If it was one of the many moods Jim can recognize, he’d know what to do and how to handle it. The fact that he doesn’t is frustrating and disconcerting, to say the least. Jim takes pride in the knowledge that he could teach a class in Understanding Leonard McCoy, complete with interpretation of various smiles and ways to calm the savage beast. Not that he ever would, of course. If he ever admitted that he studies Bones like he’s a complicated subject Jim wants to learn everything about, Bones would probably give him that look, the one with the downturned lips and arched brow that Jim can’t even consider sexy because it’s the ‘I’m disappointed in you, Jim, and it hurts me to feel this way, damn it’ look that he tries to avoid putting on Bones’ face. Besides, Jim doesn’t want anyone else to know how to deal with Bones any more than he wants anyone but Bones to know how to handle him and his own moods.
Still, it’s been three days now, since they finished a supply run to the new Vulcan colony, and Jim’s starting to feel helpless. It isn’t a feeling he likes at all. The worst thing is that Bones doesn’t seem to notice how his mood is affecting Jim. Usually, he’s aware of that sort of thing. They’re both stubborn and determined men, so it’s not like they never clash or inadvertently hurt one another at times. That’s why they usually attempt to be more conscious about the effects of their behavior on the other. Right now, Jim doesn’t know if Bones even notices him trying to get his attention and figure out what happened to cause this unidentifiable mood. Being shut out like this actually hurts more than any snarled comment tossed out during an argument.
Jim looks over at Bones and bites his bottom lip when he sees that he’s still sitting in the same place staring at the wall with that unreadable expression on his face. It’s been hours since their shifts ended, and Bones has barely moved since getting back to their quarters. Normally, Jim might make some smartass remark about the wall talking or distract Bones from whatever heavy thoughts are in his head with sex. Somehow, he doesn’t think getting naked is going to fix whatever this is. Well, he actually knows it won’t because he tried that already, since it’s one of his default ‘How to Get Bones to Smile’ activities, and it just resulted in Bones withdrawing more and sleeping so far on the other side of the bed that it’s been like Jim’s sleeping alone, which he really hates.
After sneaking looks for a while with no change in Bones’ behavior, Jim reaches for a PADD in an attempt to focus on something else before his concern and worry passes appropriate and becomes obsessive. If it hasn’t already. The PADD he reaches is one of Bones’, full of western novels about Terran cowboys and a time centuries before either of them were born. Jim doesn’t necessarily understand the appeal of them, since they’re kind of simple with a lot of black and white that lacks any shades of gray, but Bones has filled the memory capability of more PADDs than he can count with these stories, so there has to be something more to them than a bunch of guys riding horses and catching villains during exciting chases across mountains. He tries to read one, but his attention keeps wandering to Bones, which makes it tough to remember which guy he’s supposed to be cheering on.
Finally, he just turns off the PADD and stands up, sighing as he puts it on the table and steals another look at Bones. He runs his fingers through his hair, tugging slightly before he goes to the bathroom. After making sure the connecting door to Spock’s quarters is locked, he strips off his uniform. The shower helps soothe his nerves at first, but that doesn’t last long. He’s unable to stop thinking about Bones in the stall with him, muttering about how cramped it is even as he kneels down and takes Jim into his mouth or as he leans against the wall while Jim’s thrusting into him. It’s tempting to jerk off, especially when his dick takes interest in the memories that usually come to mind when he showers alone, but he can’t bring himself to do it when Bones is sitting out there hurting.
Jim might not know what caused the mood or what happened, but he knows his lover is hurt, which is just another reason this entire situation bothers him. Bones always talks to him, even when it’s growling or yelling or forcing him to acknowledge he’s done something stupid and fucked up. He doesn’t pull away like this or ignore Jim when he tries to talk, unless they’re fighting and both deliberately pushing buttons. This isn’t like that. Bones is in his own little world when he’s not working, and it’s not somewhere Jim’s invited to go.
Thinking about it makes him hit the wall hard, and he curses under his breath when he feels pain in his fist. His knuckles will probably bruise now, which will just be a reminder to him of how stupid he can act when Bones isn’t there to ground him. He groans and turns off the shower, stepping out and reaching for a towel. Almost immediately, he realizes that he’s not alone, and he forgets about the towel when he sees Bones sitting on the closed lid of the toilet staring at him with an expression he does recognize.
“I’ve been an ass,” Bones says simply. His wry smile says ‘I’m sorry’ as clearly as words, and Jim feels some of his tension start to finally recede.
Jim shrugs, knowing that Bones will know he’s agreeing without actually having to say it. “Wanna talk about it?” he offers. There’s no point demanding an explanation. Neither of them talks unless they feel like it, and he knows Bones will eventually tell him what this is about if he isn’t ready to discuss it yet.
Bones closes his eyes while holding out his arm towards Jim. Jim steps forward automatically, reaching for Bones’ arm and squeezing gently. Bones opens his eyes and looks up at him as he moves his hand to Jim’s bare hip. “I have a daughter.”
For a moment, Jim thinks he must have heard incorrectly. But Bones’ expression is conflicted and upset, which means Jim really did hear that right. “A daughter?” he repeats slowly and carefully. “With the Ex?”
“Yeah.” Bones tightens his grip on Jim’s hip, and Jim realizes that he’s digging his blunt fingernails into Bones’ arm deep enough to probably hurt. He lets go of Bones’ arm, resisting the urge to wrap his arms defensively around his chest even though he doesn’t understand why he feels the need to do so. “Jim, don’t.” Bones leans forward until his forehead is pressed against Jim’s belly, his breath warm against damp skin. “It’s not like that.”
“What’s it like then?” Jim asks, curling his fingers into his palms so he doesn’t give in to the impulse of carding his fingers through Bones’ hair. “Does she want you back? When did it happen? You said you hadn’t slept with her for months before the divorce, separate bedrooms and everything. Are you going to leave…” Jim’s voice breaks as the words become too much for him to say.
“Stop it, Jim,” Bones growls softly, moving his other arm around Jim’s waist until his hand is settled in the small of his back. “I’m not going anywhere. If you’re stupid enough to try to die on me before we’re ancient and can’t keep count of all our damn wrinkles, I’m coming after you and bringing you back because I’m not letting you go until the very end. Remember?”
Jim closes his eyes and tilts his head back, biting the inside of his cheek as he listens to Bones’ often repeated threat. While he does believe Bones means it, doesn’t even doubt he would find some way to try to bring him back if only to berate him for dying on him, a kid changes things. It’s not like Jim can give him one, despite the occasional documented case of such things, and Bones would be an amazing daddy if he had the opportunity. How can Jim compete with a daughter? All he’s got is a starship and himself.
A sharp pinch on his hip makes Jim open his eyes and glare down at Bones. “Remember?” Bones repeats, his voice low and hoarse as if he’s scared Jim’s forgotten or something stupid like that.
“It’s a kid.” Jim finally gives in to the impulse and moves his fingers into Bones’ hair. “That changes it all, doesn’t it?”
“It’s not---“ Bones sighs and leans into Jim’s touch. “Not here, Jim. There. I have a daughter there. Her name’s Joanna, and she’s a lot like me, going into medicine and joining Starfleet.”
“There?” Jim is confused and tries to decipher what Bones is saying. Suddenly, he frowns. “You talked to old Spock, didn’t you? Is that what happened?”
“Yeah.” Bones makes a face. “He found me during the delivery, and he mentioned her. He assumed…well, she’d have been born before the divorce, you know? He was surprised when I didn’t know who he meant, then he told me. Jim, I have a daughter,” Bones whispers. “Not me, but the other me, and she’s beautiful and smart, and I’ll never have her here.”
“Goddamn stupid Vulcan,” Jim mutters, rubbing Bones’ scalp as he tries to put his thoughts into words. He knows what a mind-fuck it is to talk to old Spock, especially when he starts talking about this world as if it’s some imitation of another. It isn’t, though. “This is our world, Bones. That other one, it doesn’t exist. Hell, you don’t look anything like that Bones, you know? I’ve seen him, seen the guy with my name, and they aren’t us.”
“It’s not that easy, Jim.” Bones pulls him closer. “Jocelyn wanted a kid, wanted to try for one, but I was busy with work and research, and I didn’t think we were ready for one. By then, we were already starting to drift, I guess, so we argued but decided to wait. And then my dad got sick and everything went to hell.” Bones stares up at him. “My dad died there, too, but it was later. And I know you had your parents…I know things are different here, that they changed, but what if I’d agreed when she wanted to try? Does Joanna not exist because I was too focused on work?”
“I don’t know.” Jim moves his free hand to Bones’ face, rubbing his thumb over his cheekbone and across the scattering of freckles on the left side of his face. “I had a son,” he admits, watching Bones’ eyes widen then narrow. “I never knew about him there, not until he was older then he died. The woman, his mother, I never met her here. If I’d gone to Starfleet when I was a teenager, I probably would have, since that’s where the other me met her. Old Spock thought I should know so I didn’t waste all those years, but I never even met Carol Marcus, so he doesn’t exist. Besides, I’ve always been careful and used protection, and I don’t think the other me was as active like that as I was at that age so maybe he didn’t. We can’t get caught up in that world, Bones. It isn’t real. It’s like a fairy tale your grammy told to you on those nights the noise from the crickets kept you from sleeping. A place that exists in a fantasy, not in reality.”
“You didn’t tell me about him,” Bones says. His lips are tightly drawn, and Jim knows he’s annoyed, but there’s not much he can do about it. Anyway, it’s better to see him annoyed than lost and uncertain.
“He doesn’t exist, and I don’t really think about it,” Jim says honestly. “If I try to become that guy, I won’t be me any more, Bones. I’m not him, and, you know, I don’t want to be. He might have been some amazing hero and shit, but he died alone. All he had was his ship and his friends, and I’m greedy because I want more than that. I want you and those wrinkles you’re always threatening me with.”
“I don’t know how you can just not think about it.” Bones rubs his thumb back and forth over Jim’s spine. “I can’t seem to think about anything else since talking to him. Wondering if I’d upset some cosmic balance because I was a workaholic. Wondering if things are gonna be messed up because my daddy died so early in my life.” He licks his lips and stares up at Jim, looking oddly vulnerable as he says, “Wondering if I’m fucking up your destiny because we’re more than just best friends here.”
Jim leans down and kisses Bones hard before he can continue with his wondering this and that thoughts. He pulls back, rubbing their noses together as he grips Bones’ chin lightly. “You aren’t fucking anything up, Bones. Hell, it’s because of you I’ve even got this far into whatever destiny bullshit old Spock rambles on about. He means well, I know he does, but you need to just consider anything he says to be like the stories Grammy told you. They aren’t real, and they’re not us. Got it?”
For a moment, Jim thinks that Bones might argue the point, but eventually he just tilts his head slightly to press his lips against Jim’s mouth. “I got it,” he says. “It might take me a while to get past it, though. The whole different worlds and time travel and repercussions that change things thing is a bit more real now that I’ve spoken to him and am not just hearing about it from you, since you seem to have kept some of the details from me in the first place.”
“Take your time, Bones. Just don’t shut me out again. I can’t stand when you do that.” Jim straightens up because his back is starting to protest his awkward position. The toilet is a little too low for it to be comfortable leaning over it to kiss Bones while he’s sitting down. He strokes Bones’ face with his fingers as he stares into his eyes. “And if you decide you want a kid one day, it’s something we can talk about in a few years, after we’ve had a couple of tours. Okay?”
“Yeah, okay,” Bones says as they share a look that says more than either of them really wants to put into words. He clears his throat when Jim starts to smile, and pulls him down, until Jim’s straddling his lap.
They kiss lazily, teasing and exploring with tongues, lips, and hands as they reconnect after the distance between them during the past few days. While Jim can now properly classify this mood in his mental Bones catalog, it’s one that he honestly hopes they don’t have to experience again. He deepens the kiss with Bones as he remembers how uncertain and desperate he’s felt lately, holding him close and not letting go. Who knows? Maybe one day they’ll have a David and a Joanna to call their own, but, for now, they have each other, and that’s more than enough.