evening_bat: Bat in flight, silhouetted against the moon. (Default)
[personal profile] evening_bat
Title: The Wonder That’s Keeping The Stars Apart
Author: [personal profile] evening_bat
Pairing: Kirk/McCoy
Rating: NC-17 (omg what)
Word Count: ~ 7550
Warnings: A bit of sexytime. Some bad language. Crossover wackiness and mangled mythology.
Summary: So it turns out that Bones is way better at keeping secrets than Jim thought.
Notes: Sequel to Carry It In My Heart because I kind of hated to leave things like that. Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] seryan for talking me down from an OMG I can't believe I just wrote that! panic attack so that I could get to work on this thing and to [livejournal.com profile] omphaloskepsist for preview-audiencing and general cheeerleading. :)

The Wonder That’s Keeping The Stars Apart

It took months for Jim to remember.

It started with an unbelievable away mission that had gone impossibly right, after starting horrifically wrong. Jim had barely been able to squirm his way through a hasty debriefing before he dismissed his senior crew and hastily dragged Bones back to his quarters. Keeping his hands to himself as they forced themselves to stroll oh-so-casually down the corridor from the turbolift took more self-discipline than Jim thought he had. That beside him, Bones was practically vibrating with the same need to touch was not helping. Flushed with success and high on relief, any semblance of restraint vanished before the door had fully closed behind them.

They stumbled through Jim’s quarters, hampered by their refusal to let go of each other long enough to walk to the bed. Jim briefly attempted to disentangle himself after the third time they bumped into something but gladly gave it up when Bones just hung on tighter. Efficiency didn’t seem anywhere near as important as trading frantic, open-mouthed kisses. Tripping over themselves as their entangled limbs pulled them off balance was a small price to pay for the contact, for the feel of Bones hot and alive in his arms. They eventually found the bed by falling into it and Jim scrambled blindly onto the mattress, following the tug of Bones’ hands.

It was later that it hit Jim, with his hands clutching Bones’ hips as Bones rode him. There wasn’t much in the way of coherent thought left in Jim’s head at that point. He was all but entirely focused on chasing his release, thrusting up into the hot clench of Bones’ body. Bones was even further gone, breathing in hitched groans as he rocked with Jim’s rhythm. Jim had long since lost control of his voice, spilling out the breathless litany of filth and devotion that sex with Bones never failed to inspire.

Fuck, Bones - so good - get your hand on your cock, c’mon, I want to see you - yeah, like that - God, like no one else, Bones, no one ever - fuck, love this, love you - c’mon, Bones, give it up -”

The words dried up as Bones made a helpless noise and came all over his hand. Jim pressed in deep and let Bones’ twitching shudders tip Jim right over the edge along with him. Jim whined deep in his throat as he lost it but the familiar rush of orgasm carried an unexpected surge of memory. He forced his eyes open just in time to the spread of wings from Bones’ back, flaring wide as Bones arched into his own touch. They matched the images unfolding in Jim’s mind, leaving him blinking dazedly at Bones as the wings flickered out and normality reasserted itself.

Jim had just scraped together enough brain function to hope that Bones would blame his stupefaction on being sex-stupid in the aftermath when Bones collapsed on him in a sticky, sated heap. Well, he supposed as he automatically slung an arm around Bones, that worked too. A bit of tired shuffling left them arranged more comfortably and Jim let himself drift as Bones snuffled contentedly into his neck. He kept one hand splayed against Bones’ back as sleep crept up on him, absently stroking the smooth expanse of his skin as he wondered what the hell was going on.

* * *

Jim slouched in the command chair, splitting his attention between the reports he was trying to catch up on and the calmly streaming starfield on the main screen. He’d never been so grateful for a persistently uneventful stretch of space. It made it much easier to disguise preoccupation as boredom. The crew expected Jim to sulk a bit when there were no crises to keep him entertained. Far be it for him to disappoint, even if the real source of his distraction was his efforts to work out what was up with Bones. The wings, Jim had to admit, had been quite a surprise.

“Captain,” came a dry interruption from over his right shoulder. “Is everything all right?”

Jim immediately straightened, looking up from the PADD in his hand and the paperwork he’d been neglecting a bit too blatantly if Spock was calling him out.

Somehow, Jim didn’t think, Everything’s fine! Unless you count the fact that Bones sometimes has wings. Or that I might be hallucinating the CMO with feathers. You know. The usual, would be the smartest answer to his first officer’s question. Not that he’d ever really entertained the idea that the wings were a product of his imagination. Not with how Bones had reacted. Not after he’d made Jim forget them.

He managed to restrain himself to a glib, “It’s all good, Spock. Just catching up on my reports.”

One of these days, Jim was going to figure out how Spock managed to radiate you are absolutely full of shit with a mere twitch of an eyebrow. In the meantime, he beamed his best Captain Awesome expression back at Spock and waved his PADD.

“I see,” Spock responded mildly. “Then I shall leave you to it.”

Wonderful. Now Jim was actually going to have to work on the damn reports.

By the time his shift ended and he was allowed to escape paperwork hell, Jim was ready to throw his PADD at someone. He made sure Spock was watching as he signed the last set of forms with a flourish. Jim was pretty sure that particular angle of eyebrow was the Vulcan equivalent of a slow clap but he did not care in the least. That was it, he was done and he wasn’t even looking at another requisition form until tomorrow at the earliest. He escaped into the turbolift with the first group of relieved personnel, nearly whistling as he trotted down the corridor to his quarters.

Finding Bones waiting for him when the doors hissed open was unexpected, but Jim wasn’t going to complain. He hadn’t exactly been avoiding Bones this week - nothing would make Bones suspicious faster - but he’d been less committed than usual to tracking him down during their off hours. It might have given him some room to think but it meant he hadn’t seen much of Bones lately. Not as much as he’d have liked, anyhow. He missed spending time with the irritable bastard, even if he was kind of breaking Jim’s brain a little.

“Hey, Bones. What’s up?” he asked as he made a beeline for his bedroom, already pulling his shirt over his head.

No wings tonight, Jim noted before fabric obscured his vision, but then that was about what he’d expected. The wings seemed to be the exception, not the rule. Jim had been keeping an eye out for them since that night in his quarters but he’d only seen them once. When he’d walked in on Bones ranting at one of the junior engineers, he’d stopped to watch the spectacle along with the rest of the Sickbay staff, but he’d bet it was Bones’ creative use of language that held their attention rather than the mantled wings, practically bristling with outrage. Aside from that incident, only an occasional faint flickering at Bones’ shoulders hinted that there was anything more to the man than the cranky image he presented to the world.

Curiosity was eating Jim alive. He’d never have thought that Bones could have hidden something of this magnitude without betraying himself in some way. But since he seemed pretty determined to keep his secret, Jim wasn’t going to say anything. Yet.

“Can you believe how boring things have been lately?” he called over his shoulder as he changed out of his uniform. “I know these surveys are important but come on! There has got to be something happening around here. It’s been five days!”

It was only after he walked back out into the main room and found McCoy sitting exactly where he’d left him that Jim belatedly registered the fact that he hadn’t heard so much as a grumble of acknowledgement since he walked through the door. That was never a good sign. Neither was the tension Jim now noticed in Bones’ hunched shoulders, or the grim expression on his face as he paged through one of Jim’s PADDs.

“Bones? Nothing to say about how we can all use some peace and goddamn quiet?” he prodded lightly as he padded over to the couch where Bones was sitting.

That won him a subdued snort, which lightened Jim’s worry. A Bones who could be annoyed into responding was a Bones who could be charmed back into a more pleasant mood.

“I’ve given up on peace and quiet around you,” Bones replied with an eyeroll, though the words lacked his usual exasperation.

“Good. I don’t need for things to be any less exciting than they already are,” Jim said firmly. He circled around the couch and perched on the edge of the low table in front of it. “And because it’s been so boring lately, I know you’re not in a snit over anything here on the ship. So I’ll ask again, what’s up?”

“Oh, not much,” Bones answered flatly, hands tightening around the PADD. “Just admiring your latest attempts at artistry.”

Jim frowned, abruptly scrambling to remember the data he’d left displayed on that PADD. It was one of the handful of personal PADDs he typically left scattered around his quarters. Christ knew what Bones could have found if he’d suddenly decided to start snooping.

No, wait, Jim told himself, forcing his thoughts to calmer calculation. This is Bones.

Jim was the one who took ridiculous liberties in their relationship, not Bones. He’d never taken the chance to even up the invasion of his personal life, not even when Jim would’ve counted it as fair trade. Bones wouldn’t stoop to prying, not unless Jim gave him a damn good reason to start looking, and he knew he hadn’t. More importantly, Bones wouldn’t know how to get at the details Jim didn’t want him to see. Jim knew a thing or two about keeping secrets as well and being the captain had more than a few advantages when it came to covering his electronic tracks. Hiding any evidence of snooping through personnel files was no challenge.

“Attempts at artistry?” he deflected. “What do you mean, ‘attempts’? I don’t attempt, I succee - oh. Those.”

Bones, apparently unimpressed by Jim’s blithe dismissal, had flipped the PADD around so that Jim could see the screen. It was the latest report from the Hydroponics lab, brimming with enthusiasm about a new hybrid they were coaxing into bloom. Seemed fairly harmless to Jim - hell, Bones had received his own copy, thanks to the plant’s potential medical applications. At first, Jim couldn’t see why the report would have freaked Bones out so badly and was opening his mouth to say so when Bones tapped a finger against the sketchy pictures scrawled in the margins.

Well, shit. Scattered amongst the usual collection of caricatures and schematics that Jim typically doodled on his paperwork were the unmistakable shapes of wings. Apparently Jim hadn’t been compartmentalizing quite as effectively as he’d thought. Time for some damage control.

Jim shrugged casually. “Yeah, so? I scribble all over my reports, you know that. This is my personal copy, I can deface it if I want to.”

“Yeah, Jim. I know that,” Bones confirmed tightly. “But you don’t usually linger on a theme like this. Something on your mind?”

“Nah, nothing to worry about,” Jim told him. Bones had handed him the perfect excuse months ago, when he’d reduced Jim’s first sight of the wings to a hopelessly blurred smudge of memory. “Just having some weird dreams lately.”

Bones looked sharply at him, eyes searching his face for a long moment before he dropped his focus to the PADD. He scrolled slowly through the procession of sketches, tracing the graceful arch of one outstretched wing with a fingertip. When he lifted his head again, his expression was still slightly troubled.

“Okay,” he conceded, “but you know you can talk to me if you need to, right?”

“Oh, come on!” Jim complained theatrically. “Not that I don’t appreciate the offer but for this?

Bones chuckled at that, frown finally easing. “Yeah, I suppose you’ve got far worse cluttering up that head of yours.”

“I do not have clutter in my head,” Jim protested, kicking lightly at Bones’ ankle. “Everything in here is pure gold.”

This time, Bones’ snort was anything but subdued. “Sure, kid. Whatever you say.”

There was a newly familiar resignation in Bones’ eyes as he leaned forward, reaching out and Jim found himself ducking out from under Bones’ hand before he’d quite registered it. He slid out of arm’s reach, smoothly getting back to his feet as he backed a safe distance away. Bones’ hand hung in empty space for a second before he lowered it to his thigh, staring at Jim in shock.

They blinked at each other in startled silence, Jim poised to evade and Bones frozen in place.

“Jim, what the hell?” Bones finally demanded, pitch-perfect confusion in his voice, but Jim didn’t think he was imagining the flicker of guilty fear he saw before Bones buried it under a scowl.

Jim hesitated, at an uncharacteristic loss. Normally he went out of his way to get Bones’ hands on him but the last time Bones had looked at him like that, Bones had pulled him close and whispered to him and Jim had forgotten. He wasn’t going to let that happen again.

“Sorry, Bones,” he started, hastily fumbling for an excuse. “I just-”

Jim had never been so glad to hear the ship’s comm whistle in his entire life.

He gave Bones an apologetic shrug and hurried to the comm panel. “Kirk here.”

Sorry to disturb, Captain, came the on-duty comm officer’s voice. We’ve received a priority communication from Starfleet. It’s been routed to your Ready Room and requires your immediate attention.

Jim hissed a sigh between his teeth. “I’ll be right there. Thanks, Lieutenant.”

Acknowledged, Captain. Bridge out.

When he turned around again, Bones had gotten to his feet and was standing awkwardly beside the couch.

“I’ve got to go,” Jim said, hiking a thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the bridge.

Bones nodded stiffly, lips pressed to a thin, pale line. He unclenched a fist to rub one hand tiredly over his face, shoulders slumping as the anger drained out of him.

Jim wanted nothing more than to escape this conversation but he hated to see Bones looking so deflated.

“Bones, I-” he started uncertainly.

Bones’ expression softened into something almost indulgent and he shook his head. “Go on,” he said roughly. His smile looked like it hurt. “They’re waiting for you.”

“They are,” Jim agreed. “But when I’m finished, we’ll talk, okay?”

He had no intention of leaving this mess linger unresolved but for now, a tactical withdrawal was in order.

* * *

Grateful as he’d been for the timely interruption, Jim would never understand the Admiralty’s idea of “priority.” He certainly didn’t see the need to drag an off-duty captain back to his office so that some stuffy Admiral could drone on at him about new diplomatic policies. He was almost as relieved to be finished with the conference as he’d been to receive the summons. Fortunately, thanks to a well-honed ability to multitask, he’d been able to pretend attention while considering the mess with Bones.

Honestly, Jim thought Bones was being a bit ridiculous about this whole thing. Yeah, a secret like this was a big deal. Jim understood why Bones would be careful to keep it under wraps. He wasn’t completely thrilled that Bones apparently felt he couldn’t tell him about it but, well, habit of a lifetime and all that. But what was the use in insisting on protecting a secret that Jim had already figured out - twice? Bones wasn’t stupid; Jim was confident he’d come around to seeing sense shortly.

But sooner, he thought as he nodded amiably along with the admiral’s speechifying, would be better.

With that in mind, the first thing he did after signing off was ask the computer where Bones was. It was no great surprise to hear that he’d retreated to his own quarters. Bones holed up when he was upset. Their earlier confrontation would have left Bones in need of a good wallow.

Being a big believer in beginning how you meant to go on, when Jim arrived at Bones’ quarters, he didn’t hesitate before sailing straight on in. He’d figured there was a good chance that his entrance would get Bones yelling so the sound of shouting didn’t surprise him - he’d just expected that Bones would be shouting at him. Instead, Jim walked into the middle of what sounded like an argument.

“-why you don’t just tell him!” an exasperated female voice said as the doors slid open.

“I can’t!” Bones snapped in response. “You know I can’t! The agreement was - Jim!”

Jim raised his eyebrows at the flustered expression on Bones’ face. “This a bad time?” he asked mildly. It certainly sounded as though he was interrupting something, even if there was no sign of the woman he’d heard arguing with Bones.

Bones’ eyes darted around his empty quarters as he scowled at Jim. “As if that would matter to you,” he griped, waving Jim forward. “No, get in here, now that you’re here. We might as well get this over with.”

“Are you sure?” Jim prodded curiously as he trailed after Bones. “I thought I heard yelling...?”

And another voice, he added mentally. A woman’s voice. Despite the fact that there didn’t seem to be anyone else in Bones’ quarters and the comm screen was dark. Bones really was just full of mysteries lately.

“Yelling?” Bones repeated, giving Jim a suspicious look. “I didn’t hear anything. Are you sure you’re feeling okay?”

“Oh, don’t tell me you’re trying this again,” Jim complained.

“Trying what again?” Bones asked with a convincing display of exasperation but Jim caught the uneasiness behind the bluster.

Jim rolled his eyes and sighed. “You know what?” he said to the ceiling. “I’ve changed my mind.”

“You - what?” This time, the emotion in Bones’ expression was 100% genuine. Jim couldn’t help but enjoy having turned the tables and smirked at Bones’ confusion.

“I’ve changed my mind,” he said again. “I’d like to take you up on your offer.”

“Offer?” Bones echoed cautiously.

“Yeah.” Jim nodded, pasting on his most earnest expression. “You said before that I could come and talk to you about these crazy dreams I’ve been having.”

“Oh for - Jim, now is not the best time- ” Bones started.

“But Bones!” Jim protested, widening his eyes in a parody of distress. “I think you might be the only one that can help me figure out what they mean!” A hint of steel had crept into his voice by the end of the sentence.

“I think he’s right,” a female voice declared before Bones could respond - the same voice Jim had heard as he walked into Bones’ quarters.

“See? The lady agrees with me.” Jim kept his voice light as he turned to see who’d spoken, more than a little bit curious about Bones’ mysterious guest. Where had she been hiding?

The sight of the most beautiful woman Jim had ever seen knocked anything approaching coherent thought right out of his head. He struggled to get a grip on his suddenly scattered faculties, pushing aside the sudden, irrational urge to fling himself at the woman’s feet. He was vaguely aware of Bones complaining behind him before a warm hand cupped his chin and forced him to focus on Bones’ familiar face.

“You with me again, Jim?” Bones sounded torn between annoyance and amusement, but his smile lightened the expression as Jim forced himself to nod, somewhat dazedly.

“Don’t worry, my mom has that effect on almost everyone,” Bones assured him.

“Your mom?” Jim demanded a bit wildly, stilling when Bones’ grip on his chin tightened, preventing him from looking around.

“You want to tone it down a bit?” Bones addressed the remark over Jim’s shoulder. “We kind of need Jim around here. He’ll be of no use to us if you leave his brain melting out of his ears.”

“Are you sure it’s everyone else you’re worried about?” that so-tantalizing voice teased.

Mom...” Bones growled, to a trill of laughter.

“I’m just saying! You seem to be awfully touchy where he’s concerned. In all senses of the word,” she purred.

Bones released Jim so suddenly that he lost his balance and was left stumbling to get his feet under him. Fortunately, his head cleared gratifyingly quickly.

“Your mom?” he asked skeptically, looking back and forth between Bones and the stunning blonde who glided into the room to drape herself artfully across Bones’ single comfy chair. She sure didn’t look old enough to be Bones’ mother. Didn’t dress like it either, though Jim definitely appreciated the gauzy pink number she was almost wearing. “‘Cause I have to tell you, I’m not seeing the resemblance.”

Which left the question of who the hell she was and how the fuck she’d come to be on Jim’s ship. Jim trusted Bones enough to hold off calling for a Security team but his patience only stretched so far. “Care to explain?”

Bones hunched his shoulders and bristled in that way that meant he was feeling put on the spot and was inclined to be prickly about it. “It’s kind of a long story,” he protested feebly.

“Let me rephrase that,” Jim said smoothly, voice hardening as he continued. “Tell me what the hell is going on. Right now.”

Bones’ too-pretty, too-young “mother” promptly burst into a dainty fit of giggling, earning herself a furious scowl. “So commanding!” she cooed.

“You could help out here, y’know,” Bones grumbled at her.

She shook her head, brushing a stray curl away from her face. “Oh no,” she insisted gleefully. “You made your bed, you can lie in it. Well, actually, you didn’t make it to bed and so maybe you should-”

“All right, all right!” Bones interrupted hastily. “On second thought, stop helping me.”

She pouted at him. “Well, get on with it, then! Your captain is waiting!” she sing-songed.

“Yes,” Jim said pointedly. “He is.”

Bones huffed and rolled his eyes but finally started talking. “You remember the last half of second year, Jim? When you spent a few weeks charming your way into the pants of that cadet with the astronomy hobby?”

Jim smirked at the memory, non-sequitur that it was. Did he ever remember. “Not likely to forget her,” he replied. “She did this thing with her-”

“I remember, Jim,” Bones interrupted with an aggrieved sigh. “You told me all about her thing. Over and over again. But that’s not the point. You spent weeks going on about how the ladies loved all that ‘crap about the constellations.’ You even memorized all the myths that went along with them so you could spin a better line of bullshit.”

“To appear well-educated and romantic,” Jim corrected primly. “And yeah, I did. So what?”

“So I know how thoroughly you research when you get a bug up your ass. What did you find out about Cupid and Psyche?”

Jim didn’t see what that had to do with his pending question but before he could say so, Bones said, “Indulge me?”

Okay, fine, Jim decided, launching into a much-abbreviated version of the story.

“Psyche was this woman who was so smoking hot that she made the goddess of love jealous. Aphrodite asked her son Cupid to go take care of it. He fell in love with Psyche instead. She broke the mortal-on-god romance rules and he took off. She went after him and got him back after Aphrodite made her run a gauntlet of impossible challenges. And then they lived happily ever after.”

“I wasn’t that bad,” the vision in pink protested sulkily.

“Yeah, Mom. You kind of were,” Bones responded, fondly exasperated. “And Jim? They didn’t live happily ever after. Just for a few thousand years or so.”

Jim narrowed his eyes at Bones. “See, I know you’re saying words but they don’t make any sense.”

Bones chuckled ruefully. “You’re smarter than that, Jim. Use that genius brain of yours and put the pieces together,” he instructed, rolling his shoulders in an unfamiliar gesture.

The answer fell into place as the white sweep of wings unfolded from Bones’ back.

“No way,” Jim breathed.

“‘Fraid so,” Bones said, shifting uncomfortably under Jim’s wide-eyed stare.

“How is that even possible?” Jim demanded.

“What, you think people stopped falling in love just because they forgot about us?” Aphrodite asked archly.

“Doesn’t matter whose name they’re calling,” Bones added with a shrug, feathers rustling. “We’re still the ones they’re worshipping. We just don’t interfere as much these days.”

Jim blinked as he tried to assimilate that. “So when you said your ex got the whole damn planet in the divorce...?”

“I meant it,” Bones confirmed. “Playing mortal, the offworld work with Starfleet, it was all part of the, well, call it the divorce settlement.”

“Holy fuck,” Jim muttered, mind reeling.

“Literally!” chirped Aphrodite, with a wicked smile.

Mom!” Bones yelped, flushing crimson.

Oh right. Cupid was the god of erotic love. And apparently Cupid was Bones. Jim’s best friend. Who’d been Jim’s best friend throughout a truly impressive string of sexual encounters before falling into bed with him himself.

“Oh my God,” Jim blurted, blushing almost as badly as Bones was.

“He might as well be, sweetie,” Aphrodite told him. “But it works for you. I think you’re adorable together.”

“It’s not like that,” Bones started to protest.

“You hush,” she ordered, pointing an imperious finger at him.

He subsided reluctantly, mouth snapping shut.

“Good. Your friend and I need to have a little chat,” Aphrodite said, rising gracefully to her feet and sauntering over to Jim. “Since you’ve been so shy about talking to the poor man.”

Bones made a strangled noise of dismay, wings fluttering anxiously before tucking themselves defensively against his sides, but otherwise stayed silent.

Jim hastily redirected his attention when Aphrodite drummed her fingers lightly against his chest. “Yes?” he tried, with his most winning smile.

“Oh, you are a charmer,” she said approvingly. “And very handsome. I can see why Cupid likes you.”

Jim was just starting to relax when she casually added, “The fact that you’re more than a little bit in love with him probably doesn’t hurt either.”

Jim froze for a long moment, then blew out a long sigh. “Yeah, I guess I am,” he admitted.

Jim wasn’t much of one for emotional introspection but he’d long come to terms with how damn important Bones was to him. And if the goddess of love was going to call him out on his feelings, well, he didn’t see the point in trying to lie about it. The stricken expression on Bones’ face wasn’t particularly reassuring but Aphrodite beamed delightedly at him as she patted him on the cheek. At least one of them was happy about it.

“And you!” Bones almost cringed under Aphrodite’s abrupt accusation. “I suppose you were going to try to make him forget that, too?”

“Of course I was!” he fired back. “What else could I do? I wasn’t supposed to come out here and fall in - find anyone to replace Psyche! The agreement was that I-”

“Oh, forget the stupid agreement!” Aphrodite insisted, stamping her foot. “You’ve been hiding behind that promise for years now!”

Bones flinched, shooting a guilty glance over at Jim. “I-”

“No,” Aphrodite interrupted. “You had your chance to sort this out, now it’s my turn.”

“Mom, don’t,” Bones pleaded. “Just let me fix this and we can all get over it and get on with things.”

Jim tried not to let that hurt. Okay, so he hadn’t been wooing Bones on bended knee but he hadn’t thought that the past three years would be so easy for Bones to erase. Then again, he hadn’t had any idea that Bones was Cupid so maybe he didn’t know as much as he thought he had.

“Don’t worry, baby,” Aphrodite soothed him as she gave Jim an absentminded but sympathetic pat on the chest. “I’m going to fix it for both of you.”

Jim glanced between them, then cleared his throat.

“Listen to your mother, Bones,” he ordered. He wasn’t sure what Aphrodite had in mind but it had to be better than resetting Jim’s memories again. He hoped.

Aphrodite treated him to a brilliant smile, then crooked a finger at him. He obligingly leaned down.

“Y’see,” she confided in a loud whisper, “Cupid’s always been a bit foolish about love. And you know what they say about once bitten, twice shy.”

Jim did and he figured the spectacular meltdown of a three thousand year long divine marriage entitled a guy to a few issues. He just kind of wished it wasn’t Bones having those issues.

“But see, he’s forgetting that love is my purview,” Aphrodite told him. “I know it when I see it. And I know when my son is fooling himself.”

Bones was staring at them now, eyes wide and worried, chewing on his lower lip as they discussed him.

“He’s worried that things with you will end like they did with Psyche,” Aphrodite continued. “But you’re a very different person than she is and this time Cupid’s not feeling the effects of his own arrows.”

Okay, the notion that Bones had gotten involved by his own choice went a ways towards easing the sting of his earlier rejection.

“Both good points,” Jim agreed mildly. “Did you have any ideas on how to convince him that we’re better off with my memories intact?”

“Well...” Aphrodite drew out the word, tapping a finger thoughtfully against her lips. “Psyche proved herself to us. Are you willing to do the same?”

“No!” Bones exploded from across the room. “You can’t do that! Jim, don’t be stupid!”

“Oh, come on, Bones,” Jim returned reflexively. “You don’t think I can handle a little challenge?”

“A little challenge?” Bones repeated incredulously. “They sent Psyche to the underworld, Jim. She walked through hell for me and I don’t mean that anything less than literally. And even that wasn’t enough to keep us together. Why would you even consider trying something this insane when it won’t convince me of anything beyond your complete lack of sense?!”

He looked so upset that Jim briefly wished he could give in and play it safe, just this once. He shook his head slowly.

“Thing is,” he said, “I don’t think you’re the only one I need to convince.”

Beautiful as she was, as sweetly as she’d spoken, there was no way Jim was going to make the mistake of assuming Aphrodite was entirely benevolent. The myth Jim had recited earlier was proof enough of that. Besides, Jim’s parents had taught him that love could hurt.

“True,” she conceded easily, a pleased smile curving her lips.

“But he doesn’t have to!” Bones insisted frantically. “Jim, you don’t need to do this. We can find another way!”

“There is another way - but only one. Your Jim has two choices,” Aphrodite announced firmly.

“And they are?” Jim asked, overriding Bones’ furious splutter.

“One, you agree to prove yourself by completing a challenge of our choosing,” Aphrodite explained, which was more or less what Jim had expected.

“And my other option?” Jim inquired.

Aphrodite shrugged, spreading her hands wide. “You forget,” she said simply.

Bones pounced on that. “That one, he chooses that one.”

“I do not,” Jim negated sharply.

“But we did that before and it worked fine!” Bones exclaimed, throwing his hands up in frustration.

“No, Bones,” Jim told him, almost gently. “You did that to me before. And it was not fine.”

Bones faltered, anger collapsing as he rubbed his hands over his face. “I was just trying to keep us safe,” he muttered disconsolately.

Jim stepped around Aphrodite and walked over to Bones. He settled his hands on his shoulders, marvelling at the soft brush of feathers, and shook him lightly. “Since when have I ever wanted to be safe?” he asked wryly.

Bones scowled at him a bit shakily. “Now would be a great time to start!”

Jim laughed and leaned forward to press a kiss to his forehead. “Not likely,” he whispered before he pulled away.

“There won’t be any of that if you decide that forgetting is the way to go,” Aphrodite volunteered helpfully.

“What do you mean?” Bones asked sharply, wings curving forward and brushing against Jim’s sides.

Jim squeezed Bones’ shoulders before he let go, stepping out of the wings’ protective embrace as he turned to face Aphrodite. “Because I remembered, even though Bones tried to make me forget. So if I let you make me forget again, you’ll take more away - enough to make sure it doesn’t come back this time. Right?”

Maybe enough that he’d wind up losing the fact that he and Bones had ever been friends, much less anything more than that.

“Pretty and smart,” Aphrodite said approvingly, which was all the confirmation Jim needed.

Hovering at Jim’s shoulder, Bones had gone very still.

“You know that’s not an option for me, right, Bones?” Jim asked without turning around.

“Jim, no.” It was a nearly airless whisper.

“Hey, don’t worry,” Jim reassured him confidently. “I’ve beaten impossible tests before, remember?”

Bones choked out something that bore a vague resemblance to a laugh and shifted so that his solid warmth was pressed against Jim’s back. His arms slid around Jim’s chest in a brief, hard embrace as he leaned forward to speak roughly into Jim’s ear.

“You had better come back to me in one piece, you bastard,” he managed.

Jim risked leaning back into him for a second, fortifying himself with Bones' familiar strength and unfamiliar softness.

“Always do,” he promised quietly.

Bones’ grip tightened before he sighed, breath gusting past Jim’s ear in a shaky exhalation, and let go.

Jim straightened, amping up his smile as he turned to face Aphrodite again.

“So!” he said brightly. “What are the terms of your challenge?”

The indulgent smile with which she’d watched Bones wrap himself around Jim faded into a wide-eyed look of false surprise.

“Oh, it’s not my challenge!” she contradicted.

Jim considered that. “I don’t suppose you mean that you’ve changed your mind and you’re just going to hand Bones over so we can try the happily ever after thing?”

“Don’t be silly. It’s just that I was the one who set the tasks for Psyche and we all know how well that worked out. So I thought this time I’d leave the testing to Cupid’s father,” she explained blithely.

“What? No!” came the immediate protest from Bones. “Nobody said anything about bringing Dad into this!”

They both ignored him.

“So what’s it going to be?” Aphrodite asked Jim.

Forgetting this or facing down the god of war for the go ahead to date his son? Not even a question.

“It won’t be my first trial by combat,” Jim replied lightly. “Bring it on.”

“You’re right, ‘Dite,” a voice announced from directly beside Jim, who barely managed to restrain a startled jump. This business of people appearing out of nowhere was hell on the nerves. “I do like him.”

Jim had time to spin to his left and form a snapshot impression of black leather and a strong-featured face before Ares moved.

“Here’s your challenge, kid,” he offered through a fierce grin, one hand already swinging forward. “Survive this.”

There was a moment of numb shock as the blow landed, then fire erupted in the centre of Jim’s chest. The last thing he heard as his vision went dark was Bones shouting his name.

* * *

When Jim opened his eyes, he was immediately aware he was in Sickbay. Long familiarity made him able to identify the ambient noise and bland ceiling panels even before he moved on to tackling the difficult questions, like how he’d ended up there this time. But something was different today, he realized, squinting up at the ceiling in bemusement. Everything seemed sharper-edged, brighter colours and darker shadows painting themselves in his vision. The air seemed crisper against his skin. It was a weird contrast to the usual muzziness that generally accompanied his awakenings in Sickbay.

The sound of footsteps caught his attention and he rolled his head to the side.

“Welcome back, Captain,” Chapel said as she appeared at his bedside, smiling at him. She didn’t look quite right either, though Jim couldn’t pick out exactly what the oddness was. “Glad to see you’re back with us. I’ll go get Dr. McCoy - he’s been waiting for you to wake up. He’ll be sorry he missed you.”

Even her voice sounded weird. Bones must have him on the good drugs, he decided and relaxed into the bed while he waited for the man himself. There would be people panicking if there was anything seriously wrong, he reasoned. Might as well wait for Bones to catch him up on what went on after that disastrous meeting with his father. For now, he was alive and he remembered Bones and that was good enough for Jim.

“You would pick the first five minutes I’m not around to wake up, you inconsiderate prick,” was Bones’ exasperated greeting.

Jim opened his eyes and beamed up at Bones but the cheerful retort he’d planned dried up in his throat when he got his first look at him.

Part of Jim recognized that Bones looked the same as he ever had: blue shirt, dark hair and grumpy scowl. The rest of Jim was busy gaping at the sheen of gold that hazed his entire view of Bones. Blond streaked through his hair, tanned skin gleaming, feathers glittering as he settled his wings. For a long moment, Jim wasn’t sure if the dark shape in Bones’ hand was a hypospray or an arrow.

“What happened?” he demanded, shaken. “What did he do to me?”

“Officially? You were visiting me when there was some sort of energy discharge in my quarters. Scotty’s busy trying to figure out what went wrong but he says it should be safe now.”

His voice was even stranger than Chapel’s but Jim was starting to adjust to the weirdness and found that he didn’t mind the sound. He shifted on the biobed, scrabbling until he managed to pull himself upright.

“And unofficially?” he prompted.

Bones’ expression crumpled. “Jesus, Jim. I am so sorry. I wanted to stop it - I would have if I-”

Jim reached out, stopped the flow of words by the simple means of placing a finger over Bones’ mouth. The double vision was starting to ease, bare-chested archer fading back into the more familiar sight of his Bones. A faint gold tinge lingered but it suited him.

“You just swore by Jesus,” Jim remarked. “Are you allowed to do that? Doesn’t your, uh, grandfather mind?”

Bones looked at him in disbelief, then broke down into half-hysterical chuckles. “Call it part of my cover,” he managed through his snickers. “They don’t mind.”

Jim pondered that for a second. “I don’t think I want to know who you mean by ‘they’.”

“Probably not,” Bones agreed. “Besides, I think maybe we’ve got more pressing things to discuss than comparative religion.”

“I’d say so, yeah.” Aside from whatever the hell was going on with his perceptions, there was the faint burn of power still trailing along Jim’s nerves. It didn’t hurt but it wasn’t an entirely comfortable feeling. “So what happened?”

“My parents happened,” Bones grated. “Dad worked out a challenge, all right. Of the ‘whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ variety.”

“Well, it didn’t kill me,” Jim ventured.

“Thank fuck for that,” Bones muttered, belatedly activating the privacy screen as he sank to a seat on the edge of Jim’s bed.

“So what did it do?”

Bones hesitated, scrubbing a hand through his hair. “Okay, so you know how you’re feeling all weird now?”

“Yeah...” Jim drawled. “And I’d really like to know why.”

It couldn’t be that bad, since Bones wasn’t freaking out, Jim told himself. Really.

“Mom was the one that pointed it out,” Bones said.

“Pointed what out?” Jim asked impatiently.

“I always thought I knew you better than anyone else. I mean, I knew you were special even before you made yourself into Starfleet’s golden boy,” Bones rambled, eyes fixed on his hands, curled into his lap. “I just - I guess I missed the things that made you special.”

“You’re back to not making any sense again,” Jim complained, forcing the words past the sick feeling in his throat.

Bones shook his head. “Turns out that my family tree’s not the only one with a few very special apples on it,” he said.

Jim just stared at him, wide-eyed. “What?”

“I missed it but Mom and Dad spotted it right off. Somebody on your dad’s side, they think. Younger than we are, and with a colder feel, but close enough. And Dad decided that’d be as good a test as any,” Bones fumbled his way through the explanation.

“Bones, what are you saying?” Jim was practically breathless. He couldn’t be understanding this right.

“I’m saying that you’re maybe a little bit less human than you always thought you were. And that my dad reached in and woke up that part of you. If it killed you, then you weren’t worthy. If you survived, you wouldn’t need the ambrosia to make you my consort,” Bones told him, shoulders hunching as he braced himself for Jim’s reaction.

“Are you serious?” Jim demanded.

“Yeah, Jim. I am. I’m sorry, I-”

“We’re married?”

Bones blinked, guilt trip momentarily derailed. “Wait, that’s what you’re upset about?”

“Who said I was upset?” Jim asked, grinning uncontrollably. “You just told me that I’m practically a god and we’re married. What’s to be upset about?”

Bones floundered for a moment, clearly taken aback by Jim’s enthusiastic acceptance of his new status. “You’re okay with this?” he checked.

“Oh, I reserve the right to have a fit later but on the whole? Hell yes, I’m okay with this,” Jim told him. This was a far better outcome than anything he’d even known was possible.

Bones was still looking a bit shell shocked so Jim shuffled across the bed, until he was sitting next to him.

“We can discuss the details later but we’ll get it worked out,” he promised, leaning into Bones’ side. "Trust me, Bones. This is a good thing."

“You’re unbelievable,” Bones responded, shaking his head. He pressed a kiss to Jim’s temple. “Absolutely un-fucking-believable.”

Jim decided that Bones needed a demonstration of just why this development was awesome and turned to catch Bones’ mouth with his own.

Anything that let him keep this forever was a good thing in Jim’s book.

“You taste different,” he whispered against Bones’ lips as he pulled back just far enough to speak.

“You too,” Bones murmured back.

“Oh yeah? Different how?” Jim asked, licking his lips and enjoying the way Bones shivered as Jim’s tongue flickered against his mouth.

“Mm,” Bones hummed thoughtfully, trailing light kisses across Jim’s jawline. “Can’t quite put my finger on it.”

Jim gasped out a laugh, tipping his chin up under Bones’ attention. “Then you’re not trying hard enough,” he declared, reaching out and tugging Bones’s wrists.

For once, Bones didn’t protest that they were in Sickbay, that anyone could walk in on them, that this wasn’t the place or time. He just followed Jim’s lead, giving into Jim’s not-so-subtle suggestion and latching onto whatever parts of Jim were closest.

Jim briefly wondered if that flicking gesture he’d felt Bones make before he surged forward had anything to do with his sudden willingness to molest Jim in public. Jim could care less either way. As far as he was concerned, the whole goddamn crew could come in and watch, Jim wasn’t letting Bones go. He had whole new flavours of Bones to catalogue and just shy of eternity to do it. Time he got started.


End Notes: Title taken from the same e. e. cummings poem from which I took the title from the first part, "i carry your heart with me".

Do I really need to tell anyone about Chris Hemsworth's other recent major movie role? :) Who's to say that George & Jim Kirk aren't descended from a line of blond & blue-eyed men who love a good fight and otherwise favour their long-ago ancestor?

I had fun with this one, but man, was it a bitch to write! Hope you enjoy!


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