Fic: So Bring the Discrepancies, I'll Pour the Drinks (1/2)
Title: So Bring the Discrepancies, I'll Pour the Drinks
Series: Star Trek XI
Rating: PG-13ish, maybe a very low R for one conversation about one of Jim's sexploits, plus some war time violence. Lots of cursing.
Word Count: 13,134
Summary: There are things we take for granted in other people. Then there are the lies we tell ourselves. This is what happened to Bones when those two things collided.
Notes: Written for les342, as she won my auction in gulf_aid_now! I sincerely hope you like this.
This is a stand alone fic set in its own universe, none of the previous things I've written apply here.
If you want an idea of what you're in for, the most upbeat song on this fic's playlist was "Wonderwall." (I totally make new playlists for everything I write! The one for waterpark is like six days of music!) Bring tissues, is what I'm getting at here.
Title taken from the song "The Army Corps of Architects" by Death Cab for Cutie. Listening to that first will probably also set the tone very well. Also yay finally getting to use my favorite Death Cab song for a fic!
Anyways, I've rambled enough. Have some fic!
Leonard McCoy was taking stock of the vaccines the Enterprise would need in the coming months before they went into the beta quadrant. He was about of a third of the way complete with his task.
There were some rumblings about the current political climate on Deneb IV. A somewhat successful rebellion had worked to over-throw their previous totalitarian government, and while most of the populace were happy with this fact there were some dissenters who preferred the old ways. Jim was going back and forth with the brass over whether or not the Enterprise should intervene in helping them install their democracy, and as such they currently found themselves in a holding pattern of sorts.
“I mean it, Bones, you should have been there!”
“Oh, I highly doubt that,” he said over his shoulder as he unsuccessfully tried to concentrate. “I'm not into watching.”
“Not there there,” Jim said and Bones could practically hear the eye roll. “There like at the conference to see her before I whisked her off into the night. Did you know that when someone with purple skin blushes they turn maroon? It's actually quite attractive and when she blushed it was everywhere.”
He hoped the tone of his voice came across like a sarcastic pat on the head, because he didn't wish to convey the wrong message. “Of course it was.”
“And man, was I in for a surprise. She seemed so...innocent and demure when I was talking to her. But god, the shit that came out of her mouth before and during...it was enough to make me blush.”
“I also highly doubt that.” He put the tray of Mulvarian mud flea vaccines back on the shelf and picked up a box that seemed to be filled with nothing but miscellaneous crap. Terrific, this wouldn't take all day to sort through or anything. He made a note to send out a memo to his staff about just throwing shit around all willy-nilly.
“I've been around the block, yeah, but this stuff. She actually told me she wanted me to come in her and then suck it out.”
“Jesus Christ, Jim!” Bones stood staring at him with the box in both his hands, a look that could only be described as pure shock on his face. Jim raised up both of his hands with a serious expression.
“What? It's not like I did it or anything! Come on, I've got standards!”
“Could have fooled me,” Bones mumbled as he rummaged through the box. What the hell was a dermal regenerator doing in there? There was a heavy silence and it caused him to look up into Jim's eyes. “What?”
“What's that supposed to mean?” There was a strange look in Jim's eyes; Bones would have thought he looked hurt, but this wasn't the first time he made such a comment at his expense.
“I just mean that you're not exactly picky. You're pretty much the poster child for the phrase 'Free Love'.” He kept digging in the box. Was that a Slinky? What the hell was his staff doing? “Why is that, anyways?”
“Why is what?”
Bones looked back up into Jim's eyes, blowing his bangs off his forehead. “Why do you sleep around so much? I mean, aside from the obvious...”
Looking uncomfortable, Jim fidgeted. “I don't see why it matters.”
“It doesn't really, I suppose.” Yeah that was a slinky, a rainbow colored one in the shape of a star. It looked like something Jo would have and for a moment he felt a small pang in his chest. “Never thought to ask before, is all. It's just curiosity, Jim, it's not a judgment.”
He continued to rummage through the box almost absently as Jim stood in front of him. He ducked his head down enough that his eyes weren't visible, just his mouth and part of his nose; finally, he spoke and it was so soft Bones almost missed it.
His hand came to an abrupt halt in the box. With wide eyes, he looked at his friend. “Come again?”
“I said loneliness.” Jim looked up then and the expression on his face was almost brutally sad. “I get lonely, just like everyone else does. It...makes it go away, even if just for a little.”
Bones didn't know what to say; he did, however, feel like hitting himself a few times. Jim was so constantly surrounded by people and crew members, even back when they were at the academy, it literally never occurred to him that he could feel alone. Some best friend he was. “Jim...”
“Hey, it's all right.” Just like that, the sadness was gone and Jim was himself once more. “I mean, like I said, it happens to everyone. Even you, right?”
He shrugged. “I mean yeah, every once in a while, I suppose. I'm not immune to it.” He shrugged for a second time. “But I don't need anyone else, I've got you.”
It was so quick he thought he imagined it, but Jim seemed to lighten a bit before adopting a more neutral expression. “Well I...I mean, thanks. I guess. But we both know that's not what I mean.” The captain waved his right hand in front of him. “I mean, like, romantically lonely, the kind of lonely people sing about. That lonely.”
“I know what you meant,” Bones answered. He pondered for a moment before looking back down into the box. “That doesn't really bother me.”
“Oh yeah?” There was something in his voice... “Why do you figure that?”
“Everyone knows,” and indeed his tone did suggest that this was common knowledge, “That I'm better off alone, even me. I'm a shitty partner, that hasn't changed.” He looked back up and was a little confused and a lot surprised by what he saw. Jim's eyes had clouded over and darkened, almost as if he was in pain. It was incredibly alarming and enough to make him finally set the box down. “Hey, what's wrong?”
“Bullshit,” Bones retorted. “Something obviously is, you look like I just kicked you in the stomach.”
Jim suddenly couldn't meet his eyes and he stared down at the floor. He loudly swallowed a few times and he licked his lips once. His voice was soft when he spoke, soft and laced with something Bones couldn't quite identify. “I just want you to be happy, Bones. That's all.”
Uncharacteristically, Bones softened; Jim really was a great friend, the best he could ever ask for. “You shouldn't worry about me. I'm not unhappy, Jim; I'm actually somewhat content, in spite of being stuck on this rust bucket for the next few years.”
“But you aren't really happy,” was Jim's reply.
“What matters is what I said, that I'm not unhappy.” He sighed a little. “Really, that's more than a lot of people get. If I ever find someone, sure you know it'd be nice...but I'm not holding my breath. Having it all's just not in the cards for me, and I'm fine with that.”
Jim looked like he was about to say something else when Nurse Chapel came into the room. This made Jim look relieved and Bones sighed again. “Yeah, Christine?”
“Mister Scott just called, one of his engineers took a fall down a ladder,” she said. “He can't be moved, so he's asking for you to come to him.”
“No, of course,” he said, already moving towards her without so much as a second thought. Wait. He stopped and looked back at Jim, who still had that unreadable expression on his face. “Sorry to cut this short, Jim, but...”
“No no,” Jim waved him off. “No need for apologies, this is more important. Go do your job, and let me know what happens, okay? I'll see myself out.” He smiled and it was tight around the corners of his mouth and his eyes.
Not really having time to think about it too much, Bones walked out, grabbing an emergency medical kit and a tricorder as he went.
Much to Jim's chagrin, the brass decided that the Enterprise was to hold off on heading to Deneb and to instead go back about their exploratory missions.
Ceti Alpha V was warm and uninhabited; their job was to record data on the various plant species they came across. Several of them had the potential for strong medical applications and so McCoy found himself shoehorned onto the away team. He and Jim were partnered up together, which gave them their first real opportunity to talk since Jim visited medical the week before. For some reason Bones hadn't seen a lot of his best friend since, so as inconvenient as this information gathering was, it wasn't entirely unwelcome either.
Even if Jim did seem a bit quiet.
Bones couldn't help but think that there was an obscene amount of plants on this particular planet.
“There's an obscene amount of plants on this particular planet,” Jim said with a hand shielding his eyes from the harsh sunlight. Bones snorted.
'I was just thinking that,” he said without looking up from his tricorder. Sweat was forming on his brow in the heat, although not unpleasantly so. It actually reminded him of home and he couldn't help but be a bit comforted by the feeling.
Jim pulled at his collar with his free hand. “All that money in the budget and Starfleet can't spring for sunglasses,” he grumbled. “What kind of readings are you getting?”
“Hard to say, there's so much flora it's difficult to tell what's what.” There was a bit of feedback coming into play and he re-calibrated it accordingly. “Hang on, I think over there we've got something.”
“Finally.” Jim half-heartedly pumped a fist in the air. “Off we go into the merry old land of Oz.”
Bones didn't laugh, but he did smirk as he and the captain made their way towards a clearing. It was a bit of a hike and the ground was rocky and uneven. By the time they reached the area Bones pointed out, it became flat and easier to traverse. Jim stood a few feet ahead of him, shielding his eyes once more. He crouched and examined a flowering bush.
“I'm not allergic to these, am I?”
“I can't make any guarantees, so I'd advise against eating them.”
Jim snorted. “Right, because I'm so in the habit of walking up to foreign plants and just taking a big bite. I'm not actually a goat, you know.”
“I've seen you eat, Jim. If you're not a full-blooded one, you've got some in your ancestry.”
“Thank you.” Bones furrowed his brows. There was that strange feedback again, and it was even stronger this second time. He tried recalibrating, but it didn't work. An ear-splitting whine came from both of their belts.
“Fucking,” Jim snapped as he grabbed his communicator. He struggled with it for a moment before turning it off entirely. “The hell is going on?”
“Not sure, something's been interfering with my readings. It's only been getting stronger as we've made our way here.” He put the tricorder in between his knees so he could follow Jim's example with his comm. “Of all the annoying...”
“Shh!” Jim was looking off into the distance. “You hear that?”
“Can't hear a goddamn thing over this racket,” the doctor replied as he finally shut it down. “There. Now what was...?”
He held up his right hand. “Shh!” They stood, neither of them moving. “I could have sworn...like a...”
That was when a loud creak sounded, almost like the frame of an old house settling. Bones turned back the way they came, squinting in the distance, as Jim put a hand on his phaser.
“That. That's what I was hearing.” The captain looked up into the sky for a moment, before staring back into the distance. “Can't figure out where it's coming from.”
It happened again, louder and almost like a low groan. Then it happened again. And again.
“It almost sounds like,” Jim said and he looked down at their feet. The creaking was extra loud that time and before either of them could react the ground gave way and they fell hard against the floor below. Bones landed on his side and coughed loudly; Jim was just in front of him on his stomach. They were both covered in dust and he put his arms over his head as rocks and pieces of wood continued to rain down on them for a few minutes.
“Fan-fucking-tastic,” he mumbled as he coughed yet again. “All right, Jim?”
Jim shakily pushed himself off the floor. “Yeah, just a bit bruised. Where the hell are we?”
“Down a goddamn rabbit hole.” Sitting up, Bones took as good of a look as he could, considering how dim it was. Jim stood and grabbed his communicator to turn it back on; it didn't work, it simply shrieked at him once more and he shut it off with an irritated expression. He threw it onto the ground with disgust.
Bones sighed; they were cut off and down what looked like a mineshaft of all things. He angrily scrubbed the crap out of his hair. Jim tilted his head to one side and moved towards one of the rock walls. There was some kind of shimmering rock laced throughout and he ran his fingers over it.
“Think this stuff's why the equipment's gone loco?”
Wiping his mouth with the back of a hand, Bones nodded. “I'd say that's a good possibility. Too bad the tricorder's acting up; I'm no geologist, but I could at least see what we're dealing with.” He looked up at Jim, who was staring up into the clearing they came from. “Don't suppose that famous tactical brain of yours has got a plan or two in it.”
“It's about five meters to the top,” Jim said. “Even if I stood on your shoulders, we wouldn't reach high enough to get out.” He ran his hand over the wall again. “This doesn't have enough friction for climbing.” He turned to his friend with a rueful smile. “I think we're stuck with each other for a few hours.”
His shoulders sagging a little, Bones sighed. “Of course we are. Protocol's what? Four hours past check in time?”
“Yeah.” Jim sat down indian-style across from him. “No point in struggling or fighting, we may as well just try to stay comfortable and shoot the shit until help arrives.” He winked. “Good thing you're trapped with a master conversationalist like myself.”
Bones snorted. He wiped his mouth again, making a face at the dark smudges of grime on the back of his hand. Jim didn't look much cleaner; there were dark marks all over his face with tracks from his sweat; his hair looked gray from the dust and his tunic was stained. They made quite a pair. Although it still wasn't as bad as that time they somehow ended up in Tijuana for spring break.
“Not quite the worst mess we've been in,” Jim said suddenly and he looked across at him. “I mean, this is a five star hotel compared to that hellhole in TJ.”
“I was...” He shook his head. “You keep doing that, saying what I'm thinking. Has Spock gone contagious?”
The captain rolled his eyes. “I'd have to be touching you for that comparison to be valid. No I just...” He trailed off for a second, gathering his thoughts. It was hard to tell in the dim lighting, but it looked like he may be a little flushed. “We spend a lot of time together. That...it doesn't mean anything.” He picked at the fabric on one of his knees.
The sat in companionable silence for a time, although Bones couldn't help but feel like it was awkward for some reason.
“So what are your plans?”
“Plans?” He looked at Jim with a confused expression.
“For shore leave when we get back to Earth in six months. You going to see Jo?”
“Not sure,” he answered. “I messaged Jocelyn about it but she hasn't replied yet. We'll see if she deems me worthy.”
Jim scowled as he continued to pick at his knee. “It's bullshit the way she treats you. She cheated and she doesn't even let you see your kid when you can!”
“It is what it is,” Bones answered. “I can't get mad about it anymore, Jim, it's not worth it.”
“Well then, I'll get mad for you. It's just...I mean I was that kid, you know? She needs her dad. More importantly, you need your daughter.” Anger clouded his features and he shook his head. “It's just not right.”
“It's not,” he conceded. “But I can either worry about it and let it eat me alive, or I can grudgingly accept it while still hoping for the best.” Jim looked unconvinced, but he did let it drop. There was another long silence. “What about you? Going to some exotic hot spot?”
Jim shrugged. “Don't know.”
“Don't know? You don't have any parties planned?”
“Nope.” Having moved on to his other knee, Jim picked the fabric there instead. “Thinking about just hanging out, not really doing anything. I'm not really in a partying mood right now.”
That was odd. “Everything okay?”
Jim's hand froze. “What? Yeah, why wouldn't it be?”
“That's not really like you,” Bones said with a worried frown. “I mean, I've been on vacation with you, Jim. Just hanging out isn't your style, unless you're making time with some person or other.”
Stiffening his shoulders, Jim's mouth formed a tight line. “Well maybe I don't feel like 'making time' with people anymore. Maybe I'm over all of that.”
Bones raised his hands in a gesture of surrender. “I'm not picking on you, Jim, I'm just making conversation.” Jim nodded.
“No...right. Sorry.” He nodded again. “Didn't mean to snap. This whole situation's got me on edge.”
“I hear that,” Bones said in agreement. “This isn't exactly my idea of a good time either.”
There was yet another silence, and this one was definitely awkward. That felt wrong, silences with Jim hadn't been awkward since they very first met. Bones thought for a moment; something Jim said kept repeating itself to him, about being over sleeping around. He sighed...well if you can't ask your best friend these kinds of questions, who can you ask?
“So what changed?”
“What changed?” He waved a hand in front of himself. “Last time this subject came up, you said you have all the random encounters because of loneliness. That's not true anymore?”
“No I still...I'm still lonely. It's just...” Jim suddenly wouldn't look him in the eye. “I've been weighing the costs and it's not really worth it anymore. It's just a poor substitut...” He stopped himself, his eyes going wide as if he was saying too much. Bones watched as Jim grimaced.
“A poor substitute? For what?” Shifting his position so that he was kneeling, Bones watched him carefully. Something was going on here, and he was pretty close to figuring it out.
It suddenly struck him, almost out of nowhere. “Wait. Jim, do you...you have feelings for someone?” He leaned forward from where he sat. “Why haven't you said anything?”
Bones raised an eyebrow. “Because...?”
“Because they don't...they have no idea. Besides, there's no point in telling them, they pretty obviously don't want me. So there wasn't any point in saying anything to you, because nothing can be done about it. It's just...I have to deal with it. So I do.” His voice was small. “It just gets hard sometimes, that's all.”
Closing his eyes for a moment, Bones shook his head sadly. All this time, Jim had this problem and he felt like he couldn't go to anyone with it. Although... “I don't understand. If you haven't told them, how do you know there's no shot?”
Jim shrugged. “It's...trust me, there's no chance. I don't even need to try to know that.”
“That I really do not get. You could have anyone you wanted, what makes this person so different?”
Even in the dim light, he could tell that Jim paled at his question. “Bones...”
“Wait a minute. It's not...Jim, you weren't serious about Uhura, were you?”
Jim finally looked at him then, and he was blinking in confusion. “Uhura? What does she have to...oh. Oh! Oh no, no I'm not in...I don't want her.” He shook his head a few times. “No, it's not her.”
“Then I'm really confused because I don't...” As he trailed off, he was hit with the memory of how pained Jim looked when he said he was better off alone.
I just want you to be happy, Bones. That's all.
Leonard McCoy did not always put a lot of stock into intuition; it was fallible and easily influenced by things such as faulty memories and one's hopes and fears, and at the end of the day he was a man of medicine and science. But he had to admit, he just had a doozy of a flash of it.
“It's me, isn't it?”
No reply came from him, but his eyes did widen. Shit.
“Jim? I'm the one you want.”
Instead of answering him directly, Jim looked at him with a cross between fear and resignation. He opened his mouth to speak, before quickly deciding against it and closing it. They stared at each other for a long while, as things began to click into place in Bones' mind; things like him distancing himself from him after that last conversation, or why he got so angry on his behalf about things like visiting Joanna. These weren't just the reactions of a sympathetic friend, these were the reactions of a person in love.
He rubbed his face with one hand. When he opened his eyes again, Jim was still looking at him with that same fear on his face.
“Captain! Doctor!” A voice called from above them, and they both instinctively looked up towards it. Ricky was kneeling close to the edge of the hole, a concerned frown on his face. “Are you both all right?”
“We're fine,” Jim answered as he quickly schooled his face into a more neutral expression. “Can you get us out?”
“I'll have to step away to do it. For some reason the communicators are on the fritz; that's how we knew something happened, I called you to check in and got no answer.”
Jim nodded. “Yeah, just have Scotty beam us back to the ship. I think we should be looked at, it was a pretty hard fall.”
“Yes, sir.” With that, Ricky stepped back, presumably to radio up to the transporter room. Jim wouldn't look at him, indeed he was looking anywhere else in the room but at him.
“We'll be back on board in a second.” He was staring down at the ground. “Assuming this stuff doesn't interfere with the transporters.”
Bones looked at him. “What about---?”
Unfortunately, he was cut off by the whirl of the transporter lights. Before either of them had a chance to register it, they were back on the Enterprise. The two of them sat on the transporter pad in the same positions they were in on the floor of the shaft and Bones looked across it to Jim.
He looked terrified.
“We need to...get to medical.” He stood, although Bones did not miss the slight shaking in his hands. “Geoff needs to look at us.” With that he turned and, somewhat robotically, began to make his way to the medical wing.
“Jim!” Bones got up off the floor himself, and he stared at his friend's back as he walked away. There was no way Jim hadn't heard him yell, he had to be ignoring him. What the hell? “Jim!” He started jogging to catch up to him.
He wasn't quite fast enough and he saw the turbo lift's doors close just as he reached them. Bones scowled and hit the metal with the palm of his hand. Somewhat frustratedly, he pushed the button to call the next lift and tried to wait as patiently as he could.
Hopefully, Jim wasn't lying and had in fact gone to the med bay.
By the time he made his way down there, Jim was nowhere to be found. Bones asked around and he had obviously never gone to medical at all. Unfortunately Geoff took one look at him and made him sit through a pretty thorough exam before giving him permission to head back out.
Jim had, of course, disabled the computers from locating him, but Bones didn't let that deter him. He had a specific destination in mind. After all, Jim had to go back to his quarters at some point to sleep.
Entering the medical override in the keypad, Bones stepped inside and called out to turn on the lights. He paused to look around for a few moments; not that he didn't already spend most of his free time there, but it felt different this time.
Lots of little things were coming back to him in light of his realization. He couldn't recall anything major, no instances of Jim staring at him or grand romantic gestures or anything. But there were lots of little things that, now that he knew how Jim felt, were explained.
Jim slept around a bit when they first met, but it didn't start in earnest until their second year at the academy. At the time, Bones just shrugged it off as him needing to blow off steam...which actually was correct, just he hadn't imagined the right type of steam. He sighed and ran a hand through his still-dusty hair. He then began to furiously pace around the living room area.
It also became clear the reason why Jim seldom initiated physical contact between the two of them. He was always putting his arm around his shoulders or patting him on the back, but Jim very rarely returned the gestures. The last time Bones could honestly remember it happening was the pat on the back after the Kobayashi Maru.
To be fair, Jim was apparently very good at hiding his feelings. Or maybe he was just oblivious to them. Bones grimaced; really, just that sick bay conversation alone should have tipped him off more than it did. Was he that insensitive, that blind? What did that say about him that he had no idea?
He heard the door slide open and he turned to it as Jim took a step through it. He looked up at Bones and froze for a moment before sagging in resignation and stepping all of the way inside.
“Should have known,” was all he said.
Neither of them spoke again for a long time, with Bones not knowing where to begin and Jim not knowing how to explain. The captain sighed and looked down at the floor.
“Well? Go ahead. Get it over with.”
Bones looked at him before shaking his head. “I don't understand. All this time you've...”
Jim shrugged. “For years, yeah.”
He shook his head a second time. “For years, and I had no idea.” Placing his hands on his hips, he looked at him. “Why didn't you ever say anything?”
“What the hell was I supposed to say?” Bit by bit the fear began to run away from Jim's face, receding away into a defensive anger. “There was no point! You haven't exactly made your feelings a secret.” He walked past him to his liquor cabinet and fished out a bottle of whiskey. Jim didn't bother with a glass, he opened the bottle and took a shot right out of it.
“Okay first of all, we're not going there because there's only one person who's been hiding shit and lying in this room and it ain't me!” He watched him take another hit out the bottle with an incredulous expression. “Second of all, how do you know so much about my feelings anyways? You never once have even tried to have anything with me!”
Jim laughed and it was humorless. “Right. Okay, Doctor I'm Better Off Alone, Doctor I Don't Feel Loneliness, Doctor If You Like Her So Much You Go Home With Her. Seriously, the song is always the same with you. I'm not interested, I don't want to, I've got work, I've got to study, I'm a shitty partner.” He looked at him with a serious expression. “What am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to try when that's all you ever say about anyone who wants you? 'Gee Bones, I know we're best friends but please make an exception to your no dating rule for me?' Yeah, I think we both know how that would have ended.”
“No we don't, Jim, because it didn't happen that way! All that's been happening is I've had absolutely no idea! You felt like you couldn't even tell me about this and I'm supposed to be the one you tell everything. I just don't understand why you never said anything!”
“I just told you,” Jim snapped. “You don't want me, Bones, I'd know if you did. I'm a friend, maybe a brother. But I'm not who your heart beats for, I never have been.”
Bones closed his eyes for a moment. “I've been hurting you,” he said softly. A lot of the fight drained out of Jim at this and he put the bottle down.
“You haven't, I do it to myself.” There was a smile on his face, though it was watery and sad. “I know how things are always going to be. But sometimes I forget and I get my hopes up...” Swallowing hard, it took him a moment to continue. “It's my burden, okay? They're my feelings and I just...have to deal with them. It's not your problem, and we don't even have to act like this happened.”
Bones' jaw dropped. “You can't be serious.”
“Has anything in this conversation suggested I'm not?” He was picking at the black label on the bottle now, watching the movement of his hands very carefully. “Like I said it's my problem. It's not like anything can change. We'll just go back about our business as usual.”
“How it has to be.”
That stopped Bones where he stood. “How it has to be,” he echoed.
“Yeah.” Having peeled the label off, Jim wadded it up and sat it on his desk. “It's the only way I can...it is what it is. This way we can stay friends.” Before giving Bones a chance to protest, he began to walk towards his bedroom. “I need to shower. You can...you can see yourself out.”
He didn't want to leave. He wanted to stay, to argue with him. He wanted to shake him and make him see reason.
Instead he mumbled a “fine” and walked out the door.
Things were not good after that.
For one thing, there was absolutely no way Bones was going to be able to shove his newfound information into a box and act like he never heard it. Everything, at least for him, had changed. Everything Jim said to him, every look and every glance filled him with confusion and wonder at how he possibly couldn't have seen it himself.
Jim never stared, but his looks did linger a bit longer than strictly necessary. His fascination with Bones' personal life was suddenly explained also; Jim didn't just ask him questions about why he didn't date, he asked a lot about his marriage, things he liked, his hobbies, Jo. And it wasn't that Bones didn't reciprocate and ask Jim the same things, he just never thought to without prompting.
And yeah, usually the only time Jim went home with someone else was when he had made his proclamations about being better off alone. The thought that he'd essentially been driving his best friend into a life of risky, casual sex unsettled him, to say the least.
Bones looked across the conference table to where Jim stood as he butted heads with Komack over going into the situation on Deneb IV, which was rapidly deteriorating. Jim kept talking, eventually glancing back to him. A blush stained his cheeks and his words faltered for a moment before he continued his argument.
It didn't help that now they were locked in some sort of weird dance around each other.
All he could think about was Jim. What Jim was doing, who he was with, how he was talking, if he was sleeping, was he eating right, was he taking care of himself, Jim, Jim, Jim, Jim.
Jim, of course, wasn't helping on that front. It had been weeks since they hung out together or took a meal together. Any time he would try to get Jim alone, he would be dodged. Anytime he would try to make plans with him, Jim would avoid his gaze and be mysteriously busy.
He just wanted to talk. He wanted things to be right between them again.
He wanted his best friend back.
But he had no idea what to say or how to bring this up. Jim tended to default to anger when pushed, regardless of what explanation he owed the other party. And Bones would have been lying if he claimed he didn't feel owed right then.
And it wasn't as if he wasn't flattered either. The fact that out of everyone, Jim had chosen him actually made him feel a bit...flustered, like the first time he asked Jocelyn to dance at Denise Crosby's cotillion. At least, it did momentarily before he was reminded of the fact that Jim had been lying to him for years and that put him back in the frustrated and angry category.
So he did the only things he could do.
He watched Jim, he kept tabs on him through the computer, he used his overrides to check Jim's eating habits. He had yet to go so far as to sneak into his quarters to check how much he had been drinking, but it wasn't exactly off the table either.
It didn't make him feel good or noble to spy on him like that; for one thing, Jim really put his privacy under lock and key. It was almost humbling, how much Jim trusted him.
Or rather, trusted him normally.
For another, he just hated resorting to it. But it wasn't like Jim was being forthcoming, so what other choice did he have? Bones glanced across the conference table to Spock, who was also watching the captain get angrier and angrier with a bit of concealed concern. He forced himself to listen to what was actually being said.
“...is completely ridiculous! People are dying by the dozens every day! We could help them and put a quick end to this, and you won't let me go in on a technicality?”
“You know it's more complicated than that, Captain. This is a delicate situation that could easily escalate to civil war if we go in now. Anyways, it's not just my call here. I'm asking, not ordering, you to stand down and let us handle this through the proper channels.”
Jim scoffed loudly. “We wait for the proper channels and it will become a war, you have my word on that. You know I'm right, just let us go!”
“For the last time, Kirk, the answer's no. Settle down or I will make it an order. Are we clear?”
Eyes narrowing, Jim clenched his jaw. It was obvious exactly how pissed off he was, and Bones was hit by a surge of sympathy for him. He was getting ready to offer his support when Jim's expression smoothed itself out and became almost supernaturally calm.
“How's your daughter, Admiral?”
Bones furrowed both of his brows as Spock blinked for a moment and gave the captain a sideways glance. What?
“I'm sorry?” The admiral looked as confused as Bones felt.
“Your daughter. I saw you leave the annual Veterans' Ball with her a year ago. Young girl, couldn't have been older than about fifteen.” A smile quirked Jim's lips and it was not at all friendly. “At least, I assume she was your daughter...”
Bones looked at Jim, unable to hide his shock. That didn't mean what it sounded like...more to the point, Jim didn't honestly think that going there with the brass was a good idea just to get what he wanted.
Komack looked like he wasn't doing much better. His face had gone a bit pale, and he cleared his throat several times. Spock was also eyeing the captain with a curious expression, although he too did not say a word. The silence was profound and completely awkward.
“Jim,” Bones began at the same time that Komack said, “Captain.” He shook his head and let the admiral speak. “As I said previously, it's not my decision. But I can...probably convince Barnett of the necessity.”
“That's all I ask,” Jim said and this time his smile was genuine. “How much time will you need to do so, Admiral?”
“Three days,” Komack said and if he sounded a bit unnerved, Jim wisely did not comment. “Give me three days. Komack out.” With that, the commlink went dead, the screen quickly fading to black. Jim turned to face Bones and Spock.
“Now we just have to wait for the official go ahead.”
Spock raised an eyebrow but nodded once. Bones opened his mouth for a moment, then closed it, then opened it again.
“Are you crazy?”
The smile ran away from Jim's face as he regarded Bones with a curious expression. “Excuse me?”
“For the record, that's a rhetorical question as you're pretty obviously completely batshit insane!” Bones folded his arms across his chest. “Jim what the hell was that? You can't honestly think that blackmailing an admiral is acceptable just so you can get what you want!”
“What I want? You think I want this? You think I want us to be dragged into the middle of a stand off?” Jim quickly progressed into being furious. “I'm doing what I have to here, Bones, not what I want!”
“Don't argue semantics with me, Jim, that's not my point and you know it. What you did was wrong.”
Jim narrowed his eyes, raising himself up to his full height. “And that's why you're in blue instead of gold, Bones. You're too short-sighted to understand how things really work.”
Okay, so that was nasty.
He turned to Spock, who looked back at him with a cross between neutrality and understanding on his face. “Please back me up here.”
The first officer gathered his thoughts for a moment. “While I must admit I find the circumstances...distasteful,” he said with a note of disbelief in his voice, “Time is of the essence. The situation will devolve at best into a coup d'etat and at worst a war if the Federation does not intervene in any capacity. As the both the closest Starfleet vessel to Deneb, as well as the one with the most resources, we are in the best position to offer assistance. Navigating through the proper channels is a luxury the citizens of Deneb can ill afford.” He folded his hands behind his back and looked then to Jim. “The captain's gambit, while dangerous, was logical.”
It was Bones' turn to scoff loudly. “I absolutely do not believe this.”
“Get over it,” Jim snapped. “We'll have our answer in three days, so I suggest you start having your staff review the emergency medical intervention protocols.” With that, he turned and stormed his way out of the conference room, leaving a furious Bones and a mildly confused Spock behind.
Bones shook his head. “Not now,” he tossed over his shoulder as he followed Jim out of the room. “Jim! Stop!”
The captain kept walking, not even stopping or turning around to face him.
“I said stop!” He began to run, this time catching him quickly. He grabbed his arm lightly and the captain whipped around with a furious expression.
“Get your hand off me!” He jerked his arm out of Bones' grasp.
“What the hell is the matter with you?”
“What the hell is the matter with me? What the hell is the matter with you,” Jim spat right back. “Last I checked, I'm the captain. And I'm really tired of you always questioning everything I do! There's a chain of command here, I suggest you start following it!”
“That chain of command also enables me to stand your stupid ass down when I deem it necessary,” Bones barked. “This is bullshit, Jim, you can't just start using information against people to get your way! You're better than that, what the hell is going on with you?”
“I told you back there, we don't have time for paperwork and red tape! People are dying and we can minimize the casualties if we go in now. I did what I had to do, Bones, and I don't regret it. And if you go to argue with me in front of the brass like that again, I'll throw you in the brig.”
Bones stared at him in shock for a moment. “What is this really about, Jim?”
Jim stared back. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“You've never had a problem with me questioning you before. Hell, you used to tell me I keep you honest. So what changed where this is suddenly such a problem for you?” Jim snorted and put his hands on his hips.
“What changed is I never used to be spied on by someone I thought had my back!”
The blood drained out of his face. Bones sighed. “Jim...”
“Yeah you really think I wouldn't know? I can keep tabs on who accesses my information, Bones, I've always been better with computers than you. What the hell gives you the right?”
“Jesus Christ, Jim, it's not like I can get anything else from you! You won't even fucking look at me anymore, let alone answer me honestly about how you're doing! I can't think of the last time we spent any time together that wasn't at a meeting or on an away team! You always lie and make up excuses for why you can't be around me!”
“Because I need space!” Jim shouted, his eyes a little wild. “For fuck's sake, Bones, can't I just have some goddamn space? We don't have to be joined at the fucking hip!”
“I don't give a shit about you needing space, I give a shit about you completely running away from me just because I found out you're in love with me! I give a shit about you not dealing with this!”
Jim's face closed and his eyes glinted with anger. “You agreed that we wouldn't talk about that.”
“No, Jim, you agreed. You didn't even grant me room for an argument, you told me how things were going to play out.” He exhaled loudly, his eyes darkening with his own rage. “I shouldn't be surprised, it's just par for the course with you. You didn't give me a goddamn choice about being with you, and now you're not giving me a choice about this.”
“There's no choice to make! It is what it is, I have to deal with it, it doesn't concern you!”
“Bull-fucking-shit!” He got in Jim's face at this, practically shaking in anger. “You've lied to me for years, our entire relationship is built on something that isn't true, you just keep making all of these assumptions and not even asking me what I want when this is about your feelings for me. Oh you bet your ass this concerns me, Jim, I'm one of the principal parties here!”
“I don't know what the hell you want from me right now! I don't know what to say or how to talk to you! Do you have any idea what it's like, to spend years thinking you can never tell someone something only to have them figure it out and back you into a corner? And instead of backing off they keep pushing at you in all these little ways, obviously not giving a shit about how raw you feel about it? Do you have any idea how difficult this is for me, to look at you and deal with the fact that you actually know? I can't handle it yet, Bones, so just back the fuck off!”
“So what you think you can just put this away for a while and then things will be all normal? Do you not get that's not how it works? This is all I can fucking think about Jim, I can't move on until this is dealt with!”
“Well I'm telling you I can't deal with this right now! Jesus Bones you're supposed to be my friend, why can't you just respect my----mmmph!”
Something in him snapped, something he couldn't explain or put his finger on, which was why he was kissing him. It was clumsy and violent, it was not really like a first kiss ought to have been. Bones kissed him and he waited, he waited for the big revelation or repulsion to set in, but what he got instead of just a kind of neutral yes, I'm certainly kissing someone feeling. After a moment, Jim started kissing him back feverishly and he deepened it in response.
At least, until Jim's fist connected with his jaw.
Stumbling backwards in shock, Bones lost his balance and fell onto the ground, landing square on his ass. He brought his hand up to hold his throbbing jaw, disbelief filling his features. He could feel a bruise blossoming. “You fucking hit me!”
“What the fuck was that?” Jim's hand was still clenched into a fist, as if he expected to hit him again at any time. “Do you think this is funny?”
“Oh believe me, I ain't laughing,” Bones spat.
“So what, you think because of how I feel you can take a piece, is that it? You think that because everyone else has had some you can steal what you want from me?” Jim's face was dark red and he was trembling. “You think you can just use me like I'm nothing, like I don't matter?”
“If you think I'd ever do that to you, you don't goddamn know me at all,” Bones shot back. Jim's breathing regulated a little at this, and the trembling stopped.
“You know what? I don't know what I think or know anymore. And right now, neither do you.” His hand finally unclenched and he stuck it into his pocket. “I'm only going to say this once more: do not bring this up again.”
Bones scowled. “What, like that's an order?”
That was the wrong thing to say, as Jim's expression turned completely blank and stony. His posture went rigid and he had the same eerie calm he did when talking to Komack. “You know what? I think it is, Doctor.”
The whole situation was so ridiculous, all Bones could do was make a sound between a laugh and a strangled grunt. “Fine. Fuck you too, Captain.”
Jim didn't say anything more, he simply regarded him coldly before turning and stalking down the rest of the hallway. Bones continued to sit on the floor for a moment, staring down at his mottled reflection in the metal tiling.
“What are you looking at,” he asked himself bitterly. He grimaced after a moment and then looked away. Slowly he stood and began to make his own way back down to medical.
If he thought things were bad before, he had no idea what he would be dealing with after their fight. And honestly, it was pretty sad to be preferring a time when things were awkward and stilted, but Bones would have given anything to go back to that.
Jim looked at him like a stranger after that, a stranger who happened to also be a subordinate. It was so disconcerting and so heart-rending, Bones stopped taking his reports to the bridge because of how uncomfortable he felt. He sent them through email instead, so he didn't have to see that shuttered gaze anymore. It...haunted him, whenever he had time to think about it.
Thankfully, there wasn't much downtime in the weeks that followed. True to his word, Komack secured the clearance for them to go into Deneb and help its new government finish installing their democracy. The dissenters unfortunately were not backing down and it appeared that their presence was actually doing more harm than good. Bones now spent his days taking care of civilians who got injured in the crossfire. Everyone in sick bay was pulling double shifts in order to keep up with the casualties, which left him precious little time to reflect and mope.
All of the trust, all of the friendship was gone, leaving him in a tailspin filled with pain and regret.
Jim hadn't been entirely incorrect with what he said during their last conversation. He had no idea why he kissed him even now, or why he said all of those terrible things to pick at him. Jim was not good with flight responses; he tended to react like a caged animal, lashing out at the perceived threats. And he knew that, better than anyone, and yet he kept pushing.
Frankly, he didn't deserve Jim's friendship if that was his attitude. And boy, didn't that sting?
Geoff insisted he keep his day off that week, and even though he defied him and went in for a few hours to catch up on paperwork, he found himself at loose ends. Loose ends meant a lot of time on his hands, and that lead to him thinking too much.
If I could do it all again, he thought as he swallowed a mouthful of bourbon without really tasting it, I would apologize. He tilted his head back and finished off the glass before pouring another.
He was on his third glass, feeling the slow burn of intoxication creep over him, when his door chime sounded. He finished the glass before walking slowly over to it and pushing the open button.
Spock greeted him with a nod.
“Oh, it's you,” he said half-heartedly. He made a vague waving gesture at his living room area. “Don't just stand there, c'mon on in.” The Vulcan hesitated before following his instructions, stepping all the way into the room and hovering in front of the couch. “Have a seat if you want. Drink?”
Spock blinked. “No, thank you. I am not here for...social reasons.”
“Oh yeah?” He poured himself another and swallowed half of it in one gulp. “Well, it's m' day off, so if there's anything about files or medical records, it's gotta wait 'til morning.”
“It is about the captain.”
Bones paused with the glass by his lips. “I'm afraid I can't help you.”
Spock seemed strangely hesitant, gathering his thoughts carefully before speaking. “Although I am aware your personal life is not my concern, it is possible that the relationship between yourself and the captain, or rather the current lack of one, is having detrimental effects on the morale of the ship.”
“Is that so?” He finished his bourbon, as he wasn't drunk enough for this conversation.
“I understand that his feelings for you have become known; I also understand that this would not be an easy thing to realize.”
This made Bones freeze in the middle of pouring himself another drink. “This isn't one of those things where I'm the last person to find out, is it? Because I really don't think I can deal with that...”
“Forgive me, I did not wish to give such an impression.” Spock folded his hands behind his back. “I am quite certain I was the only person to both have witnessed your last...conversation and to have known prior. He does not realize my awareness of the situation.”
“Probably good, you don't want to be cast out like I was.” Even to himself he sounded bitter. He finished pouring his new drink. “Don't tell me you're here to get us to kiss and make up.”
“I believe such a response would be inappropriate in light of your last meeting.” Spock sounded a bit bewildered and Bones wasn't above smirking a little in reply. “I am simply here to tell you, as illogical as it may seem, that the captain misses you.”
Bones laughed. “I highly doubt that.”
“He has not been the same since you ceased spending time in each other's presence. He is withdrawn and even short-tempered, and he does not appear to be sleeping well. He is also overly focused on our task with Deneb.”
He thought for a long moment, and when he spoke his voice was sad. “We're in the middle of a war zone, he needs to be focused on his job. He doesn't need me to fuck everything up for him.”
“I do not believe you would, as long as you acted decisively,” Spock replied.
“He hates me,” he said with a voice filled with shame. “He hates me and I don't deserve anything else.”
“We both know that is not true.” Crossing the room to face him directly, Spock stood before him. His expression was actually somewhat kind and he placed a hand on Bones' shoulder. “He is angry and confused, but he does not hate you, Doctor, even if you do not like yourself at the moment.” He took his hand away. “Search your feelings and approach him with caution and with honesty. You will both be all right.”
With that, he turned and made his way out of the room, leaving Bones alone once more.
It shouldn't have surprised him after everything else that happened, but things somehow got a lot worse.
The new Prime Minister was nearly assassinated and with that the planet erupted into full scale civil war with Enterprise caught in the crossfire. What was supposed to be a simple aid mission was transformed into a nightmare as they all had to go right into the thick of things. McCoy and his people worked virtually around the clock helping the various military hospitals with whatever they could.
He found himself standing in the middle of the transporter room, having just been beamed back from helping two of the Deneb surgeons. He was exhausted and he needed a shower, but various groups of officers were beaming back to the ship and he needed to clear them before they could leave.
All that was left was one final four person group that included Jim. He stood, albeit not a little nervously, by the transporter pad. The situation escalated so quickly, things got so out of hand, he had lacked an opportunity to try and make things right. This would be the first time they had seen each other in almost a month. Bones swallowed once.
The familiar painful pangs of hurt and longing filled him. He still wasn't entirely sure what to say, other than I'm sorry approximately three dozen times and hope that Jim didn't hit him again. Even if he did, he would take it if it meant Jim would be in his life once more.
The transporter whirred to life and he focused his attention back on the pad. Almost instantaneously, three figures materialized, two redshirts holding up a third unconscious man.
He felt his face go pale.
“Where's the captain?”
The redshirt on the left, Ricky he dimly remembered, hesitated before speaking. “He got hit, sir. Told us to go without him.”
“What do you mean? You mean you left him?”
The redshirt on the right, a woman he didn't recognize immediately looked down at the floor. “He ordered us to. Said getting the intel we have back was more important.”
Bones took a step backwards, reeling from the information they gave him. Jim was alone in a war zone. Jim was alone. Jim was...
“Clear the pad,” he snapped as he grabbed an emergency medical kit. “You three can go directly to medical, Dr. M'Benga can look at you. Lieutenant, beam me down to Captain Kirk's last known co-ordinates!” The Andorian woman running the console looked confused as the redshirts quickly made their way onto the main floor.
“First Officer Spock said for us to...”
“That's an order, Lieutenant,” he said as he took his place on the pad. “Do it!”
She nodded her head and entered the proper information. After a moment, the lights swirled around him and he found himself in a clearing, filled with smoke and ash. It was pretty clear that some sort of incendiary device had gone off fairly recently and this made Bones' stomach drop down into the vicinity of his knees.
“Jim!” He ran somewhat blindly, coughing and stumbling over bodies. “Jim!” His lungs burned a little as he tried to take in his surroundings. He knelt down next to someone resting near him. No, the shirt was the wrong color. Wiping his eyes, he stood and surveyed the area once more.
About sixteen meters away lay a person in command gold. He didn't appear to be moving.
Without even thinking about it, Bones began to sprint over to the man, dropping down to his knees once he reached his side. He barely managed to keep his hand from shaking as he gently moved his arm off his face.
It was Jim.
Bones had to close his eyes for a moment to steel himself against the pain that hit him down to the depths of his soul. There were bloodstains on the front of his shirt, probably from shrapnel wounds. It also looked like one of his legs was hurt, although he couldn't say if it was broken. His chest was moving; he was breathing, albeit shallowly.
He couldn't stop the tremors that time as he took Jim's face in his hands. “Jim, please. It's Bones. Don't...don't do this. Please.”
As if it was causing him great effort, Jim slowly opened his eyes. He looked up at Bones for a moment, almost as if he didn't recognize him. After a second realization set in and his face contorted in anger. He began to thrash in his grip. “Don't you fucking touch me!”
“You goddamn settle down and let me do my fucking job,” Bones snapped back without thinking. Jim glared at him for a moment before angrily grabbing his hands and shoving them off his face.
“You don't have to manhandle me for that,” he spat, although it was less angry than before. “What the hell are you doing here, anyways? I ordered them to leave me behind.”
“Yeah, you ordered them to. Lucky for you, I ain't them.” Bones got his tricorder out of his medical kit and started taking readings. “How bad's your leg? Readings say dislocated knee.”
“It hurts,” Jim conceded. He tried to sit up but Bones placed a hand on his chest and started shoving him back down.
“You've got five pieces of shrapnel embedded in your body, you need surgery, and you have a slight concussion on top of the knee,” he said as he put the tricorder down. “You can lay down until I say it's time for you to move.”
He scowled but didn't argue. Bones ran his hands down his leg, gently placing them over his knee, causing Jim to hiss quietly in pain. “Sorry, this is gonna hurt. Here.” Working quickly, he removed his belt and held it up by Jim's face. “Put this in between your teeth, you'll need it in a sec.” Jim reached out and bit on the belt as he blinked furiously in confusion. He then grabbed Jim's hands and placed them in his hair. “You pull when it hurts, all right? Pull as hard as you need, don't worry about me.”
Finally having caught on, Jim nodded. His dark hair slid loosely through his fingertips and Bones tried not to think about how nice it felt. He took a deep breath, noticing that Jim reflexively did the same. “One...two...” He grabbed the knee more tightly. “Three!” He pushed it quickly back into place and Jim screamed through the leather, gripping and pulling on his hair so hard he would have been surprised if he had any hair left after. “Shhh, it's all right, it's all over.” He rubbed his thigh soothingly. “It's all right.”
Slowly the screaming and pulling subsided as Jim blinked back pain-filled tears. Slowly his breathing regulated and he calmed, his skin returning back to its normal color. Bones watched this with approval and he let go of his leg. Jim lay in the grass, energy seeping out of him at a quick rate. Bones gently took the belt out of his mouth and placed a hand in his hair to help bring him down.
“I need to lift up your shirt to look at your wounds, can I do that?”
“...Yeah,” Jim said meekly. Bones nodded and picked up the gold and black fabric. He made a low noise in the back of his throat; most of them appeared to just be flesh wounds, but a couple of them looked kind of nasty. None of the major arteries were hit, thank goodness. He didn't have the necessary tools to operate on him there, though, he needed to get him back to the ship. Taking out his communicator, he turned it on.
“McCoy to transporter room,” he barked. “Two to beam up, emergency transport to medical bay.”
“Stand by,” came the voice of the Andorian officer from earlier. “Locking on your---”
That was when the bomb went off.
“Fuck!” Bones threw himself over Jim as debris pelted them. It hit his face pretty hard, and he felt himself get cut on his cheek and forehead. He looked down at his captain; his eyes were squeezed tightly closed and his breathing shallowed out again. Bones didn't hesitate to wrap his arms around him, making soothing noises in the back of his throat; Jim hesitated before returning the gesture, his arms coming up to circle around his chest.
After regaining his footing, Bones let go of Jim and he did the same. Needing to locate his communicator, he sat up and found it as quickly as possible. “Transporter room, this is McCoy. Do you copy? I need that beam out!”
A low whine of static came over the link, but no words or voices could be made out. Fucking fantastic.
“Shit,” he said as he threw it on the ground in disgust. “Looks like we're stuck for a while, Jim. Hope you're comfortable.”
“I've had worse,” he retorted. “Though not much.”
Bones snorted. “Yeah. Though I think this is the one situation that has managed to surpass Tijuana for the sheer shittiness factor.”
Amazingly, Jim smiled at this and Bones felt safer for it. “Probably. Something had to, law of averages and all.” He started to laugh, but it quickly turned into a coughing fit. Bones watched him with obvious concern until he calmed. They looked at each other for a long time, and it was awkward.
Deciding quickly that there was no time like the present, Bones began to speak. “I'm sorry.”
“It's not your fault, you're always telling me I have the dumbest luck in the galaxy,” Jim replied.
“No, not that. I mean yeah, okay, I'm sorry you're hurt. That's shitty.” Bones shook his head. “I mean for the fight. For everything I said and for...what I did. I'm sorry for those things.”
The expression on Jim's face changed to one that was wary and guarded. “Oh.”
“You don't have to...” He swallowed. “You don't have to forgive me. Or apologize for anything you did. I just wanted you to know that I know I was wrong, and I'm sorry.”
The wariness became more pronounced and Jim went a little pale. “How badly am I wounded?”
“You'll be fine once I operate and remove the shrapnel, I just can't do it here with these damn bombs flying. Why, what does...oh.” He shook his head and, in spite of their current predicament, smiled. “No, I'm not saying this because you're dying, Jim. I'm saying it because I've owed it to you for weeks and...well, I'm not brave enough to do it where you could run away.”
Jim nodded a few times. “Can I move yet?”
Looking at him as if he were crazy, Bones rolled his eyes. “You have a head injury. You'll be lucky if I let you move at all in the next three days.”
“You are such a bitch,” the captain groused.
“Yeah well, back at you, blondie.”
They looked at each other for a long moment before Jim started snickering. Bones saw his snickers and raised him a chuckle. Then they started outright laughing. It was borderline insane and completely ridiculous, but there it was. Jim began to wipe his eyes with the back of a shirt sleeve as Bones took his free hand in his. Slowly the laughter ebbed and they were silent once more, Jim with a grimace of pain on his face.
They looked at each other again, and once more Bones couldn't help but feel like the silence was awkward.
“Is this ever going to stop?”
Without asking what he meant, Jim shrugged and looked away.
Bones opened his mouth to say something, although he wasn't sure exactly what when the communicator beeped. Not letting go of his friend, he reached out and flipped it open. “McCoy here.”
“Transporter room to Doctor McCoy,” came the same voice from before. Thank God. “There was some interference and we lost you, but the signal's clear now. Prepare to be beamed up.”
“Right, McCoy out.” As he was flipping it closed, he felt the familiar pull of the transporters over take him. As previously discussed, they were beamed right to sick bay. They sat on the floor as Geoff, Christine, and Nurse Jacobs came rushing over.
“Transporter room warned us,” Geoff offered by way of explanation. “How bad is he?”
“Bones won't let me move.”
Geoff gave Bones a rueful smile. “Obviously, not that bad.” Bones snorted as Jacobs stabilized Jim's head and Chris took readings with a tricorder. She looked up at Geoff and Bones and nodded once.
“Captain, we're going to move you now into the operating room, okay?”
Jim sighed. “Story of my life.”
“Well if you'd stop doing this shit...” Jim was lifted off the floor carefully and placed onto a waiting gurney, where he cheerfully flipped Bones off.
“Hey. I'm wounded. Give it a rest.”
“I'm going to be nagging you the whole time I'm operating on your sorry ass, I hope you realize this.” Jim squeezed his hand as they wheeled him into surgery.
Jim hesitated before asking, “You'll be here? When I wake, I mean.”
Bones looked down at him with surprise before smiling. “Wouldn't be anywhere else.”
And he wasn't.
The last six weeks were not exactly normal, but they were easier and that was what mattered.
The Deneb opposition folded not too long after that, running out of resources and morale, and their leader arranged for a meeting with the new Prime Minister. He offered his surrender, and she accepted it. As a show of good will and in the interest of peace, the Prime Minister pardoned all of them and gave them applications for citizenship.
Over time, Bones and Jim began to pick up where they left off. They would visit each other on their breaks, or take their meals together, or have a drink together when they were off duty. The conversation, while a bit awkward as they regained their footing, was friendly and filled with the familiar teasing.
It was not a little comforting, for him to have all of that back.
It wasn't all exactly the same as it was before, though. There was something, something very small, that had...shifted between them. There would be times where there'd be a silence and they would look at one another...it wasn't quite an understanding, it was something more subtle than that.
He couldn't pinpoint exactly what it was, so he chose not to bring it up. After all, he had learned his lesson about acting out of indecisiveness.
Bones sighed to himself as he looked at the chronometer. His shift was almost over, just about twenty minutes more. It had been a long, frustrating day. Apparently, the people at Starfleet HQ never got his last requisition forms, so he was forced to expedite new ones in their place. Fortunately because of his admitted paranoia, Bones saved copies of everything on a PADD. It was just tedious to have to send all of them again, and to make sure he had the right ones to boot. It was giving him a slight headache and he sighed a second time.
He turned towards the door and smiled; Jim smiled back at him with a raised eyebrow. “I've had worse.” He got up from behind his desk and walked over to his friend. “What brings you here?”
The smile turned somewhat secretive and Jim shook his head a little. “Can you skive off a few minutes early?”
“I don't see why not, Geoff's already here,” he replied. “How come?”
“Just...you'll see.” Jim grinned at him now, open and warm. “C'mon!”
His curiosity piqued, it was Bones' turn to raise an eyebrow. “Okay but if it's to watch ultimate fighting again we need to have a lengthy conversation about what entertainment actually is.”
Jim snorted. “Right, because that wasn't you yelling at Bruiser Baracus to kick his opponent's ass or anything. No, you weren't into it at all.”
Bones didn't answer him verbally, instead he shoved him with an elbow. The captain started to laugh.
“You're just mad because I'm right.”
“Probably,” he conceded. “Well, don't keep me waiting. You know I don't do patient well.”
“Oh yeah, I do,” Jim grumbled good-naturedly. “Come on, let's go back to your quarters.”
That was enough to make him pause. “My quarters? What's...”
He turned and looked at him; for some reason, he was incredibly serious. “Just...come on, Bones.” He made his way out of his office, nodding to Geoff and Christine as they made their way through the medical wing and out the door to the turbo lift. Bones decided against asking again and just followed without saying another word. Before long, they were at his quarters and he pushed the entry code. The door slid open and he stepped inside.
What he saw made him freeze dead in his tracks.
Dinner was set for two at his table, and briefly he had to wonder exactly where Jim got steaks. Was that a cognac cream sauce? There were two glasses set with bottled beers sitting next to them. The food smelled amazing and Bones found his mouth was watering.
“Before we eat,” Jim said, breaking the spell. “There's something you should see.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a vid disc. “This came across Uhura's desk today, and instead of it going through all the proper screening and red tape, I elected to just bring it straight to you. Take a seat, I'll queue it up.”
He was downright perplexed as he sat down on his couch. “Okay? But I don't...” He trailed off as the picture filled the vid screen.
“Hi Daddy!” Joanna McCoy's smiling face lit up the room and Bones found he couldn't do anything but smile back. “Mommy says you won't get this for a few weeks but I wanted to tell you how excited I am to see you for Spring Break!”
He was vaguely aware that Jim sat down next to him. All of his attention was on the screen, however, as he watched his daughter talk about her day in great detail.
“I can't believe how big she's gotten,” Jim whispered. “She's practically grown, you know?”
Not trusting himself to speak, Bones nodded once.
“She's got your eyes,” he added after a few minutes. “And your smile. Like, aside from her hair color, she's you. She's a little you.”
“She doesn't have my temperament,” Bones added. “But there is a resemblance.”
“Don't be modest, you know I'm right.” Jim nudged his shoulder with his own. “I wish I could get to know her better. See how amazing she is in person.”
They were silent then, just two men watching a little girl at play. Bones suddenly got the feeling that something was about to break, that something was going to change.
He looked down at how close they were together, how his thigh rested right next to Jim's so comfortably.They hadn't even spoken since the previous night and somehow Jim knew exactly what he needed that day. He thought about all the times Jim was the first thing he thought of when he woke up and the last thing he thought of before going to sleep; how lost he felt during those weeks when they weren't speaking.
Something inside of him lifted; it lit up and broke free. This was what he was missing without even knowing it, what he'd told himself he wouldn't ever have since he was better off alone. It was right in front of him all along, and hopefully it was still waiting there for him to catch a clue.
No longer paying any attention to the vid, he reached out and slowly took one of Jim's hands in his. The captain flushed and looked down at their hands with a floored expression.
“Feels pretty natural, doesn't it?” Bones asked as he lightly caressed his knuckles.
Not saying anything, Jim nodded a few times. He swallowed, visibly nervous, as he shifted his hand to lace his fingers with Bones'. He finally looked up then, and his eyes were filled with hope and not a little bit of fear.
Well that wouldn't do, would it?
“Imagine this will, too.” And he closed the distance between them, planting a soft kiss to Jim's mouth. Unlike the last time, this one felt so perfect, so right, it took his breath away and made sparks dance behind his eyelids. Jim made a soft encouraging noise and he gently deepened the kiss. They stayed like that until breathing became a necessity, and when they broke apart both of them were smiling. “You didn't hit me this time.”
“You know what you're doing this time,” Jim answered, still flushed. “I mean...right?”
Shaking his head, Bones smiled and kissed him again. And again. And a few more times, too, just to make sure the message was spread properly. Jim sighed into them and he brought his free hand up to cup his face. Yes, this was where he belonged.
The kiss ended and they smiled at each other again once more, Jim's hand still touching his face. Brash and hopeful, he figured he may as well go ahead and go for broke.
“Come with me.”
“To Georgia,” Bones elaborated. “Come meet my baby girl, see my hometown.” Something occurred to him then and he flushed a little himself. “I mean, if you're not...if you don't already have...it'd make me happy.”
Jim looked down at their hands again, uncertainty seeping into his voice. “You sure? You sure it won't make you just...not unhappy?”
“I know the difference,” he said with as much certainty as he could. “I'm sure.”
“I want to,” Jim exclaimed, the blush deepening. “I mean, I don't have other plans. And...I'd like that.”
“Good.” He stole another kiss. “Yeah, that's good.” They shifted so that they were sitting side by side again, although this time Jim's head was resting on his shoulder. He told the computer to queue back up the video at the beginning as he pressed a kiss to Jim's hair.
And finally, things were the way they should have been.