1. Spock doesn't listen to a word McCoy says.
If there's one thing McCoy's always been sure of, it's that. He can say whatever he likes, do whatever he likes, and it'll bounce off Spock's hard Vulcan skull like a kid's rubber ball. It drives him crazy, and he says and does things he shouldn't, things anyone would know he doesn't mean, out of a kind of--revenge, he guesses. And then they're trapped in some ice age with no way back to the ship and Spock is happy about it.
When McCoy says so, Spock won't even have the guts to admit it. "The prospect appeared quite attractive to you, a moment ago," he says instead, as if flirting with a pretty woman is--is anything. Is the point, when Jim is God knows where and McCoy's about to panic and he needs Spock.
"Now you listen to me, you pointed-eared Vulcan!" he spits out.
For a moment Spock doesn't move. Then he turns, deliberate and fast like a god-damn machine, taking McCoy by the front of his shirt and yanking him up out of his seat. If McCoy doesn't stand on tiptoe, Spock's grip will tear his tunic. "I don't like that." Spock's eyes are hard and hot. McCoy can see every color gradation of the delicate blue skin of his eyelids. "I don't think I ever did, and now I'm sure."
This isn't--this isn't normal. It isn't safe. "What's happening to you, Spock?"
"Nothing that shouldn't have happened long ago," Spock says, breathing hard, and then he throws McCoy away from him like he can't stand to be so close.
It turns out later that Spock was regressing to some kind of cave-Vulcan, but McCoy can't stop playing the scene over and over in his mind, like Jim does with the security tapes when he thinks he's made a poor command decision. The rage, and hurt, and fierce pride--a healthy Spock wouldn't have said anything, but that wasn't just wonky hormones.
Maybe Spock's been hearing every word. Maybe it's McCoy who hasn't been listening to his answers.
2. Spock doesn't know how to deal with a crisis.
The captain's disappeared again and Spock's pretending everything's fine. He's sitting in Jim's chair like he belongs there, firing off orders and being so damn calm--doesn't he understand what's at stake here?
That chilly green stuff's supposed to be blood, not an emotional anesthetic! he's about to snap, and then he hears I don't like that--I don't think I ever did, and he can't. So he looks again, looks like a doctor--because that's what he is, isn't he? He notes the tight muscles around the eyes, the timbre of Spock's voice, the stiff shoulders and the firm mouth. This isn't Spock calm, or even Spock in denial--this is Spock focusing himself like a phaser. Anybody could see that who really looked.
McCoy leaves the bridge.
Later, when the captain's been found and the red alert lights have stopped flashing, Spock comes to his quarters. "Are you all right, Doctor?"
McCoy feels even worse. Here Spock is, coming to check on him, when he couldn't even see Spock when Spock was right in front of his eyes, terrified and doing his goddamned best work anyway. "I'm fine."
An eyebrow goes up. "97.7% of the time, you are to be found either on the bridge or in sickbay in the hour following a crisis of this magnitude."
"Then I guess this is the other 2.3%, isn't it?"
Spock just waits.
"I just felt useless," he admits, sitting on the edge of his bed. "Everybody had something to do to help, and I was just standing there giving you a hard time."
Spock cocks his head. "I have never considered the purpose of your presence on the bridge to be tactical."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" He needs a drink. "I knew you'd get the captain back, Spock. You always do."
Spock's eyes widen, and he frowns. "The odds against retrieving the captain were--"
"Hang the odds!"
There's a short silence, and then Spock presses his lips together like he's trying not to smile. "Precisely, Doctor. Your unshakable conviction that there is a correct and potentially successful course of action, if I could only be prevailed upon to discover it, is--motivating."
McCoy blinks. "Are you saying I give you hope, Spock?"
Spock's eyes glint warmly. "Certainly not."
McCoy stands up. "Spock, I, uh--I haven't always been--I haven't always let on that I had much faith in you. I guess I don't deal well with crises, ones that don't call for a doctor anyway. I have a tendency to--you know."
"Lash out?" Spock suggests.
"Yes, and I'm sorry. You deserve better."
Spock takes a wary step back. "Are you sure you're well, Doctor?"
"Yes, dammit, Spock!"
Spock puts his shoulders back in the Vulcan equivalent of a shrug. "In that case, it seems only fair to inform you that I have the highest respect for your professional qualifications."
Huh. This feeling in his gut like one of those girl-drinks Jim likes, sugar and burn together--he's pretty sure it's hope.
3. Spock needs to get laid.
It's not healthy to be that tense all the time. Even in Vulcans, sex lowers cortisol levels and produces oxytocin and endorphins. It's just logic, which is what he would say to Spock if he were going to share this opinion of his, which he isn't.
He and Jim have finally dragged Spock to a bar on Alpha Majoris III. The man's drinking the local equivalent of lemonade, but he seems to be enjoying himself and McCoy has high hopes they might find him a girl by the end of the night. Jim can't handle more than two or three, can he? There's bound to be some left over.
Then a woman walks in. She's in a gold command uniform, and she's sure as hell not from the Enterprise. He'd remember her. When she gets closer--because she's definitely heading for them--he checks out her insignia. He doesn't recognize it, which isn't surprising considering there are any number of starships in this sector, and he didn't really pay attention to Spock's pre-leave briefing.
Jim's a little unsteady on his feet--McCoy doesn't blame him, whatever they're putting in these sonic screwdrivers is a hell of a lot stronger than vodka--but he manages a perfect military nod and a ladies'-man smile anyway. "Captain."
McCoy snaps to attention, embarrassed. If he'd been looking at her arms instead of her tits, he'd have noticed her stripes himself.
She give Jim a small, sharp nod in return. Her dark hair rustles against her shoulders.
"This is my chief medical officer, Dr. McCoy. I believe you know my first officer. Bones, this is Captain Robbins of the USS Goliath."
Robbins, Robbins--oh, of course, the woman who used to have Spock's job. McCoy remembers vaguely that she got promoted to a larger ship around the same time Jim took command of the Enterprise.
Captain Robbins looks at Spock, and the corner of her mouth curves up. "Spock?" Her voice is low and rich and precise, like her movements.
Spock starts. "My apologies, sir. I have never seen you in the new uniform before. I was--unprepared."
Wait a second--has Spock been looking at her legs?
Her smile is warm and cool at the same time in a way that reminds him of Spock. Maybe he didn't learn it all on Vulcan after all. "Mr. Spock, if your captain can spare you, I would like you to join me for dinner." It sounds like a command.
"Captain?" Spock asks.
Jim smirks. "Go on, Spock."
And just like that, Spock walks off with the hottest number in the joint. McCoy's never seen anyone make the uniform skirt look quite that authoritative before. "Don't tell her anything about Scotty's battle bot," he yells after them. "Loose lips sink ships!" Spock turns his head for a moment, one eyebrow winging upwards, and that's the last they see of him for three days.
McCoy can't get the images out of his head. The two of them--they'd be a like a damned Bunsen burner, pure blue flame with the temperature controlled to within a degree. They'd know exactly what to do and what they wanted and see no logic in holding back.
He pictures her long, lean legs wrapped around Spock's hips. Spock holding her against the bulkhead with effortless Vulcan strength as he pleasures her in calculated increments. He imagines her dark hair brushing Spock's cheeks as she leans over him in bed, giving him careful instructions, her voice thick with desire but her enunciation still perfect.
McCoy's got a hard-on. He does some quick calculations. The last time he had sex was over nine months ago. Spock's off on another ship doing tantric yoga with a woman who, McCoy realizes, he's probably been sleeping with for years, and McCoy is alone on the Enterprise with nothing but obsessive thought patterns and his own right hand for company. As usual, he seems to have gotten things exactly backwards. He's the one who needs to get laid.
4. Spock is lonely.
He buys Spock a Great Dane for his birthday. "On Vulcan, birthdays are not celebrated," Spock points out, gingerly laying his hand on top of the puppy's head. McCoy can't tell if it's a clumsy attempt to pet her or a clumsy attempt to keep her tongue away from his face.
"I don't think you're in Kansas anymore," McCoy says with satisfaction. "C'mon, Spock, she's a puppy! A trained puppy, because I'm a nice guy. Dogs are man's best friend."
"They're a Vulcan's best friend too, take my word for it. Unconditional love for the price of a few treats."
"It cannot be unconditional if there is a price." The puppy climbs into his lap and sits there, tongue lolling enthusiastically. Spock looks completely out of his element.
"Scratch behind her ears."
Spock gives him a long-suffering look and obeys, his fingers disappearing under her floppy ears. She makes an ecstatic noise.
"Was that a smile I saw?"
Spock doesn't dignify that with a response.
Within a week, the puppy is obviously Jim's dog, even if she still sleeps in Spock's quarters. McCoy is convinced it's because Spock let Jim name her.
"Not in the chair, Gertrude," Jim says sternly. She climbs out of the captain's chair and begs for forgiveness, her outsized paws thumping on the deck. "Good girl." He sprawls in the chair himself and feeds her a treat.
Spock looks up from his viewscreen. "Are you sure the bridge is an appropriate place for--"
Jim smiles at Gertrude. "She's not in anyone's way."
It doesn't seem to bother Spock at all that his dog prefers the captain. McCoy can't figure it out. Not until they're on shore leave for a few days, relaxing on a class M resort planet in Sector 52. McCoy's lying in a chaise longue with a mint julep and a copy of Janet Zha'argon's latest medical thriller. The sounds of Spock and Scotty designing their next entry in the Starfleet Robot Wars and Jim playing with Gertrude have faded into the background when Spock's communicator beeps. "Spock here."
"This is Hostess Ktau," says a cheerful voice with the strange harmonics peculiar to this planet. "I just wanted to let you know that I'm holding a message from Ambassadress Amanda for you at the front desk. She's marked it low-priority."
"Thank you," Spock says. "Please forward it to the Enterprise computers, code 3AS."
"If she attached any baby tapes, I get to see them this time," Jim yells from where he's wrestling Gertrude for her favorite toy--his boot. "Leave it!" McCoy has seen cadets burst into tears when the captain uses that tone of voice, but Gertrude leaps happily onto his chest, almost kicking him in the eye with his own boot.
Spock ignores Jim's request. "Captain, if you wish to keep your boots safe, the simplest solution is to wear them."
Jim grins at him. "There's grass under my feet, Spock. You should try it."
"Mr. Spock is busy, Captain," Scotty says. "Spock, you canna be serious about using a Nychrom B processor. The Goliath's bot will eat him alive!"
"I have reason to believe that is not the case." Spock stands. "I shall return in a moment, gentlemen." He looks supremely contented. McCoy feels an unexpected, unpleasant stab of envy.
What the hell was that?
A wash of shame follows hard on its heels, because he's been looking at this all wrong. He gave Spock that puppy because he figured Spock was lonely, but Spock--when McCoy said dogs were man's best friend, Spock wasn't about to answer I'm not a man. He was going to say I've already got a best friend. And a doting mother, and crewmates who respect him. Spock's got unconditional love coming out his pointed ears. He gives it, too--all of himself, nonjudgmental, unstinting. He'd lie down and die for Jim like a dog himself. A dog gives without asking for anything in return, but Spock's a man, and if McCoy wants--
If McCoy wants Spock to love him. Hellfire and damnation. So that's what this is about.
He makes himself finish the thought. If he wants Spock to love him unconditionally, then he'd better start accepting him unconditionally first. He's been thinking that Spock needs McCoy to show him something, thinking that Spock was missing something, lacking something, and he's flat wrong.
McCoy's human through and through, he's got the same friends and crewmates as Spock and on top of all that he's a doctor, with rudimentary psychological training. But it looks like he's the one who's so lonely he could die and didn't even realize it.
5. Spock would take charge in bed.
There's no use pussyfooting around this thing. For one thing, Spock needs the standard check-up every crewman gets at the end of extended shore leave. "I'm going to have M'Benga give you your exam," McCoy tells him.
Spock's eyebrows fly up. "Dr. M'Benga's expertise is unnecessary for a routine physical. Are you seeing abnormal results in other members of the crew? Should we notify the captain?"
"Just shut up and I'll tell you!" He paces to his display cabinet. Standing near the flask of Romulan ale makes him feel a little calmer. "It would be an abuse of my position, given my feelings for you."
Spock looks even more confused. "Your feelings, doctors?"
"Yes, feelings. I know you know the word. Now will you let me take you out on a date or not?" His heart is pounding loud enough he's tempted to count the beats, just to fill the time before Spock answers.
"A date?" Spock repeats finally, quiet and amused.
"Yes, a date, Spock. Where two people get to know each other and--"
Spock is suddenly a lot closer. "We already know each other."
"Dammit, you know what I--" Apparently Spock does know what he means.
Spock is pretty confident with the kissing, but when McCoy puts a hand on the front of his pants he goes green. He doesn't actually apologize, but McCoy can tell he wants to. He laughs. "Y'only have to say you're sorry if you don't have an erection."
"I will never understand how you humans can be so at ease with being at the beck and call of biological imperatives," Spock says stiffly.
McCoy remembers him in the grip of that Vulcan blood fever. Almost an insanity, which you would no doubt find distasteful, he'd called it. Spock's got a good reason to feel vulnerable about this. "Spock," he says gently, "I'm a doctor. You're not going to get me to say the body is less important than the mind. And guess what? I like both."
Spock looks unconvinced, yet intrigued by this new perspective. Maybe McCoy has something to show him after all. "C'mon," he says. "Let's continue this in my quarters."
When they get there, Spock just stands by the door, hands dangling awkwardly at his sides. "Is this how you act with Captain Robbins?" McCoy demands in exasperation.
Spock actually appears to consider the question. "Captain Robbins and I are...accustomed to one another. Moreover, she was my superior officer; an attitude of command comes naturally to her."
"Are you telling me I'm in charge?"
Spock puts his hands behind his back and stares stubbornly into the middle distance.
"Never mind, Spock. Just get on the bed." Spock obeys him.
Spock obeys him. A silly grin spreads across McCoy's face.
"Just savoring the moment." He bounces on the balls of his feet, considering possibilities.
"Doctor, I am--"
"All right, all right. Lie down."
Spock glares at him, but he does it. McCoy gives up on anything elaborate and straddles him, kissing the glare away. He rubs his thumb up and down Spock's ear, and Spock jumps, making a startled noise into his mouth. When McCoy does it again, the noise becomes a moan.
"How did you know?" Spock's voice is uneven, and that's a turn-on the likes of which McCoy had never even imagined.
"I'm a doctor, remember? It's my business to know."
"You have been fairly insistent on your ignorance of Vulcan anatomy."
McCoy rolls his eyes and says in Spock's ear, knowing Spock can feel his breath, "I'm the CMO, and you're my first officer. You really think I don't keep up to date? If I recall correctly, there's also a nerve bundle"--he slips his hand under Spock's head and rubs at the first cervical vertebra--"here." Spock's back arches. "Take your shirt off." He could take it off himself, but this giving orders thing is nice.
He's had his hands on Spock's chest before, but it was always impersonal, professional. He remembers picking out those poison darts on Gamma Trianguli VI, suddenly, in perfect clinical detail: the nasty little puncture wounds, and the tight, dark green skin around them.
"It's nothing," he says roughly, and presses his lips to the pulse point in Spock's shoulder.
"If there is something the matter--"
"Nothing's the matter, Spock, I'm just not used to seeing this when you're not sick!"
To his surprise, Spock's hand comes up to rest on his lower back, comforting and heavy. "At the moment, Doctor, I am feeling quite well."
McCoy licks his ear, and Spock grunts. A simple, hindbrain, animal sound, and it's so disconcerting coming from him that McCoy suddenly understands how strange this must be for Spock. "I liked that noise," he says. "Do it again." He grinds down against Spock, and that's so good that he makes a noise.
Spock is silent, but his hips strain upwards.
Much more of this, and they'll be done before they get started. McCoy slides down, rubs his palms over Spock's nipples and drags his mouth down the dip between them. Vulcans are a telepathic species: that means nerves in the umbilical cord, so probably neural ligaments in the abdomen--he thrusts his tongue into Spock's bellybutton and is rewarded by a shout. Definitely some vestigial feeling.
He slides his thumb up and down Spock's dick. "I'm gonna suck you, Spock. If that's all right with you."
Something weird happens with Spock's breathing that might be a laugh, and might not. "Quite all right."
He unfastens Spock's pants and put his hand inside. Spock is perfectly still as McCoy draws out his dick. He's seen it before, but never erect. Never with pre-ejaculate glistening on the tip. He's never touched it with his bare hands. He swallows. "I always thought it would be greener."
"Sorry to disappoint you, Doctor," Spock says with an effort.
"Oh, I'm not disappointed." He hasn't done this in a while, but it's like riding a bicycle, he thinks with satisfaction. Spock tastes a bit sweeter and sharper than he remembers, which isn't surprising since the composition of his semen is bound to be different. Soon he's got a rhythm going, Spock is making hoarse, wordless sounds, and then--
Spock puts his hand on McCoy's head.
He can't believe it. Such a simple little gesture of affection, and he's pictured moment by moment exactly what it would be like to fuck Spock but it never even occurred to him that Spock might thread his fingers through his hair. All at once he's so aroused he can barely see, barely focus his mind on what he's doing. He just grinds into the sheets and tries to get as much of Spock into his mouth as he can.
"McCoy," Spock groans. McCoy comes in his pants, and it's both anticlimactic and like goddamn fireworks.
It takes Spock a second to realize what's happening, but McCoy can tell when he does because the caress on the back of his head tightens convulsively. Spock is fucking his mouth now, and McCoy struggles to relax his throat muscles despite the huge levels of endorphins being pumped into his blood stream and slowing his reactions. He can barely taste it when Spock comes, a sharp sweetness at the back of his tongue and then nothing but air. He sits up with an effort.
"Fascinating." Spock's voice is weak but steady. "You received barely any physical stimulation."
McCoy taps his temple. "Good sex happens here too, Spock. I would have expected you of all people to know that."
To his amazement, Spock smiles. A small one, but he can see the edges of Spock's teeth. "I thought it was good too."
"I usually have more stamina," McCoy qualifies, but he probably can't hide how pleased he is.
Spock's smile widens, looking predatory all of a sudden. "So do I."
McCoy flashes on his fantasy of Spock fucking Captain Robbins against the bulkhead, only now it's him Spock's taking his own sweet time with. "Nice to know I was right about something," he says, and grins.