Shenanigans and Tomfoolery
By Alone Dreaming
Rating: T or PG-13 for language and angst
Disclaimer: Don't own it. Wish I did.
Warnings: Potty language (which I have been told is rather gracefully used) and anguish.
For: Ginger Ninja (:D)
Author's Note: I promised Ginger Ninja something for Christmas and she gave me a beautiful prompt which I squealed over, felt inspired by and promptly spent the next month running head first into a brick wall with. The ensuing result dredged up an old review of hers which requested an expansion of one of my vignettes from "Five to One" and wove in some necessary man-huggage. Huzzah. As always, self-beta'd. Enjoy it anyway.
Leonard McCoy has no patience for tomfoolery or shenanigans so he can easily admit that since his acquisition of friendship from (and, perchance, his ejection of whiskey and bile (unintentionally) upon the person of) James Tiberius Kirk, he has found himself on edge and immeasurably frustrated. Between the ridiculous antics that have marred most of their Starfleet training and the ridiculous antics that have tainted most of their spare time, Leonard McCoy cannot recall when he's last had a peaceful, normal day. Pre-Kirk times involved moping in a bottle and thinking about how much he missed his married life, and while they gave him a slightly sickening sensation in the pit of his stomach, he admits, right here, right now, that he would take a lifetime of drowning in whiskey and marital memories over watching the Enterprise become a smaller and smaller speck in the distance. He would rather have never once laid eyes on James Tiberius Kirk than participate in this last bit of idiocy and lose the man forever.
Of course, he should have expected this from the moment that Jim called them all into the pseudo conference room. Really, it was the common area of the ship, but seeing as the ship's entire electrical system had collapsed, it had been shanghaied for departmental meetings. Without the use of lifts, the centrally located area allowed all heads of department to arrive in the shortest period of time. Jim had seated himself wearily on one of the benches and encouraged everyone to gather around before announcing that they'd have to abandon the Enterprise.
He had been surprised by the sadness in Jim's tone and the efficiency that he doled out orders. With each careful command, he set people at ease, pushed them in the right direction and gave careful instruction to report any issues to Sulu who would be leading the shuttle venture. At some point, the man had come into his own, had stepped out of the boots of wayward troublemaker and into the shoes of responsible adult. McCoy had thought it strange, then, that such a transformation could occur so swiftly but had set aside.
"You've all done so much today," Kirk said, running his hand over his eyes. "And I know you can do this, too. We can't wait around and hope for rescue with the life support about to go out. Get your departments together, get your shuttles loaded and prepare to depart. I'll send final orders as soon as Mister Scott and I have the doors ready."
He had known Jim long enough to see through a charade, to catch the slight hitches in his breathing, the discomfort in his hunched shoulders and the minute rasp in his voice as he spoke. Most of the department heads filed out, trading a few cursory words with their recently acquired Captain before slipping into the dimness that ensconced the Enterprise. Out of respect for Jim's sudden onset of maturity, he patiently waited until all had gone before approaching his friend.
"Bones," Jim greeted as he regained his feet. He rubbed at his eyes again, carefully avoiding a cut placed by one of many recent events.
"Jim," he replied, keeping himself in line. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
"Captaining a ship," Jim said, a weary grin tracing his lips like this was another one of their whirlwind adventures. "It's not even half as much fun as I thought it would be."
"You should be down in medical," he cut to the chase because he wasn't in the mood to play Jim's game. "You need dermal regeneration and a bone knitter; not to mention something to take down the swelling around your throat. Oh, and to treat the obvious side effects from your allergic reaction from before. I can see signs of dehydration and I doubt you've eaten since we got aboard. Do I need to continue?"
Jim grinned, that shit-eating, dare-devil grin that had gotten the pair of them into more bar fights than anyone deserved to get into and completely contradicted his recent ascension into adulthood. "You say the sweetest things, Doc. Unfortunately, I've got a few situations to take care of. How about later? My place? I'll even bring flowers."
He had attempted to maneuver past McCoy then, clasping his shoulder as he went past, but McCoy had been prepared for it. He had used Jim's sudden arm raise to snap forward and pressed hard against his exposed side where bruised and (possibly) fractured ribs lurked. The instantaneous effect had Jim sinking towards the ground and he guiding the younger man in a controlled fall.
"Not cool," Jim wheezed, curling away from McCoy. "Christ, Bones, not cool at all."
"You need to rest or you're going to leave this crew without a leader," he said firmly, keeping Jim from listing over onto his side. "Come on. Back on your feet. We're taking a trip to see Mister Hypo and the ever friendly Mrs. Tricorder."
Jim let him help up until the doorway. In the hall, several cadets were rushing by, organizing supplies, preparing for evacuation. Jim had stopped moving, stubborn, asinine and frowning. He removed McCoy's supporting hand and watched as another Lieutenant darted by the opening before the darkness of the ship swallowed her up. The grin returned, infuriating, and Jim took a few steps away from McCoy.
"Rain check," and vanished. The last thing he saw of a man who may have been the best friend he'd ever possessed was the same show mask that Jim tried to fool the world with. It hurt.
He could have easily stalked Jim down to the deep abyss that was the Engineering department, could have pulled rank as CMO, could have done a million things that would've put Jim into his playing field. Instead, he'd snarled and grumbled and organized his department so the most injured were wheeled onto the limited medical shuttles and the least injured were paired off with nurses in the other vessels. His mind drifted continually back to the Captain but he kept pushing those thoughts away in favor of packing the necessary supplies and making certain that everyone was accounted for.
He should have expected this to happen, should have looked closer at Jim's expression and seen the Last Stand reflecting back at him. Maybe if he had visited engineering, he would have overheard how the system had failed them and how someone would have to manually operate it. Maybe, he would've noticed the branch from recklessness to fatalism in Jim's behavior, the determined growth from neophyte captain to sacrificial lamb, and done something about it. But, instead, he stands with his face against the window watching his friend fade into nothing, much like his friend's father had, and feels a sharp stabbing in his stomach.
Give him the whiskey and failed dreams of the perfect family any day over this. He pushes his forearm against his eyes and attempts communication one more time, knowing that Jim won't reply.
"You guys have been great," Jim said through the communicator after the door had slammed shut. "Get to safety. It has been an honor serving with you and knowing you." And not a word since.
"Jim," he whispers into the communicator, hoping to receive one last transmission. "Jim?"
And empty space swallows him whole.
It would have been a struggle to reach the nearest base but, luckily, they're intercepted by two old ships (drawn from retirement with the destruction of half the fleet) and taken aboard to safety before any trouble sets in. Already, the Enterprise is far in the distance and the hollowness in his stomach has grown into a cancerous lump in his chest. With little enthusiasm (or much of his normal cynicism) he helps unload his patients and delivers his conclusions to the medical staff. They have a lot on their hands- especially with Captain Pike who has taken a dangerous plunge since they departed- and he can't stand the thought of losing even one more person to the idiocy of Nero.
There's the fluttering discussion of returning to the ship and retrieving Jim now that help has reached them. They have supplies, now, ability now to pry open the Enterprise and save the young Captain from the floating deathtrap. But he already knows that Jim's suffocated, that all the rescue team will find is a blue lipped, deathly still shell that once sported ingenuity and bravery; they will find out exactly what happened to the man who believed, honestly, that a no win situation did not exist. He doesn't think he can handle being there when they bring Jim's body aboard a shuttle; he doesn't think he can handle being the one to confirm that Jim's death.
But, in the end, he doesn't have a choice. After conferring with his colleagues, he finds himself carted into the shuttle which will return to the Enterprise to "assess damage and casualties." It's fancy terms for gawking, and he makes certain to stare resolutely at the floor as they creep backwards. Any of his protests- and he squawked a bit at first, hedging that he had patients, that he had a place, that he didn't need to go on a suicide run- have been dismissed with little explanation beyond "They will need the services of an achieved medic." They refuse to accept that he's tired, exhausted even, and isn't prepared to do this. Limited resources, they say, welcome to the life of Starfleet.
They send Sulu back as well along with Spock to lead the team. The Vulcan calmly acts as though nothing has happened. None of the previous strain that Jim evoked graces his features as he checks their path, discusses infiltration with the specialist they acquired on the other ship, or paces the small interior. He's so damnably even tempered that McCoy thinks he might explode just to cause a bit of stress. Everyone else radiates tension, sadness, unhappiness and Spock won't acknowledge it. Even when they reach the Enterprise and force the doors open- now within thirty minutes of finding Jim, dead-Spock remains in control.
Strangely, the lights are on even though the system had already perished before they'd launched. The doors close behind them and the atmosphere returns, allowing them to venture forth with minimal protection against space's inhospitable conditions. Cautionary masks, Spock insists, though they become unnecessary when they reach the inside of the ship. The lifts are working again, even stranger, and he waits by them while Spock and a small team go up and Sulu and another team go down. Next to him, a young woman stands, fidgeting, her eyes flickering about.
"It's kind of creepy," she finally says and he can't help but agree. This place should be completely gone and, yet, they've found it half-alive. The faintest glimmer of hope touches him but he stomps it flat. He refuses to be disappointed, refuses to show anything, when either team brings Jim back; he'll wait until later, when he can lock himself away and drown in alcohol, to give into the anguish.
He doesn't need the comfort, the anxiety, the idiocy, the emotional attachment. He knew this from the beginning, knew this from the moment he shared his flask with this kid that it was all a mistake. And, now, it's confirmed when Spock steps back out of the lift, his arms supporting a dazed, confused, but very much alive James Tiberius Kirk. Without warning, his resolve melts and he rushes forward, heedless of injury, of emotional display, of anyone else, and flings his arms about Jim.
"Shit, kid," he manages around a rather large lump in his throat. "Shit."
"Sorry," Jim whispers. He says it into McCoy's shoulder because he can't stand straight. He returns the hug, just a bit, but his arms are pinned to his sides by McCoy's vigor and he doesn't appear to have the strength to fight it. Together, they sink down, Jim leaning heavily against him and he struggling, in vain, against the tears trickling down his cheeks. Spock has, thankfully, led the rest of his team away to double check that no one else is aboard and the girl is staring in the opposite direction.
"See," Jim mumbles when McCoy finally pulls back. "I told ya. The test's rigged."
He blinks at Jim, blinks at the cockiness, blinks at the future promise of shenanigans and the justification of tomfoolery.
"No such thing as a no win situation," Jim clarifies, as though he doesn't already know what Jim meant; as though he doesn't already know that some impossible explanation lingers behind the ship still working and Jim still breathing; as though he hasn't concluded that Jim's done something fantastical and cheated fate itself.
He has only one answer for it. "Fuck you, you dumb ass."
But he has to admit, he'll take this over the bottle and the emptiness any day.