A/N: Angst warning and 2009 movie spoilers.
A/N 2: Updated 15 June 2013 for various tweaks and grammar issues. Also posted to AO3 under same title and penname.
Dedicated to all the fathers out there, including my own. Love you, Daddy.
The ship's quiet. It usually is during Delta shift, but today it seems especially silent. Leonard's not sure if it's purely coincidence, or if it's because it's one of those days that he loves and hates so much.
There's no real way to tell time in space; Leonard only knows it's Father's Day because it's one of a handful of days in the year he's able to talk to Joanna without Jocelyn cutting off their conversation, and he wouldn't miss it for the world.
It's his second Father's Day spent in space, but that doesn't seem to make it any easier. He'd never been able to see Joanna during his years in the Academy, but at least he'd had the comfort of knowing she was on the same continent.
Now, they're light years apart, so neither of them have that reassurance anymore. His baby girl's a trooper (always has been), and she doesn't complain about it, but he knows it bothers her - he can tell by the way her eyes drop when they first make contact over the viewscreen. But they've both learned to accept the situation; it does no good to bring it up, anyway.
Last year, Leonard had spent almost five hours talking with her, enjoying the sound of her voice as she eagerly explained everything she'd been learning in her summer classes, as well as the latest updates on all of her friends and some of his old acquaintances that he still maintained contact with. He'd regaled her with tales of the various alien species they'd encountered so far.
Jim had even dropped in for a brief moment to say hi to Joanna. The moment he'd left the room, Joanna had started asking questions about him, and Leonard had rolled his eyes when he saw her obvious crush on his best friend.
Neither of them had talked about her mother much.
This year, though, Leonard only talks for an hour and a half. He'd have kept going, except Joanna had paused mid-conversation and asked, "Daddy? What do kids without fathers do for Father's Day?"
Leonard had been puzzled, to say the least. "Why would you ask that, darlin'?"
"Well, Jim's never really had a dad, right? So what does he do for Father's Day?"
The question had left Leonard stunned. "I… I dunno. I never asked."
The narrow-eyed look Joanna had sent him had been eerily reminiscent of Jocelyn's. "You should go talk to him, Dad." Before Leonard could respond, she'd added, "Mom's not gonna be around tomorrow, so we can talk then. And everyone should have a father for Father's Day at least once."
Which is why Leonard is now stepping off the lift and heading to Jim's quarters, a bottle of his finest Kentucky Bourbon in hand. He's never been one to deny his daughter, after all.
He hears muffled voices as he pauses outside Jim's door. Leaning in, he hears someone say, "What're we gonna call him?"
Then he hears a familiar voice - he's only heard it once before, but he instantly recognizes it as Winona Kirk. "We could name him after your father."
"Tiberius? You kidding me? No, that's the worst! Let's name him after your dad. Let's call him Jim."
"Jim. Okay. Jim it is."
Leonard feels his throat close up at the sound of the old recording and without even realizing it, he knocks on the door.
Jim's voice is hollow and subdued when he calls, "It's open, Bones."
The hiss of the door sliding open drowns out part of the recording, but Leonard steps into the room in time to hear George Samuel Kirk declare, "I love you so much. I love y-!" The burst of static and the sudden silence afterwards makes Leonard flinch instinctively as he stands just inside the doorway.
Jim's sitting on his bed, legs dangling over the edge and head tipped back against the wall. In the dim light, Leonard can see the tell-tale tracks of tears running down his friend's cheeks. Jim doesn't move or speak, so Leonard sits on the bed next to him, setting the bottle of bourbon on the floor with a quiet thud.
They sit in silence for a long time. Jim's picking at a loose thread on the bedcover, and Leonard's eyeing the assorted collection of antique books on Jim's shelf with focused interest.
"Thought you'd be talking to Pipsqueak for a few more hours."
Jim's voice is low and thick, but Leonard doesn't comment on it. "I thought so, too," he replies with a one-shouldered shrug.
"You've been waiting for weeks for this."
He senses Jim's gaze, but keeps his eyes on the bookshelf. "Then why are you here, Bones?"
Leonard leans forward and snatches the bottle off the floor before leaning back and handing it to the younger man. "It's Father's Day," he says simply.
Jim's lips twitch a little, but not into a smile. He silently opens the bottle and takes a long draw before passing it back to Leonard. The CMO swirls the bottle once before tipping it back, relishing the burn against his throat.
The bourbon's halfway gone before Jim finally breaks. Leonard simply slides an arm around Jim's shoulders, offering support as the captain of the Enterprise tilts his head onto Leonard's shoulder and silently sobs.
Leonard sits like that for hours, long after Jim slips into a grief-driven slumber. He knows his back will be sore for days, and his arm is completely numb at the moment, but he doesn't mind.
His own daughter may be thousands of miles away, but he's still got a kid to look after.