Author's Note: This idea has been burning a hole in my mind for awhile, though I know I'm probably one of the last to write a post-Into Darkness recovery fic. Many thanks to Rubyhair for the beta of this chapter and faithful support as I write! Also, I want to thank IrishLuck19 for assisting me with the medical aspects of this chapter, really ironing out a few mistakes and giving me her input, especially concerning McCoy's progress notes, which were largely her writing (I just tweaked). Here is a shout out to my friend, Cansei, who is also a great encourager to me as I write and gave the chapter a look over as well. :)

This will be a bromantic, hurt/comfort focused story about Jim and Bones' friendship as Jim recovers, though a few crew members will pop up. The plot is pretty much straightforward, given that the story begins about seven weeks post-STID. All remaining errors are my own.

Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek.


oOo

And if I stand next to you...

Chapter One

(will it be under your umbrella)

oOo

The cup of tea warmed Jim's hands as he watched the doctor let himself in Jim's apartment and hang his jacket on the hook by the door. Something about the way Bones practically threw his two bags on the floor told Jim that his best friend wasn't in the mood for any of his crap this time.

"Hey, Bones," Jim said, still happier now than he'd been all day. He'd seen only two people the past twenty-four hours - his nurse and therapist. Bones was definitely a step up.

"Jim, sorry I got here a little late."

"'Sfine, so it was five hours later than you said," Jim shrugged. "It's not like I was going anywhere, especially without you."

Bones gave him a small tense smile. "That'll change soon enough."

"Want some tea? Coffee? Or don't you have time tonight?"

"I'll hang here for the night, actually, if that's okay with you."

Confused, Jim frowned at Bones. "Uh, sure, even though you don't live far from me? Or did you move." He tried to smile, but it fell flat.

"I need to check your vitals through night after I administer the drugs for this treatment," Bones said. "In the morning, I'll get going. Spock and Uhura will come about lunch time, and they'll also take you to your psychologist appointment in the afternoon."

Dang it. Right. Drug therapy accompanied by a night of interrupted sleep just like last week. Drug therapy that aggravated his PTSD, taking him right back into the heart of his ship and dying. How could he have forgotten that? "Why does Jocelyn need to talk with you in person, again?" Jim didn't look at doctor but inspected his cup of liquid warmth. Jim didn't hold his breath that Bones would give him an answer. Bones hadn't answered him directly any other time that he'd asked. Why would this time be any different?

"We may have to go into the school and talk with Jojo's teachers," Bones said.

There it was again. A non-answer. From the corner of his eye, he saw Bones pull out the artillery. "Seven hypos? Really?" He muttered in disgust.

"If you want to get cleared for duty, you'll do what I, as your personal physician, ask of you, Jim."

Jim could've sworn Bones had already used that line a hundred times to get Jim to cooperate. Jim pulled his eyes from his tea and shot Bones a glare, but his CMO wasn't even looking his way. Even worse, Bones was wearing gloves, which meant these were all for now.

"I'm busy," Jim gritted.

"I can work around you, but it would be best if you set that cup down."

Bones' no-nonsense tone stung. Yeah, Jim knew. Jim knew because some of those hypos hurt like a bitch, and if he jerked or blacked out like before, thanks to his PTSD, the tea would spill. But, he already wasn't feeling too hot, which was why he was drinking weak tea in the first place.

"Can't you just wait? It's just a damn cup of tea," Jim said, exasperated.

He didn't wait for an answer. Instead, he turned his back to Bones and made his way to the other room as fast as he could - with the speed of a damn snail. Shoulders slumping, he slipped onto the barstool in the kitchen. He went to place his cup on its saucer, but the fact that his hands were shaking finally registered. Before he could react, the cup slipped out of his hands. The china clattered loudly on the counter, landing on its side and spilling most of the remaining hot liquid.

"Dammit," he breathed out. He tried to right the cup but only managed to set it crookedly on the saucer after three attempts, a sure sign that his nerves were shot. He glared at his hands. Why now of all times? His last episode had been the day he'd been discharged from the hospital.

More than likely Bones had already noticed. These days nothing escaped the eye of the doctor. But Jim also had greater issues to deal with than these annoying tremors, and Bones was at the top of the list. His own short-fuse wasn't going to make this any easier, and he was too exhausted from the PT today to make it to his bedroom and hide from the hypo-wielding doctor. Jim sighed and dropped his head into his hands. His fingers carded through his hair as he willed the uncontrollable tremors to stop. He was stuck, having absolutely no say in his life right now, and tomorrow Bones was leaving Jim behind and heading for Georgia for three days.

Jim didn't like it. In fact, he hated it. It was just over a week since Jim's long stint in the hospital. Sure, he wasn't eating like the doctor wanted him to, but he did manage to drink the protein shakes Bones made him. He was in therapy but still walked around like an old man, thanks to his back injury and the lingering effect of the radiation damage to his body. He could do simple things for himself, though for short periods of time only. But, Bones was Bones. Bones was taking care of things for Jim. Just by being here he comforted Jim. He was always here, every day. If he was gone, it just wouldn't be the same. Jim would have too much time on his hands and start thinking about all the things his therapist wanted to talk to him about, which just so happened to be everything he wanted far from his mind.

Footsteps sounded on the kitchen floor. Jim pulled his hands away from his scalp. He crossed his arms, lifted his head, and locked his shoulders.

"It's better to do it now, Jim," Bones said softly behind him. "We're on a schedule."

"You mean I'm on a schedule," Jim said, barely turning his head to the right ninety degrees. Bones was acting more like a doctor than a best friend. His best friend would let him finish his damn tea.

The doctor ignored his comment. "Let's get to the couch," Bones grasped him gently by the arm, urging him off of the stool and leading him out of the kitchen. "You'll be able to relax better there."

Jim tried to curb his frustration, but he couldn't help but respond in a biting tone. "I was relaxing. With a perfectly hot cup of tea."

Never mind that he'd just spilled the damn thing on the counter.

Bones sighed as they reached the couch. "Jim, I have to keep our schedule. It's the best way to treat you and to prevent strain on your heart and other organs as your immunity builds back up. I'll clean up the mess and make you a fresh, hot cup and get you a blanket and pudding when we're done, okay?"

It was strange how something so small made him feel happy again. He became so relaxed that he uncrossed his arms. The doctor's eyes passed over his hands before returning to Jim's face, but Jim wasn't paying attention to what Bones was doing. Jim could practically taste the decadent, creamy texture on his tongue. "Chocolate?" He asked hesitantly as Bones lowered him to his seat.

Bones' smile reached his eyes this time. "Your favorite? Sure. Now, let's get started. Like I've told you before, being tense won't help. Why don't you lie down? It may help, Jim."

"I'm fine," Jim said. He leaned his head against the back of the couch. He just wanted to get this over with.

"Are you sure?" Bones asked quietly.

"Yes," Jim swallowed and dared a look at Bones.

Bones' eyes were warm as he nodded. "Alright. We'll do it your way."

Jim was no stranger to McCoy's gentler bedside manner but it seemed as if the doctor was trying extra hard to make Jim as comfortable as possible. Bones told Jim what he was doing before he did it, relaxing Jim with his soft voice. He spoke of other things, too, although Jim's attention span shortened with each injection and he wasn't completely aware of what Bones was talking about. The first three injections weren't so bad, making Jim only slightly uncomfortable, and his confidence grew. He could do this. Bones was still here in San Francisco, not Atlanta. With Bones here, he'd do this. The injections were staggered, ten minutes between each one, but after the fourth, Jim's vision flared white with stars.

Pain flooded his neck and shoulders, the pricking of a thousand needles which dug into his skin like fiery red ants. For a moment, he couldn't breathe as the fire swept through his body. "Shit," he hissed. "And you're leaving me...for three days?"

Bones' answer was lost in the space around them, when he felt himself falling and hands guiding his head to land on a soft place. He couldn't see anything through the pain, but he could feel everything with a gross exaggeration. The liquid as it pooled at his neck and at his forehead. The ice chips wetting his lips and the cool drops which coursed down his parched throat. The next pinch that came at him like a razor-sharp teeth to his neck, wanting more, just as the warp core had taken all of him. His arms flailing when he was unable to control his movements. The strong arm that wrapped around his chest like a vise, holding him down.

"Jim," Bones murmured in his ear. "Relax, buddy."

Jim didn't know much after that. It could have been minutes or hours. It all blended together into an eternity, between the gasping and gritting his teeth and feeling utterly spent. Suddenly, he was in the warp core, his body burning from the inside out. He was crawling with the last of his willpower and strength to the door. His body was failing, every single last breath he took a laborious, excruciating process as Spock's face faded from his sight.

When someone pressed a cool cloth on his forehead, the world started to right itself again.

"That's it," a voice murmured as he came to some awareness. "You don't need to fight it anymore, Jim."

His heart pounded in his ears, each pulse low and heavy as he tried to make sense of the voice and where he was. His body felt helpless, as if he were pinned to the cushions, but he peeled his eyes open. They fluttered, weak but working against him. He noticed their wetness but didn't remember ever crying.

"I gotcha, Jim," the voice murmured.

At that, Jim caught a glimpse of the face floating above him. The hazel eyes peered at him with concern. "Bones," Jim whispered weakly.

"I'm right here, Jim. I won't leave you. You can let go, now," the doctor said, soothing him.

The soft command was enough for him to listen without reservation, yet even his eyelids pained him as they closed. He took a few more ragged breaths as the deeply imprinted moments before his death faded and, soon, he drifted off to a welcomed darkness.

oOo

Still at Jim's side, McCoy's shoulders sagged. He kneaded the headache at his temple with his free hand. Damn, that had been bad. Worse than the last time, much worse, and Jim was likely to have an even greater reaction next week to the therapy. Not only that, but he'd probably not forget how badly these injections affected him.

McCoy pushed away from the couch and stood to his feet. He didn't have much time and there were things to be done. He gathered what he needed to treat and observe Jim through the night and grabbed a random sandwich from the refrigerator. He swallowed his first bite as he settled in the chair near the couch. The sandwich was the most satisfying thing he'd eaten all day, and he was tempted to eat both that were in the refrigerator. It wasn't like Jim was eating them and they needed to be eaten, anyway. He washed his late meal down with water as quickly as possible. The drug therapy session was fresh in his head. It was best to make his notes before Jim awakened or required his assistance again.

After a cautious look at Jim to check that he was still sleeping, he positioned a PADD on his lap. He refocused his attention to the medical concerns of the man in front of him. This was a balancing act, caring for Jim this way. Friend to doctor, doctor to friend. He never had a problem before with it and he sure as hell wouldn't let it become a problem now. "Computer, begin progress note, stardate 2259.91. Captain Kirk is a 26-year old human male on his second of five treatments for immune recovery and muscle regeneration following extreme radiation exposure. Drug regimen remains unchanged, and he continues to show moderate discomfort to the injections, with exhaustion following the treatment. Course is complicated by Jim's flashbacks causing him to panic and black out every damn time I inject him..." McCoy paused. "Scratch that. Course is complicated by patient's PTSD, causing dissociation and syncope during the injections. Patient understands the importance of continuing the injections, and is reluctant but adherent. Next treatment is planned in seven days. He shows progress in recovering strength and ADLs, but continues to lose weight. Prior lung infection appears to have resolved, with course of antibiotics finished today, and he remains on prophylaxis. Continues to be followed by PT, OT, and psychiat -"

"No...hurts..."

McCoy broke off as Jim muttered pitifully in his sleep and began thrashing on the couch. "Computer. Stop progress note," McCoy said swiftly, making a mental note to finish it later. He dropped the device on the floor and knelt by the couch. He reached around Jim's torso not a second too soon and held the younger man down as he almost threw himself off the couch in his sleep. Jim fought him with surprising strength, more than McCoy expected him to have even while experiencing this sort of episode. It took all of the doctor's strength and more than a few minutes before the captain's body went limp and he fell back onto the couch.

"Jesus, Jim," McCoy said breathlessly, still latched on to the captain. He lifted himself up off Jim's chest, careful not to hurt him. He wiped his sleeve across his sweaty brow, shaking his head as he observed his patient. He looked peaceful, but McCoy wasn't fooled. It wouldn't last long. It never did, and McCoy moved quickly.

He went straight to Jim's bedroom closet. The tattered sleeping bag from their Academy days that Jim wouldn't throw away was still there, as well as an extra pillow. He pulled them out and set up his make-shift bed on the floor beside the couch. He stretched out on the bed, not relaxed, but not as tense as he'd been for the past twelve hours, working at Starfleet General while worrying about Jim. His mind and body met him somewhere in the middle, and rather than trying to get the sleep he desperately needed, he waited. He waited and thought of Jim hiding the neurogenic tremors from him. He thought of following Jim into the kitchen an hour earlier and watching the cup fall from his hands. He thought of giving Jim space, and holding back any comment about the tremors until morning. He thought of informing Jim's psychologist of the issue and pressing Jim to revisit the exercises to try to stop the tremors from occurring. He thought of all that he had to do to watch and care for Jim, and tried to ignore the issue which was pulling him to Georgia tomorrow.

McCoy's thoughts never stopped. He knew from experience that Jim would need him again, probably in less than an hour. Jim would need his doctor to monitor his health and make sure he didn't fall off of the couch, and McCoy would be ready.

oOo

Jim couldn't figure out where he was when he opened his eyes next. His body ached so badly, he almost didn't even care. They could take him where they wanted to take him. He really had no say in the matter. He stared up at the ceiling, stuck in his cycle of bleary thoughts, a cycle he hated, until someone noticed he was awake, which wasn't long at all.

"Hey," a voice said to his right.

"Bones," Jim tried to speak. He swallowed, but even that hurt. "Time?"

"It's a little past midnight. You've been asleep for two hours since you woke up the last time," Bones explained. Jim's brow furrowed. He didn't even remember waking up before. "Think you can take a few sips of water?"

His throat felt too dry. Jim winced in response, but nodded. A hand gently supported his neck as Jim lifted himself up a few inches. A straw was placed in his mouth and he took four sips then shook his head.

"You need more than that, Jim, but we'll try next time I take a blood sample. I think the pinch of the needle woke you up this time."

Jim's eyes closed. "No more," he said roughly, meaning no to absolutely everything.

Bones sighed. "I wish that were the case, buddy, but we have to continue..."

Jim pushed the doctor's voice aside. It was always the same talk, anyway, every single time. He allowed the sleep to pull him back under, where he didn't have to deal with what his life had become or where he feared it was going - a life with the doctor but without his best friend.

oOo

McCoy zipped up his coat before taking one more last look at the man out like a light on the couch. The next three very long days wouldn't leave much time for communication. Jim knew McCoy was leaving this morning. They'd talked about it last night before the drug therapy. Well, McCoy had, to an extent. Jim had grown silent and moody, and then proceeded to complain that McCoy was leaving him just two weeks out of the hospital. Yet here he was...fast asleep without a care in the world. But could McCoy blame him? Last night's drug therapy had been hard on Jim. He hadn't budged from the couch since.

Hell, last night had been hard on McCoy. He was no stranger to the workings of Jim's mind, and PTSD was nothing to mess with. He knew exactly what had been going through Jim's head during the treatment. and that's why he'd made his bed on the floor by the couch, not moving from Jim's side until this morning. The injections evoked Jim's memories of the warp core, as if McCoy needed one more damn thing to feel guilty about, and nothing could've pulled him away from Jim last night.

The drug therapy was a crucial factor in maintaining the health and healing of Jim's body. They'd had to wait to begin the drug therapy until Jim's heart and lungs were stronger. They could not skip these weekly treatments, but just thinking of putting Jim through that again made the weight of McCoy's guilt almost unbearable. Jim's state of mind deeply concerned him, as did the fact that Jim had not mentioned the obvious return of his neurogenic tremors. Jim's hands had finally stilled as McCoy talked him through the first two injections. It was an issue. There were steps to resolve it - as well as time.

He could just imagine Jim's reaction, but he didn't want to imagine it. He wanted to do whatever he could to help Jim move beyond it, but Jim was at a point where some things had become easier yet other things had become a hell of a lot worse. The result? A man very close to his breaking point.

McCoy simply couldn't leave like this. He checked the chronometer and seeing that he could spare another five minutes, sat down right on the couch on the small empty space beside Jim. Jim's hair was mussed from sleep and slightly wet. When he saw a sheen of sweat on Jim's face, he pressed the back of his hand on his forehead. The younger man's skin warmed his fingers.

A frown crossed McCoy's face. "Dammit, Jim," he whispered. Jim had just recently overcome an unexpected infection. It was why McCoy felt comfortable leaving him in the care of other Starfleet General personnel and also Spock and Uhura.

McCoy's hands were tied. He had to leave for these three short days. Jocelyn had made sure of it. They had to talk about Joanna, she'd said. Sensing it was serious, although Jocelyn wouldn't give him a straight answer, McCoy was also meeting his lawyer in Georgia. He'd misled Jim or left Jim in the dark about these particular facts for good reason. When it came to Joanna, Jim was quite protective and he didn't need the added stress on top of recovering from the irradiation. And when it came to Joanna - and to Jim - McCoy was like putty. When it came to Joanna and Jim and they were both needing him at the same time, McCoy was absolutely split in half. Leaving Jim killed him.

Glazed eyes peered up at him. "Bones."

"Jim, ya got a fever, but luckily it's not as high as before," McCoy said. He ran his hand along Jim's cheek, feeling guilty when the captain sighed and leaned into his touch. Every time McCoy did something for Jim, it resulted in some nasty side effect.

"Cool. Nice," Jim muttered.

McCoy allowed his hand to rest on Jim's cheek to provide him a little more comfort, but only for a moment. He pulled out the tricorder in the bag slung at his hip. Soon, it showed him the readings he expected but the good news was that it wasn't another infection. "Head hurt? A little achy?"

Jim barely nodded.

"It's a side effect of the meds, Jim," McCoy said. He'd told him this through the night, but Jim had hardly been lucid when awake. "Should wear off in twenty-four to forty-eight hours."

Jim's face dropped.

"If only I could take ya with me," McCoy said under his breath. The glazed eyes peering up at him somehow brightened. "Hell, I'm not serious, kid."

"Please?" Jim's rasp was hardly the voice of a well man.

"I can't," McCoy decided, stretching the truth a little. He was Jim's doctor and knew every precaution to take. "Your immunity suffered, Jim, and even though we've made great progress, we are continuing to build it back up because you are still susceptible. We have to be careful."

"Thought it was over. Done with being careful." Jim's mumbling was practically snuffed out completely when he burrowed his face into his pillow.

"No, no done." McCoy stood and went to the counter where all he needed to take the edge off Jim's fever and pain was at his reach.

"Radiation sucks," Jim croaked.

The augment's blood had done a lot of good for Jim, but it was like Jim's body was starting over after all of the extensive damage, and that's where modern medicine stepped in. McCoy sighed as he pulled the medication he needed and then returned to Jim's side. "Jim, I'm not sure I feel right leaving you here, even though it's nothing too serious. Maybe admitting you to Starfleet Gener-"

"No way," Jim croaked again. "Just spent six weeks there, Bones."

Two of which had been in a coma. McCoy thought again. Jim was more mobile than even a week ago. He was also comfortable here at his quarters. He was even more comfortable with McCoy's mother than with either of the exceptional nurses who made their rounds here.

"Please?" Jim's baby blues filled with pleading.

"You are a pain in the ass, Jim," McCoy grouched and leaned over Jim. He sank the hypo in Jim's neck. "I can't go take care of things with Jocelyn and Joanna if you're here all pathetic."

Jim winced. "Sorry. Didn't mean to be such a baby. It's just...I trust you."

McCoy put his hands on his hips. Of all things for Jim to say, that was the one to get him to bend. McCoy sighed. His mama kept a clean house, and Jim would be sleeping most of the time. "You have to do everything I say, Jim."

Jim's eyes widened. "You mean, I'm going with you?" He whispered. "I don't have to stay with Franco?"

"Frances." McCoy rolled his eyes.

"Nurse Francesco does sound better."

McCoy smiled a little to humor him. "Since I know I can get the authorization, I'll secure private Starfleet Medical transport for us. You may be somewhat miserable during the ride to my mama's house but you may sleep through most of it, anyway. I know you'll be carrying on a lot less if you're with me. It'll at least save Spock and Uhura from hearing you complain, and my mama can keep her eye on you so I don't get distracted. We'll take other precautions, but it won't be any different than being here once you get there. I'll stop at SFG to pick up a few things we may need and we'll meet the shuttle there."

Jim practically melted as McCoy finished with his plan. "You really mean..."

"...that you've wrapped me around your finger?" McCoy said in exasperation. "For God sake's, yes, Jim. You wrapped me around all ten."

"It's 'cuz you like having me around." Jim smiled with his eyes closed. "Admit it."

"You're my lucky penny," McCoy replied.

"See? You like being with me."

McCoy shook his head at him. "I better go pack a bag for you, and comm the nurse that's coming this morning. I'll also contact Spock and Uhura to tell them plans so they don't stop by later today only to find you missing. I can just imagine Spock's reaction."

Jim grunted in response. "He's not going to like that you're taking me somewhere far away from Starfleet General."

"He'll live, and we will be near a hospital," McCoy scowled. Jim's first had gotten a little overprotective of Jim, but who was McCoy to talk?

"Don't forget the unicorns," Jim mumbled.

"You still wear those? They'll fall right off of ya, these days," McCoy's scowl deepened. When Joanna had picked those unicorn and bear printed pjs out for Jim, the same pattern Joanna herself loved, the younger man had had about fifteen more kilos on him.

"I just...like them," Jim said, his cheeks looking even pinker, and not from the fever.

McCoy dropped his scowl, feeling a little guilty. He knew that, of course, and how could Jim not like them? Sadly, McCoy had learned from Pike it'd been the first gift Jim had received since the tender age of eight. "Take a bathroom break. Then, drink all of that water I left for you earlier that you didn't drink, you infant. I'll get a bag of your things ready for you."

"What water?" Jim stared at him with big eyes, as if he didn't know there was a glass right in front of him, on his damn coffee table. And as if his head hurt and he had a fever.

McCoy kicked himself. He really should be giving Jim some slack, especially after a night like he had. "The glass sitting right beside you on your coffee table, Jim."

"Oh, right. And my bag...Thanks."

"Don't mention it," McCoy said. He inclined his head to the flushed captain. "Think you can get up on your own?"

"Yeah." Jim set his jaw and began to pull himself up off the couch. Thinking of the difficult injections of the night before, McCoy lent him a hand anyway.

He slipped an arm around Jim's waist, just in time to stop the pants from falling off his hips. While Jim stood, getting used to being upright after spending so much time on the couch, McCoy pulled the strings on the younger man's sweatpants.

"Bones," Jim whined in protest, his trembling hands closing into loose fists.

"What? Ya want them at your ankles?" McCoy arched a brow at him and tied the strings for him. Jim flushed more. McCoy quickly decided that many things were going on this morning and making a big deal right now about the tremors may not be for the best. Not yet. When they got to his mama's house, that was a different story. "Aren't these your new ones?" And supposedly two sizes smaller to fit Jim's thinner form?"

"Maybe," Jim mumbled.

"I think I need to find you another pair of new ones. I bet my mama will get you to eat," McCoy muttered under his breath. That was one promising thing about this so-called field trip.

"That's why you're bringing me? To fatten me up?" Jim grimaced. "Bones, you know I still can't stomach most stuff."

"You forget how much you love my mama's cookin'," McCoy reminded him. Jim pulled away and began to make his way slowly towards his bathroom. "I'm sure she'll have something you'll like."

The way Jim walked, strangely reminded McCoy of a man walking the plank to his death. After watching him make it to the bathroom in one piece, McCoy quickly collected Jim's things. The pajamas that his daughter had given Jim for Christmas almost three years ago were in their regular spot in Jim's drawer, folded with extra care. Over the years, and especially after he'd become captain, Jim had grown into being a neat freak. Well, his tendency had been neatness. Jim still struggled with having the energy to do much at all. Jim's usual knack for tidiness had been tossed out along with the trash, including folding or putting away his clothing unless McCoy was here to assist him or housekeeping did it. McCoy hadn't seen them around, which meant that more than likely, Jim hadn't touched this treasured gift since before his irradiation. In fact, McCoy was pretty sure it'd been close to four months since he'd seen Jim wear these. Usually, he wore them when McCoy was around and they hung out as best friends for a night, instead of as captain and CMO, maybe taking the rare opportunity to watch a movie.

And then it hit him, right in the gut. It had been just as long since he'd spent time with Jim as his best friend, even before Jim's irradiation. Now, McCoy fit the image of the strict doctor and Jim the not so agreeable patient. Jim's recent moodiness and McCoy's pure determination to get Jim well often mixed like oil and water.

The last thought a little troubling, McCoy placed the pajamas on top of everything else in Jim's bag before zipping it up.

oOo

While Bones was talking to Spock on the comm, Jim unzipped his bag and peered inside. They were there. He sighed with relief. His own sentimental attachment to them right now confused him, but they did remind Jim of happier times, and the last few weeks had been a little rough. Mostly it was Jim's own fault. He knew he was grumpy and taking it out on Bones. He was discouraged about his current lot in life, the remaining treatments to get his body whole and working properly. The hours spent in therapy. His body that hurt. The medication that hurt. Without even trying, really, he was making things difficult for his best friend, who was doing all he could to get Jim well. This morning was maybe the first time they hadn't bitten each other's head off. And although that was a good sign that Bones had forgiven him for the general bad mood he maintained, Jim had to make sure he hadn't messed things up too badly.

Maybe this little outing was going to make things better between them. It had to.

"Ready?"

Jim wouldn't have been able to cover his daydreaming even if he'd wanted to. He jumped at Bones' voice and, of course, lost his balance. His breath hitched as the doctor first caught then steadied him.

"Ya alright?" Bones held him up with both his hands, to Jim's chagrin.

Jim bit off a retort that he wasn't a delicate flower. He'd already used that one this week and it hadn't gone over well. Instead, he focused on the comfort of the doctor's hands on his shoulders.

"So your mom's okay with this?" Jim asked, hating that it sounded like he was whining and desperate.

Or maybe it was that he just sounded a little lost and needy, which was way worse.

But the way Bones pulled him close and wrapped his arm around Jim's shoulder, walking him out of his apartment, meant everything in the world to him.

"Of course she is. Didn't hesitate at all," Bones said. "By the way, I rescheduled your appointment with Dr. Cross that was today for Monday." Jim didn't have the energy to even respond this time but he moved his feet forward. He struggled to stay on his feet again when Bones pulled him in the opposite direction. "Not that way, Jim. We'll take the lift."

Though Jim felt like shit, he could probably walk out to the hover car mostly on his own. But, this was an opportunity if there ever was one, and he leaned on the doctor more than what was necessary. This was what he missed between them. This was what being a patient who'd died had done to him. Goddamnit, this was what dying had done. Taken away Bones' shoulder. He couldn't even recall the last time Bones had allowed himself get so close to him like this, tucking Jim against his side. He didn't even think Bones himself knew that by tending to and worrying constantly over Jim's health, he'd actually had pulled away from Jim.

The distance was more than he'd anticipated. Too tired to stand upright, Jim rested his head on Bones' shoulder once they'd made it to the hovercar and waited for the door to open on his side. "Easy, Jim," the doctor said, maneuvering Jim's body carefully inside.

Jim's eyes shut on their own accord once he was in his seat. Head heavy, he barely registered Bones placing a pillow beside his head and fixing the support pillow behind his back. "Bones, I really hadn't wanted you to give me a sedative," he said, voice waning.

"I didn't. It's all you, pal," Bones said before he went to the other side.

"Wanted to...stay up...to keep you comp'ny," he mumbled when Bones slid in the seat beside him. "Least I could do..."

Maybe it was all he was worth, lately.

oOo

"Company," McCoy muttered.

Didn't that just say it all. Jim had reduced himself to...company.

Was that how McCoy had been treating him? Other than being his patient? But also... cold?

"Jim, I know I've been a pushy doctor lately, but...you being here, again, alive...it's enough. I'm an idiot not treating you like the person you are to me, my best frie - " McCoy glanced at Jim and his voice immediately dimmed. Jim's head had already dropped against the pillow.

McCoy sighed and watched Jim take a few deep, sleeping breaths. It figured. He hadn't heard a lick of what he'd said. After starting the hovercar, McCoy tuned into the weather, quickly learning that a thunderstorm would pass over his mama's house tomorrow. If anything, Eleanora McCoy's house was the perfect place to hide from a storm.

He drove on autopilot, much like he'd been living these past seven weeks. Maybe it was for the best that Jim hadn't heard. The timing wasn't right. Maybe Jim needed to be well before he even tried to apologize.

Maybe the things McCoy had to say were simply best left for a rainy day.