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Albatross (The Weight of Living)

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Sam was nine years old when he realized that Jimmy wasn't normal.

Well, maybe that’s not really true, because when Jimmy was baby he’d always listened to all his stories and babbled in the right places and never cried when Sammy held him too tight, but maybe that was normal for space babies.

But now Sam didn’t think he was normal, because Jimmy, armed with only an old picture book and the dictionary of engineering his Mom used to hold up the crooked coffee table, taught himself to read.

But what was way more impressive, normal or not, in Sam's nine-years-and-infinitely-wise opinion, was that Jimmy also figured out how to start the old car. Without the keys.

 

It was only later that he realized the two might be more connected than he had thought.

And it was only much much later that he regretted not telling his mom.

 

But what he learned that day, and was subsequently reminded many days after, was that normal was boring, and neither of them would ever be.

And that Jim Kirk was one smart sumbitch, and that the universe favored the dumbass.

Somehow.

 

 

 

Of course, twenty-something years later and he's still running through hospitals at a frantic pace, almost colliding with the glass doors and nursing staff. If Jim didn't die out in the black, Sam was going to fucking kill him himself.

 

 

 

When Jim had been about 14 and incredibly bored in the med-ward, he’d read “A Separate Peace” out loud to Sam while he did his math assignments. Sam remembered him chewing on a busted upper lip, reading that bit about oak trees that was really a metaphor for the people you grow up idolizing. He remembers those blue eyes, staring at him from under eyelashes that had just started to grow in thick again and G-d, he swore he'd never be that kind of tree man. He'd never be anything less than a good man, if only he could keep Jim from getting hurt. He could hear him, the last few days, echoing around like the silent kind of ghost Jim Kirk could never be,

 

" This was the tree, and it seemed to me standing there to resemble those men, the giants of your childhood, whom you encounter years later and find that they are not merely smaller in relation to your growth, but that they are absolutely smaller, shrunken by age....[for] the old giants have become pygmies while you were looking the other way."

 

Giants Indeed. He thinks he’s only ever stood tall with his family at his side.

He thinks now that it was Jim , only he’d never shrunk in any way at all.

 

Up until two days ago, Sam could remember seeing Chris Pike cry twice in his life. The first was when Winona asked him to be Jimmy's godfather. He'd been about four at the time, too young to understand what was going on but old enough to know that he probably never going to be able to sneak as much cake as he did than. He remembers stopping, cake half chewed in his mouth and staring, because Uncle Chris was crying , and adults don't cry.

 

Uncle Archie laughed and said “ You’re scaring the kid Chris get ahold of yourself!” But then he'd picked him up and swung him around and Sam stopped worrying about the strange things adults sometimes did.

 

The second was when he commed Sam to tell him they'd located Jimmy on Tarsus.

They don't talk about that one.

 

The third, the third had been two days ago when he'd told Sam that Jim might not make it. Because apparently the self sacrificing son of a goddamn idiot climbed into a fucking warp core - Apollo's sun he was going to kill the bastard - and almost died from radiation - radiation tore apart your DNA over and over again and Sam has spent the last forty eight hours trying very hard not to imagine how that felt and absolutely failed miserably - and only had a chance because of a super secret experimental treatment that might make it worse.

Oh, and apparently some StarFleet brass were very, very sorry, but Uncle Archer was ripping through the ranks with a fine toothed comb, and for some reason Jim thought Uncle Chris was dead, and Winona was in deep space almost two weeks away.

And also, this was an inside job, and StarFleet was goddamn lucky Sam was a civilian contractor.

 

This was like the Narada incident all over again, except for the significant lack of genocide. (The lack of genocide was Sam's favorite part.)

 

Forget white hair, between Jim and his crew and Winona and her crew, Sam was going to develop a stress ulcer from his family’s shenanigans.

(But G-d he wouldn’t have it any other way)

 

The nurse at the front desk was stacking pads in the way his interns did when they wanted to look busy, but not too busy. It was a neat trick. They forgot that he'd been an intern once too.

 

“Hi, I need the room number of Captain James T. Kirk.” His fingers were tapping out an irregular rhythm against the desktop, odd beats and his index finger still twitched slightly off from the time he and Jim thought building a tree house would be super easy.

 

Spoiler: it wasn’t.

 

“I’m sorry sir, that information is not available. The Captain is not receiving visitors currently”

 

She was probably a nice girl. She was probably doing her job, taking extra desk shifts so the nurses who worked 36 hours through the clusterfuck of emergencies (Starships falling through the skies, bombs on StarFleet campus) could rest, she was probably under strict instructions not to give Jim’s room number to anyone, no one at all, because the people who were allowed to know already knew and sometimes Sam wished he'd inherited his mother's organization skills along with her eyes because this is something he should have thought of asking before he got here.

 

But he’d spent the last two days on some frankly shifty transport shuttles, spotty reception and almost zero information about whether Jim was alive or dead or in a coma and he was this close, this close , to going full Winona on someone’s ass, and he had never met a force of nature as terrifying as an angry Winona Kirk.

 

“Ma'am, I'm going to ask this once. Where . Is my brother?” Sam didn't mean to be threatening. Honest, he didn't. But hospitals...hospitals meant bad things for Kirks and he wanted nothing more than to wrap his brother up in a blanket and drag him out the back door.

 

In his experience that trick worked at least once.

 

“It’s alright Nance, I’ll take him up”

 

He turned to face a tired (everyone looked so goddamn tired ) woman in doctors scrubs halfheartedly tucking her blonde hair back into a scraggly ponytail. She gave up and made the kind of messy bun Aurelan loved. Holding out her hand, she looked him up and down, her eyes almost level with his.

 

“Christine Chapel. I served under the Captain before he managed to convince me to come back and finish my degree. Wouldn't shut up about you some days” She had turned and started walking towards the turbo lifts while she spoke, her long strides making Sam struggle to keep up.

 

“I’m glad I did. Means I was here to help treat him when they got back.”

 

All that you desired, when you were a child

Was to be old, was to be old

 

Sam and Jim had never been the kind of kids to play spaceship.

You’d think they would be, but at the end of the day, pretending to be engineers and trying to take apart the holo-player was more their style. Uncle Chris laughed so hard he fell off the couch that one time.

 

Sam remembers very clearly the first and last time his brother tried playing spaceship at recess.

 

It was Johnny's idea. Of course it was. Johnny was something Mom liked to call “a no good sneaky bitch but don't you ever use words like that Sammy”. Sam was inclined to agree, whether or not he was allowed to use that word himself.

 

But that didn't explain the shouting that was going on, because while Johnny was a bitch, he was also a coward, and Kirk's were a lotta things but they weren’t cowards when it came to bullies.

 

He wandered over, trying to figure out what was going on before Jimmy started using his fists. Which was happening a lot these days, he should know better.

 

( “You’re one to talk Sammy you gave Richie a black eye.”

“Yeah but he deserved it.”

“Suuuure.” )

 

He was only able to catch the back end of a conversation that was way too serious for a bunca ten year olds playing a regular “Away Mission” game, but the look on Jim’s face made him feel sick to his stomach.

 

Uncle Frank was the only one who ever made Jim look like that.

 

“...yeah, but if Jimmy’s the Captain, the ship is gonna explode. Everyone knows that's what happens when a Kirk is the Captain. “

 

Sam got in a lot of trouble. Apparently he knocked out one of Johnny’s adult teeth when he shoved him away and “ So what, they can fix it, ” was not a proper apology.

 

Yeah, Sam and Jim never played Spaceship like the other kids. They both agreed that engineer was way more fun anyways.

 

 

 

“James T Kirk you bastard!”

 

One of the best parts of Jim being at the academy was definitely this. Being able to walk up to him, no matter what the month or holiday or fucking starsign , because he would always be exactly where he said he was, arbitrary travel decisions be damned. On Campus. And with people Sam actually knew . And trusted . Or would trust, once he knew their names. (And backgrounds and specialties and he was not overreacting, Mom, shut up.)

 

“Ok first of all, we both know I look way too much like Dad for that one to stick, Second of all, what the fuck did you just imply about my mother?” Jim didn’t even look up from his padd, so used to getting Sam’s shit in the background that he still hadn't realized who he was talking too. His friends, on the other hand, (And here's how he knows they’re a little bit messed up, because he’s way too happy that his brother has actual-to-Apollo friends, like a normal college kid), his friends look a cross between amused and horrified , as in, oh god there’s two of them . Having grown up around Jim and Winona Kirk, he finds their horror a sign of intelligence. Also amusing.

 

“Oh please, Ma’s called you a bastard so many times you should be demanding a paternity test by now.” He leans over his brothers shoulder, maaaaybe a little insulted that whatever he’s reading is more interesting than he is. ”Research on Long Term Effects of Warp Core Exposure ”, that explains it. Jim been bitching at their Mom for years about this.   

 

“Well we both know the only real option there is Uncle Chris, in which case I'd honestly rather not know.”

Jims head whipped up from his notes as if he suddenly realized who he was talking too.

“Sam!”

“Jim!” He answers back, mocking him in the way only true bastards and siblings get away with.

 

“You’re here! Why are you here? Oh my god did Aurelan finally kick you out? What did you do? Do I need to run damage control??” Jim is both hugging him and slapping him upside the head, but that last bit might be accidental since he’s still holding his padd.

 

“Actually I’m in town for some conference with StarFleet’s “most brilliant minds ”, “ and they both roll their eyes because every officer they know has complained about Starfleet’s Start of Year Academic conferences. “And I decided to come by and check if you’d really joined the Evil Empire.”

 

One of Jim’s friends snorts at that but Sam only gives him a glance before turning back to Jim. He looked good. A little tired, which was normal, and he had what looked like a really old black eye.

So also normal.

 

“Yep, joined the dark side, Captain Pike even got me cookies. I also got this cool uniform, in a super practical color, and look!” He clasps the amused guy on his shoulder “I even have a personal doctor friend now!”

Sam pretends not to be surprised, because while Jim doesn’t really trust doctors, he’s also never done what Sam’s expected. Joining StarFleet: Exhibit A.

 

“That’s right, Jimmy, introduce me to your friends.” He leans forward and flutters his eyelashes at his baby brother, because any opportunity to give him shit is a good opportunity. And because while he trusts the StarFleet Academy Screening Process, Kirk is a big name and he doesn’t look forward to hiding any bodies this year.

But he will if he has too.

 

Jim rolls his eyes “I’m telling Aurelan you forgot your social skills at the lab again. Guys, this is my brother, Dr. Samuel Kirk, he studies microbiology as a civilian contractor for StarFleet.” Yeah, that was the base of it. It was almost like Jim wanted to pretend he hadn’t proofread most of Sam’s papers for him.

 

“Jim you didn't tell me you had a brother.” This was the brunette again, and based on the what was a slight pout, Sam was certain he was that “potential best friend and maybe good influence, it can go both ways at this point,” that Chris had mentioned to Mom. He held out a hand to Sam,

“Leonard McCoy, I’m a trauma surgeon, mostly. StarFleet has me doing Full Medical though.” Jim interrupts, because of course he does, looking as though someone just described Mojito ice cream as “good” instead of “motherfutzing fantastic ”.

Jim drapes himself over Sam’s shoulder, gesturing wildly. “Bones, don’t be modest it’s a bad look on you, he’s the best Medical Cadet they have right now, and he’s finishing his psyche degree while he’s here. And of course I didn’t tell you I have a brother I’ve known you for like three weeks!”

McCoy gets a weird look on his face, as though he knows family members aren’t the kind of information that needs to be earned, but also like he’s not really sure that’s true anymore. Sam figures he should get used to it. Lots of things about Jim are going to be like that. And if he has a nickname, Jim intends to keep him around. Sam makes a note to check him up later.

 

The other two Cadets are watching the exchange curiously, so Sam shakes himself from Jim’s grip and turns to them.

“This i’s Gaila Vro, Sam” Jim waves at the Orion with red hair, who holds out her hand in a way that suggests she still isn’t quiet used to some Terran cultures, but thinks they’re interesting enough to try out.

“She’s engineering track, and a goddamn genius with computers Sam, she’s only a second year and is working on miniturazing Warp Cores so they can fit in shuttles Sam, shuttles !” Sam never knew Orions’ blush dark blue, but then again he can admit having Jim babble proudly about you is a little overwhelming.

 

“Miniaturized Warp Cores? Mom’s been trying to get them to work on that for years !” He turns to Gaila, wondering if she even realizes why his brother is this excited. “Have you applied yet for a ships posting for the Practical Semester?”

 

Gaila dimpled at him, “Yes, Jim’s already mentioned I should apply to the ShenZhou and mention my project in the “special interests”. He says that’s what the Chief Engineer usually checks for Cadet placement. He didn’t mention how he knew her, however.” She looks at Jim with an odd expression, and he recognizes it, although he hates that he does. He knows Jim recognizes it, and he hopes Aurie is up for guests, because if Sam thought Jim might adopt McCoy, he definitely adopted Gaila.

He wonders how many rumors about Orions are true, and how much that kind of “suggestion” would have cost her on her home world.

He also knows exactly why Jim didn’t tell her he knew the Chief Engineer, because that sounded too much like an offer he would never make.

 

“Doesn't matter,” Jim says casually, even though Sam has seen him casual and this is him trying to put out a fire, “Mom’s Engineering Department is Sacred . I wouldn’t touch it if I dared. Not that she would listen either.”

 

Sam had to snort at that, because he knew Jim was damn good with engines and their mother had been taking his opinions from a dumb young age, but still. Not the point.

 

“And this,” Jim swiftly changed tracks, with all the ease of a kid raised around StarFleet bullshitters, “Is Cadet Uhura, top of the Communications and Xenolinguistics track.” Sam knew there was a story behind that, especially when he saw the look on Uhura’s face. Like she wasn’t sure whether she found Jim funny or annoying, or both and decided to put up with it for a reason she didn’t yet know.

 

“Xenolinguistics, huh? Means you must have a pretty talented tongue, right?” He wasn’t quite sure why Jim started laughing and Gaila giggled into her palm, but Uhura looked torn between resignation and disappointment. Kirk’s were apparently confusing on the opinions scale.

Sam sighed, because that ice breaker worked on every linguist he’d ever met, even the ones without tongues.

“Jim what did you do?”

 

“Is that a family joke or something?” Uhura sounded like she couldn't believe she was asking the question. Sam was honestly just confused, because if Jim had told her that joke why would she...Ah. Ok then. Honestly Jim was practically giving him puppy eyes - “help me prove I’m not a total asshole, Sam!” He briefly considered letting Jim work this out on his own. But Uhura seemed nice, and was obviously willing to give Jim a second chance.

 

“I mean, yeah? Aunt Hoshi used to say it all the time, and she was a Xenolinguist, so..?” He kept the confusion, neutral and “who me? I’m innocent ”, but enjoyed the way Uhura frowned a little at the name “Hoshi”. He’d let her figure it out.

 

“So how long are you being in town, Dr. Kirk?” Uhura was going to the politest of all Jim’s friends, he could tell. She probably also cursed like a Klingon when she got mad though, all linguists did.

 

“Long enough to make some “connections ” with the “upcoming stars ” in StarFleets roster.” He was sure you could hear the air quotes when he spoke, but Jim was snickering and even the grumpy-ish doctor was smirking.

“Long enough to make sure Jim’s sleeping at least four hours and eating more than instant noodles and pancakes.” He ruffles Jim’s hair because he’s four inches taller and he can finally embarrass his brother in front of his friends.

 

Jim rolled his eyes and shoved his arm away. “Sure thing, Mom. Lemme just call our Mother and tell her you suggested a paternity test, so I can inherit everything in peace.”

“Don’t be greedy Jimmy-sweetheart, you can’t get all the money just because I got all the looks.”

 

Yeah he could get used to Jim staying in one place for a while.

 

Now that you are here, suddenly you fear

You've lost control (lost control)

 

He wasn’t entirely sure why he was doing this.

 

Actually he knew exactly why he was doing this. It was because between his Mother, Miz PPD and PTSD of 2233, his brother, Sir The Universe Fucking Hates Me But Watch Me Do It Anyways , and his girlfriend, I Fucking Love Your Family But You’re All Fifty Galaxies of Messed Up (TM), someone had convinced him that it might be a good idea to remind, said brother, that his family didn't hate him. And that they didn't hate all his decisions.

 

Quite the opposite actually.

 

That’s me. Doomed To Love Amazingly Idiotic Geniuses, Samuel Kirk.

He’d kick your ass if you called him George.

 

So here he was, dressed in a nice grey suit that Aurie loved (hey sharp dressed man, everyone's crazy, etc. etc.) and sitting in a courtroom as his baby brother presented all the reasons I Am Not Fucked Up and can definitely look after myself your honor, cross my heart and eh…, promise on my Daddys legacy.

 

He got it. In a twisted, Vulcan-leaps-of-logic way this made sense. Getting emancipated meant that no one, not Winona or God or the State could tell Jim he had to listen. No adult that wasn't an elected official could force him into doing anything, and Sam was fairly certain Jim would never listen to an elected official anyways, emancipated or not.

 

At least he’d waited till he was almost completely healthy again.

 

They'd seen it coming. They'd all seen it coming. He’d finished his psyche eval-program for StarFleet almost three months ago and had laughed before flipping off the recruiter and traveling to New York “for the shows , Sam! Nothing like seeing Off Broadway, Off Broadway”.

He was ninety percent done with his xeno-linguistic degree, although he’d somehow finished more than half of it before...before.

 

Sam was sure Hoshi was the reason Jim had taken so long to finish it. He hates saying things out loud, almost as of he didn’t trust the air anymore (and what did it say about Sam that he just let that go?) But the way he sat and just stared at the walls every time he tried to read something in Klingon made it obvious.

 

Well. Obvious to Sam anyways.

 

So when the court sent them the legally mandated notification,Winona just sighed, put on her best non-engine-grease stained engineering tunic and went to shout at her therapist.

 

It was a productive meeting apparently.

 

But they all agreed that what Jim really needed was the freedom he thought was guaranteed with emancipation. As if any of them would ever try and hold him back. Even if all he was doing was fucking around in Times Square.

 

Somehow Jim hadn’t noticed him come in, which meant he was probably working too hard again. On what, Sam was almost afraid to ask. But then the judge called him as a character witness, and he saw the look on Jim’s face as he walked towards the bench.

 

Maybe this wasn’t something he understood, not completely. But it was something he could give , freely and wholly and nothing in return.

 

But the look on Jim’s face as he re-assured the Judge that his baby brother was ready to live on his own made the space behind his ribs fill a little more. He didn’t need the law telling him to be there for Jim.

 

He never had.

 

Do you like the person you've become, or

There are a infinite number of ways a relationship is fuck-upable. Sam knows this, and flatly refuses to allow the important people in his life to succeed in any of their attempts, mostly because he knows they constantly do the same for him.

 

But, if you add children to the equation, the math suddenly morphs into a photon torpedo and you're screwed because one wrong step and you’ve got a fucked up kid, that you fucked up, and children are not as easy to fix as eating the leftover chinese. (Tip: do not eat a pregnant womens leftovers. Do Not.)

 

So here he is, freaking out because Aurelan’s baby shower is tomorrow and he felt the baby kick today. It wasn’t the first time, and he could admit he cried the first time, but there was something about feeling that tiny bump wiggle against his palm that made him realize, with the same aching clarity of opening your eyes after hitting your head, that this was Real. Capital R and all. And it was terrifying .

 

He was going to be a Dad. He was going to have an actual Child, a baby, a tiny human that would rely on him for everything and walk and talk and eventually sass him and have their heart broken and he doesn't think he’s ever had a panic attack this calmly before.

 

So of course Jim shows up with a six pack of beer, and a pack of zebra cookies wrapped in paper.

 

Seven of them are already missing. Sam grabs six more and he doesn't think he even chews that first one. Just shoves it down his throat because he need to do something that isn’t panic.

 

“Aurelan and her siblings and her Ma and our Mom are arguing about nursery colors again.”

 

Sam mumbles something around his third cookie and tries not to choke.

 

“I mean, is it really arguing if they all have glasses of wine and are giggling over the idea of making it purple with a Zebra striped wall?” Jim sounds both amused and horrified as he hands over an open bottle of Andorian Moon, but Sam is too busy swallowing to answer. “When was the last time Mom giggled anyways? I feel like it would just scare StarFleet command even more. They’d be sure she was plotting their deaths or something.”

 

He’s pretty sure Jim is waiting for him to say something when he starts again.

“Terrifying, isn't it? Loving someone you've never met. That will be a person no matter what you do or say and that someday might wake up and decide to hate you. “

 

Sam finally realizes that he can in fact, speak without throwing up.

 

“I’m sorry was that supposed to make me feel better?” He splutters around cookie crumbs and beer and tries to concentrate on not wanting to punch his brother.

 

“No.” He turns to Jim and is half ready to slap him (at least verbally) when his brother takes another sip and continues. “Kids are terrifying. Whether they’re your own or if you decide they're yours, and you're never going to stop being terrified. And I know this might not help you, because I'm nothing if not a fuck up, but you did a pretty good job with me.” Jim takes another sip and faces him, stares him dead in the eye while Sam tries desperately to get his brain back on line.

 

“You’re a good man, Sam Kirk. You don't need me to tell you that. You're a good son, and a fantastic husband, and the best damn brother I never deserved. You’ll be good dad, I promise. And the fact that you're so scared of messing up just means you'll be trying so hard not to. That baby is the luckiest kid this side of Antares.”

 

Sam thinks he has tears in his eyes, but that could also be the wind. Or the beer.

 

“Besides” Jim continues casually. “You ever mess up with my nephew and I’ll kick your ass.”

 

Jim’s giving him that same grin he wore when he told him Aurie said yes, the one he uses when he wants to pretend he doesn't give a shit but really really does, and all Sam can do is hug the bastard because apparently he still can't speak.

 

“You good Sammy?”

 

“Yeah. Now give me those cookies.”

 

Under the weight of living

You're under the weight of living

Under the weight of living

You are under the weight of living

The weight of living, the weight of living

 

He’s sitting in a corner watching his brothers chest go up and down when he notices the way Dr. McCoy - Bones, Jim’s Bones, is watching him too.

It’s a little like looking into a mirror.

 

And then Dr. Chapel is there, eyes on McCoy but facing Jim’s bed, in a movement so subtle he’s surprised he noticed.

Maybe he’s so strung out that he’s becoming hyper aware. They’re murmuring over a padd readout, eyes and hands and focus on each other, but they’re both just not face to face. They’re turned to the bed, almost like magnets, slowly shifting and turning and sliding around each other and the center which controls them.

It shouldn’t surprise him that the center is Jim. It doesn’t, not after a year of hearing him babble on and on about his crew, his fucking amazing crew, Sammy, you’ve got to meet them!

 

“It’s terrifying”

“What is?”

The way they keep throwing themselves into danger just because I say so.” He laughs, but it’s ironic, cynical, like he thinks they’re all a little crazy for trusting him .

“You really don't see it?” Jim gives a look that translates perfectly, parsecs and light years be damned.

“See what?” But then an alarm goes off, and the Captain is needed on the Bridge, and Sam wonders how his brother, his loyal, self-sacrificing, idiot of a brother, can’t seem to understand why his crew loves him.

 

The kid that Jim was ranting about a couple of years (G-d it was years ) ago (He’s Seventeen! Seventeen !! Kid’s a bloody genius , Sam!) came by with some pastries and an enormous copy of Russian poetry the next morning.

He looked he’d been crying, but then again Sam had too. He spoke to McCoy without taking his eyes off the bed the entire time, voice low and rumbling over an accent that got thicker with each question the doctor answered. Bones sighed and gave the kid a pat on shoulder, ruffling those ridiculous curls Jim mentioned.

His eyes were fucking huge as he greeted Sam and offered him a pierogi.

 

( I am going to be terrible big brother Sam HELP ME. After a frankly hilarious (in retrospect) misunderstanding regarding their Mom's pregnancy status, Sam understood that Jim had effectively adopted the kid from his Advanced Transporter Science class. Sam had that text saved in his comm. He wondered if Chekhov would want to see it.)

 

Chris and Archer orbit around the hospital room in way Sam recognizes from his ship days, back when Winona tried to bring them on as many missions as possible.

They had decided that this room was their base of operations and they gravitate to it without realizing why. The two of them made an unlikely pair, it was true, The Admiral Archer, Ex-President, Founder of the Federation, and the Maverick Admiral who some people thought had far too much power for a should-still-be-Captain.

 

People never realized that those two had known each other way longer than that. Sam thought it was obvious just based on their actions. They acted more like brothers than anything else, and Sam would be lying if he didnt recognize himself and Jim sometimes. He wondered if his Dad ever realized what he’ done by introducing those two. Probably.

 

Uhura and Spock try to come together or on overlapping schedules as often as they can. With all that's going on, Sam figures its the closest to privacy they get, and he tries to take his breaks then. He agrees with Jim, they are an oddly adorable couple. Uhura always brings him coffee and tries to see which languages he recognizes. Spock brings him cookies.

He loves the way Spock's eyes crinkle when he thinks no one notices him watching Uhura. They're the most soothing people he’s ever met. He suddenly reminded of the shipping he’d done (does). Sometimes people just belonged together.

 

He's glad Jim has them all in his life.

 

He almost missed Sulu and his husband on their way out. He definitely thought they should bring Demora if she was up to it, Jim always responded better to kids.

 

Sulu gave a interesting little smile, like he was remembering something sad but not because of that. “I know.”

 

Sam wondered what kind of bullshit missions StarFleet was sending them on.

 

Some days he felt like the door to Jim’s hospital room was revolving. Only a select few people were actually, physically , allowed into the captains room, but with McCoy, Chapel, the nurses, and Jim's senior crew constantly bringing books and plants and gifts from the crew that was so, so desperate for their Captain to wake up, it felt as though there were more. It felt as though Jim was surrounded by people who cared, and Sam was happy.

 

He meets Carol Marcus on the fourth day. She’s reading a science journal out loud, commenting in a few places, which is hilarious, because Sam is fairly certain he co-wrote this one. He leans in the doorway, coffee in hand and wondering where in Pluto’s Shadow Jim finds these people, and whether or not he’d allow for poaching.

 

“I don't know why they used bilateral evolution for this theory, it's obviously based on Heiners Principle, why was that excluded?”

 

“Actually, I believe they came to the same conclusion further down.” He smiled at her, not sure if she was going to shake his hand or take off running.

 

“Sam Kirk.”

 

She glances down at the header of the paper she was reading and bites her lip, nodding to herself. “Carol Marcus.” he hadn't expected the british accent, or the firm handshake. “I’ll just be going.” Sam liked her. He didn't know why , maybe it was the fact that of all the things she could have chosen to read to his brother it was a scientific journal about molecular biology. Or maybe it was because, unlike quiet a few member of the brass, she thought she had no right to be here.

 

“You don't have too, you know. “ he pulled up another chair, patting Jims legs as he sat down. “Nothing ever got Jimmy going faster than someone who was willing to argue and prove me wrong. Kid will wake up just to join you.”

 

She smiled tentatively and sat down, crossing one ankle over her knee and tucking her hair back behind her ears.

 

Jim’s crew rotated around him like so many stars in a galaxy. Each with their own small system, yet inexplicably drawn around a bright core they knew nothing about and yet couldn't help but love. Couldn’t help but try to understand.

 

Sam loved them a little bit more for that.

 

It all crept up on you, in the night it got you

And plagued your mind, it plagues your mind

 

When Aurelan and Sam went shopping for a couch they both wanted something bigger than a two seater.

It needed to seat at least three people comfortably. Maybe even fold out as a futon. Possibly a full sized bed.

After all they had no idea how tall Jim would end up being.

 

(Short. Shorter then expected. But Sam rarely uses that tease him, he leaves that up to Bones, later. For some reason it seems to work for those two in a way he doesn't try)

 

It’s funny, how they never even discuss why they need such a large couch, why they spend 200 credits over budget for the fat-stuffed-cat looking one they find. How they never admit that they buy hypoallergenic throw pillows and blankets specifically for the one person who needs them. He loves her, she knows that, but somedays it feels like he could never hope to deserve her.

 

But of course, a comfortable couch can only do so much. There are nights were he stumbles into the living room only to find Jim curled up on the floor.

 

“Your couch, “ he is informed sleepily, “Is way to comfortable, Sammy. Did you stuff it with kittens or something?” Then they laugh and make coffee and Jim makes pancakes because Aurie loves pancakes, and they don't talk about it. They don't talk about why the couch is too comfortable. Or why a sixteen year old is travelling Earth (and sometimes not) emancipated and alone and spending random nights on his brothers couch. They don't talk about a lot of things, Sam finds. So maybe he’s a coward.

 

But Jim smiles, and he bakes, and teases Aurie using his ridiculous number of half finished degrees, and Sam doesn't care. He’d rather be a coward than break that.

 

Of course, that leaves him here, 3:02 am and thirsty and tiptoeing through the living room. Jim has been using the couch more often, and that's another thing they don't talk about, but he can now differentiate between a bad night and awful one by the amount of coffee Jim drinks instead of the position he find him in the morning, so he hopes they’re making progress.

 

But Jim is curled up, shivering against those dumb pillows with the constellations that he got because Sam is nothing if not a giant nerd and his wife is a massive enabler, he's so damn lucky, but Jim is barely breathing, slow shallow breaths like he's worried someone might hear him and he's obviously having a nightmare.

Of course Jim has nightmares. He knows Jim has PTSD, he suspects he’s had some form of it long before...before. Because somehow Winona and Frank are actually related, and he is yet to understand how Grandpa Jimmy raised those two at the same time, because something obviously went wrong…, but he degresses.

 

Because his baby brother is having what looks like a terrifying nightmare on his couch at 3:07 am and he thinks of the stack of books buried in his closet, behind the box of old style photos and winter sweaters. He remembers reading them all, talking to psychology professors, ships counselors, anyone who he thought might be able to help him figure this out. Whatever this is. Coping?

 

All he can really remember right  now is “don't touch them”. Which isn't fair because Jim looks so young, too young compared to how he does when he's awake, and all he wants to do is wrap him up in a blanket and watch old disney holos and sing along off key on purpose because nothing screams just a kid, just a goddamn kid like disney.

 

But here they are. Somedays, life well and truly sucks.

He's already across the room and kneeling by his brothers head when he hears a sharp gasp from him, and Jim curls even tighter around himself, if that's even possible.

 

Sam wonders if he even wants to know what his brother is seeing.

 

“Jimmy”

 

He knows, logically that only Winona and himself ever still call him Jimmy. He was JT at Lisa’s house, and Jim when he got back, so what? Is he hoping for subliminal messaging to kick in and for Jim to know its his brother and not some nameless (he’s pretty sure Jim knows their names,) faceless, (the kid hasn't forgotten a face since the first time a reporter tried talking to him) enemy. He knows Jim sleeps with a knife under his pillow. He doesn't have the heart to ask him not to. Not yet. He sits down, a few inches away from him and faces the wall that has the holo screen and all the family photos framed.

 

He keeps babbling on about his research and Aurie’s research and why he wishes Jim would hurry up and get a degree in microbiology because then at least he would have an excuse to know what Sam is talking about, as it stands now he just  feels ridiculous, do you want me to keep feeling ridiculous and really Jim have some goddamn respect and pretend to be in awe of me, at least in front of my wife, and-

 

“I’m awake.” He doesn’t turn around to face Jim, not right away, stays with his back against the couch cushions, staring at the ceiling. They painted stars in glow in the dark paint because, Nerds, and it seemed like a good idea at the time. It worked with the pillows.

 

“Thanks”

 

Sam wonders what it would be like, not to be a coward sometimes, to be that rock he knows (hopes) his brother thinks he is. He thinks it would be very much like this.

 

“I have Mulan, Frog Princess, and Tangled cued up. Popcorn?”

 

Jim huffs out a sigh and rolls over so there's room on the couch. “Sure. No butter though.”

 

Sam laughs and ruffles his hair. “You heathen, you absolute degenerate. Why do I let you into my home?”

 

“Because your wife thinks I’m cute and you hope controlled exposure cures her from that.”

 

“True, true,” Sam nods as he drops down beside Jim and offers him the bowl. “It seems to be working, but now she views you as a adorable pet instead.” Jim snickers and grabs a handful of popcorn, carefully eating one kernel at a time. Sam pretends not to notice how much or how little he eats. Jim pretends not to notice how he's not noticing. It works.

And somewhere between singing “I’m Almost There” and laughing at Louis the Gator, Jim shifts a little closer to him, and says almost as an afterthought, “Kevin loved this song. He always tried to do the voices.”

 

Sam hums, knowing exactly who Kevin is and how old he was and where he is now, because while his brother might be a better hacker as of forever, Sam does know how to bullshit his way around certain officers of the ‘fleet.

 

It takes another few minutes of quality children's entertainment but Sam stares intently at the screen, wondering if he’ll ever know what his brother needs.

 

At least he knows he'll always be willing to give it to him.

 

So he takes a deep breath and pretends, for a moment, that he’s brave. That he's Jim. That he wants to know. (He does, he does, but G-d… )

 

“Tell me about them.”

 

He spends the rest of the night meeting the people who he knows his brother almost died for. In the span of three hours he gains siblings he knows he’ll probably never meet but would do anything to keep safe. He watches Jim’s face light up as he talks about their dreams and their plans and he realizes that those kids only have a future because of the boy sitting next to him, and yeah he knew that, but now he knows . In all the things he doesn’t say. In all the names he stumbles over.

 

Aurie finds them almost not sleeping the next morning, tangled up like puppies, and she just smiles and sends a picture to Winona.

 

Every day that passes, faster than the last did

And you'll be old soon, you'll be old

 

It was good position. He kept telling himself that, that Deneva might not be his first choice, but it was good position. They had excellent schools, a lab that wanted both him and Aurelen and he would be a fool to refuse just because he wanted in on a different project.

 

The Hoolerstein Grant was only for six months anyways, and while studying microbes on the first Earth-identical planet ever would be fascinating , absolutely amazing, he needed better job security then that. Besides Deneva was a crossroads where multiple Starships passed multiple times a year, his mother would be thrilled, and he’s sure Jim would be happy about it if he wasn’t so stressed over being the youngest captain in the fleet. (Sam is proud to say he won that bet, and Uncle Archie and Chris now owed him several hundred credits. Teach them to bet against a Kirk.)

 

(He could have done without the genocide though. Nebulas )

 

Of course, then a Elderly Vulcan (and how old must he be, to actually show his age like that?) showed up at his doorstep and is drinking tea at his kitchen table while Aurelan tries not to wiggle her eyebrows at him.

 

Peter comes charging into the kitchen, and stops abruptly to stare at the Vulcan Selek, who stares back. He knows Vulcan adore children, in the way that makes every other species seem negligent, and then some. He knows because Jim was an honorary citizen and even got invited to the VSA just as thanks for saving two of them back then, and he also knows because Selek puts his tea down and smiles, actually smiles, with a quirk of his lips and a vulcan ta’al.

 

He waits to speak till Peter skids out of the kitchen with Aurelan, desperately wanting to show his mother the model spaceship he built out of magno-bricks.

 

“The Hoolerstein Project has requested your expertise for the Aiden-4 Research Station. They sent me as an apology for their late response and to answer any questions you have.”

 

“Are you -? Are you sure about this? I mean, they haven’t even contacted me about anything?!” Sam sets down his cup carefully, fully aware that most Vulcan tea stains purple and also trying very hard not to drop it.

 

“I assure you, the Hoolerstein Institute only wants those most suited to the task. They did not realize you had another offer or they would have contacted you sooner. They apologize for any trouble this causes.” The Vulcan is almost obscenely calm about this, but then again, his life hasn’t been upended. Again.

 

“I - thank you. For the recommendation. But - I mean - It’s only for six months at the most, and then-”

 

“I believe the Deneva stations offer will still be available at that time. They will certainly agree to wait for a scientist of your skill.

And six months should be sufficient time.” This was said almost at a murmur, as though the Vulcan wasn’t sure he was still speaking out loud.

 

Sam's grown up around enough “That’s Classified Kiddo” to recognize one when he hears it. He's also grown up around “I'll Tell You Anyways Just Don't Be A Smart Ass About It” and therefore doesn’t really give a fuck.

 

“Sufficient time for what?” He asks, lifting his cup just enough so he can see his hand shake slightly. Something is off. Then again he has a strange Vulcan in his kitchen offering him his dream job. A lot about this is off.

 

“To fix something that never need happen.” The Vulcan calmly takes another sip, as though temporal anomalies may be created daily and manipulated as they please. Somedays Sam thinks classified information should be left so. But most days he’s a Kirk.

 

“And you think that's something you should risk?” He doesn't point out the obvious - that the two of them by no means have the resources to fix a timeline, especially not one as screwed up as this one.

Jim can get chatty at times. (Especially after being mind-ra - compromised. Especially after being mentally compromised.)

 

Actually he had no idea what kind of resources this man has. Vulcans are like that.

 

Selek is staring at him across the table. “I have caused a tragedy in this timeline. It has been irrevocably damaged by my actions and the actions of others. There is no purpose in trying to preserve what may never happen for the sake of something which no longer exists.

And I owe your brother a favor.”

He has already excused himself and left the room by the time Sam pulls apart that sentence and drops his mug. He spends five minutes debating the ethics behind that entire conversation and wonders what, exactly , his brother knows about this Alternate Universe that exists somewhere.

 

It takes him and Aurelan less than fifteen minutes to make a decision. Apparently they were going to Aiden-4.

 

He is never telling Jim though.

 

(That’s a lie. He tells Jim the next time they have a few minutes privacy and Jim spends ten minutes ranting about time traveling meddling-and-melding Vulcans whom he now owes several favors to because the damn man can't keep his fingers out of every pie in the kitchen, and while he loses sight of the metaphor after a while they do choose a very nice glass and crystal chess set as a thank you gift. Sam sends along a note warning to him to keep his damn fingers out of his brothers head. Honestly , the nerve of some Vulcans, he doesn't care that the world was at stake, you should know better .)

 

(“I'm glad you didnt die.”

 

“Oh so is that what was supposed to happen?”

 

“I think so. Its foggy. But I'm glad you didnt.”

 

“Yeah, as it turns out, so am I .”)

Do you like the person you've become, or

Under the weight of living

You're under the weight of living

Under the weight of living

You are under the weight of living

The weight of living, the weight of living

 

Sam is almost five when Jim is born.

 

He’s four when Mom and Dad tell him he’s getting a new sibling. He spends three days bothering them about when they’re arriving and whether its a sister or a brother and can he say hi can the baby hear him?

 

Winona laughs and answers as honestly as she’s able.

“Mom and Dad are going on a short mission, Sammy. Three months, and then we’ll come home just in time to prepare for the baby to be born. We want it to be a surprise so even we don't know if its a sister or brother yet.”

She leans down and whispers to him, “And if you want to say hi, you have to speak very slowly and clearly. Baby Kirks’ ears are still super tiny”

 

Sam spends the next eight weeks whispering to his Mom's tummy when he thinks she isn't looking. He makes sure to choose a different story every night so the baby can pick a favorite from his story book collection. He practices his Andorian numbers because he wants the baby to be smart and asks his Mom to give the baby a good night kiss every day. George gets used to coming home and seeing Sam talking to Winona belly while she vids it and tries not to laugh.

 

Baby Kirk is part of the family a long time before they actually arrive.

 

On the day that the Kelvin launches Sam gives goodbye kisses and cards and packages that “can only be opened when you're three whole parsecs away from earth, you have to promise Mom!”

 

Grandpa Ti and Nana Fee are laughing by the time he lets his parents get onto the shuttle but this is serious, he only has four more months to prepare for being a big brother and most of that time his Mom and Dad are being in space.

 

The shuttle is almost finished loading when he remembers.

 

“Wait!” he’s shouting and running in a shuttlebay which is usually a big no-no, but this important . More important than some dumb rules anyways.

 

He almost gets knocked over when he bumps into Captain Robau. “Thanks Mister Captain Sir.” He’s polite, but he has a package in his hands and can't quite reach the shuttle without the steps on. So he’s concentrating on getting up more’n thanking the Captain for lifting him those few inches.

 

“Commander Kirk, I think you forgot something.” He thinks Captain Robau is smiling but he doesnt turn around to look, tripping over to his parents seats instead.

 

“Sweetheart we have to go, I know you're going to miss us, but-”

 

The look Sam gives George is far too world weary to be on a four year olds face.

“I know Daddy, but you almost forgot the baby's package!” Sam, being four, doesn't realize how everyone's ears perk up and subtle stares are suddenly aimed at Winona’s abdomen as the shuttle gets suspiciously quiet. But Sam doesn’t notice, and immediately starts addressing her tummy as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. George doesn't hesitate to whip out a comm and start recording the exchange.

 

“I know you're gonna be gone for a very long time and Mommy and me won’t be able to read you stories together anymore, so I made a cull-ection of all your favorites and recorded me reading’em to you. Make sure Mommy plays them before bedtime if you can't fall asleep, because sometime she forgets that spaceships sound funny. It’s part of bein’ an engine-near. Dad’s gonna be super busy so don't bother him too much but it’s ok if you do cuz he loves you more than a spaceship and don't forget me in space. It's super exciting out there, but when you get back I'm gonna be the best big brother, I promise. Stay safe Baby Kirk, I love you.” Sam leaned forward and gave his future sibling a kiss and then gave his mother a smile. “I'm ready to get off the shuttle now Mom.”

 

George looked over at Winona with the worst set of puppy eyes she had ever seen. And she had a four year old.

“No.” she mouthed as she waved goodbye from the shuttle window. His eyes widened to almost cartoon proportions.

 

“Captain Robau,” She called, “Please tell my husband that our son is not coming on this mission.”

There was a very pointed silence from the Captain. Winona whipped around to face him with a mock glare and a raised eyebrow.

“Well, he would be very good for moral.” Counsellor Reinhart offered. Facing Winona’s glare herself, she immediately raised her hands in mock surrender, “But you're absolutely right, the stability of his school schedule, and on the farm that his grandparents have to offer, are essential for this school year, especially since he's learning to read and this mission isn’t equipped with classrooms, and you're absolutely right for choosing that.”

 

Winona pouted dramatically and deflated into her seat. “At least someone on this shuttle is sure of that.”

George laughed and sent the vid file to Archer and Chris. And a dozen of his contacts. And possibly StarFleet Command.

 

“It's only three months and vid comms are active the whole time. It’ll be fine”

 

 

 

Sam is almost five when his baby brother comes home. He is almost five years old when his Dad doesn’t.

 

He knows what happened. He doesn't understand, but he knows.

 

He understands a little better when his Mom gets out of the shuttle, alone. He keeps waiting for his Dad to get out and he keeps waiting ‘till he realizes his Mom is crying and he knows that's not right, so he runs over and hugs her because he doesn't know how to fix things. He’s only five and he doesn’t understand how things became so broken.

 

He doesn't realize she’s holding something till she drops to her knees and shows him.

 

They don't say anything. He just stares at her and the tiny ball of fluff that’s Baby Kirk and he wants to cry too. Big sloppy tears like when he fell and almost broke his arm but not really because it was just a scratch.

 

Then the baby yawns. He looks down to see blue eyes, big blue eyes and a tiny face and a scrunched nose and Baby Kirk comes home but Dad doesn't.

 

“His name is James Tiberius Kirk, Sammy. He’s your new brother.”

 

He crinkles his own nose and glares at his Mom, pretending he understands what's going on. “ Tiberius ?” He likes Grandpa Ty and all but that name is just awful . He knows Grandpa Ty agrees .

And he must've done something right because his Mom laughs, eyes crinkling and tears running down her face. “Jimmy, sweetheart. We’ll call him Jimmy.”

 

The baby is still staring at him. It isn't till later, when Mom is in another meeting because StarFleet Command sucks, Uncle Archie even says so, when he's waiting outside and the Lieutenant who should be taking care of Baby Kirk - Jimmy - can’t get  him to stop crying and is panicking because Uncle Archie went away with clear instructions to keep the baby calm that he really looks at Jimmy.

 

He hops off his chair and leaves his coloring book open to the Vulcans and Andorians arguing over drinks. He tugs on Lieutenant Cri-elns pants.

“Let me see him.” He pretends he's his Dad, because everyone always listened to his Dad when he spoke.

 

Jimmy's face is red and he's making little fists, even though he ate and burped and got a new diaper. Sammy doesn't like the fact that his brother is crying. He wonders why he even cares .

 

“Once upon a time,” he starts, because even if Jimmy came early, (and even if he thinks he might hate his brother a little bit, because he wants his Dad and not this baby he got), he still practiced how to tell a bedtime story enough that he knows what to do. “There was a planet where dragons could breathe fire, and magic was real, and people told stories about knights and princesses…”

 

Jimmy shoved a fist into his mouth and stared, big blue eyes and scrunched up nose. Maybe Sam didn’t like him much, but he was pretty good at this big brother thing after all.

 

And Jimmy wasn’t awful, after all.

 

Oh, tell yourself this is how it's going to be

Oh, tell yourself this is how it's going to be, or

 

He’s at a coffee shop when Jim finally wakes up. He’s at a coffee shop, meeting with some of the Academy professors who have been messaging him about his research for years now, because Uhura told him if he didn’t do something besides sit by his brothers bed and read to him and occasionally sleep she was going to...well he didn't know what she was going to do. But she was terrifying.

 

Yeah, Sam’s an adult and he can have his own fucked up coping skills just like the rest of his family. Except staring at Jims sleeping ( sleeping , he's just sleeping) face for almost two weeks while his crew tries desperately not to fall apart because he's alive, he's alive, they just need to keep him alive, that hasn't lent itself to any kind of peace of mind.

 

So he's in a coffee shop, trying to discuss macrobiotic evolutionary paths and natural toxins effects on that. Except he forgot to tell them to skip Chapter 35 in Order of the Phoenix because Winona always skipped reading that chapter to them when they were kids and what if he woke up during that chapter, and Sam is ok enough to admit that he's a complete ball of useless space-debris in an asteroid field.

 

So he throws himself into the conversation and even manages to tell that truly awful lab safety joke from Aurelan without messing up the delivery and he can do this, he can adult propery while waiting for his baby brother to wake up from a fucking radiation induced coma. Yup.

 

His comm goes off just as their winding down, napkins covered in equations and padds scattered over the table. He’s out of his seat so fast he thinks his cup might have spilled, and he can hear the others calling him through the haze of blood pounding in his ears.

 

He’s awake.

 

Under the weight of living

You're under the weight of living

Under the weight of living

 

The problem with Jim Kirk is that whenever you think you’re done crying about the idiot, he does or says something so heartbreakingly stupid you just want to wrap him up in a blanket and shove some self esteem down his throat. And also chicken soup.

 

By the time he made it back from the coffee shop Jim had fallen back asleep, having been just conscience enough to thank Spock and tease Bones and nearly give the rest of them heart attacks just by waking up.

But it’s four hours later and he’s awake again, smiling as if they can’t see right through him. As if he hadn’t just casually dropped a bomb on all their mental healths.

 

“Well,” he’d said, not smiling but not frowning but trying to convince them all he was fine, “At least I made Dad proud of me, dying for the cause and all.”

 

He’s staring at Jim, wondering if the radiation is what made his eyes look like that or if it was just the stars whispering he belongs to us.

 

He’s never seen his brother look this small before.

 

Kirks get kind of one track minded when they’re angry. They can rant about anything for a good thirty minutes straight and never come up for air. They can decimate an argument while piss drunk and have reduced idiots to tears with a regularity that should be astounding, until you realize They're Just Like That. But they don’t get loud. No, a truly furious Kirk will speak lower and calmer until you could think they’re discussing the weather. And he knows from watching Winona that it is fucking terrifying. Based on the expressions on the faces of Jim’s crew, that was something he had gotten from her.

 

But Sam isn't angry. He doesn't know what he is.

 

“You aren't George.”

 

He’s at the base of Jim’s hospital bed, facing him directly as he hears the crew shuffle awkwardly behind him.

 

“You aren’t George, and you don't get to be George . You don't get to die out there where I can’t reach you, you can't just blow yourself up every time someone tries to hurt your crew, You aren't Fucking George Kirk.

And G-d help me Jim, but if you ever -”

 

He's suddenly viscerally aware that he has tears streaming down his face and chokes on his own breath trying to make Jim understand, because he's never understood has he?

 

“God, Jim, you aren’t George, you don't get to fucking be George and I don't know who told you you should be, I don’t know why you think you should , because I can guarantee, fuck it, I know , trust me , you are so much more than him, you are so much more than he ever got to be, you don't get to be - you don't get to do that, you don't get to  leave me, to leave us.

You so much better than he ever was, Jimmy. I swear to G-d, you’re so much more.

I need you more. I’ve always needed you more.”

 

He’s whispering into his brothers hair somehow, he doesn't remember moving, and they're tangled up in each other, arms and face and buried in each others necks, and I tried to save them Sam, I tried.

 

It hurt. Sam. It hurt so much

 

He doesn't know what’s echoing around the room and what’s inside his head, he just knows that it's there, they're here.

 

G-d. He's here.

 

You are under the weight of living

The weight of living, the weight of living

The weight of living, the weight of living

 

Somewhere over the next few days, Sam decides that there is a fine line between a shouting match and loud conversation. And that line happened to be brotherhood.

 

He didn't mean anything deep by that, it’s just that while this would definitely be considered a shouting match between anyone else, between him and Jim it was just “extreme communicating”. Or as Winona liked to call it, “ I love you, You Piece of Andorian Herring, But You Are A Fucking Dumbass ”-ese. Patent Pending.

It would help if Jim wasn’t sitting in a hospital gown, trying to pretend the actual shouting wasn't making him incredibly tired.

Sam would feel more guilty if the thrice damned and galaxies cursed fool had not tried getting a discharge AMA that morning.

 

Chris, to his credit, was smirking into his coffee and stealing from Uncle Archie’s popcorn. Where the man had gotten popcorn from was beyond him, he just knew Archer had taken one look at Sam and Jim and produced it out of nowhere, with a ooooh this gonna be good smirk.

 

Chapel and McCoy were taking Jim’s vitals and trying very hard not to smirk. Or pinch him. In McCoy’s case, he was somehow smirking and scowling at once.

 

Spock was...Spock was amused. Sam has somehow learnt to read the difference in eyebrows in the two-weeks-five-days he’d been earthside, and that left twitch was definitely amusement. Uhura wasn't even pretending she was serious, giggling next to Archer and accepting popcorn when offered.

 

The truth us they were all a bit high over the fact that Jim was walking, even he used that to try escaping proper care.

 

Jim was working himself into a nice long rant about bodily autonomy and super blood and he's feeling fine when Sam gives up and interrupts.

 

“You made Aurelan cry.”

Jim looks like a goldfish, mouth open and eyes wide and nothing coming out. Understandable.

 

“You made my wife cry, James Tiberius Kirk, and she hasn't done that since her last pregnancy and that was only because they were out of strawberries. Strawberries , James.”

 

“I-”

 

“Eh-bep-beh!” Sam holds up his palm, talk to the hand style.”Fuck you Jimmy. I can’t keep doing this, and you can't keep doing this. For once in your goddamn life let someone take care of you till you're better. And don't you dare say you are better you idiot, because I had to carry you back to your room this morning, and lemme tell you kiddo, you are not eight years old anymore.”

 

Jim blinks, and shuts his mouth with a snap. He's staring at the floor the same way he did when they were kids on a playground and someone told him he couldn't play captain. Like he’s feeling guilty about something he’s not sure he should.

 

“I -.” he swallows, looking up at Sam like the fucking kid he was, Asteria , twenty six and saved the world twice. Sam was so stupidly proud. “Aurie cried?”

 

Sam blinked at him, because of course, of course this dumbass was Like That. “Aurie cried. Mom cried, Chris cried. Goddamn fucking Admiral-Uncle-Archie cried, you absolute dumbass , you made everyone fucking cry you moron , and I swear, you do that again, and don't you fucking dare do this again Jimmy , or I swear, I will drag your ass back just so I can kill you and than I'll do it again so Aurie can kill you. And I’ll keep doing it till you get into your thick skull that you aren't allowed to die .

To many people love you for you to be allowed to die.”

 

Sam is suddenly hyper-aware that there are other people on the room, but all he sees is Jim and that tiny smile he has when he doesn’t realize he's smiling. When he thinks he's finally figured something out.

 

Yeah you dumbass, People care.

 

“Now listen close, Jim, because I'm only going to tell you this one more time.”

 

Today, that is. Sam will tattoo this onto the windows if he has too.

 

“Everyone in this room, and plenty of people out of it, want you . Yeah, we’ll survive if you don’t, but none of us want to live in a world where you aren’t . All of us have chosen you, probably because we’re a bunch of dumbasses, but hey. It is what it is. Deal with it.”

 

Jim is smiling, the one that makes him feel like he's looking at the sun, and he almost lost this again , he knows Jim will be the death of him someday. But G-d would it be worth it just see his baby brother smile like that.

 

“You,” Jim says, pretending he's not crying. “Are the worst at pep talks.”

“I dunno, Jimmy,” he whispers over Uhura's disagreement and Spock’s dry but cutting commentary and Chris and Archie arguing over the last of the popcorn.

 

“It’s gotten us this far.”