Jim thought the clichés about 'time standing still' and everyone being 'frozen with bated breath' seconds before something momentous happened were overblown poetic jargon. There were no moments he'd ever felt removed from, no point in his life he could pinpoint and say that he had lost control of his mental faculties and felt as if things were going to change dramatically and uncontrollably from that point on...until Leonard McCoy - best friend, sounding board, stalwart defender and passionate lover - asked Jim to marry him.
Things had been so perfect in Jim's life. He had a fantastic career exploring the stars and touching many lives, really making a difference. He had the most awesome ship in the fleet and the most amazing crew to man her. But most of all, he had a partner, a kindred soul who understood Jim in a way no one else ever had, who made up for every part of his turbulent childhood where Jim had felt alone and dejected. Finally he had a partner in crime, a companion to explore with, the Lewis to his Clark, the Livingston to his Stanley….until his partner had to go ruin it all with a marriage proposal.
So yes, time stood still and everything froze, and Jim felt his heart sink to his shoes. Leonard McCoy was the first person Jim had ever let inside and the last person in the godforsaken universe he would let come to harm, and so for that reason he gave the only answer he could.
Jim didn't think the pain could get any worse than it was, but when he watched the happy light die in his lover's eyes, watched as pain, anger and confusion replaced the joy, camaraderie and love, he knew that pain was truly limitless in its scope.
Watching the man he loved turn and walk away went beyond pain, and down somewhere into agony, black and stark.
And really, Jim should have known this would be the outcome of his great love affair. Should have expected it. When had circumstance ever truly been kind to him?
He should have known it was all too good to be true. He was not meant to be happy. Not meant to find love, partnership, union…. He had always known that when his time came, he would die alone.
Jim Kirk had never been one to put much belief in fate. There were no coincidences in life, no flukes. Everything had an explanation: scientifically, mathematically, or systematically. In fact, Jim was just as adept as Spock at calculating cause and effect both from a probable and statistical standpoint. He just didn't advertise it as flagrantly. It was more fun to shock people when the universe bent to his will, when he could use his mind to predict outcome and astound those around him with this apparent 'intuitiveness' they were convinced he possessed.
It was a bit insulting really, when his crew looked at him, flabbergasted, when he had got them out of yet another tight spot no one believed he'd be able to overcome. They didn't stop to consider the simple reality that for every action there was a reaction, and life was really just one giant chessboard. You just had to know when to sacrifice a pawn in the form of intention, and when to take a king in the form of circumstance.
From the moment they had met, Bones had seen through every one of Jim's personas: the mindless party boy, the carefree cadet, the Don Juan of campus, each carefully cultivated to hide the ever-calculating mind inside. He accomplished more, set-up his pieces more easily and moved his pawns more flawlessly when the world at large underestimated him. Plus, it was much more fun that way…for him. But Bones had taken one look at him, rolled his eyes, and given him this look that said, 'Who do you think you're fooling? Do you think I'm an idiot? I'm on to you, kid. Not that I care what you're doing. If no one else can see it for themselves, well, they don't deserve to know.'
Jim should have known then he was doomed. It should have been the first clue. Bones wasn't on his board, never had been. Bones was more of an advisory manual, instructing him on different ways to play the game, complete with hints towards secret maneuvers that enriched the experience for greater user pleasure.
Jim assumed that Bones thought that it was only right that the knight and the bishop gang up on the universe together. The old adage of two could accomplish more than one, and all of that rot. But the problem with that was the statistical lifespan of a Starfleet captain, particularly a married one with the surname name of Kirk.
Yes, Jim's life was on borrowed time. Always had been from the moment his father had cheated death on Jim's behalf while he was an infant crawling out of the womb in the middle of death and chaos. Eventually space would claim Jim, as it had meant to do years before, and if he married Bones and took that final step towards completion, let both Bones and that adorable daughter of his fully and completely in his heart to create a happy little family, he would destroy them all the more when that inevitable time came.
Bones might not think it now, but Jim was letting him off easy. Better to have him feel rejected now and have it hurt a little, then to get tied irrevocably and have it hurt a lot. The bandage effect - Bones ought to appreciate that analogy - best to rip off a bandage in one smooth move, then little by little in an ongoing and unrelenting ache.
After all, hadn't Jim's own mother taught him that? By the accounts of those who knew her prior to Jim's father dying, Winona Kirk had been a bright and beautiful woman full of life and exuding happiness from every pore. When George Kirk had died, sparing her life and that of their newborn son, her inner fire had died, depression had taken hold, and she become the consummate reality escapist that Jim had grown to resent. Jim would rather perform fellatio on a Klingon than do that to Bones. His Bones. The only other man in the world who got it. Bones was his distant star, bright and ethereal, steady and strong.
The universe needed Bones because he and he alone saw things as they were: no pretenses, no bullshit. His breed was rare. It had been selfish of Jim to snatch him up for the time that he had.
Jim cheated death with every hostile encounter the Enterprise faced and one day his calculations were bound to be off and his opponent would reach checkmate. It only took once, and Jim Kirk would join George Kirk in 'going out with a bang' so indigenous to the Kirk DNA.
It was for Bones' own benefit that Jim said no.
One day Bones would realize that fact; he was a smart guy.
Jim hadn't been alone since that fateful day on the shuttle, hadn't been solo in the universe since blue eyes met hazel and two minds had utterly clicked like corresponding puzzle pieces. It had all been so ironically cliché: going through life all alone, and then a dare to step on a shuttle, only to meet the love of his life on the way to the rest of his life. From the moment he'd laid eyes on the sarcastic, irritated Dr. McCoy, Jim had felt an instant attraction. A stirring in his groin and a rushing of his blood that was direct, potent, and all-consuming.
He hadn't been attracted to men before. He hadn't. Not that he had had a problem with those who were. But Bones had blown him away. He was handsome, he was sexy, he was intelligent, and he was sharp. He spoke of the dangers of space with a southern drawl, his face bearing a five o'clock shadow and his breath reeking of the alcohol he shared, and Jim could only stare, captivated, and mutter something about shuttles being safe.
Jim had read once that humans released pheromones like many other terrain creatures and figured that Bones was one of those who just subconsciously released Jim's precise kind of scent. And the more he got to know the man he had nicknamed 'Bones', the more he realized just how insightful his new companion was, and the more Jim realized he was a fucking goner. He was drawn like a moth to a flame. Although Bones had often claimed that Jim was the flame, drawing Bones to him like an alluring force of nature.
Apparently Bones hadn't been attracted to men either, but he saw Jim, he saw through him and he had wanted him just as badly. Badly enough to watch and wait as Jim played his game at the academy, organizing his pieces and aligning his pawns, waiting for exactly the right time to make his move and stake his claim. Jim was the player, but Bones had never really cared for the intricacy of games and had steamrolled in, once he'd had enough observation, and said, "Hey kid, it's you and me. Surely you recognize that fact by now? You were goddamned created for me, I can feel it in my bones. I know you feel the same, you can't pull the wool over my eyes. Don't you think it's time we cut to the chase and get to the fun part? The part where we roll around in the sack, and I help you conquer the world?"
Jim thought the idea pretty stellar, and the rest had been pretty fucking fantastic: they had the Enterprise, they had the stars, they had each other…until the proposal. Until Jim realized it was past time for his losses to be cut. And although he was now lacking his own personal guidebook and left to flounder on his own, loneliness was certainly not an unfamiliar state of being. It just sucked to return to it when he had seen better, had known better, and realized painfully and poignantly what he was missing.
As a kid, it hadn't mattered. He hadn't minded being alone because everyone else had been conformist idiots who didn't get the game. Meeting someone who did get it had been awe-inspiring, daunting and just plain awesome.
Losing it killed Jim, more than a little.
Jim always knew he was going to die alone, but he desperately wished it didn't have to be that way.
Bones sought him out not two days after the fateful 'no' – the day that would go down in infamy as the worst day of Jim's life, and that included any day featuring futuristic, vengeful Romulans, and ice planets with giant insect-like things.
And while their relationship might be dying its natural death, Bones effect on him most certainly was not. Jim felt his heart rate speed up, his blood journey south of the border, and his body involuntarily lean towards its flame, his unconscious wants and desires bundled into this one overwhelming man.
"You're a goddamned idiot," his favorite voice said, and Jim figured Bones could believe that, if he wanted, because he'd earned that right.
"Don't think I don't know what you're doing, why you said no. I know you, Jim. I know you better than anyone. I've figured you out. This lone hero destined to die in a blaze of glory thing you've got going is utter bullshit. You think you're sparing me? You think you're doing me some sort of colossal favor by removing yourself from my life? Well, you're wrong. I fucking love you. I love you more than I've ever loved anybody, including my ex-wife. There are times when I'm so overwhelmed by my love for you I wonder if it's a fucking disease I've succumbed to."
Bones paused for a moment, running his hand through his hair in obvious frustration. His eyes were as blue and wild and unrestrained as the day they had met.
"Hell, even Jo-jo loves you, every single letter I receive mentions sending love to 'Uncle Jim'. Do you think I'm that fickle? Do you think I can turn it off just like that? Do you think she can? Not in this, Jim. Not with what we have. Death could claim either one of us, at any minute. It's a risk we knew we were taking when we signed aboard. But don't you think it would be better to make the most of the time we have? Don't you think it would be better to spend every spare moment we have together, so if one of us does go, we'll always have that? Our memories, our imprint on each other, something to hang on to? There is no way your death wouldn't affect me, Jim, it's too late for that, so I'd like to spend every moment you're alive talking to you, holding you, feeling your body against mine. I can't lose you before it's time, Jim. I can't. So you're going to goddamned marry me, and you're going to goddamned like it."
Jim felt a lump in his throat, and his heart pounded so loud, it sounded like a drum beating in his ear. He wordlessly nodded his consent, because he couldn't actually find his voice, just then.
Bones was right, he had a point. And if Bones had succumbed to a disease, then it must be pretty damn contagious, because Jim was just as infected.
Bones had always been intuitive. He saw the board in all of its glory, even in peripheral vision. Better, apparently, than Jim did himself. A really good chess player always knew when intention and circumstance were stacked in their favor, and when an opening in the game was the correct one to take. And sometimes, if the player was lucky enough, they found a guide to help them navigate the trickier parts of the game and make it pretty damn satisfying.
This time, Jim didn't have any trouble letting his king get captured. Sometimes you had to lose something to really win.