It wasn't a secret that James T. Kirk would never settle down with a woman, no matter how many of them thought they could "change him." He had always said that there was only one special lady in his life and she was the Enterprise. What wasn't widely known, however, was that there were two special men in his life, First Officer Spock and Senior Medical Officer Leonard McCoy.
Among Kirk's crew it was known that he was bonded to Spock. They were life partners and shared a strong telepathic bond. The only secret element of their unconventional marriage was Kirk's love for McCoy. Spock found out about it immediately after he bonded with Kirk. He knew that Kirk tried to push it aside and ignore it, but when questioned, the captain revealed that he was poly-amorous.
Spock quickly guessed the meaning of poly-amorous: one who loves many. Kirk confessed that he couldn't help it and often felt guilty because of it. It took a few days, but Spock came to terms with it. He knew that it wasn't a choice for Kirk to be poly-amorous. He had as much choice in the matter as they both had in being homosexual. It was only logical to accept his mate the way he was.
Kirk's affections for McCoy persisted. Spock could feel it through their bond. Every time McCoy entered the room, Spock felt a burst of warm feelings across the invisible fibres that connected him to Kirk. To his surprise, there was no sexual inclination towards McCoy, only adoration. This was a fact that Spock treasured in the deepest, most private branch of his mind. That was one part of Kirk that he never wanted to anyone else to experience. He wouldn't admit it out loud but Spock loved being the only one to share James Kirk's bed.
Eventually a conversation had to happen. They couldn't leave the issue of McCoy unaddressed.
"Spock," Kirk finally asked one night, tracing circles on the Vulcan's chest with his thumb, "I was thinking."
They were in Kirk's quarters, laying on his bed and looking up at the ceiling.
"How do you feel about McCoy?" He nuzzled Spock's neck, laying a warm kiss on the exposed skin. Spock suspected it was to avoid making eye contact.
Kirk sighed. "How would you feel if we asked him out?"
Spock was silent. Beside him, Kirk stiffened and fear sparked along their bond. He sat up and looked the Vulcan right in the eyes. Spock's previous avoidance theory was dispelled. "Please, Spock. Be honest with me. If you're uncomfortable, I won't ask again." Kirk grabbed his lover's hand and squeezed it. Spock gave it a gentle return squeeze, an administration of enough pressure to be comforting but not enough to shatter the bones in Kirk's hand.
"If the doctor accepts, I would not object," Spock murmured after a few minutes of stillness.
Kirk practically jumped off of the bed with exhilaration. "Really?" He yelped, cheeks flushed and eyes bright. "Spock, are you sure?"
Kirk was too nervous to approach the good doctor. Days passed and the captain's anxieties grew. On the outside, Kirk kept the appearance of being cool and collected as always but in his head Spock knew better. Their bond was constantly abuzz with Kirk's nervous energy. It was easy enough to ignore, however, when Spock mentally brought up their bond to check on his mate every now and then, he was assaulted by a barrage of overwhelming human emotion.
McCoy seemed totally unaware of Kirk's infatuation with him. Spock supposed it was because without the knowledge of Kirk being poly-amorous added to the knowledge that he was married, any affection would simply be classified as "friendly" rather than "flirtatious".
Married. Spock was mildly pleased with the word. It was more intimate sounding than "bonded" which only had significant meaning to Vulcans and their bond mates. The English language was curious that way. Synonyms could change the whole context of a sentence. If he were to introduce Kirk to someone was "my mate Jim", it would sound almost cold if the person did not know Vulcans well. But if he were to say "my husband Jim", the introduction would take on a warmer tone no matter if the individual knew Vulcans or not.
One afternoon, Spock found Kirk in the recreation room on deck four. He was eating lunch with Uhura, McCoy and Ensign Orson. There was an empty seat beside Kirk, obviously reserved for him. Spock came to sit with them, nodding politely at everyone. Under the table he offered two fingers to Kirk, who touched them back with a slight grin. It was a bold gesture for Spock to make, the Vulcan equivalent of kissing and not often made in public. Kirk's thoughts became teasing and light-hearted and he grasped Spock's hand tightly for a moment before letting go. Spock brought his hands to rest on the table top and pushed the bond into the back of his mind to focus on the present company.
Olson, Kirk and McCoy were discussing and Earth sport called "baseball". Spock had an understanding of the rules but failed to see the point of the game. Kirk had explained once that it was in the name of competition and fun. Spock had dismissed it quietly but had garnered enough knowledge to follow friendly conversation about the game.
Soon Uhura excused herself from the table and Olson followed her with glowing eyes. His interest was apparent and amusing. It was his first tour of duty since his graduation from the Academy and it wasn't astonishing that the beautiful Communications Officer had caught his attention.
As the two of them left, McCoy shook his head and laughed. "Now that's just adorable. Uhura always ends up with at least one lost puppy every time we get new crew."
Spock wondered very much why McCoy likened Olson to a lost puppy yet he held back his questions and instead nudged Kirk with his knee. The captain shot him a warning glance. Spock gave him a mental prod. In return, Kirk gave him a large mental shove.
"Stop it with the 'bond' stuff," McCoy grumbled, "I can always tell when you're doing it because Jim makes faces."
"I do not," Kirk protested loudly.
"Sure you do," McCoy replied, pushing the synthesized food around on his plate, "It's like when my ex-wife used to sketch. She'd make the expression she was trying to draw."
"Fascinating," Spock commented. "I was not aware that you did that, Captain. I'll have to test it."
"I'm certain that I don't make faces."
Suddenly Spock grabbed Kirk's knee and pushed a warning through the bond. It made him jump with surprise.
"Enough," McCoy said, assuming correctly that Kirk's reaction was from another mental conversation, "Either include me or take it to the bedroom, boys."
"Jim has a question for you, Doctor," Spock said flatly.
Kirk's face turned scarlet. He gave the Science Officer the dirtiest, angriest look he could form. McCoy raised his eyebrows and twirled his hand in a motion that said 'go on'.
"Eh, well," Kirk kicked Spock's ankle, "we both, actually, were wondering. Since we have a shore leave scheduled at the Condrian Space Station this coming Friday, would you join us for dinner?"
McCoy's blue eyes stayed on Kirk for a beat then went to Spock's abstemious face and then back to Kirk. "Wait. Are you two asking me on a date?"
McCoy had said yes. It had been tentative and awkward but nonetheless the answer was positive. Kirk was elated with glee. Spock declined to show any opinion towards it one way or another. It could have been said that the stoic Vulcan scientist was almost dour.
This of course upset Kirk. He wanted Spock to be as excited as he was, or as excited as a Vulcan could be. Yet Spock hid his thoughts about it charily. Not a wisp leaked through the bond or into conversation. Even his dreams which sometimes intertwined with Kirk had proved useless for examination.
Hours before the date Kirk decided to confront him. They were in Spock's dim-lighted, hot room when he finally said something.
"Spock, I know you're not happy."
"Happy? That is a human emotion," was the stock reply.
"Come off it," Kirk snapped, "We have a date in a few hours with our good friend. And for the past few days you've been withholding your true thoughts about it. Obviously you're less than pleased with the situation or else you would have been more open with me."
Spock held out his hands with palms flat, a gesture that was read as a shrug. "I'm willing to try it, Jim. Isn't that enough for now?"
Kirk sighed and rubbed his face. "I know. I'm sorry. I'm on edge."
"There is no reason to apologize," Spock touched Kirk's cheek, "there is some tension and it comes from both of us. It is, however, something that can be resolved. Let us enjoy this night with McCoy."
James Kirk wrapped his arms around Spock's neck and kissed him hard. "I'm not trying to replace you," he said fiercely. "I love you."
"I love you too," Spock said softly.
The Condrian Space Station was one of the nicer stations in Federation space. Kirk was glad. He would have hated if they had to spend their first date in a badly kept station. The three of them had dinner together in the officer's mess hall. It was a delicious supper and the conversation was excellent. They had been due for a shore leave for quite awhile. There was a relaxed atmosphere which contributed greatly to the good mood of everyone. Even Spock's attitude, which Kirk had been keeping an eye on all night, had changed.
"I have to say," McCoy said later as they were walking back through the Enterprise's hallways, "that was not the most conventional date I've ever been on, but definitely not the most disagreeable."
"I'm glad you approve, Bones. I quite enjoyed it too," Kirk declared. "I'd call tonight a success, wouldn't you say, Spock?"
There was a hesitation. "Success," Spock conceded. He noticed McCoy's shoulder muscles release. He hadn't realized that McCoy was so concerned with what he thought of the date.
"I was a bit wary about this," McCoy said quietly, "I wasn't sure what to expect. But I would do this again."
They came to stop outside of McCoy's quarters. The automatic door hissed open but none of them stepped inside. The doctor looked down, a shy expression. Kirk placed one hand on McCoy's shoulder and leaned forward to kiss his cheek. "Good night, Bones," He said cheerily. "We're gonna take off."
Spock nodded and offered his hand. With a face of surprise, McCoy took it. The action was so out of character for the Vulcan that even Kirk was amazed. Being a touch telepath, Spock rarely touched anyone without necessity. The contact was brief but electric.
"Did you try and read McCoy's mind?" Kirk asked, back in his quarters.
"No." Spock turned to see that Kirk had already begun undressing for bed. He had taken the gold-yellow shirt off. Spock stopped for a moment to quietly admire his mate's physique. The black undershirt worn beneath the regulation coloured shirts looked much better on Kirk in his opinion. It clung to his flat stomach and muscled arms in a very agreeable way.
Kirk either didn't notice or chose to ignore Spock's gaze. "Was tonight alright for you?"
Spock sat on the bed. He leaned his elbows on his knees and made a steeple with his fingers. "It was... not a negative experience. I would be open to taking the doctor for another date."
"Why do you insist on questioning my statements?" Spock asked with genuine puzzlement.
Kirk laughed and flopped backwards onto the bed. "I'm making sure that you're not saying these things just to make me happy."
"I can assure you, I am being truthful."
Spock had developed strong feelings for McCoy.
He was unwilling to acknowledge them and skirted around the topic when Kirk brought it up but the feelings were there nonetheless. Spock didn't know how he wanted McCoy integrated into their relationship or if he even wanted the doctor there at all.
It was very confusing.
The three of them continued on their dinner dates. Eventually the dates migrated to one of their quarters. It never turned sexual, that was the last thing on all of their minds. McCoy brought a different romantic and emotional aspect to the relationship as a whole and often their nights were spent in intense discussion.
On the surface, it looked like a regular friendship. No one's attitude had changed towards the trio. Spock found that fact to be interesting. When the news came out that he and Kirk had bonded, some crew members altered their interaction with them. Nurse Chapel, for one, had stopped talking to Spock as frequently as she had before. Spock deduced that she was attracted to him and was keeping respectful distance. Certain crewmen, for example a new Yeoman, had cut interaction to the minimal. She refused to look Spock in the eye and only spoke to Kirk when spoken to.
Kirk supposed that the Yeoman was homophobic. It drove him to a rage that despite all the advances that humankind had made, people could not put aside their prejudices. His reasoning was if they could accept a Vulcan officer, why couldn't they accept the fact that the officer might be gay? Vulcan was a whole new species and the concept of homosexuality wasn't exactly new. Why was combining the two so shocking?
Spock often wondered how that Yeoman would act if she knew that her homosexual commanding officers were courting the senior doctor. It was almost amusing. And yet Spock was at odds with himself over the situation. On one hand he cared for McCoy. They had been close friends for years and now they were "boyfriends", as humans would say. On the other hand, Spock didn't want to give up his place as Kirk's husband. If they brought a third person into that relationship, "husband" would most likely turn into "mate" or "life partner" permanently. There would be no chance to experiment with synonyms.
McCoy approached him one evening. Spock was in the botanical bay, observing a Romulan breed of cacti that Mr. Sulu had reported looking ill when McCoy found him.
"Can I talk to you?" the doctor asked in a warm tone which contrasted with the usual harshness he used.
"It seems you already are," Spock prodded lightly.
McCoy snorted with laughter and shook his head. "Look, Spock, I know you haven't been completely comfortable with what's been going on between us and Jim."
Spock inclined his head and put down the botanical tool he had been holding. "Correct."
"I don't want to disrupt your marriage with him," McCoy said haltingly. "I don't want to cause fights or a possible break up. If you don't want me in this relationship, just say the word."
Spock looked curiously at the doctor. His blue eyes were bright with emotion and there was colour in his cheeks. His hands were clasped behind his back and he stood in the usual stance he preferred, but there was something off. His whole body was tense and his jaw was clenched. A moment of recognition panged in the Vulcan's heart. McCoy was as invested and as confused as he was himself.
"You would break up with Jim if I asked?" Spock inquired with masochistic curiosity.
"No," McCoy said sharply, "I'd break up with you and Jim. I said 'yes' to the first date knowing that I'd get both of you in the bargain. And guess what, you pointy eared bastard, I've fallen for you as well as Jim."
Spock opened his mouth to say something but McCoy held up a hand, hushing him. "I'm not done!" he growled, "Let me finish. I've fallen in love with you both, but Jim was married to you first. I don't want to ruin that."
The two officers stood looking at each other for a long time. Neither said a word. Spock knew he was faced with an important decision. It was up to him to choose whether or not to keep the doctor. He thought briefly of how disappointed Jim would be. Then he banished the thought. This was a choice that McCoy presented to him. He had to make it for himself and not for James Kirk.
"McCoy," Spock's voice came out raspy. He stopped and then said, "Leonard. I have come to care for you the same way I care for Jim. I have apprehensions about keeping you in our relationship. It will be difficult," he saw McCoy's face drop and shoulders sag. He hurried on, "but it is a difficulty I'm willing to work through. I want you in our lives."
Leonard McCoy's frame of mind did an impressive flip. "Spock! You mean it?"
"Why is everyone so adamant about questioning my decisions," the Vulcan muttered. McCoy laughed regardless of not knowing exactly what Spock was referring to. He could guess well enough.
"I'm just pleased that you've decided to give me a chance," McCoy's smile was radiant.
The smile caught Spock off-guard. It was one of the loveliest expressions the Vulcan had seen. And then the doctor stepped forwards hugged the science officer close to him. Spock was taken aback at first but he returned the embrace.
Spock could feel McCoy's heart beating. McCoy pushed his face into the crook of Spock's shoulder and gave a soft sigh. Spock placed his hand on the back of McCoy's neck and held him tightly. He had made the right choice. No matter how difficult a poly-amorous relationship was going to be, the fight to keep it together would be worth it in the end.
"Now let me go," McCoy grumbled after a moment, pushing free. "I'm goin' to bed. It's late."
Kirk was in his quarters, reading an old-fashioned book. Sure, it was available on the computer, but Kirk liked physically turning the pages better than clicking for the next page. The texture of the paper beneath his fingers gave him a little thrill every time he picked up a book.
There was a ping from his computer. Marking his place with his thumb, Kirk looked up. It was a message from McCoy.
You with Spock right now?
No, Kirk crossed the room to the computer and typed back quickly, Tonight's his "alone night".
Right, came McCoy's reply, can I come over for a few minutes?
A tiny smile curled Kirk's lips. He typed out a response. Sure, my lovely. C'mon down.
Don't call me that.
Kirk went to send back another teasing reply but McCoy had logged off.
It wasn't long before the doctor was knocking at the door. Kirk called "come in" and the door hissed open. McCoy stepped in. There were two spots of colour in his cheeks and he had changed out of his medical uniform. He was wearing custom, hand-made cloth boots he had gotten on a trip back to Earth, a pair of black slacks and a simple white shirt. They were both off duty for the night; therefore Kirk was wearing something similar.
"Hey," Kirk looped one arm around McCoy's waist and gave him a welcoming kiss. McCoy smirked at him. "Missed me that much, huh Jim?"
"Of course, Bones." Kirk laughed, "You know how much I pine and waste away while you're gone."
The doctor's smirk became a genuine smile. "Well now I'm never gonna leave. I talked to Spock tonight."
McCoy explained the situation and the choice he had given Spock. "You what!" Kirk shouted. "You told him that you'd break up with us? You never thought about consulting me first?"
"Don't be such a baby," McCoy said with a scowl. "It wasn't your choice to make. I know you coerced Spock into trying a poly relationship. That man would do anything for you Jim, besides sell his mother. I had to make sure it was what he wanted."
Kirk rubbed his cheek sheepishly. The doctor had a point. He had known that Spock wasn't as enthusiastic as he was about the whole thing, but he would rather pretend that everything was perfect. "Spock said yes, though, right?" Kirk asked suddenly.
"His exact words were: 'It will be difficult, but it is a difficulty I'm willing to work through. I want you in our lives.'"