climactic thunk. He wondered if replicators produced anything better than the vile, skunk-tasting synthehol they used to. The technology was always improving exponentially; things were obsolete as soon as he got his hands on them, and ancient by the time he got savvy. In any case, there was no better time than the present to find out about what a replicator could do, he supposed.

But when he got to his quarters, there sat at his worktable a Vulcan with a rigid spine and infuriating sense of placidity.

McCoy froze at the sight of him. “Spock.” He’d arranged… tea. A fragrant mug of the hot stuff for himself, steam curling upward, and a tall frosty glass of the cold kind complete with lemon wedge at the seat across from him, presumably for McCoy. There were even little tea biscuits.

Spock inclined his head. “Doctor. I had wondered whether you’d forgotten our appointment.”

“Get out, Spock. I’m not up for your superiority complex today.” McCoy turned his back to him to punch in an order of something hair-curling from the replicator.

“You’ll find, Doctor, that your replicator will now produce no form of alcohol, even vanilla extract. When you input your code into the public replicators in the mess and recreation halls, you will find the same result. I do apologize for the inconvenience.”

McCoy felt himself go hot and turn an apoplectic red all over. He threw his padd down again. “Goddamnit Spock! Get the hell out! Just who in the hell do you think you are, coming into my quarters, messing with my life!”

Wordlessly Spock produced the white poker chip he’d shown McCoy the day before and slid it across the table with one fingertip. It sat next to the glass of sweet tea, which gleamed with condensation.

“I am Spock, and I have been sober for twelve years.”

McCoy’s jaw went slack. All his muscles loosened, and he sank into the chair in front of the sweet tea. He grunted out something unintelligible; even he didn’t know what he’d meant to say.

“Is that the proper format for opening discussion?” Spock asked, eyebrow arching. “I admit I gleaned this information from the intranet and spoke to no one about it. Therefore you may feel the need to correct me should I breech some form of etiquette I am ignorant of.”

“It’s fine,” McCoy said, voice gruff. “That’s how it goes, yeah.”

Spock gave a single nod. “It was different, on Vulcan-past. Less… merciful.”

“What was….” McCoy blew out a frustrated huff of breath. “I mean, I have your medical file memorized backwards and forwards, and there’s no mention…”

Dark eyelashes fluttered as Spock broke his gaze from McCoy’s and cast it to the table between them. He was warming his hands on the mug.

“There would be none,” he said. “I had checked into a private facility on Vulcan-past, and only they would have any record of my time there. But such a facility no longer exists, so I suppose all incriminating evidence is gone.” Spock straightened and made eye contact. “It was not alcohol. It was a Vulcan-specific pharmaceutical narcotic called tehn-por’sen — perhaps you have heard of it?”

McCoy tightened his hand around the glass of sweet tea. He clenched his jaw. “Well, sure. It’s something someone with a huge rod up his ass invented to keep your Vulcan emotions suppressed by force. It’s a depressant, and a goddamned travesty.”

Spock sat back and crossed his legs. McCoy just watched him breathe for a while. Awkward minutes ticked past until finally Spock began to speak again.

“Healers prescribe it rarely, usually for times of great turmoil, such as the death of a bondmate. I’ve heard from my father that there has been a sharp increase in tehn-por’sen production and consumption since the death of Vulcan-past. If carefully controlled, it can provide a measure of peace until one’s own emotional control can be balanced through the usual methods of acknowledgment, integration and meditation. Following an incident involving an outburst in which I caused another boy injury in my pre-adolescence, I was prescribed tehn-por’sen at my father’s insistence and against my mother’s wishes. He was…a very forceful man, in those days. Very imposing, and not a man to defy.”

“Christ, Spock.”

“It deadened all I felt. I was curiously empty, my body finally a mere vessel for my mind, as I believed it should have been from my earliest memories. Even tastes became inconsequential. Nothing mattered. And finally, finally I was Vulcan.” Spock’s eyes cut to his. The brown was a deep, lighted caramel. “Do you understand, Leonard?”

Inside his chest, McCoy’s heart ached. His stomach lurched. Dumbfounded, he nodded.

“I was supposed to wean myself off of it after a period of six standard months,” Spock continued. “I was thirteen Earth years old, and I simply chose not to. I…believed that I was choosing the Vulcan way. I believed I had to choose which side of my heritage to accept and which to deny, and that this was the means through which I could enact that choice. But it was soon not enough. I needed more, and more. Tehn-por’sen is not meant for long-term use, and those emotions I sought to suppress became stronger, more difficult to tame. They are not meant to be banished, Leonard, they are meant to be understood and controlled, but I had chosen a means of control that had no hope for longevity. That my dosage kept growing due to increasing tolerance, that my dependence no doubt damaged my internal organs, was a secret between my healer and me alone. In retrospect, I believe she must have been… cautious about turning away an ambassador’s son, and doubly cautious about approaching said ambassador about an increasingly troubling chemical dependency.” Spock paused. “And I am supposed to tell you about ‘rock bottom,’ is that correct? The moment of my lowest debasement?”

McCoy took in a deep breath. It cleansed none of the disquiet that had gathered about his lungs. “You don’t have to, Spock. I get it.”

“I will tell you. I wish for you to know.”

McCoy passed a hand over his forehead. Wearily he nodded. “Go on, then.”

Spock took a demure sip of his tea. When he set down the mug, his chest expanded and contracted with a deep breath. “When I was eighteen standard years old, I declined my place at the Vulcan Science Academy in favor of Starfleet, largely due to an insult leveled at my parentage. Upon my return to my father’s house, he cast me out and declared that he had no son. My mother wept and begged him to recant, but he was not to be moved. I took clothing and my cache of tehn-por’sen and I checked into the hotel closest to the spaceport, intending to leave for Earth immediately. In my room, I felt rage and despair, and their intensity was beyond anything I had experienced up to that point in my life. It was… intolerable. I cannot recall now if I justified my actions through a…stretching, if you will, of logic, but it was then that I took all of the tehn-por’sen I had. All of it. When I awoke, I was in Shi’kahr National Hospital, having been discovered asphyxiating on my own vomit in the hotel room by an employee who went to investigate the sound of my body dropping to the floor. My kidneys had shut down, but I was young, and had not completely destroyed them though I had spent almost six years abusing them to the best of my ability. When I was discharged, I checked myself into a private facility, where I was kept in isolation until withdrawal was complete. I… I do not wish to speak of my time there.”

McCoy stared at him. Spock was stone-still, a pale, porcelain sculpture who sat unmoving before him, all angles and sharp slopes and contained power. He looked… strong. Unbowed. Undefeated. And McCoy envied the hell out of him.

“Do you still think about it?” he asked after a long silence. “The tehn-por’sen. Do you still… want it?”

Spock met his eyes. He cocked his head, just the tiniest bit.

“Every day, Leonard.”

The next day, McCoy gave M’Benga no trouble when he came to his quarters to compel him to get counseling. There was no official report of McCoy’s disorderliness filed, but apparently in his absence M’Benga and Jim had worked out a deal that in order to remain chief medical officer of the Enterprise, McCoy had to agree to see Dr. Chowdhry, ship’s counselor, twice a week for three months. M’Benga seemed on the verge of checking him for a concussion before he left, McCoy’s signature on his padd without a peep in protest.

Every morning, McCoy woke up and groped around on his bedside table for the chip Spock had given him. When he found it, he rubbed at the number until he felt human enough to get up and go about his business. The ink was almost completely rubbed away.

Exactly one week after their first meeting, McCoy found Spock in his quarters again with the tea spread and a new chip, a blue one marked with a seven. McCoy closed his hand around it, felt the gentle bite of the ridge edges on his palm.

“You don’t have to make these, you know,” he told him.

Spock gave a delicate shrug; it was a habit that McCoy hadn’t known he had, and he found it, against his better judgement, endearing. A trace of Spock’s humanity, along with the curve of his cheek, the warm brown of his eyes.

“I am given to understand that humans occasionally require symbolic gestures. I am endeavoring to respect your culture.”

McCoy made a “hmmph” sound and muttered, “There’s a first.” He palmed the blue chip anyway. The white and blue fit together, rudimentary gears. Clicking them together again and again gave him something to do with his hands.

A silence settled over them. McCoy knew it was his turn; it was only fair. But there was still something uneasy about exposing his low down soul rot to this upright pillar of logic and righteousness. Except Spock had proven himself otherwise. Had proven himself as human — as flawed — as anyone else. As flawed, perhaps, as Leonard. Spock sat across from him doing nothing, content to wait him out. McCoy sighed; he supposed there’d be no winning a stubborn contest with a Vulcan.

“When I hit bottom, I found out there’s always more bottom to get to,” he said at last. “There’s no telling how low you’ll get.” He had told Spock, last week, about what Jim had done for him, about how grateful he was, but also how obligated it had made him. He told Spock that even now, this wasn’t a choice he had made for himself — it was a choice Jim made, Spock made, M’Benga made for him. He told Spock, in the newfound quiet space that no one else had to know lay between them, that he was unsure that he could ever be sober forever, because it had never been his choice to be sober in the first place. He’d warned Spock not to get his hopes up. Spock, predictably, had only arched an eyebrow at him and declared himself free of such pithy human things as “hopes.”

Spock looked at him, expectant. A lesser man may have prompted him, but Spock only studied McCoy’s face. McCoy imagined he could feel those eyes on him sure as hands, searching for meaning. McCoy exhaled and focused on a ding on the surface of his worktable. He couldn’t bear to look Spock in the face when he told him.

“After my dad died I crawled into the bottom of a bottle and didn’t leave it for weeks. Joanna was a new thing, all squirmy and baby-smelling. After a while, I finally cleaned myself up, looked respectable, convinced Joce we could give it another go. Played with my baby girl. Took holovids of her. Stared at her for hours because I was amazed that this whole person had come from me and her pretty momma. Then one night Joce wanted to get out of the house, see some of her friends. She hadn’t had a break since Jo was born, and she was already eight months old. We fought because I was a damned fool-headed son of a bitch who didn’t know what to do with a baby on my own, and I couldn’t see how badly I was treating my own wife. She went out anyway, stormed out, I guess, and she left me with the baby. And I. Jesus, Spock, I did the worst thing. The worst thing.”

McCoy clenched the chips in his fist. He hazarded a glance up at Spock, and he didn’t know whether he wanted condemnation or absolution from him. But Spock only cocked his head, eyes sympathetic. Compassionate. McCoy’s innards contracted at the realization.

“You’re going to hate me for this,” McCoy said, planting his elbows on the table and hunching inward. “Hell, I hate me for this.”

“I assure you, Leonard—”

“Yeah, yeah, hate’s an emotion you can’t compute, blah blah blah.”

“No, Leonard. I have known hate.” Spock’s fine brows drew downward. He almost had an expression, and it was almost empathy. “I acknowledge that I feel nothing but admiration at your strength.”

McCoy felt his heart stutter. He drew up from his habitual slouch, straightened his spine to exacting Vulcan standards.

“I decided I’d have one drink to calm my nerves after the fight. But. One drink is never one drink for me, especially back then. I decided I’d have a drink, and I’d play with the baby in bed with the holovision on — something kid-friendly, you know, with people in animal suits or lots of animation or something. I had a drink, I had another drink, I had the whole bottle of whatever the hell it was. I fell asleep.” Only force of will kept his eyes on Spock’s, a lifeline. “When Joce came home she found Joanna on the floor screaming. She’d fallen. She’d broken her arm. Joce got my parental rights severed that night easy as pie, and you know what, Spock?”

Spock shook his head. McCoy poured some sweet tea down his parched throat. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

“I never contested it,” McCoy said. “Not once. Because I didn’t deserve to be that sweet baby’s father. And it wasn’t a wake-up call, Spock, it wasn’t some kind of magical light in my brain that clicked and said ‘this is how bad it can get.’ I didn’t ‘seek help,’ I didn’t get better. I got worse and worse and worse. Oh, I could make it through a day — people at the clinic I worked at were none the wiser, asking me how my mother was doing, my baby. But I’d get back to the room I rented and get annihilated every single night. And look at me now.” Anger boiled up, hot and cruel, and he snarled, threw the chips Spock had made right back at him. “More’n five years since I ruined my own life and all I’ve got is a poker chip says I’ve managed not to drink myself into a coma for a whole damn week. Bully for me!” He pounded his fist against the worktable. “Even got a goddamned Vulcan to feel sorry for me.” He scowled as hard as he could and shoved his fists under his armpits, but Spock only looked at him dispassionately.

“Truly, Leonard, your capacity for self-pity is staggering.”

McCoy’s jaw dropped. “Hey! What about ‘admiring my strength,’ you total liar!”

Spock stacked the poker chips and pushed them back to McCoy’s side of the table with one fingertip.

“To admire you is not to be blind to your faults, Leonard,” he said, all even-toned. “You are quick to anger and offense, and you readily display both guilt and defensiveness, enough even for one such as I to identify without the benefit of touch. In the throes of your addiction, you committed reprehensible acts; so have we all. You hurt the ones you hold in high esteem. So have we all. What makes your offense so great, Leonard, that you deserve neither health nor happiness in its wake?”

“You don’t understand.”

“On the contrary, Leonard, I understand perfectly,” Spock said. “I am, in fact, the only senior crew member with any ability to comprehend your difficulties from personal experience. That is why we’re here, the two of us, with our tea.” With a funny sort of daintiness Spock lifted his mug to his lips. “Now I will tell you how my mother learned of my ‘suicide attempt’ from an indiscreet nurse, and you will eat your shortbread and listen to me.”

McCoy sagged in his chair. When Spock began to speak in his usual level intonations, low voice dark and rich, McCoy let himself settle into it. He took a bite of his cookie.

Weeks passed, McCoy collected chips. Jim avoided him, Spock didn’t. Every day, McCoy thought about raiding Scotty’s illegal still, every day he steered clear of engineering. Soon, he found himself in Spock’s quarters, or Spock in his, on days not designated for their clandestine little poker chip meetings. On these days, they programmed juices from the replicators — all different kinds from all over the galaxy, with varying levels of success. McCoy laughed, Spock looked at him. They didn’t talk about addiction.

He told Spock about his parents, his sisters and cousins. His Nan. His first kiss. His appendectomy at age sixteen. The petty tyrant of a professor he had his second year at med school. The first patient who died under his hands on the table. The day Joanna was born.

Spock told him about how bad he had been at sand sculpture, how his mother displayed his lopsided, crumbling projects in the sitting rooms anyway. He told him about a sehlat he used to have, and how he’d sleep against him at night, listening to his heartbeat. He told him about his nudist roommate at the academy, and the innumerable hours he spent staring out the window up at Vulcan his first year.

Sometimes, they told each other about Jim. Sometimes, they worked on their padds. Sometimes, the only words that passed between them were greetings and farewells.

On the far-flung colony of Maris V, where six generations of humans had made their lives in relative peace, McCoy watched his captain, his best friend, stumble out of a medical building, drop to his knees and vomit so violently that his body appeared to be convulsing with the effort. Spock stepped out of the doors, face white, and McCoy watched as he weighed his options and chose, after palpable seconds spent in deliberation, to lay one of those big hands of his between Jim’s shoulder blades. As he rubbed idly, as Jim panted and heaved, Spock turned his face toward Leonard.

“You knew,” he said. His voice shook, just barely. It gave McCoy no satisfaction. “You knew what they were doing here. That is why you insisted upon your inclusion in the away team.”

McCoy knelt beside his commanding officers. They had run in like big damn heroes before he could even shake off that nauseating “just-beamed” feeling, so he’d waited outside for the inevitable fallout, and here it was. He rummaged in his medkit for hydration and anti-nausea hypos. He stuck Jim with both and didn’t even get a complaint for his troubles. Jim just slumped face-first against the wall of the building he’d exited so dramatically, drained.

“I had my suspicions,” McCoy said. “I’d read about cases like this before. Sometimes human nature is both ugly and predictable.”

“Admiral Pike was exceedingly vague both in explanation and in instruction,” Spock said. “An illogical human habit meant to protect others from unsavory dealings, but which in turn causes more damage than being direct would have.”

Pike had said, with a deepening frown, that he’d had strange reports from Maris V. He’d said that the colonists were requesting new volunteers — women only. He had told Jim and Spock to go investigate the colonists’ needs. Vague, yes, but also unmistakable in its meaning, at least in McCoy’s mind. And maybe he’d expected something less egregious from a sleepy colony that had never made or found any trouble for itself, but he was not surprised by what they’d found here: no females under the age of twenty, and the open secret of selective infanticide.

McCoy pressed his lips together and sent Spock his hairiest eyeball. “If that’s your version of asking how I knew, you copper-blooded gremlin, just call it good old human intuition and don’t analyze it too much.” McCoy stood and brushed the dirt from his knees. Jim turned over and sat, back against the wall. He was sweaty and pink, and he looked beseechingly up at McCoy.

“I’ll be fine in a minute.” He waved Spock off. Spock sat back on his heels, kept his hands to himself, but didn’t leave his side. “But. McCoy. You gotta go back in there.”

“I know it, Jim,” he said. “Where do you think I’m going?” He adjusted his medkit and tricorder on their straps and held his phaser at the ready, and he made his way into the building alone.

Deep into the labyrinth he finally found a door marked “recovery room” and cautiously pushed inside. The facilities were shabby, and one woman, her dark skin ashen, lay boneless on her side in a cot. The bottom half of her hospital gown was stained with blood. There seemed to be no one looking after her. At his approach, she tensed and began to shake, but no sound escaped her.

“Easy, ma’am,” he said in what Joce used to call his honeysuckle voice. “I’m a doctor from the USS Enterprise, Leonard McCoy. I’m here to make sure you’re okay. May I run my tricorder over you?”

“Who were those other two men?” she whispered. Her voice was rough, hoarse from screaming.

“A pair of overgrown puppies more guts than brains,” McCoy grumbled. He kept a professional distance as the tricorder began to whir over her.

“They were too late,” she said. “They came in just in time to watch Max snap her neck.” McCoy suppressed the shudder that threatened to wrack his body. “And then Ben dragged me away, so I didn’t get to see. I didn’t get to see.”

“What didn’t you get to see, ma’am?”

“Them kill Max with those phasers. I wanted to see it so badly. So badly.”

McCoy was silent. The readings indicated blood loss, but no more than he could handle in his own sickbay, and no signs of pre-eclampsia. A little dehydration.

“What’s your name?” he asked her. She blinked and craned to look at him. Black eyes like Georgia’s midnight sky glittered up at him.

“Kendra.”

“Well, Kendra. I’m going to take you back to my medbay and get you fixed up right as rain.”

Kendra scoffed. Closed her eyes.

The door whispered open and McCoy whirled around, phaser in hand, only to find that he was pointing it at Spock. Quickly he put the phaser back into the holster on his hip. Spock brought a finger to his lips, then strode over to lean in close to McCoy’s shoulder.

“We beamed down security personnel, and they are performing a sweep now, but some of the… combatants have run, and may be attempting to harm more women. We must get you and your charge out of the facility for beam-up immediately.”

“All right,” McCoy said. “Gimme some space, Spock.”

Spock stepped back, and carefully McCoy gathered Kendra up into his arms. She got a grip around his neck, surprisingly firm. Spock approached again and tied up the loose flaps of her soiled hospital gown to preserve what modesty she had left, and McCoy sent him a grateful look. McCoy hefted Kendra up more securely; her weight was negligible.

“You ready?” he asked her. She slitted her eyes up at him.

“Get me the hell out of here,” she said.

Spock led the way, phaser steady before him. McCoy knew their default mode was ‘stun,’ but he’d watched Spock deliberate on leaving it there for just a moment too long. McCoy didn’t know why, but that made him respect him just a little more.

There were two more women giving birth in the facility. McCoy let Jim, Spock, and the security detail they’d had beamed down handle the men holding them captive; for his part, McCoy ordered a beam-up straight into sickbay and got the entire medical staff up and bustling to deliver two healthy babies — one boy and one girl — and tend to the three women they’d rescued. All told, it was twenty-two hours before he left sickbay, his body ready to fail him, his eyes heavy, but his patients alive and thriving. At least physically.

When he dragged himself to the officers’ deck, he paused in front of his own door, finger poised to input his entrance code. But he drew his hand back and kept walking. Finally he buzzed for entry at Spock’s quarters.

“I’m a good doctor,” he said in lieu of greeting. Spock looked up from the computer at his worktable, but he said nothing. “Maybe not a very good person, or father, or whatever else, but I have that. I have that.”

Spock laid his padd down. He extended his foot and pushed the chair opposite him out in silent invitation. McCoy sat and leaned forward, forearms on the table.

“Doctor, you require rest. When was the last time you slept?”

McCoy scrubbed his eyes with a fist before peering at Spock from beneath an arched brow. “Are you listening to me? I’m having a moment over here.”

“I was having a moment with my paperwork,” Spock said with a little sigh.

McCoy barked out a laugh. “God, when did you get funny?”

“Sleep deprivation has made you delirious, Doctor. Leonard.” Spock stood and then hot, hard hands were thrust rudely into McCoy’s armpits and Spock hauled him up. “Come with me.”

“Hey. Hey.”

Spock manhandled him through the partitions and into Spock’s own bed. McCoy groaned to feel his body give way, allowed, at last, to relax, even on the unforgiving plank that was Spock’s mattress. The pillow, at least, was soft, and smelled of Spock. Spock worked on pulling his boots off.

“You don’t have to do that,” McCoy said. “I’ll go back to my own place.”

“Hush, Leonard,” came Spock’s voice, soft and deep. McCoy’s eyes fell shut. “It has been a difficult day. I will be here when you wake.”

“What day is it, Spock?” McCoy felt the lightest touch, a warm fingertip, trace his cheekbone before drawing back.

From somewhere beside the bunk, he heard Spock say, “It’s day seventy-five, Leonard. Congratulations. Rest now.”

McCoy woke warm and rested, curled into a corner under a thin sheet. The walls were swathed in sumptuous red fabric. He frowned and twisted around. Sitting a chair next to him was Spock on a padd.

“Déjà vu,” he said, and cleared his throat at the croak of it. Spock looked up. “Time is it?”

“2143.”

McCoy started. “Jesus, Spock! Why didn’t you wake me up?” He scrambled out of Spock’s bed and made a beeline for his boots, which sat propped against the far bulkhead.

“That would have been counterproductive,” Spock replied.

McCoy sat back down on the edge of the bunk and shoved his feet into his boots. He tapped them on the deck to settle them, and tried to flatten the wrinkles from his uniform. He felt Spock’s eyes on him.

“What?” he snapped.

Spock looked away and rose. As he stepped out of the bedroom space, he said, “I have always thought you were a superlative physician.”

McCoy darted after him. “Wait,” he said. “Spock, wait.” He reached a hand out to Spock’s shoulder.

Spock faced him, and McCoy dropped his hand. They were of a height, though Spock was narrower about the shoulders than McCoy, a sleeker build, a Vulcan build. He could feel the heat pouring off of Spock and into him. Too close, he thought. Close enough to share breath.

“Thank you,” McCoy said gruffly. “For— for all of this.”

The line of Spock’s shoulders relaxed minutely, and he gave a tiny nod.

“I am pleased to be of service,” Spock said. His mouth relaxed in a way that McCoy had begun to think of as private smiles.

“Of service,” McCoy echoed. He frowned, swallowed, and stepped back. He looked at the floor. He cleared his throat again and straightened to meet Spock’s eyes, gave him a polite, flat-mouthed smile. “Well. I’m gonna go find Jim. Thanks again.”

He hurried away, as much from Spock and the warm clean smell of him as from the knot growing in his own stomach.

Lucky for him, the captain’s quarters were right next to the first officer’s quarters, and Jim didn’t even pretend he wasn’t home. He was out of uniform, in sleep sweats and a tee-shirt. His hair was out of order, and not in a fashionable way.

“Hey,” he said, and he sounded so tired. “Hope you haven’t been doctoring this whole time.”

McCoy shook his head. “I might have presumed on someone’s hospitality for a bit of a nap just now.”

Jim pinned him with a sly, sideways smirk. “Someone, huh?”

McCoy scowled. “Aw, gimme a break, Jim. I came here to talk to you like a human being, not a seventh-grade girl.”

Jim laughed and gestured to an empty chair at his work table. “Mi casa, bud. Want a water or something?”

“Yeah,” he said. Jim slid him a glass of water and sat across from him. They waited out an awkward minute, and McCoy burned with the knowledge that this was the first Jim had even spoken to him in a social capacity for months. It was humiliating, and it was his own damn fault. “Well. I needed to say something to you.”

Jim’s expression seemed to sharpen as he lost the soft fuzz of fatigue. He looked guarded. He nodded and said, “Go ahead.”

McCoy took a breath. “I think you’ve noticed by now that I’m a degenerate asshole. I won’t give you any excuses; there are none.” He played with the condensation on his glass. When he ventured a look at Jim, he found his face pinched and white. He inhaled again, and the air was not cool enough. “I’m sorry for everything I put you through at the academy. I’m sorry for what happened on Wrigley’s, and I’m sorry for how I treated you when you were saving my ass. You need to know that… that I’ve been seeing Chowdhry, and I’m going to keep seeing her. That I’ve got other support, too. That I’m getting better, that I’m finally choosing to get better, of my own volition. I want to be better. I want to be a good doctor for this boat, I want to be a good father to my girl. I want to be a decent friend. I want… I want to be someone people are proud to know, glad to have around, instead of the sloppy drunk they’ll have to turn on his side before the night’s out.” He took a convulsive swallow of water and set the glass back down too hard. “So. That’s what I needed to say.”

Before he could muster up any more self-consciousness, he had two hundred pounds of captain plastered all over him, squeezing the breath from his lungs.

“I am proud to know you, Bones,” Jim said into his neck.

“Guh,” McCoy gasped.

Jim released him and stood to loom over him with a gigantic grin. He clapped his hands once and said, “So! You gonna tell me who ‘someone’ is, or do I have to guess?”

“Aw hell, Jim,” McCoy groused with a dramatic roll of his eyes. “It was nothing. It was platonic.”

“Yeah, a lot of platonic spooning going on around here.” Jim smirked as he sat back down in his own chair.

McCoy leveled the patented McCoy stink eye at him. “There was no spooning, for Pete’s sake. He sat next to me working.”

“Oh, he did, did he? Well, well, my good doctor. The plot thickens.” Jim waggled his eyebrows at him. “Tell me,” he said then, in a deliberately light tone that McCoy knew from experience only meant trouble with a capital T. “Does this have anything to do with how moony Spock’s been lately?”

McCoy scoffed and got up to leave. “You’re delusional if you think that hobgoblin wastes any of his precious time pining over the likes of me. I’ll see you later, Jim.”

When walked out into the corridor, he paused by Spock’s door again. He thought better of it and made the rest of the way back to his own quarters, heavy with thoughts of smooth hot flesh flushed green and how he would never, ever know how it felt beneath his lips.

The ninety-day chip Spock presented McCoy with was red. When he gave it to him, it was hand to hand, and Spock’s hot fingertips lingered just a moment too long in McCoy’s palm. When he drew back, he seemed to fold his limbs against the straight column of his body in a single fluid movement.

“Thanks, Spock,” McCoy said.

“It seems we have exhausted the conversation we often save for these meetings,” Spock said.

He was right. There were only so many times McCoy could face Spock over tea and tell him how badly he wanted a shot of the good stuff today before he felt like an audiofile on repeat — one of those sniveling, whiney groups that were so popular these days. And, he hated to say it, but listening to Spock talk about the physiological responses his body enacted when he got a dose of tehn-por’sen was somehow both titillating and tedious, and Leonard McCoy was no saint. It would be… a relief to let these meetings go.

“Well then, Mr. Spock, I guess this is it.” It didn’t mean, however, that he wanted to stop sitting around in Spock’s quarters with most of his free time. He was far enough gone that just basking in Spock’s company sounded like some kind of heaven. Unwilling to leave, McCoy shifted his weight awkwardly from foot to foot, fiddling with his red chip.

Spock seemed to be staring at the pulse point on McCoy’s neck. He flicked his eyes up to meet McCoy’s, and McCoy saw his Adam’s apple bob.

“Perhaps… Perhaps you would care to share a beverage with me?” Spock asked. “Despite the need for such formal discussions having passed, we still share an accord, do we not?”

McCoy’s heart stuttered. “Of course, Spock. Of course we do.” He stepped closer.

“And know, Leonard, that should you ever require… a sympathetic ear, I have two rather large ones at your disposal.”

McCoy threw his head back and laughed so hard the sound of it reverberated between the bulkheads. He slapped Spock on the shoulder, but his laughter abruptly evaporated when Spock’s own hand came up to cover his. McCoy turned his hand over, palm on palm, and squeezed back, awed to watch Spock’s eyes flutter.

“Am I molesting you unforgivably right now?” McCoy asked, voice gone husky.

“You’re forgiven,” Spock said quickly. He drew nearer until his chest brushed McCoy’s, a vexatious point of contact.

“I never thought you’d want this.”

“You, Leonard McCoy, are a ‘damned fool of a country doctor,’” Spock said, and he pulled McCoy’s hand gently to his mouth and pressed his lips into the palm.

A shudder wracked McCoy’s spine. He slid his hands around to cup Spock’s jaw and he dragged him in for a human kiss, open mouthed and hot. He kissed him slow and thorough, the thrill of Spock’s tongue sliding against his sending a jolt of electricity through him. Spock’s hands rested on McCoy’s hips and pulled him closer. McCoy savored the burn of Spock’s evening stubble against his own; it had been too long since he’d kissed anyone, and kissing Spock was a heady prize all its own.

Spock swept his hands up the length of McCoy’s torso, then bunched his science blues in two fists to drag him back into his bedroom space. Spock pushed him into a sitting position on the bunk and straddled him, kissing him with a mounting ferocity. McCoy’s hands roamed the toned length of Spock’s back. Finally, when their hard cocks ground together and all pretense of false modesty had been blasted away, McCoy let himself squeeze at Spock’s compact ass. He pushed his hands into Spock’s trousers and groaned to feel the tiny cheeks fill his palms. When Spock tore his mouth from McCoy’s, McCoy forced his eyes to focus. Spock’s were dark and held a banked fire.

“I require sexual intercourse at this time,” Spock said, voice pitched rough and low. “I will divest you of your clothing.” He peeled off McCoy’s uniform shirts and set to undoing his trousers.

“Anyone ever tell you you’re pushy?” McCoy asked. In answer Spock shoved McCoy onto his back and yanked off his boots, then his trousers and briefs were gone. McCoy propped himself up by his elbows in time to watch Spock very efficiently strip off. He’d seen Spock naked before, but always under the harsh fluorescent lights of sickbay, and always when he was spewing green blood all over the place, and always while McCoy had to curse Jim to some layer of hell reserved for idiots. Spock naked before him now was a dream vision — all clean lines and lean muscle, a fine dusting of hair narrowing from his pectorals to his navel and lower, where it fanned out into a lush frame for his engorged cock.

McCoy reached out to him, and he clambered onto the bed, onto McCoy, and all that hot sweet flesh was against him in an ecstatic collision. Spock buried his head in the trail of hair that followed from his bellybutton to his cock and took a deep inhale, worshipful. McCoy moaned, but he dragged him up to devour him with kisses again. He got a handful of that ass again and pushed up to grind into Spock, cock against cock. Spock gasped and pushed his face into McCoy’s neck, thrusting closer. He sucked a shape into the skin behind McCoy’s ear, eliciting a grunt. McCoy’s greedy hands gripped his meager asscheeks, parted them. Daring fingers swept into the crevice, where they found his tight little hole, pouring heat.

Spock’s breath hitched and he ground down into McCoy’s cock, pushing his ass further into his hands.

“Like that darlin’?” McCoy whispered into a finely pointed ear, slow and hot as fresh molasses.

“Leonard,” was all he said.

More firmly, McCoy rubbed his fingertips into Spock’s crack, tracing the bud of his asshole and massaging his perineum. He found the small round protuberances at the base of his cock — Spock’s testicles, sans scrotum — and gave them a gentle, firm squeeze. Spock’s breath was ragged in McCoy’s ear, and after one more sucking kiss under McCoy’s ear, Spock lifted himself off and settled beside him, chest pressed to the mattress and ass hiked into the air. He leveled that imperious brow at him like a challenge.

“Lord, you’re gonna henpeck me in bed, aren’t you?”

“Are you going to exercise your mandibles or are you going to engage in intercourse?”

“Pushy, pushy,” McCoy growled, and then slapped Spock’s upraised ass. Spock made a tiny sound and pushed his face into the pillow, fists bunching the sheets. McCoy snickered, but he got to his knees behind him and laid his hands on each cheek, fresh lust sending a fission to his balls. He parted the little white handfuls and blew a soft stream of air over Spock’s hole. “What a sweet little ass you’ve got here, darlin’.” He rubbed a fingertip over the knot, the heat, the quiver and the crinkly black hairs all setting the blood in his dick pounding. Spock muffled a whine in the pillow, but humped his ass back, and McCoy could no longer resist.

He sealed his lips over Spock’s asshole and sucked. Hands on Spock’s hips kept him from breaking McCoy’s nose when he rocked back into the contact with a hastily suppressed groan. McCoy had no such reservations and hummed his pleasure into Spock’s perineum. He laved the flat of his tongue all around and flickered the tip around the rim of Spock’s asshole, at turns firm and teasing, insistent and light. Spock seemed to be having a very quiet revelation in his pillow, but his body was taut and flushed and he was grinding back into McCoy’s face, and then McCoy couldn’t hold back anymore — he wrapped a hand around his own cock and yanked at it before closing his fist around the base.

He pressed his other hand to the small of Spock’s back, which was, to his delight, misted with the finest sheen of perspiration. He pushed his face in deeper, sucked and licked at Spock’s spasming hole with a zealot’s ardor, dipped inside when the muscle relaxed enough for a shallow penetration. The flavor of Spock was unlike any human — dark and musky and bitter, but spiced and fresh and potent, thoroughly rousing. McCoy let go of himself and reached up to rub at Spock’s balls and his thick cock slick with natural Vulcan lube. He gave himself completely to eating Spock’s ass and squeezing his eager dick, but Spock’s patience, apparently, did have a frayed edge.

“Enough,” McCoy heard from the head of the bed, that velvet rich voice just a touch strangled. “Enough, now. I require penetration.”

McCoy lifted his head from his task and Spock took the opportunity to rearrange himself on his back, long legs splayed on either side. McCoy felt a burst of tenderness in the vicinity of his heart to see the knobbly knees, the long, bony feet and big, funny toes. He pushed his hips into Spock’s to anchor him, but then he pulled one of those feet up and dug into the sole with both thumbs. Spock’s brows drew down and he almost — almost — effected a pout.

“Leonard—”

McCoy sent him a lazy smile and let go, but he began to kiss up the arch of his foot to the ankle, then the milky calf and into the back of the knee, which made Spock squirm and pant. He ran his hands over Spock’s thighs, pushed his legs open as far as they’d go, sucked the delicate skin where leg met torso. Spock’s back arched and a quiet keening escaped his throat before he tamped down on it. McCoy rubbed his stubble along that crease, then swallowed Spock’s turgid cock as far as he could take it. Spock’s fingers twisted in his hair, but there was no insistence, just sharp little tugs of appreciation, and for his troubles McCoy sucked him with sloppy enthusiasm. Thighs clamped around his ears, but McCoy only sucked harder. He shifted and brought his hand up to push two of his fingers slowly into Spock’s asshole. Spock’s breathing turned into panting, and the hand in his hair tightened. McCoy’s sure fingers stretched Spock gently, carefully, with a steady in and out that loosened the tight grip of his rectum just enough that McCoy was sure he wouldn’t hurt him, and then he withdrew and hitched Spock’s legs up, knees in elbows.

“At long last,” Spock grumbled, hair askew and cheeks green. His squeezed at McCoy’s shoulders.

“Quit yer bitchin’ or I won’t fuck you,” McCoy said even as he snubbed the head of his cock against Spock’s hungry asshole. He pushed in, and the fit was tight, so tight and hot that he hissed through his teeth and his eyes rolled back. He held himself steady and eased in all the way, until the taut rim of Spock’s anus strangled the base of his cock. He opened his eyes to find Spock staring up at him in awe, lips parted. He gave a sigh of relief, as if having McCoy inside him was some kind of exquisite, long-sought ecstasy, and didn’t that give his ego just the boost it needed? “Spock, darlin’…” he breathed, and leaned down to kiss him. Spock grabbed hold of his ears to hold him to his mouth, attention close on the rounded tops, and McCoy began to thrust. Shallowly at first, then with longer, deeper strokes, until he was up and putting his back into it hard and Spock had his eyes screwed shut and his mouth hanging open, his hand a blur on his cock.

“Yes, yes, yes,” Spock chanted, probably not even aware of it, and then, “Harder, Leonard, there, there.” And McCoy obliged with forceful snaps of his hips and then Spock was coming in great arching spurts all over his own chest and stomach, back arched, head back, mouth open wide around a silent, breathless scream. His ass constricted and contracted around McCoy’s aching cock, and McCoy brought his hands up to wrap around Spock’s jaw as he quivered with the aftershocks.

“God, who told you you could be this gorgeous, huh?”

Spock looked up at him from beneath sooty lashes, a green blush mottling his face, his neck and chest. Lazily he swept his palms along McCoy’s pecs and shoulders, pulled him down. McCoy kissed him, then lay on him fully, legs up over his shoulders, and buried his head into his neck while his thrusts grew more erratic. Spock stroked along his shoulder blades and sucked behind his ear. “You please me, Leonard,” he murmured, and Leonard groaned into his heated skin. Spock’s arms tightened around him, savoring, and McCoy came so hard his vision dappled into starbursts and his breath left him in a harsh single rush. He slumped against Spock, panting and enduring the odd twitch of his muscles while he came back to himself. Spock rubbed his back and nuzzled his lips into McCoy’s hair.

Several minutes passed in contented silence before McCoy slid bonelessly off and extricated his cock with care. He lay beside Spock, sides touching, fingers just tangled enough to be sappy. He turned his head a little, and Spock met his gaze with an inquisitive quirk of his brow. He looked… relaxed. Sated. Less strained around the mouth and eyes. McCoy stole a kiss from the corner of his mouth before rolling out of bed and dashing into the head to find a suitable cloth for clean up. He splashed his chest at the sink and wiped away Spock’s come. When he looked in the mirror, it was at a man who looked peaceful. For the first time in a long time.

He exited and beheld Spock in a sprawl of long, gangly limbs gone languorous. His heart swelled. He sat cross legged on the bed beside him, and space was cramped but ultimately sufficient. He began to wipe at Spock’s matted, slimy chest hair.

“Do not go against the grain,” Spock said with a touch to his wrist. McCoy was fairly certain it was meant to be a slap when he looked up to find Spock’s easy non-expression gone and his vaguely irritated eyebrow spike back. McCoy flattened his lips and exhaled through his nose.

“You’ve got a bunch of whorls and cowlicks; no matter what I do it’ll be against the grain.”

“You are like a le’matya in a rose garden — give me that.” He snatched the cloth from McCoy’s hand and dabbed at himself gingerly.

McCoy stretched his legs out and hung them over the edge of the bed, back to Spock.

“‘Le’matya in a rose garden?’” He sneered, glaring at Spock and all his fussiness. “Where’d you get that bit of interplanetary mixed metaphor?”

Spock’s mouth turned down just the slightest bit. “My mother used to say it.”

“Ah, hell,” McCoy sighed. “I’m sorry, Spock.” He lay down on his side, feet up by Spock’s head, and he plucked the cloth back away from him. He turned Spock to face away from him and eased the topmost leg into a bent position. He gently parted Spock’s ass. His hole was a bit raw and puffy, and from its tightly closed aperture oozed Leonard’s own semen. His cock twitched a bit at the sight, but he ignored his hopeful libido and pressed the cloth to Spock’s anus with the lightest touch. He felt Spock give a long exhale.

“It’s never gonna be easy between us, is it?” McCoy asked.

“I expect not,” Spock said, sounding utterly unconcerned.

“Worth it though?”

“Always.”