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1.       Prologue

Leonard McCoy does not like Starships. They tend to be built on a grand and ostentatious scale, filled with jack-off kids who cream their pants every time anyone so much as utters the word ‘space’, and the chances of them being blown to smithereens are higher than Leonard likes to think about. But mostly, he doesn’t like that they float around in a vacuum of death, propelled by something that he, as a medical man, doesn’t actually understand. Warp theory, what a load of bullshit.

So when his presence is requested as the new CMO on the USS Enterprise, he tells them exactly where they can stick it. He’s quite happy spending five days a week in the clinic and his weekends doing scientific research on the Spacedock Elizabeth. Old Bess is quiet and steady and as close to solid ground as Leonard was ever gonna get when he decided to join Starfleet. He doesn’t want to be rattling around the Universe with a bunch of people he doesn’t know and probably won’t like. It was hell enough getting used to Bess’ vibrations and artificial gravity; he’s not willing to go through all that again. But James T. Kirk is a persistent bastard who had had his heart set on snatching him up.

At first, Jim seemed like the kind of kid who just wasn’t ever told ‘no’. He used his charm and his 100-watt smile to get Leonard to agree to talk to him, and then systematically smashed through every one of Leonard’s excuses as to why he wouldn’t be joining the Enterprise’s crew any time soon with well thought out points and calm executions. It seemed that there was more to Captain Kirk than met the eye. Leonard found himself actually liking this kid, with his poofy hair and his outrageous sense of humour. But when it came down to it, Leonard simply did not want to go any further into space than he already had. To hell with all that boldly-going spiel; he saw right through that crap. He didn’t want to spend his life in the black and gloom of space. Death and disease, darkness and silence. It’s not what he wanted.

So fuck knows how he finds himself on the USS Oberon, ready to be beamed onto the USS Enterprise and meet James T. Kirk and his illustrious crew in person. Getting his atoms scattered around space was not on his list of things he wanted to do with his life, thank you.

Leonard sighs and stares at what little of the Enterprise he can actually see from his position, flat on his back, in his quarters. She’s a beauty, he’ll give her that. She’s all gleaming silver hull and gorgeous curves. Compared to the Oberon she’s massive, and Leonard can see why so many cadets had been, and still probably were, clamouring to be a part of her crew. He can also see why Jim is so proud of his ship; she could obliterate the Oberon in five minutes flat if she wanted. He fingers his collar away from his throat for a moment, trying to breathe more steadily. Chances are that, in a month or so’s time, he’s gonna be able to tell people in detail exactly what it’s like being on a starship that’s under attack. Fuck, and he’s going to be the one trying to patch people back up enough so that they can do their jobs during the fucking crises.

Leonard isn’t squeamish in the slightest; he can’t be considering he’s a surgeon who regularly has his hands buried in other people’s guts. But the idea of treating these kids and then sending them back out into the fray sets his teeth on edge. The Federation might like to tell people they’re a peace keeping armada, but they sure as heck see a lot of battles and lose a lot of crews.

As he stares at the Enterprise, all lit up with her artificial light, he remembers when he heard about the Battle of Vulcan and exactly how helpless he felt being stuck with the rest of the ‘fleet in the Laurentium system. He remembers looking at the giant blank space where Vulcan had once been and shuddering to think how cold it must be now.

He swallows hard and licks his lips. The Enterprise has a Vulcan on board doesn’t it? He resolves himself to stay as far away as possible, so he won’t blurt out anything dumb. He’s met Vulcans before and none of them liked him much. Illogical, they called him. Leonard knows enough about their culture to recognise it as an insult. Bastards.

The clock on the bedside table pings to remind him how much time he has left before he’s scheduled to beam aboard the Enterprise. Five minutes. He can do this.

He heaves himself up and walks unsteadily to the door, which swishes open and closed behind him. He’s trying to remember how, exactly, he’s supposed to get to the transporter room when Captain Orteev th'Sharia  appears in front of him. Orteev is Andorian, and Leonard likes him because he can hold his drink.

“Ah, Doctor McCoy, I was just coming to get you. Do walk with me,” he says as he gestures to the space next to him. Leonard nods his greeting and falls into step beside him. If he can’t remember his way around a small ship like the Oberon he has no clue how he’ll fare on the Enterprise.

“How are you feeling about joining the Enterprise so soon, Dr. McCoy?”

I’m scared, he thinks but doesn’t say. “I’m not exactly pleased to be going, Captain,” he says instead. At Orteev’s curious look he elaborates wryly, “I can’t say I’m fond of beaming.”

Orteev laughs jovially and claps Leonard on the shoulder, “Beaming is perfectly safe, I can assure you. You’re not going to get lost between here and the Enterprise, I promise.”

“It’s not getting lost that I’m afraid of Captain, it’s the possibility of turnin’ up on the other side with my body parts all in the wrong order,” he mutters darkly. Orteev throws his head back and laughs, his shoulders heaving. Leonard thinks his blue skin looks very strange against the gold of his command shirt, but he’s seen weirder things. The bulbous heads of Hugararian’s maybe, or the misty essence of the natives of Penoi III. He’s had to rip through all kinds of coloured shirts to get to the organs of all kinds of creatures; he’s never really had the time to consider aesthetics before.

Orteev flutters his hands around his face, trying to calm himself down. “I was just imagining what I would look like if my eye-stalk reattached itself to a different part of my anatomy,” he wheezes and Leonard has to laugh because it’s funny. He tries not to think that he wouldn’t be laughing if his organs reattached themselves to different parts of his anatomy, and grins instead.

They arrive at the transporter room with a few minutes to spare, and Leonard can see that some of the friends he’s miraculously managed to make during his short time on the Oberon have come to see him off. He smiles warmly at Commander G’din. She had whipped his ass at the game of poker he’d been dragged into one night in the rec room. He remembers her wicked grin as she’d pulled all the chips towards her side of the table and thinks that, you wouldn’t know it just looking at her, but she’s as sharp as a tack and has no qualms about playing dirty. He can see why she makes such a good First Officer; her sweet face and huge honey eyes give the impression of weakness and innocence, but Leonard’s seen her beat many an officer at hand-to-hand combat and witnessed the aftermath of her scalding lectures. Her tongue is dipped in venom, and Leonard likes her immensely.

Fluttering around the room is Nurse Meadway, who spots Leonard and immediately begins fluttering around him instead. He resists the urge to roll his eyes and tries to reassure her with a smile. Nurse Meadway’s eyes fill and Leonard can tell right away that he’s done the wrong thing. She launches her arms around Leonard’s neck and clings onto him like a fucking koala bear. He stands stiffly for a moment, not knowing quite what to do, and then lifts his hands to hesitantly pat her back. Nurse Meadway reminds him of his mother, not in looks or personality, but because she worries incessantly about him. He may like to think of himself as an old country doctor who’s set in his ways, but Nurse Meadway takes the biscuit. She’s exactly what all those fiction books were going on about when that craze about nuns in the war-time happened.

She eventually turns from Leonard so she can blow her nose and he catches G’din’s eyes. She’s trying very hard not to laugh at the startled look on his face and he glares hard at her. She rolls her eyes and walks towards him. You better be rescuin’ me, he mouths.

tchin, Leonard, I do hope we’ll keep in touch, toh,” she says to him. He once tried to get her to say a sentence without the tchin and the toh but met no success. She had shaken her head wildly at him and told him it was blasphemous. He’d given up after that, not wanting to offend her. His mother would have been horrified.

“Of course we will,” he replies, “when I tell everyone on the Enterprise about your skills at cards they’re gonna want proof.” He waggles his eyebrows and she giggles, reaching out to pat him on the arm. She’s a good friend, he thinks, one that he doesn’t want to lose. He sucks in a breath and shakes his head to clear it. He makes a promise to himself to comm her as soon as he has some free time.

Captain th'Sharia approaches he and G’din, gesturing that they’re ready to beam him aboard the Enterprise. G’din leans forward and kisses him on the cheek and Nurse Meadway shakily gives him another hug. He extracts himself with minimum fuss and steps forward to shake Orteev’s hand. They’ve been good to him, on this ship. He can only hope the Enterprise’s crew will be the same. He’s certainly heard some horror stories, but he reckons they’re made up of more gossip than truth.

As he steps onto the transporter pad and watches the bright white lights swirl around his hand that’s raised in a goodbye, he hopes to dear God above that his reckoning is right.

~*~*~*~*

2.

The bright lights fade around him, and Leonard finds he has a fist full of Jim Kirk’s broad hands shoved ridiculously close to his dick. He fumbles to return the hand shake to stop the chance of Jim’s hands colliding with his junk and almost has his arm jerked out of its socket with the enthusiasm of the greeting. Jim’s grinning at him hugely, his blue eyes twinkling as he takes in Leonard’s appearance. He knows he looks like shit; he got hardly any sleep last night and his shirt’s still slightly damp from Nurse Meadway’s tears. It’s not the best impression he’s ever made but he’s not here to impress these people. He scowls and lets go of Jim’s hand.

“Well if it isn’t the legendary Leonard McCoy, sawbones to the stars,” exclaims Jim. Leonard frowns at him.

“Considering this whole thing was scheduled I’d say it’s hardly a surprise it’s me who’s stood on this goddamn death trap of a contraption,” he mutters and gingerly steps off the transporter pad. He glances up under his fringe and frowns at the group of people assembled in front of him.

“Where’s the party?”

“Leonard, let me introduce you to my senior crew,” Jim beams at him. He pushes Leonard towards a beautiful dark-skinned woman in a very short red uniform. Leonard averts his eyes from the legs that seem to go on for miles and offers her his hand to shake. He can feel Jim’s palm pressed against the small of his back and resists the urge to tell him to fuck off. Leonard likes affection well enough, but he met this man not three minutes ago and, to be honest, Jim’s hand is very low down.

“This is Lieutenant Uhura, our Head of Communications aboard this vessel. If you ever want to learn a language, she’s the one to go to,” he leans in close and winks, “she’s got a very talented tongue.”

Uhura huffs in what Leonard identifies of fondness. “Nyota Uhura, it’s lovely to meet you Doctor McCoy.” She smiles at him sweetly and he can tell straight away that she’s exactly like G’din. He grins back at her and says, “I’m no good at languages m’fraid. Never could quite kick the accent outta me.” He lets his drawl come through thick and strong and Nyota’s laugh rings clear like a bell.

Jim cycles him through the rest of his senior crew after that. There’s Pavel Chekov, the bright eyed and bushy tailed Russian whizz-kid of a helmsman; Montgomery Scott, whose accent seems thicker than Leonard’s, which is impressive, and who tells him ruefully that he may be in the arm-deep in the belly of the engines most of the time but he’ll end up in sickbay quite regularly; and Hikaru Sulu who’s in charge of piloting this ship and whose hands therefore Leonard’s life pretty much squarely rests in. Jim introduces him to the people he’ll be working with, the genial M’Benga and the lovely Head Nurse Chapel who blushes prettily when Leonard says how mighty fine it is to meet them both. The last person he meets is Jim’s first officer, and he’s also the only one Leonard does not offer a hand shake to. Spock arches one perfectly straight eyebrow and Jim claps his hands over Leonard’s shoulders.

“What’s wrong Bones, you think Spock’s got the cooties?” he jokes and Leonard shoots him an unamused scowl.

“I know well and good all about how touchy Vulcans get about their hands, I’m tryin’ to be polite,” he says and watches, after a pause, how Spock’s right hand raises and he spreads his fingers in the traditional Vulcan greeting, the ta’al.

Leonard tries to mirror the gesture but finds his fingers won’t cooperate. He stares hard at Spock’s spread fingers, at how long and thin they are, at how perfectly clean they seem, and thinks that they’re hands built for discovery. He shakes his head at his own hand and shrugs well naturedly.

“I guess my fingers don’t work that way,” he huffs. He can hear Jim snort behind him and he turns to glare at the man. Jim is stood with his arms crossed over his broad chest and he hasn’t stopped grinning since Leonard stepped off the transporter pad. His cheeks have got to be hurting by now. Maybe he should have Jim make an appointment with him, just to make sure his head’s screwed on straight. Nobody should be that cheerful all the time.

He’s whisked off to be shown around the Enterprise, his quarters and his sickbay. He notes that Spock’s quarters are just opposite his, room 35 to Leonard’s 37, and wonders if he and Spock will be working closely together. Jim tells him Spock’s as mad about research as Leonard is and that he’s having them share a lab so that they can ‘nerd-out’ about science together.

He privately doubts he’ll get any work done if he has those hands in his line of sight all the time.

~*~*~*~*

3.

Leonard raises the knife to his throat and carefully pulls downwards. He rinses off the blade in the sink full of suddy water in front of him and moves onto the next patch of skin. He’s been working for the past 51 hours straight and hasn’t had any time to shave yet. Jim just had to go and stick his nose in the pretty coloured flower to see what it smelled like. Leonard can hazard a guess that it smelled like death considering that the Captain is now laid out on a bio-bed, fast a-fucking-sleep.

It’s his fifth week on the Enterprise, and Leonard is no longer surprised at how much shit Jim manages to get himself in to.

He hears the door to the lab swish open behind him and ends up fumbling with the knife a bit. He hisses when he feels the tell-tale prick of pain that accompanies the little trickle of blood making its way down his throat. He pinches the cut and slaps a bit of paper towel over it and resigns himself to looking like an idiot for the next half hour or so. When he looks back up, Spock’s staring at him in the mirror.

“Doctor, what are you doing with that knife?” he questions as he takes a step forward. Leonard takes in his appearance in the mirror. How the fuck he looks so pristine is a mystery to him considering they’ve been up for the same amount of time and doing the same gruelling work of trying to find a solution that’ll not only wake Jim up, but also won’t pose a threat of a possible allergic reaction. Jim, Leonard has learned, has a fuck tonne of allergies. He’s pretty sure Jim fakes half of them just to make his life harder.

He squints at Spock in the mirror and mumbles through the remaining foam on his face, “I’m shaving, Mr. Spock, what does it look like?”

Spock tilts his head quizzically. It makes his fringe go slightly lopsided and Leonard fights the urge to smile softly. It turns out that when they’re not bickering and sniping at each other, he actually quite likes the Vulcan bastard. He tries not to think too long about it, or linger on the fact that he’s pretty sure Spock only tolerates him because they work together.

“Why do you not use the gel purposefully manufactured for removing facial hair? It seems rather dangerous to use a knife such as that one. I calculate the chances of cutting one’s skin at 37.6%, and 59.1% when one is sleep deprived such as yourself.”

Leonard rolls his eyes. “It’s tradition Spock.”

“Tradition?” The voice comes from his right and Leonard looks over to see Spock staring at the contents his shaving bag. He takes a minute to admire how straight Spock’s back is and how he can see the wings of his shoulder blades through his regulation science-blues. He clears his throat and continues onto the next patch of skin, keeping his eyes firmly fixed on his neck in the mirror.

“Where I come from, in the South, this is how you’re taught to shave,” he says. He scrapes up the last patch of foam off his throat and rinses the knife off again. “My daddy taught me, an’ his daddy before him, an’ his daddy before him, an’ so on and so forth. Tradition.”

Spock glides his fingers over Leonard’s name that’s embossed on the side of his shaving bag. “Fascinating,” he murmurs. “Would you be open to teaching me?”

Leonard’s head jerks up from where he was washing the last of the suds off his face. Spock’s staring at him passively but Leonard can see the gleam of interest in his eyes. He shakes off his hands and clears his throat again. He shouldn’t spend too long thinking about how he can tell what Spock’s thinking through his eyes. Down that path lies disaster.

“I would understand if you would not like to share this information with me. Sentimentality, whilst illogical, is something I can empathise with,” Spock continues and Leonard realises he’s let his pause go on too long.

“No,” he says quickly, “I just wasn’t aware that Vulcans… have facial hair.” He narrows his eyes in Spock’s direction. He’s never seen him with stubble of any kind and is finding it rather difficult to imagine.

“I can assure you, Doctor McCoy, that my half-human heritage makes it so that facial hair does indeed grow over night. I find it to be quite bothersome,” Spock replies. He’s waiting patiently for Leonards response with his hands clasped behind his back. He hasn’t let up his perfect posture once in the entire time Leonard’s known him.

Leonard slings the towel he was using to dry his hands over his shoulder. “Okay then,” he says as he begins packing up his things, “but it’ll have to be after Jim wakes up. It’ll give me time to make sure he’s not dead and give you time to grow out some decent stubble.”

Spock nods at him and leaves the room, not looking back once. Leonard sighs to himself in the mirror and tells himself that it’s unhealthy how much he’s looking forward to seeing Spock looking less than perfect.

.

Two days and six measly hours of sleep later, Jim is happily eating jello and hitting on all the nursing staff. Leonard makes his escape when he bends over to pick up a fallen hypospray and hears Jim wolf whistle. He needs about twenty hours straight of sleep, and he also needs Jim to stop calling him ‘Bones’. He doesn’t want to give in to the nickname but he also doesn’t want to keep scowling as hard as he does whenever he hears it. It’s starting to hurt his mouth.

He stumbles to his quarters, and hardly has time to remove his boots before he crashes onto his bed and is out like a light.

.

He’s bleary eyed and fucking exhausted when he hauls himself out of bed to answer the ping of his door the next morning. He’d woken up a few hours before and, realising how uncomfortable Starfleet uniforms were to sleep in, hazily changed into his pyjamas before crawling back into bed and crashing again. He’s glad he had the presence of mind to put on a shirt when he answers his door and is face to face with six foot and one inch of solid Vulcan. A Vulcan who has stubble. Jesus Christ.

“Aw hell Spock, what the fuck time do you call this?” He gestures Spock to enter even as he’s saying it, and Spock’s shoulder brushes past his when Leonard fails to move fast enough.

“It is 0803 in the morning, Doctor, sixteen hours after the Captain woke up, which I calculate to be more than sufficient time for you to make certain that he is alive and for me to grow some facial hair.” Leonard blinks blearily at him. What the fuck is going on?

Spock must read his confusion in how he screws up his face and explains, “Three days ago you said you would teach me how to shave. I am here to learn.”

Leonard creases his brow and tries to remember past the haze of sleep still surrounding him. He remembers Spock talking to him in the lab’s bathroom as he slid his knife over the skin on his neck, remembers how Spock looked when he inquired as to whether Leonard would teach him, remembers trying to imagine what Spock would look like with stubble. He doesn’t have to imagine any more, the result is standing right in front of him.

“Well fuck me sideways, so I did. Go on and get in the bathroom and I’ll try and wake myself up a little better,” he says and shoos Spock off in the right direction.

He rubs his eyes, hard, and stares at Spock’s retreating back. Fucking hell, he thinks to himself, it’s eight o-goddamn-clock in the morning and I’ve got a Vulcan waiting in my bathroom. He breathes out through his nose sharply and pads along after Spock. Wouldn’t want the bastard snooping around his bathroom while his back is turned.

Spock’s looking at him impassively as he brushes past, reaching for his shaving kit. He turns the sink on to fill with hot water and hops up onto the counter. He can feel Spock’s eyes on him and so busies himself organising the contents of his kit next to him so he won’t have to rummage around later. Finally, he looks up and motions Spock to come and stand directly in front of him. He wonders what they look like right now: Leonard sat up on the counter in his pyjamas and Spock stood between his legs. Jim would have a field day, he knows it.

“Okay,” he says, only for it to come out gravelly. Spock arches his brow and Leonard clears his throat and tries again.

“Okay, I’m gonna tell you what to do, show you how first, then you can try it for yourself,” he twists his torso and picks up the first item. “First you gotta soften the hair,” he presents a towel he’s dipped in the hot water and holds it out to Spock, “just hold it to your face for a little while.”

He gets Spock to put his hands out, palms up, and places the hot towel over them. He turns around to get out the brush to soak, and when he turns back around Spock is staring at his hands in scepticism.

Leonard rolls his eyes. “I’m bein’ serious, just put it on your goddamn face or you won’t be able to shave.”

Spock’s raises an eyebrow and Leonard sighs heavily before grabbing the towel out of Spock’s hands and wrapping it around Spock’s face for him. His fingers rest delicately on the towel, just the very tips of them keeping contact, and his pinky finger hovers over the bare skin behind Spock’s ear. He keeps his eyes steady on the towel and pretends he doesn’t feel his pinky twitch downwards as if to touch Spock’s skin.

He removes the towel after a couple of minutes and ignores the slight green flush highlighting Spock’s skin that’s been brought out by the heat. He dumps the towel on the counter and picks up the brush that’s been soaking in the hot water, flicking to get rid of the excess wetness. He reaches backwards and comes into contact with the shaving cream, and as he does he realises he has nothing to put it in. He ignores Spock’s waiting gaze and searches for a suitable mug, settling on his toothbrush holder. He can’t be bothered to move his toothbrush so he just tips the mug and lets it, and the toothpaste, skitter out onto the counter top. He can feel Spock stiffen slightly behind him, even though he thought it couldn’t be possible for the Vulcan to get any goddamn stiffer than he already is.

He snorts under his breath and squirts a nickel-sized dollop of cream into the mug, then works the brush to mix with the cream, creating a thick lather. “The more you rub the brush on the cream,” he murmurs, “the thicker the lather. You’ll want a thicker lather the longer your… beard is.” He stammers over the last bit because the thought of Spock with a beard throws him so much he has to stir vigorously at the cream for a good minute or so to get the picture out of his head.

“I think that is satisfactorily thick enough, Doctor,” Spock hints gently, raising a hand as if to stop Leonard’s wrist from moving any more. He doesn’t actually touch him though, and the hand falls back to its place by his thigh. Leonard notes he’s wearing pyjamas too. Both of them, in pyjamas, in his bathroom. Fuck.

“Okay, next you need to lather your face.” He hands Spock the brush with a healthy amount of cream on it and directs him to smooth the cream on his face in swirling motions. He can see Spock’s not quite covering every whisker and shakes his head slightly.

“No-,” he cuts himself off and hovers his hands over where Spock’s has frozen on his skin. “No, you gotta- sort of… twist like-’’ he cuts himself off, frustrated, and breathes smartly through his nose.

“Fuck it,” he whispers and slides both his hands over Spock’s, taking control of the direction of the brush. He very purposefully ignores how Spock looks spooked, holding his shoulders high and tense, and concentrates on teaching Spock what he goddamn came here for. Nothing more, nothing less. He does not linger over the smoothness of his skin, the fine bone spread across the back of his hand, the way his own palms curve gently over Spock’s.

Spock gets the hang of swirling the brush pretty quickly and Leonard hastily removes his hands that go straight to twisting in the hem of his shirt instead. What the fuck was that about? Why the hell did he think that that was a clever thing to do? An appropriate thing to do? Fuck, he has to work with this guy, he can’t be thinking about holding his goddamn hand the entire time they’re trying to cure diseases and process new flora and fauna.

He clears his throat gruffly and by unspoken truce neither he nor Spock mention their skin-to-skin contact.

He gets Spock to wipe his hands clean on the towel first, and then tells him about the razor. “When my daddy taught me to do this, he taught it me with his own knife. The next time I would shave, he’d said, I’d have my own.” He twirls the razor in his fingertips, feels his way along the handle and the pivot, down to the shank and across the back, strokes the head and finally, delicately, rests his index finger on the point.

He watches Spock’s eyes trace the knife closely, taking in the deep colour of the wood worn in where Leonard has placed his fingertips hundreds of times before. He motions for Spock to tilt his head back slightly, exposing his neck.

He finds himself speaking in a hushed voice, not wanting to disturb the silence that’s fallen in the room with his gravelly tones. He’s practically whispering it’s so low, though he doesn’t know why.

“Hold it at a thirty degree angle. Anything more and you’ll risk cutting yourself, but anything less and you won’t cut the whiskers. You don’t need much pressure, just let the blade do the work.”

Spock has still got his head tilted back, and Leonard swallows hard at the sight. He reaches out with two fingers and pushes Spock’s head so the right side of his face is in view by touching his fingers to Spock’s hair. It’s silky and soft and Leonard immediately retracts his hand.

“You start with the right side of your face,” he says, covering up his small blunder. He doesn’t know why he wants to keep touching Spock but he can feel the Vulcan’s gaze on his face and it’s making him a little hot under the collar. Spock has very brown eyes.

“Keep it tilted with your left hand and pull the skin taught,” he murmurs, watching as Spock follows his instructions. Perfectly manicured nails rest on his cheek, Spock’s cheekbones so sharp they rise to the surface and create a dip of shadow Leonard wants to taste. He drops his gaze and mutters something about a smoother shave.

Get a goddamn grip on yourself McCoy, he thinks. He’s never felt so flustered in his life.

“Shave downwards until you clear about half your cheek,” he instructs and watches as Spock slowly drags the blade down his skin. “Remember- thirty degrees.” He only has to prompt and Spock automatically adjusts, the blade revealing clean, smooth skin. He doesn’t even have to explain the next step; Spock instinctively pulls the next piece of skin taught and continues to shave until the entire right side is clean.

Next, Leonard gets him to shave under his jaw, dragging the blade downwards and revealing more smooth skin. He notes the green flush still lingers even though his skin has had plenty of time to cool down.

He instructs Spock on how to shave the left side of his face, pointing to where his hand should be pulling the skin, just above his ear. The same patch of skin that Leonard’s pinky hovered over earlier, though it seems to him like a lifetime ago. Spock continues to shave, clearing the skin on his face and under his jaw entirely of cream and not a single scrape marring his skin.

Leonard shows him how to shave his upper lip, his chin, and any place that Spock’s missed until Spock is holding his blade away from his skin, staring at Leonard in silence. Seriously, Spock’s eyes are really, really brown. And intense. Brown and intense. Leonard despairs at his current train of thought, good god.

When Spock shifts away, Leonard notes the absence of heat and all the places he feels colder now.

Leonard shakes his head to clear it and explains how multiple passes work. Spock’s skin is pretty smooth already, but Leonard wants to cover all bases. He also wants to reach out and touch, but he restrains himself by taking the knife back and cleaning it off, flicking the cream suds in the sink full of water.

“I’d recommend going over your face again, downwards, to finish off with a really smooth shave. Beginners should only really do one pass, because more than one increases the chances of cuttin’ yourself. I’m not saying you don’t have steady hands,” he grins wolfishly, “but it’s just safer this way.”

Spock does as Leonard says and passes the blade across his skin again, only making one small cut to the underside of his jaw. It’s impressive actually; everyone Leonard’s ever known to start straight shaving fucks up their skin so much it actually doesn’t look like skin anymore. He gets Spock to pinch the skin together, adding pressure until the bleeding stops.

A tiny bit of green blood seeps out and coats the pad of Spock’s finger. He lifts it to his mouth and sucks it off, the green transferring to his lips until he licks them clean. Leonard finds himself transfixed.

He blinks, slowly, and thinks very hard about anything other than Spock’s lips. Jim fucking Admiral Nokamura. Jim fucking Admiral Nokamura whilst dressed like a clown. That’ll do it.

He needs to get off the counter again so Spock can rinse his face clean. “Um,” he starts, and ends up pressing at Spock’s hips until he takes a step back, giving Leonard enough room to slide back onto his feet and immediately distract himself finding his aftershave. He refuses to think about the cut of Spock’s hips pushing into his palms.

“Pat a little of this on the skin you shaved. Be warned it comes with a bit of a sting.” He passes it to Spock who doesn’t even wince as it hits his skin, the bastard. “It helps stop your skin from gettin’ irritated and has the added bonus of smelling pretty good.”

He swallows at the thought of Spock walking around, smelling like Leonard’s own aftershave.

After he packs up all his kit and puts the bag back in the cupboard, Spock is still standing in his bathroom. “That’s it,” he says awkwardly. He ushers Spock out of the bathroom and across to his door so he doesn’t have to feel the Vulcan’s eyes on him any longer than necessary. He’s at a loss of what else to say, and Spock’s had his mouth pretty much welded shut since he came into the bathroom.

He opens the door with a mechanical swish and all but shoves Spock out. “Well this was fun,” he rushes out and immediately swishes the door closed again before Spock can even open his mouth in reply.

Leonard groans as he strips his clothing and steps into the shower. That did not go as planned at all, he thinks as the sonics ripple over his skin.

And if he shaves a little slower that day, remembering the smooth glide of his knife over skin that is not his own, well. The only one who’s going to know is himself.

~*~*~*~*

4.

Leonard is steadily getting drunk while Scotty, Jim and Sulu sit around and watch him.

It’s not that they’re not drunk too- it’s just that Leonard’s drunker. Drunkerer. More drunk. Fucking hell.

They’re sat somewhere in the bowels of the ship with jefferies tubes pressing in on all directions around them. There’s cards spread out in front of them all, a stash of alcohol from Scotty’s super-duper the-captain-totally-does-not-know-of-its-existence still flowing freely, and a horde of chips and other various prizes piled up on the make-shift table. Leonard’s usually pretty good at poker but his success rate is rapidly dwindling with every solo cup Scotty presses into his hands.

This is where he learns that Spock and Nyota are dating.

“Wait what?” he splutters when Sulu mentions seeing Spock giving Nyota a sneaky kiss on the bridge.

Jim wiggles his eyebrows at him. “Who knew Spock was into public displays of affection right?” he giggles and leans back on his hands. He looks relaxed as all get out with his command gold shirt stripped off leaving him only wearing the black thermal underneath. Jim’s become a good friend of Leonards, but he still won’t stop calling him Bones despite Leonard’s repeated requests. Well, he says requests, what he really means is threats.

“But- I didn’t even know they were… y’know,” Leonard waves his hands about in front of his face in a motion that’s supposed to represent Spock and Nyota dating. Scotty snorts loudly into his cup of foul smelling scotch. It’s like the man has never even tasted good scotch before and rather just drinks whatever the fuck his frankly unstable still pours out. Leonard’s not entirely surprised at the amount of times Scotty ends up in his sickbay to be honest.

“Oh man, they’ve been together at least since the Narada Incident,” Sulu pipes up. “Rumour has it that she provided comfort for him after the Battle of Vulcan.” Now Sulu’s the one wiggling his eyebrows. Leonard slaps his hand over his own and wonders if the eyebrow wiggles are catching.

“I’ve never noticed,” he states.

And he hasn’t. When he’s on the bridge it’s because Jim forces him to come up and look at the stars with him, despite the fact that he knows it makes him queasy. His space-sickness has improved immeasurably in the two months he’s been on the Enterprise but his gut still clenches whenever Jim tells him they’re orbiting a singular event or are observing the birth of a new star system. Jim knows better than to tell him when they’re charting asteroid fields and the like ever since that one time Leonard threw up on the Observation Deck. They don’t talk about it. Ever. He spends most of his time on the bridge trying to concentrate on the fact that he is safe, that the bridge crew have all been trained for exactly this, that he absolutely is not going to be sick.

He’s never seen Nyota and Spock interact other than the professional day-to-day discussions the bridge crew have with each other. They sit together at meals, sure, but so do the entire senior crew. He’s never seen them have a private conversation or trade furtive glances across their stations, or even blush in each other’s presence. He finds it hard to believe that they’re dating, let alone that they’ve been dating for a significant number of months.

His doubt must show on his face because Jim slaps him on the back and tells him it’s very true in his best Captain-ly voice.

Leonard gets so utterly smashed that Jim has to carry him back to his quarters.

He may or may not be snuffling into the fabric on Jim’s shoulder and Jim may or may not be patting him sympathetically on the back. He can’t really tell, everything went fuzzy a few hours ago and his face went numb about an hour after that. He knows that Jim’s a real nice guy who smells good and tells him so. He can feel Jim’s shoulders shake under his chin and grins stupidly at thin air. Jim has nice shoulders but not as nice as Spock’s because Spock’s shoulders are lovely.

“Hey Jim, Jimmy, Jim-bob, m’boy did’ya know that I wear blue?” he stutters as Jim tries to punch in the right code for his door and hold Leonard steady at the same time. His brow furrows as the door beeps which Leonard takes as a no. “Well I do, y’know, I do wear blue and- and- uhm,” Leonard licks his lips and thinks hard. “Spock wears blue too did you know that?” He thinks the letters of Spock’s name slurs a bit and sets about spending the next few minutes making sure he can pronounce it properly. Jim tells him to be quieter but this is important, damnit, it’s important that he can say Spock’s name. Spock is important.

His door swishes open and Jim starts to manhandle him into the room, steering Leonard towards his bed. If Jim thinks he’s sleeping with him then he has another thing coming. Jim snorts out a short laugh and starts to remove Leonard’s shoes.

“I’d rather not sleep with you Bones, no offense,” he says and gestures for Leonard to raise his arms. Leonard flings his arms up and lets his fingers dangle limply, feeling the blood flow to his fingertips. “I don’t think I’d be entirely welcome, no matter how much I wanna hit that.”

Leonard ponders on that while Jim sorts out his pyjamas and orientates him so he’s lying underneath the covers on his bed. Leonard lets his hand splay across the empty side of the bed and says forlornly, “I don’t want anyone in my bed who isn’t Spock.”

The last thing he sees before he passes out is the concerned wrinkle to Jim’s brow and his blue eyes looking very, very sad.

~*~*~*~*

(4.5)

(Leonard and Spock share the same research lab.

He’s always Doctor McCoy to Spock. He’s never once heard him call him by his first name. He wouldn’t even think that Spock knew it if he didn’t know that Spock a) is a stickler for details, and b) that he’s the head of Personnel Relations and therefore knows the full name of every member of the crew.

All he wants is to hear Spock say his name. Just once. That’s all he wants.

He never gets what he wants.)

~*~*~*~*

5.

Leonard has been meaning to properly organise the sickbay’s stock cupboard for the past three months. He shakes his head as he places items in order of need and then where they appear in standard’s alphabet, and contemplates exactly how he’s managed to spend six months on this goddamned tin can death trap Jim likes to call a starship and not pitch a hissy fit big enough for Jim to actually sign his repeated attempts at paperwork to get reassigned to another, less swamped-in-danger ship. He doesn’t even put any effort into it anymore; he just does it to see Jim’s eyebrows twitch. He’s so used to all of the Enterprise’s ridiculous adventures and situations that he hardly even flinches when the claxons start blaring, or when someone rushes into medical with the tendons in their arms completely exposed, or when he’s called to the transporter room because something’s inevitably gone wrong, again, and “we need you to tranquilise Security Officer Hammond, sir, he’s developing signs of worryingly feral activity”, only to turn up and see Hammond twining himself around Jim’s feet and purring, loudly.

(Leonard will never forget the utterly dumbfounded look on Jim’s face. It took him a whole minute and forty three seconds for him to make himself stop laughing and administer the hypo, Spock informs him later.)

He can hear Nurse Chapel humming genially in the background and smiles to himself. Despite his own unwillingness, he finds he quite likes it here. He fits in. He gets on well with Christine and M’Benga, spends every other Tuesday evening playing cards with them in the rec room. Whenever M’Benga can’t make it, he and Christine set up the ping pong table and have a good few matches, despite the both of them being crap at it. It’s fun.

He’s developed a routine with Jim too. They have drinks whenever Jim can drag him out of the research lab, and Leonard manhandles Jim onto a biobed at least once a week to check the kid over. Jim forces him up to the observation deck every Sunday afternoon when they’re both off shift, and teaches him about the stars in a hushed, awed voice. Leonard hardly looks out the giant glass panel that shows him outer space, prefers to watch Jim’s face tell him a story. His blue eyes shine in the glow of the black and his hands trace undiscernible patterns in the air, showing Leonard how absolutely besotted he is with the stars. Leonard enjoys these quiet moments. He knows Jim does it for his benefit, fills in a comforting background noise that distracts him from feeling the terror seep in and grip at his throat. Jim’s a good captain, and an even better friend. Leonard doesn’t know why he ever doubted him.

They have breakfast together every morning so that Leonard can force him to eat somewhat healthily. Jim still happily covers his oatmeal in an inch of sugar, humming to himself as he pulls his spoon out and shoves it in his mouth. Leonard just shakes his head and goes back to scooping out his melon; some people never change.

It’s nice, to have a routine. To not be alone, he suspects, is the real reason why he finds it so comforting. He spends most of his time with Jim, but makes time to hang out with Scotty and Sulu, smiles openly at Nyota, and tries his best to keep up with Chekov. God, but the kid is so bouncy it’s actually incredibly difficult to be exposed to him so early in the morning. He sits strategically between Scotty and Jim at the breakfast table, so that he’s not so close to Pavel's babbling. The kid gets so enthusiastic that his spoon flings his muesli all over the place. Once a small bit of mush landed right on Jim’s cheek and Leonard didn't even bother to try and smother his laughter.

He grins to himself and opens a new box of hyposprays. They sanitize every hypo they use, as per protocol, and Leonard even insists on switching out used nibs for new ones just to be safe, but you can never have enough medical supplies.

As he’s stacking the hypos along the wall of shelves he hears a knock at the cupboard door. He’s surprised to find Spock standing there when he turns around, cradling his arm to his chest. There’s a dribble of green blood sliding down his face from his eyebrow.

“Good god, Commander, what happened to you?” he cries, immediately dropping the supplies and hustling Spock to sit on the edge of a biobed. Medbay's quiet today and Spock is the only patient they've had in so far.

He runs a tricorder over Spock, his eyebrows furrowing as the scan tells him Spock’s cracked his humerus. His eyebrow isn't serious enough for stitches, so he gets to work setting up the osteo regenerator.

“I need you to let go of your arm, Mr. Spock, so I can reach the damaged area,” he gestures and Spock lets go. Reaching for a scalpel, he slices the uniform cloaking Spock’s left arm and reveals a myriad of bright green bruising around his bicep, belying the crack in the bone underneath.

Spock raises his uncut eyebrow and Leonard grumbles a little. “It’s not like you don’t have ten more of these damn things.”

“While that is true Doctor, I will not have a shirt to wear once I leave the sickbay,” he replies. He’s got a point there, Leonard thinks. Well damn.

He shakes his head as he wipes a numbing agent on Spock’s skin before placing the osteo regen against his skin. People don’t need to feel their bones knitting back together; it’s unnecessary pain.

“You can borrow one of mine then,” he says and starts to clean the cut on the Vulcan’s eyebrow with antiseptic. “How’d this even happen?” he wonders out loud.

“There was an unfortunate accident in Engineering,” Spock offers. “A series of metal poles were knocked over by an Ensign, resulting in one falling on my outstretched arm.” His lips twist into something that looks vaguely like a wry smile. “I came straight here, Doctor.”

“I don’t doubt it Mr. Spock.” He doesn't believe him for one second. For whatever reason, Spock’s as allergic to sickbay as Jim seemingly is. It frustrates Leonard’s instincts as a doctor that they both downplay their injuries, or fail to report any injuries at all, and it upsets his instincts as their friend that they lie to him. If he can count Spock as a friend, that is.

The osteo beeps at him as soon he’s finished cleaning up Spock’s scrape. He fiddles with it to check it’s done its job, and then removes it quickly and efficiently. He can’t imagine a time when it took months for bones to heal, skin to regrow, muscles to recover, though he’s read about it in text books. He finds himself admiring the men and women who dedicated years of painstaking research to further the field of medicine. Leonard owes a lot to those people.

“You forget, Doctor, that you yourself have done much for the field. You pioneered the neural rejuvenation procedure, saving hundreds of lives. You created the cure for plagues threatening seven separate colonies, and you have saved the lives of many crew members aboard this vessel. That is rather admirable.”

Leonard hadn't realised he’d said all that aloud.

He can feel himself getting angry. Fuck, he shouldn't have shared that, that was supposed to private. Intimate. Emotional. And Spock doesn't get emotional, he doesn't appreciate it, because heaven knows Leonard’s tried before and that’s what leads to fights. It leads to Leonard’s chest feeling like it’s going to explode, an eruption he has to keep a lid on for fear he’ll strangle Spock, he’ll hit him, he’ll attempt to snap him out of it, and then what? What’s he gonna do with an emotional Vulcan? Leonard has no clue, has thought about this before but always hits a brick wall, because he genuinely doesn't know what he’d do. He’s never even had a hint that Spock has actual fucking emotions, ones that he shares with other people. Well, he probably shares them with Nyota. Which she would know how to handle. But Leonard, Leonard would not know how to handle it. He doesn't have a handle on any of this and he can feel himself getting angry.

How dare Spock try to comfort him? Fuck, is Spock even comforting him? Or does he think that Leonard’s so up himself that he needs to hear other people’s praise. Like he’s fishing for compliments. God, is it even a compliment or is Spock just rattling off a list of facts, with no inflection or emotion at all? He doesn’t care about Leonard or his achievements. Fuck, fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck, fuck.

Leonard needs to goddamn breathe like a goddamn normal human being and stop staring at Spock’s completely passive face. Not even showing a flinch of emotion, for fucks sake.

He turns around and lobs the used osteo in the trash chute rather than sanitise it properly. He can feel his temper rising and he can’t look at the straight line of Spock’s mouth right now, the flatness in his brown eyes, not a hair out of place on his head, in his mind, because Spock knows exactly what he’s doing and Leonard feels lost.

How, exactly, did Spock telling him that he does his goddamn job turn into Leonard storming into his office with clenched fists as if they could compress the wild anger he feels curling in his gut. This is ridiculous and Leonard can’t make heads or tails of it but he also can’t stand being in the same room as Spock right now.

He realises that he’s left Spock sat alone on the biobed, shirtless, and rather likely to be confused. If Vulcans ever feel confused that is. He snorts and lets his head fall back against the door separating himself and Spock, both alone. But Spock is shirtless and Leonard has spare tunics and he promised he’d give one to Spock to wear and he’s angry but he doesn’t break promises.

In a flurry of action he snatches a spare science blue shirt out of one of the draws in his office and storms out towards Spock again, shoving the shirt in his face. Spock reaches up and grips the soft material between his fingertips, eyes wide but mouth still set in a stubborn straight line. That mouth, fuck. Snarling, Leonard whirls round on his heel and turns his back on Spock.

The automatic door hisses shut behind him, at the same time as Leonard shuts the door to his heart.

~*~*~*~*

(5.5)

(They fight all the time. Little things, big things, stupid things, important things, hurtful things, things that have no reason or rhyme to them at all. They fight.

Or, more accurately, Leonard fights. He claws and he screams and he thrashes, but mostly he just yells. He’s requested a change of lab partner so many times that Jim’s actually starting to look strained. When he comes up to the bridge his back is straight and he pretends he can feel Spock’s eyes burning holes through his shirt but he knows that really Spock is diligently doing his work and has hardly even registered his presence.

It incenses him.

Why can’t Spock feel, why can’t he care, why won’t he open up, why won’t he let Leonard in?

He starts to avoid Spock.

He spends time in the lab when he knows Spock won’t be there. He lets M’Benga take care of any of Spock’s injuries (and to be honest, he doesn’t know why he didn’t just do that in the first place because M’Benga is the one who specialises in Vulcan physiology, not him). He sits as far away from Spock as he can in the Officer’s mess hall and lets Jim prattle on for him. He spends a lot of time with Scotty, sweating down in the belly of the ship and trying not to throw up because he’s so scared. He spends a lot of time alone in his room, pouring fingers of whiskey or bourbon or whatever shit Soctty’s managed to produce out of his totally-illegal-but-miraculously-undiscovered still. He spends a lot of time jogging around the many routes the ship’s gym provides and enlists the help of Sulu and Jim to brush up on his self-defence. He spends a lot of time staring up at the blackness of his ceiling at night, the blackness of space that’s separated by mere metres of metal and dumb luck, the blackness of his coffee in the mornings.

He spends a lot of time trying not to think about Spock.

Because all they do is fight.)

~*~*~*~**

6.

The beep of the heart monitor is the only thing keeping Leonard company whilst he watches over Jim’s still form. He’s been cleaned up now: no stains of red slippery fluid spilling over his hands, no flaking and rusty coloured dried blood impairing Leonard’s vision of his wounds, no dark bruises blistering his skin from where Leonard pressed so hard on his chest to get his heart to keep pumping, keep going, keep him alive.

He is alive. Barely. And only because Spock made the tough decision of leaving Leonard behind. Or, he’s assuming it was a tough decision because one never knows with Spock. For Leonard it would have been. The choice between trying to save Jim’s life with no real tools and surrounded by potentially hostile natives or attempting to beam him up to the ship and hoping his guts would hold together.

The decision between all three of them possibly dying, or just Leonard.

But they’re alive, Leonard is grateful to Spock for it. He doesn’t know whether or not Jim would have survived if Spock had chosen to let Leonard work on Jim there and then, on the planet’s surface.

He’s watching the rise and fall of Jim’s chest. The beep of the heart monitor is actually comforting, since Leonard has been surrounded by them for the majority of his life. It means the people hooked up to them are alive, and that he appreciates.

The rustle of the privacy curtain being pulled back interrupts Leonard’s self-imposed silence and he looks up to see Spock hovering at the foot of Jim’s bed. He’s wearing the black thermal that’s Starfleet regulation rather than his science blues, probably because his shirt got absolutely covered in Jim’s spilled blood and he hasn’t had time to find and wear a new one yet. Leonard drags his eyes back to Jim’s body, watching him breathe. In, out. In, out. Beep beep beep.

He hears Spock take a breath and angles his body towards his general direction but he doesn’t look. He just keeps counting Jim’s breathing, in and out.

“I trust that Jim is in good health, Doctor,” Spock doesn’t ask, rather states instead. It’s stupid because Spock can see that Jim’s alive and well with his own two eyes and, in Leonard’s experience, Spock isn’t in the habit of stating the obvious. Leonard nods his head minutely in response.

He can hear Spock shuffle a little behind him but has a hard time imagining it. Spock and shuffling don’t go together. He resists the urge to observe the probably once-in-a-lifetime moment and stubbornly keeps his eyes glued to Jim’s chest. It’s good to know that Jim knows how to breathe by himself because half the time Leonard feels like he’s doing it for him. In, out. In, out.

Spock doesn’t offer any more words and for a few minutes they sit and stand respectively in silence, the constant beeping of the heart monitor filtering in as background noise. In, out.

“Leonard,” Spock whispers, and Leonard starts so badly that the chair he’s sitting in scrapes backwards and makes the most ungodly screeching noise, piercing through their little bubble of quiet. He stares at Spock with startled, wide eyes, Spock’s voice uttering his name bouncing around his mind on repeat. Leonard, Leonard, Leonard. Beep, beep, beep.

Spock clears his throat and averts his eyes, his hands now clasped behind his back. His shoulder blades are visible through his black shirt, creating a small amount of space between the material and the planes of his back but big enough that Leonard could slip his hand up there and feel his cold skin, a few degrees below Leonard’s own. His hands would warm him up quickly he knows. His hands always feel warm when he’s in Spock’s presence.

He turns his fingers inwards and feels his nails bite the inside of his palm. He can’t see Jim but he can hear him breathing, in and out.

“Doctor,” Spock starts again, “I have been informed that my actions whilst on the planet’s surface might have led to a decrease in your sense of… self-worth.”

Leonard stares at him with what he imagines is the same expression on his face as when his ex-wife told him she hoped they could still be friends. Absolute and utter disbelief.

“It is important to me that you understand that the Captain’s health is imperative and, as the ships First Officer, it is my duty to ensure his continued survival,” he pauses and looks Leonard in the eyes for the first time in weeks. “I-’’

“-was doing your job, yeah, I know”, Leonard finishes for him, maintaining eye contact. He swallows. “I understand, Spock.”

He looks back at Jim, lying on the white sheets of the biobed. The only thing to suggest he’d very nearly died from multiple close range phaser burns and a giant goddamn hole in his chest is that he’s hooked up to the heart monitor. Other than that he just looks like he’s fast asleep. His chest is expanding and retracting of its own accord, in and out, and Leonard wants to see that movement, to be reassured of his best friend’s existence, for the rest of his life. Jim has wiggled his way into Leonard’s life so deeply that he’s actually started to refer to himself as ‘Bones’. On one memorable occasion he even signed his name ‘Bones McCoy’ and, upon realising mere seconds later, flung the PADD at Jim who was sat howling and cackling in the very chair Leonard’s sitting in now.

He snorts softly, murmurs, “I would have done the same thing.”

Out of the corner of his eye he can see Spock raise one single pointed eyebrow. Rolling his eyes, he turns around and looks him squarely in the eyes. “It saved Jim’s life, so yes, I would have done the same thing.”

They return to the silence. Leonard watches Jim breathe in and out another ten times by himself and rubs his hands over his eyes, hard. The pressure feels immensely gratifying, soothing even, and he can hear his groan echo around the small space in the quiet room. Spock’s still stood at the foot of Jim’s bed. Maybe he’s watching Jim breathe as well. In, out. In, out.

“I understand, Spock”, he sighs and levels his eyes somewhere near Spock’s breast bone. “I’m a doctor, and I couldn’t do any doctorin’ down there. I was helpless and Jim wouldn’t’ve survived. You did the right thing, made the right choice. The proof is right in front of you.”

He raises his gaze to look at Spock’s face, the flat line of his mouth, the smooth skin on his jaw, the high cut of his cheekbones. He’s seen that very face so many times before, but it’s never looked as sombre as this. He wants to see Spock smile, properly- not the small quirk when he’s indulging Jim’s fever bright eyes alight with adventure and exploration, not the quick curl of his lips with satisfaction when they successfully pull off a diplomatic nightmare in the making, or even the softening of the corners of his mouth when the crew all join in screaming their lungs out on karaoke night. He wants Spock to smile for Leonard.

“I’m thankful to you Spock. Thank you, you- you saved his life. I might be the one with a medical degree, but you saved his life.”

He rubs the palm of his hands down his thighs and licks his lips. “Thank you,” he whispers.

“You are mistaken, Doctor,” Spock says and raises his eyebrow again; “I also have a medical degree.”

Leonard laughs freely at this, a smile stretching at his cheeks and his fringe coming loose over his forehead. He can feel more, almost hysterical, laughter bubbling in his chest and peers at Spock with bright, happy eyes.

He thinks he hears Spock hum a little, deep from his chest, as the Vulcan prepares to leave. “If you’ll excuse me, I must have a conversation with Lieutenant Uhura.”

This sobers Leonard up enough for him to feel the smile drop off his face within seconds. He clears his throat and nods jerkily, replying gruffly the affirmative. He returns to staring at Jim’s chest and so only hears the swish of the privacy curtain closing after Spock’s retreat. If he had turned around he would have been able to see the perfect view of the wings of Spock’s shoulder blades, and the space between them that seems to have been made for Leonard’s hands to occupy.

He slumps back in his chair and closes his eyes. He lets his legs and arms sprawl wherever they fall and relaxes his body as much as possible, forcing the air in and out of his lungs in deep breaths that are unconsciously in time with Jim’s. In, out. In, out.

“That seemed like a pretty serious conversation.”

Jim’s voice startles Leonard out of his thoughts and he lurches forward to grab at Jim’s hand. “You fucker, I thought you were asleep!”

Jim smiles cheekily and waggles his eyebrows. “The art of deception, Bones,” he says as he squeezes Leonard’s hand, “I learned it from a young age.”

Leonard rolls his eyes but keeps his hold on Jim’s hand. It’s warm and responsive and he revels in the contact. Leonard and Jim’s hands are of a kind, the same sort of size and shape except that Leonard’s fingers are longer. He often jokes that Jim’s fingers are so stubby because he spends the majority of his time stabbing at the screen of his PADD, muttering in frustration under his breath and his mouth set in a scowl. He likes to think that Jim’s scowl has improved greatly since meeting Leonard, just like how Leonard’s own willingness to show his happiness has improved through Jim’s influence. They help each other out, they do. Leonard makes sure Jim stays alive and Jim teaches him how to actually live his life so he feels alive. They’re push and pull. Leonard pushes Jim into his sickbay for frequent hypo injections and health check-ups, and Jim pulls Leonard out of his shell and into the brutal adventure that is space.

Unlike Leonard and Spock, where all they do is push and push and push.

“Seriously though, Bones, are you okay?” Jim’s eyes are on him, observing the play of emotions over his face and looking concerned. Leonard peers at him like he’s spontaneously grown a second head. Why wouldn’t he be okay?

“Why wouldn’t I be okay?” he asks out loud.

Now it’s Jim’s turn to roll his eyes. He struggles up onto his elbows, grumbling and breathing heavily the whole time. Leonard’s hands shoot to support him, steady as an anchor, and Jim offers him a weak smile. Leonard can tell that this conversation is not going to be Jim’s run-of-the-mill wake up routine - where he cracks an average of seven self-deprecating jokes and whines about wanting to be back at work for half an hour until Leonard storms in and yells a list of all of the injuries Jim has managed to gain and another list of all the ways Jim could have died before whirling out in a cloud of frustration when Jim expounds on how he couldn’t possibly die, he’s too young and pretty - because Jim would have made a comment about how he’s not a princess who needs saving by now.

“I know how you are about Spock,” he says, “I know you, Bones. I see the way you look at him, how you act around him, how you’ve started to avoid him of late- and don’t even start because I know you have been, avoiding him that is,” he waggles one of his fingers in Leonard’s face. His mouth might be smiling but his eyes are entirely sincere.

“Bones,” he whispers, “are you okay?”

Leonard stares almost through Jim, his eyes vacant though his heart and mind races. Is he okay? Of course he’s not.

Of course he’s not.

His heart is pounding and his hands are sweating, his concentration is shot whenever he’s in the same room as Spock and even when he’s just thinking about him. He thinks about him all the time, and thank god above that M’Benga takes care of all of Spock’s ailments because Leonard would not have the control to not let his thoughts slip through when touching Spock’s telepathically receptive skin. All the time: he’s lying in his bed at night and marvelling at how empty it feels even though he’s slept by himself for years and never felt the pangs of loneliness, he’s walking into rooms and absently wondering if he should turn the heat up so the Vulcan would be more comfortable, he’s in the shower and resisting the urge to slide his hands across his skin and imagine it’s not his own, it’s blushing green and 5.2 degrees cooler and it feels perfect.

Leonard is not okay and he doesn’t know what to do about it.

He thought he’d closed off his feelings, stemmed the flow of endorphins and the rush of fond affection directed at Spock, left behind his heart to ruin and rot on its own, alone and cold and okay with that. But, obviously, he is not okay.

His skin longs to touch Spock’s, to have and to hold and be held in return. His heart lifts and beats and sings in Spock’s presence; a heady feeling of perfection when they agree and when they argue and when they sit in silence and work side by side. He doesn’t think he’ll ever feel whole if he can’t be with Spock, share his life with the person he least expected to want, whisper his secrets in the dark and daylight and know, in his bones, that he would be accepted, flaws and all.

And there are a lot of flaws, Leonard knows. God, does he know his own faults and follies. His soul has more ridges and valleys and imperfections than the Grand Canyon, but he likes to imagine that his soul is as big and as capable of being beautiful that the comparison holds true. Leonard has held his beating, bleeding heart in his hands his entire life and pretended that it didn’t make him vulnerable. His gruff and crotchety exterior is a mere thin layer that stretches, strained and cracking in places, over his soft and compassionate soul. He’s a doctor because he wants to heal, to soothe others hurts and make things okay, to pass his hands over someone’s skin and watch it knit together before his eyes, as good as new. But this doesn’t make him infallible, and every time he loses another life he turns to find the bottom of a bottle and welcomes the numbness that accompanies it like an old friend.

So yes, Leonard has his flaws, but he likes to think that someday, someone could love him for them, rather than in spite of them.

He vaguely registers Jim’s hand slipping back into his, a steady and warm presence that anchors him to the real world rather than letting him get lost in his own mind full of self-doubts. Leonard breathes in through his nose and out through his mouth, 7 to every 11, and they sit and let the silence stretch between them with only the beep of the heart monitor to interrupt their peace. In, out. In, out.

Leonard doesn’t answer Jim’s question because he doesn’t need to. Jim knows.

In, out. In, out. Beep, beep, beep.

~*~*~*~*

7.

They beamed down to the surface of Oshay’a’a V three days ago, at four in the morning Standard time; Leonard with bleary eyes and hardly tamed hair and maybe a few pillow wrinkles still pressed onto his cheeks, sleep warm and unhappy at the ungodly hour. His mood improved greatly though upon arriving to a greeting party of long limbed and slim young women, their pale skin glowing almost ethereally in the reflection of the deep blue earth and the cloying mist that lay in layers on the ground. Leonard would be worried about whatever could possibly be skulking and snaking around his ankles if they hadn’t moved higher up, the mist immediately clearing as they trekked up the mountains and watched the pink and yellow streaks of the planet’s atmosphere be revealed with each and every step.

Their landing party consisted of nearly all of the senior crew, with only Scotty staying behind to tend to his beloved engines which apparently needed cooling or something equally as unspecific, Leonard didn’t really listen when the Scot babbled about engineering during their drinking sessions. Their mission was a diplomatic one, a simple negotiation of distribution of trade with the Oshay’a’an people who were more than happy to have an excuse to host a grand party. It also gave the crew an excuse to stretch their legs a little, de-stress and relax for five days while the senior crew took care of Starfleet’s diplomatic business. Leonard’s glad for the little respite actually, since he was sure they were on verge of having a strain of stress-induced flu break out. Which would be nasty, because having over eight hundred people of different origin and species coughing and spluttering whilst trying to work on a confined constellation-class starship was never a good thing. Leonard and Christine would have been running around like headless chickens, trying to inject everyone with prevention and protection hypos and not fall ill themselves.

Actually, maybe it was time to schedule a ship-wide vaccination. Leonard thinks he may have been getting lax with the force of his hypos.

Three days in to their five day mission and Leonard could get used to a group of adoring women following him around during their tours. It was a nice break from running away and hiding from Christine, who periodically threatens him whenever he changes the organisation of medbay’s supply cupboard. He wasn’t planning on doing anything, their teasing touches and appreciative eyes feeling nice and fine but not enough to tempt him on the offer of Oshay’a’an’s ‘hospitality’. He knows for a fact that Jim had taken them up on the offer, more for the reason that it would be impolite to reject them rather than an actual desire to sleep with them. Sometimes he felt bad for all the things the ‘face of Starfleet’s’ star Captain had to put up with, but Jim always smiles with his mouth and his eyes and never feels like he can’t shoot the shit with Leonard. He’s Jim’s friend, Jim’s Bones, and Leonard always keeps an eye out for the creep of unhappiness in the set of Jim’s mouth or the tightness of stress around his eyes.

Chekov and Sulu are wrapped up in enjoying the scenic views of the planet, leaning out against the balcony of the grand hall they were stood in, and excitedly pointing out sights and sounds that differed from anything they’d ever seen before. Nyota’s held in heated debate with one of the natives, improving her language skills but also noticeably hanging back from the group. For some reason, she and Spock had not spoken yet, despite being on the surface for a number of days already. She looked tired, and Leonard was concerned that maybe she was falling ill. He resolves himself to organise an official ship-wide vaccination. He doesn’t want his friends to suffer when he can stem the symptoms early and prevent their pain; no matter how strained their friendship happens to be right now. Leonard doesn’t know why Nyota looks sad whenever she looks at Spock, and understanding whenever she looks at Leonard, but it’s unnerving. He doesn’t like not knowing things.

The party’s barely started and already Jim has been commandeered by the Oshay’a’an emperor, a jolly man with a big gut and a winning smile, being shown around the large hall with its tall ceilings and grandiose statues in odd positions. He can see Jim oohing and aahing at appropriate points, but Spock, who’s stood just to the right of Jim’s shoulder, is stoic and straight backed- seemingly more so than usual. If that’s possible. Which it shouldn’t be because Leonard’s almost 100% sure Spock has had some kind of surgical rod placed where the bend of his spine should be because his back is so goddamn straight all the time.

Which probably isn’t entirely correct because Leonard’s seen how flexible Spock can be when forced into a tight space. It’s impressive, really.

Leonard needs to stop thinking about Spock’s anatomy.

He tips his chin up to Sulu and Chekov, who are now chatting with three very pretty ladies, and wanders over to where Jim and Spock are being entertained by the emperor. He claps his hand on Jim’s shoulder, smiles, and makes happy noises at being introduced to the right important people.

He moves on when the conversation becomes too diplomatic and boring for him to stand and wanders over to where Chekov and Sulu have been abandoned by their ladies and are instead setting up some kind of intricate game of old Earth jenga with various objects they’ve pilfered from the surrounding area. He hastily revises his observation that the game they’re playing is jenga when Chekov happily announces he is in possession of something called a Noble Flat, waves his champagne glass under Sulu’s nose and steals six of Sulu’s thirteen origami paper napkin swans.

Leonard somehow spends two and a half hours completely sucked into their surreal game, jumping whenever Chekov yells “Slam!” and generally blundering his way through with what he thinks must be a decidedly confused look on his face. He figures he’s not doing too badly though, since his pile of mysterious objects has gotten quite large, what with the addition of Sulu’s dress shoes and ten pairs of cufflinks snatched from various important people throughout the room. It’s when Chekov’s been sent off to find something that Sulu only referred to as the spinner that he learns of Nyota and Spock’s break up.

“Wait, what?” he manages to get out around a mouthful of whatever their hosts have jammed onto some kind of ornamental shell. It had looked to be topped with what could have been edible glitter, and Leonard now has the suspicion that his lips are shimmering the exact same shade of gold as Sulu’s are at this juncture.

“I think I’m having déjà vu, haven’t we had this conversation before?” Sulu asks, looking concerned.

Leonard thinks hard and comes to the conclusion that no, they haven’t.

Sulu nods sagely and steals one of the biro pens secreted in Leonard’s pile of things, twisting it expertly around his fingers. “They broke up right after that mission that went disastrously wrong.” At Leonard’s blank look he rolls his eyes, “You know, the one where the Captain came back practically in two separate pieces.”

Leonard stares at him. Whether Sulu’s been deliberately unspecific or he genuinely doesn’t realise how many times the Enterprise’s missions go ‘disastrously wrong’ and Jim comes back barely clinging on to life Leonard doesn’t know, but right now he has more important things on his mind.

“I’m gonna need you to be a little bit more specific there, kid,” he drawls dryly, deftly filching a hard boiled sweet from Sulu’s pile of things. He pops it into his mouth and cracks down on its shell, causing it’s insides to seemingly explode popping candy into his cheeks. He splutters, which makes Sulu laugh, and then tries to spit out as much as possible onto the closest napkin which happens to be one of Sulu’s remaining swans, to which he receives a betrayed gasp and a sharp cry of dismay.

Sulu’s still pouting by the time Leonard’s stopped coughing up the monstrosity that was the seemingly harmless sweet, so he rolls his eyes and nudges across the pocket sized bottle of tequila he’d swiped off Chekov when he wasn’t looking. “Truce?” he implores and Sulu grins, twisting the cap off the bottle and downing it in one go.

Leonard winces. That’s got to sting a little.

Sulu’s still grinning when he says, “That mission on Abond Vega II, the one where Spock had to…” he trails off and the grin wilts off his face. “Well, you know what he had to do.”

Leonard does. He thinks of his own shirt, freshly laundered and folded neatly, placed in the centre of his desk, returned to him after at least a month of it not being in his possession. Silently, he had placed it back in his drawer of spare tunics and not touched it since, deciding instead to check up on Jim again to see if he was still breathing. No need to dwell on who had worn it last, or indulge in fantastical thinking that it might smell of something other than generic washing powder and industrial sterilisation.

At that moment Chekov plops down in his chair and produces a bowtie. “The spinner,” he announces, looking smug. Leonard simply raises an eyebrow and huffs in amusement. Chekov squints at him, his curls bouncing over his forehead and his mouth quirked downwards.

“What is wrong, friends? I leave you happy, I come back and you are sad.” He looks towards Sulu and the pilot reaches out to ruffle his hair fondly.

“We were just discussing Spock breaking up with Nyota.”

“Wait, it was Spock who broke up with her? Not the other way ‘round?” Leonard finds himself asking.

“I believe so, Doctor. I think it was a long time coming, though, yes? He has been unhappy for quite some time,” Chekov puts in. Both Sulu and Leonard stare at him in astonishment.

“How on Earth could you tell if he’s been unhappy?” Sulu finally asks. Leonard’s still got his mouth popped softly open; staring at Chekov like he’s just revealed the meaning of life.

Chekov now looks confused. “You mean you did not notice?” he questions and Leonard shakes his head vehemently in answer. No, he hadn’t noticed. But then again he has been avoiding the Vulcan bastard for the past month and a half so he can’t say much for himself in defence.

“He has been spending a great increase of time in his lab and no longer plays his funny instrument on recreational evenings, and he also has started to eat melon instead of his usual mangoes at breakfast,” Chekov says confidently, as if those words are the damning final evidence given in a court case for murder.

“Are you saying you inferred that he was unhappy because he switched his choice of breakfast fruit from mangoes to melons?” Leonard asks, incredulous.

Chekov and Sulu nod at him in unison, both equally as serious as the other. Sulu spins the bowtie around his finger and says, “If Pavel is right then Spock is still unhappy, because I’ve noticed he’s still eating melon in the mornings.”

“Hang on one cotton picking minute, I eat melon in the mornings. Are you implying that I’m unhappy too?” he practically whines, mouth gaping and eyes wide. He feels somehow ganged up on.

Chekov tilts his head at him comically like an owl just as Sulu solemnly declares Pink Flamingo and drags the ornate flower display from Chekov’s pile over to his own.

Leonard bangs his head on the table and decides he’s completely done with this ship and its crazy as fuck crew.

Fucking melon, seriously.

~*~*~*~*

8.

Time passes quickly on the Enterprise. Leonard finds his days taken up by the ship-wide vaccination he and Christine had decided to spring on the crew, hoping to catch them unawares and therefore easier to trap and hypo quickly. It seemed that they had greatly underestimated the wiliness of the crew, however, when nearly everyone suddenly becomes far too busy to be traipsing all the way down to sickbay, oh no, they all have simply far too much work to do to make time for that. Christine and Leonard had simply cracked their knuckles and decided to play dirty, systematically hunting down every member and administering hypos whether they liked it or not. If they couldn’t come to sickbay then Leonard and Christine would surely come to them.

Jim had marvelled later at their sneaky battle plan, after he had been pounced on and held down by Christine while Leonard jabbed the hypo into his neck with maybe more force than necessary, hoping to bruise. The bastard had managed to elude them for three whole days, hiding behind the security department or simply thrusting whichever unfortunate redshirt was most convenient in their way in the hopes of delaying Leonard’s inevitable victory. Honestly, from what he’s heard of the Enterprise’s last CMO he’s surprised Jim hadn’t keeled over years ago; Leonard has no idea how a soft spoken and overly-sympathetic doctor such as Puri had managed to keep his captain alive for so long considering Jim’s almost phobic reaction to being hauled into sickbay.

(And if Christine and Leonard less-than discreetly high five each other in celebration, their med team is doing a stellar job of keeping it a secret.)

He patches up hundreds of crew members, performs surgery that saves lives, and loses one person, but that’s one too many. He spends an increasing amount of time on the bridge, much to his own bemusement because he certainly has no idea what he’s contributing to up there, simply because he likes to keep Jim company and see the senior crew when they’re not in danger of bleeding all over his pristine white sickbay. He splits a bottle of his finest bourbon with Scotty, plays ping pong with Christine almost every week, and starts in on reading the pile of books that Jim had recommended to him with great enthusiasm.

He surprises himself by tagging along to so many missions that he becomes a part of the regular landing party. This is how he finds himself trapped in a dirty, dark, and small as all hell jail cell with Spock’s knees knocking his and his hairline gathering sweat due to the ungodly heat of the planet’s quite frankly ridiculously malfunctioning air conditioning.

It’s a testament to his own strength of will that he hasn’t simply turned in his resignation and ignored Jim’s reproachful stares. Honestly, the amount of times shit goes tits-up when the Enterprise is in charge is insane.

He and Spock are cramped close together in the confined space, sat with their backs hunched over on opposite sides of the walls and their legs drawn up between them, knees and calves pressed against each other’s.

Leonard is slowly losing his mind.

He opts to loop his hands around the backs of his thighs so he doesn’t give in and rest his palms on Spock’s kneecaps. Spock, however, has chosen to test out the metal of the bars obscuring the only source of light in their little prison, in hopes of finding a weakness within so he can use his fancy Vulcan strength to create an escape route so that they can crawl out of here alive.

The cell is truly tiny, with just enough width for one man to sit comfortably with his legs stretched out parallel to the bars covering the door. Needless to say, it’s incredibly uncomfortable for both Leonard and Spock to be shoved together in such a minute space when they both have such long legs. Leonard might be smaller than Spock by a good couple of inches but his legs are long and lanky, something he never grew out of in his teenage years.

Spock, however, is graceful in everything he does and has probably never tripped over his own feet when chasing Jim down the corridors because he’s left medbay without consulting Leonard first. Then again, Spock’s probably never chased Jim down any corridors, period.

He sighs heavily and lets his head drop back against the grimy wall behind him, eyes fruitlessly staring at the ceiling as if it’ll suddenly become more interesting than the crumbling and damp concrete it has been for the past hour and a half. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t turn into one of Michael Angelo’s masterpieces and therefore fails to keep Leonard’s interest for very long.

His eyes instead fall on Spock’s hazy profile in the half-light that the bars are letting through into their little cell. The Vulcan’s hair is mussed and lightly dusted with a fine coat of grey-ish coloured rock fall, his fringe falling in uneven sections whereas it usually forms one smooth line over his forehead. His ears are pointy as ever, if a little green due to the excessive heat pushing in on them both. Leonard finds himself wondering if Vulcans have more bones in their ears than humans do, to compensate for the way they point upwards so violently.

“Unfortunately for your scientific curiosity, Doctor, Vulcans possess the same amount of structural bones in their ears as humans do.”

Leonard starts. He hadn’t realised he’d said that out loud- must be the heat loosening his tongue.

“So why are they so…” he trails off, gesturing his hands in an angular motion, “dramatic,” he finishes lamely. Spock raises an eyebrow at him.

At Leonard’s exasperated sigh he explains: “The shape of a Vulcan’s ears helps to funnel air and intensify sound in the dry and thin air of our planet, making them a decibel amplifier. Despite the fact that Vulcan is now-” he falters, “gone, I suspect that the future generations of my species will continue to have ‘pointy’ ears as they are somewhat of an advantage over the limit of regular Terran hearing range.”

Leonard snorts. “Vulcans following the standard Darwinian theory, who would have thought it.”

“On the contrary Doctor, as humans are thought to be descended from apes, Vulcans are theorised to be descended from cats.”

With this bit of information parted he turns back to testing the strength of the bars. Leonard sits, stunned, for at least two minutes, trying to imagine Spock with a sleek black tail.

“Hold on, is that why you purr in your sleep?” he questions finally.

Spock’s entire body goes unnaturally still. “What makes you say that, Doctor?” he says, eyes glued to his hands on the bars in front of him.

Leonard shuffles forwards slightly, aiming for a better view of what Spock’s face is doing, but the Vulcan seems to be avoiding his eyes quite thoroughly.

“Christine says she’s never heard you do it, but every time you’re in medbay and I go to check up on you while you’re asleep, you’re definitely purring.”

He remembers stepping past the privacy curtain to check Spock’s vitals were still correct for the first time and being startled when a slow and deep rumbling started up from Spock’s general direction. He had hesitantly stepped forward and bowed his head to hover over the Vulcan’s chest and, sure enough, Spock was purring like a particularly happy cat in a warm patch of sunlight.

He figured it was just a normal thing for a Vulcan to do, but due to Spock’s reaction to Leonard bringing it up, perhaps he was wrong.

“What- have I, humble Leonard Horatio McCoy, stumbled upon the most well-kept secret of them all by Vulcans? That you guys,” he drops his voice, “purr in your sleep?”

Spock looks decidedly unimpressed by Leonard’s particular brand of humour, but in his own defence, Leonard’s finding it very hard to reconcile the image of Vulcan’s most upper elite (known to everyone else with eyes as the most Major Hard-Asses of the race) with the sweet and sleepy image of Spock purring on every exhale whilst asleep.

“You are mistaken, Doctor,” Spock whispers, “Vulcans only produce that particular vibration when they are at their most ease.”

The light outside starts to fade, dusk rapidly closing in, and as the temperature cools, Leonard keeps his eyes fixed on the beautiful green flush colouring Spock’s cheekbones and the very tips of his angular ears.

~*~*~*~*

(8.5)

(Leonard learns more about Vulcan physiology in the days after they are gallantly rescued by Jim and his team of Security guards than he probably ever set out to learn.

He learns that Spock is short for a male Vulcan, his height coming in at 6 foot 1 instead of the average 6 foot 6. He learns that the Vulcan eye is protected by an inner eyelid that filters out radiation, heat, and dust to counter their dead planet’s natural erosion. He also learns that the extra eyelid causes a less acute range of colour in Vulcans, but a higher range of night vision, which is nifty.

He finds out that Vulcans only have 28 teeth, as they lack a pair of back molars. He learns that apparently Vulcans can hold their breath for over an hour due to their unique blood cells that store large quantities of oxygen, developed to combat the thin and oxygen-poor atmosphere of Vulcan.

Leonard’s not entirely sure if that last one is true or not but he has too much pride to go and ask M’Benga or Spock.

He learns that because the heart is located roughly where the liver would be in a human, a Vulcans ribcage extends an extra 3.5 centimetres downwards in order to protect the heart.

Leonard thinks of that 3.5 extra centimetres of bone cartilage, marrow, and sinew and wonders if it really does protect Spock’s heart, or if there’s a way inside without breaking anything.)

~*~*~*~*

9.

Leonard remembers frantically trying to stem the bleeding pouring from the several open wounds of an ensign with short blonde hair and wide brown eyes, adding more and more pressure to her abdomen, the exposed muscle of her inner thigh, the large gash on her throat, whilst avoiding looking at her eyes- beautiful eyes, a shade or two lighter than Spock’s but beautiful none-the-less, looking panicked and desperate and—

Leonard doesn’t remember anything after that.

.

He wakes up with excruciating pain radiating from the left side of his lower back, made worse by the cold air and dust swirling about him and entering the blistering wound, festering and gathering around the edges until it bleeds into Leonard’s skin and infects every inch of his body, turning his heart blue and metallic, hard to touch and impossible to penetrate and—

Leonard rather thinks he’s hallucinating slightly.

It feels as though he’s being carried, but who’s strong enough to carry him he’s sure he doesn’t know. There’s blue fabric in front of him, where he has his face buried in someone’s chest. It’s warm and comfortable and doesn’t have a heart beat that Leonard can discern. Too fast, too far away, to be human.

The rapid footsteps of whoever was carrying him jostled his wound, causing Leonard to cry out in agonizing pain and his world to turn white around the edges. The arms holding him tighten and the footsteps become more urgent and Leonard can distantly hear himself crying, moaning, sobbing into the chest under his cheek, because the pain is so much, it’s too much, he can’t—

.

He surfaces again to the symphony of a heart monitor and someone holding his hand.

Blinking rapidly at the white ceiling, he tries to gather his bearings and categorise the events leading up to him being in what looks like his own sickbay, stretched out on a biobed furthest away from the entrance.

Spock is cradling Leonard’s hand in his own, his face pressed to the starchy fabric covering Leonard’s right thigh and his fingers resting gently over the ring on Leonard’s pinky finger.

Leonard scrunches his eyes closed, counts to ten, and looks again.

Spock is still there, clothes crumpled and stiff looking, hair sticking up every which way and facing Leonard, his mouth parted delicately and soft in sleep. He looks haggard, like he hasn’t slept a wink in at least a few days, which is impressive since Vulcans only need four hours of sleep to keep themselves performing admirably. There’s tension in the way he holds himself though, as if he’s waiting for something, rather than the cataplexy that typically accompanies deep sleep.

It occurs to Leonard that Spock might be waiting for him to wake up.

In which case he clears his throat quietly and watches as Spock jerks awake and blinks wildly around like a particularly rumpled owl. He doesn’t seem to have noticed that Leonard is awake and staring softly at him, enjoying the vulnerability sleep seems to bring the Vulcan.

When Leonard snorts out a soft laugh however, Spock hurriedly lets go of his hand. Well, in as much as Vulcans can do anything hurriedly. Leonard’s skin feels cold after it’s been warmed by their shared body heat and he curls his fingers into his palms, trying to keep a small piece of Spock’s unrestrained touch by fingering the metal band around his pinky finger and revelling at the warmness left over from fingers that are not his own.

Spock reaches up and rearranges his hair, straightening the fringe and smoothing down the peaks still left sticking up from his head and before he knows what he’s doing Leonard is reaching out and grabbing Spock’s hand, halting it from its mission to flatten the bed head.

“No, no- don’t do that, I like it,” he stutters out and Spock seems to freeze even more than he already has. They’re staring at each other, both seemingly as shocked as the other at the direction things have taken.

Something hardens within Leonard, deciding that he’s had enough of pining over some green bastard who probably doesn’t even like him in the slightest- barely tolerates him at most- and, throwing caution to the wind, he strokes his thumb the smallest fraction across the skin on the back of Spock’s fingers.

Spock immediately bolts out of his seat next to Leonard’s bed and exits the room, the echo of the screeching noise the chair made as it scraped across the floor the only evidence that Spock was ever there. Even Leonard’s ring has gone cold again to his senses, taking with it the comfort of Spock’s gentle touch.

Bollocks.

.

It’s days before he’s allowed out of sickbay, the nerves on his lower back taking their sweet time to regenerate properly before he’s allowed back on duty. In this time Jim pops in repeatedly, flinging himself onto Leonard’s bed and draping himself over the Doctor wherever he can reach, telling him all the gossip Leonard’s missed out on while he was passed out cold for three days straight.

Nyota drops off some fine dark chocolate as a get well soon gift, Scotty natters white-noise to him while he’s getting his hand healed from another plasma burn, Chekov plaits his hair while he’s sleeping and then refuses to own up to it while Sulu takes photos and Christine giggles from over in the corner. It seems that the force of the McCoy glare does not work when he’s confined to a biobed and hooked up to a series of scary looking medical devices.

Spock noticeably does not visit him again.

M’Benga explains the surgery they had to perform on Leonard due to the close range phaser burn he received on his back, an open target considering the way he was hunched over the girl whose life he was trying to save. He’s told that her name was Garrick Le Shae and that her four brothers have already been informed of her passing.

He’s told there’s nothing he could have done for her, but doesn’t believe it.

When he’s finally given permission to leave sickbay, he goes immediately to his quarters and face-plants the bed. It’s vastly more comfortable than any biobed in sickbay, and that includes the one in his office that he uses when he needs to crash after multiple back-to-back shifts during a crisis. He toes off his shoes and stretches out on the bed, back arching off the mattress and fingers digging into the plush duvet underneath him. There’s nothing like coming back to your own bed after being away. Unless there’s someone there to welcome you under the covers, that is.

Unfortunately for him, there isn’t, so Leonard drags off his spare tunic and uniform trousers and lets them fall in a heap on the floor before crawling under the covers and burying his head in the pillow, hoping that if he shuts his eyes tight enough he can block out the image of Spock’s retreating shoulder blades and the hair that still stuck up slightly at the back of his head.

~*~*~*~*

10.

It all comes to a head three days after Leonard goes back to his regular CMO duties. Three days of Spock avoiding him in the corridors, neglecting to eat breakfast (melon or no), and failing to report his injuries to sickbay. (Granted that last one was a few bruises gained from a clumsy ensign dropping a microscope onto the back of Spock’s hand, but Jim informs him it turned an very ugly green colour and that Spock refused to even go see M’Benga about it.)

Quite frankly, Leonard’s had enough.

He storms into his and Spock’s lab, having chosen a timeslot he himself usually never works in, and Spock therefore will most likely be taking advantage of. If the fact that Spock would rather work in Leonard’s absence stings a little, he tries his mighty best not to show it, instead scowling hard at Spock’s stiff back and curling his hands into fists.

“Alright you prissy son-of-a-bitch, we’re sorting this out right now. I don’t know what your goddamn problem is but it’s starting to impair both yours and mines work,” he grits out, his accent coming out thick and fast through his frustration.

Spock hasn’t turned around, his hands still where they rest on the microscopes slides and his back curled in an uncomfortable looking position to hold so motionless. Leonard makes up for his stoniness by flailing his hands about wildly, gesturing at thin air. He can feel his irritation bubbling over the carefully built stoic walls around his heart, designed to stop pesky things such as emotions from affecting his judgement when it comes to Spock. Fat lot of good it’s doing him now; he feels as if he wants to deck the bastard and kiss him madly at the same time.

Obviously, the second option is out, so he settles for yelling expletives at Spock until he snaps.

“Are you disturbing my work for a reason, Doctor, or am I simply your verbal punching bag for the week,” he says tensely, glaring hard at the slides in front of him.

“There’s something wrong with you and I wanna fix it,” Leonard declares, stalking down the aisle of the lab and snatching the microscope from under Spock’s nose, forcing him to look up through sheer force of will and proximity.

“I assure you, Doctor, there is nothing wrong. Now, if you would be so kind as to return the microsco-“

“Damnit man, I’m a doctor not a mind reader, I can’t magically fix whatever the hell is going on between us without at least a little of your input Mr. Spock, help me out here.”

He’s breathing hard like he’s just run a two hundred metre sprint and Spock is glaring at him with eyes that look as much upset as they do angry.

“There is nothing going on between us, Doctor McCoy, you are mista-“

“Bullshit!” he interrupts again, not even feeling slightly sorry. “Don’t you lie to me Spock, there definitely is something going on ‘cause otherwise you wouldn’t have bolted from my room a split second after I made my advance without even saying goodbye.”

The air hangs heavy between them, thick with silence and difficult emotions. Leonard ducks his head.

“Now I understand that you don’t return my feelings for you, I can handle that, but it’s not logical for you to avoid me and prevent us from working efficiently together as we used to just because it’s slightly uncomfortable. We’re grown men, Mr. Spock; I can handle a little rejection.”

Spock is silent and still. Leonard looks at him warily and waits, shifting slightly from foot to foot but refusing to give up his steadfast stance. He’s committed himself to this course of action and he’s damn well going to see it through. It’s about time his heart learns to beat on its own again.

“Your feelings for me, Doctor?” Spock questions finally, his voice cracking slightly in the middle as he stares at Leonard with wide, almost hopeful eyes.

Confused now, Leonard replies, “Yes my feelings for you, I would have thought you could see ‘em from space the way Jim always teases me for lookin’ at you on the bridge. Says I look like Cupid’s knocked me with about nine hundred arrows, the way I look at you.” He can feel himself blush and avoid Spock’s eyes. He doesn’t need to see the disdain on Spock’s face.

“But, see,” he continues awkwardly after Spock doesn’t say anything, “it’s totally okay that they’re not reciprocated, I won’t try anything else like the hand-touching debacle, I swear-“

“I thought you were being friendly,” Spock pronounces, “Lieutenant Uhura taught me of how humans often hold each other’s hands in displays of friendship and comfort and I was under the impression that…”

“You thought I wanted to be your friend,” Leonard finishes for him, staring blankly at Spock. Spock nods mutely.

“Touching hands means something quite different with Vulcans,” he whispers and Leonard suddenly gets it.

“Oh,” he breathes.

Because oh. He’d been holding Spock’s hand, stroked his fingers down the back of it, held it steady as he guided a brush across his skin, skimmed his fingers against Spock’s own every time he passed him a slide in the lab. And more importantly, Spock had held his hand. Spock had voluntarily stretched across the void and folded his palms around Leonard’s own, their fingers overlapping and intimate, and Spock had known the entire time what it meant. What it could mean. What Leonard wants it to mean holy shit—

He’s been kissing Spock the whole time without knowing it.

He’d known Vulcan’s were sensitive, but had essentially written it off as their dislike of telepathy invasion. Vulcans, as a race, are very respectful and would never read someone’s thoughts without their express permission, trying their damndest to not even pick up absent surface thoughts. Leonard had never thought- it had never occurred to him that hand touching was a gesture of intimacy, of affection and connection, of a willingness to be close to another person, an unencumbered display of interest and warmth and a billion other emotions Leonard associates with his heart when he looks at Spock.

The way, possibly, Spock’s looking at him right now.

He’s already made his move, though, coming down here and yelling at Spock until he responded, until Leonard either spontaneously combusted or lost hope entirely. It’s up to Spock now. He tries his best to convey this with his eyes, which he knows are wide and dark with the pupils blown because his mind might have derailed for a second back there with the potential of hand sensitivity during sex and how maybe he could make Spock come just from fingering Leonard open and nothing else. Wow, there was some serious potential there and Leonard would absolutely jump on it if Spock would only meet him half way. Because that’s what he needs to do right now, he needs to meet Leonard in the middle so he knows they’re on the same page, like a venn diagram in which the centre is the potential for mutual fucking. And other things. Mutual things. Together.

Fuck, Leonard’s brain might have short circuited.

Spock looks shaky and unsure, as if calculating exactly how truthful Leonard is being in his dramatic confession of feelings. As if Leonard could lie about this, he’s being pining after the bastard for going on eight months now, from the moment Spock first snapped at him, in this very lab in fact. They’ve come full circle, and the only way to go now is forward. Hopefully.

Spock lifts two of his fingers up, folded neatly together, and Leonard damn near lunges to touch them with his own. Slowly, tentatively, but touch them he does.

Spock’s eyelids droop when Leonard strokes his fingers gently down Spock’s, a green flush creeping up high around his cheekbones and Leonard absently wonders how far that blush goes down. He thinks of peeling Spock’s shirt off to find out, kissing his way down Spock’s chest and following the foreign coloured blush down and down and down until—

Spock’s eyes snap open and he all but hauls Leonard into his lap, lifting him up deftly and seating Leonard so he’s straddling him, Leonard’s ass resting on his thighs. They’re pressed flush together, chest to chest, and in this position Leonard’s completely at eye level with Spock. He feels warm everywhere that Spock’s body is touching his, and cold everywhere else, wants to press himself into Spock every way he can to soak up that heat and comfort and contentedness that’s spreading rapidly through every inch of his body.

He can only guess that Spock feels the same because he groans low in the back of his throat (and isn’t that going to feature heavily in Leonard’s fantasies for the rest of his life) and pulls him closer to capture his lips in a totally human kiss.

It’s wet and hot and wonderful. Neither of them can be bothered to tease, licking each other’s mouths open fast and greedy, thick strokes of their tongues against one another. Leonard bites down on Spock’s bottom lip at the same time as grinding his hips down slowly in tight circles that he refuses to admit he learned from Jim one shore leave gone wrong. One of Spock’s hands flies down to cup his ass, the other sliding into Leonard’s hair and pulling slightly, and now it’s Leonard’s turn to groan because fuck, Spock’s hand is big enough to hold him up and imagine how that would feel against a wall, a desk, a bed where Spock fits his hands on Leonard’s ass to pull him up higher, fuck a little deeper, angle himself better all the while pulling on Leonard’s hair exactly as he is now.

Their moans staccato off each other, ricocheting between the very small spaces there’s left between their bodies. Spock moves his hand from Leonard’s hair to shove up his shirt, manoeuvring so that his other hand is now holding Leonard up and off his lap so he can tug the shirt over his head and run a broad palm up his back. Leonard’s spine bends accordingly and he gasps, pushing his hips forward to collide once again with Spock’s, their dicks rubbing off each other’s in frantic, jerky motions.

It’s totally not fair, Leonard thinks hazily, that Spock’s managed to wrangle Leonard’s shirt off to play with his nipples but Leonard hasn’t been able to map how far Spock’s blush travels down his chest. His thoughts careen off the track of coherency though when Spock twists one of his nipples and Leonard just can’t take it, Spock can make him come from nipple-play alone another night just as Leonard’s planning on having Spock finger fuck him and purposefully clench down brutally so his fingers will receive one hell of a sensory overload, but right now he wants to come fast, with Spock underneath him and out of control, his hair sticking up and his eyes blissed out.

He tugs Spock’s hand from his chest and twines their fingers together, rubbing the pads of his fingertips over Spock’s in the most intimate way he can muster, and is rewarded by the hand tightening on his ass hard enough to leave a bruise and Spock’s hips jerking up suddenly into his own. He grinds harder and faster, lacking finesse but not caring, nipping and licking at Spock’s lips as the Vulcan gasps into his mouth. He lifts Spock’s hands to his lips, sucking two fingers into his mouth and getting them wet, hollowing his cheeks in a pale imitation of what he would do to Spock’s cock if he had the time. Spock’s eyes roll back when Leonard splits his fingers with his tongue, swirling around the digits filthily and sloppily.

Spock throws his head back and Leonard releases his fingers to latch onto the pale column of his neck, sucking a bruise into the skin that’ll stay below the collar but stay all the same, evidence that Leonard’s been there and marked what’s his. Spock groans and buries his head in Leonard’s chest, creating more access to the skin across his shoulders that Leonard takes full advantage of licking his way across, stretching the collar of Spock’s shirt across enough to allow his exploration to continue unhindered.

Spock’s hand is squeezing his ass with every down thrust Leonard makes, the friction of their dicks pushed together making it hard for Leonard to concentrate on anything but the extreme pleasure singing across his skin and through his veins. Spock bites down on his nipple and Leonard’s hips shudder forwards, stuttering as he crashes through his orgasm, his fingers still entwined with Spock’s and deity’s muttered into Spock’s green skin.

Spock whines loudly and follows him over the edge, slumping further down into Leonard’s chest afterwards. Leonard keeps a tight hold of his hand, humming happily, and twists his free fingers through the ridiculously soft hair at the crown of Spock’s head.

Spock remains bowed into Leonard, and as their pulses slow, Leonard breathes in and out in time with Spock, both of their hearts finally on the same page.

~*~*~*~*

(Extra.)

(Spock, as it turns out, can’t keep his hands off of Leonard.

Once the proverbial flood gates had been opened that night in the lab, it’s like Spock took and inch and ran with a mile. Not that Leonard minds, because it’s really rather lovely to tangle his feet with Spock’s on the sofa in his quarters while he reads his med journals and have someone else wash his hair in the mornings. It feels right to have Spock in his bed and wrap his arms around Spock’s torso to pull his back closer to Leonard’s chest, to rest his forehead in the dip of Spock’s shoulder and warm him with his body heat.

They don’t touch much outside of their quarters though. Neither of them are real demonstrative with their affection so there are no quick pecks on the cheek and certainly no hand holding. He thinks everyone knows anyway, from the way Jim laughed and said he looked like he was walking on air the day after the night in the lab. Leonard had just smiled smugly and continued humming his way through Jim’s weekly check-up, ignoring Jim’s eyebrows wiggling like they were trying to dance the salsa across his forehead.

Spock frequently makes his way down to sickbay to hover in the corner and seemingly just observe Leonard. It used to be distracting, in the beginning, but it became normal and comforting after a few weeks, Spock’s presence becoming something he looks forward to on days when he knows Spock has free time. He can tell Christine appreciates Spock being there too, considering the way she sighs dreamily at his back whenever he’s there.

(Leonard’s not worried though. He was right, earlier. His hand does fit perfectly between Spock’s shoulder blades.)

What Leonard enjoys the most (besides the sex, because holy fuck is the sex enjoyable) is probably simply just eating breakfast with Spock by his side. Spock has returned to eating mangoes, much to Chekov’s delight, but Leonard sticks to his melon, slicing it into chunks and eating it with his fingers rather than scooping it out with a spoon as he did before.

Every time he licks the juices off his fingers Spock blushes a wonderful light green and Leonard smiles and savours the sweet taste of happiness bursting across his tongue.)