“I’ve got a secret to share with you, kid,” Leonard says, not even looking up from his PADD. “Life isn’t fair.” He can’t resist smirking when he hears Jim making a dismayed noise.
“You’re a cruel man, Bones,” Jim announces in an offended whine that Leonard’s already starting to recognize after knowing the kid for only six weeks. It’s the ‘I’m reaching the extreme end of my patience and will soon become even more annoying if you don’t pet me and give me attention’ whine.
“Don’t call me that.” Leonard knows he should probably give up his efforts to get Jim to forget the silly nickname, but he figures he’ll keep trying for another few weeks. If he surrenders too easily, Jim’ll just think he can get away with anything, after all. Besides, there’s a part of him that still expects Jim to get tired of him and find friends who are the opposite of Leonard. He still can’t figure out why Jim’s attached himself to him, unless it’s the fact they’re two of the oldest cadets in their year. Sure, they clicked almost instantly, and they mesh in a weird way that Leonard still can’t quite believe, but they probably shouldn’t get along so well. Yet somehow they do, and Leonard likes having a friend, likes having Jim around despite all his grumbling, and that’s why he keeps expecting Jim to desert him eventually.
“Bones, Bones, Bones, Bones,” Jim says in a sing-song voice that distracts him from over-analyzing their friendship, which has been so simple and easy that thinking about it is kind of pointless. Jim keeps singing the nickname, and Leonard doesn’t have to look over at him to know he’s got that smug smile on his face. “It’s your name, Bones. Why wouldn’t I call you that?”
“My name is McCoy or Leonard, if we’re friends. You can call me McCoy.” He scrolls down to continue reading his assignment and realizes that he can’t remember what he’s just read. Damn it.
“I’m your best friend, Bones. That means I get to call you whatever I want,” Jim announces solemnly. “And I want to call you Bones. Aren’t you done reading yet? I’m bored. I want to go out exploring.”
“Where do you get the idea that you’re my best friend?” Leonard arches a brow in Jim’s general direction but doesn’t raise his gaze from the PADD. Mostly because he’s figured out Jim doesn’t like being ignored and it’s payback for the kid interrupting his study time with his whining. “I’ll be done reading when I turn off my PADD and put it away. If you don’t shut up, I’ll never finish.”
“Of course I’m your best friend. You don’t like anyone else. I can be quiet if it means you'll finish faster. Stop snickering. I can do it.” Jim gets up and starts pacing, the sound of his boots on the floor even more of a distraction from the reading. The silence lasts a few minutes, which is longer than Leonard actually expects. “Have I told you lately that I can’t stand my roommate? I actually caught him snooping through my stuff yesterday. Do you think I’d get a room of my own if I complain?”
“They don’t give first years single rooms.” Leonard frowns slightly as he thinks about the kid sharing Jim’s room. He hadn’t really liked him when they were introduced, so it’s nice to know his instincts are still spot-on. He adds, “Unless you’re in Medical and they think you might scare away the younger cadets, that is. What was he snooping through? Did you report him?”
“I should go tell them your secret. Then, you’d have to share with some asshole who can’t even shave yet,” Jim grumbles. “As for Sheldon, I caught him trying to get into my PADD. Fortunately, I have security precautions in place so he couldn’t break my code. Should I report him? I don’t really see much point if I’m stuck with him all year and it won’t get me a single.”
“I’d report him. You don’t want him to keep trying or anything,” Leonard points out. “Wait, what secret?”
Jim snickers. “That you’re all bark and no bite, obviously. Are you done yet, Bones? Do you have anything to eat?” Leonard can hear a cabinet in his kitchenette being opened. “There’s peanut brittle!”
“Don’t you dare touch that, Kirk,” Leonard warns in a low growl. He curses under his breath and turns off his PADD, slamming it down on his desk as he gets to his feet and glares at Jim.
“Use of last name coupled with a glare and the Eyebrow of Doom means I should probably put this back, huh?” Jim smiles sweetly and bats his eyelashes as he puts the container of peanut brittle that Leonard brought from Georgia back into the cabinet. “But you’re done now! So let’s go.” He rocks back on his heels and smirks, which makes Leonard start to suspect he’s just been played.
“Do you even like peanut brittle?” he mutters, eyeing Jim suspiciously.
“Nope.” Jim grins and grabs Leonard’s arm. “But you do. Now c’mon. I’ve been waiting all afternoon. I heard about this junk yard not too far from here from some cadets in Engineering. I want to see if I can find the parts needed to build us communicators.”
Leonard purses his lips. “We have communicators, Jim. Why would you want to build one from scratch?”
“Because it’s fun?” Jim shrugs. “Besides, if I figure out how to build one, I’ll know how to repair them if we’re ever in a situation where ours go out and we’re on some uncharted planet in need of being saved.”
When Jim explains it that way, it makes sense. That’s what worries Leonard, actually. “I don’t plan to ever be in such a situation, you know?”
“No one plans to be, but it might happen. When we’re flying around in space, and you’re my CMO, I’m planning to make you go planetside sometimes with me so you don’t spend all your time in Medbay,” Jim explains matter-of-factly. “And don’t start with the whole ‘space is evil’ speech or insist that you’re not going to be a CMO because we both know you’d be bored to death doing nothing but research within two months. Besides, I want the best crew ever, and you’re the best.”
Leonard has to snort. “You don’t know anything about my abilities, kid. And I wouldn’t be bored. I love research. It’s the patients I can’t stand. Which is why I have no intention of ever flying around in one of those tin cans you’re so obsessed with captaining.”
“Sure you don’t, Bones.” Jim says it like he’s talking to a stubborn child instead of a man several years older than him. “Your bedside manner is so horrible that I’ve heard others in the Med track practically fawning over how amazing you are at getting things done while also handling difficult patients.”
Leonard glares, just a little, to register his displeasure, but he doesn’t want to argue the point. They got into this discussion two weeks ago, after all, and it led to Jim actually creating a presentation, complete with pictures, explaining why Leonard was destined to become his CMO. Of course, the presentation overlooked the fact that Leonard has no interest in being assigned to a ship, but that’s Jim for you. By the end of the damn presentation, Leonard had almost forgotten that little fact himself, which is probably what Jim’s intention had been all along. However, that reminds him of what stupidity Jim can manage when he’s really bored, so maybe a trip to a junk yard isn’t out of the question. “Where’s this junk place?”
“Not too far. We can walk it, so you don’t even have to bitch about public transport,” Jim tells him, smirking in a way that lets Leonard know he’s aware he ‘won’ the discussion about the CMO nonsense, as if they’re keeping score. Leonard rolls his eyes because, really, he retreated, so it’s not a win at all. Not that they are keeping score or anything. Jim grabs an old sweatshirt from the dresser drawer and tosses it at Leonard. “You might need this. The weather’s nice, but it’s windy as hell. We wouldn’t want that hot southern blood to freeze or anything.”
“Asshole,” Leonard mutters, glaring again for good measure before he pulls the sweatshirt over his head. “It was cold the other night, regardless of what moronic Midwesterners with ice water in their veins seem to think.”
“Are you sure you don’t need your mittens or a scarf?” Jim flutters his eyelashes and is so busy smirking that he doesn’t have time to duck when Leonard throws a pillow at him. He looks so startled that Leonard starts to laugh.
“Shut up, kid. Let’s go before I change my mind and finish my reading,” he warns, reaching for his PADD teasingly.
“You hit me with a pillow.” Jim shakes his head and punches Leonard’s arm lightly. “And stop trying to fondle your PADD. You need to get away from this place before you become one of those boring studious guys who do nothing but sit in the library and drool over knowledge.”
“Says the guy who’s usually drooling over a PADD and retaining every random bit of information he reads,” Leonard points out. “You might have the uncanny ability to not need to study like the rest of us, Jim, but don’t think I haven’t noticed how much you salivate over knowledge. Other people around here might not notice, but I do.” He ruffles Jim’s hair on his way out of the room, which earns him a squeak of protest.
“Now my hair’s probably as messy as yours.” Jim punches his arm again when Leonard snickers. “It’s a good thing I can pull off any look, Bones, or else I might be pissed off at how often you do that damn hair ruffling thing. You do know I’m twenty-two, though, right? I’m not actually a kid, even if you like calling me that because you think I find it annoying. Which I do, from other people, but I sort of think of it as your Bones for me.”
“That makes no sense,” Leonard informs him as they leave the dorm and start walking towards the front gate of campus. “And you do find it annoying.”
“Do you really think I’d let you continue calling me that if I did?” Jim asks seriously, glancing at him as they walk. “Anymore than you’d allow me to call you Bones if it really got under your skin and you hated it? See, like I said earlier. I know your secrets, Bones. Others might see you as this baffling mystery, but I see you.” Jim bumps their hips together and grins. “Do you think I’ll be able to make the communicators?”
Leonard bites the inside of his cheek, not at all sure he likes the idea of anyone knowing him that well. He’s never really had a friend like Jim appears to be becoming, but he isn’t entirely sure that Jocelyn even knew him completely. If she had, they’d probably still be married, and she wouldn’t have had to find what he wasn’t giving her somewhere else. When he notices Jim’s eyes narrow and his lips tighten, he shrugs a shoulder. “I figure you can do just about anything you set your mind to, Jim,” he says honestly.
“Yeah?” Jim relaxes again, obviously satisfied that he hadn’t pushed Leonard too far with the whole secret thing. He’s grinning again as he ducks his head and looks almost embarrassed, which is definitely not a look that Leonard’s used to seeing from his overly confident friend.
“Yeah.” Leonard smiles slightly. “How exactly does someone make a communicator?”
It’s the right question to ask because Jim begins to excitedly explain it, in detail beyond anything Leonard can really comprehend. Still, he likes hearing about it, especially when it seems to make Jim happy. He thinks maybe Jim hasn’t had a chance to be too happy in the past, so it’s part of a best friend’s duty to help change that. By the time they reach the junk yard, Leonard figures he could probably make a communicator himself. His legs and feet are also starting to feel the rather long walk, so he’s glad for a break.
“This place is awesome,” Jim declares as he looks around with big eyes that reminds Leonard of the ‘kid in a toy store’ saying. Somehow, it’s really appropriate for Jim surrounded by electronic parts, brightly colored wires, and other stuff most people don’t think about much.
“Where to first, kid?” Leonard is a little concerned that some of the piles of junk are stacked too high and might fall over on top of them, especially if Jim starts poking around. “Be careful. This place is a damn death trap in the making. Look at how everything’s balanced on that small motor there.”
Jim laughs and grabs his forearm, tugging him along. “Nothing is going to fall on us, so stop worrying, Bones. Besides, I don’t need a motor, so I won’t knock it over. Now, be careful if you touch anything because you don’t know where any of this stuff has been. Some alien oils are like acid to our skin, you know?” Jim looks smug when Leonard arches a brow at him. “What? You think you’re the only one aware of potential danger? I do intend to become Captain one day, remember? I have to know how to protect my crew and keep us safe.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Leonard mutters even as he feels his lips twitch just a little. He’s determined that he isn’t going to reward the little shit with an approving smile, so he tries to prevent it.
“You look like you ate a lemon,” Jim says cheerfully, pulling up his shirt so he can get something out of his back pocket. “These are for you. They should keep you safe from most stuff you’d be touching around here, but be careful anyway. This really smart doctor told me once that even a small scratch could get infected and require amputation. You might have more difficulty becoming my CMO if you lose a hand to infection.”
“Shut up, Jim.” Leonard waits until Jim’s looking around to impulsively stick his tongue out at him. Of course, Jim turns to face him and catches him being childish. Leonard can feel warmth in his cheeks as he scowls and tugs the gloves on with more force than required.
Instead of gloating or smirking over it, Jim just grins wider as he puts his own gloves on. “C’mon, Bones. Let’s go explore,” he says, reaching out to start touching just about everything as they begin walking.
After what feels like a couple of hours, but is probably closer to twenty minutes, Leonard shifts the various parts he’s holding and wonders why the red wires have grease on them. His sweatshirt is going to need a thorough washing from the grime and gross shit rubbing against it from all the parts Jim keeps handing him. “Did you just bring me along to act as your personal carrier or something?”
“Aren’t you having fun?” Jim looks up from a pile of old antennas that he’s managed to locate in the broken trunk of a hovercar. “You found the right speakers for the communicator, so I thought you must be enjoying this. You do think you could create one yourself, if you had to, don’t you, Bones? I thought maybe you could try your hand at it, too, so we’d both be able to put something together if we ever crashed on some unexplored planet or lost touch with our ship.”
Leonard arches a brow and purses his lips. “Your big plan is for us to both make communicators? On the off-chance we get stranded somewhere that miraculously has all these parts around waiting for us to put them together?”
“Yep.” Jim smiles and thrusts an antenna into the pile Leonard’s holding. “I know you’re not an engineer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn new things. Besides, you seem to dislike a lot of technological things, so it’s beneficial for you to find out they aren’t bad.”
“I’m not going to build a damn shuttle or a transporter, Jim. Those are the things I dislike. Not communicators,” Leonard says. He watches Jim tilt his chin stubbornly and groans. “Fine. We’ll make your silly communicators, if we find the parts, but that means you’re learning some basic first aid and a few things that might actually help if you got stranded on some planet.”
“If you let me teach you some self-defense, too, then it’s a deal.” Jim doesn’t even wait for his agreement. “We’ll start those lessons tomorrow, after your Xenobiology quiz. Can you teach me how to deal with broken bones? Oh, and I was reading about concussions in one of your books, so I’d like to go over that, too.”
“Wait. You agreed too easily,” Leonard points out. He shifts the bundle of junk in his arms and frowns when Jim actually attempts to look innocent. “If you wanted some basic medical training, all you had to do was ask. We didn’t need this whole farce.” He glares once, for good measure, before walking past Jim and turning down another path. It isn’t that he minds teaching Jim, not when he’s got this thirst for knowledge that few others seem to even notice, but he doesn’t like feeling as if he’s been manipulated or is just being used in some strategy that exists in Jim’s head.
“It isn’t a farce, Bones.” Jim is panting, like he ran to catch up, which makes Leonard suspect he was walking faster than he realized. “I thought we could have fun making the communicators, and you study too much, especially when you already know most of it. Don’t be angry, okay? Sure, I wanted to learn some things from you, but that’s not why I---holy shit, Bones! Do you see that?”
Leonard stops walking and turns to see Jim staring off in the distance with wide eyes and a stupid grin on his face. “See what?” He glances over but doesn’t really notice anything special mixed amongst the junk.
“Her.” Jim looks at him and then motions to the right of where Leonard’s been staring. “Isn’t she beautiful? Sure, she needs a little work and a bath, but I can see it underneath the rust and dirt.”
“What?” Leonard looks again and finally sees a motorbike leaning against a pile of scrap metal. “The bike?”
“Yeah.” Jim walks forward and crouches down as he begins to inspect the motorbike. “I can’t believe someone just left her here. I had a motorbike back in Iowa, you know? I gave it away when I enlisted.”
“They probably left her--it--,” Leonard corrects himself, “because it’s old and broken. The tire is flat, and the seat’s damaged.”
“She isn’t old. Be nice, Bones, or she won’t like you. A lady never discusses her age,” Jim says, smirking at him over his shoulder before he goes back to exploring the bike. “I can find a seat and tire easily enough, I figure. There isn’t any damage to the body, and the mirrors are intact, which is good because I don’t know if they’d be as easy to find. The seat’s big enough for two people, Bones. We could both ride her around and no more public transport that you hate.”
“I’m not getting on that rusted bucket of bolts.” Leonard looks at the parts he’s carrying and leans over to drop them on the ground near his feet. “Move over. Let me take a look at it. And, Jim? It’s a motorbike, not a lady. If you’re confusing the two, maybe you’ve been studying too hard.”
“I think I’m in love,” Jim announces in a dreamy voice that drifts off into a sigh. “Don’t listen to the grumpy doctor, honey. He’s just jealous that I saw you first. And he will so totally ride you, too, so just ignore his muttered threats.”
“Damn it, Jim. Stop talking to it. That’s weird, even for you,” Leonard grumbles as he examines the bike. He doesn’t know much about mechanical things, but he assumes there’d be some way to notice if anything was leaking or had huge gaping holes that shouldn’t be there. He looks at Jim and can see that he really does like the bike, even if he’s exaggerating it to be a pain in the ass. “It’s a mess and needs some work, you know?”
“I know. I’m not afraid of challenges, Bones. She won’t be the first mess that’s required patience and determination to fix up.” Jim looks at him fondly for a moment, which makes Leonard scowl even more at the idea that Jim might be comparing him to a broken old motorbike, before he looks back at the bike. “I bet she’s at least a century old, don’t you? No hover technology, made the old-fashioned Terran way, just like mine in Iowa. I wonder if I can turn her on?”
Leonard can’t help but snicker. “You might have met the first woman in your life that you can’t,” he says, snickering more when Jim punches his arm.
“She wouldn’t be the first, asshole, as you well know. Also, you totally just called her a woman.” Jim smirks before he starts fiddling with the engine and wires, biting his lip as he concentrates and works on the bike. Leonard rolls his eyes and wipes his gloves over the body of the bike, trying to see what the metal’s like underneath the dirty rust. He pulls his hands back quickly when he hears a click before the engine starts. Jim’s grinning widely and petting the torn leather seat. “She works!”
“Turn that thing off. You don’t know how long it’s been sitting here or what might be in its exhaust system,” Leonard warns, reaching over to put a hand over Jim’s mouth.
“Oh, gross. Keep that glove away from me, Bones.” Jim grimaces and wipes his face on his sleeve. He focuses on Leonard and has that stubborn ‘I know it’s probably a bad idea but I don’t care because I want to’ look on his face. “I’m buying her. There’s no way I’m going to leave her here.”
Leonard sighs. “I know, kid. You and your love of lost causes.” That time, he’s including himself in with the motorbike. He shakes his head when Jim smiles at him then at the bike. “Do you need to borrow any credits?”
“I dunno.” Jim glances at him and shrugs. “Might not have to borrow any, okay? I’ll talk to the guy running the place, see about working off the difference or something. I’ll have to get a tire and seat, too, and maybe some other parts, once I get her cleaned up and get a good look at her.”
“Well, if you need to, just ask,” Leonard says firmly. He lost just about everything to Jocelyn, including his daughter, but he’s been able to start working almost immediately at the hospital despite being a first year, so he can afford to loan Jim whatever he needs. It’s not like they have many expenses when they live on-campus and only go out a couple of nights a week. He begins to pick up the communicator supplies while Jim pulls the motorbike out of the piles of junk. “We still need another antenna and a replacement shiny thing for the circuit board.”
“I think I’ll use that description in my next engineering class. I think the professor would be completely impressed by me calling it a shiny thing,” Jim muses, managing to duck out of the way when Leonard tosses a battery at him. “Be careful or you might hit my girl.”
“That bike needs a good washing.” Leonard sees the sly grin on Jim’s face and grumbles. “Damn it, Jim. It’s too windy to wash the bike today. I’m not gonna do it.”
“Of course you’re not,” Jim agrees, his tone giving Leonard no doubt that he’d be spending the afternoon washing that damn bike with Jim. He starts pushing the bike beside them as they walk, which isn’t too easy when the front tire’s flat. “I’ve been thinking.”
“Hope you haven’t hurt yourself.” Leonard smirks, just a little, when Jim elbows him.
“She needs a name,” Jim continues, ignoring Leonard’s interruption.
“She does? I mean, it does?” Leonard arches a brow.
“She does,” Jim corrects. “So I was thinking, about her name, and I decided that maybe I’d name her after the first girl I ever loved.”
Leonard glances at Jim then at the bike then back at Jim. “This motorbike reminds you of an old girlfriend?”
“Yeah. I mean, no. Not like that, wiseass. She wasn’t a girlfriend anyway since we were only seven. Well, I was, but she’d just turned nine,” Jim explains. “She had blonde hair and these big blue eyes that were almost as pretty as mine. She kissed me on the cheek one day after school, and it’s not like I can forget my first kiss.”
“Okay.” Leonard isn’t sure how Jim went from first kiss to naming a rusted motorbike, but he doesn’t try to follow Jim Logic in circumstances like this because he’ll just end up giving himself a headache. “You loved her after a kiss on the cheek?”
“I just knew.” Jim smiles. “She broke my heart, though. She moved to Des Moines a few weeks later, but I still remember her.”
“You and your natural instincts,” Leonard mutters, shifting the spare parts in his arms so he can reach out and help Jim guide the bike around a narrow corner. “We need to find a tire before we leave this place so you can wheel the bike back to campus without risking more damage.”
“See? You’re already starting to care about her. I knew you’d love her if you’d give her a chance.” Jim pets the torn leather seat of the bike then reaches over in an attempt to pet Leonard’s hair, but he ducks out of the way before he can.
“Your gloves are gross and getting nowhere near my hair, kid. And I don’t care about the bike. I just think it’d be easier to get it back to Starfleet if both tires work,” he says. He glances at Jim and waits a moment, but Jim just smirks and gives him a knowing look, which makes Leonard want to not say a word. Unfortunately, he’s too curious. “Damn it, Jim. What’s the name?”
Jim grins at him as he stops walking and strokes the handlebars of the motorbike. “Bones, meet Jessica.”