Here's part three. So sorry to take so long, but I was tweaking it for a while. A HUGE amount of thanks to my wondrous Beta, who puts up with me (and told me to post this months ago...). Anyway, the wondrous power of final exams and the things we'll do to avoid them. Hope you enjoy these!
When Jim found out that Gaila had access to the computers in the programming room of the Kobayashi Maru, he didn't think twice about using that connection to destroy the test. He didn't sleep for days as he programmed the subroutine. Bones just rolled his eyes at Jim's nocturnal habits. He'd eventually find out what Jim was planning; wondering about it would only give him a migraine.
After the flush of success at beating the unbeatable test, Jim went to Gaila's, and apparently Uhura's, room. When no one answered the obnoxious beeping ring programmed as the doorbell, he assumed that no one was home. The next day, sitting in the large hall, he was genuinely surprised that Gaila had her long green limbs wrapped around each other. From the way her mouth was tightened at the corners, he could tell that the only thing keeping her from frowning was the presence of the many admirals sitting before them. He noted the glimmer of satisfaction in her eye when Admiral Barnett called his name. Glancing at Bones, Jim walked down to the podium. The stuffy, pointy-eared officer announced the accusations against him.
Jim hadn't anticipated that Gaila would actually be this upset with him.
Staring at the carnage and debris floating in the space above Vulcan, Jim has a flash of panicked remembrance. Fields of smoke and dust and fire, littered with the bodies of the dead flicker before his eyes. He thinks of the diverse faces that made up his class at the academy. He can't remember which ship Gaila was assigned to. Jim shakes his head and begins to focus and prepare to do whatever he can to fix anything that is put in his way.
When he goes for the jugular and yells, "YOU NEVER LOVED HER!" in Spock's face, he feels a momentary thrill of satisfaction. The anger and helplessness that coursed through him when Spock threw his father's death at him, in front of the student body, is now echoed in each animalistic sound that escapes Spock's mouth. This satisfaction is instantly replaced with shame. Jim can't even bring himself to continue fighting. There are some insults that just go too far.
Hearing Spock hypothesize about alternate universes was one thing. Seeing the living, breathing proof that his life was supposed to be different was another thing entirely. Hearing this older version of Spock speak about George Kirk wasn't nearly as painful as the fact the Jim simply didn't have the courage to ask about Tarsus IV. He couldn't bear the thought that somewhere, some when, he might never have stepped foot on that dying world.
After the ship blasts away from the empty space where the Narada used to be and everyone on the ship has been treated for their injuries, Bones drags himself through the halls to his quarters. Unsurprisingly, Acting Captain Jim Kirk is curled up on Bones's bed. Taking in the massive amount of contusions on Jim's head, neck, and hands, Bones is almost afraid to see what marks his torso bears. Setting down the bag full of medication and assorted tools, which he brought for precisely this reason, Bones sits on the edge of his bed. Jim, who's always been a light sleeper, opens his slightly swollen eyes.
"'S everybody okay?"
"Yeah, Jim, everyone's gonna be fine." Bones replies. "Everyone except you, that is. Come on wake up. I need to see how close to death you came this time."
""S fine Bones, I've had worse."
"Really Jim, where," Bones says, just trying to keep Jim awake.
"Ts fr, where else Bones," Jim mumbles.
At the quiet horror in Bones' voice, Jim's eyes shoot open, "Ah, fuck," he says.
"Jim, tell me you didn't just say what I think you did."
Jim put his head in his hands, resting his elbows on his knees.
"So I take it you didn't meet Amy at a diner where she was a waitress?"
"No Bones, I didn't. We lived together at a military base in Oklahoma for three years," Jim says into his hands. "Look Bones, I'm barely conscious and stringing a sentence together is the hardest thing in the world to do at the moment, so could we not dig out dirty laundry right now?"
Bones nodded wearily. "Alright, Jim. Not right now. Come on, shirt off. Let me see how much damage you've sustained in the last few days."
Bones's pulse pounds in his ears as Jim pulls off his shirt, revealing a wide range of colors and lacerations. He was a doctor, not a psychologist, and he had no idea how to handle this information. This was beyond anything he could help Jim with. He curses himself for not seeing it sooner. As he deftly smoothes the dermal regenerator over Jim's three fractured ribs, the bruises disappear, making the old scars obvious. He shudders internally; he knows enough about what happened on Tarsus IV that he now has mental images to go with each one. Bones takes a deep breath to shake his rising nausea. With another gasp of air, Bones cracks his neck and settles down to do what he can to ease his friend's pain.
Bones is woken by a persistent and highly unpleasant beeping originating from somewhere around his right ear. Jim is sprawled in the half of the bed allotted to him, and blearily opens his eyes as Bones shifts to answer the communicator.
"What do you want," Bones growls out.
"Sorry to disturb you Mr. McCoy, but I'm trying to locate the Captain. There's a transmission for him…it's," Sulu pauses, looking supremely uncomfortable. "She says she's been trying to contact him for almost two days."
"Who is it?" Jim asks, voice still thick with sleep.
"It's your mother."
Jim looks dumbfounded for a second then chokes out a laugh. "Well, by all means, patch her through. Wouldn't want her to work herself up, now would we?" Sulu nods and disappears from the screen.
"Jim, I – " Bones begins, but is interrupted as the vid-screen bursts into life.
"Jimmy? Are you there?"
Bones quickly moves out of the screen's view.
"What d'ya want Mom?" Jim says to the blonde woman on the screen, false cheer in his voice.
"I heard – that is, I was informed…are you all right?" concern covers her face, but the only thing Bones is aware of is the spark of rage that flares up in Jim's eyes.
"Fit as a fiddle, Mom. Never been better. Anything else you need?" there is a tightness around his eyes that betrays the words coming easily off his tongue.
"No," she says quietly. She pauses for a moment then continues, "Jimmy, I – "
"Sorry Mom, gotta go. Ship won't run itself," Jim cuts her off.
"Right, of course. Jimmy, I – "
"Bye Mom." James cuts off the connection and any hint of bravado leaves his frame. Bones slowly moves towards the bed. Hearing his approach, Jim's head pops up, and he leverages himself into a standing position. Cracking his back, he says to Bones, "Time for a shower. Lots to do today."
As Jim walks to the shower, movements still a little stiff, Bones sits back on the bed. That was not quite the reunion he had anticipated.
As the Enterprise limps back to Earth at a snail's pace, Jim is constantly in motion. Whether he's helping the engineering department jerry-rig a functioning engine, making sure that Chekov eats at least twice a day, or just keeping everyone so busy that they cannot dwell on the events of the past week, Jim is never at rest.
It takes Bones four days to wonder how odd it is that Jim never seems to be in the mess hall, and an additional day for him to confirm his suspicions.
When he enters his quarters on the night of the fifth day, Bones is ready for a confrontation. Jim is sitting on the single bed in a loose pair of Bones' pants with a towel covering his head.
"You haven't eaten in almost a week, Jim," Bones says softly.
"What," Jim looks out from under the towel, his eyes red and bleary. "That can't be right, I had a really big lunch right before the…oh," his head and shoulders droop even more. "Right before the disciplinary trial. Fuck!"
"You didn't notice?" Bones asked.
"No, Bones I didn't, alright," Jim sighs and starts to stand up.
Bones stops him with a hand on each shoulder. "Jim," he begins, "your body has been under an intense amount of strain. If you go and eat as much as I've seen you tuck away, you'll only hurt yourself." Bones crouches down in front of Jim. "I'll go and get you something from the mess hall that I know you can keep down. You're going to lie down and relax for a change."
As Bones heads for the door, he is stopped by Jim's quiet, "You didn't ask me how." At Bones's questioning look, he continues, "You didn't ask me how I've gone so long without eating."
"Honestly, Jim, at this point, I know that if you want to tell me something, you'll tell me in your own sweet time. Back in a few."
When Bones returns bearing a tray with an apple, some cheese, and a bit of stale bread, Jim is sitting cross-legged on the bed. "Three weeks," Jim says as Bones places the tray on the bed. "I can go three weeks without noticing that I'm hungry. I can go without food for longer, but I don't notice it for three weeks." He takes a bite of the apple and Bones sits next to him on the bed before he continues. "It was more important for my cousins to eat. They didn't understand that there was nothing left, or that their parents weren't going to come home bearing dinner like they used to." He cleared his throat, "The replicators make decent apples even without the parts engineering's taken."
Momentarily allowing the change of subject, Bones responded, "Yup, but everyone keeps complaining about stale bread." Bones raised his eyebrow, "The fact that one of the only edible things coming out of the replicators right now is stale bread doesn't have anything to do with you, now does it Jim?"
"Maybe a little bit," Jim said, taking a large bite of the hard bread, "but it doesn't hurt anyone, so, I think a little creature comfort for the Acting Captain isn't such a terrible thing."
Bones chuckled a bit before sobering. "Seriously though, Jim, I know that you didn't mean to tell me what you did the other night, and I know that the government would never have allowed you in with the general public if you hadn't been cleared by countless doctors, but this is just me and you. I am first and foremost your friend, but if you ever need something, medically, I hope that you would come to me first."
Jim laughed mirthlessly, "Bones, you're the first doctor that I've allowed within ten feet of me without being sedated since that fucking hospital." Bones grimaces internally, he remembers the story that Amy told their Academy class.
"Okay then," Bones says, clearing his throat. "Finish that up while I shower." As he heads for the small, attached bathroom, he calls back, "And I don't want any crumbs on the sheets, you'll attract some form of weird space ant."
Hearing Jim's snort of amusement, Bones smiles slightly. 'Everything will be alright,' he thinks, 'eventually, everything will be alright.'
When the Enterprise finally makes it back to Earth, with the help of some of the ships from the main fleet and Scotty's technological genius, Jim is shocked by the sheer amount of people that are gathered to greet them. Most of the crowds are kept away from the shuttle hanger as the Enterprise's crew is flown in from the space station; the ground crew is sent instructions to only let through those approved by a member of the crew. Jim is justifiably surprised when he steps off the shuttle and is almost tackled by a small figure. Red hair obscures his vision and his ribs are held in a vice-like grip.
"Amy, I can't breath," Jim chokes out.
She pulls away, eyes shining, but cheeks stubbornly dry. "James T. Kirk, I aught to bash you over the head, but I have never been more proud to know you, you idiot!" She grins widely and hugs him again. Jim tentatively wraps his arms around her for the first time since he met her.
Jim is helping Scotty reconnect some sort of communications line, flat on his back with his arms deep in a tangle of wires and mechanical parts, when he just about slices his left hand off. Through the blood and the panic of the surrounding engineers, all Jim can hear is, "Not near the rotator circuits!!" in Scotty's thick accent. He is half escorted, half carried through the halls to the Med Bay. Bones is unsurprised at the blood dripping from beneath the shirt tied around his wrist, but his face pales slightly at the sight of Jim's dangling hand. Bones is efficient as he slows blood flow, injects Jim with a dosage of painkillers that's slightly too high, and sets to work reconnecting bones and tissues and nerves.
The second the skin is closed over the wrist, Jim tries to hop off the biobed, only to find Bones's hand planted firmly in the middle of his chest. "Not for another two hours, Jim. With that level of anesthetic in you, you're not touching another part of this ship. You'll come back with only one leg."
Jim scoffs at him, but lays back down, shoulders tight. "I know you don't like it, Jim, but it's just two hours," Bones says quietly. Bones brings a chair over to the bed and sits. As the minutes tick by, Jim's shoulders slowly relax. Half an hour into Bones's allotted time, Jim is soundly sleeping.
"Captain, what is the origin of those numbers? They seem familiar somehow, yet their sequence is highly illogical," Spock's question is innocent, a curious passing remark during their weekly chess games. Bones, sitting in the corner observing, notes the slight tension that immediately grips Jim's frame.
"Jim, Spock. We're off duty, call me Jim." Glancing at the tattoo on his arm, Jim gives a noncommittal shrug. "I honestly don't know Spock. I think I was pretty drunk when I got it. Who knows, maybe it was the tattooist's idea of a joke." Spock raises an eyebrow, clearly unconvinced, but doesn't comment further. Bones tries to return to his book, but instead finds himself fixed upon Spock's question. 2445, 3,000, 12, 5…, 2445, 3,000, 12, 5…, 2445, 3,000, 12, 5…
Bones's eyes cannot hold up the pretense that he's reading anymore. 'Eliminate the first one and you have…' His thought trailed off as he finally put it together. 3,000 initial survivors, 12 retrieved from the planet, 5 left sane. The 2445 must have been Jim's personal number. Bones glances up from the worn pages to watch the play of muscle under the tattoo as Jim uses his hands to demonstrate something for Spock. It was so typically Jim; putting his biggest secret right on display and having no one catch him. Bones shook his head ruefully, and resumed his reading as Jim and Spock bickered genially over the game.
The bridge crew can hear the shouting from three floors away, growing louder as the turbolift draws closer. The doors open to reveal an almost fuming McCoy, and a surprisingly calm Kirk.
"Jim, don't think I don't know how you feel about doctors, but if you insist upon running around every goddamn alien planet we come across, I will be giving you regular physicals to make sure that the next time you're running from some random monster, your heart doesn't give out. Do you have any idea how much paperwork has to be filled out if you die?"
"Because if you think I'm going to spend all that time – wait, what?"
"I said okay, Bones. I'm not some unreasonable child," Jim paused (ignoring Bones' muttered, "Could've fooled me."). "Besides, if you were going to kill me, you would've done it while I was too drunk to resist."
"Guess your mom did the right thing then, sending you to Tarsus IV. Really learned some good shit there, huh?"
Jim froze as the hated voice of his once-step-father halted the movement around him. He was paralyzed. He had also never been happier to be on leave and away from his crew. The bartender made a small gesture towards the door. Two impossibly large men peeled themselves away from the shadows of the bar. Jim gripped his glass of beer so hard he was sure it would shatter. He tilted his head to see the pudgy, balding figure behind him. The two large men flanked the swaying figure of Frank.
"Get him out of here," the bartender said quietly. The bouncers each grabbed one of Frank's arms and hauled him out of the club. "People say the damndest things when they're drunk," the bartender said, inviting the bar's patron's to laugh with him. Jim couldn't do anything but drag his eyes back around to the sticky bar top. The bartender gave him a fresh beer. "On the house, Captain. And anything else you need. It's dark enough in here that no one will know for sure that you're actually you." The bartender cleared his throat and looked straight into Jim's eyes, "My sister lives in San Francisco. She would've been one of the first to go. Whatever may or may not have been said tonight by a stupid drunk doesn't leave that barstool." Jim forced out a little smile, and cradled his beer between his hands.
The drabble that actually inspired me to write this whole thing is in this chapter. I read a story somewhere about the crew noticing that Jim wasn't eating and the following confrontation, but I really wanted to change it a bit so it wasn't the whole crew. Given what we know about Jim, having him tell everyone he knows his darkest secret, for me, just doesn't make sense.
I can't guarantee when I'll get the next chapter up, but it will come! Hope you're enjoying it!