Author's Notes: So, I was a little ehhh about this fic, but it wouldn't be fought with anymore, and anyway, it's Christmas.

Happy holidays!

put the fear of god in me / and that's a fact

(1. Athens, GA)

Joanna's cries shatter glass when they drop her off at daycare for the first time. McCoy's a heartless bastard, but Joss has to physically drag him back to the car once the screaming starts. She tells him repeatedly that the separation is necessary, that they have to start teaching Jo to be comfortable without them.

"Do you want her to still be living with us when she's forty?"

"Yes," he grumbles, sullen at the sight of her smirk. She shakes her head and leans over to kiss his cheek fondly, and when she drops him at the hospital she leaves firm instructions not to go back for their daughter, no matter how badly he wants to.

He behaves on the first day, and the second, and the third, and for three whole weeks until one of the nurses comes to find him in the On-Call room and says, "You have a wave, sir."

He stumbles blearily to the receiver and snaps, "What?" into it, only retroactively realizing that it might be his mother, and Christ is he never going to hear the end of this if it is.

"Um, Dr. McCoy?" a nervous voice stutters. "This is. Um. Julia Robbins. Your daughter goes to my day care center?"

"She still freaking out?" he asks, frowning. "Because I'm under strict orders not to pick her up no matter how loudly she cries. If she's broken a window or something I can—"

"N-no, um, no," Julia manages. "No, it's … well, there's been an … accident."

McCoy's whole body goes rigid and he feels like he's going to throw up. "What's happened?" he barks into the phone, and thinks he might hear a little whimper from Julia before she launches into an explanation of how one of her babysitters was the friend of a friend who had come with great references and there had been no reason to think that—

"What. Happened."

His voice is a guttural growl and there's no mistaking the whimper this time. "He spilled soup on her," Julia breathes in a rush. "On purpose. She's all right, no real damage done, just—"

McCoy ends the wave. He's still On Call but no one's about to remind him of that, not when his eyes are so dark and his frown so taut. He's grumpy on the best of days but right now he's murderous, and not a soul gets between him and the door on his way out.

He walks to the address that he'd bullied out of Julia, trying to calm down the whole way. But every time he does, an image of his little Jo, his little girl, clutching her burned arm, would flash into his brain and he make him totally numb. A few cars slow down to pick him up but quickly speed up again, probably taking him for an axe murderer, and hell, he isn't entirely sure that isn't going to be accurate in about two hours.

By the time the guy opens his door McCoy is shaking. He doesn't bother with introductions before his fist connects with the man's mouth and he feels the satisfying crunch of teeth giving way. "Motherfucker," he snarls, kicking his way into the house. "Touch my fucking daughter I'll kill you son of a bitch—"

He isn't making much sense, his sentences getting all warbled, but by the time the red fades from his eyes the man's living room looks like a twister has blown through. McCoy's knuckles are split. The babysitter lies on the floor, moaning, his nose broken and teeth scattered beneath furniture.

McCoy crouches down. "If you ever go near any child ever again," he growls, "I swear to God I will hunt your scrawny ass down and make this little exchange look like a church picnic, d'you understand me?"

The man groans.

"I said do you understand me?"

"Yes, God, yes, please—"

"Good."

When he gets back to the hospital, he pauses by the nurses' station to pick up the ID he'd left there. "Just out of surgery, doc?" someone asks.

"Oh," he says, staring bemusedly down at his scrubs. "No."

No one presses.

(2. Starfleet Academy)

McCoy is never quite sure how Jim managed to trick him into being roommates. He's pretty sure that conversation had started with him very emphatically stating that he didn't foresee that combination culminating in anything other than bloody death, probably Jim's but maybe his own, and somehow it ended with Jim's stuff taking over half of the closet and his socks on the bedposts.

(When McCoy asks him about the socks thing, Jim just shrugs and says, "They look like little penises, don't they?" Only fucking Jim, McCoy swore to God.)

To no one's great surprise, Jim goes out nearly every night, not stumbling home until two or three in the morning. How he manages to get up at seven and go class and somehow still be in the top three percent of their grade is a mystery to McCoy, particularly since he has yet to actually see Jim reading. Still, his schedule sort of works for McCoy, who actually has to study to earn his top spot, so either he's studying and the room is empty or he's studying and Jim is passed out and either way, he gets his silence.

Then, a few months into the school year, Jim signs up for an experiment with the science department. He says that all he has to do is spend a week or so in a reserved room, and they have him take a tiny blue pill every night.

"So are they going to find out what's all fucked up in that spot where your brain should be?" McCoy asks when he drops Jim off the second night. It feels a little bit like he's walking his girl home, and they both realize it by the time they get there, so McCoy's doing everything he can to reestablish the hate while Jim just laughs at him.

"Aren't you going to kiss me goodnight?" he asks, opening his arms wide.

"Fuck you."

Of course, McCoy couldn't get free from the embrace of Jim's friendship if he wore a jacket with knives on it, so the next morning they have breakfast together. Jim looks tired, but he just laughs when McCoy asks about it. "Side effect," he says, and points out in an uncharacteristically sensible moment that he's got to pay his Academy dues somehow.

McCoy tries not to let it bother him as the week wears on and Jim gets more and more haggard, but he's a doctor and his mother's son so worrying is in his blood. But Jim's not talking, brushes off his attempts to ask about the experiment, so after a while McCoy decides to take it out of that dumb shit's hands and into his own.

He walks Jim back to the science building and waits fives minutes and then follows Jim inside. It's pathetically easy to sneak into the Observation Room, as long as he keeps his head down and stays against the wall while the science students wait for the pills to take effect.

"This is the interesting part," one of the white coats says, pointing to the window. Jim is starting to shift around in his sleep. You have got to get laid, McCoy thinks, raising his eyebrows. He fails to see how Jim rolling over could possibly be construed as—

But then Jim lets out a scream, a long, winded, terrified scream and McCoy's whole body stiffens into a shudder. Jim's shouting something, but McCoy can't quite make it out: the students are all pressed against the window like fucking puppies, salivating at Jim's reaction to the pills, even as he starts crying and scratching at himself like he was trying to climb out of his own skin.

Mostly what he screams is unintelligible, but sometimes: Kodos, Tarsus, Frank, Sam.

McCoy manages to keep his cool for like a minute before he just loses it, like goes totally apeshit because Jim is a pain in the ass little motherfucker, but God—God—

"Jesus fuck!" he finally snaps, pushing himself off of the wall and shoving the students away from the window like he could — could stop them from seeing, or something. "This experiment is over right the fuck now."

There's a long pause and then one of the students, nose in the air, asks, "Um, excuse me, but are you authorized to be here?"

And McCoy's a doctor but he's a Georgian, too, and in that moment he's far more the latter than the former so he doesn't think twice about it when his fist connects with that upturned nose and feels the satisfying crunch as it breaks. He crouches over the fallen student and growls in a voice so low it could make a dog whimper, "You listen to me, you son of a bitch. You are gonna wake him up and pay him in full and let him go right fucking now or I swear to God I'm gonna perform an emergency brain surgery on you using only my fists and the corner of your clipboard, y'hear?"

Jim comes back the next night and tells him they cancelled the experiment with a strange look in his eye; McCoy shrugs and says he could have told them that there was nothing going on in Jim's upstairs brain without wasting Academy resources.

Jim never asks why all the science kids flee when he enters a room.

(2. New Vulcan)

There are three rules of Sick Bay:

Do as you're fucking told (Jim Kirk).

Don't harass his nurses (Jim Kirk), because McCoy will find out and he will kill you.

Don't get injured in the first place, you shipload of morons.

Right now, Lieutenant Cupcake (Jesus, he has to stop hanging out with Jim, and also, what the fuck is that guy's name, anyway?) is violating all three rules. He's got a gash deep enough to scar stretched knee to thigh, and the way he's speaking to the nurse stitching it up is making McCoy's eye twitch.

"So what time do you get off?" he asks in a voice so low it might have been mistaken for the thumping music Scotty likes to play when he's fiddling. "C'mon, you can tell me."

"I'm here all night," Nurse Chapel says flatly. "Tomorrow, too. And the next day. And the next."

"And after that?"

"Still here. I'll probably be here for the rest of this mission."

Cupcake laughs, sidling closer. "Aww, c'mon," he grumbles, throwing a heavy arm around Chapel's shoulders and tightening his grip when she tries to shrug out of it. "You've got to get off sometime, don't you?" His hand drops down, slightly, running along the edge of her arm and then across her back and then—

Yep. That's it. McCoy gets out of his chair and wordlessly takes the needle from Chapel. "Thank you, Nurse. You're free to go. I'll finish up here."

She shoots him a grateful and amused look before shrugging. "What the--" Cupcake begins, before breaking off into a startled yelp. "--fuck?" he finishes. "Ow!"

Okay, so, maybe McCoy had pulled a little more tightly than was strictly, medically necessary on that last stitch. And on this one. And on this one. And on— "Are you trying to hurt me worse, Doc?"

"Officially? No," he replies calmly, and then looks up and meets Cupcake's eyes with what Jim has long deemed the McCoy Glare of Painful Death, an expression which makes hardened admirals cry but seems to do little but amuse the captain. (Of course.) "But make no mistake, Lieutenant Whoever-the-fuck-you-are. Make a pass like that at one of my nurses again and next time you're on this table, maybe my hands will slip, you know what I'm saying?"

He pull extra tight to make his point, and Cupcake nods when he gasps, "Sir. Yes sir."

(4. San Francisco)

At some point between saving the world and the official completion of the repairs on Enterprise, some dickhead hacks into the Federation's database and publishes a story on Jim's file.

The heading reads: NEW ENTERPRISE CAPTAIN A SOCIOPATHIC PRODUCT OF HIS UPBRINGING. The article cites his juvenile record, the tragedy on Tarsus IV, and extensive unsavory quotes from his previous stepfather.

Jim reads it on the bridge with a fake laugh frozen on his features and then tosses it aside like it's a candy wrapper. "Well, at least they included my impressive aptitude tests," he says, "because otherwise it might be considered unbalanced reporting."

"Captain," Uhura says gently, taking a step forward. They'd gathered to discuss a tactical course for take-off, but Chekov had run in waving the paper over his head like an eager puppy with a ball. She shares a look with McCoy but then breaks off helplessly. "That's just …" she gestures meaninglessly.

Jim grins. "Come on, Lieutenant. Don't go soft on me now, I'll start thinking you like me."

Uhura stares at him, eyes wide and panicked and unsure of what reaction he's looking for, so McCoy steps in and says smoothly, "Don't worry, Captain, nobody likes you."

Both Jim and Uhura shoot him grateful glances and the meeting goes on. Afterward, everyone retires to their cabins or houses or wherever they've been living, and McCoy follows Jim back to the little apartment he rents above a karaoke bar (only Jim, Jesus).

"You're like, the worst stalker ever," Jim says as he's opening his door and McCoy comes up behind him. "You didn't even pretend to be going somewhere else." McCoy shrugs and Jim lets him inside and pours him a class of bourbon. "So, what do you need, Bones?"

"Look, Jim, you idiot," McCoy says, throwing back the bourbon and slamming it back down on the table to emphasize both Jim's mental incapacity and the seriousness of his point. "Stop thinking about that article. I'm not a thirteen year old girl, so I'm not going to say this ever again, but you're the smartest, kindest, most deserving son of a bitch that I know, and I don't care what the fuck happened in your past. I followed you into the black and I'll follow you farther, got it?"

Jim's looking at him with sort of a slack jaw, and when McCoy stands to leave suddenly that dumb shit of a kid is scrambling out of his seat and pushing McCoy against the door and kissing him so firmly that there's really no option except to kiss back.

It's frantic and quick and Jim is actually clawing at his clothes, tearing them off and murmuring into McCoy's neck, "So fucking blind, Jesus fuck, you're my best friend, Bones, do you even know how much I—"

But that's quite enough of that, McCoy thinks and cuts him off by recapturing his mouth with his own and swallowing whatever Jim had been about to say.

"Just shut up and kiss me, you stupid bastard."

It's said in a demanding bark, and for once in his fucking life, Jim does what he's told.

(5. Henrietta's Coffee Shoppe)

Joanna gets engaged on September 5th. McCoy tries not to freak out and fails spectacularly.

As he and Jim walk toward the restaurant where she and her fiancé are waiting, he shakes. He's tempted to run inside and throw her over his shoulder and take her somewhere that no one can find them and she can be his little girl forever.

But Joanna has a streak of Joss in her, so she meets him outside, where she levels him with a glare and says firmly, "Be nice, Daddy." Then she presses a kiss to Jim's cheek and calls him Pops, which makes McCoy scowl and Jim laugh like the five year old he is.

Of course Jim is bouncing around the restaurant like a fucking puppy, practically slobbering over Joanna's stupid fiancé, asking questions like, "What's your name?" and "Where do you work?"

Who the fuck cares, McCoy wonders, ripping his napkin into little tiny pieces. It's obvious that it's not true love. Joanna's a baby. She's not old enough for true love. Fuck if she's not still ten, is she not still ten? Didn't he drop of her off at day care, like, two hours ago?

By the time their entrées arrive, he's shredded his napkin and Jim's so he excuses himself to the bathroom. When he gets back, Joanna's gone outside to take a call from her mother, so it's just Jim and the man whose name McCoy still hasn't processed. Jim has a wide smile on his face, so McCoy expects them to be talking about how much they just love each other and can't wait to be family, but when he gets into earshot he hears:

"… hurt Joanna, I will slowly and cheerfully rip the skin off of your body, do you understand?"

McCoy's not sure he's ever loved him so much.