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We finally have internet again (yay!), although I spent most of the day on the road and am way too tired to do anything but leave this here; it will remain technically unfinished until morning, at which point I will not only edit and finish it but send off beta'd stories to the three people who are waiting for a response. (Sorry for the delay, guys!) I was kind of anxious to get this up so I can get back to "Heal Thyself," which has mutated from a five-part complete story to a five-part prologue to another story wherein Spock and McCoy steal the Galileo (with Kirk's tacit permission) and take off on a renegade mission to save the universe save Spock's mommy spread the spirit of free manlove.

Anyway. Story. And then: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

TITLE: Satisfactory
CHARACTERS: Spock/McCoy
NOTES: This was posted in part on [livejournal.com profile] st_xi_kink as Some Observations on Opposition in Human-Vulcan Relations, but the comment limit maxed out and along the way I had a better idea for a title and an ending. Although the original request was for antics and/or porn after Spock learns that McCoy Prime carried around Spock Prime's katra for a while, this is neither particularly humorous nor particularly smutty. It has Spock POV, though?
SUMMARY: Advancing a relationship with Leonard McCoy only seems logical, particularly after Spock hears that the good doctor carried his katra in another life.


"There is no higher praise then 'satisfactory.'"

Surak's Analects


-


Spock first becomes suspicious of the captain approximately thirty-seven standard days after the Enterprise leaves Earth on her five-year mission. They are playing chess, an occurrence which now takes place four-point-two times on average per ten-day period. As has become customary, Doctor McCoy has joined them in the officers' lounge. Although the doctor does not himself play chess, Captain Kirk continually insists on his presence; Spock suspects that the captain merely likes having an audience, although he would never voice such a thought aloud.

Spock has just laid the foundation for a modified flanking maneuver, which logic suggests will lead to a victory in his favor with no more than thirteen moves, when the captain yawns in an exaggerated manner. Within the next three minutes, he yawns twice more, and after Spock captures both of his rooks consecutively he stretches both arms behind his back.

"Spock, I'm beat," he says. "Bones, care to take over for me?"

The doctor looks up from contemplating his flask, which Spock suspects is filled with alcohol—likely of the variety known as bourbon. "Dammit, Jim," he says, "if I've told you once I've told you a thousand times: I. Don't. Play. Chess."

The captain ignores the doctor's protestations with cheerful nonchalance. "Shove it, Bones, I caught you playing with Gaila that one time back at the Academy. You're probably not a match for Spock, but at least he won't be left without a partner."

The doctor scowls, a response Spock has come to anticipate any time an individual suggests the superiority of Spock in particular or Vulcans in general. "Dammit, Jim," he mutters again, but when the captain stands up, McCoy takes the place across from Spock with alacrity.

The doctor loses his queen, a knight, and three pawns to Spock in succession, but whatever Spock thinks of McCoy's skill as a physician or his puzzling personality, the one trait he has never seen lacking in the other man is stubbornness. However, after Spock captures his third pawn, the doctor takes a drink from his flask.

Spock often shares his observations with Captain Kirk during their games; it would seem appropriate to do the same with McCoy. "I have never understood the human propensity for 'social drinking,' or indeed, imbibing alcohol of any sort," he says.

"That," the doctor informs him, "is because you're a goddamn bastard with copper for blood, and you wouldn't know good whiskey if it bit you in the ass."

"I fail to understand what my parentage has to do with my inability to appreciate ethanol," Spock says, "although your reference to the copper mellatoproteins in my bloodstream is essentially correct, as they impede my ability to become inebriated on human intoxicants. Checkmate."

"Why you pointy-eared jackass," McCoy says, and exits the room forcefully enough that his chair falls over.

Spock blinks.


-


The captain acts suspiciously once again five days later, when he and Spock are scheduled to meet with Doctor McCoy to review the bridge crew's psychological evaluations. Spock waits alone in the CMO's office, but the doctor himself does not appear until five minutes after they are due to start, and the captain remains conspicuously absent.

"Jim Kirk," McCoy snarls, and pulls out his desk chair. It skids and slams into the bulkhead; Spock wonders if the doctor has a propensity for violence against furniture. It would not be the most irrational inclination he has noted in this particular human.

The doctor takes his seat and pulls up a dossier on the viewscreen. Spock says, "Am I to understand that Captain Kirk will not be joining us?"

"No he won't be joining us," the doctor snarls. "He claims to have come down with a case of Tellarian syphilis, which I know is damn near impossible, since I've vaccinated him against every STD known to God and since Tellarian syphilis isn't even a disease. The man won't let me into his cabin."

"Most unusual," Spock comments. "Does he require any assistance?"

"If Jim Kirk requires assistance, he can damn well give it to himself." The Doctor yanks open a drawer with undue violence and produces a stack of data wafers. "Now. Have you noticed that Chekov's a bit twitchy lately?"

"I believe that is due to difficulties in his relationship with Mr. Sulu," Spock says. He had overhead the navigator talking with Mr. Scott two days earlier; Sulu, although less inclined to exhibit any sign of personal duress while on-duty, had averaged twelve hours more in the flight simulator than was typical for him in a week.

"Vulcan know-it-all," McCoy mutters.

"Doctor," Spock says, and hesitates. He is unsure how to address the situation, but it seems unlikely that McCoy will cease to display animosity of his own will. "If there is something I have done to impede our working relationship—"

"Yeah, there's something you've done," McCoy drawls. Fascinating, Spock thinks. As the doctor becomes increasingly irritated, his accent becomes more pronounced. "Let's start with how you marooned my best friend on an iceball for being the only one with the balls to stand up to you—"

"Pardon me, Doctor, but my actions were appropriate for the time at hand—"

"The hell they were!" The doctor emphasizes his shout by slamming a hand against his desk. "And you've already as good as apologized to Jim, so why the hell can't you acknowledge that you made a mistake? That's why I don't like you, for starters, and I may tolerate you for Jim's sake—"

"Perhaps we should wait until the captain is well to continue this meeting," Spock says, not without a certain stiffness.

"Well, aren't you above your raising," the doctor answers. Spock is unable to make sense of this remark; a withdrawal seems advisable.

"Good night, Doctor," Spock says—there is, perhaps, an illogical sharpness to his tone—and leaves.

He later discovers that the captain does not have Tellarian syphilis, nor any form of syphilis whatsoever.


-


Captain Kirk attempts to pair Spock with the doctor yet again when the Enterprise docks at Ardana for shore leave. The captain insists that he, Spock, and Doctor McCoy take a tour of Stratos in order to appreciate integration between the City-dwellers and the Troglytes; however, when it comes time for their party to beam down to the planet, the captain does not make an appearance.

Spock waits to one side of the transporter room. He trades a cordial nod with Nyota as she passes on Mr. Scott's arm, and she smiles at him. Although they are no longer lovers, they are still close friends; she remains the only other who shares his interest in the phonological evolution of Vulcanoid languages. Doctor McCoy stands across the room from Spock. They do not make eye contact.

The captain finally arrives, and as ever, he is ready with an excuse. "Spock, Bones, sorry I'm late—something came up, though, so the two of you go on without me—"

Twice is enough for Spock to become suspicious; three times is enough to confirm his suspicions, and he has never seen the logic in avoiding a confrontation.

Apparently McCoy agrees with him, however, because the doctor says, "Dammit, Jim, what's this about?"

The captain's face contorts into an expression Spock cannot identify, and he says, "What do you mean?"

Spock decides to intervene. "Captain—"

"Call me Jim," the captain interjects, as he always does.

"Captain, this is the third time you have attempted to put Doctor McCoy and myself in an isolated situation. Although I cannot discern your motives, your actions point to a clear pattern. An explanation would be most appreciated."

"What he said," the doctor adds, unnecessarily in Spock's opinion.

"You know," the captain says, and his face takes on a crafty look. "I just thought it'd be nice for the two of you to get a chance to know each other."

"Jim," the doctor says. "Where the hell did you ever get the confounded idea that Spock and I want to get to know each other? Was it the arguing, maybe? No, let me guess—the way he constantly pisses me off must have given you the bright idea that we needed to bond, is that it?"

"Hey, now, the two of you are my best friends—"

"And you should count yourself damn lucky that we care enough about you to play nice in your presence," Doctor McCoy says.

The captain shifts his weight. "I do have a reason for thinking the two of you should get along..."

"Sure you do," the doctor says. "Care to share, Jim?"

The captain looks around; the ensign at the controls is watching the discussion with wide eyes, and the captain signals her to leave. "Dismissed, Ensign."

"Yes, Captain!" she replies, salutes neatly, and exits the room.

"Captain?" Spock says.

The captain folds his arms across his chest and then unfolds them again—a sign of anxiety. "Bones, this is probably something I ought to tell Spock first..."

"Jim." The doctor's voice is nearly a growl.

"You guys know that I ran into Spock on Delta Vega, right? Not you, Spock, but Spock from the—other timeline."

"Yes, Captain," Spock says. The doctor glares.

"Well," the captain says, and his face brightens, "turns out you two were...friendly...in the future."

"Friendly," the doctor says. He reminds Spock, at times, of a wild sehlat, and although his disbelief mirrors Spock's own, Spock cannot imagine himself being 'friends' with such a disagreeable individual.

"Hey!" The captain holds up his hands, palms turned outward. "It's true! You even carried around Spock's katra for a while when he was dead."

"His what?" McCoy says, but Spock has little thought to spare for the doctor's confusion.

"Excuse me, Captain, but I find it highly improbable that I would entrust my essence to Doctor McCoy."

The captain shrugs. "Call yourself up at the Vulcan settlement if you don't believe me, Spock. You came back from the dead, too, but while you were out of it..."

"What?" the doctor says.

Spock narrows his eyes. "I think, Captain, since you yourself have other obligations, I will excuse myself from today's activities."

"Sure, Spock," the captain says, but beneath his agreeableness is the defiant determination Spock first encountered at the Kobayashi Maru.

"What?" says the doctor.


-


After several days of reflection, Spock requests further details from the captain.

"You were dying," Captain Kirk tells him. "And you transferred your katra to Bones, and then he when half-batshit himself while he was carrying you around in his head. You got better," the captain adds, as if this is explanation enough.

"You speak as if you have firsthand knowledge of my...of the events," Spock says.

The captain shrugs. "I told you he did a mind-meld with me. Some of this stuff must have leaked through."

"Leaked...through?"

"Would you like it better if I said that the synoptic connection caused a residual psionic overflow?" the captain asks.

Spock blinks. "That is more correct." Reminders of the captain's knowledge—or at least of his knowledge outside of the tactical and command arenas—always strike Spock as incongruous.

"Yep," the captain says, and, disconcertingly, claps Spock on the back. As the captain seems well aware of Spock's distaste for casual physical contact, the only assumption Spock can make is that the captain continues the backslaps precisely because he knows that Spock finds them disconcerting. "Just think about it, Spock. The two of you seemed pretty close, if you know what I mean."

"Yes, Captain," Spock answers, although he is not at all certain he does know what the captain means.

He takes to covertly observing Doctor McCoy. Although he frequently finds himself disagreeing with McCoy, the captain has made it clear that in the alternate timeline, Spock enjoyed a much closer relationship with the doctor; there is no reason to believe that a similar dynamic could not develop in the present.

Spock already knows that the doctor is well-liked by the crew. He serves not only as primary physician but also as counselor, and part of his duty includes keeping watch on the psychological well-being of the ship's inhabitants. For that reason alone it is McCoy's duty to appear approachable, and the crew members must find him so, although privately Spock would not have thought that a gruff manner would contribute to accessibility.

However, as he turns his attention to the doctor, he finds that McCoy does indeed make himself available for even the least of problems. When Chekov expresses self-doubt after failing to rescue—certain persons from a planetary incident, McCoy makes himself available after-hours with a bottle of Stolichnaya vodka. When Lieutenant Nored exhibits signs of depression after discovering her fiancee's duplicity, McCoy bullies the captain into taking on supplies at the Alpha Centauri colony, thereby giving the lieutenant an opportunity to visit her brothers. When Ensign Rizzo is attacked by a dikironium cloud creature, McCoy stays up for fifty-three hours straight, performing emergency blood transfusions and tweaking cordrazine injections; not until the ensign's vital signs stabilize does the doctor give in to his exhaustion. Spock has never before seen a human constitution withstand so many days with so little rest, although Doctor McCoy retreats to his cabin, presumably to sleep, for the four days following, leaving the sickbay in Doctor M'Benga's capable hands.


-


Hands. As his observation progresses, Spock finds his attention increasingly captured by McCoy's hands. They are broad hands, but long-fingered, competent and strong and sensitive as a good surgeon's should be. Possibly Spock's Vulcan heritage causes him to take more note of a person's hands than other species would understand; however, it is difficult to not notice the doctor's hands, for he uses them incessantly to punctuate his speech. One day the doctor is roaming the bridge, as he is wont to do, sharing some convoluted story involving an unnamed vice admiral and a humanoid robot. At the end of the story the captain and the doctor both burst into laughter, startling Spock from his stillness; he finds that he has spent the past two-point-six minutes watching the doctor's hands sketch figures in the air.

To center himself, he begins that evening to go over the crew's psychological reviews. Although Spock has reminded the captain on a daily basis of the need to complete the paperwork, the captain has evaded all of Spock's attempts to make him do so. Spock clears Uhura for service, and then Yeoman Rand; the next record he pulls up on the screen, though, is for McCoy, Leonard H.

McCoy's dossier gives the impression of a gifted, innovative young doctor who gave up his practice to sign on with Starfleet. Later, the file notes that his enlistment closely coincided with the conclusion of his wife's suit for divorce. The doctor's educational record is nearly as lengthy as Spock's own—a Goldwater scholarship for his work as an undergraduate in pathology, a degree with honors from the University of Mississippi School of Medicine, a fellowship for research at Cornell, a Wolf Prize for developing a procedure to graft neural tissue to the cerebral cortex—but after his year of research, the doctor chose to return to Georgia and set up a private practice of his own. Although Spock finds abandoning a promising career in biomedical research problematic, he understands that some humans prefer to concentrate on their personal lives over their professional ones, and the doctor's return to Georgia agrees approximately with the date of his daughter's birth.

So. Spock turns off his terminal and steeples his hands. He now understands the doctor to be both surprisingly intelligent and surpassingly compassionate; to care deeply for his offspring; to perform his job with the utmost dedication; to possess unexpected insight and the ability to make keen leaps in reasoning of the sort referred to by humans as "intuition;" and to appreciate the delight of research and the beauty of a purely intellectual problem. Spock admires all of these traits, and, when taken with the captain's machinations and the degree of intimacy implied when he had (or will have) entrusted his katra to the doctor, the only logical conclusion Spock can make is that he and McCoy could (or will) be very good friends indeed, and possibly closer yet.

There is, however, one problem:

The doctor persists in disagreeing with Spock.


-


Spock spends some time in preparation before he approaches the doctor. He speaks with several of the doctor's closer acquaintances to gather information on his leisure activities ("Paperwork?" "Bitching?" "Baiting you, Spock, why else do think he turns up at our chess games?"), and generates a short list of shared activities (eating, preventing the captain from harming himself through reckless means, arguing—Spock would never admit that he enjoys their debates, but neither, he suspects, would the doctor).

He goes to sickbay at a time carefully calculated to correspond with a variety of favorable factors (the end of McCoy's shift, his dietary habits, the general well-being of the crew), and finds McCoy sorting through a shipment of hyposprays. Nurse Chapel gives Spock a lingering glance; he is unable to deduce if she is xenophobic or merely infatuated, and notes that he will have to ask the captain for further data on human courtship rituals. The idea has merit—more information will not only be useful for dealing with unwanted advances, but also for advancing his own relationship with the doctor, should their friendship progress to that point.

"Doctor McCoy," he says, and clasps his hands behind his back.

"Hi, Commander," the doctor says, and as Spock anticipated, his tone is unusually genial. "Did Jim send you down here?"

"He did not," Spock says. "I am here for a personal reason, Doctor."

"Oh, yeah?" the doctor says. "What's that?"

Spock chooses his words carefully. "I have observed, Doctor, that you frequently imbibe alcohol with your evening meal—"

The doctor's eyebrows shoot up. "Are you implying something, Spock?"

"No," Spock says. "I merely wish to inquire if—"

"Because if you are, you'd better come out and say it."

"I am implying nothing, Doctor, except that I have obtained a bottle of Saurian brandy—"

The doctor shuts his medical cabinet and crowds uncomfortably close to Spock. "Look here, you tee-totaling grinch—"

Spock, privately, begins to feel frustration. "Doctor," he says, "I am only trying to ask you to dinner."

The doctor bites down on his tongue with such force that Spock fears for his blood vessels. "...You're what?"

"I would like to dine with you this evening, Doctor."

The doctor stares, and then his face contorts into a scowl. The honesty and strength of his feeling is curiously attractive. "You can tell Jim," he says, "to stick it in his ear." He pushes past Spock and disappears into his office.

From across the room, Nurse Chapel gives Spock an expression of sympathy.

That, or lust; Spock cannot be certain.


-


Following his...strategic retreat, Spock goes to the captain for advice.

"This isn't about me, is it?," the captain says, when Spock inquires about human socialization rituals with application to courtship.

"No, Captain," Spock says.

"Good! Good," the captain says. "Not that I don't like you Spock, you're pretty attractive...but I like women, if you know what I mean."

"Yes, Captain," Spock says, unsure how anyone who has met Jim Kirk can not know what he means.

"Is this about Bones?"

"Yes, Captain," Spock repeats.

"You picked up on that, huh?"

"Yes, Captain," Spock says for a third time, and refrains from further comment; the captain can be subtle, when he so chooses. Perhaps.

"Okay. Here's the thing about Bones," the captain says. "He's not half as crotchety as he'd like you to think. You have to approach him about a neutral subject and engage his curiosity. If he tries to drag the conversation into an argument, cut him off—"

"Forgive me," Spock says, "but you seem to be treating this like a military skirmish."

"Yeah, okay. I guess you could always do what I do."

"And what is that, Captain?"

The captain frowns. "I don't actually know, but"—his face brightens—"I never have a problem getting laid."

"I had hoped to further our...platonic association, prior to—"

"Nah, you'd be better off if you just go in with your guns blazing. For such a smart guy, Bones can be kinda dense sometimes. Want me to talk to him for you?"

It is a measure of Spock's frustration at the undertaking that he actually considers the captain's offer for a brief moment. "No, thank you," he says.

"Did you try asking him to dinner?"

"Yes," Spock says. "That encounter ended with the doctor requesting that I tell you to, I quote, 'stick it in your ear.'"

"Ah. Alright. And the chess thing didn't exactly work out, I take it..."

"Doctor McCoy neither enjoys nor is particularly talented at chess."

The captain slouches in his chair. "That can't be right. He's actually a pretty decent player when you catch him in the right mood. It must be something you're doing."

"Thank you, Captain," Spock says, with asperity.

"No offense, or anything. Actually, you're more determined about this whole thing with Bones than I thought you'd be." The captain narrows his eyes. "Hey, you aren't..."

"Excuse me," Spock says, and stands up. "I believe it is time for gamma shift to go on-duty. Your help is appreciated, Captain."

"Sure, Spock," the captain says. "And maybe I can put a word in Bones' ear for you!"

No thank you, Spock does not say before he leaves.


-


They find a common point over, of all topics, music. Spock stops by sickbay after his shift to inquire after Ensign Ricardo and his broken leg, but he finds the suite deserted except for Doctor McCoy—no patients, no nurses, not even another doctor sorting through records. The door that leads from the main bay to the CMO's office is propped open with an archaic wastebasket, and the strains of unfamiliar music are drifting from the doctor's terminal.

Spock pauses just inside the door. McCoy is slumped back in his chair, staring at the ceiling. "Doctor, am I interrupting you?"

"Jesus!" The doctor jumps in his chair, and his elbow collides with the desk. "Commander, you just about scared the living daylights out of me."

"I apologize," Spock says. "Would you like me to..."

"No, come in. I was just thinkin'."

Spock moves beside the chair positioned in front of the doctor's desk, and sits down at McCoy's gesture. "May I ask what type of music this is?"

The doctor, disarmingly, smiles, wide and completely free of his usual disgruntled edge. "Blues, Spock. B.B. King."

"The chord progression is most unusual. I can ascertain no predictable pattern." And yet, as he listens, the music reveals a curious sensibility of its own: Lazy and urgent at turns, but also wildly evolving in a way Spock associates with Doctor McCoy himself.

The doctor taps his fingers against the desk and smiles again. "I hadn't taken you the type to appreciate music."

"To the contrary, Doctor," Spock says. "I myself play the ka'athyra."

"That's a sort of lute, isn't it? I'm not a musician myself, but I like to think I know a good thing when I hear it."

"Indeed," Spock says. "It is largely unlike blues, however, particularly since it is turned to a diatonic scale."

"I'd like to hear you play sometime," the doctor says, startling Spock. He must startle himself, too, because he shifts in his chair. "Well, I'm due to meet Scotty for a drink in the rec room—"

"Of course, Doctor."

"—Would you like to come?"

Fascinating, Spock thinks, and stands. "No, Doctor, but thank you for the invitation. Please convey my regards to Mr. Scott."

"Sure thing," the doctor says. "And Spock?" he says. Spock pauses in the doorway. "Nice talking to you."

Spock nods once, and walks away both satisfied and perplexed.


-


Unfortunately, the captain does reach Doctor McCoy before Spock can further amend his plan of action. Deductive reasoning leads Spock to this conclusion. The captain 1) is wearing an expression that even Spock can recognize as guilty when Spock meets him for breakfast, which causes Spock to believe that 2) the captain has done something he believes Spock will find reprehensible. In addition, the captain 3) cuts himself off when he mentions the doctor while 4) furtively avoiding Spock's gaze. These signals lead Spock to believe 1) that the captain did indeed confront Doctor McCoy about Spock's overtures at friendship and 2) that the confrontation did not turn out in either Spock's or the captain's favor.

Of course, perhaps the best clue is that the doctor himself corners Spock in an empty laboratory and proceeds to, as the Earth idiom goes, dress him down.

"What the hell does Jim mean," McCoy says, flatly. "You're trying to court me, based on some idiotic Vulcan thing that happens a century in the future and an timeline to the left? If that entire universe jumped off a bridge, would you follow?"

"Your analogy does not make sense, and I am attempting to further our acquaintanceship," Spock corrects. "I do not believe you understand the degree of intimacy implied by entrusting one's katra to—"

"The hell I don't!" the doctor says. "Nobody understands you goddamn Vulcans, always keeping your mouths shut about everything, and Jim specifically used the word 'courting.'"

Spock hesitates. "Very well, Doctor. I am indeed attempting to further our acquaintanceship with the possible aim of a future...partnership, although"—he can't resist noting—"I have wondered increasingly at my motives for doing so."

"And what in God's name are those?" The doctor's hand is alarmingly close to a set of ceramic crucibles.

"I assure you, Doctor, my motives are entirely logical." And yet again he hesitates. "After careful observation, I have concluded that we share many of the same characteristics and interests, yet possess enough diversity in experience and opinion to still challenge one another. I respect your skill and believe that we could collaborate fruitfully on research—"

"Spock," the doctor says, and his voice is suddenly, frighteningly quiet. "Why me?"

A third time, Spock hesitates. "I have already alluded, Doctor, to the intimacy required between two minds for—"

"Yeah," the doctor says, and scrubs at his face with both hands; when he lowers his arms, his expression is possessed of an almost Vulcan smoothness. "Mr. Spock," he says, in the tone of voice he reserves for interacting with his patients, "while I appreciate your interest, I'm not looking for a significant other."

"Very well, Doctor," Spock says. "My wish was not to damage our professional relationship—"

"Don't worry about it," the doctor says. "I'll let you get back to work."

"Of course," Spock says.

The doctor give him one last, searching look; even after he leaves, Spock cannot shake the feeling that he has been judged and found wanting.


-


Despite Doctor McCoy's assurance that their working relationship would remain unaffected, Spock finds himself avoiding the doctor. A certain amount of interaction is necessary, of course, since Spock and McCoy are joint heads of science and medicine; but these interactions take place always in the presence of the captain or some junior officer. At the very least, Spock reminds himself, the doctor no longer seems to bear Spock any animosity, treating Spock instead with a courteous disinterest. Spock should be pleased that he is no longer being berated, insulted, or contradicted at every turn—instead, the serenity is disconcerting.

He realizes that he is, perhaps, less willing to relinquish McCoy's company than is reasonable.

Apart from the doctor's sudden distance, life on the Enterprise continues as normal. Nyota asks for his assistance mapping Klingon phonemes; Captain Kirk wisely does not mention the doctor's absence at their chess matches; Mr. Scott makes his engineering team disassemble and reassemble one of the warp cores without computer backup while he and Spock supervise; Nurse Chapel continues to stare inappropriately at Spock, and Spock continues to find her gaze indecipherable. The new Horta crewmember sickens himself by overindulging in a slab of nickel, High Command sends an official reprimand for the Enterprise's recent action at the Neutral Zone, and Admiral Pike calls up in person to offer his congratulations.

It is while he is sorting through some of his mother's belongings that Spock discovers a solution. His parents had kept a residence on Earth, and Spock had requested that his father ship his mother's smaller possessions to the Enterprise instead of donating them to charity. He had expected to read disapproval in his father's eyes; instead, Sarek had simply noted that a package was already in route.

Although his mother had embraced many Vulcan traditions after her marriage, her propensity to preserve small or worthless trinkets was purely human. Spock sorts through a box of cheaply-made jewelry that he had never seen her wear, a pressed flower of the variety known as Rosa foetida, the hollowed-out halves of two coconuts, a bound copy of the Oxford English Dictionary—abridged, of course—and stacks of data wafers containing mostly music and Spock's own missives to her. He is surprised to discovered the variety of music that his mother had felt worth saving; he recognizes the classical human style and the Andorian "windcave" style she had favored, but she also possessed an extensive collection of what the library identifies as rock, synth, and jazz.

Spock had, in passing, heard jazz music before, but he had not made a systematic study of Earth's musical styles; he makes a mental note to do so as soon as time allowed, sets the computer to random shuffle, and listens.

The rock music is not to his taste—he finds it grating at the worst and simply loud at the best—nor the synth, although he does recognize the diatonic influence of Vulcan. The jazz, though—clearly it was derived from (or had preceded) the doctor's blues; faster paced, true, and possessed of more varied instrumentation, but the lengthy sections of improvisation were familiar. On Vulcan, songs are—were—played exactly as they had been thousands of years before; traditional music carried the weight of generations, for the Vulcan racial memory was long. But this—spontaneous, fumbling, inspired—

Listening, Spock is struck by an impulse. He is not given to irrational impulses, nor to self-indulgence; but without examining why, he leaves his quarters, takes the turbolift down three decks, and knocks on the doctor's door.

"Open," he hears the doctor say, and the doors slide back. McCoy seems surprised to see Spock. "Hello," he says, and, "Is something the matter?"

"No, Doctor," Spock says, and then, "May I come in?"

The doctor's eyebrows contort, but he backs away; Spock steps inside, the doors slide shut, the doctor says, "What's this—"

And Spock kisses him.

Kissing is not done with the lips among Vulcans; rather, they use their fingers and hands to caress one another, but Spock is human enough to appreciate the sensation of the doctor's lips beneath his own, the heat, the wet. For a moment the doctor is still, and then he groans lowly and his mouth opens—only to tear away and snap, "What the hell, you bastard!"

Spock has never been more pleased to be insulted.

"Upon reflection, Doctor, I believe that I did not convey the full reality of the situation to you," Spock says, and the doctor scowls.

"The full reality of the situation," he says. "That what you were doing just now? Conveying the full reality of the situation?"

"Yes," Spock says, placid and finally sure of his response.

"Well dammit, man," McCoy says. "Fine, I'll buy your sincerity, but Spock"—and suddenly the doctor seems to deflate, suddenly the ire rushes out of him—"what do you want with me?"

Spock arrives at an abrupt understanding, but the doctor continues. "Christ preserve us," he mutters, and then, "I've got nearly a decade on you, I'm washed-up, divorced, I've got a daughter—I say whatever idiotic, ill-tempered thing is on my mind, and I'm not likely to change anytime soon. I argue with you at every corner, and I insult you, so why—"

Spock steps forward and takes the doctor's hands with both of his own. "You are indeed irate, ill-tempered, and argumentative," Spock says, and flattens the doctor's fingers. "You are also challenging, dedicated, insightful, and remarkably intelligent. I have met only one other in whom compassion runs as deep, and she would herself reprimand me should I refuse the opportunity to know you more deeply—in any capacity."

The doctor's eyes narrow, and he keeps his gaze trained on their hands. Spock cradles the doctor's with his own; their skin is nearly of a tone, their fingers the same length, although the doctor's palms are broader.

"You've been watching me," the doctor says.

"Yes, Doctor," Spock answers.

"Well," Doctor McCoy says, and folds his fingers over Spock's, "If we're gonna try this, you'd better call me something besides 'doctor.' Unless that's the kind of thing you Vulcans are into, I guess." He grins crookedly and looks up at Spock.

Spock very nearly smiles back.


-


A week later, the captain corners Spock in the ready room. "So, Spock," he demands, "come on! Spill!"

"Spill, Captain?"

"Spill the beans. Tell the story!"

Spock's eyebrow wings upwards.

"About you and Bones!" The captain grins lasciviously. "I know there's something going on with you two, and I think you owe me details—I clued you in to the other universe and the dying and the katra, after all."

"Captain," Spock says, "if the inhabitants of that timeline jumped off a bridge, I would not follow."

"...Okay," the captain says. "Let me phrase it this way: How's the relationship working out?"

Spock thinks for a moment about Leonard's hands, and their arguments, and the times when they do not argue; finally, he concludes, "It is satisfactory."

"Satisfactory?" the captain says. "That's all you've got?"
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September 2009

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