Leonard is grinning even before the front door opens to let him in. “Sorry I'm late, Spock. I missed the earlier shuttle.” Leonard offers the ta'al.
The shift in Spock's expression would be indistinguishable to most, but Leonard sees the brightness in Spock's eyes before he leads them into his house. Leonard places his shoes next to Spock's and peeks into the kitchen as they walk by. “Hello, Mrs. Amanda.”
“Leonard!” Spock's mother pauses in what she is doing to bend down and give Leonard a hug. “You're here already! So good to see you.” She's wearing the apron Spock and Leonard picked out for her together as a present for her birthday. “I'll bring up a snack to Spock's room. Dinner will be ready later. Have a fantastic study session!”
“Thanks so much, Mrs. Amanda.” Leonard rushes to follow Spock again. Leonard sets down his backpack and sits in Spock's desk chair with his PADD in hand and locates his notes from yesterday. “Where do you want to start?”
Spock settles on his bed, the only other sitting space other than the floor. “It would be optimal to review the necessary content for the chemistry assessment in three days. Afterwards, we can examine the new terms for the next Modern Human Literature quiz.”
Spock sends the visual guide to Leonard, and the room becomes quiet except for the occasional question breaking the silence, usually Leonard asking Spock to clarify the text or make sure he has not misunderstood the description. Spock patiently explains each time. Leonard memorizes by listening to Spock talk, and Spock finds it optimal to retain information by explaining the concepts aloud to someone.
Mrs. Amanda comes up with homemade fruit crisps and water. She lingers momentarily to ask Leonard if his father is doing well. Leonard holds back a sigh and tells her that he has neither improved nor gotten worse.
Mrs. Amanda nods and disappears back to her cooking. It smells like marinara and Vulcan tuber mushrooms, Leonard and Spock’s favorite dish. The moment his mother leaves, Spock touches his little finger to Leonard's knuckle. Leonard smiles at him, grateful for the silent comfort.
They are still studying for chemistry when Mrs. Amanda calls them down for dinner. Ambassador Sarek sits next to his wife. Leonard and Spock sit across from them.
Spock talks about the guest lecturer he and Leonard had at the Vulcan Training Academy earlier that day as they pass food around the table. Mrs. Amanda has to gently remind Spock to stop talking and eat. Ambassador Sarek encourages Leonard to take another serving of food, already well acquainted with Leonard's appetite. Both of Spock's parents appear highly amused by Spock's recounting of the lecturer's peculiar choice of wardrobe.
Spock looks pleased. Leonard couldn't be happier.
Mrs. Amanda offers dessert, which Spock declines as usual. The ambassador and Leonard accept a portion of frozen spiced Vulcan root, Mrs. Amanda's specialty.
Spock waits for Leonard to finish eating before taking the plates and utensils to the cycler. Leonard and Spock clear dinner together, and after Mrs. Amanda and Ambassador Sarek thank them, they all say goodnight. “Keep the door open, Spock,” Mrs. Amanda says.
Spock's parents go down to their bedroom in the lower level, where it is cooler. Leonard and Spock go to the bathroom next to Spock's bedroom and shower together. With practiced motions, Leonard washes the area between Spock's narrow shoulders with a soapy washcloth. Spock reciprocates the gesture before grabbing the showerhead and rinsing off. He passes the showerhead to Leonard without opening his eyes.
They dry off and dress in sleep clothes before brushing their teeth together. Leonard makes faces around the toothpaste and Spock smirks back at him.
They don't bother to lay out the extra mattress and blankets on the floor next to the bed anymore. Spock gets into the bed and Leonard lies down next to him, settling under the thin but comfortable blanket.
“Lights off,” Spock says.
The room goes dark. A peaceful quiet washes over Leonard. “Your parents are so nice,” he murmurs. “I wish I could stay at your house tomorrow as well.”
Spock looks at him, face half hidden by the pillow. “Visit us more often. You heard what my parents told you during Rosh Hashanah. You're always welcome here.”
“I can't. My father prefers I stay with him, especially when he is in a lot of pain that day.”
“You will have to leave eventually, when you go to the Vulcan Science Academy.”
“We,” Leonard says firmly. He presses an ankle over Spock's, feeling his slightly cooler temperature. “We'll both get in and study there. We're going together.”
Spock nods. “Together or not at all.”
Four days after his son Leonard Horatio McCoy turned two, a newly divorced Doctor David McCoy took his son and his meager belongings and moved to Vulcan.
Leonard was a troublesome, talkative, inquisitive and deeply empathetic child, socially mature beyond many his age - perhaps even among many adults. He would not remember living on Earth, and would grow up as if he had been born on Vulcan, like a couple of the other human children that also lived on the planet.
The doctor's terminal illness had not yet progressed to the point when the pain would interfere with daily activities. He worked and studied and raised his son, occasionally bringing him to the observational zoological garden as a reward for his meager good behavior.
That was how a four-year-old Leonard met Mrs. Amanda, and by extension, her son Spock, who was the same age as Leonard. Leonard and Spock discussed sehlats and their various breeds while Mrs. Amanda looked on fondly. She was one of the several caretakers working there. Doctor McCoy was pleased that Leonard was spending time with an ambassador's son, and encouraged Leonard to spend time with Spock's family.
Spock and Leonard ended up attending the same Vulcan Training Academy institution. They made sure their schedules aligned, and would continue to do so every year. It was a natural progression, with sleepovers turning into overnight study sessions, or simply hushed discussions under the covers about the day and the events that had occurred.
Then Doctor David McCoy's illness progressed severely. He became bedridden with a full-time nurse at hand. Leonard panicked, fearful of what would happen if his father died and left him alone. Leonard considered giving up his dream of applying to the Vulcan Science Academy with Spock, in order to devote his time towards caring for his father.
Spock and his family supported him during that difficult time, refusing to let him isolate himself with his worries. Ambassador Sarek began finding scientists to start researching a cure for the illness. Mrs. Amanda made sure Leonard was eating and sleeping enough. Spock provided solace from Leonard’s frantic worry in his own knowing ways, studying with Leonard and sneaking touches of comfort, usually when no one could see.
Leonard has never told anyone, but he thinks a small thought to himself frequently whenever he sits at the table sharing dinner with Spock’s family, or when Spock carefully washes Leonard's back between his shoulders - he desires to stay with his friend and brother, with this family, forever. If that is not possible, then he desires to stay with them for as long as possible.
Spock almost looks embarrassed as he sits down next to Leonard. “You should not look so eager, it is unbefitting.”
Leonard twists in his lecture hall seat. “Why?”
Spock gives Leonard a long look.
Leonard smirks. “What? I'm interested. Almost everyone our age is, whether they tell or not.”
It's Leonard and Spock's first year in the optional course 'Sexuality education and reproductive responsibilities'. Leonard knows Spock has already studied in a mandatory sexuality course about Vulcan mating cycles, but the class does not welcome non-Vulcans and Leonard was not able to sit through the class with Spock. Mrs. Amanda has already discussed sex and sexuality occasionally to a curious Leonard and reluctant but accompanying Spock, but she has never talked about anything in depth. Leonard knows that Spock is not betrothed like his Vulcan peers, as per Amanda's choice. He will be free to decide his mate when he chooses.
The course will focus primarily on Vulcan sexuality, but he is no less interested by the prospect. It is also favorable in that there will be no assignments or exams for its duration.
“T'Kel is in our class,” Leonard observes, eyes lighting up seeing the pretty girl with sharp eyes a few rows up. She's talking with her equally attractive human acquaintance, Jocelyn.
Spock has mentioned that Jocelyn appears to favor Leonard, but she has never outwardly shown any sign of it. Leonard had asked Spock how he knows, and Spock had become uncharacteristically vague and brittle. Leonard then asked if Spock likes Jocelyn, to which Spock replied with a firm 'no'.
A video begins projecting on the lecture hall screen. It is about genitalia and various forms of intercourse.
Leonard already knows about one of the three forms of Vulcan genitalia being described in graphic detail. It has been several years since the last time Leonard and Spock showered together, but Leonard recognizes the sheathed penis and the glands at the tips of the slit well enough. Leonard has never seen the penis when it is fully erect and parting the folds of the thin outer sheath.
The video goes on to show a short film recording of each form of Vulcan intercourse, three same-sex variations and three between different genders. The last video clip has a Vulcan with Spock's form of genitalia being penetrated by another penis. It thrusts into the inner sheath, right below the erection protruding from the penetrated sheath. There is a copious amount of natural lubrication dripping from the Vulcan's sheath onto the shiny material of the condom.
Leonard's attention shifts from the screen to Spock's face. He is watching with wide but inscrutable eyes, his body slightly averted from the screen.
The video ends and the students are dismissed for lunch. Leonard and Spock are quiet as they walk down the hallway together. It isn't one of their easy silences, the ones where they are content in not saying anything because they already know exactly what each other's thoughts are.
“It wasn't as interesting as I thought it would be,” Leonard says casually.
A fraction of Spock's tension eases.
“Well, now we know how to have safe sex with our future girlfriends.”
“Not girlfriend,” Spock says shortly.
Then Leonard realizes he doesn't know, because he's never bothered to ask - “Spock, are you interested in other men?”
Spock shrugs a shoulder. “I suppose.”
“I have not experienced attraction to a different gender - so I suppose my answer must be yes.”
Leonard slings an arm around Spock. “Then it is less likely we will have a problem with desiring the same person.”
“That is not a concern you will ever need to worry about,” Spock agrees. He is avoiding eye contact.
“Spock? Are you alright?” Leonard leans a little further into him.
“I am fine.” Spock offers Leonard a small smile, apologetic for worrying him. Leonard pats Spock on the shoulder and returns his attention to thinking about what to get for lunch. The sexuality education video recedes from his mind.
Spock reaches the top of their class in academics. Leonard couldn't be prouder. Spock and Leonard do not spend as much time together outside of Academy as they did when they were younger, and Leonard no longer sleeps over. Leonard still makes sure to visit when he can, and he celebrates the holidays with Spock's family. It pleases Mrs. Amanda, and whatever pleases her pleases Leonard.
Leonard and Spock share everything during the precious little private time they have to talk to each other, but the only thing they do not discuss are their romantic and sexual pursuits. Leonard has learned quickly that Spock's expression twists into something unpleasant whenever Leonard mentions the latest girls that have caught his attention, so he stops.
Leonard has sex for the first time when he turns eighteen. It is with an upperclassman two years older than him, at her house. She is also human, and knows exactly what she wants. They reach mutual pleasure quickly, but the aftermath is like Leonard's dissatisfied feeling after the conclusion of the sexual education intercourse video, or even the course in general. It feels as though the union should have been a magnanimous occasion, but Leonard, as the humans would say, does not get what the big deal is.
Leonard goes on to date a few girls, but the girls learn before Leonard realizes - Leonard is not willing to cede his time spent with Spock for them, no matter the circumstance. The moment Spock calls Leonard's comm, Leonard will get up from their dinner date, dress in the middle of coitus, stop whatever he is doing and go to him. Gradually Leonard stops dating, and his time is filled with Spock and his family again. It feels completely natural, falling back into his childhood friend and brother.
Spock has not dated anyone, as far as Leonard knows. If he is meeting anyone, he must be doing so briefly and very discreetly.
Now there is one year left before the entrance exam for the Vulcan Science Academy. The closer the date gets, the more uncertain Leonard becomes about his qualifications to enter. It is difficult to avoid comparing himself to Spock - Leonard knows with conviction that Spock and his flawless record will have no difficulty getting into the Academy. Leonard is especially nervous about the oral presentation that is an integral part of the application exam.
“You are more than qualified,” Spock says gently. “I have full faith in your abilities. Now, let’s practice the first ten questions once more.”
Leonard returns home exhausted every night. He talks to his father through a forced smile as he checks the equipment and adjusts the pillows. Leonard says he is studying hard for the entrance exam. He says Spock and his family are wonderful as always, and that they are helping Leonard immensely.
His father only repeats one thing, not hearing anything Leonard is saying. His father says he wants to die.
Ambassador Sarek keeps Leonard updated on the process of finding a cure, even inviting him to the laboratories to watch the team of Vulcans working. Leonard stares at molecular diagrams beyond his comprehension and acutely feels his helplessness, how useless he is. The ambassador is honest every time. They are not making any progress. The disease remains as incurable as it was years ago when they first started researching.
Leonard keeps his expression stoic until he slams the front door of his house shut. He goes to his father, who is still lying in his bed begging night and day. Now he begs saying Leonard’s name, Leonard, please release him, he can no longer stand the suffering, if Leonard truly loves his father he would allow him to die.
His father does not acknowledge Leonard’s breakdown on hands and knees with ugly tears.
Spock calls Leonard that night. Leonard doesn’t pick up.
Leonard is distantly aware of morning sunlight, of the doorbell ringing, of his comm alerting him of several unread messages. He doesn’t move. He’s already granted one person voice recognition access, and if it’s him, he will come find Leonard.
Spock rushes into the room and freezes when he sees Leonard curled up next to the silent life support machine, staring at the still, peaceful body of his father.
Leonard doesn’t move when Spock embraces him, pressing his cheek against Leonard’s stubble. “I always knew it would happen someday,” Leonard says, his voice trembling. “I was always prepared for him to pass on - I never imagined I would be helping him do so.” Spock doesn’t let go. Leonard closes his eyes, feeling Spock’s familiar pressure. He does not cry.
There is a breakthrough, a miracle in the discovery of the medication. They discover the cure to Doctor David McCoy’s illness. Leonard cries then. It has been only two weeks since his father’s death and funeral.
Leonard changes. He does not smile, does not even pretend to, and his words are hollow. He closes himself off in his new government-sanctioned living space and studies alone, fueled by a grim and brutal determination to get into the Vulcan Science Academy at all costs.
The few people he speaks to other than Spock are taken aback by the transformation. Spock himself is the most worried. “You must stop to eat sustenance sometimes,” Spock says. “You cannot function on inadequate sleep,” he says while pushing Leonard towards his shower. “My mother is sad that you could not come join us for her birthday celebration this year,” he says, watching Leonard focused on his notes in the Training Academy Cafeteria.
A month before the entrance exam, Spock gets between Leonard’s desk and Leonard’s figure hunched over his study guide. He hauls Leonard to his feet and pulls him to Leonard’s adjacent bed with his superior Vulcan strength, not that he needs it as Leonard goes willingly.
Leonard lies prone on his stomach, unmoving when Spock braces his weight above Leonard’s back. Spock starts light, applying slow, repetitive movements and constant pressure, first to the tense muscles at the base of Leonard’s neck, then down the length of his spine and back up again. Spock progressively works deeper, loosening the tight knots in the muscles one at a time, not hesitating to linger on each.
Leonard’s eyes eventually fall closed. His breaths become even and slow, matching Spock’s motions. Leonard drifts, with Spock’s touch as his only anchor to consciousness.
Spock stops to lie down next to Leonard, his face hidden in Leonard’s neck. “Leonard, where are you?”
Leonard blinks, and for the first time in a while, pulls back and focuses on Spock’s face. “I am right here.”
“No,” Spock whispers. “You are not. Come back, Leonard. I miss you.”
Leonard is frozen for a moment. Then slowly, he wraps his ankles around Spock’s. “Spock.” His friend’s eyes are filled with hurt, and even more obvious worry. Leonard lets out a breath and relaxes into Spock. “I’m right here.”
Spock runs a pinky finger back and forth over the back of Leonard’s hand, giving Leonard a rare glimpse into the turmoil of the Vulcan’s mind. His concerns have not been assuaged, but he feels more secure about Leonard’s state of being now.
“I’ll take better care of myself,” Leonard promises. “For you and Amanda.” Spock nods once, curling closer into Leonard. They fall asleep like that. Leonard wakes first, late in the afternoon, and feels Spock purring against his neck.
The final month passes rapidly. In comparison, the entrance exam feels as if it is dragging on and on. Leonard thinks about Spock, who is sitting somewhere behind him three rows back, and finds a burst of renewed reassurance. They have both prepared to the best of their abilities for this moment. They will not fail.
When the exam ends, Leonard and Spock go to Spock’s house, where Amanda tearfully greets them, telling them how proud she is. They celebrate with a lavish dinner and end the night with a bottle of Altair water shared between the three of them. Ambassador Sarek is off-planet for a diplomatic conference. He video calls them to offer his congratulations, toasting them with his own non-alcoholic beverage. Leonard thanks him, and is relieved when the ambassador makes no mention of anything related to his father or the cure.
Amanda goes to sleep but Leonard and Spock stay awake together, sitting on the roof of the house and staring up at the dense stars of Vulcan above. They will know the results of the exam in ten hours.
Spock eventually dozes off on Leonard’s shoulder, pressed into his side. Leonard watches the suns rising as his comm buzzes in his pocket, notifying him of an incoming message from the Vulcan Science Academy. Leonard closes his eyes and presses his face into Spock’s hair, waiting for him to wake up.
Spock reads Leonard’s comm as Leonard watches with apprehension. Spock wraps Leonard in a crushing hug. “Leonard, congratulations. You have been granted admission.”
Leonard laughs aloud, relief washing over him. Spock matches his smile, beaming bright.
“And you, Spock? Have you received a message yet?”
“I have not.” They check together to confirm Spock has not received a message yet.
Spock raises an eyebrow. “Do you now have the capacity to read your own acceptance letter, or must I do that for you as well?” Leonard shakes his head and accepts his comm back. The Vulcan Science Academy acknowledges his efforts. They are pleased to enrich the diversity of the academy with his presence, and assist him in his lofty pursuits and ambitions.
Leonard stops reading to look at Spock. “It is unusual that you have not received a message yet.” Spock doesn’t reply, just leads Leonard downstairs to prepare breakfast.
Breakfast ends, and Spock has still received no notice from the academy. Amanda sighs and gives him a hug before hugging Leonard and leaving for work. Leonard and Spock sit in the main room on a couch, slouched into each other, watching the news talking about Starfleet.
“Your timeslot to complete the oral presentation was later than mine,” Leonard reasons. Spock nods slowly. His hand is touching Leonard’s again.
They both startle at the subtle beep of Spock’s comm.
Spock yanks it out of his pocket and stares at the message. “I have been declined acceptance.”
“What?” Leonard is stunned. “If this is your idea of a first joke to ever tell me, it is a poor one.”
Spock passes the comm with trembling fingers. Leonard stares at the small font. We regret to inform you...
Leonard curses, feeling numb. “There must be a mistake of some sort.” He skips to the second paragraph and reads, ...unusually high number of applicants for this four-year cycle, and many qualified, talented people than we could not enroll. Despite this unfortunate decision, the Academy wishes you the best in pursuing your academic goals...
Leonard resists the urge to throw the comm.
“Leonard,” Spock whispers. “I am sorry.”
“Sorry about what? There’s nothing to apologize about, for the love of Surak.” Leonard does not know how to react to this situation. He had always assumed Spock would be accepted into the academy. He had never even considered that the current situation would become reality.
Spock stands abruptly. “Leonard, forgive me - I think I would like to be alone for some time. Please.”
“Oh.” Leonard swallows. “It’s of no inconvenience to be here for you, Spock. You have always been there for me.”
“Yes, I am aware. Please go.” Leonard hears the plea, the desperation to hold onto what little remaining dignity that Spock had yet to let go of in front of Leonard.
Leonard reluctantly stands and leaves, turning to look behind him at the doorway. Spock has already retreated out of view.
“I have decided to apply to Starfleet Academy.” Spock’s back is straight as he stands at the threshold of Leonard’s front door, right in front of Leonard. “They also provide an excellent program, and multiple opportunities upon graduation.” Spock’s eyes hold renewed confidence and a deep trust in Leonard.
Leonard's throat feels as if it is tightening. He knows what the correct response is, he knows what he should say, what he should do. He should say he is with Spock, that the Vulcan Science Academy carries a higher opinion than is deserved of their curriculum, that Leonard will also apply to the brilliant, highly esteemed academy and pursue a future beside Spock's.
Together or not at all.
“Spock,” Leonard hears himself say. “I'm accepting admission to the Vulcan Science Academy. I have to.”
Spock goes still.
“You understand, right?”
“I do not. Clarify.”
Leonard’s breath shudders. “I caused the needless death of my own father. If I had not killed him, he might have lived, without illness or pain.”
Spock looks taken aback by the mention of Leonard’s father. It is the first time they have discussed his death. “Leonard. You did what you thought was optimal in the given circumstances.”
Leonard laughs without humor. “I cannot escape my regret, Spock. I will be questioning my actions for the rest of my life. Which is why I must do everything I can to become the best doctor possible. The Vulcan Science Academy’s medical training is the best in all known galaxies, superior to the Starfleet program’s. I would regret declining admission.”
“You made a promise,” Spock says in a small voice.
Leonard’s patience ends. “By Surak, Spock, we were children, lacking maturity and comprehension of consequences.”
“You consider our promises childish? Our relationship?” Spock steps forward once, anger and despair in his voice. “Leonard, I have no other like you. You are my friend, my brother.”
Leonard steps back. “You are not my blood. My father is. He would have wanted me to attend the Vulcan Academy, I am certain.”
“You will choose your deceased father over the people that have cared for you, that have filled you with life?”
“Such a simple thing for you to say, Spock.” And Leonard can’t keep the overwhelming jealousy, the envy out of his voice that he has kept within him for so long. “You’ve only known love and support from your parents. I know you’ll say your mother treats me like one of her own, but that doesn’t mean I really am one of hers!”
Leonard feels himself falling backwards. He coughs and looks up from the floor as Spock snaps, “Your attitude is the only thing barring you from such a connection! You are the one that resists. My mother has nothing to do with this!”
Leonard staggers to his feet and slaps his hand against the room control panel. “Computer, reset access settings of Spock.”
Spock’s breath catches. Leonard glares. Spock turns around and walks away without another word.
Leonard trudges to his bed and curls under the covers. He can still faintly feel Spock’s hands on his back.
Leonard gains recognition rapidly within the Vulcan Science Academy. He is at the top of his class in anatomical and forensic pathology, with a prestigious medical internship that is difficult even for graduates to attain.
His success feels empty. Leonard knows Spock should be the one in his place.
Leonard shakes his head as if to dispel the intruding thoughts from his mind and plows forward without looking back.
While studying at the Vulcan Science Academy, Leonard is surprised to encounter Jocelyn Treadway again, in one of his elective courses. They begin seeing each other, as they find satisfaction in each other's company.
Jocelyn is outward fire, with most of her thoughts cool and contained deep within, much like Leonard himself. It is the antithesis to Spock’s seemingly collected manner, with a constant turbulence that belies the exterior.
Leonard wonders dimly if everyone shares the problem of comparing former childhood friends to their current partners.
Jocelyn's pregnancy is completely unexpected. If Leonard had time to panic, he would have. There is no room for a child in their lives. He is not qualified to be responsible for the entire existence of another human being.
Jocelyn's parents are infuriated. Jocelyn does not want to lose the child, but her parents would disown her if she were to have a child out of wedlock. The archaic way of thinking makes Leonard livid, but nothing can be done about it. Leonard and Jocelyn officially get married the next day, stamping the papers and going back to Leonard's apartment to eat dinner. There is no ceremony, Human or Vulcan.
Leonard has to decrease his hours at his internship to care for an increasingly adamant Jocelyn, which leads to him losing the medical internship entirely. They end up moving to a new residence together, and Leonard spends every hour of his spare time researching parenting and infant care.
Jocelyn does not give Leonard permission to witness the birth of their daughter.
When he finally holds Joanna, his first thought is that the newborn is incredibly small. His second is that he wishes Spock was there to see her.
Happiness lasts approximately two weeks and four days. Simmering troubles that had set root now rapidly multiply and grow.
Leonard's academics suffer as Leonard alternates childcare responsibilities with Jocelyn, who has become disinterested in her role as a parent. She spends more and more time outside the house with people that are strangers to Leonard.
Finally Leonard receives a warning from the academy. He is on academic probation, and may be dropped from the program. Leonard and Jocelyn fight almost every night when she returns to Leonard's home, and the constant pressure is taking its toll on Leonard.
Leonard wishes, not for the first time, that he could go and ask Amanda for help. However, that is no longer an option. Leonard had cut off all contact from Spock's family the day they fought and separated. Leonard has not seen or heard from any of them since that day. Amanda must resent him now.
Leonard drops out of the academy to care for Joanna full-time. He remembers the precious moments he spent with his father before the illness rendered his father to a lifetime of pain. Leonard knows what it feels like to be neglected. He will not have his own child subjected to such loss. Leonard does not mourn losing his position at the academy, but it feels like a frustrating waste of a great deal of his life.
Joanna begins speaking when she is ten months old. She only talks more as she gets older, and Leonard didn’t think he could love her any more than he already does but he feels his affections growing by the day. For every question Joanna asks that Leonard answers, there are ten more that follow. Leonard is unsure what skills are typical at his child’s age, but Joanna loves to sing her favorite songs, play pretend doctor with Leonard, and eagerly greet baffled Vulcans whenever they go out on excursions. Leonard tries to get his fussy daughter to go to bed at a proper time and thinks he has never loved someone more.
Jocelyn is the one that applies for divorce. The abrupt announcement doesn't surprise Leonard, nor the way he learns about it. He doesn't even hear about the news through Jocelyn, he hears it through Jocelyn's acquaintance.
The custody battle drags out far longer than expected, considering Leonard has been spending the most time with Joanna. Leonard has heard the statistics, he knows that women and mothers win child custody in eighty percent of cases, but he is unprepared for the decision that is announced. Jocelyn walks away with sole custody of Joanna, Leonard's money, and almost all his belongings.
Leonard stands numbly in their house, which is also no longer his, and curses the entire Vulcan legal system. In his devastation, Leonard finds himself at a grimy bar at eleven in the morning. He looks at the tall drink he has ordered. It would be so simple to drown out the sorrow one glass at a time until he couldn't remember anything, not even his own name.
Leonard abandons the untouched drink and walks. He knows the location by heart. He could never forget, no matter how hard he tried.
Leonard's heart wrenches when the front gate doors swing open for him. It means they never changed his access settings. However Leonard doesn't enter, he rings the intercom and waits with apprehension.
The machine clicks once. “Hello? State your identity, please.”
Leonard's lip trembles. It's her voice.
“Leonard McCoy,” he says, heart pounding in his chest.
The intercom falls silent.
“Leonard!” Leonard startles and looks at the opened front door. Amanda is rushing towards him with outstretched arms. Leonard sobs and meets her halfway on the path, feeling her crushing, familiar hug.
“You've grown so much.” Amanda strokes his hair as Leonard struggles not to completely break down where everyone can see. She moves back to look him up and down. She has aged, with more grey hairs and wrinkles around her eyes, but time has only served to make her more wonderful. “Oh, Leonard. Welcome home.”
Amanda guides Leonard inside. She makes him sit at the table and ladles out a generous portion of matzo ball soup on the stove. It may be Leonard's first non-replicated meal in years. Amanda sets down the bowl and utensils before sitting across from him and folding her hands together. She leans forward, and her voice is gentle. “Leonard, I heard about the divorce.”
Leonard freezes. “Amanda - how?”
“Oh, Leonard. I know you didn’t want us interfering, but of course I’d try my best to stay informed on what you’re up to. A mother never stops worrying about her children.”
Leonard’s tears are hot in his eyes. “Jocelyn won the custody battle today. It’s over.”
Amanda grips his hand. “Leonard, I’m so sorry. I’m sure you tried your best.”
Leonard roughly brushes at his sleeve and takes out his comm. He shows Amanda his videos and pictures of his baby. Amanda coos over each one, asking Leonard questions about the past few years when they were not in contact. Leonard answers every one in detail. Leonard tentatively also asks her about Spock.
Unsurprisingly, Spock is one of Starfleet Academy’s most distinguished graduates. He has attained the rank of commander, and is an instructor at the Academy.
When Ambassador Sarek returns from work at the embassy, Leonard and Amanda are still talking. The ambassador offers Leonard an awkward pat on the shoulder and tells him to stay in the guest bedroom while Leonard secures new housing.
“What are your plans for the future?” Amanda asks during dinner.
Leonard looks at his newly refilled bowl, courtesy of the ambassador, and accepts it gratefully. “I am not sure.”
“Why not apply to Starfleet Academy,” Ambassador Sarek suggests. “The medical track would be an excellent fit with your skill set. You certainly have all the qualifications. There are few places that can rival their quality of medical investigation.”
Leonard freezes. It is a logical option. Leonard doesn’t have anywhere else to go and he doesn’t want to take advantage of Amanda and the ambassador’s kindness for the rest of his life - but there’s only one problem.
Ambassador Sarek seems to instantly read Leonard’s mind. “Leonard, I understand your final interaction with my son was not optimal, but I know he does not hold your choices against you. Apply to Starfleet first. Those concerns can wait.”
Leonard does not believe him, but with the encouragement, he decides to go forward and enlist in Starfleet.
Leonard looks at the scant interior of his Starfleet Academy boarding room and kitchen. It almost reminds him of the place he lived in right after his father's death.
There’s one obvious variation: the second bed located right next to the first one.
Leonard hears a sudden clamor outside the door in the dorm hallway. The door suddenly beeps and opens, and the noise increases tenfold. “I never said that!” a familiar voice says in Standard. A higher-pitched voice spits something in response with particular vitriol. Leonard stares at the half-naked man backing into his room, freckles all over his dark skin. “I said it before and I’ll say it again, it was only a one time deal! How was I supposed to fucking know about the mating displays of your culture?”
He kicks the door shut and swivels to face Leonard, wide-eyed. His backpack and other clothing garments are bundled up in his arms, clutched against his bare chest.
Leonard blinks. “Jim Kirk. You’re the one from the shuttlecraft.” It is the wary-eyed young human that had sat next to Leonard on the Starfleet shuttle, attempting to proposition one of the cadets before takeoff.
Jim Kirk raises an eyebrow. “Oh, great. I’m stuck with the human Vulcan Leonard McCoy.” He goes to the unopened closet and drops everything on the floor in front of it. “So are the rumors true? They say that you were born and raised on Vulcan.”
“I was not born on Vulcan.”
“Never woulda guessed.” The human goes to the replicator. “Listen, I won’t be too much trouble, okay? I’ll stay out of your way, you stay outta mine.”
“That is not feasible, as we share living quarters.”
Jim Kirk squints at Leonard. “God, you’re a bundle of fun, aren’t you?”
“The human body is made up of an organized structure of skin, muscles and bones.”
“Yeah, yeah, okay, bundle of bones.”
Leonard learns that Jim Kirk is more self-destructive than he had initially thought.
The young human openly challenges the professors in the classes they share together, laughs in the face of the women, men, and people of indiscriminate gender that dare to approach him the day after they sleep together, and in general causes a great deal of daily trouble. Leonard often falls asleep to an empty room and wakes up to see Jim Kirk curled up in his bed in restless sleep, smelling of smoke, alcohol and sex. He has to shake his head at the illogical human. His actions suggest he does not want to be here, so why does he continue to stay?
Leonard has been able to keep a clinical distance, but inevitably there comes a day when he cannot stand by and merely watch any longer.
Leonard is roused from his half-asleep state when the door beeps and slides open, and Jim Kirk sneaks in, silent as ever. There is the sound of a vibrating comm. The human goes into the bathroom, and the door does not close all the way as he picks up the call.
“Yes. Yes. No shit, Pike. What were you expecting? Really. Stop calling me in the deadass of night.” He hangs up and lets out a shaky breath. The sonic showers turn on, going through three cycles before stopping with a gurgling thump. Leonard listens to Jim Kirk shuffling back and forth inside the bathroom, muttering under his breath. There’s a hiss of pain. “Fuck.”
Leonard pushes back the covers and hauls himself out of bed. He swings open the bathroom door and a naked Jim Kirk scrambles backwards. The harsh lights make him look even more gaunt and haggard than he already is. “Oh shit, sorry. Did I wake you up?”
Leonard ignores him, eyeing him up and down with a practitioner’s eye. He turns Jim Kirk around with a careful hand. There’s a bleeding bite mark on his shoulder and several scratches down the length of his chest and back. “Wait here.” The human watches Leonard, wary, but he follows the order, remaining motionless until Leonard returns with a first-aid kit and his tricorder.
Leonard scans the human with his medical tricorder. Jim Kirk has not eaten in two days, has a mild case of dehydration and there is an infection of Klingon fe’llblit, a painful sexually transmitted disease, in his rectum. The tricorder informs Leonard that the human has several severe allergies to standard vaccines and antibiotics. He will not be able to use any pre-existing medicines.
Leonard snaps on a pair of gloves and carefully cleans the sluggishly bleeding bite with a first-aid kit. “Is there any discomfort in your anus or rectum?”
Jim Kirk is still looking bewildered from the turn of events. “N-no. I mean, it’s a little sore but it always is after-”
“I will apply the dermal regenerator to the scratches and your anus. There will be a temporary cold, numbing sensation.” Leonard efficiently runs the regenerator and checks the newly healed skin before pointing to Jim Kirk’s closet. “Clothes. Then sit down at the kitchen table.”
Leonard washes up and neatly organizes everything away before going to the replicator to begin the synthesizing process. Then he follows Jim Kirk into the kitchen. Jim Kirk stares at the glass of water placed in front of him. Leonard goes to set a pot full of broth on the stove.
Jim Kirk hasn’t touched the water by the time the simple vegetable soup is completed. Leonard dishes a very small bowl of it and brings it and the spoon to Jim Kirk. He sets it next to the water and crosses his arms. “Chew thoroughly. Chew each bite at least 30 times.”
For the first time that night, Jim makes eye contact with Leonard. It appears he is searching for something in his gaze. Then Jim shakes his head and picks up the spoon. Leonard sits across from him and waits for Jim to finish every bite. Jim scrapes the sides of the bowl to capture every last bit of food. He sips his water carefully, pausing after each time the glass touches his lips.
Leonard stands to check on the replicator. The medicine is ready. Leonard checks the small pink tablets once more with his tricorder against Jim’s individual chemical nature before bringing them all to Jim. He sits back in his seat across from Jim and points to each tablet as he describes them. “This is for the Klingon fe’llblit, the dormant Taina I and Taina II viruses in your plasma, and the glarr enzyme in your bite wound.” Leonard takes Jim’s hand and empties the tablets into the upturned palm. “Swallow with water. They should take effect overnight.”
Jim takes the medicine, finishing the last of the water with it. He does not make eye contact with Leonard. “So, should I do it now?”
Leonard blinks once. “Do what?”
Jim Kirk sighs. “Let’s get this over with.” Leonard nearly chokes on his own saliva when the young human slips to his side of the table and straddles his lap.
“Jim Kirk,” Leonard begins, hands clenching his seat, when the young human leans down and kisses with a skilled, demanding insistence. Leonard groans and cannot help returning the heated caress of lips, drowning in intimacy regained after losing it for so long, even if the weight and smell are all incorrect.
Leonard freezes when he feels pressure drifting down his stomach to his waistband. He grabs the human’s hand, preventing it from moving any further, but the human is unfazed. “Relax,” he murmurs into Leonard’s ear. “Nothing to be nervous about.”
“No,” Leonard manages to wheeze out, turning away from another kiss. “What are you doing?”
“Uh. Isn’t this what you want? Recompensation?”
“None is required. I have no interest in such intimacy with another man.”
“Hmm, that’s not what your body’s saying, though.” The human’s movement becomes more assertive, grinding into Leonard’s hardening erection, and Leonard thrusts up into the pleasurable heat against his will. “Listen, if you don’t wanna think about this, just sit back. I’ll take care of it.”
“You misunderstand.” Leonard finally shoves Jim Kirk off his lap, hunching over his erection and willing it away. “Don’t touch me again.”
That makes Jim pause.
“I do not desire to engage in intercourse with you, whether or not you feel any obligation towards me, which there is none of. I cared for you expecting nothing in return. Please respect my wishes.”
“Yeah, haha, funny. So what do you actually want, then?”
Leonard squints at the human. “Nothing. I would not lie to you. It is unbefitting of my upbringing.”
“You - ” Jim huffs out a laugh. “No. I guess you wouldn’t. Fucking weird human Vulcan bundle of bones.”
“My name is Leonard McCoy.”
“Good to know it hasn’t changed in the last twenty minutes,” Jim says, amused. Leonard tenses as Jim moves back towards him, but he merely takes the empty dishes and spoon to the sink. “Well, I don’t desire to be completely useless so I’ll do my own dishes. Fair enough?”
“And brush your teeth and go to sleep,” Leonard quickly adds. “Your body requires rest.”
Jim shakes his head and chuckles, a surprisingly soft and genuine sound. “Fine, I’ll do that right after, Bones. Happy?”
“My name is not bones.”
Leonard blinks when he sees Jim in his organic chemistry course the next day. There is still time to add and drop courses, but - “Aren’t you on the command track?”
Jim slumps down in the seat next to Leonard’s and stares ahead. “I am. I don’t know anymore. I’ve always enjoyed the laboratory work more than telling people what to do. But I think everyone expects me to be captain of a starship someday, like my dad.”
Like the infamous George Kirk, exalted for saving the lives of eight hundred people during the last twelve minutes of his life, twelve minutes as commanding officer of the USS Kelvin.
Leonard continues to scroll through the textbook on his PADD, avoiding commentary on the matter. Jim’s braced stance incrementally relaxes from the lack of response. The professor walks to the front of the room, and their attention is redirected. It is Leonard’s first time seeing his roommate in an academic setting. Jim has been no less promiscuous, but when he studies he focuses with an admirable, unmatchable intensity.
They exit the classroom together. Leonard is so preoccupied with wondering if Jim is willing to study aloud while Leonard listens that he almost does not see the stiff, dark-clothed figure in the vicinity.
“Bones,” Jim says, pressing into Leonard rather protectively. “Does that professor know you?”
Leonard looks up and finds himself staring into the startled eyes of Spock.
It feels as if his heart nearly stops. Spock wears the instructors’ uniform, and it looks strange on him. He has grown even taller, sturdier over the years. His neat black haircut is pristine around his ears. He is motionless as a statue, and does nothing to approach or further acknowledge Leonard.
Jim has stayed silent of his usual obnoxious, pressing questions. He watches until Spock turns on his heel and walks away. Jim faces Leonard with a raised eyebrow. “You lied to me. You said you're not interested in guys.”
“I am not-” Leonard begins before choking on his hoarse throat.
Jim looks back and forth between Leonard and the now-vacant spot where Spock had been standing. “Feel like I’m missing some context here.”
“That may be an accurate assessment.” Leonard keeps clearing his throat. His uniform is suddenly stifling. Spock is here. His companion from childhood, the closest person in his life, the one he betrayed by choosing to study at the Vulcan Science Academy which led to Jocelyn and Joanna -
Joanna. Does Spock know? Why is Spock even here? Leonard had not seen or heard anything of Spock until today.
“Bones,” Jim says very gently. “Hey. Earth to McCoy.” Leonard looks at Jim, who is still patiently waiting in front of him. “Let’s get lunch.”
Leonard exhales and spares a final glance to make sure Spock is no longer present. “Yes. Let’s.”
Jim informs Leonard four hours later that he has taken it upon himself to research the man that had given him such an emotional response. Professor Spock, a Human/Vulcan hybrid, the creator of the Kobayashi Maru program, and a first officer under Captain Christopher Pike. This surprises Jim. Apparently the captain was a sort of parental figure for the young human, but the captain had never made much mention of Professor Spock to Jim.
Jim concludes by explaining Professor Spock had been temporarily relocated to another facility for an intensive five-week course of training. His primary teaching location is the Academy itself, and he had just returned today. Jim has been unable to determine Leonard’s affiliation with the Vulcan.
Leonard feigns ignorance. Jim’s curious eyes gleam, clearly undeterred, but he does not pry further.
There are two times Leonard attempts to sneak into the back of Spock’s lecture, simply desiring to hear his voice once more. Leonard turns away before even touching the door each time.
Leonard wants to apologize to Spock. He wants to reconcile with his friend, his brother, a person Leonard had once thought he would not be able to survive without. But he does not know how to even begin a process of healing what they had built up for so long.
Leonard is thankfully spared the experience of having Spock as one of his professors, but precisely on Tuesdays and Thursdays, thirteen hundred Starfleet Academy hours, Spock is in the same hallway that Leonard requires to get to his Ethics lecture.
They keep a wide berth on either side of the hallway as they walk past each other.