Orientation passes in a blur of class schedules, clinic assignments, and names McCoy won’t remember. He’s still not sure what possessed him to join Starfleet, but the structure of regular schedule is a relief after the whirlwind of the last few months.
Jim Kirk slides into the seat beside him in his first class, Federation History -- shoulder to shoulder. He hasn’t seen him since the shuttle, but Jim picks up like they’re still in the middle of a conversation.
At the end of class, Jim leans in, the words, “See you around, Bones,” tickling McCoy’s ear. And then he’s gone.
McCoy doesn’t spend much time socializing with the other cadets -- they’re all so young and between classes and studying and the clinic he honestly doesn’t have time to make friends.
Jim is the exception, whether McCoy likes it or not. They only share one class, and room on opposite sides of campus, but Jim keeps showing up: in the mess, the gym, the library.
He quickly learns that once Jim Kirk decides you’re part of his life, you can’t easily shake him. And with everything else keeping McCoy busy, it’s not worth the effort to try to keep him away.
On a rare clear night, it’s McCoy who suggests stargazing, but it’s Jim who practically drags him to Crissy Field, blanket and snacks in tow. They discuss favorite foods and pet peeves and the piloting practical Jim is taking next week. McCoy mentions, not for the first time, his intent to apply for a ground posting after graduation.
“But the stars, Bones.”
“I can see the stars just fine from down here.”
Jim rolls onto his side, props himself up on his elbow. “I’m gonna change your mind.”
McCoy snorts. “Never going to happen.”
Jim flops back down. “We’ll see.”
They’re debating the ethics of the Prime Directive over lunch when juice from Jim’s pear starts dripping down his hand. McCoy watches as Jim lifts it to his mouth, tongue darting out to lick the sticky juice before it disappears into his sleeve.
His eyes snap up and meet McCoy’s; he can feel his face flush.
“See something you like?” Jim asks, with a smug grin.
McCoy rolls his eyes. “You eat like a child.”
Later that night, as McCoy’s falling asleep, Jim’s pink tongue lingers in his mind, and he wonders what it would feel like against his skin.
Jim’s late to Federation History, which isn’t all that unusual, but fifteen minutes into the class he still doesn’t show and that is. By this point in the semester everyone has “their” seat, and the one next to McCoy is conspicuously empty. The cadets around him keep glancing at the vacant chair. It’s a little weird, but Jim’s a popular guy.
If he doesn’t show soon, Jim will get a demerit. McCoy has his comm in his lap, trying to discretely text him without being noticed, when the instructor starts talking about the Kelvin.
McCoy’s heart leaps into his throat.
Standing in Jim’s doorway after class, McCoy’s not sure what to say.
“I didn’t know.” He pauses. “I mean, I knew the name, I guess, but never put it together.”
“I figured,” Jim says. “It was nice, knowing you weren’t around just because...”
McCoy can feel the tension in what he doesn’t say: worry that now that McCoy knows he’s George Kirk’s son, everything will change. He wants to reassure him that he won’t treat him any differently, but McCoy hasn’t been great with emotional honesty since Jocelyn.
So he says, “Lunch?” instead, and Jim exhales, and grabs his jacket.
There’s a moment, at the end of their first year, when McCoy’s sure they’re going to kiss.
Jim’s sprawled out beside him, watching a holo and drinking beer, relaxing in the sliver of time after exams before summer term kicks in.
It’s totally a cliché: their hands brush reaching for the popcorn. Something electric sparks though the air, it’s too hot and Jim’s right there. McCoy’s mouth falls open and Jim licks his lips. But then McCoy blinks and Jim’s laughing at something in the movie, and the moment is gone.
It’s a cliché; maybe that’s why it doesn’t happen.
Halfway through McCoy’s run, it starts to downpour. He’s soaked and freezing by the end, craving a hot shower.
As he gets to his room, he’s pulling his shirt over his head; there’s a clattering, and when his head’s free, he sees Jim, looking a like a deer in headlights, PADD dropped on the floor.
“How’d you get in here?”
“Uh.” Jim coughs. “You gave me your code?”
McCoy’s eyes narrow. “I’m sure I didn’t.” McCoy shivers, remembering the shower. He throws his shirt at Jim as he walks by. “If you’re gonna break in, at least order us takeout.”
>>where are you<<
The comm comes through when McCoy’s on his third glass of bourbon. Normally, he studies with Jim on Wednesday afternoons. If he were still on his first or second glass, he’d have the presence of mind to ignore it; if he’d had any more, he’d be too inebriated to care.
Too soon, Jim’s standing over his table. “Day drinking?” Jim asks, frowning down at him.
McCoy raises his glass -- his fourth -- in mock cheer. “Anniversary.”
Jim hums, drumming his fingers against the table, before sliding into a seat and motioning to the bartender for his own.
“Oh, god, make it stop,” McCoy groans. There’s a loud pounding that feels like it’s jumping around inside his skull. That can’t be right. The noise does stop, though: replaced with a beep and a swish and Jim walking towards his bed.
“Get up, sleepyhead, you’ll be late for class,” Jim says, brightly. The asshole.
“Why’d you let me drink so much?”
“The mood you were in? Like I could’ve stopped you.”
He’s not wrong. “Go away, let me sleep-- wait is that coffee?”
Jim holds out a steaming cup. Okay, maybe not an asshole. McCoy grabs it, inhaling gratefully.
The second time Jim fails the Kobayashi Maru, he’s a live wire, full of kinetic energy, spoiling for a fight. He looks for one at the bar that night, with a guy twice his size.
When Jim’s hand curls into a fist, McCoy grabs his wrist, feels Jim’s pulse jump under his fingers. “Let’s get out of here, huh?”
Something shifts in Jim. “Yeah,” he says, and lets McCoy lead him through the crowded bar. “Yeah,” he says, as they step into the chilly night. “Yeah,” he says, once more, as he pushes McCoy against the building and kisses him.
By mutual unspoken agreement, they head to McCoy’s dorm, because it’s closer. As soon as they’re through the door, Jim drops to his knees, undoing McCoy’s fly. He groans when Jim’s mouth closes around him -- lush, wet heat. His hand curls into Jim’s hair, and Jim moans and takes him deeper.
He comes down Jim’s throat and then hauls him up -- tugging his shirt off and his jeans down his hips -- and wraps a hand around his cock; Jim gasps, curses into his shoulder, shuddering through his climax. Out of breath, they stumble together towards McCoy’s bed, collapsing onto it.
“That was... not how I imagined my night would go.”
McCoy can’t read the tone in Jim’s voice. He says quickly, “It doesn’t have to mean anything.” Maybe too quickly.
“I-” McCoy watches Jim’s throat work. “Okay, Bones,” he says, softly.
Jim is dressed and out the door before his place on the bed is cold.
The next time he sees Jim, neither of them brings it up -- Jim just throws an arm over McCoy’s shoulder as they walk across the quad, and regales him with a story from his Warp Theory class. It’s like two nights ago never happened.
“Gaila told me about this party off campus that--”
“Can’t.” McCoy cuts him off. “Studying.”
“You need to relax before your brain turns to goo and starts dribbling out your ears.”
“Well, that’s very graphic and biologically implausible. Thanks.”
“Oh, come on. I know you know this stuff.”
“We’re not all geniuses like you, Jim.”
“Bullshit.” Jim grabs his notes; McCoy unsuccessfully tries to grab them back. “You’re smarter than the entire rest of med track combined.” To prove his point, Jim starts quizzing him, until McCoy realizes that he actually does know the material.
The party is fucking awesome.
Campus is a ghost town during winter break. McCoy picks up some extra clinic shifts and enjoys the relative calm. Lost in thought after his shift, he rounds a corner and walks headlong into Jim, who reaches out for his forearm, steadying him.
“Hey! I thought you were heading home to Georgia.”
And he had told Jim that, but the more he’d thought about it, the more he’d realized there was nothing there for him anymore. “Changed my mind.”
Jim practically beams. “What’re you doing later?”
They end up watching old cheesy sitcoms and bickering over what to watch next.
They limp back to Earth after the Narada, and everyone wants a piece of Jim: the brass, the press, the public. McCoy watches him fray around the edges at the weight of it all.
At the end of another long day, Jim, drained, nuzzles into his neck; McCoy’s body can’t help but respond -- growing heat pressing against Jim’s hip.
“Sorry,” McCoy whispers.
Jim just keeps nuzzling, says, “Bones, please,” and how can he say no to that?
Once Jim falls asleep, McCoy leaves -- tells himself it’s so Jim can rest.
They don’t talk about it later. It’s becoming a pattern.
The Admiralty may have entrusted the Enterprise to Jim, but as the youngest captain in the fleet, he’s under intense scrutiny.
That first cruise out, Jim spends hours on conference calls in his ready room, answering for every requisition form, every half degree course alteration. Jim stalks out of one of those meetings, looking ready to tear his hair out. McCoy tracks him down on a dimly lit observation deck. They stand together in the quiet stillness, until Jim bumps his shoulder, says, “Thanks,” and for the first time, McCoy sees the appeal of the darkness and silence of space.
The laceration across Jim’s cheek is his most visible injury, but a quick scan reveals it’s the least of his worries.
“Bruised ribs, fractured fingers, possible concussion. Should I go on?”
“You should see the other guy.”
“Yeah, I’m sure you showed that cliff you threw yourself off of who’s boss.”
“Those puppy dog eyes won’t work on me,” McCoy says, reaching for a hypospray.
Jim, for once, doesn’t put up much resistance. “What would work on you?” he says, so faintly McCoy’s not sure he is supposed to hear.
The words echo in his mind for days.
McCoy loves being a doctor, but he despises the paperwork. CMO of Starfleet’s flagship? Comes with a ridiculous amount of paperwork.
“I’m busy, Jim,” he says, without looking up from the report he’s working on. The same one that he’s been working on for a solid hour.
Jim sighs dramatically. “I’m bored.”
“Go bother Spock.”
Jim doesn’t go bother Spock. Instead, he perches on the edge of McCoy’s desk, legs swinging back and forth like a toddler with too much energy, until McCoy gives in, reaches for the whiskey hidden in his bottom drawer, and pours them both a drink.
McCoy is exhausted after a particularly difficult surgery -- brain trauma from an engineering accident. When he gets back to his quarters he finds Jim at his desk, reading something on a PADD. They’d had dinner plans, hours ago.
“She’ll survive, but-- we’ll have to wait and see.”
He slumps down on the couch. Jim crosses the room and manhandles him until McCoy’s laying across it with his head in Jim’s lap. Jim’s fingers push through his hair, soothing away the tension.
Eventually, he moves to get up, and McCoy lets out an involuntary whimper. Jim settles back down.
“Bones? Bones, come on, you can’t sleep here, old man. You know you’ll be complaining in the morning.”
McCoy doesn’t remember falling asleep. He groans as he sits up. Jim’s hand moves to the small of his back, rubbing circles into it.
“Let’s get you to bed.”
Exhaustion must be to blame when McCoy starts giggling as Jim is helping him out of his shirt. Jim presses his forehead to McCoy’s and huffs out a laugh, too. He pulls back the covers and gently guides McCoy under them, tucking him in.
“Stay,” McCoy slurs, just before he falls asleep again.
He wakes slowly, warm and rested, and becomes aware of a presence next to him as he stretches. He turns his head and Jim is right there, hair a mess, watching.
MccCoy nods, and, not letting himself think too much, presses a soft kiss to Jim’s mouth. Jim sighs into him.
When he pulls back, Jim asks, “You’re sure?” looking incredibly vulnerable. They’ve been here before, but this time feels different. More than that, McCoy wants it to be different.
He runs a thumb over Jim’s bottom lip before leaning back in to taste him again.
McCoy takes his time: kisses along Jim’s jaw, his neck; tongues at a nipple until it hardens beneath him and Jim’s back arches up; watches the play of Jim’s abdominal muscles under his hands; nips at the junction of his hip.
Eventually, he takes Jim into his mouth, reveling in his gasp and the curl of his fingers into the bedsheets. McCoy moves Jim’s hand to his head, encouraging, as he works Jim open.
When McCoy finally sinks into him, Jim’s hands feel like they’re everywhere, scrabbling at him like he needs him closer, closer, closer. McCoy knows the feeling.
McCoy’s waiting in the transporter room for the landing party, there to assess medical need. For once, they’re all healthy and unharmed.
Jim’s the last to beam up. “Miss me?”
“You were barely gone.”
They leave the transporter room and, at the first opportunity, Jim pulls him into a secluded corner and kisses him against the bulkhead.
“You didn’t answer my question,” Jim says, and tugs at his earlobe with his teeth.
He thinks maybe Jim can see right through him, like an old fashioned x-ray. He slides a hand into the waistband of Jim’s pants.
“Yeah, I missed you.”
The treaty negotiations are long and tedious, and McCoy can’t understand why he’s even there: he’s a doctor, not an ambassador.
He’s grinding his teeth during a particularly monotonous speech that seems like it’s been going on for a year when Jim leans over to murmur in his ear, “Behave yourself, and I’ll make it worth your while when we get back to the ship.”
McCoy’s skin goes hot at the promise. “Since when are you the mature, responsible one?” he hisses back.
In response, Jim bites back a smile, and slides his hand up McCoy’s thigh under the table.
Life on a starship is an adjustment, but, amazingly, and perhaps despite himself, McCoy does adjust.
It creeps up on him, over time. He learns to tolerate, if not embrace, the unique rhythms, the sounds, the feel of it. Eventually, he realizes that a life back on Earth would be dull, unfulfilling, in comparison.
A large part of it, of course, is Jim, whose zest for space is unparalleled, and somewhat infectious. Jim is at home out here, and for McCoy, Jim is home.
McCoy never dreamed of life among the stars, but now he can’t imagine himself anywhere else.