"Hey, Bones, Mitchell and I are getting the gang together to...Bones?" Jim paused just inside the doorway, frowning. The room was darker than the night outside, windows dimmed nearly opaque, only a thin sliver of light coming through the adjoining bathroom door to suggest Bones was in his dorm.
Jim had hacked Bones' security code the second week they'd known each other, and although Bones had groused, he'd never changed it. He probably figured -- correctly -- that Jim would just hack it again. At this hour Jim expected to find Bones at his desk with his padd and a pad of genuine paper, reading and making notes. Not locked in his bathroom.
"Bones?" Jim walked over without bothering to call on the lights, and tapped on the bathroom door. "You okay in there?"
"I'm fine, Jim, you and Mitchell and that lunatic Finnegan have fun."
That...that was wrong. Bones' voice was wrong. It was muffled by the door, of course, but more to the point Jim could hear he was lying, literally, through gritted teeth.
"Are you going to make me break in there?"
The exasperated sigh carried. "Go out and stop worrying about me, jackass."
Drunk, too, though he was making the attempt to hide the slur and the thickening of his accent. Jim's frown deepened. He looked around the bedroom, hoping for an explanation, but even with his eyes adjusting to the dark he could only see hints of Bones' normal clutter on assorted flat surfaces. He turned back, leaned a little closer to the door.
"So that's a 'yes,' then?"
"Dammit..." But the door unlocked and slid open, spilling remorseless yellow light into the room; Bones leaned against the sink, eyes red-rimmed, arms folded across his chest. His bare chest. "There. See? I'm fine."
Jim dragged his eyes away, scanning the rest of the bathroom; the medicine cabinet was open and the room looked nearly spotless -- until he saw the faint smear of blood on Bones' bicep.
"Bullshit. You're drunk, and you're hurt." He was never going to figure out how someone who played cutthroat poker the way Bones did could be such a lousy liar; Bones' gaze dropped to the floor and Jim saw his fists tighten.
"It's nothin', Jim, I'll take care of it."
Jim reached out and caught at the tucked-in wrist, tougher and broader than his own; Bones locked his muscles, trying to passively fight him off. But Jim was sober, and worried, and where Bones might have been able to out-stubborn him under other circumstances he finally, reluctantly, let Jim pry the fold out of his arms.
His chest was fine, his left hand was fine though there was some blood on his fingertips. His right hand, though, was a mess; deep lacerations torn across his knuckles with faint flecks of something other than blood catching the light from within. Bones kept his gaze on the ratty bathroom rug, somehow managing to look mulish and sheepish at the same time.
"I should see the other guy?"
Bones sighed before reaching behind him to close what was left of the medicine cabinet. A piece of silvered glass slipped out of the frame, shattered further in the sink; a shamed flush crept up Bones' face.
"Shitty day," Bones preemptively dodged the question before Jim had a chance to ask. "An' I'm pretty sure I don' need any more booze. Y'all go on, now."
Jim wasn't going anywhere. He pointed at the toilet; when Bones raised his eyebrows he reinforced the gesture with a firm "Sit."
Bones' jaw set for a moment, but he moved over and put the lid down before sitting, starting to fold his arms again.
"Don't," Jim said, freezing Bones halfway through the gesture, and scanned the mess he'd been hiding by leaning on the counter. More mirror shards in the sink, from thumb-sized chunks down to tiny specks. Bloody tweezers and swabs Bones had obviously been struggling to clean himself up with, left-handed and drunk. A wet hand towel, a bottle of antiseptic wash. Jim shook his head and turned on the water, making sure he got it hot before he rinsed off the tweezers and turned back to his friend.
Bones glowered at him half-heartedly. "What about your plans?"
"Not important," Jim answered with a shrug, kneeling and carefully lifting Bones' injured hand in his. "And anyway -- you know the two of them. They'll get bored, leave without me, and bully me into paying for all the drinks next time."
Bones closed his eyes; Jim knew he was struggling not to pull away, or to protest Jim staying again. It looked like someone had swept gray watercolors into his frown lines and under his eyes; he looked tired and pale under the fake brightness of a drunkard's flush.
Jim turned the bloodstained hand into the best light and, gentle as he could, started probing after the first shard he spotted.
"So it isn't Jo, or you would have found me before you got started. The anniversary of the divorce is two months away --"
"Don't push, Jim," Bones interrupted, shaking his head, and Jim had to pause and look up; had never heard Bones' voice sound so bleak. "Jo's fine, Joce is fine, even that asshole Treadway's fine. And I know you have trouble backin' down from anythin' you see as a challenge, but I'm askin' you to leave it lie."
"Okay." Jim looked down again, concentrating on his task with a troubled frown.
He'd thought losing Jo and Joce had been the worst of the pain that shaped Bones, made him snarl and snap at the world to keep it at bay, but obviously there was something more. And while Jim desperately wanted to pursue the pain, to try to understand, Bones so seldom asked him for anything that he had to back off. With an unconscious twist of the lips, he finally fished the small piece of mirror out of the cut and shook it off the tweezers into the sink.
"Do you have a penlight?"
"In the kit, under the sink." Bones sounded subdued, bemused. Jim toed open the cabinet and rummaged around until he found what he was looking for and extended it to Bones, who took it in his left hand and shone it on the injury.
After that, the room was quiet enough for Jim to hear their breathing while he picked and swabbed the rest of the bits of mirror out of Bones' knuckles. The silence was more than a little disconcerting; Bones was always grumbling about something, particularly when he was drunk. But when Jim glanced up at his face again, he was watching Jim work without any particular intensity, brows drawn slightly together.
"That's the last of it," Jim said, finally, setting the swab on the counter. They stood, Bones held his hand over the sink, and Jim rinsed the open lacerations to remove any invisible specks of glass that might remain, first with a thin stream of water and then with the antiseptic. Bones grimaced but didn't swear.
Worried, Jim reached back down for the kit.
"Don't bother with the regenerator," Bones said, hoarsely. "Bandage'll be fine."
Jim looked over at him, trying to read the expression on his face, trying to guess why he wanted to hold onto the pain, but while Jim had been focused on his wound, Bones had found his poker face. So Jim straightened and pulled gauze and tape out of the cabinet.
Jim folded a gauze pad first, carefully placing it over the knuckles, then wound gauze around and around Bones' hand before taping it in place. He caught himself wondering when Doctor McCoy had last let someone else take care of his injuries.
"Happy now?" The bite in Bones' words was weak.
"Nope, not yet," Jim answered, tugging at his wrist until Bones followed him out of the bathroom.
"Jim, for God's sake."
Jim ignored the familiar complaint, guided Bones to his bed and got him sitting down before spying the dim outline of a liquor bottle next to the nightstand. He moved the bottle over to the desk, listening to Bones lay down and grumpily tug the sheet over himself. Jim kicked off his shoes, slid out of his jacket, then curled up behind Bones on the bed.
Bones tensed; Jim threw an arm over his waist, pressed his forehead against the warm skin of Bones' bare shoulder, and waited for the explosion.
To his surprise, Bones didn't bark at him, and didn't pull away, and after a minute the tight back muscles braced against his encircling arms started to relax. A couple of times Bones drew in a deeper breath, as though he were about to speak, but he never did.
And Jim was okay with the silence. He let it soften until Bones finally sighed into the darkness, heavy and harsh.
Jim tightened his arm against Bones' ribs. "So, do I need to add today to my list of days to stay with you and get you drunk, before you go off and do it on your own?"
"You have a list?"
Jim nodded. "Jo's birthday after you talk to her, the divorce, today. Three's enough for a list, right?"
Bones finally huffed. "Yeah. Think it's 'bout time I found a better way to cope, though."
"There are better distractions to be had, this is true." Bones probably felt Jim's expression shift to match the teasing warmth in his voice, but Jim doubted Bones could tell how sad the smile against his shoulder was.
He felt Bones roll his head against the pillow in exasperation. "Is there any situation in which you'd find a come-on inappropriate?"
Jim hesitated, almost took the bantering bait, but then simply sighed, dropped his voice lower. "Take it that way if you want, Bones. But I am here for you."
Another long silence before Bones set his bandaged hand over Jim's.
"I know, kid."
Jim heard the faintest quaver in Bones' voice -- a distant echo of the madman on the shuttle hidden beneath the staid cadet -- and the pieces clicked into place.
Bones had a list, too: the people it had broken him to lose.
"Hey." Jim pushed up on his elbow and used his enfolding arm to pull Bones over onto his back. "Hey -- when I say I'm here for you, I mean I'm always here for you, for the long haul."
"Don't go making promises you can't keep," Bones answered, distant and weary, staring up at the ceiling. His hand, outlined by silky-rough contours of gauze, rested limply over the one Jim pressed against his breastbone.
Jim set his jaw.
"The universe has its way with all of us, Bones, and I can't help that. But I have any sort of choice in the matter? I'm at your side or fighting my way back to it."
Bones swallowed, once, twice, then closed his eyes and spread his wounded fingers. Jim spread his in return, and sealed the promise by interlacing and embracing each of Bones' fingertips lightly between his own.