L. Burke planted this bunny in my head a few months ago and I'll admit I've missed Jim and Jo fluffiness. Pure and unrepentant sap!
"Oh for the love of…. Breathe Jim!"
Jim flailed an arm over his head in what he hoped was Bones's general direction. He was totally breathing. Breathing was not an issue. A non-issue.
Oh Jesus Christ he was going to pass out.
Bones's hand suddenly pressed between his shoulder blades, steadying him as he tried to suck in large gulps of air. This might not be the first time Bones had talked him down for a panic attack, but it was certainly the most humiliating, and that included the time he'd thrown up on the doctor. Twice.
Who was he kidding? This wasn't a panic attack. This was utterly ridiculous.
"I'm good." He squeaked. "Holy hell."
"Jesus kid, you'd think you were being asked to face down homicidal time traveling Romulans…but wait, you've already done that. How is this an issue for you?" Bones somehow managed to look concerned and incredulous all at once. It took a serious skill, but he was nothing if not dedicated.
"Because it is!" Jim flailed, his breathing under control but his panic still a very real thing. "Why would anyone think this is a good idea?"
"Because it is a good idea." Bones sighed. They'd had this conversation multiple times. Before they left. On the shuttle. In the bar Jim had tried to escape to on the way…
"Not really." Jim muttered, running his hand through his hair then quickly trying to flatten the mess he'd made. Somehow his hair managed to routinely defy gravity despite his attempts to tame it. One of these days he was going to shave the lot off. "I can't do this Bones."
"Yes. You can." Under normal circumstances Bones might have been a little more considerate – not a huge amount, granted – but he'd obviously lost all patience somewhere between San Francisco and Georgia. "You're Jim Goddamn Kirk, Starfleet's youngest Captain, Earth's Hero and eternal pain in my ass. This is going to be a walk in the park."
Jim nodded shortly. "Yes. Right. Okay. I can do this." Taking an extra deep breath, he squared his shoulders and marched towards the building that loomed before them. He made it four steps before swiveling on his heel and making a rapid retreat. "I can't do it. You should do it. Why aren't you doing it?"
Bones's eyebrows pulled together in disbelief. "Because I'm not half as exciting as you are."
"They know what you did, right? How many people you saved?" Jim felt slightly offended on his friend's behalf. It wasn't a new feeling. Somehow he'd gone and become the face of the whole Nero mess and no matter how many times he stressed the efforts of the rest of his crew, he was continually dragged back into the limelight.
Bones didn't look in the least bit upset and the squeeze he gave Jim's shoulder only made that clearer. "Kid, you saved the planet. There's no topping that."
"We! We saved the planet." Jim grumbled. "I wouldn't have even been on board if not for you." Jim didn't like thinking about that. Bones would be dead, killed along with the rest of the Enterprise crew, and Jim would probably have been sucked into a black hole when Nero turned his attention on Earth.
"I'm not saying we didn't play our parts, Jim." Bones agreed, his hand still on Jim's shoulder, subtly steering him towards the building's main entrance. "But you were the catalyst. You're the one who stuck his neck out. No one else would have made that call."
Jim huffed. "Still. You'd be so much better at this than I will."
"They are children, Jim. You're great with kids." Jim set foot over threshold of the large school and resigned himself to his fate. "They'll love you. You've already got one groupie and she's been singing your praises from the rooftops before your face was on every holo."
Jim flushed in pleasure and felt some of the confidence return to his step. He'd do this for Joanna if nothing else. He shot Bones a wry grin and squared his shoulders once more. Straightening his uniform – Captain's bars new and still somewhat awkward on his sleeves – he took his cap out from under his arm and set in on his head. That would hide the crazy hair, he supposed.
"Geez, Bones. Way to use your five year old as a bribe."
Bones snorted and shoved Jim forward as they marched towards the reception. "You know we aren't going to be allowed to leave the state until her birthday next weekend?"
"Are you kidding me?" Jim glared at him. "I have the best present for her."
"You're not giving my kid a K-Bar Knife, Jim." Bones glared at him. They'd had this argument so many times now.
Jim pouted. "I wasn't planning on it."
"Or a phaser!" Bones exclaimed, his expression twisting at Jim's sheepish smile. "Jim, you did not buy my daughter a phaser for her sixth birthday!"
"Hey, I learned to shoot when I was six!"
"You were raised by lunatics. Citing your childhood is not your most persuasive argument."
Jim couldn't really respond to that. Bones had a point. Instead he turned his best smile on the young woman who was waiting to check them in. Bones predictably rolled his eyes but Jim couldn't help it. Flirting eased his nerves. It was easy and harmless and fun, three things that were seriously lacking in Jim's life at that point. She smiled back, her blue eyes pale and automatically making him think of Gaila.
He didn't think of Gaila. Not if he could help it. Not of her, or the thousands of people killed at the Battle of Vulcan. Certainly not Vulcan itself. He'd spent weeks attending ceremonies and memorials and interviews where he'd been allowed to do nothing but think about them. Now he was planning on doing what he did with every horrible thing he faced: push it down and move the hell on. It was just easier said than done – far easier to push down the traumas of his childhood than the senseless destruction of billions of lives.
Jim's smile was a little less bright as he and Bones were signed in and escorted down a hallway to their destination.
"I'll see you when you're done." Bones said, clapping him on the back and flashing him a rare grin.
Jim nodded. It didn't feel right, being the one to go in and talk when it was Bones's own kid waiting inside, but he stepped into the classroom with his back straight and prepared himself for the onslaught.
Instantly he caught sight of Joanna, who was sat in the front row of a class full of five year olds, her dark hair in two braids and a wide, toothy smile just for him.
He was greeted by Joanna's teacher, a man whose flaming cheeks matched his hair, and then a resounding chorus of "Hi Captain Kirk," form a small army of adorable – and if Jo was anything to go by, devious- children.
Why the hell did he think this was a bad idea? He loved kids. Kids were awesome. Kids were way less hard work than adults.
Jim forwent the chair waiting for him and sat down cross legged at the edge of the gathered children. "You can call me Jim." He said with a conspiratorial wink.
"Hi Captain Jim!"
The Captain thing still took some getting used to.
"Captain Kirk has come all the way from San Francisco to see you all today, isn't that great?" Jim tried not to roll his eyes. All the way from SF was hardly a long trip. "That's where Starfleet Headquarters are based. Does anyone know what Starfleet does?"
Joanna sent her teacher a look that she had clearly gotten from her daddy and Jim had to force himself not to laugh.
"Fly in space!"
"Break up marriages!"
Jim choked on his tongue. Where the hell were these kids getting their facts from? A dozen pairs of innocent eyes looked at him with rapt fascination and he swallowed awkwardly. Who was he kidding? Three years ago he'd probably have agreed on all fronts. Apparently wonders never ceased and James Kirk was capable of growing up after all.
He leaned forwards as if to share a secret. "Actually it's way cooler than that." He didn't think it was possible for eyes to get any wider, but there they were. "Starfleet is about exploring the stars and meeting all kinds of new people."
"So you don't fly in a big ship?"
"My ship is pretty big," Jim admitted with a grin.
"You don't kill Romulans?"
"Well I try not to kill anyone. That's always a very last resort. Finding a peaceful solution to our problems is always the best option." Jim half expected to get struck by lightening in retaliation for his heinous hypocrisy.
"Is it scary being on a big ship?" That came from a little girl sat close to Jo.
"It can be." Jim admitted. "There's lots happening and it can be a little frightening sometimes, sure. But you know, I lived on a ship when I was your age and I always found ways of making the scary things less scary."
Jim hesitated. He'd come here to talk to Jo's class, to let her show him off a bit and to deliver the Fleet PR he'd had shoved down his throat by a team of highly trained, slightly neurotic specialists who barely trusted him to open his mouth in public. Not to teach five year olds the pranks he and Sam used to pull on the poor crews of whichever ship his mom had them on at the time. Bones would not be amused.
Looking out into a sea of hopeful faces, Jim felt his resolve crumble.
What could it really hurt?
"Okay, so this one time I-"
After twenty minutes the day was over and the class was dismissed. It took Jim a good ten minutes extra to say goodbye to each of the kids, but as soon as the last child had run through the door, he nearly choked as a pair of arms wrapped themselves around his neck and he had the weight of a small child dangling from them. "Uncle Jim! You came!"
"Of course I did!" Jim beamed at her, managing to twist her off his back so she could rest against his hip for a proper hug. "Miss Joanna calls, I come running!"
"Did daddy come too?"
"Yep, he's in the hall waiting for you."
"He's not lonely?" Joanna's face pulled into a frown and Jim felt his insides twist. He was never, ever, not ever having kids. Jo could turn him inside out with one look and that was more than enough.
"No way, kiddo! I bet your daddy is making lots of friends." Despite his grumpy demeanor, Bones never failed to be a hit with the ladies and hot, single dads of adorable little girls didn't have to worry about a lack of company, that was for sure. No way was Jim letting them leave until Bones had at least one new number entered into his comm.
That seemed to appease Joanna, who hugged Jim tightly once more. "I missed you Uncle Jim."
Yep. There went his heart. Damn kids. "I missed you too JoJo! But hey, you did only see me last week." Joanna and Jocelyn had flown in several times since they had docked and Bones had been utterly beaming with joy for most of the time they were together.
"That was forever ago." Joanna pouted.
"True, true." Jim stepped out into the hallway and sure enough found Bones cornered by three very pretty young moms, a look of mild desperation on his face. Jim sniggered at his distress. Make that a hot, single dad in uniform. "What's say we rescue your old man and go get pie?"
Joanna nodded eagerly and the two of them called on all of Jim's diplomatic talents to save Bones from a public scandal.
Once free, Joanna jumped ship right into her daddy's arms. "Uncle Jim said we could get pie!" She said once she was done hugging him.
"Oh he did, did he?" Bones laughed. He was completely carefree when he was with Joanna. Jim thought he looked younger, less weighed down by the world and his responsibilities. It made him appreciate just what it was Bones was going to sacrifice to come with him into the black. "Did Uncle Jim say what kind of pie?"
"Peach!" Jim exclaimed. "As if there is any other kind!"
"Way to perpetuate a stereotype, Jim."
"Daddy's favorite is pecan." Jo grinned, her arms curled around Bones's neck. "He says it's been his favorite forever! Since before he was as big as me!"
"Well then," Jim laughed, cap back under his arm, "I suppose I could be persuaded, since it's your daddy's favorite and all." He winked at Jo who suddenly turned her dark eyes on her father.
"Was Uncle Jim really living on a space ship when he was my age?" She asked.
McCoy shot Jim a confused glance. "I don't know sweetheart, maybe you should ask him?"
"He said he was." Jo then turned that frown on Jim. "I don't think a space ship is a very safe place for someone my age."
Jim gaped at her as McCoy started to laugh. "You're very right, sweetheart. Isn't she Uncle Jim?"
"Very right, and very smart." Jim nodded stupidly. So apparently even a five year old was judging his mom's parenting technique. Harsh.
Jo whispered something into Bones's ear and he groaned. "Tell me you didn't, Jim."
"I didn't." Jim said obligingly. "What didn't I do?"
"Glued an Admiral's pants to the seat of a Captain's chair!"
"Oh!" Jim said brightly. "Sure. Barnett. He never knew it was me, though."
"Who else would it be?" Bones said in exasperation. "I thought you were supposed to be the model kid?"
"I was," Jim protested. "Sam wanted to push him out of an airlock."
"Guess that explains why he looked so sour during your Commendation."
"No, that's because he lost a hundred credits to Pike over some bet."
"The Admiralty had bets on you?" McCoy shook his head in disbelief as Jo giggled in his arms.
"Pike and Archer made a killing apparently. Bought me a bottle of '48 with the winnings."
That made McCoy grin. "You bring it with you?"
"Too right I did! But first," he held out a hand as Bones set Jo down, each of them taking one of her hands in theirs so she could swing across puddles the way she had done with them when she'd visited at the Academy, "pie!"