Desperate Men (Kirk/McCoy PG-13)

  • Feb. 13th, 2011 at 8:28 PM
emiliglia: (kirk/mccoy)
Title: Desperate Men
Rating: Kirk/McCoy
Pairing: PG-13
Word Count: 2,030
Warning: starts off angsty but ends on an up-note, I promise
Summary: For [livejournal.com profile] jim_and_bones' Sweethearts Challenge, prompt #13 - Jim's newfound fame as the "savior of Earth" and the Face of Starfleet is both dragging him down and going to his head. Bones steps in and decides to remind him he's still "Jim Kirk, genius-level repeat offender" -- even if it means going to a bar at the ass-end of the Universe.

Author's Note: Some of you may recognize a part of this as something I'd previously written. I'd intended to do more with it but hadn't known what that was until this prompt.

+++

Watching the solemn ceremony on the observation deck, Jim feels a confusing muddle of joy, relief, guilt, and nausea. All of those lives, all of that culture, wiped out in the blink of an eye.

He casts a sidelong glance at Bones, standing at parade rest in his dress uniform, his expression respectful. It had been a domino effect of luck that kept him - hell, either of them - alive that day.

When the lyrist starts to play, Bones catches him staring. They hold each others' gazes across Chekov and Uhura. Jim doesn't want to break the reverent atmosphere, but he needs Bones to know what he's thinking, how he could've lost Bones one hundred times over had circumstances occurred even a little differently.

From the way Bones' eyes soften at the corners, Jim knows he understands.

+

The thing is, Jim never could have predicted how much easier it is to live in your father's shadow than it is to live in your own.

They find an Andorian ship on the transmitting end of a distress call, dead in space, and Jim has to force a close-lipped smile as the captain goes on about how ut can't believe un ship's been rescued by the Captain Kirk, hero of the Federation.

Jim meets the captain face-to-face in sickbay while ut and un crew are being checked out. Jim ensures that his engineers are the best and the ship will be repaired in no time.

"Every citizen of the Federation owes you a great debt, Captain."

It's moments like these when Jim wonders what's happened to his silver tongue. He nods to camouflage the urge to shift uncomfortably and heads back to the bridge.

+

He takes on everything and anything that crosses the Enterprise's path.

It feels like, now, that if he can't do it, if his crew can't do it, then no one can.

They mediate a land dispute on the main continent of Ingus Prime, escort High Priestesses across the beta quadrant, and provide materials to a colony moon that's been having endless problems with dangerous weather.

"The admiralty is also monitoring the situation on Athra VII," Spock is saying, the tips of his fingers resting on his PADD as he looks between Jim and the gathered senior crew. "They have yet to request Federation assistance."

Jim scans his memory, but the planet doesn't sound familiar. "What's happening on Athra VII?"

"Reports being sent off-planet suggest a famine brought on by an invasive beetle that's significantly affecting the harvest yield."

He can feel Bones' sharp gaze on him, but it's nowhere near enough to stop the words coming out of his mouth. "We're going."

"Jim!"

He ignores Bones completely, focusing on Sulu instead. "Change course and get us to Athra VII as fast as we can."

Sulu looks hesitant, like he expects someone to counter Jim's order, but when no one does he leaves with a firm, "Yes, sir."

"Everyone else is dismissed," Jim says, and they all leave quietly except for Bones, who doesn't even move to get out of his seat.

"The Federation isn't an empire, Jim; you can't go charging in just because you don't like how things are being taken care of."

"And I don't want to wait and see how many people their government lets die before they concede to needing help." Jim crosses his arms across his chest, not caring that it makes him look more defensive. "Are you going to disallow these people access to the medical care they'll certainly need?"

"You know that I wouldn't-"

"Then there's no issue here," Jim responds coolly. "You're dismissed, Bones."

+

They're in orbit for three days before the chancellor will allow Jim to send people down without threatening to shoot his shuttles out of the sky.

It's another two weeks before Starfleet sends more ships to take over and relieve the Enterprise of her latest post.

Jim's lying on his side in bed, pretending to be catching up on all the sleep he hasn't gotten lately, but the backs of his eyelids are burned with the images of too skinny children from past and present.

The light from the hallway spills into the room before the door slides shut, and it isn't long before Jim feels the bed dipping behind him followed by a kiss pressed against his shoulder. "Spock's been trying to comm you," Bones breathes against his neck. "We've been ordered from on high to take some time off, and he wanted to know if you had a planet in mind for the crew to recuperate on."

There's something in Bones' tone that tells Jim he's not getting the whole story. "So what did you say to him?"

Bones scoffs. "I told him that you're the captain, not a damn cruise director, and to just pick the closest class M that doesn't harbor any ill-will towards Starfleet or the Federation."

Jim hums then rolls over to face Bones. "And here I'd been looking forward to an angry mob with torches and pitchforks."

"Which is what the people of Athra VII were about a day away from becoming, if you ask me."

"And you were the one who didn't think we should go."

Jim can feel Bones' sigh just as well as he can hear it. "Or maybe I was thinking that you could let someone else take care of it. There's a lot of people hurting in the universe, Jim; you can't save all of them, and you shouldn't think that you have to."

"Says the doctor with all those published journal articles, groundbreaking surgical techniques, and developed vaccines that are used across known space. Face it, Bones, we both have god complexes."

"That may be, but it is possible to do harm while trying to help."

"You're not going to quote the Hippocratic Oath at me, are you, Bones?"

"I'm just saying that sometimes people can help themselves. It was an Athran scientist who figured out that not only were the beetles destroying the root systems, but how to stop them, as well." Jim doesn't pull away when Bones brings up a hand to rest it on the side of Jim's face. "I don't want to see you burn out when it becomes too much. I'm speaking from experience, here."

Jim has to squeeze his eyes shut in order to swallow passed the lump in his throat. He knows Bones means his father's illness and subsequent death as the proverbial straw that broke his back and led to the end of his marriage and his enlisting in Starfleet.

They'd both been such desperate men when they met.

Only Jim feels like he still is.

He opens his eyes at the feeling of the pad of Bones' thumb stroking over his cheekbone. Jim captures that hand in his own and leans forward to close the gap between them.

+

He returns from the gym to find Bones waiting in the doorway and shoving clothes at him. "What the hell is this?"

"This is me finding it sad that I've been down to Beta Rigel X and you haven't. Now get dressed, we're going out."

Jim studies the jeans and T-shirt he's holding and then notices the familiar plaid button-down Bones is wearing. "Wait, you mean, like, drinking?" He glances at a computer panel on the wall. "It's barely passed oh-nine hundred."

"Yeah, ship time, but not planet time. Now hurry up and get your ass dressed before I change my mind."

+

The colony on Beta Rigel X makes Jim think of a shopping mall if it had thirty six levels and was more of a self-contained city. Although, with the planet's frozen surface, Jim supposes that it has to be.

The levels seem to get more run-down and seedy as they descend, and the bar Bones drags him into is an absolute shithole.

Jim pretty much loves it.

It's the kind of bar where all the surfaces are a little sticky, and you hope it's from spilled drinks, but in some spots it's probably blood. No one makes eye contact and even the bartender doesn't talk more than she has to.

And the absolute best thing, Jim soon notices, is that those who do look up at him either don't recognize him or don't give a flying fuck who he is.

They grab a table in the corner, and Jim has his drink halfway to his mouth when Bones puts a hand on his forearm to still the movement. "I'm only saying this once, so help me we better both still remember it afterward. The admiralty didn't give you the Enterprise because they wanted another yes man jumping at every opportunity sent his way. It wasn't because of that big brain of yours, Starfleet's got enough of those, or your family's legacy. They wanted someone who would challenge their authority and decisions, someone who doesn't make decisions based on protocols and politics. Someone who knows from experience that pretty words might be nice, but sometimes a good right hook is what's needed to keep from getting stepped on."

Bones pulls his hand away, looking vaguely uncomfortable, and Jim feels the corner of his mouth twitch into a smile. "Shit, Bones, that was almost poetic."

"Shut the hell up, Jim, and start adding to the liver damage that I'm going to have to fix in a few years."

Jim downs his shots in quick succession, the foreign alcohol burning its way down his throat. "Now how would you feel about some bone and tissue damage in your more immediate future?"

"As long as you don't get yourself killed," Bones says into his drink. "I have no idea how I'd explain that one to Pike."

+

Despite his nose probably being broken, the split and bloody knuckles, and Bones asking too loudly every three seconds if he has a black eye (he does, but Jim thinks it'll be way more funny for Bones to discover that for himself), Jim feels better than he has in months.

+

"Captain," Uhura's voice is clear and confident across the bridge. "I'm picking up a distress beacon from the Carraya system. How would you like to proceed?"

Jim can feel all their eyes on him, waiting on his command, but none of it matters when the turbolift doors open and Bones steps onto the bridge.

I don't want to see you burn out when it becomes too much.

"Sir?" Uhura says, uncertain by Jim's hesitation. "What would you like to do?"

"Forward the coordinates to the Lexington; she'll be able to get there faster."

If Uhura is surprised by his decision, she's very good at keeping herself from showing it. "Yes, Captain."

Bones isn't nearly so skilled, though, and his widened eyes force Jim to fake a cough to hide his smile. "Jim, a word in private, if I may."

The ready room door isn't even fully shut behind them when Bones starts in with, "You better not be doing this for my benefit. Would you have made the same decision if I hadn't shown up?"

"Yes, Bones, I would have. Is it really so surprising that I trust and respect your opinions? I don't want to even out being the youngest captain in the fleet by being the youngest to resign his commission because he couldn't take the pressure. I'm the only one holding these ridiculous standards for myself, but now it's not just myself on the line anymore, but the entire crew as well. I can't do that to them, and I certainly can't do that to you. It's called personal growth."

"Looks like I'll have to believe you if you managed to say that without slipping in an euphemism."

"I can slip in something else, if you like," Jim says with a leer that has Bones rolling his eyes. Jim can practically see the rant building on the end of Bones' tongue, so he steals it away, swallowing in, happy with the knowledge that underneath all his bitching and moaning, Bones is really just looking out for him, always has been, and Jim's still adjusting to having one person who believes in him like that, forget the entire universe.


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