It begins with a sock.
Leonard McCoy doesn’t go out onto his balcony very often. He’s usually too busy with work to even think about it. And by the time he gets home, he’s tired and cranky, and there’s absolutely nothing worth seeing outside anymore—no beautiful sunrises or romantic sunsets. He’s stepped outside perhaps five times since he moved into his flat three years ago.
It isn’t until one morning that out of impulse, he decides that he’s going to enjoy his coffee on the balcony. It’s such a beautiful day that he’s determined to see the sun at least once before locking himself away in the hospital for the next ten to twelve hours. He loves his job, but looking at sick and injured people all day isn’t exactly the most therapeutic thing in the world.
He opens the door and is about to step outside but then pauses when he notices something on the floor.
There’s a sock on his balcony.
And it’s definitely not his because he doesn’t own a pair of pink and green polka dotted socks. Or if he did, then he definitely would’ve noticed if one went missing.
With no idea about how long it’s been there or who it belongs to—and being the huge germaphobe he is, Leonard refuses to touch it. Instead, he picks it up with a pen and a well-practiced look of disdain. At least it looks clean and unworn. For all he knows, it just flew off someone’s clothesline upstairs and landed on his balcony due to a passing breeze or something.
But then a scribble of black catches his eye.
Keeping the sock at least half an arm’s length away from both him and his coffee, he turns it around to find something written on the side.
‘Jim Kirk - Flat 103.’
Leonard blinks again. He’s heard of people writing their names on their clothes to avoid mix-ups at laundromats and drycleaners, but who on earth writes their flat number on their socks? Maybe this Jim Kirk person’s just really paranoid about losing his socks to other tenants—and for good reason too, apparently.
Then he realizes something else: flat 103’s the flat directly beneath his.
He casts a wary glance down at the little garden space below. Leonard actually wanted to get a flat on the first floor if only to have a ready escape route available in case of emergencies—because he likes being prepared for any and all worst case scenarios. Unfortunately for him, all of them were already taken when he arrived, so he settled for the second floor because if and when the occasion arises, he’d rather jump from the second storey than the third.
For a moment, he debates going down the stairs to return the sock (he won’t take the elevator because he has a haunting suspicion that it’ll get stuck and he’ll die in it), but then he decides against it because fuck that. Instead, he goes back inside to find his pad of Post-its and writes ‘I believe this is yours.’ Returning outside, he sticks it onto the sock with care because the last thing he wants to do is to actually touch the damn thing.
But then as though on cue, his hand accidentally brushes against the sock. He makes a strangled noise that sounds like something between a startled caveman and a panicked sheep and runs back inside to wash his hands with scalding hot water and soap. Once he’s done that, he grabs another Post-it and writes, ‘This better be clean because I just touched it with my bare hand.’ And he sticks that one onto the sock as well and chucks it off his balcony.
There’s a very satisfying feeling that comes with throwing things over the railing, he discovers.
Going back inside, he doesn’t spare the sock any further thought. Instead, he finishes his coffee and goes to work.
The sock incident remains out of mind until he wakes up two days later and finds a pair of bright yellow pants on his balcony. He’s a little less miffed about touching pants for some reason. Picking them up, he finds something written on the back pocket.
‘I’ll have you know that my clothes are always clean! And thanks for returning my sock, kind tenant of flat 203. Jim Kirk - Flat 103.’
Leonard wonders if it’s written with permanent marker.
He assumes that no one would be dumb enough to walk around with ‘Jim Kirk - Flat 103’ written on his ass, but he doesn’t know Jim well enough—or at all, for that matter—so he won’t rule out the possibility just yet.
‘That IS good to know. How the hell did your sock end up on my balcony? Leonard McCoy - Flat 203.’
He sticks the note onto the other back pocket and wonders if it’s a good idea telling this Jim Kirk person his name.
But it’s already too late as he sends the pants flying off the balcony.
Leonard figures it can’t hurt to try talking to the other tenants. Jim Kirk from flat 103 couldn’t be that bad. After all, what kind of sociopath wears polka dotted socks and bright yellow pants? And if the guy had thought that he was flirting with a pretty girl, then he’ll know better now.
Christine Chapel, his head nurse and personal social advisor would approve of this, Leonard thinks. Besides, he’s never communicated via pants before. The thought makes him chuckle as he puts his shoes on.
The next piece of clothing he receives from Jim is a neon purple jacket with red highlights.
Leonard can’t help but question Jim’s taste in clothes.
The message is written across the back of the jacket in big, bold letters.
‘I dropped it while hanging it on my clothesline? Jim Kirk - Flat 103.’
He looks down into the garden below and doesn’t see any evidence that a clothesline ever existed. The filthy liar. Then he realizes that the more he thinks about the explanation, the less it makes sense. Did Jim even know what he was talking about? No, Leonard decides, probably not—at least that explains why the message ended with a question mark.
With his pad of Post-its ready, he replies with, ‘Liar. Your clothes may defy any and all fashion sense, but gravity? I think not. And do you always write on your clothes with permanent marker? Leonard McCoy - Flat 203.’
On his way to work, he wonders if he’s ever seen Jim around the building. If all his clothes are as bright and colourful as the ones that have been sent to his balcony, he should be impossible to miss. But then again, Leonard never gets home at normal hours, so he’s never gotten to know his neighbours very well. In fact, it’s never really crossed his mind that the other tenants were real live human beings until now.
Leonard actually really likes the shirt colourfully depicting a raging battle between angry looking dinosaurs and the fluffiest unicorns he’s ever seen. It’s wrapped around a washable marker which confirms the idea that Jim’s not a complete idiot.
‘Hey! It could happen! Maybe my clothes are so awesome they can’t help but fall UP, okay? By the way, I’m holding a party on Friday night if you’re interested? We’re going to feast on a gigantic casserole made of nothing but cheese and bacon. It’s going to be fantastic. Jim Kirk - Flat 103.’
While the doctor side of him is disgusted, the human side of him wants to go join the feast. It’s just too bad he’s got work on Friday. So, with disappointment pooling at the bottom of his stomach, he writes his response.
‘Thanks for the invite, but I’ve got night shift on Friday. If you eat enough of that casserole, maybe I’ll see you at the hospital. Leonard McCoy - Flat 203.’
He can’t felt but feel a little reluctant to send the shirt back.
The reply comes in the form of Hawaiian shorts so blinding he has trouble reading the message without squinting.
‘That’s too bad. Maybe next time then. So you’re a sawbones, are you? At least that explains your messy handwriting. Well, if anyone ends up going to the hospital, I’ll make sure they ask for you. We’ll try to keep the noise to a minimum, but engineers and NASA folk can only be so quiet when there’s alcohol involved, you know? Jim Kirk - Flat 103.’
Ah, so Jim Kirk is an engineer—and holy fuck, he works for NASA.
Because Leonard’s eyes are threatening to implode from the shorts, he keeps his reply brief.
‘Yeah, next time. Yeah, sawbones. My handwriting’s still nicer than yours. Yeah, hospital. Wow, NASA? And good luck with that. Do you own any normal clothes at all? These shorts could rival the sun in intensity. Leonard McCoy - Flat 203.’
He’s very alarmed when he sees an unconscious, and presumably, drunken man sprawled out in the garden when he gets home in the early morning. All he had wanted to do was check for messages on his balcony (not that he was excited and looking forward to getting another message or anything), but when he stepped outside, he heard what sounded like a bear. And when he peered over the railing, instead of a bear, he spotted a man, asleep and snoring like a monster in Jim’s garden.
Leonard hopes that the man isn’t Jim Kirk.
For a long while, he stands there, bleary-eyed, contemplating calling out to the guy or maybe just calling for an ambulance. He knows he should move and do something, but his brain’s mostly stopped functioning after another never-ending 12 hour shift, so he just continues watching the man until another person appears, wearing fiery red pants and a Pac-Man sweater.
He really likes that sweater and blames Jim for his deteriorating taste in clothes.
The newcomer walks over to the unconscious man and leans over, probably trying to wake him up and coax him into returning inside.
All Leonard sees is the guy’s ass. And quite frankly, it’s a fantastic ass.
He really hopes that this new guy’s Jim Kirk.
The man in the Pac-Man sweater helps the drunk onto his feet and is about to head back inside, but then he stops for a moment and looks up, right at Leonard. And Leonard, being the graceful being he is, nearly falls over backwards he’s so taken back by those stunning baby blue eyes.
If he’s not Jim, Leonard’s going to be very disappointed.
Leonard tries his best to pretend like he’s not even mildly embarrassed that he got caught staring—by continuing to watch with feigned nonchalance. He also tries his best to radiate an unimpressed aura, but he’s pretty sure he’s giving more of an ‘I’m really tired and can barely keep my eyes opened, so don’t be too alarmed if I suddenly pass out’ vibe.
Before helping—or more accurately—dragging his friend back inside, the man smiles and winks at him.
Leonard decides to assume that the man with the blue eyes is Jim because he doesn’t want to even consider other possibilities.
He wonders if Jim’s single.
Leonard wrinkles he nose in disgust at the pair of orange boxer briefs on his balcony.
He has no doubt that it’s clean, but he really doesn’t want to touch it with his bare hands. A doctor he may be, but he’s never had to touch people in intimate areas without gloves and equipment (or a mighty good reason). And even if he did, he’d at least be distracted by other things like intestines spilling out or internal hemorrhaging.
‘By ‘normal’, you mean boring clothes, right? I have those too, but they’re BORING. I figured you’d appreciate a little colour in your life, Bones. It’s short for sawbones, get it? Witty, right? By the way, sorry about my friend. He likes to sleep outside when he’s drunk for some reason—does it every time. He’s okay though, he didn’t even get a hangover. Jim Kirk - Flat 103. P.S. Yep, NASA. I get to help build rockets and rovers and stuff. It’s oodles and oodles of fun. I might even get to go into space someday!’
Leonard disagrees with Jim’s idea of ‘oodles and oodles of fun’, but he’s distracted from his thoughts because the message is written all over the back of the underpants—all over where that fine, fine ass would be.
He has to mentally slap himself to stop thinking about those form-fitting red jeans.
His fantasies don’t stop him from being disgusted by the underpants though.
‘Why the hell did you use underpants? This is SO unsanitary. I swear, if you throw something like this onto my balcony again, you’ll regret it, kid. And HA, you’re HILARIOUS. Maybe you should consider doing stand up instead of aerospace engineering. (I hope you read that as sarcastically as possible.) And speaking of which, why would ANYONE want to go into space? Space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence.’
Leonard has to write extra small to fit his entire message onto the piece of fabric. And just to spite Jim for sending him underwear, he signs ‘Leonard McCoy - Flat 203.’ in big fat letters with permanent marker over the crotch piece—because he’s already touched the damn boxer briefs so why the hell not?
He gets a thong the next day.
It’s gold and shiny and he absolutely refuses to touch it. Using a pencil to pick it up, he knows he’ll have to throw it out afterwards because it’s contaminated now and will need to be properly disposed of.
He has mixed feelings about the whole situation. On the one hand, he’s grossed out, but on the other, he can’t stop imagining the man he assumes to be Jim wearing it. Disgust wins out in the end because there’s a thong dangling at the end of his pencil.
There isn’t even space to write a reply on it because the front’s covered with ‘Bones, Bones, Bones, Bones, Bones, Bones, Bones….’ And the back’s been signed off with the usual ‘Jim Kirk - Flat 103.’
Leonard can’t help but be begrudgingly impressed that Jim managed to write ‘Bones’ 28 times on that dinky piece of fabric with his sloppy handwriting.
He contemplates cutting the thong, but it goes against his personal ethical code to destroy things that don’t belong to him. He also thinks about drawing a penis on it with permanent marker, but he’s above doing that sort of thing—even if it’s just barely. So instead, he stuffs the thong into Jim’s mail slot, letting half of it hang out for everyone in the building to see and appreciate.
Leonard doesn’t receive another piece of clothing for three days after the 'thong incident'.
He wonders if he went too far and considers apologizing, but then he finds a turquoise t-shirt with zombie vegetables playing volleyball against rotting slabs of meat.
Leonard wants to ask Jim where he gets his shirts.
‘That wasn’t very nice of you, Bones. Do you know how many tries it took to get that thong onto your balcony? The mailman keeps winking at me now. That guy’s so creepy—if I get molested, it’ll be your fault. Jim Kirk - Flat 103. P.S. Thanks for autographing my crotch last time. They’re officially my favourite pair of underpants now.’
Snorting at the message, Leonard has to concentrate on not smiling because he’s not even remotely relieved that Jim’s not mad at him. He’s also not imagining Jim trying to chuck a shiny gold thong onto his balcony—while wearing those orange boxer briefs with Leonard’s name written on his crotch.
It’s not an enticing image at all, or so he tries to tell himself without much success.
To distract himself, he writes down the first words that come to his mind.
‘I’m sorry. You’re right. Two thongs don’t make a right. Leonard McCoy - Flat 203.’
He knows it’s a stupid pun and a terrible joke, but he can’t stop snickering to himself even as he leaves for work.
At one point, it crosses Leonard’s mind to question Jim’s credibility as an engineer. After all, as an aerospace engineer working for NASA, he really should’ve been able to come up with a better excuse for losing his sock than dropping it from a non-existent clothesline and having it fall up onto his balcony.
In response to that, Jim sends him a floral sarong with a very detailed picture illustrating how his sock could’ve fallen upwards.
It takes Leonard a moment to get over the fact that Jim owns a sarong.
Leonard assumes the picture’s supposed to be self-explanatory because it’s titled ‘Here’s How it Could’ve Happened!’ But the illustration’s covered in math and physics, so it all looks like chicken scratch to him—and it doesn’t help that Jim’s handwriting actually resembles chicken scratches.
He’s very impressed nonetheless.
Underneath the illustration, there’s a short message.
‘Or maybe I just wanted a chance to talk to you. Jim Kirk - Flat 103.’
There’s a drawing of a smiling stickman chucking a sock onto a balcony below the message.
Leonard decides that he likes the second explanation more.
They continue their correspondence for months until Leonard gets a pair of tie-dye pants saying, ‘So I’m moving. Meet me outside at 6am tomorrow? Jim Kirk - Flat 103.’
Leonard steps out onto his balcony the next day with a cup of coffee in his hand and a sinking feeling in his stomach. It feels like a break up even though that’s stupid because they’re not going out. Sure, he may or may not have developed a little crush on the guy, but that didn’t mean anything. He’d get over it soon enough—or that’s what he keeps telling himself anyways.
When he looks over the railing, he finds Jim already standing there, waiting for him with those baby blue eyes and ridiculous lime green pants that practically glow. Leonard can’t help but be both incredibly happy and sad to see him.
“Hey, Bones,” Jim calls out. “What? No coffee for me?”
Shrugging, he replies, “I’d offer you a cup, but I’d have to throw it at you, and that might result in second degree burns and a concussion if my aim is true. Besides, you look like you’ve got plenty of energy even without caffeine.”
“That’s true.” Shoving his hands in his pockets, Jim shoots him a boyish grin that makes his heart skip a beat. “This is kind of like the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, isn’t it?”
He scowls. “That damn balcony scene? Yeah, right. I don’t think Romeo ever chucked his clothes all over her balcony or blinded her with his neon green pants.”
“They’re lime, not neon!”
“Same thing. They’re equally blinding. I wish they had an off switch or something,” he grumbles.
“I wanted to brighten your day, Bones!” Jim says.
There’s a pause between them.
Leonard leans against the railing and takes a sip of his coffee. “So you’re moving, hmm?”
Rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly, Jim admits, “Yeah. The owner of this place decided that he wanted to move back in so I’ve got to find a new place to stay. Just figured I ought to let you know. I probably should’ve told you earlier, but I’ve been busy apartment hunting.”
“Don’t worry about it, kid.”
Jim smiles up at him. “This is technically our first face-to-face conversation, isn’t it?—aside from that one time I said ‘Hi, Bones’ to you while you were running out of the building, but I don’t think that counts.”
He snorts. “I would’ve stayed to chat, but I was running late for work. So this is our first and last conversation then?”
With a huff, Jim shakes his head. “Don’t say that, Bones. It’s not like we’ll never see each other again. I’ll invite you over for a private housewarming party when I get to my new place, promise. I won’t be moving too far away.” Then he adds with a wink, “Wouldn’t want you to miss me too much.”
Rolling his eyes, Leonard scoffs. “Sure, kid. I’ll look forward to the invite. With you gone, I guess I won’t have to worry about finding clothes on my balcony anymore.”
Jim laughs. “And by that, you mean no more underpants.”
He can’t help but smile as he repeats the words, “No more underpants. Hallelujah.”
“For a doctor, you sure are squeamish. I still can’t believe you stuffed my thong in my mail slot….”
And the two continue bantering until it’s time for Leonard to leave. He’d sooner die than admit to how much he’ll miss having Jim and his bright and colourful clothes around, but he can’t keep the reluctance out of his voice when he says his goodbyes. “Guess I’ll see you around, Jim Kirk from flat 103.”
Jim waves and replies quietly, “Bye, Leonard McCoy from flat 203.”
Leonard feels absolutely miserable for the rest of the day.
He feels even worse when he realizes that they didn’t exchange any of their contact information.
When he gets home, he finds a shirt on his balcony. It’s a hot pink t-shirt with a robot doctor operating on a toaster with screwdrivers and power tools. The tag’s still attached to it, so he assumes that it’s a parting gift from Jim. He thinks the colour’s atrocious, but the picture’s kind of cute.
‘Look! A robot-doctor-engineer! It’s a symbol of our LOVE, Bones! Promise me you’ll wear this to my housewarming, okay? Jim Kirk - Flat 103. P.S. Don’t worry about contacting me. I’LL contact YOU.’
Although the message lightens his mood a little, he’s still put out by the fact that there’s no way for him to reply to it.
Two weeks go by and Leonard still hasn’t heard from Jim. He assumes this means either Jim’s forgotten about him, or he’s currently homeless. Neither of those thoughts cheers him up in the slightest—not that he’s willing to admit to missing Jim and his terrible clothes or anything just yet because he’s still convinced that he can get over his crush with sheer mental will.
Then the next morning, he finds a shirt on his balcony.
It’s the brightest blue he’s ever seen and has a picture of a classroom full of ninja cows. On the back, he finds a message that makes his heart flutter in excitement.
You have been cordially invited to attend a housewarming dinner party for two tonight. Please come whenever you get off work. Dinner will include an impending heart attack on a plate and as much alcohol as you could ever want and more.
It should be noted that there’s a mandatory dress code for all attending guests.
Awesome t-shirts are a must.
Pants are optional.
Please RSVP via this shirt.
Jim Kirk - Flat 202.
P.S. You might want to take tomorrow off—you can interpret that however you like.’
Flat 202…Leonard looks over at the balcony next to his and gapes. He desperately wants to put a better name to the emotion he’s feeling than ‘giddy’, but it’s the only word that's coming to mind. Unable to stop grinning like an idiot, he goes back inside to find his washable marker to write a reply.
‘Howdy, neighbour, yourself. I’ll be there around 7. Leonard McCoy - Flat 203.’