This chapter comes with an angst warning. And a language warnings. And a violence warning. And a Jim does not make good life choices when upset warning (neither does McCoy).

Jim woke to the soft brush of long hair against his shoulder. He rubbed at his eyes and groaned sleepily. "How is it morning already?"

"Because the Earth has a twenty-four hour rotation around the sun?" Gaila postulated, propping herself up on one elbow and absently playing connect the dots with the freckles on Jim's shoulder. "It's quite unseemly."

"We can't all be from planets with forty-one hour rotations." Jim snorted.

"Probably a good thing. You humans would be falling asleep half-way through the day."

"Are you calling my species fragile?" Jim asked, eyebrow raising and his grin growing. "Because I don't recall you complaining last night."

"Of course I wouldn't complain!" Gaila giggled. "Human egos are as delicate as their-"

"Hey!" Jim pouted, throwing a pillow at her. "See if I do that thing you like again."

She rolled her eyes, an expression she was rather proud to have adopted and one Jim blamed predominantly on Uhura. "You like it just as much as I do." She smirked. "Don't deny it." Jim just grinned.

"Why can't Uhura spend all her nights in the long range sensor labs?" Jim complained, stretching out on the bed and luxuriating in the privacy of a two person dorm. He'd taken to avoiding his own bunk as much as possible. He divided his time between Gaila's dorm - when Uhura was on duty - one of the engineering hangers and the library. He crashed the odd night on Bones's tiny couch but knew he couldn't push that resource without Bones catching on to the fact that, at most, Jim slept one night a week in his own bunk. He'd got away with it so far by manipulating the location services on his comm. His dorm mates said nothing because Jim's absence meant they could get a good night's sleep. Gaila said nothing because she understood.

Jim couldn't remember a time when he hadn't had nightmares. Even as a little boy, before there had been anything in his life really worthy of bad dreams, he'd been afraid of the things that lurked in the dark shadows of the night. Sam had used to tease him for them.

Since finding Finnegan, they'd become more frequent than usual.

He wasn't really loud when he dreams. Okay, sometimes he woke up screaming, but that was a rarity. Most of the times he tossed and turned before waking abruptly. Sometimes he came up swinging. Lots of times he came up swinging. He'd given Cy and Humperdink more black eyes than he cared to remember.

"You should put in a rotation request." Gaila advised him seriously. "They are horrible to you."

"It's just banter," Jim defended. She poked him hard in the ribs, right on top of a fresh bruise he had from a collision in the showers. "Physically expressive banter?"


"I know." Jim groaned, throwing the sheets back. "Where did I thrown my pants?"

"Other bed?" Gaila asked, unashamed of her nakedness as she climbed off the bed. "You could stay for a shower." She suggested.

Jim was tempted, oh so very tempted. Especially when she stood the way she was standing then, hip jutted at an angle, her fingernails drumming coyly over the curve of her thigh.

"If I stay," Jim pointed out, "a shower will lead to that thing."

"That thing is fun." Gaila giggled.

"Oh, it is." Jim nodded rapidly. "It's also counterproductive to my study plans."

"You realize that you are the only red-blooded man to ever turn down sex with an Orion woman in favor of studying, right?" Gaila asked, laughing at him.

"I'm awesome that way." Jim grinned, stealing a quick kiss. "Though technically it's not so much me turning you down as saying: 'rain check'?"

"But it's sunny." Gaila frowned, looking out her window. "And I know you're not going to study. You're going to spend all morning reading Danny's medical file as if you don't already have it memorized."

"Not true." Jim pouted, then said, "You know this is important, Gaila." He said, hoping that she at least understood why he couldn't let this just drop. It might have been a big ask. Even Jim couldn't understand it.

"I know." Gaila said, leaning in to finish fastening his shirt for him.

"Just don't do anything reckless, yes?"

"Me?" Jim asked, his face a picture of innocence, "reckless?"

"Exactly." Gaila laughed.

"Bones!" Jim let himself into Bones' dorm room and jumped on to the couch.

"I'm in the shower." Bones yelled from behind the closed bathroom door. "And who the hell said you could come in?"

"That's nice!" Jim shouted back, purposely mishearing him.

"Your comm's ringing!" He added, eyes moving to the small device Bones had left on the counter.

"So answer it already!" Bones snapped back. Jim sniggered. Bones was such a grumpy bastard in the morning.

"Personal comm of Doctor Leonard McCoy, M.D. G. R. U. M. P." Jim answered the comm in a chirrupy voice, not recognizing the name that flashed on screen. As far as he knew there wasn't Clay Treadway in their year, though he could have been one of the medical cadets McCoy sometimes hung out with.

"Who is this?" Ooh, Georgia! Jim grinned as he recognized the accent. Maybe not a cadet after all. Maybe someone from way back home.

"Who is this?" Jim echoed.


"Hi Clay." Jim said, overly polite. "What can the office of Doctor McCoy do for you today?"

"The office of…is Leo there?" Jim's eyebrows shot up. Leo, huh? Not as good as Bones, but then what was?

"He's currently drowning himself in a shower of angst feelings and hot water. Can I take a message?" Jim chirruped.

"Who is it?" Bones yelled from the bathroom.

"Some guy!" Jim shouted back. "Oops, sorry. Didn't mean to yell at you!" He apologized to the voice on the other end of the comm. "So, message?"

There was an angry growl, then, "Tell him to stop being such a cowardly piece of shit and to comm his daughter." The ring of a disconnected line told Jim that Clay had ended the connection.

He turned, slightly stunned, to face the bathroom door just as Bones came charging out, wrapped in a towel and his perpetually irritated expression. "Well?" Bones demanded. "Who was it?"

"You have a daughter?" Jim demanded, half expecting it to be a joke.

But the color drained from Bones' face and he made a grab for the comm. "Jo called?"

"Wait, you actually have a daughter?" Jim repeated. "Like, a real life kid?"

"She's not made of wood if that's what you mean." McCoy snapped, frowning in confusion when he saw the name on the record of calls.

"Clay called? Did you talk to him?"

"You have a daughter?" Jim repeated once more. "Holy shit, how can you have a fucking kid, Bones?"

"It's called sex." Bones scowled, hands tightening on the edges of his towel. "I'd go out on a limb and say you've heard of it."

"Yeah, but you have a kid. How the fucking fuck did that happen?"

Bones did not look impressed. "Well Jim, when a mommy and a daddy love each other very much they get a visit from a friendly stork who-"

"Fuck you, Bones." Jim snapped, unable to understand why he was suddenly so angry. So Bones had a kid, big deal.

"What the hell is your problem, kid?" Bones demanded. "So I have a daughter, big deal. I fail to see how it's any of your goddamn business."

Jim knew Bones was only getting so angry because Jim was. He knew he was escalating the subject, but for the life of him he couldn't stop himself.

"Oh you're right, it's none of my business. But tell me something Bones, your kid, how old is she?"

"She's two." Bones said, pain flicking in his eyes.

"And does she know why her daddy abandoned her?" Jim asked, nastiness creeping into his voice.

He should stop. He knew he should stop. He couldn't.

Bones was a good guy, he was. The best Jim had ever met, maybe.

And maybe…maybe that was it. Maybe this was what he was waiting for. Proof that Bones wasn't perfect. Proof that he was going to let Jim down just like everyone else had. If he could abandon his kid then he could sure as hell do the same to Jim. He obviously wasn't the person Jim had foolishly believed he was.

"You're well out of line, kid." McCoy said, his voice becoming cold and very quiet. It was a warning sign Jim was a little too far gone with anger to heed.

"That's a bit fucking rich." Jim laughed hollowly. "So what's the matter? She not smart enough? Not special enough? She's clearly not worth you sticking around for but I mean it all makes sense, doesn't it? Knew there had to be a reason for you running off to Starfleet when you hate every fucking thing about it here-"

"Don't you go putting your own issues on me, you little shit." McCoy snapped, anger coiling in his shoulders and down his arm.

Jim knew the signs well. Frank had always looked the same, right before he lost it. When he was younger, it had been a sign to run, hide. Now it was a trigger to push harder, more ruthlessly. To make his target lose that control because when he did, it became Jim's.

He stabbed in the preverbal knife and twisted it hard. "My issues? I'm not the one who can't even love his own daughter enough to stick around and-"

He'd seen the warnings and he'd pushed them, but still, somehow, the collision of McCoy's fist with his jaw took him by surprise.

Bones had some serious upper body strength and the full weight of his anger behind him. The side of Jim's face flared with pain and his mouth flooded with blood.

Jim laughed as it trickled down his throat and over his lips. He laughed at his own stupidity and he laughed at the stunned, horrified look that had come to replace the anger on McCoy's face.

McCoy stayed frozen to the spot, so shocked and disgusted that it looked as if he'd been the one who had been hit, not Jim.

Jim didn't let people get hits out for nothing. Not these days. Not if he could help it. Still, he couldn't find it in himself to hit Bones back.

He kept laughing as he walked right out of the door, blood still flowing freely from where his teeth had cut his gums, trickling down from his mouth to stain the collar of his shirt. He'd have a wicked bruise in a few hours.

That, somehow, was just as funny. He was still laughing on the other side of campus, in the lifts, and as he waited outside the closed door of an office he'd spent far too much time in the last few weeks.

Pike opened the door to him, his stern face twisting in shock as he took in Jim's bloody features. After shock came the rage. It was a brief flicker of fierce, protective anger, and though it vanished almost as quickly as it came, it made the throbbing pain ease.

For that look, Jim would let Bones punch him a hundred times.