They were safely back on the ship, everyone checked out, thankfully in one piece, and now recovering off duty, but Leonard still lingered in his office. Supposedly staring at the PADD on the desk in front of him in reality his vision was focused inwards, focused on an image of Jim from just an hour ago, right before Scotty managed to lock on to their signals and transport them back to the ship.
In his mind Leonard kept seeing Jim standing in front of him, in front of the away team, firmly grasping the antiquated weapons, and facing down the people, the Ekosians, trying to kill them. Jim was refusing to move from the spot he had claimed, was promising retribution if anything happened to his people, and he was believed, despite the fact they were outnumbered and about to be overwhelmed.
And as Leonard thought about that moment he could recall Jim so damn clearly, could see him standing there determined, uncompromising and, above all, dangerous.
That had been the reason the Ekosians had paused, even if just for a few moments, when faced by him. Yes, some of it was Jim’s conviction, his certainty, but it was also the air of violence that surrounded him. Their attackers knew he was capable of carrying out his threats.
This was a side of Jim that Leonard hadn’t seen much of until the other man had become Captain of the Enterprise three months ago. Of course he’d seen Jim practising hand to hand combat, but that had always been in a controlled environment, and there had been the odd bar fight or two. But neither situation had triggered this, never brought out this intense, focused, furious reaction.
And Leonard knew what provoked this side of Jim, he was defending the people he considered his.
Leonard might call Jim reckless at times, but it was only ever with himself. No, once Jim had decided something belonged to him he would do anything to protect it, and the crew and the ship were definitely his.
Which led to this moment that had imprinted itself on Leonard’s brain and his realization that even if he was Captain for the next 50 years Jim was never going to stand back the way some Captain’s did. Jim, no, Captain Kirk was going to throw himself into every situation, lead every mission he could, and so would always be in the line of fire.
That insight scared Leonard even as it made him proud of Jim and how much he cared for his crew. He was scared that this side of Jim meant he would lose the other man, his best friend, his lover, his partner. But deep down he knew that he wouldn’t change this side of Jim because he wouldn’t be Jim without it.
So Leonard simply vowed to himself once more that he would always be there for Jim. To work with him, spend time with him, argue with him, laugh with him, fight with him, make up with him, and look after him when he needed it because Leonard was never letting him go.