fandom & pairing: st xi, kirk/mccoy
word count: 2040
note: with thanks to thalialunacy for the beta, and oxymoronic for always being patient with me and giving me a title (if unwittingly). Technically the sequel to you will have to build from what remains, but can be read as a stand-alone. Written for prompt #4 for st_respect, in the doghouse.
“They ruled against me.”
It sounds more real when he says it loud – almost as if before he opened his mouth it was just a proposal, a hypothesis, a quantum superposition rattling around inside the confines of his head. Even as he’d walked down the corridors, the admirals’ words ringing in his ears, he hadn’t quite believed it. Hadn’t wanted to believe it, hadn’t wanted to consider the implications and consequences of what it might mean. And so he hadn’t, not until he’d said it out loud.
But it was Jim’s face that sealed the deal.
The way that it dropped, from its usual amused confidence to surprised and then confused and then furious, as McCoy stood in the doorway and Jim stared at him from where he was sat on his bed, PADD on his lap and sunlight streaming through the window.
“What?” Jim asks, finally, and his jaw is slack and his face open and shocked. McCoy shrugs, and doesn’t move from his spot in the doorway.
“I’ve been suspended from duty for six months, and I’m permanently grounded. They said that my rash and unconsidered actions could be hazardous in an emergency situation. They’re keeping me close, keeping an eye on me.”
“That’s bullshit,” Jim snaps suddenly, swinging his legs off the bed and standing, hackles raised. “Your ‘rash and unconsidered actions’ saved the goddamn Federation!”
“No, you saved the Federation…”
“…and I wouldn’t have been there if you hadn’t smuggled me on board the Enterprise!” Jim cuts him off, pacing around the small room. “You should be getting a commendation, not getting suspended! Plus you’re the best doctor in the Fleet, what the hell are they thinking?”
“Jim, do you know how many regulations I went against, getting you on that ship?” McCoy asks tiredly, pushing himself away from the door and crossing over to Jim’s dresser. Jim follows him, a mass of restless, righteous energy.
“No, and I don’t care.”
“Twenty-seven. They can’t just ignore that, and I don’t blame them.”
McCoy sees Jim’s eyebrows shoot up and his mouth drop open and he strips off his uniform shirt, and pulls some fresh clothes from the dresser.
“So what, you’re saying that you agree with them? You think you deserve the suspension, you think that it’s the right thing for you to be permanently grounded?” Jim asks incredulously, gesturing wildly with his hands, and McCoy sighs as he pulls his t-shirt over his head.
“I never said that I liked it, I said that they have every right to punish me. It’s not the same thing.”
“But you’re basically saying that you’re okay with being stuck here on Earth.”
McCoy pauses as he does up the buttons on his shirt and raises his head to catch and hold Jim’s eyes. He looks hurt and defeated and incensed and desperate, and just a little lost. It’s not a look that McCoy likes to see, and it makes him resent the admirals even more for being the cause of it.
“You know that I’d follow you to the edges of the black, Jim,” he says quietly, and a little of the tension in Jim’s frame seeps away. “Don’t you ever think that I want to be anywhere that you’re not.”
Jim sighs, and out of the corner of his eye McCoy sees the aborted move that Jim makes toward him, and it makes his chest ache. He turns to reach out for him, but Jim’s already moved away and is looking out of the window as the first traces of the evening fog are beginning to descend.
“You just don’t seem like you want to even try and convince them otherwise,” Jim says after a moment, his voice uncharacteristically quiet. McCoy resists the urge to snap at him and instead takes a deep breath before speaking.
“Jim, I’ve been at it for four days. And from what Pike said to me afterwards, it was only thanks to him that they grounded me – they were going to just throw me out. I’m not going to risk it, I won’t risk losing everything.”
“You won’t lose everything,” Jim says pointedly and somewhat petulantly, and McCoy frowns at him as he swaps his uniform trousers for a pair of old jeans.
“Yeah, I would, because if I’m not in Starfleet then there’s not a goddamn way I’d ever get out into space. And would you stop trying to argue about this? There’s nothing I can do to change it. I’ve tried, you know that – I’ve just got to accept it and move on.”
Jim doesn’t respond to that – he just stays where he is and doesn’t move or even look around as McCoy sits down on the bed to pull on his boots. It’s like all of the simmering energy that had filled his body just ten minutes ago has disappeared, or diffused into his system or something. It’s the stillest that McCoy’s ever seen him, except for on his birthdays.
“Look, I’ve gotta go check on Pike,” he says as the silence settles around them, resting his palms on his bedspread. It’s still warm where Jim had been sitting. “Will you be here when I get back? They said that the Academy can’t accommodate me when I’m on suspension, I need to move my things from my room.”
“Yeah, sure,” Jim says and finally looks back at him with a strange expression on his face, watching him carefully. “Shouldn’t someone else have taken over from you with Pike?”
“I may be suspended from Starfleet but I’m still his doctor,” McCoy reminds him, standing up straight and heading to the door. “Chinese or pizza?”
“Chinese. I’ll get some beer.”
McCoy pauses once again in the doorway, and looks back at Jim. He’s standing there in his shorts and vest, arms hanging loosely by his sides, as though he’s not quite sure what to do with himself. McCoy wants to go back over to him, to hold him and kiss him and tell him that it’ll be okay – exactly what it is that’ll be okay he doesn’t know – but he can’t. Because it’s not going to be okay, because Jim’s going to go out into the black without him, and as much as he can’t bear the thought of it there’s nothing he can do about it.
So he just tilts his head to once side, and offers Jim a smile.
“I’ll see you later,” he says, and the door swishes shut behind him.
“How did he take it?” Pike asks as McCoy notes down his readings on the chart, and McCoy doesn’t ask him to clarify. They both know that he doesn’t need to.
“Not well,” he admits, setting the chart down and motioning vaguely. “But he’s, you know, stubborn like that. Especially if he doesn’t agree with it. He’ll get over it in time.”
“No, he won’t.”
“No,” McCoy agrees, and folds his arms over his chest as he leans his hip against the piano. “But that’s not just something that’ll happen. What’s done is done and I know that nothing I say is going to change it. I do owe you thanks though, Admiral, for getting them to ease up on me.”
“There’s nothing more that I can do for you but their minds can still be changed, you know.”
“But not by me, right? I’m not of a high enough authority, I’m not of any interest to them. I’m just one of the many.”
“You’re a damn good doctor, McCoy,” Pike says firmly, gesturing to his own body as if in explanation. “I doubt many others could have rebuilt my spine the way you did.”
“Doesn’t matter, in the long run, they’ve ruled and that’s that. I just don’t like the idea of it,” he says suddenly, and he’s not sure himself why he’s blurting this out, but Pike looks at him with a faint curiosity that makes him want to continue, so he does. “I don’t like the idea of him barrelling headlong out into the black without me there. Hell, I don’t like the idea of him being anywhere without me.”
“I guessed as much.”
“God, I sound pathetic,” he groans with a self-deprecating laugh, and shakes his head. “I know he’s going to be fine – I mean, so long as he gets the same crew he had with the Narada then he’s got a good lot, and now that Spock’s agreed to stay on instead of discharge himself, I know that he’s got someone to keep him grounded, I just… I don’t even know. I’m being ridiculous.”
“No, you’re being his best friend,” Pike corrects him blandly, and looks at him hard. “Jim knows the lengths that you’d go to for him, doesn’t he?”
“Yeah, he knows,” McCoy nods, because he does. It’s not something that he’s ever tried to hide, really, and it’s a strange, co-dependent sort of relationship that they’re totally okay with but that nobody else seems to understand. “He knows that as much as I hate space, I’ll go there if that’s where he is.”
He glances up at Pike from where he was staring at his hands, and looks away quickly. Pike’s positively staring at him now with a similar look on his face to the one that Jim was sporting when McCoy left him. It’s disconcerting, to say the least.
“Go home, McCoy,” Pike says suddenly, and wheels himself backwards and away. “Sleep on it. Thing’s look up in the morning.”
McCoy watches him go, and can’t help but wonder how eight hours’ sleep is going to help at all.
“What are you going to do?” Jim asks into the dark room, and McCoy shrugs and adjusted his grip on him, pressing his nose into the soft hair at the base of Jim’s neck.
“I don’t know. I’ll go back to Georgia once you’re back in space, spend some time with Joanna. I might take her on vacation or something for Christmas; see what Jocelyn and Clay have planned. Go see my folks, see the rest of the family. I don’t really know. When are you heading back out?”
“About two months, give or take a week. They’ve nearly finished replacing the intermix chambers but the impulses are shot to hell after trawling back home with just them – not to mention the work that needs doing on deck six. Maybe ten weeks, just to make sure.”
“Two months is a fair amount of time for us.”
“Five years is longer.”
McCoy doesn’t argue. There’s nothing left to argue about.
He’s alone in bed when he wakes the next morning, but there’s two bananas, a glass of orange juice and a scrawled note on the bedside cabinet next to him, and he stretches with a lazy smile to nobody in particular as the sun streams in through the opened blinds.
He reads the note after a few minutes of dozing – Jim’s gone for a run, how does lunch at the canteen sound about one o’clock, and by the way there’s a comm on his PADD.
It’s from Admiral Barnett.
He finds Jim sat cross-legged out on the grass in front of the quad, sweat soaking the back of his vest, his face slightly flushed, looking out across the Bay, where the bridge has been rebuilt. There’s a few other cadets walking around, but it’s otherwise pretty quiet. There’s a strange stillness in the air as he walks over and sits down beside Jim, their knees touching lightly, and they sit for a few minutes in contented silence.
“So, I got my official suspension notice this morning. Came through on the comm.”
“Yeah. Seems they made a mistake in the hearing. Now, they’re telling me that I’m only suspended for two months, then I’m back on active duty.”
“Give or take a week.”
McCoy smiles and tilts his head to the left, the sun bright behind Jim’s head, and presses their knees closer together as they sit on the soft grass.
And Jim turns and smiles right back at him, and he is blinding.