Rating: T for language and themes

Characters: Kirk and McCoy

Summary: The Paparazzi cross The Line. This means WAR!

Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek or anything associated with it. I'm doing this for fun, not profit.


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The Federation Enquirer

~Part 1~

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Leonard leans forward, arms braced against the wall of the shower, and lets the spray run over his head. It's a little too hot, enough to make his skin prickle, but the rivers of heat running down his neck and back, the streams falling off his nose and chin are soothing despite it. He turns, sighs as the hot water begins to work some of the tension out of his shoulders.

It's been a long day. One in a series of long, aggravating and exhausting days. He's not sure who he hates more at this point, the media for being obnoxious little shits or Star Fleet Public Relations for trying to handle him. He's just the sort of vindictive bastard that would take a great deal of pleasure from the fact that Star Fleet PR hates him just as much as he hates them and it pisses him off that even this small emotional outlet is denied him. Because the reason PR hates him is the exact same reason that the damned media loves him.

Dr. Leonard McCoy has absolutely no filter between his brain and his mouth whatsoever. (Media of the world, your Messiah has come.)

It's been a problem in the past, saying exactly what he thinks to professors and supervisors who don't appreciate hearing it. The Deans of the Academy were willing to brush it off as a minor annoyance. Star Fleet PR is not.

Leonard's lack of a Bullshit-Filter is a major problem for them because there are certain things the Admiralty would like to pretend didn't happen. How Jim got on the Enterprise in the first place is one, how he managed to assume command is another. Two things which technically should get Jim, Leonard and even Spock court-martialed. The Admiralty has managed to avoid this unfavorable outcome by being, in Leonard's opinion, deliberately stupid. By instructing the senior officers and Alpha bridge crew to answer only what is asked of them and to volunteer nothing. By choosing their words carefully during debriefings and leaving follow up and elaborative questions unvoiced. All to avoid the PR nightmare that would result from putting any member of the crew that saved Earth up in front of a military court. Because the media and the public don't understand the phrase 'Standard Procedure'.

Bureaucratic bullshit.

The media, being the clever little bitches they are, have picked up on the fact that there's something Star Fleet doesn't want them to know and have been hunting it down without mercy. So Leonard's spent the last few days (and will be spending many more to come) trying to dodge sneak attacks by journalists and getting exactly what he can and cannot say drilled into his head by PR (not that there's anything to avoid because there isn't, we don't know about it so don't make us kick your ass for talking about that thing that didn't actually occur, this conversation never happened okay?).

Cagey bastards.

Leonard shuts off the water, hitting the knob with a little more force than is strictly necessary, and steps out of the shower. He dries off quickly, stepping into the sweat pants he'd folded on the counter earlier, before draping his towel over his head and walking out of the bathroom to check the time. It's getting late, the sun's nearly set and Leonard wonders if Jim will even get back before he heads to bed.

'Speak of the devil' Leonard thinks as the door slides open. Jim walks in, dragging his feet. He stops when he sees Leonard and leans against the partition separating their beds from the rest of the dorm room, dropping his gym bag on the floor.

"Do you know how many paparazzi I spotted on my way here?" Jim asks, dragging his sweat drenched shirt over his head and tossing it at the laundry shoot.

"I don't really want to know." Leonard starts toweling his hair dry. He watches as Jim makes his way across the room.

"Thirteen! Thirteen, Bones." Jim groans as he collapses onto his bed. He toes off his sneakers as he continues. "Staking out the libraries, pretending to be visiting students. I swear to God, I saw one hiding up in that oak tree outside the Astrophysics building."

Leonard stops to consider this. "Don't a couple of raccoons live up there?"

"Yeah," Jim grins dreamily before reaching down to pull off his socks. "I really wanted to stick around for that revelation but I saw the light from our window and it reminded me that I'm fucking exhausted."

Jim grunts and flops back, arms above his head, each hand still holding one of his socks. Leonard tosses his towel back into the bathroom, then walks over to Jim's bed and gingerly extracts the socks from his grip. He throws them on top of Jim's sweaty shirt.

"You reek." He says, looking down at his friend. There are bags under his eyes.

"Yeah, but I don't want to get up." Jim smirks at him without opening his eyes. "Give me a sponge bath? You'd be doing yourself a favor."

"Ah-ha, no." He heads into the kitchenette, opens the mini-fridge, shoves the beer to one side and pulls out some yogurt and chopped melon. "I'm making you something to eat."

"I'm not hungry." Jim says, stifling a yawn.

"Dammit, Jim!" Leonard snaps, exasperated. He walks back around the divider and stops, hands on his hips, to glare at him. "This isn't healthy!"

"I'm not starving myself, Bones! I'm just not hungry after running my ass off for nearly an hour." Jim snaps back. He doesn't even bother to look up at Leonard, just raises one hand to gesture rudely in his general direction. "I thought you'd be happy that I'm exercising to burn off steam. I could be fighting or fucking, but instead I'm being responsible."

Leonard rolls his eyes and makes an effort to bring his voice down. "You don't have a choice and you and I both know it. Fleet PR would shit bricks if you did."

"I miss sex."

"Get used to it," Leonard grumbles.

"You could be of more help here, you know." Jim chuckles, tips his head so he can drag his eyes along Leonard's body. He feels his neck heat despite knowing Jim's just joking around. "I mean, I'm half naked, you're half naked. We could – Oh, fuck!"

Leonard's across the room before he even thinks about it. He's on the bed, one hand bracing himself, the other turning Jim's head to face him. Jim's pulling in short, deep breathes almost gasping, his eyes squeezed shut in pain. But he's not curling in on himself, his hands are fisted in the sheets instead of reaching to grasp at the source.

"Jim, give me a clue here!"

"Cramp." It comes out as a hiss between clenched teeth. Leonard glances over Jim's body, spots the way one leg is being held stiff and awkward. He moves down and rips the snaps of Jim's pants open. His calf is bulging, twitching as it spasms.

"Jesus, Jim!" He snaps as he starts messaging the muscle out, long hard strokes to loosen it. Jim makes a strangled little sound, like a whimper almost but not quite suppressed. Leonard sighs and softens his tone. "This is what I meant, Jim. Running till you're exhausted, guzzling water, washing all the sodium and potassium out of your system."

"God! Yeah, okay... nghhh! Just don't -ah!- stop." Jim pants. He's got his arms thrown over his eyes. Every few moments his tongue darts out to wet his lips. Leonard tries his best not to sigh with irritation.

It just figures. Attacked by Romulans and nearly falling to his death? No problem. Beaten and strangled by a Vulcan? Nearly eaten by snow monsters? All in a days work for James T. Kirk. But put him in a room with press and cameras and that's it, game over. Not that he won't smile, because he will. Jim will play it up, charming and witty, answering every question. Making the reporters and journalists feel as though they're being taken into his confidence, like they're getting something more than the same old PR lines wrapped up, nice and shiny, in Jim's infectious charisma.

Leonard's seen him do it. Grin and wink, graciously accepting their praise. Dying inside.

Every 'Thank you', every 'How did you do it?' every 'That's incredible, don't you think so Insert-Name-Here?' is one lap around the track. One lap where all he can think about is pitch black where Vulcan should be, where all he can hear is the imagined screams of hundreds of their classmates and friends dying. A world he couldn't save, people who shouldn't have died. Spock reaching out to a woman who isn't there, will never be there.

Jim's never said a damn thing about it. He doesn't have to; Leonard can see it all there in his eyes, the pain Jim won't let him heal. If he moved Jim's arms now, away from his face, Leonard knows he'd see it there. The physical pain only a thin veneer across the surface.

He's speaking, he realizes. Soothing words for Jim to hear, voice low and gentle the way he used to talk to Joanna after a nightmare. "You're okay." It wasn't your fault. "You're doing good." You did the best you could, more than anyone else could have."Relax. That's it." Let me take care of you.

Leonard can feel the muscle loosen beneath his fingers. He keeps rubbing, working the last of the cramp away. The bed shifts and Leonard looks up to see Jim watching him intently, propped up on his elbows. His breathing is slower now, not as strained.

"There. Now maybe you'll actually listen to me once and a while." Please, don't shut me out.

Jim smiles at him. It's a little lopsided and doesn't quite reach his eyes but it's better than nothing. "You could do porn with that voice. Really, I know some people-"

"Jim."

"I'm serious, it's sexy!"

"That was my soothing voice, Jim, not my sex voice." It's out of his mouth before he realizes his mistake. "Oh, dammit."

"So you do have a sex voice? See, I knew you were holding out on me-Aaaahhh!" Jim yells, his head falling back. Leonard snatches Jim's leg before it can jerk away. His calf is tense but not cramping and judging from the way Jim seems to be trying to knee himself in the crotch, the cramp is probably in his inner thigh.

"Bones!" Jim groans as Leonard moves forward, draping Jim's leg over his shoulder before pulling the snaps of his pants open along his thigh.

"I'm gonna rub this out for you Jim," He says, kneading Jim's spasming Adductor magnus. "And then I'm gonna shoot you full of muscle relaxants and saline. I'll even let you use the electric blanket my Aunt May sent me."

"Oh God, I fucking love you right now." Jim pants, letting himself fall back onto his mattress. "And all the lovely ladies of the McCoy clan for coddling you."

"And from now on," Leonard continues, half because it'll be good for Jim and half to get him back for the 'coddling' statement, "You'll be eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day and getting a hypo of vitamins every morning."

"Oh God, I fucking hate you right now."

"Is this good for you, Jim?" He asks, digging his fingers in. "Cause it's good for me."

"Shut up!"

*

The next morning they head out for coffee, going to a glorified news stand off campus in the hopes of avoiding any photographers waiting to pounce at their usual haunts. They're waiting for the barista to finish their order ("You're not getting extra cream in your coffee, Jim." "But Bones! I deserve a treat, I didn't resist when you stuck me with that damn hypo. I was good!" "Jim, you threw a text book at me." "Much. I didn't resist much.") and Leonard's feeling more and more uncomfortable by the second.

It's got to be paranoia, a week's worth of biting his tongue and dodging paparazzi catching up to him. But it feels like people are staring, like the two gossips at the corner table are shooting him side-long glances, like the man in the sunglasses is looking at him through his shaded lenses instead of reading his tabloid. He's spent an awfully long time on the front page...

Leonard turns to glance over the magazine rack, trying to distract himself. Normally he'd bitch at Jim, but he's flirting casually with the girl at the counter, whose looking more baffled than flattered. Leonard tells himself very firmly that she didn't just glance his way, the poor girl's just shy and looking for an out. He reads over the headlines.

He stops, glances back at the tabloids and reads again.

The Hero Captain's Secrets Reveled!!! Torrid Love Affair with Doctor Friend!!!!!

He tries, really desperately tries, not to glance down at the accompanying photo. But he's never been very good at avoiding mental trauma, he joined Star Fleet after all. He looks down.

Holy Fuck.

"Jim." Leonard hisses, pulling at his friend's jacket, eyes never leaving the image. Jim shrugs his hand off without missing a beat in his conversation. Leonard grabs his shoulder and pulls. "Jim, look at this."

"You know, Bones, it's rude to interru– whoa."

"Yeah."

"That's us." Jim comments, tilting his head. "I mean, it's a bit grainy, but that's definitely us."

"Yeah."

They stand there for a few moments, just starring. Leonard takes a deep breath in through his nose, lets it out slowly through his mouth. Trying to force the muscles in his shoulders to unknot.

"Seriously, we should do porn. You could put Jo through collage with this shit."

"I'm going to kill you now," Leonard breathes out, "Right here, where everyone will see."

"Okay, just try to relax-"

"Relax? How am I supposed to relax?" It comes out much louder than he'd intended. If people weren't staring before, they're definitely staring now. Leonard feels his cheeks burning.

"Um..." Comes a high nasally voice from behind the counter. "Your coffee's ready?"

Leonard glares at the barista, throws one Jim's way for good measure then turns and storms out onto the sidewalk. He picks a direction and starts walking. The crowd of pedestrians parts in front of him like the Red Sea.

"Bones!" Jim calls from behind him. Leonard ignores him and keeps walking. "Bones, wait up!"

A litany of "pardon me" and "excuse me" and "Sorry about that, my fault" follows as Jim makes his way through the crowd. He manages to catch up with Leonard before he turns the corner.

"You left your coffee." Jim says, holding it up as a peace offering.

"Not thirsty." He growls, glaring down at the offending beverage. He spots bold typeface and a flashy red banner folded under Jim's arm. "You bought that piece of trash?"

"It could come in handy." Jim pushes Leonard's coffee into his hands before taking a sip of his own. That phrase has all kinds of crazy foreboding attached to it, so Leonard makes good use of the next available alley and drags Jim into it.

"How is this going to come in handy, Jim?" He snaps, grabbing the tabloid from under Jim's arm, holding the cover page up where they can both see it. "When will a picture like this ever be useful to you?"

"You're pissed off, I get that-" Jim holds his hands up in a gesture half meant to calm and half to defend.

"That's the understatement of my life!" Leonard throws the tabloid against the alley wall as hard as he can. "I'm a private person, Jim. PR shit I can take but having my life plastered on the front page of The Federation Enquirer? That's too much. And it's not even real!"

Jim flinches back, staring at his feet. Leonard feels the humiliated fury drain away as Jim leans down to pick the tabloid up of the ground. At the blank expression on Jim's face. All he's left with is exhaustion and guilt. Jim doesn't deserve to get yelled at. Leonard's not the only victim here.

"I just..." He sighs and leans back against the wall, trying not to think of the grime that's encrusted on it. He searches for words to adequately describe what's bothering him. "We weren't... we've never, and everyone will think- fuck! We weren't even naked for God's sake!"

"Yeah," Jim says. He shakes the dirt off the cover and looks it over. "But from the angle they took it at you can't tell that."

"How did they get that picture anyway?" Leonard asks, moving to stand by Jim's shoulder. He can't hold Jim's gaze when his friend looks up at him. "We're five stories up."

"Raccoons." Jim mutters almost too soft for Leonard to hear.

"Jim, I think I would have noticed if there was a raccoon with a camera strapped to its back sitting on our windowsill."

"No, read the left column." The paper gets pushed up in front of Leonard's face. He has to move his head back a few inches before he can actually read it.

Academy Campus Overrun with Raccoons!!! A Menace to the Public Health Claims Upstanding Citizen!!!

"Son of a Bitch." Leonard growls.

"Told you it would come in handy."

"Jim, I'm severely disappointed in the behavior of our resident rodents. Obviously that paparazzi twerp wasn't sufficiently mauled."

"Watch it, Bones. You're starting to sound like Spock." Jim chuckles, grinning crookedly up at Leonard. "If Spock were kinda twisted and used words like 'twerp'. You know what this means right?"

"Yeah, I'm going to be having a really unpleasant conversation with the Ex sometime today, and the next time my Mom goes to the supermarket she's going to be scarred for life." Leonard offers, figuring he should give Jim the opportunity to laugh at him in exchange for Leonard's earlier verbal abuse.

"You're physically incapable of seeing the bright side of any given situation, you know that?" Jim smirks.

"What's the bright side of this, Jim?"

"They've crossed The Line." Leonard can hear the capitals on the last two words as easily as he can see the look on Jim's face. It's the look Jim gets when he's strategizing about something Leonard is very likely going to regret participating in later.

"Why is that a good thing?"

"All's fair in love and war, Bones." Jim grins, looking up from the tabloid.

If Leonard ever did what was good for himself he'd walk away now. But he hasn't seen a smile reach Jim's eyes since he came down to Med-Bay after escaping the black hole to find Leonard and Spock trying to out eyebrow each other over Captain Pike's irate bitching. He'll grumble and complain, but whatever Jim decides to take this, Leonard knows he'll be right there with him every step of the way.

"You don't have to worry about me getting cramps anymore, by the way. This is going to be fun."


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~End Part 1~