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Part 5: Reevaluations

The next morning dawned clear and bright. Jo was better still, the infection having reached 99.95% completion before they’d both turned in the previous night. The Commission had their first report. Dr. Stobann and Dr. Strauss both had their updates—Stobann had been far too smug (especially for a Vulcan) about something, but seemed genuinely thrilled things were working. Jocelyn and Clay knew what was going on, and were beside themselves with joy and relief—he was pretty sure Joce had sent Jo’s old doctors a very nasty message about Jo’s condition and the quality of their care… it would have been out of character for her five years ago, but he was beginning to understand a lot better how Jo’s illness had affected her. It was too bad that it took such tragedy, such near-disaster for Jocelyn to shed a little bit of her rigid adherence to tradition, but then again, he understood it very deeply, intimately. After all, without the trauma of losing his father, helping his father die, breaking up with Jocelyn, and (temporarily) losing Jo, he probably never would have been honest with himself that he was gay, would have never shed Leo’s shell and become Bones. Trauma and tragedy brought out the best—or at least better—in people sometimes.

He and Jo were going to enjoy at least another week of vacation at his mother’s—technically Jo’s school started back up the following week, but after the bullying and her recovery, Jocelyn, Clay, and he had all agreed she deserved some extra time off and could catch up at home if need be.

With all that sorted out and the immeasurably immense burden of Joanna’s illness suddenly lifted from his shoulders, Bones couldn’t help feeling like he was starting the first day of the rest of his life in a completely portentous, paradigm-shifting sort of way. So, for the first time since leaving the Enterprise two weeks before, Bones set aside his discomfort, and slipped into dark civilian jeans and an old, soft, worn flannel shirt that had been his father’s. The pattern was woven from blues and greens, and if Jim were here, it would say it looked good on Bones, brought out his eyes. But Jim wasn’t there, and Bones felt no less adrift without his best friend than he had the last thirteen mornings.

Breakfast was a much more subdued affair than bones would have expected. He made good, old fashioned hotcakes from scratch on his mother’s ancient cast iron griddle. And cut up fresh fruit for a salad with Joanna as his helper, while Eleanora ran oranges one of her cousins had sent from farm in Florida. It should have been fun, lighthearted, playful even, but the moment Bones set foot in the kitchen, his daughter and mother had given him identical looks of worry and shock, and ever since they’d been exchanging glances and mouthing things to each other behind his back. He didn’t know what to make of it, but Jo assured him she was fine, and he had the tricorder readings to back her statement up. The infection was 100% complete, and she was definitely on the mend.

“I see you didn’t wear your uniform today, his mother said,” towards the end of the meal.

“Um, yeah.” He looked down at the flannel shirt, tried not to think about missing Jim. “I’m not on duty, and I’m not really working, so I can actually relax a little, and there’s no need for me to hide behind Starfleet, so...” he shrugged, feeling distinctly like a kid who was in trouble and trying to argue his way out of it.

“Uh huh,” Eleanora deadpanned. She shot another glance at Jo that he couldn’t interpret, and excused herself to the office... with the door closed.

He looked back at Jo, but she was looking after her grandmother with a hopeful expression.

“So,” he said.

Jo turned back to him, features falling into a mask of concern.

“What do you say we play some chess later, after I finish my reports?” he suggested, projecting confidence into his voice.

“Okay, daddy,” she agreed. “Let me know when you’re ready,” and ran off after his mother.

He didn’t know what to make of it. Perhaps they were planning some sort of ill-advised surprise, to thank him or something?

He pushed the curious behavior aside and focused on cleaning up after the remains of their breakfast. When he’d finished, Jo and Eleanora still had their heads together in the office, so rather than disturb them he went to his room and finished up the latest batch of reports, emerging only when it was time to send them on to the Commission.

Jo and Eleanora had finished whatever strange conversation or scheme they’d been involved in, and seemed much calmer and less secretive... even if they did still shoot him worried glances every now and then.

He and Jo played chess. She beat him, but whether that was more a testament to her skill or his distraction was anyone’s guess. Afterwards they shared lunch on the McCoy home’s wrap-around porch.

Bones checked Joanna’s stats again, sent out another update, shot a quick comm to Stobann to thank him again and discuss some details of how to move forward with their collaboration, and then Bones was free, and suddenly faced with an overwhelming lack of anything he had to do... a prospect that was far more terrifying than he’d anticipated.

He finally settled on reuniting with the horses as a way to keep himself busy as he tried to figure out the what now that had been nagging at him since he got out of bed that morning. He groomed Peaches and Buttercup, relaxing incrementally with each swipe of the curry comb across their sides. He let them out in the fenced corral to graze and frolic after making sure they had fresh oats and water. While the horses played, he spent a few hours mucking out their stables, and finally saddled up Peaches and took her for a walk and then trot, along one of the shorter paths on the farm. When they got back he spent a good twenty minutes putting Buttercup through her paces so she wouldn’t feel neglected.

By the time both horses were exercised and reacquainted with him, the sun was just starting to dip below the horizon, casting the sky in brilliant, almost iridescent hues of purple and orange and red. Thin, wispy cirrus clouds high in the atmosphere added an almost ethereal quality to the tableau.

As he leaned against the rough-hewn planks of the wooden fence—a fence he and his father had spent countless hours working on together over the years—watching Peaches and Buttercup play and nip and graze and whinny, he couldn’t help but think of Jim, and the Enterprise, and her crew (his family), but most of all and especially Jim. Over the past five years, he’d gotten the notion he and Jim would be side-by-side forever, leaning on each other, counseling, reassuring, guiding, keeping each other sane through thick and thin, war and peace, at least until one of them—probably Jim, between his knack for trouble and his permanently malfunctioning immune system, his luck was probably gonna run out sometime, even with Bones there—made their exit from the universe.

Only now... Now it looked like that wouldn’t be the case. Suddenly here was Bones, in Leo’s old world, with the chance to see Jo, and keep on seeing her, and she was healthy (or well on the way to being), and he didn’t have to go back into space. He had a research project to work on with Stobann wherever he was in the galaxy, and he felt like he had to step up and do the ‘right thing.’ Put being a father first. After all, isn’t that what Jim, with his broken childhood, and fatherless life, want?

But if he stayed here, who would watch out for Jim? And who would be there for him? What about second chances and falling in love? Was he doomed to be forced to pick the shot at one second chance over another?

His thoughts swirled, as the sky dimmed and sunset deepened, shadows casting the farm and the horses in stark relief. A faint breeze blew across the rolling fields, carrying with it the scent of peaches and home...

He leaned forward, into the fence, dropping his forearms to lean on the top rung.

“Penny for your thoughts?” a voice—Jim’s voce—asked from beside and behind him.

It was impossible... he must be imagining, like that scent that had drifted in on the breeze... it smelled like Bones’s home, not Leo’s—sweat and defiance and apples and sunshine...

“Bones?” Jim—it was definitely Jim—asked again.

Bones turned, as a familiar hand reached out and snaked itself under the flannel shirt, warm palm pressed firmly against his suddenly fluttering abdomen. “Jim?” he asked, voice suddenly both rough and breathy, “What are you doing here?”

“Well,” Jim said, an impish grin spreading over his face, as he took a half-step towards Bones, locking eyes. “We’re supposed to start our vacation together tomorrow, but seeing as I hadn’t heard from you...” He let his voice trail off, shrugged as he patted Bones’s stomach, and stepped away. “I love that flannel on you, Bones, you really do look awesome in blue.”

Bones watched as Jim—here, real, whole, mine—still in his Captain’s uniform, command gold glinting in the last beams of the setting sun, walked about four meters away and dropped to the ground, tangling himself up in the fence in a way only Jim could manage.

“I think we need to talk,” Jim began, “Only, I don’t mean that in an ominous way, you know?” He cast a smile at Bones. “Just, I think I need to tell you some stuff and help you stop being an idiot.”

“I’m no—” Bones retorted.

“I talked to your mother. Twice.”

Bones turned his head towards Jim, shocked. “You what?”



Jim shrugged again, eyes gazing out over the corral, watching the horses, one arm casually draped over the fence. “You know, you weren’t replying to my comms, and our vacation is coming up. I wanted to know where you were gonna be so I could come and spend it with you.” He shot a smile at Bones, reaching up to brush blonde hairs from his forehead where they’d gotten plastered in the humidity. Looking back to the horses, he continued, “Besides, I know you, and I needed to make sure you weren’t getting into one of your funks... well, I knew you were, but I was hoping maybe you were just busy. But I know better than to hope, so I called your mom.”

“Why my mom?” Bones asked after a moment. “‘Cause I figured you’d try to make amends, ask forgiveness or something else you didn’t really need to ask for, and she’s a lot less scary than calling Jocelyn. I mean, she may be letting you see Jo, but I doubted she’d want to hear from,” Jim quirked the corner of his mouth up, still watching the horses, “the other woman.

“The wha—” Bones spluttered, unsure if Jim had really just compared himself to some sort of... husband-stealing harlot. “We’re not even... you’re not—”

Jim cast Bones a pointed glance, which shut him right up.

Oh. It was like that. That was how Jim felt, Bones realized as he caught the expression, emotion, intent in Jim’s eyes.

“Like I was saying, your mom was the safer bet. I knew she’d know where you were, and lo and behold, you were here, with her. And she told me that you’d almost got Jo cured, but you wouldn’t ask me for help getting the application fast-tracked, and you were making noises about staying here, and leaving Starfleet and doing the right thing. In other words, exactly what I feared.”

Huh? Jim feared that? Bones shifted against the fence and opened his mouth to speak, but Jim was already speaking again, kicking at the dirt around one of the fence posts with his shiny, black regulation boots, which were quickly becoming covered with red dirt, a small plume of rusty-looking dust billowing across the corral, and glinting in the remaining sunlight.

“I told her I’d already prepped a statement. I mean, I’d never met her, but I love Jo like she was my own, because she’s yours and the closest thing to my own kid I’m likely to ever get, and she means so much to you. Besides, being sick as a kid sucks, especially when adults are busy being idiots about your treatment. So, I’ve been trying to put all my weight and celebrity behind this, only, I couldn’t figure out where to send the letter!” He snorted. “So, Eleanora helped me out, and I made sure it was okay to come down here for our shore leave. And then, what do you know, the next day I get this convoluted message from Dr. Stobann telling me you’re being a stubborn idiot and asking me to write in. I reassured him of course, and sent another letter for good measure.” He tisked. “I have to say, I was disappointed I had to hear it from Stobann and not you when the Commission decided to pull their heads out of their ass. But I was relieved. I was all ready to beam down here tomorrow, but this morning, your mom and Jo commed me again. They were freaking out ‘cause you’d ditched the uniform for civvies.” He cast an appreciative eye over Bones’s flannel-clad torso. “I have to say, I like the shirt on you, just not what it means.” He plucked a grass stem from a tuft near the fence and began twirling and rolling it back and forth between his palms. “So, I rearranged a few things, took a shuttle down as soon as Alpha shift was over, and beamed into Atlanta from Starfleet HQ. Caught a hovercab out here, and not one moment too soon.”

Silence stretched between them. Jim seemed content to play with the grass, watch the horses, and kick at the dirt. Bones tried to make sense of what Jim had said. Why was he worried, or maybe upset about Bones thinking of staying? Wouldn’t he want Jo to have a dad who was around? Jim... Jim had feelings for him... like that? The questions swirled and swirled in his head, circling faster with sun as it sunk below the horizon. He could hear the racket of cicadas as they perked up with the slight dip in temperature that marked the onset of evening.

“I missed you,” Jim said at last. So much emotion in his quiet words, Bones’s heart ached for having put that loss, longing in Jim’s voice.

“I wasn’t sure if you’d come,” he admitted, tearing his eyes from the horses to meet Jim’s eyes. There, he’d said it. Revealed the depth of his self-doubt. They weren’t anything official, bound, on paper, so why would Jim come to help Bones’s family? Especially if that family might take Bones away from Jim...

“You’re an idiot, sometimes, Bones,” Jim quipped with an exasperated sigh. “Bones, you are my family, and that means Jo is my family too. If you want a piece of paper to back that up, I’m not gonna say ‘no,’ although, I thought you might want to ease into things a bit, properly do the whole sleeping and living together thing for a while... we haven’t regularly shared a room since the Academy after all, and back then I was still trying to exorcise my demons by being the campus hoverbike.”

“You really mean that,” Bones observed, his brow furrowing, perplexed. “But Jim, now that I’ve got Jo, that I can see her again, doesn’t that mean I should, you know be here, around, near her?”

“Did you ask Jo what she wants?” Jim asked, his voice soft, barely audible over the evening breeze.

“Yeah,” Bones replied, resting his chin on his hands, elbows propped on the rough fence rung. “But I don’t know if she’s just saying that because she thinks that’s what I want, to stay in Starfleet, on the Enterprise.

“Did you think maybe it’s both?” Jim said cryptically.

“What?” Bones asked, propping his head up higher.

“Maybe she really wants you to stay with me, on the Enterprise, and maybe a part of the reason is that she knows it’s where you’re most at home, happy, yourself? Maybe your kid wants you to be happy.”

“But...” Bones started to protest. He shook his head in disbelief. “Funny, I thought you’d be trying to convince me to stay here at all costs, not leave my daughter to grow up without a father.”

Jim’s face blanched, color draining from it so it looked stark and pale against the evening sky. His eyes narrowed. Bones feared he’d unwittingly made some grand insult, and maybe he had, but the hurt in Jim’s eyes softened into something… a deeper sadness. “You know my mom. And you know we don’t always get along, but we try. Yeah?”

It was a rhetorical question, but Bones found himself nodding in acknowledgment nonetheless.

“I hated it when she went into space.” Jim’s voice was strangely devoid of emotion, taking on a quality Bones had only heard when Jim was talking about the really fucked up stuff in his childhood like Frank and Tarsus IV. “At first, I just missed her, but later, after Sam left… I hated that she wasn’t there to stop Frank.” His voice broke a little.

Bones felt a sympathetic pang run through him. He wanted to reach out and comfort Jim, or maybe slip into the gruff mask he wore whenever emotions hit too close to home, come back with some cynical retort. But he stayed silent, listening, respecting Jim’s need to share. After all, he’d come all this way…

“And afterwards,” Jim continued, a little more steadily, “when things got bad enough, and I wound up on Tarsus… I used to wish she’d been there because maybe she could have done something to stop it. But somewhere in there, I realized that if my mom had stayed, if things had stayed like they were before she left? I would have hated her. We never could have managed the relationship we have now. I mean it’s not great, but it’s a hell of a lot better than nothing.”

Bones let the words wash over him, as he watched Buttercup and Peaches lap at the water in the long trough, tails swishing gently. He didn’t understand where Jim was going, but he was pretty sure there was an important lesson in there somewhere, and he was going to do his damndest to learn it.

“Mom was miserable when I was little. She resented me. I think she resented Sam too, but for different reasons. He was the constant reminder of Dad with his name, and I was the one who looked like Dad, who was born the day he died, who was small enough Starfleet kept using it as an excuse to keep her stationed planetside. They were trying to do her a favor, but all they were really doing was driving her mad. So, she had to get away. For all the shit that came after, I’d never been able to just talk to my mom until she left. It… sometimes I think if she’d left sooner, maybe she would have been happier, and I would have been happier, and a lot of really fucked up shit wouldn’t have happened. Maybe she wouldn’t have married Frank. But that is merely a hypothetical, a ‘what if.’” He squirmed, using the arm he had hooked over the top of the fence to help pull himself out from under it, standing fluidly, bushing the grassy dew and dust off his pants, and reaching into a back-cracking stretch.

Bones marveled at Jim’s movements, that he could appear so lighthearted and casual when talking about something so—dark. But that was Jim. That was his defense mechanism. Bones doubted Jim was even aware he did it, always making it seem like the painful stuff rolled off him like water off a duck’s back. Even now, when it was just the two of them…

Jim crossed the four or so meters to Bones, sliding in behind him, and laying his hands on Bones’s shoulders, giving a gentle squeeze. “Your situation, with Jo, however, is not a hypothetical. You know you won’t be happy here. You belong in space, with me. In Starfleet, on the Enterprise. We belong together. That’s how you’re happiest, how I’m happiest, and Jo knows that. She sees it, she understands, and she’s giving us her blessing. I know, she told me,” Jim added before Bones could protest. “You could stay and go through the motions of being a dad, losing yourself a little more every day, or you could be the most awesomely unconventional dad in the galaxy, flying around and saving people and telling her all about it—comming her on subspace, exchanging letters, sending holos, spending shore leave with her on Earth—or maybe even having her come up and stay with you—us.” Jim made a chuckling noise. “It’d be a blast to have her on the Enterprise if we were doing something safe enough she could be our guest. A little mini-Bones running around… driving Spock nuts. Oh, but Uhura would love her, and then Spock would have to try to get along. It would be so much fun!” He sounded positively gleeful.

Bones still wasn’t sure. He heard Jim, was surprised by the words, but they made sense, in a way. He’d wondered off an on, if maybe there was still a little bit of Leo’s self-sabotaging tendencies running amok inside. Maybe that was something he, Bones, would always have to keep in check. It was just—was Jim really saying he should leave Joanna behind? That it was okay to be an ‘absent’ father?

Sensing his hesitation, Jim tapped his shoulder lightly, snapping him out of her musings. “She’s got Joce and Clay to be there for her every day. They’re good parents. It’s not like mom leaving me behind with Frank. Jo needs you to be you—to be her inspiration, to show her to fight hard, work harder, and believe in things. To be true to herself. She’s got that now, so don’t take it away from her. Take it from someone who knows… Use this as the opportunity it is, to be in her life, with open lines of communication, but don’t make a choice you’ll regret later.” Jim squeezed his shoulders again, and slipped his arms around Bones, placing a tender kiss to the back of his neck. “Learn from my mom’s mistakes. Don’t think it’s okay to sacrifice your happiness for her… because neither of you will be happy—and, well, I’d be rather unhappy too.” Jim hugged him tight.

He could feel Jim’s body flush against is back, not a millimeter of space between them. He let Jim’s words—Jim’s blessing, wisdom—wash over him, sinking in little by little until finally, as the stars were starting to brighten in the night sky, he pushed off the fence, and twisted in Jim’s arms, bringing them face-to-face. Their eyes met for a moment before Jim closed his eyes and started to lean in, tipping his head just so to the side as Bones mirrored his actions, only with eyes open. They came closer, closer, closer… until finally their lips touched with a spark of passion and inevitability—soft, moist skin parting, welcoming, tongues darting out and tangling, dueling. Their arms snaked tighter around each other, Bones’s right hand sliding up to cradle Jim’s head. Jim’s left hand slipping around the small of Bones’s back, pulling him closer. They kissed, tongues chasing, for a good three minutes before they finally had to pull back for air.

Bones had been waiting for this… something like this moment to finally tip the scales between them, send them across the line from best friends to partners. Now that it had happened, he found himself wondering how it had taken so long, how he could have survived so long without having Jim with him—without being Jim’s—like this. Everything had changed, and nothing had changed. They were still Jim and Bones, two improbable Starfleet officers who met even less probably on a shuttle, living in an alternate universe and trying to cope with the hand life had dealt them. They’d clicked from that first moment and now they were finally sliding the rest of the way into place, edges connecting and blurring and smoothing until they were one piece.

Jim was looking straight into his eyes, his own eyes shining brilliantly blue and damp with unshed tears.

Bones gasped a little overwhelmed by the depth of emotion he found there. He’d never appreciated how close in height they were before, until now, when he could stare into Jim’s eyes and see his own soul reflected back at him.

Jim leaned in for another kiss, open mouthed, without tongue, just a little grab of lips, before sliding around to press a kiss to Bones’s neck, just below his left ear. “Don’t ever do that to me, again,” he whispered. “I don’t ever want to feel that alone again. Even Spock was worried. And I was so distracted I almost ate strawberry jam by mistake, and Chekov had to stop me, and it was so embarrassing, and Geoff M’Benga’s a great guy, but I just don’t trust him the same way I trust you, and—”

“Shh, shh,” Bones whispered. He was patting Jim’s back. Jim was shaking. Wow. Okay, now he felt like an idiot. How could he have thought staying away from Jim would work? “I’m not leaving you again, not going anywhere,” he murmured.

“You’d better not,” Jim said with a sniff.

Bones slipped his arms tighter around Jim, sliding one arm across his shoulders, and letting the other drift, naturally, down to Jim’s ass. It… well, it was remarkable for how incredibly natural that felt. “I’m sorry,” he added. “I thought—”

“You thought you needed to leave and figured a clean break would make things easier,” Jim finished for him. His tone saying ‘I’m on to you.’ “You should have seen my reaction when I realized you’d had boxes shipped here. Scotty actually feared for the ship!”

That reminded Bones, “So, what did you do about my application for indefinite leave?” He pulled back a little, leaning into the fence so he could see Jim.

Jim chuckled, looking bashful, raising a hand to rub at the back of his neck. “Um,” he blushed bright red. “I processed paperwork to let you start your leave early, so you’ve been on personal leave the last two weeks, but your regular shore leave’s still set to start tomorrow,” he said sheepishly. “I was going to consider processing the application only if we were ready to head back out into space and Jo was still sick.”

“And you really wrote letters to the Commission?” Bones asked.

If possible, Jim blushed even brighter. “I… I knew you weren’t asking me because you didn’t like how the system was set up, how much it depended on connections. Knew you were probably feeling sick just using your own title, but you couldn’t not do that, and neither could I.” He smiled, hand reaching up to tug at the collar of Bones’s flannel shirt. “I told them what I thought of the whole setup too. Even threw in a few thinly veiled references to the inadequacy and inequity of treatment of Tarsus IV survivors for good measure.”

Bones gasped. Jim just didn’t talk about that stuff. “Wow, Jim, you—”

“Like I said, Jo’s as good as mine. I would have regretted it forever if I hadn’t done everything I could.” He bit his lip, rocking back and forth on his feet a little with the pent-up nervous energy Bones found so familiar. “What do you say we go inside, have some dinner? It’s getting dark, and I’d like to be able to tell Jo I stopped her daddy from being a silly jerk.”

“A silly jerk?”

“Well, something like that,” Jim beamed. “What do you say? I heard your mom’s making chicken and dumplings and peach pie.”

“She is, is she?” Bones said, amused. They had more to say, more to sort out, but for now, he was just reassured to hear Jim talking about food. Considering how much trouble Jim had both remembering to eat and then finding something he could eat— peaches were on the very short list of fruits to which Jim wasn’t allergic—Jim being excited about food was a rare pleasure.

“She is, and it’s all food I can eat,” Jim added, taking Bones by the hand and leading him back along the grassy path to the farmhouse.

Bones glanced up, realized the stars were out; true night had fallen. Back at the house, he could see the lights on welcoming them. It was home, but yet… Jim was home. Smelled like home… He allowed himself to be led, while Jim rambled, taking in the sight of his best-friend-now-partner. Jim looked happy, and radiated energy, but even in the dim moonlight Bones could also see the lines of tension around Jim’s eyes, the shadows that dusted his cheeks. He took in Jim’s frame, how the gold uniform shirt hung a little too loosely from his frame. Well damn. Next time he had a freak out and thought about possibly leaving Starfleet he’d have to be a little more attentive to Jim’s health. It was pretty clear Jim hadn’t been eating properly. He knew Jim could take care of himself without him there to nag. But he hadn’t really stopped think about Jim’s motivation or desire to keep himself healthy without Bones around. Bones’s heart leapt as it filled both with pride that Jim valued him so much, and shame that he’d once again allowed his need to do what was supposed to be right overshadow what he felt deep down inside. Jim’s earlier babblings also finally sank in.

“Did you say you ate strawberries?” he asked, surprising Jim with the suddenness of his words.

Jim jumped a little, and tripped to a halt, just short of the steps leading to the back porch. “I said I almost ate strawberry jam,” he corrected.

Bones scowled at him.

“Okay, maybe I actually ate about two bites, and then Chekov screamed ‘what are you doing Keptin,’” Jim said in a near-perfect imitation of the Chekov’s voice, “and I looked down at the toast I’d been eating and… things went a little fuzzy after that. I woke up in sick bay with M’Benga hovering and Christine saying various slurs against our characters.”

“Our?” Bones asked.

“Well, me for being an idiot and eating the jam in the first place. You for leaving me on the Enterprise ‘unsupervised,’” Jim explained.

“Ah,” Bones said, starting walking again, this time leading Jim. “And I take it that wasn’t too long after I left, and you’ve been forgetting to eat since then?”

“Well not forgetting entirely,” Jim replied as they walked up the steps.

They fell into an easy familiar banter, and Bones felt relieved. Tension—worry for Jim—he hadn’t realized he was carrying sliding off his shoulders.

Dinner was a pleasant affair. Jim actually ate—a fair amount too, without a fuss—while Jo peppered him with questions about being the Captain of the Enterprise. Bones spent most of the meal in silence, watching Jim and Jo and how they interacted. They really were natural together. They seemed to connect so quickly, Bones was a little taken aback. Halfway through the meal Jim rested his free hand on Bones’s thigh under the table, giving it a gentle squeeze. Bones must have reacted visibly, because after that, his mother kept shooting him knowing—approving—looks. It was so, unexpected… so far from anything he’d expected—his mother for all her traditional Southern graces and acculturation out right encouraging his relationship with another man, he didn’t quite know how to react. So he just kept eating, enjoying home cooking he hadn’t tasted in years, and relishing the feeling of his family together, around him.

After they ate, Jim offered to clear the table, while Bones tended to his reports and running more tests on Joanna. Joanna was definitely on the mend. If Bones hadn’t been previously awed by the precision and quality of Dr. Stobann’s work, he would have disbelieved the readings he was getting from his tricorder. Roughly thirty-six hours after treatment the infection was complete and Joanna’s enlarged lymph nodes were already beginning to return to normal size. Bones sent off the latest numbers and observations to the Commission, and followed it with a message to Stobann, adding in a line thanking him for contacting Jim.

His attention returned to Jim, he marveled a little that his mother had allowed Jim—a guest—to do a chore, but then again… Jim really was family, and maybe his mother understood that better than he did. So he stayed in the office, looking out through the open door at Jim, humming to himself as he dried dishes manually. The site was so pleasing, so mesmerizing, Bones jumped when the comm beeped with an incoming message. It was Stobann encouraging him not to be illogical and accept his mate’s advances already… well, it wasn’t worded exactly like that, but the gist. Bones smiled to himself, and walked silently across the room to the sink where Jim stood.

“Hey there,” he said softly, sliding his arms around Jim’s hips and tucking his chin over his shoulder.

“Hey back,” Jim replied.

“So,” Jim said after he’d dried the last dish and turned so he was leaning back on his elbows, “is Jo okay?”

“Well on her way to being... and the Commission seems satisfied, for now anyway. Stobann says ‘hi’ too,” Bones added. His stomach was fluttering at the way Jim was almost flirting with him, while simultaneously showing genuine concern for Jo.

“I’m almost done here, you want to head up to bed?” Jim sounded so innocent, Bones wouldn’t have been surprised if Jim only had plans to sleep. He hung his head, almost... bashful.

Jim Kirk, bashful... who would have thought? Bones realized he needed to answer, not just stare at what he’d almost lost, given up.

Jim was staring at him now, amused, still flushed pink, but more relaxed. “It’s a simple question, Bones,” he said with a little more of the confidence he usually exuded.

“Um, let me see if my mom has fresh sheets for the other guest room, and I’ll get it fixed up for you,” he said trying to keep his cool. Judging by the dejected look in Jim’s eyes he’d been hoping, or expecting them to share a room. Bones would love that, he would, even if the prospect of sleeping with Jim like that was a little daunting. But his mother would surely never...

“Leonard!” Eleanora scolded. “Did I just hear you say you were going to stick Jim in the guest room?”

Bones spluttered, while Jim chuckled with amusement. “Well, yeah, mom, I figured—”

“I didn’t make you and Jocelyn sleep in different rooms when you were married, I’m not going to treat you any differently now, especially not after Jim has come such a long way to make sure you don’t do something stupid.”

“But, I assumed—that was different. We were married... Joce is a wom—” he started to explain.

“Bones,” Eleanora said, earning an affectionate smile from Jim whose arms were now crossed over his chest in amusement. “I want you to be happy. I’d prefer it if I knew you were safe, too,” she admitted, “but I also know how different, how much more alive, confident you are since you joined Starfleet, and a lot of that is because of Captain Kirk.”

“Uh, it’s okay for you to call me Jim, too,” Jim said.

“Because of Jim,” Eleanora clarified with a nod. “You’ve got to get it through your thick skull that you’re not second class, not in my household. So unless you and Jim are having some kind of spat, don’t make him sleep in the guest room on my account.”

Bones started to open his mouth again.

“Or Jo’s,” Eleanora said with a fierce waggle of the finger. “Goodnight, boys,” she added and strode purposefully from the room.

“Um,” Jim whispered, blushing bright red. “Do you want to maybe show me your room?” he asked sheepishly.

Bones unfroze, struggling to keep up. “Yeah, sure, okay.” He gave a nervous chuckle and extended his hand to Jim.

Jim looked at Bones’s outstretched hand with a mixture of affection and amusement. “It’s just me,” he said as he laced his fingers with Bones’s.

“Yeah, well, I’m trying to be a gentleman here,” Bones muttered.

Jim laughed.

“I can’t help it,” Bones said in his defense. “It’s ingrained.”

“Are you going to carry me over the threshold, open doors for me, pull out my chair?” Jim teased.

Bones looked back at him as they climbed the stairs. Jim was bouncing like a giddy puppy. “If you don’t calm down, I’ve got a hypo or two with your name on it.”

Jim immediately calmed, squeezing Bones’s hand. “That’s more like it,” he murmured. “It’s just me; don’t get all weird on me.” He turned big blue eyes full of emotion on Bones, causing him to suck in a gasp and nearly trip on the stairs. “I’m just so glad we’re finally here,” he added with another squeeze.

Jim was so serious Bones wanted to give him a slap on the back or maybe a hug of reassurance, or do something much, much more. But they were on the stairs and that would be dangerous, so Bones settled for finishing the climb and ushering Jim into his bedroom as quickly as possible.

Jim looked around as Bones closed the door behind them. The room was a mess—paper journals PADDs and testing supplies and used hypo canisters were sprinkled around the room like some sort of strange snowfall. It was his turn to flush with embarrassment… but Jim…

“This is your room, your actual, childhood room, Bones?” he asked turning a smile at Bones, moonlight filtering in through the window cast faint shadows along his jaw line. “Wow. I never… never thought I’d get to see this. It’s special. A big part of you. Who you are.”

“Sorry for the mess?” The words left his lips before he really had time to process what Jim had said.

“It’s not a mess… it’s lived in. Show’s you’ve been working hard for our—for Jo… sorry.” The sheepish neck rubbing was back. “Getting a little ahead of myself there. I—I love you.” Jim looked up, locked eyes with Bones.

Bones felt like time had stopped. He was frozen and here… “I love you, Jim.” He was crossing the room, closing the distance between them, arms wrapping around Jim with an almost feverish need to hold, touch, ground himself. Jim’s arms rose up to meet his, intertwining as they half sat, half fell backwards on to Bones’s bed, which was mercifully free of detritus.

They landed with an ‘oof,’ followed by moments of silence spent staring at each other.

“You’re, you’re really here.” Bones was barely aware the words were coming from his mouth.

“I’m here. I’ll always be here, if you’ll have me,” Jim whispered into his ear.

Bones initiated another kiss, a quick tangle of lips and tongue that ended with him trailing kisses down Jim’s throat. He could feel his own heart hammering in his chest, while his lips pressed to Jim’s neck, his heartbeats like the fluttering of a hummingbird’s wings beneath the salty skin against his lips.

Jim’s hands were in his hair, fingers tangling, tugging, until finally Bones looked up. “I—I want to make love to you,” Jim stammered, eyes wild with a combination of fear and desire.

Bones hated hearing or seeing Jim afraid, so he instinctively reached out and caressed Jim’s face with his hand.

“Can we?” Jim asked hopefully.

Bones looked around a little nervously.

“If you’re worried about your mom, I think she gave us permission, or her blessing... and Jo, well, I’m sure she’d figure it out no matter what, ‘cause she’s a freakishly smart kid, but we can be really quiet.” He bit his lip, not the seductive come-on he might have given to a prospective lay, but a nervous, almost embarrassed move. “I just really want to be with you, and we’ve waited so long.” He raised pleading eyes to Bones.

“Wow,” he said, overwhelmed by Jim’s display of desire and vulnerability. “Who’d have thought the famous James T. Kirk would promise to be quiet during sex.” He was trying to lighten the mood, but thought for a moment maybe he’d ruined everything, because Jim’s body stiffened underneath his, and Jim’s face became almost painfully serious. Bones had opened his mouth to apologize, and was starting to move to get off of Jim to give him room to stand or breathe or do whatever it was he needed to do, when Jim stopped him—a hand clasped firmly around his bicep, another hand still tangled in his hair, and one foot hooked into the back of his knee. Bones stilled.

“Look at me,” Jim commanded in a soft, but firm, voice.

Bones obeyed. Jim’s eyes were full of pain, but hopeful, determined.

“Let’s get one thing straight,” he continued. “You’re not fucking James T. Kirk, you’re with me, Jim. Jim who loves you and wants to make love to you. That other stuff, you know it’s just a persona, a defense mechanism, just sex.” he paused, looking Bones directly in the eye. “I don’t ever want us to be ‘just sex.’ I’m not saying we won’t fuck hot and heavy sometimes, but you’re not... I’m not... That’s not what this is about.”

“I know,” Bones acknowledged, stealing another kiss, resting his forehead against Jim’s and just breathing.

“I think we’re wearing too many clothes,” Jim said at last, his voice muffled where his lips were mashed up against Bones’s cheek.

“I—I think you’re right,” he agreed, levering himself up to hands and knees—carefully, considering how precariously close his right knee was to Jim’s crotch—and unbuttoned the flannel shirt.

Jim’s eyes grew wide and appreciative as centimeter after centimeter of skin was revealed. He reached up with both hands and pushed the soft fabric from Bones’s shoulders. While Bones struggled to free his hands of the cuffs, Jim explored his chest and torso with nimble fingers. He tweaked Bones’s nipple and elicited a gasp.

“Let, let me get my pants off,” Bones panted, his civilian clothes suddenly much too tight.

Jim unhooked his leg from the back of Bones’s knee, allowing him to shimmy out of jeans and boxers.

Bones had an awkward moment where his pants were caught on his shoes and socks, but then he managed to kick them off, half-stepping, half-stumbling out of his remaining garments. Finally, he was naked and leaning over Jim, hands planted on either side of his torso. “Off,” he muttered, tugging at the bottom of Jim’s shirts.

Jim obliged by curling up enough that Bones was able to pull both his uniform shirt and regulation black undershirt off in one tangled lump. Jim tossed the shirts to the side and hiked his hips up enough so Bones could divest him of trousers and shorts, just as soon as he’d slipped Jim’s boots off.

Then they were both naked, and Bones found himself gasping for breath as they pressed together, skin to skin, Jim’s body spread out beneath him, golden planes of skin and firm, toned muscles begging to be explored.

He started laying kisses across Jim’s clavicle, while his hands mapped every millimeter exposed to him. It was hardly the first time he’d seen Jim naked. After all, they had been roommates at the academy, and he was Jim’s CMO and personal physician, but there was nothing roommate-y or clinical about this. They were together for the first time, and Jim seemed so, beautiful, Bones marveled that Jim was actually his to explore. His fingers found the lines of scars—some old and ragged acquired at times when Jim hadn’t been able to access the modern convenience of a dermal regenerator or any medical care to speak of; others were newer, faint lines from phaser fire, debris, surgery, all the injuries too big to completely repair. And then there were the scars, like the fine, white lines around his face, the little dips and divots of skin that seemed collected everywhere on his body, but especially around his face. Some were the result of ill-advised bar fights where Jim had been too drunk or broken to seek medical treatment, while others were older still… Signs of abuse. Trophies from a time when Jim had been too small to fight back and encouraged to hide or actively kept from medical attention. Bones’s heart ached for all the tragedies Jim had already faced in his relatively young life. It was too much, too much for any one person to face in a life time, and yet, here Jim was, just past twenty-seven and he’d lived—survived—it all.

Bones didn’t realize his fingers had faltered, or that he had tears in his eyes until Jim was murmuring into his ear and nudging his head up to meet Jim’s eyes.

“Bones, Bones,” Jim said over and over again until he had Bones’s attention. Fingertips pressed to the underside of Bones’s chin, eyes locked, he spoke. “I’m okay. I’m here. With you. That’s all in the past. I’ve got you now.” He pressed a chaste kiss to Bones’s lips.

“S-sorry,” Bones stuttered. “I guess I’m just feeling a little… overwhelmed?” It came out as a question, but he nodded, and Jim seemed to understand. “Jo being sick and seeing her and worrying about losing you, having to leave you behind and … and now we’re here.” He shuddered out a breath. “I didn’t realize I was that stressed out,” he admitted, tucking his head into the crook of Jim’s neck, feeling the slightly sweaty tangles of Jim’s hair and the faintest brush of stubble rub against his cheek as he took in Jim’s scent—salty, familiar, home.

“If you want to just sleep, we can sleep. I can wait,” Jim offered, his voice sincere.

Bones thought about it. Thought about how long it had been since he’d been intimate with anyone. Thought about the thrum beneath his skin that urged him, begged almost, to get closer, closer to Jim. No, he needed this. He needed to ground himself in Jim. He must have said that last part out loud because Jim was looking at him with understanding eyes and nodding. He shifted, could feel Jim pressed against the front of his thigh, still half-hard despite the disruption and nodded. “Okay,” he said aloud, “I want to make love to you.”

Part 4: Resolutions | Part 6: Rebirth and Epilogue | Master Post


Art by coldmero here at deviantart