A/N - Delving into the ST fandom is extremely overwhelming. There's a plethora of amazing work out there surrounding the many facets of Star Trek, and attempting to add to it is rather humbling. In perusing some art related to this obsession, I came across a most fantastic illustrator, Seiko-Assasin, and a piece of art that latched onto my brain like a rabid plot bunny. Oh, I'm more than aware of the cliches...Kirk/McCoy being roommates, for example. And the questions such as: 'Where did Kirk obtain another bike?' (Hey, he's resourceful) or 'Libraries? What the heck do they need libraries for when everything can go straight to a personal PADD?' (Um, okay. So I didn't think about that until later, and just assumed there'd be a library-type-place available for quiet studies...) At any rate, it wasn't supposed to get so wordy, but it did, and thus it became a one-shot that I'll post.
Take a gander at "Captains and Colds", which inspired this subsequent little story, if you're so inclined (spelled out since FF-net doesn't like links):
seiko-assasin(dot)deviantart(dot)com/gallery/#/d2emmd4 (don't forget the whole http: forward slash, forward slash... you know.)
Takes place in the ST XI (Reboot) verse, Academy Years (of which I swore I wouldn't ever try to write for…)
Captains and Colds
"No, it certainly was not an instance of life or death, Jim. That's not the point."
"I'm not suggesting it was, Bones," Jim exclaimed breathlessly, struggling to keep up with McCoy's long, agitated strides out of the hall. "I'm just trying to tell you that I honestly did not blow you, or the class, off - and I did not forget. I fell asleep…simple as that. It's no excuse, but I truly am sorry."
McCoy snorted in reply. "Right, Jim. Simple. Which is why I don't buy it. The fact that you expect me to is laughable. Although, I'll give you points for the proposed paradigm shift: 'Jim Kirk actually fell asleep studying in the library'." He laughed, mirthlessly, then poked Jim hard in the sternum with his index finger, adding contemptuously, "It may have been nothing more than a medical simulation to you, asshole, but I asked for your help because I thought I could count on you to back me up." McCoy had finally shaken his head in disgust, then spat, "Thanks for nothing."
He stalked away with a dismissive gesture of his hand, leaving Jim standing on the steps to the medical sciences building with his mouth hanging open in protest.
Rain pelted against his long-ago frozen body, tiny pricks and slashes that felt more akin to sleet than mere water. Jim didn't care, spurring his bike along the deserted roadways as lightning flashed overhead. The engine thrummed and vibrated beneath him, but did not protest the open throttle. His vision was treacherously obscured – from the rain, of course, not the sting of shame as his friend's harsh and unrelenting words continued to filter through his mind. Jim Kirk did not get emotional, if he admitted to it at all, and certainly not just because someone put him – deservedly – in his place. But he sped through the rest of the night, just the same.
Finally, the engine sputtering on fumes, he managed to pull the bike into a student commuter lot at the far western edge of campus. He powered it down, but his ears continued to ring. He ached from the cold and felt exhaustion creep up on him as he sat in the humid, early-morning air. The sun had not yet peeked its head over the horizon, but would burn away the rest of the clouds within a few hours; maybe if he just sat here, frozen, he would thaw out. His throat burned as he swallowed, stiffly pulling back a soaked leather sleeve to check his chronometer. By the time he willed his painfully rigid limbs back to the dorms, Bones would surely be off to class and later, rounds.
He fumbled for the keys, groaning as he slid off the seat, and allowed the thought of a hot shower to propel him across the awakening campus. He held his breath as he palmed open the door to their room, and was a little surprised to feel disappointment when Leonard was indeed gone for the day and not waiting for him, as he had been other times Jim disappeared all night. No, he realized bitterly. Friends do that, and Bones pretty clearly pointed out that I've blown that designation…
Jim stumbled across the floor as he peeled out of his wet clothing, shuffling it together with his feet and nudging it into the laundry chute. He certainly couldn't leave puddles of rain water on the floor and expect them to be overlooked. Jim pointedly avoided the mirror and headed straight for the shower, finally defrosting under the steaming water. Palms pressed against the tiled wall, blessed liquid heat sluicing down his neck and back, he struggled to organize his schedule in his mind. Maybe he could grab a nap before class. But, as he toweled off and took a longing glance at his warm bed, he thought better of it, knowing there was absolutely zero chance of him rising again once he hit it. He opted for the jolt of replicator coffee instead, rifling through his satchel and making sure the PADD was fully charged before heading back out the door. Vaguely, he wondered how long he and Bones could avoid one another, or when his brain would start cooperating again so that he could at least make an attempt at another adequate apology.
That was the answer to both roomates' indistinct musings regarding just how long two people could truly go without running in to one another when they were trying not to look as if they were trying not to do just that.
Oh, it was odd to go that long in between a rift and setting their friendship straight again - rare, even - all right, it had not happened before, if Leonard was honest with himself. Underneath it all, niggling at his subconscious, was the realization that, even if he was pissed, Jim always had his back before. And whenever Jim did do something idiotic to earn him Leonard's ire, he was damn good at owning up to it and apologizing with sincerity. And no, that was not the real crux of the matter. He was not still allowing anger to fester out of disappointment over the fact that Jim had not followed his usual protocol for apologies. He was, absolutely not, concerned that this had gone on for far too long.
And it would have been longer, Leonard mentally groused, if Jim was in class at this very moment - as he was supposed to be – instead of passed out in a heap on the bed. His jaw worked angrily as he stood at the foot of Jim's bed and considered heading back towards the library versus mercilessly tugging the covers from Jim's prone body.
And then McCoy remembered why he was aggravated in the first place. Right. With one unceremonious yank, and a rough nudge of the mattress for good measure, Leonard grumbled, "You're late for class."
It took a second nudge and a moment longer for the beleaguered whine to finally surface from Jim's seemingly deep slumber, but eventually a barely audible "…'eave m'alone…" issued from beneath the pillow.
"Oh, I'll leave you alone, all right, as soon as you get your lazy ass up and on to class like you give a shit about something for which you're responsible." That was a little low, and he knew it, even if he hadn't caught Jim's quiet grunt. Clearly, however, he still had more frustration to vent as he plowed forward with, "Maybe if you wouldn't spend half your time drinking yourself into the ground and 'maintaining your reputation' the rest of the night you could actually function like the rest of the normal people out there –"
"Okay…okay!" came the weak howl of a reply, Jim's hands snaking under the pillow to press futilely against his temples. "I get it, Bones, I do. I'm a lousy friend and a deplorable human being…but please, I'm beggin' you…my head is killing me…not right now."
McCoy's mouth dropped open to snap off another response and he reached out to viciously snag the pillow from atop his roommate's head. But Jim's rather unexpected bout of hefty coughing stopped him short. He blinked when the chest-straining fit finally eased with a weary moan, and he felt himself straighten with a frown. Well, crap. That certainly did not sound like a hangover.
Leonard couldn't help himself. "Jim?"
He was pretty sure he heard a thick sniffle under there.
"Jim," he ventured again, feeling his anger begin to twitch with resentment as concern edged its way in, and he lowered himself to the end of the bed. Tentatively, he added, "You sound awful."
"I feel awful…so, go ahead," Jim's rough voice paused and he coughed, "Get it out and then please just let me wallow in self-pity."
Leonard drew a long breath and slowly let it out, settling back on his hands as he glanced down at his wheezing friend. Yes, friend, he reminded himself. A friend obviously hurting. "Finally ran yourself into the ground with your ridiculous schedule, didn't you?" he admonished, albeit rather gently for him.
"No," came the whimper of denial. "I'll be fine. I've got the coursework in my bag. I'll get to it as soon as my head stops trying to dissect itself."
"Sure you will, Jim. Will that be before or after you hack up one of your lungs?"
There was a disgruntled noise before Jim finally shoved his pillow aside and peered up at him with bleary, red-rimmed eyes and a serious case of bedhead. He blinked owlishly at Leonard's pointed expression before snatching a tissue from the assortment gathered around him and doubling over with an impressive sneeze.
McCoy recoiled, jerking his head in the opposite direction to avoid the inevitable spray. "Oh, thanks a lot – !" But the abject grimace of pain that crossed Jim's features kept him from launching into further nagging about hygiene and taking better care of oneself. Leonard shook his head, but without any real annoyance, pushing himself off the bed and crossing the room to their kitchenette. "Sinus pressure?" he queried.
"You have no idea," Jim groaned, pressing his palms into his forehead.
Leonard opened the hot tap, soaked a hand-towel under the running water, then ordered the in-house replicator to produce a blend of hot water and lemon juice with honey. He turned back to Jim, who was eyeing him warily.
"What are you doing?" Jim croaked, perching unsteadily on one elbow and sniffling some more.
Leonard stepped over to retrieve his medical bag and the pillows from his own bed, arranging them in a large and comfortable pile. Handing the drink off to him, he replied vaguely, "Lean back and work on that a minute." He rummaged in his satchel, out of Jim's line of sight, while the other man hugged the warm mug to his chest and sipped dutifully at its contents with a grateful sigh.
When he had drained the cup and settled only moments later, McCoy plucked it from his hands and offered him the hot towel. The dumbfounded look Jim gave sent his eyebrow up in exasperated reply, and, shaking his head McCoy leaned over to drape it across his face. Jim flinched away and backed into the pillows, earning him a growled, "Oh, hold still, damnit. It will help until the meds kick in."
"Meds…?" Jim murmured blankly as the towel landed on the bridge of his nose, before yelping at the pressurized click-hiss of a hypospray that had rather surreptitiously found the juncture between his neck and shoulder.
Leonard swore the man was pouting as he reached up to rub at his neck. "You're warm," he muttered, repacking his kit and glancing back at Jim. "How long have you been fighting this?"
Jim shrugged, shifting to try and find a comfortable position. "Couple of days…been so tired," he admitted quietly. "Shoulda known…"
Leonard nodded at the uncharacteristic confession, even though Jim couldn't see it for the towel covering his eyes. It really wasn't a wonder. He had been privy to Jim's increasingly haggard appearance over the past few weeks as they prepared for finals. It had been an endless source of nagging he realized, somewhat guiltily, and yet he'd scoffed when Jim had tried to explain that it all had finally taken its toll...a couple of days ago…damnit. Jim suddenly drew a sharp breath, which startled Leonard until it was released in a soft moan that could only be interpreted as relief.
"Yeah," Jim breathed. "Feels like a giant block of…something...just cracked to pieces…"
Leonard patted his shoulder and reached for the blanket at the foot of the bed, pulling it up to his chest. Jim reached blindly for it and tugged it up under his chin.
"Are you cold?"
Leonard smirked knowingly. "Computer, raise ambient temperature to 72."
"Thanks," Jim's delayed whisper came a minute later as Leonard was setting himself up to study at his desk, extinguishing the lights around the room save for the one he needed to read. After several more minutes of silence had fallen, it was followed by a hoarse "Bones…"
Leonard waited a beat, and really tried not to huff. "Yeah, Jim?"
"I'm sorry. Really, man…I – you were counting on me, and I let you down. And I'm sorry."
Glancing up from his desk, Leonard held his gaze on his friend for a moment, registering the lines of exhaustion etched in Jim's half-covered features, before sighing and setting down his PADD. "I know that," he responded gently, absently wondering just who let whom down. "I knew it the other night, when you offered it; I let my anger take over."
Jim was shaking his head vaguely, his words slurred. 'Nah, man – don't. I'm trying to apologize, sincerely…don't ruin the moment where I declare openly and honestly that I'm an ass and I was beyond inconsiderate, because you're not likely to get another one for awhile…'sides," he continued, waving his arm rather drunkenly in Leonard's direction and sinking further into the barrage of pillows with a weak snicker. "'Payback's a bitch,' as they say…and you have impeccable timing. What goes around will come around, and sometime when I'll need you, you'll aptly pay me back."
McCoy arched an eyebrow and sardonically replied, "And you'll never let me forget it, if I do."
Jim snorted, shaking a finger. "Nope. 'Course not. But I'll know what it is." He reached up to pull the warm towel from his head, blinking woozily at the ceiling. "Whoa. Wow, Bones…what did you give me?"
"Just a little cocktail. Cough suppressant, decongestant, pain reliever…Is it working?"
Jim barely managed an affirmative grunt.
McCoy shook his head in disbelief - seriously, Jim? - and rolled his eyes. Still, he rose again to cross the room and peer down at Jim, who was quickly losing his precarious grip on consciousness. "Lightweight," he muttered darkly as those glassy blue eyes slowly rolled shut and his slack-jawed breaths deepened with much-needed sleep. Leonard ignored the unexpected wave of protectiveness that shot through him at the sight.
And the inexplicable hope that, someday, he would never truly let this kid down when it mattered.