Sometimes he wondered about his friend.
Jim was charming. He had a grin at the ready, most of the time, and he was ready with a quip or a joke, some sarcastic comment if needed. He could put anyone at ease. He had what seemed like a million friends, there were probably twice as many women as that prancing in and out of his bed, and chances were he could probably get peace between the Klingons and the Federation if he tried hard enough.
And yet there were times when he’d get in a mood, when his mind would just wander and he’d be pensive and you’d have to wonder just what the hell had happened to Jim when he was young to get him to be the way he was. McCoy had heard Jim ramble on and on about loads of things: sports, classic 80s and 90s era movies and music, the differences between whiskeys…but he never heard him talk about his family or his childhood. Everyone knew his father had captained the Kelvin and saved all those people the day Jim was born, but other than that? Jim was pretty mum on the topic. Not even plying him with whiskey could get him to talk about it.
McCoy would catch him in his apartment in San Francisco or his room in the Enterprise, looking at his photos. He’d had a pretty idyllic childhood, all things considered. His parents had made time for family vacations, taking the brood to the shore in the summer or sometimes up into the mountains to go on camping trips. He’d grumbled all throughout them, and he knew in the pictures littered throughout the places he called home he looked like the sullen grump he was as an adult, just younger, but they’d been good memories. And there were pictures of him with his daughter, the only good thing to come out of his marriage. Not that he saw or talked to her much now; his harpy of a wife made sure of it. But the pictures were proof that, for a while, he’d had a good life.
He never saw pictures like that in Jim’s living quarters. There weren’t any personal pictures, come to think of it. Art was up on the wall; Jim had decent taste in art, a good eye for that. That gave people something nice to look at. But stuff with a personal touch? Aside from knick-knacks, tacky souvenirs from different places he’d been, there wasn’t much that would really make the place his own.
McCoy wondered why.
He’d known Jim for a while now. Pretty long while, at that. Long enough to have gone through two Admirals in charge of Starfleet. Long enough to have finished their first mission in deep space. Long enough to have dealt with Nero and Khan and come out on the better end of both encounters. They were getting ready to go back into space at the end of the week, on another mission, another trip into deep space, though not for five years again. He was dreading it, in a way, but at the same time he realized that this was his life now and it wasn’t an altogether bad one.
And right now he was watching Jim sip a Budweiser Classic from the bottle, staring at the picture he always seemed to gravitate to, of McCoy with his mother and younger brother on a boat holding up a fishing pole and a huge fish that they’d caught. “So how old were you when you caught that fish?” he asked.
“Six,” McCoy said, having already told Jim the story at least ten times over the last eight years. “Ricky was four. We were on a boat in the Beaufort River in Beaufort, South Carolina.”
“And your brother made you toss it back?” Kirk asked, turning away from the photo to face him, grin on his face.
McCoy nodded, trying not to roll his eyes. “When he found out my mom wanted to cook it for dinner yeah, he made us throw it back in.” McCoy took a sip of his own drink. “Don’t you have any photos of your own to look at? Embarrassing stories of your own to tell?”
The grin dropped off Kirk’s face. “No, not really,” he said quietly.
“What kind of childhood did you have?” McCoy asked.
“One I don’t want to talk about,” Kirk said before taking a long sip of his beer. He used the bottle to point to the photo. “You had a great childhood, turned you into a grouch, so it’s not like it’s a big deal.”
“But you didn’t go on vacations or things like that?” McCoy asked.
Kirk stared at him. “You’re not going to let this drop, are you?” he asked.
McCoy nodded. “Just a couple of questions. Call me curious.”
“Fine, Curious,” Kirk said.
McCoy shook his head. “Smartass.”
Kirk gave him a slight smirk before taking another drink. “My mom…she wasn’t on earth much,” he said. “Didn’t want to be around me. It was too hard, I guess. She left me and my brother with our uncle. He was a bastard. After a while my brother couldn’t take it and he left. The day he left, I stopped being the good kid who did what he was told and I became the James Tiberius Kirk you know today.” He moved over to another one of McCoy’s photographs. “We didn’t really act like much of a family, so there weren’t family vacations. We don’t do family get togethers. I haven’t talked to my uncle since I moved out, I have no clue where my brother is and my mom…” He shrugged and then took another drink. “We’re working on it.”
McCoy nodded. That was the most he’d ever gotten out of Jim about his family in the eight years he’d known him. Hell, Jim had known more about him and his family than he had ever known about Jim’s, and then Jim just let all of that out. To be honest, he hadn’t even expected to get that much. He looked over at Jim and watched him pick up the photo, this one of McCoy and his daughter. He doubted he’d get anything else out of Jim on the topic tonight but…at least he understood. That was something.