The second time they meet is in a dive bar just off campus. Leonard knows it's a terrible idea the moment the kid slides onto the stool next to his, leans one elbow on the counter, flashes him a cocky grin and rumbles, "Fancy meeting you here," low in his throat.
As far as pick up lines goes it's awful--he's clearly not even trying--but sometimes awful is good enough, and three drinks later Leonard slams him up against the door to his dorm room and claims in his mouth in a bruising kiss.
"Fuck yeah," the kid, Jim, groans, thumping his head back against the door and opening his legs easy. "Make me feel it."
The shuttle was three days ago and there are still shadowed bruises on his face. Leonard adds new ones, on his throat, his hips, the inside of his thighs. Searing bites and angry kisses, fingers gripping too hard on sweat slick skin and powerful thrust that sends him skittering across the bed.
He loves it, thrashes and moans and eggs Leonard on, with lips and tongue and voice and heels. He digs bruises into Leonard's shoulders, bites his neck, scratches his arms. It's angry and sloppy and too damned good.
It's over before it even really began.
"I'll be gone in the morning," Jim says, when the lights are off and the covers on.
"Don't wake me when you leave," Leonard grunts in response.
In the morning Jim is gone like he promised. Leonard runs a regenerator over his scratches and doesn't meet his own eyes in the mirror above the sink.
The third time they meet at the same bar. Jim slides onto the next stool, orders a beer and gives Leonard an appraising look.
"I don't do repeats," he says.
Leonard shrugs. He doesn't care either way. "Then don't."
Two drinks later Leonard fucks Jim over the back of his couch and then again on the floor by the bed. Afterwards Leonard's lax and as relaxed as he's been since he arrived at this goddamned place and he doesn't protest when the kid wriggles in close and slings a leg over his hips.
"I thought you didn't do repeats," he says instead, addressing the ceiling rather than the sticky furnace cuddling up to his side.
"Consider it an encore," Jim answers.
Leonard has no idea what that's supposed to mean.
"I'm beginning to sense a pattern," Leonard says three days later when Jim shows up at the same bar and claims the same stool, all cocky swagger and assessing eyes.
Jim shrugs and steals Leonard's drink. "What can I say? I like your dick."
They fuck on the bed this time, hard and fast and edging on furious. Jim bites Leonard's clavicle when he comes, spurting hot and wet across Leonard's stomach, and Leonard comes so hard his vision whitens at the edges.
"If you fucked your wife like this, she was a fool to leave you," Jim says afterwards.
"Fuck you," Leonard responds and kicks him out of bed.
The next day Jim claims the seat next to Leonard's in the Early History of The Federation class they share and hands him a cup of black coffee.
"Didn't know how you like it," he says, as if bringing Leonard coffee in class is a completely normal thing to do.
Leonard glares at the cup, then at Jim, then at their teacher who chooses that moment to show up before he mutters, "Black's fine," under his breath and inhales half the cup in three massive gulps.
"Impressive," Jim murmurs and when Leonard looks up he waggles his eyebrows suggestively.
Leonard elbows him, hard, before he empties the rest of the cup and puts it down on the edge of his desk.
It stays there, mocking him silently, for the rest of the class. As does Jim, who leans into his personal space, steals his stylus, corrects his spelling, and delivers a steady stream of under his breath comments on everything from the teachers hair to the latest and greatest in warp core engineering until Leonard threatens to silence him with a hypo.
"You're welcome to try," Jim murmurs dismissively. "I've seen your moves and with that I mean you have none."
It takes Leonard a moment to figure out they must be in the same Basic Combat class as well. It was one of the very first classes to start up after introductions (Starfleet's idea of a joke surely) and he didn't even notice Jim there.
"Do you watch me when I sleep too?" he asks sourly, cutting Jim a glare. His lack of close combat skills is something of a sore point, mostly because he hates the thought of being graded on skills he firmly believes he doesn't need.
"With the volume of your snores you don't leave me much choice," Jim answers sunnily and Leonard has no choice but to elbow him again.
"Ouch," Jim mutters, rubbing at his side. "You know you're not supposed to make your own patients, right? I'm pretty sure you took an oath about it."
Leonard opens his mouth to respond but someone from the next row leans forward to hush him and he clamps it shut again, giving Jim an annoyed look because obviously it's all his fault. Jim just smiles again and that's that.
The fourth time they fuck Jim doesn't even bother with the pretense of the bar. He shows up at Leonard's door with his trademark cocky grin, as if he's already sure of his welcome, and he's out of shirt before the door is fully closed behind him.
Leonard thinks about saying no for all of two seconds, then he pushes Jim down on the bed, wrenches his pants off and inhales his cock in one smooth move.
"God, your fucking mouth," Jim groans and twists his fingers into Leonard's hair.
It's been years since Leonard sucked another man's dick, but if he's out of practice Jim doesn't seem to care. He moans and groans and thrusts and twists and comes gratifyingly quickly, nearly choking Leonard with his sudden spurting.
"Sorry," he mutters afterwards, thumbing a stray drop of come from the corner of Leonard's mouth while his other hand goes for Leonard's dick. "Let me…"
Jim's good with his hands, twisting his wrist just so and rubbing at the slit when Leonard needs him to. Leonard should probably be embarrassed about how fast he comes, but then the kid did just try to drown him with sperm,. He thinks he's allowed.
"I'm staying the night," Jim announces, when Leonard's used his discarded boxers to wipe them clean.
"Not too bothered by my snores then," Leonard mutters acidly.
Jim's only response is to cuddle up close and put his head down between Leonard's shoulder blades.
He's gone in the morning, but Leonard had expected nothing less.
The anger Leonard's been holding onto since he found out about Clay slowly starts to dissipate. Jocelyn is hundreds of miles away and soon enough Leonard'll be able to make that light years. It's gratifying to think he'll never have to see her face again.
"She left me for another man," Leonard confesses a few nights later. He's not sure why, it's not like Jim asked.
"She must be an idiot then," Jim responds sleepily and Leonard has to hide his smile into Jim's shoulder blade. "You're fooling exactly no one," Jim points out.
"Shut your mouth," Leonard grumbles, but he's still smiling and his chest feels curiously light.
In the morning Leonard meets his own eyes in the mirror while he shaves and for the first time in a long while he doesn't hate what he sees.
They fall into a routine. They sit together in their shared classes, meet up for lunch almost daily, have dinner together at least three nights a week, and usually fall into bed after. Their couplings are still explosive, full of bites and bruises and scratches, but gentler too somehow, mirroring their headlong fall into friendship.
It's not something they talk about in the light of day and Leonard assumes that Jim, who flirts with everyone, has others when he's not with Leonard. Strangely, he's okay with that.
In October Leonard's dorm is shut down due to a sudden outbreak of Balrogan fire fleas and he finds himself having to choose between a rock and a hard place.
"So either I bunk with seven other medical track cadets in Birram Hall or I catch whatever sleep I can in one of the clinic's on-call rooms. This is terrible."
"You can always stay with me," Jim suggests.
"You have a roommate," Leonard points out.
Jim shrugs. "He can deal."
Terry, the roommate, gives Leonard's decontaminated and hastily-packed bags a look and says, "No."
Jim eye-balls him hard and says, "Yes."
Terry gives Leonard a disdainful look and says, "We agreed. No flings in the room."
"We're commonlaw married," says Jim. "Bones, meet Terrible. You're going to get along just fine."
"What did you just call me?" Leonard and Terry both ask, turning to glare at Jim, who just smiles brightly at them.
"This is going to be great," he says happily.
Leonard doubts it.
The first night is easy because Leonard has a clinic shift and only gets back to the dorm when Jim is about to leave for one of his goddamned early extra credit classes.
"The bed is all yours," Jim says with a flourish. "Don't drool on my pillow and do eat Terry's food in the fridge. You'll know what's his because he labels it."
"Ugh," Leonard responds mostly because Jim's handsome morning sunshine is too much to handle when he feels like death warmed over.
"My thoughts exactly," Jim agrees, giving Leonard's shoulder a squeeze on his way past. "Sweet dreams, Bones," he calls as the door closes behind him. Leonard ends up staring blankly at it for nearly a minute before a snuffle from Terry's bed reminds him that he's not alone.
"How is this my life?" he mutters on his way into the bathroom, but a quick shower and tooth-brushing session don't provide any answers, and minutes later he's fast asleep between Jim's sheets.
He meets Jim for lunch in the mess hall, still blinking sleep out of his eyes and trying to stifle his yawns.
"You should have slept in," Jim points out, stealing a carrot stick from the edge of Leonard's plate and chomping it noisily.
"Can't afford to--" He breaks off on a yawn and rubs at his eyes. "Can't afford to turn my day the wrong way 'round."
"Can't afford to run your shuttle into a wall either and you got a flight sim this afternoon."
"Don't remind me," Leonard mutters. Being surrounded by space-junkies has done nothing to dissipate his aviophobia and even the sims make him break out into a cold sweat.
Jim steals another carrot stick and shrugs. "Want me to be your second? I got a free slot."
"If you got nothing better to do," he says with entirely fake disinterest.
Jim grins. "Better than watching you turn hitherto unknown shades of green from a sim? Not really."
"Asshole," Leonard mutters and pelts him with a carrot stick.
Jim catches it easily and puts it in his mouth. "You love me," he says, with bits of orange all over his teeth.
Leonard snorts but somewhere deep inside a small volcano of pure panic erupts, because god help him, he does.
Leonard actually does run his shuttle into a wall. Three times. Before he's even gotten it off the ground. Jim, to his credit, doesn't comment. He just squeezes Leonard's knee and restarts the sim, talking him through the take-off preparation yet again.
"You got this," he says reassuringly. "I believe in you."
"I'm pretty sure that makes you an idiot," Leonard responds through gritted teeth, but he carefully goes through the take-off checklist yet again. This time he even remembers to actually disengage the cruising auto-pilot that the devilish instructor left engaged.
With too much tremble to his voice and sweat on his brow he rattles through a take-off alert message for his imaginary crew and then they're off again and actually off this time, not belly-gliding across the ground into the nearest wall.
"Oh my god," he exclaims, stomach swooping. "Fuck."
"You're doing well," Jim reassures him. "Just check your altitude."
Even more magically, they actually make it into space. Then there's an engine malfunction and they crash horribly, but it's his best try so far and he doesn't even throw up.
"Dr McCoy," the instructor says afterwards with a pained pinch to his brow. "I really think you'd benefit from putting in more training hours. At this rate you're not going to pass your final test."
"I made it into space," Leonard points out, because that part was awesome, except for it being space obviously.
"And then you all died."
Leonard winces because he doesn't really need to be reminded.
"Just think about it," the instructor says. He's a kind old man and not to blame for Starfleet's idiotic policies, so Leonard nods politely.
"I will," he lies.
"You should put in more hours," Jim says afterwards. "Passing your Basic Flight test is mandatory for a starship posting."
"I'm not looking to be posted on a starship," Leonard points out. "Starfleet has plenty of hospitals on solid ground and that's where I'm headed."
"Yeah, of course," Jim says easily. "But failing Basic Flight will mess with your average."
"I don't care," Leonard lies. He's a goddamned doctor twice over already. He shouldn't care about his average. (He does.)
"Sure you don't." Jim pats his arm in an incredibly patronizing manner.
"I have a clinic shift," Leonard says grouchily, shrugging him off. "Thanks for sitting in."
"No problem. See you in bed later." The latter is his parting statement, uttered too loud as he's already halfway across the quad.
"Infant," Leonard growls, but the damage is already done. He catches two first years he vaguely recalls being in his Basic Combat class staring at him and growls at them too, stomping past them on his way toward the clinic.
Clinic duty runs late and when Leonard makes it back to the dorm, Jim's already in bed, seemingly asleep, and Terry's snoring across the room. For a long minute Leonard contemplates the couch but it's barely wide enough for two people to sit on, his legs would hang over the edge and his back would kill him in the morning.
With a sigh he sheds his uniform, hanging it over the back of Jim's desk chair and heads into the bathroom. When he comes out after a quick shower-piss-brush, Jim's scooted over to make room for him on his really incredibly narrow bed. Leonard reluctantly crawls in under the covers.
"You work too much," Jim mumbles sleepily and completely ruins Leonard's plan of turning his back by inching closer and thumping his head down on Leonard's shoulder.
"Pot meet kettle," Leonard grumbles, arms coming up around Jim without his explicit permission to do so.
Jim just hums contentedly and slips a leg in between Leonard's. "Night Bones."
Leonard blinks up at the ceiling for a moment before he murmurs, "Night Jim."
"Shut the fuck up. Both of you," growls Terry.
"I think Terry hates me," Leonard says a couple of days later over lunch. "I'm afraid to take anything from the fridge. It might be poisoned."
"Your paranoia is an endless source of joy." Jim spears a piece of chicken. "He hates me. He merely dislikes you."
"Well, it's your food," Leonard points out.
"I've survived thus far." Jim selects a random green thing to pop into his mouth, chewing it thoughtfully as he cranes his neck to watch a shapely second year walk past. He doesn't even seem to notice the death glare he gets from her boyfriend.
"Nothing short of a miracle," Leonard assures him.
Jim rolls his eyes. "As much as I'd love to stay and chat, I have a date with the engineering lab." Jim pushes his chair back and stands up. "Catch you later, Bones."
Leonard waves him off and pulls out his PADD, intent on finishing his Xenobiology reading. He finds a new message from maintenance instead; his dorm has been reopened.
It takes all of his considerable powers of self-delusion to pretend he's not a little bit disappointed.
Leonard's not sure how he went from dropping by Jim's to pick up his stuff to being flat on his back in Jim too narrow bed, watching Jim fuck himself on his cock as if Leonard's not even in the room, his own fingers press bruises into Jim's pale thighs, but he's not complaining.
"Fuck yeah," Jim groans, dick twitching when he gets the angle just right and stays there, reaching back to support himself on Leonard's bent knees.
What follows is quite likely the hottest ten minutes of Leonard's life. With his hands clamped around Leonard's knees and his back bowed at an impossible angle, Jim positively writhes on Leonard's cock, shamelessly using him to get off. He's gorgeous like this, more so than usual, skin gleaming golden under the dimmed lights and cheeks ruddy with desire. He's a natural blond and the thick curls around the base of his dick are the color of dark wheat, but they're darker now, damp with sweat and precome.
"Look at you," Leonard moans. "Fucking look at you."
Jim makes a sound that is halfway between a laugh and a groan, digging his fingers into Leonard's skin. Then suddenly he falls forward, bracing his hands against Leonard's shoulders as he picks up the pace to something frantic and wild, dick dragging against Leonard's abs as he bounces on his cock. It's all Leonard can do to not just give in and come because holy fucking hell. He fists his hands into the sheets instead and finally gives into his frantic need to thrust up into that tight clenching heat.
Jim comes instantly, shouting Bones at the ceiling while he quivers and quakes, shooting halfway up Leonard's chest. It doesn't take much after that for Leonard to finally give in to his own orgasm, slamming his hips up as his back locks in a bow.
Afterwards Leonard collapses back down to the bed, panting hard. "Jesus," he says, wiping the sweat of his brow with the back of one hand. The other stays clamped around Jim's thigh, he still feels the need to be grounded. "You're gonna kill me, kid."
Jim looks incredibly smug. "Don't worry, I know CPR."
"I'm roughly 70% more worried now."
Jim laughs, reaching down between them to hold Leonard's dick steady as he shifts off him, mindful of both the goods and the condom. Leonard finally lets go of Jim's leg to remove it but once he's pulled it off and tied it there's nowhere for him to dispose of it and Jim's still sitting across his midriff. The obvious solution, of course, is to give it to Jim.
"Oh, thank you for this thoughtful gift," Jim says, grinning. "What's the occasion?"
Leonard rolls his eyes and swats at Jim's thigh. "Just throw it away and get me a wash cloth while you're up."
Jim actually does both those things and even throws the wash cloth into the laundry when Leonard's done using it. Then he crawls back into bed and gloms himself to Leonard's front and pulls up the covers just in time for Terry to come back from wherever he's been.
"Christ," Terry says, sending them a glare. "I thought the infestation was over."
"Shhhh," Jim hisses. "Can't you see Bones is asleep?"
Leonard dutifully closes his eyes and lets Jim pull his arm up to curve over Jim's waist. He is way too old to be partaking in this childish pissing contest but unless it was a question about Jim's safety he'd take Jim's side in any argument and he is tired, damnit.
"Whatever," Terry snarls. "But I want him gone tomorrow."
"Fine," Jim snarls back and Leonard gets this image in his mind of Jim standing over him growling with his teeth bared like a dog defending his favorite toy. He knows it's not happening since Jim is mostly on top of him still, but it's a good image and one he takes with him into his dreams.
Starfleet Academy is no walk in the park. It's really fucking hard. Between classes, course work, clinic shifts and SIMs, Leonard is an exhausted mess half the time and despite the effort he puts in, he's still getting dangerously close to failing some of his classes.
"I don't get it," Jim says and he sounds almost angry, as if Leonard is failing him personally. "You're way too fucking smart to be doing this badly. You're at the top of all of your medical classes and you're only second in Early History because I'm in your class, so how the fuck are you dragging the bottom in Warp Theory?"
"Because I don't care," Leonard explodes, pulling his hands from his face to glare at Jim across the table. "I don't care about Warp Theory and the less I have to know about how transporters actually work the better. I care about being the best goddamned doctor I could possibly be and I happen to like history."
"Yeah, well, I'm not letting the smartest fucking asshole I've ever met fail out of a bunch of entry level classes. Jesus."
They glare at each other for a moment while, likely, the rest of the mess glares at them before Leonard gives up and rakes a hand through his hair. "Fine."
Jim is a surprisingly good tutor. No, scrap that, Jim is a fucking amazing tutor, and not only because he substitutes blowjobs for gold stars. The kid is smart, he has the kind of bottomless pit for brains that even Leonard is jealous of, but more than that, he's passionate. He burns for his subjects in a way that makes Leonard want to cover his eyes sometimes and he has unerring ability to find just the right to say to pique Leonard's interest as well.
"And that," Jim says smugly. "Is how you calculate transporter frequencies."
"Hnng," Leonard responds. It's all he has breath for.
"Care to repeat it back to me? Perhaps while taking care of this?"
Leonard has a few choice things to say about having a dick waved in his face and he'll say them as soon as he's unscrambled his brain cells. Until then he might as well give Jim the blow job he's angling for; it's not like he's good for much else.
In the end he's not even good for that. He just props himself up against the pillows and guides Jim to his mouth with a hand on his hip. Then he lies back and takes it while he, goddamnit, considers transporter theory at the back of his mind.
"Holy fuck," Jim pants, after he's come all over Leonard's tongue and lips and chin. "Wow."
Leonard coughs and licks his lips, not sure what to make of the look on Jim's face. Then he repeats the equation to calibrate transporter frequencies back at Jim, verbatim. He's not entirely surprised when he ends up kissed to an inch of his life afterwards and he's certainly not complaining.
Three days later he aces the test. Jim does not shut up about it for weeks.
Leonard has a disturbing tendency to just follow Jim wherever he goes, which is why he doesn't even realize the nature of the establishment Jim just dragged him into until he has four ample alien breasts thrust in his face while a sultry beat plays in the background.
"Oh my god," he says weakly, flailing out a hand to clutch at Jim's arm. "It's a strip club."
"An alien stripclub," Jim clarifies, laughing delightedly when a seven feet tall Harkassian in a thong winks at him. "It's awesome."
"It's something, alright," Leonard agrees, looking around. The interior is pretty standard for a strip club, or so the holos has led him to believe, on the gauche side of gaudy with accents in purple and plenty of flesh on display.
"Now that's what I call a well-developed exoskeleton," Jim says, dragging Leonard further into the room by the grip Leonard still has on his arm. Leonard follows the line of his gaze and he's right, it's rare to see such a prominent ribcage on a Go'al.
"This is like having a hallucinogenic nightmare about my xenobiology text book," Leonard decides, letting Jim shove him into a booth. "How did you even find this place?"
"Thyna used to dance her. She told me about it."
"The Bravlian in your Engineering class?"
"Uh huh." Jim hails a waitress and orders for both of them, dazzling her as easily as he does everyone else with a flash of electric blue eyes and a smile full of promises.
Leonard tries to imagine Thyna, who is a six feet tall vaguely humanoid lizard, dancing and comes up blank.
"She has this slither," Jim says, grinning toothily. He does a little wriggle to demonstrate, planting his feet against the floor and lifting his hips from the cracked vinyl of the booth. Leonard is temporarily distracted by undulating hips and forgets that the real danger is always in Jim's eyes. He only remembers when he rakes his eyes up Jim's torso and Jim's eyes knocks the breath right out of his lungs from under a sweep of dark gold lashes.
He coughs to mask his suddenly desert dry throat and the too vivid memory of what it feels like to fit those hips into the cup of his own and how Jim's eyes goes dark and huge just before he comes.
"I think that was more of a waddle," he says, letting his eyes roam the room for something, anything, that will ease the tightness of his pants and the heat under his collar. Something that'll let him pretend for a little while longer that he's not thoroughly bewitched.
"I'll show you waddle," Jim mutters petulantly, but he's not really mad, knocking their knees together under the table and settling more firmly into Leonard's side.
"You do that," Leonard says, patting Jim's thigh. He wonders if Jim seriously didn't realize just how thoroughly he got to Leonard with nothing but a hip wriggle or if he's just playing nice.
Hours later they walk back to the Academy with their hands in their pockets, not really drunk but not really sober either. It's windy enough for the occasional gale to pull at their clothes and the air smells like murky seaweed and salt.
"Care to tell me what that was really about?" Leonard asks when the turn a corner and Starfleet Academy spreads out below them, a marvel of steel and glass. It doesn't seem as alien as it used to; the scattered lights still on in the dorms seem almost inviting.
"Fun?" Jim shrugs. "If I don't make plans with you, you just work all the time."
"Idle hands leads to an idle mind," Leonard says but the words are brittle in his mouth.
His great-grandmother used to say that, peering at him over knitting needles clutched in arthritic hands with eyes clouded by the kind of eye degeneration not even modern medicine could cure. It was usually a precursor to another chore being added to the list he could never quite get through because some chores just wouldn't stay done, moving themselves back to the top of the list in an ever-revolving cycle.
Jim slants him a look and bumps their shoulders together. "If you want to keep your hands busy, I'm more than willing to oblige."
Leonard doesn't bite, he turns his head into the wind and inhales the heady tang of the sea. It makes his head feel clear. "Work was all I had for a while," he says. "When everything else fell apart, at least I had that."
Accelerated course through high school, straight into pre-med followed by med school. Then he started working on his PhD while he was doing his M.D. residency and still managed just enough free time to sweep Jocelyn Darnell off her feet. She was so proud of him then, so forgiving. It was only later that she realized it would never stop, that it would never be just a title presented to some junior associate over dinner ("this is my husband Dr Leonard McCoy"), that it would always mean long days and longer nights, interrupted weekends and missed occasions.
"When your wife left?" Jim asks, soft, almost careful.
"Yeah." Leonard takes another deep breath and thinks, inanely, about the sweeping tail of a stripping Billian. "And before that, when my father died."
They end up sitting on a bench by the water, sharing the fucked up stories of their lives. Between the two of them, there’s a lot of baggage, like a family of five on a four week vacation to a planet with unreliable weather.
"If you look up daddy issues in the dictionary there's probably a picture of us," Jim says, kicking at a loose rock.
Leonard curls a hand around the back of his neck, thumbing at the prickly bristles at the base of his skull. Jim's skin is feverishly hot under Leonard's cold fingers, but he doesn't cringe away. If anything, he leans into the touch.
"It's one step up from venereal diseases, I suppose." Leonard tilts his head back to smile at the washed-out stars. He used to think about what it would be like to tell someone new about what he did, someone he likes. It was easier than he thought.
"I killed my father."
"Bones, you gave him peace."
Jim chuckles, inching closer on the bench until their sides are pressed together, knee to shoulder.
"Come with me, Bones," he says, pushing his skull into Leonard's hand with the way he tilts his head back. "Let me show you the stars."
Leonard did want to see the stars when he was eight. He used to sneak out through the backdoor of his great-grandmother's suffocating house and spread himself out on the prickly grass in backyard to dream about space. He already knew he wanted to be a doctor like his dad, but he wanted the stars too, with the fervor of a child longing to run away from a pain he didn't really understand.
"Maybe," he allows.
They go on a road trip for Christmas. Leonard behind Jim on a rented bike, bitterly complaining about everything from Jim's driving to his lack of direction, but he knows he's not fooling anyone. For the first time in years, he feels weightless.
"Stop it," Jim says, jostling Leonard's shoulder hard enough to make him sidestep. "You're freaking me out."
"I'm not doing anything, you goddamned infant," Leonard snarls, rubbing at his shoulder.
It's Christmas Eve and they're in a small town somewhere between San Francisco and nowhere, miles away from their responsibilities. Their motel room has a flamingo theme and they’d just had a truly excellent meal in a dusty diner where the most adventurous dish on the menu was a blue cheese burger.
"You're smiling," Jim says, sliding closer again. This time instead of jostling Leonard he slides in under his arm, pressing their sides together. "You never smile."
"I do too." Leonard rests his arm across Jim's shoulders, resisting the urge to hook it around his neck and pull him even closer.
"Not like this." Jim's hand curls over Leonard's hip under his jacket, his fingers trailing the crest of Leonard's hipbone.
Leonard rolls his eyes, but there's nothing, really, to say to that. He's happy.
On Christmas morning they fuck under the watchful eye of approximately two-hundred flamingos and Jim laughs when he comes across Leonard's stomach and chest, easy and carefree with his thighs splayed wide.
"Merry Christmas, Bones," he gasps, screwing himself back, determined to take Leonard over the edge with him.
"You too," Leonard manages before his orgasm sweeps through him from the soles of his feet.
Last Christmas Leonard spent at the bottom of a bottle. This, he thinks, is infinitely better.
They celebrate New Year’s in a small town Leonard can't for the life of him remember the name of. When the clock strikes twelve and fireworks start going off outside, they're already back in their dingy hotel room doing their best to break the rickety bed.
"Well," Jim says, turning his head to look out the window, bursts of color reflecting in his eyes. "They do say you should start the year as you intend to go on."
"With orgasms," Leonard agrees, tipping Jim over the edge with a jarring thrust and a flick of his wrist.
"Fuck," Jim groans, digging heels and fingers into Leonard's back as he spurts across both their stomachs. "Happy. New. Year."
Leonard returns the sentiment, panting, with his face hid into Jim's neck as his orgasms makes his toes curl. Happy New Year indeed.
They return to San Francisco on the evening of Jim's birthday. Jim drops Leonard off at the edge of campus before taking the bike back to the rental place. Leonard doesn't expect to see him again, at least not without a black eye and ninety proof breath, but Jim shows up two hours later, shedding his outer wear just inside the door and crawling into bed with Leonard still fully clothed. He doesn't smell like alcohol and his face, when Leonard cups it between his hands, is unblemished.
"I'm fine, Bones," he says, shrugging out of Leonard's hold. "Just went for a walk."
He settles down with his head tucked in under Leonard's chin and Leonard worms a hand in under his shirt, spreading his fingers over the small of Jim's back. Jim's jeans are scratchy and damp against Leonard's bare legs but he doesn't complain when Jim inches closer, sliding a leg in between Leonard's.
"You're not going to say it, are you?" Jim says after a moment.
"Do you want me to?"
Jim knots his fingers into Leonard's t-shirt, pulling it tight across his back. "Maybe."
Leonard brushes a kiss against Jim's forehead, clutching him a little tighter. "Happy Birthday, Jim."
It's inevitable, probably, that Terry eventually catches them mid-coitus. As a general rule, Leonard has avoided Jim's dorm ever since the fire flea incident, but sometimes it's the nearest flat semi-private surface and they've both had enough to drink to think it's a good idea. Besides, Terry was supposed to be out all night. It's not their fault he came back early.
Leonard also thinks he's not to blame for the fact that someone walking in through the door, turning on the lights, and screaming expletives, is not enough for him to stop fucking Jim. He thinks the blame for that lies fully on Jim, who's a livewire in his arms, screwing himself back on Leonard's cock with one arm awkwardly locked around Leonard's neck, seemingly oblivious to their audience.
It's unfortunate that this particular, strenuous, position puts every inch of Jim's considerable assets on display, except for the parts of his dick obscured by Leonard's still moving hand, but it's not like they were planning on anyone walking in. By the way Terry shouts, you'd think they did.
It's perhaps even more unfortunate that Jim lets out a deep groan and comes all over himself, and the bed, and Leonard's hand, and probably the floor while Terry is still standing there and that it triggers Leonard's orgasm in turn, his moan of completion buried into Jim's sweaty throat. It makes it seem like the whole thing was on purpose, like they get off on it, which isn't true, or at least not in this case.
Terry leaves after that and Leonard sinks down more fully on his haunches, still with Jim seated on his cock. He should pull out and get rid of the condom but he pets Jim's chest and licks at the mark he left on his throat instead, waiting for the mortification to set in.
"Well, that was unnecessary," he says after a moment.
Jim touches his fingers to the arm Leonard still has wrapped around his stomach and sighs. "Yeah."
In the morning they receive a summons from Captain Pike due to a complaint filed by Terry and somehow walk out of there with a new joint dorm assignment.
"I find that I don't mind blatant nepotism so much when I benefit from it," Leonard admits that night. They've just finished lugging all their shit over to their new quarters, an actual two room flat in the family dorms, and the floor inside the door is covered with bags and boxes. How did they accumulate this much stuff? They both arrived nearly empty handed.
"Shut it," Jim mutters, dropping down on the couch and falling effortlessly into a slouch. He likes to pretend he doesn't worship the ground Pike walks on and Leonard usually lets him.
After a moment Leonard joins him on the couch, stretching his legs out and letting his head fall against the backrest. "Now what?" he asks.
Jim shrugs, a slow roll of powerful shoulders, and knocks his knee against Leonard's. "We could fuck."
Leonard looks at him, taking in the tension hidden in the inviting sprawl of his body. There's a story there about a boy who rebels against authority but wants nothing more than to live up to the expectations of a long lost father and the closest thing to a stand-in he got.
"Sure," he says.
They have an actual double-bed, Starfleet issue, so it's lucky they're not bigger men than they are, but it's more room than they've ever had to sprawl. Jim takes full advantage of it, spreading himself like a sacrifice and fisting his hands into the sheets.
"Like that," he groans, lifting his hips into Leonard's relentless thrust. "Fuck, right there."
Leonard has his knees folded under Jim's thighs and his hands locked tight around his hips, fucking into him with the same careful precision that makes him an excellent surgeon. Controlled. Measured. Steady. Maddening. Sweat drips of his brow and stains Jim's abs, making him gleam golden in the faint evening light falling in through the windows. Jim's beautiful, always beautiful, but never more so than in moments like this, golden and ruddy, with kiss-swollen lips and hooded eyes.
"Fuck, Bones, you bastard," Jim pants, kicking at his back. "Move."
Leonard, always contrary, slows down, taking his time, making Jim feel every last inch. The more Jim trashes, the slower he goes, hanging on to his control with dogged determination, until Jim finally stops fighting, knees opening wider and fingers going lax against the sheets.
"Beautiful," Leonard mumbles, dragging his hands up Jim's side to cup his ribs. "Look at you."
He leans in to kiss Jim's wide open mouth, his cheek, the slick arch of his neck. He licks at a collarbone that is already bruised from his mouth, luxuriating in the salt of Jim's skin. He can feel Jim's cock drag against his abs, rock hard and leaking precome but he doesn't reach in between them to touch it.
Jim's making noises he's probably not aware of, keening breathy gasps that goes straight to Leonard's dick, to his heart. He's unprepared when Jim's arms come up around him but Jim doesn't try to egg him on, just clings, holding onto Leonard as if he's the only thing keeping him tethered to this earth.
"You're going to come for me, aren't you darlin'?" Leonard murmurs against Jim's ear, driving himself even deeper, rocking Jim to his core.
Jim makes a noise between a sigh and a sob and turns his head blindly, seeking Leonard's lips for a sloppy kiss. He's close, Leonard can tell from the desperate clench of his body and the unseeing haze of his eyes. Leonard's own orgasm is lurking at the base of his spine and the clench of his thighs but he can wait, can drag this out just a little bit longer. However long it takes.
"Come on now," Leonard coaxes, slipping one hand back down Jim's body to clutch at his hip. "Come for me, darlin'."
Jim does. He comes with a wordless groan and in deep clenching waves that teases Leonard's own orgasm out of him without even trying. It goes on for so long that Leonard feels wrung out after and Jim looks an absolute wreck, streaked with come and damp with sweat, hair a spiky mess against the pillows.
"Holy shit, Bones," he says when he's regained enough breath to speak, rolling his head against the pillows to blink at Leonard with blissed out eyes. "Did you just go tantric on me or something?"
Leonard laughs, pushing Jim's hair back from his sticky forehead and pressing a kiss to his ever so tempting lips. "I did learn a few tricks being married, you know. Patience was one of them."
"Oh, so now you fuck me like you fucked your wife." Jim grins toothily. "She was still a damn fool to leave you."
"Infant," Leonard grumbles. "See if I get you a wash cloth now."
"You will," Jim says smugly. "You like to cuddle and I'm the wet spot."
"You like to cuddle. I allow it."
"Same difference," Jim says loftily. "You won't allow the wet spot all over you."
"Fine." Leonard grumbles mostly for the sake of it but he does make sure to drop the cloth on Jim's face. Serves him right for being everything he is.
"I got my assignment for this summer."
"What?" Leonard looks up from the PADD he's been reading to find Jim standing just inside the door. It must be raining outside because his hair is wet and his uniform is dotted with dark spots.
"I got my assignment. USS Venture. We leave mid-June."
"Oh." Leonard knew it was coming of course. Usually the command track cadets spend a whole semester in the black, but to finish on an accelerated schedule Jim has negotiated it down to two summer tours. When nothing else seems to be forthcoming he goes back to his PADD, because the article on Harkassian reproduction isn't going to read itself even though he wishes it would. "I'll find out who the CMO is and forward him a list of your allergies."
"That's it? I'll forward him a list of your allergies? That's all you got to say?"
Leonard blows out a breath and lowers the PADD again. He knows this tone; Jim is angling for a fight. "It's April. What do you want me to say? Goodbye?"
Jim flinches like Leonard slapped him. "Fine," he snarls. "If that's what you want." And then he's gone.
"What the fuck?" Leonard says to no one in particular, rubbing tiredly at his temple. That was just weird.
Jim comes back late, smelling like booze and smoke, with a bruise blooming across his cheek and a split lip.
"Damn stupid to get into a fight wearing your reds," Leonard grumbles, making Jim sit on the edge of the bed so he can study his face. "Are you hurt?"
"Well, my lip seems to be split," Jim drawls, a challenge in his eyes.
"I mean aside from the obvious, you goddamned infant."
Jim shakes his head mutely.
Leonard gets his medkit and cleans the cut with a wad of gauze and some antiseptic gel. He's reaching for the regenerator when Jim surges forward and kisses him, hard enough for their teeth to clack together.
"What the fuck?" he says, jerking back. He can taste blood and the bitter tang of the gel on his tongue.
Jim fists his hands into Leonard's t-shirt, pulling it tight across his back. Leonard can't read the look on his face at all.
"Fuck, Jim," he says, cupping Jim's cheeks between his hands and studying his eyes. "Did you take something?"
His fingers itch for the tricorder. If there's something knocking about Jim's bloodstream, he needs to know what it is so he can counter it when it inevitably wrecks havoc on his metabolism.
"My mum called," Jim says, fingers digging into Leonard's sides. "Someone must have told her I joined up."
Leonard's shoulders slump and he lets out the breath banked in his throat. "Oh Jimmy," he murmurs, sliding his hands into Jim's hair and resting their foreheads together. "You couldn't just tell me that? Would have saved you one heck of a bruise." And Leonard a heart attack.
"She was so mad, Bones," Jim whispers. "I thought she'd be happy I'm finally doing something with my life."
"She'll come around," Leonard says. "She's just worried about you."
"You don't know that." It's awfully close to a sob, and Jim's right, Leonard doesn't know that. He's only ever seen Winona Kirk in a picture and his idea of her is cobbled together from the occasional story Jim will tell, a woman in pain who maybe tried her best but failed her son anyway.
"Tell me what you want, darlin'," Leonard whispers, trailing his hands down to link around Jim's neck.
"Take me to bed."
Leonard does. God, help him, he does. He takes Jim's split lip, bruised cheek, and demons to bed and fucks them to the very best of his ability. When he stumbles into the bathroom after he's got dried blood around his mouth and a wild look his eyes but he ignores his own ghastly visage and brings a wash cloth back for Jim.
"You look like a savage," Jim says, trailing a finger around Leonard's mouth. He seems almost himself again, smiling sleepily. "I can't believe you bothered with a condom."
Leonard rolls his eyes, some of the tightness easing out of his chest. "Excuse me, maybe I don't want Billian genital warts."
Jim snorts, using a hopefully clean corner of the wash cloth to dab at Leonard's chin. "If I have Billian genital warts I got them from you and you look pretty wart free to me." He gives Leonard's dick a leer and an affectionate pat.
The implication of that doesn't even hit Leonard until he's back in the bathroom, washing his face. He lifts his gaze, staring blindly at his mirror image. Did Jim just say that they're exclusive?
Lately Jim has changed his tune, after nearly a year of "harder, faster, fuck me goddamnit" he suddenly wants it slow. Slow-motion slow. The kind of slow that makes Leonard's thighs quiver with the effort and he still gets a feeling he's not doing it right.
"If you want a dick to just sit in your ass get a goddamned butt plug," Leonard snarls. He enjoys taking his time as much as the next man but this is just ridiculous.
Jim laughs breathlessly, hiking his legs further up Leonard's back. "Talk to me."
"Just…" Jim's breath hitches and his eyelids flutter. "Just talk to me."
"Want me to tell you how pretty you are?" Leonard murmurs, nipping at Jim's mouth. "How good you are at taking my cook?"
"Yeah." It's more a breath than anything else. "And that other thing."
Leonard stops moving all together and pulls back minutely, waiting for Jim's eyes to flutter open.
"Why did you stop?" Jim whines, clutching at Leonard's shoulders. His eyes are blown black, only a sliver of electric blue visible around his dilated pupils. He looks every bit as petulant as he sounds. "Move."
"What other thing?"
"Nothing. Just move." He kicks Leonard none too gently in the back. "Come on."
"You are the most infuriating idiot I've ever had the misfortune of meeting," Leonard growls, punctuating every word with a sharp thrusts that has Jim keening, digging his fingers into Leonard's skin. "Why can't you just tell me what you want?"
"Just want you to make me come," Jim gasps so Leonard does even though he knows that's not what Jim was angling for, at least not only.
"We should get drunk," Jim throws himself into the seat next to Leonard's in the mess and promptly steals a couple of his carrots.
"I have class," Leonard says dismissively, belatedly slapping Jim's hand away.
"I didn't mean right now." Jim rolls his eyes. "Tonight."
"I have an exam in the morning."
"Me too. It doesn't have to be a lot of drunk."
"Yes, as I recall it we have great track record with getting just a little drunk. That's absolutely a line we know where to draw." Leonard gives Jim a look.
"Fine." Jim blows out a breath. "Be that way."
With deft fingers he pockets Leonard's apple and leaves.
"Did you even have lunch?" Leonard shouts after him.
Jim flips him the finger.
"I think finals are getting to him," Leonard says, looking at Rana, a medical engineer from his xenobiology study group, who he was sharing a companionable silence with before Jim showed up to make a nuisance of himself.
"It's getting to us all," she says solemnly. She looks like she's about one sleepless night away from passing out in her tray; even her hijab looks listless. "This morning I found my shoes in the fridge."
"I fell asleep on the floor last night. Woke up when Jim fell over me coming back from the library."
"Did he apologize?"
"Yeah." Leonard pokes at the remains of his meal. "As soon as I'd fixed his broken wrist."
Leonard's basic flight test takes place on a Friday afternoon.
"You'll smash it," Jim says.
"Straight into the ground," Leonard says tonelessly.
"Come on now." Jim jostles his shoulder. "You got this."
"If you're going to be this relentlessly chipper you're welcome to just keep on walking straight into the ocean."
Leonard points at it, in case Jim forgot where it is. Jim, naturally, ignores him.
"You'd wither without my support. Just lie down right here and shrivel up like a forgotten apple."
"Not the worst fate," Leonard says, considering. He could just lie down on the ground. Surely someone would come by and declare him unfit for life.
"It's just a sim." Jim sounds just a tiny bit exasperated. If their roles had been reversed it is likely that Leonard would have dumped Jim's lifeless body in a ditch by now. "You won't actually leave the ground."
"Tell that to my brain."
"Well, I've been trying."
Jim has been trying. He's coaxed and cajoled Leonard through his mandatory training hours and into something that actually resembles terror-laden competence. Leonard knows how to pilot a shuttle now, but that doesn't mean that he likes it.
He blows out a breath and squares his shoulders, trying to look more put together than he feels as they near the doors to the SIM complex.
"There you go," Jim says, patting the small of Leonard's back as if he doesn't know it's one hundred percent false bravado. "My little shuttle pilot."
Leonard cuts him a glare. Jim looks profoundly innocent and lets his hand slip down to give Leonard's ass a squeeze.
"Goddamnit," Leonard growls, batting his hand away.
Jim manages to look even more innocent, blue eyes sparkling.
"You," Leonard starts, pointing at Jim's face as if there's any doubt who he's talking about.
"Yes?" Jim asks brightly, looking every inch the perfect cadet from his shining hair to his polished boots, standing nearly at attention.
After a moment Leonard shakes his head, smiling despite himself. "You're a menace, kid."
"By birth and unimpeded habit," Jim agrees. "Now hurry up, Bones. You don't want to be late for your test."
Leonard glances at the chrono, realizing he's only got minutes to spare, and curses under his breath. "Damn it, Jim."
Leonard passes his test with the smallest possible margin. Normally he'd scoff at such a lackluster performance but when Jim crows, "Yessss," and wraps him up in a bear hug he truly feels like he's earned both the praise and the wattage of Jim's smile. He did it.
"Now we can get drunk," Jim announces two days later.
"Bzzhu," Leonard says, blinking his eyes open. He must have fallen asleep reading again. "What?"
"You. Me. Nice bottle of bourbon with our names on it."
He waves the bottle in front of Leonard's face. It does have their names on it in Jim's pokey scrawl.
"You're insane," Leonard says, but he takes the bottle. He's not stupid.
"Glass?" Jim asks, when Leonard screws the top off the bottle and lifts it to his lips.
"Eh," Leonard replies and takes a healthy swig. It's not the easiest position to drink in--he's half reclining with his shoulders propped up against the headboard--but he manages with only minimal spill.
"I knew I liked you for a reason," Jim murmurs, leaning in to lick a stray droplet from Leonard's chin. He's sitting across Leonard's midriff and it's nothing short of a miracle that Leonard didn't wake up when he got into bed.
He twists the bottle out of Leonard's hand and takes a swig of his own. Leonard watches his throat ripple as he swallows.
"What's the occasion?" he asks. Not that they generally need an occasion to get drunk but Jim's been badgering him about it since Tuesday, he's rarely that hard up for a drink.
"No occasion," Jim says, handing the bottle back. "It's just been a while since we fucked drunk."
"Seriously?" Leonard frowns. "All of this because you want me to fuck you with a buzz?"
"Yeah." Jim shrugs like it's no big deal but of course it is. It's the thing again. The one he won't tell Leonard about because he's a goddamned infant who doesn't know how to use his words.
"You could just tell me, you know," Leonard says, curling his free hand around one of Jim's thighs and thumbing at the inseam of his uniform pants.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Jim says airily, sitting back on Leonard's thighs and pulling his t-shirt over his head.
Leonard slips his hand up to thumb at Jim's exposed hip and takes another swig from the bottle.
"You look good," Jim says, twisting his fingers into Leonard's worn t-shirt and tugging lightly, possibly to expose his collarbones. Jim likes those.
Leonard huffs out a laugh, shaking his head. Jim's one to talk when he's sitting astride Leonard as if he fell out of an ode to Apollo, all golden skin and sky blue eyes.
"I mean it," Jim says. "I like it when you look all soft."
"Are you trying to sweet talk me into doing the thing?" Leonard asks suspiciously. He's not an expert on the subject but he doubts that "soft" is his best look.
"The thing you won't tell me about because you're a goddamned infant who won't use his words."
Jim laughs and folds forward, sinking down and stretching out until he's basically covering Leonard from head to foot.
"No," he says from inches away. "I'm just telling it like it is."
Leonard decides against complaining that Jim is heavy, even though he is, and fumbles the bottle down on the nightstand.
"You could try telling it like it is about the thing as well," Leonard suggests.
"Where's the fun in that?" Jim asks, bumping their noses together in a simile of a kiss.
"Idiot," Leonard grumbles, pushing up to steal a real kiss from Jim's smiling mouth.
"Hey now," Jim says, full out grinning now. "Is that really an appropriate way to address your special someone?"
"It is when he's Jim Kirk," Leonard says, wrapping his arms around Jim's back and rolling them over so that Jim ends up sprawled beneath him.
"I heard he's a genius," Jim says, eyes sparkling. He looks debauched already, hair mussed and mouth red.
"You shouldn't believe everything you hear," Leonard murmurs, dipping down for a long slow kiss. He's still smiling when he pulls back.
"What are you smiling about?" Jim asks, tracing the curve of Leonard's mouth with the tip of a finger. "You know it freaks me out."
"You mostly," Leonard admits.
Jim's gaze turns impossibly soft and he pulls Leonard down for a kiss. "In that case you should go on and also fuck me and call me nice things."
Leonard laughs, pulling back to yank his shirt off. "Whatever you want, darlin'," he promises.
"Fuck yeah," says Jim.
Afterwards, when they're sated and sticky and curled together under the covers Jim presses a kiss to the back of Leonard's neck and murmurs: "This is a real thing, right? Solid."
Leonard's heart skips a couple of beats. "Yeah," he whispers, finding Jim's hand on his stomach and squeezing it. "It's a real thing."
There's a brief pause before Jim whispers: "I really like it when you call me darling."
Leonard hides his smile into the pillow. Finally. "Noted."
"You're very smiley today." Rana gives Leonard a suspicious look across the table. "I don't like it."
Leonard scoffs at her. "Can't a man be in a good mood?"
"I've known you for nearly a year and you've never been in a good mood before."
"Slander." Leonard stabs at a piece of broccoli with his fork. "I'm in a good mood often."
"Internally maybe. I've seen you smile maybe five times since I've known you." Rana studies him for a moment. "It suits you."
"Still smiling about me?" Jim drops down into the empty chair next to Leonard and pokes at the corner of his mouth. "Hi Rana."
"Goddamnit, Jim," Leonard growls and bats his hand away.
"He loves me really," Jim says to Rana. "I'm his favorite."
"You're a pest, is what you are," Leonard says. "And where's your tray?"
"I had lunch with Pike." Jim steals a piece of fruit off of Leonard's plate. "I'm just here to bask in the warmth of your affection."
Leonard's good mood doesn't last--a bullshit final and a grueling clinic shift will do that to a man-- and by the time he makes it back to the dorm his trademark scowl is firmly back on his face.
"Ooooh, it's Doctor Grumpy Pants," Jim says when Leonard walks in and kicks his boots off with such vigor they bounce of the wall. Jim, the bastard, is sprawled out on the couch in boxers and one of Leonard's t-shirts eating ice cream out of the tub. "Bad shift?"
"Terrible." Leonard shrugs his uniform jacket off and hangs it inside the door. "A party of fifteen came in after eating a bad gas'owa. It was like a scene from the 2154 Exorcist remake." He shudders. He already showered at the clinic, but he could have another shower. He could have ten.
"Poor baby," Jim says, patting the couch. "Come here and let me cuddle you."
"I'm going to fall asleep," Leonard warns, even as he's crossing the floor.
"That's okay," Jim says, putting the ice cream down on the coffee table. "You make an excellent body pillow even when you're unconscious."
Leonard huffs, but he obediently crawls onto the couch, stretching out with his head pillowed on Jim's arm.
"Mmm, that's better," Jim says, brushing a kiss against Leonard's cheek. His breath smells like ice cream and Leonard turns his head, chasing a kiss. Jim delivers it, sweet and languid, brushing his tongue against Leonard's with care rather than hunger.
Despite the leisurely nature of the kiss and his own exhaustion, Leonard expects the kiss to lead to more, but when Jim pulls back he just settles in more comfortably and wraps his free arm around Leonard's ribs. "Nap now," he says.
"Okay," Leonard mumbles. Fifteen seconds later he's fast asleep.
The week before Jim leaves, by unspoken agreement, they spend every overlapping free moment in bed.
"Jesus Christ, Jim. Hurry up. I got class."
Jim chuckles, low and dirty, and presses a kiss to Leonard's gasping mouth. "We got time."
"Hnng." Leonard arches up, trying for more, deeper, harder, anything. "No, we fucking don't. Move you asshole."
"Always so impatient," Jim says and if Leonard could reach he would kick him in the fucking face.
"Come on now." Jim kisses Leonard's cheek, his jaw, his mouth. "Relax, Bones. Let me take care of you."
Leonard relaxes in increments until he's ragdoll limp and delirious, pinned between Jim's cock and the hands curled tight around his elbows. Only then does Jim speed up his thrusts, getting Leonard there in less than thirty seconds without even touching the throbbing line of his dick.
"Told you," he pants smugly, after Leonard's come all over the both of them and Jim's found his own release with his face buried into Leonard's throat.
"Yeah, yeah," Leonard says inanely, threading his fingers into Jim's hair and holding him steady for a kiss. "Carry me to the shower?"
Jim laughs and does just that. It's a bit of a turn on actually.
Leonard goes with Jim to the shuttle bay when it's time for him to leave.
"Be careful up there," he says, brushing invisible lint from Jim's shoulder. The thought of space still makes his stomach swoop, and Jim is a self-sacrificing idiot at the best of times.
"Don't work all the time," Jim counters. "Remember to have some fun too." He looks conflicted for a moment, chewing on his lower lip. "Just--not too much fun, okay?"
"Okay," Leonard says softly, reaching out to tug Jim's lower lip out from between his teeth.
It's been almost a year since a cocky kid with bruises on his face propositioned Leonard with a grin and a flash of sky blue eyes. Almost a year since Leonard pushed Jim up against the door to his dorm and bit bruises into his skin, angry that such a brightly shining thing even dared to exist in a world devoid of all color.
Leonard drops his hand to the juncture of Jim's neck, pressing his thumb into thick red fabric over the bruise in the shape of his mouth he knows is hiding beneath. He's not angry anymore; he's just a fool in love trying to stake his claim. He wonders if Jim knows the difference.
There's a chime over the loudspeakers and then a droning voice starts listing names to report for duty, Jim's name is among them.
"I guess that's my cue," Jim says, grinning in a way that doesn't quite reach his eyes. "Be good, Bones. I'll be back before you know it."
He takes a step back and shoulders his bag, every inch the perfect cadet.
"Bye Jim," Leonard says because what else is there to say that can be crammed into the space of five seconds. "Take care."
"Bye." Jim gives a jaunty little wave and starts walking towards the shuttles.
Leonard stays rooted in place watching him until he's just a red dot in the distance and then not even that. The world immediately seems a little less colorful.
Leonard spends a week in Georgia with his mother. She puts him to work around the house, re-painting the guest room, mowing the lawn, and digging a new vegetable plot.
"I brought you some ice tea, darlin'."
Leonard looks up to find his mother leaning against the railing on the back porch. She does indeed have a perspiring glass of iced tea before her but more importantly she's holding her comm in a very telling position. "You did not just take a picture," he says flatly.
She grins, completely unrepentant. "I figured your young man might like it."
"Mom." There's something about being home that makes Leonard regress to a sullen teenager. "Jim's not going to want a picture of me sweating like a pig in a vegetable patch."
"Oh honey," says Elle.
That evening Leonard checks his comm to find a new message from Jim: We docked at Starbase 10 last night. Some of the guys beamed down to Barat, the closest planet, for a bit of fun, but I opted to stay on the ship and help with some upgrades. I included a picture of the spectacular bruise I got from tripping over one engine part and landing on another. Dr Brunner, the CMO, refused to heal it fully because "maybe then I'd look where I put my feet the next time." He also quizzed me on the list of allergies you sent him. No fair, Bones, you put shit on there I didn't even know I was allergic to.
The bruise is indeed spectacular, stretching from Jim's ribs to his hip in mottled shades of blue and purple with a few flecks dotting his upper thigh. Jim is clearly naked in the picture, shot from the nipple down with his dick just out of view. Leonard wants to lick him from his muscled thigh to his rosy nipple and then all the way up to his infuriating mouth.
Leonard also has a new message from his mother that consists only of the picture she took earlier. It's a good picture, Leonard in focus with the green hedge blurred in the background. He's half turned towards the camera looking off into the distance with a hand shading his eyes, shirtless and barefoot. After a moment of staring at the lines of his own body in the picture Leonard gets up from the bed and tip-toes over to the mirror, pulling his shirt up to look at his torso.
"Huh," he says, turning this way and that way. At some point in the last year he went from being reasonably in shape to being ripped and he didn't even notice. He'll never have a six pack, his abdominal muscles just aren't shaped that way, but he has actual abs, defined pecs, and bulging biceps. He lets his shirt fall and goes back to the bed, looking at the picture again. Before he can change his mind he opens up a new message to Jim.
Dr Brunner sounds like a wise man. You should listen to him. I have told you about every single addendum I've made to that list and I certainly expect you to be able to recite it backwards when you're back dirt-side. There will be a quiz.
I'm still in Georgia with mom but I'm taking the shuttle back to SF in the morning. I'm including a picture mom took earlier because, and I quote, she thought my young man might like it.
Leonard attaches the picture and hits send. There's no telling when the message will reach Jim; personal communication is marked as low priority and will be included with other more urgent transmissions, making the delivery time anything from five minutes to three days. He puts the comm aside and tries to not feel as if he just sent Jim a nude.
Jim's response arrives two days later while Leonard is getting ready for a clinic shift.
Holy shit, Bones. Your mom was right. Your young man does like it. He likes it very much. I'm not going to send you anything naughty because I know it'd give you a coronary, but I think you know what this face is.
Jim is smiling in the picture with hazy dark eyes, bitten lips, and flushed cheeks, clearly reclining on a bed.
Goddamnit, Jim, Leonard sends back.
Four weeks before Jim is due back Leonard meets Mackenzi Skylar at the clinic. Mac, as she prefers to be called, is a shuttle pilot and when Leonard sort of off-handedly mentions his aversion to flying while fixing a pinched nerve in her elbow, she decides to make it her mission in life to get him through Piloting 101.
"I'm not even taking Piloting 101," Leonard protests when she takes him for a tour of the shuttle bay and makes him have lunch in a disused shuttle.
"I thought you wanted to be a CMO," says Mac. "Enrolling in a few command track classes will definitely work in your favor."
"Maybe I changed my mind," Leonard mutters.
Leonard didn't change his mind and he dutifully enrolls in the command track classes the study advisor recommends, which includes, of course, Piloting 101.
"Captains want self-sufficient medical officers," Mac says when Leonard complains.
"I took Basic Flight."
"Yeah, but everyone knows Basic Flight is bullshit. Theoretically you're licensed to pilot this shuttle, want to give it a try?"
Leonard doesn't tell Jim about his piloting lessons, and he's not sure if it's because he wants it to be a surprise or because he feels guilty that it's not Jim in the pilot's seat. Probably a little bit of both.
"Mac is the worst person I know," Leonard grumbles, dropping his tray on the table across from Rana and pulling his chair out with a screech.
"Did she take you into space again?" Rana doesn't at all look like she thinks being taken for frequent trips into space is a cruel and unusual punishment.
"And yet you're eating."
Leonard pauses with his fork halfway to his mouth. "Yeah, well…" he trails off, unsure how to continue. "I'm hungry, damn it."
Leonard scowls at his food and then at Rana, who's wearing a galaxy-print hijab and generally looking like a million credits. Why is Leonard surrounded by intelligent beautiful women who won't take any of his shit?
"I'm misunderstood," Leonard claims later that evening, trying for sympathy from Neela, one of his favorite nurses.
Neela gives him a side-long glance. "I doubt it."
Leonard doesn't pout, but it takes a Herculean effort.
"You're actually pretty good at this," Mac remarks on their eleventh cargo run, the second with Leonard in the pilot's seat.
"Flattery will get you nowhere," Leonard says tightly, eyeing Earth 1 in the distance as if it's a ticking bomb.
"It's not flattery." Mac shrugs. "I'm just stating facts, and you don't hate it half as much as you pretend to do."
"No, it's twice that amount," Leonard says darkly, nervously wiping his hands on his legs, first the right, then the left.
"Liar." Mac grins, knotting her hands behind her neck. "Wake me when we get there."
She's joking, Leonard thinks, but he still glances nervously at her before shifting his focus back to the looming monstrosity of a space station. In all honesty, he doesn't hate it. He doesn't like thinking about the cold vastness of space or how quickly and quietly they'd both die if the hull was to rupture, but space is breathtaking in more ways than one and maybe, just maybe, he's beginning to realize why people love it so much.
There's a different sort of thrill at the pit of his stomach now when he thinks about going into space, as if it's something he might want to do and not just something he'd put up with because he can't bear the thought of Jim leaving him behind.
Half an hour later when he's successfully landed the shuttle and they're having a snack in the personnel canteen while they wait for it to be unloaded, Leonard glances at Mac and mutters, "Thanks," nearly under his breath.
"If you really wanted to thank me you'd put in a good word for me with tall, dark, and damn handsome over there," she responds with an unrepentant grin, nodding at a good looking man queuing for food.
"Forget it," Leonard says but five minutes later he does just that, and before they leave Mac has secured both a date and a comm frequency.
"If you get married, you better make me your best man," Leonard says, while he goes through the take off checklist and Mac pretends to ignore him.
"When your boy makes captain, you better get us both a job," she counters.
Leonard laughs, and for the first time he forgets to be terrified when the engines ignite.
Between Mac, Rana, shifts at the clinic, and the start of his second year classes, Leonard only really has time to truly miss Jim in the hazy moments between awake and asleep, late at night and early in morning, but damn does he miss him then. The bed is too empty, the dorm too quiet, and no one's stolen a single bite of Leonard's food in weeks.
"You can have my apple if you want," Leonard says, nudging it closer to Mac.
"I don't like apples," she says.
Leonard sighs, shoulder's slumping. "Neither do I."
"I'll take it." Rana picks the apple off Leonard's tray and puts it down on her own.
Leonard musters a smile, but his shoulders stay slumped. USS Venture should have docked at Earth 1 yesterday but word is it'll be a few more days due to a busted something or other, and Leonard is tired of waiting, damn it.
Four days later Leonard comes home after a double-shift at the clinic so exhausted he collapses into bed with his boots still on. He wakes up an undetermined amount of time later to someone trying to pry them off his feet.
"What the fuck?" he growls, kicking out on reflex.
There's a grunt of pain and a familiar voice says: "Owww."
Leonard rolls over so quickly he falls over the edge of the bed and then they're just sitting at the floor, staring at each other from five feet apart. Jim is the first one to crack, breaking down into howling laughter, but Leonard's not slow to follow because honestly.
"You kicked me in the face," Jim gasps, wiping at his cheeks.
"I fell of the bed," Leonard counters.
"You were sleeping with your shoes on."
Somehow they've both managed to get on their hands and knees, crawling across the floor until they meet in the middle.
"You're home," Leonard says, reaching out to cup the side of Jim's face, and suddenly he doesn't feel like laughing anymore. Jim is beautiful, pale and warm with messy hair, wet eyes and smiling lips.
"I'm home," Jim confirms, turning his face into Leonard's palm.
Leonard thumbs at the fragile, still damp, skin below his eye. "I missed you, darlin'," he says lowly and he sounds entirely too choked up.
Jim turns his head more fully, pressing a kiss into Leonard's palm. "I don't think anyone's ever told me that before," he whispers.
Leonard can't not kiss him then, reeling Jim in with a hand hooked over the back of his neck and pressing their lips together with breathless urgency. Jim's hands find Leonard's shirt, tugging and pulling until he nearly has them both tangled in it. Leonard pulls back enough to yank it over his head and toss it aside before he surges forward for another teeth-clacking kiss, pulling Jim into the spread of his thighs.
"Fuck, Bones," Jim groans. "You need to be naked right the fuck now."
It's almost like old times. they come together like a hurricane, biting and pulling and scratching and clutching, sending clothes flying all over the room. Once they're finally naked, Leonard hoists Jim up to sit on his thighs and brings their dicks together in his fist, jerking them quick and messy.
"Fuck," Jim breathes, clinging to Leonard's shoulder with one hand while the other joins Leonard's around their cocks.
It's been too long to be anything but explosive, and it's only a matter of minutes before Jim throws his head back and moans deeply, coming all over their joined hands, Leonard's dick, and both their thighs.
"Christ," he exclaims, tipping forward to rest his sweaty forehead against Leonard's shoulder, still shuddering with aftershocks.
Leonard slows the movement of their hands until they're just holding their dicks together while Jim catches his breath.
"I missed your dick," Jim says and then he's sliding to the floor like he's made of water and easing his mouth over Leonard's cock.
"Holy fuck," Leonard moans, trying to keep his hips from thrusting. "Jim."
"Come for me," Jim demands, pressing the flat of his tongue against Leonard's leaking slit, before he fits his mouth back over the head and sucks.
Leonard comes so hard he sees stars.
They relocate to the bed eventually, tangling up under the covers, Leonard on his back and Jim sprawled next to him, his head on Leonard's chest. They don't talk but Leonard can tell Jim is still awake from the restless twitch of his fingers against Leonard's side.
"I missed you," Jim says after a while, breath tickling Leonard's chest. "I figured I'd miss the sex, but I really just missed you. It's funny—" He shifts, propping himself up to look at Leonard. "You never really realize what you have until you don't have it anymore."
Leonard lifts a hand to Jim's face, tracing the arch of one of his bushy eyebrow. He wonders if Jim can feel how hard his heart is beating.
"And what is it that you have, Jimmy?" he asks lowly.
"This." Jim bends down to kiss Leonard on the mouth. "You."
Leonard kisses him back, trying to put everything he's not ready to put into his words into his kiss. You got me. I need you. Goddamnit, Jim, I love you. He's not sure everything he's trying to say translates into the curl of his tongue but Jim looks dazed when he pulls back, eyes dark and cheeks flushed.
"You got me too, Bones," he whispers and Leonard just has to kiss him again.
"Your schedule is a fucking mess," Jim says a couple of weeks later, frowning at the double sized PADD he's got open on his lap. "What were you thinking adding all these command track classes?"
Leonard gives him an uncharitable look. "Oh, I don't know, maybe I wanted to make sure I'm considered for a starship posting at the end of this."
"You don't have to take all these classes for a starship posting."
"No, but I need them to make sure I end up on the flagship when she's ready. You're a shoo-in since Pike's your mentor and you're at the top of all of your classes, but I'll have to work for it."
"I already have a plan for that," Jim scoffs. "You should've had a little more faith in me."
Leonard considers breaking his PADD over Jim's head. It would be immensely satisfying. Two of his new classes have already started up and they're both terrible. He has no idea why anyone would want to learn this stuff. He certainly doesn't.
"I guess I'll just call Administration and tell them that I changed my mind because my boyfriend has a plan he didn't bother to tell me about then," Leonard says acerbically. "I'm sure they'll think that's a valid reason to drop a few classes."
Jim looks up. "No, that's okay," he says, reaching out to pat Leonard's ankle. "I'll talk to Pike."
Two days later Leonard is summoned to Pike's office and gets to sink down into one of the plush armchairs in front of Pike's shining monstrosity of a desk for the second time of his Starfleet career. The first time was only slightly less mortifying.
"So," Pike says, studying Leonard with his cool blue eyes. "Jim tells me that you're looking to drop your command track classes."
"Jim has a big mouth," Leonard says tightly. "I'm doing fine." He's operating on maybe four hours of sleep a night, and he doesn't appreciate the cut in clinic hours, but he's managing. He doesn't need Jim to call in favors for him that he might need later.
"You don't look fine," Pike says bluntly. "And we're only a few weeks into the semester."
"I wasn't aware there was a beauty standard to live up to. I'll remember to touch up my make-up before our next meeting."
Pike laughs, shaking his head. "And here I thought I'd never meet anyone more stubbornly self-sufficient than Jim."
"Look," Leonard says. "I'm not going to lie, sir, my schedule sucks, and between course work, tutoring, teaching, and clinic hours, I don't get nearly enough sleep, but I'm willing to sacrifice a year of my life to make sure I end up on your dumb boat when she makes her maiden voyage in two years. I know Jim has some kind of harebrained scheme to make sure that happens regardless, but he doesn't have to call in favors for me. I can manage."
"Cadet McCoy," Pike says, leaning forward in his chair. "You've been on my shortlist for future staff since I recruited you and you've only moved up since. You have two doctorates, tons of experience, and an outstanding academic record. Leonard, you're a catch.
"I just want to be sure," Leonard says lowly, and that's the crux of the matter right there. He's already watched Jim sail away from him once, and he'll have to do it again come summer, but after that he's never doing it again. Where Jim goes, Leonard will go, even if it means working around the clock.
"Any captain would be a fool to not hire you on your existing merits, and you have nearly two years to accumulate more without working yourself into the ground." Pike looks thoughtful. "If you absolutely want to earn command credits, you'd be better off signing up for a summer tour of duty."
Leonard sits up a little straighter. "I can do that?" He thought the summer programs were only open to command track students.
"Sure. I can't influence where you end up, but I can make sure you get into the program."
Leonard considers it. Chances are he'll end up posted on a different ship than Jim, but six weeks spent in the black with strangers is a small price to pay for actually seeing Jim now.
"Okay," he says. "Where do I sign?"
Pike laughs and hands over the appropriate forms on a PADD, as if he already knew the outcome of this conversation.
Leonard taps the PADD thoughtfully and says, "Actually, I'd like to keep Piloting 101. I've been logging flight hours all summer, seems stupid to let it go to waste." And also, Mac would kill him.
Pike nods, looking faintly surprised. "I'm one of the examiners. I can arrange for you to test out of it if you want."
Leonard smiles. "That would be great. Thanks."
He waits for Pike to amend the forms appropriately and then signs his name on the dotted line before confirming with his thumb print.
"Thank you," Pike says, taking the PADD back. "You're officially dismissed. Your class schedule should be amended within twenty-four hours."
"Thank you, sir."
Leonard's amended schedule is a dream compared to the nightmare he'd been living for the last few weeks. On Thursday night he comes home just after four and he doesn't feel like he's been put through a meat grinder. He celebrates by hoisting Jim up on the kitchen counter and giving him a very, very thorough blow job.
"Bones," Jim pants, fingers clutching weakly at Leonard's hair. "Fuck."
Jim's thighs are slick with sweat under Leonard's hands, and his heels kick against the cabinets every time Leonard sucks him down. Whenever his breath starts hitching like it does when he's getting close, Leonard backs off, catching his own breath until Jim's thighs stop quivering under his hands.
When Leonard's certain Jim's no longer tethering on the edge he nips at the inside of Jim's thighs leaving a string of tiny bites from his loins to his belly button, carefully skirting the darkly flushed arch of his cock. He moves upwards, licking at Jim's tight nipples until he whines deep in his throat and tugs almost painfully hard on Leonard's hair. He straightens up fully, pushing Jim's thighs further apart to get at his mouth.
"Do you want to come, darlin'?" he asks, tracing the line of Jim's plump bottom lip with his tongue.
"Please." It's barely a breath. If Leonard couldn't feel Jim's mouth moving against his he wouldn't have been sure Jim even spoke.
Leonard pulls back, slipping his hands up Jim's thighs to frame his hips, his thumbs dipping into the warm crease between his thigh and groin. Jim lets out a shuddery breath, hips twitching against Leonard's hands. He looks thoroughly debauched, cheeks red and forehead glistening with sweat. Leonard tightens his hold, pressing his thumbs into the crease between thigh and groin and is rewarded with Jim letting out a broken moan.
"Fuck, Bones," he gasps. "I love you but if you don't let me come soon I'm going to fucking expire."
Leonard's heart jumps and he leans in to kiss Jim on his beautiful swollen mouth, squeezing his eyes shut against the sudden wave of joy. The movement makes Jim's cock brush against his stomach and Jim lets out a desperate whimper through his nose pressing his fingers into Leonard's scalp.
"I'll get you there, darlin'," Leonard promises, kissing his way back down Jim's chest and stomach until he can fit his mouth over Jim's cock, sucking him down.
"Bones," Jim shouts and comes nearly instantly, flooding Leonard's mouth until he has to pull back to swallow, catching the last few jets on his throat and chest.
He eases Jim through the aftershocks with a gentle hand on his dick, jacking it slowly while he peppers Jim's face with sloppy kisses until Jim folds forward collapsing against his shoulder.
"Holy fuck," Jim gasps, finally dropping his hands from Leonard's hair to his neck. "I feel like I'm still coming."
Leonard still has a hand on Jim's dick and he rubs his thumb over the slick head, delighted by the way Jim shudders against him and lets out a broken whine.
"Too much?" he asks, pressing a kiss to Jim's shoulder.
"No," Jim breathes. "Feels fantastic."
Leonard keeps his hands around Jim's cock, rubbing at the head occasionally, until it starts to become obvious Jim's just not going to get soft.
"Sometimes I think you do biologically improbably things just to irk me," Leonard mutters, slipping his hand down to palm Jim's balls.
"It's not my fault you're fantastic in bed," Jim responds, straightening up enough to meet Leonard's eyes. He cups a hand under Leonard's chin tilting his head back for a kiss. "Want to take me to bed and wreck me completely?"
Leonard pretends to consider it, rubbing his free hand over his own aching erection that's still trapped in his pants. "I suppose I could manage."
"Yay," says Jim.
Jim passes out with his second orgasm; it makes Leonard feel a bit like a sex god.
"Did you come?" Is the first thing Jim asks when he wakes up.
Leonard laughs. "I came before you, darlin'. Everything okay in here?" He raps his knuckles gently against the side of Jim's head.
"Asshole," Jim grumbles but he still reels Leonard in for a kiss. He doesn't let go after keeping Leonard close with a hand curled around his neck. "I meant it, you know that right?" he asks lowly, rubbing his thumb against Leonard's hairline.
Leonard doesn't have to ask what he means. "Yeah," he says, experiencing that same surge of joy he felt the first time Jim had said it. "I know." He presses a kiss to Jim's smiling mouth, pulling back minutely before he whispers, "I love you too."
Leonard aces his theoretical piloting test on a Tuesday afternoon, and since his practical is coming up the next day, he figures he really, really has to tell Jim. Jim has met Mac, and unsurprisingly they get along like a house on fire, but he never asked how Leonard and Mac became friends, and Leonard's been reluctant to bring it up because he still feels oddly guilty about the whole thing.
Unfortunately, when he gets in on Tuesday night Jim is on his way out.
"Answer your comms, Bones," Jim says, reeling him in for a kiss. "I'm going out with Gary and a few others, want to come?"
"Can't," Leonard says. "Got a test in the morning."
"You do?" Jim frowns quizzically.
Leonard rubs a hand over the back of his neck sheepishly. "I'm testing out of Piloting 101."
Jim's mouth falls open. "What?"
"Mac tutored me this summer while you were away, seemed stupid to not get the credits when I'd already done most of the work."
"Mac tutored you in piloting?"
Leonard can't decide if Jim sounds incredulous or hurt. This is awful. "Yeah."
"Wow." Jim stares at Leonard as if he's seeing a whole new person and Leonard stares at their feet. Jim's brown work man's boots are dusty and scuffed, Leonard's regulation boots looks like they've barely been worn. "Why would you even do that, Bones?" Jim asks plaintively. "You hate flying."
"I figured it was time to face my fears." Leonard reaches out to touch the hem of Jim's t-shirt, rubbing it between his fingers. "I'm probably never going to love space like you do but…." He trails off, not sure how to continue.
"Bones," Jim says, trying to tilt his chin up with a gentle finger. Leonard resists. "C'mon," Jim says softly, thumbing at Leonard's jaw line. "Look at me, babe."
Leonard looks up and Jim kisses him, soft and slow.
"Why do you act like you expect me to be mad at you?" Jim asks, keeping his hand on Leonard's face. "I'm over the fucking moon. You went into space. Voluntarily." Jim's comm chimes in his pocket but he ignores it. "C'mon, Bones. Talk to me."
Leonard shifts uneasily. "It felt a bit like I was cheating," he admits.
"Idiot." Jim kisses him again. "Unless you did take the time to join the so-many-miles-high-club because in that case fuck you." Jim looks considering. "Well, at least fuck you a bit. I suppose we hadn't had that conversation then."
Leonard scoffs at him. "We haven't had that conversation now," he points out.
"It's been implied."
Leonard rolls his eyes.
"Monogamous." Jim draws the word out, gesturing between them. "Happy now."
"I'm not sure it constitutes a conversation." He grins when Jim's expression turns thunderous. "But yeah." He leans in for another kiss, palming the back of Jim's neck. "I'm really fucking happy."
Jim's comm chimes again and moments later the doorbell rings, startling them both. "God-fucking-damnit," Jim mutters, reaching out to hit the door opener without letting go of Leonard.
"Wow," Gary says, peeking inside. "Am I interrupting a moment?"
Leonard realizes they must look pretty ridiculous and tries to step back, dropping his hand from Jim's neck. Jim holds on, stepping with him.
Gary laughs. "You got five minutes," he says, pointing at Jim. "Or I'm leaving without you. Good to see you, Leo." He steps back and the door swishes close.
"I'll stay if you want me to," Jim says, thumbing at the back of Leonard's neck.
"Nah," Leonard says. "Go out and have fun with your friends. I have to write a completely pointless essay on the Harkassian flu before bed."
"Okay." Jim tugs him in for another kiss. "I'll try to get home at a reasonable hour."
"As long as you come home in one piece, whenever is fine."
"Funnily staying out is not as appealing when I got all this waiting at home." Jim tugs on Leonard's jacket. "Don't study too hard."
In the morning Jim escorts Leonard to the shuttle bay and then bats his eyelashes at Pike until he agrees to let Jim come with them as long as he keeps quiet.
"And I mean it, Jim," Pike says. "One word out of you and I'm failing Leonard on principle."
"Hey," Leonard says.
"You vouched for him two seconds ago," Pike says. "Suit yourself."
Jim doesn't let out a peep. In fact, he's so quiet Leonard finds himself glancing over every so often just to make sure Jim is still breathing. It's a welcome distraction from the nervous energy that has his heart fluttering somewhere in the vicinity of his throat while he tries to handle the shuttle as coolly and competently as he can manage. He doesn't think he's making any major mistakes, but Pike gives nothing away and Jim's silence apparently extends to facial expressions.
"You can take her back now, Cadet McCoy," Pike says when Leonard's almost completed the agreed upon route. "I've seen enough."
Leonard very nearly follows his instructions but Pike's tried to trip him up at least five times that Leonard is aware of and probably a couple that he missed so he says: "Are you ordering me to deviate from the flight plan, sir?"
The corner of Pike's mouth tilts up almost imperceptibly. "No," he says. "I'm not."
"I think I'll just stick to it then," Leonard says. "Protocol and all."
Pike is definitely smiling now. "You do that."
Leonard sets the shuttle down without a hitch nearly 90 minutes after takeoff and exactly on schedule. He's never been so grateful to touch ground in his life. Being judged on his piloting skills was definitely even more nerve-wracking than he expected.
"Good job," Pike says, unbuckling his harness. He half-turns to look at Jim, crammed into the extra seat behind the co-pilot's chair. "You still with us, Jim."
Jim nods, undoing his own harness and shrugging it down his arms. "I'm here."
"Good. I was worried there for a second. I don't think you've been quiet for longer than five minutes since I've known you."
"I'm quiet when I sleep," Jim says.
"Hmmm," says Leonard.
Back on solid ground under the San Francisco sun Pike shakes Leonard's hand. "You'll receive my official review within a week," he says. "But it's a pass."
"Thank you, sir."
"I wish all cadets gave me such a smooth ride," Pike says, giving Jim a sidelong glance.
"Hey now," Jim says. "That asteroid belt was not my fault."
"No, but the maneuver that took us out of it definitely was."
Jim grins, slinging an arm around Leonard's shoulders and tugging lightly. "It was awesome. Bones, you should have been there."
"I'm really glad I wasn't," Leonard says. Being able to actually fly a shuttle has gone a long way to cure his aviophobia, but Leonard still prefers solid ground to just about anything.
Pike laughs at Jim's betrayed pout and shakes his head at them. "You're dismissed," he says. "Both of you."
"Bye, sir," Leonard says, as he lets Jim tug him impatiently towards the exit.
When they step out of the shuttle area after a quick change of clothes, Rana, Mac, and Gary are waiting outside with a messy homemade banner that says Congratulations.
"Wooo!" Gary shouts and throws a handful of confetti in Leonard's face.
Rana and Mac follow suit, and Leonard sputters, spitting out a flutter of tiny pink and red heart.
"What the fuck?" he grumbles, brushing more tiny hearts off his uniform.
"Sorry," Rana says, not looking sorry at all. "We wanted stars but couldn't find any."
"I knew you could do it." Mac barrels into Leonard's midriff and wraps him up in a bear hug that forces him up on the tip of his toes. "I'm so proud of you, Leo."
"You put them up to this," Leonard says, freeing an arm from Mac's embrace to stab a finger at Jim.
"I did no such thing," Jim says airily, but he's grinning far too widely for that to be true.
"So," Mac says, letting Leonard back down on his feet. "Tell me everything." Leonard opens his mouth. "No," Mac says, patting his arm. "I was talking to Jim."
Jim is more than happy to oblige, weaving a wildly exaggerated tale of Leonard's piloting prowess while they walk together back to campus.
"Thanks for the banner," Leonard says to Rana, gesturing to the paper now stuck in under his arm.
"You're welcome," Rana says. "We are very proud of you, you know." She looks thoughtful. "Well, probably not Gary. He only tagged along because he likes Mac."
Leonard laughs with a pleased flush creeping up his cheeks. "Yeah, well, I'm pretty proud of you guys too." He considers it. "Well, not Gary, but the rest of you."
"I can hear you, you know," Gary says, flipping Leonard the finger over his shoulder.
"It's not my fault you're not delivering," Leonard says loftily. "From what I've heard you're only second in all of your classes."
"Big talk from a guy who nearly failed Warp Theory."
It's downwards from there and Leonard's banner ends up a casualty in the ensuing play fight. He can't say he minds; the thought was sweet but the finished product was damned ugly.
A few weeks later Leonard comes home to find Jim sitting on the kitchen floor with his legs pulled up to his chest and his head tipped back against the cabinets.
"Jesus, Jim," Leonard says, kneeling down beside him. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," Jim says without opening his eyes. "My mom called."
After a moment Leonard sits down beside Jim, close enough that he can feel the heat coming off Jim's body all along his side but without touching. As far as Leonard knows, Jim hasn't talked to his mother since she first found out he joined Starfleet.
"Sometimes I wish I could just tell her to go fuck herself," Jim says quietly. "But I always give in. I understand, mom. I'm sorry too, mom." He blows out a shaky breath. "Of course I love you, mom. Let's talk again soon."
Jim shifts closer, resting his head against Leonard's shoulder. "I really want to punch someone in the face right now," he whispers.
"Okay," Leonard says, wrapping an arm around Jim's shoulders. "Okay."
Leonard won't arrange a bar brawl, especially as he knows that Jim doesn't want to throw a punch half as much as he wants to be punched, but he can and does take Jim to the gym, getting some weight training in while Jim runs himself into exhaustion on one of the treadmills.
"He's really going for it, huh?" One of the regulars says, nodding at Jim. "I didn't know you could run that fast on a treadmill."
"He's got a lot of excess energy," Leonard says lightly.
"Yeah, I'd say."
Leonard lets Jim run for nearly an hour before he walks over to the treadmill and changes the settings to slow-down mode. If he leaves it up to Jim he'll just keep running until his legs give up or his lungs cave in, whichever happens first.
Jim doesn't protest. He doesn't even seem to register Leonard's presence, but when the treadmill beeps to alert a change of pace he adjusts his speed accordingly until he's slowed down to a fast walk. He looks a mess, soaked through with sweat and flushed bright red with exertion, legs visibly shaking now that he's walking.
"C'mon," Leonard says lowly, touching his arm. "Let's go home."
The corner of Jim's mouth tilts up and there's a flash of something warm and soft in his eyes when he looks at Leonard. "Okay," he says.
Leonard fucks Jim hard and fast while he's still sweaty and shaking, sucking bites into his neck and shoulders while his fingers press bruises into his hips. Then he literally carries Jim into the bathroom for a long hot shower before he fucks him again, sweet and slow.
"I love you," Jim gasps before he comes for a second time, pressing his tear-wet face into Leonard's throat.
"I love you too," Leonard promises, pressing kisses to every bit of skin he can reach. "I love you so much, Jim."
Afterwards Jim curls into Leonard's side, pinning him to the bed with an arm across the chest and a leg across his thighs. "Thank you," he whispers, pressing a kiss to Leonard's clavicle.
Leonard runs a hand through Jim's still damp hair, blinking up at the cracked plaster of the ceiling. Their dorm is one of the oldest buildings on campus, an old apartment complex that was retrofitted at the turn of the century when the academy had grown enough to engulf it, and it still has some charmingly old-fashioned features like the plaster ceiling and interior doors on actual hinges.
Most of their neighbors are families or married couples, or, in the case of the Arkans on the third floor, a bonded triad. It's a good place to live, but it's not the setting that makes it a home, it's Jim.
"Home is where the heart is," Leonard mumbles to himself.
Jim's only response is a snore.
They go to Georgia over Christmas and Leonard is equal parts embarrassed and endeared by the way his mother, and eventually the extended McCoy family, dotes on Jim.
"We can go somewhere else for New Years," Leonard whispers late in the evening on Christmas day when they've finally excused themselves from the mayhem. Leonard doesn't have a lot of immediate family, but when the extended family gets involved there are enough people for a four tier football tournament and he's exhausted. Not as exhausted as Jim, who's spent the evening alternating between answering a million and one questions and entertaining Leonard's youngest cousins. It's quite the change of pace from last Christmas.
"If you want," Jim responds without lifting his head from Leonard's chest. He's clearly halfway to sleep already. "I like it here."
So they stay for New Years’, a considerably quieter affair and then for a few days extra, covering Jim's birthday.
"Happy birthday," Leonard says lowly, late in the evening on the fourth. They're lying on their backs in the backyard, looking up at the night sky. The stars are so much brighter here than they are in San Francisco, diamonds sparkling against a backdrop of black velvet.
"Marry me," says Jim, sliding his hand into Leonard's and lacing their fingers together.
"What?" Leonard's heart jumps erratically and his palm feels clammy against Jim's.
"Marry me," Jim repeats as if the problem here is Leonard not hearing him correctly.
Leonard swallows, staring so intently at the sky his eyes burn with it. "Why?"
"Because I love you." Jim squeezes Leonard's hand, holding it tight. "And because Starfleet can't split up married couples."
Leonard wants to laugh but he's not sure if it's joy or hysteria. "Well, that's one way to plan ahead," he says weakly.
"Is it really so hard to believe I want to marry you?" Jim asks. "I feel like I've done something very wrong if it is." Jim releases Leonard's hand to roll over on his side. "I know you have this idea in your head where you're the rock and I'm the unpredictable force crashing up against you but it's not like that." Jim cups the side of Leonard's face, sweeping his thumb along the curve of Leonard's mouth and making him turn to look at Jim. "I'm a rock too, Bones. I might not be as solid as you are, or as well-grounded, but I'm not going anywhere. I don't want to go anywhere. I want to be right here, growing old and moldy with you."
"I want this one day." Jim makes a gesture that encompasses the house and the garden and, Leonard bets, Leonard's extended family. "And I want to live every second until then to the fullest." He turns serious, eyes boring into Leonard's. "And to me that means spending them with you."
Leonard's tongue is thick and useless in his mouth and his hand trembles as he lifts it to cover Jim's on his face. He's been married before. He’d gotten down on one knee and popped the question and he thought he was looking at forever then, thought he knew what it meant to really love someone.
"I would have stayed," Jim says lowly. "If you hadn't changed your mind about space, I would have stayed."
"Goddamn you," Leonard growls and then he's pulling Jim in and kissing him and kissing him and kissing him. "Like I would have let you stay," he says when he pulls back, holding Jim's face between his hands. "You belong among the stars."
"I belong with you," Jim says because he's nothing if not stubborn.
"I would have gone with you." Leonard sweeps his thumbs along Jim's cheekbones, almost surprised to not find them wet. "Even if I hadn't conned myself into liking space I would have gone with you. Christ, Jim, the last thing I would ever want is to stand between you and your dreams."
"Then say yes," Jim says shakily, fingers wrapped tight around Leonard's wrists and eyes shining brighter than any star.
Leonard exhales, lips pulling into a helpless smile. "Yes."
-- The End --