Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love! - Hamilton Wright Mabie
"I've never seen him like this."
"And being so circumspect about it, too. Unless you really knew him, you might not ever know something was going on..."
Standing in the supply room, Leonard McCoy paused from checking his pharmaceutical inventory when he heard the familiar voices of two of his medics, Chapel and Nguyen. They were standing outside the door, taking a break from their busy morning shift, and Leonard was about to say something snarky, chastising them for engaging in petty ship gossip, when -
"Well, just because he's the captain doesn't mean he isn't entitled to some happiness."
Captain? Just then their voices dropped, and before he knew it, Leonard found himself in the ridiculous position of pressing his ear against the slightly opened door, desperately trying to hear what they were saying..
"It's sweet, really. Jan told me he's never been like this about anyone before."
Jim. Leonard stepped back, not wanting to hear anymore. All of a sudden his stomach dropped, this empty aching feeling growing inside him. Opening the door wide, Leonard saw the startled look on their faces as he exited the room, nodding mutely as he passed them on his way back to his office.
Their words validated his own suspicions - the change in Jim's mood, the skip in his step. A general pervasive sense of joy bubbling up from the captain in recent weeks. Jim was dating someone, and not too secretly, from the sound of the nurses' gossiping.
Jim, who usually was so cavalier about his conquests on away missions and shore leave. A lot of it was bravado, Leonard had learned over the years, more flirting than anything. But Jim Kirk was a good-looking man with more charm than ten men needed, and that blazing smile and a kiss on the cheek (or more) helped him get out of trouble more often than not.
Recently, though - something had changed. Jim was different, though Leonard couldn't put his finger on when it happened. Two years into their mission, Leonard had originally put it down to maturity, a young captain growing into his role with more grace than anyone expected.
But now... Leonard turned to his computer terminal and began tapping angrily on the screen. He knew now that it was something else - no, someone else - who was causing that sparkle in Jim's eyes these days.
"Bones!" Leonard had been heading to the galley to grab some lunch when he heard his nickname. Turning his head, Leonard saw Jim walking toward him from the other side of the corridor. "Wait up!"
Leonard sighed to himself, planting his usual smirk on his face as he faced Jim. "Hey there, Captain." Jim's eyes were bright and he was smiling back at Leonard, like sunshine. Normally it made Leonard feel warm inside to see it.
Right now, it didn't feel too good.
"A little bird told me that some kind crew member in the galley baked a peach pie for lunch, real peaches," he said, those blue eyes blazing again at Leonard. His tongue poked out of his mouth, wetting his bottom lip as he spoke. "C'mon, I bet it tastes great."
Watching Jim polish off a sandwich and some pie, Leonard pieced together what he knew. Jim didn't date crew, so this must have been someone he met recently. There had been that conference on Tellar, maybe he'd met someone there. Leonard hadn't accompanied the away team on their last mission, the planet with the cat people. Perhaps that had been it.
What Leonard didn't understand was why this new relationship of his was something Jim had to keep from him. They had been friends for years, usually talked about everything with each other, though they'd reached that point in their friendship where sometimes words weren't needed. It had become comfortable, too comfortable, Leonard now realized. If Jim had found someone, then he might not need Leonard's ear to listen to his problems or ideas, or need his shoulder to lean on during those times he broke down that no one else could know about.
Soon, Jim might not need him at all.
He needed to do something about this.
Leonard was man enough to admit this was jealousy, pure and simple. He found himself watching Jim surreptitiously, walking behind him in the corridors, or from the other side of the gym, or tracking his movements on the computer.
One evening, while Leonard was sitting in the observation deck, considering his life choices, he spotted Jim enter the room with Sulu. The two of them chatted until Sulu broke off the conversation to go speak with one of the Science officers. Jim looked like he was about to leave when he stopped to talk to Ensign Meadows from Engineering. She was pretty, Leonard noted, flipping her long black hair as Jim gave her that smile of his, talking close to her ear. Must have been funny, whatever Jim said, because she laughed and touched his shoulder, leaning in when he spoke.
"Captain," he called out, not realizing he'd said anything until he heard his own voice.
Leonard watched Jim turn toward him, no sign of guilt or secrets on his face. He said goodbye to the ensign, then walked toward Leonard's chair. "What's up, Doc?" he said cheerily, gazing down at Leonard, looking at him in that way that made Leonard sure there was more than just friendship on Jim's mind.
"Um-" Now that Jim was here standing in front of him, Leonard wasn't sure what to do. The observation deck was a poor place for a heart-to-heart talk about what - if anything - was going on between them. "How 'bout we go back to my room, have a drink. Got something I wanna ask you about," he said, hoping Jim didn't hear the nervousness in his voice.
Jim's face broke out into a warm smile. "I think that sounds- oh wait," he stopped, biting his bottom lip as he thought. "Shit. I can't right now," he said, looking down at the chronometer on his communicator. "Got something I need to take care of... and I'm gonna be late. Sorry, Bones, I don't wanna keep 'em waiting," he called out, giving Leonard a wink before he jogged out of the room.
"Yeah, see you later," Leonard muttered to himself after Jim left. You are one pathetic ass, McCoy, really. Fuck knows if Jim had been the one asking Leonard to go do something, he would have dropped everything to go follow Jim. The story of our friendship, he mused bitterly. But when Leonard asked for some time to talk about shit... Sorry, Bones, gotta go meet up with someone special. Someone who's not a loser like you.
Fuck this. Leonard picked up his tumbler, swirled the last bits of synthohol around in the glass and drank it down before he headed to his room to partake in the real stuff he had tucked away down there.
Things had been going so well lately. His favorite foods seemed to be in frequent rotation in the galley. Scotty swung by sickbay last week with a couple bottles of what was affectionately known as 'the good stuff'. Friday nights in the rec room had featured classic space cowboy movies, the ones he’d liked in his childhood.
It should have been the best month of Leonard's life, the stars aligning to make everything work out perfectly. If only....
If only. The story of his life. If only Jim weren't in love with someone else. If only he could tell Jim how he felt, how the best part of Leonard's day was meeting Jim for lunch, their dinners and drinks together when they talked about their days, their worries, their hopes.
Now, that was all going to end.
"Hey, dinner at my place tonight?"
Leonard looked up from his desk to see Jim leaning against the door to his office. "Sure," he answered, finishing the sentence he was typing.
"Good. Like to hear that." Jim opened his mouth, as if he wanted to say something else, then just shook his head. "I'll see you later."
Leonard's smile stayed plastered on his face, just long enough for Jim to leave the room.
"Captain has a special package coming in on the shuttle." Leonard saw the back of Janice Rand's head at the next table in the crew mess. "Someone's getting his Christmas present tonight," she said in a low smirking voice.
"He told me." Leonard recognized Nyota's voice. Was there anyone on board who didn't know about this? "Asked me if I'd keep an eye on her until he was ready."
Unbelievable. Leonard wasn't sure what pissed him off more - the idea that everyone on board seemed to know about Jim's love life except him, or that he'd asked Nyota to watch his date until he was ready for her, presumably after having dinner with Leonard. Making his date wait for him... that wasn't the Jim Kirk he knew and cared about.
Then again - Jim didn't trust him enough to tell him about his sweetheart... someone he cared for. Liked enough to bring on board for the holidays. Maybe Jim wasn't the same guy anymore. Could they both have changed that much?
Leonard stood and sighed, suddenly not hungry anymore. Heading back to sickbay, he'd almost made it to his office before Janice's words hit him - Someone's getting his Christmas present tonight. A quick glance at the chronometer on his comm device told him it was, in fact, December 24th in Earth Standard Time. Christmas Eve.
It was quiet in sickbay that afternoon. Chapel kept humming carols and the buzz around the break area was the gala lunch the galley had announced for tomorrow. The few patients who came in offered him a 'Merry Christmas', which he returned. But despite their festive smiles, his own mood darkened as the day passed into evening.
Leonard stood in front of Jim's door, hesitating. Part of him wanted to cancel tonight's dinner, but in the end Leonard knew it was time for them to talk. Leonard had to get it out, what was bothering him, before it ruined their friendship forever.
Jim was out of his uniform when the door slid open, wearing a light gray sweater that Leonard hadn't seen before. "Hey," he grinned, standing up from his sofa as Leonard entered the room.
"Hey." A quick glance over at the table told him that this wasn't going to be any normal dinner. Food was already on the table, delicious smells. Familiar smells. "Is that chicken?"
Jim laughed heartily, happily. "Trust you to nose out my surprise before I show you. Thought you'd enjoy it."
Leonard snuffled around the table some more. Fried chicken. Mashed potatoes. Basket of cornbread. A pitcher of iced tea. Food, real food. "Jim, this is..."
"Shuttle came in today, brought some fresh supplies. You like it?"
"Yeah, I do."
"Good." Jim reached for Leonard's hand, lacing their fingers. "Always heard a way to a man's heart was through his stomach," he chuckled quietly. "Merry Christmas, Bones." Jim's face lit up at the small touch, but there was an awkward moment when Leonard stiffened. "What's wrong?" Jim asked, his voice getting smaller.
"Nothing. I mean..." Leonard looked at the table, then their joined hands, then back up at Jim's expectant face. "What's going on here?"
"What do you mean?" Jim asked, a playful glint in his eyes that only served to annoy Leonard.
"I mean - what is this?" Leonard sighed, pulling his hand from Jim's and taking a few steps around the table. "Everyone on board this damn ship's been talkin', saying you were seeing someone."
"I am seeing someone." Jim followed Leonard around the table, standing behind him. Leonard felt Jim's hand on his shoulder. "I'm tired of dancing around this, Bones. We're good together, and you fucking know it. It's time."
Leonard stared at the wall blankly, trying to piece all this together. He was the one that Jim was supposed to be dating? All those people were talking about him?
It should have been good, those words Leonard wanted to hear. Should have changed everything, made it all better. Jim wanted him, wanted to be with him. It was what Leonard had wanted for the longest time.
But now, Leonard felt only confusion, an annoyance that buzzed in his head like a gnat. None of this made sense. And what about that other woman, waiting somewhere here for Jim? "You don't got the right..."
"If I waited for you to be ready, we'll be old men before our first kiss." Jim's hand squeezed, slid down his arm and turned Leonard to face him. "Look, I've got a surprise for you. I want you to meet someone."
Leonard chuckled bitterly. "You just don't get it, do you. This isn't all about you, the Jim Kirk show. I don't want to be your flavor of the month. I don't want your surprises, Jim. I don't want you trying to make my life easier. And I damn well guarantee, I don't want to meet-"
Leonard froze. A moment later his neck snapped around, whiplash fast and he saw her. Joanna, standing in a pretty green dress, her hands at her sides, the ruffles on her skirt swishing nervously. He exhaled, a strangled noise escaping him, his arms opened wide to her as she ran to him, jumped on him.
"Jojo, how?" he asked as his arm wrapped around her, closing his eyes as he took a deep breath, smelling her hair, holding her in his arms. Joanna. Eight years old now, she was heavier than she'd been, her legs longer, kicking at his knees, but that feeling was still the same, his baby girl in his arms.
The perfect Christmas gift. Trust Jim to know, to always know, that damn kid... Jim. Fuck, Leonard mentally cursed himself. He'd been such an ass, not trusting, never trusting. "Jim, I-"
But the captain's quarters were empty. Leonard put Joanna down, walked around the room but there was no one there, just him and his daughter.
Jim was gone.
Nyota settled into a chair in Leonard's quarters, watching as he did the same. He'd just tucked Joanna into his bed, after some dinner and a hundred more hugs and a promise to take her all over the ship the next morning.
Now it was time to find out what was going on with Jim. "So... what do you know about this?" he asked.
She sighed, giving him a wry look. "I'm not entirely sure how the captain got in touch with your ex-wife, or how long he's been planning this. But three weeks ago, I transmitted notice to Command that we were altering course to the Janus system so that we could meet her shuttle." She cleared her throat when he looked up at her, eyes full of confusion. "My understanding is that Joanna's mother and step-father have business with the mining coalition, and the captain somehow managed to make it all happen at the same time, so you two could be together for a little while."
How long had Jim been orchestrating all this? And all that time, Leonard had been angry at him. "When does the shuttle come back for her?"
"Ten weeks, if I recall correctly," Nyota answered, watching his face.
Ten weeks with his daughter. Leonard tried to blink back the emotions that threatened to take over. His head fell into his hands. "I am such an ass."
Nyota snorted lightly. "Men," she shook her head. "Never can make things easy." Reaching over, she patted his arm gently. "Go find him, Leo. Tell him what you should have told him a long time ago. I'll stay here with your daughter until you get back."
"Computer, where is Jim Kirk?"
"Captain Kirk is in Stellar Cartography."
Of course - one of Jim's thinking spots. Leonard recalled how they would spend hours in the library archives back at the academy, looking up at holograms of planets and star systems. Leonard would watch Jim memorizing the constellations, the path of comets and wonder at just how far Jim would go in this fleet.
Leonard headed toward Stellar Cartography, still not sure what he was going to say to Jim. So many emotions inside him, welling up and threatening to overwhelm him. The way Jim had looked at him, how comfortable it all was, being with Jim. The idea of them together...
The door to Stellar Cartography slid open softly. The room was dark, like it always was - and empty.
Almost empty. Leonard spied Jim sitting down, his back straight, his head tilted up toward a holo of some asteroid cluster. Leonard stood there and watched him for a few moments, not making a noise.
Or so he thought. Jim turned his head, a slight glance at Leonard before turning away. "Go back to your room, Bones," Jim murmured, eyes on his asteroids.
"Can't. We gotta clear some things up, Jim, and now's as good a time as any."
"No we don't-"
"Shut up, Jim."
Jim's head turned around, his eyes flashing as he glared at Leonard. "What did you just-"
"I mean it. Stop talking. All you do sometimes is talk," Leonard told him, walking into the room, "or decide what's right for me. Make decisions for me. Well, right now it's your turn to listen." Leonard ran a hand through his hair and took a deep breath before he continued, his voice low. "I feel like you've been doing all this stuff behind my back. Like... you don't even trust me enough to-"
"Gee, I wonder where I'd get that idea..." Jim muttered, pushing himself up to a standing position.
"This is exactly what I-"
"It's because I love you, you selfish jackass. I love you," he punctuated the last word by pushing on Leonard's chest with his finger. "But you're too busy believing that I'm not capable of caring for you to see that. Still thinking that I'm still some dumb kid who can't keep his dick in his pants. I love you, Bones," Jim told him, his face inches from Leonard's, "and everyone on board this goddamn ship can see it but you."
Leonard stared at Jim's mouth, the way his lips moved as he yelled at him. That tight feeling in his stomach relaxed, replaced by an excited fluttering, heart thumping loudly in his chest. His hands came up to slowly cradle Jim's face, his thumbs pulling slightly on Jim's bottom lip, the feel of Jim's hands carding through his hair, tugging slightly.
Then there was touching, Jim's hands gliding over his sides, Leonard's lips finding the rough skin on Jim's throat. He heard Jim's voice mutter a command to the computer, the click of the door locking as he began tugging on Leonard's shirt, pulling it over his head and then it was just the two of them, holographic stars floating above them in the darkness.
Leonard's eyes fluttered a few times, opening slowly. Joanna was standing in front of the sofa, wearing the most adorable pink pajamas he'd ever seen, and tugging at his shirt. "Morning, sweetheart," he said thickly, sitting up. His back cracked as he shifted a sleeping Jim off of him, startling the other man awake. "Hey, Jim."
"Yeah," Jim answered slowly, trying to get his bearings. "Guess we fell asleep here?" he asked, running a hand through his messy hair. "Morning, Joanna," he said with a smile.
"Hi Captain Jim," she answered back, grinning. "Daddy said he liked your surprise."
"He sure did, kiddo," Jim laughed, nudging Leonard's shoulder. "Never seen a man happier to see someone as he was when he saw you."
Leonard chuckled. They'd come in last night and set up the small tree Jim had brought on board for Leonard's quarters. They hastily tossed a few gifts underneath it before settling onto the sofa for an extended make-out session - kissing and touching and talking, late into the night before falling asleep, curled up on each other.
It was an amazing night, and Leonard knew he'd remember the soft twinkle of the Christmas lights reflected in Jim's eyes for a long time. "I don't have your special present, sweetheart, I sent it out-" Then a familiar looking package caught his eye, a small Rigelian necklace that he'd wrapped up two months ago and shipped off on a shuttle to Earth. Or at least, he thought he'd shipped it off to Earth. "You never sent it. Just how long have you been planning this, Captain?" he chuckled, an arm around Jim's shoulder.
"Long enough," Jim nudged Leonard's shoulder as they watched Joanna open the rest of her gifts.
"Captain Jim said I was your Christmas present from him. Did you get him something for Christmas?" she asked in an over-loud whisper.
Jim wrapped his arm around Leonard's shoulder, giving him a little squeeze. "He gave it to me last night, pumpkin," Jim told her, "and it was everything I ever wanted."
Joanna seemed to accept that. "Are you my daddy's boyfriend?" she asked, holding an over-sized stuffed bear in her arms.
Leonard looked over at Jim, thinking about everything between them. His best friend, his confidant, his captain. His lover. Could that all be encapsulated in one small word? "Boyfriend?" Leonard asked, giving Jim a special smile, one that was well-returned. "Yeah, I'd say so," he finished, pulling Jim next to him, their arms wrapped around each other.
Joanna giggled loud, then returned to some of her toys. Jim settled on the floor next to her while Leonard went off to make some coffee for Jim and himself, and cocoa for Jo. Turning his head at the sound of her laughter, his eye caught Jim's, full of love and happiness and Leonard knew this Christmas would change everything, forever.