So 'Into Darkness' hurt my soul and it is taking some time to patch itself up again. This is the first time I have ever tried to write anything from Jim's perspective and I'm a little nervous. It's one thing to witness Jim's brilliant kind of madness, it's another thing entirely to try and get inside of it. Please do let me know what you think!
Fine is also an attempt to address the fact that the crew of The Enterprise are clearly all sociopaths to take the kind of beatings (physically and emotionally) that they do, and with very few exceptions carry on without ever really addressing their issues. Spock, Jim…I'm looking at the both of you. I'm as guilty of portraying them that way as anyone (here's a cliff: Jim, go jump off it and we'll write a story about how you don't get why Bones wants to keep you strapped to a biobed for your own good).
I'm rambling. I think what I am trying to say is that Jim is fine. Really. Except for when he's not, you know?
(Freaked out, insecure, neurotic and emotional)
Four weeks after he came back from the dead, Jim Kirk got a clean bill of physical health and a shiny new medal from Admiral Barnett. After Marcus' treason and subsequent disgrace, Barnett had been promoted to acting head of Starfleet, pending the formation of a monthly council in which his peers would assess every dotted i. The intention was to ensure no one would ever have the kind of unchecked power that Marcus had abused, but Kirk could see it for what it was – yet another mad scramble to clean up after an unprecedented clusterfuck that would ultimately do more harm than good. It had happened after the Kelvin Incident, it had happened after Tarsus, it had happened after Nero. Eventually it would become an active problem for Kirk but there was almost something reassuring in the knowledge that ultimately things never really changed.
He didn't envy Barnett one bit. Kirk had been debriefed and questioned numerous times since he had regained consciousness. Both the Admiralty and Section 31 had paid him several visits, despite vociferous protestations from McCoy. There had been accusations and threats from all sides, but Kirk had responded without any of his usual attitude. He didn't have the energy and a part of him could recognize just how out of their depths Command was after this latest and most intimate devastation.
So Kirk played ball. He did everything asked of him with no qualm or question. He let the doctors at Starfleet Medical poke and prod at him with no protest and followed protocol – such as they were for cases like his – to the very letter of the law. He was a model patient. There were perks, mostly found in McCoy's varying and comical expressions as he waited for Kirk to throw one of his characteristic hissy-fits to being bed bound and treated like a science project. The more Kirk behaved, the more Bones freaked out. He'd have to try it again some time, assuming he ever found himself in such a position again.
He would, most likely. Pike wasn't wrong when he said that Kirk had a gift for getting into trouble that was only exceeded by his bullshit blind luck.
Thinking of his friend hurt. He was doing an admirable job of not doing so, and didn't intend the first day he was allowed to see the outside world to be the time to break with practice.
McCoy had hovered so close that Kirk had banged into him twice. Despite his irritated frowns and pointed comments, the doctor hadn't given an inch until they were safely secluded in Kirk's apartment block.
They had left early in the morning to avoid the reporters that were still on the hunt for a James Kirk sound bite and had been given a full escort by Starfleet. They were taking no chances with Jim's health – nor were they risking word ever getting out of exactly how his miraculous recovery had occurred. As far as the general public were concerned, Kirk had been injured in the line of duty and had been recovering ever since.
Those who knew the truth had all been forced to sign a gag order on threat of immediate imprisonment. Kirk didn't care, and neither did his crew. No one wanted to talk about what really happened, least of all him.
"Home sweet home." McCoy finally gave Kirk more than an inch of breathing room and took a seat on the couch. McCoy's shoulders were hunched. The doctor looked completely wrecked. Kirk knew Bones hadn't been sleeping – had only left the hospital when escorted from the premises by security and marched in front of a tribunal who wanted to know how exactly he'd brought a man back from the dead. McCoy's work shirt hung from his shoulders in a way Kirk had never seen before and he marveled at the fact that Bones looked like the one who had narrowly escaped death while he himself bore few physical indications.
Kirk reached out and placed his hand over McCoy's shoulder, squeezing it gently. "Go home, Bones. Get some sleep. You look like hell."
McCoy laughed bitterly, his head shaking. "Feel like it." He admitted. "I want to sleep, Jim. I just can't."
"Nightmares?" Kirk asked. Sympathy rose in his chest. He knew what that was like. There were times he was convinced he had been destined to captain a ship if only due to the fact that he'd been able to survive on three hours sleep long before he'd ever enrolled in Starfleet.
McCoy nodded glumly. He looked up and met Kirk's eyes hesitantly. "You were dead, Jim. They brought you to me on that damned gurney and you were dead. You've died on me before, on the operating table. I've always been able to bring you back." His hands shook. McCoy was a surgeon. He had the steadiest hands in the universe. Hadn't they been joking about that just hours – weeks – ago?
"You brought me back, Bones." Kirk pulled him sideways on the couch, manhandling him until he could shove McCoy's legs up onto the cushions. The silent, wide-eyed acquiescence to the maneuvering told Kirk exactly how exhausted Bones really was.
They'd been friends from the moment they met. Two pieces meeting and slotting into place with a comfort and ease that was almost the exact opposite of Kirk's relationship with Spock but just as precious to him. McCoy had been the first and only real friend he had since Sam had left all those years ago. Kirk hadn't been looking for him and maybe that was why they clicked so effortlessly. Bones knew more about him – the boy he'd been and the man he wanted to become –than anyone and instead of using that ammunition to hurt Kirk, he protected him and loved him like a brother. Kirk often wondered what exactly he gave back in their relationship. He knew he wasn't easy to get along with, that he drove Bones crazy and that just being who he was often ended up hurting his friend. Moments like this, where he could take care of Bones instead of it being the other way around, were rare.
The irony was that when it came to looking after someone, the only frame of reference he had was from Bones. His mother had never been the maternal type and Sam had resented him more than anything. Making McCoy lay back against the couch, rearranging the cushions and tucking him beneath the throw blanket he'd picked up from a vendor in Qatar…they were all things Bones had done for him in the past. Usually while calling Kirk reckless or stupid or a damn fool brat. His voice sharp but his hands gentle.
"I get it." Kirk said softly. After his mother died he'd not slept without nightmares for weeks. After Tarsus, he stopped trying altogether. There was a reason he'd turned to alcohol so young and it wasn't boredom. "I'm going to sit over there-" he waved his hand in the direction of a large stuffed armchair that looked out over the bay, "and review some reports."
"You should sleep." McCoy grunted, his eyes already closing.
"And I will." Kirk lied. "But not just yet. I got this watch, Doctor."
"Bossy starship captains." McCoy grumbled, drifting off mid sentence and snoring lightly. Kirk pulled the blanket higher and kissed McCoy's forehead. Sam had done that to him once, when Kirk was little and a fever had left him weak and sick for days.
With McCoy out cold and unlikely to move for a while, Kirk sat down with his PADD and stared blankly at the screen. Gone were the days where he'd eagerly devour paperwork just because it belonged to his ship. Now the effort seemed overwhelming.
He looked out over the bay. His view was expensive and paid for by Starfleet. All senior officers had the option of living in quarters. Kirk had never wanted his own place until McCoy had bullied him into signing the paperwork and Spock had expedited the whole thing so Kirk had a place to hide away from the press. The process had been so quick and smooth Kirk had silently been thankful that Bones and Spock vary rarely agreed on anything. When they actually worked together they did impossible things.
Like bringing back the dead.
Kirk shuddered and forced himself to open the first file awaiting his review.
McCoy slept for eleven hours. Kirk barely made a dent in his paperwork.
He didn't even try sleeping himself.
It should not have surprised him when Uhura let herself into his apartment two days later. She had a crate of beer under one arm and a bag full of spicy takeout dangling from the other hand. A slight smile and a raised eyebrow were the only greeting she gave and Kirk couldn't help but laugh.
"I figured you'd be hungry." She placed the food down on the counter in his kitchen and started to rummage for plates.
"Sure." Kirk shrugged his shoulders. He hadn't seen her since he'd left the bridge in an ill-fated attempt to divert Marcus' attention from his ship. She was as beautiful as ever, her hair loose and tumbling over a pale blue civilian sweater dress. Only her eyes gave away her thoughts. They'd aged so much since he'd seen her last. "How are you?"
McCoy had not let any of the crew visit him in hospital. Kirk had been selfishly grateful at the time, but he had missed them all. Spock had only visited the once, when he first woke up. While McCoy said he'd been a near constant nocturnal companion while Kirk was in a coma, he'd not returned while Kirk was conscious.
"I'm fine." Uhura smiled stiffly. "I should be asking you the same thing."
Kirk shrugged again. "Clean bill of health. Even Bones can't find anything wrong with me. And he looked. Believe me." The fake shudder he gave was enough to bring a genuine smile to her face and Kirk relaxed a bit. "How's Spock? I haven't seen him since…" He trailed off, not sure how to express himself.
Uhura placed a glass of water down in front of him and nodded pointedly at the stool closest to him. Kirk knew to pick his battles and obeyed the silent command. "He's Spock. Working insane hours, not saying much." She hesitated, then looked up at Kirk, her dark eyes suddenly filled with tears. She looked much as she had when they'd almost lost Spock to that damn volcano. "He's better than he was. Better than when we thought we'd lost you."
Kirk paused, glass raised half way to his mouth. He swallowed dryly and set the glass down. He'd been briefed on the events that had led to Khan's capture. Spock had pursued the fugitive into the city and had apprehended him. "I didn't… I didn't want him to see that. I didn't want anyone to." He knew what it felt like when you had to watch someone die, even if they were only a passing acquaintance. Spock had already lost so much.
"You shouldn't have been alone." Uhura finished unpacking the meal and pushed Kirk's portion across the counter. He had no appetite for food but obediently picked up a fork.
The meal was a perfect blend of flavors, aromatic yet not too spicy or rich for a stomach that had largely been unused for almost a month. After the first mouthful, Kirk found he didn't have to force himself to eat. Bones would be so proud.
They ate in silence, both lost in their own thoughts. Kirk valued Uhura's company and her intellect. He could be comfortable in her presence when he wanted to be but he was in constant fear that she would raise the question he did not want to answer. Uhura, of all his crew, would be the one with the nerve to put it to him.
They finished their meal and he disposed of the containers before opening them a beer each. They were half way through them, Kirk drinking slower than usual, when Uhura finally broached the subject. "How's the counseling going?"
Even if Kirk hadn't died, Starfleet would have made him see a shrink. It was standard practice and not something he had any say in. Kirk had been seeing counselors and doctors for years. After Frank the state had put him in near constant therapy sessions that were supposed to help him come to terms with what had happened to him.
He didn't have a problem with them. They did their jobs, most of them well, and for some people it really helped.
Kirk just wasn't one of them. Bones had theorized that Kirk's problem was that he was smarter than just about anyone they put him in front of, and distrusting enough to take advantage of the fact even if he wasn't conscious of doing so. If he could manipulate the system he would. It was self-preservation at its most basic level.
Kirk guessed he was right. The multitudes of therapists he had seen after Tarsus had been easy to manipulate after the years of practice he had. The mandatory session he'd had with the profiles at Starfleet when he'd first signed his papers had been no different. He probably would have been able to fool Bones if the man didn't know him so well and was selfishly glad McCoy refused to offer him counseling himself.
This new doctor was professional, calm, sympathetic and Kirk was entirely incapable of relating to her at all.
It was the same story all over again. "Well I think." Kirk answered Uhura with the words he knew she wanted to hear.
She let him, turning the conversation to safer grounds – mostly why Spock seemed to have taken an instant disliking to Carol Marcus and caused Uhura no end of amusement.
It was safe and with the warm buzz of the alcohol, Kirk found the rest of the evening slipping away without his notice.
Eventually Uhura gathered her bag and helped him dispose of the bottles.
Kirk walked her to the door. He'd offered to see her home, but she lived just a story stretch across the compound and claimed she wanted to clear her head a bit. She promised to comm him when she got in, reading the unspoken worry in his expression.
Her dark hair tickled his cheek as she wrapped her arms around him. "I know you better than you think I do, Jim." She whispered into his ear. "You don't have to say anything. I can hear you anyway." Kirk's eyes burned as he pressed his face into the curve of her neck. He couldn't speak, even when she pulled back and pressed the softest of kisses to his cheek. "Just remember – as much as you love us… we love you too."
Kirk was glad when she left without another comment. He went straight to the shower and turned up the heat on the water. When he stepped under the spray even he couldn't tell if he was crying or not.
His first encounter with Chekov came with a courier and a large padded envelope the morning after he met with Uhura. Having never received anything by delivery in his life that wasn't directly related to his career, Kirk spent almost an hour studying the packet.
There was every chance it had been sent with malicious intent. There was always someone who wanted to kill him, after all. Where as before he would have torn into the package without a second thought, trusting to luck to see him though, he hesitated greatly before finally peeling back the seal.
The book that fell onto his lap was heavy and ancient. The other him, the one that held such a dear place in Ambassador Spock's heart, had loved collecting books. Kirk had toyed with the idea briefly, but had not been able to shake off the need to have no material ties to any one place. There were a few knickknacks in his apartment now, mostly thanks to Bones and Joanna, but nothing that came even close to the value of what lay in his lap.
Kirk gaped and ran a reverent finger down the spine. The leather was cracked and well worn. This book had been read time and time again by someone who clearly loved it for the words it contained as much as for the significance of its existence.
He eased open the cover and a small note fell into his fingers. He'd never had cause to read Chekov's handwriting, but the words penned were in Russian and needed no other introduction. Chekov had wanted to teach Kirk a better understanding of his mother tongue ever since Kirk had let slip a basic grasp.
"Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth."
Soon you will no longer be on earth. Soon, you will be among the stars once more, and your suffering will not seem so insurmountable against the vastness of the space we shall lose ourselves in.
Kirk closed the cover and tucked the note carefully inside. He'd read Dostoyevsky as a precocious teenager and had never really had any desire to revisit any of his works. That had not changed and he wondered briefly if Chekov saw him as Razumikhin – a man who thought himself beyond the law and who paid greatly for his hubris. He wouldn't be wrong.
Kirk found himself an empty shelf in his bedroom and placed the book carefully at one end.
There had been a time when Chekov had needed more reassurance than most, uncertain of his place in Kirk's crew and convinced of his own failure to do his duty. As Kirk had expected, he had blossomed into one of the most capable and confident young officers in the fleet. There was no one else Kirk would have trusted enough to throw into the black hole that was engineering, ask him to put on Scotty's shoes, and know without hesitation or concern that the job would get done.
Chekov had always seemed to have unwavering faith in Kirk. Kirk had thought it ungrounded in reality, but apparently he was wrong. The kid knew exactly how messed up he was without even seeing him. And instead of needing reassurance Kirk was okay, he offered his own promise that Kirk would be.
Kirk straightened the book and went over to his comm.
"Message, vocal. Chekov, Pavel Andreovich; Ensign, USS Enterprise: Always took you for more of a Tolstoy man. The Getty's holding an exhibit on twenty second century Russian poets next month. Let me know if you're interested, I know the curator.
He sent the message and turned back to the window. The sky was blue and unusually clear. He could just about make out the shadow of Spacedock. It was only a faint blur in the bright sky, but up there the Enterprise was slowly being put back together piece by piece.
Kirk had read all his reports and drafted letters of condolence for every crew member he had lost, but until his medical leave was over he was banned from leaving the atmosphere. He could work his way around the system if he really wanted to. He didn't.
Chekov's reply came through moments later. A babble of excited Russian that sounded every bit as youthful and exuberant as his written message was calm and understanding. Kirk smiled. It was only faint, and it was harder than he remembered it being, but it would get easier in time.
It didn't get easier. Bones finally released him from medical leave and within hours Kirk was drowning under all the work the fleet had been banned from sending his way. Another three days of paperwork suddenly flooded his inbox; everything from refit diagnostics to be studied to invitations from various media programs to talk about his ordeal.
Kirk spent the day deleting and answering messages, pausing only to take a comm from Joanna, who in true McCoy form managed to make Kirk feel like the whole world was behind him. She also told him he was too pale and needed to eat more and that she was making him cookies right this minute. Kirk might have felt comfortable telling Bones to fuck off and give him some peace, but he was helpless against the ministrations of a cunning seven year old. Vindictively he looked forward to her becoming a teenager, just to watch Bones' hair turn grey.
After reaching a natural lull in communications, Kirk dressed in the clothes he'd worn for PT in the Academy and frowned at the way the sweats hung lower on his hips than usual. He'd lost muscle mass in his chest and shoulders as well. That pissed him off.
He'd been skinnier in the past of course, but he'd worked hard to maintain a certain level of fitness ever since. Even when put on enforced bed rest in the past, he'd been up and in the gym the second he was able to.
All this sitting around and brooding…it wasn't his style.
He pulled on the laces of his running shoes angrily and made his way outside the apartment.
It was black as night and the air was heavy with rain. He hadn't realized how late it was but was thankful because even the most diehard reporter had stopped camping outside until the wee hours of the morning.
He started up a light pace, knowing better than to exert himself straight away.
Tomorrow he'd be back aboard his ship. He wanted to clear his head, not exhaust himself so badly he passed out on the transporter pad. Bones would never forgive him.
He tried to keep that in mind as he ran, but the more his chest tightened, the angrier he got. Each step was supposed to be a step closer to clarity, but instead of racing towards a goal, he was back to running away. He was afraid, and he had no idea why and it only made him run faster.
The city vanished beneath his feet and he ran until sweat made his eyes water and he eventually dropped to his knees, barely able to take in a breath.
He was on the very outskirts of the city. Kirk checked his GPS – he was six miles from his apartment. Dawn started to slowly break. He should hail a cab, call someone to pick him up… his legs felt like led and his head pounded.
Kirk pushed himself to his feet, and started to run back.
Reporters were waiting for him by the time he made it home. He could only imagine what he looked like and smiled grimly in anticipation of the ball busting Starfleet PR would give him as soon as they got wind of it.
Everyone was shouting his name, clamoring for his attention, demanding answers. Surprisingly, it settled Kirk's nerves. He new exactly how to deal with the press and the use of his rank pushed him into a calm headspace where only duty was an option.
He opened his mouth to respond when a flashbulb went off in the corner of his eye.
He blinked, and he was back inside the warp core, shaking with a pain so all consuming that he welcomed death as much as he feared it. His body was dying cell by cell and he could feel each and every one as they shut down around him. He'd always had a grim pride in knowing there wasn't much he couldn't take. He'd been beaten, he'd been starved, he'd been tortured…he could take it. But this…oh god it hurt so much.
His knees buckled in shock as worried voices washed over him.
Then suddenly he was out, breathing fresh air and the lack of pain made him lightheaded in relief.
Strong arms were wrapped around his chest and a calm, level voice addressed the people around him. Kirk didn't hear a word, too busy breathing greedily to protest as he was all but carried into his apartment and settled on the couch.
A glass of water was shoved into his hands and he drank obediently.
The first voice was soon joined by a second. There were hands on his face, so hot and so strong that Kirk blinked in confusion.
Why was Spock in his apartment?
Scotty stood fretting behind Spock's unflappable figure, chatting nervously to a voice on the comm. that Kirk didn't even need to guess at being McCoy.
"You must breath, Jim." Spock's calm voice drew him out of his mental wanderings. He looked up to find his First kneeling in front of him, his elbows resting on Kirk's couch as he coached Kirk into drawing in slow, even breaths.
As the ability to think and breath returned to him, so did the embarrassment of his predicament.
He hadn't had a panic attack in years.
For some reason, that thought made him worse. He choked on his water and the room began to spin again, bringing a fresh bout of nausea to roll in his stomach.
"Please Jim, you must be calm."
But Jim wasn't calm and didn't think he ever would be again. He wasn't even sure why he was panicking but his brain told him that it was the sensible thing to do, even if it did seem to be freaking Spock out.
He wasn't aware of the door to his apartment opening, or of McCoy charging over to his side. He barely even acknowledged the press of the doctor's fingers to his throat, or the gentle sting of a hypo moments later.
But eventually the weight in his chest eased. Breathing didn't hurt and his eyes were no longer fighting against the blinding brilliance of the warp core.
He could accept the fact that his couch and his apartment were more than just things and that he was, in fact, safe.
"Bones?" He choked, his hands shaking with the after effects of the adrenaline that had spiked through his system.
"Yeah kid, I'm here." Bones was recording his vitals obsessively, his whole expression tight with fear as he no doubt waited for Kirk to drop dead right in front of them. Eventually he seemed satisfied. "You're okay."
Kirk nodded and gratefully accepted another glass of water from Spock that was soon replaced with a shot of something stronger from Scotty. His chief refused to meet Kirk's eyes.
"I believe you had a flashback that was triggered by the luminous glare of a reporter's camera. That in itself escalated into a panic attack." Spock provided, then hastily added, "Though of course I defer to the doctor's expertise."
"That's exactly what happened." Bones snapped. "Goddamn parasites. Why can't they leave him the hell alone?"
"It's not their fault, Bones." Kirk said tiredly. "They're just doing their jobs."
"Yes, well." McCoy huffed, taking Kirk's drink and swallowing a large gulp of whiskey himself. "Since it is my job to keep you healthy, I think I'd be perfectly justified in marching down there and giving them all Coridian Smallpox."
The predictability of McCoy's ire would have never failed to bring a smile to his face in the past, and it was largely why he expected the doctor often did it on purpose. Kirk tried to summon up the energy and found himself unable to do so.
He used to be so good at this.
"What were you guys doing here anyway?" Kirk asked. He figured it must have been Spock who had manhandled him into the building. Scotty didn't have the upper body strength.
"Ach, that would be my fault, Jim." Scotty poured them all fresh drinks, adding extra to the glasses in deference to Spock, who refrained. "I've been trying to pluck up the nerve to come see you for bloody days now and I might have gotten a wee bit tipsy in the attempt. I commed the good Commander here in the wee hours o' the mornin' and he decided I was bein' too much o' a yellow bellied bastard."
Kirk looked questioningly at Spock, who merely raised one of his expressive eyebrows. Much like Chekov and even Bones sometimes, Scott's accent was almost indecipherable when he was excited or upset.
"You wanted to see me? Why?"
Scott still hadn't actually looked Kirk in the eye, but at the question he seemed to be forcing himself to try. "To apologize."
"For what? I should be apologizing to you. You were right about the torpedoes."
"To hell with the bloody torpedoes, Jim!" Scott exploded. Suddenly he seemed to have no problem looking at Jim and his whole face was twisted with emotion. "I never shoulda let you climb into the reactor."
"I don't recall you having much of a choice in the matter." Kirk pointed out reasonably. There had been several reasons why he'd knocked Scott out – the need for haste had only been one of them.
"I should nea have let it happen." Scott said miserably. "I shoulda been on the ship in the first place."
Kirk rose from the couch and squared Scott shoulder to shoulder. "Well it did happen, and I kinda fired you-"
"Same difference." Kirk huffed. "It wasn't your fault. It had to be done." His stern expression softened as he looked at the man who loved his ship almost as much as he did. "You've always taken care of her. But ultimately? It's my responsibility to protect her."
Scott looked miserable and Kirk wished he could console him. "At what cost though?"
"One I'd pay again in a heartbeat." Kirk said firmly. "I'm fine, Scotty. Really."
He managed to drag a reassuring smile from out of the depths of his emotional closet. It held fast, even if it was a little weak, and he was proud of himself, right up until McCoy cut in.
"Bullshit you are."
Kirk didn't want to fight with his friend. It took too much out of him on the best of days. Besides, the more he thought about it, the less convinced he was that Bones wasn't right.
"Not now, Bones." Kirk said tiredly.
"Yes now." McCoy snapped. "Look at you, Jim. You're damn near fading away right in front of us and you have been ever since Pike died."
Kirk couldn't help the flinch that struck him between the shoulders. He had been doing so well by not thinking about Pike at all. There wasn't enough left of him to fight off those demons as well.
McCoy seemed to realize he had struck a sore point because he rose from the couch and crowded Kirk against the window. Kirk wasn't about to flee from his own apartment, so he turned his back on McCoy instead. Pressing his forehead to the glass, he was vaguely aware of both Spock and Scotty moving to the small kitchen. The replicator wasn't online and he didn't have any fresh goods.
He frowned, wondering what he'd been eating then remembered that Uhura had fed him the other night.
Kirk didn't actively feel hunger. Not as a physical sensation. After the time he spent on Tarsus, his brain was no longer capable of interpreting his body's attempts to informing him when he needed to eat. It was why he was always getting into trouble with Bones. It wasn't because he did it on purpose.
Still though, going almost three days without eating was poor, even for him. He always remembered eventually and tried to be careful.
The fact that he let it get so bad was almost as telling as the panic attack.
"I don't get it." Kirk looked out over the bay. Rain painted patterns on the glass, turning everything into a blurry watercolor of urban beauty. "This isn't the worst thing that's ever happened to me. Trauma wise, I mean. I've lost people I love before. I've thought I was going to die before. I've wanted to die before. This is nothing."
McCoy's hand curled around his neck, warm and steadying. Warmth radiated from the press of his chest against Kirk's back. He wondered when he'd not noticed how cold his apartment was. "God knows you're the strongest man I've ever met." McCoy said, his accent thick and his voice rough, "You've survived things no one should ever have to experience and it breaks my damn heart knowing that. But Jim, you didn't survive this. You died. It's okay to be confused. It's okay to be hurt and scared and angry. It doesn't make you any less than what you've always been."
"And what's that?" Kirk asked around the lump in his throat.
McCoy turned him roughly and dragged Kirk into the crushing hold of one of his most furious hugs. "The best person I know. My stubborn, infuriating, dumbass of a Captain." He hesitated, crushing Kirk tighter. "My wonderful, brilliant little brother."
There was no place for Kirk to escape to. McCoy had never been stronger than he was in the past, but Kirk was still weak, his muscles still atrophied after weeks of inactivity. He could fight, but didn't have the energy.
So instead he found himself doing something he hadn't done since he was a child and him mom was still there to fight away the bad things that hid in the dark.
He let go.
People always said that crying made you feel better.
Well Kirk felt like shit.
His head pounded and his eyes burned. His nose was stuffy and his throat parched and there was no physical way he would ever be able to move again. That was probably a good thing, because Bones still had a hold of him.
They'd somehow found themselves on the couch and between Jim turning on the waterworks and him finally regaining control, night had fallen. His head had made it to Bones' knee and strong fingers occasionally kneaded the back of his neck, loosening the tension that had built in overworked muscles.
He was a little embarrassed, especially knowing that Spock and Scotty were just in the room next door and Spock at least would have heard everything. That didn't mean he was moving from his spot, though.
He drifted in exhaustion, one moment on the couch with his legs cramping, and the next in his own bed, starring in what must have been the strangest sleepover in history.
Bones was sprawled out over half his chest, years of living together having completely destroyed any personal barriers Kirk might have once insisted on if sex wasn't on the cards.
Scott was draped in Kirk's armchair, limbs akimbo in what had to be the most uncomfortable position ever. His head was thrown back and he was snoring furiously.
Spock stood at the foot of the bed, a silent, motionless sentinel. He made no secret of the fact that he was watching Kirk sleep, his dark eyes unblinking and bright with emotion. Kirk began to speak but fell silent as Spock raised a hand in supplication.
"Please. Do not." He implored. "I am aware that my actions are illogical. I find I no longer consider that fact as worrisome as I might once have."
Kirk smiled up at Spock, understanding to words his First Officer had never been able to say.
"Let them sleep." He indicated Scotty and McCoy. Both men were showing no sign of waking any time soon. "The past few weeks have been more trying than any of us might have anticipated." At Kirk's raised eyebrow, Spock conceded, "yes Jim, even myself."
Kirk wanted to tell Spock to take a seat, to relax, but he knew better. The more Spock felt unbalanced emotionally, the more he tried to hold himself in check physically.
At present, his shoulders were so stiff you could measure mathematical equations off their angles. His voice was equally as level. "You have been briefed on the events following your actions in the warp core."
Kirk nodded. So many times now.
Spock made an uncharacteristic hesitation that drew Kirk up sharp. "We have not been entirely truthful with you."
Spock had either gotten much faster than usual, or Kirk was still slow and sluggish, because before he could surge from the bed in concern there was a hand on his chest, gently holding him down. "You misunderstand me," Spock reassured. "I meant only that while our duty was to apprehend Khan before he continued on his path of destruction, we…I…had far more personal motivations for our actions."
"You were angry." Kirk marveled. Spock's eyes could never quite hide his feelings, no matter how hard he tried. Jim had read the same emotions in them as he had seen after the destruction of Vulcan and it humbled him terribly.
"No Jim." Spock shook his head. "I was not angry. I desired Khan's pain and nothing less would satisfy. In this regard, I was perhaps closer to the true meaning of control than I have ever been. No other thought clouded my judgment. I would end his life."
"I thought Vulcan's didn't believe in revenge?" Kirk's heart ached for his friend. For all of them. He could see the pain in Spock's eyes the same way he read the fear in Bones', the age in Uhura's, the guilt in Scotty's. He loved them all in a way he had never imagined himself able to do. That he had hurt them, however unintentionally, weighed heavily on his soul.
"Revenge is illogical." Spock agreed. He had said the exact same thing to Kirk after Pike's murder. "It is a human desire. But I do believe that is your gift, James Kirk."
Kirk didn't follow him. He was stunned when Spock smiled – a twist of the lips, small, unnoticeable perhaps to anyone who didn't know him, but there and real- "You make me feel human."
"I'm sorry." Kirk whispered. He knew how much Spock struggled with the duality of his nature.
Spock shook his head. "I am not."
Kirk was glad it was dark. It would not be fair to reward Spock's beautiful words with messy human tears. Not again, at least.
"Listen to the hobgoblin." McCoy's words were so thick with sleep that they were nearly undecipherable. "We love you, you little shit. Don't you get that by now?"
"The doctor is correct, though I must object to his manner of addressing a senior-"
"Oh shove it, Spock." McCoy groused, "and for the love of god, lay down already. Some of us should be sleeping. All of us should be sleeping."
Kirk hid a sob in a laugh, knowing full well what they were doing and loving them even more for it.
Despite his protest, Spock obediently situated himself on the edge of Kirk's bed, limbs perfectly folded as he settled into a light meditation. On the other side of Kirk, McCoy's sprawl managed to take over half the bed.
"Sleep, Jim." McCoy soothed his whirling thoughts. "It will be better in the morning."
Scotty snored loudly, making them all smile.
"I know." Kirk whispered back. "It always is."