A/N: This literally attacked me.
Disclaimer: I am floating through someone else's dream. I own nothing.
At first, it was only ever a lullaby. Soft chords whispered across his conscience in a tune and timbre he knew he had never heard before in all of his life. It came to him randomly, like an inconsistent friend that comforted by memory alone. It soothed him in his early days, taking away the hurt he often felt at the hands of his step-father and the empty space in pictures where he always imagined his mother should be standing. The melody cheered him when the empty sounds of the house grew ominous while Frank was outside and Sam was in every sense of the word absent.
It wasn't his, though. Jim had never heard it before the day he was seven and Frank literally slapped him to the ground in a fit of rage Jim to this day didn't understand. Then all of a sudden, the lullaby was in his head flittering over his dendrites and down his axons, washing away memories of pain with the cooling breath of relief. He had stayed on the ground, too terrified by Frank and the sudden song that hadn't been put in his mind by his own volition.
That was when he suspected that he may be just a little different…or perhaps crazy.
Telepathy is no big wonderfulness. It's really a pain in the ass with no real benefits other than finding out what an asshole the entire world thinks you really are without having to ask or getting the world angry enough to tell you. Telepathy doesn't mean that he can implant thoughts into other people's mind and he can't read people's feelings; he isn't an empath. He can just feel their thoughts; words forming in his mind that most certainly aren't his own. He can't block them out, either. The thoughts of those around him are there morning, noon, and night.
Sometimes he can focus on just one person's stream of thought, but usually only if they think coherently and that's not something that's very common. Most people, Jim finds, have muddled thoughts, loud buzzing punctuated with certain phrases that don't link together at all. When someone's thoughts are chaotic like that he finds that he can't block out the noise around him. He picks up pieces of the crowd around him, loud, loud, loud, buzzing raging in his skull with immutable bursts of words in varying tones, accents, and languages.
It gives him a headache most of the time, to the point where he wishes he could curl up into a ball and cry until the echoes were drowned out by his own sobs of pain.
The lullaby that started all of this waxes less in his mind as he grows older, and wanes rapidly when it does appear. He knows the entire melody and sometimes, when in a place he can't get out of, he hums it to himself, but it doesn't have the same delightful freedom as when that whisper of voice, strong and warm, sings it to him. The little help it does have is often overshadowed by the fact that he can't escape, can't find a solitary space where he can only hear himself and the distant echoes of the town.
Jim lived with the lullaby that wasn't his own making in his mind for three years before it evolved into something more. He had become accustomed to the melody, because for three years the melody was there almost every day. It was welcome, commonplace.
Then one day, one of the few days he can remember distinctly that the song didn't whisper in the caverns of his mind and his mother was home but already planning to leave again, the ability intensified.
He and Sam sat on the couch, threadbare and reeking of alcohol, while his mother sat at the computer where her eyes scanned the bright blue screen before her, telling them that she would be gone only six weeks this time, instead of four, five, six months.
"I've already spoken to Frankie about it, and I've asked him to take you to an amusement park over one of the weekends for Sammy's birthday," she had said. "I won't be there, but it'll be okay. I know you'll have a lot of fun. Just behave for your step-dad, okay. I don't want to be getting any calls about you hassling him."
Sam's voice, clear and angry, reverberated in his ears and over his mind and caused Jim's head to snap around with vicious momentum. Sam cussed a lot and, well, so did Jim really, but they had never done so in front of Winona. Jim stared at his older brother with wide, stunned eyes, before he realized…his mother wasn't saying anything about it. She hadn't even paused in her lecturing about being 'good, little boys.' She carried on with her speech, never once looking back at them, her eyes firmly on the computer screen.
Jim almost played it off as a trick of the mind, when he heard it again. Sam's voice came statically as if through a poor connection, snarling and growling animally at their mother, 'Rot in hell…and take your asshat of a husband with you.'
He watched his brother as the thought, visceral and outraged rang out in his mind with a conviction Jim had only ever heard of spoken word, but Sam's lips never moved. He stared at Winona with a hatred that was palpable in the air and with an intensity that would have killed if looks alone had the power.
Jim had quickly excused himself to his room, skirting carefully around Frank's half finished, but 'very valuable, you stupid shit' projects. He sat in his room for hours, scared out of his wits like he hadn't been since the lullaby glided across his conscience. He didn't know what to think. He had watched holovids about people with special powers, and though the movies always made it look easy and fun, he had never expected to be on the receiving end.
He had never expected to feel so terrified of his own mind.
Jim has found ways to deal with the noise. They don't make voices disappear, but they help to quiet them.
Alcohol has good merits. Alcohol makes everything fuzzy to begin with. While the noise is still there, it's more of a dull roar than anything else. The chatter of unwanted voices is melted away to droning that is acceptable if still annoying. He can deal with it when he has alcohol, and thus he finds himself as young as sixteen with a bottle of tequila in his hand most nights just so he can sleep.
The next he finds out thanks to Frank. He finds out much sooner than sixteen, much, much sooner, that physical pain all but mutes the noise. The first time Frank really unleashes on him just two weeks after Sam has run away, Jim realizes that the unintelligible inner mutterings of Frank's mind disappear. With each fist that lands on his skin, his mind becomes more and more numb and he can't hear anything, not even his own thoughts. Despite his bruised skin that forty-five minutes of un-thought was gorgeous and worth every minute that Frank was spitting and kicking and making him believe he was worthless.
Then there's sex. Sex isn't as quieting as fighting and it doesn't make the chatter turn to droning. Sex just…hones the noise to one person, the person he's sleeping with. With sex his world narrows to two, sometimes three people, and what he hears is always simple. They're demands, they're pleas, and they're empty proclamations of love and foreverness. But it's just one, maybe two voices and it's amazing to hear so little, even when every unspoken word and promise of happiness rings hollow in his mind and cracks his heart in ways that shouldn't be possible.
By the time he learns these little remedies, the lullaby is all but disappeared into yesteryear. He almost never hears the dulcet song whispering across his skull, and though he misses the tune that he can never truly replicate, he's learned to live with its comforting absence.
As mentioned earlier, he can't feel emotions. Telepathy doesn't equal empathy, however, he learns when he's about fifteen and the ability has intensified to the point where he can hear everyone, that he can also hear the sound of forming emotions.
It's odd for Jim to think of emotions as sounds, and there's really nothing that he can equate the sounds to, but there are a few that he can amount to humanly noises.
Such as the sound of heartbreak.
Jim first heard the sound of heartbreak skittering across his thoughts when his mother is home just after he returns from Tarsus IV, which was a lesson in telepathy that he wishes would just unlearn itself. He wanders the house in Iowa with haunted memories that nearly kill him more than starvation ever did. He had heard emotions on Tarsus as well, but unaccustomed to listening to emotions he had written the sounds of fear, close in sound to squealing tires that fly off into a cliff, as delusions.
When it comes to heartbreak, though, the first emotion he ever categorized as real and not fictional sounds attacking him from not enough food and definitely little to no sleep while watching over kids who shouldn't know the meaning of starvation, his mother is the first person he hears.
He walks by her room, shared with Frank still, though his step-father is mysteriously missing, and he can hear her crying. It hurts a little in his heart, but mostly he notices that he feels that Winona's tears are hollow and pitiful. She has nothing to cry about. She didn't starve. She didn't watch as people she loved withered and died around her, not like the kids he protected did.
He hears her distorted voice in his mind first.
'I have to fix this. I have to…' hiccups assault his ears next, and then the sound of heartbreak.
The sound of brittle glass cracking and shattering explodes in his mind, and his senses are so sensitive after so long on Tarsus, where thoughts grew quiet and weak after so long of suffering, after finally giving up hope, that he cries out and falls to the ground in a heap of bones and little else.
The sound grows louder as do the sound of footsteps as the door is thrown open to reveal Winona standing in ratty pajamas and staring at him with eyes he only ever saw in the mirror anymore. He hates her for it too, because what the hell has she lost? Jim's father? He was replaceable enough. God knows she was practically attached to Frank the second she stepped back on Earth. Sam? Well, if you really wanted Jim's opinion, she had left them before Sam had run away or Jim had gone to Tarsus. What. The fuck. Had that bitch. Lost?
He never realized that he was humming the lullaby his mother had never sang to him, holding his hands over his ears and willing it to 'just, please, go away.'
Next time he sees Winona he's struggling Frank's hands from around his neck, kicking and gasping and trying not to feel like this is the best relief he has never asked for.
Jim has never told anyone that he can read minds. He never found a good way, a good time, or a good reason. It's been his secret since he was seven and a strange music caressed his mind. He's come close. He almost told Sam a couple of times, and there was his second cousin on Tarsus who had been so sweet and kind to him. He never did, though. Could never find a way to express it.
It went far beyond 'hey, think of something really obscure and I can tell you exactly what it is you're thinking of.' He felt like if he tried to tell anyone, they would see it as a cry for attention, like so many other of his attempts to tell someone anything. If they found out, they would use it against him, would use him, as if he were only a circus attraction. Never mind that Earth was now home to many telepathic species, a human who could read minds was beyond the norm of society, and they would sell him to scientists to see just what made James T. Kirk so damn special.
They would dissect him like a frog, open his mind up like the gut of a mostly useless amphibian and expose his brain like little orange fingers of fat hanging open from a green belly.
He would become less than human despite his superhuman ability. He would become the case-study, not a boy, teenager, man who for some unexplainable reason could wade through the disorganized thoughts of his peers.
He would rather have killed himself than let it come to that, and that was saying something, because even if no one else valued his life, he did, and he still does.
He doesn't want to tell anyone that before they even open their mouths, he knows more about them than their closest relative. How their thought processes work, what their greatest fear is, how disorganized they are inside no matter what their outward appearance would have anyone believe.
He works hard to blend in, while still standing out, because he is the entire package and he knows it. He has brains, brawn, and the ability to wield them together in perfect harmony. That's all anyone needs to know about him.
His ability can linger in the shadows of their perception, while eating at him like a fine meal.
The woman at the bar had a very interesting thought process. It was calm and excited, coherent, which already made Jim want to crawl inside her mind and never come out. More than that, it was unique. She didn't just think with standard words that linked together monotonously; she wove her thoughts together with other languages, turning one stream of thought into a river of harmonious dialects.
Jim had never heard anything like it and he wanted to get closer to it, closer to her. He would have even if he had been sober, but the alcohol made it a bit easier to amble his way over to her, smirking like he was the prize for her, not the other way around.
Uhura, as she had introduced herself, smiled at him, condescending and pleased at the same time. "I'm impressed." She was. Jim could hear her assuring statement in her mind as well as the currents of her stream forming more words, weighing them carefully against each other, discarding the ones she didn't like and pulling in better ones. It only took a split second, but a split second in the mind is minutes on the corporeal plane. She was torn between wanting him to stay, enthralled that he knew even the basics about what was obviously her passion, and just wanting him to go away. She settled for a barb. "I thought you were just a dumb hick who only has sex with farm animals.
Jim wasn't deterred, too enthralled by her steady mind to be brushed off that easily. "Well, not only."
There was a sound similar to that of murmuring cheers and Jim felt his heart lighten. There were so few times he experienced the overwhelming resonance of happiness no matter how small that happiness was. He savored it as it hummed in her mind and came out in the physical form of laughter. Both listening to her internal plaudit as well as watching the way her smile brightened her face. Uhura was an exceptionally beautiful woman, beyond the long, lean curves of her body and the delicious, warm color of her skin. She had a beautiful mind and a…
Despite the alcohol to help muzzle the ever present buzz from the bar and Uhura's steady river of flowing thought, Jim was suddenly overtaken with a loud droning. He fought against the way his head started to pound in response to the pickup in noise, tried to continue focusing on Uhura and her mental river of interweaving languages.
It was an ineffectual struggle.
It became louder, multiplied like spiders coming out of their egg.
"This guy isn't bothering you, is he?"
They were drunk, that was why the buzzing was so bad. Jim had found over the course of his telepathy that men tended to stop using coherent thought when drinking, instead using primitive impulses to guide their actions. He was no different he was sure, but still…
He heard Uhura's clear cerebral answer over the drone. 'No, not really,' as she answered verbally, "Oh, beyond belief…but it's nothing I can't handle."
Jim smiled, despite his growing headache. "You could handle me?" he asked flirtatiously, hearing the small tinkling sound of amusement prancing over her mind. "That's an invitation."
She rolled her eyes, but didn't deny it either mentally or verbally.
The heavy hand on his shoulder caused him to tense immediately, memories of Frank washing over him. His headache concentrated rapidly with the sharp spike in the buzzing's decibel. He didn't even hear what the man handling him said, just stared at him as he formed angry-looking words with his mouth.
"Relax, Cupcake. It was a joke," he said, dismissively going back to Uhura, who watched the growing chaos with hardening eyes.
The hand again, spinning him around. He managed to hear something about four guys to one and he rolled his eyes.
"Well, get some more guys and then it'll be an even fight," he sneered, giving the man a patronizing slap on the cheek. Impulse, he was prone to it as well.
He went to turn away, trying to ignore his headache and see if he could salvage his night with Uhura, because he was still hopeful something might happen with her.
And that's when the first punch was thrown, reminding Jim just how well pain fought against the noise in his head.
How he ended up on a shuttle destined for Starfleet Academy was still a mystery of sorts. After the fight, his headache had returned with slightly less vengeance since Captain Pike had ordered the crowd in the bar to clear out. He listened to the bartender clear up the wreckage he had helped to make, finding a little amusement in the way the guy grumbled under his breath even in his own mind. He waited for Pike to do whatever it was he was doing, considering the man had offered to keep an eye on him until his detox gel caps kicked in. It would probably be another ten to fifteen minutes before he was sober enough to drive his bike back to his little, rundown apartment.
Pike sat down opposite of him, and Jim waited…
He couldn't hear Pike's thoughts. Couldn't hear anything from the man, just heard the hollow void of empty space.
And then Pike began talking, and it really wasn't anything Jim had wanted to hear, but he was still a little tipsy and really, really intrigued by the fact that this was the first conversation he had had since he was at least thirteen where he could only hear verbal words.
When he got home that night, after being dared by Pike like he was a spoiled six year old, he wondered how many other people were like that. He began thinking of Starfleet as more than just what his mother had physically defined it as, or what the stories of his father had shaped it into, more than what Pike had said it was. Obviously, Pike had learned to shield his thoughts at the Academy. There were a plethora of telepathic species in the universe. Students would have to learn to protect themselves from it. They would have to learn to order their thoughts.
That had him on his bike before he even knew what the hell he would do at Starfleet, only knowing he wanted to be where there might be some semblance of order.
He ambled onto the shuttle, after throwing the keys to his bike, his pride and joy, to the closest officer and passing a smart remark to a still unbelievably silent Pike.
The shuttle was a different story. As opposed to Pike's resolute silence both verbally and mentally, the shuttle was a cacophony of noise, both echoing in his mind and his ears. He really wished he had brought something to help him sleep, but as impromptu as this idea had been, he hadn't even packed a bag. Jim only threw his jacket back over his shoulders and hopped onto his bike. No alcohol to quiet his 'gift,' no sleeping pills to help him slip into a dreamless, noiseless bliss.
Of course, it would be his luck that he walked right into a low-hanging bar. It did help him to focus on his own pain, but it did nothing for his budding, probably recurring headache.
He sat in one of two free seats and jerked around with seatbelt, trying to ignore the thought of the red-suited cadet beside him which rang clearly, 'dumbass.'
He heard Uhura before he saw her, her clear river of comingling languages calling to him just as it had yesterday.
He smiled at the small amount of comfort it gave him, saying, "Never did get that first name."
'Never will, either.'
He wondered briefly if she had already studied for mental blocking, because he could not discern a single name in her thoughts.
It was quickly erased though, when he heard the simple, sweet notes that began the lullaby glittering across his mind. His eyes widened marginally, and like magic he felt the din of noise surrounding him, even Uhura's coherent thoughts, fade enough, just e-fucking-nough to make it manageable, as it always did. He held fast to the voice that fluttered across his cerebral senses, trying to wrap himself in the tone that had become so sparse over his adult life
It lasted not nearly long enough. The song wasn't even completed and it was suddenly ripped away from him, followed not too long after by a whirlwind of angry yells and streams of thought. Jim mourned the loss of the melody as a short, no-nonsense woman nearly threw a tall man, also dressed in civvies and just a ruffled as Jim felt, into the cabin of the shuttle, arguing and glaring at each other. The man, a doctor apparently, was none too thrilled about this development screaming how he had aviaphobia, which really, any other day would have cause Jim to cackle, because hello…aviaphobia and Starfleet? What the hell? But just then, Jim was morose at having his lullaby snatched away from him and merely watched as the young ensign snapped,
"Sir, sit down or else I'll make you sit down!"
The ensign wasn't lying either. She had very distinct things she wished she could do to the man she had herded out of the bathroom, and all of them lingering in the spectrum of not nice. Luckily for the man she was literally man-handling, he listened and took the only available seat left to him…
Next to Jim.
Jim expected the sound of rumbling thunder that came along with anger as well as broken phrases and curses that flittered through the man's mind, halted and half-formed, 'damn bathroom police…was perfectly fine in there…stuck with the damn lollipop guild now…'
Then there was some slight buzzing from him, because he was a little drunk and buzzing was the normal noise accompanied with that. And then he leaned over abruptly and told Jim in a very growly voice, which sounded like he had screamed himself hoarse a few trillion times, "I may throw up on ya."
He did, eventually, but not before they traded names and rants and the shuttle took off. Jim listened to the buzzing coming from Leonard's mind, the broken deeply southern-accented words that suddenly stopped as the shuttle lurched and the loud sound of nails across chalkboard—the loud sound of fear—assaulted his sense and Leonard's liquidy bile assaulted his boots. Apparently, he hadn't been exaggerating in the slightest then he said he had aviaphobia.
The ensign came around to clean the mess up when it was safe for her to walk, a look on her face caught somewhere between sympathy and disgust. Briefly Jim heard her grumble, 'Perfect fucking start to the day…'
He thanked her, but his attention was mostly caught on the doctor, who was doubled over with his head between his knees. The thoughts are a lot clearer. Phobias and a good vomit had been known to do more powerful things than cure hangovers, and Jim was grateful to them this one time.
He could hear how the man thought and it drew him in just as Uhura's had. However, instead of his being like the flow of a river, they were short, sharp thoughts, slicing through Jim's conscious mind boldly.
'Take a deep breath…' Jim subconsciously did as he was ordered. 'Get a grip on yourself, Leonard. The kid had a point. You gotta be able to take this. You gotta keep breathin'. In. Out. There ya go…'
He leaned back in his seat, resting his head back to look at the ceiling, instead of out the window where blue was darkening to the black of space. He focused on his breathing for the longest time, and Jim breathed with him without thought, never noticing that the din of others' thoughts had disappeared. He just kept himself in the doctor's mind, listening as he slowly released the focus on breathing and switched to something completely different.
His internal voice became sorrowful, laced with the bittersweet sound of heartache, so different from heartbreak.
The Academy is as calm as it is chaotic. There's always a running thought process running along-side Jim's, always thoughts, ordered yet still jumbled as they race through information given to them. He meets a few more people like Pike, mostly upperclassmen, but they are few and far between. There was hardly any buzzing or disorganized thought though, and he appreciated that deeply.
The first semester flew by, thanks to his taking a module and a half. The parties he attended and hanging out with Bones (Leonard was a terrible name) helped a lot as well. Really, Bones made the biggest difference. The doctor didn't know how wonderful it was or how instrumental he was in keeping Jim sane, even as he ranted and rave that Jim was the cause of him losing his sanity. Bones had a real way about him of just making him calm, keeping him steady when all he wanted to do was drink himself stupid, fuck something, and have the closest person throw a punch at him, all in that order.
He was looking to make up two years by the end of his second semester so as he could have better focus on the tougher classes that his last two years at the Academy would undoubtedly bring. Bones would be out of there roughly the same time as Jim since he already had a few degrees tucked in his belt. He was only taking classes over basic Starfleet protocol as well as dipping his hands further into xenobiology and physiology.
He sat at his desk in his and Bones' little dorm, while Bones sat at his. They were looking into classes for the next semester, and Jim listened happily as Bones considered every class, going over the pros and cons of each one, each professor, each anything he could think of. Bones was very methodical.
His eyes landed on a class of particular interest. He glanced back at his dorm mate, his best friend and then back at the padd. He pressed a few commands, and then flicked it off of his device, suppressing the urge to laugh when Bones huffed, "Dammit!"
Jim turned around, a smirk on his face. "You should take this class."
"Why? What the hell am I gonna do with…" he looked back down at the name of the class, "Non-Physical Combat Studies?" He turned in his own seat to give Jim his best irritated look, beautiful lips turned down as they nearly always were.
Jim shrugged. "It'll just be good for you. Lotsa nifty ways out in the universe for people to be controlled. You should learn how to block them."
"First off, I ain't going out into the universe. I may go to the moon if they drug me beforehand. Second, if there's some telepathic twit thinks he can muddle his way through my mind, I wish him the best of luck." He turned back around as if to say 'that's that'.
Jim had to literally stop himself from telling the doctor that his thoughts were all too clear, and that put him in a great danger. He was safe with Jim, because…well, because Jim loved him. He didn't intrude beyond the conscious thoughts that Bones was always with, never invaded further into thoughts. Not everyone would be like that though. Whether for curiosity or malign intent, if Bones ever met another telepath, he would be at risk. He and Uhura had beautiful, structured minds. They thought too uniquely for telepaths to simply walk away.
"What are you fretting about, over there?" Bones asked suddenly.
Jim jumped, too wrapped up in his own thoughts. "What?" he demanded.
The doctor looked over his shoulder. "You're practically having a panic attack, Jim. The hell is the matter?"
Jim didn't know how Bones knew what he was feeling, and he didn't care. "Take the class, Bones." Jim heard his argument before he even opened his mouth and he cut him off, "Please?"
The doctor gave him a long, hard look and Jim could hear his cerebral voice asking what the hell had gotten into him. Jim worked hard to maintain eye contact, even as Bones asked, "Is there something I should know about, Jim?"
Jim's heart beat fast in his chest. He wanted to tell him, wanted to let go. He kept his mouth shut, and stared at the doctor unblinkingly, asking again, "Please?"
He heaved a great sigh, but nodded. "Fine, but I get to pick one of your classes."
He thought it was a fair trade, even if he did get stuck with a nutrition course that had him avoiding soda for two months solid.
It was summer before Jim realized just how important Bones was in regards to his gift and to his sanity. Before Bones, he had never noticed how close he teetered on the edge. When Bones was there, he never noticed what happened. When Bones was around he could only hear the concise, bold thoughts of his friend, the rest of the worlds thought just vanished. Bones provided him with a focus, a safe haven for his always invaded mind and he did it without hitting Jim, or fucking him. Hell, they didn't even need the alcohol, though they often drank on weekends anyway.
And now he was in Georgia for two weeks, so he could see one of his friends get married and spend of few days with his little girl.
Jim could hear everything, every single fucking thing, on campus, no joke. It was a constant din of mumbled and jumbled thoughts and he couldn't even pick one out and cling to it because they were all clear and linear. He had never been in a situation like this before. In Iowa there had been so much buzzing, a constant drone, so when he found a structured mind he all but wrapped himself in it. Here, there was no escape, no one process he could wrap himself in because this wasn't buzzing.
He grabbed his bottle of tequila, hoping the drink himself unconscious for the next two weeks of his life. He guzzled the cactus juice, barely even stopping to breathe and it worked marginally to dampen the racket in his skull but not nearly enough. He was woozy, drunk in no time and he stumbled out of his dorm, hand on the wall to keep him upright. He needed something else, something better, he needed…
With each room he passed, a few rhythms would spike in him mind. He was getting a headache that worsened and made him feel physically ill. He just barely made it outside before he threw up everything in his stomach and then dry heaved. It felt like forever and each time he tried to vomit again, his head gave a particularly painful jab. His muscles were shaking; he couldn't catch his breath.
He stood up, managing to take a few more steps before he literally tripped over himself and fell hard to the ground.
That was when he heard the lullaby, again, for the first time since the shuttle ride. It's the last thing he heard before he falls unconscious.
When he woke, the lullaby was there still, but not stroking his mind. Instead the voice was plainly humming in his ears, a hand carting through his hair…
It was a really nice dream.
He turned towards the hand in his hair, content to feel it for the rest of his life and hear that lullaby.
Of course, the lullaby stopped.
"That's it, Jim," Bones said, as if trying to coax a scared animal out of its layer. "Come back to me. That's right. Open them pretty eyes."
Jim did as he was commanded to do and blinked wearily against the harsh bright lights of what could only be Starfleet Medical. He blinked again, turning his head toward Bones whose hand was still in his hair and his face was twisted with worry. Jim tried to remember how he got there, and why Bones was there too. He should be in…oh. Oh, yeah.
"'m sorry," he mumbled. "I didn't know they'd contact you…"
Bones shook his head, hand passing once more through Jim hair. "They didn't contact me, Jim."
His lips purse a little, but again he shook his head. "Not like you're thinking."
He tried to remember how long he was out. Bones had only been gone for three days before he decided to cure his 'gift' with a fifth of tequila. He said he would be gone for two weeks. Had he been out that long? He asked Bones, who sighed painfully. It was then that Jim realized that he couldn't hear Bones' thoughts. He never knew the man actually studied what was taught in Non-Physical Combat Studies.
Bones gave him a sad, frustrated look. "You were out three days. Alcohol poisoning. You wouldn't come out of it."
Jim tried to figure out why the doctor was back after three days. If no one had contacted him, why had he come back a full week earlier than he had planned? Did Jocelyn revoke his time with his daughter?
"You needed me," Bones finally explained, though it didn't make much sense to Jim. The hand in his hair slipped over his ear, resting on his neck. "You needed me so I came runnin'. Found you outside the housing unit, passed out at four in the morning. I brought ya here."
"How did you know?"
"My Jim-senses were tingling," Bones shrugged, jerky. He was hiding something. "I kept reaching for a hypospray and figured it was time to come get you before you killed yourself."
Jim laughed, having no doubt that Bones considered the illogical want of a hypospray to be his Jim-senses. A smile even ghosted across Bones' face, but it fell quickly as Bones regarded him, studying his face closely. "Don't do that again," he demanded, hazel eyes soft as his hands. "You scared the living shit outta me."
Jim nodded, eyes trapped by the doctor's gaze. He wished he could hear his thoughts again, wondered why the doctor started suddenly using the shields. He missed the thought process of his best friend, liked listening to the southern lilt that never left the cerebral voice. He wanted to ask what happened, but Jim didn't think that would be appropriate considering the doctor didn't even know he could read minds. Instead he asked, "When can I get out of here?"
Bones glanced up at the biobed readouts. "Let me give you a once-over with the tri-corder and if nothing turns up, we'll go grab a burger or something."
"'Kay," he replied, sitting up on the bed. Bones went to grab his magical wand from his medbag. He watched his back, heart beating a little oddly in his chest. "Thanks," he said without his own permission. Bones gave him a curious look as he came over. Jim took a few breaths, trying not to sound a.) sappy or b.) crazy when he said, "For knowing I needed you."
Bones looked him over critically, tri-corder stilled in his hand. For a few seconds he said nothing and then,
'I'll always know.'
That's it, and then Bones put up his wall again.
Jim stared at him dumbly, wondering when he found out, wondering how he found out.
He didn't ask. Wasn't sure he wanted to know.
"I've always felt you," Bones started without preamble about a week before their third semester started up. He's sitting at their couch and Jim is at his computer station looking up some suggested reading for some of his courses. Of course, when the doctor proclaimed that everything about Jim just stopped. They sit in a pregnant silence for a few seconds, still save for their synchronized breathing that Jim had never fallen out of after the shuttle ride.
"I was probably about twelve the first time…you were in pain and confused." Jim remembered the slap that had sent him to the floor, remembered wondering what he could have possibly done to deserve such a thing, before he knew that he never really did anything. He turned around to see Bones hunched over with his arms bolstering him against his thighs. "I sang my mother's lullaby to you. Never knew why, just always seemed right."
Jim swallowed a lump growing in his throat. "It was the first time I had ever heard anything other than my own thoughts…scared the living hell out of me." Bones looked a little crestfallen at that. "It helped though, once I got used to it. I used to hum it to myself on the days you didn't. I'll still hum it if I can't get out of some place fast enough…" He felt exposed sitting here just talking about it, the fact that he was a telepath. He wondered if Bones felt the same way or if he had told people that he was an empath. He didn't ask; he felt awkward enough. "You stopped singing when I was thirteen, though. Or, you kind of tapered off."
The doctor looked down at his hands. "My mom died. I started med school…got married. I sang it when I had time, or when you were having a particularly bad day." He shrugged, still studying his hands. "It all kinda got jumbled up when I worked at the hospital. I never knew who was really angry, or sad, or so jubilantly happy. Sometimes I thought it could be me feeling my own emotions, or it coulda been the doctor I was shadowing. I always knew when you were feeling something though. Almost like your emotions had a different signature."
Jim nodded. "You're the only person who can make all the other thought processes die down. When I'm with you…I don't have to find ways to get the voices of all those other people out. I don't need alcohol or fights or sex…you just make them go away."
Bones gave a look of dawning comprehension. "So when I went away…"
"It all came back. I couldn't escape it. They were all so loud and jumbled and I couldn't…" His hands moved wildly, trying to convey what that night had been like for him. He couldn't find the words, couldn't find the gesture. Finally he sighed and went with what sounded closest to what he meant. "I couldn't find me under it all."
Bones, Jesus fucking Christ, he loved that man, he understood. He nodded, his eyes studying Jim like he was so many wonderful puzzle pieces fitting together at last. "You called for me that night. I didn't just feel you. I heard you."
Jim shook his head, eyes a little wider than they were. "I've never done that before."
"I don't think you ever knew about it, but you've done it since we were kids."
"Only my voice?"
"Yeah, Jim. It was only ever your voice, and most of the time it was only a word sometimes two."
"What'd I say?"
"Mostly 'quiet' or 'be quiet'."
"Is that why you…" he motioned at his head, "started that."
Bones nodded. "I never knew it was you until you called my name, felt how much you needed me…" He huffed a sigh, "When I found out it was you, I thought it'd be nice if I could cut out some of the noise. Now I know that I can do that anyway, just by sitting on the couch."
Jim smiled, couldn't help it. He stood up from his chair and walked over to the couch and took a seat directly by Bones. The doctor didn't move, regarded him carefully before giving him a returning smile that Jim didn't see that often. He focused as best he could on his friend and thought of two words as clearly as he could.
"D'ya hear that?" he asked.
Bones nodded and leaned over, pressing his lips to Jim's.
"Can you feel me now?" Jim muttered, lips still brushing against the doctor's, still touching. He thrust his tongue out, tracing Bones' bottom lip, drawing between his teeth. His hand came up to trace the strong lines of neck and shoulder as Bones answered, sound of happiness skittering in Jim's mind,
'In all the best ways.'