Three days, he figures— three days is a record for not mother-henning, and he’s goddamned entitled, now that it’s been that long, to go back and fuss and fume and check as much as he fucking likes. Not that the break hadn’t maybe been good for both their blood pressures. But it was either strangle the whining sonofabitch (superhuman serum apparently didn’t affect personality, Jim was the same horrible patient as ever) or get the hell out and rely on the sensors SMA’d let him put in, that and the reports he got from the visitors he’d carefully scheduled to make sure Jim did not venture out of his apartment and catch something weird while they were still trying to figure out what the long term effects of 1) coming back from the dead and 2) Khan’s blood, may that asshole stay frozen forever, were going to be.
Still, he let himself into the apartment with caution. There had been a certain amount of yelling on his part and yelling and pouting and accusations of OCD on Jim’s part and not that all of that wasn’t true, but Jim hadn’t commed him once in three days and now, well, Bones wasn’t so sure. Maybe he’d kind of overstepped himself with the words he’d flung over his shoulder before he’d stomped out the door, if the silent treatment was Jim’s reply.
Or maybe not the silent treatment. Maybe he decided you meant it, said that same ugly voice that sounded like— well, Bones did not assign personalities to his internal self-esteem battles, thank you— but the voice always had the ring of truth to it. Their— friendship? fuck if he knew what to call it, soulmates with another surly asshole was a long phrase— had always been a wonder to Bones, something fragile he couldn’t quite believe was there in the first place and wondered when it would crack.
Maybe he’d done it this time.
While he tried to figure out what words to choose to eat the right amount of crow, he checked the refrigerator and other supplies, but the house computer said there was plenty of food, soap, meds, everything else. Jim’s accounts were all topped up.
Well. Someone had been taking Bones’ instructions to take care of the life-disregarding jerk seriously. Mostly likely Nyota. That woman had sense.
Which meant, well— yeah. Vitals said he was awake, though brainwaves still reflected slower activity reflective of someone barely awake. And he didn’t smell coffee, so Jim hadn’t hauled his ass out of bed yet. And it was early, early enough that the fog hadn’t lifted yet over the halves of the poor goddamned Bridge and he’d not gotten breakfast before leaving his own place after another shitty night’s sleep.
Coffee— that was always a good way to start.
He punched up two cups, shaking his head as he added sweetener and whitener to his own cup. Funny that Jim was the one who insisted on his beverage black. At least the mugs in his hands would stop him from futzing with his hair or the back of his neck or his pockets like an asshole while he figured out what to say.
Really. I wonder why I fucking brought you back at all, you acting like this, fucking brat. What had he been thinking, all god-complex and shit? Kid had just wanted to go out on his own fucking patio.
He was going to have to go outside sometime. Starfleet was pretty insistent on getting Jim back to work, now that Bones had gotten him back to life— enough that they were willing to overlook the 47 violations of the Medical Code he’d engaged in just to save Jim.
Wartime exigency. Because one terrorist superhuman and a rogue admiral and his pet secret board equalled war, even when there’d been no movement yet from the Klingons.
And Jim wondered sometimes why he wanted their Spock to recreate that red matter shit and find them a universe that was 1) a huge fucking beach with nothing to do or 2) where they could at least be the ones in control. Much as he hated to admit it, Enterprise’s decisions made more sense than most.
He was dithering, though.
The hallway was dim, the lack of windows and the early hour keeping the few bits of light coming in from the office and guest room from lighting the carpet too much. There was a low, sleepy murmur from Jim’s room, one that got louder as Bones approached, and he stopped because— what?
Vitals had only shown one humanoid in the room, and Scotty wasn’t due today until after lunch.
Cautiously, he edged to the side of the doorway— he’d kill Jim if he had—
"Yes, yawn, rawr," Jim was murmuring to a tiny kitten he held up in his hand. The thing opened its mouth, wide, little tongue unrolling out between tiny fangs, and Jim opened his mouth wide in echo, a soft "rawr" drowning out the kitten’s small "meep" as Jim brought the cat closer in to his face and the thing reached one white-tipped paw out to bat him on the nose.
It started to lose its balance, perched as it was in Jim’s hand, but he brought his other palm up to cup it and it settled back in with a small grumpy look. Secure, now, it tried roaring again, and Jim’s grin of amusement turned into goo— he wasn’t the only one, damnit— as the attempt led to a rasping “mraw,” this time, so squeaky it was almost outside the range of hearing.
"Alright, you’re a fierce lady, I get it," he murmured, placing the kitten back down on the rumpled bedsheets. "You would be, with who your adoptive mom is," he continued, and the little black and white cat let out a mrt and climbed over Jim’s thigh with some fumbling and discontent until she was in between his legs again and Jim was scratching her ears.
"Ah. Head scritches. Why didn’t you say?" The kitten turned and nipped his finger, then let out a purr that was audible even in the doorway.
"What’s her name?" It was as good a question to ask as any. Jim blinked as he looked up, and the kitten squawked when he stopped petting.
"Sorry," he murmured to her and kept petting as he squinted while Bones came into the room, set the coffee down on the bay window ledge next to the bed. That was the problem with leased lodgings— never enough good bedside tables, but fucking Khan’s ship had taken out most of the officer’s quarters, and this place had at least been available— clean— enough room and not too far from SMA and HQ.
"I don’t know yet," Jim said, after a pause. "Esmerelda Crump, maybe." The kitten looked up at him as if she understood, and gave him a look. Jim laughed at her kitten disdain. ”Maybe not.” She flicked her tail over his wrist, then gave Bones a once-over before closing her eyes and purring even more loudly.
"I’m not going to stop doing my job," Jim said, expression serious as he looked down at the tiny cat in his lap and ran his square hands, his long fingers over the little ribcage. Gentle. People joked that Jim’s default was phasers on full and then damn the phasers because he’d rather fistfight, but it wasn’t true. They’d gotten out of that Mudd shitfest on Jim’s wits alone.
"And I’m not going to stop doing mine," Bones replied, because— damnit, he wasn’t. But. "Maybe I could curse a little bit less."
Jim’s mouth quirked, but he kept on petting the kitten and watching her flick her fuzzy tail rather than look over and answer. ”Don’t strain yourself.”
The kitten chose that moment to decide that Bones was worth an investigation. Since Bones had said on more than one occasion (in re: tribbles, but still) that animals on starships were a goddamned menace, he supposed Jim was probably right to hold his breath as the kitten came over and sunk tiny needleclaws into his leg as she climbed up onto his thigh and looked him over.
She sneezed, unimpressed, turned her back on him and climbed back into Jim’s lap, her meow of complaint easing as Jim started scritching again, her spine arching into his fingers.
"I think she looks like a Stella,” he offered, and Jim blinked, then threw back his head as he laughed.
"She was pretty fierce," Jim murmured. "How about that. Do you like Stella?" He smiled at Bones, making electric-blue eye contact this time.
The kitten just purred, but she didn’t complain when Jim lifted one hand to take the coffee Bones offered, and the next look she shot at Bones was only half-baleful.
The early blue light in the room was soft, slow as the purr of a kitten, as Bones took his first sweet, creamy sip of caffeine and hitched his back into the wall/window corner. Watching. He could watch, and not fuss. He could learn.