“Hey, Bones.” Is how it starts.
Leonard is never sure what it is going to be, but it’s always something that starts with James T. Kirk saying, “Hey, Bones.”
Tonight when Jim walks into their dorm Leonard can practically feel the energy buzzing through his body. He doesn't have to turn to see the sly smile on Jim's lips, he's seen it so many times it’s burned into his own eyelids. Not that that's the worst thing to have happen.
“Bones,” Jim says again, drawing out the O as he flops down onto his own bed like a needy child. When he looks at Jim, he's stretched out like a cat across his bed, the bottom of his Academy red shirt edging up enough to show an inch of bare skin. It's completely involuntary when Leonard runs his tongue along his lower lip.
Then Jim shifts so that his head is hanging off of the bed and his legs are against the length of the wall. Leonard gives him a look that says, what the hell?
Jim shrugs in an awkward, upside down way. “Your frown is kind of cute from this angle.”
Leonard rolls his eyes. “Have I ever told you you're a child?”
“Uh, I don't know? Maybe about a million times.” Leonard arches an eyebrow at him. “Or was it a million and one? Honestly, I've lost count.”
Leonard shakes his head. “Your eyes are bulging out of your skull.” When Jim doesn't move he tries again. “You look like an idiot. A childish one,” he adds.
It doesn't take long before Jim rights himself and looks over at Leonard. His face is flushed and his eyes look a little bit woozy.
“See, now you're a tomato,” Leonard says, as if Jim really cares. But the smile he gives Leonard is toothy and brilliant. It's one of Leonard’s favorite smiles, because of course he has favorites. That's the kind of idiot Leonard McCoy is.
“So what did you want?” Jim has a question in his eyes, causing Leonard to roll his own. “When you came into the room,” Leonard continues. “It sounded like you wanted something, or had something to say.”
He really shouldn't have said anything about it. Jim would've remembered on his own time instead of right now with this mischievous grin on his face. This grin, this is not one of Leonard’s favorites because this grin usually leads to trouble.
“Bones, we're going to go on an adventure tonight.”
It shouldn’t surprise Leonard that Jim’s idea of a nighttime adventure is hiking through downtown San Francisco and up a large hill to smoke pot. In fact, Leonard should be relieved that that's all his idea of a nighttime adventure is.
When they get to the top of said hill they’re both breathing a little harder than they normally would. Although Jim is making a valiant effort to regulate his breathing, Leonard doesn’t have the ego to give a shit.
Jim pulls the bag from the pocket of his jeans and raises it triumphantly for Leonard to see in the light. Leonard squints at it before sitting his ass down and stretching his legs out in front of him. He looks up at Jim again. Jim smiles brightly.
"You're an idiot," he says flatly.
Jim laughs. "You're an asshole," he says as he sits down next to Leonard, spreading his own legs out. He knocks his foot against Leonard’s ankle and smirks to himself. Leonard is both fond and extremely skeptical.
"Where'd you get it, anyway?"
"An ex-girlfriend of Gaila's knows someone. I see the doubt in your eyes, Bones, but it's good stuff! I've smoked it before, it's fine." After a beat, Jim shoves his hand out to Leonard with his pinky out. He looks at Leonard expectantly, eyebrows raised high until Leonard, begrudgingly, wraps his own pinky around Jim's.
Jim reacts exactly how Leonard would expect him to. A wide smile breaks across his face, as if Leonard hung the fucking moon. He would be embarrassed by the warmth that spreads through his chest after being on the receiving end of one of Jim's smiles, but honestly, he doesn't even give a shit anymore.
Satisfied, Jim opens the bag and pulls out a joint. He thinks for a moment before putting it between his lips and then begins to search for something. A lighter, Leonard assumes, but he's too busy watching Jim's face - the set of his eyebrows, his lips around the joint - to pay attention.
Leonard isn’t sure if he’s reached the point of being overly pathetic in regards to his crush on Jim. Well, that’s a lie. Leonard knows that he’s a pathetic sap when it comes to Jim, but he’s not sure if it’s a problem for their friendship. He doesn’t think Jim has noticed anything, not that there’s anything to notice, really. Leonard acts the same way he always has, it’s just that sometimes it feels like he’s going to burst into flames when he looks at Jim. That’s the only thing that’s new, which is why it’s slowly freaking Leonard out.
"Here it is!" Jim says around the joint, startling Leonard. Not for the first time tonight, Leonard feels his face flush, as though he was caught doing something he shouldn't be.
Jim flicks the lighter and produces a puff of orange flame that makes his entire face glow. The tip of the joint crackles and Jim inhales deeply before blowing out a large puff of smoke at Leonard. He waves it away and rolls his eyes at Jim.
“Y’know, one day you’re going to roll your eyes and they’re just going to fall right out.” It sounds like something Leonard would say, and he's not entirely sure if Jim's mocking him or not, but a bark of laughter escapes him anyway.
“And it’ll be your fault, kid.” Jim doesn’t argue, just smiles around the joint before taking another drag, this time inhaling deeply. He sits with his eyes closed for a moment, looking very much at peace.
It always fascinates Leonard when Jim allows himself to just be still. The kid is always on the move, only slowing down when he’s too tired to keep on moving. Sure, he has pauses throughout the day. When he reads, maybe when he eats (when Leonard reminds him to eat and he actually listens), but even in fits of calm, Jim still seems to be buzzing with some kind of energy, like he can’t let himself be still.
Jim looks over at Leonard then and raises his eyebrows questioningly. Bone shrugs which causes Jim to shrug back. “So do you want some of this, or no?” he asks, holding the joint out towards Leonard.
“I did climb up the goddamn hill,” he says and takes his own drag on the joint.
Jim is right, the stuff is good, and it only takes a couple of passes of the joint before he begins to feel a comfortable high. Leonard is sitting up still, legs stretched out in front of him while Jim has sprawled out on the grass. He leans over to pluck the joint out of Jim's hand and takes a long drag on the joint. Instead of inhaling he blows out three smoke rings.
Jim lets out a low, impressed whistle. "Bones, I'm still surprised you even smoke."
"Med school is hard, especially when you're younger than everyone else. I didn't do it all the time, but I did it often enough." Leonard blows a ring of smoke into another ring of smoke as if to prove his point. He waits a beat. "My dad used to smoke cigars. He was the one who showed me how to do smoke rings."
Leonard doesn't mean to bring up his father, but it slips out the way most happy memories do every once in awhile. In this one his dad is sitting on the front porch of their family home watching the sun set across the fields. Leonard remembers the Georgia heat feeling extra thick and muggy that night as he watched his dad. He wondered how the man could stand the thick air and all that smoke at the same time, but he just patted his son on the head and smiled. Back then Leonard was just Len, a small boy with scabs on his knees from baseball. One day he was going to be a doctor like his daddy, but that's about all he knew.
He hasn't talked about his dad in months, but that doesn't mean he's not there at the surface of Leonard’s thoughts every damn day.
Leonard lets himself think for a moment about fathers. George Kirk died saving Jim's life, but Leonard couldn't manage to save his own father. He's not sure what it says about them, or their situations - if it even means anything. The thought swirls around in his consciousness, connecting the two of them in some odd, ironic way that makes Leonard laugh.
Jim smiles up at Leonard. "What's so funny?"
"The universe is pretty fucked up," Leonard says, letting himself lay down with a soft thump. He shifts to get comfortable on the hard ground, but he's aware of the grass pricking at the back of his neck and the way Jim tracks his movements. When he thinks he's caught Jim looks up at the sky.
Leonard decides to look up at the sky, too. It can’t do anything to him now, not from this distance - not with Jim by his side.
The sky has turned a deep indigo now and the stars are slowly starting to speckle the sky. Leonard wonders exactly what Jim sees when he looks up there. He knows it isn’t anything like what Leonard normally sees, especially on nights when he looks past the sky, and thinks of it as space. The vast darkness, filled with silence and a multitude of unknowns. But tonight it doesn’t look quite so daunting.
Leonard thinks of an art history PADD his mother used to own. It always showed Van Gogh’s Starry Night when it was turned on and the cover flashed. He used to love the way the stars swirled together and melted into the dark blue. He thinks that was the time before he knew too much about space, when his thoughts weren’t clouded with too much knowledge of death and disease, and he could look at the screen and just see a beautiful piece of art.
"You shouldn't be so afraid of space," Jim says, almost wistfully.
Leonard scoffs now, and looks skyward. They've had some variation of this conversation so many times before that Leonard is lucky he's a bit stoned, or he'd be more annoyed. "Jim, how many times do I have to tell you-"
Jim reaches over, blindly, to put a hand over Leonard’s mouth, but the movement is sloppy and he barely misses hitting Leonard in the eye. The touch is light, however, and Jim is telling him to, shhh, as his fingers trail down Leonard’s face before finally landing on his mouth. The touch makes him shiver, but Jim doesn’t notice.
“Just listen to me, Bones,” he insists. “Just this once.”
Leonard rolls his eyes, he can’t help it, but he doesn’t protest. He doesn't say that he listens to every fucking thing Jim says, and wouldn't it be a novel idea for Jim to return the favor every once in awhile. Instead he focuses on the pleasant pressure of Jim’s hand against his face. Jim could brush his thumb along the ridge of Leonard’s cheekbone if he wanted to. Leonard realizes he wants him to.
Jim leans his face in close, conspiratorial, like he’s sharing a secret or imparting sage wisdom of the universe. Maybe he is.
"Bones,” Jim finally starts and Leonard will always love the way it sounds even if he hates the stupid nickname. “Space is beautiful, Bones. It's so fucking beautiful. And if anyone should be afraid, it's me, y'know? My dad fucking died up there. I could've died up there, too, but I didn't. Now I can't wait to get back there and just look at it."
Leonard’s thoughts drift again and he wonders if Jim might see the sky like a painting too, but instead of the viewer he is the artist, looking at space as an empty canvas. Instead of the multitude of unknowns there is a multitude of possibilities waiting to be discovered. Jim has spent hours talking about the galaxies that haven’t even been touched by the Federation yet. About the possibilities of different dimensions and timelines, new planets and new types of stars. Jim has spent hours talking and Leonard has spent hours listening.
Jim removes his hand, and Leonard turns to look at him, but finds he’s back to gazing up at the sky. He looks softer with the night sky and glow of the faraway city lights illuminating his face.
"You can't be afraid of beautiful things, Bones."
He wants to laugh but doesn't, afraid it would sound too strained. Jim is the most beautiful thing he's ever seen and the kid scares the shit out of him with the way he makes Leonard feel. Like he’s still looking at that swirling painting, but this time he can see it as more than that. He looks at Jim and can see the endless possibilities and Leonard wants to be a part of every single one of them.
When Jim finally looks at Leonard his eyes are serious and searching. Leonard wants to look away, but it’s Jim that looks away first, always being drawn back to the stars.
He isn't sure how long they stay like that, but the silence is comfortable and the air is cool on his skin. When Leonard begins to drift, the way he usually does after smoking, Jim speaks up again with a "Hey, Bones," that makes his stomach flip.
"Yeah, kid?" Leonard tilts his head towards Jim and finds big, stupid-blue eyes staring at him.
"I wanna try something, okay? Just stay there."
"Where the hell do you think I'm going to go?"
"Stop your bitching." Jim says, sitting up and pulling another joint out of the bag.
There's a certain gleam in Jim's eyes that Leonard hasn't seen before that makes him nervous. Then all of the sudden Jim is lifting one leg up and over Leonard’s waist, his knees a warm bracket along Leonard’s sides.
"What in the hell-?" he begins to say, but Jim just puts a hand out in front of Leonard’s face, and he feels like a spooked horse. Honestly, Leonard doesn't know how he feels. The whole damn universe seems to have shrunk down to this bubble of space he and Jim are residing in.
Jim fishes the lighter out of his pocket again. "Now," he starts, pausing to light the joint, “you're going to have to trust me." He lets out a puff of smoke and starts to lean forward, closing the space between the two of them. "You're also going to have to meet me halfway, buddy," he adds with a sly grin that causes Leonard’s chest to tighten because behind that cocksure attitude he can sense the hesitation in Jim’s smile.
Leonard doesn't know what to say, doesn't think he should say anything. Of course he trusts Jim, but he doesn't need to say it. He'd trust Jim with his life. He’d follow him into space, and wherever else Jim would want him to follow. But he doesn't think that needs sharing at this particular moment. Not when he props himself up on his elbows and Jim's face is incredibly close to his.
Jim puts the joint to his lips again and takes a deep, long drag, but this time he holds in the smoke, and places gentle hands on the side of Leonard’s face. He looks at Leonard with those serious eyes again, eyebrows raised as if asking for permission, and Leonard nods involuntarily.
Then it's nothing but Jim. Jim's mouth hovering over his own, blowing smoke and breath into Leonard’s lungs; the heat of Jim's hands on the side of his face and Jim's nose brushing against his cheek. Leonard breathes in deeply, wishing to take in as much of this moment as he can and let it rest heavily in his chest. He feels a deep, satisfying warmth throughout his body, and imagines the smoke curling through his lungs. He wishes he could lean forward and feel the warm press of Jim’s mouth against his, but then all too suddenly Jim is pulling away and it feels like the sun in Leonard’s solar system has burned out.
Jim leans back out of his space, but doesn't remove himself completely from Leonard’s bubble. It's enough for Leonard to take acute notice of the sudden lack of warmth everywhere. Jim's eyes are wide as they skirt over Leonard’s face. Usually an expert on reading James Kirk, Leonard finds himself at a loss trying to decode Jim's face.
Leonard watches closely as Jim rises slowly from where he's still perched over Leonard’s stretched out body. His eyes are cast down towards Leonard , but not at him. Instead he's focused on the spot just to his left. Jim flushes slightly and runs a hand through his hair.
Leonard has yet to move. He's still propped up on his elbows, legs loose. He's not sure what his face is doing, but for once Leonard feels as though his face is too open. He’s always made a point of being honest with Jim, but has always kept his own feelings tamped down. But now, everything he’s felt towards Jim these past months are bubbling up just under his skin.
He's about to do something idiotic like confess his feelings and ruin one of the few positive relationships he has in his life, but then Jim finally looks at him and he can't bring himself to do it.
Jim’s mouth quirks up in a smile and he reaches out his hand. “Come on, old man. Let’s go get a drink.”
Leonard lets himself be pulled up. When they’re both standing Jim hasn’t quite let go and Leonard realizes he doesn’t want him to. Not yet, anyway. He looks down at their clasped hands and strokes his thumb against Jim’s hand.
“Bones?” Jim’s voice is quiet, but he still isn’t pulling away.
Leonard still doesn’t look up when he says, “Hey Jim?” He barely here’s Jim’s responding, yeah, the sound more like a swallow. “I want to try something, okay?”
He looks up to see Jim’s reaction, and finds he’s smiling, just as Leonard hoped he would. He nods. “Sure, Bones,” but his voice wavers just enough for Leonard to take note of the apprehension in his face.
Leonard takes a step closer to Jim, moving slowly to give him the opportunity to pull away if he wants to, but Jim stays put.
A wash of panic rises up in Leonard, but then he thinks, You can’t be afraid of beautiful things, and closes the distance between them. Jim’s welcoming kiss is a relief against Leonard’s mouth. It’s short and sweet at first, then Jim is digging fingers into the front of Leonard’s shirt to pull him closer, and Leonard licks deeper into Jim’s mouth.
Leonard is the one to finally break their kiss, but relishes in the way that Jim’s mouth follows after him. Then he’s looking at Leonard with bright eyes. “That was nice,” he says.
Leonard nods, easily. He feels loose, different than the looseness of their earlier high. He can’t keep the smile off of his face. “Yeah, that was.” Jim squeezes his hand, and Leonard decides he likes that, too.
He doesn’t think he’ll ever stop being afraid of space, but he could get used to it. He could get used to this, too, even though it scares him. The way Jim leans into him, and Leonard’s first reaction is to open himself up and let Jim fill up all the empty spaces between his bones.
Jim kisses the corner of Leonard’s mouth. “Come on,” he says again, tugging Leonard forward, back down the hill. “Let’s go home.”