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McCoy knows better than to be careless. When he brushes past Kirk, there’s always a sense of electricity between them, and though he sometimes wonders if he’s imagining it, he knows because it’s that obvious.

Of course, when Captain Jim Kirk kisses him for the first time, it reminds him of why he started chasing stars in the first place. Among other things.

The complexity begins about three months into the five year mission.

It happens first when McCoy catches Kirk nuzzling Uhura in a way that’s just a little more than platonic. They laugh and brush it off, but McCoy can see the way Uhura blushes and how Kirk ducks his head on the way back to the captain’s chair. McCoy even considers saying something to Spock, telling him about what he walked in on, but he’s kind of positive that Spock…won’t believe him.

It doesn’t make sense, anyway, because Kirk still drifts into sick bay while McCoy is sorting through files alone in the deep hours of the night when he can’t sleep. And Kirk drags him onto one of the cots without words and kisses the breath out of him.

And McCoy lets him.

They aren’t a thing. It wouldn’t matter to McCoy if Kirk was…with someone else. Or whatever. The sex is good. And the way that Kirk looks at him afterwards, all breathless and wild and rough fingers, makes everything worth it. McCoy would lie to everyone who asked if Kirk told him to. Particularly, about the sex.

He kisses Kirk’s throat and entwines their fingers and imagines a universe where they aren’t caught in sloppy rules and a relationship that doesn’t make a lot of sense.

It’s – different when he sees Spock and Kirk touching.

He looks away before Spock catches him but they know.

It – doesn’t compute. The intimacy that Vulcans share, combined with human intimacy sets McCoy off.

“Bones,” Jim says, and he reaches out as if to grab McCoy’s elbow and then rethinks it as McCoy slides out of the room.

He hadn’t meant to catch them, and now he’s embarrassed and kind of…distressed. He heads back to sick bay and thinks about the gentle touching of their fingers, their mouths hovering close. He’s seen Spock kiss Uhura before, and sometimes their hands brush, but that always seemed like the kind of gentle romantic intimacy that couples shared. This was erotic. He caught Jim and Spock in the most erotic act he’s ever even seen a Vulcan, half or otherwise, engage in.

It’s…humiliating.

And incredibly confusing.

Especially when he sees Spock and Uhura kiss in the hallway the very next day. Uhura even has the audacity to wink at him and McCoy…McCoy is missing something. Spock, on the other hand, gives no hints. Absolutely useless.

Kirk snags him two days later, when McCoy isn’t paying attention, and kisses him hard on the mouth.

Jim drags him into an empty room across from sick bay and presses him against the wall and McCoy melts into it because he can’t complain about getting laid, no matter how confusing the circumstances are, and Jim is grinding against him, pressing a leg between his thighs and opening his mouth with his tongue and then –

Without warning, he’s gone.

“Bones,” Jim says, pulling back and planting his heads against the wall on both sides of McCoy’s head. “I need to ask you something.”

“Um,” McCoy says, breathless. He licks his lips and looks at Kirk’s eyes and realizes he’d agree to damn near anything at the moment. He wants to reach out and grab Kirk’s ugly yellow shirt and yank it off, he wants to defile him, he wants every inch of Jim Kirk’s skin against him but.

Jim is stepping back, giving him a shit-eating grin.

“I haven’t been totally honest with you.”

“I don’t care,” McCoy blurts and he ducks his head.

“Get it together, Bones.” There’s a light sense of teasing but he’s…tense, too. “I know you’ve caught me twice.”

McCoy frowns and pauses before looking back up at Jim, who looks downright sheepish all of the sudden. He’s rubbing the back of his neck and he gives a tiny shrug of his shoulders with a lopsided smile.

“What?” McCoy says.

Jim sighs and starts to frown. “I know you saw Spock and I,” he says and McCoy cringes. “And Uhura and I. And you’ve seen Spock and Uhura.”

“Well,” says McCoy, still leaning against the wall for support. “I already knew about Spock and Uhura…”

“No, they don’t really keep it a secret, do they?” Jim laughs but it’s kind of stiff, almost like he’s nervous. He rubs his hands together then presses them to the thighs of his pants, licking his lips and looking back at McCoy. “There’s sort of developed a…thing.”

“I noticed,” McCoy admits. “Kind of…hard to miss.” He was able to write off the Kirk and Uhura thing, but Spock and Kirk? That was too much to ignore, as hard as he had tried to. He feels a little more comfortable with it out in the open.

“I want you to be a part of it.”

McCoy presses his lips together. “A part of what?”

“A part of us.”

“I don’t…know what that means.”

“Sleep with us.”

“Well,” McCoy says, taking a breath. “That was blunt enough.”

Kirk grins. Nothing about this is fair, especially not the look on his face. Especially not the fact that Kirk dragged him in here to make-out and is now telling him to join a foursome with Uhura and…Spock.

The Spock part is exceptionally weird.

“Think about it,” Jim says, and he claps McCoy on the shoulder. “You know where I’ll be.”

And then Jim Kirk fucking leaves McCoy leaning against a wall, still barely catching his breath and half-hard, with nothing but fear on the horizon.

“Oh,” he mutters to himself when the room is empty and still. “Fuck you.”

-

He’s going to say no. He’s ready to say no, in fact. There’s no way in hell that Spock and Uhura are interested in him, anyway. Fucking kids and their sexual liberation or whatever. He’s not interested. Sleeping with Kirk is fine, and he doesn’t care if Kirk sleeps with them. He doesn’t care.

There’s just no fucking way that Spock and Uhura want him to join their triad. Kirk makes sense because he’s the captain and he has blue eyes and handsome features and god, he’s good in bed. McCoy feels like the fourth wheel in the fantasy, in some alternate reality where fourth wheels are useless. It almost feels like a pity offer, and every time he glances over at Kirk, he gets just a little angrier and a little more convinced that Kirk asked for selfish reasons.

That is, until he starts to notice Spock fucking staring.

It’s not his normal staring, either. It’s the kind of deep, entranced staring that makes McCoy very uncomfortable.

And Uhura brushes his shoulder with just a tab bit more intimacy than is probably required.

And then Spock even touches him. Not for three seconds, but for at least five. He holds McCoy’s gaze and licks his lips as he speaks and McCoy stutters out his response, something about how one of the medics is sick and they’ll have to deal with the fallout of her absence before they do anything else.

Spock nods and drags his hand down McCoy’s arm.

Carol Marcus frowns when McCoy steps into sick bay. “What’s up with Spock?” she says, and McCoy just shakes his head. He couldn’t answer that question before, and he certainly can’t answer it now.

They’re all staring at him in intervals. And it kind of pisses McCoy off because don’t they have jobs to do? Isn’t there more to life than sex? He can admit that no, there really isn’t, but still. Jim is a captain. Spock’s a commanding officer. They should be paying more attention to their jobs than to him.

Except that maybe he’s exaggerating the amount of attention he’s receiving. Still, it’s…nerve wracking. Especially when no one says anything.

Kirk corners him again a week later. “You never answered my question,” he demands, and McCoy slips on words trying to come up with an excuse until Kirk’s mouth is flush on his, and they’re grabbing at each other and McCoy thinks maybe he’s allowed to forget this and just have sex with Kirk and move on.

They do fuck in McCoy’s bed and it’s amazing and McCoy rolls over and kisses Kirk’s neck and starts to fall asleep.

Except Kirk interrupts him with a snap. “Hey. Hey, no one gave you permission to doze.”

McCoy opens his eyes and scowls. “You’re a greedy little bastard, you know that?”

Jim grins. “I’m your captain,” he says, and pecks McCoy on the nose. “Did you think about my offer?”

“Look, Jim,” McCoy says with a sigh, sitting up. Jim’s hand trails down his chest and he wants to pick it up and move it but can’t find the heart. “I know you mean well, and I know you and…Uhura, and Spock, all have your little, thing. Whatever you call it.” He waves his hand around in a vague gesture and glares when Jim smirks. “But I don’t think I belong in there. It’s…four’s a crowd.”

“Three’s a crowd too,” Jim says under his breath, kissing down McCoy’s chest and stopping at his navel, making little tickling licks over his skin. McCoy locks his fingers in Kirk’s hair as he starts to suck on McCoy’s hipbone, humming against his skin. As he sits up a little, McCoy’s hand still in his hair, he says, “We want you.” His voice is thick and his eyes are bright and all McCoy can do is swallow. “I want you. We all want you.”

“Spock’s been inappropriate,” McCoy grumbles and Jim rolls over, laughing. McCoy lets go of his hair and folds his arms over his chest. “Touching me for longer than necessary.”

“He’s trying to tell you the same,” Jim explains in that soft, persuasive tone of his. He touches his knuckles against McCoy’s chest. “Bones, please. Just once. I promise it’s not…it’s not that weird.”

“Fine. I’ll…do whatever you want me to.”

Jim grins and sits up and kisses McCoy in the messiest kiss McCoy’s ever experienced. “You won’t regret it,” he says, and hops out of bed, hurrying to get dressed.

McCoy’s willing to bet a lot of money that that isn’t true.

-

He’s glad he didn’t take that bet.

He isn’t sure how it works, but it isn’t just sex. It’s physicality, and there’s something about them that fits in a way he can’t exactly describe. It’s careful and precise. It’s every moment that counts, every touch that sends sparks. It’s how Kirk kisses Uhura’s neck and how his fingers brush through Spock’s hair and how Spock’s fingers, in turn, grapple with McCoy’s waistband.

It’s the best sex he’s ever had and he has no idea how to describe it.

Uhura brushes her fingers along his chest and grips his hip and then rolls on top of him. They’re crowded in the bed now, and he’s pretty sure it’s Kirk’s but it’s still not big enough for them all, cramped together on one bed, legs and hands tangled together.

It’s peaceful. Kirk is asleep now, his warm breath resting against McCoy’s throat as McCoy stares at the ceiling in the dark. They’re all…naked, and quiet, and together. And McCoy isn’t sure if this is a good idea, but as he slings his arm around Jim’s shoulders and tugs him closer so their skin is pressing close and at least now, they’re comfortable.

-

They brush against him in ways that McCoy isn’t sure how to explain because it doesn’t feel right or normal. Uhura starts to touch him when he doesn’t expect it. She leaves her hand on his shoulder for just an extra moment and McCoy wants to touch her, too. It’s his natural reaction.

Spock holds his gaze with McCoy for longer and sometimes he smirks before slipping his shoulder as he walks past. The tension between them is still there but now – McCoy trusts Spock more than he ever did, and he thinks the feeling is mutual.

Still. It’s just…sex.

It’s good sex. It’s the best release that’s ever occurred to him. It’s touch that’s hot and burns in ways McCoy doesn’t remember. He can’t remember the last time it felt like this, because there’s something so much gentler with the way that Kirk touches, something about Kirk that makes everything softer in a similar way that he can’t explain, either.

Jim is kissing him.

“Hi,” he says between breaths and McCoy chuckles, stretching out on his own bed, a rare occurrence with all the time he’s been spending in Kirk’s room for various reasons. He’s glad that the whole…foursome, or whatever, hasn’t stopped Jim from cornering him and kissing him breathless when he isn’t expecting it. Pulling him into supply closets, locking doors that really shouldn’t be locked.

“Hi,” McCoy says, sliding his hands up Kirk’s chest, under his shirt.

“I think,” Jim says as he kisses McCoy’s neck, “that we have a problem.”

“What?” McCoy says, pulling back and frowning at Jim. “What do you mean?”

Jim is smiling, and it’s that kind of hazy smile he gets when he’s overjoyed or too excited, like he’s just discovered the real marvels of the universe and has to share them, now, or he’ll never be satiated.

“I think there’s a fundamental misunderstanding,” Jim says, and he’s still pressed close enough to McCoy that he feels a little distracted, but not too close that his mind goes into overdrive and he can start just ignoring what Jim is saying. “I think that you think that we just want you for fucking.”

McCoy blinks and rests a hand on the back of Jim’s neck, massaging under his hairline. Jim hums and ruts against him, pressing McCoy back into the bed. He pauses to look at Jim and study his face for a minute, but nothing about it betrays anything but seriousness.

“Well,” he says, going slow with his words, “I apologize, but it’s kind of hard for me to believe that Spock wants…anything to do with me, to be honest.”

Jim chuckles. “Spock likes you,” he says, kissing McCoy’s neck and jaw again, like it’s a secret. “Bones, don’t laugh,” he says, nipping his skin, but McCoy can’t help the chuckle followed by the gasp. He hums and closes his eyes. “He was actually the first one to suggest it.”

“Oh?” McCoy murmurs. He’s not sure if he believes it.

Jim’s hand slides into his pants and McCoy lifts his hips as Jim starts to jerk him off in slow strokes. They’re both quiet for a moment besides McCoy’s ragged breathing until Jim says, “Yeah, he cornered me.” He twists his palm and squeezes and McCoy keens, turning his face. “He knew we were…uh…” Jim leans down and presses his chest against McCoy’s, his face into his neck as he thumbs over the slit of his cock. “Doing this.”

McCoy isn’t sure if his face is getting hot because that’s embarrassing or because his stomach is curling with an approaching orgasm. Maybe a combination.

Jim sighs into his mouth. “I’m sorry,” he whispers, jacking McCoy harder – and obviously he isn’t sorry at all. “He just convinced me.” Jim’s voice is fucking music, soft and low and perfect against the shell of McCoy’s ear. He teeths the skin with soft scrapes and lets out another small sigh that shudders through McCoy. “And Uhura was into it too, they just…I caved. I’m so sorry.”

McCoy grabs Kirk’s hair again and pulls him into a hard kiss, teeth colliding and rough lips sliding together. It’s a good kiss though, and Jim is pumping him fast now, breathing hard and pressing his cock against McCoy’s hip and grinding down.

McCoy comes with a gasp, hips twitching up on the bed. His breath is desperate, too loud, and Kirk is buried against him now, whispering words into his skin that McCoy can’t make out almost like a prayer.

McCoy manages to roll over after he catches his breath and he tries to return the favor, but it’s sloppy and not quite as beautiful. Still, there’s nothing like watching Jim squirm and arches underneath him as McCoy jacks his cock with expert precision and insistence. He leans against Kirk’s mouth and tells him to come, says it on his lips and it’s amazing to watch, beautiful even, as Jim’s body stretches and his breath heaves, and he does exactly what McCoy had told him to.

The noises he makes are gorgeous too. Just another perk of sleeping with the Captain of a starship, McCoy supposes.

Of course, they have to talk afterward.

“I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable,” Jim says, and McCoy nods because he does believe him – he really does. “But we want you. We all do. And not just sex. Not just sex.”

“What else?” McCoy says, because if anything’s confusing him, it’s that. He has a hard time separating the relationship he’s sort of been entangled in for the last couple of weeks and sex, because it’s almost been totally sex. Which is great, sex is great, but if Kirk wants him to buy what he’s selling, he’s going to have to try harder than that.

“There’s a reason Spock looks at you like that. You know the look I’m talking about. The hungry one.”

McCoy smiles because yeah, he knows exactly the look that Jim is talking about. Spock just gets it sometimes, in a way that’s indescribable besides maybe, yes, hungry. Something that has to be Vulcan in origin because McCoy’s never seen another human being channel so much intensity into one measly expression.

It’s probably better that way.

“Always thought Spock hated me,” McCoy admits and Kirk chuckles, running his hand over McCoy’s chest and kissing a scar above his abs. “He never seemed very fond of my opinions, at the very least.”

“And you never seemed very fond of his, but…” Jim pauses and McCoy frowns because he can tell that Jim is expecting him to finish the sentence.

“I respect him,” McCoy finally says after Jim stays silent. He lets out a sigh and leans back into the pillow. At least the bed is comfort, at least being with Jim is comfort if nothing else can really work in his favor. “That’s not fair,” he says, but he knows it’s a weak argument. “Respect is not equivalent to like, and it’s definitely not equivalent to…sex.”

Jim sits up and shrugs as if it’s the simplest thing in the world, carding a hand through his hair. He looks disheveled in the best way and McCoy can’t help but stare, trying to pay attention to Jim beyond the base attraction he feels.

“To Spock it is,” he explains, and to Jim it’s that simple. “And Uhura,” he says with a soft additional laugh. “She loves you. It’s just not in the way you’d think.”

-

Spock and Uhura return from a planetary mission with mostly minor cuts and bruises, but Spock brings Uhura to medical bay with a stern expression and says, forcefully, “Make sure that she does not have a concussion.”

McCoy raises an eyebrow but just nods and leads Uhura, who rolls her eyes, into a private room.

“I don’t need to be taken care of,” she says as he starts to examine the gash in her head.

He sighs. “Yes, you really do. We don’t want anything dangerous to happen,” he says, starting to tend to the wound. “I’m going to keep you under observation for a few hours. Give me your arm.” Uhura holds out her arm obediently and he sticks her with a needle. “That’ll keep you from passing out.”

“I’m not going to pass out.” McCoy hums and continue treating her head in silence.

“Are you in love with him?”

McCoy curses. “I just nearly ripped your skin off your head,” he snaps, glaring. Uhura just smiles.

“Unprofessional,” she says.

McCoy likes Uhura, in general. She’s…spunky, in a lot of ways. Upfront about her feelings, honest but not to a fault. She’s kind, too. McCoy would be hard pressed to find something about her that would really count as a serious character flaw. Maybe speaking out with obnoxious questions is exactly what he was thinking of, though.

“So?” she says.

McCoy sighs. “You’re not gonna let it go, are you?” he asks, pulling off the rubber gloves and tossing them into the waste bin in the corner. “I should leave.”

“You have me under observation,” Uhura says with a teasing smile.

He leans his head back and groans.

“Answer the question.”

He doesn’t. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I’m in love with Spock,” she says, blunt and to the point, and he shoots her a sharp look, and a frown. “What? Isn’t that much obvious?”

He hesitates. “You two have a very confusing relationship,” he admits, frowning and licking his lips. “Kind of hard to tell what the line is, sometimes.”

“Well, I love him. I’m in love with him, and I’m happy. And…I also kind of love Kirk.”

McCoy stares at her. She stares back.

“Don’t tell him that, though,” she says, and she smiles again. He doesn’t know what to say. He doesn’t want to answer her question, that’s for damn sure, but now he’s – thinking. Thinking about her question. Thinking about his answer, or the answer that could be, maybe. But he just still isn’t sure.

“I won’t,” he murmurs after a moment and Uhura chuckles.

“You’d do anything for him,” she says.

“The Captain or Jim?” He knows that there’s importance in distinguishing the difference. Because there is a difference, even if they share the same name, are the same person.

“Both,” she answers after a thoughtful moment. “But in this instance, I mean Jim.”

McCoy swallows around the lump in his throat. “I don’t know about anything,” he challenges weakly.

“You would follow him off a cliff on a foreign planet because you trust him that much,” Uhura says, and McCoy winces because dammit, he wishes that weren’t true. “You’d risk your life for him and he’d do the same. You’d die for each other. There isn’t anything else that needs to be said or questioned when Jim Kirk is involved.” When he looks at her again, she shrugs, but her eyes and her smile are affectionate. “It’s okay to be in love with him. He’s in love with you, too.”

“I don’t…I don’t think you…I don’t know if that’s really accurate,” he stammers, pretending to pay attention to a tablet with information on recent patients he’s looked at a hundred times.

“Maybe you’d be surprised.”

-

Kirk is sitting in a bubble bath.

McCoy can’t remember the last time he had a bubble bath, or saw anyone taking a bubble bath. It’s an accident that he walks into Kirk’s bathroom while he and Uhura are naked in the tub, Uhura’s legs leaning on the tile-wall next to Kirk’s head and Kirk washing his hair.

“I…”

Uhura is the first to look up. “Hey, Bones.”

“Don’t call me that.” Which shouldn’t be the first thing out of his mouth, but it is and it’s too late to take it back – he frowns. “Where’s Spock?” And that shouldn’t be the second thing out of his mouth because dammit, he’d been looking for Kirk, anyway.

“Did you just walk into my bathroom looking for Spock?” Jim asks before ducking under the water. McCoy glares at the place where he went under and Jim grins when he pulls back up, running his hands through his wet hair. “Sorry, had to rinse.”

“No, I…” McCoy pauses, shakes his head. “I was looking for you. That was stupid. I shouldn’t have come into your bathroom, sorry.”

He leaves the bathroom, even though Uhura calls after him. He frowns when he sees Spock sitting on the bed but at least he’s fully clothed.

“Doctor McCoy,” Spock says, a tense greeting. McCoy thrusts his chin in Spock’s direction as a hello and steps out of the room. Sure, automatic doors are great, but damn if McCoy didn’t miss the passive aggression of getting to slam a door in someone’s face.

He isn’t quite sure why he’s angry. They’re not doing anything to him, and it’s not like he’s even remotely interested in monogamy with Jim. Monogamy, or maybe just relationships in general that implied commitment, weren’t usually McCoy’s best bet. It wasn’t that he was a cheater, either – he never cheated on Jocelyn – it was that he simply wasn’t happy.

And now he’s got everything confused because the way that Uhura talks about Spock (and the way that Spock looks at Uhura) is starting to hit too close to home in a way that seems sort of…unfamiliar but inevitable. Uhura had asked him if he was in love with Jim and that question wasn’t one he had an answer to, not really, because it wasn’t so cut and dry.

Captain Jim Kirk.

All his ridiculousness, all of his kisses, all of his loud voices and goddamn insistence that McCoy be a part of a whole…

As if McCoy could ever really be whole.

And therein lies the problem.

McCoy just isn’t sure how to deal with it.

-

Still, that doesn’t stop him from coming to bed with them. And mostly, it is just sex. It’s sex and it’s physical comfort and he can be okay with that because it seems to fit with the dynamic. Whatever that dynamic is. Sometimes, being kissed by Spock is a little weird. Having Uhura’s hands roam over his thighs and tug him apart and being unraveled by Kirk’s kisses at the same time is overwhelming, at best. But still.

Still.

It changes the way they are around each other. McCoy isn’t sure what that means. He isn’t sure how it drags on. He isn’t sure if he believes Kirk when Kirk says they love him. He isn’t sure if he loves them too. He loves Kirk, yeah, Uhura in a way – and yes, even Spock. He cares deeply about all three of them, but as a cohesive unit? It’s a totally different story altogether. Kirk, Uhura, and Spock.

That makes sense to McCoy, at least in theory. The three of them. There’s always been something. Spock and Kirk’s friendship was beyond friendship from the moment they spoke to each other. McCoy had sensed the tension and imagined its development long before they had even started on the Enterprise, anyway. And bow, he sees it, and it makes sense. They’re compatible, opposites in every way but then they lock together, passion and drive and logic creating a balance that makes McCoy a little nervous for himself.

Spock and Uhura makes sense to, in the oddest way. He has a sense of humor when it comes to her. He plays her music, smirks a little, and she laughs at his jokes which aren’t jokes to anyone else. And when she kisses, McCoy can tell it’s the perfect kind of gentle kiss that they spoke about before they kissed. And when their hands touch, it’s the same kind of thing. It comes from somewhere deep, somewhere that connections are made with the lightest brush of lips or fingers. No careless touching.

No one ever touches carelessly.

When Spock grabs his arm and drags him down the hall, McCoy isn’t sure what to expect. One-on-one with Spock is the last thing he imagines, and he isn’t sure what’s first. Spock’s grip is hard without being rough, and his eyes are icy without being cold. He’s something of an enigma in that way, always hard to read.

Uhura and Kirk are standing next to each other, in uniform, in Spock’s bedroom. Spock and Uhura’s bedroom, actually – they had gone as far as to request one bedroom with a queen sized bed before the Enterprise left Earth again.

McCoy frowns.

“What’s up?” he asks. He’s expecting to be ambushed at this point, in all honesty. Which he doesn’t mind, as much as he thinks about it. It’s stress relief.

“Well,” Kirk says, “I keep trying to tell you that we’re in this together.”

McCoy glances at Uhura who smiles and then looks back at Spock, who lets go of his arm and steps into line beside Uhura. Their knuckles brush and McCoy feels his breath catch in his throat. He has to take a moment to even himself out.

Kirk smiles. “We want you.” There’s a deliberate pause and McCoy forgets to breathe, yet again. Kirk’s eyes are so goddamn blue. And Uhura is right next to him, giving that same knowing smile. Even Spock. Even fucking Spock. “We love you.”

Even worse. McCoy forgets to blink and his eyes start to dry and water and he has to tip his head down and wipes his nose and eyes with the back of his hand in the least nonchalant act of hiding his own supposed weakness he’s ever managed. No one moves though, like they’re waiting on him to act, to make a decision, and McCoy realizes that’s exactly what’s happening, that that’s what’s been happening. Maybe when he makes the decision, it’ll change the way they act around each other, the way they sleep together, the way they touch and move and slide and shift.

“Love,” Uhura says, her voice strong and sure. When she touches McCoy’s shoulder, he looks up again. Spock’s eyes are on him as well, and it’s this look that’s somewhere between that devastating hunger that swallows McCoy whole and adoration. McCoy wonders, vaguely, if that look is just reserved for Uhura and it’s coming out because she’s right there. “You heard the captain.”

“Can’t disagree with the captain,” Jim says, his hand sliding down McCoy’s arm. He squeezes his elbow and then drags his thumb over McCoy’s wrist and tangles their fingers together.

He doesn’t know how to respond to that. He swallows, glances up, catches all of their eyes in turn. A beat of silence. No tension; that all melts away when they look at each other. Terms simultaneously unspoken and agreed upon because for once, yes, it can be that simple.

It has to be that simple.

Uhura kisses him first, and although kissing Uhura just feels like kissing a best friend on accident, something blooms up in his chest that hadn’t happened the other time. Spock is laughing and Jim joins him when they end up on the floor, Uhura on her ass and pulling McCoy on top of her and – well, it is funny, and McCoy has to balance himself on his elbow and gets pulled up by the waist by Spock, who stays close and brushes his nose along McCoy’s throat in a way that used to be intimidating.

Now it’s not. Now McCoy knows. Now McCoy understands.

He wants to protect them, and that just makes him all the more fiercely greedy. He grabs onto Kirk and they tumble. Maybe if there isn’t room in the bed, they can switch every night. Start a rotation, start a plan. McCoy’s pretty sure no one would quite understand that yes, he’s in love with Jim Kirk, no, he doesn’t care that they’re having group sex. And yes, of course he loves Uhura, of course he loves Spock, of course they love him too.

There’s nothing that makes him feel more alive.