Fandom: Star Trek reboot
Summary: McCoy knew that he had issues, he didn’t have to mull them over every other second to make sure they were still there.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything related to Star Trek. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. The title is from Dylan Thomas' poem This Side of the Truth.
Note: One could almost call this a character study. And we all know, I'm better at characterisation than plotting anyway, so consequently it's awesome. ;)
McCoy wasn’t good at self-reflection. He knew that he had issues, he didn’t have to mull them over every other second to make sure they were still there. And he most certainly didn’t need therapy, even if his supervisor suggested this on the third day of the seminar. So he might have made a few comments about marriage being the beginning of the end and gambling away his money being preferable to shoving it down any woman’s throat but so what? They hadn’t accepted him for his social skills but his medical expertise and that was uncompromised. When he left the lecture hall, a familiar blond – now scrubbed and dressed in uniform – and his cocky smirk were waiting for him.
“Made some new friends, Bones?” he asked, grinning. McCoy didn’t twitch a muscle. He was strangely pleased to see Kirk again, the only other person who had arrived in civilian clothes – two mismatched strays in a sea of red potential. As far as McCoy was concerned, having a past meant having lived, for better or worse. He wasn’t old enough to spend his life in bars, feeling sorry for himself. Which was why he was here. He didn’t believe in wasting time and, apparently, neither did Jim Kirk.
“Let’s grab a bite,” McCoy said and that was that.
After two weeks at the academy, McCoy realized that, given the circumstances, Jim was the ideal friend. He was clever enough to know when there was something wrong and obnoxious enough to ignore McCoy’s death glares and joke about it. McCoy suspected that he had his own skeletons in the closet but he knew better than to pry. And Jim always had the decency to bring a couple of beers if he crashed McCoy’s study sessions for whatever reason he didn’t want to talk about. That worked for both of them – and his supervisor, who commended him for having found an apt therapist so quickly. McCoy was about to ask her if she had been dropped on the head as a baby but then realized that he had stopped telling everyone that the damn divorce was the only reason he was in Starfleet. He’d found some peace, even though he had never expected this peace to be quite so troubling and keen on mischief. A few months later he admitted to himself that, no matter the circumstances, Jim Kirk was the best friend he had ever had.
At first people were surprised by their friendship.
“Why are you hanging out with Kirk? I heard he stepped on the shuttle covered in blood. If you ask me, the guy’s a train wreck,” a fellow doctor said over lunch. McCoy, chewing and swallowing the bite of the indefinable meat they were being served that day and which would bring them all to an early grave, felt a surge of protective anger.
“So am I,” he replied in a voice that didn’t invite further discussion. People learnt quickly that McCoy might grumble a lot about Kirk’s ego being unbelievable and him being as stubborn as a mule, but that badmouthing him was McCoy’s prerogative. Although he made an exception for Uhura, who had prior rights. And Jim wasn’t half as bad as his reputation. He no longer got into bar fights and he had dropped the binge drinking, too. McCoy knew that he was studying whenever his roommate was away and nobody was looking. Jim was one of the most single-minded people he had ever come across and he had no doubt that he would achieve his goal of becoming an officer in three years instead of four.
What he learnt from Jim was how not to be snowed under with work. Jim dragged him out of his comfort zone. He was the master of living in the moment and acing all his classes along the way. It was Jim who persuaded him to go on a date with that pretty little thing in their astrophysics class.
She was eight years his junior but that hadn’t stopped her from flirting with him for weeks. Sarah had spiky, strawberry blond hair, bright green eyes and a bottom lip that simply begged to be sucked on. McCoy was flattered to see her flush with excitement when he eventually asked her out. Sarah was smart and had a wicked sense of humor and he liked spending time with her. He liked fucking her even more because, God, it had been too long. Her firm little breasts felt good in his hands and she moaned his name just so when she came. But contrary to Jim, she wasn’t content with living in the here and now, she wanted to know about his past, his parents, his ex wife, his daughter.
McCoy clamped his mouth shut and scowled in silence, when she tried to needle things out of him. How could she know that the last memories he had of his father were of a weak and bedridden man begging him, his son and doctor, for release? How could she ever fathom the amount of pain and guilt he had felt, was still feeling, about having a cure in his hands weeks later – only too late, too fucking late for his dad? And why would she want to know what it felt like when love and adoration turned into indifference, then hate? Or how it was to regret all the missed chances and not being able to watch his daughter grow up, something he should and could have done more when they were still living under the same roof. McCoy had been a family man and a country doctor once – a man as stable as they come – but now he was as rootless as Jim Kirk, who had arrived at Starfleet Academy with nothing but the clothes he was wearing. Sometimes thinking of his losses made his mouth taste like ashes, made him feel like a failure, but more and more often, he found himself breathing freely for the first time in years. What would Sarah say to that?
So McCoy didn’t talk and Sarah stopped asking. Then she stopped calling. He found that he was relieved and henceforth followed Jim’s advise to leave immediately the morning after instead of staying for breakfast. That usually worked better with men than women but McCoy wasn’t picky, though he went to great lengths not to get a reputation, hooking up with people outside his work field.
At the end of their first year, McCoy asked Jim what the T stood for.
Jim only said, “It’s the name my father didn’t want me to have.” McCoy dropped the topic at once but that night he sat down and read all there was to know about George Kirk and the day he died. The day Jim was born. Of course McCoy had noticed the whispers, the pitiful and curious glances from instructors and fellow cadets alike, but he would be damned if he badgered Jim about it. It wasn’t important, it was all in the past. Yet, the following night, when Jim came by his room at an ungodly hour with a six-pack in one hand and pizza in the other, McCoy felt a familiar though unexpected warmth spreading in his chest.
Jim started talking when he had reached a mellow, conversational state. “I don’t know why I never told you. It’s just. I don’t know,” he said.
“It shouldn’t matter but it does,” McCoy suggested because he knew the feeling well.
“Yeah. He’s my dad but he’s also a stranger. And, well, everyone here seems to know about him as much as I do, so I didn’t want you to join the club.” Jim said, laughing darkly, and took another swig of beer.
“Bullshit.” McCoy reached out, stilling his hand on the downward move. “Bullshit,” he said again. Jim, well-versed in their code language, nodded and smiled and it was another moment until he pulled his hand away.
They sat in easy silence until Jim exhaled audibly and said lightly, “Hey, Bones, have I ever told you about how I stole and crashed my stepdad’s vintage car?”
They didn’t get drunk that night, which usually helped McCoy fall into dreamless sleep – a damn luxury – but he was lulled in by Jim’s quirky anecdotes and he slept better than he had in years, waking to Jim limp and heavy against him and drooling onto his shoulder.
It was one of those lazy, comfortable nights that led to more than lively discussions and mellow amusement. It was a weekend and they had left the restraints of the city, as they sometimes did. McCoy liked being away from people and he liked nature because it didn’t talk back. He didn’t really know how Jim felt about it, perhaps he just humored him. Because this was also part of who Jim was. He was constantly pushing the limits – his own, of decorum and especially McCoy’s patience – but he often went out of his way to please a friend. Or, well, McCoy.
It was a cloudy night and there were no stars in sight, yet Jim’s gaze had been on the sky for at least twenty minutes and he was talking about exploring new worlds and pushing limits that weren’t his own, weren’t earthbound. McCoy was awed. He could be a leader if necessity required it and he hated not being in charge when it came to medicine but, other than that, he had always felt attracted to people who were larger than life, who burnt and sizzled, inspiring loyalty and the extraordinary merely by being themselves. People like Jim Kirk. He liked listening to Jim rambling and fantasizing about his future and knew without question that he would follow him wherever he led. Their elbows bumped as Jim moved to underline a point. Every now and then McCoy interrupted his mental leaps with common sense, which made Jim even more passionate, and then he laughed and the beer they had brought was cool and rich and there was still enough to keep them going for hours.
McCoy’s mood was bordering on cheerful when Jim turned his head, giving him this intense stare he got when he was about to do something stupid or courageous or both, and before McCoy could even form the question in his mind, Jim was kissing him. His lips were firm and warm, reassuring yet enticing. McCoy thought yes and this and realized that, no, he wasn’t surprised. There had been innuendo and tension between them from day one, it was only now that McCoy recognized it for what it was. He felt Jim’s hand on his arm and his tongue parting his lips and, damn, all he could do was go with it. Jim made a pleased sound in the back of his throat and McCoy felt it as much as heard it, and wanted.
They didn’t do more than kissing that night. When McCoy pulled away and laid down, Jim followed suit. They lay so close, their legs were touching. The smell of grass and herbs filled McCoy’s nose and made him homesick. Through half-lidded eyes he looked up in sky, feeling a little dazed from the beer and Jim going even crazier than usual, the skin around his mouth burning from Jim’s stubble - a reminder that this had been real.
“Why now?” he asked after a while.
Jim’s voice was throaty when he replied, “It felt like the right time.”
And, yes. Yes, it did.
McCoy came to look forward to these moments of, well, intimacy. He suspected that this wasn’t about sex for Jim, either. Sex could be many things: a distraction, fun, a dare, a reward, oblivion. Sex they could and did have with other people, strangers and loose acquaintances. People who flitted in and out of their lives and didn’t have expectations and demands that went beyond getting off. Not that sex with Jim wasn’t great, mind-blowing even. Jim pushed McCoy’s sexual limits like he did everything else, and McCoy went with it eagerly, enjoying the discovery of what confines he could do without. But the look in Jim’s eyes when he slid into McCoy – burying himself as deeply as possible, trying to get closer and closer still – reminded him of something, spoke of other things, things McCoy didn’t dare look too closely into, but wanted and craved nonetheless. Jim was neither clingy nor needy but he was affectionate and as long as McCoy had known him he had been touchy-feely. So he didn’t question what was his, had apparently long been his, when Jim stayed overnight, breathing against his neck, one arm draped possessively over McCoy. McCoy was good at taking care of people, he just wasn’t good at taking care of himself. Jim was.
Karen was, too. She was one of the nurses and McCoy dated her for nearly three months in his second year. It just happened. She was one of those motherly types, though with her elfish figure she didn’t look the part and she was edgy and sharp and enough unlike Jocelyn to be interesting. It was nice while it lasted but then Karen told him that she had a little son and – well, great that she mentioned it after all – McCoy wasn’t ready for that sort of commitment. He sure as hell wasn’t going to play dad for another man’s child while his own daughter was growing up without a father. He had to face the joint disapproval of all female staff until Karen put a stop to it, telling everyone that at least he’d been honest while she hadn’t been. Jim never liked her, though he only let it on after the breakup. McCoy wouldn’t have minded if they had continued like before but Jim had made excuses while he was seeing Karen. He took note of that, though he wasn’t sure what to make of it.
McCoy never had to play the reluctant yet supportive friend when it came to relationships. Contrary to popular opinion, Jim wasn’t a crazy sex fiend and most of his flirty talk was just that, talk. Yet it would be a lie to say that he didn’t know how to enjoy himself. Maybe, McCoy thought to himself while watching Jim chat up a first year, maybe he had never learnt to trust women; the abandoned boy craving female attention but unable to go further, to believe that their affection would last. As far as McCoy knew, Jim’s mother had been absent for most of his childhood and since their arrival at Starfleet Academy she hadn’t left a single message. So Jim fled whenever a declaration of love was uttered or someone spoke of commitment, a constant in his otherwise erratic personality.
“It’s weird, Bones. She doesn’t even know me,” Jim told him once, sincere confusion written all over his face.
“Give her some credit. You dated for two weeks, so she could at least hazard a guess,” McCoy replied dryly. Apparently the girl hadn’t known him well enough to see that, his usual bravado and cocky attitude notwithstanding, Jim had glaringly obvious commitment issues. But, honestly, who hadn’t? McCoy felt that this was something Jim dealt with just fine and besides, it wasn’t his job to fix him. He was a doctor, not a counselor.
That didn’t stop others from making assumptions. After that training accident in the water tank, for which Jim wasn’t to blame – hell, he saved Cadet Williams – McCoy was ordered into Captain Pike’s office. He hadn’t even known that Pike was back on earth and actually had an office, but didn’t make the connection until Pike waved him over to take a seat in a functional chair in his functional and neat office – no workplace but the office of a man who didn’t spend much time in it – and said, “Doctor McCoy. I asked you here unofficially to speak with you about Cadet Kirk.”
“What about Jim?” McCoy asked, automatically in the defensive. He had covered for Jim too many times to be surprised.
Pike leant against his desk, noticeably avoiding the comfortable-looking chair behind it. “I have high hopes for James Kirk. I’ve been following his career ever since I met and recruited him. Did he ever tell you? When I interrupted a four-on-one brawl with Kirk in the middle, I couldn’t quite believe my eyes. At the time, he was busy bleeding and feeling sorry for himself, masking it as youthful rebellion. Look at him now. Top of his class, charismatic, focused. Well, most of the time.”
“Why aren’t you having this talk with his mother? In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not,” McCoy said, already anticipating where this was going.
Pike smiled. “I can see why you’re friends.”
McCoy leant forward, elbows propped on his thighs. “This is about us being friends?”
“In a way, yes. Starfleet needs people like James Kirk. Impulsive, ready to take risks, self-sufficient, resourceful. But Starfleet also needs people like you. I’ve read your record. You’re older than most recruits and you graduated from med school years ago, which makes you a fully qualified and, from what I hear, first-rate doctor. As I see it, you could find work anywhere, yet you’re here, doing classes which you could be teaching, doing work for which you are overqualified. On top of that, you’re partaking in a number of extracurricular programs and studies.”
“So.” Pike smiled again. “I’d venture a guess that you’re doing this because you know that only the best have a say when it comes to their assignments. My next guess is that you’d follow Kirk wherever he goes, even if that meant working in an unsatisfying position.”
McCoy bristled. “You’re overestimating my loyalty and underestimating my ambition. Moreover, you don’t know Jim at all if you think he’d settle for ordinary. He doesn’t do second-rate and neither do I.”
“I knew him when he settled for less than ordinary.” Pike looked unruffled. “This is why I asked you here. Let’s call it a favor. Look out for him, keep him out of trouble. Despite his qualities or maybe because of them, the biggest obstacle in his way is Jim Kirk.”
McCoy narrowed his eyes. “And what’s in it for me?” he asked quietly.
“Extracurricular activities only get you so far. Connections up the chain of command are worth having.”
“I understand,” McCoy said. “But I’m afraid that there isn’t a goddamn thing I can do for you. Seems like you miscalculated, Captain.”
Pike didn’t seem to be put out. In fact, he looked rather pleased. A test. McCoy’s throat was dry and scratchy as he swallowed his anger. He didn’t like being measured and weighed. This was politics and he didn’t want to have anything to do with that, not yet anyway.
“So did I pass?” he asked testily.
“It was necessary. And yes,” Pike replied, unperturbed. McCoy liked him better for the lack of apologies and excuses.
“If that is all, I’d like to get back to work. The extracurricular programs and studies, you understand, sir,” McCoy said sourly.
He was at the door when Pike said, “Whoever it is you’re going to serve as CMO will be lucky to have you.”
“Careful, Captain. It might turn out to be you,” McCoy retorted and let the door fall shut behind him. He didn’t tell Jim. It was, however, reassuring to know that they weren’t completely on their own.
Later that day, when he was sucking Jim’s cock, slowly and luxuriously, McCoy felt his mind drift; he couldn’t help wondering why Pike had thought it necessary to talk to him at all. Having Jim’s back was something that came naturally by now.
“Yes, just like that,” Jim groaned and moved his hips restlessly, drawing McCoy’s attention back into the here and now. He flattened his tongue and sucked harder, drinking in the little noises and groans he knew so well by now and didn’t want to do without, and ground his hips into the mattress.
There was no reason to doubt his loyalty when he smuggled Jim on board the Enterprise but he was pretty damn sure that Pike had had something else in mind when he had asked him to look out for Jim. There would have been consequences for McCoy if things had turned out differently, even though he hadn’t been the only officer who had smuggled someone dear to him aboard the ship. (Of course, the other case was graciously overlooked. There seemed to be a different set of rules for green-blooded hobgoblins.) As it were, they flew into a battlefield and Starfleet had to cope with bigger problems than a doctor who abused his privileges. So had McCoy, who found himself promoted in the face of space being plenty dangerous, dark and silent. He wished he could swallow his words, since he didn’t do poetry very well and they now seemed to come back to bite him in the ass. God, sometimes he hated being right.
But when he stood silently by and let Spock maroon Jim without even so much as a mild attempt at deflection, he got the sneaking suspicion that Pike was a better judge of character than he had given him credit for. McCoy wasn’t proud of himself, in fact, he felt like a traitor. Yet he knew that he had done the right, the proper thing, and he soothed his conscience by not sedating Jim. No matter where and how he was, Jim was a survivor and he still had a chance. To do what he couldn’t say until he rushed back to the bridge, knowing that Jim had somehow managed to beam on board while they were moving at warp speed.
He considered it his punishment that he couldn’t see Jim off the way he wanted, the way Uhura did Spock, only with the added threat to break every fucking bone in his body if he dared to get himself killed. The plan was preposterous and foolhardy, and he was sure he had seen the last of his best friend, when Scotty beamed them up, Jim steadying Pike, a goddamn idiotic hero, no less.
“Jim,” he called and found that he could finally breathe again.
In the end, Jim got his promotion and the Enterprise and McCoy got to choose the ship on which he wanted to work. All was well, except it wasn’t. McCoy knew when he fucked up. He remembered the mere glimpse of hurt and betrayal he had seen in Jim’s eyes before he turned away, and he didn’t care to see it again.
Their last night on earth, he swallowed his pride and said, “I’m sorry, Jim.”
Jim tilted his head, eyes red-rimmed and tired from celebrating being the youngest Captain in history for two nights straight and actually being Captain during the day. “For what?”
“For not jumping after you without a chute,” McCoy clarified in their very own language of evasion and circumvention.
“I’d never ask you to,” Jim said, his jaw working.
“Did Sulu?” McCoy countered brusquely.
“Bones, you’ve gotta be kidding me. You’re not really beating yourself up over some bullshit that’s already water under the bridge, are you? We all survived, that’s all that matters,” Jim said, all gracious Captain.
“Is that so? Water under the bridge, yeah? How come you knew exactly what I was talking about then?”
“Because I know you. It’s just the thing you’d dwell on.”
“One of us should. You should,” McCoy insisted.
“Is this your idea of a bro code?” Jim asked, aiming for light-hearted deflection, a favorite technique of his he had perfected over the years.
“Jim, just…accept my apology, alright? It won’t happen again.” McCoy looked away, his head thumping dully. He should catch some sleep, they both should. After packing up his belongings and sending them off to the Enterprise, Jim had come over to McCoy’s room. Out of habit, he supposed.
“I know it won’t,” Jim said quietly. Right. That was that.
McCoy exhaled and said, “I’m going to bed. You should try to get some sleep yourself. You look like death warmed up.”
“You would know, doctor.” Jim was lounging on the bed that had been empty since Nero’s attack on Vulcan. McCoy couldn’t stand the sight, a constant reminder of how many lives had been wasted for nothing, and he was glad to leave, to move into his own quarters. His mind being overwrought and occupied, it took him a minute until he felt Jim’s eyes on him. “Say, Bones. Mind if I stay?”
McCoy stirred, surprised. “No. ‘course not.”
It was the first night they shared a bed without fucking earlier.
It felt nice.
They all settled into their new lives easily. It was good to know that there was a place where he belonged, where people needed and respected him, a place he could call home, even if it was a goddamn deathtrap. McCoy hadn’t even known that he had missed that. At Starfleet Academy he had been one among many, overworked and undervalued. Now he was Chief Medical Officer and, yeah, it felt good to be in charge again. The first week he spent getting settled, doing inventories and getting acquainted with his medical staff. But two weeks into their mission, McCoy found that he spent more time on the bridge than strictly necessary, though he told himself that this was because someone needed to keep an eye on Jim. He wasn’t exactly surprised by the transformation his best friend had undergone, but rather in awe. He was Captain Kirk now. The crew felt it, too, and even Uhura looked at Starfleet’s golden boy with growing respect.
But the balance was off at first. Wherever Jim went, Spock went, too, now. McCoy watched them and he didn’t like the feeling he inevitably had whenever he saw Spock loosening up, making what he considered a joke, or Jim clapping him on the back for a job well done. Their understanding and respect for each other was evident and McCoy was…well, he was too busy to come to the bridge for a few days, until Jim came to his quarters and told him that he was too old to be acting the boy. Chastised, yet relieved, McCoy found that, apparently, sometimes he wasn’t. McCoy was thirty-one and remembered thinking, as a child, that grown-ups had all the answers and knew what they were doing. In times like these, he wanted to go back in time and slap some goddamn sense into his younger self.
It was two months into their mission that Jim stayed the night. They had both been busy and distracted by other things and McCoy had hardly noticed how much he missed having him in his bed. Of course he hadn’t dwelt on it, seeing that he had no idea if Jim wanted to keep up this part of their friendship, now that he was captaining a star ship. It wouldn’t have mattered, yet he was, well, pleased when he opened the door to see Jim standing there with that indecent look he got whenever he was horny. He had fucked other men since they had started doing this, had even had a boyfriend in third year (one he had gotten rid of pretty quickly when he had noticed that Jim wasn’t keen on being the other guy), but, strangely enough, this was the thing that lasted, this was what he could rely on. Could still rely on. There were boundaries and rules to their unspoken arrangement and McCoy suspected that Jim wasn’t even aware that he himself had set up quite a few of them, despite himself. None of them was bothersome and McCoy didn’t like to question things that were working just fine. So he enjoyed Jim pressing wet, messy kisses into his skin, hooked a leg up and arched up under his hands, letting himself fall.
Their fifth assignment was memorable because it was McCoy’s first. It was strictly diplomatic and safe, which was why Jim insisted on him being part of the away team. Admittedly, McCoy could do with a change of scenery; even he had noticed that he had become increasingly grumpy and ill-tempered over the last week. The crew was healthy as a horse and one could do inventories only so often without antagonizing the med staff. McCoy was known to be grumpy, not crazy.
The planet they beamed down to consisted mostly of water and its inhabitants were exiles. The K’Athra had fled religious persecution on their home planet 250 years ago. Their old enemies, living on the adjacent planet, had never quite stopped feeling superior in every way and now threatened their existence by planning to extract huge amounts of water that would destroy the natural resources of the colony. Both planets were thinly populated, technologically little advanced, and the Federation was insistent that the matter should be settled diplomatically. Unsurprisingly, the youngest Captain in the history of Starfleet was eager to prove himself at the negotiating table.
The welcome was hearty and while Jim and Spock were discussing the terms of the meeting, McCoy found himself drawn into a discussion with one of the K’Athrarian healers. She showed him around and McCoy was fascinated by the underwater architecture of the K’Athra. His medical curiosity was aroused when he discovered that they had developed a primitive form of telepathy – a peculiar adaptation to their exile, caused by continuous exposure to radiation on the planet.
“Jim, can you imagine? 250 years and they already evolved. I reckon it’s a recessive gene inherent in the K’Athra and K’Andur alike. And now the K’Athra are on their way of becoming a new species,” McCoy reported excitedly after the ceremonial banquet in their honor. They had half an hour before the serious part of their mission would begin and McCoy had seized the opportunity to show Jim the greenhouses, which were like nothing he had seen before and the architectonical pride of the exiles.
“See, I told you, you were going to enjoy yourself. By the way, their hospitality is legendary. I was offered two virgins before dessert, a boy and a girl and both wearing nothing but some sort of algae. You should have seen Spock’s face.”
“What?” McCoy was indignant. “You would have shared, wouldn’t you?”
Jim laughed. “I knew you were only in this for the spoils.”
“I told you from the start, there had better be incentives. Just think of it, Jim, mind sex.”
“Point. But we both know you’re easy,” Jim said, grinning. His communicator chimed and he flipped it open, still grinning. “Kirk here.”
“Captain, we are prepared to begin the peace negotiations. The K’Andurian party has arrived,” Spock’s voice sounded.
“We’re on our way. Kirk out.”
Unfortunately, neither party was as keen on settling matters as Jim. The K’Andur were proud and pious and refused to sit down at the table with those blasphemers before their demands were met.
“We will not recognize your mediating presence as long as you favor the K’Athra,” the leader of the K’Andurian delegation announced.
“They invited us here. We are their guests. But if it furthers the negotiations and you’re willing to host a Federation party, I’d be happy to send--”
“We demand the thing that is dearest to you, Captain Kirk.”
“Captain. Doctor.” Spock made a few formal sounding apologies and gestured them aside. “I doubt that handing over the Federation flagship was what the Council conceived of when they sent us here.”
“Strangely enough, I agree. This has the whiff of blackmail,” McCoy said grimly. “On the other hand, they won’t openly cross the Federation.”
“Granted, Captain, logic tells me that we would not have been entrusted with this mission if the situation required conventional means or, as you would call it, ‘playing by the book’.”
“We should at least consider it. Jim?”
Jim’s look was calculating and fixed on the sole K’Athra, a servant or slave, in the K’Andurian delegation. He was standing obediently by, watching the negotiations. Every now and then, the leader’s eyes flickered and he inclined his head to his servant.
“Excuse us, Spock. Bones, a word,” Jim said, voice tight. They moved a few steps aside until they were out of earshot.
“Jim, I understand that you’re practically married to your ship but our technology is far superior to theirs. We can beam aboard at any time and the ship is fully manned and ready to engage. Besides, they’re dependent on the goodwill of the Federation and--”
“It’s not the Enterprise,” his Captain cut him off.
“The thing that’s dearest to me. It isn’t the Enterprise.”
McCoy huffed. “So much ado about nothing, eh? Then why are we whispering over here and not putting Spock out of his misery? He’s as much in love with the ship as you are, he just doesn’t drool when he’s gushing about her.”
“Bones,” Jim said with something akin to fond exasperation. “Stop bitching and think. Because I’d really rather not spell it out. It’s not the Enterprise they want.” And then he looked at him pointedly. And looked.
And finally the penny dropped and McCoy couldn’t think of a single thing to say, not one.
Silence. It was as if he was watching himself from the outside, an attached spectator who found it curious that Leonard McCoy’s tongue seemed swollen, too heavy to form words, and noted matter-of-factly that his palms were sweaty and adrenaline pumped through his body. Maybe he was going to be sick, maybe the radiation had more drastic effects on--, and then he remembered the K’Athrarian architecture, the beauty of it and the sweet smile on the healer’s face and suddenly he was himself again. A sly glance up, but Jim was inspecting his boots.
He really had to say something, so eventually McCoy cleared his throat. “I trust that you do plan on succeeding here?”
Right. He didn’t think that Jim had even considered the possibility of failing. “Well, that settles it then. I’m sure they know the meaning of hospitality. Contrary to the last species we encountered they at least appear to wear clothes.”
“Too bad when you think of it,” Jim quipped. If it hadn’t been for his voice breaking almost imperceptibly, McCoy wouldn’t have known that he was affected, relieved.
The things he did for Jim. God, he hated the transporter room.
Nobody but Spock knew what it meant when Scotty beamed McCoy and four crew members down to the neighboring planet. And luckily, Spock wasn’t the gossiping kind.
In the end, Jim had to knock some sense into the K’Andur. Literally. Apart from a few bruises and cuts, no one came to harm and the mission was declared a success.
After treating the bruises and cuts – because of course it was Jim who acquired them – McCoy didn’t see his Captain for four days. He had been too occupied with this own thoughts (or rather not thinking those thoughts) to notice that Jim was avoiding him, something that was nearly unprecedented (the only exception being that one time when Jim caught crabs and didn’t want to tell McCoy that he had managed to get infected with an extinct parasite). McCoy knew he had to man up.
That night he waited for Jim in his quarters.
“Jesus,” Jim yelped as he switched on the light and spotted McCoy. “What the hell, man?”
“I thought we were good,” McCoy said. “Took me a few days to notice that we’re not. So here I am, ready to unfuck the situation.” He took up the bottle of bourbon he had brought with him from where it stood beside the couch and waved it in silent salute.
“Yeah, so am I. Mostly of your bullshit. Now get over here and sit down.”
Jim rolled his eyes but obliged and kicked off his boots on the way over to McCoy. With a sigh he dropped down beside him and took the tumbler without comment. McCoy poured them generous shots. They toasted and drank in silence.
“Jim,” McCoy said after a while. When Jim looked up, he just stared back, one eyebrow raised in question.
“I didn’t want you to know, is all.”
“I get that. But it’s not as if I don’t know a whole lot of things about you I wasn’t supposed to know.”
Jim huffed. “Yeah, yeah.” He emptied his glass, grimacing. “But I don’t want things to change. I like what we have.”
“So do I. What’s your point?”
“My point is that you’re going to overthink this. And then you’re going to freak out on me,” Jim snapped.
McCoy was taken aback. “Jim--”
“Really, Bones, you should have seen your face.”
“Dammit, Jim. It was unexpected.”
Jim smiled wistfully. “But it shouldn’t have been.”
And no, it shouldn’t have. McCoy thought back to their first meeting, remembered the cocky bastard with the bruised face who tried to calm him down and only managed to earn himself a curtain lecture on alien diseases and freak accidents. He thought of their years at the academy and all the shit they’d been through since. It was easy to take good things for granted and McCoy had already made that mistake once.
“No,” he admitted gruffly. “But I’m not the genius, you are. And I’m not freaking out. See? I am calm.” Well, maybe not so calm.
“Would be a first. You don’t even stop bitching in your sleep,” Jim said, his mouth twitching.
“It’s your positive influence. You grow on people. Like tinea pedis.”
When Jim smiled this time, it was a genuine smile that reached his eyes. “Is that your way of saying that you like me back?” He reached over and patted McCoy’s leg. “Aw. I’m touched, Bones.”
“Strangely enough, you’re not the worst thing that happened to me.”
“Are we talking about the healing powers of my cock?” Jim asked offhandedly. McCoy barked out a laugh. “Man, I can count the times you laughed out loud. I think I just earned myself a rim job from my CMO.”
“Ah, I see. You’re under the misconception that this is a booty call,” McCoy said, still smiling, but before Jim could say another word, he reached over and pulled him close with a hand firmly on the nape of his neck. There was a second where McCoy just looked at him, close-up. Then he pressed their mouths together, thinking yes and finally. They did much better without words.
That Jim had a dirty mouth was common knowledge but that it was soft and pliable wasn’t as well known, at least not among his crew. And he was nothing if not enthusiastic. Only seconds later, McCoy found himself flat on his back, with Jim straddling him and kissing him greedily. McCoy had kissed this damnably pretty mouth too many times to count, had teased and licked and bitten, had stifled moans by sucking on it, had bruised it, had tasted sleep and ale and medication, had felt those pink, full lips against his ear, whispering profanities, had had them wrapped around his cock, had had his wicked tongue in decidedly unhygienic places, had seen this mouth laughing and mocking, drawn tight with rage and relaxed and drooling. Yet he still felt as though there were new depths to explore, like there was more to it, like he could show Jim what it all meant if he could just – yes, just so. Jim made a strangled noise and ground his hips down against his thigh.
McCoy wasn’t good at self-reflection but he knew a good thing when he had it and he damn well planned on keeping it. So when his mouth went dry from making out with Jim for God knew how long like a teenager, McCoy flipped them over and made short work of Jim’s clothes. The gold shirt was the first to go and then there was Jim, in all his glory, naked but for his briefs.
“Bones?” he asked, sprawling shamelessly and wanton, as McCoy traced a line down his body with his right hand. McCoy leant down for just another touching of the lip, hardly more than a breath, then turned Jim matter-of-factly onto his stomach and dragged his underpants down. Jim squirmed and made noises of protestation until he felt McCoy’s breath against his lower back.
“Just following orders, Jim. Now, hold still.”
Their first voyage lasted six months. It was a test run to see if crew and ship were compatible, seeing that most of them were brand new at space travel. Back on earth, McCoy was very vocal about his feelings.
“God, Jim, that’s real soil we’re standing on. Firm ground. And you can get around without using the damn elevator or transporter room. We’re just in time for Christmas, too. I didn’t expect to ever say this but I even missed this horrible, never-ceasing wind.” He breathed deeply and let the stiff breeze sweep through his hair.
They had landed five hours ago and Jim had already handed in his reports and been in a meeting. And now they were on their way to a welcome home party, which meant a long night and too many drinks. After six months of being basically on duty 24/7, they had earned this.
“Yeah, it’s nice to be back,” replied Jim. McCoy blamed the lack of enthusiasm on exhaustion. They were all tired and in need of a break, most of all Jim.
“Come on, it’s gonna be fun,” McCoy said and threw an arm around Jim’s shoulder.
And it was fun. It was nice to spend time with old friends he hadn’t seen in half a year and people he couldn’t escape for six months but who finally let their guards down and smiled and chatted freely. Uhura and Spock left early, doubtlessly to enjoy a little privacy. Jim was entertaining a small audience, quite evidently flourishing under the attention he got. McCoy left his side to chat with an engineer with the nicest pair of breasts he had seen in months. Her high-pitched laugh was a little annoying but McCoy didn’t plan on making her laugh, he wanted to make her moan. She brushed their hands together as he brought her a new drink and smiled at him with fluttering eyelashes. Damn, it had been a while. When she asked him to come back to her room around midnight, he threw a quick glance in Jim’s direction and found him deep in conversation with a young, disheveled-looking cadet. His hands were occupied, too. Not a waste of a night for either of them. McCoy grinned, caught Jim’s attention from the door and left with Janice.
In the morning his head hurt like a bitch. He disentangled himself from Janice’s limp body and sneaked out at first light. After another three hours sleep in the empty little apartment he was renting to have a place to stay, he got dressed, opted against breakfast and made his way over to the hospital. It was Christmas Eve and the streets were deserted. On days like these, he usually felt morose but he was too glad to be back on earth to indulge these feelings. Despite the mother of all headaches that was still fighting it out with the meds he had taken. There was hardly a soul inside the hospital and after handing in his reports and supply charts, he went back to his place and called his mother. She looked older than he remembered and he felt a twinge of guilt at how happy she sounded to hear from him. After his father’s death, their relationship had been strained, for which he had mostly himself to blame.
“Why don’t you come home, Leonard?” she asked quietly, already anticipating his answer. He almost couldn’t bear to look at her. Besides, he would be leaving soon, what good would it do?
“I’m busy, mom. We just arrived and I have to file all these reports and go to a few meetings,” he lied easily. “We’re preparing another mission already, a longer one, and I need to stay in contact with the nurses, my captain and the engineers. You know what it’s like.”
“Yes,” she said, seeing through his lies just as easily. “But I won’t complain, you look happier than you have in years. Merry Christmas, dear.”
“Give my love to Joanna when you see her,” he said, his throat suddenly tight. “Merry Christmas.” The screen went black and McCoy exhaled heavily.
There was a knock on the door. Just in time. Moments later, Jim sauntered in, giving him a calculating look.
“Don’t tell me that chick from last night wasn’t a good lay. She looked hot.”
“No, it was good. The headache today not so much,” McCoy replied. “I didn’t expect you to get up before four or five. Are you feeling all right?”
“The Enterprise will go on a one-year mission in February. Do I have to look for another CMO, Bones?”
McCoy stared at Jim, dumbfounded. This was the last thing he’d have expected. “What?”
Jim started pacing. “Yeah, sorry to spring that on you but…I don’t know. You hate space ships. You don’t particularly like space, either. You’ve been practically capering with joy since the moment we landed, so it’s a legitimate query, wouldn’t you say?”
McCoy gaped at him. “No, not really.”
“No, I never even thought of it.”
Jim stopped, eying him skeptically. “Really?”
McCoy felt his stomach churn. He should have eaten something. “Do you want me to resign?”
“What? No! God, no. I just don’t want you to be a miserable bastard for the next twelve months just because you feel obligated to me in any way.”
“That’s funny, my mother just told me I looked surprisingly happy.”
Jim frowned. “You talked to your mother? Fuck, it’s Christmas, of course you did. I’m sorry, man.”
“For what?” McCoy shrugged. “She didn’t like that I’m not coming home for the holidays but she wasn’t surprised. Already told her that I was going to leave earth again soon.”
Suddenly, Jim was beside him, a hand on his shoulder. “Bones, I know that I usually only have to worry if you stop bitching but I have to be sure. It’s not going to be a joyride.”
“And I’m all for joy, as you know,” McCoy remarked wryly.
Jim almost smiled. “Look--”
McCoy cut him off by closing his mouth over Jim’s. He kissed him confidently, in a way that comes from habit. He felt Jim relax into the kiss and pulled him closer, reveling in the feel of hard angles pressed against him and the smell of the annoyingly insistent aftershave Jim used.
McCoy wasn’t good at self-reflection. He knew that he had issues, he didn’t have to mull them over every other second to make sure they were still there. But he wasn’t completely thick. He did notice when some of them were gone.
“I’m doing what I want to do,” McCoy said when he drew back. “I am where I want to be. End of discussion.”
Jim rolled his eyes but couldn’t fight the brilliant smile that was lighting up his face, which somehow, strangely, reminded McCoy of home. “You’re not going to try this when we’re on duty, I hope. Bad for crew morale.”
“Don’t be absurd. That’s what hyposprays are for.”
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