Nobody was ever well rested on a starship. To be so went against the grain of universal suffrage mandated by the Admiralty to keep the lower ranks continually ill tempered and twitchy.
Shift rotations were split into four. Six hours on duty, six hours off, six hours on, six hours off. You learned quickly how to make up the time in any given moment.
Doctor McCoy had perfected the art of snoozing in med school back on Earth, and it served him well. He could get a full four hours by crashing out after his first duty, then catnapping after his second.
Food was a higher priority than prolonging his REM cycle. If he was going to plow his way through twenty hour days, he would damn well be fueled for it. Food or sleep. One or the other. You couldn't skimp on both.
It was a concession he made with ten years of medical expertise behind him. He knew his own limits, and he stuck to them.
So he was surprise, touched, and extremely indignant when his Captain and First Officer stirred him from a five-minute snooze.
"Hey Bones." McCoy could admit that Jim looked natural in the gold command shirt. He wore the color like he was born to it. Maybe he was.
"What did you do this time?" McCoy's hand automatically reached out in search of his tricorder.
Jim looked guilty. Spock looked like a statue. Alone, they were the cause of ninety percent of McCoy's work related stress. Together, they were the cause of his nightmares.
Jim tried his best blue-eyed look of innocence on him. The one that had stopped working the second time McCoy had fished him out of one cheap dive or another and made him puke up whichever recreational drug had piqued his curiosity. Thank god he'd gotten over that stage of his obsession with experiencing all life had to offer.
Of course STIs were no joke either.
"Seriously Bones, you wound me." Jim held a hand to his heart, all wide-eyed and sincere.
"No, Jim. I patch you up. Which is the only reason for you to be in my department at- " he checked the time "-three in the morning." Keeping regular hours was not something anyone did on the ship. It was as awake and alive at stupid-o'clock as it was midday.
That said, even Jim didn't drink before his second duty, which was the only other reason he might be searching McCoy out while Spock trailed on his heels like a lost puppy.
Jim dropped the endearing best-friend act and tried his stern captain cap on. "Okay fine. I've had complaints. About you."
Nothing new there then. Some of the crew didn't like his bedside manner, ungrateful little bastards. And some of them hadn't yet clued on to the fact that the more McCoy liked someone, the more of an ass he behaved towards them. So complaining to Jim about McCoy hurting their poor widdle feelings was kind of like preaching to an extremely zealous choir.
Still, he didn't think he'd been particularly abrupt with anyone recently.
"Okay?" Jim blinked. "That's it?"
"Sure. You need to give me a good ass-kicking in defense of your crew's precious feelings, go for it. Then go away so I can get these slides loaded."
Jim turned a helpless look on Spock. Spock gave him no reaction.
"Doctor McCoy, you are misunderstanding the nature of our visit. It is not to reprimand you for the manner in which you treat your patients."
Would it kill the guy to say 'you're barking up the wrong tree, dumbass'? Maybe.
"So your entire department has been harassing me!" Jim exploded, arms flailing as he began to pace around McCoy's tiny office. "At all hours, Bones. They corner me in the corridors. They chase me down in the mess. They comm. me in the shower! 'Make Doctor McCoy take some time off. Doctor McCoy never leaves Medical. Doctor McCoy doesn't sleep. Doctor McCoy is a robot sent from the future to destroy the galaxy. Doctor McCoy survives off the life force he steals from his patents, that's why he's such a grouchy bastard."
Robot from the future? That was a new one.
"You know doctors Jim. Prone to exaggeration."
"But you don't sleep."
"Fine," Jim huffed exasperatedly. Winding him up might have been cruel, but damn it, McCoy needed to get his kicks somewhere, and the kid owed him. "Whatever. You don't sleep enough. You don't chill out, you don't hang with the rest of the crew. You're a hermit Bones. A hermit in space, but still a hermit."
"Jim." McCoy said patiently. "Have I ever given you the impression that I actually enjoy human – or alien – company?"
"Er…you like my company. Right?"
Damn the kid and those pesky insecurities of his. McCoy sighed. He liked fucking with Jim, but he'd never want to actually hurt him. "Yes Jim. When you aren't being a little shit."
That brought a grin back to his face and McCoy stopped feeling like an asshole.
"So maybe you'll like hanging out with everyone else."
"I doubt it."
"Captain, if I may, the Doctor does have a point. He had never shown any desire to engage in the social recreations you share with many of the crew. Perhaps we would be wise to respect his wishes?"
Spock was standing up for him?
Hell had just frozen over.
"Hey!" Jim rounded on Spock indignantly. "You're supposed to be on my side!"
"Which side is that, Captain?"
McCoy wondered if maybe he wasn't the only one who liked to fuck with the captain.
"The side that wants Bones to stop being such an anti-social sonovabitch! The side that wants him to relax and maybe sleep for more than an hour at a time! The side that spent all night being harassed and harangued by various crew and was assured by his First Officer that dragging him to the bar and getting him shit-faced was not a suitable option."
"And that is the side your are on, Captain?" Spock clarified.
"I doubt it." Jim grumbled. "See if I bring you on any more interventions." Jim flopped down on the edge of the desk and sighed. "Please Bones. Come to the mess. One drink. Show the crew that you aren't some blood guzzling robot hell-bent on stealing with souls with your hypo."
Aw Hell. He could refuse Jim anything when he was working an angle, and he often did.
When he was honestly, genuinely asking for something, McCoy had no hope of withstanding those eyes.
The dejection slid off Jim's shoulders like an old jacket. He beamed. "Two drinks. A burger. And two games of pool."
"One drink. Make it steak, and I'll give you one game of pool."
"One and a half. We can gang up on Spock." Jim began to tug him to the door. He was like Joanna, if Joanna had been his height and had considerably more upper body strength.
McCoy let himself be dragged along. "He's Vulcan, Jim, and pool is math. He's going to kick both our asses."
"That is a likely probability." Spock conceded.
"I dunno Bones. I think we can take him."
"Do we have to?"
"Where's your sense of competition?"
McCoy sighed and took one last look at the work waiting for him on his desk. "Don't you have captain type things to be doing?"
"I'm off duty, Bones!" Jim laughed. "Even the captain is allowed a beer once in a while."
Great. Well there went his last hope of a night free from humiliation and socialization.
Now he was the one following Jim like a lost puppy. He killed the lights, and made plans to be extra irritable tomorrow, just in case he slipped up after the beers – and it was likely going to be more than one – and was actually nice to someone.
He had a reputation to think of.