Fandom: Star Trek AOS
Warning: No major warnings apply
Summary: A White Collar-inspired Trek AU. Leonard McCoy is an FBI agent who spent years chasing after one Jim Kirk (it's not stalking if you're assigned to the case, dammit), and who figures he knows Kirk pretty damn well. But even he is baffled when Kirk pulls out a bold escape few months before his sentence is up. Could this be a beginning of a partnership? Or of something more?
Written for au_bigbang. Please check out the wonderful accopanying graphics and fanmix here, done by the fantastic merihn
The day hadn’t started well for Leonard McCoy, but then again, the days at the office rarely did. The coffee machine was broken, the Van Gogh they had found during the bust turned out to be a fake, and Jim Kirk escaped from prison.
“Well, at least it gives us a probable suspect for the Van Gogh forgery,” he said, drinking the awful, awful concoction one of the interns brought from Starbucks. Leonard had never seen the point of Starbucks.
Uhura shook her head, her earings, the only thing she tended to wear that wasn't strict professional dress-code, catching the sun. “I’d love to blame Kirk,” she said. It was true, she would. “But the timeline is off, he has been gone for only four hours.”
“Which of course leads us to the big question: how the hell did he escape the Supermax?”
She smiled. “You know, that’s the exact same thing everyone’s been asking themselves. And it seems like you are the lucky guy to go and find the answer. They want you on the case,” she said sweetly, in the way she always delivered the worst of news.
“Did they say why?”
“Well, you were the one who caught him in the first place,” she told him matter-of-factly and patted his shoulder. “Lighten up, I’m sure it’ll be fun.”
McCoy had learned in the course of the last two years that Nyota Uhura was usually right. It made her invaluable for the team, but also a little annoying to be around. But this time he didn’t see how she could get that one right; chasing Jim Kirk had taken three years out of his life and hadn’t been even slightly amusing. Well, maybe at the beginning, and sometime near the end. And a few bits in the middle.
The warden and the guards seemed to hate him on the spot, but that was quite fine, because Leonard hated them right back, the incompetent idiots. It was a wonder Kirk hadn’t broken out a long time ago.
Come to think of it, running with three months left on your four years sentence? A dumb thing to do, and Jim Kirk was a great many things, a lot of them which Leonard enumerated loudly every day he chased after him, but he certainly wasn't dumb.
There were some hints in the cell, for sure - the flyers, the old cassette recorder Kirk must have used to fix up one of the guards’ id card; but by far the most interesting was a razor that he allegedly used to shave his beard off. Jim Kirk with a beard, Leonard would probably pay a good few bucks to see this.
He didn’t have to pay, of course, the security footage provided him with possible hours of entertainment. He was right, Kirk did look ridiculous with all the fur around his face. But that, albeit amusing, wasn’t the most important thing he gained from the whole thing. What Leonard had now was the timeline.
And sure enough, on the day he stopped shaving Kirk had his one and only visitor during his entire incarceration period.
“Spock,” McCoy muttered, shaking his head. Of course. Because his life wasn't difficult enough.
“You know him?” the warden asked.
“Well, that would be what I meant by ominously stating his name,” Leonard said flatly. Turned out that the warden had even less of a sense of humor than McCoy did, and people often said that McCoy must have had his funny bone surgically removed. It wasn't quite sure, he just handed it in the day he picked up his badge and his piece.
McCoy could never really figure Spock out. Kirk had been easy, and according to some, in all the meanings of that word. Kirk wanted the fun and the adventure and the easy money, and most of all, he wanted to see how far he could go, how far he could take the con. He was a con artist for the very sake of the art, walking the tight rope every day and laughing at the heights. Spock was, by all accounts, a respectable, law-obiding citizen, who ran his own art gallery with a spotless reputation, and yet he somehow never seemed to be far from whatever game Kirk was running.
At least that meant Spock wasn’t all that hard to find, unlike some other people.
“Agent McCoy,” the man greeted him as Leonard entered his office at the gallery, immaculate and neat, not a thing out of place. Well, maybe not before, because Spock looked at McCoy as if he was a stain on his favourite carpet. It didn't change his expression that much. “How may I be of assistance?”
Spock was… well, he was polite and poised and somehow always making McCoy feel as if his clothes were wrinkled and his shoes unpolished. It was downright annoying on the best days, and today wasn’t even a good one.
“Let’s not do this crap today,” he muttered, running his hand through his hair tiredly. He knew from experience you didn't get much sleep when chasing after Jim Kirk, and he wasn't quite looking forward to that. “Look, you know who I’m looking for, I know you know where he is.”
Spock tilted his head, watching McCoy with that curious, searching expression of his, his eyebrow raised and the look of intense concentration on his face, as if he was trying to read Leonard’s thoughts. Who knew, maybe he could; the guy was really weird.
“I have no idea what you mean. I’ve spent the last few days at a hospital, sitting with an old friend, I just came in here,” he said slowly, almost pointedly. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a backlog of paperwork to go through, and I’m sure you have places to be, agent McCoy.”
Well, there was that. With anyone else, Leonard would have taken it as a brush-off it sounded to be, but this was Spock, volunteering even a slightest bit of information about his personal affairs. That didn’t happen, and so it was significant.
There was only one person who could inspire loyalty from both Spock and Kirk. And there were very few things Kirk would have risked four more years for. He had to know Leonard would find him, as whatever prompted the escape had to be worth it.
“Uhura,” Leonard said when she picked up the phone after just one ring. “Check the hospitals. Look for Christopher Pike, or any of his known aliases.”
“Will do. Who’s Pike?”
McCoy shrugged. “Someone for whom Jim Kirk would escape from prison three months before his sentence was up.”
Pike was in the hospital’s records under his own name, which was in itself surprising, but not enough to worry Leonard. Of course, while the man was implicated in several forgeries, thefts and confidence scams, there were no open warrants for his arrest at the moment.
He was also in a coma.
“They have no idea if he’s getting out of it,” Uhura told him on the phone, after she got the hospital records. “Shot four times, serious internal injuries, not to mention the head trauma,” she added. “It doesn’t look good, McCoy.”
“No shit,” he muttered, standing in front of the doors to Pike’s room. The blinds weren’t completely closed, and the doors were opened a crack, and he could see Kirk’s bent form next to the bed. He pocketed his phone and pushed the doors.
Kirk tensed visibly but didn’t turn around. “I was wondering how long it was going to take you,” he said casually, his tone light and his smile firmly in place, Leonard could tell, but he could just easily tell that the smile was completely fake.
“And how did I do?”
“Frankly, I expected better, Leonard,” Kirk said mournfully, shaking his head, as if he despaired of Leonard.
McCoy nodded and stepped in, his gun raised as he surveyed the room. No one but Kirk and Pike’s still form on the bed, hooked up to the machines. “You carrying?”
“Not if I don’t have to,” Kirk said, and glanced down at Pike. “And I think I might actually hate guns now.”
McCoy slowly lowered his, and after a moment of thought, placed it back in the holster. He didn’t think Kirk would have had time to procure a gun, but even if he did, he probably wouldn’t use it here in this room, at that moment.
He never quite believed in honor among thieves, but he prouded himself on knowing Kirk, and there actually were things you could take his word for. Surprising as that may be.
“In the middle of the street, McCoy,” Kirk said flatly. “Four shots, broad daylight, no one stopped the guy.”
“You’re surprised? I thought you were supposed to be the expert on people.”
Kirk shrugged. “Yes, well. Okay,” he muttered, standing up, brushing some invisible speck of dust from the sleeve of the doctor’s labcoat he stole from wherever. He did that, even when not necessary, always one for the flair and the theatrics. After a while, it probably became subconscious. “I assume you have people on the outside. Do I even want to know how many?”
“All of them,” Leonard said dryly and reached for his handcuffs. “No point in trying to run, you won’t get far.”
Kirk spread his arms theatrically, calling up one of his best fake smiles, white teeth flashing. “Where would I run?”
Leonard nodded, his mouth tightening, as the cuffs clicked closed around Kirk’s wrists. It felt like a success the first time he had done that, the first time he caught Kirk. Now, the metalic click sounded unpleasant to his ears, too final.
The last time, he handcuffed Kirk's hands behind his back, and done it cheerfully. This time, it was in the front. He didn't quite like the reasons for that change, half of which he still wasn't admitting to himself.
“Hey, how’s your wife?” Kirk asked pleasantly, as if he was making a polite conversation at a dinner party.
“Got divorced,” Leonard muttered and didn’t add ‘as you probably well know, damn you’.
Kirk blinked comically. “Huh. Was it something I did?” he asked, his tone a perfect mockery of 'aww, shucks' mentality he seemed to favor sometimes.
McCoy rolled his eyes. “You and the rest of your bunch, I suppose. But no, mostly me. I have been informed that some women take offence at their husband’s jobs always taking first place.”
“You have a demanding job,” Kirk agreed, glancing at Pike’s still form for a moment, obviously considering something, his teeth briefly worrying at his lower lip as he seemed to think something over. “Take that Van Gogh case.”
Leonard glanced up sharply, frowning suspiciously. He didn't think Kirk was involved in that one, but the man was full of surprises. “And what would you know about that?”
“I can tell you a few things. If you agree to see me in prison. A meeting, in a week,” Kirk said quickly. “Promise me, and I’ll give you your forger,” he added hotly.
“Fine. Entertain me.” Leonard caught Kirk’s gaze briefly and made a point of rolling his eyes then nodded, serious. “Alright, I promise,” he muttered.
“You know, Leonard, you’re one of the very few people whose word I actually belive,” Kirk said, his expression surprisingly honest and open, taking Leonard by surprise. He had seen that before, a few times, and always marvelled at the fact that a world-class conman could look like this. It could be an act, layer upon layer of lies, but Leonard's gut told him otherwise. “Look at the painting under a polarized light. He signed it.”
“No one is that stupid,” Leonard said slowly, shaking his head, then took in Kirk’s expression. “Are they?”
“Ever looked at my work under polarized lights?”
There was that. Never. He didn’t answer, just shrugged, as the room filled with the agents and the Marshalls, ready to take Kirk in.
“Remember, agent McCoy, a week,” Kirk reminded him as he was led away, turning to look at Leonard over his shoulder.
It seemed that Leonard had dug himself a brand new grave. Well, he had always been rather good at that, why stop now?
Spending most of his waking hours obsessing over Jim Kirk wasn’t anything new, Leonard had three years of that under his belt, but now he couldn’t exactly call it work anymore. Kirk was back in prison, with four additional years tacked on to his sentence.
It didn’t sound exactly fair; he just wanted to see his friend in the hospital, a part of McCoy thought.
On the other hand, there were proper channels for that.
Well, would he wait, if it was him?
Then again, he wouldn’t do anything that would have gotten him into prison in the first place, now would he.
Leonard crumpled the sheet of paper with the form he was supposed to be filling out and spent half an hour doodling on instead and tossed it at the bin. He missed.
“Oh, just go and see what he wants,” Uhura told him dryly, setting a large cup of coffee in front of him, her arched eyebrow clearly saying it was a one-time thing, because he looked all confused and pathetic, and not to expect it in the future. Uhura could say that with her arched eyebrow, she really could. “The intel on the Van Gogh was solid,” she added pointedly and Leonard nodded.
And besides, he wasn’t going to go back on a promise made.
Kirk apparently knew that, and didn’t even look surprised to see Leonard a day earlier than the promised week. “Got your guy?” he asked, sitting down as comfortably as the really uncomfortable orange suit let him, and apparently there was one item of clothing which Jim Kirk didn’t look ridiculously good in.
“We did. Uhura says thanks,” Leonard deadpanned.
“No, she doesn’t,” Kirk smirked.
“No, she doesn’t,” he agreed and sat down, glaring at Kirk. It didn't quite carry through, he knew, he was tired and annoyed at himself for thinking up the scenarios he walked into by making this little deal with Kirk. “What do you want from me, Kirk?”
“What, no small talk?” Kirk asked, but he was already busy with shuffling the files in the manilla folder in front of him. He seemed nervous, and that worried Leonard, because it was so damn strange; the last time he had seen Kirk nervous was, well, to be honest, never, not even when the handcuffs clicked around his wrists.
“Kirk,” he warned.
“I can help you get Nero,” Kirk said quietly.
It wasn’t what Leonard expected, not even in the ballpark. He crossed his arms, staring at Kirk, waiting for the man to look up. “You know, trading information for a lighter sentence is really something you should discuss with your lawyer,” he suggested.
“My lawyer hates me,” Kirk confided, but it seemed like a joke Leonard wasn’t privy to. “I don’t have information to trade. But I do have skills you might need,” he offered with a smile.
“The same ‘skills’ that got you a nice comfy cell in here?” he asked. It was low, but he couldn't stop himself.
“You know what they say, Bones, to catch a thief…”
“They do say that, don’t they,” Leonard muttered, grimacing at the nickname. It's familiar but still not comfortable, and it was a long time since he heard it. He shouldn't have missed it. “Alright, entertain me. What’s your insane idea?”
Had to say, he was intrigued. He’s been after Nero for almost as long as he’s been after Kirk, the possibility of getting even one step closer wasn’t something to dismiss lightly.
Kirk pushed one of the files towards him. “You can have me released into the FBI’s custody.”
Well, that one Leonard should have really seen coming. “No way.”
“Kirk, the moment you’re out, you’ll be heading for Monte Carlo or wherever the hell else and frankly, chasing you down once was damn tiring, I’m not eager to repeat the ride.”
“Didn’t you have fun?” Kirk smirked and placed another sheet of paper on top of the first one. “GPS tracker ankle bracelets. Never been skipped on.”
“I know your resources, kid. You’d manage.”
Kirk gave him a very pleased wide smile, his perfect teeth showing. “I’m flattered that you think so. But I’m not running, not this time,” he said firmly and damn him, Leonard actually believed he meant that. It didn’t change much, in the grand scheme of things, but he believed it.
“Can’t risk it,” he said and stood up, his hand briefly patting Kirk’s shoulder as he moved to head out. “Sorry, kid,” he added quietly and found that he actually meant it.
“So, you’ll think about it, then?” Kirk yelled after him and when Leonard glanced over his shoulder, just briefly, taking in Kirk’s slumped form, so different from the usual cocky image he presented to the world.
It didn’t quite make Leonard change his mind, but his resolve wasn’t as firm as it had been just few seconds ago. Damn Jim Kirk.
Jim Kirk’s file crossed Leonard desk for the first time eight years ago. Of course, it wasn’t really Jim Kirk’s file then, it was Nigel Wainwright’s. An altogether unimpressive conman who disappeared into oblivion soon after. Then it was Charles Bilsop, a jewelry thief. Marcus Connor. Gary Coleman. And then the little details begun to add up, and suddenly, Leonard’s job became much more interesting.
He still remembered the first time he caught the whiff of the man behind all the names. It was because of a girl, and that was a common enough pattern with most of the confidence artists Leonard met; they couldn’t resist the charm and they couldn’t resist a pretty face.
Her name was Carol, she was smart as a tack, with a sharp tongue and a warm smile, and Kirk gave her his real name. For all that Leonard knew, of course, it didn't have to be his real real name, could have been someone else's life he picked up at some point. But the social security check and the details they got from that matched up with what they knew of Nigel and Charles and all the others. Military hero of a father, an absentee mother, kid bounced up from a relative to relative, it fit with the profile they had, however little Leonard really trusted the profiles.
And then there was Paris, and of course from all the cliché cities, he would meet Jim Kirk in Paris. Well, not really in the proper Paris, although they met while the plane was still on the ground and technically still on the French soil, so it probably counted.
Leonard hated planes and hated flying even more so, but the case of the stolen painting from the US embassy in Paris had been enough of a high profile thing that he let himself be persuaded and boarded one of those flying deathtraps. And then again to get back home, not comforted at all by the fact that he didn’t crash the first time. That didn't improve his chances at all.
The agency didn’t shell out for the first class, which meant folding himself into the tiny seats in coach, next to an amused kid who listened to his ranting to the flight attendant with a slowly blossoming smirk, and who turned to Leonard the moment he sat down.
“Hi, I’m George,” he said politely, as if it was his first day at kindergarten and his mother had told him to play nice with other kids, but the lazy smirk underneath was somehow becoming, and Leonard didn’t have much choice but to shake the offered hand. The handshake was fry and firm, and George kept smiling, which on anyone else would be a manic expression, but on him was quite attractive.
“Leonard McCoy,” he muttered, but the guy didn’t offer anything more, so George it was, Leonard didn’t care that much. He did care about getting the attendant to bring him whiskey to alleviate his aviophobia at least a little. It didn’t really work, but his hands shook a little less when he was holding a glass, so there was that.
“So,” George started, and Leonard swore to himself, if it was going to be ‘are you a nervous flyer’ following, he planned to make polite conversation for the next forty seconds and then feign sleep for a long while. But what followed instead was a smirk that wasn’t lazy anymore but downright dirty, and “Did you have sex on the Eiffel tower while you were in Paris?”
It startled a laugh from Leonard and he shook his head. “It was just a business trip.”
“So, I have a wife at home?”
“So?” George asked, and he was laughing openly now, and Leonard couldn’t help it, he rolled his eyes and smiled back. There was something Leonard kind of liked about the way George’s eyes crinkled when he smiled, and around the façade of a thoughtless jerk there was an actually intelligent gleam, and he looked like he was having the greatest fun, and inviting Leonard to share the joke.
“So, she would break every bone in my body if I ever tried anything behind her back. Jocelyn’s a pistol,” he said proudly, because she was, and because he loved that about her.
“Every bone in your body, huh? And she's not pissed off you went to the most romantic city in the world without her?” George asked, settling comfortably into his seat. How he did that, Leonard wouldn’t know; the things were like torture devices, but George managed to seem completely at ease and relaxed. "Not going to break your bones over that?"
Leonard shrugged. “It’s the job, she knows that,” he said, but somehow it didn’t come off as sure as he intended. They had a few conversations about this as of late, about him working too much and them spending less and less time together. He was trying, and once he tied up the Jim Kirk case he could probably take a break for a few weeks, god knew he had at least two weeks of sick days saved up, if not more.
And surprisingly, George didn’t ask what job was that, or make any sympathetic remarks about women; he just slumped even lower in his seat, all liquid and charm, and asked Leonard whether he thought that the man two rows in front of them looked like a former KGB agent or was it just him.
“It’s just you,” Leonard supplied the answer smoothly and George smiled, nodding as if he didn’t expect any other answer.
“I think I like you, Bones.”
“Yeah. I like that one. And since you’re stuck with me for the entire flight, you’ll get used to it.”
Damn him, but he kind of did. George was downright crazy, of course, but he was distracting, and his general amusement with the entire world and everyone around him proved to be contagious and Leonard didn’t have much time to freak out about the take off. Or about the landing, to be honest, because the time passed extremely fast and Leonard was actually having fun, just holding the conversation, playing word games and partaking in mutual mocking with the man next to him.
“It was nice to meet you, George,” he said once they pick up their luggage and Leonard spied M’Benga waiting for him in the crowd.
George shook his hand and nodded, slowly. He almost turned away, but then breathed out, as if he had come to a decision. “Jim,” he said. “It’s Jim,” he repeated, more firmly, and disappeared the next moment, in the sea of people hurrying off in all directions. “See you around, Bones.”
It didn’t click immediately, but the sinking feeling in his stomach means that it would, soon, and he wasn’t going to like it.
Three hours later he finally got to see the sketch the portrait artist came up with after talking to Carol Marcus, and sure enough, there was George, or rather: Jim Kirk, damn him.
It only made Leonard work harder on the case, the idea of taking a few days off all forgotten. He didn’t catch Kirk anytime soon, and after a year or so, Jocelyn got fed up with the evenings she spent alone, but that was a different story, not really connected to Kirk at all. Except when it was.
“You’re thinking about it,” Uhura accused him, making herself at home in his office, perched on his desk and playing with that damn perpetuum mobile toy Jocelyn bought him years ago. “Kirk,” she added, as if she needed to explain.
“He would be out today,” Leonard muttered, turning his pen in his fingers. “If he didn’t run, he’d be out today.”
“He did run,” Uhura supplied, but her voice was soft, quiet. She was saying out loud what he’s been thinking, not what she meant; it was a thing she did when they were working through a case. It was eery, but somewhat helpful.
“To visit a friend in the hospital,” Leonard said and sighed, leaning back in his chair, rubbing at his temples. Stress headaches, never entertaining, but old friends to him nonetheless. “Doesn’t change a thing, Nyota. He did run. Could have put in a request, with so little left on his sentence and his good behavior he would easily get the pass.”
“That’s not what bothers you,” she said pointedly.
No, it wasn’t. “It’s Jim Kirk. He has to have an angle,” he said. He's been trying to figure out what it was for hours. Ergo, the stress headache.
She smiled at him. “You know, I’m not his biggest fan, like some girls from the filing seem to be,” she muttered, shaking her head in mock dismay. “But maybe you already know his angle. Maybe he does want to help you get Nero.”
No one could actually tie Nero to what happened to Pike, but there’s been enough of rumours crediting him with ordering the hit. Leonard wouldn't be surprised.
“How do I trust him not to run?” he asked, and realised he went from adamant denial of even considering it, to badgering out the details. Honestly.
Nyota laughed, standing up. “Oh, that’s easy. You don’t,” she told him with a lopsided smile and left, and Leonard stared at the pen in his hand, adorned with a Union Jack sticker; a cheap knock-off souvenir from London.
The souvenirs started to arrive a month after the Paris-New York flight, always cheap, always a few days after Jim Kirk left the particular city. Leonard would take this as mocking, maybe even insulting, but somewhere there was the George he met during the flight, who talked him through the take off and the landing, and who then gave him his real name almost wistfully.
And, well, angle or not, Kirk did serve his sentence fully by now.
“You know, I didn’t think you’d take the offer,” Kirk said as he was picking up his belongings from the prison hold. It wasn’t much; his old suit, an almost empty wallet with one void credit card that was actually in Kirk’s name, not one of his aliases, and a set of lockpicks.
Leonard rolled his eyes and pickded them up from the counter before Kirk could, then pointedly put them in his own pocket.
“They’re not illegal to have,” Kirk told him, almost defensively, looking at Leonard with wide eyes. Leonard wasn't buying it, it was too innocent.
“And I could get the same results with a hairpin, a paperclip, or a pocket knife," Kirk volunteered. It sounded a bit like bragging, but not quite.
“You have knives?” Leonard asked pointedly, but it was mostly for show. He didn’t trust Kirk not to run the first chance he got, but when the kid got into a fight, it was a fist fight and a bar brawl, and it was usually over a girl. Jim Kirk might pose a threat to Leonard’s sanity, and possibly his job if he decided to skip town, but that was about it, he was not a murderer and he was never violent.
Kirk just turned one of his megawatt smiles at Leonard and let himself be shackled into the tracker anklet. He inspected it from every side, frowning thoughtfully.
“It’s your new best friend,” Leonard confirmed.
“Not that I’m complaining,” Kirk said slowly as they walked out, as he was blinking at the sun, smiling lazily as he looked up. “But what made you change your mind?”
“Who says I’ve changed it?”
“You hated the idea of letting me walk.”
Leonard shrugged, waiting for Kirk to get inside the car. Inside, he leaned against the seat, looking ahead for a moment, knowing full well that Kirk was studying him, trying to read his thoughts maybe. He wasn't sure he wanted to tell Kirk the full truth, but a part of it wouldn't hurt. “I think I hate Nero a little bit more,” he said finally and Kirk settled into his own seat, busying himself with fumbling with the seat belt.
“There’s that,” he agreed.
Kirk was terrible when locked inside a small space. Maybe it was the prison’s effect, because Leonard didn’t remember him being like that before, not even on the plane. Yes, his mouth or hands seemed to be in a constant flurry of movement, but he didn’t behave like a labrador retriever with an ADHD, like he did now; fiddling with the radio controls and tapping his fingers against the windowpane, a manic rhythm of some old song, eerily familiar, that would be now stuck in Leonard's head for hours.
Leonard really wanted to snap at him, slap his hand away from the radio dial, but he was an FBI agent and not a kindergarten teacher, so he didn’t, just muttered out a string of complaints that made him feel vaguely better, and for some strange reason, made Kirk incredibly amused.
It felt like a very long drive.
“You have got to be kidding me,” Kirk said as they pulled over in front of the ratty motel they found that would charge as much and not more than it cost the tax payers to keep Kirk on the inside. He looked at Leonard, and his expression was actually quite hilarious.
“I can turn the car around, if you want to back out,” Leonard said pleasantly, and fine, maybe a little bit smugly. He could allow himself some smugness, to be honest, he’s been nothing but gracious about the whole thing so far. If by gracious you meant mostly annoyed and yet somehow intrigued, of course.
Leonard didn’t really do gracious unless he absolutely had to, and even then he didn't do it well. He's been told that often enough.
Kirk shrugged slowly. “I guess I’ll have to find something else.”
That was exactly what Leonard was afraid of. “You have 700 dollars a month. And yes, I know you can get money, and I don’t want to know how you’d do that and I don’t want you even to try. And when I mean I don’t want it, I mean that you can’t, because I’ll haul your ass back to jail if you try. You wanted to work for us, and that means going straight, understood?” he said, almost on one breath. He probably hadn't covered all the possibilities and it was going to come back and bite him in the ass. Kirk was an expert at working the system and finding all loopholes, and if there was no loopholes, he would make a new one.
Kirk was giving him a look that Leonard couldn’t decipher but was already sure he hated. “What is it?” he asked, sighing, as they walked in, and yes, the inside was even rattier than the outside, and yes, it was possible.
“Straight?” Kirk asked, his expression mockingly earnest, but his voice tinged with amusement. “Not even a little bisexual? Come on, Bones.”
He was right, he did hate it. “Just try and not do anything illegal ‘till tomorrow, alright?” he said with a heavy sigh. Maybe it took small steps. Miniscule ones.
Kirk crossed his heart and batted his lashes and damn it, Leonard was trying not to smile at that. It would be helpful not to give in to the insanity that was Jim Kirk. Probably years too late for that, but still. “Sir, yes, sir,” Kirk said, saluting.
“Tomorrow, eight am,” Leonard reminded him before he left.
“I’ll be there. With bells on,” Kirk yells after him, and then turned to a passer-by, his voice raised, probably for Leonard’s benefit. “Know where I can get me some bells?”
“There’s a betting pool as to what Kirk’s angle is,” Christine Chapel told Leonard as he got into the office in the morning. She looked entirely too amused by the idea, damn her. Apparently, the whole office was a bunch of teenage girls giggling over Jim Kirk. He knew that, in theory, but a confirmation wasn't a good thing.
Leonard frowned at the empty coffee pot and gestured at it pointedly. What happened to the ‘you drink it, you refill it’ rule, he wondered. Christine shrugged, leaning against the communal fridge as Leonard set to make fresh coffee, frowning at the pot perfunctorily. Frowning made him feel a little better.
That was probably how he earned his reputation as a grumpy bastard.
“Tell everyone that they have better things to do, and that I don’t condone gambling,” he muttered. “And place fifty bucks on actually trying to get Nero.”
Christine laughed, holding up an expectant coffee cup. Leonard could see others shifting behind their desks, lured by the unmistakable scent of the fresh coffee, however crappy the office brew was. “So, you think he’s for real?” she asked and Leonard thought about it for a moment.
“It’s Jim Kirk, can’t be sure anything you see or get from him is real. I’d have double checked and re-checked if he told me the sky was blue. But, yes. Maybe,” he muttered, shaking his head. It would be so much damn helpful if he could figure it out, but, well. “What was your bet?”
“Twenty bucks that he wants something from our archive. Or the evidence locker,” she said matter-of-factly.
Leonard frowned, mulling it over. Actually, that was not so far out of the realm of possibility.
“I’m beginning to hate Nero,” Uhura told them, grabbing the coffee pot and filling up her oversized mug. “That man’s a ghost. Everyone’s afraid of him, and yet they have absolutely no idea where he might be, whom he might be working with, or, I don’t know, what planet he’s from,” she said and caught Leonard’s eye. “Yeah, not having the best day.”
She really was in the wrong line of work for good days.
“It’s just starting,” Leonard said, glancing at his watch, taking a large gulp of scolding hot coffee. “And I have to pick up Kirk. Hopefully, he hasn’t yet managed to hack the tracker and skip town. Christine…” he started and she nodded emphatically.
“I’ve been going through all the files we have on Nero, starting with the money laundering business. Guys from organised crime even lent us a hand and sent over what they have. All seventeen boxes of it.”
“Wonderful,” Uhura said. “Research,” she added with great annoyance, but her eyes were shining at the thought. Uhura on a research project was a force to be reckoned with, Leonard has learned that much. All you could do was stay the fuck out of her path and hope that when the dust settles, you were still standing and the case was closed.
At exactly 7.45 Leonard’s phone perked up with a text message from an unknown number. It read ‘found a new place’, followed by an address and an ‘xoxo – Jim’. Leonard was really, really not amused, but somehow, he did expect that.
And he wasn’t talking about the ‘xoxo’ part, though this was typical juvenile Jim Kirk sign-off, and he was not even talking about the speed with which Kirk found a new place to stay. No, he was talking about the place itself, which was a few blocks away from the motel, well withing Kirk's designated radius, and yet seemed worlds apart from the ratty place the bureau found for him.
He was greeted at the door by an absolutely gorgeous redhead with legs that went all the way and a contagious smile. She made a point of looking Leonard over, her lips curling up as her gaze stopped at his tie. “You must be Bones,” she said, slight trace of accent Leonard couldn’t quite place.
“Leonard McCoy,” he said pointedly and she grinned.
“Yes, Jim said you’d say that. He also said to call you Bones anyway,” she teased, moving aside to let Leonard in. “He’s a funny one, isn’t he?” she said fondly, and honestly, Leonard never could figure out how so many people could fall for the Kirk charm, but they did, right and left, wherever he went.
“He’s a felon,” he told her pointedly. “With an emotional maturity of a hello kitty pencil case.”
She nodded. “Yes, I have been informed about the felon part. Tell me, Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy, is Jim Kirk dangerous?”
Leonard wanted to say yes, because that was partially true. Kirk was a convicted felon, suspected of thirty two crimes and a perpetrator of god only knew how many. But he was also an overgrown infant who liked shiny things. “You have any valuable paintings?” he said finally and the woman laughed.
“You know, Jim said you’d ask that. Knows you well, doesn’t he?” she said, her head tilted quizzically, her smile already fond. She extended her hand and Leonard shook it. “I’m Gaila, by the way. And I’m also very late. It was nice to meet you. Go right up, Jim’s probably in the kitchen, they were having breakfast the last time I've seen them.”
“Nice meeting you, too” he remembered to say as she passed him on her way out. She smiled at him and patted his shoulder. This day was really off to a splendind start.
He swore, if it was going to turn out that Kirk shacked up with a group of supermodels, Leonard was going to lose all the faith in the world he still had. Granted, it wasn't much.
But apparently, besides Gaila, who probably could be a supermodel if she wanted to, but instead turned out to be a security systems’ specialist; there were two other people living at the luxury apartment, and while they were ridiculously attractive, as most people Kirk chose to socialize with tended to be, they also had a solid and gainful employment as some kind of tech gurus or whatnot. (Sulu was also apparently a pilot. Leonard had no idea where the hell Kirk found people like that and he was probably better off not knowing. At least for the sake of his sanity and the remnants of his trust in justice and fairness.)
And usually Leonard would find it deeply suspicious that right after Kirk got his tracer anklet he found himself some new friends who could probably hack the thing… and it wasn’t that Leonard McCoy wasn’t a suspicious bastard by nature, but he thought he knew Jim Kirk, and Jim Kirk was going to do his best to bring Nero down before he started to entertain the thoughts of skipping town.
And in the meantime, Leonard was going to have Kirk's new hosts thoroughly checked. Because, after all, he was a suspicious bastard. By nature and by choice, and it had always served him well in life.
“Do you know how I can tell it’s going to be a fun case?” M’Benga said instead of a welcome when they reached the conference room, a little later than Leonard expected them to, because Kirk had to make a stop to get coffee, and that turned into a long discussion with the barista about her pretty hair and her telephone number. Which Kirk got, in the end, of course, that's what happened in Kirk's world.
“Because I’m finally here?” Kirk supplied with a wide smile.
“No. Because four other departments eagerly sent us their files on Nero. No turf war, no arguments, no squabbles. They seemed pretty damn happy we were going to take over," M'Benga offered, shaking his head. He looked tired, as if he didn't sleep again. Leonard wasn't sure what it was about the department that drawn workaholics, but at last workaholics closed cases.
But that sudden improvement of the cooperation between departments didn't sound promising. No one liked dead end cases, and those were the ones that were quickly brushed under a carpet or, if possible, pawned off to someone else. Apparently, today they were the somebody else. “Well, we have something that they didn’t.”
“Standing right here,” Kirk admonished him, patting his shoulder. Why did everyone do that today? “It’s someone, not something, thank you very much.”
“He means the shooting,” Uhura supplied from the doorway, tossing her ponytail over her shoulder and eyeing Kirk with some degree of suspicion, softened by a sympathetic smile. “I talked to the doctor, Pike seems to be doing better. They’re allowing some room for, and I quote, cautious optimism," she told him.
Kirk nodded, shuffling his feet uncomfortably. “Thanks.”
“No problem,” Nyota said quickly, and shifted pointedly, theatrically looking Kirk over, head to toe, frowning at him. “So, you’re the asshole from Vegas," she muttered and rolled her eyes at his attempt at a charming smile. At least Leonard could count on Nyota's level-headness when it came to Kirk. "I thought you’d be taller.”
About a year after Paris the higher-ups were starting to get nervous about Kirk. He eluded everyone, including the Interpol, and swindled a valuable Egyptian necklace from a congresswoman. He was, in short, becoming a nuissance, and he was making the bureau look bad. Leonard privately thought it wasn't really difficult, but he kept his mouth shut. On this matter, at least.
And chasing after Kirk was actually one of the more entertaining aspects of McCoy’s job. For most of the time it was all about money laundering scams and hedge funds which seemed to pop up everywhere you looked. Kirk's crimes were never like that, and generated much less paperwork, which was always a plus in Leonard's book. No, Kirk's escapades were all grand-scale and posh hotels and beautiful women and, quite often, expensive jewellery and priceless art.
For Leonard it meant added resources and a bigger team, including the department’s rising star Nyota Uhura, but it also meant more working hours and more business trips than before, across the states and to Europe, and that didn’t sit well with his already failing marriage.
Two days after he signed his divorce papers he was on the plane to Vegas, accompanied by M’Benga and Uhura, and providing them with hours of amusement courtesy of his damn fear of flying and all the resulting antics.
“It never gets old,” Geoffrey explained to Uhura. “Leonard McCoy, man feared by criminals both sides of Atlantic, afraid to take a little flight to the other end of the country.”
“Considering how often I have to get on one of these hellish machines, it’s a miracle I hadn’t been through a crash yet,” Leonard muttered. “I’d quote statistics at you, but I think I’d rather go and hide in the bathroom for a while,” he said but didn’t move an inch, just closed his eyes and tried to drown out their voices. Should have taken the cars. It would have taken ages to go across the states, but even the roadside motels decor was preferable to the damn tin cans.
“Always like that?” Uhura asked curiously, prompting M’Benga to laugh.
“Pretty much, yeah. Well, there was this one time… but we don’t talk about that," he said, lowering his voice to a scenic whisper and winking at her.
The tale of George From The Plane would be relied to her later, Leonard was sure, once he was out of the earshot. It was sort of a legend around the department, and some people thought Kirk was fucking insane and some probably actually admired him for the stunt. Year later, Leonard still wasn’t sure which category he fell into. He didn't spend much time thinking about it, really.
The Vegas story would also become a legend, pretty damn soon. The funny thing was, they weren’t even there chasing after Kirk, he wasn’t even on their radar at the time, but their paths crossed and Kirk got spooked.
And when Kirk got spooked, it was apparently hilarious for everyone not directly involved. Two days later, Kirk managed to get them kicked out of the hotel and almost have Nyota arrested for trespassing, before she gave in and flashed her badge. Her cover was, obviously, blown. Everyone was pretty annoyed about that, but she was furious. If Kirk had crossed her path at the time, she would probably shoot him in the balls.
She was also pretty much stuck in her new hotel room, dealing with the surveillance and the paperwork and all the other entertaining things.
“Look, I didn’t know,” Kirk said, sliding into the empty seat next to Leonard in the dingy bar.
“One reason I shouldn’t arrest your right now?” Leonard asked pleasantly, or as much pleasantly as he could being Leonard McCoy. Who wasn’t very pleasant on principle and actually liked it that way.
“I have three very good reasons. No gun, no badge, and you don’t want to blow your cover,” Kirk shrugged. “How about I buy you a drink?”
“Correct me if I’m wrong, but shouldn’t you be, I don’t know, running away from the FBI agent assigned to your case?”
“I probably would have to, if said agent was a bit better at his job.”
Leonard snorted and raised his glass in acknowledgement.
This was the part of the story that wouldn’t make it into the urban legend making rounds all over the office. Sure, the next day Leonard would tell Nyota and Geoffrey about Kirk, and he would mention it in his official report. And both of those versions would say the same, albeit the first one would involve a few chosen four letter words; that Jim Kirk appeared, but Leonard was unable to follow him without abandoning his primary mark or without blowing his cover.
True enough, for the given value of true, but not taking into account that they’ve spent the better part of the evening talking about everything and nothing in particular. For the life of him, Leonard can’t remember how the conversation started, but he was slowly drawn into it, despite his grumbling protests. And it was, once again, just like it had been on the plane, almost too easy to talk to Kirk.
“So, exactly how much did I piss off your new agent?” Kirk asked conversationally at some point, leaning back in the booth they moved into after half an hour or so.
“I’d avoid her for the next five years, if I were you. Believe me, you do not want Nyota Uhura to have a personal reason for tracking you down."
“Don’t know… she’s hot.”
“I’ll relay your sentiments to her, but don’t expect a star crossed romance,” Leonard snorted at the thought. That would be something to see. From a safe distance, preferably from a different continent.
Kirk sighed heavily. “Fine. I’ll save the letters and the gifts for you," he promised, smiling slightly.
Leonard frowned at him. “I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that… Stop it.”
“I thought it was adorable.”
“That’s one word for it. Fucking annoying is a much better phrasing, if you asked me."
Kirk huffed into his glass, looking up at Leonard, his mouth opening slightly as if he was going to say something, but that was the moment Rutherford chose to move, bidding goodnight to his companion and standing up, and Leonard reluctantly reached for his wallet.
“On me,” Kirk said, eyes flickering to Rutherford and then back to Leonard without any surprise. “I know how much you earn and this was some damn expensive bourbon,” he added.
Leonard rolled his eyes. “One, stalking people is a crime, so don’t gloat about it. Two, I don’t know and I don’t want to know where your money comes from, but I’m not drinking on it.”
Kirk nodded slowly and let Leonard leave the notes on the table. “You’re a weird guy, McCoy,” he said. “I think I like you," he said, as if coming to a decision. His eyes were slightly glazed over, maybe from the drink, but his gaze was still lucid and clear somehow, when it fixed on Leonard.
“Don’t get used to that. Next time we meet, it will be me arresting you," he said, and it came out a bit more serious than he thought it would, came out a bit like a promise.
“In your dreams,” Kirk quipped winningly and leaned back in his seat, watching Leonard leave from under half-closed lips, an indescribable expression on his face. Not that Leonard looked back to see it.
Next time they met, Leonard kept his word. But that was another story. This story ended with Uhura arresting Rutherford and his associates the next day – she put an insane amount of work into the case, and besides, Leonard felt she deserved the collar after going through the whole trespassing ordeal.
“At least it wasn’t a total waste of time,” she said, holding back a satisfied smile. “And in the life lessons learned column – Jim Kirk is an asshole," she added lightly. Not quite over the whole thing, but beginning to see the humor in it.
“I think he likes you,” Leonard told her, getting an eyeroll in return, followed by a strange look he couldn’t quite decipher, but that was Uhura for you.
“Sure he likes me,” she said, emphasis on the last word and wandered off. Leonard couldn’t quite figure what that was about, and he forgot about it soon enough, during the flight home, because the damn turbulences hit and he was busy insulting the world and everyone in it, including the pilot and the pilot's ancestry.