It hurt. So badly, he could hardly breathe. He’d never felt pain like this before. Not even after his divorce. So this was what a broken heart felt like.
And the really sad thing was that he had no one to blame but himself. This was all on him. He’d had every chance in the world. Years to get it right. Years to tell her how he really felt about her.
Years of friendship, so comfortable he’d never felt the need to do anything about it. He’d just taken her for granted, that’s what he had. Just assumed she’d always be there.
He loved her, he knew that now, had known it for a long time, really. How could he not? She was perfect. Everything he could wish for. Brilliant and beautiful, fun and loyal.
But saying it out loud was something else entirely. Something he just couldn’t bring himself to do. He’d shown her, of course, in a million ways. But never said those three little words. It was a sense of foreboding, a stupid superstition, he just couldn’t shake. As if those three little words could ruin everything they had.
And they had so much going for them. Such deep affection, such tenderness, and a sense of belonging he hadn’t known before. They were so good together. There’d been no need for grand declarations. She’d always understood that, or so he’d thought. She’d certainly never made a big deal of it.
Just like she’d known that his job always came first, she’d accepted his fear of commitment. Had even understood it in a way, knowing where he came from, and had never tried to push him. And yet, somewhere at the back of his mind, he’d always felt she was secretly hoping.
It had never been about his freedom or other women. He’d always been faithful to her, and she knew that. He didn’t have a problem with responsibility, either. He felt perfectly responsible for her, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. No, his fear of commitment, of relationships, was a different one. He was simply scared of messing up again. Of letting her down. Of not being good enough for her.
She’d told him time and time again, that he was the best thing that ever happened to her, that she loved him just the way he was. But he still thought she deserved far better. And he truly believed that she would realise that, too, one day, and move on. To someone who could give her everything she needed.
But now, that she actually had, the ground had been cut from under his feet. He was falling, and he couldn’t stop, his whole body shattered into a million pieces. He’d really messed up big time.
He knew he should be happy for her. Happy that she’d finally found someone not dysfunctional, not broken. Someone who loved her and was not afraid to tell her so. Tell the world so. Wasn’t that what he’d always wished for her?
But actually seeing her with him, kissing him, touching him, his arms around her, his hands all over her body, where they had no right to be, hit him like a punch in the gut. A blinding flash of pain. Agony.
She hadn’t meant for him to see them like this, of course. She was much too kind to want to rub his nose in it. She’d never want to hurt him. In fact, she’d tried to be as thoughtful as possible. Keeping her work life and private life apart, she’d never brought Amando anywhere near sickbay. Amando! What kind of stupid name was that anyway?
She’d told him about their relationship, of course, but he hadn’t actually seen them together. Until today. Until he’d gone where he had no business to be.
The sight of them together almost crushed him. It felt as if his heart was ripped apart, his head exploding. His knees buckled, his mind went numb. He had to lean against the bulkhead for support.
And all just because he hadn’t had the guts to fully commit to her when he still had the chance. To tell her that she was all he’d ever wanted. More than he could ever have hoped for.
He’d been such a fool. Afraid to have his heart broken again, if he told her, if he said the actual words. That had worked out well. Ha, the irony of it!
But this pain was just too much to bear. His head was spinning. He could feel his fingers and his face start to tingle, as they do before you pass out. And he couldn’t wait for unconsciousness to take him away. Anything to stop the hurting.
And then, nothing.
“Leonard!” he heard a voice from far away. “Leonard, wake up!”
Her voice. Urgent. She needed him, maybe she was in danger. He had to get to her.
Slowly, painfully, he opened his eyes, trying to figure out where he was.
Sickbay. A biobed. Dr. M’Benga’s relieved face. And right behind him, her face. Concerned, but smiling. So dear, so beautiful.
“I love you!” he croaked, his throat dry and scratchy.
She leaned closer, clearly not sure if she’d heard right.
“Sorry, love, what was that?”
“You’re safe, Leonard. Everyone is,” M’Benga cut in, knowing McCoy and assuming that would be his first concern. “But try not to talk or move too much yet. You’ve taken quite a beating and a nasty blow to the head, you need to rest. If it hadn’t been for your bad dream, we wouldn’t have woken you at all.”
Ignoring the other doctor, he licked his lips, cleared his throat and tried again. Whispering right into her ear.
“I love you, sweetheart!”
She pulled back a little to look at him, surprised, then let a huge, beaming smile spread across her lovely face.
“We’ve definitely got to check your head out again, love,” she grinned and leaned over to kiss him tenderly, her lips soft and warm and so familiar against his. “I love you, too, you crazy man! Always have, always will! But please cut back on those insane superhero stunts! I couldn’t bear to lose you! I want to grow old with you, you silly dork! And I definitely want to hear you say those words again when you’re off your meds.”
She laughed out loud. Her beautiful, carefree laugh.
“What happened to Amando?” he wanted to know, confused and taken aback by her reaction.
“Who?” she asked, sobering up again and casting M’Benga a worried glance, then giving him a quick once-over, probably checking for symptoms of brain damage.
“You were with Scotty and Sulu, when it happened, love. There was no Amando. I don’t even know if there’s an Amando among our crew at all. Do you?” She looked at M’Benga again, who shook his head.
McCoy stared at them for a long moment, then started to laugh, when it all fell into place. A deep belly laugh that made him wince in pain, but he couldn’t help it. He felt giddy with relief and happiness. There was still time. Time to get it right. And this time he would.
“Just a dream,” he mumbled between chuckles, “a nightmare, and certainly the best one of my life!”
And while the other two looked on mystified, watching him with growing concern, he chortled out a few more laughs, then closed his eyes again and, with a deep, contented sigh, let himself drift back off into blissfully restful sleep.