Captain Christopher Pike tilted his collar up against the cool mist that was trying to worm its way into his jacket as he crossed the campus. Cadets and instructors hurried through the start of the day, most with their heads down rushing to classes. They missed the transition, from early dawn to grey morning, the way the sunrise gradually obliterated the subtle blinking lights, their little gleaming spots of color winking out in a creeping wave. Chris turned to his office, opting to skip his usual fresh coffee for a replicated mug just so he was out of the drizzle sooner.
With the term near ending and the holidays coming, there was an air of expectation hovering over everyone, instructors included. Chris knew that the next week would be critical for his charges, and he only hoped that his most troublesome, one James T. Kirk, could stay focused long enough to finish finals and not blow up another engineering lab, unlike this time last year.
The thought of Jim made Chris’s features twist into a half-smile. The kid was cut from the same cloth as his dad, too damned smart for his own good with a healthy disregard – sometimes too healthy – for authority. But Jim was a bit too cynical, too rough and raw, with a chip on his shoulder that George had never had. He was still brittle, distrustful, but Chris was gratified to see him settling down, his edges softening. He still ended up in Medical more than a cadet should, but, thanks to one brilliant doctor with his own issues, each visit was reported as some accident or another, never making so much as a blip on Jim’s record.
Chris would have been worried, but Phil was watching McCoy – nothing got past Phil in Medical – and, for the most part, the records were truthful, so carefully worded that Chris knew Jim had a trustworthy ally. Especially since Chris himself had escorted Jim to Medical for a couple of visits and those had nothing to do with Jim being accident prone, but had everything to do with a couple of fourth-year cadets who had taken an instant dislike to Jim and his insolence. Fortunately Jim was an experienced brawler and actually taught hand-to-hand combat, so his injuries were mostly superficial or at least nothing that McCoy couldn’t readily handle.
Chris’s comm pinged and he ducked under a sheltering overhang behind a large, gaily decorated evergreen to answer. He knew he was by Cochrane Hall just from the machined widgets, colorful schematics, and oddly pulsing orbs decorating the tree. Instead of fading with the sunrise, the tree’s lights brightened. Definitely near the Engineering College.
His staff meeting had been delayed by half an hour, so now Chris dithered between getting out of the light rain and drinking piss poor replicated coffee with the opportunity to have decent French roast and a few minutes listening to Phil rant about how supremely stupid this class of cadets were. As if this class was worse than all that came before. A smile pulled at his lips and he was decided.
Before he could step from behind the tree he heard a familiar voice, cajoling and teasing. It sounded like all of Jim’s charms weren’t working on whoever currently held his attention. Curious, Chris peeked out through the branches. He blinked in surprise when he saw Jim herding one Doctor Leonard H. McCoy under a large sprig of mistletoe over the top step of Cochrane Hall.
“Dammit, Jim! Don’t you have a final?”
Jim nodded. “But I’m not setting foot in that building. Not until you honor the mistletoe.” And Chris watched one of the cockiest, most brilliant, albeit frustrating, cadets he’d ever advised cross his arms and honest to god pout. He widened his stance and looked like little more than a sullen toddler denied his favorite toy. Shaking his head and wiping at his eyes to clear the obvious hallucination, Chris opened them to be confronted by the same sight.
“Honor the mistletoe? What the fuck?” McCoy protested, but he was visibly faltering, his resolve quickly crumbling under the dual assault of sad blue eyes and almost quivering lip.
Jim pointed up again and gave McCoy a hopeful smile. “For good luck?” he pleaded.
McCoy just shook his head, a fond, affectionate smile breaking through his grumbling as he tugged Jim into a fierce kiss.
Chris was stunned that renowned womanizer Jim Kirk was obviously quite infatuated with McCoy. He just gaped as Jim melted and wrapped himself around McCoy. The kiss drew on, lingering, intimate. Chris thought he should look away, but couldn’t. When they parted, high spots of color dotted Jim’s cheeks and his eyes gleamed, flushed with emotion. Chris recognized that gaze: a man deeply in love.
McCoy gave Jim one last kiss, a soft one dropped on the end of his nose before he trotted off down the stairs, leaving Chris wondering just what the hell was going on between those two. He vowed to find out.
With Chris’s load of teaching and overseeing the construction of the Enterprise, it was a few more days before he could find out more than rumors. After talking to Phil, Chris realized that he’d overlooked a key element in Jim’s transition from misfit first-year to mostly model cadet midway through his third year. Chris Pike did not like missing crucial data. It made him cranky.
He spent the next two nights reviewing all the information he could get his hands on. With a little more digging, and his personal override, Chris thought the picture was complete, but out of focus. There were some places that had him deeply suspicious of McCoy and just what he was doing with Jim. Phil scoffed at Chris and called him ridiculously overprotective. And so what if he was? He cared about Jim, wanted to see the young man reach his potential. He needed to know just what McCoy’s thoughts were. None of Phil’s jibes could dissuade him and after checking McCoy’s schedule, he sent out a meeting notice.
“Jim! What the fuck have you done now?” Leonard growled toward the bathroom, eyes never leaving the sparse notice on his PADD.
Jim rushed out, hopping into his briefs and toweling his hair. “What? What I’d do?”
He truly looked oblivious when Leonard handed him his PADD.
“Any idea what in god’s name Captain Christopher Fuckin’ Pike wants with me?” This had to have been another scheme of Jim’s gone wrong. “Goddammit, Jim! I don’t have time for this! I have my three hardest finals next week! And L’Toure is out so I’m pulling double shifts!”
“Out? Oh, did she have the baby?” Leonard gritted his teeth and tried hard not to throttle him.
“Jim,” he started, body vibrating with tension. “Just tell me why your advisor, a command-track instructor and bad-ass starship captain, wants to see me?”
Jim shrugged, his blue eyes open and honest. “Don’t have a clue, Bones. But Pike’s not so bad. I’m sure he won’t leave you dangling for too long.”
“That’s what I’m worried about,” Leonard muttered. Then it dawned on him that Jim was standing there freshly showered in little more than a towel.
After glancing at the chronometer, Leonard grinned wickedly and tackled him. No sense wasting all that bare skin.
Leonard was always punctual. He hated to be late, and today, of all days, he got stuck in the clinic and had to race to Pike’s office, barely making it at the appointed time. So his palms were damp and he felt a trickle of sweat sliding down his spine as he stepped up to the desk outside Pike’s office.
The pretty brunette looked at him with bored indifference and chimed Pike before Leonard could even introduce himself.
“Take a seat, Cadet. Captain Pike will be with you shortly.”
Leonard bristled as he was summarily written off and then ignored as she turned back to whatever was so engrossing on the two screens before her. Still, he managed to keep his temper and said nothing, merely nodded and flopped into one of the non-descript beige chairs. They looked comfortable, but were nothing short of hell for anyone over one-and-a-half meters. The still-racing adrenaline pumping through his system didn’t help Leonard’s nerves and he fidgeted, causing the cushions to squeak and sigh, earning him a silent glare from the desk.
He’d been cooling his jets for ten minutes and getting angrier and more frazzled by the minute. Another five minutes passed and he was physically struggling with his equilibrium, clenching his jaw so hard that the muscle in it was twitching. When he’d had more than enough, he stood, but a chime went off at the same time and the brunette looked up at him, her face a dispassionate mask.
“You can go in now.”
Leonard narrowed his eyes. No one had come out of the office and at that moment he was certain he’d been made to wait for no good reason. That pissed him off more, but this was Jim’s adviser and he had to get himself under control, had to keep his mouth in check in case Jim was in trouble.
“’bout damn time,” he grumbled as he passed the desk. He received a sly smile in return.
Captain Pike’s office was surprisingly warm, with wood floors, a small sitting area and an amazing variety and amount of memorabilia on the shelves lining the walls. The captain himself was another story. He was seated behind a cluttered desk, two screens and more PADDs than Leonard imagined were necessary spread in front of him. Pike set the work aside, typed in a few commands, then leaned back in his chair, steel gray eyes boring into Leonard.
“Have a seat, Cadet.”
“It’s Doctor,” Leonard automatically supplied, hastily tossing on a, “Sir,” at the end. He sat stiffly and refused to allow himself to be rattled. Jim had said he had no idea what this was about and Leonard believed him. If this was a witch hunt by that asshole Finnegan, Leonard would set Pike straight and then he’d see to Finnegan personally.
Pike didn’t smile at the correction, didn’t even acknowledge it. He just jumped right in. Of course, he had Leonard at the disadvantage and that was likely why he’d left Leonard stewing in the waiting area for so long.
The questions started innocuously enough with little point, and Leonard frowned trying to figure out the angle or where Pike was heading, but he kept his tone civil and his answers short until Pike jumped off the deep end.
“How long have you known Cadet Kirk?”
“Not to be rude, Sir, but I’d like to know what this is about before I answer any more questions.”
Pike cocked his head and simply gave Leonard a look which said that he’d be answering whatever Pike wanted him to and he’d be damned glad that’s all Pike was doing. “Let’s just say that I wouldn’t want to bias your answers by revealing too much. I’m sure you understand… Doctor.”
The completely unnecessary emphasis on his title had Leonard seething, but he couldn’t say anything, couldn’t do anything until he knew what the hell was going on. His jaw ticked and he crossed his arms over his chest, but he kept his face as expressionless as he could when he answered. “I met Cadet Kirk on the shuttle from Riverside to the Academy, Sir. About two and a half years ago. Weren’t you piloting that day?”
“And just how well have you gotten to know Cadet Kirk since then?”
“We share quarters.”
“That’s not an answer.”
“You can’t share quarters with someone for two and a half years and not get to know them, Sir.”
“I beg to disagree. But the more important question is why are you still sharing quarters with Cadet Kirk? You’re entitled to a single in Medical housing.”
’Because he sure as hell wasn’t going to let Jim go. Not now.’ “Why not?” Leonard shrugged. “Jim’s a good roommate. He keeps his bunk clean and doesn’t object to my habits. It works for us.”
“So there is nothing between you two?”
Leonard’s blood heated. “What the hell?” he blurted out before standing and putting his palms flat on Pike’s desk and leaning over the captain. “I don’t know what you’re getting at, but whatever Jim’s been accused of, it’s all lies! Trumped up bullshit. And if you’d actually pay attention to the goings on around here instead of listening to every damned rumor and false accusation—”
“Sit down, McCoy.”
Pike didn’t even blink at his outburst, but his voice was raspy steel, commanding. Leonard sat.
“So you and Cadet Kirk are in a relationship?” he continued.
“That is none of your damn business. I have a right to know what this is about.” Leonard seethed. He was certain that this was another plot by Finnegan to discredit Jim, only he couldn’t figure out the point of dragging Leonard into it.
“Do you deny that you and Jim Kirk are in a relationship, McCoy?”
“I’m not confirming or denying anything. And, as far as I’m aware whatever does or doesn’t go on between Jim Kirk and myself – two consenting adults – is no one’s business unless there have been accusations of wrongdoing made. And if there have been charges leveled, I want representation and to face our accuser. I know my rights.” Leonard sat stiffly in his chair, arms crossed, his whole frame tense and tight. No way in hell was he rolling over and playing dead this time.
“No one’s accusing you or Jim of anything. I merely wish to know your intentions toward Jim.”
“What?” Leonard was sure he’d mis-heard. “This was nothing more than you cleaning your shotgun and warning me off Jim?”
“When you put it that way…”
“For the love of…” Leonard started, but words failed him. He took a deep breath and dropped his arms, his hands clenching into fists at his side. “Captain Pike, Jim Kirk is a grown man and more than capable of taking care of himself and if you don’t respect him enough—”
“Everyone needs someone looking out for them, McCoy, even surly doctors who think they’re the world’s caretakers.”
That comment took Leonard aback. He got a strong sense that Pike’s words were for more than him. He still wasn’t softening on this. He’d already been through the parental approval minefield. He sure as hell wasn’t doing it again.
“That may be all well and good and you can convince yourself that this bullshit is necessary, but I can assure you it’s not.”
“Bullshit or not, convince me. Jim has had a tough time, McCoy, and his judgment might be impaired in your case.” Pike leaned forward to rest on his elbows and pin Leonard with his gaze, like a bug under glass. “You met him at a low point in his life and I’m concerned that he’s going to get himself hurt again.”
“You think I’d hurt Jim intentionally?” Leonard asked, his voice rising on the last syllables. “Unbelievable.”
“If you have nothing to hide, then why the hostility?”
“That’s the single dumbest thing you’ve said yet. Just because I like my privacy doesn’t make me guilty.”
“But your interest in planet-side postings and your inability to pass the required flight tests does lead me to believe that Jim has hung his hopes on someone else that will let him down.”
Leonard went cold, then flushed. Everything went quiet and still, his eyes narrowing as he met Pike’s accusing glare. “You bastard! You had no goddamned right! Those records are sealed!” He sucked in a harsh breath to stop his mouth from getting him in any deeper. “You know nothing about Jim or me, and even if it’s none of your business, I will say this… I am not joining that procession of people that have bailed on Jim. He’s more than my best friend. He saved my life. And if the crazy fool gets posted on a ship, then I’ll be there.” He paused, fighting the urge to spit in Pike’s face. “Even if it’s your ship.”
Leonard stood, not waiting for Pike to reply. “I’ve heard enough.”
“Sit down, McCoy.”
But Leonard didn’t. Not this time.
Pike reached into his drawer and pulled out a bottle and two glasses, pouring a generous measure into each glass before sliding one toward Leonard. “Sit down. You’ve earned this.” Then Pike grinned at him. And what the fuck?
Pike tipped his glass in an abbreviated toast and took a sip. “At least have the drink, McCoy. It’s damned good whiskey. Be a shame to waste it.”
Leonard watched as Pike transformed before his eyes. The smile made his eyes sparkle and his frame relaxed, shifting his features from hard-ass to genial, almost approachable. A look, if he was honest with himself, that was good on the captain.
This whole thing felt surreal and there was good booze beckoning. Leonard’s anger cracked and he sat down once again, reaching for the glass. He eyed Pike warily as he took a sip.
“It’s not poisoned,” Pike chuckled.
The whiskey was smooth and rich, lit up his senses and warmed him as it went down. “Be a good way to get rid of me,” he drawled, the tension slowly draining from his limbs.
“No need for that.”
“Take it I passed?”
“You could say that.” Pike leaned forward casually, his face open. Leonard wondered if this was the Chris Pike that Jim saw. “I do have an offer for you...” he said, raising his hand to forestall any interruption. “Hear me out. You’re not the only one with aviaphobia. We lose a few every year. With your background, you’d be the perfect person to start a support group. Phil… uh, Doctor Boyce has offered to consult and I will provide suitable pilots.” He stopped and leaned back, his grin smug.
Leonard growled under his breath. He hated being managed, hated it when Jim did it, despised it worse from Pike and, apparently, Leonard’s own boss. ’Goddammit, Jim!’ “And if I hadn’t measured up?”
Pike shrugged. “That’s a moot point. Think about it, McCoy.”
Leonard swallowed at Pike’s tone. There was casual, accommodating and then there was… this. It wasn’t an order, but Leonard had little choice, in reality. It was a damn good offer and more necessary than he’d admitted even to Jim. They’d been trying, but Leonard wasn’t making progress and he was running out of time. He swallowed the last of the whiskey, savoring the burn. “Fine. I’ll do it, but not for you and not because of all of this…” he waved his hand between them. “This is for Jim, you got that?”
“I got it, McCoy. Thank you.”
Funny thing was, Leonard couldn’t stay angry, not in the face of Pike’s obvious concern for Jim. And here Leonard had been convinced that no one was looking out for the kid but him. He should have known better. Jim had an entire entourage of loyal cadets, no reason he couldn’t inspire that same loyalty in the staff.
Leonard offered a small smile that was probably more of a grimace than anything else. “We done?”
Leonard stood, surprisingly pleased with the turn of events as he headed for the door.
Pike’s voice stopped him and he turned back.
“Make no mistake, you hurt Jim, I will end you.” Leonard froze. Only Pike’s hard, “Dismissed,” forced him to start moving once again.
He was certain he didn’t start breathing again until he was halfway across the quad.
Chris kicked the door closed as he strode into the apartment he shared with Phil. He left his shoes beside the door, his jacket draped over the umbrella stand, and his outer shirt hanging over the back of the nearest chair. He took a moment to stretch stiff back muscles and drink in the sight of his lover looking perfectly edible: long jean-clad limbs propped up on the coffee table, bare toes tapping to the smooth strains of Ellington.
Chris leaned against the door and just watched as Phil finally stopped reading. His PADD was set aside, glasses pushed up off his nose, and sparkling blue eyes met his own as a wicked smile bloomed lazily. Unable to resist any longer, Chris crossed the room and straddled Phil’s legs before leaning in and greeting him with a teasing kiss.
Phil was having none of that. He wrapped one arm possessively around Chris’s waist, the other tugging him back down until Phil was nipping at Chris’s lips. Chris gasped and Phil thrust in, sweeping languidly, but holding Chris immobile.
When at last they parted, Chris was breathless, mind blown. “Not that I’m complaining, but what was that for?” he managed, his voice rough.
Phil shifted them until Chris’s back rested against the arm of the sofa and his thighs pressed against Phil’s. He leaned into the fingers sliding along the back of his neck, tension seeping away with each stroke.
“Just thought you deserved a reward.”
“Yeah, you really rattled McCoy. I’ve never seen the good doctor so flustered. Wasn’t sure it was even possible. Not in Medical at least.”
Chris shifted and stretched, making lazy circles with his neck until it cracked with a satisfying pop. He snagged the glass on the table and took a swallow, bourbon burning a trail deep inside. “Wait. How’d you see McCoy? I made damn sure he wasn’t scheduled this evening.”
Phil chuckled and stole the glass, finishing it off. Chris couldn’t resist and leaned forward to lap at the tiny sheen of bourbon on his lips. Phil and his damned bourbon. Chris hadn’t even liked bourbon before Phil came along and now he was addicted to the rich, caramel flavor. He pulled back reluctantly, eyes glued to Phil’s lips and that wicked smirk curving them.
“I pulled McCoy in on a consult.”
Chris laughed. “You didn’t?”
“Hell, yes. You’re not the only mean bastard around here.” Phil’s smile lit his eyes and he looked singularly smug. “I wanted to know how it went… what the hell did you say to him anyway? He was as twitchy as a tin soldier in a thunder storm.”
“I told you… I needed to see for myself what McCoy was like, what he thought of Jim.”
Chris had to bite his lip to hold back a sigh. “And you were right. Jim might be wrapped around his pinky, but McCoy’s got it bad. He’s fierce when it comes to protecting Jim.”
Phil tilted his head to rest on the back of the sofa and gazed at Chris from under thick lashes, his blue eyes bright and as mesmerizing as that first day Chris had laid eyes on him. “Reminds me of another too cocky for his britches command-track cadet--”
“Don’t you mean McCoy reminds you of another hard bitten, grumpy-assed doctor?”
Phil gave Chris a fond smile and tugged him close, their lips hovering, but not touching. “Maybe? But you can’t deny the similarities, especially with that cadet, the one that fell literally, tripping over his own feet to land on his ass at said grumpy doctor’s feet.”
“Would it help his case if he said he was pushed?”
Phil’s features shifted, the emotion in his eyes stealing Chris’s breath. “Nope. I think it’s a lost cause.”
Chris nodded, eyes caught and held by Phil’s. “Love you,” he murmured, then pressed that little bit closer so they could kiss, long, melting, and still soul searing after all these years.
The universe hated him. That was the only possible conclusion that could be drawn from recent events. The door couldn’t hit ‘today’ on the ass fast enough for him. And not just today, but this whole woefully ill-advised jaunt into Starfleet. What the hell had he been thinking? And just what possessed him to agree to chair a support group for aviaphobia? Him. A man who preferred his feet firmly on the ground and head no higher than two meters above that ground.
Insanity. There was no other explanation. Jim Kirk-induced insanity.
Leonard groaned. He was going to be doing serious time in shuttles. Scratch that… not shuttles. Death traps piloted by children with no fear or goddamned common sense. He was so doomed.
His quarters finally loomed into view and Leonard felt himself relax. He just wanted to get back to the room and crawl into bed with the covers over his head and forget everything for a bit. A long while. Possibly forever. Hopefully Jim would be around soon, although Leonard wasn’t sure whether to bring up Pike or not and he sure wasn’t saying anything about the support group.
He was still off balance and wavering between being pissed off and unnerved by Captain Christopher Fuckin’ Pike. To make matters worse, Chief of Surgery Philip Boyce had compounded the whole ordeal. As if Leonard really needed an admonition to have a care with Jim’s heart. Like he didn’t know quite well just how fragile and vulnerable Jim was under his devil-may-care façade.
At least the lift was working and Jim hadn’t changed the entry code again. His eyes closed and he sagged back against the door, just taking a few minutes to revel in the silence… the non-existent silence.
“Bones?” Jim’s voice was muffled and indistinct.
Leonard‘s eyes flew open. “Jim?” he asked, gaping at Jim and the transformed room. It was no longer a tiny, austere living space. It was now cozy. Warm. With a small, fully decorated tree on Jim’s desk, complete with blinking lights and tinsel and gaily wrapped packages under it.
Blinking Leonard shook his head. The tree was still there and Jim was stringing a small strand of popcorn and cranberries while listening to ancient Christmas carols.
He turned and stepped back into the hall, verifying the room number. Nope. This was still their apartment. He crossed the threshold again and looked around, wondering if this was the universe fucking with him yet again. His eyes darted around the room trying to settle only to land on a plate of cookies. Real homemade cookies.
“Okay, Jim, what fresh hell is this? Did you lose a bet?”
Jim set down the string and two small bowls and crossed to Leonard, dropping a light kiss on the tip of his nose. “It’s nothing like that, Bones. I just thought…” his voice trailed off uncertainly and Leonard felt like a heel. Jim loved the holidays and this was the first year they were going to spend them together.
Leonard tugged Jim close, eyes lifted to the mistletoe over his head before they dropped to Jim’s face and the flaring insecurity that he’d put there. Maybe this was why the universe was shitting on him? He was a selfish asshole.
“I’m sorry, kid. Had a rotten day… shouldn’t take it out on you.” He nipped at Jim’s lower lip, whispering against it, “I better get busy ‘honoring’ the mistletoe, hadn’t I?”
Jim grinned shyly and Leonard kissed him tenderly at first, but slowly deepened the kiss. He held Jim close, stroked along the lean lines of his torso, slotted his thigh between Jim’s legs all the while pouring his apology and love into the easy, languid kiss. Only when Jim moaned and clutched at his shirt did Leonard finally pull back.
They stood there embracing for long moments and Leonard had to admit that he was silently appreciating the festive atmosphere.
Jim didn’t let the quiet linger, though. He never had an appreciation for comfortable silence. “Why don’t you tell me all about it?” he cajoled as he led Leonard to the sofa and helped remove his boots.
Leonard took off his jacket and slumped back into the cushions of their ancient, ratty sofa. Jim was kneeling beside him, fingers starting a firm kneading pressure along Leonard’s shoulders. He groaned and gave up any interest in discussing anything except Jim’s amazing hands. “Ngnngn,” was Leonard’s answer.
Jim kissed his temple, breath huffing softly as he chuckled. “C’mon, what did Pike want? Am I in trouble again?”
All of Jim’s good work fled with mention of Pike. Leonard sat up, pulling away as he growled, “The bastard! Goddammit, Jim! That man is the single most…”
Leonard’s words stopped mid-rant because, honestly, he wasn’t sure what to say, wasn’t sure if he wanted to reveal all that had been said. Pike probably didn’t care, but Leonard felt awkward. He just blinked up at Jim, not wanting to say more.
“Okay, I get it. Pike can be a hard-ass, but there’s a lot more to him than that.”
“Hard-ass? How about evil, manipulative, SOB of unimaginable proportions?”
Jim was trying to keep a straight face, but he finally lost the battle and laughed. Out loud. In Leonard’s face.
Leonard shoved him off the sofa, taking petty satisfaction at his grunt when he hit the floor. “Goddammit, Jim! Pike’s a menace! He used his position for nefarious purposes! He’s a scheming, conniving bastard!”
Jim didn’t even try to move, just leaned back on his elbows and gave Leonard that patented Jim Kirk look. The one that said he was humoring Leonard, but still found him adorable. “Those are pretty harsh words, Bones. What’d Pike do?”
“What’d Pike do?” Leonard repeated, incredulous that Jim wasn’t immediately leaping to his defense. “He-he grilled me! Then threatened me! Like you were some innocent debutante and I was a scheming gigolo out to claim not only your money but also your virtue!”
“Debutante?” Jim boggled. “Gigolo?” He was trying to keep from laughing, but he couldn’t stop himself and he finally lost it and rolled.
Leonard had had enough. He stood and made to step over Jim and lock himself in the bedroom.
But Jim had other ideas and latched onto his ankle. “Jim! Let me go!” Leonard growled and shook his leg. Jim was clamped on tighter than a snapping turtle.
“No,” he shook his head, snorting past slowing chortles.
“Jim,” Leonard tried to warn him, but Jim just shook his head, hung on tighter and made pleading wide eyes up at Leonard.
“C’mon, Bones. Sit down and tell me all about it.”
Jim was tugging at his pants legs, nearly pulling them off his hips and as much as he wanted to storm off, he couldn’t resist Jim’s winning smile.
Pouting, yes he was pouting and not about to deny it, he sat with his back to the sofa and arms crossed over his chest, leveling a hard glare at Jim. “It’s your fault.”
Jim grinned and moved to straddle him. Leonard ducked to avoid meeting Jim’s eyes, but his arms automatically wrapped around Jim’s waist as he nodded. “Yes. Stupid captain seemed to think I’d hurt you.”
Jim made a soft grumble of annoyance and he nudged Leonard’s cheek with his nose. “I’m sorry. He didn’t mean any harm, not really?”
But that was the point, wasn’t it? Pike had meant something: he’d meant for Leonard to take Jim seriously, to make sure Jim was fine, and to make sure Leonard knew that someone else was looking out for him. Leonard sagged, not really sure what he was feeling, probably just what Pike had intended. ’Keep Leonard guessing until the damn fool figures shit out.’
And, if Leonard was honest, he hadn’t sat down and thought about Jim and him, about what would happen if Leonard couldn’t go into space. The mere idea that Jim would leave him, would set out into the black without Leonard there to patch him up? That thought sent him reeling, made him feel nearly sick with it.
He didn’t like how tentative his voice sounded, how uncertain, but he also knew they hadn’t talked about anything, not really. It’s not that they didn’t talk, it was more that they never needed to. They’d had an instant connection from the start. Two misfits, outsiders too old for the majority of the cadets, each with their own demons to slay and something to prove. And now, now they had each other and Leonard’d be damned before he lost Jim to space.
He took a deep breath and lifted his head to meet Jim’s eyes. Those infernal blue eyes which softened as he met Leonard’s, insecurity blazing from them. “Dammit, Jim. I’d never hurt you, never want to, but I will, if I don’t get my shit together. Goddamn him!” he hissed. “But I’m going to fix it.”
Jim shook his head, a teasing smile curving his pink lips. “Bones, what the hell are you babbling about? I trust you.”
“Sure, kid, but I still can’t finish a whole sim flight and there’s no way I can pass the actual flight test. But I will. I swear.”
“I know. We’re working on it…”
“No,” Leonard was shaking his head. “That’s just it. It’s not working. I’m not getting better. So, I’m going to lead a group. It was Christopher Fuckin’ Pike’s idea, goddammit!”
Jim’s brows creased in confusion, but he listened.
“For a few of us… those that can’t bear flying. Boyce comm’d me all the info, the dates, the others… there’s a half dozen of us apparently, all disciplines. I start this weekend.”
Jim sat back on his haunches, one hand resting on Leonard’s cheek, the other rubbing soothing circles over his wrist. “Is that what you want?”
“What?” It was Leonard’s turn to boggle. “Of course I do! I love you, you damn fool! And I’m not letting you go out there without me to keep an eye on you! You’re bound to do something stupid otherwise!”
Jim just chuckled and leaned forward, tugging Leonard’s mouth to his own. The kiss was soft and sweet, careful, too careful if Leonard had a say in it. He lifted his arms and pulled Jim down, tight against him, their hips swiveling as their lips slid slickly, until Jim gave in and gasped. Leonard dove in, sweeping Jim’s mouth with his tongue. He needed this, needed Jim and he knew, had learned that Jim needed him, too, but he’d never assume or ask. And, dammit, he’d owe Pike for that revelation.
When they parted at last Jim’s cheeks were flushed, eyes shining and his lips kiss-bruised. He looked perfect and all Leonard ever wanted.
“I love you, too, Bones.”