Actions

Work Header

The Conscience of the Kirk, or How to Stop a Pathetically Self-Destructive Man

Work Text:

San Francisco, California
Starfleet Academy Campus
2256

 

“You need your hearing checked, Jim? I’ve told you no sixteen times now.” McCoy slammed the door to their dorm suite behind him and made a beeline for the bookshelf that served as a liquor cabinet.

 

“But you don’t mean it, Bones!” Kirk insisted. He hadn’t been able to get McCoy to go out with him for a week, ever since The Incident, and tonight Kirk was determined to win this argument.

 

“I absolutely do mean it.” McCoy reached up to pull a bottle off the shelf. “I just finished twelve clinic hours and I want nothing more than to drink this glass of whiskey and go to sleep.” McCoy sloshed the bottle’s last inch of alcohol into a glass on his desk.

 

“Come on! Gaila and her roommate are going.”

 

“As much fun as it is to watch Uhura constantly shoot you down, the answer is still no.”

 

Kirk ignored him. “Gaila’s got a crush on some genetics nerd. We can watch her seduce him.”

 

“No.”

 

“There’ll be girls there. Girls who don’t know you’re a grouchy curmudgeon.”

 

“No.”

 

“Fine.” Kirk snatched the glass out of McCoy’s hand and downed it in one gulp. Getting rid of McCoy’s alcohol should remove his reason to stay.

 

McCoy’s expression slid past anger and right to resigned and mournful. “You’re an insufferable ass, Jim.”

 

“Come on.” Kirk clapped him on the shoulder. “I’ll get you a drink at the party.”

 

McCoy stumbled to his feet, and for a moment Kirk tasted victory. Then McCoy said, “I won’t wait up.” He shuffled into his room and slammed the door behind him. Kirk stared at the door, considered barging in there and dragging McCoy out, and finally decided that would only exacerbate the situation. He dragged out a bottle of bourbon from under his bed where he’d been hiding it, set it on McCoy’s desk next to the empty whisky bottle where McCoy would find it when he finally stopped sulking. Then he left for the party.
--

 

“Hey.” A meaty hand clamped onto Kirk’s shoulder and wrenched him away from the cute, dark-haired, pixie-faced girl he’d been talking to--what was her name—Eve, Edie—something? maybe?—sending Kirk immediately into a defensive stance. “Who invited you?”

 

“Fuck you, Parkman,” Kirk spat. He’d never liked that cadet, anyway, and four tequila shots into what was shaping up to be not exactly his kind of party, he didn’t see any reason why he should have to put up with slurs against his good name. Relatively good name. And since nothing else exciting had happened so far, it might be fun to stumble back to his room after a good brawl and have McCoy patch him up. That’d teach him to ignore whatever-the-hell this was going on between them.

 

“Eden, is this guy bothering you?”

 

The pixie-faced girl rolled her eyes. “Go eat a doughnut, Parkman,” she muttered. She gave Kirk an apologetic shrug and took off into the crowd.

 

Kirk watched her go appreciatively before throwing a grin back at Parkman. “Nice party.”

 

“I can tell what you’re thinking,” Parkman shot back. “It’s written all over you.”

 

“Matt, stop it.” Another cadet, a dark, curly-haired beauty of a man who Kirk didn’t know, laid a tentative hand on Parkman’s shoulder. He had some rich, warm accent Kirk couldn’t place—British, perhaps? Uhura would know, but she’d faded into the crowd long ago with an irritated flick of her hand to indicate she was pretending not to know Kirk. “Let the man enjoy the party.”

 

“Listen to your friend, Parkman,” Kirk taunted. “Just keep slugging back jello shots and watch how a master does it.”

 

“Oh no you don’t.” Parkman reached out—pretty quick for a big guy—and grabbed a fistful of Kirk’s t-shirt. “You break hearts on campus all year and expect to come here and get a warm welcome? I don’t want any of my friends waking up with James T. Kirk regret syndrome.”

 

Kirk’s eyes widened. “Now Parkman, that’s just unfair. They never regret it.” He grinned at Matt, lamented the fact that McCoy wasn’t here to appreciate his witticisms, and readied his hand to block the fist he was sure would soon be flying toward his mouth. When no blow came, Kirk decided he’d have to work a little harder.

 

“In fact, I bet I could find at least one of your friends who would really appreciate what I have to offer.” He raked his gaze over the crowd and stopped deliberately on a perky blonde who was pouring herself another drink. “Besides,” he said cheerfully. “We’re all cadets here. Big boys and girls. All of us can take care of ourselves.”

 

Parkman glanced over his shoulder to follow Kirk’s glance to the blonde girl. Then he laughed: a warm, genuinely amused sound that Kirk nonetheless felt was at his expense. “Yeah, all of us here can take care of ourselves. And I’d be surprised if you could hurt Claire. But let me do you a favor, Kirk. Unlike you, my friends have people who care about them and would be really unhappy if you did something they didn’t like.”

 

“I wouldn’t try it if I were you,” the dark-haired man piped up. He inclined his head in the direction of the blonde. “Last time Lieutenant Commander Bennet heard about a cadet trying to take advantage of his little girl, he had the kid shipped off to a mining asteroid for a three-month training mission.”

 

“And that’s just for starters,” Parkman said darkly. “So do yourself a favor, Kirk, and go hunt somewhere else.” He shoved Kirk away and let go of his shirt.

 

Kirk tried to right himself, intending to take a swing at Parkman, but instead stumbled into someone who yelped and protested as a jostled cup splashed beer onto both of them. The newcomer—a man, Kirk noted, with too-long hair that fell temptingly over his eyes—steadied Kirk with a warm hand on his chest.

 

“Christ, Matt,” the guy said with an annoyed glare at Parkman. “Go walk it off or take it outside or something.” He turned back to Kirk with a tentative smile. His brown eyes held genuine concern and not a trace of guile. “He giving you shit?”

 

“Nothing I can’t handle.” Kirk said. He let his hand come to rest on the guy’s shoulder.

 

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Parkman scowl and his friend study the ceiling. The newcomer looked between them all, and finally settled on Kirk. “Come on. I’ll get you a fresh drink.”

 

“Perfect. See ya later, Parkman.” Kirk gave a jaunty wave as he followed the promise of more alcohol.

 

The man’s hand rested on Kirk’s forearm as he steered them through the party. With anyone else, Kirk might have objected to being led around like a puppy, but this guy didn’t even seem to notice he was touching Kirk. “Really, don’t mind Matt,” he said as they arrived in the kitchen. He dropped Kirk’s arm to start filling two plastic cups from a keg. “He’s got a jealous streak you wouldn’t believe. Beer okay?”

 

“Beer’s great.”

 

He offered one of the cups, which Kirk took with an anticipatory grin. “I’m Peter.”

 

No last name. So that’s how it was going to be. “Jim.”

 

“So…” Peter took a sip of his beer and smiled up at Kirk over the rim of the cup. His lips were strangely crooked, which perversely made Kirk want to lick the alcohol off of them. “A few of us were thinking of getting out of here and going down to this place Elle knows in the Castro. If you want to come with.”

 

“In the Castro,” Kirk repeated, drawing out the words so they stretched between the two of them, taut and expectant.

 

Peter’s smile widened. “Yeah.”

 

Kirk cast an eye over the room, past the blonde girl he’d been admiring earlier, and caught sight of Parkman still giving him the stink eye. He wasn’t getting laid at this party, that much was certain. In fact, the evening so far had been something of a disappointment, and that was no sort of story to bring back to McCoy to make him regret staying home like a grumpy old man. Besides, the prospect of a fresh crowd, not to mention Peter’s eyes, held too much promise to pass up. “I’m in.”
--

 

They shared a taxi: Kirk, Peter, Bennet’s daughter, whose name was Claire, and another blonde who introduced herself as Elle.

 

Peter sat up front and gave the driver directions, and the two women in the backseat kept an eye on Kirk. “You go to the Castro often?” Elle asked. “Because I gotta say, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you there. I would have remembered.”

 

“I go lots of places,” Kirk said genially. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in class.”

 

“Oh, I’m not a cadet,” Elle laughed. “That’s cute you’d think that. But no. My dad works with the rest of these guys’ dads.”

 

“Ah,” Kirk said. Rich kids, then.

 

“It’s not as pretentious as it sounds,” Peter said quickly, and turned around to smile apologetically at Kirk through the partition. “They’re just consultants to the ‘Fleet. And most of us are cadets. Just Miss Bishop here--.”

 

“Had other ambitions,” Claire broke in.

 

“Didn’t pass her psych eval,” Peter muttered as he turned back around.

 

Yeah, Kirk decided. Peter was just what he needed tonight.
--

 

The Castro was gloriously rowdy at this time of night. The weather hadn’t turned cold enough yet to warrant jackets, so the little clusters of men and women laughed and shouted down the streets on their way to wherever, dressed in finest weekend attire. As Peter paid the cabbie, Elle pulled Claire toward a building whose brightly lit sign promised debauchery.

 

Kirk knew the neighborhood a little—he’d come here sometimes when he needed a certain kind of night—but he couldn’t have said whether he’d been in this particular club. Peter slung an arm around Kirk’s waist and steered him over to the door. Again, he seemed mostly unaware of touching a virtual stranger.

 

Claire, Kirk, and Peter flashed their ‘Fleet IDs and were waved through immediately. Elle leaned up to whisper something to the bouncer, who let her through with a smirk. Kirk had only a moment to admire Elle’s game before the four of them stepped into the musical roar, flashing lights, and rising heat of the club.

 

Kirk looked around. Clubs were the same most everywhere, he’d discovered, and this place was no exception: men and a few women slugging back drinks and grinding against each other on the dance floor, and everyone hungry to feel something, for something to happen to them, to get what they wanted out of the night. Kirk felt optimistic about his chances.

 

“Rendezvous in thirty?” Peter said. “I’m gonna go dance.” He squeezed Claire’s arm and melted into the crowd.

 

“Drinks first,” Claire said decisively. She snatched the clutch purse Elle was holding and began to wend her way toward the bar.

 

Elle shook her head. “Girl burns through alcohol like you wouldn’t believe.”

 

Kirk looked out over the crowd, planning his next move.

 

“Hey. Pretty boy.” Elle caught his elbow and leaned up to shout in his ear to be heard over the thump of the music. “Peter wouldn’t have brought you here if he wasn’t interested. So I’d give him a try first before you go, y’know, hunting.” She waved a hand at the writhing crowd around them.

 

“What are you, his wingman?” Kirk laughed.

 

“Nope.” She tapped him on the nose just hard enough to smart. “But I like to see Peter letting loose once in a while. And one more thing.” She beckoned Kirk closer, and he obliged. “I know he looks delicate, but he can take some rough handling. Appreciates some rough handling, if you know what I mean.” She gave him a lascivious wink and darted through the crowd after Claire. Kirk watched her go appreciatively, and then went to find the dance floor.
--

 

The way Peter danced was a sin.

 

Music pulsed from speakers set into the floor, and Peter moved with it as if the notes held him in their grip and made him do their will. The whole dance floor was a writhing, pulsing mess. No sooner had Kirk caught sight of his quarry than the crowd closed, blocking his line of sight.

 

Kirk slid his hands in his pockets and smiled. The shots from the party warmed him and filled him with confidence and courage. He’d let Peter get a little worked up, a little sweaty, before making his move.

 

When he returned with two drinks in hand, three men were already crowded close to Peter. They moved with him, touched him, and Kirk felt a call to battle as strong as if the men had come at him with a weapon. He cut through the crowd easily. As soon as he was close enough, he shouldered in past Peter’s admirers and handed him one of the drinks. His hand slid around Peter’s hip possessively. Two of the guys backed off, but the third, a redhead, smirked at Kirk and ground close to Peter. “Didn’t know you were here with someone,” he shouted to Peter over the thump of the music. “Does he share?”

 

“Oh, he’s not--,” Peter began at the same time Kirk said, “No, he doesn’t share.”

 

The redhead held up both hands in surrender and went to find a more hospitable stretch of dance floor.

 

Peter took a sip of his drink and looked at Kirk with a new respect. “You think they were bothering me?”

 

“No,” Kirk said. He slid his arm further around Peter and drew them closer together. “But I do think you’ve got all you can handle right now.”

 

Kirk refrained from crowing in victory when Peter swallowed hard and his eyes widened. “That an invitation?” he rasped.

 

Kirk shifted so he could slide a leg between Peter’s thighs and rub against the bulge in his too-tight jeans. “What, rich kid, you need a written invitation? On personalized stationary with gold ink?” Peter’s eyes flashed anger for an instant, until Kirk pressed his thigh in harder, just to reassure Peter he was joking. “Or do you get my drift?”

 

“Yeah.” Peter licked his lips, and Kirk very much liked the sight of that pink tongue flicking over that crooked mouth. “Got it.”
--

 

Kirk had honestly been expecting to go back to Peter’s place, so when Peter dragged him toward the emergency exit at the back of the club, he raised an eyebrow. He hadn’t pegged Peter for the quick-fuck-in-an-alley type. But instead of leading Kirk outside, Peter drew him into a dimly-lit stairwell he hadn’t noticed before. He led them up enough flights that Kirk finally asked, “We going to the penthouse?”

 

Peter looked back at him with that beautiful, crooked smile. “Something like that.” They reached an unmarked door at the end of the stairwell, which Peter pushed through confidently. Kirk followed him to emerge into the warm breeze of a San Francisco night. The roof they stood on overlooked the neighborhood, and although the bay was out of sight, the lights of downtown sparkled enticingly. From the street below, Kirk could hear loud voices and occasional laughter plus the repetitive thump of the music from inside the club.

 

“I love it up here. Seems closer to the stars. Like the next best thing to flying.” Peter laced his fingers through Kirk’s and drew him around the corner to the low wall at the edge of the roof. Kirk barely had time to appreciate the view before Peter leaned up to kiss him.

 

Kirk braced his hands against the ledge and gave back as good as he got. The length of Peter’s body pressed against his, and their erections bumped together through layers of fabric.

 

“I don’t just bring any guy up here, you know,” Peter said breathlessly. He rocked up against Kirk and kissed his jaw.

 

“Just the ones you’re trying to impress?”

 

“No,” Peter said slowly. “If I wanted to impress you, I’d do this.” He slid to his knees. Kirk’s mouth went dry at the sight of him: dark eyes and too-long bangs made him look impossibly pretty.

 

Peter kept his eyes fixed upward as he worked at the front of Kirk’s pants. His hands moved deftly, surely, almost like doctor’s hands, like McCoy’s hands would be—No. Kirk squeezed his eyes shut. He wasn’t going there.

 

Peter tugged Kirk’s pants and boxer-briefs down to his thighs. He rested his hands on Kirk’s hips and stilled. Kirk pried his eyes open and looked down. “Waiting for an invitation again?” Kirk asked.

 

“No,” Peter said with that crooked smile. “Just enjoying the view from down here. I like it.”

 

Kirk’s usual cocky grin slid back into place. “I like you on your knees.” A heated shudder passed through Peter, and before Kirk could stop himself, he wondered if McCoy would be like this: unconsciously sensual and eager, or if he would blush or scowl at dirty talk.

 

But this wasn’t about McCoy. Peter was a totally different creature from his irascible doctor. More importantly, Peter was here, and talking to him, or in point of fact, not talking, but rather opening his mouth to suck in the tip of Kirk’s cock. Peter was obviously into this, and Kirk would just have to be satisfied with that. Looking down at Peter’s pink tongue lapping over his erection, he thought he could probably console himself.

 

Kirk tangled a hand in Peter’s hair and pulled, not shoving Peter’s mouth onto his cock, just trying him out. “This okay?” No matter what Elle had said, Kirk wasn’t about to do anything he wasn’t sure Peter would like.

 

Peter drew his mouth off Kirk’s dick and looked up. Kirk liked the red, swollen look of Peter’s lips. “Yes,” Peter panted. “If I need you to stop, I’ll pinch you.”

 

“That’s romantic. Shit!” Kirk’s capacity for witticism fled as Peter sucked Kirk all the way down in one smooth swallow.

 

Kirk kept his fist tight in Peter’s hair, and he found that when he pulled, Peter followed. He reveled in the feel of Peter pliantly following his lead. When he looked down and saw that Peter was rubbing himself through his pants, something in his belly churned excitedly. He dragged Peter off his cock, and grinned at way he stretched his neck out and resisted Kirk’s grip, as if Kirk’s cock was a prize he was reluctant to part with.

 

“Wait a sec,” Kirk said. He slid down the wall, ignoring the scrape of brick through his thin shirt, and tugged his pants off the rest of the way. He grabbed Peter by his collar and hauled him into a messy kiss. He imagined he could taste himself on Peter’s tongue: the tang of his pre-come and the clean saltiness of his skin.

 

Kirk gripped Peter’s shoulder and tipped him onto his back without breaking the kiss. He felt beautiful, writhing under Kirk and rubbing against him, his cock hard against Kirk’s thigh.

 

“Don’t tease me,” Peter panted. “Just hurry.”

 

Kirk grinned. McCoy would know better than to tell Kirk what to do. He straddled Peter’s waist and tightened his thighs, immobilizing Peter’s lower half. “Or what? You gonna beg?”

 

Peter made a high, strangled sound and shuddered.

 

“Damn.” Kirk closed his eyes for a second until he was sure that when he opened his eyes, it was Peter he’d be seeing. And sure enough, when Kirk pried his eyes open, there Peter was: wide-open eyes and wet, parted lips. “You’ve got the innocent act down… But you know exactly what you do to people, don’t you? And I bet you wish they’d see you’re not that fragile at all. Cadets can’t be fragile.” Kirk pinned Peter’s hands above his head and shifted his leg, settling his thigh against Peter’s trapped erection. “So tell me what you want.”

 

“Ah…” Peter bucked up against Kirk’s leg, looking for more friction, but Kirk dropped more of his weight onto Peter’s chest until the man could barely wriggle.

 

“Come on. Just tell me what you want, and it’ll happen.”

 

“I…” Peter groaned and tried to squirm. Kirk easily held him immobile.

 

“How hard is it just to say what you want?”

 

“Touch me,” Peter spat out. He had a stubborn spark in his eye that looked achingly familiar.

 

“That’s a good start.” Kirk shifted both of Peter’s wrists to one hand. He slid his other hand inside Peter’s pants and cupped his straining erection. “What else?”

 

“More. I need…” Peter bit his lip, but when he realized Kirk wasn’t going to do anything more, he gave a frustrated huff and said, “Pants. Get my pants off.”

 

“Thought you’d never ask.” Kirk let go of Peter’s wrists, and to his delight, they stayed where they were. He fumbled at the clasp of Peter’s jeans until he had them gaping open, and Peter pushed up momentarily to allow Kirk to drag them and his briefs down far enough that Kirk could slide his finger under Peter’s balls.

 

Peter sucked in a breath of air and arched his back, but he kept his hands obediently above his head. “Oh…”

 

“Did you want something else?” He teased a thumb over the head of Peter’s cock and spread the leaking pre-come leisurely down the length of him while his other hand played with Peter’s balls.

 

“Yeah…” Peter pushed his hips up, but Kirk refused to give him any more friction. He whined in protest.

 

“Come on, Peter. You want something, you’ve gotta ask for it.”

 

“Jim, please!”

 

A shudder ran through Kirk at that name in that way. Only a few people called him that, and not “Kirk” or “cadet” or “asshole,” and he’d be lying if he said he’d never imagined how that one word might sound in these tones, raw and debauched, but coming from a different mouth.

 

“Jim!”

 

Kirk dropped his teasing. He tightened his grip around Peter’s erection and stroked firmly, earning him a sob of relief and a full-body shudder. Kirk couldn’t decide where to look: the pornographically perfect sight of Peter’s hard cock thrusting through the circle of his hand, or the wide-eyed, desperate expression on Peter’s face as Kirk worked him. “You want to come?” Kirk asked.

 

Peter was barely able to gasp, “Yeah.”

 

“Ask for it,” Kirk said.

 

Peter whined and kept thrusting up into Kirk’s hand. Kirk tightened his grip and leaned over Peter, pressing the length of their bodies together.

 

“You want it? Ask for it,” Kirk growled.

 

Peter dug his fingers into the muscle of Kirk’s back and shouted, “Please let me come.”

 

Kirk added a slick twist to the upstroke when he slid his hand over Peter. “Do it,” he whispered.

 

Peter bucked up against Kirk, hips jerking, and Kirk distantly felt Peter’s fingernails scrape down his back even as Peter’s semen spurted warm against his belly. “Jim!”

 

The echo of “Jim” sounded in Kirk’s ears, and he found himself imagining a different, rougher voice. Kirk’s hand flew to his own cock, and it took one, two strokes before he, too, was coming.

 

Kirk slumped against Peter until he was pretty sure his heart wasn’t going to gallop out of his chest. Then he hoisted himself up and propped his back against the wall at the edge of the roof. He held out a sticky hand to Peter, who pulled himself up to sit next to Kirk.

 

Peter brushed a come-stained hand against the side of his filthy pants and groaned, “Oh, we are very stupid.”

 

“We are very drunk,” Kirk corrected. With the edge of his sleeve, he rubbed half-heartedly at the drying mess on his shirt. “I don’t think they let a lot of stupid people into the academy. Well, maybe your friend Parkman.”

 

“Hey, he’s all right once you know him,” Peter muttered.

 

Kirk snorted and reached for the rest of his clothes.

 

“Honestly.” Peter began buttoning up his pants.

 

The door to the roof banged open, and someone called, “Peter!”

 

Peter froze for an instant, than hurriedly did up his pants. “Coming, Claire!” he shouted. “Be right there!”

 

“Your mom’s calling,” Kirk smirked.

 

“Yeah,” Peter said sheepishly. He stood and offered Kirk a hand up. “You coming back inside?”

 

“Nah.” Kirk stretched. He didn’t much feel like dancing. Peter gave his hand a friendly squeeze and jogged around to the door to intercept his friend.

 

Now Kirk got the fun of stumbling back to McCoy smelling of alcohol and sex. Unless he could put it off for a few more hours.
--

 

Kirk groaned as the curtains were thrown open and light suddenly spilled over his face. A dark shape moved between him and the cursed sunlight, and when Kirk squinted hard, the shape resolved itself into his roommate.

 

“You smell like a brothel,” McCoy said grumpily. “You too good for the shower?”

 

“Le’m’lone,” Kirk grumbled. Kirk really shouldn’t have stopped at a bar on the way back to his room. But after his rooftop romp with Peter, he’d needed a few more shots to clear his head and wipe away the memory of how hard he came imagining someone who wasn’t Peter coming undone beneath him and screaming his name. “C’fe?” he pleaded.

 

“Yeah, I’m going for coffee. You, on the other hand, don’t look capable of standing. You sore or something?”

 

“S’m’n.”

 

“What was her name?”

 

Kirk made the colossal effort to lift his head a few inches off the couch to look entreatingly at McCoy. “Bring m c’fe? Please?”

 

“You don’t deserve it. But fine.”

 

Kirk squeezed his eyes closed and tried to ignore his pounding headache until McCoy returned an indeterminate amount of time later. “Get up,” McCoy snapped.

 

Kirk did his best to wrestle uncooperative limbs into a more-or-less upright position, and got a hypospray in the neck for his trouble. “Ow!”

 

“You’ll thank me later. That should do something for the headache, but as your physician it’s my duty to inform you that I think the stupidity is incurable.”

 

“Thanks ‘lot, Bones.” Kirk sat still as he waited for McCoy’s magic hangover cure to work its magic. He listened to McCoy puttering around the room: getting dressed, moving books, and kicking Kirk’s loose crap out of the way. When he felt he could speak without triggering more head-splitting pain, he asked, “You going somewhere?”

 

“To work,” McCoy said shortly.

 

“Hey.” Kirk frowned determinedly as he tried to work out why that wasn’t right. “It’s Sunday. We hang out on Sunday.”

 

“You’re indisposed.” McCoy shot him a disgusted look. “So I told Heidrickson I’d take his hours at the clinic. I’m sure you’ll find some way to entertain yourself without me.”

 

“Bones--.”

 

McCoy grabbed his bag and wrenched the door open. “Don’t wait up.”
--

 

Kirk took a shower, and he thought about just staying in his dorm room and getting to work on the bourbon that apparently McCoy had found and started in on last night. At length, he decided that prospect was marginally more pathetic than befitted a Kirk, so he got dressed and went out instead.

 

Sunday night wasn’t the best for bars: fewer cute cadets looking to party, more morose souls than Kirk preferred, and the distinct absence of one morose soul in particular who could have made the evening worthwhile. Instead, he walked to the Starfleet Medical’s satellite teaching hospital. He couldn’t quite make himself go in. Fortunately, the facility stood just at the edge of campus, and probably owing to that famous James T. Kirk luck, a bar right across the street from the ER blared loud honky-tonk music. Kirk went in.

 

By four-thirty, Kirk was parked at the end of the bar ordering his sixth drink of the evening. The man sitting next to him, a short Asian guy with glasses who’d been nursing the same Coca-cola for the past hour, tried to interject again. “Excuse me please. I am supposed to be meeting someone here,” he said, a bit desperately in heavily-accented Standard.

 

Kirk waved him off. “’S fine,” he slurred. “After I finish this one,” he held up his ice-cold beer, “I’m gonna go find McCoy. Tell him he was being too dramatic with this whole storming-out-of-the-room thing. That’s just petty. And sure, he’s been strange, you know, but I didn’t do anything last night that could have pissed him off.” Kirk took another sip of his beer and considered. “Or at least, not anything different than usual. In fact, he should be thanking me, am I right?”

 

“Thanking you?” his companion asked, seemingly uncertain if he was following the story.

 

Hell, Kirk wasn’t sure he was following the story. But that didn’t stop him from continuing. “Yes, thanking me. For fighting and fucking away my brain cells every weekend and sparing us both the embarrassment of talking about… You know.” He waved a hand vaguely. “The Incident.”

 

The man looked unsure.

 

“Okay.” Kirk leaned in close and lowered his voice so his buddy had to strain to hear him over the music. “So listen. Drunkenly kissing your roommate can be explained away. Normal college crap, am I right?”

 

The guy nodded uncertainly, as if he was afraid to disagree.

 

“Hell, even a handjob can be excused, you know. Just helping out a guy whose sex life has been, let’s face it, non-existent since the divorce, not that it had to be, because he’s had to have offers, I mean, have you seen the man?”

 

His companion just blinked and pushed his glasses further up on his nose.

 

“Right, but here’s the thing.” It took two tries, but Kirk settled his hand on the guy’s shoulder and leaned in closer. “Here’s what I just can’t explain, no matter how much I drink. I can’t explain thinking about the way he tasted, or waking up in the night so hard it hurts and having the smell of him all over the damn room, or staring too long at his lips when he drinks whisky. Hell, how am I supposed to deal with that?”

 

“Ah…” The other man’s eyes slid past him and seemed to recognize someone in the crowd. “Excuse please. The man I am supposed to meet is here.” He slid off his stool.

 

Kirk clapped him on the back. “Sure, sure. Thanks for listening, buddy.”

 

“Hiro,” the man said. “My name is Hiro. I have told you four times.”

 

“Right, right. Hey, you want me to come with you?” Kirk followed Hiro’s glance to see a spiky-haired, shifty-looking guy sliding into a booth with a pretty blond lady with some killer tattoos. “Those people look kinda… unsavory.”

 

Hiro swallowed hard. “If you must,” he said. He led the way to the couple, and Kirk stumbled behind him.

 

“Hey,” he said as he slid into the booth behind Hiro. “So. Where else you got ink?”
--

 

Luckily, his communicator hadn’t been damaged when they threw him into the alley. He hadn’t seen what happened to Hiro, but damn that shifty-looking guy had been fast. And that tattooed girl was no slouch, either. Kirk hit the auto connect for his top contact. A minute or more went by before McCoy’s voice came over the comm.

 

“I’m working, you insufferable half-wit.”

 

“Bones,” he croaked.

 

“Jim? What the hell’s wrong with you? If you’re drunk dialing me again--.”

 

“Could use some help.”

 

Over the phone, he heard McCoy’s breath catch. “Are you hurt? What did you do? Where are you?”

 

“I think the guy had a knife.” Kirk felt the warm, sticky patch on the side of his t-shirt. “Seems like more blood than usual.”

 

“Jim! Where are you?”

 

“Alley of the bar. Next to… With the music.”

 

“Here? Outside the ER, you mean?”

 

“Think so.”

 

“Stay there.”

 

The comm beeped as McCoy ended the call. Kirk almost laughed, but couldn’t quite manage it through the pain. Normally he’d do the opposite of whatever McCoy said, but he’d probably stay put just this once, just to throw McCoy off his game. He lay back against the cold asphalt of the alley and tried to breathe.

 

The next thing he knew, McCoy hovered at the blurry edge of his vision.

 

“Damn it, Jim, hold still.”

 

Kirk winced as Bones tried to wipe the blood away but only succeeded in pulling against the jagged edge of the wound. “Careful!”

 

You’re telling me to be careful?” Bones growled as he snatched a bandage from the mini med-kit slung over his shoulder and pressed it against Kirk’s bleeding belly. “You? Who just attacked a guy who was holding a knife?”

 

“I didn’t see the damn knife.”

 

“You’re an ass, Jim. Damn it, this isn’t working. We have to go to the ER.”

 

“No!”

 

“Jim--.”

 

“I told Pike I wouldn’t get in any more fights this year.” And Kirk couldn’t bear to see that disappointed look on Pike’s face and hear another lecture on how we was proving all of them right, those people who think you’ll never amount to anything.

 

McCoy clenched his teeth, but he must have understood some of what Pike’s approval meant, because he said, “We’ll do it without admitting you. Come on.”
--

 

The walk down the alley and across the street seemed interminably long. Usually McCoy would be complaining bitterly about Kirk’s leaning on him like this, but he seemed to have transitioned to full-on doctor mode, muttering under his breath about virtual sutures instead of cursing a blue streak. McCoy hauled Kirk into a side door of the hospital. He stopped at a corner to let a pair of chattering doctors pass.

 

“Just a little further, Jim. We have to get to an exam room so I can--.”

 

“Doctor McCoy?”

 

Busted. Kirk tried to stand up straight, winced at the pull on his wound, and settled for trying to look like he wasn’t bleeding profusely. He kept hold of McCoy’s arm so he wouldn’t fall on his face, and he kept his eyes firmly on the floor, in case the newcomer should recognize him and foil their plan out of spite. Kirk had never made many friends at the hospital, for as much time as he spent there.

 

“Nurse Petrelli,” McCoy said calmly. “Give me a hand here. He’s bleeding out his gut, and we need to seal the wound.”

 

“Right. Yes. Of course.” A slim body swooped in under Kirk’s arm to help hold him up, and the three of them hobbled down the hallway. “Should we take him to triage?”

 

“No. I… I don’t want him admitted,” said McCoy. “You okay with that?”

 

“Sure. Yeah, of course, Doctor.”

 

Content to know he wasn’t going to get McCoy in trouble, Kirk let them drag him through a door. McCoy shoved him down on an exam table and snapped, “Stay.” His voice moved away from the table. “Give him something for the pain. Not emilocin: he’s allergic."

 

Kirk gritted his teeth for the bite of a hypospray. Instead, a gentle hand touched his neck. A warm, distantly familiar male voice said, “I’m going to give you an antibiotic and a painkiller.” The hiss of a hypospray sounded by his ear, but the gentle hand smoothed away the sting almost immediately. “Just hang in there.”

 

As the painkiller started to take effect, Kirk tried to drag his eyes open. He caught sight of a young man with too-long bangs—must be the nurse—handing McCoy a dermal regenerator before the pain, and the room, mellowed into darkness.
--

 

Kirk woke up to the familiar astringent smell of a medical facility. He pried his eyes open and took in the small room: several couches, including the one on which he lay, a row of lockers against the far wall, and a large communications panel by the door.

 

“You’re in the nurse’s lounge,” said a voice Kirk couldn’t quite place.

 

A young man in the uniform of a med cadet rose from the chair next to Kirk, pointed a medical scanner at him, and brushed his bangs out of his eyes.

 

“Peter?” Kirk said incredulously.

 

“That’s Nurse Petrelli to you, mister, even if you’re not an official patient,” Peter said sternly, but his crooked grin was firmly in place.

 

“You’re a nurse?”

 

“No, I just like to dress up like one.” Peter’s eyes flicked to Kirk’s, and a blush crept over his cheeks. “Yes, I’m a nurse.”

 

“You didn’t say you were a nurse when we--.”

 

“It didn’t come up, if I recall. Why? Are you sorry you hooked up with a lowly--.” Peter jumped up and gripped his scanner like a lifeline. “Doctor McCoy.”

 

Kirk craned his neck to catch sight of McCoy in the doorway, holding a padd and sporting an impressive amount of scruff. Kirk had never seen anything quite like the stony expression McCoy wore.

“His vitals look good,” Peter said quickly. He walked to McCoy and offered the scanner. McCoy took it without looking. “I’ve got some rounds I should do.”

 

McCoy nodded curtly. Peter fled.

 

Kirk sung his legs over the side of the couch and sat up, wincing. “Thanks for patching me up.”

 

He was halfway through pushing himself to his feet when McCoy said, “You tear that wound open and so help me God I’ll let you bleed to death.”

 

Kirk sat back down. “Anyone ever tell you your bedside manner sucks?”

 

“Yes. You.” McCoy didn’t sound amused. He closed the door and turned back to Kirk to glare.

 

“Well, thank you anyway,” Kirk said. McCoy continued to glare at him. “There something you want to say to me?”

 

“Is there something you want to say to me?” McCoy asked. “About Petrelli?”

 

Kirk looked at his hands. He’d really hoped his luck had returned, and that McCoy hadn’t heard that conversation. If he couldn’t have luck, he’d settle for cockiness. “I don’t kiss and tell,” he smirked.

 

“Damn it, Jim,” McCoy snarled. “With a member of my damn team?”

 

“How was I supposed to know?” Kirk protested. “I didn’t pick him up in a hospital.”

 

“With Peter Petrelli? Peter Petrelli?” McCoy said, enunciating clearly as if through better diction he could make Kirk understand his error.

 

“Why are you so mad?” Kirk levered himself off the couch, injury be damned.

 

“With my staff, Jim!” McCoy waved a hand toward the door. “With a member of my damn staff!”

 

“I didn’t know, okay? He didn’t have a sign on him: property of Bones McCoy.”

 

“He’s just a kid, Jim. I can’t believe…” McCoy caught himself, took a deep breath, and turned his face away. “No. Scratch that. I guess I’ll believe anything when it comes to you.”

 

“I didn’t do anything wrong. Listen to me.” Kirk closed the distance between them and pulled McCoy around to look him in the face. “I said I didn’t know. It’s not like we exchanged life stories. We just had a good time, just a onetime thing, that was it.”

 

“And that’s all you want from anyone,” McCoy said bitterly.

 

“What, was I poaching?” Kirk said with a friendly punch to McCoy’s arm. “You wanted him for yourself?”

 

“No, you damn fool, I wanted--.” McCoy snapped his mouth shut. “Doesn’t matter.”

 

Sudden dizziness made Kirk grab McCoy’s arm to keep upright. “You wanted what?”

 

“Forget it, Jim.” He pulled out of Kirk’s grip and turned away. “I have to finish my shift.” He pulled the door open, then turned back halfway. “No strenuous activity for three days. Come back to the clinic tomorrow morning for another round with the dermal regenerator.”

 

“Or I could just get my personal physician to do it,” Kirk said with a weak smile. “I’ve got one that makes house calls, you know.”

 

“Better come to the clinic.” McCoy turned his face away. “I might not be around.” He left and pulled the door shut gently behind him.
--

 

The disadvantage of being a tactical genius, Kirk decided, was that once he’d identified a problem, he couldn’t stop trying to figure out how to fix it. McCoy hadn’t come home for two days, and when Kirk went to the hospital, he was greeted with cold glares, even from nurses and doctors he usually charmed. Kirk had to admire their loyalty to one of their own, even if he didn’t appreciate the result. The first morning, Kirk was politely but firmly asked to leave the premises twenty minutes into his search for his wayward friend. The second morning, he hung around after his clinic appointment until the security personnel changed stations, and snuck onto the second floor. He was just debating whether to steal a med cadet’s uniform or a hospital gown for a disguise when a hand touched his back.

 

Kirk whirled, ready to fight, only to be confronted with Peter Petrelli, whose sensual lips were pursed in an angry frown. “I need to talk to you.”

 

“Look, I didn’t--.”

 

“Shut up.” Peter grabbed him by the arm and pulled him through the nearest door, into a small room with a single chair and a neatly made bed.

 

“Hey,” Kirk said quickly. The last thing he needed right now was to prove McCoy right. “I can’t—.”

 

“Really, stop talking,” Peter snapped. “If I’d known who you were, I wouldn’t have gone after you. Don’t get me wrong, it was nice, more than nice, but hell. Do you really hate Doctor McCoy so much?”

 

“Huh?” Kirk said intelligently.

 

“I mean, you’re The Jim Kirk, the one he talks about all the damn time.” Peter brushed his hair out of his eyes, and Kirk could swear he looked nervous. “Like, ‘This stupid cadet broke his foot jumping off Old Main. When my friend Jim Kirk did that the first time, he not only didn’t break anything, he managed to get away with a synchronized swimming trophy from 2112 that he later turned into a solar battery using nothing but the contents of a Chinese takeout box.’ For awhile, I thought Jim Kirk was just some mythical figure he made up to torture his patients.”

 

“Really?” Kirk gaped at him.

 

“‘Jim Kirk drank a Russian under the table and walked away without alcohol poisoning. Jim Kirk negotiated a three-day extension on a tactics paper with the head of the Diplomacy Department. Jim Kirk passed his basic flight exam while under the influence of an allergic reaction to smelt.’ It’s kind of sweet, really.”

 

“You’re saying he talks to people about me?”

 

“More than that.” Peter rested a hand on Kirk’s shoulder. “Are you completely blind? He talks about you like you’re his. And if you’re wondering why the staff here didn’t refuse to treat you after the twentieth time you came in drunk and busted up, you have him to thank, not your charming smile, which is not as charming as you seem to think.”

 

“Worked on you,” Kirk shot back.

 

Peter shook his head. “I’m a bad judge of character, historically speaking. But I trust Doctor McCoy. If he’s this out of his mind about you, you can’t be a total asshole.”

 

“Thanks a lot.”

 

“Doctor McCoy doesn’t say nice things about people. Except about you. And he’s never mentioned any of this to you, has he?”

 

“Bones isn’t really the touchy feely type.” Kirk laughed to release the simmering tension in his gut. Peter couldn’t possibly be saying what he thought he was saying. “I don’t know where you’re going with this.”

 

“Do I need to check you for brain injury?” Peter leaned in closer. “Doctor McCoy says you’re some kind of tactical genius, but it seems like you’re taking the day off from that. How can you not see the way he looked at you when he found out we…”

 

“What the hell do you know about it?” The reminder rankled. Kirk knew he’d hurt McCoy; he didn’t need an instant replay.

 

“I know he hasn’t said a word to me since he figured it out. I know he worked for thirty two hours straight, showered in the doctor’s lounge yesterday and left looking like hell. I know you’ve been sniffing around here the past two days looking for him. And I know that the other night when you came, it wasn’t me you were thinking of.”

 

“Oh,” Kirk said faintly.

 

“You really are an arrogant ass.” Peter crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back, shaking his head. “Where do you get off telling me I don’t know how to ask for what I want, when you’re so wrapped up in denial you can’t even talk to your best friend?”

 

“What exactly am I supposed to say?”

 

Peter shrugged. “You’re the genius. You figure it out. Now get out before I call security.”
--

 

McCoy hadn’t been in their room, he wasn’t answering his communicator, and Kirk was absolutely not going to chase around the campus looking for him. For one thing, if he found McCoy but had somehow exacerbated his injury, McCoy would murder him. Luckily, Kirk had some alternative resources.

 

“It should be an easy trace,” Kirk said smoothly.

 

Across the table, the Academy’s two youngest geniuses looked at each other and then back at Kirk. “The Fleet communicator system is not easy to access,” said Cadet Chekov, the older of the two.

 

“But you can do it,” Kirk prompted.

 

“Of course we can do it,” Cadet Sanders said quickly. “It’s just a question of risk. If we get caught…”

 

“It would look wery bad on our permanent records,” Chekov said, and turned wide, mournful eyes up at Kirk.

 

“I’ll make it worth your while,” Kirk said. Another day, he would have made them sweat, drawn out the negotiations a little, but he was in a hurry. “Twice the standard fee. This is a rush job, gentlemen.”

 

The two looked at each other, and both nodded their curly heads. Sanders pulled out his padd, and his fingers flew across it in a blur. “I’m in. You have the map?”

 

Chekov pulled out his own padd, hit a few commands, and then turned it around to show Kirk. “He is here.” He pointed to a green dot on the map of campus. “And standing still.”

 

Kirk frowned at the location. “You sure?” he asked.

 

Sanders looked insulted and Chekov scandalized.

 

“Yeah. Sure you’re sure,” Kirk said. “Pleasure doing business.”
--

 

McCoy was right where the map had shown he would be, and he looked about as awful as Peter had said: unshaven, hair standing out at crazy angles, his rumpled cadet’s uniform looking as if he’d slept in it. The last place Kirk would have thought to look for McCoy was the flight school’s shuttle launch hanger. Apparently McCoy thought so too, because when he looked up from his perch on a row of benches near the hanger entrance and noticed Kirk walking toward him, a deep scowl etched itself into his face.

 

“What do you want?” McCoy snapped. Kirk was profoundly grateful for the bustle of students and instructors completing pre-flight checks around them. He didn’t think he could say what he’d come to say somewhere quiet and private, where if this didn’t go well he’d have to face the sting of rejection without the rest of the world as a shield for his feelings.

 

“I’m an idiot,” Kirk said. He had always favored a strong opening move in chess, and it didn’t fail him here. McCoy didn’t run away, and he though he looked suspicious, he also wasn’t yelling. Kirk came a step closer. Between the whirr of idling engines and the loud hum of conversation, no one would overhear them, and McCoy would be less likely to bolt if he didn’t feel trapped. “I’m an idiot.”

 

McCoy stood up. His fists tightened at his sides, and forced his words out through clenched teeth. “Everything else, Jim. I can handle everything else, but this is too much. Not in my hospital. Not someone I work with. Not when I look at him every damn day I have to wonder why you would choose--,” he stopped himself. “If you don’t respect me enough to understand that, then we’re not as good of friends as I thought.”

 

“I should have said something sooner.”

 

“About how you were fucking a nurse in my department?” McCoy snapped.

 

Kirk snapped right back, “No, about how I wanted it to be you.”

 

McCoy’s eyes widened, then narrowed quickly. “Don’t play with me, Jim. I can’t...” He scrubbed a hand through his hair, making it even messier. “I don’t need this from you.”

 

“I’m an idiot,” Kirk said again. “I’m admitting I’m an idiot. You should be writing this down somewhere, because I know you’re going to want to refer to it later. I talked to Peter--.” McCoy’s shoulders tensed, but Kirk soldiered on. “I talked to Peter, and I figured it out. Because I don’t know if you know this, but I’m kind of a genius.”

 

“I thought you were an idiot,” McCoy muttered.

 

“Both.” Kirk waved a hand distractedly. “It’s not important.”

 

McCoy threw up his hands and tried to walk away, but Kirk dodged in front of him to block his path. “Get out of my way, Jim.”

 

“Fine.” Kirk held up his hands slowly. “Let me say one thing, and then if you want to, you can go. Deal?”

 

McCoy nodded sharply.

 

“Right.” Kirk took a deep breath and stepped onto the battlefield. “You’re my best friend. And since what happened… I can’t stop thinking about you. Thinking about us. Us having sex, specifically. And I don’t mean in a fuck buddies kind of way. I mean I want to have something. With you. With us. Together. You and me. And I am terrified that I’m going to say something or do something to screw this up and lose my best friend, but I… I can’t settle for less when I want it all. I want to have all of you, and I want you to have all of me. And if that’s not what you want, then fine, but I can’t let you walk away without a fight.”

 

McCoy stared at him, and his face twitched as if he couldn’t decide whether to scowl or smile. Finally, he said, “You planning on fighting me?”

 

“That’s not what I--,” Kirk started, and then he realized that McCoy had settled on a tight smile, and he stopped in mid-sentence. “So, you--.”

 

“Kirk!” From across the hanger, someone waved urgently. Kirk turned, annoyed, and saw Hikaru Sulu jogging toward him. He knew the guy only vaguely. They’d been friendly rivals in basic flight until the smelt incident and maybe they’d had a little bit of sex, a fact which sent Kirk’s guts heaving right at the moment.

 

Sulu looked grim as he approached. He nodded to McCoy, and grabbed Kirk’s arm. “You know a guy named Parkman?” he asked without preamble.

 

“Um… I’ve met him,” Kirk said hesitantly. He didn’t miss the way McCoy’s eyes narrowed.

 

“Well apparently he knows you,” Sulu said conspiratorially. “He’s been doing some talking to a certain officer about something that may or may not have happened on Saturday night.”

 

McCoy’s scowl returned, and Kirk said quickly, “I hardly even talked to Claire Bennet.”

 

“Claire Bennet?” Sulu shook his head. “No, forget that. Nathan Petrelli’s been asking about you.”

 

“Nathan Petrelli.” Petrelli. That’s why Peter’s name had sounded familiar. Petrelli as in Nathan Petrelli. An exceptional pilot, one of the most decorated officers of his generation, allegedly being groomed for the admiralty, rumored to be on the verge of becoming one of the youngest Starfleet captains ever. “Petrelli.”

 

“I would have warned you. If you’d asked.” McCoy looked almost amused. “You might have heard, I work with his brother.”

 

“He’s been asking around about you all day,” Sulu said. “If I were you--. Oh.” His eyes fixed across the hanger, behind Kirk. “Best of luck.” Sulu gave Kirk a quick pat on the shoulder, then disappeared.

 

Kirk turned to see Nathan Petrelli cutting through the bustle the hanger. Cadets jumped aside for him, and even other officers stepped smartly out of his way. He was coming right for them. Nothing to do but brace for impact. Kirk planted his feet, glanced at McCoy--who gave a long-suffering sigh--and plastered on his best devil-may-care grin.

 

“Doctor McCoy,” Petrelli said when he was close enough. “Nice to see you, as always.” He extended a hand, which McCoy shook, and then turned. “Are you Jim Kirk?”

 

Petrelli wasn’t what Kirk would have imagined from his reputation. Shorter, for one thing, but handsome: strong jaw, eyes the same warm brown as his brother’s but with a sharp glint in them, and a tight mouth that promised things Kirk was definitely not going to think about right now.

 

Kirk realized he was staring. “Yes. Yes I am, Lieutenant.” He put his hand out, but Petrelli ignored it.

 

“I’ve heard about you from Captain Pike.” Petrelli looked Kirk up and down, and he got the feeling he was being assessed. “And from some others.”

 

“Well, don’t believe everything you hear,” Kirk said with a tight smile. McCoy elbowed him sharply.

 

“Right.” Petrelli looked at McCoy, and then back at Kirk. “I’ll just say what I came here to say, cadet. It’s come to my attention that you’ve been paying a certain amount of attention to my brother. Peter Petrelli. He’s a friend of Doctor McCoy, here.” Petrelli nodded to him, and McCoy nodded back warily. “You know who I mean?”

 

“I’ve met Peter,” Kirk said coolly.

 

“Okay,” Petrelli said. “Then this should be a short conversation. Tell me exactly what you think you’re doing with him.”

 

“I’m not trying to do anything with your brother,” Kirk said evenly. He’d played out this conversation more times than he could count with conquests’ friends, lovers, or fathers toting old-fashioned pump action shotguns. The trouble was that this time, he had to make sure his best friend didn’t get caught in the crossfire. “He’s a nice guy and all, but I promise there’s not going to be anything between us.”

 

“Why do I have trouble believing you?” Nathan showed his teeth in a shark’s grin, and Kirk caught a glimpse of the dangerous man beneath the smooth veneer.

 

“I promise I have no intention of pursuing your brother, sir,” Kirk said. For once, his assurances were heartfelt.

 

“Because you’re such a fine, upstanding guy,” Petrelli sneered.

 

“No,” Kirk said. His mind flashed through all the possibilities in an instant, and although his tactical training screamed at him to stop, he said, “Because I’m in a relationship.”

 

“A relationship.” Petrelli narrowed his eyes.

 

“Yep. Long-term, monogamous, all the good stuff.”

 

“You’ve got to be kidding, cadet.” Now Petrelli just looked disappointed. “You must know you’ve got a reputation on campus. You’re obviously lying.”

 

“He’s not.”

 

Both Petrelli and Kirk turned sharply to look at McCoy.

 

“Doctor,” Petrelli said slowly. “I didn’t expect you to get mixed up in all this.”

 

“Just telling it like it is,” McCoy said. He had the same concentrated, placid solidity Kirk had seen on him during surgery. When McCoy had a purpose, his work was really a thing of beauty.

 

“I’m sure you’re making an honest mistake and trying to help out a friend,” Petrelli said, putting a hand on McCoy’s shoulder. “But you can’t know everything about Kirk’s love life.”

 

“I should. I’m his partner.”

 

Kirk almost laughed at the look of disbelief on Petrelli’s face before realizing he probably looked similarly stymied.

 

“Partners,” Petrelli said. His hand dropped away.

 

“That’s right,” McCoy said, so matter-of-factly that even Kirk was convinced.

 

“Well.” Petrelli looked suspiciously at Kirk once more, then back at McCoy. “I guess I was misinformed. Carry on.” He gave McCoy a curt nod and set off into the hanger.

 

Kirk watched him go until he was out of sight. When he finally turned to his friend, afraid of what he’d find, McCoy was looking at him with a self-satisfied smirk. “You’re afraid of Nathan Petrelli,” he said.

 

“No!” Kirk sputtered. “I… I just didn’t want to get in another fight while my insides are still knitting themselves back together.”

 

“Sensible, at least.” The smile drained slowly from McCoy’s face, and the uncertainty returned. “Jim… Don’t make me a liar.”

 

“I won’t,” he said. For a moment, they just looked at each other. The noise of the hanger around them seemed very far away, and Kirk thought maybe he’d stopped breathing at some point. Then McCoy looked down with a nervous chuckle, and the moment passed. Kirk smiled. “Hell, I won’t be able to. You know Parkman’s going to wonder why I’m not on my way to duty on the third asteroid belt of Middle-of-Nowhere, and Petrelli will tell him what you said, and by Friday the whole campus will know that we’re an item.”

 

“An item?” McCoy’s eyebrows contorted into horrified madness.

 

Kirk grabbed McCoy by the elbow and steered them toward the hanger door. “Girls will stop throwing themselves at me, guys will stop trying to emulate me, and first year cadets will stop telling of my exploits in the mess hall.”

 

“What a tragedy,” McCoy muttered.

 

“It’s a small price to pay.” Looking over at McCoy walking beside him, Kirk honestly thought that anything would be a small price to pay for the prospect of McCoy giving him a chance to redeem himself. “Hey, so I bought you some whiskey for a peace offering. It’s back at the apartment.”

 

“Well. I single-handedly saved your career. I think I deserve a drink.”

 

“Drinks it is.” They cleared the shadow of the hanger and emerged into the sunlight of the quad. Kirk glanced over to see a genuine smile playing at McCoy’s lips. “Bones.”

 

“What?” McCoy asked suspiciously, stopping in his tracks.

 

“Thanks,” Kirk said simply.

 

“It’s nothing.” McCoy shook his head and set off again. “Besides, if I was entitled to all of you, I couldn’t very well let Petrelli take a bite out of your ass. That wouldn’t be treating my property very well.”

 

“You’re a man of discerning tastes, Leonard McCoy.”

 

“Is the whiskey single malt?”

 

“Double malt.”

 

“It’ll have to do.” McCoy shot Kirk a sideways glance, and now his grin was firmly in place. “In fact, it suits me just fine.”