Collins, the ancient strategic theory prof who was old enough to have taught George Kirk and, to Jim’s mind, hadn’t changed the course a damn bit since then, handed back their first papers at the end of seminar. Jim grabbed his and flipped it over to see that the paper he'd slaved over for a week solid, to the exclusion of all his other work, had been granted a B.
"Do you have a question, Cadet?" Collins asked, cocking his head.
Jim blinked. "Uh, no, sir," he said, gathering his things as he realized that the rest of the class had already left the room.
Collins hummed. "B is a good mark on a first paper," he said. "I don't go in for all this grade inflation. On a first paper, one must leave room for improvement."
What Jim wanted to say was: "Fuck you, old man. Pike told me the Admiralty is full of officers like you who can't recognize talent when they see it. That was a fucking A- paper."
What Jim did say was: "Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. See you next week," because sometimes the best offense is a strategic retreat.
As he walked across campus back to his room, all he could think about was getting to Lucy. He needed to spend the next few days catching up on his other work while he tried to figure out how to get his grade up in Collins's class. True, there were four papers total for the class, but Collins damn well knew Jim needed a B+ in the class to qualify for the second-year summer training session as a first-year, and he needed that training course to stay on his the three-year timetable.
But Lucy. Lucy, maybe the special barbeque roast beef sandwich from the little takeout place near campus, and he'd be good as new in the morning. And no one would know because his roommate was doing night flight training all week; by the time he was home Jim would be out for his morning run.
Only when Jim got home, there was Bones, sitting on the couch messing with a padd. Not entirely surprising since they’d given each other the codes to their rooms sometime in the first month, as Bones’s med track housing was roomier and quieter for when Jim really needed to crack down, but also sometimes Bones got a little lonely. Still, since Bones had been working night and swing shifts lately he hadn’t exactly expected to see him.
"Hey," Jim said.
"Hey!" Bones said. "One of the other doctors needed to switch shifts and I said, hey, fine with me." He shrugged. "Wanna get a burger?"
Jim put on a grin. "Sure, sure, let me just get rid of the books and the reds."
Bones cocked his head. "You all right?" he asked.
"Sure, why?" Jim asked, though he was glad that he was facing away from Bones as he shucked off his uniform.
"I dunno, guess you didn't quite seem happy to see me," Bones said. "Am I messing up your other plans, maybe to share that bed of yours?"
Funny thing, since Lucy was already in his bed. "No, no," Jim said. "I mean, I have been, but no plans for that tonight."
"Oh, that's right," Bones said, snapping his fingers. "You have that seminar with that asshole prof on Tuesdays. No wonder you're tense."
"You remembered that?" Jim asked, turning around to face Bones.
"How could I not? You spent all last weekend buried under research and typing away. I had to remind you to eat."
"Yeah," Jim said, slipping on a pair of jeans. "Thanks for that."
Bones waved his hand. "Whatever. How did you do?"
"Fine," Jim said. "Just fine."
"Yeah?" he asked, reaching for a shirt and pulling it over his head.
"Jim, look at me."
He turned. "What is it?"
Bones stood up and walked toward him. "When I met you, you were banged all to hell, you smelled like the floor of a saloon, and you looked as freaked out as I felt. You wanna keep secrets, fine, we all have our deep darks. I've got some doozies myself. But after everything—look, just do me the damn respect of just telling me to mind my own business. Don't lie to me."
Jim thought about staring Bones down, but if there was one thing he'd learned in the last five and a half months it was that Leonard H. McCoy could be a stubborn son of a bitch when he wanted to be. And besides, he didn't seem annoyed or impatient so much as hurt, like it wounded him to think Jim would lie to him. "I got a B."
"Oh," Bones said. "And you need the B+."
"Well, plenty of term left to get there."
"Yeah, I know. I'll be fine; I was just coming home to lick my wounds."
"Which means what, in Kirk-speak?"
"Which means that roast beef sandwich with the barbeque onions, a Steve McQueen holo or two, and …"
"Some physical distractions?"
"Not exactly." Jim glanced toward his bed, then back at Bones. "Promise you won't tease me too much?"
Bones raised an eyebrow. "All right," he said.
Jim walked to his bunk and pulled out a large grey object wedged between the head of the bed and the wall, under his pillow, and tossed it to Bones.
"What?" Bones asked, then turned the object right side up. "An elephant? A stuffed elephant?"
"Lucy," Jim said. "Got her when I was five, when Mom first went back into the black."
"Good grief, must have been almost as big as you," Bones said.
"What can I say? It gives good hugs. And I needed them, when Mom wasn't around. Older brothers and stepfathers, you know, not so generous with the hugs. Anyway, Mom sent it back with me after the holiday, said I might need it."
Bones squished the toy. "I had a lion when I was a kid," he said quietly. "I gave Jo one just like it before I left."
"I bet she's hugging it right now," Jim said.
"I hope so. Well," Bones said, tossing Lucy back to Jim, "I'll leave you to it."
"No," Jim said, without even thinking. "Stay."
"Can't share Lucy," he said, "but I can share sandwiches and Steve McQueen."
"Now who is this McQueen?" Bones asked.
"Okay, that's it, you're absolutely staying," Jim said, walking past him into the living space, "because no friend of mine doesn't know who Steve McQueen is."
"And since I’m your friend," Bones said, "I can be a little more generous with the hugs. Not as generous as Lucy, mind you."
"Well, that's Lucy's job," Jim said, settling down on the couch next to Bones. "So what was your lion's name?"
"Prudence," Bones said. "Maybe I should ask Gran to send her—she's up in the attic someplace. She could keep Lucy company."
"That would be nice," Jim said, smiling. "Lucy could use a friend."