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Leonard was haunted and subjected to the idea of soulmates practically all his adult life. There really is nowhere to run from it, and he never really gave himself the chance to absorb it either. Not that he wanted to. No, he really didn’t want to waste precious moments during his day, moments he could be using to save someone’s life, on hearing people’s tales of their love at first sight…or first word…or drawing…whatever. Point is, he never really understood people’s strong belief in the soulmate system and how it worked. For him, it’s almost like people just want to be with someone for the sake of not being alone so they hold onto this fantasy that promises a happy ever after with your destined one. And to that Leonard has one response: bullshit.

Life doesn’t work like that. There’s no way eternal happiness is granted, and Leonard speaks from experience. Life is messy, broken and sure, some moments here or there mean something but overall…he definitely doesn’t believe in some higher invisible force commanding his life and desires.

So instead of falling into that pit everyone seems to be happily swimming in, Leonard focuses on what really matters, like his work that he knows actually makes a difference in the world. And if he ever did find that one person, not that he believes he ever will, but if he does, it will be because he chose it, not because it was written from the dawn of time. Work is enough for Leonard, it fills his life and he’s changing the world with his hands. It may be a little lonely coming home to a dark apartment, but he doesn’t exactly hate it. He heats up whatever leftover food is occupying his fridge, watch some nighttime television before going to bed and starting all over again. It’s a routine and he likes it, sudden changes aren’t his favorite. So, he’s content.

Until he does meet his soulmate and realizes just how much he’s been missing out on.

*****

He had just finished a twelve-hour shift, and his knees were barely carrying his weight. Leonard couldn’t wait to go home and crash on the couch, and possibly just sleep on it for the night. He’ll accept the terrible ache he’d get in his neck the next morning if it were to save him the very short trip to the bedroom. Yeah, he’s that tired. He almost doesn’t stop when he hears M’Benga call out his name from the end of the hallway.

“Len, hold up!”

Leonard slows down but doesn’t stop. “I’m going home, Geoff, anything else can wait till tomorrow.”

“I know,” M’Benga catches up to his friend. “Just wanted to let you know I gave Jackson five micrograms of fentanyl, if you can just update his chart on your way out.”

“Alright, will do,” Leonard nods, grabbing a pen from Ben’s coat and scribbles on the inside of his palm ‘Jackson – 5mcg – FEN’ and makes his way to the nurse’s station.

“Dr. McCoy,” Christine Chapel greets the doctor. “I thought you’d be running out the door by now.”

“I would be if I had a guarantee my knees won’t actually buckle on me,” he retorts, looking through the piles of chart for the one he needs. “And Geoff caught me at the last second to update…this.” He pulls out the correct chart and grabs a pen from the cup in front of him, making the note and closing the chart, handing it over to Chapel.

“Have a good night,” she smiles at him.

“You too,” Leonard nods. “If anything happens, well, don’t call me cause my phone is going to be switched off.”

Chapel chuckles, shaking her head. “Dully noted, doctor.”

“And I’m leaving before anyone steps on my laces.”

*****

Jim’s sprawled on the couch with a book hovering over his eyes, supporting by his arms when he feels something tickle the inside of his palm. The sensation causes him to let go of the book, sending it falling the short distance and smacking him on his stomach. It momentarily crushes the wind out of his lungs, it’s a big book. But he doesn’t care because there’s writing on his hand, words he didn’t put there. Which can only mean one thing…

Jim’s eyes go wide and he hurries to get up, fumbling and nearly tripping over his own discarded shoes in the process. “Holy shit! Scotty!” Jim hollers as he races into his roommate’s bedroom to find him sitting by his desk, a piece of electronic naked in front of him.

“Yeah?”

“Look!” Jim pushes his palm into Scotty’s face. “Scotty, look!”

Scotty trails his eyes over Jim’s skin for a moment or two before they too are going wide with anticipation. “No way!”

“Yes way!” Jim yells with excitement, practically jumping up and down in his place. “It’s finally happened! Someone out there wrote these words and they transformed to me! But where is the world? The possibilities are endless!”

“Slow down a sec, Jim, did you even read what it says?”

“Good point,” Jim takes a deep breath before reciting. “Jackson, five m-g, F-E-N…what does that even mean?”

“Don’t look at me for answers, I’m an engineer, not my area,” Scotty pats Jim’s shoulder.

“Do you think his name is Jackson?”

“Why would have write his own name on his hand, Jim?”

“I don’t know,” Jim shrugs. “Okay, new plan for tonight: figure out what in the world this means.”

“You’re on your own there, mate. I need to finish putting this piece of beauty together.”

“More like this piece of junk,” Jim lifts an eyebrow.

“Watch it, Jimbo, you never know which electricity socket can mysteriously explode next.”

Jim swallows, his mouth hanging open with words not coming out. He nods once, points the door with his finger and begins to walk away. “Right. I’ll be in the living room solving this life-altering issue.”

Scotty chuckles after Jim’s gone, turning his attention back to his work.

Jim’s reading goes forgotten as he yanks his laptop open and opens Google. First he types in ‘FEN’ and quickly discovers it’s the abbreviation for fentanyl, a painkiller. Okay so whoever this Jackson person is got five micrograms of this medication. Still doesn’t help narrow anything down. So they’re a doctor, Jim thinks but then shakes his head. Maybe. Or maybe someone they know is in the hospital and they want to keep track of the medication said someone they know is getting. Possible. If their connection manifested when someone they know is in the hospital…well that’s shitty luck.

Or maybe they’re a nurse. All valid options. Jim spots a thin-tipped black marker on the edge of the table, and the light bulb goes off. Why think about who they are when he can ask them? Jim grabs the marker and places it against the inside of his left arm.

Who are you? He waits.

I don’t mean to freak you out but…here I am. Nothing.

Hello? Silence.

Jim sighs. Don’t hold out on me. You got me all excited. Reveal yourself.

Just an hour later, Jim’s entire left arm is covered in black ink with no response. He doesn’t wash it off before he sleeps.

*****

The unforgiving alarm blares next to Leonard’s ear, jostling him awake. He curses under his breath as he reaches out, slamming his palm repeatedly to get it to shut up. He rubs his eyes and takes a deep breath, letting it out slowly. He throws his legs over the edge of the bed and sits up, the moment he opens his eyes and they land on his arm…well…let’s just say he’s wide awake now.

Leonard frowns, thinking back on the night before. He came home, ate and went to bed. First thought to occur to him is someone did this to him. But then he remembers that he’s miserable and lives alone so unless a ghost made itself comfortable…

Leonard trails off, his face going pale and heart dropping into his chest. This can’t be happening.

“Oh hell no!” Leonard rushes into the bathroom and opens the faucet, putting his hand under the freezing water and flinches at the temperature. But the ink isn’t fading away. “Fuck no,” he breathes. “Let this be a nightmare and let me wake up.”

Once he’s assured he isn’t dreaming and it’s very much real, defeated, he dries his arm and settles on wearing a long-sleeved shirt. Yes in the middle of July. Because there’s no way in hell people are seeing his arm. If anyone asks? He feels a little under the weather. Flus during summer are the worst.

He doesn’t get it, why give him a soulmate or whatever if he doesn’t believe in an ounce of that crap? Aren’t there other people out there who are so damn desperate for a connection? Better off offering it to them. At least they'd take the deal.

He’s grumpier than usual, and his friends and co-works pick up on that pretty quickly. It’s been a week since his arm was no longer his own and it’s probably the freakiest shit he ever went through, seeing something on his arm and then it’s gone the next hour. He scrubs into surgery with a big ‘ANSWER ME’ angrily written across his skin and comes out with an addition at the bottom, reading ‘…please’. So at least they have some kind of manners…whoever they are. No, Leonard is definitely not thinking about the person with the marker on the other end.

Except of course, that he is.

What does the universe know about him to pair him up with someone else anyway? He’d had the same conversation with different people many times, some of whom had already met their soulmate and claim to be ‘as happy as they’ve ever been’ and others who are still yet waiting and saying ‘it’s going to be the best day of my life’. Leonard respects them, but he’ll be damned if he’ll join them.

They say it’s a matter of faith, believing that something out there is looking out for your best interest, to make sure you’re taken care of and not alone, that you’re living life to the fullest. To that Leonard’s reply is simple: I believe in what I see, I believe in science and in medicine, I believe in things that can be proven and disproven, what evidence do I have that whatever this is will actually help me? That it’s what I need?

And Leonard’s been told he needs to see things a little differently. His defense: my eyesight is perfect, thank you very much. Have a little faith, they said. Faith never helped him before.

Still, Leonard’s mind strays and he can’t help but wonder what this other person looks like…what are they doing, what are they passionate about. And most importantly, why pair them up together?

The ink messages stop and Leonard isn’t sure how to feel about it. Yes, it terrified him but in some odd way it kept him company, and even he couldn’t dismiss the warmth he felt whenever a new word would appear on his skin.

Leonard gives in a couple of days later. With nothing else on his mind, he was kind of forced to grab his own marker and since for the love of all that is good he couldn’t come up with something decent to start with—because how are you supposed to start this conversation? ‘Hey, it’s me, I’ve been ignoring you but hello’? Suddenly self-conscious, Leonard writes the first thing that comes to mind.

You there? He winces and quickly covers his arm, his nerves flaring. And was that fear of disappointment he was feeling? He brings himself to peak a few minutes later. His eyes go wide when he sees brand new words written in the once blank space.

There you are! Thought you went and died on me.

I feel like dying right about now, Leonard writes back without really thinking.

Jim chuckles as he reads the statement. Whoa, that’s dark.

Uh huh, what do you want?

Jim raises an eyebrow. Hey, you started this, don’t sound so…like that.

Started what? And I don’t sound like anything.

You started the conversation, remember? Jackson guy? And yeah, you sound grumpy.

I didn’t know this is what was gonna happen, okay. If I knew I would never have written anything on my damn hand.

Jim narrows his eyes. I don’t know if I should feel hurt or what.

If only you knew, kid, Leonard sighs.

Jim scoffs. Kid? What am I…12?

You sure sound like one.

You sound like one! Jim retorts.

Leonard doesn’t reply.

Hello???

Nothing.

Come on! You didn’t even give me your name, Jim pleads.

Leonard did notice one thing, though: he would get a tickle whenever the other person…used their connection. At least he’d know what was happening where…when it happened next. And he felt it would happen.

Leonard is proven right when he gets off work two days later to find a number laid out along his arm and a message under it.

I sense you’re freaked out by this and I can tell you aren’t a huge fan of…whatever you wanna call this but I believe there’s a reason this is happening, and that it’s us both. It’s even freakier I’m doing this on your arm so call me or text me…whatever floats your boat, I’ll be waiting. I’m Jim, by the way.

Leonard feels a small smile forming on his face. Well, at least Jim is understanding and patient. Jim.

He creates a new contact in his phone under ‘Jim’ and saves the number.

Scotty enters his shared apartment with Jim to see the younger man sitting crisscrossed on the couch, balancing his laptop on one thigh and a heavy textbook on the other. He studies his friend’s body language for a moment or two, realizing even more now just how much Jim has changed over the course of the passing days. He doesn’t want to pry, but Scotty knows exactly what put Jim in this state, and he absolutely hates it.

“Jimbo!” Scotty puts a smile on his face and walks into the living room.

“Hey Scotty,” Jim looks up, returning a half-hearted smile.

“The gang’s going out, hop into some jeans and let’s get going,” Scotty playfully orders.

Jim hesitates, not moving from his seat. “Ah, thanks for the offer man, but I think I’m going to stay in.”

Scotty doesn’t bother hiding the disappointment that takes over his face. He sighs, dropping on the couch next to Jim. “You haven’t gone out in a while Jim, it’ll be good for you, trust me.”

“I’ve just got a lot of work to catch up on, that’s all. I’ll be fine, you should go and have fun,” Jim tries.

Scotty’s eyes soften, telling Jim you can’t trick me I know what this is about.

Jim doesn’t try to argue. “I just…feel weird, that’s all. I know it sounds crazy but I feel like I’m missing something. Or…someone.”

“Still nothing?”

Jim shakes his head. “I keep writing over my number to make they can see it,” he moves his arm to show Scotty. “We talked once, I don’t know if I’m acting like a rational person or not but it felt like we’ve been talking for years. But I know they seem hesitant about this whole thing so I’m giving them space, I just hope they’d come around.” He removes his reading glasses and pinches the bridge of his nose.

“You gotta keep going with your life, mate. Sitting around will do you no good.”

“I know, I know,” Jim admits. “I’ve been looking forward to this my entire life, not because I’ve been talked into the happily ever after, I know there’s no such thing, but I’ve always wondered what kind of person would be my match, and it doesn’t necessarily mean falling in love but maybe a special connection would be born. And if I do fall in love with them, well, that would be my choice.”

“You don’t think you two are meant to fall in love?” Scotty asks, never having had this conversation with Jim before.

“Not necessarily, no. Some people believe soulmates always fall in love but in my opinion, it isn’t a fact. I think soulmates are meant to share an unbreakable bond, whether it’s friendship, love…any kind of relationship really. They’re meant to be brought together, the universe doesn’t chose who you fall in love with, that’s our choice.”

“Huh, I guess that makes sense.”

Jim gives him a small smile then nudges his shoulder. “Get out of here before you’re late.”

“Gaila is gonna kick my ass for not bringing you along,” Scotty warns.

“Your ass is too pretty for her to kick, Scotty, you’ll be fine,” Jim teases. “And I’ll be fine, I promise.”

“Well, if you change your mind we’ll be at the usual spot.”

“Gotcha.”

Leonard walks into the lounge after his shift is over, and spots Geoffrey by the lockers, closing his and already changed into his civvies.

“You heading somewhere?” Leonard asks.

“Not that I’m aware of,” Geoff replies, hearing the suggestion in his friend’s voice.

“Wanna head back to my place and have a drink?”

“Sure,” Geoff nods. “What the occasion?”

“Just need to bounce some things off you…been thinkin’ too much.”

“Glad you’ve finally come around, McCoy?”

Leonard lifts an eyebrow. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You haven’t been yourself lately, and don’t you think I haven’t noticed. I’m surprised that head of yours hasn’t exploded yet from all the thinking you’ve been doing.”

Leonard sighs. “It’s stupid…”

“It’s not stupid, Len, and I’m glad you came to me with it, whatever it is. We’ll work through it. Now go change out of those blood covered scrubs. I know you’re an attractive man and all, but contrary to popular belief, the red doesn’t bring out the hazel in your eyes.”

Leonard chuckles and goes to change.

They’re sitting on Leonard’s couch in his living room twenty minutes later with identical tumblers of bourbon in their hands.

“So, tell me,” Geoff prompts.

“Not really sure where to start.”

“The beginning usually works,” Geoff shrugs.”

“Smartass,” Leonard mumbles and takes a sip from his drink. He takes a deep breath and spits it out. “So there’s someone…”

“As in someone someone?” Geoff’s eyes go wide with anticipation. “Who are they? You’ve been keeping this from me, Len? How dare you?”

“I’m not…sure. I mean, I got their number, but…”

“Is it related to one of your patients? Is it a blind date? Don’t hold out on me, man,” he speculates.

Blind date, Leonard thinks, that can work. “I guess it is kind of like a blind date.”

“But how did you get the number?”

“It doesn’t matter, I have it,” Leonard feels the slow burning heat settling in his cheeks. He takes another large gulp of the alcohol.

“So when is it? Where? Can I help you pick your outfit?”

“I’m a grown ass man, Ben, I can dress myself just fine. And I don’t know any details…there aren’t any details. I haven’t met them.”

Yet, you haven’t met them yet.”

Leonard sighs.

“You are meeting them, right?” Geoff asks seriously.

“I don’t know,” Leonard answers honestly. “I don’t feel comfortable with the whole idea…how in hell is it guaranteed not to be a big disaster?”

“It’s not, and if you just stick to what you’re comfortable with your life won’t get anywhere. And before you say you’re satisfied with what you’re doing and all you need is your job and all that I just want you to think about ten years from now…would your life still be the exact same as it is right now? If the answer is, then that’s not healthy.”

“I was promised forever once, Geoff,” Leonard reminds him. “And we all know how that turned out.”

“Let me stop you right there, that wasn’t your fault. She didn’t deserve it.”

“Point is, it crashed and burned and almost took me down with it. I can’t let that happen again, I can’t…open up myself like that again,” Leonard shakes his head.

“So what, you just lock yourself in and pray it doesn’t kill you? It’s bound to drive you mad, Len. People aren’t supposed to be alone. And don’t say being alone makes your life quieter because after a while the silence starts to ring and gives you one hell of a headache.”

“You aren’t giving me a chance to say anything,” Leonard says.

“Because I know exactly what you’re going to say, which just shows how many times we’ve talked about this. I just hope the end result is different this time.”

Leonard downs the remainder of his drink, thinking about Geoff’s words. He can’t rub off the feeling lingering through his body, the feeling Jim may be a different story, with a different plot and a different ending. Maybe even a happy ending.

“You have so much to offer,” Geoff’s voice brings Leonard back to reality. “And I hate to see that wasted. I just hope you find someone worthy of what you have to offer.”

Leonard slowly nods.

“Just promise me you’ll think about it and won’t hide behind those thick walls you’ve built around yourself.”

M’Benga leaves after they have dinner and couple more drinks. Now Leonard is lying in bed, a blank text message opened on his phone with Jim’s name in the recipient bar. And for all his witty comments, he can’t think of a damn thing to write. He takes a deep breath and begins typing.

Hey Jim, it’s me…um…grumpy man…I’m not dead. I’m McCoy…Leonard, by the way. Anyway, meet me tomorrow at eleven at the café across the street from the hospital. And if you want to reply, don’t write on your damn skin, text back like a normal human being.

Leonard is about to switch off the lamp next to his bed when his phone pings. He reads Jim’s reply.

Glad I have a name to associate with the grumpiness. Eleven sounds good. But why the hospital? You got an appointment or something? Should I be worried?

Leonard scoffs as he types a reply. No, you idiot, I don’t have an appointment. It’s not any of your business but I work at the hospital.

A doctor, fancy! What kind of doctor? Any crazy patients? You gotta have some great stories!

Goodnight, Jim.

Leonard locks his phone and feels the skin on his abdomen tingle a few moments later. He huffs, pushing the covers away and yanking his shirt upwards to see what’s been imprinted there. He finds a very simple smiley face staring at him. Something relaxes inside him and he grabs the marker he now keeps handy and adds two devil horns to the face.

He’s never heard Jim laugh, in fact he’s never heard the other man’s voice, but he’s suddenly imaging and wondering how it sounds. Probably majestic.

*****

Leonard takes a break and crosses the street, walking towards the café he told Jim to meet at. It wasn’t usually crowded this time of day, but the café has a list of loyal customers, him included.

The weather was nice outside, the sun shinning through the gaps between high leaves with a chilly breeze blowing every now and then. Leonard stuffs his hands into his pockets and scans the small group of people sitting outdoors. There was only one table with a single occupier who was eating cookies with a half-filled glass of milk standing by the plate.

“Jim?” Leonard asks with some nervousness in his voice.

The man looks up and his eyes go wide when they fall on Leonard, his mouth falling open slightly. “Please be McCoy.”

Leonard would have replied, if he weren’t absolutely captivated by the bluest pair of eyes he had ever come across. Suddenly, he wanted nothing more than to wake up to those irises every morning for the rest of his life.

Chapter Text

The doctor is aware he’s staring, but it doesn’t seem to be making much of a difference because the kid is staring, too. The light chatter along with the occasional passing car engine filters out, and they just…gaze. Leonard could see Jim’s eyes flickering over his face, as if he were trying to account for every detail and compare it to his own picture glued together by his imagination. Leonard would later find out that that was exactly what Jim was doing. And Jim would also later tell him that he is more than he ever pictured.

It’s not like Leonard wasn’t wondering what Jim looked like. Of course he was wondering and he puzzled together his own image of the young man. But the eyes…the eyes are something far too mesmerizing for him to ever be able to dream about. They’re out of this world, like someone grabbed a glittering star and fused it into Jim’s eyes.

Leonard clears his throat and breaks their eye contact, looking down to yank out the chair across from Jim and fall into it. “Hey, kid.”

“Hi,” Jim’s face breaks into a shy smile, still unable to tear his eyes away from Leonard’s face. “You’re…wow.”

Leonard chuckles, and it makes Jim shiver because it’s the most captivating thing he’s ever heard. Aside from the older man’s accent, that is. “I’m…wow?”

This time Jim does move his eyes, turning them downwards to his plate and that is totally not a blush creeping up his cheeks and staining them pink. Instead, he shoves as entire cookie into his mouth, following it with a gulp of milk to help him chew and swallow. That doesn’t help in the slightest and Jim’s eyes start to water as he tries to push them down his throat. When he finally feels like he isn’t choking and can finally breathe, he looks back up to see Leonard leaning back in his seat wearing a small smirk and his eyes glistening.

“That didn’t really work out did it?” Leonard raises an eyebrow.

“No, it really didn’t,” Jim shakes his head, his voice still strained and grabs the cup and takes a small sip of the white liquid.

“As entertaining as that was, I would really appreciate it if you wouldn’t choke the first we see each other,” Leonard teases, noticing how Jim’s eyes get even more blue when they’re swimming in water.

Jim chuckles, wiping at the edge of his right eye. “Even if that does happen, you’d save my life, being a doctor and all.”

“Oh kid, you’d be long before I could do anything about it,” Leonard shakes his head.

Jim fake gasps, clutching his hand at his heart. “You’d just sit there and watch? Oh how you wound me.”

“And you have a little flare for the dramatic, I see,” Leonard observes, making a mental note.

“Well, maybe more than a little but I don’t wanna scare you off.”

“I’m not easily startled, Jim. Seen and gone through an awful lot and I’m still here,” Leonard shrugs.

“That’s good to know,” Jim beams.

“What?”

“You called me ‘Jim’,” he snickers.

“Isn’t that your name?”

“Uh huh. I just got to used to the ‘kid’. Too bad, I was starting to like it,” Jim sighs playfully.

“You got it, kid.”

Jim giggles, pushing the plate towards Leonard. “Cookie?”

“No, thanks I’m not five,” Leonard shoots. “Milk and cookies, really?”

Jim’s eyes go wide. “There’s no age limit on milk and cookies. And what are you, the food police?”

“I wish I were, kid.”

“I wish you weren’t,” Jim shakes his head. “You’d take all the fun away from it.”

Leonard groans. “You’re a child.”

“Young at heart, man, young at heart.”

“Young at heart, my ass,” Leonard grumbles.

Jim pulls the plate back towards him and munches on another cookie. “So, does your medical specialty have something to do with you not being easily startled and the awful lot that you’ve been?”

Surprise gleams in Leonard’s hazel eyes.

“What? Yeah I know I fool around and all but I do listen,” Jim shrugs.

Leonard nods. “Partly, yeah. And then there’s the other thing called marriage.”

Jim’s face softens. “You’re not wearing a ring so I’m assuming messy divorce?”

“Doesn’t take a genius, kid.”

“That hurts me because I have been called a genius.”

“You flatter yourself way too much, I’m surprised you manage to carry all that ego of yours around,” Leonard rolls his eyes.

“I have help carrying it, no worries,” Jim winks.

Leonard studies the man across the table for a while, noticing the laugh lines at the corner of his eyes and the strands of silver in his hair. Jim’s young, strikingly so, but there are small things about his face that tell a story deeper than what his body is displaying. Jim’s an old soul, a young spirit maybe, but Leonard senses the kid’s gone through an awful lot himself, too.

And then Jim speaks, and Leonard is once again, taken aback.

“You know,” Jim starts slowly, “I know a thing or two about seeing and going through a storm.” And then he takes another sip of the milk and leans backwards.

Leonard frowns a little, trying to understand what it is exactly that Jim means. Because it doesn’t make sense. Because Jim is quite possibly the bubbliest, most enthusiastic, brightest person Leonard has probably ever met. And the bright part doesn’t have to do with his blinding contagious smile. Or maybe it does. A little. Jim’s personality is on point, too, charming and cocky but just enough to be attractive and intriguing. There’s more to Jim, he knows that, there’s more to everyone, but that statement coming from him, making Leonard wonder just what exactly Jim had gone through.

Before either one can say anything else, Leonard’s pager goes off, cutting off words on their lips.

Leonard sighs heavily, digging in his pocket to retrieve the small device and runs his eyes over the screen. He shoves it back and looks up to face Jim.

“They need me back,” he says with a soft tone.

Jim nods. “Yeah, no, go, I understand. Saving lives, it’s sexy.”

Leonard chuckles and stands up, eyeing Jim before extending his hand to snatch a cookie off his plate.

Jim laughs out loud and Leonard’s heart melts. “I knew you had it in you. By the way, you never told me your specialty.”

“I’m a trauma surgeon,” Leonard replies. His pager goes off again.

“I’ll see you around, Bones,” Jim smiles.

“Bones?”

“You’re a doctor, they were called sawbones back in the day. It fits,” Jim explains.

“Yeah, whatever you say, kid. Also, if you wanna talk, text me okay? I’m a doctor, not a whiteboard, damn it.”

“Yeah, whatever you say, Bones.”

Jim watches as Leonard crosses the street back to the hospital just as the ambulance pulls in, his sight on the doctor as he listens to the paramedics and rolls the gurney into the building, disappearing behind the sliding doors.

Jim pushes out a content sigh, something warming up in his chest and running through his body, expanding and a sense of peace and safety rushes over him. it’s no doubt the effect of the grumpy yet interesting doctor, and Jim can’t help but wonder if Leonard had felt the same thing.

*****

Leonard staggers into the break room a bunch of hours later, he had frankly lost count, the throbbing of his feet from hours of standing the only thing he’s registering. That along with the desperate need for a cup of coffee so he doesn’t collapse. The case that had taken him away from Jim had been a series of more downs than up in the operating room, the guy throwing endless surprises at the doctors while they gave their all to keep him alive. A car accident would do that to a body, Leonard had mused.

Now that the guy was as stable as he could be at this point, Leonard allowed him to leave the ICU room and freshen up. And by freshen up he totally means seeing how many cups of hot coffee he could drink before he no longer felt his tongue from the boiling liquid.

He drops into one of the too-hard armchairs (seriously, how can the hospital have furniture that hurts people’s backs and necks?) and takes a long sip of the dark heavy drink, the bitterness surging through his body paired up with the heat currently settling in his stomach makes Leonard very satisfied he nearly forgets about the rock he’s sitting in.

He looks up when he hears another person enter, and seeing Christine standing in the doorway with her arms crossed over her chest. They stare at each other for a few moments. “Chris?” Leonard hesitates.

“I saw you,” she finally speaks, walking into the room and sitting on the couch right next to her friend’s chair.

“Hmm?”

“He’s really cute,” she winks and Leonard sighs. And that’s Christine, with her everlasting cut the bullshit attitude.

“It was nothing,” Leonard says, too tired to argue.

“It was a date,” Christine wiggles her eyebrows.

Leonard groans. “It wasn’t a date,” he insists.

“You like him.”

“What?” Leonard scoffs.

“You didn’t deny he’s cute,” Christine laughs. “You like him. And he’s a catch.”

“That’s got nothing to do with anything, he was tolerable company,” Leonard says.

“And we all know that ‘tolerable company’ is just Leonard McCoy’s way of saying ‘I had a great time and I’m totally gonna call him’ cause you damn will call him Len,” she playfully punches his arm.

Leonard shakes his head.

“How did you meet him anyway?”

“Doesn’t matter.”

“Of course it matters! What, did a patient give you his number? Was it his mother? His sister? Oh my God, did his best friend set you up on a blind date with him?”

“No, Chris, Jesus woman, take it slow, you ain’t helping the headache pounding in my skull,” Leonard closes his eyes. “You sound like Geoff.”

“Uh oh, that’s usually a bad thing.”

Leonard chuckles. “He has his moments.”

“What’s his name?”

Leonard opens one eye and turns to look at her.

“Come on, at least give me that,” she pleads.

“Jim, his name’s Jim.”

“Leonard and Jim,” Christine tests. “I like it.”

Leonard rolls his eyes and wanting a distraction, he pulls out his phone to find a three-hour old text from Jim. His eyes roam over the clock for the first time since leaving Jim and he sighs. He opens the text.

Jim: [5:37 PM] hey bones!!

A small smile spreads on Leonard’s face at that ridiculous nickname. After a quick inspection of his arms and gladly finds them free of ink (thank God Jim had listening to him regarding the magical words), Leonard types back a simple reply.

Bones: [8:23 PM] Hey, kid.

Jim texts back almost immediately.

Jim: [8:23 PM] you’re alive, i’m glad

Bones: [8:25 PM] If you can call the state that I’m right now alive, then guess I am.

Jim: [8:26 PM] long day??

Bones: [8:26 PM] Just sat down for the first time since witnessing you eating cookies and drinking milk. So, yeah, long day.

Jim: [8:27 PM] bones…need i remind you that you stole some of said cookies on your way out

Bones: [8:27 PM] It ain’t stealing if you were looking directly at me and didn’t stop me, kid.

Jim: [8: 27 PM] in what world????

Bones: [8: 28 PM] Mine.

Jim: [8: 28 PM] go easy on yourself would ya bones

Bones: [8:30 PM] Given that said cookies are the only damn thing I ate in God knows how many hours, I will take your advice into consideration.

Jim: [8:30 PM] seriously??? jesus bones get something to eat!!!

Bones: [8:31 PM] I would love to, but unfortunately someone is yelling my name on the hospital intercom. Duty calls.

Jim: [8:31 PM] eat something before you pass out and crack that pretty head of yours

Bones: [8:32 PM] I’ll try.

Jim: [8:32 PM] go save lives!!! :)

Bones: [8:33 PM] Doing my best, kid. Stay safe…wherever you are.

Jim chuckles as he reads Leonard’s reply, send a thumbs up emoji and then slides his phone into his back pocket. He then snatches his jingling keys and opens his apartment door to hear the television blaring and all the lights switched on.

“Hello? Scotty?” Jim calls out, dropping his belongs along with his jacket near the door and toes his shoes off.

“Jim!” He hears a familiar female squeal coming from the kitchen and he’s suddenly being pulled into a crushing hug before he enters. “I missed you, you idiot!”

Jim chuckles, hugging back his redhead best friend. “I missed you too, munchkin.”

“You wanna tell me why you’ve been ditching the outings?” She pulls back, her hands going to her hips as she glares at Jim.

“Gaila,” Scotty’s voice rings from inside the kitchen. “Give the lad a second to breath before ya interrogate him.”

“Listen to the Scotty, he’s a smart man,” Jim tries.

“Nice try, James.”

James?”

“Uh oh, she called you ‘James’,” Scotty whistles.

“I…well,” Jim successfully pushes past Gaila and into the kitchen (probably because she let him) and opens the fridge to pull out a beer bottle.

Gaila yanks the bottle out of his hands before he pops the cap off.

“Hey!” Jim protests, hearing Scotty giggle behind him.

“You’ll get it back when you continue that sentence you started,” she demands.

“You know I can just do this, right?” Jim says and demonstrates, grabbing another bottle.

“Hey Jimbo, lemme just…” Scotty creeps up behind Jim and he too yanks the bottle from his grip.

“What—oh come on!”

“I kinda wanna hear it too, lad.”

Jim sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. “It manifested. The…the thing.”

Gaila eyes widen after a few seconds, excitement dancing in her clear hazel irises. “What? No flippin’ way!”

“Yeah,” Jim chuckles nervously. “Kinda had a freak out about it with Scotty.”

“And you didn’t tell me?” Gaila gasps.

“What was I supposed to do? Send you a text that says ‘oh hey guess what my soulmate connection is now a real thing and I’m destined to be with someone who I have absolutely no idea who they are’?”

“Yes, that’s exactly what you were supposed to text me!” She slaps his arm.

“Ow! Sorry! Well, now you know,” Jim shrugs.

“And? You must have something more than just that.”

Jim gives the pair a genuine smile.

“Wait, is that who you were out meeting today, laddie?” Scotty asks, his mouth dropping open.

“What meeting? Did you meet them?”

“Yeah, I met him,” Jim nods.

“And?”

“And he’s the most spectacular thing I’ve ever seen,” Jim blushes.

“Awwww,” Gaila momentarily jumps up and down clapping her hands before giving Jim a gentler hug than the one before. “I’m so happy for you!”

“Thanks,” Jim kisses her cheek before pulling away.

“Here you go,” Gaila returns Jim’s bottle and then takes the one in Scotty’s hand. “Grab another one Scotty and lets take this to the living room, Jim has some stuff to tell us!”

*****

Leonard had miraculously survived his shift, the people of the city had gone crazy, which is apparently a contagious thing and led him to spending even more hours on his feet. He doesn’t really know how he got home, but his key opened the door so he’s definitely in the right place. M’Benga was pulling a double shift and was gonna be spending the night in the hospital so it’s Leonard on his own.

He stumbles through the dark apartment, ridding himself of his belongings as he goes by, finally getting to his room and changes into his comfortable sleepwear. And then his stomach rumbles and he remembers Jim’s earlier text about getting something to eat. Needless to say, that never happened.

Leonard groans, making his way into the kitchen and spots an apple in the fruit basket which he grabs and takes a bite out of, retreating back to his room and shutting the door behind him. He flops backwards onto his bed and opens his conversation with Jim.

Bones: [2:53 AM] Made it home in one piece. Just wanted to let you know.

He plugs his phone into the charger and takes another bite out of the apple, his phone ping startling him.

Jim: [2:54 AM] i am glad to hear that!! have you eaten

Bones: [2:55 AM] It’s nearly three in the morning, Jim, what are you doing up? And I’m eating an apple right now.

Jim: [2:56 AM] friends came over and havent left yet haha its cool we’re watching movies and an apple??? bones you need protein and shit

Bones: [2:57 AM] Can’t you kick them out? And yeah, Jim, I know, I’m a doctor, thanks. I’m too tired to look through the fridge.

Jim: [2:57 AM] why would i kick my friends out?? is that what you do with your friends? sheesh man stop rubbing it in my face whos ego is huge now

Leonard scoffs.

Bones: [2:58 AM] Yes, that’s what I do. And still yours.

Jim: [2:58 AM] ;)

Jim: [2:59 AM] listen can i see you again

Leonard stares at Jim’s message, his heart beginning to race and his face flooding with heat. His thumbs hover over the keyboard, the two options running through his brain.

Jim: [3:02 AM] boooooneeess

Jim: [3:04 AM] did you fall asleep

Leonard worries his bottom lip and makes up his mind, swallowing against his suddenly dry throat and quickly replies before he chickens out.

Bones: [3:05 AM] No, I’m here.

Bones: [3:05 AM] Yeah, I’d like that.

Jim: [3:06 AM] awesome!!!! :D you scared me for a second there man

Bones: [3:06 AM] Sorry.

Bones: [3:06 AM] I know a little bakery that has incredible cookies.

Jim: [3:06 AM] you read my mind i’ll bring the milk!

Chapter Text

They hadn’t decided on a time to meet again, but Leonard and Jim have been consistently texting for the days that followed their meeting. To Leonard’s relief, Jim had rarely felt the need to ink up any part of his body to get his attention. Leonard caught on the fact that if Jim was drawing aimlessly on his skin (their skin? Leonard still can’t quite figure out what to call it), then he was bored. So if Leonard were free, he’d pick up his phone and call. They’d chat for hours about random topics, jumping easily between them until one of them yawned (mostly Leonard) or if Leonard had to go to sleep because of his early hospital shift.

Leonard wondered what Jim did throughout his days and nights, the man seemed to always be awake. Leonard makes a mental note to ask Jim next time he sees him.

So when Leonard wakes up with a big batch of black ink decorating his arm, he instantly knows that Jim didn’t have a peaceful night. He grabs his phone and opens their text conversation.

Bones: [7:51 AM] Rough night?

Jim replies almost immediately.

Jim: [7:51 AM] you can say that, what gave it away

Bones: [7:52 AM] Arm.

Jim: [7:52 AM] ah right, sorry about that…my head wouldnt shut off

Bones: [7:53 AM] Don’t worry about it, kid. You okay?

Jim: [7:54 AM] ehh i will be, what do you have planned today

Bones: [7:55 AM] Another long day at the hospital awaits me. Did you get any sleep?

Jim: [7:55 AM] fancy…and maybe two?? three hours?

Bones: [7:56 AM] Get some sleep, okay? I’m on break from three till five, call me if you need to talk.

Jim: [7:58 AM] i’ll try, yeah thanks bones

Bones: [8:00 AM] Don’t mention it. Go, get some shuteye.

Jim replies with a thumbs up and then Leonard locks his phone, he lies in bed for a few more minutes before rubbing his face and getting up.

Jim’s the only thing on his mind from the moment he steps out of his apartment till the first step he takes into the ER.

*****

The patients and fast movement of the ER keeps Leonard busy and steals him away for a few hours, and the next thing he knows it’s his break. He checks his phone to see if he’s missed any calls from Jim or if he got any new texts, but finds neither. Hoping that Jim was still sleeping and getting the rest he needs, Leonard decides to let him be and slips his phone in his pocket. He tries not to think about it too much.

He starts, however, to think about it too much when his shift is over and he still hasn’t heard from Jim. No calls, no texts—he even raises his sleeves up to his elbows to see if he’s marked and his heart drops when he finds his skin clear.

He opens their conversation and types out a quick text.

Bones: [9:54 PM] Hey Jim, everything all right? Just checking it. Let me know.

He locks his phone and sighs, looking up in time to see Christine walking towards him.

“Everyone okay?” She asks.

“Everything’s probably fine, I’m just overthinking,” Leonard replies.

She raises an eyebrow.

Leonard rolls his eyes. “I texted Jim this morning and he…didn’t sound right, told him to call me during my break if he needed anything and that he should get some sleep. I haven’t heard anything from him since. But I’m probably overreacting, he doesn’t owe me anything, let alone to tell me everything he’s up to, so let’s just leave it at that.”

“Okay,” Christine nods.

“Okay.”

“I hope you hear from him soon,” Christine says, pressing a kiss to Leonard’s cheek before walking towards her car.

“Yeah, me too,” Leonard whispers to no one.

With no reply to his text as he gets home (which is so unlike Jim), and Jim’s phone going to voicemail, Leonard resorts to his option, grabbing the ink pen he has tucked away and lifts up his sleeve.

*****

The first thing Leonard does when he wakes up is exposing his arm and looking for any new markings. When he finds none, and only traces of the Jim? he scribbled the night before, he sighs, flipping on his side and grabbing his phone, finding no new texts or calls.

He goes about his normal morning routine, but instead of drinking his coffee before he leaves, he pours it into a thermos because he didn’t realize he was running late. Must be the extra ten minutes he spent in bed thinking about Jim. See, he didn’t really know how much he enjoyed Jim’s presence in his life, even though they haven’t known each other for a long time, but his life was much brighter with Jim in it.

Leonard had some time to think on his way to work, and all that was running around in his head was the assumption that Jim had come to his right mind and realized that Leonard was just a broken grumpy man and that he was no good. The thought didn’t surprise Leonard, because he told himself from the moment he met Jim that the kid deserves someone better, and in some shape or form, the doctor was glad that Jim knew it now so he can actually get the person he deserves. Screw whatever the hell soulmates mean, Leonard thinks. The universe doesn’t know what’s best for people, people know what’s best for people.

It stung that Jim would just run off like that, but Leonard swallows against the lump in his throat and walks into the ER, hoping to get lost in his work and forget about the whole damn thing. He tells himself he’s a fool for even opening up to the idea of having a soulmate. Somewhere out there, Jim is going to get the best, what he truly deserves, and Leonard has to be okay with that. He is okay with that. He has to find strength to keep going while knowing that he and Jim won’t be together.

Leonard’s legs come to a stop, it shouldn’t hurt as much as it does. But it does. It hurts deep within his bones. And he knows he’d give anything to see those blue eyes one last time.

He shakes his head, willing his legs to move and he enters the lounge, Christine doesn’t say a thing when she sees his state.

His coffee is cold, he didn’t take a single sip.

*****

Leonard does see Jim again. In fact, he sees him later that very same day. It’s his break, and in need of some fresh air, he makes his way to the ER entrance and steps outside, walking to the edge of the building to lean his back against the basic white plaster. His eyes catch the coffee shop across the street, where he and Jim first met and he doesn’t bother fixing his posture when his shoulder sag forwards. He’s tired.

And then his phone vibrates in his pocket. Uninterested, Leonard takes his time in dragging the phone out of his pocket. His eyes go wide when he unlocks it. A new text.

Jim: [2:17 PM] on your left, across the street

Confused, Leonard looks in the direction and there he is, standing with his hands shoved in his jeans pockets. Jim.

Some kind of relief starts to wash down Leonard’s body because oh he’s alive, but then he immediately stiffens again when he sees Jim’s face.

“What the hell?” Leonard mutters, pushing himself off the wall and quickly making his way towards Jim, who’s currently crossing the street.

Jim meets him halfway and they stop just a foot away from each other. Leonard’s eyes quickly roam over Jim’s face, taking in every bruise and every cut.

Jim tries to smile but stops short, pain shooting up in his cheek. He settles for using his words. “Hey, Bones.”

“What…” Leonard says around the lump in his throat. He swallows and tries again. “What happened?” And his heart hurts because Jim’s face, Jim’s beautiful face, is all kinds of color, and not in the good way.

“Can we just…” Jim gestures to the bench placed in front of the hospital sliding doors.

Leonard nods, following Jim. They sit down and the blond turns to face the doctor. His hazel eyes don’t leave the battered face.

“It’s not as bad as it looks,” Jim says.

“Have you looked in a mirror?” Leonard huffs.

“Well, I tried not to,” Jim shrugs.

“Damn it, Jim, what the hell happened? And why didn’t you call me?”

“Before I…I just wanna say I’m sorry, for yesterday. It wasn’t fair to you and I was a jerk.”

Leonard’s eyes soften. “Just tell me what happened.”

“It wasn’t a good day. I mean, it never is really, and it took its toll on me. I didn’t sleep, my head wouldn’t shut off and it was too overwhelming. I made it to the bar at like, I don’t know, maybe four in the evening and just spent the rest of the day there.”

Something catches Leonard’s attention, the day Jim was talking about, yesterday, he’s certain there’s a reason why it’s never a good day. He doesn’t want to push Jim, though, so he keeps silent.

Jim swallows, gathering his words. “Everything was going until eleven or so, and there had been a group of ladies at the end of the bar, drinking and dancing, I think they were celebrating one of them getting promoted or something. Anyway, these two guys approach them and they’re bad news. I mean, I was wasted but I could still sense…that. They get into an argument, one of the guys wanted one of the girls to leave with him but she didn’t want to and he was about to start getting aggressive. So I jumped. They didn’t see me coming so I landed a few good punches and kicks but damn, they were big. And well, I guess you know what happened next.”

“Jesus, Jim,” Leonard breathes.

“Bones, I had to do something.”

“What? Yeah, no, I’m not saying it’s your fault.”

Jim nods.

“I’m guessing you came to just a while ago?”

“Yeah, woke up in the back of the bar, the bartender apparently got them off and helped me on the couch there. Don’t remember much of anything, though.”

Leonard sighs, raising his hands to Jim’s face. “Let me check you over.”

Jim doesn’t object, only winces slightly when Leonard’s long lean fingers press against his cheekbones and nose.

“Well, good news is nothing is broken,” Leonard announces. “Bad news is that you’re going to be sporting all of the damn rainbow colors for the next week or so. But I guess you already knew that.”

Jim smirks.

“Let’s go inside, Mr. Hero.”

“Aw, Bones, your support is greatly appreciated,” Jim teases.

“Careful, kid, you’ll burst your ego,” Leonard rolls his eyes and leads Jim into an exam room, nodding at Christine as they walk by.

Jim hops on the bed and watches as Leonard gathers some distilled water and big pieces of cotton. He snaps on rubber gloves and wets the cotton, getting closer to Jim and gently starts to clean Jim’s face. Flecks of dried blood cling to the cotton, along with dirt and dried sweat and all throughout the process, Jim’s eyes don’t leave Leonard’s face, that’s crunched up in concentration.

After he’s done wiping Jim’s face, Leonard grabs the antiseptic gel and pours some on his fingers, smearing it over Jim’s open wounds.

“This one’s deeper than the rest,” Leonard says, inspecting a gash over Jim’s eyebrow. “It won’t need stitches but I’ll put some bandages to keep it closed.”

Once he’s done and Jim looks slightly better, Leonard rolls away, disposing of his gloves and the supplies in the bin and turns to face Jim, who’s wearing the biggest smile he could muster without pulling his lip open again.

“What?”

“You used it, our connection,” Jim winks.

“God, do me a favor and never say that again,” Leonard pleads.

“You didn’t deny it.”

“Probably because there’s evidence, you doofus.”

“Right you are. I like seeing it, makes me know it isn’t a one way street.”

“Yeah, well, I was out of options,” Leonard sighs.

“I really am sorry, Bones.”

Leonard waves a hand, dismissing it. “Listen, if you ever find yourself in any kind of situation and you need someone, call me. I don’t care if it’s three in the damn morning, you call me.”

Jim nods, accepting Leonard’s words.

“So we’re good?” Jim asks.

“You scared the hell out of me, but yeah, we’re good.”

“Good.”

“Wait, you didn’t go back home, didn’t your roommate find that weird?” Leonard raises an eyebrow.

“Well,” Jim chuckles. “It isn’t unheard of that I don’t go back home. It wouldn’t really scare Scotty if he woke up and didn’t find me there.”

What about yesterday? It being the day or some mystery like that, Leonard thinks but doesn’t ask.

Instead, he shoots back. “Oh, is that so?”

“Yeah, well…” Jim’s cheeks turn slightly pink.

“Should I be worried?”

“Let’s just say that up until recently, I hadn’t found the person who would ground me,” Jim’s eyes sparkle.

It’s Leonard’s turn to turn into a tomato.

Leonard clears his throat. “You hungry?”

“Starving.”

“Lucky for you, I know this great little place just across the street,” Leonard smiles.

“Do lead the way.”

They get out of the building and cross the street, sitting on the same table they shared before. The table that would become their table.

Jim looks up at Leonard after they have ordered. “Why were you scared?”

“Hmm?”

“You said that I scared you.”

“Ah, it was nothing, I was just overthinking,” Leonard says, making up the excuse.

Jim studies him for a few moments before dropping it, and starting a new conversation on some random topic.

Later, Leonard would tell Jim how losing him, or the thought that he had lost him, hurt beyond anything he could admit.

Later, Leonard would tell Jim that he didn’t know how much he appreciated his existence in his life until it was almost taken away.

Later, Leonard would tell Jim that he was terrified that he only saw the broken grumpy man in him.

But later. Because right now, sitting across from Jim, hearing him go on about constellations, Leonard knows he’s exactly where he’s meant to be.

Chapter Text

The sound of the loud blaring alarm in the once-quiet room jerks Leonard awake. It takes his brain a few seconds to catch up and his arm shoots out, banging on the nightstand until it eventually finds his phone and shut the thing up. He sighs heavily, burying his face into the pillow and then groans, not willing to move.

The alarm sounds again five minutes later. He didn’t switch it off, he had just snoozed it. Deciding that the universe hates him, Leonard sits up, pushing the cover aside and dangles his legs over the edge of the bed. He runs a hand through his chaotic hair and gets to his feet, momentarily losing balance but he manages to adjust quickly enough. Yeah, it’s going to be a hell of a day.

Jim’s sitting crisscrossed on the couch, surrounded by textbooks and papers, with his laptop in his lap and a mug of coffee within his reach when his phone lights up. Finishing off the sentence he was typing, he grabs his phone and immediately smiles.

Bones: [6:47 AM] Morning, kid. Meant to text you when I got home but I initially fell asleep in my scrubs.

Jim: [6:48 AM] morning sleepyhead!! ah dont worry about it, rough shift??

Bones: [6:48 AM] And of course you’d be awake at this unforgiving time of day, why am I not surprised. And yeah, you can say that.

Jim: [6:49 AM] for your info, i am studying!! i cant see your face but i know you look like shit, bones…do me a favor and get some rest later

Bones: [6:50 AM] What kind of studying is that? You’re right, and I don’t feel much better than that either. I’ll do my best.

Jim snaps a picture of his surroundings, attaching it to the conversation.

Jim: [6:51 AM] actual studying bones!!

Bones: [6:52 AM] Well, I’ll be damned. Didn’t think studying was something you actually did, given that you’re always out or having friends over or something.

Jim: [6:52 AM] you wound me bones

Bones: [6:53 AM] Oh please, don’t be such an infant.

Jim: [6:54 AM] how about i bring some lunch over during your break?

Bones: [6:56 AM] Sure, kid. I’d like that. I’m off for an hour at two.

Jim: [6:56 AM] awesome!! i’ll text you when i’m on my way

*****

Leonard drags his feet into the ER, his coffee travel mug already empty and he doesn’t feel any more awake than he did when he actually woke up. He needs another cup, or like five. He waves to Christine as he walks by her, and she follows him into the lounge.

“I didn’t think you’d come in today,” she says.

“It’s job,” Leonard mumbles, putting his stuff away and pouring more of the black heavy liquid in his mug.

“I don’t mean to pour salt in the wounds, but you look awful, Len.”

Leonard sighs. “Don’t I know it.”

“I can get someone to cover for you,” Christine suggests.

“Thanks, but I’ll be fine. Just need the coffee to kick in.”

“Or maybe your caffeine tolerance is so high coffee doesn’t do a damn thing to help.”

“Maybe,” Leonard shrugs. “I’ll be fine, really. Besides, I gotta check on the patients from last night. Or very early this morning. I have no idea anymore.”

Christine chuckles. “Lucky for you, the best nurse in this place—me—kept an eye on them and did everything just as you like it. You won’t strain yourself too much catching up.”

“You’re an angel,” Leonard nods.

“Maybe you should be tired more often if it will bring out some compliments from you,” Christine teases.

“Don’t push your luck, woman,” Leonard warns.

Christine chuckles again. “They need me,” she says, looking down at her pager than went off. “I’ll page you if I need you.”

“Or you know, don’t,” Leonard calls out after her.

He pulls out his phone and checks the time. It’s not even twenty minutes into his shift and he’s already dead on his feet. At least he’s got Jim coming over for lunch later to look forward to.

*****

Leonard spends most of the hours leading up to his break on the ICU floor, keeping a close eye on his patients. The family had come in as visiting hours started and Leonard spent an hour updating them and answering more of their questions.

That was definitely the hardest part about being a doctor, having to break bad news about loved ones and feeling so helpless. Sure, he can fix the body, do what is necessary but sometimes it isn’t enough. And sometimes it doesn’t feel enough. He puts the person back together physically, but the rest of the problems, the emotional and psychological ones, there’s just so much he can do.

He knows some doctors that just don’t deal with families, they operate on the patient and leave others to do the rest. But that has never crossed Leonard’s mind. For him, he is responsible for the life from the moment they roll into the ER till the end, and that means being there for the family, too. It’s being the best doctor he could be.

“Doctor McCoy to the ER, Doctor McCoy to the ER,” the voice on the speakers grabs his attention. He checks the patient chart one more time before heading to the elevator and going down.

The paramedics are pushing the gurney through the doors when he arrives, Christine already by its side and noting the vitals being spoken.

“What do we have?” Leonard asks, pulling on a pair of latex gloves.

“Seven-year-old, slipped off the monkey bars at school, he fell on his wrist,” one of the paramedics answers.

“On my count, one, two three,” Leonard voices, and they gently move the little boy onto the hospital from the gurney.

“Hey bud, what’s your name?”

“P—Pavel,” the boy answers.

“I’m Leonard and this is Christine,” Leonard says, pushing the stethoscope into the boy’s back to listen to his lungs. “I know it hurts but we’ll get you fixed up right away.”

Pavel nods.

“You’re such a brave boy,” Leonard ruffles the boy’s curl hair, earning him a small smile.

He tells Christine to give him some pain medication and to call his parents.

“What’s your favorite color?”

“Blue,” Pavel responds.

“Really? That’s my favorite color, too,” Leonard smiles. “Do you play on the monkey bars a lot?”

Pavel nods. “I was trying to show my friend but it was slippery.”

“You’re going to be good as new in no time, buddy,” Leonard smiles.

Christine comes back with some gummy bears. “His parents are on their way, they should be here in fifteen minutes.”

“Okay,” Leonard removes his gloves and looks out the window into the hall. “Do you mind sitting with him?”

“Go, we’ll be fine.”

Leonard nods and walks out the room. He approaches Jim, who’s leaning against the wall and holding a brown paper page. And he’s smiling.

“How long have you been standing there?” Leonard narrows his eyes.

“I walked in right as you asked what happened to the little guy,” Jim answers. “You’re not a pediatric surgeon too, right?”

Leonard shakes his head. “They usually call the trauma surgeon who’s on call when no one from ortho or peds is available. And looks like today is my lucky day.”

“You were great with the kid, I could see it from here.”

“That’s flattering but I scare away most of the kids I interact with.”

“My my, I wonder why,” Jim teases.

“Shut up,” Leonard rolls his eyes. “Listen, his parents will be here soon, you cool to hang around until I get a cast on him? Shouldn’t take more than thirty minutes, tops.”

“No problemo, Bones.”

“How about I take you up to my office and you settle in there until I’m done down here?” Leonard suggests.

“I’d like that,” Jim agrees.

“Don’t comment on how messy it is,” Leonard warns.

Jim chuckles. “You have my word.”

The response Leonard gets from Christine when he returns a few minutes later is nothing but a wide smirk.

“Shut it,” he says before she comments. “I wasn’t gonna let him just stand there for thirty damn minutes.”

“There is a comfortable waiting area, you know.”

“I wouldn’t let him sit there because one: he isn’t a patient and two: it isn’t comfortable. It’s just my office, it isn’t a big deal.”

A knock on the door doesn’t give Christine a chance to respond, and Leonard is thanking whichever deity is out there because he really doesn’t want to get into this with Christine.

“Doctor McCoy, his parents are here,” a nurse informs them.

“You can let them in,” Leonard nods.

A minute later, two very worried parents step into the room, the mother immediately going to Pavel’s side while the father takes the time to stand in front of Leonard.

“I’m Doctor McCoy, I examined Pavel when he was brought in,” Leonard extends his arm.

The man shakes it. “Is he going to be okay?”

“I’m pretty sure he broke his wrist, we’ll need to do an x-ray to be sure, we just had to wait to get your consent for it,” Leonard says.

“Do whatever you need to do.”

They have the films fifteen minutes later.

“Yeah, right there,” Leonard points to a piece of the film. “It’s a clean break, so he won’t need surgery. But he’s going to be in a cast for about six weeks. You said your favorite color is blue, right buddy?”

Pavel nods.

Leonard brings out blue casting tape and Pavel smiles.

As promised, Leonard walks into his office approximately thirty minutes after leaving Jim there. The younger man is roaming around, admiring the certificates on the wall and some of the family pictures.

“Right on time,” Jim smiles when he sees Leonard.

“I’m a man of my word. See anything interesting?”

“A little,” Jim snickers. “Also you say this office is messy? I hate to break this to you, Bones, but this is like the tidiest part in my apartment.”

“Your roommate a chaotic mess like you then?” Leonard asks, dropping into one of the chair in front of his desk and grabs the paper bag Jim brought.

“More or less,” Jim confirms, getting into the chair across from Leonard. “I got us some burger and fries.”

“Today feels like a burger and fries kind of day,” Leonard agrees.

Each of them takes a burger and the fries and they dig in. They sit in silence for a few minutes until Leonard speaks.

“So what are you studying?”

“Teaching,” Jim replies swiftly. “I wanna be an elementary school teacher.”

Leonard raises an eyebrow. He didn’t know what exactly to expect but it definitely wasn’t that answer. “You? A teacher?”

Jim chuckles. “Why’s that so hard to believe?”

“I don’t know, you just don’t seem the type,” Leonard shrugs, tossing a fry in his mouth.

“I’ve always been fond of kids, and they like me. I didn’t have a great childhood so I feel like this is me doing things differently than what happened with me. My teachers never cared, never gave me an extra minute outside of class so I feel like I could actually make a difference in those kids’ lives by being there and helping them and supporting them. You know, giving them what I was denied,” Jim explains.

Leonard feels a smile spread on his face. “That’s beautiful.”

A slight blush tints Jim’s cheeks. “Yeah well, it’s the truth.”

“Are you going to be one of those teachers who has a class pet?” Leonard jokes.

“Oh most definitely there’s going to be a class pet,” Jim replies with all seriousness.

“You’ve thought about this a lot,” Leonard notices.

“I have,” Jim confirms. “I have a Bachelor’s in English and I’m working on my Master in of Arts in Teaching.”

“Impressive,” Leonard nods.

“I try,” Jim teases, taking a bite of his burger. “Why did you become a doctor?”

“It kinda ran in the family. My dad was a doctor and I remember growing up being fascinated with him, and he would tell me all about what he did and how he would fix certain things and it intrigued me. So you can say I grew up to love it,” Leonard says.

“You’re a very capable doctor, Bones.”

“Shut it, you. You from here or?”

“Nope,” Jim shakes his head. “Grew up in Iowa, moved here right before I started university. You?”

“I grew up in Georgia, moved here a while back.”

“I guess San Francisco is home to us both.”

“Guess so, kid.”

They sit in comfortable silence for a few more minutes, munching away on their burgers when Leonard clears his throat, building up the courage to ask Jim the question that has been lurking in the back of his head.

“Jim.”

“Hmm?”

Spit it out, Leonard. A deep breathe. “Is this a date?”

Jim’s eyes go a little wide, as if he weren’t expecting the question. He takes a moment to think before answering. “Do you want it to be a date?” He asks back instead.

Leonard’s heart is suddenly beating heavily against his chest, and he’s nervous. He could say no and that he wants to take it slow but that’s not the truth. The truth is he’s wanted to go out with Jim, to spend more time with him because his presence makes the world a little more tolerable. So he answers truthfully.

“Yeah, kid, that would be nice,” he gives Jim a little smile.

And Jim beams, the light traveling to his eyes and somehow making them even bluer. Seems like that’s the answer Jim has been eager to hear. “Then it’s a date.”

“I don’t know why but I felt the pressure go through the roof after you said that,” Leonard mutters.

“No pressure, Bones, nothing’s changed,” Jim says.

“Yeah, tell that to a broken old man who’s out of practice,” Leonard rolls his eyes.

“Relax,” Jim chuckles. “You’re not broken and you aren’t that old. As for the out of practice, don’t worry about it, we’ll take it slow.”

Leonard raises an eyebrow.

“It’s been a while since I was with someone, too,” Jim announces.

“Really?”

Jim nods. “I mean, yeah, I’ve had some one night stands but nothing serious, nothing worth it. The one night stands were fun and all but I don’t know, I felt nothing the next day. I don’t like that, I want it to mean something.”

“Last serious relationship for me didn’t end well so I ended up burying myself in my work and I haven’t been with anyone since,” Leonard shares.

“How long has it been?”

“A long time, kid.”

Jim leaves it at that, not wanting to push Leonard and hoping he’d open up as time went by. So Jim smiles, and decides that this is worth it. This is something special, even if Leonard doesn’t recognize it yet. Because he is almost certain what he’s feeling—the tingling in his chest—Leonard is feeling, too.

“Since this is a date and all,” Jim says, leaning forward and snatching a french fry from Leonard.

Leonard’s eyes go wide as he watches Jim chew on the fry. “You steal all of your dates’ food?”

“Only the special ones,” Jim winks.

“You’re gonna end me, kid.”

“I’ll make sure we have some fun before that happens,” Jim smirks.

“Stop talking and finish your food,” Leonard orders, but still smiles.

Taking the smile as a victory, Jim does as he’s told.

They’re done by the time Leonard’s break is up and he has to get back to work. Jim starts to clean up but Leonard stops him, telling him he’s got it covered. And then they stare at each other, not knowing what to do next. Jim was gonna leave, but how do they say goodbye? Shaking hands? Leonard shudders at the thought because it doesn’t seem right, doesn’t fit…whatever they are. Maybe a hug. In a moment of bravery, Leonard takes a step towards Jim and it seems Jim was thinking about the same thing because he too took a step forward and Jim’s body engulfs Leonard.

He tenses for a second before relaxing against Jim, his strong arms going around and wrapping themselves around Jim. He can feel Jim’s heart beating against his chest and it’s comforting, it’s right and Leonard tightens his grip on Jim.

“Thanks, Bones,” Jim whispers.

Leonard pulls back, his hands still lingering on Jim’s waist. “For what?”

“For a great time.”

“I was glad for the company, kid,” Leonard squeezes Jim’s shoulder.

Christine tells Leonard he’s needed in an incoming trauma as he’s walking Jim to the exit.

“I’m still holding you to the milk and cookies date,” Jim reminds Leonard.

Leonard nods. “I remember, work has been driving me crazy. I have two days off in three days, how does that sound?”

“That works,” Jim smiles.

“It’s a second date then.”

“I better get going, leave you to be a hero and stuff,” Jim says.

“I’ll do my best,” Leonard chuckles.

“See ya, Bones,” Jim pats Leonard’s shoulder and starts to walk away. He stops at the entrance and pulls out a pen from his pocket, lifting his sleeve and scribbling on his arm.

Leonard feels his own arm tickle so he rolls back his sleeve and finds a smiley face looking up at him. He searches for Jim, who catches his eye and winks.

Leonard shakes his head, his lips tugging upwards and pulls out his phone.

Bones: [3:28 PM] You always carry a pen around?

Jim: [3:28 PM] yup ;)

*****

The days leading up to their second day rush by, and Leonard is on his way to meet Jim there. He’s been excited, and he’s heard quite a bit from Christine on how happier he seems and less tempered since Jim walked into his life. He feels lighter, like there’s finally someone there to help him carry all his baggage, if said baggage doesn’t scare him away. Leonard would rather not think about that right now.

He turns onto the street and spots the bakery right away, it being one of his favorite places in the city. And his eyes quickly land on Jim, who’s sitting on one of the tables outside. The weather is beautiful out, after all.

Leonard approaches and when he’s close enough to see what’s on the table, he can’t suppress his laughter.

“Really?”

“Hello to you too, Bones,” Jim looks up, a smile on his face.

“You actually brought milk?” 

“I’m a man of my word,” Jim shrugs.

Leonard gets into the chair across from Jim as the younger man slides a glass of milk over to him. Leonard picks it up as Jim picks up his and they cling their glasses.

Chapter Text

The following days roll by quickly. It’s been a slow day for Leonard and he’s sitting in his office, his thoughts on Jim and his blue eyes and bright smile. He finds himself looking at the sharpie he now has sitting on his desk, eyeing it and calculating. Normally, he’d text Jim and Jim would either reply back or write on his skin. Of course, when Jim opts for the second option, their text conversation looks pretty one-sided. Up until now, Leonard hasn’t written on his skin for quite some time.

So Leonard reaches for the black sharpie, uncaps it and twists it between his fingers for a few moments, thinking about what to write.

Hey, kid

And he waits.

Normally, Jim replies within a few minutes. But it appears to not be the case this time. So Leonard waits for the moment his skin tingles.

And of course, you never say it’s a slow day in the Emergency Room because Leonard gets called when a trauma is arriving ten minutes later.

He doesn’t feel his skin tingling thirty minutes after that.

*****

“Good job, everyone,” Leonard nods to his team as the patient is wheeled towards the elevator.

“Good save, Doctor McCoy,” Christine nods.

It took them a little over an hour and a half to stabilize the patient who was in a pretty bad car accident. After changing out of his gown and gloves, Leonard washes his hands and only when he lies down on his couch does he notice the scribbles all over his skin.

Bones! Hellooooo

Bones??

Booooones

Booonnneeessssss

Leonard shakes his head but chuckles. He pulls his phone out of his pocket and dials Jim’s number.

“This is new,” Jim picks up after a few rings.

“Don’t have the energy to write or type,” Leonard murmurs.

“Long day?”

“More like long hour and a half. Trauma came in and just went up now, managed to stabilize him but it was messy,” Leonard sighs.

“You should go home, get some rest,” Jim says, concern coating his voice.

“Can’t, still have some hours to go,” Leonard groans.

“I can drop by, I’m near the hospital,” Jim says.

“Are you ever, I don’t know, studying?” Leonard asks.

“I study,” Jim defends.

“Hm,” Leonard hums. “But I can use a familiar face right now.”

“You got it, I’ll be there in twenty,” Jim replies.

Leonard probably dozes off right after hanging up with Jim because the next thing he remembers is opening his eyes to those bright blue irises and that smile that is starting to brighten Leonard’s universe more as the days roll by.

Jim’s standing over him and his smile somehow widens even more when he sees Leonard’s eyes open. “Bones!”

“How long have you been sitting here?” Leonard grumbles with no real annoyance in his voice.

“Hmm about twenty minutes, I saw Christine by the front desk and she lead me here. She was about to wake you but I told her not to,” Jim explains.

“I’ve been out for a while then.”

“Forty minutes give or take, I’d say. You seem like you needed it, though,” Jim says, patting Leonard’s chest and letting his hand linger there for a few extra moments.

Leonard felt warmth spread all over his body at Jim’s touch, and he was suddenly over come with the desire to cover Jim’s hand with his own, to know what it feels like for their skin to touch…so he does exactly that, his eyes not leaving Jim’s face to see his reaction.

Leonard’s heart leaps into his throat when Jim’s face doesn’t change, but then the blond’s face softens and he twists his hand so Leonard’s palm is against his and then Jim is sliding his fingers between Leonard’s, a slight blush tainting his cheeks.

A small smile cracks on Leonard’s face, and he tightens his grip on Jim’s fingers. It feels so right, and so natural and like they’ve done it a million times before. And that moment, the feeling of their touch for the first time, will forever be documented in the doctor’s head.

Jim’s smile grows even more when Leonard starts running his thumb over Jim’s knuckles and Jim hasn’t felt such a gentle and tender touch in so long he almost forgot what it feels like.

“Bones?” Jim whispers.

“Yeah, Jim?” Leonard replies in the same hushed tone.

“This is nice,” Jim says, his eyes sparkling.

“Yeah, it sure is.”

Before either of them can get another word out, Leonard is being called on the intercom. He groans, shutting his eyes.

“It’s okay,” Jim speaks up, squeezing Leonard’s hand. “I’ll hang around, I have no idea where the guys will be right now anyway.”

Leonard opens his eyes and looks at Jim. “You sure?”

“Absolutely,” Jim nods.

They get up and Jim walks with Leonard to the entrance. A teenager is being rushed in, lying on the gurney with a panicked woman and little boy right behind the paramedics. Leonard automatically goes into Doctor Mode and starts getting the information from the medics. In the fast-paced hustle, the little boy is getting more confused and scared. With the mother demanding to stay by the teenager’s side, Leonard frantically looks around for someone to take the young child.

“I got him, Bones, he’ll be with me,” Jim quickly offers, walking towards the boy.

Leonard gives him a look of gratitude and disappears into the trauma room.

Once the commotion moves away, the little boy appears to calm down a bit, although his breathing is still strained, his eyes wide and he’s still panicked. Jim approaches him slowly, a smile on his face.

“Hey, kiddo,” Jim says, crouching down on his knees to be the same height as the boy.

The boy eyes Jim for a few moments, not speaking.

“I’m Jim, can you tell me your name?” Jim tries.

The boy doesn’t say anything.

“All right, you don’t have to say anything, it’s okay,” Jim reassures him. He quickly looks around, spotting a vending machine nearby. “Do you want a juice maybe?”

The boy shyly nods after a moment.

“Great, come on,” Jim ushers him towards the machine, noticing how the boy stays close but doesn’t touch him. “Which kind is your favorite?”

The boy points to the orange juice.

“Sure thing,” Jim nods. He slides in a one-dollar bill and pushes the button for the orange juice. A few seconds later he hears the juice box it drop behind the push window, he reaches through and grabs it. He then inserts the straw into the box and hands it to the boy.

The boy holds onto the box and to Jim’s pleasant surprise, he extends his arm and holds Jim’s hand.

Jim automatically holds the small hand tighter as he leads the boy into the waiting room.

They sit in silence for a few minutes before the boy builds up courage to speak.

“C-Chris,” he finally says.

Jim turns to him, a little confusion evident on his face.

“J-Jim,” he points to Jim, “Chris,” he points to himself.

Jim smiles. “You doing okay, Chris?”

Chris nods. “But…Sam got hurt.”

“Sam? That’s your brother?”

Chris nods again, his eyes filling with tears.

“Oh no, don’t cry. Listen, come here,” Jim pats his thigh and Chris climbs on it. He turns to look at Jim. “Sam’s doctor, Leonard, is the best doctor there is, okay? He’s going to fix your brother.”

Chris sniffs, wiping away some of the tears from his face.

“And you want to know something else?”

Chris nods.

“I call Leonard ‘Bones’ because he’s a doctor and he fixes people’s bones sometimes,” Jim smiles. “That’s a good nickname, isn’t it?”

Chris’s face immediately lights up and he smiles.

Jim feels incredible when he sees the little boy’s smile, just knowing he helped him feel better and assured him everything would be okay was so rewarding.

Spotting Jim’s phone in his shirt pocket, Chris reaches for it and pulls it out, looking up at Jim.

Jim’s arms were securely around the boy’s small body, keeping him balanced on his thighs.

“Games?” Chris asks.

“I have a bunch of games,” Jim nods, momentarily taking his phone to unlock it and open the Games folder.

Chris skims through the four pages before settling on one of those games where you match the jewels together. He plays for a while, his focus on that game while Jim looks up every now and then to see if anyone is walking towards him. Exhausted, Chris soon falls asleep in Jim’s arms.

Jim gently removes his phone from Chris’s loose grip so he doesn’t wake him and tucks it back into his pocket. He leans back in his seat, making sure his hold on Chris is firm, and closes his eyes. 

This time, it’s Jim’s turn to wake up to the hazel of Leonard’s eyes kneeling next to him.

“Bones?” Jim mumbles sleepily.

“Yeah I’m right here,” Leonard says.

Jim nods, his arms still around Chris. “Time’s it?”

“Late, it’s been four hours.”

“Sam—the teenager—is he…”

“He’s fine, we just managed to stabilize him now. His mom came back for the little one, but she found you two asleep and didn’t want to wake him up until she knew what was happening with Sam,” Leonard explains.

Jim automatically runs his hand up and down Chris’s back. “Thank God.”

“It was a close one,” Leonard sighs. “He’s upstairs, I told his mom I’d bring him,” he gestures to Chris.

Jim starts to wake the little boy. “Chris? Wake up, buddy, it’s time to go see your mom and brother.”

A few minutes later, Chris is awake and looking at Jim.

“Buddy, this is Leonard, the doctor I told you about.”

“Bones?” Chris asks.

Jim chuckles, nodding. “Yeah, this is Bones.”

Leonard smiles as he watches Jim and the little boy interact and something inside him tells him that there is so much more behind this, the way Jim is with the boy and he’s taken by how natural this feels. Him and Jim and a little child. A family, perhaps.

Jim’s voice snaps Leonard back to reality.

“Ready to go?”

Chris nods.

“Let’s go,” Leonard nods, walking towards the elevator.

The short trip up is spent in comfortable silence. The elevator opens on their desired floor and they all step out. Chris jogs towards his mother as soon as he sees her in the hallway and she holds him tight.

“Thank you for sitting with him,” she tells Jim when they approach her. “I hope he wasn’t too much trouble.”

“No trouble at all, he’s great and of course, it was my pleasure,” Jim smiles.

“I really appreciate it,” she nods.

“So my shift is over but the doctor on call right now is great so if there’s any complications, he’ll be able to take care of it. And I’ll be back in the morning,” Leonard tells her.

She gives Leonard a hug. “Thank you so much.”

Leonard hugs her back, nodding.

Jim kneels down in front of Chris. “Be strong and brave for your brother, okay?”

Chris nods.

“Good man,” Jim smiles, giving Chris his closed fist.

Chris closes his fist and fist bumps Jim.

Jim and Leonard start to walk away when Jim hears his name from behind. He turns around and sees Chris walks towards him, hugging his legs when he reaches them. Jim’s heart swells with joy and he tears up a little. He gets on his knees, giving Chris a good hug. When they pull apart, Chris smiles at him and then turns back, walking towards his mother.

“Come on,” Leonard speaks up, extending his arm to Jim.
Jim takes his hand, intertwining their fingers and they head towards the elevator.

“Let me just change into my civvies before we head out,” Leonard says.

Jim nods.

They’re walking out of the hospital twenty minutes later, they stop outside, not knowing what they’ll do next.

“Do you have anything planned for the night?”

Jim shakes his head. “Nothing.”

“I was probably going to head home, eat something and watch a movie before you dropped by, wanna join?” Leonard asks nervously.

Jim smiles softly. “That sounds great. And I don’t want to keep you out longer than this, you’ve had a long day.”

Leonard nods, grateful for Jim’s sentiment. “There’s a great pizza place two blocks away from my place.”

“I love pizza! Do I get to pick the toppings?”

“You can pick but I have to approve,” Leonard raises an eyebrow.

Jim sighs dramatically. “Fine.”

Leonard bumps his shoulder to Jim’s, making the younger man chuckle.

*****

They get their pizza and make it to Leonard’s place in about forty minutes. They settle on the couch, Leonard grabbing them beers and tissue paper for plates because he isn’t in the mood to do dishes. Jim tells him he does the same. They eat in comfortable silence as they watch the movie they picked, well the movie Jim picked, and of course, it was a romantic comedy.

Something happens on the screen that makes Leonard chuckle and he turns to look at Jim for his reaction. But Jim wasn’t smiling or laughing, he appears to not even be concentrating with the movie. He’s staring into nothing, barely blinking.

Frowning slightly, Leonard pauses the movie and Jim doesn’t even notice. He gets concerned.

“Jim?”

Jim doesn’t budge.

“Jim,” Leonard tries again, this time placing his hand gently on Jim’s shoulder.

Leonard’s touch jostles Jim back to reality and he quickly turns to face the older man, “Hm? Yeah?”

“You okay? Seems like you were in your own world there,” Leonard says.

“Sorry, I’m fine, I’m good, it’s nothing,” Jim replies.

“What’s up?” Leonard presses, not letting it go.

“It’s not important.”

“If it’s got you that distracted then it’s important. Talk to me,” Leonard pleads.

Jim sighs, running his hands over his eyes and he realizes how tired he is. All the thinking, the thoughts and memories racing back since he met Chris have worn him out. And it seems like Leonard is not moving from the couch until Jim speaks up so he decides to go with it.

“I’ve been thinking about Chris,” Jim finally admits.

“The little boy? He’s fine, thought.”

Jim nods, “I know, I know. It’s not about him being hurt. He just, I don’t know, meeting him awoke something in me that has been asleep for a very long time and I guess I’m trying to deal with it,” Jim explains.

“Let me help you deal with it,” Leonard holds Jim’s hand.

Jim drops his gaze to their joined hands, and then he looks up into Leonard’s hazel eyes. He sees acceptance, concern and truth in those eyes. And in this moment, he knows that he undoubtedly trusts Leonard with everything in him.

“He reminded me of myself, when I was about his age. I think that’s what drew me to him in the beginning, to take care of him. To look out for him. I’m sure his family is loving and supportive, but in that moment in the hospital, he was alone. And I guess I wanted to protect him and tell him everything was going to be okay. I wanted to do that for him, to do for him what no one did for me when I was young,” Jim’s voice is small and low, something so unlike him, Leonard realized.

Leonard squeezes Jim’s hand, but doesn’t speak.

Jim swallows. “And his brother’s name is Sam. My brother’s name is Sam, too. And that just shook me, because I too looked up to my older brother, but then my brother left and it was just me and my step-father. My dad died when I was a baby, and my mother was never able to look me in the eye. Said I reminded her of him too much and that it was too painful. So she was gone most of the time, working. And my brother was older and healthier and when my mother married my step-father, Sam wanted out. So he left. He left me. I guess I was too much of a reminder for him, too. He was four when dad died,” Jim feels tears sting his eyes, but he doesn’t let them slip.

And suddenly, Leonard was angry. Angry at Jim’s mom, Jim’s brother. How dare they put Jim—beautiful, charming, bright Jim through all that? It wasn’t his fault his dad died, and yet it seems like they blamed him for it. He was just a kid, and a kid being rejected by his own family, his own blood, Leonard can’t imagine how painful that must have been for him.

Leonard was overcome with the urge to hold Jim close, wrap him up in his arms and protect him, cherish him and show him how special he is, give him everything that was taken away from during his childhood.

So Leonard did exactly that. He moved closer to Jim, wrapping an arm around the blond’s shoulder and pulling him towards his chest.

Jim easily went with Leonard, no resistance or hesitation. He buried his face in the crook of Leonard’s face, closing his eyes and causing a few tears to roll down his cheeks. He let them.

And then Leonard was speaking. “I’m so sorry that happened to you, Jim. You didn’t deserve that at all. You’re so special and beautifully unique. You got a heart of gold, kid. You really did help that boy today.”

Jim chuckles, and then sniffs.

“What’s so funny?” Leonard raises an eyebrow.

“Your voice, you just went all Southern accent on me. It’s sexy,” Jim pulls back slightly so he can look at Leonard’s face.

Leonard blushes. “Happens when I’m tired.”

Jim tucks his face back against Leonard’s neck. “Thank you, Bones.”

“Anytime, kid.”

They continue the movie and Jim falls asleep cuddled up against Leonard’s side. And Leonard wouldn’t change a single thing, Jim’s weight perfect against his side and the steady rise and fall of Jim’s chest a comfort. Leonard takes a moment to observe Jim’s features while he slept, something he wants to remember always. Jim’s peaceful, his lips slightly parted and his long eyelashes resting against his cheeks. He’s beautiful.

Leonard finally admits to himself that he truly is falling for Jim.

The next morning, Jim realizes just how hard he’s falling for Leonard.

Chapter Text

Leonard’s alarms blares loudly against his head, causing the doctor to jerk awake and to let out a long, throaty groan. He manages to shut the unholy sound off after a few attempts and he sighs at the blissful peace that overtakes the room. Leonard turns to hold the warm body next to him, only to have this arm fall on the mattress. Confused, Leonard squints one eye open and yeah, the space next to him it empty. And cold. His heart drops at the thought that Jim left.

But before his brain can drag any further, the full smell of coffee and bacon hits his nostrils, and he knows that Jim didn’t leave.

Nothing happened the night before, Jim dozed off on the couch and Leonard didn’t want to leave the kid to sleep there. So he half-carries Jim to his room, since the other bedroom isn’t much of a bedroom without a bed and Jim immediately continues sleeping.

Leonard walks into the kitchen, running his fingers through his hair in an attempt to tame it a little. Jim takes one look at Leonard and he’s pouring the man a cup of coffee. Bless him.

“Exactly what I need,” Leonard says, accepting the cup of the steaming liquid.

“You can’t function without at least two cups of coffee in the morning,” Jim replies, winking and a big smile on his face.

“Are you always this chirpy and bright at six in the morning?” Leonard grumbles, taking a sip of his mug. “Don’t get me wrong, I like seeing you happy, but it’s six in the morning, Jim.”

“Are you always this grumpy at six in the morning, Bones?” Jim playfully throws back.

“I’m always grumpy, kid.”

“God that’s true. But I intend to change that. You should smile more, smiling is good for the soul, you know,” Jim says.

“I’ll smile when there’s something to smile about.”

“I’m in your kitchen, making breakfast and coffee, isn’t that enough for you to smile?” Jim pouts.

A small smile cracks on Leonard’s face. “Maybe.”

“There it is!” Jim exclaims with excitement.

“You’re unbelievable, Jim.”

“And you’re a cuddler, Bones,” Jim chuckles.

Leonard ineffectively tries to hide the blush coloring his cheeks by taking another sip of his coffee. Jim thinks it’s cute.

“How long have you been up?”

“I don’t know, maybe two hours or so?”

“You’ve been up since four?” Leonard’s eyes go slightly wide.

“I’m used to it. I survived on power naps while I was in college,” Jim shrugs.

“Damn kid, you need sleep, decent sleep,” Leonard huffs.

“Tell that to my body.” Jim waves a hand at Leonard. “Don’t worry about it, it’s nothing I’m not used to. Besides, I used that time to get some of my readings done. Cause, you know, becoming a teacher and stuff.”

“So that’s when you do your studying?” Leonard raises an eyebrow.

Jim nods. “Among other times, but yeah. Bones, it’s fine, don’t worry your brilliant mind about this.”

Jim turns back to the stove and he’s putting a plate in front of Leonard. “Eat.”

“Where’s your plate?”

“Ah, not hungry. Stomach isn’t feeling too hot this morning.”

“Kid…”

“I’m having coffee, though,” Jim shows Leonard his mug.

Leonard cocks his head to the side. “You know that isn’t helping your cause, right?”

Jim rolls his eyes. “You know that I survived for twenty five years before I met you, right?”

“God knows how you did,” Leonard sighs.

Jim chuckles, bringing his mug up to his lips and swallows down the black drink. “What’s the plan for today?”

“Whatever and whoever walks into the ER, I guess,” Leonard says around a mouthful. “I just hope it doesn’t drag. What about you? More outings with friends and less studying?”

Jim chuckles a hearty chuckle. “Actually, I have class from ten to five today.”

“You actually attend?” Leonard pretends to be shocked.

“Shut up,” Jim playfully smacks Leonard’s arm. “Spock is giving the classes today, all of them, so yeah.”

“Spock?”

“Yeah, Spock…he’s uh…a whole different story.”

“What’s he like?”

“He’s different. I can’t really explain him, you have to meet him to get it,” Jim shrugs.

“Are we meeting each other’s teachers now?” Leonard teases.

“Maybe,” Jim shoots back. “Where is your teacher, anyway?”

“Boyce? He’s around, administrative position. But he’s great, he’s back in Georgia, though.”

“Ah, that’s too bad. Maybe we can take a trip and go meet him.”

“Maybe we will,” Leonard says. And in this moment, Leonard knows that he wants to take Jim back to Georgia. To meet his mother. His mentor. To show him around, where he grew up. Tell him memories.

“Boooones.”

“Huh?”

“Kinda lost you there for a second,” Jim raises an eyebrow. “You okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, just thinking, nothing to worry about.” Leonard checks the time. “We should get going, I need to be at the hospital at seven fifteen.”

Jim nods. “Sure, you can go get ready I’ll clean up here.”

“You don’t have to.”

“I want to, and I made breakfast and coffee, it’s fine, go,” Jim smiles.

And Leonard can’t stop thinking about how natural this feels and just…right.

And Jim already knows his way around Leonard’s kitchen.

*****

“Do you have a breather between your classes?” Leonard asks as he and Jim approach the ER entrance, walking hand-in-hand.

Jim nods. “I’m free from one to two, and then I have classes again from two to five with like, ten minutes in between.”

“My lunch break is at one thirty but I can make it from one to two?” Leonard suggests.

“That works,” Jim agrees. “There’s a really good food place near campus, we can go there.”

“Sounds good,” Leonard smiles.

“The subway across the street would be your easiest way to get there, it’s three stops and it will be on your right when you walk out of the station,” Jim explains.

“Simple enough.”

“Let me know when you’re on your way so I head there.”

“Will do,” Leonard promises. “I should get going, rounds await.”

Jim chuckles, opening his arms for Leonard.

Leonard playfully rolls his eyes and closes the distance between them, feeling Jim’s arm go around him as he wraps his own arms tightly around Jim, as well. “Big on touching, huh?”

“You have no idea,” Jim replies.

Leonard chuckles as they pull apart, but neither of them takes a step back. Instead, they gaze into each other’s eyes, both of them kinda holding their breathes. Leonard runs his eyes over Jim’s face, and he can see the faint freckles decorating the blond’s nose and cheeks and he suddenly wants to trace them with his finger tips. Jim parts his lips to say something and then…

The wail of an incoming ambulance snaps them back to reality and Leonard clears his throat.

“I’ll see you later.”

Jim’s smile doesn’t hesitate. “Yes, you will.”

Jim watches as Leonard turns around and walks into the emergency room, and honestly, he’s never felt this content in his life. Leonard’s been gone for two seconds but Jim is already counting down the minutes to their lunch date.

Leonard is immediately faced with a smirking Christine as soon as he walks through the sliding doors. He rolls his eyes and turns to walk towards the lounge, only to have Christine race out from behind the desk and trail him.

“So,” she prompts.

“So…?”

“You and Jim,” she bluntly says.

“What about me and Jim?” Leonard stalls.

“Don’t give me that, I saw you two outside,” Christine points out.

“And?” Leonard pushes the lounge door and steps inside.

“Something happened, didn’t it?”

Leonard stays silent.

“Oh my God, something happened! Don’t hold out on me,” Christine pleads.

Leonard sighs, turning to face the eager nurse. “Nothing happened, not like that. He came over last night, he fell asleep watching the movie so I moved him to my bed, that’s all. We slept, actually slept.”

“Usually that comes later int he night but still, that’s something!”

Leonard groans. “Don’t you have work to do? Patients to check on? You know, instead of breathing down the neck of my personal life.”

“Actually, breathing down the neck of your personal life is kind of what keeps us going around here,” Christine shrugs.

“God help me,” Leonard huffs. “Well, that’s all the gossip for today.”

*****

“Jimbo!”

Jim turns around and sees Scotty jogging towards him, carrying a bunch of books at his side. Jim smiles, he and his roommate have classes near each other and they usually went to class together. Scotty, too, is working to get a Masters in Mechanical Engineering.

“Haven’t seen much of ya, mate. It’s going that well, eh?” Scotty smirks.

Jim chuckles. “It’s going great, yeah, but not in the way you think.”

Scotty frowns. “What’d ya mean? You slept at his place, didn’t ya?”

“I did, but that’s exactly what happened. I fell asleep. On his couch. Watching a movie.”

Scotty winces.

Jim chuckles again. “It’s fine, though, he woke me up and we both fell asleep in his bed. And in the morning, I made breakfast and coffee.”

“Ah, domesticity suits ya, Jim,” Scotty winks. “When am I meeting him?”

“Uh, I’ll ask if he’s up to it later today and let you know,” Jim decides.

“Sounds like a plan. Listen, I gotta get to class, this teacher is always breathing down me neck if I’m a second late but text me.”

“I will,” Jim nods, watching as Scotty once again, jogs away.

That means that Jim needs to get to his class, too. Spock isn’t fond of tardiness.

About half the class is present when Jim arrives, stepping into the classroom and takes a seat in his usual place; in the middle of the room but more towards the back. He was never fond of sitting at the front of the class.

He says hi to some of the other students he knows and then Spock walks in, tall, his back always perfectly straight, his arms and hands connected behind his back. His hair is black and his bangs fall right above his eyebrows. Not a single strand is hair is out of place.

A few minutes pass by until it’s officially time to start the class. Spock brings out his laptop and starts the lecture.

*****

It’s passed one and Jim is waiting for Leonard to call or text. He’s scrolling through one of his applications when his phone lights up and he immediately smiles.

“Hey Bones,” Jim answers.

Leonard isn’t on the line, well, he is, but Jim can heart his distant voice and he seems to be yelling some instructions at someone else.

“Bones?” Jim tries again.

Leonard must have noticed that Jim answered because he’s saying ‘give me a minute’ before he’s speaking directly into the phone. “Jim, hey, sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it, is everything okay?”

Leonard sighs. “Can I get a raincheck on lunch?”

Jim clears his throat. “Yeah, sure, but what’s up?”

“There was a major pile up on the highway and they’re sending all the critical cases to us. We’ve been getting hit for three hours now and there’s no sign of it slowing down. I can’t leave,” Leonard explains.

“Oh, that bad?”

“Yeah, it’s…it’s a mess, this conversation is probably the first time I could breathe since it started.”

“Don’t worry about it, I get it, really. It’s your job, I understand.”

“Jim?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m sorry,” Leonard apologizes.

“Bones, there’s nothing to be sorry about. Neither of us knew this was going to happen. I’ll still see you when you can, okay?”

“Yeah, okay. I’ll let you know when I know,” Leonard says. “They’re calling me on the intercom.”

“And Bones? Don’t forget to stop and breathe, alright?”

“Yeah, kid. I’ll keep that in mind, I’ll talk to you later.”

They hang up and Jim sighs, sliding his phone in his pocket. He stands up and sees Scotty nearby.

“Bad news?”

“Kinda. Bones is stuck at the hospital, I don’t blame him though but I was looking forward to seeing him.”

“You’ll still see him though, right?”

“Yeah, as soon as he can,” Jim gives the Scotsman a small smile.

“There ya go! Leave him to save lives and in the meantime, how ‘bout we get some food? I’m starvin!”

*****

The hours rush by and Jim finishes his classes at five without having heard from Leonard after that phone call. With a few things on his to do list, he decides to hang around campus and get some stuff done.

Leonard calls him again a little before eight.

“I’m the worst, aren’t I?” Leonard says as soon as Jim picks up.

“Well hello to you too, Bones. And no, you’re not the worst, far from it. Please, relax, there’s nothing to worry about,” Jim replies.

“Where are you?”

“At the library, decided to get some work done.”

“I would have a reply to that but honestly, my brain is too tired to put together anything,” Leonard sighs.

Jim chuckles. “You can comment later.”

“Want to come over to my place?” Leonard suggests.

“Sure, meet you there?”

“Yeah, sounds good.”

Jim makes it to Leonard’s place about twenty minutes later. He knows Leonard probably still didn’t arrive but he rings the bell anyway. As expected, no one answers. So Jim slides down the wall and opens his phone, keeping himself occupied with some apps and games.

He looks up when he hears a groan from above, and he sees Leonard, or what resembles Leonard anyway. The older man looks so worn out and like he’s going to collapse any second. True to his thoughts, Jim watches Leonard slides down the wall next to him and sighs, closing his eyes and leaning his head back.

“You’re very on with your hellos today, Bones.”

Leonard mumbles. “No brain capacity.”

“You okay?”

Leonard sighs heavily. “Lost some patients.”

“I’m sorry, is there anything I can do to help?” Jim offers.

“You’re here.”

Jim reaches out, closing his hand around Leonard’s and giving it a squeeze.

Leonard squeezes back. “How long have you been sitting here? Sorry if I kept you waiting, I got pulled into an emergency right as I was walking out the door, literally.”

Jim shakes his head. “No clue, I didn’t feel the time pass. But don’t worry okay, I really do get it. And like I said before, you being a doctor is really attractive.”

Leonard attempts at a chuckle but it stops in his throat.

Jim holds out his hand to Leonard.

Leonard raises an eyebrow at Jim.

“Are we planning on staying here all night? I don’t mind, but I’m sure your back won’t be happy about that,” Jim clarifies.

“Smartass,” Leonard mumbles and then he’s reaching for his keys, holding out the key to the apartment and dropping it in Jim’s awaiting palm.

“And you should eat something too, something tell me you haven’t eaten anything since breakfast,” Jim adds.

“I ate an apple around ten,” Leonard tries to defend.

“Yeah, almost twelve hours ago. Come on, up you get,” Jim helps Leonard to his feet. “I’m gonna make you something light and then you can sleep.”

“I’m the doctor, damn it,” Leonard says, leaning his weight against Jim.

“As you so often remind me,” Jim chuckles. “But Bones, it’s okay to let someone take care of you every once in a while.”

And Leonard’s only suitable response to that is to press a kiss to Jim’s temple.

Jim smiles, and helps Leonard to sit on the couch in the living room. “Don’t go anywhere.”

Leonard listens to Jim shuffling around in his kitchen and he’s suddenly aware that he likes the idea of Jim taking care of him. He really, really likes it.

Chapter Text

Leonard’s heart starts to race when he starts gaining consciousness, realizing how bright and how quiet it is. When the other realization, that it’s finally his off weekend, only then does his heart slow down a tad bit. Still, he’s almost wide awake now and very aware of Jim’s absence in bed.

It’s been a little over three weeks since the first night Jim slept over, and it’s been sort of a habit ever since. Having Jim around is soothing, and his presence is a comfort to Leonard. His feelings towards Jim have increased, rapidly, and it’s not that he doesn’t believe in them, but he isn’t quite admitting them to himself, either. At least not how strong they’ve become.

Jim and Leonard have been dancing around each other, especially with touching each other. Yeah, they each get a touch here and there, Leonard wraps his arm around Jim’s shoulder when they’re sitting on the couch, Jim places his palm over Leonard’s thigh. They share a lot of cheek kisses, too, when they meet, when they part, out of nowhere.  And Jim starts to wonder what they are, what they could be, he starts to wonder whether Leonard wants more, or if this is it. He knows Leonard has never really been on board with the whole I’m Your Soulmate thing from the beginning, and honestly, Jim has started to become a little restless.

He spends most night at Leonard’s place, if he’s not in class or sleeping or showering, he’s either studying at the library or Leonard’s house, or with Leonard if the doctor isn’t working. Jim’s been getting complaints from Scotty and Gaila about how they rarely see him anymore. And parts of him feel a little guilty for that, but he really can’t manage to tear himself away from Leonard.

Jim’s sitting on the couch, wearing his reading glasses with a textbook opened on the table in front of him and a notebook balanced on his thigh, a pen in hand.

He’s brought back to reality when he feels Leonard dropping a kiss to the top of his head.

“Morning,” Jim smiles, looking over his shoulder to find Leonard dragging his feet into the kitchen.

“Morning,” Leonard replies, locating the coffee and pouring himself a mug.

“Did you sleep well?”

“Yeah, until I almost gave myself a heart attack,” Leonard takes a sip of the dark drink.

“Oh? What did you do? Almost fall out of bed?” Jim raises an eyebrow.

“Nah, I wish. I thought I overslept. Which would have been infinitely worse than falling out of bed,” Leonard grumbles, making his way to the couch. “Then I remembered it’s my off weekend.”

“Which you graciously deserve,” Jim says, kissing Leonard’s cheek.

Leonard hums, taking another gulp, waiting for the caffeine to kick in. “What’s all this? I thought you didn’t have to study for a few days.”

“I don’t. I mean, I always have to study, this stuff isn’t due for a couple weeks but I thought I’d work on it while you were asleep,” Jim clarifies.

Leonard nods, moving his hand to take a hold of Jim’s.

Jim sucks in a sharp breath when their skin collides, his eyes fluttering downwards to look at their joined fingers. And then everything comes back to Jim, everything that was going through his head, it all comes rushing back and it’s almost too much, it’s almost too overwhelming. He has to say something. He has to do something.

Just as he’s opening his mouth to speak, Leonard’s words seep into his ears.

“Jim? You with me?”

“Yeah, sorry. What?”

“You okay? You zoned out for a bit there.”

“Yeah, no, I’m fine,” Jim nods.

Leonard doesn’t press further. “So Geoff is coming back from the medical conference he’s been attending in a few days—”

“And you don’t want me here anymore,” Jim concludes, not quite meeting Leonard’s eyes.

“What? Jim, why would you say that?” Leonard’s eyes go wide.

“I mean, this place is yours and his, and it was never mine, so makes sense that I shouldn't be here when he’s here because this isn’t my house and I have my own house with my own housemate and we should just stick to where we belong,” Jim rants, barely taking a second to breath in between words.

“Whoa, whoa, Jim, take it easy,” Leonard tries.

Jim tosses the notebook and the pen onto the table and puts distance between him and Leonard on the couch. He feels cold when their hands separate but maybe this is what he was waiting for, for Leonard to tell him that he’s too much, that he’s suffocating him, and that it won’t work out. That he was dreaming, that it was nothing but high hopes and empty promises.

And then Leonard catches on.

“Wait, hold on. You think I’m telling you this because I don’t want you around anymore, because I don’t want you anymore?” Leonard narrows his eyes.

Jim doesn’t reply, but the frown in his forehead deepens.

“Is that what you really think of me, Jim?” The hurt in Leonard’s voice is strong.

Jim has to close his eyes to keep the tears from spilling. Because he will not cry. He refuses to cry.

“I don’t know, I don’t know,” Jim mumbles.

“I thought you knew me better than this,” Leonard puts his mug on the table and stands up, turning around and takes a few steps towards his bedroom. Ready to walk away, ready to leave Jim.

Or so Jim thinks.

“No, Bones, wait, I…” Jim trails off, getting to his feet.

Leonard stops, but doesn’t turn around to face Jim.

Jim takes a deep breath. “I don’t…I don’t know what we are…I don’t know where we stand and…”

Leonard shoulders fall at Jim’s words, and he slowly turns around. “Why do you need a definition of us?”

“Look, I’m not the type of guy who needs to have all the answers because I’m not, okay? I let everything fall into place and this…us…is no exception. But I don’t know if all the pieces are in place or if there are more pieces or if I’m somewhere and you’re somewhere else.”

Leonard stays silent.

“I need a definition because this is who I am now. I rarely get to see my friends anymore, I’m rarely at my place anymore, I’m either always with you or leaving you or on the way to see you.”

“I never forced you to do any of that, Jim, that was all you and your decisions,” Leonard points out.

“Damn it, Bones, I know, I know,” Jim turns away from Leonard. “I’m not saying I’m doing that because you made me, I’m doing it because I want to. I need a definition because without one, this doesn’t feel real, I mean, yeah, you’re here and I’m here, but this,” he turns back to face Leonard, gesturing with his hand at the space between them, “it doesn’t feel real. I know how I feel is real but…us, together, isn’t real. We’ve been dancing around each other for weeks, Bones, it’s been weeks and I feel like we aren’t getting anywhere. I feel like it’s all just…scattered, like it isn’t concrete. Like it can end at any moment and that…that scares me, Bones,” Jim lets the tears build in his eyes, and they turn even bluer than they normally are.

Leonard’s face softens.

“Bones, I need this to be real,” Jim continues. “One day that ink shows up on my skin, the ink connecting me to you, and I didn’t think it would ever happen. I never thought I was worthy enough to even have a soulmate, let alone have you for a soulmate. You come into my life and damn it, you become my life,” he pauses to lick his lips. “I don’t know when or how it happened, but…you break down my walls and I let you, I wanted you, because if there is one person who gets to see me, all of me, I want it to be you. And all that can’t be for nothing, because this isn’t a crush, I’ve never felt this way before. This is what it feels to have your soul in two parts, and I don’t know how if I’m feeling it before you but Bones…I need this to be real.”

It takes Leonard two seconds to walk across his living room and stands in front of Jim, taking the blond’s face into his hands and touches his forehead to Jim’s.

It’s all too much, Jim is feeling everything and he closes his eyes, he can’t control the tear that slips through his eyelid, running down his cheek.

Leonard gently wipes it away with his thumb, his own eyes still open and looking at Jim. “It’s real, Jim, we’re real, this is real.”

Jim finally has the strength to lift his arms and wrap them around Leonard’s waist, fisting his hands into the back of the doctor’s cotton t-shirt and they stay like that until Jim’s breath evens out.

“I’m not going to leave you,” Leonard speaks. “I didn’t find you only to leave you. We are real, and what I feel for you is real, too. And it isn’t a crush either,” he reassures the younger man.

Jim pulls away just enough to look at Leonard’s face.

“You…you’re not just telling me this?”

“I’m not just telling you this.”

They look into each other’s for a few seconds and Leonard’s eyes flickering down to Jim’s lips is the only sign Jim gets before Leonard’s mouth is on his own.

Jim’s breath hitches but he wastes no time in kissing Leonard back because they’re kissing, they’re finally kissing and Jim tightens his hold on Leonard. The kiss is not frantic, it’s gentle, soft, their lips touching with just the right amount of pressure, and it’s more than either of them have ever imagined.

“You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to do that,” Leonard whispers when they break apart.

“Then why didn’t you?” Jim asks, his eyes roaming all over Leonard’s face, his eyes, his eyebrows, nose, lips, the freckles scattered across his cheekbones and so tiny Jim has to be this close to see them.

Leonard sighs and takes a step back and Jim’s worried he said the wrong thing but then Leonard’s hand is running down Jim’s arm, clasping the blond’s hand. Then Leonard is leading them back to the couch, and this sit down, close to each other, their thighs pressed against each other.

“You were scared, and so was I. I mean, I’m the broken, grumpy divorced man. And then I meet you, and you’re everything I’m not, Jim. I guess I didn’t kiss you, I didn’t actively move things forward because at the back of my head, I felt like you’d realize that you deserve someone better and that you’d leave.”

Jim speaks before he can stop himself. “You thought I was going to leave you?”

Leonard nods. “I thought you did leave me at some point. When you disappeared and then showed up at the hospital…and I wasn’t going to blame you for it.”

“Bones…”

“I tried the marriage thing once, and it crashed and burned. Badly. It messed me up and I vowed to never be in another relationship again. But then you happen and God, my feelings for you have been so strong since the beginning I couldn’t just push them aside. I guess why I couldn’t give you a definition, or move things along, was because I was scared. How I felt about you scared me because I know not every relationship is doomed but I do know what it’s like when a relationship is doomed. I still remember, and it still hurts. I was trying to protect myself, and I was trying to protect you, too. Because the last thing I want is for you to get hurt in any way,” Leonard expresses. “So many times I wanted to kiss you but the pain, the fear…they stopped me.”

Jim readjusts his position so his entire body is facing Leonard, he slips his left leg under his right thigh and places his hand on Leonard’s right thigh.

“I get it,” Jim says. “I always thought I was never the relationship type because, well, commitment kind of terrifies me. So I shy away from it, my entire life. But with you, it’s like the commitment just happened and it didn’t terrify me anymore. And Bones, you deserve to heal, you deserve to have a full life, even after your divorce. I know it’s hard but you can’t let it have that kind of hold on you.”

Leonard moves his head to face Jim.

“You’re here, I’m here, that has to mean something.”

“For a matter of fact, you’re worthy, Jim, you’re more than worthy.”

Jim extends his right arm and cups Leonard’s cheek, running the pad of his thumb over the doctor’s stubble. Jim pulls Leonard towards him and they meet halfway, this time, the kiss is stronger, more urgent and carries more confidence. Leonard easily opens up to Jim, moving his hands to tangle his fingers in Jim’s short hair.

“What were you saying about Geoff again?” Jim teases when they pull apart.

And Leonard lets out a hearty chuckle.

Chapter Text

Leonard tightens his arm around Jim’s middle, nuzzling his face in the back of the blond’s neck. He can pretty much see the bright rays of sunlight weaving through the blinds and into his bedroom, but he isn’t quite ready to get up yet. And apparently neither is Jim because Leonard feels the younger man intertwine their fingers together.

“You should be asleep,” Leonard mumbles sleepily.

“Hmm…you know I never sleep for long,” Jim replies.

“You got into bed late last night,” Leonard retorts.

Jim sighs and moves so he’s now lying on his back with Leonard’s head resting on his chest. He wills his eyelids open and stares at Leonard’s face, the doctor’s awake but his eyes are still closed. Jim runs his fingers through Leonard’s dark hair strands, massaging his scalp at the same time.

“I wasn’t that tired, and I wanted to get that paper out of the way,” Jim says. “I don’t know how I’ll go back to sleeping alone.”

Leonard does open his eyes at that. “We’ve already talked about this, you don’t have to worry about that.”

Jim runs his free hand through his hair, turning his face to look at Leonard.

“Geoff coming back doesn’t change anything, Jim.”

“Are you sure he won’t mind me being around? I don’t want to be a bother.”

“I’m sure,” Leonard reassures him. “Geoff and I share the apartment, we don’t share the room,” he chuckles.

“Bones…”

“Besides, I don’t know that I can sleep alone either,” Leonard says.

“You can always come stay at my place if you want,” Jim replies.

“Then wouldn’t I be the bother?” Leonard raises an eyebrow.

“No, Bones, you wouldn't be—” Jim stops mid sentence, and then exhales. “I see what you did there.”

“What did I do?” Leonard tries to sound innocent but the look in his eyes? Not innocent at all.

“Yeah right. You sneaky, sneaky old man,” Jim shakes his head.

Leonard chuckles. “It’s going to be fine.”

“Come on, lets get some breakfast,” Jim decides, starting to get out of bed.

“No, no, lets stay for a while,” Leonard stops him. “This is comfortable.”

Jim brushes his lips against Leonard’s. “I hate to be the bearer of bad news but you’re going to be late for work and you’ll be even grumpier than usual. I can’t imagine the nurses and patients would like that.”

Leonard groans.

“They aren’t all me, you know.”

“What do you mean?”

“I find your grumpiness to be a little charming actually, endearing. I doubt they find it the same,” Jim chuckles.

Leonard captures Jim’s lips in another kiss. “Fine, but you’re making the coffee.”

*****

Geoff comes back around halfway through Leonard’s shift, finding his best friend sitting in the lounge, face buried in paperwork.

“Len, there you are,” Geoff says.

Leonard immediately looks up upon hearing his voice. “Geoff, welcome back, man,” he gets up and gives him a hug, which Geoff returns.

“It’s good to be back, I can’t wait to start seeing some real patients again. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it was great but was all so theoretical. Capital T. I’ve missed the rush and adrenaline of the ER,” Geoff sighs.

“Glad you feel that way because we’ve been swamped, your return is more than appreciated,” Leonard chuckles.

“I sense that’s not the only thing that I’ve missed, huh?” Geoff smirks.

“What do you mean?” Leonard turns back to his seat, trying to conceal the blush climbing on his cheeks.

“You seem lighter, happier. And I can’t help but wonder if it’s got anything to do with the thing,” Geoff shrugs.

No need of hiding it, Leonard decided. “Turns out Jim’s more than just a thing, he’s it, or at least that how I feel. He’s reckless and a little impulsive, sure, but he’s also passionate and dedicated and just…beautiful. And he’s quite the sight, too,” Leonard chuckles again.

“I’m glad to hear that, you deserve to be happy, as does he,” Geoff pats Leonard’s back and takes a seat in an empty armchair.

“I was expecting an I Told You So.”

“Nah,” Geoff waves his head in dismissal. “I’m just happy to hear that it worked out. Besides, I’ll use this particular topic to prove to you, now and always, that I am correct.”

Leonard shakes his head. “I knew it. Hey, speaking of Jim, he’s been staying at the apartment and he’s freaking out that you’re back. He tries to hide it, but he doesn’t hide it very well. I told him he’s got nothing to worry about and that you coming back won’t change anything, but he isn’t entirely convinced. He feels like he’s going to be a bother.”

Geoff frowns. “No, no, he’s not going to be a bother at all. I’m more than glad to have him around, and I look forward to meeting him.”

“That’s what I said, but he’s stubborn. I think it will help a lot hearing it from you,” Leonard suggests.

“Yeah sure, I don’t mind talking to him.”

“I told him we’d have a little dinner, the three of us, tonight so you two can meet,” Leonard says.

“That works great,” Geoff nods.

“Good, good, I’ll text him now,” Leonard moves to grab his phone right when he hears his name being called on the intercom.

Leonard looks at Geoff. “Want to take it? You’re the one who said you miss having real patients.”

Geoff chuckles. “Yeah, I’ll take it.” He leaves his bag and jacket and heads out of the lounge.

Leonard holds his phone and opens the thread of texts between him and Jim.

Bones: [5:28 PM] Geoff came back. Told him about dinner tonight and he’s looking forward to it.

Jim: [5:30 PM] and….did you talk to him about the thing??

Bones: [5:31 PM] Yeah, and he said there’s nothing to worry about. Just like I told you.

Bones: [5:34 PM] Stop sulking, kid.

Jim: [5:35 PM] yeah, okay

Bones: [5:35 PM] Seriously, Jim. I can see your pout. Everything’s fine.

Jim: [5:36 PM] i’m better, really…i finish class around dinner time, so i’ll come over right after

Bones: [5:38 PM] We’ll be waiting, Geoff and I will leave around six, should give up plenty of time.

*****

Jim is feeling nervous the entire trip from campus to Leonard’s apartment. He had started thinking about it as their apartment, but then he remembers that Geoff is Leonard’s official flatmate, not him. Jim had grown accustomed to living with Leonard, to being free and he’s scared now, no matter how welcoming and accepting of him Geoff is, that he’s going to have to dial it down. And he’s comfortable around Leonard, and he don’t want to make him or Geoff uncomfortable. Which sucks, it really sucks because Jim’s never felt like this before, he’s doing everything the way he didn’t do before, and it’s working, it’s great and he doesn’t want to mess it up. He doesn’t—can’t—lose Leonard. Even if it means he has to start getting used to sleeping alone again, not having the doctor’s warmth at his side, the tender touches, the soft kisses…part of his mind is telling him he should start getting used to sleeping alone right this second, another part is telling him that he, once again, is blowing things out of proportion. He and Leonard aren’t the first or last boyfriends to spend time with one of the boyfriend’s flatmate. Besides, Jim has Scotty. And Gaila is around a lot. Until he and Leonard can get their own place, a place all to themselves, they’ll make it work.

Jim finds himself staring up the apartment building, having realized he has arrived. The knot in in his stomach that loosened up a little, tightens once again. He rubs his hand against his jeans, a gesture he does when he’s nervous, takes a deep breath and climbs the front stairs.

It takes no time and all the time in the world—at the same time—to reach Leonard’s floor. And Jim has never been more interested in the carpet under his feet.

Get it together, James, he hisses at himself.

He comes to a halt in front of Leonard’s apartment. He adjusts the box balancing on his palm and rings the doorbell.

Leonard opens the door ten seconds later, and there’s a surprised look on his face when he spots the box.

“You didn’t have to bring anything,” he says before brushes his lips against Jim’s in a soft kiss.

“It’s just cake,” Jim shrugs, following Leonard into the apartment.

“Geoff, Jim’s here,” Leonard announces, taking the box from Jim and walking into the kitchen.

Not knowing if he should follow Leonard, Jim stands still, like it’s his first time at the house and he feels out of place. An intruder, someone who doesn’t belong. He rubs his hands together.

Thankfully, Leonard appears again before Geoff emerges from his bedroom. Unlike Leonard who’s wearing sweatpants, Geoff is wearing jeans, a navy polo shirt that suits him, and a welcoming smile. He has a friendly face.

Once Leonard is done introducing them to each other, he excuses himself. “Everything will be ready in ten minutes.” And he walks off to the kitchen.

“Beer?” Geoff offers.

“Sure,” Jim nods.

It takes Geoff thirty seconds to retrieve two beer bottles from the fridge and pops them open, handing one to the younger man.

Grateful for something to hold, Jim accepts the bottle and takes a gulp, probably bigger than he had anticipated.

“I’m not going to give you the usual speech, The Hurt Him and I’ll Hurt You speech,” Geoff begins, moving over to the couch.

Jim follows his lead and they’re both sitting next to each other.

“Because I know you don’t want to hurt him,” Geoff continues. “I’ve known Leonard a long time, since med school. And he’s been through a lot. I never thought he’d get out there again, open his heart again, God only knows how many times I tried getting him out there.”

Jim doesn’t say anything, he doesn’t know details, but he knows it wasn’t easy for Leonard. Knows that the divorce almost destroyed him.

“When he first told me about you, I urged him to move forward, to take that, but I was also scared of him getting hurt again. I know he can’t take that. But you’re not what I expected, Jim. You’re…better.”

“You’ve known me for less than five minutes,” Jim reminds Geoff.

“I know, but I feel like I’ve known you for more. I think this is what they mean by when they say it feels right. You and Len, you two are more different than you are alike, but it works. I know it works because Len is happier, I can already see the change. I can already see him opening up more, and I’m glad it’s you.”

Jim doesn’t know what to say.

“And about the staying here thing…the apartment is yours, I mean that. You won’t be a bother and you won’t make me uncomfortable. Stay here for as long as you’d like, come and go as you wish, I’ll enjoy having you around,” Geoff assures Jim.

“That…really means a lot to me, thank you. I just don’t want to seem like I’m intruding.”

“You aren’t. I’d like for us to be friends.”

“Yeah, I’d like that, too,” Jim agrees.

“All is ready,” Leonard calls out from the kitchen.

Jim feels lighter. And just like that, he doesn’t have to worry about sleeping alone again.

*****

Jim and Leonard are in bed, the lights switched off and only the moonlight illuminating the room through the blinds. Jim has his head resting on Leonard’s chest, with Leonard’s arm wrapped around his back and his hand in Jim’s hair. Jim’s eyes are closed but he’s awake. From the movement in his hair, he can tell that so is Leonard.

“Bones?”

“Yeah, darlin’?”

“What happened with your ex?”

Leonard tenses under Jim, his muscles that were relaxed a second before go rigid.

“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to, or if you aren’t ready,” Jim adds.

“No, no, I want to tell you, it’s just that any mention of her…”

“I’m right here, take your time,” Jim lifts his head to place a firm kiss on Leonard’s lips, then settles back.

“Jocelyn and I were high school sweethearts, and like any high school sweethearts, we were excepted to get married right after graduation. That happened and we were happy for a while. The first few years were good, and then the years that followed weren’t. The happiness wasn’t there. Starting out my career and balancing my marriage were near impossible. Young doctors have insane hours, and it wasn’t different for me. She accused me of putting my work before her, which wasn’t the case. I mean, it was out of my hands, there wasn’t anything I could do.”

Leonard pauses, and then continues. “I guess we just…grew up. I don’t think we loved each other from the beginning, we more than liked each other but we didn’t love each other in the way we needed to in order to make it work. It just fell apart, and we couldn’t put it back together. We went to see a counselor in hopes of mending things but it didn’t work. There was nothing between us anymore, it was gone, and we were just two strangers living together.”

“What happened next?” Jim asks in a whisper.

“She cheated on me. I felt nothing when I found out, I mean I was pissed, but aside from that…that’s when I knew I had to leave. That we were over for good.”

Jim stays silent, now watching Leonard.

“Word got out that we were splitting up and people just assumed I was the cheater, even though I wasn’t.”

Jim frowns at that, his mouth slightly hanging open.

Leonard speaks before Jim can. “She didn’t correct them, and neither did I.”

“What? Why?” Jim asks, disbelief in his tone. He’s overcome with the need to protect Leonard from all those people, to tell them the truth.

“I knew she was staying there, and things were already hard as they were, I didn’t want to make things harder. I knew I was leaving, and I was only ever going back to see my mom,” Leonard explains.

“Even after everything she did?”

“I don’t want to ruin her life, getting out of there was all I needed.”

“But she drove you away, from your life, your mother,” Jim says.

“It’s been years, I don’t know how things are now and Jocelyn and I…I don’t know, maybe one day we can be friends again.”

“Again, even after everything she did?”

Leonard nods. “I think we were good friends. We never should have gotten married. Once I said I was leaving, Geoff knew he couldn’t stop me, so he came with me.”

“I like him,” Jim nods.

“He likes you, too.”

“You’re a good man, Leonard McCoy and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.”

Leonard draws Jim up for a kiss, full of passion and heat, pouring everything into it. Jim returns as good as he gets.

“I’m glad you’re here,” Leonard whispers against Jim’s mouth.

“I’m glad I’m here, too. There's nowhere else I’d rather be.”

Chapter Text

The following weeks went by smoothly, Jim was getting more comfortable around Geoff and spending more time with Leonard at his place. He also made it a point to hang out with Scotty and Gaila, and to spend at least two nights a week at his place to catch up with his best friends. They still haven’t been able to set an outing where Leonard meets Scotty and Gaila because of Leonard’s work hours and Scotty and Gaila’s classes, but Jim is determined to make that happen soon. He knows Leonard has a couple off days coming up soon so he hopes they’ll finally be able to meet then.

Jim’s been getting better at sleeping more consistently through the night, he could even sleep up to eight or nine hours a night, and he doesn't even remember the last time he could do that before meeting Leonard. He hasn’t really talked to Leonard about why he never got much sleep, he didn’t tell Leonard about the nightmares, but he senses that the older man has a feeling something isn’t right there. That’s one of the things about Leonard, he picks up on things regarding Jim that Jim keeps hidden inside, like he can see straight through Jim and in everything inside him. And normally, that would freak Jim out, and it’s one of the main reasons he didn’t allow anyone to get close to him.

But knowing that about Leonard, and being proven right on several occasions, Jim finds that it doesn’t bother him. On the contrary, it relaxes him. The fact that Leonard can immediately know if something is wrong by a look or by Jim’s posture or tone, it makes Jim feel safe. And it makes it a little bit easier for him to open up. There’s so much he wants to tell Leonard, but it takes time. He wants to share everything with the doctor, the good and bad about his childhood, his hopes and ambitions of the future and everything in between. A future he wants with Leonard.

Jim squints open an eye, blinking through the haze and blurriness to look at the clock on the nightstand; 4:12 am. He turns to wrap an arm around Leonard only to find the space usually occupied with the older man empty. Jim frowns, it’s unlike Leonard to be awake at such an hour. Jim props himself up on his elbow, looking around the dark room.

“Bones?” He calls out.

No response.

A chill runs through his body so he grabs his cotton t-shirt from the foot of the bed and puts it on, getting out of bed to make his way to the living room.

He opens the door to find a faint light by the dinning table, and he could see Leonard hunched over. Jim pads his way over and stops behind Leonard, he wraps his arms around Leonard’s shoulders and drops a kiss to the top of Leonard’s head.

“There you are,” Jim whispers.

“Hey, darlin’,” Leonard replies, leaning back into Jim’s chest.

“What are you doing up?”

“Paperwork from last shift,” Leonard sighs. “It’s never-ending.”

“How long have you been awake?”

“About an hour or so.”

“Come back to bed, the bed is cold without you and your shoulders are so tense,” Jim says.

“I’m almost done here, I’ll come to bed as soon as I can,” Leonard promises.

“Okay,” Jim nods and walks around Leonard, giving him a gentle kiss which Leonard returns and then walks back into the bedroom.

Leonard finishes his paperwork about thirty minutes later. He flexes his neck muscles and groans at the stiffness he finds there. He gets up, pushes the chair back in and makes his way to the bedroom where he finds Jim curled up in the blankets and clearly fast asleep. A small smile spreads across Leonard’s face as he walks around the bed and gets in, his added weight dips the mattress a little but Jim doesn’t stir. Leonard settles in behind Jim and covers himself with the blankets and then drapes an arm over Jim’s waist, brushing a kiss to the back of Jim’s neck and breathing in everything that is Jim. He closes his eyes and he’s asleep in no time.

*****

Jim is once again alone in bed when he wakes up again. He can already feel Leonard’s absence without having to move. He rubs his closed eyelids and slowly peels them open, the sunlight seeping from around the closed curtains and eliminating the room bright yellow. Jim yawns and turns to the clock on the nightstand, it tells him it’s a little after seven thirty.

He gets up and heads to the living room, only finding Geoff, who’s reading the newspaper and taking a sip from what Jim assumed is his coffee mug. If the aroma of the house is anything to go by.

“Morning,” Jim says, scratching his neck and stifling another yawn. Leonard is nowhere to be found, and Jim knows he has a late shift today so maybe he went out to get some groceries.

“Hey, Jim, good morning,” Geoff replies from where he’s sitting on the couch, looking up at Jim. “There’s fresh coffee,” he points to the coffee pot on the kitchen counter.

“Ah, yeah, coffee sounds good, thanks,” Jim goes and pours himself a mug. He takes a sip and enjoys as the warm liquid runs down his throat. “Where’s Bones?”

“He was called into the hospital, he left a little after six,” Geoff answers.

“Oh,” Jim frowns. “But doesn’t his shift start later today?”

“Yeah, but he said it was an emergency and the doctor on call needed him. He told me to tell you that he’ll call you as soon as he can.”

“He’s been working so much lately,” Jim sighs, sitting on the opposite end of the couch from Geoff.

“Yeah, I know. But it’s not on common, it’s a hectic job with crazy hours sometimes. But it’s worth it,” Geoff says.

“Yeah, absolutely. And I know how much this job means to Bones and how proud it makes him, I just hate seeing him so tired and overworked lately. He’s running on an empty tank, and he tends to forget to eat throughout the day,” Jim points out. “Maybe I can have lunch with him today if he has time and cook dinner for him as a surprise tonight.”

“That sounds like a good idea,” Geoff nods, giving Jim a smile. “I’m sure Leonard would love that and I’m on the night shift tonight, so the apartment is all yours.”

*****

Jim is back in Leonard’s room an hour later, sitting on the bed with a book in his lap when his phone lights up next to him and Leonard’s caller ID pops up on his screen.

Jim immediately smiles as he picks up Leonard’s call. “Hey, Bones!”

“Hey, darlin’,” Leonard replies. “It’s so good to hear your voice.”

“It’s so good to hear yours, too. Is everything okay? Geoff said there was an emergency at the hospital,” Jim says.

“Things are starting to slow down a little, but the hospital was getting slammed with patients because of a highway accident,” Leonard sighs. “They still need me here so I can’t leave, I’m sorry.”

“No, no, it’s okay, I get it. Will you have time for lunch before your shift starts?”

“I should have an hour, yeah,” Leonard says.

“How about I come by and we can have lunch?” Jim suggests.

“Yeah, I’d like that.”

“Sounds good,” Jim smiles. “I can finish up some work until then, and then meet up with Scotty and Gaila after we have lunch and wait for you at home after your shift.”

At home, Leonard’s face breaks into a big smile at Jim’s words. “Sounds like a plan, darlin’. I’ll text you a bit before my lunch break.”

Jim opens up his text thread with Scotty once he and Leonard hang up.

Jim: [8:43 AM] scotty!!!

Scotty: [8:49 AM] jimbo!! what’s up!

Jim: [8:50 AM] got any plans this afternoon?

Scotty: [8:52 AM] hanging out with gaila at home, might go out tonight

Jim: [8:53 AM] great!! I’ll drop by after I have lunch with bones until he finishes his shift

Scotty: [8:55 AM] sounds good!! I’ll tell gaila!

*****

Jim manages to get some work done by the time Leonard texts him and tells him he’ll be ready for lunch in thirty minutes. Jim packs up his work and tells Leonard he’s on his way.

Jim's scrolling through his phone while he waits for Leonard outside the hospital. He looks up from his phone when he sense someone walking towards him.

“Hey, Jim,” Christine says.

“Christine,” Jim smiles at the nurse. “I’m just waiting for Bones, we’re going for lunch.”

“Ah, I’m just coming back from lunch myself,” she says.

“How was it?”

“It was good, thank you for asking.”

“That’s good to hear,” Jim nods. “I’ll make sure to bring Bones back in time for his shift.”

“Okay,” she chuckles. “I need to get back, but you two enjoy dinner,” Christine leans in to give Jim a hug.

“Thank you, and good luck,” Jim replies, returning the hug.

“Thank you,” Christine pulls back. “I’ll see you around.”

Leonard walks out of the hospital five minutes later. Jim instantly smiles when he sees him walking towards him and slips his phone in his pocket. Leonard smiles back, he looks tired and worn out but glad to see Jim.

“Hey, Bones,” Jim opens his arm.

“Hey, kid,” Bones replies, walking into Jim’s arms and hugging him as tightly as he could.

“I got you,” Jim says, holding Leonard closely.

“I know you do, darlin’.”

“How about we get some food in you?” Jim says when they break the hug.

“That sounds good,” Leonard nods, touching his forehead to Jim’s forehead.

Jim pecks Leonard’s lips. “Let’s go.”

They go to a small cafe two blocks away from the hospital that’s known to have really good sandwiches. They sit on a table in the corner of the cafe and make their order a few minutes later. Leonard reaches out across the table and takes Jim’s hand into his own.

“I was really looking forward to spending the morning before my shift with you, I’m sorry, darlin’,” Leonard tells Jim.

“It’s okay, Bones,” Jim tightens his hold on Leonard’s hand. “The hospital needed you.”

“Yeah, but I was looking forward to sleeping in and having a lazy morning with you,” Leonard brushes his thumb over Jim’s knuckles.

Jim chuckles and smiles. “We’ll get to do that soon, Bones.”

“How was your morning?”

“It was alright, had coffee with Geoff in the morning then I got some work done and I’m passing by my place after we finish lunch to spend some time with Scotty and Gaila,” Jim answers.

“Ah, that sounds nice. How are they doing?”

“They’re doing good, they’re both pretty busy but they’re good,” Jim says. “Listen, I know you have some days off coming up soon and I was wondering if we could all go out together? You, me, Scotty, Gaila and maybe Geoff if he’s free?”

“Yeah, absolutely,” Leonard nods. “That sounds good, and it’s about time I met those two,” he chuckles.

Jim chuckles as well. “Yeah, I think it is. And they can’t wait to meet you.”

And too soon, Leonard needs to get back to work. Jim pays and they start walking back to the hospital hand in hand.

“But Boooneesss,” Jim pouts when they’re in front of the ER entrance, lightly tugged on Leonard’s arm.

“I know darlin’, but I’ll be back home as soon as I’m off and we can eat and cuddle and watch a movie,” Leonard promises.

“Okay,” Jim dramatically sighs and then smiles.

Leonard smiles back and leans in for a gentle kiss.

Jim kisses him back. “Go save lives.”

*****

Jim pushes the front door of his apartment open and he barely has enough time to close it before Gaila comes running towards him and he ends up with an armful of his best friend.

“Jim!”

He holds onto Gaila, almost loosing his balance and toppling over. He chuckles, holding her tighter. “Hey, G.”

“I’ve missed you!”

“I’ve missed you, too,” Jim replies, pulling back and giving her a big smile.

Scotty joins them by the door a few seconds later. “Good to see you, Jimbo!”
“It’s good to see you guys, too,” Jim gives Scotty a hug.

“Beer?” Scotty asks when they pull apart.

“Don’t mind if I do,” Jim nods.

Jim and Gaila follow Scotty in the living room, they sit on the couch as Scotty carries back three bottles of beer from the kitchen and sits on the armchair.

“How are ya doin’? How’s Leonard?” Scotty asks.

Jim takes a sip from his cold bottle. “I’m good, and Bones is good too, he’s exhausted but he’s good.”

“Work?” Gaila asks.

Jim nods, taking another gulp of beer. “He’s been working crazy hours lately, I haven’t seen him much. And they also call him into work when he isn’t on shift, so he works overtime.”

“That must be tough,” Scotty adds.

“Yeah for sure, and I can see the toll it’s taking on him and on his body. He’s really stressed and his muscles are tense and he doesn't get enough sleep. I understand that’s how the job is and he’s a great doctor, the best. I know how much it means to him, but there’s so much a person can handle,” Jim sighs.

“Does he have some days off at least?” Gaila asks.

“He does,” Jim nods. “He has some days off coming up soon, and actually, I asked if we could all go out together, so you guys can finally meet.”
“Oh, yes! I’d love that!” Gaila exclaims, a big smile on her face.

“And we’ll see if Bones’s best friend can make it too, so it would be a all of us,” Jim adds.

“The more the merrier,” Scotty says.

“And I think it would do Bones some good too, getting out of doctor mode and having a nice, relaxing night out,” Jim expresses.

“Absolutely, I think that’s just what he needs,” Gaila agrees. “When does his shift end?”

“Around six, and I wanna surprise him and cook dinner tonight,” Jim plans.

“Ooooh, Jimbo!”

“Just make sure not to burn down the kitchen while you do that,” Gaila teases.

“Hey, I can cook just fine, thank you very much,” Jim defends.

“What are you planning on making?”

“I was thinking caesar salad, garlic bread and pasta with red sauce and meatballs,” Jim answers.

“Ahhh, that sounds heavenly,” Gaila says.

“Yeah, I just want to make him feel better and show him how much I appreciate him and how much I’m proud of him,” Jim smiles.

“That’s sweet, lad. And I’m sure he’s gonna love it!” Scotty tells Jim.

Jim hangs out with Scotty and Gaila for another couple hours before he says he has to go to get home in time to make dinner for Leonard. They make him promise to tell them how it goes and Gaila says to call him if he needs any assistance while cooking. Jim playfully rolls his eyes at that and gives them both hugs before leaving and making his way to the grocery store to get the ingredients he needs. He wants everything to be perfect. He even buys a bottle of red wine.

Geoff is gone by the time Jim makes it, and knowing his way around Leonard’s kitchen by now, it’s easy for Jim to locate everything he’s going to need to make dinner. He gathers up all the ingredients and places them on the counter and then starts ordering what he’s going to make in order so he’s good on time and everything is ready by the time Leonard arrives home after his shift.

He plays some music while he cooks and time flies by, and soon enough, dinner is ready (without Jim needing to call Gaila for help) and Leonard texts him that he’s on his way home.

Jim is suddenly nervous, quickly changing his shirt and making sure the table is set well with candles, two wine glasses, plates and silverware. He lights up the candles and dims the living room lights a little, it’s not dark but the lights aren’t too bright they’re blinding.

He hears Leonard’s keys jiggling from the other side of the door, he leans against the counter with his arms crossed over his chest and a small smile on his face.

Leonard is calling out Jim’s name before the door is fully open.

“Jim,” Leonard says, walking through the door and then stopping midway when he sees the table set before he sees Jim. His eyes search for his boyfriend, easily finding him as Jim walks towards him. “What’s this?”

“Dinner, I wanted to make you dinner and the mission was successful,” Jim’s smile widens.

Still eyeing the table set, Leonard steps in so he can close the door and puts his bag on the floor near the door. He then spots the food on the counter and turns back to Jim. “Darlin’, you didn’t have to.”

“I know,” Jim nods. “I wanted to. You’ve been working so hard lately so I wanted to show you how much I’m proud of you and…how much I appreciate you.”

Leonard studies Jim’s face for a few seconds before a smile forms on his face as he wraps his arms around Jim. A tired, but genuine smile.

Jim wraps his own arms around Leonard in return.

Leonard leans in, resting his forehead against Jim’s and closes his eyes. They hold each other for a minute or so and then Leonard closes the gap between them, capturing Jim’s lips in a passionate kiss which Jim happily returns.

“This is exactly what I needed after the long day I’ve had,” Leonard whispers when they separate.

“I’m glad I could help,” Jim replies.

Leonard presses another kiss to Jim’s lips. “Let me go change real quick.”

Jim sets the food on the table while Leonard changes. The doctor emerges from the bedroom wearing a cotton t-shirt and sweatpants.

“Jim, this looks amazing,” Leonard says as he sits down.

“I hope it tastes amazing too,” Jim chuckles.

“I’m sure it will.”

“Here we have caesar salad, garlic bread, pasta with meatballs and wine,” Jim says, pouring them wine in their glasses.

They cling their glasses together, taking a sip before they start eating.

Jim mostly talks while they eat, Leonard too tired to do any talking, so he simply listens to Jim update him about his day after their lunch date; mostly when he was with Scotty and Gaila.

Once they’re done eating, Jim tells Leonard to relax on the couch while he cleans up and packs up the leftover food in containers and stores them in the fridge. Jim then joins Leonard on the couch, the TV is switch on to a film channel and a comedy movie is currently playing.

“Come here,” Leonard says, lifting his arm for Jim.

Jim quickly sits down next to Leonard and cuddles with him, placing his head on Leonard’s chest and his arm around Leonard’s middle.

Leonard’s arm goes around Jim’s shoulder and holds him close, he moves slightly to plant a kiss to Jim’s temple.

They watch the movie in silence for a few minutes before Leonard breaks the silence.

“Jim?”

“Hmm?”

“Move in with me,” Leonard says.

Jim slowly looks up at Leonard, his eyes dancing around the older man’s face.

“You’re here most of the time, so let’s make it official,” Leonard adds.

Jim stays silent for a few moments and then a smile is spreading on his face. “Okay Bones, I’ll move in.”

They seal the deal with a kiss.

Chapter Text

The hardest part of Jim deciding to move in with Leonard, was telling Scotty. His roommate knew it would happen sooner or later, but his money was on later. Scotty didn’t try to talk Jim out of it, but he approached it from another angle: don’t you think you’re moving a little too fast, Jimbo? To which Jim replied with a playful chuckle, telling his best friend that he and Leonard feel like it’s time, and it’s right and they’re not rushing. They feel like they’ve been together for a lifetime. And like Leonard had pointed out, Jim spends most of his time at his boyfriend’s place anyway.

Reluctantly, Scotty’s shoulder sag with defeat. He knew he wouldn’t be able to change Jim’s mind once it’s set to anything, Lord knows how stubborn that man really is, but still, he thought a try wouldn’t hurt. Actually, this does hurt a little, mostly because Scotty feels like he’s losing his best friend.

Jim quickly picks up on that, and promises Scotty that just because he’s moving out, doesn’t mean they’re drifting apart. He’ll still hang out at the apartment, they’ll have nights out, study together, almost nothing will change.

“Fine,” Scotty dramatically sighs. “I’ll hold ya to that. And maybe, Leonard can join us, too. Sometimes.”

Jim chuckles. “Sounds great to me. Speaking of, I still can’t believe you and Gaila haven’t met him.”

“Set it up, ya know we can’t wait to meet your man,” Scotty smirks.

“I will,” Jim nods. “Now help me move these boxes downstairs.”

Which Scotty does. And after helping Jim move everything into the cab, he watches the car disappear down the street. And when he walks back into the emptier-than-usual apartment, he closes his eyes, reminding himself—convincing himself—that he’s not losing Jim. He picks up his phone and calls Gaila.

*****

Leonard hears fumbling coming from his bedroom when he enters the apartment some hours later. He places his keys on the key hanger next to the door and walks towards his room. Leaning against the doorframe, he takes the sight in.

Jim is bent over an open box, removing what appear to be his t-shirts and tossing them on the bed. He doesn’t stop, not noticing Leonard’s presence, and it’s only when the older man clears his throat that Jim looks up.

“Bones!”

“Love what you’ve done to the place,” Leonard teases.

Jim rolls his eyes. “You do love it. And I was hoping to finish all this before you came home.”

“Yeah, I managed to finish a little early,” Leonard replies, making his way through the maze of empty and half-full boxes until he reaches Jim. He wraps his arms around the blond’s waste, smiling.

“What?” Jim asks, a smile slowly spreading on his face.

“Nothing, just…you said home. I like hearing you say that.”

“Do you now?” Jim chuckles, and before Leonard can respond, Jim closes the distance between them with a soft kiss. “So, wanna help me out here?” He asks when they separate.

“I think I’d rather watch you,” Leonard smirks.

Jim grabs a t-shirt from his pile and throws it at Leonard, the doctor catching it with ease.

Leonard laughs. And its most heavenly sound Jim ever hears. “Alright, alright. Now what have you done with my already existing clothes?”

“Don’t worry, Bones, they’re safe and sound,” Jim assures him, pointing to some piles in the closet and drawer unit.

“Yeah, I’m thinking we might need to get another drawer unit,” Leonard says, looking around the room and realizing Jim still has a lot of clothes and belongings to organize and store.

“Yeah, I think so, too,” Jim agrees. “Also, Scotty is scared he and I will drift apart because I moved out.”

“Really? But that won’t happen,” Leonard states while handing Jim his t-shirts to place in the closet.

“Yeah, that’s what I told him. And I promised I’d go and hang out at the apartment, that we’ll still go out and study together. And he said he’ll let you tag along sometimes too,” Jim chuckles at the last part.

“He said that?”

“His own words,” Jim nods.

“You know, I still haven’t met him or Gaila,” Leonard points out.

“He said that, too! And I said I’ll plan something. So this is me planning it. Right now. We’re going out…sometime…to this great bar downtown. You’ll love it,” Jim decides.

Leonard lifts an eyebrow. “Your kind of bar or my kind of bar?”

“Well, dear Bones, I think it’s time your kind of bar and my kind of bar become our kind of bar,” Jim says, placing his arms on Leonard’s shoulders and connecting his hands behind.

“Yeah, that sounds nice.”

“Me, Scotty and Gaila have been there a bunch—and before you say it’s my kind of bar, I think it’s actually your kind of bar, too.”

“I’m not entirely convinced of that last part, Jimmy.”

“Just, trust me, okay?”

“Okay,” Leonard replies, kissing Jim’s stubbly cheek.

“Awesome! Let me text Scotty to work on the time. What’s your schedule like?” Jim asks, grabbing his phone from the nightstand.

“I got off work Friday at around six, and I have the weekend off,” Leonard recalls.

Scotty replies just as Jim and Leonard are done reorganizing the bedroom and their belongings.

“Awesome, Scotty says he and Gaila are free Friday morning!” Jim reads the text.

“Sounds good to me, darlin’. Now, how about some dinner?”

“Definitely,” Jim nods and follows Leonard out of the bedroom and into the kitchen.

*****

Jim is super excited come Friday, Leonard finds it quite adorable, if you ask him. He watches fondly Jim as he happily bounces around, getting ready for their long-awaited outing. Jim pauses, raises an eyebrow at the older man, asking what he’s doing. Leonard replies saying nothing, but he’s smug, smirking. Jim says, what? Can’t I be excited that my boyfriend and best friends are finally meeting? with his eyebrow still raised.

“I didn’t say anything, darlin,” Leonard responds, moving towards him and planting a kiss to his clean shaven cheek.

“Mhm,” Jim hums. “Come here,” he grabs Leonard’s wrist and pulls him closing, sealing their lips together with a deep kiss, which gets heated pretty quickly. “Actually,” he starts when they break apart, both of them needing to catch their breath, “on second thought, we can always postpone and stay in…and do…other things.”

Leonard chuckles. “As tempting as that sounds, I don’t think it will go well with Scotty and Gaila. But, soon, I promise,” the doctor says, pressing another kiss to Jim’s red lips.

“Ahhh, fine,” Jim sighs dramatically. “We need to put our shoes on.”

*****

They arrive at the designated destination thirty minutes later. It’s not that crowded yet so it gives them the chance to pick where they sit. Jim makes his way towards a table with two couches on opposite sides, it looks more comfortable than the stools but he mostly picks it so he can sit closer to Leonard. He sends a quick text to Scotty telling him they’ve arrived and then takes a quick trip to the bar to fetch their drinks.

Jim spots Scotty and Gaila walking through the door about fifteen minutes later, he waves until Gaila notices him. She nudges Scotty towards the table and Jim gets up to hug his best friends.

“Scotty, Gaila, this is Bones—Leonard,” Jim introduces with a smile. “Bones, Scotty and Gaila.”

Gaila wastes no time to engulf Leonard in a hug. “Leonard! It’s so good to finally meet you,” she says cheerily.

Leonard is a little taken aback by the action but recovers quickly and returns the hug, looking at Jim—who’s chuckling—over Gaila’s shoulder. “It’s good to meet you, too.”

“Is it okay if I call you Len?” Gaila asks when she pulls back.

“Sure, yeah, that works,” Leonard nods.

Then it’s Scotty’s turns to give Leonard a one-armed hug. “Good to finally put a face to the name, laddie.”

“Yeah, likewise,” Leonard replies.

“And it’s such a pretty face, Jim,” Gaila gushes, a wide smile on her face.

A light shade of pink decorates Leonard’s cheeks, which only Jim notices because he’s so close.

“Yeah, well, what can I say, I’m lucky,” Jim smiles at Leonard. “And it is a pretty face, the prettiest.”

“Ah, stop it, you know I’m the lucky one,” Leonard retorts, kissing Jim’s cheek.

“Aw, you guys are so cute! I can’t handle it,” Gaila continues to high-key fangirl over Leonard and Jim.

“I can’t believe Jim here kept you hidden away for so long,” Scotty adds.

“Well, it’s not entirely his fault, my schedule is really hectic sometimes,” Leonard defends.

Not entirely?” Jim repeats, playfully nudging Leonard’s side.

“So, soulmates, huh?”

“Yup,” Jim beams.

“Is it true? All of the stuff they say about finding your soulmate?” Gaila asks.

“Yeah, I felt a tug towards this person, this person that I didn’t know yet, but was somehow meant to deeply know. Well, it’s safe to say I’m more of a believer in those things than Bones is, it did take him a while to warm up to the idea, but I’m grateful it brought us together, whether it’s some higher form or not, destiny, fate, whatever you wanna call it, I’m glad it lead us right to this moment,” Jim expresses.

“That being said,” Leonard speaks up, “I never believed in a higher form or that something of that sort was in command of my life, telling me who I should be with, who would be a perfect match for me. ‘Cause the truth is, I don’t think there’s a perfect match for anyone; it could work, but it’s not a perfect match. And we, the people in the relationship, make it work, we make it or break it. And when that ink showed up on my skin, I knew I could make the choice, to either go with it or ignore it. It wasn’t gonna be made for me, the way I see it, the choice wasn’t already made, it wasn’t set in stone. But I am grateful that my choice lead us right to this moment, too.”

“I’m grateful you made that choice, too,” Jim says.

They chat for a few more hours, moving from subject to subject—Leonard’s job, Jim’s masters degree, highlights of Scotty and Gaila’s life, Scotty’s progress in his Mechanical Engineering masters (which Leonard couldn’t really wrap his head around) and they collectively decided to call it a night around two in the morning.

After saying their goodbyes, and Scotty getting a promise out of Jim and Leonard that they’re hanging out together again soon, Jim and Leonard walk one way, Scotty and Gaila walk the opposite direction.

“So,” Jim speaks, wrapping an arm around Leonard’s middle, “did you have a good time?”

“Yeah, I did, darlin,” Leonard responds, brushing a kiss to Jim’s temple. “It was good to finally meet them, and I get the feeling Gaila has so much energy.”

Jim chuckles. “You’re not wrong there. She had ever more energy a few years back.”

“More?!”

“Yeah,” Jim nods.

As Jim and Leonard keep walking and talking about their night, they’re unaware of the figure that emerges from the dark shadows and has its eye set on them. It follows them, and follows them and keeps following them. Not once do either of the men turn and look behind them. The figure keeps moving from the light into the surrounding eerie dark, blending, becoming invisible, and still trailing behind them. It only stops when Jim and Leonard get into a cab and drive off. But its eyes still locked on them even as they disappear down the road.

It’s just the beginning.