14: Perceptions

“I’m sorry… I’m sorry…” McCoy repeated like a mantra until Spock’s sobs subsided. Then he continued to hold him, as if at a loss for what else he could do to fix a broken Vulcan. His overwhelming emotions of WORRY- WORRY-HEAL-HEAL were becoming intermixed with DOUBT-DOUBT-UNCLEAR-UNSURE, which ultimately gave Spock the incentive to pull himself out of the comfort of McCoy’s arms to face him — as well as his fears.

“Leonard,” he said, wishing his voice didn’t sound so strange from his nose being congested, “why did you not believe me? I have never deliberately deceived you….”

“I know, I’m sorry, I should’ve known better,” McCoy hurried to tell him, his face flushed red. “It’s just… well, you’re the last person I ever expected to… hear that sort of thing from.”

“I admit it may seem… unusual… out of character, perhaps… but I assure you, I would never state a blatant lie about such things… or say them in jest.”

“No, of course not! You would never… I know. But… see, I thought Jim had somehow convinced you — made you think it would be a good idea to, y’know, to… go along with him… or something….”

Spock cocked his head slightly in puzzlement. “But I informed you that Jim had nothing to do with it.”

“Yeah… yeah, you did,” McCoy agreed, then let out a long, drawn-out sigh. “But the thing is, Jim’s been teasing me… for some time now… that I’ve… ahh… got a thing for you. And he was here earlier, saying I could kiss you to wake you up, that you’d never know, that sort of thing…. He’d also approved your leave this morning but never called me back to tell me why, so I knew he’d been talking to you and… I’m sorry, I jumped to the wrong conclusion.”

Spock startled both of them by hiccupping.

“Aw, Spock — I’m so sorry. Just… God! Please don’t cry anymore,” McCoy pleaded as he pulled Spock close again and rubbed his back. HEAL-HEAL-HEAL flooded over Spock’s consciousness in billows, seeping into all of the fragile cracks that had formed in his heart and soothing the pain away. Spock closed his eyes and leaned into McCoy’s warmth, feeling small sparks form where his forehead grazed the doctor’s stubbled jaw. The tingling sensations were not unpleasant.

“I am… fine now,” he said, tentatively assessing his own sea of emotions. “I do not believe I am in imminent danger of succumbing to… base sentimentality.”

“Well, good,” McCoy replied, still not letting go of him. “Because dammit, if I can’t make you feel better, I’ll have to cry with you.”

A slow smile spread across Spock’s lips as he imagined the hypothetical scenario. “That would not be helpful to either of us.”

“No… I suppose not.”

There was a long moment in which Spock was content to simply exist as he was, held in the arms of the one man who had caused such unprecedented and unexpected reactions in him — and, ironically, had also created a calm and peacefulness in him with only a few words and some gentle touches. He did not want to move; he did not want this moment to end.

“So…” McCoy broke the silence, dragging out the vowel, “you’re a… touch empath… right?”

“Yes.” Spock realized that McCoy’s heartrate was elevated — he could feel it throbbing where their bodies were in contact.

“So that means… you can tell what I’m feeling… right now?”

“Yes.” Spock frowned as he paid more attention to those feelings and noticed a distinct change. WORRY-WORRY-NERVOUS-FEAR-EMBARRASSED now dominated what had been soothing before. “What is it you are so concerned about?” he asked.

There was a brief hitch in McCoy’s voice as he said, “Letting you know.”

“Know… what?” Spock prompted, confused.

“You mean you can’t tell?”

“I’m afraid I do not know what you are referring to.” Spock straightened to put some space between them so he could look the doctor in the eye. “Perhaps it would help to clarify that I can only sense feelings — emotions, not thoughts — unless I form a connection with your mind in what is called a ‘mind meld.’ So while I can feel what you are feeling, it is not as though I can ‘read your mind’ merely by touching you.”

“Oh.” McCoy digested this information, then mumbled, “Shit.”

“I’m sorry?” Spock responded, worried at the DISAPPOINTED-NERVOUS-FEAR he now sensed.

“Well, I guess I’ve just got to… come out and say it, then.” McCoy licked his lips, swallowed, and shifted so that he was looking at Spock dead on. “Spock, I… well… y’see… Jim was right,” he finally admitted. “I do have a thing for you. Have since… well, almost the first time we met.”

Spock understood enough of Human colloquialisms to recognize what he was saying; however, he dared not trust his own interpretation — not for something so critically important.

“Do you mean…. Are you saying….” His mouth had gone dry yet again, making it difficult to get the words out, and his brain was on the brink of overloading. “You are… attracted… to me… as well?”

“Yeah,” McCoy confirmed, looking worried and embarrassed and sheepish and happy all at the same time. “Yeah, I am.”

“From… the first time… we met?” Spock asked in amazement.

“Yeah.” His ruddy face had turned a deep red and his breathing seemed to be labored; however, his roiling emotions had settled down, leaving them both drifting on an ocean of relative tranquility.

“I… had no idea,” Spock said, studying McCoy’s face as though it were the most fascinating thing he had ever beheld. “You never gave any indication… at least, none that I could tell.”

“Well, of course not!” he snorted. “You were with Uhura already.”

“Nyota… yes,” Spock murmured, realizing something. “She had thought… you might be pleased… ‘pleasantly surprised’ were her exact words… to be informed of my feelings. It seems she was correct in this also.”

“Damn,” McCoy said without rancor. “That woman’s too smart, that’s for sure! I mean, I tried — I did my level best not to let on, but… sometimes I’d catch her staring at me and wonder… if I’d let something slip.”

Spock felt sadness squeeze his chest. “Leonard… all these years?” he gasped out.

“Yeah… pretty much. I mean, at first I thought you were the most cold-blooded bastard ever hatched in the galaxy… but then Jim proved that you actually do feel stuff, you just bury it better than the rest of us… and… I dunno… I guess I could… relate to that.” McCoy hesitantly encircled Spock’s waist with both hands. “Plus it was sort of a challenge, y’know… trying to get you to admit you had feelings… like Jim did, only without all the choking and punching.”

“I see,” Spock said softly, feeling his paradigm shift. It was similar to adjusting the ship’s forward scanners: different things came into focus depending on how you looked at any given area. “You were trying to elicit emotional responses from me… so that you could ‘relate’ better to me — to find common ground, as it were.”

“Well, yeah… you could say that. Although there’ve been times when I really did want to strangle you,” McCoy added. “Like the time you refused to let us get you out of that volcano! Dammit, Spock, did you even think about how it would’ve hurt us to lose you like that? Not just Uhura, who’s a tough cookie but still would’ve been devastated, but Jim, who carries all the weight of command on his shoulders like a dead albatross, and Sulu, who was piloting the shuttle and would’ve blamed himself for not giving you a backup line, and don’t even get me started on Chekov, who looks up to you almost as much as Jim, and Scotty, too—”

“Leonard,” Spock interrupted, gazing deep into his eyes. “You would have missed me?”

“You’re damn right I would have!”

Despite the harshness of his words, all Spock could feel was the CARE-CARE-PROTECT-PRECIOUS that burst from McCoy like solar flares from the sun. And suddenly his vision was distorted by a torrent of tears.

“Dammit, Spock! Don’t fucking cry, for God’s sake!” McCoy sputtered, hugging him close again. It took Spock a few minutes before he could even attempt to speak.

“I am… so happy… and honored,” he explained through his tears. “I… I cannot adequately express… how… how glad I am… to hear you say so.”

McCoy had been radiating WORRY-HEAL-PRECIOUS-HEAL while holding him, but now RELIEF tinged it with warmth and calm. Then the white-hot discharges of electricity started up again, crackling with intensity and rolling off in all directions. Spock wondered if McCoy could feel them as well, but before he could ask, the doctor posed a question to him first.

“So… are you really sure… you’re… y’know… into me? That this isn’t… I dunno, some kind of… alien space virus… or something?”

Spock considered this. “I cannot completely rule out the possibility,” he confessed, “but it seems highly unlikely. You yourself have found no physical irregularities. It is also possible that we bonded, in some unknown way, over the course of our time on Altamid. But if that is the only reason for my attraction to you, it should have begun to fade over time… and yet I find that the opposite is true.”

“Huh. So… you really want to… um… y’know… do this?” McCoy gulped at the unintended double entendre. “I mean… see where this goes?”

“I cannot think of anything else I would rather do,” Spock answered, smiling as a few last tears rolled down his cheeks. He pulled himself away from McCoy’s neck and reached up to touch McCoy’s face, scattering balls of sparks every which way. “Or anybody else I would rather take this journey with. I have always trusted you to provide the best medical care… but I know that I can trust you with my heart as well. And from what I have seen of your heart… it is beautiful.”

McCoy blushed to a deep crimson and seemed to be having trouble meeting Spock’s eyes. “Well, I… uh… I mean… y’know… I couldn’t possibly… that is, um… oh, damn!” After spitting out that last invective, he regrouped and gripped Spock’s shoulders with purpose. “Dammit all, Spock, I’m gonna kiss you!”

As Spock’s mouth fell open in surprise, McCoy did just that. Hungrily, greedily, forcefully. The white sparks of lightning no longer ran along the surface of Spock’s body but rather through him, penetrating every cell and exploding in nebulae of starbursts that filled his mind’s eye even though his physical eyes were closed. McCoy’s lips were rough and demanding, sparking LUST-DESIRE-WANT in tidal waves which Spock could no longer distinguish as McCoy’s or his own, and his tongue was exploring every nanometer of Spock’s mouth, inviting and challenging him to reciprocate. When Spock gathered enough presence of mind to do so, he was rewarded by being pinned down against the biobed by McCoy’s larger torso while one of the renowned surgeon’s hands tousled his hair and the other held his neck to ensure that their mouths remained in contact at all times. It was sensory overload but Spock did not care. It was the first time he had ever been so manhandled and he realized he loved it.

By the time McCoy finally backed off to catch his breath, Spock’s entire body was trembling, filled with bright showers of dissipating electricity. They both panted as they stared at each other, equal parts disbelief and awe in their mirrored expressions.

“That… was fucking… amazing,” McCoy declared, his voice hoarse. The heatwave of LUST-DESIRE-WANT coming off of him left Spock in no doubt as to what kind of state he was in; in fact it had already affected Spock in a way that would have been embarrassing if it were not mutual.

“I must… concur,” Spock wheezed. He knew that the prolonged oxygen deprivation combined with his racing heart would cause him to pass out if he tried to get up from the biobed now. He was glad that its back was still angled up so he could see McCoy without having to crane his neck — he wanted to drink in the sight of the doctor, to memorize how his skin was flushed with excitement and his jaw set with determination.

“I was gonna keep you here overnight for observation, but I don’t think I can wait that long.” The glint in McCoy’s eyes was sharp, sending shivers up and down Spock’s spine. “I can have you released now as long as you take two days off for medical leave — ostensibly for ‘rest, relaxation, and meditation.’ Sound like a plan?”

“I will defer to your medical expertise, Doctor,” Spock answered demurely, knowing well enough what the doctor meant. “Am I to assume that you will… personally see to my recovery?”

“You bet your cute little ass I will,” he shot back with a predatory grin. “Do you think you can walk, or should we borrow a wheelchair?”

“I believe I can manage… given some time to… calm myself,” Spock said, feeling extra heat rising to his cheeks. The rumpled blanket covering the lower half of his body was not bulky enough to hide the bulge of his groin.

“Well! Nice to know I’m not the only one saluting here,” McCoy dryly remarked. “I do have a hypospray solution that will take care of it temporarily, but I’d have to reformulate it for your biochemistry.”

“There is no need for that,” Spock insisted before drawing in deep breaths and willing his heart to slow down. He could not help noticing the equally large bulge in the front of McCoy’s uniform trousers that was pushing out the hem of the white tunic, distracting him for a minute, but by the time the doctor had synthesized his solution and injected himself with it, Spock had restored his own iron-willed control over his emotions and body. His rebellious male member was barely a bump. He was fascinated to see that McCoy’s was no longer noticeable, either.

“Let me get these discharge orders written up, then we’ll be free to go,” McCoy muttered, working on a PADD. It gave Spock a moment to admire his profile. McCoy glanced up, caught him staring, and asked, “What?”

“You really are quite handsome,” Spock commented. “Although physical attractiveness is not a priority for my species when choosing potential mates, it is nevertheless agreeable to find someone who is aesthetically pleasing as well as in possession of many admirable qualities.”

McCoy opened his mouth to speak, then clamped it shut, and at last opened it again to ask, “Spock, are you sure you’re feeling all right? Is there any chance you might’ve caught some weird infection, or… developed a delusional fever?”

“Leonard, if you are implying that I am somehow impaired in my judgment,” Spock replied, sliding off the bed to stand up, “I can assure you that I am entirely correct in my assessment. Furthermore, if you believe that only such an impairment would prompt me to say what is obviously and objectively true,” he added, stepping close to McCoy until their noses were almost touching, “I must inform you, you are absolutely wrong.”

At this proximity, Spock could feel McCoy’s DOUBT-DOUBT-UNCERTAIN-WORRY as plainly as his own heartbeat. When he gazed into his eyes, he could read his hesitation and lack of confidence as well.

“This is what Jim was worried about,” Spock realized, feeling sad at the illogic of such an attractive man being unable to accept it himself.

“Leonard,” he whispered, “you truly are beautiful… in all the ways that matter.” He could sense McCoy’s emotions being stirred into a tempest as he struggled to reconcile his insecurities with what he was being told. To prevent it from escalating, Spock took another step closer and kissed him — a chaste kiss this time, merely grazing his lips — and was satisfied when the stormy sea within him calmed. There was wonder in McCoy’s eyes when they opened.

“You really… mean that?” he couldn’t help asking.

“I do,” Spock said, allowing a smile to form.

“Wow,” was all McCoy could say. He held Spock for a minute, simply looking at him, before he remembered what they had been planning to do. “Well, uh… shall we go, then?” he asked, blushing again.

“Indeed,” Spock agreed.

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