The cuffs cut into his flesh, and he tries to ease the pressure, wriggling his hands a little, to get more comfortable, only to hit his head on the wall. Dried blood from the cut he got falling to the floor clings to his skin, and he curses under his breath.
A guard sees his movement, leans forward to tap a phaser against his leg. “Keep still.”
Leonard huffs a breath, scowls at the guard as if his gaze alone could kill the man, but doesn’t say anything, only leans back against the wall of the vehicle. He’s bound and harnessed to his seat, while his four guards watch him, and his every move.
He wishes this thing had a window, he can feel the claustrophobia creep up on him, and he bites the inside of his cheek to stop himself from shaking.
At least they aren’t in space. Yet.
Leonard should have seen this coming, should have stayed on the run instead of settling down, becoming a known face in the small town he’s been living in for a while now. It had been a matter of time, but for once he’d felt safe, and had relaxed. He had not accounted for the unstoppable force that is the Terran Empire. How stupid he’d been.
He closes his eyes, tries to think, to come up with a plan, when suddenly the vehicle comes to a stop jerking Leonard against his harness, almost choking him. The guards look around, uneasy and Leonard can see it’s not a planned stop.
A guard talks quietly into his communicator, inquires what’s going on. Leonard has to strain to hear the answer, the mumbled questions. For a moment, it’s quiet, all of them waiting for some sign of what’s happening.
With a bang, the door comes off its hinges, and the sudden light makes Leonard squint. He can see the silhouette of a man where the door has been, hips cocked to one side, phaser pointing at the guards.
“Okay, sweethearts, hands in the air and reach for the stars.”
For a moment, no one moves, shock and surprise obvious on the guards’ faces, and Leonard holds his breath.
Then one guard reaches for his phaser, almost too fast to see, and Leonard wants to cry out, but it’s too late, the guard swings around already, phaser pointing at his opponent, firing a lethal shot.
The man ducks, jumps to the side, and does something that looks like a pirouette in mid-air, firing back seemingly blindly.
The guard hits the floor, phaser still in his hands.
There’s movement around Leonard, phasers firing, but all he can do is duck his head and try to keep out of harm’s way, and he wishes he wasn’t still bound to the fucking seat while around him shots ring through the air, some of them close enough to have him worried.
Guard after guard hits the floor, and Leonard can't help but wonder about the man who's come to his rescue. The guy's fast, and Leonard is reminded of old action movies where a single man would bring down whole cities. He always thought that was too stupid to be true.
Leonard's musings come to a halt as he realizes that everything is quiet again, all the guards are down, their phasers scattered on the floor.
He feels someone breathing on his neck and flinches.
“Hey, it’s okay, I’ve got you.”
Leonard turns to see the man, his rescuer, crouch next to him, pointing something at his wrists. Leonard hears the whirr of the tool, hears as his cuffs come loose.
“Here you go.”
Leonard circles one wrist with his hand, wincing as his shoulder protests at the sudden motion.
“Thanks,” he says gruffly, his voice harsh.
“Not at all. So, if you want to... what are you doing?”
Leonard reaches for the man’s arm, drags it closer. “You are hurt,” he rasps as he squints at the cut.
“Erm, I really don’t want to rush you, but if you don’t want to end up in one of these again,” the man says, banging against the vehicle with his free hand, “you should really get going.”
Leonard ignores the man, examining his wound, wishing for his first aid kit.
“Hey, are you even listening to me?”
Leonard looks up, and snaps “Look, whoever you are...”
“Jim. My name is Jim.”
“Fine, Jim. Thanks for getting me out of this thing, but right now I’m trying to help you here, so stop whining, or I swear to God I’m going to punch you in the face.”
Leonard almost instantly regrets his words, his tone, but he’s just too wound up to care for manners right now.
The man - Jim - tilts his head, looks at Leonard like he’s seeing him for the first time. “Are you some kind of a doctor?”
“Some kind, yeah. And a good kind at that.”
Jim doesn’t answer, only holds still, watching Leonard working. “So, what’s the verdict? Am I going to live?”
Leonard scowls, but releases Jim’s arm. “From what I can see, it seems to be okay. Not that I can do much out here without my kit.”
“Well, that’s enough for me. Think we can get out of here now?”
Leonard huffs a breath as he gets up from his seat, his legs protesting, but he walks out into the sunlight, squinting as he looks around.
They’re in the middle of the desert, far away from any city Leonard can think of. It’s the reason why he settled down here in the first place, no people to speak of for miles, with tons of sand in between. Now he can’t help but wonder how he’s ever getting back to civilization again.
“You know,” Jim says quietly, as if he’s talking to himself, “I could use a doctor.”
Leonard turns to look at him, shooting him a skeptical look while a small part of him hopes that he might have found a way out of his dilemma. Then Jim continues, “What do you think? Wanna see my spaceship?”
Spaceship. Leonard’s stomach makes a funny lurch at the word. “You think I’m going to space. With you. I don’t even know you.”
“I just rescued you from Starfleet - and wherever they were taking you.”
Jim has a point, but one reason Leonard doesn’t want to end up in the hands of Starfleet is because... well, because they operate in space.
“Look kid, I know you mean well...”
Jim holds up a hand. “You don’t really have an option here, do you? You can try and find a city around here - I think the next one is 50 miles to the east. Or you can stay here. In both cases, Starfleet will find you again and you’ll end up exactly where you don’t want to be. Or you come with me.”
Leonard knows this, he knows, but his fear is so overwhelming that for a moment he considers staying here and take his chances.
“Or do you have somewhere to go? I could take you there.”
Leonard hears the honesty in this offer, and bites back a bitter laugh. “Kid, I have nothing. Nothing but my bones.”
Jim takes a step towards him. “You can get off my ship anytime you want. Promise.”
Leonard swallows, eyes fixed on the horizon, wondering when someone will notice his transport has gone awry.
Jim takes another step, holding out a hand. “Come on.”
Leonard takes a breath... and Jim’s hand, warm and slightly calloused in his, squeezing encouragingly. “I’m not very fond of space.”
Jim grins again, retrieving a communicator from his pants. “I can live with that.”
“I mean it. I may throw up on you.”
Jim laughs at that, a rich, heartfelt sound and flips open the communicator, pressing a button. “Hey Pavel. Two to beam up.”
Jim pulls Leonard close, closer than necessary, and whispers right into his ear, “I think we still have paper bags on the ship.”
Before Leonard can reply, the world dissolves around him in a swirl of light.
When the sensation stops, he’s on a transporter pad, and Jim is still next to him, arm around his hips and breath on his neck. He takes a step to the left, almost falling from the plateau, and feels mighty stupid.
But neither Jim nor the kid he just noticed say anything, Jim stepping from the pad like nothing happened, turning to look at Leonard. “I think you need some cleaning up, my friend.”
It’s the first time Leonard has really looked at the guy, and he’s surprised how young he appears, with his short blond hair curling slightly over his ears, blue eyes flashing in a handsome face, his smile almost blindingly white. But upon a closer look, Leonard sees wrinkles next to his eyes, sees the first gray in his stubble.
He’s a good looking bastard, even with the scar that runs from his right temple all the way down, almost to the corner of his mouth, and Leonard itches to touch, wishes he had his med kit with him to have a look, to see if he couldn’t do anything about it.
He doesn’t do anything like that of course. Instead he crosses his arms over his chest and scowls at Jim. “I’m going nowhere if you don’t tell me who you are.”
Jim turns to the kid, and says, “Pavel, why don’t you go back to the bridge and see what Hikaru is up to?”
Pavel jumps, and dashes from the room like he’s on fire. Leonard looks after him, raising an eyebrow.
“He’s just a bit shy. But who wasn’t when they were eighteen?”
Leonard bets Jim wasn’t even close to shy when he was eighteen, but keeps that to himself.
Jim sighs dramatically, and puts his hands on his hips. “Look, we can stand here all day and stare at each other, or you come to sickbay and I’ll explain everything later. Your choice, really.”
Leonard scowls. The kid is right, but damn him if he’s going to admit it. “You answer my question first.”
“I told you, I’m Jim.”
The grin falters on Jim’s face, a stubborn set to his jaw telling Leonard he hit a nerve, and he almost takes it back when Jim says quietly, “Kirk. Jim Kirk.”
Leonard lowers his arms, his hands gliding into the pockets of his pants. “See, that wasn’t hard now, was it?”
Jim gives him a peculiar look, and Leonard wonders what exactly he’s missing here, but then the grin is back, and Jim holds out his hand again. “You coming now?”
Leonard scowls, but considering that he can still feel the dried blood on his face, he really could use some cleaning up. So he only shrugs and follows the other man.
Jim leads him through a maze of corridors Leonard is not sure he’ll ever find a way back out of again. Not that he needs to when he’ll leave at the next opportunity. Leonard is just surprised that a spaceship can be so confusing. When Jim stops abruptly, Leonard almost walks into him, stopping only inches from him, close enough to count the freckles on his neck.
Jim turns, smiling at him, and Leonard takes a step back, looking at his feet.
“Here we are. It’s not in a good state I’m afraid, but we’ve hadn’t a doctor for a while, so...”
Leonard looks past Jim, curious, and sees a dimly lit room, full of boxes, papers... and a biobed. “Is this a sick bay?”
“It was a sick bay. Then we turned it into a store room. But with a bit of work...”
Leonard scowls, looking at the debris inside the room. A bit of work is an underestimation.
“I know you don’t want to stay, but if you change your mind, this is all yours.”
Leonard snorts.“Well, it certainly needs some cleaning, so if you ever find a doctor somewhere, he won’t run away screaming.”
Jim’s grin widens, and Leonard ignores it as good as he can.
“I’m not saying that I’m doing the cleaning up, mind you.”
“Uh-huh. Now sit down.” Jim pats the biobed invitingly.
“I want to clean up your face, if that’s alright.”
“I can do that quite well on my own, you know” Leonard scoffs, but sits down on the biobed anyway, watching as Jim digs through the assorted crap littered around.
“Ha!” Jim exclaims, holding up a small box, grinning at Leonard. “Probably not as state of the art as your stuff, but I think it will be enough.”
Leonard watches skeptically as Jim removes cottons swabs, sanitizer and a dermal regenerator from the box, and tries not to fidget. He’s a poor patient, and he’d really rather do this himself.
Instead, he closes his eyes as Jim wipes his face with a swab, surprisingly gentle fingers holding his chin. Then he hears the sound of a regen, and the fingers are gone.
Leonard opens his eyes again, taking in the expression on Jim’s face, not really sure what to name it. Then Jim blinks, and the grin is back, leaving Leonard wondering what exactly just went on behind those blue eyes.
“Okay, think I’m done. Best I could do. Now, if you want to follow me…”
Leonard grabs Jim’s arm, exactly where he knows Jim is injured. Jim hisses a breath through his teeth, and Leonard lets go.
“Maybe I should have a look at that, hm?”
Jim rolls his eyes, but hitches the sleeve of his shirt up anyway.
Leonard sets to work, cleaning the wound and closing it, ignoring how close Jim is standing, or how he smells, or that his lips are really, really pink. No, he’s not noticing any of that.
When he’s done, he leans back, letting go of the arm, putting much needed distance between himself and Jim. “There you are.”
Jim grins, waving the arm around like he just got a new one. “Awesome,” he says, wriggling his eyebrows, and Leonard has to smile. “So, you think we can go to the bridge now?”
Leonard sighs, would give anything to go and find a place to lie down, to change his clothes, but he can see that Jim is set on introducing him to his crew, and he gives in.
They resume their tour through the ship, corridor after corridor, making Leonard dizzy. At one point Jim stops, hitting the button of an intercom and crooning, “Hey there. Here’s your captain. Did you miss me? Why don’t you all come down to the bridge? I have to show you something.”
Leonard is not sure what to think. The ship is not what he expected. He’s not an expert, but it looks old, run down even, paint coming off the walls, the technology looking outdated and wonky, held together by wishful thinking and adhesive, and still... it has a charm, has something Leonard couldn’t quite name. Like the captain. Leonard would have thought he would be different, more professional, less of the child he was back on the planet, but Jim keeps grinning, running a commentary about the ship’s features Leonard has stopped listening to, only understanding half of the techno babble.
Leonard is confused, and he can’t help but look at Jim, at the stretch of his neck, at the scar, at the bluest eyes Leonard had ever seen. Looking doesn’t help his confusion, either. When they finally emerge on the bridge, Leonard is dizzy, and disoriented.
And the first thing he sees is a view of space through the huge screen in the front, and he feels his feet giving out under him, feels the blood draining from his face, and he wants to run, to hide, to scream...
A hand is on his back, warm, solid, and Jim whispers in his ear, warm breath gusting over the shell, “It’s okay. You’re fine.”
Leonard tries to control his breathing, tries to tell Jim that it’s not fine, that they are in fucking space, that they are all going to fucking die, that it’s only a matter of time until they’re sucked into darkness and silence.
“Hey. Hey, look at me.”
Leonard does. It takes every bit of willpower he possesses and some more, but he does, averting his eyes from the screen, looking to his right, into blue eyes, reassuring and calm.
He breathes, deep and calming, and if he leans into Jim’s solid touch still on his back, he’ll blame it later on the shock, on the fear in his gut telling him to get away as fast as he can. He’s aware that there are other people watching him, but right now there is only blue, only the warm light of Jim’s eyes, the press of Jim’s hand into his back.
Leonard nods, slowly, carefully, not sure if his stomach is ready for him to move again.
Jim takes a tentative step back, and Leonard turns, only to see the black void again, and he reaches a steadying hand out, bracing himself.
An angry beep makes him jump, and Jim is back, holding him upright.
“Hey, easy. Everything is fine. Hey Pavel, why don’t you shut off the screen for a while?”
Leonard can feel the sweat on his face, his back, on his fucking toes, and he breathes deeply again, looking anxiously around. Out of the corners of his eyes he sees how the screen turns mercifully blank.
“I didn’t just start the self destruct sequence on this tin can, did I?” he asks, hating how fragile his voice sounds.
Jim chuckles, looks at where Leonard’s hand had landed on a button.
“I don’t think so. Hey Hikaru, what does this thing do?”
A young Asian man in a hilariously patterned Aloha shirt takes a step closer, looks at the button in question and says, “This? This is the seat heater for the captain’s chair. Could be your ass is getting a bit hot, Jim.”
“My ass is hot,” Jim laughs and slaps Leonard lightly on the back. “See, nothing bad.”
Leonard lets out a breath, not sure what to think, but Jim is already moving on.
“This is Hikaru. My first in command. Best man in the universe. Keeps my ass out trouble.”
“And you should pay me better for how often I have to do it.” Hikaru reaches out a hand. “Hi, nice to meet you.”
Leonard shakes the hand, and mumbles, “Hi."
“And this,” Jim leads him a few steps down to the middle of the bridge, hand still on his back, “is Scotty, ace with everything that can be used as a weapon.”
Leonard looks up and is greeted with the most hostile expression he’s ever seen, including his mother-in-law.
“Do we really need another mouth to feed?” Scotty grumbles.
“Hey now, you know what I told you.”
“Yeah, whatever. But don’t whine at me if rations get tight again.” With that, Scotty turns and slouches out of a door, grumbling all the way.
“Don’t sweat it,” Jim says reassuringly, “he’s not good with strangers. Buy him a whiskey though, and he’s your best friend.”
Leonard can get behind that.
“And this,” Jim continues, reaching the kid from the transporter room, now hovering over the control panels, “is Pavel. Youngest member of the crew, but the best pilot I've had in years.” Pavel turns a delicate shade of red as Hikaru makes a protesting noise, but Jim waves dismissively. “What? You forgot to release the handbrake, didn’t you?”
Hikaru mumbles something like “that one time”, and Leonard can’t help grinning.
“And last, but not least, this is the charming Christine, the best engineer in the galaxy, and the owner of my heart.”
Christine snorts at that. She’s a sight, blonde and tall, with a smudge of dirt on her cheek and a screwdriver in her hair.
“Don’t you listen to that idiot. Only woman who owns his heart is this bloody ship.” She sticks out her hand. “Nice to meet you...?”
Leonard takes her hand, turns it in his and bows, kissing the back of her hand lightly. “Ma’am.”
She giggles, withdrawing her hand. “See Jim, that’s a real gentleman.”
Jim laughs, eyes crinkling, and makes a encompassing gesture with both arms. “And this is my lady, the Insurgency.”
Leonard looks around and asks, “And what do you do, when not rescuing imperial prisoners?”
Jim smirks at him, lowering his arms. “I’d love to tell you, but I don't usually share that information with strangers.”
Leonard blinks, confused, but then it strikes him, and he hears the voice of his mother telling him that she wasted all her time on him. “I’m Leonard. Leonard McCoy.”
Jim widens his arms again, and Leonard has the feeling he’s quite a fan of dramatic gestures. “Welcome Leonard.” Then he frowns, brows knitting over his eyes. “No, that doesn’t work. Bones. That’s better. Welcome, Bones.”
Leonard can feel his eyebrow wander close to his hairline, and he’s about to ask, when Jim reaches out his hand and says, “And now, let me show you your quarters.”
“I didn’t say I wanted to stay!” Leonard protests weakly.
“For now you have to, our next stop is in a few days,” Hikaru says dryly.
Leonard sputters. “You said I could leave whenever I wanted.”
Jim shrugs. “Whenever you want and we’re close to a planet, of course. Or do you want me to chuck you out into space?”
Leonard shivers at the thought. “Why several days?"
“Because we need to find a planet where no imperial troops run around,” Jim says, flicking a finger at Leonard’s nose like he’s a stupid child.
Leonard really wants to say something to that, but Jim tugs at the fabric of his sweater. “Come on, let’s go.”
Leonard sighs, and follows. He’s got the feeling he doesn’t have any other options.
Jim leads him into another set of corridors, but Leonard stops at one point, remembering something. “You still haven’t told me what you’re doing out here.”
Jim turns around, eyeing curiously, then grins again. Leonard is not sure if he wants to punch him or kiss him. “What do you think?”
"I think you run around and attempt to get yourselves killed.”
“Close enough. Let’s just say we’re a bunch of people who do not like the Empire and do whatever we can to make their life hell. Including freeing stubborn doctors.”
Leonard rolls his eyes at that when a thought strikes him. “Wait, you're with the Terran Rebellion, are you?” That would just be his luck, ending up with a bunch of punks that tried to fight the Terran Empire with idealism and not much more.
Jim smirks. “What's left of it. We mostly work alone, but it's not like we have a monthly meeting or anything.”
Leonard can feel his heart drop, and he pinches the bridge of his nose. “Perfect,” he mumbles, “just perfect.”
“You should be glad that we detected your transport, seeing as though it was by accident. And that I went down despite Hikaru's protests.”
Leonard looks up at that, his face flushing at the slight reprimand. “I am. And I thank you. It's just not what I was planning to do on my weekend off.”
Jim shrugs at that, a small smile on his face. “Well, I wasn't planning on picking up a handsome doctor, but that's life, isn't it?”
“Well, in that case, fuck my life,” Leonard grouses quietly.
Jim only chuckles at that. “Come on, let's go.”
Leonard nods, and they move on, past empty rooms and old computers. It’s not far, only down the corridor really, and at least this time Leonard is pretty sure he can find the way to the bridge again if he has to. Not that he wants to return there as long as he lives.
“Here we are. It’s not much, but it's clean.”
The room is small, but enough. The bed is made, and the closet is big enough. Then Leonard sees the photo frame on one of the shelves lining the room, and he walks towards the shelf, turning to look at Jim with a frown on his face.
Jim follows his movement with his eyes, and comes to stand behind him, his hands on the frame. Jim is very close, close enough that his eyelashes could tickle Leonard’s cheek, so close Leonard can make out the exact color of his eyes, and smell a mix of sun and sand and something he cannot place. Leonard can’t stop the thick swallow as Jim darts out his tongue to wet his lips, leans in even closer, making Leonard go cross-eyed, and he murmurs something that Leonard can’t hear over the roar in his ears.
“Sorry, forgot to put that away.” Jim whispers, eyes still on the picture.
“Whose,” Leonard asks, and his voice is so raspy he has to cough before he tries again. “Whose is this?”
“Rodriguez. It’s Rodriguez.” Jim visibly shakes himself, looks to the side, not meeting Leonard’s eye. “It’s his old room.”
Then, as if he’s become aware again of where he is, Jim looks back at Leonard, grin in place, even if it looks a bit forced. “Sorry about that, but we are a bit limited when it comes to rooms you can actually use.”
Leonard wants to say something, ask something, but then Jim leans forward, hand rising to put back the photo, too close again. “I hope you don’t mind? It’s just... I think it’s too soon.”
“What happened?” Leonard hears himself ask, and wonders where the hell that came from since his brain seems to be on vacation.
“He died. On our last raid, the troopers got their hands on him and he... he died.”
Leonard swallows, feeling helpless as he tries to think of something to say. Jim tilts his head, and Leonard feels his stomach lurch again, for reasons that have nothing to do with space.
“Yes?” he asks while wondering when he started to answer to this nickname.
“You should really get a shower. You reek.”
Leonard makes a face at that.
“You can put your clothes into the laundry chute, if they still can be rescued.”
Leonard rubs the back of his neck. “And then what? Run around the ship naked?” He snaps, and yes, maybe he sounds bitchy, but it has been a long day.
Jim's grin only broadens, and the glint is back in his eyes as he gives Leonard a slow once-over. “As much as I would like that, I guess you may as well take Rodriguez's old clothes. In the closet. I know they’re not yours, but they are clean. You can get new ones at our next stop if you want.”
Leonard doesn’t really want to wear the clothes of a dead man, but since his other option is to run around in his birthday suit, he doesn’t say anything, only nods in agreement.
“Dinner’s at six. I’ll send someone to get you.”
And with that Jim is gone, and Leonard wonders how this turned into his life all of a sudden.
In the end, after a very long shower, he slips into a pair of boxers, and collapses on his bed, intending to just take a short nap and then think about what the fuck is actually going on, and what he’s going to do next.
He wakes to a noise next to his head, a weird shuffling that has him open his eyes in confusion.
Christine crouches next to the bed, head in the closet, ass sticking in the air.
Leonard clears his throat, and hears a thump, wincing in sympathy.
“Ouch,” comes Christine’s muffled voice from the closet, and she reaches up a hand to rub at her head. He watches her draw back and straighten, smiling at him sheepishly.
“Hey, you are awake. Sorry to walk in on you, but I was looking for something.”
Leonard raises an eyebrow, only too aware that he’s naked to the waist. “In my closet?”
“You’d be surprised what you can do with socks,” she answers, waiving a pair in the air.
Leonard really doesn’t want to know.
Christine crouches into the closet again, only to come back up with a heap of clothes in her hand.
“Here, Sleeping Beauty. Get ready for dinner.”
She throws the clothes at him, and because it’s one of those days, hits him square in the face with them.
“That looked graceful,” she mocks from where she’s sitting, and he can’t help but snort at that.
“Next time I wake you up you show me how graceful you are.”
“Is that a shitty come-on?”
“No, it isn’t. And now leave me alone, I wanna get dressed.”
“Nothing I haven’t seen yet. Besides, I have to take you to dinner, or Jim will take my screwdriver away again.”
Leonard doesn’t even want to know if she means that literally or not.
When he’s dressed in a black tank top and jeans a bit too tight - something Christine swears she’s picked at random - they weave their way around the ship again. Leonard tries to remember the way, but can’t keep up with the twists and turns. He could swear looking at a space ship that none of them could be so screwed up inside.
They emerge to an actual kitchen, with a stove and a huge table in the middle, looking more inviting than he’d imagined. The air smells of spices and tomatoes, and his stomach reminds him he hasn’t eaten in awhile.
Christine goes to stand next to Hikaru, who’s bent over a pot and eyes the contents suspiciously, like he’s waiting for an attack. Leonard looks around, when he spots Jim looking at him, sprawled in a chair, head tilted to one side. Leonard nods and tries to make up his mind on where to sit when Jim waves at him, indicating the chair next to him.
When Leonard sits down, he realizes that opposite him Scotty is scowling at him like he’s evil incarnate, but decides not to take it personally. He would be suspicious too if some stranger showed up on his spaceship all of a sudden. So he looks to Jim, who in turn looks at him, a slight smile on his face, a warm glow to his eyes, and if Leonard doesn’t stop this right now this is going to get embarrassing pretty soon.
Just as he feels warmth creeping up his face, Hikaru puts the pot on the table, waving a ladle around and announcing in a voice a circus director would be proud of, “Lady and Gentlemen - and Scotty - today’s dinner. Don’t thank me, I don’t know what it is either.”
He fills up the plates after that, and everyone is busy eating for a moment, the silence only interrupted with chewing and the clatter of cutlery.
Leonard regards his food with something between fear, respect and disgust, but when he tastes it, it’s actually not bad, and by now he'll almost eat anything. He’s halfway through his fill when suddenly Scotty drops his spoon with a clatter, looking at Hikaru with murder in his eyes. Leonard tenses, hand clenching around his spoon, watching.
“Really, you call this food? Our dogs would have gotten better stuff.”
It’s silent for a moment, and Leonard tenses a bit more, halfway out of his chair, when Hikaru lets out a chuckle and answers, “Sure. Why don’t you go back home and eat with the dogs then?”
“I killed those bloody beasts, and you know that,” Scotty grins back, his eyes gleaming almost maniacally. “And they still made better food than this.”
“As if you would know good food if it bit you in the ass,” Christine chips in, a big grin on her face.
Leonard realizes that they are joking, that there is no real danger, and relaxes, only now noticing how hard he’d grabbed the spoon, almost not able to let go again.
“In Russia, there is always good food. We don’t know how to make bad food at all.”
Everyone laughs at that, and even Leonard has to snort.
“What? It is true, my mother told me, it was in her genes to cook good.”
“Sure Pavel,” Hikaru says, patting the younger man on the hand.
Pavel turns an interesting shade of red at that and mumbles something into his plate.
“What about you Leonard? You think this sucks?” Hikaru turns to him, laughter in his eyes.
“Well,” he drawls, “this ain’t my mother's peach cobbler,” Christine makes a noise that would be obscene in a different context, “but it’s not poison either.”
“How very diplomatic of you,” Hikaru says and leans back, spoon sliding into his plate. “I think I could have done worse.”
“So could famine,” Scotty stage-whispers.
Leonard looks at Jim, who hasn’t said anything. He's watching his crew with an expression Leonard’s only seen on his father's face before; affection, pride, mild amusement, and in this moment, he looks more mature than Leonard has seen him before. Something flutters in his stomach, and he silently reprimands himself. This is not going to get easier if he falls for the man.
Around him, the conversation has moved on, stories of quests they had gone on together, and he feels a bit isolated, left out, so he excuses himself, mumbles about being tired and leaves the kitchen.
He’s a few steps into a corridor, when he hears Jim’s voice behind him. “Where do you think you’re going?”
“Back to bed. I’m tired.”
“Your bed is this way”, Jim answers, pointing to his right.
“Really? I could have sworn...”
“I know, the girl is confusing sometimes. Know what, I’ll show you.”
“No really, I don’t want to keep you from eating.”
And so Leonard follows Jim yet again. He’s trying and failing again to memorize the way, and is surprised when they arrive at his quarters sooner than he thought.
“Did you just take a short cut?”
“Possibly.” Jim shrugs, grinning.
“I will never find my way around here if you keep doing that.”
“I thought you didn’t want to stay.”
Leonard purses his lips. Jim only grins.
Leonard turns toward the door. “Well, I think I’ll find my way from here.”
Jim chuckles, and suddenly he’s in Leonard’s space again, sliding one arm around his waist. His lips brush Leonard’s ear as he whispers, “Good night”. before he plants a quick kiss on Leonard’s cheek.
Leonard is too surprised to do anything, and when his brain starts working again, Jim is gone, his footsteps echoing through the corridor. Leonard curses as he steps into his room.
Part One | Part Three | Master Post