"You know, most people only get up this early when they're going on vacation," Jim had grumbled, quite reasonably, he thought, when he had been unceremoniously dumped out of bed by an alarmingly chipper Hikaru. At least he had made coffee, had shoved him into the shower almost clothed but left a mug for him for when he got out. Good thing it was totally normal for two colleague-slash-roommates to be that comfortable with each other's nudity.
It was slightly less normal for another colleague to be sitting at their kitchen table, working diligently at the crossword in an actual newspaper. Jim may have shrieked and clutched his towel more closely around himself.
"Good morning, Captain."
"Spock, when I am literally naked you can call me Jim."
"Currently, you could be said to be wearing a towel."
"Don't!" Hikaru attempted to cut in, too late. Jim had dropped the towel. He wasn't the sort to let such an insignificant factor as acute personal shame get in the way of proving a point. He met Hikaru's eyes, grinned in the face of the glare he was receiving as he sat at the table and sipped at his coffee. It was the perfect temperature.
"What are you doing here, anyway?" Jim asked Spock then, shifting a little on the smooth, sticky plastic of their dining chairs.
"I was informed it was tradition to imbibe food and beverages with a soon-to-be co-pilot."
Jim blinked. Sipped. Mentally translated then turned huge, outraged eyes on Hikaru who had the decency to look a little sheepish, "You're flying together? I've been out for what, three days? And you already have a new co-?"
"The time elapsed hardly seems relevant, rather the likely duration of your absence."
Wow, that one had almost been tactful. It was learning.
"You're the one who got himself put on suspension." Hikaru was less kind, although he did thrust a plate of French toast in front of Jim as he spoke, which softened the blow a little. Jim picked at it, pouting.
"That wasn't my fault."
"Yes it was," Hikaru and Spock replied in unison. Spock's eyebrow twitched, Hikaru looked suitably perturbed and Jim glared at them both. They were going to leave him out, he could just feel it. As though it wasn't bad enough that he was going to be left alone in his and Hikaru's apartment while all of his friends flew his regular routes without him.
He really needed a greater range of friends.
Oh! Scotty would still be around. Jim would finally have the opportunity to quiz him on his surprisingly active love life. That man had to have some serious skills somewhere, to have two of Jim's most outrageously gorgeous cabin crew fighting for scraps of his attention. Fortunately there hadn't been any tension yet at work beyond the usual playful banter, neither Gaila nor Pavel inclined towards making a scene and their flight manager Uhura more than capable of keeping things under control.
Shit, Hikaru had been talking, was looking at him expectantly. Spock still hadn't taken his eyes off his crossword.
"Don't you need to be at the school for eight?"
Man, tearing the bare skin of his ass off that chair really hurt.
Jim fell onto his train with seconds to spare, to the soundtrack of doors beeping before they slid closed and someone on the platform swearing at him for making them spill their coffee in his hurry. Whoops. Thankfully, there wasn't any on him, or the crisp white shirt he'd borrowed from Hikaru's closet because he wasn't about to get the iron out for any of his. Not for this. Not for some stupid "training need" that had been identified as part of his suspension assessment. He knew what he was doing, better than any of the other pilots out there except maybe Pike, and he was ex-military with more than a few years on Jim.
And it wasn't like Jim thought he'd deserved a commendation for his actions, or anything. But it would have been nice to get some credit for not only creating some of the most challenging flight simulations their commercial airline had ever seen (with the help of Scotty and Pavel) but then also beating them. And if he had landed his hypothetical plane in a hypothetical field full of hypothetical baby bunnies while being observed by the very real director of the company and his daughter, whose pet rabbit had died that morning, well. He had saved almost all of his passengers. Ninety seven percent was pretty much the highest possible rate, accounting for the irregularities programmed in for various foreseeable crises. But that hadn't exactly been the most appreciated argument with a vomiting, sobbing twelve year old drowning him out.
The breath test that had showed him not entirely sober from the previous night, well, that was his fault. Although he hadn't been scheduled to fly for another two days, had just been getting his sim hours up with very unfortunate timing. He wouldn't fly drunk. Not ever. And Pike knew it, as surely as he knew Jim's father had been George. It was probably the only reason he still had a job at all.
Jim sank into the first available seat just as the train began to move, landing heavily with a huff of breath and earning a half-hearted glare from the man opposite. Wow, and Jim thought he was bad in the mornings. His seat-mate looked about ready to murder the next person who disturbed his attempts to snooze. He was hot, though. Even half-leaning against the window with a broad hand shielding his eyes from the sun, hunched in on himself and half-asleep, he exuded a sort of simmering presence. Jim beamed at him, received a huff and a roll of -holy shit, were those green?- eyes in return.
Well, maybe his journey wouldn't be so bad. At the very least, he could enjoy the view. Even with conversation out, he could imagine and observe.
The man wore comfortable clothing, but it wasn't particularly cheap. It fitted too well for that, or maybe everything just looked like it had been artfully draped across that frame. Because if Jim wasn't very much mistaken -he wasn't- those were some perfectly shaped shoulders, broad and strong but not artificially inflated by too much time in the gym. The jeans, a quality brand but well worn, were wrapped around strong thighs. A blue plaid shirt strained over biceps.
None of that was useful, though. Jim forced himself to look closer, not to meet the -actually, hazel- eyes that regarded him with a sort of lazy curiosity.
So, the clothes told Jim he had a reasonable salary but also some sense with money. And comfortable shoes, so his workplace had a casual dress code. The hair, trimmed neatly, and the five o'clock shadow despite it being so early in the morning were conflicting. And yet, judging by that wonderful smell, he was freshly showered.
He was clearly exhausted, too, but he held no coffee. He could have afforded it, probably lived on the stuff. No, that was speculation. Probably accurate, like the rest of Jim's instincts, but not based on anything he could express, so not useful. He'd drink it black, too. The type who wanted to punish his body into wakefulness. Except, at 7am , he suffered, with bloodshot eyes and lax posture. It didn't fit.
The man held his gaze, steady and relaxed, almost anticipatory. He knew what Jim was doing, not that he'd exactly been subtle. But he didn't flinch. Accustomed to being watched. Judged, even, by people who mattered far more than Jim. Government, maybe?
Oh! There was no dress code. The train wasn't that busy but there was a bag in the rack above them, a bulky rucksack. So he wore a uniform and changed at work. The beard was still unexplained. What man shaved the previous night when he knew he had to be at work in the morning?
None of them. That would be insane. And this guy was travelling in the wrong direction, maybe, for logic, but everything else fit. He worked nights, was on his way home. Jim was slightly annoyed with himself for not noticing that sooner, considering the number of times he had all-but-staggered onto a train after a flight landed in the early hours. He should have recognized the signs.
Anyway, not government. They worked pretty much nine to five . And it was Monday morning, so he'd worked Sunday night. Emergency services, then, most likely. Firefighter? Jim would buy that calendar. Definitely not a cop, despite the impressive repellent aura. Jim was being regarded with curiosity, not suspicion. And his hands were smooth, Callous-free. Soft and broad and warm, probably, although that was sending his mind a little off track. Could be a paramedic. Might start a shift, shove his bag in the back of an ambulance and rummage around in people's insides all shift. You'd get strong arms throwing one of those vans around sharp corners at speed all night.
Jim didn't know many paramedics. He wanted to say that the guy looked too young to be a doctor, but Jim had to be a couple of years younger than him and he was a pilot, which was sort of the same thing if you considered it in terms of career progression. Needing technical knowledge, steady hands and the ability to remain calm under pressure.
God, Jim needed to get laid. He bet that train bathrooms were much more spacious than airplane ones. And that there was no way such a gorgeous, exhausted man would go for that idea.
Instead, he met those lovely eyes, narrowed his own in challenge and took a deep breath.
"Paramedic," he said, and the smile he received was almost worth the failure, all slow and benevolent, "Goddamnit. Should've gone with doctor."
"Not far off."
Oh and that voice, all low and gravely, had just ruined Jim for everyone else. This was it. His soulmate, his one true love. It was destiny, them meeting there, where Jim shouldn't even be.
"I am a doctor. In the ER."
Jim grinned. He was a genius. In celebration, he didn’t bother to hide the suggestion in his tone, "Okay, now you do me."
The stranger's gaze traveled over him just once, but slowly, made Jim shiver and preen just a little. Then he thought, staring out of the window but not seeing the view.
"Oh, come on! How the heck did you get that?"
The smile he got that time was just as slow but far less sweet. Jim still wanted to lick it.
"Your suit is expensive, but it's designed for evening wear, not daytime. Yes, there is a difference. The shirt's not yours. It buttons the wrong way. It's a women's shirt… and you didn't even notice. So you're used to wearing a uniform. Your coordination's off and you're overtired for a Monday, feeling a little nausea and anxiety. Jet lag. And you're tanned. Didn't get that round these parts. Not the watch, either. Breitling. Huge cliché."
Jim gaped, open-mouthed for a moment before: "Your accent is fucking amazing. Seriously. You should read audiobooks or something."
"You're somethin' else, kid."
"Kid? What are you, like four years older than me?"
"Feels like a lot more."
"Yeah, night shifts'll do that to you." Jim bit his lip, contemplating going all-in before he saw the flicker of hazel gaze tracking the movement and his mind was made up for him, "I'm Jim. Kirk."
Oh, there was the suspicion. And yet- "McCoy. Leonard McCoy."
"Well, I think your name might be more than four years older than mine."
"Yeah, not too many men named James throughout history." Leonard -no, that didn't sound right- snorted, then seemed to catch himself and frown. Jim wondered who had convinced him he shouldn't do it.
"So, how was your shift? Take anything out of anybody's butt?"
"Why is that always the first question anybody asks? No. Nothing. Not unless pumping the stomachs of two fifteen year old girls who drank a bottle of whiskey each counts."
Jim grimaced at that. "Good whiskey?"
"Not by the time I saw it."
"They're okay though, right?" Jim felt a little guilty for finding it amusing, suddenly, even though he knew it was just a coping mechanism, likely one Leo -ugh, no- understood well.
"They'll be fine. Put it this way, it's not put me off craving a glass when I get home."
"Day off?" Jim asked with barely concealed disappointment. Not at all concealed, in fact, judging by the raised eyebrow he received in return.
"Yeah. Four off, then back in on an early shift."
Jim frowned once he'd worked it out. that was Friday. They wouldn't see each other again, not unless one of them pushed for it and as much as it felt like they knew one another, one short train journey was hardly enough to get a feel for a person. It would just have to be a short-lived fantasy. Jim was plenty used to those.
"Where are you going, anyway? No airports on this line."
"Just some additional training." Jim shrugged, hoped he came across as breezy rather than evasive but wasn't really sure why it mattered, "I may have- made the Director's daughter vomit and cry when I demonstrated one of my personally designed flight simulations."
"How graphic are your simulations?"
"This one was- pretty brutal. I didn't kill any people! I mean, well- a couple died anyway, because medical emergencies are built into the scenario, but you don’t see those. Just- bunnies."
"Baby bunnies. Crash landed in a field where they were pretty much wall to wall. Fence to fence? Think we might have overdone the duplication algorithm. And the- gore. Flying limbs and fur and fluffy tails."
Jim did feel a little bad. It had just been for fun. It certainly hadn't been for torturing twelve year old girls who were recently traumatized by the loss of a beloved family pet. As though Carol hadn't suffered enough with Director Marcus for a father.
Holy shit. McCoy -closer, but still not there- was laughing. A restrained, wheezing sort of laughter, but laughter nonetheless and Jim could do nothing but join him, managing to keep the volume low but unable to prevent his grin from stretching his face wide. It could not have been attractive. Jim didn't care.
They were both simmering down, wiping helpless tears from their eyes when a woman approached them, approximately twelve year old daughter in tow. Shit. Jim frowned. Len -fuck, okay, he was going to work on that- frowned too, although for a different reason. After a moment, Jim noticed what it was; the woman did not look at all well. Pale, clammy and shaking, she looked like she could barely get out the words without vomiting.
"I am so sorry to bother you, but would you mind watching my daughter for me? I just need a few minutes in the bathroom and you just seem like a nice couple."
"Uhh, we're not-" Doctor McCoy -because that was definitely who Jim found himself looking at in that moment, all poise and focus- attempted to interject, only to have it waved away.
"Oh, it's okay. She's had a very liberal upbringing. It's absolutely fine. I'll just be a minute, really."
With that, she dashed off in the direction of the train bathroom, leaving a thoroughly baffled two men and a surprisingly unperturbed little girl behind. Jim could see the doctor itching to follow the mother, but she had been upright and coherent, more than capable of looking after herself. He wasn't going to give the other man the opportunity to sneak off.
"So, I'm Jim. This is Leonard." Jim reached across to clap a hand down on Leonard's -yeah, that’s what he was going with for the time being- knee and gave him a pointed look and a hard squeeze in warning at the outraged expression he received in return. A very hard squeeze. Leonard visibly squirmed, a muscle ticking in his jaw, before he relented with a nod.
The girl smiled shyly, not appearing to notice the exchange. "Hi, I'm Sarah. So you guys are boyfriends?"
"Yup," Jim answered, with a beaming smile. He was going to avoid traumatizing this girl if it killed him and, judging by his face, Leonard just might. Time to do what Jim did best. Talk. "We met right here on this train. Hit it off straight away, didn't we, babe?"
"We sure did." To be fair, Leonard's rumbling growl could have been mistaken for affection and his features did soften when he looked at Sarah.
"So how come you call him Leonard? My mom calls my dad sweetheart, or darling. He calls her princess."
Leonard frowned at that, while Jim racked his brains, "So what does he call you?"
"Angel. Like- Seraphim."
"That makes sense. Well, Jim is a nickname. It's short for James." Leonard glanced sideways, eyeing the man himself, "And to be honest, I'm pretty bad with names. I call everyone kid, or buddy, or something like that. But Jim's just Jim. You know?"
Jim knew he was going to cream his fucking pants if there were any more ridiculous romantic utterances escaping those plush, smiling lips in that low, rumbling drawl he felt right down to his- wait.
"Bones," Jim announced pointedly enough for both man and girl to look at him, "I call him Bones. Because- I just knew. That first time we met, that I liked him. you know when you feel something so strongly it's like it's always been a part of you, deep inside. It kind of aches, in your bones. That's what he makes me feel."
The present tense had been intentional, the slight crack in his voice entirely accidental and Bones -God, yes, that was it- was staring at him, literally open-mouthed. Frankly, a very good look on him, but Jim remembered the trauma and managed not to say it. Sarah -or Sera, maybe- was already a little flushed. How long did it take a woman to vomit enough to collect her kid?
"Is it hard?" Sarah asked next, a little anxiously, picking at the sleeve of her blouse. "Being gay? Because my mom says it's okay and I don't know for sure if I like boys or girls, but the kids at school- and some of their parents. They say some pretty bad things."
"That's a really good question." Bones stalled far more effectively than Jim, who was busy wondering if maybe Bones had just been friendly and Jim had pushed him, forced him into a game he was entirely uncomfortable with. He just focused for a minute on trying not to hyperventilate and almost missed Bones' words. "But you know you don't have to pick one. You can like boys and girls and everything in between if you want to. You don't have to put a label on it, either. You don't have to be gay or straight or anything else. Maybe you want to be, and that's okay, but… it's okay to just be you, too."
Jim felt as though he had spontaneously sprouted ovaries and they were ready to burst with the love for Bones' paternal instinct, but he had to interject there, too, "It's hard sometimes, yeah. I would tell people I'm bisexual. Do you know what that means?"
"You like both?"
"Yeah. But I know some people don't like it. And I would actually identify as pansexual, which caters for people who are- undefined. Like Bones said. But most of the time, people just laugh and make jokes about cookware. And it took me a while, and I had to talk to a lot of different people before I figured it out. Those people who laugh at you for being who you are- they're not your friend. And you don't need to worry about what they think, because one day you'll be able to choose exactly who you have in your life.
"Anybody who tells you that these are the best days of your life, they're lying to you. The best is yet to come. You'll be able to decide it for yourself."
Well, that had not been the plan, although almost crying himself was better than making Sarah cry, and Jim thought he saw a little shine in Bones' eyes too.
"You guys are pretty smart."
"Well yeah. He's a doctor, you know."
Sarah's eyes lit up. "Wow, really? What's the weirdest thing you ever found in somebody's butt?"
Jim cracked up laughing and Bones rolled his eyes, although it was with affection.
"The weirdest thing was the head of a Barbie doll."
"It had the most tangled hair I'd ever seen."
"The hair was still on?"
"How d'you think I knew it was a Barbie doll?"
Sarah giggled at that, then looked to Jim, "Are you a doctor too?"
"No, I'm a pilot. I fly planes."
"That must be lonely."
Jesus fucking Christ, what was happening? Was it Poke Violently at Jim's Emotions Day?
"I have a co-pilot. His name is Hikaru. And the cabin crew. Pavel is maybe your age."
"No he isn't!"
"Uhh, he is! Although possibly not as grown up as you. Girls definitely mature faster. You're like, sixteen, right? Be driving soon? Thinking about prom? You know my friend Gaila looked so good at her prom. She had this beautiful sparkly purple dress, all floaty, like clouds."
"What! No way. Bones, did you know about this?"
"She certainly is a very grown up young lady."
"And I don't like dresses. I wanna wear jeans."
"You can't wear jeans to prom! What about a tux? Like a jacket, with tails and a bow tie? It could still be purple."
"Why does it have to be purple?" But Sarah was laughing and Bones was smiling indulgently, Jim suspended between them in their respective rays of light and colour. He didn't want to return to his own grey, drab life.
"Purple is the best colour." Jim nodded something decisively, though, because he didn't have it in him to reject any ovation from this sweet little girl. Instead, he pulled his -Hikaru's- purple silk tie from his pocket and looped it around his neck, throwing one end back over his shoulder like a scarf, "See? Don't I look dashing?"
"If anybody actually said the word dashing any more, sure," Bones allowed.
"Uhh, in England they say it all the time."
"You've been to England ?" Sarah asked, "Is it nice there? Did you meet the Queen? Was it raining? I heard it always rains."
"Okay, I did not meet the Queen but it was nice, all the same. And it doesn’t always rain. Sometimes it snows."
"It snowed while I was there." Bones nodded then looked a little bemused at Jim and Sarah's immediate rapt attention. "There was a- conference at the Royal London Hospital on a breakthrough surgical procedure."
"And your hospital flew you all the way out there?" Jim marvelled at the money in medicine, before Bones gave a sheepish little grin.
"Not much of a conference without the keynote speaker."
"Holy shit, Bones, that is awesome!" the words burst out before Jim could stop them, to Bones' horror and Sarah's amusement, "I mean, uhh- well, heck."
"I've heard swearing before, Jim!" Sarah nudged Jim, who was sure he was blushing scarlet. Damn pale skin, "And that is really awesome, Doctor."
There was a slight flush on Sarah's cheeks then, too, and Jim somehow resisted the urge to haul her bodily away from Bones. Not that he had anything to be jealous of, except clear affection and adoring looks. He'd only known Bones for less than an hour, but Sarah had had half that and Jim sort of wanted to pout and rage about how unfair it was.
Still, when Sarah's mother came back to retrieve her, still pale but much less shaky and emphatically thankful, something tugged a little at Jim's heartstrings. She was a nice kid. And he was fully prepared to be mocked mercilessly for his suddenly thriving breeding instinct, but when he looked at Bones he saw that he seemed even worse. Just for a moment, though, before he snapped his gaze back. Something else twinged inside Jim, then, and not even where he might have initially thought. Somewhere close to his heart.
"You were really good with her," Bones said instead of what he had actually wanted to say, but Jim would run with it for as long as he kept that slightly awed edge to his tone.
"I like kids. They're-" Jim struggled for the right word. "Worthwhile."
It made no sense but Bones nodded anyway, then gave him a searching look, then unlocked his phone and handed it over. Jim stared at it.
"That's my Jo. She lives with my ex-wife. I get some weekends. Holidays. She is- the most worthwhile thing I have ever done."
"She's beautiful," Jim said, and it was true but she wasn’t the one who had him captivated. In the picture, she was sitting on the shoulders of a clean-shaven, smiling, energised Bones and fuck, he was actually going to cry- abort, abort. He handed the phone back with a surreptitious sniff and the realisation that the train was pulling into its final destination. Yup. Definitely going to cry. Time to deflect.
"I did wonder about that crazy DILF thing you had going on."
Bones' expression was one of sheer disbelief in the moments before he stood to grab his bag.
"What's a DILF?"
Oh, shit. Sarah and her mother had caught up with them in the queue for the train doors.
"It's- uhh. A dad I'd like to- friend. Yep. That's what it means. We are using friend as a verb. In this entirely child-appropriate abbreviation. Acronym?"
"Acronym." Bones nodded, falling into step beside Jim and Sarah, and her mother who looked as though she might explode with suppressed laughter or possibly more vomit. Bones had taken up the outer position, a clear defensive move, returned Jim's significant sideways glance with pure innocence.
Then they got through the ticket barriers. As Sarah and her mother walked away with just a wave and no backwards glance, Jim was struck with an inescapable urge to take Bones' hand. So he did.
Bones looked down at it, then up at Jim, then rolled his eyes, "Damnit, come with me."
"You said a bad word!" Jim didn't bother to hide his glee as Bones tugged him into a corner, out of the way of the sea of commuters that had been parting around them so far. He raised his hands to Jim's shoulders, made his heart skip a beat before he took hold of the tie, slipping it from around Jim's neck and fussing with his collar.
"Can't believe you're putting more clothes on me. My charm is so off today."
Bones just gave him a chastising look, focused on his task with steady hands. They were warm, just like Jim had imagined.
"Thanks, Bones," he said when they were done, to an expression of pure exasperation. Bones was actually pretty animated, once he got going.
"That nickname's gonna stick, isn't it?" He adjusted Jim's tie then, too, pulling it off perfectly straight and settling it back again like there was a chance he might be as desperate for the touch as Jim was.
"You gonna give it a chance to?" Jim ventured, meeting Bones' wide eyes and covering those hands with his, keeping them to his chest, "Preferably multiple times in quick succession, interspersed with vowel sounds."
Bones laughed. And he didn't pull away. Instead: "How about dinner?"
Jim bit his lip. "And dessert?"
Bones' eyes were dark, his gaze heated when he leaned in, that broad chest the faintest pressure Jim could do nothing but yield to, "If you're good, I'll order you a cheesecake."
"I love cheesecake!"
They exchanged numbers and Jim managed to keep his hands and lips and tongue off the body of the man he definitely wanted to spend forever with, but who was maybe a third date rule sort of guy. That was okay. Jim could wait. He could.
They went their separate ways across the concourse, Bones out onto the street and Jim to the subway to continue his journey. It didn't feel quite so heart wrenching when he knew it wasn't forever, that the butterflies in his stomach were more than justified. It was a good feeling. Excitement. Anticipation.
He sent a jumble of smiley, star and heart emojis -just the purple ones, they weren't engaged- off in a message to Bones in an attempt to express the overflow of emotions he was feeling. As he reached the steps down to the subway, his phone beeped. Bones had sent one back!
"Did you know there's coffee down your shirt?"
"God fucking damnit!"