Len didn’t know what he expected when he was with Jim, checking on Pike. He’s seen them interact more often than most over the past three years they’ve been at the Academy, but Jim laid sideways on a chair he’d moved to right beside the bed, legs thrown over one arm, back over the other with his head getting as close to Pike’s body as he could while the man’s hand was stroking through Jim’s hair while the younger man held a padd above his head, reading quietly out loud was something he was quickly becoming accustomed to while Pike remained in the Med Facility to get his physio.
“Good, you’re here,” Pike said when Jim finally reached a point in the reading to stop after having noticed Len stood, leaning against the door. “There’s something I need to discuss with you both.”
Jim took a few moments to right himself, Len wincing at the cracks his back made but still rolling his eyes - Jim wasn’t about to give up his prime position regardless of any physical discomfort.
“What is it?” Len knew it was somewhat important if he wanted both of them there since he usually just assumed (albeit accurately) that they would share any information given to just one of them.
“Jim, I need you to remember that while you’ve unofficially graduated, you still wear a Cadet uniform and, as such, your behaviour reflects on the Academy - even if they’re unlikely to actually punish you officially at this point.” Len raised an eyebrow, but he couldn’t help it. Jim rarely needed a genuine reminder to keep his behaviour in good shape because he rarely picked a fight himself in the past eighteen months.
It was obvious that this statement made Jim nervous, as he licked his lips before they tightened. “Right,” he answered tentatively.
“Phil came to me earlier and told me to check up on some of the records.” For a moment, Jim seemed extremely alarmed until Pike reassured him. “Nothing has been accessed from your records, so no worries there. It’s more about one of the ships which is coming back for debriefing after everything.”
“Just tell me,” Jim bit out, having grown more tense as Pike continued to speak.
“I’m sorry, Jim, but Winona arrives in a couple of hours.”
Len watched as Jim clenched his hands into fists, then proceeded to crack each of his fingers - a habit that Len honestly despised, but usually allowed since it rarely came out.
“What does this mean?”
“Absolutely nothing if you don’t want it to. I just wanted you to be aware that she’s going to be in the Academy grounds and it’s possible you’ll cross paths with her.”
“Then I just won’t leave my dorm,” Jim answers, indignant, jaw twitching involuntarily.
“I’ve told Phil to tell the brass it isn’t a good idea to have you guys together, but after the last time you blew up at them over her, I doubt they’re gonna try and force you to see her again. Still, they might push harder this time due to your...accomplishments, and new status as a hero.” Pike was clearly reluctant to be the one to deliver the news, and Len had a vague understanding that Winona wasn’t exactly the best parent to Jim, although he didn’t really know to what extent.
What he does know is that, the last time they tried to get Jim to do press with Winona about Jim following in his father’s footsteps, it resulted in two weeks of on-campus suspension and being made to repair some of the damage he had done to the tech and the room they’d been in - and he’d had to deal with Jim’s terrible moods that appeared until Winona was no longer on the planet.
That was six months into their first year. He doesn’t want to repeat the experience.
He knows that Jim has gotten a better control of his temper, but he didn’t know how much that patience would stand against one of the few subjects that Jim classed as Off-Limits between them - and this was the man who, when Len asked, gave extreme detail about his first experience with a man to reassure Len that he knew what he was doing when he propositioned Len. Len hadn’t wanted to know, quite frankly, and they’d spent so much time talking that they’d had to put off the experience for another night due to the fact that they’d have been late for various meetings if they actually were thorough about the experience like Len had wanted to be.
(It was worth the extra day’s wait to be honest, something Jim had been the first to admit the next night.)
“I don’t want to see her,” Jim’s words interrupted his train of thought.
“I know,” Pike answered. “But I wanted you both to know because you wouldn’t tell McCoy over there yourself, I have no doubt. And you deserved to know. That said, if they do try to force you, I suggest you take him with you.”
Jim managed to huff a small laugh, smiling genuinely, which Len suspects had been the goal.
“He can’t scare off the brass indefinitely.”
“But he could probably put Winona off at the very least,” Pike raised an eyebrow at Jim and Len raised one at both of them, finally watching Jim relax enough to feel better about taking him away.
“Come on,” Len interrupted, hating having to pull Jim away - but if he didn’t then the man would be there all night, and he needs to sleep in a proper bed and some adequate sustenance. “We’ve gotta go get you something to eat. I’m sure Doc Boyce will be by within ten minutes of us leavin’ Jim, he’ll be in safe hands that won’t let him grow bored.”
“Alright,” Jim answered reluctantly, leaning down when Pike motioned for him to as he reached up to stroke through Jim’s hair. “It’ll be fine,” Pike reassures, nodding at Jim, before motioning to Len himself. “Go on, go get something to eat.”
“I’ll be back bright and early tomorrow morning,” Jim tells him, causing Pike to groan fondly.
“Give it ‘til noon at least, not all of us are morning people,” he told Jim as Jim grinned at him from beside Len. It was what happened every evening they left by this point - Jim would threaten to be there before the sun even rose, and Pike would object to morning being ‘a thing’ when he doesn’t have anything other than paperwork to be doing, and then Jim would arrive somewhere around mid-morning to appease both of them.
“Believe me, he’ll still be here tomorrow morning for you to annoy the hell out of,” Len reassured.
“Bye Chris!” Jim continued grinning, bouncing on his toes slightly, waiting for Len to say his own quick goodbye before allowing the door to slide shut between them.
“Let’s get you some food,” Len said, unsurprised by the queasy look that Jim quickly acquired. “I know, I won’t make you eat too much.” Len put his arm around Jim’s waist, resting his hand on the seam between his shirt and pants, sliding his thumb back and forth on the strip of skin he had access to like this.
Phil was standing at the nurses’ station with a couple of boxes which seemed to make up some kind of chicken salad as they walked past.
Jim couldn’t help moving away from Bones towards Phil and slapping his hands on the other man’s shoulders. He tried to not pout when Phil didn’t startle at all.
“Hi Doc!” he grinned, and it grew wider when he heard the fond sigh. Bones went and stood beside them, leaning against the station.
“James.” Jim didn’t hold back the pout at this - he was the only person aside from Bones and Chris who he didn’t outright object to calling him his full name. And Bones only did it when he was really being irritating with lack of taking care of himself.
“Off to see the husband?”
“We’re not married,” Phil says back, and Jim just rolls his eyes as he steps back, allowing the other man to turn around to face him.
“Have you considered it?” This time it’s the elder man offering a roll of his eyes. “I just stopped by to say that Bones is taking me to ensure I get my nutrition for the evening.”
“Good, because you wouldn’t do it yourself.” It was Jim’s turn to roll his eyes.
“I’m not that bad.”
“Yes, you are,” both of the doctors replied, causing Jim to stick his tongue out at both of them.
“Whatever, I’ll be back tomorrow to see Chris again,” he told Phil, taking his previous place beside Bones, arm automatically going around his waist.
“I look forward to it. I’m sure Chris told you the news, so I’ll offer my condolences to Leonard’s sanity now shall I?” Jim sighed, rolling his neck, resting it on Bones’ shoulder.
“He’ll be fine - I didn’t even have to convince him to sneak me aboard the ship, he did that of his volition so,” he stuck his tongue out again and blew a raspberry; he was fully aware of his immaturity.
“I’m dating a child,” Bones muttered tiredly, but Jim could hear the fondness in his tone.
“Great, so we’ve found out that it’s contagious when in close quarters eighteen hours a day with you, I’ll be sure to warn Chris,” Phil smirked, barely holding back a laugh when Jim’s mouth dropped open in shock and indignation.
“Did you-?! Bones?! Did you hear that?! How- rude !”
“He probably has a point,” Bones shrugged, so Jim looked at him with betrayal in his eyes.
“I’ll see you tomorrow boys,” Phil said, taking his leave with the boxes of food to Chris’ room.
They both turned to leave once he was out of sight, Jim pouting up at Bones from his shoulder.
“You’re both so mean to me,” he jokes.
Bones looks at him with a sigh, indulgent look in his eyes despite the awkward angle, before leaning down to peck him quickly. Jim perks up at that as they exit the facility and towards the cafeteria despite the short walk of fifteen minutes they’d normally take to get there, if Jim’s head weren’t refusing to leave Bones’ shoulder, making it slightly awkward due to the barely-an-inch difference in their heights.
When they get to the main cafeteria, it’s mostly empty, thankfully, due to the later time.
Bones gets their food as Jim settles down in a corner to wait for him.
On his tray is a simple - and small - bowl of plain yogurt,a plate of apple slices, a glass of milk, and a spoon. There’s two bottles of water on Bones’ tray, which contains a bowl of pasta, larger than Jim’s entire tray probably, with some sauce that Jim doesn’t recognise.
Bones sits opposite him, silence stretching for more moments than strictly comfortable before Jim shrugs.
“I don’t know,” he answers. “I don’t want to see her, I don’t want anything to do but- at the same time I-” he trails off for just a few seconds. “I’m morbidly curious. Both about what the brass could attempt, but also: what I could get away with, y’know?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, last time they tried to put me in the same room as her, I got punished for what could be considered as throwing a tantrum. And that was without any real status, and because Chris and Phil both vouched for me that the behaviour wasn’t normal, only caused by them trying to get me to interact with her . But now, I currently have a better status than her. Yeah she’s been here longer, but her most notable thing that people properly remember her for is being George Kirk’s wife, and, yeah that’s kinda gotta suck in the way that being his son does I guess, but- she still doesn’t have much in the way of ‘I just saved this planet’ cred, you know?”
“Quite frankly, you lost me,” Bones admits readily - he’s not overly concerned with the politics of Starfleet unless it gets in the way of him treating his patients.
“Basically, they’re gonna want to keep me happy because I’m officially a Good Poster Boy, and not just a Good Model, that make sense?”
“So, what, you threaten to leave Starfleet if they try and force you?”
“I mean, I guess I could,” Jim shrugged, he hadn’t really thought about it. He also hadn’t though about the fact he was eating until he reached for another apple slice and there were none left on the plate, but there was still half a bowl of yogurt and his milk. “I don’t think I’d go that far though. I want to be up there, I’m too close to give it up now,” Jim said.
“Well I’ll be with you whenever we’re not in class so you won’t have to worry about being left alone to face them at the very least,” Bones said, causing Jim to smile; not his wide grin. This one pulled at his dimples more and only showed a small gap of his front teeth, eyes creasing in happiness.
Bones returned a small smile too, before encouraging him to finish his food. Bones still finished his food first, but Jim didn’t mind since he patiently waited, just drinking from one of the waters he brought over.
“Let’s go,” he said, once Jim had sat for five minutes after finishing his glass of milk, ensuring that he wasn’t going to throw up within the next five minutes just in case.
It wasn’t particularly chilly as they walked back to their dorm, but Jim still stayed close, enjoying the warmth that Bones gave off.
“Jimmy?!” A voice said, and it was male so Jim knew it wasn’t his mother, but it was still too high to be two of the three people who had called him Jimmy on a regular basis, so Jim knew who it was without even having to look at them and he knew Bones caught on when he stiffened within seconds of the voice, causing his shoulders to tense as well, gripping Jim’s hip tighter as they turned to face the person who called them.
“George,” Jim answered, and the man looked taken aback for a moment before coming closer towards them.
“It’s been a long time Jimmy,” he smiled, more confident than James thought he had the right to.
“Don’t call me that,” Jim snapped, unable to help it - he didn’t go by that name anymore, he stopped when he was thirteen and he watched half of the colony he was apart of die and had to become J.T, something that this person in particular wasn’t around for.
“Al right ,” George answered, clearly becoming more apprehensive by the second.
“What do you want , George?” he asked, fully aware that he was being harsh but this wasn’t his brother, this wasn’t his Sammy , because Sam abandoned him when he was eleven, leaving him with Frank of all people.
“I just- I heard mom was back on-planet so I thought I’d visit you when I came to see her,” was the answer.
“Did she ask you to come?” Jim tilted his head to the side.
“What? No, why would she ask me to come see you?”
“So why did you come and see me, George? I haven’t seen you in what, fourteen years? Haven’t heard a peep from you at any point, don’t see why you felt it appropriate to come and see me now of all times.”
“I- I just- it lined up Jimmy-” Jim growled. “Jim,” he corrects. “It lined up and I thought, why not?”
“I can give you a reason ‘why not’ ,” Jim said, using air quotes. “How about because I haven’t heard from you in over a decade, since the day you left, and I’ve moved on. I don’t want anything to do with you.”
Beside him, Bones shifted, placing his mouth at his ear. “Who is this?” Bones asked, and Jim almost felt smug, he almost laughed because of course Bones hadn’t known who he was, not really. George Samuel Kirk didn’t get nearly as much news coverage or recognition in the aftermath of George Kirk’s heroic sacrifice, unlike him , the Kelvin Baby , who was born in space, in the minutes before the Kelvin hit the Nerada.
Even then, most of the time he was mentioned as The Eldest Kirk Child . Unlike Jim whose name ended up in papers for months, was mentioned every year at various ceremonies for the sacrifice George had made.
“This is my... brother ,” Jim answered, though he was reluctant to. As far as he was concerned, his brother Sam died when the vintage car went over the quarry. “George Samuel Kirk.”
“Your brother ? “ Bones was almost incredulous. “You said you hadn’t spoken in over ten years, I figured cousin at best.” Bones didn't bother attempting to lower his voice, and Jim almost smirked again.
“I never said he was a good brother.” Jim looked George directly in the eyes at this, wondering if his words would hurt and felt almost manic when it was obvious they did. “Anyway, I have no need to speak to him for what I presume to be some kind of attempt at a publicity stunt or requesting me for one, and as such, I wanna go home.” He looked up at Bones pleadingly, and the man just nodded and began to lead him away with neither of them saying a word in farewell to the other Kirk.
When they were far enough away, Jim spoke again. “I bet he’s here for some kind of publicity thing Winona is trying to set up.”
“I’m not taking that bet,” Bones answered good-naturedly, before turning somber. “Anyway, I can kind of see why you’ve never mentioned him at any rate if you’ve gone nearly fifteen years without a word.”
“Yeah,” Jim sighs. “I checked up on him when I was, what, sixteen-seventeen? Just tracked him down via various databases - unlike me, he went through the legal pathways for everything.” Bones rolled his eyes at the implications Jim was making about himself. “It was easy to track him down. Anyway, he was on some colony planet I don’t remember the name of and-” Jim almost choked at the memory of overwhelming feelings he once felt at discovering the information. “He and his probably-current wife had applied for a marriage certificate.” Jim’s throat still closed up at the memory. It’s the first time he can ever remember getting drunk and crying - sure he’d been drunk before but he’d never sobbed into his bedsheets while being plastered before that night. Jim couldn’t help the sniffle that came out. “I was- devastated. I even waited, I waited for over a year before I accepted that he was never going to bother trying to contact me to even tell me about it, never mind invite me.”
They were almost at their dorm room, having just gone up the first flight of stairs.
“It really fucking hurt, y’know? Finding out. Because I was worried for him. Him ! As if he was the one to go through the shit that I did. He was fucking happy on a different colony planet when he left, going straight to our grandparents. Grandparents whom, might I add, would have been able to take responsibility for me too. But, no, he couldn’t take me with him.”
Jim didn’t know if he was more angry or upset at the memories, because while there were even more memories he refused to open, these weren't the worst ones that could have spilled out. He had given Bones full access to his medical background with Chris and Phil’s permission after two years of knowing each other and six months or so into bordering the line between friends and something more.
(It was a slow process, alright? And Jim had a lot to learn between the two points.)
Bones opened their door and led Jim inside, still silent and unable to decide how he was actually feeling. Easily a mix between the two if he had to guess, but which was more overwhelming? Well, he supposes he’d find out in the next couple of days.
Bones was silent as well, as Jim didn’t mind it when he took over to make sure Jim changed, barely acknowledging the movements that Bones was forcing his body to do. Not that they hurt or anything, but he didn’t think he could do it on his own right now so it was probably for the best.
“We’ll just go to sleep, alright? We can discuss it in the morning.” Jim doesn’t even know if he acknowledged the words as Bones laid him down on the bed that was technically Bones’ but it didn’t matter either way since they both crammed themselves onto the same bed no matter how impractical, more often than not at least.
Jim was asleep before Bones got changed in his own clothes to sleep in and slipped into bed beside him, unable to acknowledge the phantom kiss he knew was placed there - it was routine at this point.
Len made sure to wake him up when he woke up despite the fact Jim didn’t need to be up yet, more habit than the reassurance that Jim needed when they originally started, but it gives Jim some extra time when Len has his own early shift which starts before Jim’s classes, meaning he can do some recapping or extra research.
At least, that’s what Jim usually does - and still kind of does, since he usually brings an extra padd with him when he goes with Len, but he doesn’t work in the library since they arrived back on Earth.
Sometimes he stays with Len, and sometimes he goes to sit by Chris in the quiet before he has to go to class.
Today he seems more conflicted than he has before, so Len asks where he wants to be.
“I don’t know,” is the expected reply.
“Well, if they do come to the hospital for whatever reason then I can either be with you for some time and deflect, but then I don’t want them to involve you or make you a target like Winona might do, but if I go to Chris then it’s statistically more likely that they’ll have easier chance to corner me than if I’m moving around with you or staying in a room they won’t predict me to be in with you,” Jim explains, and Bones knows that Jim’s brain is thinking of other statistical probabilities at the same time, probably more accurately than just the vague possibility he gave to Len, and that his mind is moving faster than he could probably say out loud in a comprehending manner, so Len appreciates the layman’s terms in the meantime.
“How about I go with you to Chris’ room and do my paperwork in there before you have to go to your class. It’s unlikely that we’re gonna have many people in this early anyway - you know that by now,” Len offers, knowing it wasn’t the best solution but would likely make Jim feel the most secure - if not safe.
Jim contemplates, biting his lip, before nodding in agreement; walking ahead of Len while he collects his work before his shift fully kicks in.
Jim is reading by the time he gets to the room, but judging by his lack of concentration it’s either something he already knows, or it’s fiction. It isn’t something that Jim reads much often on his padd since he much prefers paper books, but it isn’t too surprising regardless.
Len commandeers the table usually used by Chris to rest his drinks and food on, but since it isn’t exactly in use right now, he sees no issue in stacking his padds on top for the meantime.
Occasionally Jim will read out a line he finds amusing or philosophical or ask a question regarding the subject he’s reading - The Picture of Dorian Gray, one of his favourites, but he always manages to find something new to ask Len eventually, since they’d already gone through “what would you do?” which was the most obvious thing to ask when they each started reading new books.
“I just find it fascinating!” Jim says, but it’s said as if he missed some of the context, so either he wasn’t paying full attention or Jim suddenly thought out loud in the middle of a thought.
“What’s fascinating?” Len asks, not bothered by an inability to continue his work since he’s more worried about keeping Jim calm and unbothered by possibilities which he could think up.
“Just- the context around the book.” Jim sounds frustrated, but Len knows it isn’t directly at him, so he isn’t bothered by it. They’ve already discussed this topic before, but it was in the beginning of their friendship, never mind anything more, so he doesn’t mind listening to Jim talk about it again.
“Oh?” It’s a mild prompt, but Jim smiles slightly as he puts his own padd to the side and sits forward slightly.
“I mean, just think about it! Dorian Gray was used as testimony in the trial against Wilde for acts of indecency regarding to homosexuality! It both fascinates and disturbs me! I do understand that it was a completely different time and whatnot, standards were different, everything was different with regards to prejudice and bigotry and what was socially acceptable, but just-” he sighs, one that Len is familiar with that usually comes with subjects which Jim finds educationally fascinating and wishes he could know more about. “Can you imagine writing a book over a period of time, published in chapters in a magazine before it was even a full book, which doesn’t even include sex with men - regardless of the amount of times he visits the brothel - and it being used as evidence that you’ve been having ‘indecent’ relations with men? I mean, don’t get me wrong, he did have relations with men, and was known for them at the time, but can you imagine a book you wrote being the thing to be used against you in court? They had to have it revised for actual publication due to the indecent scenes in the original version.”
Len simply sat quietly as Jim caught his breath, and he had managed to make himself smile brighter than he was before, and it was something that Len found amazing about him - the small things in the media of centuries ago that made Jim fascinated by them so much that he just smiled at the information he discussed with Len was such a calming feeling to Len.
Obviously it was no longer taboo or criminalised like it was in that time period, for the both of them, but it clearly doesn’t dampen the feeling of connection he has, knowing that there were people all these years ago that were just like him. Or slightly different. It didn’t matter to Jim, he enjoyed learning about it. Len remembers when Jim told him about the time he found out about The Band of Thebes when he was a teenager and bored but wanting to learn something from history and had freaked out over finding it, having an adrenaline rush that kept him awake for nearly forty-eight hours more than he’d already been awake.
Of course Len knows Jim takes in physics and maths and engineering like a sponge - honestly, most information he takes in like a sponge, but then so does Len when he cares enough about the subject - but Len had found the misplaced padd containing all the information Jim had saved (including his own, unpublished, academic arguments/thoughts) regarding Queer History.
Len can sort of understand why he had such a connection to begin with, what with being so restrained by Frank in his youth even if it wasn’t exactly in the same manner.
Still, watching Jim ramble about his thoughts regarding the topic was such a calming thing to Len, and he knew that it was something which calmed down Jim too, so he really didn’t mind since he could usually tune it out if he really needed to work - or Jim wrote everything out on his own so he could keep it to read to Len later when he wasn’t busy.
Len stopped staring at Jim in silence after a moment too long, before clearing his throat and answering what he knows to technically be a rhetorical question.
“I think that it would have been hard - but worth it, if I had you,” he says, and he lets a slight smirk slip onto his face at the blush which rises at the apples of Jim’s cheeks before he turns to the side, facing Chris, pout on his lips in what Len knows is a reaction to being sweet.
Jim likes sweet, of that he has no doubt, but he still becomes easily embarrassed by the sincerity of his words when Len speaks them, especially when they’re not in their room in the dead of night when they’re supposed to be asleep.
Jim’s padd beeped, and they both looked over to see the alert Jim set for when he should be leaving for class, causing Jim to sigh.
“Come on, I’ll walk you to the front of the hospital.”
Jim is fully pouting in upset by the time they reach the doors, and he watches as Jim takes a moment to breathe and then straightens himself.
Len waits patiently while Jim gathers himself before the man presses a kiss to the corner of his lips, and Len squeezes his hand in return quickly before Jim nods to himself and is out of the door with a glancing smile behind him.
Len works quickly and quietly for the most part before Boyce comes up to him while he’s filling out a form for a patient he had just seen.
“You need to be prepared.”
“That’s not unnecessarily ominous or anything,” Len comments, rolling his eyes at the same time.
The look Boyce sends him reminds him of the one he often gives Jim for unnecessary comments, but knows he fully deserves it.
“The crews are having their routine check-ups that arrived yesterday. Your name has been mentioned a few times.”
“Al right ?” Len raises his eyebrow, not knowing where the elder Doctor is coming from - he knows he’s one of the best doctors in the entirety of Starfleet, made obvious by how much he was requested even before their numbers were heavily reduced, although he knew he was going to go on whichever ship Jim was chosen for.
“You’re one of the primary doctors here even before...everything,” Boyce repeats his thoughts out loud. “I’ve filed that there would be a conflict of interest with regards to you checking over the Elder Kirk who arrived last night,” Boyce says, raising both of his eyebrows at Len for him to connect the dots.
“She knows my connection to Jim and wants to interrogate me?” Len groans.
“We won’t know for sure until she arrives and gives us an actual indication - bear in mind, Jim may as well have inherited a louder version of his father’s personality, so think the opposite of him for an idea of how Winona is - but it’s safe to assume that she’ll have heard what happened to say the least, whether she knows your involvement in getting him on the ship, or if you’re just his close friend.”
Len doesn’t know how he’s supposed to be reacting because he doesn’t know what possible outcomes could occur in this situation.
“While I’ve said that it would be a conflict of interest, it may be that you have to work on her regardless, especially if she specifically requests for you.”
“I thought only Jim could do that,” Len complains, not caring that it’s scarily close to a whine Jim may have no hesitation making in a situation not half as annoying as this. Maybe Boyce had a point regarding spending too much time with Jim…
(He wasn’t going to stop though.)
“That’s more that he simply refuses treatment until you’re there to administer it to him and it’s too much hassle for the staff otherwise and his pain tolerance is so high that he doesn’t mind waiting for you to come out of surgery. And if you’re not there then usually I am, and he trusts me as well, even if it just means I hypo him because your surgery is going to be six more hours and we can’t wait that long to treat him.”
Yeah, Len remembers the first time Jim came in while he was in surgery - he was in the middle of hiding a panic attack from a nurse and a doctor who were trying to get close to him before he dashed out of the room and damaged his broken hand worse when he refused to let go of the chair he was in until Boyce arrived - more coincidence than anybody actually thinking of getting him since it wasn’t usually his area anymore.
Chris had received the alert to his padd and despite being in the middle of a meeting, he sent off a message to Boyce so that he could take care of Jim since there were so few people that he would allow to get close to him in such a state. It was the first time Jim had been injured while Len was in surgery - even when he just got out, he made sure that they knew he was his patient, and if he was there before Len went to surgery, he’d put him in a room and hypo him until he could get back if it was serious enough to need time taken on him but not so serious to be an emergency - something which had only happened once while they were in the Academy, probably to the surprise of most students.
The day continued, and there were no emergencies so he shouldn’t be surprised when he was called by one of the nurses saying that a woman needing to be checked would only see him.
“Have you seen the note regarding conflict of interest? Can it not wait until another doctor is free?” he asks, making sure to glare at her slightly to ensure that she checked.
“Uh- Yes, I have, however you’re the only one currently free for the next thirty minutes and she has papers ordering her to be with the Admiralty by such a time,” she explains, looking down at her padd as if double checking, but he knows it’s because while he’s perfectly polite and gets along well enough with most of the staff, he still has a reputation.
“Fine,” he muttered, before taking the padd from her hands and going into the room she mentioned quickly. “Commander Kirk?” he checks, already knowing it was her when he walked into the room. “I hear you requested me despite the notation made on the file mentioning an issue of conflict.”
“Doctor McCoy,” she answers, straight-faced, nodding once in acknowledgement. “Yes, I did.”
“Why? I wouldn’t be here otherwise,” he says, even if it was a small lie.
“I would like to find out what kind of person my son is...consorting with,” she tells him, and Len can’t help rolling his eyes as he begins the initial checks.
“You mean who he’s friends with?”
“But that’s not all you are, is it Doctor?” she asks, clearly rhetorical, and he doesn’t see the need in answering her as he writes down the information as needed. “You’re the one who took him on that ship, despite the fact he was on Academic Probation.”
“And if I hadn’t, we’d all be dead,” is the blunt reply he offers.
“Oh of course,” she says it like it’s a joke.
“He’s the one who killed your husband’s murderer - his father’s,” Len feels the need to point out, feeling a grim sense of satisfaction at the annoyed face she pulls, strained as it may be. “Look, what do you want? You wouldn’t have requested me if you didn’t, don’t deny it, regardless of my actual ability as a doctor since any of the nurses could have done this just as easily.”
“You need to talk to James about meeting me for a discussion,” she says, unexpectedly straight-forward.
“No,” Len answers, just as easily.
“He must ,” she tries to insist.
“He doesn’t need to do anything except continue going to his classes and keep his behaviour in good shape until he officially graduates,” Len tells her as he finishes the forms needed. “You’re good to go, but I’d keep an eye on your blood pressure,” he tells her professionally before walking out of the room without looking back.
Boyce was walking down the hall from finishing with his own patient when Len looked down the hall, looking uncomfortable when he saw what room Len was exiting.
“What happened?” Boyce asked when he caught up to where Len was waiting.
“She requested me and a nurse said nobody was available before she had to leave.” Boyce rolled his eyes. “She tried to get me to talk to Jim about speaking to her, saying he ‘needed’ to, but I just told her to sod off,” Len explained.
Boyce grimaced before answering, “In more polite language, I hope?”
“I do still have respect for my job,” is all Len says before they separate.
Barely an hour later, when a new nurse had come on shift, he discovered that rumours were spreading already - apparently Jim had his own meeting with the Admiralty before Winona and they crossed paths. It wasn’t pretty according to rumours, but he also knew how much rumours could be exaggerated so quickly.
Jim still had at least an hour of classes to attend, but it wasn’t a surprise when he walked into Chris’ room two hours later to find him sat in the chair but laying on his forearms on Chris’ bed while the man read out loud to him. They both looked at him when he entered, but he waited for them to pause before walking further in and stroking a hair through Jim’s hair.
“What happened?” He wanted to hear about it from the source, since he knew that he would be able to pick out what was being held back or under exaggerated.
“Nothing,” Jim sighs.
“Not according to the nurses, and some of the doctors, and probably half the campus at this point,” which isn’t really saying much considering the recent tragedy that resulted in less than half of the Academy coming back to graduate.
“I just tried to ignore her as she continued to try and get a rise out of me and then- well, she grabbed my arm and I didn’t react well.”
Understandable that Jim would be able to keep his cool when it came to verbal confrontation, since that was what he had trained to do as a Captain, but even if he usually only mildly flinched when it came to physical contact, if certain people weren’t doing it then, yes, he did typically have a bad reaction. Especially if he isn’t anticipating it - initiating the touch is completely different for him, and he rarely trusts people to touch him when they catch him off guard.
“She started going on about how I shouldn’t have such a reaction to my mother ,” James scrunched his nose. “I said that it was a good thing that she wasn’t my mother then, which just caused her to talk about disrespect and whatnot, and it escalated from there.”
Len raised his eyebrows in expectation.
Jim sighs. “I told her if she had earned even a sliver of my respect then we wouldn’t be having the conversation at all, and then she was called into her meeting so I left.”
Len couldn’t help pinching the bridge of his nose in response.
“Okay, well, just try to ignore what people are saying.”
“The Admiralty have access to the abuse, but only select people only have access to- that,” Jim says. “So they probably won’t allow for us to be alone together. Or even in the same room if they hear the rumours.”
“Oh they’ve already heard them,” Chris interjects from his position where he had just been listening. “A couple think that therapy is needed but overall the agreement is to keep you away from each other.”
“That’s fine then.”
“There’s nothing to be said for the other people at the Academy,” Chris warned. “There’s nothing to say about what they might leak to the press. They won’t if they know what’s good for them, but there’s always somebody who’s willing to risk it.
“That’s great,” Jim sighs.
“We’ll deal with it,” Len assures him, as best as he can anyway since there’s nothing he could really do in the long term.
“I’m gonna have to anyway,” Jim groaned, a slight whine to it but it’s obvious that he’s more annoyed than playful about it.
“I know,” Len lays his hand on Jim’s neck, rubbing his thumb there in an attempt of comfort. “I gotta get back to work, alright? I’ll come and get you when I’m done,” he assures, getting a confirmation, pressing a kiss to his cheek before leaving to finish his shift.
It was a slightly longer shift than he’d had the past couple of days, but he knew Jim didn’t mind waiting, regardless of if Chris had to go through checks while he was there.
He honestly didn’t know what he was expecting to happen as a result of the other two Kirks being here, but considering how paranoid Jim became last time Winona was here (regardless of how he tried to hide it from Len) he would assume having both of them here, and both of them having tracked him down - accidentally or not - would make it more difficult for Jim to try and hide.
His body and mind would likely be on red alert, and that meant Len had to take this one step at a time since he hadn’t experienced this before with Jim.
“How is he?” Boyce asked when they both had a short break.
“He’s fine, for now. I can’t imagine that it will last long - especially if they manage to corner him again. I have a feeling he’s got less issues getting into an argument with his brother than his mother - something I didn’t even know he had, quite frankly,” Len admits.
“You didn’t know about George?”
“No, Jim doesn’t talk about his family and I was six when the Kelvin happened, after that the only ones really mentioned were Winona and Jim,” Len shrugs.
“I bet that made Jim feel good,” Boyce rolls his eyes.
“What do you mean?”
“Len, think of it from Jim’s point of view: yes he hates the fame which comes with his name and status as The Kelvin Baby, but his brother hated that he got so much media attention because he blamed Jim, not because he didn’t want his little brother facing that kind of stuff alone, for their father and the fact their mother abandoned them.”
“I don’t wanna sound like Spock but yeah,” Len agrees.
“Yes, well, Jim decided that even if he hates it, he’s gonna rub it in George’s face that he’s the one everybody knows, and as far as the public is mostly concerned, Jim is the only child.”
“Seeking validation the only place he could get it,” Len figures.
“Yes, essentially. He would always see people feeling sympathetic for him, and to him, that was a positive thing because he was the one getting the attention regardless of what kind of attention.”
“He hates pity and sympathy though,” Len points out.
“That came more after everything with you-know-where,” Boyce informs him. “At that point, George had already left, so he had nothing to feel smug about to anybody because there was only Frank around, and he sent him off soon enough as you’re aware.”
“Makes sense,” Len nods, before they have to separate to go to their various patients/responsibilities.
Len can practically see tension rolling off of Jim in waves as they walk towards the entrance, and Len has a feeling that Jim is going to be constantly looking over his shoulder until he is sure that the situation is behind them by at least a week - and that entirely depends on how long they hang around and try to corner Jim.
For two days, it’s fine, there’s nothing to worry about even if Len has to keep an eye on Jim’s anxiety levels and the sharp rise of his blood pressure that was entirely expected by Len.
Then Admiralty had to go and mess it up.
They were barely a week away from graduation, when Len and Jim could leave for anywhere else, when they decided that Jim should finally do an interview to get his points across. So far, all news about it had been officially released statements and no sort of personal interview or questions actually asked, even if everybody knew what had happened.
Jim wasn’t looking forward to it, but he also knew that he had no choice. Chris was also going to be there, and Len was going to support Jim, and Spock had refused to give an interview on the grounds that he had given multiple accounts of his version of the events and saw no need to do it again.
Jim was not looking forward to the interview they had to do, even if he was happy that Chris and Bones would be there. Sure Chris had gone over the questions they were going to ask to ensure that there was nothing that Jim wouldn’t answer, and the interview wasn’t going to be aired since it was just with Starfleet PR.
But that didn’t change that he didn’t want to actually do an interview at the moment.
Maybe it would have been easier if they’d done it earlier, but he had no choice but to do it now and he was almost kicking himself for not asking for it to be done earlier.
He knew that Bones knew he was paranoid at the moment, but he couldn’t help it; months of being on the run from a mass murderer in the woods while looking after his kids will do that to anyone, and it was now ingrained into him when it comes to what he considers to be danger.
Physically, he doesn’t consider them to be a threat because he knows he could beat them in a physical fight, however emotionally he still associated them with a lack of safety.
That lack of safety means that he’s on edge almost constantly, but even more so when he’s with Bones and Chris, even if he knows logically that he doesn’t need to be.
Chris is there before they arrive, holding himself stiffly even when he notices them.
“Let’s get this over with,” Chris says, sitting in his wheelchair close to the pair of them before they got settled at the table set up. Bones had a padd with him, presumably to make it seem as though he was going to be doing work.
“Alright, do you guys want anything before we get started?” Jim would assume that she was some kind of production assistant usually when working on an actual set.
“I’m fine,” Jim answered, but both Bones and Chris asked for a glass of water.
“Let’s get started,” the interviewer said as she got settled, voice recorder in place and padd in hand, stiff and professional smile in place. She wasn’t wearing a typical Starfleet uniform, but she looked smart regardless, in pants and a shirt, blazer over the top.
“Firstly, we’ve all heard what happened, but how did it feel? Captain Pike, would you like to start?”
“Well, it’s hard to describe if you haven’t been in that situation. You know that you might not come back home, but you have to be calm in the face since that’s what it means to be a captain.” Jim thinks it’s an easy answer, an expected answer, but he doesn’t know how he himself feels.
“And you, Cadet Kirk?”
“I don’t know.” It’s the honest answer as he thinks back, before he tries to think on how to expand. “I mean, I was in the middle of having an allergic reaction when I connected the dots. I didn’t think about the possibility of not coming back, I just needed to tell Captain Pike that we were going into a trap.”
“And you knew because of the similarities with it compared to the events surrounding your birth with The Kelvin Incident?”
“Yes,” it was the only answer he could give.
“Now, Captain, how was it upon finding out Cadet Kirk was on the ship while still technically on Educational Probation and, as such, could not - or, rather, should not - have been there?”
“Annoying,” was the immediate answer. They’d decided to not advertise the depth of their relationship at any point, even if it was a badly kept secret amongst their year at the very least, if not the whole academy. “But I knew it was for the best, in a way. He’s easily one of the best students to come out of the Academy, he knows his stuff and, as he has proven in my opinion, was the only person capable of handling the situation as it was.”
The interviewers smile widened, and honestly Jim has no idea if she even mentioned her name or if he completely missed it, but he wouldn’t be surprised. “I can certainly say that I’m in agreement with you there, Captain,” she says before looking at Jim. “The reports given by the both of you and the First Officer, Commander Spock at the time, state that when the Captain agreed to hand himself over to Nero, he promoted you to First Officer on the spot when he promoted Commander Spock, did this feel like an accomplishment?”
“No,” is the easy answer. It didn’t, because he hadn’t really earned it in any traditional way, and he didn’t have the time to think about it. He thought about saying as much out loud. “It didn’t feel like an accomplishment, however I can’t deny that it allowed me to breathe easier in this situation. It’s the kind of thing that I can do - I’ve proven both at the Academy and in my real life - the records for which you do not have access to - that I function well under high-stress situations and being in command of those situations as well. I’m thankful because I knew I could do much more there than as an Ensign or something similar.”
“Captain, is that why you chose him for such a position?” she asked Chris, turning to him briefly.
“Yes, I had no doubt that in the situation going on around him he would be able to cope. While I trust my First Officer, I do think that sometimes Commander Spock becomes so focused on one particular part that he forgets to consider others, of which Cadet Kirk would be able to remind him of and help out with,” Chris explains, causing the interviewer to nod.
“Now, Cadet, we know that you and the Commander got into a physical fight in the aftermath of you returning to the ship, can you explain your thought process?”
“He was emotionally compromised, and I needed to get him to admit that. It was harsh, and I said cruel things, however I’ve apologized since that. Like the Captain said, the Commander can become so hyperfocused on one point that he forgets certain things. Well, it wasn’t so much that he was hyperfocused, it was more that he was trying to go with a bad strategy which could lead to worse results. He’s admitted to me that while it was logical to meet up with the rest of Starfleet as Captain Pike had originally ordered, it was not logical when it came to otherwise doing his job as Captain to the best of his ability.” He’d gotten permission to include this from Spock when Chris had brought the questions to him originally a few days ago.
“So, between you everything is now fine?”
“I mean, we’re not currently best friends or anything, but we’ve forgiven one another for the issues that were previously between us as well as come to an overall understanding.”
“Previous issues such as your Academic Probation?”
“Captain, you’ve already reported about what happened aboard the Nerada and we will not get you to relive those memories for the purpose of this interview, however, can you tell us your reaction upon hearing the news that Cadet Kirk, whom you had promoted to Acting First Officer, was now Acting Captain as a result of Commander Spock declaring himself emotionally compromised and, as such, unfit for duty?”
“It was a surprise, as I hadn’t expected that to happen, however it definitely seemed to fit Jim, when he came to visit me in the brief times I was conscious while still on board,” Chris says, and Jim smiles down at the table.
“One final question, it was approved by my superiors this morning,” she smiled tightly, clearly knowing that this was not going to be a good question to ask. “Cadet Kirk, there are rumours going around the Academy in, what seems like, every department and level of command that there is but: do you have anything to say regarding the rumours being spread with regards to the fact that your Mother and Brother, Commander Winona Kirk and Doctor George Kirk Jr, are here visiting Starfleet?”
Jim clenched his jaw, cracking his neck before taking a deep breath to think about his answer for a minute, even though Chris was clearly more angry about the situation than he himself was and Bones looked mildly incredulous that they had considered the question in the first place, never mind that they went ahead to ask it.
“I...do not wish to discuss the relationships I have with my- family ,” the word was gritted out. “However, I would appreciate it if the rumours would stop being so exaggerated.”
That’s all he can say when the subject would otherwise make him much more frustrated and, depending on how long the conversation went on, angry.
Instead, she just nods in acceptance that that’s all she’s going to get, but he isn't looking forward to whoever is going to get his mother’s thoughts on the rumours publishing their ‘findings’.
He refuses to rise to the bait however. At least, for now.
If he has to, he’ll have the Admiralty publish an official report stating that it is off limits for the papers to discuss but give basic information that comes down to ‘not having an emotional connection’. He’s sure they’ll do that for him. They’d have less incidents that way while he’s on Earth.
They leave not long after, and Jim is happy to just be out of the building since it was becoming quite stifling to remain in there. Chris had been back in his apartment for almost a week now, since he was really only going in daily for physical therapy. It was a long way to go but he no longer had to stay there constantly for physical upkeep since they deemed him strong enough to live on his own. Plus, if not, Phil would be there to help him. Probably better for all of them since any time he needs help Phil will probably be there to give him a hand in a way that is good for Chris and he’s less likely to strain himself in any case.
Phil currently had a shift, but they knew it would be over soon. It was mid-afternoon but they’d skipped lunch. At least, Jim had as a result of nerves and Bones joined him so that he didn’t feel uncomfortable about it.
“Bonesy,” Jim whined. “I’m hungry.” He wasn’t, not particularly, but he knew that whining at Bones to make him food would give them a more sense of normality.
“There should be enough to make a salad,” Chris announces to them, and Jim can’t help but scrunching his nose at the idea. It’s not that he hates vegetables, and he knows that Bones knows how to make it good for him, but the reaction is now ingrained into him - another one of many as a leftover from Tarsus.
“Gross,” he says, even though it wasn’t passionate, and Bones smacks the back of his head lightly as he walks past to the kitchen.
Chris had gotten himself settled as they had spoken, and Jim goes over to his collection of padds so they can have an unrelated conversation.
Bones could do his own thing, but Jim doesn’t want him to be left out, so he picks out something discussing ethics with regards to interacting with other species’.
“Jim, come grab your plate!” Bones called for him, and Jim jolted out of the zone he was in, leaving the padd by his seat, then he can reach for it easily when he comes back.
He didn’t realise how long he had been looking through the padds.
Jim takes the plate handed to him, and picks up the plate meant for Chris to take his too while Bones follows him out of the room, where they get settled down before eating, Jim occasionally reading something from the padd amidst their discussions to see how the text is compared to their own opinions.
Jim had picked one he deliberately knew they disagreed with since he’d read it before and it meant that they could discuss better ways to go about it. Not that Jim would bring that up with either of them but the fact remains that it’s what he did.
Phil arrived home when it was closer to evening, bringing food with him which they were grateful for since they wouldn’t have to make anything else and it was somewhat healthy so Bones was happy - not that Phil regularly let either him or Chris eat bad food, the same way Bones did with him, and Jim’s pretty sure that it just comes with being a doctor in general.
“How did it go today?” was one of the first things he asked.
“Not horrendously,” Bones answered after a couple of minutes contemplating when neither he or Chris answered.
“I don’t even know if that’s a good thing or not anymore,” Phil sighs.
“Well it’s Starfleet, so they’ll have to get it checked by somebody in Admiralty at least.”
“Doesn’t stop people from going to Winona and George,” Jim sighs.
“You think they’ll do that?” Phil raises his eyebrows.
“It’s a high possibility,” Jim says, but looks at Chris for confirmation that he was reading the original situation right.
“It’s true,” Chris nods. “He says that he doesn’t want to discuss it - Winona is the type to try and gain sympathy but she won’t go looking for it directly.”
Phil sighs, and Jim simply continues to eat, not knowing what else he could say in the meantime.
“Should we be expecting something?”
“I suggest just keeping your eyes open, but I reckon it’s safe to assume that the brass would give us a warning before it happened,” Chris told them.
“Can we stop talking about it?” Jim sighed, he really didn’t want to discuss it anymore than they already had, he’d deal with it when it came down to it.
“Sure, what were you talking about before?” Phil asks, spurring them into the previous discussion, updating Phil on where they were in the debate so he could join them.
“You’re going to have to have a recorded meeting with the brass,” Chris announces three days later and Jim’s face instantly pinches in response.
“People are curious. It would be easier to get everything out of the way with just one meeting, rather than multiple where you argue via the brass,” Chris explains.
“I would like to argue via the brass,” Jim tells him, only getting a dry look in response.
“There will be three members of brass, me, Phil, Leonard, Winona, and George,” is what Chris says as a response.
“Do we have to?”
“Do you want trashy articles written about you?” Chris asks, referring to the borderline-trashy article that had come out the previous day which Jim made Bones read out to him while on his break because when he tried to read it himself, his sight started blurring - not from tears, but from a combination of anger and panic.
“No,” Jim mutters, and he can’t help the way he pouts - it’s natural at this point to be one of his most common facial expressions when with Chris and Phil or Bones.
“Then we’ll go to this meeting with the brass and that’s all there is to say, isn’t there?” Chris raises an eyebrow, and Jim barely resists the urge to stick his tongue out at the older man. “Glad that you agree,” Chris smiles.
Winona and George were already there when Jim and Bones arrived, as were Chris and Phil, who were sat opposite the brass on a rectangular table, leaving it so that Jim and Bones were opposite Jim’s family.
“Alright, everybody is here. Is there somewhere anybody in particular would like to begin?” Admiral Marcus starts.
Jim just shrugs in response, not really caring, before deciding to straighten himself and leaning forward to rest his arms on the tables.
“Actually, I have to ask: what makes you think you’re entitled to anything to do with me after the way you both abandoned me? I can list off prime examples of what I’m talking about if you want me to.”
George, at least, winces slightly even if he seems unrepentant for the most part, while Winona sits stoically.
“I just mean, I didn’t even know you were my mother until I was, what, six years old? And I never received any word about the wedding that Junior over there had,” he nods at George despite looking at Winona. “Neither of you were there to either prevent or help with the aftermath of one of the most traumatic experiences for a thirteen year old to have. Winona, you checked up on me because I conveniently got back two days before you had to leave again, I just don’t feel like you have any right to have any association with me. I mean, was anybody going to actually tell me that I have two nephews with another on the way?” Jim asks, unable to hold back his sarcasm.
“We didn’t see the need,” Winona says, causing Jim to shrug.
“Alright then, you don’t wanna associate with me, fine, but don’t attempt to talk to me or even about me to anybody else. I would rather have the person haunting my nightmares speak about me publicly rather than you - at least he made it obvious that we were associated from the very start.”
“You don’t understand Jim,” George tells him, and Jim raises an eyebrow in anticipation, leaning back with his arms folded across his chest with a motion for him to continue. “Dad was dead, and mom didn’t know how to cope - I didn’t either, I was five ,” George emphasises.
“Alright, one grieving mother and wife who could go to therapy and a child who could also go to therapy to learn how to cope. Got it. Did either of you actually go to therapy, or did you just run away?”
“Like you can say much on that topic James,” Winona says, and her tone is almost spiteful, Jim is impressed. Everybody else is there, watching them as if some kind of match is going on, flicking their eyes between the two pairs even if Bones wasn’t actually saying anything.
“Actually I’ve seen multiple therapists,” Jim shrugs, unashamed of it after so many years and Chris’ reassurance that it was normal and healthy, even if his other methods weren’t exactly great. “One of them even while I was here,” he adds. “My constant moving has nothing to do with running away from my issues or people, and more to do with boredom. I mean, honestly, there’s only so much you can do in Riverside, it’s so boring. What was I supposed to do?”
“Complete your education, maybe?” George says. “There are no records of you attending the high school mom re-enrolled you in after you got back from Tarsus.”
“I have more Doctorate Degrees than you do, brother dear,” Jim sneers, and out of the corner of his eye can see Bones typing on a padd before sliding it across the table with a feigned nonchalance - he can see how tense the other is. “Just because I didn’t complete my education traditionally by attending school, it doesn’t matter, I still completed my required education and beyond.
“So, I’ve been to therapy, have multiple Doctoral Degrees, not to mention authored a few critical papers that are used widely throughout Starfleet - before I even joined as well, would you look at that - and don’t run away from my problems. Bones, is it just me or am I more well-adjusted than they are?”
“Jim,” Chris says with warning, causing Jim to roll his eyes at the reprimand.
“Whatever, I think I’m doing better - I mean, I captained the Fleets flagship even if it was just pure luck of circumstances that I managed to get into that position. Plus I gave the order to kill the man who caused George Kirk to sacrifice himself all those years ago. You’re welcome.”
“Jim,” Chris warns again.
“I don’t know what any of you want me to say, you abandoned me and then when it’s finally convenient for you to associate yourselves with me at last, you come back as if nothing happened. As if I know both of you well. I mean- I can’t even-” He uses hand gestures as if that’s going to give any indication as to what he’s thinking. Luckily, Bones does know him that well.
“What he means is that he doesn’t understand how you have the audacity to act as if you’ve ever cared about him before when you’re the reason he ends up having night terrors multiple times a month - a hell of a lot less than when he was first here and we shared a dorm.”
“Yes, that, thank you. But I just- I just don’t understand the logic. You both made it obvious you hate me, consider me the reason for George Kirk’s death, left me without a family - because Frank is going to go fuck himself before I consider him family. All because I was born in an unfortunate circumstance? A circumstance which I had nothing to do with. I just- Can we get Spock here to explain the logic to me please?” he says it as a joke but if Spock could say anything other than “Their words are illogical” then Jim would be very happy to hear whatever it was that he was saying.
Phil smirks a little at that, but Bones and Chris just roll their eyes.
“Honestly, what do you feel that I’ve done which is so offensive I was not only left behind with an abusive bastard at eleven years old, but was not worth recognition after going through months of traumatic experiences - seeing my kids die !” Jim can’t help the anger that begins coming out when he thinks of his own kids. Even though Tommy was older, he still considers Tommy one of his kids, and that’s not even thinking of mentioning the others like Kevin, or the kids who he held in his arms as they took their last breath regardless of the fact that he tried as hard as he could to keep them fed, and safe, and hydrated, out of the elements. But it couldn’t be helped, and he still wakes up at times to still faces of too-small bodies behind his eyes and- he cannot think of possibly treating one of his kids that way. “I cannot comprehend how easily you found it to throw me away,” Jim says, mostly to Winona. “I buried seven of my kids. Did you even know that? Nine of us made it off that planet as the most well-known victims of the massacre. Six other than me. I took care of thirteen kids from the start.”
Neither of them look like they can say anything, and even though everybody in the room has access to the files or knows what happened (except maybe George, unless Winona told him in detail what his file said) the admirals seem uncomfortable with him saying it bluntly out loud.
“I was thirteen when I came back and I had lost everybody who had ever cared about me except for six kids who loved me as much as I loved them. I still see them in my dreams, I have dreams turning to nightmares at the thoughts of them. I have night terrors where I couldn’t save any of them and then I can’t sleep for days,” Jim says. “Neither of you checked up on me, or thought to send a message - I would have known. I just don’t understand the logic you’ve gone through to get to where you are where you think that you have any right to my time or attention. You do not care about me, you have made that clear enough.” Jim sighs, not knowing what else to say.
Admiral Archer gives a small sigh of his own, before leaning forward himself. “The main thing we have to do here is come to an understanding between everybody and what can be discussed to the media if the subject comes up. I’ll admit that it is very hard to remain neutral on the topic considering we’ve all read James’ file and experiences, in comparison to what you have done for him,” Archer admits, and Jim almost feels himself smile. He’s not as close with Archer as he is with Chris for obvious reasons, but they have had multiple dinners outside of a formal setting at both Chris’ apartment and his own, so he knows him on a more personal level than the majority of other students. “Winona, you know that we’ve offered you multiple leaves of absence at several important points when you were back on Earth and you didn’t take them. We have the records proving that you didn’t take any responsibility for James when he returned from Tarsus further than one small visit to the hospital. All that was recorded about that was the fact it lasted seven minutes. No audio, no video, and James has never disclosed what happened in that meeting.”
Jim decided to comment on this now to get it out of the way. “It was inconsequential,” he told them, somewhat bland in his delivery. “She said nothing of importance and nothing which made me rethink any decision I had already decided on by that point.”
“Not going back to Riverside being the main one, I presume,” Chris interjected, and Jim smiled at him.
“Yes, not going back to Riverside. I’d proven, if only to myself, that I could deal with what was out there. I could deal with worse. I didn’t have to remain in a place which would only make me worse. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I stayed until Starfleet deemed me recovered, and went to Riverside to retrieve some things I may want, but Frank had apparently abandoned the place by that point - or died, I didn’t care at the time and I haven’t cared to check since. But I didn’t have to stay there. You should know that there are many morally ambiguous people out there who will give kids jobs that they should not necessarily be working, and rent apartments or just rooms to them. Don’t get me wrong I’m grateful, but y’all should be aware anyway.”
“Not really our jurisdiction,” Phil commented, taking a sip of the drink Jim hadn’t noticed in front of him.
“Fair enough,” Jim nods.
“Can we just continue with the discussion, please?” The third, unnamed, admiral asks them, not in frustration, but more out of annoyance in a sense that he knows an obvious solution and they are not saying anything about it. “I think the obvious solution is that neither party mentions the others in the media without explicit permission which can be confirmed by all parties involved and, should an outside party bring them up, claim ignorance about the topic they are discussing or politely decline to answer,” he explains.
“I’m good with that, it sounds reasonable,” Jim says, knowing that he’d never have a reason to bring them up in any kind of media interview he may have to complete, and has already demonstrated that he can kindly decline to answer the questions regarding the pair of them.
“I would also like to add an addition,” Chris says. “While they may have open lines of communication used for situations like that - though I doubt they’re gonna come up,” he mutters, before continuing louder, “I think that there should be clauses put in place for in-person visits. In that, they simply don’t happen without express permission from both parties, and if you do somehow manage to run into each other in this big universe purely by accident, then stay away from each other,” he explains.
“That sounds agreeable,” Marcus says, nodding.
“I just want to ask one thing,” Bones says from beside Jim, leaning forward himself in anticipation. “She seems completely unbothered by the fact we’re all here,” he says with a vague gesture to Winona. “But you,” he points directly at George. “You had the possibility to gain something from this. You’re much more obvious with your emotions and I have a degree in psychology so I wouldn’t bother trying to hide the obvious. So, what did you want out of this? Obviously, for whatever reason, you weren’t expecting such a hostile reaction from Jim when you first spoke to us, but when you got it you were shocked but you still clearly want something.”
Bones had a good point, Jim wants to say, but doesn’t, instead choosing to watch George.
“My- wife and kids,” he admits. “They know we’re related, he’s my kids’ hero, and my wife wants me to get back into contact with you.”
Jim presses his lips together and takes a deep breath, and so does Bones beside him.
“What does your wife think of me not going to the wedding?” Jim feels the need to ask.
“I said you weren’t able to come,” George admits, and Jim can’t stop the choking sound that comes out of his mouth before he stands up, his chair being pushed over as he does.
“I- I waited , for a year !”
“Jim, sit down,” Chris’ voice is soft, reassuring, but to Jim it sounds muffled.
“Jim, darlin’.” Jim turns to Bones at the sound of his voice but he knows his eyes are wide, frantic. There’s the sound of his chair being put back into place as he watches Bones pick it up, but his head feels fuzzy.
“I waited for a year,” he says quietly, unable to help it, and he can tell Bones is the only one who heard him clearly. “I waited a year for an invite that would never come and he said I said no .”
“I know. We can go lay down after this, alright?” Bones says, and he’s crouched in front of Jim, who he placed back into the chair.
“I feel sick,” Jim mutters.
“I know that too,” Bones says lightly, teasing smile on his face which makes Jim’s lips twitch upwards in response. “So I’m not gonna make you eat anything until you’ve had some more sleep, alright?” Jim nods before turning back to the rest of the table.
“I waited for over a year to receive an invitation to your wedding after I finally looked up how you were doing after five years of no contact,” Jim explains, before clearing his throat. “You made it obvious that I wasn’t wanted when I received no kind of message or apology or invite and I gave up after that. I had thought maybe I could have my brother George, since Sammy already died, but I was obviously wrong. I don’t care if you want to use me for cred points with your kids. I’d love to meet your kids and your wife - it is your fault that it has never happened before. I will meet your wife and your kids but you will not be there. I don’t think I could look at you without wanting to throw up if I were in that situation. If you’d have just sent me a message saying ‘hey you wanna meet your nephews’ I would have been more open to it than what you decided to attempt as a coincidence,” Jim explains. Then, he turns to look at the Admiralty. “Is there anything else you needed to discuss with me, sirs?” he asks.
“There isn’t, so you can leave in just a minute. First, we need you to sign this.” He removes a piece of paper from a folder on the desk and slides it over to Jim. “It is, essentially, a legally binding document that, once you sign, anything written on the page will be enforced and can be acted upon if not followed. I just need you to sign it and then you and Doctor McCoy may leave, since I believe you trust Captain Pike to copy down the points we’ve discussed today for you, yes?”
“I do, yes,” he answers, nodding as he takes the paper and a pen to sign his name quickly, before letting Bones lead him out with quick goodbyes to Phil and Chris and Archer.
Bones was doing most of the leading when it came to walking. Jim knew what was going on around him, but lets himself zone out for the most part so he could try and compartmentalise his thoughts before they arrived in their dorm.
When they arrive, Bones also leads him through the motions of getting ready to sleep for a short nap.
“I’m okay,” Jim feels himself say, more than hear. His hearing is muffled, and the sensation coming from his throat is the only indication that he said anything at all.
“Yeah, you’re okay,” Bones tells him, but it still doesn’t sound clear. Jim is settled by himself as Bones continues moving around the room while Jim shuffles into a more comfortable position, even though he knows he won’t be actually sleeping until Bones joins him after whatever he’s doing.
“I think today was a success,” Jim whispers, unsure if Bones can actually hear him even though his own hearing isn’t as muffled anymore.
Bones is sliding a jumper on before he climbs into bed beside Jim. “Yeah?”
Jim nods. “I don’t know if I’ll ever actually get over the issues they both gave me, but... I think I can be happier from now on knowing that I got to say my piece and see their reactions.”
Bones hums quietly as he waits for Jim to shift into a comfortable position in his arms. “And George’s wife and kids?”
“I agreed to meet them because I will. I won’t say or do anything which could potentially harm their relationship, but until they prove otherwise, they are still family. And-” Jim hesitates, causing Bones to nudge him gently so he’d continue. “And I don’t want those kids to ever feel like I did. It’s unlikely because, even if George turns out like Frank, their mother is obviously not like my mother. But it’s good, knowing that there is family out there for you.”
“And you wanna be there for them in case anything goes wrong.”
“I’d’ve given anything as a kid to be able to go with George to our grandparents, or even going to our other grandparents, or anything at that time. But I couldn’t, so I didn’t. And I don’t want those kids to feel like they can’t either,” Jim explains, even though Bones already knows all of this, but he likes speaking his thoughts out loud sometimes so that he can process them easier.
“Good. They deserve that. Either way, you’ll be a brilliant uncle.” Jim grins, feeling his breathing come easier at last before Bones runs his hand down Jim’s back. “Now, take a nap, you’ve earned it. And you’ve got some long days coming.”
Jim can’t help the grin that spreads over his lips, even as he presses his face into Bones’ jumper and allowing himself to feel protected from the outside world in their own personal bubble.
It was easy to see that he was developing a family further than just Bones, Chris, and Phil recently, even if it was catalysed by a tragedy.