This is the second New Year’s Eve since he became captain of the Enterprise, but the first one that the ship has been able to celebrate. Last year at this time, he was stuck in the middle of peace talks between two warring tribes of aliens, so he hadn’t even realized that another year had started until Bones showed up in his cabin with a bottle of bourbon on January 4th to toast to Jim’s birthday. That’s not a day that he’s ever observed in any way other than as his dad’s death anniversary until he met Bones. Now, it’s a quiet time of reflection with alcohol, his best friend, and, eventually, crazy stories of the past year that make him laugh.
With a shake of his head, he continues making his way around the room. The last thing he wants to do tonight is get mired down in maudlin thoughts about his father’s death and the fact that he’ll be turning twenty-seven in a few days. The music playing isn’t recognizable, nor is the language being sung, but people don’t seem to mind as they dance and have fun. This is what he’s been hoping for, a nice night where the crew can just relax and enjoy themselves. It’s been a busy year for them all, and there are fourteen who didn’t survive to be here with them tonight, so he knows how important it is to take the time to really live because life can end at any moment.
There he goes with the depressing thoughts again. This is supposed to be a party, not some gloomy period of self-reflection. He accepts an invitation to dance, which helps get his mind back on the enjoyment aspect of the evening. After the song is over, he’s in a better mood. He scans the crowd again, blinking when he spots Keenser walking around in a diaper with a crown on his head. What the hell is that supposed to be?
“Captain, you look handsome tonight.”
Jim turns his attention away from Keenser to smile at Gaila, who is wearing a very sparkly dress. “I look handsome every night,” he informs her with a wink. “Nice dress.”
“It shimmers,” she tells him before she does a little shimmy to demonstrate. “Why are you standing in a corner watching people?”
“I’m taking a brief break from dancing.” He nods towards Keenser. “And trying to figure that out.”
She follows the direction of his nod and then smiles widely. “He is a new year baby. I read about it in a book on Terran traditions, and he volunteered to take part. I made his crown. It sparkles.”
“Oh,” Jim says, nodding slowly. “It’s a very nice crown.” He continues the scanning the crowd until he finally finds Bones. Not that he’s been looking for him or anything. Well, maybe he has been, but only because Bones has been bitching about having to dress up for some stupid party and threatening not to attend. If Jim hadn’t found him, he planned to go pull out of his cabin and force him to enjoy himself.
“Your doctor also looks very handsome tonight,” Gaila observes.
Jim glances at her and sees her blatantly ogling Bones like he’s a piece of meat. He frowns and focuses back on Bones, who is wearing black slacks, a gray shirt that fits too well, and a tie. He definitely cleans up well, not that Jim notices that sort of thing. “I look better,” he mutters, staring at Bones as Gaila laughs softly. “And his name’s Doctor McCoy, not ‘your doctor’.”
“He is your doctor,” Gaila says simply. “He has been since before we met, has he not?” She reaches over and squeezes Jim’s shoulder, smiling when he looks at her. “Perhaps it is finally time to let him know that.”
“Let him know what?” He likes Gaila and is glad that they’ve become friends despite their past sexual relationship, but there are times when he really wishes she came with an instruction book on how to understand her. Not the language, since he speaks Orion, but just the odd comments and observations she’s always making.
“You know what. You just have to open your eyes to the possibility that you are also his captain.” She looks at him seriously when he starts to make an awkward joke about the fact that he is Bones’ captain. “Human lives are short. Do you wish to look back with regrets or take a leap of faith, Jim?”
Gaila only calls him Jim when she’s annoyed with him and wants to make sure he’s listening to her. Orions don’t have any mind-reading skills, but she seems to see right through him anyway. Always has, which is probably one reason they became friends when the sex was finished. He looks back across the room at Bones, who is talking to Scotty and looking slightly uncomfortable at Rand staring at him in a way similar to how Gaila just has been. “It’s too much of a risk,” he whispers, scowling when Rand laughs at whatever Bones is saying. “He’s my best friend, and I can’t lose that.”
“You are nothing more than a coward then,” Gaila says. Her tone is blunt and matter-of-fact in the way he normally appreciates hearing from her. Tonight, it just makes him want to go for a run until his legs are too sore to carry him further. “The potential of what you will gain is more important than the possible loss. You have said that before as Captain, yet you do not listen to your own words.”
“I’m not a coward,” he denies. He’s still watching Bones, who is shifting awkwardly and looking around while Rand talks. When their eyes meet across the crowded room, Jim feels likes he’s been punched in the gut. Bones relaxes and smiles wryly before tilting his head slightly. Jim nods once in answer to the silent question, knowing that he’ll go save Bones from a flirtatious Rand because that’s what best friends do. It has nothing to do with any jealousy on his part. Nope, not at all.
“It is time to be honest with yourself,” Gaila murmurs from beside him. “I believe that it is traditional to offer a kiss and wish one a happy new year, so I will do so now.” She kisses his cheek, squeezing his shoulder one more time before she disappears into the crowd.
Honest with himself. He’s always honest with himself. She’s obviously been drinking too much or something with her talk about leaps of faith and shit that could completely ruin his life. He turns his attention back to Bones, only to see that he’s no longer standing with Scotty and a disappointed looking Rand. He tenses slightly and starts to scan the crowd again.
“Damn it, Jim. Would it have taken much to make up some catastrophe to come save me from that woman?” Bones grumbles as he walks up beside Jim. “I’m a doctor, not eye candy.”
“There’s no rule that says you can’t be both,” Jim points out, unable to keep himself from grinning as he elbows Bones in the ribs. “I happen to be a captain and attractive eye candy.”
“Well, you go talk to her then. I don’t think she noticed the fact that I was wearing clothes when she stared at me,” Bones says, tugging on the knot of his tie to loosen it. “I feel dirty and used.”
“Cheer up, old man. At least you know that you’ve still got it even though you’re approaching forty.”
“I’m thirty-two, asshole. I won’t be approaching forty for another few years, at least.” Bones rolls his eyes and hands Jim a glass of whiskey. “Drink that. You looked uneasy earlier.”
Jim drinks half the glass in one gulp before licking his lips. Something shiny appears in the corner of his vision, so he turns his head slightly to find Gaila talking to Cupcake. She gives him a pointed look before smiling and continuing her conversation. Leap of faith. Right. Well, this can go one of two ways. Bones can hate him and end their friendship completely or he can assume he’s joking and their friendship will just be strained briefly. Jim doesn’t really consider it a possibility that Bones will want it, too, but there’s an outside chance, he supposes.
“Did ya wanna dance?” he mumbles, speaking quickly before he loses his nerve and becomes the cowardly captain that Gaila accused him of being.
“Hmm?” Bones lowers his glass and looks at Jim. “Sorry, I didn’t hear anything but dance.”
“I said would you like to dance,” Jim repeats slowly, tightening his grip on the glass as he sneaks a look at Bones.
“With you?” Bones blinks and shifts his weight from foot to foot, frowning as he keeps staring at Jim.
“No, with someone else.” Jim grimaces and runs his hand through his hair. “Yes, with me. A dance with me.”
Bones is quiet for a moment before he puts his glass on the counter nearby. He runs his hands over the black fabric pulled taut across his thighs and slowly nods. “Alright.”
“Really?” Jim looks at him and opens his mouth to say something witty but closes it again. He doesn’t know what to say. Does Bones understand what he’s really asking? Sure, they’ve developed their own sort of communication style over the last five years, but this is different. If there’s some miscommunication here, it could be bad. Very bad.
Instead of answering, Bones takes the glass out of Jim’s hand then wraps his fingers around Jim’s, tugging him to the makeshift dance floor. Well, it’s actually an answer, even better than a verbal one because there’s no denying this. Not when Bones pulls Jim against him, and they begin to move to the music. Jim feels something happening in his stomach, not a punch but all fluttery and ridiculous like when he was twelve and first got a crush on Mary Templeton. Only this isn’t a crush or nearly so innocent.
This is Bones pressed against him, with their fingers entwined and a strong hand on his hip as they dance. It’s the scent of Bones surrounding him, the feel of tense muscles beneath his fingers as he strokes Bones’ back and shoulders, the sound of Bones breathing and his heartbeat going as fast as Jim’s, the sight of tan skin lightly covered with a five o’clock shadow and brilliant hazel eyes that keep looking at him as they move slowly to the music. Jim doesn’t care that they’re in a crowded room with most of the crew or that it’s probably inappropriate for the captain to be dancing so close with his CMO, even if he knows they aren’t breaking any rules by doing so. All he cares about is how right this feels, even if he has no idea what happens next.
“There’s a Terran tradition that I was reminded about earlier,” Bones says, his tone husky and growly in a way that makes Jim feel warm and excited.
“Oh?” Not exactly eloquent, but he’s rather pleased to get the word out at all when Bones has moved his hand to rest in the small of Jim’s back, fingers spread out to tug gently on a belt loop of his slacks.
“Yeah.” Bones smiles slightly, a twist of full lips that is distracting even without everything else overloading Jim’s senses right now. “To offer a kiss and say happy new year.”
“Gaila?” Jim has to grin when Bones nods and flashes a slightly sheepish smile. “So, I’m your captain, then?”
“And I’m your doctor,” Bones says before he leans forward and presses his lips against Jim’s. It’s just a brush of lips, almost chaste. “Happy new year.”
Jim licks his lips, staring at Bones before he moves his tongue to lick at Bones’ lips. “Since it is tradition,” he murmurs, leaning closer and kissing Bones. There’s nothing chaste about it as Jim licks and nibbles his lips, moving his hand up into Bones’ hair when Bones’ mouth opens. He feels Bones’ hand on the back of his neck as the kiss deepens, their tongues curling as they taste each other, fighting for control even as they share it. Distantly, Jim can hear music playing and sounds of cheering along with cries about happy new year as he and Bones take this leap of faith together.