Leonard's eyes snap open. He's lying on the ground, head turned to the side. His body starts to slowly register every ache.
"Okay, don't move," Jim murmurs urgently. "Stay with me, Bones. You're gonna be fine."
Leonard tries to breathe evenly as blood trickles down his cheek. He can hear Jim yelling for help on his comm. He tries to take a deep breath, but it hurts. "Jim?" he chokes out.
"Shh, don't talk," Jim whispers, fingers stroking Leonard's hair lightly. "You're okay. Just breathe."
"I know, Bones. I know. Help's on the way." Jim crouches in front of him, and Leonard can see the stark red on his face, disappearing into his hairline. He tries to reach out a hand, but Jim catches it, clasping it in both of his. "You'll be okay, Bones. Don't move."
There panic threading through Jim's voice, and Leonard know it's bad. He knows there's so much he needs to say. The world is starting to tinge red. "Jim --"
"Shut up, kid," Leonard snaps. "Just ... I -- this last year ..." He's starting to feel light-headed and loses track of what he's saying. He swallows and tries again. "I love you." There. No nonsense, no bullshit. Just the truth.
Jim's hands are shaking. "Bones, don't ..."
Leonard wants to squeeze Jim hands, but he can't manage it. "Kiss me?" he whispers as his eyes slip shut.
He feels Jim move close, tears dropping onto Leonard's skin before Jim's lips gently touch his. "Hold on, Bones. Please. Don't leave me."
He can't bring himself to respond verbally, but Leonard tries to do as Jim asked. The kid's had so many people let him down or leave him. He doesn't want to be another one on that list, even if it's not his fault. So, he listens to Jim cry until medical help arrives. Does his best to keep breathing.
"Is he ... is he gonna --"
"We'll do everything we can, Captain."
Jim sounds so lost, so hurt. Leonard wants to go to him, feels himself starting to drift away and trying to get to Jim.
Just as quickly, he realizes that's the wrong move. He hangs onto the pain; he hangs on for Jim. Or he tries to. His thoughts are getting more muddled, and it's becoming harder. It would be so easy to just let go.
A hand grips his tightly. "Stay with me, Bones. Don't -- I love you. Don't you dare die on me."
Leonard would have laughed at that, if he could have.
"Enterprise, six to beam up."
Despite the blanket Chapel had tucked around him, Jim can’t stop trembling. He’s never in his life been so terrified.
He holds Bones’s limp hand in his own, pressing his lips to it. “I’m here, Bones,” he whispers.
When they had beamed aboard the Enterprise, the medical staff and Spock had had to physically pull Jim away from Bones. He hadn’t stopped yelling or let anyone treat him until Chapel nailed him with a sedative.
Clearly, Bones had been showing her his ninja hypospray skills.
Hours later, Bones was out of surgery, and Jim’s injuries had been cared for. They had just been out for a night together when they’d been jumped and attacked. The price of fame or some shit like that.
Bones could normally hold his own in a fight, but he’d taken a blow to the back of the head first. Despite Jim’s best efforts, their attackers had beaten Bones while Jim fended off the ones on him. He just hadn’t been fast enough.
M’Benga told him that the amount of internal bleeding was extensive. They had managed to get it stopped, but the question was if they had been in time to repair the damage to his brain. Now it was a matter of waiting.
Jim looks up and strokes his fingers through Bones’s hair. “It’s time to wake up, Bones. We need to know you’re okay. I need … I just … I need you. Please … please, wake up.”
It’s not a sure thing. He might never wake up.
Jim chokes off a sob, resting his head against the biobed. His tears soak the sheets. He sits up and fusses with the blankets over Bones, making sure he’s completely tucked in except for the hand Jim is clinging to. He’s never been on this side of things before, and it sucks.
“Man, I am so sorry for all the times I put you through this, Bones. Just … please, wake up, and I swear I’ll be more careful from now on.” He strokes his thumb across the back of Bones’s hand. “I’m so sorry. I wasn’t fast enough. I should’ve – I couldn’t protect you.”
Jim doesn’t turn to face him. “Yes, Spock.”
“I take it there’s been no change in the doctor’s condition.”
“Should I come back at a more opportune time?”
“No, it’s fine. What did you want to discuss?”
Spock crosses the room to stand on the other side of the biobed, facing Jim. “I was going to update you on the ship status, Captain.”
Jim wipes his eyes. “Go ahead.” He’s glad for something else to concentrate on, even though the report is absolutely routine. He gave his permission to begin minor repairs in Engineering. “And what about the Senobens that attacked us?”
“They are currently being tried for the crime on the planet.”
Jim nods. Even though he did defeat them all in the end, he wanted to fight them all again, torture them, make them pay for hurting Bones.
“Are you recovered from your injuries, Captain?”
Spock pauses before continuing. “Is there anything else I can do to be of assistance, Captain?”
Jim shakes his head. “Thank you, Commander. Just … keep an eye on things for me.”
Spock nods. “I will return tomorrow. I hope Doctor McCoy recovers soon.”
Jim doesn’t watch him leave. “See that? Even Spock’s worried about you.” He squeezes Bones’s hand. “I’ll be here. I’m stayin’ right here until you open your eyes.”
Leonard opens his eyes. “Jim?”
Jim doesn’t respond, just continues holding Leonard’s hand and weeping quietly.
And that’s when Leonard realizes that he’s watching the scene from the other end of the bed. He stares at himself and Jim.
“No,” he whispers. He rushes towards Jim, but his hands go right through him. “NO!”
“Bones,” Jim whimpers.
Leonard’s hand hovers just above Jim’s head. “I’m right here, kid. I’m right here.”
Jim looks up for just a moment.
Leonard’s heart leaps to his throat. “Can you hear me?”
Jim glances over only for a second.
“Leo,” a deep voice sounds from behind him.
Leonard turns and stares. “Dad?”
David McCoy, looking completely healthy, smiles at him. “Hi, son.”
Leonard stumbles to him, flinging his arms around him. “Dad,” he sobs.
His father’s arms circle around him.
Leonard starts to babble. “Oh, God, I’m so sorry. If I’d only waited – I didn’t know … I’m sorry!”
“Shh, it’s all right, Leo. There’s nothing to forgive. I’m thankful you had the strength to end my suffering.”
“But the cure …”
“You gave me dignity. And peace. I’m nothin’ but thankful.”
Leonard tries to pull away. “This isn’t real. I’m just dreamin’ about this …”
“No, Leo. This is real.”
“So, I’m dead?”
“Am I dying?” He turns his head to look back at Jim. “I don’t want to leave him. I finally have a chance to be happy.”
Jim stands, leaning over Leonard and wiping his cheeks. “Bones? Shhh, don’t cry. It’s okay. I’m here. It’s all right, shhh.”
His father finally lets go. “It’s all right, son. You’re going back to him. You’re just in between right now.” He smiles. “Go and be happy, Leo. He loves you so much. Hold onto him.”
Leonard smiles through his tears. “I will. But … I miss you so much, Dad.”
“I know, Leo. I miss you, too. But I’m so proud of you. CMO of the flagship.”
“So … you’ve been watching?”
David nods. “Something like that.”
“I know you have a lot of questions, Leo. But now’s not the time. One day, it will all make sense. It’s time for you to go back to him.”
“Just one more question?”
David smiles. “All right.”
“If you’ve been watchin’ me … has Jim’s daddy’s been watchin’ him?”
David nods in Jim’s direction.
Leonard turns and nearly jumps out of his skin. There’s a man standing behind Jim, and it would be impossible not to recognize him.
George Kirk is smiling fondly at Jim before he turns his gaze to Leonard. “Thank you for looking after him. Just keep doing that for me. I know it’s not easy.”
Leonard struggles to speak past the lump in his throat. “I will, sir.” He takes a step closer. “Is there anything you want me to tell him for you?”
George turns his gaze back down to Jim. “Just tell him I love him, and I’m so, so proud of him.”
Leonard wipes his eyes. “Yes, sir.”
George beams up at Leonard. “I would have been proud to have you as a son-in-law, Leonard.” He steps closer, pulling Leonard into a hug. “Give that to him for me.”
Leonard chokes back a sob. “Yes, sir. Once I’m able, I will.”
George lets him go. His father puts an arm around his shoulders. “Go on, Leo. Go back to him. Don’t keep him waiting.”
“Just close your eyes.”
“I love you, Dad.”
“I love you, too, son.”
Leonard watches Jim calling Chapel into the room and then closes his eyes.
Jim bites his lip as Chapel checks Bones’s vitals. “Why’s he crying?”
“I’m not sure, Captain. His brain activity hasn’t changed. I’ll comm M’Benga.”
Jim watches her go and then sits on the bed, wiping the tears from Bones’s cheeks. “Shhh, don’t cry, Bones. It’s all over. I’m right here. You’re safe. I promise.”
The hand in his twitches.
Jim stills. “Bones?”
The monitors start beeping as Bones groans softly and slowly blinks his eyes open.
“Bones!” Jim just manages to stop from launching himself across his chest. “Bones, can you hear me?”
Bleary hazel eyes focus on him. “Jim?”
Tears are racing down Jim’s face. He cups Bones’s cheek. “Hey. Welcome back.”
Bones turns his face to Jim’s palm and hiccups a sob.
Jim gathers Bones in his arms, cradling him. “Hey, hey, shhh. I’m right here. You’re gonna be okay. Are you in pain?”
“No.” Bones’s voice is muffled against Jim’s shirt.
Jim rubs Bones’s back as he sobs quietly. “Shh, I’ve got you. It’s okay.” He looks up as M’Benga and Chapel rush in. “He’s awake!”
Bones responds to their questions as they examine him, but he’s shaky, and he won’t let Jim let go of him.
“Waking up from something like that can be traumatic,” M’Benga explains to Jim. “Len, I’m gonna give you something to bring your heart rate down just a little.”
Jim strokes Bones’s cheek, wiping away the tears. “You’re doin’ great, Bones. I’m right here.” Chapel hands him a cup of water with a straw as M’Benga adjusts the IV. Jim takes the cup and positions the straw in front of Bones’s mouth. “Here, Bones. Drink up. C’mon … that’s it.” Bones drinks it down, and whatever M’Benga gave him must be working, because he’s starting to breathe more evenly.
“Need to tell you …” He trails off. He sounds exhausted.
Jim strokes his hair. “It can wait.”
An hour later, Bones is more lucid, and M’Benga has run all of the necessary tests. Bones is on the road to a full recovery. Jim sweet-talks Chapel into letting him stay. He stretches out on the bed next to Bones, drawing him back into his arms gently.
“Love you, Jim,” Bones says quietly.
Jim smiles and kisses his hair. “I love you, too, Bones.”
“Need to tell you something.”
“Go ahead, sweetheart.”
Bones looks up at him. “I was … it was close. I saw myself on the bed.”
Jim’s eyes widen a little. “You had an out of body experience?”
Bones nods. “Saw my dad. He thanked me. That’s when I started cryin’. And I saw Chapel come in and check on me.”
Jim’s jaw drops open. “You saw that?”
Bones nods again. “He said he was proud, and he loves me. He’s been watchin’ me. So, I asked …. about your dad. I saw him, too. He’s been watchin’ you.”
Jim’s face paled. “What?”
“I saw your dad, Jim. He was standin’ over you just like a guardian angel. He thanked me for watchin’ out for you. He said to tell you that he loves you, and he’s so proud of you.”
Jim feels a tear trickle down his face. Somehow, he knows Bones is telling him the truth. “Bones, it was your dad. You wasted time talking about me?”
Bones reaches up and traces a finger along Jim’s jaw. “I wanted to.”
Jim wipes away the tear. “Thanks, Bones.” He kisses his lips. “Get some rest.”
Bones weakly loops an arm around Jim’s shoulder and pull him closer. “That’s from your dad.”
Jim swallows down a sob. He nuzzles against Bones’s neck. “Thank you. Just … don’t do that again, okay? Don’t cut it so close, Bones. I can’t lose you.”
Bones nods weakly before he drifts off to sleep.
Jim looks over his shoulder, wondering if his father is still watching. “Thanks for sending him back, dad.”