All Through The Night
kirk/mccoy, pg-13, ~2220 words
not mine, making no profit
"Instead Janice stays with him, helping to count down the hours."
The last Christmas McCoy had celebrated, really celebrated, had included his daddy pretending that the medication was still working and him pretending his father was actually drinking from the glass David McCoy couldn't even lift to his lips anymore. (He should have just said then what it was he wanted, for once let Leonard know what the hell to get him.) After that, he'd been too dulled around the edges to celebrate any of the holidays after he married Jo and too busy after baby Jo came along (his fault) and then he'd refused to let Jim drag him around to celebrate the holidays even after Jim had ripped too many bricks from his emotional wall for it to do any damn good.
He'd had plans for this one, though. Blurry and half-formed, sure, but he had made the plans.
Smothered the always-present fear in his throat and said "okay" for once instead of "not everybody wants to fuck you, Jim" the way he usually did. He'd gotten a grin for his trouble, only a restless shift of a shoulder giving away any unease at the unexpected chance given after four years.
Plans, he'd had plans.
Instead Janice stays with him, helping to count down the hours.
Contrary to popular belief, McCoy's never had a problem with self-medication.
But Spock isn't hiding his frown as well as he usually does and the vague unease that's been brewing since he accepted an invitation three days before has a new outlet and he tosses back a shot of whiskey after he's checked and rechecked and checked again everything he has control over in this position.
Very pointedly doesn't go to the damn captain's quarters.
Christine says, "You're making something out of nothing" and looks like she's torn between smacking him and patting his head. Probably leaning toward the former.
McCoy doesn't let himself glare at her and checks his side of things again.
She's waiting in the chair in front of his desk when he slips into his office fifteen hours after Spock becomes Acting Captain. After the engine room is too quiet for that extra heartbeat through the comm until Scott says, "I've got it" and cuts the connection, makes sure they're ready for the chance when it comes.
And Janice looks perfect, a sure sign she's in almost as bad a shape as him and the chief engineer, and he's run out of things to pretend to be doing anyway, so what the hell?
"How's he holding up?"
"Fine." She wrinkles her nose as she watches him fiddle with a stack of completed datapads on his desk, reaches up to absently scratch the tip with a single gold nail. "Scotty knows Uhura can handle herself." Of course she can, and so can Jim. (The possibility of them killing each other down there is firmly ignored because Spock had run the numbers one day and passed them along and he'd rather not think about it right now.)
When she sees him pulling out the bottle Jim pretends not to know about, she breathes, "oh, god, I need a beer," like he's missing the point— and then steals the whiskey he doesn't have the stomach for right now anyway. Tosses it back and taps the glass twice against the desk and grimaces.
Janice doesn't say we can kill him and get rid of the evidence together when he gets back and she doesn't say like this isn't one of the million-billion reasons you want him enough to sit here looking like an idiot. Doesn't mention that the holiday parties that Jim sets up to allow the crew to mingle have been pushed back to when their captain and communications officer are back with them.
Instead: "Think he lost his phaser again?"
He grunts, doesn't answer.
"Yeah," she agrees, and steals the next glass he pretends to be pouring for himself.
Jim brings a tree to the dorm, a skawny fake thing with even green branches that tilts to the side on the stand. He spends an hour fixing the tilt and disappears, returns with a box bigger than him that has to be carried and there's a now-familiar sense of dread and intimidation (he ignores the hint of exhilaration that's a foreign experience after so many years) growing in the pit of his stomach.
"You don't need that much junk."
"I'm just going to pick and choose."
By now McCoy's given up on pretending to ignore the operation, is watching silently from his bed as Jim spends a half an hour untangling the lights, finding the broken one and replacing it with an amount of patience that's staggering. Spends fifteen minutes looking over the branches like the tree has to be a work of art or it's going to ruin everything.
"I thought you said you weren't spiritual."
"I'm not," Jim replies from where he's waist deep in the box, tossing out strings of beads and handfuls of garland, a few boxes of cheap ornaments that somehow survive the experience. "You should get off your ass and help."
McCoy can't hide his eyebrow and Jim throws a handful of tinsel at him, balanced on the balls of his feet like an attention-starved cat.
"I'm not chasing you."
"Good stress relief."
"Jim," he says tiredly (although he's not tired anymore) and goes back to his studying.
Janice hasn't celebrated Christmas since she was fourteen years old.
McCoy doesn't have much interest in it, hasn't for years.
Jim's the one who'll throw tinsel in someone's hair when they're not looking and isn't ashamed to admit how much he'd love to leave lights up all year long, the one who complains about no snow in San Francisco and that McCoy is "lame" for not going up with him just once to see the North Pole. "Santa isn't real," McCoy snaps every time, and Jim squints at him like he's missing the point completely.
Jim's the one who wants to spend Christmas together and then left because he's a good captain.
"He always been like that?" Off her look— "The Christmas thing."
"Yes" in a tone that implies he's an idiot for not knowing the answer.
Janice is an odd gift, offers a snapshot of a boy Jim can't help but hide away from even him too much of the time. She has an earlier image, knows places that have been cut ragged and shares them. It further helps that she's always willing to help him double-team Jim.
"Here," she orders, and taps a nail against his cards. "You're doing it wrong," she explains and shows him the correct way.
The chronometer promises they've been here for five hours, and he hasn't heard anything from the Bridge and he's probably going to get a blood clot from all the sitting he's doing but the cards are spread across the desk and Janice is better at the damn game than him and he feels like he can learn something instead of give himself a heart attack.
"He said he came up with this game." Although it had been too sane for someone like him to come up with.
"Jimmy's a liar." She tugs the five of spades from his hand, slaps it down on top of her bizarre selection. "And he hasn't beaten me yet so be nice and I'll give you his tells for a Christmas present."
… if he didn't already love Jim.
"I'll be back in a few hours," is the first thing Jim says when he spots him coming down the hall. To Janice at his side with a small stack of datapads, a little childishly: "I already signed that one." Janice stares at him. "Or I didn't." With a glance at McCoy as he signs the datapad without looking, he adds, "These guys like us" and McCoy glances down at the phaser on his hip. "Really, Bones." Jim grins a little in a refusal to let it become anything bigger, prods like he isn't McCoy's commanding officer, "No Merry Christmas?"
"It's only Christmas Eve."
"Right," Jim says, and walks past him into the transporter room as McCoy tries to find the mental spine that he never has to look for when people are waiting on him and he's got blood on his hands. He can't find it but tries for another moment before lifting his eyes. Find Janice standing in front of him, staring too hard before her eyes narrow, her lips tighten together.
Then she moves to follow him into the transporter room when he turns to join Jim, her elbow catching his ribs when Jim isn't looking.
Accidentally, he tells himself, and doesn't manage to dodge the second elbow either.
To the side, Nyota is speaking quietly to Scott, Jim managing to give them privacy even as he bends over the station, hovers fingers over the scans before mouthing something to himself and joining the security team. McCoy just watches, far enough away from Janice to avoid another injury and close enough for comfort. Tries to loosen up the muscles in his back and say, "good luck" but he never says that and what he's always wanted to say is just waiting to escape if he slips up.
He's quiet when Jim exchanges words with Janice, hooks fingers together behind his back when attention is finally allowed to settle fully on him.
"I'll be back, Bones," is offered when he decides McCoy really isn't going to say anything, and McCoy nods like a goddamn idiot. Stands there and watches Jim walk away only to pause on the transporter pad, frown so slightly that only the two of them would be able to pick it up. "Don't talk about me while I'm gone, you guys."
Janice actually flutters her eyelashes.
Uhura snorts, and Jim shoots her a dirty look as they dissolve into lights.
They're midway through their third game and halfway through her fifth story about sexual conquests that didn't go the way Jim expected when Spock comms down, "You're needed in the transporter room" and cuts the connection.
Janice doesn't even get up, only says, "make sure you try it when he's drunk" (like she isn't going to hide in his office until she's sure she's calm) as he grabs the tricorder from Christine and leaves her to ready biobeds that have already been readied while another nurse darts after him. There's the blurry stillness of the ship moving into warp and then Scott's brogue stronger than usual as he hooks an arm that's not looped too awkwardly around Nyota's shoulders.
"I got him," and then, rougher, "I got him, let go," when Nyota hesitates slightly before letting him slip under Jim's arm, hook his own around Jim's waist. Immediately Jim half falls against him, tension draining out of him as he knots fingers in the fabric that stretches across his shoulder, arches a little and then relaxes again. Breathes into McCoy's neck, the grin on his face a brand against his skin before he pulls back, shows too many teeth.
"I built a cannon," he announces like he's waiting for his gold metal, and McCoy thinks concussion until Nyota looks at him, nods. Keeps staring and doesn't crack a smile when McCoy frowns. Reminds himself that this is Jim and realizes that yes, Jim had built a cannon.
McCoy wonders what the hell he used the cannon on— wait, what the hell did he make a cannon out of?— and then decides to think about it later because Jim's starting to sag.
"Hey," Jim mutters unhappily and, yeah, he's starting to tilt, too.
"Come on," he orders and feels Jim brace against the floor, push back up and into him. Grip McCoy more tightly and stagger along at his side as Jim ducks away from the nurse that could easily carry him over one shoulder to hang off McCoy like an overanxious five year old. "What the hell happened down there?"
"Nothing," is promised but fingers fold a little too firmly into the flesh of his shoulder, cheek brushing his jaw, tone a little odd when Jim speaks again. "Where's my 'Merry Christmas'?"
His ribs hurt where an elbow caught him but the pressure in his chest is gone. He can breathe again. There'll be holiday parties in less than two days which he'll be forced to attend like always, and Jim's tree looks godawful in his quarters, will still be there until after New Year's is over, and he can breathe again, finally.
Too calmly, too easily, he manages, "Merry Christmas." Pushes Jim onto the bed but can't push him away until Jim grins a little too happily and loosens his hold, until he takes a selfish last moment to feel a heart beat steady under his palm and a breath on his jaw before they separate. "I didn't get you anything," he adds when he can trust his voice, forces himself to say what he can't quite yet. "You're harder to shop for than my father, so get used to it."
"You got me what I wanted." Voices on the other side of Sickbay, Christine taking over so he can have this. Jim shifting behind him as he spends a too long minute checking supplies, staring at him contently when McCoy turns back to stop the bleeding, heal the bruises. "I'm set for a while."