McCoy jerks awake to warmth and comfort and the unfortunate reality of a shrieking alarm.
Groaning throatily in the blurry morning haze of not-quite-awake-and-hoping-to-keep-things-that-way, McCoy can’t help thinking that waking up at fuck o’clock in the morning on the first day of shore leave completely defeats the purpose of shore leave itself.
In fact, the simple act of Jim setting an alarm when there shouldn’t, by all rights, be anything to wake up for, is enough to cultivate his fussy, stress-induced acid reflux, and encourage his usual heartburn to develop into what feels like a particularly vicious ulcer.
“Computer, terminate alarm,” says Jim in the kind of chirpy and alert voice that doesn’t belong anywhere near whatever god-awful hour of the day this is. McCoy doesn’t actually know the time. He stubbornly refuses to open his eyes and physically check the chronometer; he doesn’t need to do so because he’s perfectly aware of what really fucking early feels like and can tell without looking or moving or even breathing that the sun isn’t up yet and everything is still and quiet in that eerie pre-dawn way of things.
Everything is still and quiet, that is, except for Jim, who’s rustling around in the blankets, the mattress vibrating with his wriggling movements. Something hard and bony collides unforgivably hard with McCoy’s shin and he grunts in surprise, muttering under his breath and then defensively tugging his legs away from Jim to burrow deeper into the blankets.
He’s hoping Jim will take the hint, and hopefully realise that whatever early-morning endeavour he’s planned will have to proceed without McCoy, but before that thought is even finished forming in his sleepy brain Jim’s warm weight drapes across McCoy as he reaches for something on McCoy’s bedside table. Then, instead of lifting, the weight settles, leaving Jim sprawled across McCoy’s waist, effectively pinning down his torso and arms.
There’s a moment of silence. Then—
“What are you doing?” He risks opening his eyes, and through the haphazard pull of blankets and pillows, he can see the rumpled top of Jim’s head, sunny and aggravatingly bright.
“Getting your attention.”
“Congratulations, mission accomplished. It’s ass o’clock in the morning and I’ve already hit my daily desperately want to kill Jim quota.”
Jim shuffles a bit, his hips bumping McCoy’s thigh, and McCoy groans and turns his face into the pillow, snuffling softly and going perfectly still. If he doesn’t provoke, respond, or otherwise react to Jim, he might go away.
He might get up, and leave McCoy alone in his dark, cozy cocoon. The weight on McCoy’s belly shifts again.
Reach his hand into McCoy’s pyjama bottoms and wrap a hand around his half-hearted morning wood.
“Jim,” moans McCoy, his hips bucking instinctively into the firm grip of his hand. Trust the kid to absolutely steamroll right through his defences and hunker right down in the corner of the ring with plans to play dirty.
“Bones,” acknowledges Jim, his voice a little muffled. He thumbs the head of McCoy’s dick and McCoy garbles a moan and squirms. It’s too much friction and not enough lubrication, an edge of rough slide to his touch that Jim is perfectly aware McCoy loves.
“I, oh, God,” rasps McCoy, “Actually hate you. I hate you forever. It’s still dark.”
“I needed enough time to adequately convince you of the utter importance of our mission.” Jim’s voice is perfectly sedate.
“Our mission is shore leave,” protests McCoy. Jim’s fingers twist over his shaft and he squeezes his eyes shut, sweat gathering in the small of his back as his hips zero in on the source of gratification and arc forward without conscious approval. His own hands have dug into the sheets, fisting wads of bedding as he struggles not to give in and just happily fuck Jim’s fist. He refuses to let Jim win—because Jimalways wins—and he is absolutely not going to get stuck doing something that Jim has apparently decided McCoy would otherwise reject unless offered sufficient incentive.
He comes, in a warm flare of muted pleasure, but damned if he doesn’t come stubbornly.
“We’re already late,” observes Jim when McCoy’s brain has had a few minutes to reconstitute itself. Jim’s rearranged himself so he’s lying completely on top of McCoy, their legs and hips slotted together, his chin jabbing right into McCoy’s sternum. McCoy grumbles indistinctly and pulls the pillow over his face.
“Bones,” whines Jim.
“Shut up,” mutters McCoy. “I’m suffocating myself.”
Jim’s hands snake in under the press of synthetic down and obscenely high thread-count sheets and cup McCoy’s unshaven jaw. His thumb, sticky with McCoy’s own come, brushes his lower lip.
Despite himself, McCoy’s darts his tongue out to catch the salt-bitter heat of Jim’s skin. Jim’s thumb slips into his mouth and he sucks on it for a moment, the warm lull of sleep just out of reach and unlikely to return to him any time soon. He sighs through his nose, pushing his tongue against the pad of Jim’s thumb. Then Jim’s thumb slips away and his hands remove the pillow from McCoy’s creased face, Jim’s eyes peering at him with barely-veiled excitement.
He gives in.
“Late for what?”
Late for standing in the cold, apparently.
McCoy shivers pointedly, tugs his collar up, and glares holes into Jim’s back.
“Stop it,” says Jim, not even bothering to turn around. “You can’t kill me with your brain.”
“One day,” threatens McCoy idly, crossing his arms over his chest and tucking his mittened hands into his armpits. It is still dark outside. “One day, when you least expect it, Jim....”
“You can be so fucking creepy,” chuckles Jim, glancing at McCoy over his shoulder with wide, bright eyes.
There’s an uncharacteristic bite to the air that is hell-bent on sinking into McCoy’s bones and freezing him solid from the inside out, but that same chill brings out the warmth in Jim, pinks his cheeks and widens his smile until he’s beaming wide and crinkly, his eyes glacier-blue in the dim blush of dawn. He’s forgone a hat and scarf, while McCoy has donned both, standing in the December cold like he’s made for it in just a thin wool coat, bare hands tucked in his pockets more out of lack of anything to do with them rather than feeling the cold.
Winter just suits Jim, turns him golden yellow and pale in that thin, watery light that passes for sunshine in the grey months, the angles and curves of his face softened. McCoy huffs, nosing into his scarf to hide his scowl. His knitted hat is pushing his bangs down, the fringe of hair tickling and itching his forehead.
“You said we were late,” mutters McCoy accusingly. “And yet here we are, waiting outside because the damn shopping centre ain’t even open yet.”
“How are you not?”
Jim snorts, doesn’t answer because they both know the answer, and wraps an arm around McCoy’s waist, tugging him into the warm bow of Jim’s body. McCoy tries to keep up the façade, coaxes out a half-hearted grumble and tenses his shoulders, and then just relaxes into Jim’s body, tilting his head to rest on his shoulder.
“That’s it, professor grumpy-pants. It’s not all that bad.”
“Hmph,” grunts McCoy.
He doesn’t actually want to dwell on the complete clusterfuck of what happened in the immediate aftermath of the shopping centre finally opening, not when the scattered crowd of shoppers that seemed to share Jim’s lingering fit of consumer madness had simply grown with such alarming speed that McCoy couldn’t be certain they didn’t just all reproduce asexually or spontaneously materialize just in time to promptly bottle-neck into the main doors.
By the time they’re inside, and not getting trampled by fiercely determined customers, McCoy has a death-grip on Jim’s hand and is letting himself be dragged on some pre-determined path to—to—well, probably Candy Mountain, or something, considering Jim dragged him awake pre-dawn to get here, and it better be damn well magical.
Candy Mountain, somewhat disappointingly, turns out to be a toy store, but McCoy will firmly deny that he’d been whimsically hoping for an adventure through a wardrobe or down a rabbit hole even in his own mind.
“Jim,” bites out McCoy in mild distress, dancing out of the way of a woman with absolute murderous intent in her eyes as she stalks toward a giant display of model rockets and abruptly shoves another hapless patron out of her way. “What are we doing here?”
“Christmas shopping,” says Jim, still maintaining a firm and quietly-appreciated grip on McCoy’s hand as he leads him deftly through the growing press of other half-mad shoppers all intently digging through piles of stuffed cuddly toys and model kits and disturbingly life-like dolls. “Holiday shopping. Presents. Joy. Goodwill among men. And women. And—”
“We are in a toy store,” announces McCoy before Jim can really get going.
“Yes,” says Jim, tugging McCoy over to the shelves filled with construction toys, colourful boxes of Lego and Tinkertoys and Construx rearing up large and obnoxious and cheerfully assaulting his eyes. “We are.”
McCoy pauses to regroup his fragile calm, shaking his head and then successfully glaring down a man who’s eyeing him like they’re rivals in a boxing ring. He is not getting into any fights over toys. This is just not his life. “Okay,” he says slowly, using his free hand to pinch the bridge of his nose. “Let’s pretend for a second that we’re having a proper conversation. You said—you mentioned last week that you wanted to buy presents for your bridge crew.”
“And Scotty,” adds Jim.
“And Scotty. Right. So, I’m still lacking the vital bit of information that explains why you’re shopping for them in a children’s toy store.” He feels oddly helpless, too exhausted and overwhelmed by the bright colours and gaudy decorations and filtered strains of instrumental holiday cheer pouring out of the ceiling to fully follow whatever it is that Jim has in mind.
Jim casually elbows a man in the chest and tugs down a large box of Meccano, peering at the illustration on the cover. “Yeah.”
“Gag gift?” McCoy tries, glancing around and getting momentarily distracted by what looks like a tug-of-war over a stuffed rabbit in the middle of the next aisle over.
“Nope,” replies Jim cheerfully, tucking the box under his arm and guiding McCoy over to the stuffed toys, which is worrying considering what he’s just witnessed.
“This isn’t Christmas shopping, Jim, it’s survival training,” mumbles McCoy, ducking out of the way of an over-zealous shopper with a cart. “Did we have to come today?”
“Didn’t you see all the signs?” asks Jim, letting go of McCoy’s hand to pick through a big pile of what look like stuffed teddy bears with a great deal more teeth. McCoy feels oddly bereft at the loss of his hand and presses up close behind Jim, trying to stay out of the way.
“What signs?” he says distractedly.
“The giant ones plastered all over the stores,” replies Jim, pointing up to a garish banner proclaiming that everything has been SLASHED TO SIXTY PERCENT OFF!!!
“So you’re not thoughtful, you’re just cheap,” mutters McCoy, blinking at a plush unicorn with a sparkly purple mane and tail.
“I,” says Jim loftily, scooping up one of the strange evil teddy bears, “Love the thrill of the hunt, Bones. It’s not about the sales. It’s about finding exactly what you want and beating it over the head of the poor bastard that’s a second too late.”
“Ruthless,” murmurs McCoy, squeezing the unicorn’s middle. It squawks, ‘I love you! Be my friend!’ and he scowls bitterly. “So the box is for—Scotty?”
“Yeah,” replies Jim, smiling. “Last week during poker he told me about how he had a set when he was a kid and that he’d build these big huge starships in his bedroom, but then his family moved to a new house and all his construction toys got lost.”
“And the teddy bear?”
“It’s a sehlat.”
“A sehlat. They’re—were—indigenous to Vulcan.”
“C’mon,” says Jim brightly, shoving the fluffy toy into McCoy’s chest so he can snag his hand again. “Let’s go pay and get out of here. Next stop—liquor store!”
He says this loud enough that everybody standing in his immediate vicinity turns to shoot him a disapproving glare.
McCoy can only heave a thunderous sigh and follow.
McCoy, rather unsurprisingly, is relegated to carrying the bags.
He watches in dazed amusement as Jim snatches up a basket and immediately removes a bottle of vodka from the shelf. McCoy trails behind him, gaze shifting from label to label on the brightly coloured bottles of booze from all corners of the galaxy.
“Chekov?” he asks.
“Kid’s like a military tank. That runs on booze,” says Jim, a note of awe in his voice. “He drank Harris under the table at the last department bash. Figured since it was my id—” and here McCoy shoots him a disapproving glare, “—admittedly irresponsible and completely terrible idea, I owe it to him to replace the bottle they went through.” He turns to eye an aged bottle of scotch once the vodka is safely ensconced in his shopping basket. “Hey, what do you think Scotty drinks?”
“Christ, anything,” snorts McCoy. “Iron stomach. He’s doesn’t discriminate, Jim. I watched him scrounge up the leftover dredges of all the bottles after poker one night and dump ‘em all into his glass. I doubt this place sells the kind of homemade rotgut that would appeal to Scotty.”
“Probably not,” muses Jim, chewing on his lower lip. The scotch eventually gets settled alongside the vodka and then Jim’s roving gaze alights on something that makes both his eyebrows jump up like synchronized furry caterpillars.
He reaches out for an elaborate bright green bottle.
McCoy’s hand cracks out with lightning speed and grabs Jim’s wrist. “No, Jim.”
“No. Absinthe is never a good idea.”
“You know what?” interrupts McCoy, gesturing wildly, one hand still clutching Jim’s wrist and waving it around like Jim’s a broken marionette. “Fine. Buy it. Share it with others. Drink too much of it in the name of holiday cheer. This? This is me, no longer giving a damn. This is the face of complete apathy. But I tell you, Jim, don’t you dare come crying to me when you hallucinate so badly you’re convinced the walls are crawling with spiders or the sinks and showers are belching hydrochloric acid into your eyes—”
“Okay! Okay, no green fairy for us. You are a scary, scary man,” protests Jim, hiding a twitchy smile as McCoy finally drops his hand.
McCoy shrugs, mollified, and directs his attention to their immediate surroundings, lulled into resigned acceptance of the fact that they’re probably going to spend the entire day inside the shopping centre. The music has turned into something less packaged pop and more choral and classic, and it’s warm and bright and tinsel-y all around him. All in all, the chintzy atmosphere and sparkly holiday accoutrements are conspiring together to appeal to his soft marshmallow centre and tightly-reigned-yet-highly-nostalgic soul. He relaxes, ignoring all the people and concentrating on the warm glow of spending time with Jim.
“Jim?” he calls, blinking, as he re-emerges from his little Zen moment and looks around.
There is not even a hint of Jim.
“Jim?” he repeats, trying not to raise his voice loud enough for anyone to notice him.
The cluster of people currently occupying the same aisle don’t even glance his way as he wanders aimlessly, examining any shoppers with short blond hair and black coats and finding that none of them are Jim. Eventually, he ends up outside the liquor store, ejected gently from inside like seaweed drifting with the tide and deposited near an empty bench. He sinks down into it with a vague sense of gratitude, bewildered and slightly annoyed, but, for the most part, completely okay with life.
Which, for him, is not always the case.
Jim will turn up at some point, or he’ll just comm McCoy—
He pats at his pockets, searching for his communicator, not sure of why he didn’t think of this sooner.
After a moment of fruitless searching, he comes to the off-putting conclusion that he didn’t think of this sooner because his subconscious probably already dismissed ‘comm Jim, you dumbass’ as a valid solution to his dilemma when it realised that in order to do so, he would have to go back in time and remember to actually put the damn thing inside his pocket before leaving.
In the interest of full disclosure, he’s honestly surprised he managed to even dress himself properly, considering the hour at which they found themselves exiting the apartment, so only forgetting his communicator rather than something more crucial, like socks or underwear or, you know, pants, is suitably impressive.
He allows himself a moment of pride and then looks around again.
The crowd has only grown in the short amount of time since the doors opened, and the sound of voices is a dull background roar. McCoy is still soothed by the lilting music, and from somewhere distant, he can even hear actual in-person singing of the jolly Christmas caroller variety.
The shopping centre has tried incredibly hard to accommodate as many seasonal holidays as possible, so there’s a non-specificity to the decorations that should be bland but is in actual fact fairly successful; lights wind around every available surface, reflecting off fake snow and glitter and shiny garlands. It looks exactly like the kind of winter wonderland that San Francisco has never actually been.
A memory hits him without warning and suddenly he’s six years old again, standing by his mother’s side, his hand in hers.
He’d let go, distracted by the lure of a large display of—something, sweets, maybe—and before he’d realized it, the forest of legs around him had shifted to something busy and unrecognizable and foreign, and instead of staying put exactly like she’d told him to do thousands of times, he’d started pushing through, carefully examining each face that passed and tugging on the sleeves of the people he couldn’t clearly see.
He’d ended up sitting on a bench in the North Pole, surrounded by polymer snow and towering plastic trees. His mother had been next to tears by the time a mall employee noticed him and asked his name to page over the in-store communication system. He’d been scolded and kissed in equal measure, and the woman who’d found him had snuck a giant candy cane into his coat pocket.
The bellowed shout of his nickname dumps a shivery bucket of relief down his spine. He looks up and spots Jim bustling toward him, eyes bright and arms laden down with yet more bags—when the hell did he manage that? McCoy’s been sitting here for maybe twenty minutes—eyes crinkling at the corners.
“Where the hell did you go?” Jim demands, flopping down next to McCoy on the bench he’s commandeered and scattering bags around him like dominos.
The brief burst of relief is viciously over-taken by the more familiar prickle of annoyance. “Where did I go?” retorts McCoy. “Where did you go? If I didn’t know any better, Jim, I’d say you were trying to ditch me.”
“Never!” cries Jim with just the appropriate amount of theatricality in his voice. “Delusions. Paranoia. You should get that checked out.”
McCoy passes an invisible tricorder around his own head and replicates the accompanying whirring noise that is now as familiar as his own breathing. Then he beeps so loudly he startles Jim and declares, “All clear. Clean bill of mental health.”
“I’m not entirely sure how much I trust your judgement,” says Jim gravely, eyebrows raised. “Anyway, while you were busy being lost, I basically hit the jackpot.”
“Someone recognized you and gave you shit for free?”
“You get funnier and funnier every day.”
McCoy rolls his eyes. “I’m not carrying all this, just so you know.”
“Look,” says Jim, ignoring him. He tugs a box from one of the bags and settles it carefully in his lap before removing the lid. After digging through a bed of tissue paper, he reveals a glass chess set, with one team of clear pieces and another of smoky frosted glass. “Handmade,” says Jim, with a little note of wonder in his voice. The glass is smooth and pristine, barely any imperfections visible. “You think Spock will like it?”
McCoy hides his fond smile at the genuine hope in Jim’s voice and grunts noncommittally. “Isn’t regular old chess a little plebeian for him?”
Jim makes a small noise and his eyebrows knit together. McCoy huffs a breath. “Jim,” he says softly.
Jim eyes him side-long. “What?”
“I’m teasing, you ass. It’s beautiful,” McCoy says sincerely. “And it’s incredibly thoughtful. He’ll appreciate the craftsmanship.”
The tension bleeds out of Jim’s shoulders and he carefully re-packages the chess set before pulling out a beautifully-bound but careworn book printed in characters McCoy doesn’t immediately recognize. Romulan? Vulcan?
“And look, I found this for Uhura—can you believe it? Second edition, in the original Romulan!” explains Jim. “Get her drunk sometime and ask her about the mockery of an English translation they did of this text, I laughed so hard I actually threw up.”
McCoy snorts a laugh himself, taking the book from Jim to flip carefully through the musty, fragile pages. “Jim,” he says again.
Jim either doesn’t hear him or doesn’t want to lose steam. He snatches the book back and pushes another bag into McCoy’s hands. It smells earthy and warm, and he peers inside in confusion to find a pot of earth and a little nub of juvenile greenery nestled in the dirt. “That stuff is for Hikaru. Yellow orchids, and there’s this neat little cactus—”
“Jim,” repeats McCoy, a little louder.
“—And this,” continues Jim, with all the subtly of a bulldozer, “Is a supplement to Pavel’s vodka. See? It’s a navigational globe, but it’s celestial—”
Jim stops short, blinking at McCoy. “Bones?”
McCoy lets out a soft sigh and nudges their shoulders together. “Pretty sure you told everyone not to get you anything. What’s with this frantic rush to pick out gifts?”
Jim snorts loudly. It’s his ‘you are totally missing the point and I am scoffing at you, see me scoff’ snort. “It’s our first holiday season together as a crew, Bones. I think everyone could use a little something special, especially since shore leave doesn’t even fall on half the holidays people celebrate this year, including Christmas and Hanukkah.”
He’s right. They’ll be back on the ship by the 22nd of December.
It’s the exact reason why he has his own little stockpile of crap to (anonymously) give out to his medical staff and the bridge crew sitting in the bottom of his wardrobe back on the ship. Jim’s gift, however, had to be stowed in an entirely different and completely secret location, because Jim had managed to ‘trip’ over the rest of the gifts in his not-very-subtle attempt at utterly spoiling Christmas for himself. Giving the well-wrapped box to Nyota for sake-keeping had seemed the best bet in the end.
“My mom is, like, Queen of Gift Giving,” Jim is saying, digging through his bags and extracting a package of fudge, which he wordlessly passes over to McCoy. Oh, the bastard is good. McCoy shamelessly accepts the bribe, opening the box and cramming a piece of chocolate-y goodness into his mouth. “She gets people the best presents—you know, Bones, it’s that thing that you’ve never given prior thought but once you see it you don’t know how the person you’re buying for has lived this long without it? It’s like some sort of creepy-ass sixth sense. I like to think I’ve inherited that quality just a little bit.”
There’s a deep, thinky pause, and the gears turn audibly in McCoy’s head.
“Last Christmas,” says McCoy at length, memory unwinding in his brain like a curling ribbon, “You got me a green ball-gag.”
Jim gives him an innocent smile. “It matched your eyes.”
“It tasted like cedar.”
“It was festive!”
“Going by your mom’s example—” And here McCoy falters a bit and then presses on, because he desperately wants to get the image of Jim tipping his metaphorical hat to his mother while buying a sex toy for Leonard out of his head, “—that gag was something you’d never considered as a possible gift idea for me, but upon seeing it, you wondered how I’d ever gotten along without it.”
Jim’s eyes widen a little at the looming potential implications of buying McCoy an object that helps Jim shut him up. “Moving on,” he says quickly. “The salient point is that I like picking out presents for people. Wait, no, back that ass right up, Bones, because this is hardly fair—the gag was not the only thing I got you.”
“Okay, yes, the waffle iron is nice.”
“You want to marry the waffle iron.”
“This fudge only buys you so much cooperation, Jim.”
He’s standing in the kitchen of the apartment, dusted from head to toe with powdered sugar, when he hears a) something shatter, and b) Jim yelp a curse.
McCoy drops the egg he’s holding directly into the bowl of cookie dough and takes off in the direction of the study where Jim has holed himself up to wrap presents. They meet in the hallway right outside the door, Jim shouting, “DON’T COME IN!” just as McCoy bellows, “DID YOU BREAK GLASS IN HERE?” and then collide bodily nanoseconds later, sending up a cloud of sugar and—is that glitter?—something sparkly and wet. McCoy bounces backward and flails helplessly, losing his balance and sitting down hard on his ass with a wheezed ‘oof!’ while Jim somersaults back into the wall with similar results.
“Collision detected,” mutters Jim, cupping the back of his head with both hands.
McCoy blinks at Jim, who has liberally transferred something wet and glittery onto McCoy’s body. He rubs at his backside with one hand and peers at the palm of the other, smearing the silvery, opalescent liquid between his fingers. “What is this? Did you smash a case of glitter pens?”
“I broke something, yeah,” says Jim defensively. There’s something shifty and guilty and surprisingly stricken about his expression, like he’s gutted by whatever he’s done. “But you can’t come in. I’m still wrapping presents.”
“Don’t step on any glass,” says McCoy. “Get some shoes on before you clean up.”
“I will. It’s fine,” Jim insists. He holds up both hands, faintly glimmering palms held outward. “See? No cuts. It’s all over the floor, but I was careful.”
“What did you—”
“Top secret,” interrupts Jim, his lips pursing into a flat line. “It’s nothing, honest. Just a tiny, completely unimportant accident. Put it right out of your mind. Eject it from your brain.”
When Jim is this unrepentantly cagey, McCoy can’t help but be suspicious. It would be stupid not to be. He has enough bad Academy-related memories lurking inside his brain that he’s conditioned to tense up whenever Jim gets falsely blasé about something.
Jim gestures back toward the kitchen dismissively, and McCoy remembers with a sinking feeling that he just potentially ruined an entire batch of cookie dough.
“This better not blow up in my face later,” McCoy warns with a scowl.
Jim leans in and wipes something off the tip of McCoy’s nose—glitter or powdered sugar or both mixed together into a paste of sparkletastic confection—and then kisses the corner of his mouth.
McCoy returns the kiss despite himself and the reduced proximity between their bodies results in furious horizontal making out, Jim stretched out on top of McCoy, his hand creeping ever southward.
In a related matter, for the next four days, McCoy finds glitter every-fucking-where. It seems stubbornly disinclined to wash off skin in particular, though it clings to most surfaces with preternatural resolve.
He thinks he’s seen it all when he blows his nose and double-takes at the glittery mess in his tissue, but that’s before he takes an extremely prismatic piss.
What in the good goddamn did Jim break?
A giant vial of fairy dust? Did he shatter a unicorn horn? Upend a bag of magic powder?
Jim, with the help of every single officer and crew member he can coerce into service, painstakingly plans and organizes a super all-holiday extravaganza for when the Enterprise sets back out, a massive ship-wide bash with no planned conclusion.
On the evening of the 23rd, McCoy sits at a card table with Spock, half-soused and partially blinded by the glare of multi-coloured lights on the glass chess board and pieces.
“Checkmate,” announces Spock smugly, lacing his fingers together and leaning back in his chair.
McCoy squints blearily at the chess board and then frowns. There is definitely a pawn sitting serenely by his defenceless king, and McCoy can’t possibly escape. He sighs and knocks over the piece. Their immediate audience, all in various states of drunken revelry, don’t seem to know for whom to cheer; the result is a sudden cacophony of indistinguishable noise that could be either disappointment or approval.
“Drunk chess, Spock,” says McCoy slowly, getting up from his seat with a heavy sway, “Is kinda more fair when both parties are actually inebriated.”
“Noted,” says Spock primly, packing up the pieces of his new glass chess set with reverent care. McCoy remembers the look of rapturous glee on Jim’s face as his present was so warmly received—Spock’s eyebrows had both gone up and he’d been momentarily speechless—and claps Spock on the shoulder.
“Good game, commander.”
“Your adaptations to the traditional rules of chess were—admittedly intriguing, doctor,” says Spock in a slightly pained voice. “If you’ll excuse me.”
McCoy watches as Spock’s gaze settles on Uhura and he makes a beeline for her across the crowded room, the chess set clutched to his chest. The two of them disappear into a darkened corner.
“Doctor!” cries a voice, seconds before a heavy arm drapes over his shoulders.
“Scotty,” says McCoy amiably. “Awful nice of you to share that scotch Jim got you.” He tips up his amber-filled tumbler in acknowledgement.
Scotty makes a noise McCoy can’t quite decipher but which seems to imply several things about festive spirit and sharing. His Santa hat tips down over his eyes and McCoy helpfully pushes it back up for him when Scotty makes no move to do so himself; his cheeks are flushed and he’s grinning widely. “Didya see the drink dispenser?”
McCoy follows the line of Scotty’s pointing finger, readjusts the trajectory of his eye-line to compensate for jovial swaying, and finds himself looking at an immense gleaming structure of glossy metal strips and nuts and bolts perched over the punch bowl. A suspicious lieutenant walks up with an empty cup and eyes the machine warily and then yelps and leaps back when an arm juts out from the contraption and snatches her cup away from her. It fills it with only a modicum of spillage, then hands it back. She says “Th-thank you,” with wide eyes and scurries away.
He thinks back to Jim’s explanation for his choice of Scotty’s gift, imagines elaborate moving structures in a little boy’s room, and says, “You must have been a terrifying child.”
Scotty’s only response is to cackle, and his hat dips in front of his eyes again. A moment later the weight leaning against McCoy goes limp, and a soft snore floats up from the head settled on McCoy’s shoulder.
“Angels and ministers of grace defend us,” sighs McCoy, rolling his eyes to the ceiling.
He deposits Scotty on a chair by one of the drink tables, arranging his arms beneath his head in a reasonable facsimile of a pillow, and pats him vaguely on the shoulder.
“Bones, my man!”
Another weight descends over his shoulders like a heavy down blanket, this time Jim Kirk-shaped, brimming with good humour, and carrying with him the subtle scent of warm alcohol and burnt sugar. Bright blue eyes flash in his peripheral vision and then a pair of plush lips presses gently to his temple.
McCoy flushes with warmth that has nothing to do with the seasonal collection of drinks he’s downed, a smile tugging at his lips.
“Surveying your handiwork?” asks McCoy dryly. Jim tucks his chin over McCoy’s shoulder, hands on his upper arms, and together they watch the crew, listening to rise and swell of voices and music.
“Seems to have all gone over well, huh,” murmurs Jim with a note of pleased pride in his voice. McCoy can tell without looking at him that there is a soft, genuine smile on his face.
“Knew it would,” replies McCoy quietly. He blinks and watches Sulu bend a giggling Christine Chapel into a deep dip and then lean in to kiss her thoroughly. When he lifts her back up, her cheeks are pink and wisps of blond hair are drifting down from her up-do. Across the room, Gaila has swept Chekov into an elaborate waltz that is completely off-beat from the music drifting lazily through the speakers, dancing them through the crowd and occasionally picking up additional dancers, much to Chekov’s confusion and Gaila’s glee.
“Hey, check it out,” whispers Jim, gesturing to another corner.
Uhura is seated in Spock’s lap, holding up the book Jim got her as she reads aloud to Spock. Their fingers are entwined and Spock is running his index and middle fingers rhythmically over Uhura’s, and McCoy can’t help but hiss childishly, “They’re making out.”
“Vulcan-style, in front of everyone,” agrees Jim, in an obnoxious stage-whisper that puffs hot breath against McCoy’s ear. Then his grip on McCoy’s arms tightens and he spins him around, cups his face in both hands, and mashes their mouths together.
“Mmph!” says McCoy, eyes wide.
“WOO, CAPTAIN!” yells Chapel. “TAP THAT ASS!”
Jim lets go of McCoy long enough to thumbs up Chapel and smack McCoy hard on the backside.
“Hurmmph!” yelps McCoy as his hips hump forward, his complaint muffled by Jim’s firm lips. He flails for a grip on Jim as a warm wet tongue insistently pushes into his mouth; right now, it’s not so much as a kiss as it is an invasion, and McCoy fumbles to wrap a hand around the back of Jim’s head and open his mouth to Jim’s, closing his eyes and giving as good as he’s getting. By the time they separate with a loud wet smack, McCoy is dizzy and grinning and Jim’s smiling lips are a swollen red.
He can distantly hear Sulu cat-calling and Chapel emitting ear-piercing whistles, and there are several people nearby that are trying to watch them without actually watching them, so McCoy tucks Jim’s hand into his and pulls him away from the cluster of looky-loos.
“Did you play chess with Spock?” Jim asks as McCoy pulls him along.
“If by ‘play,’ you mean ‘get my ass handed to me,’ then yes, I did.”
“Snap, Bones. Apply your crap luck to Spock and you’ve got three consecutive games where I got to see the Vulcan Vein pop. Turns out? He’s not as good at regular chess as he is at three-dimensional chess. He’s taken it as a personal challenge and I’ve got a weekly chess date for the foreseeable future.”
McCoy tugs him out of the observation deck and into the quiet corridor, and then pushes him up against the wall, kissing him silent. When he pulls back, Jim’s eyes are half-lidded and soft, and he’s breathing shallowly, fingers tangled in the hem of McCoy’s shirt.
“You did good with the gifts, Jim. Everyone’s real happy.” He wants to say something about how he’s proud of Jim, touched by his big-hearted eagerness to love his crew and build bridges and make this huge ship feel like it’s a family and not just a cluster of largely inexperienced people thrown together into deep space, but he stumbles before the words come, and he says it through touch and the brush of his lips against Jim’s cheek instead.
Jim grins wide, though something falters in his expression. “Don’t say that until you get yours.” He says it with self-deprecating bravado, though something tells McCoy he’s only half joking.
McCoy snorts. “Is it your dick in a box?”
Jim startles into laughter, and hits McCoy with a look of perfectly-crafted wide-eyed innocence. “Why Bones, however did you know?”
Still in the spirit of giving, Jim schedules himself for gamma shift on Christmas Eve to give the usual officer left the conn a night off. McCoy pulls beta for similar reasons, and gets off shift just after midnight on Christmas, steeped in antiseptic and dragging his feet so badly he trips all the way to their quarters. Then he shuffles around in zombie-like exhaustion, tucking gifts under the tiny and deeply ridiculous artificial tree Jim insisted they put up and decorate with the penis-shaped baubles McCoy is pretty sure Jim got on Risa, turning on the lights, and getting out a plate of the cookies he made while they were still on shore leave. He shucks off his uniform in a daze, pulling out the flannel penguin pyjamas that were a gift from his mother the previous year and tugging on the matching fleece bathrobe as well.
His intention is to consume one hot toddy of bourbon and decaffeinated tea and two sugar cookies and then sleep the remaining hours until Jim gets off shift, but all he manages to do is pour out his steaming drink, settle down onto the couch with a creaky sigh, and then fall asleep right the fuck there.
It’s Jim’s hand on his forehead that draws him out of sleep hours later, brushing the hair out of his eyes. McCoy wakes slowly, head muzzy, as he blinks at the blur of Jim’s face hovering in front of him.
“Hey, Bones,” murmurs Jim, smiling gently. “Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas, Jim,” McCoy says hoarsely. Jim settles on the couch beside him, a warm and solid presence, and McCoy leans into him, still half-asleep and groggy. The lights are down low, the tree glimmering softly, and McCoy sighs contentedly, wrapping an arm around Jim’s waist and dropping his chin onto his shoulder; Jim reciprocates, sliding both arms around McCoy and turning the sleepy cuddle into a proper if admittedly tired embrace, and they rest like that for a few comfortable minutes, heads on each other’s shoulders.
“Time is it?” he mumbles, yawning and rubbing at his gritty eyelids when they finally part.
“0800,” answers Jim, with a crooked smile. “Lucky for you, Santa still came even though you weren’t in bed.” He tilts his head toward the tree, where a little pile of gifts characteristic of Jim’s haphazard wrapping ability has joined McCoy’s own offering.
“Coffee,” replies McCoy with a grunt. “First coffee, then abstract thought.”
It takes some doing, but he gets to his feet and makes his way to the kitchenette, where he makes two cups of coffee and then adds a dollop of brandy to his own, while Jim wanders off to change out of his uniform and have a quick shower, and then they both sit on the floor by the tree and parcel out gifts.
Hard-cover second-hand books and booze and chocolate oranges and clothing and gadgets get unwrapped amidst chuckling and murmurs of appreciation, until there are just two packages left. They eye each other for a long moment, and then McCoy pushes a box at Jim and grumbles, “There. Open it, dammit.”
Jim does, peeling back tape and paper, then tugging off the lid of the plain white gift box.
His eyes promptly go round and his mouth drops open.
“Bones,” he whispers, carefully lifting out the object.
Nerves bubble up, quick and debilitating, and McCoy drops his eyes and hurriedly mumbles, “It’s an astronomical clock,” even though Jim must know, he’s already winding it up and setting it to the appropriate time and Terran date and watching the various dials align properly to show the relative locations of the sun and moon, the zodiac constellations, and the major planets in the sol system. “It’s a restored antique,” he continues, his eyes on Jim’s long fingers rather than his face. “Just in case you want to know how things stand on Earth, even when we’re in the ass-end of nowhere. Keep you grounded,” he adds gruffly, realizing distantly that he’s babbling a bit. “You need that sometimes. Grounding.”
“Bones,” whispers Jim in a rough voice, and McCoy forces himself to look at Jim’s face again. He’s touching the hands of the clock, his mouth soft with awe and his eyes bright. “This is beautiful. Thank you. Seriously.”
He sets the clock aside and pulls McCoy into a tight hug. McCoy rubs circles into Jim’s back, smiling. “You’re welcome, kid. Glad you like it.”
When Jim pulls back, there’s a sheepish hunch to his shoulders, and his gaze drops to the package he’s picked up off the floor, hesitant and uncertain. “There’s a story to go along with this,” he says, handing over the gift. “Which you already know most of. This is just a placeholder, until the new one arrives.”
Bemused, McCoy takes the present and rips away the paper. There’s a gift box inside as well, and he lifts the lid to reveal a slip of paper.
I.O.U. one (1) custom-made snow globe
“Jim,” he says, confused. “What’s—”
“Lift up the note,” interjects Jim, sounding nervous.
McCoy does, and sitting beneath the note, nestled in the soft tissue paper, is the remains of a delicate glass tree. He peers at it for a moment before removing it, running the pads of his fingers over the brown and knotty glass of the trunk, the curling branches dotted with emerald green leaves, and ... he realises, suddenly, that the little clusters of warm pink-orange orbs hanging from the branches are meant to be peaches.
It’s a tiny glass peach tree.
There’s a chunk missing from the trunk, and a handful of the branches are severed sharply. When he looks up at Jim in silent entreaty, the other man holds out a round wooden base carved with To Bones, love from Jim on one side, and Christmas 2258 on the other. Jim’s face is wistfully sad.
“The glitter?” says McCoy in sudden understanding.
Jim nods mournfully. “It’s a snow globe. Or at least it would be, if it was whole. I ordered it for you a month back, and then picked it up when we docked at Starbase 2 for a supply run. And then last week, when I was wrapping it up, I dropped it on the fucking floor. I’m sorry, Bones,” he says quietly.
McCoy drops his gaze back down to the tiny tree, summery and bright in his hand, and gently settles it back into the box. He knows it’s only his imagination, but he can almost smell baked earth and the sweet blush of fresh peaches on the hot breeze.
“C’mere, Jim,” he says, voice thick, and curls his fingers around the nape of Jim’s neck as he pulls him into a soft kiss.
Jim responds with heartfelt enthusiasm, pressing in so quickly their noses bump and lips mash and McCoy huffs a laugh into the inviting wet warmth of Jim’s mouth, licking and sucking at his tongue with leisurely abandon. When they run out of breath, McCoy closes his eyes and slides his hand up through Jim’s hair to the top of his head, keeping their foreheads pressed together.
“Does that mean you like it?” asks Jim in a hushed voice. He shifts and his eyelashes brush McCoy’s brow.
McCoy grunts. “No. Absolutely not. I’m kissing you out of spite. Shut up, kid, I’m still getting over the shock that you broke that globe and didn’t end up studded with glass slivers or covered in cuts and scratches.”
Jim makes a noise of token protest but before he can speak McCoy opens his eyes, meets Jim’s blue gaze, tilts his chin up, and kisses him again.
A few weeks later, when Jim leaves a box on his pillow containing the replacement snow globe and he actually sees what it’s meant to look like whole and entire, it occurs to McCoy that they’ve both given each other a gift composed of equal parts earth and sky.
The clock that now resides on Jim’s bedside table is astronomical, but holds the earth in the center of the shifting stars and moon and planets, showing the solar system as it relates to their world; the sunny tree anchored in the center of the snow globe doesn’t rest on grass or dirt and instead drifts in a galaxy of snow and stars, flickers of white and opal and iridescent shimmers floating in a sea of aching blue-back space.
As he shakes it, watching cosmic dust and bursts of icy light swirl around the delicate tree, McCoy has to admit Jim really has got this whole awesome thoughtful present thing down pretty much pat.