Rating: T for language
Characters: Kirk, McCoy, Spock, Uhura
Summary: Jim and Bones have a serious disagreement in regards to their relationship. Angsty.
Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek or anything associated with it. I'm doing this for fun, not profit.
Dreams are All There is for Us
For the last three nights Jim has watched Bones sleep.
It starts with a look, while Jim is laid out in Med-bay, recovering from his latest misadventure.
Most of the meaning in verbal communication isn't actually in the words used but in how the words are said and what the body is doing while saying them. Everyone is aware of this basic principle on a subconscious level. For Jim, it's an active part of his thought process. He learned early on in his childhood that words are just sounds that can't be trusted to tell the truth, only important because they give context to what the body is saying. Jim listens with his eyes.
So when Bones tells him, after checking over his vitals one last time, that Jim needs to let his security team do their God-damned jobs if he wants his CMO to make it through their five-year without having a heart attack; when Bones says he understands Jim's need to look out for his crew but wouldn't they be better served if Jim kept himself in one piece? Is that really too much to ask? – what Jim actually hears is a little different.
Their fingers brush for an instant as Bones meets his gaze, his eyes telling Jim everything he's ever wanted to hear, offering him everything he's ever wanted to have. But there are conditions, a price that must be paid (as he always knew there would be) and Jim won't be the one paying.
Is that really too much to ask?
"It really is."
He pads in on soft feet well into the alpha crew's sleep cycle, when he knows the other man will be in bed, makes his way across the room and lowers himself to sit cross-legged on the mattress. His movements are careful, though he makes no attempt at silence. He goes unnoticed anyway. Despite what people might think the doctor is a heavy sleeper, as long as Bones' comm and PADD remain silent, as long as Jim doesn't say his name, Bones will go on dreaming.
Jim closes his eyes and waits for his night vision to return. The lights in the ship are dimmed during Gamma, but not so low that Jim can make out details in the dark of Bones' room after walking the halls. He takes a deep breath in through his nose. Soap, shampoo and the warm scent coming off the sheets are familiar now and welcomed. The sharp scent of bourbon is missing, which is encouraging. The first night the smell had been so overpowering it had been like a fist in the face as soon as he'd walked through the door.
The first place Jim looks, when he opens his eyes, is Bones' face. He hasn't been able to meet his gaze since this whole mess started, not properly. The pain and the questions are close to the surface during the day, boring into him. At night, as Bones sleeps, they're buried deep enough that Jim can take him in without drowning in them.
The first morning, Jim sits down at a free table in the mess. Bones is on the other side of the room, facing the other way. He doesn't see Jim come in. His back is stiff and he's resting his head in one hand as he stirs his breakfast around on his tray. He's got two glasses of water in front of him instead of tea. Jim only realizes he's been staring when Uhura takes the seat across from Bones, shooting a questioning look at Jim over his shoulder.
Jim looks down at his plate, picks up a fork full of scrambled eggs and forces himself to chew. He didn't sleep much the night before, even after he got back to his own quarters, and he doesn't have much appetite.
The next few days are going to be bad. This has happened before, this backpedaling in their relationship and their trust and it's usually been Jim's fault, at least to start with, but this is something different. He's seen Bones angry; he understands how to deal with him when he's angry.
Bones isn't angry.
He doesn't drink when he's angry. He bitches or retreats only to come at you from an unexpected angle and when he's really furious he gets passive aggressive as fuck, but he doesn't drink.
When he drinks it's because he's in pain and when he's in pain he doesn't talk about it.
Which is why Uhura is looking increasingly frustrated as her conversation with Bones progresses. She knows something is wrong; she pays almost as much attention to what the body says as Jim does, and she's probably figured out that it's got something to do with him, but Bones won't give her any clues. Jim gives up on breakfast and leaves before she can switch targets.
They don't talk while on shift, though Jim sees her staring at him with determination in the reflection on the view screen. Uhura takes her lunch break early that day, at about the time many of the nurses usually head to the mess. A little later Jim says hello as he passes her on his way to get his own lunch. She responds pleasantly enough as she leaves. Pleasant if they were anyone other than themselves.
She calls him "Captain" instead of "farm boy."
Bones' face is tense, even in sleep. Jim reaches out, smoothing the crease between his eyebrows with his thumb. It's a familiar gesture and some of the tight ache drains away at his touch.
"We suck at this, don't we?" Jim whispers, brushing dark bangs back with his fingers.
It would be easier if Bones didn't look so vulnerable, wrapped in blankets with his arms curled up against his chest, loose fists on the pillow by his face. Jim wonders if his own sleeping visage reflects his inner nature as well as this. Bones is a gentle soul, compassionate and guileless after his protective layers of antagonism and irritability are peeled away. Sometimes Jim imagines seeing him like this, open and unguarded, when they're both awake.
He won't ever see it outside his mind's eye; Bones doesn't take outright rejection well. Jim doesn't regret it. Bones might never understand why, but there was never any other option.
"I'm sorry." He traces the contours of Bones' face with the tips of his fingers, a feather light caress. "For hurting you. But I just can't do it. I can't do what you're asking of me. And I'm not sorry for that."
Jim glances at the chrono to see how much longer he can stay – not long if he's going to get any sleep before his shift – before looking back at his friend.
"She's angry with me," Jim says the next day as he and Spock play chess.
"She believes you are causing Leonard emotional harm for no justifiable reason," Spock replies, moving his remaining bishop up a level.
"I can't be the kind of person he needs me to be." He glances over the tiers, assessing the course this game will take now that the excess pieces are gone, before making a decision and moving a rook. "He'll feel hurt for a while, and when he's done being hurt he'll be angry for even longer, but he'll get over it."
The game continues in silence for a few more moves, each made in quick succession, before Spock pauses to consider his position. "I do not believe Leonard's... current state of mind is one he will simply 'get over,' as you put it." He moves one of his pawns to take one of Jim's. "Check."
"It's a phase." Jim moves a knight down to take the pawn. "I didn't expect it. After three years at the Academy I thought we had each other pegged. Didn't think anything was likely to change."
"If the situation is unanticipated, how can you claim to predict how events will transpire beyond this point?" Spock moves his queen, previously hindered by Jim's knight, taking Jim's rook. His defenses are falling. "Perhaps you should consider discussing your differences in opinion. Check."
"Our opinions don't differ." Jim moves his king to the left.
"I do not understand." Spock's queen follows.
"It's a matter of consequences." Jim moves his remaining rook to defend. "He's ready to accept them. I'm not."
"Surely a compromise on your future behavior can be reached." Bishop takes rook.
"My behavior isn't the issue." Knight takes bishop.
"I do not understand." A pawn moves forward. "Check."
"What I do won't change either way. He and I both know that." King takes pawn. "Some things are unavoidable. It's what he'll do after that makes the difference."
Spock's rook moves on the tier below, ready to take Jim's king on the next turn and out of range of his knight. His queen and a pawn wait for Jim should he try to escape.
Bones is staring at him through half lidded eyes, somewhere on the foggy edge between dreams and wakefulness and not really all there. His breathing stays slow and even, his body still separate from his mind. There's no pain in his expression, just a deep sadness.
Jim should probably leave but he can't quite bring himself to stand. It's the first time Bones has really looked at him in three days, the first time Jim hasn't looked away and he doesn't want to break this contact.
One arm unfolds, reaching out to him, fingers falling open like a flower even as Bones' breathing continues at the same slow pace. It's an offering, an invitation, a plea to a phantom he doesn't know is actually there.
Come to bed.
Come home to me.
Jim has to look away then, emotion thick in his throat. He swallows and glances back up. "I can't." His eyes are burning but his voice is steady.
Why? is the question in Bones' eyes, his arm still outstretched on the bed between them. He's drifting, mind mostly disconnected from reality; if Bones has any memory of this in the morning it'll be nothing more than a half remembered dream of a dream.
Jim places his hand on Bones' chest where he can feel the steady beat of his heart. It's breaking, small fissures that will grow year by year. When the inevitable happens it will shatter like hot glass under ice-cold water – but it can still heal, if only Bones will relent and let them go their separate ways. Jim leans forward and kisses him, a soft press of lips against lips.
"Because I love you."
"Dammit, Jim! If you don't let Security do their job I'm not going to make it through this mission without having a fucking heart attack! You take it out of me, you really do."
You're hurting me.
"Sorry, Bones. But I can't just sit back when I see something about to go down."
I know I am. But please, please, please...
"I know you feel compelled to jump in front of every flying fist, but you're not much use to anyone if you keep getting beat up like this!"
You're breaking me.
"I'm their Captain. I can't ask them to put themselves at risk for me, not without knowing I'll do the same for them."
Don't push this. Don't make me say it.
"The away teams aren't the only ones who rely on you. Can you at least try to come back in one piece, to think before you leap? Is that really too much to ask?"
I'm here, right here, always waiting for you. I just need to know you remember that – that you want to come back to me. Let me love you. Is that really too much to ask?
"It really is."
–because someday I won't come back and I need someone else to be holding your heart when it happens.