Jim hits his fist against the padded bag harder. It’s better to ignore the gruff question and hope that Bones goes away because he can’t really answer it. Not without sounding like an idiot. He strikes the bag again, feeling sweat trickle between his shoulderblades as he uses more strength. It’s better to punch the bag and get rid of his anger in a way that doesn’t involve a damn visiting ambassador received a black eye from the captain.
“You’re acting like a child, Captain,” Bones says. Jim can’t really read his tone, not when he usually sounds grumpy and annoyed whenever he’s ignored. “Damn it, Jim. What’s got you so riled up?”
And there’s proof that Bones is more agitated than naturally grumpy because the accent usually slips when he’s pissed off, drinking too much, or occasionally in really relaxed happy moments that don’t happen often enough. Considering the circumstances, this time it’s definitely a pissed off type of slip. If anything, that makes Jim hit the bag harder. Bones is upset with him, which isn’t fair because it’s partially Bones’ fault that Jim’s angry in the first place.
“Fine. If you’re going to act like an immature asshole, I’ll just lower myself to your level,” Bones practically growls before Jim feels fingers grip his shoulder and pull. “Fight me, not the bag.”
Jim glares at Bones, licking sweat off his upper lip as he curls his fingers into his palm. “I don’t want to fight you,” he says, shrugging off Bones’ hand. He manages to move back to avoid the fist coming at him, blinking in surprise when Bones tries another punch.
“No, you want to ignore me,” Bones says, glowering when Jim manages to avoid the second punch. “If you won’t talk, we’ll fight. It’s probably the only way to get through to you when you’re in one of these moods anyway.”
“I’m not in a mood.” He frowns and ducks, keeping his fists in front of him but not striking. He doesn’t want to hurt Bones, no matter how angry he is right now. “Why don’t you just leave me alone?”
“No.” Bones stares at him for a moment, scowling and looking like he’s going to say something, but he doesn’t. He punches the air again, his knuckles grazing Jim’s ribs.
“Why not? You’ve been doing it for days, so it’s not like you aren’t good at it.” Jim grits his teeth and moves gracefully, avoiding the punches while resisting the urge to hit back. Bones isn’t great at hand-to-hand combat, but he’s no slouch. If he really wanted to hurt, it’d be a different kind of fight happening right now. Jim’s glad it’s not, even if he almost wishes it was so he could punish Bones for the last week.
“Are you too scared to fight back?” Bones challenges. He keeps staring at Jim, like he can read his damn mind, and the nerve in his cheek is twitching, which isn’t a good sign. Not that Jim cares. Bones should just leave him alone. “You’re not making any sense, Jim.”
“I’m not scared of you,” he says, snorting at the idea. He moves his arm, feeling the hairs tickle his bare skin as it slides against his ribcage. “You’d better go before your new best friend starts worrying. Wouldn’t want him to feel ignored, would you?”
Bones purses his lips and wrinkles form between his eyes as he gets that focused expression that Jim knows means he’s thinking too hard about something. He saw it often enough before exams to recognize it easily. Only they’re not at academy anymore. Haven’t been for a couple of years now. Sometimes, he wishes they still were because things seemed so uncomplicated then, and their friendship had been so strong that he wouldn’t be worried about it suddenly ending.
“The only best friend that I’ve got is an immature asshole who storms off and sulks,” Bones finally says. He moves his arm suddenly, his fist clipping Jim on the chin.
Before he can stop himself, Jim reacts. He hits Bones in the nose, watching his face snap to the side from the impact. The anger he’s been feeling gives way to the fear that’s been underlying it all along. “Bones?”
“Fuck, that hurts.” Bones is holding his nose, which is bleeding a lot. “I’m a doctor, not a punching bag.”
“Yeah, well, my chin doesn’t feel too great, either,” he says, gripping the back of his neck as he stands there watching Bones. “Here, let me.”
“I can do it myself.” Bones would probably sound more threatening if he wasn’t holding his nose.
Jim ignores his protests and swats his hands away. “It isn’t broken,” he says, relieved at that. There’s enough blood that he was worried. He looks into Bones’ eyes as he drops his hands, realizing suddenly how close they’re standing. “I, uh, let me get you something, for the blood.”
Bones grabs his wrist before he can step away. “You told me how important it was to make Ambassador Kr’yuil feel welcome here. I’ve been friendly to him because he’s a nice guy and because you said I needed to stop treating the VIPs like plague victims if I didn’t want Starfleet to get pissy.”
“There’s a difference in going out of your way to avoid and ignore the important folks who don’t medical attention and constantly being around and hanging out with one,” Jim says. He cringes when he sees the blood on Bones’ nose and chin, reaching out to push his shirt up. “Your shirt is already bloody, so we can just use it to sop up the mess.”
“I’m not constantly around anyone, Jim. I’ve seen the ambassador a handful of times since he arrived on the ship, and only that often because he has an interest in our medical techniques.” Bones lets go of his wrist and raises his arms, letting Jim pull his shirt off. Jim has thought about stripping Bones before, but it was never like this. There’s definitely not anything sexy about a bloody nose.
“An interest in you, you mean,” he mutters, glaring at Bones’ bare chest as he grips the fabric in his hand more tightly. He looks up and scowls when Bones let out a bark of laughter. “I’ve seen the way he looks at you and how he’s always trying to get you alone. He wants you, and you know it. Maybe you want him, too. You seem to encourage it, at least. Laughing with him and whispering and all that shit.”
“You’re crazy.” Bones shakes his head and reaches for the shirt in Jim’s hands. “Maybe you’ve caught some alien virus that’s giving you delusions or something. We should go down to medical so I can examine you.”
“This isn’t funny.” He frowns, letting go of the shirt before he runs his fingers through his sweaty hair. “He called you Bones. You let him call you Bones,” he says quietly. “I overheard it when I stopped by to see if you wanted to have dinner because I’ve missed you this week, and he was there in your office drinking with you and calling you Bones and looking at you like he could eat you alive and it’s not fair! That’s my name for you, not his.”
Bones wipes the shirt over his nose and chin, slowly dropping his hand as Jim keeps talking. “What isn’t fair, Jim?” Bones asks. His voice is low and gruff, the accent still slipping through, and that intensity seems to be taking over his eyes as he stares. Jim swallows hard because he can’t tell the truth, not without losing the most important relationship in his life, but he can’t lie to Bones. Never has been able to, damn it.
“Bones is mine,” he whispers. “He doesn’t get to have you. To call you that. To be your best friend. To be…”
“To be what, Jim?” Bones arches a brow and swipes his tongue over his full lips. The lips that Jim has fantasized about for what feels like forever.
They’re in the gym, and it’s not like they’re completely alone, even if Jim does work out in a more private corner. He shouldn’t be standing here where crew could see them talking about this, or not talking about it because that’s more appropriate. The tension in the air is practically crackling, though, and the energy he’s feeling now has nothing to do with anger and everything to do with lust and need and want. Bones has to feel it, too, because Jim isn’t trying to hide it for once. He isn’t ignoring it and scolding himself for thinking that way about his best friend and reminding himself of all the reasons why it’s not good to want and feel so much for Bones.
“We shouldn’t,” he says, his breathing heavy and the words a struggle to verbalize. He sways towards Bones, reaching out hesitantly to move his fingers across Bones’ collarbone. He hears a sharp intake of breath, sees the tightening in Bones’ lips, feels the warmth beneath his fingertips, and he suddenly knows that Bones wants and feels too much, too. It’s in the way he looks at Jim, the way he bitches at him, the way he takes care of him, in so many ways that he’s never noticed until now, until there’s a risk of losing him that makes Jim finally open his eyes.
“I don’t want the ambassador,” Bones growls softly. His fingers move down Jim’s neck to his chest, thumb grazing a nipple and causing it to harden, and Jim can only hear the sound of their breathing and the thumping of his heartbeat as they keep staring at each other.
“To be yours,” he says, speaking so softly that it’s almost a whisper as he finally answers the question that Bones asked him minutes ago. He licks his lips and doesn’t look away even as the nerves and insecurities start to nag at him. “I want to be yours. Hell, I already am and have been for months, if not years.”
“I’m your Bones, Jim.” Bones moves his hand up to lightly caress Jim’s chin, where there’s probably a bruise from the punch earlier. “Always yours.”
“Yeah?” Jim leans forward and licks Bones’ lips before he kisses him. Bones makes a noise, a growly whimpery sort of sound that Jim knows he wants to hear again and again, before they deepen the kiss, not caring where they are or who might be around. All that matters is them, the two of them as it should be. Jim moves closer, holding onto Bones as they continue to kiss. It seems appropriate that their first kiss tastes like bourbon and blood.