So...when I got back into Star Trek seriously and started writing fic I promised myself I wouldn't write slash like I ended up doing for XMFC. *snort* Yeah, that lasted. And I love Kirk and Spock as much as anyone, but I also love McCoy, but I don't do threesomes. So...therefore this came from somewhere in my brain, and for those of you who are firmly Spirk, well, that's in here, but I do have to warn you that though both pairings are included this is probably going to lean in the Spock/McCoy direction. Because they're just adorable in their argumentative way, I guess. I don't know. I just love them. Basically i noticed all of the very touchy-feeling stuff and serious emotion going on with Spock concerning McCoy in certain season 3 episodes when the good doctor was in danger or hurt or etc (For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky, The Empath, etc) and I just had to explain it and a few other things. Therefore, again, this fic. Please bear with me, and please do let me know if you like it! Thanks so much! Couldn't do any of this without you guys! :)

Sorry about the long title. Couldn't downsize it this time; nothing else worked at well. :P

Movies/episodes referenced in this chapter are: ST II:The Wrath of Khan, Miri, Shore Leave, & The Galileo Seven, in that order.

The Paths We Choose (And Those We Don't)

Chapter 1

McCoy wasn't sure he was really awake, as he walked back to his quarters after the funeral service. It all seemed incredibly unreal. He was alone, and he wasn't sure whether or not he really wanted to be. Jim wanted to be, that much he had made clear, but McCoy wasn't sure he believed him any more than he knew how he felt himself.

Spock was dead. The one of them that was supposed to live the longest, that was always supposed to be there…it didn't make any sense.

He rubbed at his right temple and cheek, not quite sure why he was doing that, either. The door to his quarters slid open, but he paused. Down the corridor were the captain's quarters—Jim and Spock's quarters. Jim was nowhere in sight, so either Jim had beat him back here in his haze, or Jim was taking his time. Maybe he'd retreated to the recreation deck.

McCoy sighed heavily and trudged into his room. The doors slid closed behind him with their hiss, and he didn't know what to do with himself. In the two days since Spock's death there had plenty enough of injuries to treat, even a surgery or two to perform, and then preparations for the funerals and memorial services. Spock had not been the only loss on this disastrous of unexpected missions; his was simply the service that had drawn the largest crowd. McCoy didn't think there was a crewman aboard who hadn't been there.

And of course, Spock's was the loss that was leaving him unbalanced. Spock was the one he had known. That he'd cared about.

And Jim. God. Leonard didn't know what he was supposed to do for him. Jim had lost his husband, his bondmate of more than a decade…and here he was worrying about himself.

The doctor looked blankly around his quarters and realized that it was a mess. Some of that was the beating the Enterprise had taken, things being thrown around he hadn't picked up yet, and some of it was his own negligence since…that day. None of his clothes had ended up in the laundry shoot where they should be, for one thing. Discarded items lay about haphazardly, and that was not at all like him. As a doctor he preferred everything neat and tidy and organized. Not the organized chaos that Jim preferred.

Organization had been one of the few things McCoy and Spock always agreed upon.

Damnit. He was blinking away tears again at that, and that wasn't like him either, and he needed to do something. So fine. He'd clean up.

That didn't work well either. The first pile of clothing on the floor he came to was the medical uniform he'd been wearing the day Khan tried to destroy them. The day Spock died.

McCoy tried not to think about it. He picked the uniform up anyway, but a soft thump on the ground distracted him. He'd felt a tug in his hands and realized that something must have fallen out of a pocket of the discarded clothing. The uniform still in his hands, he glanced down at the floor to locate whatever it was. Much of that day was a blur; he didn't remember what he would have had in his pocket.

He didn't even consider that he would discover what he actually found there—what had rolled up against his shoes and stopped there.

Leonard frowned and set the clothing down on the nearby desk chair, and bent down to pick up what was at his feet.

It was one of Spock's small IDIC medallions. As important a symbol as it was for Vulcans, he had…he'd had…more than one, and besides the fact that McCoy didn't know how it had gotten there he didn't understand why a strange feeling went through him when he saw this one.

As for how it had gotten there…

Spock must have been carrying it. Sometimes he wore them and sometimes he simply carried one, in a pocket. It was perhaps the only sort of nostalgia deemed acceptable for a Vulcan—not that Spock had given a damn what other Vulcans thought of him anymore, marrying Jim and such. Leonard supposed he must have seen this one often enough before that it sent that shiver through him. Memory. Faint pain and not-so-faint.

McCoy ran his thumb over the small medal medallion, and there he went blinking tears away again. Damn, getting sentimental in his old age…though maybe he had a right to right now. Because it had to have been deliberate. There wasn't any way the thing would've gotten all the way into his own pocket without premeditation. When Spock knocked him out with that blasted nerve pinch he must have slipped it there.

Why, McCoy couldn't begin to fathom. But for whatever reason it was an extremely emotional thing for a Vulcan to do, married to a human or not.

Still, there was something more in what he was feeling, looking at the thing, than just the sadness and other feelings he would have expected at realizing that Spock had chosen to give him this because he knew he was going to die and it was the only thing he had on him at the time.

There was something else, something that chewed at his insides, and…and…

He stared at it, and he stared at his fingers tracing the shapes…the circle and triangle together, coexisting...Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations...and…

And then it was like a dam in his mind broke with violent force, and McCoy dropped to his knees with a pained gasp because he knew. He remembered what he hadn't remembered before.


He'd been alone long enough, Jim thought. Most of the day. It was getting late, and he was being selfish cooped up like this. He'd spent long enough curled in their bed, wishing he could feel Spock next to him. He had to get out of this cabin.

Maybe it felt like his soul was splitting in half, but he wasn't the only one hurting.

He punched the comm, calling down to McCoy's quarters to find out if his friend was still awake. "Bones?"

There wasn't any answer, but for some reason he felt uneasy about it. He pushed his feet back into his shoes and made his way down the corridor. He didn't get an answer at the door to McCoy's quarters, either, but it wasn't locked so he went in, concerned.

It turned out he had good reason to be concerned. He found Bones against the wall on the floor just a few meters inside. One knee was held tightly to his chest, an empty bottle lay beside him, and he'd clearly been crying. The alcohol was usual for him but the tears were not; neither was his defeated position on the floor.

"Bones?" he asked in alarm.

It took a moment for him to look up, and when he did it looked like his head was hurting him more than a little.

"Jim…" It came out hoarse.

Jim swallowed and dropped, not quite easily, to a knee to swing himself around to sit against the wall beside his friend. He didn't really know what to say. Who did?

He didn't know the problem was deeper until McCoy said something.

"Jim, I…god. How am I supposed to tell you this?"

Kirk blinked in confusion and looked at him. "Tell me what?" He only saw now that Bones was clutching something in his hand, and in another moment the doctor was holding it out enough for him to see it, wordlessly. He recognized it, of course. One of Spock's IDIC medallions—one of the small ones he often had in pocket, like a memory coin a human might carry for one reason or another.

"How did you…?"

"It was in the pocket of the uniform I was wearing that day," McCoy sighed. He didn't have to elaborate as to which day he meant. "I just found it. He must've…"

"Right," Jim said quietly. It made sense. Spock had known he would die. Jim had everything of theirs and Spocks in their quarters…plenty to remember him. Bones didn't have those things. It seemed a rather sentimental gesture, even for Spock, but it had its own logic at the same time.

McCoy swallowed. "But that's not…not what I'm talking about, Jim. When I found it, I…somehow I remembered…there were things I'd forgotten." He looked away, as if he weren't really sure where he was going with this.

"Bones, what's wrong?" Beyond the obvious, of course.

McCoy shook his head, changing his mind. "It doesn't matter. It's not important anymore, and you ah…it doesn't matter. You don't need to—it'd probably just make all of this worse," he finished quietly.

"Bones, you're my friend. Just because now isn't the best time for me or you or anyone on the ship, really, doesn't mean I can't listen."

Bones smiled a little at that. He almost laughed once, maybe, but he didn't. "That's why you deserved him...why he deserved you. You're better than me, Jim. Just don't quote me on it later; I'll deny it."

"Well that's the biggest load of crap I've ever heard; no I'm not, Bones. What the hell is wrong with you?" And now the doctor wouldn't look at him again. "Bones?"

The answer, when it came, was barely audible. "I loved him, Jim."

"Of course you did," Jim answered slowly. "We all did."

A slight shake of McCoy's head. "No…I mean I loved him." And he sounded bewildered about it himself.

Jim didn't know what to say to that. He sat, dumbstruck, until Bones finally looked at him again.

"See? Why the devil did you think I didn't want to tell you this now?"

Kirk swallowed. "But…you didn't…you never…"

"I didn't remember," McCoy whispered, grimacing.

"What are you talking about?"

"It's a long story."

Jim sat back again, shaken but not knowing what else to do. "Well it's going to take a while to limp back to Earth…and at the moment I've got all night."

"Really, Jim, you don't have to do this right now. You don't have to do this ever. It's not fair to you. You just lost him; you don't need to hear anything else that might just hurt you. I know that's pretty damn sensitive of me, but excuse me for caring that you're my best friend—"

"Bones, shut up and talk." He tried to smile, and the ghost of one he managed wasn't insincere.

McCoy let out a heavy sigh and sat back himself. "Well you asked for it."

Nineteen Years Ago

Spock was not certain where it began, or how. Jim Kirk had grown on him easily—an intelligent, capable commander who quickly became a valued comrade and yes, friend. Indeed, after taking command of the Enterprise Jim quickly became the single human that Spock had ever felt closest to, personally. From the beginning being around him was not as difficult as being around other humans could be; from the beginning it was easy.

It was not so easy to get used to Doctor McCoy, when Kirk's old friend took over the position of chief medical officer upon Doctor Piper's retirement. Indeed, Doctor Piper had been much more mild mannered and tolerable. McCoy was…not.

Spock had no choice but to often be around the doctor, as both he and McCoy were often around the captain. They argued most constantly, and Jim seemed to find amusement in it.

But somehow, the doctor had grown on him in his own way. 'Grown on'…quite an illogical human axiom, but it seemed to fit. Where at the beginning the arguments had been somewhat irritating, Spock began to appreciate their intellectual challenges. He began to look forward to the opportunity to outwit McCoy in conversation, and when it grew to this Jim seemed to find it even more amusing than before. That much did not seem as important, but it was not unpleasing.

Spock did not know when it became such that he missed their presence when he did not see them for extended periods of time. Both of them. He seemed to…'miss them' in different ways, and for both it was illogical, all of it, but he wasn't certain what to do about it. Perhaps it didn't matter. If they were feelings, he ignored them anyway.

Jim, his friend; McCoy, his foil…and also a friend. So it became, the three of them friends, and for the first time in his life Spock was…comfortable. He did not mind anymore that he lived mostly among humans. He had an anchor among them in Kirk and McCoy, and as strange and unlikely as it was for humans, they seemed pleased to have him as a friend and companion as well.

So it went, until they found the planet of the Onlies. Now, Jim and McCoy had gotten themselves into trouble before. Spock was not so cold as to not be logically concerned when such events occurred. As first officer, too, it was his duty to protect the captain, or anyone he commanded on a landing party, which sometimes included McCoy, and such as that.

Never before, though, had he directly faced the death of either. Not the way it happened on the planet, when the doctor had taken the possible antidote to the disease they had been exposed to, before the antidote had been tested. At the time their communicators had been stolen by the Onlies—the children who were the only inhabitants left to the planet. They couldn't use the ship's computers for testing. They had little time left before the lot of them—save Spock himself, who was only a carrier—began to die.

McCoy had acted desperately, doing exactly what Spock had implored him not to do due to its danger.

Spock had never known the sort of gut-wrenching feeling that gripped him when he heard the doctor shout his name…when he rushed into the room again to find his friend unconscious on the floor, empty hypospray in hand and likely dying.

But it had worked. The antidote was not poison but cure. They had succeeded and the doctor yet lived.

And Spock could not forget the feeling. He tried, but it was useless. Meditation did not help. Nothing did. The thought that McCoy might have died was a disruption in his very core.

"Your actions were highly illogical, Doctor." He found McCoy in sickbay, in his office. The landing party had all been administered the antidote by now; there were only the reports to write.

"Spock? What are you doing back here? You're fine."

"Yes, Doctor, I am fine, but you very well may not have been. You should not have injected yourself as you did. Ten minutes more and the captain would have returned with our communicators. There would have been enough time to have the serum tested."

"Sure, barely." McCoy put his stylus down and peered up at the Vulcan curiously. "Did you really come all the way down here just to scold me?"

"Your actions were in need of reprimand, and as the captain has not yet seen fit to do so—"

"That's not really your job, Spock."

"That is irrelevant. Yours actions were reckless and dangerous whether or not they violated Starfleet regulations. Therefore tis is not an official reprimand, even though it is a needed one."

The doctor studied him for a long time, and then, for some unfathomable reason, he broke into a grin. Spock raised an eyebrow.

"You were worried about me, weren't you?" McCoy chuckled.

"Worry is an emotion, Doctor."

"It sure is."

"I was not 'worried' as you say. Concern and vigilance, in a truly perilous situation, is only logical, and that is all that I experienced. It would not have done for the Enterprise to lose its chief medical officer so early in its five-year mission. Really, Doctor, you must think of persons other than yourself. It would have taken a great deal of trouble to replace you at this juncture."

McCoy only glared at him and 'hmphed' and attempted to go back to his work. Spock stood where he was for a moment, trying to ascertain why he had come here at all.

He told himself the aching in his stomach was only the remaining effects of the antidote, and he went back to his quarters to return to meditation.

It took quite a while before he reached a satisfactory level of it.

It might have all been left at that, too, but life on a starship is by nature perilous. There was always danger, and months later it caught up with the good doctor, particularly, yet again.

Three months. For that long Spock had convinced himself that the internally violent reaction he'd had to McCoy's near death was nothing more than concern for a friend. He had come to care about the doctor's well-being just as much as he did about the captain's, that was all.

Before Jim he had not cared specifically for any human other than his mother, and the…feelings that he harbored—and subsequently ignored as with any possible emotions—for his captain and friend, were all subtle, warm sensations. They were very strong ones, he occasionally realized, but gentle all the same. Easy. As he had thought from the beginning. It was the best word to describe them. His reactions to the doctor were different. Sharper. He did not wish for anything to happen to either of them, but there were differences that he did not understand beyond the fact that they were very different people.

And then they discovered the shore leave planet. On that planet, McCoy died. Or they thought he had. They saw him run through by a spear by a knight on horseback. They saw him fall; he and Jim knelt over his lifeless body…

Humans generally thought that Vulcans were cold, incapable of feelings rather than suppressors of them. They tended to think that Vulcans were empty, dead inside. Spock's friends did not, he knew, but many human believed it and Vulcan society in general did not argue with the assumption. It prevented the pestering and prying into their ways they wished to avoid.

But no, they were not empty. Not dead inside. At least, Spock had never felt so until that moment. It was illogical, and yet…he was not certain what he would have done or how he would have reacted had Jim not been there. They looked at one another, over what they believed to be their friend's corpse, and it was only Jim that anchored him anymore.

In their continued investigation of the planet, in the desperate search for an answer, while they still believe McCoy to be dead, it was difficult. It was not only his stomach that ached, but everything, and it was not logical, but it was true. When the fabricated ancient Earth aircraft dived at himself and the captain and fired on them Spock found himself all but clinging to Jim as they ran for cover—clinging to all that remained.

They—he had lost McCoy. He would not lose Jim as well.

But McCoy was not dead. At least not permanently. The proprietors of the amusement planet had taken him underground to heal him, to bring him back to them. They had explained the proper way to make use of the shore leave destination and its technology, and there had been no more injuries. No deaths had truly taken place. The Enterprise crew had greatly enjoyed their leave there after that, once everything had been straightened out.

Spock did not take leave there. He beamed back to the ship immediately, once everything was clear and the doctor had been returned and there was no longer any danger. He could not remain there.

He could not remain and be reminded of what it had been like to see the doctor dead at his feet. It was all emotionalism, of course, and he meditated fervently in attempt to eradicate the ridiculousness of the sudden strong feelings.

It was even more useless than after their escape from the planet of the Onlies. No amount of time helped in this instance, as it had before. A week later, with leave over and the ship on her way, Spock still could not reach deep levels of meditation. It was beginning to affect his performance on duty. It did not affect him to a degree that anyone realized it—he was still well within and above normal human/crew performance levels—but he knew.

He also knew why. A week of intense attempts to meditate and the levels of it he had been able to achieve had revealed it to him—what he should have known, but had hidden from himself. He knew, but it was not logical. Nor could he act on it even if it were.

In less than a year it would be his time. He would be forced to return to Vulcan to wed T'Pring, and that would be that. He had no other choice. It would not be logical to—

No. He should not even think of such a thing. Even if it were not highly irregular, he would not do such a thing to the doctor when he was meant to be married. And yet…

He had not reached a resolution before he and the doctor, Mr. Scott and a party were stranded in the damaged shuttle Galileo on Taurus II only days later. It did not matter then, for it seemed for many long hours that all of them would die in one way or another anyhow—starvation, death at the hands of the violent native species, or burnt to molecules in a failed escape attempt from the atmosphere.

In burying one of the crew members who were killed by the natives, several of them were trapped outside the shuttle at the point of another attack. A boulder sent down on them as a weapon trapped Spock against a rock face…he told the others to go, to take off. He ordered it.

McCoy ignored the order, and by his leading the others did as well. They came back for him. As a result, all of them that still lived were rescued by the Enterprise—and none too soon.

McCoy. McCoy saved his life. That was not lost on Spock, and the greater part of himself that had tried to fight back what he had felt on the shore leave planet…that had tried to tell him it was illogical, impractical, emotional, and perhaps even wrong with his betrothal to T'Pring to consider…lost. It lost at least long enough that shortly after their return to the ship Spock found himself at the door to the doctor's quarters.

"Come in."

The door opened, and McCoy's cheery voice invited him into the room. The doors slid shut behind him has he stepped inside, hands clasped behind his back.


"Spock; this is a surprise." McCoy, at his desk, held up a glass of brandy. "Come to celebrate the fact that we're alive?"

"Not precisely."

"Oh…didn't think so. It's not your style," the doctor teased.

Spock did not know where to begin. The part of him that was very much Vulcan, that told him he should be Vulcan and nothing more and wanted to be, told him to turn around and leave this instant.

He took two steps closer to the desk and stopped again, hands still clasped tightly behind him. "Doctor…"

McCoy must have realized something was on his mind, because he frowned a little, put the drink down, and stood. "Spock? Are you all right?"

"I am not certain of the answer to that."

The doctor frowned at the strange reply. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"It is merely the truth, Doctor. Please, do not interrupt me. What I must say I will find difficult to say as it is."


Spock held up a hand and took another step or two forward, but still he kept a bit of distance—enough that he could keep his head, anyhow, and it really was incredibly humiliating to need to do so. This was not at all Vulcan.

"Doctor, please."

McCoy shut up, eyeing him warily. He seemed concerned rather than angry, however, which was preferable. When the doctor nodded to him to continue, he did. His hands, still yet clasped behind him, tightened to a nearly painful degree.

Spock took a deep breath. "Doctor….it has come to my attention that I am…distressed, when I believe you to be in danger. The same is true of the captain, of course, yet my reactions to your peril seem to be stronger. I did not understand this phenomenon until we believed you to be dead two standard weeks ago, while investigating the shore leave planet."

McCoy was already gaping at him, and the first officer continued quickly. "It may not be logical in any sense—certainly considering our usual repoire—yet after my…" He hesitated, but he could not lie. Or he would not. Not to McCoy. He finished quietly. "After the emotions I experienced upon believing you dead, I have come to the conclusion that I…care for you. Quite deeply." He let out a small breath.

The doctor stared at him for quite a long time, and Spock didn't move. He stared back, unwavering though part of him very much wanted to waver. After a long while McCoy cleared his throat noisily.

"Damnit, Spock, is this some Vulcan joke," he questioned hoarsely.

Spock's eyebrows went up immediately, and before he knew he had planned to do it he had taken long strides to close the distance between them, to assure him. "Not at all, Doctor. While Vulcans are capable of a certain type of humor, despite your allegations to the opposite, I would never consider 'joking' about such a subject as this."

They were very close now. He did not believe he had meant to come so close, but there was scarcely a quarter meter of space between them now. It seemed to startle McCoy as much as it did Spock, and the Vulcan reached for the doctor's arms to steady him. McCoy didn't pull away. He was looking up at Spock, mouth open in confusion.

"Spock, what…? This doesn't make any sense. You're a damn Vulcan, and you—what are you doing, telling me something like that?"

"I am telling you the truth, as odd as it may seem. And it is—odd—to me as well."

"Gee thanks."

"Yet I care for you. When I believed you dead the thought of continuing was…not a pleasant one."

McCoy licked his lips anxiously. "Spock…"

One of the Vulcan's hands was drifting up from his arm to his face, and though it was only a small amount of contact the brush of a finger against the doctor's cheek sent electricity up Spock's arm. It was enough that he sensed surface emotions without meaning to. He had not meant to intrude, but in that moment he knew that he was not being entirely rejected. The doctor felt…something, for him.

Spock had never anticipated that knowing such a thing could be so exhilarating. Part of him still felt shame, for giving in to any such emotions—for being here, for saying these things to the doctor—but the rest of him, in that moment, simply did not care.

McCoy pulled in a sharp breath at the touch, and swallowed, and one of his hands came up tentatively to Spock's arm in return. "This is crazy," he muttered.

Spock agreed, though the term was rather human. It seemed equally 'crazy', the urge that he had next, and yet in the brilliance of realizing that what he felt might be reciprocated, he gave in.

He leaned forward and caught the doctor's lips in the very human tradition of a kiss.

When he felt Spock's lips press firmly to his, McCoy finally snapped out of it.

This was crazy.

He realized he was reciprocating the kiss, and he abruptly broke away and pulled back, knocking the Vulcan's hands from his arms. "Spock, what the hell are you doing! Are you out of your Vulcan mind!"

Despite everything he had said up until now, and the fact that it was true—which McCoy realized—Spock had kept a very straight face until now. His usual expression, perhaps with a twinge here and there of bewilderment, but a straight one. Now, though, as he took a surprised step back, he looked hurt. No one but Jim or McCoy himself would have seen it, probably, but the hurt was there and Leonard felt an answering ache in his chest.

But this couldn't happen.

"I do not understand…" Spock was saying.

Of course he wouldn't. He was Spock. He was a Vulcan. Of course he didn't see the way Jim looked at him. It seemed to have taken him a great deal of effort to figure out just his own feelings, here, now, and that was a far cry from being able to read anyone else's feelings.

And Jim was Leonard's best friend. Maybe Jim hadn't confided that to him, whatever he felt for Spock…but he knew. And he couldn't do that to Jim.

Even if, maybe, he felt something for Spock himself.

"Spock, we can't. It—it's not logical."

"That much has already been established," he answered, an eyebrow quirked. He tried to take a step forward again, but McCoy held him off with both hands up and took a step back of his own.

"Spock! Listen to me. This is insane. It would never work. We—we argue too much. You know that. I know you think you—you're just not used to emotions, maybe, you've suppressed them so long. But you were just worried about me. That's all. You don't—you…" You don't love me. You can't love me. That would be really damn inconvenient for both of us, even if I—damnit.

"And you know you're still going to be you," he continued quickly. "You'll suppress them again, no matter what it is, and you'll be yourself again, and you'll just take it out on me in all those arguments of ours later if I let you do something you'll regret."

The hurt was back, in those dark eyes that spoke so much for him that Spock likely wished they didn't. "I believe I am fully capable of making decisions for myself, Doctor McCoy," he said stiffly. His hands disappeared behind his back again. "However, you are also, and if your decision was not to respond to what I have offered you need have merely said so. I will not, as humans put it, 'beg.'"

"Okay…okay, good…so we understand each other."

"Quite clearly."

The answer was icy, and McCoy winced. "Spock…listen, I'm sorry. I didn't mean…it's just that—"

"There is no need for an explanation, Doctor. I am sorry if I have disturbed you. I apologize for my intrusion."

With that any trace of emotion was gone, and the Vulcan turned and left.

Leonard almost stumbled backward, dropped into his desk chair once more, and after a moment of stunned silence he swiped up the glass of brandy again. He was already hunting for the bottle.

Oh god, what the hell have I done?