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.-.

I don't think that passenger seat

Has ever looked this good to me

.-.

Leonard raised an eyebrow at the man sat beside him, the man who seemed completely unfazed by the greeting 'I may throw up on you'. He was the only person – excluding himself – not wearing cadet reds, and from the look of his face, he'd been in a pretty nasty fight recently. He couldn't help but wonder how a guy like this – Kirk, he reminded himself. Jim Kirk – could be sitting on a shuttle to Starfleet Academy. Then again, he couldn't help but wonder how he had ended up on a shuttle to Starfleet Academy, either. What had possessed him to do this? Ah, yes. Divorce. What with Jocelyn taking his daughter, his money, and his reputation, all he had left was the offer of 'you could do something more with your life' given to him by a recruitment officer three years ago. Back then, he'd had a wife and toddler, and a well-paying job at a respectable hospital. He hadn't wanted nor needed a job at Starfleet. Now, however, he had nothing more than the clothes on his back and a few possessions Jocelyn hadn't seen as worth taking from him. The rumours spread around his hometown were enough to lose him his job, most of his friends, and any respect people had for him. Starfleet seemed like the only option, no matter how terrified he was at the thought of being in space. A therapist could fix that.

"How you holding up there, Bones?" Kirk asked with a glance in his direction, cutting into his thoughts, and Leonard wasn't even going to ask about the ridiculous nickname. Kirk seemed like the kind of guy who'd ignore him if he argued, anyway.

"Oh, just peachy," he snapped in reply, the dislike for the situation clear in his voice. Instead of flinching away, like most people – and a few eavesdropping cadets – did, Kirk merely laughed, shaking his head.

"Good to know."

"What about you? Your face naturally that purple, or is this a special occasion?" Leonard remarked, eyeing the dark bruises mottling the younger man's skin. Kirk just laughed again, flashing Leonard a bright smile that did not make his heart stop a little, damn it! He was twenty-six, not sixteen!

"I think I'm going to like you, Bones," Kirk told him with a grin. Leonard didn't reply, but he couldn't stop the thought that just maybe, Starfleet wouldn't be so bad if he had Jim Kirk around.

.-.


He tells me about his night


And I count the colors in his eyes

.-.

Jim and Bones – because really, it was easier to just accept the nickname – were sprawled out on their respective beds, Jim hanging half-off his with his head hanging off the side. It was a Sunday evening, which meant the two had fallen into their usual routine of talking about everything and nothing. Saturdays were free game, and usually ended in Bones being called out to some bar to patch up Jim after a fight, or receiving a quick message to let him know not to wait up; he'd found a 'friend' for the night. The latter irritated Bones the most, but of course, Jim never noticed. It wasn't that he was self-absorbed, he just tended to be oblivious to things like that. It wasn't his fault. Sundays, however, had a long-standing tradition of being Jim-and-Bones night. They had class in the morning, so couldn't go out, which left them with nothing to do on Sundays but study and talk. And, as Jim wasn't such a huge fan of studying… talking it was.

"Isn't it crazy that we've almost had a whole year at this place? It feels like I've been here forever," Jim mused, and Bones hummed in agreement. It didn't feel like a year, and it still wouldn't, if not for the crudely drawn thank-you card from Joanna for her seventh birthday present still sat on the shelf. He felt like he'd always been at Starfleet, because quite honestly, any time before Jim Kirk swaggered into his life was a little blurry for him. "Only one more week left until summer break, though," Jim added with a grin. Bones tilted his head in the crook of his elbow to get a better view of Jim. The younger man's cheeks were starting to go pink from being upside-down for so long, but he didn't seem to care. His startlingly blue eyes were alight with excitement at the thought of a whole six weeks of freedom.

"Yeah; where you spending it?" Bones asked curiously, his gaze still fixed on Jim's eyes. He'd never get tired of looking at them; it was ridiculous how expressive they were. Jim had one of the best poker faces at the Academy – something he regularly exploited – but one look in his eyes, and Bones could tell everything that was going on in that frantic mind of his. It had taken a while to learn the many changes of Jim Kirk, but in Bones' mind, it was worth it. The flecks of grey amidst the blue were darker, meaning Jim was calm, contented. And the thought of that definitely didn't make Bones feel all sorts of warm fuzzies. Of course not.

"Haven't decided yet. Might just kick around the city for a while, see what kinds of fun I can find," Jim replied with a salacious grin. Bones rolled his eyes, too used to Jim's innuendo to be bothered by it. "Oh yeah, that reminds me; I got an offer to spend a few days of break with a Deltan at a bar last night. I mean, seriously, a Deltan! They have their crazy sex pheromone thing! Of course, all of the Deltans in Starfleet have taken that celibacy vow, but…" Jim carried on babbling about the sexual prowess of Deltans, and Bones only listened half-heartedly, preferring to keep staring into Jim's eyes under the pretense of paying attention. Damn, those baby blues were practically hypnotizing! He'd like to hate all those who had caved to the attention of James T Kirk in full flirt-mode, but really, he'd only met one person who hadn't. He had fallen for that endless charm months ago; not that Jim had noticed. Jim saw Bones as a best friend, nothing more. And if Jim had noticed that a well-placed pout and a pair of wide eyes could get Bones to do damn near anything he asked, well, he'd like to see a stronger man resist.

.-.


He'll never fall in love he swears


As he runs his fingers through his hair


I'm laughing 'cause I hope he's wrong

.-.

"Women are evil!" Jim declared, dropping onto the step beside Bones, his elbows on his knees. Bones merely raised an eyebrow, glancing up from his PADD.

"Hello to you, too," he murmured wryly, wondering which cadet had wounded Jim's pride this time.

"They are, really! I mean, just because she was expecting more than a one-nighter doesn't mean she has to post a notice on the board that I've got Romulan crotch-rot!" Bones couldn't help but laugh; Jim's revenge stories were usually pretty amusing, to say the least. The imagination of some of the scorned cadets, particularly the female ones, was really quite impressive. "It's not funny, Bones!" Jim whined, sounding far too much like a petulant six year-old. This just made Bones laugh harder.

"Hell yeah it is! Romulan crotch-rot? Damn, Jim, what did you do to piss her off so badly?" Romulan crotch-rot was exactly what it implied; highly contagious, and caused the male genitals to rot to the point of amputation. Bones had treated a few cases, and he didn't envy the poor guys who were unlucky enough to catch it. If a hypo was administered within the first two weeks, it was fine, but any time after that, and you'd be lucky to keep your genitalia, let alone get it up again.

"Nothing! I slept with her once, then the next thing I know, she's in love with me! How can you fall in love with someone in one night?" Easily, Bones thought before he could stop himself, recalling his first meeting with Jim. He might not have known it then, but it was there. "Bones, if I ever say I'm in love, shoot me! If that's how crazy love makes people, I want no part in it!" he swore vehemently, running a hand through already-ruffled blonde hair, a determined look on his face. Bones felt his heart clench a little at the words, but shook it off. That was the twenty-fourth time Jim has made that vow, and he'd learned to ignore it. He probably wasn't serious. Bones hoped he's wasn't.

Laughing, Bones slung an arm around his friend's shoulder. "Yeah, yeah, heard it all before. Now are you gonna shut up and let me revise for my xenobiology exam, or not?" he asked playfully. Jim sighed theatrically, but nodded, pulling his own PADD out of his bag. The two set up camp on the courtyard steps, basking in the sunshine as they revised despite the fact that cadet reds weren't particularly comfortable in such weather. As usual, Jim grew bored before five minutes was up, and Bones resigned himself to not getting any work done as Jim decided it would be a brilliant idea to go join in a game of soccer that was happening on the grass. Bones just followed, a small smile tugging at his lips, hoping wistfully for the day that James T Kirk admitted he was wrong and fell in love, and feeling ridiculously like a pre-teen girl for doing so. Yes, love was a bitch that way, but he wouldn't trade it for a second.

.-.


And I don't think it ever crossed his mind


He tells a joke I fake a smile


That I know all his favourite songs

.-.

Jim was bored. This, of course, meant that he was bugging Bones. They were at their End of Year ball, commemorating their second year as Academy students. They hadn't been to last year's ball, as Jim had been in hospital after an allergy flare-up, and Bones had been looking after him; Jim never willingly let another doctor near him. They had no excuse to escape this time, however, which resulted in them sat at the bar in their dress uniforms, watching a half-occupied dance floor and several stilted conversations between professors and cadets. Jim had only just escaped a conversation with Admiral Archer, who thankfully wasn't that bad. Bones had managed to avoid most of the professors by sitting at the bar and looking generally unapproachable. That never deterred Jim; he was far too chirpy to notice something like that. Bones would have preferred to have been left alone – he was the oldest cadet in the room, and he didn't need a reminder that he'd spent a whole two years in this place, and damn if Jim didn't look hot in his dress uniform – but he never refused Jim's company.

"What time is it?" Jim asked curiously, and Bones glanced at his chronometer, taking another sip of his whisky, feeling the satisfying burn down his throat. He really wasn't in the mood for people right now, but none of them could leave without good excuse until 2200. He was this close to fabricating a medical emergency.

"2135. Only 25 minutes until we can leave," Bones replied, the relief clear in his voice. Jim let out a groan of relief that was entirely too sinful to be heard in public. Bones downed the rest of his whisky; he'd promised he'd sit through the night, he'd never said he'd do it sober.

"Oh, thank God! I'm dying of boredom in here! And whoever's in charge of music has terrible taste!" he exclaimed with a snort, glancing over to where a group of cadets were dancing awkwardly to some cheesy early 22nd century pop song. Bones wouldn't argue with that; he thought he'd said goodbye to those songs somewhere around his high-school prom.

"Give me a minute, I need the bathroom," he lied, getting to his feet. Jim nodded, flagging down the barman for a drink. Instead of heading towards the bathrooms, he made for the door to the courtyard, sighing as the cool evening breeze hit his face. There were some couples necking on the steps, but he ignored them, running a hand through his hair. It was suffocating in there; he hated functions like these.

Deciding that really, he couldn't leave Jim in there to fend for himself much longer – whether that be for Jim's safety or everyone else's, he wasn't sure – he headed back inside, cringing as yet another awful song breached his eardrums. Deviating towards the music platform, he beckoned to the girl in charge of music. A few well-placed looks and smooth words had her giggling and blushing wildly – he hadn't been best friends with Jim Kirk for two years without picking up a few tricks! – and he pointed out his request for her. She giggled, nodding with a shy smile, and Bones thanked her with a wink, heading back towards Jim at the bar, who looked just about ready to keel over with boredom. As he crossed the hall, the previous song ended, and a new one came on; this one was more soft-rock, and there were a few cheers at it as people split up into couples, happy to dance together to a decent song for once, swaying to the slower beat. Bones smiled slightly as Jim perked up, a soft, happy grin crossing the blonde's face as he heard the song, making Bones' heart melt just a little. Damn, if that kid wasn't the most adorable thing he'd seen since Joanna was a bright, bouncing four year-old. Even that kid, Chekov, who on a good day was enough to give anyone a cavity, couldn't compare to Jim sometimes.

He slid back into his seat, offering a small smirk to Jim as he did so, picking up the fresh glass of whisky sat waiting for him. Jim must have ordered it while he'd been outside. "Finally, some decent music!" Jim cried quietly in delight, grinning. "I love this song."

"I know." Bones didn't mention that he knew Jim's favourite twenty-five songs, as well as his ten favourite movies and top three comfort foods. That was going past the realm of 'best friend' and entering more the 'creepy-stalker' division. No, it was best if Jim was left unaware of just how well Bones knew him.

.-.


And I could tell you his favourite colour's green

.-.

At the end of their second year, Bones brought Jim home with him to Georgia for break. Jocelyn had decided that his six-week break was the perfect time for her and her new husband to take a long, off-planet second honeymoon, leaving Joanna with him. Bones didn't mind; he relished any opportunity to spend time with his daughter, the only thing in the universe he loved more than Jim.

Jim was ecstatic to be coming to Bones' place, having never been to Georgia before. He was also looking forward to meeting his best friend's daughter, his pride and joy. Bones knew that Jim's brother Sam had three kids – two boys and a girl – and Jim loved them to pieces, even though he didn't get to see them often. Jim would be heading up to spend the last two weeks of break with them, but for the first four, he was with Bones.

Jim's nose was pressed to the window of the car as they crossed state borders, his eyes wide with wonder. "Wow," he breathed softly, awe in his tone. Bones raised an eyebrow at him; it was just grass and trees, nothing special. He told him as much, and Jim grinned sheepishly. "I didn't get to see much green when I was growing up; Iowa is all about the brown and yellow. Last time I saw a place this green was before… well, it was a long time ago," he finished, clearly having not meant to say so much. Bones reached out to squeeze his friend's shoulder; he wouldn't pry, if Jim wanted him to know, he'd tell him. And he'd wait until Jim was ready, no matter how long it took.

"Yeah, I suppose it is something," Bones agreed, and Jim grinned at him, before drawing his gaze back to the scenery. Bones rolled his eyes amusedly at the blonde, turning back to concentrate on the road.

.-.

"DADDY!" a familiar voice yelled delightedly, and Bones felt his whole body relax as he got out of the car, seeing his baby girl racing towards him, her arms outstretched and a wide smile on her face. He crouched down, holding his arms out to catch her as she barreled into him, lifting her up to spin her around before resting her against his hip, laughing.

"Hey there, princess! I've missed you, baby," he told her, pressing a long kiss to her chocolate brown locks, inhaling the fruity scent of her shampoo. Damn, he'd really missed her. She'd gotten so much bigger than the last time he saw her, and lost another baby tooth.

"I've missed you too, daddy! But mommy says we get to spend the whole summer together! Isn't that awesome?" she squealed happily, hugging him around the neck and pressing a sloppy kiss to his cheek. He grinned at her.

"You bet it is! Where is your mom, anyway?" he asked curiously, glancing over Joanna's shoulder to look for Jocelyn.

"Loading up Drew's car," she replied dismissively. Bones nodded; Joanna never called Drew 'dad', despite Jocelyn trying to teach her to do so. He couldn't help but be proud of his stubborn little girl.

"Wow, Bones, she looks just like you!" Jim exclaimed, and Bones turned, smiling at his friend.

"Yeah, she does. This one's gonna be a little heartbreaker when she's older, aren't you princess?" he teased. Joanna shot him a look.

"Boys are icky, daddy," she informed him matter-of-factly, making Bones and Jim snicker, sharing a look.

"You won't think that one day, darlin'," he assured her. And he dreaded the day that happened; she really was going to be pretty when she got older. He'd be beating the girls and boys away with a stick. Or at least a hypo or two. "Jo, baby, this is daddy's best friend Jim, he's gonna be staying with us for a few weeks. Y'know, I bet if you ask him real nicely, he'll play catch with you later," he told her with a secretive smile. Her round eyes went wide, turning to Jim hopefully.

"Really? Will you play catch with me, Mr Jim? Pretty please?" she asked, turning puppy-dog eyes on the blonde. Jim grinned brightly at her.

"I'd love to play catch with you, Miss Joanna, but first I think we need to get our stuff inside. I think your daddy has a present for you in his bag; want to go find it?" he asked, and she nodded rapidly, squirming in Bones' arms to be let down. Bones laughed, letting her to the floor and watching her grab Jim's hand in her own small one, the two of them racing around to the back of the car to rummage through the bags.

"Leonard," a curt voice called, and his good mood instantly faltered.

"Jocelyn," he replied neutrally.

"Drew and I are leaving, I trust I don't need to go over any rules?" she asked, raising a condescending eyebrow. He rolled his eyes at her; how had he ever fallen in love with this woman?

"No, we'll be fine, thanks. She's my daughter, I know how to look after her," he pointed out a little more harshly than he'd intended. He neglected to mention that despite his hours at the hospital, he'd raised Joanna for the first six years of her life practically on his own, while Jocelyn had been out with friends and down the country club and generally anywhere but at home. Drew wasn't particularly a family man, either; Joanna was raised mostly by the nanny. But Jocelyn had wanted custody, purely to take something else he loved away from him, and as the mother, it was custody she got.

"If you say so. Freya's number is on the fridge if you need her, we'll see you in five and a half weeks," Jocelyn said simply, giving him a glare before passing him to go to Joanna. "Joanna, sweetie, Drew and I are leaving now," she called, and Joanna stuck her head out from the back of the car, where she and Jim had quite happily emptied half the contents of their bags all throughout the back seats in search of her present.

"Bye, mommy!" she replied with a wave and a grin, then turned to where Drew was waiting with his flash sports car. "Bye, Drew!" she shouted, waving her arm in an exaggerated motion. Drew, looking really quite bored, waved halfheartedly back, and gave Jocelyn a pointed look. Joanna by this point had gone back to chatting happily with Jim. Jocelyn turned away, hitching her handbag further up her shoulder, and getting into the car with Drew, who kissed her. The two drove off, and Bones scowled. The bitch of a woman was going away for nearly six weeks and didn't even kiss her daughter goodbye!

"Jo, Jim, how about we get this stuff into the house and head out to the lake for a little bit?" He suggested, earning two grins full of childish excitement. He snorted to himself; looks like he'd be stuck with two little kids for the next few weeks.

.-.

While Joanna was firmly occupied with splashing about in the lake, her green bathing suit covered in bright blue polka dots, Bones and Jim sat on the bank, leaning up against a tree. Well, Bones was leaning up against the tree; Jim was lying on the floor, using Bones' thigh as a pillow. Bones absently carded a hand through Jim's hair, a lazy half-smile on his face. He couldn't help but muse that this was what it would be like if he and Jim got together; the three of them, basking in the Georgia sunshine. "She's a sweet kid. So much like you, not just in looks," Jim remarked, his eyes half-closed.

"Yeah, thankfully. It's a miracle she's stayed that way what with Jocelyn poisoning her. Then again, Joss and Drew aren't around much, and Freya's a sweet kid." The nanny was twenty-three, same age as Jim, and loved Joanna to pieces. Bones couldn't ask for a better nanny, the woman really was a godsend.

"I don't get people sometimes. How can your ex be such a bitch when she's got a beautiful little girl like Jo?" Jim asked, fiddling with some long grass with his left hand. Bones just shrugged; he honestly didn't know.

The evening found the three of them on the couch, Bones and Jim with Joanna sprawled across their laps, her head in Jim's and feet in Bones', watching a Disney Princess movie. Yes, this was one part of the vacation that wouldn't be getting back to the guys at the Academy. Jim hadn't protested, though, agreeing after one look from Joanna's wide green eyes. Bones hadn't needed persuading; they were his daughter's favourite films, he wasn't going to argue. "Feet up, baby, I need another drink. Want anything, Jim?" he asked, and Jim jolted, having fallen half asleep against Bones' shoulder.

"Nah, I'm good," he assured him, and Bones nodded, leaving the room.

When he returned, can of soda in hand, a soft smile broke out across his face. Both Jim and Joanna had fallen asleep, Jim stretching out across the couch with Joanna curled on his chest, a tiny hand gripping his t-shirt gently, one of Jim's arms loosely wrapped around her to stop her falling off. Bones slid his communicator from his pocket, taking a quick picture. He really couldn't resist. Jim and Joanna got on like a house on fire, and he couldn't stop the thought that he and Jim would be far better parents to Joanna than Jocelyn and Drew ever would.

.-.


He loves to argue

.-.

"Bones… would y'mind pickin' me up?" Jim's voice slurred through the communicator, and Bones rolled his eyes. This was becoming an all-too common occurrence with his best friend.

"Sure, Jim. Where are you this time?" he asked, setting his PADD aside and getting off his bed, pulling his boots on.

"Uhh… one sec…" Bones heard muffled sounds, then a quieter yell of "hey, man, where am I?" before Jim carried on speaking to him. "Blue Lagoon," he answered. Bones sighed with relief; he knew where this one was. Jim had called for a pick up from there about two months ago; you'd think he'd have learned his lesson by now.

"I'll be there in ten minutes, kid. Sit tight, and don't do anything stupid," he urged, waiting for a drunken confirmation from Jim before hanging up. As he left the dorms and set off in the direction of town, he couldn't help but wonder what mess Jim had gotten himself into this time. Jim had always been a trouble magnet, but this was getting ridiculous. Seven times in two weeks, he'd been called out by Jim or a friend of Jim's to come pick him up, as he'd gotten in a fight. Only two days of the remaining week had been spent at the dorm, the others, Bones assumed Jim had gone home with someone from the bar. He tried not to dwell on it too much.

It didn't take long for him to walk to the bar, and he winced as he caught sight of the cop hoverbikes outside. Damn, what had Jim done now? Heading inside, he immediately spotted his friend propped up against the end of the bar, a rapidly purpling bruise on his cheek and his left arm cradled closely to his chest. Wasting no time in pushing through the crowd to get to his friend, he gripped Jim's shoulder in concern. "Dammit, Jim, what the hell were you thinking?" he muttered, grasping Jim's jaw gently and tilting his head to get a better look at the bruise, the harsh fluorescent lights of the bar painting Jim's skin a stark white, the bruise looking livid.

"Wasn' my fault, Bones! The guy… he was hittin' on this girl, wouldn' take no fer an answer," he protested feebly, the drunken slur to his words even more obvious in person. Bones sighed; it was one of those. Jim, never one to shy from an argument, took it upon himself to protect any and all women from unwanted advances – unless, of course, it was Jim doing the advancing. One of these days, he was going to get himself killed, and it wouldn't be in the line of duty. At least then he had some sense of responsibility.

"Of course it wasn't, kid," Bones placated, allowing Jim to burrow sleepily into his side. A police officer approached, and Bones gave him an apologetic smile. "I'm sorry about this, officer," he began, only to be waved off.

"Don't worry, from what I've heard, your friend wasn't the one who started it. Does he need medical attention?" the officer asked, eyeing Jim concernedly. Bones shook his head.

"I'm a doctor, I'll clean him up," he assured him. The officer smiled, clapping Bones on the shoulder.

"You're free to take him home, then. He's lucky to have a friend like you," he added, and Bones smiled wryly.

"With his record, he needs it," he retorted. "C'mon, Jim, let's get you to bed so you can sleep off the hangover you're bound to have." Hoisting Jim to his feet, he allowed the man to wrap an arm around his waist securely, leaning heavily into his side in order to walk. Offering a small smile to the police officer, he started forward, too used to walking a drunken Jim back to the dorm to worry about it.

Other than a few minor mishaps, including Jim almost falling into the road, the pair made it back to the dorm room without too much trouble. Jim immediately relinquished his vice-grip on Bones, practically throwing himself on the bed – the wrong bed, Bones' bed, but Bones didn't care – already half-asleep. Bones rolled his eyes fondly, moving to unlace Jim's boots and tug them off him, setting them neatly at the foot of the bed. His socks followed – Jim couldn't bear sleeping in socks; when it got too cold, he'd just slip into Bones' bed and shove freezing cold feet against Bones' warm calves. Bones never had the heart to say no. Jim squirmed a little as Bones' fingers grazed his ticklish feet, but stilled shortly after. Next went the leather jacket, which was flung unceremoniously over a chair in the corner. Stripping Jim of his jeans caused Bones' throat to dry a little, but he was too used to it to be properly bothered. That, however, didn't stop him from wishing he were removing Jim's jeans under different circumstances – before he caught himself, and reminded himself that Jim was his best friend, and currently too drunk to do anything but lie there. Unbuttoning Jim's shirt, he tossed it aside, finally satisfied as the dozing man was left in his boxers, half under the duvet with the other half of his body lolling over the edge of the bed, a common sleeping position for Jim.

Jim cracked an eye open, giving Bones a dopey smile. "You're too good t' me Bones. Dun d'serve you," he murmured fondly. Bones smiled back at him, running a gentle hand through Jim's hair.

"Yeah you do, Jim. Deserve a whole lot more," he said gruffly, moving to take Jim's bed for the night. Jim's hand reached out blindly, gripping Bones' wrist.

"Stay?" he asked hopefully, turning earnest blue eyes on Bones. The doctor felt his reserve crumble, as it always did when Jim asked that question. Toeing off his boots and stripping down to his boxers, he slid into the bed beside Jim, allowing the younger man to curl up against him, twining his legs with Bones' and slinging an arm over Bones' waist. It was torture for the brunette, but it was a few hours in which he could have that closeness with Jim, where he could pretend for a little while that Jim returned his feelings. Come morning, they'd both go back to normal. They always did.

.-.


Born on the seventeenth

.-.

When Bones woke up and saw the date one his chronometer, he instantly knew it was going to be a bad day. The seventeenth of November. Jim's birthday, and the anniversary of his father's death.

He glanced over at Jim's bed, unsurprised to see the younger man sat at the head, his knees tucked up to his chest and looking like death warmed over. Getting out of his own bed, he moved to sit beside Jim, wrapping long arms around the blonde. Jim didn't hesitate to lean into Bones' chest, burying his face in his friend's neck as he tried valiantly to hold back the tears. It was like this every year, and every year Jim would try and go on as normal after his morning breakdown. It never worked. "It's okay, Jim. It's okay to miss him," Bones murmured soothingly, stroking a hand over Jim's hair. Jim sniffled, and Bones felt a few hot tears escape onto his shoulder, making him grip tighter, his heart aching at his friend's pain.

"How can I miss him when I never knew him?" Jim asked, his voice small and broken. Bones pulled Jim onto his lap, hugging him fiercely, and dropped a kiss on Jim's hair.

"You miss him because even though he wasn't there, he was supposed to be. It's natural," he assured him, wishing desperately he could take Jim's pain away.

Bones didn't know how long they sat there, holding onto each other like they would never let go, Jim crying silent tears into Bones' neck. When Jim pulled back, he wiped at his eyes gruffly, giving a wry smile. "I don't know why you put up with me, Bones. I'm a mess," he remarked with a watery chuckle. Bones rolled his eyes, cupping the back of Jim's neck to pull him into a short hug.

"You're not so bad," he said with a half-grin, and Jim attempted a small smile in return. "Want to skip class today?" Bones queried. They only had morning classes today; the afternoon was dedicated to the Kelvin memorial service. Jim was always forced to attend, as the son of the legendary George Kirk, and he hated every minute of it. Bones hated the Starfleet officials for putting him through that.

Jim shook his head, moving out of Bones' embrace to stand. "Nah, I'll be okay. Gonna take a shower," he replied, heading towards the bathroom. Bones, having expected the response, nodded. Jim never skipped classes on Kelvin day. Even though they were full of people offering insincere condolences and pussy-footing around him like he might explode at any second, Jim wouldn't let them see him affected by it. He was stubborn like that. Bones had given up arguing, resigning to being the comforting shoulder at the end of the day, the only person save Chris Pike who didn't treat Jim like he was made of glass.

When Jim emerged from the shower, a towel wrapped around his waist, Bones tried not to stare too blatantly at his friend's abs, and went to take his own. Taking a few minutes to compose himself in the bathroom, he sighed. It was going to be a long day.

.-.


His sister's beautiful

.-.

Bones let out a groan, wiping at his forehead as he shifted yet another box filled with God-knows-what. Why was he doing this again? Glancing over to his left to see a pert, jean-clad ass waving in the air, he smiled slightly to himself. Oh yeah; Jim. Damn kid could get him to do just about anything.

The two of them were rummaging through Jim's storage, packing up some things and taking stuff out, in preparation for graduation in which he'd hopefully be assigned a ship. Jim had done as he promised Pike he would, finishing his necessary courses within three years, and then some, seemingly without too much effort. Some of the trinkets and things he'd picked up over his academy years wouldn't really be necessary on a starship. Hell, some of them wouldn't really be necessary anywhere. Bones didn't want to ask where Jim had picked up the inflatable palm tree, or the coconut bra. It was probably best not to know.

"Damn, Jim, what the hell have you got in this box, bricks?" he called, his shoulders protesting as he lifted a large box on top of another box, piling them against the wall. Jim looked up, wiping sweat off his forehead with a breathless grin. Bones decided that it was completely unfair that the guy could look that sexy all the time. Jim moved to stand beside him, their shoulders pressing together as he lifted the lid and peered into a box.

"Whoa, mom's photo albums! I thought half of these were back in Iowa!" he exclaimed, reaching in to pull out a thick, leather-bound album with 'Sam and Jim' written in neat handwriting on the spine. Bones raised his eyebrow in surprise; it wasn't often people had real printed photos. Most of them preferred a holo-frame these days.

Jim sat down on a box with a grin, patting the space beside him invitingly as he flipped open the first page of the album. It let out a small puff of dust, and Jim sneezed, making Bones snicker. Then he caught sight of the first picture on the page, and laughed loudly. "Aww, Jim, you made a cute baby," he teased, earning an elbow in the ribs as Jim scowled. For there, on the page, was a picture of baby Jim, probably around three months old, as naked as the day he was born and laid out on a blanket, a wide, toothless grin on his face. He really was adorable.

"Shut up, Bones," Jim muttered in embarrassment, flicking through all the baby picture of him, of Sam, and of him and Sam together, until he reached a picture that made him stop and laugh. "Oh, I remember that! Sam was nine, I was five, and we thought it would be a fantastic idea to build a rope swing over the lake. As you can see, it didn't hold too well." The picture was of a young Jim laughing happily at his big brother, who was dripping with water, a pout of his face. The lake was in the background, and Bones could see the frayed ends of rope dangling from an outstretched branch. He snickered, looking at the gleeful expression on young Jim's face. He didn't think he'd ever seen him so happy. Flicking through the next few pages, the two watched as Sam and Jim grew up in front of their eyes, Jim occasionally providing a back-story for some of the photos, until Jim hit around ten and suddenly the pictures were of Sam only, and were few and far between.

"Why's there none of you here?" Bones asked curiously, turning a page. Jim's eyes shuttered painfully.

"I was never around when the camera was out," he replied vaguely, quickly flicking through pages of Sam until they reached the next one of Jim. He was possibly about thirteen or fourteen, and Bones winced internally as he took in the sight of his friend as a teen. Young Jim was pale and thin, his shoulders hunched and all the boisterous confidence of his earlier youth vanished. That wasn't even the worst part; no, it was Jim's eyes. His startlingly blue eyes were dull, lifeless. Scared, even. Jim was hunched up in the corner of his bed, the blanket gripped in small hands and tucked up to his chin, eyeing the rest of the world warily. Bones looked at the Jim sitting beside him, seeing his expression falter, almost mirroring that of himself in the photograph.

"Jim…" Bones began in a whisper, but Jim shook his head, turning wide, lost-looking blue eyes on Bones.

"Please, Bones. Not today. Not now," he breathed, and how could Bones push when his friend used that helpless, begging voice? Instead, he simply turned the page, seeing the years skip to a fifteen year-old Jim graduating high school, standing proudly with his diploma among his eighteen year-old classmates.

"You graduated at fifteen?" Bones asked, surprised. Jim smiled, though it didn't reach his eyes, glad for the change of subject.

"Yeah, I got bored all the time, so they skipped me ahead a few grades. I probably could have tested out earlier, but… I didn't really have regular attendance records," he replied with a shrug. Bones rolled his eyes, secretly impressed; he'd known Jim was smart – you'd have to be blind not to see it – but he hadn't known Jim had been that smart since he was a kid. He figured he'd just worked his ass off in the few years between graduating and joining Starfleet. Jim didn't like to talk much about his childhood.

The photos started to get few and far between, and more and more recent, until the Jim in the picture was the Jim Bones recognized from when they met. He turned to the final page, and raised an eyebrow at the picture of Jim and Sam standing with their arms around a beautiful blonde woman. The two men were in formal suits, the blonde wearing a stunning knee-length green dress, her hair in loose curls around her face and a gleaming smile on her face, her eyes sparkling brightly as she leant into the embrace of the two men. Bones felt a small spike of jealousy at the picture, wondering if this woman was an ex-girlfriend of Jim's. Glancing at his friend, his jealousy only intensified as he caught sight of the soft smile on Jim's face. "Who's the girl?" Bones asked curiously, keeping his tone even.

"That's Aurelan. She's Sam's wife. She's… incredible. The sister I never had, and the mother I always wanted. Sam practically worships the ground she walks on; we both do, a little bit," he admitted wryly. Bones immediately felt a little stupid for assuming; it was clear the only love Jim held for Aurelan was platonic.

"She's beautiful. Sam's a lucky man," Bones said sincerely. Jim nodded, smiling.

"I've been telling him that since they got together. He tells me that one day I'll be so lucky, but… I don't see it happening any time soon," he confessed, sighing wistfully. Bones reached out to slide a hand over Jim's, almost tempted to confess his feelings. Almost, but not quite.

.-.


He has his father's eyes

.-.

Bones met Winona Kirk for the first time a week before Jim's third attempt at the Kobayashi Maru. She was planetside for once, and reporting some botanical research to the admirals at the Academy when she bumped into Jim. Bones got the impression that had she not literally walked into her son, Jim would have never known his mother had been there until weeks after she'd left; she didn't seem like she had the intention of visiting.

He instantly knew it wasn't going to be pretty when Winona opened her mouth. "Oh, George, I-" she began to apologise automatically, then froze as Jim stiffened, his expression tightening.

"Mom, I'm Jim," he reminded her, his voice tense. Bones discreetly put a hand on the small of Jim's back for support, his heart skipping a beat at the grateful look he gained in return.

"Jim, yes, of course… what are you doing here?" Winona asked, perplexed, her mouth fixed in a disapproving frown. "I swear, if you've gotten in trouble again-"

"Mom, I'm a cadet here. I have been for three years. I told you… remember?" Jim told her carefully. Winona shook her head dismissively.

"Jimmy, don't be silly, you can't be a cadet, you're only ten. I've told you a thousand times, you need to finish school first," she told him with an impatient roll of her eyes. "I'm sorry about him, cadet; he doesn't know how to do how he's told. Never has. But kids will be kids, I suppose?" she added to Bones with a quiet chuckle. "Now run along, Jimmy, go wait in the shuttle with Sam. I've got work to do," she snapped, before swerving round them and heading off down the corridor. Bones opened his mouth to say something to Jim, but he was cut off by a voice.

"Jim!" Both heads turned to see Captain Pike standing in the doorway of the room Winona had come from. He had a worried look on his face, eyeing Jim carefully. "Jim, I'm sorry, if I'd known she was coming today, I would have made sure you weren't in the area," he said apologetically, but Jim shook his head, moving towards the older man, a bitter smile crossing his lips. Bones followed, wanting some insight as to what the hell had just happened.

"It's fine, Chris. Wasn't your fault," he insisted, moving into the office.

"Still, I should have messaged you when I knew she was on campus. You didn't need that," Pike replied, taking a seat behind his desk while Jim sprawled unceremoniously in one of the chairs opposite. Bones slid uncomfortably into the seat beside Jim, still trying to process what he'd just seen. What was wrong with Winona Kirk? She'd seemed to be delusional, but surely Starfleet wouldn't accept her if she was psychologically compromised? "I thought Sam said he'd gotten help for her about that?" Pike asked with concern. Jim shrugged.

"He did, but… it didn't work. She's fine, up until she sees me. So I just… stay away," he explained. Pike's brow furrowed, and he leant his elbow on the desk.

"Jim, are you okay?"

"I'm fine, Chris," Jim replied, a little too sharply to be believable. Bones raised an eyebrow at his best friend, silently asking for an explanation. Jim smiled sheepishly at him, running a hand through his hair.

"You might have guessed, but I look a lot like my dad," he started dryly, and Bones chuckled.

"Yeah, I noticed."

"Well, mom's always had a bit of trouble with that; I reminded her too much of my dad. Sam's different, he looks more like mom, but me… I could be George Kirk incarnate. It got worse as I got older, and when I hit around seventeen, I looked the image of my dad… mom just cracked. She was never the most involved mother in the universe, but at least she was there before. Then she always saw me as George, or as if I was ten again and didn't look so much like my dad. We tried all kinds of therapy, but nothing worked. Eventually we just figured out that she lives a perfectly rational and normal life if she doesn't see me, so I left home at eighteen, and never looked back." Bones felt his heart go out to his best friend, hearing the hurt evident in his voice. Jim was a very affectionate person once you got to know him, and he loved his family more than anything. Him and Sam had been practically inseparable for the week Sam had visited back in Jim's first year. It must have killed him to have his mother look at him like that.

Jim gave him that smile, the one that tried to say 'it doesn't bother me, really' but never worked on Bones. His eyes gave him away, the pale blue dim and full of hurt, making Bones want to just hug the man and never let go.

"It's the eyes," Jim blurted suddenly, making Bones think for a moment that he could read his mind. He then chastised himself; that was ridiculous. "She can't stand my eyes… dad's eyes."

.-.


And if you ask me if I love him, I'd lie

.-.

When everything had been tended to, and everyone who needed patching up had been seen to, Bones sat down on the edge of an empty biobed and held his head in his hands, sighing wearily. It had been a long few days, but it was finally over. For now, at least. It would all begin again once they got back to Earth and the press got hold of them. But now, Nero was gone, and everyone was okay, for the most part.

He glanced over to the closed door of the room which held both Jim and Captain Pike, and got to his feet. Nurse Chapel looked over at him, giving him a knowing smile. "I've got it covered, Doctor. You go sit with him," she urged gently, moving to squeeze his shoulder. He smiled thankfully at her, and entered Jim's room. His breath caught in his throat as he watched Jim, looking almost childlike in the bed, surrounded by monitors. Pike was in the bed across the room, breathing shallowly. Both men were fast asleep, their slumber partly drug-induced. Tentatively crossing the room, he sunk into the uncomfortable plastic chair beside Jim's bed. He wasn't too badly injured – thank God – but being the stubborn idiot that he was, he hadn't allowed Bones to take a look at him until he'd practically been forced down to sickbay. He had two broken ribs, a dislocated shoulder, and a sprained wrist, as well as a couple of phaser burns, cuts and bruises. The flesh wounds had been helped with a dermal regenerator, leaving just a few pinkish-white marks criss-crossing Jim's tanned skin, and the ribs had been injected with osteo-regenerators, which would take longer, but would do the job. The shoulder had been set, and both it and the wrist had been strapped up. He would heal.

Taking Jim's uninjured hand gently in his own, he ran his thumb in soothing circles on the back of it. "Damn it, Jim, you've got to stop scaring me like this. I don't know if my old heart can take it," he joked feebly, managing a small smile at his unconscious best friend. "You did good, kid. I'm proud of you, and your dad would be too. You finished what he started. We're headed home now, though Scotty says it'll take us a few hours as we lost the warp drive. Don't worry, you'll be awake by the time we get back, ready to greet your adoring fans." He smiled slightly; Jim would hate all the attention. As much as he tried to play it otherwise, he hated being in the public eye. It came from too many years of being 'George Kirk's son'. "I called Sam, by the way. Let him know you're okay. Him and the family send their love. Asked both of us to come back with them after Graduation, which they're coming to. I said I'd ask you once you'd woke up, but I don't think you'll say no." He didn't know why he was doing this, babbling to a man who couldn't hear a word he said. It wasn't doing anything for Jim, but… it made him feel better.

"Jim's a lucky man, having you to watch out for him, Doc," a voice croaked, and Bones startled, looking up to see Pike watching them bemusedly from his bed. A flicker of a smile crossed Bones' face.

"I'm a lucky man for him to let me," he replied, knowing that if anyone understood that, it would be Pike. Christopher Pike was the father Jim always wanted, had been since Jim's first week at the Academy. But it had taken him a while to be fully accepted into Jim's circle of trust.

"You love him," Pike stated simply, a smile on his face. Bones tried desperately not to blush.

"He's my best friend," he replied evasively. Pike rolled his eyes at him.

"Not what I meant. Son, you've stuck with Jim Kirk through damn near everything for the past three years. You're head over heels for him, and it seems like he's the only one who doesn't notice," Pike told him frankly. Bones shot him a look.

"It's not like that," Bones assured him, the lie rolling smoothly off his tongue. Neither of them believed it.

.-.


He looks around the room


Innocently overlooks the truth

.-.

Graduation ball was definitely a sight to behold. While the whole atmosphere was slightly subdued, with everyone mourning for all those people who should have been there with them, most people seemed to be of the opinion that the best way to mourn the dead was to celebrate the sacrifice they made, and the fact that they themselves were still alive. Almost every punch bowl had been spiked heavily, and the professors had left long ago, deciding to leave the cadets to their partying. Bones rolled his eyes as Jim got turned down for the eighteenth time of the night by Uhura, who had her arm loosely around Spock's waist, the Vulcan seeming quite pleased about the whole thing. Those two really were made for each other; human computers, the both of them. Almost all the graduates there were crewmembers of the Enterprise, while the few who weren't had been on medical leave, or somewhere else at the time of the distress call. The lucky ones.

Tipping his head back and downing a shot of bourbon, he smiled across the room at Jim, who darted over to him, grabbing the older man's arm with a bright grin. "C'mon, Bones, join the party! It's nearly time for the countdown!" he urged happily, dragging Bones over to the table where Spock, Uhura, Scotty, Chekov and Sulu were sat, laughing and joking. Well, Spock wasn't laughing and joking, but the point still stood. Protesting only half-heartedly, Bones allowed Jim to drag him by the hand towards the table, sitting him in the seat beside him. Bones couldn't help the butterflies in his stomach that resurfaced when Jim didn't let go of his hand. What was it about Jim that turned him into a thirteen year-old girl?

"How long till the countdown?" Jim asked, smiling at his friends.

"One point five minutes, Captain," Spock answered promptly. The countdown was a long-standing Academy tradition, in which all the cadets gathered to count down the seconds to midnight, until the day they were officially no longer cadets. It was a little like a New Year's countdown.

"Spock, I've told you, I'm Jim when I'm off duty," Jim insisted with a roll of his eyes.

"As you wish, Captain," Spock replied, making Uhura giggle. Yup, definitely a match made in heaven.

"Would all graduates please gather in the main hall to begin the countdown!" a voice announced over the speaker system, and immediately the buzz of excitement tripled. The seven at the table stood, moving to the centre of the hall to join the crowd that was flooding in, as a large timer was projected against one wall, counting down from 30 seconds. Jim turned his gaze on Bones, beaming like a little kid at Christmas. Bones grinned back; Jim's excitement was infectious.

"Ten! Nine! Eight! Seven! Six! Five! Four! Three! Two! One! ZERO!" As pyrotechnics went off at zero, half the cadets pulled the other half into firm kisses. Bones saw as Uhura planted one straight onto a slightly stunned Spock's lips. Sulu let out a muffled exclamation as his lips were covered by a bold – and really quite drunk – Chekov, and Scotty was jumped (literally) by a girl from engineering. He looked back to Jim, sure by now that his friend would be liplocked with one – or more than one – 'friend', only to find him staring back at him, a soft smile playing on his lips. Before Bones could blink, Jim darted forward, pressing a soft, sweet kiss to Bones' lips. Bones felt his heart stop for that moment, so fleeting he was almost sure he'd imagined it. Jim brought a hand bashfully up to the back of his head, rubbing at his hair.

"Didn't want you to feel left out, y'know? Everyone should have someone to kiss at their countdown," he told him with a shrug. Bones' heart sank slightly at those words; it was a pity-kiss. Jim wasn't about to declare any feelings or anything to him. He felt pressure on his hand, looking down to see Jim still hadn't let go. The kissing couples were beginning to break apart now, some looking shocked; namely Sulu, who was staring at a blushing Chekov like he'd just told him he invented the universe. Scotty was blinking stupidly as the girl giggled and ran back to her friends, not saying a word to him. Spock and Uhura were staring into each other's eyes like a sappy, mushy couple, and Jim was blushing wildly, the look on his face the one he got when he was about to withdraw. Bones smiled at him, squeezing his hand back, causing the blonde's expression to brighten. Even if it was a pity-kiss, it still didn't change the fact that James T Kirk had chosen to share his countdown kiss with him, of all people.

.-.


Shouldn't a light go on?


Doesn't he know I've had him memorized for so long?

.-.

Their first away mission, Bones was utterly unsurprised by the call for medical to be on hand at beam-up. So unsurprised, in fact, that medical had been on hand for the past twenty minutes, long before the call came in. He was especially unsurprised when the team beamed up, and Jim was lolling in Spock's arms, blood staining his golden shirt. "Get him on the gurney," he ordered, running his tricorder over Jim's prone form as Spock lowered him carefully onto the gurney. This is familiar; this, he can do. He'd been patching up Jim for years, nothing changed now. As he started to push the gurney towards sickbay, a nurse moved to shoot a hypo into Jim's neck. Bones reached out and gripped her hand, immediately recognizing the bright blue liquid. "That'll kill him, he's allergic," he muttered, still mostly concentrating on Jim, who's still bleeding from a deep wound on his stomach. The nurse frowned, but put the hypo away, exchanging the cartridge for a pale yellow one. "So will that. Just wait until we get to sickbay, I've got a kit of everything we can use on him without killing him," he told her, and she nodded, tucking the hypo back into her belt. He really should have brought the kit down with him; something to remember for next time.

Reaching sickbay, he headed towards the cabinet containing Jim's kit while Jim was transferred to a biobed. "Don't touch him with that!" he yelled across the room, seeing a nurse about to start cleaning the stomach wound with disinfectant, having ripped away both his shirts. "Everybody just stop. Touching. Him!" he growled, watching to make sure none of them touched Jim with something he was allergic to. Had none of them even looked at their captain's medical file? Damn, were people completely incompetent these days?

Everyone stepped back from the bed, eyeing him uneasily as he brought over the white kit box, flicking it open and pulling out a couple of hypos. "Jim's list of allergies is a mile and a half long; don't use anything on him other than what's in this box unless you've cleared it with me first; I'll have every one of your asses if you send him into anaphylaxis," he warned, pressing the hypo against Jim's neck. Jim moaned in pain, and Bones cursed, pulling out the disinfectant. "Dammit, Jim, this is gonna hurt," he muttered to himself, before swabbing the liquid over the long wound, clearing away some of the blood to reveal the torn skin underneath. Jim arched up in pain, a small cry escaping his lips. Bones winced; Jim never usually made a sound, for him to be actually admitting pain, even half-unconscious, it had to be bad. "Nurse, sedate him," he ordered, nodding towards the box. The nurse nodded, swiftly pressing the hypo to Jim's neck, and a few moments later, the blonde went limp. Bones sighed; as much as Jim hated being sedated, he'd be better off that way. If Bones had to perform surgery on his abdomen, he couldn't do it with Jim still awake.

By the time Bones emerged from the operating room, two hours had passed. A relatively short time compared to most, but still more time than he would have liked to spend on a superficial stomach wound. No, Jim just had to start bleeding out from a place that logically shouldn't have been doing anything. He was special that way.

Knowing the sedative would be wearing off soon, Bones moved into Jim's room, taking up his usual position at Jim's bedside, holding his hand. Keeping one eye on the monitor, he smiled wryly down at his friend. "And here's me thinkin' you'd take more responsibility now you're Captain for real and all. Too much to hope for, huh?" he mused, squeezing Jim's hand.

"Damn straight; gotta keep you on your toes, Bones," Jim mumbled feebly in reply, startling the Southern man. Bones smiled down at him as Jim cracked an eye open.

"Hey there, Jim. How you feelin'?" he asked in concern, glancing up at the monitor.

"Not bad, considering. How many allergic reactions did I have?" Jim queried. Bones rolled his eyes.

"None, through no lack of trying. You nearly got stuck with something that would've killed you three times before I told them all to back off. You really think I wouldn't have something special for you around that won't send you to an early grave?" he remarked. Jim raised an eyebrow.

"You recognized three just by sight? Damn, Bones, you do spoil me. Even I can't remember half the stuff I'm allergic to, and definitely not by sight!" he exclaimed. Bones blushed slightly, but waved him off.

"I'm your doctor, it's my job to know your medical file," he insisted. Never mind that he'd long ago hacked Jim's file, identified every allergen by name, sight and possible forms, and made himself memorize them just in case. Or that he was the doctor of every person on this ship, and he didn't know their files like the back of his hand like he did Jim's.

"There's a difference between knowing it and being able to spot three of my allergens by sight! I totally don't deserve you, Bones," he added with a small smile, squeezing Bones' hand back. Bones shrugged gruffly.

"I knew you'd be here sooner or later, I figured I'd better be prepared," he replied evasively. This was just ridiculous! How had Jim spent all these years with him and not clue into the fact that Bones knew damn near everything about him, and remembered all of it? And yes, he was aware of just how bad he had it, but it hadn't done much harm so far. Jim was clearly the most oblivious person on several planets when it came to Bones' feelings for his Captain.

.-.


He sees everything black and white

.-.

Bones' eyes widened as Jim's angry voice echoed through the corridors, floating through the open sickbay door. He should have known Jim would be down sooner or later. The children surrounding him winced and huddled together at the raised voice, and Bones scowled, heading to meet Jim at the door. "Jim, for God's sake, keep your voice down!" he hissed, giving his best friend a pointed look. Jim peered over Bones' shoulder and frowned apologetically.

"Sorry, Bones. I just… God…" Bones shook his head; he didn't need Jim to explain, he felt the same way. What kind of bastard could do this to a bunch of children? "How are they?" he asked, lowering his voice. Bones shook his head grimly.

"They'll live, but… all of them are severely undernourished, quite a few have infections in their cuts or have picked up some illness or another, and a couple have broken bones. And that's not even touching the psychological problems they'll have," he told him, seeing no point in withholding anything from Jim. Jim sucked in a breath, then nodded, moving past Bones to enter sickbay. Bones watched as the kids collectively tensed, and Jim crouched down to their level, giving them a soft smile.

"Hey. I'm sorry about shouting in the hall, I didn't mean to upset any of you. My name's Jim, you're on my ship, the Enterprise. We're Starfleet, see?" he said quietly, pointing to the insignia on his shirt. "You're safe. We're gonna take you back to Earth, and try and contact your families. This is my friend Dr McCoy, he's gonna take a look at you guys and fix you up, okay? You can trust him; he patches me up all the time," he added with a small grin, gesturing to Bones. A boy stepped forward, he looked to be one of the older ones, about twelve or thirteen. His dark hair was matted, and he was painfully thin.

"My… my name is Tomas," he whispered fearfully, and Jim gave him a reassuring smile.

"Nice to meet you, Tomas. You gonna be a brave boy and let Dr McCoy take a look at you? He won't hurt you, I promise. We'll clean you up and patch up your scrapes, and then we'll get all of you some beds so you can take a nice long nap. How does that sound, hmm?" he asked with a smile. Tomas looked up at him with wide brown eyes.

"We get beds… real beds?" he breathed, awed. Jim nodded, holding out a hand, trying not to react to Tomas' automatic flinch.

"Of course you get real beds, kiddo. Now, I want you to listen to me, okay? All of you," he added, sweeping his eyes over the gathering of children. There must have been at least 50 of them. Bones watched silently as Jim spoke to the children, hardly daring to breathe. "What that man did to you, what all those men did to you, none of you deserved a second of it. They're bad men, who do bad things to make themselves feel better, and I am so sorry you had to suffer because of him, I really am. But you're safe now, it's okay; we're not gonna let him lay a finger on you ever again. That's a promise, and I never break my promises. Do I, Doctor?" he asked, glancing over his shoulder at Bones, who smiled.

"Never broken one yet," he agreed softly. Jim grinned at him, making Bones' knees feel a little like jello. And now this really was getting ridiculous.

"So, what do you say, Tomas. Trust me?" Jim asked hopefully, holding his hand palm up towards the child. Tomas hesitated for a moment, biting his lip, then nodded, placing his tiny hand in Jim's. Jim smiled, slowly covering Tomas' hand with his own, then glanced at the medical staff. "Okay, let's get you guys cleaned up. Come on, Dr McCoy and his friends will look after you," Jim said, standing up, still keeping hold of Tomas' hand. Jim smiled, nodding to Bones, who moved forward slowly, heading to a little girl who couldn't be much older than his Joanna, her blonde hair caked with dirt and blood, her dress barely hanging on her tiny body. When they caught the bastards – and they would, because Jim was Captain, and he wouldn't let people like this get away – they would pay dearly. It wouldn't do to get angry now, though. Not in front of the kids.

When all the kids had been seen to medically, washed up, given new clothes and found beds in the guest rooms – they'd tried to fit as many in a room as possible, not wanting to split them up too much – Bones moved over to Jim, who was leaning against the desk in Bones' office, a hand in his hair, a stricken look on his face. He looked up when Bones entered, and the older man slid the door shut behind him with a soft click. "Jim…" he began, moving towards his friend. Jim shook his head, his jaw clenched.

"Not here, Bones…" he urged softly, his voice weak and broken. Bones crossed the room in two long strides, wrapping his arms around Jim's frame, holding him tightly as Jim's head automatically moved to his shoulder. He knew this would be hard on Jim; the thing about Jim was, he saw the world in measures of black and white; something was either okay, or it wasn't. Jim would adjust his view when given reason, but there were rarely any shades of grey to Jim Kirk. Another thing about Jim was that if he found something in the black – and this, this was definitely in the black – he wouldn't rest until he righted it, no matter how long it took him. It was one of the reasons Bones loved him.

.-.


Never let nobody see him cry

.-.

That evening, Bones headed to Jim's quarters, knowing his friend wouldn't be able to sleep alone, if at all. Entering the code to the door, he waited for it to open and stepped inside, his eyes immediately landing on Jim, and he felt his heart break a little. Jim was sat on the couch, his knees tucked under his chin, a blanket covering him, his blue eyes looking widely into space in front of him, shiny tracks down his cheeks revealing that he'd been crying. Bones remembered the last time he'd seen this; that photograph of Jim at fourteen that they'd found in storage. He had the same lost, helpless look in his eyes. "Oh, Jim," he breathed, moving to sit beside his friend and pull him into a tight hug. Jim crawled onto Bones' lap, gripping the older man's shirt tightly, his ear pressed against Bones' heartbeat. Bones kissed his forehead, running a hand through Jim's hair. "It'll be okay, darlin'. We'll catch the fuckers and lock 'em up where they belong. The kids are safe now, we'll get them back to their families soon," he whispered, his cheek against the top of Jim's head.

"God, Bones… they're so small, so scared… it's too close for comfort," Jim breathed, his voice hoarse and full of pain. Bones didn't move, but inwardly raised his eyebrows in shock. Close for comfort? Suddenly, he remembered the look in Tomas' eyes; the fear, the helplessness. The same look he saw in Jim's eyes in the photo. The same look he was seeing in Jim's eyes now.

"Jim, were you… did you ever…" he trailed off, unsure how to phrase the question. Jim tilted his head back, staring into Bones' green eyes.

"Bones… have you ever heard of Tarsus IV?" Jim asked, his voice wavering, and Bones sucked in a sharp breath. Everyone had heard of Tarsus IV. Starfleet tried to cover it up, but it got out eventually. The only thing they managed to successfully keep secret was the names of the eight survivors, the Tarsus eight. Was Jim saying what he thought he was saying?

"You were one of them, weren't you? Those four years missing from the photo album… you were there," Bones said, hardly able to believe what he was saying. His Jim, his strong, confident, talented Jim, had been one of those poor souls to survive the massacre?

"I was ten, and I drove dad's car off a cliff. Jumped out at the last minute. Frank was trying to sell it, and I didn't want him to, so I destroyed it. The cops let me off as it was my first offence, but mom was furious. She sent me to this correctional camp, a little like Juvy without the criminal record. It was on Tarsus IV." As Jim spoke, Bones rubbed small circles on his back, pressing sporadic kisses to his temple. His legs were going a little numb, but he didn't care. Jim was more important. "For the first few years, I loved it there. We learned about all sorts of stuff they never taught me in school, and it was by the ocean, so some of the older kids taught me to surf. I made some great friends there, and they really helped me with a lot of anger issues. None of the kids there were real criminals, just kids who'd been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Then… then the famine struck." Bones remembered the reports; a chemical in the water had poisoned almost all the crops on the planet, leaving the Tarsans with barely any food. "Governor Kodos, at the beginning… he seemed like he could help. Talked about calling Starfleet and asking for help. Then about a month in, he said that… that Starfleet had refused, that no help was coming. He told us that the only way any of us would survive was if… if they started the slaughterhouses. They started rounding people up, locking them in the old jail cells. Most of us kids escaped, but the councilors got caught. We ran, hid in the forest. We watched from the shadows as they built those… things. The killing machines. People went in, and all that came out was meat, which was given to Governor Kodos and his 'loyal subjects' to eat. They… they started with the elderly first. The frail, the ill, the ones who weren't long for life anyway. But it wasn't enough. They took the women, the men, the children. Rich, poor, it didn't matter; if you were found by one of Kodos' men to have food, you were taken to the slaughter. I was the oldest out of the group of kids I was with; I was thirteen. There were eighteen of us, in the beginning. We fled to the forest, the deeper part that Kodos and his men didn't dare go to. We kept going until we got to the mountains, we hid in a cave. We had barely any water, and even less food, but we were alive. One of the boys, Koby, had some scraps of wire and circuit board that he'd been playing with before we'd fled. I tried to make a transmitter, enough to get a signal to Starfleet. I was desperate, I couldn't fathom that Starfleet would just leave a whole population to starve. We were in the cave for about a month, until… we were found."

Jim's eyes were hollow, empty, and it sent a shiver down Bones' spine. Never had he seen that look in his friend's eyes before, and his voice… it scared him. "Kodos' men came in the middle of the night; only nine of us managed to escape. Three had already died of starvation, and the other six were taken by the men. We never saw any of them again. The rest of us ran; we ran until we physically couldn't move, and then we ran some more. We hadn't eaten properly in months, and anything we tried to eat would just come straight back up again. We were ill, injured, and terrified. We never stayed in the same place for more than a night. We stayed like that for another month, and then… Kodos found us. I held him off, gave the others enough time to escape, but he caught me. I was taken back to his house, and all I could wonder was why I wasn't at the slaughterhouse. He… he chained me up in his bedroom, said he liked… said he liked them blonde and blue-eyed, and his last one had died." Bones' eyes widened at the tremble in Jim's voice, his heart turning to lead.

"No, Jim, tell me he didn't," he begged in a whisper, gripping Jim's forearms. Jim bit his lip, then nodded. Bones let out a breath, leaning his forehead against Jim's. God, no, please. Not Jim.

"He… used me. Said I'd shut up and be a good boy if I wanted to survive, or I'd end up like the rest of my friends. He told me how he had all my friends killed, one by one. Told me that I was the only one alive on the planet other than him, that he'd started killing his men, too, once he ran out of civilians. I… I was terrified. I was fourteen, and alone on a planet with a genocidal maniac. I did whatever he asked me to keep myself alive. It wasn't pretty. But… I was still working on that transmitter. I stole scraps from his house, kept it under a loose floorboard and worked on it in the dead of night. Eventually, I got it working. I sent an SOS to Starfleet, and they turned up within the week. They found me and caught Kodos, and I found out that I wasn't alone. Seven of the eight who I'd seen escape were still alive. Starfleet brought the eight of us back to Earth, as well as Kodos. We got back, and I met Chris. He was heading the case, asked me to tell him what had happened. He cleaned me up, went with me to the hospital. Stayed with me the whole time, when mom didn't visit once. Frank wouldn't let her. Sam came; he'd run away as soon as he turned sixteen, Chris called him. I spent four months in intensive care at a high-security Starfleet hospital, then when they said I was well enough… mom and Frank picked me up. That photo of me in the album? That was the day I got home." Jim sighed, his whole shoulders shuddering with the effort of holding back tears. Bones held him tighter, his own eyes squeezed shut, wishing he could wake up from this nightmare. That couldn't have happened to Jim, not his beautiful Jim. A friend of his had done his case study on the Tarsus survivors, he'd seen some of the pictures. The faces had been pixilated to protect their identities, of course… had one of those been Jim? Those emaciated, frail forms, every individual rib visible from half a mile away, their organs outlined against the sallow skin of their stomachs. Bones felt sick. How had Jim gone through something like that and become the man he was? Bones was sure that, had he been in Jim's place, he would have crumbled long ago.

He felt Jim's shoulders shake against him, and kissed the man's hair. "Let it out, darlin'. I've seen you cry a hundred times, nothing could ever make me think any less of you," he murmured, his lips on the shell of Jim's ear. Indeed, it had only heightened his opinion of the man; anyone who could go through that and come out such a strong, incredible person… it was amazing.

Bones eased them both down until they were lying along the couch, Jim burrowed into Bones' chest, their legs twined to stop Jim falling off. And, with the whispered words of assurance from Bones, a tear escaped Jim's eyes. That was the final breaking point, and soon, the tears were flooding shamelessly. Bones, still dealing with his own shock, just held Jim tight, letting the tears come.

.-.


I don't let nobody see me wishing he was mine

.-.

For once, it was a quiet evening, and as such, the officer's rec room was occupied. There was just the seven of them in there, with all of them having given command over to Gamma shift, and the atmosphere was relaxed. Scotty, Jim, Chekov and Sulu had started a game of poker, using candy for stakes, while Spock was reading a PADD, Uhura's feet propped in his lap. The woman herself was chatting with Bones, who was half paying attention to her. The other half of his attention was, as usual, fixed on Jim. The Captain was currently teasing Chekov, who had been staring at Sulu with those damn moon-eyes so hard he'd messed up his hand and folded when he could have won. Bones wondered what Jim would say if he knew that Bones had been making – far more discreet, mind – the same eyes at him.

"Len, are you even listening to me?" Uhura asked quietly, amused. Bones snapped out of his daze, looking towards her. She had a raised eyebrow, and glanced over to the men playing poker. Sulu had now given up, and was quite happily returning Chekov's moon-eyes. Bones was of the opinion they should just damn well get married and be done with it. It was obvious to all of them that neither of them would be going anywhere sometime soon. The couple were so in love it was nauseating. He really hoped he wasn't so bad over Jim, but he knew he was.

"They're sickeningly adorable, aren't they?" he murmured, his eyes on the two Lieutenants. Uhura rolled her eyes.

"They are, but we both know they weren't what you were staring at," she retorted with a knowing smirk. Bones shot her an alarmed look.

"I have no idea what you're talking about," he hissed, making her giggle.

"Oh, come on, Len, it's obvious to anyone with eyes. Which the other people in this room don't seem to have any of, as I'm the only one who's noticed," she added, huffing slightly, clearly under the impression that she was serving with a bunch of morons. There was no malice in her voice, though; she loved the bunch of morons she served with, and they all knew it.

"I still don't know what you're implying," he replied, feigning oblivious. It wasn't working.

"You're in love with Kirk, that's what I'm implying," she told him matter-of-factly. Bones' eyes widened, and he glanced over at the table, sighing in relief when he saw them all engrossed in the game.

"Keep your voice down, woman!" he whispered urgently, making her laugh softly.

"Oh, relax. Like I said, no one else noticed you swooning over him," she assured him. He shot her a glare.

"I do not swoon," he insisted in irritation. She rolled her eyes.

"Sure you don't. Either way, I'm the only one who saw. You should tell him," she said, and he raised an eyebrow.

"And ruin our friendship? Not a chance," he declared firmly. She sighed, shaking her head.

"Maybe it won't. Maybe he'll feel the same," she suggested, and he scoffed. The incredible James T Kirk fall for him? A divorced, grouchy, old man? If that wasn't the stupidest thing he'd ever heard.

"Yeah, never gonna happen, sweetheart. I'm happy being his friend," he told her. She snorted.

"No you're not," she informed him knowingly. He glared at her; why did all the people on this damn tin can have to be so irritatingly smart?

"Bones, c'mon, we're starting a new hand!" Jim called, interrupting their conversation before Bones can reply. Bones sighed, ignoring the smug grin on Uhura's face, and headed towards the table, sliding into the seat between Jim and Scotty. He glanced over the table at Chekov and Sulu, who were seemingly fused at the lips and unaware of anything other than each other. He ignored the pang in his hear, the little voice screaming 'I want that!', and turned to Jim with a wry smile.

"I take it they're not playing?"

.-.


I could tell you his favorite colour's green

.-.

When Bones walked into the mess hall the evening before Christmas Eve, he froze, blinking. It looked like someone had puked Santa Claus all over the room; he could barely see anything from the blinding mass of red and green. "Whoa," he declared, eyeing the brightly decorated tree, and the tinsel strung up from every available surface. He spotted Jim in the midst of it all, a Santa hat perched jauntily on his head, and a wide grin on his face. He looked like a little kid, and it made Bones snicker. So this was what his Captain had called him to take a look at.

"What, is it too much?" Jim asked, biting his lip earnestly, and Bones raised an eyebrow.

"Jim, it looks like Santa's workshop exploded in here," he told him dryly. Jim frowned, his expression faltering.

"That bad?" he asked with a sigh, perching on the edge of a table.

"Just a little. What's with all this, anyway?" Bones asked curiously, moving to sit on the bench beside Jim's knee. Jim gave him a small, half-hearted smile.

"I just wanted to try and give everyone a good Christmas, y'know? It sucks that we can't get shore leave, and I know everyone misses their families and wishes they could be home." That much was true; Bones hated spending Christmas without Joanna. "And I never really had a real Christmas before… so I just thought we could have some fun here, with the friends and family we do have around us. And it's not Christmas without decorations, so…" he trailed off with a shrug of his shoulders, and Bones stared at him. Jim could be so damn adorable and never even realise it sometimes. Unable to resist the urge, he reached up and pulled Jim into a tight – if slightly awkward – hug.

"You really are cute sometimes, kid," he muttered gruffly, practically feeling Jim's blush against his sweater. "C'mon, we can fix this. Can't be much worse than the time Jo decided to decorate her room." And that had been a nightmare; if there was one thing that reminded Bones she was Jocelyn's daughter, too, it was her lack of artistic skills. He hoped that the inability to colour-coordinate would fade with age… then again, Jocelyn's hadn't.

Jim beamed widely up at him, squeezing Bones back, muttering a quick "you're the best," before jumping off the bench. Bones rolled his eyes affectionately; he was whipped, and he knew it.

.-.

Having spent most of the day decorating with Jim, slowly spreading the festive cheer throughout the ship - to the delight and surprise of the crew, who were happy to help - Bones almost groaned when Jim suggested they have a little get together in his quarters, just the officers. He really just wanted to take a bottle of bourbon and go to bed thinking about how his little girl would be opening her presents on Christmas morning without him, but… Jim had that look on his face, the one Bones could never say no to.

This, of course, found the good doctor standing outside Jim's door, trying to put the code in with his hands full of alcohol and presents to put under Jim's tree. Eventually, he gave up, using a bottle of whisky to knock on the door. "It's me, Jim!" he called through the metal, and a moment later, the door slid back to reveal Jim's beaming smile.

"Bones! Hey, come on in," he urged, stepping back to allow Bones entry. The older man headed straight for the couch, dumping his armload on it, and Jim grinned, reaching out towards the presents. Bones slapped his hand away with a pointed look, moving to place them under the tree.

"Not yet, infant," he griped. Jim opened his mouth to reply when there was another knock on the door, and he bound over to answer it. Bones sighed to himself, eyes on Jim's ass in those tight jeans. It was going to be a long night.

.-.

A few hours later, the 'party' was in full swing, with all of them – except Spock, of course – having consumed copious amounts of alcohol. Bones had to admit, he was having a good time, despite the fact he was missing Joanna. Jim probably helped a lot, distracting him with something or other before he could get too deep in thought. That, and the mistletoe.

That damn mistletoe.

He hadn't realised Jim had put it up until the blonde started to cackle madly about half an hour into the evening, pointing at the ceiling. His first thought was, as usual, that Jim had finally lost it, until he spotted the sprig of green leaves and white berries hanging innocently from the ceiling, right over Spock and Uhura's heads. Spock, with a confused look, just stood there as Uhura rolled her eyes and pecked him on the lips. He later heard her explaining the tradition of mistletoe to her Vulcan boyfriend, but he didn't care much, too busy scanning the ceiling for any more of the damned things.

The next people to be caught under the mistletoe were Scotty and Chekov, who looked with wide-eyed apologies to his boyfriend as a tipsy Scotty planted a wet one on his lips, before staggering off to grab another glass of scotch. Sulu just laughed, watching the Russian wipe at his lips before kissing him, assuring that he only wanted one person on his lips. Had he mentioned that they were sickeningly adorable?

Bones thought he'd done a good job of avoiding the plant… until it moved. He didn't even want to know how, but somehow he found himself under the mistletoe with Spock of all people. The Vulcan stared blankly up at the plant, before looking back to Bones, nonchalantly leaning forward to press their lips together. When he pulled back after a moment, Bones stared at him incredulously. He shrugged. "It would be rude of me to disregard Terran tradition," he stated, before calmly walking over to his giggling girlfriend. Bones tried to ignore Jim's laughing, he really did.

His second time under the mistletoe, though, was far more fortunate. He didn't even realise he was under it until his companion tapped him on the shoulder, pointing upwards. Bones gulped. Jim grinned cockily at him, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively. "Come on then, Bones, lay one on me. You know you want to," he teased with a wink, unaware of just how true that sentence was. Bones blinked, remembering the feather-light kiss at their countdown. But this wouldn't just be a touch of the lips; no, Jim went all out under the mistletoe. Not two hours ago, he had practically molested poor Sulu, earning a glare from the man's irate young lover.

Bones rolled his eyes, faking his reluctance like a pro. "You wish," he muttered, and Jim smirked at him before moving closer, and all Bones could think was "OhGodyespleasemore" as Jim's lips were against his, and the man's arms were around his waist. He felt a tongue probing at his lips and automatically parted them, his brain hazy as he took in the taste of Jim and whisky. Their thighs pressed together, and he could feel Jim hardening against him, sending tingles across his skin; nothing he'd not felt before over the years, this was Jim Kirk, but somehow it felt like so much more because Jim was kissing him and God the man had a talented tongue!

All too soon in Bones' opinion – though really, he's not sure how much time passed; it could have been seconds or hours for all he knew – they broke apart, both flushed and panting slightly, and Bones caught the exhilarated look in Jim's darkened blue eyes before his senses returned, and he blushed deeply at the applause and wolf-whistles of his friends. Jim grinned widely at him, his lips red and swollen. A spike of lust shot through Bones as he realised that he did that. "Damn, Bones, why didn't you tell me you could kiss like that?" Jim remarked, making Bones blush deeper. Sure, it was a mistletoe-kiss, and it didn't mean anything, but still… he'd just made out with Jim Kirk, and Jim liked it.

"Oh, shut it, kid," he muttered embarrassedly, wishing his cheeks would stop flushing, and cursing that blasted plant. Jim just smirked, his green Christmas-themed sweater making the mischief in his eyes stand out even more as he passed Bones a glass of eggnog.

"Knew there was a reason I loved this holiday."

.-.


He loves to argue

.-.

Jim and Bones didn't fight often, but when they did, it was big.

"Dammit, Jim, how the hell am I supposed to help you when you won't fucking talk to me?" Bones yelled angrily, pacing in front of the couch in Jim's rooms. Jim glared at him from the other end of the room, his arms folded defensively over his chest.

"I don't need help, Bones! I've managed all these years without you trying to be my fucking shrink, I think I can handle a few more! I'm over it, and I'm fine!" Jim shouted back. Bones scoffed harshly.

"Oh, yeah, because those nightmares last night were just the picture of fine," he spat. "It's understandable for you to not be fine over it, most people aren't fine! All I'm saying is that you should talk to someone about it!"

"I did talk to someone! I talked to the Starfleet psychologist about it when it first happened! I talked to Chris, I talked to Sam. I don't need to talk to you! Can't you get the fact that I'm over it? Just because you think I should be some fucked up, emotional wreck over 'what the bad men did to me' doesn't mean I am! I've had ten years to process what happened, Bones! Yeah, I get nightmares occasionally; I'd like you to show me someone who wouldn't after something like that. But I'm FINE!" Jim screamed. Bones shot him a pointed look.

"If you're fine, why are you getting so fucking defensive?" he asked lowly, and Jim took a step forward.

"Maybe because you won't leave it alone and I DON'T WANT YOU IN MY FUCKING BUSINESS, SO STOP FORCING YOURSELF INTO MY FUCKING LIFE!" Bones visibly flinched, and Jim froze, his eyes wide in horror. He opened his mouth, but Bones shook his head.

"Yeah, well sorry for being one of the few people in your life who actually cares," he retorted, his voice quiet, the hurt evident in his tone. Turning on his heel, he headed towards the door, his eyes stinging as he held back tears. He would not cry because of Jim fucking Kirk.

"Bones, I-" Jim called, but Bones ignored him, walking out of the room and into the empty hallway. Thankfully he didn't run into anyone on his way back to his own rooms, making it into his quarters without bursting into tears. Once the door closed behind him, however, was a different story.

He sunk onto the bed, his head in his hands, hot tears dripping onto the his jeans. How could he say something like that? Bones had only been trying to help; he'd woken Jim up from a nightmare about Tarsus and Frank, from the sounds of Jim's screams. He hadn't gotten the chance to talk to him about it until now. And that was how Jim repaid him…

After all these years of friendship, why did he have to push it now? He'd never pushed Jim to talk about his nightmares before, even when he had only had half an idea of what they were about. He should have just left it alone, like usual.

He didn't know how much time had passed, but some time later, his door opened. He looked up hopefully, expecting Jim, and drooped when he saw Uhura. "Oh," he murmured, disappointed. She rolled her eyes.

"I'll try not to take offence to that," she muttered teasingly, before her expression grew serious and she sat down beside him, wrapping an arm around his shoulders. "What happened, Len? Kirk's on observation deck 4 ranting to himself about a 'nosy bastard who cares too goddamn much', so I figured you two had a fight," she told him. Bones winced; observation deck 4 was where Jim went when he was really pissed and wanted to be left alone. He couldn't say anything, just shaking his head mutely, letting out another sob. God, he'd really fucked up this time. "Oh, Len," Uhura murmured, pulling him into a tight hug. He rested his head on her shoulder, crying into her t-shirt. Damn, he was pathetic. He didn't even cry over his divorce. And here was James T Kirk, making him bawl like a baby over a fucking argument. But this was his breaking point, the last in a series of arguments, and damn it, if he held it in much longer he'd scream.

Uhura rubbed circles on his back, kissing the top of his head. "It'll be okay, Len. I know you two, you can never stay mad at each other for long. Knowing Kirk, he's the one who has to apologise, anyway. I promise you, you'll have made up by the end of the week," she assured him softly. He shot her a look.

"You can't promise something like that," he told her, his voice hoarse from crying. She half-smiled at him.

"Yeah, I can, because if I know one thing, it's that you and him can get through anything. It'll resolve itself, just you wait," she insisted. He sighed, letting his forehead drop back to her shoulder, too drained to argue.

When she left an hour later, it took just about all the energy he had to strip down to his boxers and crawl into bed. He tossed and turned, his bed feeling far too empty despite the fact that Jim only slept in it with him maybe once a week, if that. "Computer, time," he asked croakily for what must have been the fifteenth time.

"0253 hours," the computer's emotionless voice replied, and he groaned loudly, rolling over. It had only been ten minutes since his last check. Letting out a loud sigh, he closed his eyes, willing himself to get to sleep. Tomorrow he would go down to sickbay and get on with his job as normal. He wouldn't give Jim the satisfaction of knowing that he'd been kept up all night. Going around with bags the size of Texas under his eyes wouldn't help that.

He thought he heard the soft swish of his door opening, but ignored it, figuring his brain was just playing tricks on him. When his duvet was pulled back and a body slid in behind him, however, he knew it wasn't just his brain. "I'm sorry, Bones, so sorry, I didn't mean it, I take it all back, I'm sorry, I miss you, please don't hate me," Jim whispered frantically, wrapping his arms around Bones' middle and pressing his nose to the back of the man's neck. Bones could feel Jim's tears splashing against his skin, and turned around until they were facing each other, their noses barely touching. "I'm so sorry, Bones," Jim continued, his eyes red and puffy, his voice distraught. "I want you in my life, I'm a mess without you, I didn't mean it, I was just angry. Please, please, forgive me, I swear I'll talk to you about the nightmares, don't leave me, I'll do anything." The last word broke Bones' heart; how could he stay upset with Jim? The kid had all sorts of self-esteem and abandonment issues coming out of his ears, and this wasn't helping. Besides, he knew exactly how easily hurtful things were said in the heat of the argument.

"It's okay, Jim, it's okay, I know you didn't mean it, God, I'm not going anywhere, you idiot!" he breathed, chuckling tearfully, pressing their foreheads together. Jim visibly relaxed, tightening his hold on Bones.

"I'm sorry," he murmured, but Bones shook him off with a shake of his head.

"I know, Jim, I know. Now c'mere and go to sleep," he urged with a fond smile. He couldn't stay mad at Jim; he loved him too much. Jim beamed, tears still escaping from his eyes, and he squirmed a little, allowing both of them to get comfortable, Jim curled up against Bones' side, his head on the older man's chest, listening to his heartbeat. No, it wasn't a normal platonic friend embrace, but they'd never been normal platonic friends. They were Jim and Bones, and it was okay to them, so they did it.

Bones pressed a long kiss to Jim's messy blonde hair, closing his eyes, feeling a sense of peace wash over him. Everything was okay again.

And if he gave Uhura an extra large hug at breakfast the next morning, well, she deserved it.

.-.


Born on the seventeenth

.-.

Jim's first birthday on the Enterprise almost went by without notice. Almost.

With no Kelvin memorial to go to, and the majority of people on the ship having experienced or been told about Jim's reluctance to acknowledge anything about the day, nothing had been said to the Captain. As far as Bones noticed, Jim didn't even know what day it was. That was, at least, until he went over to Jim's quarters after shift to find his friend on the vid-comm to Pike, who looked grim. "I'm sorry, Jim," Pike was saying, "but they're insisting on the Enterprise. Seems they want Commander Spock to do a few things planetside for a while. They've told me to cut short your mission and request that you set course for Earth ASAP." Bones' eyebrows rose, but he stayed silent. Why were they going back to Earth?

Jim glanced over at him, then smiled. "It's just Bones, Chris," he told Pike, beckoning Bones to come sit next to him. Offering a salute to the Admiral, he looked curiously to Jim.

"Why are we headed back to Earth?" he queried, and Jim sighed.

"New Vulcan have requested the Enterprise for some aid with… something. Apparently they'll only accept us because of Spock, and us being the ones to deal with the whole Nero thing," he explained. Bones frowned.

"Why can't those pointy-eared hobgoblins use someone else and wait until Spock gets closer? We've still got another six months before we're due back at Starfleet." The ship was required to be checked over every eighteen months before being sent back out, to make sure systems were in order. It was pretty pointless, as Scotty would never let anything get out of order, but none of them argued, as it gave them three weeks with their families.

"I don't know, but apparently it's urgent. Listen, Jim, I hate to spring this on you today of all days, but-"

"What do you mean, today of all days? What's today?" Jim asked, confused. Bones gave Pike a look of alarm, who frowned.

"It's your birthday, Jim, didn't you check the calendar?" Pike replied. Jim froze, his eyes going wide.

"It's… what? Seriously, already?" he breathed, and Pike gained a faint look of shock, clearly having realised what he'd said. "I'll talk to you later, Chris. And tell the Vulcans we'll be there soon." Without waiting for a reply, Jim turned off the screen, looking to Bones with wide eyes, his face pale. "Bones… why didn't you tell me it was today?" he asked, his voice barely a whisper. Bones looked at him apologetically, squeezing his knee.

"I didn't want you to get upset. I know you hate people reminding you about… what happened," he explained quietly. Jim was silent for a moment, staring glassy-eyed at the wall.

"Bones… I forgot. After everything that happened, I forgot about it. About him. Does that make me a bad son?" he asked softly, his voice almost childlike. Bones wrapped an arm around him, pulling him closer.

"No, Jim, it makes you human. It's easy to lose track of time in this tin can, just because you forgot the date doesn't mean you forgot about his sacrifice," he assured him. He couldn't help but think that Jim couldn't be a bad son, as between Winona and Frank, he was never given the chance to be a son. Maybe, Bones thought, just maybe, Jim would have a happy birthday. One day.

.-.


His sister's beautiful

.-.

As soon as they get back to Earth, Jim and Bones were met by Sam, Aurelan and the kids. Aurelan instantly wrapped both of them in a tight hug, kissing their cheeks. It was only the second time Bones had met Aurelan face-to-face, but after numerous vid-calls and all of Jim's stories about her, he felt like he'd known her for years. "Oh, it's so good to see you two!" she exclaimed happily as Jim moved to hug Sam. "How have you been, Leonard?" she asked with a small smile, and he grinned, shrugging.

"Y'know, same-old. Keeping this one here out of trouble," he added with a jerk of his thumb towards Jim, who put on an offended face, making Aurelan giggle.

"I'll bet. Come on, let's go put your stuff in the shuttle. Jim, shall I assume you've got some Captainly duties to fulfill before we leave?" she asked with a wry smile. Jim chuckled, letting Kyle, the eldest boy, back down to the ground from where he'd lifted him up.

"A little; just need to check in with Chris, really, the rest I can do through messages when we get back to your place. Bones, you need to take care of anything?" he asked, and Bones shook his head.

"Nah, I'm good," he replied. He'd already sorted out anything he needed to before leaving the ship. He didn't want anything interrupting his three-week leave, just wanting to relax after the whole thing with New Vulcan. They'd spent almost a month on that damn planet, and there was only so much emotionlessness he could take.

"I'll go check in with Chris, you get the stuff in the shuttle. Deal?" Jim asked, and Sam nodded, taking Lily, the youngest, out of his brother's arms.

"Deal. Call me when you're done, we'll come find you," Sam told him. Jim gave them all one last grin, before sprinting off in the direction of the offices. Bones looked down at both his and Jim's bags, then groaned. Sam just laughed, clapping him on the back.

"Welcome home, Len."

.-.

Now Bones remembered why he loved being at Sam and Aurelan's so much. Sat watching the kids play with Jim, a plate of homemade, non-replicated lasagne on his lap, it felt like… family. If Joanna had been there, it would have been perfect.

Aurelan smiled at him from the kitchen, a knowing look in her grey eyes. Bones didn't even blush, just smiled back ruefully. Sam and Aurelan had accepted him into the family the first time Jim had brought him back after their graduation, and he was always thankful for that. It was nice to be included in the little family Jim had left. One day, he vowed, he'd introduce Kyle, Marcus and Lily to Joanna; Lily and Jo were only a year apart in age, he was sure they'd get on like a house on fire. "Hey, Bones, hurry up! We need another player for even teams!" Jim urged as he was beaten at some spaceship-racing game. There was a reason Sulu was the pilot.

"Alright, alright, hold your horses," he muttered, wolfing down the last of his food. It was currently Jim and Marcus against Lily, Sam and Kyle, and Bones wasn't even sure what the aim of the game even was, just that Sam seemed to be doing a spectacular job at kicking his little brother's ass at it. Grabbing a controller, Bones entered his player into the game, then looked towards Jim, silently asking what he was supposed to be doing. Jim just shrugged, mouthing 'I have no idea,' at him before looking back at the screen. Bones sighed; typical.

It wasn't long before Lily decided she didn't want to play with the boys anymore, meaning Bones offered to drop out too and make the teams even. He still didn't understand what was going on, and figured it best to drop out now before Jim had any more reason to tease him. Heading into the kitchen, Bones raised an eyebrow as he saw the delicious-looking cake Aurelan was finishing icing. He let out a low, impressed whistle, making her look up. "Damn, woman, why is it we can't hire you on the Enterprise, again?" he murmured, making her giggle.

"Oh, hush, you. And hands off," she added, tapping the back of his hand with a spoon as he reached out to swipe some icing from the bowl.

"Feisty. You sure I can't persuade you to leave Sam and run away with me?" he asked jokingly, winking at her. She laughed, rolling her eyes.

"Sorry, Len, but we both know I'm not the Kirk you want to run away with," she told him. Damn, was he that obvious?

"I swear, everyone and their mother knows, except the damn man himself," he muttered dryly, and she snorted.

"Yeah, that's our Jimmy. Why don't you just come out and say it to him?" she asked innocently. He gave her a look.

"And scare him to hell and back? The man has commitment issues from here to the end of the universe!" he reasoned. Aurelan merely gave him a knowing smile.

"Maybe, but he already knows you're not gonna leave him, maybe he'd be different with you," she pointed out. Bones just raised an eyebrow; if people didn't stop telling him to 'give it a chance', he was gonna scream.

"No thanks, Aurelan. I'll live," he replied, shrugging one shoulder. Aurelan gave him a warm smile, making her look far younger than her thirty years. Sam really was a lucky bastard; his wife was gorgeous, could cook, and loved him to death. It was a good thing the man was equally smitten with her.

"If you say so. Don't write him off straight away, though; Jim's full of surprises." Bones snorted; that was the understatement of the century.

.-.


He has his father's eyes

.-.

Bones rolled his eyes as he got a message to come to Jim's quarters; clearly, the man was bored. It was a regular occurrence, Jim calling Bones over to amuse him for a while when neither of them had anything in particular to do. Bones swore that Jim sometimes had the attention span of a two year-old, and even that was generous. Still, he didn't mind. He never did, when things came to Jim. He couldn't help but wonder how Jim had remained oblivious for so long. He seemed like the only one in the goddamned world who had.

Knocking on Jim's door, he waited a moment for it to open, and stepped inside. His eyes immediately landed on Jim, who was sat cross-legged in front of the vid screen, which was playing a vid Bones didn't recognize. His eyebrow rose as he saw the Academy campus come into view, the familiar courtyard full of cadets in their Dress uniforms, all lined up in rows. Graduation.

Jim's head turned as he entered, and he smiled, pressing a finger to his lips as he beckoned Bones closer with the other hand. As Bones moved towards his friend, his eyes widened when he saw that Jim's eyes were glassy, as if he were holding back tears. Sitting down beside Jim, Bones looked up at the vid screen, letting out a soft gasp as a name was called. "Cadet Kirk, George T." A man moved forward from the line, and Bones would have easily sworn it was Jim. The two were almost the spitting image of each other, but for Jim's shorter hair and slight dimples in his cheeks.

"Jim, I…" he trailed off, unsure of what to say. Jim curled into Bones' side, the Southern man automatically wrapping an arm around his friend's shoulders as they watched George Kirk receive his diploma, graduating with honours and a place aboard the USS Kelvin. When another name was called, Bones turned back to Jim, eyeing his friend cautiously. The expression on the blonde's face was heartbreaking.

The vid flickered and changed, this time to show a room full of people, all dressed up to the nines, sat in rows and facing towards a platform at the front, where George Kirk was waiting nervously, tapping his fingers against his leg as Jim was prone to do when anxious. Suddenly, music started up, and the camera swiveled round just as the doors opened. Bones's breath hitched as he saw the woman entering the room to music, an older man with graying hair on her arm, two women walking behind her, holding up the train of her beautiful white dress. Her wedding dress. This was Jim's parents' wedding.

Winona reached the altar, and George stared at her, gaping slightly. The music died as the officiator began to speak, and Bones tuned out the words, instead focusing on his friend's face. Jim was captivated, a wistful expression on his face that made Bones' heart clench. "Dad…Mom…" Jim breathed, his voice choked, blinking furiously in an effort to hold back the tears.

"She's beautiful. They both are," Bones murmured quietly, holding Jim that little bit tighter. It was true; George and Winona made a beautiful couple, and were so obviously in love, their eyes fixed on each other's through out the ceremony. The vid cut again shortly after 'you may kiss the bride', skipping forward to the first dance as husband and wife. The camera stayed fixed on George and Winona, wrapped up in each other's arms as they swayed to the soft music, her head on his shoulder. Jim finally broke his trance, staring up at Bones with wide eyes. George's eyes.

"Chris sent them to me. He found them on a memory chip in his attic. God, Bones… they were so happy together. I can't help but wonder what it would have been like if he'd lived, y'know?" he mused quietly. Bones kissed the top of Jim's head, holding him tightly as the couple on the vid screen danced, blissfully unaware that in five years, everything would change.

"He'd be proud of you, that's for sure," Bones assured Jim quietly. The younger man looked at him, a childish hope in his eyes that Bones almost couldn't bear to see.

"You really think so?" he asked, and Bones nodded. He hated Frank, he hated Tarsus IV, and he hated all those teachers over the years who'd slowly chipped away at Jim's self esteem, convincing him that his father would be ashamed of him if he were alive.

"Yeah, I think so. George Kirk would be damn proud of you, kid. I know I am."

.-.


And if you ask me if I love him, I'd lie

.-.

"Daddy, how come Jim isn't with you?" Joanna asked curiously, tugging on his hand as they walked towards the Academy. Jocelyn and Drew had gone off-planet for their honeymoon and Freya was spending the week with her family, meaning he could finally have some time with his baby girl.

"Jim's got work to do today, darlin'," he told her apologetically. "But he's coming over for dinner tonight when he's finished." Jim was locked up in political meetings with federation ambassadors all day; they all wanted to meet 'The Captain James T Kirk', and Starfleet had decided that Jim had to take one for the team and kiss some ass for a while.

"Oh. That's okay, I guess. Will he hang out with us tomorrow?" she queried hopefully, making him smile. Yup, looked like all McCoys were prone to the Kirk charm.

"Yeah, he's spending the whole day with us tomorrow, baby. Y'know, I'm sure there's something we had planned, something special, but I just can't remember what it is!" he said in a mock-disappointed tone, shaking his head. He watched as his little girl's eyes lit up, a beaming grin taking over her features as she gripped his hand.

"The amusement park?" she asked in a gasp, making him smile inwardly. She'd been begging him to take her to the amusement park in San Francisco for weeks, ever since she'd heard she was coming to stay with him.

"Hmm, y'know what, I think that's it!" he told her, smiling as her jaw dropped and she let out a cheer, hugging him around the thighs.

"You're the best, daddy!" she declared, taking his hand once more and skipping along happily beside him. Suddenly, she paused, looking up at him. "Daddy?" she chirped, drawing out the word in her adorable Southern twang.

"Yeah, Jo-bear?"

"When are you and Jim gonna get married like mom and Drew?" she asked innocently, genuinely curious. Bones froze in his tracks, feeling his cheeks heat up.

"Jim and I aren't gonna get married, baby, we're just friends," he told her, ignoring the little voice in his head screaming 'yeah, and who's fault is that, coward?'

"Oh. But I thought…" she trailed off, a small frown crossing her lips. "Never mind. I just always thought you and Jim were boyfriends, the way mommy first brought Drew home as a 'special friend'. You sure you're not gonna get married?" she checked, sounding rather disappointed about the prospect. He forced a chuckle, ignoring the way his heart clenched at the thought of marrying Jim.

"No, we aren't like that, darlin'. Jim and I are best friends, but not that kind of friends," he insisted, wondering why it felt like he was being punched in the gut to say those words. Joanna's frown deepened, and she shrugged.

"Okay. It's a shame; Jim would make a better step-daddy than Drew, Drew never plays with me or watches Disney princess movies with me!" she complained. Bones laughed, the sound slightly weak, hoisting his little girl into his arms.

"Well we'll just have to make sure Jim sticks around, won't we?" he teased, tickling her sides and delighting in her squeals of laughter.

.-.

When Jim turned up at Bones' apartment after his meetings, he pushed aside the exhaustion Bones could see clearly, allowing himself to be accosted and manhandled by the nine year-old girl. It wasn't until Joanna had gone to bed that the blonde could collapse on the couch, shifting just enough to lay his head on Bones' thigh as the other man sat down beside him. "I hate politics," he muttered, making the doctor laugh, one hand in Jim's hair.

"Shouldn't have become a captain, then," he retorted dryly, toeing off his boots. "Y'know, Jo asked me something strange today," he said conversationally. Jim's head tilted back slightly, curious blue eyes meeting his.

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. She asked when me and you would be getting married like her mom and Drew. Apparently she thought we were 'special friends'," he told his friend, carefully keeping his tone neutral. Far from being freaked out or calling it ridiculous, like he expected, Jim merely chuckled.

"Well, I could do worse for myself," he joked with a wink, making Bones blush.

"Jo says you make a better step-dad than Drew, so I guess I'll have to keep you," he teased. Jim's eyebrows rose slightly in surprise, seeming genuinely touched by the comment, before he grinned at him, wiggling his eyebrow playfully.

"Till death do us part, Bonesy."

.-.


He stands there then walks away


My God, if I could only say


I'm holding every breath for you

.-.

Bones found Jim, as he knew he would, in his quarters, standing facing away from the door, leaning with one hand against the dresser. His head was bowed, and Bones' breath caught in his throat at the man's determined stance, like a man walking to the gallows. He leant against the doorframe, not needing to announce his presence. Jim knew he was there; Jim always knew.

"You're a goddamned idiot if you think this is gonna be as easy as they say it will." Jim's back straightened, his shoulders tense, and Bones crossed the room in three long strides, placing his hands on the blonde's shoulders and squeezing gently. "This is a suicide mission and we all know it, Jim, why the hell are you going?" He felt Jim lean back into him slightly, his chest almost touching the younger man's back.

"It's my job, Bones. What kind of captain would I be if I sent some poor asshole down to that planet to die in my place?" he pointed out, and Bones snorted.

"A smart one. You're the captain of this damn tin can, Jim; if anyone needs to stay alive, it's you. Call this thing off, Jim, please." His voice cracked slightly on the last word, and Jim turned, meeting his gaze.

"I can't, Bones, you know I can't. It's my duty. Besides, you know me; I don't believe in no-win scenarios. I'll pull something out of my ass, don't worry," he assured with an arrogant smirk, making Bones shake his head in exasperation.

"Cocky bastard," he muttered fondly, pulling him into a tight hug. "You dare come back in more pieces than I can put back together, and I swear I'll give you every damn STD known to the federation," he growled, his voice huskier than normal. Jim's arms wrapped around his waist, the blonde's chin tucking into the crook of his neck.

"I promise, Bones; once I'm back on this ship, you can hypo me with whatever the hell you want," he vowed, and Bones felt Jim's lips curl into a slight smile against his skin.

"You're gonna regret that promise, kid," he told him with the barest of grins. Jim laughed, pulling back to look into Bones' eyes. Heart in his throat, Bones willed himself to say the three words he'd kept at bay for years; if there was a time to tell Jim, it was now, when there was a good chance he'd never see the damn kid alive again. But they wouldn't come, his mouth opening and no sound coming out. To say it now was to admit Jim wouldn't be coming back, and that wasn't something he was prepared to do.

The two of them stood, staring silently at each other, the air so thick with something he could hardly breathe. He opened his mouth once more, determined to bite the bullet and just tell him for God's sake but was cut off by a cool female voice. "Captain Kirk, report to the transporter room for beam-down." His heart jumped at the words, everything suddenly becoming a thousand times more real.

"Jim, I…" he trailed off helplessly; God, he was pathetic. But he couldn't bring himself to put himself out there, not with Jim beaming down to a potentially fatal situation. When he beams up, I'll tell him, he thought resolutely. Because he had to keep the thought that Jim would be beaming back up, or the world would get a whole lot darker and he couldn't handle that right now. "Don't do anything stupid, you hear me?" Jim chuckled weakly, stepping closer and allowing Bones to press a long kiss to his forehead, inhaling the scent of Jim's hair incase he never got the chance to do so again. He wished he were brave enough to kiss him, he really did, but he didn't want Jim beaming down while freaking out about why the hell his best friend kissed him.

"I'll come back to you, I promise. Who else would protect the rest of this crew from your grouchy ass?" the blonde teased with a grin, making Bones choke out a laugh.

"Infant," he muttered without malice, holding Jim close for a long moment before letting the man go. "You'd better head down before they beam down without you." Jim nodded, but it was several seconds before he moved away from Bones, giving the taller man a smile.

"Later, Bones," he said with false cheer, turning and walking out of the room, leaving Bones alone in Jim's quarters. When the door slid shut with a slight 'whoosh', Bones let his shoulders slump, pressing his palm to his eyes until they ached and he saw spots. He felt like the air in his lungs had left along with Jim, and his stomach flared with nausea.

"Damnit, I don't have time for this," he muttered, squaring his shoulders and leaving the room, intending to prepare sickbay for whatever chaos was about to occur. No one spoke to him unless they had to, recognizing the tension in his stance. He stood by what he liked to think of as 'Jim's biobed', near-silent, listening to the communication transmissions from the bridge through his earpiece. His heart nearly stopped when Spock's urgent voice came through, barely heard over the background static.

"Spock to Enterprise; three to beam up, medical on standby." Three? Four had beamed down… fear clenched in his gut at the terrifying thought that Jim was the fourth crewmember, the one who would not be beaming up with them. Why else would Spock be making the request?

"Medical ready to receive, commander, is any assistance required in the transport room?" he replied quickly through his comm., not having to wait much longer for Spock's answer.

"Negative, Doctor, I can carry him." He didn't have to wait long; within minutes the Vulcan was sprinting towards sickbay, a bloodied and battered figure cradled in his arms. A bloodied and battered figure wearing a gold shirt. Jim.

"Damnit, Jim!" he growled to himself, heart hammering in relief because Jim was alive, damn it! Spock wasted no time in getting Jim onto the biobed, and Bones cursed loudly as several of its monitors instantly went haywire. Still, he couldn't quell the happy thrill that went through him, because as much as he knew he should be upset that someone had died on the away mission, he was too relieved that that someone wasn't Jim, and looking at the readings, he knew he could fix him. Jim would be okay. He could breathe.

.-.


He'd never tell you but he can play guitar

.-.

Bones was surprised when Jim turned up at his door on a Friday evening dressed in jeans and a button-down blue shirt with the sleeves rolled to his elbows and the top two buttons undone. "Get your jacket," he urged, smiling warmly, and Bones raised an eyebrow.

"Where are we going now?" he grumbled good-naturedly, but did as asked, unhooking his jacket from the hook beside the door.

"Dinner with Chris." Bones' eyes widened as he was manhandled from his apartment, and he looked at Jim incredulously.

"Damn it, Jim, you can't give a guy a warning once in a while?" he exclaimed, merely earning that devilish grin that still sent him a little weak at the knees. "What's the occasion?"

"No occasion, just Chris wanting to catch up. Come on, or he'll whine at me for being late," Jim added, easily slipping his hand into Bones' to drag him faster. Despite the fact that Jim did it all the time, it never failed to make his heart rate pick up just that little bit. Rolling his eyes good-naturedly, he allowed himself to be pulled towards the admiral's house just off campus. Oh, the things he did for Jim.

.-.

Dinner with Chris Pike was surprisingly comfortable; after all the shit they had been through together, it blurred the lines between ranks. Especially as they were no longer cadets. Of course, having Jim around probably helped; he'd never been particularly mindful of Chris' rank. Leaning lightly against his cane, Chris showed them through to the living room, and Bones was surprised to see an acoustic guitar on a stand in the corner. "You play?" he queried towards the captain-turned-admiral, who shrugged.

"I used to. Not so much anymore, though. I keep it out for decoration, and so this moron has something to fidget with when he comes over," he added with a jerk of his head towards Jim, who looked sheepish. Bones' eyebrows shot up as he eyed his best friend; Jim played guitar?

"Since when did you play guitar?" he asked incredulously, making Jim blush faintly.

"I learnt when I was a kid, I'm not amazing at it, but I know a few chords," he muttered, not meeting Bones' eyes. His eyebrows shot up even further at that; Jim rarely downplayed his abilities. Pike snorted, rolling his eyes at the blonde, his feet propped up on the coffee table; he was walking, but he was still stiff, and had to rely a lot on his cane. However, Bones was confident that in a few more months, he'd be able to get back into some of the lighter exercise he used to do. However, he'd never pass a Starfleet medical, so he was given a promotion to get him off active duty.

"You know more than a few chords, Jim," he pointed out frankly. "Go on, play something for us," he urged. Jim blushed, but got up and eased the guitar from its stand, sitting on a stool with one knee raised, leaning the guitar against it. Bones had to fight not to let his jaw drop as Jim's skilled fingers danced effortlessly over the frets of the guitar, the tune clear and perfect as Jim played.

"Damn, kid, you're just full of surprises," he murmured when Jim finished, bringing a faint blush to the younger man's cheeks.

"I'm not that great, Bones," he insisted. Before Bones could reply, there was the sound of the front door opening, before a familiar voice called out.

"Chri-is! Remind me again why I can't strangle the cadets?" Admiral John Archer whined, a pout on his lips as he appeared around the doorway.

"Because they're the future of Starfleet," Chris droned in reply, giving Bones the impression that it wasn't the first time they'd had that argument.

"Then Starfleet is doomed," Archer declared vehemently, sitting on the arm of Chris' chair. "Evening, Jimmy, Dr McCoy. Chris, you didn't tell me you were having company tonight," he added, shooting a look at the man in question. Bones watched bemusedly as Chris rolled his eyes at the other man, raising an eyebrow.

"You told me you had papers to grade, I didn't think you'd be over. Besides, it's just Jim and Leonard," he retorted with a shrug. "Jim was just giving us a little music," he added, smirking at the blonde, who had tried to surreptitiously put the guitar back. Archer grinned, clapping his hands together.

"Great! Are you taking requests?" he teased, a mischievous glint in his eyes. Jim shot him an annoyed look, getting to his feet.

"You know what, it's getting late. I think Bones and I should be going," he said, crossing to tug on Bones' sleeve.

"It's ten past nine, Jim," Bones noted with a raised eyebrow, making the blonde duck his head slightly.

"Just work with me, Bones," Jim hissed into his ear, practically picking him up from his seat.

"Aww, but Jimmy, I just got here!" Archer drawled playfully, earning a suggestively raised eyebrow from Jim.

"Which is exactly why I think we'd better leave," he retorted. "I'll see you tomorrow, Chris."

"Goodnight, Jim. Leonard, it was good to see you. Get Jim to drag you along again sometime," Chris replied with a smile, reaching out to shake both of their hands. Leonard nodded, smiling back at the man.

"Yes, sir," he replied, nodding towards Archer before Jim dragged him out of the house. "What was that about?" he queried as the two of them began to walk back to campus. Jim shrugged, and Bones made out the faint blush on his cheeks in the darkness.

"I don't like playing guitar in front of people. I'm just… a little shy about it, I guess," he muttered evasively. Bones got the feeling that there was more to it, but left it alone.

"You shouldn't be, you're good," he complimented, earning a tentative smile. "So are the rumours true? About Chris and Archer?" he asked in interest, a grin tugging at his lips. There had been gossip for years about the true nature between Chris Pike and John Archer, and yet nothing had ever been confirmed or denied. Jim's lips twisted into a smirk, his eyes sparkling with amusement in the moonlight. Bones was hit – not for the first time – with the thought that Jim truly was beautiful. God, he was such a sap.

"Oh, yeah. Those two have been screwing since Chris' Academy days," he confirmed, making Bones' eyes widen.

"Seriously? That long, and it's still only got rumour status? Why haven't they made it official?" he asked in surprise. Chris hadn't been a cadet in at least thirty years; surely they would have gotten married in that time, or at least confirmed the rumours? Jim shrugged, his stride naturally matching with Bones' as they walked.

"Chris says it's because they've always been separated for months on end because of their duties off-planet, there was no point in putting down roots. John says it's because Chris is a spineless bastard who's afraid of admitting he's in love, and thinks for some stupid reason that confirming their relationship would ruin John's career, as their thing started back when he was Chris' instructor," he told him, making Bones snort.

"Wouldn't be the first instructor to take up with a cadet; just look at Spock and Uhura. No one's condemned them for it, it's obvious she got where she is on pure talent." Jim hummed in agreement nodding his head.

"Exactly. And it's been thirty-two years, no one's gonna care now. But I think John's gonna pop the question soon; he keeps saying that now Chris matches his rank, there's nothing stopping them." Jim looked extremely happy at the prospect of Pike and Archer getting married, and Bones' memory flashed back to wide green eyes and a childish voice asking when he and Jim would be getting married. He wouldn't become like Chris, keeping his real feelings quiet for thirty years. He would tell Jim before it got that far.

.-.


I think he can see through everything but my heart

.-.

It always managed to astound Bones how someone so amazingly intelligent could be so goddamn oblivious to something that had been staring him in the face for several years. It seemed that by now, everyone and their damn mother knew how head-over-heels in love Dr Leonard McCoy was for a certain Captain James T Kirk, except for the man himself. It almost made Bones want to scream sometimes; if Jim could just get his head out of his ass and realise how Bones felt about him, he might – God forbid – actually have a chance with the man, because fuck knew Bones wasn't planning on telling him. He wasn't that brave.

Several people – namely, Uhura – had outright asked him how he could stand it, being so close and yet so far from Jim. He only had one reply for them; being his best friend was better than nothing. The beautiful woman couldn't understand how he could stay silent when Jim was right there in his grasp, or so she claimed. She insisted that Jim returned his feelings, and was just waiting for Bones to make the first move. He just rolled his eyes at that; Jim never let anyone make the first move in anything; if he wanted something, he went and got it.

Leaning against the railing, he watched as Jim made negotiations with the captain of a hostile ship they'd run into, who claimed to have several human hostages. Jim made a discreet gesture with his fingers, and Uhura nodded, cutting the feed. "He's bullshitting, prepare to fire," he declared with a firm nod of his head.

"Captain, you cannot confirm that," Spock began, but Jim cut him off sharply.

"I'm telling you, Spock, there are no hostages on his ship. It was all in his eyes; he's bullshitting. Sulu, arm the photons and prepare to fire," he repeated, giving the Asian man a pointed look. Sulu bit his lip, but nodded, fingers tapping at his console.

"Captain," Spock protested, falling silent at a glare from Jim.

"Trust me on this, Spock. Hell, do a scan of his ship for humans, you won't find anything," he offered flippantly. Spock did so, and Bones let the smirk creep onto his face as the Vulcan's disapproving frown deepened.

"…You are correct, Captain. The scan was negative for human life signs," he admitted reluctantly. Jim nodded, and Bones was mildly impressed that nothing about Jim seemed to be gloating.

"Exactly. Mr Sulu, fire at will!" Without further prompting, Sulu fired at the ship, until it was nothing more than a ball of flaming metal in space. "Good work. Mr Spock, you have the comms. Bones, walk with me," he urged, beckoning the other man to the turbolift.

"How the hell did you guess that one?" he asked as soon as the lift door slid shut. Jim smirked slightly, running a hand through his hair.

"It's easy to see when someone's bluffing, especially him. He was sweating, his eyes kept darting to the left, he stuttered. It was obvious," he said nonchalantly. Bones eyed him for a long moment, astounded, then shook his head.

"Remind me never to pay poker with you, kid," he muttered wryly, making Jim snort.

"Probably for the best. I can read you like a book, my friend," Jim declared triumphantly, and Bones paused. Jim couldn't be telling the truth; if he was, that meant he knew the whole damn time. Bones couldn't see Jim going nearly four years without saying something if he knew. Nope, it was obvious; Jim Kirk could read everyone, except his own best friend.

.-.


First thought when I wake up is, "My God, he's beautiful"


So I put on my make-up and pray for a miracle

.-.

It took a few moments for Bones to remember where he was when he woke, as it always did when he woke in Jim's quarters. There was an arm draped over his back, and a face buried in his neck, hot puffs of air tickling the sensitive skin below his ear. He turned his head slightly, smiling fondly as he got a view of Jim's sleeping face. He always marveled at how young Jim looked when he slept; there was none of the stress on his face, none of the signs that he was a twenty-five year-old captaining the most famous ship in Starfleet.

Shifting carefully so as not to wake the younger man, he got into a more comfortable position, reluctantly loosening Jim's hold around his waist. Unable to resist, he reached out a hand, brushing Jim's fringe off his forehead; he needed a haircut, it was getting shaggy. Bones wouldn't say, however, that he loved it when Jim's hair got a little too long, falling in his eyes and over his ears. Same as he wouldn't tell Jim what he thought about all those other beautiful little things that made Jim, Jim. Nope, he'd take those to the grave if he could.

Not for the first time, he wished that waking up in bed with Jim were more regular an occurrence, and that it actually entailed what sleeping with someone usually implied. But that was entering the realm of Forbidden Thoughts, and that was not a good place to go with Jim sleeping beside him. Jim always excused him for morning wood – Jim always had the same problem, as Bones had woken up to find it poking him in the side on more than one occasion – but anything more would be suspicious. Instead, he merely contented himself with letting his eyes trace the familiar pattern of Jim's features, wishing he could reach out and touch without waking his companion.

He startled as Jim began to stir, a sleepy groan escaping from between slightly parted lips. Groggy blue eyes blinked open, and Jim smiled slowly when he saw Bones. "Were you watching me sleep again?" he asked, his husky voice doing many things to Bones' traitorous body.

"…No," he denied feebly, earning a smirk from the younger man.

"It's a little creepy, y'know?" Jim mused, rolling onto his back with a yawn.

"Just reassuring myself you haven't gotten yourself almost killed, again," he grumbled good-naturedly, reaching out to poke Jim's shoulder; the same shoulder he'd had to re-grow the skin on due to extensive burns.

"Ouch! Bo-ones!" Jim whined, dragging his name out into two syllables. "It's too early for you to torture me!" Bones smirked, discreetly watching Jim's ass as the other man crawled out of bed to escape his 'torture'.

"Your own damn fault, infant," he retorted without sympathy. Jim pouted at him, then grinned.

"I'm gonna take a shower, unless you want it first?" he asked, giving a smirk and a pointed glance to the slight tent in Bones' boxers. The older man blushed deeply, shaking his head and wondering what Jim would say if he knew exactly what had caused it.

"Go ahead," he replied, attempting nonchalance. Jim shrugged, grabbing his clothes and ducking into the bathroom, and Bones sighed, leaning back against the pillows. Jim's pillows. Everything in the damn room smelt of Jim, and damn, it made him wish something would happen to allow him to spend more nights there. But, of course, unless he grew a pair and 'fessed up, that wasn't likely to happen. Until then, it was another day of waking up next to Jim as if the man wasn't the love of his life, and going about his usual business. God, he didn't know how much longer he could take this. "Damn coward," he muttered to himself, rolling back over onto his stomach. It was his own damn fault, and yet he still couldn't help hoping for a miracle or two.

.-.


Yes, I could tell you his favourite colour's green

.-.

He couldn't keep the smile off his face as he watched the happy couple dancing with each other, grinning secretively to one another. "About damn time, huh?" Jim murmured beside him, and a glance sideways saw the blonde smiling fondly at the pair.

"Yeah, I never thought they'd actually take the plunge. Guess Archer was pretty convincing," Bones replied quietly, snorting as Archer said something that made Chris whack him on the leg with his cane. He needed the thing less and less lately, but it had been a long day, and the poor man had been stood up for the most part.

"I think the whole Nero incident made Chris realize life's too short. He was just waiting for John to say something," Jim said with a knowing smile. "I'm happy for them, though. They deserve each other." Bones wished he could say something more, steer the conversation towards their own romantic lives – or lack thereof – but he couldn't do it. Not here, not today.

"Having fun, boys?" a voice broke into their quiet reverie, and Bones grinned as Chris approached, the man's usually tense face relaxed and smiling. He looked years younger, and Bones didn't doubt that it was Archer's doing. Chris always seemed happier with the other admiral around.

"Yeah, it's a good shindig, Chris. The ceremony was great, too," Jim complimented, clapping the older man on the shoulder.

"Thanks, kid. And thanks for standing up for me, it meant a lot," Chris replied sincerely, making Jim blush. Bones knew how touched Jim was to have been asked to be Chris' best man; he'd assumed the honour would go to one of the other admirals, who had known Chris for far longer than he had.

"It meant a lot that you asked me, Chris." Bones smiled, nudging Jim's shoulder playfully.

"Maybe he'd have had second thoughts if he'd heard that damn speech of yours beforehand," he remarked, and Chris snorted.

"Come on, it wasn't that bad! It's the best man's duty to embarrass the groom as much as possible during the speech!" Jim argued.

"There's a difference between embarrassing me and telling the entire room that I'd actually been married before on an away mission to a damn penguin! God, John will never let me live that down," Chris groaned, and Bones chuckled. He didn't want to know how Jim had gotten that information, but knew it probably involved a lot of alcohol.

"Where is he, anyway?" Jim asked, glancing curiously around the room. John had barely left Chris' side all night, and yet now he was nowhere to be found. Chris pointed towards a corner of the room, where John was stood in a crowd of drunk middle-aged women who, despite the fact that it was the man's wedding, seemed to be hitting on him.

"Obligatory talking to the family. I should probably go rescue him," Chris mused thoughtfully. Jim laughed loudly, the sound making Bones' heart clench. He loved Jim's laugh.

"Yeah, he might kill you if you don't, married or not. I'll catch you later, Chris," he said, reaching out to clasp Chris' shoulder once more.

"Have fun, you two," Chris replied, giving Bones a knowing look that had him blushing, before heading off in the direction of his new spouse. The pair fell silent for a moment, before Jim turned to Bones, a roguish grin on his face that left the doctor both breathless and mildly worried for his safety.

"Come on, Bonesy. You've managed to avoid dancing with me all night, you have to give in now," he pleaded, turning both the grin and puppy dog eyes on him. Bones mentally cursed, sighing reluctantly. It wasn't that he didn't want to dance with Jim. He did, God, he did. But dancing with Jim meant standing with Jim in his arms, holding him closely. With the lovey-dovey mood in the air, he wasn't sure he'd be able to stop himself saying something stupid. "Please?" Jim asked hopefully, widening the puppy eyes and adding a full-on pout. Bones could never resist the damn pout.

"Fine, one song," he grumbled, unable to stop his smile as Jim brightened instantly.

"Great," he chirped, sliding his hand into Bones' and pulling him towards the dance floor. Just as they stepped onto it, the song ended, being replaced by a far slower, more romantic one. Clearly someone was conspiring against him. Sure enough, he glanced over to the DJ, and glared at the smirking Chris Pike who was stood next to the sound system. Oh, he was so dead.

Feeling his cheeks heat up, he willed himself to stay calm as Jim's arm slid around his waist, the man's other hand holding his own gently against Bones' chest, their faces centimeters apart. They danced slowly, just rotating on the spot, and Bones was captivated by the contented smile on Jim's face. "You should wear green more often, Bones," Jim said suddenly, his voice soft as his hand slipped from underneath Bones', playing with the button on Bones' shirt. "It looks good on you." Bones looked down at his emerald green dress shirt, his suit jacket having been abandoned long ago, and smiled slightly. Something told him his wardrobe would be seeing an increase of green in the near future.

"Thanks. You don't clean up so bad yourself," he teased in reply, eyes roaming Jim's suit-clad form. The kid looked gorgeous, as always, and he'd seen most of the women in the room eyeing him up at some point during the day. Jim had danced with some of them, and flirted with most of them, but Bones always felt a little smug that it was his side Jim returned to every time. He tensed a little as Jim's head moved to rest on his shoulder, before relaxing, merely bringing his arm tighter around the shorter man. Resolutely ignoring the jealous looks of several ladies, and Chris and Archer's smug grins, he rested his cheek against the side of Jim's head, suddenly wishing the song would go on forever.

.-.


He loves to argue, oh, and it kills me

.-.

As with any group of people, stick them in a confined space for an extended period of time with very little contact to the outside world, and feathers will get ruffled. Starfleet was no different; despite being trained to handle years at a time in space, tensions still began to rise at around the six-month mark. Bones had given up trying to keep track of who was sleeping with who, who wasn't talking to who, and who had made out with who's partner. Although he was concerned at the amount of STI hypos he was having to administer. You'd think that Starfleet's best and brightest would be smart enough to use protection.

When Jim finally cracked, it was loud, explosive, and very public.

"This is ridiculous!" Jim burst out, glaring at something on his PADD screen. Bones glanced over, frowning as he saw Jim's face.

"What is it?" he asked, hopping up to stand behind the captain's chair, reading over Jim's shoulder. His scowl deepened as he read the words. "Probation? What the hell, you're the best damn captain Starfleet has!" His words startled the rest of the bridge crew, who looked over in concern.

"What's up?" Sulu asked, and Jim glared at the wall, his jaw clenched.

"Uhura, hail Starfleet Command, put me through to Admiral Komack," he ordered sharply. Bones noticed the woman frown at the blatant breach of protocol – you couldn't just hail an admiral without warning – but noticing Jim's expression, she did so. The view screen flared to life, and Bones winced at the anger on Komack's face.

"Kirk, what is the meaning of this?" he barked, and Jim's hands tightened on the arms of his chair.

"Admiral Komack, would you care to explain why I received a notification of probation with no prior warning?" Jim snapped fiercely, and even Spock's eyes widened a fraction at this. Komack snorted, leaning back in his chair.

"Ah, so that's what this is about. You've had warning, Kirk; the Nero debacle was warning enough. God knows you should've been thrown out on your ass then for insubordination."

"Insubordination? I saved the damn planet!" Jim argued, affronted. Komack merely sneered.

"Yeah, breaking a hundred rules in the process. You're on probation because Starfleet feels you did not take adequate precautions in your last away mission, and as a result of your recklessness, more men died than they should have." Bones cursed mentally; reminding Jim of the away mission was not a good idea. It had been nothing short of a disaster; the initial scan of the planet's surface hadn't shown up any life-forms that looked dangerous. It hadn't taken into account the huge, bear-like creatures that had an underground citadel. They'd lost almost all of the away crew, and no one had come back uninjured. Jim had nearly died four times on his table, but the stubborn bastard hadn't given in.

"Admiral, I took all the precautions I possibly could! If you actually read my damn report, you'd have seen that all scans of the planet came back safe. It was a fluke that the creatures lived beneath the planet's crust, but they were burrowed so deep we couldn't pick them up. I saw what we all thought was a safe planet, I took an away team down to catalogue flora and fauna, as per Starfleet protocol. When things went wrong, I attempted to gather my remaining team and beam back up as quickly as possible, with as few casualties as I could. Despite being severely injured, I did this to the best of my ability. There is nothing that warrants probation, and if you could get your head out of your ass and stop looking for reasons to have me discharged, you would see that too!" Bones winced at Jim's last words. Big mistake. Komack had had it out for Jim since their Academy days, and everyone knew he'd been trying to get him dishonourably discharged for years. But that didn't mean anyone said anything about it.

"What did you say, Kirk?" Komack growled, his face flushing and a vein in his temple throbbing. Bones made a mental note to send a missive to Starfleet Medical; Komack clearly had high blood pressure, and it wasn't being treated.

"I said that you're looking for an excuse to have me kicked out of the 'fleet, and you have been since I joined! What is it with you, Admiral? Got something against me?" Jim asked hotly, his eyes icy and hard.

"Other than the fact that you're a brat who's been riding on his father's name to get by?" Komack spat. Bones wished he could smack the man over the head. If there was one thing Jim hated, it was when people compared him to his father, or said he was only in Starfleet because of his father's reputation. The son of the famous George Kirk; the Kelvin baby.

"Captain Kirk has proved himself in his own right many times over, Admiral, and Starfleet is not in the habit of nepotism. If the Captain has excelled in Starfleet – which, by his record, he has – it is purely on his own merit, not that of his deceased father." To Bones' surprise, it was Spock who came to Jim's defense, a quiet fury on the man's pale green face. He might not like the hobgoblin, but Spock and Jim were very close, for reasons inexplicable to him. If he hadn't known of Spock's devotion to Uhura, he might have been jealous.

"Commander Spock, you support Kirk's actions?" Komack asked, surprised. Evidently he'd thought that after the first plea for Jim's academic suspension, Spock still hated him.

"Of course, Admiral; Captain Kirk's actions were logical," Spock answered, as if that settled the matter.

"It takes the signature of three or more ranking officers to successfully pass an order of probation; I only see yours. Until you have support, excuse me if I disregard the order. And I will be mentioning this in my next report to Admiral Pike," Jim added firmly. Komack merely smirked.

"Oh, of course you will. Because Pike's just become a nice little replacement daddy ever since he picked you up from the hospital, hasn't he?" Bones' jaw set as Jim stood abruptly, his face going white.

"Thank you, Admiral, for admitting you've hacked into classified files. You might wanna say goodbye to that cushy desk job of yours, I can't see you having it much longer. Kirk out." Without even waiting for Uhura to cut the feed, Jim turned on his heel and stormed towards the turbolift. Jogging to catch up, Bones slipped in behind him as the lift door slid shut, waiting until they were between floors to press the emergency stop button.

"Jim…" he breathed, unsure of whether Jim was about to lash out or break down.

"He knows, Bones. He knows." There was pure terror in Jim's voice, and Bones didn't hesitate in crossing the small space, pulling Jim into his arms. The blonde's head tucked neatly under his chin, Jim burying his face in the crook of Bones' neck.

"He can't do anything with that information unless he admits where he got it from. He'll get fired, you know Chris won't let him get away with hacking your file," Bones pointed out soothingly, rubbing Jim's back. His body was betraying him as usual, relishing in the contact of holding Jim in his arms, despite the circumstances. He ignored it; calming Jim down was more important. "But damn, kid. You keep pissing off the admiralty like that, they really will kick you out. Then how would I be able to stop you getting yourself killed?" he asked with a weak grin. The thought of Jim getting discharged from Starfleet because of his unwillingness to follow rules damn near killed Bones; he didn't think he'd be able to handle being stuck on this damn ship without Jim there with him.

"I won't get kicked out, Bones. The public would have a fit, I'm the poster boy for Starfleet," Jim pointed out somewhat bitterly. "God, I'm gonna ask Chris if I can report to him and Barnett instead of him and Komack. That sleazy bastard just rubs me the wrong way," he added with a scowl. Bones squeezed his waist gently.

"You're not the only one," he mused. There wasn't a single person he knew that liked Admiral Komack. "Just… be careful, okay? I don't want 'fleet politics getting the best of you." Because Jim would rather ask for forgiveness than permission, and one day that was bound to get him into trouble that he couldn't charm his way out of. Jim looked up, offering him a small grin.

"Don't worry, Bonesy. You won't get rid of me that easily."

.-.


His sister's beautiful

.-.

Grinning as he watched the two girls splashing around in the pool, Bones knew this had been a brilliant idea. He had three weeks shore leave, and Jocelyn had taken the opportunity to go travelling with Drew, giving him Joanna for the entire time. Both he and Jim – because they rarely went anywhere separately, even now. It was always JimandBones, BonesandJim – had already been invited to spend their leave with Sam and Aurelan, and the Kirks had immediately jumped on the idea of bringing Joanna to stay with them.

He'd been right when he had said Lily and Jo would get on well; the two girls had been almost inseparable from the word 'hello'. Jim found this hilarious, already going on about the wonders of another Kirk/McCoy duo wreaking havoc, and Bones didn't have the heart to do anything but roll his eyes. "I don't have the heart to tell them that dinner's ready." Bones turned, smiling as Aurelan walked towards him, her blonde hair tied back in a loose ponytail. "But the boys are getting hungry, and I'm pretty sure they'll eat the whole damn table if we don't start soon," she joked, and Bones laughed, knowing that she wasn't just referring to Kyle and Marcus.

"I'll get them in, you go start plating up," he offered, making her smile gratefully at him.

"Thanks, Len. I'll save you a seat next to Jim," she added, giggling as he aimed a gentle swat at her shoulder. She turned back towards the house, and Bones moved closer to the pool, smiling as Joanna's face lit up when she saw him.

"Dinner time, baby girl. You and Lily need to get out and dry off," he said apologetically. She pouted at him, her small hands gripping onto the ledge.

"Can't we have five more minutes, daddy?" she pleaded hopefully, and Bones smiled.

"I would, but I don't think there would be any food left on the table if I did," he told her with a wink, making her giggle. "Lily, darlin', you gotta get out now," he called to the little blonde girl, who frowned, but nodded, swimming towards the steps. Bones helped Joanna clamber out of the pool, grabbing a towel to wrap around her small frame before the evening air could get to her. He offered one to Lily, too, wrapping it tightly around her body and herding the two girls back inside. They headed for the kitchen, but he shook his head, nudging them towards the stairs. "Go get changed before dinner, girls, I'll make sure Jim doesn't eat your food," he told them with a grin. Watching them run up the stairs together, he turned for the kitchen, smiling when he saw Jim and Sam both staring at the large bowl of pasta impatiently, Marcus and Kyle sat in a similar way. "The girls will be down in a minute," he told them, slipping into his seat beside Jim. The blonde automatically turned, grinning at him, and Bones smiled back, far too used to the flutter in his chest to let it bother him by now.

It wasn't long before the two girls came racing down the stairs, dressed in their pyjamas, their wet hair dangling limply past their shoulders. Aurelan plated up pasta as Joanna climbed onto the chair beside Bones, and soon all of them were digging in quite happily. Or, in the case of the elder pair of Kirk brothers, inhaling rapidly. "Jesus, Jim, chew before you choke yourself," Bones muttered playfully, rolling his eyes as Jim blinked up at him, cheeks bulging. Aurelan giggled, causing Sam to do the exact same thing to her. If there was ever any doubt that Sam and Jim were brothers, it was erased instantly.

"What am I gonna do with you?" Aurelan sighed playfully, earning a wink from Sam.

"You love me," he said smugly, making her laugh.

"If I didn't, I wouldn't be feeding you," she retorted. Sam swallowed, then smirked, looking secretively at his wife.

"Think we should tell them?" he asked, and Bones frowned. What did they need to tell them?

"Tell us what?" Jim asked before Bones could open his mouth. Aurelan blushed, and Sam grinned manically, sliding an arm around his wife's shoulders.

"Well, Jim… Aurelan and I have a little surprise for you," Sam began, sharing a look with the blonde woman. "In about six months, you're gonna be an uncle again." Bones' eyes widened in shock, and he glanced sideways to see Jim doing the same.

"You're pregnant?" the younger Kirk spluttered, gaping.

"Three months gone, we wanted to wait and tell you in person," Aurelan explained. Bones smiled warmly at the couple; Sam and Aurelan were great parents, they deserved another kid.

"Congratulations, both of you," he said sincerely.

"Mommy's gonna have another baby?" Marcus asked curiously, and Sam grinned, ruffling his son's hair.

"That's right, kiddo. A little brother for you to play with," he told him, making Jim's eyebrows shoot up.

"Brother? It's a boy?" he asked, and his brother nodded.

"Yup. Poor Lily's gonna have three brothers to chase the boys away," Sam said with a grin, and Lily's nose wrinkled.

"Can't you make it a girl, mommy? A sister would be so much cooler," she declared.

"It doesn't work that way, sweetie," Aurelan told her with a laugh. While it was technically possible to pre-determine the gender of a baby, Sam and Aurelan were one of the many couples who preferred to leave it to nature. Bones had done the same with Jo, and he'd never been happier that he'd gotten his little girl.

"Damn, Sammy, this is awesome! I'm so happy for you two!" Jim crowed delightedly. "You'll have to send me updates when I'm back on the Enterprise, as I won't get to see your baby bump in person." Aurelan rolled her eyes at him.

"You don't want to see me with a baby bump, Jim, I look like a blimp," she insisted, but both Jim and Sam shook their heads.

"You're always beautiful when you're pregnant, Aur. You're already glowing," Sam told her with a smile. She huffed, shaking her head, but Bones could see the happiness sparkling in her eyes.

Later that evening, when the kids had all gone to bed and the adults decided to call it a night, Jim and Bones headed up to their shared room – there was only one guest room, and they had no objections to sharing – and Jim flopped down on the bed, sprawling over the mattress. "I can't believe Aurelan's pregnant again. Sam's a lucky guy, y'know?" he mused, and Bones hummed in agreement.

"Think you'll ever do it? Settle down and have kids?" Bones asked, hoping his voice stayed casual. Jim shrugged, pushing his jeans down into a heap on the floor.

"Dunno, captaining a starship isn't really conductive to families. But maybe one day… I mean, I love kids, it'd be great to have a family," he said wistfully. Bones pulled his t-shirt over his head, smiling to himself. He thought Jim would make a great dad; Jo loved him to pieces. Privately, he could see him and Jim adopting a kid or two; if, of course, he ever plucked up the courage to tell him how he felt.

"You'll find it one day," he assured his friend, crawling into bed. "Until then, you've got Sam and Aurelan and the kids as your family." Jim turned to look at him, and oddly serious look in his eyes.

"And you, Bones. They're you're family too," he told him with a soft smile. Bones sighed, quietly touched, but merely allowed Jim to sling an arm around his waist and cuddle up to his side.

"Thank you," he murmured into Jim's hair, not sure what else to say. Jim merely grinned at him, winking.

"Stuck with us now, Bones."

.-.


He has his father's eyes

.-.

"Incoming transmission, Captain," Uhura called out from her station, and Bones looked over at Jim, seeing the captain's confused face. They weren't expecting any transmissions.

"Patch it through," Jim said curtly, getting his 'captain face' on. Bones leant against Uhura's station, eyes fixed on the screen, and his eyebrows shot up when Sam's grinning face appeared in a split screen with Admiral Pike. "Sam? Chris? What's wrong, is the baby okay?" Jim asked, alarmed. Sam's grin widened, and Bones let out a quiet breath; clearly the baby was fine, or he wouldn't be looking so goddamn happy. Unless…

"Jim, is Leonard around? I have someone I want you to meet," Sam told him excitedly. Jim's face lit up, and he glanced over his shoulder, beckoning Bones over. Moving to stand behind Jim's chair, Bones smiled up at Sam.

"Right here, Sam. Has the little man finally made his arrival?" Sam just grinned at them, and suddenly the screen moved as Sam clearly picked it up, pushing through a door and into a room.

"Chris, Jim, Len, I'd like you all to meet Daniel James Kirk," Sam announced, turning the screen to show Aurelan in a biobed, a blue-wrapped bundle in her arms. She beamed tiredly at the screen, allowing Sam to bring it closer and tilt it so they could see the baby's face. Almost in unison, every female crewmember watching let out a loud 'awwww', and Jim gasped softly. Bones had to admit, little Daniel was a beautiful baby. He was a Kirk all over, looking very similar to some of the baby pictures he'd seen of Jim, and he didn't doubt that his eyes would stay blue; Jim's eyes. George's eyes.

"You two make cute kids, Kirk. Congratulations," Chris remarked, before turning to something off-screen. A moment later, an arm slung across the older man's chest, and Archer's face appeared, propping his chin on Chris' shoulder. He let out a low whistle, smiling.

"Damn, kid, that's a beautiful little boy," he complimented.

"James?" Jim asked softly, awed. The screen shifted back to Sam's face, and he grinned at his brother.

"Yup. We figured our fourth kid, it was about time you got a look in," he teased. "We'll name the next one after you, Len, promise."

"I just pushed a kid out a hole the size of an apple and you're talking about the next one? Oh, hell no," Aurelan declared firmly from out of camera, and Bones snickered.

"He's beautiful," Jim breathed.

"He sure is. Congratulations to both of you," Bones told them, staring in wonder at the small child. He'd have to get a picture to send to Joanna; she asked about the baby every single time she spoke to him. Jim glanced up at him, beaming, and Bones let his hand slip from the top of the chair onto Jim's shoulder, squeezing gently. Jim lifted a hand to cover his, and Bones caught knowing looks from just about everyone in the room. Damn, was there a single person – other than Jim, of course – who didn't know?

"Thank you. I'm just glad the labour was short with this one," Aurelan told them with a smile. Suddenly, there was a shuffling sound, and then a tiny baby scream.

"Looks like the little one's woken up," Archer commented ruefully, and the screen moved to show a reddening face and wide, baby-blue eyes.

"We'd better let you rest, all three of you," Jim said reluctantly. "I expect lots of photos, okay?" he added with a grin. Sam smiled back at him.

"Sure thing, Jimmy. I'll call you when we take him home, you too Chris," he assured. Chris smiled, nodding.

"Congratulations again, both of you. I'll talk to you later, boys. Pike out." With that, his half of the screen blacked out, before shifting so Sam's view went full-screen.

"Give the kids a hug from me and Bones, Sammy. Kirk out." Uhura cut the transmission, and gave Jim a smile.

"Your brother and sister-in-law make really adorable babies," she informed him, and he winked.

"It's the Kirk genes going strong," he declared with a roguish grin. Uhura merely rolled her eyes in exasperation, giving Bones a look. He raised an eyebrow at her, and she smirked. He wasn't entirely sure what that little smirk meant, but he also wasn't sure he wanted to know anyway.

Damn women.

.-.


And if you asked me if I love him

.-.

"How do you do it?" Sulu asked as he sat on the biobed, getting a wound in his arm repaired. Damn fool had been messing around with swords again.

"This little thing called a medical degree," Bones retorted dryly, his eyes fixed on the dermal regenerator he was running over the man's skin.

"Not that. How do you stand it, being so close to Kirk and never letting him know how you feel? I'd hate it," the Asian said ruefully, looking genuinely curious. Bones wondered when it had become the norm for everyone and their damn mother to comment on his love life.

"How I feel?" he asked evenly, hoping he could get away with playing ignorant. Sulu merely rolled his eyes.

"Don't give me that, everyone knows you're in love with him. Only person who doesn't is Kirk himself. Seriously, man, how do you do it? I barely lasted a month before I had to tell Pav how I felt before I exploded," he told him. Bones snorted.

"If I remember rightly, he kissed the life out of you at graduation." Sulu blushed bright red at this. "That's hardly you telling him how you felt."

"I did tell him, actually. About an hour before the grad party. But… he was seventeen, barely even legal. I was sure he'd say no, but I had to tell him anyway, y'know? Just in case there was the slightest chance he said yes. He was stunned, so I gave him a little while to think it over, and… then he kissed me." Sulu had the dreamy look in his eyes that he always got when talking about his Russian lover, and Bones hoped to God he didn't get that moon-eyed when he talked about Jim.

"But what if he'd said no?" he asked casually, voicing his main fear. James T Kirk did not do love, and Bones wasn't ready to get his heart broken a second time over. He didn't want to lose Jim's friendship; he'd managed for five years, what was the rest of their lives?

"I would have been crushed," Sulu admitted freely. "But I would have accepted it and attempted to move on. At least I'd have tried, y'know?" He shrugged one shoulder, the other arm being held in place by Bones. "But it was either tell him and risk it, or sit back and watch him with other people. Doesn't it make you sick, the thought of him dating someone else right under your nose? Of someone else touching him, loving him?" Bones stifled a shudder at the thought; it was his worst nightmare; Jim finding someone else, and him having to stand aside and watch his beautiful blonde fall for someone that wasn't him.

"If it made him happy," he began, only to be cut off.

"Bullshit," Sulu declared. "You say you'd be able to do it, but we both know you wouldn't. No one can. Something would have to snap eventually. I mean, hell, you nearly snapped on that last away mission." Bones growled under his breath at the reminder; the daughter of one of the ambassadors they were meeting with had taken quite a shine to Jim. While Jim hadn't actually done anything, he had allowed her to drape herself all over him, flirting with her all evening. Bones had wanted to snap the girl's neck, interplanetary relations be damned.

"What the hell else can I do? He's Jim fucking Kirk, he goes for what he wants. If what he wanted was me, he would have made a move years ago. Yes, it would kill me inside to see him with somebody else, but I'm not ruining our friendship just because I can't keep it in my pants," he argued. Except it was more than being able to keep it in his pants; if it was just sexual, he probably could have gotten it out of his system years ago. He wasn't unattractive, he would have been able to convince Jim to sleep with him. But that wasn't the problem; it was all the other stuff, the stuff he usually tried to avoid. The stuff that made him feel all warm and fuzzy inside, and made him wish he could go to bed every night and wake up every morning with Jim by his side.

"Ever thought that maybe he's thinking the same thing?" Sulu asked simply. "Kirk has abandonment issues bigger than this ship, it doesn't take a psychologist to see that. He's probably just as scared of being rejected as you are." Bones wanted to deny it, but there was a part of him that thought Sulu had a point; Jim had said several times that it would kill him if Bones left.

"You're saying all this like he's actually in love with me," he pointed out wryly. Sulu raised his eyebrows, before shaking his head, looking genuinely astonished.

"You really don't see it, do you?" he asked softly, bemused. Bones gave him a look, wondering what the hell he was talking about, but the dermal regenerator bleeped, letting him know it was finished. Sulu rolled his sleeve back down, hopping off the biobed with a small grin. "Being with the person you love, knowing they feel the same way… it's the most amazing feeling in the world. It's worth taking the risk, doc," he murmured softly, slipping out of the curtained-off cubicle. Bones sighed, leaning against the biobed and running a hand through his hair. God, he wanted to tell Jim, he did… but he didn't know if he could put himself on the line like that.

"Damn it, kid… what the hell do I do now?" he murmured to himself, sighing once more before straightening, plastering a blank expression on his face. Now wasn't the time.

As he turned to put the dermal regenerator away, he didn't notice the curtain ripple as a stunned blonde brushed past it on his way out.

.-.


If you ask me if I love him

.-.

"Hey, Bones, you busy?" Bones looked up as he heard Jim's voice in the doorway, raising an eyebrow. Jim had that look on his face that meant he needed someone to talk to.

"Nah, was just finishing up," he replied, pushing the PADD to a corner of his desk. It was a lie, but Jim didn't need to know that. "What's up?" Jim bit his lip, looking around nervously.

"Can we take a walk?" he asked hesitantly. Frowning, Bones nodded, getting to his feet.

"Yeah, sure," he agreed, wondering what the hell was up with the blonde. Allowing Jim to lead him through the ship, his frown deepened when he realized they were headed for Observation Deck 12. Deck 12 was very rarely used, as it was so out of the way, and Bones wondered just what was so bad Jim needed to talk to him there. Usually if Jim wanted privacy, he'd just go to one of their quarters. "Jim, what's wrong?" he asked, concerned. Jim merely shot him a tentative smile, letting the door slide shut behind them. "Seriously, kid, you're scaring me a little."

"I, uh, I have something to ask you, and I want you to answer me honestly. Please?" Jim began, wringing his hands nervously. Wary, Bones nodded.

"Sure, what is it?" Jim took a deep breath, steeling himself and then met Bones' eyes.

"Are you in love with me?"

He froze. Blinked. Stared at Jim, eyes wide, heart racing and palms sweating. This was it. This was the moment their friendship ended forever, the moment Jim had him transferred to another ship because the thought of having to work with a person who was in love with him freaked him out. Well, it'd been fun while it lasted. "What… what makes you think that?" he croaked, his throat suddenly dry. Jim blushed faintly, smiling sheepishly.

"I may or may not have overheard you talking to Sulu in sickbay," he confessed, and Bones paled. Well, shit.

"I, uh… see…" he stuttered – actually stuttered – trying to figure out a way he could try and save face. Jim frowned slightly, taking a step closer.

"Don't, Bones," he breathed earnestly. "Please, don't… don't lie to me. I want the truth." Bones sighed, bringing a hand up to run through his hair. It was now or never; he never could lie to Jim.

"Yes," he admitted, his voice barely louder than a whisper. He lowered his gaze, not wanting to see the disgust on his best friend's face.

"Why?" He startled at that, glancing up at Jim's face. The blonde didn't have any hint of revulsion on his face, just genuine curiosity. He looked like he honestly couldn't believe why anyone would fall in love with him.

"Why not, Jim? You're… you're incredible," he replied, blushing brightly. Surely Jim knew how amazing he was? Jim's cheeks reddened, and he smiled almost shyly.

"You really think so?" he asked, surprised. Bones, bolstered by the fact that Jim hadn't punched him yet, stepped closer, resting a hand on Jim's bicep.

"Of course I think so, I've been in love with you for five damn years," he muttered wryly. "God, Jim… anyone would be lucky to have you. Even… even if that person wasn't me," he added, reminded of his conversation with Sulu.

"What if I want it to be you?" Jim retorted boldly, his voice still quiet. Bones' eyes widened.

"Jim, don't go saying that just to avoid hurting my feelings. I'm a big boy, I can take rejection," he told him bitterly, moving to turn away. Jim reached out, gripping his shoulder.

"I'm not saying it to avoid hurting you, Bones, I… did you really mean it when you said it'd kill you to see me with anyone else?" Blinking at the abrupt question, Bones nodded.

"It would, but if that person made you happy, I'd be there for you the best I can. I promise, Jim, I won't let my feelings get in the way of our friendship," 'if you still want me around' he added mentally, sure Jim was going to throw him out. "So don't lie to me to spare my feelings, Jim." He turned, heading towards the door, but Jim's voice stopped him in his tracks.

"I love you too, Bones." Spinning on his heel, he stared, gobsmacked, at the blonde. Jim's expression was determined, though his eyes were nervous. "I have for longer than I really wanted to admit to myself. I guess… I always thought you just wanted to be friends. No one who ever got to know me like you do ever wanted to stick around for anything more," he told him quietly. "But… you wanna know the day I realized? Chris and John's wedding. I was sat there in the ceremony, wondering if I would ever get married. I tried to imagine what it'd be like in my head, and… every time, the only person I could see was you, standing at the altar, waiting for me. And I just knew. And suddenly I realized what I'd been denying all these years of being friends with you. God… I'm such an idiot, it was staring me in the face the whole time!" Jim chuckled wryly, a small grin on his face. Bones could do nothing but stare.

"You… why didn't you say anything?" he asked when he'd finally found his voice. Jim snorted, raising an eyebrow at him.

"Seriously? Bones, you don't need a messed up little kid like me ruining your life. I'm not stable, I don't do commitment. I'd like to, but… I'd just end up hurting you in the end. I always do," he said mournfully. "You're better off without me." Bones stared at him for a long moment in disbelief, before snapping out of his daze, shaking his head with a soft snort.

"Y'know, kid, for a genius, you can be a real moron sometimes," he murmured. "You're not a messed up little kid, you're not ruining my life, and you're not going to hurt me. I know you, Jim, better than anyone else in this goddamn tin can. I've been through all your shit and I haven't gone anywhere, I'm not gonna leave. So you can push me away all you like, but I'll just keep coming back to you." Moving closer to Jim, he let his hands rest on his friend's hips, pressing their foreheads together. "Just trust yourself, Jim." All the air left his lungs as Jim tilted his head forward, their lips connecting softly.

"I'm not good for you," Jim breathed against Bones' lips, and the doctor growled, drawing Jim closer.

"I'll be the one to decide that," he retorted, kissing him harder this time. His lips parted, allowing Jim's tongue to slide between them, and God, it was so much better than the mistletoe kiss. Jim's chest slammed against his own, the blonde's arms wrapping around his back, one hand fisting his hair. Eventually, they had to breathe, and they parted reluctantly, both of them panting. "Should've done that years ago," Bones muttered, making Jim chuckle.

"Yeah, you should. Might have made me see sense earlier. God, how have I been denying that all this time?" He said bemusedly. Bones snorted, rolling his eyes.

"We're both hopeless." And he knew that when it got around to the rest of the crew, he'd get teased endlessly by Sulu for still not being the one to tell Jim first, but he couldn't bring himself to care, because Jim was in love with him! Pausing, he chuckled to himself as he thought over what he'd been told over the years. By Aurelan, by Chris, by Uhura. Jim eyed him curiously, and he smirked. "I think we're the last ones to know, darlin'. Always figured people were just being nice when they said you might feel the same way." Jim's eyebrows rose, and he snickered.

"Seriously? Why the hell didn't they knock our heads together sooner?" he muttered to himself. Looking up, he met Bones' eyes, and Bones was struck by the amount of raw emotion in Jim's baby blues. "I love you, Bones," he declared, his voice quiet but strong. Bones smiled, leaning in to kiss him once more.

"I love you, too, darlin'."

.-.


I'd lie

.-.

He was tired of lying.