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water, clear and innocent

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Leonard McCoy pushed his wet hair off his face as his surfboard drifted, the ocean carrying him closer to shore. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. The tang of salt was sharp on his tongue and he soaked in the feeling of just being, appreciating where he was.

He didn’t necessarily mean Linda Mar, or hell, even San Francisco. Of course, he appreciated what distance he’d placed between himself and the life he’d left behind. But no--at that moment, he appreciated where he was in his life, as ridiculous as it sounded in his head.

He’d grudgingly attended long hours of therapy sessions after he’d left Georgia. One of the biggest revelations was how he built walls around himself, not letting anything or anyone in. It made it easier to let people go when things started to fall apart. It made it easier to self-sabotage whenever he felt situations spiraling out of his control. As much as he hated to admit it, his therapist had helped him see the patterns littering themselves throughout his life. His father. Jocelyn.

Jesus--just look at how things had ended there. “Irreconcilable differences” was far more palatable on divorce papers than “life as a trauma surgeon was more interesting than living with you.” Of course, he knew they weren't the same people they were when they’d gotten married. Leonard had clung naively to some of the hopes and dreams he’d had at nineteen--a white picket fence, two and a half kids, a small family practice, all of it--and he’d assumed Jocelyn had done the same over the years.

The miscarriage proved him wrong. He’d been devastated, the feeling compounded with despair when all she could do was look at him coldly and tell him it was for the best since he wouldn’t be around to help her raise it anyway.

He finally saw the resentment in her eyes--was able to understand that while he thought he was building the life she wanted, he’d been distancing himself from her every day. He could accept that he hadn’t done anything to keep their relationship afloat; he’d begun pulling away from Jocelyn more and more without fully understanding why.

When he found out the baby probably hadn’t been his anyway--well, he had no one to blame but himself, did he? His complacency had cost him. Some days it felt like she got the whole damn planet in the divorce, along with all his savings and most of his humanity.

Despite it all--and the overwhelmingly downward spiral he’d thrown himself into soon after--drifting in the water, his body exhausted, he could admit he was...well, not happy. Not exactly. But...satisfied? Content? A damn sight better than he’d been in the years since his divorce, anyway. As much as he hated to admit it, his therapist had been onto something when he’d suggested Leonard get a hobby instead of drinking his excess energy into submission.

The late afternoon sun warmed the back of his neck as he paddled towards shore. He slipped off his board in the shallows and walked onto the hot sand, grimacing as it clung between his toes. He found a small swath of empty beach and stuck his board in the sand. He sat down with a contented sigh and leaned back on his hands to watch the waves roll in.

He’d spent weeks in a buzzed limbo after his therapist suggested he find a hobby, entertaining different ideas before dismissing each of them in turn. When he saw the flyer offering surfing lessons in one of the hospital break rooms, he snorted at it as he emptied two sugar packets into his coffee. But the idea began to invade his thoughts, eating away at his resolve. He’d tried to ignore it, coming up with reason after reason for why it was a shit idea.

Ocean water bred bacteria like nobody’s business.

Public beaches are cesspools these days. You’re more likely to find cigarette butts and broken glass than sand anywhere.

My feet are perfectly fine on solid ground, thank you very much. Flying has proven that more than enough times and I’m not fool enough to prove it to myself with water too.

The potential for injuries is enormous! Not just from the sport itself, but from the water and...sharks, probably…

Once he ran out of excuses, he’d furiously ripped the flyer off of the bulletin board and stuffed it in his pocket.

That was how he’d found himself learning to stand on a surfboard on dry land, scowling at his new surfing instructor on his next day off. But it turned out that Sulu, a Hawaiian-born grad student (studying botany, of all things) was a rather impressive coach and all-around decent guy. He easily held his own with McCoy and didn’t put up with too much bitching; quite frankly, Leonard found it rather refreshing.

The first time he’d successfully stood up on his rented board--in the shallows, on the smallest wave--Sulu cheered at his success so loudly McCoy almost fell off in surprise. Sulu greeted him with a huge grin when Leonard paddled over to him.

“How do you feel, man?”

McCoy had smiled for the first time in what felt like years.

He’d been hooked. He continued taking weekly lessons until Sulu became Hikaru and he spent an exorbitant amount of money on his own longboard, then a wetsuit as the year went on. Suddenly, any day not spent at the hospital was spent in the ocean.

He felt a change in himself and, apparently, his colleagues had noticed too. He ran into Christine in a breakroom one day and she cheekily asked if he’d finally gotten laid.

Sputtering, McCoy began a lengthy rant about how it was absolutely none of her business and, even if he had, he certainly wouldn’t be running his mouth about it. His mama raised him right, thank you very much.

She’d laughed at his outburst.

“I was just wondering. You seem happier, that’s all,” she said, patting his arm on her way out.

Here, though. Now--sand beneath him, the spring sun on his face--he felt centered, anchored, grounded. It felt good.

Leonard got lost in the hypnotic rolling of the waves and, somewhere in the back of his mind, the idea of heading back in the water rose to the surface. He’d just decided to call it a day when someone walked in front of him, their board blocking the sun’s warmth for a moment. He cast a perfunctory glance at the surfer but found himself outright staring as he looked him over a second time.

And boy, did he deserve a second glance. Golden blonde hair, sunkissed skin, a strong jaw, and eyes too blue to be believed. Not to mention the lithe body on display, with his wetsuit unzipped to the waist and a too-small muscle tank leaving little to the imagination. And Sweet Baby Jesus, those arms.

McCoy watched as he anchored his board in the sand and dropped a small navy backpack next to it. He bent over to unzip the bag and Leonard’s cheeks grew warm as he outright ogled his ass, wetsuit pulled taught over the perfect curve of it. His flush only deepened when he realized he’d been caught staring.

Leonard averted his gaze, feeling guilty, but couldn’t help glancing again in the man’s direction. He was rewarded with a brilliant smile. Amusement lit those blue eyes and the corners of McCoy’s mouth twitched upward. He quirked a thick blonde eyebrow and the challenging look he cast his way seemed to ask if Leonard was still paying attention. McCoy raised an eyebrow back in response.

The man paused, eyes staying on Leonard as his elegant hands reached for the hem of his grey tank top. He pulled it slowly over his head and McCoy’s lips parted in a shaky breath as he revealed an expanse of golden skin and toned muscles. Leonard forced himself to look away, though whether from some misplaced sense of modesty or an attempt to gain control over his body’s reaction, he wasn’t sure.

This blonde-haired, blue-eyed Adonis was like a wet dream come to life for McCoy. Dammit, why shouldn’t he be allowed to look? It wasn’t hurting anybody.

He shifted in the sand, subtly adjusting himself before looking over again. McCoy watched as he finished zipping up his suit and grabbed his board out of the sand. It was dark against the clear blue sky and Leonard registered that the custom paint job was done to look like a nebula had been wrapped around the board itself, stars and cloud-like gases climbing the rails.

The blonde glanced back at McCoy and, seeing he’d captured his attention again, winked at him over his shoulder. 

He motherfucking winked.

McCoy laughed, the long-forgotten sensation of excitement and arousal flaring hot in his stomach as he watched him step into the waves and paddle out. A moment later, he stood up and brushed the sand off his hands. Maybe he would go back in for a bit longer. He didn’t have anywhere to be, after all.


McCoy returned to Linda Mar the next day in hopeful anticipation. And the following day, though somewhat less encouraged. Driving home, disappointment painting a frown on his face, he tirelessly berated himself when the blonde failed to show for the third time. He resolutely stayed away from his usual spot for a couple of weeks just to prove to himself he wasn’t some simpering teenage girl with an unrequited crush. Once he returned to Linda Mar regularly, he clung to the excuse that his shifts at the hospital didn’t exactly allow him to keep a regular schedule as the reason he hadn’t run into the blonde again.

But finally, on an unseasonably warm and crowded day in late May, he spotted that dark board in the water. He stared stupidly, impressed as he watched the blonde ride with far more grace than he’d ever managed. He didn’t realize just how long he’d been standing frozen in the shallows, board in hand, until a small child accidentally swam into the back of his knees, knocking him off balance.

McCoy had paddled out to join the other surfers waiting for the waves and nodded at a few familiar faces. He caught the blonde’s eye and Leonard’s stomach flipped upside down when he paused in the middle of his conversation with some curly-haired teen to smirk at Leonard. The kid had twisted around on his board to glance at McCoy, who could only flush and look away as he winked at him. Again

McCoy caught himself smiling stupidly for no reason twice that afternoon.

A week after that, Leonard had just stepped onto the beach when he spotted the blonde putting a t-shirt on, his wetsuit unzipped down to his hips and dripping. He noticed McCoy looking for a place to put his stuff and waved him over.

Grabbing his board and relinquishing his claim on the space, he slung his backpack over one shoulder and smiled. Leonard’s mouth went dry.

“It’s really going off today. Enjoy, man.”

A warm hand clapped his shoulder as the blonde walked past him. Leonard managed to return the smile, but he’d already walked away before he could form anything more coherent than a weak thank you.

The memory of his warm and slightly damp touch stayed with him for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening when McCoy resolved to strike up some kind of intelligent conversation with him. Maybe even learn the guy’s name. If he didn’t, the subject of his (ridiculous and growing) adoration would continue to think he could only handle one-syllable words like “hey” and ”thanks.”

He was a doctor, for fuck’s sake; a surgeon who regularly hand his hands inside of people, putting them back together. He didn’t do nerves. 

Nonetheless, he couldn’t get past a greeting or stilted small talk about surfing. Every time he was within five feet of the man, he choked. And before he could get it together, someone else caught the blonde’s attention. Leonard was seriously starting to believe fate had it out for him when it came to this guy.

And maybe it did.

Because after weeks of brief encounters where he was on the receiving end of bedroom eyes and obnoxious displays of the man’s abs while awkwardly trying to strike up a conversation, suddenly, he was nowhere to be seen.

McCoy tried to explain it as their schedules not lining up; maybe he was sick or out of town. Each day that passed without seeing the blonde was another day that his concern grew. And after a full month had passed without any sight of him, Leonard could’ve worried the horns off a billy goat.


So, one late August afternoon, when McCoy arrived at the beach only to recognize the blonde atop a dark board, he couldn’t help but be relieved.

Leonard paddled out to join the surfers waiting in the lineup, slowing a little to track the blonde’s movements as he dropped in. The wave he went after was pretty small compared to what he’d seen him ride in the past, even though there were bigger ones to be had. He lacked some of the grace he usually exuded when popping up and he seemed to hesitate before he bailed.

Attempting to be subtle, McCoy ended up near him in the lineup but tried not to draw any attention to himself right away. He watched him push his hair back from his forehead, trying to stop it from dripping in his eyes. It was only mildly successful and left his hair sticking up in spikes. God help him, Len couldn’t help but find it endearing.

Before McCoy could clear his throat, the blonde glanced at him and his eyes lit up with recognition.

“Hey,” he smirked, “how’s it going, man?”

Leonard had to remember to breathe before responding, distracted as he was by that smile.

“Uh, good. You?” He was a doctor, dammit, not a poet.

“Yeah, good.”

“I, uh--haven’t seen you around. You usually surf somewhere else?”

Surprise swept over his handsome features and he shook his head.

“Nah. I sprained my ankle pretty bad a few weeks back. I got the okay to get back on a board--finally.” He rolled his eyes. “How have the waves been?”

McCoy took a deep breath, his somewhat-inappropriate concern abating.

“Ya know, okay--they were mushy for a bit but they’re comin’ round. Your ankle okay?”

The man shrugged, eyeing the waves carefully. “Yeah. I mean, it feels okay, I guess. Oh, hold up--I’m going for this one.”

Leonard nodded even as he was paddling away.

He watched him take off, catching the shoulder of the wave ahead of the break. He’d just popped up when someone else in the lineup whistled sharply. McCoy scowled as some asshole who, seemingly out of nowhere, decided to drop in on the face of the wave, trying to get ahead of him. He whistled in warning as well, but it wasn’t long before they inevitably wiped out, the newcomer’s board catching the nose of the other. The collision of bodies and boards was nasty, even from the sidelines, and McCoy cringed as he lost sight of both men in the water.

A head popped up out of the water and the dark-haired jerk just shook his head to clear his vision before wrangling himself back onto his board, apparently unfazed. A few of the other surfers started tossing some insults his way and McCoy couldn’t help but feel they were justified. He glared pointedly as the guy paddled past him before turning his attention back to the waves.

A sharp cry from one of the surfers interrupted the continued taunts and the abject sound of alarm made the hairs on the back of Leonard’s neck stand on end. His eyes followed the direction the guy was pointing and his stomach dropped: a familiar dark board drifted in the waves, its owner nowhere in sight.

McCoy paddled frantically towards the board, gratified to see others doing the same. He didn’t think twice about slipping into the water once he reached it.

His eyes burned from the brackish water as he opened them, but he was able to easily locate the form floating just below him. He eased his hands underneath his arms and kicked desperately towards the surface.

Leonard took in a deep breath as their heads broke over the water and his chest constricted in alarm when the man in his arms didn’t inhale. He kept one arm around his lean torso before shouting for the other surfers who had rushed to help.

“I’m undoing his leash, grab his board,” he ordered, not bothering to check if they were actually listening to him or not. “Now, goddammit!”

Grabbing his own board, he guided both of their hands to the far rail and anchored his grip. One of the other surfers dismounted and helped him flip the board upside down, doing what he could to ensure the man’s head and torso stayed out of the water. Leonard anchored one of their hands on the far rail again and together with the other surfer, flipped his board once more. The blonde lay motionless atop his board and in the back of his mind, Leonard praised himself for actually picking something up when he’d watched those surfing rescue videos back when he was still trying to talk himself out of taking up the hobby. Another surfer climbed into the water to help steady the board as he climbed on the back, anchoring the blonde’s legs underneath him.

A distinct feeling of calm swept over him, one that he usually associated with the sights and sounds of a hospital, the smell of antiseptic. He’d already begun paddling towards shore before he fully comprehended what he was doing.

The journey towards the shore felt like it took ten times longer than it possibly could have, even with the waves pushing them on.

As soon as he reached the shallows, he rolled off the board and undid his leash before dragging the prone form onto the first patch of level sand he saw.

Taking in his now-patient’s current state, McCoy began cataloging as much as he could as quickly as possible. The nasty gash along his hairline bled freely and he knew that some kind of neck or spine injury couldn’t be ruled out. He searched for a pulse and found it on the inside of his wrist, slow but strong. He was clearly unconscious but alive, though not exactly breathing. Leonard quickly moved him into a modified recovery position and opened his mouth, draining what water might be blocking his airway.

He was about ready to turn him to his other side when the man suddenly inhaled and choking coughs wracked his body. Water and bile ran from his mouth as he continued coughing, taking shallow breaths. 

“There you go,” McCoy murmured, keeping his voice soft and calm. “Slow, deep breaths, okay?”

McCoy held him steady on his side when he tried to push himself up with weak arms, though helped to tilt him further forward.

“Dude, is he okay?”

Len opted to ignore the onlooker.

“Should--uh, should we call an ambulance?” The surfer closest to them asked. He quickly shifted away as Leonard glared up at him in alarm.

“What?!” The weak “no” from the man in his arms was easily drowned out by McCoy’s outburst. “You tellin’ me you didn’t already? Jesus fucking Christ.”

Leonard took a deep breath to calm himself and unconsciously began rubbing circles into the man’s back as he did. After counting to five, he fumbled for his car keys, pulling them out of the zippered pocket of his wetsuit. He handed them off to the nearest person, pointing out his hatchback in the parking lot.

“You, go start the car,” he ordered, and the man scrambled to obey. He glanced around to survey the surfers who had come to help. He nodded at the two holding their boards. “Go put those in the back. There are a few towels and a change of clothes--put ‘em in the front seat.”

He demanded additional towels that the group at large could spare before looking down at his patient. The coughing had subsided and he was weakly pushing against one of Leonard’s hands.

“Stop trying to sit up,” he snapped. The guy flinched in response. “You took a hit to the head, so I gotta check the rest of you.”

The calming gesture of rubbing the man’s back took a clinical air, locating his C2 vertebrae and proceeding down the midline. Once he was reassured that he wasn’t sporting any serious neck or back injuries, he helped him sit up.

McCoy gentled his tone as best he could with adrenaline coursing through his veins.

“You think you’re up for walking, kid?”

A deep, shuddering breath answered him, followed by a slow nod.

“Give me a sec,” his voice was shaky and Leonard wasn’t surprised to feel him trembling beneath his hands. A blur of navy entered the corner of his vision and he grabbed the towel, draping it over shivering shoulders.

“You got a name?” 

“Kirk. Jim Kirk,” he blinked up at him, a hint of that smirk visible at the corners of his mouth.

“Leonard McCoy. Nice to officially meet you, Jim,” he flashed him what he hoped was a charming grin.

Jim snorted and smiled weakly. “Yeah, nice to meet you too, Leo.”

“Oh no,” McCoy grimaced, “Only person allowed to call me Leo was my gran and only when I was in deep shit. You can’t handle Leonard, Len is just fine.”

A pale teen McCoy vaguely recognized stepped up with Jim’s bag.

“You got a change of clothes in here?”

Jim nodded and tried to reach for the bag but Leonard wasn’t having it.

“Stop it. Think you’re ready to try standing?”

A flash of annoyance crossed Jim’s handsome features, but he nodded and tried to brace himself with a hand in the sand. McCoy rolled his eyes and slipped his hands under Jim’s arms, lifting him up with ease. Once Jim seemed steady on his feet, Leonard draped one of Jim’s arms over his shoulders and wrapped an arm around his slim waist. The teen with Jim’s bag automatically plastered himself to Jim’s other side, supporting him without McCoy having to ask.

“We’re gonna take it slow, alright?”

Together, they climbed the embankment of the beach towards Leonard’s car. The huddle of concerned surfers and onlookers followed behind them like wayward ducklings. The doors of his car were already flung open, ready for their arrival.

They gently maneuvered Jim into the passenger seat and McCoy grabbed the bag from the teen, who was still staring wide-eyed at Jim. He tried to ignore the quiet conversation between them as he rummaged in the bag for a change of clothes.

“I’m fine, Pavel, I promise.” Jim flashed a reassuring smile at him. “Hey, do me a favor?”

“Uhhh, vat is it?” The kid seemed like Jim had asked him to do favors in the past, with varying results.

“Can you give Spock a head’s up that I probably won’t be by the lab tonight?”

“Oh. да, I can do zat.” Pavel’s shoulders sagged in relief before he said goodbye.

McCoy took his departure as his cue to hand over the threadbare t-shirt and a pair of gym shorts.

Jim shrugged the towel off from around his shoulders and grabbed the hem of his rash guard, trying to slowly pull it off and over his head. He lacked the coordination and finesse he’d had when Leonard first encountered him and he decided to take pity on him. He helped him wrestle it off, peeling the damp fabric away from his skin. Jim visibly shivered as it came off, and Leonard was quick to help him into his dry shirt.

Kirk raised an eyebrow when he held up his gym shorts. “Trying to get into my pants?”

McCoy huffed, pursing his lips as he felt his cheeks flush.

“Just...put them on. We gotta get you warm.” Handing the shorts over to Jim, he turned his back, shooing the other surfers away to give him a modicum of privacy.

“Is he gonna be okay?” A surfer, pale and shaken, asked as he stepped back.

“He’ll be fine as long as I can get his fool ass to the hospital.” He tried to keep his annoyance at their inaction from seeping into his tone. Someone handed him the clothes he kept in his trunk and he gratefully began to change out of his short-sleeve suit.

T-shirt donned, he glanced behind him to make sure Jim was decent before stepping away. Jim pulled the towel around his shoulders again and nodded when he looked up Leonard, slipping inside the car.

McCoy cleared his throat to address the hovering group.

“Uh, thanks for all y’all’s help--we gotta get goin’, but you did good.”

He nodded at the surfers who’d returned their boards in thanks as the crowd slowly dispersed. He handed them off to Jim, then snagged the worn hoodie he’d left in his car after a run a few days prior. He gave it to Jim with a slight grimace.

“It’s--uh--maybe not the freshest smelling but put this on, too.”

Jim snorted but pulled it over his head all the same.

Leonard finished changing out of his wetsuit behind the privacy afforded to him thanks to a towel and one of the back doors. He slipped on a pair of flip flops he kept in his car specifically for his ride home and rifled in Jim’s bag to find his own pair of sandals. Handing them off, he rearranged the extra towels to ensure his passenger was fully covered before he buckled him in, trying not to think too much about how Jim kept watching him.

Once he was comfortably exceeding the speed limit on the freeway, he glanced over at his passenger.

“How are you feelin’?”

Head lolling against the seat rest, Kirk shrugged as he trained his eyes on him.

“Like I almost just drowned. You?”

Leonard couldn’t help the huff of laughter that escaped from his lips.

“Oh, just fine, thanks. Here--”

He reached across Jim to the glovebox, trying to keep his eyes on the road as he pulled out a small stack of napkins.

“--for your head.”

Jim frowned and pressed a napkin to his forehead. It came away bloodied, and he grimaced when he flipped the visor down to stare at his reflection.

“Shit.”

McCoy snorted and watched him wipe the blood off his face with a wince out of the corner of his eye. Jim silently tried to staunch the bleeding and clean his face. Eventually, he flipped the visor back up with a dejected sigh.

“Fucking fuck. First the ankle and now this...”

Jim slumped back in the seat, frowning.

“Tough luck, kid.”

Jim narrowed his eyes.

“You don’t sound like you’re from around here.”

Leonard glanced over at him.

“‘M not. Georgia boy, born an’ raised,” he drawled, laying his accent on thick. “You don’t exactly sound local either, ya know.”

“Iowa.” Jim shot a wry smile at him. “I left that hellhole as soon as I could.”

Leonard hummed. “I can understand that, kid.”

“Ugh, will you stop calling me that? You seriously can’t be much older than me.”

“How old are you?”

“Twenty-six. And you?”

McCoy snorted. “Plenty old enough to call you kid.”

After the silence stretched a beat too long, he glanced over to find Jim staring at him expectantly.

“Thirty-four. Which--” Leonard cut Jim off before he could interrupt, “is old enough, alright?”

They lapsed into a comfortable silence as the road stretched before them. Finally, McCoy pulled off the freeway, automatically navigating the route he took to the ER every day. He cleared his throat as he turned into the parking ramp.

“Okay, Jim. I need you to be straight with me. How’re you feelin’?”

Jim sighed. “Weak. Tired. Shaky. My head hurts, my throat hurts, my all over hurts, and my ankle doesn’t feel that great. But I’ve had worse.”

Leonard hummed but didn’t comment on that.

“You takin’ any prescriptions? Any health conditions we should know about? Allergies?”

“Allergies,” Jim confirmed. “A long list of them. But otherwise, no...Look, is this totally necessary?”

McCoy was glad he’d pulled into his parking spot and put the car in park before Jim asked that question. He turned to Jim with his eyebrows raised in incredulous silence.

Jim met his gaze for a long moment before looking away and sighing.

Leonard turned the car off and hurried around to the passenger side, but Jim waved off his attempts to unbuckle him and gingerly got out of the car, leaving the towels. He took two shuffling steps towards the entrance to the hospital before stopping to let Leonard slip an arm around his waist to hold him steady.

In the elevator, McCoy pulled away enough to take in the wariness painted on Jim’s face.

“Not a fan of doctors?”

Jim stiffened against Leonard’s side.

“Not a fan of hospitals,” he said, resolutely not looking at him.

“Ah.”

Leonard steered Jim out of the elevator and past the check-in desk when they got to the right floor.

“Um, I think we were supposed to--” Jim’s voice trailed off as one of the nurses from the nearest station made a beeline for them.

“Doctor McCoy!” Gaila’s voice bordered on alarm as she took in the sight in front of her.

Leonard cringed, not wanting to imagine what kind of picture they looked like in their condition.

Jim pulled away from McCoy’s side to give him an assessing once-over, realization alight in his eyes.

Gaila hurried to Jim’s other side and nodded towards an empty room. Together, they got Jim onto the bed and Leonard began to brief her on what happened. Working in tandem, Gaila hooked Jim up to a heart rate monitor and thrust a thermometer into his mouth. Leonard placed an oxygen tube as she set an IV.

Glancing at Jim, he could see panic blooming under the quietly stoic facade.

“I--uh--I know this seems like a lot,” he murmured, leaning towards him and placing a reassuring hand on his arm, “but I want to make sure you’re a-okay, Jim. Is that alright?”

Kirk took a deep, steadying breath of the pure oxygen and nodded reluctantly. McCoy squeezed his forearm gently, giving Jim a rare grin, which was slowly returned.

“Alright, I’ll be right back.”

Gaila smiled sunnily at Jim, tucking a blanket around his legs and pulling the thermometer from his mouth as Leonard left the room.

Once he was in the hallway, he paused and scrubbed his hands over his face. Not quite how he planned on spending his first day off that week, but hey, maybe it wouldn’t be a complete ethics violation if he asked for Jim’s number when he was released.

You’re fucking sick, McCoy, he thought as he logged into one of the nearby computer stations.

“Leonard?”

McCoy winced, not at all looking forward to the conversation soon to follow.

“Hey Chris,” he said reluctantly, avoiding her gaze.

“Well, aren’t you looking sharp today,” she said amicably as she leaned against the wall next to him. “Here I thought you had the day off.”

“Yeah, well, so did I,” he grumbled, pulling out a new patient chart.

Chapel snorted.

“Sorry, Doctor, but the whole cantankerous asshole routine doesn’t work quite when you look like a beach bum.”

He pointedly ignored her.

“She is right, you know,” a deep voice laughed behind him.

McCoy took one look at the shit-eating grin on M’Benga’s face and rolled his eyes.

“You two are children.”

“But you’re so cute like this,” Geoff cooed.

“And you can fuck off,” Leonard growled.

He grabbed the chart and headed back to Jim’s room, well aware of them on his heels, giggling conspiratorially.

Upon entry, he found Jim clearly in the middle of a story. He continued, animated, as Gaila, who was sitting at the foot of the bed, laughed. At the sight of him with Chapel and M’Benga in tow, she doubled over, near hysterics. Jim dropped his hands, directing an innocent smile at McCoy as she quieted down.

Leonard frowned, pursing his lips as he moved to take down Jim’s vitals, Geoff snatched the chart out of his hands.

“What’re you--”

“There’s no chance I’m letting you list yourself as attending. Not on your day off, Leonard, not after five nights in a row, and definitely not looking like that.”

McCoy opened his mouth to argue but Gaila attached herself to his side with a smile before he could.

“I’m with Doctor M’Benga on this one, Bones,” she said cheerfully.

Leonard reared back to look at her incredulously.

“Bones?”

Kirk cleared his throat.

“Sorry, that’s on me, Len.”

McCoy turned to face him with a raised eyebrow, ignoring Christine’s whispered “Len?” from behind him.

“I was, uh, telling Gaila how, before we met...um, before I knew your name, I kept calling you Bones in my head.”

At Leonard’s blank stare, he continued slowly.

“You know, cause of your board?”

“Doctor McCoy’s got a skeleton on his surfboard!” Gaila gleefully told Christine and Geoff, who turned to stare at Leonard with barely concealed shock and surprise. M’Benga was the first to recover.

“Wait, you surf?”

McCoy pursed his lips.

“Yeah, I do. What the hell did ya think I was doing, lookin’ like this? Fishin’?”

“Well, yeah…”

M’Benga glanced at Chapel before he continued in a gruff Southern accent.

“Ya know, down-home country boy, a-fishin’ and a--”

“Stop right there, I swear to god.” Leonard pointed a finger in M’Benga’s face.

Gaila laughed, the bright noise diverting McCoy’s attention.

“You just let Doctor M’Benga and Nurse Chapel take care of Jim, Doctor,” she said, pulling him towards the other empty bed in the room, her grip firm around his wrist, “and I’ll fix you right up.”

He frowned as she pushed him down onto the bed.

“What’re you--I’m fine. I--”

“You’re bleeding,” she said, her tone exasperated.

“What? No, I’m not, I’m…” he trailed off as he looked down at himself. There was a fair amount of sand burn along his calf and on his knees, along with a sluggishly bleeding gash curving down his shin to his ankle. He tried to figure out when that had happened and how he’d not noticed it when he was changing. “Huh.”

“Alright, tell me what I’m looking at, McCoy.” M’Benga was looking over the chart Leonard had started, empty though it was. Christine had found a suture kit and was already in the process of cleaning the wound on Jim’s forehead.

Leonard recounted the day’s events, feeling oddly guilty when Jim’s heart rate went up slightly each time he said something like cranial trauma or hypoxemia. He tried to smile reassuringly at Kirk as he finished.

“Don’t worry, kid. It sounds bad and all, but really, the fact that you’re conscious and breathing, and seem to know who ya are means you’ll probably live through the next 24 hours.”

Gaila slapped McCoy’s leg with a frown while Christine rolled her eyes.

“What?”

“You have the worst bedside manner I’ve ever seen, McCoy,” Geoff sighed as he examined Jim.

“I dunno,” Kirk said softly, shrugging, “I kinda appreciate it. If something’s really wrong, I’d want to know outright. It’s blunt, I guess, but at least it’s the truth.”

Leonard stared at Jim in open appreciation before smirking. Jim returned his smile and they spent a moment too long staring at each other. Neither seemed to notice the looks of surprise and amusement that passed between Leonard’s colleagues.

Gaila cleared her throat, breaking the silence.

“Sorry, Doctor McCoy,” she said as she swabbed one of his knees with alcohol.

“Sonnova bitch,” McCoy grimaced, tightening his fist against the pain while Jim laughed openly.

She turned her attention to his other leg and flushed the large swath of sand burn with saline. Leonard sighed and watched M’Benga inject Kirk’s forehead with lidocaine to take his mind off her ministrations.

M’Benga leaned over Jim, humming as he threaded the suture needed.

“You might feel a little pulling, but this shouldn’t hurt. Tell me if it does and I’ll numb you up a bit more, okay?”

Jim swallowed and agreed, resolutely staring at Gaila dressing the cut on Leonard’s ankle and not the needle angled towards his face.

“Alright?” M’Benga asked, pulling the first suture tight.

“Yeah, fine.” Jim locked eyes with Leonard, who quirked one side of his mouth up in a smile.

Gaila patted McCoy on the thigh as she eventually finished up and he thanked her before slipping off the bed. She smiled and turned to Kirk.

“I’ll see you around, Jim. You take care of this old grump, okay?” She winked at him as she left the room.

Leonard raised an eyebrow at her words (and Christine’s snort in response) and was pleasantly surprised to see a blush creeping up Jim’s neck and over his cheeks. Wondering what Jim had said to Gaila to elicit that kind of comment, he tried to hide the grin spreading over his face by turning to examine Jim’s ankle.

Chapel grabbed his arm and steered him to the visitor’s chair next to Jim instead.

“Chris--”

“Sit, Leonard.”

He huffed as he dropped into the uncomfortable chair. He relaxed slowly, watching M’Benga tidily finish of the sutures and dress Jim’s wound. A wave of exhaustion flooded his body suddenly and it was all he could do not to fall asleep right then.

He was used to being pleasantly worn out after a day in the waves, but this was clearly an adrenaline crash on top of physical exertion. And if he was feeling like he’d been hit by a ton of bricks, Jim must be feeling like death warmed over.

Leonard observed him closely as Geoff ran through some standard traumatic brain injury tests. Kirk looked tired, which was disconcerting for someone he’d always seen have boundless energy. Jim glanced over at him and Leonard tried desperately not to blush at being caught staring. Again.

“I’m ordering a CT scan since you lost consciousness and an x-ray on your ankle too, just in case,” M’Benga concluded.

Jim turned pleading eyes to Leonard who cleared his throat and tried to smile sympathetically.

“It’s for the best, Jim. You took a nasty hit; we should make sure there isn’t some serious injury. Still got that headache?”

Kirk shrugged, looking resigned.

“It’s not so bad. I’ve had a few concussions before--I think I’m okay.”

M’Benga hummed neutrally as he made a few notes on Jim’s chart.

Len scrubbed his hands over his face, startling in surprise when a cup of coffee appeared in front of him.

“Nurse Chapel, I positively love you,” he murmured, taking the cup from her with relish.

“You just remember that next time you’re bitching at me about your new batch of residents.”

Leonard raised the cup in a toast.

“So, Jim, what do you do?” Christine asked, handing over a small cup of water and some painkillers.

Jim threw back the pills before answering.

“I’m a doctoral candidate at Berkeley. Astrophysics; theoretical applications, mostly.”

McCoy couldn’t help raising his eyebrows, impressed and a little turned on. Gorgeous and brains to boot?

M’Benga whistled lowly. “Damn.”

Jim shrugged, glancing over at Leonard with a sheepish grin.

“I like space.”

McCoy snorted and, encouraged as Jim’s grin grew, he smiled back. Unbeknownst to either of them, Geoff and Christine shared a knowing look.

Geoff cleared his throat to get their attention.

“I’m going to put the orders in for that CT and x-ray, as well as a chest radiograph and a few labs. Sit tight, we’ll get you out of here in no time.”

Kirk settled back in the bed with a sigh, watching Christine trail off behind M’Benga as the left the room.

“Sorry ‘bout all the tests, Jim. It’s why I practically kidnapped you. Standard in near-drowning cases.” 

McCoy’s voice was soft and he looked away before continuing.

“I know you’re itchin’ to leave, but I couldn’t live with myself if it turned out you weren’t alright in the end.”

Jim snorted.

“I’ll survive, Bones. You saved my life--if me being here makes you happy, it isn’t the worst thing to happen to me today.”

Jim paused and suddenly bolted upright, his eyes widening.

Leonard stood in alarm, immediately at his side.

“Dude! Bones. You saved my life!”

His hands reached out, grabbing hold of Leonard’s forearms when he tried to steady him.

“How do I...I’m not sure how to--um, thank you?”

McCoy laughed.

“You’re welcome, kid.”

Jim took a deep breath to calm down and seemed to notice how hard he was gripping Leonard’s arms. He loosened his hold but didn’t let go.

“No, but seriously, Bones. Thank you. I’m not sure how I could ever repay you, but…”

Leonard shrugged, staring at Jim’s hands on him instead of looking into his overly earnest eyes. If it wouldn’t be blatantly taking liberties (or, if he had a bit of liquid courage in him), he might have responded with a line about getting dinner.

“Just knowin’ you’re okay is enough,” he mumbled.

A tenuous moment passed between them, neither moving.

“Did you, um...have to give me mouth to mouth?” Jim asked coyly, breaking the silence and trying to hide his growing smirk.

McCoy glanced up to see Jim’s gaze shift downwards. Leonard licked his lips self-consciously and grew incredibly warm as Jim mirrored the action.

“No, I--”

A cleared throat from behind Leonard startled them both and he pulled away from Jim, sitting down heavily in the visitor chair.

“Sorry to interrupt,” Christine’s shit-eating grin told Leonard just how long she’d been standing there and how not sorry she was, “but I’m here to take you away, Jim. Coming, Bones?”

Leonard closed his eyes and groaned, letting his head hit the back of the chair. He could practically feel the grin on Jim’s face at her use of the nickname.

“There’s a snowball’s chance in hell I’m letting you call me that, Chapel. Don’t even think about using it again.”

He cracked his eyes open and pursed his lips at Jim.

“You okay if I wait here for you?”

Kirk nodded, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed. McCoy could tell he was a little stiff, but nothing else indicated he was in any pain. He watched Christine unhook Jim from the necessary machines and try to help him into a wheelchair, despite his protests the entire time.

“Christ, he’s practically as stubborn as you, Leonard,” she grumbled, unlocking the breaks on the chair once he was sitting comfortably.

“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” Jim smirked.

Leonard and Christine just snorted in response. As Chapel wheeled Jim away, he reached out, gently running his fingertips across the back of Leonard’s hand as he passed by.

Leonard swore he could still feel the touch long after they had left the room.

He leaned back and closed his eyes with a sigh.


Leonard jerked awake from the doze he’d fallen into when Geoff sat down on the edge of Jim’s bed an indeterminate amount of time later.

“McCoy, you’ve got it bad.”

Leonard scrubbed his hands over his face but didn’t deny it. Because...well...shit. He was right. If he thought he’d been harboring a crush on Jim before, he was goddamn smitten at this point. He opened his eyes to see Geoff smirking at him.

“Where’d you even pick him up? I thought you said you ‘weren’t dating.’”

Leonard scowled and crossed his arms for good measure.

“What’re you talkin’ bout? I only officially met him today, for christ’s sake!”

M’Benga held out his hands to stop the rant he could sense coming.

“Seriously, man? You two just seem so...but, you’re not dating him?”

McCoy shook his head.

“No. ‘Course not. But not because I’m not--I mean, I am--but...Shit. Am I that obvious?”

M’Benga burst out laughing and it was all Leonard could do not to punch him.

“We’ve kinda been...well, not flirtin’ before, I guess. I dunno, starin’ at each other--does that count as flirtin’? I’ve been fixin’ to talk to him but...jesus, I’m fucked. What am I supposed to do now?”

Geoff gaped at him for a moment before shaking his head.

“Ask him out, you asshole!”

“But I’d be takin’ advantage of the situation. I know I’m not technically his doctor--”

“You’re welcome, by the way.”

“--shut it. But there’s some kind of power dynamic there, isn’t there? He already asked what he could do to repay me...I don’t want him to feel obligated or say yes out of pity or anythin’.”

M’Benga frowned and chose his words carefully before responding.

“Have you stopped to think that maybe you’re self-sabotaging? Or stopping yourself from enjoying things? No, no--I’m serious. There’s being some kind of uptight Southern gentleman, and there’s flying right past that and ending up in self-denial bordering on celibacy.”

He held his hands up to stop Leonard from interrupting him.

“Listen, Leonard. You’ve lived out here for how long now and you’ve never mentioned seeing anyone or, hell, even a one-night stand. I know you don’t want to talk about it, but you need to stop punishing yourself about how shit went down with Jocelyn. Cut yourself some goddamn slack, man. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, least of all yours; sometimes things just fall apart. That’s it and you move on.

“I know you’ve been over her for a while, but you’re not done beating yourself up over it. Let it go. Take a chance. It’s obvious to anyone with half a brain that he’s into you. Why not go for it? Shit, if I swung that way, I’d ask him out in a heartbeat. I mean, if you don’t have the balls to, maybe I will--never too late to experiment, right?”

“Over my dead body you will,” Leonard groused. He turned M’Benga’s words over in his mind, his posture relaxing incrementally.

“You really think he’d go for a guy like me?”

Geoff snorted as he stood up, clapping Leonard on the shoulder.

“I’m pretty sure Christine’s already planning your wedding.”

McCoy snorted but thanked M’Benga anyway as he left the room.

Alone with his thoughts and now-cold coffee, Leonard fixated on exactly what his next move should be. Could he even muster up the courage to ask Jim out? What the hell did people do on dates, anyway? Go bowling?

He glanced up when Chapel wheeled Jim back into the room, laughing along with him. Suddenly, Leonard seemed to have trouble breathing. How was it that Jim’s mere presence could set him on edge in the best way, even without his attention focused on him?

“Hang tight while we wait for some of those labs to come back, boys.” Chris folded up the wheelchair and stored it behind the bed as Jim hopped up on the edge of the bed.

They lapsed into a comfortable silence for a few minutes after Chapel left, but Jim eventually broke it.

“You okay, Bones?” He asked from his perch on the bed, his voice soft.

“Huh? Yeah, I’m good.” McCoy smiled up at him, lost as he was in his own thoughts. He cleared his throat.

“So, uh, tell me more about what you’re studying. I can honestly say I don’t have a goddamn clue what you do. Look at stars?”

Jim snorted.

“You don’t want to hear about my research--hell, no one wants to, not even the other people in my department.”

McCoy shrugged.

“I mean, you know what I do, so--”

“I don’t, actually,” Jim interrupted, “I mean, I got that you’re a doctor, but you haven’t told me what you actually do.”

Leonard frowned, realizing he was right.

“I’m a trauma surgeon here in the ER. Geoff and I did our residency together at Johns Hopkins back in the day. He convinced me I needed a change of scene and put in a good word for me. Helped me get back on my feet and everything after I left Georgia.”

“Why’d you leave Georgia?”

McCoy paused to consider his answer.

“It’s a long story, but I had...a rough go of things for a while after my dad died. Got a divorce. I’d need about half a bottle of bourbon in me to tell ya any more.”

Jim smiled, a knowing look in his eyes.

“Fair enough.”

The fact that he didn’t try to pry any more information surprised Leonard. He wasn’t used to that easy acceptance and it felt like a band loosened from around his chest.

“Quintessence and phantom dark energy,” Jim said suddenly, startling McCoy enough to earn him an eyebrow raise.

“Quin-what now?”

Jim hesitated before continuing.

“My research. Um, I’m...exploring the theoretical possibilities of quintessence originating from quantum fluctuations in spacetime. And, based on those fluctuations, positing that the cosmological constant isn’t actually constant, but dependent on the amount of time that’s passed based on the acceleration of phantom dark energy.”

Leonard blinked as he took in this information, then blinked again.

“I have no idea what any of that means.”

Jim laughed easily, shrugging.

“Not too many people would. Hell, a good chunk of people in my field don’t really believe that quintessence is real and you can forget about phantom dark energy entirely. I usually just end up telling people I’m trying to figure out where the majority of the universe came from. And how it’s going to end, I suppose.”

Leonard was pretty sure his mouth was hanging open.

“Holy shit, Jim. Are you--”

“A total fucking nerd?” He itched the back of his neck as he grinned sheepishly at Leonard. “Yeah.”

McCoy snorted and stood so he could perch next to Jim on the edge of the bed.

“I was going to go with ‘a total fucking genius’, but I suppose nerd works too. Shit, anyone getting a doctorate has to be a nerd about their field, if you think about it.”

“Even you, Doctor McCoy?” Jim’s smile was teasing.

“‘Especially me,” he replied, grinning. “Believe you me, you’ll learn never to bring up neural grafting techniques around me if you don’t want a serious lecture on disrupted axonal pathways.”

Jim raised an eyebrow.

“See, and I have no idea what any of that means. So we’re even, sort of...But,” Jim smiled at him from underneath his lashes and pitched his voice low. “I’m sure there are things I wouldn’t mind you lecturing me on. Axonal pathways not included.”

Leonard’s stomach fluttered and he tried to smile back with a confidence he didn’t exactly feel.

“That so? I bet we could find a few if you play your cards right.”

“Why, Doctor McCoy, are you flirting with me?” Jim briefly bit his lip. “Cause I’m kinda hoping you are.”

Leonard swallowed thickly.

“Yeah?” He tried to remain composed in the face of this information, but he was pretty sure Jim could see his carotid jumping underneath his skin, feel the warmth from the blush stealing across his cheeks.

Leonard tore his eyes away from Jim’s lips to discover they’d drifted closer to each other than he’d realized. All he could see was blue eyes, blond lashes, and tan skin. It made him ache.

Jim hummed his assent, moving infinitesimally closer.

“Jim...ever since--”

“Well, your chest radiograph looks clear and the labs we’ve gotten back are in normal ranges. Your ankle looks okay, no additional damage done,” M’Benga said loudly as he strode into the room, resolutely staring at Jim’s chart as he made a few notes.

Jim leaned back, away from Leonard, who added more space between them by pushing off the bed and grabbing the chart out of Geoff’s hands.

“Based on preliminary results and what I’ve seen, I think you’ll be just fine, Jim. We should wait for the rest of the results before discharging you…”

McCoy nodded at the assessment, absentmindedly adding some notes to the chart.

“But,” M’Benga sighed and snatched the pen out of Leonard’s hands, earning himself a scowl in the process, “I’d feel comfortable releasing you now if there was someone who could keep an eye on you for the next day or so. Mostly to bring you back in on the off chance your head gets worse.”

The look on Geoff’s face as he grabbed Jim’s chart out of Leonard’s hands was enough to tell Leonard what was coming. How inappropriate was it to take a swing at a colleague if you were off the clock? Surely better than if you were working, right?

Geoff looked Jim over critically.

“Do you have a friend or family member who could stay with you tonight?

Jim’s brows creased as he thought about it.

“My roommate is out of town until Sunday night…”

Biting his lip, he turned to Leonard with an apologetic look on his face.

“God, I know it’s a lot to ask, Bones, but--”

Leonard’s mouth had gone dry the moment Jim’s pleading eyes landed on his.

“Sure,” he said, trying to at least seem a little put out about it, “I suppose I could--”

“Great!” M’Benga cheerfully clapped McCoy on the shoulder. “I don’t suppose I need to tell you what to look out for, do I, Bones?”

McCoy glared at him, silent.

“Well, I’ll go get the discharge paperwork started.”

Leonard shook his head as Geoff left the room looking overly satisfied with himself. He glanced up to see Jim staring at him with a frown.

“What?”

“Listen...I appreciate you saying you’d keep an eye on me, but you don’t need to. I’m sure you’ve got other things to be doing. If you could just give me a lift back to my car, I can--”

“Are you insane, man?” Leonard stared at him, incredulous, before taking a deep breath. “I’m not about to let you just go off on your own after--you nearly died, Jim! That alone should be enough--And that bump on your head! You’re outta your corn-fed mind. Do you have no sense of self-preservation?”

The unsure gaze Jim had fixed upon him transformed into a sunny smile the more Leonard went on.

“I mean...if you’re sure.”

McCoy snorted and shook his head, returning to lean against the edge of the bed next to Jim.

“You’re impossible. You know that, right?”

Jim smirked and bumped their shoulders together.

“That’s why you like me.”

“Who says I like you?” Leonard scowled and crossed his arms, making Jim laugh.

They lapsed into silence as they waited for Jim’s discharge paperwork to go through, Jim seeming to lean incrementally against Leonard as the minutes passed.

Finally, mind made up, McCoy went for it.

“Think you’d be up for maybe grabbin’ drinks sometime? After all this is over?”

Jim shifted back to blink up at him in surprise before he grinned wickedly.

“Oh, I’m more than up for it, Bones...”

“Nope, shut up, I don’t want to hear you say anything else.” Christine vehemently shook her head as she entered the room, nose wrinkled in distaste. “I thought it’d be hilarious and I’d get to make fun of you, Leonard, but it’s just gross. Get out of here before you make me lose my lunch.”

Jim accepted the small packet of discharge papers from Christine as he hopped off the edge of the bed. He leaned in to give her a brief kiss on the cheek.

“Thank you, Nurse Chapel.”

She rolled her eyes and swatted at him even as she blushed profusely. She tried to hide it by glaring at Leonard.

“Don’t even think about coming in again until you’re back on rotation. It’s bad enough I have to put up with you while you’re working.”

McCoy rolled his eyes but shot her a rare smile on his way out the room.

She stared after him, speechless.

Leonard knew that she was going to give him so much shit and soon. Judging by the stares from the rest of the ER staff as he guided Jim through the lobby, an arm slung low about his hips and an easy smile on his face, she probably wouldn’t be the only one.


Leonard unlocked the door to his apartment and panic flared through him as he turned the doorknob. Why the fuck had he agreed to this again? He hadn’t cleaned in ages, he had practically no food, and it wasn’t like he had a spare bedroom.

Jim noticed his hesitation.

“Bones?”

“Sorry,” he mumbled, shaking himself out of it. “I just realized I’m woefully unprepared to have anyone over. I’m...sorry it’s a mess.”

Jim snorted as he followed through the unlocked door.

“Are you kidding? My roommate and I are both in school...I don’t think our place has been clean since we moved in.”

Leonard guided Jim to the sofa in his living room, where he collapsed into the cushions with a sigh. McCoy stared down at him awkwardly until Jim glanced up at him.

“I, uh...think you could eat something?”

Jim nodded after a moment.

“Yeah, I think so. What can I do to help?”

McCoy waved him off, Southern hospitality ingrained to his core.

“Nuthin’. You just sit there and try to take it easy.”

Jim snagged his hand as he turned towards the kitchen. The blush on his cheeks brought out the blue in his eyes in a way that made Leonard breathless.

“Hey, thanks again for this, Len. I kind of feel guilty imposing on you after all you’ve done today…”

He rubbed his thumb back and forth across the back of McCoy’s hand, avoiding his gaze. Leonard took a deep breath before responding.

“Anytime, Jim. Really…”

He pulled away and made a hasty retreat to the kitchen.

McCoy leaned against the counter and tried to reconcile everything that had happened.

He’d somehow, in one afternoon, found himself comfortable inviting a stranger into his apartment so he could play nursemaid. Sure, he’d been lusting over Jim for weeks, but he was still a stranger nonetheless. And, yeah, as a doctor he took care of people daily--but he never took his patients home with him. He’d read enough psychological studies to know that shared experiences of trauma bred familiarity and trust, but this felt like more than that. Like it was a long time coming.

Maybe M’Benga was right. Maybe he did just need to let go, see where things went. After all, it wasn’t like Jim seemed opposed to his attention.

McCoy went through the process of scrambling eggs--one of the only things he had in his fridge that was still edible--trying not to think too hard about the man in the other room.

He dished up the eggs and moved to the living room, finding Jim sprawled out on the couch, a pillow clutched to his chest and his eyes closed.

“Hey,” McCoy gently nudged Jim’s foot with his knee, “food.”

“Hmm?” Jim surfaced slowly from his daze, staring groggily up at Leonard. “Whazzit?”

McCoy snorted and set the plates on the coffee table. He crouched beside Jim and slipped an arm under his shoulders, helping him sit up.

“C’mon, I made you some food.”

Jim blinked the sleep out of his eyes and accepted the plate from Bones.

“Thanks, babe,” he murmured absently before taking a bite.

McCoy’s stomach fluttered at the pet name and he sat down next to Jim as casually as he could.

“Damn, these are good,” Jim said around a mouthful of eggs.

Leonard tried not to smile at the compliment.

“They’re just eggs, Jim.”

“But they’re good eggs,” Jim reasoned, shoving another bite into his mouth.

Hiding his blush behind his glass of water, McCoy tried not to be embarrassed at the praise. Something like that wouldn’t normally affect him, but he was coming to realize that nothing was “normal” when it came to Jim.

They ate in silence, depositing their empty plates on the coffee table. Jim slouched back into the sofa cushions, watching Leonard. Aware of his gaze, Leonard settled back on the couch, mirroring Jim’s position.

“How’s your head?” His voice was soft, as though he didn’t want to interrupt the silence surrounding them.

Jim shrugged.

“Okay. I think the painkiller is wearing off, but it’s honestly not that bad. I’m just tired, really.”

Leonard nodded.

“Good. I mean, that’s to be expected. Don’t be surprised if you wake up tomorrow feeling like you ran a marathon--you’ll be sore all over.”

“Oh, yeah?” Jim asked suggestively. He bit his lip, struggling not to laugh. “All over, huh?”

Leonard rolled his eyes but couldn’t help grinning as he stood from the couch.

“You’re ridiculous, Kirk,” he called over his shoulder as he entered the en suite and grabbed a couple of aspirins for Jim. Turning around, he startled to find Jim leaning against the door jam of the bedroom, watching him.

“Jesus, you made me nearly jump outta my skin. Warn a guy next time.”

Jim smirked, accepting the pills from Leonard without comment. He seemed completely unfazed by McCoy’s attitude, something Leonard found both attractively endearing and rather annoying.

“So...now what?” Jim asked after he washed the pills down with some water.

“Now...you should get some rest.”

Jim sighed.

“I suppose…”

“You can take the bed. Let me grab you something to sleep in.” Leonard abruptly made a beeline for his dresser and began rummaging through the drawers for something that would fit him.

He found a pair of sweatpants and a worn Ole Miss t-shirt that had clearly seen better days. He tossed them to Jim as he crossed to the linen closet to get some fresh sheets.

“If I take the bed, where are you going to sleep?”

“The couch?”

Jim sat down on the edge of the bed.

“It’s plenty big enough. I’m sure we could share without being in each other’s way,” he said, draping the shirt and sweats over the end of the bed for him to change into later.

Leonard shook his head.

“No.”

“No?” Jim stared up at him in confusion.

Leonard let out a huff of frustration and pulled an extra blanket out of the closet.

“It wouldn’t be...proper.”

Jim cracked up before he saw the look on Leonard’s face.

“‘Proper’, Bones? Really?”

McCoy looked away, cheeks coloring.

“Look, I just...I was raised kinda traditional. So if I’m sharin’ a bed with you, it’s because I’m sharin’ a bed with you. You know?”

His declaration was met with silence and, curiosity eventually winning, McCoy turned back to look at Kirk. His breath hitched as he saw the intrigue and blatant desire in Jim’s eyes.

“So, share a bed with me.” His voice was thick with intent. Jim stood from the edge of the bed and approached Leonard slowly. “Bones…”

Leonard frowned as Jim stopped in front of him, close enough to feel the heat radiating from his body.

“Bones,” he said again, placing a gentle hand on his arm. “I’m okay. Trust me.”

McCoy stared at him, caught between going after what he wanted or listening to the rational part of him screaming that this was a terrible idea. 

Fuck it.

Leonard dropped the linens he was holding and raised his hands to cup Jim’s face between them. He gently slotted their mouths together.

He wasn’t sure if it was his own whimper or Jim’s that reached his ears as their lips touched, but he couldn’t really find it in him to care. Especially not when one of Jim’s warm hands cupped the back of his neck and the other found its way to his hip, pulling him closer. Jim sucked Leonard’s plush lower lip into his mouth.

McCoy was fairly certain he was going to need to sit down, knees suddenly weak as Jim’s tongue swept over his lip before releasing it.

Jim smiled, tongue darting out to taste the lingering traces of Leonard on his lips.

“You okay, Bones?”

Leonard laughed.

“I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to be asking you that,” his voice came out breathless, much to his embarrassment. “But yeah, I’m good. Very, very good.”

“Good,” Kirk laughed, his breath warm across McCoy’s lips. “I’ve been wanting to do that since I first saw you. God, your lips are sinful.”

Leonard smiled easily.

“And here I was, feelin’ lecherous this whole time for wantin’ to ask you out.”

“Well,” Jim grinned wickedly, “I’d been hoping to ask you for way more than just drinks if that makes you feel better.”

McCoy had to stop himself from groaning at the rush of arousal his words sent through his body.

“That so?”

Jim’s gently raked his fingernails through the short hair at Leonard’s nape, raising goosebumps along the back of his neck. He hummed in agreement as he leaned in to press a searing kiss to his lips.

“The offer still stands, in case you were wondering.” His voice was soft and teasing as he pulled away.

“Christ, Jim,” he groaned, moving his hands down to rest on Jim’s hips. “I want to, but…”

Kirk leaned in and started placing lingering kisses along McCoy’s jaw and down his neck.

“But?”

“I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” he whispered. “We s-shouldn’t...Not in your condition. You should avoid anythin’...uh...strenuous for a few days.”

Jim chuckled lowly and sucked a bruise into the skin just beneath his ear.

“Then you better be gentle with me,” he whispered before taking Leonard’s earlobe between his teeth.

Leonard closed his eyes and groaned. He took a deep breath as Jim pulled back from him and let it out slowly as he opened his eyes, attempting to get his arousal under some semblance of control.

Jim leaned in with a questioning look, pausing just before their lips were touching, hands settling on Leonard’s hips. He didn’t move forward at all to close the distance and Leonard realized he was letting him make that choice.

“Fuck,” he muttered, pulling Jim to him in a hungry kiss.

Jim laughed into the kiss in response. He whimpered when McCoy captured his bottom lip between his teeth and all but melted into him.

Leonard carefully maneuvered them around the sheets and blankets on the floor, backing Jim up to the edge of the bed. Jim sat as he felt the mattress hit the back of his knees and a slow grin spread across Leonard’s face as he stared down at him.

He took his time, eyes roaming over Jim’s flushed face and down his torso to the significant bulge in the front of his gym shorts. Hearing Jim say that he wanted him was one thing, but being presented with the evidence of it made him want to consume the man in front of him. He knelt on the bed, bracketing him with his knees, and leaned down to capture his lips once more.

Jim moaned, unabashed, hands grabbing hold of Leonard’s hips and pulling him closer. He thrust up to meet the body flush against him, aligning them just so, grinding against Leonard’s hardness.

“F-fuck,” Jim moaned as a sigh of relief escaped Leonard’s lips. Frustrated at his lack of access to bare skin, Jim grabbed the hem of Leonard’s shirt and made quick work of removing it.

He ran his hands through the dark hair across McCoy’s chest, reveling in the feel of his muscles jumping beneath his fingers. Leonard took a shuddering breath as Jim’s hands ran lightly down his sides.

He grabbed the hem of the hoodie he’d lent Jim, glancing at him for confirmation. Jim smiled and nodded, lifting his arms to help McCoy wrestle it off of him. His t-shirt quickly joined it on the floor.

Leonard wrapped an arm around Jim’s waist, leaning into him, pressing their skin together. It was so good and absolutely nowhere near enough. Placing gentle kisses along Jim’s collarbone, he lowered him down onto his back, kneeling over him.

Jim wrapped his arms around Leonard’s neck, pulling him down and bringing their mouths together in a kiss that soon became desperate. It wasn’t elegant or gentle, all tongue and teeth and lips.

Leonard explored the body laid out beneath him, wanting--needing--to touch every square inch of golden tanned skin. He kissed down Jim’s neck, across his collarbone, to one defined pectoral. He laved the skin before biting a bruise into the muscle.

“Oh, fuck,” Jim gasped, arching underneath him. “Bones--”

“Shh, I got you, darlin’,” McCoy kissed the mark gently before returning his attention to the rest of his skin. He sucked on one nipple, pressing open mouth kisses across Kirk’s chest to the other, encouraged by Jim’s soft gasps and stilted moans. He kissed down his stomach to his belly button and back up.

Tangling a hand in blonde hair, Leonard pulled Jim into a greedy kiss. Jim groaned, sliding his hands down Leonard’s chest and dipping his fingertips gently beneath the waistband of his shorts. McCoy broke the kiss, breath hitching.

“Fuck,” he breathed, kissing along Jim’s jaw sucking his earlobe into his mouth just to hear the stuttering moan he received in response.

“Jesus, Leonard,” Jim whispered, closing his eyes and tilting his head back to grant him better access to his neck.

The sound of his name like that on Jim’s lips went straight to Leonard’s cock and he had to close his eyes, pulling away to compose himself. He opened his eyes after a moment and studied Jim closely. He hesitated for only a moment before opening his mouth.

“How often do you get tested?” Christ, he wanted Jim so badly...but he was still a doctor, after all.

Jim’s eyes flew open and he stared, dumbfounded for a moment before answering.

“Every couple of months,” he said shakily as McCoy’s hand snaked down his chest to the waistband of his shorts. “I’m c-careful. I haven’t been with anyone since the last time I got tested--”

“Good,” Leonard growled, voice roughened with desire in a way that made Jim try to thrust up into his hand.

He shifted back and climbed off the bed, hooking two fingers into the waistband of Jim’s shorts. He waited, staring up at Jim.

Jim, swallowing unconsciously, nodded.

Leonard pulled them down over Jim’s hips, freeing his erection so it came to rest up against Jim’s stomach. He raised an eyebrow at Jim as he pulled his shorts off entirely.

Kirk shrugged one shoulder with a smug grin.

Kneeling, Leonard trailed his fingertips over the jut of Jim’s hips, eyes firmly fixated on Jim’s cock.

He was...big. Certainly more than a respectable length, but considerably thicker than anyone Leonard had been with before. He bit his lip as he took him in hand.

“God, Bones,” Jim moaned as he stroked him slowly once, twice.

McCoy glanced up to see Kirk fist his hands in the sheets as he dropped his head back, thrusting into his fist. He smiled, leaning in to place a teasing kiss at the juncture between Kirk’s hip and thigh.

Jim shuddered as he exhaled over the length of his cock. Leonard pumped his shaft once more before resting his hand at the base and guiding it towards his mouth.

“Shit,” Jim gasped at the first touch of his lips, scrambling to lean on his elbows so he could stare at Leonard.

McCoy let out a huff of laughter, warm over the head of Jim’s cock, before pausing to lick up the bead of precum that had appeared. He locked eyes with Kirk and swallowed him down.

Jim’s moan was so loud that Leonard couldn’t suppress the smirk that tried to steal over his lips, stretched though they were. It had been too long since he’d last had a cock in his mouth and he’d forgotten how much he loved the weight of one on his tongue. But this...this was unlike anything he’d had before. Jim filled his mouth so completely he was afraid to move too quickly or risk grazing him with his teeth.

He swirled his tongue against what he could as he tried to take him deeper, his jaw already protesting. He sucked gently as he pulled back most of the way, pressing his tongue flat against the underside of Jim’s cock as he did until only the head remained in his mouth.

“Fuck, Len.” His voice reedy, Jim couldn’t tear his eyes away from the sight of those plush lips around him.

McCoy set a slow, steady pace, pleasuring every inch of Jim’s cock instead of trying to bring him to the edge or push him over. From the looks of it, Kirk wasn’t complaining.

When Leonard finally pulled off, his jaw aching and his chin slick with spit, Jim looked completely wrecked. His cheeks were ruddy with a blush that trailed down his neck and chest, spreading attractively down his torso, which was now glistening with sweat. His bottom lip, already swollen from kissing, was red from being pressed between his teeth. 

With a heaving breath, he pulled himself into a sitting position.

“What the fuck, Bones? Do they teach you how to suck cock in med school?”

Leonard smirked despite himself and brushed his lips over Jim’s inner thigh.

“Let’s just say I’m well versed in anatomy.”

Jim snorted, pulling him up from his spot on the floor to meet him in a kiss. When Leonard pulled away, it was to give him a thorough once over.

“You doing okay? Any dizziness or confusion?”

“Only from you trying to suck my brain out through my dick.” Jim’s smile was genuine despite his teasing. “Really, I’m okay. Good. More than good.”

Satisfied, McCoy leaned in to kiss him again and groaned when Jim’s thighs tightened around his waist and pulled him forward. Together, they toppled onto the bed.

Leonard’s neglected cock brushed against Jim’s hip in the process and he couldn’t stop the shudder that coursed through him.

“You know,” Jim panted against his lips, “I could make any number of jokes about us playing doctor, Doctor.”

Leonard snorted and pressed Jim into the sheets.

“You won’t if you know what’s good for you.”

He began the gentle exploration of Jim’s body anew. Kirk hummed softly with each press of lips in a new, untouched spot, and McCoy soon had him writhing and clumsily pawing at his shorts.

“Eager, huh?”

“You’re wearing too much,” Jim whined, unable to sit up and get the leverage he wanted.

“We gotta go slow, sugar, remember? I’ll take them off soon,” he whispered against the shell of his ear.

Jim shivered.

“I’m not gonna break,” he groaned, exasperation evident in his tone. “I just...I need…”

Leonard propped himself up on one elbow to look down at him.

“What do you need, Jimmy?”

Kirk inhaled.

“I need to touch you, Bones, to be in you. Fuck, I want you so bad,” he whined, biting his lip.

McCoy’s eyes darkened at his words and he could’ve come in his shorts right then and there at the look of wanton need on Jim’s face.

“Oh, darlin’...” He dropped his forehead to Jim’s shoulder, kissing the bare skin before capturing Jim’s lips again. “Don’t worry, I’m gonna take care of you.”

Leonard climbed off of him and stood, pushing his shorts over his hips unceremoniously. Jim watched his erection spring free, licking his lips eagerly.

“Bones.” Jim sat up, holding out a hand to pull him back down on the bed like he couldn’t bear him being out of reach.

McCoy grinned at Jim’s enthusiasm and knelt on the coverlet with him, slipping his arms around his shoulders as he leaned in to kiss him. Kirk’s hands wandered freely now, unobstructed, unsatisfied until they’d mapped every part of Leonard they could reach. 

Eventually, Jim’s hands wandered to his ass and he pulled their groins together, grinding against Leonard.

“Oh, fuck.” The air was forced from McCoy’s lungs as their cocks brushed together and Jim smirked.

Before he fully knew what had happened, Leonard found himself pressed back against the pillows, flat on the bed as Jim knelt above him.

“Jesus,” McCoy laughed, hands automatically coming up to steady Jim’s hips. “Where the fuck did’ya learn that?”

“My secret,” Jim grinned wickedly. “Can I taste you, Bones?”

McCoy dropped his head back against the pillows and groaned. Kirk began kissing down his chest, palming Leonard’s impossibly hard cock as he did. Leonard shifted under his touch, too much and not nearly enough.

Jim stopped his descent down his body to watch precum spill from the tip of Leonard’s cock on each upstroke. He darted a tongue out to lap up the salty fluid and slowly kissed down his shaft. But he didn’t stop at the base of his cock, he kept kissing down, down. Slipping his hands under Leonard’s hips, Jim shifted his legs over his shoulders.

At the first lap of Jim’s tongue at his hole, Leonard shuddered, holding his breath so he couldn’t scream.

“Fuck,” he groaned, “fuck, fuck, fuck.”

Jim laughed but didn’t stop his ministrations, circling his tongue around the tightly furled muscle. He worked him open slowly, pausing only to grab a pillow and force it under Leonard’s hips. Jim’s spit slicked the way for one finger to breach him along with his tongue, then two fingers, but Leonard had to stop him shortly thereafter.

“Jim, god...I ain’t gonna last long if you keep that up,” he groaned. “Just...fuck. Gimme a minute.”

Jim smirked and lifted his head from between Leonard’s legs. He kissed his inner thigh gently before nipping at the sensitive skin there. He kept two fingers in Leonard’s ass, gently stroking as his breathing returned to some semblance of normal.

Once recovered, McCoy reached out and opened the drawer of his bedside table, rummaging around for a condom after handing Kirk the lube. Kirk popped the cap open with one hand, drizzling a generous amount onto McCoy’s cock and down to his hole. It spasmed around his fingers at the touch of the cold liquid and Jim groaned. He made quick work of opening him up, working a third and finally a fourth finger into him.

By the time Jim felt like Leonard was properly prepared, he was a shaking, whimpering mess.

“Jim,” Leonard sobbed as Jim removed his fingers, wiping them indelicately on the sheets. “Darlin’...”

Jim grinned and sat up, lowering Leonard’s legs from his shoulders.

“Yeah?”

“Christ,” Leonard breathed. “I need you. Now.”

Jim reached for the condom with trembling hands, ripping it open and rolling it onto his length.

McCoy groaned at the sight and sat up, putting a hand on Jim’s arm. 

“Up,” he murmured. “C’mere.”

Jim, confused, stared at him with a dazed expression before allowing Leonard to pull him forward. He maneuvered around Jim, helping him settle against the headboard. Jim leaned back, supported by the pillow Leonard slipped behind his back.

Leonard took his face between his hands and kissed him soundly, straddling his hips. He grabbed the bottle of lube from where Jim had dropped it earlier and coated Jim’s cock with more than strictly necessary.

He stroked Jim enough to slick up the entirety of his shaft before holding it steady. He closed his eyes at the first brush of the head over his hole and moaned as it caught on the loose muscle. He took a deep breath and bore down on Kirk.

They groaned in unison as the head of Jim’s cock breached him.

Their eyes met and McCoy was the first to break; he snorted and soon Jim was laughing right along with him as Leonard braced himself against his chest with his free hand, the other still around the base of Jim’s cock.

Kirk shifted his hips and Leonard’s breath caught as he slid down his cock another inch.

“None of that, now. You just relax and try to enjoy yourself.”

Smile alight in his eyes, Kirk leaned up and kissed McCoy as he took him deeper and deeper. Jim tried his best to stay still as Leonard’s body embraced him, a hypnotizing undulation of his hips combined with lube ensuring gravity played its part.

Finally, blessedly, fully seated on his cock, Leonard rested his forehead against Jim’s for a moment as he panted.

“Okay?” McCoy kissed the side of his mouth.

“Mmmhmm,” Jim responded, a playful thrust of his hips making Leonard unconsciously tighten around him.

“Fuck,” McCoy breathed.

“That’s the idea, Bones.” A lazy smile played across Kirk’s features as he sat back and ran his hands up Leonard’s chest.

“Jesus, Jim,” McCoy growled. “You’re a fuckin’--”

Jim was unable to help himself from thrusting once more, effectively shutting Leonard up. Leonard glared down at him as he braced himself with an arm on either side of his head.

“Don’t make me tie you down, Kirk,” he warned, threat lessened by the hitch in his breathing.

Jim laughed.

“Ohh, next time, Bones. I’ll hold you to it.”

McCoy stared down at him, a bit stunned as he realized Jim was already considering the next time with him.

“Bones?” Jim licked his lips, slipping his hands down to grab his ass.

“Unghuh?” Leonard tilted his hips back into Jim’s grip.

“Fucking move.”

Any reply he could have come up with was abruptly cut off as Jim surged up to cover his mouth with his own, pulling Leonard forcefully down into his lap.

McCoy groaned and thrust back onto his cock.

“Jesus, fuck--yes,” Jim hissed as they broke apart, inhaling deeply. His eyes stared up at Leonard, dark and challenging.

He couldn’t take it anymore--Leonard stopped holding back. He met Kirk’s challenging gaze as he fucking himself on his cock in earnest.

Jim gasped and closed his eyes, allowing McCoy to look his fill as he rode him. The blissful concentration on Kirk’s face was almost as beautiful as the little moans he kept making.

Leonard kissed him hungrily as he settled into a rhythm just shy of rough, rocking his hips against Jim’s pliant body. Every few thrusts, he changed the angle of his hips ensuring Jim’s cock grazed his prostate.

Just because it had been a while didn’t mean Leonard didn’t know exactly what he was doing.

Jim eventually pulled away, breathing heavily as he spread McCoy’s cheeks wide, trying to meet him thrust for thrust.

“Oh, god, Len,” he keened, collapsing back against the headboard. “Fuck.”

“That’s the idea, kid,” McCoy panted, bracing himself against Jim’s chest.

Kirk snorted but didn’t respond. Instead, he slipped one of his hands from Leonard’s ass to squeeze in between them, taking his cock in hand. He began stroking him in time with his thrusts, and Leonard knew that if he kept his pace up, he wouldn’t last for much longer.

The way Jim’s legs were shaking gave him hope that maybe Jim wouldn’t either.

Leonard slid his hands down Jim’s flat chest and he slipped his arms around his torso, burying one hand deep in golden-hued hair. The other slipped beneath Jim’s shoulder allowing him to bury his face in his neck.

With every thrust, Kirk was muttering more and more unintelligible words into his ear and Leonard found himself dangerously close to the crest of the wave in front of him.

“God, Jim, look at me,” he murmured, pulling back as he tugged gently on the sweaty strands beneath his fingers.

Eyes glazed, Jim lifted his head and captured Leonard’s mouth as he began to jerk him off faster. McCoy whimpered as he felt Jim’s body started to tremble.

“Oh, shit, Jim. That’s it, come for me.”

Leonard’s voice was dark and broken with need and Jim grabbed onto it, a riptide pulling him under.

“God, Len...f-fuck…” he groaned, his body going taut as his orgasm washed over him. His hips stuttered as he emptied himself inside of him, a rhythmic press against Leonard’s prostate as he continued to jerk him off.

That was all it took for McCoy’s orgasm to tear through him and he came with a sharp cry, burying his face into Jim’s neck to muffle the sound, clenching around Jim’s cock.

His brain shorted out and all he could focus on was the feeling of impossible fullness and heat and sharp-edged pleasure as he coated Jim’s fingers and the space between them.

Together, they floated in that oneiric space, tremulous and gasping as time eluded them. Leonard surfaced first.

“You still with me, Jimmy?” He whispered, kissing along his sharp jaw.

He received the sweetest questioning hum in return, which he took to be a “no.” Leonard peppered kisses over Jim’s face, carding his hand through his hair until he felt him stir.

Jim blinked up at him slowly.

“Fuck, Leonard,” he leaned up to place a soft kiss against the corner of McCoy’s mouth. “What happened to taking it slow?”

Leonard pulled back, frowning as he looked Jim over only to find him smiling like the cat who got the goddamn cream.

He groaned and rolled off to the side, extricating himself from Jim’s arms as his softening cock slipped out of his body. Jim took care of the condom, tying it off before Leonard could move to do so. He disposed of it in the en suite and returned with a wet washcloth after cleaning himself up.

Sitting on the side of the bed, he gently wiped Jim clean, feeling his sharp gaze on him as he did so. Finished, he threw the washcloth towards the laundry hamper, missing by over a foot.

Jim laughed, open and easy, his eyes alight as he pulled Leonard back down onto the bed with him. He twined their legs together as McCoy laid down facing him.

Silence, fervent and sweet, engulfed them as they stared at each other. Eventually, Kirk lifted his hand up to trace the curve of McCoy’s jaw, drag his fingers over his lips, push the hair off his forehead. As he leaned in to kiss him, Leonard’s heart clenched in his chest because of just how right it all felt.

Jim settled his head on his arm, watching Leonard watch him as his eyelids grew heavier.

“Bones?” he murmured, on the brink of sleep, eyes roaming his face.

“Yeah?”

“You’re amazing,” a contented smile curled on Jim’s lips and he closed his eyes, the words falling uninhibited as he slipped into unconsciousness. 

Leonard could do nothing but gather Jim to him and kiss his forehead. His heart skipped a beat with the stunning realization that whatever this was between them was just beginning.

Those baby blues were going to be the death of him someday, McCoy just knew it.