When Winona Kirk found out that she was pregnant a few short months into a three year mission, she was beyond pissed. It wasn’t that she was opposed to having another little bundle of joy and force of destruction running around underfoot, it was more that the timing was that great.
They were too far out into deep space to just swing around and take her home, or even drop her off on a starbase to let her hitch hike back. And they were still so far from completing the mission that she was going to miss most of it anyway. Maternity leave first, and then she was going to be stuck on family leave to deal with a baby. On a starship.
The Kelvin does not have a daycare, unfortunately.
In the end, Winona knows that she’ll get over it. There are far worse things that could happen out here in the black than an unplanned pregnancy.
When James Tiberius Kirk is born in the middle of the shipwide evacuation, there is a lot going through his mother’s mind. Her ship, which by this point was more home than the little house in Iowa. Her shipmates, those friends which were now more like family. And her husband, who was dying up there, alone on the bridge, giving his life without hesitation or thought. But among all the thoughts of fear and sorrow, there is also the almost amused this kid has terrible luck.
The initial aftermath of The Kelvin disaster is loud. There are reporters and investigators, all vying for Winona’s attention or comment or opinion. The family of her dead shipmates all seem to think that she has something to say to them, some last message to pass along. The truth is, the only dying words she heard were for her. The Admiralty has a lot of yelling to do. As if a simple engineer on medical leave would have anything to say to them about what was going on up on the bridge in those final minutes.
Long story short, there’s a lot of people, with a lot of things to say to her. So she spends a good four months on Starbase 4, baby Jimmy in her arms and whatever poor sucker that mistook her for the right person to talk to at the receiving end of her death glare.
The later aftermath is quieter. Partly because after one too many calls from some well-wishing somebody who had “heard about George” she had rather serenely melted all her communications devices with her phaser.
The press has moved on by month six, her high-ups have accepted she can’t help them sort out what happened by month eight. She is finally left alone.
Where there should be George, there is nothing but a dull void. His breathing is replaced by silence, along with his voice, and his footsteps, and… it’s all gone. George is gone, and the only thing left in his wake is Sam, back on Earth and there for out of reach, and Jimmy.
And don’t get her wrong, she loves Jimmy. But other than cry and eat, he doesn’t do much. Babies are not the best companions.
And maybe it’s the lack of real human companionship, maybe it's the stress, or postpartum depression. She doesn’t know exactly what flips the switch. All she knows is that one night, as she lay staring at the empty space where George should be it hits her. Winona does not want to go home.
The thought of going home to that little house in Iowa and having the George shaped void follow her there… it’s too much. She needs a little more time to shake of his ghost lest it follow her when she leaves this place.
Besides, she had already made arrangements to be off-planet for almost another year from now. Sam is with George’s parents. He’ll be fine. And after what she’s just been through, there is not a single iota of doubt in Winona’s mind that Command would approve her request to stay out in the black a little longer. She’ll be a janitor on a communications relay if she has to.
She gets moved to Starbase 6, Jimmy in tow. Here, Winona is nothing more than a glorified handyman, nothing on her to do list even approaches the level of interest that The Kelvin ’s engine demanded. But the combination of work (no matter how dull) and being a single mom of a rather demanding baby keeps her busy.
She loves Jimmy, she does, but that child is a handful. He takes after her temperment a lot more than Sam ever did. Winona wonders how much of that has to do with the George shaped hole in her life. The answer, she thinks, is most likely a lot.
It’s with those kinds of thoughts, around Jimmy’s first birthday, that Winona considers going home. And then she sees the news broadcasts about the anniversary.
Earth can wait a little longer.
Time passes, and Jimmy grows, and god damn is that kid a smart one. And Winona isn’t just saying that because she’s some hormone-flooded, glowing mommy who’s baby is the smartest baby ever born.
No, she’s saying that because she has to live with this kid. When Jimmy gets good enough at talking in semi-coherent sentences, she looks up how many questions the average human toddler asks a day. The answer? Around 300.
So either that number is one hell of a low-ball, or James Tiberius Kirk is a little genius. Or the most annoying person ever born.
Maybe a little bit of both.
Either way, she knows that she’s feilding at least twice that many in between dinner and his bedtime alone. And that’s without taking his sleep-avoiding questions into account.
Every other breath, it’s “what’s that, Mommy?” and “who’s that, Mommy?” and “how do I?” and “when can I?”
And lest she forget his personal favorite:
At times it can be more irritating that she could possibly explain. But when your only friend is a toddler, you get used to it.
George’s parents call on Jimmy’s third birthday. The third anniversary of their son’s death. She lets them sing happy birthday, let’s them pretend that they only care about the happy parts of the day. Winona knows how proud George would be of her minding her manners like this.
It’s a bit of a relief to have Jimmy’s attention focused on someone other than her for a minute. (As much as her in-laws annoy her, she can’t actually say anything rude. They have been taking care of Sam. And trying to love Jimmy, despite how hard she’s made it to even talk to him.) So she leaves them to it, taking a rare moment to herself as Jimmy happily babbles away at his grandparents through screen.
About fifteen minutes later, she hears him call in that overly loud way he has, “Bye, Grandma!”
So she goes over to say bye (manners), and shut down the console. But before she even gets two feet across the room, Jimmy speaks again. “Mommy, Grandpa wants to talk to you.”
“Fantastic.” Best to get this over quickly.
She strides over to the desk where the video call is set up, shooing Jimmy away. “Go play, kiddo.” He darts off, gone to do whatever it is that three-year-old boys do when left unsupervised. She sits down and crosses her arms, leveling a glare at the screen.
“Come home, Winona.” No small talk, straight to the point. Tiberius understands his daughter in law that much at least.
His eyes narrow. “Can’t? Or won’t?”
He heaves a heavy sigh. “And why is that? You can’t hide forever, dear. And Sam needs you.”
Something deep inside her chest twists. “He doesn’t—”
“He does.” Something in Tiberius face softens. “And you need him. Or did you forget that James isn’t an only child?”
“How dare you,” She sputters, her rage getting caught in her throat. “You have no idea what it was like. What it’s been like.”
He shakes his head. “Just come home. If not for you, or even Sam, then do it for Jimmy.”
“There’s nothing wrong with him. He’s fine here.”
“Are you sure?” Before she has the chance to start screaming, he continues. “Winona, the boy is three years old and he’s never seen sunlight. He’s never felt rain, or the wind. Hell, he’s never felt gravity that isn’t artificial.”
She doesn’t want to admit it, but he’s right. So all she says is, “I’ll think about it.”
Before he can say anything else, she hangs up.
The next day she puts in the request for a leave on Earth, and a transfer to something planetside afterwards. She knows it’s the right thing. She knows that it’s for the best. She also knows that there is no way in hell that anyone would deny her request considering that she is a single mom with a toddler and another small child.
No one in their right mind would deny that request.
But a part of her hopes that someone does. Because it’s now only a matter of time before she has to break her self imposed isolation and face reality.
The good news is that Jimmy will love Earth. He’s an energetic kid, and Tiberius was right. He needs room to run, to roll around in the dirt.
Iowa has plenty of dirt.
Everything is going to be just fine.
Tiberius and Sam meet them at the station. There is no actual reason for them to do so, Winona knows how to get to George's parents’ house. But she gets it. Sam missed her, and is beyond excited to meet his brother in person for the first time.
They’re both excited going by the twin squeaks they unleash as they barrel into a hug.
Winona nods at Tiberius and then says, “Don't squeeze your brother so hard, Sam. He’s a lot more little than you are.”
“Okay, Mommy,” Sam says in his perfect little angel voice, and then he lets go of Jimmy and wraps his arms around her and he’s hugging her and he’s perfect and she missed him and her heart is breaking and healing all at the same time and oh, god, she never should have been gone this long.
George would be ashamed of her.
She’ll make it up to Sam. And Jimmy, too. She might not be able to take back all those years she tried to hide from the world, but from now on, she’s going to do the whole mom-thing properly. She will.
And maybe one day Winona will be able to forgive herself.
Sam and Jimmy get on like a house on fire. Which is amazing, because there was a part of her that thought that they would hate each other. It is also the worst, because they are a whirlwind of chaos and destruction, and she’s just trying to get her shit together. Starting with moving Sam’s things from his grandparents house back to theirs.
She has to send them outside while she boxes up his room because their trying to help was anything but helpful.
From the open window she can hear them running around the yard and screaming, in that way that kids do when they’re happy.
By the time she’s moving the boxes of Sam’s things to the car her in-laws generously lent for the move, both of them look tired. Well, Sam looks tired. Jimmy looks exhausted.
More exhausted than she’s ever seen him, actually.
She stands there for a moment, a box in her arms, and just watches. They’re both still running around, clearly having a blast, but Jimmy keeps pausing to pant, hand on his chest.
She’s never seen him this tired-looking, this worn out. This kind of exercise should barely have him breaking a sweat, honestly— he’s run twice as fast for twice as long to avoid bath time, before.
It’s probably all the traveling they just did, she reasons. He probably didn’t sleep well last night. And it is a little hot out.
Those are all perfectly valid explanations.
But there’s something off— an alarm bell is ringing in her head, and she doesn’t know why. Overprotectiveness? Perhaps.
She puts the box in the car and heads back in for another.
A few trips later, Jimmy stops her on her way back to the house, panting like a dog. “I don't feel good.”
She frowns. “Can you describe the ruckus?”
He doesn’t even smile. “I’m heavy.”
“Do you mean tired, baby?”
“No, I’m heavy,” he insists, as serious as she’s ever seen him. “I’m sticking to the ground.”
And without any further warning, he crumbles unconscious to the ground.
In the movies, what would happen next would be a series of blurred cutscenes. A haphazard skip from crises to hospital to recovery.
But this isn’t a movie.
When Jimmy collapses, she drops to her knees, following him to the ground. He’s hot, so hot, and his heart… it’s racing faster than a hamster's after an hour on a wheel.
That doesn’t bode well.
So she calls an ambulance, and waits, for the longest ten minutes of her life, with Jimmy in her arms.
When the ambulance arrives, she leaves Sam behind, always, she leaves him behind.
She’s useless in the ambulance. Completely and utterly useless as a person and a mother. She can’t do anything but sit and watch as the medics do whatever it is that they are doing to keep her baby alive, and answer whatever questions that they have.
It’s not until she’s in the god awful hospital waiting room and they’ve taken James away from her that she has something to do. And it’s paperwork. Winona hates paperwork.
To be fair, even paperwork is better than staring of into space and thinking about the fact that her kid is probably dying. Better than letting herself spiral into a litany of not again, not again, I can’t lose him again.
Further problem, Jim’s paperwork doesn’t take long. He doesn’t have much of a medical history to report. No serious illness, no surgeries (yet). And allergies? How would she know? He’s been in filtered air his entire life. For all she knows, Jimmy could be allergic to the sun.
When the doctors finally let her see him, she almost gets herself kicked out. Because the sight of him unconscious hooked up to so many monitors and machines… something in Winona snaps. She throws a PADD that had the misfortune of being on a table near her against a wall and just screams.
Jimmy’s been in the hospital for three days by the time she gets dragged into a real life conference room for a panel of people that all apparently have something to add here. She’s introduced to all the doctors, but doesn’t bother to remember their names. But their jobs, those stick out. Pediatrician, that makes sense. Neurologist, worrying, but understandable. Same for cardiologist. Though what a goddamn physicist has to say about her kid is beyond her.
The answer is worse than she could ever imagine.
“You mean to tell me that he can’t handle gravity ?”
Almost everyone in the room flinches. Good.
The cardiologist is the only one brave enough to speak to her at first, “That’s the heart of it, Mrs. Kirk.”
“Commander.” Winona’s voice has lost all emotion. She’s now a being of steel.
“I’m sorry. Commander.” The cardiologist looks like she hasn’t slept in three days. Good. “Your son is reacting to Earth like—”
“Like you or I would react to a long Vulcan Summer,” interjects the physicist.
Winona is emotionless. She is ice. “Elaborate.”
It’s the pediatrician that answers her this time. “Well, it’s not a perfect analogy, but it works. The gravity is too much for our little human bodies. The air is too thick. So our systems go into overtime to maintain homeostasis. And in people with already vulnerable systems, that kind of overdrive can cause a crash.”
That… makes sense. “But how can he be reacting to Earth like that?”
There’s a beat of silence.
The asshole physicist speaks. “James is the first human child to have been in artificial gravity from conception to birth, and with the additional years you spent out there, he is the only human to spend so much of their crucial development in said environment.”
Winona’s facade of glass begins to splinter. Suddenly that useless fun fact she learned back at the academy doesn’t seem so fun or useless. “And ‘Earth Normal’ artificial gravity isn’t perfectly Earth normal. It’s actually a little light.”
“If it was sooner…” the cardiologist stumbles over her words. “If I could have tried to treat him sooner, as a newborn maybe…”
They keep talking.
For hours and hours, they keep talking.
But Winona has heard enough.
She did this.
19 Years Later
“Hey there, Bones.”
Leonard McCoy wants to scream. He doesn’t need to turn around to know who is standing in the doorway behind him. No one else in the entire Federation calls him that stupid nickname. He doesn’t need to look to know who’s literally hopping up onto the examination table and no doubt is swinging his legs like a small child.
McCoy takes a deep breath, gripping his PADD far more tightly than necessary and turning to face his favorite patient.
“Hey there, Jim.” The fact that the kid is here voluntarily, and he doesn’t look like he’s on the verge of death can only mean one thing. “Been three months already?”
The grin he gets in response can only be described as shit-eating. “On the dot.”
Leonard can’t help the small answering smile that comes uninvited to his features. What can he say? He’s got a soft spot for Jim. Which is why it hurts so much, watching him try so hard for something that he’ll never have.
“Why are you always in such a rush to get rejected, huh?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Yes you do. You and I both know-”
“Bones.” All the playfulness is gone from Jim. His body is stone still, voice flat. “Drop it. Do my damn physical.”
He stepped on a nerve there. “Fine.”
The exam itself doesn’t take long. He’s far too familiar with Jim’s particular brand of fucked up to let any readings skew him. All in all, it takes about ten minutes.
But it’s a slow day and Jim hangs out for a bit. Which is good. Leonard needs more human interaction other than patients and teachers and video calls with his daughter.
And Jim is… well. He’s Jim.
Leonard has been Jim’s doctor for over a year now. Because while he is technically a student, he’s still a licensed physician and works shifts at the campus medical center.
And just so happened to be on one of those shifts when Jim had one of his near death episodes. By now, McCoy has seen enough of them to know that that one was particularly bad. But he saved the moron’s life, and gave him the strict order to avoid stairs as much as possible, and thought, well that was an interesting case
Or rather it should have been.
It a sane world, that would have been.
But apparently, Jim came to some hairbrained conclusion that Leonard was the sole reason for his continued life and ability to annoy people. And for some reason that Leonard will probably never comprehend, this particular civilian asshole is on Starfleet medical.
So one thing led to another and… Jim’s his problem now. For better or worse. Until Jim either dies from his own stupidity, or Leonard gets shipped off planet.
And along the way a relationship that should have been entirely professional turned into a friendship.
They’re a little attached. McCoy sometime thinks he’s a little too attached to someone who's heart is a ticking time bomb.
But Jim likes Bones because he saved his life and is good at his job, and doesn’t treat Jim like he’s made of glass. Or like some idiot that can’t listen to their own body and deserves to be wrapped in bubble-wrap.
Leonard likes Jim because even though the kid most definitely is made of glass, he sure as hell doesn’t act like it. The guy won’t let anyone tell him that he can’t do something.
Which is coincidentally the thing he also hates the most about Jim. That and his penchant for actively seeking out situations that will only cause him pain.
Speaking of which.
“So how many attempts is this?”
Jim shrugs. “Twelve? I think.”
“Why you keep doing all of this to get in to an organization that has done nothing for you but waste your time, I will never understand.”
“Bones.” God, he hates that nickname. “I told you to drop it. Please.”
Jim rarely says ‘please.’
So drop it he does.
The good thing about Jim trying to enlist at the start of almost every academy semester is that he no longer has any sort of nerves about the application process. He spends about three months improving his record, whether by academics (because Starfleet does have a civilian academic program) or some kind of stereotypical it-looks-good-on-a-resume work.
Not that he doesn’t like to help people, because he does. It’s kind of half of the reason that he wants to join the ‘Fleet in the first place. But he probably wouldn’t be spending so much of his time working for free without the obsessive need to continually one-up the admissions people.
And then he harasses Bones for an official physical, and gets to the admissions office first thing the next day.
As in, the first day for in person interviews.
Why so early? Well, he has to get the jump on these people and get the actual interview on file before the powers that be can actually notice the fact that he’s in no way shape or form medically fit for duty. And Jim has to be able to say his piece.
Because he’s in a war of attrition with the Federation’s largest organization. He won’t be able to wear them down if they never let him talk. He learned that the hard way on the first go-around.
The office opens at eight. So Jim is there at seven fifty. Just like usual.
Except, unlike usual, he’s not alone.
Standing outside in the cool September morning, is a kid that looks young enough to still be in middle school. A Freshman in highschool maybe.
“Are you lost, kid?”
The boy jumps, clearly not expecting a strange man to have appeared before him while he stared off into space. To his credit, he pulls himself together pretty quickly. “No, I’m waiting for the office to open.”
Jim frowns. A Russian accent. And a really thick one, too. This kid is pretty far from home. “Thinking of enlisting in a few years, huh?”
Some sort of stubborness flashes in the kid’s eyes. Jim knows that look. It’s one he sees quite often in the mirror. “I am going to enlist this year, actually.”
He likes this kid a little bit already. “I’m Jim,” he offers, sticking out his hand.
“Pavel,” answers the Russian middle schooler, shaking his hand with endearing enthusiasm. Jim can’t help but smile.
“And what are you hoping to specialize in, little Pavel?”
“I’m not little! I’m fourteen!”
Wow. Just wow.
Before Jim manages to find something to say to that that isn’t entirely sarcastic, a red and green blur crashes into him from the side, and he’s wrapped into a constricting hug by his favorite Orion.
“Hey, Gaila.” He wheezes. “Ease up a little?”
“Weakling,” she teases, but does loosen her grip. “You hanging out with me today?”
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world. You know how I love the way you make me wait.” Jim remembers little fourteen year old Pavel the moment the innuendo leaves his mouth. Shit. The kid is wide-eyed, clearly remembering the things he was told about stranger danger.
“Did you bring a friend, Jimmy?”
He better intervene now before the poor little thing gets scarred by whatever it is that might come out of Gaila’s mouth next.
“Gaila, Pavel. Pavel, Gaila.”
Pavel gives a nervous smile and Gaila absolutely beams in response.
“Gaila is a Starfleet Cadet, and a very good friend of mine, who does odd jobs around various offices because in her words, ‘I’m broke, and my class schedule won’t let me get a real person job.’ Pavel is a very smart fourteen year old that is about to attempt to bully the Academy into accepting him early.”
The kid relaxes, apparently having come to the decision that Gaila wasn’t going to launch a surprise hug on him as well.
“Well aren’t you just adorable.” She somehow manages to ruffle both of their hair at the same time. “Alright, let’s get you inside so you two can hurry up and wait.”
She unlocks the door. “The last time you tried this Jim, I told you to bring me flowers.”
Jim says “I didn't know you’d be working here today.”
At nearly the same moment, Pavel asks, “Last time?”
“I’ve failed the physical a few times.” The details of that particular problem are not relevant to a kid he just met. “Let’s go in.”
Gaila signs them in, and then it’s just like she said: hurry up and wait. Because while the office technically opens at eight, that doesn’t mean that the important people have to be there on time.
Normally, Jim would spend this time flirting with Gaila. But she waves him off, pulling out a PADD and angrily muttering about her homework.
The good news is that Pavel isn’t half bad as a conversation partner.
Turns out, this is the kid’s dream. Like, enlisting in the ‘Fleet is everything that he’s ever wanted. He also looks like an anxious mess. Jim can relate. So it’s probably for the best that Jim has decided to let the kid talk his ear off rather than spiral into quiet panic.
And boy, does Pavel have a lot to say. Mostly about everything that he’s done to get ready for this.
“...but there is only so many courses that I can take back home to prepare, and there isn’t anything else for me to do other than go to a university, but I do not want to, I want to join the Starfleet, but I’m too young to enlist, but with my academic record-”
“Pavel.” The kid was starting to talk in circles. “If your age is the only problem, why dont you apply as a civilian student to the academy. It’s pricey, but it would have you learning the same things that you would as an enlisted man.” Or child. “That’s an option, you know.”
“But that is not what I want, Jim.” Something in Pavel’s body language- shifts, and suddenly he’s giving off the aura of someone much older than himself. “I want to learn, yes. But not only. I want to go places , to see things. I want to do my part as well. What little difference I can make in this universe, I want to make it. And the best way to do that is from within Starfleet.” He sighs. “You think I am a fool, don’t you?”
“No. I don’t, actually. Not at all. I feel the same way, in fact.” Jim sighs. “That’s why I keep trying, even though the doctors say I can’t.”
“You don’t look sick.”
That earns him a bitter smile. “Looks can be deceiving, kid.”
“What is wrong with you?”
Now, normally, that question would not go over well with one James Kirk. He doesn’t like people butting their way into his business, let alone almost total strangers. Yet something about how the kid asks him… Jim wants to tell him. So he does.
“Did you know that on Federation vessels, ‘Earth Normal’ gravity is actually a little on the light side?”
“I did not.”
“Well, I was born in space. Spent the first few years of my life without ever touching the ground.”
The information visibly clicks in Pavel’s mind. “Earth makes you sick. The planet is too big.” The kid’s eyes grow impossibly wider. “That is why you want to join Starfleet! Being on a ship will make you better!”
Jim can’t help his smile. The absolute innocent joy at solving a puzzle emanating off this boy is kind of catching.
“That. And the things you said, too.”
Jim’s interview goes about as well as it always does until they manage to pull up his physical. And just like every time before the asshole won’t even hear his argument against what his health looks like on paper.
But this time, instead of angrily storming out of the building, he just storms out of the prick’s office. He’s going to wait for Pavel.
After all, Jim knows how much he would appreciate having someone there to hear the news, good or bad.
When the little Russian stumbles out into the lobby, it’s impossible to tell how it went. He’s moving slowly, eyes kind of glazed over.
He’s in shock.
“How’d it go?”
Deep shock. “Pavel?” Tentatively Jim reaches out, placing a hand on the kid’s shoulder.
“I got in.” As he says it the words they seem to hit him, and the calm is broken. A manic grin slowly spreads over the kid’s face. “I made it!”
“Fuck yes!” Pavel’s grin gets impossibly wider. “This calls for an absurd amount of ice cream.”
This is a weird day, Jim decides as he sits down in a little corner booth of the nearest ice cream parlor. With his new friend, Pavel Chekov. Pavel Chekov the fourteen year old newly minted Starfleet cadet.
It’s a strange world.
But Jim really likes Pavel, even though the kid never stops talking. Like ever. And even if they never see eachother again, the excursion for ice cream was certainly a great idea. Because the kid has a look of nervous energy to get out now that the stress is out. Apparently talking Jim's ear off works.
By the time his sundae is halfway gone, Pavel has barely eaten his. But what he has done is detail the entire meeting he just had to the point that Jim is half convinced he was there as well.
Suddenly the ranting stops. “Hey, Jim?”
“Would being in space really fix you?”
The question is asked so bluntly, with no warning, that Jim nearly chokes on the spoonful of ice cream he had just shoved in his mouth. “What?”
“Would it fix you? The artificial gravity.”
An upfront question deserves an upfront answer. “It would.”
Pavel nods. A sudden grave air descends around them both, far too serious for the place they’re in. “Then we will get you into space.”
Weirdly enough, Jim wants to believe him. But… “And how are we going to do that, huh? I’ve tried a couple times, you know. They won’t look past the physical.”
“You took the physical on Earth. You are allergic to Earth.” And then, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world, Pavel says something so beautiful in it’s simplicity that Jim wants to cry. “So we force them to do your exam in space.”
“You… you’re a genius.”
While Chekov is immediately riled up for a full on legal brawl, Jim manages to talk him down. After all, it doesn't suit in the long run to stir up trouble. So he wants to see if the whole thing can be handled civilly first.
He knows just the person to go to. And old family friend that just so happens to be stuck on Earth while he waits for his new ship to be built.
So he drops Pavel off at the hotel he’s staying at (hopefully with an adult or two) and then bolts to Pike’s office.
It won’t take long to convince him. Captain Pike is fond of Kirks. He’s had a soft spot for Jim especially ever since-
Ever since they met in person.
Jim goes barreling into Pike’s office, panting. He definitely got here way too fast.
“Captain, I need to talk to you!”
“I’m kind of in the middle of something, Jim. Wait outside.” Pike is so used to Jim’s particular brand of crazy by now that he doesn’t even break eye contact with the man he had been talking too. Or rather, the Vulcan he had been talking too, Jim realizes as the person in question turns in his seat to inspect the cause of the interruption.
Jim’s eyes lock with the Vulcan’s unusually warm brown ones, and the first thought to jump into his head is, oh no, he’s hot. Which hopefully isn’t that obvious of a thought to an outside observer because Jim really doubts that he’s going to get on anyones good side by gawking at a… he manages to break his stare enough to inspect the strangers uniform. Commander. Shit.
“Sorry, Captain. Commander.” He lets himself out without another word.
Well. That was embarrassing.
The Vulcan Commander leaves Pike’s office about fifteen minutes later. By then, Jim has fortunately caught his breath and brought his heart rate back down to a normal level. Or what passes for normal in his fucked up cardiovascular system anyway. He offers a polite nod. Which the Vulcan apparently takes as an invitation for conversation.
“It is considered ill form to enter a space that does not belong to you without permission, Cadet.”
Oh, joy. “Not a Cadet.”
The Vulcan blinks. “Such behavior is all the more unbefitting of a ranking officer.”
“Not an officer either.”
That earns another rapid blink. Huh. The Vulcan has a tell.
This has been fun, but Jim has things to do. “Well, it was nice to meet you, Commander Manners.”
“My name is Spock.”
Jim can’t help the faint smile. He’s never seen a Vulcan look so confused. “Well then, Commander Spock. I’ve got a rather annoyed Captain to talk to.”
With a wink and a mockingly lazy salute, Jim turns on his heels and strolls back into Pike’s office.
He doesn’t knock this time either.
“You better make this quick, Kirk.”
Jim throws himself into the chair in front of his desk. “What, no hello?”
“What do you want?”
Jim, throws his hand to his chest in mock-affront. “Who says I want something? Can’t I just come by for a chat? To catch up?”
Pike just stares. He has a great tired-of-this-shit stare.
“Okay, fine.” There’s no good way to bridge this subject, so he just goes for it. “So it’s physically impossible for me to pass the mandated physical for enlistment while on this planet. So—”
“Jim, you have to stop this. I know it’s not ideal, but—”
“No, listen! ”
There must have been something in his voice, because Pike sighs, but does indeed shut up.
“What if I had Bones do my physical off-planet? On a starbase?”
This time Pike’s silence is not the long suffering one that Jim has grown all too accustomed to over the years. No, this time it’s almost… contemplative. The silence stretches on and Jim wants to break it, to say something, anything. And he has a lot to say. But he doesn't want to accidentally say the wrong thing and ruin his chances when he’s so close to winning him over that he can taste it.
“That…” Pike seems surprised by his on voice. “That might actually work.”
Jim can’t believe it. For the first time in a long time, he feels hope.
The Captain must see it, because he quickly adds, “It could work, Jim. But you’d have to convince Command to let you try it. And then actually back it up with being fit for duty.”
“Sir, you know I’m right about this. You know I am.”
A pause. “They’re not going to be easy to sway.”
“Bring it on.”
“Okay.” Pike rubs the bridge of his nose. “I’ll talk to some people, see what I can do. Who I can convince.”
It takes all of Jim’s limited impulse control in order not to jump up and down like a small child being told that they are going to Disney World. Instead what happens is that a totally dignified squeak of a laugh forces it’s way up his throat.
“Don’t get your hopes up,” Pike cautions. “This might not work.”
“But you’ll try?”
And that’s more progress than Jim’s accomplished so far.
Pike tells him not to stress about the whole thing. To be patient. That minds don’t change in a day.
But a few weeks pass with no further updates, and patience has never been Jim’s strong suit. So he’s starting to get antsy. Which is making Bones antsy.
Apparently the doctor is getting really worried because he calls Jim seemingly a little out of the blue two days after his fortnightly make-sure-Jim’s-not-dying checkup.
“Jim, I need to talk to you.”
“Okay. I’m home. Want to come over?”
“Not as your friend, kid.”
Jim’s blood runs cold. “Ten tomorrow morning work for you?”
“Can we do eight, actually? I’m getting Joanna this weekend, her mom is dropping her off at noon.”
Normally, Jim would argue. He’d whine and complain. He’d say something about how his exams never take that long anyway. But there’s something in Bone’s voice that just stops him short.
“Eight it is. See you tomorrow, Leonard.”
When Jim lets himself in to the room the nurse points him too, he knows it’s bad. Without having to say a word, he knows it’s bad. It’s in the set of Bones’ shoulders, in the shadows in his expression.
“Don’t say it.” He knows what his friend has to say. He knows what that look means. He’s seen it before. It’s the look that says I’m sorry, I tried, it’s over.
“It’s not over.” It’s scary sometimes, how well Bones can read him. “But it’s getting bad.”
“Just tell me how long. Please.”
“I can’t say for sure how long until…” he pauses to take a deep breath. “We have about four months until it’s irreversible, that much I can say. Maybe five if you take it easy.”
Something in Jim’s chest starts aching. “Easy how?”
“A wheelchair would be a good start. Help take some of the workload off.”
“And how do you expect me to convince Command from a wheelchair, Bones?”
“Fine.” As stressed as he is, he doesn’t have the patience to coddle the idiot. “Get off planet.”
“I’m not doing that.”
“Tell Jo I said hello.”
He leaves, slamming the door behind himself.
He wants to scream, to throw things. He wants to have a good old fashioned temper tantrum. But he can’t not yet. He’s just going to have to speed Pike up.
Jim storms out of the lift onto the level that Pike’s office is on with far more fury than is probably medically advised. He’s so caught up in trying not to have a breakdown that he isn’t the most aware of his surroundings.
So when he whirls around a bend in the hall, it really shouldn't come as a surprise when he slams face first into a brick wall.
A brick wall, that lets out a soft gasp at the collision, and grabs Jim in the the blink of an eye, sparing him from colliding with the floor head first.
It’s Commander Manners.
Also known as Spock, the unreasonably pretty Vulcan. Apparently unnecessarily muscled Vulcan, too. Because running nose first into his chest hurt. And he rescued Jim from his meeting with the floor with disturbing ease.
Those uniforms are deceivingly concealing.
“Fuck,” he blurts, getting his footing back. “Sorry, Commander. We’ve got to stop meeting like this.”
Spock just levels him a blank stare, releasing his grip. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah.” Jim forces a grin, hoping against hope that he’s not making an idiot of himself. “Just wasn’t looking where I was going.”
“Endeavor to do so in the future.”
Without another look, he walks away.
“Sometimes I wonder if you’re ever going to learn what a closed door means,” Pike informs Jim the second he walks into his office. “Or how to call someone.”
“My theatrics work better face to face.”
Pike laughs. “You know what, you’re right. Sit down, kid.”
Jim does, but sinks slowly down into the chair with far more care than usual. He’s a little stressed today.
And apparently Pike can see that. “What’s wrong?”
Keep it together Jim. “Have you made any progress?”
Pike narrows his eyes. Jim has always been bad a keeping shit from him. Even when they first met. “I told you it would take time. Be patient, Kirk.”
“Please, Chris. I need you to hurry this up.”
Jim never calls him by his first name. Pike knows now that something is very wrong. “Is everything okay, kid?” Suddenly the Captain’s eyes widen. “Are you… Is it-”
“I’m not going to die, sir.” Jim lies. He’s lying. But he doesn’t want the concern, the pity welling up in Pike’s eyes. Not yet. “But I can’t stay on Earth much longer.”
Pike looks like he wants to say something, like something is gnawing away at him. He’s probably caught Jim in his lie. Just like always. But he doesn’t call him out on it. He lets Jim lie to his face, and doesn’t say a goddamn word.
That’s kind of their entire relationship in a nutshell.
Finally, Pike sighs, defeated. “Okay, Jim. Okay. I’ll see what I can pull together quick.”
“Thanks.” He stands to leave.
“Jim, wait.” Pike’s mouth is pressed into a thin line, the corners trying to twitch into a frown. “I meant what I said, back then. I am here for you. I always have been.”
“I know that, sir.”
“Then why don't you just tell me what’s going on, huh?”
“I can’t. Nothing personal, Captain.”
Before Pike can say another word, Jim leaves.
It’s horrifyingly easy for Jim to burrow himself into a hole of isolated depression. Considering that Bones is busy playing perfect parent, and Jim doesn’t want to talk to Pike, he’s kind of… alone.
He would love to talk to Pike. He really would. The man has been in his life longer than anyone still alive. He’s the closest thing to a parent Jim has. But he can’t very well tell someone he’s going to die if he stays on Earth and then have them advocate for him to join Starfleet.
It’s a massive conflict of interest if Jim’s ever seen one.
So Jim barricades himself in his apartment and waits for Pike to call him. He hopes he doesn’t have to wait too long.
When his comm starts chirping at him on Saturday afternoon, Jim is amazed. Nothing ever moves that fast.
And then he sees who’s calling him.
“Hey, Bones. More bad news?”
“Probably, but I’m calling as your friend, Jim. Not your doctor.”
A weight eases itself of his chest. “Okay. What’s up?”
“You have any plans tonight?”
Does moping count as a plan? “Not really.”
“Good. Jo wants you to come over. She hasn’t seen you in person in almost three months, and I’m convinced that she likes you better than me.”
“Of course she does,” Jim laughs. “I never tell her no.”
“Shut the fuck up and get your ass over here.”
“Language!” Jim gasps in mock offense.
“What? She can’t hear me.”
The second Jim walks through Bones’ door, he’s barreled into by a screeching freckled mess. He stumbles, catching himself on the doorway, unable to help but laugh as he hugs Joanna back.
She pulls back, grinning. “I’m mad at you,” she signs, but Jim doesn’t buy it for a second. She’s too smiley for real anger.
“At me?” He signs back with over exaggerated shock. “What did I do?”
“You haven’t called me in two weeks. That’s not very nice, Uncle Jim.”
Jim blinks. “Uncle? When did I become ‘uncle?’”
Bones snorts, speaking aloud from the kitchen doorway. “Since you learned Sign Language, apparently.”
Jo realizes he’s there, and turns around. Bones repeats himself for her, and then continues, “Be gentle with him, Jo. No more tackling.”
The ten year old nods solemnly. “Uncle Jim, we’re going to watch a movie while Dad cooks dinner. And I’m picking.”
Jim knows better than to argue with a McCoy.
Jo puts on a movie and then climbs up onto Jims lap rather than occupying any of the empty space left on the couch. She’s a cuddly kid, but Jim doesn’t mind.
He loves Joanna to pieces, actually. Which is probably why Bones likes him so much. Note to anyone trying to win the heart of Doctor McCoy: befriend his daughter.
The movie she’s picked is some fairy tell mess full of princesses and singing. But Jim finds himself weirdly invested. So invested in fact, that coupled with the wall-shaking volume of the film, it takes Jim a minute to realize that someone is calling him.
He pokes Jo in the side to get her to turn to look at him. “Someone’s calling me.”
“Fine,” she tells him with an eyeroll. But she does let him up.
Jim darts into the kitchen, pulling his comm out of his pocket.
“Can you not run in the kitchen?” Bones snips, not even looking away from whatever he’s doing.
“So answer it?”
Jim shoots a glare at the back of Leonard's head, but does do just that.
“Hey, what did I do?” He says as a way of greeting.
“You nagged me, that’s what you did,” Pike’s voice answers. Jim can see Bones suppressing a laugh.
“Does that mean you actually did something useful?”
“Fuck you, kid.”
Bones turns around to sign, “He’s so right.”
Jim glares at him as he answers the Captain. “I’d rather not, but thanks.”
“Can you just shut up and listen to me?”
“So I managed to get you a hearing with some of Command.”
The bottom of Jim’s stomach drops out and Bones freezes, his eyes wide. Jim hopes his voice is steady. “What do you mean, a hearing?”
“More of a meeting, Jim. Just so you can make your case. If you can convince them that your idea has anything to it, they might be willing to let you prove it.”
He gulps. “When?”
“0900, Monday morning. I’ll send you all the details, okay?”
“You’re welcome, asshole.” Pike’s voice is much softer than normal. “I got to go, alright?”
“Yeah, see you later.”
Jim hangs up, and looks helplessly at Bones. His eyes are hot. The room is getting a little blurred. He’s… fuck, he’s going to cry.
Bones seems to teleport across the room, bundling Jim into him. Jim lays his head on the doctor's shoulder, breathing shaky.
“Breathe, Jim.” He soothes, carding a hand through his hair. “Just breathe.”
“It’s…” Jim gives an unsteady exhale. “This might be it.”
His friend’s grip gets even tighter. “Then you get your shit together, and you make it be.”
Bones is great friend.
By the time Jim walks into the oversized conference room at Command Headquarters, he’s been freaking out for almost thirty-six hours straight. He hasn’t felt this stressed since the first time he applied to Starfleet.
Because for the first time in a long, long time, something might actually happen.
Or they could shoot the whole idea down, once and for all. And then what will he do? Jim has no idea.
So he shows up about thirty minutes early and tries not to visibly panic in the hallway.
He thinks he’s doing okay. For when he actually takes a seat inside the giant glass-walled room, his internal freak out notches up to a level he hasn’t experienced in years. There’s half a dozen admirals sitting on one side of the huge circular table, faces devoid of any distinct emotion. Captain Pike sits opposite them. Fortunately he sees Jim enter and angles his head to the empty chair next to him.
At least Jim doesn’t have to worry about where to sit.
At least he isn’t alone.
At least no one else is aware of how dramatic his internal monologue is.
Well, Pike might be. But he’s on his side. So he doesn’t count.
Jim sinks into his seat and forces himself to look straight ahead, into the eyes of the Admiral in the center of the cluster across from him.
Without hesitation she speaks, “James Tiberius Kirk?”
“We are here today by the request of Captain Christopher Pike, to hear your plea for acceptance in to Starfleet. You are aware that this meeting will be on the record?”
He gulps. This is it. “I am.”
“You have been declined enlistment from Starfleet on multiple occasions on the basis of the medical requirements, is that correct?”
“It is.” His voice hasn't betrayed him yet.
“And were the medical reports received accurate to your condition, Mr. Kirk?”
Don’t break eye contact. “They were, yes.”
“Then there should be nothing more to discuss, going by the physical that you have confirmed as an accurate assessment of your health.” It’s not said with malice, but it still stings.
Pike squeezes Jim’s knee under the table. It’s enough silent encouragement for Jim to say, “With all do respect, Admiral, that physical is not relevant.”
“My physiology is adapted to a different gravitational normal than the one under which those tests were done. If I could have another medical examination done in the appropriate gravity, I’m confident in my ability to meet the requirements for enlistment.”
“And the gravity on a Starship is compatible?” She’s beginning to sport a pensive frown.
The faces across from him are a little less stony, a little less cold. This might actually be working. Jim might actually pull this off. Pike seems to think so too, because there is the barest hint of a smile on his lips.
Another Admiral to her left speaks, “I think it’s fair to question what would happen should we allow you to enlist. Or rather, the ramifications of your condition in the field.”
“Such as?” Jim almost regrets asking.
He continues. “Well, what track were you aiming for?”
Jim sits up a even more, back as straight as a rod. He looks the man he doesn’t know in the eye. “I’m going to be the Captain of a Starship, sir.”
He’s never told anyone that before.
For the first time, Pike speaks. Or rather, he blurts, “Are you sure?”
Jim’s blood turns to ice. He expected a lot of questions today. But not from him. “Yes, sir. I am.”
“Jim, that’s… a little much.” There’s so much concern in his voice, in his body language. It’s always the concern with him.
Now is not the time.
The first woman, the one in the center, speaks again. “Captain, you don’t sound very confident in your friend.”
Someone to her right pipes up, “Which is strange considering that this meeting was only agreed to on your insistence.”
Jim can see where this is going.
“Are you sure that this was a legitimate petition, or just a favor or a friend?”
He was so close.
Pike realizes too late what he’s done. “That’s not what I meant.”
The Admiral in the center shakes her head. “I think we’ve heard enough. Mr. Kirk, you may leave. We’ll be in touch by the end of the week with our decision.”
So fucking close.
“Thank you.” He hopes it doesn’t sound as bitter as he feels.
He stands far too fast, chair scraping harshly against the floor. Jim can’t leave this room fast enough.
Hey, Chris, did my back hurt your knife?
He manages to control himself until the conference room door clicks shut behind him. And then the panic and the defeat slam into him like a wall. And he’s gasping, he can’t breathe. He needs to get out of this hallway now. But he can’t go down to the lobby, not when he might run into someone. Not now, not when he’s like this.
He runs into a nearby stair well, and starts pacing on the landing. He’s shaking, he’s so mad he wants to scream. So much for Pike’s help. When things counted he made it perfectly clear what he really thinks of Jim’s ability to take care of himself.
At least know he knows. When push comes to shove, Pike will throw him to the wolves.
He sees red.
Jim lets out a wordless scream, his arm moving of its own volition as his fist slams into the brick of the wall. The resulting pain explodes like stars behind his eyes. He blinks, a little dazed, down at his fist. The blood starts welling up in his now torn knuckles.
He takes a step closer to the stairs themselves to grip the railing. His head is spinning. He’s getting dizzy.
He can’t fucking breathe .
Jim realizes that the sharp pain in his chest is something a little more insidious than the sting of betrayal just as with a lurch, the world goes black.
Spock likes to take the stairs when he can. The air is so light here, so cool, that he often finds himself illogically going out of his way for any way to feel like he’s physically doing something.
What with working on the rewrite of the Kobayashi Maru simulation, he’s been spending a lot of time at Headquarters. A lot of time sitting down inside.
Hence the stairs.
Which is how he’s in exactly the wrong place at the the wrong time. Or maybe the right place, depending on the perspective.
Either way, as he turns onto a landing he gets slammed into by a human shaped mass. The sudden impact happens without warning, at a rather high speed. Spock gets caught in the inertia of the fall, slamming into the windowed wall behind him.
He blinks, staring down at the unconscious heap of a human sprawled at his feet. To his surprise, the living projectile turns out to be none other than the yet unnamed blonde man that has quite literally crashed into him before.
Spock sighs. What happens twice will surely happen a third time.
But now is not the time to be bemoaning the clumsiness of the human race, for the man is clearly in need of medical assistance. The first thing that strikes him is how visibly wrong the angle of the man’s left leg is below the knee. Once he tears his eyes away from the apparently broken limb, he can see what is possibly a much more pressing concern. The human must have hit his head on the way down, going by the ugly gash cutting across his forehead. The ugly, profusely bleeding gash.
A head wound is nothing to ignore. Especially one that has rendered someone unconscious,
He should call medical.
Then again, he could get the injured man to medical far before they would even arrive here.
It’s that logic that spurs Spock to kneel down next to the wounded man, sliding his arms beneath him and pulling him to his chest. He’s careful not to jostle the broken limb too harshly as he stands, easing the stranger’s still bleeding head onto his shoulder.
The tang of iron fills his nose, strange and alien, as the human blood soaks into the bright color of his uniform, turning it dark.
The stranger lets out a weak, unknowing moan, eyelashes fluttering slightly.
Spock’s trip to medical could only be described as a run.
There’s a nurse sitting behind a desk in the waiting room. Her eyes shoot wide as Spock bursts into the door.
“Jim!” she yells, bolting to her feet, and frantically typing on her PADD instantaneously.
So she knows this man.
His name is Jim.
“He fell down a flight of stairs,” Spock informs her. “He’s lost a lot of blood.”
To the woman’s credit, she doesn’t hesitate. “His doctor is on the way, can you carry him a little farther? To a bed?”
Spock nods. “He is not heavy.”
He follows her into the actual proper medical center, setting Jim down on the bed she leads to. He was not lying when he said that Jim wasn’t that much to carry. And yet with the man placed down and off into the care of Starfleet Medical, Spock’s arms feel oddly empty.
The nurse seems to notice how lost he looks.
“Do you want to wait? You can if you’d like.”
That would be illogical. He does not know this man. He has done more than his civic duty here. But he has the strange urge to.
“I think I will.”
“Then head in back up front.”
There’s nothing else to say. So Spock straightens his shoulders, heads back to the waiting room and takes a seat.
It’s not until he’s already seated that he remembers the blood soaking his shirt. It’s starting to dry, stiffening the fabric. He can feel that it’s soaked all the way through, and that the shirt is going to dry plastered to his skin.
The iron tang is permeating, nauseating.
He ought to go home and change.
He ought to just leave.
Yet by the genuine terror the nurse had shown when he arrived, there may be something far worse at hand here than a simple accident.
And Spock is a curious person by nature.
He knows that the most logical course of action is to go, to slip out without a word or a backwards glance; it makes sense to leave this place, to go home and scrub away the crimson alien blood. Yet he’s still sitting there as a man that he can only assume is Jim’s doctor quite literally runs into the door Spock had entered through only a few minutes prior and continues straight back without even a glance around the room.
It looks like he’s staying.
Just until he knows Jim is alright.
Jim blinks awake, his head pounding. The blank nondescript white ceiling above him, and the stiffness of the bed beneath him, coupled with the sterile antiseptic stench means there is only one place that he can be.
He shifts his head slightly to look around and quickly aborts the attempt at the shooting pain in his temple.
Staring straight at the ceiling, he calls out. “Bones?”
“Hey there, Jim.”
Some of the tension leaves him at the sound of his friend’s voice.
“How long have I been out?”
“A little under an hour. Not too bad.”
Jim sighs. “What happened?”
“I was actually hoping you could tell me. You fell down the stairs, according to your knight in shining armour.”
Jim manages to turn his head enough to stare at Bones, confused. “My what?”
“Some Vulcan literally carried you here. He’s been waiting outside since. You make another friend I don’t know about?”
“I’m not friends with any Vulcans.”
“Want me to tell him to go then?”
“No, send him in. I’d like to thank the good samaritan.”
Bones shakes his head, but goes to fetch him.
The Vulcan enters a moment later, Bones nowhere to be seen. The Doctor probably went to over analyze all of Jim’s readings. But that doesn’t really matter.
What matters is that Bones just left him alone with Commander Manners.
Spock speaks first, voice completely flat.
“You know, you were completely right, earlier.”
“Oh?” Jim can’t wait to see where this is going.
“We really ought to stop meeting like this.”
Jim laughs so loud his chest aches.
The faintest hint of a smile appears on the Vulcan’s face. But his eyes, his eyes are definitely amused looking.
“I can’t believe that you just said that. Fuck.” He grins. “Thank you, by the way. Bones says you took me here.”
Spock inclines his head in a polite nod. “Thanks in unnecessary. I was there, it was no hassle to assist.”
It’s then that Jim notices the dark stain in Spock’s shirt. He goes to jerk upright, but is stopped by the pain in his head, and the cast on his left leg (great observation skills, there). “Is that my blood ?”
The Vulcan somehow goes even stiller. “You had a head wound.”
Jim gapes, mortified. “I’m so sorry. Shit, I ruined your shirt.”
“It is inconsequential.”
“Let me make it up to you somehow,” he pleads.
“You do not have to do that, Jim.” Spock really looks uncomfortable. “It was nothing.”
“I insist. Besides, if we keep running into each other like this, you’re going to have to learn eventually.”
Spock tilts his head ever so slightly. “Learn what?”
“That I always get what I want.” Jim grins. “My comm is on the table. Give me your info, alright? I’ll figure out how to make this up to you.”
It is becoming apparent to Spock that arguing with this human is an exercise in futility.
Bones reappears a few minutes after Spock leaves. And he’s carrying a very tiny box-like thing. Jim’s seen that particular gadget before. It’s a remote vital sign monitor. And there’s no way in hell he’s letting Bone’s attach that to him.
“Do you want this to happen again?” he sounds exhausted.
Jim feels bad. He really does. But not bad enough to cave. “I’m not going to let you put a monitor on me, Bones. I’m just not, okay?”
The doctor clenches his free hand into a fist and closes his eyes. If Jim was smart, he’d shut up.
“I know when to call you, don’t I? I know when I need help. I don’t need you freaking out and calling me every time I get a little tired or excited, or-”
“Do you want to die? ” Bones explodes, suddenly shouting at the top of his lungs. “Because guess what, asshole: you almost died today!”
“I don’t think—”
“No, you didn’t! You never fucking think, Jim!” He’s never yelled at him before. “You didn't think, and you almost died. Do you have any idea what that would have done, to me? To know that you died because you needed me and I didn’t know? Because I wasn’t there.”
The yelling ends as quickly as it begins, Bones practically whispering. “I’m so sorry I wasn't there.”
“It wasn’t your fault.”
“It didn’t work. It was close, but it didn’t work.”
“I’m sorry, kid.” Bones finally seems to relax a little, sitting down in the chair next to Jim’s bed. “I know how bad you wanted this. But if they don’t want you, that’s their loss.”
Jim winces, but not from the pain seeping into every single one of his bones. “I… I’m not leaving.”
He gulps. “Bones, I’m not going to quit. I’m going to keep at this until I win, or die trying.”
“You do know how real of a possibility that is, right? You are aware?”
“I am aware.”
“Then why?” McCoy’s voice cracks. “Dammit, Jim, why ?”
“Because it’s not right, Bones. They look at me, and they don’t see me. Not really. They just see a problem, a liability. And people deserve more than that. More than being judged by their worst quality.”
“I don't follow.”
Jim sighs. “You know what Joanna told me? That one day, she wants to join Starfleet. That she wants to go exploring, just like her dad.”
Bone’s face falls.
“And I just want to tell you that I’m sorry. Bones, I’m so damn sorry, but I’m not going to quit this. Not until the very end.”
“Why?” Begging now.
He smiles. “Because someone has to go first, right?”
Somehow, McCy manages a smile. “You know, there is one good thing about you breaking your leg?”
“Oh do tell.”
“Now you’ve got no choice but to get in a damn wheelchair.”
He, can’t help it. Jim just laughs. He laughs, and laughs, until Bones joins in.
Jim quickly finds out how not kidding Bones is about the wheelchair. He’s so not kidding that Jim is literally not allowed to leave medical unless he’s in it.
And why is that?
Turns out the fancy tech that could heal his leg in an hour is one hell of a stimulant. And stimulants do not react well with Jim’s heart.
Which means that this damn leg has got to heal the old fashioned way.
Now while the look on Bones’ face is priceless when Jim suggests crutches, that idea is shot down so ruthlessly that Jim almost regrets bringing it up at all.
It was worth a try.
Getting a hold of Pavel turns out to be a lot harder than Jim thought it was going to be. Especially since it mostly involved wheeling himself around campus and asking strangers if they knew where to find a little Russian kid.
It takes the better part of four hours before he finally gets someone to answer with anything other than a confused look and a negative.
And it’s a random cadet, about Jim’s age, who Jim just happened to get the attention of as he was leaving a building.
“Yeah, I know Chekov.” The strange man’s eyes narrow. “Why?”
“I’m a friend of his.”
“Uh-huh.” The guy is clearly not buying it. “Well, sorry, man. I’m not going to just give away the location of a kid to some strange man I don’t know.”
Jim flashes a friendly smile. “That is completely fair. I’m Jim. What’s your name?”
“Well, Hikaru, now we’re not strangers.”
That gets him a small huff of a laugh. “Did you just try to Forrest Gump me?”
Jim’s smile grows. “Did it work?”
Hikaru shakes his head. “Just a little.”
“Okay, how about this? You tell Pavel that I’m looking for him. And to meet me right here this time tomorrow. Fair?”
“Yeah, I can do that.”
The next day, Jim is exactly where he said he would be. Just in time too, because as he is wheeling himself up towards the building Hikaru had come out, Pavel burst out of the door.
“Jim!” The boy yells excitedly, darting towards him at an alarmingly high speed. He then skids to a halt about five feet away, eyes wide. “What happened to your leg?”
“Fell down the stairs,” Jim tries to shrug it off, but the kid just keeps staring at the cast. To be fair, it is kind of hard to look away from, propped up on a leg rest so it juts straight out. “But what’s up with you? How are classes?”
Pavel’s smile returns, but before he can answer, Hikaru appears behind him.
“So turns out, you’re not a kidnapper.”
Jim laughs. “Nope, no nefarious agenda here.”
Hikaru gives an embarrassed smile, scratching the back of his head. “Sorry I got so aggressive yesterday. I’ve just gotten a little protective of Pasha.”
“You do not need to be.” Pavel rolls his eyes. “I am not a child.”
Jim and Hikaru share a look .
When Jim tells Pavel what happened, he’s livid. Like, madder than Jim thought that the kid could ever get. It was probably only the fact that the conversation occurred inside a restaurant near campus that prevented him from throwing things.
Eventually Jim calms him down enough that they can return to a rational conversation.
Which is for the best, really. Because Jim needs this kid’s genius brain.
“We will have to take this to court,” Pavel sighs. “And it will take a lot from us.”
“That’s if we can even convince them to hear my case.”
Pavel grins. “No, my friend, you need to convince them of nothing.”
Jim frowns. “I don’t follow.”
Pavel’s grin grows impossibly wider. “We will sue Starfleet through a civilian court. Than they will have to back up their answer not only to Federation Law, but to the media circuit, as well.”
“You’re a fucking genius, Pasha.” Jim laughs, giving an answering smile.
Jim files the suit with Pavel’s help… and then he waits. And waits.
He knows that the courts have a little bit longer than a week for a turn around Logically, he knows this. And yet, by day seven, he’s ansty. Antsy enough that if he doesn’t do something soon, he’s going to lose his goddamn mind.
And then he remembers.
He owes a certain Vulcan a favor.
The problem is, he has no idea what to do.
In the end, Jim does what he usually does when he doesn’t know what to do about a boy.
He calls Gaila.
“Jim I love you, but I’m really busy.”
“What’s going on?”
“I have a test tomorrow, didn’t study. I think I’m going to die.” She sounds resigned.
“Okay, well before you die, can you help me with something real quick?”
“Make it fast.”
Blunt is better when it comes to Gaila. “How do I flirt with a Vulcan?”
There’s not a beat of hesitation. “You don’t, Jim.”
“Whoever this Vulcan is, they would not like your flirting.”
He sighs. “So what do I do?”
“You romance the Vulcan.” He can practically hear her eyebrow wiggle. “Now figure it out, boy. I got to go.”
Damn her. “Okay, tell Aubrey I said hello!”
Gaila laughs. “That’s not her name, Jim.”
“Am I at least close?”
“Not even a little.”
It takes Jim two days to work up the courage to call Spock. A full two days of coming up with one idea after another, only to shoot them down with his own over-thinking.
There may or may not have been a small self-pep-talk involved.
Okay, Jim will admit it. There most certainly was.
But none of that matters, because he does it. He calls him. He has a small anxiety fueled spaz attack beforehand, but he does it.
“This is Spock.”
Curt, emotionless, straightforward.
“Hey, it’s Jim. I’m the guy you—”
“I know who you are.”
There’s a rather uncomfortable beat of silence.
“Did you contact me for a reason?”
“Right, yeah, sorry.” Jim gulps. “So you know how I owe you a shirt?”
“Technically you owe me your life.”
Kirk can’t help but chuckle. There’s that dry wit he heard before. “That’s fair. Well, since I apparently owe you a life debt, Mr. Spock, I think I better start repaying it.”
“And how do you plan on doing so?”
Here goes nothing. “Let me make you dinner.”
“I am free this evening.”
Spock didn’t hesitate for a second. Jim really doesn’t know how to feel about that. “Awesome. Cool. I’ll see you tonight.”
“I will need your address, as I have not been there before.”
He really needs to stop apologizing for his own stupidity. Otherwise he’ll never be able to have an actual conversation with the guy.
Jim quickly stumbles into three major problems.
The first, he doesn’t really know that many vegetarian dishes. But the Vulcans are all vegetarians, so he’s got to come up with something. Second, he has no idea what this guy actually likes, and it’s not like he can just ask him. That would be cheating.
Third, and most importantly, his apartment kitchen was not set up for someone in a wheelchair, and Bones was a bitch that wouldn’t let him have crutches.
But James Kirk is nothing if he’s not determined, so he figured it out.
He manages to look up the recipe for some Vulcan dish he can make a knock-off of with what he has on hand, and actually cooks the damn food through what was probably a hilarious display of hopping on one leg and using the countertops for balance.
It’s not graceful. But it works.
Spock said he would be there at 1830. Jim finishes cooking at 1825.
He collapses back into the damn chair, trying not to pant too hard. He shouldn’t be this tired. Bones was right, he is getting worse.
Now is not the time to get moody about that, though. He’s got someone coming over almost any minute now.
And with horrifying promptness, there’s a knock on his door at 1830 precisely.
Well, shit. Too late to back out now, Jim thinks as he wheels himself over to the door. He opens it, finding Spock standing perfectly straight, hand behind his back.
There’s a beat, as slight confusion crosses over the Vulcan’s face. And then he looks down.
“Your doctor could not repair your leg in a more expedient fashion?”
“Hi to you, too.”
Spock has the grace to look slightly ashamed. “Apologies. May I come in?”
In lieu of a verbal response, Jim jerks backwards a few feet with a wide gesture towards the living room. An action that earns him a slight frown, but Spock does get the point, stepping inside and shutting the door behind him.
“So I made you dinner, as promised,” Jim awkwardly fills the silence as Spock tries to glance around Jim’s apartment as subtle as possible.
There’s not much to look at. It’s not a bad place or anything. Nothing like that. It’s just not that decorated. There’s a tv in the corner of the living room, a beat up but comfortable couch against the opposite wall. A small but sturdy coffee table (that usually has at least three mugs of coffee on it at once). There’s an overflowing bookshelf by the door, but that’s about the extent of personal touches in the living area.
At least he keeps his kitchen well stocked.
The nicest part of the whole pace is the giant window, taking up a whole half-wall, a ledge small enough to sit on the only thing preventing it from become a wall of solid glass. Jim doesn’t like his apartment, not really. But he loves that damn window.
Apparently so does Spock, because he’s staring at it.
“You should see it at night.”
At the confused glance, he elaborates. “During the day, it’s not that nice to look at, but at night, it’s quite the light show.” He points off into the distance. “Over there is the shuttleport, there’s a lot of launches and landings after dark.”
Spock gives him a slight head tilt. “And shuttle launches are aesthetically pleasing?”
“They can be.” Jim flashes a smile. “So, dinner?”
He wheels himself into the table in the corner that passes for a dining room. Spock follows, pulling out the seat across from where Jim has parked himself. The Vulcan sits, looks down at his plate and blinks.
Jim’s starting to get nervous. “Did I make it right?”
“This is M’lu.”
“At least it’s supposed to be. I had to substitute some of the ingredients, so…” he shrugs, coming up short with a response.
“You did not replicate this?”
Jim frowns. “I said I’d make you dinner, didn’t I? Pushing a button doesn't count.”
There’s something just beneath the surface of Spock’s expression that Jim can’t identify. And he thought he was good a decoding this particular Vulcan.
Spock scoops up a mouthful delicately, chews, swallows.
And then just stares.
He gulps. “Is it that bad?”
“On the contrary.” Spock seems confused. “It is almost correct.”
Jim finally relaxes. This might not go terribly after all.
Dinner actually goes… surprisingly well.
They eat pretty quickly, but stay at the table for far longer, just talking.
Spock tells Jim about the Command track simulation he’s programming. Jim asks plenty of questions. Which were apparently the right questions, because he ends up with a lot of information.
Jim pitties the poor son of a bitch that has to take that test.
“I should leave,” Spock says, nearly three hours after he arrived. “I do not wish to overstay my welcome.”
“You aren’t, though.”
“Nevertheless, I ought to go.”
“Okay.” Jim hopes he’s managing to hide his disappointment.
“Thank you for the meal. And the conversation.” He says as he stands. “I had a pleasant evening.”
Jim doesn’t think, he just speaks. “So come back. Another night, I mean.”
There’s a log enough pause that Jim thinks that he may have just destroyed whatever might have been developing there.
“I am free the same time next week.”
“Oh.” He tries not to look so pleased. “It’s a date.”
“Indeed.” Spock offers a polite nod. “I will see myself out.”
The second the door clicks shut behind the Vulcan, Jim bangs his head on the table. He just said ‘it’s a date.’ Out Loud. To Commander Manners.
Did Spock agree with him?
Whether or not the date comment was taken seriously, Jim does not know. What he does know, is that some way or another, having Spock come over becomes a thing. As in, a regular, unscheduled occurrence.
And things finally start moving.
Three days after that first dinner, Jim has a lawyer. A slightly theatric gentleman named Samuel Cogley, but the guy seems willing to actually work for it. Not just do the bare minimum. Which is exactly what Jim needs.
Two weeks after, and Spock now has a clearly preferred mug in Jim’s kitchen for tea.
Another eight days without after that, and Jim has a court date. January fourth. The good news is, that gives them plenty of time to get ready, to put together as best of a suit as they can.
The bad news is, Bones kind of told him that he had four months to live. In August.
It doesn’t take a genius to do that math.
This is cutting it close. If he can make it at all.
By October, Spock stops asking to come over. He just does.
Sometimes Jim cooks. Sometimes they just talk. One time jim had the bright idea to dig his old chess set out of the closet (well, Spock dug, Jim told him where to look. Stupid leg).
Spock won. But it was close enough that it warranted a rematch. That J im won.
So that’s an ongoing thing, now.
Jim thinks the guy has never had this kind of friendship before. The kind where he can just rant about idiots at work, or detail something cool he read. The kind with zero expectations.
Jim’s starting to wonder if it’s even friendship. Or if it might be something a little more than that.
It’s not like he’s going to just ask. How would that even go?
Hey, Spock, so I was just wondering: do you like me? Or am I just your friend? Or is friendship illogical and you’re just tolerating my presence in your life until I’m no longer an invalid and you don’t feel any guilt about telling me to leave you alone?
Yeah… that wouldn’t go well at all.
Bones tells Jim that his cast can come off by November sixth. Which is just awesome. Because while he isn’t technically under house arrest, he’s still feeling pretty trapped. Even with all the company.
For it hasn’t just been Spock swinging by. Bones likes to show up at least once in a blue moon to make sure Jim isn’t losing it.
And Pavel has been coming over on the weekends, trying to do what he can to help with the case. Sometimes Hikaru comes with him.
Jim’s come to really like that overprotective jerk. He’s got a sense of humor.
Cogley also likes to show up unannounced, with arms full of books on law and physics and ethics and probably so many other things that are somehow relevant.
What occurs on the morning of the third of November, well, it was kind of inevitable.
Jim really should have seen it coming.
Chekov and Cogley are both over, working with Jim on his case. He’s got to hand it to the both of them: Pavel has turned into a very loyal friend, who seems to be in this until the end. Jim doesn’t know why, but he appreciates it nevertheless. And Cogley is… dedicated? Enthusiastic?
Jim’s honestly not quite sure how to describe exactly what Cogley is like. He’s prone to sudden dramatic monologues about human nature, and the morality of the law. And he works completely on paper. Which means that a day spent working on the lawsuit is a day with every surface in Jim’s apartment covered in an open book or stack of papers. It’s a lot. But Jim appreciates the amount of work the guy is doing all the same.
Even though it makes for a sight, Cogley running around, jumping over stacks of books, asking questions and dictating notes to Pavel, who’s curled up in a corner of the couch, dedicatedly scribbling down everything he’s told and chiming in whenever he thinks of something even remotely helpful.
And Jim, pinned by the window by the book-composed obstacle course that his wheelchair has no chance of getting around.
It’s definitely a questionable scene.
That Spock walks into, completely unawares.
He freezes in the doorway, eyes narrowing.
Jim gulps. He hasn’t told the Vulcan anything. “Sorry about the mess, Spock. You can come in.”
“I am interrupting.”
“No, you’re not.” Jim insists, “they were actually leaving.”
Pavel frowns. “But we were-”
“Going to come back tomorrow.” Cogley interrupts him. “How does ten sound, Jimmy?”
“Sounds great.” Jim smiles genuinely. Let it never be said that Cogley can’t read a room.
The lawyer gathers up a few stacks of paper and excuses himself without any further prompting. But Pavel lingers, staring at Spock as he stands from the couch. “Okay, then. Bye?”
“See you tomorrow, kid.”
Spock just stands there, just over the threshold as Pavel leaves, the door clicking shut behind him.
And keeps standing there, eyes darting around the cluttered room.
Jim gulps, and then finally breaks the silence. “I should probably explain this, huh?”
“You do not owe me an explanation about your activities in your own home, which I entered without invitation.”
“I just owe you my life, right?” Jim tries to joke, but it falls a little flat. “Why don’t you get us both a drink? I’m a little stuck.” He points at the field of books formerly known as his floor.
Spock nods sharply, disappearing into the kitchen.
Jim wants to scream. He knows that he was going to have to tell Spock about this eventually. But he just… he enjoyed it. Having someone completely ignorant of how fragile he is. How pitiful. He was being selfish. Trying to keep their friendship in a little bubble where Jim didn’t have to think about the death sentence hanging over his head or worry that Spock was just being nice to him out of pity.
But he knew this was inevitable.
When Spock returns, he hands Jim a cup of coffee, the Vulcan clutching his own preferred mug as he perches on the windowsill.
“You do not have to explain,” he repeats.
“I know, but…” Jim sighs. “I think you should know.”
There must be something in his voice, or his posture, because Spock tenses. The shift is subtle, but it’s there. He’s worried.
“I’m sick, Spock.” Jim knows he likes the direct approach. “It’s not just the leg.”
The Vulcan says nothing, waiting for further information.
“I wasn’t born on Earth, did I ever tell you that? I was born on a Shuttlecraft, actually. In deep space. Spent the first few years of my life out in the black.” He gulps. “And there’s a problem with that that most people wouldn’t think of. The gravity is wrong.”
“Explain.” There’s a spark of curiosity now.
“It’s actually too light.”
“Earth is causing your body systems to shut down under the strain of the gravitational pull,” Spock finishes for him. He tilts his head, puzzled. “Then why do you not simply leave the planet? Go somewhere with a lower gravity?”
Jim sighs. “Because I want to join Starfleet.”
“They will not take you with your medical history.” Spock says it without ill intent. Just matter-of-fact. “You know this.”
Suddenly, his eyes widen.
“Jim, what are you doing?”
His voice is flat. “I’m suing them for unfounded rejection of a applicant and unreasonable differential treatment. Publically.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I can do the job, Spock. On a Starship, I’m just as healthy as you are. They just…” Jim’s voice is getting a little shaky. “They don’t see me. They see my limitations, and that’s all. They won’t look past what this fucking planet does to me long enough to realize what I can do if I’m just given the chance to prove it. A chance to show them what I can be.”
The moment that little tirade leaves his mouth, Jim regrets it. He knows it was far too emotional an outburst for the Vulcan.
Spock, to his credit, seems to be taking the whole thing rather well. “Why did you not tell me? Any of this?” He gives the shadow of a frown. “Did you not trust me?”
Jim shakes his head. “No, that wasn’t it.”
“Then what was it?” His eyes are sharp now, voice insistent. Jim’s not getting out of this.
“Because I didn’t want to put this between us. Because you’re a Starfleet Commander, Spock. If you knew what I was doing, you might not have wanted to keep coming around. And I… I liked having you around. I really fucking liked it.” He swallows hard, forcing himself to keep it together. “And it was selfish of me, not allowing you to see the whole picture, I know that. But I didn’t want to chase you off, Spock. Because I think I’m in love with you.”
Jim had not known he was going to say that. He honestly didn't know he felt that. But as the words fly out of their own volition, he hears them, and knows that they are the truth. He keeps talking, a little bolder.
“I don’t think, actually. I know. Spock, I’m stupidly in love with you.”
Spock’s staring at him again. With that same hidden something that Jim can’t figure out.
And he just keeps staring, and he’s not saying anything. Not a word.
Jim’s starting to think that he ruined everything.
And then Spock delicately places his mug down on the window ledge. Then everything happens in slow motion.
They move in sync, leaning in. Spock gently cups Jim’s cheek and Jim combs his hand through that silky black hair, and then their lips meet and it’s a tentative brush at first, just a whisper of skin. And then something clicks.
Jim tilts his head, deepening the kiss, and Spock follows suit, parting his lips. And it’s just a kiss, but it feels like finally and home and there are sparks behind Jim’s eyes. Both their grips tighten before Spock pulls away slightly, eyes glazed.
“I’m with you.”
“What?” Jim’s a little dazed.
“Against Starfleet.” Apparently the Vulcan is a little out of it, too, because that was a fragmented sentence. “I’m with you, Jim. And I would like to try this if you’re amenable.”
Jim blinks, dumbfounded. “Are you serious? You’re actually willing to go up against the Fleet?”
“You’re going to risk a court martial?”
“If it comes to that.”
He’s serious. “And I didn’t scare you off with the unprompted spewing of my emotions?”
“ Jim. ” And there’s that expression again. But this time Jim knows what it is. “I believe it goes without saying that I am equally invested.”
He can’t help it, Jim is grinning like an idiot. And then it hits him.
He hasn’t told Spock that he’s rapidly approaching his expiration date. And he doesn’t want to. But if he doesn’t… that is a special brand of selfish.
“Spock, I… I’m sorry.”
That earns him a frown. “Why are you apologizing?”
It breaks his damn heart to say this, but he has to. “Because we can’t be together. Not like that. Not now.” Maybe not ever.
“You want to focus on the lawsuit.” Spock has drawn the wrong conclusion here.
It’s completely and utterly wrong.
But it’s made this so damn easy for Jim.
“You understand?” Liar.
Spock nods. “I do.”
This is going to bite him in the ass one day, Jim knows it will. If he lives long enough that is.
Jim’s cast finally comes off. Which means that Bones loses his ability to force Jim to rest. Which the Doctor is really not happy about.
“I’d really be happier if you kept the chair, Jim.”
“But then I’d be miserable,” Jim counters, sitting on the examination table and rolling his ankle for the first time in weeks.
“You’d live longer.”
“Quality of life, Bones. Not quantity.”
That earns him a sigh. “The chair is not that bad.”
“You think that. But you’ve never been immobilized in your own living room by a stack of books.”
“Okay,” Bones throws his hands up in defeat. “But don’t come crying to me when you collapse again. Because you will, Jim.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Yes, actually, I do. Or did you forget the part where you’re heart is going to give out in two months?”
“Fuck you.” Jim slides of the table, dropping onto his feet. The plan had been to storm out. Instead his legs buckle, and he just manages to catch himself on the edge of the table before he crashes to the floor. “This proves nothing.”
“Sure it doesn’t.”
“It was my leg!”
Bones rolls his eyes. “Uhuh.”
Even with the impending threat of agonizing death hanging over his head, things are going really well.
Like, surprisingly well.
Cogley is starting to get really confident about the case. Confident enough that Jim is starting to relax about it. He’s starting to think that he might actually win this thing. And Pavel has been acing his courses. Which is awesome in a way that makes Jim feel like a big brother.
Which is really weird.
What’s even weirder is the fact that the whole thing with the feelings and the kissing… didn’t scare Spock off. If anything, he’s been around even more. And not just to Jim’s apartment, either. They’ve just been hanging out.
Or as Bones puts it: pretending that they’re not dating.
Everything is going really good.
Until it isn’t.
Jim wakes up in the hospital three days before Thanksgiving. He doesn’t know where he is at first, but what with the monitors and the smell of bleach, it isn’t all that hard to figure out.
He turns his head to one side and see’s Bones, angrily staring at a PADD. So far so normal. But then he hears a low thump on his other side and turns, and the sight he sees punches him in the chest.
Pavel is asleep in a confusing ball of tangled limbs, somehow managing to fit his entire being diagonally in the hospital chair. Only one foot is dangling off. Which must have been the noise, it falling to the floor.
“The kid found you,” Bones’ voice is a low hum, trying not to wake him. “On the floor in your kitchen.”
Jim gulps. “How long was I out?”
“Almost an entire day.”
Pavel sighs in his sleep, eyebrows scrunching up.
“And how long has he been there?”
Bones scoffs. “He’s left to go to the bathroom four times. Honestly, he’s spent more time in this room than I have, and I’m being paid to be here.”
Jim sighs, turning away from Chekov to look his friend in the eyes. “Be honest, Len. How am I?”
“We’ll be lucky if you make it to New Year’s.”
The words hit him like a slap across the face. “I don’t… I’m so close, Bones. I know I am.”
“Then leave, Jim.” There’s a desperate note in his voice. “Get off this stupid planet, at least for a little while. Come back in a few years.”
Jim shakes his head.
“I can’t. I’m tired, Bones. I’m so damn tired. Of being told no. Of being afraid. I’m tired of waiting to die.” He flashes a bitter smile. “I’ve been living on borrowed time for a while, now.”
“Jim, what are you saying?”
“I’m not afraid anymore.” He smiles again, and this time it’s more genuine. “This planet will kill me, or it won’t. I’m not running anymore.”
The sadness in Bones’ eyes is deeper than Jim has ever seen. “There’s no way for me to talk you out of this, is there?”
“Not a chance in hell.” Jim grins, and after a beat Bones smiles softly in return. “Can you do me a favor, though?”
“Oh you mean other than keep you alive as long as medically possible?”
There’s the sass he knows and loves. “Don’t tell anyone. How bad it is, I mean. Please?”
The doctor sighs, looking at the sleeping Cadet. “What are you going to tell the kid?”
“The truth. I’m just not going to say exactly how down to the wire this is. To anyone.”
“And that’s really what you want?”
Jim fixes him with a stare.
“Alright, kid. Alright.”
Gaila comes to see him the next day. And Uhura comes with her. Which is a nice surprise, because if Jim loves one thing in this world, it’s getting on Uhura’s nerves.
And she makes it so easy.
Gaila walks in with a yell, “You hit on my roomate one time, and we’re going to leave, Kirk!”
Jim laughs as Chekov jerks upright, looking up from his studying for the first time in a few hours with wide eyes, though he relaxes a bit when he sees who was the source of the sudden shouting.
“Hello to you too, Gaila.” Jim winks. “Hi Margot.”
Uhura rolls her eyes. “Nope.”
“Are you going to give me a hint, at least?”
She finally cracks a smile. “Seeing how this isn’t your deathbed? No.”
Jim gives a theatrical pout. “You know, you’re not a nice person, Fran.”
“You’re lucky you’re in the hospital, asshole.”
“Because then I don’t have to put you there myself.”
He laughs. “Touche, Bridget.”
She cracks, finally laughing with him. “You're dead, Kirk.”
Jim loves his friends.
Jocelyn gets Joanna for Thanksgiving. Which sucks for Bones, but it is great for Jim because the jerks running this torture chamber aren’t letting him go for another day and he hates being alone.
But when Spock appears (uninvited) with even more takeout, Jim ends up with a little more company than he wants.
He doesn’t want to get into it, but hate at first sight? Jim’s pretty sure that it exists.
The rest of November is a bit of a blur. It’s pretty rushed-feeling, as far as months go. He spends most of his time either trying not to flirt with Spock, letting Bones poke and prod at him, or working on the prep for the lawsuit.
Over-all it’s a rather uneventful month. Except, he’s starting to notice it. What’s happening to his body, that is.
For the first time since he was five years old, Jim’s started taking naps again. Just full-on passing out in the middle of the day for no other reason than sheer exhaustion. And speaking of exhaustion, that just seems to be his new state of being. He’s just tired. All the damn time.
He does his best not to let everyone catch on, but they know. Jim knows that they do. Because Bones has gotten back to trying to peddle a wheelchair at him. And Chekov has stopped asking Jim for help with his homework. And Spock…
Well, Spock is more subtle.
It’s all little things. He’s just started coming up with excuses to cut whatever it is that they have going on short. There’s always an early morning meeting, or a late evening lecture. Hell, one time Spock just said that he was not in the mood for chess. Which was definitely bullshit.
No matter what it is, whenever Jim tries to spend the day with his Vulcan (friend? Boyfriend? One time make-out partner?) he’s always ditched by around 1900.
So he’s been getting a solid fourteen hours of sleep a night, at least.
Jim is… unwell. Spock knows this. He does not know the extent or the depth of his illness, though he does know its nature.
It’s not like Jim has been very forthcoming with the details. Not that Spock can blame him. He too values his privacy
But it’s not like Spock can just go ask that temperamental Doctor exactly how worried he ought to be. The man is horrifyingly fond of hyperbole.
So all the Vulcan can do is wait. And hope that the next time Jim has a ‘little scare’ someone gets there in time.
He is not entirely comfortable with this plan. Vulcans do not believe in luck.
On the sixteenth day of the twelfth month on the Terran calendar, Spock experiences fear so keenly, so abruptly, that he thinks he finally truly understands why it makes people behave so illogically.
He lets himself into Jim's apartment, which is a regular occurance. As per usual, a quip about how it is illogical to have a lock and not employ it is on the tip of his tongue.
But he never gets the chance to say it.
Jim’s curled up in a ball on the couch, which isn’t out of the ordinary. And he’s unconscious, which has been his default state as of late.
It’s the blood that makes him freeze. Two dried tracks of it, leading from the Human’s nose, brown and reeking of iron.
And Spock can’t see his chest moving, he cannot hear him breathing.
Logic is a foreign concept to him at this moment.
“Jim!” He feels as though he teleports over to him, hands moving of their own will. One gently cups the man’s face, the other goes to his throat, feeling for something, any hint of life.
Before he even has a chance to feel his pulse though, Spock feels him. Jim’s very self, the same that he felt on that night, over a month ago, electric against his fingertips.
Spock has never been so grateful for his telepathy before in his entire life. He may not fully grasp Human physiology, but he knows what Jim’s living mind feels like, and it’s there. The panic subsides enough for him to see that Jim is in fact breathing, but it’s shallow, faint, barely there.
He calls for emergency medical assistance.
He folds himself cross-legged onto the floor.
And there he waits, his hand around Jim’s wrist.
The hours Spock spends in that ER waiting room are among the most stressful of his life. But he doesn’t spend them alone.
Dr. McCoy arrives at the hospital with impressive speed, and heads back without so much as a glance at Spock. Oddly reminiscent of the time, a few short months ago, that Jim broke his leg.
And then the rest of them start showing up. The Human adolescent named Pavel Chekov, Spock already knows. He arrives clinging to a man who Spock has never met before.
Everytime young Chekov goes to speak, he erupts into ugly childish tears. Normally such a display would bother one who was raised not to publicly display emotion. Now?
Spock could not care less.
The stranger frowns. “Are you Spock?”
So the man knows him? Interesting. “I am.”
The human relaxes, gesturing to a group of chair in the corner, but in sight of the door. “I’m Hikaru Sulu, I’m a friend of Jim’s.” He explains as they all sit, Chekov still clinging to his hand. “The Doctor called Chekov on his way here, and he called me. Needed a ride. And a friend.”
Spock mods without comment. He understands that. The need for some semblance of security. Or familiarity.
An Orion and human woman appear together eighteen minutes later. Spock gets their names - Gaila and Uhura - but nothing else. He lets the humans (and Orion) talk and worry amongst themselves.
He is going to wait.
This is one of those days when Leonard really hates his job. He’s spent the last few hours trying to keep his best friend from literally dying. And now he has to go out there and tell the pack of emotionally attached people that he can’t tell them anything other than the fact that Jim isn’t dead.
Because Jim made him promise.
He walks out into the waiting room, and the entire group leaps to there feet. He counts five heads. To be fair, he should have expected this when he told Pavel Jim was back in the hospital. Jim and that Kid are close enough that he had a right to know, yes.
But Jim’s friends gossip.
Spock speaks before Bones has the chance to. Arrogant bastard. “Is he alive?”
At least that’s a question he can answer. “Yeah, he’s alive.”
The room breathes a collective sigh of relief.
“Is he awake?” Gaila pipes up.
This ones a little trickier. “Not at the moment,” he says, not technically a lie. “But he’s getting moved to his own room in a bit, so ya’ll can see him soon, okay?”
That seems to appease them. There’s more questions, all kind of mumbled at once, but Leonard is not listening. “I’m sorry, I need to get back there. I’ll be back soon.”
He leaves them with that, giving no chance for the mob to pin him down with their interrogation.
It’s not like he doesn’t want to tell them. He doesn’t want to sit alone here, in this terrible well of truth. But Jim made him promise: don’t tell them how bad it is.
And Bones isn’t about to let Jim down now.
Jim gets moved to his own room, and without so much as a conversation about whether it should be done, his friends immediately organize a watch rotation. He’s never left alone, not a for a second.
Which means that Bones is not going to be able to keep his silence forever.
Jim is weaving in and out of partial awareness, every now and again he’s awake enough to answer something someone says, to smile at a joke.
But he isn’t getting better.
He isn’t going to get better. In fact he’s just going to keep getting worse.
Unless he gets into a lower gravity, that is.
And he’s running out of time.
It’s Spock who figures that one out, in the end.
Damn touch telepath.
Spock knows that something is wrong, beyond the obvious. He knows this to be true. He just cannot find the proof that Dr. McCoy is lying to his face.
And then he stumbles upon it.
Jim goes a full thirty-six hours without waking at all. And Spock is worried, really worried. Worried enough that when he reaches out to rest his hand against the sin of Jim’s wrist (it’s habit by this point, a surface touch of his mind to make sure that Jim is still there), he must have been projecting. Scratch that, he was projecting. Unintentionally broadcasting his worry and fear through his fingertips and into Jim’s skin.
How does Spock know that?
Because he gets back not general consciousness static, but a response.
It’s not a language. At least not a spoken one. It’s a deeper medium of communication than that: just concepts, impressions. Calm, soothes Jim’s mind. Don’t be scared, it orders.
And Spock almost lets go there, almost relaxes. But then another though comes. Almost over.
His worry spikes back up. As gently as possible, he sends back, Over?
Jim’s answer comes slowly. Acceptance. Relief.
Spock lets go of Jim’s wrist.
He takes a slow, even breath.
Jim is going to die. What’s worse is, Jim knows that he is.
Which means the Doctor knows as well. Has known for some time now.
It’s been some time since Spock has felt fury.
McCoy is unfortunate enough to walk into that room four minutes later. Spock hops to his feet, and hisses, “How long were you going to wait to inform anyone of Jim’s impending demise? Until it happened? Or the funeral?”
“Damn telepathy,” The Doctor mutters before actually answering with impressive calm. “Don’t yell at me, you bastard. I was only doing what Jim asked me to.”
Spock’s anger goes stale. He sighs. “He told you not to say anything.”
“If he survives this I’m going to kill him, Doctor.”
Leonard barks a startled laugh. “Yeah? Get in line.”
“Do you have a plan?”
A confused frown. “What plan?”
Spock raises an eyebrow in disbelief. “To save his life, Doctor. Or is that not your profession?”
There’s a new respect in the Humans eyes as he answers. “No, but I think I know someone who might be able to come up with something.”
Jim had told Spock before that the lawsuit was actually Chekov’s idea. But he did not believe that until today.
Once they make the decision to try to come up with something, it takes McCoy thirty minutes to get everyone back into Jim’s room from wherever they had been spending their day.
The screaming that occurs when the Doctor tells the group the truth takes longer than that.
As a matter of fact, the shouting only ceasing when Spock barks, “Might I suggest we postpone berating the Doctor until we find a way to save Jim’s life?”
Gaila perks up. “Oh so that’s what we’re doing here!”
Uhura sighs. “As much as I’d love to help, I’m not really much use here. I’m a linguist, not a doctor.”
“And it’s not like I have the authority to get anyone to go along with whatever hairbrained scheme we come up with here!” Sulu adds on.
At his words, Chekov gasps. “But t hey do!”
He gets five confused stares. “Spock is a Commander. He can easily find somewhere of planet to move Jim for now, to buy us time. And Dr. McCoy is Jim’s attending physician. There are rules about him going places where he should not be for the good of his patients.”
Bones sighs. “That’s all well and good kid, but it’s going to take more than a handful of weeks to patch him back together enough to be up and about in Artificial Gravity, let alone on Earth—”
“— and Jim will be most grateful if we allow his plan to fail at the cost of saving his life.” Spock finishes for him.
There’s a beat of silence.
“So we win the suit,” Sulu says matter of factly.
Uhura raises her eyebrows. “That’s… not the craziest plan I ever heard.”
“No, it is insane,” Gaila counters, and then smiles. “And I love it.”
Spock and the Doctor exchange a glance. The plan is slap-dash at best. There are a million loose ends and opportunities for failure. And yet… Something is Spock believes that this is going to work.
Jim has interesting friends.
And Spock is finding that he does not dislike them.
Chekov takes Sulu, Gaila, and Uhura to go meet with Jim’s lawyer and figure out if they can go through with the whole thing without Jim’s physical presence.
Which leaves Spock alone with an unconscious Jim Kirk and a man that might not be as irritating as he first thought him to be.
“Captain Pike,” the Doctor says with no segway. “He’s your best bet when it comes to pulling some strings here. Now go see if you can actually find a way off this rock while I make sure he’ll make the trip.”
Spock tilts his head. “Why Captain Pike?”
The Human sighs. “Let’s just say he owes Jim. Big time.”
That will have to do.
For the first time in his life, Spock barges into an office without knocking. Pike looks up from whatever he had been furiously typing, and his eyes go wide with shock, but he quickly recovers, forcing a welcoming smile.
“Commander, I’m sorry, I was expecting—”
“James Kirk.” He interrupts.
Pike blinks. “How would you know that?”
“He has a rather irritating but consistent habit of entering rooms without verbal permission.”
“That he does.” The Captain’s eyes go wary. “Spock… what’s going on?”
“Jim needs your help.”
Something flashes behind Pike’s eyes. Spock wishes he were better at reading human emotions. “What can I do?”
Flatly, he tells him. “Get a way off this planet and to a Starfleet Medical Facility for Jim and his Doctor either aboard a ship on on a Starbase.”
“He’s dying, isn’t he?”
“Okay.” The Captain continues before he can decide how to respond. “I’ll do it. When?”
“Within the next forty-eight hours.”
That earns him a slight wince. “Consider it done.”
Logically, that should be the end of the conversation. THis whole thing was astonishingly easy. Almost too easy.
It is that unnatural ease that holds him in the office, that keeps him from walking away with literally everything that he came there for.
“Sir, may I ask you a personal question?”
Pike tenses, but nods.
“What is Jim to you?”
There’s a soft sigh. “I don’t think that’s my story to tell, actually. Let’s just say that I have always tried to be in his corner. And when he needed me I failed him. So whatever he needs… it’s his.”
Spock can tell that there is a lot of history there. Another one of Jim’s lies by omissions, just under the surface. He wants to scratch at it. He really truly does.
But now is not the time.
“Thank you Captain. You know how to reach me.”
Samuel T. Cogley is, if nothing else, a man that likes a challenge. Especially a challenge for a worthy cause.
Which is why he was genuinely excited to work on James Kirk’s case. And why, when little Chekov comes to him with a group of hyperactive cadets that are all at least five years older than the boy, and tells Cogley that they have to try to win the lawsuit without Jim’s physical presence he thinks three things in rapid succession.
First, Chekov needs friends his own age. It’s serious odd. Second, this will be a hard angle to play. Very hard. But doable.
But third, and most importantly: this is going to be fun.
He collects all of Jim’s friend’s contact information (he’s going to need a few Starfleet brats for the witness stand) and kicks them out.
He’s got work to do.
The kidnapping of James T. Kirk goes exactly to plan. Which is really surprising. Because if Bones has learned anything from interacting with Jim, it’s that anything with Jim involved in it usually goes sideways fast.
But this time the universe seems to be working with them. Pike follows through with the medical transport, and no one on the Starbase questions what exactly Bones is doing there with a civilian patient.
The biggest problem they encounter during the whole human-smuggling operation is that Bones really doesn't like space. Fortunately he likes the concept of a dead Jim even less than he likes the idea of himself in the empty vastness of space.
So he goes along with it, and the next thing he knows, he’s in goddamn outer space.
This better work.
Jim and Bones get shipped off to a nearby Starbase. And everyone else has to try and live their lives like normal. Which is a lot easier said than done, for Spock especially.
He is not very involved in the preparations for the trial. He is told that he will be a witness, but for some reason Cogley decides not to prep him beforehand. His reasoning had something do do with how Vulcans sound very ungenuine when they’ve rehearsed the dialogue.
But life moves on.
People go to work, people go to class. They get ready for the court case, which is fast approaching.
And they wait to see if it they acted in time to save Jim from himself.
Jim doesn’t remember much of the past week.
He remembers feeling so much like crap that he couldn’t make it to bed, choosing to curl up in the corner of his couch instead.
He remembers Spock. Not his voice, or seeing him. No, just the general presence of him. And then he remembers the ambulance. Not the whole ride. More like impressions. Motion. Sirens. Lights.
Then he’s in the hospital, and Bones is there and he’s yelling and then he’s in a private room and it’s quiet there, and Bones is there this time too. No, now it’s Spock. No, it’s Chekov, or Sulu, and then Uhura. Gaila’s there.
Jim doesn’t know how time is flowing. He doesn’t know how long he’s awake each time before another wave of darkness knocks him under. He has no idea how long he’s out each time.
He’s dying. This is it.
At least he’s not alone. He’s aware of that much. His friends aren’t going to leave him alone.
And then there’s that same weird feeling of Spock again. And Jim tries to tell him not to worry, that he’s not scared anymore. But he can’t really figure out how talking works.
Jim wants to tell him that he loves him.
People are yelling again, one sharp cacophonous swell. And then it’s gone, instead the noise of traffic, motion again. Jim can hear Bones. So whatever is going on, he’s safe.
Louder now, a roar. The roar of an engine. The world jolts. His eyes blink open, and there Bones is, looking more scared than Jim has seen him before in the history of Jim scaring the crap out of Bones.
It’s a shame Jim can’t figure out how his voice works, because he kind of wants to brag about it.
And then he’s in another hospital room, and… his head is clearer? He is capable of thinking in coherent sentences.
Maybe he’s not dying after all.
The next time Jim opens his eyes, he realizes how far gone he actually was before. Because compared to this, calling that previous state consciousness is a hilarious comparison. And then several things come to him all at once.
He’s in the Medical wing of a Starbase. He’s been in one before, he knows what they look like. And he’s not only alive, he’s actively getting better. Which means Bones saved his life.
Jim sighs. He can’t actually be mad about that.
Bones walks in then, see that Jim is awake, and grins. “How we doing, Jim?”
“Alive.” His voice cracks. His vocal chords feel rusted. “I think.”
“You better be,” Bones snaps, collapsing into the chair by Jim’s biobed. “It’s been one hell of a month and if I came all the way out here for nothing I’d be pissed.”
A jolt of terror runs through him. “What day is it?”
“January twelfth. Happy New Year.”
Jim just stares.
“Jim, it’s okay.”
“How is it okay?” He can’t believe this. “I got so fucking close, again, only to have the whole thing ruined, again, and this time I wasn’t even on the right planet!”
“Will you shut the fuck up and listen to me?” Bones snaps. “If you stayed down there, you were going to die, you moron. And we couldn’t let that happen. Not even if it meant that you’d be pissed at us all for no goddamn reason.”
“We?” Jim’s eyes narrow. “Who’s we?”
“Everyone.” Before Jim can tell the Doctor just how much of a right Jim has to be mad that literally all of his friends kidnapped him, Bones plows on, “But will you stop interrogating me for ten seconds and let me tell you the good news?”
“Fine, go ahead.”
“You won.” Bones’ earlier grin returns. “Jim, you won the case.”
“You have acceptance of enlistment into both Starfleet and the Academy, on the condition that you can pass a physical ship-side. Which with both know won’t be an issue, once you recover for a bit.” Bones rolls his eyes. “It was kind of irritatingly easy in the end.”
Jim’s speechless. Literally, he has no clue what he should be saying right now.
Bones sighs, “Listen, a lot has happened since we got you off planet, kid. Spock will be here tomorrow. He can fill you in.”
He still can’t figure out what to say. Jim thinks he’s in shock.
“I’m going to go find you something to eat.”
Spock is there the next time Jim wakes up, back perfectly straight in the chair, eyes moving rapidly over the screen of a PADD.
The Vulcan’s eyes widen, and he casts the PADD onto a nearby table without a thought. “Jim.”
“Did you miss me?”
The look he gets for that is priceless.
Jim sobers. “I’m sorry. For not telling you, I mean.” He gulps. “Do you forgive me?”
“I will consider it.”
Jim almost panics before he realizes. That was a joke. Sarcastic asshole. “So… what did I miss?”
As it turns out, Jim missed a lot.
Apparently, it was Uhura in the end that won the day. While everyone else was busy making sure the science of Jim;s claim was sound or combing through Federation Law, she had been coming up with a little plot of her own.
Two days after Jim had been moved off planet, the details of the upcoming lawsuit were magically made public knowledge.
It had been a bit of a media circus. Or so Jim is told.
The actual trial didn’t drag at all.
Starfleet hates bad press.
Jim kind of wants to punch himself for not thinking of that angle himself. Years ago.
But that’s neither here nor there. Now, he’s got a lot of things to do without sitting around calling his past self an idiot.
He’s got to get well enough to pass a physical. And try and figure out exactly what the deal if with him and Spock. Without the death sentence hanging over his head that’s something that… well, Jim wants to see where that goes.
And there’s the whole distance-learning thing to figure out, too. Because if Jim knows anything in this universe, he knows that Bones will kill him with his bare hands before letting Jim set foot on Earth again.
Not for a while, at least.
So the next chapter is just a little epilogue, which means that this is the end for the story proper.
I had such a great time writing this and working with deheerkonijn was an absolute delight.
Just a short epilogue to tie it all up, hope you enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Come on, Bones,” Jim whines, chasing him down the hallway and into the Doctor's quarters “What’s the big deal?”
“What’s the- are you fucking with me?” Bones sputters. “Are you serious?”
“Yes, I’m serious! All I’m asking for is an extra day.”
Bones rolls his eyes, “You two can fuck on the ship. You know, The Enterprise ? Where you both live? That has a Gravitational Normal that won’t kill you?”
“It’s not about that,” Jim protests. “I literally just want to explore. And besides, Spock needs more time around Vulcans.”
“We’re not talking about this right now.” Bones grabs him by the upper arm and literally drags Jim out of his quarters, ignoring his protests. “We’re docking in fifteen minutes and I want to make sure everything is set up for Jo.”
The door slams in his face, leaving Jim alone in the hallway. Well, as alone as a person can be on a ship with over five hundred people aboard.
He kick’s Bone’s door, shouting, “It’s my wedding, you dick!”
There’s no response, but an Ensign who’s name Jim can’t remember laughs at him under her breath as she walks past The kid thinks she was subtle about it. She wasn’t.
As the Captain, Jim should say something. But he doesn’t. He’s in a good mood.
He is getting married this week.
They swing by Earth on their way to New Vulcan. It’s a good thing that Command gave them the week off, because while Jim totally gets and supports Spock’s wish to do the whole Vulcan ceremony properly, the travel time is a little much.
And there’s no way in hell that Jim’s getting married without his favorite niece there. Or his only niece, as Jo likes to remind him.
He goes with Bones to the transporter room when they beam her aboard. The second she’s fully materialized, she shrieks with ear-piercing volume and launches herself at Jim.
He laughs, hugging her back. She pulls away and half heartedly waves at her father (who loudly mutters about how he could at least get a hug too) before turning her attention back to Jim.
“Guess what?” Her eyes are mischievous.
“I don’t know,” he signs back. “You tell me.”
“You set a precedent,” she tells him with a grin. “I’m fighting Starfleet.”
Jim grins, and ones finally gets his daughter’s attention. He can see the two of them yelling out of the corner of his eye. From what he can tell, Bone is not happy about his baby girl going into space.
To be fair, Bones is not happy about himself being in space. And he live on a Starship.
Nonetheless, they can argue all they want. Jim knows how it’s going to end. Jo is going to win. Joanna always wins.
And he can’t wait to see her prove that to Command.
And that's a wrap!
Questions? Concerns? Just want to harass the author? Have my tumblr
(Side note: I love Joanna McCoy more than life itself)