In the beginning, the house had been an empty array of rooms for a young couple and their infant. It had been filled haphazardly and left emotionally hollow by working parents who did their best to care for a child between their busy schedules. Trinkets and mementoes were placed on pedestals and clung to in a desperate attempt at a happy life.
In the end, these things remain in the house, but they aren’t what make it a home.
McCoy has spent the last few months reclaiming this home and filling it up with new memories. For every pained moment with Jocelyn, he replaces it with a joyful memory of Joanna’s bright smile lighting up the dark corners. He’s taken Jim’s infectious enthusiasm for life and used it to turn a new leaf in this sprawling set of rooms under one roof. McCoy’s even started to bring the horses back to the stables now that Jocelyn isn’t around to insist that the things smell and she’d rather focus on the house.
None of this nostalgia would have even occurred to McCoy except for the fact that Jocelyn’s due by the house to pick up some more of her things before taking them out to the new little bungalow she’s found for herself in Arkansas with the new husband.
Jim’s gone back to the Enterprise for the week and is due back yesterday, but McCoy has learned a long time ago that Jim’s got his own special way of telling time. Besides, it’s been three months since McCoy received his warning and nothing has happened yet. It’s enough to put him on edge and he’s still living in constant trepidation of what’s coming next.
He puts him and her and any variation of them out of his mind as he perches on the wood fence between the house and the field and watches the two mares and the stallion graze in the space he’s made for them.
“Morning,” calls a sleepy voice from behind him and before he can even turn to look, Joanna’s mounted the fence and straddles the logs with her hands bracing her. Her long brown hair swings forward over her shoulders. It’s not combed, which is bound to drive Jocelyn crazy.
Somehow, that’s just the cherry on top of McCoy’s already-delicious metaphorical sundae.
Joanna’s still in her pajamas and McCoy leans over to scrub away a stray eyelash from his daughter’s cheek, earning a mild whine from her and a ‘Dad!’ “I’m too old for that.”
“You’re my baby girl,” McCoy drawls affectionately with something more like a smirk on his face than a smile. “You’ll live.” They’re still making up on lost time, trying to recuperate from too many years of uneven custody. “Your Mom send a message this morning?”
“Nope,” Joanna says, swinging her legs idly. “But Uncle Jim did.”
This ‘Uncle Jim’ thing is very new. She’s started in on it two weeks ago out of nowhere as if she’s a young kid and this is her way of trying to wear down McCoy’s barriers, as if some honorific title is going to have some kind of long-lasting effect on him.
“Oh?” McCoy draws that single syllable out long as he can. Call it a product of being in the South for so long between missions, but he’s lapsing back into old patterns. He’d even dragged out his leather vest and wide-brimmed hat from the closet and dusted them off the other day. “And what did Jim say?”
“Oh, he’s here,” Joanna helpfully supplies. “I set him up in the guest room. He’s just freshening up before he comes out and says hi.”
“Just whose child are you, because I swear I didn’t raise a schemer,” McCoy teases her, narrowing his eyes slightly.
Joanna just smiles prettily in reply to that and turns her attention back to the mares, leaning her back against the post and getting the same dreamy expression on her face that she always tends to when it comes to the horses. Space might be exciting and adventurous, but there’s nothing that compares to the wind in your hair while riding a mare around the countryside and Joanna’s aligned in agreement with McCoy on that one, they both know it well.
“Well, well, lookit this!”
McCoy glances over his shoulder and actively groans to see the horrific sight that’s bearing down on him. Somehow, Jim has managed to unearth a wide-brimmed hat just for himself and is currently chewing on a grain between his teeth, flashing those pearly whites in a broad grin at McCoy as he nearly vaults onto the fence on the other side of Joanna. He tips his hat to the both of them and over Joanna’s head, Jim shares a genuine grin of delight with McCoy, eyes wide and sparkling with delight.
McCoy’s grinning right back because say what you would about the awkwardness between them, but they still were having a good time at the family home and putting the pieces slowly back together into the right places.
“Thought I’d go native,” Jim says as he leans the small of his back up against the post and tips the hat low over his face so that the shadows can cast a somehow-playful image. McCoy’s spent countless nights wondering if somehow he’s been blind to Jim’s courtship the last three months. Sometimes (like these in particular), it’s like they’ve been going on right under his nose, softening him up slowly until suddenly he’s giving in.
He doesn’t like the thought of being the frog in Jim’s metaphorical pot of slowly-boiling water. Of course, the frog probably didn’t go out as happily as McCoy might if he is in that situation.
Joanna’s beaming away between the two of them and spins on the wooden-fence as she leans her head all the way back against McCoy’s shoulder, peering upside-down at him and giving him a thoughtful look as she rests there.
He might ask what she’s thinking, but it’s inevitably a curiosity on ‘what’s going on between you and Jim?’ and so McCoy doesn’t even dare to ask.
In the end, Joanna tips her head forward and studies Jim curiously in the same manner that she’d been looking at McCoy and he watches his daughter suspiciously, wondering what she’s up to. Turns out he doesn’t have to wait too long to figure that out because she’s hopping down off the fence and ruffling Jim’s hair.
“Welcome home, Uncle Jim,” she says warmly and heads off for the house.
Sneaky conniving little devil-child… thinks McCoy as his eyes widen at the impudence his daughter’s showing these days. His shock must show because when he next looks to Jim with the stunned look on his face, all his best friend does is laugh awkwardly before letting out a howl of genuinely amused laughter.
McCoy shakes his head, unable to help catching onto Jim’s contagious bemusement.
“She takes after her mother,” McCoy mutters.
“The look on your face, Bones,” Jim says with sheer delight as he leans in and brushes his thumb slowly over McCoy’s forehead, carrying strands of hair with it and clearing his line of vision. “Oh man,” he wheezes out, still laughing. “Welcome home, Bones,” he teases, mimicking Joanna’s tone. “Welcome home.”
It’s only a day after Jim’s begun to settle in, but he’s already recalling the corners and distances of the hallways in the McCoy home. He can sleepily wander from the guest room to the bathroom and to the kitchen and not hit a sharp edge of a single thing. The guest room may as well have his name engraved on the door for all the time he spends there and true to his word about his patience, he hasn’t whined at all about wanting more and wanting to be in any other bed.
It’s only nine in the morning by the time he gets up, but Jim’s not entirely secure with the fact that the house is as quiet as it is. The only noise is coming from someone in the kitchen, making various clattering noises. Jim gravitates in that direction, almost shocked when he sees a woman there instead of Joanna or Bones.
She glances over her shoulder and the profile is enough to place her.
“Jocelyn,” Jim greets quietly. They’ve met only a few times. The conversations tend to range awkwardly away from McCoy and so they discuss the weather and the current economic state and Starfleet’s role in the future. She’s not so bad, Jim supposes. He thinks she’s insane for letting McCoy drift away the way she did and after he heard the full story about Bones’ father and the catalysts for the divorce, he guesses that the blame sort of falls somewhere in between the two of them.
The fact that the divorce got messy is something Jim knows they both regret, so he does his best not to bring it up. They’re trying to fix things now. The custody has been evened out and Jocelyn and McCoy are slowly making headway into being this normal pair of ex’s.
Maybe Jim’s got a vested interest in them getting things ironed out because maybe that means McCoy’s got a chance of coming out of all this healed, the wound cauterized and stitched shut – let to heal.
She manages a gentle smile, blue eyes softer than he’s seen them and she nods out the window with her chin. “I thought you would be outside playing,” she teases lightly and Jim drifts to her side to look out the window. She’s referring to Joanna, who’s sprawled on the ground with the dog and brushing his coat with a comb, idly talking to him. The words are lost forever as Jim can’t exactly make them out.
“I was catching up on rest. Got in yesterday,” he offers helpfully, turning to glance at her and to help dry the dishes she’s been washing. There’s breakfast sitting on the stove and it’s fully a Jocelyn Treadway production. “Did you make pancakes?” he asks, attention drawn behind her. There could be little cartoon lines coming off them, they look so good. “I know you’re remarried and all, but if you made pancakes, I might…”
She doesn’t answer. Her attention’s drawn forward and Jim trails off and follows the look of quiet regret on her face and then her eyeline to the field. Bones is out there and is wearing a dusty old pair of jeans that fit him perfectly, clad in a plaid shirt and wearing a wide-brimmed hat that settles well on his head. He’s exchanging words with Joanna, but he’s mounting one of the mares as he’s speaking, sliding back into these old habits as if he never stepped away from them.
“Excuse me,” he murmurs quietly and drifts out the front door to stand in the shade of the porch and watch as McCoy brushes his fingers affectionately over the horse’s mane. He drifts until he’s half-obscured by one of the newly-painted posts of the porch and watches McCoy pry the hat off and lean down until his body contours with the horse’s long and elegant shape, cheek pressed to hair and mouth whispering words Jim’s never going to know.
Jim can guess, of course he can. He spends half his nights lying awake and staring at the ceiling with his hands folded on his chest and imagining Bones’ voice drifting past his ears and bringing comfort and careful attention with each word.
You’re okay, Jim. You’ll always be okay. I got you. I’ve always got you.
Maybe it’s not as risqué or dangerous or even kinky as he might have imagined five years ago, but five years captaining a starship has been long enough for Jim to realize that the creature comforts don’t come from as many positions as you can get into under the blankets (though, there was that one time that he will not, absolutely will not, complain about with Yeoman Rand). Inevitably, his deepest desires take him back to his parents. His mother never got to see his father after his birth, never felt secure again. She’d said as much when he saw her the first time after accepting the role of Captain of the Enterprise.
She had taken hold of his hand and apologized for all the times she had been gone during his childhood, for the neglect, for marrying a man whose patience was short and who was as distant as they came.
“I want you,” she had said calmly and gravely, “to find someone who will always be there for you, James. I want you to know how I felt before I lost your father. Because I knew no matter how bad the day was or how dubious our acts were, he was waiting for me and he loved me. I want you to find someone who will take care of you.”
And he had opened his mouth to say, “It’s okay, Mom, I’ve got Bones,” lightly and jokingly because Bones had always been there to care for him and like a lightning bolt, that had been the first time he had genuinely started to understand what he felt about the whole situation.
And now here he is on a porch in a family home in Georgia and the sun is shining and he’s watching the man he loves care for a horse with more affection than he’s seen Bones offer to anyone but his daughter.
He hasn’t even realized that he’s not alone. He feels a light touch to his shoulder and nearly jumps in surprise before he calms himself and glances to his side to see Jocelyn has joined him from the kitchen.
“Don’t you think it’s time, Jim?” she asks, voice heavy with too many emotions that Jim’s not ready to name.
She knows because she and Jim had found themselves locked in a strange conversation two months ago when he had phoned her up and informed her of exactly what he had told Bones. That he’s coming for him, that he wants him, up to and including Bones’ reaction to him. She knows and she actually approves, apparently, thinking that it’s long-past-time for Bones to move on.
Jim just fixates on the scene before him, watching McCoy give the horse a gentle prodding with his heel and they’re off, gracefully canting around the ring in broad circles and the wind pushes through McCoy’s hair and he looks so happy that Jim’s half-sure that it’s not McCoy because he’s never seen the man so settled. He watches and feels himself become a young man again, unsure of what he’s doing and ready to bluster his way through with arrogance and smugness.
Except he’s in the presence of a woman who was married to the man in question, the daughter that will come to be his if all goes well is brushing down another horse not too far away, and Bones had bolted from the room when Jim had announced his intentions three months ago. Arrogance has no place here because the truth is that he isn’t sure of what he’s doing and no one’s going to blame him for it.
“You’re really okay with this?” he asks, funneling his insecurity into the question and trying to pass it away, hoping it will dissipate and be replaced with the same confidence that’s accompanied him on every away mission and every last sticky situation he’s found himself in for the last five years.
She just offers him a sympathetic look as if she’s sorry for him and sweeps chestnut-brown hair forward over one shoulder.
“My ex-husband is a very Southern and stubborn bastard, but he deserves happiness,” she says decisively and sharply. “I tried. We both tried. It didn’t work and I’ve found someone new to love. If he’d stop denying it so damn hard, he’d know he’s found someone too.”
It’s a pretty good stamp of approval as things go and Jim can’t help but grin at her.
“You’re not even concerned about the influence I’ll have on Joanna?” Jim can’t help but tease.
“That,” Jocelyn says simply and wow, maybe that icy glare of Joanna’s really is from her mother and not her father, “is a conversation we will have later and it will heavily feature how very much not allowed you are to give her sex tips and advice.” There’s a hint of a rueful smile lurking somewhere on her lips and it softens Jim up just enough to know that he’s not an unwelcome party in all of this.
He might still have to prove himself, but he’s spent five years doing that with Admirals, Alien Races, and…well, and his crew. He can do it one more time for McCoy’s ex-wife.
He leans heavily against her shoulder and puts on his best affronted and whiny Captain look.
“Can’t you just tell me how you got him in bed the first time?”
And wow, but Jim does not expect the absolutely wicked smile that crosses Jocelyn’s face at that as she drapes her arm around his shoulders and hugs him in tight. “Jim, you don’t have the body parts for it.”
It’s with those words that she leaves and departs for the day, promising to come back and giving him a light hug before making her way to say a longer goodbye to Joanna. Jim watches mother and daughter embrace before his attention turns back to Bones and those horses of his and the way he’s so absolutely lost in this thing that he loves. It’s good for him and Jim almost regrets the fact that they’re signing on for another five-year mission (which they both agreed on mutually after a lengthy conversation in the Captain’s quarters).
Almost regrets, of course, because he’s seen Bones genuinely delighted up there in the sky, as much as Bones would hate to admit it. He’s got a love of finding new things and of fixing ills and hurts. He just won’t admit to it half the time.
Don’t you think it’s time? echoes Jocelyn’s voice in his mind all through the day, all through the afternoon, and even into the night. He can’t sleep for the way he can’t figure out what to do about it being time. He abandons the idea of falling asleep and nearly sleepwalks his way into McCoy’s bedroom, not knocking or asking for permission as he opens the door and collapses on the other half of the queen-sized bed, head on the pillow, gaze on the ceiling.
Bones is asleep. He can hear the soft snuffle of his breath and feel the warmth pouring off of him. Jim just lies there and thinks about how long things have been coming and whether or not Bones is ready yet and if he’s due to have him bolt out again if Jim dares to bring up the subtle courting he’s been doing.
--which is to say that he hasn’t done much at all but give Bones a chance to see that Jim loves him and isn’t going to leave him alone. He’s not done a thing because they’re already so perfectly entwined in each other’s lives.
He lies there for nearly an hour thinking about time before he rolls over lightly and presses his palm to Bones’ stomach and brushes his thumb just once on the worn-cotton of his t-shirt, whispering a heavy, “Len,” before following it up with a gentle, “Bones.”
Bones stirs lightly and peeks one eye open as his breathing shallows. He groans heavily before glancing at the glowing numbers of the alarm clock beside the bed. He turns to face Jim, arms wrapping around his pillow as he knees Jim in the shin, earning a whined ‘ow!’ from him (still quiet, lest they wake Joanna up).
“It’s three in the morning, Jim,” Bones growls at him, voice heavy with sleep and thick with the drawl he’s slowly earned back now that he’s spending so much of his extended shore leave in Georgia. “We are not having a goddamn serious talk now.”
“Okay,” Jim agrees and shifts until he’s pushing Bones away from him and slowly molding his body to Bones’, chest to back.
Yeah, he feels the tension and he feels the way that McCoy is about to buck him off, but he’s patient and he waits and he waits and then he gets the sigh that he knows was coming. Jim backs off without a word then, resuming his original position of lying on his back with his palms folded over his torso and staring at the ceiling. He waits for Bones to turn and look at him before affording him a gentle smile.
“Joce left a note, said the pancakes were for you for tomorrow,” Bones says idly, as if Jim’s snuck into his bedroom at three in the morning to discuss small talk about the ex-wife. Jim would comment, but he’s willing to be patient and let Bones run through this awkward talk if it gets them closer to the important stuff. “Says you…”
“Bones,” Jim lightly interrupts, hand resting atop McCoy’s. “Come on,” he gently reprimands. “Just…don’t move, okay?” he asks and prays that Bones will listen to him and not override this particular order.
He leans in carefully and cups Bones’ cheek with light fingers, his palm lightly moving past the stubble of his best friend’s face and he leans in and stops, breathing out softly and feeling McCoy’s breath over his own lips. They’re inches apart and Jim hesitates as he tries to figure out what he’s doing here and then before he can say another word, he’s leaning in and pressing a long kiss to Bones’ lips and taking as much as he’s being offered and not a step further.
He cups the other cheek with his other hand and lies there slowly and lazily kissing Bones for as long as he can, nudging his knee in between McCoy’s legs and lightly moving his hand down until his fingers are brushing McCoy’s neck and he ignores the thought that this could be their bed and he ignores the notion of a family home with a roof over their heads protecting a daughter and all the incidentals of McCoy’s life have never mattered because Jim wants the man and every part that comes with him.
That includes this life. It’s safe and it makes Jim feel like he’s going to be swathed in cotton – protected and kept perfectly.
His eyes are closed when the kiss ends and he ends up with his cheek on Bones’ pillow. They’ve taken all the space of the bed and reduced it so that there’s hardly anything between them.
“You didn’t run away,” Jim says of Bones’ behaviour, almost stupidly proud of something that ought to be a given.
“Jim, three in the morning.” Jim could take that as face value, but there’s something on his face, some glimmer of hope and Jim’s just optimistic enough to take that and run with it because he wants to. He wants this to be the slow start of something and even though he can still see the tension in Bones’ shoulders, his lips are warm and when he licks his bottom lip, he doesn’t exactly just taste himself.
It’s exhilarating. It’s amazing.
Jim groans and drapes his arm around McCoy’s waist and tugs him closer again. “Bones,” he murmurs quietly. “I uh…I have something to ask.” It’s enough to get McCoy’s curiosity and he nods, as if to encourage him onwards. “I mean, beyond the kissing and the inevitable falling madly in love with me,” he teases. “Just close your eyes again.”
Bones does so. Without question, without hesitation, he does.
Jim leans in and kisses him again and ends up half-atop him and he kisses him and he’s breathless, but he kisses him deeper and parts his lips and moans when McCoy’s hands find their way up his neck and bury in his hair. They’re kissing as if they’re teenagers only slightly older than Joanna and Jim desperately doesn’t want it to end.
But it does. And this time, Bones does pull away and gently deposits Jim back onto his side and pulls the blankets up around them.
“I’m almost ready, Jim,” Bones says hoarsely. “Almost.”
Jim just nods.
He shifts until he’s lying on his side and facing Bones, watching the look on his face as he slowly falls to sleep and Jim thinks about Jocelyn’s words one more time. Don’t you think it’s time? and Jim does, oh, he does, but it’s not his own clock he’s working on.
This is Leonard McCoy Standard Time and Jim doesn’t want to be a single second out of beat with it. So almost it is and almost is nearly and nearly is so close that Jim’s not about to wind the clock ahead an hour just so it’s time.