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where i lay my hat

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For a group of people so eager to head off into deep space for five-plus years, the crew of the Enterprise are a bunch of homebodies. At least that’s Jim’s impression after a cool dozen people have regaled him with stories of how they’re spending their surprise ten-day leave. Jim’s a little pissed Starfeet’s pulling them in early under the guise of maintenance. It’s like the second they’re out of the black, everyone suddenly recalls that Captain James T. Kirk, youngest captain in a century, is just the mirror image of Jim Kirk, perpetual fuck-up.

The prices for a double bed on the Earth Starbase are exorbitant once Starfleet cuts you loose. Maybe he’ll just sleep outdoors. On the beaches or something.

“Do you have any idea what you can catch on a beach?” asks Bones, glaring into his noodles like they’re personally responsible for the unknown terrors of Earthside beaches. “Anyway, speak for yourself. I’m going to my place, falling into bed, and I’m not leaving it the whole time.”

Bones is so adventurous. Such a fun-loving, young soul. Also, “Your place?” Jim repeats. “Bones, putting up a do not enter sign didn’t stop Starfleet from assigning someone your dorm.”

Bones gives him a look like you are a total asshat. “My apartment. In San Francisco.” Since when does Bones have an apartment in San Francisco? For three years at the Academy, Bones had lived in the geriatric housing unit for cadets with families and professional degrees (“Old people, Bones. They call this place The Tomb.”) that had literally been built before the Romulan War, practically in the Dark Ages as far as amenities were concerned. Jim suspects that the only reason Bones ever stuck around during those first few months, aside from Jim’s frankly scintillating personality, is because Jim’s dorm had a warp-speed cloud connection with access to the finest porn in the galaxy and an unlimited 24-hour buffet. “I got it before we left. And yes,” Bones holds points his fork at Jim, “you can crash.”

Like that was even a question. But still, “That doesn’t explain why you rented an apartment at the beginning of a five year mission.”

Bones shrugs. His skin looks papery and ashen, probably too many rounds of poker with Sulu when he thinks Jim isn’t looking. “Worldly possessions. Gotta put ‘em somewhere.”

Jim pokes his meal. Synthesized noodles have an irritating habit of congealing quickly into a grayish, rubbery mass. This close to Earth, you’d think they’d at least offer real food.

**

Bones’s place is one of those tall, spindly buildings that reach up like supplicating fingers to the sun that were popular around the turn of the century. Typical Bones, to pick something that was cool when their grandparents were alive. It’s a corner place with a wide-open floor plan, full of tall windows streaming in early afternoon sunlight that open up to balconies. It's bigger than Jim expected.

Or maybe it just looks bigger.

“I don’t really have much furniture,” says Bones, slightly slurred. “Also, I’m going to bed.” He really does look awful, swaying on his feet and with bloodshot eyes. After all these years, the shuttles still don’t agree with Bones.

Once Bones disappears through the bedroom door, Jim turns slowly in the center of the room, dragging his feet. The place is completely empty. There are ghost impressions on the walls where some previous occupant probably had shelves and some scratches on the floor where a couch used to sit. When Jim taps his toe against the floor, the sound echoes endlessly in the open space.

Fuck this.

He follows Bones only to find him sprawled face down, limbs akimbo, in a gargantuan bed that is obviously a response to Bones’s own tiny cot on the ship (“What, you couldn’t find a doll mattress, Jim?”). “I’m sleeping here,” he says to the dead husk that Bones normally inhabits. He sinks into the mattress and nearly moans with how soft it feels. No wonder Bones can’t afford any furniture. “This is the best bed ever.”

Jim stares at the long line of Bones’s back, listens to the deep even breaths. He tip-toes one hand across the downy peaks and valleys of the comforter, up one shoulder. Bones is still in his med blues; the fabric catches on Jim’s dry finger tips. “Bones,” he whispers, then, at no response, tries again louder. “Bones. You know what else this bed would be good for?”

The shoulder shifts just slightly beneath Jim’s hand and when Bones speaks, it’s a raspy rumble from the depths of hell. “If you don’t shut the hell up and let me sleep, I will slit your throat and leave your twitching, gurgling body bleeding out on the floor until morning.” Jim strategically retreats his hand. He’s not the youngest captain in Starfleet history for nothing. He closes his eyes, falls asleep watching the pinwheels behind his eyelids.

When Jim opens his eyes, he realizes he must’ve been exhausted because it’s late afternoon the following day, his mouth is full of wool, and his bladder feels like it’s about to explode. After he’s pissed for approximately an hour, he stands at the foot of the bed. “I’m starving.” Bones, face tucked into the blanket like he can’t bear the waking world, is still dead to the world. Even kicking does no good.

The kitchen is bare even of plates and cups so Jim sticks his mouth under the faucet until he feels somewhat human. He orders an absurd amount of food for an even more absurd price then paces from one end of apartment to the other, exploring. There’s an unopened box from a bourbon distillery that Jim bets they’ll be sneaking aboard the Enterprise in a little over a week. In the middle of the kitchen, hidden from view by the jutting arm of a bar, a lopsided folding table lists under the weight of a completely desiccated plant, like some sympathetic super couldn’t stand the thought of Bones paying rent on a totally empty place.

When the food arrives, Jim takes the bag with its delicious breakfasty aroma into the bedroom because the sad little table doesn’t even have equally pathetic chairs. Bones, predictably, rolls over before Jim’s even finished unpacking the bag. The guy’s got a superpower for ducking the tab. He looks slightly less haggard, but still bleary-eyed. His hair is insane, the way it always looks in the morning, sticking up in every direction. “Where’d you get that? Did you go out?”

“There’s a place that beams your order directly to you,” says Jim in awe and a little bit in love. “Do you know how useful that would’ve been in school?” He neglects to mention that there’s no way he could’ve afforded it at the Academy.

Jim hadn’t known what to order, paralyzed by choice after a eighteen months of synthesized food, which always has the same mealy texture and bland, metallic flavor, so he’d gotten a bit of everything: soft curds of scrambled eggs, maple-smoked bacon, steamed pork dumplings with a sweet and spice sauce, smoked whitefish with sourdough. He eats too quickly to taste much but salt and grease, which in no way hampers the meal. Bones is still eating, grumbling about Jim ruining his high threadcount sheets like Bones even knows what that means, by the time Jim’s polished off his weight in eggs and sausage.

Jim dozes against the pillows, imagines Bones in his office on the ship, scrolling through mattress and frame reviews when they pass into comm range. Using his downtime to research sheets. Threadcount, what the hell even is that? “Bones, you don’t even have any earthly possessions.”

“I have a pain in my ass I can’t shake, does that count?” Jim squints one eye open but Bones carefully spearing a bite so that it is equal parts eggs, sausage, and home fry so Jim lets it slip back shut.

Vaguely he’s aware of Bones clearing their containers to the floor. He keeps up a mumbling, displeased commentary like a crotchety old man in a cartoon. Bones claims Jim talks a lot but the truth is Bones runs his mouth constantly, rumbling to himself, to Jim, to objects, who knows, about the general incompetence of the world; it’s only when he’s sleeping that his low-decibel motor cuts out. Jim times his life in those silences, in the comforting rise and fall of Bones’s verbal tide.

He squints one eye open when he feels Bones settle back down. He’s scrolling through something on a PADD and Jim realizes it seems a bit darker. “This bed,” rasps Jim, scrubbing a hand over his face, “is amazing.”

“I know.”

Jim sits on that one for a long moment, then slants a glance over at Bones. “Really amazing.”

Bones smirks. He’s doing a shit job of pretending to read. “I know.”

Bones is right. He doesn’t really get out of bed the whole leave.

But he doesn’t get much sleep either.

**

On the ship, it fades, like it usually does, this intangible thing between them. They slide back across that line that’s more like a blur stretching for miles and they're just Jim and Bones again, the way they always have been. That’s not to say they don’t, that Jim doesn’t let a drink after mess linger into a couple heady hours that leave Jim’s mouth and neck a series of purpling bruises, hips aching, or Bones doesn’t occasionally take the opportunity to stretch naked across Jim’s not regulation mattress, you asshole! But it does mean that Jim doesn’t wake up before alpha shift to worry a question mark-shaped cowlick between his fingers or fall asleep with Bones on his ribs, hand tucked against the soft skin of Jim’s inner thigh. It makes it easier, Jim thinks, on both of them.

All the same, when they’re back earthside as part of little more than a flashy escort for a Risan dignitary, which Jim is not letting himself think of as a punishment after the rough couple months he’s had, they fall into it like they’re starving, Jim still jittery and sharp at the edges from a rough mission. Bones smoothes away the snags and cracks until they’re so tiny they’re invisible to the naked eye, but Jim knows Bones sees them and, instead of being annoyed, he’s grateful.

Bones wanders away after and Jim lies on his back in the darkness for awhile before he ventures out of the bedroom. Bones is no where to be found in the wide open flat and Jim stalks the windows until he finds Bones out on a west-facing part of the balcony. “You have patio furniture,” says Jim, somewhat overjoyed. Also Bones is naked, naked and outside, which is so incongruous that Jim is temporarily awestruck.

“It came with the place.” The cushion on the other chair is dew-wet and cold, so Jim climbs into Bones’s lap, tucking face against Bones’s ear. San Francisco lights up the sky to the north and east as far as Jim can see before abruptly terminating in the inky blackness of the ocean. Far out, Jim can just make out the pulsating lights of western seaboard levees. He falls asleep, fucked out and exhausted, listening to the faintest roar, like waves crashing against the ocean, of the city humming beneath them, Bones rubbing wide parabolas on his back.

**

The bed’s great, amazing, honestly the best bed ever and when they’re home that’s where they spend most of their time anyway, fucking and sleeping and sprawled out watching terrible holovids or playing stupid VR games, but that seems to be about as far as Bones wants to take it, furniture-wise. Jim hates being in the kitchen and staring out at the vacant floor, but figures who is he to tell Bones what to do with his apartment. If Bones wants to spend a ridiculous amount of his own salary keeping an empty apartment, then by all means.

Except.

There’s a soup that tastes like the sparse good parts of Jim’s childhood, a traditional Andorian wedding meal adapted to human tastes, fizzy and spicy. His mom used to make it whenever Jim was sick if she was planetside. You add a sour spice mix just before eating that causes a small eruption with hot pepper-flavored steam, which he used to get a kick out of, could snap him out of any deep funk, but not so much when it bubbles over the edge and nearly scalds his nuts off. Bones, to his credit, doesn’t laugh himself into an aneurysm, but it’s a close thing, even when he’s kneeling between Jim’s legs with a tricorder, applying burn salve to the tender skin on Jim’s inner thighs.

“Well,” says Bones, finally, “you’re not sterile, lord help us all.” He sits back. He’s wearing his most deadly serious expression, the one Jim knows is a poor cover for I’m about to bust a gut.

“Fuck you. This wouldn’t have happened if you owned one chair.” Jim retreats to the dry half of the bed — his half, he notes gleefully — pissed off and hurting. It would be great if at least one thing in a month of failed trade negotiations would go well. “Or one of anything.”

“Or if you hadn’t tried to eat exploding food naked on the bed.” Bones filches a noodle from the half empty bowl. “Where am I supposed to sleep?”

“Please go fuck yourself.” Jim knows he’s projecting so he puts up a pretty good show of pretending his legs don’t twinge when he moves, even strips the bed and vacuums the mattress while Bones reads important documents on his PADD that are probably just sports stats. All the same, when Jim wakes up the next day, Bones is eating toast and scowling at his screen in one of four high-backed chairs clustered around that pathetic old card table.

“There’s soup if you want it,” says Bones in a tone that suggests only fools eat exploding soup ever, much less twice in two days.

So there is. Jim adds the powder slowly for about two seconds before dumping it all in. It hisses and foams, sending a small tsunami sloshing over either side of the bowl. Jim’s seen spaceships shatter into tiny pieces, volcanoes erupt big enough to blot out planets, seen enough explosions to last a lifetime, but something inside him loosens anyway.

**

The thing is, even though Jim’s not a collector, he still ends up with stuff. A dried rare flower the locals said warded off death that he was given following his first successful peace negotiation, an umber rock sculpture made by kids on New Vulcan that Spock gave him stiffly that first Christmas, the ugliest still-life Jim’s ever seen an admiral’s husband painted himself. He can’t keep it all in his quarters, so it all ends up lining the walls of the main room mixing with whatever odds and ends Bones has picked up, mostly strange medicines in bio-seals he wants to study later. Bones seems happy enough to ignore it, but Jim keeps nearly breaking his neck tripping over all his own shit.

“You should get shelves,” says Jim one day, sitting across from Bones at the shitty little dining table. He finally did away with the mummified plant, feeling like he was saying goodbye to an old friend. “For all that shit.”

Bones glances up from where he’s inhaling his rice. “I guess it does really fuck up the feng shui,” he says wryly. Jim shrugs. If Bones is gonna be a dick about it, fine.

He doesn’t even realize how much it bugs him until he’s chatting with his mom and she says, “If you need some, we have those bookcases in storage.” Jim drops his bruised foot from view of the screen and pauses. Is it weird to decorate Bones’s apartment? Then he thinks of Bones’s expression at the trail of blood he’d left from the bedroom door to the kitchen this morning

“Yeah, okay,” he says slowly. “Awesome, thanks.”

He arranges to have them delivered when he knows Bones will be at Starfleet headquarters breaking in new techs and triple-checking medbay’s supplies. He’s ritualistic about it the closer they get to departure, obsessively cataloguing every centimeter of gauze and sterile hypo. It would be funny if Jim didn’t know Bones wakes up most nights from a nightmare where a crewmember dies from something Bones forgets.

Jim spends most of the day arranging their enormous amount of shit onto the shelves. Between them, they only have a half-dozen actual books, mostly of sentimental value and the rest he crams with weird their amalgamation of odds and ends. At first, he tries to draw a line between their belongings, but he can’t remember what stuff is definitely his versus what belongs to Bones. Failing that, he attempts to create a semblance of order by theme, which really only results in a liquor section and everything else thrown in hapzardly.

When Bones gets back, he’s so deeply immersed in detailing the utter incompetence of the fetus techs and novice nurses that Starfleet’s assigned him — Bones perpetually rues that he can’t simply rewind his entry-level staff so they can never leave — that he utterly fails to notice the change. It’s only when he’s been quiet abnormally long that Jim realizes Bones is spun around in one of the bar stools purchased in the Great Seating Acquisition of 2259 studying the walls.

“They were my grandfather’s. On my dad’s side,” says Jim, feeling uncomfortably warm.

Bones reaches to tug Jim into the space between his knees. “Nice to get all that shit off the floor,” he says, voice unaccountably gruff and warm into Jim’s mouth.

When Jim comms his mom in the morning to thank her, she says, “I’m glad you’re making a place for yourself, honey.”

After that, it’s like the penny drops. Or at least he’s doesn’t feel like a dick for wanting to stop accidentally kicking over his half-empty beer when he gets out of bed in the morning. He just buys a bedside table, which Bones appropriates until Jim buys another one. Jim still doesn’t get why Bones even got this place if he was just going to ignore it, but it seems a shame to let it languish in neglect.

A deadly outbreak of human influenza among the population of New Vulcan has Bones spending the majority of a four-month leave off-planet. Bones pretends like he’s a heartless badass, but all it took was, “If I may prevail upon you for a great favor—” from Spock and Bones was falling all over himself to sign away his vacation. Jim envisions Bones working himself into a frothing rage at the logical backtalk from his miserable patients. Jim’s bored and there’s only so much havoc he can wreak at Starfleet since it’s technically a mandatory leave.

Jim doesn’t know what Bones’s style is and he tries to ask, to gauge what Bones will hate the least, except that Bones doesn’t really like anything. He’s one of those people immediately adverse to change just for the sake of being a curmudgeonly asshole. So Jim just buys stuff as he decides he wants it, without any rhyme or reason. He picks up things made of heavy wood, mostly unstained, because he imagines it’s something that might remind Bones of home, all low-hanging fruit on shaded trees and wrap-around porches. Bones doesn’t seem to notice either way.

**

They fight. Even — or especially — after years, they bicker about Jim risking his fool neck for glory and Bones’s propensity toward being an overbearing paranoid xenophobic harpy. This time it’s an argument that began with the ethics of bringing undocumented flora aboard the Enterprise and ended in a multiday sulk on both their parts until they’re back at Starfleet and Chekov, who’s due on a shuttle to Russia at 0500 and looks like he is no shape to make it, drops down next to Jim at the officer’s bar and slurs, “Keptin, if Doktor McCoy transfers, vhere will I find my whiskey?”

Few people have ever seen Jim really lose his shit, including his crew, and Jim has the good grace to make his exit before it becomes a situation. As it is, he’ll apologize to Chekov in the morning if it turns out the kid isn’t blackout drunk.

The walk from the bar to the apartment is a furiously cold blur and long enough to work himself into an unholy fury. He has to try the keypad five times before his hands are steady enough to key himself in. It’s not until he’s at the foot of the bed, staring at the back of Bones’s head where he’s installed at his desk that his head clears. His desk that Jim bought. Bones is still pissed, that much is clear, because he refuses to turn even though Jim’s stalking right up to him like a goddamn Klingon warlord.

“You’re applying for transfer?”

Bones does turn around then, so fast that his neck back makes an ugly cracking sound, eyes wide with something like panic. “What — how did you find out that?” he asks and the bottom drops out of Jim’s stomach.

The thing is, Jim hadn’t even realized that he teetering on the edge, waiting for Bones stare at him what the hell are you running your mouth about now so Jim could laugh about what enormous deluded assholes they both are until that very moment. Until he’s fucking freefalling into a pool of crystallized rage protecting something fragile and precious in Jim's lungs. “Are you fucking kidding me?” He feels like his mouth is full of glass.

“Jim,” Bones says in his most appeasing tone, the one he uses when he’s dealing with scared crew and other small, broken things. “I never even filled out the forms.” He stands and holds up his hands, placating.

“Don’t fucking bother. Request denied.”

It's the wrong thing to say and Jim knows it, waits that long beat, tap-tap-tap his heart, and relishes when something shifts on Bones’s face, darkens, and he narrows his eyes for a second before saying, like it’s a test, a challenge for Jim, “I can go over your head,” and Jim cracks.

“No. No! Do you not fucking get it?” Jim realizes he’s yelling, literally shouting himself hoarse right in Bones’s face. Some small voice in the back of mind is telling him he sounds insane but he can barely hear it, doesn't want to hear it, the same way he used to pick himself up and take another swing when his eyesight was going black around the edges. He remembers this feeling, the way his vision tunnels until all he sees is the lopsided triangle of stubble on Bones's jaw he missed this morning. “Get nice and fucking comfortable Bones because you’re not going anywhere. You’re stuck with me until one of us fucking dies!” There’s a long pause and Jim becomes aware that the heavy, labored breathing is his. Bones looks stunned, like a cartoon character, eyes and hair blown back, mouth working soundlessly.

“Fuck you,” Jim tells him sincerely and he leaves Bones standing there.

“Jim—”

The bedroom door closes behind him or Bones stops talking but Jim doesn’t know or care which. He stalks around the bare main room of the apartment in circles, considers ripping something off the shelves and throwing it against the wall, considers leaving, except it's fucking freezing outside. He doesn’t really want Bones to leave either, which is the whole problem. What he wants is to tell Bones to sleep on the couch, but of course it's his apartment. And also there isn't one.

He ends up stewing on the balcony for hours with a watery glass of Jack Daniels clutched in his fingers. It makes Jim feel like a kid again, angry and unsure, feeling like he’s cosmically owed something in a universe that clearly couldn’t give a shit. He sits out there until he’s shivering and nodding off, until the white hot core in his belly cools, and he’s exhausted. He drags the cushions from the patio furniture inside and makes a cot not long enough for him by half in the center of the living room, falls into a fitful sleep. He dreams he’s in a giant cavern that’s filling up with water drop by drop and even though it will take an eternity, Jim knows he’s going to drown.

He becomes aware of a hand in his hair and when he blinks his eyes open they feel like they’re full of sawdust. The lights in the apartment are at zero, but the city filters in its permanent non-night of purple-pink, catching Bones’s eyes peering down at him. He has no idea what time it is. Bones kneels next to Jim’s shoulders, strokes his thumb at Jim’s temple. "I thought maybe you left."

"All my stuff's here," Jim tells him, tongue coated with the acrid taste of old whiskey. "Where would I go?"

"Well I know that," says Bones but he doesn't say anything else, just presses the thumb to the corner of Jim's eye.

“You’re an asshole,” Jim tells him.

Bones makes a rueful face. “I know.”

“A shitty, petty asshole.”

“I know.” Bones leans all the way forward to put his face on the cushions. They smell like mildew. They stare at each other for a long time, until Bones shifts and his back pops, a sharp crack that startles them both. “I can’t sleep here.” When he sits up, Jim considers staying, but he’s not sure what point that would prove so he lets Bones manhandle him into the bedroom, hands at Jim’s back, his hips, his neck and ass, like Bones is afraid of he stops touching Jim he’s going to disappear. Jim lets Bones crawl all over him, warm and heavy and they sleep until early afternoon.

Jim orders a sofa before they beam back up, long enough for Bones fully stretch out on — optimal for fucking, Jim points out — if he ever really needs to.

It really is perfect for fucking, too.

**

“Yeah. A little — no, perfect. Ugh.” Jim has no idea what comes out of his mouth when they’re having sex, but Bones assures him it’s nonsense babble, just like usual. He used to tell Jim shut the hell up you’re distractin’ me way back when but now he mostly lets it go when he has Jim braced against one of those high-backed kitchen chairs. They are the actually perfect height and weight for gripping.

“Oh my god, shut up about the chairs,” groans Bones into Jim’s neck. He punctuates his statement with a particularly vigorous thrust that shifts Jim’s balance and he nearly falls. He repositions one hand to the table. It feels good, amazing; Jim can’t believe he goes a single day without Bones pressed inside him on the ship, can’t figure out why when it’s so perfect, like they were made to do this, the stretch and slide. He leans forward a bit, tips his head back so Bones can shove his disgusting sweaty forehead at Jim’s mouth. Jim braces one leg up to take Bones deeper and the world collapses.

Or least Jim’s world does when the table buckles beneath him and he collapses to the floor with a shout that has nothing to do with his now-receding orgasm. Bones lands on top of him and pain explodes at the back of Jim’s head when all the air leaves his lungs. He sees black, then stars, and comes to a second later, coughing and elbowing Bones to get the hell off him.

Jim chokes when Bones pulls out and lands face up next to Jim, head connecting soundly with a leg of the chair. His lip is bleeding and he rubs his jaw. “I think I chipped a tooth.”

“I think I’m dead.” Jim tries to push himself up and collapses right back down when fire radiates up his forearm. “Actually, I’m pretty sure my wrist is broken. This is all your fault.”

Bones starts to laugh because Bones is the biggest asshole in the quadrant.

Jim drags Bones to one of the cluttered covered markets for table shopping because he refuses to go back to the days of sitting on the ground with a plate of eggs. San Francisco’s outskirts markets are legendary things, mostly made up of alien traders who never strayed far from the immigration point, manning narrow stalls that turn out, by some trick of commerce or physics, to be fathomless caverns full of junk. Bones immediately becomes claustrophobic and bored and, predictably, hates everything and wants to spend the rest of his life eating at the bar, Jim, I’ve spent some of the best days of my life eating at bars. Can’t we just order it?

“Shut the fuck up,” says Jim. He makes a big show flexing his newly-mended wrist because, laughter aside, Bones does feel guilty about that. He’s not sure why it matters to him to have Bones here, when he knows Bones really doesn’t care what the table looks like and will happily accept it once it’s installed in their place. Something to do with making this all less like something Jim just doing around Bones and something they’re in together, like everything else.

Bones takes to abandoning Jim as soon as they enter each stall and Jim returns after a fruitless search to find him leaning perched in a hollowed out space among a forest of brass lamps, looking irritated. “What about this one?”

Jim looks around. “You want a lamp? I don’t think they even make bulbs like this anymore.”

Bones exhales through his nose. “No.” You dick is implied. He hops off his little throne. “This table.” Jim realizes that the lamps are actually all clustered on a thick slab of wood that is actually part of an old farmhouse-style table. Jim glances at Bones. “It looks like something you’d buy. You know,” Bones waves his hand around, “rustic or whatever.”

Jim bites his lip, feels a weird strange laugh bubbling up inside him. “Bones. I buy that stuff because it reminds me of you.

Bones looks at him incredulously. “Atlanta has 40 million goddamn people. I grew up in a highrise. You were the first person I met that had ever even seen a farm.”

Jim stares at Bones for a second, then lifts his arms and uses all his strength to shove Bones backward. He hits the table tailbone first, arms windmilling. “Jim! What the fuck!”

Jim studies the unmoving lamps. Not a shudder. “It’ll do.”

**

Spock takes Uhura out to see the Valley of Fire one year because it’s the only place on earth that reminds him of home. Jim invites them to supper, aware of exactly how much his hand he’s revealing when they show up and Bones is at the kitchen counter setting alcohol on fire in a pan. Since that first fateful day on the shuttle when Jim briefly feared for his life at the hands of drunk madman, he’s only ever seen Bones cook a dozen or so times. Odd home-style dishes, like roast chicken and butter-sauteed green beans, would appear in the kitchen at the Academy and Bones would claim to have picked them up at some hole in the wall halfway to LA. It wasn’t until two years in to their friendship that Jim came home and caught Bones with his hand up the ass-end of a bird that all the pieces fell into place and Jim popped around the corner all j'accuse!

“I knew I’d never get rid of him if he knew,” complains Bones. “And, look, you’re still here.” He’s a little flushed and bright-eyed from the Vulcan spirit that Uhura swears was Spock’s idea to smuggle earthside.

Spock’s unusually quiet, won’t even rise to Bones’s needling, and Uhura fills most of dinner talking about the brilliantly red formations, which Spock says are mere fractions of what had appeared on Vulcan’s rocky, desert plains. Jim’s more of a Vegas man himself, but to each his own. It’s nothing like Santo Domingo, she says. “I’ll have to break him in with baby steps.”

Conversation turns to shop talk, as it always does, and Spock, normally never one to shy away from stridently offering his opinion, wanders over to the shelves of crap that neither Jim nor Bones has ever organized. They’ve just become more cluttered over the years. “I think it was harder for him than he realized,” says Uhura quietly. “To see even a tiny remnant.” She looks glances around, at the long bay windows and weird mish-mash of furniture. “This is a nice place,” she says, “Homey. Bet you’ll miss it, huh?”

Jim shrugs. “It’ll be nice to be home.” He knows the second the words are out of his mouth he’s said the wrong thing, feels it in the way the air shifts and Uhura looks over Jim’s shoulder where Bones is scraping plates like they’ve wronged him.

Jim sees them out all the way to the ground floor to make sure they take a shuttle in the right direction, then pads back upstairs with a growing twinge of uncertainty. Bones is already sprawled belly down over a PADD, frowning. Jim crawls into bed and stares at Bones’s profile. Bones refuses to budge.

“I like this place, you know,” he says finally.

At first Jim thinks Bones is ignoring him until he opens his mouth and closes it again a few times. He seems to mull over a variety of responses before finally tentatively settling on, “Good.” Then, “me too.”

“But the ship is home to me.”

Bones finally looks at Jim. Jim waits what feels like forever before Bones says, “Yeah. Me too,” in a voice that usually means you’re so stupid, Jim.

Jim starts and stops again. “Then — why—” He cuts himself short and fall into helpless, frustrated silence.

“Christ do I really have to spell this out to you?” Bones props himself up on one elbow. “That first time we came here,” he says and it’s a testament to how repressed Bones is that a flush is creeping up his neck. “I had everything I needed.”

Oh. Jim guesses he already knew that, from the way it slots into place in his heart without causing some kind of paradigm shift, but it’s still different to look around the bedroom and see all their crap, the desk piled with Bones’s numerous PADDs and chair askew, clothes spilling out of the wardrobe, a vase that a diplomat’s daughter made for him, and realize — oh.