Chapter 1: darkness becomes me
Leo felt warm, like the sun was shining through the window and onto his back. In his half-asleep daze, Leo let out a content sigh and curled closer to the man in his arms. After a few minutes, he realized the sun was actually out and his eyes popped open in surprise. Carefully, Leo lifted his head and turned towards the window where sure enough the blinds glowed a soft yellow instead of murky gray. It wasn’t overcast, no fog clung heavily to the window, there was no rain. None of that was present.
It was a Sunday morning and it was full of clear skies.
A lazy, but genuine smile spread across Leo’s face as he turned away from the window and back to the man in his arms. They laid there for a few more minutes before the man stirred, slowly waking up. Leo kissed his bare shoulders as he did, coaxing him to wake up faster.
A content sigh left the man as he hugged the pillow beneath him closer. “Bones, have I ever told you I love Sundays?” he sighed out before he turned towards Leo, a sleepy smile on his face.
“Yes, you have. Repeatedly.” Leo murmured before he leaned forward and kissed Jim lazily. Jim didn’t seem to mind as he tipped his head and deepened the kiss. After a few moments, Jim pulled away and Leo clamped down on the little whine that wanted to escape his lips. Mornings like this always left Leo with the desire to ignore the world around them. Because mornings like this were rare and Leo cherished them and Jim deeply.
Leo lost count of how many minutes they laid in bed, foreheads rested against each other with their eyes closed as they basked in the warm glow of the morning. Eventually, though, they heard their door creak open and they turned to see Joanna peek her head into the room. “When you two are done looking at each other like lovebirds I want to go sightseein’ like you promised.”
There was a pause of shocked silence before Jim threw his head back and laughed. Leo shot his daughter a look before he rolled his eyes. “What are you doing up so early, Jo?”
Joanna crossed her arms and raised her eyebrow at him. “Daddy. It’s ten in the morning.”
This only made Jim laugh harder and Leo’s eyes widened slightly as he snapped his head towards the clock on his nightstand. Sure enough, it said 10 AM in bright red numbers.
It was hard for Leo to realize that day had been just a little over a year ago. That Jim in their bed, sleepy but happy with the sun shining down on him felt both like only a second and a lifetime ago. Only a couple months after that day, he and Jim were back on the Enterprise, flying through the galaxy before Jim fucked things up on Nibiru. It was only hours after Jim was demoted, Pike was killed, on the hunt for Khan, and then Jim died.
Leo tried not to think about that day anymore. It had been hard at first. After the funeral and he was handed a neatly folded up Starfleet flag Leo was drunk for a week straight. Everyone stopped by, made him eat and drink something other than bourbon, but eventually as the week turn into months they all had lives to go back to and Leo was left alone in an apartment where he could see Jim around every corner, He slept on the couch because he couldn’t bring himself to sleep in the bed that still smelled like his husband.
He felt like there was nothing left for him in the godforsaken galaxy. After Jocelyn, Leo felt like the only place he had left to run was space. After Jim, he didn’t know where to go. So, he threw himself into the position he took at Starfleet Medical in San Francisco.
Jocelyn, the last person he expected, was the one to pull him out of his destructive state just shy of a year since Jim’s passing. It seemed she worried that Leo would kill himself in the process of his grieving and she didn’t want Joanna to lose her father. He wanted to snap at her that she seemed to want that when they first got divorced, but held his tongue. It was summer vacation for his little girl and Jocelyn was letting her stay for the summer. She hoped that by having his daughter living with him for three months he would take a break from working almost twenty hour days, take care of her and by extension himself.
Before he could say that he wouldn’t be able to get someone to look after Joanna while he was at work, Jocelyn told him that a Commander Winona Kirk would be able to watch Jo while he was at Starfleet Medical, but only for a few hours a day.
He felt like he had been punched in the gut when Jocelyn told him that news. One one hand he would have his little girl (who wasn’t that little anymore if he was honest) and he felt a flare of joy for the first time in what felt like an eternity. On the other hand, however, he would see Jim’s mother almost on a daily basis. It wouldn’t matter that Jim and his mother didn’t exactly have the best or healthiest relationship, they loved each other. They were all each other had after Sam left Iowa, left them, and never looked back. Jim forgave his mother for a lot of things when he was older. Especially after Jim married him because it was then that he understood what his mother went through after his dad died.
Jim had told him, half asleep, that if he died he wouldn’t know how to breathe anymore. Leo had told him in a gruff voice he didn’t plan on dying anytime soon.
He thought they had years together. That despite Jim’s desire to throw himself into life-threatening situations, he would always find a way to keep Jim’s heart beating. He never imagined that when Jim did die, he would be up in sickbay while Jim was levels below trapped behind a door. In his darkest thoughts, Leo always figured he would be there the moment Jim died.
Spock had told him later, after things had settled and they were limping to the space dock, that Jim told him he didn’t want to make Leo watch him die.
Leo had punched Spock. He broke his hand because the Vulcan was a dense fucker because of the stupid gravity on Vulcan. Spock took it in stride and waited until Leo had regenerated his hand before he spoke in gentle tones. Something Leo didn’t think Spock was capable of. But then again, he didn’t think Spock was capable of killing Khan in a murderous rage either.
Apparently, Jim knew he wouldn’t make it, knew Leo would open that fucking door regardless of the hazard it would be to himself and Scotty and whatever engineers were around, and he knew the only way to say goodbye to Leo was through Spock because the green-blooded hobgoblin would remember every word Jim said.
It had taken Leo a long time to forgive Jim.
He couldn’t think about how he would feel when he saw Winona again because sooner than he realized, Joanna was on a shuttle to San Francisco and he was driving his hover car to the shuttle station to pick her up. The moment he saw her get off the shuttle he had to piece himself back together because he wasn’t going to let Joanna see him be a broken mess.
“Dad!” She waved excitedly at him, though there was a sadness in her eyes that he realized was her own grief about Jim.
Leo was determined to turn that sadness into joy, it’s what Jim would want. He wouldn’t want Joanna of all people to carry a sadness around inside of her over his death. Not when he died to save his entire crew, to save Leo so Joanna wouldn’t lose her dad.
“Hey, Jo.” He said as he swept her up into a bone crushing hug. She didn’t complain or try to push him away like she would have just last summer, instead, he felt her hug him back just as tightly. People passed around them, some stared, others walked on, either way, Leo could care less. After a few minutes, however, he needed to get them home so he pulled away and smiled down at her. “The shuttle flight okay?”
Joanna shrugged and gave him a small smile in return. “It wasn’t horrible.”
Leo chuckled and shook his head before he led Joanna to the hover car. They were silent on the way home and both of them knew what was missing. Last summer, silence had been a lost cause, between Joanna and Jim, Leo didn’t have a moment's peace unless it was early in the morning or late at night.
Neither of them commented on how Jim should be in the passenger seat, excitedly telling Jo where they had been in the galaxy and what they’d seen. They both felt his absence.
As they walked into the apartment building lift, Jo slipped her hand into his and squeezed his hand. Leo wasn’t sure if it was because she was afraid to walk into an apartment without Jim there or if it was to anchor him. He had a feeling it was both reasons.
Leo couldn’t deny that as they walked to the door, he remembered last summer. Flashes of the three of them walking down the hallway, of laughing till their sides hurt as they all tried to get through the door first.
When he and Joanna walked inside, she let go of his hand and immediately walked over to the mantle on the opposite wall. Among the many pictures placed on it, she reached for the one that was of Jim and Gaila in their Academy days. Leo couldn’t recall if that was in their first or second year, but the twist in his heart wasn’t as sharp as it used to be when he looked at it. He hoped, wherever those two were they were happy. Content.
“C’mon Jo, why don’t I make you some lunch, I’m sure you’re hungry.”
Joanna hesitated for a moment before she gently set the picture back down. “It’s gonna be okay, daddy.”
Leo didn’t have the heart to tell her that he doubted that very much.
“ Fuck .”
It had only taken them a couple hours to find where the natives on Gaia IV had kept Bones. In the long run, Jim knew two hours was a quick rescue. He had been kidnapped and held captive a hell of a lot longer than just two hours. However, Jim knew that just two minutes could feel like a lifetime when at the mercy of your captors.
As he looked down at Bones, who was strapped down to a surgical table, Jim felt anger. He was used to being the one kidnapped. He had the training for it. Bones should have never been on this table and the longer he looked at his best friend, the more his rage grew. He felt a firm hand on his arm and looked over to see Chapel looking at him, her mouth set in a firm line, eyes blazing with fury as well. Her fury anchored him, allowed him to push the anger into the back of his mind. They had to focus on getting Bones off that table and back onto the ship.
There was the quiet whirl of a medical tricorder and Jim came back to the present enough to see M’Benga checking how badly Bones was hurt. The security team paced the perimeter as M’Benga did and all Jim could do at this point was wait for the doctor to give him a nod so he could tell Scotty to beam them up to the sickbay.
“A lot of his wounds are -” M’Benga inhaled sharply, almost in confusion before he continued, “self-inflicted, sir. But some of these he couldn’t have done himself. There are also traces of a drug in his system.” He looked up at Jim and Jim stared back, fury barely in check. “He’ll make it, Captain. But I need to get him back to sickbay now to make sure none of these wounds get infected and so I can get a more detailed reading of his wounds.” As he spoke, he and Chapel unstrapped Bones carefully, their hands gentle but efficient as they held his limp body between them, careful not to make his wounds worse.
Jim didn’t need to be told twice. Almost immediately after the words left M’Benga's mouth Jim flipped open his communicator and spoke, “Scotty six to beam up. Kirk out.”
A moment later, Jim distantly heard Scotty’s “Aye, Captain” before the hell hole they held Bones at shimmered out of his view and his transporter room appeared.
The moment they completely re-materialized, the medical Ensigns rushed forward with a stretcher and Chapel and M’Benga put Bones onto it as they rushed to the sickbay. Before Jim could follow them, Spock swept into the transporter room. “Captain, Councilman N’vai would like to speak with you.”
If there was ever a time Jim would be so angry he’d see red - this was that moment. He had no doubt that the Councilman wanted to apologize profusely for the kidnapping of Bones, to do whatever he could do to make amends. But the fact of the matter was that Jim didn’t want to hear it for once. He didn’t care what N’vai had to offer. After today Jim wouldn’t miss this place. And he was sure that when Bones woke up he’d agree with Jim. But as Spock stared at him, Jim knew he was thinking as ‘Bones’ best friend’ and not the Captain of the Enterprise.
Schooling his features, Jim marched through the corridors and onto the bridge. Sulu immediately stood up from the Captain’s chair and slid smoothly back into his pilot’s chair.
“On screen please, Lieutenant Uhura.”
Before Jim could get a word in greeting wise, the Councilman appeared extremely flustered. His bioluminescent skin glowed a sickly green as he opened his mouth to speak, “Captain Kirk, you have my sincerest apologies for what happened to Doctor McCoy. The rebels who kidnapped him have been properly incarcerated and it is my greatest hope that our relations have not been permanently damaged because of this occurrence.”
Spock shifted behind him, slightly closer, and Jim knew Spock meant the movement as a gesture of keeping his temper in check. If he could have his way, they’d never let Gaia IV into the Federation but Spock’s movement reminded him that a band of rebels was hardly a cause for the Federation to deny them entrance. Especially when Starfleet wanted resources that only Gaia IV had. Plus, plenty of Federation planets have groups of people who don’t agree with what the majority want. Bones didn’t die. Injured and tortured severely yes, but he was alive.
So, with a slightly strained smile that only his bridge crew would be able to notice wasn’t sincere, he inclined his head. “I’m sure Starfleet Command will understand this oversight, you don’t need to worry, Councilman.”
Councilman N’vai’s skin abruptly changed from it’s sickly green to a more subdued yellow. “I am relieved to hear that Captain Kirk.”
Jim’s smile only felt more strained as he forced it to widen. “I will be sending Commander Spock down at 0800 hours tomorrow negotiate the treaty. After that Starfleet will send someone higher up to complete the treaty and welcome you into the Federation officially.”
“You will not be coming down tomorrow, Captain?” Councilman N’vai asked with confusion.
Once again, Spock shifted behind him and Jim knew that it meant Spock had not expected Jim’s words and once the conversation with the Councilman was over would demand an explanation. For now, he just nodded his head slightly, hoping it conveyed his deepest apologies he didn’t feel. “I’m afraid something rather pressing has come up that I need to attend to tomorrow.”
N’vai didn’t seem to like that Jim wouldn’t come down to the planet tomorrow, but couldn’t find a polite way to demand Jim rearrange his schedule. Not after what happened to Bones. N’vai knew he was walking on thin ice already. “I wish you luck with those matters, Captain. I look forward to working with Commander Spock. You are very gracious with your forgiveness, Captain.”
“Think nothing of it.”
They exchanged their farewells and to Jim’s relief a few brief moments later, the connection was cut. The smile immediately fell off his face and he turned sharply to look at Spock. “You have the conn, Mr. Spock.”
No one said a word as he walked into the turbo lift and rattled off the level that sickbay was on and for once Jim was grateful that no one pried, that Nyota didn’t waltz into the turbo lift with him and ask how he was doing. Honestly, he figured it was pretty clear that he was not okay. Not in the slightest. It was as though he was on autopilot and next thing Jim knew he was in sickbay and his eyes zeroed in on Bones. He felt sick to his stomach at how small Bones looked in that biobed. It was wrong because Bones wasn’t small, it was hard not to notice when he was in the same room with his loud voice gripping at reckless engineers or Jim himself. Bones commanded a presence wherever he went, that was for sure.
But as Jim looked at Bones on that biobed, he was quiet. Quiet, beaten, and small and it tore Jim to pieces looking at him. This shouldn’t have ever happened. Guilt swept over him harshly, crashed into him like a tidal wave and he couldn’t move another step forward despite how much he wanted to.
Christine appeared next to him, her eyes soft despite the hard features she wore. “He won’t need surgery, Captain. Doctor M’Benga has regenerated his most severe wounds. The less severe ones we’ll let heal naturally.”
There was a pause and Jim looked over at her. “What about the drug they injected him with? Is it still in his system? Do we know what it did to him?”
Christine seemed to hesitate, something that she rarely did. “Doctor M’Benga is running tests now. It doesn’t look good, Jim.”
And that’s what cemented Jim’s fears. Christine rarely called him Jim, and she especially never did while they were both on duty. The fact that she called him Jim now when they were, told him that things with Bones were likely to get worse before they got better.
If Bones got better.
No. He wouldn’t think that like, dammit. Bones never let thoughts like that cross his mind when he was patching him up. Saving his life when all the other doctors and nurses probably thought it was useless. So he wasn’t about to think that Bones won’t make a full recovery. Because he will.
He had to.
The first two days with Joanna were wonderful. His little girl seemed to make it her mission to get him to smile and laugh as often as she could. And most of the time it worked. Though Leo couldn’t stop the nagging feeling in the back of his mind that he was betraying Jim. That he had begun to move on with his life, began to forget Jim.
After Jo had fallen asleep on her third night there, Leo had walked over to the storage closet in the living room. The things that reminded Leo of Jim the most were kept inside. A few months after Jim’s death, Leo knew he had to pack up his things, but he couldn’t bring himself to get rid of them completely. They were out of his sight, but close enough for him to get to if he suddenly found he needed something of Jim’s. Tonight he opened the door, reached to the top shelf and pulled down all the holo-vids of him and Jim. His breath hitched when he came across their wedding holo and he knew he wasn’t ready enough for that.
Start small, he told himself. Start with memories that won’t hurt as much. Aw hell, who was he kidding all of them were going to hurt. And he wasn’t drunk enough for this. Probably could never be drunk enough for this. With Jocelyn, it was different. Leo watched, felt, and contributed to their marriage falling apart. It happened over weeks, months really. While his heart was broken and battered by the time Jocelyn served him divorce papers, he wasn’t surprised by it. With Jim, it hadn’t been like that. They had just gotten started. They had been happy, they had just started to build their life together. Joanna was around as often as possible whenever they were on Earth, Jim loved her and she loved Jim. They whispered to each other in the middle of the ship’s night that one day they’d try starting a family of their own.
There was danger yes, Jim got himself hurt more times than Leo could count. He feared every time Jim went down to some planet that he’d come back beyond Leo’s help. But they worked through their fears.
Leo didn’t see the end of their relationship coming. Didn’t see the end of Jim’s life coming. Not so soon at least. He always thought he could fix Jim up, save him against all the odds.
With a deep breath and a glass of bourbon in one hand, Leo pressed play on the first holo-vid that his hands grabbed. His heart jolted almost violently at seeing Jim’s smiling face again. It was from their Academy days.
Jim was wrapped up in his sheets, hair sticking up every which way, and a lazy smile on his face. “Bones, what‘re you doin’?” Jim asked, his voice thick and strained from the sleep and sex.
“Just capturing the moment, darlin’.” He drawled behind the camera.
Jim let out a snort as he pushed himself up, the sheets pooling at his hips. “If I knew you were such a ‘capture the moment’ guy I would’ve suggested us recording something more worthwhile.” He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively and Leo could hear himself bark out a laugh.
“We have plenty of time for that, Jimmy.”
Jim moved and the camera shifted suddenly, then after things settled the holo-vid showed himself, looking equally like he just had the best sex of his life (which he had) and a smile played at his lips.
“That may be true, but why not do it now? When we’re old we can get off on how hot we are now. Gotta keep things interesting, Bones. I’m just planning ahead you see.”
The camera shifted and the picture blurred as Leo pulled Jim in for a searing kiss and before either of them knew it, the camera stayed forgotten on the floor of his dorm room. Shortly after that, the holo-vid ended as he dumped Jim onto his bed, but not before he heard Jim whisper, “ My Bones, forever,” followed by a ragged moan.
Abruptly, Leo stuffed the holo-vid back into the box, shoved it back up on the top shelf, and slammed the storage door shut. He believed Jim that morning. Believed that they had forever. He had been swept up by Jim’s declaration, had let Jim continue to make him believe that he wouldn’t die until he was good and ready to when they were both old and gray and retired with hopefully great-grandkids running around their backyard.
It hurt to breathe.
This wouldn’t work. This plan that Jocelyn had. To have Joanna fix him enough that he could perhaps move on with his life. Maybe fall in love for the third time and for that time to stick. But if Leo was sure of one thing after Jim’s death, it was that he wasn’t meant to be happy. Not in the long run at least. Life teased him, dangled happiness in his face, let him sample it long enough to get lazy with contentment, and then rip it away from him.
His eyes burned with tears and his glass of bourbon was knocked over, forgotten. What angered him the most was that he could feel himself move on slowly and he didn’t want to. Tonight was a bad night, he knew that. While it’s been almost a year since Jim passed he realized that his bad days were less and less frequent. It took more to trigger these moments, he could look at the pictures on his mantle with a lingering sadness but the pain in his heart was considerably less.
As he opened his eyes, his gaze zeroed in on the silver wedding band on his finger. “Jim.” He croaked. “I’m sorry.”
Even when you don’t want to move on, life forces your hand. There are things Leonard McCoy, even with his stubbornness, couldn’t hold onto forever. James T. Kirk would always be the man he loved with every fiber of his being, but Leonard McCoy’s life would carry on despite the fact he’s gone.
He wouldn't be happy, not completely, but he’d move on. One day.
By the time M’Benga finished his tests on the drug and scans of Bones’ brain, Jim was off duty. He’d tried to stay with Bones the whole time, but Jim wasn’t meant to stay in sickbay for hours unless he was injured himself. Still, Jim felt a pang of guilt as he walked out of sickbay and away from Bones the first time. He knew Bones wouldn’t notice his absence, but Jim knew it was there. Knew Bones was alone. Well, not completely alone. Christine and M’Benga were there, testing him, checking his vitals, but it wasn’t the same as if he sat by Bones’ side.
He also knew that when Bones woke up he wouldn’t know how to look him in the eye and say he left him alone not once, but multiple times.
A rueful smile tugged at Jim’s lips. “You know not to call me that when I’m not on duty, Doc.” Especially not when Jim sat next to Bones’ beds changed into civilian clothes because the thought of wearing his uniform when he got Bones into this mess felt wrong. No. Not when he thought as a captain. Right now he needed to be just Jim. That onerary kid that Bones met on the shuttle in Riverside. Not Bones’ captain.
M’Benga paused a moment, looked at Jim with compassionate eyes before he continued, “Jim, the drug in Leonard’s system was meant to create potent hallucinations.”
Jim sat up straighter, his eyes sharp as he waited for M’Benga to continue.
“The drug in combination with the physical torture led Leonard to fall into a coma.”
“When will he wake up?” Jim asked before he could properly form the thought in his head. He certainly wasn’t unfamiliar with this, not when he’d fallen into a coma himself a couple times.
There was that pause again and Jim decided he didn’t like it at all. His temper flared, but he kept it in check. If he yelled at M’Benga it wouldn’t magically wake up Bones.
“There’s no way to tell, but I suspect no longer than a week. The drug damaged his synaptic functioning which is keeping his brain from entering a sleep-wake cycle, but we got him in time I’m confident we can regenerate the damage.”
Jim shook his head. “You said the drug and the physical torture are what caused this, but that only explained what the drug did to him.”
Another pause. “He was in extreme pain, sir. While none of his injuries were life-threatening, his captors knew human anatomy well enough to target the areas that would cause him the most pain without killing him. Our minds only have a certain amount of tolerance when it comes to pain, this tolerance can be built up of course if trained, but to an average person who doesn’t experience that kind of pain often, they eventually fall unconscious. The brain's way of relieving us of the pain for a while. Leonard fell unconscious while the drug was at its peak, which I fear only strengthened its effect because of the endorphins released.”
That rage Jim felt when they first found Bones escaped the recess of his mind in a bright haze of red. His fists clenched and M’Benga fell silent as he waited for Jim’s rage to get pushed back once again. After a few tense moments, Jim managed to do just that. “Keep me informed of his conditions at all times. If he looks like he’s about to wake up and I’m not here I want you to contact me immediately.”
M’Benga nodded. “Of course, sir. For now, though, there’s nothing that can be done. Why don’t you get some rest?”
“I will when he wakes up.”
Jim turned his gaze back to Bones before he could see the look of understanding flash across M’Benga’s face. The understanding that Bones meant more to Jim than just a best friend. As a friend to Leonard, he knew Leo was going to hate the way his and the captain’s feelings finally came to a tipping point.
“Of course, sir.” He said instead as he walked away.
Moments passed in relative silence. The only sounds that punctured Jim’s haze were the soft beeps of the biobed and the shuffling of the nurses and doctors around him. His hands were in fists on his lap and he hardly dared to look at Bones.
Jim jumped in his seat when he felt a hand rest on his shoulder, it took a moment to realize the hand was green and he looked up at Gaila with tired eyes. Her own eyes were sad as she sank into the seat next to him. “How is he?”
“Not good. He’s in a coma,” he replied quietly.
There was a beat of silence before, “When will he wake?”
“M’Benga thinks no longer than a week.”
Gaila moved her hand from his shoulder to his hand and gripped it tightly. “You should sleep, Jim. You know, Leonard wouldn’t like you staying up when there’s nothing you can do.”
Jim shook his head almost dejectedly. “Whenever it’s me that’s like this, I know Bones doesn’t sleep or eat until one of his nurses forces him to. So, I won’t go willingly.” He raised his eyes to look straight at Gaila, whose mouth was set in a firm line, but her eyes were soft.
“That can be arranged. All I have to do is go find Spock.” She threatened quietly.
He stared at her for a long moment and then let his shoulders sag.
There was a slight pang in Gaila’s heart when she saw it. Jim Kirk was only a man and she knew they were all guilty of forgetting that fact. “But that can wait a few more hours.” She amended and squeezed his hand.
Jim shot her a grateful glance before he moved his gaze back to Bones and watched the steady rise and fall of his chest.
Chapter 2: if i could just see you
Took me a bit, but I finally finished this chapter! The chapter kind of went a direction I wasn't expecting to happen so soon in the story, but it fits! Thank you for reading and as always this chapter has not been beta read. So any mistakes are my own completely!
“Leonard. Wake up.”
Slowly, Leo blinked to consciousness to look up into Winona Kirk’s eyes. As he realized this, he was suddenly very grateful that Jim inherited his father’s eyes because after last night’s fiasco with the holo-vids he doubted he would’ve been able to handle seeing Jim’s eyes all morning. “Shit.” He finally croaked. “How late is it?”
Winona gave him a small smile. “I came a little early today, so you’re fine. Though if you don’t get up soon you’ll be running late.”
Leo nodded and pushed himself up into a sitting position. “Is Jo awake yet?”
“No, but I bet she wouldn’t mind you waking her up to say goodbye before work.”
With a grunt, Leo nodded as he pushed himself up off the couch. His head pounded in tandem with his heart and his body ached everywhere. In retrospect, it wasn’t the worst hangover he’d ever had. No, that particular hangover belonged to his and Jim’s academy days. He had woken up confused, disoriented, and with the biggest desire to puke his guts out, it hadn’t helped he was wedged between Jim and Gaila with no memory of getting into his bed at all.
As he stretched and felt his bones creak and pop, he gestured around the apartment. “Make yourself at home”
There was an almost playful glint to Winona’s eyes as she replied with, “Believe me, Leonard, after how much time I’ll spend here I’m sure I will.”
The worlds made Leo freeze on his way to the shower and very vividly he could remember Jim saying similar words when he finally caved a couple weeks into their first year at the Academy and told Jim the same thing. And even though Jim would have denied it, he got far more from his mother than he realized. It made Leo chuckle and smile as he moved into the bathroom.
Thirty minutes later he was walking into the spare room that was Jo’s for the rest of the summer. Her brown hair was tangled across her pillow and he didn’t envy her brushing them out when she woke up. There was a little drool on her pillow as well and it made Leo chuckle again as he crouched down next to her bed. “Pumpkin, wake up,” he said as he gently shook her shoulder.
It took a few tries, but Jo’s hazel eyes finally opened, bleary and dazed for a few moments before she remembered where she was. “Mornin’ daddy. You goin’ to work?”
It amused Leo to no end that Jo sounded every bit like a southern belle when she first woke up or was tired.
So, he smiled and nodded as he ran his hand through her hair to hopefully get rid of some of the smaller knots for her. “Yeah, I’ll be back by three though so you be a good girl for Mrs. Kirk okay?”
To Leo’s amusement, all he got out of Jo was a sleepy nod before she drifted back to sleep. He kissed her forehead before he stood up and walked back out into the living room where Winona had a cup of coffee in her hands and one in a to-go cup for himself. “She’s a sweet girl. Jim would go on and on about her whenever we would talk,” she spoke as she handed him his coffee.
Leo hadn’t been expecting those words and jerked in surprise and perhaps a little bit of pain. “Jim,” he broke off, unable to form the proper words.
“Loved her.” Winona finished for him.
“He spoiled her rotten whenever she was here. Snuck her candy when I didn’t look, or let her pick what we’d do for the day and he let her buy whatever she wanted,” he said gruffly.
Winona just smiled and shook her head. “Sounds like Jim.”
For a moment, a smile broke across Leo’s lips as he grabbed his comm off the coffee table. “He would’ve made a great dad.”
The silence that fell after his words made Leo realize that Winona had outlived her husband and youngest son, made him realize that she wasn’t nearly as over Jim’s death as he thought her to be. “Yes,” Winona spoke softly, “he would have.”
Like every other shift since Jim’s death, Leo threw himself into his work and his patients. The guilt that gripped Leo when he saw the grief in Winona’s eyes as he left followed him around the whole day. He knew rationally, that he wasn’t to be blamed for triggering the grief in Winona. Rationally he knew her grief was a constant just like his own. She seemed to be doing okay with it until Leo had to open his big mouth about how Jim would’ve been a good dad. Regardless of how true and sincere his words had been, it still stung for them both.
Leo’s shift had been going as smoothly as was possible at Starfleet Medical. His surgery that morning went off without any major issues, none of his patients died, and his research was coming along right on schedule. It was such a routine day that at first, he didn’t notice Spock in his office as he breezed through it to grab the correct PADD for his research.
That, however, got his attention. Leo couldn’t forget Spock’s voice even if he wanted to. He froze immediately and turned to face the man who should be out in space and not in his office. “Spock?” he asked with confusion before he could stop himself.
The eyebrow Spock rose in response answered Leo’s question better than a ‘yes’ ever could. “I will refrain from stating the obvious to avoid irritating you in your current state.”
Well, that was uncharacteristic of him. Leo knew Spock enjoyed getting a rise out of him, even if the stubborn man refused to admit that he actually enjoyed a feeling. “What are you doing here?” he asked almost hesitantly.
Not that he didn’t enjoy Spock’s visit - it was just, sudden and Spock hadn’t even sent word he would be on Earth. It didn’t sound like Spock at all. There was a pause and Leo got a distinct feeling that he was being studied.
“I came to inquire about your wellbeing.”
Leo’s brow furrowed at the words. Spock had said them like he should’ve know that was the point to this visit, like he randomly popped in on multiple occasions to make sure the grief didn’t swallow him again. Except Spock didn’t do that. And they both knew it. “I’m fine,” he finally said, the confusion clear in his voice.
“I do not believe you are, Doctor. In fact, I believe your state of mind has worsened since my last visit,” Spock stated in that matter of fact voice that always grated on Leo’s nerves.
With a huff, Leo set down his PADD loudly and crossed his arms. “My state of mind is just fine like I already told you. Shouldn’t you be flyin’ around with Jim’s ship and crew?”
There was a flicker of an emotion in Spock’s eyes for the briefest moment, it happened so quickly that Leo couldn’t figure out which emotion it was. The fact that Leo even saw it made him wary of this visit.
“We are docked at Starbase 1 for some repairs, the crew is on shore leave until the end of the month.”
If Leo didn’t know any better, he would’ve said that Spock sounded almost hesitant in his response, as though it might have been the wrong one. Why on Earth Spock would think that, Leo couldn’t figure. Frankly, he just wanted to get back to his lab, work on his research and get home in time to spend the rest of the day with Jo. “Well, I don’t see why you’re wasting your shore leave to come and see me.”
This time there was no hesitance as Spock said, “Because you are a friend, Doctor McCoy.”
Leo couldn’t help the snort that left him at the words. Him and Spock friends? Yeah, it was true that towards the end, before Jim died Leo found he enjoyed his verbal spats with Spock on the Bridge and generally enjoyed the hobgoblin’s company. And as much as he wanted to hate Spock for being there for Jim’s last moments when it should have been him he couldn’t help but feel as though a piece of his old life stood in his office right now. “Jim isn’t here anymore, Spock. You don’t have to say that. He isn’t around to lock us in a room or in the lift until we get along,” he finally said after he composed himself.
“Please clarify, Doctor. What do you mean by ‘ Jim isn’t here anymore ’? Where has he gone?”
There was a shocked pause from Leo as he stared at Spock like he’d grown another head while out in space and M’Benga couldn’t fix him. Spock knew what Leo meant. Spock also didn’t ask questions that he already knew the answer too, not unless it was beneficial. In this case, it definitely wasn’t beneficial for Leo to answer the question. But he did anyway.
“He’s dead.” The lack of emotion in his voice surprised him, but he didn’t dwell on that now. No, Leo wanted Spock gone. He wanted the man to leave, to stop bringing up Jim, to stop trampling into a place that held no memories of Jim and pushing Jim’s memory in.
Again, there was that emotion in Spock’s eyes and yet again it didn’t stay long enough for Leo to figure out what it was. What he did notice though was the way that Spock’s eyes dropped to his ring, the one Jim put on what felt like a lifetime ago and the one that Leo couldn’t yet take off. “I must go, Doctor.”
And just as abruptly as Spock came back into his life, he left.
The week waiting for Bones to wake up was hell. Sure, Jim managed to do things as normally as possible whenever he was on duty and on the Bridge but he and the rest of the crew noticed Bones’ absence. There was no Bones in the mess hall yelling at Jim to eat more greens or else he’ll get fat and out of shape, there was no heated argument between Spock and Bones. Or well, heated on Bones’ end with Spock saying things that would set Bones off further.
Every day, Jim hoped it would be the day that Bones woke up. Every evening after his shift, Bones would still be asleep.
Day eight came and went. Nothing had changed.
“You said he would be awake by now.” Jim snapped tiredly at M’Benga. He knew he’d feel bad about it later. M’Benga had explicitly told Jim over the last seven days that he really couldn’t tell him the exact moment Bones would wake up. And Jim knew that. He knew that despite how far medicine had come, the brain was still largely a guessing game.
It didn’t make things any easier.
“Physically there is nothing wrong with, Leonard. The drug has worked it’s way out of his system by now, so medically speaking he should be awake, Captain but -”
Jim caught him off tiredly, “The brain is still something we don’t understand completely. Yes, I know.”
It was just over a week since Bones had been kidnapped and nothing had changed. For Jim, enough was enough. M’Benga as brilliant a doctor as he was (and he was, otherwise Bones wouldn’t have requested him) couldn’t fix Bones. So, Jim started to wrack his brain for other ways to wake Bones up. Unconventional ways. And when Bones woke up, he could yell at him all he wanted. Jim wouldn’t care because Bones would be awake .
Not even a day later, Jim had cornered Spock in his Ready Room. “Spock, I need to ask you to do something,” he started off. Spock just rose an eyebrow in response which fueled Jim on. “I need you to find out what is keeping Bones in his coma, I need you to do a mind meld with him.”
The silence that enveloped the room was nearly suffocating. Finally, Spock responded, “Without consent from the Doctor, I am not sure that would be a wise course of action.”
Luckily, Jim had prepared for that response. “I know, but if you had consent from his next of kin, you’d be more comfortable performing the mind meld correct?”
Spock nodded his head in response, “Correct, Captain.”
Relief hit Jim like a bullet and his shoulders sagged visibly. “Then I give you permission, Spock. Please help Bones.”
“Captain,” Spock spoke his voice almost gentle as he took a step towards Jim, “have you truly considered this? What you are asking me to do, is not without its risks. It is dangerous to perform on a mind that is alert and awake, to perform this on a mind that is comatose is considerably more dangerous.”
This Jim could deal with. Chances, taking leaps of faith, creating an option that works for him. So, he squared his shoulders and looked Spock in the eye. “I have considered all the repercussions Mr. Spock. You just worry about finding Bones and waking him up when you perform the meld.”
There was a pause before Spock responded, “Very well, Captain.”
There were moments in Jim’s life when he wanted nothing more to be alone. In fact, most of his teens and his early twenties were spent like that. Those moments were always fueled by anger, anger that he couldn’t control his life around him, anger at himself for being a constant fuck up, anger at his mother, his father, at Sam. Jim had gotten used to patching himself up, of empty roads with only the wind to howl in his ears.
But then Pike and Bones and Gaila and Nyota and Spock and his whole crew barrelled their way into his life. And suddenly he didn’t have to patch up his hurts and angers and insecurities by himself anymore.
So, Jim felt no shame as he leaned against Gaila for a moment as she slipped into the seat next to him. He was exhausted and Spock had performed the meld nearly a half hour ago. Still, Bones slept. “Did I make the right decision? About having Spock meld with Bones?”
There was that pesky insecurity again. It was no secret to anyone who knew Bones that the idea of Spock ever poking around in his brain made him uncomfortable. It was something Bones always protested Spock doing whenever they were away on missions. And here Jim offered Bones’ mind up to Spock without any real hesitation.
Gaila was silent for a few moments before she finally spoke, “I think he won’t be too happy about it when he wakes up. But, he’ll come to realize that you did it out of love for him. He knows you wouldn’t do this unless you were running out of time or ideas.”
It was true, what she said and he knew it. Jim could only justify keeping Bones on board with no sign of waking up for so long. He knew if Bones didn’t wake up soon, the Admirals would order him to make M’Benga his CMO and head back to Earth so that they could move Bones to Starfleet Medical until he woke up. If he woke up.
Before Jim could respond, Spock came out of the meld. Immediately Jim’s focus shifted to Spock completely and then to Bones as he waited for the man’s eyes to flutter open. But they never did. “What happened?” he asked as he turned back to Spock.
Spock didn’t answer him right away. The silence that followed nearly oppressed Jim into a blind panic, but he reined himself in. He had more control over himself than that. Finally, however, Spock spoke, “Doctor McCoy’s mind has created an alternate reality that he believes is real. He gave no indication that he thought the reality was in fact fake. It appears his mind shut itself away to protect the Doctor from the drug that was administered to him while held captive.”
For a moment, Jim thought that Spock had finally grasped the concept of a prank and that his timing was fucking awful. But Spock didn’t correct his error and Gaila looked up at the bright ceiling cursing softly in her native tongue.
He wanted to ask Spock what that meant, but Jim was smart. Hell, he wouldn’t even have to be a genius to figure out what news had just been delivered to him. Whatever that drug did, it was determined to keep Bones in that coma forever. “There’s got to be a way to wake him up,” he finally spoke. It surprised him how steady his voice sounded, but now that he had a reason why Bones was still in that coma he felt a steely determination settle over him. Once Jim knew the problem, there wasn’t anything he couldn’t fix.
Of course, fixing Bones’ brain wasn’t exactly one of Jim’s areas of expertise by a long shot. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to try.
“I do have a possible solution, Captain. However it is only a theory and I cannot guarantee it will work,” Spock spoke up.
Before Jim could speak, Gaila already locked her sharp gaze onto Spock and spoke, “Well, out with it already.”
Spock’s lips tightened only slightly at Gaila’s tone before he continued, “The reality that his mind created, he is under the impression that he did not think to save you with Khan’s blood and you are therefore dead, Jim. I believe with proper meditation I can link your mind to the Doctor’s, acting as a bridge between you two. If you can convince him that you are very much alive there is a chance that once he becomes aware that he is dreaming, it’ll snap his mind back to its proper state and he will wake up.”
All Jim managed to take away from Spock’s theory was the fact that Bones thought he was dead . The sharp twist in his heart sent a startled gasp right to his lungs before he managed to compose himself and process everything Spock had said. It helped that Gaila next to him had gone off in her native language again, her tone laced with anguish at the thought of the reality Bones was trapped in. At least he could live vicariously through her until he had a moment alone and could break whatever the fuck he wanted.
“Have you ever done that before Spock?” he asked, voice still steady as he raised his blue eyes to Spock’s dark ones. After almost three years of working together, Jim could tell that Spock was just as unhappy with Bones’ shitty situation as the rest of them.
There was a slight pause before Spock answered, “No, I have not. Before we attempt to perform the meld, I will need to consult with my father. He will have more information on how it is done and the risks of it.”
Jim nodded almost absently, his mind raced as it tried to figure out a way to tell Bones he was dreaming. Actually, that wouldn’t be the hard part and Jim knew it. No, that particular bit would be trying to convince Bones that his reality wasn’t well, reality . Bones was a downright stubborn man when he believed in something wholeheartedly. And based on how Spock spoke about this alternate reality, Bones really thought he was dead. “Report to me as soon as you finish speaking with your father. I want to do this as quickly as possible.”
Spock tilted his head slightly in acknowledgment. After another moment he began to move out of the Sickbay since there was no more use of him here for the day. He paused next to Jim on his way out. “I should mention that in Doctor McCoy’s new reality he believes that the two of you were married. There is a silver wedding band around his finger that he fiddled with when he saw me. Goodnight, Captain.”
In his shock, Jim didn’t process the Sickbay doors sliding open with only the softest hiss as Spock left.
Married? Bones thought they were married ? As if this whole situation hadn’t been one curveball after another, now Spock dropped that into his lap? It wasn’t that Jim was repulsed by the idea of being married to Bones. No, surprisingly, that didn’t bother him at all. It was the thought of Bones trapped in a reality thinking that his husband was dead. Jim knew how deeply Bones loved, remembered vividly the aftermath of Jocelyn and the loss of being able to Joanna every day. He really hoped he was wrong though, that Bones wasn’t as bad as he imagined him to be.
There was a gentle hand on his face, a hand that forced his eyes to rip away from Bones and up into ones similar to his own. A large part of Jim wanted to push away Gaila and just deal with this shit on his own like he did for so many years. But then Jim knew even if he tried Gaila knew him almost as well as Bones did, she’d track him down once she felt he had enough time to himself and make him talk about shit.
Which is the last thing Jim wanted to do right now. There were too many new elements laid out on the table that Jim couldn’t even begin to process let alone talk about.
“Come on, let's go down to engineering. I need your help with something. But don’t you dare break anything, Jim. Or I’ll hand you over to Scotty myself.”
Bones was Jim’s best friend in the whole universe, but Gaila came in at a close second. He smiled at her gratefully as he rose from his seat. It pained him to leave Bones right now, but he’d just torture himself if he sat there with all the new information rattling around in his brain. “Now that,” he spoke as he threw his arm around Gaila’s shoulders briefly, “is insulting. I’d never hurt my darling lady.”
His joke felt hollow considering the circumstances, but it was like he reset to a default setting. False bright smiles and hollow words to get through inner turmoil. If Bones was awake he’d smack him upside the head and tell him to stop running from his problems. Blue eyes shifted back to Bones - if only it was so easy to fix this, Jim would have woken Bones up as soon as he found him on that fucking planet.
‘Please hang in there Bones,’ Jim thought desperately as the Sickbay doors slide shut behind him.
Leo tried to brush away the surprise of Spock’s visit before he went home, he really did. But Spock had shaken the foundation of his new life and left before he could fix it. Though it wasn’t like the foundation of this life was stable anyway. He stayed in his office for another five minutes before he cursed under his breath and knew he wouldn’t be getting anything useful done now. He secured his research and logged in his notes for the day before he bid everyone farewell.
At least Jo would be happy that he was coming home an hour early today. Maybe they could go downtown, view the historic buildings, and grab an early dinner. That sounded pleasant enough, a good way to get Spock off his mind. As long as Leo steered clear of the bars he and Jim frequented in their academy days there was no reason he and Jo couldn’t have a nice evening.
But fate seemed to hate Leo today because the moment he pulled into his parking spot he felt his heart stop. As if seeing Spock wasn’t bad enough but seeing Jim ?
Well, it looked like Jim from behind. The strong, familiar lines of his body, the blonde hair, and the yellow command shirt were all things that Leo strongly associated to Jim. And it wasn’t like this was the first time Leo thought he saw Jim in a stranger, but this felt different. It felt like he really was staring at Jim and not some stranger who just happened looked similar.
As though the man could hear his thoughts, he turned to look straight at Leo. Bright blue eyes were confused and haunted as he looked at him. A pained noise escaped Leo because it was Jim and fuck he was officially losing his mind if he was seeing his dead husband . He was frozen in his seat as he watched a dead man move to walk towards him. Leo chanted a silent ‘no, you can’t be here. Go away, you’re not really here’ in his mind as he stared wide eyed at Jim. But before he could reach Leo’s car, Jim vanished.
A shaky, but relieved sigh left Leo’s lips as he pressed his forehead to the steering wheel. He wasn’t going crazy. No. That was just his exhaustion. All those holo-vids made him wish he could see Jim again and his brain in its exhausted state supplied him with what he wanted. That’s all that was.
He was not losing his mind.
San Francisco. He is on Earth not on the Enterprise. The apartment building was sleek and modern. Bones lives here? There’s a flicker of curtains, he sees Joanna’s face. Mom? They’re gone before he can do or say anything. He doesn’t notice the hover car behind him. But he feels shock, he feels like crippling over at the pain in his heart. All he feels is confusion as he twists around and there he is. Bones, Leonard, oh god there’s Bones. Move just move get to Bones. Gotta tell him this isn’t real. Wake him up. Ignore the shock on Bones’ face. Just -
Bring him home.
Jim came out of Bones’ mind abruptly, like he had been shoved from it violently. Winded he clutched onto the biobed as he regained his bearings. Spock had said that he would be disoriented when he first entered Bones’ mind and when he left it.
“What happened?” he finally asked once he felt like he caught his breath. His eyes were sharp as he raised them to Spock’s.
If Spock was in the presence of anyone but Jim, they wouldn’t see the concerned dip to his eyebrows and worried posture. (Except Uhura of course, she understood how Spock worked better than Jim ever could hope to.) “Doctor McCoy’s mind,” he paused which frustrated Jim, “to put it bluntly, forced you out.”
It was like a slap to the face really, that Bones’ mind reacted that way to him of all people. Yeah, Jim knew it was a huge breach of privacy what he was trying to do, but he had hoped that maybe because it was him doing the digging around in Bones’ mind that there wouldn’t be any or very little resistance. It seemed he was wrong.
Spock had warned him that each mind was different, they reacted differently to the presence of another. Bones was such a private person that Spock suspected that performing this specific meld would be met with resistance. He had told Jim as he placed his hands on their psi points that the first attempt would likely be brief. All the information that his father had given Spock could only prepare him so much, Spock and Jim would have to navigate the rest on a trial and error basis.
Jim’s first question had been if the constant melds on Bones would harm him, would mess up his brain in some way, but Spock had reassured him it wouldn’t.
He had a feeling that, maybe for once, Spock had lied.
This was one long roller coaster and fuck, Jim didn’t like it one bit. He’d been in horrible situations before this. Some Bones knew about, other’s he didn’t. But what it boiled down to is somehow his ability to handle shitty situations intricately involved Bones now. Every time Jim had a problem over the last six years, he went to Bones. Every time he just needed to get out his aggression, Bones was right there on the other side of the punching bag and sometimes Bones actually sparred with him.
“Bridge to Captain Kirk.”
Uhura’s voice ripped Jim away from his thoughts, from Spock’s calculating gaze. Quickly, he reached over and answered Uhura’s comm. “Kirk here.”
“Sir, we received our new orders from Admiral Archer. I sent them to your PADD as well as Commander Spock’s.”
Jim had expected this honestly. They’d been sitting at a starbase for the past week and a half while the Enterprise underwent some repairs and upgrades. But they wouldn’t stay here forever and after Spock’s news just yesterday, he figured they’d have to leave before Bones woke up. And it seemed he was correct in his assumption. “Thank you, Lieutenant. I’ll be on the Bridge shortly,” he replied as he disconnected the comm.
Sure, he wasn’t technically on duty again until the Alpha shift but there wasn’t any harm finishing out the Beta shift to go over the new mission parameters. Plus, it would take his mind off things and help him avoid a lecture from Spock that he really should read them more thoroughly.
“Well Spock,” he began as he turned to look at the man, “you heard her. Let’s go see if it’s gonna be a milk run or something actually worthwhile.”
Honestly, Jim wasn’t sure which he preferred. On the one hand, the distraction of a high stake mission would definitely take his mind off Bones’ predicament. But on the other hand, if things went south and he got hurt well he’d be fucked. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust his life with M’Benga because he did and he had on a few occasions, but he always knew in Bones’ hands the bastard wouldn’t give up on him until he was back in one piece so he could bitch at him for being an absolute idiot.
Spock opened his mouth to retort but seemed to think the wiser before he merely nodded and rose from his seat. “After you, Captain.”
Every time Jim left Bones it got a little easier to hear the swoosh of the Sickbay doors closing behind him. No. Not easier. God, it could never get easier to walk out those doors with Bones still trapped in his coma. No, it just became more routine . And that thought scared him more.
In the silence that fell in the Sickbay, no one heard the soft murmur of “Jim” from Bones before he fell silent once more.
Chapter 3: with a broken heart, transformation begins
I know it's been like wow three and a half years since I've updated this story and that we've had a whole new Trek movie come out since then. I'm really sorry and I know that's kind of meaningless but I really am. I had said almost a year ago now that I'd work on this story again and it didn't happen, which I know, I suck. Unfortunately, my life hasn't really had a lot of high points or calm moments since my last update. My motivation to write anything, even Trek, was -100% most of the time. And honestly, when I did have the motivation I'd look at this story and feel so guilty for not posting in such a long time and as a result, this story became a pit of anxiety for me.
But I'm here now and decided to say fuck it because I really want to finish this even if it's just for myself. So I hope you enjoy this update and the ones that follow it. Also, I have edited the previous chapters! There weren't any major changes, mostly just fixing typos and grammatical issues.
For those who read this when I first posted it almost four years ago, I love you and I didn't forget about you and thank you for being so patient - this update is for you <3
In the aftermath of Khan’s attack, Leo wasn’t the only one who left the Enterprise. Carol Marcus couldn’t shake the events of that day any better than Leo could. Between the betrayal and death of her father, it left her shell-shocked in the aftermath. He couldn’t blame her, but she was a strong woman and bounced back from the event quicker than he could ever dream of doing.
The first month or two after the attack, however, Carol had been his partner as rage and grief tore through them both. A partner who quickly turned into a friend. While the rest of the bridge crew left once the Enterprise was refit, left him to wallow in his seemingly never ending grief, Carol had stayed. Not solely for him of course. If she had, Leo would’ve sedated her and shipped her off to the Enterprise himself.
It hadn’t been easy for Carol once her father’s actions came to light and she quickly learned that it didn’t matter she had no part in any of it, her name had been tainted. Starfleet had been left to scramble, to try and do damage control. After all one of their own went postal and nearly let loose a bunch of genetically engineered superhumans into the galaxy and since Marcus was dead, Carol was the next person they could make an example out of.
“Leonard. Really, I’m okay with it,” she had tried to reassure him once Starfleet had assigned her to a weapons research team at Starfleet HQ. “They honestly could have done so much worse.”
He bit his tongue because she was right. It didn’t matter that Carol should be promoted for helping take down Khan, it didn’t matter that she should be in charge of the weapons research team, or that she should be visiting new worlds and learning all she can about their weapons and applying their knowledge to her designs. None of it mattered because Carol was Marcus’ daughter and she had to lay low in Starfleet for a couple years while the interest in her father and his crimes calmed down.
A year down the road and somehow Leo let Carol drag him out to the same little cafe near Starfleet Medical every Thursday for lunch.
“What’s bothering you?”
Leo looked up at Carol wearily, his PADD forgotten as he sighed. She was too smart for her own good sometimes, observant and clever. If Jim had survived Khan’s attack, Leo had no doubt that he would’ve all but demanded she joined them. He also knew when he was cornered and Carol’s sharp blue eyes pinned him in his seat.
So, all he did was heave another sigh and set down his coffee. “Spock visited me on Monday and when I drove home I saw, hallucinated Jim standing outside my building in his Captain’s uniform.”
Carol was quiet for a long moment before she spoke, “Did you start having those nightmares again Len?” Her tone was quiet like she was scared she would set him off.
All Leo did in response was let his shoulders sag as he rubbed a hand down his face tiredly. “No. I haven’t had one in a couple months now. Though I did watch a holovid from when we were in the Academy last night. That didn’t end well.”
There was a pause as Carol gathered her thoughts and it made Leo want to squirm under her gaze, but he refrained because dammit he was a grown ass man, he would not fidget. “Maybe your mind is trying to give you a way to say goodbye since you couldn’t do that when Jim actually was dying. It’s something that’s bothered you ever since Len, so I don’t think you’re crazy.”
The tension he didn’t realize rested on his shoulders released and he sat back in his seat. “I feel crazy though. I have been pissed about not being allowed to say a proper goodbye,” he said with a shake of his head.
“Maybe you should request a few days off. Lord knows you have enough paid leave to practically take a short sabbatical if you wanted. Be with Jo, take her to the places you guys used to go with Jim. You can’t keep hiding from the memories Len,” she said as she picked up her coffee and took a sip.
Leo hated to admit that she was right. If anyone could get away with telling him what to do about his grief it would be Carol. She had to work at Starfleet HQ for crying out loud, the same place her father worked day in and day out before everything went to hell. He knew she had memories in almost every corridor of her dad or ran into someone who had once been very close to him that would dredge up memories without any real thought to her state of mind.
With a sigh, he ran a hand down his face before he looked at her again. “You’re right and I hate you for it,” he said gruffly.
Carol laughed which pulled a smile from Leo’s lips, “I know, I love you too. And you’re paying today.”
Leo shook his head but flagged down the waiter regardless. “Of course darlin’,” he drawled.
The hairs on the back of Leo’s neck stood up and he whirled around when he heard his name, but Jim wasn’t there. Not that he had really expected him to be, but it sounded so real that a small part of Leo had hoped.
That was the worst part, the hope. Ever since that damn hallucination the other day Leo was torn between wanting to see Jim again and wanting to never be confronted with his death repeatedly. As it was, Joanna gave him a weird look for his sudden agitation. “Dad, you okay?” she asked almost timidly.
“Yeah, pumpkin, just thought I heard someone say my name,” he said with a shrug.
Joanna didn’t seem to buy it and she narrowed her eyes for a moment before she accepted his vague answer. He hadn’t exactly been lying, but he wasn’t about to tell her he thought he heard Jim say it. “Okay,” she said with skepticism clear in her voice.
Leo just rolled his eyes and swung Jo up onto his shoulders. “I’m fine, stop your worrin’,” he said as the weaved their way through the crowded streets. It seemed everyone had the same idea today, to enjoy downtown shops and the market and Leo was more than annoyed by it, but Jo seemed to enjoy the different kinds of people that walked through San Francisco so he tampered the emotion.
“Bones, wake up, please .”
He slammed his eyes shut when he heard Jim’s voice again. I’m not crazy, dammit. Leave me alone.
“I should remind you Captain that with Dr. McCoy currently unable to carry out his duties as the ship’s CMO that in the event of you sustaining life-threatening injuries while on mission your chances of recovering fully drop twenty-two point six eight percent,” Spock said in his ear and Jim was sorely tempted to literally swat his First Officer away. “So I would advise against your usual brand of heroics to get us out of our current situation.”
Most of the Enterprise’s missions didn’t end with Jim half-dead as he was beamed back up to the ship, usually, they entailed treaty negotiations, observing a newly discovered M-Planet or sitting out in a new nebula so that the scientists on board could gather data.
This time though, the Admirals had given them a warning that the planet they were about to visit had hostile natives who would likely not welcome the sight of Starfleet officers.
Jim just didn’t expect them to wait until they were about to beam back up to the ship to leave to attack.
So, he shot Spock a glare as he gripped his phaser tighter, “I am aware, Commander,” he snapped.
Spock’s eyebrow rose in response and normally Jim would find it hilarious and a certain kind of accomplishment, but today was not a day for that. Not when Jim just wanted to get onto the ship, check on Bones and drink a couple glasses of Bones’ favorite bourbon to wash down the bitter taste in his mouth. So he stayed quiet as he figured out a way to stun the natives and allow Spock to disable the signal jamming device. Spock didn’t say a word at his lack of teasing words, instead, he looked at the two security officers and three science officers to ensure they were all relatively calm and uninjured.
“Okay, so I count four of them,” Jim murmured as he dropped back down safely into their ditch that currently hid them all away. But he knew it wouldn’t cover them for long and he was sure if he asked Spock, his First Officer would give him the exact approximation of when they’d be discovered. “Lieutenant Henson how’s your aim?” he asked as he shifted his gaze onto the red shirt officer next to Spock.
The Lieutenant grinned. “I’m still a top marksman sir,” he answered.
Jim nodded, lips set in a firm line as he listened to his gut. They could do this, they were spread out the four natives, but if he and Henson were quick enough then they could stun them and get the hell off of this planet.
“Captain, you are assuming their physiology will be susceptible to the effects of our phasers, we have encountered six species over the last two point six seven years that were unaffected. The likelihood of this species-”
“Spock, just trust me,” Jim interrupted quickly. He didn’t need Spock causing him to doubt his decision.
To Spock's credit, he didn’t continue and likely didn’t because he calculated Jim’s acceptance of his words to be less than ideal and well, Spock wouldn’t be wrong in this instance. Hell, he was rarely wrong, but Jim wasn’t about to admit that right now. So, he looked over at Henson and nodded and sent a little prayer out to whoever listened to let this work.
“On my word,” he said.
Henson nodded and gripped his phaser tighter and with one last deep breath he said, “Now.”
“Len would be shocked,” Chapel said as Jim walked into the medbay. “You came back from a mission with hostile natives and you didn’t wind up seriously injured. I doubt he’ll believe any of us,” she continued with an amused grin.
Jim snorted and plopped down onto the chair beside Bones’ bed. “Yeah, well we’ll just have to give him Spock’s report then. Though I did rip my shirt, so it wasn’t a total success,” he said.
Chapel laughed and pat him on the shoulder. “I don’t think he’d know what to do if you didn’t come back with at least a few scratches and a ripped shirt, he does like his routines after all.”
Routines. Yeah, Jim knew that better than anyone on board this ship. Bones was an eccentric roommate during their later academy days and Jim learned that he didn’t like surprises, he liked to grumble and bitch at Jim for every little thing because it gave him a comfort. So, even though Jim really didn’t get seriously hurt as often as Bones claimed, the routine of his post-mission check usually gave Bones enough to grumble about for it to be familiar.
Which meant Jim knew Bones would hate this, would hate how long he was stuck in this coma. He was the doctor, he was the Chief Medical Officer and to relinquish both of those things always left Bones feeling like he didn’t have a place anymore on the ship. Which was ridiculous, but Jim knew better than most the insecurities that one tries to bury deep down because it’s better than dealing with them.
“Yeah, he does,” he finally said but as Jim came out of his thoughts Chapel had left to go check on another patient.
Spock arrived about a half hour later, which was sooner than Jim had anticipated but he was grateful for all the same. He hovered just behind Jim’s right shoulder and it was the closest thing that Spock would ever come to hesitation. “Are you ready, Captain?” he asked.
“Yeah,” he said softly as he felt Spock’s fingers on his face and watched him reach towards Bones’ face. God, Bones was going to kill him for letting Spock do this, but it seemed like the only way to wake him up was to make him realize that nightmare he was trapped in was just that. Nothing M’Benga did or could do would drag Bones back.
Which meant Jim would have to do it himself, even if meant Bones came back kicking and screaming.
Leo had done his damn best to keep calm when Jo had pointed Jim out in the crowd who promptly disappeared, but he knew his daughter was far too smart for her own good and knew that her dad was pretty shaken by the sight.
She had been quiet the rest of the evening, ate dinner without a complaint when he piled green beans onto it and went to bed without whining that it was summer and she was a big girl who could stay up late like adults. It seemed she just knew that Leo needed to collect himself in some peace and quiet, so she had just kissed him on the cheek, murmured a quiet, “G’night daddy” and left him to his thoughts.
Eventually, Leo had made his way to his room and onto the bed that held more memories than anywhere else in the godforsaken apartment. He was too sore from carrying Jo to sleep on the couch again so into the bed he usually tried to avoid he went.
He didn’t dream anymore, which sometimes was a blessing and sometimes a curse. It usually depended on Leo’s mood when he woke up how he felt about the black voice that awaited him every night. Tonight though, tonight Leo was damn grateful he wouldn’t have to see Jim’s face when he slept too. It’d give him some damn peace.
Leo would have gone on ignoring Jim’s voice if the bed hadn’t dipped like his husband was actually in the room. His eyes snapped open and sure enough, there he was in that stupid gold shirt looking at him like Leo was a timid animal about to run off.
This was not what he needed right now, he was too damn exhausted to claw his way back to sanity. Fake Jim seemed to take it as an invitation to climb fully onto the bed and lay on his side so that Leo couldn’t look anywhere but his face. “Darlin’ I don’t have time for this,” Leo whispered.
“You have to make time then Bones because I need you to wake up so I need you to listen to me carefully,” Fake Jim said.
Leo snorted at the words. “I’m awake, Jimmy so I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Fake Jim shook his head sadly. “No, you’re not. This isn’t real, you aren’t in San Francisco Bones. You’re on the Enterprise and I can’t keep you on it much longer if you won’t wake up.”
Anger swelled up without much warning, though honestly, Leo shouldn’t have been too surprised because he could hold onto a grudge for the rest of his life if it came down to it. “Don’t. You don’t get to haunt me and tell me that this isn’t real,” he snapped. “Not you Jimmy, because you didn’t let me say goodbye and I’m still pissed at you for it.”
Fake Jim seemed shocked by the words but finally managed to say, “Didn’t let you say goodbye? Bones what are you talking about?”
God, Leo wished this hallucination of Jim would stop saying his name like that. “I had to find out you died from Spock and openin’ your damn body bag! You coulda had Spock comm me, coulda had me come down and gotten a proper goodbye. I know you were afraid I’d open that airlock but dammit, I’m a doctor and I would’ve know...would’ve accepted it even if I didn’t want to. I just wanted to say goodbye to my husband,” his voice grew in volume and in the back of Leo’s mind, he hoped that Jo didn’t wake up and come in to see him yelling at thin air.
Tears leaked from his eyes and Leo didn’t even bother to wipe them away, they were familiar now even after all this time. “If I couldn’t save you, Jim, then you could have given me the courtesy of tellin’ you I love you and that I wouldn’t ever love someone the way I love you.”
“Bones,” Fake Jim’s voice cracked and Leo swung his gaze back up to the face he had refused to look at and saw Fake Jim’s eyes had filled with tears. It only made his anger worse because what right did Fake Jim have to feel his despair? “I’m not dead, you can still tell me that, you just need to wake up.”
“Dammit Jim!” he yelled. “You are dead! I’ve spent the last year tryin’ to accept that! I buried you in Iowa next to your daddy and have that stupid flag they give to widowed spouses buried in the closet, so don’t tell me you’re not dead when I was the one who had to put you to rest.”
This seemed to aggravate Fake Jim who lurched forward on the bed and grabbed Leo’s face in his hands. Leo tried to jerk back because he shouldn’t be able to feel this because Jim wasn’t actually here, but Fake Jim’s hands felt like real Jim’s hands and Leo wanted to lean into the touch just as much as he wanted to pull away.
“You saved me,” Fake Jim breathed and Leo must be going crazy if he thought he felt Jim’s breath on his face. “You used Khan’s blood to bring me back, said I was barely dead even though I knew you were lying. We’re out in space right now on our first five-year mission and you were kidnapped when on planet and they gave you some drug that has you trapped in your own head. There’s nothing wrong with you, no reason you can’t wake up but you won’t because you believe this is real and it’s not. So wake the fuck up Bones.”
Fake Jim’s anger was like a punch to the gut and Leo couldn’t handle this anymore. Couldn’t handle the false words, the words he wished were his reality but they weren’t real. They weren’t. So Leo shoved Fake Jim with enough force to dislodge his hands on his face. “That ain’t true even though I wish it was Jimmy, Spock killed Khan and I never used his damn blood on you. Now. Leave. Me. Be.”
Fake Jim looked pained but whatever Leo did seemed to work because he faded away until he was left alone in their room, left alone with only the ghost of Jim’s memory in their bed.
Leo wanted to scream but he couldn’t with Jo in the other room so he pressed his face into a pillow until he drifted off into a blissfully blank sleep.
It was a good thing he was in the medbay because there was no stopping him from punching one of the walls near Bones’ biobed when he came out of the latest meld. Spock just stood quietly behind him and Chapel walked over to him like he did this every day.
“I take it this try didn’t go well?” she asked him calmly as she regenerated the broken skin on his knuckles.
Jim took a deep breath as he sat back down in the chair he occupied before Bones oh so kindly shoved him out of his head again. “He’s so damn stubborn Christine,” he said quietly. “I don’t know what will convince him.”
Chapel just patted his hand as she finished mending his skin. “If there’s anyone on this ship that can get past that, it’ll be you, Captain. Just have some patience.”
His shoulders slumped at her words and before he could say a word, Spock beat him to the punch. “The Admirals have stated that Dr. McCoy can only stay onboard the Enterprise for eight more days with no sign of improvement before we must deliver him to Earth so he may be monitored in Starfleet Medical.”
A quiet settled over the three of them and Jim had to curl his fingers into fists to keep him from losing it again. After a few moments, he nodded his head before he stood. “We will try again tomorrow Commander. Please let me know if anything changes Lieutenant,” was all he said before he made his way to his quarters.
Right now Jim couldn’t stand to be around anyway, not when Bones dropped that kind of emotional bomb onto him. Could it be that whatever drug he was exposed to made Bones think he was in love with him? From what M’Benga seemed to understand of the drug, it didn’t plant desires and fears, rather enhanced the ones that were already there. The drug wasn’t complex enough to do more than force Bones into a coma and seemingly keep him there.
So. That had to mean Bones really was in love with him.
Jim had buried those feelings years ago, had managed to figure out how to live with the idea that Bones would never be more than just his best friend and now that part of himself he locked away was cracked wide open.
As the door to his quarters slid open, Jim didn’t even bother to do more than just kick off his boots before he fell into his bed, fingers curled around the blanket tightly. How many times had he been tempted to kiss Bones’ senseless when he said something that was meant to be gruff and deter any normal person away, but Jim found affection in the words? How many times did he want to stop the turbo lift and push Bones against the wall and have his way with him?
It wasn’t just about the sex either, that’s what terrified Jim the most. Because he also wanted to wake up and see Bones’ hair sticking up every direction possible and his hazel eyes slowly waking from whatever dream he had. He wanted to spend summers with Joanna and gang up on Bones with her and tease him mercilessly.
“Goddammit Bones,” he muttered.
After a few hours, it was clear he wouldn’t get any sleep and as the ship slipped into the gamma shift and most of the crew were likely in their quarters Jim pulled on his boots. He couldn’t bring himself to go back to Bones’ bedside, couldn’t bring himself to look at the man he was causing pain to, even if it was unintentional.
The observation deck was clear of crew members and Jim sighed in relief at that as he made his way over to one of the many benches that circled the room.
His solitude didn’t last long, however, when a familiar green hand gripped his shoulder tightly. “Jim,” Gaila said quietly as she sat down beside him. “Spock told me the last meld didn’t go well, I’m sorry.”
Even though a big part of Jim wanted to be left alone, he couldn’t bring himself to send Gaila away. Not when meant well, not when she knew him almost as well as Bones. “I’m the reason why he’s stuck. If I hadn’t been such a coward...if I had just told him how I felt he might be awake already.”
Gaila didn’t say a word, just sat there quietly beside him as he processed. “He loves me.”
“I’ve been telling you both for years just admit that to each other,” she said softly and Jim couldn’t repress the flinch at her words. It seemed like their feelings were obvious to everyone else, but not to each other. They were both idiots it seemed. Idiots who loved each other, but idiots all the same.
“Denial is a strong emotion as well, but I’m sure good will come out of this. He’ll wake up and you two can talk about everything. You two deserve to be happy and it’s unfortunate something this extreme was what it took to open your eyes, but it’ll be okay Jim,” she said, tone still soft as though anything else would break him apart.
“I hope you’re right,” he said quietly, eyes filled with passing nebula’s as he leaned against Gaila.
This wasn’t a situation Jim could fight his way out of, he wasn’t in control no matter how much he wished he was. Bones had to do the hard part and Jim was terrified because of that. He stood witness to the aftermath of Bones’ divorce and it hadn’t been a pretty sight, even though the man knew it was coming.
In that stupid fake reality, Bones hadn’t seen his “death” coming and Jim feared he would be worse.
There was no Starfleet training on how to convince your best friend that you were alive and well and that they had a whole wide future to figure out what the fuck they meant to each other and what they wanted to do about it.
But even that future was slipping away rapidly.
“I don’t want to do this without him.”
“I know Jim."
Chapter 4: and just like that, i believe in ghosts
First, I just want to say thank you so much to everyone who left comments on the last chapter. You guys are so wonderful and amazing and your understanding has meant the world to me. <3
Also, even though I began writing this story shortly after Into Darkness came out I've decided to add bits and pieces of canon we got in Beyond that would make sense to add. So don't be too surprised if it's not strictly pre-Beyond canon. Enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“How many times have you seen him?” Carol’s voice was quiet but Leo swore it echoed. Jo left a few days ago, the end of summer had come far too quickly and now his apartment felt hollow again. Carol being the great friend she was deemed it necessary to crash land into his space and interrupt the quiet.
He couldn’t be more grateful, even if she did bring up topics he didn’t want to talk about. Still, he answered her anyway, it was the least he could do since she decided to spend her day off taking care of his sorry ass. “Only six or so times sporadically over the summer,” he said. “He seems more real every time Carol...I must be goin’ crazy.”
There was no immediate answer and Leo peeked a glance at her. She seemed deep in thought, as though she held a Ph.D. in psychology and was trying to form a diagnosis. It was an amusing sight, he had to admit. The first one he’d seen in a long while. “I don’t think you are, Len,” she said. “You’re far too present in the moment and the visits during the day have pretty much stopped yeah? Which makes me think you’re likely dreaming all of it and seems pretty normal when you’re grieving and missing someone.”
He shifted so his back rested more comfortable against the couch as he stretched his legs out on the floor in front of him. “But what about those two times I did see him during the day?” he asked and hated how small and frail his voice sounded.
Dammit, he had to pull himself together. It’s been a year and a half already.
“Probably just exhaustion. You weren’t sleeping well before Joanna came to visit,” Carol shrugged out of the corner of his eye as she tucked her legs beneath her.
Leo snorted at this and rolled his eyes. “I haven’t been sleeping that much better,” he said.
“But still better all the same.”
And that was that. They moved onto different topics, Leo mostly asked how her work was going at Starfleet HQ and if she wanted to go back out into the black, maybe even on the Enterprise. “Spock would take you in a heartbeat, no matter what that hobgoblin says, Jim, respected you and with him as captain now he needs a good science officer to take his place,” he said.
Carol smiled at him affectionately before finishing off the last of her beer. “They are due for a shore leave on Earth by the end of the year and by then, well by then I think enough time will have passed. Maybe I will,” she replied. “What about you? M’benga would step down without questions if you wanted to go back. You know he never wanted to be CMO of that ship.”
“No,” he said quickly. Far too quickly for Carol not to raise an eyebrow and question him further. “No,” he repeated, forcing himself to be calmer. “I can never go back on that godforsaken ship. I’m barely keeping it together on the ground, I’d definitely lose it if I had to be up there without Jim.”
It must’ve been the tone of his voice that made Carol drop it completely. Of course, Leo knew he was hiding. Though really he wasn’t doing too good of a job because he and Jim lived in San Francisco before everything, even got married at the Academy because they were huge saps and it’s where they fell in love. But even though Leo wanted to hide from Jim’s ghost, he didn’t really want to forget him completely, could never do that even if he tried. So, he cautiously walked around the city and HQ always prepared to be assaulted with memories that would amplify his grief. Thank god Jim never had to be carted into Starfleet Medical, otherwise, Leo would have been certifiable by now.
They chatted for a few more hours, just enjoying each other’s company but eventually Carol had to call it a night and left him alone to get a grip on himself.
“Jesus Bones, have you grown another liver?”
Leo only sighed as he stood up and collected the scattered beer bottles around the living room. Earlier in the summer, he would’ve ignored Fake Jim, but by this point, he knew it would be futile. Fake Jim was just as annoyingly persistent as real Jim. “No Jimmy, I had company over,” he said without looking at Fake Jim.
There hadn’t been much more talk about Leo being in a dream and this not being reality, though he wasn’t dumb enough that he didn’t notice that Fake Jim was just being subtle about it. Fake Jim would go on about all stupid mundane things that happened on the ship, how Chapel had an equally bad bedside manner that rivaled his own, how M’Benga was exasperated by all the shit that he had to put up with as acting CMO while he supposedly slept.
Fake Jim was trying to be direct by being indirect as if the longer he talked about these things as though they were facts that Leo would believe him.
He no longer jumped at Fake Jim’s touch and he hated himself for it. For some reason it felt like he was cheating on Jim with this apparition of him, even though he knew well and good that Jim would want him to move on, quoting some stupid shit like the third time's the charm. “I have four more days to wake you up, you’re really gonna push your luck on this aren’t ya Bones?”
Fake Jim’s hands held his for a moment before he pulled the beer bottles out of his grip and threw them away. The domesticity of it all made him want to throw up but he allowed it to happen because he was a goddamn addict to these moments of insanity now.
“There’s no luck to push Jim because again, you are dead and I’m just losin’ my mind. Pretty soon they’re gonna throw me in the psych ward and let me live out my days imagin’ you,” he said quietly. “Imagin’ the way you feel when I touch you here.” It had to be the alcohol that made him step into Fake Jim’s space and let his hands fall onto his hips. “Imagin’ the way your pulse jumps whenever I kiss you right here,” the last two words were punctuated by a soft nip at the hollow of Fake Jim’s neck. It had the desired effect because his breath hitched beneath Leo’s lips.
“Bones,” he rasped and Leo smiled against Fake Jim’s neck. “God, I really need you to wake up now because fuck I want you to do that in reality, our reality, not this stupid one you made up.”
The words were enough to shake Leo free of whatever hazy spell he found himself under and the familiar flash of anger caused his grip to tighten on Fake Jim’s hips as he pulled his head back to glare at Fake Jim right and proper. “You’d when I’m hallucinatin’ my dead husband he wouldn’t try to piss me off every five minutes,” he growled.
“I’m not dead!” Fake Jim shouted. “And I’m not your husband!”
Those last words were like a punch to the gut and sent Leo reeling backward until the back of his legs hit the couch. Fake Jim’s face cleared of his anger and his expression shifted to something more of horror and regret as he approached Leo slowly. “Bones, I mean, that’s the truth. I’m not your husband, but we... I can be if you just wake up. All of this that you’re grieving over, we can have that if you just believe me and -”
Leo slammed his eyes shut the more Fake Jim spoke and when he opened them he was alone.
Even though he was gone Leo knew the words he was going to say.
“Captain, I must insist that you rest for a day before we continue attempting to wake Dr. McCoy from his comatose state,” Spock said as they came out of what must’ve been the tenth mind meld.
Jim just shook his head. “We don’t have time for that Spock, we’re only three days away from the Admiralty forcing me to drop Bones off. And that’s just not an option.”
Whatever Spock heard in his voice must’ve been enough for his first officer to drop the matter. Though Jim knew the discussion was far from over, he had won at least for now. “Very well, Jim,” Spock said and Jim didn’t have the energy to look up and decipher the look on his friend’s face. “Please attempt to rest in the meantime, I will need time to meditate so I can reinforce the shields on my mind. I will meet you here after our shift tomorrow.”
And that was that apparently as Spock turned and left the Medbay.
Jim knew he should rest, should try to get some sleep back in his quarters but the memory of Bones’ lips on his skin, when they were in his mind, was far too fresh and dredge up far too many feelings all at once. So, with a shaky sigh, he went back to his quarters, changed into loose clothing and ran. His crew thankfully were not unaccustomed to seeing their captain running through the corridors in civilian clothing (they knew something was wrong when he had his uniform on and that’s when fear would set in) so they did not blink when they saw him dart past them.
It took longer than it should have for Jim to realize he had a partner and when he turned his head just slightly he saw Hikaru running just a few steps behind him. Neither of them said a word and Jim couldn’t be more grateful. How the hell he lucked out on such an amazing bridge crew, he would never know. Ever since Bones was captured, they all just seemed to inherently know what was expected of them and what Jim needed before he realized it himself.
Jim guessed nearly two years in space together day in and day out would do that.
Finally, when Jim’s body began to protest from the constant pace he began to slow down to a walk. Hikaru, of course, didn’t miss a beat and fell in step beside him.
“How do you do it?” Jim asked after he caught his breath.
His pilot was silent for a few moments and Jim got the feeling it wasn’t just because he needed to regulate his breathing back down to something normal. “If you’re asking me how I manage to be on this ship when my husband and daughter are light years away, then I can’t really give you an answer,” Hikaru finally said with a shrug. “I still roll over in my bed and expect Ben to be there, some mornings are better than others, but I miss him every day and I suppose knowing I get to see him during shore leaves that are close to Earth make the bad days worth it.”
Jim was thrown by the raw honesty that was shown to him, but it helped soothe some of his anxiety. He wasn’t a fool, he knew the likelihood of waking Bones up in time wasn’t in his favor and he had been trying to prepare himself for staying on the Enterprise and leaving him behind. It wasn’t the same situation that Hikaru found himself in, Ben was his husband, Bones was his…
All the same, it soothed some of his anxiety. “How long has it been since you’ve seen them?” he asked.
Hikaru didn’t miss a beat as he said, “Six months and two weeks, sir.”
Jim took a deep breath and let his head fall back as they rounded a corner. “Six months since our last shore leave huh? I’ll just have to fix that,” he said.
“Hikaru what have I told you?”
“Jim, you don’t need to do that. I knew when I signed up for this that I may go a whole year without seeing them in person, maybe even longer.” Hikaru said with a small shake of his head.
Jim shrugged. “True, but if I can do something about it so you and the other crew members don’t have to do then I will. Starfleet owes us pretty much for the rest of our lives for saving Earth from Nero and exposing Admiral Marcus, so an extra shore leave here and there well that’s the least they could do,” he explained.
Hikaru didn’t seem too placated so Jim gripped his shoulder as they walked down the corridor where their quarters were located. “Bones may just my best friend,” the word twisted his heart painfully but he kept his face carefully neutral as he spoke, “but I hate that I can’t talk to him or have a glass of bourbon with him after a bad mission and it’s only been about a week. So I can only imagine it’s worse for you and the other crew members who are married.”
After a moment Jim added, “We may find ourselves back on Earth in three days anyway.”
Without needing more Hikaru seemed to understand why they all knew the protocol about patients who showed no improvement and that they didn’t have a place on a starship that needed to allocate its resources towards the crew members who were on active duty. “I’m sorry Jim,” was all he got in response before Hikaru nodded his head and slipped back into his quarters.
As Jim walked into his own, his body didn’t give him any other choice but to get some sleep after he took a sonic shower and threw on some boxer briefs. And when he dreamed of Bones awake, sprawled out next to him in bed with his hair tousled from sex looking happy and content Jim wasn’t sure if it was a blessing or a curse.
“You’re gettin' to be really annoying kid,” Leo growled as he rolled over in his bed to face Fake Jim. He had expected some kind of retort so when he was met with silence his mind cleared of its morning fog. Fake Jim looked like shit as he stared at Leo with eyes that were filled only with grief. It was enough to startle Leo into an upright position, one Fake Jim mirrored.
With a hesitation that Fake Jim had never shown before, he reached out to grab Leo’s hand in one of his own. “Bones,” his voice cracked in a way that made Leo’s heart fill with pain.
It was instinct, a pure instinct that Leo blamed on the fact he had only been awake for barely two minutes that he pulled Fake Jim into his arms tightly. Fake Jim, of course, didn’t complain and tucked his head into the crook of Leo’s neck. His hands gripped the light gray t-shirt Leo wore tightly.
And it was an instinct that had been repressed for over a year that had Leo pulling Fake Jim’s face into his hands and searching those too blue eyes for a sign that he had to hypo someone’s ass into a deep sleep for the next five years. Instead, all he continued to see was familiar grief and he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was the reason Fake Jim’s eyes looked like his whole world fractured apart. “Today’s the last day,” Fake Jim finally said. “We arrive at Earth tomorrow morning and I’m going to have to transfer you to Starfleet Medical and leave you behind. Bones, please don’t make me do that and just wake up.”
It had been a mantra over the last several months, words that filtered through Leo’s brain even when he wasn’t hallucinating Jim saying them. Leo wondered if those two words would ever leave him alone, would give him peace instead of torment.
“Jim,” Leo sighed as he pulled away.
This seemed to shove whatever grief Fake Jim felt into the dark corners of his mind because he was up in a flash, so quick that Leo barely had time to register the bed feeling suddenly cold. “Don’t ‘Jim’ me Bones,” he snapped.
Angry Jim was someone that Leo could deal with, so he squared his shoulders and glared right back at Fake Jim. “I don’t know why my brain can’t seem to accept your death but it’s really starting to piss me off because just a few months ago I thought I was actually makin’ progress with movin’ on!”
A frustrated sigh escaped Fake Jim’s lips as he ran a hand through his hair roughly. “Bones, I’m not -”
“Stop it Jim!” Leo shouted already knowing what Fake Jim was about to say. They were the same words that haunted him ever since the hallucinations started.
Fake Jim shifted as if he was about to fade away into nothing as he usually did whenever Leo found himself incredibly angry. But a look of fear and desperation fell over Fake Jim’s face and he lurched forward to grab Leo’s face firmly which brought him into sharper focus than before.
“Leonard. You are trapped in your head. I am alive. You saved my sorry ass for the hundredth time. You’re on the Enterprise right now and we’re all waiting for you to come back.” Jim paused, suddenly hit by a wave of fear and grief and despair as he looked into Leo’s eyes. “I need you to come back, Bones. Please.”
It’s as if the whole world froze the moment Fake Jim said his name, his real name, not the nickname that had been bestowed upon him on that godforsaken shuttle so many years ago now. Jim had never called Leo by his name when he was alive, and it didn’t make sense that Fake Jim would suddenly call him by it now.
Fake Jim must’ve seen some kind of clarity flicker across his face because he stepped forward confidently and pulled Leo’s face into his hands with an ease he hadn’t had in months. Leo opened his mouth, but didn’t yank away from the touch, “Jim?”
Jim nodded his gaze firmly on Leo. The room around him began to blur like he was losing his vision but Jim’s face stayed in perfect clarity so that couldn’t be the case. It didn’t make sense at the very least. Jim must’ve noticed too because he actually smiled, the one Leo craved to draw out of Jim when they were alone in their quarters. “There you go Bones,” Jim murmured.
Images began to filter through, ones that didn’t make much sense. A tribble purring back to life, grief shoved back by blinding hope as he yelled at Nyota something about Spock and Khan, Carol placing Jim into a cryotube, Jim dead, still dead but he didn’t tear apart his Medbay, taking Khan’s blood without a snide remark, hours and hours spent creating a serum that would work, Jim’s heart beating for the first time in days and finally his too blue eyes opening, searching and finding Leo and saying his name. His stupid, stupid name.
None of it could be true, but even as Leo tried to cling to what he thought was sanity, all the memories of his life after Jim’s death were out of his reach.
Relief and joy spread across Jim’s face and before Leo could react, he was pulled into Jim’s arms. “Thank god. You're lucky I love you and your flair for dramatics.”
Leo stiffed as Jim pulled away with a blinding smile and completely unphased as the world completely faded to nothing around them.
And he did.
There wasn’t enough time for Jim to feel relief, to watch Bones’ eyes open for the first time in a week because M’Benga and Chapel were there and they pulled him away so they could get to their patient. Spock must’ve predicted he would want to step forward into the flurry of action because Jim felt his strong grip on his shoulder.
“You must let them perform their job, Jim.”
He didn’t want to stand still, but he found himself unable to move as Bones’ eyes fluttered open and his brow dipped in confusion. Jim watched as Bones opened his mouth to speak but only found stiff coughs lodged in his throat. Chapel gently placed a glass of water in Bones’ hands and he saw the remaining strings of coma slip from Bones’ mind as he recognized where he was.
Finally, after what felt like ages, Bones’ eyes landed on him. He wasn’t sure what he had expected to happen, but it wasn’t Bones looking away after a few seconds.
Spock had pulled him far enough away that he couldn’t hear exactly what was being said between Bones, M’benga and Chapel since they all spoke in hushed voices. Likely because Bones couldn’t speak any louder, even if he wanted to. Jim could only imagine how difficult it was for him to speak, he knew whenever he was out for just a couple days it was like he had swallowed sandpaper.
“You let the hobgoblin do what?”
Jim was tugged out of the Medbay before he could process the words that left Bones’ mouth. Confusion slammed into him first, if Bones remembered what happened during the melds then he wouldn’t have asked that wouldn’t have - but maybe the confusion hadn’t cleared completely, maybe it would take a little longer for the memories of the last few days to filter back into his mind.
At least, that’s what Jim hoped because he wasn’t too sure what he’d do if the alternative was that Bones didn’t remember anything. If he didn’t how the hell was he supposed to know for certain that Bones loved him?
Jim shook his head, of course, Bones loved him, but he hoped desperately it was the same way he loved Bones. “You can let go now Mr. Spock,” he said as he shrugged the Vulcan’s hand off his shoulder.
Spock didn’t protest. “Captain,” he began, “You require rest. The last week has been taxing on your mind and I am certain that Doctor M’Benga and Nurse Chapel will make Doctor McCoy rest as well.”
As much as Jim didn’t want it to be true, as much as he wanted to be back by Bones’ bed and explain to him why he did what he did and how it was the only option at his disposal, his body protested heavily against the idea.
Spock walked with him until they reached his quarter’s door and as he slipped inside he noted how his First Officer lingered as if he wanted to slip inside and make sure that he actually rested, not just laid in bed and stared out the window at the rush of space just outside his ship. And he tried, he truly tried to force himself to sleep and perhaps find a Bones there that had looked at him with relief in his eyes and a smile on his lips after he woke up instead of what really happened.
After he got tired of lying in bed, Jim pulled boots on and made his way back to the Medbay. If M’Benga or Chapel were on duty then he’d probably get kicked back out, but he hoped that they had decided to catch some rest now that Bones wasn’t in danger of being shipped off to Starfleet Medical anymore.
What Jim hadn’t expected was that Bones was awake and huffed out a noise of surprise when he met his friends’ gaze as he sat in the chair next to his biobed.
He wasn’t sure what to say, unsure of what Bones actually remembered so they sat there in silence for what felt like hours before Bones finally spoke, “How could you Jim?”
Jim bristled at the words, the accusation that was behind them. How could he? How could he not? That was the question that wanted to sneak past his lips, but he clamped down on the words quickly. Instead, he said, “I couldn’t let you stay in that coma forever Bones.”
It was the truth and while it was much more complicated than those simple words, Jim figured it was best to keep it at that - simple.
“But you know I would never want Spock of all people rummagin’ around in my head!”
Jim squares his shoulders as Bones shouted. An icy calm settled over him as he looked into his friend’s conflicted hazel eyes. “What do you remember Bones?”
“The last thing I remember before I woke up was someone putting a bag over my head and knockin’ me unconscious.”
Of course, of course, that was the case, that everything that happened in that drug induced coma was erased the moment Jim succeed. Because every one of his successes always came with a cost. And this time his gamble hadn’t paid off. Spock may not believe in luck, but to some degree Jim did and it was clear it had run out. “I won’t apologize for what I did because if it had been me in that bed, stuck in a coma for no reason, you would have done the same thing. And don’t say you wouldn’t have. I did what I had to do to make sure you didn’t get stuck in some backwater facility to wither away. I won’t do it Bones,” he said.
Bones’ face clouded with anger but Jim wasn’t met with more angry words, instead, Bones turned his face away. Jim knew a dismissal when he saw one and he rose from his seat. “I’ll take the hatred,” he whispered, “because at least it means you’re awake.”
There was only silence as he strode out of the Medbay.
I'm cruel I know ;)