Let the bromance commence!

Betad once again by the marvelous Tishbing!

McCoy's semi-drunken state had deepened into the hangover from hell. He wished he could say he'd never felt so miserable before but that would have been a lie. He'd been drunk or hungover now for the best part of six months.

The vaguely homicidal feelings were new though.

If he ever saw that bastard recruiter again he was going to do something very unpleasant to the man's testicles. Join Starfleet. See the fucking Universe.

His ass.

Since being herded through processing like the rest of the idiots who'd signed their lives away, McCoy had collected a ridiculous amount of clothing - uniforms, PT kit, boots, shoes, underwear - been allocated a dorm he'd seen for all of ten seconds, sat around for two hours waiting to see his new Academic Advisor, stared at his class schedule with something akin to horror and spent three more hours listening to Starfleet Medical Academy's orientation lecture.

There was a lot to learn about being a cadet in Starfleet. They needed to know who to salute (pretty much everyone) and how (harder than it looked). They needed to know what privileges they had (practically none), the difference between a Lt. Commander, a Commander and a Commodore (mix them up at their peril, apparently) and why exactly Starfleet was the greatest thing since sliced bread. McCoy came out of the session feeling like his head had been stuffed with cotton wool and had the delight of knowing he had another whole week of the same ahead.

One would think, after all that, he'd be allowed to crawl into his bed and sleep long enough to get rid of the angry bear that had inhabited his head.

But no, of course not.

Medical cadets had different expectations than the rest of the new recruits but they were held to the same standards in terms of fitness and physical health, which was why, after what felt like the longest day in history, McCoy was out on the fields ready to run through PT divisions.

Once he'd passed the initial test, he'd then be placed in one of four groups, depending on his level of fitness. The basic group, for those who possessed just the bare minimum abilities for admittance, was where most of the medical cadets ended up.

He'd been incredibly fit once upon a time, playing sports every other day with colleagues at the hospital. He could fire out a few push ups - which seemed to be used as everything from punishment to reward, depending - and crunches without too much misery.

This, however, was a goddamn monster.

The campus long obstacle course loomed ahead of them in the slowly dwindling evening light.

"Looks fun, right?" McCoy jumped, caught letting his thoughts wander away with him, and looked sideways into the grinning face of the kid he'd sat next to on the shuttle.

"If you're a masochist." McCoy grumbled, looking the kid up and down. He'd cleaned up and was wearing the same standard issue PT kit as McCoy, but the bruises were still dark on his face and hands. It was unlikely the kid had sought medical treatment like McCoy had told him, and now he wanted to run around like an idiot. Maybe masochist wasn't too far off the mark for him.

"Aw come on, Bones! Live a little!"


Kirk's grin looked painfully wide and he fixed earnest blue eyes on McCoy in a way that was reminiscent of the dog he'd had as a kid - always impossibly excited by the smallest of things and desperate to play with you whether you liked it or not. "You're a doctor." Kirk said, as if that explained everything. "Now come on, I'll race you to the end!"

"Do I look like I give a damn if you beat me?" McCoy asked, wondering if this was some strange form of divine punishment. Not only did he have to run this damn course, he had to do it with someone who clearly had his own self sustaining warp core. Please god, kill him now.

"You look like you're gonna throw up." Kirk said with a smirk. "What's the matter, doc? Can't hold your booze?"

"Don't you have anyone else to annoy?" McCoy grumbled, falling into a reluctant starter position and waiting for the bell.

"You're the most convenient." Kirk grinned, not bothering to take position. "Besides, I'm worried about you."

"You're worried about me?" McCoy asked in disbelief. Who the hell did this kid think he was?

"Sure. I mean, I didn't even know they let old people enlist any more." Kirk looked him up and down skeptically.

"Old?" McCoy yelped indignantly. The bell chimed and he lunged after Kirk, who had gone from standing around obliviously to action in less time than it had taken for McCoy to even compute the bell. "I'll give you old you little shit!"

He spent the entire race that way, always just out of reaching distance of Kirk, who sailed through the whole thing with the kind of grace and agility McCoy would be jealous of if he could think of anything other than wringing the brat's skinny neck. Old? Old?

He wasn't old. He wasn't over the hill.

He might be a drunk, bitter divorcee with a daughter he never saw and a list of sins longer than his arm…he might be all that, but he was not old.

Kirk's laughter just ahead was like a constant kick in the ass, forcing him to keep his body moving over walls and under wires, across trenches and swinging from beams like a goddamn monkey. They kept him from bowing out when he desperately wanted to, when everything hurt and he was fairly sure he'd lost the ability to convert oxygen into carbon dioxide.

He'd be damned if he let some immature, reckless little punk like Jim Kirk show him up. He'd finish the damned course if it killed him, and then he'd kill Kirk.

He was still charging forward, almost tripping over his own feet with the single minded need to continue, when he banged into Kirk who was standing perfectly still at the end of the route.

They'd finished. He'd reached the end.

"Nicely done, Bones." Kirk grinned at him, his hands grasping McCoy's elbows to keep him from knocking them both over.

"I hate you." McCoy gasped, his lungs burning. It was grossly unfair that Kirk wasn't even out of breath.

Kirk laughed at him again. "Sure you do." He said.

McCoy's response was to fall to his knees and vomit on Kirk's new track shoes.

Apparently throwing up on a man was practically a rite of passage where Kirk came from and he didn't seem in the least bit upset. He ran interference when some of the other cadets tried to butt in and shoved a bottle of water under McCoy's nose before their instructor could see.

"Don't worry about it!" Kirk said again. "Seriously, you're not even the first person, I think Johnson's still trying to puke up his intestines. At least you can blame the alcohol."

"Having problems, McCoy?" Their instructor was a short man with thick shoulders and arms. McCoy wasn't sure if not having a sense of humor was a recruitment requirement for these guys or if they were just lucking out, but Commander Gioni had a flat face and an expression to match.

"No sir." McCoy said. He'd been raised to have manners so he didn't think addressing people as 'sir' or 'ma'am' would be a problem for him.

Gioni nodded and looked at Kirk. "Something funny, Cadet? Does McCoy's predicament amuse you?"

"No sir!" Jim said, wiping the smile from his face but not his eyes.

"Really? Because it looks that way to me. If you're feeling so perky why don't you circle back and run the course again?" Kirk opened his mouth to respond. "That wasn't a suggestion Kirk."

"Sir, he was just-"

"Keep talking, McCoy, if you want to join him."

He caught the subtle way Kirk shook his head. A sensible man would shut his mouth. The first run around had nearly crippled him. A second might actually lead to his undignified death.

Gioni was back, glaring at Jim. "Don't expect any special treatment from me, Kirk."

"Wouldn't dream of it, Sir." The kid said evenly, taking off at a jog back to the start of the course.

Aw to hell with it. "You're an ass." McCoy said to Gioni, rather enjoying the way his eyebrows shot up in shock. "Sir." He added, hastily taking off after Kirk.

He slowed down when he reached the kid's pace. "You're crazy, doc." Kirk laughed.

"I'm a fucking moron." McCoy agreed. "One day and I'm already making friends."

"What's the worst he can do?" Kirk asked him as they kept an even pace through the campus. There was no point exhausting themselves before they even reached the start again. "Make us run for hours on end in the cold and the rain?"

"Aw Christ." McCoy muttered, wondering what the hell he'd been thinking.

"Welcome to Starfleet, Bones."

"You need to stop calling me that."

"Make me." Kirk smirked, sprinting off into the distance.

"Goddamn it." McCoy growled, picking up speed and wondering if this was going to be the rest of his life - running around like an idiot after Jim Kirk.

By the time they had finished the run a third time - because two just wasn't enough for an asshole like Gioni - McCoy was too exhausted to wonder what it had been about Kirk that had triggered the man's antagonism so quickly. By the following morning he'd all but pushed it out of his mind.

He met Kirk on the steps of the Cadet Mess Hall for breakfast as they had agreed before separating the night before. Jim was dorming in one of the cadet housing barracks on the far side of campus, while McCoy had a room in one of the apartment blocks closer to town. It was one of the perks of being on the Med Track that he wasn't going to turn his nose up at. Better a two bedroom apartment with only one - admittedly neurotic - roommate than a bunk in an eight bed block. He wasn't sure he'd be able to sleep with that many strangers in the room, but Kirk was waiting for him, bright eyed and bushy tailed, despite it being six in the morning.

"Mornin' Bones!" He said cheerfully.

"I thought we agreed you weren't going to call me that?" McCoy grumbled, following Jim inside and picking up a tray.

"You agreed." Kirk said. "I did no such thing." He stared at the selection of food in front of them with slightly bewildered eyes, making no move to choose and holding up the line of hungry, increasingly irritated cadets.

McCoy reached out, grabbed a bowl of oatmeal and dumped it on Kirk's tray before shoving him forwards. "Pick something."

"Someone's grumpy this morning." Kirk said lightly, adding an apple and a few slices of toast to his tray.

"Someone hasn't had coffee." McCoy glared back. He'd never met anyone so completely immune to his temper before. Most people would have got the message that McCoy wasn't really the friendly type, but either Kirk was stupid or he had the self preservation instincts of a lemming. The kid was attractive, almost ridiculously so, so maybe that was it. A pretty face and not much going on behind the scenes. Still, a nice guy and McCoy wasn't exactly overrun with friends.

He added a glass of milk to Kirk's tray and dared him to comment with a twitch of his eyebrow.

If Kirk was bothered he didn't show it. McCoy wasn't sure anything would phase that kid. Three runs through the assault course certainly hadn't.

Whatever Kirk had been doing before Starfleet, it had left him in seriously good shape. McCoy wanted to hate him for it, but he only had himself to blame. He could have let Jim run alone. He still wasn't sure why he hadn't.

He got his coffee and followed Kirk to the end of a table.

The oatmeal was practically cold and the toast soggy, but Kirk plowed his way through both without much concern. The coffee, at least, was palatable.

"You're James Kirk." A voice from the other side of McCoy announced.

"It's Jim." Kirk said.

"No, but you're him." The cadet said, his eyes wide. "You look just like your dad."

Kirk paused, toast in hand, then very calmly set it back down on his plate.

"Your point being?"

"What's that like?"

"Right now, irritating." Kirk said, his voice even. McCoy had the impression he was missing something and he didn't like the way the kid's gaze seemed to close off.

"Beat it." he said to the cadet. "Some people are trying to eat breakfast in peace."

Kirk might be immune to his glare, but the cadet wasn't. He squeaked and turned away quickly. "What the hell was that about?" He asked Kirk.

The kid shrugged. "Beats me."

"Your dad famous or something?" He asked, wondering if perhaps that was that Gioni had been talking about when he said Kirk wouldn't get any special treatment.

"Or something." Kirk nodded, clearly having lost all interest in his breakfast. "What have you got first?"

As distractions went that was as transparent as glass, but McCoy let it slide.

"Meeting my advisor to try and sort out some discrepancies in my class schedule."

"What's wrong with it?" Kirk asked.

"Well for a start it's designed for someone who doesn't already have an MD."

"Smarty pants." Kirk grinned.

McCoy rolled his eyes. "What about you?"

"Physical." Kirk said, grimacing. "Then psych."

"Fun." McCoy knew most cadets disliked the intrusive procedures, as necessary as they were. Now he was on the other side of things he found himself being considerably more sympathetic.

"Don't worry, Bones." Kirk winked at him. "You're still my favorite doctor."

"Lucky me." McCoy groused. They finished up their breakfasts together and ditched the trays for cleaning. "Lunch?"

Kirk shook his head. "Meeting Pike. Dinner? Hear it's gonna be shit on shingles."

"I don't want to know, do I?" McCoy asked, shuddering.

"Tastes as good as it sounds." Kirk laughed, bouncing off down the steps. "Catch you later, Bones!"

"Stop calling me that!" McCoy yelled after him. "Goddamn brat."