There's one thing that Dean's learned even without being on the Enterprise for as long as some of his fellow crewmen have been: you don't stand between Jim Tiberius Kirk and anything he wants. It doesn't matter who you are or what's going on or how many times Doctor McCoy and Commander Spock try to tell him to calm down. If Jim Kirk wants something, he'll trample in and get it, turn from decorated Starfleet Captain to human bulldozer, and refuse to hear any two ways about anything.
Most of the time, it's a quality that Dean admires in his Captain. It's one that's had him looking up to Jim since he was a kid and Jim was just some hot-shot Cadet, a favorite student of Dad's from Starfleet Academy. But right here and now? Slumping against the headboard of a sickbay bed, staring at the ceiling and just being thankful that Doctor McCoy cleared everyone out when Jim showed up, wishing to God that he could be anywhere else right now, listening to the private little ruckus on the other side of the door into Doctor McCoy's office? Dean hates that Jim doesn't understand the meaning of the word quit.
Jim can't just leave well enough alone. Jim can't just accept that Dean's in sickbay because he's been acting like an idiot for the past two, maybe three weeks—there has to be some kind of reason for his behavior. There has to be something to explain why he's refusing to let himself sleep that much (if he ever gets relaxed enough to try), taking everybody else's shifts when he should go back to his or Cas's quarters for a nap, running on caffeine and adrenaline and skipping enough meals that people other than Cas have noticed—having no appetite that would make bothering with them worth it. And of course, the reason can't just be that Dean's sick or something.
Well. Never mind how there is a reason and it isn't just that Dean's sick or something. His collar gapes around his neck, ever-so-slightly, and his Operations-red uniform isn't nearly as fitted as it has been, in the past. Not quite hanging off him, yet, but Dean can see from its motions why Cas and Doctor McCoy got concerned, even though Cas is probably Vulcan enough to claim something like, Concern is a human emotion. Good for them—because now their goddamned concern means Dean's had to listen to the barely muffled sounds of an argument that's all about him.
Now, their goddamned concern means that, unless Commander Spock and Doctor McCoy take drastic measures and chain him to the wall, Jim's going to come storming into sickbay and he's probably going to want to talk about things.
Dean hates that there's nothing he can do about it, either. There's the whole Captain issue, but there wouldn't be anything he could do if Jim were just another Lieutenant, either. Dean doesn't even have the energy to flinch as the door slides open and Doctor McCoy drawls out his hope that he won't need to remind Jim to handle the kid, handle this whole situation delicately. Sighing, Dean closes his eyes—even that feels too close to sleeping for Dean's stomach to settle—even if it didn't hit too close to that count, there's no way that he could pretend to be sleeping. But if he's going to get dragged through this shit, then at least he's taking control of whether or not he looks at Jim during it.
Dean opts to go with or not. Keeps up with that even when Jim says his name, confirms that he knows Dean's awake right now. "Didn't say I wasn't, sir," Dean mutters. Curling his legs up around himself takes enough effort to make Dean ache, but he forces himself to do it anyway. He's had enough of his walls come falling down around him lately, between his and Cas's accidental mind-meld, and the culmination of the caffeine-tweaking sleep deprivation that got him stuck here and temporarily put on the unfit for active duty list. A physical wall between himself and Jim sounds great right about now.
Dealing with Jim at all sounds like Hell, though. It's bad enough when he repeats Dean's words—I didn't say I wasn't, sir—and it just gets worse when he adds on to that: "Dean, do you really mean to tell me that you got yourself listed as unfit for duty, had some sleep-deprived and emotional outburst in the middle of sickbay, attempted to handle your duties to the Enterprise without sleeping, worried Scotty half to death—for your sake and the ship's—and all you have to say for yourself right now is, I didn't say I wasn't, sir?"
Even without looking at Jim, Dean can guess how he's standing at the moment, and the sort of look he's giving Dean. Right about now, he'll be folding his arms over his chest, knotting up his brow, and regarding Dean like he's an explosion waiting to happen, or a particularly confusing alien custom. Maybe a museum piece.
Dean groans—there's nothing else he can think of to do. He just… groans, and lets his head fall forward. Knocks his forehead into his knees and would love to disappear into the mattress now. "I'm sorry, sir?" he says, trying to use his respectful tone of voice and wanting to kick himself when it just makes him sound like a spoiled brat. "I'm sorry that I was irresponsible and an idiot? I'm sorry for freaking out Nurse Chapel and for worrying Cas and Bones? And I'm sorry I thought it was more important to do my damn job than to sit around, dwelling on a bunch of bullshit feelings that don't involve anybody else, or our mission, or the oath I made to Starfleet? Sir."
Jim sighs—and it's not one of his travel-weary Captain, trying to understand things that seem so odd to him sighs, either. It's something deeper, heavier. It matches the way he drops onto the sickbay bed, down by Dean's feet. "Dean, I… You can stop calling me sir. No matter my position, and no matter how many stripes are on my uniform, I didn't come to see you as your Captain or as your commanding officer." He pauses, nudges at Dean's knee, reaches up to ruffle his hair. "This visit's not going on the record, either. I just came to see you as Jim Kirk, friend to you and your family—and as Jim Kirk, who's more than a little bit concerned about some things he's heard from—"
"There's nothing to talk about," Dean spits out without needing to hear the rest of that sentence. He can guess who Jim's heard things from: Scotty, obviously, because he's Dean's direct superior and can comment on Dean's on-the-job performance; Bones and Commander Spock, because the three of them are basically married, and because Commander Spock saw a bunch of shit while breaking Dean and Cas out of their mind-meld; and maybe Jim's even spoken to Cas, if he's been in a mood to collect a handful of facts before charging into things, intent on who can even guess what.
Dean opens his eyes, lifts his head off his knees just enough to see Jim arch an eyebrow at him. "How do you know there's nothing to talk about when you don't know who I've heard things from?"
"Lucky guess." Dean drops his head back to its previous position, trying to burrow into his legs, because looking at Jim right now just isn't in the cards. Not without it making Dean feel twenty times worse—God, why can't he do anything without screwing it up. Even something as simple, something Dean's done as often as talking to Jim as himself instead of as Dean's Captain. "Well, actually," he goes on before Jim can say anything else. "It's even more like an educated guess. Logical deduction based on the situation and the available facts… Commander Spock would be proud. He might even give me a look other than total contempt."
"I wouldn't read too much into how Spock looks at you, Dean. That's just… how he looks at most people. Most human people, anyway." Jim has a point, one he'd probably know better than anybody else, save maybe Doctor McCoy. Apparently, he's not letting Dean change the subject, though: "He's one of the people I've heard things from, by the way. Scotty had a few worrisome things to say about what one of his best engineers has been doing on the job in the past few weeks—"
"I'm not one of his best engineers," Dean says before he realizes anything, entirely by reflex. Usually, Dean has this reflex of his under control—he can hold it back well enough when he's slept and eaten well enough and isn't unfit for active duty, regardless of Cas's explanation for why and what it means or doesn't—but what's the point in trying to keep it back when Dean's fucked up everything else anyway? "He's got plenty of better people down there—I mean, there's Gabler, and Kyle, there's Leslie—"
"Is that you talking to me right now, or your father?"
Jim's words smack at Dean so hard that he hurts in all the old places, the injuries that Dean doesn't ever talk about, not to anyone—his left arm aches, so does his chest and so do the old scars, the ones from cuts as well as burns. Everywhere he's ever had a bruise could be swelling up and turning purple all over again. His trick left shoulder that's so fond of dislocating? Feels like it's going to slip up on him again—and he can't help trembling as he forces himself to look back up at Jim.
His head spins as he raises it off his knees and he might as well have a concrete block dropping into his stomach—he can feel the blood rushing out of his face—he knows he's gaping at Jim and that it's impolite. He knows that he should stop—but Dean can't help it. Can't think of anything to say or tell if he should even try. Maybe it's better if he just stays shut up. It's not as though Dean ever has anything of value to say anyway.
And he wants so much for Jim to just look angry with him instead of… whatever expression he's wearing right now. Twisting up his face in confusion, and maybe sadness, and a hint of uncertainty that's so incredibly unlike him—and something that Dean recognizes as concern. He's gotten that look so often lately and no matter how much or how hard Dean tries to think about things, it still doesn't make any freaking sense. Maybe he's fine, maybe he's not, but it's not exactly anybody else's business.
Still, he's gotten that look from Kyle and Leslie, when they came back from a long lunch and found Dean exactly where he'd been before: neck-deep in making sure the Enterprise stayed flying true. He's gotten it from Bones, first after Spock had to pull Dean and Cas out of their accidental mind meld, then periodically afterward. He's gotten it from Cas, which at least kind of makes sense, because nothing's wrong—except for Dean himself—but boyfriends care about each other, so they're allowed to look concerned without any provocation.
And the silence starts grating on his nerves, but Dean startles, half-flinches, when Jim decides to break it: "Oh, yes," he says, voice much softer than Dean would've ever though Jim Kirk could manage. "I know about your father—or at least, I've heard enough from Spock and Bones to put the pieces about Rear Admiral Winchester together myself. You know what the funny thing about all of this is, though?"
Dean shakes his head and supposes that he has no idea. Not entirely true. He has a few ideas; he just doesn't want to guess that any of them might be what's coming. He doesn't want any of them to be coming.
"The funny thing is… Spock and Bones showed more concern about the matter than a certain Doctor Cast'ell." Jim arches his eyebrows and huffs as though he's trying very hard to find this legitimately funny, rather than somewhat interesting. At least he doesn't look upset. "The pair of them have, apparently, been debating whether or not to tell me all of what Spock learned during your mind meld since it happened. Your t'hy'la, on the other hand? Clammed right up and asked me what business it was of mine, since the aspect of this that effects your ability to do your job is being handled."
It's a pathetic attempt at derailing the conversation—one that no one, certainly not Jim, would ever let pass—but Dean still has to ask: "T'hy'la?"
Jim stares at Dean a moment as recognition dawns on him, and says, "Right, right… Cast'ell isn't… It's a Vulcan word—Vulcan concept of relationships—used to denote, ah… A deep, meaningful relationship that encompasses the love of friends, the love of brothers, and, in many cases, the love of, well. Lovers."
Dean nods. Pretty clear where Jim learned the word, then, and why Dean hasn't heard it before. There's a pretty huge difference between, half-Vulcan significant other who grew up on Vulcan, and, quarter-Vulcan significant other who grew up in a San Francisco orphanage, as a ward of the Federation, and only started getting control over his telepathic abilities because Commander Spock insisted on it and volunteered to train him. Things get quiet again, and this time, it's Dean's turn to break it—mostly because the thought of Jim doing it again makes his stomach tie itself up into thick, hot, guilty knots:
"I don't know what they've told you, but they're probably exaggerating. Well… Cas isn't, how could he when he didn't tell you anything, but… With all due respect to Commander Spock and Doctor McCoy? They don't really know what they're talking about. And I would'a thought that knowing the family like you do—"
"Exaggeration isn't part of the Vulcan way," Jim says, finally sounding harsh about the matter—more insistent than angry, but Dean guesses he'll take that. "They especially don't exaggerate about something as serious as this—nor would Bones overstate anything when it has to do with…" Jim sighs. "Spock wouldn't say that he'd rather trust Ambassador Sarek with bringing up two human children than your father without there being some reason for it. He and Bones wouldn't just exaggerate about something like a member of my crew—someone I've known most of his life and consider a friend—suffering from the aftershocks of child abuse—"
"I wasn't abused!" Dean gasps—partly from what Jim's said, and mostly from the volume and ferocity with which he's denying it. He knots one hand up in the fabric of his trousers, clings to it for dear life. "I mean. I get why they think that—why Cas, and Bones, and Spock might… but, seriously, Jim? Seriously? They don't know the family like you do. Cas hasn't even met Sam yet, much less Mom or Dad, but… you were there. You know that Dad had it rough, and Mom was off exploring galaxies, serving the Federation, and I was an asshole kid—he never did anything I didn't deserve—"
"I also know that nothing justifies any of what your father did to you." Jim grabs at Dean's wrists, and Dean moves too slowly to get away. His legs topple down from the force with which Jim tugs him over, so close that Dean knocks his forehead into Jim's as he tries to look away. "Spock says that your mother doesn't even know about it? …What did he do to you?"
"What was I supposed to tell her? How could I tell her about it?" Dean huffs, shuts his eyes. "He'd never touch her, and she had what she always wanted, didn't she? A starship, a commission, a husband teaching at the Academy, everything but a daughter, two kids and a second home in Kansas—the Earthican dream. And you seriously think I'd break her heart over a dislocated shoulder? Something as stupid as a broken arm? You're supposed to…"
"Maybe I got to know your family because of your father," Jim interjects, "but I like to think I know your mother pretty well, too. And as Mary, at that, not just as Vice Admiral Winchester. …How do you think she's going to feel, finding out that you've spent all this time denying her ability to do the one job she takes more seriously than her oath to Starfleet? And that's protecting her children."
Dean opens his eyes, locks them right on Jim. Because that's one of the lowest blows—trying to talk about Dean's Mom. "You're supposed to understand this, Jim," he all but begs. "If I hadn't been such a failure at everything? If I hadn't been weak… If I'd just been a better son, then maybe Dad wouldn't have had to do any of what he ever did. Maybe he wouldn't've fought with Sam all the time—"
"That might be what he told you, but it's not the truth. The truth is that you're an exemplary officer and that he's your abuser—he doesn't want you believing anything that might help you fight back—"
"But I am a failure—why doesn't anybody get that?" Dean's gaping again, shaking his head, wishing he were anybody else, even some goddamn Romulan. "I shouldn't even be one of the red-shirts! I should be on the Command track like he wanted, but I can't… I can't even make decisions about what I want for lunch, much less for a whole freaking starship. I'm good at machines—and he's never going to forgive me for letting him down like that—how could I fuck things up for the whole family—"
"Dean," Jim snaps gently, jaw set and eyes burning, cold. He tightens his hold on Dean's wrists, clings harder, but not enough to hurt. "What are your plans for our next shore-leave?"
Dean doesn't try to stop from rolling his eyes. Of course Jim's allowed to change the subject when Dean isn't. Jim's the damn Captain; that's probably one of his rights. Still, Dean tells him, "I was gonna spend time with Sam. Introduce him and Cas. Meet this new girlfriend of his? Her name's Jessica, and she sounds real nice. And Mom's supposed to have shore-leave around then, too, so I wanted to go home—"
"You're not going home," Jim says without any room for argument. When Dean opens his mouth to protest, Jim says again: "You are not going home, Lieutenant. …Dean, the only way I'm letting you into that house is if I'm there with you and you plan to tell your mother the damned truth. Don't make me make that a direct order."
Dean sighs from the pit of his chest, drops his head and stares at the mattress, at the sheets. They don't have any ideas about getting out of this bullshit, either. He mumbles, "Yes, sir."