Disclaimer: Don't own rights and stuff.
A/n: Because this is how I was absolutely certain it was actually going to end, about halfway through the movie, and while I understand why they didn't and want another sequel and stuff, I was kind of disappointed they didn't go there, and decided I needed to. Also, because I'm so very good at procrastinating.
Note: SPOILERS FOR MIB3! (Though many details have been changed...)
Don't Tell Me If I'm Dying
Seriously, what happened to you?
I don't know, Slick, it hasn't happened yet.
This was his partner, this was K. Younger, sure, but less surly and craggy and bitter. It was still K, though – with the sayings and the nicknames and the mannerisms. And something else, some sort of light or humor, a level of warmth and trust, something extra and different that the K he knew so well didn't have.
He always knew something substantial must have happened to make his partner so dark and cynical and rough on the edges, but it was startling to compare him with this brighter, younger version and see – no, feel, and know – that the hole, that empty spot in K, had not yet been made.
J found that while he desperately wanted to know what had changed him so deeply, at the same time, maybe he was better off not knowing.
Don't ask questions you don't really want to know the answer to.
Maybe there was truth in the statement after all.
I can never watch this part.
K was hanging on as best as he could to the metal scaffolding, his foot hopelessly stuck. The younger version of Boris had plummeted a good many feet after K had blown his arm off with the hydrogen hose, but he'd managed to latch on to a lower level of scaffolding and was recovering, trying to come back, scale the bars and reach K again.
He pulled and twisted, trying to free his foot, frustrated that such a little moment could lead to the destruction of Earth if he didn't hurry the hell up. He glanced up, hoping to see J coming to help him, and instead saw the younger man dodging a number of the older Boris' deadly spikes. He'd personally seen how fast those spikes could be and couldn't imagine how the kid had missed them, but frankly didn't care. It didn't matter how, only that he did.
The rocket was hissing and he knew time was running out far too fast.
The younger Boris, meanwhile, had made his way back up to level K was on and was seconds from reaching him. K was considering if he could possibly use the liquid hydrogen without completely destroying the scaffolding and killing himself in the process, when he was able to finally wrench himself free. He hauled himself on top of the trembling rails and Boris came down on him, cracking him hard in the jaw. K landed with a smash on his back, barely managing to not to fall off – it was a long way down, and he wasn't at adept at grabbing things as Boris was.
"Hey, back off, ugly!" J shouted, appearing behind Boris.
The alien turned, growling, teeth bared. He lunged at J.
K grabbed his back-up gun which he hadn't been able to reach earlier in the struggle with Boris, as his partner struggled with the beast, and held his breath, waiting for a clear shot. They grappled and punched and J stayed close, not letting the alien have room to get out those spikes, narrowly missing those teeth. The scaffolding swayed and the rocket engines were growing louder – time was nearly up if they were still going to get the ArcNet up, and get away to safety.
Boris slammed J flat on his back and K saw the window he needed. Before the alien could go down and crush the kid, K shot him. He wailed and tumbled sideways off the scaffolding to his death, partially frozen, a sizzling hole through his back.
J sat up wheezing, trying to recapture the breath that had been knocked out of him.
"Go!" K gestured to him, scooping up the ArcNet which was miraculously unharmed, hanging by its chain off the side of the rails.
J shook his head and gasped, "Give it me!"
"You gotta go, sport!"
"I'll be fine – I have to time-jump from this high anyway!"
"Kid – " K started, but J came up close, putting his hand on his friend's shoulder.
"K," he panted, his breath finally returning. "The whole point of me doing all this crazy-ass time travel shit was to save your life. So let me save it."
K pressed his lips into a thin line. "Alright, slick." He pressed the ArcNet into the other's man hand. "I'll see you later."
He gave the kid an affectionate clap on the back and hastened to the elevator. They'd said their goodbyes already on the way up – there was no need to get sappy or anything. He'd see him again someday.
Where there is death, there must always be death.
When Griffin had said those words earlier, they had seemed cryptic. A warning, something ominous, but something that J couldn't quite discern the meaning of. He had the thought, of course, that Griffin meant that someone else would die in K's place. But there had been no second thoughts after that: it would be Boris, as planned. Once the younger version of Boris was killed, rather than arrested as he had been in the original timeline, then the older version would cease to exist, and could no longer disrupt anything. It was as simple as that.
Without wasting another second, J climbs the rocket and attaches the ArcNet – such a tiny piece of technology that will save the entire world from future destruction. Had he the time, he would have marveled at the fact. There is no more time to spare, however. He makes it as far as the elevator, but as he presses the button for it to come up to meet him, he knows it is too late, that this is it. It is over, the end.
J looks down at the remnants of the time jump device, in pieces in his palm, crushed in his fight with the younger Boris. He can't find it in him to be mad at K, who surely must've known, must've remembered, that his life was saved by his current partner but in the past – a partner who would never go home.
Maybe this was what he had wanted to tell him that night on the phone. Maybe this was one of those "secrets of the universe" J couldn't know, shouldn't know. And if he had, if K had told him, would J not have gone through with it? Done anything differently? Would he have refused to time jump, to intervene and defeat both versions of Boris, to save K? If he had known it would mean trading his own life?
With the heat of the rocket revving up around him, he realizes now what Griffin had meant – where there is death, there will always be death. He knows, no, nothing would have changed had he known ahead of time. He still would have done everything he could to save his partner, he would still choose to die in his place.
And that things were never simple.
You better say something better than that at my funeral.
Sometimes K imagines getting a hold of a time jump device like the one J once had, all those years ago, and going back to save J. But then J would just come back again to save K, and they would be stuck in an infinite loop of trying to save the other, adding more versions of J's and K's running around, twisting up time until there was nothing left. It doesn't mean he still doesn't consider it, but he simply knows how it would end – or, more properly, would never end. There would be no point, no resolution.
No life for either of them.
This then, was the thing that had changed him, had hurt him so deep, had made him cynical and dark and rough around the edges. The thing that left a hole, that muted the good humor, put a shadow on the light, changed him on some level, damaged the warmth and the trust.
The death of his partner – the one he recruited, trained, treated like a son, a brother, a best friend, or something that was just a combination of all of the above. Someone who was at his side, whether he wanted him to be or not, always. Who had gone back in time and sacrificed himself.
How did you put any of that into a eulogy?
The situation surrounding J's death was absurdly complicated to try and explain, even to himself. He had memories of J being dead in 1969 – when the launch was over, and the site was being cleared, they said they'd found the remains of three bodies. Two were alien (the same), one was human. But he also had 14 years worth of memories of J that had nothing to do with that week in '69. Technically J died over 40 years ago. But for argument's sake, and for the sake of those who knew him, he died this week.
O explains that J left on an important mission, which was a success, but he never come home. That he died a hero.
K stands before the podium next, his chest tight, his mind swirling with memories of new and old. Of how he'd never been able to get the words out, not once, in all those 14 years, about what happened (what would happen). How he never would be able to say those words now.
He clenches his jaw briefly, thinking of that day in the car after Z's funeral, when J snapped at him about eulogies. Almost smiles before the sadness and loss washes back over him.
"He was a good man." K nods, swallowing. The silence stretches for several long, painful seconds while he works to rein in his emotions.
"He was a good man… and I owe him my life."