Author's Note: This fic was written for a prompt on the Tarsus IV community on Live Journal.
Prompt: Kirk/Bones. An apple a day keeps the doctor away - or so little Jimmy clung to when he was recovering from Tarsus. He wanted out of the hospital and away from all those too-kind and pitying nurses and doctors, dammit! Now, however, he's pretty much stuck with McCoy for life - and Bones has asked what is up with his obsession with apples
This is one of my many firsts for me. First Challenge fic, first adventure into the Star Trek fandom, and first slash as well. I hope you enjoy it! And most importantly, a HUGE shout out to phoenix_laugh, my amazing beta who made this all possible! Truthfully, she took a very rough piece and rendered it into something polished. Another shout out goes to Rusting Roses, who did drew me into the Star Trek fandom and encouraged me every step of the way.
An Apple a Day
Chapter 1 – Scars on the Soul
"Bones, you coming for dinner?" Jim asked, leaning against the doorway as he leveled a questioning stare at McCoy, an eyebrow raised.
McCoy looked up from the data pad on his desk with a haggard expression. He had his chin propped on one of his hands and was sloppily hunched over his desk. It'd been a very, very long day. "I thought we were meeting in thirty minutes?"
Jim let a small smirk cross his face, trust Bones to get wrapped up in his work. "Actually, it was thirty minutes ago."
McCoy shook his head, "Sorry, I had three surgeries today, must've lost track of time. There was a-"
"Fire on the lower engineering deck," Jim finished for him, his voice becoming a bit more somber, "I'm usually kept pretty aware of these things, being the captain and all."
"Yeah, two of them were critical when they came in, it's been touch and go all day with them," he said as he finished his note in the medical chart he was working on and turned his data pad off. He stood up, cracked his back, and joined Jim at the door, the two walking down to the mess together.
Jim went down the food line, picking a little bit of a few different foods to put on his plate. When he got to the end of the line where the fresh fruit was set out in a bowl, he paused for a moment with his hand over a citrus fruit from one of the worlds they had recently visited. His eyes flashed toward the ceiling as he thought for a moment, unconsciously opting for the apple as he set it on the edge of the tray and headed over to join Bones at one of the booths against the wall.
McCoy paused between forkfuls of pasta to watch Jim sit down with him, "Did you come down here to wait for me when I was running late?"
Jim had, in fact, been sitting down here for most of that period of thirty minutes. He'd kept half of his attention on the entrance, hoping to see McCoy enter. When that hadn't happened he'd passed the time sitting with a few of his crew members, asking them how their jobs and off duty periods were going. He tried to make it a personal goal to check in with his crew every chance he got, not only was it good for crew morale for him to mingle with them, but he also took their suggestions to heart. One of the men he'd sat down with had mentioned in passing that the recreation area on deck three had been extremely crowded as of late. On his way up to fetch Bones he'd called the activities coordinator and asked him to look into maybe expanding the recreation area. Having a happy crew was one of the secrets to having a team that worked cohesively in times of crisis. They had to view this ship as their home and their shipmates as their family, it had to be something worth fighting to preserve and protect.
And Bones was a part of that family, perhaps even more so considering the relationship they had slowly forged since their time in the academy. He was something special. He examined the exhaustion evident in his partner's eyes; he'd worked hard to save the lives of some of his men today. Somehow, the last thing he needed was to make McCoy feel guilty for doing that. Thirty minutes and a small harmless lie was a small price to pay to preserve the sense of pride that the man had in his work.
Jim shook his head, "I got caught up too, Spock and I got to chatting when he came to relieve me. We were going over some of our security protocols for when crew members go planet side for shore leave."
McCoy nodded at this, a sense of relief evident in the way his shoulders seemed to relax a bit. "Good. That's good. I don't mean to run late, it was just…"
"A busy day. We both seemed to have that today," he reached over and squeezed his friend's shoulder lightly, "Don't worry about it, really. We're here now, it's fine. How's the pasta?"
"Oh, a little dry. But we're on a spaceship, ingredients don't exactly come fresh. The cooks perform miracles making this stuff edible considering the materials they usually start with," he said, taking another bite full of his food, "And how's your…apple?"
Jim stopped playing with the fruit that he had been spinning in his hand, taking that moment to take a large mouthful, swallowing before answering, "Fresh," he said, a hint of laughter in his voice.
The next morning found Jim cracking his eyes open as he slammed a hand down on his alarm. He rolled over to notice that McCoy wasn't next to him. Bones was a verifiable workaholic, he was probably already debriding burn wounds, evaluating any new patients that were admitted overnight, or doing paperwork.
With a groan Jim sat up, scrubbed at his eyes to clear the blurriness and walked over the closet, grabbing a fresh shirt and sliding it over his head. He made a quick trip to the mirror to ruffle his hair a bit, smooth down the cowlick or two that had formed during the night, and then sat down on his side of the bed once more, pulling a calendar out of the bedside table. It was a real calendar, paper and everything instead of the electronic versions that dominated life on the Enterprise. He handled it gently, appreciating it for the relic it was as he gently ran a finger over the torn and bent edges. Despite his best efforts over the years to preserve its quality, time hadn't been kind to it. There was the odd water stain that left a rough, wrinkled pattern on all of the pages in the lower left hand corner, for example. It was a testament to the time he had hastily discarded his rain boots on the floor after a day of romping in the rain and racing paper boats with his friends. When he'd returned from dinner there'd been a puddle rimming the boots and the calendar, which had somehow migrated to beneath his bed, had taken water damage from it.
He opened it, the calendar naturally flipping open to a specific page, the page that he had opened it to so many times that the binding seemed to have memorized the process. The top portion of the calendar was a peaceful picture, one of many of the wheat fields on Tarsus IV just before the twin set of suns sunk below the horizon, bathing the fields in a golden glow that didn't reflect the harsh reality of what had occurred. They should be red, red for all the blood that had soaked into that soil as starving citizens had yanked plants up, roots and all, hastily shoving them into sacks and running off with their precious loot as they competed for the limited food supplies .
There were X's through most of the days in the first part of the month, the days where he'd had the time to look at the calendar each morning as a child, counting down until school was out for the year. And then the X's became more sporadic, occurring every few days. School had ended early that year and the time he might have casually spent looking at how many days had passed was channeled into vital efforts. Like standing in line for food rations, or huddling under a table and shuddering every time a gun fired outside, starvation had a way of bringing out the worst in people very quickly. And eventually, those X's had reached a point where they'd died out all together. He'd gone back later on and circled one particular day, the day that had stripped him of any notion he may have had that the world was mostly a good place.
He ran his finger along the hard red line he'd drawn around one the box of one particular date. Tomorrow was the day, and he just knew he'd be angry and sullen and withdrawn as those memories raced through his mind like the events had happened yesterday. You don't forget the first mass slaughter you see, the protests of people being rounded up for execution, struggling against blank faced soldiers. The memories had never left him. And tomorrow, even the barrier he had put up between himself and those memories wouldn't stop their onslaught. Just one more day before that barrier would lapse; he thought as he slid the calendar back into its drawer and headed down to the mess. God, life would be so much easier if he'd never heard of Tarsus IV, never lived there. Tarsus IV and the associated memories that kept that planet forever carved into his psyche like a scar on his soul.
Kirk entered the mess, quickly skimming the selection of foods that failed to appeal to him before he quickly reached the end of the options, dipping his hand into the fruit bowl and grabbing a pair of apples. He stopped off to fill his glass with water to get rid of the dry feeling in his mouth, he always woke up thirsty. McCoy told him it was because he drooled a bit, but Jim truly believed that Bones was just a bit bitter about Jim having left a little drool on his pillow on one or two occasions. It's not like he meant to do it, and to be fair, McCoy snored and Jim never used that against him.
He shook his head, what a pair they made. Jim threw one of the apples up in the air and caught it, repeated the motion as he exited the mess and headed up toward the bridge.
McCoy entered the room with a yawn, throwing his uniform jacket over the back of a chair, walking over to the bed and falling down on it face first as he exhaled a sigh. Long days and short nights seemed to be his life as of late. He cared for his patients, if you asked some people they'd tell you he cared about them a little too much. He made it personal and a select few members of his staff gave him grief about it, a CMO couldn't be getting upset every time a heart monitor stopped beeping and a patient was moved into the morgue. It put him in an emotional state that could compromise him when he moved onto the next patient. But he also couldn't afford to not get involved. Getting involved made him work harder to save every life, because it wasn't just the body of another random person he was working on, it was the life of a shipmate, a coworker, a friend that he was trying to save. And that made it worth the kinks in his back gained from hours spent hovering over a surgery he could've easily passed to one of his subordinates hours before and gone home to Jim instead. But Jim got it, he viewed his crew with the same protective ferocity, and he never wavered in his undying dedication to each and every person that lived on this ship, it was one of the things that made the relationship work. They could afford for the other to be late and would patiently wait in the room, kicked back with a good book, or maybe flipping through a patient's chart, in McCoy's case.
With a groan, he rolled over and sat up. No, McCoy wasn't sorry for the hours he put in. His eyes were drawn to the desk near the door and he frowned a bit. Well, there wasn't much about putting in those hours that he didn't like. But there were things that bothered him about it, the things he missed in Jim's life as a result.
Like the new addition he had just spotted sitting next to the lamp, a bowl. He got up and walked over to it, a little curious, Jim wasn't normally one for interior decorating and they were the only two people that ever came in here. He reached down into the bowl and pulled out an apple. Now why on Earth…McCoy smiled a bit at that. No, they weren't on Earth any more. He hadn't had a foot on solid Earth soil in awhile and that saying had a bit less relevance out here in the vacuum of space.
He opened his hand and let the apple roll off his palm and back into the bowl with the other seven or eight, making a mental reminder to ask Jim about them later. He then turned and headed for the shower. It was time to wash away a very, very long work shift before meeting Jim for dinner; he would be on time tonight.
Bones frowned at the food on his partner's plate, which wasn't nearly what the man needed to keep himself going on the schedule he put himself through on a daily basis.
"Jim, usually you eat everything but the plate. What's with the lack of an appetite?"
Kirk raised an eyebrow, "I'm eating," he said, holding up the fruit, "is an apple all of a sudden not real food?"
Bones shook his head, "One apple does not make a meal."
Kirk shrugged, "Then I'll eat two, will that make you happy mother?"
Bones scowled, he loved the man, but him and his sarcasm, there'd never be an end to it. "Far from it Jim, you didn't eat much last night either. And now that I'm looking for it, you're looking a little bit more haggard than normal. You been feeling ok?"
"I'm fine Bones. You're always harping on me to stop eating so much meat, that I should be an omnivore instead of a carnivore and incorporate in some fruits and vegetables. Now you're changing your mind? Would you rather I go for the steak?"
Bones nodded, "Actually, that would do a lot toward easing my worries. I'd much rather you be acting like yourself. You might eat badly most of the time, but at least it's eating. The last thing I need is for you to show up in my infirmary because you're suffering malnourishment."
Jim suddenly looked away for a moment. That hadn't been the answer he was expecting and how he had to figure out a way out of this…His mind flashed back to a time when one apple was a blessing that he would've given anything for. A time when canned food a year past its expiration date was acceptable, even if you puked half of it up later. Keeping half a can down was worth the suffering. He ran a hand down along his chest; feeling for the ribs he knew wouldn't be protruding like they had back then, before they'd finally been rescued. He and sighed as he tried to come up with something.
McCoy watched him with his head cocked to the side, waiting for some sort of response. Something was definitely off.
Finally looking up, Jim responded, "Look, I'm not hungry. Deal with it; I'm not forcing myself to eat something that doesn't look appealing. Just leave it alone Bones, I'm sure I'll have my appetite back in a few days."
"Damn it, Jim, this is not ok!" He roughly pushed his plate toward his partner, "Eat something, I don't care what it is, but this is not ok, and something is wrong and you're not telling me! So put aside the bullshit and tell me what's wrong," he finished, his voice a threatening whisper. He was angry and it was taking most of his self-restraint to avoid raising his voice and causing a scene. That was the last thing the two of them needed, the rest of the crew in the mess seeing two of the senior staff onboard going for each other's throats.
Jim sighed and opened his mouth to say something when he was cut off by a chirp.
Bones jumped a bit at the sudden intrusion and grabbed his communicator a little rougher than he probably needed to. He did answer the call though, wanting to be done with it and back to his conversation with Jim as quickly as possible, "This is Dr. McCoy."
"Dr. McCoy, we were just contacting you because of the note you left in this patient's chart. It's Kolgen, we were setting up the dermal regenerator for his next round of therapy but an infection seems to have taken root on his arm."
Bones sighed; this was the last thing he needed right now, "How far has the infection spread?"
"His arm is swollen from the elbow down and we're getting a mucus discharge from a few spots on the arm. Do you want to us to start debriding?"
Damn it. He needed to finish this conversation, "No, not yet. I'm on my way down. Get a surgical prep going; I'll be down to help with the procedure."
"Ok, sir. We'll be ready."
McCoy clipped the communicator back to his belt and pushed his chair out, standing up. He looked down at the plate that he had pushed toward Jim; the man hadn't touched it. "I have to go Jim, but don't think this conversation is over, we'll be picking it right back up when I get back to the room tonight."
Jim didn't respond, just gave a weak nod, still not looking up from the untouched plate of food.
Bones shook his head, softening his tone a bit this time, "And for god's sake Jim, eat something, please." He threw one more look at the half-eaten apple in Jim's hand, "something that isn't an apple."