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Spit On A Stone

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In the end, they really had no choice. It was one of those things that happened outside anyone’s conscious will.

They beam back, just the two of them, leaving the others happily swinging across the ballroom. They aren’t dressed for the dance; they’re tired and filthy, and the slight sheen of disgust on Spock’s face tells McCoy he’s itching to claw out of his skin and burn it, while growing himself a new one. McCoy knows exactly how it feels. Sometimes wearing a blue shirt has its disadvantages. The filth that could be washed isn’t the most grievous of them.

McCoy watches Spock, pretending he doesn’t watch him. Spock’s back is ramrod straight as he marches down the corridor, hands clasped behind his back so tightly they’re white. His lips are pressed together angrily, like he’s punishing himself for what he hasn’t told Jim. As far as McCoy’s concerned, he should. If Spock knows that McCoy’s unhappy with him, he doesn’t show it.

Though from a snappish, ice-cold dismissal, yes, he probably does.

McCoy stalks toward his own quarters fuming with anger and pent-up frustration. He jerks his clothes off, possibly catching skin where the filthy fabric has burnt onto it, and hissing like a snake struck with a stick. He bursts into his bathroom and washes himself vigorously until his fingers are numb from clutching the washcloth and his mind is stupefied into inaction. His whole body feels on fire as he steps out from the shower stall and wraps a towel around his hips. It’s possible he got a little carried away.

“I was beginning to entertain the possibility that you had drowned,” Spock drawls, with his usual amount of icy disdain that he doesn’t bother to hide. He’s leaning against McCoy’s desk, arms folded across his chest, and watches McCoy with impatient leniency.

“You’re in my room,” McCoy says intelligently.

Spock has that look about him as if the universe has been trying his patience since the day he was born and McCoy’s just the latest expression of this tiresome tendency.

“Sometimes I do wonder how you managed to survive this long being so generously gifted with the powers of observation,” Spock informs him. “It must be quite a burden, Doctor.”

McCoy scowls, but he’s not in any mood to play along.

“What do you want, Spock?” he asks, wishing he could put on some clothes.

The Vulcan looks away, his shoulders slumping slightly. “I was compelled to make certain you do not take any action we might all regret.”

“Like what?” McCoy snaps.

Spock fixes him with a hard gaze. “Like informing the captain about our... discovery before the contract was signed. That would be extremely unwise.”

“That would be honest!” McCoy raises his voice without noticing. “I thought you Vulcans were champions for ‘honesty is the best policy’ crap.”

Spock raises an eyebrow. “Honesty is indeed the best policy. Full disclosure, however, is not.”

“How Machiavellian of you.”

“Doctor, I am endeavoring to spare the captain a gruesome moral dilemma. I fail to see how comparing me to a medieval power-lusting politician is in any way justified.”

Spock’s voice comes a bit sharp, and okay, maybe he’s a little on edge, too, but McCoy’s too tired and too frustrated to care.

“You’re not sparing him anything, you’re hiding facts from him, making sure he’ll make the decision that suits you best!”

“It is not me I am thinking about, Doctor. The Federation needs this technology. We cannot afford to be proud at a time like this, of which the captain is very well aware. You know he would be obligated to accept the contract anyway. Do you not wish to lessen his—”

“They experimented on children, you heartless son of a bitch!” McCoy yells in his face, angry beyond himself.

“They do not anymore.”

“That doesn’t make it better!”

“But it will have to be enough!” Spock freezes at the sound of his own voice rising. McCoy can see the effort he has to make to take it under control, and there’s some dark, nasty sense of satisfaction curling inside the doctor’s stomach at the sight. Spock picks on it instantly and goes even more rigid.

“You are aware of the consequences,” he says in a tone so carefully modulated it’s downright artificial. “If we tell the captain, if he reports this to Starfleet Command, they will take a day to deliberate and then, Doctor, then, they will order him to sign the treaty anyway, because at a time like this holding on to higher morals is impractical.”

“You son of a bitch,” McCoy breathes. “You unfeeling, pointy-eared—”

“Tell me I’m wrong,” Spock says with deadly calmness. “Tell me you can see the admiralty deciding against striking a bargain with these people. Tell me you believe there is a chance, Doctor, even the smallest one – and I will beam down to inform the captain right now.”

McCoy closes his eyes, because he knows that yes, Spock will. If only McCoy could offer him a shred of hope that they could really stop this, Spock would do exactly as he said. But Spock is right, much as McCoy hates him for it. There is no chance. There is no way the admiralty will turn down an opportunity like that because of some past mistake, no matter how grievous. God knows, humanity’s hands are anything but clean as well.

“They experimented on children, Spock,” McCoy whispers brokenly, head bowed low, eyes still shut tightly. “Children.”

Spock is silent for an infinite moment. When he speaks, his voice is dry, and toneless, and somehow just dead. “You should get some rest, Doctor.”

McCoy snorts mirthlessly and doesn’t reply.

Spock moves past him carefully, extricating himself from McCoy’s space with a hint of fluid gentleness that should feel more considerate than offensive but somehow doesn’t. Just shy of the door, Spock pauses.

“It is in my power to excuse you from the signing ceremony in the morning.”

McCoy turns, looking up at him. “Can you excuse yourself?”

“No,” Spock admits. “However, attendance will not present the same difficulty for me as it would for you, Doctor. As a Vulcan, I experience no emotions.”

McCoy feels a small, painful smile creasing his tense lips beyond his power to stop it. “Yes.” He nods. “I can see how unemotional you are, Spock.”

“Doctor—”

“I’ll see you in the morning, Spock.”

“There is no need for both of us to be there.”

McCoy holds his eyes stubbornly. “Yes. There is.”

Spock stares at him for a moment longer, then nods curtly as if he means it, and walks out.

 

--

 

Another deafening blast hits the ground just behind McCoy as he runs, the shock wave throwing him up in the air. He hits the ground painfully and rolls over several times before he finally stops. Shakily, he lifts himself up on his hands and knees and spits out the dirt that got stuffed into his mouth. Swearing doesn’t make the taste any better. His lungs burning, legs shaking, McCoy hauls himself up to his feet and starts forward again, in a straight line this time, throwing battlefield tactics to the winds, and finally breaking into a run when he’s twenty yards away from the trench.

“Over here, Doctor!” someone shouts for him immediately.

McCoy moves in, his anger flaring yet again at the sight of a bloodied body, squirming in pain. A blue shirt, they’re all blue shirts here, not fucking soldiers. McCoy works automatically, hypo—hypo—sterilizer—freezing agent—bandage. Merciful God, he’s using fucking bandages. His tricorder has long been broken, not that McCoy needs it to know those disruptor wounds are lethal. He does need his medical supplies though, and he’s out – he’s been out of them since, hell, forever.

It goes on and on and on. Another ‘Over here, Doctor!’ Another critically wounded. Another poor bastard whirling in pain that McCoy can’t relieve. They all stare at him imploringly, while their more fortunate friends glare in silent accusation: ‘Is that all you’re gonna do?!’

He wants to tell them to shut the fuck up. Because he’s splitting the remaining painkillers into miniscule, on-the-verge-of-being-ineffective doses in the vain hopes of helping out more people. Because he’s pretty sure his sterilizer is no longer working. Because he’s running out of the goddamn bandages, and it’s plain pathetic.

He stopped looking into their faces a while ago.

“Doctor.”

A calm, cool voice makes him snap out of his frenzy. Spock is leaning over the trench, the makeshift rifle held steadily in his hands as he takes aim. He fires a shot, calmly, efficiently, before turning to McCoy again and looking him over from head to foot, his eyes cold and unyielding.

“Not only have you violated my standing order—” Spock starts.

“Fuck, bite me, Spock!” McCoy spits furiously. “What good am I staying in the shelter when you guys are being obliterated here?”

“You need to tend to our injured crewmates,” Spock says calmly, as if explaining a mathematical problem to a child. “Until the Enterprise arrives, you are our only doctor.”

“Until the Enterprise arrives?! In case you haven’t noticed, Spock, they’re taking their sweet time getting here! And why should they hurry when they believe we’re all on some goddamn shore leave here, collecting bugs and beetles! It makes so much sense to leave a purely scientific party behind, doesn’t it?!”

Spock frowns mildly. “To the best of our knowledge, the planet was uninhabited. The captain could not know it was being used as a terminal for smugglers when he made the decision to split—”

“And what are you fucking for? Was your logic on shutdown or something? You should have seen – should have realized, you useless pointy-eared idiot of a science officer! They are your people, and they’re dying all over the place, and this is all your fault!”

Spock ignores him in favor of taking another shot. McCoy waits, panting, overcome with murderous rage. He wants to smash Spock’s head into a thousand pieces; he wants to hurt him so much it makes his vision blurry. Anything to break this infuriating equanimity. Anything to see if there’re really no goddamn feelings beneath this icicle of a man.

Spock turns back to him with the same frozen mask of an expression.

“Not only did you violate my standing order,” he says, as if he hasn’t heard McCoy’s words, “but you have also demonstrated complete ignorance of proper battlefield protocol for changing positions thus endangering your life needlessly. I will—”

“Protocol?!” McCoy explodes. “Your people are dying and all you care about is goddamn protocol?! My God, we’re all doomed being commandeered by a fucking robot! Yeah, I didn’t zigzag running here, Spock! I’m not a goddamn actor in a World War I movie! And these people are not soldiers – they’re scientists, and—”

“‘These people’ are Starfleet officers,” Spock says flatly. “As are you.”

“Why, you unfeeling, selfish, arrogant son of a bitch, you listen to me now, you heartless—”

“Are there any tranquilizer shots left in your kit?”

“What?” McCoy stumbles mid-rant, staring at Spock. “Yeah, a couple.”

“Inject yourself with one.”

“Are you crazy? These are for people in agony, of which we have one too many in case it slipped your notice, you green-blooded—”

Spock rounds on him. “Inject yourself with one NOW or I will.”

Their gazes lock. McCoy stares into Spock’s eyes, not knowing what he sees there, not knowing why his hands have suddenly begun to shake. They are trembling violently, as he rummages through his almost empty kit, loading the hypospray, not looking at Spock anymore, unable to look at him.

The hypospray hisses softly against his skin, the sound suddenly loud amidst the cannonade. The effect is instantaneous. The numbing calmness spreads over him like wild fire, making him feel nothing except for mounting fatigue.

He glances at Spock then, seeing him clearly for the first time. His hair is smudged with dirt and disheveled, his uniform in shreds, cuts and bruises covering him generously like Christmas decorations in a rich house. But Spock’s eyes are calm; opaque and quiet, they betray no insights.

“I’m sorry,” McCoy whispers.

Spock doesn’t even lift an eyebrow. “Ensign Sanders requires your attention,” he says, tilting his head slightly in the direction of the wounded woman.

“Let me – let me take a look at that arm first.”

Spock turns away abruptly, resuming his position. “My injuries can wait. Attend to Ensign Sanders.”

“That’s a nasty burn and it’s gonna sting like a bitch later.”

“Doctor.” Spock looks at him.

“Fine.” McCoy throws his hands in the air. “Don’t whine on me afterwards.”

Of course it stings like a bitch later and of course Spock doesn’t make a sound. They sit on the ground, Spock leaning against the wall of the trench, McCoy sitting on his knees beside him. Their attackers are regrouping or scheming or something, and it’s quiet and almost completely dark.

Spock’s face seems even more eerie than usual in the hellish light of an emergency lantern. It’s completely expressionless, though, and he doesn’t even wince when McCoy removes bits of his skin together with the molten fabric of what used to be Spock’s shirt from the burn. McCoy whispers apologies, even though it can’t be helped, but Spock doesn’t seem to hear him. He appears to be somewhere else, far away from this place and the death that’s all around them.

It takes McCoy a long time to finish with Spock, because the light is sparse, and his hands are numb with exhaustion, because he hasn’t slept for forty-eight hours, and it makes him see things that probably aren’t there. Done at last, he packs his paraphernalia and moves to get up. Spock catches his wrist.

McCoy looks at him. “What?”

Spock doesn’t answer, doesn’t even look at him. He unclenches his fingers, relinquishing his hold.

McCoy stares at him for an infinite moment, then lifts his eyes up to the sky. The stars are barely visible through the hazy atmosphere. McCoy moves around Spock and sits on the damp ground beside him, leaning against the cold, rough wall. He lays his hand on Spock’s thigh, just above his knee, patting it quietly a couple of times, and leaves it there. He falls asleep asking himself if Spock might be looking at the stars too.

When the Enterprise finally does return for them, they beam up thirteen people instead of thirty-seven they have left. Jim is pale. The ship has been in battle and judging by the way things look around here, survival has been victory enough.

McCoy watches as Spock comes to his parade rest in front of Jim, making his report. He watches Jim taking in Spock’s dispassionate words in silence, watches as the two of them stare at each other. Jim’s face is drawn with contained grief, and Spock’s shows nothing, nothing at all.

McCoy leaves the room without being dismissed when he can’t watch the two of them anymore.

 

--

 

The Festival of Mist on Argelius reminds McCoy of an old country fair with an infusion of bacchanalia. Hedonistic society at its best, he thinks, half-amused, half-exasperated. But that’s what makes their planet so good for the long awaited shore leave, and the Enterprise’s crew shows no signs of hesitation to enjoy themselves.

McCoy spots Uhura in the crowd and takes a moment to admire her legs, as any normal human being would, before lifting his eyes and discovering that she’s practically draped around Cantera, a lieutenant in the tactical section, kissing him senseless. Lifting his eyebrows, McCoy doesn’t know whether to be aroused or disgusted. His gaze slides further until he notices Spock standing in the shadow of a tent, his forearms lying loosely on the railing, watching the crowd impassively. McCoy starts walking before he knows it.

“Good evening, Doctor,” Spock says, even though he couldn’t possibly have seen McCoy approach.

McCoy decides not to give him the satisfaction of asking how Spock knew it was him. “Spock,” he says amiably enough, coming to stand beside him. “Enjoying yourself?”

“Hardly.”

McCoy snorts. “I’m surprised to see you here. I thought you’d be taking advantage of having so few illogical humans around and camp in your lab or something.”

Spock’s eyebrow arches slightly. “I would indeed prefer to spend my time in a more productive manner. However, we all have our share of unpleasant duties, and I am no exception.”

“Duties? Pray tell what duties you’re fulfilling now. We’re on shore leave.”

“Indeed. And we were also on shore leave on Farish when the incident with the Klingon commander happened. We were on shore leave on Teta Five. We were on shore leave on Radyga—”

“Fine, fine, I get your point.” McCoy raises a hand to stop him. “But I don’t think we’re gonna be attacked here, do you? What are the chances?”

“Relatively low,” Spock admits. “However, not negligible.”

“Spock...” McCoy surveys him curiously. “Admit it, you just didn’t want to be all alone up there when the rest of us are having fun. And now you won’t join in for fear no one’s gonna want to play with you – which they probably won’t, you’re like the biggest killjoy in the history of – well, history.”

“I thought that title was held by Hitler. Or perhaps Lee Kuan.”

McCoy sputters, gaping at him. Spock appears completely oblivious.

“Yeah,” McCoy drawls. “See what I mean?”

“Doctor, I will neither confirm nor deny your suppositions,” Spock says. “You seem to be having too much fun with them for me to deprive you.”

“Ha. Ha. So tell me, has watching your ex kissing the daylights out of another guy become your life now?”

Spock spares a short glance at Uhura and Cantera, who still haven’t disengaged from one another, and glances at McCoy.

“Perhaps. Or perhaps my life has become talking to a surgeon who cannot put away his scalpel even for a moment because, quote, misery loves company.”

McCoy blinks at him. There’s a teasing glint in Spock’s eye, and it’s something McCoy doesn’t get to see very often, so he just stares for a moment, completely missing the fact that they are no longer alone.

“Greetings, gentle beings!” A young Argelian female bows to them, smiling brightly. Like all the natives, she’s scarcely clad in shimmering pieces of cloth that constitute a skirt and a top. Her wrists and neck are heavily decorated with ringing, light-emitting jewelry.

“Greetings,” McCoy mutters, nodding in response, staring at her. She’s lovely, no denying that.

Spock simply bows curtly. The girl notices he’s not wearing a light-bracelet and offers him one of hers immediately.

“No, thank you,” Spock refuses in a polite tone McCoy has sure enough never heard aimed at himself.

“But the others will miss you in the mist!” She pouts.

“I’m pretty sure that’s the point,” McCoy says under his breath.

The girl looks at him and her expression brightens. “You are wearing one! Come! Dance with me!”

Her hand is on his arm and she’s tugging him into the crowd, boiling with joy and mirth. McCoy feels mildly stunned.

“Wait, I was just—”

“Go, Doctor,” Spock’s low voice urges him quietly, and there’s definitely an emotion coloring it, however slightly, but McCoy can’t figure out which.

“But—”

“Enjoy yourself. You are, as you said, on shore leave.”

And as the girl urges McCoy on, Spock pulls back into the vast Argelian mist, his silhouette barely visible anymore, now that he has stepped out of the light. Even as he goes with the flow, McCoy feels a tugging sensation somewhere in his stomach, like there was something he wanted to say, something important, but he forgot what it was.

McCoy has never been much of dancer, but the girl doesn’t mind. Her silvery laugh and mischievous hands warm him in the somewhat savage rhythm of music – all drums and no strings. The night is warm, the wine is sweet, and the girl gets lovelier by the moment, so when McCoy discovers himself outside the crowd and alone with her, he doesn’t mind in the slightest.

They find themselves in a small pavilion, complete with a thick carpet and cushions, a small fountain, and some kind of aromatic lamp emitting puffs of musky, sweet aroma into the air, making McCoy’s head spin. Everything on this planet is designed for sensual delights, and it’s so easy to give in, to relax, and surrender completely to his companion’s ministrations.

McCoy doesn’t have a clear idea about how they get naked or when he sank down into the softness of the carpet, letting the girl’s hands play him like a violin. He does, however, surface from his sweet, intoxicated haze when she goes down on him, and he suddenly realizes that he’s been hard for the better part of the night, maybe forever.

She’s a pro, he can tell, and he tries to be a gentleman, but she just giggles around him, her eyes teasing, challenging. They’re charcoal black, he realizes, and her hair is thick, dark, and velvet, and there’s just something about her expression that makes him snap.

He grabs her head and fucks her mouth in a swift, relentless pace, and she lets him. She keeps her tongue in play, seemingly effortless, encouraging him on, on each thrust, but he doesn’t care. Her face blurs and sways out of focus, and he’s seeing something else entirely, something completely different, as he comes, embarrassingly fast, moaning helplessly into the laughing ocean of the night.

Spock...”

He comes to his senses to the feeling of her cleaning him gently. He’s lying there, spent, as she produces some kind of sweet-smelling oil and starts to rub it into his skin, her hands sliding along his body in silent but eloquent adoration. He runs his fingers through her hair, and she smiles at him, bright and carefree. She rides him when he’s ready, and this time he doesn’t steal her show.

They do it twice more, which McCoy thought was humanly impossible, but the girl obviously had other ideas. By dawn, he discovers he’s so exhausted, albeit pleasantly, that he can’t even drift to sleep. Their light bracelets go out, and the girl reaches at last for her clothes.

She leans over him one last time, caressing his face almost chastely.

“You should tell him,” she says softly. She kisses him on the forehead, and then she’s gone.

McCoy closes his eyes, his otherwise hazy memory bringing him back to the shameful moment with merciless clarity. He groans in despair, because he has never thought it was like this. He didn’t think that was what it was. What it is. He groans again.

He’s monumentally, royally fucked, and the nameless Argelian girl has nothing to do with it.

 

--

 

“You should not have helped that man,” High Priestess Temara says strictly.

“But he was dying,” McCoy protests, already knowing he’s fighting a losing battle. “I’m a doctor. I can’t just walk on by—”

“He belonged to the Goddess. He was not yours to kill or to save.”

“Yes, well, I’m sorry, ma’am, it’s just—”

“You will now have to take his place,” Temara announces gravely. “And face our Goddess’ wrath.”

“Now, wait a minute.” Jim steps in. “I won’t allow one of my crew to be killed in that temple of yours.”

Temara eyes him calmly. “You are of Starfleet, Captain Kirk. By the laws of your own people, you may not interfere. That would violate your Prime Directive, am I not correct?”

“You are,” Spock says, and McCoy seethes. The pointy-eared bastard just can’t wait to see him gone. “High Priestess, is there no alternative?”

Her mesmerizing grass-green eyes study the Vulcan thoughtfully. “There is. If there is a volunteer to take the doctor’s place, our Goddess will accept their sacrifice.”

“Now, wait a damn minute—”

“Shut up, Bones,” Jim orders briskly and steps forward. “I volunteer.”

“So do I,” Spock says and takes a step forward as well.

“Would the two of you cut it out?” McCoy hisses. “Nobody’s taking my place, are we clear? The mistake was mine, and I’ll be damned if I let either one of you pay for it!”

“Bones,” Jim says, and his expression softens. “You only did what you thought was right. You might have broken the local law, but it’s my fault, if anyone’s. I shouldn’t have taken you here.”

“That’s bullshit, Jim, and you know it! Just because they have some savage customs doesn’t mean—”

“Doctor,” Spock interrupts calmly. “I believe one grave insult to this culture will suffice.”

McCoy glares at him before whirling on Temara, who for some reason exhibits no signs of impatience. “Look, ma’am, just lead me to your Goddess, I’ll face her wrath, just—”

“I’m sorry, Doctor.” She shakes her head, looking genuinely sympathetic. “But a volunteer’s claim supersedes that of a transgressor.”

“What?” McCoy yells, outraged. “Why?”

Her gaze is almost pitying. “If you are cherished enough for a life to be offered to save yours, our Goddess will value such sacrifice above all others.”

“Your Goddess is a vicious bi—”

“Bones! That’s enough! Get back to the ship and just chill.”

“Not likely, Jim. First, the ship is not in goddamn range. And second, no way in hell am I leaving while the two of you—”

“He must remain,” Temara, who has apparently learned to cut off McCoy’s rants just in time, confirms with a dignified nod. “Now” – she turns to study Jim and Spock – “which one of you must I choose?”

“You won’t have to,” Jim says. “Spock, rescind your claim. That’s an order.”

Spock raises an eyebrow at him. “I regret that I must disobey it, Captain.”

“This is ridiculous,” McCoy mutters, turning away from them to glance at the ominous pyramid of the temple. Earlier, Spock said the ‘goddess’ was a living entity, feeding on bio energy produced by other living beings, preferably sentient. It didn’t sound like a field trip.

“What is your claim, Captain Kirk?” Temara asks, placing a hand over Jim’s heart.

“He’s my best friend,” Jim says grimly. “He’s my brother.”

She looks him in the eye intently for a long moment, listening to something that must have been more than just Jim’s heartbeat.

“And what is yours, Mr. Spock?” Temara murmurs softly, extending her other hand and laying it over the Vulcan’s chest. Her lips form a surprised ‘O’ and then her hand slides lower and to the side, until it rests securely over Spock’s heart.

And Spock – Spock doesn’t say anything. He simply holds Temara’s gaze, steady and certain. She moves a little closer to him, still keeping her other hand on Jim, then closes her eyes and listens. McCoy hears his own heart pounding in his ears, unable to comprehend that this is really happening.

Temara steps back, dropping her hands. She bows to the Vulcan. “Your claim takes precedence.”

Spock nods back curtly, unsurprised, just as Jim and McCoy both shout: “What?!”

“How the hell can Spock’s claim take precedence?” Jim yells, incensed.

The High Priestess smiles at him and says nothing. Spock turns to him.

“Jim,” Spock says softly. “T’hy’la, please. Let me.”

And McCoy is irrevocably, helplessly jealous, because Spock has never once used his first name, never mind some weird Vulcan endearment, and McCoy knows for a fact that Jim’s fucking his helmsman in his free time, not his first officer, so what the hell is wrong with these two?

“Spock, I can’t just...” Jim trails off, reaching to grip Spock’s shoulders, and Spock – Spock lets him. He even moves closer, and his expression is almost tender as he looks at Jim.

McCoy seethes.

“May I?” Spock asks, lifting a hand to Jim’s face, and Jim nods readily. “My mind to your mind,” Spock whispers.

McCoy wants to kill them both. He knows they’ve been melding, knows they occasionally share this form of contact that’s more intimate than even sex. He knows they’re that close, but he doesn’t need to see it.

He stands helplessly, watching their faces. Spock’s is calm and quiet, albeit softer than McCoy has ever seen. Jim’s is a whirlpool of emotions: tenderness, sympathy, sadness, and love – so much love. They open their eyes and lock gazes seamlessly, like it’s choreographed, like they practiced doing exactly that.

“Go,” Jim says so quietly it’s almost inaudible. Spock loses no time obeying.

What?” McCoy exclaims in disbelief. “Jim, what the hell’s going on?”

He rushes forward, but Spock’s already being ushered away by the guards. Jim turns to McCoy and there are honest to God tears in his eyes. The sight brings McCoy up short.

“You’re one lucky bastard,” Jim tells him, his back ramrod straight and unyielding. “I’m sorry you didn’t know that.”

McCoy has no idea what it means, all he sees is Spock walking further and further away, and he just can’t take it. He lunges forward, after him. But before the guards can stop him, before the High Priestess has to intervene, Jim’s already there, his arms grabbing hold of McCoy and holding him in place. Jim’s not a Vulcan, but he’s one damn strong son of a bitch, and McCoy has no chance of shaking him off.

Jim holds him, desperately, fighting him and soothing him, gripping his arms and stroking his back, digging his fingers into McCoy’s hair, holding him close, so close.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers, lips hot and dry against McCoy’s neck. “I’m sorry, Bones, I’m sorry... If only the Enterprise was here, you know I’d never... I’m sorry...”

McCoy wants to push him away, but his hands fist in Jim’s tunic, tugging him closer, holding onto him, as Spock’s lean silhouette disappears inside the temple.

“The Goddess is not without compassion,” the High Priestess says softly. “Have faith.”

Jim’s arms around him suddenly attain the consistency of steel. They are the only thing that prevents McCoy from throttling Temara.

Spock survives.

McCoy can hardly wrap his mind around the fact, even as he watches the Vulcan lying on his biobed in Med Bay. The son of a bitch has a biobed with his name on it, which infuriates McCoy to no end. The pair of them, Jim and Spock, just – just – unbearable.

Spock is in a coma. He’s physically unharmed, but his brain activity is so low it almost doesn’t register. Jim comes to visit every day, and McCoy simply can’t fight the pangs of jealousy every time he sees Jim hold Spock’s hand or touch his face.

“He’s there, Bones,” Jim tells him by the end of day five, resting a sympathetic hand on McCoy’s shoulder. “I can feel his mind, he’s unharmed. He just needs a little time.”

And Lord help him, McCoy can’t feel grateful. He hates Jim so much at this moment he can’t stand it. He nods briskly and shakes Jim off, turning his back and studying the monitors over Spock’s bed. Jim sighs behind him.

“Bones, he and I... It’s not what you think.”

“I don’t want to know, Jim. And if you don’t mind, I have work to do.”

The next day, Spock slips into a healing trance, and McCoy feels sick with relief. Chapel blackmails him into eating at last, and he’s hungry for the first time in what feels like ever. He sleeps the whole eight hours for the first time in days, too.

Spock wakes up two days later, and it’s M'Benga’s shift, but McCoy is there immediately. He walks in just in time to hear his colleague tell Spock he’s got a clean bill of health. M'Benga grins at McCoy as he passes him, clapping his shoulder on his way out.

“So,” McCoy starts, his mouth suddenly dry. “You’re back among the living.”

Spock barely even looks at him, as he slides off the bed and reaches for his clothes.

“I can see your propensity for stating the obvious has remained intact during my indisposition, Doctor.”

The coldness of his tone cuts through McCoy like a phaser beam. It’s not that Spock usually is warm and sunny, but McCoy expected... He doesn’t know what he expected after Spock oh-so-casually offered his life for McCoy’s, but he admits he hoped for – something. Because Temara chose Spock’s claim over Jim’s, and that had to mean something. McCoy didn’t expect Spock to proclaim his undying love for him the moment he opened his eyes, but that stony silence, that habitual aloof attitude just couldn’t be right... could it?

McCoy envies Jim at that moment like he’s never envied anyone in his life, because Jim excels in coaxing emotions out of Spock. Jim always knows a way to get under Spock’s skin, while McCoy is left to wander in the dark blindly.

“Spock, listen... You saved my life.”

Spock glances at him blankly. “Yes,” he says, without any kind of expression, “I believe I did.”

And then he turns his back as if McCoy doesn’t exist and strips out of his coveralls in one smooth motion, leaving McCoy to gape at his naked posterior.

“I’m trying to thank you, you unfeeling hobgoblin!” McCoy fumes, blushing furiously and hating himself for it. He’s a doctor, goddamn it! It’s not like Spock has shown him anything he hasn’t seen before, so why on Earth can’t he get a grip?

“Ah,” Spock says, as he dresses himself in an unhurried but efficient pace. “The human need to express gratitude where none is required. My actions were logical, Doctor. However, if you must insist on thanking me, you may. The appropriate response is, I believe, you are welcome.”

McCoy watches in helpless fury as Spock clasps his boots and straightens up, righting his tunic. He looks at McCoy, who’s blocking the way, pointedly. Angrily, McCoy steps aside, struggling to keep his urge to strangle Spock under control. But as the Vulcan passes him, McCoy can’t take it.

He pushes Spock forcefully against the bulkhead, pressing him bodily against the hard surface. Spock doesn’t try to dislodge him, merely raises an eyebrow, and the expression in his eyes is clear as a day for once and it’s mocking. McCoy growls and slams their lips together in retaliation.

He kisses the stubborn line of Spock’s mouth angrily, crushing the surprisingly tender skin. He’s too furious for the kiss to be anything but brutal, harsh, and bruising; a punishment, not a caress.

Spock remains still under the onslaught. He’s not pushing McCoy away, not tensing up, not resisting. Most certainly not responding. He endures it, without any kind of reaction, as if he’s a marble statue.

McCoy pulls away abruptly, staring into Spock’s eyes, furious, humiliated, and confused as all hell. Spock straightens up then, and McCoy steps back hurriedly even though Spock doesn’t touch him, staring at the floor as Spock walks past him.

“Doctor,” Spock’s cool voice calls from the outer doorway. McCoy looks up at him blankly. “I should hope that you will exercise proper restraint over your misguided sense of gratitude in the future. I can allow such display only once.”

“Go to hell, Spock,” McCoy whispers angrily, his face burning. “Go to fucking hell.”

Spock leaves.

 

--

 

He feels like an idiot. What Spock had done for him on Remaria isn’t exactly a secret, and the ship’s gossip that had been linking their names together for a long time already has them secretly married now. Christine Chapel has been asking him about the Vulcan bonding ceremony and if he could read Spock’s thoughts now. McCoy wants to smack her; wants to smack them all.

Spock is as disinterested as ever, paying even less attention to McCoy than he has before. Everyone else seems to admire his self-control, but McCoy doesn’t buy this bullshit. He’s the only other person apart from Spock who knows for certain that nothing is going on. Well, McCoy allows grudgingly, Jim probably knows too, with that weird mind link between him and his first.

Jim has taken to staring at McCoy like he can’t figure out how anyone can be so slow. McCoy’s irritated and sour, because Jim really is his best friend and the person to go to with whatever is troubling him, but he can’t talk to Jim about this. Even though Jim probably is the only person onboard who can really help him, McCoy can’t make himself do it. He knows it’s childish, but he goes to Uhura instead.

“How did you do it?” he asks her. “How could you be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t give you anything in return? No feedback whatsoever?”

She blinks at him, bewildered. “I’m sorry? Are you talking about—”

“Spock.” McCoy nods impatiently, throwing his pride to the winds. “I’m talking about Spock. You’d been dating for how long, two or three years?”

“More or less.”

“How’d you do it? How could you date someone who’s got a response rate of a frozen corpse?”

Spock?” Uhura stares at him, her eyes wide with genuine astonishment. “He was the most gentle, attentive, and responsive lover I had ever had, Doctor. Whatever reason you heard for our split, it definitely wasn’t that.”

“Then what was it?” McCoy asks bluntly, because he needs to know, dammit, and has a feeling she’s going to tell him.

Uhura shrugs. “He was starting to lose interest.”

He gapes. “In you?”

She laughs and pats his cheek. “You’re sweet.” Her face grows serious again. “But yes, Leo, in me. Spock would have stayed with me forever out of some exaggerated sense of duty, but I’m not one to hold on to something that’s run its course.” She pauses, stirring the crème in her coffee pensively. “I guess we’re too alike, Spock and I. We have so many things in common that, for all intents and purposes, we should be siblings. We loved each other, but there was no mystery, you know? No – spark.”

“So... he didn’t pull the statue of the Commander act on you?”

She laughs again. “No.”

Great, McCoy thinks. So it’s not only Jim who got to see the emotive Spock, but Uhura, too. McCoy is obviously simply inept in this or just plain stupid.

Suddenly he’s so angry he hardly knows the half of it. Yes, Spock saved his life, in a particularly chivalrous way to boot, but Spock clearly doesn’t want him, because apparently what Spock wants Spock gets. So McCoy should really get himself some pride and stop pining after someone who’s so explicitly not interested.

And why the hell does McCoy even care in the first place?

Angry and frustrated, he locks himself in his office, attacking piles of paperwork like nothing else exists, for three days in a row. The Enterprise docks at Starbase 27 and they are all asked to vacate the ship for some maintenance.

Without a conscious intention, McCoy goes to one of the Starbase bars and gets shitfaced drunk. He can’t remember ever being that drunk, ever. Not even after his divorce or after he’d lost the custody of his daughter, and that’s saying something. He gets more drunk than he thought a human body could take. He thinks he sees Spock at some point of that horrible, hazy night, but that’s probably another one of his mind’s petty hallucinations.

He wakes up because his head is pounding with the kind of pain that’s not humanly possible to endure. His first thought is that he’s going to die right now and it can’t happen too soon. Clutching his head, he starts for the door on wobbly legs, still ill-coordinated from the residual booze in his system, when he realizes he’s naked. Cursing, McCoy looks for his clothes and curses again and again, as he discovers each piece in a different part of the room and has to bend every time, making the spins so much worse and yeah, not only the spins.

He very deliberately doesn’t look at the snoring body sprawled on the bed, only spotting a glimpse of red chest hair. So he picked up some guy at some point, and if he wasn’t so hungover, he’d have felt the soreness of his body much earlier, which gives him a pretty good idea of what transpired here last night even if he doesn’t remember it.

Finally dressed and hating himself and the whole goddamn galaxy, McCoy staggers out of the stranger’s quarters, hoping it wasn’t someone from the Enterprise at least, but mostly his mind is occupied with a shortest route to a hangover remedy hypospray. He hardly takes a turn in the narrow Starbase corridor when he all but bumps into Spock.

The Vulcan steps aside at the last moment and continues his way as if there has been no interruption. As if he hasn’t just almost collided with McCoy who’s leaving someone’s quarters at dawn, looking exactly like what he’s been doing, or rather what has been done to him. This is plain unbearable.

“Are you stalking me or something?” McCoy yells after him.

Spock doesn’t even wince as if whoever’s yelling in a public corridor at oh-five hundred couldn’t possibly be addressing him.

“I’m talking to you, you overgrown elf!” McCoy starts after him, staggering and swaying, but trying desperately to catch up.

Spock’s pace takes him out of the living block and into the promenade where a few people have already shown up.

“Hey!” McCoy yells again, and Spock stops.

He doesn’t turn, but waits for McCoy’s uneven stride to bring him closer. When he speaks, quietly, his tone is cold as ice.

“I have no comment on your free time activities; however, if you do not desist in pursuing me, I shall have to detain you for drunk and disorderly behavior.”

“I’m not drunk, you—” McCoy sputters. “And I’m not pursuing you – you’ve shown up where I was, for God’s sake, and acted like talking to me would kill you!”

Spock looks at him finally and McCoy immediately wishes he hadn’t.

“I have no particular desire to talk to you at this time, Doctor.”

“Yeah, I can tell! What the hell do you want from me, Spock? What is your problem?”

Calmly, clinically, Spock detaches McCoy’s hand from his arm, and McCoy doesn’t remember placing it there. The Vulcan looks him in the eye then, every inch of him a carved stone.

“I do not have a problem, Doctor.” His tone is slow, precisely measured. Merciless. “And I do not want absolutely anything from you.”

Spock turns on his heel and leaves, and McCoy doesn’t follow him this time.

He can’t remember ever feeling so low.

 

--

 

It’s two weeks later that he stumbles over them. It takes McCoy a moment to realize that the black-haired man who’s got Jim bent over the console in a deserted cargo bay is not, in fact, Spock. He’s suddenly so giddy with earth-shattering relief that for a moment, he just stands there, watching without seeing, palms sweating and chest aching, until Jim’s moan brings him back to reality, and McCoy stalks out of there quickly, wishing for a brain bleach.

He suddenly feels like he’s had enough. He’s sick of uncertainty, sick of mixed signals. He’s sick of being jealous of his best friend because he can come close to Spock and McCoy can’t. He’s had enough.

He barges into Spock’s quarters like a man on a mission. Spock is theoretically off shift, but Spock is never really off shift. He’s sitting at his desk, with a stack of PADDs in front of him, working. He barely lifts his eyes at the unexpected visitor before resuming whatever he’s been doing.

“How can I help you, Doctor?”

“Have you ever slept with Jim?” McCoy asks without preamble.

Spock doesn’t even look up. “I fail to see how this is any of your business.”

“You do that very well, don’t you? ‘Fail to see.’ You’ve taken it to a goddamn art.”

Spock glances up at him patiently. “What is it you want, Doctor?”

He obviously can’t take a hint, so McCoy disposes of subtlety.

“I want you to fuck me,” he blurts out, the insolence in his tone ringing.

If anything, Spock looks bored. “Very well,” he says. “Undress.”

“What?” McCoy sputters.

Spock lays down the PADD with an air of extreme exasperation. “You have made a request of me, Doctor. I am willing to grant it in the hopes, illogical as it might be, that if I do, you will leave me to complete my work in peace.”

“You would just – you would just – just do it? Like that?”

“Do you withdraw your request?”

“Yeah,” McCoy drawls. “I got a better one. Meld with me.”

Spock flinches. “No.”

“Why not? You and Jim meld all the time!”

Spock fixes him with a steady gaze. “Jim is t’hy’la to me, my shield-brother. He is the only other being in the universe that holds my complete trust. Whereas you are—”

“What am I?” McCoy asks shakily. “What am I to you, Spock?”

Spock doesn’t look away. “You are one thing in the universe I would not entrust to anyone, not even Jim.”

It’s like a punch in the gut, and McCoy tries to hold his ground, tries to pretend this is a normal conversation.

“So... I’m a ‘thing’?” He tries to laugh, but manages only a broken chuckle.

“I do not misspeak, Doctor,” Spock tells him flatly. “Vulcan spouses are property to their husbands. Hence my using of the word ‘thing.’ If that is all, I would appreciate it if you left.”

“No fucking way,” McCoy breathes out, stunned and shaken and blushing furiously from either excitement or humiliation. “Unless I’m very much mistaken, you have just proposed to me!”

Spock winces mildly. “I did no such thing. Nor do I intend to.”

“Why not? Spock, why don’t we cut the bullshit part and get to the truth, huh? You obviously have feelings for me beneath that icy hide of yours, otherwise the High Priestess wouldn’t have said that your claim superseded Jim’s!”

“Indeed, I do,” Spock acknowledges calmly, like it’s the most natural thing in the world, and gets to his feet. “I have, however, no intention of – what is the term? – acting on those feelings. If that was your concern, you need not trouble yourself.”

“Oh my God, don’t you ever listen? I’m not here because of some ‘misguided sense of gratitude,’ you arrogant bastard!”

“I do listen, Doctor. Always. I regret the same cannot be said about you. I am aware that you are attracted to me” – McCoy blushes spectacularly – “and while I am, contrary to popular belief, amenable to what you humans call ‘a fling,’ I would never choose you as my partner.”

“Why not? Afraid you wouldn’t want to let me go?” McCoy taunts, stung.

Spock lifts an eyebrow. “That, I believe, effectively sums up the situation.”

McCoy stares at him, mouth agape. “Spock...”

Spock looks down for a moment. “I would be grateful if you left now.”

McCoy takes a deep breath. “No.”

“Doctor—”

“I said no, Spock.” He takes a step closer to the Vulcan. “I’ve had enough of this shit. I want you, you want me. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.”

“Obviously, I was not clear enough while explaining—’

“Shut up. I heard your damned explanations well enough the first time. You can’t just sleep with me without making it permanent. Has it occurred to that thick skull of yours that I might go along with that?”

Spock steps away from him, and McCoy might not be as adept as Jim in reading Spock’s expressions, but he can damn well recognize impatience and annoyance when he sees them.

“You cannot be willing to ‘go along’ with something you do not have the first idea about,” Spock says, and yeah, he’s snapping. “You will be subject to me, Doctor. It is the nature of the bond.”

Spock looks at him over what small space is left between them, and his expression softens imperceptibly. “You, with your redoubtable spirit, with your fierce wish for independence, with your passions and dreams, you will be—” Spock winces and drops his eyes. His tone is full of repulsion when he continues. “You will be someone to service my needs, merely a – a body for me to use when my Time comes.” Spock closes his eyes, clearly disgusted with himself. “I could not bear to demean you so.”

“Spock,” McCoy whispers, their faces an inch away. “I don’t believe you’d ever do that to me. I don’t believe you can.”

Spock’s eyes snap open, and they’re aflame. McCoy doesn’t get a split second warning before Spock grabs his neck forcefully and claims his lips with his own. McCoy doesn’t get to do much in this kiss that is direct, hard, and unashamedly dominating, so he does the next best thing and goes pliant under Spock’s assault, accepting, asking for more.

Spock doesn’t seem to notice. He sucks bruising kisses into McCoy’s neck, groping hard, tearing at his clothes. McCoy hears the fabric rip and pulls away slightly, trying to arrange his swollen lips into a smile.

“Hey, Spock, slow down. I’m not going anywhere, no need to—”

Spock’s leg hooks around McCoy’s ankle at an impossible speed, and he drops them both to the deck, doing nothing to soften the fall.

“Ow! Spock, what the hell?!”

Spock isn’t listening, too busy pinning him down. McCoy fights back reflexively, but there’s nothing he can do against a Vulcan and a martial arts master, and Spock doesn’t even bother to pay attention to McCoy’s feeble attempts to get free. McCoy’s pants follow his shirts into a rumpled pile somewhere outside his vision, and then Spock rips his briefs deliberately, catching the head of McCoy’s half-hard cock in the process.

“Would you fucking mind what you’re doing?” McCoy hisses, enraged.

Spock slaps him – without once meeting his eyes, without any warning or a sign of playfulness. It stings like a bitch, and McCoy’s eyes water. Before he can even catch his breath, Spock’s on him, kissing him savagely, biting, and sucking, taking-taking-taking, and it should be frightening not erotic, but it makes all the bones in McCoy’s body melt with pleasure as intense as the pain has just been.

He keens and whines into Spock’s mouth, half-delirious with pleasure and lack of oxygen, wanting more-now, and Spock answers that silent call, pressing him to the cold deck harder, changing the angle and deepening an already impossibly deep kiss, and his tongue is not simply selfish, it’s vicious, evil, and McCoy can’t get enough of it. Spock doesn’t give him a moment to breathe, ravishing his mouth, and he’s heavy, so heavy on top of McCoy, a crushing weight that makes McCoy writhe beneath him, loving every second of it, craving it desperately, asking for more.

Spock tears his mouth away and rocks his hips into McCoy’s sharply when McCoy moans in protest. Spock’s hard against him, and McCoy can’t decide if he hates it or loves it that Spock’s still fully clothed on top of his naked form, but the thought is fleeting. Spock’s hands and lips crush any chance for coherency McCoy might have had, as Spock goes lower, lower, lower, until finally taking his swollen, leaking cock into his mouth.

McCoy can’t stop a whimper.

Spock either doesn’t have a gag reflex or has some crazy measure of control over it. He doesn’t have to stop to catch his breath, and his tongue is just as cunning and obscene as it had been in McCoy’s mouth.

McCoy’s hands are pinned firmly to the floor, but even that small measure of control isn’t coming from him. He can’t remember ever going so wild over a blowjob, though that’s hardly the word to name what Spock is doing, because it’s evil and it has no name and it might just be the death of him.

His hips buck uncontrollably, but Spock doesn’t bother to restrain him. He merely growls, without halting his actions, and McCoy hears the unspoken command, he really does, but he can’t obey it, he simply can’t – not when the sound Spock makes creates an unbearable, utterly delicious vibration that threatens to finish what little is left of McCoy’s brain. Spock growls again, and McCoy loses it, fucking his mouth with no restraint whatsoever, meeting no resistance, just there-there-there-ohh... Just another moment, and—

Spock lets him go, just drops him, paying no heed to McCoy’s desperate moans, and somewhere in the very depth of his mind, McCoy knows he should be ashamed of himself for being so needy, but he couldn’t give a damn at the moment.

Spock lifts himself up and flips McCoy to his stomach with no regard for tenderness, and McCoy cries out as his sensitive cock gets caught between his hipbone and the cold, unyielding surface of the deck. Before he can move or protest or draw in a breath, Spock hits him – slaps him hard across his buttocks, and it burns because it doesn’t feel like Spock’s restraining his superior strength one bit.

McCoy gasps, hoarsely, and tries to move away, but Spock holds him in place effortlessly as he keeps slapping him: his lower back, his ass, his thighs. It’s not a game, not a means to enhance the experience. Spock’s dead serious, and each blow hurts, badly, making McCoy see white.

“Spock...” he utters, his voice all but gone. “Spock, don’t—”

Spock descends on him then, pressing him into the deck, spreading his legs with his knees. McCoy cries out and tries to crawl away, but he can’t move an inch with Spock’s weight keeping him exactly where Spock wants him. Rough, uncaring hands expose him in one sharp brutal motion, and McCoy feels something hot, wet, and enormous pressing against his entrance.

“No!” he shouts, fighting desperately with all his might. “No, Spock, stop! Stop! What the hell are you doing?! Stop!”

Spock presses against him for one moment longer... And then he’s gone.

Overcome with relief, McCoy stays on the floor, gasping, his whole body trembling in convulsions. He doesn’t know how much time passes before he can finally move, lifting himself off the deck on shaking arms. He sits on his heels, trying to reconnect with reality. His mind is buzzing, ears still deaf with his own shouts; his throat is sore, and his body’s rapidly going rigid. He looks down himself absently and blinks in surprise. He hadn’t noticed he’d come. He never thought it was even theoretically possible, but it must have been that somewhere between the beating and the threat of a forced penetration he’s found his release. Inconceivable.

“I believe I made my point, Doctor.”

McCoy blinks and turns to look at Spock.

The Vulcan is sitting at his desk once again, looking every bit as cool and collected as when McCoy had first entered his room. His clothes are impeccable, as is his hair. His eyes are once again opaque and serene, not a trace of passion or hunger in them. If not for his slightly swollen lips, there would have been no indication that he had just been in the middle of a violent sexual encounter.

And suddenly the whole mess is making perfect sense.

“Son of a bitch,” McCoy whispers, hating his own broken voice. “This proves nothing.”

“I happen to disagree.”

“Spock, look at me.” The Vulcan stares at him blankly. “Spock. You stopped.”

“Because I am not in heat,” Spock tells him, and there’s tension in his voice again, a barely detectable and precious sign that there is a living being behind the icy exterior. “Because it is not yet my Time, Doctor. I would not have stopped then.”

McCoy swallows. “It is a biological imperative.”

“It would be rape.”

“It’s not a rape if I don’t tell you ‘no.’”

Spock’s lips twitch. “How very logical, Doctor.” His voice is drenched with sarcasm. “And is it rape if I do not give you a chance to say ‘no’?”

“Spock—”

“If you are unconscious when I take you? In Pon Farr, there would be no difference for me.”

“Spock, dammit! Stop it. You will never hurt me.”

Spock’s eyebrow arches eloquently. “Not enough to threaten your life, no. But tell me this, Doctor. You have been harboring... feelings for me, for quite some time. At least, until today’s events, am I correct?”

McCoy blushes. He’s naked, on his knees, on the floor at Spock’s feet, he’s covered in stale sweat and his own cooling come, his body’s aching with what Spock did to him, and his mind is still in shock with what he didn’t. And after all that, he still has to say this.

He really thought he could sink no lower.

“Yes.”

Spock nods quietly. He’s not smug or triumphant. “And will you still be able to feel this after I do this to you? I will completely disregard your wishes or preferences. I will simply take what I need. Will you be able to – to love me after that?”

McCoy doesn’t answer. It’s an honest question, a good one. He doesn’t know. He’s too shocked to think straight, and the very memory of Spock’s ruthlessness is making him shiver in the Vulcan’s overheated quarters. It won’t be Spock’s fault, yes. But would it be enough to forgive him?

“Leonard.”

McCoy blinks to find Spock standing next to him, extending a hand. Numbly, McCoy takes it, shuddering at the contact, and Spock pulls him gently to his feet. Spock’s eyes are liquid velvet, unguarded and vulnerable for once. It’s all McCoy can do to drown helplessly in them, until they are the only thing that keeps him upright.

Spock lifts his hand and runs his fingers tenderly from McCoy’s temple to his jaw, lingering there.

“I do not know why you chose me,” Spock all but whispers, caressing McCoy’s skin gently. “But if I have somehow ignited that spark in you, there would be no greater pain for me but to be the one who extinguishes it. To watch you turn away from me with hatred, to feel you fear me, to know it is deserved, I... I will not watch you become my prisoner. I will not bind you to a monster you will grow to detest. That is my gift to you, Leonard, your freedom. The only thing I can give you.”

Spock leans in closer and kisses him, chaste and tender and fleeting, and pulls away.

McCoy watches numbly as Spock picks up the PADD he’s been working on and walks toward the door. He pauses just shy of it.

“You may use my shower,” Spock says in his usual expressionless monotone. “However, I would appreciate it if you left before I came back. And Doctor? I do not expect us to return to this subject ever again.”

He walks out without waiting for an answer.

 

--

 

The following days become McCoy’s new personal definition of hell. He’s distracted and snappish and scaring his staff even more than usual. He skips meals and doesn’t really sleep. How can he sleep when the moment he closes his eyes he feels Spock’s hands on him, the memory almost as sharp as the real thing? He’s unnerved by that memory during daylight, but at night – at night he craves it. Thrives on it. Spock’s hands, Spock’s lips, Spock’s smell... It’s insufferable.

The image of Spock going down on him is enough to make McCoy instantly, painfully hard. The feel of Spock on top of him, holding him down, that smart weight having a consciousness of its own, pressing in all the right places...

Most nights, it’s more than enough to bring McCoy off, he doesn’t need to remember the last part. Then one night he does. He plays the scene up till the end and further, feeling like a bastard for betraying Spock like that, but doing it all the same. This time, Spock doesn’t stop, doesn’t let him go, and it kicks McCoy into a mind-blowing orgasm that goes on and on and on, until he’s whimpering helplessly, thrown by what he has unleashed.

He wakes up in the morning feeling like a complete wreck, ashamed of himself, doubly so because he’s turned Spock into something he’s never been. Spock, who always let a lady go first. Spock, who had that incredible gift of silencing crying babies just by holding them in his arms. Spock, who loved Beethoven; who cared for Sulu’s plants when the helmsman was sick; who trained a batch of newly transferred cadets in hand-to-hand combat without having a single injury.

In the depth of his troubled mind, he’s turned that Spock into something Spock could never be, ever, no matter what he said. McCoy just knows it, feels it like a physical undercurrent of truth under his skin, and somehow it’s making everything so much worse.

McCoy’s tired by the time he gets to Med Bay, and the day has only just begun. He does his morning rounds numbly, trying to figure out when his life had turned into such a mess. He’s unprepared when several hours later the doors to Med Bay burst open to admit Jim and Spock wrapped so tightly around each other that it’s impossible to say who’s holding or carrying whom, red and green blood marring their shirts in equally generous proportions.

And it’s not like it’s something unusual – landing parties often go haywire. Except, Jim is angry this time, glaring at Spock as the nurses rush them to different biobeds, and Spock – Spock doesn’t meet anyone’s eyes.

McCoy goes to Jim, letting M'Benga take care of Spock. He’s telling himself it’s efficiency, not cowardice, but the truth is he simply can’t stand to touch Spock right now.

“What happened?” he asks, scanning Jim quickly, relieved to discover the injuries are superficial.

“A minefield,” Jim snaps, his furious gaze still fixed on his first officer.

“I thought you had them all mapped?”

“We had!” Jim blurts out angrily. “But someone who should really know better decided to take a walk without paying attention to his tricorder.”

McCoy glances at Spock, who’s still sitting with his head bowed, briefly, before returning his attention to Jim. He doesn’t need to prompt for more information, and Jim doesn’t offer more, just sitting there, fuming silently, as McCoy treats his injuries. M'Benga’s finished sooner, which gives McCoy a pretty good idea of who has pulled whom away at the last possible moment.

“Captain,” Spock says, approaching them, eyes still glued to the deck. “You should have my report within the hour.”

Jim huffs in disgust and doesn’t reply. Spock correctly interprets it as a dismissal and leaves, shoulders slumped and head bowed.

“Thank you, Nurse, I’ll finish here,” McCoy says, and he and Jim are left alone. “You wanna tell me what’s going on?”

Jim slams his fist into the biobed in frustration and groans. “I just don’t know what to do with him, Bones. He’s distracted, he doesn’t pay attention, but he refused to let me beam down alone, so I took him, and now this! He’s never made such a stupid mistake in his life! I swear to God, Spock acts like he has a death wish.”

McCoy closes his eyes for a moment. “Maybe he does. You probably don’t know this, but we had a little... well—”

“I know enough to know you have something to do with it.” Jim glares at McCoy. “Do something. Fix this.”

“Dammit, Jim, don’t you think I’ve tried? He doesn’t want to hear it!”

“Well hell, Bones,” Jim spits angrily. “Just because Spock’s treating you like a fucking damsel in distress it's no reason to actually become one!”

“You have no idea what you’re talking about!”

“Of course I don’t! I only have this private channel to his mind, it’s no big deal!”

“Then why don’t you bond with him and get this over with? You’re fucking Vulcan soulmates or something anyway!”

“Because, you stupid, jealous idiot, he doesn’t want me! He wants you!”

The fight drains out of McCoy abruptly. He stares at his friend.

“Jim...”

“Oh, don’t even go there, Bones.” Jim waves a hand at him dismissively. “Spock and I made peace with this a long time ago. He’s fine with it, I’m fine with it, and yes, I’m always gonna be in  his head and he’s in mine, but it’s – different. And for the record, I have never slept with him.”

“Not once?”

“Not once.”

“Jim—”

“Oh, give it a rest, Bones. And for the love of God, fix whatever it is you’ve broken, before we both lose him. ‘Cause I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I’m not gonna take it well. I love him, Bones. How about you?”

McCoy takes a step back, putting away his instruments. “You’re good to go, Jim,” he says.

“Yeah.” Jim hops down from the bed. “Thanks.”

He doesn’t turn around and McCoy doesn’t watch him leave.

 

--

 

Most scientists conduct their research prior to drawing conclusions, and McCoy asks himself why the heck he spends his days trying to make sense of some obscure ancient texts that threaten to short-circuit his brain when he has already reached a decision. In fact, his choice was made long ago, probably even before he last went to Spock’s quarters, only he hadn’t realized it then.

But it’s not for himself that he’s doing this, McCoy figures. This is for Spock, the most stubborn, logical, black-or-white person McCoy has ever known. He must do this for Spock if he wants to have any chance to convince him.

When he finally goes to Spock’s quarters, they’re empty. McCoy doesn’t want to page him; he’s got fifteen hours before he’s back on duty, and he’s content to wait. He sits on Spock’s bed, nervous like he can’t ever remember being, and waits.

It’s hellishly hot in Spock’s quarters, and McCoy considers briefly adjusting the temperature. He changes his mind, instead undresses down to his briefs. He lies down on Spock’s bed and closes his eyes. He’s too nervous to fall asleep, he thinks just before he does exactly that.

“Doctor.”

McCoy’s eyes snap open. Spock, who has clearly just walked inside, is staring at him blankly.

“Hey, Spock.” McCoy smirks.

Spock lifts an eyebrow. “If this is an attempt at seduction, I must admit, it is an extremely poor one.”

McCoy chuckles and stretches on the bed, watching Spock from under his eyelashes. “Oh no,” he says. “Trying to seduce you would be – wait for it – illogical. You can turn your sex drive on and off just by throwing a switch or something. What’s the point?”

Spock sighs, quietly, but he actually sighs. “You are incorrect assuming it is not possible to affect me,” he intones evenly. “What is it you want, Doctor?”

And thus, the tables turned, McCoy sits up, leaning against the headrest, grinning. “I want to talk to you.”

“Was it not possible for you to talk to me while being dressed?”

“What’s the matter, Spock? Am I affecting you or something?”

Spock visibly fights to suppress another sigh. He steps back and leans against his desk, folding his arms across his chest and giving McCoy an eyebrow.

“You wished to talk to me. I am, as you would say, all ears.”

McCoy grins at the unintended pun. “Spock,” he says lightly. “Marry me.”

Spock blinks.

“Or bond with me, whatever.”

Spock regroups really fast, McCoy has to give him that. “I believe we decided not to return to this topic again, Doctor.”

“No.” McCoy jabs a finger at him. “You decided. I did no such thing.”

“I assumed that the demonstration I provided you with was enough to—”

That is because you’re an arrogant bastard who assumes all the damn time instead of actually asking people. Screw your ‘demonstration,’ Spock. You wanted to scare me, I get it. And maybe you’re right, maybe I did need a lesson when I showed up here back then and you taught me one. That’s fair enough. But I don’t think you did your homework this time.”

“Please enlighten me as to which parts of the situation I am missing.”

“My pleasure. I’ve done some research on Vulcan bonding, Spock, and you know what I found? Yeah, it’s true, I’m gonna be your ‘property.’ A traditional term that had lost its legal meaning, oh, I don’t know, about fifteen centuries ago? And that aside, did you know that the list of your obligations to me is a mile long, while mine to you consists of two lines?”

“They are two important lines.”

“Agreed, but you would owe me so much more that I don’t think it’s in any way debatable as to who would own whom in this relationship, fancy nicknames aside.”

“You would agree to being called—”

“You know,” McCoy interrupts impatiently, “I think if someone calls me yours to my face I can actually live with it. I thought about it, and I’m sorry to break it to you, Spock, but it’s not actually a swear word. Some would call it a privilege.”

Spock doesn’t seem appeased. “This does not resolve the issue of Pon Farr.”

“No, it doesn’t,” McCoy agrees. “That’s why I swallowed some liquid courage and called Sarek.”

“What?” Spock’s eyes widen in shock. “You – you called my father?”

“Yes, you big pointy-eared infant. One of us should have.”

“I find it difficult to believe that my father would discuss such a private issue with a stranger.”

“He probably wouldn’t, but imagine my shock when the first question he asked me was if we had bonded yet.”

“That is not logical.” Spock frowns. “My father does not know—”

“Hate to disagree with you, sweetheart, but apparently he does. Looks like you let something slip in your letters to him.”

“I had never once mentioned—”

“Not directly, but your dad’s is a smart guy, Spock – much smarter than you, I might add.”

Spock looks ill. “What – what did he say?”

“A great number of things. Most importantly that he’d never had a chance to give you the birds and the bees talk because the two of you were never really that close and you were already betrothed anyway. He said that your fear regarding bonding is his fault. He actually said he was pleased that I called because he suspected you might be in trouble. Don’t say the guy doesn’t give a shit about you again, Spock, he obviously does.”

Spock doesn’t comment. If McCoy didn’t know better, he’d say Spock looks embarrassed.

“Anyway, I asked about Pon Farr, and he answered. I guess the fact that I’m a doctor helped too, he knows we really do stick to confidentiality. He said – Spock, he said he had never once experienced the plak tow since he married your mother. He was burning, sure, but he was bonded, Spock. And your mother was always there. He also said—” McCoy pauses, taking in Spock’s face.

He gets to his feet and walks over toward the silent, hardly even breathing Vulcan quickly and places his hands on Spock’s shoulders lightly.

“Spock,” McCoy says gently. “He said he could feel her love through the bond till the very last moment.”

Spock jolts, badly, and McCoy grabs him tighter and then pulls Spock, rigid and unmovable, into a close hug, digging his fingers into the thick black hair, holding him.

“I don’t know when I fell in love with you,” he whispers, brushing Spock’s ear with his lips, reveling in the shivers that run through Spock’s whole body. “But I’m pretty sure I can’t fall out of it.” He kisses the pointed tip softly. “Not even when you were being a complete asshole to me, I didn’t, you overprotective idiot. I want you, Spock, all of you. But if I’ll always have to share some part of you with Jim, fuck it. He’s family anyway. I want you. And if you’re still worried about the sex, hell, Spock, I don’t even know. I always liked it rough, and you – you drive me absolutely crazy.” He nibbles at the spot just under Spock’s ear, reveling in Spock’s sharp intake of breath. “You’re not gonna make me beg for it, are you?”

Spock shivers again and pulls away slightly to meet McCoy’s eyes.

“You would not leave me alone,” he complains, sounding world-weary. “I – I’m so tired of fighting you.”

“Spock,” McCoy murmurs, eyes fixing irrevocably on Spock’s lips. “You should really kiss me now.”

Spock groans deep in his throat and does.

His kiss is gentle, borderline sweet, soft lips cradling McCoy’s tenderly, tongue ghosting over them as if in apology for the last time. McCoy pulls away slightly.

“Stop it.” He kisses Spock’s cheek, nibbles at Spock’s jaw. “Don’t hold back with me, you don’t have to – I don’t want you to. I’m not made of glass, sweetheart.”

It’s that drop of the habitual sarcasm that does it. Spock snaps, like some kind of string has been torn within him. He captures McCoy’s lips and kisses him passionately, plunging deep into McCoy’s mouth, but this time he’s not taking – giving. He gives and gives and gives and McCoy has to fight him to make him accept something in return and Spock lets him.

McCoy breaks the kiss and shoves himself away from Spock. Grinning evilly, he strips out of his briefs, and nearly chokes at the hungry look in Spock’s eyes. Spock reaches for him, and McCoy steps back, retreating to the bed, touching himself as he goes, making Spock’s eyes sizzle.

Spock follows swiftly, taking his clothes off, hardly breaking eye contact once. McCoy has to look down, though. He’s seen Spock before, but not like this, not when he’s erect and full and Jesus Christ so beautiful.

“C’mere,” McCoy breathes, laying down and reaching out for Spock. “Please, Spock. I need to touch you.”

Spock follows him down, and the first touch of so much skin on skin makes McCoy moan helplessly because it’s so much it almost hurts and yet not nearly enough.

Spock kisses him, lowering himself on top of him slowly, and McCoy thinks that he could live forever in this moment, with the pressure Spock exerts making his cock swell and pulse with want, with Spock’s lips sealing his own like neither of them needs oxygen, with Spock’s hand trailing over his body with no trace of elegance, mapping him with his fingers like a blind man would.

Spock kisses him for what feels like hours, his hips framed within McCoy’s thighs, McCoy’s hands scratching his spine, tracing the outline of the bones, relishing the smoothness of Spock’s skin. McCoy doesn’t know if Spock lets him breathe, and he doesn’t care. His whole universe is narrowed down to the feel of sharp teeth teasing his lower lip; the incredible sensation of the hot, pointy tongue writing false theorems on the roof of his mouth; to the hot-wet-more-now that is Spock at that moment, existing only to bring pleasure.

Spock thrusts shallowly against him, and McCoy moans into his mouth, bucking his hips up to meet him. They’re both sweating, and it’s slick and perfect between them, and when Spock reaches down to take them both in hand, McCoy thinks he’s hit another level of nirvana.

Spock works them hard and fast, kissing down the column of McCoy’s throat, nibbling at his collarbone, sucking a bruise into it. McCoy thrashes violently beneath him, his whole body ringing with intense arousal, one hand fisted in Spock’s hair, pulling it unconsciously, the other trapped under Spock’s palm, fingers entwined and clutching.

“Spock, please...” he groans, helpless, not knowing what he’s asking for, just needing it now.

Spock licks up his throat in one uninterrupted, long motion, and McCoy loses it, pulling at Spock’s hair, jerking his head to the side and catching Spock’s earlobe between his teeth. Spock makes an indescribable noise and his hand clenches, sending McCoy right over the edge.

His moan is swallowed by Spock, who kisses him right through his orgasm, never minding that McCoy’s utterly unable to respond, his mouth slack and will-less, as he pants helplessly, floating and drifting, and vaguely, very vaguely aware of Spock still being hard against him.

That’s when Spock reaches to part McCoy’s thighs wider, finding the entrance to his body unerringly, stroking himself with the hand still covered in his lover’s come. McCoy’s hardly coherent as Spock lines himself up and pushes inside, the body under him so lax and pliant that he meets no resistance.

“Yeah,” McCoy breathes. “Yes, Spock – oh God – want this – want you...” He trails into a groan, as Spock pushes all the way inside him and starts thrusting, giving him no time to adjust. “Fuck, yes – just like – that...”

Spock feels enormous inside him, and it burns a little, the nerve endings oversensitive and raw, but it’s perfect, slick only just for McCoy to really feel it, and so, so good. Spock maneuvers them until he finds the right angle, and McCoy cries out. Spock is precise, relentless, merciless as he hits the same spot at every thrust, increasing the pace till it’s almost unendurably hard.

McCoy’s throat feels sore; his whole body rocks on the bed, but his arms and legs are wrapped tightly around Spock, trying to pull him closer, encouraging him on. Spock bends down and kisses him, brief and ill-coordinated; he’s having difficulty concentrating, and the sight alone is nearly enough to set McCoy off again. He pulls Spock’s head toward his own, pressing their foreheads together; Spock moans, and just like that, they’re melded.

McCoy’s falling to pieces, overloaded with double stimulation, and he feels utterly destroyed and loves every second of it. Somehow, through his ecstatic haze, he manages to feel the unadulterated joy of joining with Spock’s mind at last, of seeing him as he is, right here, all there, and McCoy can’t help a triumphant string of, ‘Finally—here—so beautiful—never letting you go—mine.’

Spock explodes within him and inside him, sweeping McCoy along with him, cradling him carefully, not allowing his mind to shut down, but making him drink every drop of the indescribable ecstasy till the end.

“Move,” McCoy grunts when he finally emerges to the surface of coherent consciousness. “You’re heavy. And my legs – ow. Damn.”

Spock shifts, removing himself from his lover reluctantly, and lying down next to him on his side. “My apologies, I... did not wish to be without you yet.”

He starts to knead McCoy’s thighs lightly, and McCoy smiles looking at him.

“Yeah, I know, it’s just—” He stops abruptly and frowns. “Hey, I can feel it! In my head I mean that you didn’t want to... Is this – are we bonded?”

“No.” Spock smiles softly and kisses his nose. “Not yet.”

“Oh.” McCoy tries to hide his disappointment. “I thought...”

“Bonding is an intense experience,” Spock says thoughtfully, drawing circles on McCoy’s chest. “Your mind is not yet ready to withstand it.” He bends to lick around one nipple gently. “Further training is required.”

“Kind of what we just had?” McCoy’s face splits into a shit-eating grin. “Fine with me.”

Spock doesn’t answer, just nuzzles at the skin of McCoy’s shoulder as if he can’t quite get enough of it.

“Hey.” McCoy nudges him. “And you were going to deny us this forever.”

Spock props himself up on his elbow and looks at him. “Hardly forever, Leonard,” he says, and McCoy melts at the sound of his first name, which he never really did like, but Spock saying it made it special. “You are a very persistent individual, and my resistance has been at an end.”

McCoy grins and traces the outline of Spock’s ear with his fingers. “I am persistent?”

“Very,” Spock says, turning his head and pressing a soft kiss to McCoy’s palm. “You are the most impossible human being I have ever met.”

McCoy knows he shouldn’t, but he can’t help it. “More impossible than Jim?”

Spock smiles his timid, fleeting smile again, his eyes teasing. “I find your jealousy most – refreshing.”

“Bastard,” McCoy says, grinning.

“No one is as impossible as Jim,” Spock says. “However, there is a reason he calls you a brother, Doctor.”

“Well.” McCoy smirks. “Me apparently being second best aside, do you realize how kinky it sounds when you call me ‘doctor’ in bed?”

Spock lifts an eyebrow. “I confess I have never understood the allure of this particular fantasy. Most medical exams I had to endure were most unpleasant.”

“Well then.” McCoy knows his grin must be downright evil. “Seems you just didn’t have the right one.”

“Indeed,” Spock intones, watching him in undisguised amusement. And then he – unbelievably – lies down on his back and sends McCoy a look that is shameless provocation. “Perhaps you would care to demonstrate the correct technique?”

McCoy rolls on top of him instantly, bracing himself on his arms. He stares down at Spock, who looks back in anticipation, eyes clear and serene, giving him permission to do whatever he likes to him. It feels like ten years worth of Christmas packed into one three-days-long July.

“Oh darling,” McCoy drawls, aiming for teasing and ending up breathless. “You won’t know what hit you.”

“I find that hard to believe.”

And there’s nothing left for McCoy to do but to bend over and kiss that smug, should-be-illegal smirk off Spock’s face.