Actions

Work Header

The Sleight of My Hand is Now a Quick-Pull Trigger

Work Text:

Having only been on the Enterprise for thirty-six hours, Carol realized she did not have a handle on many things about it. There hadn’t even been time to get to the mess hall for a spot of tea, now that she thought about it.

Before she even knew what was happening, her father had attacked, knocking the Enterprise completely out of warp. Carol had done the only thing she could to try and stop it, but her idiot arsehole of a father pulled the rug out from under her.

Frankly, he had been lucky all she did was slap him. Her initial reaction had also been to spit in his face.

That didn’t mean she was happy about Khan crushing his head, though. Or breaking her leg for that matter, but it would have been much preferable for Dad to have been court-martialed for his hubris. Even though he was wrong and horrific in the steps he had taken in the name of a foolish war, he was still her dad.

There was no time to grieve over him, though, as Khan beamed herself, the Captain, and Engineer Scott into the brig on the Enterprise. Scott had bellowed at the guards to let them loose, and the Captain ignored his own injuries to determine the extent of hers. The guards acted quickly, releasing them from their prison, and Scott and Kirk had carried her down to medical.

McCoy took over from there, and he showed her to a biobed. When the lights went dark, he strapped her in. “I hope you don’t get seasick,” he said to her with a frown.

“Do you?” Carol replied. The ship was dipping, falling, and tilting sideways. Being a physicist, she knew what that meant; the engines had completely failed on the ship, and they had been caught in Earth’s gravity. They were going to crash and crash hard.

McCoy looked somewhat thrown by the question. “Yeah,” he admitted. He lost his balance, struggling to gain purchase by holding anything he could. He managed to grab on to the sides of her bed, keeping himself only mostly upright. It was hard to tell in the red emergency beacons, but it looked like he went pale.

Carol hadn’t done much better; her stomach felt like it was in her throat, and she struggled not to heave. The osteo-regen had stopped working, thanks to the loss in power, and Carol realized their situation was a shame. Under other circumstances, she would have liked to become Leonard McCoy’s friend.

The ship continued to fall until, suddenly…it stopped. The Enterprise righted itself; there wasn’t the normal jump and pull of them going to warp, but the engines had begun to work. They would survive.

“Thank God,” McCoy said under his breath.

He let go of the bed and grabbed the osteo-regen, placing it again over her leg. He also took the strap off of her. Stretching, Carol sat up, careful as to not jostle her wound. Somehow the pressure of Khan’s step had resulted in a not a full break, but just a crack in the bone. The regen did its work admirably, and before too long it was completed. Carol sat straighter and swung her legs over the side of her bed; there was still a vicious, horrendous bruise, but that would have to wait.

There were undoubtedly far more causalities on the Enterprise. McCoy would need the bed. She slid down off it, and McCoy frowned at her. “You’re not clear to leave yet, Doctor,” he said.

Carol shook her head. “I’m fine. You’re going to have more---“

She was cut off by a voice coming over the speakers. Scott to McCoy.

McCoy went over to his desk. “McCoy here.”

There was a long pause. You need to send a team down here. With a body bag and in radcon gear. The words “body bag” were whispered, like he couldn’t bring himself to say them out loud.

If Carol thought McCoy had gone pale before, she was mistaken. He was white as a sheet. “Who am I sending them for?”

Scott didn’t reply at first. Leonard, I---

“Scotty,” McCoy said, his voice strong and shaken all at once. “Who is it?”

A thought entered Carol’s mind. If Scott had called, and Kirk had been with him…oh.

Oh no.

Of its own accord, her hand covered her mouth.

Scott made a sound like he struggled to hold back his tears. Don’t make me say it, Leonard, it’s hard enough… There was a sound of a struggle, and someone grabbed the communicator.

The Captain is down, came Lieutenant Uhura’s voice. I repeat, we have the Captain down in the warp core. The radiation decontamination process is almost complete, Leonard. You’ll be able to send someone in to get him in a moment. Uhura out.

Carol turned to look at McCoy, and she had never seen anyone look so stunned in her entire life. While they had talked a fair amount while traveling to and from the planetoid and during the disarming of the torpedo, now he stood mute before her.

“Doctor McCoy,” Carol said. “I’m so sorry.”

He didn’t speak or acknowledge her. He stood, staring at nothing, like he couldn’t believe it was true. One of his nurses whispered something to two other nurses, and they nodded. Without another word, they slipped out of the medical wing.

Carol looked at McCoy for a long time. After a while had passed, the two nurses returned carrying something in a six-foot bag. Engineer Scott followed them, and his eyes were red and puffy. The bag was laid on a table, and one of the nurses unzipped it from the top.

Kirk lay with his eyes closed, as if he was deep in slumber. McCoy stood over him, and his eyes darted onto his face and then away. On his face and away. McCoy took a deep, shaky breath, and looked away again.

Carol did not miss the tears in his eyes.

Scott bowed his head and looked like he would start again at any moment. Carol didn’t know what to say; she had only known Kirk for two days. It felt out of place for her to speak, especially to people he had come to mean so much more.

McCoy managed to walk away from the body, falling into his chair. His hand covered his mouth, and he stared off into space. One of his tears fell onto his cheek, and he sat.

Scott came over to him. “I wanted to call you,” he said. “But he wouldn’t let me. He said it was too late, and it’d just be harder on you knowing that.”

Another tear fell, and McCoy nodded.

“Spock’s going after Khan,” Scott continued. “I haven’t seen him this angry since Nero.”

Again, McCoy could only nod.

Carol took a tentative step towards him, still unsure of what to do. She had never seen anyone look like this in her life; Leonard McCoy looked as this his whole world had been ripped away. It was almost as if he’d died with Kirk. He couldn’t speak; he couldn’t even stand under his own power. Gone was the sharp humor. Gone was everything.

A strange cooing sound filled the air. It was soothing and pleasant, and Carol looked around the wing to see what caused it. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a decent-sized fuzzy brown thing on McCoy’s desk. It was moving, and yes, it was where the sounds emanated from.

It took McCoy a minute to acknowledge it. Then he stared at it. Still weeping, his eyes lifted to the screen above him. He read the display, swallowing once. “I can do it,” he whispered. He wiped his eyes with the back of his arm. “I can bring him back.”

Carol furrowed her brows. What?

“Get one of them out of the cryotubes, and put Jim in it,” McCoy barked. “Now, we need to preserve his brain functions! Keep the guy you take out in a medically induced coma!”

It took Carol a moment to realize he was speaking to her. She sprang to action, running to the nearest available tube. She entered the proper sequence into the control panel, and the tube opened. A nurse pulled the augment out of the tube, and placed him on a biobed. Another nurse came over with an IV full of sedatives.

McCoy and Scott carried Kirk to the now-empty tube, and they slid him in as carefully as possible. McCoy stared at Kirk for a minute, placing his hand in his hair.

“I’m gonna bring you back,” McCoy whispered. “I’m gonna bring you back, and then I’m going to kill you again, you son of a bitch, for doing this to me.”

The words were harsh, but the tone of his voice was so sweet and…loving. Carol knew at that moment what Kirk meant to McCoy, and as she entered the sequence to close the tube, freezing Kirk in the process, she couldn’t help a small smile.

He would be reunited with Kirk soon.

-----

The day managed to get saved, and Khan was put back into cryostasis. McCoy synthesized a serum from Khan’s blood, and he revived Kirk. It took two weeks for Kirk’s body to undo the damage from the radiation, but he finally awoke and was permitted visitors.

Carol stood outside of his hospital room with a somewhat nervous expression. She bit her bottom lip, unsure of how welcome she would be.

The door slid open, and out came Lieutenant Sulu. “I’m sure you will,” he said over his shoulder, and Kirk’s laughter boomed behind him. His own face was a mischievous grin, and he stepped into the hall.

Sulu noticed Carol then, and his grin turned into a more normal smile. “Doctor Marcus.”

“Carol,” she said. “Lieutenant Sulu.”

“Hikaru,” he said. He extended his hand, and she shook it. “Sorry, in all the chaos we never got properly introduced.”

“Indeed not,” Carol said with a smile. “Though I suppose it was to be expected. Few things are routine for Starfleet, or so I’ve been told.”

“That’s very true,” Hikaru said. “I think we’re all grounded for the foreseeable future, though.”

Well, maybe not just for the foreseeable future. Carol had been trying not to think too hard about what could be done to her for forging her transfer onto the Enterprise. There would be repercussions, she knew that, but she wasn’t certain what they would be.

Considering how obviously displeased Commander Spock had been, she’d be going up to captain’s mast sooner, rather than later, she guessed.

Shaking her head to clear it, Carol smiled at Hikaru. “I take it he’s feeling better?” she asked with a jerk of her head towards the room.

“Yeah, he keeps asking Len when he can get out of bed,” Hikaru said. “Len keeps calling him an infant.”

Carol nodded. “Well, I just wanted to say hello. I shan’t keep him from his rest.”

“No worries,” Hikaru said. “I need to run, but I’m sure I’ll see you around in the future.” He smiled again and walked down the way she came. Carol watched him go with a curious look before turning and walking into the hospital room. It was a private one, and McCoy stood checking his vitals on his chart.

Carol knocked on the wall. “Hello?”

Kirk sat up somewhat in his bed, and McCoy turned to face her. Both of them smiled. “Doctor Marcus,” Kirk said. “What a surprise.”

“Hello,” McCoy added. “Nice to see you again.”

“You too,” Carol said with a smile. She hesitated before stepping forward, coming closer to the bed. She stood a respectful distance away, and Kirk’s eyes sparkled at her.

“What brings you here?” Kirk asked.

“I wanted to say hello,” Carol said. “And thank you for what you did, with the Warp Core I mean. That was very noble.”

“Stop before you make his head swell more than it already is,” McCoy grumbled. There wasn’t really any anger behind it; the fondness in his voice would have been obvious without what she had seen back on the Enterprise.

Kirk gave McCoy an amused look in response before rolling his eyes. “My ego has never been as big as you claim, Bones.”

“No, that’s because it’s bigger,” McCoy said. “It’s like that TARDIS thing on those old programs.”

Carol smiled; she had watched that show with her…well. She watched them as a child. “His ego is bigger on the inside?”

Kirk sighed and settled back against his pillows. “You’ve known me for two weeks, and you’re already taking his side and ganging up on me. That’s just awesome.”

Shrugging, Carol smiled at him. “I did tell you about your reputation.”

“I still can’t believe I have one of those,” Kirk said, halfway to himself.

McCoy favored him with a raised eyebrow. He opened his mouth to speak.

Before he could, Kirk scowled. “Shut up, Bones.”

Unable to help herself, Carol snorted. Mirth danced in McCoy’s eyes, but (wisely, Carol felt), he closed his mouth and went back to reading the PADD. The phrase old-married couple entered Carol’s mind, and she felt, even though she barely knew them, that it was an accurate assessment of their bond.

Kirk sighed and sat back up; it appeared he was restless. He stretched for a moment. “Can I get up?”

“For the hundred and twelfth time, no,” McCoy said. “You just woke up yesterday, for shit’s sake.” Again, there was no real anger in the words. Concern and care and affection, but no anger.

Pouting a little, Kirk turned to Carol. “You see how he treats me?”

“Captain, I rather think you bring it on yourself,” Carol said.

Kirk gave a put-upon sigh. “Fine. I bring it on myself. And it’s Jim.”

Carol gave Kirk a curious look. “I’m sorry?”

“Don’t call me Captain. You can call me Jim,” he explained. “Neither of us is even on duty right now. It’s unnecessary.”

Carol looked from Kirk to McCoy. McCoy just smiled at her. “All…right. Jim.”

“That’s better,” Kir…Jim said.

“And while we’re on the subject,” McCoy added. “Feel free to call me Leonard. Not when we’re in an official capacity, mind, but at moments like these, please feel free.”

Carol favored them with grateful smiles. “Only if you both drop Doctor Marcus and stick to Carol.”

“Fair enough,” Jim said. His expression became more serious. “Hey Bones?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m really thirsty,” Jim said. “Could you get me something to drink really quick?”

Leonard sighed. “I swear when you’re not whining, you’re milking this for everything you can.”

Jim raised an eyebrow. “I mean, I can get up and---“

“Stay your ass in that bed,” Leonard said. “I’ll go get you some water.” Leonard gave Carol a smile as he walked out of the room, and Carol watched him go.

“I’m not actually thirsty,” Jim said. “But there’s something I wanted to say to you that I didn’t want him to hear.”

Carol turned her attention back to Jim. For a brief instant, she got scared he was going to hit on her. The look on his face quickly squashed that assumption; his expression was very serious and grateful.

Grateful?

“Too much happened on the ship for me to have time to say it there,” Jim continued. “But I need to thank you.”

Carol furrowed her brows. “Thank me?”

“For him,” Jim said, cocking his head in the direction Leonard had left. “For saving him. I didn’t…it wasn’t until then that…” He swallowed and looked away. Carol elected to let him gather his thoughts. “I’ve never been more relieved than I was in the moment you stopped that torpedo from blowing. I can never, ever repay you for preventing that; all I can do is tell you how grateful I am. So…thank you.”

Carol looked at him for a long while. It seemed almost impossible from what Christine and all the other gossips in Starfleet said about him. But hearing the tone of his voice and seeing the look in his eyes, Carol knew without a doubt that Jim Kirk was in love with Leonard McCoy.

And it was pretty clear when Jim died that Leonard was in love with him, too.

“I would have done it for anyone,” Carol said. “But I appreciate your thanks, and you’re very welcome.”

“If there’s anything I can ever do for you,” Jim continued. “Please don’t hesitate to ask.”

“May I ask you a question?”

“Sure,” Jim said.

Carol took some steps towards the bed, enough to be friendlier without breeching any boundaries. “Commander Spock is going to have them throw the book at me, isn’t he? For forging my transfer.”

Jim looked moderately surprised, as if that hadn’t occurred to him. “Not if I tell him not to.”

Carol shook her head furiously a few times. “No, I am not asking that of you. I simply wanted to know what to expect from the next few months. I grew up in a Starfleet household; I know all of the rules and regulations, and I am well aware of the fact that I violated about eighteen of them. I accept full responsibility for my actions and whatever will come my way because of them.”

Jim gave her a pointed look. He didn’t speak for a while when his eyes lit up. “I appreciate that, Carol.” The expression on his face became unreadable, and Carol wondered what that could possibly be about.

Before she could inquire, Leonard entered the room carrying a glass of water. He handed it to Jim. “Here.”

Jim’s eyes lit up again at the sight of him, and he smiled, a sweet and charming one. “Thanks, Bones.”

Not for the first time, she wondered about the nickname. Then again, Jim referred to Engineer Scott as Scotty. Maybe he just gave nicknames to people, like a personality quirk. Although “Bones” out of “Leonard” didn’t make much sense. Maybe it was a reference to his being a doctor? She had no idea, but figured she didn’t know either of them well enough to ask.

Leonard had returned to checking the readings on the biobed’s display. “You’re stabilizing pretty well, Jim. You should be able to check out in a few days.”

“Awesome, I have ship repairs to supervise,” Jim said.

Leonard clucked his tongue once. “You’re going to be under some pretty strict orders for at least two weeks once you leave, Jim.”

Jim sighed, and Carol found she did feel a bit sorry for him. “More rest?”

“More rest,” Leonard answered. He turned to face him. “Jim, no one has ever done what you did. I have no idea what that serum’s done to your system long-term. We need to keep doing more tests, and I don’t want you going back on duty for real until I’m satisfied that there’s no lasting radiation damage or side-effects.”

Sighing a second time, Jim flopped against his pillows like a dead fish. “Christ.”

“I would think you wouldn’t mind so much,” Carol said. “Given the circumstances.”

“He is the worst patient in the history of medicine,” Leonard explained. “I practically have to strap him down to get him to let his body heal.”

“If you strapped me down, I’d like it a lot better,” Jim said with a heated look at Leonard. His tone was playful and flirty.

“You’re secretly still in junior high, aren’t you?” Leonard grumbled, and Carol blinked at him.

Why didn’t he take the bait?

Jim looked at him for a minute, and Carol didn’t miss how some of the light went out of his eyes. Why would Leonard shoot him down like that? Didn’t he see that…

Carol closed her eyes and shook her head a few times. Leonard didn’t see. He didn’t see Jim’s feelings for him, but did Jim see Leonard’s for him?

Leonard spoke to Jim, giving him instructions on how to take care of himself, and his voice was kind and full of love. But Jim didn’t notice; he sat pointedly not looking Leonard in the eye and making jokes.

Carol sighed.

They couldn’t possibly be that oblivious…could they?

No. They were two of the brightest men in the ‘Fleet. They would realize it and come around. They’d get together and tell the Admirals where they could shove the no-fraternization rule.

They had to.

-----

Things were quiet for a few months, and as welcome as Jim made her feel, Carol didn’t visit him again. At least, not until she got a message on her comm from him.

You’re welcome. See you in a few months, JTK, was what it said, followed by a series of official orders to report as Science Officer of the USS Enterprise after it was rebuilt.

Carol threw her communicator on her desk with disgust. It only took her a few minutes to hack the Starfleet database to find out where he lived, and she drove there, somehow managing to avoid getting pulled over for speeding in the process. His building had a doorman, and she explained who she was there to see. She ignored the knowing look on his face as he let her up to Jim’s apartment.

Once she was on the tenth floor, she pushed the entry bell to his home. It occurred to her then that he might be out or at work, and she stuck her hands in her coat pockets. A voice came over the intercom. Who is it?

Carol pushed the button to answer. “It’s Carol.”

The door slid open, and Jim stood in a pair of jeans and a gray shirt. He smiled at her. “Nice to see you. What brings you here?”

Carol glared at him. “You know bloody well what brings me here! I specifically told you not to pull any strings for me!”

Jim blinked for a second before smiling. “So I did it anyways. If it hadn’t been for your thinking, Bones would have been killed. And as good as Spock is, he’s been stretched thin being both Science and First Officer.” Jim shrugged. “Once Starfleet read the reports about what happened during the mission to Qo’noS, it didn’t take much convincing. Pretty much your skills got you the job, I just had to smile and give them a slight push.”

Carol took a deep breath. “I find that hard to believe.”

Shrugging, Jim continued to smile at her. “Think what you like, but it’s the truth.” He turned to the side, gesturing for her to enter. “If you’re going to keep yelling at me, you can come in. I have good relationships with my neighbors, and I’d like to keep it that way.”

Carol hesitated before stepping into the apartment; she took a look around. It was tastefully decorated in masculine colors such as gunmetal gray and taupe. It was clean and well-organized. His living room walls were covered in bookshelves housing actual paper books.

“Not what I expected,” Carol admitted as she moved to look out the windows.

Jim gave her a curious look as he closed the door. “What did you expect?”

Carol turned to face him with a serious expression. “Ever heard of the phrase ‘den of iniquity’?”

He rolled his eyes. “I’m not that bad. I have never been that bad.” Carol folded her arms across her chest and gave him a pointed stare. It lasted long enough that he winced and ducked his head down. “I hadn’t forgotten about Christine,” he said after a few minutes.

Hoping she looked as unconvinced as she felt, Carol stared at him.

Jim sighed. “I don’t like how things ended with her, and it was mostly my fault. I was hoping by playing dumb you wouldn’t ask any further. Bones gave me hell for it, and I was hoping to avoid that with you.” He sighed a second time. “But all acting like I forgot did was make you think I’m the hugest asshole in this quadrant of the galaxy.”

Carol shook her head. “I am not certain why you care what I think.”

Jim shrugged. “We’re going to be working together for five years. I’d really rather my Science Officer respect me than she doesn’t.”

Carol nodded; it made sense. He sounded sincere, like he really did want them to get along; after all, they would be working closely on the Enterprise. And an ulterior motive of making a pass wasn’t possible with how he felt for Leonard.

At least…she didn’t think it was.

“Very well,” Carol said. “I will consider this an apology.”

Smiling, Jim nodded. “Thanks.” He grimaced. “I forgot my manners. Would you care for something to drink? And make yourself comfortable.”

Carol hesitated before taking a seat on his couch. “Water is fine.”

Jim filled two glasses with water and brought them over to her. He sat next to her, but not close, on the couch, and they both took sips. The silence was awkward, and he grimaced for a second. “So, how are you holding up?”

Startled by the question, Carol choked on her water. Jim got an alarmed look on his face, and reached out a hand to pat her on her back. “I’m fine,” she said in between coughs. “I am. I’m fine.”

Jim tilted his head to one side and looked at her. “Fine like I am on my birthday? Or actually fine?”

It took her a moment to get what he meant. He was still practically a stranger, but it might be nice to discuss it with someone who could relate. The worst-kept secret in Starfleet was Jim Kirk’s daddy issues. “I am almost unspeakably angry.”

Jim nodded. “I would probably be pretty pissed too, yeah.”

“He raised me, and growing up he was kind and indulgent,” Carol continued. “Anything I wanted, he gave. Access to classified files, the finest boarding schools and Oxford, I even had a horse growing up…”

Jim didn’t say anything; he let her talk as he took a long drink of his water.

“I cannot understand how someone who raised me to always do right by other people, who raised me to have honor and be kind, could do such a horrible, awful thing,” Carol finished.

“You probably never will,” Jim said. “I mean, you might rationally get it. There is some logic in what Admiral Marcus did; the situation with the Klingons will probably deteriorate sooner rather than later. But his methods…starting a war, gunning after them…it’s not right. We can be prepared for the worst case scenario without inciting violence.”

“He was going to kill you and everyone on your ship,” Carol said.

“He was,” Jim conceded. “Trust me, I’ve lost all of my respect and admiration for the man. He’d lost his mind at some point, and none of us were capable of seeing it. Khan gave him exactly what he deserved.”

Carol stiffened at the same time Jim winced. “Excuse me?” she said, her tone hard and icy.

“Sorry,” he said with another big wince. He held up his hands in supplication, and the look in his eyes was deeply apologetic. “I wasn’t trying to be flippant. That was…he was still your father. That crossed a line, and I’m genuinely sorry.”

Carol peered down into her water with a loud exhale, and her anger seeped out of her. He shouldn’t have made that comment, but he didn’t mean to be such an arsehole. “Do you have anything stronger? Because if I am going to continue having this conversation, I need some kind of fortification.”

“Understood.” Jim got up and walked over to a silver bar cart. He poured them both shots of Jack Daniels, bringing them back over to her.

She took hers with a nod and drank. “That’s the biggest problem I’m having with this, really. He was my Dad, and I loved him. I still do. But…”

“But he tried to kill a thousand innocent people just to further his agenda,” Jim finished for her.

“Among countless others who would have perished for his bloody war,” Carol said, her tone bitter. “It would be so much easier to deal with this if he hadn’t been a good father. Then I could hate him with impunity…but he was good to me. And I can’t just erase those memories.”

“I don’t think anyone’s asking you to,” Jim said. “You can acknowledge how fucked up his actions were without writing him off completely. Or maybe you can choose to embrace the good memories while…well you can’t really ignore his actions, but you can choose to focus on the positives instead of the negatives.”

Carol took another sip of the whiskey, considering his words.

Jim sighed. “Bones is much better at this stuff than I am. It’s him you should talk to about this. He even has a degree in it.”

Setting her glass down on a coaster on his coffee table, Carol turned to look at Jim while cradling her head in her hand. Speaking of Leonard… “He does, does he?”

“Yeah, he did an MD/PhD program,” Jim said. “His PhD was in clinical pysch.”

“Really?” Carol said. “He truly is rather brilliant, then, isn’t he?”

Jim brightened, and when he spoke again, his voice boomed with pride. “He is. I’m only here because of him. And he’s worked so many miracles on my crew. He’s such a good caretaker, too. He’ll go without sleep or food to make sure everyone’s healthy and well.”

Carol smiled. “His hands truly are remarkably steady. He referred to them as legendary.”

Jim’s smile dimmed a little. “He…did.”

“I bet they’re not just steady during surgery or delicate procedures,” Carol continued. “I bet he’s good at working magic in other ways,” she said, using the tone she would when she hung out with her pub mates in Oxford.

Now Jim looked like a puppy that had gotten kicked. Why? “Yeah I…I’m sure that’s true.” He grabbed his whiskey and took a long pull out of the glass, which made Carol even more confused.

She sat, studying him for a while. Something was off about Jim’s behavior, but she couldn’t tell what it was. Carol debated for a second before pushing ahead with her conversation. “Tell me, does Leonard date much?”

Jim’s eyes lost almost all of their trademark sparkle, and his expression was similar to that of a person about to be sick. “On occasion.”

“So if someone wanted to go out with him, it wouldn’t be off the table,” Carol continued.

Jim polished off the rest of his whiskey as he got up to get another. “I mean…I guess.” His back was to her, and his posture was slumped.

“I would rather think the direct approach would be best,” Carol continued. “He seems to eschew beating around the bush.”

Still not facing her, Jim sighed. “Yeah.” He turned to face her then, and there was a smile on his face, although it looked brittle and somewhat sad.

“I’m sure his answer would be yes,” Carol finished, hoping her point came across.

Everything about Jim screamed defeated for some reason. Why wouldn’t he be happy? This was good news for him! “Yeah after…I mean, I overheard you on the communicator with the torpedo. I’m sure he’d…I bet…” He bit his bottom lip for a moment. “You have nothing to worry about.”

Carol stared at him for a full minute with a confused expression. Why wouldn’t she have anything to worry about? She was talking about…

Oh, bollocks.

She stood to face him directly. “I think we’re having a misunderstanding. When I bring up asking him out, what I mean is…”

“I got it,” Jim said. “You two like each other. So you should…you should give it a whirl.”

“No, you don’t---“ Carol said with a frustrated sigh.

Jim cleared his throat. “I actually feel a migraine coming on. I don’t mean to kick you out, but…”

Carol buried her face in her hands. “If you’d just let me finish, you’d understand that---“

“I understand,” Jim said. “I know there are rules about it, but on a five year mission like this one, I’m sure Starfleet will look the other way. And…” He attempted another smile and again it was watery and broken. “I just…I want him to be happy. So you have my blessing, for what it’s worth. Now, if you don’t mind, I really do need to take my meds and lay down.”

Face still buried in her hands, Carol shook her head a few times. How had this gone so horribly wrong? And now he wouldn’t even let her explain! She dropped her hands and gave him a smile. “I understand. And I’m sorry to have bothered you, Captain.”

“Jim,” he corrected. “It wasn’t any bother, Carol. Thanks for coming by.”

“Of course,” Carol said. “I’m certain I’ll see you around.”

She walked to the door, pushing the button to open it. After it slid closed behind her, she stood out in the hallway and contemplated beating her head against it. She was a second away from doing so when something occurred to her.

Jim Kirk was a brilliant captain but apparently rubbish at actual things involving emotions. However, as he helpfully pointed out, Leonard had a degree in it.

Her attempt to cajole Jim into admitting his feelings hadn’t worked…why not try with Leonard?

-----

Unfortunately, Carol’s schedule was such that she couldn’t get to Starfleet General to meet Leonard for coffee or lunch or anything. All of them had tons of meetings lined up while they were stuck on Earth, and they kept her busy.

At one such meeting, she was greeted by Lieutenant Uhura. “Doctor Marcus,” she said warmly. “Nice to see you again.”

“It’s Carol,” Carol said. “Nice to see you as well.”

Most of the senior personnel were present for this meeting; Hikaru smiled and waved at her, and she returned it. His smile brightened, as did hers, and he shook himself to pay attention to what Pavel Chekov said to him. Engineer Scott sat next to Chekov, and he joined in their conversation. Commander Spock stood at the podium, reviewing his notes on a PADD.

“Please call me Nyota,” Lieutenant Uhura said. There were several empty chairs across from Hikaru and the others. She steered Carol over to them, and they sat. For a moment, she gave her attention to Spock; she gave him a warm, comforting smile, and he returned it with a nod.

Oh.

“I hadn’t heard that you and Mister Spock…” Carol began.

Nyota turned her attention back to Carol. “It’s not something we advertise, but it’s not really a secret either. We’re discreet enough, but also I think with Starfleet sending us out into the black for five years, they won’t really be able to say anything about it.”

“That sounds like something Jim told me,” Carol said. Actually, while they were on the subject… “Has Jim mentioned anything to you about Leonard?”

“Nothing out of the ordinary, although…” Nyota frowned. “I’m not certain I should speak about it further.”

“If it’s about them being in love, I’m already on the same page as you,” Carol said.

Nyota brightened. “Yes, Jim has always thought the world of Leonard, but now it’s so obvious that his feelings have grown.” She gave Carol an interested look. “You say Leonard feels the same?”

“Yes,” Carol said. “It’s apparent by his reaction when he died. I’m not certain he realizes it, but he is in love with Jim.”

Nyota rested her chin in her hand. “Interesting.”

“I tried to convince Jim to do something about it,” Carol continued. “But he…he somehow got the impression that I am interested in Leonard. He all but shoved me out the door to ask him out.”

Pursing her lips, Nyota shook her head a few times with her eyes closed. She sat there doing only this for a solid minute before she spoke. “That idiot.”

“My reaction was similar to yours,” Carol admitted. “I tried to explain, and he kept cutting me off. So I left.”

“I don’t fault you for that,” Nyota said with a sigh. “Jim is a dear friend, but I swear he has no comprehension about how feelings actually work.” Something shifted in her expression, and she tilted her head to one side. “Then again, I don’t know that he’s ever felt this deeply for another person before. He may be truly out of his depth.”

“Yes, I’ve heard all about his past…habits,” Carol said. “Christine Chapel is a dear friend.”

Nyota winced. “You know, I never fully understood the no fraternization rule until that relationship imploded. That was…unpleasant. Fortunately, Christine didn’t file a sexual harassment complaint. She probably could have. I think that’s the only reason why it didn’t get even worse.”

“Indeed,” Carol said. “She knew it’d make things uglier, and she admitted she knew better than to have started something with him at all. Still, I heard all about it.”

“I am certain you did,” Nyota said. “Well, anyways. If Jim truly does love Leonard, I’m sure he can put his bad habits aside and be worthy of the relationship. Though Leonard has his own wounds.”

“Oh really?” Carol said. This she hadn’t heard about.

“An ugly divorce is why Leonard enlisted in Starfleet,” Nyota said. “He has dated on occasion, and he usually is fairly serious about the person. Nothing’s really lasted, though.”

“Probably because they’ve been the wrong people,” Carol said. “I don’t think Jim would be the wrong person for him.”

“I don’t think so, either,” Nyota said. Before she could continue, the topic of their conversation entered the room. Leonard paused to look around, noticing an empty chair next to Carol.

He came over with a slight smile. “Mind if I join you, ladies?”

“Of course not,” Carol said. Nyota smiled at him.

Leonard took the seat with a sigh. “The rotation they have me on at General has been hell. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I can’t wait to get back into space. At least then I actually get to keep my days off.”

Carol and Nyota both nodded. The captain entered the room; his eyes lit up when he saw Leonard then dimmed when he saw him sitting next to Carol. Jim hesitated for a moment before he chose to sit next to Engineer Scott.

Carol did not miss the way Leonard’s gaze followed him.

Jim did, though.

Leonard continued to stare at Jim for a minute, and Carol sighed loudly. It was like being with bloody adolescents. She briefly entertained forging a note from Leonard that said Do you like me? Check yes or no and throwing it into Jim’s face.

From the strangled expression on Nyota’s face, she had a similar thought or twelve.

Leonard finally tore his eyes away from Jim and turned his attention back to Carol and Nyota. “So,” he began. “You’ve decided to join our motley crew for the next five years.”

Carol smiled. “It beats sitting around doing nothing.”

Leonard snorted. “You say that now, but just you wait.”

“I’m looking forward to it,” Carol said.

“Honestly, Leonard,” Nyota said. “You make it sound as if everyone we interact with is out to kill us.”

“Nine times out of ten, they are out to kill us, Nyota,” Leonard groused. There was a smirk on his face that undermined the words, and Carol laughed in spite of herself.

This may have been a mistake, because when she opened her eyes they found Jim’s face. And Jim watched them with that same sick expression he had at his apartment. He caught her eye and nodded at her, then turned to say something to Scott.

Unable to stop herself, Carol made a low aggrieved sound.

Leonard blinked at her. “Was it something I said?”

Nyota looked like she understood though; out of the corner of Carol’s eye, she shook her head no once, so subtly no one else would have caught it.

“No, just ...” Carol said, trying to come up with an excuse. “Just thinking about everything I have to do before we leave. I have a lot of affairs to settle.”

Leonard sighed. “Don’t remind me.”

Nyota also sighed. “Spock already took care of all of ours. The only thing we have left is to see my family, and that can wait until just before we leave.”

Carol and Leonard stared at her. Then Leonard rolled his eyes. “Of course he did.”

Nyota shrugged. “Don’t start.”

“I’m not starting,” Leonard said. “I’m just saying. That’s all.”

Giving him a curious look, Carol smiled. “You use that excuse a lot, don’t you, Leonard?”

“What excuse?” Leonard looked mildly confused.

“The I’m just saying excuse,” Carol clarified. “It’s commonly used by tactless arseholes to defend overly harsh truths.”

Nyota snorted. Then she burst into true laughter. Carol smirked at her. Spock looked up from his podium at them. His expression was curious as Nyota said, “Wow Carol. You barely know us, and you have us all figured out.”

Fortunately for Carol, Leonard laughed too. He had thrown his head back and closed his eyes.

“I was a impartial third-party observer in my previous short time on the Enterprise,” Carol said with a shrug. “I’m just saying.

Now Nyota and Leonard howled, and Carol openly smiled. Her eyes found Jim’s again, and he looked like he wanted to vomit from jealousy. Her smile faltered when she realized this, and it ran away from her face.

She was trying to help him find his way into Leonard’s arms. She wasn’t supposed to be buddying up to Leonard. Especially not in front of Jim when she knew how he felt.

Jim looked away from them, and turned his attention back to Chekov. Leonard opened his eyes to look at Jim, and saw his attention was elsewhere. His laughter faltered for a minute before stopping altogether.

Spock cleared his throat with a pointed look at Nyota. “If I may?”

All of them grew silent and gave him their full attention.

Spock talked about expected protocols and duty parameters. It was important information, but it wasn’t the most scintillating. And Carol continued to notice how Jim and Leonard would look at each other, but never at the same time. They never caught each other staring.

It was utterly infuriating.

Carol caught Nyota’s eye more than once during Spock’s lecture, and Nyota also gave her a knowing and frustrated expression. All things considered, it was nice to have someone who understood.

It was also kind of mind boggling how two otherwise brilliant people could be so bloody stupid.

Spock finished his speech and opened the floor for questions. Chekov and Hikaru asked a few, but everyone for the most part listened. Leonard looked across the table to Jim more than once, the longing on his face naked for the world to see.

Carol shook her head and sighed. She got a feeling of sudden foreboding, like this was going to be her life for the next five years if she didn’t accomplish this one goal. Unable to prevent it, she shuddered at the thought. They had to get their shit together; they just had to.

Maybe she could enlist some help on this mission.

All of the questions were answered, and Spock dismissed them. Leonard stood from his chair and stretched. “Well, ladies,” he said. “I have to get back to work, but it was lovely getting to spend time with y’all.”

“Same to you, Leonard,” Nyota said.

Carol nodded her agreement. “Yes. See you, Leonard.”

“See you Carol, Nyota,” he said as he turned to walk out of the room.

Jim hurriedly caught up to him. “Hey, Bones! Do you want to get a drink or dinner?”

Carol and Nyota watched with interested expressions as Leonard gave Jim a bright but hesitant smile. “Oh, Jim, I would but I’m due back at General for a couple of intakes.”

Jim deflated at this. “Oh…sure. I mean, I shouldn’t have…I know you’re busy. Next time, I guess.”

Leonard didn’t appear to notice Jim’s shoulders slumping, although his own disappointment was evident by the look in his eyes. “We can tomorrow, if you’d rather.”

Jim brightened before faltering. “I can’t. I have to meet with the admiralty.”

“Oh sure,” Leonard said with a small sigh. Carol wanted to knock their heads together or force them to kiss. Something, anything other than the prepubescent dancing around each other. “Well, I mean…I can come by your place when you’re done.”

This time, Jim brightened for good. “Yeah! Yeah, I can…I’ll comm you when I get finished. We can…we can do that.”

Leonard’s smile turned up a notch, and he nodded. “That sounds good, Jim. I’ll see you then.”

Jim utterly and positively beamed at him. “Sure, Bones. I’ll see you then.” They walked out of the room together, and Carol sighed with relief. Maybe they weren’t so stupid after all. Maybe one of them would make a move, and they would get together.

Carol supposed she would find out in time to take off with the Enterprise for the five year mission.

------

Another few months passed, and a combination memorial service and rechristening of the Enterprise ceremony happened. Carol stood at attention with her new shipmates, next to Nyota, as Jim gave a speech about final frontiers.

It ended, and everyone mingled with each other. Carol was about to try to get to know Scott a bit better when Nyota approached her. “Can I borrow you for a moment, Carol?”

“Of course,” Carol said. She smiled at Scott. “I’ll just be a moment.”

“Of course, lass,” he said with a grin. “Looking forward to it.”

Nyota took Carol’s arm and steered her off to a secluded corner. Once she was certain they were alone, she gave a loud sigh. “They’re in a holding pattern,” Nyota said, her tone unceremonious and irritated.

Carol removed her hat, tucking it under her arm. “Who is?”

“Jim and Leonard,” Nyota explained. “Neither of them will make a move. They still spend time alone together, but as best as I can tell, they each think their feelings are unrequited.”

Carol turned back to their group; Jim joined everyone, and he stood a bit closer to Leonard than he should have. Leonard also kept looking at him, but neither’s body language was really that of a person happy in love. Granted, it was an official function, so a public display would be out of bounds, but given the way each of them stared when the other wasn’t looking, it was evident nothing had happened.

Bollocks.

Carol turned back to Nyota. “I don’t understand this. They don’t know. How could they not know?”

“I have no idea, but no one else does either,” Nyota said with a shrug. “Not even Spock.”

Carol frowned. Then an idea struck her; it could potentially end in a court-martial for the two of them, but damn it, they were either too oblivious or too proud to help themselves. “Then we shall have to give them a push.”

Nyota looked startled for a moment before a smile lit up her face. “A push.”

“Just a subtle one,” Carol elaborated. “No grand schemes. Just perhaps…an arranged tete-a-tete where they can’t run from each other.”

Nyota’s smile grew sunnier. “We can book one of the rec rooms and have Muriel make them a special meal. Get some flowers from the botany lab. Maybe some candles.”

“Yes,” Carol said. “We’ll put them into a position where we force their hands. Then all of this frustration will be over.”

Her expression turning simultaneously gleeful and relieved, Nyota nodded. “It sounds like a plan. We’ll get together and plan it out better once we’re on board.”

“Yes, of course,” Carol said. They began to walk back to their crewmates. It occurred to Carol then that they spent all of their time talking about Jim and Leonard or work. They’d sat in dozens of meetings together over the course of the last few months, but she actually didn’t know anything about Nyota.

That wouldn’t do at all.

“You’re from Kenya, correct?” Carol asked.

Nyota smiled. “Mombasa,” she clarified. “Swahili is my first language, though I was fluent in Federation Standard by the time I was six. I knew even as a child I wanted to be a xenolinguist.”

“We’re not that dissimilar then,” Carol said. “Even when I was four, I took apart my toys to see how they functioned. And I was mostly successful at putting them back into working order when I was done. Applied sciences have always been my calling, even when I first entered boarding school.”

“Boarding schools,” Nyota said. “Where?”

“In England,” Carol said. “My mother is from Leeds, and with Dad being off-planet so much for Starfleet, we spent most of the year there.”

Nyota nodded. “Which explains why your father had an American accent but yours is British.” She grimaced. “Forgive me if that was rude or out of bounds.”

“No, it’s fine,” Carol said. “Anyways, I excelled at science, physics in particular. Although geology and Earth sciences were fascinating as well. I did a thesis on a potential new way to Terraform inhospitable worlds, but it’s all in early daydream stages. Perhaps in my spare time on the Enterprise, I can flesh it out more fully.”

Nyota’s eyebrows rose, giving the impression that she was impressed. “Depending on how this five year exploratory mission goes, we may need that sooner rather than later.”

“Indeed,” Carol said. She started to feel as though she were hogging the conversation. “I’ve heard talk that you’re one of the best xenolinguists Starfleet’s ever had.”

Shrugging, Nyota smiled. “I don’t know that I’d go that far, but I am proficient in eighty-seven percent of the spoken Federation languages, and even some that aren’t. I know all three dialects of Romulan, and my Klingon is more than sufficient.”

Carol raised an eyebrow. “Very impressive. I admit, my language acumen is somewhat weak. I took Russian and French in school, but they’ve atrophied from disuse.”

Nyota’s smile grew brighter. “Well, if you’d like, I can help you brush up on your French, and I’m certain Pavel would be more than willing to help you with the Russian. He speaks the Moscow dialect.”

“Moscow dialect is what I learned, so that works out well,” Carol said. “I’ll certainly make an effort to talk to him about it, though I daresay I’ll interact with him more now that he’s back on the Bridge.”

“Indeed,” Nyota said. “Were you an only child?”

“Yes,” Carol said. “Were you?”

“I have a younger brother who is also contemplating joining Starfleet,” Nyota said. “Though he wants to be a pilot.”

“Good for him,” Carol said. They had moved closer to their fellow officers. Carol took in the sight before them; Leonard and Jim still stood too close to just be friends, but not close enough to be inappropriate. Scott was speaking animatedly, and they all laughed except for Spock. Jim paused his laughter to take in the sight of Leonard doing so before looking away.

Next to her, Nyota sighed. “Or maybe we should just lock them in a room with sex pollen.”

Carol snorted. “Let’s save that for a last resort. I’ve heard that can make things awkward.”

“You’re probably right,” Nyota said with a shrug. “Still though. It’s not off the table.”

“Not really.”

Hikaru caught Carol’s eye, and he smiled at her. She returned it, and turned her attention back to Jim and Leonard. This time, though, Hikaru’s line of sight followed hers. He stared at them for a second, and his eyes widened. Then he looked back at Carol.

Carol shrugged.

Hikaru gave Leonard and Jim another look; he must have come to a similar conclusion as she and Nyota had, because he rolled his eyes at them.

For the second time, Carol snorted. Nyota gave her a curious look. “I think you and I just acquired an ally in our struggle.”

Nyota raised her eyebrow before looking back towards everyone else. Her eyes met with Hikaru’s, and they had a conversation without words for a moment. Carol felt a small bit of jealousy at how close they all seemed in only a year; she squashed it, remembering she was part of the group now.

It would come in time.

Hikaru inclined his head in a nod at Nyota, and Nyota nodded back. “Well, getting the flowers will be easier,” Nyota said. “I wasn’t looking forward to taking them without giving him an explanation. Hikaru would notice.”

Now Carol was confused. “I thought he’s a pilot and the third officer?”

“He’s also a botanist,” Nyota said. “One of the better ones on the Enterprise. He keeps track of everything in xenobotany lab.”

Interesting; Carol filed that away for later. She’d always had a fondness for flowers. “Then he will definitely come in handy.”

“Indeed,” Nyota said with a smirk. They had arrived at their destination, just in time to hear Scott finish another story. The two women had missed the build up, so they didn’t laugh with everyone (well again, everyone minus Spock), but they smiled at him anyways.

Spock gave them a long look before moving to stand next to Nyota. Nyota favored him with a smile before turning her attention back to the engineer.

Hikaru met Carol’s gaze again. She smiled at him and jerked her head towards Leonard and Jim. He nodded and smirked.

Two heads were better than one, but three heads were even better than that.

-----

The next day started for Carol bright and early, as she was due to depart on a shuttle to the Enterprise at 0700. She put on her uniform, which still took some getting used to, ate a quick breakfast, and departed for the Starfleet shuttle hangar.

She didn’t recognize anyone else on the Galileo, but a familiar voice came over the loudspeaker. Attention: this is Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu. Please find your seats and prepare for launch. Estimated travel time to spacedock is one hour, seventeen minutes.

Carol smiled; she walked up front to the pilot’s area. Hikaru sat checking his instrumentation. “Is this seat taken?” she asked with a gesture to the seat that would normally house a co-pilot.

Hikaru looked at her with a startled expression before grinning. “For once, no, actually. Every single Enterprise pilot is manning his or her own shuttlecraft. By all means,” he said with a gesture to the seat.

Carol took it, fastening herself into the harness. “I admit I was hoping I’d be flying with one of you. I’m a bit surprised none of the others are on this shuttle.”

Hikaru checked the instrumentation a second time before checking it a third. “Kirk, McCoy, and Scotty are already up there. First to get on, last to leave. Everyone else is scattered throughout all of them, although I’d put money on Spock and Nyota being on the same one.”

Nodding, Carol’s smile brightened. “Worst kept secret in Starfleet, them.”

Laughing, Hikaru turned to her. “Pretty much.”

They looked at each other for a minute, and Carol found her cheeks flushed like a schoolgirl’s. Neither of them looked away, though.

“So,” Carol said, needing to fill the silence. “I take it from yesterday you figured out Nyota’s and my conundrum.”

Hikaru snorted. “They’ve always been a little bit closer than normal best friends. I think it was just a matter of time before this happened.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” Carol said. “Are they normally so…”

“Oblivious?” Hikaru asked.

“I was going to say scared,” Carol finished. “Although oblivious is also accurate.”

“I think they’re both so used to being just friends, they honestly can’t comprehend that their feelings are mutual,” Hikaru said. “Especially given how Jim normally acts when he wants someone. He acted positively demure by his usual standards.”

“Has he ever been in love before?” Carol said.

An announcement came over the shuttle’s commline. This is ground control to shuttle Galileo. You’re clear for takeoff. Repeat, shuttle Galileo is clear for takeoff. Over.

Hikaru pressed a button to reply. “Copy that, ground control. All systems go. Over.” He pushed the buttons, the engines humming from standby into life. Hikaru furrowed his brow as he maneuvered the shuttlecraft off the ground and up into the air. Carol looked out the window as the ground grew smaller beneath them.

Sighing, Carol said, “So long, and thanks for all the fish.”

Hikaru gave her an odd look. “What?”

“I take it you never read those books, then,” Carol said. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?”

“I’ve heard of them, Scotty talks about them sometimes. He also insists on carrying a towel with him everywhere, even on away missions,” Hikaru explained as he refocused his attention on their ascent.

“Well, I think they’re required reading if you’re from the UK,” Carol said. “It’s practically in the by-laws.”

“Good to know,” Hikaru said. “I think I always meant to read them but kept getting sidetracked with fencing practice or my plants.” A smile lit up his face. “A bigger question is have you read Philip K. Dick?”

“Yes, of course!” Carol grinned. “I adored Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, although it’s somewhat hilarious how dated it is.”

“Don’t ever read Neuromancer or Burning Chrome then,” Hikaru said. “Everything about hacking in those stories is straight out of the twentieth century.”

“Ah yes, the ‘Ice,’” Carol said. “I took a few science fiction classes for my literature requirements. And you’re right, most of the classics in that genre dated themselves pretty quickly.”

“Yeah,” Hikaru said. “I read some sci-fi coming up, but mostly I read stuff like Shakespeare and Tennyson.” He pushed a button, and the words Autopilot engaged sounded over the speakers. He turned to her with a slight smile. “And to answer your earlier question, no, I don’t think Jim’s ever really been in love. He’s probably thought so once or twice, but in terms of the real thing? I genuinely don’t think so.”

Nodding, Carol leaned forward in her chair. “That would explain it then. Leonard probably scares him silly.”

“I’m pretty sure Len’s just as terrified,” Hikaru said. “He’s got some pretty bad burn wounds.”

“Nyota mentioned a divorce,” Carol said.

“Yeah, he doesn’t talk about it much, and his mood completely nosedives when it gets brought up,” Hikaru said. “So none of us really know anything about it. Except probably Jim does.”

Carol nodded. “Well, I’ll do my best not to pry.”

“Good call,” Hikaru said. They slowly left Earth’s atmosphere. Soon, the sky wasn’t blue anymore, and they traveled towards the Enterprise in spacedock. “So, can I assume that since you’re talking to me about Jim and Leonard, I can be in on yours and Nyota’s plans for them.”

“What makes you think we’re planning anything?” Carol said in an innocent tone.

Hikaru gave her a pointed look. She didn’t mind, though. Instead, she grinned. “We were thinking a romantic candlelit dinner. Something that’s obvious and impossible for them to run from. Nyota mentioned using a rec room.”

“We’ll need Scotty for that so he can disable the smoke detectors,” Hikaru said. “I’m sure I can borrow some flowers from the lab for a centerpiece. The food will be tricky; Jim has a couple of allergies, I think.”

“We’ll stick to something simple, like pasta,” Carol said. “Nyota mentioned a Muriel?”

“Muriel Horowitz,” Hikaru said. “She’s the head chef. I’m sure once she knows what it’s for, she’ll be happy to help.”

“Brilliant,” Carol said. She sat back, pausing to look out the window again. She could make out the Enterprise ahead of them. “Perhaps we should lock them up, make certain they can’t bolt.”

“I don’t think we have to take it that far,” Hikaru said. “They’re scared, not stupid. Once they see the romantic setup, they’ll get it.”

“I’m sure you’re right,” Carol said. At least, she hoped he was right. The main thing she knew was she needed to get with Nyota and Engineer Scott. “We have some time before launch…want to help me start setting things up? I feel it behooves us to do it sooner, rather than later.”

“Sounds good to me,” Hikaru said.

They approached the Enterprise, and Hikaru disengaged the autopilot to land them in the ship’s shuttle bay. He did so with practiced skill and ease, and before Carol had time to think about it, they were fully docked. The bay doors closed, and it was safe to disembark.

Carol undid her harness and stood, stretching. Hikaru watched her for a moment, before fully powering down the shuttle. “See you on the bridge in a bit?”

Nodding with a bright grin, Carol tossed her hair over her shoulder. “See you on the bridge, Hikaru.”

She turned and left the shuttle with the other crew, and she went to check on her quarters. She’d be sharing a suite with another science officer, but she didn’t mind. She’d grown up sharing rooms at her schools, after all.

Finding her assigned quarters was relatively simple, and she found that her things had been beamed aboard. There was no time to unpack, though. She had a duty station to report to.

Carol paused for a second, wondering where her suitemate was. Oh well. They’d meet later. With a slight yawn, she closed and locked the door behind her, making her way to the bridge.

The ride in the turbolift was short, and she arrived within seconds. The bridge was filled with more people she didn’t know than did, and it made her feel suddenly unsure. Leonard stood near the captain’s chair with a frown on his face, and Nyota was at her station, calibrating her sensors.

Hikaru had beaten her to the bridge; he sat in the captain’s chair, overseeing their preparations. Pavel Chekov was at the navigation console, chirping out course instructions to Hikaru. Hikaru nodded an assent, then noticed her. He gave her a wink and smile, and she smiled back.

Carol moved towards her station, debating on whether she should sit down. The turbolift door opened, and Jim stepped out of it. “Captain on the bridge,” Chekov said, and everyone turned to look at him.

“Mister Sulu,” Jim said.

Hikaru stood from the chair. “It’s all yours.”

“It’s hard to let it go once you’ve had a taste, isn’t it?” Jim said with a playful grin.

“Yes, sir,” Hikaru said. The back up pilot took her leave, and Hikaru sat down at his console. Jim exchanged words with Spock and Nyota, and he scanned the bridge. He lit up, blue eyes sparkling when he saw Leonard.

“Bones!” He stood in front of him. “Oh come on. Five years in space. It’ll be fun!” He reached out, running his hands down Leonard’s arms. Carol was mildly surprised at how bold he was, but she’d take it over the fear and inaction.

Leonard’s eyes drifted down Jim’s body, but Jim didn’t notice as he turned away, stepping towards Carol. “Five years in space. God help me,” Leonard muttered, and Carol had a hard time fighting a smile at his consternation.

Jim stood before her, and his smile shifted to one that was more professional. “Doctor Marcus,” he said. “Good that you could be part of the family.”

Family was slightly emphasized and said in a welcoming tone. The wounds from her father hadn’t fully healed, but perhaps in some more time they would be. “Thank you, sir. It’s nice to have a family,” she said, hoping he’d catch her meaning.

From the way his eyes softened, he did. He smiled at her again, and walked back over to his chair. Carol took her station next to Mister Spock, and Jim spoke to his crew. “Have all essential personnel boarded?”

“Yes, sir,” Chekov answered.

“We’re clear to launch on your command, sir,” Hikaru added.

Jim nodded. “Take us out, Mister Sulu. Warp factor four.”

“Aye, sir,” Hikaru said. He detached the moorings, disengaged the external inertial dampener, and off they went.

-----

True to their words on the shuttle, Nyota, Hikaru, and Engineer Scott (Scotty, Carol reminded herself, he told her to call him Scotty) got together to hatch their plan. Carol hacked Spock’s duty roster to find the next evening Jim and Leonard would be off at the same time.

From there, it was a quick talk with Horowitz (and again, Carol had to remind herself to use her first name as instructed by the lady herself) to get the meal. Muriel agreed to it, eager to aid in their plight.

From there, Nyota and Carol decorated the rec room, Scotty disabled the smoke alarms, and Hikaru made a beautiful floral centerpiece. Carol sent Jim and Leonard messages with a time and a place, making it seem like they came from each other.

Scotty had arranged for the security feed from the rec room to be routed into the Ready Room, and the four of them sat crowded around the monitor just in time for Jim to enter the room. He took in the sight of everything with a curious expression.

The set of his shoulders became tense, and he swallowed once. Jim fidgeted for a second before pacing behind a chair.

As he did this, the door opened a second time, and Leonard entered with a frown. “Jim, why are we…?” He took in the scene before him, and his face lit up with hope for a second before it dimmed. “Oh. I can come back another time.”

Carol furrowed her brows.

Jim had a questioning expression on his face. “Come back another time? You’re the one who told me to meet you here now.”

Nyota sighed. “Don’t do it. Don’t be those guys,” she pleaded with the screen.

Leonard blinked a few times. “No, Jim, you messaged me, telling me to be here.”

“Son of a bitch,” Carol said with a loud groan.

“Aye, both of them are, the bastards,” Scotty said with a roll of his eyes.

Jim’s expression became wounded. “So if you didn’t, and I didn’t…”

“Don’t finish that sentence, just sit down,” Hikaru said. His teeth clenched, and his eyes narrowed to little slits.

Leonard sighed. “Well, we’re here. We may as well…” He gestured at the food. “I skipped lunch,” he explained, although there was a lot of hope in his voice.

Jim sighed. “Yeah, I guess.” He gestured for Leonard to take a seat, and after he did, Jim sat across from him. A bottle of wine sat in a bucket on the table, and Jim eyed it curiously. “Would you…do you want something to drink?”

Leonard picked up the bottle, eyeing the vintage. It had already been opened, but the cork sat in it to keep it from getting exposed to too much air. “It’ll do,” he said as he removed the cork. He poured them both glasses of the wine, a full-bodied cabernet sauvignon. Jim took his glass with a nod of thanks, and they sat in awkward silence as they took sips.

“Why are they not talking?” Nyota said. “They’re acting like they don’t even want this. We all know they want this. What is going on?”

“Maybe the ambush wasn’t a good idea,” Hikaru said. “Maybe instead of thinking about each other and the mood we’ve set, they’re focused on finding out who did this to them.”

“Men,” Nyota said under her breath. Hikaru and Scotty shot her dirty looks. “Present company excluded, of course.”

Carol leaned forward to fully examine their body language and facial expressions. It was the exact bleeding same thing as always; they would look at each other, but not when the other one was in a position to notice. They had their legs crossed towards each other, but they weren’t speaking. “They’re going to make us spell it out for them, aren’t they?”

“I hope not,” Scotty said. “You said it was bad, but I didn’t realize just how frustrating this was until now. Why can’t they see it? Everyone else can.”

“Spock actually hasn’t picked up on it,” Nyota said almost to herself. “But then, he doesn’t really know what to look for.”

“But you’re…” Carol said, turning to face her.

“I made the first move,” Nyota said with a shrug. “He was interested, but because of our working relationship, he was hesitant to do anything about it. Plus Vulcans don’t really date for the most part. He was out of his element.”

“I see,” Carol said. “That makes sense.”

They all turned their attention back to the security feed.

Jim’s attention focused on Leonard. His eyes were bright and shining as he watched him inspect the flower arrangement. Before Leonard could notice, Jim aimed his eyes down at the tablecloth. Leonard looked at Jim, and the longing in his gaze made Carol’s heart ache.

As if on cue, the four of them shouted, “Say something!”

Jim bit his bottom lip. “So…” The watchers sighed in relief. “How’s it going? In Medical, I mean…has anything…anything happen down there?”

Leonard poured himself more wine. “Just minor injuries and people avoiding their physicals.” He cleared his throat and gave Jim a pointed look.

Jim stared at him. “Mine’s not even scheduled until tomorrow at 1400.”

“But will you show up, is the question,” Leonard said, still giving Jim that same look. “Or are you going to make me chase you down?”

Licking his lips, Jim gave him a charming smile. “Well, maybe I want you to chase me. Did you ever think of that?”

Hikaru and Carol breathed sighs of relief. Scotty steepled his hands in front of his face as he said, “Good. Good.”

“Take the bait, Leonard,” Nyota pleaded. “Just…take the bait.”

Leonard sighed and rolled his eyes. “Seriously, Jim. Don’t force my hand. Show up tomorrow, okay?”

The light dimmed in Jim’s eyes. “Sure, Bones,” he said, his voice quiet. “I’ll make sure I’m there on time.”

Scotty facepalmed, Hikaru and Nyota’s expressions soured, and Carol closed her eyes and shook her head a few times.

Leonard must have sensed he screwed up somehow, because he winced. He set his glass back on the table. He gave Jim a long look, searching his face for something. Deciding he was satisfied with what he saw there, he tried a different tactic. “This is nice. Isn’t it?”

Jim looked up, and his face brightened. “Yeah, it’s…it is.”

Leonard smiled at him. He lifted the cover on his plate; gnocchi sat in a vodka-cream sauce. Jim did the same, and he picked up his fork. They began to eat, chewing the food slowly. Leonard swallowed and gave Jim another smile. “It’s good. Whoever did this was smart.”

“Yeah,” Jim said. “Plus…I…”

“Yeah?” Leonard looked like Jim’s answer was his everything.

“Well I mean…I feel like we don’t see each other that much when we’re in space,” Jim said. “So I’m glad we’re…hanging out.”

“No!” Scotty exclaimed, stretching the word out to be several syllables. He gesticulated wildly, his hands flying furiously in front of his face. “Not hanging out. Don’t call it just hanging out!”

It was Leonard’s turn to look disappointed. “Right. Hanging out. Because that’s what we always do.”

“These bloody fucking morons,” Carol said under her breath.

“I know that’s right,” Nyota said.

Jim looked up from his food to study Leonard’s face. He gazed at him for a while, and Leonard this time sensed the attention. He glanced up at Jim with a questioning expression.

“For the love of God, just tell him,” Hikaru said. “Just spit it out. It’s not hard!”

“Nothing,” Jim said. “It’s not important.”

Nyota buried her face in her hands. Scotty sank down in his chair with a loud sigh. Hikaru made a loud aggrieved sound. And Carol swore profusely for ten seconds. Even Scotty was impressed.

Jim and Leonard moved on from the pasta to dessert, which were fruit tarts; they had red slices of poached fruit covered in raspberries and blackberries. Jim contemplated the dessert. Leonard inspected his own for a second before taking a bite and swallowing.

Then he made a choking sound.

Jim looked up in alarm, as did everyone watching in the ready room. Now Leonard was acting like he couldn’t breathe, and he held one hand up to his throat in the universal sign for oh shit son, I’m dying.

Jim immediately stood, running over to him. “Bones?”

Leonard shook his head and rolled his eyes, trying to choke out a word.

“Fuck!” Jim raced over to the Intercom. “Kirk to Med Bay. Repeat, Kirk to Med bay!”

“Oh my God, what have we done?” Hikaru said.

“I…don’t know…” Carol said. “It looks like he’s going into anaphylactic shock. But from what?”

A look of horror crossed Nyota’s face. “What kind of tart was that?”

“Wine-poached pear with seasonal berries,” Carol said. “Why?”

Jim shouted over the intercom. “Geoff, it’s Bones. He had a piece of pear tart. Can you get here like…now?”

Nyota stood and paced furiously in the room. “We were so caught up in Jim’s allergies, we forgot about Leonard’s. He’s violently allergic to pears.”

Carol stared at her in disbelief. “How in the bloody hell is anyone allergic to pears?”

“I don’t know, but Leonard is,” Nyota said.

A team from medical had arrived, and they administered an epi-pen to Leonard. He was then placed on a gurney. One of the nurses called for him to be beamed to sickbay. He was, and Jim ran out of the room, ostensibly to follow them down.

Carol chewed on her fingernail. “I didn’t…I wasn’t trying to kill them…”

Hikaru placed a hand on her shoulder. “It’s okay. I didn’t know that about him, either. There’s no way you could have.”

“Muriel didn’t know, though?” Carol asked.

“There’s a thousand people on the ship,” Scotty reminded her. “It’s hard to keep track of every single person’s allergies. Leonard himself can’t even memorize all of them.”

“It’s my fault for not reminding her,” Nyota said. “She’s always so busy, and as I said, we got so caught up being careful of Jim’s, we just forgot to include Leonard’s single allergy.”

“Aye,” Scotty said, giving her a reassuring look. “It was an accident. Medical got to him quickly enough that he’ll be fine in a day or so.”

“This was an unmitigated disaster,” Carol said, not really hearing them. “And on top of it, they didn’t open up to each other!”

“Maybe Leonard’s reaction will help them along,” Nyota said. “Maybe this will push Jim into action.”

Hikaru, Scotty, and Carol nodded. A near-death incident made Jim realize how he felt for Leonard; perhaps another one would make him confess his feelings.

Only time would tell.

-----

Two days passed, and Leonard was permitted to go back on duty. Jim spent every moment he could at his bedside, according to the computer databanks, but they didn’t know if he told him how he felt.

It became readily apparent that he hadn’t by day three.

Carol sat at her station on the bridge, going over some notes from a previous mission. A message popped up on her console; it was from Nyota. We need to try again, was all it said.

Carol nodded. I know, but I don’t know what else to do.

Her PADD dinged. Maybe something that big was wrong. Maybe we should try little things.

Brightening, Carol sent back a, Good idea. Little things like favorite foods and favorite films.

Exactly, Nyota said. The Bridge Crew has a movie night once a month. I know Leonard and Jim’s favorites. We’ll just…happen to show them.

Brilliant. Carol caught her eye, and they smiled at each other. Mister Spock glanced up from his station and watched them with a curious and slightly strangled expression. Carol wondered what that was about before turning back to her readings.

The rest of the day passed quickly, and Carol met with Muriel. This time she went over both men’s allergies, and Muriel made mass quantities of meatloaf with bacon and mashed potatoes for Jim and collard greens and peach pie for Leonard. She put it on the menu for the next day, which worked out well as Carol knew they were on the same shift, which meant they would eat together. That evening was the monthly Bridge Crew movie night, and Nyota made certain the proper films would be shown.

Carol took a seat in the mess the next day, having grabbed some of the food. She was alone at a four-person table, and she took a sip of tea as she observed everyone else in the mess. She had learned more names and faces, particularly those in her department. Things started to come together.

Nyota set her tray down in front of Carol. “May I join you?”

“Of course,” Carol said. She took a bite of meatloaf.

“How are things going in your department?” Nyota asked as she cut the meatloaf into small pieces. “Is anyone giving you trouble?”

“Not that I’ve noticed,” Carol said. “Everyone follows instructions, though I hardly have to give them any. They’re all bloody brilliant; I’m in good company.”

“I know how you feel,” Nyota said. “Everyone in the communications department is exceptionally talented. My relief is a Caitian named M’Ress, and she knows almost as many languages as I do.”

“I think I’ve been on the bridge with her once or twice,” Carol said. “But I’m usually in the labs when she’s around.”

“Probably,” Nyota said. “I’ve been getting some subspace transmissions which are somewhat troubling.”

Uh oh. “The Klingons?”

Nyota nodded then leaned in close to lower her voice. “There are going to be repercussions for our run to get Khan on Qo’noS. Unfortunately, it is likely that a war is coming.”

Carol sighed, raising a hand to her temple as she shook her head. Her bloody fucking father. Why didn’t some things stay buried? She also leaned in close to Nyota. “I was rather afraid of this. Will they call us back?”

“I don’t know, it’s too early to tell,” Nyota said. “Of course I’ve brought all of this to Jim’s attention, and I’m sure he’s passed it along to Starfleet Command. But…” She sighed. “It’s not good news.”

Carol nodded. “Is there anything we can do in the meanwhile?”

“Not really,” Nyota said. “We’re so far out calling us back isn’t going to happen unless it proves necessary. I admit I’m a bit frightened by the prospect. The Federation isn’t perfect, but we’ve long been peaceful. If a war is coming, I don’t know that we’ve prepared enough.”

A throat got cleared above them. The two women turned to face the person standing next to Nyota. It was Mister Spock. “May I?” he asked, although his tone was somewhat acerbic. Carol’s eyebrow rose into her hair, as did Nyota’s.

“Of course, Commander,” Carol answered, putting a smile on her face. Nyota gave him a warm smile that was soft around the edges, and Carol felt a small pang of jealousy at the obvious affection between them. It faded because Spock didn’t appear to notice; he set his tray down somewhat harder than he needed to and sat next to Nyota. Not for the first time, Carol wondered what his attitude was about.

Maybe he just didn’t like her, she supposed. After all, she did basically show up to take his job under false pretenses. Perhaps he hadn’t gotten over that. Carol attempted another smile. “We were discussing work, Commander. How is yours going?”

Spock gave Nyota a long look before turning his attention back to Carol. “Adequately, thank you,” he said as he took a bite of collard greens. His tone was icy, and Carol wondered for a minute what she had done to warrant it. It was unlike every other Vulcan she’d dealt with in the past.

Nyota looked taken aback by it as well. Both of her eyebrows rose, and her mouth was slightly open in the shape of an “O.” She gave Spock a concerned look, and once more he failed to notice.

The three of them ate in silence.

Carol had finished her food, and the tension made her feel too awkward. She stood, grabbing her tray. “I should head back to the labs. You both enjoy the rest of your meal, and I shall see you tonight for the movies.” She walked away from them, wondering what the hell she had done to deserve it when she ran smack into another person. “Oh dear, I am so sorry…”

“It’s my fault too,” the man said, and she realized she crashed into Hikaru. “I turned too quickly and didn’t pay enough attention.”

Carol smiled at him. She then inspected his uniform; fortunately, nothing got on his tunic. He wouldn’t have to change. “I apologize, really.”

“No problem,” he said with a grin. “You’re coming tonight, right?”

Carol thought back to the film choices for the evening. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

“Great!” Hikaru began to walk away from her; after three steps, he turned and walked backwards to face her. “Wear civvies. I’ll see you there!”

Grinning, Carol nodded. “See you there!”

She left the mess, worked the rest of her shift, and before long it was time to change and head out. They were meeting in one of the rec rooms on deck six, and she went there, pushing the button to open the door. Pavel Chekov, Hikaru, and Scotty were already there.

“Hey Carol,” Hikaru said.

“Lass,” Scotty said with a grin.

“Hello Doctor Marcus,” Chekov said with a bright smile. It made him look impossibly young, and Carol’s heart clenched at how he could shoulder his responsibilities at his age.

“Please call me Carol,” she insisted.

“Then you must call me Pavel, when we are like now,” Pavel said.

“Of course,” Carol said.

Pavel leaned in close. “Hikaru is my roommate, and he told me about your plans for the Captain and the Doctor.”

Hikaru sighed. “You can call them Jim and Leonard like the rest of us do. I promise it will be okay.”

Carol favored Hikaru with a smile before turning her attention back to Pavel. “I take it you want in on it?”

“They are both stupid,” Pavel said. “So yes, I will help.”

Carol sporfled. She hadn’t expected that. Scotty and Hikaru both looked like they heard it all the time; they nodded their agreement. The rec room door swished open and in came Leonard. All of them greeted each other, and Scotty pulled out a giant bowl of popcorn from…somewhere.

Carol figured it was better not to ask.

Spock and Nyota arrived next, with Jim following behind them. Scotty queued up the vid.

Leonard cleared his throat. “What’s up first?”

Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the Audrey Hepburn original,” Scotty said.

His expression becoming surprised, Leonard’s eyes landed on Jim’s face for a moment. “That’s my favorite film.”

Carol feigned innocence. “Really? That must be why Jim picked it out.”

A small smile formed on Leonard’s face. “He did?”

“Yes,” Pavel said. “He did.”

They began to make themselves comfortable on the large sofas near the view screen. They arranged themselves so Leonard and Jim sat next to each other. Carol sat next to Nyota with Spock on her other side. Pavel and Scotty sat on the floor, and Hikau sat next to Carol.

Leonard cleared his throat. “Thanks, Jim,” he whispered.

Jim turned to him with a curious look. “For what?”

“For the movie,” Leonard explained with a shy smile. “For putting in my favorite.”

Jim’s expression became blank, and Carol willed him to be his usual self and take credit for it. “Oh. I mean, I didn’t pick them out this time.”

Scotty started choking on his popcorn. Pavel pat him on the back a few times. Hikaru exhaled loudly next to Carol, who was in the process of rubbing her temples with her index fingers. Nyota groaned before whispering out of the side of her mouth, “The one time he’s modest.”

“Right? It’s bleeding absurd,” Carol muttered.

Spock noticed them whispering to each other with a frown. “What are you two discussing?” he said, and his tone of voice was a bit louder than it should have been.

“Nothing,” the women said in unison.

Spock’s frown became more pronounced. “I…see.”

Leonard’s smile had faded a little. “Oh. I guess…I guess Carol was wrong.”

Jim’s expression changed to someone who looked like he wanted to airlock himself. “Well, I mean…I’m glad it’s this movie. We haven’t watched it together before,” he said, his voice filled with hope.

“Much better,” Hikaru whispered to Carol.

“Indeed,” Carol said.

The smile returned to Leonard’s face. “I wouldn’t…I didn’t think you’d be interested.”

The movie’s credits started, and a woman in a black dress and sunglasses perused Tiffany’s wares while eating a pastry. “Moon River” played in the background. Carol had only seen the remake before, so she was intrigued.

Jim gave him a bright grin. “If it’s important to you, I want to…I want it to be something that we…” He faltered. “I mean, I just…we tend to like the same things, so why wouldn’t I want to see it?”

“So close,” Scotty grumbled.

Pavel nodded his agreement and reached for the popcorn.

Leonard didn’t reply to Jim, he just turned back to the film. Jim watched him for a while before sighing and doing the same.

During one of the scenes with Mickey Rooney, Hikaru flinched. “When was this made?” he asked.

“The 1960s,” Leonard answered.

“Well, that explains everything,” Hikaru said with another grimace.

Carol also frowned at the patently obvious racism. “I had heard about this, but I didn’t realize it was this bad,” she said to Hikaru.

Leonard winced. “Yeah, I tend to block these parts out. The story between Fred and Holly is what I like.” He leaned all the way back to meet Hikaru’s gaze. “Sorry, I forgot.”

“It’s fine,” Hikaru replied with a shrug. “It’s not like you made the movie. Just…I could do without this character, is all. Holly and Fred are cute.”

“I thought his name is Paul,” Spock said.

“There’s an explanation for the Fred thing,” Jim said. “I’ve read the book more than once.” He got a thoughtful look on his face. “Although this being filmed in the 1960s also explains a couple of other things.”

“Paul/Fred not being gay?” Leonard asked.

“That and Holly not explicitly being referred to as a prostitute,” Jim said. “I mean, they hint at it with the ‘twenty dollars to go to the powder room’ thing, but that’s it. They’re way skirting around it.”

“Truman Capote was originally not happy with Audrey Hepburn’s casting,” Leonard said. “Partially for that reason. But then he saw the film and came around.”

The movie continued, and Carol had to admit that the love story between Holly and Paul/Fred was rather sweet. She kept meeting Hikaru’s eye during the romantic parts, and when they finally came together with Cat in the rain, she felt happy. The credits rolled, and they all applauded.

Jim stretched. “What’s up next?”

Scotty pulled up the queue on a PADD. “Yellow Submarine.”

Jim brightened. “Really?”

Leonard also perked up. “That’s one of Jim’s all-time favorites, though I haven’t ever seen it.”

The others exchanged a look, except Spock. “What a coincidence,” Scotty said in a mysterious tone as the movie started. Live action footage showed four men getting into a submarine and waving to their fans.

The footage transformed from live action to psychedelic animation as the Beatles entered Pepperland. Jim’s eyes glittered in the light of the film, and he leaned forward, resting his chin on his hands.

Hikaru, however, had an odd look on his face. “So…when was this one made?”

“Also the 1960s,” Jim said with a happy sigh.

“Were they on drugs when they wrote this?” Hikaru asked. “Because I kinda feel like they were.”

Carol nodded her agreement. The Beatles were some of Earth’s most famous lyricists and composers, but Carol knew from her history book that they were no strangers to recreational drug use. Such things had fallen out of fashion on Earth after First Contact, but a very small segment of the population still indulged.

Still though, it was pretty apparent from the colors and lack of logic in the plot, that everyone involved with the making of this film including the band themselves was high on something. In spite of the nonsensicalness of Pepperland (because Carol almost had a stroke at the part where Ringo picked up a hole from the ground and put it into his pocket, and she noticed Spock had a similar reaction), it was charming.

“What is a Blue Meanie?” Pavel said. “They are very strange.”

“Octopi actually do create gardens under the sea,” Spock explained. “The song is curious though, as a human cannot survive due to the pressure that far under the ocean’s surface.”

Carol noticed that Leonard wasn’t watching the film.

He was watching Jim watch the film, and it was obvious why. The expression on Jim’s face was nothing but childlike wonder; he was joyous and captivated by every thing that happened and every word said on screen.

An idea struck Carol. Of course Leonard wouldn’t make a move on Jim while they were all around, but if they left…

Carol stood and stretched with a loud fake yawn. Everyone but Jim looked up at her. “I’m feeling knackered. I think I’ll call it a night.”

Realization dawned on Nyota’s face, and she stood as well. “Wait, Carol, I’ll come with you.”

The two of them walked together out of the rec room into the hall. They waited for a few minutes before Hikaru came out. “Good thinking,” he said with a grin. “Maybe they’ll start making out.”

They waited another few minutes, and Pavel and Scotty joined them. Then they waited another few minutes.

Then another.

Nyota frowned. “I don’t think Spock gets what we’re trying to accomplish.”

“Can you go back and get him?” Scotty asked.

“Without arousing suspicion?” Nyota said. “I don’t know…”

Carol sighed. “Perhaps it’s time we let Spock in on what we’re doing.”

“Yeah, maybe,” Nyota agreed. The sound stopped coming through the door. “Quick, scatter!”

They all did, hiding around corners to make it look as though they had really left. Spock was out of the door first, followed by Jim and Leonard.

“Wasn’t that great?” Jim asked both of them.

“It was fascinating,” Spock said. “And also highly illogical.”

Jim rolled his eyes at him. “Bones, help me out here. Yellow Submarine is a gem, isn’t it?”

Leonard’s eyes snapped up to Jim’s face. “What? Oh. Yeah it was great! Really fun! Good movie, Jim.”

Jim’s entire expression softened, and his eyes brightened. “You really liked it?”

Leonard smiled. “It was charming, Jim.”

The look on Jim’s face was so cute, Carol couldn’t help but smile. Jim cleared his throat, and his cheeks flushed. “So Bones do you want to…I mean, it’s early. Want to get a drink?”

Leonard checked his watch. He frowned at the time for a second before shaking his head. “I shouldn’t…” The rest of them all started to slowly lose their minds. “But I guess I can do one.”

Jim utterly lit up like a child on Christmas, but Leonard didn’t appear to notice. Which again, how could he not see this? They were rocks. They were a blond Iowan rock and a brown-haired rock from Georgia. That was the only explanation.

“Let’s go then,” Jim said as he gave Leonard a friendly clap on the shoulder. Carol fought the urge to scream just fucking kiss at them as they walked towards a turbolift.

Next to her, Nyota sighed. “Those dumbasses.”

Pavel muttered, “Чертовы идиоты, они оба.”

Nyota snorted, and it took Carol a second to translate. “Yes, they are fucking idiots the both of them,” she agreed. “I think we need something more drastic after all. Something that leaves no room for misinterpretation.”

Nyota and Pavel gave her curious looks. Hikaru and Scotty had joined them by this point, and they also looked interested.

An idea struck Carol. “Well…we might get brought up for insubordination…”

“Who cares?” Scotty said. “This is beyond ridiculous. Besides, if it works they’ll be so busy with each other, they won’t give a shit either.”

“Fair point,” Carol said. “Well, here we go.”

She detailed her plan, and all of them smirked. They gave their assent, and after assigning roles, they set their sights on doing it the following day. Jim and Leonard would have no choice, and things would finally be resolved, for good this time.

-----

The following day came quickly. And even more fortunately, when Alpha shift went to lunch, Jim and Leonard happened to be eating together in the officer’s mess.

Pavel and Carol approached with smiles on their faces and their hands behind their backs. They reached their table and cleared their throats.

Jim looked up in mid-bite of his sandwich as Leonard froze in the midst of taking a sip of iced tea. Jim swallowed. “Yes?”

Before any of them, including Carol could do anything, Pavel’s grin turned feral. He whipped out the hypospray from behind his back, jabbing it into Jim’s neck hard. The sound of it going off filled the air, and before Jim could protest, he passed out on his plate.

Leonard’s expression cycled from confused to horrified to pissed. “What the fuck---?”

Carol shrugged. “It’s nothing personal.” She managed to get Leonard in a similar manner, although she was far gentler.

“The fuck are you…?” Leonard slurred as his eyes drooped. He also landed face-first in his food.

Nyota, Scotty, and Hikaru came running over. Scotty and Hikaru picked up Leonard, while Nyota, Carol, and Pavel grabbed Jim. It was then that Carol realized the entire mess had gone silent. All of the other officers that were present stared at them.

“Nothing to see here,” Scotty said with a grin. “Go back about your business.”

“Really, this is for the best,” Nyota added. “You’ll thank us.”

The other officers stared at them for a minute before Hendorff asked, “Is this about them being in love, and how they’re not doing anything about it?”

Carol and the others stared at him.

“Yeah?” Hikaru said.

Everyone else in the mess whispered to each other. When they gave their attention back to Carol and everyone, it was with serious expressions.

“We saw nothing,” Riley said.

“Carry on,” Hendorff added.

“Godspeed,” added Doctor M’Benga.

Carol blinked, shifting Jim’s legs in her grip. She looked at the others, who all looked as surprised as she felt.

Nyota recovered first. “As you were.”

Everyone else in the mess gave an assent and went back to eating as Carol and the rest carted Jim and Leonard out of the cafeteria, down the hall, and threw them bodily into a supply closet. Carol, Scotty, Pavel, Hikaru, and Nyota then stepped out of it, sealing the door closed behind them. Carol, Pavel, and Scotty hacked the locks so they didn’t function at all from inside and that even Jim couldn’t override it. Then Scotty did some more tweaking so they would have an audio feed of the room in Jim’s Ready Room.

The five of them left the closet, taking the next turbo lift to the Ready Room. They gathered chairs around the monitor, turning up the volume so they all could hear. It was silent, so Leonard and Jim had to still be sleeping.

Carol gave Pavel a curious look. “That was surprisingly violent of you.”

Pavel shrugged. “After what the Captain did to me during the mission with Khan? No, it was justified.”

Oh right. “Fair enough.” No one else argued either, although Scotty gave Pavel an apologetic glance.

Behind them, the Ready Room door opened. In strode Spock carrying a bouquet of flowers. His steps faltered when he saw all of the others. Nyota stared at him. “Spock what are you---?”

Spock hesitated before drawing himself up to his full height. “I am presenting you with this gift.” He held out the flowers to her, and Nyota took them with a puzzled expression. “I wish to maintain our existing romantic relationship.”

Carol stared at Spock; so did the others, especially Nyota. “Okay. Should I have been worried you didn’t?” Nyota said, her tone of voice equal parts befuddled and wary.

“You have spent a lot of time since the five year mission began with Doctor Marcus,” Spock said with a pointed look at Carol. “The two of you spend a lot of time conferring with each other about…for lack of a better term, secrets. I have concluded that you wish to begin a romantic liaison with Doctor Marcus, but I do not wish for you to do so. I would rather we maintain our current monogamous relationship.”

Carol’s expression faltered into straight up bewilderment.

Although…it explained why Spock seemed to hate her.

Nyota pursed her lips, and her shoulders shook. A choked sound came out of her lips, followed by another. It only took seconds before she started howling with laughter. “You think…you think…” she wheezed as she tried to collect herself.

Carol cleared her throat, although she had to struggle not to laugh herself. “Mister Spock, if I may?”

Spock favored Carol with a withering stare.

“I am not romancing Nyota,” Carol said. “We’re just friends. The reason why we’ve been so secretive is because we’re trying to get Jim and Leonard together.”

Spock blinked exactly three times. Nyota was still laughing, though, and could neither confirm nor deny her statements. She calmed herself, although she still chuckled every now and then.

“I’m not cheating on you, Spock,” Nyota said with a smile. “Carol and I started plotting about getting Leonard and Jim together, and Hikaru, Scotty, and Pavel also got involved. I meant to tell you, I swear, but everything’s happened so quickly, I just haven’t had a good opportunity.” She smiled at him, although it was contrite. “I apologize for giving you the wrong impression.”

Spock had a decidedly embarrassed green flush to his cheeks. “I…see.”

The sound of something came over the intercom. Carol rushed towards it, the others following suit. Just in time as a groggy voice said, “Wow, what the hell hit me?”

It was Jim.

More stirring could be heard over it, and a voice growled, “Damn it, those assholes...”

It was Leonard.

Jim made a choking sound. “Bones? I can’t see, it’s too dark.”

Carol groaned; they had forgotten to turn on the lights.

From the sheepish look on Scotty’s face, he realized it too. “Give me just a moment,” Scotty said as he pulled up something on a PADD. He made several keystrokes, and Jim and Leonard made startled sounds. “There we are. Now they really can’t run from each other.”

“Can we get visual?” Hikaru asked as he leaned close to Carol. She didn’t mind; she returned the favor.

“Hang on,” Scotty said as he made another few keystrokes. The security feed came up in the closet, and Jim and Leonard sat next to each other in similar positions they had left them in.

“What the hell are we doing in here?” Jim said. He managed to stand, going over to the computer console in the inside of the door. He entered the code to open the door; as predicted, nothing happened. He tried one of his overrides, and again, nothing happened. Jim tried different overrides, and each time, they failed. “What the fuck is going on?”

“Let me try,” Leonard said as he stood. “Medical overrides work when yours don’t.”

For a second, Carol was afraid. “Scotty…?”

“Already handled,” Scotty replied. Sure enough, Leonard attempted the medical overrides, and none of them worked.

“Well, shit,” Leonard said. “I think we’re trapped.”

“But why?” Jim asked. “This doesn’t make any sense. Why would Carol and Chekov trap us in a closet?”

The six people in the ready room sat in silence.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Hikaru shouted.

“Okay so, now would be the time we use the intercom,” Scotty said. He entered a keystroke. “Ahem. Hello?”

Jim and Leonard looked up at the ceiling. “Scotty?” they asked in unison.

“So…” Scotty continued. “Everyone else is tired of your emotional constipation. Everyone. You need to talk. I recommend you do that, because we’re not letting you out until certain things get handled. Okay? Great! Thanks!”

He disconnected the intercom, and Jim and Leonard continued to stare up at the ceiling.

“What the fuck is he talking about?” Leonard said.

Jim, however…Jim had a somewhat sad and apologetic look on his face. He swallowed once before giving Leonard a long look. There was a quiet sadness in his eyes as he whispered the words, “I’m sorry.”

The confusion was plain on Leonard’s face. “For what? This isn’t your doing.”

Jim shook his head once. “For what I said when I woke up. For thanking Spock instead of you. He…he did the legwork. And he confessed getting Khan wasn’t his goal except for as revenge.” His face and voice were soft in the scant lighting of the closet. “You were the one who brought me back, Bones. Not him. I should have done a better job acknowledging that when it happened, and I’m really sorry I didn’t. So…thank you. And I apologize.”

Judging from the slightly open set of Leonard’s mouth and the tenderness in his eyes, it was appreciated. “I…” Leonard began. It was his turn to swallow, and his hands clenched into fists at his sides. “You’re…the only one I would bring back.”

Collectively, five of the people in the Ready Room let out their breaths. It was a start. Hell, it was further than they had gotten with their other prompting. Maybe now they would move forward.

Hope shone in Jim’s eyes for a moment before it quieted down. He took a tentative step towards Bones before remembering himself and taking a step backwards.

Leonard’s eyes darted down to the floor. “You’re the only one I’d bring back,” he said again, more quietly the second time. “I destroyed the serum notes so no one else can…well. It doesn’t matter.” He sighed. “None of it really matters. The point is that I did it, and you’re here. That’s all the thanks I need.”

Jim looked somewhat confused, though he also still looked hopeful. “Wait, I don’t understand. Why am I the only one you’d do this for?”

The expression on Leonard’s face dimmed. “You know why.”

Jim frowned. “Humor me and act like I don’t.”

Leonard sighed and leaned against the back wall of the closet. “Because I…” His words died. “Because of how I feel about you. How I’ve felt this whole time.”

Against her will, Carol chewed on her fingernails. The others, even Spock, were all on the edge of their seats.

Something like understanding formed on Jim’s face. “Because of how you feel about me.” He shook his head a few times, looking like he both wanted to celebrate and shake himself. “Can I ask you a question?”

For the second time, Leonard sighed. “I suppose.”

“Why do you brush me off when I flirt with you?” Jim said.

“Because you do that with everyone, and I know it’s just a joke,” Leonard said. “Although…I wish you’d stop. It’s…they aren’t funny. Not to me.”

Jim’s hands clenched into fists. “You colossal fucking idiot.”

“Excuse me?” Leonard stood at his full height, giving Jim a disdainful glare.

“Do you really pay that little attention?” Jim sounded frustrated. “Because for the last year, the only person, literally the only person I’ve made those comments to is you.”

Leonard blinked a few times. “But you…you’re kidding when you make those remarks. You’ve never been serious.”

Jim’s expression shifted from angry to understanding. “They haven’t been jokes since you almost got blown up by that torpedo.”

Leonard’s eyes lit up and sparkled before dimming. “You always spend so much time with Spock…”

Now Jim was angry again, evidenced by the narrowing of his eyes and the hard set of his mouth. “I don’t flirt with Spock,” Jim ground out. “Yeah, Spock and I have gotten close but we’re not…he’s not more important than you!” Jim took a step forward. “Besides, you…Carol…”

Leonard shook his head a few times. “There’s nothing between me and Carol, Jim. She’s beautiful and smart, but I don’t want her. There’s only one person I want and…” He took a deep breath, and Jim held his. “It’s you, Jim.”

Carol sighed in relief, Nyota doing the same. Pavel made a small noise like a cheer, and Hikaru got a grin on his face. Scotty again steepled his hands in front of his face like a cartoon super villain and said, “Excellent.”

Back on the video, the look on Jim’s face was radiant. So much naked joy and love shone in his eyes, it almost took Carol’s breath away.

“Well…” Jim said. “Let me see if I have this right. I’m in love with you. You’re in love with me. We’ve spent the better part of a year thinking we couldn’t have each other. But…we can.” Jim did walk up to Leonard then, and he took his hands in his own. “So…what are we waiting for?”

Leonard closed the scant distance between them. “I don’t know, Jim. What are we waiting for?”

They stared at each other for so long Carol grew impatient. She turned on the intercom. “This is the part where you snog, you ninnies.”

Jim and Leonard looked up at the speakers, Jim letting go of one of Leonard’s hands to raise his middle finger at them. He opened his mouth to say something when Leonard grabbed his face and kissed him. From the look of things, Jim forgot what he planned to say and do, because his eyes drifted shut and he made a small whimper into it. They wrapped themselves around each other, and all of them in the Ready Room but Spock cheered.

Though Spock looked pleased, all considered.

Jim and Leonard kissed for a long time; every time they’d come up for air, they’d go right back to it. The kissing turned into a fevered make out session, and they started pulling themselves down towards the ground, probably to make themselves more comfortable.

Hikaru cleared his throat. “Maybe we should turn the feed off before they get indecent.”

“Yes, because there are just some things I don’t need to know,” Nyota said, reaching for the button.

Carol frowned. “But…we kind of earned this, don’t you think? Plus, you have to admit…it’s pretty.” Pavel turned to her with a wink and a wicked grin. Carol grinned back.

“Nope,” Scotty mumbled as Nyota turned it off with a shudder. “Sorry.”

“Oh fine,” Carol said. “Spoilsports.”

Spock cleared his throat. “Now that this has been handled, I am assuming that things will go back to their normal status here on the Enterprise.”

Nyota smiled up at him. “We don’t have to spend all of our free time scheming, if that’s what you’re asking,” she said. “But we will still all hang out together.” Nyota gave Carol a grin. “And it’s nice to finally have another woman around.”

“I can only imagine,” Carol said, although for some reason her eyes went to Hikaru. He met her gaze and smiled. Together they all left the room and went back about their business.

And about three hours later, Scotty unlocked the closet.

-----

The next day, Carol stopped in the mess for a quick cup of coffee and a Danish before heading up to the Bridge for her shift. When she arrived, Jim sat in his chair.

Also of note was that Leonard stood to his right.

A bright smile formed on her face. “Good morning, Captain. Doctor.”

Their attention was focused on each other until she spoke; then they glanced in her direction. Both of them grinned. “Good morning, Doctor Marcus,” Jim said.

“Good morning,” Leonard added.

“Nice to see both of you,” Carol said as she took her station. It didn’t escape her notice that both of their hair was damp. Judging from the pleased looks on Hikaru and Nyota’s faces, it didn’t escape them, either.

“It’s a beautiful day to be in warp,” Jim said.

Leonard sighed but smiled at him.

Carol began to take readings on her sensors; they were due to observe a small planet in previously uncharted space. Spock sat next to her; he caught her eye and gave her a nod. Carol returned the nod with a grin.

“Steady as she goes, Mister Sulu,” Jim said. “Warp factor four.”

“Aye, sir.” Hikaru steered the ship in the right direction with Pavel’s careful instructions.

Carol thought back to what Jim said to her the first day of the mission, that she was part of the family now. Her gaze landed on her new friends each in turn, lingering on Jim, Leonard, Nyota, and Hikaru.

It was true what she’d told him; it was definitely nice to have a family.