Starting All Over
Acidqueen <a.q @ gmx.de>
Third Place Kirk/Other Male (two-way tie)
Pairings: Kirk/McCoy (implied: Kirk/m, Kirk/f, McCoy/f, K/S, K/S/Mc)
Summary: After V'Ger, some dice are rolled anew.
Author's Note: This is a stand-alone story and not part of my ongoing K/Mc series.
Disclaimer: Paramount/Viacom owns Star Trek, I own my brain. No infringement is intended, and no money is being made.
Archive: My own website at http://www.syredronning.de/ , ASCEM, all others ask, please.
Acknowledgement: Thanks to Lyrastar for her invaluable advice and beta! All remaining errors are mine!
McCoy lay on the bed of his small rented apartment, his tired limbs sprawled all over the unattractively patterned blankets. It had been a long day at Starfleet Medical Academy, where they had offered him a temporary lecture position. Since he was available - pulled away by Jim from the research projects that he had started on Dawn's Planet, with no other idea of what to do right now - he had accepted. At least until his - their? - future was decided upon. Jim, hero of the Federation once again, thanks to V'Ger, was raising heaven and hell to get his blasted ship back, and had made Spock and him promise that they would fly with him again, if he succeeded.
No, of course the problem wasn't the Enterprise, but Jim's obsession with her. McCoy had come to know several starship captains in his career, but none had been so absolutely committed to his ship and crew. Unfortunately, this commitment had found no other object when Kirk had been grounded at HQ; instead, it had turned into the obsession he had witnessed during the last crisis.
They all had had to save Jim's ass out there. Of course they had won once again, but this time it hadn't really been Jim's achievement - less than ever before in a mission. Without Decker, they would've been scrambled to pieces long before even meeting V'Ger. Without Spock's stunt of melding with that perfectly logical machine mind, they wouldn't have learned what made it tick. And without Chapel and him in sickbay to put the Vulcan's pieces back together, Spock would never have been able to tell them. Not to speak of Ilia, whose love surpassed the moment when she was turned into a living machine and thus saved them all, because Decker still loved her.
Pretty emotional solution, McCoy thought dryly, wondering how Spock would put together his own pieces now. In sickbay he had been allowed a pretty deep view into the Vulcan's struggle, and although V'Ger obviously had shoved some bricks out of the Kolinahry walls, McCoy was sure that Spock nonetheless had a long way to go.
Still pondering the Vulcan, he was drifting into sleep when the chime disturbed the silence. At first he ignored it, but it rang over and over again, urging him up with its insistence. With a sigh he went to the door, revealing an unexpected visitor.
"Jim! What brings you to this neck of the woods?" McCoy stepped aside, allowing Kirk to pass. When he closed the door, he took in his appearance, instantly noticing that something was wrong with the captain.
"I wanted to talk to you," Kirk said, avoiding his eyes. "We haven't had much time for each other until now…I've never had the chance to tell you how much I appreciated that you were there…"
"Hm-hm," McCoy mumbled, wondering. They had pretty much settled their relationship back to old friends' level, although some bad feelings remained on his side, about the way he was drafted back. Offering superfluous thanks now was unlike Kirk, who usually never had a second thought about decisions once made.
"Any news about the Enterprise?" he inquired, following Kirk into the living room.
"No." Kirk shook his head, still unwilling to fully meet his gaze.
McCoy's concern grew. "Are you heartbroken?" he asked jokingly, when Kirk sank down in one of the small armchairs.
But Kirk shook his head again. "No, Bones. It's something else," he replied seriously.
McCoy sat down opposite to him, trying to read more in the aged façade. Time hadn't been good to Kirk - maybe to none of them. But the main difference was that the former glorious, brilliant smile had vanished. The man who had used all his power and influence in HQ to get back the command of the Enterprise wasn't the man he'd left behind two years ago. What had caused this change? He had heard about Lori and the failed marriage, as well as about the tension in HQ between Morrow and Jim - he still had many contacts in the 'Fleet. But all those things weren't enough in his book to explain this major change…in character? That had to be the answer.
"You're taking tranquilizers," McCoy stated, less a question than a statement.
Kirk at first glared at him as if wanting to deny it; then he slumped into the cushions in silent defeat. "Yes."
"For how long?"
Kirk rubbed his forehead. "Since this thing with Lori...it started near the end. I had problems sleeping, was walking around at night…"
"Pretty usual for you."
"But I didn't have the decks of the Enterprise here, Bones," Kirk said, a bit of pain showing in his face. "She talked me into seeing a doc, and he prescribed some pills. Heck, they were even red. Didn't think they'd do more to me than yours did. But after a few months, I realized they didn't have much effect anymore. So I went there again and and got something else as well."
McCoy frowned. "What exactly are you taking, Jim?"
"Terazin, Bolonite 10..."
Kirk took a deep breath and let the air hiss out. "Occasionally Vigradon."
"You take two kinds of heavy tranquilizers and when your dick won't go up anymore, you throw in Vigradon? Good god, I would've thought you'd be more intelligent, Jim," McCoy growled, concern and irritation a weird mixture in his heart. "And what exactly are you expecting me to do, now that you've tricked me back? Do you think I'll have a quick fix for your little problem and you'll be out having more fun with the chicks again?"
"Bones…" Kirk sighed, briefly burying his face in his hands. Then he lifted his head. "I missed you," he said. "In many ways, Bones. Tell me, would your pride have allowed you to come back to the 'Fleet if I had simply called for you?"
"See? I just had to take that road. I meant what I said, Bones. I need you. Badly." Kirk reached out with his hands, mimicking the movement from two weeks ago.
McCoy glared at him, replying with much more sarcasm than usual, "So that's why you wanted me back? Oh yes, I've seen the moments where you needed me on the bridge. You needed me to play your conscience again, your advisor. Hold your hand, cover your back in critical situations. But you didn't listen to me. The only one you really listened to was Spock. So why don't you go and visit him, see what he does with his new set of basic emotions?"
Kirk raised a hand. "Bones…"
"Spare me your pleas, Jim," McCoy said sharply. "Yeah, I know, it worked once there in the transporter room. But I'll be damned if it works again. I wouldn't be able to look into the mirror again. You've manipulated me, Decker, Nogura… I'm not even sure you weren't part of the reason why Spock came back. You've become the most pushy, arrogant and self-centered bastard I've ever come to know. And now you're trying to keep the Enterprise, by any means. But I'll be damned to be another of those means again."
"Bones, you -"
"I'm not through with you, Jim. I -" McCoy stopped as he saw Kirk wince in his seat, his face paling.
"I'm sorry, Bones. You're completely right, but I…" Kirk stood up. "Bathroom anywhere?"
"Right next to the main door."
Shaking his head, he looked after Kirk's tumbling figure. This wasn't quite the man that had gone through the proverbial wall with his head only two weeks ago. But maybe this was more of the man he'd left behind.
He shook himself out of his reverie and followed Kirk, finding him bent over the toilet seat and shaking in violent spasms. Unable to do anything else, he prepared a fresh towel and a wet cloth and then waited until the worst bout was over.
"You've already stopped taking the drugs, haven't you," McCoy deduced. He helped Kirk into a properly seated position on the floor, then knelt down next to him. His friend's face was as white as the tiles, and his hands were shaking as he took the wet cloth to clean his face.
"Yes, I did. Yesterday. I wanted to get rid of them…be my old self again." Kirk tilted his head back against the wall and closed his eyes.
"Jim, this isn't like giving up coffee," McCoy said in deep concern. "You're addicted to that stuff, and to simply stop taking it will lead to serious withdrawal syndromes. I'll bring you to the nearest hospital."
"No, Bones," Kirk choked. "I can't go there. I'll lose all my chances for command of the Enterprise, if anyone learns about it. They might even court-martial me because I led her into the V'Ger crisis like that. You know that."
Yes, McCoy knew that. Kirk wouldn't ever get a ship back if it the 'Fleet found this out. In fact, his whole career might take a premature, unhappy ending. However…
"Jim, this is really dangerous for your health. And I don't have the proper medicine here to help you."
"You can get it." Kirk opened his eyes fully, and McCoy could see they were tinged yellow around the irises. On his forehead, a thin layer of sweat shimmered in the cool light of the bathroom. "I'm sure you can get them. Bones, help me. Please."
McCoy stood up, his legs shaking. Must be from the reduced blood circulation, he tried telling himself, where in fact he knew that Kirk just had manipulated him into yet another situation where he couldn't say no. Kirk always could do that - he'd simply forgotten that over the last months. But here he was, back again in the old bind of friendship and…whatever. "What about work?"
"I've got some days off."
"Where're your messages going?
"Secretary. I said I'd call in once a day."
"Okay. You stay right here. Next to the toilet. You don't answer my calls. You're not even here."
Kirk nodded weakly.
"I'll go and do some quick research and buy some things. I probably can't get all I need in the pharmacy, which makes things a bit more complicated. But I'll be back in about three hours. Message me if you're in serious trouble. But only then."
Kirk nodded again. "I don't feel like going anywhere anyway," he said weakly.
McCoy dialed the lights down to 50 percent. "Try drinking some water. Take care your stomach isn't empty. I'll get you some salty chips and biscuits and good old Coke."
"Coke? You wanna kill me?"
"You'll soon wish it were only the Coke that wants to kill you, not your own body," McCoy said harshly, not at all in the mood for jokes.
Kirk waved his hand. "I know, Bones. It already feels like that. Sorry. And - thanks."
"See you," McCoy mumbled when he left the bathroom. Minutes later, he stepped out of his apartment on his way to bend some laws.
When he came back, Kirk still sat crouched next to the toilet. He almost looked asleep, but opened his eyes when McCoy peered into the bathroom.
"How often did you throw up?"
"Four times. When it's gonna stop?"
"You've only started. But I bought some useful stuff. Come to the living room with me." He gave Kirk a helping hand.
Slowly they made their way into the other room, "You're not concerned about your upholstery?" Kirk said as he sank down on the couch.
"A, it's not mine. B, I found a big bucket and placed it strategically right next to you."
"You're a perfect nurse, Bones."
"I'm just a stupid doctor who can't let down his former best friend," McCoy muttered to himself as he prepared a first hypo, inaudible to the other one's ears. Falling into more of the old patterns, he stepped behind Kirk and pulled his shirt over his shoulder. The hypo hissed as he pressed it into the skin. "You should be better off in a minute."
"Hope so," Kirk said wearily. "Everything seems to be spinning…it's worse than the worst hangover I've ever had. Almost like severe space sickness." He swallowed hard and hastily bent down to reach for the bucket. But nothing came up, and so he leaned back with a sigh.
McCoy left for the kitchen, where he filled his fridge and prepared some tea. "I brought something to eat," he called over to the living area.
"Eat?" Kirk's voice repeated faintly.
"Yeah. It's much better for your stomach if you eat something. Doesn't matter what. I bought a collection of your favorites. Chocolate, chips, cookies and biscuits, some cheese and sausage, bread…even some mixed pickles." He returned to his friend, a vacuum bottle and two cups in his hands.
"I'm not pregnant, Bones," Kirk protested.
"But you'll be subjected to the same illogical needs, because your body chemistry is going to be out of sync for the next few days." McCoy sat down next to him, pouring the fresh, steaming tea.
"What are we going to do in the meantime?"
McCoy yawned. "I badly need some sleep for now, Jim. You can watch TV, if you feel like, or surf the 'net. Though the 'Fleet databanks aren't connected right now."
"I'm tired, too," Kirk admitted. "Do you have a place for me to sleep, besides this couch?"
McCoy shrugged. "You can share my bed - it's quite large and probably the most comfortable place. Just take the bucket with you, will you?"
When he moved to the bedroom, Jim followed on his heels. Before long, they had settled in on their respective sides and fallen asleep.
At first, McCoy couldn't place the sounds and tried to ignore them, but then he startled out of his sleep. "Jim?" he asked into the darkness, then switched on the light.
Kirk knelt on the floor, bending low over the bucket in spasmodic convulsions. McCoy stood up and knelt down behind him, reaching around Kirk's chest to support him in his uncomfortable position.
"Yeah, spit it out," he said soothingly, holding the shivering body that felt cool and clammy to his touch.
It took several more minutes before Kirk rose from his crouched position and settled back into McCoy's hold. "I'm sorry, Bones," he murmured weakly. "I think I spoiled your floor."
"Easily cleaned," McCoy mumbled, automatically counting the beats of the heart that pounded under his right hand. They were highly accelerated. "Let's get you under the shower."
Together, they made their way through the small apartment, and for a while Kirk looked lucid and well. However, that state had already died by the time he slipped back into bed.
"Bones, god, it's so cold, I'm falling into darkness." He shivered, clutching the blankets to wrap them tighter around himself.
"I'll be with you in a minute, Jim," McCoy said, quickly finishing his cleaning attempts before he sat down beside him.
"Shh, it's alright, Jim," he repeated, and stroked his friend's head. The hair clung to the forehead, its unfamiliar curls still wet from the shower. Increasing his pressure, McCoy massaged the scalp beneath them with his fingertips.
Kirk shifted under the massage, gazing at him through unfocused eyes. "Hold me, Bones. Help me."
"I'm here, Jim." McCoy took hold of Kirk's hands with his other one. "It's gonna be all right soon."
"Don't leave me alone."
"I won't." McCoy said reassuringly, but Kirk's weary gaze still mirrored unbelief.
With a sigh, McCoy sneaked back under the blankets. The material was moist and sweaty, but he ignored it as he tightly gathered the shivering man in his arms. "Won't leave you, Jim. See, I'm here. You'll be better in a day or two. I promise."
"Thanks, Bones. Thank you so much." Kirk's eyes dropped closed in relief as he relaxed into the embrace. "It's already getting better. You're so warm and lively. Hold me…"
McCoy held him close and, after a while, the breathing against his neck slowed down. It would be only a short break in the torturous withdrawal symptoms, but it was needed damned badly by them both. Leaning his chin against Kirk's head, he too fell into an uneasy slumber.
The sleep was short, the pain persistent over the next 24 hours. Kirk went through bouts of fever and cold sweats and frequently threw up, although there was nothing left in his stomach. Between bodily urges and restless sleep, he fell into deep depression in his more lucid moments; unrolling all failed relationships; bemoaning his decision to accept admiralty and his ignorance that made McCoy leave him; incriminating himself for his behavior in the V'Ger crisis and blaming himself for all crewmen who'd ever died or vanished under his command. Only two certain names never came up, which was telling a whole story all in itself.
McCoy, knowing that rational arguments were beyond Kirk at the moment, simply let him talk in the safety of his embrace, replying very little. From time to time, he rose up to give him another dose of substitute, to gather something to drink or to clean the bucket, taking care of Jim in a more intimate way than he had ever done before. Well, that's what friends are for, he thought, as he leaned back against the window sill the next morning, his arms crossed in front of his chest.
Except that what he felt was definitely going beyond friendship's limits right now.
He stared at the sleeping figure. He should've realized it long ago. In fact, a part of him had known it all the time. Obviously he was even better at deceiving himself than Jim was, when it came to feelings. He just had never thought he might fall for a man. One of his oldest friends. One of his best friends. The same old friend who loved someone else, for all he knew.
This was doing no good. No good at all.
"Bones…" Kirk said slurred and rolled over, searching the bed blindly. "Bones!"
McCoy slipped under the covers once more, but this time reluctantly and too aware of the body that molded against his. He lay stiffly as Kirk, shivering, nestled closer, cursing himself when his body reacted to the touch - he should've put on a shirt, but it was so hot under the many layers already that he couldn't bring himself to do it.
For more hours they lay like that, and he drifted into sleep again until something moved in his embrace.
"Bones…" A murmur, barely audible.
"What's up, Jim?" McCoy felt his voice vibrating with a streak of hope that their ordeals soon would be over - Kirk's cold turkey withdrawals and his own, emotional one that he was forcing himself through at the moment.
"Would like to get up…use the bathroom…have a shower."
"No problem. Let me help you." Awkwardly they untangled their limbs, and McCoy stood up first, helping up his friend.
"Lord, I've never felt this weak," Kirk said. He looked pale and strained, and was walking so unsteadily that without McCoy's support he'd probably have crumpled to the floor.
"Oh, seems you've forgotten all about that mission where you drank that supposedly orange juice which was in fact a -"
"Don't remind me!" Kirk said pained. "I'm feeling sick enough without that particular memory. Anyway, I didn't feel that weak for very long."
"It's worth it, Jim," McCoy said, as he jockeyed him through the bathroom door. "You'll be your old self again in no time, not that living mask you've been on the Enterprise."
"Great," Kirk said, weakly attempting a smile, then folded into the shower stall as his legs gave in. "Don't go away, Bones. Shit." He stared at his hands, which began shaking again. "And I thought it was over." Closing his eyes, he sank back against the wall in utter defeat.
"You're almost through with it, Jim. Really. Take a long shower now and then I'll check on you. And after that, you've earned yourself a decent breakfast." McCoy cautiously opened the water outlet and adjusted the temperature. "I'll stay here in case of emergency."
"You might as well come in. You'll get wet anyway."
"True," McCoy said, avoiding Kirk's gaze. His friend definitely wouldn't like the cold shower he'd preferred for himself now.
"I mean it." Weakly Kirk pulled himself into stand. "C'mon, Bones. You're in need of a shower, too." He gave McCoy's moist, saggy pants a telling look. "And bring the shower gel with you."
McCoy gave up. Turning his back to the shower stall, he stripped the worn-out pants and discarded them right into the recycling box. Then he grabbed the gel and joined his friend. The water was warm and refreshing, springing over them like summer rain.
"Gimme some," Kirk said, and held his palm open.
McCoy shook his head. "No, you first. Turn around."
Kirk obeyed dutifully, visibly relieved to have some hand-holds again.
With professional attitude, McCoy distributed a generous load of gel over Kirk's back and arms, massaging it into the wet skin.
"That feels pretty good." Kirk said with a happy sigh, and leaned his forehead against the wet tiles. Spreading his legs into a comfortable stand, he presented his buttocks for further administration.
McCoy hastily distributed the rest of the foam over them and the thighs, then pulled away. This was heading somewhere he didn't want to go. "You can finish by yourself now." Quickly he cleaned the gel off his hands and opened the door of the shower stall.
Kirk turned around and looked at him, puzzled. Between them, the water spilled out of the open stall and bathed the floor.
"What's the problem, Bones?"
"Nothing. I'm just getting claustrophobia," McCoy said. "I'll be outside, if you need me." Determined, he left the shower and closed the sliding door. He began to mop up the wet floor, finishing just at the same time as his friend did in the shower.
Together they went back to the living-room, where Kirk sank down on the couch and stretched his limbs. His towel fell open, revealing a body shining with remaining wetness. "What was that about breakfast, Bones?"
McCoy was already pulling out his tricorder. "In a minute, Jim," he said absently and fixed his gaze at the medical scans, ignoring the enchanting view. But no matter what he checked, the values belied the good image Kirk presented now. There would be at least another long night before the stuff would be out of his system - an unusually cyclic development for a withdrawal, but Bolonite 10 was well-known for its "afterburner" effects. They had been the main reason why it was taken off the market already some months ago; and he didn't even want to ask where Kirk bought it, because he wouldn't be able to hold back on reporting those blasted dealers to the authorities.
With an inward sigh, he closed the tricorder and began cheering up his exhausted friend.
The day went rather quietly, but the night was stressful again, with Kirk tossing around and falling back into depression. Unfortunately, there was nothing McCoy could do for now - the doses of substitutes he had given Kirk over the last few hours had been at the limit of what he estimated to be safe. Maybe he should've asked Christine, but she would've seen right through him in a second, knowing her old boss and modern medicine all too well. Lots of bad luck, all in all, he thought fatalistically when Kirk elbowed him in his side, then sank back into disturbing dreams.
He awoke to the feel of his arm going to sleep with Kirk's body locked around it; but it was the hand on his chest that really caught his attention.
"Jim?" he mumbled sleepily, futilely attempting to grab it. The wrist slipped through his fingers, and the hand wandered further, wrapping around his side with considerable strength to pull him around.
"Jim -" McCoy started, but then Kirk's lips were already sealing his. All words died under the unexpected, erotic assault, and McCoy found himself automatically leaning into the touch, allowing a probing tongue to meet his own for several beautiful moments.
Kirk drew back, his enlarged eyes two smoldering, dark coals in the shady room. "Will, don't go there," he mumbled.
"I won't, Jim," McCoy instinctively murmured in a fair imitation of the young captain. Here it comes, he thought sadly. He'd read it in their interaction in the clash about the wormhole disaster, and it had been all over Decker's features when he had pleaded with Jim to leave him with V'Ger. It must have been one fucked-up relationship, naturally doomed to fail; Will had been Jim's "kid" and protégée, at least before he'd suddenly been given the command of the Enterprise. Intermixing mentorship and sex never worked…
He kept telling himself that when Kirk's hand caressed up and down his back and a pronounced erection pressed against his groin. "Jim, it's alright," he said breathlessly, after having managed to pull back from another deep kiss, "but it's over between us. It's been for a long time."
The touches stopped, fingers freezing on his buttocks. "I didn't want it to end like that," a voice murmured through the darkness. "Seems I can never make it right, can I?" It tore at McCoy to hear the pain and frustration in his friend's voice, but he fought the desire to touch him.
"You can make it right with someone else," he stated more coolly than intended, falling into the distancing mindset of a physician.
"No." All body contact vanished as the dark figure rolled away.
"Sure, Jim," McCoy said insistently, not certain anymore if Kirk was still tied to his dream visions or already realizing who was really talking. "You aren't any worse than anyone else in that respect."
"Leave me along." The figure rolled around further, wrapping itself into the blankets like a child trying to hide from the world. A small sob traveled through the fabric nevertheless, a sound of desperate loneliness.
Devoid of his covers, McCoy remained lying on his back and stared at the gray ceiling, the night's chill creeping into his skin and soul.
He didn't really know how he made it through the night, but in the morning he found himself side by side under the same blanket with a snoring Jim again, their limbs nestled together. His erection was throbbing against the other one's thigh, greedily calling for satiation when his friend moved against it in his sleep.
Hastily he slipped out of bed and went to the bathroom in silence. It was a mad man that met his gaze in the mirror, and it was an ever madder man that jerked off minutes later, splashing his cum right into the toilet. Shakily he cleaned off the last droplets, simply relieved to have gotten over it with only little bother.
When he stepped out again, Kirk was already awake, though obviously not remembering a single word of their conversation during the night. Or at least, he didn't mention it. They had a small breakfast in the living room, after which McCoy took the chance to change the linen while Kirk took a prolonged bath in the small tub, an emergency call button right next to him.
They settled back into bed, a small, invisible, unspoken boundary between them now. Kirk was exhausted enough to fall back into sleep within minutes, but McCoy was much too awake, using his time to checking on his friend with the medical scanner, relieved to see the numbers were slowly coming back to normal levels. He put it away and leaned back into the pillow, staring at the back of the man next to him. Jim was so close…he would be able to reach out and touch him, to caress the soft skin from under the hairline down to the shoulders…to put a kiss in his neck, to tell him that there was someone who cared for him…
He closed his eyes and swallowed hard. This was doing no good. And it would stop right here.
He got out of bed again, donned his bathrobe and was just on his way from the living room to the kitchen when the door chimed. After a moment of inner debate, he opened the main door with a feeling of deja-vu.
"Spock. Come in," he said, and went to the kitchen without even checking to see if the Vulcan followed him. "Might as well make good use of my time, now that I'm up," he murmured and activated the coffee machine. Then he turned around and leaned against the bench, giving Spock a bleary look.
"Why are you here?"
Spock remained in the door, hands clasped behind his back. "I have tried to raise the captain for two days, but to no avail. Then I tried to call you in your office, but the Academy told me you were on sick leave." The Vulcan hesitated for a second. "I may be interfering with your private lives, but is there anything I can do to help?"
"We'll see," McCoy murmured, and rubbed his unshaven chin. The machine uttered a final fizzle that indicated the end of the brewing cycle, and he took a cup to fill it. "You want one too?" he asked Spock, but the Vulcan declined. "Just take a seat in the living room, will you? I'll be with you in a few minutes."
Spock nodded and did as told, while McCoy went back to the bedroom to check on Kirk. And for once, the life signs on the tricorder were in the healthy range, showing that the withdrawal was finally over. It was a real, normal sleep in which his friend lay for now, softly breathing amongst the cushions.
When McCoy returned to the living room, Spock had already taken off his Vulcan robe and was stiffly sitting at the edge of one comfy armchair, his hands laced in his lap. His unreadable eyes were following every one of McCoy's steps on his way to the couch.
McCoy sank down on it and took some big gulps of his coffee before he said, "Jim was having a bit of a rough time, health-wise. That's the short version and about all that I can tell you."
Spock raised a brow.
"I don't think you want a thorough report on his puking, do you?" McCoy added caustically.
The Vulcan pondered his words for a moment, then asked once more, "Can I be of help?"
"That depends on you, Spock," McCoy said slowly. "He's hurting. He didn't let on, for it's not in his character, but he's hurting."
"And what should I do to remedy this?"
"Spock…" McCoy shook his head, remembering just how limited the Vulcan could be when it came to emotions. "You loved him once, Spock, but you couldn't work it out, right? And now you come back and clasp his hand in sickbay, and talk about 'this simple feeling'. Does it mean what it sounds it might mean?"
He fully expected a Vulcan rebuff, but none came. Instead, Spock slightly hung his head.
"If you are…referring to feelings, yes, it meant…it was a declaration of affection."
"Love's the word, Spock. And what are you going to do about it?"
Spock locked his gaze firmly at the floor when he answered, "I assume you are asking me if I am considering developing the friendship between the captain and me to another level?"
"I'm damn well asking that, Spock," McCoy blurred out. "He can't live all alone - he can't live without you, you pointy-eared, cold-blooded, emotion-purging computer! Didn't you see it, right there on the bridge? So what are you gonna do about it?"
The Vulcan raised his head. "I…do not know. I, personally, am fully satisfied with my actual situation. The mere…feelings have always been there, and I can accept them now for what they are, but I do not feel the need to indulge in physical activities. It is simply not part of me."
McCoy snorted. "I would believe you if I hadn't seen it happen all too often. Of course -" he raised his hand to stop Spock from interrupting him "- mostly under some alien influence. But deep down in your oh-so-controlled Vulcan shell, there is a being that craves being close to someone, both mentally *and* physically."
"Mentally, yes. But physically…" Spock began looking almost helplessly. "I have never been interested in sexuality, doctor, and the Pon Farr was something I suppressed as quickly as possible. Today, the Kolinahr disciplines give me the means to live through it without ever needing a partner, and I fully intend to do that."
"And what about Jim? He doesn't need someone who's only into mind melds," McCoy stated sharply. "He needs something more, and you know that. Why don't you even try, Spock?"
Once more, Spock lowered his gaze, avoiding McCoy's eyes. "I…we did try. It did not work," he said quietly.
McCoy was stunned…then he began adding two and two and got five as answer. "So that's why you left! But the night wasn't without side effects, was it? You *are* connected! It was him who called you back!"
"No," Spock shook his head. "There was only a kind of mental filament, which was removed in Gol."
Intense, cold anger flared in McCoy. "So you got rid of him. Did he want that? Did you ask him? No wonder he thinks that he's always failing in relationships." Only silence answered. "Spock, you're the cruelest creature on this side of the moon," McCoy choked as he went up. "I need a break." He turned to leave, but there was the Vulcan, faster than ever, clamping one iron hand around his wrist.
"I am what I am, doctor," Spock stated, his blazing eyes belying his controlled voice. "I still do not fit into your human world view, less than ever. I did what I had to do, and I would do it again. But you, doctor, have you ever analyzed your own motives?"
"Mine?" McCoy frowned.
"Is old friendship the only reason why you are pleading the Jim's case now? Or did it transcend into something you do not want to admit to yourself?"
McCoy took a deep breath. "Get your hands off me," he said, dangerously slowly. The grip loosened, but remained on his arm.
"I only speak of something I have thought for many years. The captain has not left you unaffected either."
"Jim Kirk leaves nobody unaffected," McCoy said bluntly. "And you're still hurting me."
"I demand an answer, doctor," Spock stated. "You've been neither a liar nor a bad psychologist in the past, so I would appreciate your professional opinion on the matter."
"Alright. Yes. Maybe I *do* feel attracted to him," McCoy admitted, "but it doesn't matter, Spock. I'm his physician and his advisor, and both positions prohibit any other kind of relationship."
Spock raised a brow. "I see. So that is why you would rather…give him to me?"
McCoy sighed. "This isn't about me giving or taking anything, Spock. I think he wants you, and so I'd be happy if he got you. Why don't you give him and yourself a second chance?"
He froze as a door open behind him; Spock's hand dropped from his arm, leaving him free to turn to a pale Jim Kirk, who shakily stood in the door frame.
"Guess you've got some things to talk about," McCoy said, and gave Jim a short nod. "I'll take a shower." He vanished into the bathroom without looking back.
It was probably the longest shower in his life, but he didn't feel like ever stepping out again. He soaped his hair and body several times, each time cherishing the view of the white foam swirling away in a maelstrom. And when there was really nothing to scrub anymore, the skin cleaned so thoroughly that it almost hurt, he still remained under the steady flow of hot water, listening to the drowning sound of thousands of droplets on his head with eyes closed. It was more than just a physical purging; in the end he left the stall ready to face reality, whichever way it looked like. He could only hope Spock had made good use of his second chance.
Wrapping his body into the bathrobe, he took a deep breath before entering the living room. His friends sat on the couch, hastily unlacing their fingers upon his reappearance.
"I'll have another coffee," McCoy murmured and went right into the kitchen. It was Kirk who followed him, shedding him an unsure smile.
"You don't have to explain anything, Jim. It's written all over your face," McCoy said amiably and concentrated on pouring another coffee. "And I'm damn glad about it."
"Well, then…am I alright now?" Kirk asked, wearily circling around him. "It feels like it."
"Yes, Jim," McCoy replied, avoiding the gaze that rested on him by searching for a spoon in the depths of the drawer. "You're through with it. Clean as a mountain spring. No need to stay here and keep me from sleeping."
Only now he looked up fully. Their eyes met, and after a long moment Kirk nodded slowly. "Thanks for everything, Bones." He reached out and gently squeezed his upper arm.
"Better see that you get ready," McCoy said roughly, and took a bottle of milk out of the fridge with a shaky grip. He sniffed as an all too well-known smell rose from it. "Damn, it's sour." Annoyed about himself and 22nd century science, which still couldn't prevent milk from spoiling, he threw the bottle into the recycler. When he looked up again, Kirk had already left the room.
He took his time with the new bottle, watching the dance of colors as the white cream merged with the coffee before he returned to the living-room, the cup in his hand. Spock stood at the main window and looked outside, a quiet statuette of darkness against the sunlight. From the bedroom, there came the sound of rustling clothes.
"Thanks for doing the right thing, Spock," McCoy murmured as he drew close to him. The coffee swashed against the cup's wall, and a few droplets escaped it, dripping over his fingers. He gathered them with his other hand, distributing the liquid until it was only a hint of wetness on his skin.
"I have to thank you, Doctor." The Vulcan gave him a sideward glance.
McCoy chuckled quietly. "To ever hear those words from you…" He lifted his gaze from the cup, drilling it into Spock's eyes. "If you make him unhappy, I'll break every single of your Vulcan bones," he said pointedly.
"I would expect nothing less from you, Doctor," Spock replied seriously.
"Conspiring against me?" Kirk's voice came from behind, making them both spin around.
"Never," the Vulcan said.
"Always," McCoy drawled.
Kirk laughed, and although it didn't yet sound like old times, it sounded better than it had the last weeks. Soon, the withdrawal would be just a small intermezzo, memories diminishing in the light of this evolving relationship.
Moments later, the apartment was empty and McCoy as alone as he had been three days ago. He put the coffee aside and poured himself a drink, then went back to the window, raising his glass when he saw his friends walking down the street. "Here's to love," he said softly, and downed it all.
Kirk opened his eyes, meeting Spock's. Warm fingers left almost painful spots along his chin as they were withdrawn. The room was already shady, the sun going down over the beach of San Francisco where the whales had found a new home three weeks ago.
"Why didn't he ever tell…?" he asked in disbelief. "All those years, he didn't drop a single word about it."
"He made his decision that day, for our best interests."
"In his opinion, at least." Kirk glared at his lover.
Spock leaned back in his chair and laced his fingers. "At that time, would you have been able to return his feelings?"
"Maybe…I don't know," Kirk said defensively. Then, after a moment of silence, he sighed. "No, not like that. He'd always been a valuable friend and mentor to me, and that's why I called for him in the crisis. I needed him, but not… in that way. I don't think I would've been able to cope if he'd told me."
Spock nodded serenely. "And today?"
Kirk stood up and went to the picture front of his apartment. He walked a few steps up and down in front of it, although he already knew the answer. Finally he stared into the darkening sky and said quietly, "Today, it's different. I don't know why - perhaps because I learned that he's become such an important part of my life. When he was falling apart after your death, it was like losing my family."
He took a deep breath. "No, not only losing my family. I was losing another part of me. First you, than him. God, he's been on my side for so long, and ever since V'ger. There was barely a day I didn't talk to him or send him a note. It really hurts me to learn now that all the time, it was his way of loving me. I've never thought about why he stayed - I've just taken him for granted."
He turned around, facing Spock. "Can you live with that?" he asked, his throat dry. Then suddenly, it dawned on him. "You've shown me that memory because…you need him, too?"
Spock dropped his gaze and, after a moment of silence, answered, "I don't know if I can explain it, Jim. I feel incomplete…alienated of myself, ever since the Fal-Tor-Pan. At first I had anticipated that this feeling would diminish with time, later I had hoped it would by renewing our relationship. But even when I am with you, it remains." He looked up, encountering Kirk's thoughtful gaze. "And I assume it is the same for him."
Kirk tilted his head and rubbed his chin. "I could call him, invite him over. But we'd better be sure about it, Spock. If this doesn't work…"
The Vulcan simply held his gaze; obviously, he had already said all that he felt compelled to.
With a final nod, Kirk went to his comm. station. The connection opened instantly, displaying their friend's surprised face.
"Uh, Jim, this is really a bad moment to call, I was just about to make an important call myself," McCoy said.
"This'll take just a moment, Bones," Kirk said soothingly. "Spock and I have found out we have to talk about some things…the three of us. Would you come over for dinner?"
McCoy frowned. "Tonight? That's very short notice."
"Or tomorrow, if that fits better in your schedule."
Kirk could see an unspoken battle raging in McCoy's features, and he began wondering why. Although they had met only a few times over the last weeks, such an invitation wasn't all that unusual either. In sudden concern, he leaned forward. "Bones - is everything alright?"
"Yes, it's just…yeah, just a bit unexpected," McCoy murmured. "I …" He stopped and blew out some air. "Well, Jim, I don't think I -"
Behind his back, Kirk could feel a faint movement. Seconds later, Spock stood at his side.
"Leonard," he said more softly than Kirk had ever heard him talking to McCoy. "It is really very important."
McCoy stared for so long at the Vulcan that Kirk wondered what was going on between the two. Finally, the doctor's frown vanished. "I understand," he said, suddenly all business-like. "I'll be there tonight. 1900?"
"That's great, Bones," Kirk said. McCoy switched off the line, leaving them in front of the dark screen.
"What was that, Spock?" Kirk asked curiously.
"I'm not entirely sure myself," Spock admitted, but without further elaboration.
"Okay…" Kirk stood up, stretching his limbs. "So now that we've made the date, we should think about the meal…and the rest of the evening." There was a little bit of doubt in his voice.
"I presume that whatever comes after it will evolve most naturally," Spock said reassuringly.
"Yet another homecoming for us all?" Kirk murmured as he leaned at him, placing his hand flat against his lover's chest. "I hope it's as easy as you think it is. But you've been in his head - I haven't."
"Exactly," Spock agreed, determined to use their unexpected, second chance fully this time. There wasn't likely to be another one ever.
On the other side of the beach, McCoy sat in front of his console, his chin resting on his palms, eyes closed. He could still feel the wondrous band of thoughts that connected him to a mind that was not his, but was too close to him to ignore, conveying to him their true intention. And he could still see Jim's smile, the lips offering an invitation that he had not really expected to come at any time in his life, and surely not now when he was about to move into a different direction.
He opened his eyes and let his hands sink down, watching their aged skin as he flexed them, one after the other. Still a surgeon's hands, Emony's voice seemed to tell him.
A new start, so late? Would it work out?
He pondered his options half-heartily, knowing already that he couldn't dismiss that special call. They were too close to him, first the one, then the other. He wouldn't, couldn't really go on living without them.
Determined he reached for the comm., finally ready to prepare his message.
"Hello Natira, my dear. I've thought about your generous offer, long and hard, but I can't return to Yonada…"
Challenge 129.: Kirk accidentally becomes addicted to something and McCoy has to help him over it, revealing his own feelings for the captain.