“Really, Bones, I just don’t think I can stomach breakfast. I feel kind of weird.” Jim said, his hand rising up to his head, twitching a little before habitually messing with his hair. Bones tried not to roll his eyes too hard.
“Dammit, Jim! Fine, but I’m gonna bring along some peaches, just in case ya get hungry. Y’know ya can’t live of air, bread an’ meat alone, don’t ya?” Bones could feel his drawl slipping back into his speech, coaxed out by the gorgeously warm Georgia weather.
“Sure. Lead on, Bones.” Jim waved for him to take the lead, so he did, emerging from their kitchen holding his basket of peaches and blueberries and the rug he’d brought along to lie on if Jim decided he didn’t want to try out the spare hammock.
The garden was beautifully lit, the sunlight playing on the lush green grass, lighting it up brightly in the patches where it was allowed to grow tall, speckled with the bright yellows and reds and blues of wildflowers. He led them to a spot where two hammocks hung between different trees, the grass here mowed down to a soft brush that could withstand blankets more easily. He laid it out, setting the basket, bottles of water, and the ice bucket cooling their ingredients for some mint juleps, hiding them in the shade to keep them safer.
“Hey, quit leanin’ against the tree an’ pick if ya want hammock or blanket.” Bones called over to Jim, who seemed mesmerised by the soft breeze making ripples scatter through the grass around them. He looked up, and Bones saw him wince.
“Damn, Bones, the sun is unfairly bright today.” Jim squinted over at Bones, making him laugh.
“Iowan brat.” Bones accused, good-naturedly. “Now, are ya gonna try the hammock, or use the blanket like a coward?”
Jim glared at him, and sat in the hammock. It swayed back and forth violently as Jim attempted to fit his limbs in, but halfway through he started to flail, clearly unbalanced, and he landed in a sprawl of limbs on the grass as Bones stifled a laugh.
“I’m glad you find my pain hilarious.” Jim said his voice muffled by the sprawl he was still lying in. “Everything hurts, its boiling hot, and my sense of balance is way off, give me a break!”
“Oh, quit whinin’, Jim. Georgia’s summer is a cruel mistress, but ya can’t tell me it ain’t beautiful out, too.” Bones moved over to help Jim up, but Jim ignored him ostentatiously, stumbling dramatically over to the blanket and flopping down on it.
“Right. I’m defeated, Bones. Coward I am.” Jim said, weakly, and raised his middle finger when Bones laughed.
Bones settled into the hammock, taking the occasional sip of mint julep, watching the clouds and enjoying the peace. The heat was heavy on his skin, and he was grateful for the cool drink. He twisted his head to check on Jim, and saw him still in the position he’d collapsed in on the rug below.
“Hey, Jim, why didn’t ya make a drink? It’d help with the heat.”
“I’m really not feeling that right now. Everything’s all clammy, and I have no energy.”
“If ya want me to make one for ya, all ya gotta do is ask, darlin’.” Bones grinned, swinging himself down from the hammock with ease to start preparations.
“No, I mean it. Not feeling it. Sorry. No energy, don’t want that mixing with something that sugary and alcoholic.” Jim said, his voice sounding rather subdued.
“Well, if ya have no energy, it’s probably the lack of breakfast an’ the heat.” Bones tutted in a way that would have made Mama McCoy frown and laugh at the same time. “At least have a peach.” He tossed it over to Jim, where it lay by his hand, before getting back in the hammock.
“Thanks, Bones.” Jim fell silent again, and Bones resumed his cloud-watching. It was bittersweet, being back in Georgia. What with the loss of his father, his Mama too cut up over it to see him, and Jocelyn claiming Joanna for herself, it felt almost overwhelmingly swamped with memories, fond and horrible alike. But at least he wasn’t alone. Something in him warmed at the idea of sharing such things with Jim. It made a nice change from the usual, more dangerous experiences they tended to share.
“Hey, kid, ain’t like ya to be quiet for this long. Did ya fall asleep on me?” Bones rolled out of the hammock, and blinked. Jim had snagged the peach, but he hadn’t taken a single bite. It was clutched tight in his hand, and he was curled up around it, blue eyes glazed, and he was shivering. Instantly, the doctor in him went on high alert. “Dammit, Jim!”
Bones darted forwards, on his knees beside Jim in a heartbeat. He touched his forehead, and felt it running high with fever - either brought on by the heat, or by some irksome bug. He dragged the basket to them, pulling out his emergency med-kit that he always had, because with this damn kid at his side God only knew what kind of trouble they could always get into. He scanned Jim to confirm - a low-grade but nasty fever - and took out a basic temperature-regulator hypo, and pulled Jim’s t-shirt aside, pushing it in as gently as possible.
“Hey, Jim, you with me? That’s ta get your temperature down. You’re gonna be okay, alrigh’, darlin’?” Jim tried to nod, and then curled into himself tighter with a distressed whine. “Movin’ hurts, huh.” Bones hooked the med-kit to his belt, and gathered Jim up, standing up carefully, slowed by their combined weights. “Let’s get ya inside.” He carried Jim over to the house, up the stairs, and deposited Jim onto their bed gently. He tried to stand up to get some cooling compresses and was stopped. Somewhere along the way, Jim’s free hand hand tangled into Bones’ t-shirt, and he wasn’t letting go.
“Don’t go, Bones. M’sorry I’m being a brat.” Jim whispered, ashamedly.
“I ain’t leavin’ kid! An’ y’ain’t a brat! You have a fever, dammit! An’ I didn’t listen. Hell, I should be the sorry one. I go on about ya whinin’, but really y’ain’t that bad, an’ ya know your limits. Jus’ let go so I can come right back, hm?”
Jim released him, and Bones busied himself with getting a cold compress and the nutrient hypos that would get Jim through the fever as fast as possible. He returned to Jim’s side in a minute, and teased the peach out of Jim’s hand, setting it on their bedside table.
He administered the hypo as gently as possible, and then stroked Jim’s hair as he applied the cold compresses.
“M’sorry, darlin’. S’alrigh’, I’m gonna look after you now.”
“You sound all accent-y and soft…” Jim said, quietly, managing a weak grin. “Usually that’s when you’re feeling things.”
“Well, y’see, there’s this annoying, cocky little shit of a kid, who I really kinda like. An’ he’s got a fever righ’ now, so I’m kinda worried, an’ a bit guilty I ignored him for so long.”
“Sounds rough. Reckon he forgives you, though.” Jim’s eyes opened, searching out Bones’, and Bones took Jim’s hand, feeling his own eyes well up with tears at the gentle, precious, precarious trust in Jim’s expression. “He kinda likes you, too.”
“Dammit, kid, now I know ya got a fever. You’re delusional.” Bones joked, his voice rough with emotion.
“So’s your face.” Jim retorted, squeezing Bones’ hand back weakly, and Bones’ heart ached.
“Shut up an’ get better, brat.” He softened the words by pressing a quick, chaste kiss to Jim’s lips, and watched his eyes flicker shut again, vulnerable and flushed and in his care. Bones thought the tenderness inside him might split his heart in two. “Love ya, Jim.”