Jim called him Bones. For eighty-two days, he watched a man who looked exactly like him respond to the morbid name like it was a term of endearment.
Kirk laughed when he told him, called him a skeleton man.
Leonard still doesn't get either nickname.
Sometimes, they end with his knuckles chaffed from Kirk's stubble, but always with snide and cutting words; always with Kirk's fingers tearing off his uniform and always with him bent over the nearest surface, Kirk's cock up his ass so far he can taste it.
The sex is blindingly fantastic, Kirk finding ways to make him writhe pathetically, desperately; the fight forgotten moments after they've both come. He and Kirk are explosive; super-charged and stubborn; oil and water.
Sometimes, Kirk goads him along just enough to get his temper flaring, pushes because he knows that even after all these years, Leonard still can't hold his tongue worth a damn. Leonard's getting better at recognizing the subtle difference between Kirk's actual anger and his play anger; play anger always leaving him with less bruises but all the same aches.
This time it's different.
"A nightmare," Kirk's voice is ice cool, stripped of all emotion. Leonard hates when he sounds like that, prefers his seething fury. He knows how to respond to his rage. "You never seem to mind this nightmare when I'm fucking you. Don't seem to think I'm such an evil bastard when I keep your precious daughter safe."
"Don't you dare bring her into this!" Leonard snarls, balling his fists like he's ready to strike. Kirk advances on him, raises his hand and Leonard flinches. Kirk slams him against the wall, arm like a steel rod.
"You have no idea just how much leniency I've allowed you."
"You call this leniency? You think my life's been fucking roses since I met you? You've got me trapped here, you sick fuck!"
Kirk whips out his knife and Leonard tries to scramble away, knowing it's futile but too panicked to care. He doesn't want to die like this, in Kirk's quarters, on the goddamn ISS Enterprise, in space. He doesn't get the chance to let his streaming consciousness get the best of him. The blow and pain never come. Instead, Kirk shoves the blade in Leonard's hand and positions it against his neck.
"What the hell?" he splutters, shock and confusion double punching him. He tries to drop the dagger but Kirk's fingers curl around his, tighten so painfully Leonard can feel the embossed design on the hilt brand his palm.
"Do it," Kirk dares, spits. He presses the razor sharp edge against his throat, applies enough pressure that a thin slice of blood wells up, drips down his neck like a tear. "You want out so bad, then fucking kill me."
"Goddamit, Kirk!" Leonard uses all his strength to pull the blade away. It doesn't budge an inch. Kirk keeps pressing forward, lets the blade sink in deeper.
"This is the only way you'll ever get away," Kirk promises. "You'll never escape this place as long as I'm alive. I'm not going to let you get away."
His eyes bear into Leonard's, frigid blue and unwavering. He's not budging, not flinching. He drives the knife forward, Leonard's resistance almost gone unnoticed. Kirk's always been stronger. Leonard's just never known by how much until right this moment.
Jesus fuck, Kirk's really going to let him slit his throat.
Leonard doubles is efforts, pulls back until his arm muscles scream. Kirk's not even trying, keeps applying an even pressure that's going to hit his vocal chords any moment, that's going to nick his jugular and he'll bleed out in seconds.
Leonard panics. He does the only thing he can, grabs the blade, feels it bite into his palm and pulls. The pain is sharp and powerful, neat. Blood slides down his wrist, the blade cuts in deeper. Leonard winces and Kirk snaps out of his haze. He releases Leonard's hand and the bloodied dagger falls uselessly to the floor.
Leonard holds his palm above his heart, hisses and curses and glares at Kirk with all the anger he's ever managed to suppress. Seven years of bitter, poisonous vitriol spills forth.
"You goddamn, fucking idio—"
Kirk tackles him, sends him sailing across the room, landing on his back in a painful crash. Kirk moves lightening fast as he tears at Leonard's fly, yanks his pants down his legs in one hard tug.
He's hard—of course he's hard—and Kirk throbs against his naked thigh, slams his hips against the floor with both his broad hands. Leonard's complaints die on his lips when Kirk tongues the head of his dick, wraps his lips snug around the crown and sucks.
Leonard feels the rush crash through him, the instant tightening in his gut. He grabs at Kirk's face with both hands, thrashes against the perfect pressure that's sucking him down, too hard and rough and just right everywhere. Kirk's a goddamn master with his mouth, practiced at making him buck and splutter and beg in the shortest amount of time possible, only ever blows him to punish him, keeps him strung out on bone melting pleasure for hours, denying him the release he'll eventually milk out of him.
But Kirk's not stopping, not teasing, just swallowing him with messy wet heat, obscene suckling, angry grunts that drive spikes of pleasure up and down his body. He's twitching, grabbing uselessly at Kirk's short hair, bucking and grinding and Kirk takes it all without complaint, encourages him with his smooth tongue.
His orgasms are never kind, always attack him like well placed punches. They hurt and leave him crippled, infant-weak and at Kirk's diabolical mercy. This time is no exception. His body folds into itself under the intensity, his muscles wire taut and spasming as Kirk swallows him deep in the back of his throat with ease. Kirk keeps sucking on his softening dick, pulls another crashing wave of pleasure through him, makes it hurt in a blissfully grounding way.
"I'm not letting you go," Kirk says into the crease of his pelvis, once he's pulled off, sucks at the salt on his skin and makes Leonard shiver. His hand works Leonard's dick—gentle and firm—and he tries to fight the roll of his treacherous hips seeking more.
He cracks open an eye once Kirk's released his dick, when he feels him shift and rut against his hip.
The breath is knocked out of him at the sight.
His blood covers Kirk's face like war paint, rich brown smeared across his skin, stiffens his pale blonde hair in ruddy points. He stares at Leonard in a way he's never seen before, too blue eyes electric. He's a mess of colors, dirty with spit and blood dripping down his chin, plush lips glistening with his come. Kirk looks so fucking gorgeous, debauched and heaving. Beautiful.
Kirk licks his lips, leans across Leonard's body in one fluid motion. He's between Leonard's legs, looking him straight in the eyes. He takes Leonard's injured palm, licks at the blood in one long swipe that feels like sandpaper and lye on wet skin. Leonard groans despite himself, shifts his hips, spreads his legs and lets Kirk slide in closer, lets him straddle his hips and rub his rock-hard dick against his stomach.
Kirk grabs him by the hair, pulls him forward and shoves his tongue inside Leonard's mouth. Leonard whines, desperate and wanton, feels Kirk's tongue slide against his teeth, slide along his pallet and deep in his throat.
There's more teeth and spit than lips, his jaw aching and his lower back straining from being held up forcefully while his lower half is viciously pinned. Leonard opens his mouth wider, lets Kirk work his anger off the only way he's ever known.
Kirk pulls away, heaving, scattered. He uses Leonard's shoulders to push himself up but Leonard grabs his wrists, pulls him back down. Kirk allows him, keeps his eyes fixed on his face as Leonard gathers his determination and leans toward his neck. He gingerly laps at the trickling wound, feels the rich, metallic taste of Kirk's blood blossom against his taste buds.
The contact has Kirk propelling backward, sudden and alarming.
"Get Chapel to fix your hand before you pass out." Kirk's across the room in a flash, marches into the bathroom and slams the door shut.
Leonard stumbles his way to Sickbay unaware of how much blood he's lost until he tries to stand on shaky, coltish legs. He convinces Christine to leave the dermal regenerator alone, takes a stung wrap and antibiotic hypo instead.
His palm itches for days, skin knitting itself back together the old fashioned way. The slightest movements tend to rip the flesh open again; sweat stings the wound during surgery, the latex of his gloves slide against the scab uncomfortably. He can't flex his aching fingers without the skin tugging awkwardly, without him feeling the twinges of discomfort from the long scar, sensitive and raw when the healing is done.
Kirk eyes his hand suspiciously, triumphantly. He makes Leonard show him the perfectly straight line like he's admiring his signature on a painting.
Leonard looks at the thin scar on Kirk's neck and sees his mark mirrored back.
"Sulu," he begins, but stops when Kirk chuckles. Leonard leers. "This isn't funny, Kirk."
"Don't worry about him." Kirk's smile is all teeth. He slips under the sheets, pats the space next to him. Leonard sighs, pulls off his shirt. Kirk looks entirely too pleased when he yanks up the covers, wraps them around his legs.
"She's seventeen—" he restarts. Kirk squeezes his knee.
"I said don't worry about him."
"It's not him I'm worried about, Kirk. I'm worried about our—" He catches himself, finishes lamely, "Jo."
Kirk's quiet for a long time. He rolls to his side, arm around Leonard's waist, pulls him into his turn, weight firm and solid against his back.
"I'll talk to him."
He sprinted down the winding corridors, screamed at all those who obstructed his way, cursed and threatened in a voice Leonard had never heard, not once in eight years.
Kirk was furious, truly and completely furious.
By the time Kirk emerged from the room, everybody on board had heard about the attack, about his behavior, his vibrant display of emotions. It took three Ensigns two days to scrape the remains of the Klingons from the walls, the ceiling, clear evidence of Kirk's murderous, brutal attack echoing in the halls even months afterward.
Leonard's heart stopped beating when he saw Kirk emerge, bleeding from a savage gash on his face, his left wrist barely attached to his body, holding Joanna's limp form in one arm, tight against his body, fingers pressed into her stomach to plug the oozing holes. Joanna's blood and his mixed, pouring onto the floors in dark red pools Kirk slipped on three times, left three long, red gashes against the white floor.
It takes Kirk fifteen minutes to succumb to the powerful sedative Christine had administered immediately upon his arrival—Kirk somehow staying conscious just long enough to see Joanna stabilized.
The gash on his head is quickly sealed in favor of the serious nerve, muscle and tissue damage from the wound to his arm. Leonard repairs the injury painstakingly slowly, carefully. Kirk blinks himself awake as Leonard finishes, runs his steady fingers along the invisible scar that would never appear.
Kirk pulls himself into a sitting position, opens his legs just enough to let Leonard work on the purpling scar on his face, smooth out the scar tissue until it would be a gentle pink patch of brand new skin.
Kirk doesn't take his eyes off Joanna and Leonard feels his chest expand, feels calmness and tranquility mingle with a gratitude that cripples him. Kirk had risked a lot to save Joanna, had openly and publicly unleashed the full extent of his feelings, and shown everyone just how badly he could be compromised.
He sacrificed the mask he'd cultivated his whole life for Joanna, for Leonard. He saved Leonard's family, the person he loved the most in the world.
"Thank you," he chokes, holds Kirk's handsome, scarred face between his hands. He could have lost them both this afternoon, his baby and Kirk. Kirk doesn't respond, keeps staring past his shoulder. Leonard forces Kirk's eyes to his, squeezes his fingers.
When Kirk finally looks at him, Leonard feels drunk, beset. He can't tear his eyes away from Kirk's lips—swollen and split—full and pink and taunting. He genuinely wants to kiss him, taste him across his pallet. He does; pulls Kirk's mouth to his and spreads Kirk's sealed lips with his tongue.
Kirk tenses, begins to pull away, but Leonard uses every ounce of strength he possesses to keep Kirk in place. He feels Jim's tongue respond, immediately gets swept away in the crash of pleasure that laps through him. It's only their third kiss—the first he's willingly initiated without any sense of debt, the first he's willingly participated in without the immediate cloud of orgasm dulling his senses. He's shocked to discover he wants this, wants Kirk's mouth on his, wants Kirk's heavy limbs coiling around him and pulling him close.
Kirk's legs anchor around his hips; crushes him painfully tight against his body, keeps pulling him closer, forces his jaw open wider and plunders for all it's worth. Leonard moans, mutters out his thanks and his gratefulness and claws at Kirk's back, refuses to let him go.
He can feel Kirk's warmth right to his very core, feels his chest expanding, feels the love pour in. It hits him right there that somewhere between the humiliation and the fighting and his fury and his anger, Jim Kirk had weaseled his way into Leonard's heart; his family.
Leonard's body aches, stiff, sore, and freezing cold considering he spent a whole afternoon and night putting out fires.
Jim couldn't look more relaxed.
"Getting old," Jim comments, bemusedly, without even looking up from his datapad. Leonard shrugs off his uniform, doesn't acknowledge Jim's weak attempts to rile him up. He wants a full night's rest, would rather not do anything that would end with Jim shackling him to the headboard and keeping him up until the beginning of his next shift.
Leonard groans, rubs the heels of his palm roughly against his eyes. He still smells the burnt flesh, shakes his head to clear the images as quickly as he possibly can.
Leonard doesn't need to turn to know Jim's eyes are lazily traveling over his back, his gaze as palpable as his touch. It's taken Leonard years to learn how to diffuse that sharp edge in Jim's voice, how to distract him.
"We ran out of paralytic today."
"And how is this my problem?"
Leonard slides his pants down his legs, his knees and ankles cracking when he steps out of them. He hears the gentle clink of Jim's datapad touching the heavy wooden desk near the bed, knows Jim's full attention is now squarely on him.
"It'll be your problem the next time your broken ass if hauled into my Sickbay."
When he turns around, Jim's shifted from his side of the bed to Leonard's. The sheets are wrinkled and Jim's smirking. Leonard feels his irritation augment, tint his vision. He glares as he tugs the sheets up; slips into the uncomfortably tiny space Jim's allowed him. Jim smiles and curls against him, arm slung over his hips, fingers haphazardly skimming the hair low on his belly.
He radiates heat, chases away the chill. Leonard sinks against his chest, feels Jim's chin on his shoulder, his fingers running along the elastic of his boxers.
"Jim," he warns, shivers involuntarily when Jim chuckles, low in his throat.
He wonders what it'll cost to get him out of this, would know what Jim wants if he could just see his face, could catch a glimpse of his eyes. Jim sighs heavily against his neck, grumbles as he forces his other hand under Leonard's body, holds him tightly at the hips.
"C'mere," Jim says grudgingly, not quite an order and not quite a request, and pulls Leonard forward easily.
"What—" Leonard's about to complain, get himself in serious trouble when Jim ruthlessly digs his thumbs into a cluster of nerves low on his spine.
Leonard's eyes snap open, back arching away from Jim. The pain is blinding for just an instant before his body goes blissfully numb, all the aches he'd dragged back to their room from Sickbay gone.
When his body elastically snaps back into place, he's heaving, breathless and dazed. He crashes against Jim's dick, hard and curving. Jim's maddeningly warm, the pressure against his ass so familiar, soothing and the only constant in Leonard's life.
Jim grunts, groans long and low, curses. "Fuck. Your—fuck."
Jim's teeth dig into his shoulder, bite down and send a flood of bright, sharp pain straight to his dick. Leonard pants, groans when Jim shoves his hand into his boxers, grabs his dick and twists, rutting against his ass in perfect synch.
"Jim," he gasps when Jim sucks a livid bruise into his flesh, when his pace quickens, his thumb rubbing vindictively against his leaking slit. It'd only take a few more tight jerks—the slightest hint of pressure against his neck—and he'd be coming.
But Jim's grip is gone, Leonard's hips stuttering, thrusting against nothing. Jim yanks the covers off the bed, kicks them with his bare feet, glues himself against Leonard's back, mouth hot and plush against his ear.
"Finish yourself off," he growls like molasses, snaps his hips against Leonard's ass. He's so hard Leonard's surprised he's not already being filled up, on his hands and knees and choking on the force of Jim's frenzied thrusts.
"Jesus Christ, Jim, please," he begs, hips undulating, seeking Jim's body. Jim keeps his body immobile, humps behind him slowly, calculated and in control.
"Make yourself come and I'll let you get whatever you need for Sickbay," Jim promises desperately, bites at the shell of his ear, growls darkly as he claws away at Leonard's underwear, urges his hands to curl around his straining dick.
Leonard shudders at the first touch of his fingers circling his cock, groans when Jim groans, bucks into his own fist. Jim tightens his fingers around his, speeds up his movements, keeps him at a pace that leaves him feeling liquid and overwhelmed.
"Mine," Jim snarls into his neck, bites his pulse and Leonard comes without any of the familiar warning signs. Jim grabs his chin, twists his head back painfully as he attacks his mouth, tongue trying to force its way down Leonard's throat. Jim sucks on his tongue, bites at his lips, kisses him like he's trying to break him.
Leonard squirms, turns until he's facing Jim, slides on top of him and lets Jim rut against his stomach. He feels supercharged, all traces of his exhaustion gone. Jim's always known how to play his body against him, push him past his limits.
It's when Jim slides his thumb across the scar on his palm, feels the thick line of puckered tissue throb, does he come, mouth against Leonard's, fingers intertwined.
He loses consciousness hearing his teammates die.
There's nothing for the longest time.
When the cage opens, he's poured out like scotch, hits all the rocks. There's suddenly too much light, shining so powerfully Leonard prays for the darkness.
One of the creatures kicks him onto his back. His eyes flicker upward and all he can see is blue sky. The ground beneath him is dirt and pebbles, the stacked circular rows of the enclosure surround the sky like a frame.
It's an arena.
The fuckers have him in an arena.
The same creature who kicked him grabs him by the throat, holds him up with one hand. Leonard chokes and kicks, turns purple as the creature announces something in a booming, garbled voice that sends a rippling cheer through the crowd.
He's going to die here. He was never any good at pulling people apart, just patching them up.
Two different creatures march into the open area. They're both double his size—seven feet tall and chests built like ship masts—both sporting rudimentary metal armor, dented and scratched and covered in grime.
It's only when he's carried out of the ring does he realize he's not the competition.
He's the prize.
He looks like a twig standing up to an oak tree, thin and curly and smiling—his birthday come early. Pavel doesn't have a shield or a helmet, doesn't even look all that worried. He calmly unsheathes his knife, a long, curved blade that Leonard would recognize anywhere, has pried it out of Jim's blood stained hands many times.
The creature charges him. Pavel deftly flips his blade, catches it by the hilt and throws it like a grenade. The knife punctures the creature's forehead with an echoing crunch. Pavel darts toward his falling body, grabs the second knife from its sheath and slices through the creature's neck, severs the head like he was tearing wet tissue paper.
He pulls his knife from the creature's head, wipes the blood on his pant leg. He turns to Leonard, smiles and waves—a tourist on vacation. He's so busy looking at Leonard that he doesn't notice the group of creatures rush through the gate.
"Pavel!" he screams and deflates in relief when Pavel quickly ducks a swinging bat, a pointed sword, and unleashes a series of fatal stabs, gouges and slices in retaliation.
The creature guarding him doesn't appreciate Leonard's warning. He swings his heavy fist, connects with his temple and sends him smashing face first into the stone floor.
He's shackled down at his ankles and wrists, his face held immobile by blunt rocks. There's a creature crouching over him, sewing molten chunks of hooked wood through his lips.
He screams and the rocks around his cheeks tighten, the creature spluttering something as it places another piece against his top lip, pierces through the skin with nothing but force. Leonard's never felt anything this painful, the way the wood cauterizes and splits, rough and thick.
It takes five nails.
His vision is foggy, his limbs packed heavy. His pulse beats like a drum under his skin, sends boiling jolts of pain though his body.
Poison, he figures, already feels sections of his body succumbing to the toxin.
He's in a regular cell now, stretched out on the hard ground. He can't feel any of the white-hot light on his skin anymore, rationalizes it must be night.
He wants to know where Pavel is.
Much later, he vaguely hears voices in the distance, footsteps that get closer every second. His cell opens and a hand gently touches his shoulder.
"Doktor?" Pavel's fury is smothered by his concern, his slender fingers shaking with fine tremors as he touches Leonard's cheeks, wants to touch his mouth, remove the wood, but Leonard grabs his wrists, shakes his head.
When he opens his eyes, all he can see is the blue of Pavel's eyes, almost like Jim's but muted—softer. He wills Pavel to understand, moans as the taste of stale blood washes through his mouth.
Leonard nods, finds himself sagging against Pavel's shoulder. He can smell his sweat, clean and sweet, his blood. The doctor in him gropes Pavel's arms, feels for the wound he can smell so close to his nose. His fingers dampen on Pavel's left bicep. Pavel grunts in discomfort and positions Leonard against his lithe torso.
"Nurse Chapel vill fix you vhen I return you to ship," he swears, shakes him until his eyes open and he can see Pavel's sincerity. Pavel tells him about Archer's command, how he'd escaped to come get him. Pavel looks in directly in the eyes when he says, "You return or I do not."
"Why?" he wants to ask, trembles at how overwhelmed and weak he feels, at how he wants to absorb Pavel's strength through osmosis. "Why did you risk coming here?"
What he really wants to say: "Why the fuck isn't Jim here?"
Pavel swallows, holds him tighter. His shirt is warm against Leonard's cheek; he had no idea he was shivering. Pavel touches his face hesitantly, gentle and soothing, grows bolder, and cards his fingers through his hair.
"I vin today," he said in his childlike voice, scared and nervous and Leonard feels a ball of tension knot his insides corrosively. "I vin you as prize."
He says it like an offer, like it's a choice.
Nothing in Leonard's life up to this point has ever been a choice.
He wants to laugh, but the nails and the poison prevent him from responding. Pavel's fingers rake through his hair; his arms keep rocking him until his eyes slip shut.
Hands tighten around his, slender but strong. Joanna. His body throbs like a bruise, pain charging at him all at once. He groans in misery, hears Christine frown. Her voice—when it comes—sounds muggy and distant, muffled through layers of ache.
"I'm sorry about the discomfort," ever the fucking diplomat, Christine is. "We can't sedate you until the antidote to the poison they injected you with is out of your system."
Joanna's fingers instantly loosen. He doesn't want that, doesn't mind the pain as long as he knows his baby is close. Joanna's fingers tense, tremble just a fraction. Something's wrong, something—
"Dismissed," he hears Jim—his heart beating faster.
Christine leaves but Joanna pigheadedly stays rooted, her fingers clenching around his. Jim doesn't try to argue or push her away, senses she needs to be here. Jim stays uncharacteristically quiet, stands behind Joanna and doesn't try to touch him.
Hours later, exhaustion conquers. Joanna drops off like a light, hunched over his bio-bed, dark hair spilling out like an arterial bleed. Leonard doesn't have to say anything. Jim gently gathers her in his arms, keeps her head carefully tucked under his chin as he places her on the bed closest to Leonard, takes a minute to brush her hair from her face and pulls a thick blanket up to her chin.
When he returns, he takes Joanna's seat, pulls himself closer to Leonard's face. He looks calm, peaceful—thankful. Leonard's throat constricts tightly.
"I'm not kidding about the leash anymore, " Jim smiles, confident and charming and arrogant.
Leonard lets out a breath he wasn't aware he was holding.
"Idiot," he rasps and smiles, his lips burn like fire, so swollen and sore without the drugs churning through his bloodstream. Jim's hand passes through his damp hair, skin blessedly cool against his. He groans when Jim lays his palm flat on his forehead, soaks up the heat like a vacuum.
"You think you'd be grateful," Jim observes, voice free from malice, amused—boyish. There's silence for a long stretch of time before Jim whispers, "We weren't leaving without you."
Leonard remembers Pavel's words, the look in his large eyes as he calmly explained how he was bringing Leonard back or not returning at all. It clicks and tears blur Leonard's vision.
"You gave Pavel your daggers. You sent Pavel to get me."
Jim looks away, lips a thin line. His eyes are cold, pained. When he looks back, he's smirking but it lacks his usual confidence. "I took care of Scotty. And the Enterprise."
Jim sabotaged his own ship. Leonard can't seem to find his voice.
"You shouldn't've done it, Jim." Leonard believes it too. He wasn't worth brining the wrath of the Admiralty down upon the Enterprise, wasn't worth whatever they might do to Jim—or even worse—Joanna, if they ever find out.
"I'll worry about that," Jim promises, stares at his blackened lips.
"Jim, why the hell—"
"We weren't leaving without you." Jim's hand trails down his face, thumb gently touching his mouth. He leans down, hesitant, cautious. Leonard feels his long eyelashes skim his cheek as his lips carefully brush against his, a gentle pressure that stings but sends a wracking shudder through his body.
"Get some sleep," he coaxes with one final kiss. "I'll take care of everything."
Leonard never doubted that for a second.
He looks at Leonard with something akin to sympathy in his eyes. The bottom of Leonard's stomach drops.
"They want you to come with me." He's not looking at Leonard, but at the area right behind his shoulder. He's composing himself, pulling together his veneer of impartiality.
It's not working.
"How did they find out?"
"They don't know." He's quick to correct. Leonard flinches, the words as sharp as a backhand. Jim winces, drops like dead weight beside him. Leonard presses his thigh against Jim's instinctively, stares at the side of his handsome face.
"Whatever happens," Jim begins. Stops. Restarts. "Whatever happens when we go, whatever they rule, you have to promise me you won't react. At all. I'm serious."
"What are they going to do?"
The fight drains from him like an empty battery. "Why?" he asks, changes tactics—needs to know—wants to know—what Jim isn't telling him.
"They'll do the same to you." Jim's thumb brushes across his knuckles, across the fading scar on his palm. He's still not looking at him, which worries Leonard more than the dire warning.
"Jim, what're they going to do?" Jim lifts his eyes, twin pools of the lightest blue.
"You're not going to like it." Is all he says.
And he's right. Christ, he's always right.
"Two hours." They decide by ballot. "Two hours with the Skinners."
Leonard pales but keeps his face neutral. Jim bows respectfully, accepts his punishment with a cocky smile and an excited bounce to his step. He smirks at Leonard as he's led toward a room that he's only ever heard rumors about.
"Follow us, Doctor." Leonard mutely nods, cautiously trails behind two men as they walk him toward Jim.
Leonard tastes the blood in the air before he sees it. It's only been three minutes, but when he enters, Jim is naked, chained to the floor, and already has three men leaning over his back with jagged knives, cutting into the flesh.
Jim's face is like stone. His lip twitches as one of the Skinners digs a little too deep, his mouth tensing as they peel back the first layer of sinew and muscle, as they sever nerves and cackle like brewing witches.
Their first session lasts seven minutes. Jim's unconscious as they pull their knives from him. Leonard feels like he's going to be ill. There are wet stripes of Jim's flesh scrunched up like paper, his blood pooling down a drain beneath his knees. The room smells like death and Jim. Leonard doesn't know how he's going to last another two hours of this.
"Heal him." A Skinner orders sharply. They back away simultaneously, allowing Leonard to shakily crouch behind Jim, run his hands and regenerators across the destroyed remains of his body.
He can see Jim's ribs through his back.
He squeezes his eyes shut and works. Takes as much time as he can, repairs the damage methodically, pieces Jim back together as if he's creating him from scratch.
After six rounds, the Skinners are forced to pull in a blonde boy, round and pink. He's ordered to hold Jim down while Leonard quells the blood. The boy's uniform is a bright gold, his eyes blue like Jim's but lack the manic energy.
He stares at Leonard, at his hands and his tools instead of focusing on keeping Jim stable. He tisks when Jim's blood gets on his shirt, huffs in annoyance when Leonard makes him clean an oozing wound.
"What's wrong with your mouth?" He demands, arrogant and displeased. Leonard licks at his mouth, across the black lines in his cracked lips.
"I had my mouth stapled shut with wood for asking stupid fucking questions instead of doing my job," he snaps and the blonde boy doesn't say another word, leaves once Jim's insides are no longer visible.
Ten rounds in, the Skinners stop. Jim's still conscious and Leonard holds him with shaking hands.
"We will resume tomorrow. Heal him and leave."
The door closes and Leonard squeezes Jim's shoulders, anchors himself to Jim or else he's going to fly apart.
"You can't let them do this," he chokes. His hands are slick, his pants soaked through. He's drenched in Jim's blood and is so nauseous he can barely hold the regenerator properly. "I can't—"
"You have to," Jim groans. He only screamed once. Leonard never knew he'd be so proud of that. "It's not worth the alternative."
"What the hell does that mean?" Leonard snaps, closes the last of his wounds. The skin is still vivid pink, tender and sensitive. He presses his palm against the base of Jim's spine, pulls him as close to his body as he can.
He can feel Jim's smile against his neck, weak but still shining. "You know."
Leonard's chest tightens and squeezes so tight he loses his breath. "You goddamn idiot."
"S'ok," Jim mutters. "You'll fix me 'n we'll go home."
He does and they do.
The next day, the Skinners drag out his torture; leave him in so many pieces Leonard almost loses him twice. He holds Jim's kidneys inside his body while he stitches up his chest, comes close to vomiting four separate times, and walks out of the room with Jim's blood dripping down his fingers and the sense memory of Jim's organs against his hands.
He scrubs his skin down a layer in the shower, collapses under the boiling spray and spits out acidic tasting bile. He can't make his body move, frozen against the bathroom tiles until the steam grows so thick he can't breathe.
Jim finds him, hours later, pale and shiny pink. His eyes are as expressive as ever, as if he just spent two days in a spa instead of being cut up and glued back together. He holds out his hand to pull him up and Leonard thinks that ten hours prior, his fingers were in different corners of the room.
"We're going home," he says, pulls Leonard up and tugs him against his body. Leonard goes easily, winds his arms around his strong back, around the firm muscles, knows this is just as much for him as it is for Jim, knows Jim's letting him touch and feel that he's in one piece instead of the jigsaw puzzle he was before.
He can't look at Jim as he pilots their shuttle back to the Enterprise, shuffles like a zombie to his office and collapses in a chair. He doesn't remember how much time passes, but he only comes back out when he can stop tasting Jim's blood in his mouth and stops hearing Joanna's sobbing, fourteen year old voice repeat, he loves you.
"Why'd you go and give her your medical override code?" he mutters, teeth nipping lazily at his earlobe.
"Didn't. Figured it out herself." Leonard shivers when Jim sits up, curls back into Jim's heat.
Joanna clears her throat pointedly.
"That time already, Jojo?" Jim scrubs a hand through his hair, makes the sheets shift. Joanna hisses. Leonard cracks open his eyes and stares at his daughter.
She's furious, her back ruler straight, her eyes cutting through the dim room like a floodlight. She uncrosses her arms, whips a spare sword toward the bed. Jim snatches it out of the air, the contact strong enough to jolt the bed forward.
Jim grumbles, pops his back. "Fine fine."
Joanna turns and leaves. Jim flops against his back, rubs the top of his head against the back of Leonard's neck. Leonard squirms away, elbows Jim sharply in the ribs.
"Don't keep her waiting," he sleepily reminds, curls into the warm sheets and repositions himself for a few more hours sleep.
"I'll be back in twenty-five minutes," Jim promises, shucking on his pants. Leonard can hear him bouncing from foot to foot, still battling with the last remnants of sleep.
"Don't I get a kiss for good luck?" Jim bends over him, fully dressed, breath warm against the nape of his neck. Leonard can feel his infectious smile, cracks one of his own.
"Make it twenty minutes and I'll let you fuck me."
"Let me?" Jim laughs, incredulous.
Leonard licks at the seam of Jim's lips, sucks his bottom lip between his teeth. "Twenty minutes… or I'll start without you."
"I'll be back in fifteen."
"You're late," he smirks, ready to comment on how Jim's getting older if an eighteen year old kept him from sex. "I was just about to—"
He's not expecting Jim's fist to his mouth. Not expecting the kicks to the shins or the punches that send him careening down on his knees, coughing up blobs of blood. Jim's vicious, his knuckles like titanium as he splits his cheekbone open, bruises his ribs and fractures his vision until all he sees are blurs of fading color.
"You told her I did that to you?" He's shouting, the angriest Leonard's ever heard him. "You fucking bastard!" Jim's backhand keeps him conscious, drives the pain through him.
Leonard has no idea what Jim's talking about, can't open his mouth without spitting blood to ask what's gotten into him. Jim squeezes his fingers around Leonard's neck, brings their eyes level with each other.
"Have it your way," he threatens, chilled and vacant. "I'll let the wolves have at you."
Jim grabs him by his hair, tugs him forward and drags him to the door. Leonard grabs Jim's wrist, claws desperately as Jim pulls him toward the brig, can't get his feet under him long enough to try and stand.
The trip is mercifully short. Jim throws him against the wall of the biggest cell, announces to all of engineering and security that Doctor McCoy is free to entertain all those desiring his company.
He blacks out as he watches Jim march off.
Leonard sighs. Of course it would be Pavel. It's always him.
"Doktor," he says in a tiny voice, worried and inspecting. He approaches him cautiously, as if he's trying to calm a thrashing animal and kneels at his feet. "Is there much pain?"
Leonard barks out a laugh, hoarse and sore. Pavel's hands wrap around his neck, fingers digging behind a cluster of nerves that sends the pain scattering, a light flickering on that chases away the shadows. He groans in relief, rests his head against Pavel's boney shoulder.
"Thank you," he murmurs, shifts and Pavel wordlessly conforms to his body. Pavel's hands rub along his spine, warms the chill from his skin.
"It is nothing," Pavel assures, cheeks flushed, so fucking earnest and honest Leonard shudders. He doesn't know what he did to deserve Pavel's affections, doesn't know why on a ship filled with sociopaths and megalomaniacs, he managed to snag the concern of the baby lieutenant who could cut out your heart and make you feel like the luckiest bastard who ever lived.
A disgusted snort makes Pavel's eyes narrow, dim from that wide open wonder to a malicious wrath.
"Shoulda known you'd call first dibs." It's Security Crewman Karmen. "We took bets on how long it'd take you to fuck him. Figured you'd kill Kirk and claim his sloppy seconds for yourself. At least now you can fuck him like you've always want—"
Karmen never had a chance. Pavel slices right though him, hits his heart and lungs and Karmen slides off the blades. Pavel heaves, furious and beautiful. He's bright red, flustered—embarrassed. His little secret—the second worst kept one on the Enterprise—out in the open after all the years of polite ignorance.
"Pavel," he tries, but Pavel turns his back to him, keeps a vigilant watch on the door. Two more men come sniffing around Leonard's cell, both end up dying without even realizing they'd been hit.
Pavel's tense, spreads his legs wide and crouches, ready when he hears approaching footsteps. He lunges forward, comes close to taking Sulu's head off his shoulders, Sulu just managing to parry his blow.
Pavel spits something in Russian, thick and incomprehensible. Sulu raises his sword in surrender.
"Your shift starts in five minutes," his calculating eyes dance between Leonard and Pavel. "I'm here to relieve you."
Pavel doesn't stand down, snaps out another phrase in Russian that Sulu takes mortal offense to.
"I'm not going to touch him," he hisses like a viper, raises his sword threateningly. Pavel glares as if his eyes can read Sulu's mind. He lowers both his knives slowly, swallows thickly as he glances at Leonard. He's still flushed red, humiliation burning in his eyes.
"Pavel, wait—" he tries.
But he's gone.
"Nice set up you got here, Doc." Sulu whistles, mocking, right as Leonard was about to speak.
"Why are you here?" he grunts, doesn't trust Sulu in the slightest.
"Why do you think?"
Joanna. Of course.
"You goddamn McCoy's," Sulu laughs. "You've got the whole command team of the Empire's flagship wrapped around your fingers. It's a fucking wonder you two don't have your own ship."
Sulu sits on the ground, stretches out his long legs and props his arms behind his head, calm as if spending a day at the beach. Leonard hates the smug bastard so much his fingers twitch to punch.
"Pavel's in love with you, you know," Sulu points out, scratching his chin lazily, "has been pretty much since he was transferred on board."
Leonard wasn't expecting this thread of conversation, flinches at how the words seem to rub against his wounds. It stings. It hurts.
"But I mean, really loves you. He was actually thinking about taking out Kirk a few years ago, but wasn't sure if you'd submit to him."
"He deserves better," Leonard says honestly.
Sulu sighs dramatically. "Try telling him that. He—"
"Stop," Leonard begs, doesn't like the ugly knot that's clogging his throat. He's known about Pavel's feelings for years, his hands tied because of Jim; Pavel too loyal and Jim too possessive for Leonard to even entertain the idea.
"Then there's Kirk," Sulu chuckles, impressed, "Your ass must be fucking magic the way he pines over you."
Approaching footsteps halt their conversation. Sulu keeps his eyes on Leonard as he raises his sword, aims the tip precisely against the engineer's throat as he enters.
"You're lost," Sulu begins. "Should I comm Lieutenant Chekov to come and give you directions?"
The engineer blanches and scurries away.
Leonard huffs out a laugh, winces as it pulls on his injuries.
"You better be worth this, McCoy."
Leonard's not sure if he is.
Jim watches him leave before he focuses on Leonard.
They stare for ages, Jim's blue eyes scanning him, studying him like he would a hostile prisoner, an unknown species. Leonard hates it when Jim gazes at him like he doesn't know him better than any living soul ever has; hates losing that feeling he keeps deep in his chest, hidden away from spies on board and councils full of Admirals.
Jim's silence wears on his nerves.
"You done being mad at me, yet?"
His voice triggers something. Jim collapses near him like a card castle, stares at him with those eyes of his that were the first thing Leonard ever noticed. Jim reaches for him with both hands, cups his swollen cheeks, holds his face gently, stares so deep and for so long that when he looks away, Leonard's vision is tinted blue. When Jim speaks, his words are soft, full of the gentle wonder he hears so often in Pavel's voice.
"Why do you let me do this to you?"
Leonard's heart skip-beats, throbs loudly, and makes his mouth dry and sticky. He's in so much physical pain, but Jim's tender grip on his body feels like a hypo of the strongest painkillers he has.
"After all this time, you gonna make me say it?"
Jim doesn't smile back. He closes his eyes but Leonard feels him shake. When he opens his eyes, there's no recognition, no acceptance, no confirmation.
There's nothing at all.
Leonard's so shocked he barely feels it when Jim kisses him chastely, pulls away quickly.
"Get up. Pack your things," he says, as blank as a new journal page.
Panic surges though Leonard, he grabs Jim's wrists, squeezes. "Jim, what—"
"You're leaving." He's using his command voice, the one that leaves absolutely no room for bargaining or begging. "You and Jo." He easily breaks Leonard's hold, turns his back and walks out.
"Jim, wait!" Leonard pleads, lurches to his knees despite the protest in his ribs.
"You can have the apartment in San Francisco."
And Jim's gone.
"What happened to you?" He demands; his scratched hands hold her broken wrist as carefully as he can.
"I won, daddy," she smiles and all Leonard can think of is how much she looks like Jim.
"I beat him!" She says through a smile, but tears stream down her face. She's losing her composure, shaking apart before his very eyes. Broken. "I beat him!"
A cold ball spreads though his stomach. "Baby, what did you do?"
Joanna starts sobbing, deep and painful, her slim frame lurching under the power. "He can't hurt you anymore," she clings to him, nails of her good hand digging into his back. "I won, and Kirk can't touch you."
"Joanna what happened?" The steel in his voice is undercut by his concern; his daughter, hysterically crying in his arms; Jim, as level as a Vulcan high commander. His world feels off kilter, disoriented and fuzzy around the edges.
It isn't right.
Joanna keeps repeating he can't hurt you over and over against his chest, his shirt damp from her tears and spit, his shoulder aching from where she's clinging to him like a lifeline.
"Nobody's hurt me, Jo," he should feel like a liar, bruised and bleeding, but he doesn't. "He—Jim—hasn't hurt me."
"He has," she retorts, spiteful. "He has."
"Jo, no. You have it wro—it's not… I—" and he suddenly has no way of avoiding this. Nine years later and he finally admits: "Jo, I love him."
Joanna shakes her head, tries to push him away but he holds on, lets her scream and cry and claw him until the fight drains from her body. He holds her through the worst of her tears, rocks her like he did when she was a fussy baby who refused to sleep until he'd pick her up.
Jim walks in, looking every bit the man who's lost everything. He sits beside them gingerly, barely dips the mattress. He's staring at Joanna with regret and sadness wreaking havoc in his eyes. He won't look at Leonard and that hurts more than the beating he'd received earlier.
"Why?" he asks—needs to know.
"I promised her," he mutters. Jim tilts his head, but doesn't take his eyes off Joanna, looks at her like he's saying goodbye. He touches her hair, pinches the end between his fingers before letting go.
"And you promised me," he growls, livid. "Not until I kill you."
Jim blinks owlishly, genius brain crammed full of brilliant strategies, someone managing to forget that one moment, years before, blood and scars and pledges.
"I did promise her first," he points out, leaning against the headboard. He moves and Leonard feels the tips of Jim's fingers brush against the short hairs at the nape of his neck. He sighs. "It'd be for the best, you know."
Leonard shifts Joanna's body, let's Jim take the brunt of her weight. Jim presses himself against Leonard's side, silently accommodates Joanna, accommodates him exactly the way he has since the day they entered Jim's life.
"Probably," he agrees. "But in my experience, family's rarely good for you."
"Family." Jim repeats softly, lips quirking into a serene smile. He tilts his head backward, closes his eyes and inhales, loose and content.
They sit in silence for the rest of the night; Joanna snug and warm between them, Jim's thumb sliding along the thick line of scar tissue on his palm, Leonard's aches fading to a dull throb he can easily push aside in order to bask in the lulling calm.