Almost a year into the five-year mission, a flu swept through the Enterprise and had about 200 people of its 500-person crew confined to their quarters or sickbay. Kirk and Spock managed to avoid contamination -- Kirk because he knew that no one would take care of him if he was sick, and Spock probably because of his biology or something.
McCoy was one of the people unlucky/dumb enough to catch the flu and confined himself to his desk in sickbay until Kirk and Chapel dragged him to a real bed. Even from the real bed, McCoy continued to rule sickbay with an iron fist and moan his orders out when he wasn't asleep or being force-fed soup.
"Chapel, where's your best patient?" Kirk asked.
"Where we usually -- has he -- Doctor McCoy!"
McCoy was standing in front of a patient's bed and pointed to the PADD in his hand. "This is the worst hospital in the galaxy. Someone is two minutes late with his medicine and five minutes late with my soup. Dammit, Chapel, what kind of torture den are you running here?"
"C'mon, big boy, let me take you to bed," Kirk said with an arm around McCoy's waist.
"Dammit, Jim, I told you to stay away from here!" McCoy said as he struggled out of Kirk's grasp. "You're going to get sick and then that reptile is going to lead the kitchen in a mutiny. We'll have goddamn plomeek soup every fucking day and I don't think you want that. Jim." McCoy grabbed Kirk by the shoulders and said firmly, "Please don't let them give me any more plomeek soup. Please."
"I'll tell them you're allergic to plomeek. Whatever that is," Kirk assured him. "Anyway, sit down, I've got stuff to tell you!"
"Oh god what? I can't take it, Jim, I'm in a delicate state right now." McCoy was rambling enough to let Kirk guide him back to his bed and gently shove him back onto it. "This place is falling apart without me. I'm starting to think Chapel's not actually a doctor."
"She's not. She's a nurse."
"Oh my lord."
"Shh, come on, look, lie down, that's a good sociopath, there we go." Kirk tried to tuck the blankets up around McCoy's neck, but he thrashed and pushed them off.
"Too hot. Leave me alone. Dammit, didn't I tell you you're going to get sick if you keep coming around here?"
"Only like, ten times since I've walked in -- now will you shut up, I've gotta tell you why I haven't been around in two days."
"I didn't miss you."
"Like hell you didn't."
"Spit it out already; you need to go back and captain things and not be sick."
"Bones," Kirk said. He leaned in slightly, then leaned in further when McCoy sunk his head into his pillow to avoid breathing, coughing, or sneezing on Kirk. "Spock and I are together. Like. Together. Dating, I guess? That. Mostly that."
McCoy was silent and stared at Kirk with wide eyes. He didn't move until he looked around his surroundings, then back at Kirk and asked, "Is this a fever dream? Usually my grandmother's here, too."
"It's not a fever dream -- you're my best friend and CMO, so I'm letting you know, okay?"
"Jim, don't you think this is the biggest mistake of your godforsaken life?" McCoy asked.
"Hm, see, usually how it works is that if you think it's a bad idea, it's the right thing to do. "
"I mean it!"
"We'll talk about it when you're better, okay? I gotta go."
McCoy was falling into another exhausted sleep and took Kirk's hand, squeezed it, and said, "Bacon makes my throat scratchy."
Sulu was a fucking genius and told no one. He was one of three people on the Enterprise to earn Starfleet certification in all three divisions (command, operations, and sciences -- he wore command yellow because red was too conspicuous and blue tended to make people assholes, cf. Spock and McCoy). Kirk made him tactical officer, which meant he was the guy who got to blow shit up on the most powerful starship in the Federation. It was something to write home about, when he wasn't working his ass off staying on top of just about everything in the galaxy and making it look easy.
His intelligence came in two parts: hard work and speed. Reading took forever, but once he had read something, it was filed away in his brain, cross referenced and placed aside in its proper paradigm for easy access. He recognized patterns everywhere: the stars flying past them in space, the duty roster, menus in the mess hall, really, everywhere.
One night, he and Chekov stayed up in the rec room to read through the regulations Starfleet had updated for that month.
Around 3 AM, Sulu said, "Ooh, someone beat the engineers to setting up a still -- it's now officially a court martial offense to brew anything on a starship. Tea drinkers of the Enterprise, unite!"
He glanced over the edge of his PADD and saw Chekov slouching in his chair and fast asleep, PADD still in hands.
"Jeez, Pav, stop being so cute," Sulu sighed. He looked at the corner of his monitor and saw the time, though he still wasn't tired and wasn't due on the bridge until Beta shift. "All right, if you're just going to sleep there, I guess I can get you a blanket from my room. Don't thank me or anything. I'm just using you for your good looks."
Chekov snored quietly and his hand twitched slightly.
Sulu took the turbolift up to the officers' quarters and walked down the hall to the room he shared with two other lieutenants. The ship hummed quietly as Sulu entered, grabbed a blanket, and left again.
This time in the hallway, he could have sworn he heard a laugh. At 3 AM. In the officers' sector. Just around the corner by the captain's quarters.
"Could be interesting," he mumbled to himself. "Should be interesting this late at night."
He walked quietly down the hall and when he reached the corner, he stopped and listened. There was another short, stifled laugh, and footsteps. Sulu's shoulders stiffened, but the steps were heading further down the hall and, he realized, coming back towards him, then returning down the hall -- two sets of boots making return trips.
Sulu knew there were only four rooms in that particular corridor: the captain's, Spock's, McCoy's, and Scotty's, because they were the highest ranking people on the ship and, somewhat inadvisedly, their quarters had all been grouped together -- not that they disturbed each other or anything, but if the ship was ever under attack at a time like this, it would be easy to look at plans of the ship's design, find those four biggest bedrooms, and slice off the top links of the chain of command. Sulu realized that would first require him to fail completely at his job, so he pushed it out of his mind and focused again on what he was listening to, which didn't sound too much like murder.
"Man, I keep running into you -- come here often?"
That was Spock's 'hmph' in response; he only heard it about nineteen thousand times a day.
The patterns were out of sync, but then joined up again. Kirk and Spock came towards him, mumbled incoherently in Spock's room, walked away from him again silently, and then there was the unceremonious drop of something further down the hall. Repeat, repeat.
He timed it and then peeked around the corner to the corridor -- there was Kirk stepping out of Spock's room with a box in his arms, Spock immediately behind him with another box. They walked down the hall and into Kirk's room, there was the drop, and Sulu turned the hell around and speed-walked nimbly to the turbolift.
Should he tell Chekov that Kirk and Spock were living together? Chekov could keep his mouth shut, but -- no, this was one of those things that was too good to keep to himself and too fucking insane to tell anyone, even his best friend. If Chekov found out on his own, then they'd scream about it and never tell anyone; yet if Spock was being moved into Kirk's room in the middle of the night, the chances of their going public any time soon were fucking slim, if existent at all.
Sulu was glad Chekov was still asleep when he entered the rec room again, because he really would have just run over to the chair, kneeled, and hissed OH MY GOD THEY'RE FUCKING THEY'RE FUCKING WHAT THE FUCK AND NOW THEY'RE LIVING TOGETHER WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS I DON'T EVEN THINK VULCANS CAN BE GAY AND HE WAS NAILING UHURA REMEMBER AND KIRK HAS HAD SEX WITH WOMEN FROM NINE DIFFERENT SOLAR SYSTEMS AND WAY TOO MANY SPECIES TO COUNT DO YOU THINK THEY'LL KNOCK DOWN THE WALL BETWEEN THEIR ROOMS AND TURN SPOCK'S ROOM INTO A NURSERY FOR HIS ILLEGITIMATE KIDS?
Since Chekov was still asleep, though, Sulu bit his lip hard and tucked Chekov in, even prying the PADD from his cold, sleeping hands. He took his seat across from him, picked up his own PADD again, and read all night, though every other word came across as fuck or shit or Spock or Kirk.
Scotty loved every fucking minute on the Enterprise. Even the unpleasant ones when Kirk shouted and asked him to bend the rules of physics were better than most days back on Earth or Delta Vega. (It took almost a year for Scotty to stop thanking Kirk for rescuing him and making him second officer.)
The best part of the Enterprise was the crew, the people. Scotty loved everyone, and he knew everyone loved him. Why would anyone hate anyone else on the best ship in the fleet that also happened to have the finest little captain they could ask for, a devilishly smart first officer, a brilliant doctor, and the best damn crew to avoid annihilation during the Nero fiasco? Scotty had been in Starfleet what, almost fifteen years? Fifteen next year. He'd been on his share of ships (andoutposts) and he knew there'd never be another crew as good as this one.
"You're drunk, Mr. Scott," Kirk laughed when Scotty informed him of this fact for the tenth time that month.
"Uh, please," Scotty replied. The captain had come by his quarters for a quick rundown of the malfunction in the Enterprise's computer that had the environmentals acting up all day. Spock traced it to one of his ensigns that had wanted to impress another ensign by programming the 'windows' to show a meteor shower; instead, all the windows alternated between blinding artificial sunlight and pitch black darkness.
That rundown took two minutes, and the hour afterwards had been spent sitting across from each other at Scotty's desk with a bottle of Scotch. Kirk was leaning on the heel of his palm, his finger sliding around the rim of the glass, the grin on his face telling Scotty he'd had just enough to make him giddy and adorable like a pup. The captain needed it, he thought -- their next mission involved following up on a hostile planet they had been to the year before and it probably wouldn't be pleasant, no matter how much they prepared.
"I'm just saying this is the best crew… probably in the galaxy. Give me a few minutes, I'll run the odds," Scotty said and Kirk laughed.
"Yeah, we're awesome, aren't we? I should do something nice for them. What do you think? We haven't got shore leave due for a while -- maybe like, sports day or something, you know?"
"Whatever, you know, like, contests in the gym and also like, around the ship. Who can run the quickest lap around theentire ship. And like. Gymnastics on the bridge. Shit like that."
"You think that through a little more, lad," Scotty laughed. "Ask Mr. Spock what he thinks."
They said 'illogical' simultaneously and burst out laughing.
"Man, Spock's the best," Kirk said, leaning on his hand again.
"Now that's true," Scotty replied. "I've seen my share of first officers and none of them even come close to matching up with Mr. Spock."
"Do you always call him 'Mister'?" Kirk asked. "He knows whenever I call him that I'm just making fun. Not mocking him, but you know, it's funny. He's just Spock, you know?"
"Just habit -- he'd never call me 'Scotty' and I'd never call him 'Spock'," Scotty replied. "Sounds too -- I don't know, wrong, for some reason. Don't know what I'd call either of them if that older Spock were around at the same time, though."
"He's got a new name on Vulcan somewhere," Kirk replied casually. "Did you know all Vulcan guy names start with an S and end with a K? And the women's names are like, T'Pwhatever. T apostrophe P and then like, nine vowels."
Remember how Sulu was a genius? Scotty invented the equation for transwarp beaming -- in another timeline. Here, though, he fucking proved it and implemented it on ships across the Federation every day.
He had solved the Spock Paradox like this: if there was a Vulcan that sounded like their first officer after two hundred years of bitching at a young upstart of a captain, had their first officer's fairly distinct nose and eyes, was not Mr. Spock's father or grandfather (he checked), and also came from the future (as established in That Place), then their universe had two Spocks. QED. He and the captain never discussed it; there was no reason to.
And apparently, the captain was a little too far gone to care what Scotty had or hadn't figured out.
"I'm gonna go tell that Vulcan I love him," Kirk declared. He drank the rest of his glass and stood up.
"Old one or new one?"
"You do that," Scotty said with the glass raised in Kirk's direction. "Sleep well, Captain. Also, you should eat something."
Kirk laughed as he left Scotty's room and shouted the unlock code at his own door. After two attempts, Scotty heard a door slide open, Kirk yelp, and the door slide close again. Scotty pulled out a PADD and continued working on what he had been doing before Kirk came in, sipping from his glass occasionally and not thinking about the room across the hall from his.
Spock shared with Uhura a lot of information about Vulcan practices when they were together. She claimed it was a human custom for those involved in intimate relationships to share information about their pasts and cultures, and so, he did.
Since Vulcans took subtlety to a martial art, that additional information meant she knew how to recognize a sign for what it was. Spock had told her how his parents only audibly discussed their relationship when his mother was too upset to use the bond between her and his father, one that allowed them to communicate silently.
"Wasn't that… I don't know, scarring?" she asked.
"I have never doubted that my parents cared for each other," Spock said. "There are ways for Vulcans to demonstrate their affection, both in public and private."
"Show me," she said.
He had hesitated, which should have tipped her off, but so it goes.
One day, Uhura was working with the rest of the communications staff lower in the ship when she noticed Kirk stalk past her with Spock in hot pursuit. Spock caught up to Kirk at the turbolift and grabbed his bicep to turn him around. They were too far away for her to hear them, but she leaned over a console and watched them from her periphery.
Kirk looked down and refused to meet Spock's eyes, but she could tell from Spock's posture that he was leaning in and speaking. Spock's hands were clasped at the small of his back and Kirk looked around impatiently -- pretending he wasn't listening.
Then Spock's hands dropped from behind him and his left hand, the one a little more hidden from the view of the hundreds of people in the room, extended forward, palm up. Uhura squinted slightly and saw the thumb tucked in and the two first fingers extended almost timidly because they were curved at the knuckle.
She saw Kirk's tongue dart out the corner of his mouth, and then he bit his lip before he grasped the two fingers with his own two, moving their hands almost like a handshake until he released Spock's fingers. Kirk leaned over and the doors of the turbolift opened. He stepped inside and when the doors slid close, Spock turned around.
Uhura didn't lower her eyes and excused herself from the officers. He met her halfway, a placid expression on his face.
"How may I assist you, Lieutenant?" he asked.
She crossed her arms, left over right, and extended the two first fingers of her left hand towards him. She raised an eyebrow and motioned to them. He glanced at her hand in acknowledgement and looked into her face again.
"How casual is this?" she asked.
"Not at all," he replied.
"Thank you," she said, and returned to the staff and their consoles again.
Chekov arrived for Alpha shift and practically fell into his seat at the front of the bridge.
"Hey, are you okay?" Sulu asked.
"I was the top of my class at Starfleet in stellar cartography, theoretical physics, and transporter theory, and I think I just spent Gamma shift planning the captain and Mr. Spock's next vacation," Chekov muttered. "Beta Kupsic III is lovely this time of year."
Early in their mission, the primary bridge crew pooled some resources in order to… not bribe, per se, but persuade the lieutenant in charge of duty rosters to give them all one day per week where they were all free during the same shift and could hold something like an unofficial staff meeting without the captain and first officer.
Technically, McCoy and Scotty shouldn't have been invited either (especially not McCoy), being so close to the top of the chain of command and all, but they were too amusing to exclude.
"So where are the captain and Spock?" Uhura asked when McCoy sat down at their lunch table during the week Kirk and Spock had run off to New Vulcan. "And why aren't you with them?"
McCoy unfolded a napkin with some flourish and placed it on his thigh. "Unofficial check-up on New Vulcan. See how the colony's doing before the real Federation big wigs go evaluate."
"And they didn't need a doctor because the colony of humanoids that had 90% of their species decimated in one fell swoop four years ago wouldn't need anything you can give them, huh?" she replied.
"You know how Vulcans are," McCoy said after a moment.
No one at the table was satisfied, a sentiment they expressed by glaring McCoy down as he tried to eat his chicken salad sandwich in peace. He chewed thoughtfully and swallowed.
"What do you want from me?"
"Are they together?" Chekov asked.
"And how long?" Sulu asked. "Have they been together, I mean, not -- anything else."
"Do I need to get architects and redo Mr. Spock's room as a nursery?" Scotty asked.
"What are they doing on New Vulcan?!" Uhura asked.
"And do they really think we don't know?" Scotty added.
"Well, I can answer all your questions with one beautiful phrase," McCoy said. "Doctor-patient confidentiality. It's officially a matter of medicine, so I'm not allowed to talk about it." He picked up his sandwich again and added a short, "Ha" before taking a bite.
"If you're hiding behind 'doctor-patient confidentiality', that means there's something to be confidential about," Uhura said.
McCoy chewed on and looked absently at a spot above Chekov's head.
"If it's a matter of medicine, that means there's going to be some kind of biological change while they're on New Vulcan," Sulu added. "Could it be something to coincide with the season on New Vulcan?"
"They are married," Chekov realized. "They went to see Ambassador Sarek and the elders on New Vulcan and have the ceremony, and then will come back here. They have only taken the six days, am I correct, Doctor? That is too short for even an adoption, but just right for a wedding and honeymoon."
"There's my whiz kid!" Sulu declared.
"It does make sense," Uhura mused. "Vulcan rituals are… different. And involve biological changes."
"Maybe we can have Mr. Spock's room made into an arcade," Scotty said.
"That would be awesome," Sulu replied. "Unbelievably. Speaking of New Vulcan, we could get a machine with Savage Sehlats." The table glanced at him blankly and he clarified. "It was only the best game of all time, guys. We need it on the ship, and I might be able to pick up the mods I made for the one near my house next time we dock in San Francisco."
"Should we throw them a party?" Chekov asked.
"If you want to organize a party for absolutely no reason when they come back and get them absolutely nothing, then sure, why not," McCoy said. "But don't ask me. I'm not actually in charge, thank fuck."
Everyone at the table looked to Scotty, who didn't speak, but gave them a look that said, as they expected, Make it awesome.
"And you are going to fuck with them a little when they get back, right?" McCoy asked everyone. "Which isn't to say there's a legitimate reason for it -- I just like seeing them squirm."
"All right, now. Time for you to meet everyone," Scotty said. "Midshipman Peter Preston, say hello to Captain Sulu and Commander Uhura. Sulu, Uhura: my nephew, Mr. Peter Preston."
"Um, hi. It's… it's a pleasure to meet all of you. Do -- do you know you're in Starfleet training manuals? Every single one of you!"
"Not as much as your uncle, that's for sure," Sulu replied.
"Well, no, but you've all done pretty well for yourselves!" Peter replied, and then blushed embarrassedly.
"Is this your first time in space?" Uhura asked.
"Jeez, Uhura, how can you ask that?" Sulu asked. "Scotty's been sneaking Peter on board since he was born."
"He's right, ma'am," Peter beamed. "But it's my first time, uh, actually doing something. On a ship. Working in space, it's my first time."
"Pavel's hands shook like that for the first ten seconds we were on the Enterprise," Sulu laughed as he motioned to Peter drumming his fingers. "Then he just told me to shut up and off he went. Anyway," Sulu continued, "You're going to love it here. No better ship to be trained on, and the crew's not bad, either."
"Oh, I know, sir!" Peter replied. "You don't have to tell me. I almost passed out when I saw had placed high enough to get on the Enterprise for my training."
"Not that I would have had it any other way," Scotty added. "What nepotism? Never heard of it."
"You never would have let me on here if I didn't deserve it, you were the first one who told me that," Peter laughed. "I just wish my first trip up here wasn't also an inspection visit -- I've heard things are more stressful when there's an admiral around."
And then Scotty, Uhura, and Sulu burst out laughing.
"You met the admiral when he arrived," Uhura said. "You know he's not quite…"
"He's Admiral James T. Kirk," Peter said. "Books written about him, songs sung about him -- he's a legend. It's going to be even crazier trying to get anything past him."
They all glanced at each other and laughed again.
"Peter, look," Sulu began. "Just do your job and you'll pass an inspection conducted by Admiral Kirk. Plain and simple. Also, it wouldn't hurt to risk your life to save as many people as possible with a touch of melodrama thrown in. He loves theatrics, let me tell you."
"And he's not like other admirals who hover around the new trainees and breathe down their necks until they make a mistake," Uhura said. "He might drop by once or twice, but he'll probably be with the captain for most of the trip."
"He and the captain are friends?" Peter asked. "Does that mean he'll -- you know -- go easy on him? On us?"
"Give and take, lad," Scotty said, who had been too busy laughing for most of the conversation to contribute. "If Captain Spock is too harsh, Admiral Kirk will be easier, and vice versa. They complement each other very well."
"Do they ever," Sulu said.
"Stop it, you two, really, that's ancient history," Uhura said as she grinned.
"Tell me about it -- I can teach a damn class on it, if necessary."
"On what?" Peter asked.
"Well," Uhura said. "It all started with the Kobayashi Maru, and this young cadet by the name of James Kirk -- maybe you've heard of him?"