15.

McCoy rested his left hand on Liza's shoulder as he stood beside her. He placed his right hand over hers and began giving his instructions.

"Okay darlin', this is what you do," he said taking her hand more firmly. "You put your fingers like this…..and ….you move your arm like so. That's it…that's a girl."

Liza frowned in concentration, her entire attention attempting to focus on technique. It was difficult to think with Len pressed against her, his arm holding her waist.

"When you bring your hand….right about here," McCoy continued, "you release and roll it down fast and hard. Don't choke."

Liza's bowling ball landed with a thud on the hardwood lane and began to roll towards the pins. The ball barely made it down the alley but managed to knock down a few pins. She jumped up and down, clapping her hands.

"Nice throw!" Julie shouted in encouragement. She leaned over and muttered to Scotty, "Good thing it's not a pot game, aye?"

Scotty smiled. "Aye!"

"I heard that!" Liza glared at them both and McCoy handed her the next ball, bringing her attention back to the game.

"Throw it again, honey. By yourself this time. Just like I taught you."

Liza held the ball like McCoy had shown her and approached the foul line, aiming the ball down the center. She drew her arm back and threw the ball, lofting it slightly. It landed hard, rolled to the left and then curved back to the center, just picking up her spare.

She raised her hands in triumph and turned to her companions, shrieking, "WOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHOOOOOOOOOO!"

Julie stood for her turn, picked her ball up from the return and approached the foul line. She rolled a seven-ten split and on her second throw she picked up the spare, setting the bar for the rest of the players.

Since Liza had never bowled before, they all played the remainder of the first game at an easy pace. They teased Liza about her lousy throws and her gutter balls. But they also gave her the much needed advice that would improve her game.

McCoy won that first game and Scotty won the second, with Julie making excuses about her poor game due to her weak wrists. Since the incident on Drexler, the lieutenant wrists had steadily improved. But there were still times she was plagued with pain and numbness. On occasion, it affected her work performance and Liza sometimes feared she would lose her assistant to a medical discharge.

The couples decided to quit for the night in exchange for a round of drinks at the bar.

It was quieter there and relaxing compared to the noise of the bowling alley. Liza laughed to herself at the thought of bowling on a star ship as it hurtled through space. But she had to admit it was a fun way to blow of steam even if she did lose miserably.

It was also nice getting out for a bit. Between the demands of the dental clinic and sickbay as well as both hers and Len's administrative duties, they usually ended up hiding out in each other's quarters during their downtime. It also gave them a chance to socialize with both of their friends since Scotty and Julie were an item now.

The ladies regaled a few stories with the guys about their days at Starfleet and listened as Len and Scotty told stories about their own early adventures. After a few more drinks, their tongues became looser and the topics turned to jokes about bad dates and bad exes.

Len finally asked Liza the ten-thousand credit question. "So, little lady, what exactly did you do to run the poor slob off?" He referred to her first husband Paul, leaning on the table with his chin propped on his hand.

If it had been anyone else that asked her she might have been offended. But Liza knew McCoy was just toying with her now and she answered, "I'm an Earth sign, he was a water sign. Together we made mud."

Everyone laughed and he asked, "And what about your second husband? Steve was it?"

Julie answered bluntly for her, "He was just a douche bag."

McCoy looked over at her with amusement. "Tell us how you really feel Lieutenant. Don't hold back."

"I always do," she replied smiling brightly.

Eventually, Scotty and Julie left them, bidding them goodnight. As McCoy watched them go he commented, "I like her. She's funny."

Liza smiled. "I like her too." Then her mind switched to something more serious. "Len, is she really going to be okay? Or are you just blowing smoke up her ass?"

McCoy gave her a wicked grin and chuckled, "Darlin, the only ass I want to blow anything up, is yours.

She laughed but then said, "Really Len, what's the situation about my tech?"

"I think she'll be okay. She just needs time to heal," he explained. "And I don't think her symptoms are anything some nerve regeneration therapy won't cure. But I'd like to give her body a chance to repair itself as much as possible first. Can you handle her with a case of the old butter fingers for a little while longer?"

"I think so. I'd just hate to see her go. She knows her shit. It would be the equivalent of you losing Chapel," she told him.

McCoy pulled a face and groaned, "I am losing Chapel."

"What?" Liza leaned in closer as if she might miss something.

"She's applied for medical school. I signed a letter today vouching for her. If she gets in, she'll start as soon as this mission is over," he said. Then he sat back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest, propping one ankle on his knee, as he always did. "Which brings me to another subject I wanted to talk to you about it."

"I'm listening."

"I have two years left on this enlistment and I'm eligible for retirement." He paused and looked directly at her, cocking his head slightly. "I was thinking about leaving Starfleet and retiring to Georgia. I have a place near Athens and I've been offered a teaching position at the university if I want it."

"University of Georgia?" She asked. Her mind was reeling. She was trying to wrap her brain around what he was saying. He was leaving her.

McCoy confirmed with a nod. Liza didn't know what to say.

"What I want to know is," he continued, "would you want to join me?"

She froze.

"I'm not asking you to marry me," he said before she had a chance to turn him down. "I'm asking you if you want to shack up for awhile and see how it goes. I know you need to make a decision about re-enlisting soon. I thought I could give you another choice. You could finish out your enlistment during the ships refit, maybe work in Athens if you wanted to continue your career. Or….you could just spend your days sipping iced tea on the porch swing with me. I'm certain you already know how crazy I am about you. I don't lie and I won't cheat. We both know all too well what that feels like. You don't have to answer me right now. Just….think about it."

"Um…..I," she sputtered, still not sure what to say.

Liza knew that he was risking his heart for her and then it dawned on her that loved her. He had been trying to tell her all this time and she always stopped him cold. She didn't want to do that anymore. He wasn't asking for a solid commitment. He was asking her to give him a chance by spending time with him. She thought about all the hard work it took to get her where she was. Her time at Starfleet academy, her new clinic. And suddenly none of that mattered anymore. Liza knew it was a huge leap to take but she made her decision right then and there.

"Len, I would love to shack up with you and sip some iced tea on your porch swing."

He smiled and picked up her hand, lacing his fingers with hers.

"But will you promise me something?"

"What is it?"

"Let me make you a night-guard before you grind your teeth to nothing," she pleaded. This was a subject she had been nagging him about for months now.

He scowled and let out a heavy sigh, grumbling, "I'll let you make me a damn night-guard."

"You have to wear it too. And I want a dog," she added innocently and then grimaced as he conceded with a typical McCoy response.

"God damn it."