Leonard and Jim are alone, waiting. Spock has his bi-monthly counseling appointment on the third floor with a wise woman whom the Vulcan calls T’Pau; in truth, she’s just a specialist in his area of crazy, commissioned by Spock’s rich father to psycho-analyze and fix Spock as best she can. That Spock retains a respect for her is interesting. Respect, however, does not seem to spill over into processing or accepting Dr. T’Pau’s advice. (What is her real name? Leonard idly wonders; no one ever says.) Spock comes back from these sessions the same, calmer—if anything. (It’s weird.) Leonard almost feels sorry for the woman; Spock must drive her bananas with his winding logic which “dictates the preservation of his personality.”
Len, during these waits, always thinks about their future. How different their situations are. Spock won’t be cured anytime soon, not from what Leonard can tell (and what Jim tells him). What about James Kirk, though?
The kid yawns, his joints popping as he stretches. Then he proceeds to curl back into a ball against Leonard’s chest. “Bones?” The answer is sleepy.
“Why did you come back to Fleet Heights?”
“To look for you and Spock.”
McCoy pushes at the man’s arm. “Jim, I’m serious.”
Those blue, blue eyes open, pin him. “So am I.”
Leonard sits up, ignoring the mewl of protest. “Wait, you’re telling me that you gave up your freedom—your independence—for a couple of fantasy lovers?” Suddenly, he’s angry. “You Goddamn fool! That’s crazy!”
Jim rolls off the bed, his eyes flashing defensively. “Is it, Bones? Crazy to want someone to love?”
“You had a chance to be normal!”
“I’m NOT normal!”
Their shouting match echoes off the concrete walls of the room. Leonard attempts to lower his voice. “I don’t understand.”
Jim says nothing, then, his jaw working with frustration.
McCoy sighs. “I don’t understand why, Jim,” he tries to explain. “Why stay here, pretending?”
“How much better is it out there, Leonard?”
He flinches at the use of his first name. Jim doesn’t stop or back down. “It’s cruel,” he says flatly. “And there are people out there who are sicker than we are. I know.“
Leonard’s heart constricts. He didn’t mean to force this pain from the kid. “I’m sorry—”
“No,” Jim tells him. “Don’t bother. You should understand, Bones, you really should. Didn’t Jocelyn rip your heart out?” Len flinches again, at that name on those lips. (So bitter.) “How fair is it that you’re suffering and she isn’t?”
“Stop—” Leonard tosses his blanket away. He doesn’t want to talk about her, not with Jim. Not with anyone.
“No!” Jim pushes him back, blocks his escape.
“Jim, stop it!”
But Jim doesn’t, is surprisingly strong as he forces Leonard back down and lays his body across the other man’s. That face is close, angry. “I won’t let you leave, Bones. This may not be the best place. Maybe it bruises your ego—”
Leonard makes a noise, struggles.
“—but you’re safer here than you’d ever be anywhere else. Don’t you get that?”
“This isn’t my dream,” he says.
“Isn’t it?” Jim releases one of his wrists to stroke Leonard’s cheek. “Why did you give up, Bones? What did you want, that reality couldn’t give you? Tell me.”
There are no words that Leonard can speak. No words which are not traitorous.
“We’re both here by choice.” Jim shudders and sags, unexpectedly, as he takes his next breath. His tone changes, no longer hard but pleading. “Please don’t leave.”
Leonard swallows. “Jim, don’t—”
“Bones.” The kid touches his forehead to McCoy’s with a whimper. “Don’t leave me alone. I-I can’t—it’s dark, always…”
With a careful, slow movement, Leonard slips his hand into that blond hair. He can feel the anguish pouring off Jim. Why is there so much heartbreak?
“I haven’t left you, Jim,” he says soothingly.
“But you will.”
What can he say, when he doesn’t know the answer? Instead, he murmurs the only thing that makes sense right now. “Jimmy.” Why’d you have to pick me? What if I can’t help you?
Jim pulls away, slides off him and the bed with an uncharacteristic unsteadiness that hurts to watch. Leonard follows but does not attempt to call him back. He stops in the open doorway as Jim disappears down the hall. Len is still there, leaning against the wall, when Spock returns. His despondent shrug is only the answer Spock receives when the Vulcan wants to know what happened to the Captain.
Jim turns at the sound of Uhura’s voice. He isn’t in the mood to talk to anyone, not right now when the memories are pressing down. Not when he feels like hope is waning, and Bones won’t stay.
So much for marriage, he thinks ironically. Spock’s disappointment will be painful to see, not to mention his own.
Why is she always so insistent?
He sighs. “Lieutenant. What can I do for you?”
Uhura cuts her eyes at him. “Something on your mind?”
How to answer that? He keeps a strict code on how he interacts with his crew (except Spock, on occasion). No serious business. No reminders that they are just children playing a game of make-believe.
He gives the woman a great big grin. She takes that as an invitation to loop her arm through his. Well, now he has little choice but to keep her company. He knows from experience that Uhura loves misery. (She loves knowing everyone’s problems—being the one with all the knowledge. It’s part of her issues.)
He starts talking randomly. “Our last mission was a success. I hear there are—”
“Jim,” Uhura says softly.
“Now how’s that fair, when I don’t know your first name, lady?” Of course he knows it is Nyota, but that’s the one thing she seems to pride herself on withholding from her Captain. A kind of leverage, he supposes. Why is a mystery to all but Uhura herself.
She won’t be deterred, however. “Jim, is it the Doctor?”
He pulls his arm out of hers. “Uhura…” It’s a warning and request all wrapped into one.
She blinks at him, narrows her eyes. “You shouldn’t worry about the Doctor so much, Captain. He doesn’t understand his value to our crew. Not yet.”
Jim half-turns away, balling his fists. “Maybe he shouldn’t be part of the crew,” Jim answers softly. “Maybe I was wrong.”
“No.” It’s the firm way she speaks the word that sparks a tiny flare of hope inside Jim. (Oh how that hurts.)
“Why?” he asks.
She looks at him, through him—which is unnerving. She answers his question with another question: “How come none of us were right for you, Jim?”
His heart trembles in his throat. “I— You just weren’t.”
She nods once, as if his reply is all that she had expected. “You knew that Pavel or Hikaru wouldn’t be the third. You knew that it wasn’t Scotty—or me either.”
He says nothing; there’s nothing to say.
“I trust your instincts, Captain. We all do. It’s what makes you our leader. You ought to trust yourself.” She pokes at his chest with one long nail. “You should trust this.”
“But Bones—” How can she understand?
“Leonard is a stubborn man. And I know that he has had better… offers, but he’ll realize that the Enterprise is the right ship for him.” Uhura smiles, so suddenly, it’s like the sun breaking through the clouds. “Trust him too. That’s why he’s your third.”
Uhura turns away at that, her whole countenance glowing. She looks back at her Captain, before leaving him, and says “Trust him, Sir, like I trust mine.”
Jim watches, at a loss for words, as she and Scotty share a secret (sweet) look and laugh. They link arms and walk away.
Pike is in his office, finishing up his day with some paperwork, when a familiar head pops around the corner of his doorway.
So they’re talking on those terms. He suppresses a knowing smile. “What can I do for you, Captain?”
Kirk steps up to his desk, not fidgeting, which is another tell-tale sign. “Chris,” the young man begins, “my father—” He hesitates, continues, “—and my mother… Do you remember when you used to tell me the story about their wedding?”
Pike leans back in memory. “More like elopement, if I recall correctly. Why?” He eyes the serious lines of that body. “What is it? What do you need to know?”
“Two things,” James Kirk tells him. “First, you used to tell me stories when—”
Jim doesn’t finish that statement; Pike knows the rest of the sentence well enough. It was long, those nights in the hospital, holding a frail hand in his—watching such a young child suffer (recover, never completely).
“You said their rings were special. How were they special? Second, I need your help… to get my own.”
Chris is quiet. In the end, he says to his godchild, “I can do one better for you, son.” He goes over to his wall-safe and unlocks it. When Christopher Pike turns back to his patient and almost-child (the closest he’ll ever come to one of his own), he hands the curious kid a small box.
As Jim opens the box, Chris is finally able to offer a gift he’s held in trust for over twenty years. “It’s your daddy’s ring.” There are tears in the boy’s eyes as he touches it reverently. “And now it’s yours.”
Chris settles onto the corner of his desk. “For the others, what did you have in mind?”
Jim slides in between Spock and the Doctor at the cafeteria table. They never forget to leave an empty place for him. Leonard feels that this is ironic. (Another way he’s reminded of their “relationship” that he seems to get sucked into believing might be real.)
McCoy tries not to tense, not to upset Jim anymore than he already has. He responds with a grunt as he pretends to concentrate on his dinner.
The words are so softly spoken that Leonard almost doesn’t catch them. (But his heart does, like always.) He puts down his fork with a sigh.
“I’m sorry too, kid.”
Kirk nods quietly, adjusts the placement of his tray. There is a period of awkwardness, eventually broken by the no-nonsense Spock.
“Captain, I have completed the second phase. Shall I begin on the third?”
What? “What phase?” Leonard leans over, trying to see around Jim (who’s ignoring him) to Spock. “What are ya’ll planning?”
The Captain replies with ease, “Commence to Phase Four, Mr. Spock. Phase Three is complete.”
Leonard’s brows come down. He scowls along the table, looking at each face for clues. Chekov is eating his vegetables (definitely a sign of shenanigans afoot), Sulu is grinning like a loon at his spoon of pudding, and Scotty is ignoring everyone—no surprise there.
It’s Uhura’s smile that strikes fear into Leonard’s heart. She winks at him and he scoots a little closer to Jim. Len bumps his shoulder into Kirk’s.
“Why’s Uhura looking at me like that?”
Jim’s expression is tolerant, his blue eyes twinkling. Len thinks his stomach may have just dropped to his feet with a resounding plop. “Like what?”
“Like you are. Like I’m the main course on tonight’s menu.”
“Oh, you aren’t,” the Captain replies with a grin. “Not tonight’s menu.”
Oh fucking Hell.
No amount of prodding, bitching or threatening dire consequences gets the Great Kirk to spill the beans. Spock, of course, is a lost cause—like an oyster protecting its pearl.
Finally, the doctor gives up and finishes his meal. All the while, he’s trying to decide the best way to entice the doe-eyed Pavel into another room. ‘Course, then he remembers how little Pavel has maniac Sulu as a roommate and decides he’d rather not find out if a butter knife can do significant damage to a man.
… Hrm. There’s always the Scotsman. Who definitely owes McCoy for that concussion.
Now it’s a matter of cornering the man without his lady-love in sight.
Leonard smiles. Maybe he’s the newest of the bunch; maybe he’s the sanest too. But Len is learning how to play the game their way. Anybody who’s anybody (meaning part of Kirk’s infamous starship crew) knows about Scotty’s midnight rambles to the Engine room.
He hasn’t had a reason to be curious about what, exactly, that entails—though Len knows Scotty is a former plumber—nor has he had a reason to investigate.
If the Captain and the First Officer are planning a scheme of some sort (a scheme that won’t be to Leonard’s liking, no doubt) and refuse to share, then he’ll determine what the Hell is going on himself. Better not to be blind-sided (literally). He comforts his rational side with the logic that it’s the CMO’s job to straighten out any errant plotters—or medical emergencies in the making.
He only hopes that Jim’s plan is one that can be stalled if necessary.
This is definitely going to be longer than expected. Buckle up.