He takes a long drag of a cigarette- a drag so long he swears he's taken half of it in one go, and ignores the turbolift as a calm voice asks him to put it out. The uniform he wears is a little tight but nothing obvious, his face is haggard but he'll blame it on sleep deprivation if asked, which hopefully he can pull off. His left hand clenches and unclenches as the right picks up the cigarette, and he exhales a plume of smoke as the turbolift door opens to chaos.
He drops the cigarette, putting it out with the heel of his shoes, grabs this universe's McCoy by the shoulder and throws him into the lift. He inputs the code and walks into the medical bay, ignoring the confused pounding on the lift's doors before it descends.
He has something he needs to do.
The universe's Kirk makes his heart ache.
He doesn't need to look at the glowing screens around him to know that they're losing him; he can feel their whisper soft touches as they glide through his body, his head as they transfer rapidly to nurses and technicians. He can hear the calls and cries from other patients and those from the helm, those who are desperately dying or desperately trying to see their beloved Captain. He worries his bottom lip as he's able to remove part of the ribcage that was tricky due to the various bolts in place to hold the human chest together.
Chapel is across from him, her arms drenched in blood, glasses seemingly unfocused, hair wild as she talks to him. She's the calm in the center of the storm and he smiles to himself as he watches her perform. He enjoys the competence that his team displays even when they're from different eras or different dimensions and he loses himself for a moment in his thoughts. He can imagine it so easily, the body underneath his hands, smiling, joking and laughing-
It's Chapel's voice and he winces and gets back to work, instruments flying to his hand as he moves to stop the bleeding, hyposprays and various gauzes and bottles now floating around his and her body.
Kirk dies three minutes and twenty two point five seconds later of severe trauma to all major organs and McCoy is out of the room two point nine seconds later.
He has a black hole to catch.
The power is out on this Enterprise so he finds himself running down flight after flight of stairs as the ship rocks to the impact of a blast. He finds it almost amusing that he's essentially wearing tricolored necklace of glow sticks and nearly trips over himself at the second to third flight. He looks to see what he had tripped over, glow sticks making a multicolor halo around him and covers his mouth with his hand. It's Chapel, her neck snapped, her body is propped in a corner and suddenly he's running before he can process the smell of decomposition setting in.
In the dark, his night vision is improving but not at its best. He nearly trips over fallen hyposprays and blood on the floor, various limbs and other body parts. He hits walls and doors more than he can count and is nearly thrown head long into a pole by another shuddering blast. Briefly all monitors turn on to the voice of Chekov giving a system update and that shields are at 25% and where the hell was Scotty? He sounds older than the one he knows, but the voice is cracking from emotion and he doesn't need to understand the blur of Russian and barely there English to know the language of terror.
He makes it the sick bay to see someone crouched over Kirk's body on the stretcher, a knife neatly going through his still body with alarms and censors screaming distress when the lights futilely fully shift on for one brief, hellish moment. He doesn't know how he got across the room, but he remembers standing over a prone body a large piece of metal in his hand, half of his body in blood and tears in his eyes.
Kirk dies from a mixture of being overdosed on Illegal Substance #987.12 that was poisoned in his food and severe blood loss.
The Enterprise is lost two hours later, with less than one hundred survivors.
The third time is not a charm it was meant to be.
A young Jim dies from drowning at a classmate's birthday party.
The fourth time they're on a planet he doesn't recognize and one he doesn't care to recognize. Jim is old- maybe as old as he is and he's wary of Bones in a way that makes him nervous for the first time since he started his whole journey. He's sitting on a bench, cigarette to his lips and Jim is standing beside him, hands at his sides looking once and awhile at the locals as they wait under a terrace for an Ambassador to hurry up and meet with them.
Neither says a word at the barely covered moans from the Ambassador's quarters only a few feet away.
"Bones," Jim's voice is deeper in this dimension, it shouldn't surprise him but it does. "Can I call you Bones?"
There is a tilt of laughter in the beginning that ends on a serious note and it sets Bones on edge. The older Jim is looking at him from his position, hands no longer idle but are rubbing against each other in front of his body, smoothing the skin of the other.
"What's the matter Jim?"
"You're not my Bones," He gently takes the cigarette from his lips and takes a drag and Bones can almost laugh at Jim's confused face. "Mine never smoked, didn't need to. Be too damn afraid, space and oxygen and all." He makes wild gestures and faces to accompany them and Bone can't help but roll his eyes and tell him to stop.
"Is that all I got wrong?"
Jim takes another long drag and grins a Cheshire's grin and exhales the smoke as if some mythological Earth dragon.
"Nah, my Bones died a few years ago." The grin is fading and eyes become distant. "Died protecting my dumb ass."
There is an awkward break in their conversation where neither can look at each other and Bones let's himself immerse himself in the memories that he has of the various Jims he's briefly encountered and that of his Jim. His James Tiberius Kirk, that's he's trying desperately to save. Not the Jimmies, or the Jimbos or the just plain Jims. He smiles to himself, at the them, the memories of his life before everything went horribly horribly wrong in his time line. He regrets none of his life then- the drinking, the studying, the occasional hypospray battles and arguments that would arise from their use.
He'll always cherish the feelings and expressions, the small things that showed that finally- finally he had found someone who would stay by his side and not leave. He muses over the memories of conversations and confrontations and pauses and wonders to himself if he can truly find the one he's looking for.
"I don't mean to be presumptuous but-" He feels the warm weight of the hand on his shoulder, and when he looks up he stares at Jim's eyes- a true blue color that outshines the others that he's seen and the kiss he receives makes his toes curl.
"I never got to do that to mine. Kind of regret it," He says 'kind of' as 'I really should have fucking have' and he grins at Bones' dumbstruck expression. "Used to give me that same look too, when I decided to do something crazy- which in the end wasn't crazy."
"Jim, you jumped in half blind to the danger half the time-"
"I know." The self confidence is back and Kirk looks like his younger self then. "What's the point of 'going where no one has gone before' if you don't take a little risk?" He laughed then and started walking toward the Ambassador's residence. "Come on, we have someone to talk to-"
He grabs his chest and Bones can only stare as the tall body hits the ground.
Commodore James Tiberius Kirk is killed by a heart attack.
The fifth time Bones tried to save Kirk, he had a sinking feeling this was how it would always be.
The medical crew is scrambling around him, trying to find any purchase in this emergency as all graphs and various charts start to whine dangerously and beeps and whistles begin to chime shriller and shriller. Chapel is to his left working on the wounds on his femoral artery, a doctor across from him has just broken through the clavicle and working the mass damage to the area. The orderly- Fyan, he has to remember- has never experienced dealing with wounds from weapons from that of the 20th century and looks lost while staring at the mass damage done to the Captain's body.
"Fyan." Chapel cut him off before he can say anything and the orderly jumps, blinking before grabbing tweezers and gets to work.
"We c-can't use one of the mag-"
"No, it'll fuck up all the equipment stabilizing him." Professionalism be damned, McCoy worked feverously trying to stop the aortic arch from bleeding so damn much. Another orderly joins the fray and brings working feverishly on the phaser wound on his other leg and hours fly by like minutes and it just won't stop. Bones tries to fight it but he can feel it beginning at the base of his stomach and slowly working up his tired body, slowly the graphs and charts begin to all sing a singular song and across from him Fyan looks barely better than he did before and the other orderly has stopped his work.
Beside him Chapel, puts down her sutures and equipment and ignores his frustrated calls for them all to stop staring at him and to get back to work.
"Bones, he's gone." Her voice is soft and so is the touch of her hand on his arm and he hunches is back without wanting to, shielding himself from the inevitable. "Bones, we have to- we have to let him go."
Her voice cracking and the tears he can see make him feel boneless and exhausted.
"It is fourteen hundred oh nine, I pronounce Captain James Tiberius Kirk of the USS Enterprise dead."
"Severe trauma and shock inflicted by that of a 20th century shotgun to the chest, and phaser burn. "
Bones doesn't leave the last universe without getting a copy of Jim's file and several different hyposprays, he hopes will somehow work in his favor the next time he attempts to save his life. Sitting in his ship, he plots his course for the next black hole. He closes his eyes as he tells the computer the coordinates he wants go and makes a gruff sound when the ship lurches forward into warp speed.
He rubs his eyes and thinks about everything that has taken place so far- the various deaths and the ways he's tried to save Jim. He remembers Chapel's words and curses her and everyone else.
He can't let him go.
He was doing a fool's errand, trying to fight father time, he knows this. Spock had made it abundantly clear that it was illogical, a suicide mission to attempt this but if Spock Prime could jump dimensions, he could damn well too. Even if his reasons for doing so were considered selfish by those around him, he didn't see it that way. He damn well knew that if the rest of the crew had been given the same chance, they'd have jumped abroad his suicide mission as well.
It was Spock in fact that had spurred him on this mission, the older Vulcan had come to him in private. His musings more often than not correct.
"This universe needs this Kirk, McCoy." It was weird, how he could remember their brief conversation so vividly. "It...depends on him. Very much so, I believe. Much like how mine depended on him."
"What could I possibly do? Jim is dead now, there's no way to change time-"
"If I said that you could, what would you do? I, myself, travelled through time and have made it here. Why not you?"
The Jim in his universe had died of an acute allergic reaction to Calgnot Viper Rose. Specifically: its pollen. A pollen that had an addictive aphrodisiac quality, so strong it had been outlawed by the Federation for nearly a decade. It didn't stop the Ambassador from slipping just a hint of it into Jim's drink that night they had signed trade agreements though and Bones vividly, if so painfully remembered what happened next. It had caused Jim's body to seize and spasm, to undulate and roll and ultimately it had worked his system too hard, too fast and had taken him within an hour.
"What if another universe had a cure, Bones. What would you do?"
Bones is shoving everyone out of the way so hard, he knows he's going to be seeing a lot of disgruntled patients. He's yelling for everyone to get out of his way and he screams at the turbolift to take him up to the helm. His body still feels old, oh so damn, old but physically he looks like his old self before everything was destroyed. He enters the helm as Jim, is talking to the Ambassador and it causes Bones' stomach to squirm just to see her innocuous face.
Both Kirk and Uhura give their thanks to the Ambassador before switching the screen off and Bones takes that moment to jam the hypospray into his neck.
"Ow- damnit, Bones what was that for?" Kirk is batting his hand away with his left and holding his neck with his right.
"Come with me Kirk, I gotta explain a few things to you."
Even with a through explanation, a few choice words thrown in, Bones still finds himself in the medical bay, hypospray in hand and grinning Kirk staring up at him with an expression far from lucid. Behind the medical curtain he can hear Chapel stop just behind the thin wall of fabric, her silhouette perfect before turning away, file in hand and out the door.
"Should have just-" Jim burps rather loudly and Bones whistles and throws his head back and laughs at the horrid smell. "-listen to you."
"Stop laughing." Seeing Jim pout brings a bigger smile to his face and he can only muse his hair and gently kiss his forehead. Jim stills under the kiss and Bones looks into eyes and Jim briefly pushes himself up so he can receive a gentle kiss.
"Why are you so happy that I'm in here, I thought you hated me being in here?" The question is soft and Bones feels like he needs to sit down or sleep or maybe do both.
"Because you're alive Jim, because you're alive."