Category: General / Friendship
Characters: L. "Bones" McCoy, J. Kirk
Rating: T, for language
SUMMARY: you know it's true friendship when you realize you can share just about everything.
DISCLAIMER: obviously not mine, or the sequel would already be up and about.
A/N: thanks to ChristinaTM for her beta work on this.
Malleable: capable of being shaped; also, adaptable.
I'm sitting through this recurring meeting which is too long for its own good, bored to tears. I still don't understand why Jim insists on having periodic meetings for senior staff of Enterprise, we spend our days together, both work and personal time, for God's sake.
Yeah, I know: StarFleet requires a weekly report on ship status and activities, but frankly we do submit weekly department reports to the captain. Meeting twice a week is pure evil on Jim's part.
As I try to focus on the current subject (some obscure and technical procedure to keep track of intraship communications), it occurs to me that this man sitting across the table is really good with his people.
I've been his friend since day one at the academy, I've seen his every bravado (and sometimes I've been directly involved in them, usually in ways that required my medical experience), I've witnessed every success and every meltdown, I know him maybe more than his own mother. Still he's capable of amazing me. And that's saying something.
Jim is incredibly adaptable: he can waltz through every situation just because he's willing to shape himself in any possible way. I know what gave him this gift, and it's not his father nor his mother or anybody else.
I learned things about Jim when I officially became CMO of Enterprise. Jim never shared his past with me, only meaningless bits and pieces, nothing committal. But as his Chief Medical Officer I have access to his dossier, which I found both explanatory and bone-chilling.
I never suspected that Jim might be one of the few survivors of Tarsus IV. Famine, hiding, torture and homicide aren't things that come easily to mind when looking at your perfectly healthy, smiling and smug friend. I reread the whole file a hundred times before my brain accepted the concept.
Since that day I've grown a new form of respect for Jim. He has more life altering experiences than anybody else on this ship and he had been able to learn from them to live fully and brightly. This is something you don't see very often.
The meeting seems to be over, because everybody is standing and ready to leave the room. I stand too, realizing that I've not heard a single word. I pinch the bridge of my nose, puffing out a breath. I hate official routine.
"Bones." Jim's voice resounds behind me. I turn around and face my captain.
"Yeah," I offer as a reply.
"If you think that these meetings are useless, you could have told me." His tone is warm with friendship, signalling that it's not the captain who's talking.
"I did, and your exact words were, if I recall correctly: 'I'm the captain, deal with it'." The banter is regular stuff, and I easily spar back.
"Oh." I bet he doesn't recall that particular conversation.
"'Oh,' indeed. As if my opinion would count." My voice maybe holds just a tad of bitterness, because his own softens.
"Your opinion counts for me, Bones. But really this is something I can't forego, because now I'm the captain of this ship and these people are family. I simply can't let anything go wrong." He desperately needs me to understand. And I do, actually, so I sigh and relent a bit.
"I know, and I understand. But I'm allowed to growl once in a while if I'm not a happy camper, aren't I?" I add the last part to lighten the mood, and it does seem to work because suddenly his face is beaming again.
"Yeah, obviously you are, Bones."
I match his grin with one of my own, but I sober up shortly after, because what I have to say is important and I want him to understand that I'm serious.
"You're a good captain, Jim."
His face scrunches up in confusion at first, then lights up with a full blown smile.
"I do." I offer back convinced without hesitation.
This is the most honest conversation we've ever had, and we both know it. I know that Jim values immensely this sort of heart to heart talk, maybe because nobody in his life, except for Pike and now me, has ever addressed him one.
We both enjoy for a few moments this new level of mutual understanding before Jim, the ever-moving, restless man, chooses to end the lull.
"Yeah, well… I'm very malleable. That's the secret, you know."
I'm not prepared to drop this mood yet, though, so I reply quickly. "It's not only a trick, Jim. And I'm sorry because you fooled me too for a while."
Now he's looking at me sideways. I can almost hear his mind working to decipher my words.
We were all fooled by his attitude, but the Narada incident had the real James T. Kirk emerging in plain view for us to see. He's been nothing but perfect since then. But now I know that even this new image is not the real Jim. And, as his friend, I'm disappointed with myself for not understanding it before, without the Starfleet medical dossier to provide me with the information.
It's because of my own displeasure that I have to let Jim know I trust him implicitly, so I begin: "Jim, I've been observing you lately and I can see the effort you're doing with the ship and the crew. I've really come to appreciate your unorthodox ways of being the captain and…"
"You read my file." He stops me, and it's not a question. He knows.
I can't lie to him.
"Yeah," I say dejected. Then I add, "That was part of my CMO duty, by the way, I didn't pry or anything…"
He stops me again.
"Bones. It's ok. I don't like it, but I understand that you must know about my past to really know when I'm acting crazy."
"Which is always, incidentally."
"Ok, crazier than normal, then."
"Exactly," I grumble.
The banter is back, which means we are good again.
We stand there, eyeing each other in some sort of friendly silence.
Then Jim shakes his head, with a crooked grin that's almost a grimace. He looks me in the eyes and asks, half jokingly and half worriedly:
"You want details?"
I do, but I can't ask him to go through that crap again only for my own curiosity. So I wave my hand lightly to disperse the tension
"No, not really."
Jim's expression is still wary, and I don't want him to get the idea that I don't care, so I point my finger at him. "But you know where to find me in case you want to share."
"I do," He promptly replies. "Although I don't really like sickbay, you know."
The joke is his own way to thank me, so I reciprocate, my tone serious enough for him to understand the offer is sincere and light enough to let him know that I'm not thinking any less of him: "Me neither, for that matter. But this ship is huge, you'll find a suitable nook. As long as it's not a Jeffries tube, because I tend to need air at some point, you know, for breathing."
"If we're going to talk about things in my file, me too. A lot." He let out wearily. He holds my gaze, and adds almost shyly: "And I might even need a shot or two from your personal stash, Bones."
I'm here for him no matter what and I shoot back a convinced "Deal."
He heaves a breath and his posture has now nothing of the confidence and smugness of James T. Kirk, captain of Enterprise.
I hear him mutter "I hate this" in his youngest voice and my heart swells with affection, because I understand that he's allowing me to see his broken and fragile side, the well hidden Jim that nobody can even suspect exists. And I know that I'm only seeing this because in his eyes I'm a real friend, one he can count on and trust with his life.
We look once more at each other, conveying sympathy, friendship and affection without needing the actual words. And then, true to his own definition, Jim slowly morphs into his captain role, adapting seemingly without effort to the image we all expect him to shape into.
Fascinated, I watch the transformation, awed at this form of Jim's magic, all the while feeling fatherly pride for this still-young man who has already endured and won so many battles to last a lifetime.
And suddenly I'm facing my captain again.
"Enough of this crap, Bones. Let's go flying around space!" he eagerly exclaims while patting my shoulder.
I suppress a grin and growl, "Kids!" rolling my eyes as we walk out of the conference room.
Yeah, malleable. Good definition.