Kirk sat in his chair, stoic. The usual buzz and good humor that was found on the bridge was absent. The shift was quiet, only calling out when a calculation was reset or when Sulu gave updates on their position. The Enterprise was approaching Earth. California, to be exact. There was to be a small service held at the Starfleet headquarters. Kirk set his jaw as memories of the Klingon attack surfaced.
The way the baby blue grass of the planet they were scanning made the blood seem so much more vivid. He kept replaying the same scene in his head. His view spinning as he was flung to the ground. The muffled sounds of shouting. His eyes opening, to see a severed hand, the end of the wrist smoking slightly. It was a woman's hand, the delicate fingers loosely curled, the manicured nails trim and neat. And the smell. He could smell the burned flesh. The rest of the fight was an adrenaline-filled blur, but that one image stayed with him.
He swallowed hard and tried to force the thoughts away. His crew was his family. And he had led his family into danger. Since the incident, Spock hadn't said a single word to him. He just stayed at his science station, silently working. His silence hurt Jim more than he thought it ever could.
Jim cleared his throat. "Sulu, what's our arrival time?"
Sulu's fingers moved over the console. "Two point three hours, Captain."
"Thank you, Mr. Sulu."
Jim leaned back in his chair. They were almost there. He didn't know if he'd be able to handle the dirty stares when they reached Starfleet. It wasn't the stares themselves that would bother him, but the fact that he was completely deserving of them, and much worse. Oh, so much worse. Everyone knew it was his fault that seven of his crewmen were dead and thirteen were missing. And everyone knew that Jim had been strongly advised to not go into that sector of space. But no, the great Captain Kirk thought he was invincible, that everything would end up just fine, as it always did. And now he had blood on his hands.
He rubbed the side of his face tiredly. It had been just under a week since the attack, and he had only gotten about five hours of sleep since. He felt deflated, weak, dead. Jim left his chair and told Sulu to prepare for docking. He stepped into the turbolift and headed to his quarters.
His uniform was rumpled and disheveled. Jim peeled off his gold shirt and put on a fresh one. He went to the small bathroom and splashed some cool water on his face. Jim found that it as impossible to meet his own eyes in the mirror. He bent over and rested his head on the cool metal of the sink. What a mess, what a mess.
A knock roused him from his position.
"Come in." He barked, straightening up and leaving the bathroom.
The doors slid open and McCoy entered, not seeming very happy. He looked Jim up and down and went straight to the bathroom. Jim could hear the medicine cabinet open and bottles move around. Bones came back in, his face set in an angry scowl, holding a small bottle filled with red oval pills. He shook them and raised his eyebrows.
"Mind explaining to me why you haven't been taking the sleep aid I prescribed you?"
Kirk looked down and said nothing.
"Damnit Jim, what's the point of having a doctor if you aren't going to take the medicine he gives you?"
Jim didn't have an answer. He crossed the small room slowly and sat on the edge of his bed. McCoy took a seat next to him.
"Look." he said, trying to meet Jim's eyes. "You made a bad decision. A very bad decision. But you are running yourself down into the ground. You gotta get some sleep, Jim. If you keep going like this, you'll end up out of the captain's chair."
"Too late for that." Kirk said hollowly.
Bones flinched. "Just what in the hell do you mean by that?"
"I mean," Jim said, bringing his eyes to meet his friends, "that I am resigning."
McCoy's brown eyes widened. Many emotions crossed his face. Shock, pain, dismay. His mouth was partly open, his lips trying to form words. He turned his head away and sighed.
They sat in silence. Bones turned to Jim again.
"The Enterprise needs you. The crew needs you."
Jim stood up suddenly and shouted "They need me? For what? So they can follow me, so I can kill them? I don't deserve to be captain, and every last person on this ship knows it!" His breathing was rapid, his fists clenched tightly into fists. Angry tears burned in the corners of his eyes.
Bones stood up and grabbed Jim's shoulders firmly, forcing Jim to look at him.
"Stop. Right now. You lost some of your crew, I know that's tough. But you have to think, Jim, that some of them are still out there, and if you don't pull yourself together long enough to get them back, then you are damn right, you don't deserve that captain's chair." Jim's blue eyes sparkled with tears he refused to shed. He swallowed and gave a small nod. Bones was right, of course. He couldn't erase what he'd done, but he could try to set it as right as he could. Bones patted his cheek affectionately.
"As soon as the ceremony is over, you are to report back to the ship and take one of the pills, got it?"
Jim nodded again.
McCoy gave him a stern look, what Jim knew was his "I care about you, you idiot" face. He patted Jim's cheek again and left, the door sliding shut behind him.
Jim took a few steadying breaths. He went back to the bathroom and splashed some more water on his face. He had to pull through this one last thing. For his crew.