Going Once, Going Twice...
Come on Bones, it'll be fun!
Leonard had probably heard that sentence about a hundred times before, and each and every damn time it had been a signal that things were about to go downhill. No matter if Jim flashed him his best lost puppy expression from those big blue eyes, Leonard really should know better by now than to fall for it.
Hell, yeah. Leonard was nearly bursting with all the fun he was having right now. Not only was he not spending three days of precious shore leave alone with Jim, like the other man had promised, no. He was also spending those three days together with most of the crew and other Starfleet personnel on the Starfleet base on Britor Prime.
They hadn't had any shore leave in over six months, and now they had three days off on one of the allegedly most beautiful planets within hundreds of light years, and what did it amount to? Jim was stuck in some sort of meeting with the base commander, and Leonard was stuck in a Starfleet base, with Starfleet personnel – most of whom he was cooped up with in this flying tin can day in, day out – eating the same replicated food he ate every damn day. He hadn't even managed to get outside for a fresh breath of air just once since his arrival, and slowly but surely he couldn't help but think that it would have been better to just stay on Enterprise and get caught up on his paperwork.
It'll be fun, all right.
The situation alone sucked badly enough, but it was nowhere near the end of it yet. Of course not. Because in celebration of Enterprise's arrival, the Starfleet personnel stationed on Britor Prime had organized a little celebratory get-together. A party, complete with food, an open bar, music, a dance floor.
Oh, and of course there was the absolute highlight of the party – the Starfleet's Most Eligible Bachelor Auction.
Fun. Damn it all to hell.
The next time Leonard saw Jim, he was going to kill him. And Christine Chapel right along with him, because his she-devil of a head-nurse had conspired with the gigantic idiot that was his best friend and lover, and together the toxic duo had enlisted Leonard in the auction. Without his prior knowledge or consent, and Leonard was pretty damn sure that there were laws against that kind of thing. It had to be illegal to force someone to go up onto a stage to be ogled by hundreds of pairs of eyes, only to be sold like a piece of cattle on the market.
He was going to kill Jim.
The money the auction was going to raise would go directly to one of the Starfleet Child Care centers, so Leonard guessed there was an ulterior motive to the whole thing, but still. He'd gladly donate a month's salary or more if he could just stay off this stage and not go through with the whole damn auction idea, thank you very much. But Christine was watching him like a hawk, and more than once had surreptitiously placed herself between Leonard and the nearest exit with a determined expression in her eyes that promised horrible retribution in the future if he dared to sneak away now.
Christine Chapel was probably the one person who could make his working life a living hell, and for some reason she seemed to be taking this whole auction business pretty damn seriously. So Leonard really had no choice but to stand beside the makeshift stage that had been constructed in the base's largest room, and over the course of the past half hour he had watched half the male senior crew of his ship get auctioned off, none of whom had seemed to mind partaking in these ridiculous shenanigans.
On the contrary, Scotty had seemed positively delighted, and judged by the rapacious giggling and loud laughter coming from the table where he and the female base engineer who had placed the highest bid on him were seated, he was still just as delighted. Of course, the bottle of Tellarian Brandy they were working their way through could have something to do with it, but whatever the reason, being auctioned off like that seemed to work out for him.
He'd have to keep an eye out for Chekov, though. The kid had blushed a deep crimson the moment his highest bidder had turned out to be a middle-aged stellar cartographer from their very own crew. Dinner and at least one dance, those were the rules of this ridiculous event, but Leonard recognized the gleam in the woman's eyes. Now, Leonard personally thought that a little cougar action might not be the worst thing that could happen to the kid, but someone had to keep an eye out so that things didn't get completely out of hand. Months of being pent up on a starship did strange things to some people's libido, and not everyone aboard had someone like Jim to take care of that particular problem.
Seriously, someone else aside from him had to see that this whole thing was potentially headed for disaster. They were grown men and women, Starfleet officers and representatives of Earth here in space, the best and brightest of their generation, and how did they prove it? By reverting the emancipation and social development of a few centuries of in order to hold a Bachelor Auction.
That pretty much said it all.
Before Leonard even had the chance to maybe figure out a last-minute way to get out of this, suddenly Christine was standing right next to him, an excited smile on her face.
"Remember, Leonard – dinner and a dance. And now get out there and have some fun, for crying out loud!"
He had the reply already on his lips, and it was a really good one, snarky and scathing, but before he could actually say anything, his head nurse gave him a pretty hard push and he found himself stumbling up onto the stage. One of the technical geniuses in this room had installed spotlights to light the stage area, and Leonard found himself blinking frantically in a desperate attempt to be able to see the people in front of him.
The room had fallen eerily silent, and Leonard felt strangely exposed now that he was standing here for everyone to see.
This was ridiculous.
He was too old and – hell – way too mature for this kind of crap.
Also, he was a grumpy doctor who was in a steady relationship, not a cute Russian wunderkind or an infamous Starfleet engineer with plenty of stories to tell. It wasn't as if anyone was going to go out of their way to bid for him, even if it was for charity.
He only hoped this was going to be over with quickly, and without too much embarrassment.
And then he was going to kill Jim.
"And here Ladies and Gentlemen we have one of the gems amongst Starfleet's Most Eligible Bachelors!"
And once he was done with Jim, he'd kill Janice Rand too, just for good measure. If he could only see her amongst the glare of the spotlights, he'd throw her a look that said as much, but as it was Leonard had a hard enough time trying not to tear up from the harsh lights. Besides, he seriously doubted Jim's yeoman would have cared, anyway. The cheer in her voice at least never faltered as she continued the introduction.
"Lieutenant Commander Leonard H. McCoy of the USS Enterprise, and no, ladies and gentlemen, the H. does not stand for handsome, although it definitely should."
Oh yes, he was definitely going to kill Rand, too.
"As Chief Medical Officer, Lieutenant Commander McCoy is an experienced surgeon. The whole crew of the Enterprise can testify to the fact that Doctor McCoy has extremely skilled hands. Here's a man who knows how to…handle his hypospray, if you know what I mean."
Slowly. He was going to take his time killing her, and it was going to be slow and satisfactory, that was for sure.
"In his free time, Georgian-born and raised Lieutenant Commander McCoy enjoys old 20th century jazz and a good glass of fine bourbon. So, can I hear the first bid for this incredibly fine specimen of the male species?"
And there it was, that eerily quiet moment after Rand's voice stopped echoing through the room. Everyone had suddenly fallen silent, and Leonard just knew that this moment was going to stretch on and on, until it was going to get so embarrassing that someone would feel compelled to make a pathetically small bid so that he wasn't going to be the only one to leave the stage without an offer…
It was a female voice, from somewhere to Leonard's left, but even as he turned his head and tried to catch a glimpse of what kind of dinner and dancing companion he could possibly expect, another voice rang out from the opposite direction.
"A hundred credits!"
Leonard nearly gave himself whiplash trying to turn around, and then suddenly it was as if someone had released a large group of toddlers after a day of forcing them to sit still. Voices started yelling from all directions, much too fast for Leonard to keep track of.
"A hundred and fifty!"
"A hundred and eighty!"
"Two hundred and fifty credits!"
The last had a male voice mixing with the higher-pitched female ones, and slowly but surely Leonard got the feeling that he had no idea what he had let himself in for.
"Five hundred credits in an anonymous bid via comm!"
Leonard nearly stumbled as he spun around to locate the source of the voice. He couldn't quite believe his eyes, but there was Ensign Miller, one of the med techs, one of his own damn crew, for crying out loud, standing beside Christine Chapel with a communicator raised to her ear.
What the hell?
This wasn't Christie's, it was a fun auction for charity, for crying out loud! For the Starfleet personnel present here in the room! What business did Ensign Miller have accepting anonymous bid, and via comm at that? Someone who wasn't even here in the room was bidding in this auction, was bidding for him, and Leonard was the only one who thought that was pretty damn weird? It could be anybody! Hell, they hadn't even said their name, and still Christine and Ensign Miller thought this was normal? As far as Leonard was concerned, it was a reason to locate the source of the comm signal and maybe send a security team, but apparently nobody else shared that opinion.
A bunch of infants, all of them.
What startled Leonard out of his righteous fury was the shout of "One thousand credits!" from somewhere beside him, and he spun around with a startled gasp. The bidding had continued, and was now reaching ridiculously high amounts. Seriously, what the hell was going on here?
"Eleven hundred credits!"
"Twelve hundred and fifty credits for the anonymous bidder," Miller called, and Leonard ran a hand through his hair with a thoroughly confused and frustrated huff. He had no clue what the fuck was going on here, but he was pretty damn sure that this whole thing had gotten seriously out of hand.
It were only two voices that continued to bid for him, that much Leonard could discern once he got a grip on himself and really listened. Ensign Miller's was one of them, and the other an authoritative female voice from somewhere to Leonard's right, and in the back. He was pretty sure he had never heard the voice before, so it was probably one of the base's officers, but right now he'd seriously prefer dinner and a dance with someone who was here in the room with him over an anonymous voice on the comm.
"Fourteen hundred!" The female voice in the back called, and almost automatically Leonard found his gaze drawn back towards where Miller was standing beside the stage. She had the comm held against her ear and nodded once before she raised her hand.
"Fifteen hundred credits!"
"Sixteen hundred!" Came the immediate reply from the woman in the back of the room, and Leonard could only shake his head. They were already well over the highest bid of the evening, and it didn't sound as if those two were ready to stop bidding yet. Leonard didn't know why, but he found his heart starting to beat faster in his chest as he listened to the continued bidding. The rest of the room had fallen silent, too, collectively holding their breath to see where this would go.
"Eighteen hundred," Miller called after a short pause to listen to the person on the other end of the communicator. This time, a second or two passed and Rand took an anticipatory step forward to pick up her role of auctioneer again, but then the female voice called through the room again, sounding more determined than before.
"Nineteen hundred credits!"
"Two thousand credits from the anonymous bidder!" Miller called, and a hush went through the room at the bid. This was…it was a shitload of money for a dinner and a dance, that's what it was, and the slight nervousness Leonard felt started to turn into the first tendrils of dread. Something couldn't be right here, why was he the only one who seemed to see that?
There was no immediate counter-bid, and Leonard's heart did a funny lurch in his chest as Rand stepped up beside him.
"Two thousand credits going once…"
The woman stood up now, and though the spotlights were too bright for Leonard to make out any details, he could see that she was tall, with a very straight posture.
"Two thousand two hundred and fifty credits!"
The crowd in the room drew a in a collective breath, and Leonard spun around, his eyes immediately searching out Ensign Miller again. She, too, appeared wide-eyed and startled as she listened to whatever the person on the other end of the comm-line was saying. Everything else suddenly faded into the background as Leonard, like everyone else in the room, stared at the young Ensign.
"Two thousand two hundred and fifty credits going once…"
Not even Rand's voice really registered as Leonard watched how Miller listened, then said something into the communicator. Leonard couldn't read lips all that well, but judged by the expression on her face, the young ensign was extremely startled by what she heard.
Miller listened, then gave an abrupt nod and raised her hand.
"Three thousand credits!"
There was a collective gasp, and then the room fell so silent that you could have heard a pin drop.
Leonard's heart was beating a frantic beat in his chest as he slowly turned back towards Rand. The Yeoman, like everyone else in the room, seemed completely taken aback by that absurdly high bid, but after a moment or two a smile started to spread on her face.
"Three thousand credits going once," she looked around the room as if looking for another bid, but from the corner of his eyes Leonard saw the woman who had continued to raise the bids give a shrug and sit back down.
"Going twice…and gone! For the record bid of three thousand Federation credits, to the anonymous bidder on the comm!"
The room erupted in cheers, but Leonard was too stunned by what had happened during the past ten minutes to realize what was happening. When Rand put a hand on his arm and gently guided him off the stage, Leonard followed her somewhat dumbly, but as soon as he left the spotlight and the exposure to everyone's eyes, he felt an eerie calm rise inside of him.
And then he saw Miller and Chapel standing next to each other, laughing and shaking their head in disbelief, and that calm turned to anger. Three thousand credits might be a whole damn lot of money, especially for a charitable cause, but this whole thing about the anonymous bidder was ridiculous, not to mention pretty damn dangerous, and Leonard wasn't going to stand here and let them sell him off to someone who didn't even have the guts to come here and show their face in person. He was a doctor, damn it, and this was a Starfleet base and not Vylydian cattle auction.
As soon as he was within hearing range, Leonard balled his hands into fists and turned towards his head nurse, intent on giving her a piece of his mind about this whole auction debacle.
"What the hell do you think you're doing here, Chapel?"
Apparently, neither the tone of his voice, nor the use of her last name registered as the warning signs they were meant to be, because the smile never wavered on Christine's face.
"Raising the highest bid on a Starfleet charity auction, Leonard. Isn't it amazing?"
"Amazing? Amazing?!" Leonard couldn't believe his ears. "What is this anonymous bidding crap all about? Dinner and a dance, remember? That's how you lured me to be a part of this whole farce in the first place. Dinner and a dance with someone here in the room, and not with some…some anonymous coward who is probably laughing himself silly right now because he got you good. Or do you seriously think someone is going to waste three thousand credits for some food and a dance with me? You've been had, Christine. This whole thing is a farce!"
"Sir? We're ready."
Leonard spun around as Miller stepped up to them, the communicator still held in her hand. Leonard had half a mind to tear the device out of her hand and tell the person on the other hand of the connection just what he thought of their courage, their state of mind, and probably their heritage, too. But then Miller's words registered.
"Ready? Ready for what?"
Christine just laughed, patted his shoulder and pressed a kiss against his cheek. "Just remember, Leonard. Dinner and a dance. You promised."
And before Leonard could even think of a reply, Miller said something into the communicator, and Leonard felt the first tingles of dematerialization prickle under his skin.
He closed his eyes reflexively as soon as he realized that he was being transported. And really, the list of things he was going to complain about was getting longer and longer. Whatever was going on here, and for whatever reason Christine was treating this like no big deal, he was getting mad. No, he was getting royally pissed off, and someone was going to pay for this. This was kidnapping, for crying out loud. And as soon as he killed Jim and Christine and Rand for getting him involved in this in the first place, he was going to make damn sure that whoever was behind these horrendously high bids would get what was coming to them, too.
Leonard opened his eyes as he felt a soft, warm breeze against his skin. He had dressed casually for the event at the base, out of uniform and dressed in slacks and a button down shirt with the top two buttons undone. It had been more than appropriate for the informal occasion, but as he opened his eyes and looked around, he suddenly felt strangely exposed.
He was outside, that much was obvious, and Leonard immediately turned around and tried to discern where he was. The sun was standing low on the horizon, and he could clearly see the twin moons in the sky above him, so it was safe to say that he was still on Britor Prime. In the distance, he could make out the bright lights surrounding the Starfleet base, and the outskirts of the capital city that stretched farther beyond. But out here where Leonard was, there was nothing, no city, no settlement even. Just the hillside he had been transported on top of, and the house in front of which Leonard now stood.
He had materialized on some sort of terrace from which a pair of old fashioned sliding glass doors led into the interior of the house. The terrace itself looked surprisingly terran – there was a pair of loungers standing around a small table, and a banister at Leonard's hip height separated the terrace from the steep hillside beyond. The terrace was lit by a number of small lights, and lights were on inside the house, too, indicating that Leonard wasn't alone.
Of course he wasn't. Someone else was here, the person who had paid three thousand credits to bring him here, and Leonard had quite a number of things to say to whoever was behind those half-open glass doors.
This was ridiculous.
Leonard drew a deep breath, then he turned towards the doors and stepped into the house. It wasn't a spacious building, and coming in from the porch Leonard found himself in a sitting room of sorts. To his left, a table was set for two, with a single candle burning in the middle of the wooden surface. The entire room was lit dimly, but not so dark that it gave the room an oppressive feel. Instead, a number of indirect light sources that Leonard couldn't quite discern cast a warm glow around the room, one that was almost flickering like candlelight.
A small knot of tension formed in Leonard's gut. This wasn't the kind of dinner one would bid for at an auction for a charitable cause. This was a deliberate setup, one that had been created with intent. Romantic intent. It was about time Leonard put an end to this, made it clear that he was in a committed monogamous relationship, and figured out a way to get back to the Starfleet base.
Once that was done, he'd start figuring out a plan for his revenge on all the people who had been involved in getting him into this crap in the first place.
Despite the obvious signs that someone else was here, the house had been eerily silent since Leonard's arrival, and his head snapped up as he heard steps from the adjacent room.
"Hello?" He called, careful to keep his voice determined and not let any of his confusion shine through. It wasn't too hard, since his anger was still burning close to the surface. "Listen, I have no idea what you've been told about this whole bachelor auction, but I'm fairly sure you misunderstood the whole damn concept. You can't just go ahead and transport people halfway across the continent just because you wave around a few credits. Where I come from, that's called kidnapping."
The steps were nearing the doorway now, but he heard the other person chuckle before he even saw them. It was just a small sound, but suddenly it all made sense.
He should have known.
Damn it, he should have known that only one person in the entire universe could come up with a scheme like that. All at once, the knot of tension in his stomach dissolved, and in all honesty Leonard didn't quite know if he should laugh or get ready to strangle someone.
Leonard looked up at Jim who was now leaning in the entryway, arms crossed loosely over his chest. He was wearing a dark pair of slacks and a white shirt that Leonard had never seen on him before. His eyes shone in the dim light of the room as he watched Leonard with a smile playing around the corners of his mouth.
Leonard shook his head and couldn't quite stop the fond but at the same time exasperated smile that was tugging at his own lips.
"You do know that you just spent three thousand credits to bring me here? Do I have to remind you how many monthly salaries that are?"
Jim's smile widened and he shrugged, pushing himself off the doorjamb in one smooth movement.
"It was for a good cause. Some kids will have a bit more entertainment and better equipment to spend their time with while their parents are serving in space, so I wouldn't call it a waste. Besides, I have free room and board, it's not like I need the money."
And while that was certainly true, Leonard didn't know many other people who were this nonchalant about such a sum of money, whether or not they might need it right now or later. But that was Jim, and Leonard knew that the thought of a few kids in Starfleet Child Care centers getting new toys was making him a lot happier than the knowledge that he had a sizeable sum of credits in his account.
"Money or not, you are aware that if you wanted dinner and a dance with me, all you had to do was ask? No need to go through an entire auction for that."
Jim smiled and stopped just a step away from Leonard, looking him up and down as if he was seeing him for the first time in days, or even longer.
"Oh, but where would have been the fun in that? Don't tell me you didn't have fun."
There was that word again.
"Fun? What exactly was I supposed to enjoy about the whole thing? Being auctioned off like Calidian goat at a farmer's market?"
Jim threw his head back and laughed. "No, Bones. But don't tell me you didn't enjoy the feeling when people kept bidding for you. Don't tell me it wasn't a rush when you realized that the bids were climbing higher and higher, that someone was willing to pay so much money just to spend time with you. Don't tell me you didn't enjoy that at least a little."
He might have enjoyed it, if Leonard hadn't been so confused and shocked for the entire time he had stood on that stage. As it was, confusion was surely the best word to describe his feelings about the matter, not rush.
"So everyone was in on your little plan?"
Jim shook his head. "No, not everyone. Just Christine, and Ensign Miller, of course, though Christine only told her about it a few minutes before the auction started. They will probably have told Janice by now, because I can tell you that she is just as nosy as she is persistent. But nobody else knew."
Well, it was enough that Jim was conspiring with his head nurse. Up until today, Leonard had always thought that at least she'd be immune against being pulled into one of Jim's schemes. He didn't even want to know how long it had taken to set this whole thing up. But then another thought struck him.
"What about that meeting you were going to be stuck in all evening long?"
Jim's grin turned sheepish, and he brought a hand up to rub the back of his neck. "Yeah, well. That might have been a little lie."
Leonard raised an eyebrow.
Jim grimaced. "Sorry. But I needed to get away for a little while without making you suspicious. I needed time to set this up, after all you've been promised dinner and a dance. And I intend to keep that promise."
And even if Leonard had still harbored any real anger towards Jim, it would have faded at the sight of what Jim had set in motion to make this evening possible. Only Jim, that wonderful idiot, would come up with such a harebrained scheme and somehow still manage to make it work. Leonard really wanted to lean in for a kiss to show Jim that he appreciated the thought – though they were going to have a few words about his means later on – but Jim was moving away as if he wanted to avoid exactly that reaction. Instead, he reached for Leonard's hand and started to pull him into the direction of the set table.
"So let me make good on the dinner first, before it gets cold."
Jim seated them across from each other, the solitary candle casting its flickering light across Jim's face as he uncovered the meal he had had delivered from a restaurant in the capital. As Jim claimed, it was typical Britorian food, and while Leonard didn't recognize any of the vegetables or other ingredients, he had to admit that it tasted delicious. There was no meat since the Britorians lived an exclusively vegetarian lifestyle, but there were plenty of different tastes he had never experienced before that more than made up for the lack of meat.
They didn't talk much during the meal, but it was no uncomfortable silence that settled between them. On the contrary, if there was one thing Leonard had always appreciated about their relationship, as friends and later as more, then that they could be around each other without the compulsive need to fill the silence. Oh, Leonard still had plenty of questions left about why exactly Jim had set up this whole scheme, and why the hell he had felt the need to go through something as ridiculous as a bachelor auction to spend some time alone with him, but it seemed as if Jim had this evening all planned out. So Leonard was going to lean back to wait and see what else his lover had in store for him. The questions could wait until later.
Once they were done with their meal, Jim regarded Leonard over their empty plates for a moment, but then his eyes darted towards the window behind Leonard's back and his eyes lit up. Before Leonard really understood what was going on, Jim was already out of his chair and had rounded the table to pull Leonard up along with him.
"Come on, Bones. You've got to see this."
Leonard had no choice but to follow Jim as he pulled him out onto the porch. The sun had nearly set by now, and the entire horizon was bathed in an incredible red glow that illuminated the hillsides and the outlines of the woods around them. It was…Leonard had never seen anything quite like it before.
"Beautiful, isn't it?" Jim all but whispered, reaching for Leonard's hand and intertwining their fingers.
It was breathtaking, and Leonard found himself at a loss for an answer. Instead, he squeezed Jim's hand tightly in wordless reply as his eyes roamed over the display in front of them. Of course he had read that Britor Prime was a planet that was famous for its natural beauty, but seeing it with his own eyes was a whole different thing than reading about it in a Starfleet information pamphlet.
"They have houses like this all over the planet, spread out over the hills with a clear view all around."
"It's beautiful," Leonard replied, still answered, still awed by the incredible display of light around them.
"They say that the sunrise is even more spectacular," Jim said after a moment, his voice a warm whisper against Leonard's ear. "The entire upper floor of this house has no walls so that you don't miss a single moment of it."
Leonard turned towards Jim, who was still looking at the horizon with a faraway expression on his face and a content smile on his face. The corner of his mouth twitched as if he knew exactly that Leonard was looking at him.
"Not a single wall?"
Jim shook his head, the smile wide now and firmly in place. "No. Just four floor-to-ceiling glass planes. The view is amazing."
"Really now? And what room exactly is on the upper floor?"
The smile on Jim's face widened, and he finally turned towards Leonard and looked at him. "The bedroom."
Leonard chuckled. "Of course."
"I promise I'll show you later."
That statement surprised Leonard, though. "Later?"
Jim nodded and finally turned to look at him. "Yes, later. For now, I think you still owe me a dance."
"Oh, I owe you? More like you owe me, kid. You lured me into this with the promise of dinner and a dance, remember? You still have half of that promise to make good on."
Jim took a step closer with a smile, close enough that Leonard thought he could feel the other man's body heat against him. "Then why don't we dance now?"
Leonard cocked his head to the side, a challenging smile on his face. "There's no music."
Jim just looked at him as if he couldn't quite believe Leonard would ever dare to doubt him, then he turned around and picked up a small device from the table behind them. He pressed a few buttons, and a moment later the muted sound of a trumpet and a bass rang out over the terrace. It was swingy rather than real jazz, but either way that wasn't the kind of music Jim normally listened to. Yet it was pleasant and unobtrusive, and obviously something Jim had picked for him rather than for them both.
Jim stepped up to him again. "It took me a while to find some music in the database that you wouldn't immediately hate."
He still seemed a little insecure that he had chosen the right thing, and Leonard felt the need to reassure him.
"You did a good job."
Jim's smile widened and he stretched out his hand. "In that case, may I have the next dance?"
Leonard took the offered hand, and finally Jim moved in close, into his personal space. They didn't dance often, but still their bodies lined up almost naturally. Still holding onto Leonard's hand tightly, Jim sneaked his free arm around his waist, and Leonard mirrored the movement, pulling Jim in close with his palm pressed against the other man's back. Their joined hands ended up pressed between their chests as they moved close towards each other and started to sway to the music.
For the first time that evening, Leonard felt himself relax completely. Jim's body radiated warmth against him, and the fabric of his new shirt felt soft under his fingers. For a few long minutes, there was nothing else but the feeling of Jim's warmth against him, the gentle sway of their bodies to the music, and the scent of Jim's hair and aftershave that made Leonard want to burrow against him even farther. They continued to sway and slowly spin across the terrace even after the song ended and the silence of the night fell around them.
Whatever Jim's reasons were for putting all of this together, Leonard had to admit that it had been a great idea. They had far too few of these moments where it was just them, with nobody else around. Even though it still felt like too big of a scheme to put together just for some time alone, and Leonard couldn't shake the feeling that he kept missing something.
"So what's the occasion?" He asked as a new song picked up and Jim adjusted their slow rhythm to it. Upon Leonard's question, he drew his head back enough so that he could look at him.
"For all this. This feels like a celebration, but I have no idea what we could be celebrating. It's neither your birthday nor mine, the next holiday I'm aware of is more than two months away, and I sure as hell hope I didn't forget about any anniversaries."
Jim smiled and cast his eyes down for a moment before he leaned in and pressed his cheek against Leonard's again.
"You didn't forget about an anniversary. Can't I just want to spend a few hours alone with my very significant other?"
"You sure can. In fact, I insist that you try and do as often as humanly possible. But normally you don't rig a charity auction in order to spend some time with me."
Again, Jim drew his head back and looked Leonard straight in the eyes.
"I told you, only Christine and Ensign Miller knew what was going on. Nothing about the auction was rigged, Bones. All the bids were real."
As the words sunk in, Leonard couldn't help but chuckle. "Guess you didn't expect for the bids to go quite that high."
Jim laughed. "No. To be honest, I didn't think it would go quite that high. I don't know what the hell you were doing up on that stage, but I really thought that one woman was never going to stop bidding. Now, I'm sure I understand her reasons completely, but she was driving a hard bargain."
Leonard chuckled. "And so you thought you'd have to raise the bid to three thousand credits to make her stop?"
Jim just shrugged. "It worked, didn't it? And who knows for how long she'd have kept bidding if I had continued to raise the bids little by little."
That did raise another question, though.
"And what if she had?"
Jim frowned. "What do you mean?"
"What was your limit, Jim? At which point would you have stopped bidding and let me stew over dinner with some middle-aged Starfleet officer?"
Jim shook his head, his gaze never straying from Leonard's. "There was no limit, Bones. There was never any other option but that you'd be here tonight."
There was absolute conviction in his voice, and Leonard didn't doubt for one second that this crazy wonderful man in his arms would have gladly spent a year's salary on this auction had it been necessary. It was absolutely insane, but it was also awing and humbling. Sometimes, Leonard didn't know what he had earned Jim with.
But he had him, even though there were moments when Leonard still couldn't quite believe it. Jim was his just as much as he was Jim's, and that was something Leonard wasn't going to let go of ever again. Sliding his palm up Jim's back towards his neck, Leonard leaned in close and pressed a kiss against the other man's lips. Jim was immediately responsive against him, opening up to him and kissing back as they continued to sway to the slow and gentle rhythm of the music in the background. Jim still tasted of the wine they had had for dinner, sweet and fruity and underneath all that purely like Jim, and Leonard never wanted for this moment to end.
They finally had to break apart for air, and Jim leaned his forehead against Leonard's with a smile.
"And here I thought dinner and a dance was as far as you were willing to go."
Leonard chuckled and pressed another quick kiss against Jim's lips. "Maybe I decided to make an exception. You did go out of your way to set this up, after all."
Jim smiled and closed his eyes with a small, content sound, their foreheads were still pressed together and Jim's hand was tracing gentle patterns against Leonard's back through his shirt. They were still swaying gently, and Leonard could have stayed like this for the entire night, not really dancing anymore but moving his body in time with Jim's. His own hand was twined into the short hair at the back of Jim's neck, but let his hand drift back to Jim's shoulders again as the other man opened his eyes and drew his head back slightly.
For a few long moments, Jim simply looked at him, his blue eyes seeming darker than Leonard knew they were in the dim light of the terrace. But even in the semi-darkness, those eyes were still captivating, and like each and every time Leonard found himself caught in the gaze, unable to look away.
"Maybe you were right," Jim said after a while, his voice lowered so that the sound barely carried between them. "Maybe there is something I hoped we could celebrate."
Even now that the sun had sunk it was still warm outside, and there was barely any wind, but still Jim's hand felt cold and clammy against his own. As Leonard squeezed it encouragingly, he saw Jim's Adam's apple bounce as he swallowed compulsively. The shift was subtle, but Leonard knew the other man well enough to read the signs. Even though the signs were telling him right now that Jim's mood was shifting from relaxed and comfortable to nervous, and he couldn't for the life of him imagine what all this was about.
"Okay," he replied, instinctively lowering his own voice to the same hushed pitch. "And what are we going to celebrate?"
Jim didn't answer right away. He just looked at Leonard, eyes steady as if he was trying to commit this moment to memory, and though Jim's hand was still cold and clammy in his own, Leonard felt a comforting calm settle inside of him. There was something about this moment that seemed immense, but Leonard didn't feel nervous about it. Right here, right now, it was just Jim and him. Whatever all this was about, Leonard was sure Jim had no reason to be this tense about it.
"Marry me, Bones."
Leonard wasn't surprised. He should be, he knew that. They had never talked about this, had never even mentioned it once. And Leonard had been through all of this once before; he knew that marriage was no guarantee that a relationship was going to last. But despite all that, despite all the possible reasons why this had come completely out of the left field, there was no surprise, there was no shock and there was no hesitation. Most importantly though, there was no doubt. Not for a single moment.
Jim stopped their gentle swaying, his eyes widening slightly, as if he had seriously believed that Leonard's answer could be different.
Leonard leaned in close, his lips stretching into a smile as they brushed against Jim's.
"Yes, Jim. I'll marry you. Gladly."
Jim's smile was so bright the earlier sunset in all its brilliance and beauty paled in comparison. Leonard couldn't help but close the gap between them and lean in for another kiss. Jim's lips parted willingly beneath his, and Leonard forgot about everything else but the feeling of Jim pressed against him like this, as closely as possible and then yet another bit closer. The promise of having this for the rest of his life…it felt right like nothing had ever done before.
Leonard completely lost track of time as they stood there and and traded tender kisses. All he could say was that by the time they finally broke apart, the sun had sunk completely beneath the horizon and darkness had settled around them. The only light came from the twin moons in the sky above them and the small, dim glow of the terrace lights. At some point during their kiss, the music had stopped and the night had fallen silent around them, but they were still swaying gently to the sound of an inaudible tune. Leonard pressed one more kiss against Jim's swollen lips, then leaned back a little to look into his eyes.
"You could have had this celebration without the need to spend a few monthly salaries on me, you know?"
Jim's eyes sparkled with amusement, and there was a sly smile on his face that made Leonard want to start kissing him all over again.
"But then you would have missed our on your last chance to ever be part of a bachelor auction."
"Yes, and that really would have been a horrible thing to miss out on."
Warm fingers tangled in his hair and rubbed circles into Leonard's scalp.
"Besides, it makes for an awesome story. If our grandkids ever ask us how we got married, we can tell them the story of how Grandpa Jim bought Grandpa Bones at an auction."
Leonard snorted. "If our grandchildren end up calling me Grandpa Bones, Grandpa Jim is going to sleep on the couch for a long, long time, just so you know."
Jim laughed at that, the loud and uninhibited laugh that Leonard never got enough of. "I'll keep that in mind. But admit it, Bones. You can grumble about it as much as you like, but you had fun tonight."
Leonard thought back to the glaring lights and the feeling of being completely exposed up on that stage and already wanted to disagree, but he had to admit that everything that had happened after that auction had more than made up for it.
He brought up a hand to cup Jim's cheek and traced a few of his laugh-lines with his thumb.
"The evening got progressively better, I've got to give you that. And if we ever end up telling our grandchildren about this night, we're definitely going to leave out how it ended."
There was a gleam in Jim's eyes at those words, and Leonard's eyes traced the movement of his tongue as he slowly licked along his bottom lip.
"Oh, and how is it going to end?"
Jim's voice was low and husky, and Leonard felt anticipation and arousal spread through him in equal measure. Lowering his voice, he leaned in closer to murmur the words into Jim's ear.
"Well, I'd say we're going to turn off the lights down here, go and grab that that bottle of wine we didn't finish over dinner, and then you take me upstairs and show me that bedroom with the amazing view you told me about earlier. How's that sound, darlin'?"
His only answer was a quick but firm kiss against his lips, then Jim moved away from him and Leonard regretfully let him withdraw. He kept a firm hold of Jim's hand though, unwilling to let go of him entirely just yet. The smile on Jim's face was still bright and unwavering as he pulled Leonard back into the house, extinguishing the terrace lights as he went.
Leonard willingly let himself be pulled back into the house, through the living room and up the stairs to the sound of Jim's laughter and whispered promises of how little sleep they were going to get that night.
Yes, the evening had definitely gotten progressively better.
Jim had been right. The sunrise on Britor Prime was indeed even more breathtaking than the sunset had been. For nearly an hour, the sky went through all the colors in the spectrum, changing hue seemingly every other moment, before finally the sun rose over the mountain range in the east.
But the beauty of that natural display was nothing compared to the sight of Jim spread out on the bed beside him, naked and relaxed, with his pale skin shining red, orange and yellow in the early morning light, his blue eyes a stark contrast to the display of warm colors reflected on his body.
Leonard quickly lost interest in watching the sunrise at that sight, but he figured that was okay. He and Jim had a lifetime of sunrises ahead of them, after all.