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Title: Trepidation of the Spheres
Author: caitri
Rating: R (Language, Sex)
Pairings: Kirk/McCoy
Word Count: 6,685
Summary: A Valediction Forbidding Mourning: “If they be two, they are two so / As stiff twin compasses are two.”
Disclaimer: I know this may come as a shock, but I am not, amazing as it may seem, Gene Roddenberry, J.J. Abrams, Paramount or Bad Robot. Just so you know.

As usual, huge thanks to gadgetorious for her excellent beta skills!!!!!!



Prologue

2258

Jim sits back in the command chair, staring at the cracked viewscreen before him. It displays empty space: blackness and distant stars. “Sulu, where are we?” he demands.

“We’re safe, sir,” says the helmsman, his expression one of profound relief and giddiness. Chekov wears a mirroring look there beside him; Jim can feel his own lips twitching as the man confirms what he had hoped. “The Narada is gone.” Around him the bridge crew let loose whoops of joy that Jim seems to hear only distantly, though something like victory flutters in his chest.

Nodding to Sulu, he punches a command into the computer console of his chair. “Crewmen, this is your Captain speaking. Congratulations, everybody. We did it.” He is vaguely aware of Uhura beaming like a sun at Spock, of several crewmen whose names he doesn’t know hugging one another in relief. He smiles at them. He knows who he wants to see right then, as well.

He comms Sickbay. “Kirk to McCoy. How’re we doing, Bones?” The comm spits out garbled static interspersed by fragments of a woman’s voice. Jim frowns. “Spock, you have the conn,” he says, and he heads to Sickbay to find his friend.

It takes him longer to get there than he thought it would—the turbolifts are out, thanks to that little break with the inertial dampers, and Engineering personnel are running through the halls, trying to minimize damage everywhere. Doors are all set to manual-release as well, so the noise of people talking, shouting, sighs or shrieks of pain float out from Sickbay into the open areas beyond.

The infirmary itself is a madhouse, men and women in the blue and white uniforms of Medical scurrying around busily. Jim frowns to himself; Bones totally doesn’t need to be bothered with him right now. But he’s here, anyway, so he might as well find the other man. He sees the tall blonde woman he’d first seen when he came onboard—Jesus, was it only a day ago? Less? She has stains on the front of her once-pristine skant, and her hair had slipped its neat coiffure, oh, hours ago. She looks exhausted, worried, and put upon. Jim feels guilty just speaking to her, but: “Nurse Chapel? Where’s Doctor McCoy?”

He isn’t prepared for her response. She stares at him, eyes wide, and abruptly bursts into tears.

Jim stares. “What’s happened?” he asks, but something cold inside him hints at an answer. “Where’s Bones?”


Trepidation of the Spheres



2260

Away missions aren’t usually this boring, thinks Leonard McCoy. By now there’s usually been at least one fist-fight, with Jim generally being the one involved. But no, this is just a standard exploration mission on a pleasant, M-class world, and it’s boring as hell, and that makes it worse, because it gives him time to see things.

For instance:

The system’s yellow sun is rather like Earth’s; in the late afternoon, it casts golden light on the idyllic scenery before them. The sky is blue, the breeze is cool, the grass is green: it’s beautiful. Leonard is a creature of Earth, and there is a part of him that thrills to the feel of brown dirt and grass beneath his regulation boots. This is the perfect sort of place to take a stroll with one’s sweetheart.

To bad he doesn’t have one. Exactly.

If this place is like a new Eden, the other crewmembers here are starting to act like there’s an ark around the corner, with all of them getting together, two by two. Uhura and Spock are discussing something nearby, and Kirk and—

Well.

Leonard pretends that he doesn’t see Jim checking out Lieutenant Moreau’s ass, while Jim pretends that he isn’t watching Leonard pretend to be cool about it.

Jim and Leonard aren’t talking right now, not exactly. They talk on duty, Leonard giving the Captain his standard reports on the Bridge or in his Ready Room like usual, but aside from that he’s been keeping to Sickbay a lot more—like most medical personnel do.

It all started a few weeks ago when they got back from the usual kind of mission—the kind that involved narrow escapes from death, Jim with his uniform torn and more than a few holes in his own hide, and Leonard hardly better. But they were alive, against all odds, and were giddy with it that night—well, with that and with the excellent Saurian brandy that Jim produced from somewhere and brought to Leonard in his quarters. They had popped it open, started drinking—and didn’t stop.

“Y’know, Bones,” Jim had said after a while, a slur detectable in his words, “I got somethin’ I wanna say to you.”

“What’s that, Jim?” Leonard had asked.

“I love you, man,” he had said. Leonard had started laughing, then stopped when he saw the hurt expression on his friend’s face.

“What’s that mean?” Leonard had asked, the words coming out harsher than they were meant to be.

Jim had flinched. “I’m sayin’ I love you. That I’m in love with you, Bones.”

“Horse shit!” Leonard had said. “You’re drunk, you stupid, babbling infant—“

“No!” Jim had said. “Well, yeah, I am drunk. A little. But so are you. And it don’t—doesn’t matter anyhow ‘cause that don’t change how I feel, man. I had to let you know, in case we don’t make it out next time.” He looked strangely mournful then. “You had to know, Bones.”

“Bull, Jim,” Leonard had said. “You’re drunk. I’m drunk. You’re just bein’—drunk,” he concluded lamely.

“Are not,” Jim had said rebelliously. “Why you gotta be so mean about it? That’s not you, Bones.”

“Yeah it is, Jim,” Leonard had said slowly. He thought of Jocelyn then, and his little girl, and the divorce, and hardened his heart a little. He stared into those bright blue eyes of his best friend, and spoke the brutal truth. “I’m a mean old man, and you’re a young kid that don’t know nothin’ ‘bout this universe. Love don’t exist, Jim. Not that romantic shit. Now if you wanna—wanna fuck, we can do that, but leave all that flowery stuff out of it. ‘Cause it ain’t real.”

Jim had looked at him like he’d killed a puppy, or possibly Santa Clause, then tried to laugh it off with that awkward fake laughter you do when you don’t know what else to do. “You’re full of it, Bones,” he had said. “You don’t mean that.”

“Yeah, I do, Jim,” Leonard had said. “Now we can fuck, or we can drink, or we can do both. But it ain’t gonna be more than that.”

Jim stared at him for a long moment, clearly thinking that through in his alcohol-fueled haze. “Shit, man,” he had said quietly. Then, louder, “That’s shit.” And he had gotten up and left.


Since then, the two of them have been—well. In front of the crew, they’ve been civil, but they haven’t met each other for meals, or for half-assed chess games, or outside of duty hours at all, really.

If the rest of the crew have noticed that the Captain and the Chief Medical Officer are barely on speaking terms, at least they haven’t tried to do anything about it. Thank God for small mercies.

But Leonard’s lonely as hell without Jim. Surely the kid will get over it soon. Right? But he couldn’t lie to him, not to his friend and Captain. And so here they are, on this beautiful planet, and Leonard feels like he has fucked-up majorly, just because he’d been honest about what he’d thought.

Jim had always said he respected him for his honesty. Guess not.

In retrospect, Leonard knows he could have handled it better: either picked the right words, or just said nothing at all and let Jim work it out on his own. He hates that he’s hurt his best friend, but this whole thing they have between them will pass by soon enough, and Jim will be after his next conquest.

Moreau giggles at something.

See? he tells himself. But then he sees Jim looking at him over her shoulder. Fuck.

There are so many things wrong with this whole situation, he could probably catalog them the way Spock is doing with the flora around them.

“Fascinating,” says the hobgoblin. He’s running his tricorder over something that looks a hell of a lot like an Earth standard dandelion to Leonard.

“What’s the matter, Bones?” Jim asks.

Leonard bites back a sharp retort; his Captain’s expression is open, curious. Like he really cares. “Nothin’, Jim,” he says gruffly. “The sun’s givin’ me a headache, is all. Too much time spent in Sickbay with artificial lighting. I’m like a damn mole these days.”

“Come with me, Doctor,” says Nyota. She holds her arm out, grinning in mock-flirtatiousness. “You can be my escort while I take a walk.”

“Delighted, ma’am,” Leonard says with a courtly bow as he takes her arm gamely.

“Don’t wander too far,” Jim says with what Leonard recognizes as his Captain’s smile: sunny, polite, and completely forced. “This is new terrain, remember.”

“Don’t worry, Captain,” Leonard says with equally false lightness. “We’re big kids, after all. We can take care of ourselves.”

“I know, Bones,” Jim says, and there’s an odd moment of complete sincerity for a split-second, and then he turns back to Moreau and Nyota is guiding him away.

The two colleagues survey the area together. “Sure your beau doesn’t mind?” Leonard adds for form’s sake.

Nyota smiles at him, bending her head towards his confidentially. “Don’t take this the wrong way, Doctor McCoy,” she says, “but Spock needs some time with his green things, and I figured you could use a distraction.”

“You did, did you? Hmmph.” Leonard affects an unconcerned expression. “How about that.”

Nyota laughs quietly, and then when they are out of earshot of the others she turns to him. “Okay, what’s going on with you and the Captain, Leonard?” she asks seriously.

He stares at her. This is exactly the sort of thing he had been hoping to avoid. He’s trying to decide whether to play it off cool, or—

“And don’t think you can play stupid with me,” Nyota continues. “I’m a xenolinguist. I’m trained to read body language as well as verbal cues, and believe me, Leonard, if you try to bullshit your way out of this I will know.”

Leonard stares at her for a long moment, then exhales and gives in. “What do you want me to say, Nyota?” he asks. “Seriously,” he adds at her perplexed expression, “because if I knew what to do here, I’d do it if I could. Trust me.”

“Okay,” she says after a moment. “But the thing is—“ She breaks off as his communicator chirps.

Frowning, he flips it open. “McCoy here,” he says.

“Hey, Bones,” Jim says, “you guys head back over. Scotty says we have some magnetic storms approaching and he wants to get us back aboard ship, ASAP.”

“Got it,” Leonard says. “We’re on our way.” He snaps the comm shut. “Guess we’ll have to have this conversation another time,” he says to Nyota.

“I guess we will,” she says with false sweetness. “But we will have it, Leonard. Seriously,” she says with a different expression, “if not with me, with someone. Because whatever is going on with you two—“ She breaks off, gesturing. “Fix it,” she finishes. “Okay?”

He grunts at that, and moments later they are with the rest of the landing party. Leonard stands next to her, the pair of them flanked by Jim and Spock, Moreau and two security personnel standing behind them.

“Energize,” Jim commands, and the familiar whine of the beam engulfs them. The planet before him dissolves, and the pitch of the transporter increases emphatically—almost deafeningly—and then mercifully ends as they reappear on the transporter pad of the Enterprise.

“Jesus, Scotty,” Leonard growls, “what was that about? I feel like the fillings in my back teeth are rattling!” He has a devil of a headache, too. God knows what these damn machines have done to them now. “Anyone else experience any unusual side-effects there?”

Scotty is staring at him, as are Uhura, Spock, and Jim. Jim is sporting a beard that he didn’t have a few minutes ago, and his face is pale and ashen.

He looks like he’s seen a ghost.

Spock’s eyebrow is quirked upwards in a faintly accusatory fashion. “You are not Doctor M’Benga,” he says, stating the obvious in typical hobgoblin fashion.

“It’s Leonard McCoy,” Nyota says. Astonishment colors her voice. “He was at the Academy with us. He—“ She breaks off, staring at him. Leonard shifts under the intensity of her regard, uncertain.

“Bones?” Jim asks. His voice is rough. “Is that really you?”

“Of course it’s me,” Leonard says. He has a horrible sinking feeling in his stomach. “Who else would I be?”

~

Most of the senior bridge crew, plus Leonard, are arrayed at the large table in a conference room. It looks identical to the one that Jim usually holds his Operations meetings in.

“It’s an alternate universe, sir,” Scotty says to Kirk.

Of course. “It always is,” Leonard grumbles darkly to himself. “Sorry,” he adds as Scotty and Spock stare at him.

Kirk chuckles slightly, then stops, face frozen when Leonard’s lips twitch upwards in automatic response. Facing away from Leonard abruptly, Kirk turns to his First Officer. “What else can you tell me, Spock?”

“It appears that the magnetic storms interfered with our transporter equipment, thus causing the incident,” the hobgoblin reports coolly. “We are conducting sensor readings to scan for patterns to replicate the conditions and thus, ideally, return Doctor McCoy to his universe.”

Scotty picks up the explanation. “We think we can safely assume that our counterparts are conducting similar scans,” he says, “and that Doctor M’Benga will be returned to us.”

“That’s not good enough, Mister Scott,” Kirk says. Everyone stares at the Captain as he continues, Spock quirking an eyebrow upwards. “We can’t assume, we need to know. We need to get Bone—Doctor McCoy back to his ship safe and sound, and get our CMO back to us. Do what you have to. Dismissed, people.” And then he’s up, retreating to his Ready Room hastily. The doors close behind him firmly as everyone stares.

“Is he always like that?” Leonard asks Uhura curiously. The woman is frowning, her eyes wide and her mouth drawn in sympathy.

“No,” she says softly, “No, he’s not.”

Spock and Scotty retreat to one of the science labs to conduct their sensor readings and—do whatever they need to do to sort this thing out. A pretty yeoman that Leonard doesn’t recognize from his ship presents herself to him. “Doctor McCoy?” she asks. “I’m to escort you to your guest quarters—“

“I’ll do it,” Uhura says to both the yeoman’s and Leonard’s own surprise. “Tell me where.”

Pursing her lips, the yeoman consults her PADD. “7C-132,” she says.

“Thank you, yeoman,” Uhura says, then smiles at Leonard. “Follow me, please,” she says.

“Of course,” Leonard says politely. They walk silently for a few paces before Uhura speaks again.

“You should know that the Captain—“ she begins, then breaks off, making a face in frustration. “I don’t know how to say this. He—“

“He doesn’t like me in this universe?” Leonard hazards a guess. “Kicked me off the ship?”

Uhura stares at him. “Nooo,” she says, drawing the vowel out thoughtfully. “You were his best friend, and—Shit,” she looks down, “maybe this was a bad idea, but no one else was saying anything and I thought—“

“It’s okay, Nyota,” Leonard says gently. He smiles at her. “You care about your friends and your crew. My Uhura is just the same. You can say what’s on your mind, or not. It’s okay,” he repeats.

“Okay then,” Uhura says, pausing. “You’re—you’re—“ She breaks off as a shipwide call whistle is played.

“Lieutenant Uhura to the bridge,” an unidentified voice commands. “Lieutenant Uhura to the bridge.”

“I’m what?” Leonard prompts her.

“Never mind,” she says hurriedly. “See you later,” and then she’s gone.

Leonard shakes his head, and heads to his assigned quarters.

Well, he tries to, anyway. He’s intercepted by security in the turbolift on his way to Deck 7, and he tries to explain the whole situation to them as they frog march him to a nearby comm console, where the lieutenant in charge buzzes the bridge.

“Kirk here.”

“This is Lieutenant Harding, Captain,” the man says. “We have a Doctor Leonard McCoy who is undocumented and wasn’t being escorted—“

“He’s supposed to be with Yeoman Kadinski,” says Kirk’s voice. Uhura’s voice can be heard indistinctly in the background, followed by an “I see,” from the Captain. “Alright, gentlemen,” Kirk’s voice is clearer again—he’s obviously speaking directly into the console on his command chair—“it’s just a little misunderstanding. Doctor McCoy is free to be on Deck 7 and in the common areas.”

The security men let go of Leonard then, and he focuses on keeping his body language loose and calm, rather than jerking away rudely as he desperately wants to do. After all, these men were just doing their job—oh hell. He’s irritated about the whole thing anyway. But still: not their fault.

“Thanks, Jim,” he says loudly. He knows the man isn’t really “Jim” but he uses the name out of habit.

“You’re welcome. Bones.” Kirk’s voice is almost hesitant, and then the connection is terminated.

Leonard is free to go then, and he heads to the guest quarters. The room is small, equipped with a computer, a bunk, and a small bathroom. Out of curiosity, he logs into the computer and tries to find out where this universe’s McCoy is if not onboard the Enterprise, but the computer doesn’t allow him to look at anything but the ship’s library collection. Sighing to himself, he decides that now’s as good a time as any to catch up on The Monthly Proceedings of the Federation Medical Association

Several hours later he emerges from a pleasant haze of medical research to discover that his stomache is growling. Shaking his head, he heads to the mess hall, still lost in thought regarding the theoretical xenobiochemistry of Human-hybrid ribonucleic acids.

He retrieves one of the meal trays from the replicator belt—the lo mein looked decent tonight—and when he sees Jim sitting at a table with a PADD, he joins him, sitting across from the younger man automatically.

It’s only when Jim gives him a half-smile, then freezes and jerks in his chair in startlement, that Leonard recalls exactly where he is and who he’s with.

He’s not on his Enterprise. This Kirk isn’t Jim.

Crap.

“Sorry, Captain,” Leonard apologizes. He gets up to leave. “I didn’t mean to intrude—I forgot—“

“No, no, I’m the one that’s sorry,” Kirk says hurriedly, and he does look genuinely apologetic.
“Stay,” he says.

Leonard hesitates, then nods, sitting back down. He takes a bite of his meal while Kirk watches him thoughtfully in silence. “This must be as weird for you as it is for me,” he says after a moment.

Kirk gives him a small, sickly grin. “You don’t even know the half of it, Bones,” he says.

Leonard continues to eat his noodles as he thinks that statement over. “Uhura tried to tell me something earlier,” he says at last. “Look.” He puts his fork down, “Jim—Captain Kirk—I don’t understand something. Every other alternate universe I’ve been in or heard of, I’ve been here, with you. I don’t get it. Please, can you tell me what’s going on?”

Kirk’s skin is pale underneath his beard, then it flushes again. The Captain stares at him for such a long moment that Leonard thinks he’s not going to answer. And when he finally speaks, it’s not what Leonard expects at all. “That’s because you’re dead, Bones,” he says. “And it was my fault.”

~

This is what cognitive dissonance means, Leonard thinks. Kirk’s words literally do not make sense to him for several moments, and when he finally grasps their meaning, his noodles are cold. “What happened?” he asks.

Kirk flinches. “It was after the battle with the Narada, when we were in danger of being pulled into the black hole’s gravity well. When we jettisoned the warp cores at my order, we lost our inertia dampers for two minutes. Bones—our Doctor McCoy was in the surgery with Captain Pike at the time. When artificial gravity came back on, his head hit the biobed, hard, and—“ He shrugs, eyes wide and vulnerable, before he looks away from Leonard’s gaze.

Leonard has never seen such an open look on Jim Kirk’s face before. The fraction of a second that the expression is there is frozen in his memory now. He’s heartbroken, Leonard realizes in astonishment, and with something like guilt. Oh, God.

“And it was an accident,” Leonard says soothingly, though his thoughts are still in tumult. “I remember when that happened on our ship,” he continues. “I held onto the biobed but almost lost my grip at the last second. That whole mission—so much of it was damn luck, one way or the other.” He shakes his head. “You being marooned on Delta Vega but meeting Ambassador Spock, me getting you on the ship in the first place. It wasn’t anything to do with you, Jim,” he concludes, “or your orders.”

Kirk is dubious. “I really want to believe that, Bones,” he says. “But I think I know better.”

“Bullshit,” Leonard says. “Your ego never changes, does it?” Kirk stares at him. “No, of course not,” Leonard answers his own question, rolling his eyes. “Yeah, I hate to break it to you, but not everything happens or doesn’t happen because of one James Tiberius Kirk, okay? If a man’s life or death is fixed in two minutes, then it’s what happens in those two minutes that’s the key, and what the man does in them.”

“Are you offering forgiveness, then?” Kirk asks. His voice is low, throaty, like he’s trying to be sarcastic but failing.

“There’s nothing to be forgiven for,” Leonard says gently. “I know your Doctor McCoy would agree with me on that.”

“You think so?” Kirk is hesitant.

“Yeah,” Leonard says. “I don’t think I could ever hold a grudge with my Jim Kirk, or any Jim Kirk for that matter.” And suddenly, he knows that what he’s saying is true. He thinks of the Jim in his own universe, and something unwinds within him. He pauses, before asking the obvious question. “How long did you love him?”

Kirk exhales roughly. “Since the beginning,” he says. “I never told him. I figured he’d get pissed off at me if I said anything.” He looks down. “Dumbest thing I ever did. Or didn’t do, as it were.” He snorts.

Leonard flinches from that; it hits too close to home. “Yeah, well. Too stubborn for my—for our own good,” he says.

“Mmm.” Kirk makes a thoughtful noise.

Another thought occurs to him then. “If I’m dead, what about Joanna?” he asks. “Is she okay?”

Kirk gives him an unreadable look. “Come with me, Bones,” he says.

~

Leonard looks around Kirk’s quarters in amazement. His Jim has always been a Spartan man, not one for collecting bits of bric-or-brack or memorabilia. I don’t like stuff, Bones, he’d said once. It ties you down. This Kirk appears to disagree, as the surface of his desk, his shelves, the walls of the room are covered in holos, drawings, colorful rocks, various mementos. A misshapen clay bowl on the desk looks familiar, though, and he picks it up. Flipping it over, the carved initials JMM on the bottom confirm what he suspected.

“JoJo,” Leonard breathes, a wondering exhalation. He turns to Kirk in surprise. “How did you get this? She gave it to me for my birthday—“

Kirk gives him a small, sad smile. “She made that for my birthday a few years ago,” he says. “After you—after my Bones died, I went to Georgia to tell Jocelyn and Joanna in person. I told JoJo if she ever needed anything I’d be there for her, and she started sending me comms. At first because she didn’t know who else to talk to about you and—well, I totally get the dead heroic Dad thing.” Kirk shrugs a little at that, and Leonard’s heart squeezes painfully in his chest. Kirk sits down, looking up at him. Leonard has the odd sensation that though Kirk is talking to him, he’s really talking to someone else. “She’s such a great kid, Bones,” he says softly. “She’s so much like you. You’d be so damn proud of her.”

“Yeah,” Leonard says. “I am.”

Kirk blinks, shaking himself slightly as if waking up from a reverie or a dream. “Yeah,” he says. “Yeah.” He stands up, not looking at Leonard, talking faster now. “But, um, yeah, she’s great, studying hard. She’s at this Science Academy on Cerberus having a ball. She loves it there—“

“Jim,” Leonard interrupts.

“—loves it, she’s going into the pre-med program after, wants to be a doctor like you—“

“Jim!”

Kirk stops talking, stares at him. Leonard makes a decision then, something churning in his gut. Kirk is staring at him with those impossibly blue eyes glowing brightly with emotion. Leonard bridges the gap between them, takes the younger man in his arms, and kisses him.

It’s not a gentle kiss, though it was meant to be. It’s the kind of kiss that’s meant to say Thank you and I’m sorry, but when Kirk’s mouth opens up hesitatingly into his, it changes. Asks something else.

“Bones?” Jim whispers. His beard scratches at Leonard’s throat, his mouth. “Is this real?”

“It’s real enough for right now, Jim,” Leonard says. His heart breaks a little for this man, who is so dear to him in so many ways, who is and is not the Jim Kirk who drives him nuts, makes him laugh, sacrifices himself for his crew and his ship in dozens of small ways, who is brilliant enough to save the universe but dumb enough to not know how beloved he is. “Now hush.”

Jim exhales a shuddering breath, his blue eyes wide. “So let us melt, and make no noise,” he murmurs—so low that Leonard strains to hear the words. Jim touches Leonard’s face gently, his finger-tips as gentle as brush-strokes, mapping the line of jaw and the slight curve of cheek to nose. “‘Twere profanations of our joys,” he finishes, and then his mouth is on Leonard’s.

This kiss is longer, hotter, hungrier. Jim touches him with something like wonder, those bright blue eyes darker now, drinking him in eagerly as he tugs at his uniform, followed by fingers, mouth, tongue. They undress slowly, almost leisurely. Somehow Leonard had thought that making love with Jim would be a perfunctory business, but this Jim at least takes his time. When Leonard’s medical tunic is removed, Jim’s fingers dance under the black under-shirt, skimming across the skin of his back and up his shoulder-blades, then running lightly down the dip of his spine again. The caress makes Leonard tremble a little, almost despite himself, and then Jim is pulling the shirt off and he’s bare to the waist.

“Your turn,” Leonard murmurs, kissing Jim again. He’s less patient than the younger man, pulling both the gold tunic and the black one away with it. Jim’s skin is very warm to the touch, his chest lightly sprinkled with fine, light blonde hairs. He teasingly draws his fingers through the fuzz over Jim’s heart, pulling them up gently between his fingers, then releasing them again.
Jim groans painfully at that.

“Fuck, Bones,” he says, a slight smile lingering on his lips. “I’m not going to last if you pull tricks like that.”

“What about that vaunted Kirk reputation?” Leonard teases him, almost despite himself. He bites Jim’s neck playfully.

“Out the window where you’re concerned,” Jim says with astonishing seriousness. “Always was.”

“Mmm.” Leonard mentally shrinks from that; it sounds too much like something his own Jim would say. But then this Jim is kissing him again, beard scratching at his chin and cheeks slightly, and tugging insistently on his trousers. Leonard returns the favor, and there’s a moment of awkwardness as they divest one another of pants, underwear, of boots and socks. And then they are on the bed, bodies pressed together, hardening cocks trapped between their stomachs.

Jim pulls away from him then. The man looks at him closely, as if memorizing every inch of him. Leonard opens his mouth to make a joke, tease him, but Jim’s look is so heartbreakingly serious and intense that the words dry in his throat, and he pulls the other man to him again.

Leonard thinks that perhaps, perhaps he should feel guilty about all this somehow. He is not this man’s Bones anymore than this man is his own Jim. But this Jim will never see his Bones again, and there’s something in that piteous thought that absolutely kills Leonard, that makes him tremble in both sympathy and desire when the other man pulls him close, nuzzling his neck and pulling Leonard tightly to him.

He allows himself to be lost with Jim, then. It’s probably the most solemn bedding he has ever or will ever experience again: absent any laughter; few words are exchanged, and those in a whisper. This is love that is a goodbye traced in damp skin and intimate angles.

When it’s over, Jim’s face is slightly damp. He gives Leonard a small smile. “I love you, Bones,” he mouths silently.

And because it’s the only thing he can do, he mouths back, “I know.”

~

They wake up together in the morning. Kirk—and it is Kirk in the artificial light of day, not his Jim—is spooned around him, hand splayed flat against his stomach. His head is tucked behind Leonard’s, and he gently inhales against the back of Leonard’s neck, just below the ear, which Kirk kisses next.

“Hey, you,” Kirk murmurs softly.

Leonard twists in the bed so that they are facing each other. “Hey,” Leonard echoes. They gaze at one another, the easy intimacy of the night before dissipating as they come to full consciousness.

Kirk’s lips twitch, like he’s thinking something but he hesitates to say it. Sighing, he runs his fingers through Leonard’s hair, smoothing it down. “We gotta send you back today,” he says at last.

“Yeah,” Leonard says. “I know.” He pauses. “My Jim needs me,” he adds almost apologetically, as if it’s somehow his fault that Kirk’s McCoy won’t be coming back.

“Yeah,” Kirk echoes. “I know.” He rolls onto his back, staring at the ceiling.

He’s quiet for a long moment, and Leonard feels awkward in the silence. Finally he asks, “Look, what happened last night—are you gonna be okay?”

Kirk turns to him, and for a moment those clear blue eyes are hard, but they soften perceivably. “Yeah,” he says. “Yeah, I think so. Just—“ He pauses, before continuing more quietly. “You tell him he’s a lucky bastard for me, will you?” he asks.

Leonard chuckles at that. “I’m not sure he’d agree with that,” he says, “but yeah, I’ll tell him.”

“Good,” Kirk says. He smiles a little, but it’s a real, honest-to-God smile at least. “That’s good.”

~

Leonard leaves shortly after that and returns to his guest quarters. He showers, shaves, dresses in his uniform. He comms Kirk to see if he wants to have breakfast with him—does it without thinking, really, because he and Jim had breakfast together every day for five years until two weeks ago—but the other man is quiet. “I have something to do, Bones,” he says at last. “Kirk out.”

Immediately after that he gets a comm from Spock that they’ll be ready to beam him out at 0900 hours.

So it is that, after breakfast, Leonard waits in the transporter room while Scotty finishes up some calculations.

Kirk is nowhere to be seen.

“You’re sure this thing is safe, Spock?” Leonard asks again to kill time. He does his best to make it sound like a joke, but a part of him is genuinely concerned, and trying very hard not to think about it.

Spock lifts a single, arched eyebrow at him. “Fear not, Doctor,” he says. “The odds of you returning to your universe, safe and sound, are well into the ninety-seventh percentile.”

“Goody,” Leonard grumps. The automatic doors open and he nearly jumps. It’s Lieutenant Kyle, who nods at them briefly before joining Scotty at the transport console.

“We’re ready, sir,” says Scotty then.

Leonard steps onto the transporter pad wordlessly. He steadies himself, standing straight, preparing to energize.

That’s when the doors open again and Kirk emerges.

Leonard lets out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. “Jim!”

Kirk has shaved. He looks younger that way—healthier. Happier. He’s smiling at Leonard—a small smile, but a genuine one. “Bones!” he says, coming up to the edge of the pad, “I just—I wanted—“ He breaks off, eyes uncertain despite his calm expression.

“I know,” Leonard says again, because he does—he gets the feeling entirely.

Kirk smiles again, a little wider then. “Yeah,” he says with a short chuckle. “You would.” He holds his arm out, and the two men shake hands firmly. “Be safe, Bones.”

“Yeah,” says Leonard. “You too, Jim.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll be okay.” Those blue eyes again, and Leonard knows it’s true.

“Energize.”

The world dissolves.

~

Dissapears.

~

Resolves again.

The tableau before him is so like that which he left that Leonard is uncertain as to whether he has, in fact, returned to his ship or not. Jim is still at the edge of the pad, looking at him intensely.

“Jim?” Leonard asks.

Jim grins at him, and his look is so boyish, then, so strangely innocent, that Leonard knows that this is not the man who lost his best friend—because he’s looking at him right now. “Bones!” he says, and the word has a relieved, joyous ring to it that Leonard hasn’t heard in weeks. “Man, I’m glad to see you!”

“Yeah, me too,” Leonard says with false lightness. But Jim’s expression is so damn sunny, that he can’t help but smile back in return.

“Welcome back, Doctor,” says Spock with a slight nod.

“Aye,” says Scotty with a wider smile, “It’s good to see ye again, Sir!”

Leonard nods at them both as he steps down from the pad.

“Wanna come mind the store with me, Bones?” Jim asks, head tilted to the side in question.

“Sure,” Leonard says. “A word first, though?”

Jim looks surprised, but nods. They walk down the hall to his Ready Room, and when the doors close behind them Leonard takes a deep breath before reaching for the other man.

“What’s the matt—mmph!” Jim’s words are muffled when Leonard kisses him. He’s still for a moment in surprise, and then he’s kissing him back. They break some time later.

“Bones?” Jim asks vaguely. “What was that for?”

“I’m sorry, Jim,” Leonard says. “I—wanted you to know that.”

“You wanted me to know that you’re sorry—with your tongue?” Jim asks. But he’s smiling when he speaks, though still hesitant. “But what about—you said—“ He breaks off as Leonard’s mouth comes down on his again. The kiss is thorough, sweet: melting. Jim is warm and almost pliant in his arms, Leonard notices, and then he’s being pulled closer.

Leonard pulls back after another moment. “I was an ass, Jim,” he says apologetically. “I know that. I was just—I thought—I don’t know what I thought,” he says, because he doesn’t. “But I think what I thought was—is wrong, now.” He pauses. “I’m doing a crap job of this aren’t I?” he asks morosely.

“I don’t think so,” Jim says, grinning radiantly, “but I’m biased in the matter.” Then he’s serious once more. “What the hell happened, Bones?” he asks. “What changed?”

Leonard swallows. “I was dead in the other universe,” he says quietly. “You—the other Captain Kirk—was still in mourning. He loved his McCoy very much. I guess before I met him I thought that that wasn’t how Jim Kirk operated.”

Jim kisses him then, gently. “I love you, Bones,” he whispered. “I need you. And I can live with you as just my friend, but if we’re more—it’s gonna be all the way, okay? You and me, forever.” He kisses him again, as if punctuating the point. “You get what I’m saying, don’t you? Bones?”

“It sounds damn near like a marriage proposal,” Leonard says. Jim is quiet at that. “Jim?”

“Yeah?” The other man is hesitant, cautious, like he’s afraid of what he’s going to say next.

Leonard takes a deep breath. “The answer’s yes.”

“Yes?” Jim echoes, staring at him.

Leonard nods. “Yes,” he repeats.

“Yes?” Jim is grinning like an idiot now.

“Dammit, Jim,” Leonard says, only the slightest edge of irritation in his voice, “how many times do I have to say it?” But he can feel himself smiling. The mood between them is one of completion, as of a puzzle or a circle joined.

Jim is shaking his head, laughing. His face is flushed, and his eyes appear bluer than ever with mirth. “Jesus, Bones,” he says, “I’ve missed you.” The smile and the laughter fade as he regards the other man. “You have no idea how much I missed you.”

“Yeah, I do,” Leonard says. “Believe me, I do.”

Jim stares at him for a long moment, before nodding. “Never again,” he says, holding his hand out.

Leonard takes it. “Never again,” he echoes.



A VALEDICTION FORBIDDING MOURNING
~ John Donne

AS virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
"Now his breath goes," and some say, "No."

So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move ;
'Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.

Moving of th' earth brings harms and fears ;
Men reckon what it did, and meant ;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers' love
—Whose soul is sense—cannot admit
Of absence, 'cause it doth remove
The thing which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refined,
That ourselves know not what it is,
Inter-assurèd of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to aery thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two ;
Thy soul, the fix'd foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if th' other do.

And though it in the centre sit,
Yet, when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th' other foot, obliquely run ;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.

Comments

( 35 comments — Add your .02 )
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gadgetorious
Jul. 27th, 2010 04:13 am (UTC)
So, I'm trying to think of something to say about this fic that I haven't already told you, but, as we discussed, I am woefully sleep deprived and I can't think of anything. So really, I'm just eating up comment space because you KNOW I love this.
caitri
Jul. 27th, 2010 04:13 am (UTC)
:D I think you just want a first comment award. ;)
(no subject) - gadgetorious - Jul. 27th, 2010 04:20 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - caitri - Jul. 27th, 2010 04:21 am (UTC) - Expand
suddenlyswept
Jul. 27th, 2010 04:32 am (UTC)
*sighs* I just love John Donne and i had forgotten how much until i read this and cried at the poem. you're story was perfect for it.
caitri
Jul. 27th, 2010 04:36 am (UTC)
Yay!!!! I'm glad you got the reference--gadgetorious just pointed out that my summary kinda says nothing, but I'm too sleepy to think of something better. But I'm very glad you read and liked it!!!!!! :)
secretsolitaire
Jul. 27th, 2010 04:39 am (UTC)
*weeps endlessly for the other Jim*

This is love that is a goodbye traced in damp skin and intimate angles.

Such a gorgeous line. I like that the other Jim finds some sort of closure in this. *weeps more*

And I'm glad Bones stopped being an idiot with his own Jim. :-)
caitri
Jul. 27th, 2010 04:42 am (UTC)
Wow thank you. And yeah, I like giving Bones heckuva kick in the pants. :)
dramapunk
Jul. 27th, 2010 04:54 am (UTC)
Awww. This has me all misty eyed. I loved this.

Such a good concept.
dftreaper
Jul. 27th, 2010 05:09 am (UTC)
Oh my God. Wow. This made me cry. This is amazing. It really is. I was so scared at the end of the prologue, but wow. It was sad ending, then a happy one, then a bittersweet one, then a happy one. Wow. Emotional roller coaster, much. But I love it. The way you handled it is amazing, that Jim and Bones learned their lessons while the other-universe Jim got closure, while again simultaneously showing Bones his mistake.

The loop concept works extremely well, and you pulled it off brilliantly.
caitri
Jul. 27th, 2010 01:54 pm (UTC)
*blush* Wow, thank you!!!!
stormatdusk
Jul. 27th, 2010 08:37 am (UTC)
i'm dabbing at a big fat sappy tear right now, and another, and another. lovely fic; thank you for sharing.
easilymused1956
Jul. 27th, 2010 09:28 am (UTC)
Joining the river of tears over this story. Gorgeously sentimental with absolutely no sap. Perfect.

Renee
blcwriter
Jul. 27th, 2010 01:09 pm (UTC)
I'm just going to leave it at this:

I am SO glad you write in this fandom.
caitri
Jul. 27th, 2010 01:53 pm (UTC)
D'aww!!!

And this story didn't even have any porny bits!! :) Well, many.

*enjoys the warm fuzzies*
tn_tiger
Jul. 27th, 2010 01:31 pm (UTC)
This is beautiful and bittersweet!
weepingnaiad
Jul. 27th, 2010 01:37 pm (UTC)
*wipes eyes*

Oh. This was gorgeous, heartbreaking because Jim shouldn't be without his Bones, not in any universe.

Gorgeous, achy, wonderful. So, so beautiful!
abigail89
Jul. 27th, 2010 02:19 pm (UTC)
Ah, darlin'. So beautifully written, so poignant and thrilling. My heart aches for Jim in our universe, but rejoices with him in the other.

Nicely done.
fritz42
Jul. 27th, 2010 02:24 pm (UTC)
My heart ached for the other Jim the whole time I was reading this, knowing that his Bones was gone. Thank you for giving him closure at the end and letting Bones know that.

This was achingly beautiful, and now I think I will go find a tissue. *sniff*

"T"
sail_aweigh
Jul. 27th, 2010 03:12 pm (UTC)
Oh, this was not the fic to be reading at work; my mascara is all running, now. Excellent, bb. Everything comes full circle in both universes and all is well with them. I like to think the Kirk who is solitary will be able to find someone new, now. He has too much to give to keep it to himself.
rubynye
Jul. 27th, 2010 04:11 pm (UTC)
Oh BEAUTIFULLY done! I wish I had time to say about a jillion more compliments, but I had to at least tell you that, and cheer, and applaud!
adafrog
Jul. 28th, 2010 01:22 am (UTC)
Lovely, thanks.
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( 35 comments — Add your .02 )

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