Fandom: Star Trek: Reboot'verse
Pairing: Kirk/McCoy, hints of other pairings
Rating: NC-17 (see warnings), hurt-comfort, angst, drama
Warning: slash, dark, implied torture, violence and sexual abuse in some drabbles. Nothing graphic, but it is strongly implied. Strong language. Please read with caution.
Spoilers: Random TOS references. Nothing earth shattering. Let's see who gets them all though for points. –snicker-
"Mr. Scott!" Hikaru yelled, sounding very upset. "Any time now!"
Pavel could hear the Chief Engineer muttering under his breath as his fingers swept across the touch screen. "Aye, aye, almost there…"
The rumble of another quake could be heard. Hikaru swore in Japanese. Pavel gulped as he watched the signals flicker. Seven. Seven life signs were still on the screen. Please, stay seven.
"We are doing our best," Pavel promised and Hikaru sighed.
"Know you are. Just hurry. That ledge isn't going to hold much longer for them."
"Can you reach them, Mr. Sulu?" Mr. Scott asked as he pulled up another screen.
"Not anymore." Hikaru breathed harshly into the comm. "That ledge won't hold anyone else and the doctor won't reach up for the rope. He can't without letting go of the captain's hand."
The one marked as the captain's, at the far left of the bottom of the screen overlapping with the doctor's, moved and the red target lines turned yellow.
"You must stay still!" Pavel yelped.
"The ledge is giving way!" Lieutenant Adar barked into the comm next. "Enterprise, do you have a lock on us yet?"
"…dammit, I said let go!" The captain was audible in Adar's comm. Pavel swallowed. "That's an order!"
"…hell I will!"
"Mr. Agger, get the doctor out of here!"
Pavel could hear them yelling, bellowing for the doctor to grab the rope. He watched the tiny figures on the screen. The doctor's still overlapped the captain's.
"Mr. Scott, there will be another seismic event in two minutes. It will destabilize their plateau completely." Commander Spock's flat voice filled the transporter room. "Do you have them?"
Chyort voz'mi, this was impossible. Pavel's head spun as he tried to recalculate the radiation shift decays as the locks over the life signs kept flickering from red to yellow. They would not stay steady!
"Ru…" Pavel murmured, unable to stop himself.
"Yeah…" Hikaru said in an unsteady voice. "Listen, Pavel. Whatever happens, I—"
"Shit!" Mr. Scott exclaimed when a tremor sent all the signals skidding to the left. The roar of crumbling earth was loud enough to be heard on someone's comm.
"…hold on, damn it!"
"I'm going to drag you down with me! Let go!"
With sweat starting to gather at his neckline, Pavel glanced over to Mr. Scott and saw he was frowning. No, not good, Mr. Scott never frowned like that unless it was bad. Very, very bad.
The console wailed when the captain's life sign slid lower on the screen's grid.
"You must hold still!" Pavel exclaimed but he wasn't sure if they heard him because there were several shouts of "Captain" and "Jim" that filled the room.
"Thirty seconds," Commander Spock intoned from the Bridge and Pavel nearly told him to shut up. Inverse the wave perhaps? The third frequency?
"Mr. Scott?" Pavel stammered.
"Not now, laddie," Mr. Scott muttered, his eyes narrowing as he stared hard at his console. "Re-adjust the—damn, damn, damn!"
Both their screens stuttered and distorted. Pavel shouted something his mother would not have approved of when he saw both the captain's and the doctor's signals flicker and slowly slip sideways towards the edge of the screen.
Pavel changed the parameters, broadened the frequency, and took down the bio-filters to widen the net. When Mr. Scott shouted that he had three locked, Pavel only grunted. He could hear the transporter whining behind the shield. Mr. Spock was saying something about the plateau collapsing. Just four more. Four more…Yes! He locked onto two! Pavel's fingers burned as he pounded them across the matter flux. Just two more. Two mo—Nyet!
"Grab them!" Mr. Scott shouted by his ear as the last two signals dropped. Computers wailed. The transporter was suddenly crowded with people, their dirty faces shouting through against the clear divider, demanding, "Did you get them? Did you get them?"
"Quiet!" Pavel hollered as he broadened the field again. Still there. Still there. Please, please, please. The signals were slipping away faster than he could zoom out to keep them on screen.
"Now. Now. Yes!" Pavel punched the screen, the signals flashing red and locked just as they started to descend.
"Bridge to transporter room." Mr. Spock sounded terse, especially for a Vulcan.
Pavel stared at the twin columns of swirling light. Everyone had staggered off the pad to get out of the way.
"Come on, come on," Mr. Scott muttered. He didn't look up, his fingers hovering over the dials as he fine-tuned the signal. "Donnae fail me now, lass."
"Bridge to transporter room."
"Wait…" Mr. Scott growled.
Pavel bit his lower lip. He gazed at the lights spinning, beams of atoms and matter twisting, reforming into first shadows, then shape then mass…
"Got them!" Pavel exclaimed as the captain and doctor rematerialized.
A foot above the pad.
"Ach," Mr. Scott said just as the pair finished their descent and crashed onto the pad.
"That's got to hurt," Hikaru muttered before he shot Pavel a grin through the partition.
Doctor McCoy still had one hand curled tightly in the captain's gold shirt, the other in a bloodless grip around his right wrist.
And still shouting. Apparently he hadn't stopped since they had beamed aboard.
"…scrambled our atoms mid-air, catching us like it was goddamn fly fishing and probably mixed our organs upside down grabbing us like that and don't think I'm not going to check…"
The captain sat up, his chin to his chest as he exhaled slowly. He glanced up at the crowd around him with a toothy grin, which softened when he looked down at the white knuckled grip still around his hand.
"…unnatural way to travel like…"
"Doctor." The captain tugged at his captured hand.
"…probably turned us inside out and—"
The doctor stopped mid-rant. He stared at the crowd around them, took a deep breath and glowered at the captain.
The captain, still sitting on the pad, tipped his head back and laughed. He panted, winded as he pounded the doctor's back, whose only response was to grumble that he wasn't a drum. But Pavel could see the shaky smirk he wore as he stood up, pulling the captain to his feet. Doctor McCoy never let go of his hand as he staggered off the pad, dragging the protesting captain out of the room to take him to Sickbay. Hikaru threw Pavel another grin before he followed the pair and the rest of the landing party.
Pavel breathed out a sigh. Mr. Scott chuckled, but it sounded a little too high pitched and Pavel caught the engineer wiping his brow with the back of his sleeve.
Jim's head snapped back as the bottle caught him by the ear. Experience taught him to just roll with it because fractured skulls were never fun, no matter how old you were. Still, the room dimmed for a second before an exhale brought it all back.
The bottle rolled until it hit the wall next to him, stopping with a thunk. Jim didn't give it another glance. Jim cradled his throbbing jaw with one hand, the other up to ward off any more bottles possibly coming his way. There were none.
Bones stared at Jim with red-rimmed eyes as if he was seeing Jim for the first time, as if Jim hadn't been in his cabin for the past hour while he ranted about the media and how it was none of their fucking business how David McCoy had died.
Without warning, Bones lunged, swinging blindly. But Jim was ready for him, having been in more than one barroom fight, and he caught the fist before it could make contact with his face. Bones growled and swore at him, but he just held it there, both his hands wrapped around Bones' for a moment. He smiled and couldn't help but observe, "You really do need to remember not to tuck your thumb in."
Bones jerked his hand back, holding it to his chest. He cradled it against him like it hurt, like he had made actual contact with Jim's face. Something in Bones's face seemed to crumple.
Jim's smile wavered.
Bones shook his head, staggered to his feet, swayed and tottered to the bathroom.
Jim followed the sounds of retching and dropped down to sit by him. He rested a hand on Bones's back, rubbing the tremors away as Bones hung his head low to the toilet bowl. Jim grimaced. This was an odd déjà vu in reverse.
"Sorry," Bones spat out. He glared into the toilet as if it was its fault.
Jim wished he had something other than "It's all right" to offer.
A hand waved towards him. Bones tilted his head, examining Jim with his left eye.
"I could have cracked your skull," Bones slurred.
Jim scoffed. "With that?"
Bones opened his mouth but then his face screwed up and he twisted back over the toilet.
"Fuck," Bones bit out as he heaved. "Fuck."
"Yeah," Jim murmured because he gets how fathers can haunt you even years later. "I know."
"You shouldn't have come in here," Bones fumbled.
Jim shrugged. "You shouldn't have tried to drown yourself in the good bourbon. If you really want to get wasted at least do it on that blue rotgut Scotty's cooked up in that still of his."
Bones coughed as he slapped a hand on Jim's closest knee. "Go. I'm fine."
"Uh huh." Jim snagged a face cloth off the towel rack and wetted it. He folded and settled it on the back of Bones's neck. "Better?"
"Feels good," Bones sighed. "Thanks."
Jim smirked. "I had a good teacher." He drew up his right knee and sat back against one of the walls.
Bones pushed away from the toilet and sat across from Jim against the opposite wall. With his legs outstretched, they touched Jim's. He reached behind for the towel on his neck and draped it over his face like a shroud.
Jim watched the damp towel cling to Bones's face.
"You didn't know, Bones. And he asked you."
"They made him sound like a coward," Bones snarled. He grabbed the towel off his face and threw it. It smacked a spot on the wall just past Jim's right ear and dropped to the floor with a wet plop.
Jim closed his eyes briefly. "You just did what your father asked you to do, Bones."
Bones drew up his left knee, his foot tapping restlessly on the floor. "'Should have waited."
Jim reached over, slipping his hand up the loose fitting sweatpants, his palm stroking an ankle, following the tendon to a muscular calf. Jim idly wrote on Bones' thigh the equation for a sub-warp infusion with his finger. Bones watched him, his face unreadable. His right foot flexed and his bare toes dug into the thick muscle of Jim's right thigh.
"I am sorry." Bones's foot brushed up the side of his hip.
Jim shrugged. "I have a hard head."
Jim peered up at Bones's scowl. The corner of his mouth quirked.
"I think you made Chekov cry."
Bones acted surprised to hear himself laugh. "He'll never ask how my shift was again."
"Sulu's going to run you through with his sword."
Bones snorted behind a fist.
Jim let his finger wander and etched out the first notation for Kersey's slingshot effect on Bones's thigh. He thought about fathers and sons.
"Jim," Bones whispered.
Jim lifted his eyes up. Bones never looked his way, his eyes clouded but Jim understood the invitation. His mouth twisted. "Sure. I'll stay."
Bones squeezed his foot and smiled bleakly into the distance.
He opened his eyes at the touch of Jim's hand brushing back the bangs from his forehead. He blinked blearily as Jim's hand flipped so that the back of his hand was flush with his forehead.
"That's a useless way to take a temperature," Leonard slurred. He tried to swat Jim's hand away but his arm flopped uselessly against his side. He held back a shiver. The tree against his back and the damp ground under him were sapping his body heat.
Jim frowned, his dirt-smudged face a breath away from his. His skin was stark under the dirt, his eyes like the sky as they stayed on his face. "You feel warm."
"We're in a jungle."
"Your leg is broken." Blue eyes flickered down to his right leg. "A lot."
Leonard would roll his eyes if he didn't think his consciousness would tumble right after them. "A lot? What the hell kind of prognosis, is that? You're a lousy medic."
"And you're grumpy." Jim's hand hovered near the worst of the breaks just below his knee, marked by a strip of gold uniform stained with dark brown and red splotches.
"I'm always grumpy," Leonard ground out between his teeth because they needed to stay quiet, because even the hesitant probe from Jim's fingers was sending hot sparks up his leg, leaving him ironically cold. And thirsty.
"Okay, you're always grumpy," Jim conceded. He slipped a hand behind Leonard's neck and eased him up higher. He pressed the Starfleet issued canteen to his lips. "Small sips, Bones."
Leonard bit the inside of his cheek to keep from guzzling down the lukewarm water. He groaned under his breath when Jim drew the container away. He frowned when Jim capped it.
"You're not drinking?"
Jim shrugged as he slung the canteen back over his shoulder with the tricorder, now rigged to send out a signal so Spock could find them before the hunting party did.
Leonard stared at Jim's cracked lips.
"Jim, how much water is left in there?"
"It's enough, Bones." There was a hard note in Jim's voice that silenced Leonard.
Jim stared at something beyond his shoulder. Leonard stared at him instead: unlined face stony since the natives had dragged them out of the crashed shuttle. With the universal translators broken and Ensign Gestlin and Lieutenant W'tak both hunted down and killed, this was not the exploration expedition they had planned.
"Medicinal flowers, my ass," Leonard muttered. "I'm a doctor, Jim. Not a botanist."
"Hey, who was complaining that space was disease etcetera etcetera? I thought flowers would be a nice change of pace." Jim curled a hand over Leonard's left shoulder, his eyes elsewhere, his jaw set.
Leonard strained to hear anything, but his head felt stuffed. He felt a cough coming and cast gritty eyes at him. "Jim?"
In a blink, Jim glanced back over to him, cocky grin already in place but it faltered at Leonard's stare. Jim's smile dimmed and he gave Leonard's shoulder a brief squeeze.
"Not what I had in mind," Jim admitted, "when I wanted you to come down with us." He exhaled and eased back against the tree, his body warm and solid against Leonard's right side.
"What? You mean having tree worshipping barbarians dressed in loincloths wanting to jab us with poisonous pointy sticks wasn't part of your fun plan?"
"No." Jim choked out a strangled laugh. "I was planning on getting you naked and doing a little sun worshipping." He gave Leonard a look, "Among other things. C'mon Bones. You. Me. Alone. Out having a…picnic in a forest paradise."
"No thanks," Leonard muttered, fighting the urge to tense when ripples of heat throbbed from his ankle. Compound break for sure. "With our luck, the ants would have been ten feet tall, the trees carnivorous and one of us would have gotten a rash somewhere we shouldn't." Leonard hissed as the arch of his foot seized. His head thumped when he dropped it back on the tree.
"Easy," Jim murmured. He rested a hand on the upper thigh of Leonard's good leg, kneading the muscle. "It'll pass."
It did but it left Leonard lightheaded and so goddamn thirsty but he shook his head when Jim offered the canteen. It sloshed too loudly in Jim's grip.
"I may be an old country doctor, but I like my comforts too much. Remind me never to step foot off the ship again, Jim." He grimaced when Jim tightened the splint made of torn Starfleet uniforms and tree branches. Despite how good Jim was, the shuttlecraft landing had been teeth jarring.
Jim grunted. "Agreed."
The odd lilt in Jim's voice drew Leonard's gaze up. "This wasn't your fault."
Jim's laugh gave him an odd ache. "Gestlin and W'tak might disagree with you."
Leonard reached over and touched Jim's wrist, his fingers trailing because his arm couldn't stay up long.
"It's not," Leonard stressed. He rested his head on Jim's hip. He blew out sharply when a purple leaf dangled in front of his nose. Damn natives and their forest. To get pissed over their shuttle landing on some old tree was ridiculous.
"You got us down in one piece, Jim. Even though the air was…was…what was it again?"
"Negative ionicly charged." Jim scowled as he remembered. "Ignited the shuttle's electron trail. We became an aerial blowtorch." Jim slapped a knee as he rose, scanned the thick trees behind them. "Probably what riled the natives, seeing that streak of fire coming down from the sky."
Leonard closed his eyes. He wished they could build a blaze here. "A fire sounds pretty good right about now."
There was a light pat on his jaw, a pat that then became a stroke from his cheek down to his throat.
"Sorry," Jim murmured, crouching down again.
"Not your fault," Leonard mumbled. There was a sharper tap to his face and his eyes blinked and widened and Jim's face sharpened into view again.
"So you keep telling me." Jim's smile looked painful and wrong. He checked the tricorder swaying against his hip. "Spock should have realized what is happening by now and be looking for us. We just have to stay ahead of those hunters." Jim squared his shoulders back. Even with half of his shirt gone, Jim still looked very much like he was on the Bridge. "You'll be all right, Bones."
We, Leonard corrected Jim in his head. He pawed weakly at the ground. "Okay. I'm ready."
No. "Yeah. Up." Leonard grunted as he draped his right arm over Jim's shoulders. Even that hurt to do and his leg pounded, now feeling three times heavier than it should. Leonard bit his lower lip hard enough to taste blood as they straightened as one.
"Just let me do the work," Jim whispered by his ear before they took the first step. He reeked of sweat and the grime of the jungle while his arm around Leonard's middle was too hot and made his uniform bunch up uncomfortably around his torso. Leonard needed a shower, an ostragenerator, and 50ccs of pentanoyln. Even goddamn ice water or a nap would be bliss right now but Leonard contented himself with resting his chin against Jim's shoulder. His leg throbbed as he used Jim's steady breath as a left-right marching beat. Leonard stared at the blood encrusted on the back of Jim's ear, strands of dark gold now brown and plastered to the skull. His arm across Jim's shoulders tightened. Jim glanced up at him and smiled tiredly before refocusing on the ground ahead.
"Jim," Leonard finally rasped as they began to move uphill. He spoke up because something needed to be said; the firm and solid feel of Jim's body pressed up against him should be recognized.
"I…" And the words died. Of course they did. Because it would have been too easy to say it here, but easy was not them. And damn but his leg hurt.
Leonard huffed, his laugh aborted by his own moan. "You take me to the nicest places."
Jim's disbelieving chuckle was warm and reassuring against him, balm against the agony of each step.
The elbow nearly knocked his teeth out.
Leonard woke with a start. Repeated nights like this had honed in the snap from sleep to alertness so he was able to catch the next fist in time. He rolled until he was straddling Jim.
"Easy, easy," he soothed. He grabbed hold of Jim's wrists, but grunted when a knee hit him hard in the ribs.
Dr. Thomas Leighton was found not guilty by reason of temporary insanity for the murder of Karidian, otherwise known as Kodos the Executioner. That should have been the end of it. The end of the pattern of truly spectacular nightmares right as their class was assigned to rationalize Kodos' actions in their Starfleet law and ethics class, the erratic eating habits Jim still fell into when he became stressed, and the closed off tight-lipped "leave me the hell alone" attitude. It should have all stopped after Lenore, Kodos's daughter, found Kodos's body backstage. It should have stopped when Lenore went mad and hung herself after it was discovered she had killed damn near every other witness.
Jim bucked under him and after the day they'd had Leonard could make a good guess as to which memory Jim was reliving this time. He swore, grappling to pull Jim up. But not in time before Jim's stomach rebelled again, but at least Jim wasn't choking this time digging through the grave offerings for food.
"You're okay, you're okay," Leonard shushed, his litany pressed against Jim's sweat damp hair. He wrapped his arms around Jim's shoulders and pulled Jim in as close as he could. Jim burrowed against him, his mouth still moving soundlessly, unwittingly narrating something he'd only ever told Leonard once when he'd gotten falling down drunk after they'd gotten their grades back from that law and ethics class.
The bed was a mess of crumpled blankets and sweaty limbs. Pillows had been kicked to the floor.
Leonard stroked the back of Jim's head, never minding the fact that Jim was now curled in his lap, his head pressed hard into his chest as if pushing Leonard deep into the bulkhead. The shelves there dug into Leonard's spine, but Leonard stayed there, rocking Jim because even now, he couldn't wake Jim up. He could only wait out the memories, until Jim's body was too exhausted and when Jim finally woke so Leonard could help him into the shower, change the bed and pretend nothing had happened.
It wasn't the best way to deal with things. He knew that. He was a doctor; he knew what he should do. But right here, right now, this was what Jim needed even if his damned ribs did ache from where Jim's elbow had struck and his back was striped with bruises from the shelves.
For now, this was where he needed to be.
There's a reason why the captain should never beam down.
"…come in, Enterprise!"
Leonard gave up yelling into his communicator above the phaser and gunfire. And bullets. Goddamn barbarians. He needed both hands to clamp down on the wound on Jim's sternum even though there was still another version on his back. Blood kept bubbling out between his fingers with each frantic heartbeat. His fingers stuck together in a slick, red mess. His uniform was splattered with blood. His knees were soaked through from blood spreading out like a red shadow under Jim. Another pressure bandage soaked through.
"I need Roan here!" Leonard yelled, leaning into his hands. Jim's head lolled. His legs splayed out in the dirt of the trench. "Where the hell is Roan? Roan!"
"Enterprise!" Sulu took over the job of yelling into the communicator since he couldn't get to the shuttle beyond the clearing. He blinked away the blood dripping down from his cut forehead as he gripped the comm with one hand, a phaser set to kill in the other. It was Jim's. Sulu had picked it up after the Captain had tackled him to the ground. Damn fool heroics. "Enterprise, come in! We need immediate beam up! Medical emergency! Can you read me?"
Leonard packed on another field dressing and leaned into it. There was only eight left of those who had beamed down to broker a deal between the north and south continents of Wetan III. They weren't supposed to end up as potential hostages for the north to blackmail firepower from Starfleet. And they sure as hell weren't supposed to end up in a ditch in some backwater field bleeding the hell out.
"Doctor!" Sulu was still screaming even though he was right by his left ear. "There's still too much interference. Stay with the captain and the ambassador! Keep your head dow—"
"Ambassador Leavens is dead!" Leonard shouted back because he too had lost the ability to control the volume of his voice. All he had left in him was loud and louder. He saw Sulu's dark eyes flick to the body just off Jim's left, vacant violet eyes stared towards the sky, a matching wound in his side.
"Stay down," Sulu rasped in response, his hand pressing down on the back of Leonard's neck. "Keep behind the trees and the…" Sulu refused to include the bodies they were crouched behind. "Just…just stay down, Doctor."
Leonard nodded, hunched over Jim, the smell of sweat and burnt flesh all around him, phaser fire above him. His uniform clung to his skin because blood—human and alien—stuck like paint making a second, crusty skin.
Sulu was shouting behind him and yet despite the chaos, he could hear Jim's breathing gurgling quicker under him.
A sliver of dull blue cracked open and looked up at Leonard, lines of pain carved into the corners of his eyes and mouth, as Leonard put his full weight into the heels of his hands.
"Milk run, you said," Leonard hollered at Jim's waxy face even though he really wanted to say something else. He bowed his head to avoid the spit of dirt as bullets struck closer and closer to where they were. One of the fallen bodies behind him jerked as projectiles barreled into it instead of the desired living targets.
"What good are dead hostages?" Leonard rounded his shoulders over Jim's head, crouching to protect him. "Fucking idiots!" He felt Jim's mouth twist under his throat. Jim writhed when he tried to laugh.
"It's not funny," Leonard snapped. He lifted his head up only to have Sulu smack it back down onto Jim's chest just as the whine of a tiny projectile zipped between them. "Dammit, Sulu, I need more plasma inducers! I need 20ccs of kendrosyll! Where's Medical Ensign Roan?"
Sulu pushed his head back down even as he shouted over their trench, "Roan!"
"She's dead!" someone shouted back.
"Dammit." Leonard curled over Jim's head. Heat roared overhead and mud mixed with…something else splattered against his back. Great, they're throwing grenades now. Grenades. Why the hell did the Federation want to be their friends in the first place? He breathed harshly through his nose and smelled the metallic, cloying stench of life seeping out between his fingers. He looked down, close enough to see Jim's lashes clumped together with sweat, blue eyes looking at him, their light fading.
"Jim," Leonard croaked. Sulu was still shouting: to the comm, to Spock and the rest of Security pinned on the other side with the south continent's military. It didn't matter anymore because Roan had the rest of his equipment, the Enterprise was stuck sensor blind behind some gaseous layer, and he could see blood bubbling out of Jim's mouth.
Sulu had one hand firmly on Leonard's shoulder, keeping him pinned, nose-to-nose with Jim, but Leonard couldn't care less. Not when he could feel that heartbeat fluttering, beating slower and slower.
Jim's right hand shakily reached up and covered his two. A word was lost when blood choked him.
"Easy. You're going to be all right," Leonard whispered. His tongue felt thick, useless, trapping the words in his mouth. His hands flexed before adding even more pressure. He wanted to apologize when Jim's face contorted.
Leonard could hear Spock and their security detail attacking with renewed frenzy after Sulu shouted they were out of time.
Jim smiled, his lips and teeth stained red.
"It's okay," Jim mouthed. His fingers flexed then smoothed across Leonard's sticky knuckles.
Leonard stared down at Jim. He felt a snarl curling boiling hot in his throat, his heart hammering, blood roaring in his ears. He leaned in closer and smashed his lips against Jim's ear. The taste of blood nearly made him gag.
"No, it's not okay, you son of a bitch," Leonard hissed. He pressed his upper body over Jim's, his hands caught between their bodies, still trying to do what a Starfleet issued medical kit could do better. "It's not and don't you fucking say it is, Jim. Stay with me, dammit."
Jim's eyes stared up at him, hooded and glazed even as he mouthed "Bones" over and over again. The faint smile Jim gave him mocked him.
Leonard rested his forehead to Jim's. He could feel the mantra "Bones" caressing his cheek. He could feel the blood melding to both their faces. Jim's fingers had stilled, his breathing stuttered.
"No, Jim." Leonard pressed his mouth over another "Bones" and tasted salt from his own face. "Come on. Please." Leonard felt a sound clamoring up his chest to be heard. So much needed to be said. He'd always thought there would be time to say them, bit by bit, eventually.
Leonard pressed his nose against Jim's jaw and could almost feel the darkness waiting to jump into the trench with them. His breathing hitched. Leonard kept his hands on Jim's wound, deep down fervently hoping he was enough to anchor Jim Kirk. He shook as he pressed his lips to Jim's half whispering, half praying….
"Shh. I'm right here. I'm right here. Don't you go anywhere. Just listen to my voice. Jim…I—"
The tingle of the beam swallowed the rest of his words, evaporated the sounds of war around them. The transporter froze them in a kiss, but he didn't care, nor did he give a damn his mouth was painted with Jim's blood because he looked up and saw Nurse Chapel and M'Benga waiting in the transporter room like angels of mercy.
It took the elder Spock three months, two weeks and five point three days before he grew accustomed to his new name of Sa'rak, liaison of New Vulcan and member of the newly reestablished High Council.
Indeed, second name, second purpose, second life. These were to be expected given the circumstances of his present existence: a contradiction of a universe that was no more. If he were a romantic, privy to the more fanciful aspects of human emotion, Sp—Sa'rak might even consider this as a second chance.
It was in his new role, within this second chance, that situated Sa'rak in the observation lounge at such late hour. The Enterprise was taking him from the Vulcan colony to Starbase Ten to meet the delegates from Delios IV.
Sa'rak stood on the deserted observation deck, watched the streams of light flow behind them as the Enterprise sailed through space at warp speed. As ever, it was truly graceful even after battle: still, serene and as soothing as the sands of Vulcan flowing around his skin.
"Counselor Sa'rak? Spock?"
Sa'rak lifted his eyes to cast them upon a familiar pair of hazel ones and realized—much to his own consternation—that he had been called by his adopted name several times already.
Leonard McCoy considered him with a furrowed brow, his fingers wandering to rest on top of the medical tricorder slung over his shoulder.
"I am well, doctor. I was merely…distracted." Sa'rak had to fight the urge to call him old friend until he realized McCoy had called him Spock. Sa'rak cocked his head consideringly.
McCoy fidgeted where he stood. He kept his eyes angled away from the viewing ports but his discomfort did not seem to stem from the view alone.
"Yes, Jim told me about it after our first mission." McCoy scowled at Sa'rak." He was getting headaches. I thought it might be stress related but he wanted to be sure it wasn't something else."
Sa'rak stared at McCoy before acknowledging with a quiet "Ah."
"'Ah' is right. Luckily, it wasn't that psychic voodoo that—"
"Mind meld," Sa'rak corrected him and McCoy's glare intensified. It was oddly reassuring to see in any universe, the doctor's ire was still so volatile.
"Whatever it was, it wasn't that but I had him tell me everything. Just in case." McCoy's mouth pressed together.
Then he turned to glare out at the stream of light. "You showed him things. Things Jim can't forget."
Regret stirred inside him. Sa'rak turned back towards the ports as well. "Time was pressing then. I was…sloppy."
McCoy grunted. "No shit." He gave Sa'rak a wary look. "Apparently, we three were really good friends. Or are going to be, at least?"
McCoy snorted. "Explains why Jim hasn't pushed him out of an airlock by now." He shook his head. "Those two…both of you…" McCoy shook his head. "Even now, you two, well, the other you and Jim, are on the Bridge talking each other's ears off about some damn regulation." The doctor folded his arms across his chest. "I suppose that's how it was normally for you and…you know, the other Jim Kirk."
"Indeed." Sa'rak could not decipher the calculating look McCoy bestowed him. "How much does he remember?"
"Not a lot, he mostly dreams about it, just enough to sense who his father could have been, who he was, and who he will be." McCoy stood straighter, his gaze hard, his mouth set. "He also knows he'll die young. Alone."
Sa'rak closed his eyes briefly. That grief, even now, was as overwhelming as losing all that he had left to hold dear when six billion lives had been snuffed out simultaneously.
Sa'rak's eyes flew opened and he turned sharply towards the doctor.
McCoy met his gaze unflinching. He stood there, fists dropped to his sides, feet apart.
"I do not…"
"Don't give me that. You know. I know you do."
"I was not witness to it. I regret… I only know of the events that led to his death," Sa'rak said but McCoy did not relent.
"Fine, tell me that."
He had forgotten, Sa'rak mused, how young and brash they all were.
Sa'rak shook his gray head slowly. "Too much to tell and linear time is different now. The probability of the events realigning exactly—"
Sa'rak blinked. McCoy lifted up a hand and held it over his own face, his fingers positioned incorrectly but his demand clear.
"Show me," McCoy repeated in a gruff voice, "like how you showed Jim with that…that…"
"Psychic voodoo?" Sa'rak inquired dryly.
McCoy flushed. He glowered and squared back his shoulders. His chin jutted out and he squeezed his eyes shut.
McCoy started, his eyes immediately on him. "But…"
Sa'rak clasped his hands behind him and studied McCoy.
"Reality has changed for all of you. I can not participate in further contamination of your timelines." Sa'rak sighed. His bones often weighed heavy in moments such as these. He had indulged only once before: sending an anonymous message to Starfleet Medical with the genome of the rare disease xenopolycythemia. He offered it with the stipulation that everyone on the Enterprise were to be vaccinated immediately for it. It was all the interference he dared to do.
McCoy's face was pale as if ill and reminded Sa'rak of a time, many times in fact, when they had thought their beloved captain, their dear friend, was dead.
"Jim's fate may not come to pass here," Sa'rek offered not unkindly. "The universe is a constant flow of variables."
McCoy's gaze was bleak when he whispered. "Are you really willing to take that chance?"
"Dammit, man. We could prevent this from happening to Jim." McCoy lowered his eyes and he swallowed.
Sa'rak shook his head again.
Sa'rak, no, Spock, could not refuse him. Logic failed him and perhaps when it came to these two souls, logic would always abandon him. What was it he had told his younger self? Ah, yes.
Do what feels right.
"Clear your mind," Sa'rak asked hoarsely. McCoy shot him a grateful look before he closed his eyes, his posture rigid.
"Be calm," Sa'rak advised as his hand trembled towards the echo of an old friend. "Think only of Jim."
Remarkably it was as simple as that.
McCoy's lips parted on contact. His head tipped back, his shoulders relaxed and he stood as if held up by Sa'rak's mind points. Sa'rak sorted through memories he had not revisited in a very long time. There was movement behind the doctor's eyelids and at the memory of Spock gazing upon Jim's gravesite, McCoy uttered a distressed sound deep in his throat.
Sa'rak's fingers tingled vaguely when they finally parted. McCoy's eyes were closed for a moment longer before they slowly opened. He swayed but waved away the hand Sa'rak reached out.
"Not going to happen," McCoy said shakily. His voice cracked and his hands shook with a lifetime of possible memories. His eyes blazed as he faced Sa'rak. Sa'rak found himself at a loss for words at the fury churning in McCoy's expression.
"Do you hear me? Not going to happen if I have anything to say about it," McCoy bit out. He gave Sa'rak a short nod, his usual succinct gesture of thanks, before he pivoted around and exited the observation deck with a direct stride.
Sa'rak contemplated the spot where McCoy had stood, thought about the look on McCoy's face. Thought of friendship and more. The universe was indeed unique in how it tried to heal itself. He could feel the corners of his mouth upturn a little.
The shouting grew to the point that Spock was sure even Nyota could hear it through the bulkhead between the two quarters.
The captain had been worried about Doctor McCoy's recovery even though Doctor M'Benga had declared him physically fit due in part to the empath Gem's intervention. Yet here he was, threatening the doctor with bodily harm.
"…do that again, I'll kick your ass!"
Spock stood by the captain's door, his hands still curled around the service tray that carried their evening meals. The replicators could not properly duplicate Nyota's favorite mud pie (it did not contain any saturated soil) or pecan turtles (there were no testudines in its ingredients; human food was most contradictory). The Mess was able to make them regardless, which was fortunate because Nyota had looked mildly perturbed after reading their reports about their experiences under the Vians' imprisonment and it was his experience that preferred foods might sometimes, upon occasion, alleviate stress. The response would not be ill considered. The Vians' technology had been lethally impressive.
"It wasn't your choice to make!"
"You weren't going to make a choice, you asshole! You were just going to go with them, weren't you?" The doctor, despite his previous injuries under the Vians, appeared to have fully recovered.
The captain did not seem to appreciate the fact. "It still would have been my choice!"
"Like I was going to stand by and let them take you again!"
"I'm the captain. I decide who goes with them!"
"And if you had to make a choice between us no matter what?"
Jim fell silent.
"I was trying to help you!"
"That's not the kind of help I want!" The captain yelled as something thudded hard against the wall near the door.
"You got it anyway! A fucking thank you would be nice!"
"Fine! Thank you, you bastard!"
Spock raised an eyebrow at the exchange. They did not sound grateful. The shouting, however, ceased and Spock found the following silence disturbing. He stared at the door, contemplating whether he should intervene when the door sighed open and Doctor McCoy stormed out. He skidded to a halt by Spock and muttered, "Commander" before he glanced over his shoulder. "Captain," McCoy said in a curt voice, with a brisk nod before he stalked down the corridor towards the turbo lifts.
"Mr. Spock," Jim said evenly as he came into view, his hands smoothing back his hair. He appeared flushed and disheveled but there were no injuries that matched the violence the noise suggested before. He grinned but it looked to pain him to do so and he rested his shoulder on the door threshold.
"Is everything all right, captain?"
The smile faltered.
"The doctor and I were having a…difference of opinion," Jim said shortly.
"The doctor was foolish with his actions," Spock noted.
"No shit," Jim ground out.
"But I understand his logic." Spock nodded to himself. "I would have come to the same conclusion had the doctor not interfered."
Jim blinked, stared at him before looking away, muttering "Great, not you too."
"Sir?" Spock did not understand the red flush across his face. Perhaps Jim had not fully recovered from his ordeal.
Jim sighed and he glanced down at this boots. He folded his arms across his chest. He opened his mouth then closed it, only to open it again.
Spock tilted his head. "You have a question."
"You're a logical kind of guy, right, Mr. Spock?"
"I am Vulcan, captain." Spock did not understand the question.
Jim gave a strange laugh. "Yeah, you are. No, I mean…down there…I was given two choices. Both were…" Jim's face twisted into a frown. "Undesirable."
"If both options presented weren't desirable, wouldn't it be logical to offer a third option?"
Spock felt a strange hot stirring in his chest. "You were going to volunteer in our place." Spock made a sound that he himself was surprised to hear. Jim lifted his gaze, appearing startled as well. "Yes," Spock rumbled. "This was a possibility and a concern I shared with the doctor. It would not have been a wise choice, Jim."
"Oh, and choosing one of you would have been better?"
The answer was not difficult. "Yes."
For some reason, the reply infuriated the human.
"I don't need anyone needlessly sacrificing themselves for me," Jim snarled. He moved to turn away.
"I do not believe it would have been needless."
Jim started. He turned and looked back at Spock with oddly uncertain eyes.
Spock stared straight ahead, past the other man's rounded ear. "I believe it is the same with the doctor although his motivations may be more…personal." He considered Jim. "As would have been your reason to spare us both, in particularly, the doctor."
Jim's blue eyes, for some reason, clouded over. He swallowed, his throat working.
"Perhaps," Spock prodded, "there is not much of a difference in opinion after all?"
Jim scoffed. He straightened, his hands smoothing out his uniform. He glanced down the corridor towards the turbo lifts. "Think I'll…uh…go for a walk." He paused and cast his eyes on the tray Spock held.
"Dinner?" Jim asked in a mild voice. His eyes crinkled. "That's a lot of food, Mr. Spock."
The corner of his left eyebrow twitched. "Perhaps."
"Hm…looks enough for two, don't you think?" Jim folded his arms across his chest.
Spock stared back impassively at Jim. He wondered if hurrying the captain along would be viewed as rude. "I found myself extremely ravenous after our tribulations."
"Uh huh. Ravenous. I see. Well…" Jim picked at his uniform as if he detected dust. "I'll just leave you to enjoy your uh…turkey sandwiches and pie?"
Spock's left eyebrow twitched again.
"Well, Mr. Spock." The captain's smirk…irked him as he pivoted on his heels. It was the closest emotion Spock would ever allow himself to acknowledge. "Good ni—"
Jim stopped in his tracks. He turned back towards Spock, his face open with curiosity.
"Please extend my greetings to the doctor." Spock bowed slightly to the captain, who gaped at him, before entering his quarters to Nyota's gentle smile.
It was during meditation later when Spock would admit to a glimmer of satisfaction at how much more red Jim's face had appeared during their last exchange.
Jim almost preferred the pain.
It marked time for him. Lying here, arms and legs bound and spread as far as the human body could take, he was only a canvas flayed bloody and bare. Time crawled as he waited for them to come back and question him again. They left because they were tired. They left because Jim still wouldn't answer.
Just a bit longer, Jim thought to himself.
Jim closed his eyes at the sound of the hoarse voice to his right, back in the corner where the sole cage was positioned perfectly to see everything, hear everything and probably fucking taste the same bitterness in his mouth. He was grateful, in some weird and screwed up way, that it was only the one cage; the rest of the landing party were packed into other cages corridors away.
Swallowing only forced the slimy alien taste of sour and wrongness down his throat but it was the only way Jim could rasp out a steady "Yeah."
The chamber was buried deep in a mountain; deep enough that Jim had doubts at first that the signal he'd sent out on his last escape attempt would be heard. But if these renegades could use this place to contact their ships to attack their own government, then it should be good enough to reach his ship.
Air circulating in the chamber hung heavy and thick with humidity. The room leaked and smelled like burnt sulfur. He listened to the drip-drip of water dropping into small puddles on the floor. Jim turned his head as far as he could before his neck screamed for him to stop. Jim coughed and his whole body shuddered.
"Try to rest."
His laugh sounded and hurt like brittle glass when it escaped his cracked lips. Jim tilted his head up towards the ceiling and blood from his nose trickled down the back of his throat.
"Bones," Jim gasped out, "all I've been doing is lying around."
"It didn't look restful." Blunt as usual, Bones never minced words. His voice sounded like gravel. He had spent it screaming and cursing and kicking loud enough that it drowned out the other sounds that filled Jim's ears. After a day—Two days? Three?—Bones could only kick at his cage because without enough water his voice had cracked.
"No." Jim swallowed back a groan when a shiver pulled at his joints. He could feel his arm sockets grinding and unbidden, a tear broke free, stinging the cuts on his face as it went down his cheek and pooled inside his left ear. "Not really. Had better vacations."
"How long do you think…" Bones trailed off. "Hey. You with me?"
Unfortunately. Jim breathed through his mouth. He tried to flex the fingers on his left hand, but the broken joints had stiffened.
"…doesn't even hurt anymore," Jim mumbled.
"Soon," Jim said louder. His throat worked with the effort. "That signal reached the Enterprise. Spock will find you guys."
There was a pause. Jim exhaled slowly and tried to imagine each limb relaxing. He tried to ignore the throbbing and the burning in his lower body. He tried to picture his feet, without the lines of fire that marked the arches, and counted to ten, willing his feet to stop spasming, trying to uncurl his toes stuck together with blood.
"Us. Spock will find us."
The smile Jim made split the corner of his mouth.
"It won't be much longer, Bones." It felt like his chest was stretching, pulling across his ribs, ready to tear and expose his heart to his enemies.
"They won't move on to you or the others until they're done with me and I'm…" Jim grimaced, "I'm not done y-yet." Something clenched in his lower back and he fought a wave of nausea when his muscles cramped. His legs twitched or tried. The manacles didn't allow for much.
"Shit," Jim breathed and, God, he just wanted to laugh. Just laugh and laugh and let out the nails stuck in his throat.
"Jim, it's just your body reacting to…" Bones gave up. "Shit."
"N-nice, Bones," Jim managed. He heard Bones snort.
"You didn't keep me around for my bedside manner."
"No," Jim whispered. His eyes burned as he blinked. His eyelids felt swollen, hot. "I didn't."
"You have to be a goddamn hero all the time." The crack in Bones's voice was unbearable.
"It'll be fine," Jim murmured. "They won't touch you or anyone else until they're through with me." Jim bit his lower lip. His knees were locked painfully in position and he thought he could hear bones creak. A groan that was half sob escaped and Jim grimaced as he pushed out a growl.
Footsteps shuffled closer. Chains dragged across stone like nails scraping across metal.
"Jim, look at me."
"Look at me—"
"Bones, I can't." Jim blinked upwards. The cloudy swirls of white, gray and black twisted nauseatingly. "I can't see a damn thing any more."
"Jim," Bones moaned.
His face felt funny when he tried to smile. "Hey, means I can't see your mug right now. This many days without a razor or shower, you probably look like crap."
This time, Jim did laugh. It was a little too loud, edged a little too sharp. He could hear it, that glass crackling noise. It only made him laugh harder.
"Trust me. I'd rather you than t-them." Jim squeezed his eyes shut. The darkness was better than the patchwork of light taunting him. He gasped through the minute pinches gnawing up and down his body.
Bones didn't call out his name again but Jim could hear him gasping, his breath harshly forced out between his teeth. Somehow, it was better than if Bones talked, meaningless words just sitting uneasily in both their guts.
"Spock's coming," Jim rasped, his eyes still closed. "Just a little longer and you'll be fine, Bones."
"Promise me when Spock gets here, you'll be waiting too."
"That's all I ask."
"Sure. Don't worry, Bones," he whispered.
And there was a sound like Bones had flung himself against the side of the cage. "You bastard. You lying son-of-a-bitch—"
"Keep telling you, I'm pretty certain mom was married to dad."
"—You asshole," Bones' continued harshly. "You don't think after all these years I know when you're lying to me? I know what you're trying to do here. I won't accept it. You hear me James T. Kirk? I am not coming out of this parasite-infested backwater of a hellhole without you. So either you hang on or I start telling them that I know those codes too."
Fire raced up his arms, forcing his eyes to tear. Jim jolted in place. "No."
"Then you promise, dammit! Or I swear I'll start singing like a Denuvian canary."
"Bones, the only way you'll be taking my place is if I'm dead. Don't you get it?" Jim snarled. He groaned as bile burned up his throat. His skin itched and stretched in places it shouldn't. Jim couldn't stop himself from arching off the dais.
"I know! I know!" Bones shouted as best he could, but only managed to be louder than a whisper. "That's why you've got to promise. You keep pissing those bastards off but keep breathing. Or I swear neither one of us is coming out of here…all right?" Bones's voice trailed off. "It's you and me. Or nothing. So…promise."
Jim sighed brokenly. "I think…I can do that,"
"Don't just think."
Jim turned his head back. He bit his lower lip. Lying was getting as hard as breathing.
"I want to hit something," Bones rasped. He sounded like he had hit his good bourbon all night. Fuck, a drink would be good right now.
"Hit Spock when he gets here," Jim groaned in a half whisper.
"And have him tell me I'm being illogical? No thanks." There was a scrape of metal against stone as Bones shook the bars again for the thousandth time.
Jim stared at basically nothing and tried to bring up a picture of Bones in his cabin, lying across the couch, legs stretched out as he read a PADD with the newest medical journals; Bones, in a worn Academy shirt, waiting for Jim's shift to end. He tried to remember Bones, smiling without realizing it, when Jim walked through the door. Jim took a steadying breath, tried, but a sharp tug in his side and the mirage shattered. Jim groaned more for its loss than the pain.
Bones tested the bars of his prison once more. He growled under his breath. Chains struck bars. "Damn bars." Jim could hear him pacing.
"No, it's not okay!"
Jim swallowed and he turned his head slowly towards Bones's trembling voice. Jim stared out into the mix of light and shapes.
The pacing footsteps stopped. Jim could hear Bones mutter a curse.
"Sorry. You're right. It's okay—it will be okay."
Jim closed his eyes and remembered Bones' hand sweeping down his chest, smoothing his warm palm across his skin as if polishing glass. He tried to swallow but couldn't get his mouth to work right. It was the only reason he could think of that explained the tiny noises escaping his throat because he was not crying.
Bones made a choked sound.
"Bones…" Jim cringed at the whimper and wished he'd kept quiet.
"Shh. I know."
Bones's voice was steadier, soft like they were in their quarters, explorers of their own private world.
Jim tried to take a breath. His nose was running, bleeding, whatever it was and it forced him to breathe through his mouth. He should be reassuring Bones, he should be reminding himself he was Captain James Tiberius Kirk, U.S.S Enterprise, serial number fuck you fuck you, but all he could do was whisper another, "Bones."
"Shh. Just a bit longer, Jim."
Jim smiled tightly to himself at the odd echo. "Okay."
Starfleet's screwed up math went something like this: you get captured, tortured and used up for five days before Spock comes running in like some pointy ear God of War then you get a month of shore leave. It didn't matter if you wore the bruises for days afterwards or if all you did was just fucking watch.
In a show of benevolence Leonard was sure was purely only for the media's benefit, shore leave for the rescued Enterprise team was to be on Earth. Home. For some, at least. Jim insisted that the first ten days for them would be spent in Georgia.
Somehow Pike had convinced Jocelyn to let his little girl stay with Leonard the whole time. Jim insisted he had nothing to do with the Admiral sending the request via personal shuttle and convoy to her house with all that polite shit like she was the goddamn Federation president himself but Leonard caught the wink Jim gave Pike via the comm when the Enterprise came into orbit.
As their shuttle eased down into docking position, Leonard sat there, slowly unbuckling his harness. He watched Nyota surprise Jim with a careful hug goodbye; he watched Jim bow heads with Spock to give final instructions before limping over to Leonard. Injuries had healed, but five days in Chez Fucking Paxtoria had left him as wobbly as a newborn colt. Leonard nodded curtly to Nyota, Spock and Chekov (damn kid looked about ready to cry when Jim had originally said Chekov didn't need to see them off). Nyota looked like she wanted to say something to him, but Jim gave her a headshake when he thought Leonard wasn't looking and she backed off.
There was a tiny flare of irritation that fizzled as soon as it came but Leonard squashed it down. He kept his eyes on Jim instead. Jim had flinched when he tried to take his elbow so all Leonard could do (same fucking story every time) was stand back on the stairway and make sure Jim's right hand could curl properly on the safety rails as he descended. When Jim glared at him, stopping two steps down, Leonard swallowed and forced himself to turn away.
Even from a distance, Leonard could see Jocelyn's stiff shoulders. The woman's posture radiated how she felt about handing over the eight year-old clutching her hand for ten days. But as Leonard took the rest of the stairs, Jim hobbling slowly ahead of him like a shadow, his cane making a clip-clop sound on the metal steps, the rigid posture had started to fade. It was gone completely by the time Leonard came to a stop a foot away in front of them.
It occurred to him they'd never been this close to each other since the divorce.
"Joss," Leonard rasped. Jocelyn looked comical standing there, her mouth slightly opened, her red hair unraveling from the tight French braid she favored. She looked like a standing lit flame and he edged closer to put Jim behind him. He heard Jim huff, his bony shoulder bumping into his before he sidestepped away.
Jocelyn wouldn't stop staring. Leonard tugged at the hem of his gray sweater and wondered if too many washings had stretched it, because it now sat funny across his shoulders. A mean thought occurred to him that said his ex never spoke with him on vid so of course she was staring at him as if he were a stranger. Leonard fought the urge to snap at her with a vehemence that surprised even him when it soured in his mouth.
"Leonard," Jocelyn finally said. Her green eyes slid over to Jim by his right elbow. Leonard bristled when her gaze swept up and down, but then her eyes softened. Leonard blinked. Her mouth curved into an overly bright smile that faded quickly, as if she'd forgotten how.
"You must be Jim."
Joanna held Jocelyn's hand with both of hers and stared up at Leonard with huge brown eyes. She did not run up to him. She didn't salute him like she'd used to in every comm they'd shared.
Jocelyn stared at Leonard a little longer before giving herself a headshake. She glanced down as if she'd just remembered Joanna was there.
"Jojo," Jocelyn said quietly. She disentangled her hand from their daughter's grip. "Go say hello to your daddy. Go on." She gave their girl a gentle push forward on her narrow shoulders.
After a moment's hesitation, Joanna took tiny steps towards Leonard, her eyes still on his face. As Leonard crouched down, it occurred to him that perhaps he looked as different as he currently felt, his skin hanging off him wrong. He cleared his throat as Joanna stopped inches before him.
"Hi, Jojo," Leonard croaked. He felt Jim's left knee press against his shoulder from behind. Leonard leaned into it and the vise around his chest loosened.
Joanna gave him a smile when he spoke. Maybe it was the cue she needed. Joanna leaned in and wrapped her little arms around his neck.
Leonard simply buried his face into her hair.
"I love the beach!" Jim announced as he staggered to the huge bed, gave his cane a scowl before discarding it onto the floor and collapsing on top of the thick quilts.
"I think I have sand in my ass," Leonard grumbled. He picked up the cane and set it leaning against the end table. Jim, as usual, ignored it. "Of all the…"
"Come on, Bones." Jim wiggled, sitting up so he could shrug out of his jacket. Leonard surreptitiously watched for any discomfort but when Jim glowered at him over his shoulder, Leonard looked away.
"You have to admit. The sand? The water—"
"Probably have a number of diseases and bacteria floating in from the bay we don't know about. We've only cleaned up that big tub of water a century ago. God knows what kind of latent infectious sludge could come washing up the shore like Regar's sores or Dernalian Ge—What?" Leonard glowered at Jim. "I have sand on my face?" He gave his face a wipe with his palm.
Jim was smiling at him, looking a bit like he had just beat the Kobayashi Maru, sans apple. When Leonard noticed, Jim just chuckled, shaking his head.
"Nothing. It's been a while since you—Never mind…Remind me to thank the Admiral," Jim said, his words muffled within the thick folds of the cream-colored sweater he'd begun pulling off. Leonard's grandmother had made it for him three Christmases ago. His head emerged free of the thick material Leonard insisted he wear. He took a moment and admired the dark pillars of the Golden Gate, solid and tall in the dusk, filling the floor to ceiling window. "It was nice of Pike to let us use this residence while he's running training sims at the Academy."
"As long as he doesn't overdo it," Leonard grumbled as tugged his t-shirt off, picking up the sweater Jim haphazardly chucked over Leonard's head to land on their shoes. He kicked off his own trousers, mirroring Jim but took the time to fold everything. "He's walking now but that doesn't mean he's a hundred percent yet."
"Well, since someone vetoed him going on that training flight on the Lexicon," Jim muttered, "He only has this." Jim paused before reaching over to rub a thumb along the slope of Leonard's exposed clavicle.
He tracked Jim as his fingers lingered on his skin. His mouth went dry as Jim traced his collarbone with a feather touch. "He's not up to flying around in some rusty G class—"
"J class." Jim corrected him with a small smirk.
"…Whatever. J, G, whatever letter of the goddamn alphabet, Pike's not up to flying around in some tin can training a bunch of cadets."
Leonard grunted as he let Jim tug him down to lie on top of him. He held still as Jim swept his hands slowly over Leonard's bare back. Leonard breathed deeply, his elbows on either side of Jim, but not doing anything. He let Jim explore because it'd been three weeks before Jim could tolerate being touched, before Leonard could touch Jim without feeling like his hands were going to tear Jim to shreds. He reached over and rubbed the wet gritty grains of sand out of Jim's hair.
"I still think we could have stayed longer," Jim grumbled but his mouth curved and he looked smug rather than annoyed. His smile felt hot against Leonard's throat, his nipples, trailing heat that trickled down to his groin. Leonard's lips hovered over Jim's skin; almost tasting the salty tang of ocean and sweat that clung to a returning tan.
"Jim, the last thing any of us need is a picture of my ass mooning half the beach to show up on tonight's news comm."
"Think I could get a wallet size?"
Leonard rolled his eyes and, God, the laugh vibrating under him pooled tendrils of heat in his belly. He shook his head and carded his fingers into Jim's hair, waiting a beat before proceeding to scrub Jim's hair into unruly spikes. Jim yelped or laughed but Leonard found himself laughing too hard to tell. Jim struck back by grabbing Leonard's ass. They wrestled, but loosely, their touches more glancing than gripping. Still careful. Even that winded them both and Leonard found himself panting as he held Jim. They lay curled towards each other, a position neither one of them ever gave a thought to because it felt too natural to consider anything else.
"You've got sand in your hair too," Leonard remarked and gave his hair one last ruffle. Jim retaliated with a nip to his throat that was sure to be a mark tomorrow. Vampire. "What the hell did you do, roll around in this stuff?" Leonard groused as he tried not to crush Jim into the mattress when Jim pulled him on top of him. He avoided looking at the pronounced indents and ridges of ribs, scars that were pink and stark compared to his own unmarked skin.
"That's exactly what we did," Jim announced. "Did I mention I love the beach?"
"Why, no," Leonard drawled, "I had no idea." He pillowed his head with a bent arm and studied Jim. Jim copied him and blinked heavy-lidded eyes back. Leonard watched Jim thread their fingers together, fitting them into a combined fist. Jim reached out with his other hand and traced the line of Leonard's hip with a knuckle.
"It was nice before," Jim continued in a soft voice, his eyes tracking his own hand on Leonard's skin. "I don't just mean the beach. I mean…" Jim sighed. He let his hand curl on Leonard's hip.
Leonard gave their clasped hands a squeeze, feeling something loosen inside him when Jim squeezed back.
"Yeah," Leonard said hoarsely. "It was nice." Jim's tight heat around his cock, fingers digging into his shoulders, was something Leonard could still feel tattooed onto his skin. He sat up, propped by an elbow and eased Jim's left hand to lay loose in his palm. Absently, Leonard stroked each finger from knuckle to tip. He remembered every break. He still remembered every half-choked groan Jim couldn't hold back as each finger was snapped. He lowered his mouth, kissing each joint. He felt them flex under his mouth. Whole and strong again. And gently touching him back.
"I'm fine, Bones," Jim murmured. "And you're going to be all right."
Leonard scoffed as he turned Jim's hand palm up and poked what people once believed was their lifeline. Jim's hand automatically twitched, fingers curling as if to capture.
"Me? Jim, I'm fine. Nothing happened to me." Leonard's face twisted. "All I did was watch," he rasped.
Jim slipped his free hand around the back of Leonard's neck and tugged him down.
"You know," Jim said quietly, "they put you in that cell for a reason. We were taught in the Academy that that counts as a form of torture, too." When Leonard jerked, Jim pulled harder in a tug of war Leonard realized they'd been playing for weeks, if not months.
Leonard's shoulders slumped.
"I took the same class, you know," Leonard reminded him with a tired quirk of his mouth. "But it's one thing in a classroom, it's different when…" Leonard massaged Jim's fingers.
"I don't know how to tell you…" Jim admitted as he watched Leonard's face. "But…I was glad our positions weren't in reverse." Jim's right shoulder lifted. "I don't think I would have been able to watch."
Leonard brushed his closed mouth over Jim's brow and watched blue shudder under his touch. He rubbed a thumb over a pink scar that curled around Jim's wrist bone like a naked snake. It wouldn't completely go away. Leonard had feared Jim was going to lose that hand, that beautiful, tapered hand with those blunt fingers grazing across his skin with such familiarity and such possession—
Jim's hands slipped over and sandwiched Leonard's hand between them.
Feeling a bit lightheaded, Leonard focused as Jim's face peered up at him.
"I wasn't able to watch," Leonard croaked. "All I could do was goad and taunt. Hell, I think I said things that would make a goddamn Klingon blush and they wouldn't stop…" Leonard gulped. He couldn't finish. Leonard felt Jim's hand move to caress the slope of his ear.
"Do you know," Jim said conversationally as he felt strands of Leonard's hair between his fingers, "that Vulcans kiss with their fingers?"
It felt like he could breathe again. Leonard managed a weak smile as Jim touched every part of his face with two fingers.
"Well," Leonard managed, "if that's what you're trying to do, I can't saying I'm impressed right now."
Jim chuckled to himself as he did a dancing pattern with his fingers down Leonard's neck, lingering at his collar, and then the hollow at the base of his throat. "Yeah, it does seem boring but it did serve to remind me never to shake hands with Spock."
Leonard barked a laugh even as he continued with his own mapping of Jim's left hand with his fingers. He rubbed the joints where knuckle met finger. His thumb and index circled each circumference, measuring mass. All those delicate tendons.
"I just remembered," Leonard said as his touch settled on Jim's fourth finger, his index going around and around, wrapping an invisible line. "I think I shook Spock's hand goodbye when we left the shuttle."
Jim's chest rumbled pleasantly underneath him. "Bones, you totally made out with Spock."
Leonard rolled his eyes. "I'm sure Spock knows where my feelings lie."
Jim rolled his hips up against Leonard and a ripple of heat blossomed on contact.
"On top of me?" Jim said innocently. He snickered at Leonard's snort and wiggled beneath his weight. He tugged at Leonard's hand. "And what's the matter with you? I only told you about Vulcans pseudo-kissing with their fingers as an interesting fact. You shouldn't take it as a suggestion." Jim slapped the back of his free hand on Leonard's shoulder. "Get off, I need the bathroom. You're not the only one with sand in his ass."
Leonard stared at the finger he was still circling, still tattooing it with his touch.
Jim stilled. "Bones?" He gave his caught hand another pull. "Uh, you can let go now."
Leonard's throat was suddenly tight and he curled his hand around that fourth finger. His hand looked dark and large around the pale digit.
"What if I don't want to let go?"
Jim frowned. "Then we can shower together?"
Leonard fisted his hand tighter around Jim's, weaving their fingers together. "Jim. I…" And again, words failed him, caught somewhere between yelling them out and swallowing them back. It was like he was in that blasted cell again. He had plenty to say then, all fucking useless to stop them from hurting Jim.
Jim stared up at his face, brow furrowed, then his eyes drifted to where Leonard's grip had started, loosened and then was back to tracing around his fingers, particularly on his ring finger. Jim's eyes widened, his mouth dropped slightly open, but no words came out.
"I…" Three simple words, one a promise, one a plea, Leonard wasn't sure which one he wanted to say. Neither would come out.
"I don't want to let go, Jim. Not ever."
Jim's hand curled, he wove their fingers back together, grasping Leonard's with a white knuckled grip, trembling as if hanging onto Leonard saved him from a yawning drop.
"Okay," Jim whispered, barely audible. "Then don't. Not ever."
And perhaps, after all, that was all that really needed to be said.