“I wouldn’t ask if there was another option, Bones. But I’m stuck. I can’t think of a single thing.” Jim said, pain in his eyes that he didn’t often let show. It was the sort of hurt that he got when he spoke about his family, or his death. It was the sort of bright, piercing agony that made Leonard absolutely weak. Typically. But this was not typical, it was insane.
“Nyota.” He suggested, trying not to sound as panicked as he felt. “Chekov. Chapel. Hell, you!”
“Bones…” Jim shook his head slowly, casting down his gaze like the solemn child he’d never been in Leonard’s experience. “Nyota and Christine are getting married. Even if Pavel had the rank to keep him here, he’s barely twenty.” As if age made a difference in this – Leonard wanted to think in anger, but he couldn’t, because it did. Chekov wouldn’t have a damn clue how to cope with this. At least Leonard had attempted it before. “And I would do it, Len, to keep him here, but I know you wouldn’t actually want me to.”
He closed his eyes softly, a weak barrier against the Captain’s pity but a barrier nonetheless. He wanted – god he wanted – but not like this.
“I’m sorry, Bones.”
“Don’t – Jim.” Bones hung his head, pinched the bridge of his nose. “When?”
The sudden hope in Jim’s tone was unavoidable and heart-crushing, if still tinged with regret. “As soon as possible. They can’t take you away from me, and they can’t take him away from you.” It was almost perfect. Jim was alive and breathing because of Leonard’s open pursuit of playing God, and now Starfleet had to tie them together for the rest of their active working lives to stop their poster-boy-slash-idiot-hero-Captain from dying. That was Leonard’s duty, to his friend and to his career. And now it was sealing his fate.
“Fine. I’ll be here all day.” Primarily because he didn’t think he could stand up and walk out of his office without collapsing and dying.
“Really – Bones?” Jim asked, all giddy with possibility and hope and probably a dozen different anxiety and adrenaline responses.
“We don’t really have a choice, do we?” He promptly held up a hand, to stop Jim’s impending speech about how he did have a choice, and they could always find another way, and how he would never have asked if he could have thought of anything else. It was unnecessary, and it hadn’t been Leonard’s intention to make Jim feel guilty. It wasn’t Jim’s fault. It was Starfleet’s. But even then, Leonard could see why. They were running short on Captains. Spock was qualified. If anything, they were selfish to keep him on the Enterprise.
Leonard just needed to convince himself of that, even when it felt like he was giving up far more than anyone could imagine.
“Okay. I’ll go talk to him.” Jim stood, his chair pushing back with a scrape. “Thank you, Bones. Really. I need him here.”
Leonard nodded and waved his friend away, if only so he could have some time to think and breathe and, hell, find one of the few bottles of whiskey he’d stashed in his office. Jim may have had his bond with the damn First Officer, but he sure as hell wasn’t the only one who needed him.
Spock’s hand didn’t shake when he signed the form, but Leonard’s did. He silently cursed Vulcan physiology because he didn’t trust his voice any more than his hands, handing Jim back the PADD and retreating behind his desk rapidly. Neither the Captain nor the First Officer commented on his awkward state, completing this sham of - oh god- Leonard choked back the remnants of his drink.
Leonard looked up and Jim was gone, and it was only Spock staring down at him with his usual neutral expression. Like this wasn’t shattering their lives as they knew them. Leonard felt vaguely nauseous.
“What?” He asked, before letting his shoulders sink. “Sorry, Spock. I didn’t mean to be rude. I just… didn’t expect this when I got up for work this morning.”
“I understand, Doctor.” Spock said. “I wished to convey my gratitude for what you have done today. I … I am aware that this has not been easy for you.”
“Spock, stop it.” Leonard shook his head. “This is just something we have to do, right? It’s fine. We’ll get through it.” Only there was no we, and nothing was actually going to change. Just one colleague helping out another. “Okay?”
Spock straightened his spine and looked, if possible, taller as he looked down to Leonard’s slumped and probably a little tipsy looking form. None of Jim’s pity, but not a bearable gaze either.
“Indeed.” Not pity, thank god, but somehow harsher. Like now that Spock had realised he didn’t need to be grateful to Leonard, he thought he could be a massive dick. Well, fine. That would make it easier actually. Kill any lingering feelings. “Good evening, Doctor McCoy.”
Leonard didn’t bother to reply.
Leonard got to keep his quarters, but somehow it didn’t really make a difference. His walls were the same and he was just as close to sickbay if ever there was an emergency that required his immediate presence, but they were no longer his quarters. Not his space anymore. Spock had moved in quietly, thankfully, but that hadn’t stopped the gossip spiralling through the ship the moment some ensign had witnessed Spock stepping side with his possessions. The secret had finally been let out, and Leonard hated it. Every offer of congratulations and quizzical grin was like a thump to his chest.
It would have been easier to lie, Leonard thought, if he wasn’t so heartbroken. He was glad Jim had declined to marry Spock, because that probably would have been ten times harder. But Spock wasn’t a bad roommate, when he was actually around. He was clean and courteous, and offered intelligent conversation when the whim struck him. Leonard tried his damn hardest to remain cool and detached, but Spock was too good and too easy to be with – and it only served to remind him why he liked the damn loyal, insufferable git in the first place.
Leonard got to keep his quarters, but that didn’t mean jack. Marriage was about compromise, right? That was the idea. Maybe this wasn’t a real marriage outside of paper – but Spock was a real person, being, with feelings – however hard he hid them.
“Spock.” Leonard said, before he could talk himself out of it. “Your quarters – before – they were different.”
Spock arched a brow, conveying that he thought Leonard was a complete moron. “Yes, Doctor.” He replied steadily.
“I didn’t mean it like that you –“ He hissed out a breath through gritted teeth. “I meant that your previous quarters were decorated – ya’ know, all Vulcan.”
Spock blinked, as if surprised Leonard had remembered. Or bothered to bring it up. Or even noticed in the first place. Hell, Leonard agreed. He’d maybe visited Spock’s quarters twice in his duty as CMO. Once for illness, and once to try and convince the idiot to stop thinking and sleep for a few hours. Neither visit had been remotely successful, but nor had they provided ample observation time for the private rooms of their Vulcan. The fact that Leonard had recalled the specific details either said ample about his hopelessly pathetic crush on his – goddamn – husband, or that he was a nosy bastard that paid more attention to his surroundings than his patients. Leonard was reluctantly inclined to hope it was the former.
“I did not wish to encroach on your space, Doctor.”
Leonard huffed out a laugh – as if a few hanging drapes compared to Spock’s persistent presence in his life. He drummed his fingers on his – their – coffee table, and shrugged. “It’s your space too, now. Besides, it’s not like I have too much of my own décor.” Aside from a few outdated pictures of Jo, and a bunch of books Jim had given him over the years, trying in vain to convince him over to the paper-side. Leonard was happy with his PADDs, and his good eyesight.
“Very well.” Spock said, setting down his tea and his own PADD and retreating into their bedroom. Their bedroom, where they had yet to even sleep together. Not too unlike his actual marriage, towards the end, Leonard thought with some amusement. It was for the best, anyway. For once, he was grateful that Spock tended to push himself with his sleeping requirements – always, apparently, waiting until Leonard was on-shift and Spock was not to finally catch a few winks. Which, again, was fine. Maybe a bit weird if their marriage meant a damn, which it didn’t, so it was fine.
When Spock returned, he was holding a box full to the brim with rich-coloured fabrics and incense equipment that smelled like Spock at Breakfast, or in the middle of the night at a Red Alert. Strong and resilient and comforting. Leonard tried not to breathe too deeply or obviously, even as he discarded his work and rose to investigate Spock’s box of possessions.
“You are certain, Doctor?”
“You’re going to be here for a while, Spock. You may as well be comfortable.” Leonard shrugged. “And you should probably call me Leonard.”
Spock quirked his brow again, but he didn’t look annoying or teasing or displeased – and Leonard did finally understand the Vulcan difference between those looks, much to Jim’s disappointment that he was no longer the only one. As if Jim hadn’t been effectively tutoring Leonard in the art since the minute he worked out who Leonard was secretly pining for, being the stupidly good friend he was.
“Indeed, Leonard.” Spock said, pulling out a small golden chest.
“That would look good on the top shelf.” Leonard offered with a smile, returning to his chair to finish his report.
“Doctor McCoy, will you and Commander Spock be attending the Christmas Party?” Christine asked, as the med-staff exited their monthly meeting. Leonard typically stayed in the meeting room, organising his notes and his plan for the day before returning to his office to actually get his work done. Christine knew this, and used it to trap him. The entire ship seemed to go insane every time he and Spock happened to be in the same room. Not their real friends, who accepted they were private people who weren’t about to act all affectionate out of the blue. Only Jim was aware that zero affection existed, at least on Spock’s part, and so that suited all of them just fine. But the general crew were so deprived of gossip that they’d take anything they could get.
Leonard, for one, had no intention of giving them anything. He may have wanted nothing more than to take Spock to a dark, noisy mess and dance with him to ridiculous Christmas music, but that was probably Spock’s worst nightmare.
“I already replied no.” Leonard explained. “Spock doesn’t celebrate Christmas, and one of us needs to be ready to man sickbay the morning after.” He added, expertly switching the subject from Spock and him to Christine, and her future hangover, teasing as if he didn’t feel a little bit dead inside from denying himself that. Hell, he hadn’t spent a Christmas fully sober since his divorce. At least this year he’d be getting a com from his little girl- at least his ex was starting to come around, if slowly.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Doctor McCoy. I’m the picture of sobriety.” Chapel grinned warmly. “Besides, I’ll have my own better half to look after me.”
Leonard laughed heartily, and utterly faked, tucking his PADD under his arm and heading in the opposite direction to Christine. Maybe he’d visit Jim before starting his work properly. The Captain had complained about a headache the day before, and it was Leonard’s duty to make sure he was better today. If that meant a trip the bridge, so be it.
The turbolift had been going for barely a stop before Spock entered, gaze lingering on Leonard for a fraction of a second as he joined him in the enclosed space.
“Leonard. I had not anticipated your presence on the bridge today. Is there an issue?”
“Nope, just checking in on Jim.” Leonard swayed on his feet. “Do- D’you even celebrate any earth holidays? I know Christmas is a no-go, but-?”
“As a child, my mother observed Hanukah. It is not something I have thought about in recent years.” Since her death, Leonard heard in the following silence. “I do not recall you celebrating with the crew for Christmas, Leonard.”
“No, I don’t, generally. I com my Jo, and that’s about it.”
“She will turn eight in the new year.” Spock said, factually, and then the lift doors opened to the bridge and he was gone. Leonard followed, unwilling to stand gormless in the open lift for long enough for Jim to make fun of him – or worse, worry. But honestly, Spock had remembered, and Leonard was floored by it. His little girl, his baby, was turning eight. Leonard was terrified because hell, eight was another year closer to ten, which was another year closer to her teens, and Leonard was missing all of it. Somehow, he got the feeling that Spock knew.
“Hey Bones. My headache cleared up with some sleep, I promise.” Jim chirped, swivelling as Leonard followed Spock towards him. “No need to jab me.”
“I’ll be the judge of that.” Leonard replied, gruffly, trying hard to pay attention to his best friend and not the enigmatic First Officer he happened to be married to, settling into his work station.
“Leonard, you require sleep. You have now been working for 19.77 hours.”
“I’ve gone longer.” Leonard muttered, but he couldn’t deny how good sleep sounded now that they were safely back on the Enterprise, in the relative warmth, and so close to their quarters. But medbay was closer – and Jim was there, recovering, safe too. Leonard should have been a better friend and a better Doctor. He should have done more.
“Jim is alive because of your quick thinking. He will return to the Captain’s chair within a week. You ask too much of yourself, Doctor.”
“Leonard.” He corrected, absently, and that was all. He had no intention of arguing with Spock right now, because it rapidly dawned on him that his husband was effectively carrying him to their quarters anyway, and through their touching skin the bastard was reading his thoughts, and that would have annoyed Leonard immensely if he wasn’t so warmed by the fact Spock was even touching him. In all their marriage, he couldn’t recall Spock touching him once. Especially not skin on skin.
“Leonard.” Spock repeated, looking down at him through deep brown eyes that said a great deal more than even that reverential tone with which he said Leonard’s name. Like he was precious.
Leonard smiled as he closed his eyes, and replied, “Spock.”
When he opened them again, he was in bed, warm and aching but at least alive. And he was clutching an arm cooler than his own, but the skin was softer and much paler, and smelled like incense. Spock… Spock was in his bed, sleeping, the arm he’d not given to Leonard to use as a teddy tucked beneath his pillow. He was beautiful, even in the dark. As much of a rare occasion as this was, unlikely to ever happen again, Leonard wanted to treasure this. Pause time and replay over and over. Waking up, tired and sore but ultimately safe with Spock beside him.
And then Leonard let go of the arm he’d wound his own around, untangled himself from the sheets and padded into the bathroom for a long, hot shower to soothe his aching muscles. Then he had to go check on his idiot best friend, who was too damn brave for his own good, and make sure he’d survived the fucking night.
Leonard heard the softly spoken holy shit before he saw the cause. He saw Jim’s grin, devilish and formidable to any opponent. Then he turned, and saw Spock entering the Christmas Party. In uniform, but clearly not there on business. Just, heading towards them looking adorably out of place. Leonard was crushing as hard now as he had been when Jim first suggested the stupid marriage. But Christ, if he wasn’t glad Spock was still on the Enterprise. Hell, even in his quarters now. Leonard was a grown man, but he wasn’t sure how he’d cope with the silence if he ever had to live alone again. Not that Spock was noisy. But he was just there, always. Reliable, good company.
“Hey Spock. Glad you stopped by.” Jim greeted. “Hang on, I’ll get us some drinks.” And then he disappeared, not so subtly, leaving them alone.
“I thought you weren’t coming.”
“I thought the same of you, and yet here we are.” Spock replied neutrally.
“I decided to stop by.” Leonard shrugged. It was Christmas, after all, and tomorrow he’d get to see his little girl. If only by com. Besides, Jim had done that stupid I’ve never had a friend like you before face, and Leonard was a sucker. “I’d have told you, but I thought you’d be working.” Spock didn’t reply, but Leonard led them to a table and sat. “I wanted to thank you, Spock, for the other night. I needed… I don’t know, but thanks anyway.”
“Thanks are unnecessary. You are my husband, it is my duty.”
That should have been sweet. Leonard imagined Spock saying those words to him in their bed, skin on skin, whispering them like a promise to be the partner Leonard had never had. Then he blinked, and he was stood in a noisy mess, and his husband was there solely out of duty to his Ship, and Leonard had never felt so small.
“Right.” He wished Jim would hurry up with those drinks.
“Leonard, I –“
Whatever Spock was going to say was lost under the sudden wailing of the Red Alert, and the pounding heart Leonard experienced every damn time the ship faced some unexplained danger. Half the party raised, suddenly, laughter and music dying and replaced with a whole group of people just doing their duties. Spock was no different, not ever. The half-Vulcan straightened his spine and looked to the doorway, where Jim was obviously waiting for him.
“You should…” Leonard gestured idly towards their Captain, unsure why Spock was even delaying. If Spock looked slightly put-out, which he did because Leonard could tell now, he didn’t say another word. He simply turned on his heel and strode away.
In the rapidly emptying Officer’s Mess, Leonard hung his head and tried to calm himself down. Jim and Spock would deal with whatever shit was going down out in the hellscape of space, and Leonard would stay married and miserable for the rest of their mission. For Jim, and for Spock, and for himself. But after that, he was done. He couldn’t. It wasn’t duty for him, it was selfish and selfless and agony that grew more painful every day, no matter how many little breakthroughs he seemed to be making with Spock. If anything, they only made it harder.
A warm hand touched against his back, and Christine Chapel appeared at his side. “Don’t fret yet, Leonard. You’ll be back together soon, I’m sure of it.” She said, and Leonard almost wanted to cry.
“Thanks, Chris.” He said, hollowly. “I’ll meet you in medbay. I’m going to get changed first. Let me know if there’s any updates.”
“Sure.” Chris smiled a warm, knowing smile and then strode away, her engagement ring catching the party lights.
“Let me in!”
“Doctor McCoy, you are off-duty, I don’t want to see you so much as glance at his monitor-“
Leonard knocked over most of the instruments on his desk as he tore his blue shirt off, resisting the urge to fling it at Jim’s head, or strangle him with the fabric. “There! Now I’m just his husband. Let me see him!”
Jim bowed his head. “He’s fine, Bones, I promise. M’Benga even said. You realise it’s you we were all worried about.”
“Jim, you’ve got to let me see him.” Leonard repeated, ignoring his own pleading tone. He was not desperate. A week of agony, sleeplessness and cold was nothing compared to having been separated from Spock on the away mission. How the fuck a Christmas Party had turned into a Red Alert, had turned into being captured on a planet with Spock, Nyota and Sulu, was beyond Leonard. But they were back now, and safe, and Leonard had already been awake for a whole day. As far as Jim had explained it, Spock had got them all out alive. The damn, stupid, stubborn Vulcan. He’d been in a healing trance ever since.
Jim finally nodded and stepped aside, allowing Leonard to enter the private room.
Spock was slightly propped up in bed, and though he looked mostly healed he also looked exhausted. Leonard wasn’t surprised. But after all his arguing to be let in to see him, he suddenly found himself unable to approach.
Sometimes, he thought they should have let Spock be transferred to another ship. The ache of not being able to see him, of having to say goodbye – and watch Jim say goodbye too – might not have hurt quite as badly as this. As seeing Spock every day, sharing his life and routine, but not actually getting him. Of watching him in pain and fighting anyway. Leonard wasn’t strong enough for that. Maybe that was why he’d let Jo slip away too. Because saying goodbye to her was easier than seeing her once or twice a month, and still missing everything.
“Leonard.” Spock said, and Leonard remembered the last time they’d finished a mission. Spock sometimes spoke like the standard words were beautiful. Or maybe Leonard was imagining things.
“I am gratified you are safe.” And he sounded it. “You should be resting.”
“I needed to see you.” Leonard shrugged, trying not to convey just how desperately he’d needed to check up on his husband. “Thank you, for keeping us all alive.”
“It was my duty as First Officer.” Spock said, and Leonard tried not to feel crushed again. He knew it was Spock’s duty, how could he forget. But his imagination continued to set himself up to fail. “But as your husband, it is both my right and my honour to protect you.” Spock sat up, as if he hadn’t been a collection of broken bones and bruises just days before, and he looked at Leonard like his eyes were conveying something much deeper than words could. Leonard almost wished for Jim’s sixth sense – his confidence in all he believed. Leonard didn’t trust his instinct nearly the same way.
“What does that mean, Spock?” He asked, because it was the only way he could be certain. Silences, he’d learned, were a terrible trap.
“I had intended to ask you to the Christmas Party, though you attended alone before I could find you.” Spock explained quietly. “I had been preoccupied since then. Though if you would permit me, I wish to ask you out in the near future. Jim has been attempting to coach me, though I apologise that my technique has not yet been refined.”
Aside from a desire to strangle Jim with his bare hands, Leonard felt pretty fucking euphoric. “I’d say your technique is pretty damn great, Spock.” He managed to get out, fingers toying at Spock’s bedsheets.
“Thank you, Leonard.” Spock said, softly.
“Thanks are unnecessary.” Leonard whispered, because that was all he could manage, before he moved closer and captured Spock’s lips in a kiss. Careful and light, because Spock was recovering and so was Leonard, and their first kiss was never supposed to be anything like this. But somehow, probably because of Spock and the way he gasped and took Leonard’s hands in his own and held, it was still beautiful.
“Happy New Year, by the way.” Leonard said, pressing his cheek against his Husband’s and smiling to himself in awe. “I have an awful lot of resolutions that I need you to help me out with.”
“I will endeavour to do so to the best of my abilities, Leonard.” Spock said, and Leonard could practically hear a smirk before his lips pressed at Leonard’s jawline. “Leonard.” He repeated, reverently, lips trailing a path down his neck, and Leonard smiled, fingers clutching at Spock’s. Maybe the weirdest start to a marriage and a new year, but he had a feeling it would all work out in the end.