The Greater Good (Kirk/McCoy NC-17) 4/6

  • Aug. 16th, 2011 at 5:10 AM
emiliglia: (au!kirk/mccoy)
Master Post & Mix - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3


He drags himself to the lab on Monday, and Chekov looks pissed.

“We have three rats left – why won't you at least try?”

Leonard runs his hand over his face. It's really too damn early to deal with this. “There's no point in them dying for nothing.”

“What if it works?”

“What if it doesn't? Another lab, one that's actually getting results, can use these animals. The best thing they can get out of life is a quick, painless death, which won't happen here.” Leonard hesitates, trying to fight away memories of his father in the hospital, tubes and machines seeming to be everywhere with the scar from his heart surgery just peeking out from the neckline of his hospital gown.

He hadn't wanted to euthanize the remaining animals, but now it seems like the best option they have left.

“You'd have them die needlessly?” Chekov asks, his voice quiet but his expression's stubborn.

“They lived needlessly,” Leonard scoffs. “We say they're benefiting the greater good, but what does that even really mean? Your life is spent trying to help other people, but when you've lost everything, how do they show their appreciation?”

“Bones?”

Leonard spins to see Jim and Sulu standing in the doorway. He hadn't heard either of them come in, and Sulu's looking distinctly uncomfortable while Jim looks so sympathetic that Leonard can barely stand to look at him.

“Come on, Bones. Let's go home.”

Leonard follows Jim passively to the elevator, and he thinks maybe the subject has been dropped, until they descend two floors and Jim activates the emergency stop button. “Are you going to euthanize Fifty Two as well?”

“She's only still alive for my selfish reasons. Rats are social animals. She may be a perfectly healthy animal, but her quality of life is still piss-poor.”

“So take one of the others to give her a friend and finish your damn study whether it gets you results or not. You can't just give up when it's not over yet.”

“You were the one who told me I couldn't move on. This is me, Jim, moving on.” Leonard restarts the elevator, watching the numbers count down.

“It looks more like giving up to me,” Jim mutters.

“What the hell would you have me do?” Leonard asks, feeling completely defeated. He doesn't know what the right thing to do is anymore.

“I think I have an idea for what you can do with Fifty Two and the others. Just don't act like they're completely useless just because they aren't useful to you anymore. They can do other things.”

They finally reach the ground-floor lobby, Leonard hesitating as Jim heads towards the glass sliding doors.

“Some of us can only do the one thing,” Leonard says.

“There are other things,” Jim reiterates. “I know you can do it, Bones.”

And the strange thing is, Leonard actually believes this unearned faith Jim has in him.

+

Leonard returns home after returning his lab keys to an empty apartment.

Two days ago, Jim had taken the remaining three rats. He hadn't said where they were going, but Leonard trusted him.

He just hadn't actually registered that Fifty Two was going, too.

Leonard's contemplating the contents of his refrigerator when his cell phone rings. It's Jim.

“Do you think you could come pick me up?”

“I'll be there in fifteen minutes,” Leonard says without question. Jim's never actually asked him for a ride before, and the request has Leonard wondering if Jim's had a bad day; if he had a rough flight, or if Pike told him something he didn't want to hear, or if he's gotten bad news about friends stationed overseas...

Leonard parks his truck at the VA center, walking to the main entrance to see Jim standing there, anxiously rocking back and forth on his heels. He smiles when he catches sight of Leonard, which completely debunks every paranoid thought that had been running through Leonard's head.

“Come on, Bones, you gotta come see this.” Jim grabs Leonard by the forearm, dragging him inside. Jim releases him only to sign Leonard in and get him a visitor pass at the front desk, but then he's pulling Leonard along again towards the elevators.

It takes Leonard three floors to realize that when Jim had taken hold of him again, he'd taken Leonard's hand instead of his arm. He glances over at Jim to see him pointedly watching the numbers, like it's no big deal that they're standing side-by-side and holding hands in an elevator. Jim's hands are dry, and Leonard can feel the callouses on Jim's fingers against his knuckles, and Leonard is almost embarrassed about how overwhelmed he is about such a simple gesture.

There's a beep signaling that they've arrived on the floor before the doors slide open, and Leonard finds himself still standing in the elevator as Jim walks ahead. He looks back at Leonard sheepishly, and Leonard can't tell if it's because of him or because Jim remembered where they are.

They pass a desk that checks Jim's ID badge and Leonard's visitor one, the corridor full of rooms with glass walls, some with blinds drawn to block out their view from the hallway, but the ones that Leonard can see into contain toys, stuffed animals, coloring books, small, colorful chairs and tables that only children would be able to sit at comfortably.

“They work with kids here, too,” Jim starts to explain unprompted. “They need a place to talk about how they feel without mom or dad home when they're away, or sometimes when parents come back from a long deployment, they need a neutral place to meet, get acquainted.”

Leonard had never thought about that before – that some children are so young when their parents leave, that it's like there's a stranger suddenly in their life, in their home, this abstract of a parent suddenly in the flesh.

“Or when they're killed,” Jim adds quietly as he opens a door with a bright crayon drawing of the Golden Gate Bridge taped to it.

There's about a dozen children in the room, Leonard would guess them to be anywhere between the ages of four to twelve, and some definitely look related. A few look up to greet Jim excitedly by name, others just keep quietly doing what they had been – coloring, reading, and, Leonard's breath catches in his throat when he notices this, one little girl's gently petting an albino rat.

He looks around more, spotting the cage that had been in his apartment now on the floor between a small bookcase and a toy box with the lid propped open. One of the older children, a boy, is adding more food to the bowl that two other rats are eagerly running in circles for, and there's a group of five on the floor apparently making an obstacle course out of Legos, leading a fourth rat through it with a piece of apple.

Leonard sees Jim's soft smile before he feels the light tug on the leg of his pants. He looks down to see the first little girl, still holding the rat in her arms and looking up at him expectantly. “Are you friends with Jim?”

“I am,” Leonard responds, crouching down to bring himself to the child's eye-level and trying to read the rat's ear punches but having a hard time judging their location from his angle. He's vaguely aware of Jim shutting the door behind them before moving to stand just next to Leonard. “My name's Leonard. What's yours?”

“Catie,” the girl responds matter-of-factly, glancing over at Jim and then looking back at Leonard. “And this is Miss Fifty Two!”

“Well it's a real pleasure to meet both of you,” Leonard responds, his voice cracking, and Jim squeezes his shoulder before getting dragged into building additional elements for the obstacle course in the middle of the room.

+

They're standing in the kitchen drinking beer, Leonard leaning against the counter and Jim opposite him, sitting on the island, idly swinging his legs.

“I never knew my father,” Jim says, pushing around the edges of his bottle's label with his thumbnail. “From stories I'd hear, I don't think Sam understood what happened. No one had really talked to him about it, how Dad was dead and that's why Mom was depressed.”

Leonard doesn't know what to say, an apology and gratitude all stuck together in his throat.

Jim brings the beer to his mouth, tilting his head and the bottle back to down the rest of it. Leonard watches him swallow, wondering what words Jim's trying to wash away. He hops down, suddenly directly in front of Leonard, and Leonard can feel himself gravitating towards Jim's body heat.

“Jim...” he starts, reaching out, but Leonard's stopped when he finds Jim's empty bottle being pressed into his out-stretched hand.

“Goodnight, Bones,” Jim responds, walking out of the kitchen and to the back of the apartment; the soft click of his bedroom door shutting is audible in the quiet.

Leonard moves into the living room, turning the television on to something mindless to try and sedate the thoughts racing through his mind.

He's only minimally successful, but Leonard does manage to half-convince himself that he's looking for something, someone, to latch onto, nothing more, to override his sense of failure. Jim's not going to become his project now that he feels like he's given up on his father.

He sleeps restlessly, anyway.

+

Leonard's gotten dragged out for lunch with Sulu and Christine when he feels a foot jabbing him under the table.

“I don't think your boyfriend would appreciate your attempts at playing footsie,” Leonard drawls, but Sulu's not paying attention to him. Whatever Sulu's trying to subtly look at, Christine is openly staring. Leonard turns in his seat to see Spock and Uhura at a table for two on the outdoor patio.

“Whose phone has the best resolution?” Sulu asks, and Christine looks like she's vibrating with excitement. “I have to send this to Pavel, and he won't believe me if I don't include a photo.”

“Do you know who she is?” Christine asks, fishing her cell out of her purse without tearing her eyes away from the couple outside. “Please tell me that's not his cousin – I might even think about giving you a cut of the winnings.” She fakes defensiveness at Leonard's pointed look. “What? The nurses have a straight or not pool.” Christine finally looks away to lean towards Leonard, batting her eyelashes coquettishly. “I'll give you part if you feel like sharing with the rest of the class.”

“It’s Nyota; she threw the party for Jim a few weeks ago. I saw her and Spock talking a lot, but Pavel was convinced it didn’t mean anything.” Sulu's texting ferociously as he speaks. “Now as for our friend the doctor, here, he doesn't like anyone and took Jim, an essential stranger-”

“A hot stranger,” Christine interjects.

“A hot stranger on as a roommate, so that's either proof enough or Jim threatened him at gunpoint.”

“I actually knew Jim a few years ago,” Leonard feels the need to clarify. He's vaguely curious how the bets on him skew.

“The naked kind of knowing?” Christine asks, but Leonard just ignores her. It isn't long before she's distracted from thinking about Leonard's sex life, though, to focus back on someone else's. “I think they're leaving!”

Christine and Sulu block their faces with their menus even though Spock and Uhura won't need to go into the restaurant to leave. Leonard rolls his eyes at the both of them, wondering what his life has become that he's friends with these two.

+

Leonard and Jim are flying back from Walnut Creek, transferring a trauma case of a college student that had fallen onto the tracks at a BART station, hitting his head on both the platform and the rail below it, when the patient loses consciousness.

“Bones?”

Leonard knows that Jim's asking if he should turn around. They're still less than halfway back, and it could be Leonard's license if he doesn't make the right decision.

He knows he should tell Jim to turn back, but he doesn't. “Just keep flying.”

“But-”

“When you get a medical degree, I'll consider your opinion, but right now your job is to get us back as fast as possible so this kid can get into surgery.”

Leonard takes the headset off, so not only can he not see Jim, but he can't hear him anymore, either. He goes through the limited vitals he can get and doesn't like what he's seeing. He needs to get the kid's – Nathan's, he knows – intracranial pressure down, but the supplies he has aren't the ones he needs.

He needs a drill.

Leonard puts the headset back on, climbing up to lean between Jim's and the empty co-pilot's seat. “Is there a toolkit in here somewhere?”

Jim looks pale, although Leonard considers it a good thing that at least it's not because of the flying conditions. “Do I want to ask why?”

“I need to put a hole in his head to alleviate the pressure on his brain.”

“There should be a toolkit under the co-pilot's seat, but, fuck, Bones, it's not going to be sterile.”

“Nathan will have a better shot at beating infection than brain damage.” Leonard finds the kit in question, and even though he'd been hoping for something smaller for a bit than what he has, it's not like he has a choice at the moment. “You're going to have to keep us as steady as possible, Jim, understand?”

Jim's letting out an emphatic string of, “Fuck, fuck, fuck,” as Leonard takes off the headset. He can't placate Jim and perform off the cuff surgery at the same time. He presses at the trigger, trying to find the right speed, but there's no more time to waste as Nathan starts seizing. Leonard has to straddle his torso, using his knees to keep Nathan's arms from flailing.

He takes a deep breath and starts to drill.

+

Leonard gets home three hours later, completely exhausted and still in his scrubs. He all but collapses on the couch, leaning his head back and closing his eyes. He distantly hears Jim calling out, “Bones?” from the vicinity of the bathroom before Leonard feels a weight settling beside him. “What happened? Why are you back so quickly?”

“Puri wouldn't let me scrub in. I had to go to Boyce's office to give the hospital's attorney a statement before getting interrogated by the ethics committee.” Leonard rubs a hand over his face, opening his eyes to be greeted by the sight of Jim, leaning towards him in his sweatpants with a towel draped across his bare shoulders. He's shaved, his cheeks and jawline still damp from rinsing the shaving cream off, and it just makes him look so damn young.

Leonard catches himself before he brushes a finger against Jim's face, and he tells himself that it's his imagination that makes Jim appear to lean even closer. “You shaved,” is all he can think to say, feeling like a moron for stating the obvious.

“Well, you know, I have to look the part of a good Naval officer tomorrow for all the kids.”

“I didn't know you'd accepted Pike's offer.”

“He's got a connection at GGU to get me taking classes part-time starting next month. It'll be a shore duty tour, and that's it.” Jim rubs at his own jaw like the smooth skin there is novel to him. “Could you lose your job for this?”

Leonard snorts. “I could lose my license for this, especially if the family decides to sue.” He looks at the clock; it could still be hours yet before Nathan comes out of surgery assuming he doesn't die. Leonard at least knows he didn't make anything worse – he would've heard by now if he'd let the drill go too deep and had done any actual brain damage. “Suppose I can go into research full-time if that happens.”

“It won't,” Jim says, standing and heading back towards the bathroom before Leonard even has the chance to argue.

+

Jim heads out in his service khakis the next day, and Leonard has to ignore the resurgent memories of the last time he saw Jim in that uniform, when Leonard had kicked him out of his hotel room back in Atlanta all those years ago.

He stays in the apartment all day, not even bothering to get dressed, as he flips mindlessly through what's on television while wondering what's taking Boyce so damn long to call him back into work.

They can't actually be considering firing him, can they?

The possibility sinks in like a lead weight in Leonard's stomach. His job had been the only thing he'd had left for a long time, and the thought of losing it makes him feel sick.

+

It's day three, and there's still no word.

The only thing that's really changed is the length of his stubble, and Leonard wonders if it's cosmic irony that he stops shaving when Jim starts again.

Jim, who came home that first day practically bouncing with excitement over the results of a training drill and hasn't really lost his enthusiasm since. Hell, it hasn't even ebbed.

“They think they're ready to jump behind the cyclic just because they've been flying the trainers for six months. They're not leaving the simulators until I think they don't even have to think about the controls and can use them instinctively.” Jim's waving his hands enthusiastically, nearly sloshing the glass of water onto the floor a few times. He's just so damn animated when he gets back, unable to hold still, and half the time Leonard doesn't really understand what Jim's talking about.

Leonard would be annoyed to no end normally, but with Jim, it's kind of adorable. Not that he'll ever admit it out loud. And, for some reason, seeing Jim happy and feeling good about what he's doing makes Leonard feel better for at least as long as Jim's around. Once he leaves, reality comes crashing back down.

Only this time, Jim won't leave him alone. “I'm not leaving you to marinate in your crankiness.”

Leonard's half-slumped against the arm of the sofa, and Jim sits beside him, untucking his uniform shirt and loosening his tie. Leonard sits up to allow for more room. “Don't you mean stew?” Sarcasm has always been his go-to defense mechanism.

“Stewing would imply some sort of anger, not apathy. You can't act like you don't care, Bones; you love being a doctor.”

Leonard snorts. “I love being a doctor,” he says slowly, tasting the words for a lie. He gets annoyed that he doesn't find it, even more so by the fact that it means Jim is right, and it suddenly becomes too much for Leonard, having Jim in his face at the moment. Jim who had been a small presence in the low point at Leonard's life, and now he's back again, years later, sharing Leonard's apartment and acting like he knows things about Leonard. “Where the hell do you get off thinking you know me? We fucked, you left, and then what? We're not friends, Jim, so stop trying to sit around, braiding each other's hair while we talk about our goddamn feelings when you really don't give a shit.”

He's glaring at Jim, whose jaw is a tense line and his eyes are hard. “Fuck you, Bones. Don't be an asshole to me just because you prefer to push people away than admit to needing them. And I know you damn well love being a doctor because I've seen you with patients, Bones. Hell, I've been your patient. You celebrate the recoveries and mourn the losses, and you're always trying to be better. Most of all, though, I think that if you didn't truly love it, you would've stopped after your father died.”

“Jim...” Leonard begins, a warning in his voice.

“Social animals, Bones,” Jim responds, and Leonard is so stuck on trying to find a context for what Jim just told him that he doesn't register Jim leaning into his space until he can feel Jim's breath against his jaw, his lips, and then Jim is kissing him, fierce and insistent as he puts his hands on Leonard's forearms to either keep him close or keep him away, Leonard can't exactly tell which.

Leonard's pager starts to beep, and it makes both of them jump, Jim pulling up and away, face flush as he makes a hasty retreat to his room. Leonard gets up and grabs his pager from the table next to the door where he tosses his keys as he comes in, and the screen reads “my office ASAP” from Boyce. His sudden anxiety from the page overrides any frustration he had felt from Jim’s departure.

He grabs his keys and goes to the hospital, preparing himself for the worst during the drive.

The elevator ride seems even longer, and Leonard considers cursing out whoever gets on at the second floor only to see that it's M'Benga. He nods briefly in acknowledgement before pressing the button for the seventh floor.

“I haven't heard anything from the rumor mill,” M'Benga says, not seeming at all envious about the meeting Leonard's on his way to with Boyce. “That has to be good news, right? Everyone would be whispering about it if you are about to lose your license.”

“That's not making me feel any better, Geoff,” Leonard responds, feeling suddenly nervous when the elevator stops on the fifth floor and the doors open for Leonard to get out.

“Hey, good luck.”

“Thanks.”

Boyce is alone in his office when Leonard arrives, and he's not sure if that's a good or bad sign. He hesitates in the doorway, thinking the lawyer would at least be present if it were bad news about to be delivered. “Have a seat.”

“I think I'd rather be standing if I'm going to have my license suspended or revoked,” he responds.

“Which is why you should have a seat,” Boyce urges, and he doesn't look like a man about to deliver bad news, the sympathetic doctor face being one that Boyce is particularly skilled at.

Leonard does sit, though, but his back is straight as he crosses his arms over his chest. “Just give me the bad news.”

“There really isn't any bad news, here, McCoy. The patient will make a full recovery, the hospital isn't going to get sued, and it's been decided that the young man would've died if you hadn't acted when you did.” Boyce leans back in his chair, crossing his legs so one ankle is resting on his other knee. “Now this isn't exactly the quid pro quo, but I want you to seriously consider what I'm going to say next: I want you out of the cardiothoracics program.”

Leonard feels like the rug has been pulled out from under him. “I thought you said there wasn't any bad news.”

Boyce smiles, uncrossing his legs to lean forward, planting his elbows on the mahogany surface of his desk. “Tell me, McCoy – had you ever considered becoming a neurosurgeon?”

He's, for once, speechless and fairly certain that he's doing a passable impersonation of a fish.

“You don't have to give me an answer this very second, of course,” Boyce continues, seeming to think Leonard's problem is the fact that shifting specialties is a difficult decision when the fact is that Leonard's still trying to wrap his brain around the fact that no, he did not just get fired and yes, he'd actually been offered a different position.

Leonard had actually been planning all through med school to get into a neurosurgery program once he got certified – it had been the rotation that interested him the most, but then his father had gotten sick, and it had shifted his focus entirely. “I'd like that very much,” he finally manages to spit out.

“Good! I'll see you Monday, then,” Boyce replies, and Leonard knows a hint to go away when he hears one.

He stands, muttering a quick, “Thank you, sir,” before practically flying out the door and to the garage.

His mood feels like it's done a complete one eighty, and all Leonard can think about is getting back home to tell Jim the news.

Only Jim's not there, and when he tries calling his cell phone, it goes straight to voicemail.

Leonard tries calling Sulu and Uhura, but both of them say that they've neither seen nor heard from Jim. His thumb is hovering, hesitating, over the call button after entering Pike's number, when Leonard hears a key being inserted into the door lock and then Jim comes strolling in, carrying a shopping bag containing a four-pack of toilet paper, and all at once Leonard feels like an idiot for both being so paranoid and acting, barely over an hour earlier, like Jim wasn't a meaningful part in his life.

“We were almost out,” Jim says, avoiding eye contact as he passes Leonard, and as much as he wants to apologize, Jim doesn't seem willing or ready to hear it, so Leonard lets it slide for now.

He tells Jim about his meeting with Boyce instead, and the way Jim seems so happy for him makes Leonard wonder if maybe he's in love with him. Leonard's just not ready yet to try and puzzle out whose name belongs where in that thought.

+

Between Leonard essentially starting his surgical specialty training over again and Jim taking classes part-time around doing helicopter pilot training for the Navy, they don't see a whole lot of each other for people who live together and have friends in common.

There's signs, though.

A happy face that had been drawn on the bathroom mirror that Leonard only sees after taking a shower.

A textbook on the kitchen island that hadn't been there when Leonard left in the morning.

A crayon drawing of a rat hanging on the refrigerator.

Things that say Jim's still around and that he's doing okay.

Or at least he is until he isn't.

Part 5 - Part 6


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