“What are you doing?”
“Nothing.” The answer comes gruff and irritable and a shade too fast.
Jim’s brain instantly sets itself to yellow alert.
He studies the sudden, tense set of Bones’ shoulders as the other man hefts a large, unfamiliar duffel bag up off the bed, all the while refusing to meet Jim’s gaze.
Jim makes a snap command decision, the kind that Starfleet is spending tens of thousands of credits instilling in him the very ability to make.
This mission…is going to require stealth.
Jim initiates covert operations with a casual, “Okay,” biting back a smile at Bones’ immediate, answering scowl.
Jim widens his eyes innocently.
Bones narrows his eyes suspiciously.
Finally, Bones harrumphs. "I’ve got a shift at the hospital."
“Oh.” Jim shrugs, leaning back against a wall, at ease. “You should have just said so. You want to get together after? Grab dinner?”
He watches his quarry relax at the question and nod. “Sure. I’ll link you when I’m done.”
“Sweet. See you later.”
Jim watches from the window of the dorm common area to see which direction Bones is heading. Then he calls the hospital to confirm Bones really is on shift. Upon getting a cheerful affirmative from the front desk clerk, Jim shrugs into his coat and heads out to find out just what his ‘best friend with very superior benefits’ is trying to hide.
His instructors would be so proud.
Jim’s never been a fan of hospitals but, since meeting Bones, he’s spent enough time at Starfleet Medical to learn his way around. The place isn’t so bad—other than the increased risk of Bones sticking him with a hypo of vitamins or antihistamines or something whenever they’re on hospital grounds.
But the nurses are hot. That makes up for a lot, not that Bones will actually date any of them, grumbling about ethics and respecting boundaries whenever Jim brings it up. Jim’s response to Bones’ response being that, clearly Bones has never watched any of the three hundred and seventy-two medical dramas that demonstrate correct doctor/nurse relationship etiquette.
Unsurprisingly, Bones meets this argument with disdain.
The front desk looks busy so Jim wanders up to where Bones usually works when he’s not in surgery. Nothing. Hmm. Phase two. He looks for his favorite nurse in all the world and grins when he spots her in front of a terminal, entering data into a screen with a practiced hand.
“Hey, gorgeous. When’re you gonna run away with me?”
Mavis Elkwater looks at him and arches a silver eyebrow. She’s sixty, 5’2”, comfortably pudgy and she doesn’t let Jim get away with bullshit. He kind of loves her.
“Mr. Kirk, I’m working.”
“Which is why you should run away with me, so you can stop working and live a life of wanton luxury.”
She looks skeptical. “That would be on your currently non-existent Starfleet salary?”
“Nah, I’d support us with a life of crime.”
She rolls her eyes and starts entering data again.
“Uh, is Bones…”
She stops entering data to give him a gimlet eyed stare.
He tries to look innocent.
She doesn’t look impressed.
Finally, she humphs. “The pediatric ward on seventeen. Be nice.” It’s an order.
It’s like she doesn’t know him at all.
He steps out on seventeen, greeted by an excited jumble of happy laughter and childish voices that makes him smile.
And then he hears a gruff and hearty, “Ho, ho, ho!” that makes him blink.
Because that, “Ho, ho, ho,” sounded awfully familiar. In fact, it sounded just like…
Jim rounds the corner to find kids in PJ’s and robes surrounding a figure dressed in familiar red and white. The healthier and bolder kids are up close, giggling and chattering, patting at his bright red suit while others hang back, shy. There are more kids propped up against pillows on beds, grinning, or—for the really young ones—peering warily at the strange guy in the strange suit, probably wondering who the heck he is.
Jim knows who he is.
Santa’s back may be to him, and there may be a hat and snowy white wig and a lot of padding as disguise but, yeah, that? Is definitely Bones. The height and the set of his shoulders are unmistakable. And Jim knows that voice—even engaged in the unfamiliar activity of actual jolly laughter—down to his, well…bones.
He finds himself grinning because, Jesus, it’s adorable. Bones is playing Santa Claus and it’s just…so…cute. And cute is not a word Jim normally associates with his best friend. Grumpy, cynical, acid tongued, and insanely hot…yes, all words that apply. But cute? That’s a new one.
Then Jim’s grin goes a little evil because, well, Bones is playing Santa Claus. In front of witnesses. A saint would be tempted to…okay, well, a saint would probably leave it alone.
Fortunately, sainthood has never been Jim’s calling.
“Santa!” he cries enthusiastically and watches with rising glee as the familiar shoulders stiffen and, after a long pause, ‘Jolly’ Saint Nick slowly turns and glares at him. Yep. He’d know that expression of impending wrath anywhere.
He sees Bones open his mouth – no doubt to snarl a, “Dammit, Jim” – and watches with wicked delight as Bones catches himself, glancing down at the wide-eyed children surrounding him, remembering just in time that he’s representing the Man in Red himself. Jim’s grin widens exponentially as Bones visibly bites back the snarl and smiles. Sort of. His lips tilt up a little.
“Merry Christmas,” Santa manages to glare at him and smile at the same time. It’s sort of scary. “I’m, uh, visiting with the children here, stranger, so I’m sure this lovely nurse can help you out…”
“Oh, no, Santa, the elves sent me to help you.” Jim tries to look as earnest as possible. It doesn’t help that the nurse assisting Bones isn’t even bothering to hide her snicker. It’s Nurse Katz and she knows him—biblically, as it so happens.
“Well that’s very thoughtful of you and the elves, but…”
“Y’know Santa’s elves?” a little girl asks skeptically as she pads over to stand in front of Jim, frowning up at him. She’s maybe five years old, with pursed rosebud lips and black hair pulled up into two tidy pigtails. Her sturdy body is swamped by her blue cotton robe which is decorated with spaceships.
Jim looks into her suspicious green eyes and loses a little piece of his heart. Why does he always fall for the difficult ones?
He nods solemnly. “Yes, I do. See, I’m a liaison—that’s someone who carries messages and stuff and makes sure everything goes good between two groups, like Santa here and his elves, and Starfleet. So the elves asked me to come over and make sure that Santa has enough hands to help him pass out goodies.”
Since Santa’s got a huge sack slung across his shoulder, Jim’s assuming there’re goodies.
Oh, please God, let there be goodies.
He communicates the question with a sudden, frantic lift of eyebrows at Santa/Bones—Santa Bones?—whose mouth quirks in a half smile. Instead of answering, Santa Bones looks back at the kids. “Yep, Santa’s helper Jim is going to help pass out presents to all the kids who’ve been good this year.” He manages to look stern while keeping a twinkle in his eyes—damn, Bones is good at this. “So I’ve got a very important question. Have you all been good?”
There are loud, universal assurances of angelic behavior from all corners of the room and Jim watches Santa Bones place the bag on the floor, reaching in to pull out a brightly wrapped green present, which he studies intently. “Hmm, Cindy Tsui.” His eyes wander to a tiny sprite of a pre-teen girl with smart eyes. She accepts the package from him with shy thanks before skipping back to her bed and clambering up, ripping into the paper with a gusto that makes Jim grin. When she unearths an old fashioned, thick bound sketch book and set of colored pencils her smile is dazzling.
Jim hands out the next present to his suspicious-eyed tot, whose name turns out to be Eileen. It’s a model of a Constitution Class starship and she clutches it to her chest like it’s the best toy in the universe.
“M’dad’s a starship captain,” she informs Jim seriously. “’M gonna be a starship captain just like him.”
“Hey, me too!” Jim beams at her and then tries not to take it personally when her skeptical look returns. “No, really.”
When the look remains, Jim bites back the urge to launch into all the reasons he’s going to be the youngest, greatest captain in the history of Starfleet. He’s not getting into it with a five year old. He’s just not.
“Jim, stop arguing with Eileen.”
“Bo…Santa, she doesn’t think I…”
Jim’s not sulking as he walks over to take the next toy. Really. That would be childish.
Besides, it’s impossible to sulk when the kids start sitting on Santa Bones’ lap and telling him what else they want for Christmas.
Damn, Jim thinks, Bones is really good with kids. It shouldn’t be a surprise—hell, Bones is a dad – but he’s usually just so…grouchy. He’s different with the kids, though, gentle and patient, attentive without being condescending.
It gives Jim a warm, tight feeling in his chest.
Of course, that doesn’t keep him from surreptitiously recording the whole thing with his comm link for future teasing, but it is adorable.
And...painful, as Jim listens to some of the kids ask if they can please get better for Christmas, so they can be home with their families. And maybe Jim’s heart kind of rips down the center when sturdy, suspicious Eileen says she wants her eyes—her brilliant green eyes—to stop “disintegratin’” so she can be a starship captain like her daddy. But when Santa Bones assures Eileen that Starfleet’s pioneered a new procedure that should, “fix you right up, darlin’,” Jim feels his heart knit back together because Bones wouldn’t give false hope to a kid, so Eileen’s going to be fine.
Santa Bones said so.
Jim and Santa Bones spend time after that playing games with the kids and admiring everyone’s newly acquired loot. Finally, Bones whispers to Jim that the kids need their rest, pulling him away from an intense game of Jenga with a nine year old named Charlie—despite heated protests from both competitors.
“We’ll finish it up tomorrow,” Jim calls back—he makes a mental note to find out when visitor’s hours are—as he lets Bones drag him out of the pediatric ward to a chorus of “Bye, Santa!” and “Bye, Jim!”
“So that was kinda awesome,” Jim says, grinning over at Bones who gives him a sharp look and then returns the smile.
“Yeah, it’s rewarding. I, uh, do it every year.”
“Bones, my man, you are full of surprises,” Jim says with completely sincere admiration.
Bones shrugs irritably at the compliment and they walk in silence.
For a few seconds.
Really…he can only be good for so long…
“So, can I sit on your lap, Santa?” Jim looks over and asks.
Bones rolls his eyes. “No.”
“What if I’ve been a good boy?”
Jim doesn’t know how one eye roll can convey such total scorn.
“Hey, I can be a very good boy…” Jim injects as much lechery and innuendo as he possibly can into the statement—which is a lot.
Bones snorts. “That’s disgusting, Jim. Respect the suit.”
“I’m more interested in unwrapping the suit.”
“When hell freezes over, kid.”
Jim smirks. “That’s no way for a saint to talk…”
Bones smirks back. “Really? So ‘fuck off’ probably wouldn’t be appropriate either?”
Heh. Jim shuts up for the moment, giving it a rest. But he’s not done. There’s just something kinky about Bones in that padded suit, knowing exactly what’s underneath it...
Jim figures he can talk Bones into a Santa encore by tomorrow night. Especially since he does have the vid of Bones with the kids and Bones does have a certain reputation as a surly bastard to maintain. He's betting Bones'll be willing to negotiate to keep that vid off the Starfleet intranet.
Jim smiles to himself. Santa’s going to give him everything he wants for Christmas this year.