Summary: James Kirk and Leonard McCoy are thrown together by chance—or is it fate?—and witness the start of a journey towards the greatest friendship either of them will ever know. Academy!fic (Precedes "Make It Home")
Author's Note: Luckily for you, my faithful readers, I had this chapter done before I even finished "Make it Home". Throughout the writing of that story I kept coming up with scenarios I wanted to bring in from Jim and Bones' time back in the academy, but I didn't really want to flood you guys with flashbacks, either. Therefore, I present to you an entirely new story, dedicated to the early days of our favorite duo's friendship. Enjoy, and let me know what you think!
Chapter One: Pure Luck
"Friends are born, not made."
Henry B. Adams
It was sheer dumb luck that Leonard McCoy chose to split off from the other medical cadets after leaving the hospital to take the long walk back to his dorm. It was a cool, clear night early in the semester and the sky overhead was sparkling and vivid. In a rare mood to be sympathetic with nature, he decided a stroll would do him good. Sure, that meant he had to take a meandering concrete path through the other dorms—the unchallenged domain of younger, dumber cadets than himself—but it seemed like a good idea at the time. It was mid-week, so his chances of getting swept up in crowds of half-drunk weekend partiers were slim.
The night was quiet, and he relished the empty sound his regulation boots made on the sidewalk. As much as he loved his job, this had been one of those days where he had felt constantly on the verge of losing his mind. Or tearing someone a new pie-hole. Or both.
He'd been at the academy for less than six months, now in his second semester, and it was only recently that he felt even remotely like he was settling into a Starfleet life. He'd been fast-tracked through most of the general ed courses thankfully, considering he'd taken them all in triplicate back in Med School, but he wasn't lucky enough to skimp out on others: like Deep-Space Alien Bacteria 101. He had a strong stomach, but that class made even him queasy. To fill his free time he'd taken a position at the Academy Medical Center. Most days, he was sure this had been the right move. Other days—days like today—he wasn't quite as sure.
His quiet, uneventful night was predictably unwilling to last. From somewhere up ahead, a soft clinking sound, like metal on metal, carried to him in the darkness.
Leonard paused, knowing he could take a turn to the left or right and avoid whatever mystery awaited him ahead—whether it was some fresh cadet up to no good as usual, a drunken brawler, or something else altogether. He really didn't want to know. Something was making noise in the middle of a dark campus at night, and that should have been enough to make him turn on his heel and find another route. He didn't need any more excitement in his day.
He couldn't have said if it was stubbornness or sheer curiosity, but something kept him from making the smart choice. He pressed on straight ahead, ears cocked for the sound to come again.
It did, and this time McCoy was close enough to make out it's source. A flagpole stood in the middle of the campus dorms, rising high above the buildings to proudly display an American and a Starfleet Academy flag. In the pool of light directly beneath it, lay a cadet.
At least, Leonard was going to assume that he was a cadet. He was wearing nothing but a pair of boxers, so he really couldn't be sure.
The kid lay flat on his back, staring up at the flagpole. And he was singing to himself. Singing. And he wasn't even being very quiet about it.
Intrigued despite his best misgivings, Leonard strode towards him. He walked right up the cadet, standing above him to peer down into his face before the kid even bothered to look up at him.
Leonard's very first thought was that he had never seen anyone with eyes that color. Or maybe he had? He had the nagging sensation that he'd seen this one before.
The kid grinned widely up at him, a nasty-looking black eye standing out in stark contrast to his pale skin.
The doctor blinked. "Excuse me?"
Sighing, the cadet sat up with some difficulty. Leonard finally realized that a short length of chain was attached to his ankles and looped around the base of the flagpole. The kid had to twist around awkwardly to look up at McCoy from where he was sitting, but he managed it. "The ex-wife took the whole damn planet in the divorce. All I got left are my bones."
McCoy scowled at the half-decent impression of his southern drawl. The kid looked familiar, but for the life of him he couldn't remember ever having this conversation with him.
Sensing his confusion, the cadet grinned widely. Even looking like he'd lost a fight with a blender, had a brilliant smile: the kind girls probably fell all over. "If it helps at all, I think you may have been a little inebriated the first time we met."
"The shuttle?" Leonard grumbled. He hoped he was wrong.
The kid nodded.
"Wonderful. I didn't do anything embarrassing, did I?"
"Other than being buzzed?" He laughed. "No, you just threatened to throw up on me."
"I remember you. You're the one who refused to take Andorian shingles seriously."
The kid held up his hands. "They are as serious as a funeral."
Leonard glared down at the cadet. "What's your name, kid?"
"Got a last name?"
Leonard sighed heavily. He knew this was the point at which he should probably just walk away. Before he got involved. He wasn't that lucky. "So, uh, Jim. With no last name. What the hell are you doing out here?"
"Well it just seemed like a good night to strip naked and stargaze, Bones."
"Stop calling me that."
Despite the fact that he knew he should be very irritated right now, something about this kid was magnetic. McCoy found himself unable to walk away, despite the screaming mental sirens going off in his head warning him, in the name of self preservation, to do just that.
"So what's with that?" He gestured pointedly to the thin, but apparently effective chain that anchored the boy's ankles to the flagpole.
"Just a prank." Jim laughed, lifting one ankle to rattle the flimsy chain. "A couple of the guys thought it would be funny."
"Let me get this straight. It's forty-five degrees out here and your buddies thought it would just be 'funny' to strip you down and leave you out here to freeze? Your fingers are turning blue."
At least Jim had the grace to look abashed as he shrugged.
"Kid. You're a damn idiot."
The boy laughed at that. Threw his head back and laughed, a sound that echoed across the empty campus. Funny how such a scrawny kid could fill up the whole place like that.
"When you're done laughing, you might want to get your whole 'just a prank' story sorted out." McCoy sighed as he fished for his communicator. "I'm calling Campus Security to come 'un-prank' you and I know they're going to have some questions."
"Hey, don't do that!" Jim reached out imploringly. "Seriously, they hate me. They won't help. I can get myself out. Just—do you have a pencil, or something?"
Leonard stared at him, seriously wondering if the boy hadn't suffered some mental damage at some point. "A pencil?"
"Yeah. You know, they're yellow; made of wood—"
"I know what a pencil is." McCoy snapped. "What on earth makes you think I would carry one around with me?"
Jim rolled his eyes. "Anything. It doesn't have to be a pencil. Give my your stylus; that would work."
"I'm not going to let you break my stylus. Those things aren't cheap to replace, you know."
"Oh for the love of—do you have something sharp?"
Grumbling to himself that this was such a bad idea, Leonard fished around in his bag for a moment. He tried to come up with a good, self-sustaining reason that he should just walk away now, maybe ring in to security, and leave the kid to whatever unholy mess he had managed to land himself in. He couldn't think of one. Jim couldn't be older than twenty, and as cocky and smart-ass as he seemed… he was still freezing to death chained to a freaking flagpole in the middle of an empty campus and if Leonard didn't help him, there was a good chance that he would be out here all night.
He didn't want that on his conscience. So he told himself.
"Take your pick." He begrudgingly produced a variety of scalpels, shears, and needles for the kid to choose from.
Jim whistled slowly. "Should I be worried about this?" He plucked a thin scalpel out of Leonard's hand. "I'm not sure how I feel about meeting some random guy in the middle of the night with a bag full of killing equipment."
"It's not 'killing equipment' you ignorant buffoon." Leonard snapped, trying not to look impressed as Jim inserted the scalpel into the crude lock and snapped it open in one expert move. "And I'm not sure how I feel about meeting a guy in the middle of the night who's that good at picking locks."
Jim grinned as he stood stiffly, shaking out his left leg. He offered the tool back to McCoy. "Well then. I guess we both have questions we're better off not asking."
"I'm a doctor." McCoy growled, eyeing the kid's limp suspiciously. He wasn't certain if he wanted to let this troublemaker into his life, but he was certain that he didn't want to leave him postulating about his nighttime activities. "I just came off a shift."
"It's two in the morning." Jim frowned at him.
"Yeah, it is. And unfortunately for me, idiots don't stop being idiots just because it's an ungodly hour." He looked pointedly at the flagpole.
Jim ignored his comment, still stretching out his stiff limbs and rubbing at his cold arms absently. "So…. can I come back to your place?"
Leonard stared. "Kid." He said slowly. "I don't know what planet you're from, but most guys would stop pressing their luck at about the time when I let you borrow my 'killing equipment'."
"Don't worry, I'm not most guys." Jim grinned widely. "Besides, we're old buddies."
"Yeah, how's that?"
"We sat next to each other on the shuttle, and you almost threw up on me, and you definitely offered me booze." Jim nodded emphatically. "Buddies." He repeated.
The kid shrugged. "Plus, it just might, kind of so happen, that I'm locked out of my dorm for the night…"
"Plenty of benches around here." McCoy smirked as he began to walk away, back towards his own warm room.
He paused when he didn't hear Jim following him, and turned.
"Well? You coming or what?"
Jim smiled brilliantly, catching up with McCoy.
"You look like an idiot." The doctor grumbled again, stripping off his coat. "Here."
"I'll be alright." Jim waved him away. "You keep it."
"Wasn't a request." McCoy dropped the jacket over the kid's shoulders. "You wear that if you think you're coming back with me." He offered his best no-nonsense glare.
Jim laughed. "If you say so." They walked in silence for a moment, and then he mumbled softly. "Thanks, Bones."
McCoy didn't bother correcting him this time.
"Let me get this straight." Leonard took a seat across the coffee table from Jim, placing a cup of hot tea into the kid's pale fingers. "You were woken up out of the blue at night, dragged out into the center of campus, and chained to a flagpole. Half-naked. In the middle of a San Francisco winter. That doesn't sound like a prank to me."
"Ah, they were just fooling around." Jim grinned a grin that was beginning to look less and less real.
Now that they were back in McCoy's dorm, the doctor had a clear look at the nasty black eye and variety of colorful bruises the kid sported like war medals. He was beginning to suspect that this prank had been neither as harmless nor as simple as Jim would have him believe.
"Look, kid." Leonard swatted at Jim's feet where they were propped on his table. "I went through the whole college thing before, years ago. I know how these guys can be."
"Seriously," Jim laughed, "You're worrying too much. I didn't expect to be dragged out of bed at midnight, so I started thrashing. That's where the eye came from, and that's all there is to it."
Leonard glared, mentally willing the kid's thick skin to peel back off his skull to reveal the truth beneath. "Sure." He grumbled.
Jim was now sporting an extra set of Bones' regulation blues, but they were several sizes too big and looked ridiculous on him. Beside that he was curled around a mug of tea like his life depended on the warmth it provided, and two blankets were draped around his shoulders. And he still looked like he might keel over, a blue, human-shaped popsicle, at any moment.
"I can take care of myself." Jim insisted. The sharp contrast his words provided against his over-bundled image made it impossible for Leonard to resist snorting.
"Sure you can." He levered himself back out of his chair to walk into the small spare room where a roommate would be someday and snatch the blanket off that bed, too. He dropped it in Jim's lap as he passed, and although the kid glared, he accepted it gratefully.
Leonard had been transferred into to a Medical Officer's quarters after his first semester ended so he could be closer to the hospital. It came with a lot of perks: his own kitchenette and a nice, furnished sitting room, for starters, but it was still fairly small and felt nothing like home. He wasn't sure that it ever would.
"Where's your roommate?" Jim tucked the extra blanket around his legs. "Won't he miss this?"
"Don't have one." McCoy glanced appraisingly at the growing pile of dishes in the sink and weighed his options. He could get to them later. He headed for the freezer instead. "What about you?" He nodded at the kid as he pulled out a tray of ice. "Can't you call your roommate to come fish your ass out of trouble?"
Jim laughed again. He seemed to do that a lot, most disturbingly at things that were no laughing matter. Like being chained to a flagpole, for instance. "He doesn't care." He grinned. "As far as he's concerned I'm out with a girl somewhere, anyway."
"That's kind of careless of him."
The cadet shrugged. "I'm not his problem. I don't think he likes me much, anyway."
Leonard tried his hardest to picture someone who could resist the charming smile and marble-blue eyes of the boy in front of him, and found the task impossible.
He knew Jim wasn't his problem either, but he couldn't help feeling a little responsible for the kid. Maybe it was the physician in him, but he had tried and failed to find it in his heart to turn the cadet away. The colorful bruises didn't help, either: it gave the kid a fragile look that didn't match the fire in his eyes in the least.
But in the hour and a half since he'd known Jim, he'd already come to realize that he was nothing if not a contradiction.
"Well I don't make a habit of kicking lost puppies," he drawled, "so I guess you can crash on the couch for tonight. Or the extra bed, but I'll warn you now that the couch is more comfortable."
The huge smile the kid shot his way was reward enough for his generosity. "Thanks, Bones."
"One condition." The doctor lifted a finger.
Now Jim looked wary. "Okay," he agreed suspiciously.
McCoy wrapped the bag of ice he had prepared in a washcloth and lobbed it underhanded to the kid. Jim caught it easily without dropping his mug.
"Put that on your eye." McCoy wandered back over to the couch. "Doctor's orders."
Jim looked down at the crudely-wrapped ice pack with a smile. "Well, since you're so convincing."
"Damn straight." He pulled the blankets over the kid's face and headed for his own room. "Stay out of my booze," he called over his shoulder.
He turned off the lights, and turned in.
And so it begins... :) Please review!