Title: Unnecessary Risks
Fandom & Pairing: Star Trek Reboot (aka AOS, ST XI, etc.), Kirk/McCoy
Rating: disappointingly PG
Warnings: 3000 words of PURE MELODRAMA. Seriously. This is, like, the worst soap opera you've EVER seen. On CRACK.
Word Count: around 3000
Summary: Bones finally gives up. Will Jim be able to win him back?
Disclaimer: Any resemblance to anything whatsoever is purely coincidental.
A/N : This is a birthday fic written for the lovely, sweet, and talented weepingnaiad. Ummm. I'M SORRY, BB. REALLY, REALLY SORRY. I tried to write something, y'know, good, and instead this came out. I must be hormonal or something.
ETA: OMG I CANNOT BELIEVE I forgot to say that this fic is courtesy of a plot bunny graciously donated to me by the wonderful mga1999. THANK YOU SO MUCH, BB.
As tempestuous as their relationship was, it was a good thing they'd kept their separate quarters, if in name only, since Bones was pretty much living in the captain's quarters. Still, when they fought, which was prone to happen from time to time, it helped Bones to have somewhere to go when he made his dramatic exit, storming out of Jim's quarters. Or, at least that's what Jim figured. Would kind of ruin the big moment if he had to buzz back in a few seconds later for his toothbrush or something.
It added spice to the relationship, Jim thought, and plus, the make-up sex was always amazing. So maybe Bones had seemed a little more upset than usual when he'd left Jim's quarters this last time, and okay he'd been more... quiet and resigned than angry. He was just seeing a new facet of Bones - it kept things interesting.
The fight had been about one of their old standards - Jim's decision to go on an away mission. Bones was kind of overprotective, and while Jim loved that about him, he was after all the captain of a starship, and a Starfleet officer - danger came with the job, and there was no way he was sending lower-ranking crewmembers into a situation he wasn't willing to go into himself.
Bones was a bit more wound up than usual, though, after the disaster that had been Umothia VII, almost four months ago now. The Umothians had seemed friendly enough, expressed interest in joining the Federation, and when they'd invited Kirk to a diplomatic function and indicated that it would be a grave insult to bring any weapons, he'd selected a couple of security crew who had hand-to-hand training and beamed down. Bones hadn't liked it, but Jim had overruled him. That was his job, and he didn't see why Bones couldn't understand that.
Unfortunately, the Umothians had turned out to be hostile, and had captured the away team and held them captive for nearly three weeks, attempting to negotiate for concessions from the Federation in return for the hostages. Of course, the Federation didn't negotiate with terrorists, and so when the Umothians finally got that through their thick skulls (literally, their heads were like twice the size of humans'), they brought Jim and the two security guards out to the plaza of the capitol city for a public execution. Jim was staring down the barrel of a gun - an honest-to-god projectile weapon, of all things - when Scotty finally managed to calibrate the transporters so they could penetrate the Umothians' defensive shield. He heard later that the Umothians had been broadcasting it, that Bones had been on the bridge and seen his almost-execution.
But he'd made it back safely, thanks to the efforts of his brilliant crew. Maybe it was a bit last-minute, but he was used to that. It had happened a thousand times before, and would happen a thousand times again until he was ready to retire or his luck ran out. He'd accepted it, was okay with it. Bones was another story.
Ever since the Umothia incident, Bones had been on edge, even more irritable than usual. He wasn't yelling, either - he was bottling up his anger and keeping it contained. Fine with Jim - he hated it when Bones hollered anyway.
It had flared up again, though, when Jim had mentioned, as he was getting ready for bed, that he was planning on going with the away team to answer the distress call they'd picked up from a planet just inside the neutral zone. Yes, it was most likely a trap. He knew that. But that didn't mean he could ignore it, and it didn't mean he was willing to send someone else to face the danger in his stead. Bones had raged and yelled and in the end he'd actually begged - and man, was that weird, but Jim didn't change his mind. Couldn't.
So now it looked like he was going to be sleeping alone. Well, when he got back safely he and Bones would have a laugh about how paranoid he'd been and then they'd get on with that make-up sex.
With that thought firmly in mind, Jim drifted off to sleep.
The next morning, Bones wasn't at breakfast, and wasn't in the transporter room to see him off like he usually was. Well, lots of times Bones was going on the away mission too, but when he wasn't, he invariably showed up to glower at Jim and tell him to get his fool ass home safely. Then Jim would wink and say "I love you too, Bones." It was their thing. He felt somewhat disgruntled that Bones had let their argument interfere with that.
Still, nothing to be done about it, so he grinned at Scotty as he gave the command to energize.
The away mission went pretty much like he'd expected - Klingons lying in wait, a phaser battle followed by grappling with an angry warrior wielding a bat'leth. He'd gotten a bit sliced up, but nothing worse than usual. Still, once they'd subdued the Klingons, and were ready to beam back up, he was looking forward to Bones meeting him in the transporter room and bitching at him for getting injured.
There was no sign of Bones in the transporter room, though, and it was Nurse Chapel who was there to walk him to sickbay and see to the treatment of his wounds. Well, he always enjoyed the view when he followed Chapel somewhere. Once they got to sickbay, he looked around for Bones - he must've had some other urgent medical something-or-other to see to. He didn't see him, though, and when he asked Chapel where he was, she went blank-faced and said that he'd arranged to switch shifts with Doctor M'Benga. He couldn't get anything else out of her.
This was getting irritating. After he'd finished the annoyingly slow regen process, he asked the computer to locate Doctor McCoy. The bland female voice informed him that Doctor McCoy was in the captain's quarters, and Jim headed off with a spring in his step. Finally Bones had come to his senses.
When the door opened though, he got an unpleasant clenching feeling in his stomach. Bones was taking his things, throwing them into a large duffel that was open on the bed. He'd clearly heard the door, but he didn't look up, just kept packing.
"Bones, what's going on?" Jim tried for casual. Best not to aggravate the sleeping bear, or however that expression went.
Now Bones looked up at him, and the look in his eyes was something Jim never wanted to see again. He looked... defeated. That was the only word for it. He looked like a man who'd given up. The clenching in his stomach got worse.
"Bones, come on, talk to me."
Then he spoke, and Jim wished he hadn't. "I'm done, Jim. I've put in a request to 'fleet medical for a transfer. It should be processed within a couple weeks. You can drop me at starbase 23 when we stop for resupply."
"What? Why? Bones, seriously, you're freaking me out here."
"Jim, you know exactly why. I just... I can't do this anymore. I can't wait for you to die." His voice sounded hollow, flat.
Suddenly Jim was angry. Really, really angry. "So that's it? Three years at the academy and two years out here serving together and you're just gonna give up - walk out on me?" The words like everyone else went unsaid, but they both heard them, and Bones winced, before his face blanked again.
"I guess so, Jim. I requested to serve as a battle medic on the front lines of the Coreran civil war, so at least I won't have that long to enjoy my betrayal."
"What the fuck, man? Do you even know what the life expectancy is for anyone on the front lines of the Coreran conflict?"
Bones responded promptly, still in that flat tone. "Two and a half coreran days. Which translates to, roughly, three earth standard days."
Jim blanched. He'd heard it was bad, but fuck. "No. Absolutely not. I won't allow it."
Bones shrugged. Just shrugged. "It's not up to you."
"I'll pull strings. I'll call in favors. Hell, I'll blackmail the admiralty if I have to. No way you're going on a fucking suicide mission."
Bones chuckled bitterly, and the sound cracked Jim's soul. "That's rich, coming from you. Do what you want, Jim, you're not gonna be able to keep me here. The Corerans are desperate for medics, and their strategic importance is so high that Starfleet's desperate for doctors willing to go. I'm willing. Yeah, I'll probably die sooner rather than later. But it's my choice, and I've accepted it. At least I'll go out doing what I'm meant to do."
Jim stood aghast as he heard his own words repeated back to him. It took him several seconds to find his voice. "Is that what this is? Some sort of twisted - payback, or something? You're making me see how it feels?"
"No, Jim. That's not what this is. This is... I've lost everything I cared about once before in my life. I can't do it again. I can't. But you and I both know it's gonna happen, and probably soon, at the rate you're going. The truth is, I'm being selfish. I can't be the one left behind. I can't take that pain. I'd rather die. And so... I will. To be honest, I probably wouldn't survive your death anyway. So I'm just... making a pre-emptive strike. You're big on strategy, you oughta appreciate that."
And Jim could think of nothing to say as Bones zipped his duffel, picked it up, and walked out of the room. Then he was running to the head and throwing up everything he'd eaten that day. The thought of Bones, blown to pieces on some faraway planet... he retched again, helplessly.
He knelt on the bathroom floor, dry heaving and shuddering. Finally, though, he pulled himself together. He stood up, splashed some cold water on his face and looked at his pale and haunted reflection in the mirror. He didn't believe in no-win scenarios. He didn't. He just had to figure out how to beat this one, and he had to figure it out quickly. Because without Bones... No. The thought that he felt just like Bones did - that he couldn't live without him, wouldn't survive his death, flitted through his mind, settled, and spread ripples like a stone thrown into a still pond.
He'd do anything within his power to keep Bones alive. And what Bones was asking - the only thing he was asking, was that he keep himself alive. And he'd treated Bones like that was an unreasonable request, like Bones was asking far too much of him. Fuck, he was an idiot.
He scrambled to the computer panel in his quarters, hailed Uhura. He saw her startled look as she took in his appearance on the viewscreen.
"Captain, are you all - "
He cut her off. "Lieutenant, has today's comm packet gone out yet?"
She looked confused. "Not yet; I was just about to send it."
"HOLD IT. For Christ's sake, hold it. Don't send it."
"Captain, Starfleet regulations state that - "
"Fuck Starfleet regulations. This is a matter of life or death; I'm not kidding. Bones' life. Please hold the comm packet."
She looked at him carefully for a moment before nodding. "Very well, captain. We're encountering subspace radiation that's interfering with our comms array. Today's comm packet will be delayed indefinitely."
"Thank you, lieutenant. Thank you." He signed off without waiting for her response.
Then he went to his closet, pulled down the ancient wooden steamer trunk that held his most prized possessions. In the very bottom, tucked into the corner, was a small velvet box. He grabbed it, then raced out of his quarters. In moments, he was standing in front of the door to Bones' quarters, trying to calm his thundering heart. This was, by far, the most crucial moment of his life.
He pressed the door buzzer. No response. Well, he hadn't expected one. Without hesitation, he typed in his override code. The door was locked with the emergency medical quarantine code, the one code that wouldn't respond to the captain's override code. Fuck. Still, it was the matter of a few minutes' work to hack and override it. The door swished open and he stepped in. It was dim, with the lights at maybe 5%. He could see Bones, sitting on his bed with his head in his hands.
Now that he was here, he found himself at a loss. What was he supposed to do or say to show Bones what he'd realized, how he felt? His whole life had been upended and he had to try to express that with words? He ran a shaky hand through his hair.
"Fuck off, Jim."
Well, that hadn't been an auspicious start. Still, he wasn't going to be deterred that easily. "Just hear me out, Bones. Then if you want me to leave, I swear I will." That was a blatant lie, but Bones didn't have to know that.
"Fine. Say whatever you have to say, then go."
"Bones, I... I need you." He trailed off, trying to decide how to explain how he was feeling.
"That all?" was the sardonic response.
"No. Fuck, give me time here to organize my thoughts.
"When I realized - really realized, really accepted, that you were going to die... Bones, I'm not going to survive your death either. I wouldn't want to. And then I realized what I've been putting you through, every time I do something stupid and reckless. And I'm sorry. I can't tell you how sorry I am. But I can show you, and if you let me, I'll spend the rest of my life showing you." He stepped towards the bed, offering the small box to Bones.
Bones ignored it. "Oh, what, is this some desperate attempt to get me to stay? Offer to marry me and I'll be so bowled over by the romantic gesture that I'll forget what it's like to watch you go on every goddamned away mission, waiting for the one where you won't come back?"
"No," Jim said quietly. "Though I don't blame you for thinking that. I've... I've had this ring for a while. Since our second year at the Academy, actually. I've always known it was for you. But I thought that if I held back, didn't take that last step... I thought when I went, it wouldn't hurt you as much."
Bones laughed, and Jim could hear the tears behind it. "You were trying to protect me by withholding this from me? Knowing that I'd lose you without ever knowing that you felt what I did? Fuck you, Jim."
Shit. This wasn't going well at all. "I'm sorry. I think we've already established that I'm an idiot, right?" There was no response. "Just tell me - tell me what I can do. Anything, Bones. I swear, anything." There was a long pause, and Jim felt his life hanging in the balance. Finally, reluctantly, Bones spoke.
"You won't agree."
"I get absolute veto power over your decision to go on any away mission. I'd try not to use it much, but Jim, I wouldn't hesitate if I thought it was warranted. And you at least seriously consider my advice on protective measures you can use to cut down on the danger you encounter. No more beaming down to unexplored planets without a goddamn oxygen filter. And we retire after two tours. I want to spend at least part of my life on earth, without having to share you with this damn ship."
"The second and third part - that's no problem. I swear. The first part - I'll try, but it might conflict with direct orders from Starfleet. I can promise that if it doesn't conflict, I will."
"No, Jim. I told you the deal. It's all or nothing."
Jim thought for a second. But really, there was nothing to think about. If he had to choose between Bones and his career? Fuck Starfleet. He'd choose Bones in a heartbeat.
"Okay, yeah. All right. You get total veto power, and I promise to seriously consider any safety measures you suggest. And we'll retire together in eight years."
Bones looked at him, and now Jim could see the toll this had taken. He looked ten years older, and there were tear tracks tracing down his face. Jim knelt on the bed facing him, cradled his face in his hands. "I'm sorry, Bones. I'm so, so sorry. I'd do anything for you, you know that. I'd die for you, Bones."
Bones looked straight into his eyes. "I don't want you to die for me, Jim. I want you to live for me. Think you can manage that?"
Jim took a deep breath. That was the question, wasn't it? He'd prided himself on the depth of his devotion to Bones, his entire crew - he'd die for any one of them, sacrificing himself the way his father had, without hesitation. But really? His father had had it easy. One moment of resolve and it was over. It was those who were left behind who suffered. He'd seen what it had done to his mom, hell, he knew what it had done to him. He wouldn't do that to Bones, to all of those he cared about.
"Yeah, Bones. I can manage that." He'd never meant anything more in his life.
Bones closed his eyes briefly, and when he opened them up again, it was like the sunrise. "All right, then. All right. Give me the goddamn ring."
When they came up for oxygen, Jim murmured against Bones' lips, "Were you bluffing? Would you really have thrown your life away on Corera?"
Bones hummed against his skin. "You'll never know, Jim. A little mystery's good for you."
Jim sighed back into the kiss again. Well, as long as he had Bones he could live with a little mystery. Just in case, though, he was going to hack the computer later and delete the entire fucking outgoing comms packet. No sense in taking unnecessary risks, after all.