Title: Invitation for the Spellbound (3/4)
Fandom: Star Trek TOS
Summary: McCoy can’t tell if he has been gifted or cursed. And anyway, this newfound ability is interfering with his chances at acquiring a date for the Sweetheart Ball.
Previous Part: 1 | 2
Okay, okay – please put away the looks of disappointment and instruments of torture. I swear I have already been under a form of torture, entirely self-inflicted. When the news came out in early April that Livejournal was officially under the control of the Russian government, I made the decision to move my decade-old writing journal to a self-hosted blog. More than that, I decided to self-host a community. A month and a half of dedicated time and resources later, SpaceTrio (www.spacetrio.com) – a home for Triumvirate fans – is up and running. I have come away from this project with the realization that I must truly be crazy for Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Thankfully, I know a few people who share my form of craziness. Through this site, we can keep in contact with each other. It is an open membership.
That said, no more excuses or side projects. This story will be completed! Since I am away from mid-to-late June, the goal is to finish the last chapter before then. Thank you to everyone for your patience, enjoy, and keep checking back for the final update!
McCoy blames Spock. Because of his calm, collected manner of delivery, Spock has the peculiar ability to make a bad idea sound good. How else can it be that Leonard so readily agreed to attend the Sweetheart Ball in the company of the very two officers that common sense has been urging him not to engage in complicated matters?
With this glum thought, the doctor arrives at work the next day. The warm greetings peter out among his staff at the sight of the CMO’s face, and McCoy realizes just how clumsy he has been lately at hiding his mood. Rather than elevate their concern, he purses his mouth, slipping into the demeanor of an old Southern grouch like a second skin.
“What are y’all gawking at?” Leonard snaps at no one in particular. “Back to work!”
Several staff members exchange looks. As their stern-faced boss marches noisily through the main ward, normally a prelude to one of his legendary tirades, most of them follow him.
Becoming aware of this trail of underlings a bit too late, Leonard jerks to a stop in the main bay archway, spinning around and glaring at the lot. “Just where do you think you’re going?” he demands.
A man in the same Science Blue uniform as McCoy intervenes, gliding smoothly between Leonard and the confused personnel. His composed countenance, most discretely decide after introductions, is a result of years spent in medical training among Vulcans.
“It is time for the department’s weekly update, Dr. McCoy,” M’Benga states. “Aren’t you going to the briefing room?”
Damn, damn, and damn. Leonard has been distracted since he awoke this morning and recalled his ill-fated decision to accept Spock’s proposal. But because M’Benga is eyeing him critically in the way a doctor eyes a patient, Leonard hedges rather than admitting to a lapse in memory, “I need to swing by my office for a minute. I will join you all shortly.”
“Very well,” agrees the doctor, waving the other staff members forward to follow him. The group disappears en masse down the corridor outside the archway.
Leonard lingers behind momentarily to collect himself, then makes good on his word, heading in the opposite direction. Once inside the CMO’s office away from the public eye, he gives himself a stern talking-to about how important it is not to make others suspicious. It’s bad enough that they could find out he reads minds, but it would be truly daunting if someone suspected his date for the Ball was one of the two senior-most officers on the ship.
And if someone managed to find out his date was actually both? Lord, the consequences don’t bear thinking about!
After repeating ‘Keep your mouth shut, McCoy!’ numerous times, Leonard does an about-face and hurries to join the team awaiting his arrival.
The briefing goes well enough, with nothing out of the ordinary in topic or unexpected in the coming week’s schedule until a recently hired med tech catches Leonard’s eye from the other side of the conference room and thinks dreamily, I wonder if Dr. McCoy will take me to the Ball…
“I already have a date!” he blurts out, supremely exasperated that this is still the premiere thought on everyone’s mind.
Following the dead silence in the room, Dr. M’Benga clicks off his final presentation slide. “Well,” he remarks, dry as ever, “I suppose a date is something further to add, although not quite the subject I was expecting.”
“Congratulations!” Nurse Valente beams from a few chairs down. “Who is it?”
Opposite Leonard, Christine Chapel raps a stylus steadily against the front of her PADD. The woman appears to be thinking very hard.
Mortified, Leonard manages to say, “Dismissed,” to his subordinates and keep his gaze averted as they begin to slowly file out of the room, no doubt disappointed to be gifted an interesting fact yet deprived of juicy details.
Leonard is to the point of covering his face with one hand when a saccharine thought with an almost honed edge strikes: How cute, he’s nervous.
McCoy’s head flies up to find Chapel, still seated and watching him. Only when he glares does Christine offer him a tiny, unrepentant smile. Then the nurse rises smoothly to her feet to join the Assistant CMO waiting patiently by the door. The pair leaves.
The sense of foreboding that swamps Leonard just then should have been warning enough, but he is too tired by the end of the day from avoiding prying questions to wonder why Chapel is not among the group asking them.
A day later finds the mostly recovered doctor at his desk, carefully reviewing the receiving paperwork for a recent shipment of supplies. He estimates the department has another three months of adequate operation with their current on-hand inventory before a trip to a sanctioned starbase becomes necessary to restock the items that cannot be ferried by an intermediary supply ship.
“Should let Jim know,” he comments to himself.
As if on cue, the desk comm crackles to life with “Kirk to Sickbay.”
“Speak of the devil and he shall answer,” Leonard says, amused, and taps a button to pick up the call. “McCoy here.”
“Jim, good mornin’. Just had you on my mind.”
“Oh?” A pause ensues before Jim says again, this time with less certainty, “Bones…”
Kirk’s eventual descent into silence alarms his friend. “What’s the matter?” Leonard rises partly out of his chair, one of his hands automatically dragging open a drawer containing an emergency medkit.
Kirk finally continues, “I heard the oddest rumor.”
Leonard freezes with the medkit in his grip. “What?”
“Are you… going with us? With Spock and me,” Jim is quick to clarify, “to the Sweetheart Ball?”
“Since when do you listen to rumors?” rejoins Leonard as he settles down again in relief and shoves the medkit out of sight. “I am,” he confirms a moment later. A touch of apprehension makes his voice waver. “Is… that all right?”
“Of course!” Kirk sounds both relieved and thrilled. “Why didn’t you tell me you wanted to come along?”
Leonard rolls his eyes. “It was Spock’s idea, not mine.” When the other end falls silent again, he laughs. “You didn’t expect that? My god, I have lived to see the day Spock finally does something to shock you!”
“Enough,” Jim says, though he doesn’t seem upset in the least. “If I found Spock predictable, I wouldn’t keep him as a first officer. What I really want to know, mister, is what you two are up to.”
Leonard feigns ignorance. “We thought we would have a good time together.”
“Honestly, Jim, you make it sound like Spock and I don’t ever get along.”
The warning “Bones” comes again, yet Kirk’s sigh quickly follows it through the comm speaker. “Fine, you win. I won’t ask. One would think by now that I shouldn’t want to know.” He pauses again. “Do I need to wear my dress uniform?”
“I won’t if you won’t,” Leonard declares quickly. One of these days he’ll lop the collar off the damn thing. “Besides, this isn’t a formally sanctioned Starfleet event, remember?”
“It’s a captain-sanctioned event,” Jim retorts, “but I agree. No need to intimidate the juniors by standing on formality. Did I ever tell you the captain of the Farragut would do that? He would show up in the lounge where we lieutenants gathered for off-duty games dressed like he was attending an interrogation by admirals. It made everyone jumpy. Garrovick would laugh. He had the strangest sense of humor.”
Leonard interjects, shaking his head to himself, “Jim, is there a reason you called me up other than to reminisce about the good ol’ days?”
“I guess not,” comes the guilty response.
“I’ll listen to the story later. Go back to your paperwork.”
“How did you know—”
Leonard stops him once more. “I always know, Captain. Paperwork. Finish it.” Kirk mutters something McCoy can pretend he doesn’t hear. “Don’t give your yeoman a reason to ground you, otherwise I’ll be less a date tomorrow.”
“Duly noted. Kirk out.”
Leonard looks up briefly at the ceiling and grins. Then he too resumes the task of culling his own stack of paperwork.
On the evening of the Ball, Spock arrives promptly at McCoy’s cabin door. Leonard takes a moment to admire the Vulcan’s sleek black tunic jacket and matching pants before accompanying Spock to pick up Jim. They stand outside the Captain’s quarters after repeatedly pressing the buzzer and wonder if their third companion has already headed to the event without them.
Jim rushes out the door not a moment too soon after this consideration, claiming, “I heard you! I just couldn’t find my damn shoe!”
They all look down to confirm that Jim is, in fact, wearing two shoes.
“They match,” Leonard states. “Good enough.”
Kirk looks not so happy as he starts down the corridor. “I don’t like them. What possessed me to order them? I don’t need dress shoes. I like boots.”
Leonard nudges Spock with his elbow. “Somebody sounds nervous.”
Kirk’s head whips around, his gaze narrowing. “I heard that. For the record, I am not nervous.”
“Going to a social dance,” chirps Leonard gleefully. “It’ll be easy as pie, Jim-boy. Easier than, say, fighting a Klingon armada.”
Kirk turns away again, mumbling, “Klingons I can handle.”
“Keep an eye on him,” Leonard warns Spock.
The Vulcan nods ever-so-slightly.
“I heard that!”
The turbolift at the corridor’s end awaits them as their chariot, sweeping Kirk, Spock, and McCoy off to the ball.
When the lift door opens to reveal a noisy, colorfully decorated, and densely populated ballroom, Leonard is the one suffering from sudden nerves. He could swear that all eyes are on their small three-person party as he exits last from the lift upon the heels of Kirk and Spock. At the very least, his head is already ringing with the attention his particular appearance has commanded.
Shifting sideways, Leonard chooses Spock as his shield from the curious stares.
Kirk, already moving forward, comes to a standstill after a brief frown at the vacant spot on his right. Turning, he locates McCoy. “Bones, what are you doing?”
Leonard stares back. “Nothin’.”
Jim looks from Leonard to Spock’s back to Leonard again. But rather than pursuing the reason for his friend’s odd behavior, the man sighs through his nose and proceeds down the main staircase. Leonard multitasks keeping close to Spock without knocking into him and using the higher vantage point of the stairs to inspect the crowd for a few friendly faces. He figures he might need them in the event he finds himself cornered by one of the many people currently anticipating an opportunity to make the CMO a dance partner.
Leonard simply doesn’t understand what is so enticing about being noticed by a self-proclaimed curmudgeon. He would stay out of the curmudgeon’s way.
As soon as his feet land on the ballroom floor, an arm snakes out from his blind spot to snag his sleeve.
Kirk and Spock turn sharply at McCoy’s squeak of surprise, but their visible tension dissipates as quickly as it appears.
“Good evening, Captain, Commander,” Chapel greets the two men as she swings around the edge of the staircase to place herself at Leonard’s side. Her twinkling blue eyes take in McCoy. “So this is why you were nervous,” she whispers loudly enough to be heard a few rows of people over.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he denies.
“You should have told me.”
“Told you what?”
“Why, that you planned to take the Captain and Mr. Spock to the Ball!”
“I believe it is the other way around, Nurse Chapel,” Spock intercedes. “We are escorting Dr. McCoy.”
“Isn’t that interesting?” purrs Christine. “Mr. Spock, I would be jealous if I didn’t believe Leonard deserves the very best.”
Jim chokes and turns partly away, hiding his expression.
“Christine,” Leonard pleads, hoping that—God willing—he can find a way to distract her, “where’s your date? Don’t tell me you left the poor fellow on his own.”
“Of course not.” Chapel lifts a hand and makes a come-hither motion to a person invisible among the crowds. “But you know how reserved Geoff can be at times. Oh, but won’t he be pleased to see this! We won the bet.”
“Bet?” Alarm growing, Leonard works to remove his arm from the woman’s grip.
Her hand tightens briefly on his forearm before releasing him. “Since you failed to provide the identity of your date, we had no choice, Doctor. We started a betting pool.”
“I didn’t hear that,” mutters Kirk.
Her gaze sweeps over the men in question as she smiles. “Of course, I wouldn’t call it a guess for some.”
Spock quirks an eyebrow.
Leonard wedges himself in between Jim and Spock where it’s safer. “Who wants a drink?” he asks his male companions with undisguised desperation. “We should find drinks.”
Jim gives him a strangely soft look before turning one of his almost blindingly charming smiles on Chapel. “Christine, Dr. M’Benga is a lucky man to have your company tonight. We wouldn’t want to take up a moment more of your attention.”
She smiles at the flattery, saying congenially, “Of course, Captain,” but all of them hear the true meaning behind the agreement: I’ll let you escape this time.
Leonard knows better than to look a gift horse in the mouth. Latching onto Jim, assured that Spock will follow, he sets off at a pace across the room that forces the other men to lengthen their strides.
Lord in heaven, just when did his personal life become the subject of fascination for so many people?
“Bones, slow down.”
“Not a chance in hell!”
“Chapel isn’t watching anymore.”
That brings Leonard to a stop. He grumps, “We’re not running away.”
“We’re not?” questions his friend, smiling faintly but pressing the subject no more.
Leonard turns in a slow circle, working to regain his composure. He discovers that the three of them are now blocked on all sides by large groups of people, the bar he had intended to find nowhere in sight.
“Why is it so crowded?” he complains.
Jim squeezes Leonard’s arm. “We don’t have to stay if you’re uncomfortable.”
Leonard eyes him. “I’m fine if you’re fine.”
Jim replies, “No problem here.”
Together they look at Spock.
Spock points out, “I see no reason to leave when we have only just arrived.”
Leonard cannot help but grin at Jim’s reaction. “Well that’s a happy look for a man who wasn’t planning to come on his own.”
Jim cups a hand around one ear. “What’s that, Bones? You’re glad you changed your mind about working in Sickbay?”
Leonard huffs. “All right, point made.” He cuts his eyes at Spock about to remark that if anyone should be congratulated for having good sense, maybe it ought to be Spock. Spock would both preen under the compliment and pretend to be disturbed that Leonard is the one who said it. That could spur a conversation he is confident he can handle.
In that moment, however, McCoy’s attention is caught by a familiar accent, followed quickly by the sight of the Enterprise’s youngest Bridge lieutenant breaking through the crowd on the heels of a buxom crewman, obstinately trying his best to charm her into a dance. Jim and Spock pause as well to watch the enthusiastic young man and his tolerantly amused companion.
Jim murmurs, tone wistful, “Ah, to be young.”
Leonard looks at him. “Reminiscing again?”
Kirk lifts one shoulder as if not certain of the answer himself. “I was thinking of the resilience that comes with youth.”
“I would agree with you, Captain. Lt. Chekov is a fine example of resilience.”
Jim smiles at Spock. “I meant with respect to the matters of love, Mr. Spock.”
Spock tips his head in the direction of Chekov, who has moved on to another crewman of interest since the failure of his prior conquest. “So did I.”
Leonard is curious, though, to know more. “Jim, I thought you spent your youth buried under books. What would you know about romancing?”
“I never said I was in the library every nanosecond, Bones,” Jim corrects, voice amused. “I had my fair share of love affairs.” His amusement fades slowly. “To be truthful, most of those… relationships were not serious. There was one long-term commitment… but love and ambition made an unhealthy combination. It didn’t work out.”
“Don’t I know about that?” Leonard sighs. Glancing sideways at his other companion, he muses, “I don’t suppose a Vulcan youth gets troubled by the pangs of the heart.”
Spock considers him. “A childhood betrothal is not without its trials, Doctor.”
“And we know how that ended,” Jim murmurs, rubbing his chest absentmindedly.
This time Leonard sighs on behalf of all of them. “Wonderful. Since we’re so lousy at relationships, I guess that makes the three of us perfect company for each other.”
Both of Spock’s eyebrows fly up. “That would be the first logical thing you have said all evening, Doctor.”
Before Leonard can sputter a response, Jim places a hand on the shoulder blade of each man and begins to steer them through the crowd. “Why don’t we find a relatively safe corner to continue this discussion?”
“Safe?” Leonard questions suspiciously. “Don’t you mean quiet?”
The man chuckles even as he explains, “I would never endanger my crew needlessly…”
“Captain,” Spock inserts, his voice as indignant as Leonard’s expression.
“…but nor would I deny you two your fun. Here we go,” Kirk announces, parking the three of them at a table on the far edge of the ballroom. “Have at it.”
Spock and Leonard exchange a look, for if there is a time when they come to an agreement without the necessity of words, it is when Kirk needs a firm hand. Moving in tandem, they take a seat next to each other on the opposite side of the table, leaving Jim to face them both.
“We don’t know what you mean,” Leonard says to Kirk. “We get along just fine.”
“Indeed,” echoes Spock.
Though Jim says nothing, a wave of familiar fondness washes over Leonard.
Leonard turns to his companion. “Spock, I think Jim’s the one who likes the arguing. He stuck us over here to keep us all to himself.”
“Then we must consider to what degree our duty to Captain Kirk extends.” Spock muses aloud, “Perhaps it will be sufficient to entertain him for a half-hour?”
They turn to Jim.
Kirk flushes like a man suffering embarrassment yet retains the stubborn quality to his gaze. “Thirty minutes will do, Mr. Spock.”
Leonard feels ridiculously pleased. Rather than determine why, he props his hand up on his chin and commands, “So hurry up and bring us some refreshments. I refuse to start an argument with this green-blooded hobgoblin while he’s sober.”
“Then you should not bother to argue with me at all,” Spock quips.
Jim slides off his stool with a flash of a grin and trots away.
Leonard turns to Spock. “Well, Spock, is this better or worse than you anticipated?”
“To which do you refer: the event or the company?”
Leonard simply looks at him.
Spock inclines his head ever-so-slightly. “It is as I expected.”
Leonard cocks an eyebrow. “Oh?”
The Vulcan’s gaze tracks Kirk’s progress across the ballroom. “Jim could not have experienced this level of contentment without you. Given that I feel as he does, the only recourse was to ensure that you joined us.”
Leonard is struck momentarily speechless.
Spock’s gaze finds and pins him. “Did you not know?”
“Know what?” Leonard asks, feeling his mouth dry up. Despite asking, he has a pretty good idea of the answer.
Spock delays his response, and Leonard realizes why. Jim has returned in short order, three champagne flutes in hand.
Smiling, Kirk sets the glasses down on the table then slides one across to Leonard. His question “Will this be enough?” is a bit impish.
Leonard grabs the drink and downs the champagne all at once, nearly choking afterward.
Jim’s expression switches from playful to bemused. “I guess not.”
With nary a word, Spock offers Leonard his flute as well. This time Leonard doesn’t choke.
Kirk sits down with a sigh. “All right, what did I miss?”
“Nothing,” Leonard bleats, then adds with haste, “we started without you.”
Even if Spock claims not to understand human behavior very well, he does not fail to miss that cue. “I was merely attempting to help Dr. McCoy recognize an obvious conclusion.”
This Leonard comprehends. He raises his voice slightly. “Obvious to who? Not all of us have a computer for a brain, Spock!”
The Vulcan’s rejoinder sounds far away, for suddenly Leonard finds himself distracted by the way Kirk’s shoulders relax and a smile comes into the man’s eyes.
Jim meets his stare with the air of the innocent. “Something wrong, Bones?”
Leonard swallows down a warm feeling. “Are… you going to finish that?”
With a burst of laughter, Jim pushes his champagne flute over, cautioning McCoy good-naturedly, “Try to drink this one more slowly.”
Spock stands up. “It appears we are in need of a second round.”
Leonard is simultaneously relieved and filled with regret when the Vulcan walks away. He sips from the flute slowly to appease Kirk.
Jim’s gaze travels around the room. “Looks like this could be an interesting evening.”
Leonard hopes the man mistakes the reddening of his face as a sign of encroaching inebriation.
But truth be told, McCoy has never felt soberer. Why now, he wonders, did Spock have to confirm for him what he already suspected? It’s as if Spock knows that he knows and wants to push for a confrontation.
Leonard cannot say for certain what he will do if it comes down to that, a confrontation between any of them—and not knowing unnerves him.
He becomes determined to turn his mind to anything else. “Jim, you mentioned you knew a thing or two about parties. Does that mean you can dance?”
For a moment, Leonard’s brain lights up with fireworks, an excitement not his own.
“You bet I can,” Kirk choruses, coming off his stool and holding out an imperative hand to McCoy. “I’ll show you!”
Leonard realizes his error too late but there is no turning down Jim Kirk when Leonard can feel how utterly joyful the man is at the prospect of dancing with him.
What have I gotten myself into? he thinks as Jim latches onto his arm.
While the Captain of the Enterprise tugs his companion to the crowded dance floor, McCoy catches a glimpse of a familiar figure nearby. Standing tall, hands at his back, Spock watches the pair with an air of approval, the same approval Leonard has seen the commander display when a team under his supervision is working furiously on a project, on the verge of some major discovery. Undoubtedly by the time Jim has satiated his desire to spin Leonard in circles, the Vulcan will be waiting patiently for them at their table, more champagne flutes at the ready as though he had not cleverly engineered at an opportunity to prove his point.
Leonard begrudgingly forgives Spock. How can he not when Jim is leaking happiness and warmth and love all over him as they take the first steps together of a formal dance?
In the eyes of the bystanders, the two men may stand at a proper distance apart, but to Leonard, Jim hugs him close with his emotion. Leonard senses the “Thank you, Bones” before it arrives.
He asks, “For what, Jim?”
Jim smiles. “For making this a night to remember.”
Leonard just nods and lets his friend keep him close.
“You’re a sight for sore eyes.” The melodious voice turns Leonard’s head in time to watch Uhura slip onto a stool near him in front of the bar.
He had located the small bar at the back of the ballroom not to refill his champagne glass but to exchange it for a cup of water because the only explanation he can come up with for his growing contentment as the evening wears on is that the champagne must be at fault. That is why when Spock insisted Leonard begin to moderate his intake of alcohol he did not argue.
“Hello there, darling,” he greets the woman. “Were you lookin’ for me?”
“I had wondered if you were going to show tonight,” Uhura admits.
Leonard nods. “It took a while to find a date.”
“Was that the problem?” she asks, sounding only mildly unconvinced, but as her gaze moves away from him to scrutinize the ballroom, she changes the subject. “I’ll be honest, Doctor. I’m hiding. I like my date well enough but his energy level far outstrips mine.” She rubs an ankle, shaking her head. “I’ve never danced so much in my life.”
“I thought you loved to dance.”
“Oh I do—within reason.” Her eyes come back to him, full of thoughtful consideration. “You and Captain Kirk looked like you were enjoying yourselves.”
“Remind me never to dance with that man again,” Leonard grumps. “He might be worse than that puppy of a lieutenant you came with.” His grumbling changes to a good-humored tone. “I handed him over to Spock. We’ll see if that Vulcan endurance Spock brags about can withstand Jim’s obsession for square dancing.”
Uhura breaks into a peel of laughter. McCoy chuckles alongside her.
When their laughter finally subsides, he remembers something and wonders if he should ask or not. Well, the doctor decides, since others believe they can be nosy about his business, maybe he has the right to be nosy too. Leaning casually against the bar, he mentions, “I think I saw Mr. Scott with Lt. Romaine.”
To his surprise, Uhura’s response is a gusty sigh. “I’m aggravated with that man.”
Leonard’s curiosity gets the better of him. “What’d he do?”
Uhura presses her mouth into an unhappy line. “He waited too late to ask me to the Ball. If I had known he would be open to an offer, I could have saved us both disappointment by asking him first.” Her second sigh is more subdued. “He’s happy with Mira, though. I can tell.”
Leonard points out, “Doesn’t mean you can’t save a dance for him. I know for a fact that Scotty would not turn you down.”
Uhura looks at him sharply.
“I mean,” Leonard scrambles to amend, “I’m sure he wouldn’t. Who in their right mind would say no to a beautiful lady like you!” Boy he hopes Scott was not planning to keep his adoration of Uhura a secret for much longer.
The woman extends a hand. “In that case,” she requests, “would you care to dance, sir?”
He stares for only a second before breaking into a pleased grin. “I may not know about anybody else but I’m definitely in my right mind.” He adds, noticing Uhura come to her feet carefully, “We’ll just keep to a little shuffle-and-sway, shall we? Nothing rigorous.”
He’s such a nice man. “That would be wonderful, Doctor.”
“Leonard, please,” he says, warmed by Uhura’s unspoken comment, and leads her towards the dance floor.
And after their dance, if McCoy happens to leave this lovely lady with Scotty while coaxing Scotty’s date to dance with him, well, a man can only hope for the best for his two friends.
Sometime later, Leonard’s body is in protest of exceeding his dancing quota for the day (and possibly the whole year). Finding a chair situated against a wall and partially sheltered by a tall potted plant, he stretches out his legs, crossing them at the ankle to ease some of the pressure on his throbbing feet.
Who could have guessed that one dance with Uhura—and then Romaine—would start an avalanche of requests?
Overwhelmed by the hopefulness of his suitors, he failed to turn down a single one of them. He danced with that doe-eyed ensign from whom he once narrowly escaped, with the cafeteria lady, then a grinning lad from Engineering, practically his entire medical staff, and even Yeoman Janice Rand, the one person he assumed would have preferred to ask Jim yet she approached him instead and by the end of the dance, though appearing a little glassy-eyed, gave him the impression she had resolved some internal conflict of her own.
Frankly Leonard is embarrassed that he hasn’t had much attention for the men who accompanied him to the Ball. Even worse, he’s lost track of them.
Where in blast have those two gotten to?
Groaning, he sits up, preparing to enact a search party of one for his errant partners.
With impeccable timing, Jim appears around the other side of the potted plant, the tiny smile curving his mouth belying the sternness of his posture. “There you are.” The man teases, “Now who’s Mr. Popularity?”
“Oh god,” cries McCoy, “don’t say that! I’m over it, Jim, I swear. Spock can have the title. I’ll never be jealous again.”
Laughing softly, Kirk takes the empty seat next to him. “Good. It does me no favors if you can’t appreciate each other’s strengths. The crew may be enamored of Spock, Bones, but I promise you, you are just as special in their eyes.”
Leonard snorts but still appreciates the sentiment. “Thanks. Although I’ll just take that to mean you want me to be a fan of Spock’s too.”
“Aren’t you?” Jim challenges.
“Yes,” he admits.
“That is most pleasing to hear, Dr. McCoy.”
Leonard sinks down in his chair, his look of surprise quickly changing to a glare. “You tricked me,” he accuses Jim as Spock steps around the potted plant. “You knew he was listening!”
Kirk’s smile curls devilishly at the corners.
Leonard harrumphs, thinking that he doesn’t know what to do with these two—or, really, what to do without them.
“I’m done in,” he decides with a sideways roll of his neck. “What’d you say we leave what’s left of this shindig to the young ones?”
Kirk nods. “Agreed. My quarters?” He looks to Spock for confirmation.
“An excellent idea, sir,” the Vulcan confirms, then inquires of McCoy, “Do you need assistance?”
Unthinking, Leonard throws out an arm. “Why not?”
He freezes a moment later, realizing his mistake as Spock’s fingers wrap around the bared skin of his wrist—but the effect isn’t terrifying or overwhelming as anticipated. Little frissons of emotion reach him through the awakened connection, mostly approval and pleasure.
There is nothing to fear from Spock, Leonard understands then, and never will be.
He relaxes and allows himself to be drawn to his feet. Spock releases McCoy at the same time Kirk’s hand settles on his lower back.
“Let’s go,” Jim says.
Leonard hears that as let’s go home and finds he could not agree more.
Leonard comes awake with a start, not recognizing his surroundings and completely shocked to realize he must have fallen asleep.
At his shifting on the bed, a groggy voice cuts through McCoy’s brain: “Computer, lights, twenty percent.”
Leonard freezes, then, and searches his memory hurriedly. He remembers stretching out on Kirk’s couch; he remembers watching Jim and Spock play a chess match and playing referee. Though Kirk and Spock were immersed in their game, Leonard hadn’t felt left out. Occasionally one of them would comment to him or check that he was comfortable. And Leonard had been comfortable, now that he considers that final hazy moment in his memory. So comfortable, in fact…
“I was on the couch,” he murmurs, still mostly disbelieving as he peers at the semi-dark interior of what can only be Kirk’s bedroom cabin.
“You were,” agrees Jim, seeming to shake off his grogginess. “You fell asleep before Spock and I finished the last game. Since you looked comfortable, we threw a blanket over you and left you there. I…” Jim’s voice dies out, comes back slowly. “I remember reading in the chair beside the couch. I must have nodded off.”
Leonard believes that, having seen Jim’s penchant for dozing at his desk or in a lounge chair, anywhere in general that is a far cry from a genuine bed, inevitably because of exhaustion gets the better of him.
If they were both asleep, then Spock would have returned to his own quarters. That means…
Leonard and Jim turn to look at one another through the dark.
“Spock must have—” Jim begins.
Leonard finishes, “—tucked us in.” An awkward silence passes between the men until Leonard’s brain finally comprehends the implications of his conclusion. His spine stiffens. “Why that green-blooded son of a…!”
“Don’t finish that,” Jim says in warning. “I like Spock’s mother.”
Leonard releases his indignation in a whoosh of air but agrees, “So do I.”
Kirk sits up, his voice turning uncertain. “Bones…”
Another short silence ensues while Leonard wonders if this what it feels like to stand at a precipice, knowing the next thing he says could change a long, solid friendship. In the end, the decision of what to do isn’t so difficult to make.
Leonard lays back down, allowing himself to relax into the mattress. “I’ll give that presumptuous Vulcan an earful in the morning.” When Kirk doesn’t follow suit, he issues a soft command. “Lay down, Jim. You need the rest.”
“You’re staying.” Though sharp, the words do not form a question.
Leonard provides confirmation anyway. “I’m staying.”
Following a lengthy pause, the man next to McCoy settles in his former spot.
“Computer, lights off,” Leonard says.
In the stillness of the unlit room, Leonard listens to his friend breathe evenly, certain of the impression Kirk is not so relaxed as he sounds. What is Jim thinking? In that moment, Leonard’s gift will not tell him.
Sighing softly, McCoy turns on his side, facing a faint silhouette of a nightstand. “At least Spock had sense enough to leave us each a pillow,” he mutters. “I don’t share.”
The mattress dips slightly as Kirk adjusts his position on the bed. “It’s been a long time since I shared too,” comes the quiet admission. Then, more softly, “Goodnight, Bones.”
Leonard’s heart feels at ease. He closes his eyes. “‘Night, Jim.”
For some time, Jim’s feelings drift toward him in small eddies, not overwhelming, not so daunting as Leonard once thought them to be. He could get used to his gift, he muses, continuing to grow drowsier, if the feelings are always this nice. Sort of like having a blanket to stave off a chill.
Will Jim always care about him this much?
Would it be twice as pleasant if he had Spock to rely on as well?
McCoy falls asleep before any answers can be found.
The following morning is sobering, bereft of a darkness that can soften or obscure reality.
“I don’t know what you’re planning,” Leonard greets the man waiting outside of Kirk’s main cabin, “but I don’t like it.”
“Indeed,” the First Officer remarks, unruffled, hands at his back. “That seems a specialty of yours, Doctor—not appreciating that which you have yet to fully understand.”
Leonard grunts in response and sets off for the nearest turbolift. Because it is barely the waking hour for most crewmen on the deck housing the senior officers’ quarters, there is no one around to witness him trying to speed walk away from his Vulcan shadow. Yet no matter how fast Leonard goes, he notes sourly that Spock easily keeps pace with him.
“I don’t recall asking for an escort,” he complains when they reach the turbolift. “In fact, I don’t remember letting you know I was awake at all.”
“Jim did,” Spock replies simply.
Leonard employs a few choice phrases to describe the man who wouldn’t speak to him since they both woke up. To his surprise, Spock doesn’t get testy about him insulting their captain.
Leonard isn’t simply aggravated; he is hankering for a fight. Ignoring the lift’s arrival, he rounds on the Vulcan. “Why did you do it?”
Spock cocks an arrogant eyebrow.
Leonard bites out, “Leave me with Jim last night.”
“Is that not where you wished to be?”
His mouth opens. No response is immediately forthcoming.
Spock surmises, “Then I was not in error.”
“Error?” Leonard’s temper flares. “There was an error all right!”
Spock shifts forward without warning, his hands dropping to his sides. “Impossible.”
Vaguely Leonard is aware of the turbolift beeping its impatience at them, a warning that it will soon leave with or without any passengers.
“Explain,” Spock insists.
Leonard sighs through his nose, tightening the leash on his temper once again. “Your error was assuming you had the right to make such a decision for us.”
Spock eases back again, calmer too. “Leonard, what would have been the outcome had I awoken you and asked your opinion?” He seems to take Leonard’s silence as an answer. “It was not my intention to cause harm to your relationship with Jim. Have I done so?”
“No, of course not. One little cuddle-session isn’t going to change what Jim and I have.”
Spock’s gaze darkens, his lack of immediate response lending the impression that he is thinking deeply upon Leonard’s comment.
McCoy cannot fathom why—or what Spock believes can be achieved by maneuvering him and Jim into a situation like last night.
He does something on a whim, invite a risk that before now he wouldn’t have believed he would welcome. Offering up his wrist to Spock, Leonard waits with a slight impatience to find out what will happen next. He acknowledges that he can no longer deny understanding the implication—and consequences—of his actions.
Spock does not hesitate. He simply takes the proffered wrist and in turn arranges the fingertips of his free hand at the psy-points of Leonard’s face.
Leonard has a flash of memory, of another time and place and another Vulcan with Spock’s face who took his wrist—to restrain—and laid a hand against his face—to forcefully take that which would not be willingly given. McCoy’s breath hitches only for a heartbeat before Spock deftly dismisses the image and replaces it with one of the present, the two of them standing close, bound by friendship and honor—and something more.
Spock shows him what that something more is, intoning, Know my thoughts.
Know what I feel.
Spock, this… I had no idea, he responds afterwards. How is it possible?
To love, Doctor? Would you not say that in particular is a natural ability of your species?
But you said you can’t love.
As you often remind me, I am human too.
In that moment, how much Spock cares for Leonard feels as tangible as his physical skin. Leonard has the urge to own the feeling somehow, to make certain it cannot be taken away on a whim.
Illogical, decides Spock. Why is there a desire to own that which is offered freely?
I don’t know. I just… like this too much.
Then cherish my feelings as I cherish yours.
My feelings? But Leonard understands himself, then, with as much clarity as Spock had presented his own secret. My god, I love you!
As pleased as Spock is about this long-overdue epiphany, a sense of urgency encompasses Leonard, as though Spock requires him to press for more, to dig further into his heart.
To guide this effort, Spock takes the secret recently laid bare and turns it like one flips a coin to its opposite side. The same thoughts and feelings are there but for a different man—a person who sometimes is similar to Leonard in startling ways and just as often is as different as night is to day.
I knew about Jim, Leonard confesses, feeling that farther away, where his body is, tears have sprung to his eyes. I knew you loved him, but I couldn’t accept why your thoughts included me. Why love me, Spock, when you already love him?
Spock counters, Why not love both when both are equally deserving of love?
Spock, Leonard thinks, and says, wanting to give the name sound. “Spock.”
“What’s the meaning of this?”
The interjecting voice is a shock to them both. Leonard, caught off-guard, has only a split second to marvel at the mirror images of his surprise and Spock’s before Spock, ever quick to assess and act, shuts down the link between them so that the physical jerk of Leonard’s body does no harm when they are abruptly disconnected.
Leonard stumbles a step back and turns with Spock to face their interloper.
Standing barely an arm’s length away, Jim Kirk stares at them in disbelief.
“Jim,” Leonard starts, only to have his voice catch upon the name.
“Captain,” Spock states more firmly, “we can explain.”
“You’d better,” Kirk says following an awful moment of silence. Then the man pivots on the ball of his foot, his posture as tense as his tone, leaving Spock and McCoy to reluctantly trail behind.