Ugh, I had such a brain freeze with this one! Blame Jim. Actually no, blame Frank.
Speaking of blaming Frank, this one is rather hurty and continues on with the fall out from the last part, so mentions of child abuse ahead. Craziness and shenanigans await very soon down the line, I promise, and then we'll see just how much fate and Jim really don't get on with each other.
Thank you for being so patient with me, and thank you for all the support and encouragement! Xx
"Just the one night?" McCoy resisted the urge to glance around nervously and nodded, paying for the room with credits he'd appropriated from Frank. "Welcome to the Mariot Grange, Mr Davis. Your room is four fifty one, please let us know if there is anything we can do to make your stay more comfortable." The young woman at the desk was all perfect smiles and pretty gray eyes, and she wasn't exactly subtle. On any other day McCoy would have been smiling back, but he was so on edge he barely remembered his manners and thanked her.
Until a dull thud hit him in the shin and he looked down into Jim's small face. The boy glanced meaningfully at the woman. Apparently even at eleven Jim despaired of McCoy's flirting technique.
"Is this your son?" She smiled, looking at Jim.
"Er." McCoy stammered. It was the best lie, but would Jim want him to say yes? He could hardly take the place of George Kirk could he, and the last thing he wanted to do was associate himself with the other adult male in Jim's life.
"My dad doesn't fly well." Jim said, matching his comment with an eye roll all preteens seemed to have perfected. He followed it through with a sweet smile and she melted. "Normally he can manage full sentences."
"is that so?" She laughed. "Well you'd better take care of him then, hadn't you?"
Jim beamed at her and took the key token for their room. "I will. Come on dad," he tugged McCoy towards the lift, "hey, can we get pizza?"
McCoy grumbled and followed, his leg stiff and sore, his arm aching so much he feared he'd drop the bag he was carrying.
They'd taken three separate transports since leaving Iowa, burning through a fair number of Frank's credits at Jim's insistence and leaving a false trail of tickets that should hopefully buy them some time. They'd finally ended up in New Zealand of all places, and the plan was to take transport out of Sydney the following morning, preferably as far across the galaxy as they could go, and then a bit further.
McCoy was a nervous wreck, half expecting someone to come up to him and start screaming 'kidnapper!' at the top of their lungs then cart Jim back off to Frank. Jim, not surprisingly, had taken to the whole thing pretty well, sweet talking the shuttle attendant into letting them have an aisle seat and generally putting those baby blues to ruthlessly effective use. They'd been dangerous as hell on an adult Jim, but McCoy had developed an immunity to his charm shortly after the first time he'd got them both thrown in the brig. As a child, with none of that wicked glee twinkling in his eyes, the kid sure knew how to pull a guy's heartstrings.
Unfortunately that bright eyed curiosity that had them bypassing any curious questions about who they were and what they were doing did not extend to times when they were alone together. As soon as McCoy closed the door to their room, he shrunk in on himself completely.
"You doing okay, kid?" McCoy asked gently. It had been a long and emotionally exhausting day, and Jim hadn't slept the night before. The fact that he was still awake and communicative at all was a miracle really. If Jo missed a night's sleep she made damn sure everyone else was as miserable as she was.
Jim nodded stiffly and stood in the middle of the room, his shoulders hunched. McCoy really needed to see what damage Frank had done to him and now they had some privacy and a sense of relative safety, he could maybe ease some of Jim's pain.
He also needed to change his clothes and freshen up before his clothes became part of his skin.
"Take your shirt off kid," he said, wandering into the bathroom to find a fresher and a replicator fired up and ready to go. He cleaned up and replicated a fresh set of jeans and a sweater and something for Jim, then raided the medical catalog for whatever was of use.
He came back into the main room with an arm full of supplies and dumped them on the couch.
Jim was standing in the middle of the room, his eyes darting wildly, his shirt clutched in his hand. McCoy kicked himself, taking in his drawn, pinched expression and the ghastly paleness of his skin. He'd pushed the kid too hard. He wasn't Jim, not Bones's Jim, he didn't have wicked crazy endurance and he shouldn't have to just push on through the pain. He was eleven for christsake.
"Where'd you want me?" Jim whispered, stumbling over his words. He looked exhausted.
"I don't mind." McCoy said gently, changing into his clean shirt and tugging absently on his belt. "The bed I guess?" That would be more comfortable for the boy anyway.
Jim nodded and moved over to one of the two queen sized beds, still clutching his shirt.
McCoy was finally able to see the damage his bastard uncle had done and he deeply regretted not breaking both the man's legs. He'd let Frank off far too easily, but he'd been afraid that if he'd started hitting the asshole he'd not have stopped.
McCoy pulled his belt out of his dirty pants and quickly changed into the jeans, then picked up the balms and bac-wraps he'd need. When he turned back, he frowned at what he saw.
"Jim, what are you doing down there kid?" He asked, his heart aching as the answer provided itself.
Jim was kneeling at the foot of the bed, his face hidden in the arms that rested on the mattress. He was shaking, quietly waiting.
When McCoy spoke he peered out from his arms, bright eyed with nerves. "You said-" he glanced down helplessly at his shirt and McCoy forced back the urge to cry.
"No Jim." He said as gently as he possibly could, kneeling down beside the boy and shaking his head sadly. "I'm not going to beat you."
"Oh," Jim looked momentarily confused, then nerves were replaced by raw fear. Despite that, he swallowed and tried to meet McCoy's gaze. "You want something else? I-I can…" he reached out one trembling hand and McCoy flinched back as if burned.
"Jesus, no! Fuck no!"
"But you said!" Jim said defensively, almost looking angry that McCoy wasn't about to hurt him. "You said-"
"I just want to take a look at your injuries, Jim. That's all." He held up the medical supplies and watched the anger fade away to confusion. "I just want to help. I'm not going to hurt you. Christ, I'd never hurt you."
"Why?" Jim asked, that one word a whole lot less simple than it should have been.
What was he supposed to say? Because you're the child version of my closest friend and the idea of laying a finger on you makes me physically sick? That would just confuse the kid more.
"Because I'm a doctor. That's what doctors do." McCoy said, falling back on an old staple, using almost exactly the same words when he'd barely known Jim at all and the kid was being a stubborn brat about seeking treatment for a bust ankle. "And because I promised I'd look after you."
"Oh," Jim frowned. "Sorry." He looked away, his cheeks flushing.
"You've nothing to be sorry for." McCoy said quietly. "We can do this on the couch if you like."
Jim shook his head. "Here's okay."
"You comfy?" McCoy asked, not asking Jim to climb up on the bed, even though that would be more comfortable for both of them. Kneeling like this was going to murder his knees. But Jim nodded, so he stayed where he was.
"I'm just going to clean these up, okay? It might sting a little." Despite his warning, Jim didn't really react when McCoy passed the antibacterial cloth gently over his back.
Once upon a time he'd been awed – and horrified – at the way Jim could take a beating with barely a complaint. He'd always know and despaired of Jim's stoic nature and sky high pain threshold, and remembered a time when Uhura and Spock had expressed similar horror after seeing Jim tortured on Cerberus. Now, seeing familiar wounds marring his back as a child, it made a repulsive kind of sense.
The bruises were black, blue, green and every shade between, some old, some new. There was one over his kidney that had clearly been caused by a fist and a great many more that McCoy suspected had come from a belt.
He should have been cataloging them, making sure there was evidence to nail Frank to the cross, but he had no intention of Jim ever having to encounter the man again and right then all he could think about was easing the boy's pain, not adding to his discomfort.
He worked in silence, sickened by the sheer number of times he'd had to do this for Jim over the course of their friendship. How could humanity claim enlightenment, rejoicing in their civilization and sophistication when people could do this to a child?
By the time he'd applied the bac-wrap to the wounds, sealing them from infection but allowing a good circulation of air to expedite the healing process, Jim was fast asleep, his head pillowed on his arms.
McCoy ever so gently lifted him and laid him on the bed, lightly covering him with a thin blanket to stave off the chill.
"Get some rest, kiddo." He said, brushing some of his long golden hair away from his face. "Gonna be a long day tomorrow."
Despite that, he could find no rest himself. He'd replicate some food in a few hours and make sure Jim ate a hearty meal, but until then he sat himself wearily down on the couch and flicked on the news feeds.
Almost immediately McCoy was looking at an image of Jim's face.
"-been nine hours since the reported disappearance of eleven year old James Kirk from his family home in Riverside, Iowa. Security footage from Washington Shuttle Station clearly show James boarding a shuttle with an as yet unidentified male, approximately 40 years of age-"
"Thirty six, asshole." McCoy grumbled at the reporter, his eyes following the recording that had been picked up at the station. His face was hidden – he'd learned a trick or two from his former delinquent best friend – but Jim was easily identifiable. "Damn." He'd hoped there would be a few more hours before Frank was found.
" -Local authorities are questing James' uncle and legal guardian over allegations of abuse and current speculation is that the eleven year old left his home of his own free will. James Kirk, known more famously as The Kelvin Baby, is the youngest son of the late Captain George Kirk, who died in the line of duty on the day of James's birth. His widow Winona Kirk was, tragically, also killed in action nineteen months ago. In light of his family legacy, our sources say Starfleet is taking particular interest in James's disappearance and are assisting authorities in trying to locate the boy. If-"
"Shit." McCoy hissed. "Shit. Shit." That was the last thing he needed. If Starfleet were getting involved there were only a handful of people who could be responsible.
Best case scenario was Christopher Pike, currently only a Lieutenant but highly decorated and respected – he loved Jim, and he was dangerously smart. He'd probably rip McCoy's lungs out before asking any questions when -and with would be when - he caught up with them.
Then there was Archer, who'd track Jim down for Hoshi Sato if not for himself. The living legend that was Starfleet's most famous hero was not someone McCoy wanted on his tail. Archer was a terrifying bastard.
And those were his best bets. The other possibilities were Marcus and Section 31. Jim was already on their radar in a big way. They'd want him found if not to preserve what they considered their investment, then to make sure he didn't fall into enemy hands. They weren't concerned with Jim's welfare, just how useful he'd be to them when they'd had the time to shape him to their satisfaction.
Not for the first time he wished Jim were here. Not the child, but his Jim. McCoy wasn't a tactical thinker, he wasn't a master of strategy. He was good at finding the holes in them, which was one of the reasons Jim liked to brainstorm with him so much, but actually thinking them up? That's what Jim was for.
"We need to go, don't we?" McCoy looked up and saw Jim standing in the doorway, dressed in his new clothes.
"I'm sorry kid. They found your bastard of an uncle sooner than I'd hoped."
"Starfleet are looking for me." Jim said softly. McCoy nodded. "You could take me to them. I don't think they'd send me back to Frank." He sounded uncertain despite his words.
"I can't Jim, I'm sorry. I can't explain, but going to Starfleet isn't an option." Not while Marcus was in charge. He'd have Jim on the first shuttle to Tarsus IV and nothing would have changed. "I know I'm asking a lot, but please, you have to trust me."
Jim hesitated for a moment. "We can't take a commercial shuttle." He said eventually.
"We need to get off the planet." McCoy shook his head. The sooner the better.
"I know, but they'll pick us up as soon as we go through port." Eleven or not, Jim had been raised by a paranoid spy and had spent the first decade of his life living on Starfleet ships and stations. He probably knew their SOP instinctively. "There's another way."
"How?" McCoy frowned.
"I don't think you'll like it." Jim said timidly.
He snorted. "If I had a credit for every time I heard that… what's your plan, kid?"