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In Blinding Clarity

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Leonard is still meeting with the local medical representatives about the vaccination program of this newly-inducted Federation world when the storm rolls in.

He watches it come closer -- at first just bright flashes on the distant horizon -- through the large windows in the high-floor conference room of the government building in the planetary capital. His local companions pay it little mind even when the sky grows dark as the storm hits the city, and the flashing lightning paints the room like a strobe light. One of the senior immunologists, seeing his distraction, briefly comments that it’s storm season and, as violent as it looks, this is a common occurrence, nothing to be worried about; another doctor chimes in about the feat of engineering that keeps their buildings well-soundproofed for such occasions, and then the focus is back on the medical issues at hand.

Their architects and engineers may have figured out the sound proofing, but Leonard can still feel the storm: in the floor under his feet and in his hands as he presses them to the table, a low, near-constant thrumming, almost like a starship on impulse engines.

Jim finds him in front of those widows a few hours later, the meeting over and the local officials gone. Leonard sees Jim’s reflection stop and stand a few feet behind him. He can’t tell if Jim’s watching the storm, or him. Jim clears his throat, “You, ah, ready to beam up?”

Leonard’s been dreading this inevitable moment since he realized that the storm wouldn’t just quickly pass through. “Oh, yeah,” he says. “This seems like a perfect time to have my atoms scrambled and scattered who knows where. I’m liable to end up back on the transporter pad with my toes on my hands. Or maybe there’ll be two of me.”

Jim crosses his arms and raises his eyebrows. But Leonard’s not done. “And don’t tell me I’m being ridiculous, I’m sure Scotty has assured you it’s safe, but you and I both know there have been incidents in the past.”

“Thought you might say that,” Jim says, suspiciously calm. “That’s why we’re not beaming up.”

“And another thing-- wait, what?”

Jim moves to stand beside him. “There’s no rush to get back. We’re scheduled to stay in this system for another 48 hours, to take scientific observations of the gas giants. Something Spock is more than capable of handling without me watching over his shoulder. In fact, he’ll probably be more efficient if I’m not. We’ll stay the night here, beam back in the morning. They tell me the storm will be gone by then.”

Leonard wasn’t expecting this. He feels guilty, tries to walk it back. “Look, Jim, it’s not necessary, I know the transporter will work fine. It’s just -- it’s been a long day.” He gestures out the window, “and I’ve had a ringside seat to this storm and it’s put me a little on edge. But there’s no need to change mission parameters just for me.”

But Jim stands firm. Reiterates that they have a capable crew who can handle the ship without her captain for a few hours. Mentions that he’s already made arrangements for a guest house with the the local officials who are happy to accommodate them, and they don’t want to risk insulting the newest member of the Federation and causing a diplomatic incident by backing out, do they?

Leonard doubts it would come to that, but he also knows from experience that once Jim gets an idea, it can be hard to shake it from him. At least this idea has less potential to be deadly or injury-causing than most of Jim’s plans.

“For the record, the rest of the landing party did manage to beam aboard safely without an evil twin or mismatched appendage in sight. But you and I are staying.”

Something warm washes over Leonard but he shoves it down, says instead, “Great. So that means I’m stuck here. In this storm. With you.”

Jim claps him on the shoulder enthusiastically. “Sure does.”

*

The emissary who escorts them to their lodging outside the city spends the shuttle ride discussing the local culture and pointing out notable landmarks -- illuminated bright by the still-raging storm. Leonard watches the surroundings quickly turn rural once they leave the city limits. The emissary raves about a local wine from this region, assuring them that the kitchen in their guest house has been stocked with a few bottles. Once they arrive at the small house, she gives them a quick tour, and then she’s gone, and he’s alone with Jim.

Immediately, Jim starts going around closing up all the window coverings: hiding them from the storm -- or maybe just hiding the storm from Leonard.

The outside of the house is unassuming; it wouldn’t look out of place in the countryside on Earth. Inside, it’s sleek and modern, like all of the buildings Leonard’s seen in the capital. So he’s surprised to see the wood burning fireplace, because it seems so out of place. Even the one in his family home in Georgia has been ornamental for generations. His surprise must cause him to stare at it too long, because once Jim’s done with the windows, he comes up beside him and says, “Well, obviously we should have a fire.”

As Jim sets to making the fire, Leonard puts together a dish of fruits and cheeses from the kitchen for them to eat. He pours them each a glass of the wine the emissary mentioned; it’s a little sweet for him at first taste, but it’s grown on him a little by the second.

He joins Jim back in the main room, silently handing him a glass of wine.

Jim holds his other hand out towards the flames as they crackle, strong and alive. “See? This is nice.”

“Yeah. Real cozy.”

Jim laughs, easy. “Don’t sound so put out by it, Bones.”

In truth, it is nice. They stay up late, drinking and bullshitting, working their way through two bottles of the wine. It almost feels like a late night back at the Academy, drinking in their dorm room. Both of their schedules felt impossibly full back then, and free time was stolen when they could get it. Compared to now, though, with their obligations as Captain and CMO, that free time was enormous.

So, yeah, it’s nice, having this time with Jim. But Leonard instantly feels guilty again for thinking it.

The fire pulls a memory out of Leonard. “Remember that bonfire, at the end of our first year?”

Jim leans back on his palms. “After you passed your flight practical. ‘Course I do.”

They fall silent for a while then, watching the flames dance. The flight practical had been months of anxious hell for Leonard. He was convinced he’d wash out of the Academy over it, and he never would have passed without Jim.

Jim, who gave up all of his Saturday nights in the month leading up to the exam because it was the only time that fit into both of their schedules so that they could book training time in the flight simulator; Jim, who patiently ran through countless variations of the beginner shuttle sim with him until Leonard actually felt like he might not fail; Jim, who woke him up the morning of his practical and insisted Leonard eat breakfast, even though Leonard barked at him the whole time that he’d probably just vomit it back up on his uniform; Jim, who practically tackled him with a bear hug as he exited the simulator on shaky legs, hardly believing it when his instructor told Leonard he’d passed.

And, of course, it was Jim who insisted that they head down to the beach with the other cadets in Leonard’s flight class, to build a bonfire to celebrate.

They’d been drinking beer instead of wine then, and the atmosphere was much rowdier. Towards the end of the night, they’d collapsed together on the sand, away from the crowd, well-beyond drunk, leaning heavily on each other; Jim’s body like a furnace, radiating heat next to him in contrast to the chilly San Francisco air.

He had almost kissed Jim that night.

But then he didn’t.

Now, Leonard says, “It’s been awhile since we did this.” His eyes track Jim’s tongue as it slides over his bottom lip, chasing a sip of wine. Its not that they never share a drink or a meal anymore -- in fact, they frequently eat meals together or drink after shift, or just sit and do their paperwork together in the same room, if their schedules line up. But duty is always a bosun’s whistle away.

“Bones, you’re not telling me you’re getting nostalgic about the Academy, are you? You spent half your time complaining about idiot cadets and their late night visits to the clinic--” Leonard directs a pointed eyebrow raise at Jim, who smirks at him and barrels on, “-- and most of the rest complaining about your course load.”

McCoy shoves lightly at Jim’s knee and realizes as he’s doing so how close they’ve migrated towards each other. “M’not feeling nostalgic about everything, just the good parts -- that’s the point of nostalgia.”

“The good parts, like that bonfire? And when we’d get takeout from that amazing Thai place? And that time I convinced you to break into the library with me and return that rare book I borrowed?”

“Stole.”

“Borrowed without prior approval. Basically, any time spent in the presence of yours truly?”

“You are so full of yourself, my god.” Then, more quietly. “But yeah, those parts.”

Leonard retreats into his thoughts again after that, without even realizing. It’s not until he notices Jim staring at him intently, brow furrowed, that Leonard pauses with his drink halfway to his mouth and frowns. “What’s wrong?”

Jim stares a little longer, his mouth slowly twisting upwards into a smile. “There’s that frown I know and love,” Jim teases. “You were smiling there for a minute, it was weird.”

Lifting his glass hides the return of his smile. “Asshole.”

Jim snorts in laughter as he knocks a shoulder against Leonard’s.

*

The fire’s dying and he’s nearly forgotten about the storm outside: warmed by the fire, the wine, the company. Jim looks almost impossibly beautiful in the low light.

And so, so close.

Leonard’s drawn to him almost without thought. Jim’s lips part slightly and he takes in a sharp breath. At the last second, Leonard thinks better of it, pulls back, clears his throat and drinks the last dregs of wine from his glass.

Alright, fine, he doesn’t think better of it. He chickens out.

“It’s getting late,” Leonard says, and he can feel his face heating up, can’t look Jim in the eye, can’t believe he almost changed everything. “I’m gonna head to bed.”

He heads down the hall and ducks into the first bedroom he finds, closing the door. He’s pacing, angry at himself for what an idiot he’s been. And then worst part is he’s not sure whether he’s more mad at himself for almost trying it in the first place, or for stopping. There’s a knock on his door.

When he opens it, he’s ready to make excuses, but Jim just says, “Seriously, Bones?” And then he’s stepping forward and cradling Leonard’s head in his hands, and kissing him. Leonard surrenders to it as Jim nips softly at Leonard’s lower lip and then sighs into his mouth.

Like a cloud lifted, Leonard realizes how stupid he’s been, all this time, how willfully blind with misplaced self-preservation (he’s had his heart stomped on before, after all). Jim wants it, too -- wants him too.

Leonard tugs at Jim’s hips until they’re flush against each other. Jim makes a low, pleased sound at the contact, but doesn’t speed up his languid exploration of Leonard’s mouth. The whole time, Jim’s been walking him slowly backwards towards the bed. They collapse on it together, a delighted laugh falling out of Jim’s mouth as he lands half on top of Leonard.

They scramble up the bed together, and as soon as Leonard’s head hits the pillow, he grabs Jim and flips their positions, pressing Jim’s wrists into the mattress.

“Oh, fuck,” Jim says, sounding equal parts impressed and turned on.

“We’ll get there, sugar, we have all night.” He feels Jim’s cock twitch against his hip at those words, and he grinds down into him, drawing out a moan.

Despite his best intentions to keep things slow, things move more quickly after that: hands tugging at shirt hems, Jim’s blunt fingernails dragging up his back, making him shiver, then smoothing back down to grab his ass. They reluctantly briefly break apart long enough to shuck off their pants and underwear, and then Leonard’s back on him, trailing kisses along Jim’s jaw as Jim writhes beneath him.

When Leonard’s knuckles graze along the underside of Jim’s cock, Jim makes some quip about hoping that their hosts thought to stock the bedrooms as well as the kitchen, and Leonard squeezes Jim’s cock before releasing it to check the nightstand. Sure enough, he finds lube there. He brandishes it so Jim can see.

“I love this planet, let’s never leave,” Jim says, and Leonard almost wishes he were serious.

Instead, Leonard puts the time they have here to good use: revels in the sounds Jim makes as he works him open with his fingers, gasps at the tight heat surrounding him when he pushes into Jim, and basks in the pleasant endorphins when they lay together after, spent and heaving, before drifting off to sleep.

*

When daylight breaks, the storm’s past, and Leonard steps out outside to take in the clean air that follows the storm and watch the local sunrise. It’s nothing like Earth’s -- the much redder sun and the three moons hanging in the sky are more than enough reminder of how far he is from home. But still, it tugs at his heart a little, just being on solid ground.

Jim sleeps a little later. The sun is still low in the sky when he emerges, but it’s strong and warm, the moons faded like ghosts.

Jim comes up behind him, wraps his arms around him and noses at the shell of his ear. “I suppose you were right. It was much too dangerous for us to use the transporter yesterday.”

Leonard breathes deep, inhaling the fresh air around them. He just hums his assent.

They stand there together for awhile. Leonard can feel Jim’s heart beating, they’re pressed so close. He sags against him and Jim’s arms tighten.

“Ready to go back?”

He wants to say no, selfishly wants to stay here a little longer -- in this perfect, quiet moment. Wants to take Jim back into the house, take him apart again. And then maybe again after that. But they both have obligations back on the Enterprise, and he’s indulged himself too much already, kept Jim here too long.

“Yeah. Did you know they don’t have coffee here?”

“Oh, then we definitely can’t stay.”

Leonard turns in his arms, presses a brief, soft kiss to Jim’s mouth.

Jim flips open his communicator. “Scotty? Two to beam up.”