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By the time Jim is done with his orgasm, Spock is already fifteen minutes late for work.

"Jeez, Spock," Jim grunts, rolling off Spock and onto his side. "Could've shown a little more excitement back there."

"Unlike you, I'm not one for morning sex, Jim." Spock isn't much in the mood to coddle Jim's bruised ego. He's already pulling up his pajama pants and moving off the mattress, thinking about what he wants for breakfast and just how annoyed Nyota will be if he leaves her with all of the morning baking again. He can feel Jim's pout boring into his back and it's incredibly distracting. "Don't pout," he says, rounding the bed and handing Jim his glasses. Jim puts them on and keeps on pouting.

"Did you even come?"

"There is no time." Spock turns to him, eyebrow arched. "And you didn't take much care to satisfy me, as usual."

"Yeah, well. It's not exactly motivating when I ask if you wanna have sex and you answer, 'If you insist.'"

"Jim," Spock sighs.

He decides not to waste his breath with anything more and heads to the bathroom. By the time he's done brushing his teeth, Jim has sidled up to him by the sink and is all smiles, the dull sex seemingly forgotten. The truth is, Spock has never been a morning person; his work at the cafe forces him to wake up every morning before dawn and he doesn't feel quite right until he gets there and drinks at least two cups of tea. Jim, on the other hand, is a morning person, through and through. He doesn't need to get up until two hours after Spock but he rises early every day, treats himself to a hearty breakfast, and then heads to the gym for an unnecessarily long and intense workout. Jim denies it, but he's clearly in love with his own physique. Even now, he's flexing in the mirror as Spock swishes Listerine in his mouth.

"I'm thinking egg white omelets for breakfast," Jim says. "Sound good to you?"

Spock spits and shakes his head. "I'm afraid I must rush to the cafe. Nyota isn't kind when I leave all of the day's baking to her."

"So, what—you're gonna have a muffin for breakfast? Those are the absolute worst things a person can eat, you know. Total calorie bombs. No nutritional value whatsoever."

"So you've told me," Spock says, rolling his eyes. "You realize they're my livelihood, don't you?"

Jim shrugs and kisses Spock's cheek. "Sure. But that doesn't mean you have to eat them." He smiles and backs out of the bathroom, pointing at Spock. "Have a good shower. I'll make you a smoothie!"

Spock curls his lip in distaste. Jim's smoothies are usually the color of moss and taste twice as bad. "Pour it into a thermos to go, please," he calls.

Forty-five minutes later, he walks into his beloved cafe and presents Nyota with the silver-colored thermos. "Thank you for arriving early, Nyota. I brought you this breakfast smoothie."

"Oh, no," Nyota says, looking up from her dough kneading. "Don't try to pass off Jim's latest twigs-and-leaves concoction on me. I couldn't get the taste of dirt out of my mouth for days, last time I tried one of those."

Spock smiles slightly and unravels his scarf. One of the things he enjoys most about working at the cafe is his camaraderie with his coworkers—especially Nyota, with her considerable skill in the kitchen and her sharp tongue. "It contains many vitamins and nutrients. I'd hate to see it go to waste. I'm told it will also keep you regular."

She sticks her tongue out and makes a gagging sound. "TMI, Spock. Am I to assume that your significant other made you late again?"

"Indeed." He pulls an apron off a nearby wall hook and pulls it on, tying a knot in the back. "Jim is extremely energetic in the mornings. He assumes that just because he has a wealth of free time, I do as well. We've lived together for over a year and yet, he still doesn't understand the parameters of my work."

"Too busy saving the world through the power of the written word, I guess." Nyota smirks. "Can't process vital information about his boyfriend besides 'Spock hot. Want sex with Spock.'"

"I would hardly refer to him as a Neanderthal."

At that moment, Pavel walks through the doors to the kitchen, unzipping a gray and black patterned hoodie. "Are we talking about Jim?" he asks in his heavy accent. "Also, is there any coffee yet?"

"No and yes," Spock answers. He gives Pavel an annoyed look. "But you're only allowed to partake if you bring me a mug of hot tea."

"As if this morning is different from any other," Pavel says, spinning on his heel.

Two hours later and Amanda's Tea Cozy opens for business, the entire cafe filled with the enticing scents of freshly baked goods and steaming hot coffee. Spock stands behind the counter and nods his hellos to their regulars as they filter in, mostly parents with young children who love the whimsical feel of the cafe, cultivated by Spock's mother since she first launched the business, many years ago. There are also a number of young adults and professionals who can't resist the siren call of a sugared scone at the beginning of the day, or a cup of rich and silky hot chocolate. Spock and Nyota work the busy counter, making drinks and ringing up pastries while Pavel keeps their supplies in stock, running to and from the kitchen. As always, Spock loses track of time, immersed in the satisfaction he gets from keeping his customers happy, caffeinated, and well-fed—even if it's on plump, calorie-laden muffins.

After the initial morning rush, Chris emerges from the back room, where he sits all day doing the bookkeeping and watching his stories on the old TV set. He adjusts the pink kerchief tied around his neck and peers at Spock over his wire-rimmed bifocals.

"Thought I'd let you know that Pavel wants to leave early today," he says, smirking. "He's got a hot date."

Spock turns and regards Chekov as he refills the skim milk. "Is this true, Mr. Chekov? You plan on leaving before your shift ends?"

Pavel looks up and turns pink in the face of all the scrutiny. "It's a blind date. I want to get there early so I can spy on him and see how he looks."

"Shallow," Nyota says, grinning.

"Like you aren't," Pavel counters. "I met him online. He might be hideous."

Spock furrows his brow. "Through an Internet dating service? Isn't that a dangerous activity?"

Pavel shrugs. "Everyone meets online now. I have been using this new website, Omegle. You can talk to strangers and it's all anonymous, as long as you want it to be. It's very exciting!"

"Why would you want to talk to strangers?" Nyota asks. "There are so many other ways to meet people. You know, in real life?"

"I can see the appeal," Chris says.

Spock plucks a spiced cranberry scone from the pastry case and considers this Omegle idea. He thinks about Jim at home, eating organic granola and writing op-eds on the despair of the recession and the downfall of society, flipping through his thesaurus to find as many SAT-level words he can stuff into a three-paragraph article. He bites into his buttery morning treat and nods as he chews.

"So can I," he says.

***

"So, we've got the first floor and a mezzanine, as I'm sure you can see. And since we're on the corner, there's plenty of natural light from the...whichever directions those are. Then there's a basement, which the previous owner used for storage, so it'll need a pretty serious refurb if we want to put customers down there. Well?"

Leonard takes off his sunglasses and inspects the property slowly. The light is good, and the positioning of the building means it should get a good range, from mid-morning to late afternoon. He learned pretty early on that people are batshit for natural light. It boosts sales. The mezzanine is an interesting touch as well. All in all, Hikaru's found a good location for their new store.

"Well?" Hikaru repeats.

"Does a coffee shop really need a mezzanine?" Leonard asks in reply, not wanting to feed his ego.

"New Yorkers aren't like us simple, small-town folk."

"I'm from Atlanta and you're from San Francisco." He rolls his eyes and puts his sunglasses back on. Relenting, he says, "It's good enough. We'll take it before someone else does."

Hikaru pulls his iPhone out of his pocket and types a message in, his fingers blurring over the touch screen. He pauses just before sending it. "Sure you don't want to see the basement first? For all you know, I was lying and it's a sewer pool down there."

"Why should I care? You're in charge of developing this one. I'm just overseeing, and you know I'd take a great deal of pleasure in overseeing you draining a sewer pool."

"...point." Hikaru sends the message. "I'll send you a text once I hear back. It shouldn't be long. Even this far north, the name 'Georgia's' has an awful lot of pull."

"As soon as we've exchanged, I'm going to need you to start on the marketing. Viral seems to be working pretty well at the moment, so go with that to begin with. We can do some more traditional print advertising once we're established, but for now we need to concentrate on the young people, the, the—"

"The hipsters," he helpfully provides.

"—the hipsters," Leonard agrees. "Maybe we can get them to come here ironically." Hikaru makes a noise that's halfway between a snort and a sob. Leonard decides it's best to ignore him. "Don't forget Joanna's sleeping over with Demora tonight."

"I know, I know. You and Crazy Gary are having date night."

"Please don't call him that," Leonard objects, though not strenuously. Gary is kind of crazy, but it's not as if he doesn't like it. Well, he liked it once. He's not that crazy, anyway; more like slightly eccentric. "Don't call him that," he says again to reassure himself.

"Okay, you're having date night with Completely Sane Gary. I'll pick Jo up from daycare tonight and then take her back to your place tomorrow. And in return, you have to help me chaperone Demora's birthday party in September."

"Goddammit," he says. "Fine."

Hikaru points at him. "I win." Then his phone rings, effectively ending the conversation. Leonard raises a hand in farewell and walks out of the building into the bright afternoon sunlight.

There are a few hours to fill until their reservation, so Leonard goes back to the apartment to work on the budget for refurbishing the newest addition to the Georgia's chain. It's not part of his job, nor will it have any impact on the actual budget the company's accountants will eventually assign, but he likes to see how close he can get to the real figure.

Sometimes Leonard wonders if he's wasting his time, just a little bit. Then—when he notices he's going to be late arriving at the restaurant even if he leaves ten minutes ago—he realizes he's definitely wasting someone's time. He throws on the first clean, smart outfit he can find and calls down to the doorman, asking him to hail a cab. By the time the elevator reaches the ground floor, there's one waiting to whisk Leonard away to the grossly overpriced but only slightly overhyped Matte, italics required.

"Mitchell," he growls at the hostess, who looks a little alarmed as she leads him to the table.

Gary made the reservation. Gary makes all of their reservations, and Leonard is late for most of them, which Gary finds less and less charming the longer their relationship endures. Especially since Leonard has developed something of a reputation for never, ever being late for a business meeting.

"Fifteen minutes late is actually prompt for you, Leo," Gary says, looking at his watch. His voice is deliberately emotionless, which smarts a little, but it could be worse—Gary's pitched a fit or two in a public place in the past. Leonard's pretty sure he only got away with it because he's so dark and broodily attractive, with eyes that pierce and mesmerize. His eyes are smoldering right now, in fact, which is a sure sign that Leonard needs to do something to defuse the situation.

"You know we're starting work on the new store in Brooklyn," he replies in an even tone. "Hikaru and I were looking at the building we're going to buy this afternoon. It needs quite a bit of work if we're going to turn it into a workable store, but the location is fantastic. We're lucky we got it first; I heard rumors that Starbucks was going to put in an offer. Even with this recession, I'm sure it'll be a real money maker once we get it up to scratch."

"I ordered the wine before you got here," Gary says. To someone who doesn't know Gary, it's a snub. To Leonard, it's a pardon.

"Zinfandel again?" he asks with a mock-sigh when he sees the waiter carrying over a bottle of the rosé.

"If I order it enough, perhaps it'll encourage you to get off your ass and make it to dinner on time for once." He smirks at Leonard and waves the waiter off, pouring them each a glass of wine himself.

At the sight of that wicked look on Gary's face, something flutters in the depths of Leonard's stomach. He suddenly wishes they could just skip dinner and head back to the apartment for a different kind of evening together. But it's gone as soon as it appeared and the night continues along a familiar, mundane path.

They each order three courses, though Gary's choice of dessert is black, unsweetened coffee, while Leonard picks something slightly more sugary. He certainly needs it when Gary starts ranting about one of their current interns.

"His family has been begging for months to get him a position with us, and when we give him one, what does he go and do? He fucks around on the internet, that's what he does." Gary slurps furiously at his coffee. "Doesn't he know that there are a hundred other kids who'd kill to be where he is right now? He even tried to claim he'd finished all of the work he'd been given."

"Had he?" Leonard slides a forkful of cake through the cream pooling on his dish and pops the whole thing into his mouth in one bite.

"Well, the first lot. But I asked around and he hadn't bothered to see if anyone had anything to do, he just decided to play around in some chat room."

"I thought those went out of fashion last century."

Gary snorts. "I know, right? It's some new thing called Alphegma or Omegle, I don't even know. Obviously we blocked it on the network right away. As if the interns don't waste enough time on Facebook already. So I fired him."

"Uhh," Leonard says, looking at him sharply.

"You've got to teach them a lesson, Leo."

I fucking hate it when you call me "Leo", Leonard thinks, and forces a smile. "I guess that's why you're one of the big guns, darlin'."

That night, while Gary snores beside him, he signs onto Omegle for the first and only time.

***

You're now chatting with a random stranger. Say hi!

Stranger: Hello.

You: Hi

Stranger: This is my first time using this program. I believe I'm meant to ask for your age, sex, and location.

You: Is that how this works? well, I'm in New York City

Stranger: I'm in New York as well. That's funny. I thought I would meet someone in Malaysia.

You: It's midmorning there, everyone's probably at work and not on this website in case their crazy boss fires them

Stranger: I hope you're not speaking from personal experience.

You: Not ecactly

You: *exactly

Stranger: No need to correct your typos. I understand what you mean.

Stranger: One of my employees seems to have success in finding partners for dates on omegle.

You: Is that what you're doing here?

Stranger: Not exactly. I'm not sure. It seemed intriguing.

Stranger: What about you?

You: I heard about a guy getting fired for using omegle instead of working, so I thought I'd check it out

You: I can't sleep anyway

Stranger: Neither can I. May I ask if you are male or female? Or other?

You: Male. And human, if that bothers you

Stranger: Some male humans bother me greatly, but not all.

You: My apologies if I turn out to be one of them, stranger

Stranger: So far you're doing quite well, stranger.

Stranger: I am male as well. Half Vulcan, half human.

You: well you don't come across that every day

Stranger: My friends and family do. And I do as well, when I look in the mirror.

You: Half vulcan and funny too, whaddaya know?

Stranger: Is that a compliment or an insult?

You: Neither, I guess

You: More of an observation

Stranger: I'm gratified that you find me funny.

Stranger: I find I'm actually enjoying this, which I did not expect.

You: Is that a compliment or an insult? ;-)

Stranger: It is, as you would say, an observation.

Stranger: :)

You: I probably need to sleep soon though

You: 206bones@gmail.com

You: Say hi

Stranger: Are you suggesting we converse over email?

Stranger: Oh. I will do so. It was very pleasant to talk to you.

You: and you, mysterious half Vulcan half human all New Yorker

You have disconnected.

Leonard slams his laptop shut, snuffing out the only light in the room. Gary is still snoring loudly and he can't quite believe that he was just flirting with a complete stranger on the internet while his boyfriend slept beside him. Not only that, he gave him an email address—albeit one he hasn't used in several years.

After checking that he can still access it, Leonard finally falls into a heavy, dream-filled sleep.

***

Spock disconnects from the service right after the stranger does and hesitates before taking care to clear his browser's history. Jim doesn't have a tendency to be nosy but considering how much time he spends working from home, Spock doesn't want to risk anything. He turns off his laptop and leaves the kitchen table, going to the bedroom, where Jim is sprawled across the mattress. It takes some effort to shove him aside and settle into bed comfortably.

Then, as if on cue, he feels Jim nuzzling at his nape.

"Why you 'wake?" Jim murmurs. "You wanna have sex?"

"No, Jim," Spock sighs. "Go back to sleep."

"But I wanna suck your..." Jim begins. He's asleep again before he can finish the sentence. Spock shakes his head and shuts his eyes, still thinking about the stranger with the scientific email address.

***

Dear Bones,

I hope you don't mind if I start to refer to you as Bones. It seems less awkward than "206bones" or "Stranger." I'm relieved that summer is coming to an end and that autumn is on the horizon. It is my favorite season, perhaps because I enjoy wearing sweaters and scarves. Vulcans are meant to enjoy the warmer months but my wardrobe begs to differ with that assumption.

Thank you for asking about my business in your last note. Things are going well though I am worried, as most people are, given the ongoing recession. So far, we have not been notably affected, but I am not so naive as to think we will be impervious forever. I would like to tell you more of the details but I know we agreed to not speak specifically about our personal lives. Either way, I appreciate your inquiry. I hope your work is going smoothly as well.

I read the article in the medical journal that you linked. It was truly fascinating. Please send anything else that you believe I might find interesting. I'm an avid reader, especially when it comes to science.

Be well and take care,
graymatter81/stranger

Spock looks over his email for typos before he's satisfied enough to send it. A quick glance at his watch tells him his break is almost over, which means that Nyota will be interrupting him soon, likely swatting at his head with a washcloth.

He throws on his apron and makes his way out front again, surprised to find Nyota and Pavel away from the counter and staring out the storefront window. "Something more interesting outside than our customers inside?" he asks, snide tone intended.

Nyota turns and gestures to the window. "They're almost done with it, Spock. It gets bigger every day, I think. No way are we going to be able to survive with this...coffee monster on our block."

"I presume you are referring to the new Georgia's location." Spock approaches the window and looks at the old stationery store on the corner, now converted into a glaring monolith of corporate greed, dressed up as a cute place to meet friends, go online, and suck down overpriced, bitter coffee. "They've built it at an alarmingly fast rate."

Chekov nods somberly. "I saw a sign that says it's going to open next week."

"We're doomed," Nyota sighs.

"That's illogical," Spock says, tilting his chin up and turning away from the garish sight. "Our customers are loyal. Many have been coming to the cafe for years. They would not abandon us for stale muffins and watered-down swill that masquerades as coffee and tea."

"Don't be so sure," Chris suddenly interjects, appearing behind them. "Little coffee and tea shops have been closing all over Manhattan for years, thanks to Georgia's and Starbucks. It was only a matter of time before they invaded Brooklyn."

"I can't afford to lose this job," Nyota says, squinting miserably. "I might have to move to Staten Island. Or worse, New Jersey." Pavel clasps a hand over his mouth and gasps in horror.

"No one is losing their jobs," Spock says firmly. He looks back at the empty counter behind them. "That is, unless you all prefer to stand here and gawk rather than serving coffee."

Nyota swats Spock's behind with a washcloth as she goes back to the register."You're such a hard-ass," she teases. He exhales and folds his arms over his chest, knowing he's never safe around her.

"Back to work, please," Spock says, one final warning that disperses the group. He spares one last glance at the Georgia's storefront, brightly gleaming in the morning sunlight, and briefly questions his confidence before squaring his shoulders and walking away.

***

Dear graymatter,

I've been called much less flattering things than "Bones" in my time so I'm pretty sure I can live with it. I could call you "GM" but it just makes me think of genetically modified. Of course, you kinda have been, haven't you?

Glad to hear the recession still hasn't caught up with you. I've been rushed off my feet with work lately and Scotty hasn't been making my life any easier. This morning on our walk he decided to slip his collar and chase ducks. Unfortunately, he didn't completely get loose and the duck he wanted was in the middle of the lake. Sometimes I think the damn dog does this kind of thing deliberately. Speaking of fall, I think I might have to hire a dog walker to get dragged into New York's bodies of water on my behalf once it starts getting colder.

I saw another article I think you might be interested in this morning. I don't have a link right now but it's in today's edition of the NY Times. Something about the growing number of human-Vulcan hybrids and the effect it might have on society. Did you know NYC has the highest ratio of Vulcans to humans outside of Australia? You probably did.

Bones

Leonard sends the message as soon as he finishes typing it up. Normally he'd check and double-check everything he'd written, but today is Demora's birthday party and he needs to get to the cafe Hikaru hired and help him wrangle some ungodly high number of four- and five-year-olds.

For reasons he won't divulge, Hikaru picked a cafe in the middle of Brooklyn. It's actually just around the corner from the building they're almost ready to open as the brand new Georgia's and Leonard wonders if Hikaru is using his daughter's fifth birthday party as an excuse to check out their competition. They researched every cafe in the area as soon as they put in an offer on the building, but that doesn't mean a little face-to-face reconnaissance won't be useful.

The cafe in question is some overly cutesy bakery called Amanda's Tea Cozy that seems to cater mainly to children (who have no money) and hipsters (who have more money than they're willing to let on in most cases). Leonard barely paid it any attention when they checked it out before, so he's surprised to discover a Vulcan standing behind the counter when he walks in with Jo. He didn't realize Vulcans had any interest in cafes, especially human ones.

Then again, he did just read that study about how many Vulcans have moved into New York.

The Vulcan is looking even more constipated than most Vulcans Leonard sees on a day-to-day basis. It's probably something to do with the screaming mess of children running around the cafe, surrounding a clearly overwhelmed Hikaru. He's clutching a pile of presents and toys to his chest. The other parents all seem to have dropped off their kids and headed for the hills, leaving him to "control" the children.

"You made it!" Hikaru exclaims, looking harried. He almost jumps across a table to get to Leonard. "Why are you always late for stuff that isn't business?"

"Oh, am I?" he replies vaguely, releasing Joanna into the swarm of kindergarteners. She immediately starts shrieking with delight, adding to the cacophony. Leonard wonders if he has any earplugs in his pockets, and surreptitiously checks. Damn, he thinks when he doesn't find anything but a piece of string and, for some reason, an Italian euro coin.

"Mr. Sulu!" a woman says, slim and beautiful as she seems to appear out of nowhere. She gives them both a friendly smile as she helps Hikaru with the pile of toys and gifts. "Let me lighten your load. We're going to start the tea party soon, so if you gentlemen could help me herd these ladies around the table, that would be great. We have lots of delicious treats in store for them."

Hikaru appears more grateful than Leonard thinks he's ever seen him look before. "That'll be good," he says. "Quell the maelstrom with tea and pastries. Leonard, this is Nyota. She's the second-in-command here and, can I just say, a lifesaver."

"Pleasure," Leonard says. "Leonard McCoy." He throws Hikaru an incredulous look. "And, 'maelstrom'? Really?"

Hikaru shrugs exaggeratedly just as the Vulcan walks over, his perfect posture making him look stiff as a board. He's quite a sight, with his pointed ears, tightly drawn mouth, and purple apron with kelly-green trim.

"Mr. Sulu," he says flatly, nodding to Hikaru. "We'll begin the tea party now and follow it up with storytelling time, then move on to gifts, if that schedule works for you."

The guy is so serious that Leonard has to mask a smirk behind his hand. "Don't tell me you're the storyteller," he says, without thinking about it. The Vulcan looks directly at him, his large, expressive brown eyes a stark contrast to his serious demeanor.

"Will that be a problem?" he asks. "I have considerable experience in managing children's parties, given that this is my establishment."

This time, Leonard doesn't even have time to hide his surprise. "You? I...wouldn't have thought a Vulcan would have much interest in owning a place like this."

"I inherited it from my mother," he says, "who was human. Did I hear you introduce yourself as Mr. McCoy?"

"Leonard McCoy," he says again, extending his right hand. The Vulcan doesn't take it, and after an awkward moment Leonard drops it back to his side. He belatedly remembers that Vulcans are even more anal about personal space than some humans.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. McCoy. I am Spock. Which of these young ladies is your daughter?"

Leonard looks across at the table where Nyota is in the process of seating the girls. Jo is squabbling with another girl over who gets to sit next to Demora at the head of the table, and she's fighting dirty. The other girl ends up on her butt on the floor as Joanna triumphantly takes the seat.

"I'm going to plead the fifth on that one," Leonard says, stifling a groan.

"I see," Spock says. The corners of his mouth curl up so slightly that Leonard wonders if he imagined it. "Would you like to take a seat at an adjacent table, or would you prefer to stand? Please speak with me or with Nyota if there are any particular refreshments you'd like." Then he actually glides across the room before Leonard has the chance to say he'd quite like a cup of coffee.

He sits down next to Hikaru, who is scraping the icing off a cupcake with one finger and eating it.

"That's disgusting," he says.

"I'm not making you do it," Hikaru says, sucking a big glob off his middle finger. "What do you think of this place, anyway?"

"It's quaint," Leonard says. Ignores Hikaru giving him the finger, because it's not worth it. "Kind of kitschy. The assistant manager is hot. Maybe we should try to steal her. I'd bet a lot of their customers are coming in every day hoping Nyota will serve them, if you know what I mean."

"Don't be crude, man. She's a nice lady."

"Don't make the mistake of thinking she'll be so nice when she finds out who you work for." Leonard catches the eye of a kid who just walked out of the back and waves him over. "Hey, can I get a black coffee over here?"

"Certainly," he says politely, with a thick accent that Leonard can't quite place. Eastern European, maybe. "Are you with the party?"

"Yes, so you can put it on his bill." He nods at Hikaru, who pulls a face at the kid. "In fact, throw a scone in too, for good measure."

He lets out a little laugh. "I'm Pavel. Please let me know if there is anything else you need."

***

Once the tea party is over, Nyota and Pavel work on cleaning up while Spock regales the girls with a story—the birthday girl's favorite, or so Mr. Sulu told him. As always, he wears his fairy godmother hat, essentially a dunce hat with glittery stars and tassels that always makes the children giggle.

Today, he's got a few more gigglers in Mr. Sulu and Mr. McCoy, who are sitting in the back of the cafe and muffling snorts and laughter into their palms. Spock tries his best not to get distracted, though he does exchange an exasperated look with Nyota. She gestures to her washcloth and then their heads, lifting her eyebrow in an unspoken query. Spock shakes his head quickly—it's not good protocol to thwap customers on the heads, even if they are uncouth—but he can't help a faint smile.

When the story is done, he and Nyota present Demora with a smaller version of the hat, as they always do with the birthday girls. Then it's gift-opening time, which thankfully, is something he gets to watch from afar, as Nyota and Pavel take over. Spock fetches himself a mug of tea and then wanders to the front door, where their "closed for private party" sign hangs. He glances out the window and sees Georgia's, now days away from its grand opening, and he wonders just how many private parties he'll be booking once that day arrives.

"Something exciting going on out there?" he hears suddenly, in a familiar Southern drawl. Spock nearly spills his tea, startled by the other man, who now seems to be bored.

"I'm sorry, Mr. McCoy. Do you require more entertainment? I could find another hat, if you like."

McCoy smiles wryly and, at least, has the decency to look slightly embarrassed. "Sorry, it's just...with the ears, and all. And the way you were reading. You have to admit, it's kind of—"

"The children enjoy that hat. I wear it for their entertainment, not their parents'." Spock purses his lips and hopes that his ears aren't turning green. "I wasn't aware that my ears had their own entertainment value, however."

"That's really not what I..." McCoy exhales and holds up his hands. "Can I start over? There's nothing funny about your ears, Spock, I promise."

Spock doesn't exactly believe the man, but he does look sheepish enough to forgive, even temporarily. He nods curtly and then glances out the window. "To answer your earlier question, I was looking at the new establishment across the street."

"Oh, yeah. Georgia's." McCoy slides his hands into his pockets and switches to a more steady, measured tone of voice that Spock imagines must be sympathy. "Guess you've got some competition, huh?"

"It appears that way. But I am not concerned. We have a loyal customer base here, cultivated carefully over the years. And as you can see, I have a very attentive staff. There is no substitute for exceptional customer service, not even free wi-fi."

"Heh. I just hope you're not underestimating the appeal of free wi-fi."

"Your concern is unnecessary. We also have excellent cupcakes, and our muffins have won awards."

"Scones are dynamite, too," McCoy says, holding up the half-eaten pastry in his hand. He laughs quietly and gazes at the building across the street. "I hear they've put a lot of people out of business over the years. You must be doing some good trade if you're that sure you'll survive."

"As I said, our customer base is extremely loyal," Spock says firmly, hoping to put a stop to this topic of conversation. The last thing he wants to discuss with a near-stranger is the potential loss of his mother's cafe—his pride and joy, and his livelihood. Thankfully, McCoy takes the hint.

"Kids must love this place, huh?" he asks. "It's very atmospheric."

"Much of our clientele is comprised of parents with young children. We even have a number of customers who were brought here as children themselves, and wish to imbue their own children with similar memories. Though, of course, some aspects have changed since my mother originally opened the cafe." Spock folds his arms across his chest and looks around the interior. "I must admit; I am very fond of it."

McCoy doesn't say anything to that, which makes Spock wonder if he's offended him somehow, thought he can't think why anything he said would be offensive.

"It's very kind of you to come here and help Mr. Sulu chaperone his daughter's birthday party," Spock says suddenly. He's keen to get the conversation started again for some reason. "Are you and he...?"

"Are we...?" McCoy blinks, and then lets out a short bark of laughter. "Good god, no! We work together, that's all. And our daughters have been friends since they were born, give or take a few months."

"Your daughter—Joanna, is it?—seems to be a very determined young lady. I believe she has her eye on a particular iced cookie in the case. If she has no allergies, I can arrange for it to be slipped into her goody bag."

"She's not allergic to anything. You'd do that?" Something flashes across McCoy's face so quickly that Spock barely has a chance to register it, let alone identify it. It almost looked like guilt, but there's no logical reason why Spock's offer would cause the man to feel guilty. He dismisses the thought as soon as it arises.

"Of course," Spock says. He's about to explain that the merchandise is there to make the children happy when Joanna herself bounds over to where they stand, reaching up for her father.

"Daddy, Daddy!" she exclaims. "Demora gave me a sticker! See?"

McCoy reaches down and expertly scoops the little girl into his arms. Indeed, there's a sparkly princess sticker on her cheek and McCoy makes a show of fawning over it.

"Well, I'll be," he says, gaping at her. "That's gotta be the best sticker in the whole bunch, darlin'. Did you tell Demora thank you?"

Joanna nods and Spock tilts his head, admiring their easy rapport. McCoy has a genuine smile on his face that Spock can't recall seeing earlier.

"It's a very becoming sticker," he agrees. Joanna grants Spock a big, toothy grin, before she gets distracted by something outside the window.

"Daddy, look!" she exclaims, pointing somewhere, and McCoy grimaces for some reason, then turns away from the window. Still, Joanna isn't deterred. "Daddy," she repeats, more frustrated now. "Look, it's Georgia's!"

"Honey, calm down. Why don't you run off and play with Demora and the other kids, okay?" McCoy looks at Spock apologetically, which confuses him greatly. "Sorry, uh...We're from Georgia originally, so, she gets a little excited when she sees those places."

"I see," Spock says, still slightly perplexed. "New York is a fair distance from Georgia. You must both miss it greatly."

"Yeah, she's still pretty attached to the place. Aren't you, Jojo?"

"Georgia," Joanna says primly, lifting her chin. "G-E-O-R-G-I-A. My daddy—"

"Okay! That's enough of that," McCoy says, laughing awkwardly as he puts his daughter down again. "You'll spell for Mr. Spock another day, okay? Go ahead, now."

Spock watches Joanna huff and then run off toward the group, where Demora is still happily ripping pink and purple wrapping paper to shreds, flicking the remains at her overwhelmed father. "Your daughter is a remarkably good speller for her age," he notes. "Quite precocious."

"Yeah, she's really something." McCoy runs a hand through his hair and Spock blinks, momentarily struck by the sheepish look that returns to the man's face. It occurs to him that he finds McCoy rather attractive, especially when he interacts with his daughter, and for a moment, he's at a loss for words. Any danger of an awkward silence passes, however, when McCoy shrugs and starts to step away. "Listen, I'm gonna go help out Hikaru over there, before he gets buried in glitter and foil. Nice talking to you, though, Mr. Spock. And thanks for the cookie."

"It's not... No problem," he quickly amends, repeating a phrase he hears often enough around the cafe. McCoy gives him a strange look but then smiles, waving as he walks off.

Spock realizes he's still staring after McCoy when Nyota walks by and nudges his side.

"Stop checking out the hot dads and help me out over here, will you?" she teases. Spock gives her a sour look.

"I am not 'checking out hot dads,'" he says, frowning. Which isn't a lie. He's only checking out one dad, singular. But he decides he doesn't have to tell Nyota that.

***

The opening party for the newest Georgia's location is taking place in the store itself—Leonard's idea. Much of the guest list is comprised of local press and it seemed prudent to let the ambiance of the store speak for itself. Everyone else there either works for the chain or is a business contact, but there are a few plus ones of no particular value.

And Gary.

The renovated building looks pretty great, if Leonard says so himself. The main level and the mezzanine are airy and spacious, with all that gorgeous natural light flooding the room. Of course, the sun will be setting by the time the party really gets going, but the effect is noticeable even with streetlights. Downstairs in the basement, the decor cultivates a cozier atmosphere. Without the benefit of windows it could feel a little cramped and dark, but the interior designer has arranged the clusters of armchairs and tables perfectly, keeping things intimate without being crowded.

Hikaru somehow got the job of planning the party, which explains why there's a gigantic, nineties-style chocolate fountain in the middle of the room.

"You're an asshole," Leonard says.

"I knew you'd love it," he replies, not missing a beat.

Thankfully, the buffet is slightly more tasteful, and the caterer has done wonders in making everything look twice as expensive as it actually is. Even the garnishes involve caviar. The dessert table quite isn't as fancy—they stocked it with the "homemade" snacks that Georgia's is well known for. Leonard hopes that little touch will earn them favorable reviews from the reporters.

The guests begin filtering in around ten minutes after the time stated on the invitations. Both Hikaru and Leonard have made a point of memorizing the names and faces of the people they don't know personally or through business, which seems to go down well.

"You must be James Kirk," Leonard says to a journalist with bright, searching blue eyes as he shakes his hand. "Village Voice, right?"

"Right. But please, call me Jim."

"Jim." He nods, committing it to memory. "My name's Leonard McCoy. This is my partner, Hikaru Sulu—"

"And his other partner, Gary Mitchell." Gary looms up behind them and extends his hand to Jim, who looks bemused but shakes it anyway. "Such a pleasure to meet you."

Hikaru mouths, "Crazy Gary," at Leonard and goes to talk to someone else, because he's a traitor. He turns his attention back to the two men standing next to him.

"Bring anyone with you tonight, Jim?" Gary asks.

"My boyfriend will be along any minute." Jim checks his watch. "He actually runs a coffee shop, cafe sort of thing like this, so he's always late to events. You know, he's got employees but he gets very agitated about being there when they open and when they close. Though I'm sure they're perfectly capable of locking the doors without him."

"Well, I'm sure he won't need to any more after Leonard here puts him out of business," he says jovially, slapping Leonard on the shoulder and making him frown.

"That's not really our intention," he says, though it kind of is. The way Gary said it just makes it sound so unsavory. "What's the name of your boyfriend's store, anyway?"

Before Jim can answer, a familiar voice says, "I apologize for my lateness, Jim. I became caught up at the store and was unable to leave early, as I had intended."

"We were just talking about you," Jim says, slinging one arm around Spock's shoulders and pulling him close. Spock looks visibly uncomfortable. "Leonard, Gary, meet Spock Grayson. Spock, Leonard McCoy owns Georgia's. I bet you guys have tons in common, since you both run cafes."

Well, shit, is the first coherent thought that comes to Leonard's mind as he takes in sight of Spock Grayson—Spock of Amanda's Tea Cozy, the cutesy cafe that hosted his daughter and her friends just days ago. If the sudden widening of Spock's eyes is any indication, this is quite a shock for him as well. Leonard stares dumbly for a second, before Gary jostles him in his hurry to shake Spock's hand. Spock purses his lips and shakes Gary's hand distractedly, not taking his eyes off Leonard, which makes him more uncomfortable by the second.

"Leonard, are you just going to stand there like a mannequin or say hello?" Gary asks. Then he looks between them and notes the air of recognition. "Wait, do you two know each other?"

"We have met," Spock affirms, his tone icy and cold. Leonard feels a bit of a corresponding shiver race down his spine. "I was not aware that you owned this store, Mr. McCoy."

"Oh, not just the store. The chain," Gary says, smiling smugly as he kisses Leonard's cheek. "And probably this whole city, by the time he's done with it."

"Is that right?" Jim asks, one of his eyebrows shooting up. He moves to fish his notepad and pen out of his pocket and Leonard jumps forward, shaking his head.

"No, no, no, don't quote him on that. Gary's just—he doesn't represent the company." He laughs awkwardly, trying to rouse a smile out of someone, anyone, but now it seems like everyone is scowling at him. "I mean...I'm not a megalomaniac, just a businessman. Trying to do business. In...this neighborhood."

"That much is clear," Spock says. Damn if he doesn't look a lot less friendly than he did at Demora's party. "And what of the other businesses in this neighborhood, Mr. McCoy? Perhaps you would care to explain that to Jim."

Leonard swallows and quickly searches the crowd for Hikaru. "Uhh, you can direct any questions to Hikaru. Spock, can I talk to you in private for a second?"

Jim takes the cue to look toward Hikaru and nods, his eyes brightening with interest. He takes a moment to whisper something in Spock's ear that Leonard wishes he could hear, then squeezes his shoulder and walks away. As for Gary, he walks off too, but he makes sure to elbow Leonard in his side before he goes. Leonard winces and pulls Spock toward the buffet, away from the judgmental crowd.

"Jesus Christ," he huffs, once they're out of anyone else's earshot. "Spock, listen..."

"You lied to me," Spock says. He looks down at a plate of stuffed mushrooms and Leonard's kind of glad that stony glare is directed elsewhere, if only for a moment.

"I didn't lie, not exactly. I just didn't tell you the truth."

"We conducted an entire conversation about the opening of this store and the effect it may or may not have on my business." Spock looks up sharply, and there's that heated glare again. "You withheld information that would have distinctly colored my opinion of you."

Leonard shrugs one shoulder. "Well, in that case, can you blame me?"

Spock doesn't have an immediate comeback for that, which seems to annoy him even more. There's an awkward silence that Leonard decides to fill by grabbing a plate and building a pile of food, probably more than he can eat. He goes a little heavy on the caviar, which seems to get Spock's attention again, and not in a good way.

"Were you planning on leaving any caviar for the other guests? Or are you going to wipe the tray clean, the way you intend to do with this neighborhood?"

"I never said that," Leonard retorts, getting annoyed himself now. He leans over and pushes some of his caviar onto Spock's plate. "Here, you want caviar? Have some damn caviar."

"That is disgusting," Spock says, his lip curled in distaste. "I find it hard to believe that I thought you were...pleasant."

Leonard exhales and tries to ignore the small pang of guilt in his stomach. "Look, Spock. I didn't tell you because it would have been awkward. Plus, I didn't want to get into it in front of all those kids. All right?"

Spock seems to accept this, putting his plate down and moving down the buffet table, toward the hideous chocolate fountain. He grabs a small cup and fills it with the liquid sweet, then drinks it down quickly. Leonard quirks a brow.

"I thought Vulcans were allergic to chocolate."

"Not exactly," Spock says, going for a refill.

"Well...you're not supposed to drink it, anyway. You know, you dip fruit or bread or something in it and eat that."

"I am aware of the concept of fondue. I was born and raised on Earth." His tone is so emotionless that Leonard suddenly feels like he's the one who's being stupid and drinking out of a chocolate fountain.

"Then you should know better!" Leonard blurts. "People are watching you, for god's sake. At least let me get you a glass of champagne so you don't have chocolate all around your mouth."

"This will be sufficient. If you will excuse me, Mr. McCoy, I believe I should go and find Jim. I don't have any interest in continuing our conversation at this point, or indeed ever." Spock fills the cup for a third time and disappears into the crowd, though the top of his head and the pointed tips of his ears are still visible for a few moments.

For a while, Leonard is stumped. He can't go and find Hikaru because Hikaru was last seen entertaining Spock's boyfriend. He doesn't want to go and find Gary, because Gary is seriously pissed off with him and will no doubt find some way to take it out on Leonard later. Hopefully that'll be at home and not during the latter stages of the party when everyone's had too much to drink and tensions will be running even higher.

The safest thing to do for the time being seems to be hiding out by the buffet. It actually makes him look like a better host, as everyone makes there way there in the end and Leonard can start conversations with people quite easily, even if most do revolve around the surprising lack of caviar.

It's going to be a long evening.

***

There is only one good thing that Spock can say about Leonard McCoy, and that is that his taste in chocolate is extremely fine. Apart from that, the man is completely irredeemable in Spock's eyes. There's nothing he'd like to do more than fetch Jim and leave immediately, though working his way through the very expensive chocolate is also a tempting option.

Jim, despite his promise to Spock, is completely engrossed in conversation with Hikaru and barely even notices his boyfriend's approach. "We can't leave now," he says in reply to Spock's plea. "You only just got here."

"Yeah, we're having fun," Hikaru adds. "Thanks again for Demora's party, by the way. She still can't stop talking about it."

Spock frowns. "...You're welcome." He takes a big mouthful of the chocolate, which he needs to drink faster, as it's slowly thickening in his cup. That won't be a problem. He can already feel the effects spreading through his system, warming his belly and making his fingertips tingle. He doesn't often attempt to get drunk but something about tonight seems to warrant it.

Jim and Hikaru are talking about working out, which doesn't have anything to do with Georgia's, as far as Spock can tell. Considering Jim is supposed to be asking questions about the chain for his article, it seems like an odd choice of topic.

"We've actually got a gym in our head office over in Manhattan," Hikaru says. "A private gym. You should come by and use it sometime. We get guest passes and to tell you the truth, I never use mine. It'd be great having someone to spot me for once."

"Jim," Spock says loudly. "Would you like some fondue?"

"Uh," Jim says, giving him an odd look. "I'm good, thanks. Maybe you should cut back on it for a little while, though. Especially since you're not really obeying the spirit of the whole fondue thing."

"You humans are all the same," he says. "I understand the concept of fondue perfectly well; I'm merely choosing not to adhere to it." Then he scrapes his fingernail around the inside of the cup, scooping the hardened chocolate out and directly into his mouth.

"Spock, you're being really childish," Jim says, starting to look uncomfortable. "Maybe you should just go home and sleep it off."

Perhaps belatedly, Hikaru raises his hands and starts backing away. "Listen, I have to go and mingle. You know how it is. Jim, you've got my card, so just give me a call. And it was...nice to see you again, Spock. Enjoy the party, both of you."

"What are you doing?" Jim hisses as soon as he's out of earshot. "Spock, for god's sake. Are you deliberately trying to embarrass yourself?"

"On the contrary. I am not even slightly embarrassed. You seem to be the one who is embarrassed, though I can't see why. I'm simply having a good time at this lovely party you so thoughtfully invited me to attend with you."

"Are you being sarcastic? What the fuck, Spock?" He tries to take the cup of chocolate away from Spock, which is completely futile and devolves into a subdued sort of wrestling match. Spock relinquishes the cup eventually, but only because it's empty and he has no more use for it. "That's it, I'm going to find you a cab."

"Will you be accompanying me?"

"No. You need to go home and sleep this off and I..." He trails off, looking frustrated. "I need some time alone."

"You will not be alone if you remain at the party."

"I'm not done collecting quotes for my article," Jim says. He takes Spock by the shoulders and starts to lead him toward the door. "You're going home and I'll leave as soon as I'm done here. No arguing with me."

Spock pouts the entire time Jim runs around outside, looking for a cab, but he goes in willingly. At least he won't have to put up with Jim's advances for one night. By the time he gets home, though, he finds that his pleasant chocolate buzz has blossomed into pleasant, drunken arousal. The one night Spock needs Jim, of course he's off flirting with strange men at a party, pretending that he's working.

Then again, Spock thinks, as he catches sight of his laptop on the kitchen table, he doesn't really need Jim. Not when he has his flirtatious pen pal Bones and an active imagination. He sits down heavily in a dining room chair and opens his email, pleased by the notification of new messages. They're mostly corporate e-blasts, however, and nothing from 206bones, even though it's his turn to write. Spock would normally wait patiently for his Internet friend's reply, but he's blissfully warm and feeling bold, thanks to the chocolate. He undoes the top few buttons on his dress shirt and begins a new message.

Dear Bones, he begins, and smiles to himself, hunkering down.

I would wait for your next email but I have had a terrible day and I find myself eager to talk to you, even if you're not there. I wish you were.

Spock pauses, surprised at himself, but shakes it off quickly and continues to type.

Lately I have been thinking of you more and more often. Do you think about me, I wonder? I wish I knew what you looked like. We have so much in common and we are so close in location yet so far. But I have been attracted to you since our first conversation, when you told me I was funny. No one ever tells me I am funny. I find it quite complimentary.

He stops writing again, which seems to be enough time for his body to remind him that it wants some kind of sexual release. Spock drops one hand to graze lightly between his legs and tries to picture what 206bones looks like. He imagines someone dark-haired, tall, with a dazzling smile, and then frowns deeply when he realizes he's picturing Leonard McCoy. "Ugh," he spits, shaking his head, and continues to type, one-handed now.

I wish you were here right now, Bones. Right here with me. Forgive me if I'm being too forward, but...I would like to touch you. To know the places where you like to be touched. I think about what it would be like to have you touch me. I'm touching myself right now, in fact. Admitting as much sends a sharp jolt of arousal through Spock and he rushes to undo the fly of his trousers, letting out a small groan when he takes himself fully in hand. I'm imagining it is your hand on me, making me hard for you. I feel quite dirty, telling you this, but it's very pleasurable. Thinking of you, pulling me against you, your hand large and tight arou

A needy tremor runs through Spock and he gives up on the email completely, bending forward in his seat and focusing on jerking himself toward a gasping, shuddery orgasm. When he catches his breath and comes back to himself, he finds that he's rendered his entire hand sticky and his dirty email has disappeared from the laptop screen, a mocking note left in its place: Message sent.

"...Oh," Spock utters in disbelief. He brings his hands to the keyboard to retrieve the email somehow, then quickly realizes what a mess he's about to make and reels back. He stands, trousers still undone, and stumbles over to the sink to wash his hands. Truth be told, he's too drowsy to care about the message now, not to mention completely at a loss on how to undo it, so he just closes the window and shuts the computer down. He'll deal with it in the morning.

When morning arrives, however, all is forgotten, save for a bad hangover that reminds him of his chocolate binge at the party. And, of course, Jim is there, smiling smugly at the sight of Spock in his rumpled dress shirt and wrinkled trousers, his penis still hanging out of the fly.

"Guess the party didn't end when you got home," Jim quips.

"I hate you," Spock says, muffled into his pillow. Jim scoffs and slightly slaps Spock's thigh.

"Vulcans don't hate anyone," he says. "Come on, get up. I'll make you a smoothie."

Spock squeezes his eyes tightly shut and wonders what he did to deserve such a wretched twenty-four hours.

***

The last thing that Gary says to Leonard before he falls asleep after the party is, "You really fucked up with that journalist from Village Voice."

It's typical of Gary to focus on something like that. Never mind that Leonard clearly made an enemy of Spock Grayson, who has been a part of the neighborhood for a very long time and no doubt has a lot of friends in the area. Obviously, Leonard's real mistake was not taking aside one goddamn journalist and detailing his fifteen year plan to expand Georgia's across the entire world. He doesn't actually have any kind of plan to do that, but he's sure Gary—whose political background makes him shockingly good at it—could bullshit something impressive enough to make anyone believe it.

By the next morning, it's clear that Gary's forgiven any self-marketing faux pas that Leonard may have made the night before. Leonard wakes from a sound sleep to the pleasant sensation of a warm mouth around his semi-erect cock, slowly teasing him to full hardness. His stomach muscles tense and Gary looks up.

"Good morning," he says, letting his hand take over where his mouth left off.

"What ti—"

"It's Saturday," Gary interjects smoothly. "You've got nowhere to be, I've got nowhere to be, Joanna's with her mother this weekend, and one of my interns is walking Scotty. Let's just relax and be together."

It feels like a trick. "What's this in aid of?"

Gary's hand stops and he shoots Leonard a flat glare. "Obviously, I'm trying to get pregnant, Leo. Why else do you think I want to have sex with my boyfriend?"

Leonard's brain thinks he should say something about the sarcasm but his cock disagrees, and he's still barely awake enough to think it through properly. So he grabs Gary by the shoulders and forcibly drags him up the bed, their mouths pressing together roughly. He realizes, belatedly, that he tumbled into bed last night without bothering to brush his teeth. His breath probably reeks, not that Gary seems to mind.

"Mmnh," says Gary, sticking his tongue into Leonard's mouth.

In spite of morning breath and Leonard's misgivings, they quickly divest one another of their remaining items of clothing. Gary straddles his hips, his cock rubbing against Leonard's belly as he leans forward into the kiss. They stay in that position for quite a while, with Gary lazily moving his hips back and forth while he reaches behind himself to continue jerking Leonard off.

"Gary..." He splays his fingers over Gary's thigh, squeezing until the skin beneath his fingertips goes white.

"I know, you wanna fuck me real bad...but I've been bad, Leo..."

And then Leonard knows exactly where this is going. He starts to protest, but Gary cuts him off with a flick of his fingertip against Leonard's frenulum, making him hiss and shudder, pre-come beading at the end of his cock. He does want to fuck him, dammit.

"So very bad," he reiterates. "I know you want to take me over your thigh and teach me a lesson."

Leonard has never been sure how he ended up in a relationship with someone who enjoys being spanked during foreplay (and on one memorable and impossible to replicate occasion, during penetrative sex itself) when it does nothing at all for him. And yet, here he is. It was kind of exciting at first, he'll admit, but after several years of Gary ignoring his growing apathy, Leonard wonders why they're even together when they're both so different.

Gary presses the hairbrush into Leonard's hand and rolls onto his stomach, pushing his ass up into the air. "You don't have to use the side with bristles unless you really want to," he says in a tone of voice that Leonard presumes is intended to be seductive.

"Um, okay."

He spanks Gary with the hairbrush—the flat side—lightly at first, until Gary growls with frustration and mutters something about prick teases. There's no getting away from it, and Leonard starts to smack his ass in earnest. He knows what Gary likes, even if he doesn't like it himself, so he alternates cheeks, varies the time between blows, even turns the hairbrush over to drag the bristles over the sensitive, reddening flesh, eliciting a delicious moan from Gary.

"Oh, fuck, harder!" he cries, grinding his cock against Leonard's thigh.

"You want me to fuck you hard?" Leonard asks, deliberately mishearing. Gary doesn't correct him, though, so Leonard tosses away the hairbrush and flips Gary onto his back, pressing him into the mattress. Gary quickly gets with the program, lifting his hips and making needy noises as Leonard goes for a condom.

"Hurry up, Leo," he whines, as Leonard works at preparing himself.

"Hold your horses," he grunts, pushing up Gary's legs and exposing his reddened ass. "No one's getting pregnant today, despite your best-laid plans."

Gary laughs breathlessly as Leonard pushes in, and in that moment, he does recall why he was first attracted to the man. This was fun, at first, their sex life. But Gary's gotten more and more demanding over time, and while he used to be coy and playful about his kinks, now Leonard feels like catering to Gary's whims is his second job. He starts up a fast rhythm, the kind he knows Gary likes, and when it looks like Gary's about to say something in complaint—not fast or hard enough, maybe—he kisses him to shut him up, which works surprisingly well.

The only trouble with the pace is that Leonard finds himself nearing orgasm far faster than he'd ordinarily prefer. It's been a while since they last had sex and even longer since he last masturbated, and his arousal almost overwhelms him with its intensity. He wonders briefly what it'd be like if graymatter81 was beneath him instead of Gary. Even though Leonard has no idea what he looks like, just the thought of it is enough to push him even closer to the edge.

Fortunately, that's around the moment when Gary mutters something that sounds like, "Shitfuck!" and comes between them. He grabs at Leonard's ass with both hands and growls, "Come on." Leonard's not entirely sure it's meant as encouragement.

He does come, though. His toes curl with the force of it and he chokes back a name that definitely isn't Gary, the sounds tumbling out as disconnected syllables instead. Then he rolls off of Gary and onto the hairbrush, which ruins everything.

"Goddammit!" he swears, trying to twist around and get it out from under his back.

"I'm going to grab a quick shower," Gary says. Before Leonard can even react, he's gone and the bathroom door has slammed shut behind him.

It's childish, but flipping the bird at the door makes Leonard feel infinitely better. After a moment, he drags himself out of bed, disposing of the condom, and pulls on his robe. Gary always takes forever in the shower, so he figures he might as well wash the taste of last night out of his mouth with some coffee while he checks his email.

He's surprised to find a new email from graymatter waiting in his inbox. They rarely send each other messages out of sequence, so Leonard's first thought is that something's happened to him. Oddly, the idea makes his stomach clench with anxiety and he ignores the rest of his email in favor of opening that one first.

It takes Leonard a moment to process what he's reading. Despite the fact that he can hear the shower running, he slams the lid of his laptop down and looks around to make sure he's alone. Then he opens it again and the message is still the same. Yes, graymatter sent him a dirty email—one that cuts off at the end, as if he was too overwhelmed by his arousal to keep typing. Leonard's stomach clenches again and this time it's definitely not anxiety. He doesn't know if it counts as cybersex when it's one-sided, but it sure as shit feels like it.

His fingers hover over the keyboard. He should reply, that much is clear. They've been flirting for almost as long as they've been talking to each other and though Leonard doesn't know if he wanted things to take this turn, he definitely doesn't want to scare graymatter away now they have.

I wish I had been online when you sent this email, he types hesitantly.

I wish I knew what you looked like so I could imagine your face when you came. I don't even know what color your eyes are but I can still picture them rolling up in your head when I wrap my hand around your cock. Did you pretend I was behind you, with my erection digging into the small of your back? Did you do it fast or slow? Did you think about me fucking you from behind?

The bathroom door opens abruptly and Leonard reflexively hits send before he can think about it, opening up an innocuous work-based email just in case.

He wonders exactly what he's getting himself into.

***

It's a terrible day overall, given that Georgia's has opened its doors and Spock remembers at some point during the mid-morning non-rush that he accidentally sent 206bones a filthy email when he was drunk on all that chocolate. It comes back to him when he's restocking the pastry case. He gasps and stands up too fast and hits his head on the edge of the counter, which knocks him back on his behind. Nyota hisses in sympathy behind him.

"One of those days, huh?" she asks as she helps him up. "Need an icepack?"

"I believe nothing less than a tranquilizer would suffice," he groans.

By the end of the day, it's pretty clear that Georgia's has cut significantly into their business. Spock almost expects moths to fly out of the register when Chris opens it to collect the cash and receipts.

"This is bad," Pavel says, shaking his head grimly. "This is very bad. This new shop, I have seen people going in and out all day. And hardly anyone in here!"

"It's a novelty," Spock replies. He refuses to be anything less than optimistic in front of his staff, especially after only one day. "The store has just opened, after all. Our customers will return when they realize Georgia's is all smoke, mirrors, and stale muffins."

Chris sighs as he counts the meager number of bills in the register. "I hope you're right. We can't stand to have many more days like this one."

"Staten Island, here I come," Nyota says. She tucks her hair behind her ears and hops up to sit on the counter. "By the way, how was the big opening party last night?"

"You went to that?!" Pavel asks, his head whipping around in surprise. Spock exhales and nods.

"Jim was invited for his work. I thought it might be prudent to attend with him, in order to size up the competition."

Pike lifts a brow expectantly, peering over his glasses. "And?"

"Leonard McCoy was there. Mr. Sulu's friend from the party. He owns the chain." Spock folds his arms over his chest and frowns deeply at the memory. "I got drunk."

"Wow," Nyota says. She nods thoughtfully. "That's what I would have done."

"And to think we gave his daughter a cookie." Pavel spits something in Russian as he walks out of the kitchen. Spock has no idea what he's saying, but he's inclined to agree with whatever nasty obscenities Pavel has deemed appropriate for McCoy.

The only bright spot in the day comes when everyone has gone home and Spock finds himself alone in the back room, preparing to close. He decides to check his email before he shuts down the computer and is surprised to find a reply from 206bones. The tips of Spock's ears grow warm as he hazily recalls the details of his last message and alarm flickers at the back of his mind, urging him not to open the email. His curiosity gets the best of him, though, and he opens the message, fully expecting to see a nasty rebuke.

It's anything but. Spock reads the email once, then again, and feels a sudden stirring between his thighs, his ears flushing a darker shade of green. Before he can talk himself out of it, he clicks the reply button and begins a new message.

Bones,

Allow me to take a moment to apologize for the unfinished email I sent last night. I was not well and therefore, not fully in control of my actions.

That being said...you paint a delicious picture. Yes, even now, I am picturing you behind me, your strong arms holding me against you, your hard cock teasing me. Spock briefly considers opening his fly, but he doesn't want to risk slipping up and hitting the wrong button by accident again. I did it fast, very fast, just as I will do it again tonight, thinking of you. Perhaps I will imagine kneeling before you, sitting between your legs and watching your face contort in pleasure as I take you into my mouth. Vulcans have very warm mouths. I would enjoy showing you what mine is like.

My eyes are brown. Please share your eye color as well so we can both indulge in new fantasies.

graymatter81

This time, he has a choice of whether or not to send the email. He doesn't hesitate.

***

I loved getting that email from you. No need to apologize. I'm glad you initiated things, even if you weren't yourself at the time. We've been flirting ever since we first "met." And I think about you a lot.

Brown-eyed boy, huh? Mine are a greenish-brown, hazel I guess. I bet you're gorgeous. I'd love to see you between my legs like that, sucking down my dick with that hot Vulcan mouth of yours. Then I'd pull you up into my lap and stroke you until your brown eyes flutter shut and you come all over my hand. Or would you rather sit on my cock? Tell me all the things you like.

*

I believe I would like both of those options. I enjoy being penetrated and have thought of you doing so to me. Is this something you enjoy, too?

This morning, I fantasized about you in the shower and imagined you were in there with me, pressing me against the tiles. I could almost see your hazel eyes looking up at me as you held my hips and swirled your tongue around me. It was over sooner than I would have preferred.

There is something quite satisfying about receiving email from you, Bones. This was the case even before we embarked on this new territory. But now, more than ever, they are the best moments of a series of otherwise dreary days.

*

God, that shower fantasy. I would love to do that to you. Make you come, watch you fall apart in my hands, and then wrap your legs around me as I fucked you, nice and slow at first and then hard and fast, til we're both desperate for it. Got me hard just thinking about it.

As for being penetrated, I quite like it now and then. Mostly I top but I'm definitely happy to go the other way too.

Much as I love talking with you like this, it sounds like something's bothering you. Want to talk about it? I'm a decent listener, or so I'm told. If it's too personal, I understand, but I thought I should offer.

***

Spock re-reads the last few lines of Bones' last email and sags slightly. Does he want to talk about it? He thinks he does, but they agreed not to go into the details of their lives and he's not sure how to dance around the plain truth—that his cafe, the most important thing in his life, is in serious danger of going under.

It's been two weeks since Georgia's opened its doors and the customers haven't returned to Amanda's Tea Cozy, at least not in any significant way. Their usual morning rush has slowed to a trickle and they haven't booked a single birthday party, which makes Spock wonder if McCoy has decided to encroach on that part of his business as well. It seems as though Nyota and Pavel spend most of their time looking out the window at the juggernaut across the street. Spock wouldn't be surprised if one or both of them quit and sought employment there. He's not even sure he would blame them.

The entire situation is depressing and Spock knows he hasn't been himself as a result. Even things with Jim have been strained, likely due to the fact that Spock has been radiating stress and anxiety. His emails with Bones have been his only outlet as their daily take-in, along with his overall mood, continues to plummet. Spock places his fingers on the keyboard and debates with himself whether or not he should spill his guts to this veritable stranger. And then...

"Shower fantasy? Why, Mr. Spock, I do declare."

Spock nearly jumps out of his chair, startled by the other voice in the room. It's Chris, grinning slyly as he peers over Spock's shoulder. Spock closes the window quickly, the email disappearing from the screen. "Chris, I thought you were—"

"I got an early start today, thought I'd come in and do some bookkeeping. Little did I know you'd be in here, writing sexy emails."

"Chris," Spock says, swallowing. If he doesn't appear embarrassed, he stands a chance of surviving this moment. Unfortunately, Chris is not the type to let these things ago. "I...I thought I would be alone this morning."

"Uh huh." Chris just smirks and takes a seat beside him. "I take it that was not a love note from Jim."

Spock purses his lips and resists the urge to pout. He's known Chris for so long that it's become nearly impossible to lie to him. "No. I have developed a friendship with someone on the Internet."

Chris laughs, taking his glasses off and letting them hang from the cord around his neck. "Friendship, right. Where can I get a friend like that?"

"I suppose he is more of a...paramour than a friend."

"Sounds like you two are pretty close." Chris picks up a pencil and brings the eraser to his lips, biting it lightly. "You gonna seal the deal or what?"

"Highly unlikely. I don't know his name or anything about him, beyond that he is human, lives in New York, and owns a dog. And he is a businessman, like myself. We share no personal details beyond that." Spock shoots Chris a look. "Before you inquire, I will assure you that he does not know I have a partner."

"Well, what if he's got a partner? Or worse, what if he's straight?"

"We do not have an established relationship," Spock says, exhaling in frustration. "If he is married or involved with a woman, it is none of my concern."

"But you like him, don't you?" Chris asks. Spock squints, conveying his confusion, and Chris shrugs exaggeratedly. "C'mon, Spock. Your mother didn't raise an idiot. You're smart enough to know not to get involved with someone you don't have some kind of feelings for."

"An argument could be made to the contrary regarding my upbringing," Spock murmurs. Chris laughs at that.

"You know," he says, picking up a report and looking it over. "If he's some kind of savvy businessman, you might want to run our predicament by him, see if he's got any good advice for a struggling small business. Beyond burning the place down for the insurance money, that is."

Spock pales at the very idea of it. "I would never," he says. He pauses, his next words getting momentarily caught in his throat. "The cafe is my life."

Chris nods and squeezes his shoulder. "It was your mother's, too. She left it in good hands, if I do say so myself."

"Again, it is debatable." Spock stares at the computer's desktop and considers Chris' suggestion. He and 206bones do have a comfortable rapport by now; perhaps he would be a viable resource beyond their cybersex relationship. "I will determine a way to seek out my friend's counsel in the matter of the cafe."

"Good," Chris says, nodding. "And ask him to send me one of those friendly emails, while you're at it. I could use a little morning pick-me-up."

Spock's lip curls at the very thought. "I will find more paperwork for you if necessary, Chris," he warns. Chris holds up his hands in surrender.

"I'll be good. Promise."

***

The newest Georgia's is doing better than anyone had expected, even Leonard. After only a month, one of the local cafes has already closed its doors for good and according to reports, another two are likely to go under around Thanksgiving or soon after. One of those is Amanda's Tea Cozy, Spock Grayson's cafe.

Leonard doesn't feel bad. He knows he can't feel sorry for his competitors if he wants to get ahead in this line of work, and Leonard's so far ahead that he left sympathy—at least when it comes to business—behind a long time ago. It helps in this case that Spock is just plain irritating.

The worst part is that Leonard starts seeing Spock everywhere. If he goes out to pick up some groceries, Spock turns up in the next aisle. Leonard hides from Spock in bookshops, clothes stores, even restaurants. He can't buy a hot dog from a cart on the street without bumping into the man. The only place Spock doesn't seem to go is the park, so at least when Leonard walks Scotty he doesn't have to worry about avoiding him.

And, of course, each of their stores is easily visible from the other. Once, looking out of the window of his office, Leonard accidentally found himself making eye contact with Spock, who was taking out the trash. Spock wiped his hands on his apron and spun on his heel so quickly Leonard was amazed that he didn't get dizzy and fall down.

Amazed and a little disappointed.

After that, Leonard conducts his surveillance more covertly. He watches Amanda's Tea Cozy through the gaps in the Venetian blinds. He learns that there are only four employees, including Spock, and that Spock never takes a day off. Leonard thinks he should; they have fewer customers every day and Spock spends more and more of his time standing at the window looking worried.

"What are you doing?" Hikaru asks suddenly.

"Jesus!" He jumps away from the window, turning to look at Hikaru. "When did you come in?"

"Like five minutes ago. I guess you were too busy staring at Spock Grayson to notice."

Leonard ignores the jab. "I don't trust him. He doesn't seem like the kind of person who wouldn't do anything when his cafe's about to go under. He loves it, you know? I'm sure he's going to put up some kind of fight. If I were him, I'd fight."

"What can he do? This isn't David and Goliath, Len. People have all but stopped going to his cafe. He doesn't have anything on Georgia's now; you know that. What I don't get is why you're so fixated on him." Hikaru looks at him carefully. "Is it because you had a fight with him at the opening party and he got drunk off the chocolate fountain?"

"I didn't—he got drunk?" Leonard asks, frowning. "How could you possibly know that?"

Then something odd happens. Hikaru looks kind of uncomfortable all of a sudden. "Um, well. I gave his boyfriend my card and we kind of started hanging out. You know, he wanted to talk about his article, then we got on really well so we went out for drinks, and he started coming to the private gym with me sometimes."

"You're a traitor and I'm going to fire you," he says. "Or maybe you're a grown-ass man and I don't give a fuck what you do outside of work. Which do you think?"

"All right, all right," Hikaru says, rolling his eyes. "It's cool that he's using the gym?"

"Seriously? You can use your guest pass however you want. As long as he's not in there on his own so you know he isn't snooping around in our files trying to find some way to bring us down to save his boyfriend's store."

"Yeah, don't worry about that. He comes to work out, not to snoop. We're just, you know, in the gym, working out. Then in the changing rooms, then we go home. He's not alone." He clearly realizes he's babbling at that point and closes his mouth tightly.

Leonard gives him a look. "Thanks for the update on your schedule, Hikaru. Did you come in here for a reason, by the way?"

"No, no reason," he says after a moment. "Do you want to get a beer?"

"It's three in the afternoon."

"I know. Are you coming or not?"

Hikaru drags him onto the subway to get to his latest bar of choice, which Leonard is actually thankful for. The nearest subway station is in the opposite direction to Amanda's Tea Cozy, which means they don't have to face the accusing stares of Spock and his employees, who have literally nothing better to do with their time.

"Are you still emailing that guy?" Hikaru asks once they're settled in at the bar, drinks in hand.

"Every once in a while," he replies cautiously. It's not that he doesn't trust Hikaru—if he didn't, Hikaru wouldn't even know about graymatter81. But lately, Gary's been getting kind of cagey and paranoid, and when he found out that Leonard was emailing some other guy, they had one of the biggest fights they've ever had. Then again, it might not count as paranoia when something's really going on.

Leonard doesn't count it as cheating, really. He's never met the guy in person, just talked about some things they'd hypothetically like to do, maybe. And he'd never do them, even if they met up. He's with Gary, even if Gary is annoying sometimes. A lot of the time.

Hikaru snaps his fingers. "Earth to Leonard. Come in, Leonard."

"What?" He blinks a few times and takes a sip of his beer.

"I said, 'What does Gary think of that?'"

"He's kind of pissed, but you know what he's like. He gets pissed if I hang out with you for five minutes longer than I told him I would."

"Yeah, but that's because he thinks I'm a bad influence." He drains what's left in his glass—Leonard wonders exactly how long he zoned out for—and motions to the bartender, an attractive redhead, for a second round. "Do I look like a bad influence to you?" he asks her when she comes over with two more beers.

She looks him up and down slowly. "Yes," she says, a smile curving her lips prettily.

"Yeah, you do," Leonard agrees. "Gary might have a point."

"I'm a single father," he informs the bartender. "You can't get much more responsible than that. Does that change your mind?"

Leonard drifts back into his thoughts while Hikaru flirts with the woman, showing her photo after photo of Demora. He wonders if he should ask graymatter to meet him. He runs the risk of Gary finding out, though he doesn't see why that should stop him. Gary doesn't get to dictate who his friends are, and it's possible the sexual side of things might fizzle out once he sees what graymatter really looks like. In Leonard's head, his correspondent is a mostly featureless Vulcan with soft brown eyes. Even his height changes from time to time, fluctuating between Leonard's height—so he can look into those eyes—right down to a few inches shorter than Hikaru. He'd prefer him to be tall, though.

Or maybe graymatter won't like him. There are all kinds of reasons Gary has nothing to worry about, not that Leonard has to justify anything. It's not like I'm doing anything wrong here, he thinks.

He digs through his pockets for his iPhone. graymatter81 is probably still at work, but Leonard hopes he might have had the time to reply to his most recent email. They've been skirting around the issue of the recession and graymatter's business recently, though their decision to avoid personal details wherever possible has made it difficult for Leonard to give him any advice he knows for sure to be useful.

Lately, the conversation has drifted closer and closer to details and Leonard's sure that, if there is an email waiting for him in his inbox, graymatter will finally have confessed the true extent of his problems. Leonard can do a lot with that. He can diagnose and cure ailing businesses like he was born to do it. He just hopes graymatter will give him a chance.

When he checks his iPhone, there are no new messages. He'll have to try again when he gets home.

***

After another long and fruitless day at work, Spock finds himself lying in bed with his laptop and a mug of decaffeinated tea, staring at 206bones' latest email and wondering how to reply. Bones genuinely wants to help, but Spock doesn't want to risk revealing too much about himself. He's still not entirely sure how he feels about his burgeoning relationship with his friend, paramour, or whatever his title is.

He's about to start working on a reply when a gchat message suddenly pops up on his screen.

206bones: I had a feeling I'd find you online. Hows it going?

Spock freezes in place for a moment, then looks around instinctively for Jim, even though he knows that Jim is out on the town as usual, being a journalist-slash-debutante. The coast is clear, though, so he puts his mug down and considers the keyboard.

graymatter81: Not very well. But it is nice to hear from you, as always.

206bones: well I'm sorry to hear that. I can give you advice, though. I'm a great advice-giver. I minored in pyschology.

206bones: *psychology

graymatter81: As I have mentioned, it's business woes. I believe the recession and changing times have caught up to me at last. The competition is brutal. I'm in trouble

206bones: what kind of business is it?

graymatter81: We agreed to leave out specifics, if you'll recall.

206bones: Ok, ok, well....I guess all I can say to that is go to the mattresses.

Spock mouths the words to himself—"go to the mattresses"—and tilts his head in confusion as he types his reply.

graymatter81: As well versed as I am in Earth, and specifically American idioms, this is one I have never heard. Is it a pop culture reference?

206bones: It's from The Godfather! Don;t tell me you've never seen it.

graymatter81: I'm afraid not. Please explain your meaning.

206bones: it just means you need to fight back. put up your dukes, GM. You know how to do that, i'm sure.

graymatter81: I consider myself a pacifist.

206bones: Well I don't mean literally. I mean stick up for yourslef. No one's in business to make friends. and a person's business is his livelihood so if you're being threatened, put up a fight. Do whatever you can to survive. Go the mattresses.

206bones: I know you're a sweet guy by nature but just always remember: it's not personal, its business. 2 totally separate things. Repeat it to yourself if you have to

graymatter81: Your advice is to remember this phrase? Forgive me, but it seems illogical. My business is an extremely personal matter to me.

206bones: Sure, which is why you cant be afraid to fight. You gotta look out for #1, you know? don't be afraid to get down in the mud and fight dirty. And if you're worried about hurting someone;s feelings, that's all you need to remember: It's not personal, it's business.

"Spock? You home?" Jim calls suddenly from the living room.

He types a quick farewell to Bones and shuts down his computer. "I am in the bedroom," he calls back. "I wasn't expecting you to return home this early."

"The city's boring tonight." Jim appears in the doorway, his hair artfully disheveled in a way that Spock used to find charming and attractive, but now stirs no emotion beyond a desire to pin him down and comb it. Jim notices the scrutiny. "Like what you see?"

"Your hair is a mess," Spock says, seeing no reason to be untruthful.

"Ahh," Jim says, smiling ruefully as he walks inside and flops down on the bed. "Always trying to turn me on with that sweet talk of yours."

Spock recognizes sarcasm when he hears it but for some reason, when he looks down at Jim lying supine on the bed, he feels a hint of that familiar fondness for his partner. Plus, he realizes, he could desperately use Jim's help.

"Jim," he says hesitantly. "Would you consider writing a piece for the Voice about the cafe and the predicament we're in, with regards to Georgia's?"

"Really?" Jim looks up at him upside-down with bright eyes. "You want my help?"

"Indeed. You are a gifted writer. And I've decided to go to the mattresses."

Jim smiles genuinely and then lets out a bark of laughter. "Whoa. Did you just quote The Godfather? Jeez, Spock, it's like I don't even know you anymore."

Spock averts his eyes, not caring to explore the veracity of Jim's statement. Instead, he pushes his laptop away and motions to Jim's side of the bed, making room for him.

"Come to bed," he says. Jim looks at him a moment longer, then leans over and kisses Spock's thigh and starts to undress.

***

The article gets published in the Voice two days later and suddenly, Spock and Nyota can't seem to bake fast enough for all of the customers they're getting—new faces and returning ones who seem sheepish for ever abandoning Amanda's. Spock has to admit that Jim did a fantastic job with the piece, even if it is slightly melodramatic. It not only puts the cafe up on a nostalgic pedestal, but it rails on chains such as Georgia's and Starbucks for the...

"'Walmart-ification of America,'" Chris reads aloud from his newspaper, leaning against the wall as Jim stands nearby, glowing with pride. "A neighborhood formerly untouched by corporate greed, Park Slope's loss of family-owned small businesses such as Amanda's Tea Cozy would render the area just another highly glossed faction of New York City, no better than lower Manhattan, which lost many residents to high-rise condos and overpriced chains in the nineties. And while we may appreciate the ample space for our baby strollers and the factory-made frozen mochas that Georgia's churns out, we're in grave danger of losing something more important than all of the above, for which Brooklyn has always been known around the world: its character.'" Chris adjusts his glasses and looks up at Jim with an air of respect, plus a hint of amusement. "Well, that was certainly eloquent. Wordy but eloquent."

"It's basically true. They just as much admitted to wanting to take over the neighborhood at that party," Jim says, shrugging. "Plus, my editor really ate up the angle. Beats writing some snooze fest about the boring opening of another corporate shop."

"Well, it seems to be working. Spock, you and Nyota okay back there?"

"Yes," Spock says, balancing trays of fresh cranberry and ginger scones as he walks to the display case. "We don't mind baking this much if it means customers are buying."

Nyota rings up another coffee and pastry as Pavel rushes to prepare drinks. "Speak for yourself," she says. "My back is killing me."

"Please, Nyota, take a break." Spock puts down the tray and relieves her at the register. "If you will just place the fresh scones in the case, I can take over from here."

"Spock, I don't know how you do it," Nyota says, smiling warmly and shaking her head, sending her ponytail swishing. "You never get tired. You just keep on keepin' on. Hook me up with whatever five-hour energy supplement you're chugging, okay?"

Spock scoffs but otherwise says nothing, instead shooting a brief smile at Jim on the other side of the room. It's completely worth dealing with his smugness for a few days if it means the overall revival of Spock's business. He turns to a woman at the counter, someone who he recognizes as a repeat customer from the past, who hasn't been to the cafe in ages.

"I can't believe I was ever attracted to that faceless dump across the street," she says as she pays for a hot green tea and a muffin. "I'm so glad I picked up the Voice today. Do you have soy milk here?"

"Yes, by the condiment station," Spock says, pointing to the side counter.

"We have soy milk now?" Pavel whispers to him. Spock just nods; he started buying it right after he noticed it on the giant menu at the Georgia's opening party. Pavel rolls his eyes. "Great, one more thing to keep track of."

"Considering the alternative," Spock drawls, "if I were you, I would be grateful."

Pavel laughs. "It is looking like we won't have to move to Staten Island after all." Spock nods and looks over at Chris, still talking to Jim and looking skeptical.

"Well," he says, "this is my hope." He glances at the front window, in the direction of Georgia's, and smirks. His other unspoken hope is that Leonard McCoy is watching and getting gray hairs as it all unfolds.

"Maybe we should get the little loyalty cards, yes?" Pavel asks. "Ten stamps and you get a free muffin."

"It may not be wise to get too far ahead of ourselves," Spock says, looking back into the cafe. "This is only one day, promising though it may be."

"I'm pretty sure you're set," Jim cuts in. "A lot of people read my article. I even heard someone talking about a protest outside of Georgia's." He crosses his arms, looking even more pleased with himself than before. Spock wishes he'd leave so people would stop asking him to sign their copies of the article. It's probably selfish, given that Jim is entirely behind their success today, but something about the look on his face is starting to grate.

"No, Spock's right," Chris says. "One good day can't save a business, as much as we all want it to. We need to translate this into something consistent."

"Maybe you should go to the protest, Spock."

"I don't think that would be appropriate," he says mildly. As much as he'd like to see the look on Leonard McCoy's face, he suspects he'll be able to see it while staying in his store and keeping the moral high ground.

Though, as 206bones told him, this is business and not personal. Maybe there's no moral high ground to be had because there are no morals. Spock still has manners, though, so he makes a mental note to email his friend and thank him for the advice. It may be early days, but Spock hopes that he can fight enough to save his little cafe.

He's still not entirely sure what mattresses have to do with anything, though.

***

"This is ridiculous," Leonard snaps. "I don't understand why the cops won't move them along."

"They're on public property and they have a permit," Hikaru says, "so we're shit out of luck."

They watch from the window of Leonard's office as Nyota and Spock carry over trays of coffee and snacks for the dozen or so protesters outside Georgia's. Their signs bear such legends as "Our Neighborhood's Rosy With Amanda's Tea Cozy," "I've Got 99 Problems And All of Them Are Georgia's," and "Say No to Big Coffee" (which is pretty nonsensical, in Leonard's opinion). He doesn't know what they think they're going to achieve.

As the two of them return to the store, Leonard spots Jim Kirk in the crowd watching the protest.

"Hey, it's your buddy," he says to Hikaru.

"Who? Oh. I guess you could call him that. What's he doing down there, anyway?"

"Watching," Leonard says. Then, "Talking to the guy who's in charge."

After a moment, the protesters start chanting. "One, two, three, four! Fuck your coffee megastore!"

"...I'm going home."

Unfortunately, Leonard makes the mistake of leaving through the main doors, and the group of protesters rushes up to him as soon as he appears. He tries to push his way through but they're pretty determined.

"Are you proud of yourself for what you're doing here?" one of them demands. "You're killing our neighborhood!"

"We're just filling a gap in the market."

"You're destroying people's livelihoods!" another shouts at him, waving her sign furiously.

"We're actually taking applicants right now. Someone with coffee shop experience would probably get a job offer." He shoulders his way past the people mobbing him and blocking his path. Someone kicks him in the shin, hard, and he winces but doesn't let himself react otherwise. The last thing he needs is more bad press—Jim Kirk is still standing right there and no doubt he'd jump at the chance to give his boyfriend another helping hand.

Behind him, they start chanting again.

Leonard's so busy concentrating on not losing his temper that he walks straight into someone just beyond the crowd. "Sorry," he mutters, barely looking.

"Are you well?" Spock Grayson asks. "I noticed you were having difficulty leaving your premises, and though there is no love lost between us, I was concerned for you."

"I'm fine," he says curtly. "You should have a word with your friends over there. They're blocking the sidewalk. It's a hazard."

"They aren't my friends."

"Really? Because I'm pretty sure I saw your boyfriend standing with them. In fact, I think he's the one who came up with that little chant."

Spock looks pained. "Believe me, that is not something I endorse. If Jim is behind it, then you should know I am unimpressed with him. You have my sincere apologies. Would you like a scone to make up for the inconvenience?"

"No, thank you," Leonard says before he can stop himself. So he adds, "I wouldn't take one of your damn scones if you paid me." They both know it's a complete lie, but it makes Leonard feel a lot better.

"Very well. I'll save it for one of our many paying customers."

"Yeah, you do that." As comebacks go, Leonard's done better in the past. He just wanted to get the last word in before walking away quickly, ignoring the pain in his leg from that kick. He wonders if the person who kicked him was wearing steel-toed boots. It certainly feels like they were.

Later, he sits on the couch with Joanna, watching The Aristocats on an extremely battered VHS. Gary's at some kind of work event but Leonard couldn't find a babysitter. Frankly, he's grateful for the excuse to stay home with his daughter and not spend another painful evening being found wanting by Gary and his acquaintances. He also has to write a reply to graymatter81's latest email.

Dear GM,

I'm glad to hear business is picking up for you again after our conversation. Sometimes you have to fight for the things you love. It's beginning to look like I might have to do something similar with my business.

I've been thinking, lately. We've been talking for months now and we still don't know too much about each other. mAybe you'd like to meet up? Don't worry, we can do it in a public place so you don't have to worry about me kidnapping you. That was a terrible joke, ignore that. But I would like to meet with you one day, if you're open to it.

Let me know.

Bones

Leonard sends it with a decisive click of his touchpad.

***

"Meet up?" Spock says aloud.

He reads the email over again and swallows, his heart beating rapidly in his chest. Yes, he would like to meet 206bones, very much so. But the idea sends a great amount of anxiety bubbling to the surface. He might not be up to Bones' standards, or perhaps meeting a hybrid Vulcan-human is more exciting in theory for Bones than it would be in reality. Spock sighs at his own train of thought and wonders what his father would have to say, if he could see him now. Then again, Spock has never been an exemplary Vulcan, given his decision to run his mother's cafe rather than pursuing science or medicine. His father would surely laugh at him if he knew Spock was enamored of someone he met on the Internet. That is, if Vulcans laughed much.

Spock decides not to reply right away and to think it over instead. He's easily distracted by work, even though their initial customer surge has already died down. The protests have trickled away to nothing much at all, which probably thrills Leonard McCoy to no end. Spock flinches as he looks through the records and sees that he gave away more free merchandise during those days than anything else. He and Nyota had hoped that it would serve as a lure for future visits, but it's getting more and more difficult to patiently wait for that customer loyalty to kick in.

"So you surmise that we have seen no significant rise in business," Spock says to Chris. The older man sighs and leans back in his chair, taking off his glasses.

"I'm not surmising anything. The proof's in the pudding, Spock. We had a bit of a bump but we're not doing anywhere near as well as we did this time last year."

Spock rifles through the paperwork again, though he's not really looking at anything, just moving papers around. "The holidays are nearly upon us. Perhaps business will see another surge during that time."

"Maybe," Chris says. "But we're starting to bleed money, Spock. I've admired your optimism but you're not really turning a profit here, and...I just don't know if I see this thing turning around."

Spock takes a long, measured breath and turns his attention to the framed photograph of his mother on the desk before them. She looks young and vivacious in the image, wearing an apron with the cafe's signature purple and green colors and holding up the muffins for which she's known and loved, to this day—albeit by fewer people than before.

"Chris," Spock says quietly. "What do you suppose my mother would have done in this situation?"

"Hell, I don't know. Probably would have baked us all pie and told us not to worry our pretty little heads over it."

Spock feels a small smile curl the corner of his mouth. "I have never been able to fully replicate her recipe for apple pie."

"God, that pie. I still dream about it."

"You're not alone in that regard."

After Chris leaves for the night, likely for a date with his boyfriend Philip, Spock returns to his inbox and considers Bones' email once again. He decides right then and there to take the leap and meet his online friend. With everything else going so poorly, their budding relationship is bound to be a welcome reprieve. And if they don't get along or dislike each other, it's not the end of the world. Indeed, fear is a completely illogical emotion in this scenario.

Dear Bones,

Kidnapper or not, I am not opposed to the idea of meeting you. In fact, I would like that very much. I propose we meet at the Last Word bookstore, as it is one of my favorites. It will be casual and then if we decide to continue the evening together, we can play it by ear. Does Thursday at 7 p.m. work for you? If so, look for me in the science section. I will be the one with the green scarf and the pointed ears. Difficult to miss.

Looking forward,
graymatter81

Spock looks over the email and then covers his eyes with one hand as he presses "send" with the other. While his father would still likely laugh at his nerves, he thinks his mother would find the entire thing adorable. Which, for Spock, is just as bad, but much more comforting.

***

As Thursday evening approaches, Leonard realizes he's growing more and more nervous about his meeting with graymatter. Although he knows it isn't really that big a deal, he wants graymatter to like him. He wants them to get along as well in real life as they do when they're emailing each other.

And he kind of hopes graymatter is as attractive as he's been fantasizing.

Leonard decides a few hours before he's due to go to the bookshop that he'll ask Hikaru to come along. He might be able to get a good look at graymatter and report back to Leonard on what he's like. Of course, he runs the risk of Hikaru making fun of him, but that's just what being friends with Hikaru entails.

He checks the time; it's a little after five. Hikaru probably quit for the day an hour ago and went to the gym, so there's no point in calling him. He sometimes works out for a few hours in the evening and his phone stays in his locker the entire time.

"Exercising that much can't be good for you," he mutters to himself as he gets in a cab and directs the driver to the office building in Manhattan.

The gym is on the seventy-fourth floor, affording its users some of the best views in the city while they work out. Leonard generally doesn't go up there, as he feels he gets enough exercise from walking Scotty and playing with Jo. In fact, Hikaru's probably the only employee who does use it on any kind of regular basis.

As Leonard approaches the locker room, he can hear loud panting from inside the gym. Really loud. He must be pushing himself extra hard today for some reason. He's about to call out when he hears a voice that definitely doesn't belong to Hikaru growl out, "Oh, fuck."

So someone else does use the gym, though it sounds like they're pretty out of shape. Leonard grins to himself, trying to work out who it might be. McKenna, or maybe Kevin Riley. Perhaps Hikaru's taken up being a personal trainer in his spare time. Smirking to himself, he walks into the main room of the gym.

Hikaru laughs breathlessly. "Yeah," he says. "Oh, fuck yeah."

Leonard can't make his brain understand what he's seeing. He can't even really make sense of the individual elements: Hikaru, weightlifting bench, Jim Kirk, nakedness. And then it all snaps into stark relief.

Hikaru is fucking Spock's boyfriend in the Georgia's private gym. Jim's golden head is thrown back against the bench, his mouth hanging open in reckless pleasure, and he has one leg around Hikaru's hips and the other over his shoulder. He's flexible, says the part of Leonard's mind that has retreated into logic. Auuugh, says the rest.

Leonard's gaze accidentally lingers on Jim's cock, which he can see all too clearly. It's hard and red against his belly, and when Hikaru lays his hand over it, it twitches like it has a mind of its own. To his eternal shame, his own cock twitches in response.

In addition to the fact that he's seeing more of his best friend than he ever wanted to see, Leonard is suddenly unable to do anything but speculate on how long this has been happening. It doesn't look clumsy or new to either one of them, and as he watches, Hikaru shrugs Jim's leg off his shoulder and leans down. Jim does something akin to a sit-up and meets him in the middle, digging his fingers into Hikaru's shoulders and kissing him hard.

His core muscles are amazing, the dispassionate part of Leonard's brain observes. And he thinks it must have started that night at the opening party. That's when they met.

They're so wrapped up in each other that neither of them notices Leonard standing there. He leaves before they do, because at this point that's the only way this situation will get any more awkward.

Leonard spends the next hour doing a lot of walking with no particular destination in mind. His erection thankfully subsides and he decides that denial is the best solution: it never happened. In all the turmoil, he completely forgets about his meeting with graymatter. In fact, he doesn't remember about it until there's no chance at all of making it to the bookshop by 7 p.m.

"Shit!" he says, staring at his watch. As if today couldn't get any worse, graymatter's probably going to assume Leonard stood him up and leave before he gets there. He starts running and trying to hail a cab at the same time. Three pass him by before he finally catches one, and thankfully, the driver doesn't chew him out for asking to go to Brooklyn.

The traffic isn't too terrible so by the time he gets to the Last Word, it's about ten after seven. Leonard figures there's a good chance that graymatter hasn't left yet, though he might be a little steamed—and he knows from experience that Vulcans aren't immune to anger. The bell on the front door of the shop jingles as he walks in, and he takes a quick look around for the science section. A store map on a nearby wall tells him it's located in the back of the store, so Leonard takes a deep breath and makes his way over.

It occurs to him, somewhere between the cooking and self-help sections, that he should probably try to get a look at graymatter from afar, before he goes walking into the science area. That way, he can gauge graymatter's mood and, to be perfectly shallow, get a good gander at the guy. Leonard stops at a certain point and peers around the corner, where the science section is clearly in view, with only one person in sight, reading a book and wearing a telltale green scarf.

And then, Leonard's heart drops. Because it's Spock Grayson.

Immediately, it all makes sense. Spock Grayson, fighting to save his little business in the face of the recession, doing all he can to fend off his competitor. Spock, whose human mother opened the cafe he now runs. Leonard thinks of the advice he gave graymatter—gave Spock—and he presses his forehead to the edge of the bookcase and curses under his breath. All those stupid protests, that article in the Voice, all because of what Leonard had said: "It's not personal; it's business."

He watches Spock standing there, prim and elegant as usual, wearing a tweed coat and that damned green scarf, wrapped up in whatever text he found while he was waiting for 206bones. Leonard swallows the lump in his throat and tries not to think about what a supreme idiot he is. Instead, he weighs his options: he could go up to Spock, explain the misunderstanding, and they'll part ways, or he could turn on his heel and high tail it the hell out of there. While he's not cowardly enough to do the latter, he's definitely not brave enough for the former.

But maybe, just maybe, there's a third option here.

Leonard draws back and mentally prepares himself, then emerges from behind the bookcase with his hands in his coat pockets, trying to look as casual and innocent as possible. He sees out of the corner of his eye when Spock notices him; the contempt practically seeps from his pores, the intense waves of it smacking Leonard right in the face. If he can manage to be congenial throughout this conversation, he'll deserve a goddamn Oscar for it.

"Spock Grayson," he says, not a hint of malice in his voice. "I'm beginning to think you're following me."

"I can assure you, I am not." Spock frowns and closes the book in his hands, placing it back on the shelf before him. Leonard glances up and catches the title on the spine of the book: The Science of Human-Vulcan Interaction. He looks back at Spock with a little smile on his face that he can't help, even though Spock is glowering at him.

"Doing some early holiday shopping?"

"No. Yes. It...it's none of your business, Mr. McCoy." Spock crosses his arms over his chest and Leonard kind of can't stop smiling. Spock's actually flustered and it's kind of cute. "If you must know, I was waiting to meet an acquaintance at this location."

"Aha." Leonard takes an exaggerated look around the store. "Think he'll show?"

"Of course. He is merely tardy, a trait I have found in most humans. I'm accustomed to it by now."

"Is it a date? I thought you had a boyfriend. Jimmy what's-his-face, right?" Leonard gets a quick flash of Jimmy what's-his-face's actual face during sex and tries to keep his cool. He wonders if Spock has any idea about what's going on between Kirk and Hikaru. Most likely not. He should probably feel bad for Spock. "What's he doing tonight?"

"You're being extremely nosy, considering that we are not friends. We're merely business acquaintances, and I would go so far as to say enemies."

"Enemies?" Leonard repeats, laughing. He can't help himself, really, and he's kind of enjoying the way Spock's cheeks are flushing green, almost as green as his scarf. It's actually rather becoming. Or not. He clears his throat quickly. "I'm not trying to be your enemy, Spock. I'm just trying to do what I can to run a successful company and make sure I can afford to send my daughter to a top college one day. I admit it's not great that it's affected your cafe, but that's just the way things are sometimes. It's not personal, it's—"

"It's business. That's what you were going to say, correct?" Spock is obviously angry now; Leonard can see it in his narrowed brown eyes and the downward slope of his eyebrows. His fists are balled at his sides, too, and he looks five seconds away from a full-on temper tantrum. "I am tired of hearing this phrase. I detest it. It is illogical to state that all business interactions are conducted in this way. My own business is extremely personal. I am in the business of being personal, Mr. McCoy." Spock tilts his chin up rather haughtily, looking at Leonard with palpable disgust. "I am consistently amazed at the way humans so carelessly shrug off basic humanity. And as for your daughter, I am less concerned about her future academic career than I am about her sense of decency, with a father like you."

Leonard feels his blood start to boil at the mention of Joanna. "Hold on, now. Don't you dare bring my daughter into this. You've got a lot of nerve, talking about her."

"You were the one who originally mentioned her," Spock replies coolly. The smug look on his face is more than Leonard can take. He's absolutely sick of seeing that expression on Spock. He's had his fill.

"You goddamn, pointy-eared—" Leonard snarls. Unable to control his tongue, he points a finger at Spock and snaps, "If you're so smart, maybe you'd know that your boyfriend is fucking my business partner!"

That certainly shuts Spock up. He stares at Leonard in open shock for a few moments, his ears burning with a green flush, and then averts his gaze to the floor, mindlessly adjusting his scarf and re-buttoning his coat, looking as embarrassed as the day is long.

"I hope you are satisfied, now that you have...said that," he says, his voice quiet and cold. "Goodnight, Mr. McCoy. Perhaps the next time we meet, you will come to burn down my apartment."

The remark hits Leonard right in the gut. "Spock," he says. "I didn't mean to—I shouldn't have said that. I'm sorry, okay?"

Spock pivots in that oddly precise way of his, graceful even when he probably wants to cry or kick Leonard in the teeth. "Is it true?" he asks. Leonard hesitates and then nods simply, hoping that his gaze conveys some sense of sympathy. Spock nods as well and looks away. "I am also sorry. Your daughter is a very bright girl."

"Thanks," Leonard says dumbly. He shoves his hands in his pocket and glances down at the floor, scuffing a heel. "Listen, Spock, I..."

When he looks up again, Spock is gone.

***

Spock remembers very little about the walk home from the Last Word. He supposes he must be in some kind of shock from discovering Jim's apparent infidelity the way he did. Of course, he needs to speak to Jim about it before he draws any conclusions. Though Leonard McCoy seemed sure of his facts, Spock doesn't trust him after everything he's said and done in their short, unfortunate acquaintance.

The apartment is empty when Spock gets there, and it's only then that he realizes 206bones never turned up at the bookshop. He checks his email account and is dismayed to find no note, no explanation. As if today wasn't bad enough already, he was stood up by somebody who claimed to be his friend.

Though it isn't one of his preferred foods, Spock orders a vegetarian pizza for dinner and then sits on the couch—something else he rarely does—to eat it. He considers saving some for Jim before he remembers that Jim also doesn't eat pizza, nor does Spock have any idea when he'll be home. He doesn't even know where he is.

It was not his intention, but Spock eats the entire pizza in one go. He finishes the last piece just as he hears Jim's key turning in the lock, so he just about has time to dab at his mouth with a napkin and place the empty box on the floor before Jim comes in.

"Hey, did you get pizza?" Jim sniffs the air, wrinkling his nose. "You know that stuff's terrible for you."

"I'm aware. But there is something more pressing for us to discuss than my dietary choices," Spock says, trying to keep his voice level. He's surprised to discover that he isn't angry, nor are any other emotions currently threatening to overwhelm him.

"Sure, Spock. What's the matter?"

"Are you..." He stops again and considers the rest of the sentence. "It was brought to my attention this evening that you may have been unfaithful to me."

Jim sits down next to him, running one hand through his hair. "Wow."

"Is it untrue?"

"Where did you hear that?" Jim asks, which is all the confirmation Spock needs. He laces his fingers together neatly, looking down at his linked hands. Jim starts to reach out for them but pulls away again before he makes contact. "I'm sorry."

"If our relationship was unacceptable to you, why did you continue it while also pursuing Hikaru Sulu?" Spock blinks rapidly and wonders if he should be making eye contact with Jim. "I don't understand," he adds, a little plaintively.

"I never meant for this to happen."

"The relationship or my discovery of it?"

"The relationship. Both, I guess." This time he does take Spock's hands in his own. "I swear, Spock, the last thing I wanted was to hurt you. I shouldn't have started anything with him while we were still together. I guess...I felt like our relationship was dying and Hikaru came along at exactly the—well, exactly the wrong time for us."

"So you began sleeping with him. When?"

"The first time was a few days after Georgia's opened."

Spock raises his hands to his temples and massages them with his fingertips, trying to stave off the headache he can feel brewing. And then a thought strikes him. "Please, Jim, tell me that you and he were...safe."

He nods quickly. "He wore a condom. Wears."

"Oh," Spock says, not missing the implications of that. "I wish you had spoken with me before doing this. Though our relationship would have ended either way, you wouldn't have had to cheat on me if we'd both been honest with ourselves."

"I didn't have to cheat on you. I fucked up and I shouldn't have done it."

Spock rests his hands on his knees and tries to absorb Jim's words. He knows Jim is sorry; that's not the issue. In fact, Jim is hardly the issue at all. He's troubled by how little he cares about the infidelity compared to his massive humiliation at the hands of Leonard McCoy. And, Spock reminds himself, he's not blameless either, given his online travails with Bones, who left him in the lurch, to suffer this horrific evening alone.

It's an unusual feeling for Spock, not knowing how to feel. But he does know one thing: He's not in love with Jim, not anymore. As soon as he admits that to himself, things feel clearer.

"Do you have another place to stay?" he asks.

"Um, yeah, I could...yeah. Sure. You want me to...now?"

Spock shakes his head. "It's late. Take the sofa tonight."

"Okay." Jim smiles sadly. "Thanks. And for what it's worth, I am sorry."

"As am I."

Through with apologies for the night, Spock stands and leaves Jim to the sofa, along with the empty pizza box.

Bones, he writes an hour later, after tossing and turning in his bed, which feels too large without Jim there beside him. I'm extremely disappointed that you did not fulfill your promise to meet me tonight. And, admittedly, I'm very confused. Please inform me if I have misread your signals. I have had a terrible evening. It would alleviate some distress if I heard from you.

***

Dear GM,

I can't tell you how sorry I am that I missed our meeting, and I'm even sorrier it's taken me a few days to write you back. I was suddenly called away on urgent business and I didn't have a chance to let you know I wouldn't be there. Trust me, I felt awful when I realized you were probably waiting for me. I hope you didn't wait too long. Maybe one day we'll be able to reschedule, once things get a little less hectic.

I'm also sorry to hear that you had a bad night. Do you want to talk about it? I might not be able to advise you if it isn't about business, but I can certinaly listen.

Bones

Leonard genuinely has no idea if he'll get any answer to his email. While Amanda's Tea Cozy has been open for business as usual, since that night in the bookshop, Spock has been conspicuously absent. It's the first time Leonard's ever seen it open without Spock, and he realizes he's kind of worried. He wants to go over and ask after Spock, but he's pretty sure none of the employees with even talk to him, let alone give him any useful information.

He's in the process of looking up the cafe's phone number on the Internet when Hikaru comes into his office without knocking, as usual.

"It's going to close any day now," Hikaru says by way of a greeting. "They're running on fumes."

"Good," he says, though there's no real feeling behind it. Leonard doesn't feel bad. He can't allow himself to feel bad; it's just business. "I went to meet graymatter81 the other day."

"You did? I can't believe you didn't say anything!" He smacks Leonard on the shoulder playfully. "Come on, tell me everything. Is he hot?"

"He's...Spock."

Hikaru tips his head to one side. "You mean metaphorically?"

"No, I mean he's literally Spock Grayson. graymatter, you know? All this time it's been him and I had no damn clue." Leonard looks across the street again, as if speaking about him will make him appear. It doesn't.

"That must have been the most awkward meeting ever," Hikaru says, and starts laughing. "I guess that's the end of that. No way he'll keep talking to you now."

"Actually, I didn't tell him who I was," Leonard says. He sighs heavily. "And then we had a fight in the stupid bookshop and he stormed off. I said—well, let's just say I said some things I shouldn't have said. If he didn't hate me before, he sure does now." He wonders if he should tell Hikaru exactly what he said. If he does, it means owning up to walking in on him and Jim having sex, and that doesn't seem appealing. On the other hand, if Spock mentioned something to Jim, then Jim's sure to tell Hikaru the next time they meet up for one of their little trysts.

"You must have said something pretty bad. What'd you do, insult his mother?" He's still laughing.

"No, I told him you're sleeping with his boyfriend."

That shuts him up pretty quickly. "What?!"

"I know you're the only person who uses the gym, but everyone else knows you do and sometimes they go there looking for you, and they don't expect to see you balls-deep in Jim Kirk when they do."

"Oh my god," Hikaru says, covering his face. "And then you told Spock? Why would you do something like that?"

"We were fighting!" he says loudly. "I wanted to hurt him and it just slipped out. Also, I was fairly scarred from witnessing that. I only went to meet him an hour or two after I walked in on you."

Hikaru groans, sitting down in a chair heavily. "Please tell me you didn't see that much. Like, you didn't see—"

"Yep, sure did."

"But not—"

"That, too. Kudos on finding the most flexible guy in town, by the way."

"Ugh. Gross. Shit." Hikaru sighs and stands up, going over to Leonard's water cooler and filling a cup for himself. "Well, I guess that explains why they broke up."

Leonard's head snaps up at that. "Who broke up?"

"Jim and Spock." He shrugs and sips his water. "He's been staying with me for the past few days while he looks for a new place. Spock kicked him out."

"Oh, god." Leonard leans back in his chair and rubs his palm over his face, taking in the new, terrible information. "Could I possibly ruin this guy's life even more?"

"Ah, come on. It's not your fault. You didn't do anything wrong."

He frowns deeply. "Don't give me that crap."

"Okay, you're right," Hikaru says. He sits down again and crosses his legs. "You're a world-class life ruiner. Fucked him over for good. But at least you're still rich and handsome?"

"That's very comforting, thanks." Leonard swivels in his chair and looks out the window again, peering at Spock's cafe. "No wonder he's not at work today. He's probably sitting at home, totally miserable."

"Len, no offense, but you're getting a little stalker-iffic. You're going to make me think you actually care about this guy." Hikaru tilts his head thoughtfully. "Though maybe you do. You liked graymatter and Spock is graymatter. So..."

"Don't be ridiculous," Leonard scoffs. "I'm just...keeping tabs on a rival business."

"Well, you won't have to do that for long. Too bad, too. Their muffins are fucking amazing."

Leonard sighs and scratches the back of his neck. "Yeah, so I hear."

The rest of the day goes slowly, very slowly. Leonard doesn't get a reply to his email and he assumes that Spock is too busy wallowing, or maybe has just decided he hates 206bones' guts. He leaves work early and ends up being punctual for his dinner with Gary, which Gary somehow manages to make a bigger deal about than all of the times Leonard has ever been late. The conversation is mostly one-sided and full of Gary's bullshit, as usual. Leonard keeps getting distracted, too, thinking about Hikaru and Jim together and Spock sitting alone in his apartment, while his relationship and his career crash down around him.

"Leonard, are you even listening to me?" Gary hisses at him. Leonard pushes a piece of chicken across his plate with his fork.

"Not really. Does it matter?"

Gary gives him a cross look but then sips his wine and settles down. "You seem stressed out. Why don't we skip dessert and go home and have sex?"

God, must we? Leonard wants to ask. But that'll get him a face full of wine. So he shrugs instead and says, "Yeah, all right." He figures he can find some way to dodge the issue once they actually get to the apartment.

Luckily, the universe does the dirty work for him. They're in the elevator with two other people, Gary talking a million miles a minute about some awfully dull thing that happened in a meeting between him and god knows who, when the elevator suddenly jolts and comes to a grinding halt.

"What?" Gary says, clutching the lapel of Leonard's coat, as if that's going to keep him from falling down the shaft. "Are we seriously stuck? How could something like this happen? This is a brand new high-rise condo, not some fucking pre-war stack of shit bricks!"

"Gary, calm down," Leonard whispers. The other people are getting nervous, due to his ranting, and it's putting Leonard on edge, too—like most everything Gary does. He pushes the alarm button on the panel. "They'll come and fix it soon, okay?" It doesn't stop Gary from babbling.

"This is so inconvenient. I have, like, things to do. I have to get up early tomorrow for an eight o'clock meeting."

"It won't take long," Leonard insists.

Almost two hours later, everyone's sitting on the floor of the elevator, still waiting for the authorities to arrive and rescue them. The other two people, a couple as well, are huddled together, looking fairly worried and holding each other's hands, probably whispering romantic promises to each other in case the worst happens. Leonard and Gary sit with their briefcases between their legs, not speaking at all. Gary alternates between checking his BlackBerry and picking at his cuticles, and Leonard finds himself looking at the other couple with a small sense of envy.

"They're sweet, huh?" he murmurs to Gary, so the others can't hear him. Gary looks up and scoffs.

"They're pathetic. Like anything they say is going to make a difference if this thing crashes to the ground floor. Or if we end up suffocating to death."

Leonard looks around at all of the people in the small room and smiles to himself as something dawns on him.

"Gary," he says. "You're a huge asshole, you know that?"

Gary looks up, his eyes flashing. He opens his mouth to retort when the elevator suddenly whirs to life again. Leonard leans his head back against the wall and watches as his now-likely ex-boyfriend scrambles to his feet and starts angrily jabbing at the button for their floor.

"Does this mean you don't want me to spank you tonight?" Leonard asks innocently. The other couple stares, one of them obviously trying not to giggle, and Gary looks scandalized. Just as the elevator arrives at their floor, Gary leans down and smacks him hard in the shoulder with his briefcase.

"Fuck you, Leonard!" he shouts. "I hate your fucking guts!"

Then he storms out, leaving Leonard alone with a sore shoulder and two extremely amused neighbors, hiding their smiles behind their hands.

So much for that sex, he figures.

***

Spock locks up the door of Amanda's Tea Cozy for the last time on November 28th; two days after Thanksgiving. He sent the rest of the staff home early, wanting to say goodbye on his own to the store he was practically raised in. In any case, there aren't any customers left to serve, so it's not as if he needs them there.

As he left, Chris squeezed Spock's shoulder and said, "You did everything you could. Your mother would have been so proud of you."

Somehow, it only serves to make him feel worse about his failure.

He lingers at the door, re-reading the neatly handwritten sign he tacked up on the inside of the glass, thanking the cafe's customers for their many years of loyalty. Spock rests his forehead against the glass for a moment and murmurs, "I'm so sorry, Mother."

Then he walks away and doesn't look back.

The next few days are mostly spent in his still-too-large bed in his empty apartment. Spock knows he needs to get up and look for a new job, but he lacks any desire to do so for the near future. In fact, the one time he does get up and go out for groceries, he winds up with a stinking cold that sends him straight back to bed. Colds have always hit Spock harder than most people, for some reason.

By the third day of his cold, he feels well enough to get up and sit on the couch in his pajamas with QVC for company. It requires very little brain power and even less concentration. The last thing Spock expects is a visitor, and yet his buzzer goes off.

He struggles out from under the blanket on the couch and goes over to the intercom. "Hello?" he croaks.

"Spock? It's Leonard. Leonard McCoy."

Spock goes cold all over, and he doesn't think it has anything to do with being sick.

"Are you there?" Leonard asks.

"What are you doing here?" he replies. "How do you even know where I live?" He coughs into his hand.

"I want to talk to you. Will you let me up?"

"I'm afraid this isn't a good time. I have a cold, which is awful. As much as I dislike you, I wouldn't wish it on you." He pauses to sneeze violently and swab at his nose with a tissue. "As I expect you can hear, I am extremely unwell. If it would help to dissuade you, I can list some of my symptoms: my left ear is intermittently blocked, my nose is both congested and running, I have large quantities of mucus in my—"

He's cut off by a sudden knock on the door. When he opens it, Leonard McCoy is standing on the other side, holding a large bunch of flowers.

"How did you get into my building?" Spock asks.

"Can I come in?"

"You may not." He closes the door in Leonard's face and hurriedly clears up the worst of the mess his extended illness has left the apartment in. Then he opens the door again. "Now you may."

Leonard shoots him a confused look. "Were you sharpening your knives or something?"

"Don't be absurd," Spock says, his voice rasping uncomfortably. "Why have you come here? To offer me a job?"

"Yes, actually," Leonard says.

"I do not want your job!" He wraps his robe more tightly around himself. "I have plenty of plans of my own, and what's more, I wouldn't work for you if yours was the last job in the city."

"Do you have a vase for these?" Leonard asks, gesturing to the bouquet in his hand. "I bought them especially for you, so it'd be a shame if they died."

Spock nearly snatches the bouquet away from him and takes it into the kitchen to dump it into the sink until such a time as he can find a vase for it. The arrangement looks expensive, with gerbera daisies, roses, lilies, and some smaller flowers he doesn't know. "Why did you buy me flowers?"

"To apologize for what I said to you. It was shitty of me and I shouldn't have done it."

"In the end, it was for the best," Spock says quietly. "Jim and I were unsuited for one another, but we'd grown comfortable. It was inevitable that we would part ways at some point. I should thank you for pushing us to talk about our relationship, as it was something we were clearly incapable of doing without some outside influence."

"Still," Leonard says. "I didn't exactly do it to help you, so...I'm sorry. And I meant what I said about offering you a job."

"I don't care to be a barista," Spock sniffs. Then he sniffs again, wiping at his nose.

"I don't need any more baristas. I need someone who knows how to make the best baked snacks in this hemisphere, and that's you. If you won't take the job, at least let me buy your recipes from you."

Spock stares at him in disbelief. "I will never, ever sell you my recipes, Mr. McCoy. You put my cafe out of business. The last thing I want to do is help you."

"Come on, Spock." He sits down in one of Spock's dining room chairs but then quickly stands up again when Spock shoots him a nasty glare. "Okay, never mind the sitting. Honestly speaking, that blueberry lemon whatever scone was one of the best things I've ever eaten. Don't you want to share that joy with the rest of the world?"

"Those recipes belonged to my mother," Spock says, taking a seat of his own. "She entrusted me with them. And I had an outlet with which to share that...'joy.'" He glances up at Leonard quickly, then wipes his running nose again. "You took that from me."

There's an awkward silence then, as Spock keeps his gaze firmly affixed on the tablecloth pattern and Leonard just stands there, hands hanging uselessly at his sides. Spock reaches for another tissue with which to blow his nose and he hears Leonard sigh when he's through.

"You sound terrible. At least let me make you some tea or bring you some soup."

"I am perfectly capable of making my own tea, and of order...ordering..." He sneezes violently into his tissue and groans faintly as he attempts to finish his statement. "...ordering soup."

"Goddamn, you're stubborn, Spock," Leonard says, curling his hands over the top of a chair and smiling faintly. "I can appreciate that."

Spock gives him the best withering look he can muster. "Don't you have a fancy cocktail party to attend somewhere with your boyfriend? Gary, I believe?"

"Well, no, not really." He shrugs and squints down at Spock. "We broke up the other night. Another textbook case of not being suited to each other."

"How very disappointing," Spock mutters. "He seemed like an exceptionally bizarre and ill-mannered individual, and therefore perfect for you."

Spock is surprised when Leonard's response to that is a hearty laugh. "Christ, you don't know the half of it. What can I say? He was...exciting, once upon a time." He smiles at Spock, a genuine expression, and Spock can't recall the last time he saw something quite like it on Leonard's face.

"So was Jim," he says quietly. "Now he's exciting your friend Mr. Sulu, I suppose."

"Oh, god. Don't put it that way. The very idea of it already gives me nightmares."

Spock arches a brow at that. "Indeed? I assumed, given your relationship with Gary, that you are gay or bisexual."

"Oh, I am. Bisexual." Leonard nods and then scrunches his nose. "Just that the thought of Hikaru getting it on with anyone doesn't fit into my ideal sexual scenario."

"I see," Spock says. He realizes after a moment that he's smiling faintly and he quickly lifts his tissue to his nose again, to mask it.

"You know, Spock," Leonard begins. He drums his fingers on the chair nervously, though Spock has no idea why he would be nervous, unless he thinks Spock will call the police on him. "I realize that we didn't meet under the best circumstances but...you seem like an interesting guy. Think there's any chance we could be friends at some point?"

Spock laughs bitterly in response, which elicits a startled look of surprise from Leonard. Surely, he didn't believe Vulcans could laugh, even the ones that are half-human. "While I appreciate your sincerity, I believe it's far too late for that now. After what happened, I'm not inclined to like or trust you." Spock makes eye contact with him, and for a brief moment, wishes that Leonard were not the man he turned out to be. "I gather that you will understand."

"Yeah, sure," Leonard replies, nodding quickly. "I understand. Listen, you should be in bed, so I'll, um...be heading out." Spock nods and starts to get up but Leonard waves him back down. "You sit. I can show myself out."

"Very well. Thank you for the flowers."

"No problem." He smiles briefly and walks to the front door, but pauses and turns back to Spock at the last minute. "By the way, did you ever meet up with that acquaintance of yours at the bookstore? I was thinking about it afterwards, how I probably put a damper on that."

Spock balls his tissue in his fist restlessly and exhales. "As always, Mr. McCoy, you remain overly curious about everything. No, I did not. I believe I was 'stood up,' as they say."

"That's a shame. I hope it ends up working out somehow. If you like him, that is." He smiles thinly and opens the door. "And by the way, call me Leonard. Sounds less bitchy."

Spock's mouth is still hanging slightly agape when the door shuts. He supposes he could lighten up, now that what's done is done. A little bit. Maybe.

Then he sneezes again and decides to give up on consciousness and go back to bed.

***

A few days later, Spock feels much better, partly due to the fact that his cold is gone and also because he's sitting around a table with Chris, Nyota, and Pavel, having a delicious dinner in Chris' brownstone. In a way, they became his surrogate family over the years, and he's pleased to hear what they're doing and to catch up on their lives. Chris is using the cafe's closure as an excuse to take some long-overdue time off, and Pavel has already found a new job at another coffee shop.

"It is not nearly as friendly as Amanda's," Pavel admits. "But it is something. I am thinking of traveling, actually. Maybe going back to Russia for a while."

"I suspect that would be highly gratifying," Spock says. "And you, Nyota? Do you have plans on the horizon?"

She lifts her shoulders shyly, spearing pasta with her fork. "Maybe. I'm thinking of going to culinary school. To become a full-fledged pastry chef."

"Nyota, that would be wonderful!" Pavel exclaims.

Chris nods in agreement. "I'd love to see you working at a four-star restaurant one day. That is, if our desserts are free."

Nyota grins. "For you guys, always." She blushes at the attention and Spock reaches over to squeeze her hand gently, the one not holding her fork.

"You are an excellent baker, Nyota, and you will excel at everything you set your mind to. I'm sure of that."

"Thanks, Spock." She leans over and kisses his cheek. "Now, what about you? You must be brewing some big plans of your own."

He shakes his head. "I admit that losing the cafe and Jim in the same week didn't exactly stoke my ambition." Spock pauses to sip his wine. "I did receive one job offer. From Leonard McCoy, of all people."

"No!" Nyota and Pavel gasp in unison. Chris laughs loudly.

"Nooooo kidding," he says. "That man's got balls the size of Georgia." Pavel nearly spits out his wine and Nyota dissolves into giggles. Even Spock can't help a smile. He did miss his motley crew.

"He proposed that either I work for him or sell my mother's recipes to the chain. I explained to Leonard that he was out of his mind if he thought I would consider either proposal."

"Oh, so he's Leonard now?" Nyota teases, nudging Spock's side.

"I hate to say it, but it sounds like he's interested in more than your recipes, Spock," Chris says, smirking across the table. "He probably heard you weren't with Jim anymore and decided to swoop in."

Spock suppresses a scoff, picking at his salad. "I believe you are all projecting. He merely wants my recipes for his own selfish purposes. And I have no plans to make him rich, so he and I have nothing further to discuss."

"I think you should do it," Pavel chimes in. Everyone looks at him quizzically. "What? If the purpose of the cafe was to make people happy, should the recipes not live on somehow?"

Spock considers this and purses his lips. "You bring up an interesting point, Pavel. My mother's sole interest was baking for others. The cafe was extension of that. But I'm not entirely convinced that this is a logical way to carry on her legacy."

"Only you can decide that, Spock," Chris says. "Who knows—if McCoy means what he says, it could be a great opportunity." He gestures at Spock with his fork. "By the way, whatever happened to that guy you were emailing?"

"He never showed for our meeting. However, he wrote to me after the fact and claims he is still interested."

"Look at you, Mr. Popularity," Nyota teases. "You've got not one, but two guys vying for your affection. I'm jealous."

"Yes, well. Unfortunately, one is embodied solely by words on a screen, and the other is an arrogant jackass."

Pavel sighs. "I'm still jealous."

"Me too," Chris says.

Spock rolls his eyes and wipes his mouth with his napkin. "I promise to keep you updated on the non-events."

"McCoy is kind of hot," Nyota adds, lifting her hands. "I'm just saying."

Pavel runs a hand through his curls and huffs. "So very, very jealous."

Spock still thinks they're projecting. But all the same, the conversation inspires him to sit up a bit straighter in his chair.

***

The first time Leonard runs into Spock after his house call, it's a genuine coincidence. Admittedly, he doesn't need to shop in Brooklyn for groceries when there are plenty of stores closer to his Manhattan apartment, but he needed to pick up milk on his way home.

Spock seems to have recovered from his cold, or at least looks far more put-together than the last time Leonard saw him. He's in the process of examining some small jars of spices. Leonard sneaks a peek into his basket: eggs, flour, sugar, several kinds of berries.

"Leonard."

He looks up at Spock. "Oh, hello. Cooking something fun?"

"Not that it's any of your business, but I intend to make muffins. And the term is 'baking.'" Spock puts one jar into his basket and the other back onto the shelf. "What are you doing here?"

"I needed milk," he says, pointing into his own basket.

Spock raises one eyebrow and shoots Leonard the most disparaging look imaginable. "I was unaware of a milk shortage in Manhattan."

"What kind of muffins are you baking?" Leonard asks. "I bet strawberry muffins would be good. You should make some of those. You know, if you wanted to. How are you feeling, by the way?"

"You are behaving oddly," Spock replies. "But I'm as well as I can be, considering the situation."

"Good to hear." He digs in his pocket for his wallet, extracting a card. "I meant to leave this with you the other day. I know you said you didn't want to come work for me, but this way you can get in touch if you change your mind." Leonard drops the card into Spock's basket. "Or if you just want to talk."

"I don't foresee either situation being likely," Spock says. "But thank you."

Leonard nods. "Well, I'd better go pay for this before I forget. See you around, Spock."

"I hope not, Leonard. Goodbye."

Once Spock can't see him any more, Leonard allows himself a grin.

***

Bones,

Please accept my apologies for my curt reply to your last email. I admit, I was burned by the fact that you did not show at our arranged meeting and my personal life took a nosedive around the same period of time. The same week, in fact. Then I fell ill, likely due to stress, but I'm feeling much better now, in most respects.

I want to thank you for your continued offers of advice in the face of my ongoing adversity. I thought you should know that my shop went out of business. I'm not sure if I ever told you it was a shop—a cafe, to be precise. It has been difficult to get past the loss; it was a very big part of my life. But I try to remind myself every day that change is not necessarily a bad thing.

Please inform me of how you're faring, if you have a chance, and if you wish to continue our correspondence.

Be well,
graymatter

*

Dear GM,

It's a relief to hear from you again. I was worried that I'd damaged our friendship beyond repair by not turning up and not letting you know in advance. So what I'm saying is, of course I want to continue our correspondance.

I'm real sorry your cafe closed. I hope I had a chance to go there while it was still open. But youre right, change can be a good thing. Do you have a new job lined up yet or are you just going to take some time off for a while? Sometimes I wish I could do that but I have so much on my plate at the moment. Scotty ate a stick at the park the other day, so I had to take him to the vet and spend too much money on him.

Other than that, I guess I'm well. I recently went through some changes in my personal life, and since you were so forthcoming I guess I can be too. My partner and I broke up. Funny how you can be with someone for so long and not realize when you stopped loving them. It was hard at first but not as hard as I thought it would be.

Change is good.

Bones

***

It's not every day that Spock treats himself to a nice lunch—in fact, he never did when he was running the cafe, considering that he was there all the time. But Chris has encouraged him to be kind to himself in the midst of all of this upheaval, so he heads to a neighborhood bistro around noon and gets a table for one.

He's just finished giving the server his order when a familiar face appears above him.

"Spock," Leonard says, looking down at him in surprise. "Funny, running into you again."

"Indeed." Spock purses his lips and drapes his napkin over his lap. "I'm reminded of our encounter in the bookstore, when you joked about me stalking you."

"I swear it's just a coincidence again. It's my lunch hour." Leonard motions behind him. "I was going to get a table for myself but since you're here...mind if I join you?"

Spock exhales and silently curses the good manners his parents instilled in him. "If you insist." He watches as Leonard helps himself to the extra chair across the table. "I just placed my order with the server."

"All right." He smiles and opens the menu to peruse it, looking so pleased with himself that it makes Spock wonder. When the server comes by again, Leonard hands the menu back with a nod. "I'll have the steak frites, medium rare."

Spock looks at him quizzically. "Steak? At this hour?"

"Why, what did you get?"

"The spinach and beet salad."

Leonard shrugs and sips his glass of water, freshly poured. "Well, I guess you'll live longer."

"At last," Spock says. "I am the victor in one area."

It's odd, but Leonard's answering laughter puts him slightly more at ease.

The conversation is less stilted than Spock expects it to be. He inquires after Joanna and Leonard speaks of his daughter with a light in his eyes that holds Spock's interest easily. He also notes the similarities in their faces as he recalls Joanna's precocious behavior at her friend Demora's birthday party.

"Thanks again for that extra cookie you gave her," Leonard says. "That won me major brownie points."

"I enjoyed making our younger customers happy, especially on birthdays and special occasions. If you ever require additional brownie points, let me know."

"That's real generous of you, Spock." Just then, the meals arrive, and Leonard immediately picks up his utensils, then looks at Spock with concern. "I hope this doesn't bother you, watching me eat steak. I know Vulcans are generally vegetarians."

Spock pauses, wondering if Leonard researched that. It's not exactly common knowledge. He drizzles vinaigrette over his salad. "I'm not bothered. In fact, it is a welcome change, watching someone eat a hearty meal. I grew accustomed to eating with Jim, who survived on yogurt and carrots, for the most part."

"Oh, lord." Leonard laughs as he cuts into his steak. "I think we were both dealt heavy hands in the kooky boyfriend department."

"I had determined that Gary was a bit...off," Spock says. "But please, elaborate."

He shrugs as he chews, drinking more water. "Well. He's pretty much the most self-centered man to ever walk this Earth. I swear, I was more up on the gossip at his workplace than I was in my own. And, uh..." Leonard looks a bit embarrassed, shaking his head and smiling ruefully at Spock. "Let's just say he had peculiar tastes in the bedroom."

"Oh," Spock says, surprised. He takes a few bites of his salad, feeling color rise to his cheeks. Across from him, Leonard keeps smiling.

"Sorry. Didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."

"On the contrary. I find the conversation quite entertaining."

"Yeah? Good." Leonard picks up a few fries with his fingers and dips them into a pool of ketchup before eating them. "So, uh...it's been a while since you ended things with Jim, huh? Any good prospects?"

Spock nearly chokes on a spinach leaf. "Excuse me?"

Leonard throws up his hands, his fingertips covered in salt. "Sorry, sorry. I'm just being nosy again, never mind me."

"Yes, you're quite good at that." Spock drinks down more water to clear his throat and considers the idea of telling Leonard about his online relationship. While it's certainly none of his business, it's not as though Leonard will tell anyone else about it. And if he has a negative reaction, it gives Spock a good reason to continue avoiding him. He concludes quickly that divulging his secret to Leonard isn't the most illogical course of action. "I have been corresponding with someone I met online. But I don't know where it will lead, if anywhere."

Leonard looks at him and swallows, something strange passing over his face. "Oh, really?" he replies, then quickly wipes his mouth. "That's great. I reckon loads of people meet online these days. Probably more that way than in person."

"Yes, I have read as much." Spock pushes his salad around his plate and peers at Leonard carefully. "You don't find it silly? Or illogical?"

At that, Leonard simply smirks and shakes his head. "You're part Vulcan, right? Doesn't that make you the logic expert?"

He considers this with a slight tilt of his head. "An astute observation," he decides. "Touché."

There's that laughter again. Spock averts his gaze and hopes Leonard can't see his answering smile.

***

GM,

Maybe you could start another business. If you had a mail-order bakery you could just run it out of your apartment, so there'd be fewer overheads. Not to mention, you get to keep earning money doing what you love and don't have to answer to anyone else. You could call it Muffin Matters.

Okay, so that might not be the best suggestion, but you should still think about it. If your baking is as good as you say, I know you'llmake it work.

Scotty's still okay after the stick incident. Thanks for asking, I'll pass on your well wishes to him. Incidentally, do you have pets? If you want a dog, I know one who I can't seem to get rid of. Just joking, of course.

Bones

*

Bones,

This is quite an interesting idea, and one that I hadn't considered. I will give it some thought and attempt to devise a strategy. In terms of help, there's a young man from my cafe who I'm sure would be willing to come and work with me again. I suppose I'll need investors as well.

Your emails are always a pleasure to receive but this one especially so. I must thank you yet again for your good advice, and for being so considerate in general. It's not often that one comes across such unconditional kindness.

I do not have a pet but Scotty sounds wonderful, if not a bit troublesome. I would like to meet him in person one day, and perhaps his owner as well, if he's amenable (and not too busy with work).

Be well,
GM

***

Leonard doesn't know the first thing about yoga, but when he spies Spock leaving a studio with a yoga mat under one arm, it suddenly doesn't seem like the worst idea in the world to take it up as a hobby. He buys a mat of his own from the Internet, figures out what time Spock's class is and enrolls in it. The woman he speaks to on the phone seems a little confused that he wants to skip the beginner class and go straight for intermediate, but it's just yoga. How difficult can it be?

He turns up at the yoga studio with plenty of time to spare, suspecting that Spock is the kind of person who'd never be late to anything and wanting to beat him there.

The look on Spock's face when he walks in and sees Leonard rolling out his mat in the middle of the room is totally worth it. Being Spock, he composes himself so quickly that Leonard could have easily missed the expression if he hadn't been looking for it.

"I suppose your presence here shouldn't come as a surprise to me," Spock says, starting to set up next to him. "I was unaware you had any interest in yoga."

"I'm full of surprises," he replies coolly. He takes advantage of Spock turning away to place his drink at the side of his mat to check out his ass in those clingy yoga pants. That probably counts as an interest in yoga, he thinks.

"You do know this is an intermediate class?"

"Why do people keep saying that to me? I know what I'm doing."

"I'm sure." Spock stands up again and begins to stretch with his eyes closed. In addition to the pants, he's wearing a white tank top which does very little to hide a surprising quantity of chest hair. Leonard's fingers itch with the urge to play with it, but instead he stands as well, making a fair effort to copy Spock's stretches.

When Spock raises his arms to stretch his triceps, his tank rides up and exposes even more hair, not in part thanks to those low-slung pants. Leonard suddenly feels quite perverted for watching.

"You must move smoothly when you stretch," Spock says quietly. "You're bouncing."

"Oh." He looks down at himself and tries to do as Spock said. "More like this?"

"Indeed. You're doing much better now."

Leonard feels an odd little rush of pride. Unfortunately, it doesn't take long for that to wear off once the class begins. Yoga, he discovers, is actually a code word for torture. While Spock serenely navigates through the poses, Leonard realizes that he isn't nearly as fit as he thought he was. It takes every ounce of strength he possesses to not faceplant into the mat during downward-facing dog, and he doesn't even bother to attempt the handstand everyone else seems to be managing with ease.

At one point, he just sits down and watches Spock. He really is very easy on the eyes. Then, of course, Spock turns around and sees him watching, so Leonard hurriedly attempts the latest pose.

By the end of the class, his legs are shaking so much he isn't sure he'll be able to stand up ever again, let alone walk outside and find a cab. He's also so sweaty that he probably looks like he just climbed out of the shower.

Spock, on the other hand, looks as fresh as a freaking daisy. Perhaps one with a light coating of morning dew, but a daisy nonetheless.

"Did you enjoy the class?" he asks mildly.

"I think I had three heart attacks," Leonard replies after a moment of trying—and failing—to catch his breath, "and a tiny aneurysm." He holds up his hand to demonstrate, his thumb and forefinger a fraction of an inch apart.

"Well," Spock says gravely. "As it was only a tiny one, I won't rush you to the hospital."

Spock has to help him roll up the mat, which would be more embarrassing if it weren't for the indignities Leonard spent the previous hour suffering. He also has to borrow a towel from Spock to dry his sweat-soaked hair before going back out into the chilly December afternoon, as he didn't think he was going to need one.

"I could use a drink," Leonard says. He tugs his coat on awkwardly. "I think there's a little coffee shop just along the block, if you want to come with me."

Spock pauses for a moment, clearly considering the offer. Then he nods. "The drinks are on you, as they say."

"How are things going with that guy on the Internet?" Leonard asks as they walk down the street together.

"Surprisingly well. He has been a great source of support and advice these past few weeks. It's very pleasant having a friend who is so unconditionally helpful."

Leonard tries not to smile, opening the door of the shop for Spock. "Have you thought about meeting him in person?"

"We discussed it, once." Spock looks slightly uncomfortable. "He was unable to make it to our meeting due to unexpected work commitments."

"Oh, was that the time I ran into you at the bookshop? I mean, you don't have to tell me anything you don't want to. What are you drinking, by the way?"

"A chai latte, please."

"Gotcha." He orders their drinks at the counter. "I hope you don't mind me buying and running, but I've got Joanna this week and I need to pick her up from a friend's house."

"Of course not," Spock says, but Leonard likes to think there's a little bit of disappointment in his eyes.

"We've been running into each other a lot lately. I was going to have lunch at the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park on Thursday; what do you say we run into each other then?" he asks impulsively.

A small smile appears on Spock's face. "I suppose I'd be amenable to this. At around one o'clock?"

"Yeah, that sounds like the sort of time I'd be there." Leonard picks up their finished drinks and passes Spock his latte. "Maybe I'll see you Thursday."

"Maybe you will."

***

GM,

Investors are probably a good idea, since I don't imagine you have much spare capital right now. I hope you have someone you can ask.

Scotty seems very keen on the idea of meeting you. He's more excited about getting your emails than I am, i think. It's a good thing he can't type or you'd be inundted. His owner is a little busy right now, but would definitely like to meet up in person one day soon. I should know more by, say, Thursday evening.

I hope you're enjoying the run up to the holidays. They seem to come quicker every year. And my gift list seems to grow every year...I don't even know where to start with some people. Any suggestions?

Bones

*

Dear Bones,

Please tell Scotty that I look forward to meeting him soon, then. Take as much time as you need. I'll be busy as well, formulating a plan for a home business. There is one person I have in mind, to become an investor; however, I'm not sure he'll be interested. I've also never asked anyone for such a big favor. I will keep you updated.

The holidays are a bittersweet time for me. They remind me of my mother, who enjoyed them greatly. I am not religious but she was Jewish, so I light a menorah every year. We also dressed a tree at the cafe every year with the neighborhood children. I find these festivities comforting, in a way.

While your subtlety is very charming, please don't worry about finding a gift for me. The opportunity to meet you will be more than enough. And, if you insist on spending money, buy Scotty an extra treat on my behalf.

I'll look forward to Thursday.

GM

***

When Spock arrives at Madison Square Park, Leonard is already waiting for him by the Shake Shack stand, bundled in a finely tailored pea coat and plaid scarf. He waves a gloved hand and Spock nods, walking faster down the path to reach him.

"Nice hat," Leonard says, pointing to the green skullcap on Spock's head. "Matches your scarf. Very sharp."

"My ears are sensitive," Spock explains. "To the cold, that is."

"Sure. Makes sense." Leonard motions for Spock to follow him in joining the small queue. In the summer, the wait at Shake Shack tends to be interminable, but now there's just a small lunch-hour rush. "Thanks for coming all this way to run into me," Leonard says. "Lunch is on me, okay?"

"That isn't necessary. You paid for my beverage the last time we met."

"I know. But I want to." Leonard smiles and glances at the menu. "You've got something to eat here, right?"

"The 'Shroom Burger is exceptional. It's fried, however, so the nutritional value is lacking."

Leonard digs out his wallet. "Hey, none of that stuff here. The days of being judged for what you eat are over. Get whatever you want; this is a safe space."

Spock quirks a brow, amused. "In that case, I believe I will also order a milkshake."

He ends up with a black and white shake in addition to his 'Shroom Burger, while Leonard goes for a cheeseburger, fries, and an Arnold Palmer. They collect their bags of food and Spock looks around at the mostly deserted tables and chairs under the barren trees.

"Is there somewhere we can eat that's located indoors? I suspect I won't be able to withstand the cold air for very long."

"Well..." Leonard shrugs sheepishly. "I live a few blocks away from here, if you don't mind going to my apartment."

"Your apartment?" Spock blinks in surprise. While he's extremely curious to see what Leonard's home is like, the idea of being alone in a private space with him puts Spock slightly on edge. He isn't quite sure what all of this is—what they're doing, running into each other on purpose. Chris assured him it was a date, but Spock wasn't so sure. Going to Leonard's apartment definitely seems date-like, however. He weighs his options quickly. "Well, if it wouldn't be an intrusion of any kind."

Leonard chuckles. "Yeah, you really seem like the kind of guy to barrel into a place and trash it. Follow my lead, okay?"

Spock nods and does as he's told, eager to get out of the cold.

The apartment reflects Leonard's financial stature, or at least what Spock assumes it must be. It's quite large and nicely decorated, and there are a few symbols of a hidden family life: small pink shoes tucked away in a corner, the shoelaces undone; framed grade-school portraits; and food and water bowls for a household pet.

"Do you own a dog or cat?" Spock inquires. He sheds his coat and allows Leonard to hang it from a wall hook.

"Ahh...dog. But I've got someone who watches him during the day. I pick him up every night after work."

Spock nods and immediately thinks of Bones and his Scotty. He supposes there must be a lot of single men with dogs in this city. "And I see that Joanna lives here as well."

"Well, she goes back and forth between me and her mother." Leonard goes to the kitchen and grabs plates for the food, motioning for Spock to take one. "Help yourself to anything you need, by the way."

"Thank you. Shall we eat in the dining room?"

"Nah, let's head over to the couch. More comfortable, I think."

Spock glances at the living room and the extremely cushy-looking leather sofa that sits there, waiting for them.

"That would be acceptable," he says.

The Shake Shack food is just as excellent as Spock remembers, and they ease into another stimulating conversation. Leonard tells him about Joanna's travails in school and the laundry list of items she's already requested for Christmas. Spock peers around the apartment as they talk, noting interesting details, and his mind boggles at the fact that he's here. A mere month ago, he would never have dreamed of ending up in Leonard McCoy's home, chatting amiably over gourmet fast food.

He recalls Bones' memorable line: Change is good. And, at the thought of Bones, he feels a pang of guilt.

"All right, Spock?" Leonard asks, wiping his mouth with a paper napkin.

"Yes. I apologize for drifting off."

"Not a problem." Leonard reaches for his drink and finishes it off with a slurp. "By the way...not to pressure you or anything, but have you given any additional thought to my offer?"

"I have," Spock says, trying to keep his voice measured. "While I am no longer entirely opposed to the idea of putting my recipes to good use, I don't care to sell them to your company. I'm now considering the possibility of starting a mail-order service for baked goods." He looks up at Leonard hesitantly. "I hope you don't see this as an outright rejection. I did give your offer a great deal of thought."

"Ehh, no, you didn't," Leonard says, a playful smirk on his lips. "But I understand. And I think that's a great idea, actually. Smaller staff, less overhead. You could do really well with it."

Spock furrows his brow at what seems to be sincere understanding from Leonard. "Yes, exactly."

"Well, fair enough. I wish you success with it, Spock. Honestly."

"Indeed?" Spock looks down at his hands, clasped in his lap, and searches for the best phrasing for his important request, the one that's been weighing on him for days. "Well, it has occurred to me that in order to fulfill this ambition, I require someone of financial means to become an investor."

Leonard's eyes widen. "Are you saying you want me to invest in your new business? Me, the guy who put you out of business in the first place?"

Spock feels a pain shoot through his temple. "I...had thought of it. But you're right; it's clearly not a sensible proposition. Highly illogical."

"I didn't say all that. I'm honored that you'd ask me, Spock." He licks his lips and holds up two fingers. "Tell you what. I'll think about it, on two conditions."

"Continue," Spock says, his heart beating slightly faster.

"Well, the first—and this is the more important one—is that you let me come over to your place and watch you bake."

"Watch me bake?" he repeats, confused. "Why must you—"

"I've got to make sure it's a good investment, right? So, in order to draw the best conclusion, I've got to see your process. Not to mention hear your strategic plan and budget proposal, see if your workspace is up to health department codes..."

"I am working on a plan and budget," Spock interjects. "My kitchen is likely not up to code but I can assure you that it will be when—"

"Yeah, I know, when you have an investor." Leonard leans back against the sofa and crosses his legs. "But in the meantime, I just want to see you bake." Spock exhales, extremely confused. He doesn't know what Leonard intends with all of this, but he's pleased to have piqued his interest.

"Very well," he says, picking up his shake. "What is your second condition?"

Leonard points to the drink in Spock's hand. "That you give me a sip of your shake." He says it with a teasing smile, which Spock can easily interpret as flirtation. He holds his drink closer to his chest, suddenly eager to flirt back.

"I suggest that you procure your own, Leonard. You bought this for me."

"I bought it for you, yeah, so you should let me have a taste. Give it here."

"Absolutely not," Spock says, looking as stern as he can. Leonard laughs and inches closer.

"Come on, now."

Caught up in the moment, Spock turns away completely, hiding the drink from Leonard's view. Leonard dives for it, just as Spock looks back to anticipate his next move, and suddenly, they're practically on top of each other, their faces mere centimeters apart. They look at each other in breathless surprise and then Leonard's gaze flickers down to Spock's mouth. Spock can't help but mirror the glance—Leonard's lips, surprisingly lush up close, are right there, after all—and they each shift closer, a silent understanding passing between them.

And then a couch cushion slips out from underneath Spock's arm and he nearly drops what's left of his shake.

"Oh, shit," Leonard says, grabbing for the cushion. "Sorry, this leather's so goddamn slippery..."

"Quite all right," Spock says. He sits upright quickly and puts his drink down on the coffee table. A glance at the clock on the wall reminds him of the time, and that it's Thursday, the day he's meant to receive an email from Bones. Something about that train of thought gets him to his feet in seconds. "It is getting late. I assume you should be heading back to your office soon."

"Uh, yeah, I suppose so." Leonard looks up at him and sighs. "Well, um...it was nice having lunch again. Accidentally on purpose."

"Agreed."

The silence is fairly heavy as they put on their coats, scarves, and gloves again. Leonard shows Spock out of the apartment and they take the elevator downstairs.

"Listen," Leonard says, as they approach the ground floor. "I wasn't lying when I said I'll think about it."

"I didn't think you were." Spock pulls his hat on, making sure to cover the tips of his ears. "I will be home on Saturday, if you care to visit then."

Leonard nods and smiles as the elevator dings. "Saturday works."

They shake on it before they part ways. Spock's hand tingles all the way home, despite his wool-lined gloves.

***

Dear GM,

Are you doing anything on Sunday? Scotty and I will be in Riverside Park at 2pm. Wear your green scarf.

Bones

*

Dear Bones,

I will be there. Depending on the weather, look for a green hat, too.

How will I know what you look like?

GM

*

GM,

My scarf is plaid. You'll be able to recognize Scotty by his fetching red bandanna. He picked it out especially for the meeting.

Bones

***

Leonard isn't sure exactly when Spock expects his visit on Saturday, so he settles for late morning. He's certain that Spock is an early riser, but the idea of baking before he's fully awake isn't particularly appealing.

This time, Spock lets him into the building and he doesn't have to rely on a passing neighbor.

"I still don't understand how you know where I live," Spock says when he opens the door. He's wearing a very fetching striped apron, which is already floury. A delicious smell wafts out into the hall. Clearly, Spock's been in the kitchen for a while.

"I have my sources. I'm not late, am I?"

"I was merely preparing the ingredients. I prefer to have everything arranged before I begin baking, as it makes it far easier." He wipes his hands on his apron. "May I take your coat?"

Leonard takes off his coat and scarf and hands them over to Spock before going into the kitchen. Spock's kitchen table is covered with ingredients, sitting in bowls and tubs and jars. A pan—the source of the smell—bubbles on the stove. There's a pile of flour sitting on the scales, and Leonard decides to make himself useful by tipping it into one of the empty bowls.

"I see you're already getting in my way," Spock says, amusement in his voice.

"Sorry, I just...wanted to help."

"Most people watch with their eyes and not their hands. Fortunately, I had already measured a sufficient amount of flour. Please, take a seat." He tugs a chair out for Leonard.

Leonard sits down, crossing his arms. "What are you making for me?"

"Rhubarb and ginger crunch muffins. Though I would have liked to make strawberry muffins, as you suggested, strawberries aren't in season in December." The unspoken dumbass is obvious.

"What's the crunch?" he asks, watching as Spock begins picking up ingredients and arranging them around his mixing bowl.

"The tops of the muffins crisp up to a greater extent in the oven. If you wish, you can break them off to dip in your drink. I was planning to debut the results this season, had my cafe not gone out of business."

He ignores the jab. "I guess it's too late for them this year even if you start your mail-order business soon. I'm sure Georgia's would love to stock them in one or two select locations, though."

"It would be illogical to sell my products in the store of a competitor," Spock says. He barely seems to pay attention to what he's doing as he prepares the batter. "In any case, I have already refused your offer."

"Or we could include information on your business in the packaging, and stress that there's a wider range of products available directly from you. Think about it, Spock. If I'm investing, Georgia's isn't a competitor. It's a sister company. Plus, it'd be great publicity for you. Not that many start-ups have the benefit of Georgia's customer base."

"I will consider it."

"Mind if I get myself a drink?" Leonard asks. He gets up without waiting for an answer, looking through Spock's cupboards for a glass. "You got any coke?"

"Not currently. There are other options in the fridge. I'd also appreciate it if you would pour me a Pepsi."

"Are you kidding me? That's a coke," he says, picking up the bottle. Leonard gives Spock the first glass he pours, fetching himself another before he sits back down.

"It is a soda," Spock says, beginning to spoon the muffin batter into baking cups.

"It's a coke. This town is crazy."

"Perhaps the problem is you and not everyone else." Spock turns with the tray of uncooked muffins and starts trying to open the oven door with one foot.

"Let me get that," Leonard says quickly, kneeling down and opening the oven for him. A gust of heat rushes out and blasts him in the face, and he blinks rapidly.

Spock looks at him in slight surprise. "Thank you, Leonard."

"No problem." He straightens up again, giving Spock the space to put the tray inside and set the timer. "How long do they take to cook?"

"Around a half-hour—oh!"

It's hard to tell exactly what happened, after the fact. One minute, Leonard's reaching for his drink while Spock turns back to the table, and the next, he's soaked to the skin. "Jesus," he says, looking down at his ruined shirt in disbelief.

"I am so sorry," Spock says. He looks completely mortified. "Please, I will get you a shirt to change into. You must take that one off before it stains."

"Really, it's fine."

"I insist!" Spock calls back as he rushes off somewhere; presumably his bedroom. Leonard shrugs and strips off his shirt, wringing it out over the sink. Most of the Pepsi ends up on the floor, in spite of his best efforts. "It's the least I can..." And Spock trails off.

"What?" Leonard turns around to face him. He's clutching a shirt and staring at Leonard like he's never seen him before in his life, a greenish flush spreading across his face.

"I was going to suggest you change in the bathroom."

"I'm pretty sure I don't have anything you're unfamiliar with." He holds one hand out to Spock. "Can I have that?"

"Certainly," Spock says, suddenly looking flustered. He almost launches himself across the kitchen in his eagerness to offload the shirt, skids on the spilled soda and crashes straight into Leonard. He reflexively wraps his arms around Spock to stop them both falling down.

"You could have just asked, Spock," he says, only half joking. "You didn't have to throw yourself at me."

"I... I..."

And then Spock does the last thing that Leonard expected him to do: He kisses him.

It might be unexpected but it's definitely not unwelcome, and Leonard wastes no time in reciprocating, his hands molding to Spock's slim hips. Spock's mouth is soft and hot, just as he imagined it, his lips parting willingly under Leonard's tongue. Leonard's vaguely aware of the sound of fabric hitting the floor as Spock drops the t-shirt, freeing his hands. One cups the back of his neck and the other drops to the small of Leonard's back, hesitantly stroking the bare skin just above the waistband of his jeans. He makes an encouraging noise for Spock's benefit.

Somehow, it has the opposite effect. "Leonard, I..." he begins.

"I've wanted to do this for weeks," Leonard says, cutting him off. Months, really, but I didn't know who he was then. He cups Spock's jaw and kisses him again before he can respond, much deeper than before. Spock melts into Leonard and lets out a little moan that makes his stomach flip.

He takes the opportunity to touch Spock all over, stroking his fingertips over the muscles he admired at yoga. He wonders what they'll feel like when they tense under his hands. They briefly break apart again so Leonard can divest Spock of his shirt and apron. He doesn't bother to hide his appreciative stare this time.

"You are really hot," he says.

"My body temperature—"

"Not what I meant." Leonard shuts him up with more kisses, sucking and nipping at Spock's lips and tongue. They're still pressed so close together that Leonard can feel Spock's erection growing between them, and he's sure Spock can feel his own body responding in kind. He rocks his hips experimentally, and Spock gasps shakily against his mouth.

"Leonard!"

"I really want to fuck you," he murmurs, nuzzling Spock's face and jaw. His hands drop low, skimming the front of Spock's pants. Leonard can't wait to see his cock, to cup it in his hands and stroke it, to lick and suck it until Spock loses all of that infuriatingly sexy Vulcan self-control. "Is that okay? Please, say it's okay."

"Yes, yes, more than," Spock replies breathlessly. "I will get a condom." They're both reluctant to move but they manage to disentangle themselves, and Spock disappears once again.

Leonard curses his lack of foresight the entire time Spock is out of the room. It's probably no longer than twenty seconds, but it feels like twenty minutes. The instant he reappears, Leonard practically leaps forward and pins him against the kitchen table, fumbling slightly as he tries to open Spock's pants.

"You do those," he mutters, instead working on his own.

Spock actually starts folding his pants up once they're off, which distracts Leonard somewhat from getting a good look at his cock. With his own trousers and underwear around his knees, Leonard reaches for a bottle of olive oil.

"That's expensive," Spock objects, his clothes momentarily forgotten. He presses a bottle of lube into Leonard's hand. "I brought this, as well."

"Oh. Well...good." He kisses Spock again, then manhandles him around and bends him over the kitchen table, knocking off a few bowls in the process. Spock visibly tenses but doesn't complain, so Leonard nudges his legs apart and runs his hands over Spock's inner thighs, reaching between them to lightly cup his balls.

The noise Spock makes goes straight to his dick.

He opens the lube and nearly spills it, managing to prevent an accident at the last moment. He drizzles it liberally over his fingers and—bending Spock over at a little more of an angle—directly onto Spock's hole. Spock whimpers at the sensation, then gasps when it's immediately followed by two of Leonard's slick fingers rubbing slow circles around his entrance.

"Oh—oh," Spock says in a choked whisper.

Leonard thinks back to those emails Spock sent him; not that Spock knew who was receiving them. Though he wants nothing more than to push Spock down and fuck him into the table, he carefully reaches around Spock to stroke his cock, feeling its weight and heat in the palm of his hand. They both moan at the same time, and Leonard takes the opportunity to press his fingertips inside Spock. He's both surprised and pleased by how quickly he relaxes around Leonard's fingers as they massage him, how easily Spock accepts him.

"Tell me when you're ready?" he asks after a moment. He didn't mean for it to be a question.

Spock nods shakily. "Ahh—I intend to." He grips the edge of the table, spreading his legs farther apart and rocking back onto the slow thrusts of Leonard's fingers. "N-now."

Leonard's hands are too slippery from the lube to open the condom packet, so he has to carefully tear it open with his teeth before he can roll it onto his cock. He applies even more lube, though things are probably slippery enough already, and presses his tip to Spock's entrance, kissing between his shoulder blades as he slowly pushes inside.

"God, Spock," he blurts, and presses himself along the length of Spock's body once he's fully inside him. Leonard's mouth is so close to Spock's ear that he can't resist the temptation to lick from earlobe to pointed tip, whispering, "Spock."

Spock shudders so bodily that Leonard feels it through every part of him. His hips jerk upward of their own volition, deeper into that incredible heat, and Spock gasps, mumbling to him.

"Vulcan ears...are very sensitive."

"So I've heard." Leonard runs his palm over the expanse of Spock's stomach, relishing the feel of the rippling muscles and silky hair he longed to touch at that damned yoga class. "Too much?"

"No," Spock answers quickly. "Please continue. More."

Something about Spock asking for more, so close to begging in that contained way of his, ignites a fire in Leonard's gut. He presses his body firmly against Spock's and starts a careful rhythm, continuing his literal lip service along Spock's ear and neck. Every moan and sigh from Spock feels like a reward. He fastens his lips around the tip of his ear again and Spock practically keens beneath him, grabbing onto the edge of the table with one hand and reaching back for Leonard with the other.

"Please, faster," Spock says between pants of breath. "My physi—ahh... I'm strong, I assure you."

Leonard laughs faintly as he nips behind Spock's ear, because Spock actually losing control of his extensive vocabulary is music to his ears. He leans back and takes in the sight of Spock flattened against the table and straining for balance, all those sleek, yoga-toned muscles flexing as he moves. He presses down on the small of Spock's back with one hand to hold him in place and takes hold of his cock with the other, stroking in a rhythm that matches his quickening pace.

"That better?" he says, and Spock gives a strangled-sounding groan in response. "Fuck, so damn hot," he murmurs.

"Shut up."

Spock reaches up and pulls Leonard down by the scruff of his neck for another kiss. It's poorly angled and all teeth but so good that it encourages Leonard to thrust faster. He wraps an arm around Spock's torso, angling his body to a new degree so he can lick into Leonard's mouth. Spock goes at his tongue like a vacuum and Leonard's eyes roll back as he moans into it, his hips bucking with a mind of their own.

He must hit that sweet spot in Spock just then, because the noise he makes, paired with the way he tugs at Leonard's hair, is nothing short of desperate. "There," Spock directs, and Leonard wastes no time in working his hips double-time to push that button, over and over again. He tightens his fingers around the impossibly hot shaft in his grip, mirroring the way Spock is beginning to constrict around him. Spock's breath hitches, his body beginning to tense, and Leonard feels moisture leak from the tip of his cock.

"Come on, Spock," he whispers, mouthing against Spock's neck. He can feel the vibrations of his moans against his lips. "Waited so long for this, let me feel you."

"L-Leonard," Spock says, and the sound of his name sounds fragile to Leonard's ears. Spock arches and comes a moment later, his release coating Leonard's fingers and spattering the kitchen table beneath them. It's beautiful, Spock is beautiful, and he tightens around Leonard's cock as he shudders through his release, dragging him over the edge as well. His world narrows to the curve of Spock's neck and all that blissful heat as he thrusts through his orgasm.

Utterly spent, Leonard tries his best not to drop all of his weight onto Spock's back as they regain their breath. When he can see straight again, he realizes there are bowls scattered on the floor, at least one broken, a spray of leftover flour, and—oh, right—semen on the table.

"I presume this is not up to code," Spock murmurs. Leonard blinks and then laughs helplessly against his shoulder.

"No, most likely not. Here, hold on, darlin'."

Leonard eases out of Spock carefully, stroking lightly down his spine to soothe him. Spock turns and watches as he disposes of his condom in the nearby trash bin and washes his hands. Then he steps closer, running his fingers into Leonard's hair again. Leonard hazards a smile but Spock's eyes are critical, which means he's thinking about something. Thinking too much.

"Leonard," Spock says quietly. "I'm afraid I may have...confused things."

"Confused what? Why?"

The pale green flush returns to Spock's cheeks as he looks down. "As you know, I have been speaking to this man on the Internet. I'm meant to meet him soon." He lifts his gaze again—brown-eyed boy, Leonard remembers—and the plaintive look on his face brings all that guilt bubbling to the surface. "I didn't count on this. With you. I need time to think."

He's me, Leonard wants to say. It's right on the tip of his tongue. Bones is me. But he can't bring himself to say the words. Not now, not when Spock is looking at him like this. He tries his best to look understanding, touching Spock's jaw lightly before stepping away.

"I get that," he says. He motions between them. "This...you and me, I mean...who would have known, right?" Spock doesn't reply, just nods once. Leonard thinks he can see the gratitude in his eyes. "Just, you know. Let me know what you decide. Whenever that is. I'll be here."

"I appreciate your understanding."

"No problem." He pulls his trousers back up and collects the shirt Spock gave him earlier, throwing it on and buttoning it quickly. "I'll bring this back soon, promise. And, uh, do you need help with the mess?"

Spock shakes his head and pulls his underwear on, then reaches for a roll of a paper towels. "Keep the shirt," he says.

Leonard smiles weakly. "Okay."

He ends up showing himself out, leaving Spock to his thoughts and his diligent scrubbing. And he wonders just what on Earth he's going to say to him tomorrow.

***

When Spock wakes on Sunday morning, he can still smell Leonard McCoy on him. It's not unpleasant—in fact, he luxuriates in it. That is, until he remembers that he's meant to meet Bones in Riverside Park at two, and all of the conflict comes flooding back.

He rises and checks his email one more time to see if Bones has changed his mind or if another last-minute meeting has come up. There's nothing there and the thought crosses Spock's mind that if Bones doesn't show again, he won't be so forgiving this time.

He's reminded of Leonard again when he sits down to eat breakfast at the kitchen table. At this angle, he can clearly recall how it felt being held down by Leonard's strong hands, his bare chest rubbing back and forth against the table's smooth surface. Leonard was forceful yet oddly tender, to a degree that Spock would never have anticipated. He still can't quite believe it actually happened, aside from the telltale aches and other reminders dappled across his body.

Spock sits and eats his crunch muffin, drinks his tea, and wonders how he'll ever decide between these two men: Bones, who has been a kind-hearted confidant all along, and Leonard, who automatically understood his needs yesterday and who has, well...grown on him.

"Like a fungus," Spock mutters, and then realizes he's talking to himself. He shakes it off, finishes his meal, and goes to choose an outfit for the afternoon.

He brings two muffins to the park, the same ones he baked yesterday. It might be rude to bring muffins for one man made in another man's presence, but there was nothing else in his pantry. Bones won't know, he figures, and it's the least he can do for the person who inspired him to pursue his new endeavor. Spock finds a bench that gives him a clear view of the majority of the park and sits down to wait, hoping Bones won't be very late. It's not as cold as it has been as of late, but there's still a distinct chill. He adjusts the knot of his green scarf, looks around, and waits, clutching his small basket of muffins to his chest.

He sees plenty of men wearing plaid scarves, some of whom are even walking dogs. None of the dogs are wearing red bandannas, however, and so he isn't surprised when none of them stop to talk to him.

The appointed time comes and goes with no sign of Bones. Spock refuses to allow himself to feel nervous. It's perfectly likely that Bones has been delayed somehow. He was so sincere about wanting to try again that Spock can't believe he'd stand him up. And yet as the minutes tick past, he grows more and more anxious. Perhaps Leonard McCoy is the lesser of two evils (probably for the first time in his life).

"Scotty!" someone shouts suddenly. "Get back here!"

Spock's heart leaps into his mouth and he stands up, hoping to get a good look at the man approaching. He sees the dog first. It's large and brown, and wearing a bright red bandanna. It's also completely ignoring its owner, who is still frustratingly just out of view.

To begin with, Spock just sees the plaid scarf. Then Scotty's owner walks into plain view, and his jaw drops at what he's seeing.

"Scotty!" Leonard McCoy calls. "Scotty, c'mere!"

When their eyes finally meet, Leonard smiles, just a little, but it says so much, even Spock can read it. He doesn't bother to try and catch the dog then, just walks a little faster until he closes the distance between them.

Spock continues staring at him in disbelief. "You," he says. "You..."

"You're not going to cry, are you? ...graymatter?" Leonard asks.

"I do not think I will, Bones." His mouth twists slightly as he assesses the surprising turn of events. Then, he punches Leonard in the shoulder, hard. Being human—and a human who is unprepared for a punch from a Vulcan—Leonard stumbles back a few paces and nearly falls.

"Oww, what the fuck?!"

"That is for lying to me, for putting me out of business, for standing me up, and for laughing at my hat," Spock informs him, squaring his shoulders. "And this…is for your friendship, your advice, and your generous investment in my new business." He reaches out to Leonard—to Bones—and kisses him carefully on the lips.

"Wait, I didn't say I'd invest in you," Leonard says against his mouth.

Spock shoves the muffin basket into his arms and kisses him again. "Leonard, I believe you already have."