Leonard shifted his weight in his seat, settling his lower back against the thin padding that lined the hard plastic. He slouched his shoulders in a desultory manner, letting his chin drop to his chest. Much like soldiers, doctors often found it beneficial to learn to sleep anywhere at any time, and he was no exception.
He’d been traveling the better part of a day to return to the Enterprise after shore leave on Earth, and he’d finally made it to the last leg of his journey. It wasn’t an exaggeration to say he’d sighed with relief when he’d boarded the shuttle, piloted by a steady, no-nonsense lieutenant. They were due to rendezvous with the Enterprise as it dropped out of warp near Cygnus III, which would allow Leonard time to sneak in another nap before he greeted the hub of activity that was a starship on a five year mission.
Extended space travel wasn’t exactly at the top of Leonard’s list of favorite pastimes, and the knowledge that a mountain of work awaited him on his terminal hung over his head like an anvil in those old cartoons. Joanna had made him promise to do absolutely no work during their time together and he’d been faithful to his word, confident that Chapel and M'Benga had Sick Bay well in hand. He had no qualms on that front, but between official Starfleet communiques and all the intra-ship memos that seemed to fly around and multiply like rabbits when left unchecked, Leonard knew he’d be working late every night for a week at least. Paperwork was paperwork, even when it was on a screen. It was almost enough to make him regret taking two full weeks of leave, but it had been worth it to see his little girl.
The hum of the shuttle’s engines lulled him into an easy doze that broke only when the shuttle comm system beeped and Lieutenant Perez reported their location to the Enterprise. Leonard sat up in his seat and stretched until the tension departed his neck with a satisfying crack. He smoothed his uniform tunic and flexed his toes inside his boots.
Lieutenant Perez expertly guided the shuttle into the hangar and landed smoothly. Leonard stood and stretched again, then pulled his duffel from the compartment in which it had been stowed. He stopped by the pilot to thank her, and she paused in her post-flight checks to nod brusquely in acknowledgement.
Perez was all business when on duty, a fact he appreciated when he flew under her care. That he’d also seen her off-duty, strolling the observation deck with her hand resting tenderly at the small of her wife’s back was something he appreciated too – but then he’d always had a soft spot for true love. It was a shame it hadn’t worked out that way for him, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t be happy for others.
It was just past 1800 hours ship time when he departed the hangar. Leonard strolled the bustling corridors of the Enterprise with one thought on his mind. If he could make it to the relative quiet of his quarters without anyone catching him and pulling him into one of their projects, he could crack open the new bottle of Kentucky honey bourbon in his duffel and pour a couple of fingers worth to see him through his work. The thought was almost enough to make the prospect of spending his evening on meaningless bureaucracy worthwhile.
He passed Sulu and gave him a nod hello, then stopped. Was that…an expression of relief on the helmsman’s face? His sixth sense for shenanigans of the Jim Kirk variety twanged and he cursed under his breath. Leonard turned around abruptly and called back down the corridor, “Hikaru, where’s Jim?”
“In the gym, Doc,” Sulu replied, and he definitely smiled as he turned and went back on his way.
The gym was full of alpha shift officers and crewmen getting in their mandated exercise time, but they all seemed to be giving wide berth to one corner of the room, where Jim bounced lightly from foot to foot as he pounded his fists into a punching bag. His golden skin gleamed with sweat; little rivulets trailed down the middle of his back to dampen the hem of the skin-hugging red exercise tights he wore. He was a damn fine sight, Leonard acknowledged, even if his own tastes ran more to the female form.
Jim was too professional to let anything that was bothering him affect the crew or their morale, but it also wasn’t like him to be quite so…aggressive…in his workouts. Leonard sighed and sauntered over to the bag, then propped himself casually against the nearest wall.
“What’d that bag ever do to you, Jim?” He drawled.
Jim looked over without stopping his assault on the bag. His face was flushed red and his golden hair was dark and wet. There was a fierce look in his eyes, as though he felt a great deal of frustration and was channeling it through his fists.
“Nothing,” he said between punches.
“Well, either that bag said something about your mama, or you had a rough night. If it’s not the bag, then what is it?”
Jim huffed out an impatient breath and pulled back from the bag. He swiped a nearby towel and mopped his face briskly.
“It’s Spock,” he muttered, his voice muffled by the cloth.
“And what did that pointy-eared hobgoblin do now?”
Jim pulled the towel away from his face and frowned. “You know he hates it when you call him that.”
“Hate? Isn’t that an emotion? Something Mr. Logical Vulcan doesn’t have?”
Jim snorted. “You know it’s not that simple.” He sighed and draped the towel around his neck, not meeting Leonard’s eyes for a moment, seemingly lost in thought. Jim looked up again, his lips quirked in a half-smile. “He didn’t do anything wrong. He’s just gone and I miss him.”
Leonard’s irritation faded away, but he didn’t let that show on his face. Jim deserved a little scolding for derailing his plans for the evening. “That so? I didn’t know he was scheduled for a mission away from the ship.”
“He wasn’t,” Jim said as he leaned down to grab his water bottle. “There’s an astrophysics conference on Zeltar IV. It was supposed to be next month, but apparently the guest of honor is going to be entering his reproductive cycle then. If they didn’t move it up they wouldn’t be able to have it for something like ten months because he’ll be in an incubation chamber on his home planet.”
“Biology waits for no man, Jim.”
Jim got a faraway look in his eyes. “No, it doesn’t.”
Leonard thought of the heat of Vulcan, and the hypo that had saved his friend’s life. What Spock and Jim had…it had been building from the moment they first set eyes on each other. Pon farr had just been the match that set the whole thing ablaze. He supposed it was natural that things between them were still intense, as they learned to engage with each other romantically and sexually. “Look,” he began quietly, and not without sympathy, “I know this thing with you and Spock is new. This is probably the first time he’s been away since it all started, right?”
Jim nodded. “I didn’t think it would be a big deal. I encouraged him to go. But after he left…”
“After he left and it had time to sink in…I understand. I expect you’ll get used to it in the future, but for now why don’t you come try my new bourbon. Doctor’s orders.”
“Doctor’s orders, huh?” Jim said with a laugh. “I shouldn’t, but I think I will. Thanks, Bones.”
“Any time, Jim.” Leonard shoved himself off the wall. “I’ll see you in my quarters after you shower. I don’t want you dripping sweat all over my desk. And bring your PADD. I have a lot of damned work to do and I don’t have time to entertain you.”