Chris didn’t expect to fall for those damn baby blues when he first approached Jim Kirk, bleeding and quickly sobering in a dive at Riverside, and yet he did. Quickly, too. He’d never experienced platonic adoration like it in all his life. It was like a jolt to his whole being, and then came the whiplash. As easy as it was to find Jim utterly fascinating, he was a constant worry too. Jim Kirk was defensive and wicked smart – too damn smart for Chris, whose own skillset paled in comparison to the kid’s.
Chris believed in love at first sight. He’d damn well experienced it with Phil, even if Phil assured him repeatedly that it had not been the case for their relationship. Chris maintained they had done, even if Phil hadn’t realised it. But platonic love had always taken Chris longer. Family, you grew up with. Family were inescapable and bonds were strengthened via shared experience. But friends were gained slowly and carefully. Chris considered Number One his closest friend and that had taken him roughly ten years to admit.
Jim Kirk was different – and there was a statement he was going to get sick of saying to himself, and anyone who questioned his decisions when it came to the kid. Including Number One and Philip. Jim Kirk had wormed his way into Chris’ heart almost instantly – and if Chris hadn’t worked out he was fucked in that bar, he certainly knew it now that Kirk sat opposite him, trussed up in his new cadet reds. How the hell red could make blue eyes look bluer was beyond him, but they certainly drew out the still fresh cuts on Kirk’s face.
“You know, medical has a great big sign on the front? I’d wager it’s easier to find than my little office.” Chris asked, quirking an eyebrow at the kid sat opposite him. Draped was, perhaps, a better descriptor. Kirk was slumped in the chair, on knee pulled close to his chest and his other leg draped over the arm of his chair. Not exactly protocol for meetings between cadets and their advisors, but Chris was quickly coming to understand that Jim Kirk was not about protocol. Hell, Chris could appreciate that. Leap without looking, after all. Hadn’t he just done the same thing with Kirk himself – putting his own reputation on the line in the meantime. It sure as hell wasn’t reason to smile, even if Kirk’s easy body language around him tricked him into thinking it was. Kirk’s arrogance was infuriatingly charming, and Chris refused to give in to it.
“I was exploring.” Kirk said, too blasé for Chris to believe him “I just stumbled across you.” Now that was impossible because to get to Chris’ office, you had to get through Number One’s first. Kirk had known where he was going, no matter what he said.
“Well, I’m sure you’ll stumble across medical too.” Or Chris would have to intervene, and soon. “Would it kill you to sit up straight?” He scowled at the cadet, but it seemed not to phase Kirk at all.
“I doubt it. Would it kill you to get comfier chairs?” Kirk replied easily. Chris thought momentarily of Phil, and his husband’s incessant lecturing that Chris spent far too much time sat in chairs that were bad for his back.
“Quite possibly.” He admitted, shrugging lightly. “I don’t think my husband would approve.” So maybe he was already head over heels for Kirk, but his usual ‘friend-acquiring practices’ still remained in place. Let slip a little touch of information and see how the other party reacts. Kirk was, after all, one troubled kid. Chris wasn’t about to predict what Iowa life had offered him, or how that would shape his attitude towards Chris.
“Doctor Boyce, right?” Jim grinned. “I mean, I did my own research on you- but boy, my roommate is a big fan of your husband. I’m not saying you’ve got competition, Chris, but I’d be wary before you let Bones in a room with him. Don’t worry though, I’ve got your back. I’ll distract Bones with my perfect body.”
Chris had to repress a physical shudder because Jesus Christ, he had an inkling the boy wasn’t exactly purity incarnate but he sure as hell didn’t want to think about that.
“No, you won’t. I paired you with McCoy because I want him on my team, and I want you on my team. If you do anything to mess that up, I’ll transfer you to Komack and you won’t last ten minutes.” He took some private joy in the sudden panic that hit Jim’s blue eyes, before he noted just how pale the cadet had gone behind his well-practiced grin. His triumphant glee was hollowed, then, until it made him feel sick. “Besides, McCoy is a fine Doctor. I reckon I just about trust him to make sure you actually survive the next three years.”
Caring had never failed Chris before. As a Captain, he was firm but fair. So when he showed a touch of tenderness – when he admitted he cared – it tended to be impactful. So either he’d already cared too openly for Kirk, or the kid just didn’t get it.
“Listen, Chris – Captain.” He amended quickly, flushing as he looked to the floor. “I really appreciate everything you’ve done for me. The clothes and the enrolment and everything,” The kid was practically squirming. “But I don’t need a Doctor. And you shouldn’t just assume that I’ll be good enough for your ship.” There, again, that damnable self-doubt that Chris sure as hell didn’t want to equate to Tarsus IV. He didn’t doubt that damned planet was the cause of at least 90 percent of the kid’s issues, but his self-esteem? Chris couldn’t have predicted it when he first laid eyes on Jim Kirk. When, drunk and cocky, he’d leered at Chris and acted positively outrageously considering the positions they were in now.
It occurred to Chris then that Iowa, despite being less than a week ago, was now a long way away. Kirk had been drunk and beaten, but that sure as hell wasn’t enough for Chris to formulate any sort of opinion on Kirk’s standard of behaviour at the Academy. For all he knew, Kirk would be the sweetest, most polite Cadet that Starfleet ever saw. If anything, Chris was the one still overstepping boundaries. Maybe he could have gotten away with organising Kirk’s enrolment papers and finding him a few more clothes than just the bloodied, torn clothes he’d been wearing, but the Doctor might have been a step too far.
“I’m not assuming anything, Cadet. You will be good enough for my team. You may have flunked out of high school and gone off the grid for a few years in your teens,” The word Tarsus, Chris decided, was not going to cross his lips until Kirk wanted it to. “But you haven’t wasted all this time, have you? It was how I managed to convince the brass to let you in, after all.” Kirk was truly blushing now, his gaze fixed firmly on his lap. Chris could feel the subtle movements of Kirk bouncing his leg anxiously beneath the table. “Why didn’t you finish your third degree, by the way?”
Kirk looked up slowly, determination blazing just as his smile had done. It hurt to look at, because it wasn’t natural. Kirk had learned these behaviours at some point (tarsus, Chris inhaled deeply) and he was a potent mixture of low self-esteem, stubborn defensiveness and total genius. Frankly, Chris didn’t know what the hell he was going to do.
“I finished it in theory.” Kirk shrugged, cool and distant. “Would you believe it; sex gets you further than degrees do.”
That vaguely nauseous feeling returned to Chris. He was well practiced at ignoring things he didn’t want to deal with, but the implications of Kirk’s statement were going to keep him awake all night.
“Not in Starfleet. So keep your little roommate from seducing my husband, and I might invite you both over for dinner on Friday.”
In an instant, the defensiveness switched into a true, bright-eyed grin. Jim emerged from beneath Kirk, and Chris fell for the stupid brat all over again. God, Phil was either going to kill him or fall even harder. Either way, Chris was screwed.
“Really? Shit, Chris, Sir, Bones would just die.” Kirk was awed, and Chris wanted to see it more- hell, he needed to. “Not that he’d admit it. I mean, you’ll know when you meet him. He’s complicated. But that would be insane.”
“Consider it an invite then, Kirk. Provided you keep out of trouble this week.” Pike raised an eyebrow. “That includes going to get your physical, you realise, or I can’t clear you for nearly half of your classes.” Before he could even risk that fear creeping back in, Chris continued. “I can pull some strings, Son, but you have to promise you’ll work with what I can get you.”
Blue eyes sparkled with intrigue. “And what can you get me?”
“McCoy. Or my husband. Your pick of the best Doctors in Starfleet, in fact.”
“Not Bones.” Kirk said instantly, as if there was nothing on earth he was more sure off. “I… if you get me Doctor Boyce, he wouldn’t tell you anything would he?”
Phil was a damn good Doctor, and he took confidentiality very seriously. That wasn’t to say he didn’t try to talk when he was a few martinis down. Jim didn’t need to know that.
“Of course not.” Chris swore. “Ever heard of Doctor-Patient confidentiality? Besides, my husband and I have better things to discuss than the latest alien STI you’ve picked up.” He snorted, aiming for a distant sort of amusement to alleviate Kirk’s self-doubt. Chris was good at reading people, it turned out, because Kirk laughed openly.
“Fine. I’ll do it.”
“Good man.” Chris pulled his PADD out instantly. He didn’t actually need to do anything more than just send his husband a message, and Phil would organise the rest from his end, but it was nice to have Kirk think he was doing some big favour. “Show up tomorrow at 1100 hours, he’ll be there.”
“Save the ‘Sir’ for company, would you Kirk? There’s no need for the demure cadet act with me. I’ve seen you beaten and drunk, remember?” Fuck boundaries, Chris decided. There were never any boundaries since the day Jimmy Kirk was dragged stick-thin from Tarsus IV. Of course, as far as Kirk was concerned, Chris didn’t know that. Jim was just the son of a dead hero. A slightly-fucked up genius, letting a dare guide his entire life.
“Whatever you want, Chris.” Kirk’s grin was infectious, and Chris fought back with everything he had.
“You’re dismissed, Kirk. Go enjoy the city, before the hard work starts. Take that Doctor of yours out. I’m sure I’ll see you soon.” He was counting on it, in fact, because he was fucked. He’d fallen for that stupid brat, and there was no escaping him now. Frankly, Chris had doomed himself.
“I’m sure you will. I want to meet Number One; I heard she’s stunning.” Jim winked ludicrously. “Thanks again, Chris.” With that, Jim Kirk bounced out of Chris’ office like he hadn’t just easily dismantled over forty-years’ worth of Chris’ ideas of love in all of half an hour. Chris stared after him, sort of awed.
Home was cosy and warm, very Phil who had been the one to take charge and decorate when Chris couldn’t have cared less about their apartment on earth while waiting for their Ship. Chris hadn’t complained once since the decorating process was over, because it was nice to come back to an apartment that reminded him so deeply of his husband. Especially on the nights that Phil was working and Chris just didn’t have it in him to stay awake. Tonight, though, he got his husband all to himself. Blessing of all blessings, Phil was home and curled up on the sofa eating Chinese food when Chris walked in.
“I would have waited, I swear, but the chow mein was calling to me.” Phil said sheepishly, sucking a noodle up promptly and flashing Chris the same quick smile that Chris had fallen in love with fifteen years before. It was just as effective now- perhaps more so, knowing that Phil had brought take-out for once.
“Unacceptable, I’m divorcing you.” Chris quipped tiredly, sinking onto the sofa beside his husband an dropping his head against Phil’s chest inelegantly. That was fine. After so many years, he was allowed to be inelegant in the privacy of his own home with his adoring husband.
“I ordered you extra sweet and sour.”
“Well in that case, we should probably renew our vows.” His arms wrapped around his husband, who carried on eating happily, and he breathed in that clean linen scent. He was hungry, sure, but he wanted this, just this. Just to hold his husband for a little while and forget that just short of his first anniversary with Phil, he met a starving young boy that he could never forget – while he hoped to god that Jimmy Kirk would never remember.
“You want a drink, gorgeous?” Phil offered, eventually, when his box was mostly empty.
“No, just this.” Chris reiterated out loud. “Caring is tiring.”
“I know, baby, trust me.” Phil twisted into his grip, pressing a kiss against his hairline. “I got your message about Kirk. Are you sure I’m the best choice?”
“He trusts me, and I trust you. I did offer him McCoy, but he seemed adamant against that. I dunno, Phil, I don’t know how to keep his trust. I got him here, but you should have seen him try and thank me for that. I’d demand he get a psyche eval if I wasn’t so sure he’d fail.”
“Chris, you got him out of Iowa and back into school. I’ll look him over tomorrow. Even if that’s all we ever do for him, at least we’ve tried. At least you got him this far.” Phil reasoned, finding Chris’ hand and squeezing it gently. “Eat, would you. I’ll go make a drink, and then we can discuss that massage you owe me.”
“Forget renewing the vows. Take me on another honeymoon, I’ll massage you all you like.”
Phil’s smile made his cheeks rosy, as he extracted himself from Chris’ grip and off the sofa. “I’m sure we’ll have some leave accumulated before the Enterprise is finished.”
“Three years.” It wasn’t as long as Chris had first imagined he’d be grounded, and so he couldn’t really lament the time scale too excessively. Especially not when he had such a lovely home with his husband, and a job that he could definitely see himself returning to one day, when they finally managed to force a promotion on him. “Oh, and we’re having the boys over for dinner on Friday.” Chris added, reaching for a carton of take out. Lucky dip, frankly, he was so hungry.
“The Boys?” Phil called in from the kitchen.
“Yeah,” He spoke through his food. “Kirk and McCoy. It was an exchange for Jim to attend his physical.”
“Jesus Christ, gorgeous, I’m pretty sure you’ve just adopted the Kelvin baby.”
Chris didn’t bother to grace that lovely comment with a reply, instead shovelling more food into his mouth glumly. The worst part was, he wasn’t actually sure if he regretted it or not. Philip was right. He’d gotten Kirk out of Iowa. He’d given him a chance to be great. While he wanted to believe that, if Kirk left tomorrow, he could just let him go – Chris knew deep down that his responsibility for the young man was only just beginning. He couldn’t just let Kirk walk away. Even if Jim remembered after Tarsus – even if he found out Chris had been one of the officers to drag him kicking and screaming back to earth, and Jim hated Chris as much as he had done back then – he’d still have to try and convince him to keep going. It was going to be an interesting few years, in any case.
This story has warnings for past abuse, eating issues, self-harming behaviours and past rape, as well as semi-graphic violence.
Alternating POV between Pike and Jim.
Chapter 2: Let's Get Physical
Jim didn’t sleep at all that night, instead electing to start the required reading for his engineering modules. Frankly, they’d been stupidly easy, so he’d moved onto his rusty Klingon and started practicing his grammar – only until Bones had woken for his early morning clinic shift and pushed Jim into the warm, freshly vacant spot of his own bed. Bones was good like that. Sort of a mother hen and grumbling grandfather all at once. Only Jim’s own mother had worse taste in booze, and better taste in music – and his grandfather had been a real friendly guy, not as scary as Bones. That being said, Bones took only one look at Jim that morning before his early-shift grumpiness dissipated into a worried frown.
“You need me to come with you?” Bones asked before he departed, concern in his eyes that Jim still wasn’t used to. He doubted he ever could be. The only person he really had in the world was his mom, maybe once every few years. Aside from that, he’d taken care of himself. He liked having Bones around – and Pike too. It was just going to take some getting used to.
Honestly, Jim felt guilty for not trusting his new friend enough to ask for him to be his assigned physician – both Bones and Pike had offered to make it happen. It just wasn’t that simple, and hell, it wasn’t even about trust. Jim trusted Bones as much as Pike – as much as anyone he’d only known for all of a week. But there was trust, and then there was truth. Jim was not ready to tell the truth. Not to Bones and certainly not to Pike. Half the reason he’d been up all night was worry that Doctor Boyce would somehow find out about Tarsus, and then go running to Pike. Jim had hacked his files, sealed those records, hidden them inside and beneath other records. At most, he figured Pike would work out he wasn’t always so good with food. Or he had some form of PTSD which, frankly, could come from anything in his shitty childhood. His earlier records were lined with curious little incidents, after all, thanks to Frank. That, Boyce could do what he wanted with. Tarsus was Jim’s. His alone to carry the burden of, and the guilt of.
Maybe Jim should have just stuck with whichever ordinary doctor Starfleet assigned him, instead of going for someone more personal. Maybe he had time, after Bones left for work, to just hitch a ride out of town and run. He dismissed the idea as quickly as it came to him, because he doubted Pike would let him.
“I’ll survive without you for one day, Bones.” Jim replied, shooting him a flashy grin. “I’m just a dumb baby. Pike will probably be there to hold my hand anyway.” He lied, and hoped deep to the core of him that Pike wouldn’t be there. Jim was never in a good way after seeing a Doctor, and he fully intended to go and get plastered afterwards. Explore, find a new bar and maybe even send a ludicrously filthy message to one of the Cadets he’d met moving into Campus. Mitchell had a wicked tongue, in every sense of the word. Or, maybe not. Maybe Bones would get off shift by then and drag him back to their dorm to stop him from doing anything stupid.
“Good. Idiot. Scared of Doctors at your age. What if the population found out?” Bones teased softly, lacking any real bite to it. If Bones was genuinely concerned as to the real reason Jim disliked Doctors, he wasn’t about to straight up ask Jim for an answer. Jim had realised quickly that Bones wasn’t the type to just demand answers. He was older and had far more patience than that, no matter what he wanted other people to believe. He was going to let Jim go to him, and it was the weirdest sensation Jim had encountered in a long time. Even when Jim kept his silence, it didn’t stop Bones from understanding. Stupid psychology degree. He observed things about Jim that he’d assumed he’d buried long ago. Bones, Jim knew, saw right through him. Hence the teasing about his stupid fan club.
“My reputation would be in tatters.” Jim agreed solemnly, burrowing into Bones’ warm mattress. There was something infinitely more comforting about other people’s beds. On Tarsus, he’d gotten so used to being without a warm bed of his own that it had never really been comfortable afterwards. No bed was worse than a hospital bed though, strapped down post Tarsus while Doctors forced him to survive that which was far harder than the planet itself.
“Get some sleep, Kid. I’ll see you later.”
“Will do, Old man.” Jim grinned, and let his head sink into the pillow as he heard Bones finally grab his bag and leave. Though Bones’ pillow smelled clean and welcoming, he didn’t remain there for long; too wired to stay still. Besides, he had four years of studying to cram into three. He didn’t have the time to waste this first week in San Francisco. He could sleep when he was dead, anyway.
Starfleet Medical was, quite possibly, his least favourite place on earth. Jim stepped through the doors with a heavy heart, and informed the front desk of his arrival politely. More articulate than he assumed his thumping heart would have allowed. Every single sharp breath was taken with an intense desire to run. He was beyond contemplation of running now, instead having to force each step he took inwards. A distraction came to him quickly. The guy at the front desk was cute and blue, and Jim took a seat in reception while dealing out flirty smiles and prolonged eye contact. It didn’t matter that he wanted to throw up, because the receptionist clearly couldn’t tell.
He’d not been sat a minute before a shadow moved across his body and the tall body of, presumably, Doctor Boyce obstructed his view of the cute receptionist.
“Jim.” He stood instantly, nerves flooding him once again. Boyce wasn’t quite so tall when Jim was actually stood opposite him, and he had kind eyes and an easy grin. Despite the sort of dopey happiness on his face, he held himself professionally; narrow shoulders pulled taut.
“Nice to meet you, kiddo. I’m Phil. C’mon, we’ll go straight through.” With that, Boyce began leading the way, and Jim followed despite every cell in his body suggesting he walk the opposite direction. “You know, my husband has not shut up about you all week. You sure you don’t want to transfer to med track? I’d be delighted to have you and it would really get to Chris.”
“Erm, no, thanks.” He grinned miserably at the cute receptionist as he passed the front desk again, feeling rather like he was walking to his demise. He was too awkward around Doctors, too childishly scared to maintain any sort of cool. He couldn’t even attempt flirting with Boyce because of Pike and, hell, he wasn’t even remotely Jim’s type – and Jim wasn’t even sure he had a type. “I’m not the sort of person you want in charge of other people’s survival.” He laughed nervously.
“You realise you’re on command track?”
Jim blinked, heart pounding. “Yeah. I forgot about that.” They moved into a private room, and Jim’s desire to run tripled in the instant he laid eyes on the bio-bed and threatening equipment. His legs trembled beneath him, and he held his breath because it seemed a better option than just gasping for breath in desperate need to escape.
“Hey, look at me.” Boyce’s calm tone had become stronger, and though Jim didn’t look- couldn’t draw his eyes away from the bed – he did manage to hear him beyond the ringing in his ears. “We’re not doing anything you’re not comfortable with. Okay, Jim? Look at me, not the bed.” And Jim did, snapping his gaze back to the Doctor and nodding absently. “Good, Jim. We’re going to sit down and have a chat today. That’s all. Maybe you’ll let me fix up that cut of yours too. Chris told me about how he found you. I thought that Doctor of yours might have fixed you up by now.” Jim only realised he’d been steered into a chair when he was already sat, and Boyce crouched in front of him to inspect his lip and forehead.
“He wanted to – he caught on pretty quickly that I wasn’t into shit like that. I mean, who am I to judge if you have a doctor kink, but Bones can keep his tools to himself thanks.”
“I’ll have you know, I’ve never taken any of my tools to bed with Chris unless he’s been bleeding out. But now that you mention it, I bet bandages make some sweet bed ties.”
Jim was suddenly overcome with what he could only describe as an ‘icky’ feeling, and he regretted bringing sex into the conversation. Pike was like a weird old dad, only not that old and less than weird. But still – well, not a dad. Jim didn’t know what the fuck a dad was supposed to be. Anyway, whatever Pike was, he should not be associated with sex. His disgust must have shown on his face, cutting through his anxiety, because Boyce laughed.
“Serves you right.” He said, primly. “So, you’re not a fan of Doctors?”
“Not so much.” His instinct was to joke. Or straight up leave. He fought it. “It- it helps if you keep talking. Please.” He hadn’t realised his leg had been shaking until Boyce stuck an elbow on his knee to hold him still.
“Aw, kiddo, you’re going to regret saying that eventually. But your wish is my command.” Boyce grinned at him sharply, then picked up his dermal regenerator. “I’m looking forward to Friday, actually. Normally if we have guests over, talk turns to the Enterprise and I’m rendered silent for an hour. But with McCoy coming, I’m sure I’ll have lots to talk about while you and Chris prattle on.” He spoke with affection in his eyes, and Jim allowed himself to imagine Chris and Phil for a minute. They’d look cute together, but he had no idea what the kooky Doctor would do for Pike’s personality- how they’d interact. Monogamy was weird, and Phil was still talking.
“Command types, you’re all the same. Saying that, I think Chris is actually nervous. He kind of really wants you to like him, kiddo, and not just because of his dissertation. You’re a genius aren’t you, that’s what he said. He wants you on the Enterprise – and he wants to upgrade you to advanced tactics as soon as possible.”
“He didn’t tell me that.” Jim managed to stutter through uneven breaths, too aware of the dull ache of his slowly healing cuts. It wasn’t as bad as he remembered, sure, but he’d not been conscious for a regen session since he was about eleven and the change was disarming. More disarming was Pike’s apparent plans for his future. Jim had a future, and boy if that wasn’t a novel idea.
“Well, semester hasn’t started yet technically. He doesn’t want to let you down, and he can’t put his plans into action until you’ve convinced at least half of your staff that you are a genius.” It wasn’t as surprising as it should have been to hear Pike was worried about letting Jim down, and that was just baffling. No-one had ever cared about not letting Jim down. His mom, now, but not when it had counted. Not really. How Pike had managed to infiltrate his entire life was beyond Jim. It was just insane. In less than a week, he’d gone from a bloody piece of trash from Riverside, to a Starfleet Cadet, sat chatting amicably with Doctor Philip Boyce. That last, astonished part came to him in the voice of McCoy, and he fought back a smile that distracted him from his panic.
“That’s fair, I guess.”
“I’d say so.” Boyce smiled easily again. “So, if you have no objections, I’m going to schedule you in every day this week. We’re going to do this slowly and thoroughly, because I’m pretty sure you’ve not willingly seen a Doctor since you were eleven. Lots of gaps where you should have had mandatory appointments, and I don’t suppose you feel like sharing so you’re going to have to meet me half way.”
Jim swallowed and nodded. “Sure, Doc. Whatever you want.”
Boyce looked up at him for a split second, a frown infiltrating his smile and he paused in fixing Jim’s bust lip. “I get the feeling you say that too often.” Jim was caught off guard, and suddenly wished he could remember if Boyce had one of his Doctorates in psychology. He should have paid more attention to Bones when he’d been excitedly rambling on about working under the famous Philp Boyce.
“So, one by one we’re going to do an allergy work up, sight and hearing. Need a Neurological exam, too.” Boyce seemed to be talking to himself more than Jim at this point, and his capacity to talk was just incredible. And he was smiling too, still. “At some point I want you on the bio-bed for a while. Just an hour or so- but we can used that time to get to know one another.” Phil finally looked up again, his grin wicked. “I have a feeling we’re going to be spending a lot of time together, Kiddo, so you better get used to me.”
Jim had known too many Doctors, and too many of them had been awful. But Boyce was everything Bones had said and more. He was like Pike, but he smiled more, and his ramblings were less anxious. It was as though Boyce knew he was weird, and embraced it whole-heartedly.
“Great, kiddo. Now, let’s move onto safe sex shall we? God only knows, your reputation has worked its way to all the bars that Chris and I go to.”
“I’m not going to be able to keep a single thing from you or Chris, am I?” It was funny. It should have been funny. Jim was tried to keep his thoughts as far from Tarsus as humanly possible, and then it was funny.
“No way, kiddo. And that’s good. Saves us from unpleasant surprises. Trust me, there isn’t a square inch on Chris’ body I haven’t personally inspected and regenerated. It’s just the way it is.” Boyce lowered the regenerator, and Jim fought back the urge to say kinky. Boyce looked too serious for it, and Jim didn’t know him well enough to gauge how he’d react to a joke right now. “You still gonna stick around?”
Privately, Jim didn’t think he had much choice. He couldn’t exactly go back to Iowa now he’d left, if only because he didn’t think his feet would take him there. Besides, haunting past aside, he actually liked the Academy so far. He liked Pike and Boyce and Bones, and the reading was adequately engaging so far. If Pike got his way, Jim would have even better academic challenges to face. Intellectual stimulation, bars, free clothes and all the food he could shove down his throat? There was nothing more he could actually ask for. The assortment of beings consenting to sleep with him were just a pleasant bonus, even if Bones had refused him outright and would only let Jim as much as cuddle him. It was still more than he’d ever had since he was a kid.
“Yeah. Yeah, I guess so.”
“Good. Chris isn’t going to let you go now. Not without a fight, anyway.” Boyce pulled back, scratching his temple absently. “Now stay right there, I’ll get us some tea and we can chat all about your sexual history.”
Jim laughed despite himself, because if any other Doctor had ever asked him for that he’d have thrown a punch and ran. But he was sat down, and getting up to run would take effort he couldn’t find in his tired bones. Besides, he had a suspicious feeling that Boyce was quick, and far stronger than his narrow frame might suggest.
While Boyce bustled at the replicator behind him, Jim reached a hand to touch his head tentatively, feeling the tight new skin formed. Healed, and presumably leaving no trace of his bar fight. He’d gotten used to the cuts, and the pain that came with them. But it was good that they were gone now. It was like a fresh start, and Jim was fine with that. Fresh starts could, occasionally, include two Doctors who seemed to actually give a shit about his welfare – and a Starfleet Captain who, truly inexplicably, seemed to have faith in Jim. As suspicious as his every instinct told him to be about these, for all intents and purposes, strangers- Jim decided to stay put. In the hospital- in San Francisco- in Starfleet. He could stay, for a while. If it didn’t work out, he could disappear without a trace. Pike or no- Jim had ways. It would all work out, in the end.
Chapter 3: Family Dinner Pt. 1
Chris was tired of paperwork and, for a brief moment as he sent his last few files back to Number One, he allowed himself to be tired of being grounded. It didn’t happen too often, no matter how eager he was to get back to the stars, but when it did it hit him hard. He was good at recruiting and he enjoyed the rewards of seeing idiot kids turn into something great, but everything paled in comparison to the stars. His sudden nostalgia for the simplicity of space had, he was certain, nothing to do with the sudden arrival in his life of James Kirk. Kirk was just another student as far as the academy was concerned; he had to be. There was no favouritism in Starfleet, even if most of Chris’ paperwork had recently been dedicated to the kid’s enrolment. He’d pulled more strings than he had left to ensure the train wreck of a young adult got his place, and now everything relied on Kirk. If the kid shone, Chris was safe. If the kid stumbled and carried on like he was going in Iowa, Chris was going to have a lot of explaining to do.
You know that instinct to leap without looking. Fuck. Chris knew it, and it was probably going to keep him awake at night for the next three years until both he and Kirk were safely on the Enterprise, and lightyears away from the Admiralty breathing down their necks. Philip would laugh his ass off if he knew Chris considered space to be safer than earth. More accurately, Philip was going to laugh his ass off at Chris when he found out. He would find out, after all.
Coffee. Chris needed coffee, no matter what Philip said about no caffeine after 1600 hours. It was just necessary to remaining conscious for what he hoped would be a lovely evening home with his boyfriend. Without it, he’d most definitely fall asleep and Phil would do terrible, childish things to him like draw a moustache on him or laden his arms with strips of wax and then wake him by trying to pull them all off at once. Pest. That was precisely why Chris had never sought an earth posting so they could settle and have children. Philip alone was hard enough to handle, and now Chris feared he was about to be tag-teamed by both his husband and Jimmy Kirk. Chris was doomed.
The luxurious scent of coffee was just about filling the kitchen, Chris perched on the counter and flicking through the evening news on his PADD, when Phil staggered in from work. The first glance was, usually, the most telling of Phil’s working day. A lazy grin meant a good day, lives saved, families reunited, children laughing at his stupid jokes. A dumb blink meant a strange day, exhausting and disorienting – but no more depressing or uplifting than any other. An immediate frown, deeply set with too round eyes, glassy and unfocused, was a terrible day. Loss and pain, and intolerable hurt. It was just their luck, it seemed, that tonight Phil walked in looking like he was deep in mourning.
Chris didn’t have time to hop down from the counter before Phil had stormed through the kitchen towards him, burying his head against his chest and wrapping his arms around him tightly, holding him in place. There wasn’t much to say – if there was anything he could say. Even after everything he’d seen in space, there was nothing so tragic as the emergency ward at Medical. Phil was strong, though, and he kept going because he wanted to help people, even if it caused this. Phil, shaking silently against his chest and holding him like he didn’t want to let go for at least an hour. Chris let him, stroking his hair gently until his husband’s shoulders finally drooped a touch and nodded against him, as if signifying he was finished now.
“Kirk.” Phil said quietly, drawing back and pinching the bridge of his nose. “Well, Kirk and then this baby- big blue eyes and floppy hair. Cancer.” Phil shook his head. “He’ll be fine, but I doubt I will be.” He would be, but Chris didn’t bother to tell him that. Phil knew, in any case. He’d endured worse. Once, on a mission on his own posting, before they were married and serving together – Phil had lost a patient who looked achingly like Chris. Their first communication afterwards had lasted as long as the network had allowed them. Phil had looked so unbelievably broken, Chris had decided on the spot that he had no intention of being apart from his best friend ever again. He’d proposed the next time they were both on solid ground together.
“What about Jim himself?” Chris asked, because he couldn’t help himself.
“Poor thing nearly had a panic attack just walking into hospital, but we got through it okay.” Chris didn’t want to imagine. It was easy enough to connect the dots – missing medical files, reluctance to visit hospitals, a refusal to let McCoy even fix the cuts on his face. Jim Kirk clearly didn’t like Doctors. “I’ve decided to slowly acclimatise him. He may trust you, but he doesn’t trust me. Not yet. Or any Doctor, I think, but we’ll get there.”
At least Phil was in agreement. At least Phil had a plan, which was more than Chris had when it came to making sure Jim Kirk was happy. Keeping him busy and safe, he could just about manage. Happiness was a whole other game.
“That’s good. What about his results?”
“Didn’t really get any, and even if I did I couldn’t tell you.” Phil sighed, a short demonstration of his dissatisfaction at that fact. Chris nodded in agreement, fingers trailing down his husbands collar. It was fair, and he hadn’t expected anything less than utter confidentiality. But he still wished he knew more. “I took one scan, and I’m going to get the rest when he can look me in the eye without forgetting to breathe.”
“Well, you are breath-taking.”
“Nice try, gorgeous.” Phil moved from between Chris’ legs, approaching the coffee and pouring himself a cup with hands that had no right to be so steady. Not when Chris himself felt shaky all over. Stupid Doctors. “You can see as clearly as I can that he never dealt with Tarsus well. Keep an eye on him, Chris.”
“I can spot PTSD a mile away in any crewman, but I’m not a Doctor, Phil. Just make sure he trusts you.” Chris slid off the counter, following his husband through to the other room.
“I will. I’m just saying, it wouldn’t hurt you to do some research into the other Tarsus survivors, or survivors of genocide and food deprivation. After this week, that kid’s going to spend a lot more time with you than with me.”
“Yeah, I know. I’ll look into it. C’mon, why don’t you run a bath, and I’ll make us some dinner.”
“You are an excellent cook.” Phil smiled serenely, some of the tension gone from his face already. Whatever he’d learned about Jim Kirk, Chris almost wished he never had cause to find out. If everything went to his dreamy little plans, the next three years would be a walk in the park. Then, he’d board the Enterprise with Phil, Number One, McCoy and Jim. He didn’t doubt the Enterprise would also get him his pick of the finest in Starfleet for the rest of his crew. It was everything he ever could have asked for, and he was going to enjoy being hopelessly optimistic until something proved him wrong.
“I know, you charmer.” Chris gave his husband a little push towards the bathroom. “Go on. Leave it to me.”
“I knew there was a reason I married you.”
Chris arched an eyebrow. “Oh, so it wasn’t just to get on the Enterprise?”
“There are so many reasons I married you.” Phil replied, and Chris could hear the smile in his voice as he departed into the bathroom. He grinned himself, heading back into the kitchen to find some food. Whatever real ingredients they had from their weekly shop were probably on their way out by now, but tonight was not a night for replicated food. He’d either make do, or order in. Either way, he was going to treat his husband. He deserved it.
Phil had been delegated the task of opening the wine, on Friday, as they awaited the arrival of the boys, and only that. Philip Boyce was not a cook. Chris had known this since the academy, and he’d married him anyway. Not that he minded much, because he sort of enjoyed cooking when he had the chance to do it. More so on Earth than any other planet, if only because he actually understood what all the ingredients were. He and Phil had visited Vulcan once, just for a few days, and everything had either been stupidly bland or ridiculously spiced. Chris had never been able to find a middle ground, and they’d left before he could actually work out what the hell he was supposed to do with Plomeek.
Today though, freshly handed a list of Jim Kirk’s many, many allergies, Chris had settled on a good, old fashioned Spaghetti Bolognese. Kirk should have been fine with that. If not, there were going to be two highly qualified doctors on hand to stop him from outright dying in their apartment. It put Chris slightly more at ease, but it still wouldn’t make for a great start to the semester.
“Babe, they’re on their way up.” Phil said suddenly, sticking his head around the kitchen door. “And I spilled wine. Only on the table though, so it’s okay.”
“Domestic Goddess.” Chris commented, before his words sunk in. “What do you mean they’re on their way up? I didn’t hear them buzz.”
“They didn’t.” Phil shrugged, disappearing back to setting the table again. “I watched through the window. I think Kirk hacked our security. Does that make you feel safe? It doesn’t make me feel safe. Maybe we should have stayed on Campus.”
“Phil, we are on campus. If it bothers you that much, ask Jim to write a new security code. It won’t keep him out, but no-one else will be able to get through.” He slipped his apron off, glancing at himself in the hall mirror. “Is this too much? What were they wearing?”
“Gorgeous, we’re five stories up. They were just sort of handsome blobs. I think in shirts.” Phil set down his own half empty glass of wine, his reward for a trying week of shifts and coercing Jim Kirk into doing a full physical examination. Which he had successfully completed by that very afternoon, so they were all set for the semester to start on Monday. “Besides, you look dashing.” Phil said, suddenly beside him, and Chris turned his head into a kiss that had the potential to start something neither of them had time to finish. But his husband tasted of red wine and, underneath that, Philip, and it took until the boys knocked on their door to find the willpower to move himself away.
“Marry me?” He asked, breathless.
“Pick another planet this time.” Phil replied, moving to open the front door. “Jim! I’m glad you’re clothed.” Jim immediately turned bright red, hilariously, and Chris didn’t envy him. Physicals weren’t exactly great for modesty, and nor was Phil. Oh god, now he was letting Phil and Jim interact right in front of him and shit that wasn’t going to end well for him. “And Doctor McCoy, lovely to finally meet you.”
McCoy was just about what Chris had decided to expect, going off Jim’s description. A good few years older than most Cadets, and southern, with a tan and dark hair. His face was plastered with a scowl while Jim, grinning, looked to be the most obvious cause.
“Doctor Boyce, you too.” McCoy said. “And Captain Pike. It’s good to meet you, Sir.” He shook both their hands, and it was weird.
“Drop the formalities please McCoy, technically we’re on leave.” Chris complained, and McCoy dropped his scowl to grin ruefully. “It’s Chris and Phil.”
“Understood, Chris. I’m Leonard.” The younger doctor side-eyed his roommate. “Leon-ard.” He repeated, drawing out each syllable.
“I heard you the first time, Bones.” Jim replied with a dazzling smile, striding through the room and clasping Chris’ arm as he went. “What’s for eating, I’m starving.”
Chris let out a bark of laughter, the three of them traipsing after Jimmy Kirk to the dining table. As if this apartment was Jim’s, and this wasn’t the first time he’d graced it with his presence. Chris found himself staring, sort of awed, and for a moment his eyes met Leonard’s. The Doctor looked grim and resigned, as if to say We’re all fucked, aren’t we? And Chris could only agree.
“We’ve whipped you up the finest old-Italian cuisine.” Phil said, outright lying without letting his face show a hint of it.
“We’ve, he says.” Chris snorted. “If Philip ever actually offers to cook for you, run far and fast. It probably means he wants you dead.”
“Don’t listen to him, Kiddo.” His husband said to Jim, and then stuck his tongue out at Chris. Chris would have laughed, if Jim hadn’t beaten him to it. Even Leonard chuckled, but that was nothing compared to Jim’s loud laughter. Stupid, adorable brat. It was impossible that the sound of a twenty-two year old’s laughter could be so rewarding. But going off the look on Phil’s face, sort of vacant and dumb, he wasn’t the only one who was stupidly smitten with the stupid kid. At least Leonard was back to scowling at Jim again – so he could be beaten. Jim Kirk was not an incurable affliction.
“Right, can I fetch us some drinks? Wine, Leonard?”
“Just a small glass, please. I’m on the early shift tomorrow.”
Doctors, good doctors, were all the same really. Leonard didn’t look exactly like a wine guy, but he was humouring two older men and Chris wasn’t about to call him out on it. He sat, accepting the large glass that Phil handed him. They had the weekend off, after all, and Chris was going to damn well enjoy it before the semester started and he never got a free moment ever again.
“There you go.” Leonard accepted his wine with a nod. “Kiddo, want some wine? You’re old enough, right?”
Jim was frozen, just for a moment, but he was watching the kid too closely to miss it. That sudden paling, the way his blue eyes glazed over for just a moment before he refocused and hid behind him well constructed façade once more. He glared hotly at Phil, shaking his head, and then said something none of them really expected.
“I’ve been drinking since I was thirteen, but now I get asked.”
Chris felt sick, because Jim had been on Tarsus when he was thirteen and fresh water must have been hard to come by. But alcohol lasted, didn’t it? Wine and beer would have been stored by most houses, kept safely in cellars for Jim to raid. Chris had explored a bunch of new worlds, and most of them with intelligent life forms enjoyed intoxications in some form. Tarsus was an earth colony. It definitely would have stored booze.
“But no, if you don’t mind. Just water for me.”
Leonard looked up sharply, eyes trained on Jim like he was in an examination room. Chris clearly wasn’t the only one who thought something was wrong, and that something was to do with wine. Unless Chris had just gone insane over the kid and was pulling at loose strings.
“No problem, Kiddo.” Phil said quietly. He’d noticed too, but unlike Chris and, apparently Leonard, he was much better at hiding his reactions. “Leonard, come help me serve up would you? I wanted to speak to you about transferring you off clinic duty anyway. You’re overqualified, and I’d rather you be in medical.”
The two Doctors disappeared into the Kitchen, and Chris felt sort of at a loss. This had been his idea, to spend time with Jim outside of his office, to get him to trust him with more than just his academic record. But theory was easier than practice. Practice meant actually trying not to show how desperately hard he’d fallen for a stupid kid with stupid blue eyes that made him wish he and Phil were stupid enough to adopt actual children.
Chris took a large gulp of wine and set his glass down. “I got confirmation you cleared your physical, Son, so I’ve cleared you for all your classes. And good news - Archer spoke up for you in a meeting this morning. He agreed to let you test out of your computing modules by Christmas so you’re not wasting time.”
“That is good news.” Jim spoke easily, as if his little bubble of panic had never even occurred. Like, maybe, he thought no-one had noticed. Worse- maybe he just didn’t expect anyone to notice. The idea made Chris lose most of his appetite, so he quickly cast it aside. He couldn’t change the past, and he could only hope to influence Jim’s future for the better.
“Right. You’ll have to pay me and Number One a visit when you get a chance next week. We’ll talk through your timetable, see what we can shift around.”
“Sounds good, Chris. I’ll com you to arrange a time.” Jim pushed his fork a centimetre forwards on the table. “You know, if it’s too much hassle you don’t have to do this. I’ve endured worse hardships than some boring classes.” He was going for a lazy grin, and failing miserably. It hurt Chris to the core of him, and he had to drink some more to fight back against it. He knew precisely the worse hardship that Jim had gone through, and it was enough to take anyone’s appetite away. Not Jim’s though, clearly, because the cadet perked his head up the moment Phil and Leonard re-entered the room carrying the dishes.
“You’re part of Starfleet now, Son.” Chris finally said, when he thought his voice could handle the attempt to speak. “It isn’t about what you can endure. It’s what you can contribute. You’re not contributing anything if you’re not challenging yourself.”
“Hear hear.” Phil agreed, their feet touching briefly beneath the table as he took his seat. “A toast, gentlemen.” They raised their wine glasses and Jim, his water. “To a good semester.”
“To the stars.” Chris added, clinking his glass against Jim’s and meeting his gaze for a moment.
“The stars. Jesus Christ, you’re all crazy, adrenaline seeking space nerds. It’s not normal, I’m telling you.” Leonard began to grumble good-naturedly, and Jim began to tease him mercilessly. The tension was still there, lingering beneath easy conversation. There was too much going unsaid, and if Jim didn’t know that, then he still actively felt the consequences of it. It would all come out eventually, but for now, Chris was hungry. He was hungry and surrounded by good wine and company, and he was going to enjoy it.
Chapter 4: Trust, Or the Foundations of It.
Jim was, admittedly, in an awkward position, tucked between a water fountain and a slim sculpture of something he interpreted to be a splashing puddle- though really, the modern art could have been anything and he wouldn’t have been able to argue otherwise. Despite the cold floor on which he sat, and the narrowness of the space he had wedged himself into an hour before, he was more than happy to have continued to go unnoticed for the rest of the day. He wasn’t hidden exactly, but out of the way. It was better like that. He’d been in the Library all night completely peacefully, but around 0900 hours more cadets had started to filter in, and their staring had quickly gotten too stifling. He’d had no choice but to give up his long held spot by the window in search of some privacy.
He’d have gone back to his dorm, but Bones was now on night shifts at Medical – thanks to Doctor Boyce’s intervention to get him off clinic - as well as attending his classes in the day. Jim had no intention of incurring Bones’ wrath by tapping away at his PADD when his roommate was in desperate need of sleep. So, he found the quietest corridor nearest his next class that afternoon and had gotten to work right there on the floor. He had gone ignored by the few who had wandered down this particular wing of the building, and so the last person he expected to say his name was Chris Pike. Particularly when he’d been actively avoiding the man since their disastrous dinner the previous Friday. No, not disastrous, just disheartening – and only because Jim didn’t know what the fuck he was doing. He’d felt like a kid playing pretend at a family, without really knowing what a family was. He’d not done a sit down dinner like that since the start of Tarsus, and he’d royally fucked it up within minutes of arriving. Honestly. He couldn’t afford to slip up, he couldn’t be weak. He couldn’t let something so trivial as a stupid glass of wine make him feel so helpless.
Yet, Pike was unavoidable. Inescapable. He went hand in hand with Starfleet, and fuck, Jim liked what he was doing with the Academy. Barely a week in, and he felt confident he’d made the right decision. That didn’t stop him being shit scared of it.
Jim shot up instantly, PADD slipping off his knees as he made to not look like a complete weirdo sat alone on the floor in some deserted corridor. Hell, Pike had seen him looking worse, but he was supposed to maintain higher standards now- he attempted a salute, wincing when his elbow collided with part of the marble sculpture beside him. “Chris! Ouch- Captain Pike. Sorry. I was just-“ He glanced down to his PADD and the questions he was completing for his ethics class.
Pike followed his gaze, expression mostly clear of judgement. If anything, he looked amused, but the effort he was going to not to show Jim was frankly unnecessary. Jim knew better than anyone that his behaviour was abnormal, and he’d long since come to terms with that. It stemmed from long before Tarsus, even if that had strengthened his capabilities to withstand tumultuous environments. A quiet corridor, wedged into a tight spot, was nothing in comparison to Tarsus, nor the horror house of his childhood. If he had space to move his elbows and type out his answers, he had nothing to complain about. He still complained anyway, about most things. It was a terrible affliction- one that he managed to forget about until the dead of night when he remembered what a selfish brat he was.
The voice that reminded him of that, when he should have been sleeping, inevitably sounded like Frank.
“Are you aware of the places that exist solely for you to study in, Kirk?” Pike asked, looking back up. “The Library, say, or your room? They still provide desks, right?”
“Yes, Sir.” He shifted his weight from one leg to his other, trying not to show that his awkward position had afforded him a nasty case of pins and needles. On Tarsus, that could never have happened. He didn’t have time for bad circulation when there were hunters on his tail. It was stupid to compare everything in his life to Tarsus, but he’d not been able to stop since Semester started. Maybe the change had made him think too hard, on too little sleep. It wasn’t unsurprising though, really. Tarsus may have been hell but, for a while, it was a predictable hell. It was both steady and unending; nightmarish and reliable. It had been the end of Tarsus that had commenced all his issues.
“Bones was sleeping. And the Library was,” He paused for a fraction of a second, breath catching as he remembered the others in their reds, a crowd of blank faces, all sneaking looks at him and muttering his name under their breaths. Kirk. “I don’t think everyone has quite gotten over the novelty of my existence yet, Captain.”
Pike tensed, just fractionally, and Jim stared at the floor. Self-doubt crept in as usual, denying him any right to resent his own name. He was probably just being paranoid. Maybe they weren’t looking at him at all, and he was inflating his own importance just because his name was in the history books. Pike wasn’t tense out of sympathy, but embarrassment for Jim. He was a joke, and his name was a joke, like Frank had always said. Somewhere out in the world, Sam had probably changed his name already. It was why Jim had never been able to find him, on those few drunken nights he’d even worked up the courage to attempt searching.
Jim needed it to stop. He needed to sleep.
“I see.” Chris said, giving very little emotion away now. He had a cool façade when he was in ‘commander’ mode, Jim had found – more like the man who’d dragged him from Iowa than the cutesy married man he saw in the privacy of Chris’ own apartment. No-one compared to Doctor Boyce, though. Jim… hell, Jim liked Phil. He smiled a lot and teased his husband unendingly, and backed Jim in nearly every argument. On Friday evening, Phil had made both Jim and Bones blush furiously by drunkenly kissing both their cheeks repeatedly, calling them ‘my sons’. Pike, red faced from wine, had failed in his tipsy attempts to restrain his husband. Apparently Boyce had enjoyed one hell of a hangover the next day though, according to Bones. So all in all, Boyce was weird and funny and sort of insane – but in the best possible way.
“Pick your things up, Cadet, and follow me. We need to go through your timetable, anyway.” Pike gave him an odd look. “You said you’d com me to arrange a time.”
“I… this week has been a lot. It slipped my mind.” He excused himself and, for now, Pike seemed to accept it. He jerked his head to get him to move, and Jim scrambled to comply, elbow still aching in what he suspected was already a nasty bruise. He did bruise too easily. He collected his bag and PADD, hurrying after his recruiter as he strode down the corridor without technically waiting for Jim at all. Jim could have just turned down a different route and he doubted the man would have actually noticed, but Jim didn’t do that. Pike wasn’t a friend or some stuffy douche in a bar, ruining his fun. He was a Starfleet Captain, a superior, and someone who could very easily get him kicked out of the academy.
Jim couldn’t go back to Iowa. Not now he’d left.
“They say anything to you, Cadet? In the Library?”
If he was being tested, Jim already felt like a failure. “No, Sir.” He replied, dutifully, painfully aware of how pathetic he sounded. No-one would even dare approach him, and yet he’d still run away and hidden. “I ignore it normally – If I’m with Bones or Mitchell- you know, Gary Mitchell.” Pike nodded squarely. Jim wondered if there was a new cadet in the Academy who Pike didn’t know. Jim wasn’t special. “I’m sure they’ll get over it, eventually.” He said, in a voice too small for it to sound like him. There was truth in his statement though. People stopped caring about his name normally about the time that he outsmarted them in a test, or thrashed them in a fight, or outran them on the field. High school had been the same, and his advanced courses on Tarsus – before everything that had happened. Of all the things he’d endured in his time, he could take some Cadets gossiping about him. It was fine, and he was fine.
“I’m sure they will.” Pike led them out of the teaching block, towards Command. It wasn’t uncommon for him to pick up his surroundings quickly and, having been in San Francisco a fortnight, he already knew his way in the dark. It was an essential survival necessity, frankly. But there was still something different about the Academy. Nothing in life was guaranteed; the false safety of Tarsus had proven that. But Jim wanted to make it through the Academy. He wanted to be there for the next three years. He’d never had a place anywhere before, really. Tarsus didn’t count. Nor had he ever had to convince people he was worth taking a chance on. There had never been any cause to discuss that before. He just wasn’t, outright. So why shouldn’t he get attached to Pike and Starfleet? Why shouldn’t he walk the pathways and corridors, and feel at home?
Jim felt distinctly sick.
“You’ve caused quite a stir in Command as well as the Cadets, Kirk.”
Jim bit back the obvious retort that he wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for Pike. It was safer to keep his head down, accept whatever the Captain had to say to him.
“You’re not being disciplined you know, Cadet. You can engage in conversation with me.” Pike was looking at him, amused. “Unless you’re still embarrassed about Phil? Believe me, he’s worse. I think his subconscious has substituted you and McCoy for some stray cats.”
“Your husband thinks he kissed stray cats and called them his children?” Jim asked, laughing in spite of himself. Boyce was… one of a kind. Sort of insane, actually. Jim got along with him splendidly, and hoped that said nothing about his own mind.
“Wait till you see him on Tequila.” Pike replied, his grin easing yet more of Jim’s anxiety. He elected not to reply, falling silent and in step with his advisor. It was mid-period, so Campus was relatively quiet. That was a blessing. He was already James ‘Kelvin Baby’ Kirk. The last thing he needed was to be Pike’s favourite too. Maybe Jim was a pessimist, but he’d been subject to enough rumours to dread to think of what sort of horrors the Cadets could come up with about Pike. His reputation wasn’t about to help out either, not that he could do a damn thing about it now. Even if his stupid mouth didn’t flirt with anything that moved, Cadet Uhura had already turned most of the languages group against him. He’d win them all over though, one by one. Eventually.
“You’re quiet, Cadet.” Pike said softly, interrupting his thoughts. There was a look in his eyes approaching pity, but lingering instead at concern. He probably assumed Jim’s solemnity was because of the idiots in the Library, and he was right- but Jim wasn’t about to admit that.
“Sorry, Sir. My mind is still on my ethics work.”
“What are you studying?”
“Orion Slave Trade, Sir. It’s difficult.” Jim swallowed. “My friend Gaila escaped that. She’s not in the class with me though.” It was only going to get worse, he knew that. Eventually Tarsus would come up, and a whole host of other subjects in other classes that made him feel sick to the stomach. But he’d work through them with a few beers per essay, and he’d be fine. Fine.
“She’s one of Archer’s.” Pike said knowingly, and Jim presumed he meant advisees or recruits. Not just one of his, because that suggested he was Pike’s. The older man seemed to want to be his friend, in a way – in a weird way. But that was just an anomaly, probably. A pre-semester concession to help Jim settle. But now Pike was stuck with Jim, so that when Jim inevitably screwed up, it could be blamed on Pike and no-one else. He knew Starfleet was bureaucratic to a universal scale – he’d known that since post-Tarsus, all legality and records – eventually he’d hacked the system and censored all their knowledge of him and Tarsus. As far as they were concerned, he was the Kelvin baby. That alone was bad enough, but too well known for him to try and wipe out without raising questions.
“It’s sort of Starfleet tradition for the admirals to… take an interest in students that they expect to do well. Sort of like betting on horses.” Chris informed him, as if Jim hadn’t been able to work it out by himself. It still didn’t explain Pike. To dare him to join Starfleet was one thing, but to actively tie himself to Jim’s education was another. It was a risk, and a risk Jim was not worth.
“You’re not an Admiral, Sir.”
“No, and you’re not a horse.” Pike replied, steadfastly. “No-one is expecting you to do well, Kirk. Which is why we’re going to prove them wrong.”
Jim couldn’t help but grin. That sounded like a challenge, and Jim wasn’t one to back down from challenges.
“We really should have done this sooner – don’t tell Komack, he’ll berate me endlessly.” They approached the door to Pike and Number One’s offices. “Christ, I can’t wait to get back to the black. Come on, inside.”
Hiking his bag up on his shoulder, Jim took the cue and made his way through into Number One’s office. The room was bright and airy, with soft classical music playing quietly that he didn’t recognise, but didn’t find immediately insulting. At the desk sat a beautiful woman, and Jim stared like an idiot until Pike had closed the door behind him and joined him. Number One had a reputation on Campus for being both terrifying and exceptionally fair. Jim’s first impression was more along the lines of both foreboding and enticing, but Jim was a sucker for a pretty face. Hell, out of all of the dangers of space, a pretty face would probably be his downfall. At least Pike had those parental vibes going on, or Jim would already be a dead man walking.
“Pick up a stray, Captain Pike?” The woman asked, in a voice like silk. She ignored Jim entirely, devoting her attention to Pike instead. It was belittling, but Jim couldn’t find it in himself to feel offended. She was ice, and he was fine with it.
“Something like that, Number One.” Pike moved past Jim, loosening his collar and depositing a file onto the woman’s desk. “This is Cadet Kirk.” Pike introduced him. Number One turned her gaze back to Jim, arching a perfectly sculpted brow and observing him closely. At his name, her eyes flashed momentarily with recognition. It wasn’t an unusual reaction to his name, in the grand scheme of things. Rather that than the gasp and repeated Kirk, did you say?
“Pleasure to meet you, Ma’am.” Jim said smoothly, and extended his hand. Number One took it in a firm shake, though her newly refreshing look of disinterest in his existence didn’t let up. He instantly decided she was perfect, and she could stomp on his heart to her own heart’s content.
“Don’t take it personally, Number One. I’ve now personally witnessed Cadet Kirk flirt with seven individuals, spanning three species, and I’ve only known him a fortnight.” Pike said. When he was supposed to have seen Jim flirting with all these people, Jim didn’t know. Sure, he wasn’t exactly subtle in his advances, but he didn’t want Pike knowing that. No more than he’d probably already assumed the night they met, anyway.
“Charming, as ever Chris.” Number One retracted her hand, returning to the files on her desk. “Remember we’re having lunch with Admiral Archer, Captain, and then you have your meeting with the disciplinary board for the Peterson enquiry.”
“Yes, I remember, thank you, Number One. Please remember you’re not my Yeoman.” Pike shot her an exasperated smile and held his door open, gaze shooting to Jim. He darted into the next Office, more than willing to escape Number One’s cool gaze. Pike’s office hadn’t gotten any more personal, despite the start of the semester. It was as good an indicator about his attitude to being grounded as his words themselves. Devoid of any real possession, his desk was cluttered with work and old coffee cups which he attempted to push to the side rapidly.
“Sit down, Jim. We’ll have a chat.” Pike instructed.
The suave charm Jim had adopted with Number One abandoned him the instant the door closed behind him, effectively sealing his fate, trapping him with Chris. Jim sat, focusing all his efforts on keeping his leg from shaking.
It was easy to flirt, and maybe that was why he did it so often. Real talks were serious and difficult to navigate, and there was so much Jim couldn’t say. Why shouldn’t he hide behind pretty compliments and fluttering eye lashes? That was what he knew best. Plus, it annoyed the hell out of Bones. Only, he couldn’t flirt with Pike, even if he wanted to - and he definitely didn’t. The man was trying to give him a chance at a future, and it baffled him.
“Can I get you a drink, Cadet?”
“No, Captain, thank you.”
“It’s just us, Son, no need for titles.” Pike muttered, behind him, before he finally stopped bustling and moved to his own chair behind the desk, placing down a cup of coffee and settling opposite Jim. “How’re you settling in?”
It was a tricky question, if Jim really thought about it. The initial truth was well. He was out of Iowa, he liked his roommate, he wasn’t starving or fighting for his survival, even against himself. Well, for the most part. His mental health was unreliable at best and unpredictable at worst, but living with Bones had helped already. The Doctor seemed to have developed an uncanny ability to tell what Jim needed form the day they met, and Jim was half convinced it was a superpower.
But then, Jim was also a mess. He didn’t know what the hell he was trying to prove by joining Starfleet. His mother would never forgive him for not telling her, his brother was still gone, and god, if the only people in the Academy who didn’t judge him based on his father were Bones and Pike, he was about to endure three years of hell.
That being said, the honest to god truth of the matter was simultaneously fantastic news, and guilt-inducing to the extreme. Jim was never one to lie to himself though. Really, truly, he was fine. Not only was he not starving and scared, he was always provided food, and most often quite happy. Or, at least, distracted enough to forget about the rest. There were always bars to visit, beautiful people to flirt with, books to read and essays to throw himself into. It was easy to smile.
“So far so good, Captain. No debilitating regret.”
Pike laughed shortly. “I’m glad to hear it.” He sipped his coffee, sighing, satisfied. Jim almost wished he had asked for a cup himself, but Bones had forbidden him. He’d claimed Jim didn’t need any more caffeine – that he was too damn hyperactive as it was. Jim suspected Bones was starting to suspect he had anxiety, and was caring in his own curmudgeonly way. "You’re something else you know, Son.”
“I try.” Jim winked, because he couldn’t help himself, because the way it made Chris look sick was actually sort of amusing. On this occasion, the Captain rolled his eyes. Whether at Jim’s antics or at his own disgusted reaction, Jim couldn’t tell. It was still funny, though. What wasn’t funny was the very serious expression that Pike then took on, then; inescapably and too much.
“You’re top marks in philosophy. You’re going to test out of Basic Warp Design, and your advanced engineering Professor quite possibly has a crush on you. You’re fluent in Klingon, Orion, Andorian and whatever other languages no-one has seen you flirt in yet.” Jim could feel his flush returning with a vengeance. He didn’t want to hear this. Bones would say his ego was inflated enough but honestly, half of this stuff he’d learned by necessity ultimately. At first he’d been smart, sure, and eager to learn. His advanced courses on Tarsus had been a joy, obviously, at the start. But afterwards… studying was a distraction. He couldn’t be anxious at night if he was too busy recalling equations. It wasn’t insomnia if he was sat up at his desk, studying.
“I knew you were a genius, Jim, but none of us expected this. How did you do it? When did you find the time to learn multiple languages and Warp theory, between your degrees that is?”
His confusion was understandable. Pike had found Jim in some trashy bar in Iowa, and Jim hadn’t intended to ever leave that dumb town. He’d die there, far away from space and his father’s legacy. In a forgotten, dusty old farmhouse. That was where he belonged.
“I don’t spend every night getting plastered and flirting with anything vaguely humanoid, Sir.” Jim said, through a tense jaw. “I read, a lot.”
On Tarsus, he’d stopped being a kid. Stopped reading fiction through the eyes of a child, and instead learned to soak up every scrap of information he could. It might save his life one day, after all. He felt sort of sick, and he could taste blood on his lip. He forced himself to take a deep breath, and it was probably a little too obvious to keep Chris from noticing he was teetering on the edge. He noticed his leg was shaking violently, only when the pens on Chris’ desk began to clatter against each other.
“Well, keep at it.” Pike scratched his jaw absently. “I fought hard to get you a place here, Jim. You can bury yourself in studying and partying, if you like, and try and avoid me. But I’m on your team. I’m not going to leave you to the wolves now that you’re here.”
There were no wolves in the Academy - none that compared even remotely to the wolves he’d known before.
Pike didn’t want to hear it apparently. He shook his head in a precise movement, eyes too focused on Jim. “You’re worth more than you think you are, Jim. And not just to the academy. So I want you to promise that you’ll trust me. Whatever you need, I’m am your team. Any time, any place.”
Trust. It all came down to trust. Jim trusted Bones almost instantly, despite the fact the other man knew next to nothing about him and vice versa. There was something about McCoy’s easy friendship that facilitated a good time and an easy understanding between them. Jim had never had a friend like McCoy before – not since his real life brother – and he was going to try with all his might to ensure he didn’t do anything to ruin it. Chris, on the other hand, was a whole other kettle of fish. Jim felt an almost pathetically strong urge to impress Pike, to live up to his challenge. He’d liked the man instantly, but to admit that he’d accidentally invested a great deal of trust in him too was terrifying. He’d not thought about it, he’d just done it. Leaped without looking.
Maybe he was just the same as the Admirals. Maybe, when everything went wrong, he just wanted to have someone else to blame. It could be Pike’s fault for tricking him into Starfleet in the first place- not another one of Jim’s failures.
He had already set himself up on a cliff’s edge. There was no reason he couldn’t hold Pike’s hand as he jumped.
“Yes. Okay, Chris.” He said, finally, nodding his assent.
Chris was exhausted. Before semester had started, he’d been busy with meetings and hearings and work on the Enterprise. Now the semester was underway, he was done. Phil was busier than ever dealing with an influx of new, idiotic cadets who constantly found new ways to get hurt in lessons or in bars. Or both, somehow, and Jim was included amongst them. Phil’s prediction that Chris would be the one spending more time with the kid than the Doctor was woefully inaccurate. Chris was lucky to see the Cadet once a week for an academic meeting – Phil got the brat twice-weekly at a minimum, with varying degrees of ill-health and injury. Not that Chris had time to worry too much over Jim. He did, regardless, but the point remained that he didn’t have time. Between testing out of his basic subjects and tackling the advanced second year modules, Jim was busy too. But they made time, because Chris didn’t make promises lightly. He’d sworn he was there for Jim, and he meant it.
His office door was left open, so he heard the moment Jim entered to Number One’s office and sprang to the door to greet him. The kid looked tired, but calm. Happy, even. He looked younger, without a bloody face and in his uniform. Jim deserved to look and act and feel young, considering everything he’d gone through. Better, even, he was now so comfortable with Phil as his primary physician that he longer panicked every time he stepped foot in the hospital. The first time it had happened, after Jim had one of his more severe allergic reactions, Phil had called Chris with actual tears of joy in his eyes. Chris sympathised. Jim was flourishing at the Academy, and succeeded in proving everyone wrong who ever doubted him. Terrible immune system aside, Jim had only had a few minor drunken incidents, and one out of hand combat lesson with an upperclassman named Finnegan. Chris had swiftly intervened – organised Jim to be a TA for a different group, where he didn’t have any mortal enemies. It wasn’t too hard; most people adored him.
“Jim, you’re late.”
“Sorry, Chris. I went to the basic warp theory lecture with Gaila. She’s wicked smart- we use the time to test each other on, you know, advanced warp theory. It’s weirdly inspiring listening to the distant droning.” Jim flushed, scratching his neck awkwardly. “I mean, we’re not disruptive or anything.”
“Now, why would I think that?” It was hard not find him a little amusing. Jim Kirk was, for the eyes of the public, an arrogant flirt. In private, he was awkward and unsure. Still a flirt, when he wanted to be, but awkward nonetheless. “C’mon, son. We’ve got lots to discuss. Primarily, will you quit texting my husband at night? I’m starting to think he loves you more than me.”
“I can make zero promises.” Jim shrugged, and then grinned easily again- his earlier embarrassment forgotten. “Where’s number one?”
“Lunch, with Spock. She’ll be so disappointed to avoid your flirting.”
“Did I offend her?” It was intense, the way Jim’s attitude could flick so quickly from pure cheek to the anxiety-riddled young man faster than Chris could blink. Not only was Kirk clever, he was also a damned complicated person. He had his façade, known to all on Campus, and his true self - but he was self-aware enough to recognise his arrogant persona was not the best defence mechanism he could have come up with. Or hell, maybe it was. What did Chris know? That said, he life would be twelve times simpler if Jim ever managed to keep his head down, quit making enemies, and keep himself the hell out of Philip’s emergency room.
“I don’t mean to flirt, most of the time.” Jim continued, staring at the floor. “I can apologise to her- if she doesn’t like it, I’ll stop-”
“Hey, it’s okay.” Chris felt hollow again. It was just flirting. Against Chris’ will, Phil had let slip that Jim’s sexual activity was currently focused on one other cadet at the moment. Some second year punk named Gary Mitchell. Chris was a grown man but hell, gross, because he could barely cope with Jim flirting- let alone thinking about the post-flirting stuff.
“I know it’s hard to work her out, but she’s actually quite fond of you. She’s fond of anyone who can understand her theorems.” Jim slowly lifted his gaze, finally taking in Chris’ comforting smile. He wasn’t good at the whole parental encouragement thing, but he was trying, and Jim seemed to respond infuriatingly well to it. Infuriating, because Jim should have had the real thing years ago. Not now, when he was fully grown.
They made their way into Chris’ office, sitting in their respective seats and pulling out their PADDs. “For future reference, though, if you think she’s giving you a chance it’s more likely she’s thinking up a dozen ways to demolish you if you say something to really offend her.”
“Understood, Sir.” Jim bit his lip, waiting for Pike to join him seated at the desk. “I, uh, probably should have learnt my lesson from Cadet Uhura. She still won’t tell me her name.” Jim laughed nervously. “And she’s got Gaila in on it too. Everyone, actually.” And dammit, if Jim didn’t look like he cared.
“Win her over with languages.”
“I can’t. I don’t have the time until I test out of robotics.” Jim reached into his bag and extracted an apple. “Mid-October, I’ll be there.” He took a loud bite.
The way Jim reacted to challenges was fascinating. If Chris ever bothered to discuss it with Leonard, he was sure they’d have enough content to talk for hours on end. That would never happen, of course, because Jim would never be so trusting as to allow anyone to know all his worst secrets. Chris didn’t doubt that, if Jim had it his way, he would never tell them about Tarsus. Which in turn meant Jim couldn’t know that Chris knew about Tarsus. Not when his trust was already so fragile. It was becoming increasingly obvious, and not just to Chris, that Jim probably hadn’t been around people he could really trust in an awful long time. It made his heart sort of ache, to imagine that stupid blue-eyed brat lacking stability and love – people to care about him.
“I could tell you her name, you know.” He suggested lazily, and Jim bit off a too-large chunk of apple to respond. Instead, he shook his head vehemently.
“No way.” He finally got out. “She already has a low opinion of me, I don’t want to go into negatives.” He offered another grin, and Chris was almost certain that it wasn’t a real smile. He was getting better at deciphering when Jim Kirk was lying. The man before him now was a far cry from the boy he’d brought home from Tarsus, back when he was a commander. He’d not seen Jimmy often, too busy back then, but the kid had been an open wreck. All kicking and screaming and fighting, until they put him under with a sharp hypo. Now, Jim had his façade, and it only ever seemed to crack for the bad.
Chris wanted to see more real smiles.
“I can get my husband to write you a character reference.” Pike said, sighing a little dramatically until Jim laughed out loud. It was a stupidly rewarding sound. “He won’t shut up about you, after all.”
“It happens to the best of men, Chris, don’t worry. Besides, it’s you he won’t shut up about. Or Bones, actually. Man, your husband is cool. Don’t tell him I said so, because he’s a Doctor – right? But it’s true. He’s not like Bones, he lets me eat junk food.” Jim was rambling again, like an excited child, and it was Chris’ turn to feel distinctly sick. Phil let the kid eat whatever food he wanted because he’d heard Chris talk about him, bone thin and half dead. Because he couldn’t stand to see Jimmy Kirk denying himself jack shit.
“That’s because he can’t cook, and junk food is all he ever eats too.” Chris said, instead, coughing when his voice came out too hoarse. He didn’t look at Jim Kirk and see a starving thirteen year old. He looked at Jim Kirk and saw a grown man who he, and all of Starfleet, had failed excessively and repeatedly over the years. Jim swallowed, and Chris thought he’d been caught out in his dismay. A knock at the door refocused his attention. “Enter.”
The door opened slowly, and Number One swept into the room Spock following at his usual distance, lingering by the door. Vulcans do not linger. Chris suppressed a snort.
“Nice to see you today, Captain.” Number One said, sardonically. “You have three meeting requests waiting on your PADD--” She deposited a stack of files on Pike’s desk, winking briefly at Jim so he blushed terribly.
“Don’t you have your own work to organise?” Chris went ignored.
“- And Phil left you a message before lunch. He wants to be wined and dined, Captain, and then he went into graphic detail about what else he’d like from you. I doodled some of my interpretations if you want me to fetch my notepad?”
“Jesus Chri- No! God, Number One, you’re making Spock uncomfortable.” Number One was evil, and Chris was mortified. Worse, Jim was fighting back laughter through a mouthful of apple. At least he was right about Spock, he thought, who was tense - staring forward as if he’d zoned out of the conversation entirely to preserve his sense of decency.
“Not nearly as uncomfortable as I was.” Number One said, coolly. “So I hacked into your computer and sent myself flowers. Thank you ever so much, by the way.”
“You’re welcome.” Pike said, dismayed. “Spock- have you met Cadet Kirk?”
“No, Captain.” Spock tilted his head slightly, almost imperceptibly, and turned cunning eyes to Jim. “Cadet.” He greeted, neutrally. Aw hell, as if Chris could tell. He was getting better at understanding certain things about his colleague and future Science Officer – as soon as he was allowed to make it official. Chris could tell if Spock needed to meditate or just get away from humans for a while, but other than that he was as oblivious as most to the inner workings of the Vulcan mind.
“Commander.” Jim replied, and Chris stared at his young charge for just a moment. Jim looked sort of awed, but only in those bright blue eyes. The rest of his face had closed off, as good an imitation of Spock as Chris had ever seen. There was no flirting or charming grin. Jim just nodded, swallowed, and dragged his gaze back to Chris.
“I should take my leave, Captain, or Bones will worry.” He excused himself, standing and pushing his chair back in and depositing his apple core in Chris’ waste disposal unit.
“Of course, Kirk. And try to forget everything you just heard, won’t you?”
“I’ll certainly try, Sir.” But his sudden, calculating smirk promised he wouldn’t. “Good day, Sirs.” He added, waiting until Spock had cleared the doorway before darting out of the room. It was the fastest Chris had seen Jim retreat since his last run in with Admiral Komack. Chris wished to god that he’d been able to video that brief second Jim had looked at Spock, if only so he could watch it a thousand times and try and work out whatever the hell it was Jim was feeling. For the life of him, he couldn’t tell if Jim fancied the pants off Spock or thought he was the most disgusting creature on earth.
“He left quickly.” Number One said, dropping into Kirk’s vacated seat. “Did you upset him?”
“No.” Chris didn’t think so, anyway. Unless Jim had caught on to his worry over his husband and junk food and Jim, not eating. Shit. If Jim found out about Tarsus, he could flip. Run. Leave. Fucking shit. “I- uh- fuck, hang on.” He reached for his PADD, and composed a very quick message to his husband to ask him to check up on the kid in a very nonchalant manner.
“There. Good. So, what can I do for you both?” He returned his attention to his crew, and was met with a dozen PADDs regarding the Enterprise. It was going to be a long day.
Chris’ head was on the desk by the time anyone else bothered to disturb him, long after the end of the academic day for the Cadets. Chris wasn’t so lucky, and after the miles of paperwork that Number One and Spock had brought him, he’d had the rest of his work to complete. Better today than over the weekend, but the fact remained that he was exhausted. He dragged his head up at the sound of his door opening, half expecting it to be Kirk, and instead grinning when he saw his husband. Philip looked equally as tired, still dressed in scrubs and a lab coat, and holding out two martinis.
“Room service, Captain?”
“You are my favourite person in the entire world, did I ever tell you?”
Phil looked immensely pleased with himself because he was terrible at hiding his emotions. “Maybe. Once or twice.” He handed Chris his glass, and sat across from him, taking his spare hand gently in his own. “Wouldn’t hurt to say it a bit more.”
“I’ll tell you once an hour if you ask me to.” Phil was fucking great at making martinis. It was why he was such a sought after CMO- aside from being a leading physician. He got the crew to unwind so often they told him all their secrets and forgot he knew them all anyway.
“I’ll bear that in mind, gorgeous. Now, I did as requested and spoke to Jimmy.” For a moment, Chris’s heart sped. “He’s fine. Great, actually. He asked me to take photos of you while you were sleeping for blackmail.”
“That little shit.”
“Why? I was half expecting to find him in panic attack central from the way your message sounded.” Phil drained his glass, and it was going to be that sort of night. Where they were both too tired and too old, but too dumb to admit it. They’d go to their favourite bar, in their favourite secluded corner, and either make out a lot or drink themselves stupid. Chris loved weekends.
“Me too, frankly. I dunno. He just left here kinda suddenly. I think Spock might have scared him.”
“Well he’s not the first.” Phil grinned, wickedly. “But Jim is good, as far as I can tell. I invited him for Sunday brunch, but he said he was probably spending the weekend with Mitchell and Leonard. I told him to let us know, anyway. You don’t mind, do you? We’ve not properly seen the poor boy in weeks.”
“We have.” Chris countered. “Just not where he has opportunity to eat us out of house and home.” Not that either of them would ever, ever complain about Jim eating. Chris had gotten a damn fruit bowl for his office. He kept ration bars out on display, stacked on top of all his paperwork.
“You brought him back into your life, gorgeous. You can’t blame me for wanting to feed him up and make him all squishy and cute. Wait till you’re retired, Chris – I refuse to spend the rest of our lives cuddling your bony arse.” Chris wasn’t touching that with a ten-foot pole lest he damage his beloved husband’s pride – though the reality was that Phil was the bonier of them, while Chris was as physically fit as a Starfleet Captain could be, if lacking in Jim’s more obvious strength.
“Make it a standing invitation then. Every weekend, if he wants. If you want.” The words came out before he’d even understood them. Chris, he was fucked. Every time he met with Jim Kirk he sunk deeper into the hellscape of affection. Phil was, if possible, more obviously and intently smitten than Chris was. They were both screwed, and not in the way Chris wanted to be when it came to his husband.
“I think you’re my favourite person too, Captain Pike.” Phil’s smile was bright and became him. He tanged their fingers together, eyes shining like they had done the day they married. “I also think I want to take you out tonight. C’mon, gorgeous.”
Chris had no intention of resisting.
I'm well aware that it may have been a dick move to only get like three lines of Spock and Kirk in the same room, and have it be from Pike's POV no less. Oh well.
Next time, drunk Phil.
Chapter 6: Staking Territory
Early upload for K/S day :)
The bars in San Francisco were not all so different from Riverside, other than that Jim wasn’t banned from any of them. Yet. No-one really knew him, either, aside from if word of his name got around. Back in Riverside, he’d been the idiot Kirk boy who got himself into all kinds of trouble all his goddamn life - and then found adulthood and a dozen other ways to fuck himself over. People back home knew him for the screw up he was. At Starfleet, he was arrogant and clever, and that was fine – because this was Starfleet Academy, and who wasn’t a little bit arrogant and clever? They worked their asses off. Jim, for sure, had studied more intensely in the last few weeks than he had done in well over a year. Since before his mental health plateaued, and he’d spent more time finding work and going out to have fun.
Starfleet was a different kind of fun, but Jim still took any opportunity he could get to get drunk. It was different now. He had good friends to look after him, instead of one night stands. There was Bones, who was starting to know Jim inside out despite his insistence that Bones not be his Doctor. Phil was his Doctor, McCoy was supposed to be his best friend. Bones, apparently, didn’t bother to distinguish between the two titles when it came to Jim. Then there was Gaila too, of course, who was a persistent light in his life. He’d never known anyone undergo such hardship, and still smile so brightly. Still accept touch and welcome companionship, and run her fingers through his hair like he was precious. She was mischief and warmth and beautiful, and Jim was probably a little bit in love with her. Honestly, though, he was a little bit in love with everyone. Hence, he couldn’t resist a night out with his beloved friends. Bones, with his shift at Medical the next day, was their designated chief of sobriety that evening, so Jim could stop. He could switch off, and lose himself and all his anxieties in beer bottles. Gaila was dancing, grinding, against some third year Cadet who looked like he couldn’t believe his luck. Even Uhura had joined them, sat in a booth with Bones, probably bitching about Jim - not that he cared. He’d gone to the bar to get drinks, and almost succeeded, before Gary Mitchell had shown up and distracted him with those arms and stupid open collar.
Gary’s mouth was stupid. Jim didn’t like the shape of it, or the words it produced. Now Mitchell, he had a real ego. Worse than Jim’s. But, most of the time, it was easy to ignore. He was easy going and easily distracted, when Jim couldn’t stand to see him screw with people anymore. He sort of hated Gary Mitchell, but that didn’t stop him letting the second year pin him against the bar and stick his tongue down his throat. At least he wasn’t talking, and the others weren’t yet impatient for their drinks so he decided to ignore them while he could.
Gary tasted like beer. Or maybe that was Jim. He allowed one hand to tug at Mitchell’s hair, and his other wrist lay against Gary’s back. Hand outstretched, he allowed his fingers to tap together in a steady rhythm. Pinkie to thumb, ring finger to thumb, middle finger, index finger, and back again. Gary pushed closer, and Jim decided he really wasn’t in the mood. He contemplated tapping out Morse code on Gary to see if either he, or some Cadet onlooker, would notice. A hand slid down his hip, moving through familiar territory as though it were owned. Jim didn’t like to feel owned, and Morse Code would take far too long. He’d save that nifty experiment for another day. Right now, he moved his hands to gently push Mitchell away.
He was saved the effort by an exaggerated groan, loud and close by. “Oh Jesus-Fucking-Christ.” Gary pulled back with a horrific noise, and Jim dragged a sleeve across his mouth the moment he met eyes with Pike. “Kirk, what the hell are you doing here?”
“Um.” Jim blinked. Pike. Chris- and Phil too. Phil was laughing though, giggling really, clutching at Chris’ arm and shaking obviously. “Well, primarily drinking. Maybe dancing.”
“Fucking?” Phil suggested, and was swiftly elbowed by his husband. Mortified didn’t do it justice but, hiding behind him, Gary was worse. To Gary, Pike was just a Captain- surely. The hard ass official that scared the pants off most Cadets. To Jim, he was a weird older man as well as a hard-ass Captain.
“Honestly, Chris.” Phil berated his husband fondly, with eyes that looked clouded with alcohol. “We can go somewhere else. Let the poor boy have his fun.”
Phil grinned at him, his usual easy smile that put Jim so instantly at ease. It didn’t matter that Pike looked vaguely nauseas, or that Jim felt it. Because the bar was dark and the music was loud, and this would all be a hazy memory by tomorrow. Or, technically, later that day.
“Thanks mom.” Jim laughed. “But you don’t have to. Unless you were planning on erm, you know, at the bar. Because in that case, we’ll leave. Swiftly.”
“Kirk, you absolute pest. Go back to your friends. I’m not finding a new favourite bar just because you decided to encroach on our territory. There’s room for both of us here.” Pike pinched the bridge of his nose, tiredly. “Just no- none of that, please, not in public.”
“Yes, Chris.” Jim replied, dutifully, and almost grateful. He liked fucking Gary, he wasn’t going to deny that. He just didn’t like Gary. In the same way that he really liked Bones, but fucking him would seem plain wrong.
“See you on Sunday?” He offered up then, because it seemed like a good idea. He wasn’t going to reject food and company, even if logic dictated he should try, try, to maintain a distance from both of them… well, it didn’t seem very likely.
“You’re coming!?” Phil pushed past his husband, wrapping his arms around Jim and pulling him close. “Chris- Chris, I told you.” He stuck his tongue out at Chris, before turning his attention back to Jim. “Good! We’ll take you out. Bring McCoy too, I like that boy.” Fingers ran over his hair, smoothing it down from Gary’s efforts and then patting his head neatly. Like Jim was five. Like his grandpa used to do, back before Tarsus. “Is Leonard here too?” Phil asked, suddenly using Jim’s shoulders as leverage to look across the bar. He must have caught sight of Bones, because he gasped sharply in Jim’s ear. “Oh, Chris, gorgeous, LEONARD is here!”
“Yes, I know, Phil.” Chris looked tired and amused, and he wound his arms around his husband to pull him off Jim. “Why don’t we go and sit down? I’m sure we’ll see Leonard on Sunday.” Chris offered up an apologetic look, but it was too funny. Phil was hilarious when drunk, and it sort of made him less daunting in medical. Even if he was starting to get snippy every time Jim turned up with a black eye or broken hand. Bones was still offering to fix him up whenever he was around to see the damage, but aside from a few sneaky hypos, Jim had avoided him. Bones was always grumpy, after all, while Phil was only occasionally short with him for getting himself hurt.
“Sunday- yeah. Tha’ sounds good. Good.” Philip leaned heavily on his husband, eyes trained with extraordinary focus on Gary, suddenly. “You use protection okay? You would have beautiful babies, if you could, but not now. Okay? ‘m too young to be a grand-pappy.”
“Yes, Sir.” Gary made a sound like a frightened whimper behind him, and Jim fought back his grin, pushing him into the bar.
“Not so fast, Jiminy. Kiddo -listen- don’t drink on an empty stomach, ‘kay? You make sure you eat up.”
His mother-hen nature was truly heart-warming. He didn’t know what it was like to be cared for without an ulterior motive. Maybe it didn’t even make sense, because Chris had to care for him for the sake of his reputation, and Phil was his doctor, and Bones was his roommate. But it didn’t feel like they acted out of duty, and that was baffling to Jim. Baffling and not unwelcome.
“Man, I never have an empty stomach any- anyway.” He forced his grin to remain plastered on his face, but neither Pike nor Phil seemed to have caught his mistake. Anymore.
“I’ll see you both later. C’mon Gary, stop being a wuss.” He turned, shoving Gary lightly back towards Uhura and Bones. Gaila had disappeared from the dancefloor and bar entirely, so there was nothing really interesting to look at besides Pike and Boyce disappearing to find a table at the other end of the bar. Jim turned back to the barman, ordering their drinks and stealing a swig of Bones’ bourbon while he waited for their assorted shots and beers. Something to wash the taste of Mitchell away, until, inevitably, he took the git back. When Bones left to get some sleep before his shift, and Uhura inevitably walked away either with Gaila or without her.
Jim turned, expecting Pike and instead finding his gaze falling pitifully short of the lean Vulcan stood behind him. Duh. Wrong voice, anyway. Maybe similar to Pike’s ‘command’ tones, but far superior in terms of neutrality.
“Commander Spock.” Jim said, grateful for his interaction with Chris and Phil – that, at least, had sobered him enough to not act a complete drunken fool in front of Spock. Spock, who he’d met only once before and not even really spoken to. Maybe it was the touch telepath thing that scared the shit out of him, maybe it was a desperate anxiety that every cell in his body was designed to offend Vulcan ideals, or maybe it was just that Spock was a work of art. Any one of those factors, or all combined, made Jim sure he had to avoid Spock as much as possible. Maintain distance, keep his mouth shut, try not to look him in those annoyingly beautiful brown eyes. It was damn hard because Jim was nosy by nature, and Spock… Spock was a freaking Vulcan in Starfleet – and in a bar, no less. It was, truly, the last place Jim would have expected to see the Commander.
“I am attempting to locate Captain Pike, Cadet.” Spock said, as if answering Jim’s unasked question. Jim pulled his hands in closer to him, just in case, despite the good two feet of distance between them.
“Chris? You just missed him – he went over in that direction.” Jim waved vaguely to the left of the bar. “I warn you though, I think he’s had a few. Phil definitely has.” Jim grinned at the memory. “Anything important?” His grin fell away instantly, as he cursed himself for already going against the rules he’d just set. But really, he did want to know what Spock needed Chris so urgently, and Spock’s eyes were super intense. The distance between them remained though, and that was most important. He couldn’t risk a Vulcan, or any telepath, rummaging around in his head. Especially not one so close to Chris. Aside from that, it would take much more than rank and his friends in the booth to stop him from flirting shamelessly with the Vulcan. Well, there were also those Vulcan ideals that made Jim probably the worst human in existence to ever attempt getting it on with a Vulcan. Fuck.
“It is top priority, Cadet Kirk.” Spock might have looked amused in those pretty eyes of his, but Jim quickly averted his gaze back to his beer again. Better safe than sorry, after all. “You are close with Captain Pike?”
“Oh, yeah, I guess. I mean I’ve not really known him that long.” Jim grinned ruefully. Close. Yeah, maybe. He wasn’t wrong.
“In that case, I am certain I will see you again often, Cadet Kirk.” There was no goddamn reason on earth that Jim should have been able to feel Spock’s gaze on him, and yet he could anyway. Burning, like ice. But not cold, not harsh. The way a freezing wind could remind him he was alive, when nothing else succeeded.
“Yes, Commander. I’ll look forward to it.” Fuck. Fucking hell. There went the biggest rule of all. Don’t attempt to flirt with the Vulcan. The Vulcan of superior rank, intelligence, hell everything. When he dared glance up at Spock, there was no hint of emotion in his pale face – no green blush on his cheekbones. That being said, he didn’t look offended either.
“Indeed. Good evening, Cadet.”
Jim stared dumbly after him, as Spock strode away purposefully to find Chris. Jim caught himself nodding slowly as he attempted to work out what the hell that interaction was and who, more importantly, he could hack to find out what Pike needed to be told so urgently. Maybe he’d go home early, with Bones, and ditch Gary after all.
“Who’s the hobgoblin?”
Jim jumped sharply, turning at the arrival of Bones at the bar. “Shit, Bones, don’t do that.” Bones didn’t look remotely remorseful, though, and just shrugged. “Commander Spock- he was looking for Chris. Sorry, I’ve been ages haven’t I?”
“Between Mitchell, Chris and the Vulcan? Yeah.” Bones picked up the tray from the bar. “C’mon, infant, let’s go sit back down. Now, before Gaila disappears on us again.”
Jim almost wasn’t in the mood for it by now, but he agreed anyway, and followed Bones back to their booth. No point in wasting all that booze, anyway.
Jim woke slowly, languidly stretching and rolling his shoulders back where he lay. His bed smelled sort of gross, and his lip ached like he’d cut it. Maybe he had. He vaguely remembered aggressively making out with Mitchell against a wall, out in the cold, and shit – he opened his eyes quickly, taking in his surroundings. No. He was in his dorm, not in Gary’s. Well, thank fuck for that. And Bones - -
Bones was sat on his own bed, facing Jim, dressed for work and yet looking considerably worse for wear.
“You look like shit, Bones. I thought you weren’t going to drink that much.”
“I didn’t.” He sounded worse than he looked; voice hoarse and weak. “I have a shift in half an hour. I really need to go.”
Jim pulled his pillows up, sitting and staring at his roommate through bleary eyes. He’d never seen Bones like this unless he was shit-faced and reminiscing about his ex. Never on a beautiful Saturday morning. Never like this.
“So? What’s wrong? Do you need me to call Boyce?”
“No, Jimmy. Or yes. How the hell should I know?” Jim blinked, and Bones’ sullen expression never once deviated. His eyes, though, were sparkling. Self-doubt. Sorrow. Confusion. Hell, Jim was too hungover and it was far too early for this. Whatever the hell this was. “I kicked my PADD under your desk this morning. I went to get it-”
Dread surged, like ice, through Jim’s veins. “Bones-”
“What happened to you, Jim?” Bones interrupted, reaching down suddenly into the space between their beds. “What happened to you to make you like this?” He asked, sitting back up and holding in his hand a box of ration packs. Granted, not the best hiding spot but it was a shared room and there wasn’t enough storage space to go around. He’d needed them. Hid them behind his real, paper books. Just in case. Just in case of anything. He’d been better back home, in Riverside, because there were fewer people and less change. But since getting to the Academy – seeing Medical again – he’d not been quite so successful in fighting the urge.
Now he understood. Why Bones was so pale and sickly. Why he looked disgusted and also void of anything whole. Because Jim felt the same. Jim always felt the same. This, at least, was only one flaw. He was still infinitely better than he’d ever been before. Better at actually eating regularly and normally. But this… this was his dirty little secret, worse than Tarsus itself, and also a mark of how far he’d come. He wasn’t ashamed, not really. But he wasn’t okay. He’d never wanted Bones to know.
He’d been a fool.
“Sorry?” Bones repeated. “Sorry for what?”
Jim shrugged. “You shouldn’t have to deal with this. I can request a transfer. Get an apartment. I don’t know.” If that was what McCoy wanted, Jim would do it. He’d take this as his chance and run the fuck away, out of San Francisco. Because Bones would tell Boyce and Boyce would tell Pike, and Jim would have nothing left. Nothing and no-one, all over again.
“I don’t want you gone, Jim. Jesus Christ, I want you to talk to me.”
Jim wanted to be sick, but he nodded anyway. “Kay. Whatever you want, Bones, I’ll do it.”
Bones looked sick too, but his tone was steady when he spoke. “Why do you hoard food, Jim? Is it because of Frank? Did he starve you?”
“No.” Frank had never done anything nearly as bad as starving. A drunken hand was nothing compared to…
When the words finally slipped out, it was easier than Jim had ever imagined, despite his pounding heart. He could have been telling Bones a story about his brother, or a fling he had with a Risian when he was twenty. That was just Bones, he guessed. Grumpy and angry and brimming with insults, but always easy to just be around. To just talk to.
“I was on Tarsus IV, Bones.”
Bones’ eyes widened, and he stared aghast. “Shit.” He stood, and Jim watched from his bed, expecting Bones to walk right out or phone Boyce or something. Instead, Bones walked right to him and flung his arms around him. “Jim… fuck.”
“I’m good. I’m… it was a long time ago. Almost ten years now, actually.” He laughed darkly. Almost half his life ago. “But I need… I need my food. I need it there. You can still kick me out. I get it’s weird, or whatever. But just don’t- please don’t tell anyone.”
“Shut up, idiot. We’re sticking together. I can help, Jimmy, you just have to tell me. You hear? Anything. One bad fucking day an’ I want to know, you infant. D’you understand me? There are ways to combat this.” Bones drew back, fixing Jim with a stern glare. “You’re my friend, and you shouldn’t have had to hide this from me. I’ll spend the next three years convincing you of that if I have to.”
“Nah. You don’t have to do that.” Jim admitted, softly. “I’m already starting to understand, I think.”
“Good.” Bones poked his shoulder. “Does Chris know?”
“No.” Maybe Bones knowing had been inevitable. Maybe Jim had accepted that, without realising, a long time ago. Maybe even the day he got into the shuttle with his would-be best friend, and Bones proceeded to spend the entire Journey divesting all his biggest secrets to Jim. But Pike was a different story. Pike had already risked his whole reputation to get Jim to the Academy. Pike had accepted the whole repeat-offender thing. Accepted Jim was a trouble magnet, liked drinking, liked people. All that jazz. But he hadn’t bargained on Jim being a genocide survivor with some low-laying issues and fucked up mental health. If he could help it, and he could, Pike would never find out. Jim would graduate, follow Chris’ plans, and never slip up once. “And neither does Phil. They don’t need to.”
“They do.” Bones corrected him, softly. “Phil definitely does, if he doesn’t already suspect something similar from your medical files. But whatever. I think you should tell them, but in your own time. No-one’s going to think any differently of you, kid. We already knew you were too damn brave for your own good. One of the Tarsus Nine. Jesus Christ.” Bones shook his head, slinging an arm around Jim’s shoulders. “You’re a pain in my ass, and I love you.”
“Thanks Bones.” Jim leaned into his embrace, sighing heavily. Some great Saturday morning. “Don’t you have to be at work?”
“Yeah, I guess.” Bones muttered. “I’m already late anyway. Fuck it. Stay there. I’m going to call in sick.”
“You can do that?”
“It’s not the best excuse frankly, but I have better things to do than save lives today. We can order take out and watch your crappy old movies.”
Jim remembered his mom doing something similar with him, right after Tarsus, when she’d been home and he’d been too weak still to run and hide. She’d set him up on the couch with blankets and all the food he could eat, and sat with him until he’d pretended to fall asleep. To this day, he didn’t know if she’d believed him or not, but she’d left anyway. He loved his mom, and she contacted him whenever she could now. She wanted to make up for lost time- repair that damage. But Bones was new and fresh, and even so Jim already suspected he would never leave in the first place. That was the difference between duty and selflessness. Duty could always be abandoned for something else. In his mom’s case, that had been the engineering decks of some enticing ship. Right now, Bones was abandoning his duty for Jim.
He had no choice but to trust his best friend, and he found he was glad for it.
“Yeah.” He agreed softly. “That sounds good, Bones.”
“It’s a plan. Give me five minutes. Find a film, whatever you want.” Bones patted his arm fondly, and then extracted himself- leaving the room quiet, and Jim draining adrenaline rapidly. Bones knew about Tarsus, and he was coming back, and Jim was staying put too. It was a fucking miracle.
Chapter 7: Untapped Anger
Weeks had escaped them, somehow, and Chris hadn’t stopped. Nor had Phil, or any of their colleagues. The Semester had long since passed the gentle, easing into work stage for the students, and Chris was now busier than ever with meetings, the Enterprise and more meetings. He had dinner with his husband, most nights, and had Jim over most weekends. When he could afford to spare the time, McCoy came over too – which delighted Phil endlessly. Jim got outstanding grades and advanced through his courses appropriately, Leonard tentatively attempted piloting, and Phil continued to positively spoil Chris with martinis, take-out food and affection. Whatever weird make-shift family they had going on, Chris felt stupidly lucky. The only thing missing was their ship, and they’d get that eventually. Him, Phil, Leonard and Jimmy Kirk. It was dream, frankly, and it made all the goddamn meetings bearable.
The only thing his pretty dream depended on was Jim surviving long enough to actually make it to the damn Enterprise. Gratified though Chris was that the Kid was spending more time around responsible adults, and intelligent though Jim might have been, he still had a terrible habit of taking reckless, unnecessary risks – and then learning nothing from the consequences. Or – hell – what did Chris know. He’d gotten past that arrogant façade, but it didn’t mean much. He still knew more about Jim than Jim wanted him to know – which could only mean that Jim didn’t trust him in any significant way.
Chris had to be okay with that, because Jim in any capacity was enough. To demand more from the young man who’d already had to give too much was selfish, and Chris knew it. He knew it, even without his husband pointing it out to him. That being said, sometimes Jim really pushed his limits as an Adviser, let alone as his friend.
“Jim.” He said, weary.
“Chris.” Jim replied, too innocent to be taken even remotely seriously. Jim was possibly the most stubborn person Chris had ever known when it came to his own health, and taken at face value it was the most aggravating thing about his personality. Taken with the knowledge of Tarsus, it was … well it was just as infuriating, but perhaps more understandable.
“I can do this.” This being attend a survival training mission just one week after an incident that had forced Chris to finally stop. To abandon his meeting and run to medical, and not leave until he was taking Jim home to continue his recovery there – fine, cheeky and as exasperating as ever.
“You had a severe allergic reaction.” One that had scared the shit out of Chris for a whole night, sat by Kirk’s hospital bed. “You couldn’t breathe. You made my husband cry.” Although admittedly that had come later, when Jim had been sleeping and the other Cadets had been sent away to feel miserable elsewhere. There were some perks to rank, after all, and Chris hadn’t been afraid to use it that night.
“How was I supposed to know there would be nuts in the Banana bread? It looked good, I didn’t think to check.”
Jimmy Kirk didn’t think to check what the food was he was shovelling down his throat, because at least it was edible. At least oxygen deprivation was a quicker death than starvation. Chris felt vaguely ill, but that wasn’t the point. Maybe it was far more innocent than his imagination wanted him to believe. Maybe it really had just been an incident of Jim’s busy schedule, or his naivety. That didn’t mean Chris felt any better about letting him go off-world, far away. Even if he allowed it, Jim still needed to have another physical before it would be valid. Phil was a kind, gentle, loving soul, but he also had the capacity to be completely unforgiving when it came to health risks. They’d not actually discussed the incident after Phil had dried his tears and clocked out of work, or in the days since, but Chris was certain neither of them wanted Jim to be in a situation with limited access to food so soon after.
“It was a stupid mistake, but it’s fine now. Look at me, walking and talking. Gaila found my hypo. Uhura called the Med team. I’m alive.” Jim said, throwing his arms up in the air. “Please, please let me go on this exercise?”
They turned the corner into the courtyard, and at Chris’ stubborn silence, Jim manipulated those stupid baby blues into the most pathetic, adorable gaze Chris had experienced since Phil went through his phase of wanting to adopt a tribble. It hadn’t worked on Chris then, and it wasn’t going to work on him now. Chris was a Captain. He was made of stronger stuff than to fall prey to puppy dog eyes.
“You were in hospital for two days.”
Jim’s tone had started to sound tested, as if he were the one in charge here. It came out occasionally, if more infrequently than Chris would have estimated. Because Jim wasn’t a plastic, fresh Cadet. He wasn’t eager innocence and a need to prove himself. He was a grown man, self-taught and self-reliant in a thousand different ways, and definitely more than Chris had ever had to handle before. Only, that made it sound like a chore, and it wasn’t. Because Jim Kirk was trouble, and he gave Chris a heart-attack every damn day, but he was magnificent. He wasn’t just clever, he was genius. He wasn’t just hard working, he was relentless. Braver and stronger and kinder than the world he’d grown up in should have enabled him to be.
“Brat.” Chris muttered, and led them over to one of the benches, deserted in the late evening of Campus. By now, the Cadets were either hauled up in the Library or pre-drinking their way to a trip to medical. Even so, Jim seemed restless out in the open. He sat lightly, as if he could spring up and run at any moment, but at least he stayed. Even pissed off at Chris – and Phil who’d held him in medical for two days – he still remained.
“Alright, you can go.” Chris relented, and in an instant the grinning mug of Jim Kirk was right in front of his own.
“Yes, I’ll give you permission.” He hadn’t even finished speaking before arms flung around him, squeezing him tightly, and the heart-warming sound of Jim’s laughter was right in his ear. Jim was hugging him. He wanted to stay like that for at least ten minutes, because damn if it didn’t feel like home. Like something precious he wanted to keep holding and refuse to let go of. Jim was too much. “Hold up, Son. On one condition!”
Jim didn’t quite let go of him, but drew back slightly so they could see each other.
“You take a com. You don’t have to use it, but -”
“What?” Joy had turned instantly to outrage, and Chris swallowed nervously. “What’s the point in that? It’s a survival training mission, Chris, not a trip to the country! In a real mission, I might not have a communicator, so why would I have one in training?”
“Jim, calm down. You can sew it into you bag or shoe for all I care. Forget it exists. I just need to know that you’re not alone out there. We can’t lose you.” He said, meaning him and Phil and Leonard. Hell, Number One was as close to openly adoring him as he’d ever seen her with anyone.
Of course Jim took it the wrong way. Of course Jim, who didn’t seem to trust anyone to care a dot about him, assumed the ‘we’ meant Starfleet.
He was off across the courtyard before Chris could even call his name, and he ended up chasing after the stupid kid. Kirk was one step away from running, and Chris wasn’t sure he’d be able to keep up. He spent as much time in the gym as any Captain needed to, but Kirk was used to running for his life.
“Kirk, get your skinny arse back here before I call Phil. I’ll do it, don’t test me.”
Jim wheeled around, livid. “My arse is perfect, thank you very much.” He dropped his gaze. “What do you want, Captain? I’ll do whatever you want to get on that stupid training course. I don’t exactly have a choice, do I?”
Chris pinched the bridge of his nose. “You don’t understand, Jim. I don’t just want you alive and functioning, I want you happy and healthy. You’re a goddamn pest, but you’re worth a hell of a lot more than you think. You deserve to have people who care about you.” Jim wasn’t even blushing. Gaze averted, he just looked uncomfortable. It was one thing not being able to take a compliment, it was another thing entirely to not feel worthy of friendship.
“I know that every mission is different, Jim, I’ve been on enough of them. But you’re asking to do a second year survival mission straight off the bat, and I need you to have an out.” Chris held up a hand to indicate he wasn’t finished, not nearly. “That’s not me questioning your capabilities, Jim, that’s me covering all bases. I need to know you’ll call me if you need me.”
“Hell, forget the mission for a minute. I mean that all the time. Ever, Jim. If you need me, you can always call me.” He was laying all his feelings out in the open, and it was horrifying. Chris spoke to his husband about his emotions, and no-one else. He was a Captain, he couldn’t just be emotional all the time. So, short of outright telling Jim he fucking loved the stupid brat, this was enough.
“Trust me to help you Jim. If there’s an incident, I want to know.”
Jim looked caught off guard, if only for a moment, before his resolve hardened again. His bright blue eyes were focused, intense, and unforgiving. Vulnerability giving way to something Chris hadn’t encountered in what felt like a very long time.
“What sort of incident?” He asked sharply, his head tilted. This was the Jim Kirk Chris remembered from just after Tarsus, but he was quieter and more terrifying for it. The anger was the same though. The defensiveness that not even his own mother had broken through. Here Chris was, undoing years of Jim’s hard work.
He felt pathetically nervous when replying. “Anything, Jim.”
“What?” Jim’s laughter was hollow. “Like a ‘help I think I failed an exam’ incident, or a ‘help, I think Mitchell broke one of my ribs fucking me over his desk’ sort of incident?”
“I swear to god, Jim-” Chris fell back a step, shoving a hand through his hair. “You’re not testing me nearly as much as you think you are.” Chris said, even though he probably was. Chris had no idea how to deal with an extraordinarily angry young man. He’d never been one himself, and most of his Starfleet subordinates would rather voluntarily stab themselves with a hypo than argue with him.
“Am I not?” Jim snarled. “I don’t understand you, man. I’m a train wreck, and you’re just stood there. What the hell is in this for you? Where do you get off on waiting for me to screw up? Or is it the opposite - you want me to be your poster boy?”
The idea alone was repulsive to Chris, reprehensible. If he’d not convinced Jim of that so far- not done his damn best to keep him out of the press, keep him safe- he didn’t know what else he could do. Jim’s eyes were still burning into him, all rage and no heart. The anger wasn’t really for him, Chris was sure. That didn’t make it any more bearable though, because Jim didn’t believe he deserved them, and that was worse than all the screaming and shouting the stupid kid could offer.
“Or is this some debt sort of thing? Did you have a pretty fling with my dad? My mom? You’re going to have to start talking at some point, Chris, because I can’t do this anymore. Bones- Bones had nothing. I understand Bones. But you have a life, man. You have a husband and a home, and a fucking starship waiting for you.”
“You think I don’t want you too? You really think you’re worth so little that I wouldn’t fucking love you, Jim? You okay with being the only genius level idiot in Starfleet?” Chris had never wanted to kick something so badly in all his time in command, but he couldn’t stop now that he’d started, and Jim looked like he might pass out on the spot. “I care about you, for you. Not for your parents or your potential. For you.” One day, the kid might believe him. “Just like Phil, just like Leonard.”
The mention of Leonard seemed to make Jim start, and anger slipped into shame and into exhaustion. “I’m sorry.” He said instantly, shoulders sagging as he stared at the floor. The courtyard wasn’t the place for this, and they were surrounded by dorms who would just love to listen in to an argument between Captain Pike and the Kelvin Baby turned genius playboy. There were enough rumours about them already, the last thing they needed was word of an argument getting around. If for no other reason than if Phil found out before Chris told him, he’d have hell to pay for upsetting Jim.
“You’ve got nothing to be sorry for, Jim.” Chris placed a hand on his shoulder, firm but comforting. “Take the com, don’t take the com. But for the love of god, believe me when I say there’s no ulterior motive here. I wish you trusted me.” Just like that, the kid was tense and stricken again, more grey than pale, and Chris was half tempted to call Phil anyway because no matter what, Jim needed someone he actually did trust. It hurt like hell that it wasn’t him, but he wasn’t a miracle worker. Jim was a grown man, and he couldn’t be expected to take to Chris in a matter of months.
“Spock.” Jim muttered suddenly, and Chris barely had time to take in a steadying breath of air before he saw his colleague approaching.
“Captain Pike, Cadet.” Spock greeted them, promptly holding Pike out a PADD packed with information. Chris skimmed it, catching the general gist. Federations ships. Romulans. Shit. “Command are convening in conference room O17, your attendance is required.” And he’d left his own PADD in his office, shit. Someone was going to take Jim away from him if he kept on slipping up like that.
“How late am I going to be?”
“You have 10.22 minutes before the meeting commences. I have estimated that the journey will take 8 minutes, precisely – taking account for your height, Captain.” Spock informed him, and he grinned wolfishly at the innocence on the Vulcan’s face. Spock had saved his fucking arse, again. Probably on Number One’s instruction, but nonetheless. He had just enough time to make it to command, and he couldn’t tell if that had been One’s intention or Spock’s. Just enough time to make him run.
“Small mercies. Thanks Spock.” He looked to Jim, still pale but no longer looking quite so vulnerable. He’d cleared his emotions away, presumably for the comfort of Spock. As if Spock didn’t spend every day surrounded by emotional humans. “Jim, we will talk more. I’ll message you when I can.”
Jim nodded, not meeting his gaze. “Sure, Chris. Whatever you want.”
It wasn’t good enough. Not even close. But it would have to do for now, because he had to do his duty – even when his duty meant sitting in hellish meetings on a pretty evening, when he should technically already be heading home to his husband. When there was so much he wanted to say to Jim, still.
Chris turned on his heel and quick marched the hell out of there, glancing back over his shoulder only briefly to see Spock and Jim still stood awkwardly in the courtyard. Spock, if he had gained any sense at all of Human weaknesses, would see to it that Jim got home safely.
Chapter 8: Trust, Or the Solidifying of It.
Jim felt completely exhausted, both physically and emotionally. He wasn’t even sure where within himself that fight had come from, and at what point he’d let himself get so comfortable with Chris that he could argue with him. Argue back, without one stray fear that he was about to receive a fist to the face. It shouldn’t have surprised him so much, on reflection, because Chris was nothing like Frank. Chris was closer to a father than Jim had ever known, and wasn’t that funny. He finally got one, and he was doing everything on earth to make Chris hate him. Lucky for Jim, Chris didn’t seem to be having any of it.
Really, truly, immensely lucky for Jim.
Love without motive. Leaping without looking. It was all the same, Jim thought.
“Cadet, it is late. May I accompany you onwards?”
It was always surprising to Jim, how young Spock looked for a Commander. His dark eyes were trained, observant, but strangely innocent. Like he still belonged in a classroom, not out being corrupted by Pike and Number One. Not that Jim was complaining. He rather liked Spock, and the corrupted part was just hot. Even if probably a bit exaggerated. On another night, he could really enjoy this. On another night, in another life – perhaps. He would flirt with the Vulcan till his ears turned bright green, and he’d revel in it.
“You don’t have to. I’m heading to medical.” For a follow up with Phil that he was incapable of doing well in. A part of him wanted to just not show up, but he couldn’t do that to Phil. His desire not to hurt his Doctor was his overring emotion, and if he turned on his heel and walked away he’d do precisely that. Knowing Phil, the Doctor would probably send a search party out for him. So he’d show up, try not to panic at the sight of a bio-bed, and he’d accept whatever fate Phil laid out for him.
“I will escort you, Cadet.” Spock said, and then, after a beat, “Unless you are opposed to my company.”
“No. No, not at all.” Jim scratched his chin. “Chris would probably prefer that anyway. As long as you’re not his spy or something.” He laughed nervously, weirdly comforted by the flicker of confusion in Spock’s eyes, on his otherwise expressionless face. “I’m kidding. Vulcan’s don’t lie, right? You’d have to admit if you were.”
Spock slowed, almost to a stop. “I am not a spy, Cadet Kirk.” He said, nonplussed, and Jim burst out laughing. He felt like he needed a drink, a strong one, after his argument with Pike. It wasn’t too hard to laugh though. Spock sort of made it easy, actually.
“Good to hear.” Campus was deserted, and Jim was glad for it. His known association with Pike was bad enough, but he didn’t need Spock dragging into that too. Then again, it was nice to have friends. A whole bunch of them. He just needed to curb his self-destructive streak and not lose them. “You’re friends with Pike too, aren’t you? You hang out with him a lot?” It was curious he hadn’t actually encountered the Vulcan more, but he had heard Spock’s reputation. Golden boy of the Academy, scientist, linguist and chess whizz. Spock’s strides were longer than Jim’s, but it wasn’t too hard to maintain an easy pace with him.
“Captain Pike is a close colleague.” Spock said, reasonably, as they cut through the gardens towards medical. “Vulcans do not have friends as humans do. But, as we are on earth, I agree with your observation.”
“Oh. Right.” Spock looked dead ahead as he walked, which allowed Jim lots of opportunity to glance in his direction. He was pretty. And cute. And fuck, Jim wanted to find Gary Mitchell that night and take out all his frustrations on him because he was damned if he was getting a crush on a Vulcan. “You have bonds, don’t you? Family and partners, that sort of thing.”
“Affirmative, Cadet. However, we do understand the concept of loyalty within logic. Captain Pike advocated strongly for me during my own education, and I find Number One to be an excellent conversationalist.”
“Because of that epic poker face, right?” Jim grinned, and Spock finally looked at him to quirk a perfect eyebrow, a streetlamp catching on the lilac of his eyelids.
“It’s a game, Spock. A card game.” Spock looked curious, and also adorably like he was trying to hide that face. “I’d be glad to teach it to you, Spock. I think you’d be good at it.” Because maybe Jim was as arrogant as everyone said, but he suspected most people wouldn’t have noticed how hard Spock was trying to be completely devoid of emotion.
Spock was silent for a moment. “Chess is my usual game.”
Now Jim had to be sickeningly arrogant, because that sounded suspiciously like an invitation. But there was no reason on earth, or in the entire universe, that Spock would be interested in playing chess with Jim. He was a Professor and a genius, and Jim was… well, Jim was an idiot. Besides, even if he wanted to, he didn’t think he could physically manage it. It was a shame, because he was damn good at Chess. It was just impossible to stomach, now.
“I used to play, but I don’t anymore. I’m years out of practice.” Jim shook his head ruefully, feeling Spock’s gaze on him. “I bet Vulcans don’t have regrets, do they?”
“To regret is illogical, and yet the notion does persist.” Spock agreed, quietly. “Mistakes are required to better oneself.”
It was undeniably a Vulcan outlook, even if to make mistakes initially didn’t seem particularly Vulcan. Jim hummed softly in agreement, nonetheless. “I learned chess with my dad’s old set, when I was a kid.” He admitted, because he had a feeling Spock wasn’t like Jim. He wasn’t a gossip, or outrageous enough to straight up ask why Jim no longer played. “It was my favourite thing to do- just take myself away to my room and play. Learn all the strategies.” Hiding, far from Frank. He played Sam, at the start, and then just himself. “I went off-planet for a while, when I was a teenager, and I took that board with me. But it got lost, burned along with my home. I’ve not played since.” Because that had been one of the few possessions his father had kept on earth, and Jim had risked it and lost it.
He never learned from his mistakes.
“It is not uncommon to form emotional attachment to possessions, particularly in the absence of something you held dear to you.” Spock said quietly, although Jim wasn’t sure if he meant his dead dad or the home he’d left behind. “My apartment is adorned with possessions from my home world, Cadet.” Spock added, and Jim let out a huff of laughter as they turned the corner to Starfleet Medical.
“So you don’t think it’s illogical? Just silly human emotions.”
Spock’s head tilted slightly. They stopped outside the main entrance to the building that had the capacity to haunt Jim’s dreams. To hide his discomfort, he looked to the sunset and shifted his bag on his shoulder.
“On the contrary, Cadet. If my years with humans thus far have taught me anything, it is that emotions are not always illogical.” The Vulcan said, as if his conclusion was nothing more than scientific observation. “Emotions incorporated into a risk assessment allow for a more appropriate decision to be made. For example, your argument with Captain Pike.”
Jim stared, heart racing. “Vulcan ears, right?”
Spock didn’t answer, continuing seamlessly. “The Captain wishes for you to take a com to ensure your safety. This angers you. Logic dictates Captain Pike eliminate your friendship to protect your life. Emotion demands he find a way to save both.”
“I don’t believe in no-win scenarios.” Jim murmured, more to himself than Spock.
“You are exceptionally human, Kirk.”
Jim stared for a beat, heart still pounding beneath his ribs.
Find a way to save both.
It had never occurred to Jim that he could have both. Friendship and a life. More specifically, friendship and Starfleet. Friendship and honesty. Friendship and a future. But if he just took that risk… if he placed his trust in Chris wholeheartedly and let everything come out into the open – who was to say he couldn’t keep both? Surely Bones finding out had proven that he had more to gain than lose.
If it did backfire, well, that wasn’t an uncommon occurrence where Jim was concerned. Chris and Phil would either accept that Jim had the capacity to survive much worse, or kick Jim out of the academy for withholding information, hacking his files and just generally not being sane enough to even make it to space in the first place. Jim could handle that, probably. He’d survived on nothing before, and he could do it again if it came to it. But unconditional friendship… people to care about him, that was precious. That was worth the risk.
“Thanks, Spock.” He said, softly. “And thanks for the walk. I’ll see you around?”
“I’m sure of it, Cadet Kirk.” Spock inclined his head. “Good evening.”
“Hey Kiddo. I was starting to think you weren’t going to show up. Everything alright?” Phil asked, as Jim entered his office. He’d seen Bones, briefly, in the emergency room. Watched him shouting down a terrified cadet for some reckless stunt or other. He knew his best friend had the capacity to be compassionate, deeply so, but he was grateful for the gentility of Phil’s approach in his Doctoring.
“Yeah. I don’t know. I guess.” Jim dropped into his usual seat, his exhaustion finally catching up with him. He eyed the bio-bed wearily, reaching out for the chair at Phil’s desk instead and leaning heavily on it.
“You guess?” Phil frowned, observing Jim without remorse. “You’re the one that demanded this follow up, Jimmy. I assumed you’d want me to convince my husband to let you go get in even more trouble?”
“Yeah.” Jim let out a shaky laugh, hating himself for the tears that filled his eyes and blurred his vision. “That was why I wanted to see you.” The natural conclusion to take was that his mind had changed since then, and Phil seemed to have made it. The Doctor dropped his PADD, looking at Jim very simply. He didn’t know that Jim had just been an utter twat to his husband, obviously. He didn’t know that Jim didn’t deserve an ounce of his affection.
Find a way to save both.
Jim shook himself from his thoughts, sniffing and dragging the back of his hand across his cheek to catch a stray tear. He wasn’t even crying, not really, but the tears were there anyway. If he gave in to them, he’d never get through what he needed to say. “I need your help, Phil. I want to get better.”
“Better at what, Jim?”
“At- at talking. Sharing. And food, I want to get better at food too. That’s the main thing, but I don’t think I can have one without the other. I think I need both.” It was like Spock was whispering in his ear what to say. “For Bones, really. He has to live with me. He told me it was fine, but I don’t think it is. I – Phil, I’m no good at this. Really, I’ve spent the last ten years not talking to people. But I’m trying, really, I am-”
“I know, Jim.” Phil interrupted. “You don’t have to make excuses. This is just how it is, and you can do this however you want to.”
Jim’s laughter was raw, but not necessarily fake. “I know I’m an idiot, but I’ve survived this long.” That was an understatement. Jim had survived hell. He wanted to live. “A few years ago, I hacked into my files and censored a chunk of information about me. Before I came of age- before people wanted to start digging into my past again. I don’t know, I just wanted it gone. But Bones was right, you need to know. So I’ll uncover it tonight. I’ll put it back. You can read it and – and Chris, too.”
“Okay, you don’t need to worry about that right now, Jim. Tell me what I can do, now.”
“I want to work through some of my issues with food.” Jim admitted, in one long breath. That may have been the cause of his general dizziness, or that might have been his threatening panic, or maybe just the result of his tiredness. “There are a few. Issues, I mean.”
“Yeah, I’d noticed.” Phil reclined in his chair slightly, as if he didn’t expect Jim to be surprised by his revelation. As if Jim hadn’t spent weeks into months trying to act completely normal around his new friends. “I promise I’m going to do everything I can. We’ll have this down in months.”
“You sure you’re not being a bit over-confident?” Jim asked, moving around the chair and finally sitting. His knees screamed out in gratitude, though he wasn’t sure how on earth he was going to stand again that evening.
“Oh come on, Ego Lord. You think the rest of us can’t be confident in our own abilities too?” Phil grinned wolfishly. “I’m good at what I do, Jim, and I’ve had lots of time to watch your behaviour around food.”
“I don’t know whether I should be freaked out by that?”
“You shouldn’t, but you are anyway, and that’s fine.” Phil shrugged, leaning his elbows on his desk and offering Jim a small smile. This was probably the most professional that Jim had ever seen Doctor Boyce, and he wondered if that had always been intentional. Phil had obviously recognised Jim was bad with hospitals and hiding something. What if he’d always expected to find out, eventually. What if he’d been saving the Doctor Act for Jim’s biggest issue.
Both a friend, and a Doctor. He’d just needed time and trust. Bones was the same really. It had all just taken time.
“I wouldn’t lie to you. Come back to ours tonight, Jimmy. You look like shit, and I know Leonard is on the night shift. We’ll talk more, if you want.”
Jim’s hands wrung in his lap, and he nodded, once again blinking back tears. “You should know, I was kind of a dick to your husband just now. Like, a massive dick. He got called into a meeting – but I doubt he’ll want me in your home.”
“I doubt there’s anything my husband would want more than to make sure you’re safe, Kiddo.” Phil smiled wryly. “He’s probably fretting that he’s pushed you away. So there’s no point you worrying too. You can hug and make up in the morning.”
Jim nodded, once again drying his cheeks.
“Good. Now why don’t you wait out in the corridor for two minutes and gather your thoughts again. I’ll just organise my files for the day, and we’ll head off home.”
Jim complied, somehow finding some pitiful reserves of energy to drag himself from the chair and leave Phil’s office. He wondered idly if this was Phil giving him the opportunity to run – or maybe he was hoping for it. Maybe he didn’t want to deal with Jim’s issues.
Jim took a deep, shaky breath, the doors closing behind him. His imagination, his anxieties, were his own worst enemy. Of course Phil didn’t want him gone and, most baffling to Jim, he didn’t feel like running either. Most logically, it was because of Phil. If he did leave, rather than rejoicing Phil would probably freak. The last thing Jim wanted to do was make Phil feel responsible for his inevitable screw up, and it was only in Jim’s power to delay that screw up for as long as possible.
The corridor was mostly empty, aside from a few visitors trying to find specific wards. Jim took a seat opposite Phil’s office door, drawing his PADD from his bag and dragging up the programmes he’d been ignoring for the better part of three months now. He knew the code. He’d designed it himself. It wouldn’t take more than a minute to decrypt the files – resurface them, and leave them there for anyone to stumble across. Phil would be expecting them now, anyway.
What the hell. For once in his life, he wasn’t leaping without looking. He was taking one massive risk that could work against him in a thousand ways or, just maybe, could help him. Phil could help him. Then Jim could go on all the survival missions he liked and no-one would be able to say any differently. No more allergic reactions, no more hoarding, no more freaking out. He’d been lying to himself for far too long in thinking he’d be able to get through Starfleet without eventually having them find out anyway. Sure, Chris could kick him out for lying and hacking and hiding. But he had a feeling Phil would never forgive him for it.
Hands shaking, Jim began to type.
Chapter 9: The Calm Between the Storms
Chris checked his PADD the minute he managed to slip out of the meeting, now going on four hours, and was unsurprised to see he had a message from his husband. That wasn’t remotely uncommon, after all. He tended to never not have a notification from Phil on any given day, even in the midst of some great argument. What was surprising was there was only one message. Typically, when Phil knew Chris was in some horrific meeting, he’d either get spammed with pictures or messages that varied from absurdly soppy to blush-inducing and lap-covering. Chris pulled the message up before all else that demanded his attention, all too aware of the late hour. Fuck Starfleet, this was husband time. Only, in Phil’s single, brief message, there was none of his usual character. None of his cheery teasing.
Check Jim’s records.
Chris frowned, loosening his collar as he strode from the Command Building and began his short walk back to their apartment. He did as instructed, and after glancing at the information available there for all of a minute he finally took in the difference. His heart stopped, and the next breath he took was pathetically gasped in. Ridiculous though it was, Chris wished he’d been sat down to see the news because he felt like a baby deer stumbling onwards in the general direction of their building.
Jim had released his records, he assumed – it seemed unlikely that anyone else would have noticed the discrepancy in Jim’s files and uncovered the missing data. Which meant that despite their earlier argument, Jim did trust him. Or Phil, anyway. At least enough to admit the truth about his childhood. Enough to think they wouldn’t punish him, which he tended to assume in most situations. Fuck. Chris didn’t really read the files too closely – aside from medical treatments after he’d been deposited back at medical, there was nothing he didn’t already know. He’d seen the state of Jim, after all, all those years ago. He didn’t need to read the data on it.
His pace quickened in the direction of home- because this wasn’t a conversation he could have with his husband over messages. There were too many questions and, when it came to Jimmy Kirk, too few answers. Phil was most likely to have those answers, apparently, because Chris didn’t doubt it was his husband’s hard work in getting Jim to trust him. The night he’d found Jim in that bar in Riverside, he’d have bet money against Jim actually joining Starfleet. He’d have bet his damn life that Jim would never accept a Doctor, or learn to trust, or do anything to compromise that cheeky, defensive façade of his.
Chris had done his part, sure. He handled the academic side of things better than any other adviser could have, and Jim was flourishing because of that. He was right, he would graduate in three years, and that was great. But apart from that… a few shared meals, a quick coffee between meetings occasionally… Chris felt like he’d failed Jim all over again. He wasn’t enough. He wasn’t good enough, or trustworthy enough. But that didn’t matter. His own wounded pride was irrelevant, because Jim had updated his records.
Chris bound up the stairs to their apartment, too restless to stand patiently in a lift. When he finally reached his own front door, he found it open already. Phil stood in the doorway, looking tired but otherwise perfectly okay. Actually, his eyes were a little red, but Chris didn’t really have time to inspect before his husband barrelled into his side and hugged him fiercely.
“Hey- hey.” Chris pulled back, a hand on either side of his husband’s pretty face. “What the hell’s going on, Phil? The records?”
“All Jim.” Phil replied softly, leaning into his touch. “I had nothing to do with it, Chris.” They moved back from the door, closing it softly behind them before moving towards the sofa. “He was… a very determined mess. He told me he wanted to work through his issues with food. Said he’d tampered with his records, and he’d put them back for us.”
“We didn’t really talk about it – Tarsus, I mean. Only the consequences of it. I think… I think it was Leonard, Chris. Jim mentioned something about Len having to live with him, and he’d said it was ‘fine’ apparently.”
“It shouldn’t be that surprising.” Chris murmured, pulling Phil closer to him where they sat. “They’re thick as thieves, and we knew Leonard must have suspected something. Jim’s right, they do live together.” Against all odds really, because Chris had been sure that Jim would have demanded rehousing when he realised Chris had paired him with a Doctor. Instead, he two had taken to each other instantly and when Jim went home to his dorm, Chris had no reason to constantly worry about him. He knew Leonard was there to keep an eye on their boy.
Their boy. Fuck.
“I wasn’t expecting this.” He sighed, rubbing his temples tiredly. “I thought he was going to drop out before he ever admitted it.” Chris closed his eyes, breathed in the scent of his husband. Like hot chocolate and vanilla and notes of orange, too. “We argued today, before I got called into my meeting. I overreacted, and he didn’t react very well to it. It wasn’t really resolved – Spock turned up to drag me away. I thought I’d have a shit-ton of damage control to do tomorrow.”
“He’s not a kid, Christopher.” Phil reminded him sombrely. “He has kept himself alive for the last decade without your help. I think you’d both benefit if you placed just a little bit more trust in him too.”
“Phil, that’s insane- I trust him, of course I do.”
“I’m not saying you don’t. You’ve given him a lot. But he’s a grown man, gorgeous. He isn’t just arrogance and flirting. He does actually know how to be an adult.”
Phil was using his doctor tone, as if he was telling Chris something he didn’t already know. A part of him wanted desperately to be irritated; adamant that Phil was wrong and he was right. But there was no point. Logically, he knew he was just tired and emotional and needed to sleep before he said something he regretted. He’d done enough of that for the day, with Jim. So he quelled that irritated voice in his head and sighed heavily, nodding against his husband’s warm skin.
“How about I make some tea, and we can put a vid on in bed?”
“Yeah, that sounds good.”
“Great. Go get ready for bed then. You might want to stick your head into the guest bedroom first though. Quietly.” Phil added.
Frowning, Chris dragged himself up from the sofa and approached the closed bedroom door just off their living room. Rarely used – only if their parents either made it across for a visit, or if Number One ever slept over. He opened the door as quietly as possible, just far enough to stick his head into the room. There, laying twisted in the sheets, he saw Jim sleeping. Not fitfully, but clearly the day had taken its toll on Jim too. His breaths were mostly steady, though, so Chris didn’t see the need to wake him up. He didn’t want to frighten the young man, or make him run away so late at night. Better to let him sleep, and hope to god he was still even in the country come sunrise.
Despite his less than peaceful face, there was something about watching Jim sleep that tugged on Chris’ heartstrings. He wanted to hug Jim again, like earlier when Jim had delightedly wrapped himself around Chris. It was an indescribable feeling. Like family. Jim was his responsibility, sure, and his subordinate. But he was also family, and it wasn’t something he could have predicted even when he knew he’d fallen for those damn baby blues. It was one thing to adore Jimmy Kirk. It was another thing for Jim to have let him – all of them – get so close to him.
I wish you trusted me, Chris had said to Jim. It occurred to him now, watching the sleeping blond, that he did. Jim had already followed Chris to Starfleet, let his husband inspect him inside out, tested out of his subjects as instructed, shared a dozen meals with him… that was probably closer than Jim had let anyone get to him in a long time. Chris had taken it all for granted, in the pursuit of Tarsus. Of seeing Jim not as the adult he was, but the skinny kid Chris remembered. He hated himself for it, but it was true. All this time, he’d been expecting a breakdown, and none was coming.
Jim was far stronger than Chris gave him credit for, and he was the only one who hadn’t seen it. For far too long.
“Cute, isn’t he?” Phil said softly, at his left ear. “He passed out the moment his head touched the pillow. I sort of thought he wouldn’t be able to after talking about Tarsus for so long, but the kid can sleep for England.”
“He’s going to make a fine officer, some day.” Chris said, absently.
China clinked, and then a hand tugged his away from the doorframe. “C’mon, gorgeous. Let’s go to bed. He’ll still be here in the morning, I promise.”
Once again, Chris decided to trust his husband’s expertise on the matter of Jim Kirk. Phil was always right, after all. Maybe, starting tomorrow, he should start trusting Jim himself a little more too. No, not should. Would. He would trust Jim more and value his statements more, because he was twenty-two years old, and thriving, and he deserved better than Chris’ condescension.
Despite both their obvious exhaustion, they woke before the sunrise. Chris managed about ten minutes with his husband in his arms, stroking his skin leisurely, until restlessness got the better of him and he pulled himself from the warmth of their sheets. Phil followed, joining him in an all-work-no-play shower before they ventured out into the Kitchen to locate caffeine and breakfast. Time went slowly, and 0800 hours found them both sat at the Kitchen table, reading their respective PADDs in easy companionship.
Although, technically, Chris had finished most of his reports an hour ago. Since then, he’d been cradling his third coffee and watching his husband fondly. Phil was so beautiful. It wasn’t as if a day went by that Chris didn’t think that, but it had struck him to the core that morning. Phil, lanky and clingy, and sleepiness, personified. Phil’s eyes, bright in the morning light, occasionally glancing at him through long lashes. Chris wasn’t sure how he got so lucky, but he thanked all the great and terrible beings in the universe that the man he was so desperately in love with happened to love him back.
“I was thinking Risa.” Chris said, conversationally, when Phil caught him staring for the fifth time in as many minutes.
“Risa for what?”
“To elope?” Chris grinned, doggedly. “You said to pick another planet. We can even honeymoon on Risa too. Unless you wanted something a little more tasteful?”
Phil seemed to consider his offer, dropping his PADD and reaching across the table for Chris’ coffee. His own, long since stone cold and abandoned. Phil didn’t even like coffee that much, but that was marriage. What’s mine is yours, et cetera. In Phil’s defence, he had an eight hour shift coming up at Medical – while Chris only had a day of meetings in which ample coffee would be supplied to them.
“Hm, earth was tasteful.” And it was. Flowers and pretty speeches, chaste kisses and held hands and uniforms abandoned in favour of simple suits. Chris couldn’t have cared less, frankly, as long as he did end up married to Philip Boyce, but families had insisted and in the end he was glad for it. It had been the best day of his life. “We’ll deserve a little fun by the time we get the Enterprise. Besides, we’ll have Jimmy with us then, and Leonard.”
“Don’t forget Spock and One.” Chris took his coffee back. “Your mom will probably get offended if we don’t invite her.”
“My mother wouldn’t leave earth if we paid her to, so that’s irrelevant.” Phil smiled serenely. “I want Jim to be my best man though.” Phil said, as completely screwed as Chris was. He liked the idea though- another set of wedding photos, in which stood their family of choice. Family, being the imperative word there though. Chris wanted that stupid kid sleeping in their guest room to be family – he already was – and he hoped to god that nothing in the next three years changed that. He wanted Jimmy Kirk on the Enterprise, dammit.
“Why’d’ya need me to be your best man?” A groggy voice interjected.
Chris turned his head to the doorway, regretting it when his neck protested. But there stood Jim – a little pale, but there. He hadn’t scarpered in the night, but stayed, and now existed in their kitchen. It could have been a damn dream for all Chris knew. Jim looked younger than Chris had ever seen him, rubbing his tired eyes and padding forward tentatively on bare feet. It was hard to imagine a time when Jim had been waking up in random houses or on the street, because he had no other place to call his own.
Chris decided in that instant that he’d have Phil making the standing invitation for Sunday brunch become a standing invitation to their apartment at all times. Just like the com offer, Jim was welcome to Chris at any time. Maybe it was unwanted attention, or inappropriate considering the rank between them, but Jim was so much more than another recruit – or Cadet now, really. He was important, and Chris loved the stupid kid. There was no point denying it. He was possessive and protective, and he was starting to see it himself. Phil may have been right – Chris did need to trust Jim more – but it was more complicated than that. Jim was a fully grown man, yes, and damn good at surviving. But he was still young and he’d never known family, really. That much was obvious from their shared meals – from the anxiety that seemed to consume Jim in every situation where he couldn’t keep himself distanced. He was Chris’ responsibility, in every way imaginable. That included making sure Jim Kirk knew how loved he was – how he had a place in the world outside of Starfleet.
“For when we get married again, Kiddo.” Phil chirped, and Jim nodded in agreement as though there was nothing unusual about Phil’s statement at all. “C’mon, sit down. I’ll get you some coffee.”
“Thanks.” Jim dropped into a chair, holding his arms close to his chest. “Thanks for letting me stay. I can’t even remember falling asleep.”
Chris wasn’t entirely sure he believed him, but that wasn’t important. It was just a defence mechanism, like claiming he was so drunk he couldn’t remember making out with that Orion dude when he was nineteen. He could, but he’d be damned if he ever let anyone know that. Especially his beloved husband, and god forbid Jim ever caught wind of Chris’ teenage antics. He’d never let him live it down.
“Well you were flat out when I got home from my meeting. Oh- speaking of, I thought you might like to read- ” Chris tapped at his PADD, finding the meeting notes he’d saved for Jim to read. He knew the kid would just hack his files to find out anyway, rather than wait for the approved public release of information. It was just easier to give Jim what we wanted. “There you go.” He passed the PADD over, and Jim’s blue eyes lit up at the sight. As if he’d been Captaining his entire life, he began reading and instinctively reached out to take the coffee Phil had procured for him. Chris watched, awed, as if Jim’s future was flashing before his eyes. Dammit, he wasn’t that old, and Jim wasn’t actually his. He might still turn down the Enterprise and take a posting on another ship. Hell, he could probably bypass being a tactical officer and jump straight into a First Officer position on a lesser ship. Jim would have the entirety of Starfleet to pick and choose from by the time he graduated.
Fighting back sentimentality, and glaring at his husband for kicking him under the table, Chris stood and stretched his aching muscles out leisurely.
“I should go and get dressed.” He squeezed his husband’s shoulder, forgiving him instantly for his teasing, and pressed a kiss to his temple. Jim didn’t look up, and it was fine. It was so domestic, it made Chris a little nauseous – but he loved it. He wanted it every damn morning.
When neither of his breakfast companions replied, Chris nodded to himself and walked away – pride mostly intact.
He caught Jim at the doorway, when the Cadet finally escaped the endless wedding photos Phil had forced Jim into looking through – as if the idea of a long-lasting, happy marriage wasn’t completely foreign to Jim. But Jim had to study, and Phil had reluctantly allowed him to leave – dragging Chris from his work to say goodbye.
“I cleared you for that survival mission, by the way, Kirk.” He’d attempted to sound casual, nonchalant, and coming across as weird instead. For Christ’s sake, he was a Captain. He’d dealt with thousands of crew men and cadets in his time, but Jim Kirk was the only one who could make him feel like a fool. Phil not included, obviously.
“You – what?” Bright blue eyes caught his own, wide and baffled. “Why?”
“You’re a survivor.” Chris shrugged, and Kirk’s nervous energy was tempered as his eyes flashed with recognition. Maybe it had only just returned to him that he had, in fact, released his Tarsus records the night before. Or maybe it had just occurred to him that Chris knew. “Just make sure you come home to us.” Jim looked like a deer in the headlights, and it hurt like hell. “We’ll have dinner ready for you.”
There was an excruciatingly long moment where Chris had no idea how Jim was going to react. The tension was too high- like Chris had been on active duty for five shifts worth of red alert. All because of Jimmy Kirk. When the kid finally let out an uncertain laugh, Chris thought he might collapse on the spot. “I’ll need it.” Jim smiled and, though tentative, it was still there. “Thanks, Chris. Really.”
“You’re welcome, Son.” Chris clapped his shoulder, trying not to think about his urge to hug him. “Go prove them all wrong. That’s what we agreed, isn’t it?”
Jim’s smile developed into a full-blown kirk grin, and that was reply enough. He offered a lazy salute and sauntered off towards their building lift, leaving Chris standing in his own doorway feeling as if he’d been trampled by a heard of elephants. Emotionally, of course.
“He’s gone?” Phil asked suddenly, lurking behind Chris. Chris turned, drawing Phil in by the waist and nodding against his neck. “It’s too quiet now.” Phil complained, when Chris had kicked their front door shut behind him.
“Darling, Jim is not the noisy one when you’re both together.”
“Rude.” Phil gasped, but Chris could feel his husband grinning into his hair. A hand wound beneath his shirt and around his back, a doctor’s hand, and fingers lightly traced his skin. “Want to see how loud I can really be?”
Chris returned the grin with all he had.
Generally, everything was fine. Everything was great. Maybe, most surprisingly, it was because nothing had changed. Bones knew, Phil knew and Chris had to know too. And yet nothing had changed. Bones was still grumpy and nagging, Chris was still a hard-ass for every academic meeting they endured, a perfect mixture of pushing him further and rewarding him with comments of pride that shouldn’t have made Jim so content. Phil was much the same as ever – that is to say, insane. But they’d also started therapy, or whatever. Jim tried not to think too hard about it but he had to admit it was helping. He’d only missed one meeting, while he was away on survival, and he really had missed it. Phil seemed to know his thoughts before he’d even spoken them and though it was weird as shit, it was also stupidly useful.
Today was not a great day. Nor was it good, or even fine. Jim felt cold and shaky, miserable, as he knocked haphazardly against the door to Number One’s Office. He entered without actually waiting for a response though, because he couldn’t breathe and he just needed to get through to Chris. Then he’d be fine. Chris’ office was safe, defensible, quiet. No-one else could get to him there, and that was better.
“Cadet Kirk.” Number One was sat at her desk, shock evident in her usual cool tone. She stood when she saw him, smoothing down the front of her uniform and reaching out a hand as if to steady him despite the distance between them. Shame shot through him, because he must have looked a mess. He must have been obviously distressed to incite a reaction from Number One – and he was selfish to have turned up, to have just expected sanctuary where none existed.
“Commander- sorry, I know I’m a pain- I shouldn’t be here, but Bones is gone and I knew if I went back to my dorm they’d follow me, Commander. I just wanted Chris – Captain Pike – is he here?”
“It’s okay, Cadet. At ease.” Jim hadn’t even noticed he was stood at attention, but his muscles couldn’t seem to decide if they were locked in place or threatening to give in beneath him. With effort, he pushed his shoulders down and dared to glance up at Number One, still stood behind her desk.
“Good. Great job, Cadet. Chris is on his way, I promise. He’ll be here as soon as possible. Are you injured?”
“N-no, Commander.” He breathed deeply, in time with circular motions of her hands. “I’m sorry- I-”
“No reason to be sorry, just keep talking to me. Now I need to know, if I leave you alone, are you liable to self-injury?”
Jim shook his head furiously, ignoring the blood in his mouth from his abused cheeks. Bones was going to kill him. Phil was going to kill him. He just wanted to shut down, and for once that didn’t involve alcohol or a fight. He was too far gone for that. He wanted to cry, scream, punch something, run. Mostly, he didn’t know what he wanted. Just that he needed not to be alone.
“Excellent. I want you to go and sit down, and loosen your collar. Okay?” Number One moved to the door of Pike’s office, opening it for him. She stepped back then, clearly hypothesizing a touch aversion that Jim wasn’t even sure actually existed. He appreciated the instruction, though, and moved through into Pike’s office.
It was a safe haven. A refuge away from the outstretched fingers of those who wanted him vulnerable and open to pain and suffering. He didn’t sit as instructed, but retreated behind Pike’s desk, leaning back against the wall. He heard Number One out in the other room, talking hurriedly and quietly, and beneath him his legs shook. His hands shook, too. Even if he tried to reach up to his collar, he couldn’t loosen it. Couldn’t get his fingers to comply.
“Cadet Kirk?” She appeared at the door again, without entering. “Cadet, you’re safe here. No-one else can get in. Sit down.” Jim bit his lip but complied, sliding down the wall behind him and pulling his knees to his chest on the floor.
“Good. You’re doing good, Kirk, and Pike will be here soon. Can I get you-” Number One fell silent for a moment, and her sympathetic expression tensed once again. “I’m going to fetch you a glass of water, and you’re going to drink it, Cadet.” She instructed instead, having re-evaluated her approach. The world seemed slow, and heart-stoppingly fast, and Jim wasn’t sure what to make of it. As quickly as she’d returned, One left again, disappearing back through the door. Jim wasn’t sure if he wanted her to come or go, but he didn’t have the nerve to make a statement either way. His throat was too dry to even speak, and breaths still came to him sporadically.
Fear coursed down his veins, ice cold and unrelenting. This had the potential to all go very wrong- and he was a fool for taking up Chris’ offer. Sure, Chris knew about Tarsus now. But he didn’t know what a mess Jim was, how much of a liability he was to Starfleet. When he found out, Jim was over. His life was over, everything was… He wouldn’t go back to Iowa. He wouldn’t.
Number One returned promptly, standing on the other side of the desk and pushing the glass of water across the surface towards Jim. Under her strict gaze, he reached up and collected it, and brought it to his lips. She didn’t comment when his shaking hands caused water to cascade down his reds.
“How do you feel, Cadet?”
“I’m sorry.” He said. “I had nowhere else to go.”
“That’s alright.” Number One said briskly. “Chis mentioned you might drop by at some point. He also spent a great deal of time after our last meeting insisting I never mention Doctor Boyce in your presence again.”
“Touchy.” Jim laughed, shakily.
“You have no idea.” Number One agreed solemnly. “It’s like he thinks you can’t notice how stupidly in love they are. I told him, I’d lay off on the sex stuff if he still wanted to play old-fashioned papa, but you’d see right through him anyway. How could you not? Chris likes to pretend he’s mister responsible, but Phil can reduce him to a giggling kid in minutes, right?”
“They’re cute.” And though Jim would never admit it, he sort of wanted it too. Chris and Phil were good together, and they made Jim ache for a life he could never have- had never known before. He liked their meals together – he liked Phil fussing over him and Chris’s wry comments as he read his PADD. It was undeniably domestic, but it was comfortable. For the first time in Jim’s life, he understood that concept. Not clean, warm bedding – like Bones’ bed – or worn in jeans or shoes. But easy, reliable company. Friends.
“They’re idiots, and they’re not getting any better with age. You should have seen Chris propose. He was three steps off the Farragut and then abandoned all protocol and raced to Phil’s side, got down on his knee right there. He didn’t even have a ring.”
Jim snorted at the image, placing his glass down beside him. The Farragut would have been good as new a decade back, he thought, though he wasn’t sure how he knew that – he had a dream like memory of the Farragut becoming smaller and smaller in the window of a shuttle. It was puzzling, but not enough to distract him from his slowly dissipated anxiety. His dreams were always about Starships, on the rare occasion they weren’t nightmares.
“Well, you don’t look as grey anymore but you’re still shaking. I’m going to get you tea and a blanket now. Stay put, Cadet.”
Number One retreated again, and Jim flattened his palms against his knees. Number One’s replicator was on the other side of her office. Jim could sneak past her, he thought, and escape through the secret doorway that led to the science labs. He could get out of the window of LAB13 and jump down onto the smoking shelter in the courtyard below. He could be out of San Francisco before nightfall…
He was an idiot, and that was a terrible idea. Even if he was so arrogant as to think the Commander wouldn’t notice him trying to get past her, he couldn’t just disappear. Chris probably wouldn’t let him, let alone Phil and Bones. He’d made his bed, now he had to lie in it. He’d come to Pike instead of finding some other spot to hide away from the world, and now he had to deal with the consequences.
Number One was right. He was shaking. Even his hands flat against his knees couldn’t stop the endless, unwarranted trembling.
“Jim.” It was not Number One who entered the office again, but Chris- bearing the tea and blankets previously promised to him. Unlike Number One, Chris didn’t hesitate or maintain a distance between them. He approached without delay, placing the tea down momentarily and then draping the blanket over Jim, placing a hand on each shoulder and forcing eye contact. “What happened? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, Sir. Not now. I’m sorry.” Chris gave him an uncertain glance, sweeping across his bare skin as if searching for some inexistent injury that might validate Jim’s current state. When he found nothing, Chris nodded and moved his hands to Jim’s elbows to pull him up. For his part, Jim let himself be dragged up off the floor and manoeuvred into Pike’s desk chair. “I had nowhere to go.”
“It’s okay, Son. Take a deep breath and tell me what happened. Even if you think you’re over it, I still want to know.”
Jim inhaled as instructed, nervously eying the open door to Number One’s desk. He trusted her too, and god help him he couldn’t stop the words tumbling from his lips if he tried. “I ripped my shirt in combat class.” He admitted finally, sheepishly. “That happens all the time, but never normally on my back. They saw – I mean – I have these scars and he kept asking me what they were, over and over. I didn’t know what to do.” He was on the verge of panic again. “I couldn’t go be back to my room, so I just came here. I’m sorry, it sounds stupid now. It wasn’t even a big deal.”
Through the wall, Jim heard Number One scoff openly, but it was nothing compared to the hard look on Chris’ face. “Number One?”
“On it, Captain.”
On what, exactly, Jim didn’t know. Tea was pushed into his hands, and Pike stayed crouched in front of him until he took his first sip.
“Nice, thank you. What is it?”
“Some Vulcan blend. Can’t say I like the rest of their cuisine, but Spock’s turned us on to some great tea.” He moved then, pulling one of the visitor chairs closer and sitting. “You said he saw your Scars?”
“On my back. From – from Tarsus.” He choked through the word, but Pike didn’t even flinch. “I should have just said I fell out of a tree or something, but I panicked, and – shit, I’m sorry. I dragged you all the way here for nothing.”
“Not nothing, Son.” The Captain looked pale, shaking his head. “I just didn’t realise you had physical scarring.”
“Phil’s working on it.” Jim shrugged. “I refused a lot of treatment when I was a kid, and my mom let me. Thought I’d be better off at home, back with her husband. My being discharged meant she could resume active duty, anyway. Go back to her Ship.”
“She left you?” Pike looked vaguely like Bones when he was horrified and angry. It was sort of comforting.
“Yeah… in her defence, she thought I was going to my appointments back home. She didn’t know -” He closed his mouth instantly, heart hammering in his chest again as he realised what he’d just said. He’d also gotten into Frank territory and damn it, Tarsus may have been inescapable but Frank could stay tucked neatly in his head. If Pike chose to follow up on it, Jim would rather the ground swallow him whole – he’d rather follow through with his stupid escape plan than sit and answer his questions.
“Jim…” Jim clenched his teeth around his lower lip. “I’m going to personally ensure that Number One ensures that your instructor never puts another student in this position again. Do you trust me?” God, that stupid word again. Trust. He did trust Pike, god help him. Maybe because Pike was the first person… the only person, to ever demand more from Jim than his flying off the rails. Everyone in Iowa knew he’d been a screw up for a long time, and then Chris Pike had just strode into his life and dragged his bloodied face first into the rest of his life. He was in too deep. He had to trust Pike.
“Good. Now, I’m here because I want to be. You didn’t drag me away, you’re not bothering me. You did what I asked you to do, and I’m glad. I’m here for you, Jim, so if there’s anything you want to tell me – I’m not going anywhere.”
He didn’t understand Chris, still. He didn’t get why Chris and Phil gave a damn about him, when they had so much else in their lives to be dealing with. He’d even told Chris- yes, he got Bones accepting him as a friend, but Chris’ attention didn’t make sense. Equally, he didn’t buy Chris’ excuse that Jim was more loveable than he realised. Maybe there was an element of truth to that, but it didn’t make it overwhelmingly convincing. There had to be something that Jim was missing, but for the life of him he couldn’t think about it anymore without going insane. He was going to graduate Starfleet and serve on the Enterprise. That was all that mattered.
“I’m sorry.” He said, quietly. “I should have told you about… everything, from the start. I know you didn’t sign up for this. I know you risked a lot on me.”
Chris was silent for a long, tense moment. Then, he sighed heavily. “Not so much, Jim. I knew you had issues, isn’t that enough?”
“I don’t know.” His leg trembled uncontrollably behind the desk, and he thought his lip was bleeding again from chewing on it. “Chris-“
“I don’t give a damn what you think I signed up for, James Kirk.” Chris said suddenly, cutting through Jim’s dry sob. “I signed up for you, and I’d do it again a thousand times. Eventually, Kirk, eventually you’ll accept that. Eventually, you’ll believe that we give a damn about you.” Chris was out of his seat, striding the length of his office without once stepping too close to Jim this time. “I don’t want you to be sorry. I want you to be happy and, Jesus Christ, selfish! I want you to take everything I can offer you if it makes you feel okay for even an hour a day!”
“You don’t what? Believe me? How about this, Jimmy – You could drop out of Starfleet if you wanted, and I still wouldn’t walk away from you. It’s too late. You’re family.”
Chris was slightly breathless, shaking almost imperceptibly and standing to attention facing Jim. Giving him the reigns, apparently. Jim blinked back tears, daring himself to hold it the fuck together for just one day – for the love of god.
“Okay.” He said, after a long minute of trying to regain composure. His voice sounded weak and pathetic, but otherwise remarkably neutral. “Okay.” He repeated, when Chris arched an eyebrow towards him. Like Spock. Neat. “Can I sleep at yours tonight? Bones is at a conference.” He suppressed the urge to explain further, and then promptly cut himself off and take back his request. Because Chris had said to be selfish, and this was Jim following orders. He didn’t want to be alone that night and he would selfishly encroach on Chris’ territory if he could. If he was given permission.
“Yes. Jim, of course you can. That spare bedrooms as good as yours anyway. Phil already put a picture of you and him up in there, from dinner last week.”
“Fuck.” Jim scratched his neck awkwardly, his hands feeling unsteady.
“I know, he’s weird. We’re both – never mind. Just… stay put. I’ll get Phil to come and get you. We can try some more Vulcan tea while we’re waiting for him.”
“Sure. That sounds good, Chris. Thank you.” And he meant it. Phil would probably force some hypo on him and subject him to an exam immediately upon seeing him, but then he’d also wrap Jim up in blankets and stick on a vid and stroke Jim’s hair until he drifted off. Then he’d wake Jim again and steer him towards the bedroom, tucking him into the sheets there to fall asleep properly. There wasn’t much Jim could actually complain about considering he hadn’t been put to bed like that since he was about seven – and Bones dumping his sorry drunk ass onto his dorm bed in the early hours of the morning definitely didn’t count.
“No problem, Son. I’ll give you a minute, get us those teas. Stay put.”
That ending felt really good to write.
Chapter 11: In Loco Parentis
“How is he?” Chris asked, heavily, the minute he entered his home and found Phil curled up on the sofa eating ice cream and watching some god-awful documentary vid, probably in an attempt to send himself to sleep. Phil looked adorable, but not remotely tired. Too wired and strung out, and not because of his sugar consumption. He got like that, sometimes, after a big surgery or before the start of a new mission. On edge. Usually, Chris would exhaust him in one way or another to send him off to sleep. But it was too late, and Chris was too tired for almost anything his mind offered up. Besides, there was something about Phil’s body language that suggested he really wasn’t open to company tonight. Chris sat beside him anyway, sinking into their sofa heavily.
“He’s sleeping, of course. As he does.” Phil handed him the ice cream spoon, and Chris took a miserable bite before depositing both the pot and spoon onto the coffee table. Phil huffed instantly, reaching out and taking the pot back – shooting Chris a glare like he’d just murdered a new-born.
“Philip, we should be going to bed. Not eating ice-cream.” Chris berated idly, and got absolutely nothing in response. A bad mood then, clearly. “You gonna talk to me?”
“I don’t know what you want me to say, Chris.” Phil shrugged, as if that convinced him that his husband was fine and dandy. In fact, it didn’t in the slightest. That was only something Philip said when he was pissed off at Chris, without actually telling Chris what it was he’d done wrong. He wanted this to be over- needed it. Jim was worth the hassle and the pain, but that couldn’t be all there was to life. It wasn’t, of course. But at times like this, hell, it could feel like it.
“Say what’s wrong, Phil.” Chris sighed heavily, moving away from his husband. “I want to go to bed now, and I don’t want to do it with you mad at me.”
“I’m not mad at you.” Phil said, sharply, and then deflated at the obvious disbelief on Chris’ expression. He always said that. “I’m not.” He repeated, wearily. “I wish you could have come home with us earlier, but I get it. You have a duty.”
“Yes, I have a duty.” Chris pinched the bridge of his nose. “You’re his Doctor, Phil, not me. I’m a Captain, that’s what I know how to be. I got him through the panic, and I got him to you. What more could I do?”
“Stay!” Phil exclaimed. “You keep telling him you’re there for him, but what are you actually doing for him, Christopher?”
Outrage flooded Chris’ mind in an instant, and he accepted that they were going to be arguing whether he wanted to or not. What was he doing for Jim? What hadn’t he done? He spent at least an hour a day dealing with something to do with Jimmy Kirk, whether it was organising his modules, filling out forms for his exams, dealing with either giddy or miserable Professors… Jim was probably the most demanding student in Starfleet. Maybe. Apart from some of the older troublemakers, possibly.
“This is rich, Phil. What happened to ‘getting him here was enough’? That’s what you said before.”
“And before it was good enough, Chris! Before he was just another cadet, regardless of who he was.” Of course meaning he was Jimmy Kirk. Kelvin baby and Tarsus Survivor. “He’s as good as family now, and that means you owe him more time than just office hours. I swear to god, Phil, the minute you see him outside of the academy you turn into your father. Looking at your PADD and talking politics and clapping his shoulder all masculine. It’s…”
“Embarrassing? I embarrass you because I’m not clinging to the kid and smothering him in kisses. I may be my father, Philip, but you are your mother.” If looks could kill, Chris would be dead twice over already. Phil’s closed off body language was now positively impenetrable.
“You’re right, Chris. You should go to bed.” Phil said, his tone clipped. “I’ll be just fine on the sofa, listening to see if that kid in there needs me.”
Chris didn’t bother to bring up that it was Phil who kept telling Chris off for treating him like a kid. He was too tired. He just wanted to go to bed with his husband beside him, though that was less likely with every passing breath. “Phil...” He tried, weakly, because there didn’t seem to be anything that Chris could do to penetrate the wall Phil had established against him.
“Good night, Chris.”
Chris took his dismissal at face value, grateful that he at least got the bedroom. In all the time he’d known and loved Phil, they’d almost never willingly slept apart. They had their different postings at first – Chris on the Farragut, Phil on the Exeter – but after they married, they’d always served together and slept together. In that time, they’d argued severely so little that Chris could probably count the occasions on one hand. Of course one such incident would be attributed to the subject of Jim Kirk.
Chris woke to a startled shout, and bolted out of bed like he was back onboard a ship and being driven by the wailing of the red alert. Only there was no awful shouting or Phil, staggering into his trousers to get to medbay. Instead, he found his living room and his husband, sitting up on the sofa with a blanket falling off his chest. Reality returned to Chris too quickly, and though his husband no longer looked pissed at him, he did look just as terrified and freshly conscious, staring in the direction of their guest room.
Jim continued to cry out, and Chris remembered why he was stood shivering in his living room trying to get his eyes to focus from sleep. This had never happened before, not that Chris knew of. Jim had slept over before, and slept soundly as far as Phil had ever told him. He couldn’t imagine Phil giving Jim anything to help him sleep, let alone Jim accepting it. Which meant he must have been… utterly traumatised by his ordeal in class that day to cry. Tarsus Survivors had, generally, learned how to be quiet – which was a bizarre counter to the Jim Kirk presented to almost everyone else he met.
Phil met his gaze firmly, and Chris knew what he had to do. He pushed open Jim’s bedroom door and entered, wasting only a moment to glance at Jim’s restless form, twisted in his sheets, before approaching and reaching out a hand to his head. His hair was a mess, sweat-soaked and plastered against his head.
“Jim… Jimmy, wake up.” Chris said, stroking his hair gently. Jim’s eyelids fluttered a few times, before they were open to slits and trained on him. Jim’s whole body heaved with silent sobs and desperate, gasped in breaths.
“Dad – ” Jim whispered, his voice wrecked from crying. His eyes widened instantly, as if he’d only just realised he was actually conscious, at which point he sat bolt upright. Whatever nightmare he’d been in, it had to have been Kelvin related – which was surprising. Chris had expected Tarsus given the nature of his upset that day. Or yesterday now, Chris figured.
“You’re safe, Jimmy. You’re here with me. You’re going to be okay.” He assured, pressing his palm against Jim’s head. There was no fever, just a cold sweat from his nightmare more than anything else. But his eyes were too bright with fear and tears.
“Fuck – Chris, I’m-”
“You’re okay, Kiddo. We’re both right here.” Phil said, suddenly kneeling beside Chris. “It’s safe to sleep. We’ll keep watch.”
A hazy recognition washed over Jim, and he nodded uncertainly. They eased him back down slowly, and he turned his head against the pillow. “Kay.”
“Okay. Be good now, go to sleep.” Phil instructed gently, and Chris could do very little but silently agree and stroke Jim’s hair.
“Yessir.” Jim murmured, as his eyes closed again.
Within moments, his breathing had evened out and Chris was sure he was fast asleep again. He didn’t move, regardless. His hand kept a steady rhythm in Jim’s hair, petting and soothing even when Jim looked as dead to the world as he normally did when he was sleeping. Beside him, Phil was still for a long minute. Then, his husband placed a cool hand against the skin of his neck and held it there. Perhaps in apology, or more likely just gratitude that Chris had been the first to enter the kid’s bedroom. It didn’t matter. Chris just hoped to god their argument was done with.
Phil left the bedroom first, and Chris allowed himself a little while longer to observe the sleeping form of Jim Kirk – fighting back images of a teenage Jimmy, screaming and fighting against the staff as they tried to forcibly send him to sleep after Tarsus.
He’d thought it was cruel at the time, but he hadn’t done a damn thing to stop it. It hadn’t been his place, even as First Officer. Who was he to question the CMO and the resident Counsellor? He’d commed Phil every single night the Tarsus survivors were on board the Farragut, and Phil had found it equally as reprehensible. But most of the group had slept most of the trip back to earth, too weak to do anything else but accept the emergency treatments forced upon them. Jimmy Kirk accepted nothing and no-one. Chris had never spoken to him – any of them. He’d just watched them from a distance beside his Captain, lips clamped together – afraid that, if he opened his mouth, he’d either rant his way to insubordination charges or throw up.
He’d been on the bridge, mostly, or stuck elbow deep in paperwork along with the Captain regarding what they’d seen on Tarsus. He’d visited the medical bay a few times, mostly late at night when sleep evaded him. He’d seen Jim kicking and screaming and fighting back, no matter the hour. The only time the kid had ever been peaceful had been slumped over at another child’s bed, the bones of his back protruding gruesomely – and the cuts on his back, the lacerations that had healed shoddily – some, still infected. But Jimmy Kirk wouldn’t let anyone touch him but Kevin. He was Kevin’s Jimmy, and no-one else’s.
That must not have changed after the survivors had left the Farragut for Earth, because Jim still had those scars. The thought made Chris feel sick. He left Jim’s room promptly, before he had a breakdown over just how fucked they all were for Jim Kirk. He hadn’t known it, those long nights he’d spent watching the nurses on the Farragut try to coerce Jim into sleeping, that one day he’d walk into a bar and meet a deeply flawed, hurt, defensive young man and fall for the brat.
Phil was sat on the arm of the sofa, facing Jim’s room when Chris emerged. He looked sorry, but not nearly as sorry as Chris felt.
“I guess most new parents fight?” Chris volunteered softly, attempting the general direction of humour but not quite sticking it. Phil just shook his head slightly, toeing the rug beneath him awkwardly.
“No, you were right, Chris. We’re not his parents. I’m really sorry.” Phil stared at the floor, even as Chris approached and took his hand. “I don’t know what we are, or what I’m trying to be. I’m just an idiot.”
“We both are.” Chris sighed heavily, pulling Phil’s hand to his mouth and pressing a kiss there. “Come on, idiot. Our bed is horrible without you.”
“You should try the couch.” Phil snorted, but finally looked up at Chris and met his gaze. He hoped it conveyed all the adoration and hopeless, unfaltering love that Chris had for his husband. The guilt in Phil’s expression eased somewhat, so Chris considered himself successful. For all of a second, and then Phil looked miserable again. “He told me something tonight, Chris. It was why I freaked out on you.”
“What?” Dread consumed him. What could Kirk possibly have told Phil that was worse than they already knew.
“His aversion to wine - it wasn’t Tarsus. It was his stepdad and his mom.” Chris knew next to nothing about Jim’s actual family, aside from they didn’t speak much. He knew now, of course, that Winona Kirk had fucked back off to space after her son’s return from Tarsus – but that was it.
“Just tell me.”
“His mom came home on leave when he was fifteen and got drunk with her husband – Frank. He got violent, Jim tried to intervene. Spilled wine everywhere. Got punished for it.” Phil’s voice was completely hollow, in a way Chris almost couldn’t reconcile with everything he knew of his husband. “His mom refused to talk to him until she was next home. She blamed him for getting himself hurt – said he should have left her to deal with it alone. She never mentioned it again the next time, acted like everything was completely normal.”
“Jesus Christ, Phil. That poor kid.” As if that accurately conveyed just how fucking numb he felt at the revelation.
“She divorced him- Frank, that is. Jim said it was too little too late. He moved out when he was seventeen.” And Chris sure as hell didn’t need to know what Jim had gotten up to in those five years he was truly alone. It was bad enough knowing that they’d left Jim using sex as a defence mechanism, multiple offenses on his record and an unfathomable reputation across Riverside, if not Iowa.
“Well shit.” Chris pinched the bridge of his nose. “Did he say anything else?”
“He wasn’t overly talkative, honestly. He does speak to his mother still… he didn’t seem angry at her anymore, but tension obviously still exists. I think he wanted to message her.”
“I think I’d like to do the same.” Chris muttered, trying not to sound as threatening as he felt. Obviously he’d never actually stick his nose into Jim’s private family business but hell, he’d like to ask Winona Kirk what the fuck she was playing at abandoning her fourteen year old kid to an abusive step-father, and then blaming him for getting hurt. It was sick.
“No more wine for us when Jim’s over. God, think about all the meals we’ve had with him. Oblivious.” Phil slumped forward, dropping his head against Chris’ chest.
“No more wine.” Chris agreed. “C’mon, let’s go to bed. We still have a few more hours before we have to face reality again.” But for the life of him, Chris knew he wasn’t going to catch another wink that night. He’d lie awake, maybe talking quietly with Phil, one ear listening out for the heart-breaking consequence of Jimmy Kirk being so incredibly alone for so long.
All the while, Chris would try exceptionally hard not to feel guilty for the role he might have played in that by not speaking up those eight years ago.
Jim lazed on his bed quietly, scrolling down his PADD. On the bed beside his own, Bones was flat out after a long shift at medical and snoring softly. He didn’t scowl in his sleep and, for a while, Jim had found it sort of off-putting. After all, he’d not really lived with anyone for a very long time and he had no idea how to cope with a roommate. But after a few months of living together, he sort of missed his best friend when he was away – or if Jim ended up stopping over at Phil and Chris’, at Phil’s insistence that it was too cold and dark outside for Jim to make the walk home. Really, that was a sort of lame excuse. When he used it, Jim and Chris would share a weary sort of look and then Jim would relent. He knew what it really meant, and it was no coincidence that he insisted mostly after they’d had a Tarsus meeting that had left them both particularly shaken. Phil was like a really weird dad crossed with the most peculiar doctor he’d ever met.
Jim had been talking a lot about Tarsus. Really, a lot – not just in the relative comparison to how little he’d spoken of it before. They spoke not just to identify the cause of his issues with eating, but because for the first time in years, he could. He could tell Phil every last detail, and Bones too when he felt like it, and fear nothing. They’d already proven they weren’t going to send him away, and it felt good to actually get it off his chest. His lips had been sealed on the subject since the moment he’d left Medical after returning to earth those ten years before. But so much time had passed, so many memories were hazy, that it wasn’t as hard anymore. Or, at least, it was getting easier. Things came out occasionally that Jim thought he’d successfully repressed long ago.
All in all though, the meetings really were doing him good. The stock of food under his bed had turned into a ration pack in his chest pocket, and maybe a few in his wardrobe too. When Bones had noticed their absence, he’d bought Jim an epic bottle of whiskey, which they had then both proceeded to drink – something they’d regretted the next morning.
When Bones was sleeping, and when Jim wasn’t too busy with his classes, he’d taken to watching the news-vids from eight years ago, when news of Tarsus had first emerged. At the time, he’d been too weak to watch the news – even if he’d wanted to, which he hadn’t. He’d ignored it all for so many years since then, adamantly shutting down whenever the damn planet was so much as mentioned off-hand. But it was okay now, because he was working through his own issues with it. Seeing the Captain of the Farragut making his brisk speech about the irreparable damage of the tragedy and then ending the transmission of his bridge… it wasn’t nearly as infuriating as it once would have been to him. It didn’t make his bones quake with anger any more. Mostly.
He replayed the tape on silent, so as not to wake Leonard. He didn’t really remember a lot about the ship, or he did, but it was all distant and dreamlike. He felt like he was missing something. No matter how many old Tarsus newsreels he watched, or how often he replayed them, it still wouldn’t come to him. In his head, he listed all the names of his friends from Tarsus. He tried to recall the names of the nurses who’d pinned him down and forced hypos in his weak limbs.
He replayed the tape again, watching and scanning and –
His mouth fell open and for a moment, no sound escaped. Then he registered a soft, “No…” slipping out.
He hit replay, now certain of what he was looking for. Even if he almost couldn’t comprehend what he was looking at. The officers on the bridge, all standing to attention at their stations. The officers on the bridge, looking sombre and uptight and pale after what Jim could now only imagine must have been a hellish mission. Once upon a time, he’d loathed them for escaping what he had suffered.
In the last few seconds of the shot, before the Captain ended the transmission, Jim spotted that which made his throat go dry. Something his own eyes couldn’t reconcile with everything he thought to be true. In those last few seconds, when the Captain bowed his head slightly in mourning, and the First Officer of the Farragut came into view.
“Oh my god.”
“Whatisit-whutswrong?” Bones asked, blearily, shooting up out of bed as though being called to a medical emergency. “You okay?”
“No.” Jim looked up to McCoy, his head spinning. “He lied to me.”
Bones blinked rapidly, fighting through a yawn. “Who?”
Jim wanted to throw up, and his heart hurt so badly he might collapse. “I have to go, Bones. I’ll be back later.”
“Who, Jim?!” Bones called after him, but once his legs had started moving Jim couldn’t get them to stop. If he did, he wasn’t sure he’d get them to move again. He felt awful, weak and shaky all over. This wasn’t- it couldn’t be true. Only it was, wasn’t it? The Farragut. That’s what Number One had said… The minute Pike stepped off the Farragut, he ran to Phil and proposed.
He felt completely stupid and, god, humiliated. He’d never joined the fucking dots – never put two and two together. It wasn’t like there were two Farraguts, after all. He knew Chris had served on the Farragut and, distantly, he knew that was the ship he’d been on too – like he’d been told once, and he was no longer sure if it was fact or just a dream. But there was that memory… that vague recollection of a shiny new Farragut, fading into nothing as Jim’s shuttle descended to earth. He was stupid – stupid Jim Kirk. It had to be wrong – he had to still be missing something, because Pike couldn’t… he wouldn’t have lied to Jim.
He found himself at Chris’ office without really having paid attention to the journey. He passed through Number One’s officer – the First Officer out directing a training mission for some third years – and barged into Captain Pike’s office without even knocking.
There was no-one else there but Chris, who looked up from his work immediately and stood – probably because Jim looked like he’d just run all the way to his office but fuck this wasn’t a panic attack or a freak out or anything to do with anything but Chris himself.
“Is it true?” Jim asked, the lack of air in his lungs making the delivery stilted and almost inaudible as his throat protested his choice to speak rather than breathe. He attempted a gasp of air, and a tremor shot through his whole body. “You were on the Farragut when I was on it, weren’t you? You were the First Officer when I was dragged off that hell hole.”
The expression on Chris’ face answered his question immediately. His whole face drained of colour in an instant, and his mouth hung open in a manner so unlike the hard ass, strict Captain that Jim had come to expect – or the quiet, self-assured man he saw behind closed doors. Sort of weird and madly in love with his husband, and always watching Jim like he was some brilliant fire. How the mighty had fallen.
Chris sank back into his seat, but Jim couldn’t even hope to mimic the action. Every single fibre of his being told him to run, to let the betrayal take him over and carry him as far away from San Fran-fucking-cisco as possible. But a very small part of him protested, and kept Jim stood in the office he’d spent so much time in the past few months. Maybe it was he wanted a damn explanation, or maybe he just thought Chris deserved the chance.
“I’m sorry, Jim.” Pike all but whispered, staring ashen-faced up at Jim.
“This whole time. This whole fucking time, you knew. You let me worry for months thinking you’d kick me out the minute you found out just how fucked up I really am, and you could have just told me you knew. Oh, issues, that’s what you said. You knew I had issues. I thought you were referring to the fact I fuck around with the wrong people, but no – it was this. You saw me like… like-” God, like the feral child he’d been. Bone thin and terrified, defensive to the extreme because in the year he was on Tarsus, most people approaching him under the guise of ‘care’ had wanted far much more from his teenage self. His body, mostly – in the worst cases, the very flesh off his bones.
“I thought you’d run if you knew I’d seen you back then.” Pike excused himself, and Jim wanted to scream or sob or kick something and he could do none of those things. “I wanted you to trust me, Jim – to tell me of your own volition.”
“And I did, didn’t I?! I did trust you.” He snarled and, heart pounding, he collapsed into his usual chair opposite Pike’s desk. Fuck. This was such a mess. Pike had lied, and he’d seen Jim in a way Jim had never wanted anyone to remember him.
“I’m sorry, Jimmy. I’m so sorry.” Pike shoved a hand through his hair. “I was the First Officer. God, it was my last fucking month. I never even went onto the planet - We were too busy with paperwork and rescue efforts. I went to the medbay a few times while you were there, that was all. I used to watch you fighting to get to Riley.” Even hearing that name made Jim feel sick to his stomach, and how dare Pike use that against him.
“We dropped you off, and I finished the month we had left in the black, and I came back and married Phil and I got on with my life. I thought about Tarsus all the time, but you’d all been discharged from medical – and even if I could have found you through the censorship and sealed records, you never once even saw me. I was just another Officer.”
But he wasn’t now, so why couldn’t he have been then. It would have saved Jim from three more years of Frank, and then the other five years of sheer hell. Living alone, flitting between other people’s beds, trying to find work and dealing with his hoarding and the PTSD and the constant fighting. It would have saved Jim’s fucking life.
“And then I walked into that bar at Riverside, and I saw you, and it was like my whole world caved in. You were there, and I realised how much I’d fucked up. I know you left medical early, but we’d failed you. Starfleet failed you. We rescued you from Tarsus and left you to what? An alcoholic step-father and a neglectful mother?”
“Leave my mother the fuck out of this.” Jim snapped. “You had no idea what she’s been through. You don’t get to blame her for jack-shit. Starfleet failed her too, or did that slip your mind?” When the media-storm had begun, and Winona Kirk had become the beloved widow of Starfleet with her precious two boys. Could anyone blame her for wanting to hide in space? Jim got it, he did. Maybe he hadn’t when he was a kid, before Tarsus. But he‘d learned. His mom had been shitty at times, sure, but she’d endured as many hells as Jim had and she was still alive and functioning.
“I’m sorry.” Pike breathed out. “I’m sorry, Jim. We abandoned you. I abandoned you, and I couldn’t do that again when I saw you at Riverside.” Jim couldn’t fault him on that. Chris couldn’t change the past, but he had done everything on earth to make Jim feel okay since he’d gotten to Starfleet.
“I wanted to make sure no-one else was in the same boat as you. A few weeks ago, I managed to track down Kevin.”
Jim froze, the air in his lungs catching and not quite making it out of his mouth.
“He’s in high school now, lives with a foster family up in Washington.”
Good. Jim only ever wanted to hear the good for the children he’d known on Tarsus, but if he was honest with himself, he didn’t want to hear anything. He’d rather forget all of them, their faces, their names, every single detail. It was hard to explain- to people like Pike. They were the good stories, the happily-ever-afters, and Pike accepted them at face value. But he couldn’t know the hell that Riley probably went through to get to the place he was no - to eat without feeling guilty, to sleep through the night, to learn about his own real-life nightmares in class. God, if he could even make it through classes. He was in high school, sure, but did Pike know for certain that he was doing remotely well- or was school sucking the life out of him worse than Tarsus ever had? It wasn’t good enough.
“Do you?” Pike pressed the base of his palm into his eye to dry the tears there. Good. He had no right to be crying. “Jim, he’s doing really well. Top of his classes. He wants to join Starfleet. And I watched you holding his hand at night on the Farragut – that kid is alive because of you.”
That was true enough. Kevin had been one of the youngest and thus the best cared for. Jim had made sure of that. He’d known the horror and pain of it all – watched his family die – but he’d never once been close to death. Jim would never have allowed it.
“Did you know that the moment our shuttle reached Medical, they took him away from me.” Jim said, a detached quality to his tone that almost made him proud. “He was crying for me, and the Doctors came in and sedated him. He was still reaching out for me as they carted him away. And they- they had security hold me back. My arm snapped trying to get away from them- I was too weak to really fight. They must have jabbed me, because I woke up in a private room a week later with my mom sat by my bed.”
“Jim…” Pike whispered. “You went through hell, but I promise you Riley was fine. He was happy. There’s not a scar on him.”
Venom infiltrated Jim’s lungs, because how could Pike know that. “He was barely out of infancy, I doubt he had much choice.” Kevin had been young and pliable, still. Jim remembered round eyes and wrists so small as Jim tugged him to safety, they could fit in Jim’s hand twice over. And not that it was any of Pike’s business, but Jim had fought a hell of a lot more than Kevin did. He’d refused all his treatments beyond not immediately dying, where Riley would have accepted all the prodding and poking, probably too weak to even fight back. He’d always been too trusting, anyway. He’d accepted Jim without hesitation, after all. Just like Jim had done with Pike, and Phil -
“Phil, where was he?”
“He wasn’t one of them, Jim – he would never have authorised that sort of behaviour. He was out on the USS Exeter.”
“But he knew, right? You told him what was happening- who I was.” He didn’t wait for confirmation, because Chris’ gaze had already dropped to his desk in shame. “That’s why he wasn’t surprised when I went to confess my great shame. Fuck. He knew, all this time too. He already had a game plan when I went to tell him about Tarsus.”
“Probably.” Chris looked up again. “We didn’t mean to lie to you, Jim. Or hurt you. We just wanted what was best for you.”
“Were you ever going to tell me?”
“I…” Chris had never looked so small to Jim. “I don’t know.” It was unbelievable. Jim couldn’t decide whether he was heartbroken, furious or just fine with it? After all, it didn’t actually make much difference at this point. He’d already told them of his own volition anyway, just like Chris had said. Only it did change everything.
His ambivalence was draining. Pike being on that ship meant Pike had saved him, in the nick of time, and felt some inflated sense of duty to continue that trend. But it also meant that Pike had delivered him to Medical, where he’d been strapped down and tortured with therapy and counsellors who demanded to know every aspect of his time on Tarsus. For their records. If that wasn’t the most conflicting, confusing set of responses to a newly discovered truth, Jim didn’t know what was.
“I- I need to think.” Jim scratched his neck. “Sorry, can I be excused?”
Pike looked horrified, shaking his head instantly. “Jim, I’m not sure-”
“I’ll go… I’ll go to the Library. I need to work anyway. Sorry, I can’t- I need to leave.” He hid his trembling hands behind his back, pushing his chair away with his legs and escaping towards the door.
“Alright just… please just tell someone if that changes. It doesn’t have to be me.” Pike stood, backing away. “Where’s McCoy, Cadet?”
“At home.” Jim stuttered. “I – I’ll – just – good day, Captain.” He retreated, faster than he thought his legs should have carried him considering how weak they’d felt just minutes before. Good. He always needed to be able to escape. He got through Number One’s office and disappeared into the command building, hoping to god that he made up his mind about how he felt soon. In the meantime, just like right after Tarsus, work was the only thing with any hope of distracting him from the turmoil of his mind.
END OF ACT 1
Coming up: Sleepovers, Gary Mitchell, Spock, Tarsus and of course our dear Chris and Phil.
Chapter 13: Trust, Or the Remnants of It.
It had been a week, and Chris felt just about as miserable as the winter weather. A week, that had felt like a month – each day dragging by slowly and quietly. Jim had missed his appointments with Phil, phoning reception to cancel – hanging up without giving a reason. Phil had stopped anyone chasing him up on it, primarily because that person had to be Chris – as his adviser – and the whole point was that the kid wanted space from them. Chris got it, and so did Phil. But honestly… they were both miserable. As far as Chris was aware, Jim was still attending all his classes – despite missing his advisory meetings, obviously. Technically, he had no reason to freak out just yet. It was understandable that Jim needed time to process everything – but the fact he was still even in the Academy spoke volumes about where he was at. Chris knew Jim, and he wasn’t the sort of person to stick around when he wanted to be somewhere else.
Earlier in the week, he’d managed to get a glimpse at the back of Jim’s head. He’d been with the Orion – Gaila – that he seemed quite good friends with. Chris had almost – almost – gone to speak to him, to beg him to forgive Phil at least, and start up his medical appointments again. But then Mitchell had jogged out of nowhere and Chris had slinked off in the other direction. Lest he have to watch any more necking. Honestly – Chris just didn’t like the kid, and he definitely wasn’t worthy of Jim. For one thing, Jim needed healthy relationships with good people. From what he knew of Mitchell, the kid was sarcastic, manipulative and had a generally disconcerting sense of humour. One of Komack’s. Jim deserved someone loyal and intelligent. Like Spock. Well, maybe Spock with an inclination to actually demonstrate emotions. In the whole wide universe, there were things Chris thought were less likely to happen - so he was holding out hope.
Chris lay on their sofa, having been sent home by Archer for being too damn lethargic. Chris hadn’t bothered to explain he wasn’t actually ill, because he had no intention of sitting around in his office waiting for Jim to not show up. Again. Instead, he’d been flicking through vids hopelessly and trying not to stare at his com. There was nothing from Jim. Still. Chris rolled onto his back, dragging the sofa throw onto his chest as if that made up for the absence of his husband. He wanted Phil to finish his stupid shift so that he could come and reassure him for a few hours before bed.
He gave up on the holo-vids, and attempted work instead. He’d barely even called up his first programme before there was a thumping knock on his door. It didn’t sound like Jim, but Chris was desperate enough to shoot across the room to the door and open it before he’d taken another breath.
Instead of Jim’s mop of blond curls, he was faced with McCoy, looking as sour as Chris had ever seen him – and utilising zero of his usual southern charm he exhibited to either ladies or his superiors – including Chris and Phil. Actually, he looked on a warpath, and Chris definitely didn’t want to stand in his way.
“Leonard.” He stepped back, letting the younger Doctor into their apartment.
“What’d’you do to him?” Chris hadn’t so much as closed the front door before Leonard turned to him, his southern drawl just about as intimidating as anything Chris had ever encountered in space. He seemed taller, head held high in his defence against Jim. It made a large part of Chris both proud and grateful that a. he’d placed the two together, and b. Jim had a friend like Leonard to look after him. The other part of Chris was terrified.
“Is he okay?”
“No, he’s not okay.” Leonard shook his head, angrily. “At first, I thought it was Mitchell – or god, I thought about his damn brother before my mind came to you.” That felt like a punch to the gut. Jim trusted him, and now Chris ranked lower than both Cadet Mitchell and Jim’s long since missing brother.
“You should be.” McCoy said. “He’s been miserable all week. And when I refused to get drunk with him for the fifth night in a row until he talked to me, he stormed off to find Mitchell – and if he’s pissed at you, he’s sure as hell not going to go to Phil when Mitchell’s done with him, is he? I’ll be the one to have to fix him up.”
Chris wanted to vomit. I think Mitchell broke one of my ribs fucking me over his desk. Jim hadn’t been fucking joking, apparently. That was probably stretching the parameters of rough, angry sex. Actually, it was sort of sick.
“Shit. I didn’t- I mean, does he do that often?” Chris asked, curiosity getting the better of him.
“Not so much. Mitchell keeps making comments that piss everyone off. Jim especially. He’s clearly just been driven to extreme measures.” Leonard’s eyes narrowed, and Chris just about avoided gulping. “Are you going to tell me what’s going on or not, because I’ve got better things to do than stand in your apartment gossiping all day.”
Chris sighed heavily, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Go, sit down. I need a drink if I’m talking about this again.”
McCoy did as instructed, and Chris went to locate his best bourbon. Why the hell not, after all. He joined Leonard on the sofa, handing him his tumbler and taking a long drink before clearing his throat.
“Phil and I have known about Tarsus since… well, since Tarsus. I was on the ship that picked Jim up from the planet. Jim found out, and he wasn’t very happy about it.”
“Oh, fuck.” Leonard’s eyes were wide as he took a swig of bourbon. “You lied to him.”
“Yeah, I know.” Chris sighed. “I just… I didn’t know how to tell him, and then I didn’t think it mattered anymore.” Well that was the biggest lie he’d ever told, but he desperately wished it were true. The reality was, he’d been terrified that such a truth would be the final straw for Jim. Jim, who had already given so much of himself to Starfleet, and yet every single piece of him had been carefully crafted to protect himself. Breaking down those barriers had been intense, but seeing him before those barriers… what if that was just something Jim couldn’t handle existing in his life.
“Really? You didn’t think it mattered?” There was a hollowness to Leonard’s laugh that cut Chris to the bone. “I doubt he let his own mother see him the way you saw him when he was first off Tarsus.” Chris wouldn’t know, because he hadn’t ever bothered to find out what happened to those kids after they’d left the Farragut, and the guilt he carried for that made him feel sick.
“I know.” Chris said, again, because there really wasn’t much else he could say.
Leonard gave him an assessing sort of look – as though he was trying to work out whether Chris was truly sorry, or whether he should go tell Jim he was an idiot and get Jim to change advisers. Chris hadn’t felt so judged in years – since the first time he’d met Phil’s mother, for Christ’s sake. Somehow, Leonard McCoy was more important. Chris had won Phil over before he even knew he wanted him. But Jim was infinitely more complex.
Finally, finally, Leonard deflated slightly. “For what it’s worth, I think he’ll forgive you.”
As desperate as the situation seemed, Chris couldn’t quell his first reaction of utter surging hope. For all he’d tried to convince himself that Jim wasn’t going to walk out on them all, Leonard knew Jim better than anyone. He got Jim for more time, after all. If Leonard thought Jim would forgive him, then just maybe there was a chance Jim actually would.
“I wouldn’t say so if I didn’t.” Leonard snapped. “You’re like a father to him, and he doesn’t take that fucking lightly.” A finger pointed at Chris menacingly. “So you shouldn’t either.” And Chris found himself nodding in agreement rapidly. “Besides, if he really hated you he’d have disappeared without a trace. He’s still here, he’s just… messed up right now. He’ll come back. Just give him some space.”
Being messed up seemed like the opposite of anything that demanded space. Chris’ natural instinct, as Phil’s probably was too, was to go to Jim and beg for forgiveness and try and do anything on earth to just keep Jim by his side – safe, warm and well-fed.
“That’s easier said than done. We’re worried about him.” Chris felt thoroughly admonished by the look on Leonard’s face alone. Fuck. He preferred it when they first met the younger Doctor, when it was all ‘sir’ this and ‘sir’ that. “I’ll leave him alone.” He muttered.
“Good.” Leonard set his empty glass down. “You gonna be okay?”
“Me?” Chris snorted. Phil would worry about him. Everyone else had to focus on Jim, because he was the most important thing Chris had ever met. “I’ll be here, waiting miserably until I’m forgiven. But yeah, I’ll be okay”
“Well, have fun with that.” The younger doctor stood. “I’ll look after him in the meantime. Just no more damn secrets.” Leonard shook his head. “I’ll be in touch, Captain.”
“Thank you, Leonard.” Chris said heavily, sinking further into his sofa as the Doctor saw himself out. Fuck.
Phil returned home later than expected, and Chris had somehow managed to fall asleep on the sofa. Not the most restful sleep, honestly, but it stopped him from drinking too much or doing something stupid like trying to message Jim. He woke, not to the door opening, but to his husband crouching on the floor beside him and pressing a kiss to his forehead.
“Hmm. Time is it?”
“Nearly ten.” Phil murmured, carding his fingers through Chris’ hair. It was too soothing, such an addictive touch. Enough to send him right back to sleep, if only Phil kept doing what he was doing. “How long have you been asleep?”
“Dunno. Leonard came by at four. Did some work for a few hours. Must have dropped off.”
“What did Leo say? Is Jim alright? Chris-“
“Fine. They’re fine.” Chris stretched his neck, his entire body hating him for attempting to sleep on their sofa. Sitting up was agony, but Phil slotted into the seat beside him and curled up against his side – all heat, and winding arms and taut muscle. Chris shifted and settled, clearing his throat. “Well, actually Jim’s a bit all over the place. But Leonard’s looking out for him.”
Chris elected not to tell his husband about the drinking and vicious sex and Leonard’s real concerns. Phil knew. He was the kid’s Doctor – he probably knew better than Chris did. But he wouldn’t question Chris’ statement until he absolutely had to face reality, and that time had not yet come.
“Chris, it’s not your fault.” Phil muttered, finding Chris’ hand and squeezing it.
“I brought him back to earth. I abandoned him.” Chris countered. “You didn’t see the look on his face when he was talking about Riley. He loved that kid, and they were dragged apart from each. It’s… god, it’s archaic.” And the more he imagined it, the worse it got, because he remembered those kids. Vividly. Hell, he’d already seen Jim fight tooth and nail to get to Riley - so it was almost too easy for him.
Then his traitorous mind had imagined the day he stepped off the Farragut to propose to Phil. He imagined arms wrapping around his chest and arms and stomach, tugging him back, stopping him from getting to Phil no matter how hard he fought. He imagined feeling the sting of a hypospray to his neck, imagined the world suddenly going dark and his limbs going weak. Being completely helpless. It made him want to cry, and it was just in his head. It was the stuff of nightmares, and Jim had lived through it.
“No matter how gentle Medical tried to be, it never would have been easy. Jim wouldn’t ever have made it easy, but he’d have had to say goodbye eventually.” Phil said, using his Doctor tone. It was the tone that suggested all sorts of logic and reasoning, but Phil didn’t elaborate and Chris didn’t ask. It was unnecessary. He trusted his husband’s professional opinion.
“I know you think it could have been easier than it was.” Chris murmured. “And you know I didn’t like what our own Doctors were doing aboard the Farragut. I should have said something.”
“And you didn’t.” Phil pulled back slightly, and Chris met his eyes tiredly. “But you brought Jim here, and look at him now. He’s going to Captain a starship before he’s thirty.” Phil’s attempt at optimism wasn’t much comfort, but Chris appreciated it nonetheless. “You didn’t fail him, Chris, you just made a mistake. And you’re doing right by it now, that’s what matters.”
“To Jim? Because I’m pretty sure he’d like his childhood back.”
“You didn’t send him to Tarsus, Chris. You got him back to earth. You did your job. Your duty. That didn’t stop being true until the day you invited that boy into our home. Then he became something more, and then you had to be more for him. And that’s exactly what you’ve done. Your best.”
“Hmm.” Chris pulled him close again, pressing a kiss to his husband’s temple. Phil must have showered at the hospital, because he smelled clean, like fresh citrus. Chris would burn that scent into his memory if he could, and keep it with him at all times. It was so… Philip, and Chris adored it. It was one of the first things he noticed about his friend, all those years ago on their first official date. That scent he’d been around all his time at the Academy, and somehow never really appreciated.
“What?” Phil asked, gently.
“Just remembering why I adore you so much.”
He felt Phil grin into his chest, his arms winding tighter around him. “Oh?”
“It does happen once in a while.” Chris teased, happiness returning to him by degrees. “Like when you always know exactly what to say to make me feel moderately competent.”
“A hard feat, but an undeniable strength of mine.” Phil agreed, solemnly.
“Or when you’re the first face I see when I wake up, and I’m awed into silence by how deeply beautiful you are. How pretty your eyes are when they’re staring into mine. How perfect your lips are where they’re wrapped around my-”
“Yes, thank you gorgeous.” Phil elbowed him sharply, but he couldn’t disguise the humour in his tone. “You know, for a minute there I really thought you’d decided to show your romantic side. Now I see you just want a sympathy blow job.”
“I would never.” Chris gasped, in mock-horror. “Not without reciprocation, anyway.” He added, smirking, even when he received another swift jab to his ribs. “I love you.” He chirped.
“Yeah,” Phil huffed, fondness still seeping from his tone into the very heart of Chris. “I love you too.”
Jim was unfathomably lucky to have found a spot on the top floor of the Library, a secluded corner where he could work quietly until he was so incredibly exhausted that he would pass out the moment his head hit the pillow when he finally got home. Or, if that didn’t work, he’d find Gary and go out and do a hundred things he could regret more than… well, his entire existence, frankly. After an hour, that seemed the most likely option. His astrophysics work wasn’t providing him with the same distraction it usually did. He had a strong urge to lose himself in some fictional world, but he refused to let himself go and find an old classic of his childhood. He wasn’t a child anymore – hadn’t been since Tarsus. There was no escape in fantasy. It was a sickly sweet trap, and a hell that Jim didn’t have time for.
Jim didn’t have time for any of this, he just had to work. Even if that was all he had left – he’d still show them all that he could be the best. He’d prove them wrong. As much as Jim tried to convince himself of that, he couldn’t quite manage it. Because it wasn’t all he had left. He had Gaila, who was trying her damn hardest to cheer him up. She’d loudly offered him a, coincidentally also loud, blowjob during dinner – and dammit, if Jim hadn’t actually blushed as he’d thanked his friend and turned her down. He also still had Bones – although they were currently arguing. That meant a hell of a lot more than getting top marks. He really, probably, needed to apologise to Bones soon.
Jim looked up, breath catching.
“Commander Spock. Hello.”
Spock was just as tall as Jim remembered, but slightly greener under the vast expanse of light the Library windows offered him. Looming over Jim, he was all cheekbones and angles and unfathomably deep brown eyes.
“I estimated a 46.6 percent chance that you would not object to my presence.” Spock said, simply. “If you wish for me to leave, you need only ask. However, given your general appearance-” Jim tried to not take that personally; he was hungover. “And the time for which you have been pursuing the human pastime of ‘staring into space’, I recommend seeking alternative company at your earliest convenience.”
Jim thought of Bones, sleeping in their dorm after a hellish hospital shift. He would apologise at some point, but… hell, he didn’t know how. They’d not really spoken for two days straight; they’d argued when Jim had last woken him, stumbling home bruised, bloody and still drunk in the early hours of the morning. Bones had given him hell for not taking better care of himself – he’d threatened to com Pike when he pinned Jim down to scan him and found he hadn’t been eating too much. Jim was certain he was just more pissed at himself for not noticing prior to that. Bones always did take things too personally. But that hadn’t excused him interfering in Jim’s personal life, sticking hypos in his neck and demanding he talk to Pike, demanding he stop seeing Gary Mitchell. It was downright rude.
No, Jim couldn’t go home and seek comfort from his best friend. He might not have known Spock, not really, but he did know it wasn’t every day a Vulcan voluntarily sought to comfort and accompany a human.
“No- I mean, please, feel free.” He gestured to the empty chair beside his own, and the Commander sat, sliding a stack of books onto the desk before him. “Is this coincidence, or is Pike having a detail follow me around?”
Spock looked perplexed for a moment, and then his expression tightened. “The Captain expressed some concern that you were alone in what he described to me as a tumultuous state of mind. I believe he intended for me to observe you from afar, and yet logic dictated that I approach.”
“Logic?” Jim almost grinned, his abused lower lip stretching painfully at the movement. He decided not to think too hard about the fact that Pike actually was having him followed. “Talk me through your logic, Commander.”
Spock narrowed his eyes at Jim, either curious or suspicious. Perhaps both, Jim couldn’t tell. “You are distressed, showing signs of anxiety and fatigue. Such a state is unproductive and not conducive to maintaining the exemplary grade you have set thus far this year.” Spock caught Jim’s eyes, expression almost too neutral to be trustworthy. “Furthermore, my mother once told me that eyes are windows to the soul. Whilst the existence of a soul is debate-worthy, I know with certainty that your eyes look sad.”
“That’s a human saying.” And suddenly it was like the entire world was coming into focus. “Your mother- she was human?” It was more of a statement than a question really, and Jim couldn’t stop excitement seeping into his tone. It was one thing to know one of the only Vulcans in Starfleet, it another thing to know the only half-human Vulcan in Starfleet.
“Indeed. I am half-human.”
“How did I not know that?” Jim laughed. “But you’re Vulcan educated right? I mean, how did that work? And how did you end up in Starfleet?” He bit his lip again, more so out of habit now than the result of his debilitating anxiety. “Sorry. I know Vulcans are private. God, don’t tell my interspecies culture Professor. She’s looking for any excuse to mark me down – Sorry. I don’t mean to bitch about your colleagues.”
Spock looked expressionless still, but there was something interesting lurking in those pretty brown eyes. Knowing there was human blood somewhere beneath that green exterior changed everything. It meant Jim wasn’t just imagining the things he wanted to be true of the Commander, like emotions filtering over the surface, and the odd wry little quirk of his lips.
“I estimate a 87.96 percent likelihood that answering your questions will alleviate your anxiety. Do you concur?”
For however long you’re speaking, sure. Jim was silent for a moment. He didn’t doubt that he’d need something more than a conversation with a pretty man to sleep tonight. His sights were still set on Gary Mitchell and some utterly sleazy bar. That didn’t quell his curiosity though. “I concur.”
“In that case, would you consider accompanying me to the cafeteria? A Library is a designated work space, and I would be a poor example to students to blatantly disregard the set rules.”
“But what about to subtly disregard them?” Jim teased, and then shook his head rapidly before Spock could voice his curiosity. “Sorry. After you, Commander.” He said, silently admonishing himself for once again forgetting his rule to not flirt with the Vulcan. Half-Vulcan. Whatever.
If Spock didn’t understand his flirting, which he probably didn’t considering the look in his eyes, he didn’t choose to question it. He stood, collecting his books into his arms again. He extended a hand down, and Jim took it, allowing himself to be pulled from his seat. They set off at a quick pace towards the stairwell. Spock was taller than him, and strode purposefully, as if he hadn’t just invited Jim out for drinks. Not that it was a date, clearly, because Spock was a Commander and a Professor, not a potential fuck. Hell, he was only even in the Library looking for Jim because it was the last place Pike would expect him to be, and forget Bones, Jim would have to face the shit show of his relationship with Pike sooner rather than later.
“Did Pike tell you why I was upset?” Jim asked, the thought suddenly occurring to him that he hadn’t ever once asked Pike to keep his mouth shut. He’d just trusted that he would, stupidly, naively. Jim’s entire body seemed to weaken when that ever so neutral expression deteriorated into something akin to guilt.
“Inadvertently.” Spock confirmed. “The Captain often forgets about the superiority of my hearing.” He offered, in way of explanation. “Commander One attempted to silence him-“
“Hey, it’s okay.” Jim said, even as his heart pounded against his chest. Aside from his typical anxious reaction, like he was letting another part of his blackened soul slip away, his mind was really quite clear. Realising that another person knew about Tarsus was far less terrifying than he would have expected. Bones, Phil, Chris, Number One and now Spock too. Five people who all knew, and who all seemed not to care what that actually made him. The hunter and the hunted, before he’d even really finished puberty.
Spock spared him a glance, and then held the Library doors open for him. He carried books as if they were nothing. Feather light. Jim refocused his gaze on Spock’s dark eyes, thanking him and passing out into the cool evening air.
“I’m not angry at him.” He tried to explain, even if he almost didn’t believe himself. “Sometimes I wish that everyone knew already, so I wouldn’t have anything to hide. When they underestimate me, I could tell them the things I’ve already done to survive and watch them…” Jim paused, throat catching. Watch their amusement turn to fear. “I could just wipe the smirks off all their faces.” Jim finally settled on, pushing back the deep anger within him that had threatened to surface. He wouldn’t have wished Tarsus on his worst enemy, and being angry at everyone else for not enduring it was pointless. Jim was evil for even considering it. He didn’t want to be feared, that was awful. But nor did he want to be underestimated. Even by Chris or Phil.
Spock didn’t look horrified, the way Jim would have expected Bones or Pike to look at his confession, but impassive.
“Not that I could.” Jim laughed, hollowly. “I can never get the words out. My throat closes up and I run away instead.”
“This is unsurprising.” Spock held the door once more, and Jim darted through into a small cafeteria he’d never been too before. “I will acquire us beverages and return. May I procure you anything in particular?”
“Tea would be great, thanks.” Jim smiled weakly, trying not to feel like his entire little confession had just been rejected. “Surprise me.”
Spock nodded tightly, depositing his books on their table and hovering until Jim had safely lowered himself into his chosen seat. His legs were immensely grateful for the relief, folding beneath his chair neatly. Whatever reason Spock had for this – besides Jim’s supposed sad eyes, which in itself wasn’t even a real explanation – Jim was so far gone he figured it no longer mattered. In for a penny, in for a pound. Spock was beautiful and already proving to be more intelligent and insightful than Jim could have imagined. What the hell. Why not talk to the guy, and if it went to shit he could still get obliterated with Gary, later.
Spock returned, walking and carrying two cups of tea with a grace Jim could only gawp at.
“I tried some of your tea last week.” Jim remarked, taking the offered cup. “Pike gave it me. Said you were some master of teas, or something.”
“Tea is the favoured beverage on Vulcan, and is something of a hobby of mine.” Spock sipped his own, and Jim copied. It was nice and, he suspected, intended to soothe. It hit the spot better even than the one Pike had given him – not overly sweet, but fulfilling. “May I share something with you, Cadet? I believe it might resonate with you.”
“I have nothing with which to? - oh.” Jim didn’t even bother trying not to grin. “Very well. My father is the Vulcan Ambassador. When I was six Terran years of age, I was kidnapped in an act of terror against my planet.”
Jim stared, lowering his tea cup.
“I was held from my parents for approximately two weeks. Upon my release, I entered a healing trance and subsequently invested in considerable meditation. I sought to divest myself of the emotions born from my capture.”
“When you were six?”
“Indeed.” Spock agreed, as if that were a perfectly reasonable age to wish to purge all emotions- even for a Vulcan. “I forged a tentative shield, but any mention of the incident triggered a severe negative response. It took several years to be able to dismantle my shield and allow myself to work through my left over emotions.” Spock admitted, and Jim gulped down his tea.
“To look back on my initial reaction to the trauma is conflicting. Despite knowing my isolation was my mind’s defence mechanism, I still feel shame…” It didn’t feel like a complete sentence, at least not to Jim. There was more that Spock wasn’t saying, but Jim had no intention of pushing, even if he felt comfortable enough to do so.
The cafeteria was quieter than the one Jim normally frequented with all the Cadets in his classes, but he liked it. He thought they were in science somewhere, which explained Spock’s choice. It was very… Spock, and Jim sort of appreciated it. His usual haunts tended to be, well, of the bar variety – and they were generally loud, dark and sort of grimy. They made for much better distractions from awkward conversations like this. Only, Spock was a Vulcan. Even half-Vulcans wouldn’t feel something as unnecessary as awkwardness, surely.
“I would not presume to know what the Captain did to drive you away, but I am confident there is no logic in enduring further, unnecessary emotional strain. It will not be easy, but accepting that which you once were is only logical.”
To say he was speechless was an understatement. Jim felt turned inside out, bared for all and vulnerable. God, Bones had told him the same. Pike had too, effectively. But Spock’s interpretation was so unfathomably honest, so eloquent in a way an emotionally repressed Vulcan shouldn’t have been. It was like clarity, dawning over him in a crisp wave.
Pike had seen him as a savage child, and Jim was terrified that the screaming, fighting Kid was still winning, even if that’s all he’d ever wanted to do. But so what if he was? What did it matter. He was just winning in different ways now. And the family he’d needed then, the one that had been so close and still just out of his reach, he had them now.
“Thank you, Spock.” He managed, his throat still feeling too tight.
“Thanks are unnecessary,” Said Spock, “But understood.”
“You- you said you’d tell me about your education.” Jim prompted, feeling bafflingly gratified by Spock’s attempt to appease his frail, human ego. “If you have time.”
“I do.” Spock sipped his tea. “I was raised on my Father’s planet and, as you have no doubt ascertained, educated thusly. I had little intention of disregarding my upbringing without good cause.” Jim swore there was mischief in those dark eyes. “However, I elected to turn down my offer to study at the Vulcan Science Academy after a blatant insult to my mother’s race.”
“Holy shit.” No, that was definitely mischief. “You turned down the VSA? I’ve never heard of any Vulcan turning down the VSA – and Vulcans can be xenophobes?”
“My father’s race is nothing if not governed by tradition. Human lives are led recklessly through emotion. By marrying my mother, my father was defying logic in the eyes of most of my people. As for the VSA, I assured the council that their track record was untarnished due to the nature of my identity as only half-Vulcan.”
It was a good job, really, that they’d left the Library because suddenly Jim was laughing, loudly. “That’s incredible!” He wiped a stray tear from his eye. “I mean, you pretty much told them to go suck it. Jesus, Spock, that’s the best thing I’ve ever heard!”
Spock, Jim thought, looked moderately pleased with that statement – even if only his eyes seemed to say so. “I believe you are employing exaggeration. That being said, I doubt that my description can compare to the expressions of the Council Members when they realised I was rejecting their offer.”
“Oh my god, Spock. You’re savage - I love it.”
There was a dusting of green blush on Spock’s ears and high cheekbones, and Jim struggled to not stare. It was beautiful, and he wanted to chase that pretty blush. God, Spock was half-human. He couldn’t have been opposed to a relationship with a human. Jim certainly wasn’t against aliens, much to Bones’ dismay. And Phil’s. And probably Pike’s too, come to think of it.
“Your statement was illogical, Jim.” Spock said, defying his own embarrassment and forging on where others would have fallen silent. It was almost as an afterthought that Jim realised Spock had used his given name, and he grinned.
“That’s me.” He shrugged easily. “An illogical human.”
Pike wasn’t so dissimilar. They were all human, and very flawed. If Jim had known that Pike had seen him after Tarsus, he wasn’t sure what he’d have done. He might not have joined Starfleet, that was for sure. He might have ran, as far from Pike as possible. Somewhere nobody knew the name Kirk, where they’d never even heard of Tarsus IV. But then he’d never have met Bones, who put a smile on his face every day even if he grumbled while doing it. Hell, Bones’ grumbling itself gave Jim reason to smile. He wouldn’t be sat there, either, drinking tea with a pretty Vulcan Commander.
“I am aware that your timetable demands your presence in Philosophy shortly, Cadet Kirk.”
Jim winced, both at the form of address, like Spock had suddenly remembered he was a student, and the unwelcome reminder he had to go back to class. “Crap, I forgot.” He had fifteen minutes to get across Campus, so he could just about manage not being late. He drained his tea quickly, grabbing his bag.
“If you wish to be excused, I have the access level required to do so. Or, if you prefer, Captain Pike can-”
“No! No, that’s fine, thank you. I need to go, I have to get my test results anyway. But thank you, Commander. You succeeded in distracting me.” Jim hiked his bag onto his shoulder. Not only in distracting him, but in giving him a hell of a lot to think about. “Who knows, maybe I’ll even consider a game of chess with you.” He laughed, though it wasn’t as barbaric an idea as his mind wanted to convince him it was. “I’ll see you around, Sir.”
“Cadet.” Jim heard Spock say quietly, as he quick-marched out of the cafeteria, the comforting scent of Vulcan spice tea lingering around him even in as he exited into the sharp winter winds.
Next time, Jim and Chris in the same room?! (maybe, finally)
The next week passed in a whirlwind of cheap alcohol and merged hours of writing essays that – on the rare occasion Jim managed to sleep - he woke up reciting facts from. At some point, lost in his self-pity and work, he decided to pat down his hurt pride, and went to Medical to apologise to Bones – presenting him with pizza and a pout as a peace offering. Bones had accepted, of course, because he was Bones and he was just about the only person Jim had currently. Gary Mitchell didn’t count, because Jim couldn’t speak to him. It had taken more than Jim’s pretty face and food to get Bones to forgive him, though – his friend had made him recount his entire conversation with Pike, and pretty much all of his thought processes since then. It was worse than therapy with Phil, but somehow very useful. Almost as useful as a single tea date with Professor Spock.
It was better having Bones back, even if Jim still missed the two older weirdos in his life. But Bones looked after him enough for the four of them. He put food in front of him when Jim couldn’t eat, dragged him away from his studying and, in the dead of night when Jim stumbled home from Gary’s, Bones dragged himself out of bed to fix Jim up again. Not without his usual grumbling and lecturing, but always with a touch too reassuring for Jim to think Bones was really mad at him.
He always apologised to Bones, but he couldn’t help going back to Gary every night. Sex prevented overthinking, after all, and it helped him sleep – something Bones really couldn’t help him with. Mitchell may have been a cocky bastard, but maybe that was why Jim liked him. Mitchell was him but without all the debilitating self-hatred. Clever, manipulative, arrogant and they alone were his biggest flaws. Jesus, that was Jim’s dream. To be so oblivious and content.
It couldn’t carry on like that, though. For one things, Bones was getting annoyed by his odd hours of coming and going to their dorm. And Gary snored like a bitch. Which was mostly why Jim kept going back to his own dorm in the middle of the night. But that wasn’t fair on Leonard, and he knew it. So he’d swallowed his damn pride, and asked for help. Although frankly, he wasn’t so convinced it even was pride. A part of him suspected, as Bones probably did too, that he was just unfathomably terrified of making the first move. It would have been so much easier if Pike had just strode into his life again, as if nothing had happened. But Chris was too principled for that, and he’d left the ball in Jim’s court. Jim could work a bar, work an audience, work a potential fuck – no problem. But things like this – his secrets – he’d always fought like hell to keep his own. It was disarming that Pike wasn’t making him fight.
“Just go right in.” Bones instructed, a hand on each of Jim’s shoulders as he steered him towards the door to Number One’s office. “You’ve done it before. You know he’s there. Just charge the fuck in and talk. To. Him.”
“It’s not that easy, Bones!” Jim shuddered, all too aware that Bones had accompanied him armed with hypos galore if he decided to go into meltdown mode. He’d never wanted anyone to see him like that- to remember him like that. In fact, he spent most of his teenage years repressing the very memories that Pike must have held so fresh. More terrifying, Pike not only knew who Jim was after Tarsus, but he also had to know what Jim did. He was not a good man. He hadn’t sacrificed himself to save others – not like his father. He’d sunk to his knees, taken a few hits… but ultimately, he’d been too selfish to give himself up for the others.
Bones looked unimpressed, but Bones didn’t know how hard it was. “I think that you like Pike and he loves you.” Jim fought back his urge to scoff, because Pike had pretty much confessed exactly that weeks before Jim had even found out about Tarsus. “You should let him. Just go in there and hug the man - god knows, you’re the most affection starved human I’ve ever met.”
“Will you keep your damn voice down.” Jim hissed, neck craning to observe the empty corridor. Still, anyone could have been just around the corridor. Uhura, who might just dare to pity him. Gaila, who spoke of the bad thing in Jim’s past as second-nature, but never asked for details. Gary, who had the capacity to make Jim’s life a living hell if he found out just from asking questions alone. He was already skirting dangerously close to the truth.
“I’m jus’ saying, Kid.” Bones shrugged, but squeezed his shoulders nonetheless. “You talk to me about it, and you’d already spoken to Phil about it.” Talking was one thing. Jim’s words couldn’t hope to do justice to the reality of Jim’s existence post-Tarsus. But Bones hadn’t seen him like that, and couldn’t understand what Chris did. As for Phil… well, Chris and Phil were a package deal. Jim couldn’t have one without the other.
“You can do this, Jim. You just have to talk, and you’re great at that. You do it all the time.” Bones told him firmly, a teasing smirk tugging at his lips. Jim must have looked more petrified than he wanted to, because Bones’ teasing expression slipped off almost instantly. He sighed, looking older than Jim had seen him since the day they met.
“I’ll be right outside, Jim. If it goes badly, all you have to do is shout or walk away. Either way, I’ll be there. I promise.”
Bones was too good to him, and Jim didn’t always know how to process it. Contrary to his initial ideas about the terrifying, grumbling nature of Bones’ bedside manner, he’d actually come to realise it was probably a good thing. It helped when Bones was ranting at him, because if Jim had nothing but pushovers around him he wasn’t sure what he’d do. Someone had to keep him in line and now, after months of knowing Bones, Jim had never once thought his friend didn’t want what was best for him. He was a far cry from the cold-hearted physicians he’d fought against after Tarsus, and it seemed ridiculous to him that he’d not realised sooner.
Jim curled his hands up into determined fists. “Okay.” He inhaled deeply. “I’m going in.”
“Good for you.” Bones quipped, and Jim spared him one last glare before he knocked and pushed through into Number One’s office.
One was sat at her desk working, and looked ravishing as ever. Jim was too nervous to flirt. The last time he’d spoken to her, she’d been talking him down from a panic attack. She’d been away when he’d found out about Pike, and he’d been avoiding the offices since then. He thought he’d seen her coming out of a meeting once, not long after he’d learned the truth, and he’d turned in the other direction instantly, too scared of Pike following her out of the room. He was sort of a coward like that.
One looked up at him slowly, still tapping away a complex algorithm into her PADD that Jim couldn’t even attempt to recognise upside down. The right way up, yeah, probably. “Kirk.” She said, satisfaction breaching her neutral tone.
“I’m glad you’re here, Cadet.” She said, and Jim contemplated turning on his heel and running away instantly. Bones’ scowl and all his hypos had nothing on Number One. “Take a seat.” She instructed, and Jim complied out of fear more than anything. He sat at her desk, hands wringing together in his lap, and waited. Confused didn’t do it justice. Number One returned to her PADD, ignoring Jim entirely.
“Uh- I wanted to see Captain Pike- if that’s possible.”
“It is.” She said, without looking up. “Just bear with me.”
He fell silent again, chewing on his newly healed lip as he waited. Seconds passed into minutes, and still she didn’t spare him another glance. Jim was beginning to think he was being punished for waiting so long to return to the Office. She was going to make him suffer. He wondered if he should cry to Bones for help – if his friend had even kept his promise to stay outside.
Jim felt One’s cool gaze on him again, and he forced himself to meet her eyes.
“In precisely two minutes, the famously stern and scary Captain Christopher Pike is going to storm out of his office and declare that he’s going to go find you.” Number One explained, wearing a wicked smirk. “He’s been doing this every hour for about a week now, and I’ve been talking him out of it and sending him right back inside his office.”
If that wasn’t enough to make Jim feel unbearably guilty, he didn’t know what was. He had needed time to think things over, and he didn’t feel remotely as if anything he’d done in the last few weeks had been an overreaction. Only, he’d known he needed to speak to Pike since his tea with Spock, and the delays since then had been his own fears – not anger at Chris. He didn’t like to think he’d made Chris miserable all this time. He didn’t mean to be selfish, not ever. He just couldn’t help it. He had to be selfish before, to survive, and it was taking time to get that idea out of his head.
“So you’re just going to let him suffer?” As if Jim hadn’t done that enough already.
One looked at her watch and then back at Jim. “Well, yes.”
Jim didn’t bother to count the seconds before he heard Pike’s door clicking behind him, but he could tell from the smug glint in One’s eyes that he was right on time. It wasn’t as funny to Jim as it seemed to be to Number One.
“I can’t do this anymore!” Pike yelled, voice indicating he was still storming around his office. “I’m going insane. I have to go find him. Number One-” He stormed out of his office, jacket clutched in one hand and com in the other, and then fell to an abrupt stop. “Jim!”
Jim swallowed, heart pounding.
“Number One?” Pike asked, and Jim followed his gaze to the woman.
“Yes?” She looked from Pike to Jim, innocently. “Oh. Cadet Kirk here to see you, Captain.” She said then, smiling charmingly as if she’d simply forgotten Jim was there.
“I hate you.” Chris groused. “Cadet, please, go through to my office.” Jim stood on shaky legs and complied, moving through to the other room. Chris followed him, dumping his jacket and com back down onto his desk. “I’m sorry you got caught up in Number One’s revenge plot. I offended her last week by talking over her in a meeting. She’s really making me pay for it.”
“Why would you talk over your own First Officer in a meeting?”
“Because sometimes I’m an idiot with my foot in my mouth, and sometimes I get so single-mindedly obsessed with something that I can’t see that other people actually exist.” Pike sat, and gestured to the other chair for Jim.
“Right.” Jim nodded absently.
“I know that you’re probably here because you want to talk.” Pike scratched his chin uneasily. “But there’s something I need to say.”
“Okay.” Hell, for once Jim preferred that. He’d probably not listened to Pike enough the last time they spoke.
“I don’t look at you and see George Kirk’s son, Jim, and I definitely don’t see that skinny little kid kicking and screaming at his Doctors.” That was an understatement, but Jim let it slide. Little and skinny were kinder descriptions than bone thin and weak. “I don’t want you to think I’m doing this for any reason other than the man you are today - the man I think you can be if you stick with this… I just… I want to help you, Jim.”
“I know.” He’d sort of known that all along, but he was only just really beginning to believe it. “I just never had an adult I could talk to, is all.” He blinked. “Seems stupid now that I am an adult. Bones always calls me an infant. He says I’m not emotionally developed.”
“He’s doing wonders for your self-esteem, clearly.” Pike deadpanned, and Jim let out a burst of surprised laughter.
“He is. He’s just grumpy like that.” He defended, smiling good-naturedly. It was incomprehensible how quickly his anxiety left him, like the office was a security blanket of comfort and sweet smelling herbs from old cups of tea. “He marched me here himself, actually. He’s waiting outside for me.”
Pike got a warm look on his face, sort of vaguely grateful - though he was trying not to show it. “I bet he is.”
There was an awkward silence for a moment, as they both seemed to ponder over how to proceed. In the end, Jim decided to just starting talking. Bones was right, it was what he was best at. He just had to remember to say the important stuff.
“I don’t have a problem with the fact you saw me after Tarsus. Well, I do, but there’s nothing I can do about it. The problem is me.” Talking about himself – real, honest things, not half fabricated stories that were full of unimportant detail but spoke absolutely nothing of his real feelings – was unbearable. He couldn’t do it, and he couldn’t not.
“Everyone always expected me to be like my Dad – even my mom did – but I couldn’t. After Tarsus, I didn’t even want to be me. What I’d become… I just mean – I don’t know who I am, but I know that I’m better than the person I was after Tarsus. So – so I don’t care that you saw me like that. I’m here in spite of that.” He decided, heart hammering against his chest. “And I’m fine, Chris. Not all the time, but I am.”
It was true, however hard it was to come to terms with that fact. He’d spent so long fighting just to survive, he almost felt lost upon realising he could devote himself to more than just that now.
Chris gave him a long scrutinising look, and Jim felt like he was being assessed for Starfleet all over again. He shifted uncomfortably, chewing on his lip. For the first time in weeks, he was being completely honest with someone other than Bones. It was an odd sensation, and that ridiculous need he felt to be approved by Pike was almost audible in the room, but he found he didn’t care. He was so far beyond caring it was frankly embarrassing.
“Okay.” Pike nodded finally, ruefully. “As long as you know you can come to me when you’re not fine. Or at least get McCoy to let me know. I’m here for you, Jim, and I’m not going away.”
“I believe you.”
“Good.” Then, Chris wiped his hands across his face tiredly. “Jesus Christ, Jim, I think we’re as bad as each other. Now, go on, you don’t have to spend your evening with an old idiot like me. You should be out enjoying yourself, Son.”
Jim laughed then, some of his tension draining away. “Not tonight.” He stood, testing his weight on his legs. “I promised Bones I’d clean up our dorm room. I think he really just wants me to stay safely at home and not get myself into trouble.”
“I wish he had more influence on you. One more report from your Tactics tutor and I’ll have to bring you in for a disciplinary, you know.”
“I’ll survive.” Jim shrugged, moving to the door. “His tactics are flawed, at best.” He realised he was still smiling, and effortlessly. “I’ll see you on Sunday? For brunch?”
“Yes. Yes, of course.” Chris looked sort of younger when he was surprised, and Jim endeavoured to surprise him more often. The good way, of course. “I’ll make pancakes.”
“Sounds great. But check with Phil for my allergies – I think I’m allergic to Braxian flour, and I saw some in your cupboard when I was last over.” Jim trailed off, all too aware of the frankly domestic nature of the conversation. He’d slipped from ashamed and nauseas to Pike’s boy in a matter of minutes, and he wasn’t sure how. The last fortnight seemed completely wasted now he looked back on it and saw how unnecessary it had been. What did it matter if Pike had seen him? That was Pike, ten years ago. This was Chris, now, and he was Jim’s friend.
“I’ll uh, I’ll see Phil later for my appointment, I guess. Could you let him know to expect me?” Phil was somehow the more daunting of the couple, because where Chris would apologise and try to not scare Jim away, Phil might just tear him a new one for being so selfish.
“Definitely. Yes. Great.” Pike scribbled the note on one of the many PADDs littering his desk. “Okay. Are you – you’re really okay?” He asked then, his excitement ebbing quickly into concern once again. Jim had never really spent his time around adults – they weren’t trustworthy, generally. The excitement of children was as heart-breaking as it was heart-warming. The excitement of a fifty-odd year old was just startling, and Jim couldn’t help but smile.
“Well, everything you do makes a lot more sense now.” Jim said. “You did have an ulterior motive like I thought, it just… well, it wasn’t to exploit me. I’m sorry I went so weird for so long but – man, this is hard to explain – I was just messed up. I didn’t expect you to want me here when you knew what I’d done… who I am.”
“Oh Jimmy, you have no idea do you?” Chris said softly, shaking his head. “I’m not going to reject you or abandon you, Son. God knows I bet you’ve heard that a thousand times before, but you have to trust me. And I’ll trust you too. To come back to us, whenever your head gets messed up. Or to let us close enough to help.”
Purely for the sake of not throwing himself at Chris in a hug, or sobbing openly against his uniform, Jim gave a firm nod. “Deal.”
“Good. Now get lost. I’ll see you soon.”
Jim exited, inhaling a deep, steadying breath. He closed the door behind him softly, turning to Number One’s desk to see the woman grinning wickedly up at him. Sat at her desk, Bones looked equally as foreboding in his glee, eyes shining with delight as he stood to greet Jim.
“Yeah, great.” Jim replied, distractedly. “You- you’re in here?”
“That’s my fault, Cadet Kirk. I couldn’t leave such a charming southern Doctor waiting like a puppy outside. Especially not when he has so many wonderful stories to tell about you.”
Jim knew he was bright pink, he could feel heat flooding his face. “Oh, god, why? You don’t need to blackmail me, Commander. I’m harmless to you. I swear, I’ll never flirt with you again.”
“No, you can keep doing that – it’s cute.” Jim squirmed. “But you mean a lot to Captain Pike, and so of course I needed something on you.”
“Sorry to rain on your parade, Commander, but you might not have spent long enough with Jim to learn he literally has zero shame.” Bones intervened swiftly, clasping a hand to Jim’s arm. He didn’t know whether he should nod in agreement or feel insulted. Either way, it was true. Most of the stuff people found embarrassing didn’t have a patch on the secrets Jim really wanted to hide – and he didn’t think for one second that One would ever use them against him. And wasn’t that crazy.
“It was a pleasure meeting you, anyway.”
“Likewise.” Number One smirked. “I expect I’ll be seeing you soon, Cadets. Dismissed.”
The corridor felt like an utter relief after that, and Jim’s tense shoulders relaxed again fractionally.
“So, it went well?” Bones asked, though it was more of a statement than a question. Bones knew, of course he did, that everything would go smoothly.
“Yeah.” Jim smiled again. “It’s going to be fine.”
“Good.” Bones slung an arm around his shoulder. Together, they began the journey back to their dorm. For the first time even since arriving at the Academy, Jim felt strangely complete. Covered at all bases, in a way he hadn’t experienced since he was a child. Him and his mom and Sam, all looking out for each other. Now he had Chris, Phil and Bones. And maybe, in a weird way, Number One and Commander Spock too. So, it was fine. He was fine, too. Everything was going to be okay again.
Everything is completely great and nothing is ever going to go wrong again.
Update on Saturday.
Chapter 16: Priority Surveillance
San Francisco was plagued by wind and rain, like Jim hadn’t seen in a long time. The days were too often spent holed up in his dorm studying to test out of some of his first year courses. He wasn’t really sure he was taking any of it in, by this point, but his hand just kept moving, writing, studying. It was easy, and his surviving concept of time depended heavily on his exams, and the coming and going of Bones from classes and shifts. He didn’t really have time to see Chris and Phil outside of academic meetings – when he did go to their apartment, it was typically just for company as he stuck his head in his work. More often than not, he only had the pleasure of Chris or Phil, rather than both of them. Chris was equally as swamped under Academy pressures as the end of Semester approached – so when he was at home, he was working away at paperwork. Phil had been stuck in the hospital doing research, but his absence was felt more strongly now that he’d been called to a conference at England to present his findings. It was all very important stuff, but Jim and Chris were both a little lost without him.
Jim was only vaguely unsurprised when his name was called out halfway through his combat practical, summoning him to Pike’s office at his earliest convenience. God, he had to get them to stop doing that. He got enough stick for being George Kirk’s son was it was; the last thing he needed was blatant favouritism from the Captain and First Officer of the Enterprise. That was exactly the sort of thing that made Gary tease him relentlessly, and Uhura look at him like he didn’t belong in the Academy – even if he’d proven time and time again that he did. He worked harder than the rest of them put together. Except maybe Bones.
He finished his practical, emerging only slightly battered but victorious nonetheless, and showered before making his way to Command. Number One may have been completely off limits, but Jim had no intention of presenting himself like a bloodied, sweaty pig.
Entering Number One’s office, he found himself being stared at coolly by both Number One and Commander Spock. And that shouldn’t have surprised him, but it did. One and Spock were both worse than Chris when it came to having reputations for being hard asses. Jim had gotten cocky – considered them friends. Which was the only reason he felt a dull pang of hurt when neither of them returned his smile.
“Cadet Kirk, about time.” Number One was a force of nature. Equally terrifying and charming. Helpful and considerate she might have been during that panic attack, but she’d retreated again. Tactically. Jim couldn’t stop being on his guard when she was near, if only because she seemed to want him there. Walking a tightrope between friend and enemy. He didn’t doubt that on the wrong side of that line, she could demolish him.
“What have I done?” He asked, gulping.
“It’s not what you’ve done, Cadet. It’s what you haven’t.”
He racked his brains, trying to think of something he hadn’t done. He hadn’t stuck around after his most recent shuttle run for medical clearance, but Bones had checked him over later than evening unofficially. He hadn’t turned up to his basic warp theory lecture, but he’d been wildly hungover and in desperate need of time to study- and hardly anyone went. Besides, it wasn’t like he needed to go anyway. It was only the basic stuff, and he’d had that down for years. Pike knew that, so it couldn’t possibly be the reason he was being stared down by Spock and One.
“Could you at least give me a hint?” He asked, desperately.
“No.” She stood, pushing him lightly towards Pike’s office. “Let me sort Kirk out, Spock, then I’m all yours.” Jim stared, transfixed, at the green blush on Spock’s ears once. Number One enjoyed this, he thought – all her innuendos and winking. She liked watching Spock and Chris and Jim squirm, and it was both terrifying and fantastic.
Spock nodded in accession, not even sparing Jim another glance, and returned to his work. Now Jim was doubly certain he’d done something wrong, because he and Spock had been on good terms. They’d been out for tea! Jim had thought… god, he was stupid and arrogant. He followed Number One through to Pike’s office, helplessly. It was empty, and he started to wonder if Pike had actually called him there at all – or if it was just another one of Number One’s plots.
“Take a seat, Kirk.”
He complied, sitting on his hands to stop them wringing in his lap. His leg still bounced beneath the table, regardless.
“He’s on his way.” She bustled behind him and then, very suddenly, dropped a tray of food on the desk in front of him. “It’s lunch. Eat. I’ll be outside with Spock, if you need me.” With that, she swept away, and Jim found himself staring at the lunch before him. All good stuff. Like someone had done some very thorough digging to find out his favourite foods.
He pushed the tray aside, dragging his gym bag up to the desk instead. He’d packed his tactical analysis work, just in case he’d gotten opportunity to do some work while the others did their practicals. With his exam the day after tomorrow, he really couldn’t not do it. Especially not while he was just sat around with nothing else to do. He began reading his first hypothetical, assessing his resources and the possible consequences of each decision he could make. Time escaped him as he worked on his PADD, inputting his decision and acting accordingly as his results came through. It occurred to him, distantly, that Pike was much later than Number One had suggested he would be, but he was quite happy to continue working in the quiet office, moving onto his third revision scenario.
When the door opened finally, it made Jim start and twist his head around to watch Chris enter. He looked mildly stressed, loosening his collar instantly. “Cadet Kirk. You’ve been in here for almost two hours, did you know that?”
“No?” Jim blinked, baffled – being addressed as Cadet in private being just one of the reasons.
“Well, take a look around you. Tell me what’s wrong with this scene?”
Jim did as instructed, but found his mind was only supplying him with sarcastic retorts, so he bit his lip instead of answering.
“You can’t see it?” Chris sat, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Kirk, did you know you haven’t activated your meal card in over a week now?”
“So?” Jim defended, though already his heart was pounding. Instinct told him to run, now.
“So, that’s exactly the sort of behaviour that gets flagged up to your Academic Advisor – hello, by the way – and I have to investigate it. Now, I think, Jim, that I’m overreacting. Worrying too much about things I shouldn’t stick my nose in. But you spent all of Sunday at my house, and you didn’t go to the fridge once. So Number One sits you down, puts a plate of food in front of you, and waits. What do you do? Work.”
There was a hot rage flooding through Jim’s veins, and his breathing was hard and ragged. “I had a late breakfast.”
“In our dorm. Bones brought me some after his shift.”
“Funny. You didn’t check out of the Library until almost ten.”
“Yeah, like I said, a late breakfast.” He felt sick.
“Why aren’t you eating, Jim?”
Pike sighed, resting his arms on his desk and leaning forward. “You can talk to me, Jim, or I can get our betazoid counsellor in for a chat with you. But you better start talking, because this isn’t just about your health, Son, this is about your career.” There was no compassion in Chris’s tone. None of his usual paternal kindliness. He was all hard gaze and Commanding Officer vibes. “If I can’t trust you to feed yourself, I can’t get you on the off-planet training courses. No training, no position on the Newton this summer.”
It wasn’t quite fear he felt, but a terrifying pressure that on top of everything else – grades, extra-curricular, friends in high place – he also needed to be healthy. He was fit – more than enough to pass his physicals and ace survivals. Health was different. Health included mental. Health included consuming more than energy bars and coffee, or drinking himself into a stupor and crawling back into Gary’s bed. Not that he’d done that recently, under Bones’ stern gaze.
“I have to study.” Jim whispered, ashamed that he couldn’t produce anything louder – couldn’t calm his thudding heart. “I was going to eat when I’d finished my fifth scenario, I swear.”
“And then you would have done another five, right?”
“No.” His head shook rapidly, desperate.
“Yeah.” Chris grimaced. “You can’t use food as a reward, Jim. You can’t go hungry because you think you haven’t done enough to deserve to eat yet.”
“I know! If I hadn’t been eating, I’d be on the floor, right? Sometimes I just can’t face that.” He looked awkwardly to the tray of food. “It’s too much. And eating in public. I get through it. Talk to Phil- he’ll back me up! He wouldn’t let me out of medical if I hadn’t convinced him I was okay.”
“Well I’m not Phil, and I’m not wrapped around your little finger.”
“Now, this isn’t fair! I’m a grown man, I’ve survived a long time without any help from Starfleet. I’m not about to die now.” That took the wind from Chris’ sails, and the older man visibly shrunk. “I’m alive because I kept myself that way. You said you were going to trust you me to ask for help, but you don’t! You still don’t think I’ll actually do it!” He shoved his work into his bag. “Loads of people don’t use the cafeteria. Loads of people eat out or order in. You can’t use Tarsus against me for every little thing. If you want proof, go to Bones. But don’t you dare drag me to your office for this again. I’m not a kid. You don’t need to trick me or trap me.”
Bag over his shoulder, he stormed out. Chris didn’t stop him and Jim hoped to god that the older man had taken his point to heart, or he wasn’t sure what else he could do. He had to get on the training mission, and if his relationship with Chris was unsalvageable because of that then so be it. Maybe he’d been naïve to think it ever could have worked out in the first place. It couldn’t. Not if Chris couldn’t see that he was strong, now. Because of Tarsus – and hell because of Starfleet. Everything that Chris and Phil and Bones had done for him. It had taken effect. He felt it daily. So yeah, he was strong. But he had no clue how to convince Chris of that fact.
Spock and Number One were still sat at the desk, gazing at Jim from the moment he emerged. Jim knew Spock had heard every single word, if not One too, and Jim glared – daring him to even dare take Chris’ side again this time. Spock said and did nothing – there was no hint of emotion in his brown eyes. He’d retreated back into Ultra-Vulcan land, and Jim was fine with it. He was just a Commander that Jim would never have to deal with, probably. He wasn’t taking any deep science courses or languages, so Spock would never teach him. It didn’t matter that he knew about Tarsus. Fuck, who didn’t at this point. Maybe he’d be better off switching Academic Advisers. Then he could keep Chris as a friend, maybe, and preserve his career too. It was worth thinking about. Jim decided that texting Phil about it was probably the best course of action. Phil generally tended to know what to say and do to make Jim feel better.
Jim nodded stiffly at Spock and One, and departed. He just had to make it back to his dorm, back to the gruff affection of his best friend, and study. But first, to spite Chris, he’d go to the damn cafeteria and stuff his face with burgers until Uhura looked nauseas.
Jim really, really didn’t like Gary Mitchell. He could cope with most of it, most of the time. He was used to fucking people who didn’t actually give a damn about him. But beyond a few petty insults, more dirty than really insulting, most of them kept their damn mouths shut. Mitchell kept poking and prodding, even when Jim was physically ensuring that Mitchell couldn’t speak – by any and all means – he still managed to get to Jim. All it took for Gary was eye contact. Jim was strong, and maybe half the reason he’d persevered for so long was the challenge of not backing down first. But, then, hell, was it really worth it? He had bigger things to worry about, and he’d been meaning to end their little arrangement for a long time now.
Honestly, Gary bringing up his scars again was really the last motivation he needed to get it done. Even if it meant losing a guaranteed fuck – even if he had rely solely on bars to find company, or Gaila’s skilled means of attracting him a friend. God, Gaila was the best. Even if she’d been the one to introduce him to Gary in the first place.
“We’re not doing this anymore.” Jim said, quickly dressing to brace against the morning chill, after a night of disturbed sleep and plain baffling nightmares. “You and me, we’re done.”
Gary was spread eagle on his bed, at ease with his own nudity and smirking up at him. “Sup, Jimmy? Did I hurt your feelings?” He laughed, deceptively gently. Jim didn’t trust anything gentle, especially not from Gary. In public he was mister outstanding Cadet, sure, but in private he was a dick. That was familiar territory. “I’m kidding. They’re pretty scars, Jimmy. I just wondered why you’re getting rid of them? Why now?”
Jim bit his cheek. As ever, Gary sounded like he was asking questions he already had the answers to. He just wanted the satisfaction of Jim proving him right. Slimy, manipulative git. This was precisely the reason Jim was ending it. He was all too aware of the scars on his back. He knew them, each little aspect of them. He remembered them as fresh wounds, remembered the tightness and itchiness and general agony of each abrasion on Tarsus when he’d escaped the guards. So fuck Gary Mitchell, because if Jim wanted Phil to get rid of his scars he could. The mental was more than enough; the physical meant jack shit to him.
“Don’t be a dick, Gary.” Jim tugged his jumper on. “I’m just done.”
“Fine.” Gary rolled over to find something down the side of his bed. When he sat, he tossed over a pair of boxers, which Jim caught them in the centre of his chest. “Remember me!” Gary cried, theatrically, and Jim couldn’t help but laugh.
“Fuck you, Mitchell.” He moved to the desk, finding a pad and pen. “I’m leaving you the number of that research assistant I told you about. She’ll be happy to hear from you.” Because she, unlike Jim, was a lot better at the whole repeated, casual sex without feelings sort of thing. Not that his feelings towards Gary were remotely positive, but still.
Jim approached the door to Gary’s rooms, hoping to make a quick getaway, but his companion had other plans. Gary followed, pulling sheets around his waist as he left the bed. “So this is it? You think you can buy me off with a pretty girl?”
“A pretty violet girl, my friend.” Jim opened the door and then paused. For a brief moment, he wondered if he was making a mistake. Gary was a good lay, after all. So what if Jim just straight up told him about the scars? Gary had never really been that bad to him, anyway. But then Jim heard the voices of Bones and Chris and Phil in his head, and he kept his mouth shut. He had an odd feeling that confirming to Gary his greatest secrets would be like handing Klingons a map of all the Federation’s greatest weaknesses. Just a bad idea, frankly.
“See you around, Mitchell.” Jim shrugged, turned on his heel and strode away.
“Fine.” Mitchell called after him, shouting for all the corridor to hear. “She better be as good a cock-sucker as you are!”
“Not possible, my friend!” He called back, hearing Gary slam his bedroom door shut. Jim almost laughed, feeling a weight lifted from his shoulders that was more uplifting than the counterweight of general other crap in his life.
Jim turned the corner towards the stairwell, and he didn’t have time to blink before he found himself mere centimetres away from Spock. Spock, who looked both embarrassed and painfully uncomfortable about that. Jim had never seen a Vulcan repressing up close before- but now he could see Spock’s darkening eyes, his jaw setting in place as he fought off whatever emotion was threatening to reign over him.
“Kirk.” Spock greeted coolly, wiping the horrified shock from Jim’s face. Spock glanced down, and Jim realised he was still holding those goddamn boxers- fucking Gary. He shoved them awkwardly into his bag, mortified that these might be the very boxers he’d slid down Gary’s legs the night before to administer a very messy blow job. Maybe he was even more mortified that they might not be.
“Spock- What are you doing here?”
“My presence in this building is to visit a friend of mine.”
Irritation coursed through Jim- jealousy he had no right to feel, and an innate desire to find out precisely who Spock was visiting and find out how they’d managed to attain such a level of intimacy with the Vulcan.
“I see.” Jim stood a little straighter. “Well, sorry for almost running into you. I should go-”
“I do not make it a habit to instruct humans in matters of emotion, Kirk. However, I would inform you that Captain Pike is currently devising a plan to force you to return to his office. He is most regretful over what transpired yesterday afternoon.”
“I see.” Jim repeated, briefly digging his teeth into his lower lip. “Well, thanks for telling me.”
“Thanks are unnecessary.” Spock said, stiffly. There came no follow up to soothe Jim’s humanity. “As your superior, I should also inform you that excessive noise in the corridors is forbidden between the hours of 2200 hours and 0700 hours. If you wish to discuss crudities, you should do so in private with your significant other.”
Jim could have laughed again, if he weren’t so mortified. “Gary isn’t my significant other.” Then he remembered the boxer shorts and the shouting about blow jobs and shit, Vulcans were monogamous. Vulcans would probably loathe Jim at first sight. Hell, maybe Spock did now. “I mean, it sounded… Never mind. I’ll endeavour not to cause a scene in the future.” He thought his lip was bleeding, and he remembered Mitchell had been the one tugging at it the night before. He remembered the bruises on his neck and collarbones. He made an effort to keep his hands at his side, instead of tugging up his collar – that would just draw Spock’s attention to them more.
“See that you do. Good day, Kirk.”
Jim did not reply, standing helplessly for a moment as Spock strode off down the corridor. He was fucked, and half tempted to walk right back into Gary’s room and sink to his knees. At least that might distract him, so long as he could focus on Gary and not let his mind wander to imagine Spock stood, helpless under his touch instead. No. That was a terrible plan, and he already had a much better one devised with Phil. Even halfway across the world at a conference, Phil still picked up his Com as soon as Jim called. He was one of a kind; unfathomably generous.
He took a deep breath and set off for his own block of dorms. Maybe if Bones was back from his shift he’d fix Jim’s bruises before he had to go see Chris, without a whole other lecture on Gary Mitchell and safe sex and not coming home looking like he’d been in a cage fight all night. Hell, maybe Bones would even be happy that Jim had finally listened to him and dumped Mitchell.
Chapter 17: In the Absence of Sexual Favours
Chris was an idiot. He was truly, clearly, the worst. Phil went away for two weeks and he’d managed to push Jim away all over again. He’d thought after everything about Tarsus came out into the open, he’d have a harder time fucking up their relationship – but Chris was, apparently, uniquely skilled in being the world’s worst academic adviser and wannabe father figure. Not that he was trying to be Jim’s father, but he did care for the stupid kid and, shit, Chris was the stupid one. He’d been scared that Phil’s absence wasn’t doing Jim any good, he’d been horrified when he received the notification claiming Jim wasn’t eating – and Jesus, he’d been downright terrified when he’d gotten to his office and found Jim working instead of eating.
Jim was right. He shouldn’t have set him up to fail, or accused him of something without knowing more information. He really shouldn’t have used Starfleet against Jim – practically confirming all of Jim’s initial worries that they’d kick him out as soon as they knew the truth. Hence, Chris was an idiot. Phil had confirmed that when Chris had admitted what had happened to him that night. So now, Chris was in the doghouse with his husband as well as Jim. Neither One nor Spock had been particularly sympathetic with him afterwards – though Number One had given him a hot chocolate which suggested she pitied him more than anything.
Chris discarded the report he was supposed to be reading, chucking his PADD down on his desk and sighing heavily. Five more days and Phil would come home and hopefully fix everything. Or Jim would just miraculously forgive him of his own accord, which didn’t seem likely. Unless it did. How the hell should Chris know – Jim never failed to surprise him anyway.
A knock on his office door drew his attention instantly, and his breath caught as he called enter, half-expecting Jim to walk in. He wasn’t sure if he was disappointed or relieved when Spock walked in instead. Not that he was ever disappointed to see his Science Officer. Spock was always a source of sanity, considering the company Chris usually kept. Beautiful and intelligent Phil, Jim and Number One may have been… but they were also crazy people. Real, honest to god oddities.
“Spock, come in. What can I do for you?” Chris asked, hoping to maintain some sort of positivity in his tone. At least company might distract him from his Jim issue.
“Captain.” Spock greeted, closing the door behind him. He took his seat without being prompted – thankfully, Jesus, that one had taken Chris weeks of reminding. “I was hoping to speak to you about Cadet Kirk.”
“Kirk? Yeah, sure, is he okay – I mean, has there been an issue?” He asked, through a mouth suddenly far too dry. Spock didn’t look particularly like he was bearing bad news though. He was merely… well, as expressionless as ever actually.
“Not as such. I’m aware I may be overstepping.” There- now he looked vaguely uncomfortable. Chris fought back a weird sense of pride to pay attention to the Commander. “I had merely wondered if you had reconciled with the Cadet yet?”
“Reconciled? No, not yet.” Chris confirmed, though it didn’t seem to be the answer Spock was looking for. “Can I ask why you want to know?”
“A momentary lapse in my human inquisitiveness, Captain.” Spock blinked. “I had a brief encounter with Cadet Kirk recently. He was leaving the company of an, ah, associate. I found myself curious as to whether he might be returning to your guidance imminently?”
“I really couldn’t say, but I hope so.” Chris scratched his chin awkwardly. “An associate – you say?”
“Indeed, Captain. Cadet Mitchell.” And hot damn, if that wasn’t a blush on Spock’s sharp green cheeks.
“Oh god, they weren’t – you know – in the corridor, right? I’ve seen them in public before, they’re like rabbits.”
“Negative, Captain.” Spock blinked again. “Cadet Kirk seemed to be ending their arrangement, in fact.” Spock looked damned uncomfortable. “I… the intricacies of human relationships often escape me, Captain. If Cadet Kirk sought a … casual relationship, why would he then decide against it.”
“Any number of reasons really, Spock.” Although this was getting into awkward territory. “Jim is… more confident about sex than he is about relationships. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’d want to keep, well, having sex, for the sake of it. He might not really like Mitchell that much. He might like someone else.”
“Does he?” Spock asked, and Chris wondered idly if someone had rendered him unconscious or somehow slipped him some sort of drug. There was no way on earth, hell, in the damn universe, that Spock was really asking if Jim was free and single. That was insane.
“Am I what, Captain?”
Chris breathed out, head spinning. He sealed his lips to stop him from gawping like a damn fish. Had the world gone mad?
“You know what, Spock, you’d have to ask him. But until recently, I got the impression he was looking for something more than casual. Besides, Cadet Mitchell really isn’t good for him. Jim knows that.” Chris hoped.
“I see.” Spock’s expression shifted fractionally, but not nearly enough for Chris to decipher it’s subtle meaning. “Do you have time to work through this month’s report on the Enterprise, Captain?”
Chris almost laughed at the abrupt change in subject. “Sure, Spock. Let’s do it.” Although it was going to take a hell of a lot more than some updated schematics to distract him from the, frankly ludicrous idea, that Lieutenant Commander Spock had a crush on a Cadet. His Cadet. Jesus Christ, it was preposterous. Then again… if it had to be anyone, Chris could think of a lot worse people than Spock.
Spock was gone, eventually, leaving Chris’ office with a polite nod and zero indication that he’d originally visited just to get the dirt about Kirk’s dating life. Ha. Even Chris wasn’t sure it had actually happened now that it was over. For all he knew, he really had hallucinated the entire thing. Stranger things had happened to him. Once, he got an alien fever and hallucinated Phil was speaking in Klingon and belly dancing. Chris had averted his gaze from Phil’s stomach for a week before Phil got him to admit what the hell was wrong – and that had made for an awkward conversation.
Chris returned to his work, wondering idly if Phil would pick up his com if Chris called. He had a whole week to go without his husband yet, and he was sort of miserable. And now he was miserable and thinking about Spock trying to woo Jim. Double Ha. Oh god, it was almost enough to make him chuckle. Not quite, but almost. He was just about to make his call to Phil when another knock on the door interrupted him, and he paused, calling enter and expecting Number One to enter bringing him lunch. Instead, Jim Kirk himself was striding into his office - carrying a seemingly insane amount of Chinese food and a tote bag Chris couldn’t see inside.
Chris spluttered out in surprise, something intended to be Jim’s name but instead sounded more like a verbal representation of his confusion.
Jim stood cautiously by his chair, holding the food out in full view. “Your husband said this would work, ya know, in the absence of sexual favours.”
“Oh Jesus fucking Christ, Jim, if you don’t stop talking about me and sex in the same sentence I’m going to have a heart attack.” Chris found his voice in his disgust, fighting back shudders. Really, just fucking gross. He was only mildly comforted by the fact that Jim seemed to get his kicks from young pretty things, not old – oh god, gross.
Jim, the bastard that he was, revelled in Chris’ discomfort. He smirked, as if nothing was wrong in the world, and sat himself down, taking the Chinese cartons out one by one. “I know, it’s hilarious.” He said neutrally. “But if it makes you feel any better, I’d rather go celibate than ever even consider doing that with you.”
“You, celibate?” Chris snorted, accepting the Chow Mein Jim offered him without question. Whatever the hell was going on, it was easier to accept it than question it. That was often the nature of things when it came to Jim Kirk.
“Insane, right?” Jim shook his head through a mouthful of sweet and sour.
Chris snorted, poking at the food in his carton. Maybe Jim was just trying to prove he was eating fine and dandy by making Chris watch him stuffing his face. Also gross. “I heard you broke up with Mitchell.”
“D’you remember at the start of the year when I asked if having your husband be my Doctor would put my confidentiality at risk, and you said that Phil was a professional who would never dare expose all my secrets to you?”
“Don’t be sarcastic, you brat.” Chris threw half a spring roll at the Cadet, but Jim just caught it and popped it in his already full mouth. “I actually heard it from-“ Spock, of all people. “Well, not Phil.”
“Yeah, I don’t doubt it.” Jim swallowed carefully. “I, uh, I’m not in the habit of getting into good relationships. Hell, I’ve never even been in a relationship. Gary and I were just… it was mutually beneficial. But honestly, you’ve sort of shown me that there are different ways to do things in life.”
“Like… relationships?” Chris clarified.
“Yeah, I guess.” Jim gazed distantly at the wall behind Chris, eyes unfocused. Chris had never seen Jim look so painfully awkward. Even at the start of the year when he’d been a petrified ball of anxiety, he’d still had that bravado ready to engage at a moment’s notice. But this was real deep stuff, like Chris never could have imagined Jim admitting. “I just… my mom was so messed up after my dad died, and she got into such a bad state with Frank. I always thought relationships were a stupid idea. You know?”
“I get that.”
“But Bones is like, head over heels with the idea of true love – even despite everything that he’s been through. And you and Phil are like sickeningly in love. It’s just… nice, I guess.” Jim shrugged, stabbing a prawn with a chopstick. “Besides, Gary’s great in – well, never mind. He’s annoying as fuck. He can spot a weakness a fucking mile away and then play you like a fiddle.”
“He’s definitely made an impression on his teachers.” And that was a mild way of putting it. Chris had maybe spoken to the cadet three times in his time at the Academy, and even he had gotten a weird feeling from the Kid. Apart from that night in the bar, which Chris had honestly tried to drink from his memory, generally Cadet Mitchell was polite to a tee and smiling genially. There was just something… off-putting about him. He didn’t just smile genially, he smiled like he knew something and was keeping it a secret. His manners were always given with an air of teasing, as if he didn’t truly respect Starfleet rules. It was never anything concrete enough to reprimand him, never anything more than paranoid suspicion, but it was disconcerting nonetheless.
“You keeping tabs on him, Sir?”
“Him? No.” Chris smiled innocently, and Jim smirked right back at him. “You brought a stupid amount of food, you know that right?”
“I know that you’re going to take the rest home and stick it in your fridge. Phil will be hungry when he gets back.”
“Thanks Jim, but I’m not serving my husband week old Chinese food.”
“Try eight hour old Chinese food.” Jim quipped. Chris was silent for a moment as he let the meaning filter in through his stupidly tired mind. Eight hours. That meant Phil was coming home- tonight. Fuck.
“You’re kidding?” He asked, because dammit if that wasn’t possibly the best news he’d had in his whole entire life. Philip was coming home. Today. Chris would get to see him again and hold him again and, god, smell his shampoo again.
“Nope. So I also brought you this.” He passed over the other bag he’d been carrying, and Chris looked to see a bottle of wine, long stem candles and condoms-
“For fuck’s sake. Jim!” He lowered the bag down onto the desk. “Was that really necessary?”
“Safety is always necessary. I don’t need any more siblings, thanks.” He said, and then there was silence. Just a beat of pure, life-changing, nervous energy. Chris felt like he was floating. Jim had pretty much just admitted that Chris and Phil were his parents, and if that wasn’t enough to rank this day as one of the greatest in the history of days, then nothing was. Chris had this precious gift served right into his hands, even when he’d proven time and time again that he had no idea what he was doing with Jim. He had no idea how to be a good parental figure.
But fuck it. Jim clearly wanted it, and who was Chris to deny him?
“Yeah, well, even if that were possible, it’s not gonna happen until I’m well and truly grounded. So don’t you worry about that.”
“Understood, Captain.” Jim saluted, cheekily, his nerves draining away seemingly instantly. Chris would bet good money that the Kid’s heart was pounding against his chest, though. “It doesn’t matter, anyway. Phil said he wasn’t going to let you touch him until you apologised to me for being a dick. I’m many things, but I’m not cruel, so I thought I’d spare you the wait and let you do it now.”
“Jim…” Jim quirked an eyebrow at him. “Fine. I’m sorry. I was out of line and stupid, and… I won’t do it again, I’m sorry.”
“Glad to hear it. I’ll let Phil know.” Jim grinned. “Eat. You’ll need your energy.”
“Shut your face, Kirk.” Chris shuddered again, choosing to focus on the fact that Jim had forgiven him instead of the sickening innuendo. Lest he actually let his mind wander into actually reunion with his husband territory. That could make for a potentially uncomfortable situation.
“You know you don’t mean that.” Jim shrugged, his smile fading lightly. “Can I tell you something, Chris.”
“Yeah.” Chris shifted in his seat, sitting up a bit straighter. “Yeah, of course you can.”
Jim nodded, but he looked petrified for a moment anyway as he thought through what he wanted to say. For Chris’ part, he just sat quietly, dropping his chopsticks for a moment to dedicate his attention to Jim entirely. That was the least the kid deserved, after all.
“I need you to know I’m better than I’ve ever been, and that’s because of you.” Jim said finally, and Chris’s breath was lost entirely to the utter rush of awe that flowed through him. He wanted to instantly deny it, because he’d done nothing. Everything had been Jim’s hard work and determination; Jim’s beautifully delicate trust, which he’d fortified so painstakingly over time. “You came back for me. You didn’t just abandon me.”
“No, because I don’t care, Chris. I don’t care that you never spoke up after Tarsus, or that it was only by chance that we even ended up in the same bar at Riverside. That’s life, and that’s how it happens. Decisions are made, consequences occur. You move on. And this time last year, Chris, I couldn’t have imagined ever moving onto anything as good as this.”
When Chris first saw Jim, he’d thought something pretty similar. He hadn’t thought for a moment that Jim would actually take him up on his offer of Starfleet. Then, when he had, Chris had been certain that Jim would drop out within a month. It had been so tentative, so unpredictable. So nerve-wracking. It seemed preposterous… dreamlike, even, how far they’d come.
“You really… I mean, right.” Chris coughed. “As long as you’re happy, Jim. I know I made that big speech about Starfleet, and I want you on the Enterprise like you would not believe, but I mean when I said I want to be part of your life regardless. I’ll support you no matter what.”
“I appreciate that, Chris. But honestly, nothing sounds better to me than sitting on the Bridge of the Enterprise and annoying the ass off you every day for the foreseeable future. Just until I get my own ship, you know.”
“Yeah, yeah of course.” Chris snorted and reached for his dinner once more. Definitely not to hide the fact that he was already despairing that, one day, Jim would get his own ship and he wouldn’t serve under Chris anymore. Really, he was mourning a future that hadn’t happened yet. It was stupid. Fucking Jim Kirk and his big blue eyes, and dammit Jim was a grown man. Chris shouldn’t have been so emotional over the idea that he might one day ‘grow up’ and leave the nest.
Chris stifled a sigh, watching Jim stuff his mouth far too full quite happily. Months had passed, and he was still just as fucked as that first meeting with Jim in a bar in Riverside. Fuck.
He was cold, too cold, but his outstretched hand couldn’t seem to locate the blanket he was sure he’d dragged onto him hours earlier when he’d first decided to rest his eyes on the sofa. Even shivering, he didn’t want to bother dragging himself from the lull of sleep shrouding his thoughts. If he moved to try and find the throw, he’d probably wake up fully and sleep would evade him again. If he could just… just warm his hands, and then he’d drift right back off…
“Chris… gorgeous, you need to go to bed.” A voice murmured at his hear, familiar and warmer than any blanket.
“Yeah, baby.” A soft hand drifted across his forehead, down to his cheek. “Come on, your back will hurt.” Phil was funny; always such a Doctor. Always so concerned. Always so… right. Honestly, the man was never wrong.
“I promise I’ll keep you warm in bed.”
“Phil?” Chris blinked rapidly, swallowing back the taste of sleep in his mouth. Gross. But, Christ, there he was. In the flesh. “Phil!” Chris exclaimed, sitting upright and tangling his cold fingers with his husband’s as soon as he’d located them. “Shit, I was going to be awake. I had so many plans.”
“You always do.” Phil said, wisely, nodding his head. “But it’s late, and you can carry them all out a lot more efficiently after a good night’s sleep.” His husband offered his other hand, as if to pull Chris up off the sofa. Chris accepted the offer, pulling him into a hug the moment he was upright – if only to remain upright if nothing else. But god, Phil smelled good. And he was so much warmer than Chris was. It was nice.
“I mean it.” Chris said, sounding dopey even to his own tired ears. He followed Phil into their bedroom, dry-mouthed watching his husband strip out of his uniform – really, just staring dumbly at him until Phil was undressed and tugging their duvet back swiftly. “I was going to kneel at your feet and worship you. Hand feed you Chinese food. Run you a bath. Massage you until you fell asleep. The whole works.”
“That sounds good, baby. We can do it all tomorrow. Right now, the only thing I want is you and sleep.” Phil gestured to the bed, an instruction for Chris to quit lamenting and do as he was damn well told.
Chris didn’t bother with words. He just slipped into almost the middle of the bed, extending his arm over the pillows as an invite for Philip. His narrow framed husband curled up against him instantly, warm and perfect and infinitely kinder and better than Chris deserved. He wrapped his arms around him like he could slip away again at any moment, and in that instant Chris remembered just how much he’d missed his husband in his absence.
“Don’t leave me alone again. ‘m no good without you.” He murmured against Phil’s ear, but no reply came save for the steady breathing of his clearly exhausted husband. “Love you.” He added anyway, because he probably didn’t say it enough to the people he cared about. Satisfied that tomorrow would hopefully be a wonderful day too, Chris gave in to his own overwhelming fatigue.
Everything was pretty great, if Jim dared even think so. Phil and Chris were as weird as ever, and Jim thrived off it. He’d spent most of his life being intently not weird. He’d had no choice as a kid, sort of thin and always bruised and with a bad reputation. After he’d left home, all grown up, weird had no longer even registered with him – although he had been pretty wrapped up in sex and alcohol at the time. It was nice to be around blatant insanity and feel completely comfortable.
Jim wasn’t used to feeling comfortable, but Chris and Phil had somehow made it their lives’ goals to ensure he was – and Jim wasn’t complaining. He liked sleeping over at their apartment and waking up to the smell of home-cooked breakfast. Sometimes he got up and joined them in the kitchen instantly, discussing the news with Chris or helping Phil not ruin breakfast. The man really, truly could not cook. Other times, when work wasn’t pressing, he’d lay in bed for a while and listen to the couple chatting, mostly. Sometimes they’d go suspiciously quiet and honestly, gross. He’d taken to sneaking up on them and sending photos to Number One of them playing tonsil tennis. Number One was, apparently, using them to tease Chris relentlessly in meetings by occasionally flashing him one of the images. Jim was not remotely sorry.
Then there was Bones too. Bones, who was fantastic and sharp witted and damn grumpy. But also, Bones, who couldn’t hold a frown on his face when sleeping no matter how hard he tried. And boy, did he try.
“Is he okay, pretty boy?” Gaila asked, lying beside Jim on the bed. Mostly. Her top half was draped over the side, looking worriedly down at Bones’ sleeping form on the floor beside them. He was laying on his back, one arm twisted beneath his head and a goofy, peaceful sort of look on his face. If Gaila or Uhura ever told him so, they’d face his wrath. As of yet, Jim hadn’t bothered to tell his best friend about his sweet little sleeping expression.
“Yeah.” Jim nodded ruefully, swigging from Bones’ hipflask left irresponsibly in his possession, before handing it over to their green friend. “He had a long shift, and vodka puts him to sleep like a baby. Trust me, it’s better this way. At least in the short run – he’ll murder me in the morning.”
“Good.” Uhura said coolly from her own bed, dropping her work momentarily to shoot Jim his fifth glare of the night. “I still don’t understand why he hangs around with you, Kirk. He’s an intelligent, grown man. You’re… you.”
Maybe it was the absence of sex from his life since he’d dropped Mitchell. Maybe it had been a long day, or he was hungry, or any number of factors really. He couldn’t say precisely what prompted his bubble of irritation to burst, but it did.
“You know, you can just say you think I’m a sleazy, whoring blond bimbo riding off my dad’s name and taking everything I’ve been given for granted?” Jim snapped, suddenly, the words streaming from his lips in the absence of Bones being awake, to clamp a hand over his mouth or drag him outside to cool off. The easy ambience of the girls’ dorm was gone, instantly, and it was Jim’s fault. Jim’s fault, and he couldn’t stop himself now. His heartbeat pounded in his head. “You could at least credit me with enough intelligence to give me a proper explanation as to why you seem to hate me.”
There was silence then, for a moment. Or Jim thought so, at least. He couldn’t hear much over the rush of adrenaline in his ears. He stared at the wall behind Gaila, wishing she’d pass him back the drink so he could wash away his anger. Uhura wasn’t worth it. He’d wanted so desperately, at the start of the year, to prove her wrong. To be her friend. But god, she was stubborn. He had to accept that some people would just never like him.
“I don’t hate you, Kirk.” Uhura said, finally, in a small sort of voice Jim had never heard from her before. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realise I was getting to you. You seem to take everything so well.”
Rage dissented into shame without Jim’s permission, and his thudding heart was suddenly not quite as reliable anymore.
“I’m- you weren’t. Forget it.” He didn’t realise he’d been tugging Leonard’s ankle until his friend groaned, kicking him away half-heartedly. “I- Sorry.” He might as well have just paraded his poor self-esteem through campus. Jesus Christ, this was exactly why Bones couldn’t leave him alone. He was incapable. Uhura was smart- she’d find out. She’d already had to call Medical for his once after an allergic reaction, and given his anxiety and… well, it wasn’t too many more steps away from working out that his access to food had been restricted, once. She was clever, she’d narrow it down to Tarsus. She’d know.
“Jim? Shit-” Suddenly Bones was in front of him, tapping his hand against Jim’s cheek to get him to focus on him. “Look at me, Jimmy. I need you to breathe.”
“What is wrong with him?” Gaila sounded so worried, and Jim wanted to die. There and then, he wanted to just stop. He couldn’t breathe like Bones told him to, so it seemed inevitable. He’d just stop, give into darkness, and everything would get better in that single instant. The end.
“Nothing!” He gasped in, somehow, and staggered away from the looming approach of Gaila and Uhura. “I’m fine. Bones – Can we?”
Bones nodded distractedly, taking his arm.
“You can’t just leave!”
Uhura was protesting, and Bones was snapping at her, steering Jim towards the door. Jim’s head was spinning and too loud and too hot; he was shaking and nothing seemed real. He was weak, and it was obvious. If he was on Tarsus, he’d be dead already. Maybe he was- just stuck in some vicious coma, an endless nightmare- still on Tarsus. He need out, needed it to end.
There was a knock on the door, and Jim curled his fingers into Bones’ jumper and buried his face into his chest and tried to hide in his firm hold and just breathe – struggling, badly. He could hear muffled voices, and Bones’ anger above all. He was like no-one else Jim had ever known when it came to protecting his own. Jim was Bones’ - Bones was the only one he could trust in that room. Bones. His friend. His brother.
Shock seemed to override all his other raging emotions, and he pulled back from McCoy to meet his end. His real end. The end to end all ends. Fucking hell. “Spock?!” He wiped his eyes furiously.
“Cadet, you would do well to listen to the Doctor’s advice and breathe. Steadily, if you will. In.” Maybe it was shock, or maybe Jim was just a sucker for a strict command, but his copied Spock’s breath. “And out.” He repeated that a few times, until Jim felt moderately less dramatically desperate and more disgustingly embarrassed. He let go of Bones’ jumper, finally, flexing his fingers out.
“Spock, what are you doing here?” He asked, as if that was his most important question. Hell, maybe it was. How on earth had Spock found him at Gaila and Uhura’s. That was ridiculous. If Pike was still having him followed, even despite everything, he was going to have something to say about that.
“I came to return an item to Cadet Uhura.” Spock looked tense, but it was nothing compared to Jim. Holy shit. Uhura was the one Spock had been ‘visiting’ that morning, after Gary. Which meant Uhura quite possibly already knew about Tarsus, and god, Jim wanted to throw up. He gripped onto Bones again, mind reeling.
“Cadet Kirk, I recommend you visit Medical.”
“No, Commander. I have supplies in our dorm. I’ll take care of him.” Bones said, coolly. Jim knew he meant that included half-carrying him back to their own dorm. Jim had never been more grateful for the existence of Bones in his life.
“See that you do, Doctor McCoy.” Spock instructed, before they were left to the cool and quiet of the corridor.
Even without the background panic of Gaila and Uhura, Jim didn’t feel any better. If anything, his ragged breaths were now too loud, spiralling downwards again after his short burst of improvement. He felt completely exhausted and empty, and he was blessed that Bones had chosen kindness over irritation with him on this particular night – or else he was pretty sure he’d completely break down. Fucking hell, he’d been doing so well. He’d had no issues for a long, long while. He was surrounded by amazing, supportive people. One petty comment from Uhura, that she didn’t even really mean, and Jim had a breakdown.
He was so stupid, and Uhura had looked so guilty. It really wasn’t her fault. Jim should have had better control over his emotions – like Spock. He needed to be more like Spock. Maybe he and Uhura were suited to each other. Jim quelled the voice in his head that complained, if Spock was seeing a Cadet – illogical though that might be – why couldn’t it be Jim?
“Tomorrow, kid.” Bones said, not sounding particularly calm himself as he inhaled and exhaled deeply. “We’re going to have a chat.” He promised, and Jim nodded in miserable agreement.
Behind them, the dorm door opened again and Spock emerged looking put-out. “Cadet… I wished to speak with you for a moment.”
Jim swallowed. “Bones c’n hear anything.”
“Very well.” Spock clasped his hands together behind his back. “I wanted to assure you that I had not, nor would I, divulge any of your private records to your peers.”
“Right.” Jim said, not entirely sure if he believed Spock or not. He wished Chris were there to reassure him, given Bones had spoken to Spock all of three times, if that, and so couldn’t vouch for his character. Jim wanted to trust him, but throwing Uhura into the mix was… well, just a mess.
“Thanks.” He shrugged.
“Feel better, cadet.” It was painfully awkward, to such an extent that it was almost sweet. Maybe Jim was just a tired idiot. Maybe he was reading too much into Spock’s attitude. He nodded his thanks and leaned heavily back into Bones. Spock’s expression straightened tightly, though what it had been before Jim couldn’t say. Then Spock retreated back into the room, and Jim found his breathing was regular once more. Well fuck.
“C’mon, infant. I’ll message Phil for you.” Bones muttered, leading Jim down the corridor to finally escape. It was nice. Jim had always before been the one who’d had to stay alert. It was nice to have other people looking out for him now.
“I aint saying the old man is stupid, I’m jus’ saying he could spice it up a bit. You’d think Starfleet would want its cadets taught to love its history, not hate it.” Bones complained, as he so often did after their shared Early Starfleet History course. He was right, it was dull. But they were all in the same boat with the compulsory history stuff, and it wasn’t that bad. At least it wasn’t difficult.
“Yeah, well maybe they thought the novelty of Archer teaching us would be enough to sustain interest.” Jim shrugged, throwing his bag over his shoulder. “Are we still going out tonight?”
“Yeah, Kid.” Bones was in an unusually good mood, like he’d gotten lucky the night before. Jim had been out himself, pulling an all-nighter in the Library for his philosophy reading, so he had no idea. Frankly, it probably wasn’t the best idea that he accompany his roommate out- he should try to sleep, now that his work wasn’t completely pressing on his schedule. That being said, he could sleep on Sunday, when Bones was working his shift and their dorm was silent and unthreatening. When he could endure his nightmares, undisturbed, without being woken and forced to recollect memories he didn’t care to discuss. God, he both loved and hated Bones. He sort of felt the same way about his nightmares. He was exhausted, wanted to sleep, wanted a whole night of undisturbed rest – but the nightmares reminded him of the price he had to pay for surviving. They were there to give him a nudge of guilt right when he was getting too comfortable, too complacent.
Jim spotted Spock stood down the corridor instinctively, and he almost took himself by surprise. He hadn’t even been looking for anyone. But he’d felt eyes on him, and sure enough Spock was stood – back straight and dark eyes fixed on Jim. The young officer gave him a certain look that, he supposed, said ‘You’re with me’, and there was very little Jim could do to turn him down.
“1900 hours, right?” He asked McCoy, turning his back to Spock for a moment.
“Nah, make it 1800. I’ll take you for dinner first.”
“No arguments, Kid. Someone needs to make sure you’re eating.” He held out his hand expectantly. “Give me your bag. I’ll take it back to the dorm. Don’t think I hadn’t noticed Commander Spock over there.”
Bones’ teasing only just struck a nerve, but Jim didn’t doubt for one moment that he’d intended exactly that. Bones never said anything without knowing precisely what he wanted out of a response. It was that damn psychology degree of his, and it was both a blessing and a curse. Jim refused to give him the satisfaction, frankly, and just shoved his bag strap into Bones’ open palm.
“Fine. 1800, I’ll meet you at ours.” He turned on his heel, heading towards Spock and trying not to look as stupidly nervous as he felt.
Spock’s normal neutral expression was infected with something sharper; not predatory but certainly something to be wary of. Jim approached, offering a lazy Ta’al and then awkwardly lowering his hand.
“Hey Sp – sorry, Commander Spock.”
“Cadet.” Spock nodded. “Would you walk with me?”
Jim tried not to let his heart race, but hell it did anyway. “Sure. Where are we going?”
Spock didn’t reply immediately, taking off in long strides in the opposite direction of most of Jim’s classmates. He glanced back, but Bones had already jogged after one of his own friends and wasn’t looking out for Jim anymore. Well, fine.
“At 0800 hours yesterday, Cadet Gary Mitchell was injured on his training excursion aboard the USS Valiant.” Spock informed Jim, calmly, as they continued to walk. Jim’s initial reaction was a sort of lame outward breath, as if he wasn’t really sure how to react at all. Spock didn’t give him time for much else. “Though the Cadet is in no immediate danger, he is displaying signs of increased extrasensory perception and inhuman regulation of reflexes and energy outputs.”
“What does that mean?” Jim knew that little shit was psychic – it was no wonder Mitchell always knew the right questions to ask to drive him crazy. But he was still Jim’s friend, sort of. And if he was hurt… “What happened to him?”
“The Cadet was hit with an output of energy from the Galactic Barrier.” Spock admitted, sparing Jim a glance that Jim couldn’t hope to interpret. “Medical are attempting to locate a solution as we speak. For now, the Cadet has asked to speak with you.” Ah, that was the expression. Worry. Vulcan worry, at least.
“Me?” It was hard not to feel sort of sick with worry. Not for Mitchell, but for himself. That last thing he needed was a superhuman Mitchell fucking with him. Gary had loads of other friends – Jim hadn’t even seen him since he’d broken off their little arrangement. “Why?”
“Doctor Boyce suggested your intimate relationship might be a reason.” And Jim could only pretend he wasn’t remembering his debilitating embarrassment when he’d walked into Spock the last time he’d left Gary’s rooms.
“Yeah, but that’s over.” Jim frowned. “And we’re not even really friends. That was just… you know. Never mind. Will he be okay? I mean, he’s not on death’s door is he?” Jim asked, somewhat distracted as they entered an office Jim had never visited before. Mostly devoid of personal goods, besides a very obvious Vulcan hanging and a lingering spiced incense scent that reminded Jim of those lovely Vulcan teas he’d tried. So Spock’s office, then.
“Indeed not, Cadet.” Spock gestured to a seat, and Jim dropped into it instinctively. “He is actually quite well, and progressing rapidly through the Starfleet Library banks.”
Jim wondered if that was a joke, but he didn’t laugh. Gary read enough to pass his courses, but he didn’t read. He didn’t enjoy it, even when he was bored. So maybe it was Spock’s attempt at humour.
“I don’t want you to think I’m selfish or anything, Commander, but I’d rather not visit. It’s just, I’m not exactly his friend, really, and I just,” Had no idea why Gary would fuck with him like this, “I just don’t want to see him.”
“There is no need to justify your decision to me, Cadet. I also struggled to comprehend why you might acquiesce to Cadet Mitchell’s requests.” Spock sat opposite him, nudging a pen back into line with a leather bound notepad. That didn’t seem particularly Vulcan, and Jim wondered idly if Spock’s human mother had anything to do with it.
“So, at least I can say it’s logical, right?” Jim laughed nervously.
“I spoke with Captain Pike recently regarding the nature of human relationships.” Spock said, then, completely ignoring Jim’s half-hearted question. Maybe he didn’t get the humour. Jim wasn’t sure he really did either, but he did think that the blush Spock was fighting was ridiculously cute. “He advised me somewhat about the course of initiating a date.”
“You don’t know?”
“My parents were bonded in the traditional Vulcan manner. That is to say, in strict monogamy and with the usual Vulcan mind link. I had little opportunity to observe the human culture prior to joining Starfleet, at which point I focused more intently on my work.” Spock looked wide eyed and adorable, and Jim could just imagine a fresh-faced Spock, arriving at Starfleet and following Chris’ every step like a puppy, just like Jim had done.
“Nyota advised me that Vulcan culture may seem stifling to humans.”
Jim stared, sort of awed because firstly – why the hell was Spock telling him this? And Nyota. Jesus fucking Christ, her name was Nyota. Nyota Uhura. Jim had been working his ass off for months trying to gain her trust, and he found out by Spock letting slip. For the love of god, he didn’t know whether he should laugh or cry.
“Listen, Spock, if you want advice on ladies you’ve come to the wrong guy. Well, not for ladies, but definitely for Uhura. I’ve been trying to make friends with her for months and failed – I won’t be able to help you woo her.”
“You misunderstand, Jim. My relationship with Nyota is purely platonic.” Spock blinked. “I have found myself solely attracted to males, though Nyota is extremely beautiful.”
Jim nodded ruefully.
“She advised me that I might invite you out for a drink.” Spock said slowly, as if just testing out the words, and Jim stared. He tried to formulate some sort of response out of his shock, but nothing would come to him. He just remembered how out of place Spock had looked the last time Jim had seen him in a bar. It was… adorable that he was trying to go about dating the human way, and Jim realised he was grinning like an honest to god madman.
“She did?” Jim asked, sort of dazed – because he’d wanted this since the first time he’d met Spock, and it had been a crazy distant dream. The idea that Nyota had made it happen was insane. Maybe she’d seen something in his eyes when Spock had appeared at her door the night before. Or maybe it had nothing to do with him at all – maybe she just encouraged Spock to do what he really wanted to.
“Indeed. If – if she intended to, ah, prank me then I apologi-“
“No, no – Spock. No, she was right. She was definitely, very right.” Jim took a deep breath. “Yes, I’d love to go for a drink with you, Spock. I’d like to try some more Vulcan tea.”
“I was under the impression that humans typically imbibe alcohol to reduce the discomfort of a first date.”
Jim grinned. Calling it a date made it sound so… official. He was going to bag the Vulcan. The gay Vulcan. Holy shit, he had to be dreaming.
“Well, we’ve been for tea before – so it wouldn’t be our first date, technically. So it won’t be awkward.” He watched Spock follow his logic in the subtle lift of his eyebrow. “Besides, I heard Vulcans don’t even get drunk. It’ll be weird if I am and you aren’t.” Jim shrugged. “I’d like to actually talk to you, Spock.”
“Tea then.” Spock agreed, looking freshly determined. “I will pick you up from your dorm on Friday at 1900 hours.”
“Sounds great.” It sounded far better than just great, but Jim didn’t want to come across as a complete lunatic just yet. Spock had already seen him as an utter wreck. It was probably best to save the hyperactive bubble of excitement for the tenth date, at least. “And I want you to know, Spock, I do respect your culture. I mean, sex is great and everything, but I like you… I can one hundred percent do monogamy if you… I mean, if you’re serious about this.”
“I am.” Spock replied, simply. “You are… exceptionally human, Jim.” Spock said, and Jim remembered that walk to medical all those weeks before, when he’d first decided to tell Phil and Chris about Tarsus. Spock had been the one to talk him into it, really. Find a way to save both, he’d said. Jim had done just that, and maybe that was why Spock liked him. Because he was so human.
“I’m definitely taking that as a compliment this time.” Jim grinned swiftly. “Anything else, Commander?”
“That is all, Jim.” Spock inclined his head slightly. “I will see you on Friday.”
Jim stood, throwing his hands into his pockets and resolutely not thinking about how easy it would be to lean over and kiss that innocent look off Spock’s face. He wondered idly if Spock had been kissed, considering how little he knew about human dating. Or would Jim be the first. The first human, at least, to drag his lips across Spock’s pretty green cheekbones, down his slender neck and – Jim breathed deeply.
“Yes,” Jim smirked, his eyes dragging down and up the length of Spock’s body. “Yes, you will.” He added, triumphant when Spock blushed a furious green under his attention. “Good day, Commander.” He turned on his heel and departed – and if he did strut more than usual as he departed, it sure as hell wasn’t to receive a little bit of attention himself. Spock’s eyes on his retreating form was merely an added bonus.
1. I want to stress that I'm not writing Uhura as a bitch because I hate her. I actually love her with all my heart. She is definitely a good person! She called medical for Jim's panic attack and she encouraged Spock!!! (I just don't want to encourage uhura hate, i love her)
2. They!!! Are!!! Going!!! To!!! Tea!!! Again!!!
Chapter 19: Into the Moral Grey
Warning: This chapter mentions past-rape, and murder/suicide.
One more day, Chris thought, though it wasn’t quite enough to comfort himself. One more day till the weekend, at which point he could sleep and relax and not have to worry about getting up at ridiculous o’clock for day-long meetings that he had no option to miss, despite his piling paperwork. Chris had a whole stack of it he’d brought home, only for his husband to declare that he was banned from doing any work that night – seeing as how Phil was home and in desperate need of attention. Chris should have argued, and promised Friday night to his husband instead. He did have work to do, after all. And yet, Phil made a very lucrative offer.
Chris had every intention of joining his husband in the shower. He’d already had one that morning before work, but that one hadn’t included a hot and soapy husband in it – so, honestly, what did he expect? Chris was only human, and Phil was so very, very hot. And soapy. That bit was good too. And his shampoo smelled so enticing. Phil was, frankly, just the most attractive thing in the universe. Chris had explored planets of seductive power, and aliens that would make even Spock drool… maybe. The point was, there was nothing on the universe so perfectly crafted for Chris as Philip Boyce.
He was perfect, and he was Chris’. Just as Chris was his.
Maybe it was the worst luck in the world, or maybe Chris was just being pessimistic, but it was inevitable that there was a knock on their front door the moment he was about to step into the bathroom. There were only two people in the world who bothered to hack into their building to avoid buzzing in. Number One and Jim. Considering Number One had slightly better manners than that of a newly-acquired puppy, Chris had a pretty good guess of who was hammering down their front door.
He approached and opened it, barely unlocking the door before it was pushed open and Jim barrelled into his apartment.
“Hey – I need,” Jim was breathless, as though he’d just ran all five floors of their building. The idiot was too energetic for his own good. “Oh my god, is now really the time?” He muttered, seemingly to himself, then approached the bathroom door and started hammering on it. “PHIL. GET OUT OF THE SHOWER.” He turned back into the living room, pacing up and down.
“Jimmy, would you stop for a minute. You’re freaking me out, what the hell’s wrong?!”
“Wait. I need Phil too.” Jim rolled his eyes, and then held a steadying hand out. “I mean, I’m fine. This is good news!” He said, even it Chris wasn’t remotely convinced. Generally because Jim looked scared and he wasn’t even smiling. Maybe it was to do with Mitchell, who had given Chris back Jim but now seemed intent on stealing his husband with his curious incident aboard the Valiant. Even Phil said that Mitchell was an off-putting patient and, quote, ‘getting weirder by the day’. Which, coming from Phil, really said a lot.
Phil came staggering out of the bathroom, thankfully wearing pyjama bottoms, but tugging Chris’ old academy tee over a still wet body. Dammit all to hell. Chris could have been with that wet body in the shower at that very moment.
“Kiddo?! You okay?”
“Yeah- I’m good. I’m great!” Jim secluded himself in the far corner of the flat, and Chris sank down onto the sofa because Jesus Christ, if he didn’t get to shower with his husband he wasn’t going to stand around looking vaguely panicked. He sat, reaching for his bourbon and gesturing for Phil to join him. Which his husband did, sitting too damn close for it not to have been to wind Chris up on purpose.
“Jim?” Chris reminded, when Jim looked like he was going to collapse.
“Okay.” Finally. Finally Jim smiled. His face split into a grin from ear to ear, and it was beautiful. “I’m going on a date with Spock.”
Chris made some sort of embarrassing noise in reaction, a pathetic sort of ‘agh’, but it didn’t compare to Phil’s excited yelp. Beside him, Phil jerked and clapped his hands together excitedly.
“Yep. Tomorrow night. Obviously, it’s zero percent your business and I can date who I like. But it’s also Spock, and you know him better than I do. And we’re going to serve together one day, right? So… I guess I wanted to know if you thought it was a bad idea or…” Jim trailed off, still looking excited but tempered by what Chris suspected was a desperate need for approval.
“Holy shit.” Chris said softly, unable to help himself. Because really, holy shit. Spock had actually asked Jim out. It was – it was… Jesus Christ.
“Obviously we think this is good.” Phil said, rolling his eyes exaggeratedly. “We’re really happy for you, Kiddo. Right, Chris?” He asked, followed by a sharp elbow to the ribs. Damn that bony man.
“Yes! Yes, that’s right.” He scratched his temple. “Spock is a fine officer.” Another elbow. “Ow- Phil! I mean he’s a good man, Jim. And even though it is none of our business, we still think it’s a great idea. Bearing in mind the whole monogamy, bond for life sort of thing.”
“Well, it’s only a date so far.” Jim shrugged, deflecting, but boy did he look young. Like he’d just been asked to prom. Chis wondered idly if Jim had ever actually been on a real date, or if his entire romantic existence thus far had been in sleazy motels or back alleys. Oh god. Yet again, Chris was glad that Phil was the kid’s doctor – because he trusted Phil to actually keep Jim clean and safe. And why that was even a concern of Chris’ was baffling to him.
“Right. So enjoy it. I’ve never known Spock show interest in anyone, so he’s clearly got high standards.” Chris commented, and he was rewarded with a tentative smile from Jim.
“Excellent taste.” Phil agreed. “And don’t worry about the Enterprise yet, Jimmy. We’ve got a few years yet.” Which was very true. It would only be a problem if there were going to be issues in the chain of command. But Jim would, most likely, be on the same level as Spock by the time they left Earth. Jesus Christ, Chris was thinking long term for a date that hadn’t even happened yet.
“We were gonna stick a vid on and order Chinese food, if you want to stop over?” Phil asked, and Chris fought back a groan, his dreams of a nice shower long dead.
“Yeah, that sounds great. Although I had Chinese food last night with Bones.”
They were fucked. Always, supremely, completely screwed. Jimmy Kirk had them so wrapped around his little finger that he was even controlling what they ordered for dinner. Chris gave a very dramatic, resigned sigh.
“Fine. Pizza.” He declared, then knocking back the rest of his drink. That way Jim could select his own pizza, steering clear of all the toppings that would, well, nearly kill him through allergies. Phil was on hand anyway, but it was still damn scary when he screwed up and accidentally ate a mushroom or something.
Jim smiled happily, finally crossing the room and dropping into the vacant armchair. Chris couldn’t find it in himself to even attempt to be grumpy – because Jim was happy, and that made him happy. Plus, Jim being happy made Phil happy, which made Chris doubly happy. It was win-win. Or lose-lose, really, for Chris, considering the absence of both his shower and his Chinese food. It just didn’t feel like losing.
Hours later, and an old film had ended and the evening newsreels were playing instead. Mostly sleep inducing babble about new inventions or celebrity birthdays. Phil was already dozing under Chris’ arm on the sofa, and Chris wasn’t really paying attention, too full of food and pleasantly tired. He was mostly watching Jim, who was draped over his damn armchair like that first meeting in his office at the start of the Semester. Then, Jim had been all cocky façade, thinly veiling his fear. Now he was in Chris’ house like he belonged there, like family, and although how it had happened escaped Chris – he was just glad it had. The kid deserved this and so much more, and maybe it was the late hour but Chris felt a fundamental desire to protect him. Not like asking Spock his attentions with Jim, but like telling Jim every single day how much Chris admired his strength and spirit. Like making sure Jim knew how adored he was by more than just Chris and Phil. That he had friends, and they were his family. That was enough. That was so, so enough. It didn’t make up for what Jim had missed out on, but it sure as hell gave him a buffer to thrive off now. And it wasn’t too late. It was never too late.
Phil’s hands twisted tighter into Chris’ t-shirt as he drifted deeper into his sleep, and Chris breathed in that delightful fresh scent of his, holding him closer. He turned his gaze back to Jim, and it took him a minute for his eyes to focus in the poor light of the room, but Jim’s expression had turned completely sour. He stared at the vid without really seeing, Chris thought, and maybe it was the light but he looked sheet white.
“Jim?” Chris got no response, so followed Jim’s vacant stare to the current vid playing. Awful scenes of what Chris knew to be protests against the disastrous occupation of Bajor. He was only a Captain; nothing to do with media control or press – but he hadn’t realised they were releasing footage of the monstrosity. Especially not of bleeding, starving children in the ruins of once great cities. He knew the details of the riots because of his rank, but without hacking, these were probably the first images Jim would have seen of the news story.
But this was Jim Kirk, and Chris knew that Jim wasn’t just seeing the graphic scenes of the starving children of Bajor. He saw the starving children of Tarsus IV and their bones, ravished by wild animals and time.
“Jimmy?” Chris tried again, reaching to turn the news off. He got a blink this time, which was better than nothing. He didn’t seem to be in the throes of a panic attack, in any case.
“You’d think they’d’ve made that their headline story.” Jim said, hollowly, blinking a few more times as the holo-vid cut off and faded away.
“Yeah.” Chris shifted minutely, Phil huffing sleepily into his stomach. “You okay?”
“Been worse.” Jim shrugged, but he’d still not slipped from his stiff state. “It’s just the kids. Seeing them like…” Jim’s hands twitched, fingers attempting to curl into fists. It didn’t go unnoticed by Chris. “Sometimes I think I’m no better than Kodos.”
It was the first time Jim had ever said that name in front of Chris, and it made him feel cold all over. It was easy to think that Jim had just been a survivor, if there were such a thing. But the truth was far deeper, wasn’t it? Jim hadn’t just been a lone survivor. He’d been the sole carer and provider for a whole bunch of kids, and however he’d managed that… it must have been hell.
“Because I’d have killed them all too. For those kids. I’d have cut each of the other colonists down, and I did.”
“No, Jim.” Chris shook his head, heart pounding beneath his chest. “Kodos wanted the weak gone, to preserve his idea of the worthy. You wanted to spare some little children an awful fate. You were desperate and dying. Kodos was stock hoarding his own food while you were giving children everything you had. You were not the same. Not remotely.”
Jim was quiet again for a long minute, and when he finally spoke Chris could heard his fight not to cry in each tragic consonant.
“I had a bunch of kids with me at the start, and most of them died. One by one. I lost all of them. Four of them died saying my name. JT, they called me. I couldn’t be Jim or Jimmy to them.”
Chris almost couldn’t imagine a time when no-one had cared for Jim, when he’d been the too old for his years child, kicking and screaming to keep a bunch of kids alive for one more day. It made Chris feel sick to his stomach to realise that Jim had lived his entire life alone before Chris, unaware, stumbled across a bunch of his idiot cadets in a trashy bar, kicking the shit out of him. Now Jim was here, and it killed Chris to think that he still felt that same loneliness he’d always felt before. Maybe lessened, but it was still there.
“Towards the end, when I was trying to get a signal out for help, I broke into the communications centre of the Council. There was a transporter they’d sabotaged before the officials ran. I spent days trying to get it working.”
“You couldn’t fix it.” Chris supplied.
Jim laughed, too ragged and too open. “No. I had no idea what I was doing. I’d only just started basic engineering.” Thirteen, Chris reminded himself. He considered Jim a Kid now, and this was ten years on. “But that wasn’t really the point. I didn’t want to fix it, I wanted…” Jim trailed off, his gaze unfocused and cold. “I just wanted it to scatter our atoms.”
Chris felt sick, and he made a conscious effort not to clamp his fingers into Phil’s flesh, even though instinct told him to hold on to something.
“I thought it was better to die quickly, than to watch everyone waste away. The smell of it, Chris. You can’t imagine. The rot and the filth.” No, Chris couldn’t imagine it, but it made the sweet scent of his husband almost unbearable. “I’d have told the kids that it was working, and they’d have believed me. They were too young not to trust me. And I would have sent each of them to their deaths.”
“Jim…” It was hard to believe. The Jim that Chris remembered from immediately after Tarsus would have murdered each and every one of them to get to Kevin. Not… not contemplated giving up, not for one moment. God, if he’d succeeded. Jim was a bright kid, he’d have found a way, somehow. If he’d succeeded, and then the Farragut had turned up…
“I’d have followed them, of course. Only I couldn’t even rig it to kill us, and they were dropping like flies anyway. I was too busy trying to keep them alive long enough to kill them. That’s the worst thing. I don’t care about the guards I killed or the other hungry, innocent people I fought with for food. Just the kids.”
“You didn’t kill them, Jim. There’s no guilt to be had on your part.” Jim scoffed in disagreement, and Chris’ heart hurt. “You’re not like Kodos. You wanted to protect them from a worse fate.”
“And what about when the adults came… the guards. They offered me food, you know, if I traded myself for it.” It was scary, the way Jim had switched from heartbroken, to detached and cold. Like his own suffering wasn’t allowed – like it was punishment, rather than completely undeserved. His voice was ice when he spoke his next question. “D’you think I was protecting them when I was getting off?”
Chris was short of breath, desperate and without any idea of how to answer that. He almost sobbed in relief, or gratitude, or agony, when his husband sat up, slipping from Chris’ arms and finding Jim’s stiff form in the dark.
“Stop it, Jim.” Chris didn’t know how long Phil had been awake, but he’d clearly been listening long enough to know that Jim was talking himself into a very bad place – and his intervention was most appreciated. “You know that’s not true, you were a child.”
Yes, a child. A child that Chris remembered very well. Angry, defensive and loud, yes, and so very small. Not just from food deprivation - his actual growth had been stunted. Jim hadn’t just been thin, he’d been tiny. How anyone could have … oh god, Chris had never felt more disgusted because of something from Jim’s past. Never had he been closer to running and hiding, unable to hear another word of it. But that was unacceptable. It was his duty to be strong while Jim couldn’t.
“I- Why is this still happening?” Jim asked, finally dropping his head and sort of collapsing in on himself. Chris wanted to move to him – to reach out and hold him, but he couldn’t tell if his touch would be welcome or not.
“Jimmy… you’ve only been working on it for a few months-“
“No- no not this. I mean why are children still dying? Why does nothing ever change?”
“Oh, oh Jim it does. I promise.” Phil swore, slipping off the sofa and kneeling before Jim. “Look at me, Kiddo. There’s so much good in the world. You’re allowed to enjoy it. You can’t put your life on hold because somewhere in the galaxy, children are dying.” Phil offered out a hand, just in Jim’s line of sight but far enough away to be rejected. “You study hard and you go on dates, and you live Jim. You live because they can’t.” Jim’s hand slipped out slowly, and Phil took it. “Two more years and we’ll all be on the Enterprise, and you’ll see just how incredible the universe can be. Because it can be a lot better than Tarsus, Jimmy. And the people are a hell of a lot better than Kodos.”
Chris watched, transfixed through the dim light, as Jim nodded and choked through a sob, and then slid off his chair into Phil’s open arms. Jim was so incredibly vulnerable, and he trusted Phil to protect him. Trusted Phil, when even Chris could understand why Jim had every right to punch any Doctor he ever met given what had happened to him. It was a miracle. No, it was Jim Kirk. Chris was awed and heartbroken, and feeling emotions more deeply than he ever could have thought possible. Loving Jim Kirk was like offering his heart on a plate, and Chris both loved and loathed it.
He stared, trying to regulate his breathing as he watched Jim finally slump against Phil, calmer after the long minutes of pain.
“Sorry.” Jim muttered, dragging his face away and quickly hiding any evidence of his breakdown.
“You’ve got nothing to be sorry for, Jim.” Chris said, distantly surprised and gladdened that his voice was much stronger than he’d imagined it would be. Jim took notice of it, his eyes snapping forward and some of that tension draining from his posture. "We want you here for the bad as well as the good. We want to look after you.”
“Yeah.” Jim said, hoarsely. “I know.” He accepted the tissue that Phil had found him from the coffee table, dragging it across his eyes and running nose quickly. “But still. Not exactly going to be a great officer if I can’t cope with one crappy alien war.”
“Trust me, Jim, you’ll cope when the time comes.” Chris vowed. He kneeled tentatively beside his husband, knees already protesting beneath him. “You panic now, because you’re scared. Because you’re safe, and losing that would crush you. But you didn’t freeze on Tarsus, did you? You kept running. You kept fighting. And you’ll do that again, if you have to.” Chris reached a hand out, pushing Jim’s fringe from his head. “But trust me, 80 percent of missions are diplomatic or peaceful. You’ve not had the best track record so far, but I promise you - being a Starfleet Officer can actually be very boring.”
Jim gave a wet laugh, nodding and rubbing at his eyes. “Good job we’re coming with to entertain you.” He muttered.
Chris couldn’t help himself. He literally could not have restrained himself if he’d tried. He pulled Jim forward, tugging at his neck until the stupid brat collapsed against him and Chris could give him a proper hug. Like a - wrap his arms tight around the kid and hold him, and physically reassure him that they were right there and not going anywhere – hug.
“I think tea would be a good idea.” Phil said after a minute, his tone having reverted back from ‘Doctor Boyce’ to his usual, eccentric self. “Vulcan tea. Get Jimmy in the mood for his date again.” Beside them, Phil stood and stretched. “Maybe with a little whiskey.” He added, seemingly talking to himself as he padded into the kitchen.
“You give good hugs.” Jim muttered against him, and Chris realised the time to let go had probably been and gone. Jim didn’t seem to actually mind, though. He breathed against Chris’ chest, and Chris ignored what he suspected were tears wetting his top. Scenes of starving children weren’t pleasant for anyone – and made for frankly miserable news. But for Jim… Chris couldn’t imagine what other memories they’d provoked. Besides, it was late and Jim was tired. They all were. Such a reaction wasn’t actually worryingly unreasonable. Just a bunch of bad-timing and unfortunate factors, working together.
“Don’t dare tell anyone. I have a reputation to maintain.” Chris laughed, finally forcing himself to pull away. “You’re okay, Jimmy.” He promised, and Jim nodded. He had stopped crying, but he looked ghostly pale and exhausted – eyes more red than anything else. Chris helped him lean back against the sofa, pulling a pillow off to support his back a little more, before easing the pressure on his own knees and sitting more comfortable beside him.
“This used to happen every night. Only stopped when I started… when I found things to distract myself with. Wasn’t a very healthy coping mechanism, I know, but I couldn’t… I didn’t have people I could trust.”
“This will get easier, Jimmy. It’s not one or the other. It’s not a choice between evading nightmares or having friends.”
“Yeah, I know.” Jim murmured. “I can have both, right? I just have to work on it.”
“You’ve got time, Son.” Chris reminded him, without explicitly saying that Jim would probably be working on it for the rest of his life. Things like this didn’t just stop overnight. Phil wasn’t a magician. But it would get easier.
In the kitchen, they heard a glass break, then the unmistakable sound of Phil swearing. “I mean- it’s all fine. I just dropped Jim’s cup. And there may, potentially, be some spilled Whiskey.” He called through, and Chris felt Jim’s head drop against his shoulder, huffing out a laugh.
“Not the super expensive one.” Chris could hear the grin in his husband’s voice. “Just, maybe, the one you picked up when we went to Scotland-”
“Oh for the love of-“ Chris groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Is there broken china around you?”
There was a long pause. “Maybe.”
“Don’t move, I’m coming.” However he’d expected the night to end, it had not been like this. But what was life without a little unpredictability? He clambered up off the floor, dragging Jim with him to position him more comfortably on the sofa. Jim let himself be guided, heavy-limbed and sort of clingy. Not that Chris was complaining. He was reluctant to let go himself, but his knight in shining armour needed rescuing and dammit, that was expensive whiskey.
“I’ll be right back.” Chris promised to Jim, though the kid already looked on the verge of sleep on the sofa. Chris didn’t think his heart could take carrying him to bed, let alone his back. But he could cross that bridge when he got to it. With renewed determination, he dragged himself away from Jim and went to help his husband.
Chapter 20: That Which Should Have Been
If you don't like TOS 'Where No Man Has Gone Before' then you might wanna skip this Chapter.
Jim felt tired, but mostly optimistic on Friday morning as he left Chris and Phil’s apartment to return to his dorm. He’d woken once or twice, from nightmares that he could remember only fleeting images of, but breathing heavily nonetheless. Chris and Phil probably hadn’t slept a wink, considering they seemed to have a sixth sense about when he was awake. Jim’s gratitude almost outshone his guilt. Chris had stayed in the room with him until he’d drifted off again, and Jim hadn’t even found it in himself to feel awkward. It was impossible, because Chris and Phil wouldn’t let him. What he did do was wake up to a sun-lit bedroom, finish his tactics essay and eat a late breakfast with Phil after Chris had left for work – bidding Jim goodbye with his usual clap to the shoulder, even if the touch lingered a little longer.
Jim remembered being hugged vividly from the night before, but he didn’t let his mind wander towards the notion that they might want that more. Mostly because he wasn’t sure if he wanted more and – if he did – how he’d even going about asking for it. It was sort of sad that physical contact like that made him feel so… vulnerable, but Chris and Phil hugging him had felt like home.
His mom had fallen out of the habit of hugging him before Tarsus. At the time, he’d assumed it was because he looked too much like his dad. In reflection, he thought maybe he’d been the one to push her away – too angry about the fact she was never around, and always leaving him with Frank. She’d tried real hard when he was older to build up that closeness between them again, but it had never really worked. As much as Jim did love his mom, he could only ever keep her at arm’s length. She’d realised sooner rather than later, and though they could never get to the place she wanted them to be, it was still better than nothing. Or, just maybe, it was enough.
Chris and Phil were not like his mother, and hugging them was sort of like bearing his entire soul to them. He’d wanted to cry like a baby when he’d first hugged Phil. The moment arms wrapped around him, he’d been almost overwhelmed with sobs. Chris, too, had evoked emotions in him that he tried every damn day to keep under wraps.
Huh. Bones did say he was touch and affection starved. Bones would know, considering he lived with Jim. Bearing that in mind – Jim pulled out his PADD, sending Bones a quick request to be home before his date with Spock to advise him on clothes. Bones would hate it, but he’d do it anyway because he was a damn good friend. When Spock came to pick him up, he’d probably even idly threaten him – and that Jim was excited to see. It would be truly hilarious. Bones had given up threatening Mitchell when it became apparent that Gary just found it oddly amusing, and that disturbed all of them.
Jim wasn’t exactly regretting his decision not to go to Medical with Phil to visit Mitchell. Maybe he was a shitty friend, ex, whatever he was. Maybe he still would visit, tomorrow- maybe he was just a coward. It was just, he had the oddest sensation that it was a terrible idea. Mitchell could already see through most people as if they were glass – the last thing Jim needed was to see him with – what had Spock called it - increased extrasensory perception. Gary was probably about three steps away from unravelling Jim’s entire past as it was, and Jim couldn’t face that sort of intimacy between them. No. Maybe he’d hold off until Gary was… better again, and then he’d visit. Or not. He’d wait and see. He sort of supposed that depended on how his date with Spock went, even if he was a dick for thinking so.
He stopped and picked himself up some second breakfast from the cafeteria, coffee and a bagel, before carrying on to their dorm. He had one more essay to finish, and then he could have a long shower and beautify himself for his date with Spock. Maybe he’d be less nervous if Spock weren’t so insanely beautiful. Spock was effortlessly perfect, honestly. In all the times Jim had met him, he’d never had so much as a hair out of place. His eyebrows were always neat, and Jim had no idea if that was genetics or just a very skilled hand. And god, Spock’s dress sense. Jim had only ever seen him in uniform, neat and form fitting – and super hot. But Phil had shown him such pictures of their various gatherings over the year, and Spock had a real… real eye for fashion. Phil had a few pictures of him wearing human attire – oversized jumpers that hung off his thin frame. But Jim thought his favourite pictures were the ones of Spock in his Vulcan dress – outfits that made him look decidedly more alien, more so than his already green skin. Now that was hot.
Honestly, Spock seemed to be able to pull off any outfit he so chose. Jim rather hoped he’d be the one pulling outfits off Spock soon. Ignoring the fact he’d gone without sex for a few weeks now, he really did think Spock was gorgeous. He’d wait, if that’s what Spock’s culture and/or comfort demanded. For the first time in his life, he felt like he actually wanted to give a relationship a real try. He was even sort of nervous, which was crazy because Jim had never been nervous for anything romantic before. He normally had complete control over what ‘dating’ thing he was doing, but that paled in comparison to the sort of control Vulcans exercised on a daily basis. Jim supposed he’d just have to wait and see what to expect.
Jim keyed in the code to his and Bones’ dorm, taking a swig of coffee as he moved into the mess of a room. He put down his coffee and bag on the drawers by the door, grabbing his bagel and taking a happy bite as he moved towards their beds.
“Jesus fucking CHRIST!” Jim tensed instantly, heart pounding against his chest as he spotted Gary Mitchell laying on his bed, sprawled out like he owned it. That was precisely why Jim had never liked brining Gary back to theirs. He really, really didn’t like to feel owned. “How the hell did you get in here?” Jim asked. “What are you even doing here, you should be in hospital?!”
“Yeah I was, it got boring.” Gary shrugged. “All those long hours wondering when you were gonna come visit me, James.”
“I, uh,” Jim eyed the door, noting desperately that it was locked – and he sure as hell hadn’t been the one to do that. “I was going to visit when you were better.”
“Better?” Gary let out a short burst of laughter. “I don’t need to get better, James. This feeling… I was blind, before. Now, I can see.” Gary looked at him through eyes Jim didn’t even recognise. They were cold and distant, and just… just not Gary. Even the git that fucked Jim had some air of teasing to him, some petty childishness. But the man stretched out on Jim’s bed was too far gone.
“The things I can see, James.” There was a grin on his face, but it wasn’t Gary’s. Somehow, that didn’t comfort Jim. There were no obvious escape routes, and that was bad. He had to always be able to run, and he couldn’t. Mitchell had made sure of that.
“I used to think I could do anything in the world, you know. You included.”
Jim stood his ground, closer to the door than to Gary – for all the good it would do. God, his eyes were like molten lead and it was probably a bad sign. Jim was getting a lot of those.
“But now… now I know there’s nothing I couldn’t do. In time.”
“That’s… Gary, I should contact medical.” Jim suggested, because now was not the time to act first, beg forgiveness later. He couldn’t pick up his com in time to actually attempt a call, let alone succeed. Mitchell looked so damn arrogant, and Jim wasn’t going to tempt fate.
“No, c’mon. We’re just getting started.” Behind him, the chair rattled. “Take a seat, James.” And Jim stared, heart still pounding.
“How did you do that?”
Gary looked only amused. “I just thought of making it happen, and it did.” The chair rattled again. “Now sit. You don’t have anywhere else to be, do you?”
Jim thought longingly of Spock, his plans for that evening, and wondered what the hell was going to happen between now and then. But he didn’t want Gary to know that, so he shook his head nervously and took the damn seat.
“You were very close you know, Jim. You were close to beating me, You might have even done it. But you’re not going to manage it, now. I’m stronger, now.”
“I don’t know what you mean, Gary. Let me call Doctor Boyce.”
“Oh, shush, James. There’s nothing Doctor Boyce can do.” Mitchell smirked. “He’s already given me everything I needed.” Fear coursed through Jim instantly – a rushing, cutting fear. Phil had been fine when Jim left, just getting ready for work. There was no way Gary could have done anything… and gotten back to Jim’s dorm before him, no. “Don’t worry. He didn’t even know he was doing it. He was too busy trying to be clever. But I could see the images in his head, the ones you tried so hard to hide from me.”
“What- Gary, you’re sick.” Jim attempted, but Gary wasn’t listening. He sat up in bed, his movements almost mechanical as he moved closer to Jim. Not too close, not yet, but Jim was already terrified. It wouldn’t take too much more, honestly.
“You were such an enigma, Jimmy. It was why I kept you for so long. Well, you’re quite pretty too. The noises you make, trying so hard not to let me know you enjoy being ruined. You don’t want to admit it, do you? You just want to be seen as a stack of books on legs, but you can’t help but want to be fucked by anything with a pulse.”
The window was closed, but Jim couldn’t tell if it was locked or not. If he could render Gary unconscious, he could break them. He just needed time.
“It doesn’t matter, anyway. I have my answers now.” Gary offered a wolfish grin, predatory and yep-now way too close. He stood between his and Bones’ bed, joints stiff but ready to attack as far as Jim could tell. Ordinarily, Jim could easy take Mitchell down. But ordinarily, Mitchell didn’t have insane increased extrasensory perception and inhuman regulation of reflexes and energy outputs. Spock’s analysis, after all. Jim was basically facing a superhuman.
“What answers? Gary?”
“You, James.” Mitchell said. “You were going to make Captain before me, I know that now. But do you think they’ll let you when they know all your dirty little secrets? Do you think Daddy will be able to protect you from the Admiralty when I tell them? I don’t think he will. I think they’ll put him on probation for lying.”
Breathing, Jim reminded himself, was very important to self-defence. He couldn’t fight if he was dead and, Chris had been right, he would fight. If he had to. When he had to.
“Shall I tell them, James? Shall I tell all the Academy… all of Starfleet the truth about their new poster boy. Shall I tell them that the kelvin baby is not only a whore and a criminal, but one of the Tarsus Nine too.” Gary spoke as if just tasting the words, and he enjoyed them far too much. This was Jim’s greatest fear, and he was pretty much helpless to it.
“Do you think they’ll let you be captain when they know how fucked you are?” Mitchell continued, moving so close to Jim he was practically looming over him. “How you killed innocent children to survive. Did you fuck Kodos too?” Jim bit hard on the inside of his cheeks, but Gary was already laughing darkly. “Oh you did, didn’t you. Oh, how charming. Mister stack of books with legs, on his knees for Kodos the Executioner.”
“What about Pike? You sit on his lap too? Call him daddy. That’s what they all think.” His laughter dried up, and Jim felt sick. “But no, you don’t – do you. It’s all platonic love. All… so innocent. All your secrets are out, aren’t they Jim? You’ve given everything you’ve got, and you’re still worried they’re going to leave you in the dirt.”
“How ‘bout this, James. I’ll give you a choice.” Mitchell shoved a knee between Jim’s legs, too close and much too strong. Stronger than he’d ever been before, and Jim had taken it rough from the older Cadet. Now, he was like a toy for Mitchell’s amusement, and he felt worthless. “Either I tell everyone in the Academy, all the admiralty, all your dirty little secrets – and you risk losing everything. Or, I kill you. Here and now. Real swift.”
Jim replied by jerking his knee up into Mitchell’s groin, locking his foot around his ankle and tripping him up. He didn’t stop to see the damage he’d done, jumping over his collapsed form and trying for the door. He wasn’t remotely surprised to find the commands to open had no effect, and as he reached for his Com the device crushed in on itself, rendering it completely useless. Clearly, Mitchell wasn’t going by the usual realms of possibility. Shit. Jim was good at fighting, but not against freaks of nature. A weapon was his next best bet.
No. There was no time. Mitchell was on his feet again, regaining composure at an alarming rate. Jim charged forwards, ready for a fight. It was frankly incredible how much he’d picked up in a few months of formal training. He’d always known how to fight. For as long as he could remember, he’d had to fight. But Tarsus and Frank had also required a savvy understanding of knowing when to bargain and when to run. Most of the other fights he’d gotten into… well, he’d gone looking for them. He’d wanted to feel that pain without being the one to inflict it on himself. So yeah, a few months learning techniques that time and necessity couldn’t afford him had been pretty helpful. Or it should have been, at least.
Mitchell registered maybe one in three hits, and he seemed to have infinitely more energy than Jim. But Jim had some natural talent on his side, and years of ducking and dodging Frank’s fists. Only Gary and a drunk old man were probably incomparable – Jim decided, groaning as he felt his nose break. He managed to land one on Gary’s eye, paying for it as he was thrown over Bones’ bed in a heap of glass, blood and broken bed frame.
Jim clambered up off the floor, hand landing stupidly on the broken glass of Leonard’s table lamp. Their dorm was already trashed, and Jim was pretty sure his head was bleeding and definitely his face too. He dodged a clawing hand, stepping back, away from Mitchell. He was back on the other side of the dorm, but the front door was still firmly locked. There was one other option.
“You know better than this, Jimmy.”
Run. He always had to be able to run, right? Cowardice kept you alive, sometimes.
He closed the bathroom door behind him, switching the privacy on – as if that would give him any more than a few seconds. Weapons. There was Bones’ razor, because Bones was an old-fashioned and nonsensical southern gentleman. A bottle of shampoo? Aftershave and deodorant could potentially incapacitate Mitchell for a minute, but he didn’t even seem to require his vision to fuck with Jim if those lead eyeballs were anything to go by.
Jim took a deep breath, trying desperately to think of a solution. He was better than this. He could think of something. Mitchell was sick – wrong. He wasn’t human any more, and so Jim couldn’t hold him to the same standards. There had to be some way to stop him. Electrocution? He could potentially fry the fucker – but he didn’t exactly have the equipment in the bathroom. He could pull the light fittings off and locate some wires in the ceiling…
“Give it your best shot, James.”
Jim shuddered at Mitchell’s mirth, but that was nothing compared to the reason for his cruel amusement. Jim stepped back instinctively, as ever possible weapon he’d considered in the bathroom hurtled into the air around him.
“Well, Fuck.” He moved for the door, but the lock wouldn’t budge. “Gary! GARY, LET ME OUT.” What the fuck was this, some crappy 21st century horror movie? Because it felt like it. Leonard’s razor split into separate blades, and each one hovered threateningly in the air before him. He raised his arms to protect his neck – because that seemed like the obvious choice, but who knew what damage Mitchell could really inflict. There was nothing else to protect himself with, anyway – no way out, nowhere else to go.
“You made your decision, James. I admit, it’s a shame.” That didn’t seem to be changing Mitchell’s mind, though, so Jim retreated towards the door and tried desperately to barge it open. The blades advanced, and Jim’s breath caught. Whips and canes he’d dealt with – fists were achingly familiar. But blades were a new world of pain, and he wasn’t ashamed to admit it scared him. He was going to die. Gary Mitchell was going to murder him in his own bathroom with fucking razor blades.
“It’s charming, isn’t it? A door, locked from the inside. Maybe they’ll think it was suicide. That’d upset Phil and Chrissy though, wouldn’t it?”
“Gary- Gary, please.” Jim kicked the door, his head not co-operating with his need to stay conscious. It ached. He ached. The razors surged forwards, and Jim twisted his body away from them, instead exposing his back. It was unfair. He’d only just finished having his scars removed from Tarsus. He’d wanted a clean sheet, a body that didn’t remind him of the horrors of his past. Not for vanity, just for peace of mind. And, well, it all seemed a bit pointless now.
He couldn’t really feel the pain of it, at first. It was when Mitchell really pressed in that Jim smacked his fists against the bathroom door, helpless. They sure as hell weren’t going to believe it was suicide now, but Mitchell was clearly having his fun. How much more could Jim take? Flesh wounds were one thing, but a firmer push and Mitchell could tear him in two. Oh god, he was going to die. Alone. For the first time in his life, there were people he loved within a half hour radius of him, and he was still going to die alone. Without even getting to see Spock in informal wear. Fuck.
There was a much sharper stab in his back, and Jim couldn’t help it. He cried out, or maybe screamed. The noise was too loud in the small bathroom, and the pain too great. He slammed his hands against the door, begging and begging for release. He was weak – too weak, he should have died fighting. Not barricading himself in the bathroom. He was a coward.
Outside, there was a sudden bang, like the slamming of a door – and Jim yelled in warning, or desperation. He wasn’t sure. A beat passed, and then the blades not currently jabbed into his body fell to the floor with almost silent clinks on the tiles. Jim slumped, his back still in agony but aware that someone was in his room.
The realisation shot through him, fear like he’d never before known. It was Bones’ dorm too. Jim had asked him to come home, and he knew that Bones would. To help him get ready for his date. Oh god. Bones had come home to a madman, and if the unmistakable noises of a struggle were anything to go by, he was fighting a losing battle.
“GARY, PLEASE.” He didn’t care about screaming now. He’d scream and beg and plead, if it saved Bones’ life. “Please, please, please.” He repeated, manically, against the door. If he could distract Mitchell – refocus his attentions. Get him to finish the job he started and give Bones time to escape. And god, where were Campus security? Surely someone had heard his screaming by now.
Jim could do nothing but scream, his muscles feeling weaker with each passing second. The door was still locked shut, and his back felt wet and unbearably more painful with each tiny movement. His knees gave way beneath him, and all he could think of was Bones. His first and best friend. His Doctor, vowed to do no harm. His brother, who’d stayed and protected Jim when his biological brother would have ran three times over. And Jim had gotten them both killed.
Chapter 21: Trust
Chris ran. He ran like he’d never before ran in his entire life.
The news had flooded in so fast, he had lost all concept of remaining calm. Gary Mitchell had escaped Medical, and Jim was just the sort of trouble magnet that would warrant the attention of a half-crazed, energy charged Cadet. Fear had struck Chris’ heart before his com had started buzzing incessantly with updates. It was Number One he listened to, the finest first officer in the fleet, telling him what he actually needed to hear. Before she’d finished talking, he was running. His feet carrying him to Jim’s dorm, as reliably as they would if this were a Red Alert demanding him on the bridge.
This was a nightmare. The initial tests on Mitchell had, apparently, indicated he was gaining power at an alarming rate. But no-one, not one member of staff had considered the fact that just maybe being strapped to the bed wasn’t quite going to cut it for someone demonstrating a flourishing expertise of psychokinesis. Fuck.
Chris ran faster. Jim was in real danger, now. This wasn’t false truths or hurt feelings. This was a very dangerous, already quite unsettling, ex-lover. Jim was top of his combat class, and already instructing other cadets. But who knew what Mitchell would be capable of as more time went on. Chris skidded into the cadet dorm building, his entry eased by the doors all opening at once. Number One, hacking the system – Chris realised with a grateful pang to his best friend. He turned the corner to Jim’s dorm – and he knew precisely where it was, even if he’d never visited. Because he’d wanted Jim on the ground floor, out of trouble. With Leonard, also out of trouble. Safe, the both of them. Slim chance of that happening, really.
All the doors had opened, and thankfully most Cadets were out in their classes. But Jim’s dorm door looked as if it had been broken off its hinges before Number One’s clever coding had done anything to do building’s network.
“Jesus,” He gasped, clutching at his heart as he took in the sight of Jim’s room. It looked like a war zone- all broken furniture, glass and – god – blood stains on every surface.
Spock had beat Chris there, and he had Mitchell pinned down, fist raising and slamming back down to his face repeatedly. Mitchell was fucked, and Chris wasn’t remotely sorry for it. But he wasn’t too keen on his Science Officer facing charges for murdering a Cadet, however dangerous he was.
“Spock!” Chris shouted, gripping Spock’s arm to hold him back. On the floor, Mitchell looked truly unconscious. Possibly dead already. Chris couldn’t tell. “Security are coming. Just hold him there.” Because that was logical – only Spock looked… reluctant to cease and desist. Chris had never seen the Vulcan like this – nor had he ever imagined he would.
“Spock- where’s Jim?”
“I-“ Spock screwed his eyes tight shut, as if in great pain. “I do not – he is close.” His eyes snapped open. “The bathroom.” Chris turned instantly to the door beside him; still locked shut. No code or override worked, and as he heard security storming the building, he pulled out the phaser he’d picked up from his office desk drawer and aimed it swiftly at the lock.
The door swung open instantly, and Chris sobbed dryly as he registered the scene before him. Jim, crumpled on the floor, in a pool of his own blood. His back was soaked in it, his cadet reds darkened by the stuff- and it stunk, that thick coppery scent that seemed to cling to his nostrils and throat.
“Shit, shit. Jimmy. Hey, Jimmy, I’m here.” Chris knelt, reluctant to move Jim too much without the med team there yet. He tapped at his cheek, almost choking when he saw those pretty blue eyes fluttering.
“I’m here. I’m here, Jimmy. You’re safe.” Chris took Jim’s outstretched hand, to reassure him of that very face. Behind him, security were flooding into the decimated dorm room.
“Bones?” Jim cried, nothing but pain in his bloodied, swollen features. He’d clearly taken a fucking beating.
“He’s on his way. He’s coming with Phil, I promise. They’re going to fix you right back up. Just stay still for me, Son. I promise, you’re going to be just fine.”
“Know that.” Jim gasped. “Who?”
“Spock.” Chris dared to spare a glance to the room, watching as Mitchell’s probably unnecessarily beaten body was tied up. Spock stood to the side, still breathing raggedly and holding himself unusually loosely. Chris’s anxious mind thought, just for a second, just maybe… Spock might have killed Mitchell if he hadn’t arrived when he did. And Chris… well, Mitchell wasn’t himself. But he couldn’t say he wouldn’t have beaten the kid to death himself for doing this to Jim.
“He found you.” Chris said. “Don’t ask me how he knew to come here, but he did.” And just maybe, that had something to do with how Spock was still screwing his eyes shut and attempting to steady his breathing. “Not the most spectacular first date, Kid.”
“You did better with Phil?” Jim asked, and ending his statement with a broken sob as he shifted his arm and clearly felt the consequences through his entire, bloody back. Chris was glad he was wincing, unseeing, as Mitchell was dragged out of the dorm room behind them.
“Of course. Just stay awake Jimmy, and I promise I’ll tell you. Phil will tell you when he gets here.” Chris swore, playing for time despite not knowing how much they had before Jim gave up and passed out. He certainly looked close, and Chris hoped that was all there was to it. He’d seen what someone looked like before they died. He’d seen officers die. Ensigns. Hell, even Cadets on one or two unfortunate occasions. But he wasn’t going to lose Jim. He refused to let his mind imagine all the worst internal injuries he’d ever heard about, despite its insistence to remind him that Mitchell could have dragged Jim’s own heart from his chest, if he’d wanted to. Maybe, given another hour. Another progression of his… not powers, that sounded far too grand. Abnormalities.
Chris turned, shuffling aside as the medical team arrived. He made sure to keep hold of Jim’s hand, stuttering through his explanations as Phil climbed over Jim carefully into the bathroom to get a better look at his back. He exchanged a brief look with his husband, exposing the utter fear in his heart for just a moment before returning his attention to Jim, who’s tears were not quite managing to wash away the blood on his face.
“What’re you playing at, infant?” Bones asked, gently, crouching down to look into Jim’s eyes, waving his scanner around his head. “You got blood on my bedsheets.”
“Not the first time.” Jim choked out. “Sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it. I think we’re both homeless now, anyway. I don’t need bedsheets.” Bones whispered, and there wasn’t a single trace of his usual cantankerous self. He sounded as scared as Chris still felt.
“There are two blades in his back, below the surface. One’s embedded in the appendix. He’s going to be fine, but he needs to get to medical.” Phil said rapidly, flicking one of the settings on his medical devices and cutting Jim’s bloody uniform from his back, while Leonard began loading hyposprays. Chris felt numb, only able to stroke Jim’s hand repetitively.
“Pr’mised...” Jim reminded him, eyelids fluttering in an effort to remain open. Chris was confused for a moment, and then attempted a grin.
“Jim wants to know the story of our first date, Phil. I said you’d tell him.”
“Mighty kind of you.” Leonard snorted, and Phil laughed, distractedly.
“What Jim wants, Jim gets.” Phil said, eyes not once wavering from his work on Jim’s back. “We’d been friends forever. Chris was this hot young thing, and he wore leather jackets off-duty and drank good booze, and he was way too cool for school.” That was barely even true, but Phil did tell it in a more interesting way. “And he thought I was super weird, I know. So years passed, we were both posted on different ships. We had some grounded time together, completely by coincidence, and Chris asked me out for a drink. He had no-one better to see, right?”
“Now that’s not true.” Chris interjected, attempting to smirk and failing miserably.
“So we went out to town, and on the walk home we ran into my mother of all people. She completely steam-rolled Chris, scared the shit out of him.”
“Like t’ see tha’.”
“It was hilarious in hindsight, but terrifying at the time. I thought he was going to run in the other direction and never call. But you would not believe it-“ Phil reached for the hypo Leonard offered to him, smiling sadly. “He stood in front of me, told me it was the weirdest night of his entire life and then kissed me.”
Phil had pressed the hypo into Jim’s neck before he’d even finished speaking, and Chris let the air slip from his lungs as he felt Jim’s tentative grip on his fingers slacken instantly.
“Stretcher.” Leonard called, the med team in the dorm approached.
Chris staggered up, out of the way, legs shaky beneath him. Jim would be fine. Mitchell would be put somewhere safe. Everything would be fine. He looked around his surroundings – the wrecked dorm, the blood, the security and the med-team looking alert and professional. Far more than Chris felt. He bent down to pick up a photo frame by his feet, breath taken again when he saw the crushed photo of what he recognised to be Jim’s mother. Kirk looked young, holding a toddler Jim on her hip and hell, Jim had been a cute baby. Winona Kirk didn’t look happy, exactly, but there was undeniable love in her eyes as she looked at her youngest son.
Jim had kept that, treasured it, and Chris didn’t know how to feel. Instinct told him to hate the woman who had let so much bad happen to Jim, but he clearly didn’t. He wanted to ask Jim, to find out once and for all what the deal was with his biological family, and he’d almost missed his chance.
“We’re going to medical.” Phil informed him, leaving the bathroom after Jim’s stretched had cleared the dorm. “You’ve got time to go home and shower, he’ll be out of it for an hour or so.” Phil murmured, squeezing Chris’ hand. “He’ll be fine.” Phil was itching to follow the stretcher, Chris knew, Leonard waving him over by the door.
“I know.” Chris kissed his husband’s cheek. “Go, look after him. I’ll be there soon.” Phil nodded and hurried away, and Chris wiped his bloodied hand on his uniform.
Feeling the effects of his draining adrenaline, Chris turned to Spock who looked more composed now – more like his usual self, even if slightly rustled by his fight with Mitchell. Hell, at least he’d won. Chris understood now – it dawned on him, quickly – what Jim had meant when he’d asked for Leonard. If McCoy had come home, purely incidentally, he’d probably be dead. Christ.
“You gonna tell me how you knew where to find Jim?” Chris asked, wearily. “Both times.”
Spock looked positively uncomfortable, staring down at the floor. “It is… difficult to explain.”
“Then do it well.” Chris said, coldly. “Because Jim could have died, and he’s important to me, and I don’t want to have to make that an order, Commander.”
“James Kirk is my T’hy’la.”
Chris blinked in confusion. He didn’t even know what that was, but Spock said it like it was something holy.
“I became suspicious of the fact during a moment of physical contact 6.77 weeks ago, wherein I helped Cadet Kirk from his chair. Jim was in considerable distress. My mind… sought his out. It is not a solid bond, yet. More of an awareness that one should exist.” Holy – “When I received news of Cadet Mitchell’s escape, I was able to… a comparable human phrase would be ‘tune in’ to his frequency. Vulcan familial bonds are differentiated from romantic strands. I felt his pain, and it led me to him.”
“So…” Chris swallowed thickly. He didn’t know an incredible amount about Vulcan culture, but he’d picked up one or two things over the years. “Please, god, tell me you’re not married?”
Spock looked mildly irritated. “We are not. I could not, nor would I, formalise the bond without the agreement of Jim. As a human, I am fully aware I could not expect such an agreement on our second date.”
“Second?” Chris asked, curiosity getting the better of him for just a moment. “I thought - Never mind, Spock. As long as you’re all safe and no-one’s in any immediate danger, it can wait. I have to shower.” Because Jim’s blood had soaked thought the knees of his uniform, and he felt sick from the stench of it. “But I’ll see you at Medical, right?”
“I will first ensure that Cadet Mitchell has been dealt with-“
“Not good enough. You’re hurt. Make sure Number One makes sure Mitchell is dealt with, then get your ass to Medical.”
Chris loved the way Spock looked when he was grumpy. It was hilarious, and he looked forward to seeing it much more on the Enterprise. Provided that whatever this thing with Jim was worked out. He didn’t want to have to give one of them up, because he was already pretty confident who it would have to be.
“Yes, Sir.” Spock said, anyway. Whether or not he was aware his entire future career on the Enterprise depended on Jim Kirk, Chris didn’t know.
Maybe it wasn’t so weird that Vulcans had bonds, connections – whatever. Chris sort of felt like he and Phil shared some sort of weird mental link, even if he logically knew that was a load of crap for humans. That being said, he still felt and overwhelming sense of love when his husband stepped out of Jim’s room the moment Chris stepped foot on the corridor. Their eyes met instantly, and Chris jogged towards him – too scared to stay away a moment longer. It had been hell enough returning to their apartment, where Jim had slept safely and warmly in his bedroom just hours before, and cleaning Jim’s blood from his hands, peeling away his blood soaked uniform.
Chris held Phil tightly, arms snaking around his waist and pulling him in as close as he possibly could. Phil reciprocated, one hand working into Chris’ fresh uniform and the other pulling his head down.
“He’s okay. He’s under the regen unit now. He’s just gonna feel like shit for a few days.”
Chris nodded, not trusting himself to speak just yet. He never doubted that Jim would be fine. He’d seen enough injuries to know when something was real bad or not. It was just the… overwhelming fear of losing Jim before he’d even really gotten him. They – he and Phil – had so many plans for Jim. He was going to be a fine officer, and a Captain one day too. Even when Jim was out taking the universe by storm, they’d still make sure to find a way to see him. They’d never have Jim think he was alone, ever again. He had a family waiting for him, wherever he travelled to.
“Can I see him?” Chris asked finally, pulling away.
Phil almost looked like he wanted to decline, but he nodded anyway. “Just for a minute.” He relented, taking Chris’ hand and leading him back into Jim’s private room.
McCoy sat by the bio-bed, stroking a hand through Jim’s blond hair lightly – no longer matted by his own dried blood. Leonard had changed into a clean pair of scrubs, and Chris didn’t want to imagine the state of his uniform before he’d had to change too. Both Doctors looked tired, but otherwise in okay spirits. Jim himself was still far too pale for Chris’ liking, laying on his front with his head twisted towards Leonard. His back was clearly the main issue, and his body was covered from neck to knees in the regen unit. His face had been cleaned up a little, but he still had the odd cut, and his left eye was still swollen and discoloured.
There was only so much healing he could take at a time, and Jim was probably used to pain in the facial area anyway. He looked similar to how he had done the first time Chris had seen him again, in that bar in Riverside. This time, Chris trusted that Jim would let a Doctor fix him up without any coercion on his part.
“Chris?” His voice was groggy, as if he’d only just woken or was very close to falling asleep. Both, probably.
“I’m here.” Leonard withdrew his hand, moving his chair aside with a scrape to give Chris space to fit between him and the bedside cabinet. Chris thanked him, crouching down so Jim didn’t have to strain to see him. “How’d you feel?”
“Shitty.” Jim breathed. “Got essays to finish.”
“Don’t worry about it kid. I’ve got you covered. What else are Academic Adviser’s for?” Chris tried to laugh, but it fell flat. “You should rest, Son. We need you home, soon.”
“Kay.” Jim whispered, his too-bright blue eyes meeting Chris’ for a long moment, and then he fought back an obvious wince of pain as the regenerator cast down onto his back. “N’ver had a home before.” As if Chris needed any more sucker-punches today. “Love you, Chris - and Phil - Bones. Love you all.”
Chris looked up slowly, meeting his husband’s gaze, and dammit he wasn’t crying. Phil was barely holding it together, but Chris had to be fine. For one thing, Leonard was there and looking unnervingly traumatised himself.
“We love you too, Jim.” Chris vowed.
“He’s secure, Jimmy. We’ve learned from our mistakes, he won’t get out again. I won’t let anything else happen to you. We’re all right here, we’re not going anywhere. You can rest.”
Jim didn’t strain himself with an answer, but finally let his eyes remain closed. The regenerator system covering the better part of his body continued to hum softly, and Jim’s vitals were all good – as far as Chris could tell, and he had picked up a few things from Phil over the years. Chris breathed out a long, shaky breath. He felt... he didn’t even know how he felt. Everything was too much. Phil must have felt the same, because he exited the room without a word. Chris stood, stretching his back.
“I, uh, I’m going to go have a breakdown with my husband.” Chris admitted to Leonard, clapping a hand against his shoulder. “You okay to stay here with him?”
“Well my dorm was destroyed this morning by a mad energy-charged bastard, so I don’t have anywhere else to be.” Leonard huffed, the embodiment of sarcasm. “You couldn’t drag me away if you tried. But I’ll let you know if he wakes up again.”
“Thanks, Len.” Chris departed, following his husband out into the corridor. Medical was too quiet up in the private wards. It felt sort of miserable, even though Chris knew he should be ecstatic. Jim was alive and recovering, and he loved them.
He made his way to Phil’s office, passing another room where Spock sat stiffly on the bed being checked over by a young nurse Chis recognised from last year’s Christmas party. He stuck his head around the door, knocking gently to signify he was there.
“Afternoon, Nurse Chapel. How’s our favourite patient?”
It was hard not to chuckle at both Spock and Chapel’s looks of derision. Executed very differently, but cutting nonetheless.
“Well, there’s not going to be any lasting damage – though I would recommend he see Doctor M’Benga before he leaves Medical.” She added to Spock, sternly.
“I assure you, Captain, my health is most assured. How is Cadet Kirk?”
“Jim,” Chris said, pointedly. “Is just fine. He’s sleeping now. Leonard is with him.” Chris, again, tried not to laugh at the flash in Spock’s eyes. “Now don’t go getting jealous. They’re best friends. Very close best friends, but just friends. Jim’s many things, but he’s not a cheat.” Chris said, almost entirely confident in that.
“I had not-“
“Yeah, whatever.” Chris waved him down. He didn’t have time for self-righteous Vulcans. “You can see him when Christine here gives you the all clear. Maybe try and stay on Leonard’s good side. As you can imagine, he’s not in the best mood right now, and I think Mitchell just gave him enough good cause for a lifetime to be wary of the people Jim chooses to bring home to meet the family.” Even if, technically, Jim had never done that with Mitchell. Maybe he’d found him just as disturbing as the rest of them did.
Spock’s mouth opened, and closed, and Chris smirked. “See you later, Spock. Christine.”
The nurse, at least, returned his farewells as he hurried on his path towards his husband’s office. He wasn’t sure quite what he was expecting when he knocked smartly, then pushed open the door to enter. A crying husband, quite possibly, or a husband burying himself immediately in paperwork to avoid the emotions of it all.
He didn’t expect to see Phil on a vid-call with someone – not least someone that Chris recognised all too well.
“Commander Kirk.” Chris said, standing behind his husband’s chair and crouching slightly so he was in view of his husband’s computer terminal. “What’s-?”
“Jim asked me to, before you got here.” Phil murmured, sounding oddly detached about it, as if he was expecting a fight from Chris. “I was just telling the Commander, Jim’s going to be just fine. It was a little traumatic, but his injuries really amounted to nothing more than a few scratches.”
“He’s been through worse.” Commander Kirk agreed idly, though she didn’t look very comforted by the fact. None of them were. What she did look was achingly similar to how Jim had looked when they’d entered his private room just then. Pale, wide-eyed and sort of small. “You know, he’s messaged me more in the last few months than he has done in years.”
“It’s Winona, please, Captain.” Kirk chuckled, shaking her head. “I- I need to thank you. You see, I’m a screw up. But I still want my son to be happy, and you’ve… you’ve given him that.”
“It’s our pleasure, Winona.” Phil answered, solemnly. “He’s a good kid. There’s lots of people here who care a lot about him.”
“I’m glad.” Winona blinked back tears. “I’d come home, if I could. I… just, could you tell him that I’m proud of him, and I love him. I’ll try and be in touch soon- I’ve got-“
“Winona.” Chris said, sharply, drawing her attention. “He loves you too.” Jim had told him. He’d told him in the way he’d defended his mother against Chris’ accusations. The way he still had a picture of her beside his damn bed. Maybe Chris didn’t agree with it, but it sure as hell wasn’t his place to say. The Kid could love his mother, if he wanted.
“He…” Winona smiled, properly, tears trailing down her cheeks. She smiled like Jim, too. “Thank you, Captain. Look after him.”
“We will do.” Phil said. “I can let you know how he is, if you-?”
“I hope… I hope Jim will do that. But I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. Thank you, both. I have to get back-“
“Of course. Safe travels, Commander.”
“Kirk, out.” The older Kirk said, softly, and then the screen went black.
Chris pinched the bridge of his nose, fighting off a headache. His other hand was captured by Phil’s, and he returned the tight grip. Everything was going to be fine. But now was probably the best time in the world to open that bottle of whiskey he’d left in Phil’s desk drawer.
Chris took it upon himself to go fetch some food for everyone after what had been, really, just a hellish day. Night had sprung on them faster than any of them had realised. Phil and Leonard had been busy with Jim all day, checking his back, his nightmares, his – well, general issues with medication, hospitals and allergies. Chris had ended up setting up camp in Phil’s office for his mounting paperwork – too restless to just sit by Jim’s bed, and too scared to leave the hospital. Spock had joined him to write up his own report, and they’d worked in silence for probably far too long. Number One had kept camp at their actual offices, working with the admiralty to explain what the hell had happened to render two Commanders, two Doctors and two Cadets completely out of service for Starfleet – even if one of the Cadets and Doctors happened to be the same person.
Chris hurried back up to the corridor where Jim was recovering, and where the rest of them were waiting around – unwilling to go home for the night despite having nothing left to offer up to Jim. Jim was too tired to notice they were there, anyway. Drained by the day’s events, his painkillers, and the soul-sucking effects of the regenerator. Or so Chris thought. He peered through the window on his way to gathering everyone for dinner, and found Jim was in fact awake once again. He was laid down, still, but his eyes were trained closely on Spock, sat beside his bed. Jim looked… so open in his expression. So hopeful.
Spock looked at Jim like he was precious, and Chris couldn’t find it in himself to be mad. Especially not when he glanced down, saw their entwined hands.
They were actually sort of cute.
Chris stepped away from the window, unnoticed, and continued on his path to find the others. He still felt wrecked, like he could sleep for days, but he had a sly feeling that everything would be good soon. If they were really lucky, which was rare where Jim Kirk was concerned, everything would be better than it had been before.
“You can stay, but only if you promise – promise – to come get me if A. He starts picking at his scabs. B. He falls asleep and has a nightmare. C. He tries to seduce you – and I mean that one, Spock, he is in no fit state for Kinky Vulcan hand sex.”
Beside him, Spock looked faint, but Jim just grinned manically. “Holy shit, that’s a thing?”
“D.” Phil continued, ignoring him. “When he starts to get all apologetic over what happened with Mitchell, Come. And. Get. Me.”
“Okay- Jesus, Phil, he gets it.” Jim interrupted. He didn’t mean to sound ungrateful, but he’d not had a chance to talk to Spock alone since the previous day, when he’d been far too out of it to communicate anything of what he’d actually wanted to say. He’d been terrified that Spock would want to call it quits after the Mitchell incident. Instead, Spock had sat beside him and held his hand until he’d fallen asleep. It had been a comfort beyond words, like warmth had been channelled from that touch into his very soul.
Phil looked at Jim like he was insane, opening his mouth to continue.
“Doctor Boyce, I wish nothing more than to guarantee Jim’s swift recovery. Therefore, it is only logical that I would immediately contact you in the event of something detrimental to his health.” Spock placated Phil swiftly, and awed Jim in the process.
“Hm.” Phil’s eyes narrowed. “Fine. You have an hour, Commander Spock.” He turned to Jim, running a hand through his hair. Jim almost tried to chase the touch – as if there hadn’t been people touching him and holding him every single minute he’d been conscious all day. “Jimmy, I’ll be right in my office. Okay Kiddo?”
“Kay, Phil. Thank you.” Jim said, firmly, hoping to reassure the man that he was neither on the brink of passing out or the brink of a breakdown. Yesterday already felt a million miles away. In most respects, anyway. For once in his life, Jim wasn’t complaining about his hospital stay. Not because he didn’t want to be out – because he very much did – but because everyone else was so worried about him. He knew for a fact that none of them had left the hospital last night.
He’d woken a few times, pulled from the grips of his nightmares. Chris, the first time, barging into the room to assist Spock who looked bewildered and uncertain what to do. Chris eased him back to sleep for almost an hour, before he woke again, scrambling onto his stomach to protect his neck from the blades. Phil was there to shield him. The final time he woke, he was screaming for Bones, terrified that he was the one who’d walked in to their dorm and not Spock. Phil had fetched Bones in seconds, and Jim had fallen back asleep curled up in the arms of his best friend – and there he’d stayed until morning.
So yeah, time to talk to Spock would come in pretty handy.
“Alright. Take it easy.” Phil reminded him. With one final, suspicious look to Spock, he left.
“Sorry about that. I didn’t realise he could be so… well, like that.” Jim shrugged, marvelling at the tight, fresh skin on his back. He should probably pay attention to his Doctor and actually take it easy. He didn’t want to tear anything delicate.
“It is of no consequence. He cares for you.”
“Yeah. I guess he does.” Jim grinned, and then cleared his throat. “I, uh, need to thank you for what you did yesterday. I was pretty much helpless there, till you came along.”
Spock didn’t acknowledge his gratitude, his gaze fixed on Jim’s hands, following each nervous movement they made in his lap.
“I must confess to you, Jim, how I was able to locate you in time to be of any use.”
“Ah.” Jim smiled nervously. “The bond, right?”
“You know?” Spock looked somewhere between disturbed, perturbed and ashamed.
“I guessed. I did a bit of reading when you asked me out. Actually, I did a lot of reading.” Jim admitted, blushing a little. “And although your species is infuriatingly private, I did work out one or two things. So I have a fairly good idea why my mind feels lighter when we do this.” His voice had dropped to a whisper as he reached out for Spock’s hand, twining their fingers together. “And why I can feel you trying so hard not to leak over to me that you’re giving yourself a headache.”
“It is not the human way.”
“So what?” Jim shrugged. “I don’t know if you’d noticed, but I think I’d actually benefit from a little company inside my head right now.” Panic shot through him, and he heard it in the beep of his bio-bed as much as he felt it. “Unless you don’t want to – I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have assumed – I know you didn’t ask for a bond either.”
“T’hy’la, please.” Spock murmured. “It would be my honour to accept the bond. I did not want to intrude on your privacy or… assume a trust in me that I have not earned.”
Spock made a very good point, Jim realised. But trust had never once been an issue when it came to Spock. He’d not even considered it. And for a man who’d trusted nothing and no-one for so very long, he almost didn’t recognise himself.
“Chris and Number One trust you. And I trust them.” Jim said, finally. “I don’t know how to do relationships, Spock. Let alone with a half-Vulcan. But I do know that I want more of this,” He raised their entwined fingers, “And more of that warmth in my head.”
“I will provide for you in any which way you allow me to, Ashayam.” Spock vowed, solemnly. “I still intend to take you out for tea.”
“I should hope so.” Jim grinned, rubbing his thumb across Spock’s hand. “I should explain about Bones last night too – right?”
“There is no need. Captain Pike already took the liberty of ensuring I did not approach any false conclusions. He is your best friend, as Nyota is mine. Her proximity to me has been comforting on many occasions. I would not deny you the company of your best friend on any night you desired it.”
“Wow, Spock. That’s really sweet.” Jim said. “But just so you know, I’d never – I mean, he’s like my brother.”
“I trust you, Ashayam.” Spock said, simply, amusement sparkling in his deep brown eyes.
“Oh. Well good.” Jim grinned, wondering if he could convince Spock to kiss him – or if the fierce, half-Vulcan Commander would be too scared of Phil to risk it. They were distracted, unfortunately, by a short knock on the door.
“Oh for the love of – PHIL, I’M STILL ALIVE.” He hollered, huffing exaggeratedly. The door opened slowly, and two familiar faces appeared – one on top of the other, like cartoon spies. They were decidedly more female than the rest of his companions, and decidedly less white.
“Hello, gorgeous boy.” Gaila said, teeth gleaming white against the emerald of her skin. Above her, Uhura looked sort of nervous.
“I was talking to Spock.” Gaila replied, seamlessly, striding into the room and getting dangerously close to Spock’s personal space before changing direction and clambering up onto the bed beside Jim. She was all hot, green skin and perfect curly hair. She hugged Jim like a monkey, beaming at him brightly. “But I am happy to see you too, pretty boy.” She consoled him, nuzzling into his neck.
“You better be.” Because Gaila was the sweetest, most unfalteringly kind woman in the world – and Jim was truly pleased to see her. He’d not made enough time for her in recent weeks, and that was on him. She’d been through a lot in her life, and his own issues didn’t excuse him being a shitty friend. He looked up at Uhura, still lurking by the door. “Hey.”
“Hi, Kirk.” She said, quietly. “You look good.”
“You don’t mean that.” Jim tried not to sound bitter.
“Well, no. But you look better than I expected.”
“You are still not green.” Gaila sighed excessively, once again eying Spock up like he was sex on legs. Jim sympathised.
“Gaila, baby, when humans are green something is serious wrong. Wait till I’m all peachy pink again, then tell me I’m beautiful.”
“But you are beautiful, James Kirk.” Gaila pandered, pressing a kiss to his cheek. Jim eyed Spock cautiously, but there wasn’t a hint of jealousy in his expression. In fact, Spock actually looked quite grateful that he wasn’t the one subject to Gaila’s advances. Of course, being best friends with Uhura had to come with the catch of seeing Gaila frequently too.
“I wanted to apologise, Kirk.” Uhura said, stepping closer to the foot of Jim’s bed. “I never gave you a fair chance, and that sucked. I’m… I’m really sorry.”
“Hey, it’s fine.” Jim shrugged.
“No, it’s not. You don’t have to forgive me, but I was hoping we could maybe have a fresh start. I mean, you’re dating Spock – right? And you’re not going to get rid of me as long as you’re friends with him or Gaila. So… I don’t – it’s up to-” Jim wasn’t so evil that he’d let Uhura continue to worry needlessly. He’d never seen the fierce, hard as nails Cadet look so worried.
“Uhura! Stop rambling. That sounds good, really.” Jim smiled, honestly. “Hi.” He held out his hand. “I’m Jim Kirk.”
“Well played, Kirk.” Uhura laughed, shakily. “I’m Ny-"
“Nyota Uhura, yes, I know.” Jim said, rapidly, grinning boyishly because he couldn’t help it. He wasn’t going to stop pissing Uhura off, it was too much fun. Watching her eyes widen in irritation as she realised he already knew her name was too. Much. Fun.
“Kirk, you’re such an asshole.” She growled, but there was no real cutting edge to her tone.
“I know.” Jim grinned. “I know.”
Home. Jim hadn’t been lying when he said he’d never really had one. Places to live, shelters, rusty cars and other people’s beds – sure. But home was love and family; sanctuary against all the bad in the world. Home was Chris and Phil’s apartment, busy and vibrant and warm against the relentless downpour outside.
“Phil – no, no!” Chris said, exasperated. “Holy shit, do you understand the word no?!”
Jim watched quietly from the doorway to the kitchen. Chris approached his husband, wrapping a hand around his wrist to stop him making another movement.
“You cannot put vinegar in this sauce. That’s not even remotely a thing you can do.”
“I. am. Experimenting.” Phil replied, letting Chris take the bottle from him anyway and twisting against the Kitchen counter.
“Well experiment when it’s only me you’re going to poison. Not when we have an apartment full of guests.” Chris said, stepping closer and trailing his lips against Phil’s cheek.
“Oh my god, guys, get a room.” Jim said, taking that as his cue to step into the kitchen, grinning wickedly. He jumped up onto a clean counter, biting his cheeks to hold back his laughter as Chris dropped his head against his husband’s shoulder.
“Kirk, you are an absolute brat.” Chris complained, but he didn’t mean it. Of course he didn’t mean it. Jim just kept grinning, because he could, because they loved him. “This is our room. All of these rooms are ours. This is our apartment.”
“Nope.” Jim countered, popping the ‘p’ happily. “You revoked the right to make out outside your bedroom when you let me move in.” After the whole ‘Mitchell’ incident, in which their dorm room had been completely obliterated. There had been dorms available, but Jim sort of couldn’t imagine living without Bones. He’d said as much to Phil one evening in medical, and his Doctor had looked at him like he was completely stupid, and said Honestly, Jim. You’re both going to live with us, for however long you want. And Jim hadn’t stopped grinning since.
He liked living with Chris and Phil. It was fun – and provided ample opportunity for teasing. They bounced off Phil, who dished it back out in equal measure, but watching Chris squirm was fantastic. Especially when Spock came over. That was double – no, triple fun. Plus, there was always someone around so he wasn’t ever left alone to his thoughts. He had to share his bed with Bones, which wasn’t the first or the last time Jim was betting – so most of the time his nightmares were swiftly dealt with. When Bones had the night shift, Chris or Phil would always come in to him and simultaneously make him feel like a loved infant, and stronger than he ever could have felt alone.
“Let him move in.” Chris repeated, shaking his head. “Who lets Jim Kirk do anything?” He moved away from his husband, returning to his cooking.
Phil had invited over everyone to celebrate Jim’s release from hospital – even though he’d only been there for three days. A hellish three days, sure, but apart from the nightmares there was no lasting damage from Mitchell’s unfortunate demise. Jim didn’t get the need to celebrate, but he wasn’t about to turn it down. He was still a little… off. But it helped having everyone there. Chris, Phil, Bones, Number One and Spock too. Gaila and Uhura had been invited too, but they’d politely declined. ‘A time for family’, Uhura had said in her brief, apologetic message. Jim sort of got it; they just weren’t at that place yet. Uhura wanted to give him space, and Jim was grateful. Even more so when he realised she’d signed the message off as Nyota.
“That’s the spirit, gorgeous.” Phil smiled absently, passing Jim a beer. “What can we do for you, Jimmy? Unless you only came to protect my virtue.”
“Aw Jesus Christ, Phil.” Chris complained, rummaging through the cupboards for salt.
“Shush, you.” Phil grinned. “Well?”
“I wanted to speak to you, actually.” Jim admitted, fighting back the nerves that had surfaced out of nowhere. The small voice in his head that told him that he was about to piss someone he cared about off, big style.
“Oh?” Phil asked, slipping into his ‘Doctor’ mode instinctively. Somehow, it didn’t help Jim on this particularly occasion. If anything, it made this more awkward.
“Yeah. I’ve been thinking, a lot. I spoke to Bones a bit, too. And well, I was wondering if you think, maybe, it might be a good idea to make Bones my primary Doctor – it was just an idea and I get if you think it’s stupid, I didn’t mean to be ungrateful but-“
“Hey!” Phil stood opposite him, capturing his hands and holding them between them. By the oven, Chris had looked over in mild interest. “Look at me, not the floor.” Phil instructed, and Jim did as he was told. “I’m not mad, Kiddo.” Phil said, and Jim dared to believe him. He certainly didn’t look angry. He just looked like Phil. Sort of concerned, but with overriding warmth in his expression.
“I just mean,” Jim took a deep breath. “You’ve done so much for me with – eating – and Tarsus and everything. I don’t want to give that up. But I, I dunno, I’ve been thinking since leaving medical that I might… might want you as my emergency contact. I don’t know if you can be both – I just thought-“
“Jim, it’s okay.” Phil said softly, squeezing his hands. “You don’t need to explain yourself. I told you, didn’t I? You can do this however you want to.” Jim deflated, only slightly. “Besides, you’re like a son to me. I don’t think I can take hearing about your sex life with Spock.”
“Aw hell, Philip, I’m going to put you in this dinner.” Chris swore, throwing some herbs in a pot angrily. Jim couldn’t help but snigger.
“Kinky.” He received one hell of a glare in return.
“Really though, Jimmy. I’ll sign you over to Leonard first thing Monday morning. We’ll still work on Tarsus, don’t worry. I’m here for you.”
“As… as a dad?”
Phil grinned. “Well, yeah. If you want me.” Behind him, Chris had turned, looking beyond serious as he nodded in agreement.
Jim literally could not imagine anything he would rather have than two awesome, lame, incredibly weird dads. He wasn’t sure if he could actually voice that without ugly sobbing. Again. So he just nodded sort of desperately, and then found himself being tugged forward into a brief, tight hug.
“I hate both of you. Philip, we’re getting a divorce and Jim, you’re disowned.” Chris said suddenly, in a voice thick with emotion. Not actually hate though, Jim noted smugly. “Get out of my kitchen. Both of you. Or I swear to god I’ll put nuts in your dinner.”
“Yes, dad.” Jim said dutifully, hopping off the kitchen counter and dragging his sleeve across his damp eyes. Not that he was crying. As he passed Chris, moving towards the living room, his academic adviser reached out and stopped Jim from passing.
“You’re a pain in my ass, Kirk.” Chris said, affectionately. “I love you.” He added, a familiar hand where Jim’s shoulders met his neck, squeezing briefly. Now Jim realised precisely what that gesture had meant all this time. Some brief human contact to remind him he wasn’t alone – but now he had the words, too. “Now get the hell out of my Kitchen, and take Phil with you. Send Number One in. She taught me to cook in the damn first place.”
“Yessir.” Jim grinned, offering a lazy salute. He and Phil exited the kitchen as instructed, and Phil smirked at him as he approached Number One – presumably to encourage her to fuck with Chris as much as humanly possible, just to see how long it took before he kicked her out of the kitchen too.
The living room was almost too crowded – to the point where it was sort of lucky that Gaila and Nyota had declined their invitations. Jim went to the sofa and draped himself between Spock and Bones, laying his head against Spock’s shoulder and his feet over Bones’ lap. Neither his boyfriend nor his best friend appreciated this, that much was obvious, but they didn’t complain. That was either because they were grateful Jim had formed a barrier between them, they were competing to see who would break first, or they were still too freaked out by last week’s incident that they didn’t want to deny Jim anything.
Jim considered all three options. As much as he was certain Spock and Bones both loved him, that wasn’t enough to stop Bones from ranting at him for every little thing. And Spock was well adapted to human life, but he wasn’t so sensitive that he wouldn’t straight up have walked away mid-sentence if Bones had really been pissing him off. Which left Jim thinking they were stubborn idiots who each wanted to prove they could be the better friend to Jim by not voicing their grievances regarding the other.
“How’d it go with…” Bones asked, after a minute, jerking his head towards Phil where he was setting out the table. Jim watched, biting his lip as Phil caught a glass with his elbow and quickly hurried to stop it wobbling off the table. He managed it, just about, looking around to make sure no-one had seen his usual bout of clumsiness. How he could be trusted with delicate medicine and hyposprays was, frankly, beyond Jim.
“Good. He completely agreed.” Jim allowed himself a smile. “They both did.”
“Indeed, ashayam. Now you might accept that you had nothing to worry about.”
“Yeah, I guess so.” Jim’s hand found Spock’s of its own accord, and he hooked his two fingers around Spock’s like the half-Vulcan had shown him in the hospital. It provided a source of warmth, a comforting sort of tug through his fingers to his brain.
“And did ya’ tell him they’re going to get you all to themselves when I go home next week.”
“No, I was saving that for later.” Jim shrugged. “We’ve got time.” He laughed, as Number One stumbled out of the Kitchen with a bottle of wine, retreating from the clear distress of Chris. “Hey Dad, you need help serving up?” Jim yelled, to the surprise of Bones and Spock on either side of him. “Because Bones will be right there.” He added, winking at Number One as she stifled more giggles than he’d seen from the woman all goddamn year.
“Dammit Jim.” Bones pinched the sole of his foot in retaliation, before his southern gentlemanly training took over and he stood to comply and go aid the host.
“I do not understand, ashayam. You volunteered Doctor McCoy - He had no reason to cooperate.”
Jim grinned, twisted around to see Spock better. “He did, though. Because Bones thinks we’re all infants, and he thinks Pike is the most sane. Besides, if he were still here, I wouldn’t be able to do this.” He inclined his head forward, capturing Spock’s lips with his own and kissing him breathless until a familiar voice coughed obviously that they were hypocrites. Jim pulled back, smirking triumphantly at Phil.
“You should be.” Phil muttered, narrowing his eyes. He raised a threatening finger to Spock. “Hands where I can see ‘em, Mister. Or I’ll make your three years on the Enterprise full of more surprise Physicals than even your Vulcan body can take.”
“He’s kidding.” Jim explained, briefly, at the perturbed look on Spock’s face. “Probably. That’s a dad’s duty, anyway.” Jim laughed exuberantly, because he could, clambering off Spock and approaching the table. “Smell’s good.” And it did. That was another benefit of living with Chris. He was an excellent cook. “Maybe too much vinegar.” He added, precisely for the glare that Chris threw his way, and then to his husband.
They all sat in their respective seats, Number One already pouring more wine out for herself and Phil – after Jim had noticed the drink’s absence in their house and swore to Phil that he really didn’t mind. He was on good terms with his mother again, anyway. Things like that were just memories. Nasty ones, sure, but unable to hurt him.
“A toast, gentlemen.” Number One coughed. “And Lady.” She nodded her head in acquiesce, regal and divine. God, if Jim were not hopeless for Spock – and if she’d ever shown the slightest bit of interest in him… “To Jim.” Chris said, as they raised their glasses. Jim’s own beer bottle trembled slightly in his hand. Not out of anything bad, necessarily. Just his name. Hell, it wasn’t even some pretty speech. Just his name, and it said so much more. He’d been so many people in his life, and a name had always meant so much. Kirk. James. Jimmy. JT, back on Tarsus. But nothing made him feel quite as at ease as Jim did. He was Jim, and he was Chris’ and Phil’s son – through and through.
“To Jim.” The others repeated, and Jim set his bottle down shakily before he did something ‘Phil’ like and dropped his glass. Five faces stared back at him that he loved. His family of choice. And hell, he’d never expected that when Chris had happened upon him in that Bar in Riverside. He’d never had platonic love before. But somehow, he’d gotten Number One, like an evil, hot older friend who made him insanely uncomfortable but also kicked ass on his behalf whenever he needed to. Jim had Bones, too, who was more of a brother than Jim had known since he was a pre-teen. Bones, who was going to have been Jim’s last thought as he lay bleeding on their bathroom door. Whose constant care for Jim throughout the start of his tentative relationship with Chris and Phil had meant the difference between running, and staying. Jim was so damn glad he’d stayed.
Jim loved his mom, but it was fair to say that life hadn’t exactly been easy for either of them when he’d been a kid. But he was a fully grown man now, if in body and not mind. Without a doubt, he knew that having Chris and Phil in his life was quite possibly the best thing that had ever happened to him. He loved Starfleet and the friends he’d made there, but Chris and Phil made it truly worth it. He never, never could have imagined that one bargained dinner with them to get Jim to have his Physical would have amounted to… well, this. He never would have thought it was possible that he could trust them to know everything about him, and still end up being toasted to at their dining table.
It was fair to say he’d never been in love before either. He’d certainly never met anyone like Spock before. But now he had this… beautiful, intelligent, hot-as-hell with pointy ears to boot, boyfriend. Spock meant everything. Hell, he’d achieved the ultimate. He was in Jim’s head. Only lightly, and he only occasionally prodded the tentative bond as if to remind Jim he was there. It was insane. Truly. But that was life, and Jim wouldn’t have it any other way.
“To family.” Jim added, lifting his bottle again and knocking back his beer. There was a lot he still felt like he needed to say. Primarily long, rambling demonstrations of his gratitude to anyone who would listen. But as conversation kicked off, primarily Bones explaining that he was heading back to Georgia for the break soon, including temporary transfer to his old hospital there, and thanking Chris and Phil for their hospitality, Jim just enjoyed listening. When he’d first left home as a teenager, he’d spoken all the time. Afraid that if he shut up for just one minute, someone might hear everything he wasn’t saying. He didn’t really have that problem now, because his family had proven they’d be there for him as and when he ever felt like he needed to speak.
He didn’t need to say anything at all when he was with them. Especially not Spock, who was like a bubble of warmth in the back of his mind. Jim was simply happy to share this meal with everyone and know that there would be a hundred more occasions in which he’d see them like this, all together, before they ventured out on the Enterprise. They had time. For now, he was hungry. He was hungry, surrounded by good booze and family, and he was sure as hell going to enjoy it.