Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek or any of its characters. I'm simply writing this for fun, not profit.

They tell him to expect the worst.

They don't tell him that Jim's dead.

Bones is waiting in medical bay when the white-clad officers approach, bearing between them the bodybag containing James T. Kirk. Unwilling though he is to get near it, as though death is catching, Bones finds himself drawn inexplicably closer, wanting to see for himself. He doesn't even reach for his tricorder, the hollow, twisting feeling in his gut telling him that it would be less than useless. It would be futile.

Futility is something that he doesn't think he could stand.

When one of the security officers pulls the flap back from Jim's face, Bones can't look at him. He tries to, processing in an instant everything he's ever been told about radiation – it's lethal, it's deadly, it's excruciatingly painful – and registering the stillness of Jim's chest.

Jim doesn't move. His eyelids are shut and his mouth clamped in silent repose, and he does not move.

Bones can't hear the officers anymore over the sound of his own heartbeat. He doesn't need to ask to know that Jim has already been dead for three minutes, that six minutes ago he was still alive and breathing and fighting with every molecule in his body to live, and now he's dead.

All he can do is try not to openly weep in front of them.

He already has dozens of patients backlogged that he can still treat. Eventually, those will get to walk home and embrace loved ones and tell them the harrowing tale of how they escaped the madman known as Khan Noonien Singh by the skin of their teeth. They'll go home and hug their kids and kiss their wives and remind their neighbors what a damn blessing it is to have solid earth and clear blue skies to look forward to almost every day. At the end of shore leave, like clockwork, they'll come back – they always do, reckless, relentless spirits that they are – and they'll come home again, rejoining friends that are more like families on board their giant flying contraptions bound for the darkest corners of the galaxies, determined and unflagged as ever. It's a cycle of living: to pursue the unknown, regardless of the costs.

Yet there are always costs, and no one here will forget them.

There are nearly a hundred that will never walk through the med bay doors, that will never walk again, that cannot be recovered for even the graceless, simple duty of burial. There is nothing graceful about truly burying someone: it is cold, rough grass, hard, packed dirt, and aching muscles all working in unison. Technology has granted reprieve from the obselence of actual work, creating ashes in seconds where once a human being lay, but Bones prefers the old fashion method, and he knows he is not alone.

Machines cannot feel, and they do not understand what it is to grieve. Though impractical and stupid it may seem to waste hours digging away into the soil to bury someone's corpse, it is cathartic. It is, in some weird, undefinable way, merciful. To send something back to the families is a gift, even though it is a missive of the damned. No one wants the black seal, but the gray seal is worse: the gray seal that means they have nothing to give but their condolences, nothing to remember that anything once lived.

This, Bones thinks, looking down at Jim, is worse.

Because he was real, he was alive, and now he's gone.

He sinks into the nearest chair that he can find, barely conscious of his own body. It doesn't seem right. It can't be right. He didn't say goodbye. He didn't tell Jim that it was okay, everything, all of it, damn it all to hell.

He wasn't there. He didn't know.

And now Jim's dead.

Jim Kirk is dead. The man that promised to change the world in three years – that painted galaxies with words, hushed, reverent whispers of adventures they'd have that he wanted Bones to understand even if there was nothing less Bones wanted to do; that challenged Spock because someone had to, because someone had to be the voice of humanity when reason stood alone, cold and clinical; that flirted and forgot what it meant to be a Starfleet captain off-duty and enjoyed all the glorious fancies of being alive and young while still never losing that unshakeable identity that he was a leader, a friend, a brother, a comrade, a captain – is gone.

The lump in Bones' throat is imagined, yet he still has to remind himself to breathe as he presses a fist to his forehead.

God dammit, Jim.

The world is blurry and his mind aches, but he still has enough left in him to remember the last thing Jim ever did for him.

He saved his life. He refused to beam Dr. Marcus back aboard, even knowing that he would be sacrificing both of them if the torpedo detonated.

He risked both their lives for the sake of one, and Bones owed him everything for that.

Looking down at the table in front of him, Bones can't deny that he risked his life for everyone, this time – all of them – and no one is there to return the favor.

Without preamble, the tribble across from him purrs.

It takes Bones a moment to place where the hell he got a tribble and why the fuck it's purring now of all times. He wants to crush it, to silence it when everything else seems terribly quiet. No one has spoken, he realizes, and when he looks over at the tribble and sees the blood still spattered across the table from the hypospray, he almost forgets how to breathe.

Jim.

He's on his feet and paging the bridge in less than a second, already barking orders that they get Kirk in a cryo tube, because he can't be Jim, not right now, not yet –

Jim is dead. But maybe they can keep Kirk the captain alive a little long, buy more time, buy enough time that they can bring back the unmoving, unbreathing Jim within.

Anything, Bones thinks, as he oversees the process, pressing one hand against the frostbitten surface of the cryo tube and stares down at Jim Kirk's face. I'll do anything to save you.

And when Spock brings him Khan, he does just that.


Author's Notes: I love Star Trek Into Darkness.

I love it for many reasons. I single out the relationship between Kirk and Spock as one of them; theirs is absolutely breathtaking to behold, and I could not believe the transformation that took place over the course of this film between them. But I also feel that Kirk's relationship with Bones (and, subsequently, Spock's relationship with Bones) is equally important. Bones is the human side of Kirk, while Spock is a mixture of Kirk the Captain and Jim. I wanted to take an opportunity to explore Bones' thoughts a little more during this scene, and so I did.

I hope you enjoyed. Let me know what you thought?

Also, suggestions, prompts, and the like are always welcome.

~truffles