As they filed into the small theater, McCoy wondered what kind of impression they struck. Dressed in civilian clothing, drinks in hand and cheerfully jostling each other to get to their seats, they probably looked more like a bunch of adolescents than like the experienced officers they all were. Oh, well. It had been over four months since their last shore leave, and they were off duty, so where was the harm? A little relaxation was just what the doctor had ordered – particularly for Spock, who'd die before admitting he needed rest too.
He was still surprised Spock had agreed to join them. He'd even exchanged his Starfleet uniform for Vulcan garb: a plain black shirt and trousers, threaded through with a subtle pale-gold weave. Maybe it was the alcohol he'd had, but McCoy was finding it hard to keep his eyes off him. Uhura was chatting comfortably with Scotty and Sulu, and Jim looked like he'd finally shaken off the fatigue that had plagued him for the past few weeks. McCoy hoped the performance they'd be seeing would be worth it. He knew Jim was fond of plays, and this theater had come highly recommended – not that he'd been on an Edosian outpost before, so he had no idea what these people's tastes were like. As he shuffled after Spock between the rows of plush seats, McCoy found himself hoping for nothing too heavy-handed. That third cocktail had been a little too ambitious, judging by the buzzing lightness in his head.
The seats weren't chairs but couches, with room for two each, and McCoy was still processing that little detail when he narrowly avoided a collision with Spock. The others were already pairing off into their seats. Jim with Sulu, Uhura with Scotty… That left Spock and him. Coincidence, of course, but a welcome one. McCoy lowered himself with a grunt, sinking back into the soft fabric as he beckoned Spock to join him.
At the sight of Spock's straight-backed posture, he smiled. "It's not a crime to get comfortable, Spock." He fought the temptation to pat Spock's knee – a liberty he'd take in private but not in public – and took a closer look at Spock's outfit instead. It clung to his frame in a way that was undeniably appealing. "Why, you're looking spry tonight. I don't think I've ever seen you wear this before."
Spock raised an eyebrow. " 'Spry', doctor? Is that intended as a compliment?"
McCoy hmph-ed noncommittally. "And what if it is? The black goes well with your eyes." He moved to cross his legs during the silence that followed, but his coordination was off and he bumped hard against Spock's thigh.
Oh, boy. He really shouldn't have had that last drink. Whatever their relationship – and that they had one was certain, even if McCoy still hadn't figured out what kind – he doubted Spock would appreciate Southern charm if it also meant limbs poked into his personal space. But the slant of Spock's eyebrows suggested amusement, and McCoy flashed back his most winning smile. In the next seat over, Jim and Scotty were focused on the stage, which was probably a good thing. But before McCoy could do the same, a hiss at his elbow caught him off guard.
Something flickered just outside his field of vision. The next thing he knew, a silver veil had shimmered into existence, starting near his armrest before rushing up to encase them entirely. Or… no, not entirely. They could still see the stage ahead of them, but they were cut off from the seats on either side. Presumably the same thing had happened to the others, because for a few seconds he could hear Jim cursing from the couch beside them. Then some kind of dampening cut in, muffling the rest of Jim's words.
"What..?" McCoy began, at the same time that Spock said, "Force field." His expression hadn't changed, but McCoy would be a pitiful excuse for a doctor – or, God help him, a lover – if he hadn't caught the subtle tightening of Spock's tone. "Doctor, I do not know the meaning of this, and I take it from your reaction that neither do you. We appear to be cut off from the Captain and the others. I suggest turning off this field, if we can."
McCoy chewed the air, trying to come up with a protest that didn't contain the word 'overreacting', but in truth he had no idea if it was. This didn't feel like foul play, but he also couldn't rule it out. God knew they'd made enough enemies over the years.
It hit him just as Spock put his palm against the now-opaque surface, which had taken on a silvery hue. The snort that escaped him wasn't even close to dignified, but it was worth it for the baffled look in Spock's eyes.
"They're love seats!" McCoy blurted.
Spock blinked. "I beg your pardon?"
McCoy grinned. It was so obvious now. At least he guessed it was to a human; a Vulcan might find the concept a bit harder to grasp. "Love seats," he repeated, gesturing at the force field. "That's what they're called back on Earth. Goes back to the twentieth century, I think. Couples would go and watch a movie, but to allow them to be… closer, physically, some theaters had these double seats. They had them at the old movie theater in Atlanta. I once took Joanna there..." His voice caught. Joanna must have been about four, just a few months before she and Jocelyn left Earth. He'd taken her to watch some old children's movie. She'd insisted he kept his arm around her the entire time.
"So the field is meant to ensure privacy? For the purpose of…?" Spock's sentence trailed off into a question mark. McCoy glanced up to find Spock giving him a look of carefully veiled concern.
"That depends," McCoy said, touched that Spock had picked up on his mood and seemed to be trying to disperse it. He couldn't tell if it was that or the alcohol that made him feel suddenly reckless. "It, uh… It doesn't have to be anything as dramatic as love. But maybe we…" In an impulse, he reached over and brushed Spock's wrist.
The flush in Spock's cheeks was almost imperceptible, but it still felt like a victory. Then Spock's expression closed down again. "Doctor, what we do in the privacy of our quarters does not set a precedent for what we ought to do here."
McCoy swallowed a rush of disappointment. "Well, this is an Edosian outpost, and you know how strict these people are about not showing affection in public. It makes perfect sense they'd have built a room like this. In fact, I'd say we'll have more privacy here than in our quarters - you know some of those bulkheads are pretty thin." But of course there was no point in forcing this. Resigned, McCoy pulled back his hand.
Spock caught it.
A shiver went through him as Spock's thumb grazed his palm, sliding around to trail across his knuckles, then guiding his hand until the tips of their fingers touched. McCoy sighed and let his eyes flutter shut. He was a doctor, he couldn't stop being a doctor even if he tried, so it was impossible not to feel Spock's pulse against his skin, or to shut out the frantic pounding of his own heart. But Spock's mind was quiet, opening to him like one of those obscenely bright Vulcan desert flowers, the ones whose name he always forgot, and when McCoy brought his free hand up to cup Spock's jaw, he knew what Spock wanted him to do.
Their lips met in a rush of escaping breath, their fingers tangling together. McCoy sucked at the corner of Spock's mouth, tasting spice and the coppery tang of alien skin.
"We should decide -" Spock turned his head, not even breathless; that damn Vulcan cool was something McCoy envied him sometimes. "After the performance ends… what shall we tell Jim when he asks if we enjoyed it?"
"I'll handle that," McCoy said, pulling back to meet Spock's eyes. At the edge of his vision, the force field was pulsating slowly. "You green-blooded hobgoblins aren't the only ones who can hide their emotions. I can keep a poker face when I need to." But not just now, he admitted, sure that his face betrayed everything as those long fingers caressed his cheek.