Gaila was seriously considering shaving her head when the call came in to report to the transporter room.
It wasn't that she didn't love her hair; she did, especially the autumn fire color of it, so different from the brunettes and blacks her people usually sported. It was just that the length was impractical for the kind of work she did, much like the optional short-skirted duty uniforms so popular among crewmembers who never had to crawl on hands and knees through a Jeffries tube with a spanner in their teeth the way they did down in Engineering.
Her communicator chirped again. "Lass, I'm serious. If you want a turn at the controls, you need to get down here fast."
"I'll be there in a shimmy," she replied, and nearly kicked poor Tomlinson in the face with her right boot in her haste to climb out of the tube.
It was closer to two shimmies and hip-bump later when she reached the transporter room and slid behind the controls next to Mr. Scott. Her hair was still piled up under her hardhat, she smelled like sweat, burnt wiring and ozone and there was a broad stripe of grease across one cheekbone, but she was there when the call came in, and that was what mattered.
"Kirk to Enterprise. Four to beam up."
Gaila flashed a bright, quick grin at Scotty. The blue light of the console turned her green skin turquoise as her fingers moved over the transporter controls. Mr. Scott's presence was a formality--she knew these systems backward and forward or Scotty would never have entrusted her with beaming up the captain--but she had yet to take the certification test, and the regs stated that an experienced transporter technician had to be on hand to assist in case of an emergency.
There was no emergency here, no hostile natives trying to kill the away team, no freak ion storms or power surges. Just a routine beam-up at the end of a successful trade negotiation.
No, it was after the beam-out, when Kirk, McCoy, Uhura and Spock were all safe and sound on the transporter pad, that everything went to hell.
The first thing Gaila noticed was a garland of delicate white flowers caught in McCoy's dark hair, lovely little things with a heady, sweet fragrance, like cherries in the sun. More flowers lay piled in snowy drifts around his feet on the transporter pad, covering his boots all the way up to the ankles. Kirk was similarly crowned, crushed flowers falling from his hair to cling to the green-gold fabric of his dress jacket. He brushed them away with an irritable flick of one hand and took a step toward McCoy. "Bones--"
"Don't," McCoy said. "Just, don't." He nodded to Scotty and Gaila without really seeing either of them and headed out the door, tiny snowflake petals swirling in his wake.
Gaila glanced over at Scotty, but he looked every bit as bewildered as she was. "Did everything go all right with the Aditians, Captain?" she ventured.
Kirk started at the sound of her voice, but covered it with a broad smile that didn't reach his eyes. "Piece of cake," he said as he hopped off the pad. "Sorry about all the flowers." Then he too was gone.
That left Spock and Uhura still on the pad. Spock's face was impassive as ever but Nyota looked like she wanted to laugh, cry, or hit something. Possibly all three.
"All right, then," Scotty said. "Would one of you care to explain what that was all about? Everything was fine when I beamed back two days ago."
"Not especially," Spock said, "but since it will soon be a matter of public record, Captain Kirk and Doctor McCoy are--"
"Married," Uhura blurted out, and yes, it was laughter she had been trying to contain. Manic laughter, and very unlike her normal polished and poised demeanor, but laughter all the same. "They're married."
"I doubt either the doctor or the captain find the situation quite so humorous," Spock said.
"Are you mad?" Scotty said. "It's bloody hysterical!"
"Married like legally married?" Gaila asked. "Or married like, this was all a big cultural misunderstanding and so it doesn't really count married?"
"Aditi IV is now a recognized member of the Federation," Spock said. "The marriage is both valid and legally binding."
"Then why the hell did they do it?" Scotty demanded.
That quieted Nyota's giggles and shifted Spock's expression from its usual bland neutrality to something downright glacial. "Doctor McCoy saved the life of Emperor Qaliq after he was bitten by a venomous insect," Spock said. "According to Aditian law, the reward for saving the emperor's life is marriage to the emperor's daughter. To refuse would have been a grave insult. "
Scotty's eyes went huge. "Wait. You mean they actually expected Dr. McCoy to marry that wee little girl? She's naught but a child!"
"Precisely," said Spock. "However, the law also states that if the man is unable to marry because of a prior romantic attachment then a suitable alternate reward may be bestowed instead."
"So the captain pretended to be McCoy's fiancé," Gaila said, putting the pieces together, "and the suitable alternate reward was throwing them a royal wedding."
"That is correct," Spock said. "Now, if you will excuse me, I have a mission report to file."
There was more to the story, that much was obvious. Gaila looked at Uhura, then over to Scotty, who heaved an exaggerated sigh and waved his hand in dismissal. "Oh, go on," he said. "Just be sure to share the good bits with me later."
Gaila leapt out of her seat, grabbed Nyota by the arm and all but dragged her into the nearest turbolift. As soon as the doors slid shut, she hit the stop button. "All right, spill."
"Not here," Nyota said, and started the lift up again.
They went to Nyota's quarters instead. Gaila sat on the tiny loveseat, pulled off her hardhat and shook down her hair. "Now will you tell me what really happened?"
Nyota sat down on the foot of her bed. "This doesn't leave the room. I mean it, Gaila. Not one word."
"My lips are sealed. Did they really expect Dr. McCoy to marry a child?"
"Not all of them. Emperor Qaliq was horrified, but the Council of Nobles? Oh, yeah." Nyota fell backward on the bed and draped an arm over her eyes. "God. McCoy was freaked. Laliqa is the same age as his daughter."
"I didn't know McCoy had a daughter."
"He doesn't like to talk about her," Nyota said. "His ex doesn't let him see her much. Anyway. McCoy freaked, Qaliq freaked--pretty much everyone involved had one big collective freakout, and it looked like the trade negotiations would fall through because--no. Just, no."
Gaila frowned. "Couldn't he have faked it? You know, gone through the motions for show, then filed for an annulment later? Starfleet has paperwork for that. It was covered in the basic interstellar diplomacy course at the Academy."
Nyota laughed, and again it was not a happy sound. "Oh, we considered that, believe me. But. It turns out that Aditian royal weddings have to be consummated before witnesses. Which brings us right back to no, with a side order of ew."
"You disapprove of public sex?"
"I do when it involves my ship's CMO and a twelve-year-old girl," Nyota said grimly.
"Ah," Gaila said. "Point. Even on Orion that would be considered beyond the pale. But the captain got him out of it, so it all ended well."
"The captain did get him out of it, the trade agreement was signed and Emperor Qaliq even threw in a tropical island as a wedding present."
"Oh, that sounds lovely! Do you think Starfleet will let them keep it?"
Nyota pushed herself up on her elbows. "Gaila. You're missing the obvious. It was a suitably royal present for Kirk and McCoy's royal wedding."
"Oh? Oh! Ohhhh." Yes, that did change things. "Were you and Spock required to be witnesses?"
Nyota flopped back down again and covered her face with both hands. "What do you think?"
Gaila considered the question. "I think you're embarrassed, both for yourself and on behalf of your friends," she said at last. "I think that Doctor McCoy is an extremely private man and you're worried how this will affect him. And I think you're afraid that you'll never be able to look the captain in the eye again without remembering what his face looks like when he comes."
"I also think that you're speaking to me about this instead of your oh, so prim-and-proper Vulcan boyfriend because you found the experience erotic and you know I won't judge." When Nyota did not answer, Gaila grinned. "I'm right, aren't I. You thought it was hot."
"I hate you with a hatey hate."
Gaila's grin widened. "Sure you do. Now. Grab the chocolate and tell me all about it."
Jim stripped off his flower-bedecked uniform, let it fall to the bathroom floor and stepped into the shower. "Computer, set water temperature to thirty-eight degrees Celsius, duration twenty minutes."
This was one of the things he liked best about being captain, the simple luxury of hot water against his skin instead of sonics. Jim bowed his head beneath the scalding spray, let the heat sink into sore muscles, easing the tension in his shoulders and back. When the shower finally clicked off he remained where he was for a few moments more, forehead resting against the slick tile wall, reluctant to leave the steamy warmth just yet.
He stubbornly refused to look at his reflection in the foggy mirror when he exited the bath, though there were other reminders of the night's activities scattered across his skin that he couldn't avoid while toweling off. He covered them with an old pair of sweatpants and a faded blue henley, then made himself a cup of tea and sank down wearily on the sofa.
There was a mission report to write and paperwork to file, this time including actual paper. Starfleet Special Incident Form 27b-6 (otherwise known as the Accidental Marriage Form) required a physical hardcopy to go along with the electronic one, signed by the person or persons involved--in triplicate, no less. Jim had printed out the requisite sheets before heading off to his shower, leaving them in a neat stack on the coffee table next to his vintage Montblanc fountain pen. He stared at them now, wondering how in God's name he was to explain to Fleet what had happened.
With an economy of words and a minimum of detail, Jim decided, picked up the pen and began to write.
An hour later the doorbell chimed. Jim had ink stains on his fingers and the start of a headache throbbing behind his right eye. He did not want to be sociable or responsible or much of anything at all, except perhaps asleep. Or drunk. Or maybe drunk and asleep. The bell chimed a second time and he sighed, set the pen aside and stood up to answer the door.
The last person he expected to find standing outside his quarters was Leonard McCoy. McCoy had also showered and changed into an old pair of jeans frayed white at the knees and a green flannel shirt so worn it was starting to pill. Jim looked at McCoy's tired face, then at the two honest-to-God real beer bottles in his hands, condensation beading down their brown glass necks. "One of those had better be for me," he said, and stepped aside so that McCoy could enter the room.
"It is," McCoy said, and handed a bottle to Jim. "I wanted to apologize for my behavior in transporter room earlier, thought it'd go better with beer."
"Everything goes better with beer," Jim said. He scrounged around the room for a bottle opener, gave up and pried the cap off using the edge of his desk. "And you don't need to apologize. For anything."
McCoy fiddled with his unopened beer and wouldn't meet Jim's eyes. "Maybe. Still feels like I ought to."
"All right. Apology accepted. There, that was easy."
"It's never that easy, Jim."
"I know, but it should be."
Jim moved back to the sofa, sat down and propped his bare feet on the coffee table, mindful of his paperwork and the half-empty cup of cold tea. McCoy stayed in the center of the room, head down, shoulders hunched, his expression caught somewhere between despair and utter bewilderment. "You didn't hurt me, if that's what you're worried about," Jim told him quietly.
McCoy let out a small, relieved sigh and the rigid set of his spine eased somewhat. "Well. Thank God for small mercies." He nodded toward the stack of papers by Jim's feet. "Is that a 27b-6?"
"Yeah," Jim said. "It's all filled out, just needs your signature to make it official."
"Mind if I read it first?"
"Knock yourself out, but if you find any spelling errors, I don't want to know about it. I've already rewritten the damned thing twice."
McCoy chuckled as he picked up the pages and settled on the sofa to read, still keeping a cautious distance between himself and Jim. Jim suppressed a sigh and took a long pull from his beer. It had been too much to hope that this mess wouldn't have any serious repercussions on their friendship. He could only pray whatever damage done was not irreparable.
"You given any thought to what we're going to do with that damned island?" McCoy asked.
"I have, actually," Jim said. "I think we should lease it to Starfleet as a recreation facility and put the proceeds in a trust fund for your daughter and my nephew."
McCoy looked up in surprise. "Oh, I like that idea."
"I thought you might. I'll have someone in Legal draw up the papers tomorrow."
McCoy leaned back on the sofa. "Sure is nice to know something good came out of all this," he said. "Besides Starfleet getting the mineral rights to those dilithium mines, I mean."
"Oh, I don't know," Jim said. "I thought the sex was pretty good, too."
He knew it was the wrong thing to say almost as soon as the words spilled out of his mouth, but there was no way to call them back. McCoy's face flushed a dark, dull red and his hazel eyes grew narrow and wary. "Well, that's mighty kind of you to say so, Jim," he said in his deepest, slowest drawl, the one reserved for visiting admirals--or when McCoy was well and truly pissed. "Maybe next time we can invite the whole crew to watch."
Jim winced. "Damn, Bones, I'm sorry. I didn't mean--"
"Sorry for what? You got off, I got off, Qaliq saved face in front of his people, and Starfleet got its mining contract. Sounds like one for the win column, if you ask me." He stood up and gave Jim a polite nod. "Reckon I've taken up enough of your time for one evening, Captain. Good night."
Jim let him go without argument. If he'd learned anything over the years, it was that Leonard H. McCoy in high dudgeon was not a man to be trifled with lightly.
Besides, it was his own damned fault. Jim let his head fall back with a thump and stared up at the ceiling. "Captain's personal log," he said to the empty air. "Tonight I perfected the Kirk Maneuver: open mouth, insert foot, chew vigorously and choke." Then he picked up a PADD and went back to his paperwork.
It took another hour and half to dictate his official mission report to Starfleet. As with the 27b-6, Jim kept his remarks spare and to the point, though he allowed himself some leeway when discussing the Council of Nobles, and the way the High Chancellor had pushed for the wedding between McCoy and Princess Laliqa. The political situation on Aditi IV had been tense but stable when they beamed out, but there was no guarantee it would stay that way.
That was now a problem for Starfleet Intelligence, insert obvious joke here. Jim's orders had been to get the contract signed no matter what, and he had done just that. He just hadn't expected it to involve exchanging wedding vows with his Chief Medical Officer and one hell of a public display of affection.
No, Jim's problem was the fact that he had married, slept with and divorced his best friend, all within the past twenty-four hours. And there hadn't even been cake.
There had, however, been witnesses. Jim liked sex--hell, he loved sex--but that didn't make him an exhibitionist. And Bones...you couldn't get much more old-fashioned than Leonard McCoy, not without hoopskirts and crinolines. There was nothing casual about sex for Bones, nothing casual about sex with Bones. He made every touch a gift, every kiss a vow, and that was not something that should ever have been put on display for the sake of political theater.
He was eating breakfast on the couch when the bell chimed. It was probably Spock, come to make sure he hadn't done anything illogical like pour tequila over his cornflakes in a fit of pique. "Enter!" he called around a mouthful of buttered toast.
It wasn't Spock. It was Gaila, and she looked as though she hadn't slept all night. "Oh, I'm sorry, Captain," she said as the door slid closed behind her. "I didn't mean to interrupt your breakfast."
"No harm done, Lieutenant," Jim assured her. "I wasn't all that hungry anyway. Is everything all right in Engineering?"
"In--oh! Yes. Yes, it's fine. I'm here on a personal matter." She pulled a small cardboard box out of one of the pouches on her tool belt and set it down on the coffee table beside his untouched plate of eggs. "It's a wedding present," she explained. "For you and Dr. McCoy."
She looked so sincere it was almost painful. Jim closed his eyes and counted to ten in Andorian. "Gaila," he said, "you do understand that my marriage to Dr. McCoy isn't real, right?"
"Are you sure?" she asked softly.
Jim's eyes snapped open and he felt a flush crawl up his cheeks. Gaila was Orion, she probably smelled what had happened between him and McCoy the moment they rematerialized on the transporter pad. "It's not like that," he insisted.
"Are you sure?" she asked again.
He opened his mouth to say yes, of course he was sure, but her eyes were soft and all too knowing and Jim looked away instead. "Bones is sure," he said at last, unable to keep the bitterness from creeping into his voice. He pushed the little box back toward her. "I appreciate the thought, I do. I just hope you won't have too much trouble getting your money back from the commissary."
Gaila put her hands on her hips and shot him a look that was equal parts fondness and annoyance. "Jim, just say thank you and open the box."
Jim bit back an exasperated sigh. "Okay, fine," he said as he picked up the box and flipped the lid open. "We'll do this your--whoa!"
Nestled in the box on top of a small scrap of green velvet was a pair of gleaming silver-white rings.
Jim stared up at Gaila, wide-eyed. "Where did you--?"
"I know humans typically exchange rings when they pair-bond, so I made you a set last night out of recycled platinum wiring from the sensor array we just replaced." She bit her lip, suddenly worried. "Are they too plain? I could make something more ornate if you prefer."
Jim stood up and stepped around the coffee table to pull her into a warm hug. "They're perfect," he whispered. "Thank you."
He could tell the gesture surprised her. Since becoming captain of the Enterprise, Jim had maintained a strict, professional distance between them to curb the inevitable rumors that the former pleasure slave had gotten her position aboard the Fleet's flagship on her back. The message was plain: Gaila was here to service the ship's engines, not the ship's captain; and while Jim might regret the loss of their friendship, he couldn't help but be proud of the way her career had flourished.
Gaila returned the hug for a moment before stepping back. "You're welcome," she said, her cheeks flushed a brilliant emerald. Then she punched him in the shoulder hard enough to sting. "Just don't let me down. I've got a month's pay riding on you and McCoy letting the marriage stand."
Jim laughed, and flipped her a mock salute. "Aye, aye, Cap'n."
Suddenly, the whole day looked brighter.
Like any good piece of gossip, the news of McCoy and Kirk's shotgun wedding was all over the ship by alpha shift.
Leonard had expected that. He also expected the occasional snickers and cheerful shouts of "Congratulations, Doc!" that dogged his footsteps as he walked from his quarters down to Medical. He had not, however, expected the rice that Christine and the other nurses pelted him with as soon as he stepped through the sickbay doors, though he bore it with as much grace as he could muster. And even he had to laugh at the white icing cupcake with its little plastic grooms that awaited him on the desk in his office, along with a card wishing him and the captain marital bliss--in sparkly gold letters, no less--that had been signed by the entire Medical staff.
They meant well, they really did. They just didn't know the whole story.
And they won't, either, Leonard thought grimly. Not if I have anything to say about it.
Theirs would not be the first away team to leave the messier details of a mission gone awry out of the official record. Starfleet had what it needed to know: the wedding itself, the situation that had given rise to it, and the resulting trade agreement that granted Fleet unprecedented access to the richest source of dilithium in the entire quadrant. They didn't need to know what happened between Leonard and Jim on a bed draped in amber silk; how beautiful Jim looked when limned in candlelight, skin flushed and beaded with sweat, or the way his breath hitched when--
Leonard closed his eyes, pinched the bridge of his nose and muttered shit under his breath. Then he ate the damned cupcake and got to work.
Lunch in the officers' mess was more of the same, though he couldn't decide if Jim's presence made it better or worse. Pain shared was pain halved, or so the saying went, and having his arrival announced to all and sundry by a rendition of "Here Comes The Bride" played on kazoos definitely counted as pain.
Leonard decided to forego his usual grilled chicken sandwich and fresh fruit in favor of chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and fried okra, with a slice of carrot cake for dessert and a tall glass of sweet tea to wash it all down. Everyone deserved comfort food now and again, and after the last few days, he'd damned well earned it.
He carried the tray over to Jim's table, because the point was to avoid gossip, not create more of it, and it would look strange if he suddenly stopped taking his meals with the captain.
"What, no corn bread?" Jim asked as Leonard set the tray down and slid into a seat.
"Hell no," Leonard said. "Damned stuff has jalapeños in it. Tell me, who ruins perfectly good cornbread with jalapeños?"
They lapsed into awkward silence after that. Jim had succumbed to his own brand of comfort food in the form of a cheeseburger and a massive pile of steak fries. After a few minutes of watching Jim push fries around plate without actually eating any of them, Leonard sighed and set his own fork down. "Something on your mind, Jim?"
Jim picked up a fry and studied it like it was the most fascinating thing he'd ever seen. "I have this tendency to make smart-assed comments when I don't know what else to say. Gets me in trouble sometimes."
"I hadn't noticed," Leonard said dryly. "You really want to talk about this here?"
"I just need to know that we're okay." Jim looked up, his face painfully earnest. "Are we? Okay?"
Leonard picked up his fork and stabbed a piece of okra with more force than strictly necessary. "I don't know," he said, because, fuck, he didn't. He really, truly didn't. "Now, eat your damned fries. People are starting to stare."
Of course, by that point Leonard's own appetite had decided to take a hike. He forced himself to swallow a few more pieces of steak, then conveniently remembered a (nonexistent) test he'd left running, made his apologies and fled back to sickbay to hide in his office, with orders not to be disturbed unless the apocalypse was nigh.
The carrot cake went with him. You did not let carrot cake with real cream cheese frosting go to waste, no matter how tetchy your stomach was being.
Beta shift slid inexorably toward gamma. Leonard should have been off-duty hours ago. This wouldn't be the first time he'd worked a double when he didn't have to; he'd done a lot of that sort of thing while his divorce from Jocelyn was being finalized. Kept him from thinking too much--or drinking too much, if he were perfectly honest--and it depressed him to no end that he'd fallen right back into those same old habits, never mind the fact that his marriage to Jim wasn't even real.
At about 2200, M'Benga poked his head into the supply room. "You are planning to leave before alpha shift, I hope?"
"I'll get when I'm good and ready."
He held up a hand. "Not a word, Geoff. I'm not in the mood."
"I can see that," M'Benga said dryly. "I'm going to lunch. You'd better not be here when I get back or I'll hypospray you into next week and leave you naked on the forward observation deck with PROPERTY OF JIM KIRK written across your ass."
He'd do it, too, that was the hell of the thing. Leonard sighed. "Tell you what," he said. "Take Lia with you, I'll cover you both and then leave when you get back. Deal?"
"Deal," said M'Benga.
Of course, with both Dr. M'Benga and Nurse Burke on break, Leonard was forced to emerge from the relative privacy of the supply room and make himself available in his office in case a patient came in. And because it was just that kind of day, his butt had barely made contact with his chair when he heard the main sickbay doors whoosh open and a female voice call "Hello?"
Leonard stepped out of his office and found Lt. Gaila standing in the middle of the room, right hand cradled against her chest. He picked up a tricorder and gestured for her to have a seat on one of the bio-beds. "All right, what happened this time?"
"Tomlinson dropped a power coupling on my hand," Gaila gritted out, her face a ghastly shade of lime. "Mr. Scott sent me up here to make sure nothing was broken."
There was an ugly yellow-brown bruise blooming across her skin, but the tricorder showed no fractures or breaks to the fragile bones beneath. "Well, you're in luck," Leonard informed her. "You're bruised to hell and gone, but the bones are all intact."
"Oh, thank the stars," Gaila said. "Does this mean I can go back to work now?"
"Hell, no," Leonard said, all the while thinking goddamned crazy engineers. "You're going to sit right there while I regenerate the damaged tissue, and then you're going straight to your quarters to rest. You can return to work tomorrow, but I want you to go easy on that hand and come back and see me if it gives you any trouble."
He expected an argument, but Gaila just made a solemn nod and said, "Yes, Doctor."
Leonard chuckled as he pulled out a small regen unit from the supply compartment in the base of the bed. "Wish all my patients were that compliant. Now, this'll only take a few minutes, but you need to sit still, all right?"
"Yes, Doctor." Gaila cocked her head to one side and studied his face while he programmed the unit for Orion physiology and attached it to the back of her hand. "The skin around your eyes is a curious shade of purple," she said. "While aesthetically pleasing, I don't believe it's considered a healthy color for your species. Are you not feeling well?"
"I haven't been sleeping much," Leonard admitted and immediately wanted to kick himself. Damned Orion pheromones, mucking with his head and making him want to confide. It wasn't Gaila's fault, it was her body's natural response to being injured, a self-defense mechanism designed to protect her while she recovered. He needed to back out of range and get a breathing filter before he said something regrettable.
Gaila placed her good hand on his wrist and he couldn't help the small frisson of attraction that shivered down his spine when her skin touched his. "Is it because of what happened with the captain?" she asked softly.
He started to deny it but the way she looked at him, all doe-eyed and concerned and--oh. Oh, hell. "You know," he said thickly, trying to think around the languor drugging his mind. "Who told you? Was it Jim?"
"Nyota," she said. "She needed a friend to talk to. I think, maybe you do, too?"
"There's nothing to say, darlin'," he replied. "It happened. Now we move on."
"Do you love him?"
Leonard couldn't stop himself from answering. "Yeah," he whispered and the room was spinning now, the edges of his vision growing hazy and indistinct. "Yeah, I do."
He wrenched his arm out of her grasp and staggered backward a few steps, his knees wobbly as a newborn colt. "That'll beep and self-detach when it's finished," he said, his voice hoarse and shaking almost as bad as his hands. "I'll just--I need to--I'll be in my office."
He didn't run, but it was a very near thing.
He released her shortly thereafter and retreated back into his office to towel off his hair and brood. As soon as Geoff and Lia returned from the mess, he took his name off the roster and skedaddled. There was an unopened bottle of Bulleit waiting on a shelf in his room, and tonight was the perfect night to finally crack it open.
He made it back to his quarters without incident, but when he entered his access code the door refused to open. He tried it twice more, and his medical override to boot, but the door remained stubbornly closed. "Sonofa--McCoy to bridge."
"Bridge here," came Spock's voice. "Is there a problem, Doctor?"
"Yes, there's a problem: my quarters won't open. I swear, if this is somebody's idea of a joke--"
"I will look into the matter. One moment, please."
Leonard stood in front of his locked door and fumed. A few minutes later, Spock commed him back. "Bridge to Dr. McCoy. It would appear that you have been assigned new quarters."
A muscle beneath his left eye began to tick. "Dare I ask where?"
There was a pause, and then Spock said carefully, "With the captain, as his spouse."
"Great howling Jesus!" Leonard roared. "I want this fixed, Spock. I want this fixed, and I want whoever did it caught and assigned to scrubbing every public toilet on this goddamned ship with a goddamned toothbrush for a goddamned month."
"Understood. Bridge out."
Furious, Leonard marched down the corridor to Jim's quarters and leaned on the bell. Pain shared was pain halved, and Jim was going to share this particular pain whether he wanted to or not.
Jim woke to the sound of the bell.
He'd fallen asleep on the couch, a copy of Pepys' Diary sitting open in his lap. The bell sounded again. Jim said "Fuck," and stumbled to the door, book still in hand, his gold wire reading glasses askew on his nose. "All right, there better be a damned good reason for--Bones!" He stared at McCoy's messy damp hair and tomato-red face and frowned. "What happened?"
"God hates me," McCoy said, and pushed his way past Jim into the room.
The door slid shut behind him. "Okay," Jim said, bewildered and not quite awake. "Why does God hate you?"
"Being accosted with rice I can deal with," McCoy said. "Cupcakes and kazoos? No problem. But the bastards locked me out of my own goddamned quarters. My quarters, Jim! Where I have my clothes and my books and my toothbrush, not to mention my bed."
It took a moment to fully parse what McCoy was saying. "Oh. Oh, man." Jim pulled off his glasses and rubbed at his eyes. "I am so sorry. Did you call it in?"
"Yeah, but given the evil geniuses who crew this ship, I doubt it'll be fixed before morning."
Jim laughed; he couldn't help it. McCoy glared for a few seconds before all the anger seemed to leach out of him, replaced by exhaustion and rue. Jim grasped his elbow and guided him unresisting to the couch. "Sit," he ordered. "I'll make you some tea."
"You don't have to--"
Jim waved the protest away. "It's the least I can do."
He set the book down on his desk, then removed his glasses and placed them carefully back in their case. They were antiques, like the book and the fountain pen, and all had been gifts from McCoy over the years. There was very little in his quarters that hadn't come from McCoy in one form or another; even the living room set had been his idea, after Jim had confessed to having no idea what sort of furniture a captain should own.
The replicator provided him with a pot of hot water, but he brewed the tea by hand. Denobulan mint, because it was late, and because McCoy looked as though he'd had more than enough caffeine for one day. The mug was Starfleet issue, heavy, utilitarian and bland. He carried it back to the sitting area and wondered what McCoy would say if Jim asked for his help picking out new china.
"You're welcome to the couch," Jim said as he handed McCoy his tea. "It's got be more comfortable than the cot in your office."
"Thanks," McCoy said. "I'm not sure how much more of this I can take."
Jim flopped down on the couch next to him. "It'll blow over in another day or so. And c'mon, Bones, cupcakes? Even I didn't rate cupcakes."
McCoy chuckled. "That was pretty cute," he admitted. "And don't you dare tell anyone I said that. It would ruin my reputation as a curmudgeon."
"Your secret is safe with me," Jim assured him.
McCoy chuckled again, and sipped at his tea. His face gradually became pensive, and Jim realized he was looking at the stack of divorce forms still sitting on the coffee table from the night before.
McCoy let out a quiet sigh. "You know, I never actually signed those."
"I noticed," Jim said. "It can keep until you're ready."
McCoy set his mug down carefully on the table. "You may be waiting quite a while, then."
"I'm good with that."
McCoy's dark brows furrowed and he turned to look at Jim, hazel eyes shifting between brown and green in the soft light of the reading lamp. "Come again?"
"I said I'm good with that." He took a deep, unsteady breath. "If you don't want to sign the papers, then don't."
McCoy's eyebrows shot up this time, almost all the way to his hairline. "Jim, this is our one free pass. If we don't sign that form and file it within a week of the--the incident, Starfleet will consider us legally married."
"And you're okay with that," McCoy demanded. "With being married. To me."
"Yeah, I am." Jim offered McCoy a small, shaky smile. "Pretty weird, huh?"
"I'll say," McCoy said faintly. He shook his head. "I didn't--you never--Jim, if you really feel that way, why haven't you ever said anything?"
"I couldn't," Jim said. "Starfleet Regulation 296, paragraph 60, subparagraph 134 prohibits the captain of a starship from becoming romantically involved with any member of his crew. There are some rules I'll break with impunity. That's not one of them."
"You're breaking it right now," McCoy pointed out.
"Actually," Jim said, "I'm not. Yeah, the regs say I can't ask you out on a date, but there's nothing in them at all that prohibits me from marrying you."
The box holding the wedding rings Gaila had made sat on the coffee table next to McCoy's mug. Jim reached for it with icy fingers and slid off the couch until he knelt on the floor by McCoy's feet. He fought down the panic trying to tighten his throat as he opened the lid and held it out. "Leonard," he began. No, that wasn't right. He tried again. "Bones. Would you do me the honor of not divorcing me?"
McCoy stared at the box for a long moment before hesitantly reaching inside to pull out the larger of the two rings. He turned it this way and that in the light as if he couldn't quite believe what he was seeing, then slid the band onto his left ring finger. When he looked back down at Jim, his eyes were dark as smoke. "You gonna put yours on or what?"
Jim very nearly dropped the box in his haste to get the other ring out and slip it on, the metal smooth and cool against his skin. McCoy smiled at his clumsiness and carded his fingers through Jim's coarse hair. "You know," McCoy said, "most people propose before they get married, not after."
Jim closed his eyes at the touch and let himself sag forward until his forehead rested against McCoy's knees. "What can I say?" he mumbled into the rough fabric of McCoy's trousers. "I'm an unconventional guy."
McCoy tugged lightly on his bangs. "Just get up here, fool."
Jim scrambled up off the floor and into McCoy's lap, catching McCoy's startled oof of breath with his mouth. McCoy tasted like spearmint mingled with bitter, dark coffee and kissed with a hunger that matched Jim's own. He also had big, warm hands with long, clever fingers that seemed determined to rid Jim of his clothing as rapidly as possible.
Jim wound up sprawled across the sofa with his t-shirt rucked up to his armpits and his pajama bottoms pulled down to his knees while McCoy licked slow, concentric circles around his navel. Those wonderful broad hands bracketed Jim's hips, pinning him down on the leather cushions so that all Jim could do was watch helplessly as McCoy's mouth charted a hot, wet path lower and lower...
The comm beeped loudly. "Bridge to Captain Kirk."
Jim and McCoy stared at one another. "Fuck," Jim said as he squirmed out from beneath McCoy and damn near wound up taking a header into the coffee table as his legs got hobbled by his pajama bottoms. "Fuck fuck fuckity fuck fuck!"
Holding his pajama pants up with one hand, Jim managed to stumble to the comm unit on his desk without breaking his neck and slapped the audio-only button. "Kirk here. This had better be good, Spock."
"That would depend entirely on your definition of the word good," Spock said. "Is Doctor McCoy with you?"
Jim glanced back over at the couch where McCoy had just finished removing his boots and was now pulling off his duty uniform shirt and undershirt. "Yeah," Jim said in a strangled voice as McCoy stood up and slowly unfastened his trousers. "He's right here."
"Mr. Scott has reported back on the status of Dr. McCoy's quarters. It seems that whoever tampered with the locking mechanism was extremely thorough and the entire door will need to be replaced."
There was a pause as Spock waited for Jim's response. Unfortunately, Jim was having a great deal of difficulty forming words as a very naked and aroused McCoy stalked toward him with a look on his face that promised wicked, wicked things were about to be done to Jim's person. "Um," Jim said, his mouth gone dry as an Arizona summer. "That--that doesn't sound good."
"Indeed," Spock said. "Since it is doubtful that the problem will be fixed before the start of alpha shift, I must recommend that Dr. McCoy find alternate sleeping arrangements for the remainder of the evening."
McCoy dropped to his knees at Jim's feet and gently tugged the waistband of Jim's pajamas out of his fingers, letting them slide down to pool around Jim's ankles. Jim bit back a whimper as McCoy put his hands on Jim's thighs and leaned in to suck lightly on the head of Jim's cock. "Really not a problem," Jim breathed. "Was, was there a-anything else?"
"Yes. There is still the matter of Dr. McCoy's new berthing assignment to correct," Spock said.
McCoy sat back on his heels and stared up at him, eyes wide and with enough uncertainty in them still to make Jim's chest ache. "Let it stand," Jim said quietly.
McCoy spoke up for the first time since Spock called. "You heard the man, Mr. Spock. Let it stand."
"Understood." There was a slight pause, then Spock added, "Congratulations to you both."
Jim grinned. "Thank you, Spock. Oh, and one more thing: if anyone disturbs us before beta shift tomorrow, I'll have them keelhauled without a pressure suit. Kirk out."
McCoy raised an eyebrow. "Keelhauled?"
Jim shrugged. "I've been reading 17th and 18th century naval histories lately. They're all rum, sodomy and the lash."
"Well," McCoy drawled. "I'm fresh out of rum, and the lash isn't really my style. Sodomy, now." He leaned forward and licked Jim's cock from root to tip. "That I just might be able to help you with."
Jim threaded his fingers into McCoy's dark hair as McCoy bent to his task and began to suck Jim's cock in earnest. "Doing great so far," he managed before the soft, wet heat of McCoy's mouth robbed him of speech entirely.
TO: Lt. Gaila
FROM: Cpt. J.T. Kirk
I don't want to know how you got our ring sizes, but they fit perfectly.
P.S.: Could you please undo whatever you did to McCoy's door? It's kind of hard to move his stuff if we can't get into the room.
P.P.S: Yes, I know it was you. No, I can't prove it.
P.P.P.S.: Thank you.
TO: Cpt. J.T. Kirk
FROM: Lt. Gaila
Consider it done. Now step away from the computer and go have sex with your husband. Unless you're planning to have sex on the desk? Because that would be hot.
Just be careful of your terminal. Semen does bad things to electronics, and I really don't think you want to file the damage report for that.
P.S.: You're welcome.