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'Need' is a Strong Word

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Bones grumbled quietly to himself as he turned another page in the newspaper. Want ads, hardly the most riveting section for all they sometimes held little snippets of humour. Mostly, they were just depressing, and that was because he had to read them.

It was like the required reading back in school. But somehow even less fun.

Perhaps the most annoying part of this was that he already had a job. He worked at a daycare three days a week, 6:00am-2:00pm. Turning another page, he paused and let the newspaper fall flat on the coffee table so he could rub his hands over his face. Not his best idea, of course, because newsprint happened to be poisonous. He sighed, looking down the dim hallway to the bathroom. He should've probably gone to wash his hands and face, but standing up felt like so much work. And he wasn't about to keel over; newsprint wasn't that poisonous. It was mostly dangerous to babies and toddlers. Which...was sort of why he was here, after all, looking for work. Childcare, because it really was the only thing he was qualified to do. And it probably paid better than some sort of entry-level service job. Or something in a call-centre.

And he needed money. That was kind of why most people worked.

His current job had been paying enough, but his situation had changed. Or was in the process of changing. Whatever.

Joss was moving halfway across the country, and as much as he wanted to blame her for all of this—for upsetting the comfortable rhythm of his life—he really couldn't. It was technically her 'fault', but... She'd gotten the job offer of her career, really, and then got Jo into the fanciest, most posh and impressive school Bones had ever seen. Or, more accurately: seen pamphlets for. He hadn't physically seen the school. He didn't have the money to get there, it being halfway across the country, and all. The school had an honest to gods archery range and a stable. As in, the kind with horses. (His little girl had squealed so loud over the horses.)

He couldn't expect either of them to put their lives on hold for him.

He'd still see Jo on some holidays and weekends. Joss had promised that. Even put it in writing.

Really, she was being more than fair. She'd continued to give him monthly support above and beyond the minimum required by law, but now that Jo was to be living with Joss full-time, well...no alpha could be expected to support an omega they'd divorced a decade ago. She'd be paying for all Jo's plane tickets, and again: that was more than fair.

But of course it still left Bones without a means to keep paying rent on his two-bedroom and still eat. Hell, he couldn't even pay the rent and also have electricity.

If Bones could go back in time, he'd smack his stupid, dopily-in-love eighteen-year-old self up the side of the head and tell him to get his ass to college and save thinking about things like marriage and babies until later. Much later.

Perhaps not too much later, if he did in fact want to have babies at all. 'Biological clock', and all that. He was thirty-four now, and kind of nearing the end of the whole fertility window.

Bones chewed unhappily on his lower lip. Okay, so actually, there's no way he'd ever really, literally do anything to change the past, given the chance. Because there's no way he'd honestly wish Jo into non-existence.

Sighing, he lifted his eyes from the page to roll his head a bit, stretching his sore neck muscles.

On the subject of his 'biological clock'... He'd always assumed he'd have at least four kids. That was what he and Joss had agreed on before they learned what having even one baby was really like. Before they'd discovered—painfully—that they weren't really as destined to live happily ever after as they'd assumed.

It would've been so easy to paint Joss as the villain in all this. But she really wasn't. She never had been. He knew that. He understood that on a very calm, rational, intellectual level. Like him, she'd been too young and dumb to have any idea what she was getting into. They were the same age; neither one was even nineteen yet when they'd married. When Bones could pull himself out to an objective distance, he had a lot of sympathy for Joss.

But at the moment...he kind of hated her.

Because Joss was the one who was rich and successful and able to afford large, luxurious houses and stupidly expensive schools for their daughter. Joss was the one on the fast-track in her career.

And Bones was the one scouring want-ads, because his twenty-four hours a week daycare job just wasn't going to cut it once Joss finally pulled her support.

But regardless of who was at fault—Joss or Bones or the damned economy—the fact remained that as much as Bones needed a new job, there really wasn't a whole lot to choose from. Turning another page, he let out a dispirited sigh.

Most positions were part time, and as much as he'd love to keep his current job with his current coworkers and the children he already knew, juggling hours for two jobs might end up being impossible. And probably still wouldn't pay enough.

What he really needed was something full-time, something that offered proper benefits. Jo was covered under Joss' plan, of course, but Bones himself also needed to visit a dentist now and then.

Well, perhaps 'needed' was a strong word, when he was honestly still trying to figure out how to pay for food on a drastically reduced income.

Sighing, he turned a page back. He'd scanned past all the childcare jobs and hadn't found a single thing, so the only course of action was to lower his standards and try again.

'Live-in nanny', for example. He didn't want to live in anyone else's home. He had his own place, thank you very much.

His own place he could no longer afford. Right.

Hence, the lowering of standards.

Wrinkling his nose, he tried to be a little less disdainful of the jobs on offer. These were likely all decent people trying to do essentially what he himself was doing: juggle the responsibilities of parenthood with actually keeping their own heads above water. If everyone could just stay home and care for their children all day and still have food and a stable home, most probably would do just that. Bones had an opportunity here to really help someone out. And isn't that what he'd always wanted? To help people?

He had, once, long ago, dreamed of being a doctor. It wasn't really a profession 'for' omegas. Far too harsh and bloody and demanding. But omegas were generally a lot tougher than anyone gave them credit for; he could probably have done it. He certainly wouldn't have been the first omega doctor.

But, oh, gods, he'd wanted a baby so bad. And that was really the problem. No one could really have a baby and go to medical school at the same time. He could have settled for a simpler, more omega-friendly position. Like birth-assistant. Nearly all birth-assistants were either omegas or female betas.

But upon graduation Joss had gotten an impressively well-paying job in her aunt's company, and she suggested he take a little break, relax, pursue a hobby or two. They'd just got out of school, but once he got bored, he could think about school again.

When he got pregnant with Jo, he did take the first aid class. And aced the whole damn thing. He'd been proud of himself. (Hell, Joss had been proud of him, and at the time that had felt like it meant something.)

Bones yawned, shaking his head and blinking. His eyes were tired—he'd been staring at these tiny little letters for too long. But if he didn't find anything today, then he needed to try again tomorrow. (And his time really was running out.)

So Bones forced his tired eyes back to the page. Huh. Well, there was something... 'Nanny wanted, live-in preferred'. Not required then, just preferred. From a financial standpoint Bones should prefer live-in himself, but he kind of irrationally liked the suggestion that he had a choice in the matter. (Even if he really didn't.) Hmm, okay. Just the one child in this family, a three-year old. The sire, evidently a single parent, worked strange hours—often overnight—and required a nanny who was 'flexible'.

Well...Bones could certainly be 'flexible' if he was being paid well enough.

And the thing about this particular position was...it paid reasonably well. Especially if free rent was being thrown into the deal.

Making a face, Bones scrubbed his fingertips over his scalp through his short hair. He'd have to find out about how much space he'd have, how much he'd be able to take with him and if he'd need one of those obnoxious storage unit things. (Gods, if he could avoid one of those awful things... It would be preferable to just give most of his stuff away.)

But there was no point in thinking that far ahead before he had the information. Might as well call this 'Jim' and find out all the things he didn't have room for in the little newspaper ad.

o0o

“Hello?”

“Hi,” Bones said, “I'm calling for a 'Jim'?”

“That's me,” the voice—apparently Jim—replied. “What can I do for you?”

“I saw your ad in the paper,” Bones said, squinting a little at the ad where it lay in front of him. “You're looking for a nanny?”

“Yep,” Jim replied. “Still, I mean. Still looking. So you're interested in the position?”

“Yes,” Bones replied. “I'm actually currently employed in the childcare field; I work at a daycare. But I need something a little more...full-time.”

“Yeah?” Jim replied, sounding curious. “What daycare do you work at?”

“Little Stars Daycare and Preschool,” Bones replied.

“Huh,” Jim replied. “I think I've heard of it. Maybe even driven past it.”

“It's over on Riverside Drive,” Bones clarified helpfully.

“Yeah...yeah,” Jim said. “I think I know the place. Anyway, so obviously you do have experience working with kids—do you have experience as a nanny? You know, more one-on-one?”

Bones blew out a breath. “Not as a nanny, no. But I have a daughter who I raised in a one-on-one sort of situation.” His lips twisted into a wry smile. “I know that's not really the same thing...”

“No, but that's fine,” Jim replied, with a soft chuckle. “Raising your own kid certainly counts as experience.”

“So you said in the ad that you preferred a live-in nanny,” Bones pointed out.

“Yeah, I did,” Jim replied. “I do. I work really odd hours sometimes, and you would end up staying overnight a lot—my last nanny, the one who's on her way out...well, she's leaving because she couldn't handle my ridiculous schedule.” A note of worry coloured Jim's voice. “Actually...if you've got a kid of your own, this probably isn't the best position for you.”

“She's fourteen,” Bones quickly clarified. “And she's living with her sire now, full-time.”

“Ah,” Jim said. “I see.”

“They're moving to another city,” Bones further clarified, because he didn't want to make it sound like he'd lost custody thorough negligence or anything like that. “For the sire's work.”

After a pause, Jim said, “If you've got a teenage daughter, I guess you're quite a few years older than I'd expected.”

“More years of experience,” Bones pointed out, earning a chuckle. “I've actually been at my current position for almost eight years now. Including my practicum, I've got a total of eleven years experience as a daycare worker.”

“Wow,” Jim replied, sounding impressed. “That's actually...really good. You'd think after that many years, someone would give you full-time.”

Bones winced slightly. “Most places won't give anyone full-time; full-time means benefits, after all.”

A soft hiss through the phone, and then Jim said, “If this works out...I do offer benefits. Medical, dental; whatever you happen to need. It'll all be in the contract.”

Okay, so on the one hand: Bones really wanted the job. On the other hand: how rich was this guy? Bones cleared his throat. “Can I ask about the provided lodgings?”

“Well...” Jim replied. “To get a real sense, you'd have to take a look. It's not large, by any means; it's just one room, really: a bedroom with an ensuite. It's got a little kitchenette with one of those tiny fridges and a microwave and a hotplate. And a sink with a little counter-space. Room for a toaster—or a toaster oven—and a coffee maker anyway, plus enough room left over for a cutting board.” He chuckled. “So long as it's not too large of a cutting board.” A sigh. “If you're used to having your own space, it might feel a little cramped. There's a TV, though. And a desk—the suite is furnished, of course, but...if you've got a lot of stuff, I could offer you some space in my own storage room for a few things...”

“I'm in a two-bedroom now,” Bones admitted with a quiet laugh. “But I've never really been one to hang on to a whole ton of stuff. I guess, like you said, I'd have to really take a look at it to see if it would work.”

“Well, I'm open to a face-to-face interview if you are,” Jim said. “In the meantime, if you could get me one or two references? Just phone numbers is fine.”

“Yeah, sure,” Bones replied, pulling the rough draft of his resume over and reading out the names and numbers of his current manager and supervisor.

“Perfect!” Jim said, a smile in his voice. “How's the day after tomorrow work for you?”

Bones sucked in a breath through his teeth. “I work until two on Wednesdays. But after that...”

“Nah,” Jim replied. “I start work at two this Wednesday... Sorry, um—maybe this'd be easier if you let me know what works for you.”

“Well...” Bones replied, half joking, “I'm free all day tomorrow.”

Jim laughed. “That doesn't give me a whole lot of time to look into the references... But why don't we do that? My current nanny wants to be over and done as soon as possible, so the sooner we get this started the sooner we both find out if it's a good fit—can you come by around one pm?”

o0o

Jim's house had an office. Because that's where they were seated for the face-to-face interview. Or at least, the first part of it. It wasn't an overly complicated or even stuffy place, but it had the general 'office' type things one might expect: two simple black bookcases, a discreet filing cabinet, reasonably comfortable chairs, and of course an ample desk complete with an unassuming computer off to one side.

“So, Leonard,” Jim said, eyes on Bones' resume where it lay on the desk in front of him. “There's a gap here...between you graduating high school and getting your ECE certification.”

“Yeah,” Bones agreed, trying not to sound too snarky, “I got married and had a child.”

Frowning slightly, Jim tilted his head a little to one side. “Right out of high school?”

Bones tried not to wince, tried not to shift uncomfortably in his chair. “Yeah. My daughter was born shortly before I turned twenty.”

“Right, right.” Jim nodded. “You do mention that here, the personal experience of raising your own child.” He nodded again. “Yeah.” He gave his head a little shake. “Sorry.” He flashed Bones a smile. “Not trying to be judgmental.” He laughed softly, eyes drifting away. “I mean, David—that's my son—he was born when I was just twenty-three.” Grin broadening, he chuckled. “And I wasn't married or anything.”

Bones shrugged. “Things happen.” If Jim had been twenty-three when David was born, and David was currently three...that would make Jim about twenty-six at present. Depending on when birthdays were and all that. Huh. He actually looked like he could easily be younger than twenty-six. He had a sort of boyish look about him, a sort of mischief in his eyes. It probably would keep him looking kind of youthful all his life.

“Yeah.” Jim nodded again. “They do.”

Bones shifted a little in his chair. “I grew up in a more...rural area. It wasn't really strange for an alpha-omega pair to get married right out of high school—we weren't even the only pair in our graduating class to marry in the following year. I mean, I realize now it wasn't the wisest decision either of us ever made, but at the time our families were both fully in favour of it.”

Jim nodded. “Right. And this was over a decade ago.”

Bones spread his hands. “Times change, I suppose.”

Jim flashed him a little smile. “Sometimes even for the better.” His eyes fell once again to the paper in front of him. “Oh, and I did have a chance to talk to both of your references—they're both very disappointed at the thought of losing you at the centre, which I suppose is very encouraging from my end.” He laughed softly.

Bones made himself smile. “I suppose it's rather encouraging from my perspective as well.” Really, it wouldn't do anyone any good if he let himself feel guilty about finding a job that could actually support him.

Jim offered him a warm smile. “Yeah. I guess so.” He narrowed his eyes a little at Bones' resume. “It says here that you're skilled in 'baby signs'?”

“Yeah,” Bones said, shifting a bit in his chair. This was noted on the resume as well, but maybe that wasn't very clear. “It's a modified—simplified—form of American Sign Language used to help facilitate communication between caregivers and the babies and toddlers in their care.”

“Huh.” Jim regarded him. “I've never heard of that.”

“Well,” Bones rubbed one thumb over his other hand where it was folded in his lap. “It's based on the fact that most children are capable of forming simple recognizable signs before they can produce recognizable sounds, before they're developmentally ready to be verbal. If we teach them some simple signs—'please', 'more', 'milk', even 'toilet'—then they have the tools to communicate their desires a lot easier, which leads to a lot less frustration both for them and the caregivers, and ultimately leads to less tantrums.”

“Huh.” Jim nodded. “I can see the draw there.” His brows drew together. “But does that lead to delays in speech development?”

“No.” Bones shook his head. “There's no evidence that it does, but in cases where the child already has a speech delay, it's especially helpful.”

One side of Jim's lips curled up and he chuckled softly. “'Less tantrums' is a pretty strong selling point. David always has trouble with the transition when he comes here.” At Bones' confused expression, Jim clarified, “He spends about half his time at his dam's house—it's usually two weeks here then two weeks there.”

Bones nodded slowly. “You did say this position would be full-time, though.”

Grinning, Jim nodded. “I did. I'll be paying you for full-time, and when David's here, that will sometimes be 'round the clock—even when I'm home, I'll usually need you to help with him. But when he's not here, you'll have time to yourself.” Apparently two-week-long chunks of time to himself. “I figure it probably works out in the end, so far as the hours go.”

Bones nodded once again. “Right.” So the dam was still in the picture. “David's only three? Is he fully weaned?” Jo nursed until she was four, and most children given the option nursed until they were at least three.

“Oh, yeah.” Jim nodded, scratching a bit at the blond hair on the side of his head. “Carol—well, she's an alpha, which I suppose is a little unexpected, with it being rarer... Anyway, she only had milk for about three months. We were able to get some human milk donations through a milk sharing network up until David was a year old, and we supplemented with formula as well. It was about half and half. But he's been on goat's milk—of course, in addition to plenty of other foods—since he was eighteen months. And he's done really well.”

Bones nodded. “We get all kinds at the daycare.” Most parents put in a decent bit of effort to make sure their kid was getting a healthy diet. “We have whole cow's milk and fortified soy, but a lot of parents choose to bring their own alternative. I've seen a few who use goat's milk.”

“It's uh—” Jim waved one hand a bit. “Apparently closer in composition to human milk. Carol and I both did quite a bit of research on the options and independently both came to the conclusion that goat's milk was best.” He flashed Bones a wry smile. “One of the interesting things about co-parenting with another alpha is that we often end up trying to out-provide each other, like it's a competition. But at the same time, we tend to come at things from a very similar perspective, so we usually end up agreeing more than either of us expects. But anyway, with the goat's milk, we can get it from a local farmer who not only does everything organic, but very sustainable—so that's a plus.”

Bones nodded again. “Yeah, that's always a plus.”

Jim winced. “Oh, one thing...” He sighed. “I know it's not polite to ask, but I do have to know: are you on suppressants?”

Bones nodded. “I am. And I understand why you have to ask—you can't have me going into heat without warning and leaving you without a competent nanny.”

“Exactly,” Jim said, looking relieved. “I mean, I do have short-term babysitters I can call in emergencies, but heats...”

“Tend to last a few days,” Bones filled in. “Not really convenient for anyone, actually.”

Ducking his head, Jim laughed softly. “No doubt.”

Jim tapped a pen against the edge of Bones' resume. “I guess...I don't see any problems here. I really like you as an applicant, so...” He laughed softly, ducking his head a little. “I'm mostly just hoping I can convince you to take the job.”

Bones offered him a small, lopsided smile. “Can I take a look at the nanny suite?”

“Absolutely,” Jim said decisively, standing up.

He led Bones out of the room and down the hallway. “So...” he said, pointing to each door in turn. “Bathroom, laundry room, master bedroom, David's room...and the nanny suite.” He opened that door. “It's furnished, as you can see, but unoccupied; the current nanny lives off site.”

Walking into the room, Bones looked around. “It's bigger than I expected,” he said truthfully. Of course the majority of the floorspace was taken up with what appeared to be a queen size bed, but the room wasn't exactly cramped. Even the kitchenette was pretty decent in size. A spacious closet with convenient shelves took up most of one wall, and a large window dominated another. He walked through into the ensuite, flicking on the light switch. Decent amount of counter-space and cupboards...even a full tub rather than just a shower stall. Turning to Jim who was hovering just outside the bathroom door, Bones said, “I think you may have undersold the suite a little; this isn't bad.”

Shrugging one shoulder, Jim folded his arms loosely across his chest and leaned against the doorframe. “Maybe that was my plan. See: you're impressed now.”

Rolling his eyes a bit, Bones let out a quiet huff. “Yeah, good plan.” Clearing his throat, Bones looked around. “But all jokes aside, I think this could work.”

“So...” Jim said, hopeful, “I guess the last test is meeting David.” His lips pulled back in a guilty grimace. “I like you, but if David doesn't, that could be a problem.”

“Right.” Bones nodded. At the centre there were multiple workers, so kids had options while they were getting used to the setting and getting used to the staff as a whole. Here, it would mostly be just Bones and David. “Is David with his dam?”

Jim shook his head. “Nah, he's with Keiko. That's my current nanny, the one who's leaving. I think they're in the playroom.”

o0o

Sunlight from windows that made up the majority of two walls flooded the reddish wooden floor of the playroom. A woman with long black hair, apparently a beta, sat cross-legged on the floor next to a blue bucket of blocks. She looked to be Chinese or Japanese or possibly Korean—Bones had never been much good at telling most different kinds of Asian apart. A little boy with blonde curls stacked blocks into a vague pyramid until the figures in the doorway caught his eye and he jumped up, knocking all the blocks over as he exclaimed, “Ta!”

“Hey, buddy,” Jim replied. “I see you've been playing nicely with Keiko.”

David nodded. Pointing to the blocks he said, “Play blocks.”

“I see that.” Jim smiled. “David, there's someone here I'd like you to meet.” David looked at Bones for the first time and wrinkled his nose a little bit. Bones tried not to laugh; he'd certainly had worse reactions from kids. “This is Leonard,” Jim explained, gesturing to Bones. “He and I have been talking about him maybe taking care of you. Like Keiko does.”

David looked over at Keiko then back at Jim and Bones. “Keiko have a baby.”

Jim chuckled, crouching down to David's level. “That's right: Keiko's going to have a baby. We talked about this just a little while ago. That's part of the reason she can't come here to take care of you every day anymore, and why Leonard's maybe going to do that instead.”

David walked over to Jim and leaned against Jim's knee. Looking up at Bones he said, “Smell.” He wrinkled his nose. “Smell weird.”

Jim ducked his head, laughing softly. “He's an omega, David. Like you. Leonard smells like an adult omega. You...” He poked David in the belly. “...smell like a baby omega. Your om and I are alphas, so we smell like alphas. And Keiko is a beta, so she doesn't usually smell like much.”

“Not unless I really need a shower,” Keiko commented, gathering the scattered blocks into the bucket.

“Ta smell weird too,” David said, giggling.

“Oh yeah?” Jim made an exaggerated expression of shock. “Do I smell like I need a shower?”

“Yeah,” David replied, giggling more. He waved one hand in front of his nose. “Stinky.” Giggles. “Ew.” More giggles. “Yucky.”

Jim laughed. “Well, I promise I just had a shower this morning. But I'll take another one tonight, deal?”

David wrinkled up his nose. “Ta, can we go park?”

“Um...” Jim screwed up his face a bit. “Maybe tomorrow?”

David pouted. “Now.”

Jim laughed softly. “I can't now; I'm in the middle of a job interview.”

David looked over at Bones then back at Jim and heaved a sigh. “Be done!”

Jim laughed again, shaking his head. “I'll be done when I'm done.” He gently poked David in the nose with a fingertip. “You just behave yourself.”

You behave self,” David retorted, and Bones couldn't help laughing.

“Hey, how about we show Leonard your cars?” Jim said, steering David towards a bin full of wheeled toys.

Kitchen,” David countered, pulling Jim over to a colourful toy kitchen much like the one at the daycare centre. Opening one of the cupboards, he pulled out a plastic banana and a plastic tomato and offered them to Bones, saying something that may have been a rather mangled attempt at 'Leonard'.

“Why don't you call me 'Bones'?” Bones said, accepting the items and kneeling down next to a green plastic shopping cart toy piled high with toy groceries.

“'Bones'?” David cocked his head to one side.

“My ta used to call me 'Bones',” Bones explained, “'cause I was pretty skinny when I was little.” Most people probably would have shortened 'Leonard' to 'Leo' or 'Len' or even 'Leon'. But he ended up with what was objectively a silly nickname—it just felt like his name, though. He offered Jim a shrug then turned his attention back to David. “The nickname stuck. Most people call me 'Bones'.”

“'Kay,” David replied. He pulled a small metal pot out of the oven, put a plastic egg in it, said, “Soup, okay, Bones?” and handed it to Bones.

“Sure,” Bones said, smiling as he added the plastic banana and tomato to the pot. “We'll have egg, tomato, and banana soup. Sounds delicious.”

“Uh-huh,” David agreed, grabbing a toy pepper shaker and shaking it vigorously over the open pot.

“Should we put some mustard in the soup?” Jim asked, holding out a yellow plastic bottle.

David deliberated for a moment then said, “Ask Bones,” and went back to shuffling items noisily around in the toy cupboards.

Jim laughed softly. “Okay.” Turning to Bones he said, “Bones, how does mustard sound?”

Bones looked at the pot in his hands and shrugged. “At this point, it can only improve it.”

o0o

“Does David go to preschool at all?” Bones asked once he and Jim were back in Jim's office—Keiko had rescued them after about fifteen minutes of 'cooking' various appalling pretend foods by reminding David it was snack time and taking him to wash his hands.

Jim shook his head. “No, not yet, anyway. We figured one big change at a time was better.” Bones nodded. That made sense. “Why?” Jim asked, eyes twinkling a bit. “Trying to shill your current employer? Is that how you got them to give such glowing recommendations?”

“That's actually a really good idea,” Bones shot back. He shook his head slowly. “Wish I'd thought of it.” He relaxed back in the chair. “But no, there's actually a centre much nearer to here with a really good preschool program...” His lips twisted and he frowned a bit. “Though I guess so far as location goes, you probably want something that's close to both you and the dam's home.” He grimaced a bit. “Sorry.” He held up a hand. “Getting a bit ahead of myself.”

“That's fine,” Jim said, settling himself in his own chair. “I mean, preschool is something Carol and I have been talking about, and I definitely want your input as well.” Picking up a pen, he passed it from one hand to the other as he looked at Bones. “I've talked to Keiko as well, but she doesn't have the first-hand experience with those sorts of things that you do. But of course there's no rush.” Setting the pen down, he pulled some papers out of drawer. “I think it's pretty clear David likes you, so...I've got the contract here—you can look it over, think about it. There's no rush.” He offered Bones a crooked smile. “Well, not really.”

Taking the papers, Bones paused before reading them. “There is one thing...” He grimaced. He probably should have thought this through properly before. “When my daughter comes to see me—which won't be all that often...” He blew out a breath. “Well, usually she stays with me. But if I'm staying here, at your house...”

“Right.” Jim sat up straight. “Actually, I'd already thought of that and just forgot to mention it. I've got a guest room she can use—if you and she are okay with it. It's got its own ensuite—and the bedroom door locks from the inside. Of course, for the duration of her stay, I'd give you a key in case of emergencies.” He tapped his fingertips against the surface of his desk. “But if you're not comfortable with that idea, I could always pay for the two of you to stay at a hotel while she visits—since it's my idea for you to live in, and I don't want you to give up your regular life just for a job.”

“Thank you,” Bones said, a little stunned. “That's all very generous.” For Jo's first visit at least, he would probably do the hotel thing. It wasn't that Jim seemed dangerous or untrustworthy, just that a lot of dangerous and untrustworthy people didn't seem it at all. And it would also be better for Jo to get to meet him before she had to sleep over at his house. They could stay somewhere fun with a pool and whatever. Make it seem like a vacation. Bones frowned, tilting his head a little to one side. Gesturing with the papers in his hand, he asked, “This is a four bedroom house?”

“Yeah,” Jim replied. “Four bedrooms, an office, and the playroom.”

“Huh,” Bones replied. “And three of the bedrooms have ensuites?”

Jim shook his head, smiling lopsidedly. “All four of them do.” At Bones' silently shocked reaction, Jim shrugged and said, “It's probably a lot easier to potty train a kid when he doesn't have to run down a hallway to the bathroom. And it'll also likely help a lot when he's out of pullups at night too.”

“Right,” Bones replied, nodding. That did make sense.

“House actually has a total of five and a half bathrooms,” Jim continued. “I'll have to show you where the half-bath is.”

Bones shook himself out of his 'oh gods how rich is this guy?' stupor (because really, even Joss' fancy new house was only a three-bedroom with two bathrooms) to say, “So David's potty-trained or currently potty-training?”

“He's about ninety percent day-trained,” Jim replied. “Nights are different, of course, since that's not really a 'training' thing.”

“Yeah.” Bones nodded. “Just a developmental thing.”

“But he's been staying dry for naps now,” Jim replied. “Which is encouraging.” Pausing, he tipped his head to one side and chuckled. “When he does nap.”

Chapter Text

“So, Jim,” Bones said, catching him just getting home from work one evening.

“Yeah?” Jim looked up from pulling off his shoes and smiled. “You getting settled in all right?”

Bones nodded. “Just spent the whole day moving in, and it looks like it'll take another whole day at least.” He'd been sorting through a lot of his stuff, dumping a whole lot into recycling and boxing up a whole lot more for charity. (And of course, some things he was actually selling.) “The...uh, the truck you lent me is a really big help.” He didn't really have another viable option other than going into debt to rent a truck; Bones' car wasn't nearly big enough to move anything larger than a toaster oven or a basketball, and while he wasn't actually keeping most of his larger stuff—the really important things Jo was inheriting early—it was still a lot more efficient to make one or two trips in a day rather than ten or twelve. (And since he had use of the truck, he figured he might as well keep his dresser.)

“Well,” Jim said, moving into the kitchen, “if you need to use the minivan for anything, just let me know and I'll give you the key.” Because Jim had a car, a minivan, a pickup, and a motorcycle—and was evidently eager to share.

“I think the truck's going to do it, actually,” Bones said, sliding his hands into his pockets and leaning against the counter as Jim poured himself a glass of water.

Jim flashed him a smile. “Awesome.” He took a swallow of his water. “So you figure you'll be finished and settled in by the time David gets back from Carol's next week?”

“Yeah,” Bones replied. “No problem.”

Jim smiled again, leaning against the kitchen island. “That's good.”

“David's actually what I wanted to talk to you about,” Bones said.

Jim cocked his head to one side, attention on Bones. “Oh?”

“I was just wondering if you wanted me to do the baby signs with him.” Bones shrugged. “Or if you'd prefer I didn't.”

“I don't exactly see a downside to him learning a few words in ASL,” Jim said, taking another sip of water. He shot Bones a lopsided smile. “Even if it's more the equivalent of 'ba-ba' rather than actually saying 'bottle'.” He shrugged. “I guess I'd just assumed you would teach him.”

“Well, I will,” Bones replied, “if that's what you want.” Frowning a bit, he added, “It's just that some of the parents from the daycares I've worked at have expressed some...feedback, that their children learn the signs and try to use them at home, but the parents—or other caregivers—don't understand.” Grimacing a bit, he shrugged again. “At every centre, it's been policy that we use the signs, and the parents have always been aware before enrolling their children. But here, there is an option.”

“Well,” Jim said, turning more to face Bones, “David's nanny when he's at Carol's speaks French with him. And Keiko was teaching him a little Japanese. And I don't speak French. Or Japanese.” He shrugged. “Neither does Carol, for that matter. But I could learn the signs. You said you only ever use a few of them.”

“Yeah.” Bones nodded. Signing as he spoke, he listed them: “'Eat', 'drink', 'more', 'all done', 'change', 'toilet'—and of course 'please', which is the one all the kids learn and use the most consistently because it gets them stuff.” He laughed softly.

“Didn't you list 'milk' last time?” Jim asked.

“I might have.” Bones shrugged. Opening and closing his hand to make the sign, he said, “'Milk'. It's not one we use quite as often. There's also 'water',” he added, making that sign as well.

“David can say all of those in English,” Jim pointed out.

Bones shrugged. “Most kids can by the time they're three.”

Jim took a swallow of his water. “Well anyway, it can't hurt to use the signs, and if it's something you're already used to doing, then go right ahead. I'm not really concerned about it either way.” He flashed Bones a grin. “But if I can brag to Carol that my new nanny is teaching David ASL, I see that as a bonus.”

“And,” Bones pointed out after a pause, “there's certainly no drawback to a child learning even just a few words in four different languages.”

Jim smiled. “That too.”

o0o

“So you're the new nanny,” the blonde woman who was presumably Carol said, coming to stand next to Bones in the lengthening early evening shadows of the front porch.

“And you're—David's dam?” The only name Bones had for her was 'Carol' but that felt a little too familiar.

“I am.” Carol nodded, leaning back against the railing. “Carol Marcus, but please—” She flashed him a smile. “Call me 'Carol'.”

“Carol then,” Bones replied, resting his own hip against the railing and keeping a cursory eye on Jim and David where they were rolling around on the lawn like a puppy and a somewhat larger puppy. He gestured to his chest with one hand. “Bones.”

Carol's brow furrowed. “That's a—unique name.”

Chuckling softly, Bones ducked his head. “Yeah, well, it's a nickname.” He twisted his lips, shrugging one shoulder. “In case you hadn't guessed.”

“That would be my guess,” Carol agreed, one side of her lips curving upwards. “But I hate to assume—a beta couple on my street have two sons named 'Stone' and 'Thorn'. I actually thought it was 'Thorin' at first, like the dwarf? But no, it's the pointy thing.”

Bones shrugged one shoulder. “I've worked with kids named 'Apple'...'Candle'...'Silver'...'Lake', 'Briar'... 'Fox', 'Bear'...'Star', 'Rainbow', 'Rune'...'Chime'...and 'Tempest'.” There were quite a few others including 'Sienna', 'Azure', 'Amity', and 'Unity'—and a set of twin boys named 'Faithful' and 'Hopeful'—but it simplified things to only list concrete nouns.

Carol turned a soft smile over to the duo on the grass. “Makes me feel so very 'establishment' for naming my son 'David'.”

Bones shrugged. “A lot of people would argue it's better to have a name with more history—an 'established' name, I guess.”

Turning her gaze back to Bones, Carol regarded him thoughtfully. “You must have worked with a lot of children, though.”

“I have,” Bones confirmed. “I've worked in daycare for years.”

“Right, well,” Carol replied, nodding, “that would explain it.”

Still leaning on the railing, Bones crossed one of his ankles over the other. “Jim didn't tell you anything about me?”

Carol's blonde hair swung about her jaw as she shook her head. “We don't generally discuss the nannies we choose—but we inevitably meet them and get to form impressions in person.”

Bones snorted softly, folding his arms across his chest. “And how do I measure up so far?”

“Well, David likes you,” Carol replied. “He loved Keiko and was very attached to her, but he's taking the transition well. I think that's about as glowing a recommendation as a person could have.” She offered him a little half-smile. “But I knew all that before I met you.” She looked him over consideringly. “You're older than I expected, I suppose—or maybe younger; most nannies in my experience are either just out of school or well past forty.”

Bones shot her a dubious look. “Keiko must have been close to twenty-five.”

“And she's quitting to have a baby of her own,” Carol pointed out. “As most do, I think.”

Bones rolled his eyes a bit. This was the strangest interrogation he'd ever received. He was used to interacting with parents in a very different situation. He could explain that he had a daughter, but then he'd have to explain where she was and why—and he already felt enough on the defensive. “Well, I guess I don't fit the mould.”

“That's all right,” Carol replied, eyes bright. “Neither do I.” As she looked over at David who was now kneeling on Jim's chest and roaring at him, the corners of her lips curved up in a fond smile. “You don't meet too many alpha dams, after all.”

“That's true,” Bones agreed with a soft laugh, “but you're still not actually the first one I've met.” So he'd met exactly one other. But they couldn't be all that rare; he'd yet to meet anyone with heterochromia, after all.

o0o

“Going somewhere special?” Bones asked, because Jim—in his shimmery blue jacket and too-tight black leather pants—was certainly dressed flashier than usual. Bones had just finished putting David to bed and was cleaning up the kitchen. (Jim had made it clear from the beginning that major cleaning wasn't Bones' job. He had someone come in once a week to do that, a beta woman named Elizabeth who had seemed both pleasant and efficient the times Bones had met her thus far. But of course both Jim and Bones were responsible for day to day things like loading the dishwasher, wiping down counters, and sweeping the floor.)

Grinning, Jim did a little pirouette, like a model on a catwalk, ending it off with a cocky rocking of his hips. The scent of his excitement, amusement, and self-satisfaction swirled about the kitchen. “What? Don't think I'd be meeting Chris like this to talk about work?” He waggled his eyebrows.

“Sure, if you're suddenly—or secretly—dating your boss,” Bones said, tossing the damp dishcloth over the sink divider and leaning his hip against the counter. “Now that you mention it, it does feel a little odd that you call him 'Chris' rather than 'Mister Pike' or 'The Captain'.”

Jim wrinkled his nose. “Chris is like...my sire. So, no. But...” He shrugged, smirking a bit and leaning against the kitchen island. “I'm your boss, and you call me 'Jim'.”

Bones rolled his eyes. “You asked me to call you Jim. But you're in...some kind of elite military thing; I don't think it's exactly 'normal' to call your superior by his first name.” Or a short form of his first name, because the full thing was probably 'Christopher' or 'Christian' or something like that.

“Oh, I see.” Jim ran his fingers lightly back through his gelled hair. “If you were my superior, you'd insist on me calling you 'sir'.”

Bones rolled his eyes, folding his arms across his chest. Looking away, he muttered, “Right, like I'd ever be your superior.”

“You are older than me,” Jim pointed out.

“Yeah, but I'm an omega,” Bones countered.

“We've got an omega in our 'elite military thing'.” Hands at his sides, Jim gripped the edge of the marble countertop. “So your argument is invalid.”

“Captain Pike isn't an omega,” Bones pointed out. “So your argument is invalid—and aren't you going to be late for your date? I mean, I know you're hot stuff, but eventually anyone's going to get bored, annoyed, and frustrated enough that they tell you to stop calling them.”

“Well, there are two of them,” Jim pointed out, eyes bright with mischievous glee and smelling far too proud of himself, “so if they get bored, they can just start without me.”

Bones levelled an unimpressed look at him. Because the way Jim was looking at him, he was clearly waiting for a reaction to that little reveal. “Am I supposed to be impressed?”

Jim shrugged. “You can be offended or disgusted if you prefer. But there's got to be some shock value in the fact that I've got a date tonight with two women.”

“As much as it may shock you,” Bones told him, “I don't actually care who you date or how many people you date; it's absolutely none of my business. But since you wanted a reaction so badly, here's mine: I'm decidedly unimpressed.” He threw up his hands. “Maybe you need more alpha friends to pat you on the back and say 'good job', 'attaboy', 'congratulations on the virility'. But I'm not an alpha, so I'm not going to be impressed.”

Jim chewed on his lip, regarding Bones from under his thick eyebrows. “You're cute when you're being all morally-superior.”

As if 'morality' had anything to do with it; it was just a young, unattached alpha who wanted to feel validated in his desirability. Nothing 'moral' or 'immoral' about that. Bones made an offended noise in his throat as Jim straightened and turned to sashay towards the door. Bones narrowed his eyes at his retreating back. “Hey! Don't flirt with your employee, Jim! I might have to sue you for sexual harassment!”

Without turning around, Jim just waved a hand at him, laughing, and said, “All right, all right. Duly noted.” He flashed something like a quarter of a smile over his shoulder. “And good night.”

o0o

“Ah, you're home in time,” Bones said, looking up to smile at Jim as he placed a large pot of baked beans on the table.

“I told you this morning I'd be home for dinner,” Jim said, sliding his hands into his pockets and leaning back against the wall. He nodded to the food spread out over the table. “Apparently you cooked.”

“Of course I cooked,” Bones muttered as he tipped the corn muffins from the muffin tin into a tea towel lined bowl. “That's part of the job, since David eats.”

“I helped cook!” David hopped over and grabbed two handfuls of Jim's pantleg, grinning up at him. “We make beans!”

“Is that what smells so good?” Jim asked, ruffling David's hair.

“David beans!” David said, tugging at Jim's pantleg and pointing to the pot on the table.

“Oh, they're yours, are they?” Jim asked, allowing himself to be drawn towards the table. “'Cause you helped make them?”

“I told him they're my family's secret recipe, passed down through the generations,” Bones explained as he looked over the table once again to be sure he hadn't forgotten anything. Deciding there was nothing missing, he took his seat. “My sire, who was also named David, taught me.” One side of his lips curved upwards and he nodded towards David who was climbing into his chair. “David was pretty excited to hear that these were 'David beans'.”

“Ah, I see,” Jim said, taking his own seat at the table. “Is there a special occasion for all of this? I didn't forget my own birthday, did I?”

“Bones month,” David said, which of course just confused Jim further.

“I thought it would be nice,” Bones explained, “to celebrate me being here a month now.” Shrugging one shoulder, he served beans for David and himself. “It might even help David grasp the concept of time—a month is kind of a long time, a little more than four weeks...things like that.”

Ah. Right.” Jim nodded slowly. He regarded Bones thoughtfully. “You have been here a month now, haven't you?”

Bones nodded. “Almost to the day.” Turning his attention back to the food, he added, “We couldn't make the beans exactly the way my sire taught me, because David's a little young for the Tennessee whiskey, so we used pineapple juice instead—David and I both tried a bit while it was cooking, and we both thought it was really nice.”

“Ta like it too,” David said decisively, grinning expectantly at Jim and swinging his feet back and forth.

Jim chuckled as he served himself a generous portion. “I'll have to taste it first, but I've never had a problem with baked beans in general.”

Bones tore David's muffin in half and slathered it with butter, warning him, “Careful: it's still hot.”

Nodding, David picked a piece of cucumber out of his salad and ate it. “Just wait a bit.”

“That's right,” Jim said, “sometimes we have to give hot things a little time to cool off.” Blowing on a spoonful of beans, he carefully touched it to his lip once before putting the spoon in his mouth. His eyes widened and he chewed slowly, warm pleasure blooming in his scent. After swallowing, he said, “That's really good, Bones. And David,” he added, turning to offer his son a smile. “You guys did a good job.”

“Well, you know,” Bones said, ducking his head and poking at his salad with his fork. “Old family recipe; we've had generations to get it right.”

Jim chuckled, snagging a muffin for himself. “I admit I'm curious to try it with the whiskey sometime.” He shot Bones a smile. “Maybe you'll have to teach me to cook it—'cause if I'm not careful, you two omegas are going to out-alpha me, at least in the cooking department.”

“Yeah, I can cook one thing pretty well,” Bones muttered. Alphas always got so touchy about food and cooking, didn't they? Even if they worked longer hours at more physically-demanding jobs, they always came home with the expectation that it was still their responsibility to feed everyone.

“If I'm not mistaken,” Jim said as he served himself up some of the tossed green salad, “that's fresh homemade vinaigrette dressing in the glass bottle?” He quirked an eyebrow at Bones.

Bones screwed up his face a bit. “Yes.” He gestured to the cluster of plastic bottles near the salad bowl. “You can still use any of the others if you like; I just don't care much for cream dressings myself.”

“Is that another old McCoy family recipe?” Jim asked, grabbing the glass bottle and uncorking it.

“Sort of.” Bones rolled his shoulders. “Not as old, though. And a lot simpler.” And it didn't traditionally contain whiskey.

“Huh, well.” Jim poured the dressing over his salad. “My dam always encouraged me to give things a try before deciding I didn't like them.” Holding the bottle out to David he asked, “Want some on your salad?”

David scrunched up his nose. “No.”

“No?” Jim gave David an expectant look.

David's face twisted a little and then he signed, 'thank you'.

Eyebrows twisting with confusion, Jim shot Bones a look. “Did he just blow me a kiss?”

Swallowing a mouthful of water, Bones shook his head. “That's the sign for 'thank you'.”

“Oh right!” Jim laughed. “I should have remembered that one.” Turning a pleased smile on David, he said, “Good job, buddy. Do you remember how to say that in French?”

“Mer-see,” David replied after a brief pause, pronouncing it a lot more like 'mercy' than 'merci'.

Jim laughed. “Yeah, 'merci'.” He held out a fist to David and David met it with a fist-bump. “I don't know a lot of French, but even I know that one.” Turning to Bones he said, “Merci,” and signed 'thank you'.

With a nod of acknowledgement, Bones replied, “You're welcome.”

Tilting his head to one side quizzically, Jim asked, “No sign for that one?”

Ducking his head, Bones laughed softly. “I, uh, don't know it.” He cleared his throat, poking at his salad. “I'm sure there is one. My vocabulary is quite limited.”

“Well,” Jim replied, taking a swallow of his water, “I guess it's still better than mine—I think I currently remember 'thank you' and 'milk'.” He made the signs as he said them.

“That's very good,” Bones told him, ducking his head in an attempt to hide the smirk tugging at the corners of his mouth. “Keep that up and in another month you might achieve the signing vocabulary of the average eighteen-month-old.” Jim threw a slice of radish at Bones and it bounced off his cheek. Levelling a 'really?' sort of look at Jim, Bones added, “And the maturity to go with it.”

Turning to David, Jim pointed at him with his fork and said, “Don't throw food; do as I say and not as I do.” Bones rolled his eyes.

o0o

“Om, your new baby is so cute,” Jo told Bones as they watched David spin in a circle waving a large bubble wand.

“He's not mine,” Bones pointed out, eating a quartered grape, “and he's not actually a baby—he's not even a toddler anymore, really: he's three.” It was Jo's first visit since she and Joss moved, and it was only for the day; she'd arrived mid-morning and would be heading back in the evening. Bones had very little notice for the visit, just a call from Joss the previous evening saying she and Jo would be in town and that Jo would like to spend the day with him. The short notice was officially why Bones was still on duty, at the park, watching David with his daughter in tow like it was 'bring your child to work day'. But really, Jim could have called in a sub sitter for the afternoon and very likely would have if Bones had pushed. But the main problem was Jim and Bones had promised David just the previous night that they could go to the park 'tomorrow' as it was Saturday and Jim had the day off (or at least, didn't need to go in to work). It was generally best to keep promises to small children, if at all possible. And besides, Jim was ecstatic to make a picnic lunch for the four of them—he might have had the maturity of a caffeinated squirrel, but he was still an alpha, all bursting with excitement to 'provide'. Might as well humour him. Opportunities to provide in a tactile manner were beneficial to alphas' mental health, or so Bones had read.

Jo rolled her eyes. “You always call them your kids, Om. 'My kids at the daycare'. 'My newest baby.'” She looked over at David who was re-dipping the bubble wand into the dish of bubble liquid with all the care and concentration a three-year-old could muster. “And he still talks like a baby. And smells like one.”

“Most kids still sound like babies until they're about five,” Bones pointed out. “You were in kindergarten and still saying 'puss-ketti'.”

Jo stuck out her tongue at him. “Ta says she thought it was so cute she refused to correct me.”

“It was pretty cute.” Bones nodded his head, eating a cube of cheese. For all being rather simple finger foods, Jim really had put together a rather impressive array. All four food groups, plenty of fibre—hell, at least seventy-five percent of it was locally-sourced and organic.

Jo looked over at where Jim was helping David pour some more bubble liquid into the dish. The soap-slick grass glistened in the sun. “You and Ta actually agree on stuff sometimes, hey?”

“I think your sire and I actually agree a whole lot more than we disagree,” Bones admitted. “Especially where you're concerned,” he added, gesturing towards her with a whole grain cracker. “Because we do both genuinely want what's best for you—and we're both pretty smart, so we both have a pretty good idea of what that actually is.” Sighing, he looked away across the grass to where a thick mess of reeds hugged the border of the pond. “Sadly, that's not all that's required to sustain a healthy relationship.”

“I know,” Jo said, looking at her lap. She took a quartered pepperoni stick from a plastic dish and narrowed her eyes at it then levelled an unimpressed look at Bones. “Why is everything cut in quarters?”

“So it's not a choking hazard,” Bones explained. “You might not remember, but I used to cut your grapes in quarters too. Up until you were about four or five, I think.”

“Oh, okay.” Jo took a bite of the pepperoni. She watched Jim and David play for a while as she ate. “Having kids is really complicated—I think I'd want a nanny if I ever had any.”

“Maybe you could hire me,” Bones suggested, leaning a little closer and pitching his voice low. He regarded Jim and David consideringly for a moment. “By that time, David would be all grown up, so I guess I'll be in need of another job.”

Jo rolled her eyes and let out a quiet huff. “Is that your way of telling me to make sure I don't have kids in the next two years?”

“How about not in the next ten years?” Bones suggested.

Jo stuck out her tongue at him. “We'll see.”

David slipped on the soapy grass and fell on his bum. He looked more surprised than hurt, but he started crying. Scooping him up, Jim carried him over and plopped him in Bones' lap, saying, “He's gone and wet his pants—you brought extras in the bag, right?”

“I did,” Bones said, giving Jim an unimpressed look as he stroked David's back soothingly. “But he sat in a puddle of bubble liquid; that's not the same thing as 'wetting his pants'.”

Plopping down on the blanket next to them, Jim snagged a cucumber slice from the dish and took a bite. “His pants are still wet.” He made a face at the cucumber slice. “And my hands taste like soap.”

Bones couldn't help laughing at Jim's expense as he dug in his bag for a spare pair of pants for David. “That's because they're all covered in soap.” He tossed a pack of baby wipes at Jim and it bounced off his knee.

Picking up the package, Jim wrinkled his nose at it. “If I use these, then my hands will taste like baby wipes.” He shot Bones a kind of 'are you serious?' look. “I'm not sure that's an improvement.”

With a deep sigh, Bones managed not to roll his eyes. The baby wipes were supposed to be aloe or something, which was intended to smell nice. Never mind that people often wiped their kids' mouths with them. “Well, there's bathrooms right over there.” He jerked his head in the direction of the squarish brick building as he helped David wriggle out of his soapy pants.

“Yeah, but...” Jim looked over at the building and sighed. “The sinks only have cold water.”

Heaving an even deeper sigh, Bones rolled his eyes. “For gods' sake, Jim; I'm pretty sure David's more mature than you, and he still needs a nightlight and a blankie to go to sleep at night.”

Jim shot Bones an impish little smirk. “What makes you think I don't need those things?” And that was the problem with Jim: when Bones insulted him, he wouldn't get angry or even annoyed, wouldn't fire him or threaten to fire him—he'd just agree and supply supporting details.

o0o

“I'm glad you and your boss can be friends,” Jo said as they were walking back to Jim's house. Jim was walking a few strides ahead with David on his shoulders. “I think that's good.” She nodded, pressing her lips together a bit.

“Well,” Bones replied, a dry leaf crunching under his foot, “I suppose it means he's less likely to fire me.”

Jo's whole face scrunched up. “I don't think he'd ever do that. He likes you.”

Bones shrugged. “Yeah, I guess.” He laughed, soft and a little awkward. “I insult him, I snap at him, I grumble and complain...and he hasn't seemed to mind much yet.”

Jo smiled, soft and kind of hopeful. “Yeah.” She tucked a bit of her dark hair behind her ear. “I think he'll want to keep you around for a long time—that's kind of the point of a live-in nanny, right? If it was supposed to be short-term, there wouldn't be much point in going to all the trouble of moving in.”

Bones nodded. “Yeah. I think you're right about that. Definitely meant to be long term.”

“And David likes you too,” Jo continued. “He's very, um, you know, bonded. To you.”

Bones nodded. “That was the easy part. He liked me right from the start—not all kids do, you know.” Some at the daycare had taken quite a while to warm up to him. He wasn't the most stereotypical 'nurturer', after all. He gestured to David with one hand. “But David did, so the transition was pretty smooth.”

Jo nodded, expression thoughtful. “Maybe it's a sign.”

“'A sign'?” Bones gave her a dubious look.

“You know, that you've found the right job,” Jo explained. “That you're where you're supposed to be.”

“Like...fate?” Bones asked.

Jo shrugged. “I guess.” She chewed on her lower lip for a moment then said, “I really like my new school, Om. The teachers are all so great, and I'm making new friends.”

“That's good,” Bones replied, genuinely happy for her and ignoring the pang of whatever it was without bothering to examine it. “So they're all accepting of the 'new kid'?”

“Well, it's the first year of high school,” Jo pointed out, “so we're all 'new' this year.” Pressing her lips together, she nodded a bit. “I think it helps.”

Bones nodded as well. “I guess it would.” After a moment of quiet, he asked, “Have they let you ride any horses yet?”

Jo's face lit up. “Yes! We get to ride once a week, and we get to brush the horses too, and we're learning how to put on the saddles and bridles and how to lead them and how to help the horses feel safe by talking to them and patting them and keeping calm ourselves—and it's so great, Om!” She grabbed onto his forearm with both of her hands. “I love it. I'm in the beginner group for now, but they say when we get good enough, they'll let us trot and then eventually canter, but even just walking is so much fun—it's kind of like being on a ship, just rocking slowly side to side.”

“You don't get seasick?” Bones teased.

Jo wrinkled her nose. “Okay, maybe it's not all that much like being on a ship.”

Bones bit the inside of his lip. Maybe raising Jo in the city wasn't the best idea he or Joss had ever had; she might have preferred the country, like where Bones himself grew up. “Growing up, we didn't own any horses, but some of our neighbours did. I guess I rode a horse a few times before I was your age—and of course, there'd always be pony rides at the fair.”

“Oh, I've done that,” Jo said, rolling her eyes. “Ta took me at least three times, and you took me at least once. But it's nothing like actually riding a horse—someone just leads it in a circle. You don't even hold the reins.”

“Right.” Bones nodded. That was different. “I guess really riding a horse feels a lot more grown up.”

Jo flashed him a grin. “Yeah. And also...did you know bows and arrows can be just as deadly as guns? They're letting us use actual deadly weapons—we have to be very careful and follow all the rules or they don't even let us touch them. This one alpha boy had to sit out for an entire class because he pretended to point a bow and arrow at another student—the arrow wasn't on the string, but he held it so it looked like it was.” She shook her head. “What an idiot. I don't understand why anyone would joke about something like that.”

Bones' lips twisted with distaste. “I guess some people have really weird senses of humour.”

“Some people have really wrong senses of humour,” Jo retorted. “I guess I just hope he learned from that what isn't funny.”

“Well,” Bones replied, shooting her a smile, “maybe one thing that isn't anyway.”

Jo sighed. “Yeah.”

Wrapping his arm around her shoulders, Bones pulled Jo against his side and pressed a kiss to her hair as they walked. “I'm glad you like your new school so much, sweetheart.”

Jo flashed a smile up at him. “I'm glad I get to see you today too. We're not really that far away—maybe I can visit again soon.”

“Yeah,” Bones replied. “I hope you can.” He offered her a soft smile. “Maybe next time we can do something with just you and me.”

“Yeah, maybe.” Jo nodded. She glanced ahead where Jim was holding David's hands and smiling up at him. “But I wouldn't mind visiting with them again too. You know, whatever. Like, I know your boss has a job, so...”

“Well.” Bones rubbed at the back of his neck. “I suppose, given that this is a long-term position...we'll probably have a lot of chances for many different types of visits.” He offered her a smile.

Jo smiled back. “Yeah.”

Chapter Text

Of course David got sick after his first week in preschool. He was only going three days a week, so he got to enjoy three short little classes filled with glue and glitter, finger-paints, and circle time before he apparently simultaneously caught every single bug the other little monsters were carrying on their improperly-washed hands. Bones sighed as he adjusted their position a little in the easy chair, a hopeful attempt to lessen the wheeze in David's breathing.

Getting sick was of course what happened when a kid first started daycare or preschool or even kindergarten. It happened to every kid at every centre in Bones' experience. It had even happened to Jo back in the day, though she'd simply caught a mild cold. (Alpha immune system probably being a factor there.)

And maybe that's why this was gouging Bones' heart out of his damn chest. Poor David was so much sicker than Jo ever had been at his age. So much sicker than Jo had yet to be in her entire life, actually.

David's blond curls, darkened with sweat, stuck to his forehead and temples as he made an unhappy, tired little sound, shifting his head just a bit where it rested on Bones' chest, the heat from his skin through the soft material of Bones' shirt yet another reminder of just how sick the poor little guy was.

And maybe he'd somehow sensed his sire's approach, because a moment later a key scraped in the lock and the front door opened to admit Jim.

“Hey,” Bones greeted him tiredly.

“How is he?” Jim asked, pulling off his shoes and padding over. A gentle buzz of worry mingled with the warm fondness in Jim's scent.

“Well,” Bones replied, keeping his voice low, “not much has changed since I called you. I wrote down the cutoff temperature the nurse told me on the phone.” He nodded to an open spiral notebook next to the phone. “I took his temperature around four, shortly before we ended up like this.” With a soft, lopsided smile, Bones looked over David's sleeping form, pressed chest-to-chest with himself. “I managed to get him to drink some of the electrolyte solution around two—which, by the way, tastes disgusting, so you can thank me for my persuasive skills in managing to get him past the first sip... And he had some water at three, and a bit more at four. He's managed to keep all that down, so that's good. He actually hasn't thrown up since eleven, but he also hasn't eaten anything since breakfast.” And he'd thrown all of his breakfast up. So it didn't really count anymore.

“Yeah, that's probably for the best, though.” Jim smoothed a hand over David's shoulder. “I know I never really want to eat when I'm sick.” Sympathy swelled in his scent as he continued stroking David's shoulder. “Gotta just get some rest for now, I guess.” His eyes flicked to Bones' face. “Have you eaten anything? You look exhausted, by the way.”

“Uh...” What had Bones eaten? He gave his head a little shake in an attempt to clear it. “I had some bread and peanut butter—and an orange.” He'd meant to grab a yogurt too, but David had been whining and beyond tired. And it was a little hard to eat anything while holding him and trying to soothe him. “Around noon-ish.”

“Hey,” Jim chided, “can't have you getting sick too. What do you want? I'll make you something.”

Bones made a face. Jim had just worked a full day. And Bones worked for him, after all. Expected gender roles or no, it didn't really seem fair for Jim to have to cook dinner for Bones. “I was gonna just call for delivery—you gave me the card for if I needed it, and I figured...” It was some sort of pre-loaded card that worked basically like a credit card (except no one went into debt). Bones had used it a few times to pick up things like milk and bread when Jim ran out, or to buy David a small treat at the farmer's market. But Jim had made it clear from the start that using it for things like pizza or Chinese was fine now and then if he was short on time or if the stove was broken or the power was out or whatever.

“You want delivery?” Jim asked. “I can get you delivery; did you have something in mind?”

Bones made a quiet, somewhat exasperated sound. “Just—whatever you want, whatever's easiest for you. I don't even feel hungry.” Too worried to be hungry, actually. Maybe too exhausted too.

“Bones,” Jim said, turning to offer him a serious look. “I just want to...be a good alpha right now. I don't want you to get sick and I—” He looked away, the worry in his scent taking on a sharper edge. “I just—”

Bones sighed. “Yeah. I get it.” He grimaced slightly. “Maybe some soup? If you want to cook.” Soup was both easy and healthy. “I think we have onions and some minced garlic you could throw in, give my immune system a good boost.”

“Tomato soup?” Jim asked, flashing Bones a smile as he headed to the kitchen. “Tomatoes have vitamin C, so that might also help—does that sound okay?” He shot Bones a small frown. “Do you like tomato soup?”

“Yeah,” Bones replied, stroking his hands slowly up and down David's back. “That sounds nice.”

Bones sat quietly, listening to David's breathing as Jim moved about in the kitchen with minimal clattering. David didn't stir at the noise; if anything, he slept more peacefully than before Jim had got home.

After what must have been twenty minutes, Jim returned from the kitchen with a steaming bowl of soup and smelling rather proud of himself. (The soup smelled good too, for the record.)

“That's quite the soup,” Bones remarked after Jim's explanation of its main features. In his flurry of 'being a good alpha', Jim had added half the contents of the kitchen to a can of tomato soup: corn, peas, rice, diced onion (which he'd first caramelized separately with some olive oil), minced garlic, and chopped leftover roast beef, all finally topped off with a dollop of sour cream, some grated cheddar, and a little fresh ground black pepper. It was complete enough to put many three-course meals to shame.

Jim shrugged, a thin curl of embarrassment in his scent. “How my dam used to make it: throw in whatever's on hand.” He scrubbed the fingers of one hand through his hair. “So, uh, 'old Kirk family recipe'?”

Bones laughed softly. “It looks really good, Jim. Smells good too.” He shifted a bit, frowning—how was he meant to move David without waking him up? More importantly, where was he meant to put David where he'd be upright enough to breathe still? “Um.” Bones chewed on his lower lip. “He needs to be upright so he can breathe—should we maybe put a bunch of pillows on the couch, and...?”

“I can hold him,” Jim offered. “Or...” Mischievous eyes falling to the bowl of soup in his hand, he teased, “I suppose I could just feed you while you hold him.”

Bones rolled his eyes. “Right, well, just put the bowl on the table then and pick somewhere comfortable to sit. He probably won't wake up unless we jostle him badly; your scent is familiar and soothing for him.”

He got David settled in Jim's arms on the couch then stretched out his own tired arms and shook out his sweat-damp shirt as he walked over to take a seat at the table. Jim had poured him a tall glass of water too, because of course. (Maybe the real surprise was that he hadn't also provided a glass of orange juice and a cup of green tea.)

“Are you having any?” Bones asked, noting the remaining soup in the pot.

“I ate at about six,” Jim replied. “Had some fish and chips and coleslaw—maybe not the healthiest, but it tasted good.” His expression turned thoughtful. “There were pumpkin seeds in the coleslaw, so I guess that's something.”

“Hmm.” Bones nodded, enjoying a bite of the soup—for something Jim had thrown together from leftovers after starting with a tin can, it really wasn't bad. At all. And maybe Bones had been hungrier than he'd thought.

“So have seconds if you like,” Jim continued. “Maybe I'll eat whatever's left so it doesn't go to waste; I think there's probably at least three bowls' worth there.”

“Yeah,” Bones agreed, eyeing the pot again. Maybe closer to four bowls, depending on the size of the bowls and how full a person wanted to make them.

“Can't really eat right now, though,” Jim continued. “Unless you wanted to spoon-feed me.”

Bones shook his head quietly as he stirred his spoon through his soup. “We already had the discussion about sexual harassment, Jim.”

Jim scoffed quietly. “Soup is sexual harassment now?” He quirked a disbelieving eyebrow in Bones' direction. “How does that work?”

“It depends on the context,” Bones replied, taking a bite of soup.

Jim chuckled. “And you're just jumping to the sexual context conclusion. You're like that teenage alpha looking at the inkblot test and blaming the psychiatrist for showing him 'all the dirty pictures'.”

Bones shrugged, taking another bite of soup. It wasn't like Jim was actually sexually harassing him. “Maybe I am.”

o0o

Bones sighed deeply and cursed his life and whatever gods or powers clearly hated him. Lifting his hand, he rapped his knuckles against Jim's office doorframe. The door was open, but Jim looked hard at work, so Bones hated to disturb him. Whatever it was Jim did, exactly, he earned a pretty damn good amount of money for it, so it must be important. Keeping the whole world safe, no doubt. Like a good alpha.

Bones had been working for Jim for almost exactly three months now, and David was currently at Carol's, so by rights Bones should've been staying out of Jim's way. Unless he had something pressing to discuss about David. Or an upcoming Jo visit. But no, this was all about Bones.

“Yeah?” Jim said, looking up. “Bones.” He smiled. “What can I do for you?”

Bones hovered a bit instead of coming in and having a seat like a civilized person would. Like a grown adult would. (Gods, he was almost a decade older than Jim; why couldn't he act like it?) He rubbed at the back of his neck. He probably smelled all kinds of nervous, worried, agitated, and guilty too. Just perfect. So professional. “I saw my doctor today.”

“Yeah?” Jim gestured to the empty chair. “Have a seat.” With a mostly inward sigh at his own stupidity, Bones sat. Jim turned his attention fully on him. “Is everything all right?”

“I'm not dying or anything,” Bones quickly clarified because that was clearly a hint of concern in Jim's now familiar, and thus much easier to read, scent. “I just...I'm gonna need some time off. In...the next month or so. It's not exactly...urgent.”

Jim cocked his head to one side, confusion evident in both his expression and his scent. “I...”

Twisting his lips with distaste, Bones scratched at his forearm. “Apparently when a person takes suppressants for as long as I have...” He blew out a breath. They hadn't told him any of this ten years ago when he first started on these suppressants. Or back when he'd started taking them the first time either. “The compounds eventually build up in the body, and it becomes toxic.” He grimaced. “My doctor ordered the blood work earlier this week, and today I got the results: I'm definitely in the early stages of toxicity.”

Sharper worry flooded Jim's scent. “What do you need? I mean, time off: absolutely. I could even work something out with Carol so David could stay there longer this time if you need—I know you said it wasn't urgent, but this sounds kind of...urgent. Do you need to go to a hospital? What sort of treatment are they recommending?”

Bones held up a hand. “It's really not urgent. My doctor just said this needs to be addressed before the end of the month. So it's not a 'tomorrow' kind of urgent, anyway.”

Jim let out a quiet breath, smelling a little less worried. (But just a little.) “Okay.”

But apparently Jim had no idea about suppressant toxicity either, so Bones was going to have to spell it out for him. He pressed his hands on either side of the bridge of his nose for a moment. “What I need to do is pretty simple, actually: I need to go off suppressants and go through a heat. Just one—the doctor said one should be enough, but they'll do another blood test after just to be sure.” He wrinkled his nose. “And maybe start on a slightly less toxic suppressant after that, because apparently an omega of my age doesn't really need the really strong ones anymore.” Probably not, anyway.

Of course, Jim just smelled more worried again. After a pause he said, “I had no idea suppressants were toxic.”

Bones shrugged. “Almost anything we put in our bodies can be toxic. Most medicines are to some degree. A lot of food, even completely natural food, is too. And a whole lot of things we come in contact with. Newsprint is toxic. Paint can be toxic. Most plastic is toxic.”

“Okay, but...” Jim held up a hand and pinched the bridge of his nose with the other. Shaking his head, he looked away. “Sorry, I don't really like to think about how the whole world is conspiring to kill my son; it makes me feel helpless and useless.”

“Sorry,” Bones said, guilt clenching in his gut. “Usually, if we drink enough water, get enough rest, and eat enough fruits and vegetables, our bodies are pretty good at flushing that sort of stuff out.”

“Right.” Jim nodded, eyes still kind of far away.

Bones shifted in his chair. “Sorry,” he said again. “I didn't mean to—”

“No,” Jim insisted, halting Bones' with a raised hand. “You were talking about you and I got sidetracked.” It made a lot of sense, actually: David was an omega. In a little over a decade he'd need to start taking suppressants as well. Maybe the science would have advanced by then and he'd be able to take safer ones. Science usually did advance, after all. (Bones sent a silent prayer of thanks to whatever gods might exist that Jo was an alpha—were she an omega, she'd need to be starting suppressants in just the next year or so.) Sighing, Jim met Bones' eyes. “How much time do you need off? Don't suppressants usually take a bit of time to wear off fully before you actually go into heat?”

“Usually,” Bones replied, “but there's something I can take to kick-start a heat. I'll take it two days after I stop the suppressants, so the whole process shouldn't take longer than twelve days.”

Jim's eyes narrowed. “Another incidentally toxic drug?”

One side of Bones' lips curled up. He shook his head. “No, it's actually a herbal concoction—one-hundred percent natural.” Though perhaps (and he wasn't about to say this out loud) not entirely devoid of toxicity.

“Okay.” Jim nodded. “So I guess I'm not seeing a problem, then. You already have two weeks off the next time David's at Carol's.” He narrowed his eyes slightly. “Does that work for...everyone involved?” Bones looked at him blankly and Jim narrowed his eyes further. “You do have someone who'll take care of you through the actual heat, right?”

Bones sighed, rubbing at his forearm. “I figured I'd book a hotel room and just wait it out—how bad could it be?”

Jim stared at him. Or maybe glared at him. Finally he asked, “Are you serious?”

Rolling his eyes, Bones heaved a sigh. “Look, I don't know if you've noticed, but I don't exactly have an active social life.”

“A family member,” Jim suggested. “Just to make sure you stay hydrated.” Bones shook his head. Jim's gaze hardened and irritation prickled in his scent. “People die attempting to go through heats alone, Bones.” Bones rolled his eyes again, scoffing, but Jim pressed on, “There's got to be someone who'd prefer helping you through your heat to the very real prospect of you dying.”

Bones glared down at his folded hands in his lap. “My family—I know exactly what they'd say. They've never quite forgiven me for breaking up with Joss; they'd tell me to ask her to help me.”

“Would she?” Jim asked.

Bones swallowed painfully. “Yeah. She would. She'd do it for Jo's sake. And because she's not actually a horrible human being and doesn't actually want me to suffer. But that's not fair to either Joss or me.”

“Okay.” Jim sighed. “I mean, I do get that. Carol and I were never really...serious. At all. But I do kind of have some idea what that would feel like. The...awkwardness of it.” Right 'awkward'—that was how Jim would see it, wasn't it? Not humiliating. Not like a final, broken admission that Bones was entirely incapable of actually finding even a simple, casual relationship. Jim pressed his lips together, grimaced. “How—how long has it been since you and Joss broke up?”

“The divorce was finalized ten years ago,” Bones replied, eyes on his hands. “But we knew it wasn't going to work for at least a year before that.”

“And...an entire decade isn't long enough for your family to...” Jim sighed, looking away. He looked back. “...get used to the idea?”

Bones' lips twisted with distaste. He wasn't exactly eager to bring up the subject. It probably wasn't the smartest response, but he shrugged. Because he'd honestly rather not know if they'd managed to move past Joss and the breakup. And Bones did, technically, have time. After a fashion. He could put in an actual effort and try to find an alpha or even a beta who liked him well enough to...help him through a heat. But he'd had a decade already. This was embarrassing. This was stupid. This was embarrassing because Bones was stupid. He was a grown adult who couldn't figure out how to handle his own life even at a barely passing level. Finally he muttered, “I'd rather do it alone.”

Jim rubbed his palms over his face and levelled a tired look at Bones. “Look, I don't want to have to try to explain to my very young son that his beloved nanny died because he was grumpy, stubborn, and antisocial.”

Bones threw up his hands. “Look, you're the only one I really know and trust well enough, so unless you're offering to help me out yourself—”

They stared at each other in silence for a few breaths. Then Jim said quietly, “Do you mean that?”

Making an angry noise, Bones looked away and folded his arms across his chest. It wasn't that he didn't trust Jim. And Jim certainly smelled okay—well, generally good, actually. But Jim was his boss. “Obviously I don't want my boss to help me through a heat, Jim. Don't be ridiculous.”

“Okay,” Jim said quietly, voice and scent subdued. “But someone has to do it, Bones. If you try to do this alone, I will call an ambulance on you so you can spend your heat sedated in an ER.”

Bones rubbed a hand over his face. “That would almost completely negate the entire point of my going into heat in the first place.” He let out a rough, unhappy breath. “I asked the doctor, and she said being sedated for the heat wasn't a viable option.” His lips twisted with displeasure. “I'd have to go through at least ten sedated heats to get the same detoxing effect.”

“So you're doctor's okay with this whole insane 'wait it out' alone plan?” Jim demanded.

“Well, I didn't actually bring it up with her,” Bones shot back.

Jim pressed the heels of his hands to his eyes. Folding his arms on his desk once again, he regarded Bones across it. “Well, maybe you should—because your doctors got you into this mess in the first place, and it's kind of their responsibility to fix it.”

Bones scoffed quietly. “No one ever forced me to take suppressants, Jim, least of all a doctor.”

“You can't function in a civilized society without them!” Jim shot back, a distinctly righteous anger flaring in his scent. “They should godsdamn well make some that aren't godsdamned poison!”

Bones pressed his fingertips to the sides of his forehead, sighing. “Maybe.” He rested his elbows on the arms of his char. “I mean, I guess so. I would hope they're already doing their best.”

Jim blew out a breath and turned from side to side a bit in his chair, eyes on his desk. Looking up, his eyes found Bones' face again. “You know me offering to help you through your heat isn't specifically about sex, right? I could just make sure you drink enough water, things like that.”

“I know.” Looking down at his lap, Bones sighed. “Even so, though...wouldn't your girlfriends maybe have opinions? I don't think most people would be okay with their boyfriend helping some random omega through his heat. Let alone helping his omega nanny through his heat.”

“I don't have girlfriends,” Jim clarified. “I have multiple people who I sometimes date. Sometimes at the same time. But none exclusively and none seriously.”

“Right. Fine.” Bones rubbed his hands over his face. That's actually what he'd thought, but... Maybe it was easier if he piled extra excuses onto the 'why this would be a terrible idea' pile. He shifted a bit in his chair. The thing was, Jim was right: trying to go through a heat alone was something like playing Russian Roulette. As a parent—hell, as a nanny upon whom a little boy depended—it was godsdamned irresponsible for him to even consider if he had any other viable option. He shifted again. He rubbed his hands over his face. “Look, you're right, okay? I shouldn't be considering doing this alone. It would be like driving without a seat belt. People who depend on me—my daughter, David, you...” He sighed. “You all deserve better than that.”

“That's a somewhat depressingly short list,” Jim observed. “But I do get what you're saying.”

Bones rolled his eyes. “Because I'm agreeing with you.”

Jim chuckled softly. “I guess. But the point is...you do need someone to help you.”

Bones wrapped his arms tightly across his chest, looking away towards the corner of the room. “Yeah.”

“So...” Jim tapped the end of a pen against the top of his desk. “It's completely up to you who that person is—I'm not trying to say it has to be me.”

“No kidding.” Bones let out an annoyed huff. The problem was: he didn't really have any options. It was just Jim or Joss, really. And that wasn't even really a question. He sighed. “I'm not objecting because I don't like you; it's just it would be really weird, since you're my boss.”

Jim nodded. “Okay. Yeah, I mean—I guess I can understand where you're coming from there. This is a little different than, say, Chris patching me up when I get shot.” He flashed Bones an apologetic grin. “Or even that one time we were stranded and I drank bad water, threw up for the better part of an hour, and spent the next eighteen pouring off sweat, leaning on his shoulder, and whimpering like a very unhappy dog. And of course, sweating all over him.” His lips pulled back in a wince. “Heats of course are just... Well, there's that whole other layer of awkwardness. And...intimacy, I guess.” Looking at Bones, his features softened. “But I'm not just your boss, Bones; I'm also your friend.”

Bones offered him a weak smile. Obviously he could use a few more friends. He'd never been very good at making them outside a work or school situation, though. Or really keeping in touch with any of the ones he ever had made, for that matter. “So you...you'd actually do it, then.”

“Yeah.” Jim shrugged. “If that's what you decide. And—you don't have to decide at this exact moment, right? Your doctor said you've got until the end of the month.”

“To actually have the heat,” Bones reminded him, shifting in his seat and readjusting his folded arms. “Not to deliberate and finally come to a decision.”

“Well.” Jim fiddled with his pen. “You still have a couple of days, anyway.”

Bones sat quietly for a short while. His heart beat uncomfortably and he probably smelled awful: all anxiety and frustration and shame and annoyance. “I could take a few days,” he finally said, “but I'd still come to the same conclusion, because nothing's going to magically change in two days: my body will still be slowly toxifying and I won't have a magically-appearing throng of eager alpha suitors lining up to offer their services.”

“You know it doesn't have to be an alpha,” Jim pointed out. “If you'd prefer—”

But Bones cut him off, snapping, “I know that!” He gestured angrily with one hand. “I don't really have any beta or omega friends lined up to help me out either.” He sighed, rubbing his hands roughly over his face. “Sorry.” This wasn't Jim's fault, and it wasn't fair to take it out on him. And...he really shouldn't be trying to talk his only viable candidate out of this, but... He levelled a look at Jim. “If we do this, it's going to be messy and ugly and uncomfortable—you know that, right?” It would change the way both of them saw the other. Fundamentally. There'd be no going back.

“Yes,” Jim said. “I'm aware of what heats tend to entail.”

Bones grimaced. “I might throw up on you.” He'd thrown up on Joss' feet the first time he was in heat. Thankfully they'd been in the bathroom when it happened so she didn't have to scrub vomit out of the carpet.

Jim nodded. “I know; I'm very aware, Bones, that heats aren't neat or pretty or glamorous or sexy or anything like that. I'm not one of those moron alphas who watches porn and then expects real life to resemble it in the slightest.”

Bones quirked an eyebrow at Jim. “So you still watch it, but you realize it's fantasy?”

Jim grinned crookedly, eyes sparking mischief. “Exactly!” Bones rubbed at his forehead with his fingertips. Right. What the hell was he getting himself into here? Could his life be any more of a train-wreck? “Oh come on, Bones,” Jim said, “everyone watches porn. No need to get all morally-exasperated with me.”

Bones sighed, shifting a bit in his chair. The thing was, yes, apparently 'everyone' did watch porn. Well, everyone over the age of about fifteen or so. Just...not Bones himself. He'd tried a few times, but couldn't find anything that wasn't off-putting. It always left him with a vague sick feeling in his gut and an unpleasant taste in his mouth. He was very likely watching the wrong kind, but if clicking on what looked intriguing wasn't the best way to find something appealing, he wasn't sure what would be.

“Bones?” Jim tried gently, and of course he'd be worried. Bones probably smelled—and looked!—a mess. He shoved one hand back through his hair. Hell, he was a mess.

“Nothing,” Bones said, shooting Jim a brief look out of the corner of his eye and waving a placating hand. “Just—I've never really...enjoyed porn. Personally.”

Jim twisted his lips thoughtfully, shifting in his seat and resting his forearms on the edge of his desk. “Well, it's not really made for omegas; for the most part it's generally by betas, for betas—while making some effort to appeal to alphas.” He tilted his head a little to one side. “At least as an afterthought.”

“Right.” Bones nodded. That was probably the problem in a nutshell.

“And most of it is appallingly written,” Jim added, “poorly shot, and abysmally directed, done on a practically non-existent budget, and usually with questionable ethics.”

Turning to look at Jim properly again, Bones twisted his eyebrows. A somewhat disbelieving smile tugged at one side of his lips. “And yet you watch it.”

Jim shrugged. “It's like junk food. You know it's not good for you, and it probably doesn't even taste as good as any random item off the menu at a halfways decent restaurant—but it takes so little effort, and that's the main appeal.”

Bones fidgeted a bit with his hands and shot Jim a look from under his brows. “So my tastes are too refined?”

“Most likely.” Jim offered him a lopsided smile. “And I'm a philistine.” He tilted his head a little to one side. “And, I guess so are the vast majority of people.” He shrugged. “They usually are.”

“Right.” Bones shifted in his chair, relaxing somewhat. “Good to know.”

“You smell exhausted, Bones,” Jim commented.

“Yeah, sorry.” Bones shoved both hands back through his hair. Usually he had far more control than this. But the prospect of having to go into heat... Of having Jim see him in heat... Well, he might as well be hurtling through the infinite blackness of space in a rocket-powered tin can like those people on that one show Jo liked. The one with the flesh-eating space zombies. And the evil government goons. Bones sighed deeply. “I guess it's been...” It wasn't every day, certainly, that he learned that he needed to go into heat to avoid dying—and that to avoid dying from that, he had to let his boss help him through it. “...a really long day.”

“No doubt,” Jim agreed. His scent softened with gentle concern. “Get some sleep. We can go over the particulars of your upcoming heat when you've had some time to process all of this.”

“Yeah.” Bones pushed himself up to stand on slightly wobbly legs. Yuck, ugh. Emotions could go to hell. He tried to offer Jim a smile. “Good idea. And thanks—for...being so understanding. And willing to help.”

“Anytime,” Jim replied.

And he probably meant it too.

o0o

Bones spent the next day hiding in his room.

It was what he did most days while David was at Carol's, unless he needed to pick up groceries or whatever. But it felt a lot more like hiding this time.

He took a long shower followed by a long bath, took a nap, then spent some time doing yoga. He'd learned a little yoga while pregnant with Jo—he'd never actually taken a proper yoga class, but it had been part of a pregnancy class.

He drank some orange juice and a lot of water. He always did his best to stay hydrated—and while it wouldn't be nearly enough to flush the buildup of suppressants from his body, it certainly couldn't hurt.

Jim hadn't made it clear how much time, exactly, he'd meant by 'some time to process all of this', but they'd really need to have a proper conversation about the details before David got back from Carol's this time so they could do the whole heat thing the next time David was at Carol's...so that didn't really give Bones a lot of 'processing' time. Still, one day couldn't exactly be excessive.

Chapter Text

Bones finally emerged the following evening shortly after he'd heard Jim come home from work.

He found Jim in the kitchen wearing blue-grey sweats and pouring himself a glass of water. “Hey,” Jim said, offering him a smile. “I was thinking of ordering in—feel like joining me?”

Bones shrugged, rubbing the back of his neck. “Sure.”

Taking a swallow of water, Jim asked, “How's Greek sound?”

Bones twisted his brows in confusion. “There's Greek takeout?”

“You can get almost anything takeout,” Jim pointed out.

Rolling his eyes, Bones ducked his head slightly. “Right.” He glanced up to meet Jim's gaze once again. “But they do delivery?”

“Sure,” Jim replied, setting his glass of water on the counter. “Little place not far from here. They don't advertise it, but they've done it for me before.” Which likely translated into 'they don't actually deliver, but they do for Jim Kirk'. “And it's pretty good too. Healthy even, probably.” Pursing his lips, he narrowed his eyes at Bones. “Do you like feta cheese?”

“Yeah.” Bones leaned against the kitchen island. “Usually.”

Nodding, Jim moved toward the phone. “You want chicken, lamb, or beef?”

“Um, chicken, I guess,” Bones replied.

As Jim made the order, Bones poured himself a glass of water. Even though Doctor Chapel had made it clear that all omegas on suppressants needed to take a break eventually, he still couldn't shake the feeling that maybe he could have gone longer if he'd taken better care of himself. Apparently ten years was on the long side of the normal range, especially in older omegas—younger omegas tended to detox their systems quicker and more efficiently. Just another wonderful perk of getting older. Sighing, Bones wandered into the living room and took a seat on the couch.

Jim joined him, saying, “You seem..troubled.” Which probably meant, 'you smell vaguely distressed and it's putting my alpha instincts all on high alert'.

Bones made a face, setting his glass of water on the coffee table. “Just thinking about some things my doctor mentioned recently.” Turning a little towards Jim, he added, “For example: younger omegas can usually stay on suppressants for longer because their bodies are just naturally better at detoxing.”

Taking a sip of his own water, Jim nodded slowly. “That makes sense, I guess. Most omegas start suppressants at, what—sixteen?”

“Fifteen,” Bones corrected. “At least, that's when I started. We were told that the earliest omegas could go into heat was sixteen, so we needed to start taking the suppressants a few months before that.” He grimaced. “No one wants to deal with a sixteen-year-old going into heat—though, I've heard of rare cases where an omega is allergic to something in the suppressants, so of course in those cases they can't take them.”

“I imagine they're sedated for the duration,” Jim commented.

Bones nodded, reaching for his glass and taking another swallow of water. “I'd imagine so, yes.”

“Gods,” Jim said, giving his head a little shake. “I hope David doesn't end up being allergic to them.” Taking a sip of his water, he shook his head again. “That could lead to missing a lot of school.” He tilted his head a bit, turning towards Bones. “Don't omegas naturally go into heat about twice a year?”

Bones nodded again. “Yup. Well, female omegas can have them more often and male omegas sometimes only have them once a year, but I think the average overall is still about every six months.” Pausing, he pressed his lips together. “I guess, though, if an omega had access to this 'kick-start' concoction they're offering me, well, they could possibly purposefully time their heats to fall during summer holidays and winter or spring break.”

“Still,” Jim said with a quiet laugh. “That's missing a lot of valuable holiday time.” He shook his head. “Not sure which I'd pick, given the choice.”

“Maybe they'll invent more hypoallergenic suppressants eventually,” Bones mused, replacing his glass on the coffee table. “And less toxic ones, just in general.”

Jim hummed in agreement. “I hope so.”

“So anyway.” Wincing slightly, Bones shifted on the couch, folding his hands in his lap. “We do need to discuss...details.”

Jim nodded. “We do. I'll have to take a week off work to take care of you, and I've already talked to Chris about that—he says just let him know when, exactly.” Something unhappy or worried must have spiked in Bones' scent, because Jim clarified, “I just said I've got an omega friend who needs to go through a heat because suppressants are toxic—and by the way, he didn't know that either.”

Snorting softly, Bones twitched his shoulders in a shrug. “I guess they're not really publicizing it.” He scrubbed the fingers of one hand back through his hair. “I mean, maybe they're worried omegas wouldn't take the suppressants if this was common knowledge. And then we'd have omegas going into heat on crowded subways. Or while flying over the pacific ocean—which would be really fun, if the omega going into heat was the pilot.”

“Right...” Jim's eyes narrowed and his brows drew together. “In any case...the current system is still undeniably flawed if omegas like yourself can be taking suppressants for ten years and then be told, 'Oh, yeah, by the way, these things will eventually kill you'.”

Bones shrugged. It really didn't help the case, but he still said, “Suppressant toxicity is very rarely fatal on its own, but the symptoms—extreme fatigue, blurred vision, numbness, and reduced motor control—can lead to—”

“Death,” Jim filled in.

Bones winced, re-folding his hands in his lap. “Yeah.”

“So,” Jim said with a distinct air of changing the direction of the conversation, “did you want to get into the particulars of how we're handling your upcoming heat before or after we eat?”

Bones shrugged. “I figure it's better to get things decided sooner rather than leaving it to the last minute.”

Jim nodded. “I agree. I've actually been doing a bit of reading up on omegas and heats. And I think...it would probably help if we got a bit more used to touching each other beforehand. So it's not so sudden when you do go into heat.”

Bones shot him a dubious look, brows twisting. “Have you ever done this before?”

“Done what?” Jim asked innocently.

Bones sighed. “Helped an omega through a heat!”

“No,” Jim replied, frowning slightly. “But I have read up on it—”

“In the last two days,” Bones cut in, exasperated.

“We did a whole unit on heats back in high school when I was sixteen!” Jim sighed, mild exasperation swirling in his scent. “I was just looking for any more up-to-date information—as well as anything I might have forgotten.”

Bones held up his hands. “Okay, okay. Sorry.” Reaching for his water, he took a deep swallow then shot Jim a look. “It's just that—what they taught me in high school—which, I suppose was nearly a decade before you yourself got there—didn't even begin to prepare me for the first time I went into heat.” He replaced his glass on the coffee table then looked over at Jim again. “I expected it to be...uncomfortable. I didn't expect it to feel like I was dying.” Screwing up his face, he shook his head. “They tell you giving birth is so hard, that it hurts and all that—but after being in heat...I dunno. I guess giving birth wasn't all that bad.”

Jim put his hand on Bones' knee, and Bones' eyes flew to Jim's face. “I can stop if you need me to,” Jim told him. “It's just—”

“Reassuring touch is supposed to help calm omegas,” Bones filled in. Sighing, he rubbed a hand over his mouth. “Yeah. And I'm—not exactly calm at the moment.”

Jim's thumb rubbed slowly against the side of Bones' knee through the material of his drawstring pants. “This is—really scary for you,” he said, voice low and eyes on the hand that covered Bones' knee. He gave his head a little shake. “I'm starting to understand that.” He cleared his throat, and continued, “I was actually there when Carol was in labour—for the end part, anyway, the last few hours before she gave birth. They recommended she do it in a hospital, her being an alpha and all.” He cleared his throat again. “She was fine at first—all bright eyes and sharp smiles, walking up and down the hallways in her hospital gown like she was on a runway, snapping at the nurses. I think she might have actually enjoyed that part. But she got to, uh... I can't remember what it's called, but they had a name for it. She started shaking and swearing—cussing out the nurses—”

“Transition,” Bones guessed, remembering from his own birth experience.

“Yeah.” Jim nodded. “That sounds right. Anyway, she was cussing me out too, saying I'd done this to her, blaming me for not using a condom—which, I mean—” Shrugging, Jim slid one hand back through his hair. “—she did have a point—but she'd never blamed me, specifically, before that; she'd always kind of just laughed it off and implied we were equally to blame. But she, uh—when she got to that point in labour...she started crying, said she wanted to go home, that she didn't want to be there, didn't want to do it anymore—and she said I should have my 'balls cut off with a rusty silver spoon'. Which I thought was oddly specific. And then she doubled over and threw up on the floor. The nurses had some kind of cardboard dish they tried to get under her face in time—I guess they've seen it enough to see it coming—but she pushed them away.”

“Yeah, um.” Bones shifted a bit, sinking back into the couch cushions a little more. “I threw up when I was at that point in labour too, but the birth-assistants managed to catch it in their little dish.” Pressing his lips together, he shrugged. “It was mostly stomach acid; I hadn't had anything but water in hours.”

Jim wrinkled his nose, shifting a bit closer to Bones. “Throwing up is still awful—and that was my point, I guess: from everything I've seen and heard, being in labour is apparently awful. Carol even ended up needing stitches—because the baby's head tore her while it was coming out—which I guess I didn't expect but is actually pretty common, especially when an alpha gives birth.” His lips twisted with distaste. “And...” Drawing a slightly shaky breath, he let it out. “If you found being in heat to be worse—”

“Well,” Bones cut in, “I'm not so sure I'd say it was 'worse'.” It had certainly had more 'positives' while it was happening, like how wonderful Joss smelled and the shocking relief each time she touched him. Of course, being in labour resulted in an actual baby he could hold and kiss and smell, so that was obviously an upside there. And at least for him, being in labour had been over quicker. But being in heat, he'd actually been able to sleep though parts of it, something he hadn't managed even in the early stages of labour. Finally, he just told Jim, “It's...a different kind of awful. And also...” He shrugged one shoulder. “I didn't actually tear when I was giving birth—it's a lot less common for omegas to tear.”

One side of Jim's lips curved upwards. “Lucky you.”

Bones laughed softly. “Yeah.”

Just as the silence between them was stretching to the point of discomfort, a knock sounded at the door and Jim hopped up to get it. As expected, it was the food, which smelled really good as Jim brought it over. “Did you want to eat here?” he asked, looking from the coffee table to the kitchen table. “Or at the table?”

Bones shrugged. “Table's more civilized, I guess.” He offered Jim a lopsided smile. “But then I'd have to stand up and move.”

Chuckling, Jim set the containers down on the coffee table. “I'll just grab us some forks then.”

o0o

“So,” Jim said as he cleared away the takeout containers, “you did want to discuss the specific particulars of how we're going to handle your upcoming heat.”

Bones shifted somewhat unhappily on the couch. They'd chatted mostly about the food and David while they ate, and having once again to confront this unpleasant reality wasn't exactly welcome. No matter that it was necessary. “Yeah.”

“Should we maybe make some notes?” Jim asked over his shoulder as he walked to the kitchen. “I think there's a notebook and some pens in the cupboard thing under the coffee table.”

There were, so Bones pulled them out and set them on top of the coffee table, saying, “Yeah.”

Returning to the couch, Jim sat facing Bones with one knee folded. “So I guess—” He blew out a breath. “Well, the biggest question—the most important question—is...sex.”

“Yeah.” Bones looked down at his lap, twisting his hands tightly together. That was sort of the whole point of a heat, after all. Make the omega really horny so they get properly knocked up and thereby ensure the survival of the species. All very adaptive, apparently, for how ridiculously inconvenient it still ended up being for everyone involved.

“Look, I just—” Jim tried. “My only goal here is for you to be safe and healthy, and for you to get through this with the least amount of suffering possible.” That sounded more like three, albeit related, goals, but Bones didn't say anything. “I want you to understand that.” Jim regarded Bones seriously. “I'm not offering to do this because I'm expecting to get orgasms out of the deal.” He was trying to be helpful, trying to reassure Bones. That much was clear even without the careful calm flooding his scent. “If you don't already have any knotting dildos, we can buy some.”

Bones tried very hard not to squirm unhappily. This really was the main problem, the main reason Bones was so twisted up over the whole thing. And as much as he'd really rather not, he kind of had to make himself be honest with Jim. Looking away across the living room, Bones twisted his hands tighter together. “The thing is, Jim...”

“Yeah?” Jim prompted, gently encouraging.

Bones drew a deep breath and let it out a little too quickly. “I—I probably will want sex.” He bit his lip hard enough to hurt. “With you.”

“Well, that's normal, isn't it?” Jim laughed softly. “You'll be in heat. That's, um...sort of the whole point.”

“But you're my boss,” Bones objected.

“I'm not your boss while we're doing this, Bones,” Jim countered. “I'm your friend.”

Bones let out a rough breath, eyes on his thumb as it rubbed the back of his other hand. Their being friends did nothing to negate the fact that they were also employer and employee, but at least it was a distraction of sorts. “I've never had sex with a 'friend' before either. For the record.”

“Well,” Jim replied, “it's not so bad, in my experience. Might even be better than some random hookup, one-night-stand thing, depending on how you look at it.” He shrugged one shoulder. “But Bones,” he added, voice serious as he reached out one hand to cover Bones' wrist, “if you tell me, now, that you don't want to have sex while you're in heat—no matter what you say when you are in heat—we won't do it then, all right?”

Bones shot him a dubious look. “So I don't get to change my mind?”

“Well.” Ducking his head, Jim chuckled nervously. “We should decide now what all is and isn't going to be options. If you're in heat and begging for a knot, I could help you with the knotting dildo, as an example. That's still technically 'sex', I guess, but it's not really on the same level.”

Bones covered his face with both hands. “Yeah. Um, the knotting dildo—that should be an option.” That was probably best, if he could get by with it.

Jim shifted a bit closer, one hand gently gripping Bones' bicep and the other coming to rest on his thigh. He still smelled all reassuring and calm. Because apparently Bones still needed that. “Okay,” Jim said. “Do you...uh, own any?”

Bones' lips pulled back in a pained grimace. “I don't have any, and I've never used one.”

“So we'll pick some up.” Grabbing the notebook, Jim jotted something down.

Bones shifted uncomfortably. “But what if—?” He swallowed roughly and forced the words out: “What if that's not enough?”

“Do you want penetrative sex to be an option?” Jim asked, pen still in his hand and poised above the paper.

Bones somehow managed to hold in a manic laugh at the absurdity of all this. He shot Jim a hard look. “Do you? I mean, if I wanted it, would you just go along with it out of this sense of obligation—?”

“Bones,” Jim said, setting the notebook and pen aside and laying one hand on Bones' thigh again, “you are incredibly hot.” His eyes fell to where his hand rested on Bones' thigh. “And I care about you.” His eyes met Bones' again. “So believe me when I tell you that it would not at all be a hardship.”

Making a quiet frustrated sound, Bones looked away. “Always with the sexual harassment.”

Jim spluttered a bit, laughing as he drew back. “Hey!” he objected. “I'm just offering sex here as an option that you indicated you might want.”

Resting his head on the back of the couch, Bones rolled it to one side to look at Jim. “You really think I'm hot?”

Jim's features pinched a bit, but amusement warmed his gaze. “Is there a safe answer to that question?”

Bones rolled his eyes. “How about the honest one?”

“Well...” Jim rubbed at the back of his neck. “If I say 'yes', then your—repeated—accusations of sexual harassment apparently are...justified. Somewhat. But if I lie and say 'no', then you'll be horribly offended—and it will probably also throw a rather large spanner in the works of how we're supposed to be dealing with your heat.”

Bones offered him a crooked smile. “You could have just said you found me passable. Like 'five out of ten' or however that scale works.”

“But you're more like a ten,” Jim whispered, fingertips brushing a lock of hair off Bones' forehead.

“I am not!” Bones objected, laughing as he jerked back from Jim's touch. “I'm like...a seven, maybe. Or an eight on a good day if you were being generous. You're the ten.”

“So you find me attractive,” Jim said, voice low like he was trying to be sexy. Ridiculous levels of self-satisfaction were rolling off him like smoke from a fire.

Bones rolled his eyes. “Everyone finds you attractive! You're the hot, hunky, ridiculously good-looking guy who even smells amazing. You're so hot you can manage to convince two people to date you at the same time!” He rolled his eyes again, scoffing. “Do you really need me to further stroke your ego by pointing out what the entire population of the planet has already unanimously agreed?”

Pulling back slightly, Jim laughed softly, pleasure swirling in his scent. “Maybe I didn't realize I was quite as hot as all that.” He shook his head, smiling. “But really...you know, not everyone has the same tastes; I've been turned down—and this will probably shock you, but it's true: I've been turned down more often than not.” He shrugged. “Maybe I look like your standard-issue underwear model, but...apparently looks aren't everything.”

“Well, no,” Bones admitted with a sigh. “They're not. But—” He shrugged. “They really don't hurt.”

“So you find me attractive,” Jim prodded, eyes flashing mischief.

“Oh, for—” Bones shoved both hands back through his hair. “Yes! Absolutely yes, and you're my boss, so I damn well shouldn't!”

Jim shrugged one shoulder. “I'm pretty sure if it's wrong to lust after your boss, it's at least...five times as wrong? To lust after your employee.”

“Yeah, well,” Bones argued, “if we'd both just kept it to ourselves and acted like everything was normal...” He blew out a rough sigh. “But I had to go get toxic levels of suppressants in my system and need to go through a heat.”

“About that,” Jim replied, reaching for the notebook again. “You should know that I am at least reasonably careful in my sexual encounters, and I get myself tested quite regularly. I'm not interested in putting you at risk, so when I say 'penetrative sex', we are talking about sexual intercourse with a condom.” He tapped the end of the pen against the page. “Did you have an answer on penetrative sex and knotting?” He bit his lip, shooting Bones a look. “As...options.”

Bones sighed. “Yeah—yes.” He rubbed a hand roughly over his face. “There's at least a ninety-eight percent chance I'm going to beg you to knot me.” Arousal spiked in Jim's scent as the pen scratched across the paper. Bones tried to ignore it. Honestly, considering the conversation they'd been having, it was probably a testament to Jim's rather unexpected level of self-control that he'd kept that in check so long. “And—I mean, I remember how awful my first heat was—even with the respite that knotting gave—so, um, yeah. I mean, if you're—uh— If you—” The scent of Jim's arousal was distracting. Bones twisted his hands together and tried to think about boring things.

“If I want to knot you,” Jim filled in, voice low and eyes on the paper in front of him. “Bones, there's about a one-hundred percent chance that I'll want to.” He met Bones' gaze briefly then turned his attention to the page again. He must have been reining in and controlling his scent, because calm flooded out again to replace the arousal. “Just so we're clear, though: we'll try the knotting dildos first and then, if you're verbally requesting my knot at that point—”

Letting out a shaky breath, Bones nodded. “Yeah. Just, um—follow my lead, I guess?”

“Now.” Jim frowned thoughtfully. “Is there anything you'd rather I not do—either in a sexual context or otherwise—or anything you'd absolutely say 'no way, no matter what'?” He met Bones' eyes, expression serious. “So there's no surprises while you're in heat.”

“Um.” Bones bit his lip. “Well...” His face heated and his hand shook a little as he scrubbed it back though his hair. “You can hold me down. Uh, on my back. Not—I'd prefer not on my front.” Nodding, Jim quickly moved the pen's tip over the paper. “Um...” What sorts of things did Jim even have in mind? Well, there was one thing... Joss had learned this the hard way when he threw up on her feet: “Don't—um, don't yell at me?” Jim nodded again, dutifully making notes. Bones bit his lip, looking away. He let out a frustrated breath. “Look, I don't even— I don't really know...”

“Can I use my mouth?” Jim suggested. “As an example. On your cock. Or on your vulva.”

Bones' brows drew together as he turned narrowed eyes on Jim, just trying to process— “Why would you want to—?”

“Because it feels good?” Jim shrugged, laughing softly. “I like doing it. And most people do like receiving oral, but not everyone's the same, so...”

“I...” Bones tugged a bit at the hair on the back of his head. “I guess I wouldn't know—I've...never done that.”

“Wait, you've never—?” Jim just sounded so disbelieving.

“Look, Joss and I got married when we were both nineteen!” Bones snapped. “We didn't even have internet porn—how were either of us supposed to know what sort of things people did? We—you know, you put the penis in the vagina; we knew that part. And we both liked that part. And then we had a baby, and I didn't want sex anymore. And then our marriage fell apart—and I'm not sure at what point in there we were supposed to figure out all these special, fancy, complicated things.” He let out a frustrated breath. “Maybe at some point when Joss was busy working or I was busy nursing a baby every one to two hours and changing poopy diapers almost as often! Or when we were both trying to keep the place clean—trying not to get buried under an avalanche of laundry and dishes—so social services didn't come and take the baby!”

“Okay,” Jim said quietly. “But...since then...” A frown flickered across his features. “It's been ten years...” Bones let out a frustrated huff, curling in on himself a bit. “Bones,” Jim said quietly. “Surely...in all that time...”

“No.” Bones clenched his teeth. “It wasn't important; I've had better things to do with my time. Like work. And spending time with my daughter.”

“You...” Jim tiled his head to one side, still looking bewildered. “Are you—are you saying you've had sex with one person in your entire life?”

Yes,” Bones replied. Why was that so difficult a concept to grasp? Surely he wasn't the only person on the planet to have done so. But then...most of the others were probably still married to that one person. So maybe he really was in an odd situation. But it had never seemed important. Was he meant to have just gone out and had sex for the sake of having sex? Just to say he had? Like some sort of accomplishment? Some sort of bragging rights?

“And that was ten years ago,” Jim added. “That you had sex.”

Bones shrugged. “More like twelve, I guess.”

Jim blew out a breath. “Holy shit.”

“What?” Bones demanded, rolling his eyes.

Playfulness sparked in Jim's eyes, and through his quiet laughter while shaking his head as warm amusement bloomed in his scent he said, “No wonder you're so uptight.”

Jim caught up to Bones in the hallway, catching him by the arm and saying, “Bones.”

What?” Bones replied, rounding on him. Knowing full well he was overreacting and somehow unable to stop. He wasn't even in heat—what was his excuse?

“I'm sorry,” Jim said.

Bones glared at him. “Sorry for what? For me being uptight?”

“It was a joke, Bones,” Jim countered, sounding exasperated.

“The kind of joke that's 'funny because it's true',” Bones shot back. “You think I'm uptight, and—even better—you think it's funny.”

“I think you're adorable,” Jim responded, hands gentle on Bones' biceps. “You're kind and generous and responsible and respectable. And you've been under a lot of stress for a while now.” He offered Bones a smile equal parts apologetic and hopeful. “If you're 'uptight', it's because of that. Because of your daughter moving away, and you starting a new job, and your life being turned upside down, and now you've found out your suppressants have been trying to kill you so you've got to go through a heat—which, seriously, Bones? If I were having to go through a heat, I'd probably be drinking myself into a stupor to avoid having to face reality. Actually—” He grinned. “Forget 'probably'; that's exactly what I'd be doing.”

“Well.” Bones sighed, deflating a little. “When you put it that way...”

Jim reached up and pressed a soft kiss to Bones' forehead. Pulling back again, he offered Bones an apologetic smile. “I can be an asshole sometimes.”

“Apology accepted.” Bones looked away, narrowing his eyes and letting out a soft huff. “Assuming that was an apology.”

“I—literally said the words 'I'm sorry',” Jim pointed out.

Fine,” Bones replied, rolling his eyes again. Because of course Jim had, and Bones had just brushed him off. “I guess it's very much accepted, then.”

“Okay.” Jim chuckled softly. “Good to know.” He took a step back, something unsure wavering in his expression and his scent. “Is there anything—?”

“I think I'm going to head to bed,” Bones said, offering Jim an apologetic grimace. It wasn't that late, but as much as he really did appreciate Jim's efforts to put him at ease, what he really needed at the moment was some space. “I think I need a bit of time to process all of this. Again.”

Jim's expression softened. “All right. Goodnight, then.”

“Yeah.” Bones offered Jim a soft half-smile. “Same to you.”

o0o

Bones laid awake in his bed that night, thinking. His mind wouldn't let go of one specific sexual thing—and wasn't that kind of odd, since he wasn't actually horny?

But really, once he got past the 'that's unsanitary' issue, there was perhaps something appealing about the idea of someone's mouth—probably specifically Jim's mouth—on his genitals. Because mouths were wet and warm, and, well, warm water in the shower felt good, right? (That was something he'd noticed decades ago. Before he even properly realized what genitals were for.)

And it wasn't like Jim was expecting Bones to use his own mouth on anything. What should Bones care what impractical things Jim wanted to put in his mouth? Or already had. Because Jim said he liked doing it. Enjoyed it. Which honestly made no sense at all, but different people liked different things. Bones himself liked mint juleps, something Joss never understood. But then, she never really liked mint at all. It reminded her too much of toothpaste. Which was pretty understandable, actually, even if most mint never had that effect on Bones himself.

But anyway, Jim had said not everyone liked 'oral'. There were probably a lot of very specific things when it came to sex that people liked, disliked, or were indifferent to. (Maybe people even made lists to keep track.)

Bones himself had never tried most of them. Hadn't even heard of most of them.

He blew out a breath and sat up in bed, looking over at his computer where it sat on the desk. It was old and clunky, but it still worked. He could, if he wanted, look up some of this. Hell, he could probably look up all of this. Wasn't that what the internet was for?

If he even knew where to start looking. Just type 'oral' or 'sex' or 'weird sex things' into Google and hope for the best?

He ran a hand over his face. He'd looked at porn before, and that had never ended well.

And really, how the hell was he supposed to know if he'd like doing something based on seeing people he knew nothing at all about pretend to like it for the camera?

There was always Wikipedia, of course, but that was probably too far in the other direction. Encyclopedias had a way of making anything sound boring.

Bones laid back down, folding his hands over his chest, considering. How did people like Jim learn about sex, anyway? Probably by doing it. By having as much sex as possible with as many people as possible.

Bones wasn't judging that approach from a 'moral' standpoint. It just didn't sound personally appealing. At all. It sounded very specifically unappealing.

Bones sighed deeply. What sounded appealing...was Jim. And that really was the problem, wasn't it? Bones could so easily fall for Jim. Jim, who was beautiful and brilliant and kind.

But anyone looking at their disparate histories would immediately see what a terrible mismatch they'd be.

So that was that. Bones and Jim could be friends; that was easy enough and had happened with so little effort. And as friends, they could tackle Bones' required heat together. But they could never be more than friends.

Well, obviously. Bones restrained himself from smacking himself in the forehead for ever letting his thoughts stray down this trail. Jim was Bones' boss, after all.

It was already weird enough that they were considering having sex.

Maybe he should have waited longer before having this whole 'upcoming heat' conversation with Jim. Everything was awkward now, and he still had a week before David came back and then another two weeks with David there before Bones' next two weeks off when he could actually go into heat.

And during all of that time, every time he looked at Jim he was going to think about sex.

Bones rubbed his hand over his face. Gods, this was going to be awkward.

Chapter Text

“I was thinking...” Jim said over brunch the next day. He held up a hand as he took a swallow of his orange juice. “And you can absolutely say no, and I won't push. But...”

Bones cocked his head to one side as he poked at the slices of nectarine on his waffles. (Jim not only had a waffle iron, but knew how to make pretty damn good waffles. It was just too bad they didn't have any blueberries to go with them.) “Yeah?” Bones prompted when Jim let the silence stretch out too long.

“Well,” Jim said, peeking at Bones from under his brows as he poked at his own food. “This is just a suggestion—like, a brainstorming suggestion—and you're free to tell me to shove it...”

Bones rolled his eyes. Taking a sip of his own juice he levelled an unimpressed look at Jim. “I got that part. Thanks. Might want to clarify just what I'm free to tell you to shove, or I might just tell you to shove everything.”

Smirking a bit, Jim muttered, “Isn't that what you do anyway?”

Bones rolled his eyes. He gestured to his plate. “I let you make me waffles, didn't I?”

“Thank you for that, by the way,” Jim said, catching Bones' wrist. He smiled softly, affection warm in his scent. “I appreciate—” He looked away. “I appreciate when you let me take care of you.”

“It makes you feel all useful and stuff,” Bones ribbed, nudging Jim's foot under the table. “Big alpha needs to feel needed. To feel like he's doing something that matters to someone.” One side of his lips curled upwards. “And especially about the food—that's a big thing for you, isn't it?”

Sighing, Jim rolled his eyes, still looking away. “It's a big thing for most alphas; I'm hardly unique.”

Smirking, Bones looked down at his plate as he cut a piece of waffle. “The soup was sexual harassment after all.”

Jim made a soft, annoyed sound. “I can want to take care of and provide for someone important to me without it being sexual!”

“But I'm 'like a ten',” Bones pointed out cheekily, taking a bite of his food and enjoying the fluffy sweetness of it all. “You've admitted you were lusting after me; you can't take that back now.”

“David was sick when I made you that soup!” Jim reminded him, smelling at least a little offended. “The last thing on my mind right then was sex.”

“Okay, okay.” Bones held up his hands. “Point taken.”

“You're exasperating,” Jim said, side-eyeing him as he took a swallow of his orange juice. “You know that?”

Bones shrugged. Not that Jim himself was really one to talk, but... “I've had a few people point that out.”

“Anyway.” Jim stared at his plate. “I was saying.” He sighed.

Worry curled in Bones' gut and he turned concerned eyes on Jim. Maybe this was something serious, and Bones was making it needlessly difficult. He tried to make his scent gentle and inviting. “Yeah.” He took a small sip of his juice. “You were saying.”

Jim turned helpless blue eyes on him. “It might help—” He bit his lip. “If you wanted—” He blew out a breath. “If we could, uh...practice, um, having sex—before your heat actually hits. Like, uh—” He held up his hands. “I mean, it could be helpful because—it's in a more relaxed setting. No pressure. No, you know, biological imperatives messing with your head. It might, um...help.”

Bones tilted his head a little to one side, considering. Maybe it made sense. The first time he had sex with Joss he hadn't been in heat. Hell, they both might have decided sex was not worth the trouble if their mutual first time had been while Bones was in heat. (Who would want their first time to include crying and vomit, after all? Yikes.) And Jim had apparently been reading about how omegas in heat responded better to familiar alphas, and to being touched in familiar ways. Back in high school Bones' sex ed teacher had alluded several times to how easy it was to 'spook' an omega in heat. How the hormones flooding their systems made them especially vulnerable, emotionally, so it was always important to help them feel safe. Given all that...Jim's suggestion really might help.

“Bones?” Jim said with an awkward little laugh. “Did—uh, did you hear what I said?”

“Yeah, sorry.” Bones held up a hand. “I'm just—thinking about it.”

“Oh.” Jim looked at what remained of his food. He poked at a bit of nectarine with his fork. “Okay.”

Bones made himself eat a few bites of his own food because it really was good and the longer he let it sit on his plate the soggier the waffle would get and the more the whipped cream would deflate... Eventually the nectarine would oxidize. So eventually none of it would be very good at all. Might as well enjoy it while he could. “I think,” he admitted finally, “I see your point. You might be right, even.” Jim's features morphed into a relieved smile and relief swelled like a cool mist in his scent. Bones offered him a mild smile. “You should be grateful I took what you said in good faith and didn't accuse you of sexual harassment.”

“Oh, believe me,” Jim said, holding up one hand as he chewed the last bite of his waffle, “I am. Very, very grateful.”

“You're still my boss, though,” Bones pointed out as he scraped the last of the whipped cream off his plate with his fork. “So...I mean...” He grimaced. “Right now you're suggesting sex...when I'm not even in heat.”

“So that it's easier when you are in heat,” Jim insisted.

“I know,” Bones assured him, pushing his plate aside and taking a swallow of his juice. “I got that.”

“And it wouldn't have to be...sex, exactly,” Jim clarified, turning slightly in his chair to face Bones. “We could just...try...some sexual things. Whatever you're comfortable with. We could even...just, um...cuddling. If that's—” He bit his lip, looking away. “I guess it wouldn't even have to be sexual.”

Draining the last of his juice from his glass, Bones stood up to clear away his dishes. “I guess we'll probably be doing a lot of cuddling once I am in heat.” That was sort of necessary, wasn't it? To help calm the omega, to keep them from panicking. He shrugged. “Might as well get used to it, I guess.” Grimacing slightly, he turned back from the dishwasher. “But wouldn't that be...weird? Because...you're my boss, after all.”

Jim shrugged. “I'm not your boss when you're not working. And you're only working while David's here. When David's not here, you're my friend and roommate.”

Bones rolled his eyes a bit as he leaned back against the counter. “You're not going to just fire me the moment he leaves and re-hire me as soon as he comes back.”

Jim shot him a small lopsided smile as he brought his own dishes to the dishwasher. “Would it help if I did? Help you feel less 'weird' about all this?”

Rolling his eyes again, Bones folded his arms over his chest. “What, just say you did? Because that could look really stupid in the actual paperwork after a month or two.”

Jim chuckled, ducking his head as he leaned his hip against the counter. “I guess.” He shot Bones a sheepish look. “Might be difficult to explain to my accountant.”

“Yeah,” Bones agreed, shooting a decidedly unimpressed look in Jim's direction. “Might be.”

Jim held up his hands, taking a half step back. “I'm just trying to...”

“Help,” Bones finished for him, sighing. “Yeah.” He rubbed at his forehead. “I know.” Walking barefoot across the soft carpet, Bones flopped down on the couch. He sighed deeply and looked over at Jim. “I really do appreciate how considerate you're being. About all this.”

Jim walked over, something tentative shimmering in his scent. He twisted his eyebrows in a question. “Is there a 'but' after all that?”

Bones rubbed his hands over his face. “I dunno.”

Jim lowered himself carefully onto the other end of couch. “I'm really not...intending to stress you out, Bones.”

Bones' features twisted unhappily. “It's not you, it's...” He made a vague circular gesture with one hand. “...my whole life.”

“I get that,” Jim said quietly. “Life can be the worst.”

Bones smiled, soft and lopsided. “I suppose it's still better than the alternative.”

Jim flashed him a lopsided smile in return. “Yeah.” Looking away, he shrugged. “But I personally tend to find...sex is pretty good for stress-relief.”

Bones kicked—or maybe just kind of pushed—at Jim's thigh. “Maybe for you.”

Catching Bones' foot, Jim shot him a quietly amused smile, eyes curious and tinges of protective worry in his scent. “You find sex stressful?”

Bones shrugged. “Not before I had Jo, I didn't. Not really. It was mostly fun, then.” He shrugged again. “Loads of fun, usually.” He wrinkled his nose. “I mean, other than when I was in heat...because that wasn't as fun, because of the whole heat thing. I guess the first time was a bit...awkward, but it was still really fun... So I mean, it was pretty great, I guess, in general.”

Nodding, Jim rubbed his thumb smoothly over the inside of Bones' arch. “So having a baby changed all that?”

“Well...” Bones grimaced. “I didn't exactly have much excuse, I suppose. I didn't tear or anything, so it's not like it really...” He grimaced again at the memory. “Well, it did hurt—anyway. I guess shoving an entire baby out through a vagina can make things...bruised. And sore from being stretched out.” Drawing a deep breath, he let it out. “Sore. Just, really sore in general. Even though we'd waited the six weeks like you're supposed to, and I finally wasn't bleeding anymore, thank all the gods—because bleeding for six weeks is just really, really unpleasant.”

Jim hummed. “Yeah. I can imagine it would be.” His brow furrowed. “Inconvenient, and probably expensive as well.”

Bones nodded. “Absolutely. Beta women usually bleed for five days each month, and that's got to be bad enough, honestly...but bleeding for six weeks?” He shook his head. “It's beyond reasonable.” He shook his head again, making an unhappy face. “Some people even bleed for eight weeks after giving birth! And some idiots actually think supplies to catch all that blood are correctly categorized as 'luxuries' and therefore should be taxed as such.”

“That's insane,” Jim replied. His brows twisted with disbelief. “How is it a 'luxury'? What are you supposed to do? Just stay in the shower for the whole time?”

Bones shrugged. It really was so illogical. Anyone bleeding just literally needed something to catch the blood; there was nothing optional or 'luxurious' about it. Distracted from his thoughts, Bones groaned softly because: “What you're doing to my foot feels nice.”

Jim flashed him a bright smile, pleased affection spiking in his scent. “That's good.”

Bones nudged Jim's thigh with his other foot. “Does the other one get rubbed too?”

“Of course.” Jim caught that foot as well, moving it to his lap. “Wouldn't want it to feel neglected.”

Bones snorted softly. “Anyway...” He sighed. “After I had Jo... Even months after...I just... I was tired. I was tired all the time and I didn't feel sexy in the slightest. I—” His features twisted unhappily. “My whole body just felt...mushy. Like I'd been beaten with one of those meat-tenderizing hammers. And my breasts—well, those took some getting used to. Gods, I knew to expect them, but...” He sighed. “It was weird. They were too big and often too hard—because they were so full of milk—and most of the time oozing that milk all over my clothes and bedding...” He shook his head. “Joss would tell me I was beautiful, that I was still sexy... At least, for the first five hundred times I complained about it, that was her response.” He sighed. “Later, she'd just tell me to stop whining.”

Jim cocked his head to one side curiously. “Did you?”

Bones snorted. “You know me reasonably well? Do you think I stopped complaining?” Ducking his head, Jim chuckled softly, wordlessly rubbing Bones' feet. Bones rolled his eyes. “Of course I didn't. We just started fighting about it.” He wrinkled his nose at the memory. “She'd say she didn't feel sexy anymore either, because I didn't want to have sex, so obviously there must be something wrong with her. It was...” He shook his head. “I guess, in a way, it made sense for her to feel that way, but at the time I just got angry at how irrational it was. Because—it was unfair, okay? She still looked exactly as she'd always looked. Maybe a bit more tired than before, but not nearly as tired as I did! She'd still get just as presentable as ever to go out to work each day, and I'd be in pajamas all day with bedhead. I had a wiggly stomach that took too damn long to shrink back to anything resembling how it had looked before, and these stupid breasts—and, I dunno.” He shook his head. “Joss would still come home from work, looking for sex. Every damn day. I just got so annoyed, so exhausted with the idea.” He shook his head. “It got to the point where she wouldn't even have to say anything or do anything, I'd just take one look at her and immediately be on edge. Because I associated her with these obnoxious demands for physical intimacy.” His lips twisted into a bitter smile. “We looked it up, even talked to my doctor, actually, trying to figure out what was wrong with me...and it turns out it's perfectly normal. Or at least, ridiculously common. But you know what the solution was? What every single source proposed? Just push through it, do it anyway, 'fake it till you make it'.”

Jim narrowed his eyes. “That's...terrible.”

Bones snorted softly. “That's what I thought too! I got so mad. Why should I, the person who just spent nine months gestating another human and then most of an entire day shoving it out my vagina and then six weeks bleeding because of it and now was letting said tiny, helpless human suck all the remaining life energy out through my chest...be responsible for making all this effort to keep the alpha—who's fault all of this was in the first place—happy? Shouldn't it be her damn job to do...something? To, I dunno, seduce me, I guess?”

“Isn't that what she did in the first place?” Jim asked.

“Yes!” Bones shook his head. “But I guess she'd already done all the work an alpha ever has to do in that department, and all the experts were in agreement that this was all on me.” He gestured angrily to his chest with both hands. Huffing softly, he shook his head. “She was tired too, of course. She wasn't trying to be awful or selfish or anything like that. She was working hard to provide for both me and Jo, to afford all the diapers and everything...” His lips twisted unhappily. “But she'd come home and see dishes piled in the sink, by the sink... Dirty laundry that hadn't even made it into the hamper...” He shook his head. “Often, I wouldn't even have managed to eat. And she'd be like...'What did you do all day?'”

Jim winced. “Wow.”

Bones shot him a narrow-eyed look. “'Wow' what?”

Jim pressed his thumbs into the balls of Bones' feet. “Well, you had to feed the kid, right?” Bones nodded. Jim shook his head. “Never quite had the opportunity to nurse a baby myself, but I saw Carol struggle with it. And it's a hell of a lot of work. She was really dedicated, really motivated, and it became her full-time job for a few months there; she just pushed everything else to the side, because providing for her child was her main priority. She had...pumps and...special foods and pills to help her body get the idea. Timers she'd set to remind her when to pump. Videos she'd watch on YouTube about latching and different positions. Little tubes she'd tape to her breast sometimes when she had to start supplementing... Before she finally gave in and used bottles.” He shot Bones a look. “Maybe it's a little different for female alphas.”

Bones rolled his shoulders. “It's different for each person, I think. I never had trouble making enough milk.” He snorted softly. “I usually had more than enough, actually. But babies can only fit so much in their stomachs, so no matter how much the dam is producing, the baby still needs to eat pretty often. They say 'every two to three hours', but most babies need to eat more often than that—every hour, or even more often, is normal and healthy.”

“Right.” Jim nodded. “And then you still have to change all the diapers...and the clothes when they spit up or somehow manage to poop up the back or down the leg...”

Bones laughed, shaking his head. “Yeah.” His lips pulled back in a grimace. “I do not miss those days.” He shot Jim a look. “And can I just say I'm glad David is potty-trained?”

Jim laughed, ducking his head. “You and me both, Bones.” His expression turned thoughtful. “Carol hired a nanny right from the start. Even when I was off work for a few weeks and hanging around trying to do what I could to help out. And honestly? The nanny was a great idea.”

Bones snorted softly. “Wish I could have afforded a nanny.” Gods, that might have been nice sometimes.

“Huh.” Jim's thoughtful expression deepened. “Maybe nannies should be free.”

Bones kicked Jim roughly in the hip. “Hey! That's my career you're devaluing!”

“That's—really not what I meant,” Jim insisted. “I just meant...government subsidized? So the nanny still gets paid, obviously. But so everyone who needs one can afford it.”

Bones shrugged. “Actually, that would probably result in a lot more work for nannies, so I think I approve.” Jim hummed in agreement, continuing to massage Bones' feet. It was so surreal, in a way, to be getting a foot rub from his boss. But then maybe Jim really liked that? In the way he liked feeding people. That whole alpha instinct thing: protect, provide, take care. He certainly smelled content enough. Shifting on the couch, Bones rested his head back against the cushioned arm. Maybe it was weird, but it was helping him feel less stressed out. Hell, it was probably even helping his body—if even just a tiny bit—with the whole detoxing thing it was still valiantly attempting. And he did need to get through two more weeks of work before he got to properly detox, with the whole heat thing. Squeezing his eyes shut, Bones said, “Sorry.”

“For what?” Jim asked.

Bones grimaced. “You suggested the two of us have sex, and I proceeded to talk about the least sexy subjects on the planet.” He opened one eye just a slit to peek at Jim. “Probably killed whatever 'mood' there might have been.”

Jim shrugged one shoulder. “I'm still thinking about sex.” He shot Bones an impish look, wetting his lips. “Sex with you.” His expression grew a little sharp around the edges, but amusement still glowed in his eyes and scent. “And if you accuse me of sexual harassment for saying that, I will fire you.”

Laughing, Bones covered his face with both hands. “I should get you on tape. That right there would be enough to nail your ass to the wall.”

Jim shot Bones a wicked, crooked grin. “You wanna nail my ass to the wall, Bones?” He squeezed one of Bones' ankles, giving it a little shake. “Maybe I should be accusing you of sexual harassment.”

“Oh, for the love of—” Bones scrubbed his hands over his face. “Are you seriously still thinking about sex? Like, actually in this moment?”

“Well.” Jim looked away, pressing his lips together. “Thinking about sex is sort of my default state...”

“Right...” Bones sighed, shifting his shoulders a bit against the arm of the couch. With a sloppy gesture in Jim's direction, Bones said, “Alpha.” It explained everything.

“Guilty as charged,” Jim replied. He didn't really look like one, exactly. And with his general childish demeanour, he certainly didn't usually act like a 'typical' one either. But he always smelled like one. (He always smelled rather nice: alpha, in kind of the nicest way possible.)

Bones quirked a dubious eyebrow at him. “But you can just...be up for it? Like, whenever, wherever?”

Jim shrugged. “Pretty much.”

“Huh.” Bones gave his head a tiny shake. “Sounds like a handy superpower, honestly. Could probably have saved my marriage.”

“If you'd been an alpha?” Jim shot him a teasing smile.

“Well, I don't know!” Bones laughed. “Maybe that would have been the solution!”

Laughing softly, Jim shook his head. “I doubt it. But anyway, it wasn't your responsibility to 'save' your marriage—not on your own, anyway. Look.” Expression sobering, he held up a hand. “I know I've never been married—never even wanted to be for that matter—so I guess I'm really not any kind of expert.” He blew out a breath. “But my parents always seemed to do okay, you know? They were together until death did them part, like the vows say. So I kind of see them as a success story.”

Bones nodded. That was the idea, after all. “Yeah.”

“And you know what they both always said?” Jim shot Bones a look. “They always said it was a team effort, they were in it together, equals, lifting each other up, supporting each other. And I don't know Joss, so I can't really judge her, and I wasn't there to see how things fell apart, so if you say you were both at fault, then I'll accept that. But that's the thing: you were both at fault. Not just you. It sounds to me like you were dealing with enough shit already—some of it quite literal—without having even more piled on you.” He made a face. “And honestly: those idiot doctors. I mean, put some blame on them too. Someone doesn't feel like having sex and their solution is to tell them to just grit their teeth and bear it?” He shook his head. “That's horrifying, Bones. It's disgusting and irresponsible.”

It...kinda was, wasn't it? Bones sighed. “Yeah, I guess.”

Twisting his lips in distaste, Jim shook his head. “It might be some sort of alpha solidarity bullshit, but I do honestly feel bad for Joss in your story—I mean, what kind of horrible thing is that that they told her? The only two options are either her mate never wanting sex again, or her mate enduring unpleasant sex until, I don't know, Stockholm Syndrome kicks in or whatever? Not even one suggestion about things she could do to maybe help? To make things easier? No realistic estimated time-frame on how long this sort of thing could last if someone was patient and didn't try to just brute-force through?” Making a disgusted sound in his throat, Jim shook his head again. “That is completely unfair, to put someone in that position.”

Bones shrugged. “Yeah, um, I guess it really wasn't fair to her either.” He'd tried so hard since then to see things from Joss' perspective, because even though they weren't together anymore they were still raising a daughter together, and he kind of owed it to Jo to be fair to the other parent whom she loved equally. But he'd never really thought of it that way before. Gods, poor Joss, really. No wonder she finally suggested a divorce. It was the only reasonable option she had.

Leaning closer, Jim pitched his voice low. “Give me names, and I'll track those doctors down and kick their asses—I'm kinda good at ass-kicking, for the record.”

Bones shook his head, laughing quietly. “Couldn't for the life of me remember.” He'd switched doctors at least three times since then. “And besides...” He frowned. “If you got arrested, I think I'd be out of a job.”

Jim sighed. “I could probably afford a good lawyer, Bones.” He shot Bones a wink. “I think I'd be okay.”

Bones rolled his eyes. “I'd rather not take that chance.”

Jim huffed. “Since when is defending an omega from prejudice and injustice a crime?” He slid one hand up from Bones' ankle towards his knee, his skin warm and smooth against Bones' own. “I'd be a hero. No judge in the world would convict me.”

“What you're talking about is revenge, Jim, not defence,” Bones pointed out. “And more than a decade after the fact.”

Jim sighed, offering Bones a kind of accepting but not happy about it look. “Maybe you're right.” He gave Bones' calf a pleasant squeeze. “Still think I'd be justified, though.”

Bones chuckled. “Maybe justified, sure. But the law doesn't care what's just. Or fair. Or right.”

“That's a bleak view of the world,” Jim pointed out. His mouth curled downwards unhappily and he dipped his head a bit. “But probably very accurate. Sadly.” Turning towards Bones again, he twisted his features into a sort of grimace. “But aren't we supposed to be fixing that through the wonders of modern democracy?”

“In theory, I suppose,” Bones replied. He let out a sigh. The world really was an awful place in general. “Unfortunately, democracy also doesn't care what's fair or right or just—all it cares about is what the masses want, and the masses tend to be selfish, easily-led, and generally uninformed.” And also mostly betas, so there was that.

“I'm very much enjoying your bleak view of the world,” Jim declared, giving Bones' shin a gentle pat. “It's very...”

“Sexy?” Bones suggested.

“It is!” Jim turned a bright smile on him. “Very sexy, Bones.”

“Oh, for—” Bones rolled his eyes towards the ceiling.

Jim slid his hand up to grasp Bones' knee. “I want to cheer you up, Bones.” He gave Bones' knee a squeeze. “With tenderness and reassuring physical affection and...” He slid his thumb through the hollow next to Bones' kneecap. “...orgasms.”

Sitting up and swinging his legs off the side of the couch to put his feet on the floor, Bones turned to look at Jim. “Really should be getting this on tape.”

As Bones stood up and padded to the kitchen, Jim called after him, “If you say the words 'boss' or 'sexual harassment' I am going to have to temporarily fire you.”

“Oh, I'm so scared,” Bones deadpanned, taking a glass from the cupboard and filling it with water. “I'll be 'temporarily' out of work.” Taking a sip of water, he widened his eyes with mock worry. “Whatever will I do?”

“You're a pretty resourceful guy,” Jim murmured, padding into the kitchen and right into Bones' personal space. “I have faith you'll land on your feet.”

Bones took a swallow of his water and gave Jim an unimpressed look. “You have 'faith' in me.”

Jim's expression softened, and one side of his lips curled upwards. “Absolutely.” His smile slanted further and, looking away, he added, “I mean, I did hire you to take care of my son, so I think that's kind of a requirement...”

“You're the one who brought up the employee thing this time,” Bones pointed out, taking a swallow of his water.

“I did,” Jim agreed, laughing softly. His hands settled on Bones' waist and he looked up into Bones' face. He bit his lip. “I kinda want to kiss you right now.”

Bones kind of just gaped at Jim for a bit, not following how 'I'm your boss' had suddenly flipped back to 'I want to kiss you'. Finally he just said, “What?”

Jim's features pinched with worry. “Would that—?” He took a step back, hands falling to his own sides. “Damn, that's something we should have talked about—something we need to talk about.” Gesturing to the pad of paper they'd left on the coffee table, he asked, “Is kissing okay? As an option?”

Bones twisted his brows in confusion. “Uh... I guess I never thought about it.”

“Well.” Stepping over to the coffee table, Jim flashed him a somewhat nervous smile. “Are you maybe thinking about it right now? Since I brought it up?”

“I'm...” Bones grimaced helplessly. “I suppose I don't really understand...the, uh, pros and cons either way.”

Jim flashed him another nervous smile of the 'trying to be reassuring' variety. “Some people like kissing—I know I do.” He chewed his lip, nervous energy wavering in his scent and over his body like a ripple. “But some people feel that kissing is personal. So, uh—” He scrubbed his fingers through the short blond hair on the back of his head. He shrugged. “If the sex isn't personal, then they don't want kissing with it.”

Leaving his glass of water on the counter and narrowing his eyes slightly, Bones walked over to the coffee table as well. “Jim,” he said as he reached him, “you've had sex with people who wouldn't kiss you?”

Jim shrugged. “Different people are into different things, Bones. I like both giving and receiving oral too, but I certainly would never demand either from someone.” He let out a quiet, rough laugh. “Some sort of 'worthiness' hoop they'd have to jump through for the privilege of being with me.”

And that did sound fair, but... Kissing was different. Wasn't it? Kissing was...special. But maybe that was the point. With a sigh, Bones sank down to sit on the corner of the coffee table. “I don't know about any of this, Jim,” he admitted, looking up at Jim's unfairly handsome face. “To me, sex itself is personal; or at least, that's the only way I've ever done it.” He chewed a bit on the inside of his cheek, unfocused eyes moving to some unclear point across the room. “I don't know that I could do it any other way.”

“You'd need to trust someone.” Jim put his hand on Bones' shoulder.

Bones nodded, twisting his hands together in his lap and glancing up at Jim. “Yeah.”

Jim hummed thoughtfully. Giving Bones' shoulder a squeeze, he said, “What scares you the most right now?”

Bones cocked his head a bit to one side. “About?”

“The heat. Sex. Sex while in heat.” With a grimace, Jim made a vague circular gesture with one hand. “Any of that. I need the information to properly help and support you.”

Drawing a slow breath, Bones blew it out. “Not being in control,” he admitted. “Feeling...like I'm drifting. Like I'm unmoored, lost. Like nothing I do matters.”

Crouching down in front of Bones, Jim cupped Bones' knee, hand warm through the material of Bones' pyjama pants. “Okay. Thank you for telling me, Bones. We'll see what we can do to help with that. To help you feel safer.”

He smiled up at Bones, eyes bright and with such warmth and hope that Bones had to tear his eyes away. Letting out a shaky breath, Bones added, “But also... I'm...” He looked down at his lap, rubbing his thumb along the inside edge of his other hand. He let out a shaky breath. “This...I think it's important that you know this, Jim, because like you said, you're trying your best to help and support me...and I guess you can't very well do that properly if I'm keeping secrets.” He grimaced, worry twisting roughly in his gut. “The moment I'm in heat, I'll be ripped open like a wound, anyway; there's not much point in my trying to be guarded now.” He shook his head. “I'm also afraid—” Maybe 'terrified' was a better word, but he pressed on. “—that I'll...get attached.” His eyes flickered to Jim's then flitted away again. “To you.”

“Okay.” Jim nodded. “The...way I understand it, that's a pretty common side-effect of a heat. They tend to be...very...bonding. That's, um—” He scrubbed one hand back through his hair. “I think that's part of the point, from an evolutionary perspective. It's supposed to...deepen, or act as a catalyst for, feelings of attachment.” He swallowed. “Not just—just romantic sorts of feelings, but more general affection as well. And loyalty. Things like that.”

Bones made a face. “Yeah, um, guess it's a whole 'attachment' cocktail.”

“But you're not too excited about that idea.”

Bones shot him a look. “Are you? Are you really on board to have a whiny, needy, clingy omega...looking specifically to you for reassurance and approval and affection and all that? Even after the heat is over?”

“Bones.” Jim's fingers moved gently over Bones' knee. “If that happens, it won't be your fault. We both know the risks going into this, right? We can be adults about it. And...for the record...” He grimaced. “The attachment thing goes both ways—I might come out of this a jealous, overprotective ass who's constantly seeking your approval. And I hope that you wouldn't hold that against me too harshly.”

“You're already kind of overprotective,” Bones pointed out with a tiny chuckle.

“I'm exactly the right amount of protective,” Jim countered, looking mildly affronted.

“Maybe,” Bones relented, bringing one hand up to brush against Jim's cheek. Smiling broad and bright, Jim leaned into the touch. “You're so cute,” Bones told him. “Like a puppy.”

“I'm an alpha,” Jim protested. “I'm a big, bad wolf.”

Bones snorted, shaking his head. “I'm bigger than you are.”

“Well.” Jim dropped his gaze then met Bones' again. “Maybe not quite everywhere.”

Letting out a surprised laugh, Bones looked away. “Okay, yeah. Given that you're an alpha and I'm an omega...you've probably got me beat in one area. Especially since yours knots.”

Tipping his head a bit to one side, Jim smiled cockily. “I like to think that's the 'one area' that counts.”

Bones snorted again. “Yeah, you would.”

Laughing, soft and helpless, Jim pressed his forehead into the inside of Bones' knee. “Gods, it'd be embarrassing if, after your heat, Carol came to drop David off, said hi to you, and I growled at her.”

Bones chewed on his lip a little as he nodded his head slowly. Yup, that would definitely be embarrassing. And not only for Jim. “Maybe I'll just stay inside,” Bones suggested. “We could avoid all possibility of that.”

With unhappy surprise spiking in his scent, Jim shot a worried look up at Bones. “You shouldn't have to—”

Bones grimaced, shrugging. “Maybe I'll just want to.” He rubbed at his arm, blowing out a breath. “You wouldn't make me go out and meet her, would you? Drag me out bodily by the scruff of my neck?”

“Well...” Jim replied, brow furrowing thoughtfully. “I mean, whatever you're comfortable with. Assuming I'm there that morning.”

“We'll try to handle it like adults,” Bones suggested. “With the understanding that one or both of us might make an asses of ourselves.”

Jim shrugged one shoulder. “Guess that's the best we can do.”

“So.” Bones worried his lower lip. “You promise you won't get mad if I end up with a massive, embarrassing crush on you?”

“It's never your fault how you feel, Bones,” Jim replied. “So I'd be entirely unjustified in getting mad at you.”

“And you wouldn't fire me for it?” Bones prompted further.

“Absolutely not,” Jim insisted. “What kind of an asshole do you take me for?”

“The kind who's too good-looking for his own good?” Bones teased.

“Well, fair enough.” Jim grinned a little crookedly. “But that doesn't mean I'm a complete jackass.”

“Not completely, huh?”

Jim shook his head. “Only about seventy percent—maybe seventy-five.”

Leaning forward just a bit, Bones rested his forehead against Jim's and closed his eyes. “You're surprisingly good at this.”

“At what?” Jim asked.

“Reassuring me,” Bones explained. Maybe it didn't make a whole lot of sense, but he was more relaxed than he'd been in weeks.

Jim hummed. “In the interest of continuing to reassuring you, I'm going to go ahead and pretend I'm not offended that you're surprised.”

Bones grinned, eyes still closed. “Don't try to pretend you're not surprised too.”

“Maybe a little,” Jim admitted after a moment. “But just a little.”

Jim's phone chose that moment to, well, ruin the moment. “Ugh, sorry,” Jim said, glancing up at Bones as he checked it. “I gotta...work.”

“It's fine,” Bones replied. “If you didn't make money, then I wouldn't make money.” He offered Jim a bit of a smile.

“I'll just be in my office here,” Jim explained as he stood up. “So come yell at me if you need anything, okay?”

“Sure,” Bones said, but of course he wasn't going to bother Jim for the rest of the day. Hell, it's not like he needed to; Jim had already helped so much.

Chapter Text

Mostly to prove he could but also because he spent too damn much time holed up in his room, Bones went out for dinner. Just for a simple sandwich and salad combo at a nearby cafe.

Maybe he really should've let Jim know where he was going and suggested he come along (if he was done work, which he might not have been). On the one hand, an offer like that sounded like courtesy. But on the other hand, well... Bones really didn't need to start acting like the whiny, needy, clingy omega before he even went through his heat. So he ate alone at a little round wrought iron table in the evening air and let himself enjoy it.

Damn, other people could be great, but actually having to interact with them was usually so damned exhausting. Even David when he was at his sweetest. And even Jim when he was being legitimately helpful.

When Bones got home, he pulled on his pajamas and brushed his teeth. It was still pretty early, but he kind of felt like sleeping.

Except... Well.

He kind of couldn't get Jim out of his mind.

It wasn't that he missed him—that was ridiculous. They'd spent the morning together. The entire morning. (Bones missed David and Jo, but it would be impossible for him to miss a man he'd spent so much time with so recently.)

But Bones and Jim had talked about getting used to touching each other. It was a reasonable plan, and especially considering Bones' personal issues with physical intimacy and his first rather unpleasant experience with being in heat, it did make a lot of sense. But so far they hadn't really had much of a chance to actually attempt much of that plan.

It seemed like as good a time as any.

So he went looking for Jim.

Jim was, somewhat surprisingly given the relatively early hour, in his bedroom. Sprawled on his bed, dressed in his 'lounging around the house' sweats, and reading. The door was about half open, so Bones knocked on the doorframe.

“Bones!” Jim flashed him a bright smile as he looked up, closing his book and setting it aside. “Something you need?”

“Well...” Bones shifted his weight from one foot to the other. He rubbed at the back of his neck. “Um, you did say we should maybe...practise things like cuddling.”

“Right.” Jim's smile grew even warmer. “I did say that.”

“So anyway...” Bones shrugged. “I was thinking maybe we could...if you wanted to...um, try sharing a bed.” He bit his lip just a little. “We, uh, we're probably going to do that while I'm in heat anyway, right?”

“Absolutely.” Sliding off his bed, Jim walked over. Smiling, he glanced back at his bed then at Bones again. “My bed's bigger, but we can sleep in your room if—” He shrugged. “Wherever you're more comfortable.” His brow furrowed a little. “And also, I guess we should probably decide where you want to spend your heat.” Gesturing to his bed, he added, “Again, my bed is bigger.” Ducking his head, he chuckled. “Hell, my whole room's a lot bigger—the ensuite too.” He gestured around the room and towards the ensuite door. “But it would be completely understandable if you were more comfortable being in your own more familiar space.”

Bones shrugged. “Your room, um, smells like you. That...might actually...help. Somewhat. I guess.”

“Yeah, whatever's best for you, all right?” Jim caught Bones by the elbow, offering him a soft smile. “You're absolutely welcome to be here, in my room, for your heat—all the mattresses in the house are waterproofed, so you don't have to worry about the mess.”

“Slick,” Bones said, because Jim seemed reluctant to actually say the word. He offered Jim a small lopsided smile. “You don't mind if I slick all over your house.”

Jim shrugged. “If it gets on the carpet, I'll clean the carpet; if it gets on the couch, even that's technically waterproofed.” He gestured in the general direction of the living room. “The covers on the seats come off, and the cushions under that are waterproof.” One side of his lips tipping upwards, he shrugged one shoulder. “Seemed like a pretty good idea to me. And I'm honestly not sure why couches don't just come that way standard.”

Bones shrugged as well. “Yeah, I guess—I mean, how often do people just spill stuff on their couch? Coffee, juice, soup, beer, wine...”

“Exactly,” Jim said, hand sliding down Bones' arm to encircle his wrist. He laughed softly. “Especially when you have kids—and it's pretty gross if everything just soaks into the cushions where you can't do anything about it.”

“Maybe they want everyone to have to buy a whole new couch sooner,” Bones suggested.

Jim laughed softly again. “Probably.” Pressing his lips together he met Bones' gaze with hopeful eyes. “So...um.” He glanced over towards his bed. “Would you like to join me then?”

“That line usually work for you?” Bones snarked as he let himself be led by the wrist towards Jim's honestly very large bed.

“You'd be surprised how often it doesn't,” Jim replied, shooting him a wink.

“Oh yeah?” Bones sank down onto the bed. Damn, it really did smell like Jim. Strongly so. Gods. It was comfortable too, but damn: the smell was pretty overwhelming. He tried for an unconcerned smile. “What do you do then? When it doesn't work?”

Jim shrugged one shoulder as he settled himself reclining against the pillows. “Usually I just move on.” He shot Bones a look, wickedness gleaming in his eyes. “Their loss, you know?”

“Right.” Bones rubbed a hand over his mouth. He shifted a bit, turning towards Jim. “So what do you do the other times?”

“Uh...” Jim's eyes danced away across the bed. Laughing, he rubbed his fingers through his hair. “Nothing different, I guess. Not anymore, anyway.” He wrinkled his nose. “I used to be such a selfish ass, keep pestering and pestering like that would get me anywhere. I grew out of that, though. Thank the gods.” Shrugging one shoulder, he turned back to Bones. “I wouldn't have pressed the issue with you, for the record, except...”

“My life is literally in danger,” Bones filled in. Was that flattering? That Jim would rather fuck him than see him die? Or that Jim respected his boundaries enough to back off at the first sign of reluctance...unless there were some rather serious extenuating circumstances. Maybe it was both mildly insulting and kinda reassuring at the same time.

“Well.” Jim's gaze dropped and he caught Bones' hand in his own. “Not anymore, because you're not going through this alone.”

“Big, strong alpha came to save me,” Bones murmured, brushing his thumb against what he could reach of Jim's hand. “Like a knight on a white horse.”

“If you're trying to tease me...” Jim said, regarding Bones from under his brows.

Bones shrugged. “Maybe I'm just being honest.” The words came out a little rougher than he'd intended them. And he had been trying to tease. Maybe it was too close to the truth.

Keeping his eyes on Bones' face, Jim raised Bones' hand to his lips and kissed the back of it. Resting their joined hands on the bed he said, “You don't really look like a damsel, Bones.”

“Oh yeah?” Bones shifted against the pillows, trying to get comfortable. (The bed was comfortable, but apparently he was too tense.)

Jim chuckled softly. “I think you might look more like the stereotypical knight on a white horse than I do. Almost expect to see you come riding over a ridge at the head of some charge with the first light of dawn glinting off your gilded armour...”

Bones rolled his eyes. “My face is too round and soft for a 'stereotypical' knight; I don't have the sharp angles. Also...” He looked down over himself. “I'm kind of too soft all over.”

“I happen to think...” Jim said, laying a hand over the base of Bones' rib cage. “...that you're just the right amount of soft.”

“That's a smooth line, Jim,” Bones said, narrowing his eyes a bit, “but we were talking about me supposedly looking like a knight.”

“Not all knights looked the same,” Jim pointed out, thumb brushing idly against Bones' ribs through his shirt. “And you're certainly tall enough.”

Bones let out a shaky breath—the overwhelming smell of Jim from both Jim himself and all of the bedding was kind of unfair. Especially combined with the way Jim was touching him. Which...wasn't exactly a sexual touch. It just... Well, maybe after twelve years even Bones McCoy felt a bit like he'd been through a 'dry spell'. Bones bit the inside of his cheek in annoyance. “So you're saying I'm too tall to be a damsel?”

“I'm not saying you couldn't be one...” Jim shook his head. “Not at all. Just that you're not what I would have expected.”

“Yeah, well.” Bones shifted again, shoving irritably at the pillows. “I'll have you know I can be very...delicate.”

“I'm sure you can be,” Jim replied. He let his eyes roam over Bones' body. “Where it...counts.”

Letting out a huff, Bones rolled his eyes. “Gotta make everything an innuendo.”

Jim shook his head, amusement swelling in his scent. “But you set that one up for me, Bones. And for the record, I can be very delicate in certain areas too.”

Snorting, Bones rolled his eyes. “You mean your balls?”

Jim laughed, settling close against Bones' side. “Probably the most delicate part of my body.”

“More than your eyeballs?”

Jim shrugged. “Okay, maybe not quite that delicate—but no one ever touches my eyeballs.”

Bones narrowed his eyes. “So people touch your balls then? Like, on purpose?”

Jim's brows twisted a little. “Uh...yeah.” He laughed softly. “Sure. Sometimes.”

“Does that...” Bones frowned. “...feel good?”

Jim laughed, hand sliding to grip Bones' hip. “Usually, I guess.”

“Huh.” Bones stared at the ceiling. Finally he admitted, “I've never actually seen an adult's scrotum up close. I guess I've seen photographs. I mean, female alphas don't have them—everything's internal.”

“Oh, believe me,” Jim replied, laughing. “I'm well aware of what a female alpha looks like with her clothes off. I'm quite...intimately acquainted.”

“Right, yeah.” Bones turned his head back towards Jim. “That's so weird, isn't it? Both of our...exes, for lack of a better term, are female alphas.”

“Yeah, I guess it's a little weird how that worked out,” Jim agreed.

After a pause, Bones said, “We're going to have to see each other naked. I mean, when I'm in heat.”

“Well,” Jim replied, shifting a bit at Bones' side, “I guess I'm going to have to see you naked; not sure you'll have to see me—hell, I could put a blindfold on you...”

Bones laughed. “You are not putting a blindfold on me.”

“All right then,” Jim agreed easily. “No blindfolds.” He tilted his head to one side, eyes on the material of Bones' pyjama shirt. “I mean, technically, I don't even have to get naked. Not fully naked, anyway.”

“Well, technically, neither do I,” Bones countered. He blew out a breath. “But with all the slick and sweating...”

“You could wear a robe or something,” Jim suggested.

“Huh,” Bones said thoughtfully. “I guess I could.” He'd spent pretty much the entirety of his first heat naked. But that had just seemed simpler. There hadn't been anything weird or strange about it. He twisted his lips with vague distaste. “But I think I have two robes, and unless I spend most of my actual heat in the bathtub...”

“I'd offer to let you borrow my robes,” Jim said, eyes narrowed as he looked across the room, “but I'm not sure they'd fit you.”

Bones folded his arms over his chest. “So now you're calling me fat?”

Rolling his eyes, Jim shook his head. “You're...broad and muscular, Bones.”

Bones looked between the two of them—was he missing something? “We're practically the same size, Jim.”

Jim shrugged one shoulder. “Maybe we are.” He offered Bones a helpless smile. “Guess I'm just more used to being with people who are a lot smaller.”

Bones twisted his eyebrows in unimpressed incredulity. “So that's your 'type'?”

Laughing, Jim shook his head. “I don't have a 'type', Bones. It's just...” He shrugged one shoulder. “I guess most of the people who wanna be with a guy like me just tend to be smaller than me.”

Bones pursed his lips. “Never been with a male alpha then?”

“Nope.” Jim rubbed at the back of his neck. “There's...not really a whole lot two male alphas can do together.”

Bones gave his eyes a little roll. “You need something with a vagina?”

“Hey, 'need' is a pretty strong word, Bones.” Jim laid down flat on his back and looked up at the ceiling. “But with the sheer size of the cock, plus the fact that it knots for an hour...”

Rolling his eyes again, Bones rolled onto his side and looked down at Jim. “Are you bragging or complaining?”

“Little of both, I guess?” Jim's shoulders twitched. “But I've been with a couple of beta guys, and they honestly have a lot more options.”

Bones narrowed his eyes in confusion. “What would you even do with a beta guy?”

Jim grinned up at him. “Would you like a bulleted list, or should I draw some diagrams?”

“But you said—” Bones let out an annoyed huff. “You just said two male alphas couldn't do much together.” And there wasn't actually anatomically much difference between a male alpha and a male beta.

Jim waggled his eyebrows. “Beta guys often like taking it up the ass.”

Bones gaped for probably a bit too long then finally said, “A knotting cock.”

Jim nodded. “With a lot of lube and a lot of preparation.” He offered Bones a crooked half-smile. “Some guys like taking a fist, which is usually quite a lot bigger.”

Bones shook his head. Sex was so weird. (And often sorta gross.) “But alpha guys don't?”

Jim shrugged one shoulder, letting out a small sigh. “In my experience, not so much. Maybe we're just generally a lot less adventurous when it comes to sex.”

“Not so brave after all,” Bones teased, nudging Jim in the ribs.

“Hey, never said I wouldn't be up for it!” Jim shrugged, expression unconcerned. “Just never found another alpha guy who was willing to...” He smirked. “...be brave with me.”

Bones looked away, resisting the impulse to fold his arms again. “You must have the weirdest conversations with people.” He looked back at Jim. “So you've...uh, had other...uh...”

Jim smiled mildly at him. “Just say it, Bones.”

“...cocks,” Bones finished finally. “In your...ass.”

Jim nodded. “On a few occasions, yeah.” His eyes slid over to meet Bones' gaze. “Why? You wanna try that?”

“What?” Bones spluttered.

“Your cock,” Jim clarified mildly—and perhaps not entirely necessarily, because Bones' reaction was more due to shock at the suggestion than a misunderstanding of it. “My ass.”

Looking away, Bones rubbed his fingers through his hair. It didn't really sound appealing, even if recent showering and condoms were involved. “Think I'll pass.”

“More of a traditional kind of guy, then,” Jim said. “Fair enough.”

Bones sighed, staring at the dusty blue of the curtains. “I've done more than you might guess, Jim. You're not the only one who's put your dick in a female alpha's vagina, for the record.”

“Why, Bones,” Jim teased, giving him a pat on the arm. “Guess you're wild and crazy after all.”

“Shut up.” Bones brushed Jim's hand away. “That might sound boring to you, but it was...weird enough where Joss and I grew up.” He shrugged one shoulder. “Kinda thing people made lewd jokes about, I guess. But Joss and I were curious...we both wanted to try it.” He shrugged again, turning back to look at Jim. “It was nice that way too.”

Jim frowned, chewing on his lower lip a bit. “So why didn't you do it that way after Jo was born?”

Bones made a face. “Ugh, I just didn't want to put in any effort at all, okay? I was so tired all the time. I didn't want to...do anything.” He shook his head, letting out an unhappy sigh and running his fingers through his hair. “Most of the time, I didn't even want her to touch me.” He pressed his lips together, raising his shoulders and letting them fall. “And besides...she didn't really want that; she wanted to knot. You know, inside.”

“Typical alpha,” Jim mused. “Always thinking with their knot.”

Bones nudged him with his elbow. “You're an alpha.”

Jim laughed. “Yeah, and...I've had sex plenty of times when I didn't knot at all.”

Bones turned a completely incredulous look on him. “But then what's the point?”

“The point,” Jim said calmly after a beat, “is to enjoy each other. Skin-on-skin, touching...sight, smell, taste... There doesn't have to be some specific predetermined goal in mind.”

Bones stared at him for probably longer than was reasonable, then turned and stared up at the ceiling. “That's, uh...” he said finally, shaking his head a bit. “You've got a very...different view on sex than I've ever heard before.” He screwed up his face. “For one thing, how do you even know you're having sex?”

“Well...” Jim replied. “Usually there's some sort of...genital touching.”

“Right.” Bones blew out a breath.

“The important thing,” Jim went on, “is that everyone's fully consenting to everything that's happening. It's not just a question of 'Can we have sex?'; it's... 'Can I touch you here, like this?' 'Is this okay?' 'Would you like to try something else?'”

“Okay.” Bones blew out another breath. Worrying his lower lip, he looked over at Jim out of the corner of his eye. “But how do you know when you're done?”

“If someone wants to be done,” Jim replied, “then we're done. Ideally that's when everyone feels satisfied, but I'm not at all comfortable with trying to pressure someone to continue when they're no longer into it. No one's satisfaction is worth that.”

Chewing his lower lip, Bones nodded slowly. “Okay, but...” He narrowed his eyes, trying to figure all of this out. “You... Is it possible for you, then, to feel 'satisfied'...without knotting?”

“Yeah,” Jim replied. “I mean, okay, I like knotting. I'm certainly not...opposed to it. It's...pretty great. But...well...knowing that I made someone else happy? Seeing the pleasure in their face, in the way their body shudders...smelling it in the air?” His eyes softened and one side of his lips curled up. “That's pretty great too.”

“Damn,” Bones said, breathless. He flicked his eyes up to the ceiling again, trying to get his heart back under control. “Damn,” he said again. “Dammit, Jim,” he complained helplessly. “Now I'm horny.”

“I know,” Jim replied, voice low and just a little rough, but he was grinning. He shifted a little on the bed, turning onto his side and looking down at Bones. “I can smell it.”

The air thickened around them, and Bones' skin was suddenly both too hot and too tight. He swallowed. The scent of Jim's arousal swirled, mixing with his own. Bones let out a little laugh that was both too high-pitched and too tight. “Maybe you should write porn. Just...words, I guess—I mean, it's all you need, apparently. So, um, those romance novels they used to sell in grocery stores. Everyone ripping their shirts open on the front.”

“That would certainly break the mould,” Jim murmured, one fingertip tracing the shape of Bones' jaw. “An alpha writing some of those.”

“Yeah, well.” Bones waved a hand. “To hell with gender roles. Break the glass-ceiling or whatever.” He shot a look over at Jim. “Alphas aren't supposed to write at all, are you?”

Jim shook his head. “Pretty sure we're all meant to be illiterate.” Leaning in, he nuzzled a bit at Bones' jaw, and Bones' breath caught. Jim stilled, breathing slowly in and out. “Please tell me to stop if you—”

Bones gave his head a quick little shake. His hands clenched and unclenched at his side. His voice shook a bit when he said, “Please don't stop, Jim.”

“You want me to seduce you, Bones?” Jim asked, the tip of his nose ghosting against Bones' cheek in a way that was far more tantalizing than the tip of a nose had any right to be.

Bones laughed, rough and breathless. He let one hand twist in the soft material of Jim's shirt. “Haven't you already?”

“To be entirely fair,” Jim mused as he drew his fingers down the side of Bones' neck. “I wasn't actually trying to.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Bones shifted restlessly on the bed. Damn, he hadn't been this horny in... A long time. A very long time. “You're just accidentally seductive.” Add that to his list of totally unfair superpowers. “Good for you.”

Pulling back a bit, Jim looked him in the eyes. “Can I kiss you?”

“You're not going to ask that every time, are you?” Bones groused. Apparently being horny didn't actually put him in a better mood. Sighing, he closed his eyes. Being asked for permission for a kiss didn't feel 'normal', but then nothing about sex ever did (and probably wasn't supposed to; it was sex, after all). And Jim was just trying to do things right. “Look, Jim, I really do appreciate your concern. And yeah.” His eyes fluttered open to meet Jim's brilliant blue gaze. He swallowed. “You can kiss me.”

Smiling with shining eyes, happy affection pouring off him in waves, Jim laid a hand against the side of Bones' jaw. “You really are so beautiful,” he whispered, and leaned in to bring their lips together.

Oh. It had been so long, Bones had forgotten what to do. He was actually supposed to kiss back, after all. (Right?) Just as Jim was starting to pull back, probably worried, Bones caught him by the back of the neck and pulled their mouths together again. Groaning into the kiss, he shifted his hips on the bed. Damn: slick. Not that it should have come as a surprise; that was part of getting horny, after all. And not the ridiculous amounts he'd produce while in heat, of course, but enough that he was noticing it. Warm and wet, gliding between the lips of his vulva. He made a helpless noise in his throat. His eyelids fluttered as Jim pulled back. “Jim...”

“What would you like me to do for you?” Jim asked, one hand sliding down from Bones' shoulder to his elbow.

Bones was about to grumble that he didn't care, but that Jim better damn well do something, when he had to catch himself, because... Well, he kind of did know what he wanted. Or at least...he was curious. Damn Jim for mentioning 'oral'. Bones' face heated uncomfortably. Heaving a frustrated sigh, he pushed himself up to sit on the bed; his skin was buzzing with how badly he wanted this, but...maybe new and weird kinds of sex wasn't the best idea right now. He turned a tired look on Jim. “Aren't we maybe moving a little fast?”

“We can stop,” Jim offered, pulling back.

Unhappiness twisted in Bones' gut and his lips twisted to match. “I want you, though.” It had been so long since he wanted sex at all. He shook his head. “I wasn't sure I could,” he admitted, “outside of heat, feel this way at all, but...” He gestured between the two of them with one hand. “I want this.”

“Well, we don't have to stop.” Jim offered him a lopsided smile.

Bones rubbed a hand over his face, sighing. “Right. You know, this is the kind of shit Joss got tired of dealing with.” He shook his head, looking away across the room.

“You'd have to do a lot more than this to scare me off,” Jim told him.

Bones rolled his eyes. “Right. Because you don't want me to die.”

Jim let out a quiet huff. “Even if that wasn't a factor—you're not in heat right now, Bones. And if you want to keep going, I'm up for that. If you want to stop, that's one-hundred percent okay too.”

Bones shot him an annoyed look. “How'd you get to be the big sex guru, anyway?”

“Well...” Jim's gaze fell to the bedspread and his expression grew thoughtful. “As I mentioned, I used to be pretty selfish. I was all about the sex, and the other person—or people—didn't matter beyond what I could get from them.” He shrugged one shoulder. “But I really liked sex, and eventually I came to realize that it wasn't all that fun by myself, and being selfish wasn't actually the best way to encourage other people to participate.” His eyes met Bones' filled with gentle light. “So, at the beginning, I was 'unselfish' for very selfish reasons. But then I realized, once I'd tried putting my focus on the other people and their wants, their needs, their desires and satisfaction...” He wet his lower lip. “Well, I found I enjoyed it that way better myself.” He laughed softly, shaking his head a bit. “And I kind of kicked myself then, because...I could have been having so much more fun. But I'd been too much of an idiot.”

Bones shook his head. “Okay then.”

“Do you maybe...” Jim jerked his head a little toward the pillows. “...want to go back to cuddling?”

Bones considered for a bit and then gave a somewhat shaky nod. Swallowing, he said, “Yeah.” He let Jim draw him down to lie on the bed again, shifting into Jim's embrace with an unintentional helpless little sound.

“I've got you,” Jim murmured, pressing his nose into Bones' hair. “Whatever you need, Bones; I'm right here.”

Drawing a shaky breath, Bones let it out. “I should probably warn you...even if I'm not in heat, I'm probably still the most selfish, inconsiderate lover.”

“That's fine, Bones,” Jim said, dropping the softest of kisses on the point of Bones' chin. “The great thing about being an unselfish lover is...other people can be pretty damn selfish before it starts to bother me; in fact, I kind of like it most of the time when someone's a little selfish, a little...demanding.”

“But...” Bones made an annoyed sound, scrunching up his face. “I don't know any fancy or exciting techniques—you're probably going to find me boring as off-white paint on drywall.”

“I could never find you boring,” Jim protested, giving Bones a little shake.

With a disbelieving chuckle, Bones shook his head. “You've had partners who actually know what they're doing, Jim.”

Jim sighed. “Take this from someone who's had sex with a lot of people with quite a broad spectrum of 'skills', Bones: sex isn't really—or at least isn't primarily—about what a person can do. Personality is more important than technique. Well, and—” He pressed a smile into the side of Bones' neck. “—looks don't hurt.”

Laughing softly, Bones shifted closer to Jim, rolling onto his side and pressing his face into Jim's shirt. “There's the shallowness.”

“Everyone's a little shallow, Bones,” Jim retorted.

“Gods, you smell good,” Bones mumbled, lips catching on the material of Jim's shirt as arousal flickered brighter once again in his belly.

Sliding a hand down Bones' side to cup his hip, Jim let out a pleased hum. “You smell good too.”

“Especially when I'm aroused, hey?”

“Well...yes,” Jim admitted. “I feel like I could get so high, smelling this.”

A quiet chuckle of disbelief. Oh great, Bones was crack. “Is that supposed to be a compliment?”

“It's supposed to be...honest, I guess,” Jim countered. He slid his hand to Bones' lower back and tugged their hips closer together. Bones rocked his hips just a little forward and, through layers of clothing, his half-hard cock brushed against another that was definitely more than half hard. Bones stilled, heart beating wildly in his chest. “It's okay,” Jim whispered, pressing a kiss to Bones' hair.

Shifting back a little, Bones laid a hand against Jim's belly, just above his waistband. Flicking his eyes upward, he caught a rather close-up view of Jim's collarbones—he'd have to pull back a lot more to see Jim's face. He let out a shaky breath. “Can I?”

“Yeah,” Jim replied, voice rough. “Please.”

Bones slid his hand over Jim's clothed body, Jim's breath stuttering jaggedly as Bones found the shape of his cock. Bones' eyes widened. “Holy shit. You're huge.”

Jim laughed quietly, amusement nearly overpowered by the arousal and pride in his scent. (Gods, the alpha was preening.) “Just a few minutes ago you mocked me for saying the same thing.”

“Well, I...” Okay, so he'd heard that male alphas, on average, had larger cocks than female alphas. But he'd either not had any idea how much larger, or Jim's was just on the 'exceptionally large' end of the scale. The kind of terrifying and also definitely arousing thing was: Jim's cock was getting even harder against Bones' hand. Bones sucked in a sharp breath as a realization hit him. “I'm touching your dick—does that mean we're having sex?”

“Yes,” Jim replied, voice a little shaky. “I—I'd say we were.”

Bones blew out a breath. Okay then. “Well, congratulations.”

“For?”

“Officially ending my twelve-year dry-spell.” Bones traced over the rounded shape of the head, enjoying the heat radiating through the soft material of Jim's sweatpants. Chuckling, Bones shook his head. “You smell so damn proud of yourself.”

“Sorry.” Jim slid his fingers through Bones' hair. “I can try to rein that in a bit.”

“Don't worry about it.” Bones wet his lips. “It's not quite as attractive as the happiness or arousal, but it's not a bad smell.”

“Not attractive, though,” Jim said, voice edged with what sounded like partially-feigned worry.

“It all still smells like you,” Bones insisted, rolling his eyes. “Which means it's still the most attractive a person can possibly smell.”

Laughing, Jim pulled back enough to get a look at Bones' face. His eyes danced and a stupidly broad grin made him look even better than he usually did. “That's quite the superlative, Bones.”

“Well...” Bones shifted, eyes trying to look anywhere but at Jim as he was hit with sudden embarrassment. “I haven't really smelled everyone on the planet, Jim.” He shrugged one shoulder. “Maybe I'm wrong.”

Jim leaned in to kiss him again. “You smell pretty damn good yourself, Bones.” He nuzzled Bones' cheek a bit. “Even when you're embarrassed.”

“Well that's good, because...” Rolling onto his back, Bones drew a breath and let it out. He shot Jim a look. “I'm probably not done being embarrassed.”

Placing his hand in the middle of Bones' chest, Jim offered him a soft smile and slid that hand down towards Bones' waistband. Bones let his eyes flutter closed and his hips rock upwards—so what if he looked desperate? Jim very likely didn't mind. At all. Pleasure and pride spiked in Jim's scent and he said, “Oh, babe.”

Bones grimaced. “Don't call me that.”

“Sorry,” Jim replied, stilling. “We...didn't discuss terms of endearment.” A tinge of worry curled in his scent. “Would you rather I just call you 'Bones'?”

“No, uh.” Bones grimaced. “You can... Um, you can call me all sorts of things, I guess. Just not 'babe' or 'baby'.” He screwed up his face. “It's not really a logical thing...”

“It's fine,” Jim assured him, brushing his lips against Bones' cheek. “You don't need a logical reason for what you like and dislike.”

Bones let his eyes fall shut, relaxing against the mattress beneath him. “I really don't mean to be so picky about every single thing.”

“You're allowed to be picky,” Jim insisted, voice firm. “Everyone's allowed. It's part of the rules.”

Bones chuckled quietly. “The rules as dictated by Jim Kirk, self-taught sex guru?”

“I suppose,” Jim replied. “But I happen to be right, anyway.”

“Well, I suppose I won't argue with you.” What would be the point? Might as well just take the offer and be picky.

Jim was quiet for a bit and then he said, “Sweet one.”

Bones grinned. Okay, that was a bit archaic. But it was also really lovely. Especially when Jim said it. “I like that,” Bones said finally, because maybe he was supposed to respond to the suggestion.

“I kinda figured,” Jim replied, nuzzling into the groove under Bones' jaw. “The way your scent tells it,” he continued, damp breath teasing Bones' skin, “you're crazy about it.”

Bones' cheeks heated. He drew a breath and let it out. “It's what they used to say in the stories I read growing up,” he explained. “What alphas would call omegas, when they were courting, or...” Or in love. Bones swallowed. “Well, that or 'my heart', but I guess 'my heart' always sounded a bit sillier to me.”

“Mmm.” Jim splayed a hand over the other side of Bones' neck. “I saw some of your books when I was helping you move in—I'd actually read a couple of them too, growing up. And I agree, by the way, about 'my heart'.” He pulled back a bit, eyes catching Bones'. “It's just not as good.”

“You—” Bones wet his lips. “You don't want me to call you 'brave one', do you?”

Overtaken by a fit of helpless giggles, Jim pressed his face into Bones' shoulder. “No,” he finally said, sucking in a deep breath. “Gods, that was worse than 'my heart'.”

“So much worse,” Bones agreed. He slid his fingers into Jim's hair, revelling at the smooth texture of it. Probably used some sort of fancy, overpriced conditioner. That...worked really well, so maybe not so much with the 'overpriced'? Still no doubt more than the average person could reasonably pay. So maybe Bones' point still stood. “I like your hair,” he admitted, feeling a bit silly to say it aloud. But when it came to sex, the way Jim told it, he basically lived off positive feedback, so this was probably important. “It looks really good, but it feels even better.”

Jim hummed happily, pressing his face into Bones' pec. “You smell so good right now, Bones.” He turned his face a bit so he could peek up at Bones' face while keeping his cheek resting against Bones' chest. “Like...happy, relaxed, um...” He pressed his lips together for a moment. “A bit elated, I guess. Excited. Aroused. Relieved? It's like...this perfect cocktail of 'happy omega' that's telling the alpha part of my brain that I'm doing something so right.”

“You are doing something right,” Bones assured him, sliding his fingertips against Jim's scalp and offering him a soft smile. “A lot of things, right, actually.”

A grin spread across Jim's face. “You don't get this with betas—and I love betas, I really do, but the smell thing...” He scraped his teeth over his bottom lip. “I really miss it.” He ran his hand up Bones' side, over his rib cage to frame his other pec. “This is the best—the way you smell.” He nuzzled Bones' chest again, humming happily. “I kinda want...to keep you in this happy bubble forever, but at the same time...” He rubbed his cheek against the swell of Bones' pec. “I want more.”

“Are you drunk on my scent?” Bones blurted out just as the realization was hitting him.

“Uh...” Jim pressed his lips together. “Little bit, I guess.” A frown marred his brow and worry re-joined the wash of pleasant emotions in his scent. “Is that—is that a problem?”

“It's not a problem,” Bones assured him, smoothing his hands through Jim's hair soothingly. Doing things to the alpha part of his brain, indeed. It would be far more severe, of course, when Bones was in heat. Though then, there'd be a lot more urgency to it all. The scent of an omega in heat was specifically meant to entice and motivate a suitable alpha, inspiring not just a mating urge but protective and care-giving instincts. It was somewhat rarer for an omega's scent to have much effect on an alpha outside of heat, unless the omega was pregnant. Or the alpha's mate. (Or both.) So for Jim to be that drunk at that point... Maybe Jim was just especially sensitive and susceptible to scents in general. That might explain a bit of why his whole 'unselfish sex' thing worked so well for him. Bones scratched his nails a bit against Jim's scalp and Jim shivered in a way that made Bones' cheeks heat a little more. “You're doing so well,” Bones told him, “taking care of me.”

Jim relaxed against Bones' chest once again. “'M not doing much,” he argued after a moment. And yeah, he probably wanted to do more. No doubt his alpha instincts were nudging him, suggesting other things he could do to make the happy omega happier.

Bones drew a shaky breath and let it out just as shaky. Damn, but Jim smelled good like this. Bones gave his head a little shake. He wasn't even in heat, and he could still slide so easily into a feedback loop from the scent of Jim's scent-drunk bliss. Bones chanced the question: “Do you often get drunk on your partners' scent?”

“Don't 'partner' with omegas all that often,” Jim replied, words slurring a little. He shifted one leg, sliding against Bones' own leg. “When I do, I guess I sometimes get a little drunk. Like this.” Right. Because this was so clearly a 'little' drunk—what would a 'lot' drunk look like? “But you know...” Jim went on, “I do like alpha's scents too. They're different, maybe not quite as good, but...”

“I'm flattered,” Bones said dryly, “to know I smell slightly better than the alphas you've been with.”

Uncertainty wavered in Jim's scent and he pulled back, kneeling on the bed to look down at Bones. “Do you need me to—? Uh...” Blowing out a breath and looking away, he shoved his fingers back through his hair. He shook his head. “Maybe I should take a little walk, clear my head a bit.”

Bones pushed himself up a bit to lean against the headboard. Trust Bones to spoil all the fun. He shook his head. He really didn't want Jim to leave. Even if he only meant walking to the kitchen. “It's fine.”

Ducking his head, Jim offered Bones an apologetic smile. “Didn't expect to lose my head like that—usually I can catch myself before I get all loopy.”

Bones shrugged. And yeah, he really shouldn't fold his arms, even if it was his immediate impulse, so he stopped himself. “I didn't expect it either.” He offered Jim a lopsided smile. “You wanna touch my dick? I touched yours, so it's only fair.”

“Sex doesn't have to be fair,” Jim pointed out, laying one wonderfully warm hand on Bones' knee.

“Yeah, but I'm pretty sure it's supposed to be,” Bones shot back.

“That's ideal, sure,” Jim replied, brushing his thumb against the side of Bones' knee. “But it's also ideal that everyone enjoy everything that's happening. There are...a lot of ideals when it comes to sex. But sex really is rarely one-hundred percent ideal.”

Bones quirked an eyebrow at him. “You trying to say you wouldn't enjoy touching my dick?”

Ducking his head, Jim bit his lip. “Not saying that at all, Bones.” He shifted his weight a bit on the bed and cleared his throat. “What I'm saying is... The most important thing is consent; if you want me to touch your dick, and you tell me that, then I'll do it, and happily—because it turns out I'd love to touch it. But you absolutely don't have to let me touch your dick just because I let you touch mine.”

“Fine,” Bones replied. “Well, I want—” He looked away, face heating. Hell, his entire body heating.

Jim slid his hand partway up Bones' thigh. “Use your words, Bones.”

“Dammit, Jim!” Bones shook his head, lips twisting unhappily. “I'm older than you; I'm not a toddler!” Leaning in, Jim kissed him. Slow and gentle and searching. He slid his hand further up Bones' leg, fingers curling to hold the inside of Bones' thigh. So damn close to where Bones wanted that hand. Bones rocked his hips, fresh slick oozing out between his labia, no doubt to dampen the crotch of his pants. Clutching at Jim, he begged, “Please. Please, Jim.”

Lips moving along Bones' jaw, Jim whispered back, “What do you want?”

Touch me,” Bones begged. He hadn't felt like this in so long. What if it went away again? What if this was his only chance this decade? He shuddered, tears springing to his eyes. This just wasn't fair. Why should people like Jim get to have sex all the time? Why should it be so easy for them when it was so damn near impossible for Bones?

Bones.” Jim's breath came ragged and worried. And of course he still wasn't touching Bones properly. “You're—” Unhappy concern danced across his face. “You've got...anger, fear, frustration, sadness...coming off you in waves, Bones.” He swallowed, and his voice sounded much younger when he asked, “What the hell am I doing wrong?”

Bones stared up at him. Of course Jim was worried. He could read Bones' scent but not his mind. “Nothing,” Bones said finally, turning to hide his face in the sturdy warmth of Jim's chest. He drew a shaky breath and let it out. “You're fine. You're great, actually.” He pressed closer into Jim's side, and Jim wrapped gentle, strong arms around him. “This is just me messing everything up like I always do.”

“I'm sorry,” Jim said, as if any of this was his fault. He slid his fingers through Bones' hair and pressed a kiss to his forehead, rocking him a bit like he might rock David after a nightmare. “Can you tell me why you were so upset?”

“I was...” Bones sighed. “I was worried my arousal wouldn't last. That I wouldn't get to...enjoy it.” And of course it hadn't. He felt cold all over. He sat up, pulling away from Jim. “Trust me to ruin everything, to—to make that a self-fulfilling prophesy.”

“Hey.” Jim put his hand on Bones' arm. “Bones, if you can...feel this way—”

“For all of five minutes,” Bones interrupted, voice bitter. He pulled away from Jim again, standing up. “Maybe I should figure out how a 'quickie' is supposed to work.” Ignoring all the sadness and hurt in Jim's face and scent, Bones said, “I think I need to use the washroom.” He looked over at the door of Jim's ensuite. “Can I—?”

“Of course,” Jim agreed before Bones got all the words out.

Chapter Text

Bones stared miserably at his reflection in Jim's bathroom mirror. He was such an idiot. Didn't some wise person once say, 'There's nothing to fear but fear itself'? Turns out they were probably right. Or, maybe Bones' arousal would have vanished regardless. Who could really say? Life wasn't like those electronic games Jo played where you could reload and try another option.

Sighing, he gripped the edge of the counter with both hands and leaned some of his weight on his arms.

He didn't even look like an omega. Not a proper one, anyway. That's what they'd always said back in high school, wasn't it? That Joss looked more like an omega than he did. Maybe that was meant more as an insult to Joss than to Bones, but it kind of went both ways. Joss had always said it didn't matter what he looked like, that she liked him anyway. But every omega she'd dated since him and been tiny, delicate, and female. Maybe she'd learned her lesson the messy and painful way.

Bones' shoulders slumped, and he stared down at the sink. He just felt gross now. Like, physically gross. His skin was cold and clammy, his muscles sore. He made a face. He'd showered already that day, but a second one couldn't hurt.

Sighing, he opened the bathroom door. Jim, sitting on his bed, met Bones' eyes. Still clearly worried. Vaguely upset. Definitely unsettled. Bones looked away, clearing his throat. “I think I'd like to take a shower.”

“Would you like to use mine?” Jim offered, standing up and approaching Bones where he stood in the doorway. A shred of a hopeful smile flickered across his face. “It's a little bigger than yours, probably a bit nicer.”

“Look, I—” Bones sighed. That's not why he'd brought it up. He just wanted to be able to walk out of Jim's room without looking rude...er.

Catching Bones gently by the arm, Jim tried to catch his gaze. “Bones?”

Bones' features twitched with something like a grimace. “You really want me to use your shower?”

Stroking Bones' arm gently, Jim replied, “You're welcome to, if you like.” Right, yeah. He probably wanted to join Bones too. Because Mister 'I'm always up for sex' was still up for it, after everything. It wasn't fair to be angry at him for that, but then none of this was fair. Bones was taking too long, because Jim finally spoke again, saying, “Bones, I'm sorry. I—I feel like...everything was going so well, and then it...wasn't. And I must have done something wrong.”

“Fucking typical alpha,” Bones muttered, jerking his arm away and taking a step back. His voice grew louder, edged with frustration and desperation. “Just assuming everything's about you—well, guess what?” He tugged off his shirt, dropping it on the floor. “This is all on me, okay?” He gestured angrily to his bare chest with both hands. “My garbage body with its complete lack of doing what it's meant to do, coupled with my miserably bad attitude and general incapability to interact pleasantly with other adults.” Sitting on the edge of the tub, he dejectedly shook his head. “This was a bad idea.” He rubbed a hand over his mouth, eyes staring unseeing at the floor. “All of it.”

“Bones,” Jim said softly, footsteps quiet against the tile floor as he came closer.

Bones shook his head again and said tiredly, “Don't worry, Jim; I'm pretty sure I'll be horny as hell as soon as I'm in heat.”

“That's not what I'm concerned about at all,” Jim retorted, then paused, covering his face with both hands and breathing deeply.

“None of this was ever fair to you,” Bones said, twisting his hands together in his lap. “I should never have even mentioned that I needed time off until I'd found someone to help me through my heat. I think—um, I probably could have found someone, if I tried hard enough. Just...like, go to a bar, right? Isn't that what people do? Or even place an ad in the paper.” He shook his head. “The chances of accidentally finding a serial killer have got to be a lot smaller than the chances of my dying from trying to go it alone; most people are, I think, statistically...basically decent.” He grimaced. “But no, I had to go drag you into this, make you my only hope, and now you feel all responsible for me.”

“Bones,” Jim said quietly, and something in the serious quality of his scent brought Bones' gaze up to meet his. “If you don't want me to help you through your heat...I can find you another alpha. Someone who's been properly vetted, who'd be careful and...professional about the whole thing.” Swallowing, he looked away. “I never suggested it before, because you'd indicated that you needed someone you knew.”

Bones shrugged tired shoulders. “'Need' is a strong word, Jim.”

Jim sighed through his nose, pressing his lips together. “You were willing to go through your heat alone rather than spend it with someone you didn't know well.”

“Exactly!” Bones glared at him. “Because I'm a selfish ass, Jim. Aren't you getting that yet?” He shook his head miserably. “I'm unreasonable and unlikable and—”

“You're not,” Jim countered, dropping into a crouch and putting one hand on Bones' knee. “You're not 'unlikable', because I like you. And David likes you. Hell, Carol likes you.” He laughed softly, shaking his head. “And she's pretty hard to impress.”

“Carol's barely met me,” Bones pointed out. And damn, but he was being petulant. Of course David liked him. But David was a child. Bones sighed deeply. “Little kids often like me. It's one reason I do okay in my line of work.”

“I'm not a little kid,” Jim pointed out, resting his cheek against Bones' knee and looking up at him with hope-filled eyes. (Actually, those were more his 'puppy dog' eyes.)

Snorting softly, Bones looked away. “You kind of act like one sometimes.”

Jim slid his hand around to grasp the back of Bones' calf. “You're important to me, Bones.”

“Yeah, because your son loves his nanny.” Gripping the edge of the tub loosely at his sides, Bones tried not to sigh.

“David's an important factor, yeah,” Jim replied. “And I probably would never have met you if he hadn't needed a new nanny.” He gave Bones' calf a little shake. “But you're also my friend, Bones. I enjoy your company. I enjoy talking to you, just being near you. I enjoy your cooking and when you let me cook for you. I enjoy every expression on your face, even the grumpy ones. And, Bones, no matter what, I don't ever want to lose that. Ever.”

“Jim,” Bones teased quietly, sliding his fingers into Jim's hair in an inadequate apology, “you're...kind of already sounding a little...attached.”

Jim offered him a smile full of warmth. “I guess I tend to do that sometimes: get attached to people.”

“I suppose everyone does,” Bones replied. He was quiet for a bit, just cupping the side of Jim's head and staring at nothing. Finally, Bones said, “Jim, I don't want anyone else to help me through my heat. I do appreciate you offering to find someone. But if you're still willing to help me yourself...”

“I am,” Jim quickly clarified.

Something like a smile flickered across Bones' face. “Then...I'm kind of...attached, Jim, to the idea of it being you.”

“Yeah?” Hope shimmered in Jim's scent.

“You are,” Bones admitted with a chuckle, “honestly adorable.” Pressing a kiss to Jim's forehead, he breathed in the gentle cloud of Jim's relief mingled with little sparks of pride. Pulling back, Bones offered Jim a crooked half-smile. “You're preening again, aren't you?”

Laughing softly, Jim shrugged. “Were you...still going to take a shower?”

Bones took a careful breath and let it out. Might as well jump in with both feet—at this point, what did he really have to lose? “Would you like to join me?”

“Yes,” Jim replied immediately. “If you—”

“I want you to,” Bones assured him. “Maybe we could...try to...sort of pick up where we left off.”

Jim beamed up at him. “Yes. Absolutely. But if you're not feeling it, then we'll—”

“Just take a shower,” Bones filled in, nodding. “I'll try not to storm off.” He offered Jim a lopsided smile. “Should be easier not to when I'm naked and dripping wet.”

Jim bit his lip, grinning at Bones. “Sounds like a plan. I like that plan.”

Bones looked down at himself. “Guess I still need to get out of my pants.” He met Jim's eyes. “Want to help me with that?”

Jim's grin broadened and brilliant happiness spiked in his scent. “If you'll let me, Bones,” he said solemnly, “I'd like to help you with anything and everything.”

Bones let out a surprised laugh. Pushing himself up to stand, he asked, “Does that include scrubbing my back?”

“Of course,” Jim replied, standing up as well. “I would consider it a great honour.”

Bones laughed. Jim pulled his soft white t-shirt off over his head, and Bones stopped laughing because his breath died in his throat. Audibly. Jim turned a confused and possibly concerned face on him. “You—” Bones cleared his throat, gesturing to Jim with one hand. “You're—you look very healthy.”

Jim laughed. Cocking his head to one side, he considered Bones through narrowed eyes. “People usually say 'hot'.”

Bones nodded slowly, almost sitting down again before remembering he had to be standing up to get his pants off. “That too,” he admitted.

“Bones,” Jim purred, stepping into Bones' personal space and letting his hands settle at Bones' waistband, fingers warm where they made contact with Bones' bare skin, “is taking off my shirt really all I'll have to do to seduce you this time?”

“Well,” Bones admitted, “what you're doing right now is helping too.”

“Yeah?” Jim slid his fingers under Bones' waistband. A rush of self-satisfaction filled his scent.

“Try not to get scent-drunk again right now,” Bones warned. “Wouldn't want you falling in the shower. People—” He swallowed. “People get hurt.”

Jim rolled his eyes, shaking his head in apparent disbelief. “Being scent-drunk isn't being actually drunk, Bones; it's best to avoid driving because you're too distracted, not because it impairs motor control in any way.”

“Fine.” Bones moved his shoulders in something like one quarter of a shrug. Jim had a lot more reason than Bones did to look this sort of thing up, and more reason for people—like those at the DMV, as an example—to volunteer that sort of mostly alpha-specific information.

“And besides,” Jim said, tugging Bones' pants down in ridiculously small increments, “I've never gotten scent-drunk while standing up before; I think needing to keep my balance is enough of an...unconscious reminder, I guess, to keep my head on straight.”

“Okay.” Bones let out a breath. “I guess that's all very reassuring. I do have up to date first aid certification, but it's specifically for babies and toddlers, and I don't actually know how to handle a grown adult getting a—” Jim finally got Bones' pants down past his dick and was staring appreciatively as he slid the pants down further. Bones gave him a vaguely amused look. “You're not actually listening to anything I'm saying, are you?”

“Uh...” Jim's eyes flickered guiltily up to Bones' face. “My...mind wandered a bit.”

Bones dutifully stepped out of the pants, shivering just a bit now that he was fully naked. The room was pleasantly warm, actually. “Not cold,” Bones explained before Jim could properly start worrying, “just nervous.”

Jim laid a hand over Bones' naked hipbone, saying, “And being nervous can make you shiver?”

Bones shivered again. “Apparently.” He offered Jim a sheepish smile. “Though that one was mostly something else.”

“Something good?” Jim checked, meeting Bones' eyes.

Bones chewed on his lip. “Something exciting, anyway. Jury's still out on 'good'.”

“I'll have to step up my game,” Jim muttered, sliding his fingers over Bones' skin and making him shiver again.

Bones let out a somewhat nervous but also somewhat relieved laugh. “You're doing great, Jim. I promise.”

Jim flashed him a grin. “I'm not doing much at the moment.”

“Well...” Bones shrugged. “I guess you don't have to at the moment.” Maybe Bones' earlier arousal hadn't gone away as completely as he'd thought.

Jim hummed happily, pulling their bodies together and kissing Bones. Damn, it was a strange—though certainly not unpleasant—feeling to have his fully nude body brushing against Jim's still partially clothed one. Well, specifically their cocks brushing against each other, as Jim's, hard and hot through the material of his sweats, nudged against Bones' bare and hardening one. Bones let out a shaky breath as arousal bloomed brighter in his gut. Jim, hand tightening on Bones' hip, said, “Damn, Bones, arousal smells so good on you.”

“You ever gonna get your pants off?” Bones asked, a little breathless, as he tugged at Jim's waistband.

Pulling back, Jim smiled crookedly at him. “Can't wait to see my cock, huh?”

“Actually,” Bones retorted, “I'm curious, yeah.” He slid one hand around to cup it through the material of Jim's sweatpants. “I wanna see if it looks as huge as it feels.”

“Well,” Jim purred, shifting his hips slightly, “I would absolutely love to sate your curiosity.” He shifted his hips again in a way that was probably meant to be inviting. “Wanna help me out of these pants?”

Rolling his eyes just a bit, Bones slid his hand back up to Jim's waistband. “Need my help, Jim?” He slid his thumbs under the waistband. “Thought you were a big, strong, capable alpha.”

“Never said I needed help,” Jim retorted as Bones finally slid the pants down over his hips.

Bones had to work a bit to get the waistband over Jim's rather impressive cock and set said cock free. Okay, that was an awful way to word it. Even if it was possibly somewhat accurate. But it made Jim's cock sound like some sort of wild animal. And Bones sound like some sort of protester breaking into a zoo after hours—and the point was, it really wasn't a sexy image. And Bones probably wanted to avoid unsexy images at that moment. “It...really is big,” he commented once he could see the whole thing.

“As big as it felt, though?” Jim asked.

Bones cocked his head to one side, considering, as Jim stepped out of his sweatpants and kicked them aside. “Kind of hard to tell, I guess—it might be bigger.”

Laughing, Jim caught him by the arms and kissed him. “You're amazing, Bones. The best.” He flashed him a bright grin, happiness buzzing in his scent. “Now...let's get this shower started.” Reaching past Bones, he turned on the water. He shot Bones a wink. “About time we got you wet, don't you think?”

Rolling his eyes, Bones sighed. “Already managed that, Jim.” Taking Jim's hand, he slid it between his legs, gasping a little as Jim's finger slid between his labia.

“Oh,” Jim murmured, naked body brushing against Bones', “sweet one.” He pressed a kiss to Bones' cheek then nipped at his ear, pausing to say, voice low and husky, “But I think we could get you wetter.”

“No shit,” Bones deadpanned. “It's a shower, Jim.”

Jim laughed quietly. He jerked his head towards the shower. “Into the tub. Come on.”

Bones let Jim wrangle him into the tub and under the warm spray of water, since this whole shower had been his idea in the first place. He let his eyelids flutter closed as the gentle yet insistent caress of the water on his neck and back washed a layer of tension right out of him. He hummed in pleased relief, letting himself sway a bit because Jim was there to catch him. Jim's spicy warm scent filled the enclosed space, and Bones let his head rest on Jim's shoulder. Blinking a bit, he admitted, “'S been a while since I showered with anyone.”

“Sorta guessed,” Jim replied, sliding his hands down from Bones' shoulders to his lower back. He pressed a kiss to the side of Bones' neck. “You really need to take a load off, don't you?” Bones made a noncommittal sound, and Jim laughed, tugging Bones a little closer. “Alpha knows best.”

Making a slightly offended sound, Bones pulled back to offer Jim an unimpressed look. “Really, Jim?”

Laughing, Jim shook his head. “Just teasing you, Bones.” He guided Bones' head under the water and slid his fingers through Bones' hair, helping the water rinse through fully. “You want your hair washed?”

Bones twisted his lips a little. “Just washed it the other day, so I guess not.”

“Hmm.” Jim pressed his fingertips in soothing circles at the base of Bones' skull. “Maybe next time, then.”

“What are you, my hairdresser?” Bones griped.

Jim tipped his head to one side, expression thoughtful. “I think I'd like that.” His lips curled into a pleased smile. “Running my fingers through your hair...having you spill all your deepest secrets...”

Bones let out a huff. “Don't I do that anyway?”

“Maybe,” Jim said, sliding his hands to Bones' neck and massaging the muscles there. “But what about your darkest ones?”

Bones rolled his eyes. “I don't have any dark secrets, Jim; I'm a nanny.”

“Well,” Jim replied, “I mean, you did want to fuck your boss.”

“Oh, such a dark secret, Jim,” Bones retorted. “I imagine you're shocked beyond measure.”

Jim laughed softly. “I am still a little surprised,” he admitted, reaching for the bottle of soap. Pouring some into one palm, he paused, looking between the dollop of green liquid and Bones. “You're not allergic or sensitive to this stuff are you?”

Bones shrugged. “Never had too sensitive of skin, Jim.” He rolled his eyes a bit, gaze catching on the 'for alphas!' emblazoned on the bottle in bold red letters. “Even if I am an omega.”

Shrugging, Jim replaced the bottle on its little ledge. “Never actually met an omega who did, but this one beta guy was allergic to nearly everything, so we had to be really careful.” Smiling a bit, he tilted his head to one side and continued, “Anyway, as I was saying...I am a little surprised, because you're...kinda out of my league, Bones.”

Letting out a huff, Bones folded his arms and leaned against the shower wall. “You're out of my league—and also...” He narrowed his eyes, properly noticing the tub for the first time. “Is this a whirlpool tub?”

“Yep,” Jim confirmed, somewhat needlessly, because those little jet things set in the sides of the tub could only really be one thing. He started rubbing soap on the sides of Bones' neck and over his collarbones. “Obviously I'm not out of your league, Bones.”

Snorting derisively, Bones looked away. “If there are...” His lips twisted with distaste. “...'leagues' for this sort of thing, then you'd be in whatever 'league' is highest and best. The 'top' league, or whatever.”

Spreading suds down over Bones' arms, Jim hummed thoughtfully. “I guess maybe I've always envisioned those 'leagues' less as some sort of linear ranking system and more as...vaguely-linked categories that aren't necessarily better or worse than each other.”

Bones narrowed his eyes. “So how am I 'out of your league' then, Jim?”

Jim shrugged. “After spending enough time trying to get with everyone in the world, I started to notice certain categories of people were a lot more likely to turn me down.”

Bones rolled his eyes. “So you just assumed I fit nicely into one of your little predetermined categories.”

Jim smoothed his soapy hands down over Bones' chest. Meeting his eyes, he said, “I never said you fit 'nicely', Bones; almost no one ever fits 'nicely' into any category we ever come up with.”

Bones nodded a bit, a little impressed despite himself. (And maybe a little distracted by the warm slickness of Jim's hands as they slid over his pectorals.) “Which is why your prejudice isn't infallible.”

“Prejudice is never infallible,” Jim countered. “Which is why we shouldn't let it guide our actions.”

Bones quirked an eyebrow at him. “So you would have made a move on me, then, despite your assumption that I would turn you down?”

Jim laughed, shaking his head. “No, because you probably would have sued me for sexual harassment.”

“Maybe I would have,” Bones said, voice a little strangled as Jim's soapy hand slid down over his belly.

“Bones,” Jim murmured, leaning close and nipping at Bones' earlobe. His fingers curled in the hair just above Bones' cock. “You gonna sue me if I touch your cock?”

Bones made a frustrated sound, shaking his head a bit. “Might sue you if you don't.”

Jim's tongue traced along the edge of Bones' earlobe. “Now look who's guilty of sexual harassment; I should get you on tape.”

Groaning, Bones pressed into Jim's side. The soap slicking his skin made the contact feel even better. “Are you gonna—?” He would have said 'make me beg', but Jim's fingers finally closed around his cock, and all Bones could do was let out a helpless, breathy laugh against Jim's shoulder as those soap-slick fingers slid along his length. How, exactly, did it feel so much better to have someone else's hand on him? It wasn't like he didn't touch himself in the shower exactly this way rather frequently. But this, with Jim, was so much better.

It had been so long since he'd had someone else's hand on him, he'd forgotten how good it felt. Panting, he pressed his face into the side of Jim's neck.

“Okay?” Jim asked.

“Yeah, yes.” Bones bit his lip. “Gods, Jim.” He trembled, clutching at Jim. His feet slipped a bit on the floor of the tub, but Jim's arm wrapped firmly around him kept him from falling.

“I've got you,” Jim promised, whispering into Bones' wet hair. “I've got you.” Bones gulped in ragged breaths thick with Jim's scent. Aroused, protective, affectionate, and inviting. A heady cocktail, further setting Bones' skin alight. He didn't bother trying to keep his sounds of pleasure in, because they were the only ones in Jim's big house, and with the size of the yard the neighbours weren't going to hear. And Jim liked the sounds, right? That's one of the things he'd listed as what he specifically enjoyed about sex. So no one was going to mind. “Oh, yeah,” Jim breathed, warm and damp into Bones' ear. “Just like that, sweet one.”

Bones saw stars. Slumped against Jim's side, Bones blinked up at Jim's proud grin. “Oh,” Bones said softly.

“Exactly.” Jim laughed.

“Oh,” Bones said again stupidly, hiding his face in Jim's neck as Jim turned them more fully into the spray of water. As Jim cleaned the semen off his hand and off of Bones' cock and belly, Bones stumbled a bit and his hip bumped Jim's very hard—and very large—cock. His gaze fell to it, then moved up to find Jim's face. “Want—to make you feel good too, Jim.”

“You did,” Jim assured him as he poured more soap into his hand. “You are.”

Bones hummed thoughtfully as Jim slid back Bones' foreskin to wash under it. “Right. But...” His gaze fell to Jim's cock again. “That impressive cock, Jim.”

Jim chuckled as he turned Bones under the water spray again. “You can play with my cock all you like, but...I never knot in the shower.” He winced slightly. “The water usually gets cold before the knot goes down.”

Bones hummed thoughtfully, still studying Jim's cock. “Right. Is that what the whirlpool tub is for, then?”

Jim chuckled, pressing a kiss to Bones' jaw. “Yep.”

Bones hummed thoughtfully as he let Jim go back to properly washing him again. “Maybe we'll have to try it out together sometime—it looks big enough for two.”

“It should be,” Jim agreed. Shivering slightly, he pulled Bones tight against his side. “And I would love to share it with you.”

o0o

Because he was suitably impressed that Jim could, Bones let Jim carry him—with very little protest—back to bed. They both kind of smelled amazingly clean in that way a human body only can for the first few precious moments after being thoroughly showered.

“You're still hard,” Bones noted as Jim deposited him, wrapped nearly head-to-toe in an overly-large, overly-fluffy towel.

“You still smell amazing,” Jim pointed out, smiling down at him from where he knelt next to him on the bed. “And you just spent the bulk of our time in the shower carefully soaping and then rinsing every available millimetre of my cock and balls.” He rubbed a corner of his equally overlarge towel at his still-dripping hair. Smiling curiously, he tilted his head a little to one side. “So, first experience with balls: what's the verdict?”

Bones wrinkled his nose a bit then laughed softly, shaking his head and rubbing at his own dripping hair with a corner of his own towel. “Balls are...weird,” he answered diplomatically, meeting Jim's gaze with an apologetic smile.

Laughing softly as well, Jim flopped down on his side, smiling at Bones. “Not really a fan, huh?”

Bones shrugged one shoulder. “They're...not exactly awful.”

“Such high praise.” Jim rubbed a drop of water off Bones' temple. “I noticed you just seemed mildly curious about them, compared with my cock.” After a beat, he added, “Which you adored.”

Bones made a face at him. “I guess I just don't find balls exciting.” He blew out a breath. “They're just... Just kinda weird.” Bordering on the gross kind of weird. And definitely sliding well over the line into the comical kind of weird. So wrinkly. So dangly. So...weird in how the actual balls felt sliding around inside the sack. Obviously they had a function, but they weren't anything a reasonable person could actually find attractive—were they? Okay, well, maybe; people did like different things, after all. Not everyone found vulvae attractive. Or cocks, for that matter. But both of those at least had symmetry. Which balls for whatever reason did not.

“I'm not offended,” Jim assured him, rubbing a bit of fluffy towel along the edge of Bones' jaw. “The utter height of your affection for my cock more than makes up for your less than glowing opinion of my balls.”

Shifting a bit, Bones pressed up against Jim's side and rested his cheek on the soft layer of towel covering Jim's chest. He blinked, somewhat sleepy. “That was...really great, Jim.”

Jim wrapped his arm around Bones' shoulders, pulling him closer. “The sex?”

Bones hummed affirmatively. “Best I've had in over a decade,” he teased. Jim snorted softly and pressed a kiss to Bones' damp forehead. Bones worried his lower lip a bit. Jim hadn't been wrong about Bones and his cock. It was like...a new toy, as insulting as that comparison might be. But Bones really wanted to play with it. More. And it was clean now, just out of the shower... “Jim?”

“Yeah?”

Bones grimaced. “Are you sure you don't want to knot?”

“I love knotting,” Jim replied, rubbing Bones' back a bit through the towel. “I'm also happy without it.”

Bones chewed at his lower lip for a bit. “And yet...the whirlpool tub.”

Jim laughed. “You may have noticed I also have an espresso machine I only use maybe once or twice a month.”

Bones shrugged one shoulder. “Sorta figured you bought coffee at Starbucks most days.”

“I do,” Jim admitted. “Well, not usually Starbucks, specifically, but at some coffee shop or other. Uh, anyway, maybe this wasn't the best comparison.”

Bones snorted softly, burrowing his face into the rich, slightly-damp softness of Jim's bath towel. “I really hope you're not buying orgasms at Starbucks,” he teased, voice somewhat muffled. “Or some kind of 'orgasm' shop.”

Jim's chest shook with his quiet laughter. “'Orgasm shop', Bones? That sounds...”

“Shut up.” Bones punched him weakly in the ribs. “You're the one who made the espresso comparison.”

“I'm having a difficult time thinking up a better comparison.”

Bones angled his head so he could see a bit of Jim's face. “You value coffee more than sex, Jim?”

“Absolutely not,” Jim replied, mildly affronted. He laughed softly, shaking his head a bit. “But I guess I do value it more than knotting.” His brow furrowed. “Knotting's really a small part of sex, Bones.”

“Well, I dunno,” Bones grumbled softly, shifting a bit against Jim's side and sliding one arm across his midsection. “I always kind of figured orgasms were the main point of sex. Guess I've been doing it wrong all these years.”

“Haven't been doing it at all for most of 'these years',” Jim pointed out. “Which does sound kind of 'wrong' to me, personally.”

Bones kicked weakly at Jim's ankle. “Shut up.” Leave it to Jim, really. “Anyway, the reason I brought it up...” He bit his lip a little, gripping Jim's hipbone through the thick layer of towel. “I was wondering...I mean...if you really aren't going to get mad or frustrated or annoyed with me for, um, not 'finishing the job'...”

“I promise on my honour that I won't,” Jim replied. He chuckled quietly. “But I gotta say I'm a little disturbed by your use of the word 'job', here, in a sexual context.”

Bones blew out a frustrated breath. “Fine.” Considering the official nature of their relationship, regardless of what Jim always insisted about them just being friends at the moment, maybe that really was a poor choice of words. “What do you want me to say? 'For not getting you to knot'?”

Jim shifted a little on the bed. “I knew what you meant, Bones, but sex isn't supposed to be a job or a chore or some kind of task that you 'have' to do. Fun, remember? That's what it's about. Enjoyment. Pleasure.” A tang of worry stirred in his scent and his palm pressed heavily against Bones' back. “And you should never have to worry that your partner might get angry for some sexual thing you didn't do. Or didn't 'finish' doing.”

Bones pushed himself up to sit, towel slipping down into a gentle muddle about his waist. He studied Jim's face thoughtfully. “Maybe 'angry' is too strong a word. I just—I don't want you to be frustrated.”

Jim offered him a lopsided smirk. “Maybe I like being frustrated.” He waggled his eyebrows a bit. “Maybe I find that exciting.”

Bones rolled his eyes. If Jim did enjoy being frustrated (for whatever reason), that might further explain his odd approach to sex. “Maybe 'annoyed' was the right word, then.”

Jim's fingers closed, warm and careful, around Bones' forearm. “I promise on my honour I won't get annoyed at you for something so selfish and shallow as 'not getting to knot'.”

Bones pressed his lips together, frowning. “But what if—?” He sighed, looking away. It was all well and good for Jim to insist he was the perfect sexual martyr, but everyone had limits. Bones went to run his fingers back through his hair, but it was still a little damp so he stopped and dropped his hand to his lap again. “I just thought...” he tried, finally, “that—I mean, I'm curious, and I know I've never done it before, so...” He grimaced. Jim had insisted skill and technique were unimportant, so maybe that was a moot point here. “But I—” Sighing, he turned to look at Jim's face. “Would you mind if I, uh, played with your cock a bit more?” His cheeks heated uncomfortably. “Um, specifically with my mouth is what I was thinking.”

“Would I 'mind'?” Jim asked with a disbelieving laugh. “Bones, that would be amazing.”

Bones wrinkled up his nose. “You're sure? I mean, I'm not talking about getting you off, here.” Making a face, he added in a mutter, “Not that I would have any idea how.”

Bones,” Jim interjected with a laugh, “the way I understand it, we're currently discussing a choice between you not touching my dick at all and you putting your mouth on it.” He grinned, amusement warring with affection in his scent. “This really isn't a difficult choice for me. Please.” He shifted his hips invitingly. “By all means, Bones.”

Moistening his lips a little nervously, Bones pulled the dark red towel aside to reveal the pale sprawl of Jim's naked body. “You really are beautiful,” he admitted, brushing his fingertips up the inside of Jim's muscled thigh.

“I find working out helps,” Jim teased. He shifted his unfairly fit legs a little, folding his arms behind his head and looking down over his own naked body. “Most people tend to be at least a little more impressed the more I do it.”

“Yeah, well...count me in the majority there, I guess.” Bones laid his hand against the base of Jim's still mostly hard cock, prompting an excited twitch (and a spike of pleasure and arousal in Jim's scent). Bones laughed, shaking his head a bit. “That's what I like best, I guess: how it reacts to everything I do.”

“Mmm,” Jim responded, shifting his hips a little. “Guess I like that part too.”

Bones chuckled. “I also like how it feels. It's strange, I guess. It's hard, but not like a bone is hard. Or really, I guess, like anything else is hard.” He shifted his hand a bit, Jim's cock so wonderfully hot and hard under his palm. “So it's...unique? I guess.” He shrugged. “It's so warm, too. It's like...” He laughed, soft and embarrassed, rubbing at the back of his neck with his other hand. “I dunno, I guess I just like to...pet it.” Biting his lip, he looked away. “I know I've got my own, but this one's...bigger.” His face flamed. “I dunno. It's kind of...more fun.”

“You don't have to be embarrassed,” Jim insisted, biting his lower lip a bit. “You're making my day here—month, year. I dunno. But this is great.” He flashed Bones a warm smile. “You're great.”

Bones smiled back, still a little irrationally worried that he was coming across as an idiot, despite everything Jim said. Shifting on the bed, he slid down so he could get his head lined up with Jim's pelvis. He dropped a quick kiss to the hollow just inside Jim's hipbone, and Jim's belly twitched. Bones laughed softly. “It's not just the cock that reacts, either.”

“Yeah,” Jim agreed, eyes falling closed. He waved one hand vaguely towards his hips. “That whole area.” His lips slid into a lopsided smile. “Pretty fun for me too.”

Bones wrapped his fingers around the deliciously warm base of Jim's cock. Hit with a momentary desire to rub his cheek against the side of Jim's cock, Bones immediately dismissed that idea. He wasn't a cat, and—random 'sexy' Halloween costumes aside—cats weren't sexy. And anyway, he'd promised Jim his mouth. Well, Bones wanted to use his mouth. That was the whole point: to satisfy his curiosity. What would it taste like? What would it feel like against his lips and tongue?

Bones pressed his lips against the side, just above his thumb. He hummed with approval at the warmth and that lovely hard-silky combination that he enjoyed so much. And it smelled so strongly of Jim: fresh and clean from the shower.

Parting his lips a little, Bones flicked his tongue against that wonderfully warm, silky skin. Jim's whole body jerked a bit, and alarm tainted the sharp spike of arousal in his scent. Bones blinked, turning to look at Jim's face again. “Are...you okay, Jim?”

“Yeah, yeah.” Jim rubbed both hands over his face, letting out a strained bit of a laugh. “Absolutely.” He offered Bones a helpless sort of smile. “It's just...” He gestured towards his cock. “That's right where my knot is, um, at the base there, so...uh, that's kind of extra sensitive. And...it's, uh, been, um, a while. Since anyone's...put their mouth on me.” He swallowed. “To—to clarify, Bones: that feels amazing.” He let out a nervous laugh. “I'm just a little worried I might knot while you're doing it.”

Bones frowned slightly. That wasn't exactly what he was trying for; they'd had a whole conversation about this. But, still: “Would that be bad?”

“Well...” Jim hissed a bit, pulling air in through his teeth. “It makes a huge mess.”

Bones rolled his eyes a little. “I know. I've seen an alpha knot before, Jim. But everyone makes a bit of a mess when they orgasm, and none of it compares to the mess an omega makes while in heat.”

Jim wrinkled his nose a bit. “Semen's sticker.”

“It still washes out of bedding,” Bones pointed out.

“We literally just took a shower, though!” Jim retorted, exasperation edging his voice and scent. He grimaced. “And anyway, you specifically said you didn't want me to knot.”

“I did not say that,” Bones countered. “I said...” He frowned. Whatever exact words he'd used, they certainly had not been 'don't you dare knot'. Or anything like that. But maybe he really hadn't been clear. Bones sighed. “What I meant was, Jim...” He shifted a bit on the bed. “I do not have the first clue how to make you knot with my mouth.” He'd done Joss a few times with just his hand, but she'd never really liked it much, so it was kind of pointless. “I just wanted to make sure you wouldn't mind me playing around with your cock when I wasn't trying to make you knot, but if I somehow manage to make you knot by accident, I'm not going to be offended.”

“Even if this potential accident results in my jizz all over your face?”

Bones grimaced. He hadn't quite thought of that. And it really didn't sound at all pleasant. As Jim had pointed out, semen was really sticky. And it tended to smell pretty awful too. “Okay, um, well if you are about to knot, could you...maybe warn me so I can get out of the way?” As an omega, Bones himself usually knew when he was going to ejaculate before it happened. He'd never had to warn anyone, but he probably could if needed. And as far as he knew, alphas actually had more warning. At least a little bit more.

“Okay,” Jim said, letting out a breath. “I'll do my best, Bones. But—” He caught Bones by the wrist, eyes earnest. “Just—I've already had one surprise tonight when I got scent-drunk.” He stroked his thumb over the inside of Bones' wrist. “I usually can see that coming too. And—” He pressed his lips together, looking away. “It really has been a while.”

Bones snorted softly, rolling his eyes. He stroked his thumb over the silky skin of Jim's cock. “What even counts as 'a while' for you, anyway? Forty-eight hours?”

Jim rolled his eyes back at him. “That depends on if you mean 'a while' since I had sex or 'a while' since someone put their mouth on my cock.”

With an indulgently lopsided smile, Bones rested his head on Jim's thigh and blew out a breath. “Okay: so how long can the great Jim Kirk go without sex, then? Was forty-eight hours close?”

Jim laughed. “Was this a competition?”

“Let's make it one,” Bones suggested.

Jim snorted softly. “Because you'd win.”

Bones pressed a kiss into Jim's thigh. “Exactly.” He flashed Jim an unrepentant grim. “Gotta beat you at something.”

Not expecting Jim to actually answer his question, Bones was about to go back to exploring Jim's cock once again, when Jim said, “Five days. Since I had sex last. But...a whole lot longer than that for the mouth thing, Bones.” He gave his head a little shake. “Months, I guess. I'm not even sure.”

Bones twisted his brows, confused. “Is it really that odd to enjoy it? I mean, I guess I probably wouldn't be into it if you were all sweaty and covered in lint...” That would actually be really disgusting. “But right now it's clean. And...” He grinned, embarrassed. “I like it.” He narrowed his eyes a bit. “Jim, I got the impression from you that this was a pretty common sex thing.”

“It is!” Jim insisted. “But...” He worried his lower lip. “I'm an alpha.”

“I noticed,” Bones deadpanned.

“Well.” Jim made a soft frustrated sound, gesturing to his cock. “It doesn't actually fit. No one's got a mouth big enough! And, uh...” He shrugged one shoulder. “That's...um, usually how it's done.”

“Jim,” Bones replied, giving Jim's cock a bit of a squeeze, “you said I very nearly made you knot by giving the side of it a tiny kiss. And as we're both well aware, I actually have no idea what I'm doing.”

Jim just stared at him for a bit and then covered his face with both hands. “No one knows how to give oral to an alpha, Bones.” Pulling his hands away from his face, he shrugged. “It's rare for anyone to offer.”

Bones stroked the side of Jim's cock with his thumb. “And you don't ask.” Because of course he didn't. 'Unselfish' lover, and all that.

Jim made a face at him. “I used to ask, Bones. People would look at me like I was from another planet. 'But you're an alpha', 'It's too big,' etc. I got tired of making things awkward.”

Bones blew out a breath. “Do you ever think maybe you take your whole unselfish thing a bit too far?”

Jim laughed. “Bones, you weren't even going to do this if you thought I wanted an orgasm out of it.”

Bones made a face. It wasn't fair when Jim made sense. “Point taken, I guess.”

Jim shrugged. “And besides, a whole lot of people only ever get with an alpha because they want to be knotted.”

Bones narrowed his eyes a bit. “They see you as just a walking knot—and you're okay with that?”

Jim offered him a lopsided smile. “I do happen to like knotting, Bones.”

“Okay.” Bones laughed softly. Maybe now wasn't the best time to explore that particular topic. “Can I get back to what I was doing with your cock?”

Please,” Jim replied, patting and stroking Bones' shoulder. “Yeah.”

Bones shifted a little then paused. “Just don't expect me to do this when you haven't just showered.”

Jim laughed. “I don't 'expect' you to do it at all, Bones.”

One side of his lips curving up, Bones rolled his eyes a bit. “All right. Hope you enjoy the unexpected.” He pressed an open mouthed kiss to the side of Jim's cock.

Jim made an inarticulate noise, muscles tensing and fresh arousal flaring in his scent. “Bones,” he managed, sliding his fingers into the damp hair on the back of Bones' head, “I'm—quite the fan.”

Bones hummed happily, letting his scent spill out entirely unchecked. The thing was, as weird as it sounded, Jim's cock actually tasted good. Well, it was skin, right? Freshly-showered skin. Bones had always had a thing for the smell—and, by extension, the taste—of freshly-showered skin. Usually shoulders or necks, sure, but this was still skin.

Bones worked his way up the side of Jim's cock, giving it little kisses and bigger kisses, little licks and bigger licks. Enjoying the shudders in Jim's body and the waves of pleased alpha scent pouring off of him. And the pleasant stroking of Jim's fingers through his hair.

Sliding back Jim's foreskin, he traced the tip of his tongue around the edge of the flared head. Pulling back a bit, he wrinkled his nose. “The taste is stronger here.”

Jim laughed softly. “You don't seem to approve.”

Bones shrugged, shifting a bit on the bed. He gave the head another experimental lick. “It's not bad...”

Jim made small inarticulate sound. “Sure doesn't feel bad.”

Bones laughed. He flashed Jim a grin. “Well, I'm glad you like the completely random things I'm doing to your cock.” He flicked his tongue over the slit, and Jim made a helpless sort of noise, the scent of his aroused pleasure hanging heavily about the two of them. Since they had just showered and all this exploring was just making him more curious, Bones slipped his tongue into the slit. Jim's rough gasp became a strangled sound as his whole body tensed and twisted, almost as though he were trying to get away from Bones.

Pulling back a little, Bones sought Jim's face with his eyes. “Jim? Did that...hurt?”

“No.” Swallowing, Jim shook his head. “Gods, no, Bones. The opposite.” He let out a breathless laugh. “I was just—a bit scared for a second that I was gonna knot.”

Bones offered him a wry smile. “If you jizz in my face, Jim...”

“I'll owe you dinner,” Jim suggested with a hopeful smile. “Anything you want.”

Bones rolled his eyes. He gave Jim's cock a little tug. “You'd probably enjoy that just as much as I did, if not more.”

“Yeah, but...” Jim shrugged. “You still like food, don't you?”

“Oh, I like food fine,” Bones said. “I'm just not sure it's much of a deterrent for you.”

Jim sighed, shifting his shoulders a little against the pillows. “The probably well-founded fear that you'll never put your face anywhere near my junk again is a pretty big deterrent, Bones.”

Bones grunted in vague agreement. Dropping his gaze to the head of Jim's cock, he said, “Is this thing safe, then?” He glanced up at Jim's face again. “At the moment?”

Jim bit his lip. “At the moment, yeah.”

Bones slid his tongue into the slit again. Jim swore. Bones pulled back a bit to laugh at him. “The way you're acting, I'd almost think no one had ever done this so well.”

Jim rolled his eyes and roughly adjusted the pillows under his head. “Well, maybe no one has. It's been too long for me to remember.” And maybe that shouldn't really have made Bones grin, but it did. Jim rolled his eyes again. “You're like those guys who hustle at pool, Bones.” He pitched his voice a little higher and widened his eyes comically. “'Oh, how does this game work? I don't think I've even seen it played!' And then they beat you first try.”

“I'm pretty sure that's your dick talking,” Bones said, giving said dick a little squeeze. “It'll say anything, no matter how wildly inaccurate, in order to keep my attention.”

Twisting his brows, Jim narrowed his eyes a bit at his cock. “I'm pretty sure it doesn't have a brain, Bones.”

Bones laughed. “I'm pretty sure that wouldn't stop it from talking.”

Jim smiled up at him. “I'm starting to think maybe you like my cock more than you like me, Bones.” He chewed on his lower lip. “And I'm not sure if I should feel jealous.”

“Well, Jim,” Bones replied with as much seriousness as he could muster, dropping his gaze to Jim's cock, “it is pretty cool.” He adjusted his grip, looking it over consideringly. Leaning in, he licked over the slit again, and Jim tensed, letting out a shaky breath. Bones hummed, pleased. It was weird, but playing with Jim's cock was fun. Even if it did taste a little bit gross right around the head. Well, and especially at the slit. It still wasn't awful, but...Bones had kind of hoped he'd get used to it after the initial strangeness, and if anything it was just tasting worse with each lick. It didn't taste dirty at all (which wouldn't make sense anyway). Just... It was hard to explain. It tasted very alive. In a deep, primal way. Maybe 'virile' would be a good word for it. For whatever reason, that wasn't a pleasant taste. Just...too strong, maybe. And really, it wasn't anything that was actually meant to go in a person's mouth, so there was no reason it should taste good.

“Hey...Bones,” Jim said, swallowing, “if you don't like the taste...”

“Like it better down here,” Bones told him, shifting his mouth down the side of the shaft. It really did taste better. Nice, actually. That freshly-showered skin taste. He hummed happily. The only downside at that moment was the tickle of Jim's pubic hair against his cheek.

“So you, uh...” Jim shifted a bit, restless. “You like the taste there?”

“Mm hmm,” Bones replied. He ran his tongue over the gloriously silky skin then pulled back enough to say, “Actually really like the taste, Jim.”

“Oh,” Jim said softly as Bones kissed the side of his cock again, sliding his mouth farther down. “Uh, well... That's—good.”

Bones chuckled softly. Inarticulate Jim was pretty cute. Jim's arousal swirled around them, hot and heady. Bones slid his mouth lower to where Jim's knot would be, sucking experimentally.

Jim shuddered, breath rasping. “I— I'm close again, Bones.”

Bones looked up, suddenly unsure. “What can I do to—?”

“You can stop, Bones,” Jim said, letting out a soft breath and giving him a gentle pat on the shoulder. Something that smelled troublingly like resignation tinged his scent. “It's okay.” He offered a flutter of a smile. “I'll be okay.”

Bones gripped Jim's cock a little tighter. “Sure, but—you can be okay without any chocolate cake too, and that doesn't mean you should never have any. Jim.” He sought Jim's eyes. “Please.” He drew a shaking breath. “Help me out a bit here.”

Making a rough sound, Jim moved, wrapping his own hand tight around over Bones' hand and flipping the towel back over everything then twisting their joined hands on his cock. Jim's knot swelled. Hot semen dripped onto Bones' hand and wrist under the towel. And, okay, that was kind of gross. Jim smelled amazing as he came, and he looked even more beautiful than he ever had. None of that made the sensation of hot semen on Bones' hand feel good. But that's what sex was like: some of it was fun and some of it was wonderful and some of it was gross and inconvenient and messy. Maybe there was some deep philosophical truth there. Not that Bones had any interest in sharing his philosophical thoughts on sex with anyone. (Okay, maybe with Jim the sex guru. But that was different.)

Bones.” Jim panted, blinking at him. Keeping his now semen-covered hand where it was, Bones crawled partway up the bed so he could rest his head on Jim's chest. Jim wrapped an arm around Bones shoulders and pressed a fevered kiss to the top of his head. A sharp tang of desperation edged his scent, marring the billowing waves of pleasure and relief. “Just—stay with me, like this, for a while, Bones. Just for a little while, okay?”

“'M right here,” Bones assured him. He pressed a soft kiss to Jim's pec.

Jim groaned, shifting a bit. “Yeah, but... You know, the...knot takes an hour. You—you don't have to stay the whole time.”

A frown flickered across Bones' brow. Sure, he'd maybe like to go wash his hand sooner rather than later. But he and Jim could just take another shared shower in an hour. And walking away and leaving Jim alone just felt...cruel. Shifting up a bit further so he could press his face into Jim's neck, Bones said, “You smell good.” He pressed a kiss to Jim's collarbone. “And I believe I was promised some cuddling—seems like now's a good time to collect.”

“Oh.” Jim pressed a kiss to Bones' forehead. He pulled Bones tighter against his chest. “You're—you're the best. Cuddling—cuddling's good. Very good, Bones.” He shuddered a little. “Gods.” He pressed another kiss to Bones' forehead. A few shaky breaths, then he added in a quieter voice, vulnerability wavering in his scent, “I want to keep you.”

“Well, you've got me,” Bones replied, shifting a bit against Jim's side and adjusting his now slimy, sticky, and honestly disgusting hand inside Jim's own loosened grip. Jim shuddered, and Bones pressed a kiss under his jaw, adding, “For as long as you need.”

“'Need' is a...strong word,” Jim slurred.

Bones rolled his eyes a bit. “Fine then.” Closing his eyes, he relaxed against Jim. He could probably fall asleep like this, even with the semen still pouring down over his hand in hot, oozy globs. “As long as you want.”

Chapter Text

Bones woke with a grumpy groan, blinking blearily in sleepy confusion as Jim shifted against him. This wasn't Bones' bed, clearly. This was Jim's bed. But why was Bones in Jim's bed?

And why was his hand so... Oh. Right. And also: gross. That was semen all over Bones' hand. A lot of it. Mostly dried and thoroughly disgusting.

Bones groaned in protest. He'd been warm and happy asleep, and being awake wasn't presenting any attractive points at present.

Jim pet at his hair. “'S okay, Bones. You can stay asleep if you want.”

With a negative grunt, Bones shoved himself up to kneel unhappily on the bed and tried to rub the worst of the gunk off his hand onto one of the towels. Stubbornly, it tugged at every tiny hair in an almost entirely successful attempt to stay stuck. Bones made an unhappy face at it. “Gotta wash my...”

“I could get you a damp cloth,” Jim suggested, wrapping the towel across his lap where he sat on the bed. One of his hands was completely encrusted with semen too, and that made Bones feel a little better. At least he wasn't the only one. Misery and company and all that. “Though...” Jim admitted, “I guess I'd pretty much need to take a shower first.” He shrugged one shoulder, eyes apologetic and lips tipping into a slight smile.

Bones rubbed his clean hand over his face, yawning. He shot Jim a dubious look. “You want to shower by yourself?”

Jim laughed softly. “I'm not a toddler, Bones; I don't need you to help clean me up.”

Bones rolled his eyes. “As shocking as it might be, helping you clean up is actually a lot more fun. And also...” He wrinkled his nose, flexing his filthy hand a bit. “I gotta clean myself up anyway.” He looked over at Jim. “Just seems logical, I guess, to do both of us at once.”

“Okay, Bones.” Jim rubbed his cheek against Bones' bare shoulder and peeked up at him through soft lashes. “Your logic has defeated me.”

Bones slid out of bed, the plush carpet soft under his bare feet. He twisted his lips, looking around with narrowed eyes. Apparently Jim didn't believe in visible clocks. “What time is it, anyway?”

“Uh.” Rolling both towels into a bundle as he stood, Jim cast his eyes around. “I have no idea where I left my phone.”

“Ever think maybe you rely on that thing a bit too much?” Bones griped, rolling his eyes a bit. Sure, phones could do anything nowadays. Except drive your car. (But give them a few years.)

“Ever think maybe you should join the rest of the universe and get one yourself?” Jim shot back as he dumped the bundled towels into the hamper. “Actually...” He turned considering eyes on Bones. “I should just get you one. You take David out to the park and stuff...it's kind of a safety thing.”

Bones twisted his eyebrows at Jim in curious disbelief as he walked over and flicked on the ensuite light with his clean hand. “Your phone is on the counter in here,” he said, nodding toward it. “And how do you think nannies survived in the time before electricity?”

Jim shrugged, walking naked and sticky up beside Bones. “Some didn't. Some still don't, but when there's a resource available, it's kind of irresponsible not to use it. You need to be able to call me or call an ambulance.” He shot Bones a firm look. “I'm going to insist on this, Bones, so just get used to the idea.”

“If you want to buy me a phone and pay for all the monthly fees and all.” Bones shrugged. He walked over to the shower and turned on the water. He screwed up his face a bit at the thought of having to carry a phone around with him everywhere. “I don't have to like it, but...” He sighed, turning towards Jim. “You're probably right about the safety thing.”

Jim offered him a soft smile. “I kinda wanna kiss you...but I'm all gross right now.” He looked down at his body, making a face at the mess. “So I think I'll just get in the shower.”

“I'm glad you recognize that about yourself, Jim,” Bones said as he climbed into the shower himself. “Because I didn't want to be the one to point it out.”

o0o

“It's three am,” Jim told Bones, checking his phone as they cuddled in bed again in two new just as large towels. The other two had successfully kept Jim's semen contained, protecting the sheets so they didn't need to be changed. Small mercies. Especially considering how late it was

Bones grunted, making an unhappy face. His whole body felt heavy, like it was trying its best to sink into the mattress. “We should be asleep.”

Flicking off his phone and setting it aside, Jim sighed. “Yeah, I know.” He cuddled Bones against his side. “You okay with just drifting off in the towels? 'Cause I could lend you one of my robes—or I guess my sweats would probably fit you.”

Bones shrugged one tired shoulder, letting his eyes slip closed. “Don't care. Just sleep now.”

Jim gave an affirmative hum in response and brushed his lips against Bones' temple. “Sleep well, sweet one.”

o0o

Jim's admittedly quiet moving about the room woke Bones from a pleasant dream about soft green grass and a gentle creek filled with blue-scaled fishes. Bones blinked unhappily at the daylight filtering through the curtains. With a yawn, he asked, “What time is it?”

“It's just after seven,” Jim replied. “And I—” He winced, pausing with his shirt partway tucked in and shooting Bones an apologetic look. “I am so sorry, Bones.” Guilt and regret twined unhappily through his scent. He bit his lip, looking away. “Chris called about fifteen minutes ago. I've got a...thing. He's picking me up at seven thirty, and I'm gonna be gone for at least a couple of days.”

“Oh.” Pushing himself up to sit against the headboard with the overlarge towel tangled about his legs, Bones rubbed at the back of his neck.

Crawling onto the bed in what Bones now recognized as most of his uniform, Jim framed Bones' face with his hands. “I hate to run off like this, Bones.” He bit his lip, meeting Bones' gaze with apologetic eyes. Worried sadness danced across his face and sparked like bits of firework in his scent. “I might not be back until sometime next week.”

Bones raised and lowered his shoulders in a helpless shrug. “When you gotta work, you gotta work, Jim.”

Jim nuzzled Bones' cheek a bit, sighing. “I wish I didn't have to go; I feel like such a dick running off like this after last night.”

It wasn't like on TV when people—usually male betas or alphas—ran off the morning after sex to show their complete lack of respect for the other person. Jim had a real reason. A real, legitimate, 'saving the world' kind of reason. Bones gave his hip a reassuring pat. “I understand, Jim.”

Sitting back on his heels, Jim regarded Bones. He bit his lip. “Last night meant a lot to me, Bones. I—I know it was supposed to be about you, but—” Sighing, he scrubbed his fingers back through his hair. He shrugged his shoulders. “I want more time to really treat you right. To...let you try and explore whatever you like.” He grimaced. “And I guess I just feel like all that time's being taken away, and...” He pressed his lips together, unhappiness flashing in his eyes. “It's not fair.” He drew a deep breath and let it out, giving his head a little shake. “Bones, I just really want you to know that I appreciate what you did for me last night.” His features softened into gentle smile, and affection swelled in his scent. He stroked his thumb over Bones' cheek. “You're really something special.”

Bones returned Jim's smile with a gentle one of his own. “Last night meant a lot to me too, Jim.” Grinning, he looked away. “I swear I came in here just looking to cuddle.”

Jim chuckled softly. “I know.” Finding Bones' knee through the towel, he gave it a squeeze. “We did do a bit of that too.”

Bones nodded. “We did.” He caught Jim's wrist in a loose grip. “It was nice.”

Jim nodded a little as well. “It really was.” He caught Bones' hand in his. “I was gonna wake you up before I left—I wasn't just gonna be gone.”

Bones nodded. “You just woke me up a little early by accident; apparently you're not quite as stealthy as you think.”

Jim gave Bones' hand a little squeeze. “I guess not.”

“You want a kiss goodbye?” Bones asked. “'Cause give me a minute or two and I'll brush my teeth—you got a bit more getting ready to do?”

Jim nodded, pulling back reluctantly and sliding off the bed. “Yeah.”

Bones ended up borrowing one of Jim's robes—which fit just fine, for the record—to walk to his own bathroom and brush his teeth. Sure, they were the only ones in the house, but walking around bare-ass naked just felt weird. (And a little chilly.)

The reflection looking back out of Bones' bathroom mirror looked weirdly happy. And relaxed. Bones shook his head, muttering, “Don't you start.”

He was done in the bathroom and changed into a pair of drawstring pants and a simple t-shirt by the time Jim knocked on his door.

“I can wash the robe,” Bones said a little awkwardly as he let Jim in, gesturing to where it lay in a heap on the corner of his bed. He'd have plenty of time, apparently, before Jim got back.

“Seriously, Bones.” Jim shook his head and laughed softly. “Don't worry about it—you wore it for all of two minutes and you took two showers last night.”

Bones shrugged, rubbing at his arm. “Probably still smells a bit like me.”

Stepping into Bones' personal space, Jim cupped Bones' jaw. “I consider that an improvement.”

Bones couldn't help smiling a bit. “Fine then. Maybe I'll wear it to bed every night you're gone and then give it back to you.”

Groaning, Jim stepped a little closer and pressed his nose into Bones' hairline. “Please do, Bones.”

“Okay, okay.” Maybe Bones would actually have to do it now for all it had been a joke. He rolled his eyes a bit. “I don't smell that good.”

Jim made an offended noise in his throat. “Do too.”

“Anyway,” Bones said, rolling his eyes a bit again. “Goodbye kiss before we go and make you late?”

“Yeah.” Jim brought their mouths together, gentle and insistent. Bones got a little lost in the dreamy tranquility of the experience and blinked at Jim when he finally pulled back—damn, but Jim was good at kissing. But that wasn't important at the moment.

Bones gave Jim's shoulder a little shove. “Go on.” He gestured towards the door with one finger. “Go save the world.”

Pressing his lips together, Jim looked towards the door then back at Bones. Sliding his hand down Bones' arm, he grasped Bones' hand and gave it a squeeze. With all possible sincerity, he said, “I will return to you, sweet one. Until then, please hold the memory of me in your thoughts and in your petitions to whichever gods you revere.”

Unable to suppress a lopsided smile, Bones rolled his eyes and slapped Jim on the bicep. “I should call you 'brave one', just for that.”

Jim flashed him a bright grin as he backed out of the room. He waggled his eyebrows just a little. “Would be fitting, I suppose.”

o0o

David followed Bones into the house, looking around, a little frown forming on his brow. “Where Ta?”

“Your ta's at work,” Bones replied, helping David off with his shoes.

“Be home dinner?” David asked hopefully.

Bones shook his head. “I don't know, sweetheart.” He sighed. “He's on an important mission. He said he'd be home sometime this week at the latest.” 'At least a couple of days' had quickly morphed into the remainder of the week, and Bones wasn't exactly thrilled either. He understood, of course. And he wasn't mad at Jim or anything. But it still generally sucked. No doubt Jim wasn't exactly thrilled about it either, wherever he was.

David sat cross-legged on the floor and folded his arms. Frustration, sadness, and anger bloomed in his little omega scent. “Want Ta!”

Of course he did. This was his sire's house, after all. And even though Jim wasn't always home when David arrived, David still came here expecting his sire. Crouching down in front of him, Bones said, “David, you know your ta has to work sometimes. Just like your om has to work. Big people have to work. It's just the way things are.”

David screwed up his face. “Ta not big.” Sticking out his little chin, he shook his head. “Little,” he insisted, holding one hand about five centimetres above the other.

Bones chuckled. “He's about that big, hey?” He poked David in the belly. “Even smaller than you.”

Nodding, David grinned up at Bones. “Uh-huh. Ta really little. No work, no job. Stay home with David and Bones.”

“I'm sure he'd very much prefer that most days,” Bones said, scooping David up into his arms. “Your om said you just had breakfast, so how about we find something to play together, hmm? We'll have a snack around ten—does that sound good?”

David pouted then pressed his face into Bones' shoulder. He sniffled a bit. “Want Ta.”

“I know, buddy.” Bones walked over and sat down on the couch, stroking David's back as David continued to fuss. For all that Jim had warned him from the start that David didn't do well with transitions, this was the first time Bones had really seen evidence to support that.

Bones' new phone chirped from where he'd left it on the coffee table. David looked up, blinking and frowning. “My new phone,” Bones explained, reaching for it. It had arrived three days after Jim left, and Bones had to sign for it. He smiled at the notification. “Jo sent me a text,” he explained as he tapped the screen to open it. When Jim had said he'd get Bones a phone, Bones had honestly been expecting just a boring old style flip phone, but instead it was a smartphone like the kind Jo and Jim both had. “Do you remember Jo?” he asked David as he read the text. “My daughter. The four of us had a picnic at the park a while back. She says she got to canter on a horse today for the first time. Says it felt like flying.”

David's features twisted up a bit as he looked at the phone. He poked the edge of it with one finger. “Call Ta, Bones.”

Bones blew out a breath. He'd put Jim's cell number into the phone, but that probably wouldn't help much. “I don't think he has his phone turned on, buddy.” If he had, he probably would have called Bones or at least texted him with some sort of update. Bones shrugged. “Guess we could text him.” Bones had sent Jim exactly one text so far, just letting him know he'd got the phone. David rested his head on Bones' shoulder and didn't reply, so Bones pulled up Jim's entry in his contacts and pushed the button to send a new text, typing:

David's here. He misses you. We both hope you come home soon.

He sent the text then switched to the camera function to take a photo of David and himself to send as well. “Smile,” Bones prompted, and David shot him an unimpressed glare. Chuckling softly, Bones took the picture anyway and sent it to Jim as well.

o0o

David was colouring at the coffee table and Bones was setting the pot of pasta on the table when Jim's key scraped in the lock. David dropped his crayons, eyes immediately on the door.

“Ta!” he squealed before Jim even had the door fully open. Running, he flung himself full-force into Jim's leg.

“Oof,” Jim said, reaching down to pat David's blond curls as he closed the door behind him with his other hand. “Hey, buddy; I missed you too.”

“Supper, Ta,” David said, tugging on Jim's hand.

Jim smiled down at him. “Yeah, I see that.” He flashed Bones an apologetic smile. “But I gotta take a shower before I can eat anything.”

David pouted up at him, still holding his hand. “Shower fast, Ta.”

Jim chuckled. “Sure thing, buddy. Why don't you go clean up your crayons and then wash your hands, okay?”

David tugged Jim's hand towards the coffee table. “Help.”

Jim shook his head. “Hey, I gotta go take a quick shower, remember?”

David pouted. Finally letting go of Jim's hand, he plopped down to sit on the floor and folded his arms over his chest. He shook his head. “No clean. No wash hands.”

“Jim,” Bones said, scooping a reluctant David up and getting a kick in the knee for his trouble. It was Bones' job, after all, but on top of that Jim just smelled exhausted. “I've got this.”

Jim shot him a grateful look before heading down the hallway, and it was only then that Bones really noticed the mess of scratches and bruises on Jim's face.

o0o

“So, Jim, it looks like you got a little banged up,” Bones commented as they sat down to dinner. Jim really had taken a quick shower, so the food hadn't had time to get cold.

Jim winced slightly as he ladled the sauce over his pasta. “Yeah. Wasn't the only one, either.” Pressing his lips together, he looked at David and Bones. “Chris got hurt pretty bad and had to go to the hospital.” Swallowing, he shot Bones a somewhat guilty look. “I got your texts, by the way, as I was leaving the hospital to come here.” Grimacing, he shrugged. “At that point, I didn't see much point in replying.”

“Ta get hurt too?” David asked, voice sad and scent vaguely distressed.

“I'm fine, buddy,” Jim assured him. “Just a few scratches and bruises. Nothing serious.” He'd seen a real doctor or at least some sort of EMTs; he didn't need Bones' admittedly somewhat impressive first aid skills. Jim poked at his food. “But your uncle Chris needed to stay at the hospital so the doctors could look after him and help him get better.” He glanced from David to Bones. “I was thinking maybe we could go see him this evening—the doctors said he'd be awake by seven.”

Bones narrowed his eyes a little as he took a bite of food and chewed it slowly. “Did he need surgery?”

“Yeah,” Jim confirmed. He took a bite of his pasta. Something brittle shimmered at the frayed edges of his scent. “It was successful; everything went really well—he's going to be fine.” He poked at his food a bit more, eyes on his plate. “Anyway, I know he'd love to see David. We wouldn't stay long, just a short visit.”

“Yeah,” Bones said finally because Jim seemed to be looking for some sort of feedback, “that sounds like a good idea.” Turning to David, he said, “After we get back from visiting your uncle Chris, we'll do teeth and story and then you go to bed—you've got preschool in the morning.” David brightened at the mention of preschool.

o0o

“Hey, Jim,” the man propped up in the hospital bed—presumably Chris—said, offering a smile as they paused in the doorway. “C'mon, kiddo,” he added, gesturing to Jim with one hand. “Don't stand around lurking in doorways.”

Picking David up, Jim carried him over to stand near the bed. “Glad to see you awake and bossing me around again, Chris.”

“Well...” Chris shrugged. “Someone's gotta do it.” He offered a warm smile to David. “I see you brought the little one.”

“Yep.” Jim nodded, shifting David on his hip. “It's been a while since you two got to see each other.” To David, who was hiding most of his face in Jim's chest, he added, “Say hi to Uncle Chris, David.”

David peeked shyly at Chris. “Hi, Unca Kiss.” The corners of his mouth curved downwards and his eyes shimmered with sadness. “Sorry you got hurt.”

“Oh, sweetheart,” Chris replied, face softening even further. “Thank you. But I'm gonna be fine; the doctors did a great job patching me up.”

Shooting a glance over at Bones, Jim said, “I guess you haven't met Bones yet.”

Bones stepped forward, offering a hand to Chris and explaining, “I'm the new nanny.”

“Right.” Chris nodded, glancing between Bones and Jim as he shook Bones' hand. To Bones he said, “Jim mentioned having to hire a new nanny a while back. I'm glad to finally meet you.”

David reached for Bones and Jim handed him over. “Hey, sweetheart,” Bones said, stroking his hair a little. “You're getting a bit tired, hey?” It was swirling in his scent. Bones took a seat in an armchair and let David rest against his chest.

“We can't stay long,” Jim said to Chris, apologetic.

“No, no, gotta get the little one to bed soon,” Chris said. “And I suppose I could use a few more hours rest myself—they're not saying yet when they'll let me out of here.”

“Hopefully sooner rather than later,” Jim said. Then with a small frown, he added, “But not until you're really up to it, of course.”

Chris waved a hand. “Feel like I could go home right now, but you know how they like to hover and fuss.”

“Yeah.” Jim swallowed and blinked a couple of times. He put his hand on Chris' shoulder. “Just take it easy, okay?”

Chris smiled kindly up at him, putting his hand over Jim's. “I like to do my job to the best of my ability, so I always try to let them do theirs too.” He nodded towards David and Bones. “Right now you should probably get the little guy home before he passes right out.”

Story,” David protested sleepily. “Ta read.”

“I guess that's my cue,” Jim said with a bit of an apologetic wince in Chris' direction.

o0o

Bones carefully, quietly closed the door of David's room and shot Jim a relieved look that all remained quiet. The poor kid was finally asleep. Jim had read two stories and David had fussed, trying to wheedle a third, but Jim had just stroked his hair until he fell asleep.

Rubbing a hand over his face, Jim yawned and shook his head. “Poor kid was exhausted.”

Bones gave him a look. “He's not the only one.”

Grimacing, Jim waved a hand at him. “I'm fine, Bones.” He yawned and shuddered just a bit as he took about a step and a half down the hallway. “Just...you know, long...week, I guess.”

Bones put a hand on Jim's arm. Jim wasn't remotely 'fine', but would it really help to call him out when he was entirely running on some sort of 'keep up appearances' instinct? Bones dropped his gaze. “I missed you,” he said quietly. Meeting Jim's eyes, he added, “I'm glad you're home safe.”

Jim's features softened and affection swirled in his scent. “Yeah. Me too.” Walking into his room, he sank down on the bed. “It was, uh—” He scratched at the back of his head, wincing slightly. “It was...pretty touch and go there for a bit.”

Nodding, Bones stepped through the doorway and closed the door quietly behind him. “Chris got pretty badly hurt.”

Jim drew a shaky breath then let it out. “Yeah. He...did.”

Jim's scent quivered like an elastic band pulled to its limit and about to snap. And maybe Bones wasn't supposed to follow Jim into his room when David was here, because Bones was technically working. But it wasn't like he was looking for sex; he just didn't want to leave Jim alone. Not when everything about him felt like breaking glass. Bones sank down next to Jim on the bed, just close enough that they were slightly touching. “Wanna talk about it?”

Jim shook his head, eyes haunted. “No,” he said, voice breaking. “I—don't know.”

Bones nodded slowly. Whatever exactly had happened had shaken Jim up pretty badly; that much was clear. But if Jim didn't want to talk about it yet or ever, Bones wasn't about to push for details. So he changed the subject somewhat, observing, “He means a lot to you.”

Jim nodded shakily. “He—he's like my sire.” He swallowed. “After my sire died... My sire, he died when I was twelve. Well, Chris was there for me. He just...stepped in. It's—it can be hard, growing up as an alpha. As...uh, you might have heard.” Bones nodded. It was a pretty common thing in TV shows, actually: the various confusing and difficult challenges of growing up as an alpha, often presented as a metaphor for growing up as a beta. (Because betas were the majority, after all.) He covered Jim's hand with his own, giving it a bit of a squeeze. Jim made a rough noise, shaking his head again. “And when my dam died—I was eighteen then.” He swallowed roughly and pressed his lips together. “Chris was the only one I had left. The only reason I had to keep going, to do anything at all.”

“He's going to be fine,” Bones reminded him, because the levels of distress in his scent weren't exactly diminishing.

“I know,” Jim said hoarsely, turning his hand to grip Bones'. “He'll be fine. But he...” He drew a ragged breath and let it out. “He almost died Bones...” He drew two rapid breaths. “His gut was open. There was so much blood. I was trying to hold everything in with my bare hands. I didn't know what to do.” He shook his head. “He was barely conscious, maybe slipping in and out, in some sorta limbo for most of it. He kept telling me, 'It'll be okay, kiddo', and, 'You're doing great, Jim'.” He drew a deep, shaky breath and let it out. “He told me he was so proud of me, and—I'd never been more scared than when he said that, Bones.”

Bones shifted a little closer to Jim's side. He didn't know what to say, so he said, “I'm sorry.”

Wrapping his arm around Bones, Jim pulled him tight against his side. “I kept thinking, 'I can't lose him'.” He shook his head, miserable. “I'd be lost without him.” Wrapping his own arm around Jim's waist, Bones rested his head on Jim's shoulder. Shaking, Jim pressed his face into Bones' hair. “'M sorry I had to leave, Bones.”

Curling his hand over Jim's hipbone, Bones shook his head a little. “It's okay, Jim. I understood when you left, and I still understand.” He swallowed. He stroked his fingers gently over Jim's hand. “Just glad you're back now.”

“I—I can't lose you either.” Jim's gasp turned into a sob. “What—whatever I have to do or say or be, don't let me lose you, Bones.”

Tilting his head, Bones pressed his face into Jim's neck. “'M not going anywhere, Jim.”

Still breathing shakily, but with sharp sparks of relief flooding his scent, Jim dragged Bones into his lap and crushed him against his chest. Bringing their mouths together, Jim kissed Bones fiercely. Breaking the kiss, he let his forehead rest against Bones', just breathing for a bit. “You'll stay with me tonight?” he asked, finally, voice wavering a bit and scrambling hope threading through his scent. “I—don't want to be alone.”

“Yeah,” Bones agreed, letting himself relax against Jim's broad, muscled chest. “I'd love to.”

Jim stroked Bones's cheek and hair with a shaky hand, warm affection flooding his scent. “You mean so much to me, Bones.”

Bones gave a grunt of vague agreement. The utter relief flooding Jim's scent was pulling at every part of Bones, urging him to relax as well. “You'd better lie down before I fall asleep on you just like this.”

Chuckling, Jim pressed a kiss to Bones' temple then twisted his head towards his ensuite. “Should probably brush my teeth first.”

Bones hummed in agreement, then sighed. “Yeah, me too.” Jim's arms tightened around Bones and distress spiked in his scent again. Bones peeked up at Jim out of one eye. “You got a spare toothbrush I could use? Don't really feel like walking all the way back to my room, you see.”

Happy relief bloomed in Jim's scent and he grinned down at Bones. “Yeah, actually; I think I've got a few.”

o0o

It was dark, and Bones was in Jim's room once again, in his bed. Bones had just been startled out of peaceful sleep by the creak of the bedroom door and David's quiet fussing. Blinking, Bones shoved himself partway up—he could put David back to bed and let Jim sleep; this was his job after all. But Jim, apparently more awake already than Bones, just said, “C'mere, buddy,” voice roughened with sleep, and hauled David into bed next to him. “Sleep. Ta's right here. Everything's okay.”

David cuddled down next to his sire, letting out a breath. Bones laid down carefully again as well. He blew out a slow breath, relieved both he and Jim were clothed, that there hadn't been any sex this time, just cuddling because Jim didn't want to be alone.

But Jim wasn't alone anymore. Even if Bones slunk out to his own room, Jim wouldn't be alone because he had David. So maybe that's what Bones should do as soon as David was asleep.

“Stop worrying and sleep, Bones,” Jim grumbled.

“Here?” Bones asked, brain still somewhat fogged from sleep—apparently so much so that he had no damned control over his scent whatsoever.

“Yeah.” Rolling onto his back with David cuddled at his side, Jim turned his face towards Bones in the dark of the room. He caught Bones' hand in one of his own and brought it first to his lips and then rubbed it softly against his cheek. “Please. Just for tonight.”

“Okay,” Bones agreed after a pause. David was only three, after all. Not quite old enough to start asking questions. Not quite old enough to realize sharing a bed wasn't always a platonic thing. Bones shifted a bit closer to Jim and let himself relax, enjoying the soothing mingled scents of both Jim and David. It smelled like safety and love and goodness. Like everything was right in the world.

“There you go,” Jim murmured, pressing another soft kiss to Bones' hand. “Everything's all right.”

o0o

When Bones woke again, David was kneeling on his chest. “Oof,” Bones said, blinking somewhat grumpily up at him.

David giggled, bouncing a bit. “Bones wake.”

Bones made an unhappy face, because he really wasn't happy to be awake and he usually had a lot more time to properly wake up before he had to deal with anyone. “Indeed.” He blinked a bit more and rubbed at his eyes. “Wha's with the wake-up call?”

David looked over at Jim who was sprawled on his belly and either still asleep or pretending to be. “Ta sleep.”

“I see that,” Bones agreed. He looked around, but despite the light filtering through the curtains there was no actual sign of the time of day because Jim still didn't believe in clocks. Bones made a face. “What time is it, anyway?” He looked back at David. “You need to go potty?”

David wrinkled his nose and shrugged. Rolling his eyes just a bit, Bones gathered David into his arms and stood up, internally debating the merits of taking David to his own room where there were pull-ups and an actual clock or having him use his sire's bathroom since it was closer.

“'S just about seven,” Jim (apparently now awake) slurred, making a face at his phone.

Bones nodded. David's preschool class started at nine-thirty, so it was about time to be up anyway. Bones looked at David. “You wanna use your ta's bathroom?”

David shrugged one shoulder. “Okay.”

o0o

Jim drove David to preschool on his way to work. Because despite his obvious need for a day off—at least a day—to recuperate, apparently the 'brass' or whoever thought it was necessary to drag him into meetings and grill him on everything he'd done or hadn't done. Or whatever went on in these military things. (Bones didn't really pay enough attention to TV and movies on the subject, and besides: those were unlikely the most reliable sources for information, anyway.)

Bones walked over to pick David up after his class and then took him to the park for lunch. They didn't see Jim again until after supper when he finally got home, smelling and looking exhausted once again.

“Have you even eaten?” Bones asked Jim after David was in bed.

Jim stared confused for a moment like he didn't understand the question then said, “Yeah! Yeah, had something around four.”

Bones narrowed his eyes a bit. “Was that supper or lunch?”

Jim shrugged, looking a little guilty. “Both, I guess.”

Sighing and rolling his eyes, Bones dragged Jim into the kitchen. “You can either feed yourself or I'll feed you, but either way food is going into your body.”

Chuckling a bit, Jim shot Bones a fondly amused look as he opened the fridge. “Sometimes you sound like an alpha.”

Folding his arms, Bones leaned his hip against the kitchen island. “So I've been told.” That, and that he looked like an alpha. Which somehow felt more insulting. Possibly because he chose how he acted; he couldn't much help how tall he was.

As Jim assembled ingredients for what was apparently a sandwich, Bones poured himself a glass of water and sat on one of the tall stools. He folded his arms on the marble countertop and watched Jim work.

“Gonna watch to see if I eat it too?” Jim shot Bones a playful look.

Bones shrugged, unconcerned. He took a sip of his water. “If I have to.”

“I think maybe you're just enjoying the view,” Jim suggested, giving his ass a little wiggle.

“Well.” Bones rubbed at his arm. “It's certainly not a bad view.”

Jim shot him a pleased little grin. And he was certainly smelling happier too, more relaxed. Calmer. But...they shouldn't really be flirting, should they? Not when David was here so Bones was on duty. They were boss and employee at present. They couldn't be 'just friends' until David left for Carol's again.

Jim's plate clacked against the marble countertop, and Jim gave Bones a little nudge as he took a seat next to him. “Bones, you okay?”

Bones blinked at him. “Uh...” He gave his head a little shake. “Sorry.”

Jim offered him a bit of a smile and took a bite of sandwich. He chewed for a bit and then said, “I sort of wish you were a beta right now, because then I could tell myself you were lost in thought about all the things you'd love to do with my incredibly hot body.” He took a sip of water and shot Bones a regretful sort of look. “But you're an omega, so I can smell that you're worried and generally unhappy.” He winced slightly. “And I really hope it's not my body that's causing that reaction.”

“Sorry,” Bones said, taking a sip of his water. He made a face at his glass and blew out a breath. “Both me and David ended up in your bed last night—I thought maybe we should talk about that during the day, when we're both fully conscious and hopefully thinking clearly.”

A small worried frown creased Jim's forehead. “None of us were doing anything wrong.”

“I know.” Bones sighed, turning a bit towards Jim. “And I guess it's pretty unlikely that he'll tell his preschool teacher or Carol or his other nanny about how his ta and his nanny were in the same bed.”

Jim shrugged. “I mean, if he did, they might assume he meant his bed, like if we were both reading him a story or whatever.”

“Right.” Bones nodded, because what Jim was saying made sense. As someone who'd worked for years in childcare, he knew he certainly wouldn't jump to the most salacious conclusion based on the offhanded remark of a three-year-old.

Shifting slightly in his chair, Jim sighed. “Look, Bones...” He stared down at his food. He winced slightly and shook his head. “I don't think I could have slept properly last night if I didn't know you and David were safe. I was...kind of wavering on the edge of sleep until David came in—I kept jerking awake and telling myself I didn't need to go check on him, because he was fine.” He shot Bones a pained look. “And that if I did get up, I'd just wake you.” He rubbed one fingertip against the edge of his plate. “It's...an alpha thing, a...traumatic stress thing... I don't know.” He grimaced. “It happens to Chris sometimes too. After that time I was stupid enough to drink that bad water—” He shot Bones a look. “I told you about that?”

Bones nodded. “You threw up on him.”

Jim chuckled softly, nodding. “Yeah, I did. Anyway, it wasn't even the worst, rationally speaking; I've been hurt worse. But Chris couldn't sleep after.” He grimaced slightly. “I think it's actually harder for him in a lot of ways, because he doesn't have kids or anything—he lives alone.” Apparently Jim really was Chris' family; not just an extra addition, but the entirety of it. Jim rubbed at the back of his neck. “So when he gets into that head-space, he doesn't have a lot of options. Anyway.” Jim shot Bones an apologetic grimace. “None of this is really relevant if you're not comfortable with what happened.”

“It's fine, Jim,” Bones assured him. “I'm not mad or anything.”

“Not 'mad',” Jim replied after a few more bites of his sandwich, “but it's bothering you.”

Bones blew out a breath. On the one hand, all of this felt so natural, so normal. But it wasn't. And that was the whole problem. Except...until Bones got through his required heat, it kind of had to feel natural, didn't it? That was sort of the goal they'd been working toward. Bones sighed. “Jim, sometimes I think everything bothers me.”

Jim laughed softly, finishing the last of his sandwich and taking a swallow of water. “I guess I have those days too. Sometimes.”

Snorting softly, Bones slid his glass a little back and forth on the marble countertop. “For me it's more of a constant thing.” But he was avoiding the issue, and that wasn't really fair to either of them, so finally he said, “But I guess...I just need boundaries. For this sort of thing.” He shot Jim an unsure look. “Sharing a bed platonically with you—with you and David—that's fine.” He winced slightly. “Now and then.” He held up a hand. “And I know you didn't exactly twist my arm. It was...nice, actually.” He blew out a breath. “I just...” I just don't want to get used to what I can't actually have.

“Yeah, of course.” Jim offered him a soft sort of smile. “Not every night, obviously. I completely understand.” He cleared his throat, took a swallow of his water. “Can't have chocolate cake every day either.”

Bones stared at him for a beat. “Did you just use 'chocolate cake' as a euphemism for sex?”

Laughing, Jim shook his head. “No, but I think you did.” He pointed an accusing finger at Bones' chest.

Bones rolled his eyes. He took a sip of his own water. “Right, like I'm the one who's constantly thinking about sex.”

Jim offered him a bit of a smile. He was quiet for a little while and then said, “I saw Chris again today.” He drained the last of his water and turned the glass in his hand. “Just a short visit on my way back home.” Bones nodded. So that's what he'd done instead of eating. Jim picked up his plate and glass. “He said he likes you, by the way.” Moving to the dishwasher, he opened the door and put the dishes in. “Thinks you're good for David.” Moving to the sink, Jim washed his hands. “I know he just met you and didn't really get to talk to you much, but he said it's obvious David trusts you and is bonded with you.”

Bones nodded slowly. “I suppose I'd agree with his assessment.”

Jim turned thoughtful eyes on Bones, vague worry and guilt tinging his scent. “He doesn't get to see David nearly enough. He's basically David's grandsire, and I know he adores him.” He grimaced. “But he and I are both always so busy with work. It's easy to get distracted from the rest of life.” He shook his head. “Anyway,” he added, leaning against the counter, “I was thinking of inviting him over once they let him leave the hospital. We could have a barbecue, invite over all the gang from work. Celebrate...not dying.” He shrugged. “I mean, what's the point of having a huge yard if I never use it for anything?”

In all the time Bones had lived with and worked for Jim, Jim hadn't so much as had someone over for coffee. Maybe he really had been prioritizing work a bit too much. Bones nodded slowly. “It's a good idea. I can help out any way you need.”

Jim flashed him a grin. “Awesome. Um, Hikaru will probably bring his daughter, and Spock might even bring his as well.” He smiled. “That would be nice, because David would have someone to play with.”

“'Spock'?” Bones raised an eyebrow. 'Hikaru' sounded like a first name, but 'Spock' sounded like a surname. And an uncommon one at that.

Laughing softly, Jim shook his head. “Hey, I didn't name the poor man. Spock Grayson.” Jim shook his head again, folding his arms over his chest thoughtfully. “I'm pretty sure 'Grayson' would be less odd as a first name than 'Spock', but what can you do?” Laughing softly again, Jim ducked his head. Looking at Bones from under his brows he said, “It is a bit funny, though, for a guy who calls himself 'Bones' to be questioning anyone's name.”

With an unimpressed look, Bones folded his arms. “'Bones' is a nickname.”

Jim offered him a soft smirk. “I know. Your parents gave you a perfectly normal name.”

“Not nearly so normal as yours,” Bones pointed out. “'James' is like...'George' or 'Elizabeth' or 'Anne' in levels of 'normal'.”

“Yeah,” Jim said, pushing away from the counter. “My parents saved the weird as hell name for my middle name.” He shook his head a bit, a thoughtful grin tugging at the corner of his mouth.

Bones twisted his brows, turning his mostly empty glass in his hands. “I guess I don't know your middle name.”

“It's 'Tiberius',” Jim replied with a lopsided smile, leaning against the kitchen island. “Like, uh...the Roman Emperor, who was perhaps best known for being 'gloomy'.” He shrugged. “But it was my grandsire's name. My dam wanted to name me 'Tiberius' as my first name, but my sire shot that down, because it's 'the worst'.”

“What was your sire's name?” Bones asked, curious.

“'George',” Jim answered, laughing quietly.

Standing up, Bones shook his head as he took his empty glass to the dishwasher. “I might be inclined to argue that's even worse than 'Tiberius'.” He shrugged one shoulder. “But it all really depends on how you define 'worse'.”

“So what's your middle name?” Jim asked, cocking his head expectantly. “I told you mine.”

Bones turned towards him. “'Horatio'. Like the guy in 'Hamlet'.”

“Hamlet's BFF,” Jim commented, walking over and flopping down on the couch.

“Yep.” One side of Bones' mouth flickered into a fraction of a smile. Following Jim, he sat on what remained of the couch. Grinning, Jim put his feet in Bones' lap, and Bones didn't protest. “I suppose it's not so bad of a name,” Bones went on. “I looked it up once, and apparently it means 'hour, time, season'.”

“Like that one song,” Jim put in. “'Turn, turn, turn'.”

“Yeah,” Bones agreed, settling his hands around Jim's ankles. “Like that.” Pressing his lips together, he ducked his head. “'Leonard', for the record, means 'brave lion'.”

Jim grinned at him. “I like that.” His grin broadened. “I told you you'd look good armed and on horseback, leading the charge.”

“I'm an omega,” Bones pointed out.

“No reason omegas can't be brave,” Jim argued. Bones shrugged. The thing was, no one ever let omegas lead. Not in a military or even government setting, anyway. “Anyway,” Jim went on, “it's loads better than the meaning of 'James' which is 'holder of the heel', 'supplanter'—as in, 'one who trips up and overthrows'.” He screwed up his features. “Sometimes you gotta wonder why some of the most popular names ever became popular—or why anyone ever named their kid that in the first place.”

“Yeah...” Bones agreed, nodding slowly. “I suppose I can understand 'heroic, majestic king of the beasts' a lot more than 'jerk who takes stuff that isn't his'.”

“Hey.” Jim kicked weakly at Bones' thigh. “That's my name you're insulting.”

Bones laughed softly, catching Jim's ankles in a firmer grip. “You started it.”

“I looked up the root meaning of 'Tiberius' once,” Jim commented.

“Oh?” Bones replied, curious. He rubbed absently at Jim's ankles.

“Yeah, best I could find...it either means 'still water' or some kind of water weed, like reeds.”

Bones snorted softly, tracing the shape of Jim's anklebones. “Personally, I think I'd go with 'still water' over 'weeds'.”

Jim laughed. “Yeah. 'Still water' is all poetic and crap.”

“That it is.” Bones nodded, one corner of his mouth curving up a bit.

Jim's brow furrowed thoughtfully. “My surname, of course, means 'church' or, if you go back further into the etymology, 'Lord's house'. So if you put my whole name together, it means 'supplanter, still water, Lord's house'.”

Bones nodded slowly. “My surname means 'son of fire'. So...put the whole thing together and you get 'brave lion, hour, time, season, son of fire'.”

Jim shook his head. “Neither of them make a whole lot of coherent sense.” He shrugged one shoulder. “Not that most names would.”

After a pause, Bones asked, “What's David's middle name?”

“Oh, I wanted 'Tiberius',” Jim said, pressing his hands over his face. Pulling his hands away again and letting them fall to his lap, he said, “So: 'David Tiberius Kirk'? That was my suggestion.” He screwed up his face. “But no, Carol vetoed it, and he's David Alexander Marcus. 'Alexander' is Carol's sire's name.”

Twisting his brows, Bones shot Jim a look. “Did you get to pick any part of his name?”

“Yeah: 'David'.” Jim shrugged one shoulder. “Well, we both liked it, but it was my suggestion initially.”

“So why'd you pick 'David'?” Bones asked, hands moving idly over Jim's ankles.

“Well...” Jim shifted a bit on the couch. “It seemed like a good name for a male omega. It sounds like...a poet, a hero. A king. Someone who's kind but doesn't necessarily accept the status quo.” He shrugged. “And the meaning isn't bad: 'beloved'.”

Bones nodded. “It is a good name. I agree.”

“Because it's you're sire's name?” Jim asked with a bit of a smirk.

“Well, maybe,” Bones admitted. “But for all the reasons you said too.”

“So why'd you name your daughter 'Jo'?” Jim asked.

“I named her 'Joanna',” Bones countered. “But we shortened it to 'Jo' right from the start. The 'Jo' part was what we could agree on—Joss kept suggesting things like 'Jolene', 'Jocasta', and 'Jordan'.” He made a face. “And 'Joandra', I think. But we both liked 'Joanna'.” He shrugged one shoulder. “Joss liked that it was the same first initial as her name; I liked that it had both masculine and feminine elements. Which...you could also say for the name 'Jocelyn'.” He grimaced at the memory of his younger self and how thrilled he'd been when the baby came out an alpha. “I was so damned in love with Joss then; I thought it was my greatest achievement to give her an heir who was essentially a miniature copy of her.”

Jim made a face. “Yeah, that's...” He laughed softly. “Didn't I once say you were a traditional kind of guy?” Bones rolled his eyes. Jim's expression grew more thoughtful. “But you're not anymore? In love with Joss, I mean.”

“Jim,” Bones said, “it's been twelve years.”

“Well, I don't know.” Pulling his feet back, Jim folded them under himself to kneel on the couch, facing Bones. “All I know about love I learned from other people—most of them fictional.” He shrugged. His brows drew together and his eyes grew thoughtful. “Sometimes, it seems so fragile, like the littlest thing will shatter it into irreparable shards. Other times, nothing can touch it—not time or distance or even death.”

Bones twisted his lips as he considered his response. It seemed like an honest question. But it wasn't like Bones had a good answer. Finally, he said, “I think...that in real life it usually falls somewhere between those two points. If it's too fragile, I think I might go so far as to say it wasn't love at all. But I don't know if that unbreakable love exists in reality.” He scratched his fingers through the hair on the back of his head. “In some stories...people stay in love when they really shouldn't, when even they wish they could just stop. Like...when they're in love with the villain, or whatever.”

Jim nodded. “Yeah, I've seen that sometimes too.”

“Joss was never a villain,” Bones said. “She was just...a person. Like me.” He rubbed a hand over his mouth and one side of his lips flickered upward. “But I managed to fall out of love with her anyway.”

“Love is complicated and confusing,” Jim observed.

“That it is,” Bones agreed.

They sat together quietly for a bit until Bones remembered. “Oh, I have something for you.”

Jim quirked an eyebrow at him. “Something good?”

“I suppose that depends on how you define 'good'.” Standing up, Bones jerked his head towards his room. Jim followed without comment. Swinging the door of his room open, Bones explained, “It's your robe.” He picked it up from where it hung over the back of his desk chair. “I didn't wash it.”

Jim took a step closer to Bones. “Did you wear it?”

“Every night.” Bones held the robe out to Jim.

Jim took it with a smile wavering around the edges of his features. “Really?”

Folding his arms, Bones leaned his hip against his desk. “I said I would.”

A grin spread across Jim's face as he looked at the bundle of soft fabric in his hands. “I'm gonna use it as a pillow. Or a teddy bear.”

Bones rolled his eyes a bit, but a smile tugged at the edges of his own mouth. “A blankie, Jim.”

Jim laughed. “Yeah, probably.” His expression sobered. “All joking aside, it will probably help me sleep.”

“Well,” Bones said, nodding, “I'm glad to help. Gods know you need to rest.”

Chapter Text

Bones emerged from David's room after successfully putting him down for a nap, laundry basket filled with the former contents of David's hamper resting against one hip. David's naps were actually more common now that he'd started preschool; apparently getting more exercise—and perhaps a somewhat more structured routine—encouraged that sort of thing. But naps or no, Bones always had about three hundred things to do at any given time, and today the top priority was laundry.

Jim was taking care of the lunch dishes and cleanup. He'd got home just in time to join them for cubed cheese, quartered grapes, whole grain crackers, and turkey sandwiches cut into triangles. (If Bones had known to expect Jim, he might have tried for something a little less preschool, but Jim hadn't complained.)

In any case, Jim was home during the day, and that was a nice surprise. Maybe someone, somewhere finally got some sense and realized he actually needed to rest in order to recover from everything that had happened.

Even if 'resting' in this case included cleaning up the food he and his son had thrown all over the kitchen (in a food-fight Jim had started) before Bones finally had to tell them both to cut it out.

Bones rolled his eyes as he added soap to the washer. Trust Jim to remind everyone just how childish he was in case they'd started to forget. But so long as he cleaned up his own mess, there wasn't really any harm. Well, a bit of wasted food, but it was mostly crackers. In any case, David had fun, and maybe that could justify a bit of wasted food, especially since it was all going in the compost rather than the trash.

Bones had just closed the washer lid when Jim appeared in the laundry room doorway. “Hey, Bones.”

Looking up, Bones turned his attention to Jim. “Yeah?”

Uncertainty wavered in Jim's scent, and he shifted his weight a bit from one foot to the other. “I'm supposed to go on a date tonight.”

“All right...” Bones replied as he washed his hands in the laundry sink. “Does that mean you won't be here for dinner?”

“No, uh...” Jim shrugged. “Well, I'm supposed to pick her up at seven.” He grimaced slightly. “So that's after dinner.”

Bones dried his hands on the towel and hung it back on the hook. “So I'll read to David and put him to bed and all.” Walking closer, he shot Jim a small smile. “That's the job you pay me for, after all.”

Sighing, Jim put his hands on his hips and looked away. “Look, Bones...if I wanted to, I could easily cancel, even on such short notice. Gaila's a friend—we even work together, so she knows about the stuff that happened with Chris. She'd be cool about it.”

Frowning slightly, Bones leaned his hip against the dryer. “Do you want to cancel? Because, I mean, you shouldn't date someone if you don't want to, Jim.”

Jim blew out a breath, looking down at the floor. “I have no idea what I want.”

Gods, why was Bones supposed to offer dating advice to Jim Kirk? When the hell had that become part of his reality? Bones blew out a breath, folding his arms across his chest. “Well, I'm hardly an expert on dating, Jim. But I think...usually, you're supposed to go with what feels right.” He grimaced slightly. “Date the people you feel attracted to, assuming they also feel attracted back.” He screwed up his face a bit. “Stuff like that.” He shook his head, letting out a quiet, helpless breath. “Look, Jim, literally the only person I've ever dated is now my ex-wife—I don't know that I'm qualified to offer advice.”

“I like Gaila,” Jim said, leaning against the doorframe. “She's really pretty. And she's sweet. Bubbly, upbeat.” His shoulders twitched in a bit of a shrug and his lips twisted in a way that looked vaguely unhappy. “There's definitely a mutual attraction.”

“Beta?” Bones guessed, because most people were, after all. The ever-present fuzz of lint in the air tickled his nose, mildly annoying.

Jim shook his head. “Omega, actually.”

Bones nodded. So maybe that's why Jim needed Bones' advice. He didn't really date omegas that often, and Bones happened to be one. “Have you two gone out before?”

Jim nodded, folding his arms across his chest. “Couple of times, yeah.”

“And...you enjoyed those dates?” Bones prompted.

Jim nodded. “Yeah.” He rubbed at the back of his neck. “Uh, pretty great, actually.”

Bones chewed on the inside of his cheek a bit. “Well, if you're just not feeling up to it...I know they haven't given you a lot of time to just rest and recover.” Bones frowned a bit, because honestly the military wasn't the kindest of employers. “Have you been to see Chris today?”

“Yeah.” Jim nodded. “Just for a few minutes, and he's doing well—but that's not really...” He blew out a breath. “I was just... I wanted to...”

Jim.” Bones put a hand on Jim's arm, not entirely able to suppress a smile. “Use your words.”

Jim shot him an annoyed look that quickly melted into something soft and helpless and maybe a little sad. “I wanted to make sure you wouldn't mind,” he said finally, a faint trace of something that could have been shame sliding into his scent. “If I went on a date.”

Bones stared at him for probably too long before he finally managed, “That I wouldn't mind.”

“Well, because—” Jim's cheeks flushed pink and embarrassment swelled in his scent.

“Jim,” Bones cut in gently, giving Jim's arm a reassuring squeeze. He sighed. “I know what we are and what we aren't. I'm your employee and your friend, and neither of those gives me any shred of right to tell you who you can and can't date. Or any right to tell you that you can't date at all. If you like this girl, if you enjoy dating her, then go date her. It will probably be good for both of you to get a chance to unwind. You know, after everything that's happened.”

“Right, yeah.” Drawing a shaky breath and letting it out, Jim straightened up and offered Bones a small, grateful smile. “You're right.”

“Of course I am,” Bones teased. He gave Jim a pat on the bicep. “Go have fun.” He offered Jim a little smile. “You deserve it.”

o0o

Bones had thrown the last load of laundry in the dryer and was just starting on folding the load it had replaced. He blinked a few times, stifling a yawn and reminded himself that once he was done he was free to crawl into the soft embrace of his bed. The front door opened. Bones frowned, momentarily regretting not bringing his phone to the laundry room, because he couldn't check the time, but...it didn't take that long to drag one load of laundry out of the dryer and transfer another wet load from the washer to the newly-empty dryer, so it couldn't be much past ten.

Bones' frown deepened as he continued to fold and stack clean, dryer-warm t-shirts and socks. Bones really wasn't the expert on dating, but...shouldn't Jim's date have lasted longer than three hours? When Jim went on dates, didn't he tend to come home so late Bones was asleep and therefore had no idea what time he actually got in?

When Bones was done folding, he left the piled laundry in the laundry room. (He could regret that later when he actually had to put it all away. Because eventually he'd have to put it all away.)

Jim sat slumped at the kitchen table looking generally dejected and smelling of omega, sex, and a complicated mixture of sadness, uncertainty, guilt, regret, confusion, and resignation.

“Wow,” Bones said, involuntarily coming to a stop in the end of the hallway. Grimacing, he made himself walk again, because he'd had a reason to come to the kitchen after all. Pulling a glass from the cupboard, he said, “Pretty sure you're not supposed to smell like that after sex.”

Jim let out a bitter sort of snort, shaking his head. “Sorry, Bones.” He sighed, sliding his mostly full glass of water back and forth on the surface of the table. “Guess I should go take a shower.” But he made no move to actually do that. Setting his own glass on the table, Bones sat across from Jim and took a sip of water. It helped wash the 'lint' taste of out his throat. He was just about to give in and ask, 'What the hell happened?' when Jim sighed and said, “Gaila said she loves me. Well, she thinks she loves me.” He pressed his hands into his eyes. “We were in the heat of the moment, and...it just kind of slipped out. And I just kind of...froze.”

Shifting a bit in his chair, enjoying Jim's misery more than he should—because he shouldn't be enjoying it at all, and yet here he was with an awful little twinge of enjoyment—Bones said, “Just...to clarify, were the two of you knotted together at that moment?”

Jim shook his head. Bones snorted softly, taking a sip of his water. On the one hand, being knotted would partially explain gushing admissions of that sort, but on the other hand it would no doubt make the awkward even more awkward. “We never got that far,” Jim said finally.

Struck by a sudden curiosity, Bones asked, “Has something like that never happened before? One of your partners blurted out some declaration of undying affection in the heat of the moment?”

Jim shrugged, shifting a bit in his chair. “Sure, a few times. But never anyone I cared about.”

“Oh.” Bones paused as something integral in the universe shifted. He took a few careful breaths and kept his scent as calm and neutral as humanly possible. “So this time it wasn't actually unreciprocated?” Was it possible that Jim Kirk might actually be in love? It could certainly explain a few things.

But Jim shook his head. “I like her. She's a friend, Bones.” He grimaced, swallowing. “I keep asking myself if maybe I could feel all of that for her. If she and I could really make it work.” He shook his head. “I don't think so. That's what I told her. Tonight. I said I don't think I could. We...we talked for a bit. Tried to make things right. She apologized; I apologized. We both said it was fine. No one can help how they feel. She can't. I can't. No one's 'wrong'.” He sighed. “We promised to stay friends, to be adults about all of this.” He winced. “She's a good person. She's smart. She's funny.” He shook his head, guilt blooming in his scent. “I feel like the world's most gigantic dick.”

“You said it yourself, Jim,” Bones said carefully. “No one can help how they feel.”

“But what if—?” Jim slid his glass from one hand to the other, leaving a patchy trail of condensation on the dark wood surface of the table. “What if I can never feel like that for anyone? What if I'm just...incapable of being the sort of person anyone wants to actually spend their life with?”

“You told me once...” Bones tried, tentative—gods, what if he was just making things worse? “You said you didn't ever want a long-term relationship.”

Jim shrugged. “Everyone gets old, Bones. Figure at some point everyone's going to stop wanting random hookups.” Sniffing, he rubbed at his nose. “Hell, maybe I'll stop wanting them.”

Bones grimaced, unhappiness twisting in his gut. “Sorry if I gave you the wrong advice.” He really had been trying to help. But it looked like his attempts at 'help' had severely backfired.

“Don't worry about it.” Jim waved Bones' apology away with a careless hand. “Everyone gives advice.” He shrugged. “Maybe I just listen to all the wrong stuff. All the time.” He shook his head. “My friend Cupcake's always told me I shouldn't date omegas.” He wrinkled his nose. “According to him, omegas fall in love too easily. Betas are...more rational, supposedly.”

Bones shook his head, a smile tugging up one side of his lips. “I'm going to ignore all that sexism and just focus on the fact that you have a friend called 'Cupcake'.”

Jim snorted softly. “He's a moron. And 'friend' might be too strong a word. But I gave him the nickname.” He rubbed at his forearm. “At first he supposedly hated it, but he answers to it now, so...”

“He an alpha?” Bones guessed, taking a sip of his water.

“Yup,” Jim confirmed, taking a swallow of his own water.

“You ever make a move on him?” Bones asked, mostly because Jim's scent was calming the more the conversation moved away from his disastrous date with Gaila.

Jim snorted, little prickles of amusement sparking in his scent. “Yeah. I mean, he's a moron, but...” He shrugged. “He's still kinda hot.”

Since Jim had never been with a male alpha, that ruled out a successful attempt. Bones took a sip of his water and shot Jim a look. “I take it he didn't have quite the same opinion of you.”

Jim rolled his eyes. “Oh, he thinks I'm hot, all right. He won't stop reminding me of how good I look each time he offers more dating advice.” He snorted softly, taking a sip of his water. “Sometimes he goes into details about my jaw or my eyebrows...or my ass.”

Bones laughed, shaking his head. “Yeah...that's oddly specific.”

Jim nodded. He drank the rest of his water. “I really should...” Pushing against the surface of the table with both hands, he stood up. “I should take that shower.” He paused, looking at Bones for a moment, then winced slightly and shook his head. “Yeah, that's what I should do.” Sticking his glass in the dishwasher, he left the room.

o0o

“Hi!” the pretty omega woman with curly red hair said, smiling brightly when Bones opened the door. “I'm Gaila. And I guess I'm a little early.”

Bones swung the door open to admit her. “Jim told me people would start showing up any time after lunch, and since it's one now, I'm not sure how 'early' that is.” He shrugged. “But you are the first. Come on in. I'm Bones, by the way.”

“Bones!” Gaila flashed him an even brighter smile as she walked in and slipped off her sandals, balancing a covered tray and a covered plate in her hands. “Jim's mentioned you. The nanny.”

“Yeah, that's me.” Bones walked into the kitchen where he'd been getting things ready.

“Where is David, by the way?” Gaila asked as she followed him into the kitchen.

“He's napping,” Bones replied, gesturing vaguely towards David's room. One side of his lips curved a bit upward. “Or at least, that's what he was doing ten minutes ago.”

“Well, I guess if he's quiet, that's a good thing.” Gaila's brow furrowed. “Or maybe it's bad; I don't really know about kids, but I keep hearing stuff from people who do.” She paused by the kitchen island, brow furrowing a bit as she hefted the covered dishes in her hands. “Where should I put these?”

“I suppose it depends on what's in them.” Bones eyed them, but the covers weren't transparent enough for him to really tell.

“Fruits and vegetables,” Gaila replied with a little bounce. (When Jim called her 'bubbly' and 'upbeat', Bones might not have quite grasped the full truth of those descriptors.)

“Fridge for now, then,” Bones said, opening the door and indicating the shelf-space he'd cleared earlier.

“Perfect!” Gaila flashed him another smile as she slid the dishes into place. “I was supposed to bring a salad,” she explained as Bones closed the fridge door, “but there are kids, and I wasn't sure what sorts of salads kids eat, so I Googled it, and it turns out most kids don't like actual 'salad' at all! So I figured...salad is mostly just cut up vegetables and fruit, so why not do that without actually making it a salad?”

“David will actually eat salad,” Bones told her as he put a cutting board on the kitchen island and pulled over the bowl of lemons. He was supposed to make iced water with lemon for the barbecue, and since the first guest had already arrived, he'd really better get started. “Well, some salads. He just doesn't like dressing on them. But Google's right: in my experience, most kids won't eat salad at all, given a choice.”

Gaila slid into one of the stools at the end of the island, tapping her glossy nails against the marble countertop. “I guess I should get you to take a look at what I brought to make sure it's all cut up right and all that—I've never made food for kids before. That's why I Googled, and there's so many rules! You have to be so careful not to accidentally kill them! I had some nice fresh strawberries, but it turns out that's a really common allergy in little kids, so I put them on a separate plate so there wouldn't be any cross-contamination. I guess I would've have had to do that anyway, 'cause Cupcake's allergic too, but it's not so serious with him. He doesn't even need an EpiPen; he just gets a bit of a rash.”

“Yeah,” Bones said, glancing at the fridge and then going back to slicing lemons. “I'll take a look.”

Hopping off the stool, Gaila went to the fridge and pulled out the dishes, placing them on the island. She took the lid off the smaller plate. “So these are the strawberries, which I think should be fine?” She shot him a questioning look. “It didn't say anything about choking hazards there, so I just sliced them like I normally would.”

Bones nodded. “Yeah, they're fine. Anything you can squash with your tongue against the roof of your mouth is fine.”

“Right!” Gaila covered the strawberries once again. “At least one of the websites said that—and that sometimes it depended on how ripe certain things were. Anyway...” She uncovered the larger tray. “So I've got—” She pointed to each section in turn. “Sliced cucumbers, halved grape tomatoes—” Pausing, she looked up, her brow furrowing a little. “Some sites said it was better to cut things like that in quarters, but I wasn't sure I could do that without ending up with ketchup.” Her coppery curls bounced as she shook her head. “So I hoped it'd be okay with them just in halves.”

“They're fine,” Bones told her. “If they were cherry tomatoes I'd say quarter them for sure, but grape tomatoes are long and narrow rather than actually spherical.”

“Right.” Gaila flashed him a smile. “Anyway, blueberries—which the internet said should be fine as is—and then sliced cantaloupe and three different colours of sliced bell pepper.”

“That all looks good,” Bones told her as he wiped the lemon juice off his hands. “I don't know what the other kids will eat, but David's going to be really excited about the blueberries.”

Flashing him an even brighter smile, Gaila put the cover back on the tray and moved both dishes back into the fridge. “I'm the baby in my family, so I don't know much about kids.” She wrinkled her nose slightly. “Or food, really, for that matter. But it's so helpful to be able to Google stuff.” She reclaimed her seat at the end of the island. “It's funny, actually, because you know alphas are supposed to be all about food all the time, but they're terrible about organizing anything that doesn't involve guns or explosions, so I was the one organizing the food for today, making sure we didn't just all bring the exact same thing—and that the alphas didn't all try to just bring everything.” She rolled her eyes. “Alphas can be so exhausting, don't you think? I work with nearly all alphas, or at least that's how it feels.”

“Right,” Bones said as he pulled the large glass jug out of the cupboard under the island. “Jim mentioned you and he were coworkers.”

Gaila laughed. “Oh, I'm sure I don't look the part, right? You take one look at me and thing 'she can't be military'.” She shrugged. “I don't do any actual fighting; I'm tech support. But of course...I probably don't look that part either.”

“I don't see a reason why you couldn't be tech support,” Bones told her as he popped ice cubes out of their trays and dumped them into the jug. “Though I guess I'm not really sure what a tech support person is 'supposed' to look like.” He shrugged. “I've had plenty of people tell me I don't look like a nanny.”

“Oh that's the worst part of being an omega, isn't it?” Gaila scrunched up her features with distaste. “Everyone's got an opinion on how you look. You're either too tall or too short, to thin or too broad, too cute or not cute enough. I had a nurse once tell me my hips weren't broad enough.”

Bones shot her a disbelieving look. “Hey, I had a baby—no c-section or anything—so I'm pretty sure your hips are fine. Assuming that's what she meant.”

Gaila rolled her eyes, a smile curving her lips. “Oh, it's what she meant all right—I mean, what else is an omega for, anyway? But anyway, you had a baby?” She tilted her head to one side interestedly.

“Yeah.” Bones nodded, catching a stray ice cube before it could slide off the countertop. “My daughter: Jo. She's fourteen now.”

Gaila sighed. “I know so few omegas, and all the ones I do know have kids already—have you noticed how hard it is to meet other omegas? There were, like, seriously none in my school! They claim we make up twenty percent of the population, but most of the time it feels like no percent. And I didn't even have an omega parent—my dam was a beta. And my sister's a beta too. Only my sire was an alpha, so I guess that's how I happened.” She shrugged.

“I suppose,” Bones said thoughtfully as he moved to the sink to re-fill the ice cube trays, “in my line of work I just tend to meet more omegas.”

“Right.” Gaila nodded. “I guess it's mostly my fault for picking a beta- and alpha-dominated career.” She shrugged. “But what can you do?” She flashed him a smile. “I love my job.”

“You said you did something with computers?”

Gaila nodded. “Yup.”

Bones nodded as well. “Never really been one for technology myself, but more power to you.”

o0o

“Bones, there's someone I'd like you to meet!” Gaila grinned broadly as she tugged a black-haired omega man over by the arm. “This is Ben,” she explained with an excited little bounce. “He's Hikaru's husband, Demora's dam.” Turning to Ben, she added, “This is Bones, of course, Jim's nanny.”

“It's nice to meet you,” Ben said, extending his hand to Bones.

Bones shook Ben's had. “Same to you.” Nodding to where Demora, Valeris, and David were running about on the grass with a bright blue ball that was almost as big as David, Bones added, “It's nice to see the children getting along.”

Ben nodded. “Yeah.” A soft smile curved his lips. “That it is.”

“Kids are so cute,” Gaila said a little wistfully. Pulling both Ben and Bones over to an unoccupied picnic table, Gaila sat down and both of the men obediently sat with her. “So,” Gaila said, offering them both a cheerful smile, “I thought we should all get to know each other, since we're the only three omegas here.”

“David's an omega,” Bones pointed out.

Gaila rolled her eyes just a bit, still smiling. “Okay, well, we're the only three adult omegas here.” Turning to Ben, she added, “And I was telling Bones earlier, it's so hard to meet other omegas! At least, I find it hard.”

“Well.” Ben folded his hands on the wooden tabletop. “We do only make up about twenty percent of the population, which means that in a random group of ten people, there should only be two omegas.” He looked around the yard. “I'm not sure exactly how many people are here today.”

“Well,” Gaila replied, tossing her bright curls over her shoulder, “there's the three of us, the three kids, Jim, of course, and Chris...Spock, Nyota, Scotty, Jaylah, and Cupcake.” A frown furrowed her brow. “Is that everyone?”

“Pavel's coming,” Ben pointed out. “He's just running a little late.”

“Oh!” Gaila grinned. “That's exciting! We'll have another omega once he gets here.”

Bones' brows twisted a bit as he looked around the yard himself. “Cupcake's here?” He must have missed that—Gaila had taken over most of the door-answering once David had awoken from his nap. “I guess I didn't get to meet him.”

“Oh, my gosh, don't,” Gaila said, “if you can avoid it. He is terrible! Worst sort of alpha.”

Chuckling softly, Bones grinned at the tabletop. “I've sort of heard.”

“He's 'helping' Jim with the barbecue,” Ben put in, pointing to where the two men were getting into some sort of mild jostling battle right next to the open flame. Yikes. Ben's brow furrowed a little. “But he's never been anything but polite to me, so I'm not sure I'd agree with that 'worst sort of alpha' assessment.”

“Probably because you're married,” Gaila said. “So, okay, maybe he's not the absolute worst. Because some alphas don't care if you're married or anything.”

Ben nodded. “I've met a few.” He winced slightly. “Some beta guys too, actually.”

“But my point was he's generally a pig,” Gaila said, wrinkling her nose. “He tries to be subtle about it most of the time, so maybe I should give him credit for that—I don't know.”

“Jim told me he's a moron,” Bones put in.

“Right!” Gaila pointed one finger at Bones. “And if Jim Kirk is calling you a moron, there's probably something to that.” Laughing softly, she shook her head. “Anyway, we're getting a bit sidetracked.” She looked from Ben to Bones. “Did anyone get an actual headcount for how many people are here?”

“I think there's thirteen,” Bones said.

“Huh,” Gaila replied, looking thoughtful. “And counting David, that's actually four omegas in a group of thirteen.”

“With Pavel, it'll be five omegas in a group of fourteen,” Ben pointed out. “How many alphas, though?” He looking around the yard again. “Hikaru, Jim, Chris...Demora as well. And Cupcake?”

“Spock's an alpha too,” Gaila pointed out. “So that's six.”

“And they're also supposed to only be twenty percent of the population,” Bones commented. “Not...uh, whatever percent 'six out of fourteen' is.”

“Forty-two,” Gaila supplied. “Well, closer to forty-three.”

“Well...” Ben said with a shrug, “we're not exactly a random selection of the world's population; we're at a military party, which explains the concentration of alphas, and the concentration of alphas probably explains the concentration of omegas.”

“Right.” Gaila nodded. “The only betas are Nyota, Scotty...Jaylah.” She frowned. “There are just three! And we forgot to count Valeris as an alpha!”

Bones frowned slightly as he watched Valeris throw the ball and bounce it off Demora's head. “Valeris is Spock's daughter.”

“Mm hmm,” Gaila confirmed.

Spock was sitting on the sheltered bench swing, one arm lazily slung over Nyota who relaxed against his side. Bones twisted his brows a little. Clearly he was missing something here. Might as well make a joke. “She looks a lot more like Spock than she does like Nyota.”

Gaila giggled. “Valeris is adopted.”

“Ah.” Bones nodded. “That explains a few things, I suppose.”

David came running up to Bones and made the sign for 'water'.

“'Water'?” Bones repeated back, making the sign as well. He smiled at David. “All right, I can get you some of that.” He turned to Gaila and Ben. “Can I get either of you a drink while I'm up? We've got water with lemon, fruit punch, and if I go into the kitchen, I can even get plain water.”

“Oh, I can get drinks!” Gaila said, hopping up. She flashed Bones a smile. “You and Ben both take care of kids all day—you deserve a break now and then.”

“It's...my job,” Bones pointed out.

“I suppose it's mine too,” Ben put in. He shrugged. “I just don't get paid for it.”

“Yeah, well, I want to get you drinks, so are you going to let me or not?” Gaila asked, resting one hand on her hip.

“I'll have the water,” Ben replied. “With lemon.”

“Yeah, uh, same here,” Bones replied. He frowned slightly. “Are you going to have enough hands?”

Gaila flashed him a smile. “Don't worry about me; I worked as a waitress for a while when I was in college.”

Bones nodded. “Fair enough.”

“So how old is David now?” Ben asked, turning his attention to Bones as Gaila and David left.

“He's three,” Bones replied. “Just recently started preschool.”

Ben nodded. “Demora's been in preschool for a little over a year now, I guess. She's four.” He smiled. “She loves it.” Nodding to where Demora and Valeris were roaring at each other, he added, “I guess Valeris must be in kindergarten this year.”

“They really do grow up so fast,” Bones commented. He folded his arms on the surface of the picnic table. “I used to work in daycare, and often each individual day felt like it lasted an eternity—but the weeks and months went by so fast! The baby who was just learning to crawl, you'd turn around and they'd be learning to read.”

Ben nodded. “Yeah—I mean, I guess I've felt the same way about Demora. She's at the age now where it almost feels like she doesn't need me anymore.”

Bones nodded, thinking of Jo and how she really didn't 'need' him at all anymore. She was nearly old enough to drive already. In a few years, she could have kids of her own. Damn but Bones himself must be getting old.

Gaila returned, setting four glasses of water on the table. David climbed into Bones' lap. Passing David his drink, Gaila commented, “I guess we really are the omega table now.”

“'Mega smell weird,” David said, grinning and wiggling his legs a bit.

Ducking his head, Ben laughed. “Demora says the same thing!” He cocked his head to the side. “Though mostly about adults—I don't think she's really ever commented on how another child smells.”

“By the time she starts noticing how people her own age smell,” Bones warned him, “she'll be old enough to know better than to mention it.”

Ben put his hands over his face. “Noooo. I know.” He sighed, folding his arms on the table.

“My daughter's fourteen,” Bones said, adjusting David a bit on his lap. “She lives across the country now with her sire. But last time she was here to visit, she was talking about having kids—I guess that's normal, even little kids often think about having kids of their own when they grow up. But at her age, that's a far less distant sort of idea.”

Turning to Bones, Gaila said, “Oh right! You mentioned your daughter.”

“Oh, I—actually have a picture,” Bones said, digging his phone out of his pocket. She'd texted him a few, so he had one where she was doing the drinking straws on the teeth 'tusks' thing. Or were those supposed to be fangs? Either way, they were bright fuchsia. Poking at his screen until he could get it, Bones finally held it up. “There she is. Jo.”

“She's adorable!” Gaila said, grinning. “Gods.” She shook her head. “It doesn't feel so long ago I was that age.”

David squirmed a bit, so Bones showed him the picture too. “Do you remember Jo, David?”

“Jo Bones' baby,” David replied.

Bones laughed softly. “Well, she's not exactly a baby anymore, but she was once.”

Pushing his glass away, David said, “All done,” and made the sign as well then slid off Bones' lap and ran to play with Demora and Valeris again.

“So you do signs with him?” Ben asked.

Bones nodded. “Just a few. We always did them at the daycare centres too.”

Ben nodded. “Demora's been learning them at preschool. She knows more than we do, but we've both managed to pick up 'please'.” He made the sign on his chest. His lips tipped into a wry smile. “It helps when she says the words too.” A frown flickered across his brow. “It's too bad that neither Hikaru nor I know shuwa—that's Japanese Sign Language. If we knew it, we could teach her that too. But maybe it would just confuse her.”

“I honestly don't know if it would be more confusing than teaching kids more than one spoken language,” Bones said, frowning a bit. “David's been learning some French from his other nanny—and the one before me was teaching him a little Japanese.”

Ben nodded. “Well, Demora's basically bilingual at this point with English and Japanese. Hikaru and I speak Japanese a lot when we're at home, and she's never really had an issue learning the two languages side by side.”

“That's actually the best way to learn languages,” Bones said. “Um, with brain development...when kids are young, if they're exposed to multiple languages, the languages get...sorted in their heads.” He shrugged. “Apparently it's something of a superpower, because it's not an ability we can just pick up later in life.”

“Right.” Ben nodded. “I've heard a bit about that too. Something about how there's some sort of 'baskets' in our heads, and when we only learn one language as children, we only get one 'basket' that everything gets dumped in, but if we learn multiple languages, then we get one 'basket' for each language.”

“Yeah, that.” Bones nodded as well. “That's the way it was explained to me too.”

Gaila sighed. “I wish I had kids. Well, maybe just one kid.”

“You just need someone else to have a kid with, huh?” Ben teased. “A good alpha, maybe.”

“Yeah...” Gaila wrinkled her nose. “I mean, I like alphas. I think I'm almost exclusively attracted to alphas.” She looked from Bones to Ben. “No offence to either of you, of course.”

Bones held up a hand. “None taken. I'm not exactly attracted to omegas either. In my experience.” Though he didn't tend to be that attracted to anyone all that often. Joss had been his only real crush in high school. (At the time, he'd thought that meant they were supposed to be together. That it was 'true love'.)

“And I'm married,” Ben put in.

“But still...” Folding her arms on the table and leaning forward, Gaila grinned and said, “Just between us omegas...of all the adult alphas here...who do you think is the hottest?”

“I'm contractually obliged to say Hikaru,” Ben quipped.

“Ben brings up a good point,” Bones added, gesturing to him. “It's kind of weird to consider the relative hotness of someone else's husband.”

Gaila rolled her eyes. “Technically, Hikaru's the only one of the alphas who's married. Nyota and Spock are just engaged. But let's just pretend they're alpha models in a catalogue or something. We know nothing about them beyond their looks.”

Ben laughed. “So Cupcake's suddenly hotter, is he?”

Gaila wrinkled her nose. “I guess.” She pursed her lips thoughtfully. “Maybe a lot hotter?”

Bones shrugged. “I don't think it's helping his ranking much, though.”

Gaila giggled. “Oh, so true.” Her lips tilted into a sympathetic little smile. “Poor guy.”

Ben looked out over the assembled group thoughtfully. “Based solely on looks and not even factoring in scent...I'd have to still say Hikaru.”

“For the most part...” A frown flickered across Bones' forehead. Chuckling softly, he shook his head. “They're a rather unfairly good-looking group.”

“That they are,” Ben agreed with a small smile.

“Okay, but...” Gaila nudged Bones a bit. “Who's the hottest of the hot?”

Laughing softly, Bones shook his head. “Jim's the obvious choice, isn't he?”

“Yes!” Gaila agreed. “He's...like...someone specifically made a 'hot guy' on purpose.”

Laughing, Bones shook his head. “That's a good way to put it.”

“Didn't the two of you date?” Ben asked Gaila. “You and Kirk, I mean.”

“Oh, for a while there,” Gaila replied, looking down at her hands. “He dates a lot of people—it's never serious.”

“Were he and David's dam not serious?” Ben asked, frowning slightly.

“Not the way I hear it,” Bones replied. “They were friends, and they still are. But there didn't seem to be any 'romantic' feelings, or whatnot.”

“Huh.” Ben nodded. “Well, I guess not everyone's really into romance. I mean, look at Pike—he's, what? Fifty or so? Still single. Seems reasonably happy, too.”

“What about you, Bones?” Gaila asked, turning to him. “You had a daughter some years back, so you must have had some kind of relationship.”

Bones nodded, taking a swallow of his water. He slid the glass back and forth a bit on the table. “I was married for about five years to an alpha woman named Jocelyn. It, um...” He scratched a bit at the back of his head. “...didn't work out, in the long run. Obviously.”

“Right.” Gaila touched his arm, eyes sympathetic. “That's too bad.” She worried her lower lip. “But since then?”

“Since then,” Bones said, taking a sip of his water and swirling the ice and lemon around a bit in his glass, “there have been more important concerns in my life than romance.”

“Oh, no!” Gaila protested. She gripped Bones' arm. “Really? It's been, like, a decade!” Her bright curls bounced as she shook her head.

“It has,” Bones agreed, taking a swallow of water.

Gaila looked imploringly at him. “You can't let one bad breakup sour you on all relationships forever!” Bones wanted to protest that he hadn't been 'soured' on relationships...except maybe he had. Shrugging, he looked into his glass. “Ben,” Gaila said, turning to him for an ally, “you're in a happy relationship: tell Bones it's worth it!”

“It's...worth it to be with the right person,” Ben replied carefully, “to be in a happy, healthy relationship. But I'd never recommend a relationship just for the sake of a relationship.”

“Well, yes, but—” Gaila screwed up her face. “You won't ever be in a happy, healthy relationship if you refuse to even consider anyone at all!”

“I haven't exactly had a line of eager suitors,” Bones argued. He spread his hands. “There has yet to be anyone to 'consider'.”

“Okay, well.” Gaila shifted in her seat. “You're into alphas exclusively?”

“Uh...” Bones gave a little shrug, swirling the ice in his glass. “Not entirely sure, I guess.”

“But probably a preference for alphas,” Gaila filled in. “So that's a starting point. Do you prefer female alphas or male alphas?”

Bones shrugged again. One side of his lips curved upward. “You have a list of potential candidates in mind or something?”

Gaila grinned, eyes sparkling. “Maybe.”

“Say no,” Ben urged, shooting Bones a knowing sort of look. “If she knew any good alphas, I'm sure she'd be married already.”

Gaila's mouth fell open and she stared at Ben for a beat, then she shook her head, laughing. “Okay, okay.” She rolled her eyes, grimacing slightly as she flipped her hair over her shoulder. “Maybe he has a point.” Turning towards something that had caught her eye, she grinned. “Pavel's here!” She jumped up to run over and give him a hug and then drag him over to Bones.

“It's very nice to meet you,” Pavel said with a thick Russian accent as he shook Bones' hand. (And gods did he ever look young.)

“It's nice to meet you as well,” Bones replied as he returned the handshake. “There are lots of snacks which I'm sure Gaila knows more about than I do, and I think we're going to have a proper meal once those two alphas are done fighting over the barbecue.” He nodded to where Jim and Cupcake were still engaged in whatever stupid alpha competition that was.

Pavel laughed softly. “If we have to wait for zat, we may all just starve!”

David started crying loudly, wrenching Bones' attention away to where the little boy sat forlornly in the grass with both girls standing by looking awkward and vaguely guilty. Bones jogged over, and crouched down, stroking David's blond curls with one hand. “Hey, what happened?”

“Valeris hit him with the ball,” Demora said, pointing at the other girl.

“I did not!” Valeris countered, flustered. “I was trying to hit you, and he got in the way!”

Rolling his eyes, Bones scooped David up in his arms. Hikaru and Spock appeared from different directions to sort out their daughters, so Bones left them to it and took David inside. David's sobs stilled as they sat together on the couch, David in Bones' lap with his cheek resting on Bones' chest.

The sliding door slid open to admit Jim who closed it again and walked over. “Hey, feeling okay, buddy?” he asked, crouching down and putting a hand on David's leg.

“Girls hit me with ball!” David complained.

“Yeah, I know,” Jim replied. He sighed. “They told me. But they also said it was an accident. They seem really sorry you got hurt.” David heaved a sigh and turned his face to hide it in Bones' chest. “That's okay,” Jim said, giving David's leg a pat. “You don't have to forgive them right now.”

Bones offered Jim an apologetic grimace. “I guess I should have been paying more attention to the kids.”

Shaking his head, Jim slid onto the couch next to Bones. “I should've been paying more attention—you definitely should be able to sit and chat sometimes. But stuff like this happens sometimes, right? You can't always prevent it.”

Bones shifted a bit, pulling David a little closer to his chest. “That's true. I guess I lost count of the number of times Jo got hurt when she was little. She even needed stitches once.”

Jim winced. “Speaking as someone who's had more than his share of experience with them, stitches aren't fun.”

Bones shot Jim a small frown. “Hey, aren't you supposed to be barbecuing?”

Jim shrugged one shoulder. “I let Cupcake take over for now. He's got Chris watching to make sure he doesn't screw it up too badly.”

Laughing softly, Bones shook his head. “You alphas.”

“What?” Jim replied, nudging Bones in the side. “You got some sort of sexist comment lined up there?” When Bones just rolled his eyes, Jim said, “I guess I should go let Chris know David's okay. He was a little concerned he'd got a bleeding nose or something.” He winced a little. “He doesn't complain much, but I know he's not really a fan of being stuck in that chair for now.”

Bones nodded. “I'll bring David back out once he's feeling up to it.” To David, he added, “You wanna go see Uncle Chris when you're feeling better?”

Tipping his head back, David blinked up at Bones. “Feel better now.” Squirming a bit, he slid off Bones' lap onto the floor.

Jim flashed him a grin. “Glad to hear it! So you let Bones help you wash your face, and then come out and see Uncle Chris, okay?”

“Okay,” David replied, pulling on Bones' hand to lead him towards the bathroom.

Chapter Text

David climbed into Chris' lap. “Feel better, Unca Kiss.”

Chris' features softened and he wrapped his arms around David. “I'm not sure if you mean me or you, kiddo. But I do feel better. And I'm glad to see you do too.”

“Yeah, he was fine,” Bones said, taking a seat in a folding canvas chair next to Chris to avoid hovering awkwardly. “I think his feelings were hurt more than anything.”

Chris hummed thoughtfully. “Well, feelings are important too.” He patted David's shoulder. “That's something we need to learn early on.”

Valeris walked up to hover awkwardly near Chris' chair. Demora hovered near her elbow. “David...” Valeris began, twisting up her features. “I didn't mean to hurt you, and I'm sorry. I was trying to hit Demora, and she's bigger.”

Bones twisted his brows in somewhat amused disbelief. Demora was bigger than David, but she was still a little smaller than Valeris. “Should you have been trying to hit Demora?”

Valeris shrugged. “Well...” She tugged at a lock of her black hair. She glanced at Demora then back at Bones. “Maybe not to hurt her.” She glanced over at where Spock and Nyota were watching. She screwed up her face and sighed. “I need to learn to be more careful.”

“I was playing too rough too,” Demora put in, twisting up her features a bit. “I'm sorry you got hurt, David.”

“Did you hear what the girls said?” Chris asked David. David nodded. Chris shifted David a bit in his lap. “Was there something you wanted to say to them?” David shrugged, and Chris laughed softly. “Fair enough.”

“Did you want to play with us again?” Valeris asked hopefully.

“Maybe later,” David replied, resting his head on Chris' chest.

“Thank you for apologizing,” Bones said. “Both of you. That's very mature of you.”

Valeris grinned and Demora offered a grateful smile. Valeris tugged at Demora's sleeve and Demora said, “We're gonna go play again.” The two scampered off together.

Turning to Bones, Chris said, “Jim tells me you have a daughter.”

Bones nodded. “Jo. She's fourteen now. And in high school.”

“She's an alpha as well?” Chris asked. Bones nodded again. Chris shook his head. “It can be rough growing up an alpha—I know that's such a cliche, but it's still true. Though...I suppose it doesn't really get a whole lot easier when you're finally an adult.”

“It certainly doesn't get much easier for omegas,” Bones pointed out.

Chris nodded. “No, I don't imagine it does. And I'm sure betas have their own set of problems and issues, and I doubt any of them would really say their lives are 'easy'...but the world is so very much built for them, built by them.”

“Alphas and omegas get pushed to the side,” Bones added.

“Exactly.” Chris cleared his throat. “We're so often expected to apologize for being different, I find. For not fitting into their mould. And I think that's what really makes it harder for both alphas and omegas—we don't fit...and it's assumed it's our fault. Like we could just wake up one day and choose to be betas.”

“I'm sure if you asked most betas,” Bones commented, “they wouldn't exactly agree with that idea, though.”

“Wouldn't agree with what?” Scotty asked, pausing with a plate full of salad. “I'm a beta—why not ask me whatever it was you're curious about?”

Bones looked at Chris then back at Scotty. “Do you think it's the fault of alphas and omegas that we don't 'fit' into the world as easily as betas?”

Scotty's brow furrowed. “Well, no one can help how they're born. That's just random chance, really. Genetics, too, but it's still not what someone gets to choose. And just like with anything, the world is made for the majority.” He shrugged one shoulder. “It's just like if you're taller or shorter...or if you've got bigger feet. Or if you're left-handed. Obviously, it's not your fault. But the world doesn't really care, you know? You still have to pay extra for special-made shoes and whatnot. Just the...tax, I guess, you pay for being born different. So I guess that's how I see it. If that's the sort of answer you're looking for. I have no idea what it's like to be an alpha or an omega. But I know it's not fair. The world's not fair to anyone who's different from that average, 'normal' majority.” He looked from Chris to Bones, shifting his weight a bit from foot to foot. “Is that a good answer?”

Chris was nodding slowly. “I think it's a good answer, Scotty. And thank you for being honest.”

“Do you think...” Bones asked, tilting his head a bit to one side, “that there are some downsides to being a beta? As opposed to being an alpha or an omega, I mean?”

“Well...” Scotty shrugged. He sat down on the grass facing both Bones and Chris and poked at his salad. “You know, we don't get the natural increased immunity like alphas. Or the extra strength and stamina and all that. And even in our modern age, most people still generally seem to prefer seeing alphas in positions of authority. And growing up as a male beta, we get a lot of pressure to try to 'keep up' with alphas, which is for the most part impossible, but there's still that pressure—like if we tried hard enough, we could do it. I suppose to a lesser extent maybe female betas are somewhat shamed for not being more like omegas. It's harder to try for those sort of perks, though.” He grimaced slightly. “Increased fertility? That's not something you can hope to achieve from a few hours at the gym or a high-protein diet.”

“So you think in some ways,” Bones pressed, “that betas are at a disadvantage.”

“In some ways, yes,” Scotty replied. “But overall, we really aren't. We've got numbers on our side, and that's really the deciding factor; that's how betas historically wrested power from the alphas—by learning to work together, right? And then we put democracy in place so we could consistently vote all the alphas back into power again.” Laughing softly, he shook his head. “But anyway, we also never have to worry about things like heats and suppressants and being thought of as...well, less 'civilized' because of our sex designation.” He grimaced. “I just mean, some people think that.”

“I know,” Chris replied, apparently not offended. “There's a lot of prejudice in the world.”

Bones frowned slightly. “Do people think omegas are less civilized too?”

Scotty shrugged. “Pretty sure some do. Because of, uh, the heat thing... But it's hard to keep up with the stereotypes.” He grimaced. “Alphas are generous and accommodating...alphas are selfish and cruel... Omegas are manipulative...omegas are easily led...” He gave a helpless shrug. “It's all pretty irrational, as most stereotypes are.”

“But you don't consider yourself to be prejudiced?” Bones prompted. It probably wasn't exactly a fair question; the vast majority of people likely did not consider themselves prejudiced. (Even if they maybe kind of were.)

Scotty shook his head. “Nah. I mean, I work with a lot of alphas, right? And we get into combat situations sometimes and everything goes to shit—” Wincing, he shot David a guilty look. “Sorry. But anyway, I mean, I see the good, the bad, and the ugly—and when it comes right down to it, we're all people. We're all individuals; no one is exclusively—or even primarily, I'd argue—defined by their sex designation. I mean, look around.” He made a little encompassing gesture of the yard. “Something like five alphas just here today—all of them male, even—and none of them is even remotely something like a clone of the next, either physically or personality-wise.”

“Well.” Chris smiled, warm and a little fond. “It would be difficult to find two alphas more different than Sulu and Hendorff.” He nodded to each as he said the names, so it was clear he meant Hikaru and Cupcake. Presumably 'Sulu' and 'Hendorff' were their surnames.

Scotty took a bite of his salad, expression thoughtful. “But what about Jim and Spock?” he asked finally. “I just mean, they might be more different.”

“Well...” Chris replied, narrowing his eyes a bit. “You might have a point there, actually.” He shrugged. “But that's really what you were saying: we're all different.”

“Just like betas and omegas are all different,” Scotty added.

It was true. There certainly wasn't much Bones could point to that he and Gaila had in common, for example, aside from both being omegas. Or Ben, or Pavel, for that matter. He'd only just met them, but Ben seemed so calm and polite. Pavel seemed so eager and cheerful. Even more so than Gaila. Bones himself was mostly grumpy—but it would be exhausting to try to pretend to be anything else.

o0o

“So I thought the party went well,” Jim said as he washed his hands at the kitchen sink. He'd just finished sorting out all the accumulated compost, recycling, and trash so it would be ready for pickup in the morning. He looked over to where Bones had made an exhausted lump of himself on the couch. “Don't you think?”

“Uh...” Bones managed a shrug. “Everyone seemed to have fun. Chris seemed to enjoy himself, and I guess he matters the most being the guest of honour and all that.”

Hanging the towel up, Jim smiled at Bones. As he walked over, he said, “I saw you and him chatting for a bit.” Sitting down next to Bones, Jim gave him a little nudge. “You look exhausted, though, Bones.” Worry curled in his scent. “And you smell exhausted too. Are you okay?”

Bones turned a tired, wry sort of smile on him. “Just...tired. People are...kind of exhausting. I mean, your friends all seem like decent people. But...” He shrugged, shoulders feeling weighed down and sluggish. “Even the best people are exhausting.”

Jim pouted at him. “You mean I'm exhausting too?”

“You're part of 'people', aren't you?” Bones griped back, folding his arms across his chest.

“Sorry.” Jim held up a hand. “I just...can't really relate? I guess I only find a very select few people 'exhausting'.” A frown flickered between his brows. “If that's even the right word for it.” He shrugged, one finger tracing the curve of Bones' knee. “Mostly, I find people exhilarating.”

Bones had a flippant comment about how that related to Jim's sex life but he kept it to himself—it just felt cruel given their recent conversation after Jim's date with Gaila. Instead, he just offered Jim a lopsided smile and said, “So you find me 'exhilarating', Jim?”

“Absolutely,” Jim replied, flashing Bones a grin and rubbing his palm between Bones' shoulder blades. Worry spiked in his scent, and his hand stilled. “But if I'm bothering you...” He pulled back.

“It's fine, Jim,” Bones insisted. His shoulders twitched. “I...I do better one-on-one.” He caught Jim's hand because he was unhappy to have it no longer touching him. But, oh. Right. He was still 'on the job', wasn't he? Sighing, he looked at Jim's hand in his. It was a nice hand, really. Not overly noteworthy so far as hands went...but it was warm. It felt good in Bones' hand. The weight of it, the shape of it... And apparently Bones was obsessing a bit over Jim's hand of all things. He gave his head a little shake. He offered Jim an apologetic smile as he let Jim's hand go. “Sorry.”

“Hey, it's okay,” Jim replied, shifting a little closer on the couch. “You're tired. That's...” He shook his head, laughing softly. “I'm not actually offended.” He pressed his lips together, something playful expanding in his scent. “I could carry you to bed, if you wanted. If you were too tired to walk...”

Bones offered him a soft, amused smile. “You'd like that, wouldn't you?”

“Well...” Jim shrugged one shoulder. “I might like showing off a bit.”

Bones bumped his shoulder into Jim's. “Yeah, big muscly alpha.” He dropped his voice a bit. “Don't worry, Jim: I'm aware that you're strong and healthy, and I'm suitably impressed.” Pleased pride shimmered in Jim's scent, because of course he was preening now. Bones rolled his eyes. “But I think I should...” As attractive as the idea of Jim carrying him might be, that wasn't something he could have right now. Grimacing, he pushed himself reluctantly to his feet. And dammit, why did his feet hurt? He'd spent most of the day sitting down—probably more than he did most days, in fact. So that really didn't make any sense. “I gotta get to bed.”

“All right, Bones,” Jim said quietly. Standing up, he laid one gentle hand on Bones' elbow. “Sleep well.”

o0o

Bones woke up on Wednesday to two new texts from Jo:

Om I get a long weekend and I would like to come visit you

Not this coming weekend but the next one

Oh, damn. Damn it all. Bones rubbed an unhappy hand over his face. That was smack dab in the middle of his planned heat. Shoving himself up to sit properly against the headboard, Bones replied:

Sorry sweetheart. I've got some medical issues to sort out so that weekend doesn't work for me

He was brushing his teeth when his phone buzzed from where it lay on the bathroom counter, alerting him to a reply:

What do you mean medical issues? Are you sick?

Bones spit out his toothpaste and rinsed his mouth before attempting to text back. The thing was...he kind of was sick. Or at least, he was going to be if he didn't go through the required heat in the recommended time-frame. Sitting on the edge of his bed to type, he told Jo:

I'm not exactly sick. Just in the early stages of suppressant toxicity. Apparently they build up in a person's system if you take them for many years without a break. I'll be fine though. Just have to go through one heat. So that's what I'm doing starting next week.

He was nearly dressed when she replied again:

Ew TMI

Then:

But seriously you have someone to help you right

Grinning and shaking his head, Bones typed back:

Yes. I've got a friend who's agreed to help. Like I said I'll be fine.

Her reply was almost immediate:

Anyone I know?

Then:

Wait don't answer that

Then:

It's bad enough I have to meet all Ta's gfs and know when they're staying over yuck

Laughing softly, Bones shook his head. He typed in reply:

So you have to meet them all huh?

Jo replied:

Idk I have to meet enough. Gods I hope that's all of them. :P Ew

Bones chewed on the inside of his cheek for a bit. If he knew Joss at all, she wasn't exactly being blatant about dating and sex and all that. She was quite capable of being a responsible adult. And by 'all' Jo most likely meant one at a time, likely spaced out over weeks and months, not some massive orgy all at once. And it was very unlikely that anyone was traipsing through the kitchen in their underwear as Jo tried to get ready for school. But no one was perfect, and maybe she could be a little more discreet for their daughter's sake. Finally, he told Jo:

If it makes you uncomfortable you could talk to her about it

Jo replied:

Nah I'm just being a teen about this

Then:

I know she has a right to date and all that

Then:

Anyway talking to her about it would just make me more uncomfortable so :P

Chuckling, Bones typed back:

Fair enough

Then:

I gotta get David up and get him breakfast. So talk to you later

Jo replied:

kk ttyl

o0o

On Thursday, Bones' phone ringing woke him up. Not the alarm, the damn ringtone, as in someone calling him. (He should probably get into the habit of silencing it before bed.)

He blinked at the overly bright screen. Apparently Joss was calling? He'd given her his number soon after getting the phone, but before that morning she hadn't so much as sent him a single text. As he fumbled to accept the call, his chest constricted painfully. Was Jo okay? Had there been some sort of accident at school? “Yeah?” he managed, voice rough and uncooperative. “Joss?”

“Bones,” Joss replied. “How are you?”

“How am—?” Sitting up unhappily, Bones gave his head a shake. “Why are you calling me? Is Jo okay?”

“Jo, who's fine, tells me you're sick.”

Bones squeezed his eyes shut. “Did you seriously just wake me up to tell me that?”

“Wake you up?” Joss sounded disbelieving. “It's got to be...nearly seven there.”

“Yeah.” Bones ran a hand over his face. “And my alarm is set for quarter after seven.” He sighed. “But I'm awake.” Unfortunately. “So, please: go on.”

“Well, our daughter is under the impression that you're sick. She said something about toxic suppressants—Bones, you're not taking some sort of illegal street level knock-offs, are you? I know I cut your support, but I assumed your new job would pay—”

“Joss!” Bones cut in. “No. Gods.” He shook his head. “Taking the proper FDA approved ones like everyone else. But they're toxic; all suppressants are toxic.” He screwed up his face. “I didn't know either until quite recently.”

A pause on the other end of the line and then, “All suppressants are toxic?”

“If a person takes them long enough, yeah.” Bones leaned back against the headboard. “They build up in the body over time.”

“Why haven't I ever heard of this?” Joss asked.

Bones sighed. “Probably because they're scared no one would take them if they knew. But it's not really that big of a deal, Joss; once a person starts showing signs of toxicity, they just have to go off suppressants for a while and go through a heat. Apparently that flushes everything out of the body.” He rubbed at his arm, grimacing a bit. “Good as new.”

“You have to go through a heat,” Joss repeated. Apparently Jo hadn't shared that particular detail.

“Yeah.”

“But, Bones...” Joss replied, voice softer. She sighed. “You hated being in heat.”

“I hate doing my taxes too,” Bones retorted. “And cleaning toilets. There are lots of unpleasant things in life a person just has to do anyway.”

“Can they at least sedate you?” Joss asked. “In the hospital?”

“No,” Bones replied. “I asked. And it's not a viable option.”

“Bones,” Joss said, “I don't like this.”

Bones laughed softly. “I guess that makes two of us.”

“Well, what are you going to do?” Joss demanded. “I'm worried, all right? You mean so much to Jo. You can't—”

“I'll be fine, Joss,” Bones insisted. “I've had time to think and plan ahead.”

“So you have someone to help you?” Joss pressed.

“Yeah.” Bones sighed softly. “I've got a friend.”

“A 'friend', huh?” A teasing smile coloured her words. “Like...an alpha friend?”

“Well, he is an alpha...” Bones admitted.

“Oh, Bones!” Joss replied, sounding genuinely happy. “That's wonderful! I'm so happy for you, Bones. I—I want you to know, I really am.”

Bones stopped the denial before it could fall from his mouth. It 'wasn't like that', but why would Joss need to know? She really didn't. It was none of her business. The truth was too complicated to explain, anyway. So he just said, “Thanks.”

Joss laughed, sounding relieved. “I thought maybe you'd just stay single. It's been so long. I thought—” She cleared her throat. “You know, you deserve to be happy. I've always thought that. Anyway, this really is great news. I mean, apart from the being sick and needing to go through a heat. But maybe that will go better a second time—I guess it would be difficult for it to go worse.” She laughed, soft and a little sad.

“We were young,” Bones commented, “and nether of us knew what we were doing. At least this time I know what to expect.”

“Yeah,” Joss agreed, voice quiet. A little louder, she added, “I really am happy for you, Bones. And I really, truly wish you all the best.”

“Thanks,” Bones said again. Making a face, he stretched sore muscles in his shoulders. “Right now I guess I gotta get up and get going. Duty calls.”

“Right, yeah,” Joss replied. “Wouldn't want to make you late for work. Take care, Bones.”

“Yeah,” Bones replied. “Same to you.”

o0o

“I feel like I haven't seen you all week.” Bones leaned against the wall, watching Jim slip off his shoes. He'd just been to drop off David at Carol's, and now he was back.

“I've...been around,” Jim argued, straightening up. “I think we had dinner together three times. And breakfast at least twice.”

“Right, yeah.” Bones nodded, folding his arms across his chest. “I just meant...you've been gone a lot.” He frowned. Maybe it'd just seemed like it. “I guess.”

“I've been spending a fair amount of time at Chris' place,” Jim said, walking to the kitchen and pulling two glasses from the cupboard. “There are things he can't really do for himself yet—like reaching stuff from high up. And he can get bored there all by himself all the time.”

“Oh.” Bones shifted a little uncomfortably. Right. Jim did have other people in his life, after all.

“Anyway,” Jim said as he filled both glasses with water. “I thought you'd appreciate me staying out of your way.”

Bones frowned, confused. “What?”

Jim turned to look at him, a furrow flickering between his brows. “You said you find people exhausting. So...” He handed Bones a glass of water. “Since the two of us have to spend the majority of the next two weeks together, I thought it'd help for you to have some space before.” Worry curled in his scent and he chewed his lower lip. “Was that wrong?”

“No,” Bones replied, still frowning a bit. “Not exactly.” Walking over, he sank down onto the couch. “I appreciate that you...were being considerate.”

“Okay.” Jim sank down next to Bones. He took a sip of his water. “But I still did something wrong. I can tell.”

Sighing, Bones set his glass on the coffee table. “I guess...” He shrugged. “It would have helped if you'd told me what your plan was.”

“Oh.” Jim frowned. “Right.” He set his glass on the coffee table as well. “Sorry—I mean, I didn't mean to leave you out of the loop. I've just been...”

“Busy,” Bones filled in. And under a lot of stress from work and everything to do with it. He turned a little towards Jim. “Look, I know I'm not the only one who matters. Even if I do need to go into heat.”

“Have you stopped taking your suppressants already?” Jim asked.

Bones nodded. “Didn't take them today.” He rubbed a hand over his mouth. “Obviously don't feel any different yet.”

Jim put his hand on Bones' arm. “No, of course not. But just so you know, so we're clear: you are my only priority for these next two weeks.”

Bones shifted a little, uncomfortably. “Serious question: is Chris going to be okay?”

“Yes,” Jim replied immediately. “He'll be fine.” A grin flickered across his face and he took a sip of his water then set the glass down again. “I may be his favourite, but I'm not the only one who cares about him. Scotty and Gaila and Spock and everyone are going to check in on him—and by the end of these two weeks, he'll probably be out jogging again.”

Bones folded his hands in his lap. “You sad you're gonna miss that?”

“Nope.” Jim's face twisted up a bit. “Maybe. Just a little.” Shifting closer to Bones he added, “'Absence makes the heart grow fonder', right?”

Bones rolled his eyes. “I'm not sure that's true.”

Jim slid right into Bones' space, straddling his lap and looking into his eyes. “It worked on you, didn't it? I stayed out of your hair for a week, and you missed me.”

“So that was your cunning plan?” Bones offered him a grumpy glare.

Jim shrugged one shoulder. “Not exactly.” He slid one hand against the side of Bones' jaw, and a hint of arousal unfurled in his scent.

Rolling his eyes again, Bones swatted Jim's hand away. “Somebody's eager. I'm not even in heat yet.”

Jim sat back, resting a bit of his weight on Bones' knees. His eyes ran over Bones, considering. “I thought...” He bit his lip. “Maybe we could get a bit more 'practice' in. Since our time before got cut so short.” He grimaced a bit. “And besides...” He shrugged one shoulder. “It's been a while, now, for me—so...yeah.” He let out a breath, offering Bones a little apologetic smile. “I'm a little eager.”

“Oh, right.” Bones leaned back a bit, looking consideringly at Jim as well. “What's it been this time? Two days?”

“Um...” Jim's eyes skated away and he shrugged. “Longer than that.”

“Well, you haven't been at Chris' place every night,” Bones argued.

Jim scratched at the back of his head. He peeked at Bones from under his thick brows. “Bones...I haven't been on a real date since that one with Gaila.”

Bones narrowed his eyes a bit. “What's a 'real' date? Wait, that's one with sex, right?”

Jim laughed softly, dropping his gaze. “Yeah.” He twitched one shoulder, rubbing at his arm. “I've had a couple of lunch dates, but that's it.”

Frowning, Bones pursed his lips thoughtfully. “So...when you say 'it's been a while' what you mean is that you've had sex with exactly one person—Gaila—since the last time we had sex.”

Maybe it was mean to point that out, because obviously Jim'd had some far more serious concerns in his life during that time. What with Chris almost dying and all that. But Jim just offered Bones a playfully lopsided smile and said, “You said we should make it a competition.” He pulled back his lips in a wince. “Guess you still won, though.”

“Yeah.” Bones rested his hands on Jim's hips. “Guess I did.” He traced one thumb over the shape of Jim's hipbone, up over his waistband to find a bit of skin. “Who've you been seeing for these lunch dates? Not that it's any of my business—I'm just curious.”

“Janice,” Jim replied. “She's a coworker. A beta. She...paints pictures.” He swallowed. “Um, as a hobby. She's quite good, I think. And she's really...efficient. At work, I mean.” He laughed softly, ducking his head. “I guess that's not the most 'attractive' quality a person could mention, but it's something I admire about her. Anyway, she's really sweet too.”

“Is that your type, then?” Bones asked. “'Sweet'?” He was thinking of Gaila, and it really wasn't fair. Because Jim and Gaila hadn't worked out.

“I don't have a 'type', Bones,” Jim retorted. “But maybe...” He shrugged. “Maybe that's the type who tends to like me the best.”

“I think...” Bones replied, tilting his head a bit in thought, “maybe that's the type that generally likes everyone the best.”

“You're doing such great things for my ego,” Jim teased, shaking his head. “Making me feel so special.”

“You are special,” Bones insisted. He really was. He really and truly was.

“Hey.” Jim caught Bones' jaw in one hand. “You okay?”

Bones blinked at him. “What do you mean?”

“Well...” Jim shrugged. “You just sorta smelled...like, affectionate? But also sad.” He bit his lip, looking away. “I don't want you to be sad.”

“I'm not sad,” Bones argued, making a face. “I just feel bad because I made you feel bad.”

“Oh, sweet one, don't.” Jim's expression and his scent both softened and he cupped Bones' face with both hands. “Don't feel bad.” He offered Bones a hopeful smile. “I'm okay. Big, strong alpha can take whatever you dish out.” He pressed a kiss to Bones' lips, pulling back to say, “Trust me.”

“I'm not even in heat yet,” Bones pointed out. “I don't get a free pass for...being cruel.”

“I'm reasonably sure,” Jim countered, tracing a finger along the edge of Bones' jaw, “that I can give you a 'free pass' for whatever I want.”

Letting out a frustrated breath, Bones swatted Jim's hand away. “Dammit, Jim! I know you're really committed to this whole 'unselfish lover' thing, but you matter too, okay? You're allowed to have your own limits, your own preferences.”

Laughing softly, Jim shook his head. “Bones, my 'preference' is to be unselfish. I tried it the other way and didn't like it nearly as much.” He shrugged one shoulder. “I thought I made that clear.”

Bones rolled his eyes. “You talk as if it's some binary choice between 'total selfish asshole' and 'complete selfless martyr'.”

Bones,” Jim retorted. “You've had sex with me. You know that's not the case.”

“What I know,” Bones shot back, “is that you've got a massive aversion to asking for any damn thing you want. I may not be the expert on sex. I've got a minute fraction of the experience you do. But I'm pretty sure asking for something is just that: asking. The other person can say no. You know... They're not into that. They don't feel like it this time. Whatever.”

Sighing, Jim rested his hands against his thighs. He looked away. “It's different for alphas.”

“The hell it is!” Bones countered. “I've only been with alphas, Jim.”

“Yeah,” Jim replied, gaze sharp as it met Bones', “and your ex-wife demanded so much from you that you spent the next twelve years refusing to have sex at all!” Sliding off Bones' lap, Jim sat on the edge of the coffee table and rested his elbows unhappily on his knees. “You think I want a repeat of that?”

Bones glared at him, anger flaring hot in his chest. “I never asked you to fix me, Jim. All you're supposed to do here is help me through one godsdamned heat.”

“And how I am supposed to do that if you're terrified of me touching you?” Jim demanded, throwing up his hands. He looked exasperated, but his scent quivered with a hint of desperate sadness.

Bones couldn't help it. He put a hand on Jim's knee, hoping to offer comfort. Shouldn't he be angry? He wasn't. Not anymore—it all just melted away. And he wasn't quite cruel enough to try to call it back at the moment. “I'm sorry.” He cleared his throat, looking away. “I didn't mean to start a fight.” Jim offered him a small grateful smile, shaky relief blooming in his scent. “And I'm not scared of you,” Bones added with a grumpy huff. “How could I be scared?” he added with a wry smile. “You're an adorable, helpless puppy.”

“'M not 'helpless'!” Jim argued, voice teetering on the edge of whining but somehow still managing to sound affronted.

Bones shook his head a little, one side of his lips tipping upward in amusement. He looked, thoughtful, at where his hand cupped Jim's knee and gently stroked a little with his thumb. “I just thought...” He sighed, keeping his eyes on his hand. “Jim, in two days I'm going to take that stuff and go into heat, and I'll be the most demanding, selfish bastard you could ever hope to have crawling into your bed. I'm going to be moody and snappish and—” He scratched his other hand through the hair on the back of his head. “I'll probably blame you for everything.” A grimace flickered across his face. “You know, more than I usually am with the moody and snappish thing.”

“I promise you it'll be okay,” Jim insisted. “I promise you I'll be okay. I won't take it personally.”

Bones rolled his eyes. “Yeah, because you're such an adult. Look, my point is this: right now, I'm not in heat yet. We have...a window of time where we can just be two people, um, enjoying each other's company.”

Jim sucked in a somewhat shaky breath. “That's exactly what I want, Bones.”

“Yeah?” Bones offered him a flicker of a hopeful smile. He chewed on his lower lip and flicked one shoulder in a fraction of a shrug. “So maybe we could skip to that part instead of fighting.”

“I am absolutely on board with that, Bones,” Jim promised. Taking Bones' hand from his knee he pressed it tenderly to his lips and then rubbed his cheek against the back of it.

“So...” Bones smiled as his whole body warmed pleasantly in response to Jim's touch and the welcome change in his scent. “I'm curious.” He worried his lower lip a bit. “What are some things...that you'd like to do? I'm not promising I'll say yes. But I might. Um, doesn't have to be sexual either. Just...” He shrugged one shoulder. “Some things you'd like to do with me.” He grimaced a little. “And just here, for the record: I don't feel up to going anywhere. So no, um, restaurants or beaches or whatever.”

“That still leaves us with a lot of options,” Jim commented with a little grin.

“Well.” Bones dropped his gaze, shrugging one shoulder awkwardly. “I really wouldn't be able to guess most of them. At least, um—” Wrinkling his nose, he bit his lip a little. “I wouldn't be very good at guessing...the more sexual things.”

“That's what you need me for, huh?” Jim ran a hand from Bones' knee up the outside of his thigh.

Bones shrugged. “I considered Googling but decided against it.”

Jim laughed softly. “Good call.”

“So...” Bones prompted. “What's at the top of your list? Or do you need more time to think about it?”

“Damn.” Jim shook his head, biting his lip a bit. “I mean, I don't want to freak you out...”

Bones rolled his eyes. “You've mentioned some weird stuff to me before, Jim. Like...some guys liking a fist up their ass?”

Ducking his head, Jim laughed softly. “Well...I guess if that didn't have you running for the hills...” He shrugged one shoulder. “And for the record, some girls like that too.”

“Please don't elaborate on why you know that,” Bones replied mildly.

Jim hummed affirmatively, giving Bones' thigh a firm squeeze. “So...something I'd really like to try with you...”

Bones nudged Jim's foot a bit with his own when Jim took too long to continue that sentence. “Yeah?”

Jim grimaced. “You can say no.”

Rolling his eyes, Bones heaved a sigh. “I know, Jim. I literally just said that—and do you honestly think I'd go along with something I didn't want to do? I'm pretty sure I couldn't fake liking something if I tried,” he added, shaking his head a bit and laughing quietly.

“Okay, okay.” Jim bit his lip, meeting Bones' eyes briefly before his gaze slipped down again. “I...really want to taste your vulva. Your cock too, but...” He shrugged and his gaze slid up to hesitantly meet Bones' once again. “Especially your vulva.”

“Oh.” Bones blushed hot. His skin felt too tight. “Um...” He was grinning like an idiot. “I...actually really wanted to try that too.” He chewed on his lower lip. His face hurt from blushing so hot. “For a while now, I've wanted that.”

Jim made a soft exasperated and mildly offended sound. “Then why didn't you say so?”

Bones laughed. “Are we really going to have that argument? 'Why didn't you say so?' 'Well, why didn't you say so?'” He shook his head. “But I didn't—” He paused, sobering. I didn't say anything, because I was scared.

“Bones?” Jim tried, one hand touching Bones' jaw.

“I was...scared,” Bones admitted, eyes down as shame washed over him. “Look, you're not entirely wrong about me being scared, okay?” He shook his head, gut clenching unhappily. “I'm just not scared of you.” He swallowed. “I actually...I know I can trust you, Jim.” He caught one of Jim's hands in his and threaded their fingers together. “I know you wouldn't hurt me, not intentionally—and probably not even by accident, since you very much know what you're doing.”

“I'm honoured,” Jim replied. “Thank you...for putting your trust in me and for letting me know how you feel. And...” He stroked his thumb over what it could reach of Bones' hand. “I'm sorry you're scared. I want to do whatever I can to help with that.”

“I know.” Bones sighed. “We've had this conversation before.” He made a face. “Can we just get to the sex part now?”

Jim still smelled a little worried, though, concern shimmering in his eyes as they met Bones'. He bit his lip. “So you're comfortable trying that now? Or...did you mean we should try a different kind of sex?”

Bones stared at him for a few heartbeats before he worked out what Jim was talking about. “I wasn't scared of that, exactly,” Bones finally explained. “Well...maybe a little...irrationally worried that I wouldn't like it, and you'd be disappointed?” His face twisted unhappily. “It's just that...we—the two of us—hadn't really had sex at all, so it felt like...maybe trying something weird...or at least, new to me, anyway...wasn't the best idea.”

Jim offered him a bit of a smile, hope shimmering in his scent. “Fair enough. I mean, that's reasonable.” He winced a little and grinned at the same time. “And I might be a little disappointed if you didn't like it. Because...I really do like doing it. But it's not, like, a deal-breaker for me.”

Snorting softly, Bones rolled his eyes a bit. “Do you even have 'deal-breakers' when it comes to sex?”

“Actually, yeah,” Jim replied seriously. “I do.”

Bones' brows twisted in confusion—he hadn't meant it as a serious question. Though...he really should have. This even came back to the whole discussion they were having earlier, but they'd gotten a little sidetracked. Maybe Bones really was living up to that warning he gave Jim about being selfish. He regarded Jim consideringly. “All right, spill.”

Jim's lips pulled back into a sort of closed-mouth grimace. “Well, obviously everyone involved has to consent—and to be able to consent.”

“Right.” Bones shrugged. “I guess I already knew that one.” He chewed on the inside of his cheek. “But what about...sex...things...that you outright refuse to do? Do you have any of those?”

Jim pulled his lips back in a grimace. “I really doubt they're anything you'd ever suggest.”

Bones rolled his eyes. “Probably not, but let's just get it all out there in the open.”

Jim drew a deep breath and let it out. “No knives or other blades—or needles or pins of any kind—used for sexual purposes, even if they're not actually meant to draw blood. No choking—um, that's no one choking me and no me choking anyone else.” He swallowed, wetting his lips a little nervously. “No sex where others could see it unless those people have consented to seeing it.”

Bones stared at him, finding it difficult to breathe. He held up a hand. “'Knives', Jim?” Blinking a couple of times, he shook his head. “Did I seriously hear you right?”

“No guns either,” Jim added. “Not even toy ones.”

Bones held up both hands. “What the fuck?!” Why would anyone...ever...? “Jim, are you—are you fucking serious?”

“Hey, hey.” Jim caught both of Bones' hands in his own, scent filled with a surge of calm that was clearly intentional and clearly for Bones' benefit. “I'm sorry. Look, I shouldn't've said...most of that.”

Bones looked at his hands. They were shaking inside Jim's careful hold. Sickness swirled in Bones' gut. “So...that's...actually...”

Jim sighed. “Those are actually things that some people do, yes.” He shrugged one shoulder, grimacing a bit. “Different people like different things. I try not to judge.”

Bones tried to make his hands stop shaking and found he could only manage it by gripping Jim's hands. “I think...” He shook his head. “I think I wanna lie down.”

“Here?” Jim asked, all worried and curious alpha. “Or in your bed?”

Your bed?” Bones asked. “I mean...if that's—”

“Yeah.” Jim stood, pulling Bones up with him. When Bones wavered a bit, Jim swept him into his arms and whispered, “Is this okay?” into his hair.

Bones just rested his head on Jim's shoulder and said, “Yeah.”

Jim walked down the hallway and laid Bones ever so carefully in the middle of his overlarge bed and knelt carefully beside him. Brushing Bones' hair off his forehead, he said, “I really didn't—want to freak you out like that. I'm so sorry.”

Bones shifted a bit on the bed, offering Jim a grim smile. “I asked.”

“I know, but—” Jim swallowed, brows drawing together.

Bones sighed. “Jim, I'm an adult. I'm not even a young adult.” He made a face. “Dammit, Jim; I'm older than you are.” He shifted a bit again, trying to get closer to Jim, and Jim—apparently understanding—laid down so Bones could curl close to his chest. “I do think,” Bones added, “that we need to be able to be honest. That's important. You didn't do anything wrong by honestly answering my question.”

“I dunno...” Jim threaded the fingers of one hand into Bones' hair. “I think maybe I could have...maybe answered it...still honestly, but, like, with more tact or something.”

Bones drew a shaky breath and let it out. “You didn't finish, did you?” He bit the inside of his cheek. “You didn't finish your whole list.”

“No.” Jim sighed. “I did not.”

“Can you?” Bones asked. “Now, I mean?”

“Bones...” Jim shook his head, pulling Bones a little closer to him. “I think I just all but gave you a panic attack—I'd rather not do it again.”

Bones drew a breath and let it out. Tipping his head back, he raised an eyebrow at Jim. “Does it actually get worse than all that?”

Jim grimaced. “That...kind of depends on how you define 'worse'.”

Bones pursed his lips thoughtfully. “Does it get more violent than that? Than blades and needles and choking and guns?”

“Uh...” Jim frowned. “I don't think so?” He shrugged one shoulder, laughing soft and a little helpless. “I mean, maybe some people are into things even I've never heard of.”

“Gross,” Bones commented.

Jim laughed softly. “Hey.” He brushed one fingertip gently over the tip of Bones' nose. “Don't kink-shame.”

“I'll shame whatever the hell I want,” Bones countered. “I'm not the sex guru.”

“Would you shame something if I said I was into it?” Jim asked.

Bones made a face. “That would probably depend on what it was.” With an unhappy grunt, he rolled onto his back, turning his head to look at Jim. “But I guess...I wouldn't want to shame you for liking something. You like what you like. And so long as no one's getting hurt, it's no one else's business.”

Jim grinned at him. “But maybe I like getting hurt.”

Bones rolled his eyes. Right. Some people were into spanking and whatnot. (And apparently choking and knives.) “Okay, fine: so long as no one's getting injured.”

Jim smiled, warm and crooked. “Fair enough.”

Bones nudged him. “Tell me the rest of your list.”

Jim winced slightly. “You're sure?”

Bones blew out a breath. “Honesty, remember? And who knows? Maybe I'm really surprisingly creative and would actually come up with some of it on my own.” Maybe when he was in heat and viciously demanding, too. He made a face. “Wouldn't want to accidentally try something.”

Jim blew out a breath as well. “Okay. Well...no dressing up as or acting like anyone underage: not even teenagers in a 'teacher/student' or that sort of role-play.”

“Nice,” Bones commented sarcastically, making a face at the idea.

“No...animal role-play either,” Jim added.

“Gross,” Bones commented. “Animals,” he added, shaking his head.

“Like...you know: Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, as an example.”

Bones sighed. “Yes; I'm actually aware that story can be interpreted as sexual.” For...whatever reason. “And also: no. Little Red Riding Hood is a child. That's why she's called 'little'.” Maybe people tended to age her up significantly for their creepy fantasies. And maybe the Wolf's being able to talk made it not quite the same category as bestiality. But still. “I'm glad we're on the same page with the 'no', by the way. Moving on.”

“Um...” Jim shifted a bit, a hint of insecurity worming its way into his scent. He worried his lower lip a little. “I...” He winced. “I'm fine with watersports, but no scat.” He winced again, shooting Bones a worried and embarrassed sort of look as worry and embarrassment expanded in his scent. “Do I need to explain what those mean?”

Bones stared at him for a beat. “Yes.”

“Well...” Jim squirmed just a bit. “'Watersports' is anything to do with urine, and...uh, 'scat' is...”

“Oh, gods.” Bones lips pulled back into a repulsed expression. “I think I can guess from that context.”

Jim blew out a breath. “Yeah, you, uh...probably can.”

“Wow.” Bones shook his head. “So, uh...yeah. Really one-hundred percent on the same page with you there.”

Jim let out a quiet relieved laugh, snuggling Bones a little closer to his side. “Glad to hear it.” A frown flickered across his brow. “I think that's everything, actually.”

“Huh.” Bones yawned, rolling onto his side and wrapping one arm across Jim's chest. “Great...now I know the list of 'grossest sex things in existence'.”

Jim pressed his lips together. “Sorry.”

“No, no.” Bones shook his head about as well as he could while having it pressed against Jim's wonderfully warm pec. “I asked. I'm glad you told me, actually. You know...it's good to know that there are things you won't do. It...” A grimace tugged at his lips. “It makes me feel better, actually.” Perhaps paradoxically, he felt safer knowing Jim had some lines he wouldn't cross regardless of the circumstances. “Like, um, I mean...I know where the fence is, where your boundary is. I'm not going to go anywhere near it, but it's good in some way, I think, to know it's there.”

“Okay.” Jim pressed a kiss to the top of Bones' hair. “That's good, then.”

Chapter Text

Bones blinked awake, confused. Why was he in Jim's bed? With Jim. Well, okay, maybe being in Jim's bed should just stop feeling strange at this point. And it was fine, really: David was at Carol's for the next two weeks. So Bones was off duty. He grumpily shifted against Jim's side. “Why'd we fall asleep?”

“Not sure I actually did fall asleep,” Jim replied, shifting a bit as well. “Was just...relaxing.”

Bones grunted. Jim could probably use a bit more relaxing. Bones rubbed his face against the soft material of Jim's shirt. “Were we supposed to be having sex?”

“Well...” Jim grimaced. “We had a conversation that kind of killed the mood.”

Bones pressed a grin into the swell of Jim's pec, pleasant warmth spurred on by Jim's scent and nearness spreading through his body. “Maybe the mood's had time to...reincarnate, resurrect.”

Chuckling, Jim shifted until the hardening shape of his cock pressed against Bones' thigh through the layers of clothing. “Knew it was a good idea to let you nap.” But then he stilled, frowning. “I should get you to eat, though. We had lunch before I took David over to Carol's, and it's still a little early for supper, but you're going to be burning a lot of extra calories in the next few days.”

Gripping Jim's hip, Bones pressed his own hips forward. “Sex first. Then you can feed me whatever you like.”

Jim flashed him a grin, brilliant happiness swelling in his scent. “You sure you're not in heat already?”

Bones rolled his eyes. “If I was in heat, I wouldn't have asked nearly so politely.”

“So...” Jim trailed a hand down Bones' side to his hip. “I'd like to lick your vulva.” He bit his lip. “If you're okay with that.”

“Oh.” Bones' brows drew together. “It's not clean—I haven't showered since last night.”

Jim shrugged one shoulder. “I don't care.”

Bones grimaced. “Well, I do. You can do whatever you like with your own mouth, but once it's also involving my body...I guess I think I get a say.”

“You do,” Jim agreed. “You absolutely do.” He offered Bones a soft smile. “So...” He slid his hand from Bones' hip to cup his ass and tug the two of them a little closer together. “Shower first, then sex, and then I get to feed you?”

Bones grinned, cheeks warming a little. “Sounds good to me.”

o0o

Grinning like he was unwrapping the world's best gift, Jim pulled back the folds of fluffy towel to reveal Bones' naked, freshly-showered body. He ran the fingers of one hand lightly over the still-damp skin of Bones' thigh, grinning broader at how Bones twitched slightly in response. He whispered, “You are so very, very beautiful.”

Bones shifted his hips slightly, letting his legs fall further open. He was as washed as clean as a warm, thorough shower could make him, but Jim's attention had already coaxed out a little fresh slick. Well, Jim's attention and the way he'd carried Bones from the tub to the bed. Apparently the primal, primitive omega in Bones was decidedly impressed by feats of strength. Bones bit his lip, suddenly feeling very exposed and unsure. Certainly someone who'd seen as many people naked as Jim had, someone who'd watched as much porn as Jim had, couldn't be all that impressed with Bones. “Am I?”

“Oh, sweet one.” Jim's gaze travelled up Bones' body to his face. “You're a masterpiece.”

Rolling his eyes, Bones let out a huff. “You don't gotta flatter me, Jim; I'm already in your bed. Naked.” He wrinkled his nose a bit. “Wet.”

Jim gave Bones' knee a squeeze. “Is it still 'flattery' if it's true?”

“Oh, come on.” Bones let out a quiet, frustrated huff. “I'm nothing special. I'm just—” He made a vague gesture towards his body. “A too-tall, slightly pudgy omega who's getting too old for anyone to notice.”

Shaking his head a bit and grinning, Jim poked at Bones' belly. “I happen to like slightly pudgy.”

Bones shot him a disbelieving sort of glare. “Really?”

Jim nodded, sliding his thumb over the shape of Bones' hipbone. “It means you're not a combatant—so I have to protect you.”

Bones couldn't help laughing. “That's one of the most alpha things that's ever come out of your mouth.” He rolled his eyes. Laughing again, he shook his head. “You like that you have to protect me.”

Jim shrugged one shoulder. “Makes me feel useful.”

Bones made a face. “Shouldn't my height be a real detriment, then? I mean, isn't what you just said the main reason most alphas like tiny, delicate omegas?”

Jim's brows drew together. “I dunno that 'most alphas' like any such thing.” He shifted his position a bit, kneeling between Bones' legs. “Don't believe everything you see on TV or read in a magazine.” He grinned crookedly, eyes bright. “Is that what they're saying in Omega's Weekly? 'Make yourself tiny'? Because I can tell you right now it's stupid. The bigger the target, the more there is to protect.” He waggled his eyebrows. “It ups the challenge, and alphas love challenges.” He offered Bones a lopsided smile, splaying one hand over Bones' hip. “We used to beat each other up for the chance to slay the dragon who kidnapped the princess, after all.”

“What a disappointment when the princess turned out to be a beta,” Bones snarked.

“Well...” Jim's eyes flashed wickedly. He slid his hand down from Bones' hip most of the way to his knee. “Maybe it'd be better to go after the one that kidnapped the prince, then. Dragons weren't usually interested in beta princes.”

Bones rolled his eyes. “You like betas, though.”

Jim laughed. “I like alphas too, but dragons never kidnapped them.”

Bones wrinkled his nose. “But anyway, you're telling me I should be fat. I mean, that's what I'm hearing from you.”

Jim shrugged. “Pretty sure I'd still like you.” His expression grew more thoughtful. “But you know...that whole idea of the tiny, delicate waif of an omega... I think, actually, it's supposed to be attractive because alphas like feeding people, and those sorts of omegas are running around looking like they kind of need a bit of help feeding themselves.” He shrugged one shoulder, smirking a bit. “And a chubby omega looks like they like food. So it really doesn't matter; an alpha is going to be hooked either way.”

“In this 'hooked' metaphor,” Bones asked, “am I the bait or the hook itself?”

Chewing on his bottom lip, Jim shook his head. “Right now, your slick is a pretty effective bait. It's glistening like a lure in the water.”

Bones stared at him for half a beat. “You know fish aren't sexy, right?”

“Wow, yeah.” Grabbing a corner of his own towel, Jim scrubbed at his damp hair. “I think it'd be better if we dropped this whole fishing metaphor—I swear I didn't mean it as a metaphor in the first place.”

“You were thinking more of a...drug metaphor,” Bones guessed.

Jim offered him a helpless sort of grin. “Yeah. That.”

Bones stretched a little, intentionally languid. He shot Jim a heavy-lidded grin. “Wanna get a little drunk, Jim?”

Excitement buzzed in Jim's scent as it wrapped around them in a heady cloud. “Oh, yes.” He pressed a kiss to Bones' knee. Peeking at Bones through his lashes, he said, “Are we done stalling then?”

“Oh...I dunno,” Bones replied carelessly. “Maybe one of us could think up something else to argue about for at least a few more minutes.”

Bones.” Jim nipped at the soft skin on the side of Bones' knee. “Please.”

“Well, I don't know what in the world you're waiting for,” Bones said, canting his hips and rolling his eyes a bit. “You wanna taste? Go ahead and taste.” He waved a careless hand towards his pelvic area. “Got plenty of bits down there for you to explore, and they're all fresh and clean—just for you.”

“Oh, sweet one.” Happiness and desire pouring off of him, Jim kissed his way from Bone's knee along his thigh as he squirmed rather ungracefully onto his belly. Giggling a bit, he pulled back.

“What?” Bones asked.

“I like the hair,” Jim explained. “It tickles.”

“Can't say that's my personal favourite thing in the world,” Bones replied, shifting his hips just a little, “but please: continue to enjoy my hairy body.”

Jim flashed him a grin. “I will.” He nipped the inside of Bones' thigh. “I am.” Pausing, he pressed his lips together. “Can I, uh—put my fingers inside?”

“Sure?” Jim's hands were clean, after all—and he tended to take reasonably good care of his nails.

Jim's fingers, shaking a little, stroked through the wet folds of Bones' vulva. Bones' breath caught. Jim groaned. He slid his other hand around the base of Bones' cock and traced up the curve of it with his tongue. Bones' head slammed back against the pillows and he let out an inarticulate sound. “Was that, um, good?” Jim asked, warm breath teasing the damp skin of Bones' cock.

“Yeah,” Bones panted. “Damn.” He blinked. “You...uh, you've barely gotten started.” Closing his eyes, he relaxed back once again. “And to think I was worried I wouldn't like it.” Jim, the bastard, licked over the slit. Bones' entire body jerked, and he swore. Jim's fingers slipped easily inside Bones, and his lips closed over the head of Bones' cock. “Jim, Jim,” Bones panted. “I'm gonna come and you haven't—”

Jim let Bones' cock slide free from his lips. “Sorry—I, um, might have been...rushing things a little.”

Bones shifted his hips a little, groaning at the feel of Jim's fingers inside him. Jim moved his head a bit, tongue finding its way between Bones' labia. “Oh,” Bones said, blinking a bit. “That's weird.”

Jim pulled back enough to ask, “Good 'weird' or bad 'weird'?”

Bones made a face. “Um...just weird?” Jim hummed thoughtfully, licking again. Bones shuddered. “It...feels good, I guess. I mean, it does. It's just—” He shook his head a bit where it lay against the pillow. “It's like...too much and not enough all at once.” And maybe too soft, if that made any sense at all.

“Lemme see if I can help with that.” Jim slid his fingers a little deeper into Bones' vagina, teasing and pressing and twisting a little. Making an inarticulate noise and squeezing his eyes shut, Bones involuntarily rocked his hips. Jim slid his tongue between Bones' labia, hot and wet and so soft. Bones let out a broken little cry as a small gush of slick soaked Jim's hand. Groaning, Jim lapped at the entrance to Bones' vagina, the soft little tip of his tongue probing around where his fingers entered Bones. “So good,” he gasped before going right back to it.

Bones shuddered and groaned, unsure what he was meant to do with any part of his body. His hands flopped useless at the end of unhelpful arms. His legs quivered, eager and weak and at a loss. “I...uh...” he finally commented, “liked it better when your mouth was on my dick.” Shifting smoothly, Jim re-gripped the base of Bones' cock and slid his mouth down over it until his lips met his fingers. Bones cried out. It was too much. It was everything. It was falling and soaring and starlight and summer rain. “Oh, Jim. Jim. Jim. Jim.”

“Bones,” Jim replied, smelling like heaven and home and everything wondrous in between. “You taste amazing.” He pressed a damp, slightly sticky kiss to Bones' hipbone and another to the inside of his thigh. He kept touching Bones: thighs, calves, belly, chest, arms. Everywhere was little sparks of lightning. “That was so good. You really are beautiful. Wanna keep you happy, Bones. Just like this. You smell so good right now.”

“Yeah, uh...” Bones let out a breathless laugh. “Just wait until I go into heat.”

Jim pressed his cheek against the side of Bones' knee, eyes soft when they met Bones'. “I'm gonna love it.” A frown flickered across his features. “I mean...other than the part where you're miserable.”

Humming languidly, Bones shifted a bit. “'M not miserable right now. Gods.” He squeezed his eyes shut and pressed both hands over his face. “Did I seriously just ejaculate in your mouth?”

Pride swelled in Jim's scent and he nipped at the inside of Bones' thigh. “Yes. Seemed to take you completely by surprise. I loved it.”

Laughing softly, Bones shook his head. “Hey...um, whatever makes you happy, I guess.”

“I should probably let you know,” Jim said, “that I am a little scent-drunk.” As if Bones hadn't noticed. Jim smiled dopily. “Feels good.” Then he licked some of the slick off his hand. And okay, so he'd been licking that directly off of Bones vulva, so it really shouldn't look so strange to see him licking a bit more off his fingers. Really shouldn't be so surprising. Resting his head placidly on Bones' thigh, he licked at the slick on his palm.

Bones laughed, a little embarrassed. “It tastes that good?”

Mmm,” Jim hummed affirmatively. “Best.”

“Is that making you more drunk?” Bones asked.

“Probably,” Jim replied, sliding his tongue between his fingers. “Smell and taste are so linked...and this is your slick after all... Maybe I'm...” He giggled a little. “Slick drunk.” His eyelids fluttered as he tongued at the back of his hand. “Best smelling thing ever. Taste too.”

“Really.” Bones rolled his eyes a bit. Alphas were supposed to love the smell of slick, but still.

Jim hummed affirmatively. “Smells like...you, but...the most concentrated and, uh...pure? Part of you.”

“Well, I guess if it comes out of my vagina,” Bones reasoned, “it has to be pretty pure to start out with—that's where babies come out, after all.”

Jim hummed agreement then pushed himself upright to kneel between Bones' legs. “I was supposed to make you food.”

Chuckling, Bones shook his head. “Not actually hungry yet.”

Jim ran a hand up Bones' leg, over his hip, and across his stomach. “But you need to eat. Gotta get some food in you before your heat hits.”

One side of Bones' lips curved upwards, and he stretched languidly. He let out a lazy breath. “You're right. And I guess maybe if I eat a little extra before, I won't be quite as famished after.”

o0o

“Jim,” Bones said as he settled into his chair at the kitchen table. “This is more of a feast than a meal.”

Jim shrugged, shooting him a little grin as he piled yet another serving dish onto the table. “It's not often I get to impress you with my cooking.”

Bones shrugged a bit and rubbed one hand through the hair on the back of his head. “It wasn't that long ago we had that snack, Jim.” It had been quite a snack: four different kinds of fresh fruit, three different kinds of cheese, two different kinds of pickles, and two different kinds of whole-grain crackers. But it was supper now, so Jim was going all out in a 'meal' fashion rather than a 'snack' one—apparently by showing off his steak-grilling abilities. Bones winced a bit at the massive amount of food spread in front of him. “Not sure how much I'll be able to eat.”

“I'm fine with having leftovers,” Jim pointed out as he took his own seat across from Bones.

“You fine with letting leftovers rot in the fridge as the two of us are too busy effing to eat for a week?” Bones asked as he served a generous helping of green beans onto his plate.

“No way either of us is going a week without eating,” Jim countered as he poured gravy over his mashed potatoes. “As the alpha in charge of this operation, I won't allow it.”

Bones snickered, shaking his head a bit as he piled fried mushrooms and onions on top of his steak. “You think you're going to be 'in charge'?”

“I'm going to be the one telling you to eat and drink,” Jim replied. “The one making sure you don't die, so yes.” He levelled a look at Bones across the table. “Sounds like being in charge to me.”

Raising his eyebrows, Bones rested his folded arms on the edge of the table. “Well...I guess we'll see how you feel about that in a few days.”

o0o

Bones sank gratefully onto the solid bulk of Jim's body where it reclined in the tub. Warm water swirled around them, seeping tension from Bones' muscles. “Could get use to this,” Bones commented, eyes half closed and cheek resting on Jim's shoulder.

“Yeah?” Jim's hand stroked down Bones' back, soothing and gentle.

“Mmm.” Bones shifted slightly, suppressing most of a giggle at the feel of Jim's hard cock beneath him, sliding against his own cock and nudging him in the belly. “Could fall asleep like this.”

“I make a pretty good pillow-mattress combo?” Jim chuckled, pressing a kiss to Bones' hair. “Glad you're comfortable, but I hope you wouldn't sleep too long—I might end up with circulation issues.”

“Calling me fat again?” Bones teased. “'Cause I'm pretty sure that dinner you fed me added ten pounds, so it's really your fault.”

“Mmm.” Jim's arm across Bones' back tightened, pressing their wet chests together. “Yeah, go on: remind me how much of my food you ate. Makes me feel all useful and important.”

“That's why I did it.” Bones nipped at Jim's jaw. “I like it when you smell proud and happy.”

“Thought you didn't like 'proud' so much.” Jim stroked at Bones' lower back.

“Maybe it's growing on me,” Bones suggested. Pushing himself up enough, he looked Jim in the face. “You really are a pretty alpha.”

“I really am,” Jim agreed with a crooked grin.

Bones snorted softly. “Guess I can't call you humble.”

“I'm very humble,” Jim argued. “Especially, exceptionally humble. Probably one of the most humble—”

Bones cut him off with a kiss. Oh, this was nice. The warm water swirling about them, between them. Bones shifted his hips, groaning a bit as his vulva slid enticingly against the base of Jim's cock. If he shifted enough, he could probably get Jim's cock inside. Damn...it had been so long since he'd had anything but fingers in his vagina. And he'd never had anything so large as Jim's cock. Was bigger really better when it came to cocks? Would it really feel better? Oh, probably when Bones was in heat, anyway. That was pretty likely. He squirmed a bit just thinking about it, letting out a helpless little sound. Jim chuckled, one hand gripping Bones' ass under the water and tugging him just a little closer. Bones gasped as Jim's cock slid between his labia. Not the head—that was sliding, hot and solid, against the side of Bones' own cock. But just...some of the rest of it, sliding lengthwise through the sensitive folds of flesh. Bones rocked his hips a little, biting his lip at the wondrous sensations. “Could you knot from this?”

“Gods, yes,” Jim replied. He growled softly, tugging Bones a little closer once again. He let out a shaky breath.

Bones shifted his body a bit against Jim's, enjoying the thrills of pleasure as his vulva slid against the hardness of Jim's cock and his own cock brushed against Jim's skin under the warm water. “D' y' wanna?”

Jim hissed slightly, white teeth sinking into the softness of his lip. “Yes, but—we don't have to.”

Bones offered him a soft, crooked smile. “I know we don't have to. Just thought...you might like to.”

Jim offered Bones a lopsided grin, arousal and hesitation shimmering in his scent. “Figure I'm prob'ly gonna get a few good knots in these next few days.”

Bones shrugged one shoulder. “Maybe I'll decide I like the knotting dildo better—never have tried one before, so what do I know?”

Jim's mouth fell open. He clutched at Bones' ass with both hands, pressing their bodies together. “You think some—some artificial thing could hope to compare to the true glory of an alpha's cock? To the wonder that is my cock?”

Laughing, Bones dropped a quick kiss on Jim's nose. “Probably not.” He nuzzled a bit at Jim's cheek, enjoying the swirling scents of arousal, amusement, and affection in Jim's scent. “Realistically, that's pretty unlikely.”

The smell of pleased, proud alpha swelled around them in the warm, damp air. Jim grinned, rocking Bones' hips against his own. “My cock is the best.”

Bones laughed a little breathlessly. “It is.”

Jim pressed a wet kiss to the underside of Bones' jaw. “I know you agree. You love my cock.”

Bones wiggled his hips a bit, groaning at the feel of Jim's body against his own. “Gotta admit...” he panted, “I'm kinda eager to find out what it feels like inside.”

Sharp arousal spiked in Jim's scent, and he hissed softly. “Damn. I could show you right now if I had a damn condom.”

“You don't keep any in the bathroom?” Bones blinked down at him.

Jim grimaced. “I never bring dates here.” Right. Even when David was at Carol's, Jim always went out somewhere else. He laughed softly. “Wanna take this to the bedroom?”

Bones screwed up his face a bit. “Not really.” He sighed, settling against Jim again. “Like your tub. Like being like this. Don't wanna move.”

Jim stroked his hands over Bones' back. “All right.” He kissed Bones' shoulder softly. “You said something about falling asleep—you can doze for a bit if you want.”

Bones grunted in response, shifting a bit atop Jim. “If we're gonna nap, we should really make you knot first.”

Jim's fingers tightened a bit on Bones' hips. “Hey, you know I don't need to.”

Bones rolled his eyes. He had to be careful how he worded this—obviously, this wasn't about 'deserving' or 'earning' orgasms, but it would be easy to make it sound like that's what he meant. And then Jim would get worried and offended and they'd argue pointlessly. “You licked all over my genitals for most of the afternoon—which, I should probably point out, gave me what was most likely the best orgasm of my life—but I miss your cock, Jim.” He pouted.

“How can you 'miss' it?” Jim laughed, rocking his hips a bit. “It's right there.”

Bones pursed his lips thoughtfully as he looked down at what he could see of Jim's cock through the swirling water. “Maybe I more miss the knot.”

“You've never actually had the knot,” Jim pointed out with a lopsided smile. “Not properly. I don't think having it in your hand counts.”

“Did like it in my hand, though,” Bones mused. “Liked the feel of it all big and hot like that. The semen all over everything was pretty gross, but we won't have that problem here.”

“It'd get in the water,” Jim said. “We'd get to soak in semen-water for an hour.”

Bones laughed. “Sure, but...it won't get dry and sticky—and anyway, we can just shower after, right?”

Stroking his hands over Bones' arms and back, Jim looked up at him from under heavy lids. “My smell would get in your skin, Bones.” He bit his lip, eyes skating down to around Bones' collarbones. “It'd get into your pores, soak in deep. Just one shower...no matter how thorough, probably wouldn't be enough to counteract that.” His eyes flickered back up to meet Bones' own. “You want that, Bones? You wanna smell like me?”

The thing was, Jim clearly wanted that. Some alpha 'claiming' thing, no doubt. All animal and primal. Something to warn all the other alphas—as if there were any, in this case—off. So often with alphas 'protective' and 'possessive' all got rolled up and muddled together. (Or maybe they started out that way.) The water in the tub sloshed a bit as Bones shifted, leaning in to kiss Jim softly on the mouth. “I'm gonna smell like you anyway,” he reasoned. “After spending my heat with you. You'll be in my hair,” he continued. “Under my fingernails.” He wet his lips, meeting Jim's eyes. “And you'll smell like me too.” Maintaining eye contact, he deliberately slid his vulva against the base of Jim's cock. “So what's the harm in starting a bit early?”

Jim's cock jerked, and he sucked in a breath, closing his eyes for a moment. The muscles in his arms shook a bit from the tension in his whole body. “You...you'd like that?” he asked finally. “Me...knotting...like this...not—not inside.”

“Pretty sure I would,” Bones told him, brushing a kiss against his flushed cheek. “Your knot,” he continued, sliding his body slow and intentional and so damn close to orgasm again himself, “pressed against my vulva, hot and hard and—”

Jim cried out, clutching desperately at Bones as his knot swelled and his cock pulsed between them. Bones gasped, pressing his face into Jim's neck as his own release washed over him. The mingled smells of slick and semen, of sweat and sex and omega and alpha, of Jim and Bones, hung in a thick, heady cloud about them. “Bones, Bones, Bones...” Jim's hands tried to touch him everywhere at once, stroking with fumbling gentleness. “You—you're the best, okay? The most—the most wonderful—” Groaning, he pressed his face into Bones' shoulder. “I—” His whole body shuddered under Bones. He pressed his face into Bones' neck, murmuring, “Bones, you're—so beautiful.” He pressed several messy kisses to Bones' neck. “So amazing.”

Bones chuckled softly, shifting a little atop Jim and tipping his chin up so he could kiss him. “You seem happy.”

“Mmmm.” Jim slid his hands down Bones' back to cup his ass. Affection glowed in his eyes and filled his scent. “I am.”

“Happy smells good on you,” Bones commented, dropping a tiny kiss on the tip of Jim's nose.

“You gonna take that nap now?” Jim asked, fingers tracing looping patterns on Bones' lower back.

Bones offered him a soft smile. “Guess so.” Relaxing against Jim's chest, he rested his head on Jim's muscled shoulder. “Let me know if you get any circulation issues.”

Chuckling, Jim shook his head. “Doubt I could care, sweet one.” He pressed a kiss to Bones' hair. “Stay on top of me forever.”

o0o

“You really do smell like me,” Jim commented as he laid Bones gently down on his bed, wrapped in an overlarge towel. A small apologetic smile tugged at one corner of Jim's mouth, but he smelled so pleased.

“You wanna take me out somewhere and show me off?” Bones teased, towel soft against his skin as he shifted languidly on the bed. He peeked at Jim through his lashes. “We could go to...a club or something. And you could growl at everyone who looked at me.”

Sinking down next to Bones with a sigh, Jim shook his head. “I'd probably punch someone.”

Bones chuckled softly. “Guess that's a really bad idea, then.” He caught Jim's hand, threading their fingers together. “Need you here, not locked up for assault.”

Jim brushed the fingertips of his other hand feather-light over Bones' forehead. Offering Bones a lopsided, somewhat sheepish smile, he said, “And wouldn't that be a little embarrassing to explain to Chris and everyone at work? I got arrested for punching an alpha in a club who looked at my nanny.”

Bones laughed softly. “Yeah...” He scrunched up his nose. “Just a 'little' embarrassing.” Rolling his eyes a bit, he added, “And, just for the record, you—”

“Brought up the employee thing!” Flopping down next to Bones, Jim nuzzled at his hairline. “That was me. My bad.” Pulling back a bit and biting his lip, he regarded Bones. “Did that kill the mood?”

“What mood?” Bones laughed.

“The, uh...” Jim squirmed a little, a guilty grin tugging at his features. “The flirty, 'maybe we're gonna have sex again' mood.”

Chuckling softly, Bones looked at Jim with narrowed eyes. “Just how many times in one day can you—? Wait, don't answer that.”

Jim hummed happily, snuggling closer and slinging one arm over Bones' body. “Bet you're gonna be happy at how many times once you're actually in heat.”

Bones rolled his eyes, letting out a quietly exasperated breath. “It'll be different when I'm in heat, Jim. The...the smell of an omega in heat is supposed to stimulate your sex-drive.”

“My already overactive sex-drive,” Jim reminded him.

Rolling his eyes again, Bones sighed. “Haven't we already had enough sex today to sate even an overactive sex-drive for a while?”

Pulling back a bit, Jim looked down at Bones. He bit his lip, all playfully guilty. “I don't think you want me to answer that, Bones.”

Laughing softly, Bones shook his head. “I guess it's not really fair...I mean, you got exactly one orgasm; that's probably not really excessive.”

Jim hummed, shifting against Bones' side. His slightly hard cock pressed against Bones' thigh through layers of thick towel. Catching Jim by the hip, Bones pressed them together tighter, and Jim groaned. “But really, Bones...” With a breathless laugh, Jim shook his head. “Just 'cause I'm up for it doesn't mean you have to be.” He peeked at Bones through soft lashes. “You're not, are you?”

“I'm really not,” Bones admitted with a sigh. He gave Jim's hip an apologetic pat. “I'm tired.” He screwed up his face a bit. “I know we napped in the tub, but I guess...”

“Mmm.” Jim stroked his fingers from Bones' hip up over his ribs and back down. “You should rest while you can—heat's gonna make that a lot trickier.” He rubbed his thumb in the groove under Bones' pec. “Should probably get in a full night's sleep.”

“So no clubbing tonight?” Bones teased.

Jim made a negative sort of grunt. “Guess not.” He shifted a bit, encouraging Bones into the protective curve of his body. “Maybe I'll take you out once you're in pre-heat. That'd be wild.”

Bones snorted softly. “We'd probably both get arrested.”

“Pretty sure 'public pre-heat' isn't a crime, Bones,” Jim murmured, breath stirring the damp hair near Bones' ear.

“It might just be if you do it on purpose,” Bones argued. “And anyway...legal or illegal, it's just a really bad idea.”

“Mm-hmm,” Jim agreed. He pressed a wicked grin into Bones' shoulder. “That's what makes it so fun.” He shifted a bit, adding, “To...think about, anyway. Maybe not so much to actually do.”

“Yeah,” Bones agreed with an unhappy twist of his lips at the thought. “All joking aside, pretty sure I couldn't handle people, anyway. Just...knowing I'm going to be in heat in the next few days.”

“Right. Stressful.” Pushing himself up on his elbows, Jim looked down at Bones. “What do you do to help with that sort of stress, anyway? Just...um, hide from people for a bit?” He bit his lip, eyes skating away. “Do you need me to back out of your personal space to give you a breather before your actual heat?”

“I...” The corners of Bones' mouth turned downwards and his chest clenched at the thought. He rubbed a hand over his face. “I just—” He made a soft frustrated sound. “I guess I don't want you to back off?”

“That's okay,” Jim said, pressing a kiss to Bones' cheek. “Just let me know what you need. Whatever I can do for you, I'll be happy to do it.”

Bones' lips twisted into a wicked sort of smile. “Give me a foot rub, then.”

Laughing, Jim let his forehead fall to rest against Bones' chest. He rubbed a hand over Bones' hip, happiness and affection blooming fresh and bright in his scent. “Sir, yes, sir.”

o0o

Bones could never get tired of waking up next to Jim. It was so warm and peaceful and nice. Like he was safe. Not that he usually felt unsafe, exactly. But having Jim there, he felt extra safe, safer than he usually felt in his bed with locked doors and reasonable walls between himself and any threats. Maybe it wasn't entirely rational. Maybe it was simply practical. Strength in numbers and all that. He blinked slowly, smiling at Jim's face, so gentle and innocent in sleep.

A frown flickered across Bones' brow as he came more fully into consciousness, because...he'd never get a chance to grow tired of waking up next to Jim. This wasn't going to last. Bones let out a dispirited sigh and rubbed at the gunk in the corners of his eyes.

Maybe that was Bones' lot in life, his 'destiny', if he believed in such things. Maybe all the gods just decided: Bones McCoy could find happiness, so long as it didn't last. He'd really only had such a brief time with Joss, but his time with Jim would be all the more brief.

“You smell sad,” Jim said, voice muddled by sleep. His eyelids flickered a bit and he shifted closer to Bones, one hand sliding over Bones' belly to cup his hipbone. “Don' want you t' be sad.”

“Sorry.” Bones slid his fingers around Jim's wrist in a reassuring grip. “Just...thinkin' about my life.”

Jim made an unhappy grunt, shifting closer. “Can I help at all?” He peeked at Bones out of the corner of one eye. “Would my...mouth help, for example?”

Bones laughed, shaking his head where it lay against the pillow. “I dunno, Jim; you've got pretty bad morning breath.”

“Yeah, well...” Jim shifted as languidly as a just waking up person could and flashed Bones a wicked little grin. “Wasn't exactly suggesting we make out.” He stroked his fingers against the bare skin of Bones' hip—they'd slept in the nude again. And Bones was very likely getting far too comfortable with the idea of being naked around Jim. It would be helpful up until his heat was done, but... Well... Maybe it was best not to think about after that yet.

Turning onto his side, Bones pressed his face into Jim's neck, lips catching on Jim's skin as he mumbled, “You smell good.” Jim hummed in response, smelling pleased as he stroked his fingers up and down Bones' back. Bones grinned. “Except for your breath, that is.”

“Yeah, well...” Jim laughed lightly. “Your breath isn't so great either, for the record.” Groaning, he tugged Bones closer. “But damn...other than that...”

“You wanna try knotting?” Bones asked as the idea popped into his head. He stroked his fingers against the smooth skin at Jim's waist. “I mean...maybe after we brush our teeth, but I mean...we're gonna be doing it while I'm in heat, so...” He shrugged one shoulder. “Maybe we should practice that too.”

“So...” Jim replied, one hand gripping Bones' shoulder, “you've given up on the idea of knotting dildos?”

“Oh, I dunno.” Bones let out a sigh against Jim's collarbone. “I've never tried them, so I guess I'm a tiny bit curious.”

“Good, because I already bought them.” Jim laughed softly, fingers drumming gently against Bones' shoulder blade.

“And maybe I'll actually wear you out,” Bones teased.

“Never!” Jim protested, sounding playfully shocked and smelling amused. He gave Bones a little shake. “Impossible!”

“Maybe you'll need a little breather now and then,” Bones continued. “Give that wondrous cock a rest so it can recuperate.”

Jim rolled Bones onto his back and himself on top. Grinning down at Bones in a way that was probably meant to look annoyed—or perhaps predatory?—Jim said, “I could knot you five times in one day when you're not even in heat, Bones.” His cock pressed hot and at least half hard against Bones' thigh.

Bones wanted to keep teasing him—it was fun, okay?—but his rebellious body had other ideas. His legs fell open all on their own, and enough slick slid from his vagina that it dripped down onto the bed. Eyes squeezed shut, he whispered a breathless, “Damn.”

Bones,” Jim rumbled, one hand sliding up the side of Bones' neck to cup his jaw. His breath came out shaky and rough. “You're so beautiful.” He pressed a kiss to the other side of Bones' jaw. “So amazing.”

Making a needy sound, Bones shifted his hips restlessly. “That's great—you gonna knot me, then?”

Groaning, Jim let his forehead fall to rest on Bones' shoulder. “Bones...” He let out a sigh. “If we do any knotting today, it's gonna be after we eat.”

o0o

“You're...really serious about making me eat, aren't you?” Bones gave the sausages Jim was piling onto his already overfull plate a dubious look.

“Everything I've read on the subject,” Jim said as he added not just one but two fried eggs on top of the pile of hash-browns, “says it's good to load up on nutrients, especially protein and healthy fats, before a heat.”

“Yeah?” Bones picked up his fork. It wasn't that the food looked unappetizing. There was just so much of it. Jim had put four sausages on his plate, for crying out loud.

“Yep,” Jim said, finally taking his own seat across from Bones. “Apparently it can help the whole heat go smoother.”

“Huh.” Bones poked at the wiggly edge of one egg thoughtfully. Maybe that had been part of the problem with his first heat, part of the reason it was generally so unpleasant.

“Bones?” A thread of worry curled in Jim's scent.

“Just...” Bones shrugged. “I guess I didn't eat a whole lot before my first heat.” He scrunched up his nose. “I was so nervous and excited, and...” He shrugged. “All the advice they gave us in sex ed was that omegas needed to eat a lot after a heat. To recover.”

“Maybe this is more recent advice,” Jim suggested. “Doctors and scientists are always learning new things and—hopefully—adjusting their recommendations accordingly.”

“Right, yeah.” Bones chewed a bite of egg thoughtfully. “That's certainly true when it comes to caring for infants—well, some things never really change, but other things really do. When Jo was a baby, they said to give her rice cereal starting at four months. But that's really not recommended anymore.”

Jim nodded. “Yeah. Exactly. With David, Carol and I were told to start with fruits and vegetables—and meat—at six to seven months. There was a lot of...emphasis on the idea that we shouldn't let him have anything other than human milk or formula before six months, and that we should be avoiding giving him processed foods as much as possible.”

Bones nodded. “Well, overly processed foods aren't good for anyone.” He stabbed a sausage with his fork. “It's kind of weird that they ever pushed the idea that we should be giving them to babies as their very first food before they could even try something real.”

Jim nodded. “Yeah, I guess it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.”

Bones smiled at the memory, saying, “We didn't get a chance to give Jo any of that cereal, though—she snagged a piece of chicken off her sire's plate one week before she turned four months. She was almost four months, so Joss and I figured we might as well let her have it. I mean, we watched her to make sure she didn't choke or anything. It was a soft piece of chicken, not something tough or chewy. And she was fine. We asked the doctor about it at her next appointment, and he said that was actually better for her, because she was an alpha. He said to keep offering her meat and don't bother with the cereals at all.” He shrugged. “I guess even at the time, not every doctor quite agreed on every point.”

Laughing softly and shaking his head, Jim poked at his hash-browns with his fork. “'Because she was an alpha'. I'm sure alphas should all be eating a totally different diet from regular humans.”

“Oh, didn't you know?” Bones deadpanned. “Meat. Lots of meat, especially wild game. It's, um...something to do with your 'primal hormones'.”

Jim snorted, shaking his head. He took a sip of his orange juice. “Right. Well, my sire always said omegas needed meat.”

Bones shrugged. “My sire always said the same thing. It's one of the reasons he taught me to make baked beans; he said omegas needed to know how to feed themselves properly, because it was too easy to fall into a bad habit of living on toast and cereal. But I needed more than carbs in my diet.”

“Well, there you go,” Jim said, gesturing to Bones' plate with his fork. “Protein and healthy fats, just like I said. Eat up, Bones.”

o0o

“Hey.” Jim caught Bones around the waist from behind. “Worry about the dishes later.”

Bones set his dishes on the counter. Somehow he'd actually managed to eat everything on his plate. “'Later' I'm going to be in heat. Do you really want dishes sitting around dirty for a week?”

Jim chuckled, chest pressing reassuringly against Bones' back. “I meant later today, and I also fully intend to do them for you.”

Humming, Bones let himself lean back a little against Jim's solid warmth. It felt so damn good. And he wasn't even in heat yet. But it was just...steadying. Calming. Soothing. All those things an alpha was supposed to be for an omega. “Guess I shouldn't argue with you.”

“Mmm, maybe you shouldn't.” Jim smelled pleased as he nipped at Bones' ear. Strong hands gripped Bones' hips and a hardening cock nudged at Bones' ass.

Bones let out a shaky breath. “You want to have sex.”

Jim rested his chin on Bones' shoulder, grip gentling on Bones' hips. “Only if you still want to.”

A wave of vague disappointment, guilt, and regret washed over Bones. “I—I don't know.” He grimaced. “I know I said before—”

“I want to hear what you have to say now,” Jim told him, giving him a tiny shake.

“It's not you,” Bones clarified. “You're amazingly hot.”

Jim snorted softly, resting his cheek against the side of Bones' neck. “I'm aware.”

Bones rolled his eyes. “It's just—I woke up feeling horny.” More curious than actually 'horny', but there was no point splitting hairs. He let out a sigh. “I guess I just...don't. Now.”

“It's fine.” Jim pressed a kiss to the side of Bones' neck. Curiosity threaded its way through his scent. “What do you feel like?”

Bones snorted softly. “A nap.” He shook his head. He didn't exactly feel stuffed, but maybe he'd eaten too much. “I know we just woke up, but...”

“Naps are good,” Jim insisted, drawing Bones toward his bedroom. “It's like the food thing: you won't be getting a whole lot of sleep either when your full heat hits.”

“But...” Bones argued as he obediently sank down onto Jim's now so familiar bed. “We—” He made a face. “It's like you said, Jim: it would be nice to try some things out before I'm in heat. When we've got clear heads and...it's not urgent, and all that.” He waved an unhappy hand in a vague gesture then ran it back through his hair. “I guess I feel like...we're running out of time. Again.”

“Hey.” Sitting next to Bones, Jim wrapped his arms protectively around him and rested his head on Bones' shoulder. “Trying things out beforehand was just a suggestion. It wasn't meant to add even more stress.” He laughed softly, a shimmer of guilt worming its way through his scent.

With a despondent sigh, Bones pulled out of Jim's embrace to flop down on his back. Folding his hands over his chest, he stared up at the off-white ceiling. “But—” He let out a frustrated huff. “I wanted to try things.”

“I know,” Jim replied, voice soft. He brushed the hair off Bones' forehead with the tips of his fingers. His scent curled around Bones, so gentle and patient. “I know.”

“But why should you have to—?” Bones frowned, eyes finding Jim's face. “You wanted to have sex.”

Jim shrugged. “I always want to have sex, Bones.”

Bones made a face. “But why should you have to—to go without?”

Rolling his eyes, Jim laid down on his side, facing Bones. “You make it sound like I'm starving or something.”

Bones rolled his eyes in response. “Aren't you? You've gone a lot longer than is normal for you.”

Jim shook his head. “It's not a fair comparison at all; people die when they don't eat. No one's ever actually died from lack of sex—it's not a 'need', Bones. People can—and actually have—lived their entire lives from birth to death at a very old age, without ever once having sex.” He twisted his lips a bit. “Even omegas in heat can survive without sex so long as someone makes sure they stay hydrated.”

Snorting softly, Bones gave his head a little shake. “Okay, but...that's not exactly a pleasant prospect. I've been in heat, Jim. I was in agony any time Joss wasn't touching me.” The few times she'd had to leave the room, he'd felt like the world was ending. “And when she was touching me, I begged for more.” He made a soft frustrated sound in his throat. “I know, logically, I would've survived just fine without sex. But it sure as hell didn't feel like it at the time.”

“Well...for one thing, I'm not in heat.” Jim laughed softly. “So even that's not a fair comparison.” He shifted a bit, pinning Bones with a serious gaze. “But, Bones, if you were in heat...and I was taking care of you, but I didn't want to have sex...” Rolling his eyes a little, he held up a hand. “Let's just pretend for a moment that's possible. For whatever reason, I just wasn't feeling it.” He frowned slightly. “Do you think I should go ahead and do it anyway? Just 'cause you really wanted it?”

Bones made a face, gut twisting unhappily. “Well, no.”

Jim nodded. He picked at a wrinkle in the bedspread. “Why?”

Bones blew out an unhappy breath. “Because...that's...not what sex is supposed to be about.” He folded his arms across his chest. “If I was in heat...in that situation you just described, and you didn't go ahead with the sex...I wouldn't be happy about it. I...” Reaching up, he tugged a bit at the hair above his ear. “I'd probably cuss and cry and decide you hated me. That you were mean...and that I must be disgusting.” He blew out another unhappy breath. “But, you know, rationally, there's no way I'd want anyone to have sex they didn't want just to make me happy.” He twisted his lips with distaste. “I wouldn't be happy about it after.” He wrapped his arms tightly across his chest. “I'd feel like the world's worst slime-ball.”

“I think you understand exactly, Bones,” Jim said quietly, “why I 'have to go without'.” His shoulder twitched in a little shrug. “I don't wanna feel like a slime-ball either.”

Bones shifted a little closer to Jim's side and Jim pressed his nose somewhat hesitantly into Bones' hair. The quiet spread out to fill the room around them. The thing was, normally, it wouldn't be an issue. It wasn't like Jim and Bones were actually a couple. Jim was free to partner with anyone he wished, and he'd proved quite definitively that—despite his teasing about how often he got turned down—he had no problems finding willing, eager partners. So it was just for now, while he was helping Bones with the whole obnoxious heat business, that his normal life was being upset. And that was the thing about heats: they were obnoxious and inconvenient and upset everyone's routines. “I wanted to try it, though,” Bones said finally. “Outside of heat, with a clear head.”

“I know,” Jim replied, pulling Bones a little closer.

“And you wanted to try it too,” Bones complained. “I wanted to want it. So it should've—”

Jim gave Bones a little shake. “There's no 'should've'.”

Twisting his lips unhappily, Bones shifted on the bed. “I think the worst part is...” He sighed. “If I was in heat, I wouldn't care what you wanted.” He sighed again. “I'd probably say I hated you.”

Jim shook his head a little. “That's why I wouldn't take anything you said while in heat seriously. Or personally.” Snorting softly, Bones rolled his eyes. “What?” Jim asked. “Would you want me to?”

Bones made a face. “I guess not. I mean...even in this real heat that I'm actually going to have...I'll probably be a total ass.”

Jim laughed softly, arms reassuring as they held Bones' close. “I won't mind.”

Snorting softly, Bones shook his head. “I think you might.”

Jim shrugged one shoulder. “Fine. Maybe.” He flashed Bones a soft grin. “But I won't hold it against you.” Because he was such a nice guy. So of course he wouldn't—or at least, he'd make every effort to be fair. But damn. Bones had to take that damned potion tomorrow. And then everything would really go to shit. He let out a dejected sigh. Jim frowned, catching him under the jaw and tilting his face a bit so he could see it. “What?”

Bones' lips twitched unhappily. “I just—I feel like I'm on a time limit. Like I've got this...deadline hanging over my head.” He grimaced. “I hate it.”

“That's...extremely unsexy, isn't it?” Jim made a face. “To feel rushed.”

Bones rolled his eyes. “Yes. Absolutely.”

Jim gave Bones a tiny shake. “Go to sleep, Bones.” Rubbing his hands soothingly over Bones' arms and back, he shrugged his shoulder. “Maybe you'll feel horny again after a nap.”

Laughing softly, Bones pressed his face into Jim's muscled chest. “Maybe, but don't get your hopes up.”

“Hey.” Jim tucked Bones closer to his chest and pressed a kiss to the top of his head. “Just relax; don't worry about it.”

Chapter Text

It would have seemed 'right' or 'fitting' or something like that if Bones really had woken up horny. Instead, he just woke up grumpy. He shouldn't have hoped for anything else.

“What time is it?” he grumbled as he rubbed unhappily at his eyes and wiped a disgusting bit of drool off his face onto his shirt.

“Lunchtime,” Jim replied with a grin, shoving his stupidly pretty hair back out of his face.

With an exaggeratedly disappointed groan, Bones rolled over onto his front. He let out a huff into the bedding. “Thought maybe I'd got lucky and slept through it.”

Jim gave him a little swat on the thigh. “I'd still make you eat, regardless of when you woke up.”

“Bossy.” Bones pushed himself up on his elbows to shoot Jim a glare.

Jim offered him a mild smile in return, one hand gripping Bones' calf just below the knee. “You'd better believe it.”

Bones looked unhappily toward the bedroom door. “I kinda don't wanna get out of bed.”

Jim stoked his thumb against Bones' leg through the fabric of his pants. “I could bring you food in here.”

Bones rolled his eyes. “Right, and get crumbs all over in the bed.” Flopping down on his stomach again, he said, “Ugh, I don't actually wanna go anywhere, but I also kinda feel like I've been indoors forever.”

“What about the backyard?” Jim suggested, giving Bones' leg a little squeeze. “There's nothing too exciting...don't have a pool or anything like that...”

Bones rolled about halfway onto his side and looked at Jim consideringly. “The backyard's nice.”

“You hardly ever go out there,” Jim pointed out.

“You stalking me, Jim?” Bones teased. “Watching my every move?”

Jim rolled his eyes. “I dunno if you noticed, but...we do live together. In the same house.” He shrugged one shoulder. “And I know I'm gone a lot of the time, but...when I am here, you hardly ever go into the back yard.”

It was true, of course. Bones didn't even take David out there, since they both preferred walking to the park where there were swings and climbing structures and other children. “Well...you're right,” Bones said finally. “There's not much to do out there.”

“We'll eat lunch out there,” Jim said, giving Bones' leg a decisive pat. “You need the fresh air—we probably both do.”

o0o

“So this is your evil plan to get me to eat a lot?” Bones asked, eyeing the bowls of food warily.

Laughing softly, Jim scooped up a generous amount of guacamole with one of the corn chips and held it out to Bones. “Why? Is it likely to work?”

Bones rolled his eyes, shifting his position on the soft quilt Jim had spread on the grass. He looked at the food in Jim's fingers then back at Jim's face. “Maybe.”

Smiling a little crookedly, Jim nudged the chip a little closer to Bones' lips, and Bones obediently opened his mouth to accept it. It was really quite good. Swallowing, he allowed Jim a mildly impressed look and admitted, “I actually have no idea how to make guacamole.”

Jim grinned, picking up another corn chip. “I should probably offer to teach you, but...” He bit his lip, looking away. “I kinda selfishly don't want to.”

Bones shrugged unconcernedly. “It's fine if you don't really want me to eat all these healthy fats and whatnot.”

Rolling his eyes a bit, Jim held out a chip piled high with salsa and sour cream. Before it could drip all over their clothes or the quilt, Bones took it in his mouth. The salsa spread out over Bones' tongue with a delightfully fresh taste, just the right amount of spicy. “I just wanna make it for you,” Jim teased. “If you can do it yourself, what am I good for?”

Bones shifted a bit, reaching for his glass of lemonade. “Well...” He took a long swallow of his drink. “I can't actually suck my own dick.”

Jim laughed, surprise mingling with the amusement and affection in his scent. Nodding, he took a chip and ate it. He took a swallow of his own lemonade. “At least I'm valued for something.”

Bones shrugged. “I might also value you for a few other things, but...” He shot Jim a playful smile. “Wouldn't want to give you a swelled head.”

“I see...” Jim nodded slowly, toying with one of the corn chips. “So you're saying...if you were fully honest, you'd most likely give me a swelled head.”

Bones laughed, ducking his head a little. “Guess maybe I'm saying that.”

Grinning, Jim held out another chip piled with guacamole. “Glad to hear it.”

Bones smirked a little as he accepted the chip. After he'd finished chewing, he said, “'Cause you like having a swelled head.”

Jim shrugged. “Doesn't everybody?”

“Anyway...” Bones said, picking up a chip himself and scooping up some guacamole. “Sometimes it's really nice to have someone else cook for me.”

“Yeah?”

Bones shifted a little, suddenly feeling awkward. He chewed the chip slowly, thinking. Before he met Jim, it had been years since anyone had really cooked for him. Well, anyone he wasn't paying to cook for him. It was different to have someone just...cooking for him because they liked him. Bones didn't see his parents that often, so other than Jo trying out her 'learning to cook' skills, it'd been...well. Maybe it was best not to think too hard about the specific details of how long it'd actually been. He shifted again, rubbing at the back of his neck. “My parents both emphasized how important it was to be self-sufficient. And I think that's generally good advice. For everyone. You know, you're an adult: you gotta be able to take care of yourself.” He ran a finger along the soft edge of a wrinkle in the quilt. “But just because you can do something doesn't mean you should have to do it every single time. You know: twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for the rest of your natural life.” A grimace flickered across his face. “I mean, that's basically my job, isn't it? Doing things for people that they could technically do themselves, because...everyone needs a break sometimes. And I mean, a lot of the time that 'break' is so they can work and make money, but even then...”

“I know I appreciate it,” Jim said, putting a hand on Bones' knee. Shrugging, he looked away. “I don't think raising a kid is actually meant to be a one-person job.” He flashed Bones a hesitant smile. “Sure, one person can do it—I mean, that's technically possible. And some of them probably do it really, really well. But that doesn't mean it's ideal for either the parent or the kid. Traditionally, raising a kid was more of a 'whole family' thing, with grandparents and aunts and uncles and older cousins and whatnot all thrown into the mix, because everyone lived in the same house or group of houses really near each other. But we've moved away from that with our modern society—we've got more privacy, which certainly has its advantages, but we're a lot more isolated in a lot of ways.”

“Right.” Bones nodded, eating another corn chip plain. “And I think it's basically the same with cooking...in those more traditional family setups, you'd usually have at least three or four adults at any given time.”

“So they could take turns,” Jim filled in.

“Exactly.”

“But...” Jim shot him a sheepish little smile. “I wanna do all the cooking.”

Bones rolled his eyes. “Maybe you should've been a cook then, instead of military.”

Jim shrugged. “But I want to do that too. I want to protect people.” He shot Bones a little grin. “And show off my impressive strength and virility.”

Bones shook his head, picking up a corn chip and using it to scoop up some salsa. “You'd need a few more hours in a day.”

“Or a way to turn back time,” Jim put in, snagging a chip for himself. “So I can effectively be in two places at once.” He fed Bones another chip. And really, it was such a brilliant plan to get Bones to eat, because it just felt like snacking. Not like eating a 'real meal'.

“You need to eat more,” Bones observed, taking a sip of his lemonade and nodding toward the food. “You've been feeding me about ten chips for every one you actually eat.”

“More like five,” Jim countered.

Bones rolled his eyes, a smile tugging the corners of his mouth upward. “Well...” He shifted a bit and his knee bumped up against Jim's. “You need your energy for the heat too. Maybe more than I do.”

“Definitely not more than you do,” Jim insisted, offering Bones another guacamole-laden chip.

“But...you're gonna be doing all the hard work,” Bones argued once he'd swallowed.

“And your body is going to be going crazy,” Jim retorted, “literally burning everything up. Don't argue with me.” He chuckled, shaking his head. “I've read up on all this heat stuff.” He tilted his head a bit to one side. “And...sure, an alpha who's...fulfilling the sexual desires of an omega in heat does burn a lot of calories.”

“One would think,” Bones replied, rolling his eyes and somewhat begrudgingly accepting yet another chip from Jim.

“But it's not nearly so much as the omega burns,” Jim continued. “There've been multiple studies on this—and it's probably the main biological reason alphas are so obsessed with feeding everyone. That's how the species survived. That's why omegas haven't all literally starved right to death.”

“I'm not in any danger of starving to death,” Bones pointed out.

“No, but...” Jim shrugged. “You admitted you like it when I feed you.” He shot Bones a lopsided little smile.

“Pretty sure I said 'cook for me',” Bones retorted with a roll of his eyes.

“Well, I like feeding you,” Jim said, shifting a little closer to Bones and offering him a chip piled high with guacamole and sour cream. He shrugged one shoulder as Bones accepted the food. “Figured if you minded, you'd tell me to knock it off. Or...just not eat it.”

“I...” Dropping his gaze, Bones looked away and twitched his shoulders in a small shrug. He tugged at a wrinkle in his pantleg. “I don't really mind.”

“Yeah?” Jim leaned a little closer.

Bones twisted his lips with distaste. “It's...kind of nice, actually.”

Leaning back, Jim laughed. “You're allowed to enjoy nice things, Bones.”

Bones sighed, eyes hesitantly finding Jim's smiling face. “I know.” He was allowed, for now. Until after his heat. After that, he and Jim would have to try their best to 'be adults' and act like friends who hadn't fucked. But that was all in the future. (And at the moment it felt like the distant future. A future so distant he could pretend, at least for a while, that he didn't have to face it.)

“What's it like?” Jim asked quietly, scraping a bit of guacamole from the curved inner side of the bowl. He met Bones' eyes. “I mean...why's it nice? What's nice about it?”

Lips twisting into a reluctant smile, Bones looked away. “I dunno. I guess...it feels like....you care about me. And like I don't have to worry—at least not about that one thing.” Folding his hands in his lap, he rubbed at the back of one with his thumb. “Because you're handling it. You're...taking on that responsibility. And I guess...” He rubbed at his arm. “I'm so used to having so many responsibilities...that it's a pretty...big relief to not have to worry about one of them.” He let his gaze slide over to meet Jim's again. “For a bit.”

“Sweet one,” Jim said, affection shimmering all through his scent as he reached out and cupped Bones' jaw. “Of course I care about you.” He brushed his thumb over Bones' cheek. “And I'm so glad I can help you feel like that.”

Bones tried not to squirm at the intensity of the light in Jim's gaze. He let out an embarrassed huff of laughter. “Yeah...um, you feel like a good alpha—that's all, um, pretty standard alpha-omega stuff.”

“Yeah...” Jim breathed, a twinge of desire colouring his scent as he leaned closer, eyelids heavy.

“Oh,” Bones said softly as desire shot through his gut so fast it was almost painful. He turned towards Jim, slick gliding between his labia as he moved—as if it thought now would be a perfect time to fuck. In Jim's backyard in the middle of the afternoon. While they were eating. Jim paused just short of kissing him, drawing a shaky breath and letting it out. “Sorry,” Bones mumbled, because of course his body would have the absolute worst timing.

“For what?” Jim asked, resting his forehead against Bones'.

“Terrible timing,” Bones replied with a one-shouldered shrug. Laughing softly, he put one hand on Jim's knee. “Couldn't possibly have gotten horny earlier, when it was convenient.”

“That's okay,” Jim replied, thumb stroking just below Bones' cheekbone. He pressed a tiny kiss to Bones' nose. “I don't need you to be convenient.”

“We weren't done eating,” Bones pointed out.

Pulling back, Jim looked thoughtfully at the food. “That's a very good point.” Taking a corn chip from the bowl, he scooped up some guacamole and held it out to Bones. “Eat.”

Bones shuddered a little. Apparently being fed was making him horny. Or hornier, or whatever. He took the chip from Jim, lips brushing against Jim's fingers just a bit. The scent of Jim's overwhelming approval wrapped around him like an embrace. His eyelids fluttered closed. “Jim...”

“Don't worry about me,” Jim murmured. The ice tinkled a little in the glass of lemonade as Jim brought it to Bones' lips. “Don't worry about anything.”

Swallowing a sip of lemonade, Bones let out a shaky breath. He could do this, maybe. He could let Jim be a good alpha. Once Bones was in heat, he wasn't going to make anything easy for Jim. But maybe for now he could. At Jim's gentle nudging, he slid into the space under Jim's arm, allowing himself to enjoy the sense of soothing safety. The beautiful calm of Jim's touch and Jim's scent. He let Jim feed him small bites of broken corn chip with generally excessive amounts of guacamole and sour cream. Jim continued to smell like Bones was the best thing in the world, and it was good. It was so good to slip into that golden bubble with nothing but Bones himself and Jim, just let everything else drift away for a little while.

One bowl clacked against another and Jim said, “We're out of chips.”

Bones blinked lazy eyelids. “Yeah?”

“Got a little guacamole left, though,” Jim commented, sliding his finger inside the bowl.

“That's barbaric,” Bones chided teasingly. “Why not just stick your face in the bowl like a dog?”

“I'm an alpha,” Jim reasoned. “I'm supposed to be barbaric.” He held out the dollop of guacamole out to Bones. Rolling his eyes just a bit, Bones licked Jim's finger clean. It really was good guacamole. Jim's skin was pretty nice too. Bones let his tongue run over the pleasant roughness of Jim's fingerprint a few more times than strictly necessary. Scraping his teeth over his bottom lip, Jim looked away. “I'm guessing...”

“Hmm?” Bones leaned a bit more into the reassuringly solid warmth of Jim's side.

“You—” Jim laughed softly, shaking his head. “You probably wouldn't be into having sex outside.”

“You're the one who's strongly opposed to exhibitionism,” Bones pointed out. “Remember?”

“Well...” Jim gave Bones' a little shake. “I never said I was opposed to it, exactly—just to subjecting some unwitting bystanders to something they never asked to see.” Bones made an acknowledging sort of hum. That was probably an important distinction, actually, for anyone who was actually interested in sex with an audience. “But anyway...” Jim continued, scratching the fingers of his free hand through his hair and giving a little shrug. “The only way anyone could see us right now would be if they were in a helicopter or on top of a very high ladder.”

“Those voyeuristic roofers...” Bones teased. “Just trying to fix their roofs on a day like today...”

“Yeah.” Jim laughed, shaking his head. Tipping Bones' jaw up, he kissed him, tender and lingering. Forgetting all about potential roofers, Bones melted into the kiss, into the wonder that was Jim. His body may as well have been floating. Like in the warm waters at a wave pool. Jim pulled Bones to his feet and then off his feet, holding him against his muscled chest. Into Bones' hairline, he murmured, “Let's take this inside.”

Bones brow furrowed slightly. Were they leaving dirty dishes in the backyard? “The...bowls.”

“I'll deal with it later,” Jim promised. He nuzzled at Bones' hairline. “Don't worry about anything, Bones.”

Well...it wasn't actually Bones' job to clean up after Jim when Bones was on his weeks off, now was it? If Jim wanted to leave dirty dishes lying around for the ants, that was really his own business. Snuggling closer into the warmth of Jim's chest, Bones let out a breath. “All right.”

“Yeah,” Jim murmured, warm breath stirring Bones' hair a little. “Everything's all right; I've got you.”

o0o

Bones blinked up at Jim as Jim lowered him into the middle of his bed. Arousal shimmered just under Bones' skin, not quite as sharp as it had been when it first hit him in the yard, but so sweet now. “You gonna knot me?”

With a surge of pleased affection in his scent, Jim knelt next to Bones and pressed a kiss to his forehead. “We'll see.”

Making an unhappy noise, Bones shifted restlessly on the bed. “It's been such a long time, Jim.” He bit his lip, eyes skating away. The truth was, he was scared it might hurt; Jim's cock was huge, after all. And the last time he'd tried knotting...the only time since Jo was born...well, maybe it was best not to think about that. It had been nearly fourteen years, hadn't it? He'd obviously given his body more than enough time to heal. At it hadn't hurt at all to have Jim's fingers inside him. Blinking against the stinging in his eyes, he let out a shaky breath. Jim knew what he was doing. Jim was gentle and patient. And...if it did hurt, Jim wouldn't get angry. (Right?)

Jim brushed his fingers against Bones' temple, and Bones let out a shaky breath. “What are you worrying about?” Jim asked, sounding mostly curious but with concern twining its way through his scent.

Shaking his head, Bones looked away. “Stupid stuff.” He bit his lip, laughing at little at the absurdity of it all. “Your cock's so big.”

“Is my cock intimidating you?” Jim teased, running his fingertips along the edge of Bones' collarbone. “'Cause it's so big?”

Bones made an unhappy face. He let out a breath. “...Yes. I guess.”

“We wouldn't have to put it all the way in,” Jim suggested. “I could...keep the knot out.”

“Oh.” A frown flickered between Bones' brows. “I guess...I'd never thought of that.” He shifted a bit on the bed, propping his head and shoulders up a bit on Jim's pillows. It wasn't that he was particularly interested in trying that with Jim—it was just...maybe...that could have actually worked if he'd tried it with Joss. Maybe it would have been a way to get his sore and slowly recovering vagina used to sex again while still letting Joss have something she wanted. Or at least, almost something she wanted. Bones blew out a breath. There was no sense dwelling on Joss or any of that, though. Joss wasn't here—thank all the gods. The only people in the room—or even in the house—were Jim and Bones.

“From what I hear...most alphas don't really like it,” Jim said, shrugging one shoulder as he trailed his fingers down Bones' arm. “It's...frustrating.” He flashed Bones a sharp-edged grin. “It's so beautifully frustrating.”

Bones shot him a dubious sort of look. “You...like being frustrated.”

One side of Jim's lips curled up in a kind of unrepentant smirk. “Not in general, but...sexually? Oh, it's amazing. You know how they say anticipation is half the fun?”

“Sure,” Bones replied, folding one arm behind his head. “About kids and Christmas.”

Jim laughed quietly, soft lashes nearly touching his cheeks as he closed his eyes. “Right. But...for me, anyway...it works that way with sex, too.” He chewed on his lower lip, looking away. “Being teased...having to wait...not quite getting what I want...those are like...” He shrugged, meeting Bones' eyes. “I dunno. But it's just...so much fun.”

Bones chewed a bit on his lip as he regarded Jim thoughtfully. “Is 'masochist' the right word for that?”

Laughing, Jim dropped his gaze. “Um, probably.”

“Right.” Bones shifted a bit on the bed, frowning. “You'd mentioned something before about liking pain.”

“It's not all I like,” Jim clarified, fingers trailing over the shape of Bones' hipbone through his sweatpants.

“Well, good...” Bones made a face. “Because...I...don't think...I'm...the sort of person who enjoys inflicting pain.”

“A sadist,” Jim supplied helpfully.

“Right.” Bones grimaced. “That.” He shook his head. “Pretty sure I'm about as far from being a sadist as a person can be.”

Grinning, Jim waggled his eyebrows a bit. “So you don't think you'd like to spank me?”

Bones rolled his eyes. “No. Doesn't sound appealing.”

Jim pouted playfully at him. “What if I...really deserved it?”

Bones let out a frustrated huff. “You always deserve it, Jim.”

Laughing, Jim shook his head. “Yeah.” He met Bones' eyes, warmth filling his gaze. “I probably do.” Expression turning thoughtful, his eyes wandered down over Bones' chest and he rubbed at Bones' hipbone with his thumb. “But...are there other ways you might like to punish me?”

Swallowing, Bones shifted a little on the bed. “Maybe.” He screwed up his face a bit. “If I could think of something that wasn't inflicting physical pain.” He chewed on his lip a bit. “I might have to get creative.”

“Yeah, Bones,” Jim purred, gripping Bones' hip and sliding his thumb through the hollow next to the hipbone. “Talk dirty to me.”

Laughing in surprise, Bones folded both arms behind his head and shot Jim a little glare. “That wasn't 'talking dirty'.”

Jim offered him a lopsided, unrepentant smile. “Sure sounded like it to me.”

“Well, what do I know?” Bones looked up at the ceiling. “I've never tried 'talking dirty'.” He made a face. “Never really saw the appeal.”

“You like it when I do it, though,” Jim commented, teasing Bones' t-shirt out of the waistband of his sweats.

Bones screwed up his face. “I what?”

Jim shrugged one shoulder. “I accidentally seduced you by talking about sex.”

“Oh.” Bones wrinkled his nose a bit. “That's different—that didn't...seem 'dirty'.”

“It doesn't have to,” Jim said, hand sliding smoothly under Bones' shirt against the soft skin just below his ribs. “There's nothing inherently 'dirty' about sex.”

“It's usually pretty messy, though,” Bones pointed out.

Jim gave an affirmative sort of hum. “True, but...I guess when people say 'dirty' they mean it in a sense of 'bad,' 'wrong,' 'naughty'.”

Bones scraped his teeth over his bottom lip. “And...sex really shouldn't be any of those things either.”

“Well, no,” Jim agreed, sliding his hand across Bones' belly and grinning in delight as the skin there twitched in response. “Not actually 'bad' or 'wrong', anyway. I think the definition of 'naughty' is more 'playful and stubborn' or something, but sex should actually be good.” He slid his thumb against the skin just below Bones' belly button. “So good.”

Bones shivered a bit. Laughing, he shook his head. “We were...actually supposed to be having sex.”

Jim shrugged one shoulder. “I was hoping—well, actually, I think we both were.”

Bones covered his face with both hands. “How's it always happen, Jim?” Pulling his hands away from his face, he let them fall loosely at his sides. “We start trying to have sex and then get completely distracted by some tangent.” Except this time, well, they'd gotten 'distracted', because Bones had gotten scared. Bones chewed a bit on his lower lip. Maybe this particular tangent was actually helping.

Sliding his hand a little lower on Bones' belly, Jim offered him a slow sort of smile. “I don't mind.”

Bones couldn't help grinning. He shook his head. “No, I guess you wouldn't.” He shook his head again. “Masochist that you are.”

Jim snorted softly, shaking his head. He nudged Bones' sweats a little lower on his hips. “It doesn't exactly 'hurt' me, Bones.”

“No, but...it's frustrating?” Bones guessed.

“Believe it or not, Bones,” Jim countered, hands stilling and expression turning serious, “I actually enjoy talking to you.”

Bones rolled his eyes a bit. “Sure. Fine.” He stretched, arching his back off the bed as enticingly as he could manage and peeking at Jim through his lashes. “As much as you'd enjoy knotting me?”

Bones was rewarded with a little spike of arousal in Jim's scent, but Jim just said, “Well...I haven't tried that yet, so I wouldn't really know.”

Shifting lazily, Bones slid his shirt up to his breastbone with one hand and tugged his sweatpants lower on one side with the other. He looked around the bed thoughtfully. “It's so weird to be in your bed wearing so much, Jim; I feel overdressed.”

“Want some help with that?” Jim teased, catching the hem of Bones' shirt at both sides.

“Oh, please,” Bones replied, looking up at him with intentionally helpless eyes. “Sometimes I find I really need the help of a big...strong...capable alpha.”

Groaning softly, Jim leaned in and nipped at Bones' jaw. He slid Bones' shirt up, hands brushing over Bones' skin along the sides of his chest. “I'm so...happy to help.”

Laughing quietly, Bones shook his head. “It can't be all that exciting anymore to see my chest, Jim. You've seen me naked often enough.”

“Nuh-uh,” Jim retorted as he tugged Bones' shirt off over his arms. He flashed Bones a grin once he'd pulled the shirt off over his head. “Not nearly often enough.”

With a breathless laugh, Bones shook his head again. “Fine.” He looked down over his bare chest, wrinkling his nose a bit. “Guess I'm a real Adonis.”

“Nah.” Jim traced a fingertip around one of Bones' nipples. “Adonis wasn't all that great.” Frowning slightly, he tilted his head to one side. “Which one was Adonis, again? The guy who fell in love with his own reflection?”

“That was Narcissus,” Bones replied, mildly exasperated. “Adonis was...um.” He frowned. Shaking his head, he laughed. “I'm not entirely sure I remember.” With a little twitch of his shoulders, Bones worried his lower lip a bit. “But he was, you know, super hot. Apparently.”

“Well, I guess I don't really know about Adonis,” Jim mused, eyes following his fingertip as it traced patterns on Bones' chest. “But you're kinda...” He met Bones' eyes, cheeks flushing a little pink. “...beyond super hot.”

Affection swelling in his own scent, Bones offered Jim a lopsided smile. “You think so?”

“Yeah,” Jim breathed, eyes raking over Bones' chest. He bit his lip. “Bones, I don't even know how to explain how beautiful you are—I could fumble all over words and sound like a moron, and you'd probably laugh.” Bones laughed softly, shaking his head. “See?” Jim said, gesturing to Bones. “Just...take my word for it, okay?”

“I suppose your opinion is the only one that counts,” Bones teased.

“Of course it is,” Jim retorted, one knee bumping Bones' thigh as he shifted closer. He tilted his head a little to one side as he slid the waistband of Bones' sweats down over one hipbone. “Ordinarily, I'd say your opinion counted too, but...” He wrinkled his nose. “You've got this unacceptably low opinion of yourself, so it's gonna have to be just me.”

“Hey,” Bones argued. “I happen to think I'm...okay. In general.” Jim laughed, and Bones screwed up his face. “I'm being serious! I'm...you know, um, pretty good at a few things. Like childcare. And first aid. And I don't think I'm ugly, exactly...” He shrugged. “It's just...” He screwed up his face again. “If I really was so attractive as you claim, I guess I would have expected more people to mention it.”

Jim nodded slowly as he tugged Bones' sweats lower on the other side. “So you're looking for some sort of popular opinion thing. And somehow being 'attractive' doesn't count until a certain percentage of the world's population agree.”

Bones blew out a breath. “Well...not really, I guess.” He frowned. “Different people do have different preferences, and all. But look at you: you'd win 'sexiest alpha alive'.” He flopped one hand at Jim then let it fall to the bed. “You...appeal to the masses, I guess. Like some sort of...prime time mainstream thing instead of a niche cult...thing.”

Jim laughed, surprised amusement swelling in his scent as he shook his head. “Okay.” He slid Bones' sweats the rest of the way off and tossed them off the bed. “Loving the TV metaphors.”

Shifting his now naked body a bit on the bed, Bones let out a little huff. “But I guess the main thing is: if I was really so hot, shouldn't I have gotten a modelling gig or something?”

Laying one hand against Bones' bare hip, Jim looked him over consideringly. “I'd pay you to sit around looking pretty.”

“Oh, for—! Gods!” Bones covered his face with both hands, laughing. “Do not say that. You are my boss; you do pay me!” Pulling his hands down, he shot Jim a glare. “And I'd like to think you're paying me for something a bit more substantial than how I look.”

“Sorry,” Jim said, laughing as well. “But you're the one who was grumbling about not getting paid for your physical attributes.”

“Yeah, well.” Bones folded his arms across his chest. “Maybe it'd be nice, sometimes, to just lounge around in some sort of...um.” He frowned. “Whatever male omegas are supposed to wear to look sexy.” He shoved one hand back through his hair. “A Speedo or something. And not have to clean poop and vomit and Play-Doh out of the carpet.”

“I'd buy you a Speedo,” Jim said, running his hand from Bones' hip down onto his thigh. “I wouldn't actually pay you to wear it, of course.” He grinned, crookedly unrepentant. “But I'd buy you the Speedo.”

Bones shot him an unimpressed look. “But what's the point of the Speedo? He gestured to his naked body. “I already lounge around in your bed like this.”

“Well...” Jim trailed his fingers down the outside of Bones' thigh to his knee. “The Speedo is like...teasing, I guess. It just barely covers up all the best bits, so I can't see or touch them.” He shrugged one shoulder. “And I guess I really like being teased.”

Bones snorted softly. He rubbed at his upper arm. “So were we going to have sex some time today?”

“Are you ready?” Jim asked, rubbing his thumb against the side of Bones' knee where he gripped it.

“So we're waiting on me?” Bones pushed himself up on his elbows and looked down at himself. “I was ready back when we were in the yard.” His lips tipped into a lopsided smile. “With all the voyeuristic roofers watching.”

“And random helicopter pilots,” Jim added, sliding his hand up the inside of Bones' thigh. “You're definitely still wet,” he pointed out, nodding towards Bones' vulva, “but your cock's only about half hard.”

Rolling his eyes a bit, Bones slumped back against the pillows. “If you want to make it hard, you could try using your mouth on it.” He flashed Jim a crooked grin. “Pretty sure that'd work.”

“I would use my mouth on it,” Jim said, desire bright in his scent and gaze enticingly intense as his hand stilled near the top of Bones' inner thigh, “and I'd make you come down my throat, and I'd love it.” Biting the inside of his cheek a bit, Bones shifted slightly. His cock hadn't quite visibly twitched—not that he'd seen, anyway—but damn. Somehow Jim just talking felt good. Warm and sweet and thrilling. Jim rubbed his thumb against the soft skin of Bones' inner thigh. “But you wanted me to knot you.”

“Could always do both?” Bones suggested. “Not at the same time, obviously, but...”

Jim giggled, biting his lip and shaking his head. “I'm not quite that flexible.”

Bones flicked his eyebrows and rubbed at his forearm. “Too bad, huh?”

“Yeah,” Jim agreed, sliding his hand closer until the side of it touched the outside of Bones' labia. Bones breath caught just a little, and Jim flashed him a grin. “I love watching you, you know? The way you respond to my touch—but also just to my voice.” He nodded towards Bones' cock. “Looks like you're mostly hard now, and I didn't even have to use my mouth.”

Bones let out a shaky breath. Twisting up his face a bit, he shifted his hips. “Well, feel proud. Haven't been too many people who've ever managed to coax any kind of response at all out of me.” He twisted his lips with distaste. “But if you really want to get me going, maybe you should try that whole...whatever it was you were doing in the yard: the whole...bossy alpha thing.”

“You liked that,” Jim murmured softly.

“Yeah, well...” Bones made a face, looking towards the window. “Pretty sure it's just 'cause it's you; I don't like being bossed around in general.” With an exhausted little laugh, he shook his head. “And can we get though five minutes without coming back to the whole boss-employee thing?” He shot Jim a look. “For the record, I'm pretty sure it's you, specifically, not anything at all to do with you being my boss, because I've had a few different bosses in my life, and none of the rest of them...um, got me excited.”

“Um, that's...” Jim shifted a bit, one knee bumping Bones' leg a little. “Just 'cause you like something with one partner doesn't ever mean you have to like it with everyone. So I mean, what you're saying makes sense. You can like me being more...bossy.” He winced. “Is there a better word for that? But anyway, I mean, you can like it right here and now without that meaning you have to like it all the time and with everyone.” He offered Bones a soft sort of crooked half-smile. “You don't even have to like it all the time with me.”

Bones rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I know. You must have told me at least twenty times now that there's no 'have to' with sex. Now can you start being all overbearing-alpha again?” His eyes skated away and he bit his lip, cheeks heating. “I...did like it.”

“Sweet one,” Jim murmured, hand shifting to grip his other hip. “I'm going to take such good care of you.” Bones drew a shaky breath and let it out, trying not to clench his teeth as warm prickles of desire washed over him. “That's it,” Jim continued, leaning in to nuzzle at Bones' pec. “You smell so good. So good like this.”

Bones hummed affirmatively, shifting languidly as he let the pleased, happy pride in Jim's scent wash over him. It was that feedback loop again, and he might as well fall into it. Might as well enjoy this while he could. “Smell good too,” he mumbled, catching at Jim's neck and stroking his hair a little. He frowned a bit, narrowing his eyes at Jim. “Jim.” Dropping his hand to Jim's thigh, he tugged at a wrinkle in his pants. “Get naked.”

Laughing, Jim pulled back to look down at Bones. “Thought I was supposed to be the one making decisions here.”

Bones wrinkled his nose. “Sure, but only if you're naked.”

Nodding, Jim said, “Fair enough.” He pulled off his shirt and tossed it aside.

Bones grinned, enjoying the view. “Gods, you're pretty.”

Jim flashed him a bright smile, pride and happiness washing through his scent. “Maybe I could be an underwear model,” he quipped, shooting Bones a wink, “if I were wearing any.” He tugged his pants down to prove his point. Grinning, Bones shook his head. Maybe he'd have some sort of witty remark if he wasn't being distracted by the glory of Jim's cock, all eagerly erect. A new swell of pleased pride and brilliant happiness washed through Jim's scent. “I see where you're looking,” he teased.

Grunting, Bones forced his gaze up to Jim's face. “Well, do you mind?”

Catching Bones by the side of his jaw, Jim leaned in and kissed him. “Not a bit,” he whispered against Bones' lips. His cock brushed against the bare skin of Bones' hip and Bones grunted again, maybe a little shocked. A little swell of slick slid from his vagina.

Jim,” he groaned, catching at Jim's bicep. Maybe there was something to Jim's 'anticipation' thing, because he felt like he'd been waiting forever for Jim to knot him.

“Hey, hey, I've got you,” Jim promised, stroking Bones' face and hair and neck. “I'm going to take care of you. I'm going to knot you like you asked.”

Bones' breath caught and tears sprang to his eyes. His fingers tightened on Jim's bicep. “Be careful,” he whispered.

Sweet one.” Stroking Bones' face, Jim pressed kisses to his forehead and cheeks. “I'm going to be extra careful. I need you to do something for me, all right?” Bones nodded, sliding one shaky hand up to grip Jim's wrist. “Tell me how it feels,” Jim said. “If it feels good, if it feels bad, if it hurts at all. Can you do that for me?”

Clenching his teeth a bit, Bones nodded. He blinked unhappy eyes. “It's not— Jim.” He caught at Jim's wrist tighter. “It's not that I don't trust you.”

“I know,” Jim assured him, sincerity and affection pouring off him in waves. “You're allowed to be afraid; that's not your fault.”

“Not your fault either,” Bones replied with a grimace and a little shake of his head.

“I know.” Leaning in, Jim pressed a tender kiss to Bones' forehead. Rocking back on his heels, he looked at Bones consideringly. “Important, very serious question: do we need to slow down right now?”

Swallowing roughly, Bones shook his head. “I want this, Jim.” He closed his eyes. “I do. I—I'm just...irrationally scared.”

“Yeah.” Bringing Bones' hand to his lips, he kissed the back of it. He stroked his other hand down the side of Bones' neck and over his shoulder and bicep. “I get it.” He worried his lip a little, eyes gentle and sincere as they met Bones'. “Just so we're clear—” He let out a breath. “If we don't end up knotting today—or ever—I'm not gonna be mad.”

Bones rolled his eyes. “But I will.” He twisted his lips unhappily. This was his only real chance to experience knotting with Jim when he was clear-headed and able to enjoy it properly. And gods, way back before Jo was born, he'd really and truly enjoyed knotting, so he'd like to get to do it again, if at all possible. He met Jim's eyes and held his gaze, adding, “Just so we're clear.”

Laughing softly, Jim shook his head and then nodded. “Okay.”

“Can we—?” Bones grimaced, eyes skating away. He cleared his throat. “Can we stop stalling and get to the knotting now?”

“Yeah.” Jim flashed him a soft smile. “I'm gonna keep you safe, Bones,” he promised. His expression morphed into more of a grin. “And it's gonna be fun.”

Taking a slow breath, Bones let it out, relaxing against the bed. He offered Jim a lopsided, somewhat wavering smile. “Okay.”

Jim kissed one of Bones' cheeks and then then other. “That's right; just relax. I've got you.” Bones let his eyelids flutter shut as Jim kissed his chin and down across his chest, stroking his hands lightly over Bones' arms. Everything was gentle warmth. Jim's weight shifted on the bed and then he was kneeling between Bones' legs, knees brushing and nudging against the insides of Bones' thighs. Bones' breath caught in his throat again, but more in anticipation than fear. Jim stroked a soothing hand over Bones' thigh. “You're so beautiful, Bones,” he murmured.

Bones shifted his hips, breathing deep of Jim's scent and letting himself sink down into it, like it was a cloud of safety wrapping about him. He rocked his hips, perhaps in mild impatience, and a warm swell of desire bloomed in Jim's scent. “Am I putting on a show?” Bones teased, peeking at Jim through his lashes and intentionally rocking his hips again.

“Guess so,” Jim replied, sliding one hand over to loosely grip the base of Bones' cock. Bones inhaled sharply. He really was hard. He had to groan, shifting his hips in a vague attempt to feel more of Jim's touch. “Looks like you've got a fair amount of slick here,” Jim observed, sliding the fingertips of his other hand between Bones' labia.

Bones cried out in inarticulate surprise. Jim paused and a curl of worry joined his scent, so Bones clarified as quickly as he could pant the words out: “Feels good, Jim.” Squeezing his eyes shut, he swallowed, rocking his hips and whining just a little in the back of his throat as the slick folds of his vulva slid against Jim's fingertips. “So good.”

Jim hummed in agreement, sliding his fingers deeper. “You liked my fingers last time.”

Bones gasped, hips jerking upward in broken little thrusts. “Did,” he admitted. “Really—really did.”

Jim slid his fingers even deeper, and he must've had at least three of them inside, because it was starting to stretch Bones' vagina in a tantalizing tease of the best way. Bones rocked his hips again, biting his lip a little. “Patience,” Jim chided, his other hand covering Bones' hip. The fingers inside Bones twisted and slid a little. “I'm just making sure there's room—that's four fingers now.”

Bones wrinkled his nose a bit. “Of course there's 'room', Jim.” He rolled his eyes. “The vagina stretches—that's what it's meant to do.”

“Yeah,” Jim agreed, stretching Bones a little more with his fingers. “But it can't do it all at once.”

“I dunno about that,” Bones grumbled. Jo'd come out pretty quick, and he hadn't even torn.

“Well, I do know about that,” Jim retorted with a firm bit of pressure against Bones' hipbone. Right. Jim did have a lot of experience with vaginas, didn't he? And with stretching them—he even routinely knotted both beta and alpha women, and they weren't exactly designed to accommodate a knot. And neither were beta men. Bones let out a quiet giggle, and Jim shot him a vaguely concerned look. “Okay?”

“Yeah.” Bones nodded. “Sorry, just—” Pressing his lips together, he gestured to where Jim was plunging most of one hand into Bones' body. He shuddered a bit. “Feels good.”

“Doesn't hurt at all?” Jim checked.

“Nope.” Bones rolled his head a little back and forth where it lay on the pillow. “The—the stretching feels good.”

Jim hummed thoughtfully, twisting his fingers a bit. “I think...maybe you're ready for the cock.”

“Mmm.” Bones arched his back a bit. “Just—” he said, breathless, “just go slow.”

“Absolutely.” Pulling his fingers from Bones' body, Jim slid his glistening hand over his cock. Which already had the condom on. Bones had been so distracted by Jim's fingers and generally trying not to panic that he hadn't even noticed, but Jim must have put it on before he moved to kneel between Bones legs. Jim shifted on the bed and the head of his condom-covered cock nudged up against the entrance to Bones' vagina. Bones let out a somewhat shaky breath. “We're going slow,” Jim reminded him, stroking Bones' hip with one hand. “We're going slow and careful, and I'm keeping you safe. Just relax for me, sweet one.”

Bones closed his eyes and rocked his hips a little. It was a bit of a strange sensation, the condom against his sensitive parts. Well, that and the sheer size of Jim's cock. Bones could probably get it at least partway in just by shifting his hips around, but he was supposed to be relaxing and letting Jim take the lead. He let out a breath, consciously sending a ripple of relaxation through his body.

“How's it feel?” Jim asked.

“Big,” Bones replied with a lopsided smile. He peeked at Jim from under heavy eyelids. “And hard—in a nice way. Condom's a little...um, you know, rubbery, or whatever, but I'm pretty sure I can handle it.” Jim leaned in to kiss Bones' jaw and his cock slid a little into Bones' vagina. Bones groaned. “Gods, Jim, that's nice.”

Jim groaned as well, arms shaking a bit as he shifted slightly. Voice breathless, he agreed, “Yeah.”

Bones let his eyes fall closed and focused on the wondrous sensation of Jim's cock sinking into him. Slow and gentle, and accompanied by caresses and kisses and murmured reassurances. The mingled scents of their arousal hung around them like a fog, shot through with bright happiness and shimmering with affection. Jim's scent danced with far more tenderness than pride, and as much as Bones didn't really mind the scent of Jim's pride, tenderness was nicer. It was so nice. Jim above him, hemming him in, protecting him. Pressing against Bones' own cock with his unfairly taut belly. Bones shifted his hips a little, moaning softly as Jim slid deeper. “Feels—so good, Jim.”

“Not—not too big?” Jim teased.

Closing his eyes, Bones rolled his hips experimentally. “Nah. Think—think we're good, Jim.” He bit his lip. “Is that all of it?”

“Almost,” Jim replied. “Just a—” He pushed forward. “—little bit more.” He rocked his hips, letting out a breathless laugh. “Okay, that's—that's it.”

“Damn,” Bones whispered.

“That, uh, sounded—and smelled—like a good 'damn',” Jim commented.

“Yeah.” Bones flexed his vagina against the intrusion. Gods, it was huge. Bones was teetering on the brink of something, but it wasn't exactly scary. “Huge—in a good way,” he panted. A wave of pleasure washed through him and spilled out into his scent. “Apparently.”

Jim grinned down at him, warm and bright. “That's—good.” He rubbed his nose against Bones'. “Glad to hear it.” Pulling back, he bit his lip a bit. “So...do you need more time to get used to it? Before I move at all.”

Bones narrowed his eyes a bit at him. “Can I move?” he asked, rocking his hips just a bit and shuddering at the waves of pleasure each motion brought forth.

“Yeah, um.” Jim laughed, breathless. “The cock doesn't need to stretch.”

“It does need to expand, though,” Bones teased, stroking his fingers up and down Jim's muscled arms.

“Yeah, that's—” Jim flashed him a crooked grin. “That's the idea. I mean, if you want to knot.”

“Mmm.” Bones shifted his body under Jim's, his cock rubbing against Jim's belly. Gods, all of it felt so good. Swallowing, he said, “Yeah.” He met Jim's eyes hesitantly, tracing patterns on Jim's biceps with his fingertips. “Definitely want that, Jim. And—” He bit his lip, eyes falling to Jim's collarbones. “It doesn't hurt at all.” He let his relief and happiness flood freely into his scent. He rolled his hips slowly, wondering at the feel of Jim inside him, against him. “It doesn't hurt at all, Jim.” He pressed his lips together, cheeks heating a bit. “So...feel free to move.” He let out a shaky breath. “I'll let you know if it starts to hurt.”

Groaning, Jim let his forehead drop to Bones' shoulder. “All right.” A huff of warm breath against Bones' skin. “All right, Bones.” In a slow, smooth motion, Jim pulled back then slid forward again. Bones cried out, grasping at Jim's shoulders. It felt amazing. Agonizing. So much all at once, and Bones was grappling at Jim with his legs, trying to get him closer, deeper—more.

Slowly in and slowly out, Jim continued that same delicious, deliberate pace until Bones was shaking and begging, “Please. Please, Jim.”

“Please what?” Jim whispered, breath warm and damp at Bones' ear. “Sweet one, what do you want?”

“I—” Bones shuddered, heel pressing into the small of Jim's back. The golden world around them shuddered, wavering at the very brink of pure perfection. Bones shook his head a bit, swallowing. “I just— More, Jim. Knot me. Something.”

Jim kissed him tenderly. “All right, Bones.” Rocking his hips forward until his cock was buried perhaps deeper than ever, he pressed an impossibly tender kiss to Bones' forehead and whispered against the skin there, “Gonna need just a little bit of help from you for this part.”

“Oh, um.” Bones panted. It had been so long. But it wasn't like he really had to think about it, exactly. Or anyway, it wasn't complicated. He swallowed, entire body shuddering. Using all four of his limbs to tug Jim closer, Bones clenched down on Jim's cock.

“Oh, gods,” Jim gasped as his knot swelled and Bones saw stars.

Everything was wonderful. Jim was wonderful. Bones blinked damp lashes as wave after wave of pleasure washed over him, unrelenting. “Jim,” he managed, voice rough as he stroked at Jim's shoulders, neck, face with sluggish hands. This was exactly what he'd been wanting for so long. Taking in more of Jim's overpowering scent with each shaky breath, Bones let himself drown in the overwhelming sensations.

“Bones,” Jim murmured, stroking at Bones' cheeks. “Sweet one.”

This was wonderful. This was better than Bones could have imagined it. Everything was gentle and warm and safe and beautiful and Jim. Jim's cock, pulsing inside him. Heat and life and wonder. And they'd managed it—they'd actually managed to do it before Bones' heat. So they got to have one 'real' time, one time where it was just the two of them, with no heat hormones muddling things up. At least Bones got to have this once. Maybe just once would be enough. It was so good. Tears trickled, warm and gentle, from the corners of his eyes.

“You smell...happy,” Jim commented, sounding a shade or two uncertain as he pulled back a bit to look at Bones.

“I am,” Bones assured him, putting a hand against the side of Jim's jaw. He offered him a damp smile. “This is me: very happy.”

A gentle smile spread across Jim's face like a sunrise. “That's good.” He kissed Bones' nose then his cheek. “That's good, Bones.”

Bones stroked his hands up and down Jim's sides. “It's so good, Jim. I feel so good right now.”

“Mmmm.” Jim kissed Bones' cheekbone and nuzzled at his hairline. “I feel so good too, Bones. Damn. So good.”

Bones closed his eyes slowly then opened them again just as slowly. He was floating in a golden pool of pleasure. “I dunno if this is what it was like before...” he said, words slurring a little. A bit of a grimace danced across his face. “Before I had Jo, I mean. It was good then, I know.” He let out a gentle breath. “Really good. This feels better, I think. I dunno if that's...” His shoulders twitched in a bit of a shrug. “Hard to really tell, you know? 'S been so long; maybe I don't really remember. But this might be better than I've ever felt.”

Jim pressed a kiss to Bones' shoulder then nuzzled at it a bit. “'M gonna assume it's actually better...'cause my cock is the best in the world.”

Bones blinked slowly up at him, hands heavy with honeyed pleasure as he held Jim's biceps. “That's fair.” He smiled dopily. “It is pretty great.” Jim beamed down at him. Shifting a bit, Bones giggled. “I made a mess on our bellies.”

Jim's grin turned a little crooked. “That's not the only place you made a mess.” He rolled his hips about as much as he could with their bodies knotted together. “Pretty sure you're lying in a bit of a puddle.”

“Gross,” Bones commented with a yawn.

“Don't worry about it.” Jim nuzzled at his cheek. “Slick's easy to clean up, and your semen's not all that sticky.”

Bones made a face. “Wasn't...worrying about it. Just, um, commenting. I guess.”

Jim bit his lip a bit as he beamed down at Bones. “Yeah...you're incapable of worrying right now, aren't you?”

Bones shrugged one shoulder. “Probably. There's, um, I think...like a switch...thing—uh, when you knot me. Turns off worrying.” He frowned slightly. “What d'you mean, my semen's not sticky?”

Jim stroked at Bones' shoulders. “Omega semen's the least sticky. Alpha semen's the most sticky.”

Bones laughed. “It also smells worse.”

Jim shrugged one shoulder. “It smells stronger, also tastes stronger, more...sharp...and musky—omega semen tends to be sweet.”

Bones looked up at him in confusion, blinking a few times through the haze of pleasure that was attempting to lull him into not really caring. But he was still curious. “Why...would you know how alpha semen tastes?”

“Well, obviously I've tasted female alpha semen. But...” Jim shot him an impish smile. “Also 'cause I've tasted my own.”

“Oh.” Bones frowned. “Gross.”

Jim laughed. He trailed one hand down Bones' side to his hip, and Bones shuddered—damn, being knotted was amazing. Jim cocked his head a bit to one side. “You've never tasted yours?”

Bones laughed. “Nope. Thankfully not even by accident.”

“Hmmm.” Jim slid his hand between their bellies, making Bones shudder anew and pulling his hand back out sticky. Jim licked a bit of the semen off his hand, eyelids fluttering.

“You...” Laughing, Bones shook his head. “You somehow make that look sexy.”

Jim shot him an impish smile. “Would you believe me if I said it's not on purpose?”

Bones shrugged one shoulder, sliding his sluggish hands down to grip loosely at Jim's hips. “Right now...I might.” Shaking his head, he laughed. “Might believe anything you told me just now.”

Jim chuckled, considering his hand as he turned it to look at the remaining semen on it. He met Bones' eyes. “Would you like to taste your semen, Bones?”

“No.” Bones laughed again. “It might actually taste good now, but still no.”

“Oh, I assure you,” Jim said, licking more of the semen from his hand. “It tastes good all the time.”

Bones laughed again. “I'll take your word for it. Anyway, I mean...I'm glad you like it. That...you get to enjoy that. I guess.”

“Mmmm.” Eyelids fluttering closed, Jim licked at his hand again. “Me too.”

Bones giggled, watching the shiny pink undulations of Jim's tongue as it continued to clean semen from his hand. “You're so gross.”

“Don't kink-shame me,” Jim said without bothering to open his eyes.

“Hey.” Bones stroked his hands over the smooth skin on Jim's hips. “Didn't say I minded.”

Smiling and pouring off even more waves of 'pleased, elated alpha', Jim leaned in and nuzzled at Bones' cheek. “In that case...guess I don't feel shamed.”

Grunting, Bones stroked at Jim's arm. “Yeah, don't. Don't feel shamed.”

Jim shifted his weight a bit, smiling softly down at Bones. “This is the part where we're supposed to be asleep.”

“I remember,” Bones replied. He blinked slowly. “Felt pretty sleepy too...but then we got talking.”

Jim laughed softly. He kissed Bones on the chin. “'S what we always do.”

Bones stroked his hands over Jim's ribs. “You tired?”

Jim made a noncommittal sort of sound. “Bit sleepy, I guess.”

Bones arched his back a bit just to make Jim groan. Chuckling, Bones patted Jim on the hip. “Guess I'm still a bit sleepy too. Or...again. Or whatever.”

“I can flip us over,” Jim suggested. “So I don't crush you.”

“Right.” Bones smiled. “So I can crush you.”

“Pretty sure...” Jim took a good grip on Bones and then proceeded to flip them both over. He grinned up at Bones. “You can't flip us back.”

Bones grunted. “Even if I didn't...currently have your knot cutting off my ability to worry...I don't think I'd be worried enough about you to try.”

Laughing, Jim adjusted the pillows and tugged a sheet over the two of them. “Comfy?”

“Still knotted,” Bones pointed out. “There'd have to be something pretty...serious to make me uncomfortable at this point.”

Stroking his hands up Bones' arms and down his sides, Jim kissed his forehead. “Well if you wake up first, at least you won't be trapped. So, um, you won't have to wake me up to shove me off if you're uncomfortable then.”

“Mmm.” Bones relaxed against Jim's chest, laying his head on a bit of the pillow Jim had tucked up on top of his shoulder. “Good point.”

Chapter Text

Bones awoke to the rather gross feeling of Jim's softened cock sliding out of him. And it absolutely felt at least a little worse because of the now wrinkly and wiggly condom, no doubt about it. “Ugh,” Bones grumbled, giggling a bit as he flopped off of Jim and cuddled up next to his side. Bones was sticky and gross, but...Jim was warm and the bed was soft.

“Sweet one,” Jim rumbled sleepily, pressing a kiss to Bones' hair.

Bones nuzzled a bit into the warmth of Jim's naked pec. “Are we gonna...” Letting out an exaggerated sigh, he looked unenthusiastically over toward Jim's ensuite. He made a face. “...take a shower or something?”

Jim's huff of breath stirred Bones' hair. “Eventually.”

Bones slid his arm across Jim's muscled chest. He made an unhappy sort of grunt. “Don't wanna move.”

Jim chuckled softly, breath warm against Bones' ear and amusement swirling in his scent. He stroked his hand down Bones' arm. “I can think of something we could do where you wouldn't have to move all that much.”

A jolt of desire shot through Bones and he blinked a few times from the surprise. Shoving at Jim's shoulder, Bones grumbled, “'M not in heat yet, Jim!”

Laughing quietly, Jim pressed his face into Bones' neck, inhaling deeply. “You sure, Bones?”

Rolling his eyes, Bones pushed him away. “Do I smell like I'm in heat or something?”

Jim shrugged one shoulder. “You smell like you're horny.” He grinned, wicked. “Again.”

Rolling his eyes again, Bones flopped down on his back with a huff. He folded his arms across his chest. “Apparently I don't actually have to be in heat to find you hot.”

“Mmmm.” Rolling onto his side, Jim trailed fingertips across Bones' belly, which of course twitched in response despite the disgusting mess of dried semen on it. Jim grinned, smelling so pleased. “Apparently not.”

Bones shot Jim an irritated glare. His eyes flicked down to Jim's cock then back to his face. “You know you've still got that stupid-looking condom on?”

“Right.” Jim slid the condom off and tied up the end, leaning off the bed to drop it in the garbage. Turning back to Bones, he waggled his eyebrows. “Could always put a new one on.”

Bones covered his face with both hands. “Gods, Jim.” Pulling his hands away, he offered Jim a tired look. “How about we save the knotting marathons for when I am in heat?”

“Mmmm.” Snuggling up next to Bones again, Jim nuzzled at his pec. “'Knotting marathons'—sounds like a good idea.”

Bones rolled his eyes, but he couldn't help smiling a bit. “I'll bet it does.”

“Don't lie,” Jim teased, nudging Bones in the ribs. He peeked hopefully at Bones through his lashes. “It sounds a little good to you too.”

Laughing and shaking his head a bit, Bones looked up at the ceiling. “Yeah, maybe.” Biting his lip, he looked back at Jim. “Is it weird that...?” He paused, worrying his lip a little more. “I'm sorta looking forward to being in heat. A bit.”

Jim pushed himself up onto his knees, regarding Bones with a more sober sort of expression. “Well...it doesn't have to all be terrible, does it?”

Snorting softly, Bones looked away. He rubbed at the back of his neck with one hand. “We'll see, I guess.”

o0o

“Okay, so during your heat,” Jim said as he unfolded a new fitted sheet while completely bare-ass naked in the middle of his room, “we're going to use a lot of towels, so I don't have to change the sheets every hour or two.”

Bones nodded, leaning against the ensuite doorframe with one of Jim's towels wrapped around his waist. He sipped his glass of water. “I think...that's usually how it's done.” He shrugged one shoulder. “Not that I have a whole lot of experience with this.”

Jim flashed him a grin as he stretched the second corner of the sheet over the second corner of the mattress. “Still have more experience with heats than I do.”

“Oh sure, Jim.” Rolling his eyes, Bones walked over and set his glass on the bedside table. “Just go ahead and remind me of your lack of qualifications when the deadline's almost here—also, need a hand with this?” Reaching out, he snagged the closest corner of the sheet and tugged it down over the corresponding corner of the mattress.

Jim, having just walked to Bones' side of the bed to do the fourth sheet corner, flashed Bones a smile. “Don't really mind parading around naked while you just watch.”

Rolling his eyes, Bones picked up his glass again and took a swallow. “Well, why would you? But the point is...we could get it done faster if you didn't have to walk back and forth around the end of the bed a hundred times.”

Shaking his hips a bit, Jim waggled his eyebrows at Bones. “But you wouldn't mind watching that, would you?”

“Well, I don't know.” Bones shrugged. He glanced over at the still mostly unmade bed then back at Jim. “I might enjoy watching you prance around naked more if I could lie on a nice, comfortable bed to do it.”

Flashing Bones a crooked grin, Jim advanced on him. “You like my bed, Bones?”

Taking another swallow of water, Bones set the glass down once again and looked over at the bed. Turning back to Jim, he said, “It's a very nice bed, Jim.”

Jim stepped right up into Bones' space. “You like lying on it, Bones?”

Bones caught Jim by his bare hip, looking into his eyes. “Yeah.” He stroked his thumb against Jim's skin. “It's very comfortable.”

Jim grinned, shifting his weight forward a bit and bumping his nose into Bones'. “I think...maybe the bed's as made as it needs to be.” Picking Bones up, he dumped him on the bed and crawled on after, straddling him. He brushed Bones' damp hair off his forehead, cocking his own head to the side a bit. “Comfortable?”

“Well...” Turning his head to look at the mattress on which he lay, Bones brushed his knuckles against the sheet. “Guess all you really need is the bottom sheet.”

Jim shifted a bit, the movement further loosening the towel about Bones' hips. He grinned down at Bones. “That's what I was thinking.” Leaning in, he kissed Bones. With a soft sound, Bones kissed him back, curling his fingers in the short damp hair at the back of Jim's neck. Jim made a happy sound, and warm contentment filled his scent. He rolled his hips lazily, hard cock nudging against Bones' hip through uneven layers of thick towel.

Laughing, Bones pulled back a bit to say, “Jim, I know you're up for sex literally any time, but...”

“What?” Jim teased, nipping at Bones' chin.

“Well, we just had sex—twice,” Bones pointed out. “You sucked my cock in the shower.” Biting his lip, he added, “Which was great, by the way.”

Jim smiled all warm and pleased. “I'm good at sucking cock, aren't I?”

Bones' cheeks heated. “Um, yes. I mean, I guess so.” His brows twisted a bit. “It's not like I'd really know, like, from actual experience with other partners to compare...but...” He shrugged. “It certainly feels good.”

Jim chuckled, shifting his weight a bit on his elbows. “That's kind of all that matters, I think.”

“Well then, you're very good at it,” Bones told him. Jim beamed at him, obviously preening. Bones couldn't help grinning. He pet Jim's damp hair. “You're so cute.”

“So...” Jim squirmed a bit. “You kinda sounded like you'd rather not have sex right now.”

Heaving a sigh, Bones rolled his eyes. “We just had sex twice.” He frowned, then laughed, shaking his head. “Twice this afternoon!”

“Yeah, but...” Jim traced a fingertip along the edge of Bones' jaw. “You're horny.”

Bones rolled his eyes. “A little bit, yeah.” He wrinkled his nose. “I guess.” Laughing softly, he shook his head. “That's a bit weird, maybe, that I'm horny so often now when I went such a long time without really...” Twisting his lips, he shrugged. “I dunno. Do you think that's weird?”

“Nope,” Jim replied with a playful grin. “Not weird at all, Bones.” His cock nudged Bones' thigh as he shifted his weight. “You've got me around now.” His grin grew wider. “I'm like an aphrodisiac in human form.”

Bones swatted Jim on the shoulder and rolled his eyes. “Sure you are.”

“I don't see any other possible explanations,” Jim replied, still preening like the damn self-important alpha he was.

Bones offered him an unimpressed look. “You told me you've been turned down more often than not. So explain that, Mister 'aphrodisiac in human form'.”

Laughing, Jim let his forehead fall against Bones' shoulder. “I dunno.” Lifting his head again, he said, “Maybe I don't work on everyone.”

“And I'm just one of the lucky ones?” Bones replied, one side of his lips curving upwards.

“You're very lucky,” Jim teased, dropping a kiss on the side of Bones' jaw.

“But anyway,” Bones said, hands settling on Jim's bare hips. “Human aphrodisiac or not, we can't just have sex repeatedly forever.”

“You're right,” Jim said, pulling back a bit with a serious look. “We need to eat, too, and it's probably past time to be thinking about dinner.” He dropped a kiss to the point of Bones' nose. “Thanks for reminding me.”

With a groan, Bones let his eyes fall shut. “Jim...with the amount of food I've already eaten today...”

Jim rolled his eyes. “You're not getting out of eating a decent supper, Bones.” Pushing himself up, he slid off the bed. “Come on.”

Staying right where he was, Bones covered his face with both hands and grumbled, “You're trying to make me fat.”

“We've been through all of this, Bones,” Jim reminded him. He gave Bones a little tap on the side of his knee. “Heats burn a huge amount of calories.”

“Yeah, but...” Bones pulled his hands away from his face and pouted at Jim. “Maybe I changed my mind and want to have sex right now.”

Laughing, Jim gave him a sharper swat on the side of his knee. “Nice try, Bones. Now get up and put something on unless you wanna eat in the nude. Alpha's orders.”

Bones glared, about equal parts annoyed and disbelieving as he pushed himself up to sit. He shoved a hand back through his damp hair. “You think you can order me around just 'cause you're an alpha?”

Jim, who'd already pulled on a pair of drawstring pants, threw another pair at Bones and said, “I can't help it if alphas are just genetically predisposed to being in charge.”

“You're getting a lot less sexy with every word,” Bones warned him as he pulled on the pair of pants. “And what the hell is 'genetically predisposed' supposed to mean there, anyway?”

Jim shot him a smirk. “There've been multiple studies on this: humans in general tend to trust whoever's biggest and strongest to lead them. In most cases, that ends up being alphas.”

Bones rolled his eyes as he stood up. “I already knew humans were sexist. Not sure why they needed to do 'studies' on this.”

“It's not just people 'being sexist',” Jim argued as Bones followed him to the kitchen. “It's on an instinctual level. It's in our DNA.”

Bones sat at the island counter and folded his arms on it. “So it's our instinct to be sexist.”

“I guess,” Jim said as he opened the fridge. “If you wanna look at it that way.” Snorting softly and shaking his head, Bones rubbed at his arm. The marble countertop was smooth and cold against his bare, shower-fresh skin. “Bones,” Jim said softly, one hand settling on Bones' shoulder. Frowning, Bones looked up at him, and Jim offered him a soft, mildly apologetic expression. “I don't really think alphas should be in charge all the time. Obviously betas tend to do a pretty good job in most positions of authority, and I think given half a chance, most omegas would do just as well if not better.” He let out a breath, looking away. “I was kidding around.” Biting his lip, he looked back hesitantly. “'Cause you look so cute when you're grumpy.”

“You're an ass,” Bones told him.

“Which is probably a good argument for me not being in charge all the time,” Jim said, laughing, as he pulled back. “But you do still need to eat, and when I'm right about something—like this—then I think I'm perfectly justified in ordering you around.” He shot Bones a wink.

Bones rested his chin on his folded arms and watched as Jim started putting some sort of soup together. “I guess,” Bones finally said, “that when I'm in heat...you'll sort of have the 'right', if you want to call it that, to order me around to a certain extent. I mean...” He made a face. “That's sort of the real point of having you there, isn't it? So I don't die of dehydration.”

“Exactly.” Jim pointed his stirring spoon at Bones. “When a person's in heat, they're not really capable of thinking clearly. So they need someone else there with a hopefully clearer head to keep them safe and...reasonably healthy.”

Bones snorted softly, eyes following Jim's movement about the kitchen. “Alphas, as a group, don't really have the greatest track record for keeping a 'clear head' around omegas in heat.”

“Well, that's true.” Jim paused, looking thoughtful. “It's sort of odd, in some ways, that we don't insist on betas being the ones to take care of omegas in heat.” He made a face. “But really, I think it probably comes down to instinct, and the majority of omegas wanting an alpha to take care of them.”

“Due to instinct,” Bones pointed out. “Which is sexist.”

Jim shrugged. “A lot of biology is sexist—only omegas go through heats, for example. Imagine if alphas had to go through heats too?”

Bones' lips pulled back in horror. “That would either be generally hilarious or completely terrifying. Depending on what a 'heat' did to an alpha...and, I guess, depending a bit on the specific alpha.”

“Well, as I've said before,” Jim said, grinding some pepper into the pot on the stove, “I'm pretty sure I would hate being in heat—at least...” He tilted his head a bit to one side. “If I had to go through one; it'd probably be different if it was something I could choose.”

Bones snorted softly. “You think you might find yourself choosing to go through a heat?”

Jim shrugged one shoulder. “Well, I don't know.” He shot Bones a bit of a grin. “Maybe after this one you can tell me if some parts of it were fun—you know, maybe fun enough to make the rest worthwhile.”

o0o

“So remind me again,” Bones said as Jim took a bite of soup, “why we're sharing one bowl and one spoon.”

“Because,” Jim said, dipping the spoon back into the bowl (which was admittedly large enough for two), “there's less dishes to wash this way.” He flashed Bones an unrepentant grin as he offered the spoonful of soup to him. “Also,” he added with a shrug, “with all the kissing we've been doing, two spoons just felt a little redundant.”

“Right.” Bones looked at the spoon then back at Jim's face. “But why do you have to feed me?”

“Because I didn't get to last time I made you soup,” Jim replied.

Rolling his eyes a bit, Bones accepted the bite of soup. It was good, though perhaps not 'surprisingly' so considering how good Jim just apparently was at making soup. Bones wasn't even sure what sort of soup it was supposed to be, but it had green leafy...things in it. And a pale yellow broth. “Should I thank you for letting me handle the bread myself?” Bones asked, holding up the thick crusty slice. It was actually amazing bread and it was spread thickly with butter—because, you know, fat. Bones needed all this fat. Supposedly. (How likely was it that all these informative websites about helping omegas through heats were in fact written by alphas who just really, really liked feeding omegas? Or perhaps by omegas who really liked being fed.)

Laughing softly, Jim held out the spoon. “You wanna handle the spoon?” He smirked a bit. “I admit I wouldn't mind you feeding me.”

Rolling his eyes, Bones snatched the spoon from him. “Even if I spill it all down your chin?”

“I highly doubt you'd do that,” Jim said, looking completely unconcerned.

“For the record,” Bones said, dipping the spoon into the soup, “I don't actually have much experience with spoon-feeding anyone; at the daycares, we always let the kids feed themselves whenever possible.” It was supposed to be better...both for their development of motor skills and for their natural self-regulation abilities. (It all made sense, even if letting a baby feed themselves usually ended in nearly all the food being elsewhere than inside the baby.) Feeling rather silly, he offered Jim a spoonful of soup and added in a quieter tone, “Same with Jo, when she was little, actually.”

Looking far too pleased with himself—and maintaining eye contact—Jim accepted the spoonful. Smiling a bit to himself at both the absurdity of all this and just how cute Jim was, Bones set the spoon down and tore a small bite off his bread. He held that up to Jim's mouth, and Jim took it, lips brushing Bones' fingertips so slightly it was probably an accident. It still sent a stupid little thrill though Bones. “You should know,” Jim said, tearing a piece off his own slice of bread, “you have to eat some of my bread for any of your bread I eat.” Holding out the bit of bread, he shrugged one shoulder. “It's only fair.” Bones took the bread from him, intentionally nipping his fingertips. Jim laughed, smelling ridiculously pleased and happy. “Have I mentioned lately how amazing you are?”

“Probably,” Bones replied, holding out another spoonful of soup. “You say it several times a day.”

o0o

“Okay,” Bones said, looking up from the couch where he'd been fiddling with his phone while Jim did the day's dishes.

“What's that, Bones?” Jim said, turning his attention to Bones as he dried his hands.

Biting his lip, Bones looked away. “If you want...we could maybe knot again. Tonight. As in, uh...” He scratched his fingers through the hair on the back of his head. “Right now.” He let out a breath. “If you wanted.” Jim scooped him up from the couch and kissed him roughly. Bones laughed, enjoying being pressed against the solid warmth of Jim's chest as Jim carried him. “I guess that means...you want.”

Bones,” Jim whispered, breath hot against Bones' ear as the sharp, heady scent of his desire swirled about them, “I definitely want.”

Bones laughed breathlessly as Jim dropped him on the bed. “We...could've done it on the couch.”

“We could have,” Jim said, frowning thoughtfully. He slid a hand along Bones' leg to grip his knee. “Figured you'd be more comfortable in here—but I could carry your back out there.” He indicated the general direction of the living room.

Bones gave a happy hum, stretching languidly. “I am comfortable here.” He smoothed a hand against the fitted sheet. “Your bed is pretty great.” He met Jim's eyes. “So let's stay here.” Grinning up at Jim he said, “We could, um, go a bit...rougher this time.” He bit his lip as Jim crawled slowly onto the bed and straddled him. “That—um. Before, uh—you know, the first time. When we knotted.” He bit his lip again. “It was really good, Jim.” He touched Jim's arm, offering him a soft expression. “I've never—um, done it that slow before, I guess. And it was...really nice.”

Jim beamed down at him. “I'm really glad you enjoyed it, Bones.”

“I...did,” Bones assured him, letting out a shaky breath. He worried his lower lip a bit. “I really did. And that's why...” He watched his fingers stroke up and down Jim's arm, then met Jim's eyes. “Why I wanna do it again.”

Jim trailed his fingers along Bones' jaw. “But you wanna try it rougher this time.”

Bones bit his lip again, letting out a slightly shaky breath. “Yeah.” He caught Jim's wrist and stroked it gently. “It didn't hurt at all, Jim. It was just...so good.”

“So why do you want to do it differently?” Jim teased, tapping one finger against the tip of Bones' chin.

Bones blew out a frustrated huff. “Because...I wanna try it that way too.” There'd always been something oddly satisfying about being, well, pounded—if that was the right word for it. (It sounded so crass. So violent, too. But was there a better way to describe it?) “I think it could be good.” He worried his lower lip. “For both of us.” Letting out a shaky breath, he canted his hips a bit. “If you'd rather do it slow like that again, that'd be absolutely fine, but just... Knot me? Please, Jim.”

Jim kissed him, hard. Breathing raggedly against Bones' lips, Jim whispered, “Absolutely. Yes. Whatever you want.” He shifted, and his hard cock brushed against Bones' through the layers of their pants. Jim groaned and Bones shuddered, a little slick spilling from his vagina. Grinding his hips down and groaning again, Jim nipped at Bones' bottom lip and slid both hands into Bones' hair. “You're so beautiful, Bones,” he rasped.

“I think we should,” Bones managed, voice embarrassingly breathy, “get out of our pants.”

“Impatient,” Jim teased, pulling back to grin down at him.

Snorting softly, Bones rolled his eyes. “Says the guy who grabbed me and carried me off to the bedroom the moment I mentioned knotting.”

Laughing, Jim slid off the bed to tug off his own pants and then Bones'. “Did I maybe take you saying 'right now' a little too literally?”

Grabbing a condom from the drawer, he knelt on the bed between Bones' thighs to unwrap it and put it on. Bones sat up a bit to watch him curiously. “Guess I've...” Bones gestured to where Jim was working the condom up the thick length of his cock. “...never actually seen someone do that.”

“I suppose there are more 'sexy' ways to do it.” Jim shrugged one shoulder. He flashed Bones a rather sheepish smile. “But I am kinda impatient.”

Laughing, Bones shifted his position on the bed a bit and spread his legs further. “I suppose that's a compliment.”

“Well,” Jim quipped, flashing Bones a grin as he lined himself up, “I don't just wanna knot you 'cause it's been so long since I knotted anyone.”

Bones rolled his eyes. “That last person you knotted...” he said, gripping the edge of the mattress behind his head with both hands, “the one from earlier today—any good?” He smirked a bit up at the ceiling. “Guess I wanna know what I've got to live up to, how hard of an act I'm following.”

“Bones,” Jim said, hands gripping Bones thighs as his cock nudged at the entrance to Bones' vagina, “it was amazinghe was amazing. But somehow—” He shot Bones a wink. “I don't think I'm gonna find this disappointing by comparison.”

Grasping Bones' thighs, he shoved what must've been his entire cock inside in one thrust. Bones made an inarticulate noise, gasping and blinking. It wasn't that it hurt. Quite the contrary. He must not have smelled at all distressed, because Jim was just grinning all proud and pleased with himself down at him when Bones finally caught enough breath to say, “Dammit, Jim. That's good. That's— Like that. That's exactly what I want.” He pulled Jim into a rough kiss then added, “Keep going.”

o0o

Bones woke part of the way up sometime during the night to grumble sleepily about Jim's softened cock sliding out of him.

“Shh, sweet one.” Jim stroked at his hair, projecting a sleepy sort of calm and safety in his scent as he shifted about on the bed. “'M right here.”

Whatever he was doing sitting up and shifting about on the bed for far too long, he still managed to keep one hand on Bones the whole time, so Bones didn't grumble too much. Jim finally settled down next to Bones again, snuggling close with one arm slung around Bones' middle. Bones let out a mollified sigh, tangling his hand with Jim's against his chest and insisting, “Sleep,” even though that was probably exactly what Jim intended.

Jim pressed a sleepy kiss to Bones' shoulder and agreed, “Yeah, sleep.”

o0o

“So today's the day,” Bones commented as Jim scrubbed shampoo though Bones' hair.

“Right,” Jim said, fingers massaging circles on Bones' scalp. “Two days since you stopped your suppressants, so—you're taking the kick-start thing today.”

A flicker of a grimace danced across Bones' face. “Yup.”

“Nervous?” Jim asked as he tipped Bones' head back under the shower's spray.

“Yes,” Bones replied with a bit more bite that was probably warranted. “Of course I'm nervous.” He blew out a breath and focused on the gentle, soothing motion of Jim's fingers as they helped the water rinse the suds out of his hair. “But I—” He let out a helpless breath. He bit his lip. “I'm actually...a lot more relaxed and calm than I thought I'd be.” He offered Jim a sheepish smile. “Pretty sure I've got you to thank for that.”

“Yeah?” Jim said as he worked conditioner into Bones' hair.

Bones bit his lip. “Specifically, your knot.” He laughed softly. Maybe being knotted twice in one day (when he wasn't even in heat!) was actually a really good idea. His body certainly seemed to think so.

“Oh, I see.” Jim pressed Bones up against the chilly shower wall and kissed him. Pulling back a bit, he regarded Bones thoughtfully. “All the reassurance I've been trying to offer, all the careful planning ahead, the fact that we're friends and you trust me...that's all secondary after the sheer biological force of a good knotting.”

“When you say it like that,” Bones grumbled, “it sounds really sexist.”

“Uh-huh,” Jim agreed, licking a droplet of water off Bones' jaw.

Bones heaved a frustrated sigh. “I only meant...” He stroked his fingers over the wet skin at Jim's waist. “I slept well last night—and a good night's sleep can help with a lot of things.” He grimaced, eyes sliding away. “And besides, there are a lot of documented benefits of knotting. For omegas, that is, benefits from being knotted.”

“I wouldn't discount the benefits to alphas,” Jim pointed out, kissing the tip of Bones' nose. “But yeah, there's a lot of information out there about how being knotted can help an omega physically, mentally, and emotionally.” Bones rolled his eyes, and Jim shot him a curious look, saying, “What?”

Bones made a face. “Nothing.” Jim pulled back, reaching for the bottle of soap, smelling all patient like he expected Bones to elaborate. Bones blew out an annoyed breath, watching dispiritedly as Jim scrubbed soap over his chest and belly. “Well, all knotting and sleeping and everything else aside, I'm still going to have to actually take the stuff this morning—and that sucks.” It was twisting his gut up into more and tighter knots the longer he was awake and thinking about it.

“I know,” Jim murmured, taking Bones' head in his hands and pressing a kiss to his forehead. Pulling back he offered Bones a bit of a sympathetic grimace. “What time do you have to take it?”

Bones wrinkled his nose. “No specific time, I guess, but I have to take it 'with food'.” He rubbed a wet hand over his face. “Figured breakfast was logical.”

o0o

“So...Jim,” Bones said as they were climbing out of the shower.

“Yeah?” Jim looked up from rubbing a towel against his annoyingly pretty hair.

Biting his lip and shifting from one foot to the other, Bones looked away. “Could we, um...” He chewed on his lip a bit more and Jim put a steadying hand on his hip. Dropping his gaze, Bones blew out a breath. “Could you suck my cock before breakfast?” He glanced up, briefly meeting Jim's eyes before dropping his gaze again and shrugging. “I just—” He rubbed at his face with the corner of his towel. “I wanted one more time before I take that damn stuff.”

“You know,” Jim pointed out as he slowly steered Bones out of the ensuite and towards the bed, “I can suck your cock after you take it too.”

“I know!” Bones made a quiet, frustrated sound as the damp backs of his knees met the edge of the mattress. “I just—it's—”

“It'll be different then,” Jim filled in quietly, fingertips trailing down Bones' bicep. “I get it. I get that.”

Bones twisted the towel a bit in his hands. “Right now it's—just for fun.”

“Yeah.” Jim kissed him gently. Pulling back, he flashed Bones a bright grin. “So let's have some fun.” He nudged Bones back onto the bed and they got a towel spread out under him.

“Are we going to have enough towels?” Bones asked as they got lined up. “I mean, all this sex and frequent showering right before my heat might not have been the best idea.”

“I actually—bought a few extras,” Jim said, shrugging one shoulder. “Just in case.”

“Well, good,” Bones replied, blushing a bit and having difficulty meeting Jim's eyes. “'Cause we're probably going to need them.”

“What you need right now,” Jim said, sliding down to lie on his belly between Bones' spread legs, “is to stop worrying and let me make you feel good.”

Snorting softly, Bones shook his head. “Pretty sure 'not worrying' isn't a 'need', Jim.”

Jim shrugged one shoulder, tilting his head at an unconcerned angle. “Maybe not. But...I'm pretty sure it's healthier than the alternative, and...” He offered Bones his best 'puppy dog' eyes. “I'd very much like it.”

“Yeah, well.” Bones tipped his head back on the pillow, his wet hair pressing against the skin on the back of his neck. “Guess maybe I'd like it too.” Jim's mouth slid over Bones' cock, taking the whole thing inside and sucking. Bones cried out, whole body tensing and lighting up. If he just focused on that, on the sensation of that, on the warmth and wetness and everything, he could get lost. He could let go and let Jim take over for a little bit. Blinking his eyes, he looked down along his naked body to find Jim's gorgeous face. “Wait, am I—should I warn you when I'm about to ejaculate?”

Pulling off and giving the head of Bones' cock a cheeky little lick, Jim shook his head. “Nope. Don't worry about anything.” He nibbled a little on the underside of Bones' cock, shooting Bones a playful look. “I like semen, remember?”

Letting out a breath, Bones sank back against the pillows again. “Right. Well, good for you.”

Jim flashed him a grin. “It is good for me.” Wrapping his hand snugly around the base of Bones' cock, Jim licked around the flared edge of the head and then across the top. Bones shuddered, letting himself sink into the sensations and the delightful cloud of Jim's happy arousal. Adjusting his grip, Jim slid his tongue into the slit.

Bones groaned. “You're gonna kill me, Jim.”

“Oh, but...” Jim slid his tongue in deeper only to pull it back and flash Bones an unrepentant grin. “What a way to go.”

Bones rolled his eyes. “Dammit, Jim.” He waved an annoyed hand towards his cock. “I asked you to suck it, not make out with it for an hour.”

Jim, because he was a bastard, slid his mouth down over the entirety of Bones' cock once again, and, fluttering his eyelashes like this was the best damn thing in the world, sucked so hard Bones immediately lost it with a shout. Jim continued to suck gently though Bones' swearing and gasping, his fingers gently grounding on Bones' hips.

“Damn—dammit, Jim,” Bones said when he could speak again. He blinked slowly, trying to catch up. He caught one of Jim's hands, squeezing his fingers a bit. “That was fast.”

“That...is what you asked for,” Jim said. He smiled, but a curl of uncertainty unfurled in his scent.

“It is,” Bones agreed, lacing his fingers with Jim's and offering him a soft smile. “Thank you.”

Jim brought their joined hands to his lips, brushing a damp kiss across the back of Bones' hand. “You are very welcome.” He flashed Bones a warm smile. “Any time.” Giving Bones a little pat on his hip, he added, “Now, let's see about breakfast.”

He probably meant it very much in an alpha 'provide' sort of way. Feed the omega before his heat starts. Take care of the omega. All of that. It brought all the unhappy knots back to Bones' gut, though.

Chapter Text

“Damn,” Bones said, glaring at the label on the bottle in his hands. He was sitting at the table wearing a pair of Jim's sweatpants while Jim, also only wearing sweatpants, cooked.

“What's that?” Jim said, turning a vaguely worried and curious look on Bones.

Bones made a face. “I guess I never read the label properly before.” Leaning back in his chair, he blew out a breath. “This stuff is...” He chewed on his bottom lip. “Um, rather fast acting, I guess. I'd assumed it would put me into a regular pre-heat, so...about four or five days of gradual buildup to the full heat, but—” He scrunched up his face. “Apparently it's going to go through the pre-heat in a matter of hours.” He winced, re-reading the relevant section on the label. “It says six to twelve. 'Six to twelve hours.'” Letting out a shaky breath, he set the bottle on the table and looked up at Jim. “If I take this now, I'll be in full heat by tonight.”

Jim regarded him thoughtfully, smelling careful and generally protective. “Do you have to take it now? If it has to be today, could you take it later? Like with supper, or even with a bedtime snack?”

Bones shook his head. Sliding one hand into his still damp hair, he tugged at it a bit, unhappy. “Jim, if I put it off, I might never take it—I have to be an adult about this. Just—do it. Get it over with.”

“All right.” Jim brought him a bowl of oatmeal, setting another down at his own place. He set a container of honey and a glass bottle of goat's milk on the table as well. “Well.” He offered Bones and apologetic smile. “Breakfast's ready.”

Nodding, Bones drizzled a bit of honey over his oatmeal and then added a generous amount of milk. Jim had apparently cooked the oatmeal with apples, raisins, cranberries, and at least three different types of nuts, so it was quite the complete meal. It looked good. It smelled even better. Bones poked at it with his spoon, not quite feeling like eating. “What do they even mean 'with food'?” he griped. “Should I take it and then eat? Take it after eating? Take it about halfway through?”

“I don't think it really matters.” Jim shot him a small smile from under his thick brows. He ate a spoonful of his own oatmeal. “I guess when I have to take stuff 'with food', I usually do it right after eating.”

“Yeah, but...” Bones made an unhappy face at the bottle. “I have to drink this stuff; it's not just pills.” He shot Jim a narrow-eyed look and shook his head. “Can't imagine it tastes good—so maybe I want to have some food left to get the taste out of my mouth.”

“I could always get you a small post-breakfast snack,” Jim teased, taking another bite of his food.

Bones blew out a frustrated breath. “The point is...” He shook his head, picked up his spoon, and set it back down. He curled in on himself a bit. “I don't want to do this.” Drawing a shaky breath, he let it out. “I've been telling myself that it's in the future, so I don't have to deal with it, so I can pretend it's not real—but it's now.” He swallowed. “It's today, and I—” His voice broke, and he shook his head. “I'm scared.”

Jim was out of his chair and around the table, crouching next to Bones, holding his hand. “I know you're scared, sweet one.” He smelled as calm and safe and gentle as an alpha could. He pressed a tender kiss to Bones' hand. “I'm here. How can I help?”

Bones shook his head miserably. “I don't—I don't know, Jim.” He made a frustrated, self-disgusted sound. “Just—go back to your breakfast, Jim; you don't have—”

Jim pressed another kiss to the back of Bones' hand. “This is right where I need to be.”

Bones looked at him for a moment. “So you're just going to...crouch there.” He narrowed his eyes. “While your food gets cold.”

Jim offered him a mild smile. “I'll eat when you eat—deal?”

Bones rolled his eyes, picking up his spoon. “You're such an ass sometimes.” Grabbing the closest chair, Jim dragged it right next to Bones and pulled his bowl across the table. Sitting so close their thighs touched, he waited until Bones finally took a bite before taking another of his own. Except he did it left-handed, because he insisted on holding Bones' left hand in his right one. Which...probably helped. At least a little. Bones managed to eat roughly a third of what was in his bowl, and Jim smelled so pleased it made Bones roll his eyes. “It's actually quite good,” Bones admitted. “The oatmeal.”

Jim grinned. “I'm glad you like it.”

Bones grunted, turning his attention back to his food. He ate another bite. “One thing I guess I can say for you: you certainly feed me well.” Jim beamed at him, and Bones rolled his eyes. “Yeah, yeah.” He took another bite of oatmeal, grumbling, “Damn, stupid alpha.” Pushing his bowl a bit to the side, he grabbed the medicine bottle and twisted the child-proof cap off. Shooting Jim a look, he said, “Well, here goes.”

Jim reclaimed his free hand in a gentle grip. His aura of calm and safety bloomed bright once again. He pressed a gentle kiss to the back of Bones' hand. “I'm here. I'm right here, sweet one.”

Shaking his head, Bones rolled his eyes a bit as he lifted the bottle to his lips. “Don't have to make such a big deal.” Placing the rim against his bottom lip, he tilted the bottle, letting the concoction flow into his mouth. It was both pungent and bitter and tasted sort of like wet wood chips tinged with rosemary and citrus. 'Citrus' maybe like pomelo peel would taste after sitting in the sun for a few hours on a hot day (not that Bones had ever actually tasted that). And 'rosemary' maybe more so in the way rosemary tasted a bit like the needles of a spruce or fir. There wasn't exactly a large quantity, but it took three swallows to get it all down. “That, I suppose, wasn't as awful as I was expecting,” he said, setting the empty bottle aside.

“What did it taste like?” Jim asked.

“Compost,” Bones replied, picking up his spoon again. He shot Jim about one quarter of a wry smile. “Makes me glad you're such a good cook.”

o0o

Bones stared up at the blue of the sky through the filter of overhanging evergreen branches. The grass under him was cool against his skin and even through his clothes (what clothes he was wearing, that was, which was just a pair of sweatpants and a soft, plain white t-shirt he was pretty sure was actually Jim's).

He'd said he needed a little space, a little time to himself. And of course Jim, though most likely a little unhappy about not being within touching distance of the omega in pre-heat, had agreed to go do laundry and dishes and everything else he could find to get things as ready as possible for Bones' fast-approaching heat.

Damn, it was approaching fast. Bones could even feel it already. He checked his phone. It hadn't even been a full two hours since he drank the kick-start stuff. But his skin felt too warm and just a little too tight. Prickly. He'd be smelling of it already, too, though he couldn't exactly smell it on himself. Not yet, anyway. It was probably a good thing he'd asked for space when he had, because once Bones started to smell like heat, it would have been much harder for Jim to agree to let him out of his sight.

Bones sighed, glancing over at the sliding door he'd left open with just the screen closed. Bones had wanted space. Probably needed it. Some time alone with his thoughts to regroup and recharge. His head hurt and his belly hurt, but those had both been hurting since before he took the kick-start. So those weren't 'heat' things. Probably.

The pains hadn't actually gotten worse, had they? Not more so than the stress of having to do all this would warrant?

Maybe he should have gone to his room instead of the yard, because in his room he could take a nap in the familiar comfort of his bed. But he wasn't actually tired.

He was just... Ugh. Bored, maybe. Not exactly thrilled to be spending the day waiting for his body to go completely nuts.

Would it be better if it happened sooner or if it took the maximum time? Might as well get it over with, logically. Get through the unpleasant full heat and then the still unpleasant recovery. The heat itself shouldn't be overly long unless something very unlikely happened—like Bones in heat suddenly finding Jim's scent repellent. Could that even happen with a familiar, trusted alpha? Bones wrinkled his nose at the idea; that certainly would throw a wrench into things if it was in fact possible. But it probably wasn't. No real point in worrying about it. Jim was the best-smelling alpha in the entire world. If anything, he was just going to smell even better as Bones' heat came over him.

But with such a contracted pre-heat...the whole thing—including heat recovery—could be over in three days. Three days! Bones probably could have handled that on his own, actually, using his original 'wait it out in a hotel room' plan. Could a person, even in heat and thus sweating excessively, actually die of dehydration in just three days?

But then, it could still take a total of six days. That would certainly be unwise to attempt without help. And would also just be...unpleasant. Really unpleasant.

Sighing again, Bones picked up his phone. Might as well give Jim time to actually do something before Bones came back whining for attention. He opened Facebook and idly scrolled his newsfeed. There wasn't much of particular note. Mostly Jo sharing random memes and his dam posting pictures of her garden. Some stuff about Joss' birthday, because, right, she'd just had one. Bones hadn't wished her a happy one, but then she wasn't likely to notice. Or care. It's not like he'd wished her a happy birthday in years.

He did hope she'd had a nice day, though.

Bones scrolled down more, finding a post Gaila had shared about breast cancer awareness. Jim didn't use Facebook, but Gaila did, and she'd insisted on adding Bones, even after he said he barely used it (which was true). Bones tapped at his screen to give the post a 'like' because, well, cancer was awful. Pretty hard to argue with that.

He'd scrolled down a bit farther when a Facebook message from Gaila popped up:

Hi! :)

Much like Facebook itself, the messenger was an app that came already installed on the phone. Wincing slightly, Bones typed back:

Hi

Gaila replied:

I didn't think you used Facebook much

Bones made a face, fumbling for the keys on the stupid touch-screen keyboard:

I don't.

Then, because he probably should elaborate, he added:

Just now and then to kill time

Gaila replied:

Cool. :)

Then:

I was wondering if you'd like to hang out sometime this week

Then:

I've got a few days off and kinda bored. :P

Bones winced harder. Sighing, he replied:

I'd love to but I can't this week

It wasn't a lie, that he'd love to. Gaila was perhaps a little more exhausting than the average person, but she was still pleasant enough. And obviously wanted to be friends. He could always use a few more friends. Since he currently had about one. (That was pretty sad, wasn't it?)

Gaila's reply popped up:

Oh that's too bad

Then:

What about next week?

Bones grimaced as he typed back:

Next week doesn't work either. Sorry.

Reading over the messages, he wince yet again. It really looked like he was just brushing her off. Blowing out a breath, he typed another message:

I've got to go through a heat actually. Apparently suppressants are mildly toxic and build up in the body over time

Then:

So I have to take a break and that's what I'm doing.

Gaila replied:

:O

Then:

I had no idea!

Then:

Are you going to be okay?

Sighing, Bones rubbed at his forehead. He typed back:

Yeah. Got someone to help me

Gaila's response was almost immediate:

OMG did you find an alpha?!

Making a face, Bones replied:

It is an alpha

Then:

A friend.

Gaila responded:

Oooooh I see. ;)

Then:

A 'friend' you say. ;) lolololol

Then:

:P

Then:

Must be a good friend. ;) ;)

Then:

Well don't let me keep you from your friend! ;)

Rolling his eyes, Bones typed back:

Not quite in full heat yet

Gaila replied:

You mean you're in pre-heat?

Making a face, Bones typed back:

Yeah actually

Gaila responded:

Damn

Then:

Well I've never been in heat so idk what that's like. But take care of yourself

Then:

Or let the alpha take care of you I guess lol

Then:

Either way hope things go well :)

Smiling a little himself, Bones replied:

Thanks

Then:

You take care too

Closing both apps and flicking off the screen, Bones dropped the phone onto the middle of his chest and folded his hands just below it. He blew out a breath. Eventually, Jim would want him to eat lunch. Hell, Jim would want to eat lunch as well. Neither one of them would have time to eat properly once Bones' full heat hit, and Jim was right that making sure to eat plenty of healthy food beforehand made a lot of sense and would probably be helpful in the long run.

Bones grimaced slightly. He'd just—needed a bit of time to himself. That wasn't a terrible thing to ask for, was it? Sighing, Bones pushed himself up to sit and looked over at the open door again. He'd needed some time alone. That wasn't selfish. Sure, Jim might not need alone time as often (or ever?), but that didn't make it selfish for Bones to take some time for himself.

Different people were wired different ways, after all.

But the thing was...Bones had kinda already had his 'space', his 'alone time'. Maybe it hadn't lasted very long, but he was in—a very accelerated—pre-heat now, and it was normal and natural for him to seek the company of a familiar alpha.

And it wasn't like Jim would complain if Bones came looking for him.

He was about to get up and do just that when he smelled the sharp scent of an unfamiliar alpha. The sharp, interested, aroused, and 'hunting' scent. Heart suddenly beating far too fast, Bones' eyes darted around the yard, but there wasn't anything out of the ordinary—no one and nothing he could see, anyway. And it was very unlikely someone was lurking actually inside Jim's yard. (There was a fence, after all.) Still, Bones slowly, warily pulled himself to his feet.

Looking as many directions as possible as fast as possible, Bones took a step backwards towards the door. Then another.

His heart leapt into his throat and his eyes flew immediately to the spot when he heard a scuffing and a low growl from the other side of the fence.

It was like one of those dreams where he tried to run but was stuck in slow motion, where he tried to cry out for help but had no voice. His limbs were slow and heavy, his mouth and throat as dry and rough as a sidewalk in the middle of an August afternoon.

He heard a louder, more insistent growl just as his ankle collided with the lowest step in a painful thunk, because of course he'd been too busy panicking to keep track of his feet. He tried to scramble his way up onto the deck, managing to fall on his hip. A hand appeared, gripping the top of the fence. “Jim!” Bones called. He scrambled backwards until his shoulder blade collided with the rough stucco of the wall. “Jim!”

“Bones?” Jim's reassuring scent washed over Bones as the metallic screech of the screen door sliding open heralded his arrival. The other alpha hopped the fence, landing in a bit of a crouch. Jim's feet, bare and familiar, appeared on the deck next to Bones. Jim growled, low and angry as one protective hand found Bones' shoulder, the touch a shocking relief even through the soft material of Bones' t-shirt.

The strange alpha shoved a lock of greasy dull brown hair out of his face, sizing Jim up.

Jim,” Bones whined, grasping at his hand and wrist with his own trembling hands.

“I'm here, sweet one,” Jim murmured, grip tightening on Bones' shoulder. Turning to glare a challenge at the other alpha, he raised his voice and said, “I don't know who the fuck you are, but you made a bad mistake today.”

The other alpha looked from Jim to Bones and back. He rolled his shoulders. “Just thought someone might need some help.” He nodded to Bones. “Smelled 'im, you know? Lonely. Not good for an omega to be lonely when they're in that state.”

Jim's grip on Bones' shoulder tightened even further as he shifted his body more between Bones and the other alpha. Anger flared in his scent. “So you figured you'd just climb over a fence into someone's private backyard? That seemed like a reasonable course of action?”

Sniffing, the alpha shrugged his shoulders. “The way I see it, 's not 'reasonable' to leave your omega alone in the backyard when he's in heat. Dono if that was your idea or his, but either way you prob'ly should keep a tighter leash on 'im.”

Jim's nostrils flared. “What?”

Shifting his weight from one foot to the other, the other alpha pointed towards Bones. “If it was your idea to leave 'im out here, that's some sick kinda abuse, you know. Could report you to th' proper authorities.” His lips twisted with distaste. “I mean, look how scared he is.”

“Scared of you, ass-wipe,” Bones growled, managing to pull himself up to stand with his back pressed to the cold roughness of the stucco behind him. The sharp little bits poked at him as he trembled. Jim's hand was warm and sure and solid in Bones' grip.

Keeping his grip firm on Bones' hand, Jim moved to further shield him with his body while facing off with the other alpha. “This is what's going to happen,” Jim said, voice calm and hard. “You're going to get the hell out of my yard—preferably the same way you came in, so you spread your stink around as little as possible. You're going to stay away from my yard and my house. And you're going to think long and hard about the best course of action the next time you think of trying to 'help' someone.”

The other alpha glanced back at the fence and then turned to look at Jim and Bones again. “Well, that's what I get for trying to be neighbourly, isn't it?” He sniffed, rubbing at his nose. “No gratitude or common decency; that's what's wrong with the world today.”

Snarling, sharp and rough, Jim took a threatening step towards the other alpha (who was somewhat surprisingly smart enough to flinch backward). “You're going to leave now before I knock your teeth in.” The other alpha glanced furtively to the fence again as Jim continued, “You're going to leave, and you're going to stay far away from my omega. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yeah, okay.” The other alpha gave his jacket a bit of a twitch, shifting his weight from one foot to the other and finally taking a step towards the fence. “Don't hafta get all hostile. I think I get the picture here.” He wrinkled his nose. “But just so we're both clear...” he added, one hand on the top of the fence. He looked from Jim to Bones and back, sniffing. “If you don't take proper care of your omega, he'll eventually find someone else who will. That's friendly advice.”

Before Jim could do more than growl again, the other alpha finally heaved himself back over the fence and was gone. Gods, hopefully forever.

Bones sagged against the wall, trembling with renewed fervour. Little sparks of light burst into being in front of his eyes, even inside his eyelids. He couldn't keep a proper grip on Jim as his hands went limp and his whole arms threatened to fall off. But then Jim had him, swept off his feet as always, pressed against the healthy heat of his chest as he carried him inside the safety of the house. Bones let himself sink into the gentle sway of Jim's movement, the calming bubble of his scent. And then he was lying on Jim's bed, blinking up at him as Jim ran his hands over Bones' hair, face, neck, arms, legs. Jim made a helpless little sound in his throat, hands constantly moving as if he was worried Bones might fall to pieces without his touch. (Hell, at that moment he might have.)

Jim sought Bones' gaze. “What can I do? What do you need?”

Bones grimaced, brow furrowing as he considered the questions. “Thirsty,” he said finally. “Uh...wa—water.”

“Yeah.” Jim pressed a brief kiss to Bones' forehead. “Absolutely.” Keeping one hand on Bones, he dug under the bed and came back with a sport-top water bottle which he opened and offered to Bones. Jim had to hold it for Bones, as Bones' own hands weren't quite functioning yet. But Bones drank gratefully, washing the unpleasant tastes from his mouth and throat. “There,” Jim murmured, pressing a little closer to Bones' side and stroking his hair. “Just like that. Just like that, sweet one.”

Bones had managed to drink about half the bottle when he could make his hand into an approximation of a fist again. He met Jim's eyes, imploring. “I think...I left my phone outside.”

“Oh.” Jim shifted at his side, wincing slightly. “I think I left the door open.”

“Look, I...” Bones gave Jim's wrist a squeeze. “I'll be fine for a minute or two—um, best not to leave the phone out there.” He grimaced. “It could rain or something, and you paid good money for that phone.”

Jim pressed a kiss to Bones' cheek. “I'll grab it for you. I'll be right back.”

o0o

When Jim returned, Bones was curled into a ball with his knees against his chest and his back pressed against the headboard. He looked up, offering Jim a smile in welcome as Jim dropped Bones' phone on the bed next to him. Bones uncurled a bit to pick it up and turn it over in his hands. It wasn't visibly damaged. No cracks in the screen or anything. He must have just left it on the grass.

“More water,” Jim suggested, pushing the half-full bottle at Bones as he sat down. Setting his phone on the nightstand, Bones took the water and took a drink. “I...locked all the doors,” Jim admitted, rubbing at his forehead.

Nodding, Bones took another swallow of water. “That actually makes me feel a little better.”

Laughing softly and shaking his head, Jim curled his fingers around Bones' ankle and rubbed at his anklebone with his thumb. “Well, um, 'm glad I did it then.”

Nodding slowly, Bones turned the water bottle in his hands, tipping it back and forth and watching the water slosh this way and that. “I'm sorry,” he said finally. “The heat—it's coming on faster than I thought.”

Jim nodded as well, stroking his fingers over Bones' knee. “Yeah.”

Clenching his jaw, Bones shook his head unhappily. “I—shouldn't have gone outside.”

No.” Jim gripped Bones' knee. “You didn't do anything wrong.” He grimaced. “You needed space, you needed fresh air...you should be safe in the yard.”

“I was, though,” Bones replied, voice wavering a bit. The bottle crackled as he squeezed it with both hands. “Because of you.”

Shifting closer, Jim brushed a bit of hair off Bones' forehead and pressed a kiss to his temple. Letting his forehead rest against that temple, Jim let out a breath. “He might not have got close enough to touch you, but he scared you. He scared you badly. That's not acceptable.”

Snorting softly, Bones turned the bottle in his hands again. “I was scared as soon as I smelled him. Before I heard or saw anything.” He grimaced, tilting the bottle one way and the other. “It's—a heat thing, I guess. I mean, smelling alphas doesn't usually have that effect on me.” He made a face. “At all.”

“Well, he was a particularly bad alpha,” Jim reasoned. “Maybe they tend to smell worse.” Taking the water bottle, he held it to Bones' lips again. “Drink.”

Bones rolled his eyes just a bit but his lips curved into an indulgent smile and he took an obedient swallow of the water. Tipping sideways a bit, Bones leaned his weight against Jim and let out a relieved breath. He let his eyes fall shut. “Thank you.”

Jim ran his fingers through Bones' hair and kissed the top of his head. “Any time.”

o0o

“Bones,” Jim whispered, rubbing at his shoulder.

“What?” Bones grumbled, pressing his face further into the familiar heat of Jim's chest. He'd been dozing, and it had been nice. Safe and warm and everything okay.

“Hungry?” Jim asked, rubbing at Bones' bicep. “It's about lunch time.”

Grunting, Bones pulled back a bit, stretching his neck and shoulders. He made a face. “Yeah, I guess.” He had managed to eat what must have been two thirds of his breakfast, but it wouldn't be a bad idea to try to get in another decent meal. Or at least a few bites of something. He shivered a bit, rubbing at his too hot face.

“Need a sweater or something?” Jim asked.

Bones scrunched up his face. “'M too hot, though.”

“Yeah.” Stroking Bones' hair, Jim leaned in and pressed a kiss to his cheek. Bones shivered again at the contact. “C'mon,” Jim said, pulling away. Bones caught at his hand, holding tight. Jim flashed him a gentle grin, smelling amused. “You're coming with me.” He tugged at Bones' hand. “Food, remember?”

Since Jim really didn't seem to mind Bones clinging onto his hand, Bones didn't bother trying to make himself stop. He just padded after Jim into the kitchen only to flinch and curl into Jim's side once there. “Can you...close the curtains?” he asked, feeling sick and stupid all at once.

“Sure.” Jim did just that, and Bones let out a breath as he sank into a chair at the table and let Jim go about finding food for them. (Jim wasn't touching him at the moment, but Bones could still see and smell him. For the moment, that was enough.)

Perhaps paradoxically, the drawn curtains didn't make him feel like that alpha from before—or anyone else—was lurking hidden on the other side; the curtains just made him feel safer. Like no one could peek over or through the backyard fence and see him sitting there in Jim's kitchen. He rubbed unhappily at his arm as he watched Jim making sandwiches. It wasn't like it would be a problem, exactly, if anyone could peek in and see him. He wasn't naked. Or even shirtless for that matter. He just didn't particularly want anyone but Jim seeing him at the moment—seeing any part of him. Especially after that idiot fence-hopper from earlier. “Jim?”

“Yeah?” Jim turned to look at him.

Bones made a face, blew out a breath. “You know that guy was wrong, right?”

Jim's brows drew together. “About pretty much everything, yeah.”

Bones grimaced. “About you, specifically, I mean. You are taking...very good care of me. If you really were my alpha, I'd have nothing at all to complain about. And...” Biting the inside of his lip, he looked down at the table. “I'd be happy.” He scrunched up his face, twitching his shoulders in a bit of a shrug. “Just wanted to make sure you knew that.”

Jim set a plate down in front of him. “Glad to hear it.” He pressed a kiss to Bones' hair. “Eat up—I'm making you a salad too.”

Looking at the sandwich on his plate, Bones frowned. “Looks like there's already half a salad in this.” He looked up at Jim. “Is...how I smell right now making you even more eager to feed me?”

Taking a step back, Jim shrugged and spread his hands. “Um, probably? But taking care of you and keeping you healthy is my responsibility right now. I don't know that I need any extra hormonal encouragement.”

“Who'd've known that you could be responsible?” Bones teased, picking up half of the sandwich. He frowned a bit. “Is this a grilled chicken breast with guacamole?”

“Yep,” Jim confirmed as he went about making the promised salad. “There was some left over, and you know it goes bad really fast.”

“Right.” With a bit of a shrug, Bones bit into the sandwich only to groan quite audibly. Jim laughed, and Bones shot him an offended glare. “It's good!” He made a face, dropping his gaze to his plate. “Just take it as a compliment.”

“Oh, don't worry,” Jim said, leaning in to press a tender kiss to Bones' cheek. “I'm definitely taking that sound as a compliment.” He set two bowls of spinach salad and another plate with his own sandwich on the table and sat down next to Bones, shooting him a playful little grin. “Pretty sure I'd always take that sound as a compliment.”

Bones kicked him halfheartedly under the table and Jim laughed again, jostling Bones gently with his shoulder. Bones poked at his salad. “Pumpkin seeds,” he commented, “and feta cheese.”

“Healthy fats and protein,” Jim countered, taking a bite of his own salad.

“It actually looks really good,” Bones assured him. Taking a bite, he nodded as he chewed. “Tastes good too.”

“I'm a little disappointed it doesn't taste really good,” Jim teased.

“Yeah, well.” Shaking his head, Bones laughed. “Maybe nothing does when compared to this sandwich.” He took another bite, this time managing not to groan.

o0o

“How do you feel?” Jim asked, placing a steadying palm between Bones' shoulder blades after clearing away their dishes.

“Full,” Bones replied, offering him a scrap of a smile. Pressing his lips together, he made himself take stock. “Um...warm.” He wrinkled his nose, rubbing at his forearm. “Too warm. And, I mean, my head still hurts, but I think the food helped.” He twisted up his features. “You'd think, maybe, that I'd be horny, but I guess I'm not quite at that point yet?” Pushing his chair back, he stood up. “I dunno—I feel like curling up in a ball somewhere quiet, but I feel restless. I feel like my skin's too small.” He blew out a breath. “I feel like punching something.”

After a beat, Jim said, “Well, for the record, I wouldn't actually mind if you punched me.”

Bones shot him an annoyed look. Opening and closing his hands a bit at his sides, he shook his head. “I dunno, Jim. This is all so different. Last time my heat came on slow and gradual, but this time it's like I can't quite catch up.” Turning towards Jim, he let out a helpless breath. “I feel like I'm about to float away in a thousand pieces.” He rubbed a bit of Jim's t-shirt between his fingers. “I feel like a rock or a metal ball, toppling off the edge to sink into the depths and drown.”

“Hey, c'mere.” Jim pulled Bones tight against his chest, and Bones shuddered at just how much better that made him feel.

“Okay,” Bones admitted, lips catching a bit against the skin of Jim's neck. “This is helping.”

Jim smoothed his hands up and down Bones' back, letting out a pleased hum. “Guess I'm useful for more than just my knot,” Jim teased. “And my cooking.”

“Guess so,” Bones mumbled, fingers twisting in the hem of Jim's shirt.

“C'mon,” Jim said, gently moving the two of them down the hall. “I've got an idea.”

Bones snorted. “Is 'knotting' your idea?”

Jim clucked his tongue. “Nope, but it sure seems like your mind is going in that direction.”

“In heat,” Bones reminded him, sinking tiredly down to sit on the bed. Pressing his face into Jim's belly, he added, “And anyway, you know I'm in heat, so it would actually make sense. I guess.”

Jim made an agreeing sort of hum. He pushed just a little at Bones' shoulders. “Lie down.”

Rolling his eyes, Bones shifted until he was lying with his head on the pillows. “Could get the wrong idea here, Jim.”

Chuckling, Jim crawled onto the bed to loom over Bones and grin down at him. “Suppose you could.”

Bones let out a frustrated breath. “So what is your idea?”

“Well, you know how you said...you like being held down on your back?”

Bones scraped his teeth over his lower lip. “Yes?”

Jim lowered himself down on top of Bones. He tipped his head to one side with a soft sort of grin. “Thought it might help.” Lacing his fingers through Bones', he pressed the backs of Bones' hands into the mattress on either side of his head. He offered Bones a bit of a smile. “How's that?”

“Oh.” Bones swallowed, letting his eyes close. Jim's scent surrounded him with reassuring familiarity shot through with hints of alluring promise. Jim's weight pressed down on him, strong and solid and sure. Bones let out a soft breath. His body quieted and his mind followed. “That's—” He swallowed, opening his eyes to look up into Jim's. “Very good, Jim.” Affection bloomed in his chest and spread out through his body. “I feel...safe.”

“Yeah?” Jim offered him a gentle smile, smelling of hope and everything good.

“Yeah.” Bones let his eyelids flutter closed again, breath coming slow and relaxed. His head didn't even hurt. Jim kissed him, gentle and searching, pressing Bones' hands a little firmer into the mattress. Bones let out a helpless little noise as a warm gush of slick dampened the crotch of his pants. Desire simmered just under his skin, but without any urgency. He could stay in this moment forever: just Jim, over him, around him, protecting him. It was everything he wanted. He let out a slightly shaky breath. Because...this was what he wanted, and wanting it meant—it meant he'd feel the loss that much stronger when it was gone. And that was the thing: Bones' happiness was never meant to last. Tears welled in his eyes and his breath came in a rough, damp gasp.

“Sweet one?” Jim pulled back, gentle concern in his voice, his face, his scent. Because of course—Jim always cared so much.

But it was never enough, because Bones was just so godsdamned greedy. Body tensing, he swallowed roughly. It just wasn't fair. None of this was fair. It wasn't supposed to hurt. Jim didn't mean it to hurt. Bones clenched his teeth until they hurt too. “Don't call me that.”

Fresh confusion joined all the other mingled emotions in Jim's scent. “I thought you liked—”

“I don't,” Bones snapped, shoving at Jim. “Get the hell off me.”

Jim immediately pulled back to kneel on the bed looking lost. Bones shoved himself up to sit against the headboard with his knees pulled up to his chest. He shook his head, rubbed a shaky hand against his forehead. His heart beat several times in his ears, and then Jim said, “Bones?” Bones shook his head, gut twisting with sick misery. “Bones,” Jim said again, “what can I—?” He stopped just short of touching Bones—and gods, that hurt too. Bones let his head fall to rest against his drawn-up knees. The world was too big, too bright, too harsh. He focused on breathing, on not throwing up. (It would be such a terrible waste to throw up such good food.) Jim blew out a breath, sadness and bleak resignation tinging the edges of his scent. “Bones, what did I—what did I do?”

“Nothing,” Bones told him tiredly, tipping his head back against the wall and looking up at the ceiling. “You didn't do anything wrong.”

“Then what happened?” Jim asked, voice wavering and scent brittle in a way that meant he was trying his damnedest to keep it calm, to keep his distress in check.

“I just...realized something,” Bones said with a bitter laugh. “I've been lying to myself for so long, but I guess I can't anymore.” He pressed his lips together as a shudder of misery slid through his body.

“Bones,” Jim said, voice pleading. He shifted slightly, and Bones flinched. Sudden hurt welled in Jim's scent followed quickly by a wash of guilt.

“You don't...love me.” Bones' voice broke as the words spilled from his trembling lips. He clutched at his drawn-up knees, fingers twisting in the material of his sweatpants. Tears trailed hot and wet down his cheeks. “And I want you to. Gods, Jim.” He shook his head. “I—I want that so bad.”

Jim stared at him. “...what?”

Reaching out a shaky hand, Bones caught Jim's hand, squeezing his fingers with as much reassurance as he could muster. More tears leaked from his eyes. “It's not your fault, Jim. I don't blame you.” He swallowed, shaking his head. “I really don't. I'm in heat and I'm stupid and none of this was ever fair to you, but I don't blame you.” Swallowing again, he stared dully at their joined hands. “But please don't call me 'sweet one'. I know I liked it, but...I can't now. It's—it's supposed to mean something, and it doesn't. And I know it's not your fault that you don't love me.” He drew a ragged breath and let it out. “But it hurts—”

“But, Bones,” Jim said, shaking as he brought his other hand over to cover their joined ones. His scent flared with hope and desperation. “I do love you. I do.” Relief and wonder flooded Jim's scent, and tears glistened on his own cheeks. “I wasn't sure at first, but—Bones.” He gripped Bones' hand, strong and reassuring. “I'm about as sure as I've ever been about anything: I love you. So, so much.”

Bones stared at him, blinking wet eyes as things slid this way and that in his head. Jim loved him? It was all there in his scent, though, wasn't it? And in his eyes, in the trembling way he smiled. The shimmering of the tear-tracks on his face. “So it's—” Bones blinked a few more times, and about one third of a smile trembled its way onto his own face. “It's real? All of this—?” He made a vague circular gesture between them with his free hand. “—is real?”

“Yeah.” Jim laughed, soft and wondering. “It's real.” He pressed his lips together for a moment. “I've never—never felt this way before. It's scary.” He ducked his head, letting out a breath.

Slowly unfolding himself, Bones shifted away from the headboard to lean into Jim instead, slotting his face in under Jim's jaw. “'M sorry,” he murmured. “I didn't mean to scare you.”

Jim stroked slightly shaky hands over Bones' arms, back, hair. “'S not you I'm scared of, not really.” He let out a quiet laugh. “Anyway, it's not your fault.”

Bones wrapped one arm around Jim's middle, letting out a gentle breath against the warm skin of his throat. “I love you too.”

Tightening his arms around Bones, Jim pressed a kiss to the top of his head. “I'm so glad.”

Sliding his fingers under the hem of Jim's shirt, Bones stroked at his smooth skin. “Yeah?” Jim certainly smelled glad. Everything in his scent was shining and vibrant and wondrous.

“I—thought you wouldn't,” Jim admitted with a shaky breath.

“Dammit, Jim,” Bones grumbled halfheartedly. “I tried not to.”

Tipping Bones' chin up so he could look into his face, Jim pressed the tenderest of kisses to Bones' lips. “So did I.”