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Fic: Topeka, Kirk/McCoy

Title: Topeka
Author: caitri
Rating: PG/R (Language, mild sexual content)
Pairings: Kirk/McCoy
Word count: 7,827
Summary: Sequel of sorts to Captain’s Log: Fathers and Sons. Leonard McCoy doesn’t think about a lot of things, most of all Jim Kirk.
Disclaimer: I know this may come as a shock, but I am not, amazing as it may seem, Gene Roddenberry, J.J. Abrams, Paramount or Bad Robot. Just so you know.



Gratuitous author’s note: When I wrote Captain’s Log: Fathers and Sons lo many moons ago I was still an old school Trekker. Almost a year later, I am a total Kirk/Bones ‘shipper. Huzzah for Nu!Fandom! At any rate, there are some minor changes between Jim’s account of events and Bones’s. Assume that it’s because Kirk is writing in his journal from his point of view with an eye to history and what he wants people to know about him, and that this is Bones’s unedited point of view in his own head.

I found God in a catalytic converter in Topeka on Monday night.
Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future, so you know what keeps me hangin’ around.
No, you can’t keep a good man down.

- Ludo, “Topeka”


Topeka


Leonard McCoy shifts in the uncomfortable hotel chair. His tailbone is killing him, and why haven’t these damn conference organizers ever heard of ergonomics? He is half-listening to a panel on xenobiology and skeletal constructions, which should have something to do with the arrangement of hotel furniture, one would think, but no, apparently not. The present speaker is Denobulan, the second of four speakers, and it’s only the second of a four hour presentation, God help them all. He is not encouraged when he realizes that the third paper is pretty identical to six others he’s already heard in the past two days.

It’s that kind of research forum. The kind that makes researchers hate conferences and papers and panels and—everything really. God help him, too.

He reabsorbs himself in his PaDD, outlining notes for his next article. He’s thinking about doing some work on Vulcan physiology—only two non-Vulcans have really done much work in that area: the redoubtable Professor Phlox and a young hotshot called M’Benga. He pointedly ignores the mailbox icon in the left corner of the screen of his PaDD. Over the last two years, Leonard has gotten awfully good about not thinking about some things. He also has a preternatural suspicion that the message is from Jocelyn, and that it’s unkind. So he doesn’t click the icon, doesn’t know that Joc has had enough and that she and JoJo are going to Grandma Darnell’s for the long weekend after his return home. He doesn’t know these things and he is miserable anyway.

The talk ends an the audience shifts dramatically as junior medical researchers spring to make the acquaintance of noted professors in the crowd, jostling each other to present effusive admirations, exchange greetings, or make not-so-subtle job inquiries. Thus the nature of academic medicine.

No one approaches Leonard McCoy. Questions about his research will go directly to his inbox. Ditto invitations and requests for letters of recommendation. The only people willing to face him in person are his actual patients (he really does have a good bedside manner when he chooses to actually practice it), his nurses (he only yells at the incompetent—and lets be honest, incompetent nurses deserve to be yelled at), and administrators (just because they pay him and let him make them look good doesn’t mean they have to be intimidated—even when they are).

He heads directly back to the hotel bar. He’s nursing a bourbon when someone asks for him.

“Leonard McCoy?”

He doesn’t look up. He doesn’t want to know. The voice is young, younger than him—and Leonard is among the youngest attendees at this damn conference. Apparently ambition, brilliance, and ruthless determination to succeed? Lead you to being bored out of your mind in a hotel inTopeka fucking Kansas.

“Leonard McCoy? Sir?” The voice again.

“Hmm?” He is focusing now. He’s just too damn tired to pay attention to chit-chat. The kid talking to him is dressed in the hotel’s uniform of grey and burgundy.

“You have a comm, sir. On the hotel system. It’s, uh, it’s your wife.” The boy looks more than slightly frightened to be informing him of this.

Leonard knows without knowing exactly what this is about. And he gives the kid a generous tip and goes to his room to take the message.

Jocelyn’s face on the vidscreen is damn near unreadable. Leonard remembers when he could interpret every nuance of her normally expressive face, with its high cheekbones, laugh lines, dimples… His wife is an exuberant woman who glows with joy in life, or at least she used to. She hasn’t lit up from within for a long damn time, and he knows it’s because of him, and that he’s powerless to change that. God knows he’s tried, too.

“Leonard,” she says, then stops. Her expression is suddenly stark and broken, and he feels sick inside that he caused this. With visible effort she pulls herself together, and the blank look returns.

“Jocelyn,” he says back.

They say nothing and that’s exactly the problem, isn’t it? What kind of married couple is separated for weeks at a time and has absolutely nothing to say to one another?

“So,” she says, “I’m leaving.”

“Oh,” he says. Something thick and heavy begins to build in his throat. Hot and heavy and unpleasant.

“Yeah,” she says back.

They are quiet again. Leonard feels like his heart should be breaking, but he already knows it’s been broken so long now that there’s really no way it could be broken more. It’s a cold thing living in his chest, as functional and unfeeling as a hobgoblin’s.

“You should know this too,” Joc says, “I’m applying for full custody of Joanna.”

Oh. He can hurt more. Does. He burns with it.

Leonard doesn’t know what he says, then. He really doesn’t. Some men make promises and break them, some men lie or stall for time. Leonard doesn’t. His daughter is the one thing he loves above all else, and he knows that Joc is doing this specifically to punish him for—being a bad husband? Working too hard? Not being home enough? For no longer being in love with her? He doesn’t know.

So hell, he barely knows what he’s saying even as he says it. It’s the pain of broken hopes and shattered dreams and lost love and all that maudlin crap that fuels his anger at two people who have drifted apart and somehow become two completely different people without even trying. And he’s tired and he had the bourbon and Jocelyn is recording this and will use his tirade in the courtroom, and it will seal the case against him.

Southern women are fierce tacticians. Leonard even knew that, too. Dammit.

Leonard spends most of the next year on the road. The conference circuit. It’s funny how much time can be spent traveling when you’re in medical research. You’d think most of the time would be spent in labs at the hospital, but nope, it’s on the road, or at least it is if no one else volunteers to travel because hell, they have spouses and kids and want the weekends to spend with them, and he doesn’t have any of these things, not anymore.

He’s moving, constantly. This city, that hotel, this lab. Admin did the same thing when Dad died, too. Leonard’s an excellent doctor and surgeon but he’s emotionally compromised right now, and who wants an emotional doctor with a scalpel in one hand and a hypo in the other? No one, that’s who. But put him on stage before his peers, him with his cool drawl and his ability to hold an audience (and Leonard is a damn good speaker), keep his mind on his work and off his little girl he can only see once a year with supervision, and he can keep it together.

This is what he tells himself when he doesn’t feel wetness on his face at night and doesn’t feel the emptiness of his hotel room and doesn’t hear the people who don’t call him.

He’s in Topeka at the train station.

Leonard always takes the train. He loves trains, he collected them when he was a boy, built them in his room and set them on their tracks in neat, clean curves and lines. He loves the sound of them at night in the mountins of Georgia, the echoes of heavy metal on trestles and the way the earth echoes the rumbling underfoot. He’s at the train station in Topeka when he sees a Starfleet recruitment poster.

It’s an old one, outdated by more than a few years.

It’s got Winona Kirk on it.

Everyone knows who Winona Kirk is. She’s the poster-woman for the Kelvin Widows, one of Starfleet’s best and brightest. She’s old enough to be Leonard’s mother, and even he still thinks she’s a damn gorgeous woman. And the poster has a quote on it. In small print, but there:

“Starfleet helped me live when I only wanted to die.”

(It’s dramatic, but the Kirk story is a dramatic one. So.) There’s more, a lot more, an essay really, it’s that kind of poster, and the prose is elegiac and graceful enough that Leonard thinks Kirk must be either some misplaced poet or Starfleet has one hell of a ghost writer in their PR department, some Federation wordsmith with a hard-on for glory, or what the fuck ever.

Leonard doesn’t go to the Fall Forum on Artificial Organ Transplants. He goes to the nearest Starfleet enlistment office. He walks out three hours later with an ID chit and two tickets, one to Riverside, Iowa, and one to San Francisco, California. He comms the hospital and sends in his resignation, and then he calls a few colleagues and arranges for someone to take his place on the conference panel. He doesn’t bother calling home or anything. He has his life in his carry-all anyhow.

He takes a train to Riverside and stares at the window the whole time. He looks at the way the light falls all golden on the fields outside, and knows himself to be a creature of earth heading into space. He wonders how the hell he’s going to survive, out there in the black. How his baby girl will do without her father around—His stomach heaves suddenly at that thought, and he goes to the bar car—yes, the bar car, because it’s that kind of train, and he doesn’t think anymore.

~

He comes to himself much, much later. The light is different, that’s the first thing he’s really aware of. The next is that his mouth feels foul and he realizes that he’s thrown up an unholy mix of booze and bile all over a Starfleet regulation shuttlecraft. And that there’s a kid at his side, watching him with his head half-cocked to the side like he’s measuring him somehow, and Leonard realizes the guy’s holding his battered carry-all in one hand. The bag is old and worn; Leonard’s Dad gave it to him when he went to college at seventeen and it has a little plate with his initals on it, LHM, and he does not let just anyone hold his stuff, and what’s with this guy anyhow? He feels like he should know him somehow.

“Are you okay, Bones?” the kid asks. Leonard nods. He doesn’t want to know why this guy calls him that.

“Yeah,” he says. Coughing. “Yeah.”

“Uh huh.” The kid looks dubious but willing to go along with what he says. He claps Leonard on the back and keeps his hand there, guiding him to a building nearby that has a cluster of men and women in Cadet reds lining up for processing of some kind. Inside the building it is quiet and cool; Starfleet keeps their recruits orderly.

Names are called out as each person is called to small offices in a different area for—whatever they are doing. The kid stays by Leonard, solicitously fetching him little plastic cups of water and somehow obtaining a packet of salty crackers that calm his jangled nerves and the acidic revolt of his digestive tract. Once people disappear into the back they don’t reappear, presumably shuffled out of a different exit to—whatever’s next.

After a while only the two of them are left, sitting on the thinly-padded waiting benches. A couple of hours have passed and he still has no idea who the guy chatting nonstop about—nothing important, really, but his voice is calming somehow—and he just keeps talking and Leonard has no idea who he is or why he’s hanging around like a puppy following him home.

A tall man in a black uniform walks by holding a PADD, and he looks up and sees the two of them: the chatty guy bright like a star despite his stained clothes and bruises, and Leonard wrung out like yesterday’s wet laundry. The man smiles at the kid. “Made a friend already,” he says without stopping. The kid’s mouth quirks and he flushes slightly. He turns to Leonard with a half-shrug like, “How about that, huh?”

“Kirk?”

The kid pops up at the administrator’s call. “Here we go, Bones,” he says cheerfully. “See you later!” He disappears with a woman in a black skant who scowls at the dried blood on his shirt that he wears like it’s normal to walk around black and blue, like he enjoys it. Like they are marks of a rite of passage of some kind, a rebirth maybe.

Leonard has no clue where the hell that thought comes from, either. He generally doesn’t wax all poetic over men who look like golden Apollos.

Oh Jesus fucking Christ.

“McCoy?”

Leonard walks out two hours later with a dorm assignment, a class schedule, and a uniform. He is pointedly not disappointed that he doesn’t see the kid anywhere at all, like he somehow expected him to keep him hanging around for Leonard like—He stops that line of thought. Better to just not think. Full stop. Instead of thinking, he finds his dorm and his room and he takes the longest shower of his life.

It turns out the next day that the newest class of Starfleet Academy first years is absolutely aflame with speculation about one Cadet James T. Kirk.

“Did you see him on the shuttle?” one kid asks during breakfast at the mess hall. “What’s that about?”

“He’s an asshat,” says a gorgeous girl called Uhura.

“He has a cute ass,” says an Orion girl. Half the men at the table grimace in envy.

“He’s suicidal,” says a beefy guy with a big purple mark on his face. “Normal people don’t try fighting superior—“

“Shut up,” says another big guy, who also has a bruise on his cheek.

The Orion girl giggles.

“He won’t last a day here,” says someone else.

The conversation continues in that vein at length. Leonard doesn’t contribute a word, but he wonders how one guy could have engendered that much ill will out of one shuttle flight. Then he decides he doesn’t want to know. He has a feeling that there is something at work and he doesn’t know what it is.

But he’s not surprised to see Kirk that evening, still there. He’s looking around the mess hall at the dozens of full tables. No one acknowledges him; their backs are all turned. With a fixed expression of good nature he takes a seat by himself at an empty table. He doesn’t see Leonard, who is already moving towards him like a compass needle finding North.

Leonard puts his tray down, slipping into the chair across from Kirk. “I had no idea I was befriending a felon,” he says.

“I’m not a felon,” says Kirk, says it cool like he’s stating a fact. From any other man those words would be defensive, even angry, but with him they aren’t. He’s watching Leonard carefully though, like’s not sure how he expects the other man to react.

“I’ve heard killer and assasin, too,” Leonard says truthfully. “I heard that the Andorians wanted to pay you to take out Ambassador Sarek of Vulcan but your price was too high.”

Kirk’s eyes flash a brighter blue, and he knows now that Leonard is sitting with him as a statement on its own. “The Andorians tried to pay me with their ale. I only accept Saurian brandy in trade.”

“Do you take Bourbon?”

“I’ll consider it under advisement,” Kirk says. They laugh, first quietly and then louder, near hysterically. Leonard does not notice the dozen heads that turn to look at them in astonishment.

Kirk’s face transforms completely when he laughs, he notices. Leonard doesn’t think about why he notices that, nor about how Kirk’s eyes remind him of spring skies in Georgia. He definitely doesn’t notice how golden the dark hairs dusting Kirk’s wrists are, doesn’t take in the clean lines of his body, of legs, shoulders, spine. He doesn’t think about them at all, doesn’t wonder what it would be like to kiss that mouth or feel that body leap beneath his in ecstasy.

He also doesn’t think about how the two of them are together constantly. He doesn’t think about how easy it is for them to slip into the habit of meeting for meals together every day, of setting up study sessions or expeditions to the nearby watering holes. Leonard doesn’t think about how he can’t remember being with someone this much and not arguing or not talking. He doesn’t think about how something he didn’t realize was frozen inside him has started to thaw. He doesn’t. Not one bit.

Other people see things though. “Is Kirk yours?” the Orion girl, Gaila, asks him one day after Basic Warp Theory class. Jim, damn him, is somehow not only in Advanced Warp Theory, but acing it without ever cracking the textbook.

“Mine?” Leonard says blankly.

Gaila nods. “You know. Dating? Or whatever?” Her forehead is wrinkling in thought, like she’s trying to remember the proper labels for quaint human sexual customs.

“No, we’re just friends,” he says with something that is not regret.

“So you won’t mind if I—“ And she makes a strangely innocent gesture that nonetheless suddenly transfixes two thirds of the male cadets in the room.

“No, I don’t,” Leonard says firmly. “And your hormone supressant is wearing off. Come on.”

He ushers her to Medical, glaring daggers at any male who approaches them (and a few women), all of whom turn away immediately, eyes averted. Once inside, he locates the appropriate drugs, fills the hypo, and she sighs in relief when the effects of the Orion pheromones suddenly dissipate. He relaxes too; he hadn’t even been aware that they were affecting him.

“Thanks,” Gaila says, eyeing him. “You handled that unusually well for a human.”

“I’m a Southern gentleman,” he says. “We pride ourselves on our control.” He offers her a small, self-deprecating smile.

“You’re cute,” she says. Her interest is clearly piqued.

“I’m old and cranky,” he corrects. “Now go find Jim before I find him a hormone suppresant!”

She laughs and kisses his cheek. “Thank you, Leonard,” she says. She pauses before leaving, though. “Just so you know, Jim really likes you. If you ever feel like doing something about it.”

Leonard doesn’t think about that. Definitely not.

~

Months pass and it’s time for the holiday furlough. “Where are we going, Bones?” Jim asks the week before Christmas.

“Back home,” he answers. He doesn’t ask about Jim’s first person plural. Maybe he’s a royal in a life that doesn’t involve a crushing course load?

“Toccoa, right?” asks Jim.

“Yeah.” Leonard is surprised that Jim knows that, and tries to remember when he told Jim about his hometown. “Wednesday night.”

“Right. I’ll have to let Gary know we’re not coming to his party that night then. Have you gotten train tickets or shuttle tickets?”

“Shuttle,” he says. Leonard buys Jim’s ticket when the other man disappears into the shower. He sighs in relief when he’s able to book their tickets so their seats are together. He wishes Jim had let him know he was planning on coming. But he’s relieved that it won’t be him facing his family alone, and he isn’t surprised at that. He doesn’t question Jim’s expectation of coming along. Not at all.

The trip to Georgia is in two legs. Jim has the window seat and he talks the whole time about—Leonard isn’t sure what. Leonard holds onto a PADD full of the latest issues of medical journals, which he doesn’t read throughout the flight. They land in a tiny airfield and rent a car. Jim drives while Leonard navigates the handful of miles to the McCoy house just outside of town, up in the hills by Currahee.

“This is as bad as San Francisco, Bones!” Jim gripes as they go up a particularly steep incline.

“It’s the Appalachians, what d’you expect?” Leonard says.

When they get to the house, he recognizes Jocelyn’s car in the driveway, right next to his Mom’s. Jim parks the car and shuts off the ignition. The car, the mountain is silent. Jim’s eyes are watchful when he turns to Leonard.

“It’ll be fine, Bones,” he says. “Don’t worry.”

Leonard exhales. “Yeah,” he says, and gets out of the car. They grab their bags from the back and walk up the steps to the front door of the old house. It’s two stories, over two hundred years old and looking it for the first time, he thinks. Dad had kept it in such good shape in so long, too. Leonard knocks before entering, Jim following politely.

“Mom, we’re here,” he calls out. He can hear the sounds of people in the interior of the house and follows them. He leads Jim past the rooms of antique furniture, the portraits of family members both living and dead in the hallway, the carefully mounted old rifles Dad collected.

“Did any of those kill Hatfields?” Jim asks.

“Wrong McCoys, Jim,” Leonard says. That’s when he sees them. They are in the living room that holds Mom’s best furniture and Grandma’s piano. Joanna is playing on the floor with Leonard’s old train set, absorbed in her own world while Mom talks to Jocelyn and, to his surprise, Clay Treadway. Joc and Clay are holding hands, and there’s a fat, sparkling diamond sitting on her ring finger.

“Daddy!” Joanna cries gleefully when she sees him, and she’s in his arms in seconds. She smells like baby shampoo and apple juice. Unshed tears burn in his eyes.

“Love you, baby girl,” he whispers in her hair. Her embrace is tight, baby steel covered in pink clothing. He is aware of Jim greeting the others and making small talk.

“I can’t believe Leonard actually flew here,” Mom is saying. The surprise in her voice is unfeigned.

“Leonard is just full of surprises, isn’t he,” Jocelyn says. Her words are innocuous but her gaze is sharp as a blade. She looks at Jim suspiciously. Leonard can’t think why.

JoJo is wriggling and he sets her down. His daughter has talked to Jim on comms plenty of times. She hugs Jim’s legs excitedly in greeting. “Uncle Jim! Uncle Jim! Lookit what I’ve got—it’s Daddy’s train!”

“I see that,” Jim says. “Wanna show me how it works?”

“Yeah!” JoJo grabs Jim’s hand firmly and leads him to her play area, firmly instructing him all the while. She sounds damn authoritative for a six year old, and Jim is suitably attentive, as he should be. With him gone, Leonard is left to the mercy of three adults. Such as it is.

“Let’s talk in the kitchen,” says Jocelyn. She shows her teeth when she smiles, lupine.

“I’ll stay with Joanna,” Clay volunteers, and goes to sit on the floor next to JoJo and Jim.

“Okay, but you have to be quiet,” Joanna says firmly to Treadway. Her tone brooks no argument. “Uncle Jim’s gonna teach me how to build a warp engine and then we’re gonna go on adventures. You can come if you behave, but only if, so there!”

“Okay,” Clay says, taken aback at her determination.

Jim gives the other man a bright, shit-eating grin, before winking at Leonard. “I’ve got things, Bones,” he says. “Don’t worry.”

Leonard and the two women go to the kitchen. The little room is hot, with food cooking in both compartments of the old-style oven and four covered pots are hissing with heat on the stove. More dishes sit covered on the kitchen counter. Leonard sits on a stool by that counter, his accustomed place, and the smells of everything fill him with the memories of twenty-nine yearly holiday feasts. His stomach clenches with hunger at the mouthwatering scents of his Mom’s cooking. He smiles at her and she smiles back.

Then just as suddenly he is nauseous and fretful. The wafting scent of sweet potatoes is particularly redolent of butter and browned sugar carmelizing into heavy gleaming syrup. The sweetness of it is painful. With difficulty, he swallows back the bile building in his throat. “Congratulations, Joc,” he says at last.

“Thank you, Leonard,” she answers. “Now do kindly explain who the hell that strange man in there sitting with my daughter is.”

“Our daughter,” he corrects automatically. “That’s Jim. I’ve told you about him.”

“Yes, you told me about him,” Jocelyn says. “You told me he goes to the Academy with you. That’s all I know!”

“Now, now, honey,” says Mom. “Have some more grits.” She sets a large bowl in front of Leonard’s ex-wife, a large yellow pat of butter melting into greasy golden pools along the valleys of the mound of white crushed corn.

“Sure, die of a heart attack,” Leonard grumbles darkly.

“Fuck you, Leonard!” Jocelyn slams her spoon on the table with enough force to make the old wooden furniture shake audibly.

“Leonard, what a thing to say!” Mom says at the same time.

“It’s nothing personal,” Jim says, appearing in the doorway suddenly. His movements are slow, at ease. “Trust me, he does it to me all the time!” He beams at the women, before taking a chair and moving it to sit by Leonard.

“What else does he do to you?” Joc asks cattily.

Jim smiles slowly, and on anyone else that look would just be a smile, but on him it is suggestive of tangled sheets and limbs and oh God, why is Leonard thinking things like that right now?

“JoJo is such a great kid,” Jim continues blithely, ignoring Jocelyn. “You must be proud of her.”

“I am,” says Jocelyn. “I just prefer to know who’s in the room with my daughter.”

“Clay is,” Jim says. Duh, is added silently.

“Our daughter,” Leonard says again. “You keep forgetting that part. Ours. You and me. We made her. Remember that?”

Jocelyn is silent, eyes narrowed as she stares at them. Then her expression becomes slack with astonishment that is unfeigned. “Oh my God,” she says. “You’re dating.”

“It had to happen sometime,” says Jim.

“Why does everyone always say that?” Leonard wonders out loud. His head is pounding with the nausea and the tension and something unwinds in him. His frustration. “I’m not dating. We’re not dating. Dating is not happening here!” He doesn’t—he can’t look at Jim.

“No dating. Got it,” says Jocelyn. “Right.”

“Grits,” says Mom, bowls appearing before him and Jim with the suddenness of a stroke.
Leonard is out of his seat and out the door before he’s conscious of even moving.

~

He’s aware of Jim following him. Jim doesn’t say a word. Leonard drives. He drives them to the next county over, where the nearest bar is. (Some things about Georgia have not and never will change, and one of them is liquor laws.) Leonard doesn’t say a word, not even to order a drink when they get inside the bar.

Jim orders instead. “Two bourbons, straight up,” he says. He looks at Leonard closely.

Turning back to the bartender he says, “Might want to keep them coming.” He slams some credits on the bar, and leads Leonard to an out of the way table near a window. (Georgia bars always have windows. Part of it’s the heat and part of it’s the satisfaction of the way they break when there are brawls.)

Leonard starts talking after his third shot. It begins with what a bitch Jocelyn is, then how nice she used to be, how much he loved her, how scared he was when she got pregnant and how he tried to do the right thing when he married her. How great it was at first and then how bad it got, then how it got even worse when Dad died.

How the truth is how he’s the one that killed his Dad, who was sick and dying and wanted the pain to stop and he wanted Leonard to be the one that stopped it for him, because he was so damn proud of his son the Doctor who healed people, his son who God put the knowledge of healing in his hands and heart. How the only person who knows how Dad really died is Joc and how it disgusted her, made her sick, and how he can never ever tell his Mom and that’s why he avoids home as much as possible.

He talks and talks and at some point he realizes Jim has stopped giving him booze and is giving him water instead, and how the pain in his head is from all the crying because those are honest to God tears on his face now. He realizes this and stops talking.

Leonard Horatio McCoy is absolutely fucking terrified like he’s never been in his life because of what James Tiberius Kirk must be thinking right now. Because he didn’t know until now exactly how important Jim’s opinion of him was to him, and how much he wants Jim to still be his friend, to still like him, to still have breakfast and lunch and dinner with him everyday and study with him and go out and—

Jim says nothing. He just looks out the window. His face changes after a moment, and Leonard knows that this is it, Jim hates him now and their friendship will be over and he’ll never ever have a chance at anything and—

“Take George back from what?” Jim asks incredulously.

Leonard stares at him, then looks out the window. It takes him a minute to locate the small faded sign, half lost in kudzu. Take Georgia Back! it reads.

“Fuck knows,” says Leonard, and Jim laughs, and he knows now that Jim loves him and will always love him, and what a fucking miracle that is.

~

If this were a novel, this is where the two of them would fall into bed together. Right then and there. Well, not in the bar, obviously, but somewhere, a bedroom some place. But this is real life, and the two of them are instead just flushed with this new awareness between them. Significant looks, close body proximity, altered gravity that brings them into constant orbit of one another like satellites. The burning sensation that travels from the tips of nerve endings straight to the heart when fingers meet, shoulders brush in passing.

Leonard feels like he is fifteen years old again and hopes like hell it doesn’t show.

Christmas day leads to a long weekend. They play football with JoJo, and go to church on Sunday. Mom gives Jim a brilliant blue sweater and he wears it, and dear God but it makes his eyes glow like sapphires, Leonard thinks. Jim loves the gift, wears it all the rest of the trip (and in San Francisco he will wear it til its threadbare), and Leonard has to refrain from touching the softness of the plush cotton it is woven with. And Jocelyn and Clay visit every day, Joc keeping her distance, and the men make stilted small talk about how the Dawgs are doing this year.

Jim is eager to ingratiate himself with Leonard’s family. He helps with the dishes every night, runs errands for Mom, volunteers to move heavy objects when needed. Everyone silently approves of a relationship that doesn’t actually exist—yet.

Leonard sleeps in his old bedroom and Jim is in the guest room. He wonders each night if Jim will come to his room, slip in silent as a snake, slip in beside him. He thinks each time he hears a bump There’s Jim! Exultant. But no, it’s just the old house settling itself to sleep at night.

Sunday night they fly back to San Francisco, and their hands touch throught the ride. Leonard doesn’t complain about the flight, he’s somnolent with the pleasure of Jim’s company, heavy with it.

It’s ridiculous.

~

Know what else is ridiculous? Two years pass and it’s no more between them than that. Leonard is confused, confused as hell. Jim makes no move. And he goes out with women, and sometimes men too. Jesus, a whole string of them—Carol Marcus, Janice Lester, and intermittently, Gaila.

“He’s waiting for you to say something, idiot!” Gaila tells him one day when they happen to meet at the library’s coffeeshop.

“Say what?” Leonard asks.

“Exactly!” Gaila rolls her eyes, irritated.

Later that night Jim stops by his dorm room. No, he doesn’t stop by, he charges in, upset. “Do you know what happened tonight?” he demands.

Leonard is on the couch with six PADDs before him, because there’s a Xenophysiology exam tomorrow after the Kobayashi Maru and some people do have to study because they aren’t Jim Effortless Eidetic Memory Kirk, for crying out loud. Jim doesn’t wait for Leonard to respond, he continues, “Gaila said she loves me. Can you believe that?!”

Leonard’s guts turn to ice. He says nothing, just stares at the golden, brilliant, idiotic man before him. Of course Gaila loves him. Half the Academy is in love with him. (The other half wants to kill him, but that’s something else again. No one polarizes opinion quite like Jim does.) Minutes pass and the room is quiet between them.

“Well.” Jim is staring at him, unreadable. “Isn’t it the weirdest thing you’ve ever heard?”

Leonard struggles to keep his voice even. “Plenty of people tell each other they love each other every day, you damn fool,” he says at last.

Jim has an expectant, hopeful look now.

Leonard has no idea what to say. He doesn’t. Honestly. He doesn’t.

Jim’s hopeful look fades, is replaced by disappointment. “Yeah,” Jim says. “Yeah. I get it. Bye, Bones.” And he’s gone as quick as he came.

Leonard wonders if the whole thing was in his imagination. A dream, even.

But Jim ignores him the next day. And Jim can be obnoxious, but he’s snotty as hell during the Kobayashi Maru. He annoys Uhura even more than he usually does, he barely acknowledges Leonard outside of the necessary orders, and never mind Leonard is there taking this damn thing for the third time too. The only one to do so besides Jim.

And damned if Jim doesn’t beat it. He would, wouldn’t he?

The third-years throw a pub crawl in Jim’s honor that night in celebration. Kirk receives his tribute shots one by one. He says nothing to Leonard, who finally leaves him to his dissolution around midnight. Jim doesn’t say bye.

There’s a special assembly called the next day. Leonard sits next to Jim. Kirk’s mood is better this morning, almost normal. He smiles at Leonard in greeting, and then they are called to order and Admiral Komack speaks.

Leonard holds his breath in places during that assembly—honest to God holds it in and lets it out in nervous bursts in spots. This isn’t usual, not one bit, and when Spock and Jim face off, Leonard gets what Starfleet is doing. He figures it’s all for show though—pranks like this aren’t that unusual, not with this many pilots and geniuses in one place. Thrill-seekers all. Jim even deserves a little of this, he figures. That ego if his borders on hubris sometimes.

Even if, no doubt, the story of this Kobayashi Maru will become legend one day. And no doubt it will.

But this Spock is merciless in his analysis of Jim. His manipulation. Leonard inhales sharply when George Kirk’s name is mentioned. He can only see Jim’s back, but that stiffening of the spine, the bend of the head, the questionmark of a stance: Leonard’s fists clench. End this now, he thinks. Get it over with!

And then: A distress call from Vulcan, an emergency request for aid.

Leonard knows he is going to be assigned to the Enterprise, but when Jim’s name isn’t called… He listens to the officer’s response. Watches Jim, who is disappointed, restrained. Tarnished.

No.

He’s not really thinking after that. He goes back for Jim, who’s lost as a puppy, a plan forming even as his hands are already moving. His fingers have a life of their own, assembling drugs, putting the hypospray together, dosing Jim. Half-carrying him to the shuttle, to sickbay, to the medical bed.

And after that? It’s one crisis after another in brutal secession. Jim’s mad flight through the ship, Pike’s answer, the unholy carnage around them—He refuses to think of the danger Pike puts Jim in, instead focusing on the rotation of personnel and seeing to the wounded, the dying, the dead. Damaged crewman after damaged crewman, and good God he knows these people, he’s seen all of them at one time or another, and now he’s seen the entrails of too many of them. Is this what he signed up for?

The Vulcan refugees. Adults and children both are muted in psychic horror as telepathic links are obliterated in violence.

Space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence. Were those words his own, once?

After the Narada, the Enterprise limps on impulse back to Earth, a journey that would take hours at warp taking weeks as the damaged ship and her damaged crew stuggle home. More than once he has to bodily collect Jim from the bridge, force him by hypo at times to rest. Jim and Spock—all of the “senior crew” but those two in particular—work ceaselessly. Short meals in the mess hall are punctuated by updates on the progress of repairs, delivered sometimes by an odd man called Scott, at other times by a series of other crewmen who look too damn young for all of this. The Russian baby is the worst of the lot.

Leonard tries not to notice the intensity of Kirk’s gaze on the Vulcan man, though. Jim is peculiarly focused on him. Leonard doesn’t ask why.

Two weeks into their return home, Captain Pike awakes from his third surgery. “Where’s your other half?” he asks.

“On the bridge,” answers Leonard.

“That’s good. Where he needs to be. Spock keeping him in line?”

“They work well together.” Leonard is not envious. Not one bit. He does not think how it should be him at Jim’s side, even though he belongs in Medical.

Pike’s eyes are startled with realization. “Jealous?”

“I hate perceptive people,” Leonard says to no one as he gives the Captain a sedative. The man needs rest to recover, after all.

~

They are back on Earth and delivering their report debriefings.

“Do you have a good reason for taking Cadet Kirk aboard the Enterprise despite his suspension?” asks a black-clad administrator.

“He was a patient under my care,” Leonard says by rote. “It’s regulation practice.”

“… Right.”

But the universe is safe from mad time-traveling Romulans for the moment, and nothing further is said. But Leonard has no doubt there’s a special notation in his permanent file somewhere. It probably reads Note: Subject will move Heaven and Earth for James Tiberius Kirk. Please respond accordingly.

The worst of it is that he won’t argue with that and he’s not sorry, either. He’s a doctor, not a saint, dammit.

~

When Kirk gets his commission, Leonard sees an old Vulcan in black and grey robes standing in the back of the hall. The man is familiar somehow, but damned if he knows why—he knows he didn’t see the fellow among the refugees shipboard. Jim sees him after the ceremony, crying out “Spock!” with astonishment and something damn near delight.

Leonard hears that and meets the eyes of Jim’s not-yet First Officer (The rumor mill can say what it wants, but he’ll eat his hat if the hobgoblin doesn’t sign on under Jim’s command for the upcoming five year mission, because who really says no to Jim Kirk when he’s intent on something? …Leonard isn’t going to think any further than that.), which are also astonished, but he has the look of a man who’s just put a puzzle together, and someone else now knows how he did it.

Leonard is missing something. Again. He hates it when that happens.

Jim and the old Vulcan man speak for a few minutes. Leonard tries to make his way towards them, but they are separated by a crimson sea of Cadets. The Vulcan hands Jim a package, and then he’s lost in the crowd before even Kirk can react.

“Spock!” Jim cries again, pleading.

Leonard feels sick, because he knows that a few months ago Jim would have been looking for him instead of another. Regret coils in his gut like a goddamned snake. Suddenly he wonders if Jim’s penchant for apples is a hint directly to him from the Almighty. Self-knowledge is a hard thing.

He stops in his tracks, turns around, and gets the hell out of there.

He does not hear Jim crying out. “Bones!”

~

Outside the assembly hall the air is cool and Leonard feels better. And then he sees the Vulcan, and he’s in the man’s face before he even realizes it.

“Who are you?” he growls, and he knows he sounds like an idiot.

The Vulcan has a sort of half-smile on his face that confounds Leonard. “I—am Selek,” he says.

“Right, got it,” says Leonard, when he doesn’t, not at all. He shrugs. Defeated. “Sorry.” He wonders if this is what a post traumatic stress breakdown is like, because if it’s not it sure as hell should be, he thinks. He turns around before he can make more of an ass out of himself in front of people.

“Doctor McCoy?” asks Selek.

He turns around. “Yeah, that’s me,” he says.

Selek smiles: a real, but sad sort of smile. “Jim loves you very much,” he says. “Don’t make the mistake I did when I was a foolish young man like you. Tell him you love him, too. Tell him while you can. Tell him every day.”

Leonard would ask, but really, the day has been too damn weird as it is, and he goes back to his dorm and listens to the sounds of celebration and mourning and just life as it goes on, outside his room, passing him by.

~

He wakes from a doze and is on his feet, dressed and out the door before he’s really awake. He’s got something to do and if he doesn’t do it now, he never will, and he’s done with not doing things.

He goes to find Jim.

Kirk is shipboard. Most of the senior crew is right now too. Others will be trickling in over the next two days. Jim is in his quarters, according to the computer. Leonard takes a page from Jim’s book and leaps without looking. So he barges into the Captain’s quarters and finds Jim wrapped in a towel, damp and gleaming from a shower.

“Jesus, Bones! Knock will you!?” Jim says, startled.

“Jim, I—“ Leonard does not think about what he wants to say. Instead he walks up to Jim, takes his face in his hands, and kisses him soundly. “I love you, you moron!” he says.

Jim’s breath catches in his throat. He looks shocked, and Leonard begins to wonder if he’s made the biggest mistake of his life. So he kisses Jim again, a question, and Jim’s mouth opens to his in answer. “I, um, just thought you should know that,” he says when the kiss ends some time later. Jim doesn’t say anything, not a word. But he does take Leonard’s face in his hands, which are warm and dry, he does drop his towel and it does make a soft sound as it hits the floor, and he does kiss Leonard back, does—

~

If this were a novel, the sex would be unbelievable and romantic and thrilling. But this is real life, so instead it’s messy, and kind of awkward, and funny, and gentle, and so sweet Leonard can’t quite believe it even when it’s over.

Exhausted, they face each other in Jim’s bed. Jim’s hair is messed, love marks dappling his body in the low light. Jim reaches for him and strokes Leonard’s hair, which he has no doubt is sticking up in little spikes like a fretful hedgehog or some other undignified, unsexy animal, and he runs his fingertip along his ear and cheek, down his neck, to his shoulder. Jim pulls him close.

“Bones,” he says seriously, “I think the future is gonna be so fucking awesome. Like you don’t even know.”

Leonard feels something bubbling in his chest like laughter and tears all at once.

“Of course it is,” he says. “What else would it be?”

And that wasn’t The End. Not one bit of it.

From here on you can count on all things going
The way they must have from the start.
All you feel is the current flowing through you
And seizing your infected heart.


~

Yet more Author’s Notes:

Phlox was the ship’s doctor on Enterprise. He learned quite a bit from T’Pol, amongst others. M’Benga appears in several episodes of TOS and is the only human doctor to have done work on Vulcan.

Gary is Gary Mitchell, who was not in the reboot but should have been, darn it.

As noted in my previous story, Bones is from Toccoa, GA because that’s where Deforest Kelley was born. Because I was, too, I thought the references would be amusing. Let me assure all readers: I am not making up the stuff about the “Take Georgia Back!” signs or the county liquor laws. Mount Currahee is at the tip of the Appalachians and it shows. Bones is a good mountain boy here. The Dawgs refers to the University of Georgia Bulldogs. (Of course Bones is a Bulldog.)

“Selek” is the name Spock borrows for himself in “Yesteryear” in Star Trek: The Animated Series.

Comments

( 32 comments — Add your .02 )
f_vikus
Apr. 4th, 2010 07:38 am (UTC)
BB, I love this with a vengeance. This backstory was so good, with a good amount of angst sprinkled through. And oh, your Jim was just lovely.
Great job <3
caitri
Apr. 7th, 2010 01:16 am (UTC)
Ooh, thank you very much!!
cosantoir
Apr. 4th, 2010 08:38 am (UTC)
Ohhhh man, so much to say, so little miiiind to do so with, so tired!

First, I literally sprayed water all over my poor monitor at "“So you won’t mind if I—“ And she makes a strangely innocent gesture that nonetheless suddenly transfixes two thirds of the male cadets in the room.", because awwwww, Gaila, sweetheart. Just...bless her heart.

Second, eee, somebody who knows the area they're writing about intimately! God, the details -- I could roll around in them like a puppy in poo, or something. I've lived in the south all my life, but never Georgia (yet!), though for the last few years I've visited more and more often, living so close. Now my sister and her husband live in Columbus, so...I'm hoping I have a good enough excuse to roam around GA every now and then. It probably makes me a stalker to want to visit Toccoa just because Mr. Kelley was born there, but. I mean.

Oh, right -- the details. The kudzu covering a "Take back Georgia!" sign, because God knows shit like that is scattered all around the South. From whom? It's not real clear, but by God somebody's going to do it some day! >.> The heat in the kitchen from cooking, because whose kitchen doesn't become a sauna when they are? I, for one, have never found one. The old, creaky house that settles in for the night, I've lived in one and...she was a beaut. Haunted and scary at night, but a beaut all the same.

Lastly as I can remember from...memory...in my somewhat delirious state, PFFFFFT. Familial pride demands that I now beat Bones -- and you? ;) -- with a stick or something for the whole Bulldogs thing. Okay, maybe not so severe since my brother-in-law who lives in Georgia isn't a psychotic fan of his football, but Georgia Tech is his alma mater! And he did make us watch their games for the last few years. e.e Bless him.

Ummm...in short, ilu. Thank you. You win utterly and lots. Of internets. -salutes, passes out-
caitri
Apr. 4th, 2010 02:15 pm (UTC)
Haha. Yes. You can never watch another Tech/GA game without thinking about what side Jim and Bones are on, because Jim WILL be sitting right there and cheering because Bones is there.
jimpage363
Apr. 4th, 2010 08:39 am (UTC)
Now that was just lovely. I like how you avoided all the standard tropes even as you gently poked fun at them. Those two men WOULD wait for 3 years before they acted on something they'd figured out four months in! And oldSpock kicking him into gear is the one trope I still love and you handled it well, too.
Thanks for this!
caitri
Apr. 7th, 2010 01:17 am (UTC)
Thanks!!!!!!
linelenagain
Apr. 4th, 2010 08:42 am (UTC)
That was just terrific. I loved every second of it.
bookaddict43
Apr. 4th, 2010 09:33 am (UTC)
I just loved this! I adored Captain's log and think this is a great companion piece. The differing points of view are awesome.

Jim reaches for him and strokes Leonard’s hair, which he has no doubt is sticking up in little spikes like a fretful hedgehog or some other undignified, unsexy animal, and he runs his fingertip along his ear and cheek, down his neck, to his shoulder. Jim pulls him close. Great description!!


caitri
Apr. 7th, 2010 01:18 am (UTC)
Awesome, thank you for reading both!!
blcwriter
Apr. 4th, 2010 11:55 am (UTC)
Lovely, the whole of it.
(Anonymous)
Apr. 4th, 2010 12:22 pm (UTC)
What a wonderful story! I loved the slow build of their relationship, how they didn't just jump right into it.

In case you didn't mean for it to happen, I will point out that the last third of your story is in italics- it looks like you forgot to close up a bit of code after "Take Georgia Back". And I only noticed one typo- you wrote "teel" instead of "tell" once. :)
caitri
Apr. 4th, 2010 02:05 pm (UTC)
Moral of story: Don't post at like 2am. Fixed!

And thanks for the lovely comments. :)
rubynye
Apr. 4th, 2010 02:28 pm (UTC)
This is an absolutely grand gapfiller.
(I think you're missing a close-italics after " Take Georgia Back!” it reads.")
caitri
Apr. 4th, 2010 02:52 pm (UTC)
Egad, there were lots more errors than people pointed out. I think they are fixed now. And thank you for reading and commenting! :D
avictoriangirl
Apr. 4th, 2010 11:30 pm (UTC)
Huzzah for new Kirk/Bones shippers as I am converted from the movie also! :D Loved this very muchly. ♥
secretsolitaire
Apr. 5th, 2010 03:25 am (UTC)
Aw, I really loved this!
stormatdusk
Apr. 5th, 2010 05:35 am (UTC)
muted in psychic horror as telepathic links are obliterated

if he doesn’t do it now, he never will, and he’s done with not doing things

he kisses Jim again, a question


delicately, deftly, beautifully done. thank you.
caitri
Apr. 7th, 2010 01:15 am (UTC)
Wow, thank you!!!!!
weepingnaiad
Apr. 6th, 2010 04:58 am (UTC)
Really, really enjoyed this! I loved the detailed back history for Bones, the authenticity of his home and family (and how I hated Jocelyn).

I can believe that he waited that long, even though I despaired just like Jim did.

Glad that Spock!Prime set him straight.

Lovely!
caitri
Apr. 7th, 2010 01:15 am (UTC)
Aww, thanks! :)
anutty1
Jun. 23rd, 2010 04:31 am (UTC)
I am so happy to have found this. Absolutely gorgeous and exactly how I see both reboot Bones and Jim.
emiliglia
Jan. 25th, 2011 12:20 am (UTC)
Oh my god, I loved this so hard. I loved how you had Bones getting to Starfleet, and how Jocelyn knew about his father and that's what destroyed their relationship but with Jim it makes it stronger. It was like a punch in the gut that his mom didn't know, and how she still doesn't know, so while Jocelyn might be willing to do anything to hurt Bones, she still won't share that knowledge.
caitri
Jan. 25th, 2011 02:07 am (UTC)
*G*G* Glad you liked it!! Did it maybe give you any ideas about what you want to see in your fic? :)
emiliglia
Jan. 25th, 2011 11:19 pm (UTC)
Well I can tell you that I'm always a sucker for a good xenopolycythemia fic... :P
caitri
Jan. 26th, 2011 04:16 am (UTC)
Ooh. You're hardcore. Must have a thinky on this.
emiliglia
Jan. 26th, 2011 09:53 am (UTC)
Further thought: Maybe in reboot it's Jim that has it.
caitri
Jan. 26th, 2011 02:28 pm (UTC)
*_*

Ooh.
emiliglia
Jan. 26th, 2011 11:39 pm (UTC)
:D
january_snow
Apr. 26th, 2011 09:17 pm (UTC)
me likes!!
caitri
Apr. 26th, 2011 10:14 pm (UTC)
*G* Glad you enjoyed it!!
spockelle
Aug. 31st, 2011 09:20 am (UTC)
Twas loverly. As always. :)
caitri
Sep. 1st, 2011 01:02 pm (UTC)
*G*G* Glad you liked it!!!!
( 32 comments — Add your .02 )

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