The Greater Good (Kirk/McCoy NC-17) 5/6

  • Aug. 16th, 2011 at 5:12 AM
emiliglia: (au!kirk/mccoy)
Master Post & Mix - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4


His buzzer rings once and so succinctly that Leonard almost thinks he'd hallucinated it. He peers out of the window to the main entrance downstairs, frowning at the figure standing in front of the door. Spock's not exactly the type to make social calls.

“Jim showed up at Nyota's asking to be driven home, by which I presumed he meant here. He seems to be in a great deal of distress.”

Leonard chooses to ignore both facts of Spock being at Nyota's in the middle of the night and that Spock seems to be on a first-name basis with Jim. Instead he looks at the mid-class sedan parked across the street, the interior lights on because Spock had left the driver's door open, and Leonard can see that Uhura's talking even as Jim seems still and silent.

“I am unaware of any events that transpired today to cause such a reaction, and Nyota has been unsuccessful in her attempts at getting Jim to speak beyond his initial request.”

Leonard heads straight for the car, opening Jim's door and offering him and Uhura a thin smile. “Hey, Jim, come on; let's get you upstairs.” He's mouths thank you to Uhura, who's eyes are wide with worry once Jim's back is to her as he pulls himself out of the car.

Take care of him, she mouths back.

Leonard nods. I'll try.

Because seeing Jim on automatic like this scares Leonard a little.

He has to open doors along their way to Jim's room, like Jim doesn't have the strength or will to even raise his arm.

“You'll feel better after getting some sleep,” Leonard says, but the words are empty even to his own ears. He knows first-hand how cruel sleep can be because of that brief moment when you first wake up, before you remember everything beyond the immediacy of your bed. “Come on, don't make me undress you, too.”

Jim doesn't, though; he strips himself down to his undershirt and boxers before he pulls back the blankets and buries himself under them, leaving Leonard standing awkwardly at the foot of the bed.

“I'm off tomorrow,” he says. “So I'll be around if you need anything.” Leonard turns to leave. “Goodnight, Jim.”

He hears Jim moving on the bed and looks over his shoulder to see that Jim has moved from dead center to one side. “Bones,” he says so quietly, hesitantly, that his voice is barely a whisper, and it makes Leonard's heart ache as he's never known Jim to hesitate for a anything. “Please stay.”

The memory of Jim's mouth on his when he'd kissed him on the sofa comes rushing back to Leonard. They still hadn't talked about it, but Leonard knows he wouldn't be able to say no to Jim if Jim wanted him, needed him, too. But not like this. He doesn't want to be a physical reprieve, a warm, willing body in the dark. And he won't take advantage of Jim in this state.

“No, Jim. I can't.”

“You can't doesn't mean you won't,” Jim responds, and Leonard wishes he could see his face better to read the emotion written on it as his voice is too steady, like it's using all of his energy to sound calm. “Just sleep, Bones. I-” Jim's voice cracks, falters. “I need you.”

Leonard's in the bed before he really registers the movement, finding blankets being laid over him and Jim nestling in against him in the span of his breath.

“Every week... As part of the training, Pike shows actual flight recordings. The trainees are supposed to pick out the mistakes.” Jim pauses, clears his throat. “What should have been done differently... What might have been done right...” Leonard feels Jim shift and resettle. “He showed my crash.”

“You didn't know,” Leonard hazards a guess and is appalled when Jim nods his head, his hair brushing against the side of Leonard's face.

“I heard my words – the words that replay in my head in the quiet – and I thought I was going to be sick. As far as I knew, the mission report was still marked as confidential, and then it's playing right in front of me like my memory of it isn't bad enough that I need a second perspective, as well.” Jim laughs sardonically. “Like I wouldn't recognize it from a different angle, voice distorted or not.”

“Pike's a bastard.” Leonard's irate, nearly seething. What right does he have to put Jim through that? Leonard couldn't even imagine going into an M&M conference to watch his dad die.

“I think the worst part is in all their analyses, no one attributed it to a piloting error.”

Leonard doesn't respond. He understands all too well wanting to hold onto guilt, but there are different ways to handle it. Leonard had wallowed, becoming obsessed with the disease that had killed his father and holding himself back in doing so. Jim's using his guilt to live the best life he can since there are eighteen children that are unable to.

Instead he places a hand on Jim's side, presses his nose against the back of Jim's neck, and they stay like that until they both fall asleep.

+

He wakes to the smell of coffee and Jim in his arms, which makes him grin stupidly because it can only mean that Jim woke up, started a pot, and then got back into bed. Jim's snuffling into the pillow, and it feels so comfortable, like it's the easiest thing in his life in a long time. Leonard can't help but remember the hotel room in Atlanta, more or less spending two entire days in bed before Jim had wrenched himself out of Leonard's life because he'd thought that a clean break would be easier.

I really liked you, Jim had told him.

Only there is no way that's still in the past tense anymore.

As much as Leonard wants to lean over Jim to reawaken him like they're in some damned fairytale and it'll lead to happily ever after, Leonard knows that he really shouldn't.

He's starting to recognize, now, things that he'd been too blind and self-absorbed to see before. He hadn't been the only one hurting, but Jim had been better at hiding it, but all the times he'd run away for privacy, gotten mad at Leonard like he needed to feel something, the times he's made breakfast but never actually eaten anything himself, are all signs that Leonard hadn't thought anything of.

Leonard had thought that Jim agreed to move in with him because it was better than being in a dormitory with a curfew, but Leonard thinks he maybe needed the sense of security that came with hearing another person around. And despite all of their fighting and rubbing each other the wrong way at first, Jim had still agreed to live together.

He'd pushed so hard to try and fix Leonard, but how much had he really helped himself?

Leonard presses a soft kiss behind Jim's ear before pulling himself out of the warm cocoon of blankets and body heat, and if his movements wake Jim, Jim keeps on pretending that he's still fast asleep.

+

He still goes to have some words with Pike, though, before work. Leonard did his mandatory psych rotation, dammit; the way he sees it, he's the more qualified one here, and forcing Jim to relive his crash without any warning had been completely uncalled for.

Pike seems to have been expecting him, so at least the man seems to understand the repercussions of what he'd done, but it doesn't make Leonard feel any kinder towards the man as he looks at Leonard from across his desk with cool eyes.

All of Leonard's anger seems to stick on his tongue as all he can manage to spit out is, “What the hell were you thinking?”

Pike gives a know-it-all smirk that Leonard knows he's seen on Jim before, and it makes him wonder if the military trains its officers on how to be pompous asses. “Please sit down, Doctor McCoy. I think we've been needing to talk for a while, now.”

Leonard does actually sit, but only because Pike had called him by his title and in doing so seems to be acknowledging that Leonard does know some things about psychology. “Jim doesn't know I'm here,” Leonard feels the need to point out.

“It should probably remain that way. He has a hard time grasping the concept that there are people in the world that care about his well-being.” Pike folds his arms on his desk. “This is how it's going to work: I'm going to tell you about the Jim I knew versus the Jim I know now. You'll tell me if it lines up with the Jim you knew and know.”

Leonard's too surprised by the fact that Jim seems to have told Pike that they'd met before, and he can feel his cheeks grow hot as he wonders how much Pike knows, to do more than nod in agreement.

“Jim was loud, bright, enthusiastic, and cocky,” Pike begins. He talks about working with Jim as a trainee pilot, how Jim would run simulations in his free time to try and be the best, and he'd wanted his fellow pilots to strive for the same. “Seeing him train the kids now...” Pike pauses, like he's picturing Jim with the trainees. “He'd always been out of the box, could always get the birds he flew to push their limits, break the laws of physics to accomplish the mission. Now I might as well have them learning from a textbook.

“I wasn't happy about doing that to him, but it's called tough love, Doctor. Seeing it from an outsider perspective might have given him a sense of detachment to actually see that he did the best he could in a lousy situation. It's unfortunate for all of those children, but their lives should lie on the conscience of the bastard that shot Jim down, not Jim himself.”

Pike looks down at a framed photograph on his desk that Leonard can't see until Pike reaches out to turn it around. In it there are two men dressed in fatigues, one obviously a much younger Pike and the other a stranger except for a familiar pair of vivid blue eyes. “His father and I were close friends. You have to understand that everything I do for Jim, I have his best interests in mind.”

Leonard picks up the photograph, considering the man Jim had never known but had still managed to shape his life so much. “I think I do, now, but don't think that doesn't mean I'm no longer pissed off at you.”

Pike smiles. “I'd question you if you weren't.”

He can't help but wonder what it does to Jim, having a man like Pike in his life that knew his father when Jim himself did not. Jim probably has this mental impression of the man that he feels like he'll never be able to live up to and had actually failed when he'd crashed.

“Jim was...” Leonard begins, thinking back to Atlanta. “Jim was obnoxious and completely captivating. He drew people to him whether he meant to or not, including a tired, bitter doctor at the end of his rope.” Leonard considers Jim's recent behavior, looking for the words for what he's perceived. “Now Jim has these moments where it's like a flash of Jim from before coming out from under a tarnished surface, but whenever he smiles it seems as though he's smiling because he thinks it will make him happy instead of smiling because he is.”

Leonard also thinks about how Jim had been pushing him this whole time while staying back himself. “He puts others' well-being before his own.” I thought it'd be easier on you, if I'd gotten killed, to remember me as some dead asshole you fucked instead of, well, whatever. “I think he's always been like that.”

Pike nods, clearly on the same page. “So the next time he pushes, Doctor McCoy, make sure you pull him right along with you.”

+

Leonard heads to the hospital cafeteria after scrubbing out of a brain biopsy to find himself getting flagged down to a table where Jim, Sulu, Chekov, and Christine are sitting. Leonard pulls up a chair, seating himself between Jim and Sulu. “I think the four of you together is my worst nightmare realized,” Leonard says dryly, trying not to be too obvious about gauging Jim's mood.

Sulu laughs, Christine smirks, and Chekov looks like he's trying to figure out if he wants to take that as a compliment or an insult. Jim just... He looks like he doesn't know how to act around Leonard, is what he looks like, and Leonard wants to grab him by the shoulders, shake him and demand him to just stop acting, goddamn it, and be. Leonard may have denied himself opportunities while he was wallowing, but he'd never put up a front about it. He had been perfectly fine with the world seeing him as a cranky, miserable bastard.

Christine suddenly gets a glint in her eye that Leonard really doesn't like the look of. “Say, Jim, maybe you could help. The nurses have a pool, and since you've been living with Leonard for the last few months, you'd know how his tastes run, right?”

Leonard's not sure what's more embarrassing – Christine trying to discreetly ask Jim about Leonard's sex life when Jim himself is included in his history, or the fact that Leonard can't quite remember the last time he'd even had sex at all.

Jim, at least, looks just as uncomfortable. “I haven't seen Bones bring anybody home,” he says carefully, which is technically true as it'd been Jim's hotel room back in Atlanta, not Leonard's. Jim will make a great lawyer, Leonard's got to give him that.

“You didn't see him?” Christine leans over her panini. “But what about the other four senses?”

“I didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition,” Jim mutters, poking around at his French fries distractedly, and it makes Leonard bark out a laugh. Jim looks up, offering Leonard a smile that actually reaches his eyes.

“Oh my God,” Leonard hears, and he turns his attention back towards Christine. “You two totally had sex.”

Sulu and Chekov have completely stopped their side conversation to join Christine in alternating their gazes between Leonard and Jim, until Jim lets out a completely unconvincing laugh like Christine told a really funny joke before grabbing the backpack sitting at his feet. “And on that note, I have to get to class.”

Leonard waits until Jim has completely left the cafeteria before leveling his most malicious glare at each of his three companions as he rises from his chair. “Fine. If it's killing you to know then, yes, we had sex. Five years ago, not that it's any of your goddamn business.” He punctuates his sentence by shoving his seat so hard that it bangs into the table, resulting in appropriately sheepish looks from the ones still sitting. “If you want to harass me, then go right ahead, but leave Jim the hell out of it.”

He goes to the ER to deal with all of the morons that come in needing sutures for the remainder of his shift. Nothing usually calms him quite like horizontal mattress stitches.

+

Leonard isn't sure what to expect from Jim the next time he sees him, if Jim will want to talk about it or not.

The answer seems to be the latter, as Jim's reading one of his textbooks in the leather wingback chair that's been in Leonard's family for generations. He doesn't really acknowledge Leonard's presence, for that matter.

He toes off his shoes, putting his backpack down on the ground next to them. Leonard goes into the kitchen to grab a beer, and when he goes back into the living room, Jim's gone. His bedroom door's shut, and Leonard can see that the light isn't on when he looks at the crack under the door.

He'd think it's unusual if it weren't for the fact that Jim's been going to bed early since his classes started.

Leonard had assumed that it was just Jim needing to adjust to his new schedule, but it's been going on for over a month now. Not every night, but still.

Leonard turns on the TV and finds the baseball game, watching it with the sound off since he can't stand listening to the idiot announcers as they fawn over whichever team is ahead in any given inning.

Non-biased, my ass.

Only it's too quiet since at some point Leonard had gotten used to Jim filling in with the play-by-play for him.

He never knew it could be possible to miss someone that you see everyday, hell, that you live with, but apparently it is.

+

The patient's DOA, so Leonard declares time of death and scrubs out.

“Page me when her next of kin arrives,” Leonard tells Christine, and she visibly pauses. “Was there something else?”

“I let Jim in the observation room,” Christine says, looking somewhere between worried and apologetic. Being a university hospital means med students, and it's not just the interns that are allowed to watch procedures. “He said he needed to see if she'd be okay.”

“Well, Christine, she's not,” Leonard snarls through clenched teeth. “That's what happens when you're on a motorcycle flying down some damn hill and get hit by a jackass trying to get his car to catch air. It's Newton's third fucking law. More of her face is probably smeared across the gravel than left on her, and I'm going to have to break the news to her husband when he gets here. I-”

He's cut off by his own surprise when he suddenly finds himself getting hugged by Christine, her arms around his and her face pressed against his shoulder. It makes Leonard feel calmer, oddly enough. Even more so when Christine tells him, “Puri said he'll talk to her husband. You just go find Jim. And Leonard? You tell anybody about this, I'll have your balls.”

Leonard reaches his hands up the best he can to pat Christine on the back. She releases him, backing away. “Your secret's safe with me.”

Jim's exactly where Christine had left him, but he's sitting against the wall opposite the door instead of looking through the glass to the operating theater below. He looks up at Leonard, his face flushed. “I'm not okay, Bones.”

“Me neither,” Leonard responds, quietly shutting the door behind him before going to sit next to Jim on the floor. “And as far as I can tell, no one is. Anyone who says they are is just lying.” Leonard draws his knees to his chest and rests his elbows on them, mirroring Jim's position. “It's not your fault she died, Jim. Nothing you could've changed would've resulted in a different outcome.”

“I think I know that now.” Jim's voice is quiet but strong. “It's just going to take some time to get used to.” Jim sighs heavily, tilting his head back to rest it against the wall and stare at the fluorescent lights in the ceiling. There's a heaviness in Jim's posture that makes Leonard realize that Jim isn't just talking about the patient he'd flown in not even half an hour earlier. “I'm so damn tired of running all the time, of hiding behind a smile because I'm afraid of scaring people.”

Leonard snorts. “That was never a concern of mine.”

Jim allows himself a smile, a brief quirk of the lips but it's there. “You are the exception to drawing more flies with honey.”

“You seem to like me well enough,” Leonard replies, and all his frustration boils to the surface when Jim gets the look on his face that Leonard recognizes as when he's about to bolt. “When will you stop running away from me?” he asks as Jim stands.

Jim at least has the decency to look guilty as he looks between Leonard and the door. “When I'll actually let myself kiss you every time I want to without worrying that my ulterior motive is just to keep myself from feeling alone.”

It's not the answer Leonard had been expecting. He hadn't known what to expect, honestly, but it certainly wasn't that. They're both in limbo with each other, it seems – each wanting the other but no longer able to trust themselves enough anymore to risk getting someone else involved.

There's something else Leonard needs to know, now, though. “You've been trying to get me to move beyond my past this whole time. You do realize you're a part of it, right?”

Regret shines clear in Jim's eyes. “Might not have been if I didn't force you away in Atlanta,” he says, and he walks out the door before Leonard even has the chance to respond.

He tries to imagine what the last five years would've been like if Jim had stayed a part in his life, but he can't quite wrap his brain around it, so Leonard tries the next five years instead.

He thinks he likes what he sees, and now he just has to convince Jim to look forward too.

Leonard's about to try and chase Jim down before he leaves the hospital, but his pager goes off, calling him to the OR. He spends the next four hours clipping an aneurysm, but for the first time in a long time, Leonard doesn't feel like surgeries are the only thing he has to look forward to anymore.

+

Leonard's in the kitchen waiting for the grill on the deck to heat up when he hears Jim come home, slamming the front door shut with a frustrated shout.

“Jim?” Leonard calls out, understanding all too well the need to break inanimate objects – he'd become pretty good at spackling – but Jim normally goes for a long run to work off his anger, so this change of pattern has Leonard worried.

“Sorry,” comes Jim's reply. There's footsteps and then Jim's there in the kitchen too, looking flushed and flustered. “I didn't break it, I promise.”

Pointing at a discolored spot over his shoulder, Leonard recalls both the third time his request for funding got denied and how he broke his thumb as a result of it. “Not really what I'm concerned about.”

Jim spots the peeled potatoes Leonard has sitting on the counter and, seeming to deduce what Leonard plans on doing with them from the pot of water he has sitting on the stove, starts dicing them. Jim cuts heavily, the knife thunking against the wood of the cutting board. “The government's trying to get out of paying for school because I didn't incur eight years of active service, and the sad part is, that isn't even the worst they've tried to get away with.”

Leonard steps outside for a moment to put the steaks on the grill. When he comes back in, Jim's dumping the potatoes in the pot and turning on the stove to bring the water to a boil.

“Hell,” Jim says, “I've seen dogs with higher quality prosthetics than what they give to vets.”

“Maybe you could go into veteran's advocacy,” Leonard comments off-handedly; Jim doesn't talk a lot about his law classes or what he plans on doing afterward. It seems, to Leonard, like Jim might just be doing it because it had been the next logical step in his life, more passively plodding along than actively trying to do something with himself.

Jim's leaning against the counter, his arms stiff like he's ready to spring, but instead he scoffs. “You sound like Pike. The two of you aren't talking about me behind my back, are you?” Jim's tone is facetious, but Leonard's heavy silence has Jim turning to face him, his expression neutral. “You are, aren't you?”

“Only after that stunt he pulled showing your flight recording to the trainees,” Leonard responds, punctuating the air. “The man's not a psychiatrist, and that could've had serious consequences to your mental health.”

“Did he show you?” Jim asks, his tone suddenly dark, and Leonard realizes that that's what Jim's more worried about.

“No, Jim, he didn't show me, and I don't want to see it. It's an event that helped shape you but it doesn't have to define you, like my dad's death was for me.” Leonard swallows passed the lump in his throat. “It was you who helped me realize that, Jim. Now I don't care if it's because of me or Pike or yourself or, hell, even someone else altogether, but you need to realize that, too.” Leonard needs to look away, needs to focus on breathing and not on Jim's face because he feels like he's just ripped the scabs off all over again.

“The water's boiling,” Leonard says quietly, after a minute, and he heads back outside to check on the steaks.

+

Leonard's surprised when he comes home one day to two strangers, a man and a woman, sitting in the living room and Jim nowhere in sight, but based on the stack of law books spread out on the coffee table in front of them and in their laps, Leonard thinks its safe to bet that they know him.

“Is, uh, Jim home?” he asks, trying to think if Jim's ever mentioned any names of people from his classes and isn't coming up with any.

“I think he's in the kitchen. Hang on, I'll find out,” the man says, pulling out his cell phone and starting to text, which has Leonard rolling his eyes as he just walks over two rooms into the kitchen.

From the smell and sound coming from the microwave, Jim's making popcorn and seems to be on an epic search for something in the refrigerator.

“I'm assuming they're yours,” he says to Jim, who's half in the fridge, and Leonard thinks he's made a good effort at not staring at Jim's ass, even though the way Jim's bent in half means the denim of his jeans is stretching across it tantalizingly.

“Oh, right, sorry. I meant to tell you...” Jim looks at Leonard over his shoulder, his expression like he thinks he's in trouble, which Leonard wants to quell immediately.

“It's no big deal. You live here too, remember? I'm just... You don't exactly talk about your classes, is all.”

Jim pulls a six-pack of beer out of the fridge with one hand while scratching the back of his head with the other. “We have an exam in Civil Procedure next week, and Jan and Gary weren't clear on some of the material.” He still looks hesitant. “We can go somewhere else, if you'd prefer.”

Leonard just grabs one of the beers and the latest New England Journal of Medicine from the stack of mail on the counter. “I'll be on the deck looking for methodology errors.”

“I bet they hate seeing your name pop up in peer review,” Jim says. The microwave beeps, and Jim pulls out the bag to dump its contents into a bowl.

The truth is more that Leonard gets criticism for not having anything published of his own so he feels the need to nitpick everyone else's, but it's not his fault if someone can't follow the damn scientific process correctly.

“You want any?” Jim asks, indicating the popcorn, and when Leonard shakes his head, Jim shoves a handful in his mouth to chew on as he grabs the bowl and the beer to bring into the other room.

Leonard leaves them to their studying, proud of Jim for reaching out and taking this initiative to help his classmates. Whether Jim realizes it or not, it's also a step towards helping himself.

Part 6


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