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A Little Mystery to Figure Out

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Leonard McCoy got through the first half of his shift without incident (save for Cupcake’s stupidity causing him to end up with phaser burns, the moron), and before he knew it, it was time to meet Jim for lunch.

They always had the same shifts and days off for some reason that Leonard never bothered to ask about because who the fuck cared. The point was that even though they were stuck on the Enterprise for the next five years, he still got to spend all of his free time with his best friend. That was all that mattered, thanks very much.

As if on cue, Jim came barreling into his office five minutes before 1300. His trademark grin was on his face, and his eyes sparkled with mirth. “Bones!” he said.

“’Lo, Jim,” Leonard replied as he set his computer to sleep. “How’s tricks?”

“Tricks are for kids,” Jim said with a shrug, and Leonard rolled his eyes. “Or I guess hockey players. Hat tricks or whatever.”

“Isn’t hockey all you can play in Iowa eleven months out of the year?” Leonard wondered as he stood from behind his desk.

“It’s not that cold,” Jim said. “It’s worse than Georgia in the summer.”

“I’m never going to believe you when you say that.” Leonard walked to the door, standing next to Jim. Jim waved him ahead, and Leonard stepped out of the office first. He waited until Jim was clear, then pushed the button for the door to slide closed, locking it in the process.

Jim’s eyes were bright, and his smile was brilliant as always. Leonard returned the smile in spite of his more general cantankerousness. They stood in front of the office looking at each other until someone cleared her throat a few feet away.

Leonard turned from Jim and favored Christine Chapel with a raised eyebrow. “Yes?”

“I have those charts for your review,” Christine said with a smile of her own. There was something behind hers, though, that Leonard couldn’t quite recognize.

“I can take a glance now,” Leonard said.

“Oh no, it’s nothing urgent,” Christine said with a shake of her head. “I wouldn’t want to…interrupt.”

“You wouldn’t be, right, Jim?” Leonard said.

“No, it’s fine,” Jim said. “It’ll only take a sec, right? I can just hang out while you do it.”

Leonard turned back to Christine. “Let me have ‘em.”

Christine looked unsure, but she did pass him the PADD. Leonard pulled up the relevant chart and read it over, with Jim standing close to look over his shoulder. “Hairline fracture of the tibia.”

“That’s what it looked like to me,” Christine said, “but before I started the osteo-regen, I wanted to confirm it.”

Handing her back the PADD, Leonard shook his head. “You sell yourself short. If it wasn’t for a technicality, you could easily run this place by yourself.”

“Nah,” Christine said. “Too much paperwork for my liking.”

“You’re not wrong,” Leonard said with a low grumble. Jim snorted and elbowed him, and Leonard gave him a knowing glance from the side.

Christine looked at them each in turn with a slightly strangled smile. “Yes. Well. I’ll let you two get back to it.” The smile became less strained as she took a few steps away from them. “Enjoy your lunch date.”

“We will,” Jim said with a nod and a grin.

“Thanks, Christine,” Leonard added. He looked at Jim again, gesturing with his arms for him to lead the way. Jim obliged him, and they headed out of medical and up to the officer’s mess. They were still on time to get food, and Jim and Leonard grabbed their lunches: a burger and sweet potato fries for Jim, a salad with grilled salmon for Leonard.

Their usual table was empty, and they sat down with Jim facing the door like always. Without speaking, they tucked into their food.

The salmon tasted surprisingly fresh for having been frozen for so long. The wonders of modern food science, Leonard supposed. He took a drink of coffee when Jim froze and looked around.

“Do you sense that?” Jim asked in a whisper.

“Sense what?” Leonard took another bite of his salad.

“That,” Jim said. His eyes slid over to his right. Leonard also looked in that direction; it was Scotty, Chekov, and Sulu two tables over. The three of them were studiously eating their food and not looking at anything, including each other. “I could have sworn…”

“It’s just our friends eating,” Leonard said with a shrug.

“No, I know that,” Jim said. “But isn’t it weird to you that they’re not talking and pointedly not looking at us?”

Leonard shrugged. “Not really. We’re not that attractive.”

“Speak for yourself,” Jim said as he tossed one of his fries at Leonard; it hit him square on the medical insignia pin.

“Infant,” Leonard said with a roll of his eyes.

“Sometimes, yeah,” Jim admitted with a shrug. “No, but seriously. It’s not odd to you?”

Turning to give Scotty and company another look, Leonard saw them all in unison glance from him to their food.

Huh.

“Huh,” Leonard said out loud.

Judging from the look on his face, Jim hadn’t missed it either. “What in the world…?”

“It’s nothing, Jim,” Leonard said with a sigh as he went back to his salad and coffee.

Jim didn’t appear to have heard him; his eyes narrowed to focus on his crew. He stared them down pretty hard, and it made Leonard sigh a second time.

So much for a relaxing lunch.

“Jim,” Leonard began. Jim nodded, but he didn’t take his eyes of Scotty. The same Scotty who realized he was being stared at, judging by the way his cheeks reddened. Chekov and Sulu looked pretty cagey, too. That entire table reminded Leonard of Jo when she got caught climbing the counter to get to the cookie jar. “Jim,” Leonard tried again. “You’re scaring them.”

“Maybe that’s the point,” Jim mumbled. “I have half a mind to go over there…”

Leonard pinched the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger. “And do what exactly? Antagonize your senior officers? Ground them?”

“Find out what’s so fascinating about us,” Jim said. All of a sudden, his shoulders stiffened, and he turned in the opposite direction. Kevin Riley and Cupcake sat two tables away from them; Riley was too slow, though, and both Leonard and Jim caught him blatantly staring before he blushed and turned away. “What is going on?”

“They’re probably just being nosy or something,” Leonard said with a shrug. “They probably think we’re talking about something classified and are trying to eavesdrop.”

Actually, come to mention it…that had happened more and more lately, now that Leonard thought about it. Any time he and Jim would hang out in his office, he’d find his medical staff hovering when Jim would leave. Thinking about it more, Geoff practically held a glass up to the door the last time they hung out in there. It was a moot issue, because Leonard’s office was soundproofed, but still.

Leonard though back to how Christine had acted just before they came to the mess. She had to be in on whatever joke or some shit the crew was planning.

“It’s probably just them plotting a prank, Jim,” Leonard said to voice his thoughts out loud. “You know how it is with subordinates trying to put egg on their superiors’ faces. It’s not a big deal.”

Jim finally brought his eyes back to Leonard, and the set of his shoulders became more relaxed. “Yeah. You’re probably right.” Something dawned on him then, and he tried to look over his shoulder at his back.

Leonard raised an eyebrow. “What are you doing now?”

“Making sure my shirt doesn’t say something on it like Kirk is a Jerk.”

“Because I wouldn’t have told you if it did?” Leonard took a big bite of his lunch.

“Oh yeah,” Jim said as he stopped. He gave Leonard a wink. “You are brutally honest that way.”

“I wouldn’t call myself ‘brutal,’” Leonard said halfway to himself. “But I do think tact is for people who enjoy wasting time by beating around the bush.”

“You say potato,” Jim said as he picked up some of his fries and ate them in a manner that made Leonard wonder how he didn’t need the Heimlich. “I say you’re darling.”

“Oh shut up,” Leonard said as he finished his salad.

Jim swallowed. “Make me.”

“Don’t tempt me, we both know I keep duct tape in my quarters,” Leonard replied with a smirk.

“Kinky,” Jim said with a leer.

Leonard rolled his eyes heavenward. “I have no idea how Starfleet allowed you to enlist when you’re only twelve fucking years old.”

Wagging his eyebrows with a grin, Jim shrugged. “Muriel made pie today. Want to go halfsies on some cherry a la mode?”

Leonard nodded. “I’ll need more coffee.” He went to stand when Jim gestured for him to sit.

“I know how you take it,” Jim said as he took the mug out of his hand. “No cream, three sugars.”

“Thanks, Jim,” Leonard said with a smile. Jim returned it with a sweeter one than he usually gave and took off. Leonard turned in his chair and watched him go, his smile still prominent on his face.

 

Jim grabbed the pie, two forks, and Leonard’s coffee refill and carted them back to their table. Leonard took the mug from him with a nod of thanks, and Jim put the pie and ice cream in the middle of their table.

Jim started with the crust, while Leonard started at the end of the pie. They each took heaping forkfuls with ice cream and ate.

“This is really hitting the spot,” Leonard admitted after his second bite.

“Mmhmm,” Jim agreed with his mouth full.

There came that feeling again, like people were staring. Leonard froze and darted his eyes to the left.

Had Chekov taken a picture?

Jim hadn’t noticed as he was busy scooping up more of the crust. His earlier paranoia and stress had fled; he looked carefree and focused on their dessert.

So Leonard didn’t bring it up. He let it go and went back to eating.

They still had fifteen minutes left after they finished their pie, so they sat talking about nothing of consequence. Until Jim cleared his throat.

Leonard leaned in. “What’s up?”

“You’ve got ice cream on the corner of your mouth,” Jim said with a little smile. “I keep waiting for you to notice and wipe it off, but you haven’t. So I figured I’d help you before you go back to Medical and get made fun of.”

Leonard licked the left corner of his mouth. “Is it gone?”

Jim’s eyes twinkled, and he shook his head. “Other side.”

Again, Leonard darted his tongue out of his mouth. “Did I get it?”

Jim laughed. “You suck. Here.” He got up, holding a napkin in his left hand. He bent over Leonard, who didn’t rise from his chair. With a gentleness that belied Jim’s normal brash personality, he wiped Leonard’s face next to his mouth but out of reach of his tongue. “There we go.”

“Thanks,” Leonard said, wondering why he felt the need to blush. Probably because he felt coddled like a child.

“I always look out for you, just like you do me,” Jim said as he sat back down. “Although by now, it’s probably time to go.”

Leonard pulled back his sleeve and checked his watch; there were only five minutes left. Best to call it quits. “Yeah, we should head back.” He stood and stretched, and Jim walked ahead of him to the door, holding it open for him. “Want to get a drink later?”

“Your place or mine?” Jim said with a grin.

“Well, I did just get that bottle of Saurian brandy,” Leonard said.

“Yours, then,” Jim agreed with a grin. “I’ll come by after dinner.”

“Wear civvies,” Leonard said.

“Duh,” Jim replied. They moved out of the way of personnel coming into the mess for their lunch. “I’ll comm you when I’m on my way.”

“Sounds good.” Leonard clapped Jim on the shoulder. “See you tonight, Jim.”

“See you, Bones!” Jim turned and walked in the opposite direction from Leonard. Leonard watched him go for a second before getting in the nearest turbolift, pushing the button on the touchscreen to head back to Sick Bay. It was a relatively short trip, and he arrived at his domain in about forty-five seconds.

Leonard walked into the medical bay, noticing all of the other on-duty medical officers crowded around a PADD. That was weird.

And irritating.

“Don’t any of you have actual work to do?” he said in his least-patient and most-fear instilling voice.

They all jumped, even Geoff, which made Leonard smirk.

“Sorry,” Nurse Quinn said as she bolted to the supply room.

“It’s nothing,” Geoff said as he went to check up on a patient.

All of them scattered, scuttling away like roaches except for Christine. She stood holding the PADD with an expression that was equal parts nauseated and dog caught tearing apart its owner’s new shoes.

“Christine…” Leonard said. “May I see it?” Having the grace to cast her eyes down at the floor, Christine handed the PADD over. On it was a picture of him and Jim sharing the pie. “I don’t get it.”

“Chekov took it,” Christine blurted. “He sent it to the…a mailing list of most of the senior personnel.”

“Let me guess: Jim and I aren’t on that list,” Leonard said as he deleted the picture and handed the PADD back to her.

“No sir,” Christine admitted.

“It’s just two people eating pie,” Leonard said, putting his hands on his hips. “I fail to see why my entire staff needed to be huddled around it like a campfire on a cold day.”

“It’s just evid…” She clamped her mouth shut.

“Evidence?” Now Leonard was beginning to lose his patience. “Evidence of what?”

“Just…how…close you two are,” Christine explained. “That’s all.”

Leonard narrowed his eyes. There was something she wasn’t saying, but try as he may to read between the lines, he couldn’t come up with what it was. “It’s only extremely common knowledge that Jim and I are close. There’s no need to sit around staring at pictures of us on our lunch breaks. And there’s no reason for people to be taking them in the first place. Am I clear?”

“Crystal,” Christine said. “It won’t happen again, Doctor McCoy.”

“Better not,” Leonard said. “I’ll be in my office. Inventory’s looming.” He glanced around the room; all of his other staff busied themselves with other tasks, but were eavesdropping. “That goes for any of you. I catch something like this again and you’re all going to mast. We clear?”

“Yes, sir,” said everyone else.

“Good,” Leonard said. He walked back to his office and stepped inside it.

Everyone on the Enterprise had lost their minds. That could be the only explanation.

-----

Around 20:00, Leonard poured himself a glass of the Saurian brandy. Having showered, he was comfortably dressed in threadbare jeans and a t-shirt. Leonard had taken the first sip of his drink when his door chime sounded. He swallowed, setting the glass down on his coffee table. Walking over to the door, Leonard pushed the button to open it, and Jim came barreling in with a disturbed look on his face.

“Everyone thinks we’re fucking!” Jim blurted as soon as the door closed.

 

Leonard sighed. “Well, hello to you too, Jim. The rest of my day was fine, thanks for asking. How was yours?”

It was then that Jim’s words registered.

“Wait. What?” Leonard blinked a few times.

“Yeah, basically,” Jim said as he paced around the living room. “The entirety of the Starfleet organization thinks you and I are…are in love! Or fucking! Or both!” Jim paused in his pacing. “I guess I should have asked Nyota for specifics.”

“Nyota told you this, huh?” Leonard grabbed his brandy and took a long drink. He wasn’t drunk enough for this conversation.

“I asked her what was up with all the staring and shit,” Jim said as he resumed pacing. “And she told me in no uncertain terms that it’s because the crew is trying to catch us in the act. Because obviously we’re secretly involved with each other, and the crew has been gathering evidence about our relationship for months!”

Having killed his brandy, Leonard poured himself another glass, because he still wasn’t drunk enough. He also poured Jim a generous helping and passed it to him. Jim took it with a grateful look, knocking back most of it in one gulp.

Leonard would have admonished him for treating fine liquor so poorly, but there were bigger fish to fry at that particular moment.

Wait a second.

Leonard buried his face in his hands and groaned.

“What?” Jim said.

“Nothing just,” Leonard said with a sigh. “Christine and the rest of my on-duty staff. I caught them looking at a picture Chekov took of us while we ate lunch. When I pressed her about it, she slipped and referred to it as evidence.” He shook his head a few times. “It really is the entire ship.”

“Fuck!” Jim helped himself to more brandy. “Just…fuck!”

Something about Jim’s reaction bothered Leonard, but he pushed it aside. “I don’t suppose this explains why Spock always puts us on the same schedule and gives us the same days off.”

Jim froze. “Oh holy shit. Even Spock thinks we’re an item! This is too much; this is insane...”

A cold feeling, like a huge chunk of ice, settled in Leonard’s chest. “Yeah. The thought of us together…it’s ridiculous,” he said, although the tone of his voice wasn’t convincing.

“It is insanely ridiculous,” Jim agreed. “We’re friends. We’re just friends. Jesus, why can’t two people just be close friends? Why does everyone have to make assumptions?”

“I don’t know,” Leonard admitted as he sat on his couch. This whole conversation was unsettling. He wiped his palms off on his jeans.

Jim sat down next to him, so close that their knees brushed together. It wasn’t unusual for Jim to do that, but for the first time Leonard was aware of his friend’s proximity. Jim always had issues understanding personal space, so Leonard didn’t focus too much on it.

It felt nice, though, Leonard had to admit.

“I’m seriously so pissed,” Jim said as he poured more to drink for both of them. “First of all, I don’t appreciate the huge amounts of raging gossip behind our backs. If people think we’re a couple, they can simply ask us. Everyone knows I have an open-door policy.”

“Yeah, but you just said they think we’re keeping it quiet,” Leonard said as he leaned back against the cushions. “They probably think they’re being respectful, or that we have reasons for being secretive. I bet they think they’re doing us a favor by going along with it until we’re…I guess until we’re ready to go public.”

Jim barked out a humorless laugh. “Some favor. Spying and sneaking. Yeah, sure.”

“I’m not saying it’s justified,” Leonard said as he took a sip of his brandy. “I’m just saying that I can understand why they think they have to resort to it. Although, if we’re involved it’s really not any of their business so long as it doesn’t interfere with the ship’s day-to-day.”

“Nope, it sure isn’t!” Jim said. “And second of all…” he began, staring down at the amber liquid in his glass. “It’s not even remotely true. Where would they even get the idea that we’re involved like that from? We don’t act at all like a couple. We don’t kiss or hold hands or call each other pet names…”

“Technically that last part isn’t true, what with Bones and all,” Leonard felt the need to point out.

“That’s not a pet name,” Jim said. “That’s just a nickname. Pet names are shit like baby and honey. Pookie. Sweetheart…”

Darlin’,” Leonard chimed in.

“Exactly!” Jim said as he pointed in the air for emphasis. “We don’t do any of that. We act nothing like a stereotypical couple.”

“Neither do Nyota and Spock, if you want to get technical,” Leonard said before he had time to register it.

“Except they kiss in front of other people,” Jim said with a shrug. “They made out like they were never going to see each other again in the transporter room when he and I left for the Narada. And when he goes on away missions, they totally Vulcan kiss goodbye.”

“Fair enough,” Leonard said, conceding the point.

“And the only reason why we crash with each other sometimes is just because we get drunk,” Jim continued. “And we sleep on the other’s couch. There’s nothing even remotely romantic about how we act towards each other. We’re friends. We’re just pure, platonic friends. We’ve never been anything more, and we never will be anything more…”

That sharp, stinging sensation Leonard felt in his chest he realized was his pride. “No. You’re right. We’re just friends, and we always will be.”

“Exactly.” Jim said as he leaned back. He raked a hand through his hair.

“So what did you say?” Leonard sipped the brandy more slowly; it was pretty potent stuff, and the night was young.

Jim favored him with a curious look. “What’d I say when?”

“When Nyota told you that we’re involved,” Leonard clarified. “What did you say to her? I mean, you told her it isn’t true, right?”

Jim’s cheeks flushed. “Actually, now that I think about it…I didn’t exactly deny it.”

Leonard stared at him. “Do what now?”

“I didn’t deny it,” Jim said. “I was too stunned. I think I stammered out that it wasn’t any of her business and ordered her back to work.”

For the second time that day, Leonard pinched the bridge of his nose. “Jim…”

“Yeah, I know, Bones, I know,” Jim said. “That probably made her even surer we’re involved.” Grabbing his head with both hands, Jim leaned forward. “Shit! This whole thing is giving me a headache.”

“Well, we’ll just have to tell her tomorrow that it isn’t true,” Leonard said. “Maybe we can even make a ship wide memo, put all the rumors to rest right from the horse’s mouth.”

Jim sat with the look in his eyes that meant he was deep in thought.

After several minutes of this, Leonard nudged Jim’s knee with his own. “Jim?”

“Where’s the fun in that?” Jim said.

Now Leonard was confused. “Where’s the fun in what?”

“In telling everyone to stop and that it’s not true. Where’s the fun in that?” Jim sat back up straight, turning sideways on the couch to face him.

“There wouldn’t be any fun in it,” Leonard said. “But it’d get people to stop talking.”

“Or they’d keep talking because they think we’re just lying about it so they’ll leave us alone,” Jim countered. “I mean, if they somehow got the idea that we’re involved from us having lunch every day, why would they buy it when we tell them we’re not?”

Leonard turned on the couch to sit sideways. He faced Jim head-on. “What exactly are you proposing here?”

There was a dangerous glint in Jim’s eyes as he said, “They want to talk. Fine. Let’s give ‘em something to talk about.”

Uh oh.

“Are you already drunk?” Leonard said. “I know Saurian brandy is serious stuff, but you’ve only had a glass and a half…”

“I’m pretty sober, actually.” Jim shrugged one shoulder. “Come on, Bones. Let’s do it. Let’s get them.”

“Oh Jim, I don’t…that’s not a good idea…” Leonard said, his tone of voice unsure.

“It’s an awesome idea,” Jim said. “They’re fucking with us. Let’s fuck with them. It’ll pay them back and teach them a lesson in one fell swoop.” He grinned, an evil one Leonard was all too familiar with. “All we have to do is sit a little closer. Stare a little longer. Laugh a little louder. Touch a little more. We’ll be acting like we do normally, except a bit bolder is all.”

Leonard sighed. “Jim…”

“Come on, Bones,” Jim said. He nudged Leonard’s foot with his sneaker. “You know you want to. Just for a week, and we’ll reveal it once the week is over.”

“I still don’t think this is a good idea,” Leonard protested. “This could seriously blow up in our faces.”

The grin fell away from Jim’s face. “How?”

“Well, I mean….” Leonard cleared his throat. “The crew is…supposed to trust its captain. How will they be able to trust you after you prank them like this?”

Jim narrowed his eyes a little. “If I can’t trust my crew to not make assumptions about my personal life or go behind my back, they don’t really have much of a leg to stand on.”

He had a point. Leonard searched for another argument, but kept coming up blank. He sighed, a long, protracted one. “I’m going to live to regret this.”

“Hey, better to live to regret the things you did than the things you didn’t, I always say,” Jim said with a grin. He put his hand on Leonard’s knee and squeezed it. “So. We’ll start now. Since we’re ‘together’, I obviously should crash here tonight. On the couch, of course.”

“Of course,” Leonard said with another sigh.

“I’ll make sure to leave late enough that people see me go,” Jim said with a calculating smirk. “And I’ll rumple up my clothes good so they look like they spent the night on your bedroom floor.”

“Right,” Leonard said.

Jim bit his bottom lip for a second. “We should meet for lunch again tomorrow.”

“We’d do that anyway,” Leonard said.

“Yeah, but not the officer’s mess this time: the regular one. If we’re gonna put on a show, it needs to be good. And it needs to be in front of as wide an audience as possible.”

Shaking his head, Leonard rolled his eyes a little. “Such as?”

“Oh nothing much,” Jim said. “Some feeding off each other’s forks. Some nicknames. Eyelash batting. The usual.”

“Eyelash batting is not the usual,” Leonard complained.

“You’ll get used to it,” Jim said with a grin. He emptied the rest of his brandy, refilling his glass. He also handed Leonard his tumbler. “To payback,” he crowed as he held his glass out for a toast.

Leonard forced a smile on his face. “To payback.”

Their glasses clinked together.

-----

True to his word, Jim left Leonard’s quarters around the time of the early morning shift change. Both of them were scheduled for beta shift that day, and they made plans to meet up at the main mess for lunch.

Now it was almost time for break, and Leonard felt butterflies in his stomach. It was probably because of how much he hated acting; he wasn’t any good at it, so he knew he wouldn’t be convincing.

Why on Earth had he gone along with this foolhardy plan of Jim’s?

A small voice inside his head reminded him how hard it was for him to say no to Jim under good circumstances, let alone when he started his whole salesman shtick on whatever ridiculous idea he had that time, but Leonard brushed it to the side.

Leonard closed and locked his office door. Just in time, as Jim walked into medical.

Jim smiled at the nurses and other doctors before his eyes landed on Leonard’s face. Their eyes met, and it felt like everything stopped.

The look on Jim’s face…Leonard had never seen him have such a soft and loving expression before. Not even at Gaila or Gary or any of Jim’s other romantic partners. It was naked affection for the world to see, and Leonard had to ramp down the urge to blush or look away.

Then he remembered it was fake.

Feeling disappointed, he tried to mirror Jim’s expression on his own. It must have worked because he caught Jim’s eyes widening before they settled back to how they were before.

“Hey, Bones,” Jim said, his voice husky. “Ready?”

Leonard swallowed. “Yeah. I’m all set.”

“Good,” Jim said. He reached out and touched Leonard’s hand. Leonard fought the urge to jerk it away, and he managed to keep the smile on his face. “Let’s go.”

Pausing to glance around, Leonard noticed his entire staff staring at them. Some of them had open mouths. “Sure, Jim, let’s,” he said, drawling out his words a little more than usual.

They walked shoulder-to-shoulder out of medical, and once in the hallway, Jim started to snicker. “Everyone’s so easy,” he said with a grin.

“Yeah,” Leonard agreed, relieved to see Jim looking normal again. Although, it also bothered him a little.

If he was honest, it bothered him a lot.

“This is going to be so much fun,” Jim continued as they took a turbolift to the mess. “I can’t wait to see their faces when they find out how gullible they really are!”

Leonard didn’t speak that time, as they had arrived at the mess. The doors opened, and before he could fully register it, he took Jim’s hand in his. Their fingers twined together in a way that felt natural, and they walked hand-in-hand through the mess door.

One by one, people noticed how they walked together and stopped doing everything to stare at them. Leonard’s stomach churned at the sight; being the center of attention like that was Jim’s thing, not his, and this made him feel awkward more than anything. He tried not to show it, though; he kept walking with Jim, their hands swinging between them.

The arrived at the counter to get their lunches, and Jim let go to grab a tray. Leonard looked down at his hand, wondering why it felt like a loss. He shrugged it off and grabbed a tray of his own. On the menu that day were the scintillating choices of tuna casserole (with peas, of course), plomeek soup (no thanks), and grilled cheese sandwiches. Leonard went for the grilled cheese, Jim having chosen the same option.

“Not very romantic menu items,” Leonard said as they went down the line to get sides. Jim got mashed potatoes and gravy, while Leonard opted for steamed broccoli.

“Well, it’ll do until shore leave,” Jim said. “When I can take you out all proper-like.”

“Sometimes I think you should be court-martialed for crimes against grammar,” Leonard couldn’t help but complain as they reached the area for desserts. Lemon Jell-O, yellow cake with chocolate frosting, and banana pudding (without Nilla wafers, which was a sin against God in his eyes) were the offerings. Jim grabbed a slice of the cake and a cup of coffee. Leonard opted for no dessert and sweet tea.

Jim scanned the mess for an open table. He found two seats next to each other at the end of a large table. “This way, babe,” he said loud enough for the people around them to hear over the din in the mess.

Leonard fought the urge to roll his eyes, instead pasting a smile on his face. “Of course, darlin’,” he added for the crew’s benefit.

Jim stumbled in front of him for some reason, and Leonard caught up to try and catch him. It was unnecessary as Jim managed to right himself without spilling anything.

Jim caught his eye and gave him a surreptitious wink. “I love it when you call me that,” he said, his voice husky like before.

Leonard resisted the urge to pull on his collar. “I know. That’s why I do it.”

The acting had gotten easier, which was good.

Jim grinned as they set their trays down next to each other, Leonard to Jim’s right. For a while, they ate in silence.

When he was halfway done with his sandwich, it happened.

Jim’s right hand slid under the table and onto Leonard’s thigh. He squeezed it for a second, before resuming eating one-handed.

Leonard’s face flushed as he reached his left hand down under and placed it over Jim’s. He squeezed his hand, also for a second, and continued to eat one-handed like his companion.

“So, babe,” Jim said a bit louder than he would in normal conversation. “Speaking of shore leave, where would you like to go when we take that week off?”

“Somewhere with a beach,” Leonard answered, and it was honest. “I want to lay in the sun all day drinking an overly-sweet alcoholic beverage with no less than three umbrellas sticking out of it.”

“I like the way you think,” Jim said. “I also like how tan you get.”

Leonard, who had been taking a sip of his tea, sputtered and coughed.

“Aw, baby,” Jim said, letting go of his thigh to rub his back. “Wrong tube?”

“Yeah,” Leonard said once the coughing subsided. “You make it better.”

Jim smiled. “I try.” He let go of Bones’ back, grabbing his forgotten fork with his left hand. “Want a bite of my mashed potatoes?”

“Sure,” Leonard said with a sappy smile of his own. At least, he hoped it was sappy.

Jim loaded up the fork with potatoes and gravy, holding it up towards Leonard’s mouth. It took him a second to catch the hint, but once he did, Leonard leaned forward and ate the potatoes off the fork. He chewed and swallowed. “Not bad today. Want some broccoli?”

“If you’re offering,” Jim said.

Leonard speared a piece of broccoli with his fork, holding it out to Jim. Jim leaned forward and ate the broccoli, his eyes not leaving Leonard’s face. “Mmm…” Jim said before swallowing. “It tastes extra good today. Probably because of how it got fed to me.”

Leonard snorted. “Stop. You’re making me blush.”

“Aw, I love that I still do that to you, babe,” Jim said, leaning in close. His mouth was right by Leonard’s ear. “Everyone’s staring at us. It’s totally working,” he whispered.

Taking a subtle look around the mess, Leonard realized Jim was right. Everyone openly stared at them; some of their crew mates looked shocked, some looked pleased. More than a couple, however, looked disturbed. Two looked nauseated.

The two, of course, being Nyota Uhura and Christine Chapel.

“It is working,” Leonard murmured so only Jim could hear. “I guess sometimes your hair brain has good ideas.”

“My brain has the best ideas,” Jim whispered. He reached out and stroked Leonard’s cheek once. “So,” he said, his voice regaining its previous volume. “Risa then? You can wear those tiny swim trunks I got you.”

“Risa is perfect,” Leonard agreed. “I’ll book the hotel.”

“Awesome,” Jim said. He dropped his voice low again. “Should we make an announcement?”

Unable to play along with that, Leonard winced. “That’ll probably be going too far.”

“Hmm,” Jim said as he touched Leonard’s cheek again. “You’re right. Best to keep it subtle.” He put the cake in between them. “Dig in, babe.”

They took turns feeding each other the cake, and the sound of pictures being taken could be heard all around them. Once the cake was finished, and they (lovingly, of course) cleaned the crumbs off each other’s’ faces, they stood and put their trays in the recycler. Jim grabbed Leonard’s hand and pulled him towards the door.

Nyota joined them. “Captain? Doctor?”

“Hello, Lieutenant,” Jim said with a smile. “Fancy meeting you here.”

“Do you really think this behavior is appropriate?” Nyota continued. “You are two of the senior most officers on the ship.”

“What behavior are you referring to?” Jim asked, tilting his head to one side. Leonard himself put a curious look on his face.

“The…” Nyota had to struggle for the right words. “The open flirting and feeding each other. Do you really think that’s appropriate while you’re on duty?”

“We’re not on duty, we’re at lunch,” Leonard corrected.

“You know what I mean,” Nyota continued. “You’re in uniform. Should you really be so demonstrative?”

“We’re not being too demonstrative,” Jim said with an affronted expression. “We just don’t need to hide it anymore. So we’re not.”

Nyota furrowed her brows. “…This is because of our conversation yesterday?”

“Bones and I had a long talk after you and I did,” Jim said. “We decided it’s time to be out in the open. You all figured it out, and it’s a relief. Now we can be ourselves in public as well as private.”

“It’s a load off our shoulders,” Leonard added. Thinking quickly, he smiled at her. “You did us a favor, telling Jim yesterday. Like he said, now we’re free.”

The look on her face became equal parts unhinged and confused. “You’re like this all the time with each other?”

“Yup,” Jim said.

“And you’re going to be like this all the time going forward?” Nyota still had that strangled expression on her face.

“That’s about the size of things,” Leonard said.

“Oh.” Nyota took a step backwards. “Forgive me if I was prying.”

“It’s no problem; you’re a friend,” Jim said with a wave of his hand. “But Bones and I were going go to the observation deck for a few minutes, and our hour’s running low. So if you don’t mind…”

“Of course,” Nyota said. Her face formed the semblance of a smile. “Enjoy yourselves. I guess.”

“We will, thanks,” Leonard said. He grabbed Jim’s hand and tugged. “Let’s go, darlin’.”

“Bye, Nyota,” Jim said as they left the mess. They got into the nearest turbolift, and Jim pushed the button for the observation deck. Once the doors slid closed, he burst out laughing. He laughed so hard he had to lean against the wall for support.

Leonard sighed and shook his head. “We’re going to hell,” he felt the need to point out.

“Meh,” Jim said. “That’s where all the fun people will be. If it even exists.”

Leonard opened his mouth to argue, but found he couldn’t. “Touché.” The door slid open, and Jim pulled Leonard out of the lift to the Observation Deck. “Wait, why did we actually come here?”

“Because twenty credits say someone’s going to follow us,” Jim said. “Or at least locate us on the ship’s computer.”

“We could have disabled that,” Leonard said. “You taught me how.”

“No, trust me,” Jim said as he continued to pull Leonard front and center in front of the picture window. They were in warp, so there wasn’t that much to see, but it was somewhere public. Jim wrapped his arms around Leonard’s waist, resting his head on his shoulder.

His heart skipping a beat, Leonard returned the favor. It was an indescribable feeling, holding Jim like that, and it took Leonard a second to realize he didn’t want it to end. No, that would have been ridiculous. He was getting a little too into the role.

Nothing more.

They stayed together, not saying a word. Behind them, the door slid open. “Don’t move,” Jim whispered. “Just stay like this.”

Leonard closed his eyes and nodded.

The person crept closer. When he was only a few feet away, he cleared his throat. “Captain?”

It was Chekov.

“Yes?” Jim asked, pulling enough away from Leonard to not be inappropriate but staying within the circle of his arms.

“You’re kind of interrupting,” Leonard added for good measure.

“I am very sorry,” Chekov said with an apologetic expression. “I just wanted to congratulate you. You are lovely together, and it makes me happy to see how much you care for each other.”

Jim’s eyes softened in the dim light, and Leonard had to clear his throat against the sudden emotion he felt.

“If I find someone someday who looks at me the way you look at each other, I will be quite happy,” Chekov continued. “That is all I wanted to say. I will go now.” He turned and headed back to the door.

“Hey, Chekov?” Jim called.

“Yes, Captain?”

“I…” Jim faltered, and Leonard gave him a curious look. “Thanks. Just…thanks.”

“Of course,” Chekov said with a sunny smile. He left the deck then, leaving them alone once more.

Jim pulled completely out of Leonard’s grasp, and Leonard had to rein in the impulse to reach out to him again. “Okay. Maybe I do feel bad about this.”

Not knowing what to do with his hands, Leonard ran one through his hair. “As I said on the turbolift, we’re going to hell.”

“Yeah,” Jim said. “Yeah, I guess we are.”

“We can call it off,” Leonard said, hoping Jim would agree. “We can come clean right now. It…probably won’t completely shatter his hopes and dreams.”

Jim shook his head. “No, we’re not calling it off. Yeah, I feel bad about Chekov, but they need to learn. I said a week; let’s just keep going for the week.” Jim rubbed his hand down his face. “It’ll be fine,” he said, although Leonard knew him well enough to know Jim was trying to convince himself more than Leonard.

“Sure, Jim,” Leonard said, even though he had reservations. “We’ll keep going for the next week.”

Jim had an unreadable look in his eyes. It startled Leonard; Jim was usually an open book to him. Why would he have closed off like that?

“We should go; we’re probably late actually,” Jim said. “Come to my quarters whenever after you get dinner. My turn to put you up for the night.”

Leonard stared at Jim for a minute, still trying to read the look in his eyes.

It didn’t work.

“Okay, Jim,” he said. “See you tonight.”

“Yeah.” Jim said. “See you.”

As Leonard walked off the Observation Deck, he couldn’t help but pause at the door to look back at Jim. The captain stood staring out the window, still as a stone. Leonard sighed and walked out of the room, heading straight to medical.

But his whole shift, he was haunted by how it felt to have Jim in his arms.

----

The night passed without incident, and Leonard had the foresight to bring clothes and his toothbrush with him to Jim’s quarters. In the morning, they took turns showering, and dressed. They walked together, hands brushing all the while, to the transporter room.

Spock and Nyota stood on the pad, ready to beam down as Scotty performed a last-minute safety check to ensure their safe travels down to Capella IV. The Federation was trying to secure a mining agreement with the citizens of the planet. Leonard was in the party to give them access to better medicine, although from the briefing it seemed like it would be a waste of time.

As Jim and Leonard walked toward the pad not-quite holding hands, Spock raised an eyebrow and the expression on Nyota’s face soured. “Good morning, Spock, Nyota,” Jim said with a grin as he stood next to Spock.

“Morning,” Leonard added as he, of course, moved to stand next to Jim.

“Good morning,” Spock said.

“Jim,” Nyota said. “Leonard.”

“Beautiful day, isn’t it?” Jim continued.

Spock gave each of them a considering look. “The weather on Capella IV appears to be favorable.”

“Good to know,” Leonard said. “Maybe if we win the treaty, we can have a picnic, Jim.”

“That sounds perfect, babe,” Jim said with a disarming smile. “Come find me when you’re done.”

Leonard flushed a little, wondering why he had done that so much. “I’ll track you down, all right.”

Jim gave Leonard a look; the smile stayed on his face, but something shifted in his eyes, like they went blank. It cleared after a moment, and he was back to playful, flirting Jim.

Nyota cleared her throat. “If you’re both ready, we should depart. It wouldn’t be wise for us to keep the Teer waiting.”

“Of course,” Jim and Leonard said in unison. They turned to face forward, although Leonard caught Jim wink at him out of the corner of his eye.

“Ready, Scotty?” Jim said.

“Aye,” the engineer replied. “You are ready to go.”

“Energize, then,” Jim said. Scotty obliged him, and the lights whirled around them. They disappeared, rematerializing in a field near a village. The four of them walked together, Jim falling back with Bones to walk next to him. They slowed down enough that Spock and Nyota were several meters ahead.

“Remember the plan?” Jim asked in a low voice.

Leonard sighed. “Yes.”

“Good,” Jim said with a grin. Again, their hands brushed together as they walked, and Leonard had to resist the urge to take Jim’s in his own. Spock and Nyota had stopped at the gateway to the village, and they turned to face Jim and Leonard. Jim burst out laughing, and Leonard sighed but smiled.

“Your sense of humor is one of the things I love about you, Bones,” Jim said loud enough for the others to hear.

“I’m always happy to make you laugh, darlin’,” Leonard said in reply. It took the words coming out of his mouth for him to realize it was the truth, and he felt his smile dim somewhat in response.

Nyota openly rolled her eyes, but Spock refrained from commenting. The Capellans came out to greet them. “Captain,” a seven-foot tall man in ornate clothing said to them.

“Teer Akaar,” Jim said with a smile. “These are my officers; Commander Spock, Lieutenant Uhura, and Doctor McCoy.” Jim’s smile brightened when he gestured at Leonard, and Leonard smiled at him in return.

A small almost smothered sound came out of Nyota’s throat.

“Something wrong, Lieutenant?” Jim said.

Remembering her manners, Nyota shook her head. “Just allergies, sir.”

“Of course,” Jim said as he and Leonard exchanged a knowing glance. “As our communications between us have stated, we come here simply to talk today. Although I’m certain we can come to an arrangement that is pleasing for both your people and the Federation.”

“I will hear what you have to say,” Akaar said as Jim looked up into his eyes. “We do have much to discuss.” He turned and began to head towards a tent. “This way, Captain.”

Jim and Nyota took that as their cue and stepped forward. Jim turned to Leonard and Spock. “Start scouting for a suitable locale for the medical facilities. The Lieutenant and I will handle the negotiations.”

“Of course,” Spock said with a nod.

“See you, Jim,” Leonard said with a sweet smile.

Jim’s eyes went blank for a moment, but he returned Leonard’s smile. “See you, Bones.” The shuttered gaze returned to normal, and Jim glanced at Spock. “You too, Spock.”

With that, he and Nyota followed the Teer into his tent to take care of the diplomatic portion of the proceedings. Leonard pulled out his tricorder, Spock following suit, and a Capellan eyed them with interest.

“You are the medical officers,” the Capellan said.

“I am,” Leonard said. “He’s a scientist.”

“We have no need for such things,” the Capellan continued. “The weak die and the strong survive here on Capella. Medicine is not necessary.”

Leonard pinched the bridge of his nose, which had become a habit. Before he could comment, Spock spoke up. “If a person can be healed, it is far more logical to do so than to let them suffer. In exchange for the topaline, we would impart our medical knowledge upon your people in order to keep your population strong and growing and to safeguard against any catastrophic occurrences such as plagues.”

Sighing, Leonard gave Spock a grateful look. Spock acknowledged it with the slightest incline of his head.

The Capellan remained unmoved. “Your way is not ours; Akaar would do best to refuse your offer.” He turned and stormed away, leaving a bemused Spock and an irritated Leonard behind.

“The briefing said there was the possibility of opposition,” Spock said as he turned back to his work.

“It should have said pig-headed obstinance,” Leonard groused. “If Akaar is anything like him, Jim and Nyota are in for a bumpy ride.”

“I am certain that Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura will handle the Teer with the utmost care,” Spock said.

Leonard pretended to adjust his tricorder, biting back a smirk as he did. Spock played into his hands. “Jim is amazing, no doubt about it.”

Spock chose not to comment as they walked towards a large nearby clearing. It was a decent size for a clinic. Spock began to take soil readings to make sure the building process would go smooth.

Leonard took his own readings. “Jim does this thing when he laughs, like really laughs. His eyes crinkle up at the corners, and he gets kind of wheezy and high-pitched. It’s adorable.”

For the second time, Spock chose not to comment.

“Last night, when we were alone, we spent hours just talking about nothing of consequence,” Leonard said. “It’s refreshing to be able to let your guard down with someone like that. I didn’t even have that with Jocelyn,” Leonard continued. “With Jim, I can just…breathe. I don’t have to speak or bluster. I can sit and do nothing, and he loves me for it.”

Spock’s left eyebrow twitched.

“And of course, I make him feel safe enough that he can do the same with me,” Leonard said. “There were entire half hours where we didn’t speak at all last night. We sat and enjoyed the company without needed to fill the space with bullshit.”

It was then that Leonard realized he hadn’t told a single lie to Spock. He could just breathe with Jim, and Jim could do the same. They had in fact spent long stretches without speaking the night before, and their silences hadn’t been awkward at all.

And Jim was amazing.

“I never feel so free as I do when I’m with him,” Leonard said. “I feel like I can…fly a shuttle by myself. I feel like I can do anything, go anywhere, and I won’t be afraid. I can face any obstacle as long as he’s right there with me.”

And yeah, none of that was a lie either. Something settled like a lead weight in Leonard’s stomach; it took him a minute to realize it was dread.

But why would he feel dread about Jim? It didn’t make any sense.

“The way he looks at me, it’s…”

“Doctor?” Now both of Spock’s eyebrows twitched.

“Yes, Spock?”

“I would prefer it if we kept the conversation on the task at hand,” Spock said with a hint of pleading in his voice. “These readings are more complicated than I anticipated, and I would prefer to give them my utmost attention. So, if you please…”

“Oh, sorry,” Leonard said, making a point to look embarrassed. “What do you need help with?”

Spock adjusted the settings on the tricorder. “The soil is sixty percent clay, forty percent silt. Building on it will be complicated.”

Leonard nodded. “We’ll probably have to send a special team from the Starfleet Corps of Engineers in order to make it sound.”

“Indeed,” Spock said. He looked at his tricorder again. “I have taken all of the necessary readings. I believe it would behoove us to move back to the village in order to report the findings to the Captain and Teer Akaar.”

“Good,” Leonard said with a smile. “I know it hasn’t been that long, but I miss Jim.”

If it had been anyone but Spock, that would have probably tipped them off that he was faking. It was laying it on a little thick, Leonard realized. Spock, however, did not pick up on that and simply sighed.

His eyebrow twitched again, though.

“Yes,” Spock said. “Let us return.”

“Okay,” Leonard said. They walked back together in companionable silence, and Leonard smiled for a second before saying. “You know, we’re both lucky, you and I.”

“The concept of luck is illogical,” Spock said.

“Fortunate, then,” Leonard continued. “We both have someone special. We’re both happy. Not many people, human or Vulcan, get that.”

“I suppose that is correct,” Spock said, and Leonard took that for a ringing endorsement. “I must admit I am somewhat…perplexed.”

“Perplexed? What about?” Leonard raised an eyebrow of his own.

“By how you and the Captain treat each other now that the knowledge of the nature of your relationship is public,” Spock said. “Nyota referred to it as ‘mushy and nauseating’.”

“Did she now?” Leonard fought the urge to laugh.

“I would not have expected you to be so…forward with each other in public,” Spock continued.

“Well, as I’m sure she mentioned to you, we’re just finally free to be ourselves,” Leonard said. “We don’t have to hold back anymore.”

“I…see,” Spock said. He had the tone of voice that meant he was still baffled, though. “I suppose I have no right to comment on the matter as it does not directly involve me. I apologize if I have offended you.”

“You’re fine,” Leonard said. “I’m sure it’ll take some getting used to.”

They had reached the camp, and just in time, as Jim and Nyota stepped out of a tent. Jim grinned openly, and Nyota looked pleased. Things must have gone well.

“We can do the mining,” Jim said. “He signed on the dotted line. The clinic was a harder sell, but thanks to Nyota’s flawless diplomacy, he decided maybe it was time they found some new ways of doing things.”

“That may not make him popular,” Leonard said. “We had a run in with a Capellan who seemed displeased at the thought.”

“He’ll deal with it,” Jim said. “They have…ways of handling disputes here.”

Leonard read the brief, so he knew what Jim meant. Spock and Nyota also had looks on their faces showing that they understood.

Jim turned to Leonard with a dazzling smile, although again for some reason, there was nothing in his eyes to match. “Since we can chalk this up in the win column, let’s head back.”

And before any of them could register it, Jim smacked Leonard loudly on the ass, causing Leonard to flush to the roots of his hair. He cleared this throat once, barely restraining himself from cussing Jim out in front of everyone and ruining their charade. Instead he pasted a smile on his face. “Oh, you,” he managed to get out, as he miraculously didn’t punch Jim in the face.

Although…he kind of liked it.

Shaking that off, and ignoring the fact that Spock and Nyota looked like they were both having strokes, Leonard and Jim walked back to the beam down point.

“Wasn’t that overdoing it?” Leonard said when they were out of earshot.

“Nah, that’s probably more of what they expect from me,” Jim said. “They won’t think it’s weird.”

Leonard wasn’t sure going by the looks on their faces, but he didn’t feel like arguing. “Just warn me next time. That wasn’t in the plan.”

Jim’s expression faltered for a second, becoming empty. He recovered, and the smile returned to his face. “Sorry.”

Contemplating asking him what that was about, as it had happened more frequently, Leonard opened his mouth for a second. He thought better of it at the last second. “It’s fine. You just startled me.”

Jim nodded. Once more, they walked so close their hands brushed against each other’s. They reached the coordinates they beamed to, and turned to see Nyota and Spock not too far from them. Jim turned to Leonard and smiled, and it was so sweet it did something to Leonard’s heart.

As usual, it lasted only a second before Leonard remembered that Jim was acting.

Although he still didn’t understand why that made him feel so…hollow.

“Ready to beam back?” Jim asked Nyota and Spock.

“Yes,” Spock said, sounding relieved.

Jim flipped open his communicator. “Kirk to Transporter room.”

Transporter room, this is Engineer Scott.

“Four to beam up.”

Aye, sir. Locking on now. Stand by.

The lights swirled around them, and they were back on the ship.

-----

The next day started without incident, and Leonard did his weekly inventory with few interruptions. His crew kept the gossip to a minimum in spite of the slow day, and Leonard elected to check up on a couple of things in the supply closets, just in case.

He was in there alone when the door slid open. Leonard had his back to it, and he didn’t bother to turn around. “What is it, Geoff?”

Hands slid down over his eyes, covering them. “Not Geoff,” Jim’s voice said in a playful tone.

“Oh, it’s you,” Leonard said, even though he welcomed the attention since it was from Jim. “What’s up, Jim?”

Jim let go of him, and he turned to face him. Jim had a grin on his face as he slid the door closed, locking it with a captain’s override. “This isn’t soundproofed, right?” he whispered.

Leonard’s eyebrow rose. “No, just my office is. Why?”

Jim’s eyes glinted in the dim track lighting of the space. “I missed you,” he said, projecting his voice the slightest bit.

It took Leonard a second to remember why Jim was saying things like that. It also took an additional second to recall that it was fake. He felt disappointment’s familiar sting threaten to overtake him as he said a somewhat stilted, “Me too. I was just thinking about you.”

Jim grabbed him by the shirt, pulling him so hard against him they both slammed against the door. Leonard was about to shout at him for being a fucking idiot when Jim clamped a hand over his mouth. “I’ve been distracted on the bridge all day thinking about you, babe,” Jim said, again loud enough to be heard through the door. “Thinking about your hands,” he continued. “And your mouth.”

Leonard’s eyes widened. Was Jim really going there? No, he couldn’t have been.

Jim stayed quiet for a few minutes; when he opened his mouth again, he fake-panted a little. “Oh Bones, I know we’re both on duty, but just this once…I need you.”

At this, Jim slowly dropped his hand down from Leonard’s mouth. He then made a gesture for Leonard to speak.

Leonard sighed. “This is so unprofessional,” he said, not really playing along.

“It is,” Jim conceded. “But no one will tell.”

Sighing a second time, Leonard rolled his eyes. “You owe me big for this.”

Jim’s smile turned shit-eating. “You know you love it. You get off on it too.”

Leonard didn’t take the bait, he just sighed again. “What am I doing?” he whispered.

“Your loudest, raunchiest sex sounds,” Jim whispered back. “Maybe throw in some dirty talk for good measure.”

Leonard sighed. “You’ve lost your mind.”

“Can you imagine the looks on their faces?” Jim said. “It’ll be hilarious. Come on, Bones.” Jim’s expression became pleading, and Leonard cursed under his breath, wondering not for the first or even seventeenth time since this mess started why he could never say no to Jim.

 

“Fine,” Leonard said. He raised his voice, drawling out the words. “It…feels good to be close to you, darlin’.”

Jim nodded an approval, although his eyes went blank. “Yeah.”

They stayed silent for a minute, and then Jim started panting again. He kind of reminded Leonard of a golden retriever; it was pretty much the least sexy thing he’d ever seen.

Until it happened.

Jim made a noise, halfway between a moan and a mewl, and Leonard’s throat went bone dry. He did it again, and then a third time, before gasping out a, “God that feels good.”

Leonard could do nothing but stare as Jim made that same sound again. He remembered himself, shaking his head to clear it, and let loose a growl that Jocelyn always liked.

The fake bliss on Jim’s face faltered for a moment, but he answered the growl with another moan-mewl. He brought his fist back, pounding it into the door behind him. Then he did it again. He started making mewls more in earnest, timing them with the pounding of his fist, and Leonard realized he was kind of really devoted to making their “sex” sound authentic.

Leonard braced his hands against the door on either side of Jim’s face, making the growls in the off-beats of the pounding and mewls. Jim’s face was slightly flushed, and he kept doing the fake panting. He sped the pounding and made louder sounds, and Leonard matched his tempo again.

“Yeah, you like that, don’t you?” Leonard said before he could stop the words.

“Fuck yes,” Jim said. He sped the pounding again. “Ready to ‘come’?” he whispered.

This kind of insulted Leonard. “We’ve only been doing this a few minutes.”

Jim made a high, breathy whine before whispering, “They are called ‘quickies’, you know.”

“Fair enough,” Leonard said. “I’m close,” he added, for the benefit of everyone in sickbay.

Jim nodded his approval, and…was he sweating?

Actually…so was Leonard. It was because they were so close, and the door was sealed tight. The supply rooms got stifling, even with the ship’s climate control.

It was not because he was getting turned on from the sounds Jim made. Or the way he smelled, so close, that didn’t do it either. And it certainly wasn’t from the look on his face, which could only be described as ecstasy. And Leonard definitely wasn’t tempted to lick the sweat off Jim’s upper lip or back him into the door for real and---

Oh.

Fuck.

Jim sped the pounding a final time and suddenly arched his back, letting loose a loud wail. Leonard blinked for a second, wondering if Jim really sounded like that when he came, before following suit with shouting Jim’s name.

He wondered at his ability to remember to continue with the charade, considering everything else.

Throughout the whole thing, Jim’s eyes had stayed closed. Now they opened, and for a minute they looked kind of glassy, like he was high. Before Leonard could even ask, they cleared before going blank again. The smile dimmed into the one Jim gave people he didn’t know very well, making Jim’s face a cold mask of indifference. It shocked Leonard so much he took two steps back with a frown.

“Wait,” Jim said. He moved away from the door and grabbed Leonard, running his fingers through and completely demolishing his hair. Leonard had to strain to keep from leaning into his touch or purring at the feel of Jim’s fingers along his scalp. “Now you do me.”

Phrasing.

Leonard sighed and rolled his eyes with a slight scowl. He reached out and messed with Jim’s hair the way Jim did with his, making sure to make a dent in the back to make it look like his head had been pressed into the door. Jim’s hair was thick, and again Leonard got caught up in how nice he smelled. “There,” he said with another scowl.

Jim looked at him for a long time without saying anything.

“What?” Leonard snapped.

Jim’s face went blank, which Leonard was getting fed up with. “Nothing.” Before Leonard could snap that it was bullshit and obviously not nothing, Jim whipped his gold tunic off, balling it up and throwing it into a corner far out of their reach. He averted his gaze. “Stay in here for a while after I leave, and bring that with you tonight when you come to my quarters to stay over. Everyone will think we got carried away, and I couldn’t find it.”

Jim licked his lips before unlocking the door. It slid open, and he walked out, pasting a satisfied looking smile on his face. Leonard watched him go, and he wasn’t the only one; his entire staff blatantly stared at Jim as he peacock-strutted out of Medical with that same smug grin.

Once Jim had disappeared, Leonard closed the door and tried to go back to work. His mind wasn’t on his job, though. His mind kept drifting back to the way Jim smelled. Was it sandalwood? Yeah, sandalwood and a bit of something raw and rugged that got more pronounced when Jim started to sweat. It must have been just Jim himself.

Leonard buried his face in his hands.

It was one thing to be in a fake relationship for a week with Jim. It was another thing entirely for that fake relationship to make him realize he wanted to sleep with him. And it’s not like Leonard had never pondered it with how free Jim was with his favors.

But those few instances had been a brief “eh, I wonder.” Now he was dwelling on things like Jim’s body heat and how loud he could really get under the right person. He wanted Jim.

And wasn’t that the most fucking terrible news in the history of ever?

-----

That entire night Leonard spent in Jim’s quarters, he sat listening to Jim talk. He drank a little, and when it was time, he shuffled on to the couch to sleep. The whole time, Jim kept trying to engage him in conversation, but instead Leonard gave him clipped answers. After two hours, Jim stopped trying.

Of course he did, because God forbid he be attracted to Leonard too.

Regardless, the silence stretched into awkwardness between them, and Jim said he wanted to sleep early. So Leonard said good night, and he lay down, even though his sleep was fitful and restless.

Now he was in Jim’s shower, trying very hard to put his newfound attraction back in the tidy little box it came from, and it had worked for the most part. The lusty thoughts had retreated, save for the periodic brief flash of them.

Leonard turned off the water and stepped out of the shower, grabbing a towel to dry himself off. He wrapped it around his waist as his hair dripped into his eyes.

The bathroom door slid open, and Jim entered, stopping short when he saw Leonard. He stared at him for a second, before pointedly looking away.

That was the other thing.

It was pretty obvious Jim didn’t feel the same attraction for Leonard. Hence shoving it into a dark box at the back of his brain; what was the point in mucking up their friendship by making a pass? He’d get shot down.

And yeah, it hurt, but it was something he had to learn to live with.

“If you just give me a minute to get dressed,” Leonard said as he turned his back to Jim. He grabbed his clean boxers and stepped into them, sliding them on under his towel. He dropped the towel to the ground, grabbing his regulation trousers and pulling them on one leg at a time. Jim moved slightly closer to him, leaning against his sink counter.

“I had an idea,” Jim said. “You should come to the bridge with me before you head down for your shift.”

“And what? You want us to hold hands the whole way?” Leonard winced; even to him, he sounded pissy. There was no way Jim hadn’t caught it. He tugged his socks on one at a time before grabbing the black undershirt.

Jim didn’t say anything for a while, which removed any possible doubt that he hadn’t heard the irritation in Leonard’s voice.

“Sorry,” Leonard mumbled as he pulled the black shirt down.

“I…” Jim seemed oddly hesitant. “It’s fine. But no, you’re going to walk me to work. And then when we say so long until lunch, we’re going to kiss goodbye.”

Leonard froze, and it caused the blue tunic to get caught under his nose. He flailed with the shirt halfway on, struggling to set it to rights. He finally succeeded and turned to face Jim. “We’re going to what?”

Jim folded his arms across his chest. “Just once. We don’t even have to like…open our mouths or anything. Just a quick press of our lips together. It’s practically going to be a stage kiss.”

Leonard stared at him. He should say no. He should call the whole thing off.

But part of him had to know what it was like, and unfortunately, that part won. And at that moment, Leonard couldn’t help but think that Spock was on to something when he told him he felt too much.

He sighed and looked up toward the ceiling. Jim stood up straight and waited.

“Fine, kid,” Leonard said. “We’ll kiss.”

Jim’s eyes shone for a minute before they became dull. “Good,” he said, and the tone of his voice was neutral. He had showered and changed before Leonard, so he was in his uniform already. Leonard got up close to the mirror and fixed his hair into a damp version of his normal side-part. Jim watched him, and when Leonard caught his eye in their reflections, Jim’s darted away.

Whatever.

Leonard sighed and brushed past him into the main part of the Captain’s Quarters. “Fine. Let’s hurry up and get this over with. I don’t want to be late.”

Jim cleared his throat, but didn’t say anything as he followed Leonard to the door. “Lights,” he said softly as they left. They walked in silence to the nearest turbo lift, and Jim pushed the button to call one. It came within a couple of seconds, and they got inside it, standing close enough to touch but not quite.

They rode in somewhat stilted silence, and Leonard sighed just to break it. Jim’s expression flickered for an instant before he smoothed it back out. The lift stopped, and like a switch was thrown, a bright smile formed on his face. Leonard pasted one on his as well as the doors opened, and they stepped on the bridge.

“Captain on the bridge,” Chekov said, and everyone glanced at Jim before registering that Leonard walked next to him. They stood next to Jim’s chair for a minute, just looking at each other with their smiles.

“Thanks for the walk, babe,” Jim said. “It was sweet.”

“Anytime, darlin’,” Leonard said, wondering if he should make the first move, or if Jim would. He didn’t have long to wonder; Jim stepped into his personal space and pressed his lips to Leonard’s mouth.

Everything seemed to stop at that moment, and a feeling so strong swept through Leonard’s entire body. He felt like he was on fire, and before he could stop himself, his hands landed on Jim’s waist, pulling him in closer. Jim’s own hands cupped his face, and they stayed together for a long time.

Long enough that Leonard realized what exactly that feeling was.

It was dangerous. It was horrifying.

It was like a category five hurricane barreling down on Leonard’s house and he was powerless to stop it. He tried to brace himself; he had to fight the urge to flee for his life. Leonard got swept up in a wave of such a strong emotions, he got swept out to sea from one kiss.

It was love.

It was love; the whole time it had been love. That was why he had so many reservations about the prank, and why Jim’s lack of feelings towards him unsettled him so much. He was deeply, irrevocably in love with Jim.

And all it took for him to realize it was one kiss.

Leonard’s hands tightened on Jim’s waist; he pulled him in still closer, so close he couldn’t tell where he ended and Jim began. Jim made a soft noise into the kiss, and his hands drifted from Leonard’s cheeks to his hair. It was Leonard’s turn to sigh into it as the feel of Jim’s fingers on his scalp trailed sparks across his head.

One of Leonard’s hands drifted up the back of Jim’s shirts, and he ran his fingers over Jim’s bare skin. Jim made another noise before opening his mouth, deepening the kiss. Leonard obliged him, sliding his tongue into his mouth almost against his will. Jim’s fingers continued to card through Leonard’s hair, and Leonard debated breaking the kiss and running all the way down to medical.

He couldn’t have even if he wanted to; he was powerless to pull away. Holding Jim had been one thing, but kissing him felt so right and perfect, Leonard couldn’t have quit if he wanted. His heart soared and dipped, his stomach fluttered like a schoolboy’s…how had he not seen it? How had he not known that he was in love with Jim until this moment?

Breathing became a necessity, and Leonard broke the kiss, forcing himself to take a step back. He opened his eyes and saw that Jim looked completely and utterly shell-shocked.

For maybe half a second, anyway, before his eyes went dim and his smile lit up his face. And with that, Leonard realized that the thing he now knew he wanted most in the world would never be his.

He forced a smile on his face to match Jim’s, and Jim’s own faltered for a second.

“See you later, Jim,” he said.

“…See you, Bones,” Jim said, watching him leave. The whole bridge did, and Leonard realized then how silent it had become. He didn’t pause to look back; instead, he got in the lift and took it down to medical.

And he spent the next few hours doing everything in his power to not shove his fist through his computer, or scare his staff, or set something on fire.

He definitely felt too much.

-----

Leonard stood outside of Jim’s ready room, and he swallowed once. His hands clenched into fists, and his brow was furrowed.

He could do this.

He could face Jim after their kiss.

It was just Jim. And yeah, he was in love with him. But nothing had to change between them. It was just a fact of his existence now, being in love with Jim. There was no reason why it had to alter anything.

Except it did. It altered everything.

Or at least it would, once Jim found out. Sure he’d be nice about letting Leonard down easy, but the point was he’d be letting him down at all. And the knowledge of that fact hurt Leonard so much every time he thought about it, he almost couldn’t breathe.

Well, either way, this would all be over soon. They’d tell everyone about their joke, and go back to being just friends.

The thought of that, though…it made Leonard feel very cold and sad.

Sighing, Leonard pushed the button to the intercom at the Ready Room.

Who is it? came Jim’s voice.

“It’s me, Jim,” Leonard said. “Let me in.”

Jim didn’t reply, but the door slid open. Leonard walked through it, and Jim closed and locked the door behind him from the console at his desk. “Did you tell everyone in Medical where you were going?”

Leonard sighed. “Yes.”

Jim smiled. “Good.” He leaned back in his chair. “I have a proposition for you.”

“How’s that?” Leonard said, taking the seat across from him.

“I think we should up the ante a little,” Jim said. “We’re not shocking them anymore.”

Of course.

Leonard sighed. Every fiber of his being told him to tell Jim to fuck off, but he didn’t. If he did, it’d all be over, and he wouldn’t even have a fake relationship with him anymore. “How do you propose we do that?”

“We’re going to call an all-hands,” Jim said. “And after publicly admitting we’re involved, I’m going to propose to you.”

No.

Fuck no, actually.

“No,” Leonard said out loud. His voice was soft, though. Barely above a whisper.

Jim’s expression became confused. “No?”

“No, I’m not doing that,” Leonard explained. “That’s…” An extremely painful reminder of what he’d never have. “That’s going too far.”

“Well, I figure after I propose, we’ll tell them all it’s fake,” Jim said, though he looked a bit unsure. There was something in his eyes, almost like hurt. “You’ll say yes, and then we’ll…”

Leonard stood from the chair. “I said no.” He turned and went to leave.

“Wait, where are you going?” The sound of Jim standing caught Leonard’s attention, but he didn’t turn around to face him.

“I’m walking out,” Leonard said. “I’m done with this.”

There was a long silence, but it had a quality to it Leonard couldn’t identify. “What?”

“I said I’m done,” Leonard said, turning to face Jim again. Jim wasn’t staring at him or even glancing at him at all; his eyes were aimed downward at the floor, and Leonard for the thousandth time in as many days couldn’t read the expression on his face. “I’m not doing this anymore.”

“But why?” Jim said, as he looked up at him then. “It’s…just a practical joke.”

Right in the feel bads.

“Of course it is,” Leonard said. “It’s just a joke to you and always has been. Well, I’m tired of it. I don’t want to do it anymore. It’s not funny anymore, and I’m over it. I’m done.”

Jim looked up at him then, and his eyes were completely blank. “I don’t understand.”

“There’s nothing to understand,” Leonard said. “I said I’m through. I’m not speaking in French or anything, am I?”

“No, you…” Jim swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down. “I don’t understand what changed. You were on board with this even just a few hours ago.”

“And I’m not on board with it now,” Leonard said. “Jesus, take no for an answer.”

“Is it the proposal thing?” Jim said. “Because we can do something else. We can…we can kiss in front of everyone again. Or we can…”

Now Leonard was pissed. “Jim, I’m serious. I said no. I’m not doing this anymore.”

Jim must have sensed his anger, because his posture stiffened and the set of his mouth became tight around the edges. There was still nothing in his eyes, though. “We’ve come this far with it; you could at least have the decency to tell me why.”

“I don’t have to do shit,” Leonard said. “I said I’m done. I said no. That should be enough for you since we’re friends.”

“That’s not good enough,” Jim said. “Bones, seriously, what is your problem? You had no qualms about doing this when we started. You’ve been fine with everything else. Why…why is getting fake engaged such a big deal?”

“I just told you, it’s going too far,” Leonard said, his words snapping out with anger. “I didn’t agree to that. I didn’t agree to fake marrying you. It’s too much, and I’m done with this.”

“And I just said we can do something else,” Jim said. “You’re probably right in that it’s over the top. We can just say we’re moving in together…”

“Jim, I just said I’m done,” Leonard repeated. “I’m not pretending to live with you. I’m not pretending anything at all anymore. I’m done.” He turned to push the button to open the door.

“Bones, come on,” Jim said, although…did he sound desperate? No, that was Leonard’s imagination. “It’s not like it was fucking real or something.”

The words stabbed Leonard right through the heart, and for a second he had to close his eyes against the pain he felt. He took several steadying breaths before turning around to face Jim. His anger and hurt was written plain on his face as he said a simple, “Fuck off, Jim.”

The expression on Jim’s face rapidly cycled from defensive to completely shattered. For some reason he looked like the rug had been ripped out from underneath him. “Wait, Bones, hang on…”

“I said fuck off,” Leonard snapped. “I’m fucking done. And I’m fucking done with you.”

He pushed the button and opened the door. He heard Jim take a couple steps towards him. “Wait, no Bones, come back! Please, there’s something I need to---“

The door sliding closed cut him off, and Leonard stormed away from the ready room. He got in the next turbolift he saw, pushing the button for the observation deck. He also entered the code in the lift’s computer console to disable anyone from finding him. He arrived in seconds, and he stomped to the picture window, staring out at space.

Leonard immediately wrapped his arms around himself, wondering why his eyes stung so much. His embrace didn’t feel like Jim, though. It felt lonely and cold.

Leonard sighed. It was so unfair; he’d found the person he wanted to spend the rest of his life with, but Jim didn’t feel the same. It had all been a game to him; none of it had mattered.

It’s not like it was fucking real or something.

His arms dropping from around his waist, Leonard’s hands clenched into fists.
He couldn’t decide if he was more hurt or pissed. Probably he was pissed because he was hurt, but it didn’t really matter. The main thing he knew was that he didn’t want to see Jim for a long time, if ever again.

Which would probably be impossible, but a man could dream.

Leonard checked his watch; it had been four hours since he stormed out of Jim’s ready room, and he was off the following day.

Time to get hammered.

Leonard stormed back to his quarters. He stalked past Scotty and Keenser, who watched him go with a bit of fear on their faces.

“Lover’s quarrel,” Leonard heard Scotty stage-whisper to Keenser. His hands clenched again, and his shoulders stiffened. Part of him was tempted to chew him out, but the more rational part of his brain ignored it.

Leonard walked down the hall, reaching his room. He pushed the entry code into the keypad, and stepped inside. “Lights,” he barked as he strode towards his bedroom.

“Hey, Bones,” came a timid voice from his couch.

Freezing in mid-step, Leonard counted to ten. “You have some fucking nerve.”

Okay, so. Counting to ten maybe should have been counting to fifty.

“You disabled the computer from locating you,” Jim said as Leonard heard him stand. “I looked for you for a while, but then I decided to come here and wait for you.”

“That’s nice,” Leonard said, still without turning to look at him. “You found your way in, so you can find your way out.” He walked to his bedroom, ripping off his blue tunic in the process.

Jim must have followed him, because he said, “You should have let me finish before you stormed out.”

Leonard threw the tunic across the room, still not bothering to look at Jim. “You said everything that needed to be said.”

“No, I hadn’t,” Jim said. “Bones, please. Please let me explain.”

Leonard still wouldn’t look at him. He wanted to, but it hurt too much.

And in spite of that pain…he could deny Jim nothing.

“Fine. You have three minutes, but then I want you out.”

“I’ll leave you be if you don’t like what I have to say,” Jim said, his voice soft and unsure. “Bones, when I said what I did about it not being real…”

Growling, Leonard moved to his dresser. “If it’s just a rehash you can go ahead and…”

“Let me talk!” Jim shouted, actually shouted at him. Leonard took it for the warning it was and stopped speaking. “Anyways, I said that because…because I thought that’s what you wanted me to say.”

Leonard finally turned to face him, then, and he stared at him in disbelief. “Why in the hell would I have ever wanted that?”

“The walls between us,” Jim said. “Ever since we started this prank, sometimes you…I don’t know how to explain it, but you’d come across like we have no history together. You’d just look at me, and there’d be nothing there.” Jim looked down at the floor. “I didn’t know what to say so I didn’t bring it up. Well, no. That’s not entirely true. I knew what I wanted to say, but I was afraid of what your answer would be. So I purposely didn’t ask because I didn’t…the thought of you telling me just how much you don’t care about me kind of made me sick.”

Leonard shook his head. “I’m not the one who put the walls up, Jim. You were. It started during that stunt on the observation deck. There was nothing on your face or in your eyes. It’s not the only time that happened, either.”

Jim looked genuinely surprised before realization struck him. “Oh. Yeah that was…it wasn’t that I didn’t feel anything. It’s that I felt too much, and I didn’t want you to know.”

A beacon of something like hope spread throughout Leonard’s chest. “You felt too much?”

“For you, I mean,” Jim said. “I don’t know; I got little flashes of it here and there. The way our hands fit together, or the little jolt I’d feel when you’d call me darlin’. But then you held me and…” Jim looked down at the floor for a second before facing Bones head on. “I’ve never felt more at home than I did in your arms. I’ve never felt safer or…or even happier. And it…I don’t know, it confused me a lot. So I guess I closed down because I didn’t think you wanted me to feel anything. It was just a prank, right? And we said all that stuff about how we’d never be more than just friends…so I closed it down.”

Leonard sighed. “I must have done the same, then.”

“Yeah,” Jim said with a tentative smile. “And then we kissed, and…I swear it was like some big Hollywood film moment. If violin music had played, I wouldn’t have been surprised. I felt fireworks, and I just…I knew then.”

“You knew what?” Leonard needed him to say it; he needed to hear the words.

“That I’m yours,” Jim said. “That I belong to you. But you…again, it seemed like I was the only one who felt anything. Maybe I just didn’t look at you hard enough, but I was sure from what you said after that I was alone. So I just…I didn’t say anything. I desperately wanted to, but I didn’t.”

“You…” Leonard sighed. “You weren’t alone. It felt like the Earth moved, or I got struck by lightning. It…I didn’t know what to say either, so I tried to shove it into a box, I guess.”

“Yeah, I figured that out by now,” Jim said. “Anyways, when you said you wanted to call it off, I sort of panicked. Because Bones…being in a fake relationship with you has been better and more fulfilling than all my real ones combined. I didn’t want to lose it, and the only reason I could figure out why was that you don’t want me. So in my panic, I said what I did about it not being real to goad you into staying.”

Leonard took a step towards Jim. Then he took another.

“But then you told me to fuck off and stormed out,” Jim continued. “And my heart just…sank. Because I realized what you thought I was saying, and God, Bones…the pain in your eyes. If I never see you look that hurt again, especially not when it’s my fault, it will be too soon.”

Jim’s hands rested at his waist, but he picked at his cuticles. Jim only did that when he was extremely nervous, so Leonard knew how serious he had to be. He knew what this cost him, and more than anything, he wanted to put his fears to rest.

“In case it’s not clear,” Jim said. “What I’m getting at is that I’m in love with you. And I never meant to hurt you or make you think I don’t care.” Jim finally smiled; it was tentative and a little shaky. “I’m kind of mad at the crew for figuring it out before we did, but I guess sometimes when you’re too close to something, you can’t see things for what they are.”

“I’ve been told that,” Leonard said. He stood before Jim now, and he favored him with a smile of his own. “And I love you, too.”

Jim’s smile brightened, and so much love shone in his eyes that Leonard’s breath was taken away. He reached out and took Jim’s hands in his, and Jim swept his thumbs across the backs of Leonard’s knuckles. Jim closed the small distance, pressing his lips to Leonard’s.

Leonard sighed into it, letting go of Jim’s hands to take him in his arms. Jim took advantage to slide his hands up to Leonard’s face, caressing his skin. Electricity flowed through Leonard’s body; just as before, it felt like his soul soared to the heavens. It felt so right and perfect.

Before Leonard could process it, Jim opened his mouth. Leonard obliged him, deepening the kiss. His tongue caressed Jim’s, causing Jim to make a small moan into it. They stayed pressed together, Jim eventually breaking the kiss when breathing became more of a need than it should have been.

“I think I could do nothing more than that for the rest of my life and die a happy man,” Leonard said.

Jim blushed a little as he caught his bottom lip with his teeth. “Me too.”

Leonard pulled Jim by the waist over to his bed. They sat down on the edge of the mattress, and Leonard immediately pulled Jim into another kiss. A second kiss became a third, followed by a fourth. They made out like teenagers, just kissing for at least an hour by Leonard’s estimation. Finally breaking apart, Leonard noted that Jim’s lips were kiss-swollen, and his face was flushed.

It was a good look on him.

“You’re grinning,” Jim said with a smile of his own. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you so happy.”

“Well, I think you’ll be seeing it a lot more going forward,” Leonard said. “Though probably not in public.”

“Can’t have that,” Jim’s hands moved from Leonard’s face to his shoulders. “So…we’re on your bed.”

“We are,” Leonard said. One of his hands was on the outside of Jim’s thigh; the other rested on his back.

“We should take advantage of that fact, don’t you think?” Jim said.

Leonard snapped his eyes back up to Jim’s face. He searched Jim’s eyes; there was a hint of teasing, a lot of love, but above all there was a naked longing in them. “You sure?”

 

“I’m sure,” Jim said, pressing himself so close he practically straddled Leonard’s lap. “It’s not moving fast; we’ve essentially been dating since the shit with Khan.”

Leonard raised an eyebrow. “That long?” It had been almost two years.

“Yeah,” Jim said. “I kinda stayed up way too long thinking about it the other night. I haven’t really been with anyone since I woke up in the hospital with you hovering over me. I couldn’t figure out what had changed, and then I realized that when I came back from the dead, something shifted. If you think about it, I don’t really flirt with people anymore.” Jim smiled. “No one compares to you, Bones.”

Leonard paused. Come to mention it, while Leonard had dated several people at the throughout his time in Starfleet, that all stopped after Jim woke up. While he received more than a few offers from various diplomats, crew members, and other Starfleet personnel, he politely refused them, opting instead to be with Jim every time.

“Wow,” Leonard said. “You’re right. We really have been together since Khan.”

“Yeah, in every way that matters,” Jim said. “Well…almost every way.” He waggled his eyebrows, and Leonard rolled his eyes. “Like I said, we were too close to see it. Everyone else caught on before us, but we’ve been faithful to each other for a while.”

“Indeed,” Leonard said. He reached out, suddenly getting hit by nerves. He grabbed the hem of Jim’s gold tunic, pulling it up over his head. Jim let go of him to raise his arms, and the shirt got tossed to the floor. Next Leonard leaned down and undid the fastenings on Jim’s boots. He gently tugged each one off, also dropping them to the floor.

Jim didn’t speak; he watched Leonard with a sweet smile as he pulled off Jim’s socks. They were blue with little yellow ducks on them.

“Not regulation,” Leonard couldn’t help but say.

“Not an inspection day,” Jim said with a shrug. “And they match the shirt. Both of ours.”

“True,” Leonard said as gave his own boots and (plain gray) socks the same treatment.

Once he was done, Jim did straddle his lap. His weight, while solid, felt good against Leonard’s body. Leonard looked up into his face, stroking one hand up his stomach to his chest.

“Now what?” Leonard asked as he nuzzled into Jim’s throat.

Jim sighed above him; his hands found purchase on Leonard’s shoulders. He gripped them tight enough to leave marks. “Now is when I take you in a manly fashion.”

“Hm,” Leonard said. “Maybe I prefer slow and gentle, did that ever occur to you?”

Jim looked down at him again, his eyes crinkling at the corner with obvious amusement. “Slow and gentle is good, too. Basically, as long as I’m doing it with you, I’m happy.”

“Hm,” Leonard repeated. He slid his hands down to undo the fastenings on Jim’s pants. He then pulled the gray undershirt free from his waistband, sliding his hand up under it to touch the hard planes of Jim’s stomach.

Sighing a second time, Jim’s eyes fluttered closed. Satisfied with this reaction, Leonard pulled the shirt up. Jim caught the hint and let go of him long enough that it could be pulled off. Leonard had seen Jim shirtless countless times, but looking at him in this context was a wholly different ballgame. His mouth went a little dry at the exposed skin before him.

Leonard leaned forward and pressed a hot kiss to the hollow of Jim’s throat. His lips trailed down his skin to his clavicle, where he traced it with open-mouthed kisses. Jim gasped above him, and Leonard figured it was about time to be horizontal. He picked Jim up as best he could, laying him on his back on the bed. Jim’s legs fell open to accommodate him, with Leonard pausing briefly to dispose of his own undershirt. Leonard lay on top of him, skin-to-skin, and Jim smiled up at him.

Thinking quickly, Leonard reached out into his top nightstand drawer. He fished out a tube of lubricant, setting it on the bed next to Jim’s arm. Jim looked at it with a curious and somewhat blank expression. “I thought you said you haven’t…”

“I haven’t,” Leonard said. “But I do jerk off, you know.”

The unreadable part of Jim’s face cleared almost immediately, and he smiled. His relief was palpable. “Oh, that makes sense. I just…sorry,” he said, averting his gaze. “I shouldn’t have assumed.”

“It’s fine,” Leonard said. After all, it was a reasonable thing to think. He leaned down and kissed Jim on the mouth. Jim mewled into it, wrapping a hand into Leonard’s hair. Leonard reached out and took his other hand, sliding his fingers in between the captain’s. He rolled his hips forward, and his groin slid into Jim’s.

Jim broke the kiss with a cry. “Oh, Bones,” he whispered. “More.”

Leonard nodded. “Your wish, darlin’,” he said as he did it again. Jim cried out a second time, his hand pulling on Leonard’s hair. “Is my command.”

Jim wrapped his legs around Leonard’s waist, pulling him dangerously close. His breathing became more shallow, his voice breathy and a bit high. “I’ll remember you said that,” he said, panting. “I need more. I need to feel you.”

Leonard kissed him again, electing to keep it short. “Then you need to drop your legs so I can get our pants off.”

The expression on Jim’s face became disgruntled. “I now understand how Sophie felt when she had to make her choice.”

Leonard blinked a few times. “Wait a minute. I’ve read that book.”

“Then you understand how I feel right now,” Jim said.

“Actually, considering Sophie’s choice was which one of her children to die immediately via gassing at a concentration camp…not really.”

Jim rolled his eyes. “Okay, so like, it’s not exactly the same situation. The point being, I have to make an unbearable choice.”

“Letting me go so I can get our pants off in order for us to fuck is not really an unbearable choice,” Leonard said with his brows furrowed.

Jim huffed and folded his arms over his chest. The look in his eyes was annoyed. “Okay are we going to just keep arguing about this? Or can we go back to the love making, because I rather think that’s more important than semantics.”

Leonard sighed. “You brought it up.”

“And I’m choosing to terminate the conversation,” Jim said. “Sex now. Book reports later.”

“Mood-killer,” Leonard muttered. Jim dropped his legs from his waist, and Leonard took the opportunity to undo his fly. In spite of Jim’s best efforts, his cock was still hard and ready, and Leonard sighed a little as the pressure was taken off it. He shimmied out of his pants, dropping them to the floor.

Jim’s were next, and he lifted his hips to help Bones remove them. Jim wore a pair of blue boxer briefs, and Leonard grabbed the waistband, pulling them down. Jim’s eyes focused on his face, and he licked his lips. Leonard threw his underwear down onto the floor, pausing to appreciate the sight of Jim naked underneath him.

Nothing else had ever looked so damn good before.

Jim sat up, reaching out his hands to return the favor. He pressed kisses up Leonard’s jawline to his ear; once he reached it, he ran his tongue over it, pausing to nibble on the lobe. Leonard’s knees went a bit weak as Jim peeled his black silk boxers down his body.

“I almost forgot about your choice in undergarments,” Jim said as he caressed Leonard’s cock through the smooth fabric.

Leonard groaned at the feel of his hand. “You’re going to start with the ‘Doctor Fancy-Pants’ name calling again, aren’t you?”

“Maybe when we’re alone,” Jim admitted. He finished his task, pulling the boxers down to Leonard’s knees. Leonard lifted one leg at a time, kicking them off. “I think there’s going to be lots I call you when we’re alone, actually.”

Jim grabbed Leonard by the waist and twisted; they landed so Leonard lay on his back with Jim on top this time. Jim’s eyes were dilated, and the smile on his face was filled with a mixture of love and red-blooded lust. Leonard’s breath caught, and he felt his cheeks flush.

Jim grabbed the tube of lubricant from where it lay next to Leonard’s body. “So maybe I didn’t just agonize about being in love with you,” Jim said, and his voice was rich and husky like how it got when they were pretending. “Maybe I indulged a little too.”

“Indulged in what?” Leonard asked, although he was pretty sure he knew the answer. His own voice came out drawling and deep, his accent more pronounced than usual.

Jim closed his eyes and shivered. “Christ, your voice.”

“Thanks,” Leonard said.

His eyes opening, there was now more than a bit of desire in Jim’s gaze. “Anyways,” he said. “Sexual fantasies about you. I had them in spades. Got turned on in the closet, too, which is why I left.”

“Yeah, I had to have a moment,” Leonard said as Jim took the cap off the lube. “Those noises you made were sinful, damn it.”

“If you think that’s sinful, you don’t have any clue what you’re in for,” Jim said with a grin. He deftly poured the lube in his hand, spreading it with his fingers and letting it warm on his skin. “I kind of get loud.”

“I think I’ll be able to live with it,” Leonard said as Jim’s hand slid down underneath his body to his entrance. Jim massaged the tight ring of muscle, but didn’t press his finger inside yet. Leonard sighed. “What are you waiting for?”

“I’m savoring it,” Jim said. “Been dating you for two years, and we’re finally consummating the relationship. What’s the rush?”

Leonard sighed a second time. His cock ached to be touched, but Jim ignored it in favor of stroking his sides. After another few minutes of this, Jim’s finger breeched Leonard’s entrance, slipping inside of him. Leonard’s eyes drifted closed, his hands clenching the sheets.

Jim crooked his finger inside him, and he felt that spot get pressed. Pleasure caused Leonard’s thoughts to short-circuit. “Oh,” Leonard said with a groan. “Yes.”

“Good,” Jim said.

Sliding his finger out of Leonard’s body, Jim pressed into his prostate again on re-entry. He repeated the motions for a while, with Leonard gasping with every press. Jim added a second finger, repeating the motions for a few minutes. Two fingers became three, and soon Leonard was dripping sweat, his thighs trembling, and his voice was hoarse from crying out.

“God, you sound dirty,” Jim said. “Can’t wait to be in you.”

“If you wait much longer, we’ll both be retirement age,” Leonard argued. He reached a hand down to squeeze the base of his cock. “Enough foreplay. Get on with it.”

Jim made a noise that was a cross between a moan and a mewl. “It’s so hot when you get bossy.” He pulled his fingers out, grabbing the lube to slather up his cock. He then grabbed Leonard turning him onto his side. Strung out on sex, Leonard was nothing but pliant as he let Jim maneuver him into position.

Jim spooned up behind him, positioning his cock in place. With one long stroke, he slid into Leonard’s body, burying himself to the hilt. One of his knees slid in between Leonard’s legs, and he held Leonard possessively to him.

Leonard’s eyes drifted closed, and he made a rumbling moan deep in his chest. There was that same overwhelming feeling of so right again. Leonard brought one of his hands to rest on top of Jim’s on his chest, and he twined their fingers together.

“Ready?” Jim asked.

“Move,” Leonard growled.

Jim chuckled a bit as he slid out, then back in. His mouth marked a wet trail over Leonard’s neck and shoulder as he thrust in and out with a slow, pounding rhythm. Leonard brought his free hand up to his face; he spit in it before grabbing his cock, stroking it in time with Jim’s thrusts.

Jim kept making those same moan-mewls in his ear, Leonard’s own grunts and growls answering him. On one thrust, Jim changed the angle of his hips, and Leonard shouted as his cock pressed into his prostate.

“Awesome,” Jim said as he continued to move the same way, causing Leonard to cry out his name. “Yeah, that’s good Bones. Say it; keep talking.”

“Fuck,” Leonard said. “Shit. I can’t…it’s too…”

“If you’re close, you can come,” Jim said. “I want you to. I want to feel you fall apart.”

“Jesus fucking Christ, Jim,” Leonard said as his hand sped almost of its own accord.

“Come on, Bones,” Jim said. “Come for me. Come with my cock in you. Come, Bones. Come.”

That last order was enough, and Leonard stiffened with a guttural shout. His come spilled over his fist and cock, his vision whiting out from the intensity. It took his breath away, and he was only dimly aware of Jim still moving within his body. “Shit, darlin’,” he said when he finally regained the breath to speak.

Jim uttered an approval under his breath as his thrusts sped. Leonard clenched his muscles around his cock, causing it to be Jim’s turn to shout. “Shit!”

“It’s your turn, Jim,” Leonard said, looking over his shoulder at him. “I want to feel it. I want you to fill me up, Jim. Do it.”

Jim’s eyes widened a little, but he nodded. His movements became wilder and less rhythmic; he pounded into Leonard for another minute before he howled, his come shooting into Leonard’s body. “Fuck! Bones!”

Leonard closed his eyes, savoring the feeling of Jim pulsing inside of him. It was filthy and dirty, but it also made him feel safe and loved. Trembling behind him, Jim squeezed his fingers once he came down. Leonard returned the squeeze as Jim pulled out of him, gasping as his cock slid against his prostate.

“Are you okay?” Jim said, his voice soft.

“Nerves got zinged a little,” Leonard said. He turned to lie on his back, looking up into Jim’s face. “Holy shit that was good.”

“Yeah, they may as well retire the act of sex, because ain’t no one ever gonna do it better than we just did,” Jim said as he wiped his sweaty hair off his forehead. “Well except us again soon. And again soon after that. Pretty much for the good of sex as an institution, we need to do this forever.”

“Amen,” Leonard said. He took the opportunity to cuddle up to Jim, who wrapped him in his arms. He kissed Jim on the neck once.

They lay together in silence for a while, touching each other with gentle hands and sweet caresses. Leonard sighed and cleared his throat.

“What’s up?” Jim asked.

“So, what happens now?” Leonard asked. “How are we going to handle this?”

Jim got a thoughtful look on his face. “Well…I figure for a little while we’ll just go on the way we have been. We’ll eat lunch every afternoon and spend every evening with each other. We’ll share our beds, though, and of course more sex. Then maybe in like a month or so, once we’re more used to this, we can…” The look on Jim’s face became nervous. “We can talk. About making things more permanent.”

Leonard smiled. “Like moving in together.”

“Yeah,” Jim said. “I mean, if you’d want that.” The expression on his face was hopeful and not a little afraid.

“I would,” Leonard said with a smile. “But we’ll talk about it more in a month.”

The fear fled Jim’s face. “Okay. Good.” He moved to rest his head over Leonard’s heart, Leonard holding one of his hands. They lay together for a while, doing nothing more than breathing. Leonard finally smiled and grabbed Jim’s chin, tilting his head up. He bent down and kissed him.

Jim sighed into it, and Leonard took the opportunity to deepen the kiss. He rolled them so their positions were reversed. Jim lay underneath him, but he made a weird sound.

Leonard broke the kiss. “What’s wrong?”

“I need another minute,” Jim said with a smile.

Raising an eyebrow, Leonard replied with, “The Great James T. Kirk has a long refractory period?”

“The Great James T. Kirk is a human being who goes for quality, not quantity, thank you very much,” Jim said with a glare. “No one else ever complained.”

“I’m not complaining now,” Leonard said. “But I was alone a few times with Gaila while you were together. She was the Queen of Too Much Information.”

Jim smirked. “Well, I have plenty of ways to keep a lover satisfied. Even a machine like Gaila.” He waggled his eyebrows. “You wanna see?”

Well, wasn’t that the most tempting offer Leonard ever had? “Maybe later. I owe you a…what was it? ‘Taking in a manly fashion’?”

Jim’s smirk somehow became smugger. “Well, if you’re offering...”

“I’m always gonna offer,” Leonard said as he gave Jim a thorough and deep kiss. Jim moaned into it, Leonard taking full advantage to grab the lube and press Jim flat into the bed.

Words weren’t necessary after that.

------

The next day started with no problems, and before Leonard realized it, it was time for lunch. Jim had sent a message to him saying he couldn’t pick him up in medical, but that wasn’t a problem. Leonard would just meet him there.

Leonard walked from sickbay to the officer’s mess, and sure enough, he timed it so Jim arrived at the same moment. Jim saw him and smiled, his eyes lighting up. “Hey, Bones,” he said.

“Hey, darlin’,” Leonard said. He looked around them; the hallways were clear. Before Jim could ask what was going on, Leonard backed him into the wall and kissed him. Jim made a satisfied moan into it, bringing his hands up into Leonard’s hair.

When it broke, Jim continued to stroke Leonard’s hair. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you missed me,” he said with a playful tone in his voice.

“Shhhhh,” Leonard said.

Jim laughed. “Right, right.” They turned and the door opened, but what was on the other side made them stop short.

There was no other way to describe the scene except as that of an angry mob. Nyota, Spock, Christine, and Chekov stood in the front. For some reason, Chekov held two drinks in his hands. All of them looked pissed.

Okay, so pissed didn’t quite do it justice. If they had somehow acquired pitchforks and torches, Leonard wouldn’t have been surprised.

Next to him, Jim blinked a few times. “Uh…hey guys,” he said. “What’s up?”

“Neither of you is so unprofessional as to have loud sex in the middle of sickbay,” Christine spat.

Oh shit.

“Or to constantly feed each other in public,” Nyota added for good measure.

“Or to go on incessantly about the other when we are in the middle of a delicate procedure,” Spock added, and it was the most venomous either Jim or Leonard had ever heard him.

Leonard and Jim took reflexive steps backwards. “Okay well…this looks bad,” Jim conceded.

“Bad? Bad?” Nyota said with a raise of her voice. “You’ve been playing us for fools and for what? Because we caught on to your relationship?”

“If you even have a relationship at all,” Christine added.

Whoa.

“Now hang on a minute,” Leonard said. “Jim and I are, in fact, romantically involved. That’s not fake.” Leonard thought for half of a second about copping to how recent the romance was, but after further examining the looks on everyone’s faces, he decided it would be better to not.

Jim’s agreement was visible in his expression and how he didn’t correct Leonard.

“So then you admit to the rest of it being an act,” Spock said. “For what purpose did alienating the entire crew serve?”

Jim opened his mouth, then closed it. “I…well, it was something of an object lesson for you all. About…assumptions. And gossiping.” He fidgeted and gave a self-deprecating smile.

Everyone else was unmoved.

“Let me see if I understand you properly,” Nyota said. “You acted like disgusting twelve year olds in order to teach us a lesson. Instead of just, I don’t know, telling us politely to mind our business.”

Leonard looked up heavenward and sighed. “I fucking knew this would happen.”

Jim winced. “When you put it that way, we sound like the Federation’s biggest assholes.”

“That is because you are,” Chekov said, and before anyone could stop him, he dumped the drinks on their heads. It was Coca-Cola, and Leonard wiped his now wet bangs off his forehead.

Jim stood slightly hunched over with a shocked look on his face. It wore off, and he drew himself back up to his full height. “I will consider us even for this, and I won’t bring you all up for insubordination.”

Christine glared at them. “To explain why we did what we did, you would have to admit to your part in it.”

Fucking hell.

“If you ever so much as think about doing anything like this again, I will airlock you myself,” Nyota said. “Insubordination be damned.”

“Or I will just beam you off the ship into space,” Chekov added for good measure.

Yikes.

Spock gave the two of them an appraising stare. “For the next month, Captain, you will be on gamma shift. Doctor, you will remain on alpha.”

“Oh come on,” Jim said with a growl. “We’re really in a relationship, and you just publicly humiliated us. Why is that necessary?”

Leonard glared at Spock for good measure. “That seems to be rubbing salt in it, Spock. I thought that kind of thing was beneath Vulcans.”

“It normally would be,” Spock said. “However, due to what you have been putting the entire crew through for the last few days, I find it to be a fitting and appropriate consequence of your actions. I suggest if you have a complaint about my decision, you report it to Starfleet Headquarters and see what they deem to be acceptable.”

Jim and Leonard looked at each other for a while.

Nope.

“Nope,” Jim said out loud with a sigh. “Fine. I’ll be on gamma shift for a month. Anything else?”

“I think we’re being generous, all considered,” Nyota said with a pointed look at the two of them, and Leonard grabbed Jim by the arm in response.

“Stop pushing it, Jim,” he said. “Let’s just go get cleaned up.”

Jim sighed. “Fine, fine. But if any of you do anything more to punish us, you’ll be pissing me off,” he called over his shoulder as Leonard steered him out of the mess and back to his quarters. Knowing Jim’s codes by heart, Leonard opened his door and walked him inside. They stripped off their clothes, putting them into Jim’s fresher. Then they went into his bathroom, Jim turning on the shower.

“I really feel like they’re going too far,” Jim said as he stepped into it.

Leonard followed. “All things being equal, so did we,” he admitted. He let Jim stand under the sonics first, and Jim scrubbed at his soda-covered hair with his hands.

Jim finished and traded places with Leonard. “Yeah, it’s not that I think they don’t have a right to be pissed. It’s the way they’re choosing to express it. The schedule change is overkill.”

“You’re only mad because we just got together, and now we’re going to have to schedule time to spend with each other,” Leonard said as the harmonics pulverized the dirt and soda off his body.

Jim sighed. “Yeah, you’re right. I was looking forward to our next day off; my plan was that we weren’t going to get out of bed.”

“Well maybe Spock will keep us on the same rest days,” Leonard said. Clean, he turned off the shower. Facing Jim, he shrugged. “He’s not completely heartless and can be reasoned with. However, I will be avoiding Christine except when duty calls for it for a while.”

“Yeah, I think I’ve been knocked back down to last name only status with Uhura again,” Jim said with a sigh. “Chekov was a surprise. I always assumed he was some kind of Russian Care Bear. Remind me never to piss him off again.”

Leonard nodded. “Yeah, I have no desire to repeat that experience. And at least they believed us when we told them we’re together. I was afraid they wouldn’t with everything else.”

“Yeah,” Jim said, stepping out of the shower. They walked back into his quarters, and the fresher dinged, signaling their clothes were clean. Jim dug through the pile, handing Leonard his clothes. They put them back on and straightened each other up. Jim took a moment to fix Leonard’s hair the way he liked it, and Leonard smiled at him for his trouble.

Leonard pulled him in close and kissed him. Jim returned it, and they lingered for a while. When they broke apart, Jim checked the time on his chronometer. He groaned. “So much for eating lunch,” he complained.

“Ah well,” Leonard said. “So tonight’s our last night off together for a month. Want me to just meet you here when I’m done?”

“Sounds good, I’ll grab us sandwiches,” Jim said with a crooked smile.

Leonard kissed him again and turned towards the door. “See you tonight, Jim.”

“See you, Bones.” Jim waved, and Leonard left his quarters.

And in spite of the crew’s punishment for them, Leonard found he wouldn’t change anything from the last few days.