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Fic: Message Waiting!, Kirk/McCoy, PG-13

Title: Message Waiting!
Author: caitri
Rating: PG-13 (Language)
Pairings: Kirk/McCoy
Word Count: 10,331
Summary: When Jim and Leonard are given separate assignments, neither of them are thrilled. Jim in particular has a bad plan to fix it, if he can only get Leonard to agree… For the Sweethearts challenge at jim_and_bones, Prompt #46 “Email Me.” Bones POV.
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.
A/N: With huge thanks to tocourtdisaster, who provided constant feedback. Gaila’s last name inspired by suddenlyswept’s fic Breathe In the Music, Breathe Out the Dance. Story beta’d by the awesome suddenlyswept who is beyond awesome!
A/N 2: claudia_nic wrote Jim's POV for the prompt in her fic A Million Scattered Pieces.





Captain Robert April smiles in greeting when Leonard reports for duty on the Yorktown. “Lieutenant Commander,” he says, shaking Leonard’s hand firmly. He’s older than Pike, but still hale; his hair is more silver than gray and his body is still firm and strong, with none of that sagging paunch in the middle that affects some Captains at the end of their careers. “I’m glad to have gotten a doctor like you on our crew, with Boyce retiring and all.”

“Thank you, sir,” Leonard says shortly.

“But you’re not happy to be here.” When Leonard says nothing, April sighs. “Lots of people don’t agree with what Komack did, but none of us can argue with the rules and regs. You violated more than a few getting Kirk aboard the Enterprise the way you did, and while we’re all thankful now he was there—“ He breaks off, shrugging. “Come on, let’s go for the grand tour. See your department; we’ve completely refurbished Sickbay before going on our last five year mission.”

“Thank you, Captain, but—if it’s all the same, I can find my own way there.” Leonard tries not to shift under April’s piercing gaze. He knows he’s said exactly the wrong thing—he always seems to do that. But then unexpectedly April’s expression melts, and he looks suddenly sympathetic.

“Have it your way, son.” April pulls a PADD from a stack on his desk and hands it to Leonard. “Here’s your department roster. Sarah Rochester’s the CMO. Dan Howard is a good man, he’ll be your relief on beta shift. You’ve got three nurses.”

Leonard frowns in dismay, scrolling through the profiles and vitaes. They’re all good people, but— “With respect, sir, it’s not enough,” he says, looking up at April. “Six people can’t handle a crew compliment of over four hundred when there’s an emergency. Not with—“

“Doctor McCoy.” April’s tone is firm. “Let me be frank. We’re going to be spending the next five years in the Vintaak System. Standard stellar cartography mapping mission—take down coordinates, send back reports. Your abilities are being wasted so that the brass can make some kind of example of you and Kirk for hoi polloi. That’s why they assigned you to me so soon, what with the Enterprise stuck on Utopia Planitia for another three months for repairs.”

Leonard refrains from a snarl—but only just. “But it’s not right!”

“It’s maintaining discipline and decorum,” April says. “It’s the letter of the law and not the spirit. I’m sorry, son.”

~

Doctor Rochester is an older woman, ginger hair threaded with silver and laugh lines around her mouth and eyes. When Leonard enters Sickbay, she is the only one there; like the rest of the ship, only a skeleton crew is aboard right now and it’s just them in here. Everyone else is still dirtside, taking up their last bit of leave before they ship out in two days time. Leonard would be down there, too, but for—well—things.

”Look, Bones,” Jim said stubbornly, “it’s a good plan. Why don’t we just—“

“Jim!” Leonard glared at the younger man. “Do you ever listen to yourself? Ever? It’s crazy, they’d see right through it—“

“No, they wouldn’t, Bones, that’s the brilliant part!” Jim was smug, looking exceptionally pleased with himself—which was really saying something. “Look, everyone knows how much we hang out, the only thing people would be asking themselves is why they didn’t see it before!”

“Jim.” He had a headache then, he was so angry, and he closed his eyes. “You seriously want us to get married just so that Starfleet will have to give us the same assignment.” He opened them again to regard his friend, who clearly still didn’t
get it. “Okay, I’m glad this works for you, I really am, but you know what? It doesn’t work for me. Not at all.” He stood up abruptly, with enough force that he almost overturned his chair. “Y’know, Jim, you may be a genius, but you are one inconsiderate little shit sometimes, you know that?”

Jim gaped for a moment, opening and closing his mouth soundlessly like a goldfish. “Bones, wait, hold on—“ But it’s too late, Leonard was already striding out of their room…


“Doctor McCoy, welcome.” Rochester’s voice snaps him firmly back to the present. They shake hands; her grip is firm, though the skin of her fingers and palm is very dry, like rice paper. “I’m glad to have you as part of my team.”

“Thank you, ma’am,” he says politely.

She stands back to look up at him; he’s a good six inches taller than she is. “Captain April informed me of your—situation,” she says. “I suppose Captain Kirk’s bad luck is our good fortune.”

Leonard tries not to wince at that, and bites his tongue at the sharp retort that comes to his lips automatically. He says nothing.

Surprisingly, what she sees in his face is something she approves of, and she gives him a warm smile. “It’s always difficult when you’re separated from those you care about,” she says. “My husband and I have had our share of partings, but duty first and all that.”

“I suppose,” he says carefully.

“Mmm.” She makes a thoughtful sound. “C’mon, I’ll give you the dollar tour. It’s like the dime tour but with more gossip.”

The infirmary is smaller than the one on Enterprise, though the equipment is still some of the best the ‘Fleet has to offer. True to her word, Rochester gives him an overview of both their coworkers as well as most of the people aboard the ship. Despite her promise of gossip, much of it is matter-of-fact—who has what allergies, is accident-prone, and the like.

“Howard will be under you—you’ll do the timesheets for him and the nurses,” she says. “He’s a good doctor, but still a bit green. He may have one tour on you, but you’ve been in actual crises. You got your rank through a trial of fire, remember that for me, okay?”

“Okay,” he agrees, not sure he quite follows, but going along with her anyway.

“Good man.” Rochester nods. “Now then, tell me about what’s going on in the Research wing at Medical. Is Phlox still agitating for more exchange programs?”

Leonard can’t help but grin at the mention of one of his favorite professors. “Never stops,” he says, and it’s all old home week from there.

When they’ve exhausted their list of mutual acquaintances and discussed the most recent issues of the big journals, she lets him alone to get acquainted with his surroundings. He spends a solid two hours doing inventory and writing up a final requisition request. Then he sits down in his new office, and starts going through his comms.


Message Waiting! From: Captain Robert April Re: Personnel Rosters
Message Waiting! From: Commander Sarah Rochester Re: Personnel Rosters
Message Waiting! From: Doctor Dan Howard Re: Beta Shift 0702.1
Message Waiting! From: Lieutenant Nyota Uhura Re: What happened?
Message Waiting! From: Lieutenant Gaila n’ha Orcia Re: What happened?
Message Waiting! From: Captain James Kirk Re: I’m sorry
Message Waiting! From: Yeoman Jean Barrows Re: Quarter Assignments



“Oh, Jesus,” he mutters to himself, and opens Jim’s message first.


To: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
From: Captain James T. Kirk
Re: I’m sorry

Look, Bones, I messed up. I get that now, okay? I’m sorry. Just come out with us one last time before you ship out, will you? The gang of us is heading to Sharkey’s for dinner at 7. Please, Bones?


Out of habit he glances at the computer’s chronometer, before remembering that 1) shiptime isn’t set to Earth standard time let alone the Pacific time zone, and 2) he’s pissed off at Jim anyway. He calculates in his head and realizes that they probably all left the restaurant hours ago, anyway. He scrolls down to read Gaila’s message.


To: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
From: Lieutenant Gaila n’ha Orcia
Re: What happened?

Okay, so what happened with you guys? Jim was trying to behave like everything is normal and I know it so totally isn’t. He didn’t even want to come back to my place tonight, and Nyota will be over at you-know-who’s too! So, spill!


Okay, he really doesn’t want to answer her either. He exhales in frustration and goes to the next message.


To: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
From: Lieutenant Nyota Uhura
Re: What happened?

Hey, Leonard,

Hope you’re finding things well aboard the Yorktown. We went out to Sharkey’s tonight and something was bothering Kirk. Gaila kept trying to cheer him up and was failing miserably—which, you know, never happens. Look, I know we’re not the best of friends, but if you need to talk to someone about what’s going on, I’m here.

I know you’re probably shipping out soon, so I just wish you safe travels and happy journeys.

Nyota


Leonard contemplates for a moment, then goes ahead and opens a new window to write a comm.


To: Lieutenant Nyota Uhura
From: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
Re: What happened?

Nyota,

What happened is that my best friend is an ass. Don’t worry, it’ll sort itself out eventually.

Give my regards to the hobgoblin.

Best,
Leonard


Once that’s sent, he opens up another comm.


To: Lieutenant Gaila n’ha Orcia
From: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
Re: What happened?

Gaila,

Long story. The short version is: You’re a nice girl, now butt out.

Leonard


He doesn’t answer Jim’s comm.

~

Doctor Howard arrives the next day a half hour late, as his comm had informed Leonard he would. He sees now what Rochester meant about green. “Sorry, Doctor McCoy,” he says. He’s slightly out of breath and looks sheepish. “I’ll work overtime to compensate.”

“So long as it’s not a recurring issue, not a problem,” Leonard says. “I’m about to send out the final requisition request. Double-check this for me, would ya?”

Howard takes the PADD, skimming through the list. “I’d add more antihistamine kits,” he says, handing it back to Leonard. “Yeoman Daniels has a million allergies and always seems to be discovering a few more, even in our closed environment.”

Leonard snorts. “Sounds like a friend of mine,” he says, and adds the kits to the req list before signing off and submitting it to Command. “So, this is your second tour, huh?”

“Yeah.” Howard nods. “I like Captain April a lot—he’s a good man. And Doctor Rochester is an excellent physician, of course. And our crew works well together.”

“You don’t ever get bored?” Leonard tries not to wince at his own words. “I mean—well, you know. Survey and mapping missions seem—awfully dull.” Well, that didn’t help, he thinks wryly.

Luckily, Howard doesn’t seem to be offended. “I guess I’m a bit of what you’d call an old country doctor,” he admits. Leonard stifles a grin, because he has used those words to describe himself on more than a few occasions; he takes this as a sign they’ll get along well. Oblivious, the other doctor continues. “I like knowing my crew, what to expect. Standard cuts and scrapes, sniffles. The occasional minor surgery or broken bone. It’s—well, it’s not that you’d call interesting, I expect, but that doesn’t bother me.”

“Mmm.” Leonard makes a thoughtful noise, and changes the subject to discussing the latest issue of the Journal of the Federation Medical Association.

The day passes slowly. People trickle in to introduce themselves—it seems like he’s one of the few people who are new to the crew, and that everyone else has been here for at least one if not two tours. Small turnover rate, then: everyone happy, secure. Safe.

Leonard likes safe.

”You’re not much of a risk-taker, are you, Bones?” Jim grinned. It was their first week rooming together at Archer Hall at the Academy, and they were starting to get into the rhythm of each other’s habits. “C’mon, it’ll be fun.”

“We’re adults, you half-assed idiot,” Leonard groused. “You can’t be serious?”

“Look, Cochrane Hall stole the brass beagle,” Jim said, referring to the unofficial mascot that normally sat in the common room on the first floor. “We’re just stealing it back. We’ll be heroes, man!”

“Us and what army?” Leonard asked. Cochrane Hall was mostly Operations-track juniors and seniors, which meant they were an unholy mix of brilliant engineers and burly security majors.

Jim grinned wider than ever. “We
are the army, Bones!” he said.

Leonard chuckles at the memory. God, it had been hilarious, and they had been heroes to the dorm. Of course, they had also been brought in by Archer himself for an official sternly worded warning, but the old man had clearly thought it was hysterical, himself…

Dammit. Jim.

Sighing to himself, he sits down at his computer and opens up a comm to respond to his friend.


To: Captain James Kirk
From: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
Re: I’m sorry

Sorry I missed you last night, kid. I was busy working and didn’t get your comm until it was too late.

Look, I know you meant well and all, and weren’t thinking. (What else is new.) And the thing is that I am damn sorry I won’t be with you on the Enterprise, but we both know this was how it was going to be sooner or later.

We head out tomorrow. Try not to get into too much trouble while you’re still dirtside.

You’re still my best friend, brat, like you don’t know it.

Yours,
“Bones”


He scrolls down to read a few of his other messages, and then he’s surprised when the comm. system makes the “new message” ping.


Message Waiting! From: Captain James Kirk Re: I’m sorry


He clicks to open it up.


To: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
From: Captain James Kirk
Re: I’m sorry

I know. ;)


Leonard snorts in amusement, writing back.


To: Captain James Kirk
From: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
Re: I’m sorry

Infant.


To: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
From: Captain James Kirk
Re: I’m sorry

Dork!


To: Captain James Kirk
From: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
Re: I’m sorry

Dork?

Seriously? That’s the best you’ve got? Dork?!

I am deeply concerned about the command-track program if this is the best they can produce.


To: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
From: Captain James Kirk
Re: I’m sorry

What am I gonna do without you, Bones? Seriously?


To: Captain James Kirk
From: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
Re: I’m sorry

You’ve got your once and future Vulcan BFF, remember? Tell him to ease off on the throttling, though. You’re his commanding officer now; he might find himself jettisoned in an escape pod if he’s not careful.


To: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
From: Captain James Kirk
Re: I’m sorry

Spock’s not coming. He wants to leave Starfleet for the new Vulcan Colony. Says it’s his duty and all. I’m trying to talk him out of it, though. We’ll see.


To Leonard’s surprise, he feels a trickle of ice along his spine. If neither he nor Spock is there to watch the kid’s back, who will?

~

Leonard dreams about the Battle of Vulcan that night. It’s been almost two months since the disaster, and he, like most of the survivors, all too often finds memories of those awful hours replaying themselves in his unconscious brain.

In this most current iteration, he walks away from Jim, leaving him standing alone and forlorn in the ‘Fleet hangar. He feels the ice coiled in his stomach as he gets aboard the shuttle to the Enterprise, ice that grows and fills his whole body. In the way of dreams, he arrives onboard to walk immediately to the bridge, where Pike and Spock are already facing off with Nero, and he realizes that if only Jim were here, they would be saved, but Jim’s not, so instead there’s nothing but an array of torpedoes fired at the viewscreen, and then the ice within Leonard abruptly turns to fire as they all burn and alarms ring wildly—

He’s sitting upright in bed, covered in sweat. It’s dark. “Jim!” There’s no answer, and reality reasserts itself: Jim is on Earth, and he’s here in space, alone…

He’s not able to go back to sleep, much as he tries, so finally he says to hell with it and goes to the mess for some strong coffee, and then to his office to get a head start on—something.

Anything.

Nurse Galway is on duty. “Doctor,” she greets him calmly, as if it were perfectly normal for her superior officer to show up at just halfway through gamma shift, over four hours before he’s supposed to be on duty.

“Nurse,” he replies with a nod of acknowledgement. He itches to do something, but he’s at loose ends. Back at Starfleet Medical, there was always something to take care of when he was in a mood like this, or (and much more likely) Jim would come up with one of his half-cracked ideas and they’d end up swilling cheap coffee at an all-night greasy spoon, feeding creds into outdated jukeboxes and ruthlessly mocking the bad music selections they for some reason picked on purpose…

With a sigh he sits down at his computer terminal, and pulls up his comms. This early, there’s little more than junk and a handful of reports to look at. On impulse he finds himself opening a comm.


To: Lieutenant Nyota Uhura
From: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
Re: IDEFK

Okay, I’m taking you up on your offer. You want to know what happened? Jim asked me to marry him so we could apply for a joint assignment. Having been married once before (and still paying for it, might I add), I very sensibly ran like hell. And now we won’t see each other for five years, and instead of feeling like I did the intelligent, mature, adult thing, I feel like I’ve somehow made the biggest mistake of my life.

How does that even WORK?

To add insult to injury, I’m bored shitless.

So, how are you?

Best,
Leonard


After that he settles back and reads reports, time passing slowly. At the start of alpha shift, Rochester comes in bearing two mugs of black coffee. She hands one of them to him without blinking. “I admire obsessive attention to detail, Leonard,” she says dryly, “but I’m going to say this once. Unless there’s an emergency, stick to your own shift. Otherwise you get obsessed with your work and everything else gets shot all to hell. Take it from one who knows.” She salutes him with her mug.

He salutes back with his own before sipping. “Thanks,” he says, “but out of morbid curiosity, what happens when work is all you’ve got?”

“Honest question gets an honest answer.” Rochester gives him a small smile, and she sits down in the chair opposite his desk. “My first marriage went to hell in a handbasket because I was dedicated to my work. Yeah, I thought so,” she says, as something must’ve flickered over his face at that. “The worst part was, I let it, and then I decided the only thing to do was get as far away from where I’d been as I could. So I joined Starfleet, and I met Robert.” Her smile grows wider and fond. “Best thing that ever happened to me.”

“Where is your husband?” he asks curiously. “Sorry, I never asked.”

“Oh, he should be on the bridge about now. We usually make sure our shifts line up. The small liberties we’re allowed with rank and age.” Her face changes as she takes in his expression. “Wait, you didn’t know?”

“No,” Leonard says gruffly. He can feel himself flush. “I s’pose it never occurred to me that sorta thing could actually work for the long haul.”

”Dude, seriously?” Jim said in bewilderment. “You’ve never thought about it, ever?”

“There are these things called ‘rules’, Jim,” Leonard said. “I know you think they’re only there to be broken, but there’s one we’re specifically supposed to
not break, and it’s called ‘fraternization.’”

Jim made a dubious sound around the mouth of his beer bottle. He swallowed, then said, “Please! Those are just for people in the same command line. What? I checked!” he added defensively.

“You actually looked?!” Leonard couldn’t decide if he was amused or horrified. He flung his head back against the neck of their couch to stare at the ceiling of their dorm room: Another Saturday night at the Kirk-McCoy Co-Op, he thought sarcastically. “Christ on a cracker, Jim, you
do realize when you get your captaincy the whole damn ship will be under you, right?”

Jim rolled his eyes in answer. “Well, yeah, Bones,” he says. The
duh was implicit. “But by then I’ll probably be, like, married or something!”

Leonard turned his head to look at the other man in surprise; Jim is looking out the window, away from him. “You?” he echoed in disbelief. “Married?!”

Jim glared at him. “What? It could happen!” He took another swig from his beer. “When I meet the right person.”

Leonard shook his head and raised his own bottle in tribute. “When you find ‘em, lemme know,” he said. “I’ll throw a party.”

Jim grinned. “I’ll do that.”


Leonard blinks, coming back to himself abruptly. He wonders what prompted that memory, but Rochester is talking and he makes himself focus on her words.

“You should join us for dinner tonight,” she says. “The Captain’s Mess. It’ll be informal, not to worry.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he says obediently, wishing he knew what exactly he has gotten himself into.

~

Leonard swears he can feel it when they make the jump to warp when they leave. He knows it’s ridiculous: knows that between the inertia dampers and the anti-grav and the sheer size of a Constitution-class vessel, there’s no way he’s really feeling anything. Nonetheless, the hackles on the back of his neck rise midmorning, and he knows that the mission is starting.

He’s leaving Earth and all that he’s ever known behind.

Somehow, he never thought that would include Jim.

He occupies himself with a variety of short, menial tasks: confirming inventory processing, running some basic diagnostics on equipment, checking on some sample tests in an experiment he was running. Nothing distracts him.

Finally, he sits down at his terminal again and opens a comm to his friend.


To: Captain James Kirk
From: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
Re: Hi

What are you up to, infant? Please tell me someone is keeping you out of trouble for me.


To his surprise, he is almost immediately comm’d back.


To: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
From: Captain James Kirk
Re: Hi

Bones,

Exactly how much trouble do you think I’ve had time to get IN?

…Don’t answer that.

For what it’s worth, Gary Mitchell—remember him? We were in Intro to Navigation together—and I have been hanging out and he’s got my back. So don’t worry so much. :P

Seriously, though, it’s been all reports and briefings. Scotty’s been hiding out at Utopia Planitia partly because he’s that obsessed with the ship and partly because he’s afraid if he stays at Command that Archer’ll figure out a way to send him to Rura Penthe this time or something.

How are you doing?


Leonard stares at the screen. Gary Mitchell?


Leonard knew he hated Mitchell the moment he first saw him. It wasn’t anything the man did or said, but he just didn’t like anything about the guy. Maybe it was the smug twist to his lip, or the air of superior amusement he seemed to exude constantly. Maybe it was how he never shut up and everything he had to say was overwhelmingly self-involved.

It was one night after one of their irregular parties when they talked about the man. They had somehow gotten into the habit of inviting a gang of cadets culled from their mutual spheres (neither Leonard nor Jim would go so far as to label most of these individuals “friends,” with the exception of Gaila) to come over for booze, snacks, and post-class decompression. Mitchell would often stay long after the others, chatting with Jim about their classes.

“I remember my first Advanced Warp Theory seminar,” Mitchell had said condescendingly to an Andorian cadet named Talla. “You’ve just got to remember the equations and focus on calculating the axis points before anything else.”

Talla, who was a command-track student with an emphasis in navigation, looked amused. Leonard, who was the one who had invited her over, knew that not only was she acing the seminar, but also that her instructor had invited her to TA for the course the following year. “Really?” she asked politely. “I never would have thought of that.”

“Why do you invite him over?” Leonard asked later, when they were all gone.

“He really bugs you, doesn’t he, Bones?” Jim flopped onto the couch, popping a chip into his mouth. He chewed, then swallowed. “He can be—high-strung, can’t he?”

Leonard snorted. “He’s a pill.”

“He can be entertaining, when he wants to be.” Jim grinned, and waggled his eyebrows in that way he did when he meant to be self-mockingly lascivious.

Leonard narrowly refrained from spitting out a mouthful of beer. “Seriously? You two?!” He choked and made a face. “Augh!”

Jim laughed. “Oh, geez, Bones, cut me some slack. I was just teasing!”

“Well, it wasn’t funny,” Leonard said gruffly.

After that, Mitchell was invited to less and less of their get-togethers. Leonard assumed that Jim had had a fight with the guy, or some such, and never questioned it. If he thought of the man at all, it was with a welcome relief that he wasn’t around.


Leonard stares at the screen, and finally opens up a comm to reply back.


To: Captain James Kirk
From: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
Re: Hi

Mitchell huh? What’s he up to these days?


He sends it off before the urge to be snide overcomes him.


To: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
From: Captain James Kirk
Re: Hi

He’s still waiting for his assignment—probably as helmsman somewhere. He’s asked me about Enterprise though.


Leonard’s fingers fly and his next message is sent off in seconds.


To: Captain James Kirk
From: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
Re: Hi

Well you know what *I* think.


To: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
From: Captain James Kirk
Re: Hi

Not really?


Leonard rolls his eyes.


To: Captain James Kirk
From: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
Re: Hi

Just be careful Jim, for once in your goddamn life.


To: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
From: Captain James Kirk
Re: Hi

I always am, Bones. ;)


Leonard sighs. “That’s the least comforting thing I’ve ever heard in my life, brat,” he mutters to himself.

~

Leonard reports to the Captain’s Mess at 1830, as requested. The doors open and there’s the Captain and the CMO, both dressed in civilian clothing: April in a formal button shirt and pants, Rochester in one of those dresses that manages to look elegant and casual all at the same time. Leonard is still in his duty uniform, tunic, pants and boots, and he feels alarmed for a moment.

“Don’t look so worried, McCoy,” Rochester says. “I always ask Robert to dress up a bit for dinners like these because otherwise he’d never wear anything but his uniform or old things. He has to humor me—you don’t.”

April smiles at his wife warmly before turning to Leonard. “She makes me sound like an uncivilized brute,” he says. “Well, I may be at that. I’ve spent most of my life out here in the black. Sarah has to exert what civilizing influence she can on me.”

“I see. My compliments, ma’am.” Leonard gives Rochester a small bow in admiration. He allows himself to relax as she guides him to a seat at the table, and the three of them sit down.

They talk pleasantly as a yeoman enters with a cart of covered dishes, then produces a carafe of Saurian brandy. “Do you indulge, Doctor McCoy?” April asks.

“Always,” Leonard says, and the others chuckle as glasses are filled.

“So if you don’t mind me asking,” Rochester asks after the yeoman has left and they are eating, “why did you take Kirk aboard the Enterprise before the Battle of Vulcan?”

“Oh, Sarah,” April starts to say disapprovingly, but Leonard waves his hand as he wipes his mouth with a napkin.

“No, I don’t mind,” he says honestly. “I’ve been asked that a lot.” He grins, only slightly rueful. “Jim and I were roommates back at the Academy. Joined at the proverbial hip. When he was grounded—well.” He shrugs. “There’s an old proverb: If you’re gonna ride in the Kentucky Derby, ya don’t leave your prize stallion in the stable. Leaving him behind would have been a mistake.”

“And that’s all there is to it? Really?” Rochester sounds dubious. Leonard feels himself flush, but he doesn’t have a chance to answer.

“My Sarah is projecting,” April says. His voice is fond as he continues, “It was our second tour of duty together. We hadn’t quite made up our minds about what we were yet, and Command wanted her to return to Medical for a stint.”

“Well he wouldn’t say anything and neither would I.” Rochester grins as she takes up the story. “And there I was, about to take the transport shuttle out, and then the pilot comes on speakers and says that the Captain needed to see me. Well I was imagining there must be an emergency of some kind, so I’m out of there like a flash—“

“You know I’ve always felt you were disappointed that there wasn’t some horrible accident that needed tending to.” April chuckles as Rochester makes a face at him. He turns to McCoy. “Unfortunately, it was just me, and I jabbered for a bit, and then I finally said ‘Dammit, Sarah, what’ll it take for you to stay?’”

“And I said it would take him finally saying whatever was on his goddamn mind. He kissed me instead, which I suppose is the same thing,” she says thoughtfully. “And I stayed on the Yorktown.”

“Thank God,” April says, and they clink glasses companionably.

“And you don’t find that your personal relationship affects your working relationship?” Leonard asks curiously. “Or vice versa?”

“There’s certain things you keep in mind,” April says. “Out there I’m Captain April and she’s Doctor Rochester…”

“And in here I’m Sarah and he’s Robert,” Rochester finishes. “And of course, there’s a few other things. Regulation 619 and all that.”

“That’s happened before, too.” April makes a face. “Sarah was kidnapped by Orion pirates once. Commander Thelin had to relieve me—of course, he ended up doing just about everything I would have done anyway.”

“Including sending Robert on the rescue mission, of course.” Rochester snorts with amusement.

“Of course,” April says blandly, winking at Leonard.

Leonard makes a thoughtful sound. “I guess—I guess I thought an arrangement like that wouldn’t work,” he admits.

“It’s not easy, but marriage never is,” Rochester says. She glances at Leonard shrewdly. “If you were wondering for a particular reason—for a particular person—you should know that. But.” She pauses for effect. “It can be done.”

“With hard work, a sense of humor, and brandy,” April concludes, topping off their glasses once more.

~

Leonard returns to his quarters afterwards. He strips off his duty tunic and tosses it aside, feeling restless. Shaking his head, he sits at his desk, and opens up his comm inbox. He has a message from Jim.


To: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
From: Captain James Kirk
Re: Not the Best Plan Ever

Okay, Bones, I remembered why I stopped hanging out with Mitchell so much. He drinks like a fucking fish. My head feels like it’s going to pound off my shoulders and I have to meet with Komack later. WTF am I gonna do?


Leonard snorts.


To: Captain James Kirk
From: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
Re: Not the Best Plan Ever

If you had any sense you would remember the tablets in the medicine cabinet. Jesus, Jim, explain to me how the hell I’m supposed to take care of your scrawny ass from twenty light years away?


Somehow he’s not surprised when he’s comm’d back almost immediately.


To: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
From: Captain James Kirk
Re: Not the Best Plan Ever

And yet you always seem to manage. Thank God, Bones, now I might not puke on Barnett’s boots. Gotta go—tell me how that dinner went?

Best,
Jim


To: Captain James Kirk
From: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
Re: Not the Best Plan Ever

It was interesting. Captain April and Doctor Rochester are good folks. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I wouldn’t mind serving under them, if it weren’t so damn boring and if you were here.

I might have had more brandy than I thought I did.

Don’t remind me of this later, infant, but I miss you.

Bones


Leonard sends it off, and then scrolls through the rest of his comms. There’s one other that captures his interest.


To: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
From: Lieutenant Nyota Uhura
Re: IDEFK

I’m fine, thanks for asking. Okay, look, yeah you did the mature thing. It’s up to you if you think it was the right thing or not—and it sounds like it might not have been. I know you and Kirk are close, and I also think you’re smart enough to know exactly what you can and can’t handle. So, as unhelpful as it is, I’ve got one piece of advice for you:

Make up your mind about what you want to do, and then do it.

The simplest, hardest thing in the world, right? Tell me about it. Believe me, Spock and I have been having this conversation ourselves, and it sucks.

So, take that for what it’s worth, from one who knows.

All the best,
Nyota


Leonard reads and rereads the comm. Feeling more restless that ever, he takes a shower and changes into his off-duty blacks. “I can’t believe I’m doing this,” he mutters to himself as he sits down at his terminal again. “Fuck.”


To: Captain James Kirk
From: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
Re: Not the Best Plan Ever

Look, Jim, when you get back. I’ve been thinking about what we talked about before I left. I think I’m up for it, if you are.

Let me know.

Yours,
Bones


Feeling surprisingly better after that, though more than a little foolish—and okay, let’s be honest, his heart is racing a million miles a minute—he shuts his machine down with determination, and goes to lie down in his bunk. He closes his eyes, wondering what Jim will respond with in the morning, and drifts asleep with surprising ease.

~

In the morning he’s a little groggier than usual. Note to self, be careful with Saurian brandy. Little goes a long way.

He gets black coffee and a muffin in the canteen, then heads to Sickbay for his shift. It’s quiet as usual, which suits him just fine. He logs into his terminal and checks his comm inbox, and when he sees the messages from Jim, he abruptly remembers what he did last night.

Heart hammering, he opens up the first message.


To: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
From: Captain James Kirk
Re: Not the Best Plan Ever
Attachment: Joint_Assignment_Request_frm

Okay, dude, if you are seriously in? I am in.

Okay so here’s what we’ll do. I’m attaching the joint assignment request form, and we’ll both fill it out. We can submit it within thirty days of getting married, but they won’t process it until after we get the license and everything. If I leave in three days, I can meet up with you at Starbase Twelve in a week, and then it’ll take them six weeks to process the actual transfer. That’ll give you some room before Enterprise actually ships out.

I promise you, you won’t regret this.

Yours,
Jim


Leonard stares at the screen. Taking another deep breath, he opens up the attached form, and starts filling it out. When he’s done, he downloads it to a PADD, and goes to Rochester’s office.

“Ma’am?” he asks, knocking at her open door. “D’you got a second?”

Rochester looks up. “Sure, Leonard. What’s on your mind? Oh,” she says in a completely different voice as she looks at the PADD he hands her. “My, my.”

He takes a deep breath. “I’m sorry—“ he starts, but she cuts him off.

“No, I’m the one who’s sorry,” she says, signing off on the form and handing it back to him. “I’m sorry to be losing a damn good doctor. That said? Congratulations.” She grins at him widely.

He nods, feeling his face burn. He knows what she must be thinking, her and the Captain both, after last night. He feels a bit like a fraud, but—he needs Jim. “Thank you, ma’am.”

~

He turns the matter over in his mind as the days pass. He’s not quite certain how he really feels about the idea of being married to Jim—particularly after he’d promised himself he wasn’t going to let himself open up another bag of worms after Jocelyn. That said, given the choice between being with Jim and being without him?

Well, he chooses Jim.

Whatever that means.

It’s only when he wakes up out of solid sleep—he doesn’t know if it was a nightmare or what, but it definitely sends him into a blind panic—that he really questions what they’re doing.

I might have learned from my mistake. I know what I’m getting into. But Jim doesn’t!

Leonard types quickly, his heart hammering. He still feels anxious from the tension in his dream, and actually typing out his problem doesn’t help. In fact, it seems to make him feel worse.


To: Captain James Kirk
From: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
Re: This is a bad idea

Jim, I’m rethinking this whole marriage plot of yours. I think it’s a bad idea. I’ve done this once before, remember? And okay, I married Jocelyn because I loved her and that went so spectacularly wrong, but still, I don’t think complete pragmatism is all you think it’s cracked up to be.

I’m sorry, Jim. I want to serve with you, but I don’t think I can marry you just for that.

Do you understand?


Leonard exhales when he sends it, feeling sick to his stomach. He scrubs his hands over his face. He’s tired, and his heart is still beating wildly, both appalled and relieved with what he’s just done.

It’s a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done, he tells himself sternly. Jackass.

His comm program sounds an alert, and to his dismay he sees he’s already gotten an answer from Jim. Taking a deep breath, he opens it.


To: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
From: Captain James Kirk
Re: This is NOT a bad idea

Bones, WTF dude? What’s going on?

Look, you were the one who always made a big deal about being pragmatic and stuff. Tell me what’s going through your head. In little words, please, because I was just in personnel meetings for the last four hours and my brains are jello right now.

C’mon, man. Talk to me.


Snorting, Leonard types back.


To: Captain James Kirk
From: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
Re: This IS a bad idea

Fine. I’m saying I don’t want to marry you because I don’t think I can deal with being married on paper but not in any other way, okay?

That small enough for ya?


To: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
From: Captain James Kirk
Re: This is NOT a bad idea

Okay, would you marry me if it was for real? Love and sex, richer and poorer, all that stuff?


To: Captain James Kirk
From: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
Re: This IS a bad idea

First of all, your idea of wedding vows scares the shit out of me.

Second of all, okay, yeah, fine, sure, I’d marry you if we loved each other and all, but we don’t, so we can’t, so that’s that. Okay?


Leonard thinks Jim must have left his computer, as time passes, but then another comm appears.

His heart stops when he reads it.


To: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
From: Captain James Kirk
Re: This is NOT a bad idea

Bones, I love you.

Seriously.

I, James Tiberius Kirk, love you, Leonard Horatio McCoy, with all my heart.

And you know I’m completely serious because your middle name is Horatio and I have never once given you shit about it.

Okay? I’m more serious than I’ve ever been in my life right now.

Now what do you think?


He rereads it several times before replying, because he can’t quite make sense of it.


To: Captain James Kirk
From: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
Re: This is NOT a bad idea

Jim, if you are bullshitting me, I might kill you.

Also, IF YOU LOVE ME SO DAMN MUCH WHY DIDN’T YOU EVER SAY ANYTHING BEFORE?


To: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
From: Captain James Kirk
Re: This is NOT a bad idea

I DON’T KNOW, OKAY?

I just—you were always so YOU, okay? What was I supposed to do??

And I had PLANS, okay. And they were awesome. I just….never figured out how to do them.

So what are YOU saying now, Bones?


To: Captain James Kirk
From: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
Re: This is NOT a bad idea

I’M SAYING HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN LOVE WITH ME?


To: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
From: Captain James Kirk
Re: This is NOT a bad idea

I LOVED YOU SINCE LING 426, OKAY?


Leonard stares at the words on the screen.


To: Captain James Kirk
From: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
Re: This is NOT a bad idea

What does that even MEAN?!


To: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
From: Captain James Kirk
Re: This is NOT a bad idea

LING 426. Professor Okuda’s Intro to Xenolinguistics class our second semester. We were bored out of our minds so we started swapping comms in class, remember? And then halfway through the semester you were convinced you were going to flunk out so I tutored you and you were fine.

We were just sitting in class writing these stupid comms and I realized I was happier doing NOTHING with you than I was with anyone doing anything ever.

So.


To: Captain James Kirk
From: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
Re: This is NOT a bad idea

WELL WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY ANYTHING??


To: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
From: Captain James Kirk
Re: This is NOT a bad idea

I DON’T KNOW OKAY? I’M AN IDIOT SOMETIMES.


To: Captain James Kirk
From: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
Re: This is NOT a bad idea

WELL TELL ME SOMETHING I DON’T KNOW.


To: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
From: Captain James Kirk
Re: This is NOT a bad idea

Bones, I love you, now marry me because you love me or because you want to be on the Enterprise, I don't care, just marry me, please.


To: Captain James Kirk
From: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
Re: This is NOT a bad idea

Okay. Idiot.

I love you, too, btw.

~

To: Lieutenant Nyota Uhura
From: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
Re: News

So Jim and I are getting married.

How are you and the hobgoblin?


To: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
From: Lieutenant Nyota Uhura
Re: News

Damn, I lost the pool by two weeks.

Also, about time.

Also, I’d tell you but you always said you hated that sort of detail. ;)

Love,
Nyota



To: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
From: Lieutenant Gaila n’ha Orcia
Re: News

Okay, I knew you two needed to get together, but for LIFE?

Seriously??

Humans. So WEIRD, I swear.

Hearts,
Gaila

~

“You wanted to see me, Leonard?” Rochester’s voice is warm, but curious as he steps into her office. “Have a seat.” He takes the proffered chair, and a deep breath to speak. Apparently he takes too long, because Rochester continues. “I assume this is about your transfer request?”

“Yes, ma’am.” He licks his lips. “Our projected itinerary takes us within a few lightyears of Starbase Twelve. If I could have a day of leave—“

“Granted. I’ll be damn sorry to lose you, McCoy, but I don’t believe in standing in between people.” Rochester’s smile turns impish. “Plus, it’ll show Komack what’s what, and I always approve of that!”

~

Starbase Twelve isn’t big, but it’s filled with all the diversions that those who have been space-bound for way too long crave: bars aplenty; restaurants that sell real food from a variety of worlds, none of it synthetic; entertainment arcades and shops; mail posts, and, most significantly, Federation offices that cater to a variety of legal needs.

Including marriage licenses.

Leonard steps off the transport shuttle feeling more than a little lightheaded. He has a whopping six hours to get this taken care of, and he’s still questioning to himself exactly how good of an idea this really is.

Then he sees Jim, and he forgets about anything else.

Leonard sees him first, waiting outside the disembarkation ramps. He’s looking at the shuttle Leonard came in on, squinting slightly, jaw taut and serious as he searches the crowd. Then he sees Leonard, and his expression melts completely into a wide grin of delight and relief and—Leonard doesn’t even know, or care, because seeing his friend again is almost like a blow to the stomach it hits him so hard.

“Bones!” Jim waves his arm in the air eagerly, jumping up a few inches to be seen among the crowd of people waiting for their own loved ones. “Bones, over here!”

Leonard feels his own lips quirking upwards in a smile, and in a few seconds they are face to face for the first time in weeks—only it seems much, much longer than that. They are both quiet, silently taking in the tiny changes that they both bear: Leonard in his blue tunic with its stripes, nonchalant at getting on and off shuttles in only a few hours; Jim in his gold tunic with its Captain’s braid. It’s the first time he’s seen it, he realizes. Jim wears it well, exuding confidence like he always does, but it's confidence that’s tempered with experience now.

“Looks good on you,” Leonard says gruffly.

Jim shakes his head, blue eyes peering at him with amusement and affection. “Oh, Bones,” he says. He takes a deep breath. “So. You ready for this? There’s no goin’ back, you know.”

Leonard recognizes the out for what it is, and shakes his head. “C’mon, brat. Let’s see if this’ll really make an honest man out of you.”

Jim’s laugh is giddy—a happy nervousness. Leonard knows because he feels the same way—the irresistible urge to chuckle at nothing. “Well,” he says slowly with that lascivious leer perfected over too many nights in cheap dives, “I’ve gotta say, Bones, I never thought I’d agree to get married to someone I’d never slept with before.” He waggles his eyebrows. “Think we can fix that real quick?”

Leonard rolls his eyes. “Infant,” he says, but he can’t stop smiling even as he says it.

Jim’s transport had gotten in a couple hours before his own, so he’d already located the office they need to go to.

“I filled out the application too,” he says as they take a turbolift to the right level. “They said to check back in when we were both here, and we’ll probably have a four hour wait.”

Leonard whistles. “Four hours,” he repeats. “That’s—not much time, is it?”

“Or too much?” Jim is cocky as ever, but watching him closely. He looks slightly hesitant now, and tries to make a joke out of it. “Sure you’re not gonna run out on me?”

“Nah.” Leonard nudges Jim’s hand with his own, and the younger man takes it. His palm is warm and dry. We’re holding hands for the first time and we’re about to get married, he thinks with near hysteria. Oh Jesus Christ on toast, what are we doing? Then Jim squeezes him gently, and he feels calmer again. Centered. “Wouldn’t do that to ya, kid.”

Jim snorts, his smile turning rueful. “’Kid’, huh? We’re about to get married and that’s the best you can do?”

“Mmm.” He has a point there. “Darlin’?” he offers.

Jim’s smile is warmer. “I like it,” he says. “Oh!” He breaks off, but then the ‘lift doors open, and a busy promenade is revealed.

The two of them are quiet as they navigate through the mix of people from across the Federation, all of them on their own errands.

The marriage office is comparatively quiet. Some couples—Leonard notes a group of Andorians, a few Terrans, and several others he can’t quite identify—mill about, some sitting down with PADDs as they fill out forms, others clearly waiting as well. Jim goes to a counter with a window, where a businesslike Deltan pulls up their files.

“There was a cancellation earlier,” she says. “You can go in now, if you like.”

They turn to one another.

This is it, then…

Jim looks a little wild-eyed, cheeks flushed. “Well, Bones. You ready for this?”

“Yeah,” Leonard says, “yeah, I am.”

~

It’s all rather underwhelming, all things considered. They fill out the marriage license and sign their names. A Betazoid justice leads them through a short exchange of vows.

“Do you wish to exchange tokens?” she asks politely.

“Um,” says Jim.

“Uh,” says Leonard.

“I’m going to take that as a no,” she says.

The ceremony continues. Leonard is vaguely aware of the words, but mostly he’s just aware of Jim and how hard his own heart is pounding.

“You may now seal your troth with a kiss,” the justice says solemnly, and they stare at each other.

Then Jim grins widely, leans in, and kisses him.

Jim’s lips are dry and chapped, but his mouth is warm, and Leonard opens his up in response, just for a moment. They break a few seconds later, because they both need to breathe.

“Whew!” Jim is beaming more brightly than ever, and Leonard knows his expression can’t be that different.

And after that?

More forms.

They go to a nearby office to file the joint-assignment request, which takes up the next few hours. When everything has been submitted, they have a little less than an hour to get to their respective shuttles.

“No rings, no wedding night, no honeymoon,” Jim says with wry apology. “This marriage thing can only get better, right?”

Leonard snorts. “That’s not what marriage is about, Jim,” he says. “You know that. Look,” he continues when Jim looks puzzled, “I know this from—exactly what I didn’t have before. Marriage is trusting each other. Supporting each other. We might not have anything else, but we’ve got that.”

“Yeah,” Jim answers. “I don’t know what I’d do without you, Bones.” His forehead is furrowed, as if in pain. “I mean—it sucks not having you around all the time, but—I know you’re out there, y’know? And I might have to wait, but—you’re still there. Y’know?” he repeats, and Leonard understands that rather than seeking validation, that Jim wants the reassurance that Leonard feels the same way.

As if there has ever been any real doubt.

“Yeah. I know, kid.” Leonard pulls the other man close. “I love you, darlin’. Don’t you ever doubt it. Or forget it.”

Jim clutches him back. “Ditto,” he mutters, and they have one last kiss, and then they have to go their separate ways.

~

It takes six weeks for Starfleet to process their joint-assignment request. During that time, they send comms where they largely talk about nothing…


To: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
From: Captain James Kirk
Re: Dude, Seriously?

If I’d known that being an officer REALLY meant this much time spent in meetings, I would have said Fuckit and stayed in the mech shop. At least I was never BORED there!


To: Captain James Kirk
From: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
Re: Dude, Seriously?

I’d feel bad for you, brat, but an ensign just came in with a severed antenna. IDEKWTF.


…comms where they talk more seriously…


To: Captain James Kirk
From: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
Re: Assuming We Survive the Next Five Years…

…Where are we going to spend leave on Earth? You HATE Georgia.


To: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
From: Captain James Kirk
Re: Assuming We Survive the Next Five Years…

Dude, I NEVER said I hated Georgia.

I said I hated JOCELYN.

Which, if I recall correctly, when we went for two weeks last Christmas, you said that made me the smartest man you ever knew and then we went to that bar on I-17, and okay honestly I don’t remember anything after that…


…and a few times, comms where they attempt comm sex.


To: Captain James Kirk
From: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
Re: Deprivation

C’mon, at least TELL me what you’re doing with your cock right now…


To: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
From: Captain James Kirk
Re: Deprivation

Driving you crazy, CLEARLY.


It’s not the best thing ever, but it’s better than nothing.

On quite literally the last day of the requisite six weeks, Leonard receives an alert in his comm box.


Message Waiting! From: Starfleet Assignment Office Re: Joint Assignment Case 7426


Leonard stares at it for a moment, then clicks to open it.


To: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
From: Starfleet Assignment Office
Re: Joint Assignment Case 7426
Attachment 1: Transfer Docket 7426
Attachment 2: Ord_7426_McCoy

Dear Leonard H. McCoy,

Your request for joint-assignment has been reviewed and processed.

Your status is: APPROVED.

New assignment: U.S.S. Enterprise.
Position: Chief Medical Officer
Commanding Officer: James T. Kirk

Please find attached your transfer docket and projected itinerary.


Leonard reads and rereads the message, not quite believing it. The comm program makes a pinging sound, alerting him to a new message. At the same time the shipboard comm system buzzes.

“McCoy?” It’s Captain April.

“Yes, sir?” Leonard’s voice is gravelly, sounding like he has a frog in his throat. He coughs, speaking more clearly. “Sorry. Yes, Captain?”

April’s voice is warm. “I just got a personnel roster change form from Command. Looks like you have a new assignment.”

As the Captain speaks, Leonard reads the new message in his inbox.


To: Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
From: Captain James Kirk
Re: Joint Assignment Case 7426

BONES HURRY UP AND GET YOUR ASS OVER HERE!!!!!


“Yes, sir,” he says slowly. “I believe I do.”

~

It takes two weeks, hopping a series of transport shuttles from Starbase to Starbase, for Leonard to get back to Earth.

Well, nominally speaking anyway. In reality, he takes a transport shuttle from Starbase 4 to Earth Spacedock, where the Enterprise is harbored. He sees her as they make their initial pass to docking, Earth sitting like a blue and green marble on the horizon.

He disembarks from the shuttle, confirms the boarding gate to his new ship, and follows a series of signs to get there. He feels tired and bedraggled: too many days with too little sleep, too much time spent trying to keep track of which ship to take where, too many meals he eats in synthetic, disposable containers.

As he walks up the ramp with a couple of other crewmen, it’s with a sense of relief that he’s reached his final destination. Even though it’s a ship, it’s still home now. As if it’s a sign, the crewmen all nod and grin at him companionably: all of them in their uniforms, all of them with the same dark gray standard-issue duffels to hold their worldly belongings. It’s like they are a family already.

God, when did you get so fucking sentimental? he berates himself, but he can’t quite feel bad about it, either.

“Hi, Doctor McCoy,” says a blonde yeoman Leonard vaguely recognizes from his previous stint on the ship. If he recalls correctly, she was the one who kept supplying Jim and the rest of the bridge crew with constant cups of coffee and snacks as they worked around the clock to keep their damaged vessel functioning on the long way home.

“Hello, Miss…?” He makes a face. “I’m sorry, I remember you but not your name—“

“Rand,” she replies with a grin. She looks surprised when she sees him turn towards the ‘lifts that will take him to the bridge rather than to the crew decks. “Are you reporting for duty already?”

“Yeah. I’ve got somethin’ to take care of,” he says. He gives her a short nod, and the ‘lift doors close in front of him.

He stares blearily at the dim flashes of lights as the ‘lift travels from level to level, and then he’s at the bridge. He recognizes most of the people on duty—junior officers moving about industriously, senior crew more at ease. Uhura sees him and gives him a warm grin in greeting.

“He’s in his Ready Room,” she tells him. “Welcome back, Doctor.”

“Good to be back, Lieutenant,” he says with more calm than he feels. He walks down the short hallway, and presses an entry request at the door.

“Come.” Jim’s voice, and the doors open with a whisper.

Jim is sitting at his desk, a pile of PADDs around him, an empty mug and a plate with the remains of an earlier meal sitting nearby. He looks up as Leonard enters, looking back to his PADD out of habit, then looking back up as he realizes who is standing in front of him.

“Bones!” A smile breaks over his face like dawn, and then he’s up and his arms are around Leonard before he quite realizes it, and Leonard has his face buried in Jim’s neck. His Captain smells like coffee and warmth, and Leonard could stay like this for hours, if only they'd let him.

But they don’t have hours, so at last they break apart. “Reporting for duty, Captain,” he says, and his voice does not wobble unsteadily on that last, no it does not.

Jim just shakes his head, moisture shining in his eyes. He opens and closes his mouth a couple of times, like he wants to say something but can’t quite manage it, and finally he grips Leonard’s arm briefly, before returning to his desk to retrieve something from a drawer.

“I got these,” he says when he returns a heartbeat later, pressing something cool into Leonard’s hand. Leonard stares at the two gold objects there. “I guessed your size. Can I?” Jim looks at him with that odd mixture of shy hesitance and affection and the cocky bravado that Leonard knows so well.

“Yeah,” Leonard says, and Jim slips one of the rings on his finger in silence. Leonard slips the other one on Jim, and they stare at their joined hands for a long moment.

“Wow.” There’s a little wonder and a lot of relief in Jim’s exhalation. “So. Here we are, huh?”

“Yeah, Jim. Here we are.” They stare at each other again, both overcome with the sheer relief of being together.

A comm buzzes at Kirk’s desk. “I’m sorry to interrupt, Captain.” Uhura’s voice, apologetic. “Admiral Pike is on vid transmission for you, sir.”

Jim’s eyes don’t leave Leonard’s. “Thanks, Lieutenant,” he says, loud enough to be heard over the comm system. Lower, he says “I’ve gotta take that.”

“Yeah, I know,” Leonard says. “I’ll leave you to it.”

Jim nods. “You can leave your stuff here, I’ll be there in a second.” Leonard obligingly drops his duffle, stepping back out into the hallway. The air is cooler out here, or maybe it only seems that way. He feels shaky—from exhaustion, from nerves, from giddiness. Taking a deep breath, he heads back to the bridge. They’ll be heading out any moment now, he knows.

Sulu and Chekov sit at the helm companionably. Uhura sits at her station, ever competent. There’s an excited energy in the air, like a promise fulfilled, and for the first time in a long time, Leonard feels like he is where he needs to be.

Then Jim steps onto the bridge, steady gaze taking them all in, before landing on Leonard with a little grin.

“Bones,” he says, his voice warm with affection and eagerness. “Buckle up.” He slaps Leonard on the back playfully before taking his place in the command chair at the center, beaming.

Leonard wishes he had the energy to smile back, but he’s painfully tired. He knows he could safely excuse himself now, but he’s not going to miss this for the world.

He’s not going to miss anything with Jim in it, ever.

Then Spock comes in, cutting it even closer than Leonard had, and as Jim grins at the man, Leonard has the feeling of a circle joined. He glances down at the new ring on his finger, and then back to his Captain, who is beaming like the sun. He knows it was right to stay, then, and not just for Jim’s look of relief, but Nyota’s too.

Yeah, Leonard is exactly where he needs to be. They all are.

TOTALLY NOT THE END.

Author’s Gratuitous Notes

Captain Robert April and his wife, CMO Sarah, appeared in TAS “The Counter-Clock Incident.” April was also the original Captain for the USS Yorktown in Roddenberry’s spec scripts, before being rewritten as Pike and then Kirk aboard the Enterprise. Sarah’s last name wasn’t given but tocourtdisaster suggested “Rochester” and I quite like it. *G*

Commander Thelin appears in TAS “Yesteryear.”

Dan Howard is an OC, but in my brain he’s Beverly Crusher’s (nee Howard) grandfather.

Comments

( 82 comments — Add your .02 )
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aadarshinah
Feb. 13th, 2011 05:19 pm (UTC)
*squees* This is just... wow. And such a totally Jim and Bones thing to do. *squees again*
caitri
Feb. 13th, 2011 07:24 pm (UTC)
Heh, you peeked! *looks sheepish* I didn't think anyone would find it before I x-posted it cos I post-dated it. Glad you enjoyed it though!! Happy early Valentine's!!
(no subject) - aadarshinah - Feb. 13th, 2011 08:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
tocourtdisaster
Feb. 14th, 2011 12:46 am (UTC)
*loves*
caitri
Feb. 14th, 2011 01:01 am (UTC)
*squishes*
imagined_haven
Feb. 14th, 2011 01:15 am (UTC)
Absolutely amazing. Much special love for when they start 'shouting' at each other via message. It's just so them. :)
caitri
Feb. 14th, 2011 01:17 am (UTC)
*G* Thank you, bb!!!
caera1996
Feb. 14th, 2011 01:19 am (UTC)
This was fantastic. You captured that subtle sense of innate wrongness with the situation at the beginning so well. And I loved the movie tie-in. Great, great job!
caitri
Feb. 14th, 2011 01:38 am (UTC)
*G* Thanks, bb!!
elfsausage
Feb. 14th, 2011 01:39 am (UTC)
OMG it's amazing! This was my prompt, and I'm so excited it's been filled so brilliantly :-) Jim is a genius! And it was lovely watching everybody else point Bones in the direction he needed to go. And the capslock comms! I'm gonna have to read this again & again :-) <3
caitri
Feb. 14th, 2011 01:40 am (UTC)
Aww!!!! <333 I'm glad you liked it so much!!!!!!!!!!! *squishes you happily*
eyesofshinigami
Feb. 14th, 2011 01:57 am (UTC)
:D This made me grin like a loon. Only Jim could come with the most roundabout way EVER to confess his love to Bones. Seriously.

caitri
Feb. 14th, 2011 02:41 am (UTC)
It's funny cos it's true!!! ;)
dftreaper
Feb. 14th, 2011 02:00 am (UTC)
I should be doing homework but I love this!!!!!
caitri
Feb. 14th, 2011 02:40 am (UTC)
LOL! Er, thank you, and, uh, I'm sorry? ;)
madscribbles
Feb. 14th, 2011 02:30 am (UTC)
*glees*

I love this and it's totally them and AH you fit the "buckle up Bones" scene so sweetly to this.
caitri
Feb. 14th, 2011 02:40 am (UTC)
*G* Glad you liked it!!!!
northernwalker
Feb. 14th, 2011 02:46 am (UTC)
This fic is full of "Awww!" and "Squee!!!"

That's a good thing.
caitri
Feb. 14th, 2011 02:57 am (UTC)
*L* Glad you like it!
missjaneregrets
Feb. 14th, 2011 03:33 am (UTC)
This was lovely! I particularly liked the shouting over email about being in love.
When's the honeymoon?
caitri
Feb. 14th, 2011 03:34 am (UTC)
Good question.

I have a vague idea of Jim promising them one, and them arguing about it while they're under fire on an away mission gone wrong.
(no subject) - wyntreaurora - Feb. 14th, 2011 06:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
titta_estel
Feb. 14th, 2011 03:54 am (UTC)
This was so cute, I could feel the separation pain, I even held my breath when Bones received the letter. I love it, hoping for more soon
caitri
Feb. 14th, 2011 03:57 am (UTC)
*G* Glad you like it. This is probably a one-shot though. :)
secretsolitaire
Feb. 14th, 2011 04:19 am (UTC)
Oh man, I loved this! The comms back and forth especially, though poor Jim -- Bones took long enough to say ILY back after Jim admitted it, LOL. But yeah, this made me happy. :-)
caitri
Feb. 14th, 2011 04:39 am (UTC)
*G* Glad you liked it!!!!!!!
deerang2002
Feb. 14th, 2011 05:25 am (UTC)
I loved their comms to each other...and could hear Bones and Jim's voices as I read them...

Absolutely loved this!
caitri
Feb. 14th, 2011 05:28 am (UTC)
Awesome!!!! *G* Glad you liked it!!!!!
weepingnaiad
Feb. 14th, 2011 06:48 am (UTC)
I loved all the TAS characters and how Bones ran, but then he blinked and realized that he felt like his right arm was missing.

I liked April and Rochester setting a good example for Bones and their letters, especially when they were yelling at each other were priceless!

Wonderful!


caitri
Feb. 15th, 2011 01:10 am (UTC)
*G*G* Glad you liked it!!
vivid_moment
Feb. 14th, 2011 02:37 pm (UTC)
*is hyper and twirling around the room and grinning giddily*
ASGLASDFGLJSDFGLASDGAGJ!!! This was so endearing and them and wonderful! *SQUEE!* THERE'S ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ABOUT THIS FIC I DON'T LOVE, EXCEPT FOR THE FACT THAT IT HAD TO END!

caitri
Feb. 15th, 2011 01:13 am (UTC)
Re: *is hyper and twirling around the room and grinning giddily*
*twirls with you* Glad you liked it!!!!!
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