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“Bones! Bones!” Jim says—yells really, and there’s just no justification for that. Leonard’s head hurts, and he can hear just fine, damn it. There’s no need to holler—“Answer, damn it. Bones!”

Leonard coughs, throat coated in grit he can’t swallow around, and struggles into an upright position. He hasn’t opened his eyes yet to see and his other senses are too jumbled to be of assistance. Something warm trickles down his forehead, leaving a crawling sensation in its wake that Leonard wants to rub away, but won't for fear of grinding dirt into whatever wound is probably floating around up there. He grapples for his communicator in the dust and squints, blinking through the shit that clings to his eyelashes in clumps. Unfortunately he only succeeds in irritating his eyes.

“Bones, that’s an order.”

“’m here,” he answers and then repeats himself more strenuously, not sure if he’d even spoken proper words the first time. Jim swears at him while Leonard pushes himself a little more vertical. The rocks catching at the back of his shirt are the only things keeping him from sliding back down at this point and he's not sure whether to be grateful for them or not. They certainly aggravate him, jabbing him in the spine and shoulder blades.

“Are you okay?”

Leonard thinks about that for a minute, and then jolts upward, which is a bad idea because he overshoots and lists to the other side, bashing his elbow against a sharp jut of stone. He barely notices the throb of pressure radiating down his arm. The pain now electrifying his midsection draws the lion’s share of attention. But he remembers what happened and exactly why there are rocks all over the place and… “Spock’s injured.”

“He’s here, Bones. He’ll be fine despite that epic shove you gave him.”

“He won’t be fine,” Leonard barks. “He needs to get back to the ship.” Leonard had seen the size of the rock that had struck him, their first and only indication that a cave in would soon bring down tons of rock around their ears. Only Leonard’s uncharacteristically spooky sense of timing got Spock on the right side of this whole situation before the entryway collapsed. Jim , too busy investigating warm sunlight and sweet grass, had found himself safe from harm outside the cave. Jim may occasionally attract bad luck, but even he would have a hard time finding a rock willing to knock him out under an open sky.

“Once I get you out of there.”

No, no. That’s not right. Spock doesn’t have time for that. Leonard gets a good look around. Or a decent look around anyway. The light from the stupid headgear he’d been fitted with still works, but most of the light bounces off the still settling dust, obscuring Leonard's vision. The only thing Leonard knows for sure is he’s stuck, lucky to not be squished under a boulder, sure, but well and truly fucked by an entrance that no longer exists. Jim and Spock are somewhere on the other side, thank God, but it’s going to be a while getting him out. Not even Scotty could get a transporter lock in this mess.

“Jim, you have to get Spock back to the ship,” Leonard insists. “Head injuries aren’t any better for Vulcans than they are for humans even if their skulls are thicker. Metaphorically speaking anyway.”

“I’m not leaving you.”

“You can actually help Spock right now, but I’m stuck.” Leonard glances down at himself. He looks fine from the outside; there’s no blood on his uniform, only pulverized rock and dust, evenly distributed gray everywhere, but he knows there’s something wrong with his insides. It hurts too much breathe. “Save Spock's pointy-eared ass. You’ll have to get a team down here to get me out anyway.”

“Pointy-eared ass? That doesn’t make any sense,” Jim mutters almost by rote, as though sassing Leonard is an ingrained habit. “You don’t sound so good, Bones.”

“Yeah, well. Try getting knocked around by a ton of rubble, see how good you sound.” He lifts his shirt and tries to get a look at himself. A variety of dark bruises cross his torso. He’d like to believe it’s just shadows from the unusual direction of the light source, but he knows better. He coughs again. “Damn it, Jim. There’s no time to argue with me on this.” There really, really isn’t. But Jim doesn’t need to know how true that fact is.

Leonard stretches for his medkit and barely bites back a moan, hoping maybe he can mitigate some of the immediate danger, for Jim’s sake if not his own. Leonard doesn’t believe in that kind of luck for himself, but he could be hopeful for Jim.

“Okay, Bones,” Jim says slowly, conceding against his own judgment, Leonard can tell, and hating himself for it. Leonard hasn’t heard that tone in a while. And never directed at him. “You hang tight?”

“Can’t do anything but,” Leonard says gruffly instead of all the things he knows he should. Moments like these are natural opportunities for confessions. And boy, does Leonard have some confessing to do. He says nothing instead. He disgusts himself even more by pretending it’s for Spock’s benefit that he holds his tongue.

Stretched fingers finally catch on his medkit, twisting around the strap so he can reel the thing in. The scrape of the plastic across the ground jangles Leonard’s already shot nerves.

He opens the kit and tilts his head down to get more light where he needs it. Maybe there's something in there that can help and maybe he can get Jim that time he thinks Leonard's got. Leonard has performed more than a few miracles under Jim's watch after all. But the vials that he would have loaded into the hypospray, the ones that might have been worth a damn, broke in the cave in. All of them are broken, in point of fact, except for the pain medication already in the unit. Leonard laughs in defeat. Enough pain medication to tranquilize an elephant. But nothing he feels comfortable using.

“Damn it,” he says, letting his head strike the rock wall against his back. He takes a shallow breath and waits.

===

He wakes to the sound of beeping and a mostly dark room. And a mostly empty room except for Spock, who’s only lit by the light from his PADD and a few of the monitors keeping tabs on Leonard. He feels good. Mostly. Like he’s not dying anyway. Some tenderness in his abdomen, but considering his earlier predicament, it’s a symptom he gladly accepts.

Spock notices the movement and comes to his bedside, so smooth and quiet Leonard could almost believe he hadn’t moved at all.

“Doctor,” he says, handing over the PADD immediately as though he knows Leonard wants it. Leonard immediately calls up his own chart. Massive internal bleeding, a punctured lung, sprained elbow. No shit. Then he calls up Spock’s chart and discovers that M’Benga clearly knows his stuff when it comes to Vulcan physiology. And those fancy healing trances Vulcans perform clearly come in handy for head injuries. Envy grips Leonard about the throat. Leonard wouldn't mind a superpower like that.

“It’s my understanding that I have you to thank for the swiftness of my treatment. I would not have made it out had you not recognized the onset of danger in our environment when I could not.”

“Yeah, you’re welcome, Spock,” Leonard says a little distractedly. “Where's Jim?” He hadn’t expected to come back from this one, but he wouldn't have imagined waking up without Jim hovering nearby. Jim behaves even more poorly than usual when his friends are in the hospital, plants himself by their bedsides and can’t even be bothered to shave like a decent human male half the time in case something happens while he’s gone.

“He is indisposed.”

“Is that diplomatic code for something?” Leonard asks grouchily. He doesn't have the stamina for Spock's euphemistic turns of phrase. “I’m just wondering.”

“He would not see the logic of resting while you recuperated. And when he would not even agree to calm himself in order to remain here, I used other methods of persuasion to guarantee his cooperation.”

Great. Leonard sighs. “Was he really that bad? You do realize you only doubled his anger, right?”

“I am aware.” Spock looks away, chagrined. Or as close to it as he can get.

“You’re also aware you stole one of my tricks?” Leonard can’t help but add, choosing to ignore Jim’s antics for the time being. The Vulcan might have used a nerve pinch instead of a hypo loaded with sedatives, but Leonard can spot his own hallmark from a mile away. He finds himself inordinately proud of Spock and pleased with himself.

“Do not flatter yourself too much, Doctor,” Spock says and while his words aim for chiding, his tone remains even. They’ve worked together so long now that Leonard can read between the lines. Occasionally. “While expedient, your method is hardly the most elegant solution to be found. And it skirts dangerously close to insubordination.”

“It’s okay, Spock. You don’t have to tell me you found it therapeutic. I already know it is.”

Spock inclines his head mere inches. Leonard happily savors the implied admission regardless. Though it required a harrowing adventure to witness, it’s a good consolation prize. He leans back into the stiff pillow propping him up, satisfied enough by that at least. The bed may be uncomfortable, but he got Spock to agree with him. That’s worth a little discomfort.

“How long will Jim be out?” Leonard asks, unsure if he questions Spock about it because he wants to know how soon before he’ll be seeing Jim or because he needs to know how long he has to make peace with God before Jim fulfills that cave's intentions.

“Until morning,” Spock answers. It’s early evening now. How long ago did Spock pinch Jim into oblivion anyway? It can't have been too long.

“And how long are you planning on sticking around?”

“As long as you would like me to remain.”

Conflicting desires make a nuisance of themselves inside Leonard’s heart. He’d like to be fully healed, he knows that much. And he’d like Jim to just be glad to see him rather than angry with him. He'd like a little bit of courage. But the only thing he finds he would like right now that he can actually have is Spock’s company. That’s a new one.

===

“Doctor M’Benga tells me you are improving at a rapid rate,” Spock says, announcing his presence with that obvious proclamation. Leonard feels good, much better than he did yesterday, when he also thought he’d felt fine. Still sore, but ready to face some new walls outside of this room. Ready to face Jim, eager even, having kindled a bit of his own ire over the course of the night and through the morning’s examination.

“Yeah, and what he didn’t tell you is he’s a sadist intent on keeping me locked up in here for another day.”

“No, he informed of that much as well and I am in agreement with him. It is a prudent plan,” Spock says. “He is an excellent physician.”

“I hope you’re not planning on backing him in the uprising. He’ll never keep Jim in line for long,” Leonard insists, bitter that he has no ally in his bid for freedom. Maybe he should stop giving Jim such a bad time about his itchy feet in the future because Leonard is not holding himself to his own high standards of medbay conduct right now. And Leonard likes to think he's not a hypocrite.

“That is logical. And yet, the best way to keep him from staging this so-called uprising is to be as fit and ready to return to duty as possible. By staying here another day, you will ensure yourself a hasty recovery and undermine this imaginary regime change.”

Leonard rolls his eyes, fighting back amusement. It’s better than even odds that Spock is mocking him. He has started doing that lately, teasing Leonard in his distinctly Spock-like fashion. Leonard doesn’t know why it’s started, but he likes it enough that he won’t gripe about it. Humanizes the Vulcan bastard. It can’t be healthy, bottling a whole half of yourself up like that. Leonard would know.

“Have you seen Jim this morning?” Leonard finally asks, injecting his tone with a false levity. Just asking puts enough of a target on him. He doesn’t need to add ammunition by seeming especially affected.

“He is attending to his duties as captain,” Spock says, displeasure evident in his clipped tone. Or maybe Leonard’s projecting his own displeasure onto Spock. In any case, Spock gives him nothing else to go on. And Leonard won’t ask; that’s for damned sure. Spock all but stated that Jim is avoiding him. That’s really all Leonard needs to know. The rest is scenery.

===

With Jim conspicuously absent throughout the whole day and well into evening, Leonard begins to think he would rather endure the incandescent quality of Jim’s anger than wait for somebody who isn’t going to show. He has better things to do, like contemplate the ceiling and categorize all the ways he’s going to punish M’Benga for his petty, dictatorial qualities.

Uhura stops by with dinner though, dinner that’s more dessert than actual food, and Leonard is touched by the gesture. He and Uhura aren’t close, haven’t really been more than professional colleagues since the Academy when they’d run into each other and share a friendly conversation over coffee once in a blue moon. He likes her, but it seems those stripes they both wear on their sleeves put a dent in any familiarity they might cultivate.

“Hey, doc,” she says, setting the tray of food in front of him. “Spock said he’ll be by later, but I thought I’d stop by, too. And not that I know from personal experience, but I’m told the food here sucks. Figured I could do my part in breaking doctor’s orders.” She smiles slyly. "For the good of the impending rebellion, of course."

“Food here sucks for a reason, Lieutenant,” Leonard admonishes. “But thank you.” He doesn't tell Uhura that Geoff's not the stickler for proper nutrition that Leonard is.

“You’re welcome,” she says, pulling the chair in the corner of the room a little bit closer to his bedside while he self-consciously mixes the mashed potatoes with the corn on his plate. He wants to go for the berry cobbler, but figures he should wait until he’s consumed something almost approaching healthy first. “There’s no need to be so formal, is there, sir?” she asks, placing enough emphasis on the sir to make it sound ridiculous. And maybe it is. Few people call Uhura by her rank when she's off duty, but since almost everyone still calls Leonard by his title he's taken to doing the same with everyone save Jim. And Spock.

“Well, I am a thin sheet away from exposing you the least attractive pair of boxer shorts I own. I suppose there’s not much reason to cling to professional decorum,” he answers, smiling.

“You still have professional decorum?” Uhura asks, lobbing his joke back to him with the same ease she exhibits on the racquetball court every week. “Even after you and the Captain—”

“Please don’t mention that,” Leonard says although he has no idea which of the many shenanigans Jim had instigated she’s talking about. There are manifold and legendary among certain classes at the Academy, but playing along feels good, almost like hanging out with Jim. “I concede the point. No need to knock a man when he’s down and bury him with it.”

Uhura laughs, bright and clear. “How are you feeling, Leonard?”

“Good enough to get out of this place,” he answers truthfully. “Not good enough to withstand one of Spock’s logical onslaughts without giving in and staying put. I was gonna release myself this morning before he convinced me otherwise.”

“Few are capable of that even at their best. One day I’ll tell you the secret.”

“I’m pretty sure the secret is ignoring him, but I’m just not good enough at it yet. He’s so annoying.” They sit in silence for a few minutes before Leonard speaks again, finally taking a bite of the cobbler. “What all have I been missing anyway?”

She navigates around the elephant in the room with so much poise Leonard almost forgets that she just spent the day occupying the same space as Jim.

===

“As long as you behave yourself, I don’t see any reason why you can’t finish recuperating in your own quarters,” Geoff says, looking far more relieved at the proclamation than Leonard thinks is necessary. Geoff's the one who insisted on keeping Leonard. “Another day of bed rest, then light duty for a day or two after that. Then the medbay is your fiefdom once more. Are you sure you want to put on the uniform shirt?”

“Yes, damn it,” Leonard answers, tugging on the shirt in question. He’s not an invalid. And he is a member of the crew. He’d rather look at least something like it. And his range of motion may still be shot to shit, but he manages well enough. Thank God these things stretch as much as they do.

Then Geoff tries to send him off with a nurse in tow, which is beyond unnecessary. He can shuffle to his quarters and take three times as long to reach the blasted place without an impatient audience trailing behind him. By the time he gets there, his mood has tanked even further than he'd expected and he wants nothing more than to take a nap even though he’s only been awake for two hours. He’s seen neither hide nor hair of Jim, who styles himself a one man morale booster for injured crew members except when his injured crew member happens to be his best friend, and frankly today can go fuck itself as a result because since Leonard's been awake Spock has taken that role, coming in to check on him before and after his shifts. Spock might not talk much—he is still Spock after all—what is there even to talk about with Spock? But the company’s been nice enough. Between him and Uhura Leonard’s beginning to think he needs to invest less of his time in Jim and more of it in them. They’re good people. Well, Uhura’s good people. Spock is adequate most of the time. It's just sad that Spock feels bad enough for him to keep hanging out because Jim won't.

As far as Leonard’s concerned, Jim can visit or not at his own discretion. Leonard won’t beg for the privilege. And honestly, if Jim’s still mad, maybe it’s for the best. Leonard doesn’t have enough energy to fight, but he feels a whole lot of righteous anger bubbling up inside of him just waiting for Jim to start something. And he'll be damned if he loses because he's not adequately rested.

Stepping into his quarters feels especially lonely after the time he's spent in the medbay with people milling about at all hours. Everything is too clean; the room is too dark. His mama used to say there was nothing more depressing than a room abandoned. He walks to his bed and sits as gingerly as possible, kicking off the glorified slippers that Geoff had insisted upon, which had been the right call despite Leonard’s vehement protests. Now he shudders at the thought of removing his standard boots. And instead of standing again so he can untuck his pristine sheets, he chooses to lie down on top of them and save himself the trouble. Almost as soon as he shuts his eyes he falls asleep again.

===

Leonard wakes abruptly, as though roused by an alarm though no sound alerts him to anything amiss. Opening his eyes, he sees a figure sitting on his couch, hunched over with chin in hand, a familiar body, oblivious to Leonard’s return to consciousness. Leonard is so conditioned to this particular invasion into his private space that he can’t manage even the tiniest spike of adrenaline that would surely accompany the discovery of someone different lurking in his quarters.

He scrubs his palm over his face to clear his vision and pats at his hair, not entirely sure whether it helps with the bedhead or just makes it worse. Then again this is Jim. Why should Leonard bother to look presentable for him?

“’Lo, Jim,” Leonard says, voice thick with sleep.

Jim startles, a full body flinch visible even from across the darkened room. He whips around, wide eyed and gape mouthed, though a mere moment passes before he closes down, smooth as anything. Leonard hates that blankness almost more than he resents Jim right now. And that’s saying something.

“Hey, Bones,” Jim says, the creepy intonation of his voice twisting the words into a shadowed variation of his ‘I’m the captain’ tone, like Leonard’s a potential threat Jim’s not sure he wants to subdue yet. It's the polite greeting he's heard Jim give to weapon wielding natives on planet-side missions that have gone pear shaped.

“You’ve got a lot of nerve brooding in the dark while a man’s sleeping, Jim.”

“I just came to apologize,” he says, offended, regaining something of his normal vocal range in the name of justifying himself. “And then you were asleep, so I…” At this Jim waves his hand around as though it explains everything.

“And the brooding?”

“I wasn’t brooding,” Jim says, clipped and light. “I just realized why I was so angry with you and figured thinking it through wouldn't hurt.”

“Funny, I got that memo two days ago. Thanks. I thought you were a genius. Shouldn’t you know why you’re angry by now?”

“No, I mean…” Jim sighs, scrubbing his hand over his face and groaning his frustration into his palm. “I’m not mad at you. Not really. And I am sorry I didn’t come to see you.” Jim looks up at him, earnest and contrite. Leonard would like to get closer to him, but his muscles protest with every twitch. Until he’s had a chance to stretch, he rules out moving to the couch. He doesn’t want Jim to witness his less than fluid gait.

“I’m doing this all wrong,” Jim continues when Leonard doesn’t speak.

And just like that, Leonard’s resentment deflates, limp and useless as an old balloon. Expressions of feeling and Jim Kirk mix about as well as oil and water, but Leonard’s got the decoder ring memorized. He should know better. He hadn’t been angry with Jim for being mad at him first, he’d been scared. He can only imagine what Jim feels. “You’re fine, Jim,” Leonard says softly. “I get it.”

“I’m not fine,” Jim says. He’s staring at the ceiling now, so focused it’s like he’s watching something up there only his eyes can see.

“I still think about it. Dying. Me, you, Spock. Everyone,” Jim adds. “I think about it all the time. And I always imagine that I'll be able to impart some final thought to you. I don’t know what it is yet, but I always hope it’s true. And comforting.” He smiles a bit impishly then, as though this isn’t one of the most morbid conversations Leonard's ever had. “And relentlessly quotable.”

Leonard rolls his eyes. Only Jim. But he keeps his mouth shut, hoping Jim will continue on his own. He absolutely does not point out that Jim’s grand dream of finding himself in the last words’ hall of fame didn’t work out so well the first time. Nor had any of the words he spoke reached Leonard’s ears. And they hadn’t been much comfort to Spock, who'd taken out his despair on Khan's face.

“And when I think about you dying, if it happens to be in the line of duty, and I happen to be there, I'd expected the same. Nothing pithy, maybe. But truthful. And probably not comforting, knowing you. So maybe not quite the same.” Then he looks at Leonard, all the hurt and fear and anger in his eyes magnified and reflected by the pale light emanating from the floorboards. “I never once imagined you comforting me with a lie.”

“Jim,” Leonard says weakly. “It wasn’t like that.”

“Oh, trust me. I’ve been reliving those moments for three and a half days. It was exactly like that. You were very careful in how you spoke, weren’t you? Omitting the most important piece of information because you knew I wouldn’t look too closely. Because it’s you, right?” Jim laughs, broken and deprecating. “You wouldn’t keep something that important from me. You don’t obfuscate the truth the same way the rest of us do.”

Jim looks every bit the lost kid Leonard used to accuse him of being and it breaks Leonard’s heart to see it, so he pretends he doesn’t, but the stab of guilt in his chest doesn’t recede. He had lied to Jim and worse no one would blame him for it. Not even Jim probably, once he thinks about it rationally. Because who blames a dying man for his weaknesses? After all, he’d saved Spock’s life. And he never said he was okay when he wasn’t, never said anything at all. Never spoke a lie.

“You’re right,” he says when he finds his voice. He’s got nothing better to say for himself, though he wishes he did.

“I thought we’d get you out of there, you’d have a concussion maybe, a broken bone or two. Serves me right for thinking that. If it had been that simple you’d have been swearing up a storm at me.”

Now that Jim’s found his words, they keep coming, relentless, hitting every mark Jim sets for them.

“But no. You weren’t breathing.”

“Jim, stop,” Leonard demands. His chest constricts in remembrance of the moments before he’d blacked out, thinking maybe he could hear something, voices and shifting rock, but coming too late.

“Did you think I wouldn’t make the right call?” Jim asks, accusatory. “I don’t know that I can blame you. I wasn’t too intent on leaving, was I, even though you insisted?” He looks down at his hands, rubbing them together. The raspy sound of Jim's dry skin fills the silence left behind by Jim's words.

Christ. Leonard really should have said something back there. But maybe there’s something he can do now. He points at his desk. “Jim, you wanna grab a PADD for an old invalid?”

Jim retrieves it for him, curiosity getting the better of self-recrimination. Leonard’s heart beats frantically in his chest, leaves him feeling lightheaded, but he owes Jim this much. And maybe it’ll help him understand. Otherwise Jim will let this eat him up and by that point it won’t matter what Leonard says.

Jim waits as quietly as Leonard has ever seen him as he flicks through file after file, searching for the one he’d hoped he’d never need. All the same, Leonard can think of worse circumstances under which it would go to Jim. He sends it before he can rethink the decision.

“There might be a thing or two there that’ll make things a little awkward,” Leonard says, fully aware of what the file contains and unsure how Jim will react. “But if I’d been honest with you from the start you’d already know them all anyway.” Then he coughs. “I’m still pretty beat, but after you watch it if you still want to talk, you’ll know where I’ll be.”

“What is it?”

“You’ll see.”

Jim nods, fidgeting with suspense as he backs out the door. If nothing else, Leonard hopes they both sleep a little better with all this clean air between them.

===

Nervous anticipation courses through Leonard as he rouses himself from slumber. He’d half expected Jim to knock down his door as soon as he’d gone so quickly had Leonard expected Jim to watch the vid and formulate a judgment. Leonard had stayed awake, expecting Jim's return every moment. But eventually sleep won out and offered a good eight hours of uninterrupted slumber to him as a token. He feels much less sore, too, taking half the dose of analgesics Geoff had sent with him. He can even stretch more than half an inch in any given direction. Leonard, unsure whether his fortune is a sign of good things to come or a consolation for impending heartache, thanks his lucky stars and modern medicine just to cover his bases.

He takes a shower to kill some time. The sonics thrum a relaxing rhythm against his skin and Leonard considers staying put all day. Once out he pulls on a clean shirt and real pants and feels like a human again before he notices it’s only been ten minutes and he’s still waiting anxiously for Jim to accost him.

Or worse, to not bother coming at all.

Leonard debates the merits of breakfast when he hears the door chime. The only person who ever visits is Jim. And Jim never bothers with the niceties where Leonard’s concerned. Jim says it’s part of his charm; Leonard thinks Jim just doesn’t want to give him the chance to turn him away.

“Enter,” Leonard calls, standing awkwardly in the middle of the room. He’s pretty sure it’s Jim, but can't be positive. Too bad a casual demeanor doesn’t come as naturally to him as sarcasm and a bad attitude. His worry is moot, though, as it turns out it is Jim and he’s clutching his PADD to his chest like it’s the most precious thing he owns. And the wonder in Jim’s eyes is breathtaking, like Leonard’s the most precious thing he’s seen. Leonard’s head doesn’t spin, but sudden possibilities open up he’d never allowed himself to ponder before, and he grips the back of his couch to ensure his equilibrium.

“You meant it?” Jim asks, voice so low and filled with painful hope that Leonard wonders how he missed it. He sees that look on his own face in the mirror on his worst days. He can recognize it blindfolded.

“Yeah,” Leonard says, willing to own up to it now even though he can’t remember more than the gist of what he'd said. It doesn’t matter though. He’d mean anything if Jim keeps looking at him like that.

“All of it?”

Leonard puts his weight on his arms, leaning forward into the couch to keep from vaulting over it or something worse to get to Jim. “Every last bit.”

Then Jim frowns at him. “And you were going to wait to tell me until after you were dead? That was your plan?”

Leonard shrugs. “I’m not the smartest man alive when it comes to this sort of thing, Jim. I am the guy who ran away to space camp when his marriage disintegrated—despite a fear of starships.”

“Okay,” Jim says, releasing a pent up breath as he walks toward Leonard. Everything about him screams business, from the ‘brooks no argument’ tone of his voice to the hand now brushing Leonard’s collarbone. “That? Actually worked out pretty well for you all things considered, so not your strongest argument. Seems to me your best bet is pretending you’re not a chicken shit for five minutes and using that time to kiss me. And then you’re never going to make another one of those vids. Ever. You’re going to tell me these things instead. I don’t want your ghost telling them to me for you after it's too late, are we clear?”

“As bells.”

“Good,” Jim says, hands on his hips. “So prove it.”

Turns out it’s not so hard to do that much after all.

Jim, if you’re seeing this… well, you know why you’re seeing this. And if it’s true, I probably never got the chance to say half the things I ever wanted to. So… here goes: the other half of all those things I may not have said. If I’m repeating myself, I apologize.

Somewhere inside that Jim Kirk persona you project is the best man I’ve ever known. And I’m proud to have seen that persona replaced piece by piece with the good person you are underneath. There’s not another person with whom I’d drag my ass into space for even a minute let alone a five year exploratory mission.

I don’t think there’s a part of me that isn’t better for just having known you… even when I’m acting like a pigheaded son of a bitch. Maybe especially then. My pigheadedness has gotten quite a workout because of you.

You’re the most important person in my life. There’s not a day goes by I don’t build an anecdote to tell you at dinner or see something that makes me think of you. When out of the blue I remember a bit of trivia from my youth I wonder if it’d amuse you and then I tell you, just to see if I’m right. Usually I am. And sometimes that’s the best part of my day. My dad just sent some old vids of my scrawny ass playing basketball in high school and my first thought was, “I bet Jim’ll get a kick out of these.”

The day I sent you those vids and you came barreling into my office in the middle of alpha shift beaming like mad just to demand a pick-up game is one of my fondest memories.
I don’t like that faraway look you get sometimes when you see crew members cozying up to one another. Do you even notice that you do it? You’re not supposed to believe in no-win scenarios, but I’d swear that’s the look of defeat if ever I saw it.

I hate it when you spout that old Earth axiom about loneliness and leadership positions like it’s an immutable law of the universe, like Jim Kirk hasn’t met a rule he wouldn’t rewrite with pleasure. Rewrite that rule, Jim. It doesn’t have to be lonely at the top. It shouldn’t have been for a long time.

You have been loved, James Tiberius Kirk, and not just by your crew for your bravery and your enemies for your intellect and your admirers for your beauty. You’re loved by me for who you were on that shuttle in Riverside and who you’ve become as Captain of the Enterprise and who you’ve always been every moment in between. And if I didn’t tell you while I had the chance, know that I regretted not saying it more than anything else I’ve ever done.

I’m, uh, going to end this now. Seems to me that running off at the mouth like this is just as embarrassing without an audience as it would be with one.

Take... take care of yourself, okay? Promise me that.