24: A Welcome Home

Spock pulled out of the meld gently, his eyes overflowing with tears. The depths of pain he had experienced through McCoy had hollowed him, leaving only an aching void.

“This is the pit of despair he hides,” Spock realized. “As relentless as a black hole, allowing no escape — not even light can exist within its event horizon.”

“Aw, Spock… don’t,” McCoy begged, wiping Spock’s wet cheeks with his thumbs. “You know I can’t stand to see you cry….”

“I only weep for you… for all the loss you have suffered.”

“Everybody loses people,” McCoy responded automatically. “I’m just… a little more unlucky than most.”

“Yes… you have lost many.” Spock leaned close to press his cheek against McCoy’s, wrapping his arms around McCoy’s shoulders. The warmth of their bare bodies touching under the blankets was comforting, especially where McCoy’s arms cradled his back. “Where are your parents now?”

“Dad’s still on Rigel V… Mom’s in Oslo with Arthur. They’ve moved around a bit for his work. I try to see them whenever I go Earthside. Grandma’s been living with them since Grandpa died. At least she’s still doing great — still cooking like it’s going out of style. Last I heard, she was teaching a class.”

“She taught you how to cook as well.” Spock smiled at the images conjured up in McCoy’s mind of his grandmother wearing an apron, showing him how to roll out pie dough. Happy memories.

“Yeah. She might just flip her lid if I tell her I made her gravy without real sausage, though.”

“Then that can be our secret.” Spock noticed an unruly patch of McCoy’s hair and ran his fingers through it. “It may not be wise to upset her at her advanced age.”

“Yeah… you’re probably right.”

McCoy leaned into the touch, deriving pleasure from it, so Spock continued to comb his hair. He realized he enjoyed the sensation as well. McCoy’s hair was soft and long enough to play with but short enough not to become tangled. Nyota had been particular about how he touched her hair — which reminded Spock about McCoy’s failed marriage.

“And after all this loss,” he murmured, close to tears again, “you lost yet another: your wife.”

The pain that shot through his chest was only an echo of what McCoy was feeling since their link was not complete, but it was enough to knock the breath out of Spock’s lungs. This time Spock had to wipe the tears from McCoy’s face.

“You wanna… see that part… too?” McCoy asked between ragged breaths, his expression grim.

“Only if you want me to,” Spock answered. Even before McCoy licked his lips and closed his eyes, opening himself up for another meld, Spock could sense that he did want him to see — he wanted Spock to share in that experience as well. Spock repositioned his fingers and effortlessly slipped into McCoy’s mind.

Leonard was reviewing a patient’s chart, double-checking to make sure the doses of medications were optimal, when another doctor walked into his office.
“I was about to punch out when I saw that you were pulling a double shift. Again,” she said pointedly.
“I have five patients in post-op recovery, three of them critical,” Leonard shot back without looking up from his PADD. “I’m staying to keep an eye on them.”
“How many double shifts have you pulled this week? Are you even
legal?
“Of course I am — the damn computer wouldn’t let me schedule if I were over the limit.”
“Well, I know I haven’t put in nearly as many hours as you, and I don’t have any plans tonight. I’ll monitor your post-ops. I’ll even call you if something happens to them. But you need to go home, McCoy. This isn’t healthy!”
“I’m perfectly capable…” Leonard began but stopped when he saw her determined, stone-faced gaze. “What? I’m fine!”
“No, you are not ‘fine,’ McCoy — you’re avoiding Cynthia because you don’t want to deal with the last fight you had or start a new one. But avoiding your problems isn’t going to solve them.”
“So… what the hell do you want me to do? Just leave my patients and go home?”
“Yes! And take some flowers or chocolate or whatever with you. Get this thing with your wife figured out and
fixed. Your performance will be better if you’re actually refreshed when you get back here. Now go!” She emphasized her words by making shooing motions with her hands. Leonard reluctantly stood up.
“You’re a damn pain in the ass — you know that, Harper?”
“Damn straight.” She smirked. “About the only thing about me that’s straight.”
Leonard groaned. “All right, I’m going, I’m going! But I’m gonna start calling you ‘Dr. Ruth’ from now on.”
“Who?”
“Never mind.”
He stopped by the hospital gift shop to pick up a bouquet of flowers, realizing that it had been a long time since he’d done anything spontaneous or romantic for Cynthia. Which was why he also decided not to call her but to surprise her instead. During the drive home, he couldn’t help replaying some of the vicious words they had exchanged the last time they’d been together, and he wished he could unsay his own. They simply knew each other too well — knew how to get under each other’s skin and say exactly the things that would hurt the most. But he wanted to make this work.
“I need to de-stress somehow… just because work is crazy right now, I shouldn’t take it out on her. I need to apologize for being a jerk. If we could talk things over, figure out a way to get past this point… once the hospital hires a permanent chief of surgery, things will get back to normal….”
He took a deep breath when his car was parked in the garage, resolving to apologize to her until she was willing to talk rationally about their future. He was surprised when he walked into the house and she wasn’t in the living room or kitchen; he had expected her to be sulky but not to avoid him altogether. Their driveway was long so he couldn’t imagine that she hadn’t seen him drive in.
“Maybe she’s in the shower,” he thought as he trudged up the stairs. He stepped through the doorway of their bedroom with the flowers in one hand, only to drop them when he saw Cynthia in bed — with another man. In the very act of adultery.
She saw Leonard and cried out, alerting her lover, who turned around in time to meet Leonard’s fist. After that his rage distorted the memory, making it a blur of shouted words, among them “whore” and “bastard” playing major roles. Leonard prepared to punch the other man again as he struggled to stand, but then the guy threw up both hands in surrender, yelling, “I didn’t know she was married!”
For some reason that took the wind out of Leonard’s sails, deflating his fury. “She’s not — not anymore,” he managed to spit out. “If you want the bitch, you can have her.” He turned on his heel and rushed out of the house, not bothering to collect any of his personal effects, and drove back into town. He thought about going to the hospital, but he couldn’t face his colleagues to explain why he had returned. He also didn’t think he could sleep worth a damn even if he checked into a hotel. So he found a bar in the older, sleazier side of town and sat at the counter, intending to get shit-faced drunk. At least in that, he succeeded.

Spock’s hands were shaking as he removed them from McCoy’s face. All manner of powerful emotions were coursing through him — rage, pain, sadness, loneliness — in the wake of experiencing the worst moment of McCoy’s life, but they were also echoed by Spock’s own feelings of outrage and shock. He could not even speak because of the turmoil in his heart, but McCoy himself was strangely calm.

“So… you can actually see everything… just like I saw it?” he asked after a moment. Spock nodded, swallowing back tears. “Good.” McCoy drew in a deep breath as though relieved. “I’ve gone over and over that night in my head, driving myself crazy with all the ‘what ifs’ — what if I hadn’t gone home? Would I have never found out and just stayed with her, oblivious? Would things have gotten better? Would she have kept cheating on me or would she have stopped? Or would she have wanted the divorce anyway, sooner or later? What if, what if….” He drew a hand over his eyes. “In a way I’m glad it was so… explicit. Sorry if it was embarrassing for you, but it is what it is. And it helped me make a clean break, you know? Maybe we should have broken up much sooner. Maybe she should have just left me; maybe I should have realized it wasn’t working… that it was never going to work. But at least that moment was… definitive.”

Spock nodded again and combed his fingers through McCoy’s hair while placing a line of kisses on his cheek where there should have been tears — where there had been tears, many times, when Spock was not aware of them. Now he could sense a sort of numbness pervading his lover, no doubt a consequence of McCoy re-hashing that event countless times, but there was also a sense of gladness settling over him.

“Thanks for putting up with all this,” McCoy said quietly.

“I am honored that you have entrusted me with your memories,” Spock replied. “I’m sorry to have made you relive them… and the pain they caused you… but I understand you much better now.”

McCoy smiled and hugged Spock tightly for a moment. “Don’t be sorry. Have you heard the old Earth proverb, ‘Shared joy is doubled; shared sorrow is halved’? I sorta feel better already. Maybe it’s closer to ‘Misery loves company,’ but I don’t think so. I haven’t told many people the particulars of my divorce… Jim is one of the few… but it’s one thing to tell someone and a whole ’nuther to have them see it. Almost like having video evidence as opposed to a witness’s testimony, y’know? You’ve seen it with your own eyes, practically — at least through mine — so you know I’m not making it up. And it was almost easier than trying to describe it.”

“Yes.” Spock shifted so he could kiss the other side of McCoy’s face. More than a vague notion that this was an appropriate way to comfort a Human lover in distress, he knew now that McCoy was deriving comfort from his ministrations. He slid his hands out of McCoy’s hair and ran them down his back, as low as they could go, pressing their bare chests together.

“You know, that guy… Frank… he came to see me at the hospital a few days later,” McCoy said with a snorted chuckle. “He wanted to apologize. Said he really hadn’t known she was married — thought it was her parents’ house when she said she’d be alone that night. He’d only met her a few weeks before… they’d hit it off, gone out a couple of times… and of course I was none the wiser, working ’round the clock like I was. He said he was prepared to break it off with her if I wanted to try to save our marriage, but I told him no… there was no way I was taking her back after that. He wasn’t happy about the fact that she’d lied to him, either, but he was willing to give her a second chance. Amazingly enough, they’re still together… so I guess there was something special between the two of them, after all.”

The longing in McCoy’s voice was reinforced by a pang of pain in his chest. Spock could almost taste the bitter gall that rose up from his gorge at the acute sense of betrayal.

“You loved her,” he stated, sad and (in a way) jealous.

“Yeah. Like the dumbass I was,” McCoy huffed in derision. “I hadn’t really… well, I hadn’t even gotten to first base with Nancy — her parents were strict, and I wasn’t about to do anything to blow my chances with her — so I was one of the few guys in college who was still, y’know… inexperienced.”

Spock could not help feeling amused that McCoy, despite being a Human doctor, was shy about discussing sex; however, since it was a topic not broached at all by Vulcans, Spock only made a sympathetic “Mmm” sound in response.

“Even after I got that ‘Dear John’ letter, I didn’t feel like jumping into the pool with both feet… at least not right away. I mean, maybe there were more guys like me than I realized and they were just hiding it with machismo, but I sure felt like an ignoramus compared to everybody else. So even into my second year, I hadn’t seriously dated anybody… I just wasn’t confident enough to get that far. But then I met Cynthia and… wow. She actually wanted me. Like, couldn’t keep her hands off me… which was such a new thing for me, it just blew my mind. And before I knew what was happening, we were in the thick of it.”

McCoy licked his lips as he considered how to proceed. Even before he spoke, Spock could feel his apology.

“I’m sorry if this makes you uncomfortable,” he mumbled, blushing.

“Not at all,” Spock assured him. “I want to know everything about you, Leonard. There is something you want to tell me — I want to hear it.”

“Well, I know this sounds corny and all,” McCoy prefaced, “but when she wanted me to… to make love with her, I thought it was more than just sex…. Maybe she only wanted my body or maybe she thought it was something more, too, but… I had never felt so wanted… so welcomed. Like I’d finally found my home.”

Spock could feel that sensation through McCoy’s skin; they were touching in enough places that he did not need to be in contact with his psi points to absorb his remembered joy at being appreciated, loved, and cherished.

“So then, when I found someone else in that… position,” he continued, his emotions plummeting, “I felt like I’d lost the one place where I belonged… where I could be myself… be happy… safe… content.”

“Yes.” Spock could understand perfectly now; he could feel it in his own bones. “She broke your heart.”

McCoy did not answer but he did not need to. Spock simply caressed him with as much tenderness as he could express through his hands and kissed his cheek and neck, hoping to infuse him with affection.

“I’m damaged goods, Spock,” he finally whispered. “Are you sure you still want me? With all my baggage?”

“Yes.” Spock looked him in the eyes. “Yes.” He kissed him on the mouth. “Yes.” He reached up to untie the blanket where it covered his shoulders, letting it slide down to the floor. “Let me be your new home, Leonard. Let me be the one place where you feel safe and happy. I will never let you go.” Spock weighed his words before adding, “I may not always understand how best to respond to your needs, but I will never intentionally hurt you or abandon you. And I will always welcome you, Leonard — into my heart, into my body, and into my life. You are my Ashayam… my beloved.”

McCoy’s face crumpled as he began to cry silently. To Spock, even that was beautiful.

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