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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.

“Yes, Mother.”

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.”

“Exactly.”

 

 

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.”

“Exclusively?”

“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.

 

 

Chapter Text

Jim grimaces as he listens to Leonard sneeze four times consecutively. “Physician, heal thyself. Our final exams are in five days.”

Leonard glares at Jim from his bed, hoping the severity of his expression can be conveyed through his flimsy mask.

Jim hauls his backpack onto his shoulders and walks to the door. “I’ll read to you again tonight, okay? God. Of course you’d go the entire semester without coughing once, and now you get the campus-wide flu.”

Leonard just lies back down and curls into his blankets. There’s a shuffling sound. “There’s a gift basket in front of our door,” comes Jim’s voice. “Bones?”

Leonard hacks up phlegm. It feels as if every orifice of his body is inflamed and clogged. “Gift - basket?”

Jim returns inside and the weight of him sitting down on Leonard’s bed causes the mattress to sink. “Leonard, you have a secret admirer.”

Leonard blinks at the basket in Jim’s hand, wicker with a ribbon bow neatly adorning the handle. It is filled with liquid pouches of traditional Vulcan cold relief medicine.

“Gosh,” Jim says in an amused voice struggling to stay level. “I wonder who got these for you.”

Leonard reads the Vulcan calligraphy inscribed on the labeling, his scowl deepening. He opens the cap of one and removes his mask to taste it, just to be sure. Leonard gags.

Jim is alarmed. “What? What is it?”

“Vulcan Longan fruit,” Leonard spits. Every single pouch. The one flavor of fruit that Leonard absolutely despises.

Jim blinks twice. “Huh, okay.” He shoulders his backpack and leaves again. “I have no idea what’s going on.”

Next is a package, a cardboard box that barely fits through their doorway. Jim and Leonard open it, revealing another cardboard box snug inside of it.

“I think I’m feeling a trend here,” Jim says when they open the thirty-seventh box.

The final box is small enough to fit inside Leonard’s palm. He opens it. It contains one over-the-counter pill for chest congestion.

Leonard recognizes the brand. The recommended dosage is two pills.

“Your secret admirer is one fucking passive-aggressive son of a bastard,” Jim observes, watching Leonard attempt to open the lid of a jar filled with homemade soup.

It is impossible for Leonard or Jim to open. On a whim, Jim offers it to his Security track friend Hendorff. He opens it, but the amount of force required to do so sends soup spraying on the lounge walls and ceiling.

Jim scowls at Leonard, who cradles the empty jar in his hands as they walk back to their room. “I thought Professor Spock looked cool and rational, but he’s just a fucking weirdo. Why are you putting up with this?”

It couldn't be further from tolerating Spock's gestures. Leonard clings to the gifts like a lifeline, because they mean Spock still cares.

Spock still cares about Leonard.

It gives Leonard enough courage to finally approach him. Leonard recovers the day before final exams, and he walks into the lecture hall to find Spock tidying the podium as the students leave. Leonard walks down the length of the stairs to reach Spock, who is pointedly ignoring everything around him, especially Leonard.

“Thank you for the gifts,” Leonard says. “And the food.”

Spock doesn’t stop to look at him. “I did not give you anything.”

“Then thank you for giving it to someone else to be given to me.”

Spock freezes. He turns his back on Leonard and walks away with his chin held high. Leonard watches him leave, and wonders if it is his projections or that Spock's parting footsteps are a little too fast.

 

 

The next time Leonard and Spock meet is before Jim’s disciplinary hearing. Spock is the one to confront Leonard the moment he exits the interrogation chamber. “Leonard,” Spock says, reaching out for his arm. 

Leonard pulls away. He had just been questioned for twenty eight minutes on his association with Jim and his recently completed Kobayashi Maru test. He is not in the mood to speak to the creator of the test, the one who called for the hearing in the first place. Leonard attempts to walk around him.

Spock aggressively gets in front of Leonard, cutting him off. “You had no relation to the conduct violation?”

Leonard feels a surge of protective anger for Jim. “I’m here talking to you, am I not? You are overreacting to Jim Kirk’s choice of solution. He analyzed the presented problem and executed the necessary measures to solve it.”

“By changing the conditions of the test, the cadet displayed a gross excess of narcissism in his command decisions.” Spock pauses, his face closing off. “What is your relationship with him?”

Leonard is disoriented hearing the question from Spock. “What? I have just informed the interrogator multiple times. He is my roommate.”

Whatever Spock is about to say in reply is interrupted by Leonard and Spock’s comms sounding a piercing alarm. Leonard checks the incoming message. An unidentified hostile craft is approaching in the vicinity. All cadets are to report to Hangar One immediately.

Leonard watches Spock receive a call with stormy eyes. “Commander Spock.” His shift in tone makes Leonard’s skin hot. “Yes, sir.” Spock snaps the comm closed and with one last glance at Leonard, he leaves in the direction that the cadets are moving in. Leonard goes to look for Jim. 

“Academic suspension,” Jim says as Leonard drags him down the hallway by one sleeve. “I won’t be assigned like the other cadets until the hearing is over.”

“It does not matter,” Leonard says, still bitter from Spock’s audacity. “You’re coming with me.”

Leonard is assigned to the newly commissioned USS Enterprise, Captain Pike and Spock’s ship. Leonard scowls as he sneaks Jim onboard. His intuition is already telling him something is about to go very wrong, and Leonard plans on hiding in the Medical Bay for the duration of the trip.

The moment they exit warp, Leonard feels the entire hull quake. It feels nothing like the simulations. The sound is deafening. 

Leonard hears running in the hallways outside. The ship rocks again. Jim tries to shield Leonard from debris as an explosion rocks the entire ship, but the gesture is useless. Both of them are catapulted to the other side of the room. 

Leonard coughs. His body and lungs are still weak from the recovery of the flu. He feels something wet on the side of his face. 

“Oh my god,” Jim says weakly. “Bones! Are you okay? That’s so much blood, oh fuck.” Leonard pushes Jim’s frantic hands back, sitting up with another bout of coughs.

He hears a voice somewhere above him. “Nurse Taylor, the Doctor - !” The officer is bent over the still body of Doctor Puri, the Chief Medical Officer. His neck is twisted at an unnatural angle.

“Hey, you!” Jim startles as he is grabbed by collar. The officer holding him up glares. “You’re that cadet! The one who was about to go into a disciplinary hearing!” The officer’s eyes slide past him to focus on Leonard, who is still curled up on the ground.

Jim staggers, struggling at the officer’s grip. “No - sir, I snuck in here on my own. He has nothing to do with me being here!”

The officer ignores him. “Get me Captain Pike on the intercom. There is a cadet who had come aboard the Enterprise without authorization, and one of the senior medical officers helped him.”

Leonard’s entire body feels cold when he hears the response. “Pike has been taken hostage. Acting Captain Spock is currently commanding the Enterprise.

 

 

Leonard expects Spock to be angry.

He does not expect Spock to jettison Jim out of the Enterprise in an escape pod.

Leonard stands on the bridge with his bandaged head, still in shock from the abrupt sequence of events. 

A Romulan who calls himself Nero is the commander of the unidentified craft, and it had attacked the Enterprise with superior weapons and defenses. Pike had surrendered, delegating command of the ship to Spock. The most likely reason for Pike’s capture is to gain access to Earth's defense codes, but further motivations are still undetermined. Spock had dismissed Leonard to the Medical Bay to fulfill his new obligations as Chief Medical Officer, but Leonard refuses to leave. He stands and watches Spock delegating tasks to the crew. 

Spock is speaking to Chief Engineer Mr. Scott before he finally notices that Leonard had never left. Spock finishes talking to the engineer before going to Leonard.

“Permission to speak freely, sir,” Leonard says with a dry mouth.

Spock’s eyes are piercing. “I welcome it.”

“You fucking bastard.” The Vulcan spills unbidden from Leonard’s mouth. “What were you thinking? You could have him killed, releasing Jim to space like that! It was hardly the logical thing to do, not to mention I was the one that brought him onboard? This isn’t like you, Spock.

Spock is stunned by the sudden use of their first language. For a second, Leonard sees the ghost of a person he once knew everything about - and in that person’s expression, he sees the disappointment, betrayal, fear and misery.

Spock’s face hardens. “Your input is appreciated and noted. You are dismissed, Doctor.”

Leonard refuses to look at the various faces of the baffled bridge crew in the background. He is ready to stubbornly stand his ground when the navigator calls, “Captain Spock, sensors are registering an unidentified vessel pacing us. A small ship. It is at the limits of our sensor ranges.”

Spock’s brows furrow. “Any attempts at -”

The navigator squawks. The communications officer and pilot are yelling. Spock and Leonard turn to see the lingering sparking effects of a transporter right in front of the viewscreen. A tall man in a space suit with a hood straightens up. There’s someone clinging to his sleeve right behind. It’s Jim, with hard eyes and a large bandaged gash on his face. Spock makes a small noise.

Leonard stares as the tall man carefully removes his hood. It’s Spock. He shows signs of advanced age and accumulated confidence, but it is without a doubt him.

Leonard decides to stop thinking that this day could not become more bizarre than it already is.

 

 

“Explain,” Leonard demands, standing in front of Jim. Jim is playing with his hands, looking back and forth from the ground to the conference room containing Spock and the older Ambassador Spock. They are having a private conversation inside.

Jim brings a hand to his cheek, the uninjured one. “He’s Spock from another reality. Nero was angered by something he had no control over, and now Nero’s destroying things in our reality.”

Jim stares at Leonard’s face. Leonard frowns. “What?”

Jim blinks. He slumps back against the wall, lethargic. “Nothing. Just trying to see what he sees in you.”

Before Leonard can request further clarification on the perplexing words, Spock exits the room with Ambassador Spock close behind. “We must cease following the Narada and go to protect Vulcan.” Spock uses the PADD in his hands to perform a complex calculation before handing it to the ambassador. “With the Ambassador’s assistance, we will be able to push back on the Narada’s advances and stop Nero for good.”

Ambassador Spock has changed from his space suit to a more practical Starfleet uniform. He is analyzing a navigation path with the PADD. “With the universal Federation codes from Pike, Nero would be able to render your entire fleet immobile before destroying Vulcan by deploying red matter. There is no time to delay, Captain.”

Spock nods. Satisfied, the ambassador turns towards Leonard, his eyes bright. “Remarkable. Greetings, Leonard.”

Suddenly Leonard feels very vulnerable under the scrutiny of the old Vulcan. The ambassador looks so much like his Spock, and nothing like him at the same time, with an unrecognizable expression on his face.

Spock pauses. He looks displeased by their proximity. Jim clears his throat obnoxiously and gently pushes Spock towards the direction of the turbolift. “You heard the ambassador, Captain. To the bridge.” Spock side-steps away from Jim’s nudge and with one final frown at them, goes to leave.

Leonard does not miss Jim’s much more obvious despondent body posture as he follows Spock, looking behind him as they turn the corner. The ambassador is still looking fondly at Leonard. Leonard swallows. “Are we childhood friends in your reality as well?”

The ambassador raises an eyebrow. “Fascinating. No, we were not.”

“We were still friends,” Leonard says carefully. He pauses and raises an eyebrow. “Were we? Friends?”

For whatever reason, Leonard’s words appear to amuse the ambassador. He says something softly in Vulcan.

Leonard keeps his expression carefully neutral.

“Yes, to answer your inquiry, Doctor. We shared a wonderful friendship. One that I have missed for far too long.” The ambassador steps back slightly. “I should not keep you from the medical bay any longer. I shall go assist the captain.” The ambassador smiles slightly before turning to leave.

Leonard makes sure the ambassador is gone before falling back against the wall and sliding down.

My beloved, the stars have heard me. I get to see your face once more.

The word of endearment is only used specifically for relationships of a romantic nature. Leonard and Spock were romantically involved in another reality?

With extreme difficulty, Leonard picks himself up and hurries to the medical bay, where the other nurses and doctors are tending to minor injuries. He can feel the Enterprise entering warp, and mentally braces himself as he locates a pair of gloves to begin treating the patients. So long as he stays focused, he will not be worrying about what is going on above. It would be a useless waste of mental energy.

The longer Leonard is in the medical bay, the more he must fight the urge to check on what is happening on the bridge, outside the Enterprise.

Gradually, it feels as if the battle is drawing to a close. Leonard nearly jumps when the intercom warns of an incoming message. “Get me Doctor McCoy. Bones!” Jim’s frantic voice crackles through the intercom. “Spock - you need to stop him, Bones. The planet’s crumbling apart and he’s trying to beam down to the surface!”

Leonard discards his gloves and runs through the decontamination chamber at top speed to the lift.

“Spock,” Leonard snaps as the lift doors open to the transporter level. Spock is struggling against Jim and three security officers. “What’s going on?”

Spock stops moving, but his eyes are still focused on the transporter pad. “Nero is creating a black hole at the center of Vulcan that will consume the planet. My mother is still in the Katric ark, you must let me go down and help her evacuate!”

Amanda. Leonard’s heart stutters.

Spock pushes away the officers. “This is an order. Let go of me and clear the pad.” 

Leonard does not leave. “You are not going down there yourself. We go together.” Leonard turns to the transporter chief without looking at Spock’s face. “Energize.”

The moment they land, they run into the Katric ark. Statues and rocks rain down as the entire ground shakes. “Amanda,” Leonard cries, rushing up the stairs.

Amanda stands in shock from her place behind several Vulcan elders. “Leonard? Spock!”

“We must evacuate,” Spock orders. “Immediately!” Spock takes Amanda’s hand and they all leave together. Amanda screams as pillars fall to their left and right.

Leonard gasps for air as they exit into the blinding sunlight. He can hear the young navigator’s constant dialogue through Spock’s comm as they move into an area where it is possible for them to be transported up. “Transport in five… four...”

The rocks give way. Amanda falls. Leonard does not think. He lunges forward and wraps Amanda in his arms. It feels as if there is no end to their descent… falling further… further...

Leonard and Amanda slam into the transporter pad. 

Leonard coughs and groans, rolling to his back. “Mother!” Spock falls to his knees next to them. “Leonard!”

“I’m perfectly alright.” Amanda is already dusting herself off as Spock helps her sit up.

Spock's voice is very small. “You’re not hurt anywhere? You're sure?”

Amanda pats his arm. “I’m alright, Spock.” She wraps her arms around Spock as he envelops her in a tight embrace.

“Leonard.” Spock quickly releases Amanda to look at him. Leonard is already sitting up, also dusting himself off. Spock inches closer to him. “Leonard,” he repeats. Leonard recognizes that tone of voice in the single trembling syllable. Spock can’t maintain control over his tears any longer.

Leonard doesn’t hesitate. He grabs Spock’s hand and hauls them to their feet. He rushes down the short hallway and turns into a small supply closet, slamming the door shut behind them. Compared to the noisy, crowded hallways outside, the interior of the cramped closet is muted. The ship feels like it is straining into warp. 

Leonard looks at the ceiling. “Set room to privacy mode, with access to be re-engaged by only the acting captain or chief medical officer.”

Spock is sobbing into Leonard’s shoulder before the door lock clicks shut.

Leonard acutely remembers the last time he held Spock like this while Spock cried. It had also been related to Amanda - apparently they had just had their first big fight, and Spock had never been so upset in his life. Leonard had thought it was adorable, and Spock had smacked him.

Leonard cradles the small of Spock’s back with one hand, and runs his hand through Spock’s dusty hair with the other. He keeps Spock pressed against his body to support his sagging weight. Spock’s hands cling around Leonard’s waist as he sobs ugly, unrepressed tears onto Leonard’s uniform. Leonard closes his eyes and doesn’t let go.

The Enterprise smoothly advances into warp. The shuddering and groaning stops. Leonard can hear faint cheers of celebration outside the door.

The tears are slowly exhausted, and Spock rests his head on Leonard’s shoulder, utterly drained.

When Spock had finished crying on Leonard after the fight with Amanda, Spock had leaned back and looked at Leonard with a watery gaze full of gratitude and affection.

Now Spock awkwardly peels himself backwards, avoiding eye contact. He takes a shuddering breath. “Your assistance is appreciated.”

“Spock,” Leonard says softly. “I’m sorry.”

Spock hesitates. He carefully rests his head on Leonard’s shoulder again. He has not removed his hands. “I’m sorry as well,” he says into Leonard’s neck.

“You have nothing to apologize for. I was the one that broke our promise.”

“You were in grieving, and I did not treat you as a true friend would.”

“Spock.” Leonard rests his head on Spock’s. “Let’s move on. I accept your apology.”

Spock sighs and leans further into Leonard. “I have already accepted your apology as well.”

Leonard tries to memorize the feeling of Spock’s body weight against his. “Then we are - friends again?”

“I would be honored, Leonard. Yes.”

 

 

The battle is over. Ambassador Sarek and select Starfleet officers had been critical to the infiltration of the Narada, preventing the destruction of the Enterprise and saving Pike. Nero and the Narada are no more, but Vulcan has been destroyed, and most of its six billion inhabitants.

Leonard declares Spock’s state as emotionally compromised and gives him strict orders to rest until Acting Captain Hikaru Sulu can transport them to the nearest starbase. Spock has no complaints.

During his first brief moment of rest, Leonard forgoes locating a meal to check on Spock’s family. Spock’s unconscious father is in one of the medical beds, his head and amputated leg carefully bandaged, and Spock is asleep in a chair next to him, his head rested on the mattress. Amanda sits right next to Spock, reading something on a PADD. When she hears Leonard enter, she looks up and holds her hand out to him.

Leonard hugs Amanda tightly before turning to look down at Spock, still fast asleep. “He almost lost all three of us,” Amanda says, squeezing Leonard’s hand. “It’s been a very long day for everyone.”

Leonard sighs. “It has.”

Amanda turns back to her sleeping family, and Leonard’s mind, no longer preoccupied by treating patients, is free to consider what he has avoided contemplating upon since the moment he was first confronted by it.

Ambassador Spock was in a relationship with the Leonard of his reality. That Spock and Leonard were in love.

Leonard knows what love is. At least, he believes he does. He has had many girlfriends, he has even had a wife. Leonard has never felt that love with Spock. However, as Leonard ponders, he realizes the affections he harbors for Spock are individual and unique to him alone. He had always thought it was the result of their long history together. If-

“Doctor McCoy,” Nurse Chapel says gently, peeking her head past the filmy curtain dividing the beds. “I apologize, but your assistance is required.”

Amanda squeezes Leonard’s hand before urging him to leave with a single touch.

 

 

The crew of the Enterprise returns to the closest starbase and receives high praise and commendations for their success. Spock is promoted to Captain and given command of the Enterprise. Leonard will remain as his chief medical officer. 

Leonard slips out halfway through the ceremony. He had seen the ambassador slip in discreetly fourteen minutes ago only to leave again. Leonard cannot let the old Vulcan leave without confronting him first.

Ambassador Spock watches Leonard approach him in the privacy of a quiet hallway, as if he had been waiting for him. “You and the Leonard McCoy of your universe were in a relationship,” Leonard says.

The ambassador does not refute the statement. “I served as First Officer to Captain Jim Kirk of the Enterprise. Leonard was the Chief Medical Officer. We first met each other onboard. I was wary of him from the first day we spoke to one another. Leonard was born on Earth and represented, to me, what I had endlessly sought to disown during my childhood. My human heritage.”

It is impossible for Leonard to imagine Spock rejecting an entire half of himself. Spock is human just as much as he is Vulcan.

The ambassador’s eyes become hazy. “I could not accept that I had fallen in love with this hot-headed, passionate, deeply caring human doctor. I denied the existence of my yearning for him, to the point that I would attempt the Kolinahr ritual.”

Kolinahr? There is no such thing in this universe.” 

“It is the Vulcan purging of all vestigial emotions. I told Leonard I would never see him or any member of the Enterprise crew again”

“You were unsuccessful.”

“I was,” the ambassador agrees. “I returned to the Enterprise and to Leonard, my training incomplete. But I was satisfied in the knowledge that an existence without the ability to love and grieve would be one of great loss.”

“So, afterwards - how did you - you and -” Leonard cannot finish the sentence.

“Yes,” Ambassador Spock says softly. Of course he would understand everything Leonard is trying to say. “I finally initiated a romantic relationship with Leonard after I died.”

What?” Ambassador Spock raises an amused eyebrow at Leonard’s aborted gesture to protect him. Embarrassed, Leonard steps back once more.

Ambassador Spock just shakes his head with a small smile. “I lost my life attempting to restore the Enterprise warp drive to save the crew from an impending explosion. Apparently I had transferred my katra to Leonard before dying of radiation poisoning. My body and mind were eventually restored through fal-tor-pan, but I lost much of my memory, which I gradually regained as years passed.” 

The ambassador pauses. “Immediately after fal-tor-pan, I did not remember anyone. I did not remember who Leonard was. I only remembered I had wanted to touch the human intimately, inside and out, with an intensity that terrified me. As for Leonard, he did not act upon how he truly felt until he had experienced the pain and regret of my passing.” 

Leonard’s throat is tight merely considering a world, a life without Spock in it anymore. Leonard considers the ambassador, trying to imagine a Spock that grew up in a Vulcan culture that was much harsher to the control and display of emotions. The Spock of Leonard’s reality is reserved as most Vulcans are, but that is more his personality than the results of oppressive systematic training. Around his parents and Leonard, Spock does not find it shameful to smile and laugh and touch. It also sounds as if the Leonard of that reality was more open and dramatic, more deeply connected to his prideful, compassionate human blood than Leonard himself, raised for much of his life on Vulcan. 

The ambassador sighs and looks past Leonard. “Our time together was too short. I hope it will not take such drastic measures for you and my counterpart to find peace, if not happiness.”

“Leonard.” Leonard follows the ambassador’s gaze to see Spock standing at the end of the hallway, walking towards them with intent. There are others walking about in the distance. “The ceremonies have just ended,” Spock says. He gives his counterpart a hard look.

The ambassador holds up his worn hand in a ta’al. “I shall be taking my leave, then. Live long and prosper, both of you.”

Prosper and live long,” Leonard says in response, holding up a ta’al. The ambassador stares very long at his hand. Then he makes a noise, like a breath of laughter cut short. “Truly fascinating.”

“My parents are waiting,” Spock interrupts impatiently. He grabs Leonard’s sleeve and nods once at his counterpart before pulling them away.

Leonard watches Spock for the rest of the evening and wonders.

 

 

Chapter Text

Leonard is still wondering when the Enterprise begins a five-year mission. The ambassador occasionally calls Leonard, and he is pleased to talk to the old Vulcan every time. If the older Spock is somehow nudging Leonard towards his counterpart, Leonard is not perceptive enough to determine that it is what he is doing.

Does the older Spock ever talk to his counterpart about Leonard? Leonard freezes while clearing a tray of hypos and a nurse gives him a strange look, but Leonard cannot find it in himself to care. Leonard does not even know Spock’s state of feelings. Does Leonard’s Spock even harbor romantic inclinations for Leonard? Leonard desperately thinks of Spock’s countless interactions with him. Were his actions not typical of friends that have known each other so deeply and for such an extended length of time?

If their relationship were to deteriorate once more because of Leonard’s hapless fumblings, Leonard would almost certainly have to leave the Enterprise. It is not ideal. Leonard has yet to determine if he is even in love with Spock. Leonard stays quiet.

Jim abandons the command track to become a science officer. Leonard has never seen him look happier as he rambles about quantum mechanics to his colleagues. Leonard suspects that Jim is maintaining contact with Ambassador Spock as well. The small framed picture on Jim’s desk is a candid image of the old Vulcan pondering a message on his comm.

Leonard recognizes the captured expression. It’s the face Spock makes when he is planning to say or do something mischievous.

When Leonard points it out when he comes to his room to drink, Jim slaps down the photo with a deeply flushed face. Leonard casually mentions there has been an exponential decrease in the one-night-stand rumors normally surrounding Jim. Jim tells Leonard to fuck off.

It’s only on Leonard’s third drink when he feels relaxed enough to ask Jim if it’s normal for someone to be able to recognize his close friend’s expression on a photo of the close friend’s older counterpart’s face.

Jim’s grin slowly widens. “So you admit you’re in love with Captain Spock.”

“I did not say that. I am currently in the process of determining if I am.” 

“What, you want to figure out if you’re compatible? Or if you want to fuck him?”

Leonard goes motionless. 

“Uh, okay, abort. You’re looking like you’re about to short circuit there, cowboy. Calm down. How long have you two known each other, again?”

“Since we were four years of age.” Leonard is still unsettled. It feels like something that should not be approached, imagining his childhood friend in such a compromising position - with Leonard as the instigator-

Leonard cuts the thought off.

Jim plays with his glass. “I don’t think I’ll be much help, sorry. I didn’t have any friends as a - until I - met you.” Jim clears his throat. “Sorry, that probably made no sense. No childhood friends.” He points to himself to emphasize.

“Surely you had someone.”

“Had someone all right,” Jim mutters. “Never going back again.”

He looks as if he does not want to be left alone, so Leonard falls asleep in Jim’s bed with Jim lying nearly on top of him. It is as if they are in the academy again.

“You planning to go down for shore leave?” Jim spits his toothpaste in the sink and turns on the sonics.

Leonard grunts, still lying in Jim’s bed.

“I’m sending a location to your PADD. I heard this restaurant at this starbase makes really good vegan stews. You should go with someone.”

Leonard attempts to divert the human. “What about you?”

“I’m expecting a call sometime soon. Gonna play chess with Old Spock and gossip about you.” Jim winks at Leonard. The ambassador hasn’t called Leonard in some time, only greeting him through Jim’s video calls.

Leonard tugs the blankets up to his chin and considers the link Jim sent him. It would be nice to beam down from the ship and spend time with Spock. Their interactions of late have been professional and limited to their work. As captain, Spock takes his responsibilities very seriously, leaving little room for other indulgences.

Leonard washes up and gets dressed in a fresh uniform before locating Spock. Spock is in the captain’s chair, speaking to Mr. Scott with an unsettled expression. Leonard feels his hopes fall. “Doctor,” Mr. Scott says cheerfully, walking past him. 

Leonard stands next to the captain’s chair, and cannot help smiling at Spock’s expectant expression. “Good morning, Spock.”

“How can I help you, Doctor?”

“I plan to visit an establishment Jim recommended to me known for their vegan Korean stews. Would you be amenable to accompanying me?”

Spock shakes his head slowly. “I apologize, Leonard. There has been a call from Starfleet headquarters. An unusual anomaly has been discovered in our vicinity, some sort of temporal energy ribbon. I must stay aboard the ship to monitor it.” 

Leonard quells his disappointment. “I understand. I hope it is a harmless phenomenon.”

Spock leans back in his chair, smiling softly at him. “I hope so as well. Enjoy your shore leave, Doctor,”

Leonard walks towards the transporter pad, unsettled. He had not planned on heading down alone. He considers for a moment staying in his private quarters, but the prospect of a non-replicated meal proves enough motivation to beam down to the starbase surface.

The restaurant is small with a neat courtyard outside. Leonard opts to sit at one of the tables outside and survey the menu.

It’s peaceful, with only one other family sitting outside as well. The effects of the universal translator crackle around their speech. The father is attempting to feed a small child, who is more interested in the butterflies and flowers circumventing the small fountain. Every time the water spurts up, she squeals with delight. Leonard watches the delighted face with amusement.

“Doha, ahhh,” the man says, proffering a filled spoon to the child. Doha accepts the bite and chews before singing a song about tribbles hopping. She punctuates the lyrics by stomping her bare feet on the pavement. An older man and woman sitting with the man feeding Doha clap in time to the song. Leonard sends in his order and waits for the food by watching Doha’s family’s interacting.

“Appa,” Doha says to the man before babbling. The translator barely picks it up. Dad, there are budderfly in the fountain flowers. 

There are butterflies in the fountain flowers, yes, they look very colorful,” the father says patiently in reply. He manages to feed Doha some more rice. Doha obediently swallows, then is momentarily distracted by the server robot discreetly rolling forward with Leonard’s stew.

The server robot makes a grinding noise and tips over, sending soup all over Leonard’s shins. Leonard leaps back as the robot crashes on its side.

There’s a yell. “Are you alright?” Leonard blinks at the sudden use of Standard. Doha’s father has rushed over with several napkins. The older adults have not even noticed anything amiss.

Doha will help,” Doha says, trying to take the napkins from her father. 

“Thank you,” Leonard says, accepting the napkins and attempting to dry the soup trickling down to his socks and shoes. 

“Oh, Doha, oh no.” Leonard looks down and sees Doha’s father pulling a small glittering blue sandal stuck inside the robot’s wheel mechanism. Doha’s father looks up and down at Leonard’s Starfleet uniform, terrified and awed at the same time. “Please put your shoes back on, Doha. No more breaking robots. I am so sorry about this, sir, so sorry.”

“An accident,” Leonard says agreeably. He is about to hold up a ta’al when he remembers to hold his hand out, feeling very vulnerable with the gesture. “Leonard McCoy.”

“Hello, my name is Doha,” Doha says in accented Standard, aggressively shaking Leonard’s hand.

Who is that young man you were talking to, Seoyun?”

“Mom, please, not so loud,” the human says, amusement winning out over embarrassment. “I’m sure they can hear you from back on Earth.”

Tell the nice young man to come join us,” the older man says, slapping the seat next to him. “Hey, you! Come join us, nice young man! My son would be perfect for you!

“Appa, you don’t even know if he’s single. Or interested in men. Oh, god.” Seoyun laughs hopelessly.

“Oh, god,” Doha echoes, still swinging Leonard’s hand. 

“I would be pleased to join you,” Leonard says, amusement in his voice as Doha drags him to their table to show him her collection of toy starship models.

Leonard learns that the older couple is Seoyun’s parents, Doha’s grandparents, that Seoyun adopted Doha as a baby and has never been married, although he had a couple boyfriends that never lasted long. He learns where Seoyun was born, his educational history, and his current occupation - a painter. Seoyun’s parents interrogate Leonard, and Leonard is happy to converse with them although Seoyun keeps dissuading his parents’ prodding, cheeks flushed with embarrassment.

Seoyun’s parents are very, very impressed to learn Leonard studied on Vulcan and is a Starfleet doctor. “Smart and handsome,” Seoyun’s mother says, slapping Seoyun on the back. “And look at how good he is with kids. Doha finished all her food with his help. You should keep this one.”

Mom,” Seoyun complains.

Are you still hungry, Doctor McCoy? You eat so well. Have some more stew. Should I ask for more rice?” Leonard blinks at Seoyun’s father filling up his bowl again. “Where's that server robot? Excuse me please, server robot!

Leonard’s throat suddenly feels a little tight. “I appreciate it. Thank you.”

The spilled soup has long been cleared. They all finally finish eating and get ready to leave. Doha’s shoes go back on, and Doha’s grandparents hold her small suitcase.

I wanna play with Doctor MdDoy more,” Doha protests, despite tightly holding her grandparents’ hands.

Play with grandma and grandpa, Doha-ya. Doctor McCoy is very busy.

“No,” Doha mutters in Standard. “Come and play with us.

Leonard bends down to eye level. “I’m going to go help your dad find lunch for the butterflies. It’s not good for the butterflies to be hungry, right? Why don’t you go play Starfleet captain with your grandparents.”

Doha squeals and clings to her grandmother. “Food for the budderflies.” Doha tugs on her grandmother’s pants. “Let’s go play Starfleet captain, gramma.

Say bye to your dad and Doctor McCoy, Doha-ya.” Seoyun’s mother waves at them.

“Bye bye, bye bye,” Doha calls, waving her hand behind her. “Bye bye Doctor MdDoy.”

Leonard and Seoyun wave until they are out of sight. Seoyun exhales. 

Leonard says, “Doha is a fine child. You have a wonderful family. There is no need for unnecessary concern.”

Seoyun gives Leonard a grateful smile. “My parents say it’s to give their only child that’s a single dad a break for two days, but really, they like having their grandchild spend the night at their house.” Seoyun smiles at the pavement. 

“It makes me miss my own child, seeing Doha.” Seoyun raises his eyebrows in curiosity. Leonard explains, “Ex-wife received sole custody of her. I haven’t seen my baby in a long time. She is seven now.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” There is no pity in Seoyun’s eyes, just a deep empathy. Leonard finds himself drawing closer to him.

“Thank you, Seoyun.”

“Um, actually.” Leonard is finding Seoyun’s bashful blush more endearing each time he witnesses it. “My parents and the government are the only ones that call me Seoyun. You can call me Ben.”

“Ben,” Leonard repeats. “What were you planning to do after this?”

Doha’s father shrugs. “I don’t have plans.” He looks at Leonard out of the corner of his eye. “If it’s not a bother - I’d like to spend more time with you?”

“I find the prospect of spending more time with you favorable.”

Ben grins widely. “I apologize again for my parents, by the way. I know they can be a little overbearing at times.”

“There is no need to apologize - I appreciate their attention.” Leonard suddenly thinks of Amanda and Ambassador Sarek. Ben does not seem to notice the intruding thought as he offers his hand to Leonard.

Leonard takes it. His hand is very warm, nothing like the cool skin of a Vulcan’s.

 

 

Leonard still does not know if he is in love with Spock, but he learns Ben is loving, careful, and absolutely charming. And his words in bed are delightfully filthy.

Leonard checks his comm with an arm around Ben and is startled to see there is a sudden message mobilizing the Enterprise crew, recalling them from their extended shore leave.

Ben and Doha say goodbye to Leonard at the port. Leonard has Ben’s number securely in his contacts. Ben easily kisses Leonard, and Leonard reciprocates. “Stay safe, Leonard,” Ben says. Leonard just hugs Ben and a giggling Doha once more. 

When he moves back from the hug, he sees Spock and Jim approaching. Jim looks intrigued. “Bones,” he says, giving him a side hug. Leonard nods at him then turns to look at Spock. His face is completely neutral. He is hiding something. Ben looks back and forth from Leonard to Spock, suddenly wary.

Leonard gets between them. “Ben, this is Jim, and this my best friend Captain Spock of the Enterprise. Spock, Jim, this is Ben and his daughter Demora.”

Spock stays silent. Jim speaks up, intrigue giving way to nervousness. “Nice to meet you. Ben. Hi, Demora!”

Ben nods kindly at Jim, then smiles at Spock. “Nice to meet you, Captain.”

Spock nods curtly once before pulling out his communicator. “My presence is required on the bridge.” 

“Like hell it is,” Jim says under his breath, but Spock is already gone.

Ben watches Spock, and Leonard bites his lip at Ben’s upset tone. “What was that about?”

“I’m not sure,” Leonard says weakly. “Spock considers me as family. He can be very protective.”

“No,” Ben says firmly. His eyes waver towards Doha, but she is distracted by Jim’s antics, squealing with laughter. Ben focuses on Leonard again, lowering his voice. “Can you explain? What you and the Captain are to each other?”

“No.” Leonard sighs. “I can’t.”

“I’m sorry, Leonard, it’s not you. I’ve - I’ve been through this before.” Leonard is startled when Ben grasps his hand, smoothing his fingers down the back. “I’ve been through it and I’m done with it. Doha is my priority now, not my own drama. You understand, right?”

“Yes, I can.” 

Ben’s smile wavers, but it is genuine. “I’m still happy I got to meet you.”

Leonard says his final goodbyes to Ben and Doha before joining Jim in beaming onboard. Spock is waiting not far from the transporter pad.

“Do us a favor and take this to where we can’t hear,” Jim scowls before exiting the room. The transporter chief looks baffled.

“Follow me,” Spock says to Leonard. Leonard considers his options. He steps off the transporter pad and follows Spock into a private room. The door closes behind them.

“Computer, set room to privacy mode.” Spock’s stiff demeanor changes instantly. “I can smell him all over you. Why? Did he force himself on you?”

Leonard is shocked. “Spock! How could you say that about Ben?”

“I fail to understand,” Spock begins before shaking his head. “You are not attracted to men. I have never seen you date a man before, human or Vulcan.”

Leonard stares. “That is what you find distressing?”

Spock demands, “Why have you never told me?”

“You - never asked? I did not realize it was a matter that would be upsetting to you.”

Spock is silent for a very long time. “Humans,” he finally says, as if there is no insult encompassing enough to capture what he is feeling.

Leonard wants to roll his eyes. “You were uncourteous in the manner you treated Ben.”

Spock scowls as he grasps his hand in a tight fist. “Very well. I acknowledge I acted inappropriately to your partner.”

“You will apologize for your actions next time you see him.”

“I will.”

“Good. Also, Ben is not my partner,” Leonard says.

Spock blinks. “He is not?”

“No.” Leonard checks his silent comm. “Jim is attempting to communicate with you, Spock. Starfleet is contacting you again.”

Leonard looks up and furrows his brow at Spock’s unfocused gaze. “Spock.”

“Yes. I heard. Computer, disengage privacy mode.” Spock exits the room with Leonard following close behind. Leonard realizes that he looked slightly flushed. Is he sick?

“Captain on the bridge,” Uhura calls. “Captain, there is an incoming call from Starfleet headquarters.”

Spock sits in the chair and accepts the call. Nothing seems amiss anymore. The admiral and Spock discuss the steadily advancing temporal energy ribbon. Two exploratory vessels had been sent to investigate the phenomenon. One has gone missing. The other returned with almost its entire crew dead or missing. 

“The temporal flux is surrounded by a powerful gravimetric field,” the admiral says. “The captain of the Lakul described it as a reality-shifting realm that attempts to keep its victims trapped within forever.”

The Enterprise is immediately dispatched on a rescue mission to retrieve the crew of the Lakul from the temporal energy ribbon, and if possible, eliminate it. Spock looks wary.

“Admiral, you have access to my records,” Spock says carefully. “The extended leave I have requested for another -”

“It is a straightforward mission that can be completed in only half that time. Your ship is the only one in the area that is equipped for this rescue operation.” The admiral nods curtly. “The ribbon is advancing towards Starbase Yorktown at a rapid rate, Captain. You are responsible not only for the lives of the missing crew, but the starbase inhabitants as well.” The admiral cuts off communication.

“We have been sent a copy of the detailed report paperwork,” Uhura says. She exchanges a worried glance with Leonard.

Leonard does not show it outwardly, but he is concerned as well. Records? Leonard had not known Spock was the one who requested the extended leave. For what purpose had he done so?

 

 

Leonard rubs his temples as he takes a short moment of reprieve in front of a filing cabinet. He should not have put this task off for as long as he has, and now it will be the last thing he must accomplish before ending his shift for tonight.

It is the monthly reports of the commanding medical department personnel. Leonard must compile the information and analyze its data in comparison to the past ten months, as per his responsibilities as chief medical officer. It is already a painstaking process, but the task is further exacerbated due to the fact that every single one of his medical personnels’ handwriting is atrocious.

Leonard sighs and pulls open the filing cabinet. He stares at the neat pile of paper with a note stuck on top. Leonard looks through the alphabetically organized forms, typed and printed out in neat lines. The original forms with their incomprehensible handwriting in pen and pencil are behind the printed paper, also in alphabetical order. Leonard compares the first forms of each pile and realizes someone has taken the time to painstakingly digitize each form. There is only one other person that can access these papers other than Leonard.

Leonard reads the note written in precise handwriting. The amount of time it would take for you to find and thank me would be equivalent to your time saved by having these documents converted to readable form.

“Spock,” Leonard mutters, looking at the glorious, pristine forms again. “The amount of time you’ve saved me is nowhere near equivalent to that.”

Leonard finishes his work and is able to go to bed in a timely manner.

 

 

Leonard is in his office checking the inventory catalog of supplies when the door warns him of an incoming visitor. “Enter,” Leonard says distractedly.

Spock walks in with a tray with a single mug in its center. Leonard blinks. “Sp- Captain?” The formal title seems to snap Spock out of a trance. He stares at the tray in his hands. Leonard gets to his feet. “What is that?” 

Spice tea,” Spock says in Vulcan, looking as bewildered as Leonard felt. Leonard had just been thinking he desired that particular Vulcan beverage. It is even the same variant of flowering tea plant Leonard had desired. It is not instant replicated tea. The leaves smell as if they have been steeped.

Leonard glances at his desk clock. “You - came all the way down to the medical bay at one in the morning with a single cup of tea.”

“It would appear so,” Spock says weakly. He sets down the tray on the desk. “I shall go now.”

“Spock, stop right there.” Spock freezes as the doors slide open. 

“First with the forms. Then you cooked Vulcan tuber mushroom for me yesterday. And now the tea.” Spock’s prepared dish yesterday had been flawless, and he had carefully watched Leonard savor every bite. “Not to mention you haven’t eaten or slept regularly ever since shore leave began.” Leonard sits back down at his computer and inputs the passcode to access the crew’s personal information. Spock waits stiffly.

Leonard sits back and sighs. He looks at Spock. “Do I need to check your hormones for a neurochemical imbalance or are you going to tell me you’re going into your second pon farr?”

The doors slide back shut. “I was going to handle it,” Spock says.

“And you have misimprinted upon me as your mate,” Leonard says, worried.

“That’s not true,” Spock says immediately. “I simply found myself with an extra cup of tea which would have gone to waste if I had no one to give it to.”

Leonard ignores him. “Who did you spend pon farr with your first time? Your records do not mention who your mate was.”

“There was none.”

“And you were planning to endure pon farr alone a second time?”

Spock shifts from one foot to another. “You know that pon farr only requires sexual stimulation to the point of ejaculation. Self stimulation has been sufficient in the past. It will suffice once more.”

It will suffice, that's the truth, but prolonged isolated pon farrs are directly linked to depression, anxiety and suicidal tendencies. Spock seems to see Leonard’s inner worries written on his face. His expression softens. “Do not worry about me, Doctor. I must check the readings on the temporal warp scanner.”

“No. You are going to go eat dinner and sleep. Doctor’s orders.” Leonard stands. “What do you want?”

“What I want,” Spock repeats.

“Yes. I haven’t eaten yet, either. What do you want?”

“You are not obligated to do this, doctor.”

“Spock, let me help. What do you want?”

Spock is silent. Then he raises an eyebrow. “Korean stew.”

Leonard flushes, thinking of Ben and the way Spock had acted around him. “For the love of Surak. Fine. Let’s go.”

Spock is quiet as he follows Leonard to the communal kitchen. “Sit down,” Leonard instructs as he locates a cutting board and a knife. “You’re not going out of sight until I see that you have eaten and fallen asleep.”

Spock’s voice is accusatory, but lacks heat. “You are doing this as my doctor?”

“No, as your friend.”

It’s the last thing Spock says to Leonard that night. He watches quietly as Leonard slices and cooks, and he accepts a bowl and spoon with a grateful nod. After they eat together and clear the utensils and dishes, they go to the captain’s quarters. They pass by a vacant lounge, where Jim is curled up alone on the far corner couch. He is on the comm talking with a smitten tilt of lips. He doesn’t see Spock and Leonard walk by.

Spock offers a seat to Leonard next to the bed before going into the bathroom. Leonard hears the surge of the sonic showers.

Spock’s eyes are bleary when he exits from the bathroom, a towel wrapped around his waist, leaving all other skin bare. He looks very different unclothed now from how he looked unclothed as a child, with broad shoulders and thick hair on his muscled chest and legs. 

Leonard chastises himself for watching so obviously, but Spock doesn’t look at him. He goes to his pristine ordered closet and picks out underwear and a pair of pants before disappearing back into the bathroom.

When Spock opens the bathroom door again, he is half-dressed in the pants, the top half of his body still completely exposed. A pair of thin dark-rimmed round glasses are on his face. Another change differentiating him from how Leonard knew him as his childhood friend.

Leonard watches Spock check something on his comm before organizing the sparse belongings and paperwork on the surface of his desk. Without bothering to change the state of the lights or remove the glasses, he slumps into his bed, face down. The curve of his muscled back is flawless, but his shoulders are very tense.

Leonard thinks of tea and passive-aggressive medication. He thinks of the ways Spock has worked to comfort him, offering without ever asking for anything in response. “Spock, can I touch you?” Even as he says it, Leonard wills Spock to decline the offer. Spock’s eyes slide to him, alert behind the glasses still on his face. He nods once.

Leonard swallows. He abandons his seat to crawl onto the bed. He reaches out with a hand, and his fingertips tingle as he feels Spock’s mental shields attempting to give Leonard’s thoughts privacy.

Leonard lets both of his hands rest on the nape of Spock’s neck, cooler under his hotter Human touch. Spock immediately relaxes. “Is this alright?” Leonard carefully begins to massage Spock’s tense lower neck, and Spock purrs in response. It’s a sound Leonard has not heard in such a long time. It sounds much deeper, lower now. Leonard lets go of Spock. “I’ll be right back.”

When he returns, Leonard has unscented massage oil, which he warms in his hands. He carefully distributes his weight above Spock as he continues to ease the tension from his stiff back. Leonard can feel Spock sinking deeper into the mattress, slack under Leonard’s touch.

Spock is asleep by the time Leonard has finished and is carefully sliding Spock’s glasses off his face. Leonard looks at the glasses and then at a dozing, purring Spock, and his chest hurts. The glasses almost serve as concrete proof for what he understands now. He’s the person Leonard has known for so long, and not him at the same time.

And Leonard loves both. Why couldn’t Leonard figure it out this entire time? He wants to be intimate with him forever, and only him. He must tell Spock when he wakes up.

 

 

The sound of the red alert alarm wakes Leonard up.

The temporal energy ribbon has suddenly advanced. Its gravity is pulling the Enterprise in. The ship strains as the thrusters reach full capacity, trying to escape. A sudden energy discharge knocks them off balance.

Leonard feels himself slam into the wall. He hears Spock shouting his name, and then he can’t hear anything anymore.

 

 

Chapter Text

Papa,” Joanna cries.

Joanna?” Leonard scrambles to his feet. “Joanna! Where are you?”

Papa!” Joanna sobs. Leonard doesn’t think twice. It’s his baby girl’s voice, and she’s screaming for help. Leonard starts running towards the sound of the voice. 

Papa, papa please,” her voice wails before breaking into sobs again. 

Leonard doesn’t stop. He runs until his legs are giving way under him, until his chest feels like it is straining from insufficient oxygen. His mind is blank with panic.

Leonard hauls himself up and rushes forward again, only to fall again. “Joanna!”

“Bones!”

Leonard will never stop. He has to save Joanna. Joanna needs him and he isn’t there for her, why is he so weak-

“Bones, this isn’t real, that voice isn’t real. I am. Look at me now. Look at us.”

A hand brushes across Leonard’s eyes, and he startles as he looks into the watery eyes of Jim. There are a couple crew members behind Jim, holding onto each other by their uniforms. Leonard does not recognize two of them - they must be from the Lakul. “Jim.” Leonard stares at the smoke curling around them, around Jim’s outstretched hand. Joanna is still crying for help.

Jim brushes away the smoke again. It almost looks solid under his fingertips. “The report we received was insufficient, as we received the account of only two people that shared a similar experience. The energy ribbon is some sort of highly organized structure with standardized shapes and complex mechanisms to sustain itself.”

“It’s a creature? It’s alive?”

“Debatable, just like it is debated whether viruses can be considered alive or sentient.” Tears are stil falling from Jim’s eyes. “It seems like it determines how to extract despair from its victims while keeping them immobile, hostages, and it feeds on the energy.”

“This can’t be an illusion.” Leonard looks back to where Joanna is still sobbing for help. “My baby. She’s right there. She's calling for me.”

“Bones, how long have you been running towards her?” Jim challenges. “Can you explain that to me?”

Leonard falters. “You’re right. But how did you determine your illusion was false?”

Jim’s chest shudders as he roughly wipes his face. “The bond I have - it can't be replicated.”

Jim. The ambassador. Leonard demands, “You’re Vulcan bonded? Since when?”

“Since recently, actually.” Jim puts his face against Leonard’s shoulder. “Oh god. I left him all alone there, Bones. He’s dying in a medical pod, he’s in so much pain. He was holding my hand and I could feel how scared he was that I would leave him during his last moments, and I did! I abandoned him!”

Now Leonard is the one pulling Jim back. “It’s not real, Jim. It’s an illusion. Concentrate on your bond.”

Jim’s rapid breathing slows down. His eyes are closed. “I can hear the real one through our bond. My distress is causing him fear.” Jim shakes his head rapidly. “We have to find the others and get outta here.”

“Yes. Have you located the captain yet?” Leonard tightens his grip on Jim’s uniform as Jim leads them away from Joanna’s pitiful sobbing. The smoke feels solid under his fingertips as Leonard brusquely pushes it aside. 

“No, we haven’t found the captain or any of the bridge crew yet. Most of the people I shook out of the trance just needed to hear their name. Some of the others were more difficult to convince.” Jim stops before moving on. “Leonard, even if we find everyone, I don’t know how we’ll get out of here.”

“We will,” Leonard says through gritted teeth. The smoke ahead is beginning to thin. The wisps dissipate into the solid walls of a room, feeding the tangible illusion. It appears to be a well furnished bedroom with a bed at its center. Leonard hears the soft moans as he approaches, and freezes. “Stop.”

Jim has heard the sound, too. “You recognize that voice?”

“Yes. Stand down here while I get him.”

“Bones,” Jim says, frantic as he grasps Leonard’s uniform.

Leonard makes eye contact with the young human. “I am trusting you to find us again. Please. Give the captain privacy.”

Jim swallows. He looks back at the crew members and orders, “Stay together, don’t let go. I think Scotty will be our best bet to get out of here, his illusion probably involves the Enterprise and that’s not a small ship.”

The crew turns back in the direction they came from as Leonard continues forwards.

He brushes smoke from his eyes and blinks at the sight of Spock, bare and lying on his back on top of the bed in the middle of the empty room formed of smoke. A figure formed of the smoke is pressed above him, thrusting into him with urgency.

It must be the real Spock, as the Vulcan stands out starkly from the flickering, shifting illusion. In comparison to the smoky illusion, Spock looks very solid and very real. He is kissing the illusion deeply, whimpering at the contact. His deft fingers brush against the figure’s cheap imitation of smooth skin and rough stubble, fingers connected to the figure's cheek in a meld. His erection is thick protruding from its folds, slapping against his stomach with each thrust.

Leonard's stomach twists when he realizes how closely the figure inside of Spock resembles himself. “Spock,” Leonard says, rushing forward.

Spock's eyes are glazed as he turns with difficulty to look at Leonard. “Who are you?”

“It's me, Spock. It's Leonard.” 

The figure continues to thrust into Spock, and Spock does not remove his fingers from its face. “You are attempting to trick me. You will never take me away from here. I finally have what I desire.” Spock's eyes fixate on the illusion once more, his eyes distant. “Leonard does not reciprocate my feelings, but he tolerates them, and I will belong to him until death. I could not ask for more.”

“Spock, please,” Leonard says with desperation. “Snap out of it. I need you!” He yanks away Spock's clammy hand, attempting to bring it to his own face. “Meld with me, Spock. You need to know this is all a fantasy that will eventually kill you.”

Spock shakes Leonard off, not breaking eye contact with the figure inside him. Leonard attempts to move his face into the position of the illusion's, but the illusion keeps moving out of alignment, and Spock's hand follows it. Leonard growls with frustration and tries to pry the illusion away from between Spock's spread legs, but it passes like smoke between his fingers. Leonard shakes Spock's shoulders, attempts to push him out of the way. He puts his hand to Spock’s sweaty face. It is like touching an unresponsive statue.

“Spock, I'm sorry.” Leonard grits his teeth and slaps Spock across the face, hard.

Spock does not retaliate. He continues to stare blankly up at the false image of Leonard still thrusting into him.

“What do I do,” Leonard says with despair. “Spock!” There is no reply, just the slick sounds of intercourse and Spock's whimpers of pleasure. “Please.” Leonard's voice breaks. “I love you, Spock. I can't lose you like this.”

“Love?” Spock's eyes slide shut as he rocks against the figure's erection. “I don't need love, I just need to feel him.”

Feel. Leonard takes a steadying breath, then another. He braces his forearms, framing Spock's face, and he leans down to brush his lips against Spock's.

Spock falters. He makes a questioning sort of nose, his eyes wide and dark, still distant but holding a spark of confusion. Leonard swings a leg over Spock's body and grinds against him as he continues to kiss him, feeling Spock's hard length against the fabric over his own growing erection. The smoke is pushed to the sides, unable to occupy the places of Leonard's physical presence.

Spock throws his head back, exposing the gorgeous column of his neck. Leonard brushes aside the smoke conglomerating there and bites down. Every time there is a flicker of recognition in Spock’s eyes, it gives way to a hazy, vacant stare as the smoke creeps over his face and slit. Leonard bends down to undo his pants and pull his erection from his dampening underwear. He lines up the head with Spock's slick entrance, his self-loathing welling up, thick and choking. He has no choice.

“There's not enough room for both of us,” Leonard spits at the swirling illusion around him. “I'm not letting you take him like this. He is mine.” Leonard presses inside Spock, faltering at how hot and alive and tight he feels. Spock cries out loudly in pain, thighs pressing around Leonard's waist at the intrusion. Leonard is shocked to smell the tang of Vulcan blood. The illusion had not prepared Spock at all to be penetrated by a real person.

Leonard's face comes into contact with Spock's outstretched hand. Leonard projects his thoughts as loudly and clearly as possible. 

Spock!

Spock's eyes clear in an instant as he enters Leonard’s mind all at once. The severity of the penetration causes Leonard to cry out. Spock yanks his hands back as if he has been burnt. “Leonard.” Leonard’s ears are still ringing from the force of the meld, his vision blurry and temples throbbing. He exhales and presses his forehead to Spock's, overwhelmed to the point of no words. 

Spock twists away, spasming around Leonard's cock. “Remove yourself,” Spock chokes. “Immediately.”

Leonard's heart drops. Spock sobs as Leonard tries his best to pull out carefully. Leonard murmurs encouragement and apologies, wincing at the sight of blood and slick smeared between them. He has hurt Spock in the worst way imaginable. Leonard had just realized he has always loved Spock and now he will never be able to touch him ever again.

“I'm so sorry, Spock,” Leonard repeats miserably, the headache slowly growing in magnitude. “I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry.”

Spock's chest heaves with the effort to take steady breaths. Pants still undone, Leonard removes his outer uniform shirt to wipe them both off with trembling hands before draping it over Spock's sheath and thighs. 

“My crew,” Spock whispers.

“Jim’s got twelve of them. The rest must be located. I thought I would save you first.”

“We must find the rest of my crew and escape this place immediately.” Spock collects himself and struggles to stand upright. He keeps Leonard's uniform clenched over his groin. His cheek is still flushed from where Leonard slapped him. Seeing Spock so scared and physically vulnerable yet determined to save the others makes Leonard's heart ache.

They don’t spend time looking for Spock’s missing uniform. Leonard gives Spock his trousers and Spock ties Leonard’s outer uniform around his waist. He holds Leonard’s hand tight and leads them through the wisps of smoke. Leonard watches Spock limp with every step he takes. The sight makes Leonard want to let go of Spock’s hand and allow the smoke to swallow him forever.

Spock grips Leonard’s hand tighter.

Jim’s intuition proves reliable and the sight of a destroyed Enterprise in the distance helps them locate Scotty and Jim’s accumulation of crew members. Jim drags a blubbering Scotty inside along with the others. It turns out the Enterprise is still fully intact. The exterior merely appears disfigured due to the illusion. The smoke cannot pass the decontamination chambers. There are several crew members hiding inside the Enterprise, not enough to fly the ship but Spock’s relief is clearly evident as he looks at each face.

“Search parties must consist of at least two personnel with one individual who contains an internal and tangible practical basis that allows them to withstand the effects of the smoke, such as a Vulcan mental bond. Please inform us if you are able to lead the search parties.”

Lieutenant Gaila raises her hand, along with one other crew member. Spock frowns. “Only three search parties then, including Jim.”

“There should be at least seven others in the fog that are resistant to its effects. They have likely already taken initiative.” Leonard pulls Spock aside, bringing him to the turbolift. He lowers his voice. “Spock, get to the Med Bay. Doctor M'Benga will heal your fissures before you do anything else. That’s an order.”

“You are more qualified to treat my anatomy.”

Leonard snaps, “You know exactly why I’m not treating you. Go.”

Spock stares with wide, hurt eyes, and Leonard fumbles in his panic. Before he can say something to change the terrible expression on Spock’s face, the turbolift doors slide shut. 

 

 

It takes them two days to locate ninety-eight percent of the Enterprise crew and two missing scout ships. There are five dead, taken by the effects of the illusions. The remaining missing members are assumed lost in space from the crash.

The physicists from all three ships work together to determine a way to temporarily reverse the gravitational field in order to create a portal and escape from the temporal energy ribbon. Jim hands the equations to Spock and says there is a thirty-eight point five percent chance that their solution will work.

Spock orders the Enterprise to lift off. They must warn Yorktown as soon as possible that everyone must evacuate to avoid being swept up in the advancing temporal wave. There is no time to delay. Leonard stands on the bridge with them, watching the smoke curling around the viewscreen. His head still pounds from his headache. 

“Thrusters,” Jim says from the science station. “Now!”

The Enterprise shoots forward. The smoke is beginning to give way to clear stars. The Enterprise has almost escaped the gravitational field when it begins careening to the left.

“Chekov!” Spock says. Smoke obscures the viewscreen once more.

“I am losing the point of reference.” The navigator helplessly looks at his blinking screen. “I cannot tell if we are still on the correct path or not.” 

“Captain,” Uhura calls. “Receiving hailing signals! Our communications are back online. It's the USS Orci.” The communicating Starfleet ship, clear of the visual impairment of the smoke, is relaying navigational orders from its vantage point where it can see the Enterprise and the temporal wave.

“Backup,” Jim murmurs. “But how?” Sulu intently listens to the stream of orders, his hands clenched on the controls. Chekov cries out triumphantly. The Enterprise slips free of the gravitational field and bursts forward.

“Once we are clear of the temporal wave, call Starfleet headquarters immediately.” Spock grasps the captain’s chair. “Rendezvous with the Orci.

The Orci calls them, and a familiar face flickers on-screen. It is Ambassador Spock in a dark Starfleet uniform. “Captain Spock,” he says, eyes wide with worry. 

“Oh my god.” Jim falls to his knees. “Ashal-veh. You’re alright.”

“Oh, Jim, k’diwa.” The ambassador takes a steadying breath and looks back at Spock. “I sensed the danger at hand through my bond, and immediately rallied Starfleet to send their assistance.”

“Then you have already warned them?” Spock asks.

Ambassador Spock nods curtly. “They will be expecting your call. Starfleet has already issued an order to evacuate Yorktown in its entirety until the wave has passed through. The temporary relocation to vessels out of range of the incoming wave is complete.” Jim exhales in relief.

“We are uploading the new data we have collected on the phenomenon.” Lieutenant Gaila compiles several folders on her computer and sends it to Starfleet. “So long as there is no living host, the wave will dissipate and continue to move forward. Its path has been consistent and there is no reason to expect it to alter. Yorktown will be hit in twenty Standard hours, with minimal damage from gravitational effects.”

“The Yorktown inhabitants are free to move back into the base immediately afterwards,” Jim adds.

Ambassador Spock checks the incoming data. “Although the wave will not encounter another location containing living inhabitants for several centuries, we will continue to monitor its path. Orders from Starfleet are to wait with the Yorktown vessels and assist them where possible.  If there are any personnel from the two scout ships that desire to depart earlier, they are permitted to do so. Once Yorktown is secured, the entire Enterprise crew is to take leave and recover from the effects of the temporal energy ribbon.” 

Spock checks his PADD and nods, confirming the order. “Very well, Mr. Spock.” They end the call, and the Orci lines up to escort the Enterprise as they warp away from the wave. Jim sprints from the bridge to the turbolift, presumably to the transporter pad to reunite with his bondmate.

“Captain, if you’d allow me a moment,” Leonard says.

Spock nods. “Mr. Sulu, you have the conn.” Spock follows Leonard quietly into the lift, then through the vacant corridors. Spock obediently gets on a medical bay cot as Leonard puts on a new pair of gloves and retrieves a medicorder.

Leonard thoroughly checks Spock without touching him. “The effects of pon farr?”

“Dissipated - the moment you entered me,” Spock murmurs. “I suspect the shock cleared the madness instantly.”

Leonard closes his eyes in humiliation. “I’m sorry, Spock.”

“No. I should be the one apologizing to you.” Spock’s eyes are averted. “You were forced to say things - perform actions due to my situation I generated.”

I love you, Spock. I can't lose you like this.

“Leonard, please don’t blame yourself. You did what was necessary.” Leonard is dismayed Spock can say something so easily, yet at the same time not surprised at all. Spock looks at the silent medicorder in Leonard’s hand. “Have you completed the examination? Your knowledge is satisfied?”

Leonard knows Spock is fine physically, but that is not the wound to be healed. Leonard wants to comfort Spock. He has lost the right to do so. 

Leonard sets down the tricorder. “Yes.”

“Then I shall take my leave, Doctor. I must return to the bridge.” 

Leonard adjusts the bed to make it easier for Spock to step down. He doesn’t watch Spock leave.

 

 

Leonard shifts in bed at the paging of his door intercom. He is already awake, as he has been unable to sleep due to the throbbing pain in his mind. Leonard slips from his bed, smoothing out his sleep clothes, and opens the door to reveal Spock leaning against the doorframe, still in his uniform. 

“I must know, Leonard,” he says frantically.

Leonard’s body is already moving towards him. “Anything, Spock.” His voice breaks. “Anything.”

“I must touch your thoughts again.” Spock walks Leonard backwards into his room, his eyes still wide and dark and desperate. “What I felt - what I heard inside the illusion, Leonard-”

Leonard takes Spock’s outstretched hand and presses his face and watering eyes into it. He kisses the palm, and Spock’s breath hitches. “Leonard, it is true?”

“Spock,” Leonard whispers. “Parted from me and never parted, never and always touching and touched.

Spock shakes his head, his fingers molding over Leonard’s meld points. His fingers tremble. “This is real.” Spock makes a noise as Leonard pulls him into an embrace, feeling his temperature, the presence of his body against his. “I am having difficulty believing this is happening.” Spock laughs through his tears.

Leonard falls backwards onto the bed, still holding onto Spock above him. Spock brushes his hands through Leonard’s hair, over the features of his face over and over. “Oh, Leonard. The damage I have done to your mind,” he murmurs. “I melded far too abruptly with you.” Leonard sighs as Spock concentrates and the pain slowly recedes. “You should have told me earlier.”

Spock rubs a thumb over Leonard’s lips, and Leonard reciprocates the gesture, touching two fingers across Spock’s lovely mouth. Spock kisses Leonard’s fingers with reverence. “I denied this from myself for so long, Leonard.” 

“How long?”

Spock kisses Leonard’s palm before looking back at him. “I do not know. I do not know what it is like to not love you.” Spock kisses Leonard’s other hand. “I thought you were unobtainable as you were not attracted to men.”

“And then you saw me with Ben.”

Just the mention of the human’s name makes Spock pin Leonard’s wrists to the mattress. “I constantly questioned what I was lacking in, that you were willing to pursue a relationship with him instead of me.”

“I’m an idiot,” Leonard wheezes when Spock lets his body weight rest on Leonard’s chest, his head tucked against Leonard's neck. “I’m sorry. I did not realize that I have always loved you until I thought it was too late.”

Leonard can’t see Spock’s expression, but he can tell Spock is laughing at him. “Somehow this does not surprise me. Your timing has always been atrocious.” Spock’s hand moves to Leonard’s face again, feeling his meld points, and Leonard sighs as he feels Spock’s energy pulsing through their touch. Spock’s voice is trembling again. “I am still having difficulty believing this. But it must be. I know it is reality.”

“How so?”

“I am touching you, mind and body, I could not be closer to you, yet I fear losing you at any moment.”

“I’m right here, Spock.” Leonard curls more protectively around Spock, touching his lips to Spock’s fingertips again.

“Yes,” Spock whispers. “Indeed. You are.”

 

 

Spock is worried by the way Amanda responds to the news. Leonard will not give up Spock, even for Amanda, but it is disheartening to see her reacting to their relationship in a negative manner. Leonard finds a moment to speak to her privately when Spock has gone to bed. 

“Leonard, oh dear.” Amanda sighs. “I’m sorry it came across that way. I am happy for you both, I promise - I’m just afraid to see my children get hurt.”

“I’ll take care of him,” Leonard says. “He deserves so much better than what I can offer, but I will try my best.”

“Leonard.” Amanda’s eyes are warm. “It’s just as important that you’re taken care of as well. That you’re safe and happy. Yes?”

“I - yes,” Leonard chokes. “Thank you.”

“Good.” Amanda sits back, satisfied. “Now tell us what dates are good to come visit you two so that Sarek and I can get tickets for the shuttle.”

Leonard returns to the bedroom to find Spock’s eyes open, watching for his return. Leonard presses himself into Spock’s waiting arms. Spock wraps his ankles around Leonard’s, projecting security through their contact.

Leonard tells Spock about Joanna three days after Yorktown has been thoroughly inspected and finally reinhabited. He is so nervous about Spock’s response that he almost does not hear it. 

“Who was the judge?”

“Of the child custody?”

“Yes,” Spock says. “Tell me what their name is.”

Leonard tells Spock what his name is. Spock nods once, and doesn’t bring it up again. Leonard thinks that is it.

He has completely forgotten about it a year and seven months later and watches Spock move around on the bridge. Spock has been hiding something, and Leonard does not know what.

“Be patient,” Jim says with a laugh while visiting Leonard in the medical bay later. “You’ll find out soon enough.”

Soon enough turns out to be three hours after their shifts end. “Alright,” Leonard says as he eases down on the couch next to Spock. “You’re going to tell me what has been preoccupying your thoughts for the last few days?”

Spock doesn’t answer, just wordlessly encourages McCoy to sit closer as he puts his PADD in front of them. The PADD is in the process of connecting to a video call.

The call connects. The location is a public video conference room. A Vulcan public servant sits slightly offscreen, and a girl with wide-eyed eager curiosity stares out from the screen. Leonard gapes.

Hello?” Joanna speaks in Vulcan with a smile sparkling in her eyes. “You are my father Leonard McCoy?

Leonard looks at Spock in disbelief, then back at the PADD. Spock’s happiness radiates off of him.  Leonard feels his face breaking out into a smile. 

Spock keeps holding Leonard’s hand as Leonard clears his throat to speak to his daughter in the same tongue.