Title: Independence

Author: Gixxer Pilot

Summary: Cop!verse AU. In the law enforcement community, Fourth of July weekend means all hands on deck. Fortunately for Kirk, there are people around to make sure the weekend's not a total waste.

Author's Note: Happy Fourth of July, everyone! I hope you all are having a safe and fun holiday weekend! This is one of my Accidentally on Purpose Cop!Verse AU stories, and it takes place a few months after Jim joined the Iowa City Police Department. It just came to me, and demanded that I write it, so I have. Anyway, this is a little gift ficlet (and when I say 'ficlet' I mean that in a Gixxer Pilot sense, since short is not in my vocabulary, only my DNA) for Wicked Jade. You rock, my dear!

Disclaimer: I don't own the boys, only the idea. (Not because I did any of this myself at all…)

"Is the Fourth of July almost over yet?" Jim practically moaned, sinking the back of his head into the soft recesses of the headrest. "I swear we cleared the entire logbook of weird calls tonight, and I am exhausted."

Sergeant Leonard McCoy raised his eyebrows into their typical 'amused' position before he turned his head to face his partner in the passenger seat of the cruiser. Careful to keep one eye on the road and one eye on Kirk, he quipped, "Who are you and what have you done with my infant partner? The Jim Kirk I know would never admit to being tired."

Kirk dragged his head off the cushy headrest and glared at McCoy. "Yeah, you can say that, sitting there in that pristine, dry and non-smelly uniform of yours. Tonight, I have been barfed on once, punched twice, and dunked into something I only hope was water, all in the name of justice. And you just stood there, laughing like it was some sort of a joke," Jim finished, glaring in earnest at his older partner.

"Well, it was," McCoy snorted, in reference to Kirk's wet clothes.

The younger man growled quietly in his seat, wondering if it would be inappropriate to smack his new partner. "Really, man?" Jim asked with a raised eyebrow. "How is that cool?"

"You deserved it! Stop looking at me like you did nothing wrong," McCoy growled in reply.

"I did not," Jim shot back, shifting in his seat. He cringed when his crusty uniform brushed against the inside of his leg, wondering at the same time if McCoy was driving slowly just to piss him off. "Speed up, Bones. At this rate, I'll be eligible for social security before we get back to the precinct."

"I'm going the speed limit, kid. If you're uncomfortable, that's your own fault," he said with a superior little smirk.

"Yeah, this is what I get for trying to do the right thing." One could never say that Jim Kirk didn't answer when duty called. As a result of two back-to-back visits by both major party candidates for the upcoming presidential election, the Iowa City police roster had been left a bit lean by the overwhelming need for law enforcement personnel. Kirk answered Pike's call to pick up a few extra shifts, but on his third double in a row over a long holiday weekend, he was beginning to question the logic of it all. Jim let out a strangled moan and dropped his head back down on the headrest. "Bones, I have been working my ass off every day for the last three days in one hundred plus degree heat to plug all the holes caused by the Bureau Bums' safety nets. Cut me a little slack, will you?"

McCoy lifted his right hand off the steering wheel and, with his thumb and index finger, rubbed the pads of each digit together. "You see that?" he asked. "That's the world's smallest violin playing for you. Can I get you some cheese with that whine?"

"Can I get just a little bit of sympathy here?" Jim asked, his voice pitching higher with each word. "Jesus, for someone who supposedly went to medical school, you have zero tact, you know that? If you're this much fun as a cop, it makes me wonder what kind of bedside manner you would have had if you'd actually become a doctor. Your sunny disposition probably would have scared your patients back to health, just so they could get the hell away from you."

"People don't go to the hospital to oogle their doctors, Jim. They go to get treated. Sane people do not try to hook up with their nurses, especially ones they've just met," McCoy added with a sideways glance.

"I was not trying to hook up with her!" Kirk insisted.

"I can see your nose growing, so stop lying. You were just lucky that Christine shot you down like the Southern lady I know she is because she thinks you're amusing. Otherwise, she probably would have tied you up and thrown you in a supply closet until you learned your lesson," the sergeant replied with a flip of his fingers. He made a mental note to perhaps bribe Nurse Chapel into actually following through on her threat, just to teach the kid a lesson one day. But, saving that card for another day might be the wisest course of action as Jim had all the 'learning' he could probably handle for one twenty-four hour period.

Kirk shook his head in disbelief. God, being a rookie sucked sometimes. "She wouldn't do that to me. She likes me too much."

"Want to bet?" McCoy replied. "If I asked her, she would do it as a favor to me."

Kirk shook his head. "Whatever, Bones. Go ahead and try, because there is no way Christine Chapel can actually like you in the friendly way. You're a jerk. She's..."

"…A lady with good taste. Don't tempt me, Jim. The prospect of killing you on a daily basis is far too enticing for you to challenge me like that," McCoy said with a slightly insane glint bouncing around in his eyes. It was the one Kirk often saw after McCoy had a few (in most cases, a few too many) drinks and was ranting on about disease and danger, along with other happy topics.

Jim dismissed the threat with a laugh. "I know where you live, Bones. I'd haunt you," he said in gest.

"You'd be a shitty ghost, Jim. Your attention span wouldn't allow you to properly haunt anyone, because you're too easily distracted," McCoy stated.

A smart assed comeback died on Kirk's lips as his brain tried and failed to come up with something intellectually superior to that of his partner's. He opened and closed his mouth a couple of times, growled and let his eyelids droop closed. He fished a crumpled white McDonalds napkin out of the glove box through half lidded eyes and waved it through the air. "I surrender. Take me to your prison camp. I've got nothing."

McCoy couldn't stop the small smile of superior satisfaction that curled up his lips when he looked over at his partner. Admittedly, there was a teeny, tiny part of his brain and ego that enjoyed knocking the cocky young man down a peg or two. As he watched Kirk fight the need for sleep, he reminded none too gently, "Kid, if you don't like how I do my job, I can always tell Lieu the truth - that you fell asleep in the cruiser and I had to employ creative methods to wake you up," the sergeant said with an innocent shrug.

Kirk's eyelids snapped wide open, his body coming off the seat like he was bounced off a trampoline. Jim's back was ramrod straight against the plush seats of the Charger while his eyes darted wildly around. Once his heart calmed down enough for him to form a conscious thought, Kirk reached across the car and punched his partner's shoulder in order to silence McCoy's rich laughter. "You asshole, you wouldn't dare."

"Oh yes I would," McCoy clarified. If anything, Jim's physical blow only helped intensify the sergeant's amusement. He and Kirk had only been partners a couple of short months, but in that time, it was always do first and think…eventually for Jim. It always managed to grate on the more reserved and calculated sergeant's every last nerve. It was nice, admittedly for McCoy, to have turned the tables so effectively on Jim for once. And, he fully planned to take every advantage of it while he had the chance. "I don't know what you're complaining about. A wet uniform is nothing, since most of what we used to be able to do to you FNGs has been banned by the all the fruitcakes in their suits."

Jim's jaw hit the ground. "So, pulling my side up to the edge of a half-flooded canal in a blacked out car and then flipping on the lights and sirens at full volume while you scream, 'FOOT PURSUIT! YOUR SIDE!' as loud as possible in my ear is an appropriate way to haze me? I thought there really was a foot pursuit, so I opened the door to do my job, only to fall six feet into the most disgusting water ever!" The rookie's face curled up into a twisted expression of disgust while his brain replayed the sounds and smells of the tepid canal. The water smelled like fish mixed with decomposing organic material. He'd landed next to an old tire, and even in the dim light, Kirk swore he saw a used tampon float past while he tried to make his way out of the disgusting and vile liquid. "Gross," he said with a shudder.

The sergeant, on the other hand, was amused. "I reiterate, Jim: don't try to play innocent on this, because we both know you're far from that. You're the one who fell asleep on duty. I just found a better way to wake you up," McCoy answered, laughing at the mental image of Kirk, jolted from his sleep, thrashing about and swearing in the canal while he leaned triumphantly on the hood of the car.

"That's bullshit, Sergeant," Jim mumbled. "And I will get you back for that one day. I haven't figured it out, but you will rue the day you messed with James T. Kirk."

McCoy rolled his eyes as he pulled into the Iowa City PD's garage, signaling the end of their shift. He backed the car into its assigned spot and killed the engine. Stepping out, he tossed the keys in the air before he said, "You can try, but it won't end well for you." McCoy made a show of sniffing the air around Kirk and added, "Go take a shower and get out of that uniform before you contaminate the entire building with the smell. When you're done, meet me up on the roof. Lieu and I have to talk to you about something."

Kirk stared at McCoy's retreating back, suddenly unsure what the shift's lieutenant could possible want with him. A sense of foreboding started to build in the pit of his stomach. As a rookie, Kirk wanted zero contact with Lieutenant Pike. It was like being called into the principal's office back in school, but much, much worse. So, for the first time in his life, Jim vowed that he would follow the letter of the law. McCoy made sure of that; the man wouldn't let him put one toe out of line.

As Kirk stood in the PD garage, watching his partner's retreating back, he wracked his brain backwards and forwards as he tried in vain to figure out what he could have done that could warrant a private meeting between his boss and his boss' boss. McCoy didn't give up anything; the sergeant was stone-faced and silent. "Dammit," Kirk mumbled before he spun on one heel and walked away.

Jim trudged up the stairs to the locker room, his weary feet dragging on the skid plates on each step. Once he was there, he found the room was also barren upon his arrival. He stripped down and stowed his gear on autopilot, simply going through the motions. A quick shower proved no less relaxing, and he was no closer to discerning the need for a sudden meeting. Nothing was adding up, and as he ascended the stairs to the roof, Kirk could feel his heart beating faster in his chest. He could honestly say that it had nothing to do with any type of physical exertion.

His hand wrapped around the cold metal of the door handle. Kirk squeezed it, hoping that he wasn't being summoned to a meeting that would end his career in law enforcement before it really got going. If he was about to be fired, then so be it; he was a Kirk. He'd land on his feet and do well in whatever he did. Jim took a deep breath and turned the handle before he stepped outside.

What he saw took his breath away, but not in the way he was expecting it to.

Jim let out a relieved and happy laugh as all the tension flowed from his body. The smell of fresh charcoal permeated through the air from the giant grill that was placed on the corner of the building to his right. On his left, a table sat, overflowing with food and beverages. Potato salad, cole slaw, chips, fruit salad, beans, and a crock pot full of Lil Smokies all waited patiently for consumption.

Scotty was the first to notice him and shouted a hello. "Well, it's about time you made it up here! I though you may have fallen in. We were about to organize a search party for ye, lad!" the Scotsman said, trotting up to Jim while he wrapped one arm around his shoulders. He shoved a beer into Kirk's shocked fingers and ushered him over toward a set of lawn chairs strategically placed and overlooking the river.

Kirk's brain finally caught up with what Scotty said. "We?"

"Oh, aye. We," he started, motioning to the various people planted in their chairs. Pike swiveled around in his deluxe campfire chair and lifted his beer in salute. "How are you doing, Kirk?"

"Good, Lieu," Jim answered automatically.

As the meat in the sandwich between Pike and one other unnamed guest, Scotty collapsed down into his bean bag chair he kept in his office (how that made it up six flights of stairs and out the narrow roof door was a mystery of science) before he kicked the guy to his left. Greg Serdeski's balding head spun around, reaching out to shake Jim's hand. "What's up, Kid? Finally figure out how to turn off the water in the shower?"

Jim didn't miss a beat. "Only as long as it takes you to eat your doughnuts, Serdeski," he shot right back.

"Touché. This one's learning, Pike. I think I like him, but don't tell him that," Greg whispered conspiratorially. "Don't need his head getting big like his partner's."

"Go to hell, Serdeski," McCoy's shot across the rooftop in his best crowd control cop voice as he rounded the corner made by the air conditioning unit. "And stop scaring the children. We need them, even if they piss me off," he said, balancing the most supremely awesome and giant tray of sizzling, hot off the grill steaks and burgers in one hand and twirling the spatula and tongs in the other.

"Bones, what the hell is going here?" Kirk asked incredulously, wondering if he'd just entered some rare form of the Twilight Zone.

McCoy fixed Kirk with a stare that could only be described as condescending. "It's a barbecue. I'd have thought being from the Midwest, you would have heard of them by now. They're popular here, or so I was told when I ended up here," he said sarcastically.

"Yeah, I can see that, Bones. I might be a rookie, but I'm not that dense," Kirk replied.

"Relax, Kirk," Pike started from behind him. The Lieutenant heaved himself up out of his chair and walked over to the youngest addition to the PD family. He clapped Jim on the shoulder and said, "This is a tradition for this shift whenever we have to work Fourth of July weekend. Since we miss the whole weekend with our families and friends, we started, about ten years ago, organizing a little police barbecue to make up for it. We do it at the end of the night, and we watch the fireworks from the roof."

"That's why we're off early tonight?" Kirk asked. He wondered why McCoy was heading back to the station so soon, since it was only 2100. Technically, their shift didn't end until 2300, but after his rather rough night, Kirk wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth when Pike called them back in from the cold.

McCoy nodded. "That'd be the reason, but if you'd waited much longer, you would have missed it," he added, tossing the man-food on the table. "You want a steak or a Juicy Lucy, Jim?"

A huge, wide smile broke across Kirk's face. "How about both?"

"You're going to make him do all the chasing tomorrow, right McCoy?" Pike asked with a nudge to McCoy's side.

"Hell, no! I did all the chasing today! I deserve this burger tonight. Chasing's your job tomorrow, Bones," Kirk answered as he took his place in line for the food. His mouth watered fiercely; the smell of the meat on the grill was intoxicating the moment he opened the door to the roof. "This sure as hell beats going home to a frozen Stouffer's dinner!"

"No shit," McCoy replied dryly while he dropped a healthy scoop of potato salad on his plate. He nudged the pile around to make room for the other sides and his burger while he slowly went past each item on the table. Last through the line (as always, even though he was the grill master and should therefore be allowed to go first), McCoy slathered the Lucy in ketchup before he grabbed a beer and made a beeline for his lawn chair. Balancing everything precariously on the plate, he lowered himself into the chair and let out a satisfied moan. He raised his beer in toast and said, "To another successful Fourth of July. No one got hurt, the people had a good time, and the bad guys are locked downstairs."

"Here, here," came the reply from the other four men. The clinking of bottles was audible from the rooftop as the Iowa City group fell into comfortable silence while they devoured their food.

The view from the police department's rooftop was spectacular. Since the station was situated right on the Iowa River, they got a crack view of the ins and outs of the waterway. Under them, they could see the barge that was going to be used for the fireworks, all loaded and ready to go. On the opposite shore, the outdoor music hall was set up with people ready for the festivities. From the hall, the group could hear the faint strains of Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" belted out by a dozen trumpeters.

Kirk looked around, still flabbergasted the small group pulled this off. Struck by a thought, he asked, "Lieu, you've got enough food to feed an army. Where's the rest of the squad?"

Pike snorted and McCoy rolled his eyes. "This tradition started with just me and your partner. It's by invitation only, Kirk, and anyone who's not expressly told to come by us knows that," Pike replied. "We invite the people we consider our friends, which is the group you see here."

Jim, suddenly conscious of his manners, said earnestly, "Thanks, guys. I appreciate this, even if you had me a little worried there for a few minutes," he admitted.

Pike threw back his head and laughed. "Worried that I was going to fire you for falling asleep in your squad, Jim?"

Kirk's jaw dropped. He turned to his partner and hissed, "Sellout. You said you weren't going to tell him!"

McCoy shrugged. "He tortured me."

Serdeski snorted loudly. "More like asked him politely."

The lieutenant waved a hand at the familiar banter that broke out between McCoy and Serdeski. Though the two might give the outward appearance of open hostilities toward one another, Greg and Len were far from enemies. They were both competitive, stubborn, proud sons of bitches, which made life interesting when they disagreed. But, at the end of the day, they would always be mates, even if they wanted to punch the other guy from time to time. It was strange relationship, but one Pike was glad existed for the sake of both men. "That's enough, you two."

"Lieu, it won't happen again," Jim began before Pike cut him off.

"It's okay, Jim. It's happened to us all at one time or another. At least your excuse was valid, unlike someone else on this rooftop," Pike said loudly while he cleared his throat, turning his head toward McCoy.

Sputtering, Kirk's partner choked momentarily on the burger in his mouth. He snagged his beer from the little cupholder he'd made with the rocks from the roof and took a swig to wash down the food before he needed someone to perform the Heimlich. Regaining some dignity, McCoy wiped his face with his napkin before he replied, "That was your fault, Chris. You were the one who told me that I had to show the Japanese police department guests around town after my shift when they were here."

"So you sawing wood in the passenger seat of our car the next day was because you were tired? It had nothing to do with the fact that you were too hungover to move, right McCoy?" Pike asked, the fond memories of taunting an in-pain McCoy with some nice, light hazing.

"'Hungover' was not the word. Dying was the more appropriate term." McCoy crossed his arms and sunk lower into his chair. "They kept buying me shots. You told me it would have been impolite for me to refuse, and it would have looked bad for the department. So I kept drinking."

"What did they do to you?" Kirk laughed out. He'd seen McCoy drink, and he knew the man could both throw them back and hold his liquor.

"They were obsessed with tequila. I don't know - I don't remember much after the fifth shot. I thought I was going to die for two days," he said with a shudder.

"I don't know what's more shocking: the fact that you got that drunk, or the fact that you exercised good manners and didn't refuse. Bones, you don't have manners, at least not that I've seen," Kirk replied, feeling entirely more confident that he wasn't the only cop to have ever made an ass of himself on the job.

"Keep talking like that Jim, and I'll lock you in the Biffy with the car," McCoy threatened, pointing one menacing finger at Jim.

"McCoy," Pike started, interrupting the argument, "Why don't you try being original for once in your life and come up with your own pranks? Stop stealing mine."

Kirk's head snapped toward Pike, the older man nodding at Jim's unasked question. "That's right, rookie. Where do you think your partner," he said, jerking his finger toward McCoy, "Learned that little prank he used on you tonight?"

"Really, Bones?" Jim asked slyly. "Am I not worth any kind of real thought? You have to recycle something someone did to you?" Jim asked, connecting the dots.

"My daddy always said that if ain't broke, I shouldn't fix it. I didn't see anything wrong with what I did to you. It was effective, wasn't it?"

Kirk had to concede that point as valid to McCoy, though he made a mental note to needle Pike for the story about Bones' time as the Iowa liaison to the Japanese police force. It had to be something positively juicy, and he wanted to know. But before he could ask, Scotty, who'd left the conversation sometime during the story of Kirk's splash in the canal, reappeared holding a grocery bag full of supplies. Narrowing his eyes, Jim watched as Scotty pulled out a box of graham crackers, a bag of giant marshmallows, and finally, two packages of chocolate. "S'mores? Now we're talking!"

"But what I don't understand," Serdeski piped in, "Is why the British guy always brings the stuff for the s'mores. Isn't this kind of an American celebration and tradition? I mean, it's your country's fault that we have this whole Independence Day thing in the first place."

"So you'd rather not have the holiday, Greg?" Pike asked, fishing another beer out of the cooler. "Believe me - if you want to work every Fourth, I'll make that happen."

"That's not what I'm saying," the desk sergeant said quickly. "I'm just appreciating irony, that's all."

Scotty rolled his eyes. He and Greg went through the same conversations every year about the provider of the s'mores and of the purpose of Fourth of July and his country's participation in it. It was as predicable as clockwork, and as traditional as Scotty's supply of the group's dessert. "You know, one of these years, I'm actually going to follow through on my threat and withhold these from you, you ungrateful pillock," he said, holding up the sweet treats.

"Great!" Kirk exclaimed. "More for us!" He got up, tossed his empty plate in the garbage bag someone thoughtfully remembered to bring up and grabbed the bag of marshmallows from Scotty. He picked the grill up by the handle, tipping the Webber up on the wheels before he dragged it over to sit in the middle of the group. McCoy handed Jim a hot dog fork, and Kirk made quick work of putting one of the white, jet puffed sugary treats on the end. "Watch and learn from the master."

"Why am I not surprised? You're a pyro. I'm amazed you didn't burn down your house as a kid, Jim," McCoy snorted, affixing two marshmallows on the pointed ends of the fork in his hand.

"Who said I didn't?" Kirk replied with a mischievous smile.

McCoy's jaw flapped open and closed, but he said nothing. If Kirk was joking (which he likely was), then a comment that stupid didn't warrant a response. If he wasn't joking - well, McCoy hoped that wasn't the case. He did remind himself to go check on that in the morning, though. Knowing Kirk, there was some sort of validity to it.

Like little children, each man stuck their skewer over the still roaring hot coals, and in no time, all the Iowa City PD employees had all put together their s'mores. McCoy and Scotty both lit theirs on fire (on purpose) waving it about to put out the flame before slapping the still steaming marshmallow on top of the chocolate. Pike and Serdeski were slightly more patient, making theirs golden brown before diving headfirst into dessert. The silence was telling, as all the men were eating instead of talking.

Well, all except one.

As the choral opening strains of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture reached their ears, the four senior men all sat and watched Kirk as the kid patiently rotated his hot dog skewer above the flames.

"Jim, it's not polite to play with your food," McCoy said through a mouthful of s'more.

"This isn't playing," Kirk insisted. "It's artwork. I don't eat a s'more until the marshmallow has puffed up to twice its normal size."

"You are the strangest person I have ever met." Taking another big bite, McCoy insisted, "It is not possible to do that."

"I'm telling you Bones, it is," Jim replied with conviction equal to McCoy's sarcasm.

"It is not."

Scotty, Pike and Serdeski all exchanged knowing glances. A life in law enforcement trained their ears to recognize a dare when they heard it. Silently, they started taking wagers as to Jim's probable level of success.

"Watch and learn, old man," Kirk said, tongue protruding slightly from his mouth as he coaxed the marshmallow to grow bigger.

"I'm watching, but I'm not learning," McCoy replied, sitting back in his chair for the show.

Jim didn't quantify McCoy's remark with any kind of response. Instead, he chose to concentrate his efforts on making a perfect marshmallow. He kept spinning, waiting until just the right moment of expansion to turn it. The center, filling with air as it puffed outward, was likely turning into warm, melty goo, which was exactly what he wanted. The outside was morphing a light golden brown, which symbolized Jim's flawless cooking. The marshmallow, which had started as a standard inch and a half treat, was now nearly three inches wide. It had taken over the fork completely, to the point that the little barbs were no longer visible, and only the 'Y' joint on the bottom of the metal utensil was poking out from the mass of golden brown sugar.

Jim, after about five minutes, was finally satisfied with his handiwork. He pulled the marshmallow off the flame in preparation to make his perfect s'more. "Look at that. Perrr-fection!" he said, grabbing the graham cracker and chocolate he'd prepared earlier.

McCoy looked suitably impressed, as did Pike, Scotty and Serdeski. When Kirk put the marshmallow on the graham cracker, there would be no squishing necessary to get the thing to take over the small square. It would do that just by sitting there. It was almost enviable, how delicious it looked.

Jim was more than proud. It was all going so wonderfully, until the fork dipped back over the heat. In that one instant, the temperature of the little sugary treat spiked, and it went from a perfect s'more marshmallow to a mess of molten, sticky goo in the blink of an eye. Since Jim was bringing the graham cracker and chocolate to the hot marshmallow instead of the other way around, there was no way to stop his moving hands when the implosion began.

The marshmallow disintegrated, first deflating spectacularly on the fork. Then, what was left of it dripped down the fork's handle and right onto Kirk's hand. The feeling of the sugar burning into the skin on the back of his hand made him nearly jump, and swearing loudly, Jim tried in vain to shake his hand to dislodge the hot sugar. The graham cracker and chocolate went flying in different directions, and the fork nearly smacked Pike in the head as it went sailing in the other. The roar of the cannons, fired in time to the 1812 Overture's climax, drowned out the kid's vocal protestations, but Jim, unable to simply shake off the sugar, jumped out of his chair and waved his hand about through the air.

Pike, Scotty, McCoy and Serdeski all roared as they watched the kid, whose shaking and hopping was only making the sugar burn worse, while the fireworks began to pop over their heads. It made for a spectacular sight. Kirk's silhouetted outline was bathed in multiple and changing color by the exploding sky show. Only a select curse or two actually made it above the noise of the fireworks and the Overture. His hopping was nearly in time with the downbeat of the music. The four men howled with laugher, no one interested in making any effort to help the FNG.

Blissfully, the sugar eventually cooled enough for Jim to peel it off his hand. He threw it angrily on the ground and stomped over to the cooler to grab another cold beer. Laying his hand against the can, he sighed in relief before he shoved his hand in the bag of marshmallows and reloaded the fork he picked up off the ground. Jim cursed under his breath while he glared at the dessert. It would not end this way.

Still recovering from his laughing fit, McCoy said, "Give up, Jim. You've lost."

"I'm a Kirk," he growled. "I don't believe in no-win scenarios."

The sergeant rolled his eyes. "As you've told me, every other day. I guess I always thought you'd lose to something a little more threatening," he said with a twinkle in his eye, unable to resist.

Scotty passed a package of chocolate toward Jim and Serdeski handed over the graham crackers. Pike clapped Kirk on the shoulder and said, "It's okay, Jim. There's always next year. But, you are now on my shit list, because you just cost me twenty bucks because you failed," the lieutenant said in his ear.

Jim sighed, a little embarrassed at the show he'd just put on. He tried to keep the scowl of disapproval on his face, but he found that he simply couldn't. He dissolved into a fit of laughter while he remade his s'more. Kirk possessed the uncanny ability to laugh at himself, and it really was funny, the way the entire night was going. From being puked on by one of their frequent fliers to being assaulted by two drunk women at a family barbecue and then getting dunked in the drink by his partner, the molten marshmallow was the humors icing on the proverbial cake.

The relaxing barbecue on the roof of the police station was a wonderful surprise, and the perfect way to wrap up the day. As the grand finale of the fireworks exploded overhead, Jim couldn't help but think how secretly happy he was to be welcomed by the fraternity. It was important to him, the acceptance, and he knew he'd work hard to keep it.

That didn't mean he wasn't about to figure out a way to pay McCoy back for his splashdown in the Canal of Disgusting. But, that could wait…a week or so. There was a reason the other kids left him alone in school, and it had nothing to do with the fact Jim was the military brat who'd lost his father. It was because Kirk was the kid who had mastered the practical joke. Kirk looked over at McCoy, the older man bickering away with Scotty over something related to cars. He fought down the devious smile that was about to spread across his face as his genius brain thought of different ways to punk his unsuspecting partner.

The bastard would never know what hit him.

And he would deserve it all.