Author's Notes: This was a prompt from lj comm="st_xi_kink": Say Kirk attempted suicide a couple of times when living under his step-dad's roof, for obvious reasons, and a crew member (preferably Spock or Bones) finds out in present day. Massive hurt/comfort ensues.

Warnings: implied past sexual abuse

It was one of those mind-reversal things, like seeing your life flashing before your eyes, mental files rifled through on a whim without his permission. Aliens thought rummaging through his memories would yield secrets, things they would like to know, things he would never tell.

There were secrets all right. Lots of secrets in fact: of doors opening, rough and unwanted hands, of a dark pit burning in his stomach that was only squelched by the repeated cool oblivion of too many pills or the right cut on his wrists. It was ironic to have felt such betrayal back then waking up each time to a beaming, oblivious doctor in another hospital that'll just kick him back home. To him.

The aliens got the wrong secrets.

Pissed off, the aliens had doubled their efforts on whatever they were using on him and his memories sharpened into shards of blood-tipped glass. Nausea built in his throat and he thought he could still taste the whiskey and container of red pills he had crammed down it before he lit a match to the stable around him. At some point, it wasn't even worth staying awake or struggling anymore. Not when it felt like limb after limb, his body was fading. He just simply followed, not caring when the whine of phasers and angry shouting sent his torture chamber into darkness.

The ground was now moving under him even though he, himself, wasn't moving. Up and down, like rolling over unkempt roads and jagged rocks. He bled as he moved—no, was carried. He choked as old memories still sped behind his eyelids, taunting him with the hope that maybe this fistful of blue pills, with a dash of the yellow elongated ones, would do it this time. He opened swollen eyes and stared blearily at the broad expanse of soft blue cloth stretched across muscle against his cheek.

"Easy. Easy." Just off his head, a gravelly voice cracked at the second word and the rocky bouncing motion gentled.

I guess it didn't work again, he thought and he tried to smile, but his tongue was too swollen (he tried to bite it off after the aliens found a snapshot of him vomiting into the car floor, his pants and underwear pushed down around his ankles) and his mouth too bloodied (he relived his private birthday party for two when he was ten so he screamed obscenities at the aliens until his lips split and bled).

"Can we beam up now?" someone demanded, still out of view but he could hear the hum of a cylinder medical reader hovering around his face like a bumblebee. "Damn it, I need to get his heart rate down!"

"We are not clear," a cultured voice vibrated against the chest he was pressed against, "of the jamming field yet. It is still another ten kilometers before Mr. Scott can get a lock on our bio-signals."

"Well, we can't keep going at this rate. His—Spock, slow down!" A man could be heard stumbling. Stumbling over what?

"I cannot. They may still be pursuing us." There was a thin lilt of tightness in the even response. Arms around him circled tighter but he couldn't find the energy in himself to protest.

"The security team—"

"Was to delay them and allow us to escape. I believe they may have perished."

"May have—Damn it, you knew this could be a suicide mission but went down anyway!"

"You did not have to come, Doctor. I had determined we had sufficient firepower to find the captain ourselves."

"Like I was going to leave him in the care of those lizard-skinned bastards. Cultural exchange, my ass."

Despite the words, the hand that settled by his throat was gentle.

"Spock." The gruff voice was suddenly very quiet. "We have to stop. Please. Let me at least try something else for him. He's...he's in pain."

Is he? It didn't feel like it. He felt numb all over, bitter in his throat from the red—no, it was the green ones. The red ones tasted oddly sweet last time. The green ones were bitter, more so when washed down with liquid, harsh and scalding that it took several gags before they'd all gone down.

"Very well."

The two suns heating his face were gone and footsteps now sounded hollow as they clipped against stone.

"This crevice may provide us temporary shelter."

The blue surface his cheek was resting against moved away and his head dropped back and his left arm flopped to dangle past his body. He coughed, his throat stretched too far to allow air, but almost immediately, he settled against yet another blue surface that heaved out of breath and his arm was carefully placed over his stomach.

"Where are you going?"

"I will endeavor to find out our pursuers' progress and install false trails. It may be enough to give us a reprieve." Boots scraped on rock. "Do not start a fire. If I do not return in twenty minutes—"

"You better." A growl rumbled against his jaw. "I'm not carrying Jim here all the way to the beaming site by myself."

The answer was as dry as his mouth. "Your...concern is noted."

His new blue wall shifted and the owner muttered something but he grew quiet again when footsteps faded.

Hands curled under his chin and tilted his head up. The grim face peering down at him was dirty and pinched and nothing like the faces he was used to waking up to in Iowa hospitals full of clueless, sympathetic staff.

"I'm going to give you something to drink, but I want you to drink it slowly, okay?" A hand curled under the base of his skull and a lukewarm rim of a canteen was pressed to his mouth.

He grimaced when a trickle of warm water wormed its way past his tongue and down a throat that felt too swollen to allow anything in.

"Shit, okay, bad idea." Hands helped him sit up and forward as he coughed. "Okay, let's see if this helps."

A hiss scratched at a spot below his ear and the vise around his throat loosened. The next mouthful was more bearable but still tasted bitter and sat heavy in his gut.

"Damn it." The mutter was accompanied with yet another sweep of the reader down his torso and he tensed, wondering just how much that thing could see. He was guided back to rest against blue again but he wanted to curl in and hide his body from prying scanners instead.

"Your system's twisting up like a bunch of snakes in a barrel but I don't read any toxins. Do you remember if they gave anything to you? Jim?"

Jim Kirk tilted up his face and he tried to smile at the concerned, carved face looking down at him.

"Guess the red ones didn't work?" Jim rasped.

The man's brow furrowed. "Red ones? I don't understand."

"Thought a whole bottle would do it," Jim wheezed as his head lolled forward. A callused hand steered it back against what he now recognized was a sturdy shoulder. He blinked sleepily at the blurring surroundings. "Thought for sure it would finish me. Bet the bastard is outside laughing that I can't even kill myself right."

"Jim." The name came out strangled.

"Maybe the green ones," Jim whispered as his eyes drifted shut. "Maybe the green ones..."

Comforted, he sagged against the body supporting him and let the dark embrace him.

Bones thought in the three years in the Academy and almost a year patching up aftermaths of diplomatic missions and less than friendly space exploration, he knew all there was needed to know about James Kirk. The kid (it irked Jim when too much Romulan brandy slips Bones back to first year days when 'kid' was equivalent to Jim) used to ramble on about everything. Bones often listened half-sober, half-amused and completely entranced as Jim used to entertain him with outrageous stories and an easy smile that loosened the bitterness that knotted his insides ever since the divorce. Bones thought he had enough material to write the biography of James T. Kirk.

He's an idiot. Constellation class idiot.

Jim slept on, his head tucked comfortably into the crook of Bones's arm, his chest rising and falling shallowly. His pressure was still declining like he was bleeding out but the minor cuts and scrapes Bones found didn't add up to the kind of numbers his tricorder was telling him. Useless piece of junk.

His hands tentatively carded through Jim's short hair but the touch revealed no worrying wounds. Bones kept stroking Jim's hair and told himself it was because of the still dropping pressure and not because Jim just told him something Bones had a feeling he shouldn't have been told.

Ginger patting around the slim torso revealed some fractured ribs, surface bruising, odd coloring of injuries shaped like fists (Jim's capturers had three-fingered webbed paws for hands). Jim fidgeted, muttered something under his breath, but other than that, didn't react with pain. No tenderness at the abdomen, no heat or rigidity when he pressed down. So no major internal bleeding. Damn it. What was going on? The tricorder read as if an artery or a vein was cut.

"Jim," Bones whispered even as he glanced towards the cave opening. The phaser, set on kill, was by his ankles, within reach if it wasn't a Vulcan who appeared by the opening. He wished they'd found a deeper cave. He could feel the dry 120-Fahrenheit heat stretching tendrils of hot breath towards them. Bones's skin crawled with sweat, his uniform clung to him, damp and sticky. Yet Jim felt cold. Icy cold and Bones pulled him closer to his own body.

Bones grimaced. The hands folded across Jim's stomach were twisted, fingertips tinged blue. Jim was somehow losing circulation. He pulled the lax hands together and rubbed them vigorously between his.

Jim flinched.

Pulling the captured hands down, Bones gaped at the jagged pink lines that went from Jim's wrists to inner elbow, red from his brief massage, white where skin puckered at the ragged edges of a bone deep cut. In front of him, they knitted together and flushed whole with healing life.

"What the hell?" Before Bones' eyes, the lines faded even more until all that remained was the bluish shadows of veins underneath golden skin. Bones brushed a palm across one wrist and felt nothing. Absolutely no sign remained but tight, smooth, fever-warm skin.

A scan with his tricorder only made him even more confused. Jim's readings were back up, normalized as if it'd never happened.

Bones eased Jim up higher until Jim's face was tilted towards him. Murky blue eyes opened half-mast and stared at Bones with wary fatigue.

"You're doing okay now," Bones murmured. His questions dissolved the moment Jim winced and burrowed his face just over his heart. Bones tightened his hold because tricorders be damned, he didn't know what else he could do. At the shudder he knew Jim was too exhausted to suppress, Bones wrapped his other arm around his young captain and wished Spock brings back one of those lizard-faced monsters for him to autopsy. Dead or alive.

A moan muffled over his shirt made him pull back to peer down at Jim's face again. Jim's eyes were squeezed shut, lines of pain scored his brow, his lips white with agony.

"Jim, what is it?" Bones asked urgently but Jim only groaned again and whimpered. Just once. It was small, but it was enough to make Bones feel ill. He settled Jim down to the ground to get his tricorder again. Useless as it was, it was all he had.

The moment he set Jim down though, Jim groaned again and tried to curl to his side.

"No, Jim, you need to lay flat so I can examine you. Sh...wait."

"H-hurts," Jim moaned, his eyes still shut. He rolled to his side, his face now awkwardly jammed up against Bones's right thigh, his arms wrapped around his middle. Jim jerked and his head rocked against Bones. "Stop...h-hurts..."

"Where does it hurt?" Bones pleaded because the fucking tricorder once again wailed Jim's pressure was dropping, his heart rate racing towards cardiac arrest. "Jim, where? Where does it—" Bones' eyes widened as Jim twisted towards him, revealing the back of his dark trousers soaked with blood.

Despite the fact he did not return until twenty-three point five minutes later, it appeared Doctor McCoy was still in the temporary shelter. The doctor may be in need of a more accurate chronometer.

The first thing that struck Spock as he drew near was a defining odor of vomit that permeated the cave. Spock approached the cave with—if he was to reflect upon it—worry. Perhaps mild concern. Yes, their young captain was very weak when they had found him and from what he'd learned from the Arkvakin soldier he'd ambushed, the possibility of sickness was high. Indeed, survival under such conditions, for two days, was impressive. Any physical reaction, as repugnant it may be, was certainly understandable and forgivable.

One foot into their shelter, however, revealed their captain was curled and unconscious towards the cooler back of the small confines and Doctor McCoy doubled over by the opening, spitting bile.

McCoy reacted two seconds too late to the sounds of Spock's approach. He fell on his rear, one hand up with the phaser, the back of his other hand still trying to wipe the remaining nausea from his lips.

"Spock!" The Doctor sounded both annoyed and relieved at the same time. Truly, the doctor was a confusing human. "You could have said something!"

Spock offered him the lift of an eyebrow. "I have returned."

McCoy rolled his eyes—something he did often in the captain's presence—and got on his hands and knees before levering off the cave floor with a groan.

"Are you well, Doctor?" Spock noted the sheen across a pale brow.

"Dandy," the doctor muttered. He stumbled back towards the captain to kneel by him, his tricorder out once more and he scanned the captain. Whatever readings he obtained did not make him happy—did anything ever?—and McCoy cautiously settled a hand on the captain's chest, one curled around the back of Kirk's neck.

"Thank God," McCoy muttered oddly. He closed his eyes and bowed his head. "It's past, Jim," he whispered. He touched the captain's right shoulder. "It's over. You're okay now."

The captain merely frowned in his sleep. A hand flexed then opened, a cheek rubbed against the doctor's thigh but there was no other reaction as the doctor propped him up against his shoulder.

"You all right there, Spock?" the doctor asked even as he brushed a hand across the captain's brow in an archaic gesture of checking for fever.

"I am well." Spock frowned mildly at both the question and touch. Puzzling. Surely, the tricorder would have been more accurate.

"You sure?" The doctor cradled the captain's face to his chest, perhaps in an attempt to provide warmth despite the heat outside.

"You look like you've seen a ghost." McCoy now pivoted the tricorder towards him.

Spock's brow knitted together. A ghost? His brow smoothed out. "Ah. Arkvakin minds are not completely...compatible."

McCoy swore under his breath. "You did some of that Vulcan voodoo on an Arkvakin, didn't you? I thought we're trying to avoid them, not walk up to them and say hello!"

"If by Vulcan voodoo, you are referring to a mind meld, then yes, I found a soldier who was in pursuit and melded with its mind. I did not offer salutations." Spock sat on a boulder behind McCoy because the headache he tried to ignore for ten minutes refused to be any longer. He considered the cylinder scanner that swayed up and down towards his direction. "I wanted to discover the origins of his injuries."

"I can tell you that right now." McCoy was brusque as he turned to glance back down at Kirk. "He's reliving...things..."

"His past," Spock agreed. "The Arkvakins attempted to dismantle all his mental barriers in hopes of revealing Starfleet information. They believed by experiencing certain memories once more, sensitive data would be revealed. They had miscalculated."

"No shit." McCoy nudged a shoulder as he snaked his arms around the curled form. "His body's physically reacting as if it was happening now and..." McCoy swallowed. He looked ill again. "Damn it, Jim. Three years," McCoy murmured. His Adam's apple bobbed. "You could have told me. I would have..."

Spock tilted his head. "Doctor?"

"Nothing." McCoy slipped an arm under Kirk's knees. "He's stable for now. We better go before something else from memory lane says hello with teeth."

Spock stood. He was pleased to find his headache had ebbed to a mere annoyance behind his eyes. "I can take him, Doctor."

"I got him," McCoy muttered. He hunched his shoulders towards Kirk as he tried to stand. Despite the captain's youth and smaller frame, he was still far too unyielding for a human to carry.

Spock approached with ready arms. "It is still nine point two kilometers to the beam site. I should—"

"I said I got him!" McCoy snarled but his knees buckled and he dropped to the cave floor with a grunt.

Kirk stirred with a mumble.

Spock crouched by McCoy. He hesitated at the doctor's ragged breathing.

"I am aware he is your friend, doctor," Spock said quietly. He tried to lower his voice to the softer lilt he'd witnessed Kirk often use. Despite his brash and often far too enthusiastic reckless behavior, Kirk had surprising empathy that lulled even Spock to a calming state.

"I too see him as my friend. But he is my captain, as well. I am not trying to deny your standing or need to help him. Merely, I am physically better suited to carry our captain. It is only logical for me to take him while you monitor his vitals."

McCoy nodded, almost to himself and let Spock take their charge into his arms. Spock steeled himself when physical contact was made. After a mind meld, he always found himself more sensitive to everything around him. If he could afford the luxury, Spock would have isolated himself after a meld to rebuild mental shields.

There were no such allowances here so when Kirk's heated face lolled into his upper arm, there was a rush of images that both made horrifying sense yet logically no sense at all. They flooded him so quickly: young, rounded youthful faces with resigned eyes, a meaty fist, an ancient vehicle careening over a quarry edge. Rage and shame bombarded him in a time frame of an eye blink that when Spock recovered, he found himself cross-legged on the ground, McCoy gesturing wildly with his tricorder towards him.

"Better suited, huh?" McCoy bit out. There was a hiss of a hypospray on his shoulder. "Cocky, green-blooded..."

"Doctor," Spock croaked even as whatever in the hypospray began to work and his head cleared. "Ji—He's bleeding." He could feel something warm seeping into his trousers and he started to roll Kirk towards him to check his back.

"Don't." McCoy settled a hand on Kirk's shoulder to halt the move. His mouth was set in a grim line but there was a wet gleam in his eyes.

"Spock, just...just don't." McCoy's throat worked. "It'll pass." McCoy's fingers tentatively carded through Kirk's short hair again. "They all do. What's happened...already happened."

The images slowed in Spock's mind and the wetness seeping onto his lap made sense. Yet didn't.

"I do not understand," Spock rasped. He suddenly found his voice was failing him. "Vulcans value their offspring, whether by blood or association." He now understood McCoy's need to embrace the captain tighter. "I do not understand," he repeated.

"Well," McCoy whispered as he looked away to pack up his medkit, "I guess we have something in common after all." McCoy sighed. "Let's get him home."

Spock nodded. He found himself in the rare occurrence of lacking a response. He hefted the limp body closer to him and followed McCoy out, no longer concerned with taking lead.

They had to stop three more times.

Even though Bones knew the wounds that appeared like ghosts always faded back into memory given time, something twisted core deep whenever Jim choked, moaned, or began bleeding in places he shouldn't.

The blood itself disappeared like evaporation, but both Spock and his hands were painted in Jim's blood and that wouldn't go away. Jim's wounds varied from bone deep gashes on his arms, seeping ones on the seat of his trousers, and second degree burns that crawled up Jim's face and mangled his body—those came sudden enough to startle the Vulcan to the point he nearly dropped Jim. Each one made Bones crumple inside as he and Spock held skin and muscle together with their hands until the wounds knitted back and left untainted skin.

The irony was nearly enough to make him weep.

A murmur under the mounds of blankets drew Bones out of his thoughts. He glanced behind him from his seat on the floor by the bed. The thatch of blond hair disappeared briefly before reappearing as Jim began to toss and turn again.

Bones pushed up until he was sitting on the edge of the bed, the PADDs he was reviewing spilled off his lap unnoticed and once more out of order. Didn't matter. It gave him the excuse to reorganize them later to pass the time.

"You're okay, Jim," Bones whispered, one hand on the blanket covering Jim's shoulder because he learned the hard way that touching skin meant another black eye.

A muttered curse Bones knew was directed more towards memory than him and Jim groaned. He coughed; gagged, really, and Bones swore as well. He grabbed the bin he was keeping close by, rolled Jim to the side and wrapped a hand around Jim's warm forehead to keep his head from dropping into the bin he was retching into.

"What is it this time?" Bones said low as he watched Jim shudder, his body expelling imaginary death from its system.

"Is it the red ones or the green ones again?" Bones shushed Jim when he heard a choked sound. Bones swallowed and he stroked the damp strands of hair with his other hand. "God, Jim, how old were you then?"


The wheezed response jerked Bones's hand back. Glazed blue eyes tilted up towards him. Jim pushed up from the edge of the bed but couldn't manage more than a graceless plop onto his pillows. Jim blearily stared at the ceiling. His brow furrowed.

"Didn't think you wanted to be out there in sickbay while you worked this out of your system," Bones told him. He ground a knuckle into the comforter that covered Jim. "Surprisingly, Spock agreed with me." Bones snorted. "Thought the universe was going to implode when he said I was right."

Jim choked out a chuckle. He wearily raised an arm and covered his eyes.

"What was in my system?" Jim rasped.

"Not sure." Bones scowled to himself. "The cocktail had enough neuro-stimulators in them that they could have probably convincedyou Earth was made of cheese."

A corner of Jim's paled lips tugged. "You mean it isn't?" His mouth flattened. "How long?"

"You were out?" Bones guessed. He wished Jim would lower his arm. "Eighteen hours."

Jim digested this. He grimaced. "Been here the whole time?" Jim asked carefully.

Bones shrugged. "Spock was here part of the time. I needed to go to sickbay for a bit before. Our ensign Chekov and Lt. Sulu broke their legs together."

Jim coughed, maybe laughed. "What?"

"Damn fools were trying to hang a banner in the mess hall for when you're back on duty." Bones paused. "Don't forget to act surprised, okay?" Bones grimaced. "Uhura will have my hide otherwise."

"Yeah." Jim's mouth curved again. "Okay. I can do that. I can be a pretty good actor when I need to be."

Bones watched the smile - it was half-hearted at best, anyway - fade away. If it weren't for the set mouth, Bones would have thought Jim had fallen asleep again.

"No one knows, Jim," Bones said quietly to the stiff figure on the bed. "Just me and Spock."

"That's already two too many," Jim muttered behind his arm.

Hurt, Bones sighed and stared at the floor and all the colorful PADDs on it. Finally, the lump in his gut released and rushed up his throat.

"Damn it, Jim. We knew each other for three—no, almost four years now and—you could have told me, said something—there's not even a mention in your medical file—"

"I deleted the files," Jim interrupted harshly. "When I first started in the academy, I went into my personal file and deleted all of it." He gave a bitter laugh. "Not that there was much to begin with." Jim's jaw clenched and the other arm that wasn't covering his eyes wrapped around his middle.

"Anyway, you shouldn't be reading my file."

"I shouldn't be…Damn it, Jim, I'm your doctor! Fuck it, I'm your friend!" Bones exploded. "You should have just told me—"

The arm dropped and red-rimmed eyes glowered up at him. "Told you what? That I was a convenient blowjob and piece of ass until I was fifteen? That I tried to kill myself not because I wanted to die but because I wanted to take his toy away?"

That urge to vomit was coming back. Bones stared at Jim, his mouth agape.

Spent, Jim sank into his pillows. "And that's why I didn't tell you," Jim grumbled. He waved towards Bones's open-mouthed expression. "Because I knew you would either now look at me like I was a freak or like you wanted a taste."

"What the fuck is that supposed to mean?" Bones nearly roared, nearly fell off the bed.

Jim grunted and covered his eyes again. He shrugged. "Bones, in my experience, there are two types of men out there for people like me: those who want to kick your ass and those who just want to fuck it." Without looking, Jim took a deep breath.

"So which one are you now, Bones?"

It was exhaustion, Bones thought. That was why he didn't answer immediately at first. That's why he could only stare when Jim Kirk sat up out of the piles of blankets he'd tucked around Jim, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, leaned forward.

And kissed him.

Something fired in the back of his brain, something that sparked when firm lips pressed over his gaping mouth and distantly, a little voice in his head said it was a good thing Jim didn't really have anything to vomit because his body was only reacting to the memory of a past overdose so his stomach acids—

Oh shut the fuck up.

Bones' stomach unclenched and he found himself wrapping hands up the back of Jim's shoulders, his thumbs pressing deep into the bunched cord of muscle there that flexed when the kiss deepened. Bones sucked the nimble tongue that tentatively darted out to taste him and he thought, shit, he should have done this years ago when they were both drunk on the floor of Jim's dorm after the first failed Kobayashi Maru test.

A second, a minute, maybe a few minutes later, and they parted with small gasps. Bones, his hands now curled around Jim's biceps, was heaving as he stared at him, a little dumbfounded. Jim, breathing heavily himself, studied Bones.

And punched him.

PADDs made shitty cushioning when Bones dropped ass first to the floor.

"The hell?" Bones clamped a palm over his sore jaw. He glowered up at Jim. "Why the hell didyou hit me?"

"You kissed me."

"You kissed me first!" Bones bellowed. It was a good thing Jim's quarters were soundproof.

"To see if you'd kiss back!" Jim hollered back, although Bones doubted it was because Jim remembered about the soundproofing. It didn't look like he cared actually.

"To see if I—" Bones shook his head to clear the dull throbbing. He stood and regretted it when Jim tensed, his eyes narrowed as he tracked Bones from his bed.

Bones deflated. "Ah hell, kid."

If anything, Jim recoiled, vibrating under his black undershirt.

"This kid is your commanding officer, Doctor," Jim bit out.

Bones sighed and sat down at the edge of the bed again, making sure he was a few inches away.

"And this Doctor," Bones murmured, "is also your friend, Jim. And..." Bones pointed to his jaw and the right eye that was still a little bloodshot. "Apparently I'm your punching bag, too. You have a hell of a hook. No wonder they asked you to TA advanced hand to hand."

Jim stared at Bones, unsure how to respond. His jaw clenched again and he looked away. He stared hard at the floor.

"What the hell was that about?" Bones prodded. He watched Jim's hands curl on the bed, clawing blankets with a rigidity, his arms shook.

"I'm not one or the other," Bones guessed. At the scoff, Bones sighed. "Okay, I'll admit. There were times when I...but I thought there were times when you'd..." Bones's throat worked. "But I figured it'll happen if it ever happens. I pretty much figured I can be a friend at least and if ever..." Fat chance now. It explained a lot of things to Bones: the almost obsessive drive to bed every woman in the academy, the taut and endless need to throw himself into every brawl he could find or create. It was like Jim was trying to beat his memories into submission, beat down what had tried to batter him as a child. In a way, Jim had found something more damaging than the red pills.

Jim curled an arm around his middle and grimaced. He shook his head when Bones reached for him and Jim hunched away from him and over the bin again.

"Damn it," Jim growled as he gagged unsuccessfully into the bin. Jim squeezed his eyes tight. "Damn it to hell."

Bones wished he could wrap an arm around the shaking shoulders but Jim's stiff posture warned him off.

"When?" Bones whispered.

"Who knows?" Jim spat out as his head dropped lower over the bin. "Probably before I was fourteen." Jim coughed and sat back on the wall the bed was propped against. "I gave up on those things after that."

Jim stared up at the ceiling, his eyes dark and distant and so painfully young.

"Thought fire might be better. Screw up my looks so he couldn't stand the sight of me." His mouth twisted, then his face. "Then I realized that's why he bends me over. He doesn't stand the sight of me anyway."

Bones breathed in sharply. "Jim—"


"I...hell, this doesn't change anything." Bones tried to edge closer, glad to see Jim was only watching him warily. "I'm still the same guy who got on that shuttle with you for Starfleet, still that same guy you threw up after a binge drinking you thought up to distract me on my wedding anniversary, the same guy who..." Bones's shoulders rose then dropped.

"Jim, this is me, Bones. What you tell me...doesn't change that."

"And this?" Jim touched his lips briefly.

To Bones's horror, he could feel his ears burning. "Well...if kissing you means a sock to the jaw each time then no thanks." Bones grinned crookedly. "You were good, but not that good."

Something unfurled in his chest when Jim weakly chuckled. "Not some of my best."

"I'll take your word for it," Bones pretended to grumble as he cradled his jaw. "I'm still waiting for my eyes to roll back forward again."

The bed creaked as Jim fidgeted and eased back to sit next to Bones, their shoulders nearly touching.

"What if..." Jim began. "If I promise I won't punch you next time?"

Bones swallowed, his heart hammering. " sure?"

Jim shrugged and his shoulder brushed against Bones'sarm. "No promises. could be a while."

Bones tentatively dropped a hand over Jim's right knee. "I can wait."

Jim stared at the hand before he fidgeted. Bones reluctantly pulled his hand away and Jim twitched in surprise.

"Thanks," Jim murmured.

Bones exhaled slowly. "Like I said, Jim...I can wait."

"Yeah. Okay," Jim whispered. He straightened and took a steadying breath. His voice firmed. "How long before I'm fit for duty?"

Bones steeled himself from touching Jim again; not until Jim reached first.

"Another day I think," Bones estimated, his eyes tracking Jim as he levered off the bed to pad shakily to his dresser. "If you stay and rest in your quarters, I think another day should do it."

"You gonna be here?" Jim said slowly as he stared with unusual intensity at a shirt he held.

"If you want." Bones felt a little lightheaded when Jim gave him a curt nod. "Ah, we're going to need to have dinner with Spock though."

Jim stiffened. "Oh?"

"Spock kept checking in before and I got annoyed so I sort of told Spock you just needed rest, that it was nothing good old fashioned chicken soup couldn't cure." Bones grimaced. "I was just trying to get him to stop calling here so I told him we'll see him for dinner after his shift so he could see for himself." He studied Jim's back. "Spock's just...he wants to understand and he's worried, in his own Vulcan way. He won't...Jim, nothing you say to us will ever—"

"Yeah," Jim cut him off. "All right." He looked over his shoulder at Bones, his mouth a wry twist.

"This is going to be fun."

"Whatever you want to tell us, Jim," Bones told him seriously. He watched Jim return to the bed to stand in front of him. He sat very still when Jim stooped down and gave him a hesitant brush of his lips over his mouth.

"What?" Jim asked when he saw Bones was staring at his hands.

"Nothing. Just wondering when you were going to take a swing at me." Bones grinned when Jim snorted and just punched him lightly on the shoulder. He looked like he was going to try and kiss him again when his door chimed.

"Come," Jim said briskly as he straightened with a snap.

Bones's left eyebrow rose when Yeoman Rand came in with a rolling cart. She paused as if she wasn't sure if she was supposed to be here.

"Yes, Yeoman?" Jim asked as he pulled the mustard gold shirt over his head.

Rand gulped and gestured towards the various covered bowls in all sizes on her cart.

"Uh...Commander Spock asked me to deliver these ahead of him, Captain."

"Deliver what?" Bones asked as he gave the general area a sniff. His eyes widened. No way...

"'s soup, doctor."

Jim's head popped through his neckline just as Rand replied. "What?"

"Um...soup. Chicken soup, actually. Except...well...Commander Spock wasn't sure of the version and asked for every variety. I didn't realize there were so many..." Rand waved helplessly at her cart. "I told Mr. Spock and he just said to bring them all."

"This is all chicken soup?" Bones squawked. He blinked at Jim and flashed him a helpless look.

"Yes sir. All thirty-seven varieties."

Poor Rand didn't know how to respond when both men tipped their heads back and laughed.

The End