Iowa had a different winter than what he was used to, Leonard thought dryly. He turned toward Joanna, whose face was pressed against the glass of the massive window looking out into the airport. It went doubly so for his ten year old who had never seen an ounce of snow in all her life. Georgia winters in Savannah never had anything like snow unless you counted rain, which you didn't unless you were an idiot.
Snow was something new, and he expected more than Joanna running out into the first fresh patch she could find, then turning around and asking him bluntly, "What's the big deal?"
Leonard was a little shocked to say the least and he trooped over to her through the thick fluffy white snow. "Well, darlin', it's snow," he explained, as if that should be enough. She didn't look convinced. "What more do you need than that?"
"It's cold and wet," she accused the snow beneath their feet, raising a foot to stomp down. Joanna wrinkled her nose and looked back up at her father, as if that were explanation enough.
"Sure it is," he said and crouched down beside her. "But it's more than that, so much more. Snow is magic," he continued, even though he knew she was a little old for this. Her brown eyes went wider anyway, blinking slowly. "A very special man named Jack Frost works hard to make the snow like this," he gestured out to the endless fields around them, all under a blanket of perfect white. "You don't think snow starts this way, do you?"
"No?" she speculated, turning her wide eyes from his face to the horizon and then up into the sky where snowflakes were lazily twirling earthward.
"He makes all this from water, Joanna," he said handing her a handful. "Up in the clouds."
"Seems like a lot of work," Joanna exclaimed, now looking at the snow in her hands more carefully. "Is it like a freezer, papa? Because my science teacher told me that snow is like ice but made differently…" Her eyebrows scrunched together as she tried to recall just what her teacher said.
Unbeknownst to either two, not too far away, a young man watched. His hair was as pure white as the snow all around and his skin was just as pale, barely even tinted with the lightest blue. If Leonard McCoy could see the man, the man looked so far from anything human that he'd as a doctor, immediately assume the man was sick.
The man was anything but. His smile was huge and wide and most certainly proud, as he watched the father and daughter keenly. The snow all around him was indeed his work. Jack Frost was a name he'd heard many times, but he was definitely not the original nymph to earn that name. It was an honor, then, to be considered an equal to Jack Frost, even if it was just by a human.
His work was rarely appreciated, let alone acknowledged by humans. He drifted over to the pair, touching each of their noses and reveling in the bright red that blossomed on their cheeks.
"Ah," Leonard said, hand racing up to his face to grab his nose to keep a sneeze from surging out. Joanna was looking redder and ruddier by the minute, snowflakes getting caught in her bushy curls. "Alright, sweetie," he announced, words a little muzzy. Damn, the cold was making his nose run already. "Let's get to the car."
The man, or in actuality, the nymph, had a name. It wasn't 'Jack Frost' but instead, simply, Jim. Nymphs usually did not get names beyond 'winter nymph' or 'tree nymph' but Jim had figured out one for himself. He considered himself lucky, as far as names went, as some of the winter gypsies had names like 'Spock' or 'Uhura' and even 'Gaila.' Jim's name was completely normal in comparison to those.
As normal as his name was, it didn't matter much if it was normal on "human" standards. For many hundreds of years Jim had lived amongst humans but unseen and unappreciated. Every winter, day by day he would float amongst them, bringing joy through the tickle of his icy fingers along their ribs or awe from the intricate detail in every frozen pane of glass but never was he able to bask in the warmth of their smiles.
Perhaps he would be less lonely if he were not the only nymph in the winter kingdom. He was not the only nymph, far from it. There were summer nymphs, night nymphs, forest nymphs and endless others. He'd heard many tales about his fellow creatures but had never actually met one. Father Winter told him it was not his place to know them and that his business was strictly winter-concerns. This didn't stop Jim from seeking out other nymphs but it was difficult. During the warmer seasons Jim was not allowed in the same places he was in the winter. He was confined to the Arctic strictly and some parts of Siberia. The only creatures who were there were the ones he'd known all his life: the winter gypsies.
The winter gypsies were a kind folk and he had good friends amongst them, but they didn't understand him. Their jobs kept them confined in the Winter Kingdom and never did they venture beyond the uppermost of the atmosphere. Some had never even seen the bottom of a cloud! Gypsies were also a very practical sort of people. They did not delight in the same frivolity Jim was often fond of nor possessed any of the same mischief. Jim was one of a kind, something that, though it seemed so exalted, he found to be terribly lonely. Nymphs did not experience much emotion, nor they were supposed to, but Jim felt very strongly how alone he was even through the joy of every new winter.
Without much reason, he followed the father and daughter in the car. Jim was delighted to find the two were moving into a large old house on the outskirts of a Iowan town named Riverside. It was one of his favorite towns in all of the northwest, small and quaint with a river that was too much fun to freeze over. The journey there was long enough that night had fallen hush over the land. Jim had no sense of time like humans did but when the father and Joanna (as he had learned) got out of the car, they looked very tired.
"We're home, Joanna," the father said with a small smile. Joanna returned it slightly but her eyes were trained on the house. Jim frowned, surprised the little girl could dislike the house. He had no sense about these things but he was sure she was very lucky to even have a home. He huffed a gust of wind through her hair and froze glimmering icicles along the porch.
"Jack Frost?" Joanna breathed and looked straight up at him. Jim felt the sudden and irrational hope that she could see him, hovering above. She didn't, though, her gaze beginning to search the sky instead. Such ridiculous fantasies often overtook Jim, making the loneliness that much more pungent. He sighed and moved on from the humans, over across fields that he still hadn't properly iced. Never before, though, did a human's kind words stick with him.
He captured the human's face in every window pane, painted with the icy strokes of his fingers. Beautiful as each portrait was of the man Jim knew it compare nothing to the original. "Jack Frost," he marveled as he wrote the word above the portrait he'd done of himself and the man. Jim paused, frowning, uncertain what to dub the human when inspiration struck and he wrote, in exquisite spiraling letters, 'friend.' Emotion seized him. Yes, that was exactly what he wanted; he wanted to be this human's friend. So desperately did he want this impossible dream that it followed him through every frozen pond and across continents, teased him with every prospect.
When he stood on the icy banks of the Potomac and watched the sun rise over the still waters, the tendrils of a plan began to formulate. The solution, the direct realization of his dream, was a simple one. All he had to do was ask Father Winter to grant him his wish.
Flying was exhilarating. He loved to do it and pretend there was wind rushing through his hair and through his clothes and dancing all across his skin. None of this really happened, though, but despite lacking the feeling of flying he still had the sight of it. When he breached the thick gray clouds, a glorious crisp blue sky greeted him. Standing tall and beautiful in its middle was the Winter Kingdom. A glorious white kingdom made of the year's finest clouds, fluffy but sturdy and perfect for the winter gypsy to call home.
He flew towards it, arcing through the hair and landing with in human grace on white cobblestone. Winter gypsies busied themselves about the streets, bustling to get this or that done on time. Jim had only one person in mind to visit, his fleet feet carrying him in the right direction without much thought on his part.
Spock was a winter gypsy that Jim actually considered a very good friend. He was slightly different than the rest of the gypsies, in charge of making the snowflakes for every snowfall. While Spock did not understand Jim, as he repeatedly reminded Jim, he at least listened to what the winter nymph had to say. He was also responsible for keeping Jim out of the worst of trouble.
Spock was sitting, as he usually was, at his desk. In front of his face was an impossibly large magnifying glass, cut from the finest Arctic ice, and in his hands was one delicate snowflake and the glimmering silver scissors specially made for snipping snowflakes. Jim burst in the door and, as per usual, Spock neither jumped nor glanced up.
"Spock!" Jim crowed, enthusiasm abundant. Spock did look up then, only because he had finished the snowflake. He set it in the growing pile next to him and regarded his friend curiously.
"You are looking particularly exuberant today, Jim," he said, bemusement barely lilting the even tone of his voice. Jim grinned all but the wider and took Spock's one spare chair in hand, whipping it around to straddle it backwards. "May I inquire as to why?"
"I was compared to Jack Frost today," Jim confessed, blue eyes growing brighter. Spock shifted in his seat. Jim was a special nymph, designed for different things than Spock or any winter gypsy was. Despite being fully aware of this, Spock still often found himself awed by Jim's presence. Jim often had the effect of the sun, a comparison with an irony not lost on Spock.
"By whom?" Spock asked, a single black angled eyebrow rising. He looked far different than Jim, being a winter gypsy. His hair was stark black but his skin was the same pale blue of Jim's, but richer, even more so than the regular gypsies. "Not Father Winter I would guess."
Jim's expression took a sharp turn, souring into a scowl almost immediately at the mention of Father Winter. "No, not by him," he sighed, fingers dancing along the surface of Spock's desk. "By a human." Jim sighed, almost whimsically. "A beautiful human."
Spock frowned, setting aside the snowflake and scissors carefully. "That is not much of a compliment, no matter as to what the physical attraction of the human may be," he said. "A human is just a human."
"No, but they're so much more," Jim protested and threw his arms into the air. Snowflakes around the room spun around under the influence of his arms and the magic constantly around them. He paid them no mind despite Spock's glare. "Really, you must believe me, Spock. You never see them, never get to hear them or understand them."
"I recall you, just the other day, bemoaning the loneliness they incite in you," Spock said but his tone was softer now, aware that this was something sensitive for Jim.
Jim sighed, slouching over the back of the chair. "It is a paradox I am constantly battling," he admitted dully before that emotion was cast aside and his luminous glow returned, along with his smile. "Yes, but I think I have thought of a solution." Before Spock could ask or, perhaps, even raise his eyebrow higher, Jim barreled on. "I will ask Father Winter for a favor."
"This is one of your worst ideas to date," Spock marveled. He had known Jim for a very, very long time and was sure in his assessment. "Father Winter will never grant you such a thing. Don't even tell him—"
"I already know," came the ever dry, booming tone from the doorway. It echoed all about Spock's home. "I am dumbfounded by it, truly dumbfounded." Jim hurriedly rose from his chair, causing it to tumble over in the process, and whipped around to face his boss. Father Winter did not look pleased, not that he really ever did, but usually when he was around Jim he at least looked more pleasant.
"Try to understand," Jim argued. He jerked his hand out from his chest, expression defiant. "I have experienced feelings I never thought possible before today. I need to know more about this human world, I need to be human."
Father Winter's eyebrows drew down sharply over his grey eyes, which raged like the most acrid of blizzards. "Nymph, what you ask of me is more than you realize," he said, crossing his arms. "I see fit to teach you a lesson."
Jim's expression crumbled. "I have never wanted something more in my life," he said quietly, hands fisting at his sides. "I have never asked you for anything before." Father Winter took in the sad nymph and knew, with all the certainty that he knew Jim to be, that if he did not grant such a wish it could take the boy centuries to get over it.
"Fine," Father Winter caved with a wave of his hand. Jim's face immediately broke into a wide smile. "Under my conditions you shall be granted this one wish—"
"Of course, anything," Jim rushed, bouncing on the balls of his feet in excitement.
"One, you must find a house to live in," Father Winter began, graciously ignoring the interruption. "Two, a horse—"
"Sir," Spock interrupted smoothly, stepping up to stand beside Jim. "If I may interject?" Father Winter's mouth drew into a straight, dry line. "Horses are no longer the main means of transportation. Vehicles called "cars" are."
"Then you must get a car," Father Winter continued with a glare in Spock's direction. "Lastly, a bag of gold--or whatever it is they're using for currency—to sustain you."
Jim quirked an eyebrow at that but even this could not contain the intensity of his smile. Father Winter dismissed him with a wave of his hand and suddenly the cloud beneath him no longer held his weight. He fell down through the cloud into the crisp air below, which he could feel now. The sky looked so much bluer now but he was sure it was probably just the same shade. It did not matter as he continued to fall, plummeting towards the Earth. Jim did not expect, however, that hitting a tree would hurt so badly (he knew many trees and had often found them a kind people, so this revelation came as something as a shock). Nor did he expect the ground to be so hard. The first moments of being a human were full of nothing but pain and then, blissfully, sudden darkness.
They'd only just arrived at the house a day ago. Things had been going rather smoothly. The small town clinic of Riverside had greeted him enthusiastically. People seemed all too kind around these parts and Leonard already had more dinner invitations to more houses than he knew Riverside actually had.
The new house was taking some getting used to, however. It was large, much larger than their old Georgia house. It had no veranda to speak of, much to Joanna's dismay (and Leonard's private own) and keeping the place warm was a skill Leonard had not yet mastered.
Joanna, at least, was eager to make adjustments to this new place. Leonard had been pleasantly surprised by her enthusiasm. She was trying to make the place home, even though it was an extreme difference to what she had known her whole life. Most of the second day she spent in the back yard and tried to make perfect snowmen.
There was a good collection of the snow sculptures growing in the backyard when Leonard heard, "PAPA!" He was up and on his feet immediately, coffee and patient chart forgotten. He didn't even think of a coat as he rushed out the door and into the yard. Joanna was standing at the very back of the huge yard, just under the tree.
She looked perfectly fine at a distance and when he reached her, she was perfectly fine. What wasn't perfectly fine was the man laying crookedly in the snow at the trunk of their tree. He was blond and very pale, but clearly very alive.
"He fell from the sky!" Joanna was all but screaming, her small finger pointing repeatedly at the man. Leonard barely registered what she was saying because his eye were on the man's very broken leg.
"Joanna," he ordered and she fell immediately silent. "Get me the phone, this man is hurt." Leonard didn't see her leave, focused on pressing his fingers against the man's throat.
Everything about the blond was perfectly fine, save the leg. His temperature was normal, heart rate normal, and, as Leonard pulled the eyelids of one eye apart, no concussion. Leonard stopped, suddenly entranced by the deep ocean blue of the man's eyes and his heart began to race. He nearly jumped out of his skin when the man blinked and his eyes focused.
"Bwuh?" the young man managed.
"You've broken a bone," Leonard said clearly and felt embarrassed as those too-blue eyes tracked his every move.
"Uh, well, no—" whatever stupid thing Leonard was going to stutter about was thankfully cut short when Joanna shoved the wireless house phone into his hand. "Thank you, Joanna."
Soon, despite Joanna's and their tree friend's attempts to have conversation, Leonard had a nurse from the clinic over and they were carrying the man into his house. Much to his dismay, the nurse explained that the roads were too icy for the ambulance and that they were stuck at Leonard's house until morning. The nurse left in a chorus of 'thank yous,' the young man's being the loudest. A little too loud, Leonard thought dryly as he shut the door after the nurse and knew, full well, that the pain meds he had given the kid were bound to have made him loopy.
"Bones," the young man said, staring at Leonard. Leonard stared back from across the coffee table. "Thank you, too."
The first question that popped into Leonard's mind was 'did you just call me Bones? but he discarded it for more useful ones like, "What's your name?" and "Why were you in my tree?"
"Jim," Jim answered with a grin and opened his mouth to say more, white teeth glinting in the light but Joanna beat him to it.
"He didn't fall from the tree he fell from the sky I saw it, papa, I swear," she said all in one breath as she watched Jim very closely.
Jim didn't seem to like this idea, his eyes growing wide and darting between father and daughter. "No, that's impossible," he protested and shook his head. "I was climbing your tree because my…ball got stuck and I needed it back." Leonard's expression must have been very clear on how much he didn't buy Jim's story as the man's expression became sheepish and he ducked his head. "Honestly."
"Well, you better call home or wherever it is you're from," Leonard said with a sigh. He'd dealt with similar cases before in an ER, so Jim's antics were nothing new. He handed Jim the phone and watched in bemusement as Jim simply stared at the thing as if he hadn't a clue what to do with it. "Do you have someplace to go?"
Big, blue eyes looked up at him. "No," Jim answered, almost apologetically. Leonard turned to see what Joanna saw of this but it was a mistake. An identical expression on Joanna's face, fitted with golden-brown eyes, stared back at him. The last time he saw this expression had been for Tiger Lily the kitten, who was now Tilly the housecat and was probably sleeping in his clean clothes somewhere in the house.
"You can stay here—" Jim gasped in delight and Leonard grumbled on, "but only till your leg is healed."
Having Jim around the house seemed to make things easier. It shouldn't have, as the man was pretty inept at all things except what Joanna considered important: telling stories, making snowmen, and eating cookies. Leonard was all too ready to help with two of those fronts and dismayed when every batch of cookies he managed to bake would instantly disappear within an hour between both his daughter and guest. At first, he was weary of Jim who had seemingly very little connection to the outside world. Leonard was unsure how one would politely ask someone about something like that; Jim had no clothes besides the clothes on his back, no identification of any kind or even a cent to his name. When he did get the nerve up to ask Jim smiled at him honestly and shrugged, "I decided to get away from it all for the winter," he explained, "let everything from my life go and just try to make it on my own." Leonard accepted this only because, from the impression Jim had made already, it seemed pretty in character and it wasn't Leonard's place to make judgments on a stranger's life. So he mentally marked the subject a touchy one for Jim and dropped it.
As far as Joanna was concerned, by the third day he'd been there, Jim was family. Leonard was flabbergasted by this development. Joanna, had previously been resistant to anyone who'd intruded on their lives, whether it was someone he'd poorly attempted to date or one of the rare times he invited a coworker over to dinner. He knew it had to do with how her mother had literally walked out of their lives. Only six years ago, what felt like a lifetime now, was when Jocelyn had packed her bags, got in the car and only made a farewell in the form of serving Leonard divorce papers. Jim, however, got an instant invitation to their family and a free pass to return whenever he'd like.
Leonard suspected it was entirely because Joanna was convinced, with all the conviction of a ten-year-old, that Jim had come from the sky. She'd worriedly asked him in a too-loud whisper if Jim was an angel and that maybe grandpa had sent him? That had thrown Leonard for a loop and kept him up for nearly half the night, staring blankly at the wall with an untouched bottle of bourbon at his elbow. He had never thought she'd ever convince herself of such things ever again after she had gotten over Santa. What a debacle that had been. Joanna was getting too smart for his own good, realizing Leonard's handwriting was on the notes that were supposed to be from Santa. Leonard would have been proud if not for the truly massive temper tantrums that had followed.
Jim's presence turned out to be a convenience, though. On the days when Leonard had to go to the clinic and there was no day care, Jim picked up the slack. This wasn't an immediate arrangement. After all, they had met because Jim fell out of a tree, but it was an eventual one. In the beginning, these babysitting sessions were overseen by a nurse who had been the original plan in such instances. Leonard didn't quite trust Jim yet, and after all, the man's leg was still broken.
Soon, though, as December progressed, Leonard found himself beginning to trust Jim...with Joanna at least. He was not allowed in the kitchen for anything more than getting himself a glass of water. Jim had no idea how to use a microwave, was superstitiously afraid of the gas top stove and refused to believe that an oven was something that should be in a house. "You have a fireplace, isn't that enough burning in one house?" Jim argued loudly from where he had retreated into the foyer, as far from the kitchen as he could get. He delighted in the fridge but not even that was enough to keep Jim in the room for more than a few minutes. All meals were moved, then, from the informal kitchen table to the dining room. Joanna actually enjoyed this more, claiming that it seemed more like a real family dinner now.
Another of Jim's quirks were the nicknames. Leonard's had come quick and easy but Jim was having a hard time figuring one out for Joanna. 'JoJo' was the first tried and rejected incarnation, followed by 'Anna,' plain old 'Jo' and, Leonard's personal favorite, 'Banana.' The story behind this peculiar nickname was what made it so interesting. Jim had never seen a banana before, apparently, just as he had never seen many things before (like microwaves or fridges or stoves). Leonard didn't try to overthink the matter because Jim was actually starting to grow on him and any speculation towards possible insanity would just ruin it. Joanna found this further proof in that Jim was an angel of some sort. Privately, Leonard found this to be all too likely just based on Jim's appearance alone. Jim was ethereal with his golden blond hair and intense blue eyes, not to mention how goddamned pretty he was. These kind of reasons were not to be shared with Joanna, however, so he stayed firmly skeptical of any idea that Jim was more than just Jim.
"Joanna," he stopped her one night on her usual 'Jim is an angel (or some other fairytale person capable of flight)' argument that had overtaken normal story time before bed. "Isn't Jim good just being Jim? Why do you have to make him be more?"
Her brown eyes immediately went thoughtful, her bottom lip pursing in a pout. Leonard found no shame in finding the expression endlessly adorable, much to Joanna's dismay. "It's not that I want him to be more, papa," she finally answered. "I know he's more, can't you tell?"
Sometimes, Leonard was sure that he could. But he didn't say this just told her it was time for bed and tucked her into bed. He was on his way out the door when her quiet voice made him pause. "Do you think he's Jack Frost?" Joanna didn't elaborate further but the thought stuck with him.
For Jim, adjustments to human life were odd to say the least. He was sure that he would have acclimated much quicker if not for having to deal with his broken leg. Bones had put a cast on Jim's leg the day after Jim had broken it and taught him how to use crutches. Humans were already awkward and graceless enough, but being suspended one-legged, with metal sticks under his armpits made getting used to having to walk everywhere all that much harder. Bones was patient with him, however, and Jim secretly reveled in the attention of Bones' gentle hands on his shoulders, keeping him steady.
In fact, Jim reveled in everything he was fortunate enough to do with Bones. He couldn't believe his luck that he could have ended up with just the man who had inspired him to be human. Here, he was never lonely as he'd been as a nymph. Whenever the familiar feeling snuck up on him, he would turn around and see Joanna with a colouring book she wanted to show him or Bones with a mug of hot chocolate. Food was something he'd never had the opportunity to experience (winter nymphs ate snow after all) so every new meal Bones cooked for him was like a treasure. His favorite so far had been burgers but hot dogs were a close second, or maybe grilled cheese.
Most of his time, besides trying not to fall down the stairs or trying not to trip in the snow, was spent helping the McCoys unpack. It was easy to slowly get to know each of his new friends with each new box they opened. Pictures filled with scenes from years past of Joanna when she was barely a armful in Bones' arms, to even older ones of Bones in blue robes with a strange, flat hat, were his favorite. Jim took each photo into his room that night and piled them on his bed, careful not to clank the fragile frames together. When night fell he retreated into his room and looked at each picture and took in every detail, every emotion on any face, and tried to imagine the lives that went with each.
He was surprised when his door creaked open and Bones' silhouette filled his doorway. "Any reason you've shanghaied nearly all our photos?" Bones asked as he crossed his arms over his chest. Jim ducked his head, stacking the photos he had looked through on the still large pile of of remaining pictures. Bones huffed and walked further into the room. "Naw, it's alright, I was just curious." He sat down on the edge of the bed, picking up the top photo. It had a young Bones in it beside an older gentlemen with the same eyes and the same crooked wry smile that often overtook Bones' face. Jim had stared at this one the longest, enraptured by the younger Bones' unabashedly open and happy expression.
"Is that your father?" Jim asked hesitantly as he watched Bones' expression. It was sad, profoundly so, and very lonely. Jim's chest ached because he could not understand Bones' sense of loss, as he had never experienced such things. But he could understand the loneliness so he reached out and curled his fingers around Bones' hand, loosening the too tight grip on the old wooden picture frame. Bones sighed, his eyes finally dragging away from the photo to their hands. He smiled, soft and careful at Jim, a silent thanks that Jim wasn't sure he deserved.
The next morning, Jim was disheartened to find Bones was in the same melancholy from the night before. He watched his friend go about the morning with the constant presence of tension in his shoulders and slight dip at the bottom of his mouth. Jim knew perfectly well it was his fault so he cornered Joanna just before Bones was getting ready to leave work. He hobbled over to her, crutches merely a suggestion at this point, and sat down in the chair beside her. "Joobs," he whispered. Her head shot up from the book she'd been reading. It wasn't the first time they'd had a secret meeting like this. "What can I do to make someone feel better?"
Her eyes narrowed and she turned away from him briefly to crease the corner of one page in her book crisply before she shut it. "There are lotsa things," Joanna answered, leaning in closer to him, her voice hushed and she was much better at whispering than Jim. "How bad is this someone feeling?"
"Really bad," he answered guilty. She pouted and sat back in the chair, her head tipping over the back. Jim fell silent as he waited for her advice. Joanna had become something like his teacher. Sure, he could go to Bones just as easily but...he didn't. Mostly, if he was honest, because he was embarrassed and didn't want to do anything but impress Bones (something he was having a very hard time with). Joanna didn't judge him and graciously helped him, even if her answers weren't always immediate.
"I feel a lot better after hugs," she suggested and sat forward again, poking her finger into his shoulder. "A really good hug, though, nothing lame. With both arms and like lots of kisses. Papa gives the best hugs like this." Her nose wrinkled delicately and she amended, quickly, "as long as he doesn't start tickling you. That isn't so fun."
Plan in place, Jim lurked in the foyer until it was just time for Bones to leave. He listened to Bones tell Joanna goodbye and to be good for him before the sound of his footsteps heading down the hall came towards Jim. As soon as Bones rounded the corner Jim grabbed his wrist in one hand and a fistful of sweater in the other and pulled Bones into a hug. "Jim!" Bones was stiff when he wrapped his arms around him and Jim frowned, resting his head on Bones' shoulder. "What are you doing?"
"Making you feel better," Jim tried not to snap or sound sullen but was sure he failed. But Bones was relaxing, melting against him and wrapping his arms around Jim's waist. It did feel wonderful and definitely made Jim feel better. Uncertainly, but fueled by Joanna's expert advice, he pressed a kiss to the corner of Bones' jaw and then to the top of his cheekbone. He couldn't add anymore because Bones' head was jerking back and his vision was filled with dark hazel eyes and Bones' shocked expression. Jim felt his whole body flush in embarrassment, a startling sensation that made his head reel and a ball he couldn't swallow around form in his throat.
A giggle from the room behind Jim made them fly apart. Jim would have toppled over onto his butt if not for the strong hand that remained on his wrist. Joanna stood in the middle of the foyer, watching them with a wide-eyed look of picturesque innocence. She held up a set of keys, "You forgot your keys, papa." Bones sighed heavily, looking between his daughter and Jim. He gave Jim's wrist a slight squeeze before letting it go. Embarrassment still burned hot on Jim's ears so he hastily gave Bones his goodbye before fleeing.
Snow was very, very cold and very, very wet. Jim had always known this in theory but when he was a nymph, snow had felt differently. It'd been softer, fluffier like the fur of Joanna's cat more than the wet slop that he was shoveling out of the McCoy driveway. Jim regretted arguing against Bones mother-henning to shovel the driveway out of some misguided sense of responsibility. Responsibility for how much glee he had taken from piling driveways high with snow, taking satisfaction in the human's constant plight against it. Now, the idea seemed cruel. At least his leg had gotten exceptionally better over the last week, both to Jim and Bones' delight. The cast had been removed and he was back on both feet now. Though he was still clumsy, still adjusting to being on his feet, period, it was far easier without the plaster cast weighing him down.
A few yards away Joanna was playing in the snow Jim was shoveling aside. She was building some sort of large dragon or maybe even a cat out of snow. Wisely, Jim kept such speculation to himself, very aware of how well Joanna took any ill comments about her snow sculptures. Behind him Bones was doing something to the car to keep it from having problems due to the icy conditions. That had been Another thing Jim had been fond of, breaking cars with well placed ice. He did not regret those actions so much, because they had been fun, but he respected humans so much more for dealing with his trickery.
Finally done with the snow, every patch of black tar revealed for all the world to see, Jim limped his way to the center of the untouched snow in the yard and fell flat on his back. Above him the sky was a brilliant crisp blue, so much so it made his eyes sting a little to look at it. He marveled, briefly, how such a sight just a few weeks ago would inspire him to go soaring high into the clouds. Yet, as he laid in the snow firmly planeted to the ground, no such desire struck him. Before any other thoughts could wander into his mind, the sky was eclipsed by Bones worried expression and hazel eyes. Jim's belly grew warm with other desires that, while similar to flying, were much more pleasurable. "Are you okay, Jim?" Bones asked. Jim nodded, snow crunching under him, and began moving his arms back and forth.
"Been wanting to make a snow angel for a while," Jim explained with a grin. Bones scoffed and stood up straight, looking over to where Joanna played. "Never made one before."
"You are a piece of work, Jim Kirk," Bones laughed with a small shake of his head. Jim wasn't sure whether to be insulted by that or not, as Bones was smiling at him. He stuck out his tongue instead but regretted it immediately when the icy dry air stung. Bones laughed at him more and sat down beside him in the snow, ruining his snow angel. Jim didn't mind much because Bones was far warmer than any snow angel ever would be. "I've been meaning to talk to you."
"Okay," Jim replied and sat up, shaking the snow from his hair. Bones gave him a grumpy look for that, dusting the splatter off his jacket. They sat in silence for a minute. "Okay?"
"Preferably inside," Bones clarified with a huff and stood up. "You'll catch your death if we sit in the snow." He grabbed Jim's wrists and carefully pulled him upward, muttering calm words of support under his breath about Jim's still healing leg. Jim wobbled over to the porch as Bones went to talk to Joanna and then immediately decided against waiting for the other man outside because the snow was starting to melt on his jacket, leaving him even colder than before. He made it inside, shrugging off the five layers of coat, jacket and sweater in the dense warmth of the house. When Bones finally did make it inside, Jim was pulling his gloves off with his teeth and turned to look, eyes wide.
"Is there still cocoa on the," Jim frowned, glancing towards the wall in the direction of the kitchen, "stove?" Bones seemed full of laughter for Jim today and chuckled at this as he pulled off his heavy coat.
"Yes, probably still warm if you're lucky," Bones answered and took Jim's gloves from him. "These are gross and do not belong anywhere near your mouth," he scolded with a disgusted look, holding the offending gloves between his thumb and forefinger. "I don't know how you manage to get so dirty shoveling fresh snow, Jim."
"It's a talent," Jim protested with a grin. Bones just rolled his eyes and vanished into the cellar. Jim was still wary of cellars. Only bad things lived underground, like foxes or groundhogs. He couldn't believe anyone actually liked groundhogs, especially since they ended winter. He frowned as he made his way into the kitchen, weary of another thing he couldn't believe humans enjoyed. The stove was very warm though and he was still feeling chilled from the damp snow, so he moved closer, hands protectively held out in front of him.
He shivered at the sudden explosion of warm that sent goosebumps up his skin (this he believed was from fear) and started perspiration on this neck. Jim scowled at the stove. He nearly jumped out of his skin when Bones suddenly brushed past him, walking straight up to the stove and checking the pot that held the cocoa. "Hm, little warm in here isn't it?" he muttered, reaching over the stove to turn one of the many dials that lined the back. Jim watched from a careful distance now, mug in hand. Bones turned to eye Jim with a smirk. "You don't expect me to come over there, do you?"
Jim didn't move beyond holding the mug in hand, it had Rudolph a ridiculous red nosed reindeer on it but Jim liked the colours, at arms length in front of him. "Yes," he answered with a look that dared Bones to question him. Bones, tactfully, did not and instead took the mug from Jim. "Thank you."
"Don't mention it," Bones drawled, pouring the cocoa into the mug. He walked over to Jim, handing the mug to him and taking his elbow in hand. "Let's talk?" He led Jim to the study, one of the more unused rooms in the house with a lot of their unpacked boxes still piled around. Despite this, it still had Leonard's ancient overstuffed and terribly ugly sofa in it. While having a million good reasons to be tossed only one good reason kept Leonard from getting rid of it: how damned comfortable it was. The fabric was perfectly worn to that wonderful just-threadbare cotton smoothness and the cushions were so well-used that they conformed to your body as soon as you sat, making any position immediately comfortable. It was on this couch that a lot had happened to Leonard, some good and a whole lot of bad.
Jim dropped down onto the old couch as if he had known it for years, settling into the exact position against the left arm that Leonard almost always assumed. Leonard stood in the doorway, staring at Jim with a mixture of disbelief and amusement. Jim looked up from his cocoa with an innocent expression that didn't quite make the mark. "What's up?"
"This is about Joanna," Leonard warned immediately as he sat down next to Jim, who twisted and squirmed around so that they were facing each other. "And I don't want you to take it the wrong way..." Jim gave him a funny look, handing Bones the mug of cocoa without even having to ask, as if knowing Leonard wanted a sip as soon as the thought entered his head. "Ever since you've fallen out of our tree," he said this with a wry smile, "Joanna's been a little obsessed with the idea that you're an...angel."
Jim blinked and sat back, a small frown tugging at the corners of his mouth. "An angel? Like with wings and God and stuff?" Jim asked, clearly confused. Leonard had to take a second to think about that, unsure that there were any other kind of angel.
"Yes?" he said uncertainly. Jim gave him a funny look again and took back the mug from Leonard, holding it carefully between both hands with relish. "I just wanted to let you know...in case she'd been actin' weird around you about it."
"I haven't noticed," Jim admitted with a thoughtful look. Leonard noted with amusement it was similar to Joanna's but Jim's eyebrows drifted lower than Joanna's ever had. "Should I be offended? Because it doesn't seem like a bad thing to me."
Leonard smiled with a slight sigh as he sat back against the couch which graciously softened under his weight. "I suppose that you shouldn't be offended," he said, smile turning a bit sad. "But her reasons are a little...awkward, for you." He looked at Jim who sat quietly watching him, mug still cherished between each palm. "Joanna believes that my father sent you here or...she did before. Actually, this whole conversation could be incorrect now if she's changed her theory," he laughed with a shake of his head, "now you might be Jack Frost."
He wouldn't have noticed if he hadn't already been watching Jim so carefully (which, upon reflection, was untrue because he had gotten to know every part of Jim including his subtle ticks) the way Jim stilled at the mention of the children's fable hero. Leonard's heart sped slightly for no good reason, he scolded it, because such ideas were ridiculous. At Jim's sudden joking grin, Leonard dismissed all suspicions despite his heart's protests and how Jim's smile didn't quite reach his eyes.
"I'm not an angel," Jim laughed, "and I am most certainly not Jack Frost."