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For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky

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This is a happy end Cause you don't understand Everything you have done Why's everything so wrong. This is a happy end Come and give me your hand I'll take you far away. ~Yael Naim

"What the hell else am I supposed to do, Bones? I can't exactly waltz up to them and say, 'pardon me but if you could stop shooting at me, my boyfriend would really appreciate it'. I don't think it'd go over well." The lift doors close as Jim leans away from Bones. He nervously taps his fingers on the wall until he can feel Bones's glare, so he switches to his leg. He can't take the silence.

"Dammit, Jim, you knew they were hostile. I realize I'm asking for the impossible for you to have some sort of regard for your life–" The lift doors open in the middle of Bones's tirade to the stunned face of a crew member.

"At ease, Ensign," Jim says as he snaps a return salute at the young woman.

"Yes, sir." She steps on the lift as Bones starts up again.

"But damned well have some sort of regard for your personal well-being, for my sake, if not your own– "

"We'll continue this discussion later, Doctor McCoy," Jim says abruptly, professional tone and demeanor carrying through to his rigid body language.

"Fine, Captain." The sneer is obvious without Jim even having to look at Bones.

In silence, they stalk through the hallway until they enter Jim's quarters where Bones seals the lock with his medical override. "This better, Captain?"

"Jesus, Bones, I get that you're pissed but do you have to be so… so…"

"Concerned? Caring? Upset?"

"Disrespectful?" Jim says and immediately regrets it.

"Disrespectful." Bones's voice is colder than Delta Vega as he repeats Jim.

"Yeah, I get that you're pissed at me on a personal basis, but out there," Jim says as he gestures towards the rest of the ship, "to all of them, I'm the Captain and you're the CMO. The way you were addressing me bordered on insubordination."

"Insubordination," Bones repeats him again, that tone still there and still chilling Jim. He's fucking this up something fierce, like earlier today, and Jim can't help but continue on this path despite knowing where it will lead.

"There's a chain of command that you – "

"That's rich coming from you."

"What does that mean?"

"'That doesn't frustrate you? I bet you never loved her!'" Bones mocks Jim, tossing his words in his face with a rather accurate impression of Jim from years ago, so many years that he'd thought everyone had mostly forgotten the confrontation between him and Spock.

All it does though is incite Jim's temper. "So should I toss you off the ship or just stand by while Spock tosses you off the ship for insubordination?"

"I don't have to stand here and listen to this!" It's obvious that Jim has hit a nerve with Bones as he turns away from Jim.

"You know where the door is considering you locked the two of us in together." Jim points at the door, just in case Bones has forgotten.

"Stop being an asshole."

"Yeah? Takes one to know one, I guess."

"What the hell, Jim?"

"Door, Bones."

"Fine! I'm going!" Bones turns towards the door.

Jim can't stand that Bones is walking away from him and he grabs Bones's pillow off the bed and shouts, "Bones!"

When Bones turns, Jim hurls the pillow at Bones's face.

"Don't bother coming back until you can separate this," Jim gestures between the two of them, "and the job!"

Bones stalks out of Jim's quarters. Sinking to the bed, Jim drops his head into his hands as he shakes it back and forth. The fight had come out of nowhere and every time he had an opportunity to end it, he'd escalated it instead. All he'd done was his normal thing. The away team had gone down to a potentially hostile planet (and, all right, he'll give it to Bones, he'd volunteered for it) and, as most of these things go, the inhabitants hadn't really wanted to speak to them. Instead, hostile negotiations had resulted in shots being fired. They'd finally made their way back to the ship only to be greeted by an irate Bones. It had just been another away mission, perhaps an even better than usual away mission because no one had actually gotten hurt.

The door slides open and Bones walks back in. "Jim."

"Bones." Jim looks up to see Bones standing in the doorway, clutching his pillow to his chest.

"Not Captain. Jim."


"I love you, you asshole."

"I love you, too, you grumpy bastard."

"Can we have make-up sex now?"

"Yeah." Jim's grin spreads over his face as Bones stalks towards him and then hits him across the head with the pillow.

There are things that we don't want to happen but have to accept, things we don't want to know but have to learn, and people we can't live without but have to let go. ~Author Unknown

Jim doesn't think about the shuttle that left, refuses to think about how he wants it to come back and have Bones come striding off of it, apologies tripping off his lips as he rushes towards Jim. He doesn't think about the way that he wants Bones to promise not to die, not to leave him alone in this world.
He's used to being alone. It's just that Jim had counted on Jim being the first to go. Not Bones. Never Bones. Bones was supposed to be the one left behind.

Bones had promised.

"I'm sick, Jim, really sick."

"So? You're a doctor. Fix it."

"There's no cure for it, Jim."

Heart seizing at the finality in Bones's voice, Jim says, "Bullshit."

"Jim, it's fatal. In every case, it's fatal."

"How long do you have?"

"Months. Maybe a year."

"That's enough time to figure out a cure."

"It's been tried for so many years, Jim, it won't work. And…"


"And have you seen how xenopolycythemia kills? It's slow and painful, Jim. Blood slowly stops flowing until you lose your legs and your arms. Then your core starts to shut down before you're blessed with a heart attack or a stroke. I can't do it. Not in front of you."

"What?" Jim's heart feels like it's just started back up as it races frantically because he knows, absolutely knows what Bones is saying.

"I've already requested a replacement CMO. The shuttle is due tomorrow to take me back to Earth."

"I have to approve all transfers."

"I went through Pike. It's approved from the top down."

"Bones," he starts to say and then his pride catches up. "Fine. Good luck, Doctor McCoy."

Jim stands at attention as the shuttle clears Enterprise and heads into space to wherever the hell it is that Bones has decided is the proper place to die far, far away from him. When the shuttle disappears from sight, Jim turns on his heel and marches back to his quarters where he proceeds to hide every photo of Bones before switching out the sheets and tossing them into the laundry. If Bones doesn't think that eight fucking years together as friends and then more is enough to support one another while one dies slowly and surely, then Bones isn't worth another five minutes of existence in Jim's quarters. Bones's pillow is the last to go. As Jim strips the case off the thing, he presses it up against his nose, breathing the scent in before tossing it into the back of the closet. In less than an hour, all traces of Bones are gone from Jim's quarters. As he goes to take care of some paperwork at his desk, his foot crushes a piece of paper on the floor.

Man, when he does not grieve, hardly exists. ~Antonio Porchia, Voces, 1943, translated from Spanish by W.S. Merwin

Jim starts having problems sleeping, not that he'll admit it to anyone, let alone Bones's replacement. Hell, he wouldn't have admitted it to Bones if Bones had been here. Besides, Bones's absence is the reason Jim can't sleep. Jim's gotten used to the feel of Bones's breath puffing against his ear while his arm's slung carelessly across Jim's waist. Sometimes, Bones would snort-snore, normally when he's dreaming about something from home and Jim's used to that, too, for all that it had annoyed him back when Bones had been beside him. It'd always seemed preternaturally loud but now, its absence is even louder. Jim misses the way that Bones would wake him up by drifting his hand up Jim's chest and tickling the slight amount of hair there.

If Bones hadn't deserted him, Jim wouldn't be forced to crawl back out of bed, night after night, to grab the PADD that he hides during the day, and load up the program called "Just Get To Sleep Already Dammit".

During the day, he can cope with Bones being gone. He's got a million things to do, even on the days where they're only heading from one spaceport to another. There are diplomats to entertain or Admirals to kiss ass with or Scotty down in Engineering to talk about schematics and power couplers. He's got Sulu to practice fencing with and Spock to discuss logic and play chess. He's got languages with Uhura and drinking to do with Chekov. He's got plenty of people interested in him, too, if Rand's propensity for gossip is to be believed.

None of it matters though, not here in the dark of the night as he's trying, desperately, to get some sleep. He gives in to the loneliness, immerses himself in it. He'll blame the alcohol (even though that one drink isn't enough for anything but blame) as he loads the program and then places the PADD on Bones's pillow. He reaches out to touch the image of Bones lying on the pillow and then, cursing under his breath at himself, he gives in to need, kissing the image before resting his head on his own pillow. The screen darkens, immersing the room in the sounds of Bones's sleep noises filling the air.

"Good night, Bones," he whispers to the dark.

"G't'sleep already, dammit," Bones mutters back and then the sound of shifting blankets before, "Love you, kid."

"Love you, too," Jim whispers and then rolls over, as if to pretend they're sleeping back to back. Sleep comes quicker when he can hear Bones's breathing in the dark as the snort-snore interrupts his path to sleep.

In the morning, Jim simply turns the PADD off and stores it in his desk, makes the bed and then takes himself off to the shower. He functions throughout his shift, fairly rested. A hand on his shoulder has him opening his mouth to say "Bones" when he remembers. By the time he turns, his face is neutral. "Yes?"

"I'm sorry, Captain, I spoke up but you didn't hear me," Uhura says, her hand dropping from his shoulder.

"That's fine. What is it, Lieutenant?"

"An emissary from the Cardassian Union wishes to speak with you."

"Of course, I'll take it in the Briefing Room," he says as he stands and heads towards the room.

In my Lucia's absence Life hangs upon me, and becomes a burden; I am ten times undone, while hope, and fear, And grief, and rage and love rise up at once, And with variety of pain distract me. ~Joseph Addison

Jim orders up the security feed.

"Acknowledged," the computer responds, no judgement in its modulated monotone. Before it can finish the request, Jim's door chimes.

"Computer, belay that order."


"Enter," he says towards the door.

"Captain," Spock says after the door opens and he steps into the room.

"Spock, you're in my personal quarters. You think you could call me 'Jim'?" He markedly does not think about the last time he was called Jim (god, Jim, please, right there, touch me right there) in his personal quarters.

Spock inclines his head slightly. "Jim, I would like to inquire as to the state of your emotional well-being in regards to Doctor McCoy's departure."

"I'm fine."

"Fine has multiple variables."

"Spock, I'm fine. I'm good."

"Good in regards to what, Jim?" Spock's eyebrow raises slightly, as if he's just asked the most amazing question ever. The urge to punch Spock sweeps over him and then, just as quickly, dissipates.

"My emotional well-being. Thought that was what you were asking about."

"Ah. I thought you were referring to your talent for hiding your emotional distress behind a false 'happy' façade or perhaps in regards to your talent for self-delusion."

"Excuse me?" Jim's voice goes low and dangerous. From the switch in body language from Spock, Spock has obviously picked up on it.

"Jim, you have – "

"If you're going to be a disrespectful asshole, you should damned well use my title."

"Jim," Spock says, emphasizing his name. "You have viewed Doctor McCoy's departure seventy-eight times, his many and varied appearances on the Bridge a combined total of three-hundred twelve times and his visitations and treatments of you in the confines of the Medbay another five-hundred– "

"I get it," Jim says, holding up a hand to stop Spock's recitation. "Have to say, it's a little creepy that you know all that."

"Seeing to the crew's health falls under my jurisdiction."

"It's my off-time. I'll spend it how I want."

"I would normally agree. However, your obsession borders on unhealthy and you are not sleeping."

"It's none of your business."

"I must respectfully disagree. As previously stated, the health and optimum functioning of the crew is part of the duties inherent in my position. In addition, should you find yourself incapacitated, I would need to assume the captaincy. This would require a shift of duties that would reverberate throughout the crew."

"Admit it, you're a nosy bastard," Jim says as he pours himself a drink.

Spock shifts minutely in his seat, raising only his left eyebrow, as if to say his parents were married in both the Earth custom and in the traditional Vulcan manner, thus any designation of "bastard" is illogical. The silence just makes Jim's blood boil.

"Tell me, Spock," Jim bites out, "how would you feel if Uhura found out she was terminally ill, kept it from you for weeks and then up and ran off to some random planet without discussing it with you until the resignation letter gets forwarded to you by Pike? Then, to make matters even better, she makes sure that you find out all of this less than a week before she disappears to die on her own. How would you feel about that?" Jim sips at his drink before realizing that it's Bones's brandy. Well, shit.

"If I may offer advice?"

"Sure, why not?" Jim waves the drink in the air and then gulps the rest of it.

"Watching these security recordings only fuel the… disappointment. I would recommend that you resist the temptation so as to better move on, as the Earth colloquialism states."

"Advice noted." Jim salutes him with the bottle.

"Good night, Jim."

"Night, Spock."

Jim waits a few minutes after Spock leaves then orders the computer to download and save all of the files to his PADD. Damned nosy bastard. Who else other than Spock would look at his viewing log? The invasion of privacy pisses him off. His keystrokes are angry as he confirms that the datafiles saved. Once he knows they are (and that their viewing cannot be logged), he brings up Stardate 2262.185, time: 1753 and hits play.

Except instead of Bones walking across to Jim's bed and brushing his hand down Jim's unconscious face, it's Bones's angry face on his PADD.

"Jim, I know what you're doing and you need to knock it off. Watching all these damned vids aren't doing anything but reminding you that I'm an asshole who walked away from you. Or else I'm an asshole that doesn't trust you to take care of me. Or any other crazy leaps of logic you've made since I left.

"I'm more than these vids and you aren't going to forget what I looked like or how much I cared for you.

"We're more than those last few minutes and I wish you'd remember that, too. I did what I did because I knew that it would tear you apart to watch me whither. Hell, it'd tear me apart to have you watch me do it. So call me selfish but it's not what I wanted for us.

"I hope you'll remember how you convinced me to go surfing and how that turned out. You remember how much you rubbed it in when it worked even though I said it wouldn't?

"So, you remember that stuff instead of me walking away.

I love you, kid." Bones looks to the side, reaches forward, fumbles with something and then the video changes to the one that Jim had tried to bring up in the first place. Jim sets the PADD down before walking out of the room and to the viewing area. It's hours before he moves again.

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal. ~From a headstone in Ireland

He doesn't even bother getting off the sofa as he orders coffee. He's tired and out of sorts. The double shift he'd pulled on top of weeks worth of sleepless nights on the sofa have taken their toll. As the coffee brews (or whatever the hell it does in the replicator, Jim doesn't give two shits anyway), he stumbles into the bathroom and runs the regenerator over his face, fixing the bruising under his eyes.

He's not quite done when the replicator pops open. Regenerator still running, he stumbles back into the room, grabs the coffee and then takes a sip.


There's hazelnut in his coffee.

Bones sips at his coffee, an enigmatic smile on his face. "Don't knock it until you try it."

"Bones. It's coffee. It should taste like coffee." Jim shakes his head sadly at Bones. "Not hazelnut."

"You want to sip bitter shoe polish, you be my guest. I'll drink my hazelnut." Bones salutes him with his mug and then takes a huge gulp out of it.

Jim can't resist temptation and he circles around the table and then kisses Bones, tasting the hazelnut on Bones's tongue as they kiss.

"Yeah, guess hazelnut's all right," he says as he slides back into his seat and drinks his own undoctored coffee.

Jim swallows around the lump in his throat and then pours the coffee down the drain. As soon as he reaches his desk, he calls down to Scotty in Engineering.


"Aye, Captain, what can I do for you?"

"Ensure my replicator never puts hazelnut in my coffee again."

"Aye, Captain?" And it's a question, as if Jim's gone insane for such a simple request.

"Just do it."

"Of course, Captain. It's done." Jim can still see the question in Scotty's eyes but he ignores it just like he ignores the way that the hazelnut lingers on his tongue.

"Thanks, Scotty."

"Anytime, Captain."

When he boots up his PADD, there's a new message.

Give sorry words. The grief that does not speak Whispers the o'er-fraught heart, And bids it break. ~Shakespeare

He gets off the shuttle at Starbase 11 and strides through it until he reaches the student quarters. When he knocks on the door, he taps his hand on the doorframe.

"Can I – Jim!" Joanna hurls herself into his arms.

"Joesy Bean," Jim says as he hugs her back. "We were in the area and I wanted to see you."

"Come in, unless you want to go for coffee?" She steps back, gesturing inside and Jim follows her.

"Coffee's good, if you want it. You eating all right?"




"You lying to me?" Jim tries to quirk an eyebrow and fails miserably.

"It's hard," she whispers it and Jim sweeps her into his arms again.

"Come on, let's get you some food."

As they go through the motions of ordering and eating, Jim thinks that this is even harder than subsisting. Joanna's got a thousand of Bones's mannerisms and it's difficult to watch them, the quirk of the eyebrow and the sound of Bones's laughter coming out an octave or so higher. She even gestures like him.

"How're the aunt and uncle?"

"They're good."

"You hear from your dad lately?"

Joanna looks one way and then the other, sighing deeply and squirming in her seat.

"He doing all right?"

"As best he can," she finally admits.

"That's good." Because what else can he say? That Bones keeps in contact with his daughter but not Jim stings, just like that time he'd had a spear jammed into his chest had stung. Back then, though, it had been Bones pulling it out and fixing him up. The irony doesn't escape Jim.

"He loves you, he does. He's just a stubborn bastard."

"It's all right, Jo, you don't have to explain him to me."

"So I got into that program," she says in an obvious attempt to change the subject.

"Oh yeah? Tell me about it." Jim plays along and the tension eases as Joanna rambles on about her nursing program.

When his communicator sounds, Jim realizes that he's been here for hours. "Kirk."

"Captain, we are finished with resupplying."

"Right. Back in twenty."

"Aye, Captain."

Jim puts the communicator away, then looks at Joanna. "You better keep up your grades."


Jim settles the check and then escorts Joanna back to her room, tension slipping back between them.

"Hey, Jim?" Joanna says as she hugs him again.


"I have something for you. Just give me a minute." Joanna digs through her desk and then hands him a small slip of paper. "I love you."

"Love you, too, Joesy Bean."

Jim waits until he's back in his quarters before he opens it.

It's so curious: one can resist tears and 'behave' very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer ... and everything collapses. ~Colette

Jim wakes up in medbay. He wonders where Bones is at and why there's no one around him. He can't remember what he's even doing in medbay. Then it hits him. The mission to the asteroid ship and the hollow land inside. The Yonada and the Oracle that had shocked them. The demands for obedience and the way that they'd refused. The pain of the electrocution and the strange pillars. The Fabrini system.

And no Bones.

Jim tugs the monitoring sensors off his arms, chest and temples before gingerly sitting up. A wave of dizziness comes and then passes as he slides to the edge of the bed, so he waits for the next wave of dizziness to pass before getting out of bed. If Bones had been here, the alarm would've gone off to alert people that Jim was trying to sneak out of medical. Jefferson is a good doctor but he's no Bones so the alarm doesn't sound.

Wobbly on his feet, Jim tries to leave medbay but the chime of a nearby PADD distracts him. As he slumps to the floor and the biobed chimes an angry warning at him, he pushes his way back up and catches the message light once more. His hands shake as he reaches out and grasps the PADD, trembling when he reads the message.

It has to be the torture he'd been through that makes his eyes water as he crawls back into the bed, pulling the blankets over his head as he hides from the world.

You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present. ~Jan Glidewell

The shuttle lands without incident. Jim stays on the Bridge and monitors its arrival via the link in his chair. He's got time due to him in a bit, but for now, Spock is about to depart for the planet so he can greet the new CMO and see Jefferson off. Jim pulls out his PADD and starts to work on some of the engineering improvements Scotty and Jim have been dreaming up. The monitors ping to let him know that the shuttle has departed and Jim figures he'll give the new CMO a few more minutes to get settled in his quarters before he pops in.

The turbolift into the Bridge opens and Jim ignores it in favor of the new schematics in front of him. If they can get– his thoughts are interrupted as a hand rests on his shoulder.

"Spock? Get the new CMO settled?" he asks without looking up from the schematics.

"Not settled in yet," Bones says.

Jim's heart seizes. His breath stutters to a stop and there's just not any oxygen in the Bridge. Somehow, the Bridge is part of the vacuum of space rather than a working area, except Bones's hand is warm on his shoulder, burning its way through his uniform.

"Bones," he breathes out on his trapped air and then sucks in a gulp.

"Jim," Bones says in almost a whisper. It's enough to remind him of the months without Bones, of the way that Bones had left him alone in the world with little to no regard to Jim's own feelings and abilities to cope.

"We should get you to your quarters." Jim's tone is professional as he stands up, slipping out from under Bones's hand.

"Jim," Bones says again.

"Jefferson should've cleared out of the CMO quarters but I don't think there's been enough time for it to be cleaned. We can at least get your bags stowed."

"Jim, aren't you going to – "

"No, I'm not."

"You don't know what I was going to say."

"Whatever it was, I'm not going to do it. If you have a problem with that, then we can find you another ship to serve aboard."

"All right." It's said quietly, as if Bones understands what Jim's saying underneath all of the professionalism. Jim hates him for that ability to read Jim's moods, to see the way that Jim's dying inside, that he's so fucking torn between what his heart wants to do versus what his brain is demanding he do.

"This way." Jim leads the way to the CMO quarters, as if Bones hadn't abandoned those quarters just a few short months ago. Not that Bones had spent much time there in the past few years. They're quiet as they make their way through the halls until they arrive at the rooms. "I'll leave you to get settled in. Do you remember where medbay is or do you need an escort?"

"Dammit, Jim." Bones's calm façade starts cracking at the question and Jim is glad for it. If Bones is pissed, then maybe it might possibly ferment and reach a level where Jim's hurt is. Maybe then Bones will understand just what it felt like, what it feels like to do without.

"As we're currently here to resupply the ship, you can take the time to settle in and familiarize yourself with Enterprise, her crew and her functionings. Welcome aboard." Jim snaps a salute and then, crisply turning on his heel with a precision he hasn't used since he was a cadet, heads down the hall.

"Jim," Bones calls out behind him. Jim doesn't turn, refuses to turn. His hands are shaking as he gets in the turbolift and then heads back to the Bridge to pick up his PADD before heading to his quarters. Bones's pillow is still in his closet and he resists the urge to pull it out as he locks himself in his quarters, even to the point that Bones's clearance code won't be able to override without Spock's assistance.

He's not a coward if he stays in there for the rest of the day, ignoring the summons at his door and sent through his PADD. He ignores everyone but Scotty, who has his orders not to carry any messages for Bones or Spock about this.

The notice that they're ready for departure comes through, summoning him to the Bridge and out of the hiding he refuses to acknowledge. By the time he reaches the Bridge, he's calm and professional enough that the presence of Bones in his customary spot barely causes a stutter in his step before he makes his way to his chair and orders the last system checks and then the departure.

Eventually, Bones leaves without saying a word. Spock, however, is not nearly as circumspect. "Captain, a word?"

"Sure it's going to be just one?" Jim says as he heads into the Ready Room.

"Captain, I had thought, based on your reactions to the loss of Doctor McCoy, that you would have had a very different response to his reappearance."

"Oh yeah? What gave you that idea?"

"The fact that, for the past nine months, I have had to deliver a variety of messages to help you cope with your grief lead me to believe that you would have a different reaction to the reappearance."

"You're the one giving me all those damned messages?"

"Yes, Doctor McCoy requested that I deliver messages for him."

"And when did he give you those messages?" Jim can feel his façade crumbling under the renewed strength of his rage.

"Previous to his departure."

"Were you aware of the status of his health? How long did you know that he was coming back?" Jim asks. They're professional questions, easy, verifiable questions of facts, rather than the demands for appeasement that he wants to make. Spock would never answer why did you do this to me or how could you keep this from me in any way that would make sense to Jim.

"I was aware of the status of his research, not the status of the decline in his health. When we encountered the Yonada, I found a record of treatment for Xenopolycythemia in the archives we copied. I immediately sent the information to Doctor McCoy."

"A month. You've known for a month that he…"

"There was a chance that the treatment would fail. After calculating the variables, I made the decision that the chance for failure was enough to justify delaying communication to you. As a…friend, I thought it wise to not give you false hope."

"False hope."

"Correct, Captain."

"Thank you, Spock. Dismissed," he says as he sinks into a chair.

"Captain," Spock starts and then stops speaking. "Jim. Doctor McCoy's return should be a cause for celebration, not further pain. I apologize if my actions have resulted in a perpetuation of pain to you."

"Forget about it, Spock. No big deal."

"It is, of course, a very large 'deal', as it were. I had every intention of keeping you from hurting worse. I apologize if just the opposite has occurred."

"It's fine, Spock. One of us should be on the Bridge right now."

"Of course." Jim doesn't look up as Spock exits. Instead, he drops his head into his hands and breathes deeply, keeping the shaking out of his hands and his body as he wills himself to pull together.

He's torn between marching down to medical and beating the shit out of Bones for making him go through the past few months, making him grieve and hurt and burn with loss, only to show up again as if he's perfectly healthy and it was all for nothing. He wants to taste Bones again, feel him flesh-to-flesh against Jim's chest, his legs entwined with Bones's while their hands roam all over one another. He wants to sink into Bones and have Bones sink into him. He wants to forget where one ends and the other begins so much that his heart starts racing at the idea of it. He'd thought it all denied to him for forever but now that he has the opportunity for it, he's too hurt to go after it.

It takes almost ten minutes before he calms himself enough to head back onto the Bridge. Another few hours and his shift is over, giving him the opportunity to hide in his quarters until sleep finally claims him.

Then he wakes and repeats his avoidance of Bones only to repeat it day after day until a week's gone past.

Jim ignores the letter just like he ignores the next one after it (Dear Jim, Stop acting like an infant.) and then the next (Jesus, Jim, grow the fuck up and at least talk to me like we're adults). He keeps ignoring all of it because he doesn't know how to tell Bones that love isn't enough to cure everything.

The letters stop after a week or so. After another week of no letters, Jim braves the mess for the first time since Bones's return. He's braced for Bones's appearance but, instead, he finds himself sitting alone with his sandwich and fries. There's no one telling him to get more vegetables or stop eating so many empty carbohydrates.

Since lunch had been such a success, he braves the officer's mess for dinner. He joins Sulu and Uhura at their table. It's blissfully judgment free, something he'd sort of expected from Uhura, at the very least. Not once is Bones's name brought up and Jim's grateful for his crew.

After a week of his reappearing for regular meals in the mess, Bones drops off a dish of carrots during lunch. At dinner, Bones drops off a bowl of broccoli. At breakfast the next morning, it's strawberries for his pancakes. It takes three days of this constant attention to his diet before Jim looks at anything other than his plate when Bones appears to drop off some sort of healthy option. When Jim looks up at Bones, Bones only smiles at him before handing over the Brussel sprouts.

Another few days and Bones sits down with him.

Another week and Jim actually looks at Bones while they're eating.

She was no longer wrestling with the grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts. ~George Eliot

It's not until another week's gone past that Jim actually speaks to Bones during these meals. He has a million things he wants to say to Bones, but what comes out is, "If you're going to force me to eat vegetables, I'd prefer broccoli"

"Excuse me?" Bones responds, arching an eyebrow at him.

"You put Brussels sprouts on my plate again and I'm going to space you."

"They're a fantastic source of– "

"I don't care what they're a fantastic source of, they're always overcooked. Makes it smell like dirty socks."

"Broccoli it is, then," Bones says, and it's a jolt to have him cave so quickly.

"Whatever, Doctor," he snarls and then, leaving his food on the table, stalks out of the mess back to his quarters.

"Jim!" Bones shouts after him but Jim ignores him.

Bones slides onto the lift just after Jim, not giving him the time to avoid and center himself.

"Jim, the hell was that?"

The lift doors slide open and Jim continues his way to his quarters, Bones at his heels.

"Have a good day, Doctor McCoy," Jim says as he tries to close his door. Contrary cantakerous asshole that he is, though, Bones doesn't play along. Instead of letting Jim alone like he's done since he came back, Bones slaps a hand into the doorway and the door slides open.

"This has gone on long enough, Jim."

"Doctor McCoy, you will remove yourself from my quarters or – "

"Or what, Jim? What'll you do? Hold me for mutiny because I want you to talk to me instead of acting like a child?"

"A child? A child?!" Jim snarls the last. "I'm not the one who decided to run away when playtime didn't go the way he wanted!"

"I didn't run away!"

"Oh yeah? What do you call it, then? You took off instead of dealing with it. So sorry that I was pulling your pigtails too hard!"

"You really want to do this in the hallway?"

"Why the hell not, Bones? You're the one that left in a huff and came back expecting everything to be the way it was. Guess what, asshole? I get to have a say, this time! You don't get to plan shit out and have Spock slip me a couple of letters and fix everything!"

"I'm not doing this in the hallway."

"I'm not letting you in my quarters."

"I'm coming in whether you want me in there or not!"

"Don't even try it, Bones."

Bones doesn't listen to him. Of course. Instead, he lunges forward and tackles Jim, sending them both falling to the floor as the door slides shut behind them. Jim twists his hips, swings his arm and flips them over so that Bones is on the bottom while Jim sits on top of him, one hand fisted in Bones's shirt while the other cocks back and then stills. Had he really been about to hit Bones?

"If it helps fix it, hit me. If it makes you feel better, do it."

"Fuck you. I'm not going to hit one of my officers."

"I'm not one of your officers right now, Jim. I'm just Leonard. So if it helps fix this, then hit me." Leonard reaches a hand up and pulls Jim's cocked fist down until he brings it to his lips. "Wherever you want to hit me, do it."

Jim's hand trembles under Bones's grasp before he moans and slides his hand along Bones's jawline until it tangles deep into Bones's hair and his lips touch Bones's. He's not gentle as he kisses Bones, there's more tooth than tongue in it, as he ravages at Bones's mouth, hands pulling and pinching everywhere.

"Jim," Bones moans when Jim finally pulls back to pant for breath. "Jim."

"I hated you. I hate you."

"I know." Jim hates the sympathy in Bones's gaze more than anything else at that moment.

"You left me."

"I know I did. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." Bones's hand comes up and brushes at Jim's cheek, thumb rubbing circles on the skin and burning the anger out.

"You ever do that to me again…"

"I won't."

"I don't believe you."

"Only thing that I can do is prove it."

"I don't want to give you that chance."

"All right, Jim," Bones says, accepting Jim's. "This time, the decision is all yours. I make shitty decisions."

"I don't want to but I will. You ever do it again, though…"

"I won't." It's said just as fervently as the previous time but Jim feels hope creeping in. "I love you."

"You keep saying that."

"It's because it's true."

"I need time." Jim sees the way that Bones's face falls as he looks to one side and then the other. Jim pushes off of him and then stalks to the closet, pulling the pillow out. "You left your pillow."

"Huh?" When Bones looks over to see Jim, Jim tosses the pillow at Bones.

"You're going to need it."

"Guess that's my cue to head back to my quarters."

"You really do make shitty decisions." Jim waits for the words to sink it.

"You saying…"

"I'm saying the pillow doesn't leave this room. You want it, you'll have to stay."

"It is my pillow."

"Can we have make-up sex now?"

"Yeah," Bones says before walking over to Jim and hitting him with the pillow.

"In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life. It goes on." ~Robert Frost