I promised more triumvirate fluff before I was sick, and here it is! Better late than never, right?!
The three of them were ridiculous, really. Walking stereotypes they perpetuated for reasons long since made redundant.
Thanks to rotating shift patterns, it wasn't often the three of them ended up with the same downtime, but when they did they would inevitably gravitate to the same spot in the mess, three bodies sat side by side, endless entertainment provided just by their very existence.
They'd been quiet so far for much of the evening. Jim was tired, fresh out of sickbay after being turned into a literal pincushion by a race who should really have known better than to mess with their captain; McCoy was in one of his more irascible moods as he ever was when Jim had brushed so closely with death, and Spock could hardly be accused of being chatty even on a good day. They seemed fairly content just to share each others company, Kirk and McCoy passing drinks back and forth with hardly a glance in the others direction; Kirk and Spock occasionally moving pieces on the chess board between them, neither of them particularly engaged in the game.
Nyota was sat across the room with Carol, Christine and Scotty, having what Jim cheekily referred to as a 'girls night', though granted not in Scotty's hearing. The Chief Engineer had a brilliant sense of humor about most things, but much like Jim himself, he never let rank get in the way of a good spot of revenge. He swore he had no idea why Jim's uniform had failed to transport back with him after they'd visited New Vulcan, but no one believed him, least of all Jim. Nyota was fairly certain that on most ships the sight of their Captain merrily sauntering naked to his quarters would have raised an eyebrow of two, but on theirs… well it was hardly the strangest thing any of them had ever caught him doing.
It was probably a good thing Jim's sense of humor was as good as Scotty's really. It was no wonder he had been left out on Delta Vega so long.
"I don't trust them," Christine said suddenly, drawing Nyota's thoughts back to the here and now. "They are up to something." She was sat between Nyota and Scotty and had the perfect view of the three men.
"Really?" Carol mused, craning her neck for a better glance. "They look perfectly relaxed to me."
"That's my point." Christine said suspiciously.
Nyota laughed. "I think working too closely with McCoy has made you paranoid."
Christine grinned sheepishly at that and shrugged. "Maybe, but since when have those three ever not been up to something?"
"Hey now!" Nyota protested, laughing as Christine refilled their glasses from the bottle of rich Parisian wine Carol had provided. "That's my boyfriend you're impugning there."
"Ack, he's just as bad as the both of them and a whole lot better at hiding it!" Scotty sniggered. "I think wee Jimmy's been a bad influence."
"That's not really fair," Carol scolded lightly. She had a soft spot for Jim that was slightly more complex than the sisterly affection Nyota felt for her Captain and was usually the first to defend him. In fairness, she didn't share the history that Jim and Christine, or Jim and Nyota did, and she tended to be much more reticent when teasing him. Christine and she both pushed the boundaries much further than they would have been allowed to with any other Captain, often not stopping until Jim was crying with laughter and either Spock or McCoy would take pity on him and stage a halfhearted rescue attempt.
"You weren't at the Academy with him," Nyota pointed out dryly. That was her usual comeback. Jim might have matured enormously in the past five years, but a part of him would always be the loose limbed, drunken jerk who had made himself such a nuisance for three years. Christine knew him from back then as Leo's friend and motor mouthed shadow, but none of the others had actually had class with him. When he'd first opened his mouth and reveled himself to be a whole lot more intelligent than Nyota had originally written him off as she'd had to swallow the urge to beat him to death with her PADD. Handsome, stupid jerks she could deal with, it was the intelligent ones who caused trouble.
"I don't know," Christine frowned, "if anything I'd say it's McCoy's fault."
"How's that?" Nyota asked.
"Oh come on, you've been him and Spock! I'm fairly sure he'd be capable of forgoing food and sleep entirely and living off a diet of driving Spock round the bend if he tried hard enough."
"Oh no, that's Jim!" Nyota laughed. How many times had she suffered through one of Spock's rants about the young captain? Granted, Spock ranted like a Vulcan, which was to say he didn't really express much at all besides a slightly twitchy eyebrow and a furious need to meditate, but she knew him well enough to know exactly how many times Jim was the cause. Spock had practically doubled his tea intake since becoming Jim's First Officer, which for him was as good as adopting a drug habit and smoking three packs a day.
"Aye," Scott agreed, "and the lad does it on purpose as well, and no' just with the Commander."
Nyota watched as Jim leaned back against the couch, Spock on one side, McCoy on the other, their default position. Mostly it was assumed that they had adopted that poise with Jim as the emissary between Spock and McCoy, whose somewhat volatile relationship was the stuff of ship's legend. Nyota knew better.
McCoy and Spock didn't dislike each other half as much as people thought they did. They didn't dislike each other at all. For some strange reason she couldn't grasp, they seemed to take immense joy out of winding each other up, purposely being as obstinate as possible purely to provoke a reaction that was now more habit than truth. They did it because they enjoyed it, they did it because having a reputation like theirs on this ship was actually rather useful, and they did it because it made Jim smile.
They both did a lot of things to make Jim smile. In the wake of that messy year before their first deep space mission, it had been a rare sight, one they all treasured more in the light of its return.
And of course Jim wasn't stupid. He knew exactly what they were doing, and in true form he made it his life's effort to repay that friendship and love the only way he knew how – by adding fuel to the fire.
There probably wasn't a single argument, confrontation or spat that McCoy and Spock had shared that Jim wasn't responsible for in one way or another.
The four of them lapsed into silence as they watched the three men who so often held their lives in their hands. They shouldered that weight with far more grace than most who had seen and done the things they had, but they were, each in their own way, the strongest beings Nyota had ever known.
She knew they were the envy of other ships. She understood just why the media was so tirelessly fascinated with their exploits and friendship when on the surface their relationship should never have worked.
Spock, the hybrid who took too much from both aspects of his heritage to ever be accepted by either, who had lost so much and who had never had a friend until one had barged into his life, consequences be damned.
McCoy, who felt things far more keenly than anyone ever should, whose compassion and conscience made him the man everyone wanted on side when they were at the end of their rope, and whose empathy caused him as much pain as it did joy.
And Jim, who had been running all his life, fearless when he should be afraid, terrified when he should have no cause and on a one track course to burn out, bright and brilliant but short lived, until he'd found his shelter from the storms that raged around him.
She loved them all. Hurt when they hurt, glowed when they were content and happy. Her lover, her brother and her friend. Three broken men who made each other whole.
Jim yawned widely, his head lolling to one side and hitting Spock's shoulder in a way Spock would have tolerated from no one but those two men or Nyota herself.
"Go to bed, moron." McCoy said, his voice irritable but his eyes fond.
Jim, his eyes closed, waved an absent hand in the direction of the chess game. "Not finished." He mumbled.
Spock, careful not to move too quickly and disturb Jim's comfort, reached over and checked Jim's King in a move Jim should have seen coming ten minutes earlier.
"Checkmate." Spock said mildly.
Jim still didn't open his eyes. "Were you holding back on me again?"
"Why would I feel the need to do so when you are clearly a most enthusiastic and exuberant opponent?" Spock asked dryly.
Jim snorted, one eye opening. "Bastard." He laughed.
"I assure you my parents were most certainly wed when I was conceived." Spock said primly.
McCoy promptly rolled his eyes. "Way to be overly literal you pointy eared computer."
And they were off, bickering quietly as Jim relaxed between them, both eyes closed again. He wasn't sleeping, but he was as peaceful as Nyota knew he ever was, an amused smile curling his mouth upwards.
Nyota turned back to her companions and found matching smiles on all their faces.
"They are rather adorable, aren't they?" Carol mused.
Scott snorted into his wine and Christine laughed quietly. "Do not let McCoy hear you say that."
Jim would preen and Spock would quirk an eyebrow, but McCoy would probably wield a loaded hypo in the direction of anyone stupid enough to say as much to his face.
"Troublemakers the lot of them." Christine continued. "Mark my words, when the Capatin's actually caught up on some sleep he'll be back in sickbay causing mayhem and I'll have to listen to McCoy ranting for an entire shift." She didn't look like she particularly minded. McCoy's rants were colorful and pretty funny if you weren't the target.
"Aye, and then I'll have the lad climbing over my poor wee engines until the Commander drags him back up to the bridge like an errant schoolboy." Scott laughed.
"That's because he's an attention deficit puppy." Nyota said dryly. Those had been Spock's words actually…well, not his precise words, but close enough. "You have to wonder what the rest of the world thinks of us when we show up with those three."
"That's probably why we get shot at so much," Scott pointed out with a grin. "But enough o' those three miscreants! You lassies promised me a magic cure!" He set down his glass and held up his hands – dry skinned, thick knuckled and clearly abused by years of hard labor in Engineering.
Apparently Jim, Spock and McCoy weren't the only stereotypes on the ship either, because the girls were quickly cooing in concern and rummaging in the supplies they had brought with them.
It was Carol who provided the lavender cream they chose to put to work on Scott's battered hands and he sniffed suspiciously at the tube before shrugging and letting them work.
"Won't the rest of the crew tease you?" Carol asked as she worked on one hand and Nyota tended the other. The Engineering department was especially well known for their love of bare knuckled banter and mocking, which went a long way in explaining why Jim's ego managed to stay so firmly in check with all the time he spent down there.
Scott shot them a beaming grin. "Ack, are ye' joking?" He laughed loudly, making Jim stir across the room and attracting two very irritated glares from the men either side of him. "Dinner, wine and a hand massage from the three loveliest lasses on the ship? They'll be bloody jealous!"
"So that's why you like girls night?" Christine snorted. "Mr Scott, you cad."
Scotty winked at them. "Guilty as charged, aye."
The three women shared a glance and Scott's grin suddenly morphed to something slightly more alarmed. "Well then," Nyota smirked, a look she had turned on Jim numerous times in the past, "we should probably give them something to really be jealous about, no?"
"Fair is fair." Christine nodded. Nyota and Carol still hand his hands in theirs and tightened their grips to keep him seated.
"I might have been a tad hasty…look at the time! I should be getting back-"
"Nope." Nyota shook her head. "Too late."
And with a final glance shared between the three of them, the girls all leaned in and planted firm kisses on a spluttering Scotty. Carol and Nyota got one cheek each, Christine hit the bridge of his nose, lipstick stains damning, not that they were about to tell him that, and then promptly returned to their work on his hands.
"Eep?" Scotty said meekly.
"Exactly." Christine laughed. "Now be good and let us work."
Nyota was at her station reviewing the reports from the previous shift when Jim bounded over, bright eyed and beaming. "So I hear you, Carol and Christine had your wicked way with Scotty last night." He laughed, his smile so wide it must have hurt. "And you didn't invite me! I'm wounded, truly."
"You'll live." Nyota said without pausing in her work and only just able to hide her amusement. Poor Scotty had been in such a daze by the time they were done he'd wandered out of the mess and back down to his office without a second thought to the three sets of lipstick smeared across his face.
The grapevine worked quickly and Jim, as ever, was firmly in the loop. "One of these days you'll admit your feelings for me." He laughed. "You love me really."
"I tolerate you." Nyota responded. "Barely."
"Meh, I'll take it." Jim shrugged. "If you let me come along to your next group meeting." He waggled his eyebrows in that truly ridiculous way of his for extra emphasis.
"Sure," she agreed readily, "if you let us wax your legs. Gaila told me all about the last time."
Jim choked and all but swiveled around to sit in his chair. "Status report, Mr Spock!" He said loudly, in no way covering the sniggers of amusement from the rest of the crew.
"I do not want to know, do I Captain?" Spock sighed, looking terribly put upon.
Jim shook his head firmly. "I'll get you back for that!" He hissed to Nyota, who couldn't help the warmth she felt at seeing the glee bright in Jim's eyes.
She supposed Spock and McCoy weren't the only ones who'd do anything to see that joy stay where it belonged and as she glanced around the other officers on the bridge, all friends now, all who shared the same goals when it came to keeping their Captain smiling, she knew there was no other ship she would ever, could ever serve on.
Jim had proved years ago how far he would go to keep them safe, his love for them evident in everything he did, and it was a love they returned tenfold.
He was theirs, and they would keep him, happy, whole and hale, and god have mercy on the next person who tried to take him from them.
For the crew of the Enterprise had already proved that they would not.