McCoy looked down affectionately at the brunette head in his lap and his hand stilled against the long mussed waves. Joanna was asleep at last and they were still two hours away from Star Base Indigo. He leaned back and looked out the small diamond shaped window, watching the lights swirl as he marveled at the life that had brought him to this point. The little girl in his lap and the man commanding his starship were two things he could never have dreamed of having just a few years ago.
Joanna shifted in his lap, the blanket covering her slipping off her legs, revealing torn jeans and mis-matched socks. He pulled the blanket back up around her legs, tucked Tibby under her chin, and began to card his fingers through her hair once more. He chuckled at his daughter. She was all tomboy, always having skinned knees, ripped jeans, bare feet, and wild hair. Her bright eyed-curiosity got her into loads of trouble and drove Jocelyn crazy. Joanna was so much like Leonard himself that there were times when he could almost laugh at the irony of it. With Jo-Jo around, Joce never had completely gotten rid of him.
McCoy’s eyes slowly closed as he thought about Jocelyn. There were no more pangs of loss, or bitter anger, only a soft ache that they had hurt each other so much for too many years. He rested his hand against Joanna’s head for a moment, the regret washed away by the surety that he’d still do it all again if it meant having his daughter. He just wished that they had both been more mature and woken up to what they were doing to not only each other, but also to Jo.
He shifted in his seat, glad that this was the last bucket of bolts he’d have to ride before getting back home to the Enterprise. The journey had been long and his exhaustion ran bone deep, but McCoy couldn’t completely contain his blooming anticipation. He still had trouble believing in the miracle that Jim had pulled off. Against all odds, and Spock had cited the number numerous times, he was going to be sharing his second Christmas aboard ship with the two most important people in his life.
That fact alone made his ordeal on this trip more than worth it, even if he had to ride three shuttles, two merchant transports, and a Cardassian freighter just to retrieve his daughter and meet back up with the ship. McCoy gave a pleased sigh and dropped his head back against his seat. Maybe a nap would be a good idea. As McCoy began to nod off, he smiled. He was calm, happy even, a sharp contrast to his reaction to flying on the day he and Jim had met. Look how far he’d come.
Jim’s knee was bouncing, creating a tiny, barely perceptible squeak as his heel hit the base of the captain’s chair. The noise was beginning to drive Uhura crazy, but before she spoke up, Jim swiveled to look at to her. “Any word yet, Lieutenant?” he asked, hoping that Bones’ comm had come through and she was holding back just to see him explode from the anticipation.
Uhura barely refrained from snapping at him, but even she couldn’t stay angry when confronted with such hope shining from his eyes. She kept her tone even and managed not to roll her eyes, but her smile said she was humoring him. “No, Sir. Not yet, but I will inform you immediately when we are in range.”
“Thank you.” Her eyes said ‘silly puppy’, but her words were proper and respectful, so Jim swiveled back to the front, not really satisfied, but he couldn’t exactly order them to warp 10 just so he could be at the Starbase ten minutes earlier than scheduled. His eyes stared at the screen, but he wasn’t really seeing the expanse of space before them. He picked up his PADD and focused instead on cataloging all the decorations, food, presents, and plans he had made. Suddenly, he stabbed the comm on his chair. “Mister Scott!”
“Aye, Cap’n?” Scotty’s voice sounded rushed and rumpled, but still bright.
“Have you made sure the transporter room is lit up? That none of the bulbs on the garland are burnt out?” Jim wanted Joanna’s first view of the Enterprise to be festive and shiny and perfect. And, yes he might be over compensating for too little holidays in his childhood, but this was Bones’ daughter. She deserved only the best.
Scotty didn’t take the captain’s interest the wrong way. In truth, most of the senior crew was as excited as Jim that Joanna would be there, even if they would never admit it to the captain’s face. They were not going to be near Earth until a month after the holidays and this way, the crew could adopt the young girl as their own for their celebration. The chief engineer’s smile could be heard in his reply. “Aye, Cap’n. She’s fully wired, each light blinking in time to the music, the garland couldn’t be greener, and I even made a small, spinning tree.”
“A what?" The last caught Jim’s attention. They hadn’t discussed a spinning tree.
“A tree. A silver tree… with lights… that spins.” Scotty spoke slowly as though he were talking to a particularly slow toddler. “I can demonstrate it when you come to the transporter room.”
“Thank you. I think it can wait the…” he paused and looked at Chekov. “Ensign, how long until we reach Starbase Indigo?”
Chekov looked down at his console and then back up at the captain. “We will be docked with the base in approximately twenty minutes, Sir.”
Kirk nodded, smiling. The fluttering in his gut was growing ever stronger. “Very good. Thank you, Chekov.” He looked down at the comm “I think we can both wait twenty minutes or so for that demonstration, Scotty.”
Kirk switched off the comm and looked around the bridge. Everyone recognized the tenuous situation. The captain was fidgety and would soon be assigning them efficiency checks or performance runs, or whatever other things his hyperactive mind could come up with to keep them busy and ensure that the Enterprise was as perfect as it could be.
Uhura turned pleading eyes to Spock. No one else dared approach Jim when he was in this state. He was almost vibrating with contained energy.
Spock did not roll his eyes or sigh, he merely quirked an eyebrow at Uhura’s silent insistence. He thought of remaining quiet and leaving Uhura to whatever utterly inane task Kirk would assign her, but then he remembered that Nyota could be singularly vindictive if she wanted and he did not wish to sleep alone this evening. He stood. “Captain?” he asked quietly to get the captain’s attention.
“If I may suggest… we are to arrive in less than nineteen point two minutes. You will barely have time to make one last check of Doctor McCoy’s quarters before we dock…”
Kirk’s head shot up and he stood, straightened his shirt and nodded. “Quite right. Thank you.” He took one last look at the bridge and her crew, satisfied at everything. “You have the conn, Spock,” he said as he stepped into the turbolift.
As the doors whooshed shut, every back and shoulder on the bridge relaxed fractionally.
“Scotty!” Kirk almost shouted as he rushed into the main transporter room.
Scotty looked up from the silver, tree-shaped object and grinned. “Aye, Cap’n. Everything ready for the doc and Joanna?”
Kirk nodded and stepped to Scotty’s side. He carefully examined the half meter high tree and chuckled. “It’s made out of junk.”
“It’s nae junk!” Scotty protested. “It’s extra bits ‘n bobs that Enterprise donated to the endeavor. Look!” He flipped the switch and the whole transporter room came alive, filled with blinking lights and the soft sound of holiday music, as the tree whirled and spun. It was enchanting.
Kirk nodded, grinning from ear to ear like a kid. “Okay, Scott. It’s perfect. Thank you.”
The transporter chief from Starbase Indigo comm’d them at that point and Scotty slid the levers, starting the beam-up sequence. Then all hell broke loose.
Joanna McCoy was ten years old and her daddy was Chief Medical Officer aboard the flagship of Starfleet. She knew that meant he was the best doctor in space. She also knew that he was being slow and she was tired of waiting. She stamped her foot on the transporter pad as her father spoke in whispered tones to the transporter chief.
“Daddy!” She cried, one hand on her hip, the other holding Tibby, her pet turtle that Uncle Jim had given her. “Come on! If you don’t hurry they’ll leave without us!” And that idea was too horrible to think about. She had come so far and might miss spending Christmas on the Enterprise? While it was flying around in space? “Please, Daddy?” she begged. He could never resist that face.
McCoy turned around and sighed. When Joanna turned her hazel green eyes and pouty lower lip on him, he was done for. Had even less resistance than he did to Jim’s pout. “Alright, pumpkin. I’m coming.” He slung his small duffle over his shoulder and stepped on the pad, his jaw tightening when he heard Scott’s ‘Energize’ over the comm.
They beamed up to an unbelievable scene. The transporter room was filling with white foam and only the shielding around the pads kept them from being blanketed in the stuff.
Joanna’s eyes were big as saucers and she almost leapt off the transporter, only McCoy’s hand holding her back. His brows were knitted and he was frowning, but his eyes were laughing at his captain and chief engineer. “Had a bit of trouble, gentlemen?”
“Daddy! I want to play in the bubbles, too!”
McCoy held her tightly and shook his head. “Those aren’t bubbles, Jo-Jo. That’s fire suppressant. Let’s let them make sure that the hazard is gone before you step out there.”
Jim just stood there, smothered by white foam, his face covered in ashy smudges, his expression forlorn as he looked around the room.
Scotty regained his wits first. He turned to the transporter pad and waved something blackened on a stick at them. “Welcome aboard, Lassie!” His grin grew mischievous as he waved about the formerly festive room. Only one small strand of garland lights was blinking anemically, the rest shut off automatically when the spinning tree caught fire. “We don’t have holiday lights… or music, or a tree, but we do have snow… uh, foam.” With that he picked up a handful of the stuff and flung it at McCoy. It landed with a fat plop on the doctor’s shoulder.
Joanna’s eyes widened and she laughed aloud as she leapt off the pad and into the foam, McCoy having let go of her to reach up and wipe off the foam, thunder gathering in his eyes.
Joanna’s happy cry broke Jim’s pout and he chuckled when Joanna barreled into the foam. He suddenly had a foam-ball in the face from Scotty and he retaliated, grabbing Joanna to hide behind the console. “The J Team is gonna kick your a-… behinds!” He looked at Jo and dropped a dollop of foam on her nose. “Right, Jo-Jo?”
“Right, Uncle Jim!” Almost immediately volleys of foam were barreling toward Mister Scott who took the opportunity to run behind McCoy, using him as a shield.
Two more fat plops landed on McCoy’s chest, accompanied by two sets of manic laughter from behind the console. Even McCoy couldn’t resist and he began to crack a smile. Dropping his bag, he slipped behind Scotty and shoved the engineer forward. “Come on, man! We gotta fight back!”
His words caused an ‘Oh, shit! We’re in trouble now!’ to come from the console.
“Oops, sorry, Daddy!” she cried out, even though she grinned up at Jim with no apology in her eyes.
The foam-ball fight continued with neither team gaining the upper hand until Scotty sacrificed himself, drawing all fire and going down in a hail of foam, thus allowing McCoy to sneak up behind the pair. Soon a mountain of foam was dropped on the conspirators in their ‘fort’ and Joanna and Jim fell down, rolling with laughter, holding their sides and giggling uncontrollably as they surrendered. McCoy looked down at them, his own smile brighter than the sun. “You idiot, Jim. Only you… well, only you and Mister Scott could turn the transporter room into a snowball fight.”
Joanna stood up, still giggling and hugged her father. “Yeah, wasn’t it cool? Isn’t Uncle Jim the greatest thing ever, Daddy?”
McCoy hugged her back, his eyes meeting sky blue and he nodded. “Yeah, baby girl. He is.”
The doctor’s smile turned wicked as he then calmly added. “And now for the hard part… Uncle Jim and Mister Scott get to clean up while you take a bath. The fire suppressant’s non-toxic, but Uncle Jim’s still probably allergic to it.” He smirked at Jim. “I’ll meet you in Sickbay in half an hour, Captain.”
“Well, you’ll fix him up, Daddy. You’re the best doctor in the ‘fleet. Nana says so and she doesn’t lie.” Joanna turned around and looked from Jim to her father.
Jim froze, swearing in his head, but he looked down at Joanna’s bright eyes and pink cheeks and he could only nod, his smile rueful. Gotten again. “I’ll be there, Doctor.”
McCoy retrieved his duffle and shook off all the loose foam from them before leaving. “Don’t be late,” he shot back over his shoulder as the doors closed behind him.
“Damn,” both Jim and Scott said in unison as they looked at the mess. Then they looked at each other and burst out laughing. “It was worth it.”
Jim dropped to his sofa and gazed at the twinkling lights on the small tree that he’d set up. It wasn’t flashy and its boughs were a bit battered, but it had been with them since that first Christmas at the Academy. He and Bones had both been so broken that year, but McCoy’s presence had made it one of the best holidays Jim had ever had.
He swirled his glass of bourbon and picked at the hole starting in the knee of the tattered flannel sleep pants he refused to part with. He looked at the amber liquid and wondered when he had grown to like the stuff almost as much as Bones did.
The doors whooshed open and Jim looked up, his eyes wide.
“Don’t look at me like that, kid.” McCoy chuckled. He sat down beside Jim, grabbing the glass and taking a large sip before he dropped his head to the back of the sofa and let out a tired sigh.
Jim turned and his hands automatically moved to Bones’ face and shoulders, kneading the tension from his lover’s frame. “Tired?”
McCoy’s eyes slipped closed and he murmured contentedly, “Beat all to hell.”
“Then why are you here and not asleep? Where’s Jo?” Jim had momentarily forgotten about Joanna.
McCoy chuckled and opened one eye to peer at Jim. “She’s ten, Jim, and fast asleep. And it’s not like I’m that far… just down the corridor.” He sipped the last of the bourbon and shook his head. “I’m not asleep because some idiot has turned my room into a damned blinking parade… and Jo wouldn’t let me turn off a single one of the lights.” He gave Jim a half-hearted glare. “She was ecstatic when she saw the room. Took me forever to get her settled down enough to sleep…”
He lifted a broad palm to Jim’s cheek and leaned up and kissed him tenderly before pushing their foreheads together. “You don’t have to try so hard, babe. She’ll love you just the way you are.”
Jim huffed out a soft breath and then snuggled closer, placing his head on Bones’ shoulder. “I just want it to be perfect. It’s been so long since you got to spend any time with her over the holidays… and you’re stuck here.”
McCoy set the glass aside and shifted around until he was leaning against the arm of the sofa and could pull Jim tight against him. “It’s already perfect, Jim. And I’m not stuck… there’s no place I’d rather be.”
McCoy glanced up at the chrono again. He couldn’t shake the nervous feeling and the quiet of a thankfully empty sickbay left him with too much time to dwell on the fact that his only child was being kept busy by Captain James ‘T for Trouble’ Kirk. When they had left him here at the start of his shift, McCoy could tell Jim was up to something, but he really had no idea what, and he was worried as hell.
He huffed out a breath and refused to check on their whereabouts again, although he couldn’t figure out what they could be doing in the shuttle bay… for over an hour. That was way off the charts where ‘grand tour’ veered into ‘somebody was going to get hurt’ territory. McCoy could feel it.
And at that moment, the sickbay doors whooshed open and he heard Joanna cry out, “Daddy!” her voice high pitched and tear-filled.
McCoy darted out of his office, his heart in his throat. He dropped to his knees before his daughter and looked at her, quickly opening the heavy winter coat she was wearing as he searched for injury. “Jo? What is it, baby girl? What happened? Where does it hurt?”
“Daddy! It’s not me – ” She looked over her shoulder and swiped at her face. “It’s Uncle Jim.”
“Jim?” McCoy stopped short when he realized that Joanna was fine, but Jim had followed her in. He was standing there, his face contorted in pain, holding his left arm against his chest.
“What the fu– fudge did you do?” He barely kept from shouting.
“Daddy!” Joanna put her hand on McCoy’s cheek. “Please fix him. His arm is hurt... bad! I bet it’s broken! You should have seen him, Daddy! He went flying so fast! And then that engineer got in his way and he fell! I was so scared when he hit the wall!” Joanna was talking non-stop, and McCoy blinked, trying to follow his daughter’s nervous outburst.
“Flying? Wall?” His eyes glared up at Jim.
Nurse Chapel heard the commotion and promptly appeared at his side, deftly taking the measure of the situation. “Doctor? Do you need some help?” She smiled fondly at Joanna as she knelt before the young girl. The whole crew was taken with his daughter just as much as she was enthralled with them.
“Miss Chapel! You should see the shuttle bay! Uncle Jim made a hill so we could go sledding! I’ve never been sledding before, have you?” Joanna was still excited and now that Uncle Jim was in good hands, she could share her adventures. “Sledding is so much fun!”
Christine moved to Joanna’s side and began to help the young girl out of the heavy clothes. She glanced at McCoy and mouthed ‘sledding’, her eyebrows raised in disbelief. “I’ll watch Joanna while you see to the captain, Sir.”
McCoy’s heart was careening through sickbay, but he nodded at Christine, grateful for her quick thinking. “Thanks, Christine.”
As they walked away, McCoy narrowed his eyes and grabbed Jim by the un-injured arm and marched him to a biobed. “Sledding?” he hissed, once he remembered to breathe again. “What the hell have you done? Is that what you were doing in the shuttle bay? What were you thinking?”
Jim followed quietly, gritting his teeth against the pain and softly groaning as his arm was jarred. But he let Bones rant and rave as he settled on the biobed and endured the pain as his coat was removed.
McCoy cursed when he saw the blood on Jim’s sleeve. “You idiot! What if this had been Jo?”
Jim sat still and waited as the doctor cut his shirt off. Normally he would have made a smart remark about Bones having a kink for cutting off his clothes, except for the sharp pain that took his breath away.
“You have a goddamned compound fracture.” McCoy quickly assessed. He grumbled as his worry for Jo was transferred to Jim and he pressed a hypospray none too gently to his neck.
“Ouch! Damnit, Bones!”
“Don’t you say a word right now. Just lie back and let me deal with this,” McCoy chided, but his eyes had softened when he knew that Jim was in no real danger and his heart had returned to his chest. He set up a sterile field and cleaned and numbed Jim’s arm in preparation for surgery.
When Chapel appeared at his side offering aid, he refused, insisting she keep Joanna occupied until he was done. With his mouth pursed tightly, he watched Jim’s vitals, noting exactly when the pain relief kicked in.
Jim was grateful for the pain killer, even if Bones had been a bit vicious with its application. He laid back and kept silent, knowing that if he spoke now, he’d only anger Bones more. He barely felt the second hypo in his bicep, but quickly recognized the creeping numbness until he couldn’t even feel his fingers. He watched Bones work, the sedatives creating an oddly detached and floaty feeling.
The surgery was quick as the break was clean with no bone fragments in the wound. McCoy set the bone, sealed up the injured tissue, then put Jim’s arm in stasis so that the osteo-regenerator could be set in place. He finished and finally looked up and met his lover’s heavy lidded gaze. His anger drained away as Jim’s brows knitted together and he mumbled sleepily, “Sorry, Bones. Just want to share a proper Christmas with Jo-Jo.”
“Jim…” McCoy leaned over and pressed a kiss to his forehead. “Shhh… don’t fight the sedative. We can talk more when you wake up.”
“Don’ wanna… you mad?” Jim pouted, struggling to keep his eyes open. He couldn’t sleep if Bones was angry with him.
McCoy rolled his eyes and reached up to stroke Jim’s cheek. “Yeah, you ass. Of course I’m mad. You’ve gone off and done something hair-brained again and gotten your damn self hurt. I hate to see you hurt, but I forgive you.” He kissed Jim’s eyelids, helping Jim lose the battle against the sedative.
When McCoy pulled away, he shook his head in fond exasperation and tucked a blanket around Jim’s slim form. He carded his hands through Jim’s hair and sighed softly, whispering, “You complete idiot! What am I going to do with you?”
Consciousness slowly returned and Jim heard the beeping of the biobed and all the reassuring sounds of sickbay. He didn’t remember being hurt on an away mission and his brow furrowed as he tried to remember how he had gotten here this time.
“Daddy! Come quick! I think he’s waking up!” Joanna shouted from her perch beside Jim’s bed.
Jim groaned at the loud noise but then remembered exactly why he was in Sickbay. And at that moment, he really didn’t want to see Bones, so he relaxed his face and pretended to still be asleep.
“Come on, Jim. I know you’re awake. Open those pretty blues for me,” McCoy cajoled.
And Jim couldn’t resist. He opened his eyes and met not one, but two pairs of frowning hazel eyes. Oh shit! He was in trouble now.
McCoy crossed his arms over his chest and stood back.
Joanna leaned over Jim and patted his cheek. “I’m sorry you got hurt.” Her eyes darted over her shoulder to her dad before she leaned closer and whispered, “But it was great fun! Thank you! I’m just sorry Daddy made Mister Scott take down the hill.”
“Jo!” McCoy scolded as he stepped closer. “Run along. Miss Uhura said you girls were going to watch movies and paint your toenails or some fool thing like that.”
“Oh! Yeah! I almost forgot!” She gave Jim a quick kiss on his cheek before dropping back down and hurrying out of sickbay.
McCoy shook his head, bemused. “Bye to you, too, baby girl.”
He turned back to Jim and checked his arm. The bones were knitted together but still needed time to strengthen. “You damn fool. Sledding? In the shuttle bay?”
“Bones,” Jim croaked. He quickly had a straw pressed to his lips and closed his eyes again as he drank. He hated sedatives. They either made him hyper-sensitive and jittery or they knocked him completely out and lasted three times longer than they should. He sipped and hummed contentedly as the cool water soothed his parched throat and he felt warm fingers carding through his hair.
“I still can’t believe you took my daughter sledding… on a starship.” McCoy’s voice sounded annoyed but was filled was amazement. “And, I’ll have you know that the entire crew insisted on trying the damned thing before it was dismantled. Do you know how many bruises and scrapes I’ve had to treat because of it?”
McCoy was growling now, on a roll as he lit into Jim about being irresponsible and not thinking things through. Jim just smiled softly, and let the words wash over him as he floated, kept warm and safe by Bones’ hand running through his hair. As long as Bones was grumping at him, all was right in his world.
McCoy shook his head and bent over to kiss Jim’s lips. He murmured against them, “Jo-Jo thinks you walk on water, so no more stunts, okay?”
Jim hummed his assent and drifted back to sleep, pulled under by the lingering sedative.
“It’s a Christmas tree, Bones!”
“Damn it, Jim! No it’s not! It’s purple! Christmas trees are not purple! How do you even know it’s safe?”
“Sulu checked it out, Spock checked it out, hell I even had Scotty run scans on it! It is a Christmas tree!” he was practically shouting as his patience wore thin. “I didn’t ask you to help decorate or anything, just don’t ruin our fun. Please?”
And how could McCoy resist those pleading eyes?
“All right… all right. But, don’t come crying to me if it turns out to be some alien species that’s just lying in wait to eat us all!”
Jim gave Bones a quick kiss to seal the deal and then shot off. “Thanks, Bones! Make sure you’re there by 1900!”
McCoy grumbled and stormed back to hide in his office. He really did not think using an alien plant as a tree was a good idea. Unfortunately, both Joanna and Jim did, so he quickly lost that battle.
And McCoy arrived on time to join the entire bridge crew as well as Scotty and Gaila. The rec room was spacious, but the colored lights, garland, and the tall, vaguely conical shaped plant with the twinkling lights gave the room a cozy feel. McCoy accepted a glass of spiked eggnog from Scotty and leaned against the wall to watch the proceedings. He began to smile in spite of himself as Jim and Joanna’s enthusiasm caught and held. He even found himself humming to the familiar carols.
After the tree was completely decorated with popcorn strands, candy canes, and something resembling tinsel, Scotty carried in the tree topper: a star made of intertwining dark and light metal strands. When Scotty looked to McCoy expectantly he tipped his eggnog and smiled at Jim who lifted Joanna up. Scotty handed her the star and she carefully placed it on the top of the tree, squealing in delight as it began to blink in a myriad of colors.
Snack foods were laid out on tables and the hum of conversation softened as folks filled their plates and ate the finger foods. Jim and Scotty nodded at each other and McCoy straightened. He had seen that conspiratorial look on his lover’s face far too many times to not realize something was up.
When they both left the room, he knew that something was up, but he was unprepared for what happened next.
Scotty and Jim returned with a detailed model of a sleigh and eight reindeer. The sleigh had a huge red bag in it and a Santa seated at the reins. Scotty spoke up first. “Our Captain wanted us to have as traditional a holiday as we could. And, I think we’re doing great… barring a few… mishaps.” He smirked at Jim before continuing. “I don’t remember if any of you recall seeing vids of old Christmas celebrations, but I remember every tree had a train circling its base.”
Jim chimed in then. “But since a train makes no sense in space, our awesome engineers have built us something better…” They held up the sleigh and reindeer and then let them go. Instead of falling, the little sleigh hovered, almost like magic.
Joanna squealed in delight and even McCoy had to admit that he was impressed. He wasn’t sure what propulsion they used, but it seemed to be completely silent. Jim moved his hands on a hidden control in his palm and the sleigh rose slowly in the air and began to make a circuit around the tree. The light from the star reflected off the metal rails and the little bells on the reindeers’ harnesses.
Everyone clapped politely and returned to their food and drink, but McCoy watched Jim and Joanna and nobody, not even Scotty watched the sleigh… until it was too late. There had been water in the ventilation shaft and the grill had been removed so that a small, but heavy and fast fan could be placed in the tube. When the recirculation cycle started, the little sleigh was sucked off course and was quickly pulled into the tube… into the maw of the viciously rotating fan. No one had noticed until the engine for the sleigh met the blades. The resounding crash and groan was enough to cause everyone to turn.
Jim cried out, too late and his face shattered as all the detailed, loving work was destroyed in an instant. To add insult to injury a flurry of white, red, and black Styrofoam began to float into the room from the other vents. Jim was horrified and stunned, his eyes giving away his hurt and disappointment. He turned away and slumped onto a bench, leaning against the wall.
McCoy was going to go to him when he felt a hand on his arm. He looked down before looking up and meeting Uhura’s eyes, his own confused. “Shhh… just watch for a sec, Doctor.”
Joanna hadn’t laughed like the grown-ups as the bits of shredded reindeer and Santa and sleigh came floating down on their heads. She’d frowned when Sulu laughingly plucked off bits of Santa from Chekov and now her brows were furrowed and her hands were on her hips. She walked to the table where Mister Scott was holding court with the drinks.
McCoy watched, completely aghast when Scotty handed his daughter a mug of eggnog and then proceeded to add about three fingers of bourbon to it. He couldn’t move because Uhura was holding on to him. He had been taught to be a gentleman and respectful of ladies, so he waited, quietly seething.
Joanna walked over to Jim and handed him the drink. “Here, Uncle Jim. You look like you could use this.”
Jim looked up at Joanna and took the mug. “Thank you,” he said before drinking. He took a big swallow because he did love eggnog, but of course he hadn’t thought it would be spiked. He spluttered and coughed and his eyes watered. “What the?”
Joanna sat down next to Jim and kicked her feet. “It’s not ‘Sailor Jerry’… that’s what Momma likes in her nog, but Mister Scott said it was good.”
Jim chuckled. “It’s good, Jo-Jo. Thank you.”
Joanna cocked her head and gazed up at Jim, her hazel eyes serious and so like Bones’. “I’m sorry about the sleigh and reindeer. They were really cool, while they lasted. And they made the Christmas tree look like it has snow on it.”
Jim snorted, “Yeah, sure. If snow was red, black, and white.” He took another sip of the eggnog.
“Well, I like it… and everything else, too. It’s been the best Christmas ever, Uncle Jim.”
Jim blinked and stared at Joanna, speechless. “But everything went wrong!”
“Weeelll…” Joanna drawled, dragging that one word out. “My momma taught me that it’s the thought that counts and every little thing you did made me feel special, even when they flubbed up.” She shrugged and pursed her lips. “Besides, even if you didn’t do all those things, make all this, it’d still be the best Christmas ever.”
“Cause my daddy’s not lonely anymore. Momma’s got me and Elias and Clay. Daddy didn’t have anybody… or at least that’s what I thought. Now I know that he does have someone. And you take pretty good care of him. So I don’t have to worry about him no more.”
Jim swallowed around the lump in his throat. “So, you approve of me, then?”
Joanna cocked her head and gave Jim the exact same roll of her hazel eyes that Bones would give him. “Duh! You’re a hero… but a real one. Saved the world and now you’ve saved my daddy.” She leaned up and kissed his cheek. “That’s the best. Thanks, Uncle Jim.”
Just then Spock pulled out his Vulcan lute and sat down to play. Joanna was off like a shot; she was fascinated by all things Spock, and the idea of him playing was too good to resist.
Jim smiled after her, his eyes a bit bright as he looked up and met Bones’ gaze.
McCoy put his hand on Jo’s shoulder as he gently reminded her, “It’s getting late, baby girl.” He looked into the viewscreen and met Jocelyn’s eyes and gave her a small shrug.
Joanna looked up at her dad, then back at the comm unit. “Okay, Daddy. I love you, Mommy. Give Eli and Clay hugs for me.”
“I will. Now off with you. I want to talk to your dad for a minute.”
As if on cue, Jim piped up, “Come on Jo-Jo, I’ll help you set up your music cube.”
Joanna immediately hopped off the chair and followed Jim, her excited voice trailing after them. “Cool! Can you show me how to make it show the pictures?”
McCoy chuckled, his heart warmed by the sheer domesticity of Jim and Jo together.
Jocelyn interrupted his reverie by clearing her throat. “Don’t want to spend all your credits on this one call, Leonard.”
He gave her a sheepish smile.
“You’ve made it hard for me, you know.” McCoy’s smile faded at her words, but Jocelyn continued, more quickly. “What I mean is that it’s going to be impossible to compete with space and the Enterprise and… well, let’s be honest, Jim Kirk. He’s spoiling her and she’s going to be insufferable.” McCoy began to frown. And Jocelyn held her hand up and smiled. “Don’t start with me, Leonard. I’m not complaining. Actually, I’m happy for you.”
McCoy’s brows knitted together and he blinked as though he couldn’t follow Jocelyn’s words.
Jocelyn sighed. “I deserved that, I know. But it’s true. I’m sorry for everything, Leonard, but I’m not sure I’d change it, even if I could. Clay’s not half the man you are, but I’m everything to him, so he’s more than enough for me. He’s good to Jo and he wouldn’t dare try to take your place in her life. All I’m trying to say is that I have a family and I want you to have one, too.”
“I have a family, Joce. Remember Jo-Jo?”
“Leonard H. McCoy! Just hear me out, damnit!” Jocelyn hissed and lowered her voice. “Please, just listen for once you stubborn… just listen. Jim’s not me, not a needy, clingy woman…” There was still a hint of bitterness at that particular jibe. “But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t need to hear the words. I know you and I know how you are. Don’t mess this one up. You gotta tell him. Everyone needs to hear the words, Len.”
“Damnit, Joce! He knows how I feel!”
“You sure about that? Sure enough to chance losing him if you’re wrong?” Jocelyn turned her head away and the sounds of a baby crying could be heard through the connection. She turned back and smiled. “I’ve got to go. Just think about what I’ve said and bring our daughter back to me in one piece.”
She severed the connection and McCoy was left sitting there blinking stupidly at a blank screen as Jocelyn’s words echoed in his ears. Was he sure?
McCoy shook his head to clear it, but the words still circled, tying him up in knots. He stood up from the desk and poured himself three fingers of bourbon before sitting down heavily on the sofa. He idly slid his finger along the rim of the glass as he tried to clear his mind, to no avail.
Jim quietly sat down beside him before he spoke. “What’s up, Bones? What’d Jocelyn say?’ He was curious but he was also worried by the expression on Bones’ face.
McCoy looked up, startled, then relaxed back into the sofa. “Jim.”
Jim nudged McCoy to turn before his hands began to knead Bones' tight muscles. “What’d she say to you?” Jim tried very hard to keep his tongue in check and never say anything bad about the evil bitch vampire from hell, especially now that Joanna was on the ship, but at moments like this it was difficult not to hate Jocelyn.
McCoy rested his hands on Jim’s and shook his head. “She was actually kind and gave me some good advice…”
“Advice? Could you elaborate?” Before McCoy could answer, the chrono chimed softly. Jim leaned forward and placed a soft kiss on Bones’ neck before whispering, “Merry Christmas, Bones!”
McCoy turned, took Jim’s hands, and met his eyes. He lost himself in the infinite blue and the warmth that shone there, just for him.
Jim began to fidget under Bones’ unreadable gaze. Something had happened. Jocelyn had said something and he mentally cursed her. He wondered if Bones would ever be completely free of his ex and cocked his head, trying to ignore his rapidly approaching anxiety. “Bones?” he quietly asked.
McCoy smiled softly and took a deep breath. “You really don’t know, do you, kid?”
Jim blinked. Having no idea what the question was about or how to answer it, he just stayed silent, his gut twisting.
“Stay here, darlin’,” McCoy said.
And Jim could only nod, wondering if his antics with Joanna had caused problems for Bones. It had been such a close thing even getting Jo allowed on board. If Bones would only shout at him, he would know where he stood, but this… this quiet… the strange, dark eyed look that Bones gave him made Jim nervous.
McCoy returned and sat down facing Jim.
Jim caught his breath, trying to calm the fluttering in his stomach. Then he rubbed the back of his neck, feeling so awkward. Normally he loved Bones’ eyes on him, but usually that lasted a short time and was quickly followed by his mouth and hands.
McCoy huffed out in a gruff voice, “God, you’re so beautiful and you really have no idea.” He swallowed and took Jim’s hand, turning it over. He pressed a warm weight into it and closed Jim’s fingers over the circle.
Jim’s eyes widened and his heart threatened to burst from his chest.
“I’m not good at this stuff, Jim. Hell, it was Jocelyn who thought we ought to get hitched back then. I’d never come up with the idea on my own…” he stopped and looked down where his thumb was running over Jim’s knuckles, stroking the tiny scars that had been there since he’d known Jim. When he looked back up, his eyes shone. “She did it for me again. Reminded me what an idiot I am. I love you, kid. I want to spend the rest of my days by your side, if you’ll have me?”
Jim opened his hand and looked at the metal band. He swallowed thickly when he recognized the ring. “Your dad’s ring? You sure, Bones?”
“Of course, I’m sure, you brat.” McCoy smiled tentatively, because Jim hadn’t answered him yet.
Suddenly he found himself tackled and he fell back on the sofa with a warm, heavy weight pressing him down. “Yes! I love you, Bones! Forever.”
They kissed and even though they’d been kissing for a couple of years, this felt different, more intense, more real, more perfect. When Jim pulled back and looked down at McCoy, he was sure he’d never seen anything more beautiful.