The first time is about a week after they enlist. Long enough for both of them to get fed up with their assigned roommates, their infuriating swotty classmates, and the deeply disappointing lack of good whisky in the cadet bar. Well. Leonard is disappointed with that. Jim, as he explained on their second night on campus, is quite happy to get pissed on any moonshine that’s going.
Leonard is, too. But he used to have a finely curated selection of whiskies and brandies, and now he doesn’t. Just like he doesn’t have his house, or his secure, challenging, prestigious hospital job, or - well, any of the things he used to have.
Jim gets hold of some real, genuine aged single malt made by genuine aged scottish whisky-makers. And he deigns to share it with Leonard.
‘Kid, I’d give you…’ and Leonard stops, laughs bitterly. ‘A lot of fucking things, but all I’ve got left are my bones.’
That turns into a nickname, later. In the short term, Jim makes terrible, terrible remarks about bones and boners. Leonard looks at him, and he’s a terrible idea, and he’s about as far removed from Joscelyn as anyone could get while still being a human. There are probably Vulcans out there more like Joscelyn than this kid is.
So Leonard screws him.
It works out ok. They get off, they wake up with hangovers, they agree not to speak about it. Then, about five minutes later, they scrap that agreement and concede it was actually pretty good, given how damn drunk they’d been.
‘But kid,’ Leonard says, ‘I am too old to be keeping up with you on the regular.’ And he buries his aching head in his hands.
‘The drinking, or the fucking?’ Jim asks.
‘Oh, I can drink you under the table any day,’ Leonard tells him, because he has no sense of self-preservation.
The second time is after Leonard fails a second-year exam. Not a medical exam, fucking hell, he fails a fucking history exam, because apparently Starfleet, in addition to supervising your speciality training as a space-going medical officer, put you through fucking undergraduate fucking liberal fucking arts courses. Because apparently Starfleet want their medical staff to be well-rounded fucking individuals equipped to deal with the great social complexity of the galaxy, or some fucking nonsense like that.
Jim listens to Leonard’s tirade, replete with fucking expletives, looks him up and down and says ‘so, about that fucking?’.
‘Get fucked,’ Leonard says.
‘Gonna help me out?’ Jim asks.
‘Yeah, because this is totally about helping you out,’ Leonard grouches. He can recognise a pity fuck when he sees one.
He says yes, though. Why the hell fucking not.
The third time is after the Kobayashi Maru (and before it all goes to shit). Jim is stone cold sober, but climbing out of his skin on adrenaline and sheer smugness.
‘I am the best,’ he crows, flinging his arms around Bones (who actually thinks of himself as Bones now. A least, he does when he’s around Jim Kirk). ‘I am the actual best. Bones, tell me I’m amazing.’
‘You’re amazing,’ Bones agrees. He’d performed major abdominal surgery last week - first time since joining Starfleet he’d been assigned to supervise instead of assist. No one died. No one was catastrophically injured by irate nursing staff, which is more of a miracle. But Jim Kirk is the actual best. His heart swells at the sight of him, so damn pleased with himself.
‘Every girl I see tonight is going to want to fucking do me,’ Kirk crows. This, Bones knows, is factually untrue. Many girls he sees tonight will want to clock him one, either because he’s insufferable, or because they’re command track and they couldn’t beat the Kobayashi Maru.
‘You wanna start by fucking doing me?’ Bones asks. The words are out of his mouth before he quite registers what he’s saying. Jim’s eyes bug out of his head for a moment, then his expression turns into a smirk. An insufferable smirk.
‘After all,’ Bones continues. In for a penny, in for a pound. ‘You are the actual best. Or so you keep saying.’
‘Oh, Bones, you have no idea,’ Jim says, crowding right up into his space. Bones has some idea, he wasn’t that drunk either of the previous times.
Whatever impulse he had, though, to even offer, was a good one. Jim in this mood is, if not the actual empirical best, something quite close to it. He practically glows with joy and confidence and he gets off on success - not on unearned praise, but on making other people appreciate him. Bones appreciates him. Bones appreciates him to the tune of several helpless, quivering, successive orgasms while bent over Jim’s desk, which is still covered in textbooks and notes and god knows what else.
The fourth time is out in the silence of space, on board the Enterprise, where neither of them are in any way used to or really prepared for running a goddamn ship. They’re putting on a good front, though, because the pointy-eared bastard does have command experience and is, Bones is pretty sure, only here so he can enjoy the pleasure of watching Jim fail. Jim thinks otherwise. Bones tries not to enquire too deeply about that.
It’s two am (whatever that means, in space), and Bones is awake, because he’s a fucking nutcase and he’s long since resigned himself to that diagnosis.
It’s two am, and Jim, apparently, is awake, because he’s suffering from stress-induced insomnia, or post-traumatic stress disorder, or imposter syndrome, or childhood trauma, or any number of other things Bones is qualified to diagnose but won’t.
‘Bones,’ Jim says, sounding weary and not in the slightest bit cocky. ‘Wanna fuck?’
Bones raises one eyebrow. ‘Does that line work on all the girls?’
Jim looks down at his boots. ‘Not allowed to try it on all the girls, anymore.’
‘So you’re trying it on me?’ Bones folds his arms. ‘Or did you forget? You’re my line manager, too.’
‘You’renotfuckingimpressedwithme,’ Jim says, all in a rush. This is untrue: Bones is impressed with Jim every fucking day. Right now, he’s impressed with how much sense that makes.
‘I’m impressed with your ass,’ he says. Jim smirks at him, a shadow of the cocky asshole he’s used to.
‘Does that mean you’re gonna fuck it?’
Bones thinks about that. ‘Yeah, I guess it does,’ he says.
It works out okay. They get off. They aren’t drunk, so they aren’t going to wake up with hangovers. They don’t end up cuddling afterwards, but they do stay sprawled half across each other. Jim snores. Bones finds it oddly soothing.
They try talking about it the next morning. They try agreeing not to talk about it. They settle on agreeing they could talk about it, or they could just let it be, and the latter sounds like a much better idea.
The fifth time is clearly the start of a habit. ‘But not some kind of romance, right?’ Bones says, and Jim fervently agrees that whatever it is, it is not that. They never do put a name on it, but they get so far as talking about the fact that it does happen, this screwing-each-other thing, and that they like it, and that they intend for it to continue on an ad-hoc basis.
They talk about other things, though. They talk about the ship, and the crew, and the chances that Uhura will dump Spock’s ass or whether she’s finally found the one person in the galaxy who’s as uptight as she is. They talk, cautiously, about the fact that Leonard gets regular - infrequent, but regular - holo calls from his daughter these days. And about why Jim won’t return his mother’s calls. They also talk about Jim’s terrible lack of self-preservation, about the chances the entire crew are going to die of horrible alien plagues, and about Scotty’s most lethal homebrew inventions.
Most of these things they talk about while not having sex. But with Jim, you never know.
‘Hey Bones?’ Jim says, on an occasion unremarkable save for the fact that Bones has two fingers busy in his ass at the time. ‘You know today is Darwin’s birthday?’
‘No,’ Bones says, and by now he’s learned not to get distracted by whatever comes out of Jim’s mouth, so he keeps his fingers moving. ‘Why do you know that?’
‘Oh, I dunno,’ Jim says, and for a few moments he appears to be paying due attention to Bones’ ministrations and not to long-dead scientific luminaries. ‘Apparently on Betazoid they have a planet-wide festival for the woman who figured out the evolution thing there.’
‘Really?’ Bones asks. He considers whether adding a third finger would shut Jim up. ‘What do they do for this festival?’
‘Nothing interesting,’ Jim says, and that’s probably totally wrong by every possible measure. ‘I banged a Betazoid once who thought fucking was an appropriate celebration when off-world, though.’
‘Are you telling me I’m fucking you today in honour of Charles Darwin?’
‘Celebrate the survival of mankind as a species, Bones,’ Jim says, earnestly.
‘I’ll celebrate the weird fluke of evolution that gave us the prostate gland and made it fun, if that’s what you mean,’ Bones says, applying strategic pressure to underline the point. Jim makes gratifying noises and stops talking about then.
They’re back on board the Enterprise at last. She’s still being refitted, but the major repairs needed after the fiasco with Khan are done, and what remains is a matter of decorating, and politics.
Jim is up and moving around. Has been for a few months, but it’s only recently that Bones has stopped surveying his every move for signs of weakness or imminent collapse. Jim says he’s overprotective. Jim’s doctors agree. Spock, surprisingly, commends Bones for his vigilance, and is, if possible, even more solicitous than Bones is. Jim has deliberately picked this time to walk over the ship, Bones is pretty sure, because Spock is teaching and can’t bother them. They’ve done the official inspection already: this is about Jim walking every inch of his ship to make sure they’ve put all the parts back where they belong.
Montgomery Scott is up to his elbows in grease in the engine room. He’s been with the Enterprise for the past nine months - apparently, he threatened to send anyone who assigned him anywhere else the way of Admiral Archer’s prize beagle.
No one is on the bridge. Bones expects Jim to sprawl in his command chair (he never just sits, he sprawls like he’s posing for the Starfleet charity calendar, all the damn time). To be honest, he more than half expects JIm to proposition him from that chair, given this is one of the few times when no one’s liable to appear unexpectedly on the bridge.
Jim doesn’t sprawl, and he doesn’t proposition. He just… wanders, patting a console here, inspecting a new display there. He winds up back at Bones’ side, and slings one arm around Bones’ shoulders.
‘She’s a good ship, Bones,’ he says, low-voiced.
‘She’s your ship,’ Bones answers. If Starfleet try to take it away from him again, the entire crew might mutiny. Or Spock might punch an Admiral, which would be a sight to see.
‘Nah,’ Jim says. ‘She’s our ship. You ‘n me, and Spock and Scotty and Uhura and… everyone.’