The view from Jim’s apartment was spectacular. San Francisco stretched out across the horizon like some sparkling utopia, nevermind the rubble that was still being cleaned up in the streets. In the dark, under a soft, constant blanket of rain, no one could see the destruction Khan and Marcus had left in their wakes.
Leonard saw it. It was an image that he couldn’t erase from his memory no matter how hard he tried. It was burned there, branded across his mind and heart every time he looked at his friend.
Jim was fine of course. His stubborn, reckless, idiot of a best friend seemed to have nothing short of nine lives. Jim’s almost death had shaken something loose in Leonard. It had rattled him right down to his core and reminded him that there was a reason why he never let anyone get close.
Pamela had been an accident. There’d been trust and friendship at first. She’d been beautiful and funny, but most importantly… attached. When Leonard had met Pamela, she’d been happily engaged to someone else. At least, he’d thought she was happy. It wasn’t until a year later that he’d found out about the abuse. Clay had been a possessive, jealous idiot and no matter how many times Pamela had tried to reassure him, things had only seemed to get worse.
It wasn’t until Clay had physically assaulted Leonard, however, that the situation had come to a head. Leonard had tried very hard not to kill the idiot, Pamela had ended things between them, and Leonard had done his best to comfort her through it. Comfort had led to sex, sex had led to Pamela announcing she was pregnant, and the rest was history.
Leonard had loved her. He still loved her in his own way, but it had never been the kind of love Pamela had wanted or needed. In the end, that had been the true downfall of their marriage.
Jim hadn’t been an accident. No. Jim had relentlessly wormed his way under Leonard’s skin until Leonard couldn’t remember which way was up anymore. With Jim, there was only friendship. There was no sex, only tolerance and bickering, frustration and a constant string of sexual partners a mile long… none of them his. Jim was brilliant and witty. He was the most resilient sonofabitch Leonard had ever met in his very long life and god help him, Jim had become part of the glue that seemed to be holding his world together.
The thing was, somewhere along the way, he’d also become someone Leonard didn’t want to live without. And that was the kicker wasn’t it? He’d realized almost too late, with Jim lying there on that table in his sickbay, that he loved him.
So, Leonard had taken steps. He’d injected Jim with more than just Khan’s blood and now he was wondering if he should explain himself before the whole house of cards came toppling down on top of him. How do you tell someone you love that they’ll eventually lose everything they loved though? How do you sit them down and tell them that they aren’t really human anymore?
Things had been easier for him, Leonard supposed. Samantha hadn’t had to explain anything. He’d known what was going to happen to him. He’d known the risks, known what he’d most likely become. Samantha had believed in him though. She’d trusted in the innate goodness of his soul and had turned him into a monster; an augment created out of love and desperation. Those closest to him, his friends, his team… they hadn’t been so lucky.
How close had he come to being like them? Leonard… ‘John,’... hadn’t thought himself any different than them. Well, with the exception of Portman. Portman had been in a class all his own. He wasn’t John any longer though. He hadn’t been for a very long time. He was Leonard McCoy; father, doctor, Starfleet Officer… friend. And deep down, at the core of things, Leonard was wondering just how different from Khan he really was. What would he have done if the situation had been reversed? What would he have done for Samantha? For Joanna or Pamela? For Jim?
“Have you been standing there all night? You were in the same spot when I went to bed.”
The sound of Jim’s voice cutting across the silence of the room startled Leonard out of his maudlin reavory, though he didn’t show his surprise. He simply turned and stared at the man for a moment, his face creased with frown lines and contemplation.
Jim was leaning casually in the entrance way to the hall, hair sleep tousled, his normally bright, blue eyes dulled with sleep and ringed with fading dark circles. Jim had been having nightmares since the Khan incident, but he thought he was playing it cool. Leonard knew though. He’d been crashing in Jim’s apartment since his friend had been released from Starfleet Medical. Mostly he was there because he didn’t want to shell out the credits for an apartment of his own during the Enterprise’s refit. Plus, Joanna adored her Uncle Jim and Jim had offered. He also wanted to keep a close eye on his friend.
No, there hadn’t been any sort of genetic mishap, but Leonard wasn’t willing to risk the mix of his blood and Khan’s. Khan had been an altogether different type of augment. He hadn’t been infected with Chromosome 24. He hadn’t had to suffer through the change. If he had, Leonard was certain that a monster would have taken the man’s place, just as it had taken Asher’s place.
Sarge had been his closest friend in the world once upon a time. They’d been family, brothers. Once he’d been infected though, everything good and right about the man had been burned out of him. That had killed a part of Leonard and he’d hated himself even more for surviving it.
Khan, however, had been genetically engineered, bred to be superhuman. The only monster inside that man had been the one that had risen from a deluge of power, greed, and ego. What was worse, was that there was a part of him that Leonard could empathize with. The thought of it made him sick to his stomach, but it was there.
Leonard knew exactly what he would have done if he’d been in Khan’s shoes. If someone had taken the ones he loved away from him, he would have burned the entire galaxy to ashes if that’s what it took to get them back. He could do it too. It was in his blood.
“Couldn’t sleep,” Leonard grumbled finally and moved over to plop down on the sofa. “How are you feeling? ‘Cause you look like hell.”
“Like I got jipped out of all the fun stuff that comes before the hangover,” Jim quipped back and grunted as he flung himself down on the sofa beside his friend. His feet immediately went up to rest on the coffee table and he sank to the side, letting his body settle flush against Leonard’s side.
Leonard scowled at the top of Jim’s head despite the fact that he was fighting like hell to keep the corner of his mouth from curling up into a smile. He’d never admit to it, but he liked it when Jim dropped his walls and curled up to him. It was a rare thing, but when it did, Leonard tried his damnedest to enjoy every second of it.
Jim had no idea what he did to him and Leonard wanted to keep it that way. He didn’t know if he could handle anything beyond friends. Jim was rather liberal with his affections with both men and women and Leonard wasn’t sure what would happen if Jim knew the door was open to him.
“Yeah well, that happens when you’re an idiot,” Leonard huffed, his tone equal parts cantankerous and teasing.
“By idiot, you mean hero, right?” Jim shot back without missing a beat. “I distinctly remember there being acts of selfless heroism in there somewhere and I feel that in light of those acts I should be justly rewarded. Even Spock said so and if Spock says it’s so, then it must be.”
Leonard rolled his eyes and regretted not having a home of his own to go to so that he could brood in blissful silence. “Idiot,” he reiterated.
“So what you’re really trying to say is, ‘Thank you, Jim, for saving my life’. I totally owe you a night out on the town.”
“Saving my… You died ya damned half-wit!” Leonard all but squawked, and had to mentally restrain himself from thumping Jim on the forehead. “I found gray hairs this morning, Jim. Gray hairs!” he barked out. “Do you know who I blame for that? Hmm? Myself. I blame myself, because only a glutton for punishment would continue to submit himself to the reckless, idiotic….” Leonard stumbled over his words, his anger and frustration causing his train of thought to falter. “What if I hadn’t been able to save you?!”
He glowered down at the top of Jim’s head, leveling the full force of his frustration at his messy hair. Jim was smiling at him. Leonard could feel it. Here he was, mid-tirade, and Jim was just smiling away like all was right with the world. He really, really wanted to thump him.
“Isn’t your kid supposed to be the one to give you gray hairs?” Jim asked, sounding far too cocky.
Leonard glared harder, if that was even possible. He was fairly certain that he was close to rupturing a capillary in one of his eyes. “I just happen to be blessed with two,” he shot back.
Jim’s head tilted back to bestow upon Leonard the full force of his mischievous smile. “Does that mean I get to call you daddy?” he asked as his eyebrows waggled lewdly at him. “You gonna spank me?”
A weary sigh, one worthy of all the suffering souls out there that had ever had to deal with someone like Jim, puffed out of Leonard’s lungs.
“Kindly keep your deviant inclinations to yourself,” he groused and gave Jim a half-hearted shove. He wasn’t about to mention the interest his nether regions were taking at the thought of bending Jim over his knee and spanking him.
Jim snorted, changed positions, and flung himself back across the opposite side of the sofa. His feet moved to rest in Leonard’s lap and he sighed happily.
“I thought you said I was barely dead,” Jim teased, but Leonard wasn’t biting.
He’d used snide remarks and their familiar banter to get him through Jim’s near-death like a safety blanket before. Now, the more he thought about Khan and about his own past, it just wasn’t working.
Silence settled between them for one long, drawn out moment before Leonard turned his gaze back to the rain streaked windows. “What would you have done?” he asked, the words quiet, nearly drowned out by the sound of the storm outside. “In Khan’s position.”
Jim didn’t answer right away and Leonard didn’t turn to look at him. He already knew the answer. Hearing Jim say it outloud maybe seemed like it would take the bite out of knowing what his own actions would have been.
“You know what I’d do, Bones,” Jim stated softly. His playful tone had been replaced for a more serious one. “I would die for my family. A thousand times over if I had to. I know you’re pissed at me for going into that core, but what was I supposed to do? I couldn’t just strap myself in and hope for the best. My life is an easy price to pay for the safety of my crew and the people I care about.”
Those words turned Leonard’s stomach sour and he grit his teeth at the idea of a ‘next time’. That was something he didn’t think he could handle. The truth of it was, they’d all signed on for this damned five year mission and who knew how many times Jim’s life was going to be put on the line again. Was he ready for that? Could he stand by and watch Jim throw himself into danger time and time again? Yes, Jim would heal from most things. He could still die though.
“Why are we even talking about this?” Jim asked, tone slightly disgruntled. His exhaustion was peeking through his crumbling veneer. “It’s three o’clock in the morning and the last thing we need to be doing is having this conversation.”
“You’re awake at three o’clock in the morning because of this,” Leonard snapped back and suddenly they weren’t dancing around the subject or ignoring it any more.
“Don’t think I don’t know about the nightmares you’ve been having. You think you’re slick, but I can hear you at night. And when I say you look like hell, I’m not joking. You really do look like death warmed over.” He grimaced at that particular turn of phrase, but didn’t apologise for it.
“I’m fine,” Jim ground out defensively and sat up straight on the sofa. “And what makes you think it’s nightmares keeping me up? Maybe I’ve got company in there or maybe I’m just so thrilled to be alive that I’ve been jerking off constantly to make up for lost time.”
The fact that Jim looked confident and proud of that statement made Leonard arch a brow at him. “One - I’d know if you had someone else in there with you. Two - It’s been one month, you were in a coma for two weeks of that month and you’ve only been home for one. I highly doubt you need to make up that much mastabatory time.”
“Says you,” Jim snarked and pushed himself up off the sofa. “That’s why you’re so full of piss and vinegar all the damn time you know. You’re so far out of the game you can’t even turn yourself on anymore.”
And to think, Leonard had subjected himself to close quarters with Jim on purpose.
“Yeah well, you have enough meaningless sex to satisfy the whole of Starfleet, I think I’ll be fine.” Leonard settled himself further back into the sofa and lifted his feet up to rest them on the coffee table.
“Don’t think you’re getting out of this. The topic has been broached and you’re going to tell me what the hell is going on with you. I’m the one who has to clear you for active duty. Don’t forget that,” he warned.
Jim gaped at him. “You wouldn’t.”
Leonard snorted and arched a brow again. “Wouldn’t I?”
“That’s blackmail!” Jim bellowed. “And stop doing that! You’re starting to remind me of Spock.”
“Insulting me probably isn’t your best course of action here I’m thinking,” Leonard deadpanned.
“Damn it, Bones!”
“That’s my line, kid. Now sit your butt down and tell me what’s going on with you.”
Jim looked as though he’d bail for a moment, but then grunted and sat himself down on the coffee table.
“They’re just nightmares okay. I mean, I haven’t just been dreaming about one thing. It’s everything; getting demoted, Pike dying, nearly getting everyone on the ship killed. I put everyone on board at risk by going after Khan. They trusted me and I got them killed because I couldn’t see past my own grief and need for revenge. Over a hundred lives, Len… gone… because of me.”
Jim’s head dropped, hanging down like a kicked puppy. “I keep seeing their faces. There’s all of these dead faces staring at me, accusing me, asking me why I didn’t save them too. It’s too close, Len. It’s like I’m thirteen again and there’s nothing I can do to stop everyone from dying. Not the colonists, not Kevin or Tommy or the others. Not even you.”
A look of shocked incredulity passed over Leonard’s face and he dropped his feet down to the floor so that he could lean forward.
“Jim,” he began softly and reached out to squeeze Jim’s knee. “You did save me and this is not Tarsus.”
Leonard shifted himself to the edge of the sofa, positioning himself between Jim’s knees. “I know you don’t like to talk about what happened there, but I know one thing. You were a kid, Jim. I’m amazed that you saved as many as you did. The things that Kodos did, that his men did… Jim, grown men and women weren’t able to stop him once he’d gotten started. None of that was your responsibility. Neither was what Khan did. I…”
He paused for a moment, drew in a deep breath, and then blew it out slowly. “I didn’t realize that Tarsus was still an issue for you after all this time. I mean, I know it’s not something you can forget, but I didn’t think you were still having nightmares.”
Jim shrugged and finally raised his head to look at Leonard. “I’m not. I mean… Tarsus isn’t still an issue for me. It’s… You know what woke me tonight?” he asked. “Khan didn’t send me back to the Enterprise. He kept me there, made me watch as the ship fell. I wasn’t there, Len. I watched the ship fall and I wasn’t there to realign the core. Everyone died. You, Uhura, Spock… you all died and there was nothing I could do. And Khan, he just laughed the whole way down as we fell with you. Do you know what that’s like, Len? Watching over six hundred people who depend on you and trust you, who you are responsible for, die?”
“Jim,” Leonard started, but he couldn’t quite put into words what he wanted to say. It was a nightmare he’d probably be having as well if their rolls had been reversed.
“You don’t have to say anything, Len. I don’t want your sympathy or your apologies.” Jim cleared his throat and straightened a little. “I know the dream itself doesn’t have anything to do with Tarsus IV, but it was the feeling of it. True helplessness is like an infection. It sets in, gets a foothold in your head, and just spreads. Once the infection is bad enough, you can’t function. You feel weak and useless. You do things, anything, to make it stop but… I hate feeling weak, Len. I promised myself when I made it off of Tarsus alive that I’d never be that weak again.”
“Jim,” Leonard breathed out as he reached up to place his hands on his friend’s shoulders, “you are the strongest person I know. You have this uncanny ability to take an impossible situation and work miracles. You saved the ship when it shouldn’t have been savable. You don’t give up, you don’t back down, and yeah, you go off half-cocked a lot of the time and I want to strangle you because of it, but damn it, Jim, that’s what makes you stand out from all the rest. Pike saw that in you. The Admiralty sees it in you and it scares the bejesus out of them.”
He squeezed Jim’s shoulders and tilted his head until they were looking into each other’s eyes. “I know I give you hell, kid, but the truth is… I’d follow you to hell and back. You’ve saved my life twice now. You saved Pamela and Joanna’s lives when you stopped Nero. If it had been anyone else up there with us, taking on Khan, we’d all be dead right now.”
“I should have done more,” was Jim’s response.
Leonard sighed and shook his head. “There was nothing more that you could have done, Jim. You could have just followed Admiral Marcus’ orders, fired those torpedos, and walked away. You didn’t though. You did your job and you did it the right way. Every member of your crew knows that. They trust you and respect you and not a single one of them would question what you did that day. We are all proud to call you our captain.”
He gave Jim’s shoulders another squeeze and then let his hands fall away. “Pike would be proud of you too, Jim. You finally proved yourself to be the man he always knew you could be.”
Jim didn’t respond. One little vote of confidence and a pep talk wasn’t going to erase what had happened. It would take time and Jim was the type of man that needed to compartmentalize his pain and then build from it.
He stood, careful not to bump Jim, and moved back over to the window. “I know this is going to sound hard to believe, but I’ve been where you are, Jim. I know what it feels like, having the responsibility of other people’s lives resting on your shoulders.”
“No offense, Bones, but being a doctor and being a Starship captain are two very different things. Yeah the crew depends on you to keep them healthy and if the situation calls for it, save their lives. I’m responsible for them every second of every day. The choices I make affect everyone.”
Leonard turned, leaned back against the glass, and crossed his arms over his chest. He stood silent for a long moment, mentally preparing himself to unleash two hundred plus years worth of secrets. This carried with it two possible endings, neither of which Leonard thought he was prepared for. It was time though. He wanted Jim to know him, all of him, and if Jim still wanted to be his friend afterwards, they could work to move forward from this together.
“There are things about me, Jim, that I’ve never told you. I honestly never thought we’d get close enough for me to feel like I needed to. You, the Enterprise, five years in space… I never wanted any of it. I just wanted to get through the academy, put in my time, and maybe hope for a posting on some obscure little planet somewhere. You messed all that up though, kid, and before we move forward I think you should know everything. I need you to understand that this doesn’t change who I am though. I’m still your friend.”
Jim’s eyebrow shot up and he gave Leonard a sort of incredulous, dumbfounded look. “Bones, if this is about you being a woman once upon a time, I’m totally fine with it okay? I think I’ve kinda known since the day I met you really. I mean, you do kinda bitch and moan like a chick so…”
“Damn it, Jim! I’m being serious here!”
“So am I! It’s okay, Len. I accept all of you.”
Leonard leveled a glare at him that would have sent a Klingon stumbling off in a panic. “Will you just shut yer damn face for two seconds so I can get this out? Christ Almighty! It’s like babysitting a damn two year old.”
Jim snorted out a tired laugh and waved a hand at him to continue.
Leonard shifted uneasily where he stood, unsure if he was really ready to share this portion of his past. What would Jim think of him afterwards? Would he still have a place here? There was time to change his mind, continue to keep it a secret, no one need ever know. But what would happen the next time something went wrong on a mission and either Jim or Leonard got hurt? How would he explain their rapid healing? Thus far he’d been lucky. Luck only held out so long though and he seriously doubted that it would carry him through the next five years.
“I suppose I should start with the most important thing,” he stated and took what he’d hoped would be a calming breath. It hadn’t helped.
“My name isn’t Leonard McCoy.”
Jim’s shoulders tensed and Leonard felt his heart begin to race.
“My given name is John William Grimm. My twin sister Samantha and I were born in the year 2011 to parents William and Rebecca Grimm.”
The silence in the room was charged with a tension so thick that Leonard felt it might suffocate him. Jim was just staring at him, his eyes narrowed as though he were looking at a potential enemy rather than a friend. And then a moment later… he was snorting out a laugh and scrubbing a hand over his face.
“That isn’t even remotely funny, Bones, and it is way too late… or early, whatever, to be messing with my head like that.”
Leonard’s teeth ground together and he had to take a deep breath in order to continue. “It’s not meant to be funny, Jim. I’m telling you the truth.”
Jim’s eyes narrowed again and this time he stood. The tension in his shoulders had spread to the rest of his body. He looked ready to spring into action if Leonard so much as twitched wrong, but he made no move beyond folding his arms over his chest.
“Explain,” he demanded.
Leonard licked his lips and nodded. “First, tell me how much you know about Mars’ history.”
He watched the muscles in Jim’s jaw work for a few seconds before the man actually responded.
“NASA rover Sojourner was the first of it’s kind to explore Mars in 1997. First manned mission took place in 2032. Utopia Planitia was colonized by 2069 and the Martian colonies were established in 2103. Mars was the first planet to be terraformed by humans and originally lived within domed cities while the terraforming took place. In 2155, a xenophobic faction of humans, Terra Prime, moved the Orpheus Mining Colony from Luna to Mars and hijacked the verteron array in an attempt to attack Starfleet Headquarters. They were stopped by Commander Charles Tucker and the array fired harmlessly into the San Francisco Bay. Today the Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards operate in geosynchronous orbit above the still thriving Utopia Planitia Colony. I do not see what this has to do with you being almost two hundred and fifty years old though.”
Jim’s toned was edged with steel, but Leonard could tell that his friend was still trying to figure out whether or not this was some sort of fucked up joke.
Leonard nodded his head at Jim’s little rundown of Mars history, but added, “what the history books don’t tell you is that the first manned mission to Mars was not in 2032. It was much earlier.”
Jim didn’t necessarily look like he believed him, but he nodded that he should continue. Leonard just cleared his throat and turned so that he could watch the raindrops roll down the windows.
“The ruins of what appeared to be an ancient civilization were uncovered on Mars and my parents were two of the scientists hired on to explore the ruins.” He paused, the pain of his parent’s death still potent after all this time. “They were killed when one of the tunnels they’d been excavating collapsed. Sam and I were ten. As far as I knew, the dig was scraped and the site abandoned. The project was turned over to the UAC, Union Aerospace Corporation and they began construction of Olduvai, a research facility built around the ruins.’
‘My sister and I were taken in by our Aunt and Uncle and for a while I was able to forget everything. A few years later, Sam followed in my parents footsteps and I enlisted in the marines. I worked my way up through the ranks, saw my fair share of combat, and ended up on the Rapid Response Tactical Squad. We were Special Ops, got all the super secret shit jobs that no one else could pull off. There were eight of us - Asher Mahonin, Roark Gannon, Eric Fantom, Gregory Schofield, Dean Portman, Mark Dantalian, Katsuhiko Kumanosuke Takahashi, and me. Asher was our commanding officer… and my best friend.”
Leonard could see Sarge in his head, plain as day, looking back at him through the reflection of the glass. He could hear him telling him to sit out the mission. Sarge had known how hard it was for him, how touchy the subject of his past was. At the time, he’d not spoken to his sister in ten years.
“Genetic experimentation didn’t stop after the Eugenics Wars in 1996. The UAC continued in secret. Olduvai was turned into a weapons and genetics research facility. They reopened the dig, unearthed something spectacular. Samantha called her Lucy. Lucy was what was left of a Martian female who had died protecting her baby. The amazing thing about Lucy and her offspring, was the presence of a 24th chromosome.”
“A what?” Jim interjected, the tone in his voice suggesting shock rather than ignorance. Leonard turned to face him.
“Unlike the humans of Earth who have 23 chromosomes, Lucy and her child had 24. The 24th chromosome meant long life and great strength for some and utter hell for others. The UAC found this out the hard way. They harvested Lucy’s DNA, engineered a serum from it and began the first series of human trials. The inmate they injected, he mutated. The serum corrupted his DNA, turned him into a bloodthirsty monster. He broke free of his cell, attacked the doctors, and unleashed chaos within the compound. It was then that Dr. Carmack, the Chief Scientist incharge of the program called in for backup. The RRTS responded and I found myself back on Mars.”
Jim had shifted and was now sitting on the arm of the sofa, facing Leonard. “So instead of breeding augments, like Khan, they were injecting violent criminals with a serum that they hoped would turn them in to one?”
Leonard nodded. “And it got away from them. By the time my team arrived, most of the scientists had already been slaughtered. We closed off the facility, quarantine the remainder of the staff and then went hunting. Samantha was there when we arrived. She’d been working for the UAC for years. I’d even known where she was. I just hadn’t know that they’d opened back up the dig.’
‘We had orders to go in, clear out and contain the facility. Samantha had been ordered to retrieve the company’s data on the project. My team…” Leonard’s eyes went unfocused as he recalled the events of that night. “One by one, every member of my team was killed. We lost Eric first. One of the creatures attacked him in the tunnels. We got him back to one of the labs, I tried to revive him but… he died. I watched him die right in front of me and there was nothing I could do.”
Leonard’s head dropped, the sadness of the past still clinging to him, weighing heavily on his heart and mind.
“We evacuated the remaining scientists back to Earth via the Ark - it was a teleportation device. Guess you could call it our transporter’s Great Great Great Grandfather. I hated it. You never knew how it was going to affect you on the other end and if all of you would actually get there.”
He cleared his throat and shook his head. “Once we sealed the complex, it was like we started dropping faster. First Katsuhiko, then Roark and Portman. We were being hunted. And Eric…”
Leonard stopped and turned. Jim was still listening intently, but his expression was no longer questioning or suspicious. His arms had dropped to hang at his sides and his face was open, his expression concerned. Leonard latched on to the sight of him and used Jim as an anchor.
“Eric came back. The creature had infected him and he started to change. He knew he was changing and he… he killed himself. He bashed his head against a wall until his skull caved in. The others though, that was the thing, not everyone changed. Some of the attacked scientists mutated, but not all of them. Some of them were immune. Asher wouldn’t accept it though. As soon as it was apparent that anyone could change from an attack, he ordered us to kill everyone. Everyone, Jim… women and children.”
Leonard’s hands began to shake as he spoke. “Those people were innocent. They were helpless and terrified. It was our responsibility to protect them and we failed. I failed.” He dropped his gaze to Jim’s chest, his hands clenching into tight fists. “When Asher lost control of the situation it was my job to step in and do what was right. I was second in command. I didn’t want to see it though. He was my best friend and I wanted to believe that he would do the right thing. He was crazed though, executed all of the remaining survivors and killed Mark when he tried to stand up to him.”
The frown that curled Leonard’s lips downwards was pained and trembling. “It was the kid’s first mission. He was terrified and blitzed out of his mind, but he still tried to do the right thing.”
A single tear loosed itself from Leonard’s lashes and he quickly reached up to brush it away. Jim was on his feet, had taken a few steps forward, but was making no other move to come closer. It took Leonard a moment, but he pulled himself together and continued.
“Greg was killed by one of the creatures and Asher got taken. I tried to save him, but I ended up shooting myself on accident. We had these doors… Nano doors. The one Asher got pulled through was malfunctioning and a bullet from my gun ricocheted off of it. I don’t remember much after. Just the pain and falling, then nothing. When I woke up again, Samantha had pulled me to safety and was preparing to inject me with Chromosome 24. I tried to stop her, but she wouldn’t hear it. I was dying. The bullet wound was fatal and I had minutes. She…”
Leonard shook his head again. “Samantha believed that I would be one of the few that wouldn’t change. She trusted that I wasn’t like the others, that I wouldn’t turn into one of those monsters. I wasn’t so sure though. I didn’t see the difference between me and any other member of my team. Samantha was sure though and I didn’t have the strength to fight her. When I woke again, Samantha was gone and my wound was healed. I was stronger and faster. And most importantly, I was still me.’
‘Asher though, he wasn’t so lucky. When I found him, he’d already started to mutate. He’d taken my sister, wounded her, and I had two options… let him kill us both or kill him. We fought. I won. Samantha and I were the only two that walked away.”
The weight behind his confession seemed to lift off of his shoulders and Leonard sighed, let his body lean back against the coolness of the glass.
“I’m not like Khan, Jim, but I can’t say that I wouldn’t do the same if someone took my family from me. Pamela and Jo, Samantha… you. I’d do anything to protect you and keep you safe. I…”
Jim took another step closer, his eyes narrowing. It was like he knew that there was more to the story. How could he miss the guilty look in Leonard’s eyes though.
“What?” Jim asked and took yet another step closer. “Tell me.”
Leonard licked at his dry lips and blew out a shaky breath across his lips. “I couldn’t let you die, Jim. I knew… I knew that Khan’s blood would bring you back because of the Tribble. I couldn’t be sure that it would heal you though. So…” He faltered, terrified of seeing a look of betrayal or disgust cross Jim’s face.
“So you did to me what your sister did to you, didn’t you?” Jim asked and now he was standing directly in front of Leonard, eyes intent. No more looking away.
“I was still alive when Samantha injected me. I couldn’t be sure that my blood alone would save you. You were already dead. Khan’s blood though, it brought you back. So yes, I used him to bring you back and then I isolated the 24th chromosome in my DNA to heal you. I wasn’t ready to let you go and I knew that you’d still be you afterwards. And even if you weren’t, even if you’d changed, I had to take the risk, Jim. I had to.”
Jim stared at him for the longest time in silence. His look was of someone who wanted to believe, but just couldn’t make that last leap. He finally just turned away and moved back over towards the sofa, his hand dragging through his hair.
“That’s quite a story, Bones. I don’t… It’s not that I don’t believe you. I just have a very hard time imagining you of all people... It’s crazy, Bones. And how would you clear through Starfleet? I mean, they’d know wouldn’t they? And you want me to believe that you’ve injected me too? I gotta tell you, I don’t feel any different.”
“Jim,” Leonard called, needing his friend to turn and face him. He’d pulled an old pocket knife out of his jeans pocket. It had been his father’s once upon a time and it was the only thing from his past that he stilled carried with him.
Blade extended, when Jim turned, Leonard raised both hands and sliced the palm of one open. Jim yelped loudly and rushed over to him, grabbing Leonard’s hand as he reached him. They both watched in silence, Leonard blank faced and Jim in shock, as Leonard’s palm healed.
“How in the…” Jim mumbled, but then snatched the knife from Leonard and drew the blade across his own palm. The flesh beneath it split easily, then wove itself back together again a moment later.
Eyes as round as the saucer section of the Enterprise, Jim looked at Leonard in a mixture of horror and awe. “Is this for real?”
Leonard swallowed past the lump in his throat and nodded. “It’s for real, Jim.”
Jim nodded along with him, stunned. “And you… you…”
Leonard grimaced. “I’m sorry, Jim,” he murmured softly.
Jim snorted, his stunned expression transforming into one of absolute glee. “Are you kidding me right now!” he shouted. “Bones! This is amazing! I mean, I can do anything now! And you… you’re two hundred and something years old! You look amazing for an old guy!”
“Old guy?” Leonard grumbled, then arched a frustrated brow and sighed. Yes there was relief of course. He’d thought Jim would hate him for changing him. There was no anger though; only exuberance. And of course that’s how it would happen. It was Jim after all.
“You’re going to be insufferable now aren’t you?” he deadpanned and Jim just grinned at him. And that grin only ignited the chagrin inside of him. “Damn it, Jim! This isn’t a license to go out and be an even bigger dumbass. You can still get yourself killed!”
“Relax, Bones,” Jim all but purred and reached up to grab each side of Leonard’s face. “We got this.”
Leonard’s heart rate rocketed, but that didn’t stop him from scowling. “The only thing I’ve got right now is a headache.”
Jim just laughed. It was a soft, happy laugh and it lit up Jim’s eyes like a clear, blue Earth sky. That smile did things to Leonard that made his brain check out for an indeterminate amount of time
“Jesus, Jim,” he huffed out, his cheeks heating a bit
Jim’s eyes narrowed a little, like he was studying him, and then his grin grew even bigger.
“Really?” he asked and Leonard didn’t have to guess what he was asking. He already knew in the way those clear blue eyes had started to darken.
Unable to speak, Leonard just nodded.
Jim dropped his hands from his face, letting them settle on Leonard’s shoulders. “How long?”
Leonard shrugged. “I don’t know. I can’t just recite a date off the top of my head. It just… happened and I didn’t really realize it until I thought I’d lost you.”
Leonard huffed another frustrated sigh and felt his embarrassment start to creep up the back of his neck. “Yes okay! Just… Look I don’t expect anything okay. I’m your friend and that’s fine with me.”
The corner of Jim’s mouth twitched and he shifted in a bit closer. Their chests were lightly pressed together and certain parts of Leonard’s anatomy couldn’t help but take notice.
“Just friends?” Jim questioned and god help him, if Leonard didn’t know how Jim was, he’d have dropped trou right then and there.
“Yes, Jim,” he replied softly and gently pushed the other man away. It wasn’t far, but it was enough to separate their bodies and give Leonard’s brain some breathing room. “Just friends.”
Disappointment was written clearly across Jim’s face, but so was that spark of determination that glimmered in his eyes.
“Why not more than friends?” Jim asked, pushing in against Leonard’s gentle hold on him. “We’d be good together you know.”
Leonard gave him a small, sad little smile and nodded. “I know we would, kid. We’d be amazing together. Not right now though. You still have a lot of wild oats to sow and I’m not going to be the one that ties you down.”
“Oh come on, Bones!” Jim protested, but Leonard shook his head.
“I’m in love with you, Jim, and the best thing I can do for us right now is keep my distance. You’re not ready for a serious commitment. Hell you wouldn’t know what to do with one if it bit you on the ass… well, except for maybe flirt with it.”
Jim opened his mouth, clearly ready to protest, but Leonard cut him off.
The kiss was everything he’d always hoped it would be. It was slow and passionate. It made his heart flutter and his skin tingle. And by all of the gods in the heavens, it silenced Jim more thoroughly than anything he’d ever witnessed before.
When it was over, they stood pressed together again, chest to chest, forehead to forehead.
“We’ve got time, Jim,” Leonard whispered. “More time than any two people should have and someday, the timing will be right for us. I couldn’t bear it now though, to listen to you flirt with someone else or constantly follow your wandering eyes. You need to get that out of your system and then when you’re ready for me… if you’re ever ready for me… you’ll know.”
Another long silence settled between them and Leonard was content just holding Jim close. He wanted more. The desire to strip Jim down and explore every inch of him was ever present whenever the man was near. There would be slow kisses, needy touches, and he couldn’t promise that when the time came their lovemaking would be gentle. Leonard was a patient man, but there were limits and Jim tried them like no other.
“Promise me something, Len,” Jim murmured and pressed himself closer.
Jim’s face tilted up and Leonard looked down to meet his gaze. “No matter what happens, promise me you’ll always be there.”
Leonard smiled and pressed a kiss to Jim’s forehead. They still had a long road ahead of them and each of them had their own demons to deal with, but one thing was for certain…
“I’m here for good, kid. Don’t ever think I’m not.”
Jim smiled up at him, then yawned and the delicate new tension between them faded away.
“Come on you. We can worry over the rest of it after you’ve gotten some sleep.”
Jim nodded sleepily and let Leonard lead him off towards his bedroom.
“Will you stay with me tonight?” he asked and then added before Leonard could disagree, “just to sleep. I promise no funny business.”
The rational part of Leonard’s brain wanted to say no, but the tired, needy part of him couldn’t fight those damnable blue eyes.
“Just to sleep,” Leonard stated firmly as they walked into the bedroom. “Just to be here if the nightmares come again. Nothing more.”
“Nothing more,” Jim agreed, but his eyes and that smile promised so much more.