Leonard was sitting next to Jim at the bar, watching Jim's drink being poured by the bartender, his fingers already itching to lift a glass of his own. There were no words he could offer Jim. Jim was probably going to lose the Enterprise. His baby. All because of that ungrateful backstabbing green-blooded son-of-a-bitch first officer of his. He’d never liked Spock, but now he hated him with an intensity once reserved only for his ex-wife. No, wait. He hated Spock more than his ex-wife. His ex had only fucked up his life. But Spock - he had fucked up Jim's life. And that? That was unforgivable.
His own drink now in front of him, he picked it up and downed it, then thunked it onto the bar and motioned the bartender for another. He leaned sideways, knocked his shoulder into Jim, who pressed back into him briefly before tossing back his own drink.
There might not've been any words of comfort Leonard could offer, but there was still something he needed to say. “Jim, wherever you get posted, if it's not the Enterprise, I’m going to request reassignment there too.”
Jim was already shaking his head. “You wouldn’t have your own sickbay. It would be a demotion for you.”
Leonard snorted. “I don’t give a shit. You're not going into space without me there to keep your fool ass in one piece.”
“Bones, I don’t even know that I’m going to get another starship posting. I might be grounded. Pike said they were sending me back to the Academy.” Jim’s voice had dropped to a near-whisper, and McCoy knew how much it hurt Jim to even consider that possibility.
“He might've said that, but he doesn't know for sure. It hasn't been decided yet. And anyway, I doubt they'd keep you grounded. They need you up there, especially given the losses we took at Vulcan. But even if that’s what happens, you think I’m gonna object? Hell, I’d love getting to stay earthside, spend more time with Chris. I’ll take a research posting here at HQ, or wherever they stick you. They can reassign me to wherever you are, or they can accept my resignation. As far as I’m concerned, those are their only two options.”
Jim was still slumped over his drink, but his eyes had lost that defeated look that scared the shit out of McCoy. “Thanks, Bones,” was all he said, but it was enough.
He nudged Jim’s shoulder again. “Besides, I know you, kid. It’s only a matter of time before you’ve got your own ship again. Those assholes will pull their heads out sooner or later. You’re the best they’ve got.”
He heard the familiar clearing of a throat and looked up to find Chris standing behind them, looking solemn. “Len, could I have a private word with Jim?”
Leonard started to get up but Jim’s hand on his shoulder stopped him. “Bones stays,” Jim said firmly. “I don’t have any secrets from him, and anyway he’s going wherever I’m going.” He said this almost defiantly, and Chris’s face softened fractionally.
“Yeah, I know, Leonard and I discussed it last night,” he said. “All right, let’s have a private word, the three of us.” He motioned to a booth in the back of the bar.
They picked up their drinks and made their way to the booth. After a wordless glance at Chris and Chris’s small answering nod, Leonard sat next to Jim, across from Chris. There was a moment of quiet before Chris spoke.
“They’re giving her back to me. The Enterprise, I mean,” Chris said.
There was a longer silence as Jim dropped his head and absorbed this, taking a deep breath. Leonard, reeling with his own surprise at the news, watched him in agony, wishing there was something he could do it make it better for Jim, and at the same time knowing how much it was going to kill Leonard to watch Chris take off on the Enterprise and leave him behind. What a clusterfuck.
“Congratulations,” Jim said finally, and Leonard knew how much that one word had cost him. “Watch your back with that first officer, though.”
Leonard was about to add a few choice words about said first officer, but Chris was already responding. “Spock’s not going to be working with me. He’s been transferred. U.S.S. Bradbury.” There was a short pause before he went on. “You’re going to be my first officer.”
Leonard and Jim stared at Chris. Leonard felt his whole body go practically limp with relief. Jim wasn’t getting grounded. He’d still be up for a captaincy when there was an opening. And god help him, but possibly best of all was that Chris would be with them. The three of them would be serving together on the Enterprise. It was almost too good to be true. He knew, though, how tough it was going to be for Jim to be on his baby and not be in charge. But he was resilient. He’d adapt.
Chris took in their shock and continued. “Yeah, Marcus took some convincing. But every now and then I can make a good case.”
Jim found his voice before McCoy, even if it was a little shaky. “What did you tell him?”
“The truth,” Chris said firmly. “That I believe in you. That if anybody deserves a second chance, it’s Jim Kirk.”
“Damn straight,” Leonard interjected.
“I don’t know what to say,” said Jim.
Chris smiled. “That is a first.” Leonard kicked him under the table and Chris’s eyes softened as he looked at them both. He addressed himself to Jim. “It’s going to be okay, son.”
The look of overwhelming relief and hope that Jim directed at Chris made Leonard's heart clench. Then Chris’s communicator beeped. It beeped a second time and Chris reluctantly pulled it out and looked at it.
“Emergency session, Daystrom,” he said. He looked at Jim. “That’s us.”
“Yeah,” Jim agreed.
“Suit up,” said Chris, leaning over to pat Jim on the shoulder. “Sorry Leonard, you’ll have to excuse us. Starfleet emergency.”
“Wait, what’s going on? What happened?” Leonard demanded.
Chris hesitated. “I don't know details, but even if I did, I couldn't talk about it. I’m sorry, Len.”
Leonard turned to Jim, who shrugged. “I don’t know what happened, but if there’s an emergency, like an attack of some sort on the Federation, it’s protocol that all of the available Starfleet senior command officers gather at the Daystrom conference room at Starfleet HQ to discuss the situation.”
“Well that’s goddamn moronic,” Leonard said. When the other two looked at him in surprise, he elaborated. “You two have seen the Daystrom room, right? So when Starfleet is in some kind of danger they put the entire senior leadership in a glass fishbowl at the top of one of the tallest buildings in the city? One that’s known to be Starfleet’s strategic think tank? Might as well paint a goddamn bullseye on the thing while they’re at it.”
“We’ve got to get going, Leonard, I’m sorry,” Chris was saying, but Jim interrupted him.
“No, wait, he’s right. It’s the perfect setup for a trap. What's the emergency meeting about?”
Chris sighed, but he pulled his communicator back out and made a call. Jim and Leonard waited in silence during his terse exchange with whoever was on the other end. After he hung up, he looked around to make sure there was no one in hearing range, then spoke.
“It'll hit the newsnets soon anyway. There was a terrorist attack on a Starfleet data archive in London. Bomb took out the entire thing, killed 42 people. Apparently there’s been some sort of communication from the man responsible, saying that a Starfleet officer, Commander John Harrison, forced him to do it. So Harrison has essentially declared war on the Federation but so far has given no reasons.”
Jim broke in. “So a Starfleet commander, who presumably knows the Daystrom protocol, and who wants to destroy the Federation, bombed a library? It’s got to be a trap, a way to get senior command together and take us out at one stroke. Or at least, it’s likely enough a trap that we shouldn’t make it this easy for him to take all of us out with a single additional attack, if that is his intention.”
Chris was looking concerned now. “You may be right. Shit. Let me talk to some people, stop the meeting until we can find some other place to convene.” He strode off, already speaking into his communicator.
Jim and Leonard looked at each other. “Never a dull moment, eh, Bones?” Jim said wryly.
Leonard snorted. “I’ll say.” Then he cleared his throat. “I’m sorry that you lost the Enterprise, Jim,” he said quietly. “But you’ll get it back. Chris doesn’t want to continue on active duty for more than a few more years, maybe five at most. We’ve already talked about that. When he retires, the Enterprise will be yours again.”
Jim nodded thoughtfully. “And until then, it’ll be the three of us, all together on the Enterprise. I can live with that.”
Leonard raised his glass. “I’ll drink to that. You and Chris working together – damn, I almost feel bad for the Federation’s enemies.”
Jim grinned, a feral grin that made Leonard smile in return. “I don’t,” he said, and clinked glasses with Leonard.