In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I'm thankful to you all for being so generous with your thoughts and opinions and for letting me have such fun playing with these characters. My day job involves a hell of a lot of math and not much creativity, so it's a real treat to be able to escape a bit with you all. So thank you. I don't say it enough and I'm really mean with cliffies and storylines, but I mean it. Epic amounts of love for you all! xx
Here is the final part. Be warned, it might actually be the sappiest I ever did sap. I'm really thrilled everyone liked Mrs McCoy because she's about to be around far more often!
Bones wasn't kidding when he said Jo was planning on waking him up. At a little after eight, Jim almost fell out of bed, jerked from sleep by the force of a small tornado that suddenly bounced on to the bed, right by his elbow.
Jim had been fast asleep, so much so that he was slightly disorientated upon waking, then surprised when he caught sight of the time.
"Uncle Jim! You have to wake up! Breakfast is ready!" Jo punctuated every word with an energetic bounce. "Come oooooon!"
"I'm up, I'm up!" Jim flailed.
Jo squealed in delight and jumped off the bed. Jim's sweater hit him in the face as she threw clothes in his direction, enough of a lady to know that it wasn't polite for Jim to wander down to breakfast in his boxer shorts, but clearly not having the patience to wait for him to find clothes himself.
So Jim ended up being tugged sleepily behind her, one small hand dragging him along as he tried to put his last sock on. They didn't match. Nothing he wore matched.
"Morning sleepyhead." Eleanor didn't laugh at his appearance but it was a close call, her lips pulled up in a smile and her eyes dancing with mirth.
Jim yawned then stammered out a greeting, pink with embarrassment. "Good morning."
"Did you sleep alright?"
"I did. That bed's amazing." He followed her into the dinning room, knowing by now that holidays meant large and extravagant get-togethers. He wasn't disappointed.
He and Jo were the last to arrive, with everyone else already seated around the enormous table, coffee or juice in hand. The soft chatter died down enough for everyone to offer their greetings, then picked up again smoothly as Jo dragged Jim to sit between Bones and Pike. She then sat on Bones's other side, providing a much needed barrier between him and Jocelyn, who was there with her parents as well.
As gatherings went, it was something to behold. Not quite as insane as Christmas which had utterly overwhelmed Jim the first time around, but it was close.
Bones had a very large family and no problem at all in sharing them with Jim. Aside from his sister and her husband, there were his father's two brothers, his mother's three sisters, their partners and children, plus Jim, Pike, Jocelyn's parents and an elderly man from one of the houses down the street whose wife had died the same year Bones's father had, and who had no other family. Jim knew all of them by now as he was a regular fixture of the holidays.
As the oldest of three sisters, Eleanor had inherited the house and the land that came with the family title. As her only son, tradition had fallen in Bones's lap to uphold.
Jim helped himself to coffee as he fielded various greetings. At a lull in conversation, Pike leaned over and whispered in his ear.
"This might just be the most terrifying thing I've ever done." He hissed.
Jim sniggered and took a sip of his coffee. "I know, right?"
"Kudos, kid. Knew you had balls but I'm impressed." Pike smiled serenely at Bones who was trying to listen in. "No wonder you handled that grilling from Command if you're used to facing down crowds like this."
"Admiral, if you're comparing my family to a bunch of paper pushers with overinflated egos…well, you'd not be completely off the mark." Bones drawled. Jim grinned. It was like clockwork: get Bones home for more than forty-eight hours and his accent returned in full force.
"You're talking to one of those paper pushers now, McCoy." Pike said dryly. Jim watched him carefully for signs of bitterness, but if they were there then they were carefully hidden from sight.
"Oh please." McCoy looked disgusted. "You've told Kormac to get stuffed more often than I have."
"I've also not punched him in the face." Pike said with a straight face.
"He still moaning about that?"
'You dislocated his jaw, Bones." Jim laughed.
"Well he dislocated my sanity." Bones huffed, reaching for more coffee and shoving a plate of piping corn muffins towards Jim with a pointed scowl. Jim rolled his eyes and snatched one of the plate.
"You're lucky he didn't manage to get you kicked out." Pike shook his head. "It was bad enough getting the both of you on the Enterprise without taking your conduct records into consideration."
Bones began halfheartedly complaining but Jim could just stare. "Wait, what?"
They stopped talking to look at him in confusion. "What?"
"I was supposed to be on the Enterprise?"
Pike frowned. "Of course you were. You think I spent three years hauling your ass out of one disciplinary after another to not put you to work?"
"I never really thought about it, I guess. They never called my name at assignment."
"And then you got a little distracted." Pike added wryly. "I guess you did." He leveled Jim with another of those rare smiles. "You're damn right I wanted you on my ship. Had to fight for you, too. Both of you, actually."
Jim paused for a moment and thought about what could have been. How wonderful would it have been to have gone into the black with Pike as his CO and Bones at his side. It might have been the closest thing to carving his own home as he'd have ever gotten.
Pushing aside the bitter disappointment that he'd no longer get to have that, he threw Bones a wide grin. "Hear that Bones! I told you we'd get the same posting."
Bones threw him a scowl that had none of it's usual heat. "Uh huh. Be still my heart."
"You're such a Grinch." Jim sighed, shaking his head. "God help whoever has to put up with you now."
Pike looked at him strangely. "You've not had your orders yet?"
Jim shook his head, trying not to let on how nervous he still was. They'd made it clear early on that he'd keep his field promotion, but whether he'd ever actually go back into space was another matter entirely. "No, not yet. I mean, I'm the last thing they're worrying about right now. Just gotta be patient I guess."
"Miracles never cease." Bones teased. "I told you not to worry. They've got to do something with you, it's not like they're overrun with better options right now."
"I love how you think that's a compliment." Jim shook his head in disbelief.
"I'm just saying," Bones broke off to pass Jo a dish of butter and help her spread it on her toast, "they aren't going to dump you on some intergalactic trash collector and forget all about you."
"Thanks Bones." Jim frowned. "See, this is why all your patients complain about your bedside manner."
"There's nothing wrong with my bedside manner!"
"You're delusional. Tell him, Chris." Jim didn't miss the shift in Pike when Jim used his first name, something he'd not done since before Tarsus.
Still, Pike covered it quickly. "Oh no, I'm not getting in the middle of this. I've seen how messy your bickering gets."
"And you still wanted the both of us." Jim couldn't hold back the beaming smile.
"Apparently the good doctor isn't the only one who is delusional."
The conversation rapidly went downhill from there and was only rescued by the end of breakfast and Jo demanding Jim show her more magic tricks. The passed the rest of the morning that way, with Jim entertaining Jo and her three cousins, all of who decided Jim was the ideal playmate and absolutely refused to allow him out of their sights. Come mid afternoon, before the main meal was served, Jim had to be delivered drinks with bendy straws, unable to extract himself from beneath a collapsed fort of couch cushions and sleeping children. The youngest was only three and she had managed to curl herself right over the back of Jim's neck. He dozed off like that and had a sneaky suspicion both Bones and Pike had taken advantage and snapped a dozen holos to blackmail him with later.
Eventually Jocelyn of all people took pity on him and maneuvered one sleeping child after another off Jim's back and onto the collection of cushions littering the floor. Pike and Bones had gone to help with the preparation, leaving Jim and the kids alone. Jocelyn took the opportunity to press a kiss to his cheek.
"Thank you." She said quietly. "For bringing him home safely." At Jim's stunned expression she smiled rather sheepishly. It was a rare expression on her, and it transformed her ice cool beauty into something utterly breathtaking. When she smiled like that, Jim could understand why Bones married her. "I know Leo and I aren't exactly on the best of terms, but that doesn't mean I don't care."
Jim nodded. He and Jocelyn had never really shared much in the way of conversation. He was Bones's friend, not hers, and he never forgot that she had cheated on him less than a month after his father died. He was glad when she didn't push for more and set about helping him to wake the kids.
They were irritable at first until the smell of food hit, and Jim was once again being dragged from the room. If he made it through the holiday with his dignity intact it would be a miracle.
Bones and Pike both gave him wide grins as he took his seat. "Not a damn word," He muttered.
It looked like it caused them both physical pain not to laugh at him and Jim was relieved when Eleanor stood and the room fell silent.
Her face was unusually grave but her eyes were soft as they took in the gathered members of her family. "I know it is tradition in this family to go around the table and say something, and I'm not going to break that. But this year, I think there is one thing that all of us, in common, are thankful for. We came so close to never sitting here together again and so many families are right now missing loved ones. So, on behalf of this family I am thankful, so thankful, for the three brave men who sit with us now. If it wasn't for them, we would not be here."
The eyes in the room were suddenly fixed on Jim, Pike and Bones. Jim was used to being scrutinized by now, but somehow it felt different, coming from these people. They had all, at some point during the day, showed their feelings through either words or embraces or awkward pats on the shoulder.
A long beat of silences passed, and Jim couldn't help but think about what she said. He couldn't help but think about Vulcan and the billions of lives lost. He couldn't help but think about the friends and classmates he had lost. He couldn't help but think that this year might have been the year he'd have dragged Gaila along with him because she loved observing human traditions and because Jim loved making her smile.
Then eventually Eleanor spoke up again, soft humor to put them all at ease. "I'm also grateful that Leonard didn't insist on helping with the cooking this year."
As one the groans and sniggers filled the silence and the weight of the eyes on them became something more comforting as they moved around the room naming one thing they were thankful for. Some were serious, others utterly irreverent, and Jim had no idea what he was going to say. In the past, he'd always made a joke, gotten a laugh, and passed the buck on to Bones as quickly as he could.
Despite the sheer number of people in the room, he was no closer to knowing what to say by the time they reached him, and even though he took a large gulp of water his throat still felt tight. "I…I guess I don't really have one thing I'm thankful for. I'm just…maybe…" he glanced at Pike, "I'm thankful for second chances."
That won him another warm smile and Jim knew he'd said the right thing.
Pike reiterated what Eleanor had said, that he was thankful they had a home to come back to, while uncharacteristically it was Bones making the joke this year.
"I'm thankful this clown has an allergy workup longer than Uncle Jasper's beard." He jerked his thumb in Jim's direction and got an immediate round of laugher, no more so than the man at the far end of the table whose long beard Joanna had braided that morning after breakfast.
Even as Jim spluttered the expected protest, Bones met his eye meaningfully and Jim nodded. They'd already said what they needed to the night before.
Jim figured he was doing okay until Jo said she was thankful her daddy and Uncle Jim came back from space alright, then both he and Bones suddenly found the bottoms of their glasses utterly fascinating.
The eventually they were finished and it was time to eat.
Before they could, however, Pike raised a hand. "If I could have a moment." Jim looked at him curiously. It wasn't like Pike to attract undue attention. "Again, thank you for allowing me to spend the holiday with you. Now, more than ever, is the time to be with family." He looked across at Jim and smiled. "But I've been wanting to give Jim here something all day and I'm afraid if I wait any longer the bribes I had to pay out to keep it a secret won't be large enough."
"Okay," Jim laughed awkwardly, "is it extra homework? Because I tested out of-"
To his surprise, Pike held out the small silver salt dispenser that Jim had played with in the bar back in Riverside all those years ago.
"Is this a metaphor or a euphemism or…?" Jim tipped the miniature model of the Enterprise upside down. It was empty, and no match in beauty for the real thing, but it held the weight of a memory, a dare, that made it somehow very precious.
"Well I'm reliably informed that people used to give kids keychains when they got their first cars but she doesn't need a key and you've already stolen her the once."
"Borrowed," Jim said reflectively, "I borrowed…wait, what?" The significance of what Pike was saying suddenly hit him at warp six.
"Your orders came in a couple of days ago. I was going to tell you but your doctor abducted you before I had the chance."
"What?" Jim asked again, unable to even dream that he was understanding Pike correctly.
"She still needs a good few months in dock to fix her up, but the Enterprise is yours. Congratulations, Captain."
"Holy shit!" Bones suddenly exclaimed, forgetting whom he was sitting with.
"Daddy!" Jo yelped, sounding scarily like her grandmother. No one seemed to notice as cheers and whistles suddenly filled the room and people rushed to congratulate him.
Jim could only swallow back the rush of emotion that had hit and he looked at Pike, desperately searching for a lie or a catch or something that made sense because things like this, they didn't happen to people like Jim.
Pike proved once again how well he knew Jim. He grabbed Jim's arm then dragged him close. "I'm so goddamn proud of you, kid."
Jim's shuddering exhale was the only response he could give. "Is this real?"
"Yeah Jim, it's real."
"Well there you have it." Bones said, his hand falling on Jim's back, hemming him in from the other side and giving Jim some protection from the well meaning family who wanted to share in his achievement. "There'll be no living with him now."
Jim pulled back and squared his shoulders. "Thank you, Admiral. Chris. So, er, what form do I need to fill in to make Bones my CMO?"
"One that comes with a lot of booze, kid." Bones griped, his grin enormous. Jim waved him off absently.
"We'll talk later." Pike promised. "After we've eaten."
"Sounds good." Jim laughed.
Sounded wonderful, actually.