A Good Dose of Hammock
It was time for the big guns. It had been three weeks, and Leonard was desperate to get this solved.
Three weeks had passed since Jim and Spock took down the Narada. Three weeks since their world had been turned upside down and shaken, like a kid trying to get that last coin out of one of those old-fashioned piggy banks.
Oh, he knew it had been more than just Jim and Spock who defeated Nero. They all had a hand in it. But when it came right down to it, it had been Jim and the green-blooded hobgoblin that had pulled off the fuckin’ no-win scenario that stopped a madman in his tracks, brought back Captain Pike alive, saved the whole damn planet…
And kept his baby girl alive.
Leonard looked over to his wonderfully alive, beautiful seven-year old daughter all bundled up in her heavier coat, playing with her scruffy mutt of a puppy in the back yard of his mama’s place, in the “just this side of warm” spring sunlight. Her laughter at the puppy’s antics lit the air, giving the golden light serious competition. She chased after him, trying to get the ball she had been tossing to him out of his mouth before he could scurry away. Her little feet would slide on the grass as she tried to make the sharp turns that the puppy would make as he darted out of her grasp.
A smile burst out on his face as he watched the pup teased Joanna, putting the ball on the ground, barking as if to say, “Here, come and get it” before snatching the ball back up and tearing off to another part of the yard. He knew he probably looked goofy with that big smile on his face – he could just imagine what Jim would say about it – but damn it, he didn’t care. Every minute he could spend with his daughter was precious, and a hundred times more so now – now that he knew how close they had come to not having this.
Nightmares were made of those thoughts and didn’t belong to a cool Georgian day. He was just so damned glad that his daughter and mama were alive and well, safe on this old planet Earth and not crushed to bits from the maw of a black hole.
And it was all due to his stubborn, beautiful genius of a best friend who wouldn’t know the words “quit” or “give up” if they bit him on the ass.
With her brown pigtails bouncing with every step, Joanna came bounding over to the large hammock where he was lying, the hammock that he strung up just that day.
This hammock, and generations of hammocks before it, had hung here on the McCoy property, between these two old, stately oak trees for as long as Leonard could remember. He swore that some foreseeing McCoy in generations past had planted these trees exactly where they were so that hundreds of McCoys after him or her could enjoy what he was doing now.
Granted, they probably hadn’t come out quite this early in the season, but Leonard was willing to go against tradition and the cool temperatures of the early Georgian spring. That’s what blankets were for.
“Daddy,” Joanna said, drawing his attention, as she stood panting at the side of the hammock, breathless from chasing her dog. “So & So keeps runnin’ away from me. He keeps wantin’ to play that game, and all I want to do is hold him.”
Leonard looked over to where the puppy stood on the other side of the backyard, his head cocked to the side with an almost silly grin on his face, the saliva covered ball resting between his brown-tufted feet. He cringed at the thought of how many times Joanna had picked up that ball since the two of them had started their little game, and he had to remember to tell her to wash her hands when she was done playing.
Running his hand over her soft hair, he chuckled softly as she pushed against him in the hammock, causing it to swing softly in time to her motion. “He still thinks you want to play the game, sweetie. Look how he is teasin’ you right now. You are just gonna have to trick him.” Leonard quickly grabbed her by the back of her coat to keep her from chasing off after the mischievous pup. “Whoa! You gotta ignore him, Jo-Jo, and let him come to you. You just pretend that you’re not interested in playin’ that game anymore, and I’ll bet he’ll come right up to you and drop that ball right at your feet.”
Joanna shot him a skeptical look, complete with a raised eyebrow, and Leonard couldn’t help but laugh at the mirror image of himself. Jim liked to call her “Little Bones” because of how much she looked like her daddy, a nickname she did not let Jim get away with, if he was stupid enough to call her that within her earshot.
Leonard still wondered what her secret was. He could have used it back when he first met Jim.
Leonard patted the hammock at his side and held out his hand to help pull Joanna up so that she could sit on the edge. The hammock tilled, slightly off balance, but Leonard shifted so that they wouldn’t end up ass-over-teakettle like his mama liked to say. Joanna lay back over Leonard’s chest, keeping one leg dangling over the side. The swinging of her leg propelled the hammock to sway gently back and forth.
Whispering softly in her ear, Leonard told her, “Don’t let him see you watchin’ him.”
Joanna directed her eyes up to the oak branches above them, pretending to look up into the trees, as she whispered back, “How long do I have to do that?”
“As long as it takes, Darlin’, as long as it takes.”
He put his arm across her shoulders and distracted her by asking about her school and friends. So & So would bark for her attention, but a strategically placed hand would keep her from turning her head automatically to the puppy. Pretty soon she forgot all about her impatience towards her errant dog and was talking his ear off about her previous school day, her leg swinging back and forth, the hammock traveling right along with her motion.
A small yip close to their side made Joanna’s report pause in mid-sentence. “Daddy, is it okay if I look now?”
Leonard stole a glance down to the ground and saw the brown shaggy puppy sitting on his haunches, looking up longingly at his mistress. “Yeah, Joanna, I think So & So’s ready.”
Joanna slid off the hammock and down to the ground, catching the puppy as it leaped into her arms. “Puppy kisses,” Joanna screamed as So & So decided to express his joy by licking all over her face. Joanna stood, leaning the puppy over Leonard’s head so that she could share those puppy kisses with her daddy. “Thanks, Daddy.”
Using his forearm, Leonard shielded his face from the grateful puppy. “You’re welcome, sweetie. Now go play.” He watched as his daughter took off for the house, skipping with the puppy in her arms.
From the wonderful smells of ginger and cinnamon that were coming from the open kitchen window overlooking the backyard, Leonard suspected his mother was baking her famous cookies, all to spoil both Joanna and him. He called out quickly, “Make sure you wash your hands and face.” He closed his eyes after the door banged shut behind them.
Shifting on the hammock, Leonard set it to swinging gently back and forth, as he listened to the soft sounds of Georgia in the spring. The light flickered over his closed lids as the early afternoon sunlight easily poked through the small leaves on the trees hanging over him. The sweet smell of spring that no amount of man’s ingenuity could ever replicate wisped passed his nose and Leonard took a deep, relaxing breath. The calm settled into his soul.
Now this, this he could get used to after the craziness of his life the past three weeks.
It had taken them two weeks to make their way back to Earth. With no warp drive and no available ships to tow them in, the Enterprise under Jim’s, Scotty’s and most of the remaining crew’s hands, had made it most of the way back in one piece on impulse power until a ship was finally sent out to meet them.
That was followed by a week of intense debriefings, where they were all grilled and then grilled again about every step and decision each of them had made before, during and after engaging the Narada.
Leonard still smarted from some of the ass-chewing he got, especially about sneaking Jim on to the ship, but he wouldn’t back down about his decision. Even if he lost his commission, he knew he did the right thing, not leaving one of the three most important people in his life standing there in that hanger. He couldn’t have left Jim behind that day anymore than he could have left his lungs behind.
And if someone said that he couldn’t breathe without Jim, well, he might growl and tell them to stop spouting such foolish drivel, but secretly he’d have to agree with them.
So he told those admirals and told them again and again that they better be damn glad he had brought Jim on board with his allergic reaction. If it hadn’t been for Jim, they wouldn’t be sitting there now, and that they were wasting time trying to find a problem where there wasn’t one. It must have worked because neither Jim nor he had been cashiered out of Starfleet – yet.
But the clusterfuck of the last week didn’t end there with all the official meetings. On top of it all, there were the funerals held for their fallen comrades in the other ships and the crew members killed from theirs. It was almost too much for a sane person to handle, and Leonard knew what he was talking about. But what Jim was enduring – more debriefings than some of the crew combined...
Leonard shook his head as he worried about his friend. The man barely slept the whole two weeks out in space, running from one place to the other, helping with repairs, keeping on top of everything else, being a fantastic example of captain to a lot of scared and wet-behind-the-ears cadets. Only when Leonard threatened to stab him with a hypo or two, did the man ever sleep more than two or three hours over a course of many days.
Finally, after the second time Leonard had accosted him with a hypo, Jim admitted that he just couldn’t sleep any longer. Hell, even with the sedative in his system, Jim only managed five or six hours of sleep, and then he was so surly afterwards, Uhura actually threatened Leonard with bodily harm if he hypoed Jim again. She told him that Jim’s safety was on Leonard’s head. Because if Jim came to the bridge one more time in that pissed off mood, he’d end up being strangled again or locked in Leonard’s office with him so that Leonard could deal with the jerk instead of them.
Jim did try to sleep when his body refused to go any further. Leonard had seen that for himself because Jim refused to sleep in Captain Pike’s quarters or the quarters of one of the dead crewmen. The times he did sleep, Jim would stretch out on Leonard’s bed with him, and within minutes, would be snoring softly. But those oh-so-few hours later, Jim would jerk awake and would roll out of bed, and the rat race would start all over again.
Once they got back to Earth, Leonard had hoped his friend would finally get back to the sleep pattern that was more natural for him, like he had at the Academy, but no such luck. Leonard didn’t know if it was the endless meetings that the kid had day and night, or if it was all the funerals Jim insisted on squeezing in during the times he wasn’t stuck in a room with tight-assed admirals that were causing Jim to maintain the ridiculous break neck speed he seemed hell bent on keeping. Maybe it was both. Maybe it was something else entirely.
Whatever it was, it needed to stop, but nothing Leonard tried seemed to work.
The slamming of the back door pulled Leonard from his thoughts. “Jo-Jo, I hope you’re bringing your daddy some of Gramma’s delicious cookies.”
A familiar chuckle warmed Leonard’s heart more than the soft spring sunshine and thick blanket covering him could ever do. “Geez, Bones, using your own daughter like that for food just so you could keep your lazy butt in that hammock seems a little low.”
Leonard smiled to himself, but refused to open his eyes and look at his best friend. “Well, I don’t suppose you thought to grab one for me before you came out here?”
“Actually I did.”
That got him to open his eyes long enough to take in Jim’s tired but smiling face, standing there in his favorite leather jacket, t-shirt and jeans, as he held out one of Eleanora’s famous ginger and molasses cookies, chewing slowly on another. Leonard took it from him, taking a big bite from it and closing his eyes once again, shutting off the sight of his best friend.
“Joanna and So & So were busy watching a holo-vid when I got here, so I didn’t want to disturb them,” Jim’s voice told him.
“And speaking of So & So, I take it you realize that is what she named him?” Leonard groused with his eyes firmly shut before eating the rest of his cookie.
On the day that Joanna had gotten the dog for her seventh birthday just a little over a month ago, she had excitedly commed Leonard to tell him about it. A casual question from Jim, who was lurking over his shoulder, asking her what she planned to name the little so and so, was all his daughter needed to hear before the name stuck for good.
“What can I say, Bones?” Leonard didn’t need to look to know that Jim had that shit-eating grin on his face. He also didn’t need to look to know Jim was honored Joanna had named her puppy after something Jim had said, whether it was intentional or not.
Leonard dropped the subject, electing to let the silence stretch out between them as he shifted his weight back and forth to let the hammock swing gently, establishing a slow, easy side-to-side motion. He knew Jim hadn’t left, that he was still standing there. He hadn’t heard him move off back towards the house or walk to where Leonard knew a lawn chair was placed.
“Isn’t it a little early to be out in a hammock, Bones?” Jim asked, sounding like he was standing right beside Leonard. “Wouldn’t a Southern flower like you normally wait until it at least gets a little warmer out?”
“Blankets, Jim. That’s why they invented blankets.”
Jim snorted but didn’t say anything more.
The minutes stretch lazily by as Leonard continued to lie silently, letting only the sound of the ropes of the hammock rubbing slowly and rhythmically against the trees to fill the space in between them. He felt a tap on his shoulder.
Leonard smiled to himself as he lifted the blanket covering him and shifted over to the side of the large hammock as Jim sat down. Jim slowly slid down along Leonard’s side, tucking himself under the blanket, while taking care not to tip the hammock. He turned on to his side so that he could rest his head on Leonard’s shoulder and tuck his chin into his neck. Leonard wrapped his arm around Jim’s back, resting his hand on Jim’s waist, as a feeling of complete and utter joy filled him.
He had never been able to hold Jim like this before.
A small tension-releasing groan slipped slowly from Jim’s lips, and his hand moved up to settle over Leonard’s heart. Warmth burst out of Leonard’s chest from where it rested, and Leonard couldn’t help it. He turned, kissing the top of Jim’s head and placed his free hand over Jim’s, lacing their fingers together before settling back down on the pillow behind his head.
Leonard gave his own contented sigh. The two of them lay there quietly, flawlessly working together to keep the slight motion of the hammock going at its easy pace.
“I’m done with debriefings. I have a meeting with Komack in the morning. He’ll give me their verdict on my status then,” Jim said, breaking the silence.
Leonard purposely kept his voice soft and low as he answered, “Hmph. Well, guess I’ll be there with you then.”
“That be nice,” Jim said, equally softly.
A peace came over them, easy and unrestrained as the hammock did the job Leonard knew it would do, and Jim settled down into a deep sleep, his soft breaths ghosting over Leonard’s neck.
Over the centuries, Southerners, Northerners – hell, anyone with a hammock – could have told you the relaxing power of a good hammock. Even back in the 21st century they knew how the side-to-side motion of a hammock helped even out and synchronized people’s brain waves, helping them settle into a deeper, more restful sleep.
And it was a hell of a lot easier on Jim and him than a damn hypo.
Leonard watched over Jim as he slept the whole afternoon away, finally getting some quality sleep. And if Leonard dozed on and off, guess he wasn’t above admitting he might have needed a good dose of hammock himself.