He doesn’t really remember when his body stopped functioning and decided that enough was enough. Or where he is right now and how he got there. There hadn't been a room with his name on it, and this place is far too quiet to be anywhere near sickbay. There are no beeps and bleeps surrounding him and he can’t make out the ever-present grumbling in the background that would be Bones. He wouldn’t mind that though; Bones makes for great background noise no matter where they are.
But the mattress underneath him is soft and solid all at once and he feels nice and warm and safe. He’s tucked in, all nice and tight, the sheets and blanket forming a cocoon of warmth and strength around him. It reminds him of Iowa nights, long ago, before he decided he was old and wise enough to take care of himself and made her stop protecting him from the outside world.
Outside, he knows, his ship is limping back to Earth, bit by bit, piece by piece, being kept together by the sheer determination of its crew. His ship; he likes the sound of that, but he isn’t quite sure whether she is actually still his. She might be back to being Pike’s, leaving him once again on his own. But for now, as long as he stays right here, he doesn’t have to think about any of that. Right now there are no homeless Vulcans, no career-ending Romulan slugs, no Starfleet Admirals dying to kick him out of the Academy, there’s only peace and quiet and the soft buzzing sound that is the Enterprise.
He starts drifting off again, his body still tired and spent from running around without pause for the better part of three days. The little voice in his head that sounds so much like Bones pipes up, snarks something about idiotic morons who think they are invincible, before telling him to get some more rest. And all he can do is give in to that command. He sure needs some more sleep and a bit more time.
He wakes up again much later to the shift of the mattress. There’s a hand on his face, followed by the brush of lips against his forehead and the soft touch of fingers rubbing circles into his back. He rolls onto his side and curls into Bones, once again safe and warm, but in a completely different way.
I just came by to check on how you’re doing, kiddo”, Bones whispers against his ear, stretching out beside him. “Maybe catch some shuteye myself, while you’re at it in my bed”. He can feel the smirk form on those lips, but just stays still and silent, listening to the soothing rhythm of their combined breathing. For now it’s just the two of them together, away from the cacophony and chaos going on just outside the door.
But Bones obviously is on to him and prods his ribs followed by a gruff, “Tell me what you’re thinking, Jim, I can hear those wheels spinning inside your pretty head”. So with a sigh he dislodges his head from its comfortable spot on Bones' shoulder and tries to make some sense of the thoughts that have been drifting through his head ever since they beamed him back up from the Narada.
“It’s stupid really”, he starts, one more attempt at avoidance, but instead of stopping he continues, softly, almost whispering it out into the darkness, letting it all out. “It’s just that things are supposed to be better now, you know, now that it’s over and he’s dead and the planet is saved and there’s no threat left. God, I was even there for it, part of it. But it’s not, you know, better, it just ruined even more lives; lives of people we knew and who still had their entire future before them. People, who were supposed to do great things, just like us. Like him....” He trails off, voice breaking, turning away ready to retreat back behind the safety of the walls he’s been building these last 25 years. This was supposed to be revenge, revenge for fucking up his life, his family, for killing his father and leaving him out there, alone in the dark. It’s supposed to make him feel better, but instead he’s just a little bit closer to breaking than he was before and Jim Kirk just doesn’t break, at least not in the company of others.
But Bones seems to disagree on that point, just grabs his shoulder and pulls him back over, back into his arms, holds him close and tight, holds him while the sobs wrack through his body, while he desperately tries to get a grip of himself. He doesn’t spout wise words, doesn’t try to break the tension with a gruff remark, he’s just there and holds him for the longest time until he’s done and empty, and the hollow feeling that has been taking up more and more space in his chest ever since he saw the Narada explode on screen three days ago starts to fill up slowly but surely with something that’s love and warmth and strength wrapped around each other and might just one day morph into something that resembles peace.