Notes: This is a somewhat unusual format for me. There will be two chapters in the present day, followed by an interlude, followed by two chapters, etc. Each interlude will progress through Jim and Spock's relationship from 2005 to 2010. Please note the dates, because some of them are significant.

Warnings: alcoholism, strong language, explicit sexual situations, explicit violence, mentions of self-harm. Any warnings particularly relevent to a chapter will appear at the head of said chapter.

Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek: 2009, and I make no profit from this work.


Rice

Sulu had been pushing him to go for weeks – hell, really he'd been pushing for months, ever since Jim had called him at seven in the morning drunk off his ass, but he'd only been really obvious for the last eight weeks or so – but Jim only made the decision to go at all when he opened the kitchen cupboard on Tuesday afternoon and realised that he was out of rice.

It was a stupid realisation, but there it was. For four and a half years, Jim had always had a permanently good rice supply. He never ran out; he never even let it run low. He ran out of other things – pasta, ready meals, bacon, tea – just like any other schmuck who'd forgotten to go to the store after work, but for four and a half years he had always, always had rice. If there was nothing else in the house but a powdered soup packet or an egg rolled to hide at the back of the fridge, he would still have rice.

He'd punched the cupboard door, then sat at the kitchen table nursing bruised knuckles and wondering when he'd not noticed that he was running low on rice. Fuck.

It wasn't even really about the rice. It was just up there with all the other shit he'd never thought would ever hurt in the last six months. For fuck's sake, why would running out of fucking rice ever upset anyone?

Only it did. Just like realising nobody had rearranged the tins in the cupboards so the oldest ones were at the front in months. Just like realising the wok had been up on the shelf so long it had gathered dust. Just like coming out of his bedroom some mornings and realising nobody had put his dirty clothing in the hamper, or even in the washing machine.

He hadn't expected these things to hurt. He'd expected the loneliness of the bed, and the lack of interest in mealtimes because there was nobody to talk to, and the constant quiet, and the coming home to a dark and empty house after work, and no kiss goodbye before going to work. He'd expected those bits.

He hadn't expected the rice.

The rice made him go. It was stupid, really. Four in the afternoon and he'd been determined not to go – an AA meeting? Really? Come on – it would just be a bunch of old ladies moaning about their husbands and how good a glass of red wine would be with the daytime television, and maybe the odd unemployed guy moaning about how stressful having kids was 'now that our financial situation is different.' It wouldn't help. And it would be run by some jackass bleeding heart fuckwit who didn't have the slightest fucking clue about what it was like and how much Jim had fucked the fuck up.

But staring at the empty jar where the rice was supposed to be, at four fifteen in the afternoon, changed his mind. So he'd fucking go, already. It was better – it had to be better – than sitting in the house for the night, missing his old life and wondering just how the hell he was meant to make this better without a bottle.

Because he couldn't. He just couldn't. It was too late for that – and really, without Sulu, Jim wouldn't even be sober enough to notice he was clean outta rice.

So he glared at the note stuck to his fridge – Kalona, 7pm, directions on the pamphlet in the hall and go, you self-pitying cocksucker! – and figured that it couldn't hurt.

More, at least.


McCoy liked Iowa. Iowa was like Georgia – it was empty, it was quiet, and it was more or less devoid of those damn hippie kids who thought they had the world figured out. They ran off to the big cities out west, and if they ever did turn up in McCoy's line of work, then it was fifteen years older with a sense of reality finally beaten into them.

Oh, McCoy had been one of those kids. Twenty years old, he'd been convinced and arrogant about his place in the world. He didn't have problems back then, apart from corrupt politicians and the evils of capitalism and the fact that his girlfriend really didn't do as much for the environment as she could.

He'd grown up since then.

At twenty, he'd never guessed which way his life was headed, and yet now, at just the wrong side of thirty-two, he couldn't say that he was entirely surprised. He'd gone from engaged and expectant father with a brand new medical degree and a rather disgusting amount of optimism with a middle-of-the-country, ten-bedrooms-and-begging-for-a-brood house in the middle of back-ass Georgia, to...

To a bedsit in Iowa City, evenings spent encouraging other people not to be like him, and the odd spiteful message from his ex-wife telling him how much better off their baby girl was without him around. Twelve years, and he'd managed to fuck it up more than he would have ever guessed during his smug teenage years and the brink of adulthood.

And yet...somehow, he'd gotten used to it.

When the ex-wife had told him to take his bag and his booze and his goddamn baseball and get out of her county, if not the state, a sympathetic colleague had pointed him in the direction of an opening at one of the south Iowan hospitals. He'd bounced around a couple of them, and someone had noticed his odd manner of therapy and surprising success with it, and pushed him into this job.

So it wasn't keeping old rich folk alive longer than was strictly necessary in the summer heat in Georgia, but...if anything, it was more necessary. He'd never say it was better – he missed his home, and summer thunderstorms, and being woken up at ungodly hours of the morning after a long night's shift because Jo just had to show Daddy the picture she drew. He missed that life – but at least this new life had something to it.

Tuesday nights were spent in Kalona. He spent most of his evenings driving out and driving back from various chapters – Mondays in West Liberty, Tuesdays in Kalona, Fridays in Iowa City itself, and every other Saturday going up to Cedar Rapids for a daytime chapter that held reinforcement workshops. But Tuesdays were Kalona, the group he'd been pushed to take on first, and so his most well-known.

The Kalona chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous was a small one – barely big enough to exist, really, and it wouldn't if the grateful and wealthy husband of a reformed alcoholic in Cedar Rapids hadn't pushed for them to open one up down here. It consisted of maybe ten regulars – mostly middle-aged women and a couple of younger men who'd dropped out of school early and found no dream or cause to keep them out of trouble. The men came and went, usually pushed into it by court orders and community service requirements; the women tended to stay longer, but would inevitably believe (in a way the men didn't) that there was a cure for alcoholism, and would eventually drift away.

McCoy had taken over leadership of several of the AA chapters in the area after a colleague at one of his A&E stints in Iowa City had seen him handle multiple drunken incidents and had decided that he simply had to do it. McCoy didn't mind; he still worked morning shifts in the hospital, and his pay was hardly anything to turn his nose up at, but Jocelyn would have laughed herself into a coma at the very idea. A reformed alcoholic telling other alcoholics why they shouldn't drink? Yeah, right.

But it was alright work, and McCoy supposed he could see the value in a group leader who knew the score. He certainly hadn't appreciated that permanently-single marriage counsellor all those years ago.

Still, the Kalona chapter were a usually peaceable group – muttering about pests and local kids and goddamn it, why did the local diner have nothing but water and cheap, shitty beer that wouldn't get a squirrel drunk – and any wandering newbies too reluctant to talk watching in bitter silence.

McCoy arrived to find one such newbie that Tuesday evening.

He'd not seen him before – and he would have remembered a leather jacket like that – and didn't doubt, from the scowl and the sullen silence as introductions went round the circle, that he wouldn't see him again unless a court had ordered him to be here. He was in his mid-twenties, needed a shave, and had alarmingly blue eyes – but he didn't say a word to McCoy as he kicked off the meeting, or to anybody else. He remained silent through the tales of weekly woes from the regulars, and through the introductions offered up by the two other newbies, and shook his head silently when McCoy invited him to speak.

It wasn't until the meeting ended that he stirred, and approached McCoy instead of leaving.

"You're Dr. McCoy?" he asked.

"Yeah, that'd be me," McCoy drawled. "Been heading up the Kalona chapter for the past two years."

The man shrugged. "Friend of mine recommended coming to these things, but I gotta say it – I'm not for group therapy."

"It's support rather than therapy," McCoy returned, "but okay. Some people don't like talking it out, and you don't have to say a damn thing until you're ready to. But why are you here if you don't want to use that support?"

"Like I say, a friend told me about it."

"Anyone I know?"

"No."

He said it flatly and without room for argument, so McCoy didn't bother to debate it. Plenty of people recommended AA without having ever been.

"Okay then. I gotta go. See you next week," McCoy tossed over his shoulder as he headed for the door. It was a public community hall, and there was some yoga bullshit for old ladies after the chapter meetings. The woman who ran it was already standing in the doorway and glowering at him.

"Hey," the man called after him. "What makes you qualified to fuckin' run these things anyway?"

"I'm a doctor."

"So what? Doesn't mean you get shit," the man challenged as he followed McCoy out into the parking lot. It was the middle of summer and even though the sun was sinking below a flat horizon, it was still hot.

McCoy dumped his bag on the hood of his car and turned to face the leather-jacketed idiot. He stood confident in his anger, like McCoy had all those years ago, and the doctor snorted.

"My name is Leonard H. McCoy, and I've been sober for three years, four months, and twelve days. That's why I'm qualified to 'fucking run these things', kid."

He didn't wait for a response, getting into his car and rolling down the windows instead of using the air con, deciding to take the scenic route as he backed out of the parking lot and turned onto the right road. In the rear view mirror, the kid stared until he disappeared from view altogether and then McCoy, too used to angry kids ordered into meetings by friends and family and judges, forgot all about him.

Until the following Tuesday, when the kid started off the meeting by standing up ahead of all the regulars and saying, "My name is Jim Kirk – and I need a fucking drink."