Title: Ponderings

Author: RogueAngel

Rating: PG

Characters: Jim and Bones. No slash, just friends

Summary: From the Jim and Bones Buckleup-Meme: I love when writers bring Carol and David Marcus into AOS, but I'd also like to see a scenario where Jim realizes that his son doesn't and won't exist in this universe (preferably having learned about him from Spock Prime and thus getting some sense of Kirk Prime's guilt and grief over David). Cue Bones comforting him; bonus points if they talk about having kids together at some point in the future.

Author's Note: This has not been beta'd. All mistakes are my own. Feel free to tell me if you spot something and I will do my best to fix it.

McCoy walked into the dorm room, tossing his red cadet jacket onto the back of the chair a little harder than necessary. It had been a long-assed day and he was done with it. No more questions, no more nosey admirals. He just wanted a drink and then he wanted to drag Jim out to dinner.

Or, come to think of it, maybe they should order in. There'd been reports of paparazzi making it onto campus and the bush next to the entrance had been moving suspiciously when he'd passed. It might just have been his imagination, but he was pretty sure he heard a click or a whir or some sort of mechanical noise. He wouldn't put it past the damn idiots to stalk Jim's dorm waiting for something to happen.

"Damn it!" he exclaimed when he stumbled as he crossed the room to where Jim kept his liquor. "Computer lights!" Squinting at the sudden brightness, McCoy stumbled backwards, almost breaking his neck on Jim's damn boots – again! – surprised to see Jim sitting at his desk, his feet up as he leaned back in his chair. "Jesus, say something," he scowled. Kicking the boots under Jim's bed, he stalked over to where Jim was sitting with a bottle of whiskey next to him.

Jim shrugged and poured himself a drink.

"Got another glass for me?" McCoy asked, suddenly a bit worried.

Putting his feet on the floor, Jim twisted in his chair and pulled a tumbler off the shelf by his desk and tossed it to McCoy. Then he sunk down, elbows on the arms of his chair and his glass clutched in both hands, his legs stretched out under his desk.

"Thanks," McCoy nodded, reaching for the bottle and pouring himself a generous three fingers. "Long day?"

Jim shrugged again, still not looking at McCoy.

McCoy took a sip and really looked at his friend. In the last four days since they'd returned to Earth, by this point Jim would be ranting and railing about the asinine bureaucracy and stupid questions and even stupider admirals who seemed to be threatened by Jim's natural instincts and leadership abilities. The kid's ego knew no bounds, but this time he could back it up with his actions. He had saved the fucking planet.

Sure it had been a bit messy and slapdash, but he'd done it. And he'd kept the crew and the ship together on the two week journey home. Apparently the Admiralty didn't know whether they wanted to reward him or stick him in the brig and forget about the headache that was James T. Kirk. McCoy couldn't really blame them, he'd spent the last three years occasionally wanting to kill Jim, but he couldn't deny the kid's brilliance.

McCoy took another sip and then tried again. "They still going on about the thing with Spock?"

"Nah," Jim finally spoke, shaking his head slowly. "They gave up on that, seeing as Spock won't press charges and managed to talk circles around Admiral Mears who wanted to hang me for it."

"That's good," McCoy responded, still confused by Jim's pensive mood.

Jim shrugged. "I guess."

Deciding to cut to the chase, McCoy leaned forward from where he had seated himself on Jim's bed. "Then what's up, kid? What's got you so quiet?"

"Don't know what you're talking about, Bones." Jim reached for the bottle, but McCoy pulled it out of his reach.

"The hell you don't," he said. "It's barely 1600 hours and I find you in your room with the windows dark and the lights off. And I know this bottle," he shook it for emphasis, "wasn't even opened as of yesterday. So what's going on? Come to think of it, you weren't exactly talkative when we met for breakfast this morning."

Jim gave him a half smile. "Can't put anything past you, can I Bones?"

Giving him a lofty look, McCoy shook his head. "No, you can't, kid. So are you going to start talking or do I have to hurt you?"

At that, Jim lip quirked up in to a real, though small, smile. "I'd like to see you try, old man."

McCoy didn't say anything; he simply sat and stared at Jim. If he really didn't want to talk, Jim would have tried to distract him with a rant or a story about someone they both knew or offer to buy dinner. The fact that he was still sitting here, a forlorn look on his face said a lot; to McCoy at least.

"I've been having these…dreams," Jim finally spoke. He leaned forward so that his elbows rested on his knees, his face hidden as he stared at the floor.

McCoy felt sympathetic immediately. Jim wouldn't be the only one having disturbing dreams after what happened with Nero and Vulcan and everything else. Hell, even those who hadn't been involved because they were stationed planet-side or on a star base were having problems dealing with what had occurred. Jim had been the main protagonist through it all; it wasn't surprising that he was having nightmares about it. Post traumatic stress disorder was something that ever medical professional over at headquarters was worried about as they interviewed the crewmembers of the Enterprise.

McCoy sighed. "Do you want me to get you something to help you sleep?" he asked, but Jim was already shaking his head. "I could get you something in pill form and maybe an appointment to talk to someone…"

"It's not that, Bones," Jim interrupted. "I'm fine. Or I will be fine," he corrected himself at McCoy's skeptical look. "I've had the prerequisite psych eval and…"

"Jim, that was just an initial evaluation," McCoy pointed out. "PSTD doesn't come with a timeline and it's only been a couple weeks. Hell, kid, you were in the thick of it all. There's no shame in asking for a help."

"I know that, Bones," Jim told him, a look of exasperation flashed across his face. "That's not what the dream was about. I mean, yeah, I did…do occasionally have nightmares about Nero and all the shit. Who wouldn't?" he asked wryly. "But I'm dealing with it and I think the memorials will help. It'll be tough, but it'll be good for us – for me."

"Okay." McCoy wasn't willing to push it. If someone had asked him professionally how Jim was doing after everything, he would have answered that the kid was doing fine. There were moments were he saw the sadness that they all felt reflected in Jim's eyes, but the kid put a good façade on it. Honestly, having to keep up morale on the ship and set the example had been good for him. McCoy was extremely proud of how Jim had handled his short captaincy.

"If it's not about Nero, then what are these nightmares about?" McCoy asked.

Jim lifted his head. "I never said nightmares."

"Fine," McCoy said with a huff of exasperation, "dreams, then."

"They aren't really dreams," Jim said hesitantly.

McCoy frowned, his brow furrowing, as Jim's eyes unfocused and he looked at something that wasn't there. He opened his mouth to say something, but then decided to wait. Jim would tell him in his own time. Instead, he took the bottle and poured them both another generous shot.

Jim rolled his glass between his hands and then looked up, his blue eyes wide in sadness and wonder.

"I had a son," he finally said softly.

That wasn't what McCoy had been expecting and he felt his stomach drop all the way to his toes.

"You…what? A son?" was all McCoy could seem to say. "Was he…" McCoy's mind scrambled for some explanation. Jim was barely twenty-five. There was no way his son was old enough to be on one of the ships that had been deployed against Nero. The only civilian casualties had been… "Was he on Vulcan?" It seemed unlikely in the extreme, but it was the only thing that made sense.

Jim shook his head. "No. I…not me; not mine. The other me; the other Jim Kirk," he tried to clarify.

McCoy frowned and then let out a small growl when he realized what the hell Jim was talking about. "Is this about that old hobgoblin?" he demanded. He'd almost gone through the roof when Jim had admitted that the old bastard had performed a mind meld on him. Jim had protested that it had been the quickest way to get across a lot of information and that he hadn't felt any ill affects, but there was no way McCoy was going to believe that.

"Yeah," Jim admitted, having the grace to look slightly sheepish.

"And you still think he didn't do any harm?" McCoy glared.

"It was the fastest…"

"I know, I've heard it before," McCoy interrupted scornfully. "But it seems to me that there's more going on here. He didn't just tell you about Nero. Not if you're having these dreams, or whatever, about a son you never had."

"At first it was just Nero," Jim told him, "and a bit about Spock and my…or him and his Jim Kirk's friendship."

"The epic friendship that will define you both," McCoy mocked.

"Bones," Jim replied tiredly. They'd already been over this.

McCoy held up his hands. "Sorry. Just…go on. What about this kid?"

Jim took another drink and then sighed. "But lately there's been…more. It's not much. Just a…idea. The knowledge that he – the other me – had a son. I don't even really have an idea of what he looked like or what he was like, just…sadness that he…died." He remained pensive, his eyes focused on the amber liquid in his glass as he slowly swirled the whiskey before taking another drink.

"I know his name was David Marcus," Jim continued. "And I know his mother's name was Carol Marcus. And I know…" he swallowed and seemed to shudder. "I know that I…the other me…didn't even see him until just before he died."

"Was he sick? Or in an accident?" McCoy couldn't help asking. "Was the other Jim Kirk on a mission and something happened?" He knew this kid, David, wasn't really Jim's, but the death of any child is sad, even if it wasn't your own.

"No," Jim shook his head.

"Okay," McCoy said slowly, not really sure what else to say. It was sad that a kid in a alternate universe who happened to be the son of a version of Jim Kirk died, but it wasn't something to get worked up over. "I don't really get where you're going with this, Jim," he admitted. "The kid died, that's a shame, but it happened in another timeline to another Jim Kirk."

"I know," Jim said, his voice bitter. "I understand that. But he – the other Jim Kirk – was a lot like me; is a lot like me, at least according to the other Spock. Same person, but with slight differences due to Nero. And David wasn't a kid. He was a grown man, in his twenties when he died. The other me knew about him, but only met him when he was already an adult."

"First of all," McCoy spoke. He could see Jim working himself up and he couldn't really understand why. "Stop calling him the 'other me,' damn it. He's not you. He had a totally different life experience. Sure, maybe genetically you are similar and both of you probably have the same pig headed, stubborn, leap without looking personality. But he is not you, and you are not him, no matter what the old hobgoblin says."

"But we're similar," Jim countered. "Nature vs. Nurture, right?"

"Sure," McCoy agreed. "Some things might be the same, but, shit Jim, just as many things might be different."

"He knew about David," Jim said softly, looking away from McCoy. "He knew he had a son and he let the boy grow up without him. How could he have…why would he…" Jim trailed off, his consternation at his counterparts actions obvious.

McCoy understood now. After the childhood that Jim had lived through, he knew that his friend would never had let his child grow up without being a part of his or her life. It just wasn't in Jim – this Jim – to allow that to happen. He knew what it was like growing up without a father.

"I'm sure he had his reasons, Jim," McCoy told him. "You can't know them. Hell, the old bastard might not even know them, despite their epic best buddy-ness."

"Yeah, I'm sure," Jim scoffed. "Reasons."

"Look Jim, Joss and I never had a baby, not for lack of trying," McCoy admitted. "But if things had gone to hell with a kid involved? You have to think about what's best for the kid. Maybe that's what he did. Maybe it was for the best."

Jim shook his head adamantly. "That's not a reason. You can't tell me that if you and Joss had a kid you wouldn't at least want visitation rights and vid calls and every other holiday or whatever custody arrangement you could come up with."

"Well, sure, but…" McCoy hedged, because Jim had a point.

"He knew he had a son, Bones. And he didn't do anything. Didn't even see him until he was an adult. That's just…just wrong." Jim ran a hand through is hair in frustration. "Just wrong," he whispered again.

"He's not you, Jim," Bones pointed out, reaching out and squeezing Jim's knee. "I think we both know that if such a situation were to occur now you would be a part of your child's life."

"Yeah," Jim agreed after a moment. "But it's not like I'll have a chance."

"What do you mean?" McCoy asked curiously. "You still got time. You're young. You might get someone to put up with you eventually," he added, trying for some humor.

"Thanks Bones," Jim said with a quirk of his lip. "I meant…David," he explained. "Carol Marcus died on the Hood. She was a lieutenant in the science department."

"Oh," McCoy said thoughtfully. Saying he was sorry didn't seem right. He was sorry she died, just… "You weren't thinking of finding her and trying to…to recreate David, were you?"

"No," Jim immediately shook his head. "I was just curious, you know?" McCoy nodded. "And she was hot. And smart. Just the kind of girl I'd go for."

"But not now," McCoy pointed out. "Not in this universe."

"We'll never find out, will we?" Jim said with a frown.

Leaning forward, Jim grabbed the bottle from where it rested by McCoy's feet and filled their glasses again. They sipped in silence for a while.

"Do you want kids, Bones?" Jim eventually asked.

"I…" McCoy paused, staring down into his almost empty glass. "I don't know, Jim," he said honestly. "If I find the right person and she wants them, sure. But I don't see that happening anytime soon. It's not like you can raise a kid on a ship and I have a feeling that's exactly where I'll be headed for the next five years at least."

"Yeah," Jim agreed, whether to McCoy's upcoming assignment, or something else, McCoy didn't know.

"Do you want kids?" McCoy found himself asking.

"I…yeah, I think I do," Jim said thoughtfully. "Until recently I never really thought about it, you know? But, yeah. I rather like the idea of some little Kirks running around San Francisco."

"Lord help us all," McCoy said fervently.

"But not yet," Jim continued, ignoring his friend's theatrics. "But I do wonder…"

"What?" McCoy asked curiously.

Jim looked at him and then looked into his glass, his expression uncomfortable. "What if…" he began slowly. "What if I do have a kid…now? I mean, I was careful," he rushed on. "For the most part," he added honestly. "But what if somewhere out there, there is a little boy or girl who…who doesn't have a father because I don't know they exist?"

McCoy sat back and looked at Jim. "Well, I suppose it's a possibility. Even if you were careful…"

"Accidents happen," Jim cut in. "And I really don't want any kid of mine thinking they're an accident. Life's hard enough as it is without thinking that."

"True," McCoy agreed, though the sadness on his friends face made him wonder again about what kind of childhood he'd had. "I can help you look," he offered.

"Look? How?" Jim asked curiously.

"Well," McCoy began. "We start with a list of the girls you've been with. Do some research on what they're up to, or you can send a letter and just ask."

"I don't think I want to do that," Jim shook his head, his eyes wide. "And I don't think I can remember all of them."

"Long list, huh?" McCoy teased.

"Not as long as you might think," Jim shot back. "I'm just saying that from about seventeen to twenty I wasn't always exactly sober when I was with someone, but on the plus side I was still on my mom's health insurance so I was pretty good about keeping up with my blockers."

"Well that's good," McCoy nodded. "And here at the Academy…"

"I'd know by now, or they're dead," Jim said, more than a hint of bitterness in his voice.

McCoy paused. Everyone was still dealing with the loss of so many classmates, but to have been intimate with them, to have dated them, even for a few weeks, had to hurt that much more. He was still having trouble dealing with the fact that the idiot across the hall who liked to study while listening to what sounded like primal screaming was dead and he hadn't even liked the guy. "I'm sorry, Jim."

"It's…it's okay, Bones," Jim said with a wobbly smile. "Like I said, it's not as much as you'd think. I just…" he shook his head. "I really can't think about that right now." He was blinking rapidly and McCoy could feel his throat tightening too.

"I just want to know," Jim continued after a long moment, "if I have a kid out there, somewhere."

"And if you do?" McCoy had to ask.

Jim shrugged, setting down his glass. "I don't really know. I'm sure I'll figure something out."

"I'm sure you will," McCoy agreed. "And, you know, you might not even have to search too hard."

"What do you mean?" Jim asked warily.

"Well, with all the attention you've been getting in the press, I'm guessing it's only a matter of time before someone steps forward with your love child," McCoy explained, unable to control his smirk.

"Oh god," Jim hung his head. "That's just what I need. The press. Honestly, I'd just like to be able to take a piss without worrying about some guy with a camera getting a shot of me."

"Comes with saving the Earth, kid," McCoy told him. "You belong to everyone now."

"How soon can I go back up?" Jim asked petulantly.

They both chuckled. The attention from the press had been pretty intense and there were instances of individuals sneaking around campus trying to ambush crewmembers, but for the most part Starfleet was doing their best to protect the crew of the Enterprise. Any sniff of an exposé or exclusive and they shut it down pretty quickly.

"Seriously, Jim," McCoy said as he put his glass down on the desk. "If you want to look, I'll help. And if anyone comes forward, I'll perform the DNA test myself."

"Thanks, Bones," Jim said with relief. "I appreciate it."

"What are friends for, kid?"

"How about paying for dinner?" Jim asked with a smile. "I'm starving."

"I bought yesterday," McCoy countered. "You're buying tonight. But I recommend we order in – your choice – the bushes by the entry were making weird noises."

"Weird noises?" Jim asked with an incredulous look, already reaching for his comm. "Early senility, old man?"

"Shut up and order your damn pizza," McCoy said, throwing a pillow at him. "And make sure mine has some vegetables on it."

"Who said I'm ordering pizza?" Jim argued.

McCoy gave him a disbelieving look and Jim eventually smiled. "Okay, so I'm ordering pizza. You want Fortelli's or Mario's?"

"Fortelli's," McCoy responded, getting up and walking towards the bathroom. "Mario's always takes too long. And order some of their breadsticks while you're at it."

"Yes, sir," Jim saluted McCoy's back before the bathroom door shut.

The windows were still dark, but the lights were on and the bottle of whiskey was still half full. He was no where near happy, no one on campus was, but at least things didn't seem as depressing and scary as they had an hour ago. As long as he had friends like Bones, he'd be fine.

And if he did have a kid out there, well, he'd be the best dad he could be.