Disclaimer: Star Trek doesn't belong to me. This story is a work of fiction set in the world Gene Roddenberry and JJ Abrams created.

Thanks to fairygrrl45 for all your beta work.

A Kiss Between Friends

Kirk emerged, fresh from the shower, wearing naught but a small white towel that rode low on his hips. The room was dim with the polarized shade still active on the single window between two twin beds. As he made his way across the room, he stubbed his toe on his desk chair and gave a small grunt.

In bed, but no longer asleep, McCoy cracked one eye open and lifted his head from the pillow. "Put some clothes on," he muttered before he turned over and buried his head beneath the pillow.

"That was the idea," Kirk said. He rubbed his foot and stooped to rifle through the duffel back on the floor at the foot of his unmade bed.

Words muffled, McCoy asked, "What time is it?"

Kirk checked. "A little after oh-seven-hundred."

"Too damn early," came McCoy's snarled reply. Anytime before noon, especially following a night of heavy drinking, and most especially when they were on leave, was too damn early to be getting out of bed.

"I've got a meeting with the brass," Kirk explained. "I didn't mean to wake you."

McCoy shoved his pillow from atop his head and sat up, his bed rumpled hair sticking out at odd angles. The blanket pooled at his waist, revealing the tanned skin of well-toned chest and abs.

Kirk's eyes scanned his best friend, admiring that his new CMO was fitter than most of his security crew. He knew Bones was a runner, but the man refused to join Kirk for any workouts, claiming that exercise was the single quiet part of his day that didn't have Kirk in it. Kirk suspected that Bones was just too modest to reveal how much time he spent lifting weights.

Yawning, McCoy cast the blanket away and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. He bowed his head, letting himself wake up a bit more. "Have you eaten yet?" he asked.

Slipping into a pair of jeans, Kirk answered as he buttoned them. "No, I'm not hungry. I can make a pot of coffee before I leave, if you want it."

Scratching the back of his head, McCoy sighed. "You gotta eat, kid."

It was a miracle Jim had survived to adulthood. The kid's mind was wired wrong. A single stray thought about warp core mechanics was liable to turn into ten hours of Jim poring over carbon books and scratching equations into the walls, wholly oblivious to the fact that he hadn't eaten anything in over twenty-four hours. Without McCoy's constant nagging, Jim would have wasted away ages ago.

"I'm good," Kirk assured, ducking into a worn black t-shirt.

"You're not wearing that for a meeting with the admiralty," McCoy stated.

Jim adjusted the window's tint, allowing the pale dawn light to filter in. "Relax, I'm just meeting Pike. Dress uniform optional."

"It's poor manners."

"You've got plenty of time to whip me into shape." Once they shipped out, Bones would have five glorious years to threaten Kirk with hyposprays.

"I've already had three years. The most I ever managed to teach you was to chew with your mouth shut."

"Coffee, yes or no?" Kirk plopped down onto his bed and pulled on a black boot. He mirrored Bones on the bed across from him.

"How much time do you have before you gotta leave?"

Kirk shrugged. "Pike said before noon, but I thought I'd check in with Scotty and get an update on the ship."

"Let me get showered. I'll make breakfast." McCoy stood and tilted his head from side to side, working out the kinks. He felt old.

"Bones," Kirk said, the name rolling off his tongue as a whine. Straightening the cuff of his pant leg over his boot, he stood and faced Bones with a sullen frown. He had too much energy to wait around for breakfast. He wanted to go see his ship and then harass Pike.

Arms crossed, McCoy managed to look intimidating despite wearing a pair of loose flannel pajama bottoms and his hair jutting out in spiky tufts. The bristly beginnings of a beard hardened his look, but not much.

"It's breakfast here or in the mess."

Eyes widening, Kirk shook his head. "God, no."

Every senior crewmember of the Enterprise was doing their best to lay low while repairs were made to the ship. Reporters and media hounds were at their door day and night. Even cadets and fellow officers accosted them incessantly. None of them had been prepared for such fame. Not even Kirk claimed to enjoy the attention. He was proud to have made captain, but there was something nauseating about reporters who flashed cameras at him and asked after his love life. Vulcan had been destroyed, ending billions of lives in an instant. More than half the graduating class had died, slaughtered like lambs. What did his status as an eligible bachelor matter?

McCoy stepped closer and cuffed Jim's ear in gentle reprimand.

"We'll be flying off in that tin can of yours soon enough." There was a sad introspective gleam in the kid's pretty blue eyes, and he hated seeing it. As if Jim hadn't done enough already. There was no sense in feeling guilty, not for lives lost and certainly not for earning a promotion.

Kirk leaned forward and knocked his forehead against Bones'. Heat radiated off the man, his body still warm from beneath the bedcovers. "And you'll be my CMO." There was laughter in his voice.

After three years of long hospital shifts and professors who had it out for delinquent geniuses, it seemed surreal that they were now commissioned officers on the fleet's flagship.

McCoy grunted in response.

"You smell like that cinnamon stuff in Andorian chili," Kirk said with a teasing smile. Bones pushed him away before he could start sniffing.

"I'm never going to get that crap out of my clothes. The entire restaurant had smelled like it last night." McCoy's real issue with the restaurant had more to do with him and Jim having to sneak out the back after a group of reporters had spotted them. The food had been good, even though he preferred traditional southern cooking. He'd kill for some grits right now.

When McCoy caught a crisp woodsy scent from Jim, his eyes narrowed. He leaned closer to confirm his findings. "Dammit Jim, you used my aftershave again." Grabbing the back of the kid's head, he forced Jim to bow lower. "And my shampoo," he hissed. He gave a sharp tug to damp strands before releasing them.

Kirk grinned with a mischievous and wholly unrepentant gleam in his eyes. "I couldn't find mine and yours was just there." He hoped to be out the door by the time Bones discovered that he'd also used the man's razor. The dura-steel blades could shave rock and never dull, but Bones swore a mean streak if he caught Kirk using it.

McCoy shook his head in defeat, knowing better than to argue. Jim had no sense of personal space or personal property. If the item in question were within their shared dorm room, then Jim considered it fair game. He'd taken to hiding his special liquors in his locker at the hospital, which had led to his co-workers leaving AA pamphlets on his desk and mysteriously wedged in his charts.

Brushing past his remorseless roommate, McCoy stalked into the bathroom. The door shut behind him with a dramatic sigh of hydraulics, but the effect was ruined when it opened a second later. McCoy filled the doorway and barked at Jim's retreating figure, "Don't leave, you anorexic adrenaline junky!"

Kirk's shoulders jerked in response. He didn't bother defending himself. Bones would have known he was lying. Nothing escaped the doctor's attention. "I'll just make coffee then, shall I?" he mumbled, more to himself than Bones.


In the small kitchenette, Kirk started the coffee brewing. Beyond programming a synthesizer, his cooking skills ranged from burnt toast to overdone eggs, but he knew how to make fine pot of coffee. Since an unfortunate incident involving a dishtowel and a small grease fire, coffee was the only thing Bones allowed him to make.

Kirk was a fast learner and could probably master any culinary cuisine if he cared to try, but he had grown up using synthesizers and swallowing tasteless protein bars. Food didn't interest him. He'd always considered it a hassle.

Bones had spoiled him rotten, though. Kirk worried that he wouldn't be able to go back to swallowing synthesizer mush on a daily basis. He couldn't very well assign his CMO to kitchen detail.

McCoy came out of the bedroom, appearing cleanly shaven and alert. Dressed in blue jeans and a white dress shirt, he walked into the kitchenette as he finished tucking in his tails.

Grinning over the rim his mug, Kirk gave an admiring cat-whistle. Bones just needed a Stetson hat and pair of riding boots to perfect the cowboy look.

"Shut it," McCoy said over his shoulder. At the sound of Jim's child-like laughter, a smile came to his lips. He kept his back turned, refusing to reveal how amusing he found Jim's playful antics.

After rummaging around in the short refrigerator, McCoy set out a carton of eggs and a pack of bacon. The shelves were unusually bare. He found himself automatically assessing what they would need to buy, but before he could scrawl the items onto the datapad atop the fridge he realized that he would probably never go grocery shopping for the two of them again. They shipped out in a week. There was no point in buying more milk, or orange juice, or those Golden Delicious apples that Jim ate without being forced to.

"What's wrong?" Kirk asked. Standing from the stool, he leaned over the counter and tried to spy what had caught Bones' attention.

"Nothing," McCoy said and shut the fridge door. He frowned at the strange sense of loss that overcame him. Ten days ago, before he'd ever heard of a Romulan called Nero, he'd been content with his daily routine. Their cramped dorm room was home. He'd expected to have more time. Time to finish the semester, instead of being fast tracked to graduation; time to vet all potential postings. Despite his aveophobia, Jim had sold him on the idea of becoming CMO on a starship, though the odds of them serving on the same ship had been slim. He would have used the extra time to say goodbye, to prepare for mornings when he wouldn't see Jim's sprawled form in the bed beside him.

Now he had another five years with the kid, but it wouldn't be the same. On the Enterprise Jim would belong to everyone. Jim would be Captain Kirk, with four hundred odd crewmembers demanding his attention. It was no longer Cadet Kirk, who had countless acquaintances but few friends. Cadet Kirk who came home early from the bars if McCoy had worked a long shift and wanted a friendly face. Cadet Kirk who was content to spend a quiet evening in their dorm talking about anything and everything while they watched vids and made fun of hokey plotlines. What would happen to their friendship on the Enterprise?

Kirk read the dejected slouch in Bones' shoulders. But before he could press the man for an honest answer the dorm's chime sounded. The two men looked to each other, both asking who their visitor could be. They were wary after an incident the other day involving a reporter who had snuck past security.

Slipping from his stool, Kirk moved across the room to the narrow entryway. He brought up the video feed on the door's side panel. A flashy woman stood in the hall outside, her coiffed blonde hair pinned elegantly and black trench coat tied tight around her slim waist. A large red purse dangled from the crook of her elbow.

Kirk watched for a moment. There was something familiar about her. She had full round face, thin lips and dainty nose. A name danced on the tip of his tongue.

The woman lifted a manicured hand and knocked. She was impatient. The knock was demanding, whereas the chime had been a polite request.

Kirk thumbed the door's release. The woman seemed startled and took a step back. The sharp point of her stiletto heel clicked, echoing down the empty hallway. Most of the academy halls were empty now. The entire campus seemed to echo at times.

The woman's assessing gaze ran up and down Kirk's lithe form before meeting his bright-eyed gaze.

"Can I help you?" Kirk asked, his tone an impressive imitation of Spock's.

If the woman were still unsettled by Kirk, she didn't show it. "I'm looking for Leonard McCoy. Is this where he lives?"

Suspicion was evident in Kirk's gaze. A week ago, he would have flirted with her shamelessly. However, he'd felt the bitter sting of being played for a fool after he flirted with a number of women only to discover they were reporters hoping for an interview. Nothing turned his libido cold like deceit and manipulation.

"Are you a reporter?" Kirk asked.

A delicate eyebrow arched high as the woman gave Kirk a nonplussed look. "I'm his ex-wife," she said, as if she deserved a medal.

"Joyce?" Kirk ventured, the name suddenly coming to him.

"Jocelyn," the woman corrected, her gaze narrowing. "You're Captain Kirk." There was a hint of a question in the statement, as if she were trying to hide her surprise at finding the young man answering her ex-husband's door.

Kirk stepped back and waved the woman inside. A sweet floral scent followed her, teasing Kirk's nose. He guided her towards the seating nook that looked into the tiny kitchen.

"Bones, you've got company," Kirk said as he approached the counter.

McCoy's hand stilled before he cracked an egg into a bowl. Glancing over his shoulder, he stiffened at the sight of his ex-wife standing next to Jim. "Jocelyn," he said on a surprised exhale.

"Leonard," Jocelyn said in turn.

"What in the blue blazes are you doing here?"

"I think you know." Jocelyn rifled through her large purse and produced a set of papers. She tossed them to the countertop. "You're petitioning for custody. I want to know why."

McCoy's face reddened. "A phone call would've done the trick."

"Not for this."

Kirk glanced around the room, searching for a means of distraction. The polite thing to do would be to offer an excuse and leave, which would have been easy considering he had a full agenda that morning. Instead, he hunkered down on his stool and sipped his coffee, his attention darting back and forth between the divorced couple like they were a daytime soap.

McCoy recovered from his shock. "The last time I wanted custody, you told me I had to go through your lawyer to talk to you. I'm gonna tell you the same. Talk to my lawyer if you've got anything to say to me."

"I have a lot to say to you," Jocelyn snapped.

Eyes wide with mock innocence, Kirk resorted to his usual joking antics and said, "Is this where you kiss and make up?" He didn't know how else to handle the situation. Bones was a grown man who could fight his own battles.

"Jim," McCoy said in exasperation, "can you give us a few minutes?"

Kirk met Bones' hazel eyes and read every emotion in them. He didn't like what he saw. The raw bitterness buried deep inside his friend had come to the surface. Bones didn't talk about his daughter or ex-wife unless he was really drunk. Kirk recognized an open wound when he saw one. He nodded and set his mug down. "I should go see Scotty. I'll comm you to make plans for later."

"No, just wait in the bedroom. This won't take long."

Kirk opened his mouth to inform his bossy CMO that he really wasn't hungry. Then he realized that Bones might want to keep him around for support. If ever a man needed his best friend, it was after a nasty encounter with an old flame. He gave a forced grin and picked his mug up. "Sure." As he turned, he gave Jocelyn a small salute and retreated to the bedroom.

With a mother who couldn't stand to look at him and a stepfather who'd never wanted children, Kirk was an expert at making himself scarce. He plunked down at the computer console and checked his mail. Mumbled voices filtered in through the bedroom door. He tried to concentrate on the bright screen, but the voices from outside became louder and more distinct.

Eventually Kirk gave up. He leaned back in his chair and listened. Conflicted emotions washed over him. If Bones hadn't wanted him to overhear any of it the man would have sent him out of the dorm. There were few secrets between them. Kirk didn't have all the details surrounding Bones' divorce, but he knew enough to shape a fragmented picture of pain and betrayal.

Kirk sat straight at Jocelyn's next comment.

"Screwing children now, Leonard? I'll bet the judge will love that."

"He's not a child. He's a goddamn Starfleet officer. And I'm not sleeping with him. He's my roommate. Look around, Jocelyn. We're in a dorm!"

"Starfleet wasn't impressed by what you did? You were still stuck with a roommate?"

"I've had my promotion for all of a week and I ship out in less than that. Why would I move into an officer's dorm? This is where I've lived for three years. Me and Jim. As friends."

"You don't have to defend yourself to me. I've moved on. I'm engaged now, you know."

"My god woman, can you hear yourself?"

"Jesus, you're still the same selfish bastard. Enlisting didn't change that."

"Why are you here? What do you really want?"

"I want to know what you're up to. You can't have custody of Joanna if you're off planet all the time."

"Afraid I'll take her with me?"

"No judge in their right mind would let you."

"Did you read my petition? I'm asking for joint custody. When I'm planet side, I don't want to jump through hoops just to see my baby girl. Christ, you wouldn't even give me weekends with her."

"You were never around before the divorce, I figured you wouldn't notice if you didn't see her after we left."

"A man only has twenty-four hours in a day to give. You expected more than that and I still had my dad to look after. What would you have had me do?"

Kirk imagined Bones running nimble fingers through neatly combed hair and disheveling the strands.

There was a broken edge to McCoy's voice when he spoke again. "I came home between shifts. I dropped Joanna off at school, picked her up, packed her lunch with that damn fool diagonal cut on the sandwiches she always wants. I worked myself to the bone trying to make you happy, but it was never enough."

"You were a regular saint, were you? When I got pregnant again, how did you react?"

"I wanted another baby! If I was worried about finding money to feed another mouth, I was just being practical."

"But you wouldn't accept the job from Daddy. He would've made sure you took his place as chief of surgery one day."

"Your dad hated me. He wanted to make my life miserable. If I worked at his hospital, do you think a day would've gone by that he didn't remind me who was in charge? The man's got a god complex bigger than Aunt Ruth's vegetable garden."

Kirk filed that last comment away. Bones had accused him more than once of having a god complex. Just how big a garden was Bones talking?

"You think the worst of everyone. Daddy isn't like that. You're just too pigheaded to see. He always wanted a son."

The argument went on. Kirk absorbed the illuminating details with a mixture of anger and unease. His judgment on the divorce was understandably biased, since Bones could do no wrong in his eyes. He concluded that Jocelyn was a spoiled brat who'd been looking to marry a man she could manipulate and mold into a man just like her father. Bones was perfect already. Kirk didn't understand how anyone could want to change him.

The arguing exes began to speak in quieter tones. Kirk considered pressing his ear to the door, but he'd heard more than enough. He commed Scotty and let the engineer know that he might not be by until later that afternoon.

At the sound of Jocelyn's light, vibrant laughter, Kirk darted a sharp look to the door. Bones' gravelly baritone joined in, the sort of rumbling laughter that always made Kirk feel like he'd done something good if he could get Bones to make it. Kirk didn't know why, but he felt Bones' laughter cut into him, a painful reminder that his best friend had once loved that woman out there. Perhaps he still loved her.

Kirk moved to the door and listened. If it had made Bones laugh, then it was worth hearing.

"This is ridiculous," Jocelyn said, her laughter trailing off. "I swear, you make me act like such a child."

"I know you are but what am I?" Bones quipped.

There was a pregnant silence. Kirk fought the urge to open the door and interrupt.

"I'm not asking for much Jocelyn. I'm not a changed man who's seen the error of his ways. I'm just a father who wants to see his little girl when he can."

"I know," Jocelyn said, her admission hanging in the air. "Leonard, how did we get here?"

Kirk imagined her reaching a hand out to cup Bones' cheek. Annoyed, he pushed the image away. Bones had lectured him about women who took an interest in him now that he was Starfleet's poster boy. Bones was letting his ex-wife do the exact same thing, letting her cozy up now that Bones had a reputation. Lieutenant-Commander Leonard H. McCoy, Chief Medical Officer of the USS Enterprise, hero who'd served valiantly in the line of duty and saved countless lives during the Battle of Vulcan and Battle of Earth. It was a title and position that would make any woman revise her opinions.

Impulsive to a fault, Kirk had to fight the urge to storm out of the bedroom and drag Jocelyn out of their apartment. She had no right to be there. Not after what she'd done. Bones' greatest weakness was his daughter and Jocelyn was in a position to exploit that.

Former husband and wife continued to talk. Jim swallowed his anger, knowing that Bones hated it when he tried to fight the man's battles for him. He'd learned his lesson after he'd badgered a professor into rescheduling an advanced xenobiology final because Bones had pulled an all-nighter in the ER.

The professor had agreed to reschedule, but Bones had been furious with him for going behind his back. In Kirk's defense, Bones had been in surgery when he'd called to tell the good doctor his plan. Bones had ignored him for three days and Kirk had never felt more miserable. It wasn't his fault that a number of cadets had overheard him arguing with the professor and had taken to calling him Bones' knight in shining armor.

The prospect of Bones ignoring him for any length of time made him bite his tongue and beat down the urge to interfere. He didn't have to like Jocelyn, but he had to play nice. Whatever was going on between Bones and this woman was something Kirk couldn't understand. He didn't know how relationships worked. He'd never been in one.

Jocelyn's girlish sigh drew Kirk from his musings.

"I guess I really came because of what happened. It's all over the news. I wondered how you were."

"How's Joanna really taking it? I've talked to her over the vid-link, but I couldn't tell if she was upset."

"She's fine, but I don't think she really understands how much danger you were in. More than anything, she's proud. We're both proud of what you did."

"Sneaking Jim onto the Enterprise wasn't exactly heroic. It was keeping his fool self alive for the past few years that took real talent." McCoy preferred not to reminisce about his role against Nero. It was too sharp and fresh in his mind. He couldn't talk about it like it was a distant memory. After Puri's death, he'd tried to control chaos, barking orders left and right, triaging the wounded with no sympathy for the men and women he judged to be lost causes. He'd lost too many people that day.

Bristling indignantly, Kirk decided to remind Bones of his presence. "I can hear you!"

The sound of Jim's voice pulled McCoy back to the present. The dense knot in the center of his chest untangled, replaced by amusement. "I know!" he called towards the bedroom.

Jocelyn laughed again. "He's not what I expected."

The bedroom door hissed open. Kirk leaned against the frame. Mischievous eyes landed on Jocelyn. "And I didn't expect Bones to have such a hot ex-wife. The world's full of surprises."

Eyes widening, Jocelyn couldn't fight the blush that came to her face. Suddenly, the young starship captain was everything she'd expected. He'd been a cold, imposing presence when he had answered the door. Now he was a vibrant youth who exuded sex appeal.

McCoy recognized Jim's obvious discomfort. The kid acted like a flirt and obnoxious brat when he was too defensive to be himself. "Jim, she's my ex-wife. I'm bound by Georgia law to kick your scrawny ass if you hit on her."

Giving a mock pout, Kirk sauntered closer. "Scrawny?" he questioned. "I could take you in a fight blindfolded, old man."

"I'd be armed with a hypospray full of all your favorites."

Kirk threw the doctor a look of sullen outrage. "You and Spock are the dirtiest fighters I've ever met. He used that nerve pinch and you'd just sedate me. Aren't you southerners supposed to appreciate a good old fashion brawl?"

"A brawl? Which century do you live in?"

Mouth quirking with true amusement, Kirk forgot Jocelyn was even in the room. He gazed steadily into Bones' deep hazel eyes and said with an exaggerated drawl, "I don't reckon I rightly know. You're the country doctor with his good old fashion stethoscope and sphygmomanometer, you tell me which century I'm still living in."

McCoy's mouth twitched. He managed to control his laughter and responded in a way he knew would crack Jim up. Arching a single brow comically high, he stared the boy down.

Seconds later, Kirk had to brace himself on the counter. The apartment filled with his jubilant laugh.

McCoy's chest puffed at the sound. Jim didn't laugh like that for just anyone. Usually, it was quiet chuckles and the occasional guffaw. Jim's real laugh only came out around him, when the kid was comfortable enough not to care how young and gleeful he sounded or how tears gathered in his eyes.

Watery blue eyes lifted and leveled McCoy with a look of sheer adoration. McCoy's chest filled with something warmer than pride. Christ, he loved this kid so much. Best friend didn't even begin to describe what Jim was to him.

Kirk caught sight of Jocelyn again and his laughter quickly trailed off. Flashing a toothy grin, he wrapped himself back inside his playboy exterior. He felt the woman's eyes pick him apart. Trying not to fidget, he kept his focus on Bones. "Aren't you a little impressed I remembered what the arm patch thing is called?"

"Not really. But if it makes you happy, I can give you a dog treat for learning a new trick."

"How about you just pour me some more coffee?" Kirk raised his mug and waved it. Bones snatched it from his hand and walked around the counter into the kitchen.

Over his shoulder, McCoy asked his ex, "Joss, would you like to stay for breakfast?"

Kirk's annoyance returned at this.

Jocelyn appeared taken aback by the invitation. After a moment, a gentle smile softened her features and she nodded. "I'd like that." With another curious glance at Captain Kirk, her cheeks heated as she realized that she couldn't control the compulsion to stare. James Kirk wasn't traditionally handsome. His features were too striking, too beautiful to simply be classified as handsome. There was a devilish charm about him. She couldn't imagine that someone so vibrant, attractive, and young would want to be friends with her snide ex-husband. There was no denying that Leonard was all firm muscle and sexy scowls, but if the two men weren't having sex, then what was Kirk's motive? Leonard didn't have friends. He was inconsiderate and drove everyone away. In Georgia, he'd had colleagues, but never friends.

Kirk bit back a comment about how the sex between the former couple must have been hit and miss. One minute they were at each other's throats and the next it was a tea party. A strange sense of betrayal knotted in his stomach. He assumed it was because Bones had deprived him of his basic function in this situation. As the best friend, it was his job to bitch and gripe and stick his nose where it didn't belong until he ran the ex-wife off. Instead, he was a useless ornament in the corner. Bones was acting civil. Kirk could only follow along.


The light banter and knowing comments between Bones and his ex-wife set Kirk on edge. He listened without interruption, offering a response only when one of them directed a question to him.

McCoy laughed as Jocelyn regaled him about Joanna's latest stunt in school.

"Finally I just gave in," Jocelyn said. "She's stubborn as all get out."

"Gets that from me," McCoy said with a proud grin.

"So, she wore her jeans under her jumper. Riding boots too."

"I bet the school loved that. Why is she going to such a fancy place anyway?"

"Clay, my fiancé, went there. I know what you think about private school, but it's the best money can buy for a reason. Joanna loves it, even if they won't let her wear jeans."

McCoy frowned, ready to argue the merits of a solid public education, but he just shook his head and leaned back against the counter. "Does she wear the jumper now?"

"No, they couldn't make her do that. You know me, I just want to dress her up all the time, but she wants what she wants. They let her wear the boys' uniform."

A silent alarm in the back of Kirk's head kept nagging at him, telling him that this woman was no good. She wanted something, either from Bones or just Bones himself. Despite the sour atmosphere, he ate his meal with gusto. He felt Bones' occasional smug glances. He hadn't realized how hungry he was until his plate was spotless.

"This is nice, Len. I always hoped a little time would make it better between us."

There was limit to how much Kirk could take. He wasn't going to sit pretty while the woman who'd destroyed his friend wormed her way back in. "Excuse us a minute," he said and stood from his seat. He flagged Bones with his hand. "Before I go, Pike sent me a list of medical staff he'd like onboard. He asked if I'd get your opinion."

McCoy scowled, but didn't argue. Over his shoulder, he said to Jocelyn, "I'll be right back. Help yourself to more coffee."

In the bedroom, Kirk trailed a hand over the computer console but made no move to use it.

"Let's have a look at this list of yours," McCoy said. Arms crossed and feet set apart, his posture dared Jim to keep up the lie.

Kirk rolled his eyes. "It's weird with her here like this. I don't know how to act around her."

"James T. Kirk doesn't know how to act around a woman? Stop the presses."

"She's your ex-wife," Kirk said. "How the hell should I treat her? I was following your lead out there, but my instinct is to show her the door."

McCoy's shoulders slumped at this.

Running a hand through his hair, Kirk paced away. "I'm not exactly an expert on relationships, but it's been my general understanding that when people break up, you don't invite them to breakfast."

"She wants something," McCoy said.

Kirk darted Bones a shocked look that quickly turned to relief. "God, I'm glad you said that. I was getting a bad feeling, but didn't want to make an ass of myself about it."

McCoy scoffed. "I'm not an idiot, kid. Once you go through divorce, there're no more illusions. Jocelyn can be sunshine and rainbows when she wants to be, but she can't pull the wool over my eyes just by smiling pretty."

"Do you want me to stay?" Kirk's offer was clear. He'd badger and bully like the meanest third grader on the playground until Jocelyn snatched her purse and fled.

"No. I just didn't want you rushing off without something in your stomach."

A thoughtful silence fell between them.

Unsure if he was allowed to ask, Kirk voiced his question tentatively. "She's here about your daughter?"

"Yeah," McCoy said. "The last time I tried for custody, I was between jobs. Her dad did a triple bypass on the judge the year before. She nailed my balls to the wall."

Kirk laughed, careless of whether Jocelyn could hear him. "Bones, you just have to say the word and Starfleet will paint one of the crewman's quarters pink." Scotty might throw a fit about painting his silver lady, but Starfleet was ready to bend over backwards to accommodate its surviving officers. There were so few cadets that remained. If allowing officers to bring their families along ensured that they'd stay for an extra tour, then Starfleet approved.

"I'd never bring Jo on that deathtrap you call a ship. It's no place for a little girl."

"I'm just saying, Joanna's yours if you want her."

"Of course I want her, but she's not a goddamn piece of luggage to tote around. She's got people in Georgia, a life. I'm not uprooting her."

Not for the first time, Kirk looked at Bones with secret longing. If he'd had someone like Bones in his life growing up, he might have turned out better. Bones loved his daughter above all else. Kirk wanted that, longed for a father like Bones. "So now you're asking for custody again and your ex is worried because you might get it."

McCoy bristled beneath Jim's stare. The kid had a way of looking at him that made him feel all sorts of strange. Those eyes were impossibly blue and conveyed emotions so openly that McCoy thought he just might weep at the prospect of anyone hurting a kid like Jim. Suddenly self-conscious, he assumed a trademark scowl and spoke harsher than he intended. "There's no might about it, but I'm not asking for sole custody. Jocelyn's a harpy, but she's a good mother. I just want to be able to comm Jo as much as I can without Jocelyn telling me it goes against some fool arrangement."

Kirk had a knack for reading people. Unless Jocelyn was a professional con-artist, she hadn't lied. Her concern for Bones was genuine. He wondered if that was part of long term relationships. If a couple broke up on bad terms, did they always secretly care about each other?

"Is she here for you?" Kirk asked.

The question caught McCoy off guard. "You're asking if she wants to get back together?"

"Is that how it works?"

McCoy studied Jim for a long moment. "No. For some people, maybe. Not for me and Jocelyn. What's done is done."

Confused, Kirk reasoned, "But she still cares about you."

With a shrug, McCoy said, "It's complicated. You wouldn't understand." The moment he spoke, he regretted his words. There was a flash of hurt in true blue eyes before Jim's expression closed off. It wasn't his fault that Jim didn't understand the intricacies of a committed relationship, but it wasn't Jim's fault either. Jim wanted more than meaningless one-night stands but he didn't have the first clue how to find it. The truth was that McCoy himself didn't understand how his marriage had turned to hell, but he still felt like an ass for not phrasing it better.

Before McCoy could explain what he'd meant, a series of knocks on the bedroom door interrupted him.

"Just a second," McCoy called out to Jocelyn. He leveled Jim with a stern look and pointed his finger at the kid. "Don't you get all sullen on me. You know I didn't mean it that way. There ain't enough time in the world to explain what's between me and Jocelyn. We're civil when we're civil, and we fight when we fight."

Ducking his head, Kirk rubbed the back of his neck. "I get it Bones. It's none of my business."

Jocelyn knocked again. "Len, I just need to use the fresher."

"Come in," McCoy called back.

The bedroom door slid open, admitting Jocelyn whose curious eyes roved the room.

Anger flashed through Kirk. No one came into their bedroom. Bones had a strict policy about bringing dates home for the night. If friends came over, they stayed in the main room.

Waiting for Jocelyn to disappear behind the bathroom's door, Kirk asked, "Does this change things for you? If you can get custody of Joanna, would you rather take a position on the ground?"

"Jim, that's not it."

Refusing to accept Bones' reassurance, Kirk argued, "The only reason you chose to go into the black was because there was nothing for you on Earth. If you stayed-"

"Dammit, Jim," McCoy interrupted. "I'm going for your fool self, not because I got nothing left here. I don't care about exploring the great beyond. I care about patching your pansy ass back together and getting piss drunk on Saurian brandy at every starbase."

A small, sheepish smile graced Kirk's lips. "Saurian brandy? Think outside the box, old man. Orion tequila, Andorian ale."

McCoy grunted his agreement.

Jocelyn exited the bathroom. She smiled and cast a surveying glance around the bedroom. As she walked over to the computer console and ran a hand along the edge, Kirk threw Bones a look of outrage.

McCoy felt a twinge of the same annoyance that Jim felt. Jocelyn didn't belong there. "Let's go back to the kitchen," he said. He stood at the doorway, ensuring Jocelyn followed.

"I'm going to brush my teeth and then head out," Kirk said.

As he brushed his teeth, Kirk couldn't help but search through the cabinets and make sure nothing was out of place. He fiddled with Bones' razor.

Teeth cleaned, he studied his reflection. Guilt was plain in his eyes. Was he being selfish? There was a little girl who would grow up without her father, only seeing him over vid-links and through subspace messages. He knew what it was like to grow up without a father. He also knew what it was like to grow up with a parent who'd rather take an extended assignment in the beta quadrant than come home for her youngest son's birthday.

But that wasn't Bones. Bones loved his little girl. And most important, it was Bones' decision to make. A flush of excitement crept along Kirk's neck as he realized that Bones had already made a decision. Bones had chosen him.

It was after 0900. Kirk rushed from the bathroom. In the main room, he motioned for Bones to follow him to the door. Jocelyn sat primly on the edge of a stool, sipping her coffee and eying the two of them before feigning interest in a datapad from her purse.

The reassurance Kirk had felt only moments ago fled. Jocelyn sat in their apartment as if she belonged, as if this cramped dorm room weren't the kind of place debutants like her turned their noses up at.

This wasn't just Bones' conflict anymore. Jocelyn might be Bones' ex-wife, but she was currently sitting in Kirk's home, drinking coffee he'd made.

Kirk knew he was being unreasonable. Bones had had a life with Jocelyn long before meeting him. The two had a daughter together, but Bones had chosen to serve with him. Bones would skin his hide later, but he intended to make it known that Lieutenant-Commander McCoy had connections and couldn't be hung out to dry like when the divorce had happened.

A mischievous excitement flared to life as Kirk concluded that he didn't have to mind his manners like a southern gentleman. It was practically his duty as a friend to pick a side and make his stance known.

Glaring at a pretty woman whose infractions amounted to petty accusations and opening a bedroom door wasn't what Kirk had in mind. Impulsive to a fault, he knew Bones would smack him for his brilliant plan, but he was always looking for new ways to shock the doctor.

Kirk gestured for Bones to follow him into the relatively secluded entryway. If Jocelyn craned her head, she'd have a clear view. He didn't doubt that she'd tried to observe every move he and Bones made.

The same manic excitement Kirk had felt while planning the subroutine for the Kobayashi Maru overcame him. He couldn't wipe the smile off his face as he spoke. "I'm about to do something stupid and your first instinct will be to hit me, but save it for later, okay?"

"Jim, what the hell are you on about?"

"I'm going to kiss you now," Kirk said, barely above a whisper.

Hazel eyes blinked dumbly. "You're gonna what?"

Kirk didn't wait. He stepped close, hand sliding around Bones' neck.

McCoy stiffened. Warm, lush lips were suddenly pressed gently against his mouth. Jim was kissing him. All thought fell away as his mind stuttered to a halt.

When McCoy's brain finally rebooted, he flushed with embarrassment. He started to pull away, trying to dart a look across the living room to Jocelyn. Could she see this? His embarrassment brought a scalding blush to his neck and face. After he'd just finished yelling about how ridiculous she'd been for assuming he was sleeping with Jim, the damn kid went and did something like this.

Christ on a cracker, Jim was still kissing him. The hand at his neck gave a squeeze. Jim's fingers were cold. Instinctively, his hands moved to Jim's hips to push him away. Somehow, he ended up squeezing Jim's waist instead of pushing.

McCoy's thoughts jumbled together in a frantic mess, circling around between disbelief and confusion. Amid his confusion, for a brief moment, he felt the kiss. Soft lips and a firm lithe body pressed close. Jim had never been this close to him before. Their breaths mingled.

Only a few seconds had ticked by.

When Kirk pulled back, he wore a sheepish grin. "Making the ex jealous," he said quietly, his voice hitched. Something was wrong.

McCoy stared deep into those electric blue eyes. He'd lost himself in them more than once. What had this fool boy been thinking? Make Jocelyn jealous? He continued to stare, their bodies pressed close and his hands still molded to slim hips. "You're an idiot," he said.

An almost shy smile flitted across Kirk's lips. There was an unspoken question in his smile, asking if he'd crossed a line he shouldn't have.

McCoy read that smile and felt his heart break a little. Beneath all of the games and false bravado, Jim was too fragile. The kid entrusted him with so much. No one knew the real James Kirk. No one saw how vulnerable, innocent, or caring the young man truly was. McCoy knew Jim as a nerd who liked to read history books, and as the kind of secret romantic who blushed and fidgeted during love scenes in vids.

Desperate never to share Jim with anyone else, certainly not four hundred crewmembers, McCoy lashed out with the sudden overwhelming need. He pushed Jim against the wall and held him there. Bright blue eyes swirled with countless emotions. Licking his lips, he stared at Jim's pout mouth. The kid's lips were pure sin. The way they quirked and smiled, how utterly soft and inviting they always looked. Plump and full, begging to be used.

Dipping in, he took Jim's mouth. He licked the seam, announcing his intentions. When plush lips parted for him, he plunged inside. Fire raced through him and settled in his loins as he devoured his best friend. There was a sweet flavor to the toothpaste he tasted. There was an even sweeter flavor to the moan Jim gave.

Dear god, Bones was an amazing kisser. Lips that were always scowling or frowning meshed with his and Kirk felt everything fall away. Tipping his head to the side, he slanted his mouth and drew Bones deeper. The man tasted like coffee and heat. If he'd known it felt this good, then he would have done away with his rule about not sleeping with close friends. A rumble of pleasure rolled from Bones' mouth into his.

The kiss seemed endless. Finally, with slow, languid strokes into Jim's mouth, McCoy drew the kiss to an end. Reality was on pause, but the suspended moment couldn't last. Greedy desire filled him as he broke away from Jim's perfect lips. The need for more throbbed through him and he couldn't help but place a few firm kisses against those lips, silently declaring his regret at leaving them unattended.

Electricity lanced through Kirk's body with each soft kiss. What had Bones done to him? Unidentifiable emotions stirred inside him. Every inch of him ached for more. It was almost painful to stop. His senses spun out of control and he didn't like it. This wasn't like driving a Corvette off a cliff. This wasn't an adrenaline rush. He felt vulnerable and exposed, at the edge of some precipice he couldn't remember walking out to.

Kirk's eyes filled with panic. He needed to leave. "I should go," he said.

McCoy knew that deer in headlights look Jim was giving him. Reality came crashing back at the sound of Jim's husky voice. "Good idea," he agreed. He couldn't think straight with Jim in front of him. What the hell had just happened?

"I'm sorry." The words were perfunctory.

"Get out of here, kid."

"Right, I'm going."

Kirk left. McCoy stared at the closed door, his heart still racing and his pants stretched tight over his throbbing dick. What the hell had that been about? With mounting dread, he turned to face Jocelyn, who was conspicuously gone from her seat on the stool and busying herself pouring another cup of coffee, pretending not to have noticed.

In that moment, he loved her for not staring or throwing him an accusing look. He couldn't deal with one of Jocelyn's nasty moods when he was reeling from Jim's latest stunt.


Later that day, when the dust had settled and Kirk had time to realize that his little maneuver hadn't been as humorous as he'd intended, he returned with his tail between his legs. He'd had some epic fights with Bones. They always managed to reconcile, but he'd never done anything quite like this. He'd avoided hitting on Bones for fear of jeopardizing their friendship. Bones was weird about relationships. The southern gentleman didn't want to be friends with benefits or have quickies in the men's bathroom. Bones was the kind of guy who committed to someone for life.

Anticipating a black eye and series of hypospray vitamin boosters, Kirk slunk through the door with a heavy spirit. The lights were off in the main room. He pulled up short, looking around in surprise.

Bones must have left, hopefully not with Jocelyn. He reached out to turn the lights on, but a gruff voice stopped him.

"Leave 'em off," McCoy said from the couch. "Come over here. We need to talk."

Kirk's stomach dropped. Just how angry was Bones? Having pieced together an excuse, he prepared to explain that he'd only meant to give the doctor a quick peck on the lips, but the man was just too damn hot to stop there. If he threw in a few jokes about not having gotten laid in weeks, then he might convince Bones to chalk the incident up to an overactive libido. If that didn't work, he'd resort to pointing out that it had been Bones' tongue down his throat, not the other way around.

Kirk cleared his throat and began, "Listen-"

"Don't start."

Genuine fear bubbled to the surface when Kirk considered that Bones might not forgive him. "Just let me explain."

"I said, don't."


"Shut it, Jim."

"I know you're pissed."

"Dammit!" McCoy stood in a flash and stalked closer. He kept going until he had Jim retreating into the wall. "I said shut up for two goddamn seconds." Without further delay he gripped Jim's jaw and kissed the young man.

McCoy had been thinking about it all day, about kissing Jim again. It was like sinking into something so perfect it hurt. Jim felt so good against him. He licked his way inside that insolent mouth and tasted the day on Jim's tongue.

With Jim gasping for breath, unable to form words, a slow grin spread across McCoy's face. "Not a chatterbox now, are you?" He indulged in another taste before he pulled back and said, "For the record, I told Jocelyn to go through my lawyer if she feels the sudden urge to visit again. She's a bloodsucker. I'd never forget that. You don't need to get up in arms about me leaving."

Kirk tried to think of a retort, but firm hands slid down to his hips and gave a suggestive squeeze. Struggling to keep his voice level, he asked, "Bones, what is this? We don't do this. Not with each other."

A rush of power moved through McCoy. Having Jim underhand was an unexpectedly titillating experience. He'd had his hands on every inch of Jim before, whether it was to feel for broken bones or use the laser suture. This was different. He had the bravest man in the Federation pressed to a wall. It was intoxicating. "You started it." He'd be damned if didn't finish it.

"I didn't know what I was doing. I've got rules about not sleeping with the friends I don't want to lose." Those weren't Kirk's rules, but he abided by them for Bones' sake.

"Then it's a good thing we've got five years on a ship together. There's nowhere to go on that tin can. You can't lose me up there." Best of all, he'd have eyes on Jim the whole time.

"Bones," Kirk whispered, a quiet plea to stop before it all came tumbling down. He couldn't lose Bones from his life.

"Can't say I haven't thought about this." McCoy buried his face against Jim's neck. He thought of all the knowing looks they'd shared. How they always stood close, even in an empty room, shoulder to shoulder. The way Jim always sat against him when they watched vids. There had always been a physical connection, always a possibility. He wasn't blind to Jim's charms or attractiveness, but the kid had meant too much to risk complicating their relationship. There was no going back now. They couldn't simply forget the kiss. It had been too perfect, too right.

"You really wanna do this?" Kirk asked. Despite his claim of uncertainty, he tilted his head to the side and presented his neck like an offering.

Licking a strip across Jim's pulse, McCoy ground his hips forward, his erection pressing against Jim's taut stomach. He was going for it. Consequences be damned. Hand fisting golden hair, he tugged Jim's head further to the side and began nipping and kissing along the exposed neck. The sound of Jim's gasps shot straight to his cock. He couldn't get enough.

Kirk groaned as Bones' mouth worked up to his jaw and ear. Grinding against a muscled thigh, his breath hitched when a groping hand urged his legs apart. It was like a switch had been flipped. The attraction he had spent the last three years ignoring overwhelmed him. The slight southern accent and rich voice, skilled surgeon hands that promised ecstasy. Some days Bones looked like sex on legs with a scruffy beard and wayward hair. Other days the man was an upstanding citizen just begging to be disheveled.

The need built, throbbing through them both. Mingled breaths, demanding kisses, desperate hands that grabbed a little too tightly. They grappled to hold onto each other, searching for a means of alleviating the pressure, but it only built until it was too much.

It would have been easy for McCoy to grind himself against Jim's bony hip and come like a horny teenager in his pants. But he didn't want that. He wanted to be inside Jim, to have his best friend spread out on his bed, writhing and begging for him. He wanted to see golden skin glisten with heat, the ripple of firm muscle, swollen lips gasping his name. He wanted it all.

Clothing became an obstacle between them. McCoy wanted Jim stripped bare that instant. Intent on moving to the bedroom, he took an agonizing step back.

Kirk leaned against the wall, needing its support. Not liking the distance between them, he reached out and gripped Bones' shirt. With slow and deliberate moves that gave the surly doctor time to rethink what they were doing, he untucked the tails of the shirt.

Eager to feel their bare skin touching, McCoy undid the top few buttons and pulled his shirt overhead.

Kirk bit his lower lip while he appraised Bone's exposed chest.

McCoy quirked a brow. Snagging the front of Jim's t-shirt, he pulled the man closer. "Like what you see, darlin'?" he drawled against Jim's ear. His hands slipped beneath Jim's shirt, sliding over the firm contours of a lithe back.

The deep burr in Bones' voice sent shivers through Kirk. "Now who's cocky?" he said. Bones hand slid low, giving a tentative squeeze to his ass. The move was unexpected, and so was the slithering flash of heat in the pit of his stomach. "Bones," he gasped. Bones kissed him like no one ever had. Bones kissed him like it mattered. His whole body thrummed with aroused energy.

"Come on," McCoy said. He pulled Jim towards the bedroom.

Though he was eager to comply, Kirk couldn't help but question Bones' take charge attitude. "You're more aggressive than I imagined."

McCoy's lips curved into a pleased smile. "You imagined sleeping with me?"

Feeling out of his element and off his game, Kirk became uncomfortable in his own skin. With a forced smirk, he said, "We sleep together almost every night. Sleeping isn't what I imagined us doing."

McCoy knew Jim was nervous. That sly grin only came out when the kid was trying to be a comedian. Hand at the back of Jim's neck, he placed a firm but gentle kiss against plush lips. "I know what I like. Ain't nothing wrong with that. I like you. And I like the idea of taking you into that there room."

Bowing his head, Kirk knocked his forehead against Bones'. At such a close distance, Bones couldn't see the way his grin became silly and boyish. This wasn't just about getting laid. It was the start of something amazing. Something worth more than he could calculate in his aroused state.

With obvious anticipation, Kirk asked, "What do we do once we get to 'that there room'?"

"Don't play with me, boy."

Kirk drew his fingers along Bones' chest, flicking over a pebbled nipple and scratching at defined abs. He wanted to drink in the warmth that radiated off Bones. "I'm not playing."

"Then stop talking."

The devil inside Kirk made him push a little more. "Make me."

McCoy issued a quiet growl. He stooped and upended the cocky blond over his shoulder.

Kirk cried out, his heart in his throat. "Shit, Bones! Put me down."

"This is me shutting you up," McCoy said as he carried Jim into the bedroom.


Author's note: Please review. Constructive criticism is always welcome. Drop a quick line or ramble on for pages about Urban's homage to Kelley and Dr. McCoy's eyebrow franchise (this sentence probably only makes sense in my head 0_o).