Jim gave Jaylah over to Scotty because it was Scotty and he could bitch and moan like none other, sticking his nose into other people’s business, and largely sorting them out. Jim stayed on the deck, doing captianly things, like poking Spock. He was not Chris or Bones, he could not heal with a word of kindness.
He let Scotty take her around engineering. Bones was busy with secret parties and Jim wanted to sleep. Whatever happened would keep. He was not George Kirk nor was he Chris.
Bones wasn’t a Captain and Jim wasn’t a doctor. He couldn’t stab at wounds so they would heal, not when they were all limping along. Besides Scotty was good and kind and Jaylah did not need another captain to break her. And Jim didn’t need to break anybody else.
Spock caught him after the party, after their guarded conversation.
“Jim,” he corrected.
“I believe that it is my duty to inquire about your welfare.”
“Thank you. Bones declared me sound.” So many hypos. Soooo many.
“That does not answer my question.”
“Spock . . .”
“You have been exhibiting signs of stress.”
Well, duh. Not even Jim could save a planet, or two really- at least, without showing signs of emotional trauma or whatever the hell Spock was going on about.
“I suffer a moral dilemma,” Jim said finally, deciding to be obtusely honest. This was Spock; he could trust Spock. “If . . . if you could help somebody by talking about Vulcan . . . about . . . .about how much it hurt, would you?”
They walked. Spock mulled it over. And for once, he didn’t lecture Jim on the nuances of human emotion, or how cruel his friend was being because Jim knew all that, and he still asked the question. This mattered. Somehow.
“I do not know. I would, if I was able to,” Spock said carefully, slowly. “I declined to give a lecture three years ago. I would be more likely to accept now. Why do you ask?”
“I am older than my father.” Jim stopped and leaned over a railing. He felt like he was running and gravity had just changed focus.
Bones didn’t know. He knew about Frank, but everybody knew about Frank. Memories couldn’t be hacked. Pike was dead and everybody else had forgotten. Spock wasn’t a robot, Jim knew that-he did, but he processed things differently.
“Tarsus IV,” Jim got out. “Zero out of ten stars, do not recommend.”
“Please clarify.” Based on Spock’s face, he was picking up colloquialisms just fine.
“Nevermind. Thanks for the advice.” Jim bolted.
Jim easily avoided Spock and Bones for four days. He got himself invited to Sulu’s for a few days and then to Uhura’s one day bender. That woman could drink.
“Jim,” Bones shouted, catching up to him in the hallway. “Your Vulcan has become a nightmare, playing twenty questions.”
“So? Spock does weird things. Remember-”
“Jim.” Bones paused. Jim fidgeted, tugging at his pants, hiding his hands. Bones knew that Jim had three apples on him, at least, judging from subtle bulges. “What happened?”
“Nothing doesn’t get the hobgoblin riled up.” Bones knew his lover. Spock wouldn’t get twitchy over nothing, and nothing could make him twitchy like something wrong with Jim. And Jim doesn’t easily let people get to him, apart from a select few.
“The captain told me something,” Spock announced his presence. Bones’ eyebrows shot up. “What he said was in confidence.” Jim sighed in relief. “However, it would be beneficial for the captain to tell you as well.”
Bones turned to Jim. “Moral debate.”
“On?” Bones gritted his teeth because he knew his friend. And Jim, Jim was shit at ethics when it came to himself.
“I was on Tarsus IV.”
“Although I have limited experience with Jim telling the truth, he must be.”
“I know that.” Bones turned back to Jim. “What happened?” He shook his head.
“That is not the point,” Jim got out. “Should I talk to Jaylah?”
“Do you think you should?”
“What if it helps?”
“Don’t,” Bones said softly, but Jim still flinched and Bones swore internally at his inability to tiptoe around Jim in times like these. “However she’s dealing with it, she’s dealing with it.”
“Okay, okay. Thank you.” Jim rubbed the back of his head, and bolted away at a brisk walk, making sure to not allow them to corner him again. And his friends knew enough to know that they didn’t have to follow after him; he’d be back, and they would be there.
Months went by. Starfleet came knocking. Jaylah hung out with the crew in San Francisco, sleeping in Uhura’s guestroom. She went to class and interrogations from top officials, trying to hammer out her new home, build something from the foundation up.
“What is with James T?” She asked Bones.
“He has been avoiding me.”
“He wouldn’t help me rewire the filtration system,” and even Bones didn’t have the skill to defend that because Jim loved breaking things.
“Jim’s had a rough time of it,” he said at last. Jim had been curling up outside Spock and Bones’ room most nights, not even getting up the strength to make it through the door. And yeah, they didn’t try to get him to talk about the past.
That’s not them. They don’t wedge open old battle wounds in a false attempt at kindness. Not with each other, and especially not with Jim. Jim would tell them when he’s good and ready, and it would be all right if he never was.
“Scotty won’t say, and he’s-he’s acting like he’s falling mid flight.”
“I’ll-I’ll talk to him,” Bones said finally. And God, that was going to be a trick. The kid was back to acting like they were in the Academy, barely thinking that Bones was his friend. And just.
Later, Bones curled up with Spock. Yes, it’d started as hate-sex to we’re alive sex to the gushy kind. Although, it usually flipped back a lot. And Bones was never going to not like seeing his Vulcan naked.
“Babe, we need to talk to Jim.”
“He’s like a kitten who follows us home. He might be outside our door right now.”
“Is that all you can say?”
“I do own a dictionary, Len.”
“I have been talking to him.” Bones raised an eyebrow. Spock sighed. “He finds logic in him being responsible for the deaths of his friends on Tarsus IV, and even Kudos committing other horrid acts.”
“Of course he does.”
“Hmmm.” Spock tucked himself closer. Bones felt himself calm down. “I think he wants Jaylah to never feel that way.”
Bones remembered Kirk, before he was Jim, when the kid tucked himself around the loners at the Academy, made sure that Bones was eating enough when he couldn’t choke down soup. That time he forced Bones to go to Medical over a papercut (because it might get infected), while hiding stress-fractures from running five miles later two days ago.
Jim was always throwing himself off cliffs to see how he could fly, while ordering everybody else to stay on firm ground.
And Jim knew that. He knew, okay? He was perfectly aware that hiding outside Spock and Bones’ room was not acceptable, that his friends would let him in, tuck him into the couch, and feed him soup. But he just couldn’t.
Because they might ask him questions.
Because he might answer.
Because he couldn’t face the fact that soup was struggle to drip down his throat on some days.
“Jim?” Spock asked, not breaching the three foot distance them. Jim looked up, tearing his gaze off Spock’s door. And Bones’ door. And wasn’t that thirty percent the problem. Them, on the other side of what feels like an unbreachable door fashioned from wood.
“Yeah? Hey, you called me by my first name!”
“We are not on the ship. It is logical to call you by the name you desire when we are off duty.”
“Jim,” Spock said patiently. “You are in love with my bondmate. It is understandable that you would seek comfort-”
“Nope, nah, no. Just no. Bones and I aren’t like that!”
“To borrow one of your phrases: bullshit.”
“I-I-I can explain…” Jim looks like he wanted to curl away, to dig a hole to hide, and Spock wasn’t going to stand for that.
“Explain what? It natural to fall in love-”
“Woah, hey now, it’s not a thing, but if it was it would be a sex thing-”
“To fall in love with somebody who you trust and respect,” Spock finished, fully experienced with Jim’s ineffective techniques in derailment.
“Spock-” And Jim looked one second away from running, from falling off a cliff and Spock wasn’t having any of it.
“Jim. Come to bed. I know every side of you, and I will not let you shunt yourself aside.”
“You don’t know everything.”
“I know enough.” Three years had done that. Number of times Jim had almost died: 365, three times over. Number of times Spock had been emotionally compromised: nigh impossible to count.
Jim looked shrunken, like a strong wind would blow him over, like only his bones were holding him up. Spock very carefully reached out and looped one of Jim’s arms over his shoulder. Jim swayed.
“You don’t know everything,” he repeated.
“I know that you are my friend. I know enough.” Spock very firmly tucked Jim into bed. Bones pretended to stir and go back to sleep (Spock knew he’d been awake, pressing himself against the door to hear). Jim tried to hold himself like a statue, not to touch his bedmates. Spock, not Bones, was the one to sling an arm over Jim, and roll up against him.
Bones woke in the morning to Jim muttering in the bathroom.
“I’m being stupid, should’ve left last night, can’t-”
“Hey, Jim, I need in there. You mind?” Bones asked, gently rapping on the door. He heard something crash to the ground and then Jim almost bolted out the door. Bones casually leaned against the only exit to the front hallway. “Oh, and Spock’s making breakfast. He was all huffy over finding something you can eat.”
That’d do it. Bones used the facilities and washed his hands. Jim wasn’t going anywhere after Spock attacked him with logic. Bones chuckled softly to himself. His mate was good at his job, which 50% of was taking care of Jim, 25% was managing the ship and diplomacy, and 25% was actual science. Though to be fair, even the non-Jim categories could still be related to Jim.
Jim fell under his own duties in much the same fashion.
“I don’t think the new warp paper is- Hi, Bones.”
“So, I’ll just get my things and leave and-”
“Jim,” Spock says, and Jim pauses. “Just stay for breakfast.”
“I’m not. This doesn’t-you have a- you don’t need me here.”
Spock tilts his head. “Perhaps not. But we want you here. And once in a while, beings deserve things they want. And you here, is something we all want very much, yes?”
“So, for once in your damn life,” Bones growls. “Be happy.”
For a long moment, Jim glares at him, until finally he submits. “Fine,” Jim grumbles back, biting into his pancake.
And months later, after everything settles, Jaylah meets Jim on an empty deck of the newly re-established Enterprise . He’s sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall, looking out into space. She sits next to him.
“Will you tell me?” she asks. For a long time, Jaylah lived by herself, surrounded by enemies, she was no slouch when it came to others.
“A long time ago, I was sent into space by my mom. She’d left the planet. So I went to another. There, a mad man burned out the civilization, killing thousands. Starfleet didn’t respond until it was too late.”
“Not fun, James T.”
“No. But I moved past it.” And Jim was the more surprised of them to know that was the truth. They knock shoulders. It’s enough for the other to know that they’re not alone.
And maybe some wounds got bleed slowly in stages, until the poisson cleared the veins, until new growth started. But it doesn’t happen overnight.
One day, Spock gives a lecture on Vulcan to a crowded auditorium. Jim and Len are in the front row. It’s only because of them that Spock, irrational though it might be, isn’t three planets away. And Spock remembers more than just Vulcan.
“On I was 6.789 years old, according to earth’s cycle, my mother taught me to make pies. It was the hot season, which was dry and cracky.” Spock takes a breath and tries to think about how Jim would explain this. “The pie was raspberry with lemon.” Spock looks up at the audience. “I miss that most about Vulcan.”
And later, Jim makes curry, feeding all of them. Most of the Enterprise crew from the Narada mission drift in and out. Spock, tired of being human, meditates in their bedroom.
“Spock,” Jaylah says softly, entering the room. Spock looks up.
“Jim sent me with naan bread. He said that you like naan bread.”
Spock nods slowly. “My mother taught me how to make it during the raining season. She always said that curry was for the cold. Father held that seasons had nothing to do with food.”
“But you still like curry when it’s cold outside?”
“Yes. And when I’m sad. That’s why Jim’s making it and sending you in with naan bread. He knows I cannot get mad at you.”
“Yes.” She leaves the bread and goes back to the party. Spock doesn’t follow. That’s not what his lovers are offering him. They’re offering to handle the world for a moment when he can only mourn.
And later, much later, they curl up in the bed. They didn’t need to be speak. It was enough for them to be there.
“I think, I want to publish a book,” Jim tells Spock first, not Bones. Spock nods and asks if he can read the first draft.
Weeks later, James T. Kirk publishes a book. The Lost Economics of Genocide . It’s not a pleasant read, but that’s not why it was published. Some things just need to be said. He gives no comment, easily directing all asking to his First Officer. The crew close ranks around their captain, and never back down.
And sometimes, that’s all you can do. You throw yourself in front of others. You grasp everybody around you and hold on as you go down into the black, into the unknown.