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That Which They Defend, Part Five



FIVE: MANY PATHS TO TREAD




Home is behind, the world ahead,
And there are many paths to tread
Through shadows to the edge of night,
Until the stars are all alight.
Then world behind and home ahead,
We’ll wander back to home and bed.

--A Walking Song, “Three is Company,” The Fellowship of the Ring


Jim reappeared in the old broken temple, on its opposite side. He saw the men from his landing party--shit, saw himself talking with Radagast. He watched both the wizard and the other Jim Kirk disappear in a flash of light.

“Jim!” Bones called out hoarsely.

“Captain!” Spock cried out at the same time.

“Hi, guys,” he called out. His voice felt unsteady to his own ears; he hoped it was just his imagination. “Miss me?”

Spock and Bones turned and stared at him, as did Matthews and Davison.

“Jim?” Bones asked uncertainly. He looked angry and—Jim thought he could name the other emotion that flickered across his face, but putting the word to it seemed beyond him. “We just saw you—“ He gestured distractedly.

“Yeah, I know,” Jim said instead. “Me, too. I, uh, just got back, though.” The men stared at him—the gleaming armor, the sword, the helm with its horsehair crest. “Long story.”

“Fascinating,” Spock said.

Bones was already running his tricorder over him, forehead furrowed. “You seem fine,” he said grudgingly, “but according to these readings, you’ve been gone for months!”

“Six,” Jim said, “if I counted right.” He felt dazed, bewildered. He’d been gone so long—experienced so much, but only seconds had passed for his friends, his crew.

“What the hell happened just now, Jim?” Bones demanded. His expression was set, dark eyes glinting with frustration, curiosity, and worry. Though it pained him to know his friend was upset, Jim couldn’t help then but be happy to see that familiar scowl.

“God, I missed you, Bones!” he said emphatically, shaking his head. To his own surprise, he surged forward, wrapping his arms around the man in a bear hug.

Bones snorted, eyeing him once he pulled back. “I’m glad you’re back, Jim,” he said shortly. For some reason, he felt strangely disappointed in his friend’s reaction. “In one piece, it looks like. For once.”

Spock said nothing, just looked at him curiously, one eyebrow raised.

~

When they beamed back aboardship, there were some questioning looks, but honestly at this point in time no one was surprised at anything that could happen to Jim Kirk anymore. Time travel? Why not? Universe saved at the last minute? All in a day’s work. Walking around in medieval-style armor? Yawn.

Jim grinned at his friends. “I missed you guys so much,” he said again, sincerely.

Bones turned to Spock, the Vulcan lifting an eyebrow quizzically once more. “Indeed?” he asked. “Fascinating.”

“Come on, Jim,” Bones muttered, taking him by the arm firmly. “Let’s find out what the hell you got yourself into this time.” And they escorted him to Sickbay firmly.

“I’d forgotten about this part,” Jim muttered. “I didn’t miss this.”

Once in the infirmary, Bones had him strip down to his short under-tunic and breeches, the doctor grumbling about the likelihood of flea infestations as he ran him through a full battery of examinations. At last he sighed and said, “You’re perfectly fine, Jim.” He seemed almost aggrieved that Jim was in excellent health.

Jim gave him a small grin. “Thanks, Bones,” he said. “You sound disappointed you don’t get to stab me with any hypos.”

Bones grunted. Then he frowned as he spied the mark on Jim’s upper arm. “Wait a second, what’s this?” he asked. “You didn’t have that before.”

“Yeah,” Jim said. “I got that at Morannon. The Battle of the…Black…Gate,” he explained, his voice trailing off at Bones’s blank look.

“Mmmph.” Bones shrugged and picked up a dermal regenerator. “Easy enough to fix—“

“No!” Jim startled them both as he leaped up in protest. “No,” he repeated, more quietly this time.

His friend and CMO stared at him. “Dammit, Jim,” Bones said, “what the hell happened to you?” He put the dermal regenerator down, setting it aside. Hazel eyes dark, he stared at Jim intently. “Explain,” he demanded in a low voice.

Jim swallowed. “It’s a long story, Bones,” he said after a moment. “You don’t even know how long. And I’ll tell it all to you, some day. But right now—you should know that—“ he broke off awkwardly, lowering his voice and staring at his friend with meaningful intensity—“that that scar on my arm is the only thing I’ve got to remind me that this whole damn thing was real. Okay?”

Bones frowned, backing off. “Okay, Jim,” he said. “Okay.” The rigid line of his body spoke just as clearly as his next words: “But I don’t like it.”

“You don’t have to like it, Bones,” Jim shot back, unexpectedly annoyed with his friend. “It is what it is.”

“And what’s that supposed to mean?” the doctor demanded. “Dammit, Jim, you disappeared—“

“—And I’m back now.” The two men glared at one another. Finally Bones scowled and made a low sound of frustration before stomping off to his office, retrieving more read-outs from the computers. “What’s his problem, anyway?” Jim muttered to Spock.

“The good Doctor is ever concerned for your welfare, Captain,” the Vulcan replied. His expression was unusually sympathetic. “In his overemotional Human way, he is trying to ascertain that you are indeed, as you would say, okay, and reassure himself of this at the same time. He does not like it when you are in danger, Jim,” he added with unaccustomed gentleness.

Jim refrained from snorting, but felt mollified. “Yeah, well. Nothing happened.”

Spock’s dark eyes were sympathetic, gazing first at him and then at Bones, who was returning bearing a PADD and another sour look. “I would not say that, Captain. Something, very clearly, did indeed happen.”

~

It was harder to adjust to being back home than Jim would have expected. It was quiet for one thing. He’d gotten used to all the noise that surrounded him most of the time—the men and the animals, people talking, arguing, singing. The halls of the Enterprise were subdued, pristine even, in comparison. Though over four hundred souls lived onboard, they were all neatly compartmentalized into departments, labs, quarters, bunks.

Jim found he had problems sleeping.

“You’re showing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, Jim,” Bones said one night when they were eating in Jim's private mess. “You need to talk to someone.”

“I’m not sure what to say, Bones,” Jim said honestly. And he wasn’t—in fact, he was unusually quiet where the CMO was concerned now. Always the two men had talked easily together: bantered, argued, joked and debated. But somehow, since returning from Arda, Jim felt like he could hardly put two words together before the man.

The worst part was he didn’t even know why.

“You don’t need to know what to say, dammit.” Bones’s voice was unexpectedly gentle, despite his harsh words. “You just need to talk. To someone. You can talk to M’Benga if you don’t want to tell me,” he added. “Geoff and I are both qualified in this area.”

Jim nodded. “I’ll think about it.”

He walked the halls of the ship when he wasn’t on duty—just walked. He’d always been hyper, usually sleeping no more than seven hours at a stretch. These days it was down to five. He told himself that he was a young man in his prime, so the toll wasn’t great, but needless to say, the opinion of his Chief Medical Officer differed from his.

He was on one of his walks during gamma shift when Bones found him. The man glared at him. “You’re going to your quarters now, Jim. I will sedate you if I have to.”

“That won’t be necessary, Bones,” Jim said. The man’s eyes were dark with worry, purple-blue smudges under his eyes marring his skin. “I’ll be okay. Promise.” He smiled at his friend, who grunted, unimpressed.

“Jim.”

He sighed and reluctantly gave in; if it had been just himself, he wouldn’tve cared, but this was affecting his CMO too. Spock had made this abundantly clear.

Jim sighed. “Going, Bones.” He headed to his quarters, and to his surprise, Bones followed him. “Checking up on me?” he asked in irritation. The doctor scowled. “Dude. Seriously?”

“Jim.” His name again, the single word resonant with frustration, worry, and—and that something else that Jim recognized but felt himself unable to put a name to.

Instead, he sighed mutinously. “Fine, Bones. Whatever.”

The other man lingered, waiting, so with a roll of his eyes Jim conducted his evening ablutions, changed into his blacks for sleeping, and lay down on his bunk. To his surprise, Bones lay down beside him.

“Eight hours, Jim,” the man said. “For once in your life.”

“Computer, lights out,” Jim commanded, and they were shrouded in darkness.

Jim thought this should be weird somehow, but it wasn’t. Bones didn’t touch him, was just a warm, breathing body in the bed.

Jim was asleep in minutes.

He awoke nine hours later, refreshed, but Bones was nowhere to be seen.

Jim wasn’t sure if he was relieved or disappointed. He wondered later how Bones had known that what he needed was someone there, with him. That even on his ship, surrounded by his people, he was completely alone in a way he hadn’t been aware of before Arda.

It was odd, Jim reflected as he dressed and then proceeded to his mess for the morning’s reports. Somehow he had spent two years on this ship, and though it was home, it felt—different. Like something was missing, only he wasn’t sure what it was. Éomer, he thought. But he knew, too, that though he felt strongly for the Man, his intense reaction to him came from an absence here.

Rand was waiting for him in his mess, a cup of steaming coffee freshly poured and a stack of PADDs ready for his perusal. “Captain,” she greeted him. She held a covered plate.

“Yeoman,” he replied. “How are you this morning?”

“I’m fine, sir,” she said, then paused, hesitating, before putting the plate in front of him.

Jim took a sip of his coffee; it burned pleasantly in his belly. He closed his eyes, inhaling the bittersweet scent of it, but was gradually aware of his yeoman’s impatience.

“Spit it out, Rand,” he said at last. “I can hear you thinking.”

Rand frowned. “Permission to speak freely, sir?” she asked.

“Granted,” he said.

“You’ve got a secure-line communication channel scheduled to Admiral Komack’s office at 0900, sir,” she said. “Whatever you’re planning on saying to him—don’t.”

Jim stared at her.

“Sir, I think I know you well enough to read you at this point,” his yeoman continued, her blue eyes boring into his. “And I think you’re planning on telling him something that’s going to get you in trouble, and I’m asking you, as—as a member of your crew, please don’t. Sir.”

Janice Rand had always been among the most empathic members of his crew, so he knew he shouldn’tve been surprised that she suspected the topic of the conversation he was going to have to have with Komack.

“It’s my duty, yeoman,” he said firmly, taking the cover off the top of the plate. It held two eggs, sunny side up, two triangles of toast, and two sausages. Bones generally kept him on a diet, so his breakfast usually consisted of bran muffins and fruit. This was untold caloric wealth.

He looked up at Rand. “Convict’s last meal?”

Her lips twitched. “Something like that, sir. Just—think about what I said, please? Captain?” She paused, then spoke hesitantly. “Jim?”

He tried to look as reassuring as he could. “I will, Janice,” he said. He grinned at her look of surprise. “If you get to use my first name, then I get to use yours. And I’ll—I’ll see about Komack. I promise.”

“Thank you, sir.” But she didn’t look comforted.

Two hours later, when the comm was put through, Jim was surprised to see Admiral Pike instead of Komack. Chris looked torn between amusement and annoyance. “I may be stuck behind a desk these days, Kirk,” he said, “but I still have my ways. And I’ve learned a trick or five from Archer these last few years.”

Jim bit back a snort. “I—recognize that that was meant to be comforting, sir,” he said.

“Don’t be, it wasn’t.” Pike glared at him. “I’ve read the reports—yours, Spock’s, McCoy’s. Your CMO is under the impression that you have PTSD and need some time off. Knowing you, I know that’s exactly not what you expected to talk to Komack about.”

Jim swallowed. “No, sir,” he said. “I—I had planned to give Admiral Komack a thorough debriefing about my trip to Arda. I violated the Prime Directive, sir.”

Pike’s face was unreadable, but he kept going.

“I willingly interfered in the events of a pre-warp culture. I fought in their battles. Somehow the—the Maia”—he chose to use the Quenyan term for wizard; he couldn’t use the Standard or the Westron word in front of Pike without feeling like a complete ass—“knew that I captained a starship. I think people chose to view it more poetically than realistically, sir.” Of course, the Rohirrim and everyone else viewed everything poetically, but still…

“Captain Kirk,” Pike said after a moment, “you do realize that the only evidence we have for any such planet as Arda comes from your own reports, correct?”

Jim blinked, not following. “Sir?”

“Jim,” the Admiral said, “whatever you’re blaming yourself for—we have no evidence of it. McCoy’s report states that your body has aged six months, but we both know that that can be caused by agents other than standard time.” Jim frowned, thinking of the rapid aging that had beset he and his crew when they went to the colony on Gamma Hyrdra IV. “You’re the only one who knows what happened there—and we have every reason to suspect that your memory could have been tampered with.”

“So you’re saying Radagast and Gandalf could have given me false memories of going to War with the Rohirrim, that everyone I met there are just figments of my imagination?” Jim felt horrified—and angry at the notion. “Éomer, Lothíriel, Éowyn, Aragorn—they’re all real! I know they’re real!”

Pike looked sympathetic. “I know you do, son,” he said gently. “Look, I’m going to recommend that you be placed on leave for a week. And talk to McCoy—he’s your friend as well as your CMO. You know that.”

“I know,” Jim said.

The Admiral smiled. “Good man, Jim. Take care. Pike out.”

~

Though off-duty, Jim nonetheless pushed himself to get back into the old routine of things. Thursday night he met Sulu in the gym for their weekly fencing session. Jim had picked up the Rohirric blade out of habit before he left, trying to strap the sheath of it to a nonexistent belt loop on a nonexistent belt. Frowning, he set it back down, and retrieved his Starfleet fencing épée instead.

Sulu was already warming-up when Jim got there, working his way through the basic set of parries and lunges. “How’s it going, Hikaru?” Jim asked conversationally as he retrieved one of the protective vests from their storage cabinet, pulling it on over his off-duty black tunic.

“Good, sir,” the helmsman answered, and the two chatted lightly as Jim joined him on the workout floor, echoing his practice moves.

Jim frowned; the épée felt wrong in his hand—too light after his other sword. He moved experimentally, trying to get a feel for the blade again. It cut the air with sharp sounds, at odds with the heavier, metallic tenor he had become used to; he continued the set of parries until the sword felt natural in his hand again.

“You’ve gotten better, Captain,” Hikaru said after a moment of watching. He feinted to the left, bringing his blade up again Jim’s. The swords made a ringing sound as they met.

“Thanks, Hikaru,” Jim said. He batted the other man’s blade away, and they exchanged several touches quickly.

“Lots better,” Hikaru said. He pulled back, examining his friend and Captain thoughtfully. Then he grinned, suddenly, eyes bright at the prospect of a challenge. “Best three out of four?” he asked.

“You’re on,” said Jim, grinning back. “En-garde!”

They finished two hours later, both men damp with exertion. They were at a solid tie—two to two.

“Want to do a tie-breaker bout?” Sulu asked, rubbing sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand.

“Nah,” Jim said with regret, sitting down and drinking from a water bottle thirstily. “I would but I’m meeting Bones for dinner in an hour.”

“Too bad,” Sulu said, sitting down next to him, unzipping his vest. He was breathing harder than normal. He caught Jim’s look and shook his head. “You’re not even a little bit winded?” he asked.

“Nope,” Jim said, shaking his head. “This is a cake walk after Éomer—“ His voice caught on the word, but he made himself finish. “—Éomer and Faramir.”

Sulu made a thoughtful noise, but to Jim’s relief he didn’t ask any questions. He knew the rumors circulating about what had happened on the surface—how he had disappeared only to reappear simultaneously in his Rohirric gear. If his helmsman wondered about any of it, he didn’t ask. Jim knew it was a sign of his crew’s trust in him that they respected that if he wanted to explain things, he would—in his own time. They put away their gear in thoughtful silence. They were heading out the door when Jim found he couldn’t help but ask. “Hikaru,” he said, “you know Earth history better than I do. Do—did—are there songs about swordfighting?” he asked.

To Jim’s relief, Sulu acted like this was a perfectly normal question to be asked after a lengthy workout. “Lots of ancient cultures did, yeah,” he said. “Think about it—in old times, war was such a major part of everyday life. Anglo-Saxons were particularly known for it, and of course, Japanese samurai incorporated poetry as a significant part of the warrior’s life.” He shot Jim a thoughtful look, and recited softly.

That man's life is but a dream -
is what we now come to know.
Its house abandoned,
the garden has become home
to butterflies.


“That was written by the monk Sougi, over eight hundred years ago,” Sulu concluded. “Lots of people quote it, thinking it’s about nature. But Sougi was a Zen monk, and he knew the story of the Chinese philosopher Zhuang Zhi.”

“So?” Jim asked, mystified.

“Zhi had a dream that he was a butterfly,” Sulu explained. “When he woke up, he wasn’t sure if he was a butterfly dreaming of being a man, or a man dreaming of being a butterfly. Look, Captain,” he said with unusual seriousness considering his typical lightheartedness, “you’ve been walking around like you’ve been in a dream, too. So, you need to decide which world is more real to you—this one, or the other one.” His eyes were dark and sympathetic. “Make sense?”

Jim felt his mouth go dry. “Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, it does.” He quirked his lips upwards, feeling something unwinding within him. “Thanks, man.”

Sulu grinned back, relieved. “Anytime, Captain,” he said. “Have a nice dinner with Doctor McCoy.”

Jim thought about the poem as he showered. Part of him was disturbed at the likeness of himself to someone in a dream—and he really didn’t care for that whole butterfly thing—but he had to recognize the accuracy of the description of himself.

“Time to wake up, Kirk,” he said to himself firmly, and went to the mess.

~

Bones arrived a few minutes after he did, and they retrieved meal trays from the dispensers. Jim chose a chicken sandwich and salad, while Bones selected meatloaf and green beans.

“What have I told you about drinking coffee after lunch?” Bones asked gruffly.

“It’s decaf,” Jim protested. He looked at the cup thoughtfully. “Coffee’s awesome when you haven’t had it in a long time.”

“Mmm.” Bones grunted thoughtfully. They ate in silence for a few minutes, and then Bones put his fork down. “Jim.”

Jim swallowed a bite of sandwich. “Yeah, Bones?”

The doctor’s look was intent, his hazel eyes dark. His expression was one of frustration mingled with—something. The man sighed. “Never mind.”

“What is it, Bones?”

The man ignored him. “How was your sparring with Sulu?” he asked instead.

“Good,” Jim said. “Good.” He paused, then added with a grin, “We did four matches and tied at two-two. We’ve never done that before.”

“I….see.”

Bones still looked unhappy. Jim refrained from sighing. “Bones, talk to me. I know—“ He broke off. “Something’s going on in your head, man. Just—talk to me straight up, won’t you?” When the doctor said nothing, Jim quoted one of Legolas’s songs.

When dawn came dim the land was lost,
The mountains sinking grey
Beyond the heaving waves that tossed
Their plumes of blinding spray.

Amroth beheld the fading shore
Now low beyond the swell,
And cursed the faithless ship that bore
Him far from Nimrodel.


His friend stared at him. “Where’d you learn that?”

“A friend of mine,” Jim said. “It’s called the Song of Nimrodel.” He paused. “It’s about a guy who is separated from the love of his life and dies trying to swim back to her. The Sylvan Elves are really depressing,” he added as an after thought.

“Is that what you want, Jim?" Bones looked pissed off. "To swim back to—to wherever, or die in the attempt?”

“No,” Jim said. “Definitely not. I know this is where I need to be—I came back. I wanted to come back for months. Okay?”

“Coulda fooled me, Jim.” Bones frowned at him. “Songs. Poetry. Yeah, I get it, Jim,” he said. “How’s this for a poem? Haikus are easy, but sometimes they don't make sense. Refrigerator. I don’t like it, Jim,” the doctor continued in frustration.

“The poem?” Jim asked acerbically.

“You’re not yourself.” Bones glared at him, scowling. “Dammit, man! We need our Captain back!”

Something snapped inside of Jim at that. “Well who the hell do you think I am, then?” he demanded. “If I’m not the Captain right now, who am I?”

“You’re Jim Kirk, is who you are,” Bones said frankly. “You always have been and always will be Jim Kirk—who, by the way, is an arrogant, idiotic son of a bitch. But that, that spark that makes you Captain—it’s not there right now. It’s buried somewhere, and you need to find it again.”

Jim exhaled heavily, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Okay, Bones,” he said, glaring at the other man. “You wanna hear about what happened?”

Bones’s fierce expression melted abruptly. “Yeah, Jim,” he said with surprising gentleness. “I do.”

Jim told him then.

Told him everything.

Their food grew cold, and at some point the mess emptied out around them, but Jim kept talking. After a while they left, going to the Observation Deck to look out at the stars as he told his friend about the plains of Rohan, the City of Gondor.

He told Bones about the Horse-Lords, the Stewards and the broken line of Kings, about the prophecy and the man who was called Strider and Aragorn and Elessar. He told him about Hobbits and Elves, Men and Dwarves, about the Uruk-hai and Mûmakil and Nazgûl.

He told him about Éomer. Not everything, but—enough.

To Jim’s surprise, Bones smiled and laughed softly when he told him about the Man’s parting words. “He wanted you to sing, huh,” he said. He settled back in his chair. “Alright, then, Jim. Sing.”

“What?” He stared at his friend.

“Sing a song, Jim, like your—your friend would have wanted you to do. Like the grave-songs you made together.” His hazel eyes were dark, but surprisingly gentle. “It’s time to say good-bye, Jim.”

He was right. Jim needed to let go—be himself again. Éomer’s face, so like his friend’s, was very clear in his mind, suddenly. The Rohir had wanted him to return to his friends, to Bones. He had done so, physically, he realized—but he wasn’t all the way home yet.

It’s time to say goodbye, Kirk. For real, this time.

“Okay,” Jim said, nodding thoughtfully. “Okay.” He thought for a moment; searching his memory for a melody to follow. He remembered Éomer’s voice as he sang for Théodred, how he roughly stumbled in places; how he had solemnly listened to Jim’s own song for Sam.

Bones sat quietly, one eyebrow slightly raised as he waited for him to begin.

“This is gonna suck, Bones,” Jim warned him, giving him a small, sickly smile. “You should realize that.”

“I doubt that, Jim,” the doctor said with unaccustomed gentleness, “but I consider myself warned.”

“Okay. Good.” Jim inhaled, and opened his mouth. Nothing came out. He breathed out again, frowning. This had been so much easier in Arda… “This feels stupid, man,” he admitted. “I don’t know if me doing this is such a good idea after all—“

“Jim!” Bones glared at him. “Just shut up and sing the damn song! Please,” he added more mildly.

“Okay, then,” Jim muttered. “Here goes nothin’.” He closed his eyes, thinking of Éomer again.

Horse-Lord, Rohir, Éomer, Eoh,
I’ve ridden with you as long as I can.
The stars are my home, the ship is my guide,
And now I continue on with my friends at my side.


Okay, that didn’t come out so well. Bones nodded at him encouragingly, though, so he kept going.

People always tried to tell me who I was supposed to be,
And I usually tried not to listen.
But you wanted me to be your comrade, your battle-friend,
and we both knew on the other we could depend.


He had a better rhythm now—still far from perfect, but it would do. And this wasn’t about making a good song, anyway—it was about saying farewell. To Éomer—and to Lothíriel, and to Éowyn and Faramir, Legolas and Gimli, Aragorn—all of them.

And now we’re both home, both where we need to be.
You on the plains, me in the stars—neither of us lost at sea.
And I’ll always remember you, as you will me,
But this is my home. This is where I need to be.


He let the last syllable die off quietly, and then they were both silent.

He was done.

“How’s that?” he asked after a while.

“I think you done good, darlin’,” Bones said with unusual affection. He looked at Jim with something almost like relief. “You done good,” he repeated.

Jim let out a short laugh; felt moisture in his eyes. “I did, huh.” He rubbed away the tears that threatened, then scratched his chin thoughtfully as if to cover it up. He caught himself mid-gesture—as if Bones hadn’t seen already, Hell, as if he hadn’t seen worse over the years.

“Things are gonna be okay, aren’t they, Bones?” he asked.

His friend nodded at him. “Yeah, Jim,” he said. “I think they are now.”

~

Things changed after that.

It began, fairly inauspiciously, with a dream.

He was back in Arda, in Minas Tirith even. He and Éomer were in the quarters they had shared those several months after Aragorn’s coronation.

“What is taking you so long?” Éomer asked, impatient and amused all at once.

In the way of dreams, Jim knew that the other man was waiting for him to make a move, and that such a move would be welcomed. He reached out and pulled the Rohir to him, brought him to the bed with its coverings of furs. Their kiss was long and gentle, filled with promise. When it broke off, Jim felt molten with desire.

“What is taking you so long, kid?” asked Bones.


Jim’s eyes flew open.

“No. Fucking. Way,” he said.

~

Jim was in love with Bones.

How had he not known that?

Because you did know, you were just too damn afraid to admit to it, Kirk. He grimaced to himself. Because you’re an idiot. Because you’ve been with him so long that you don’t know what you’d do without him, and if you fuck this up—

He couldn’t even complete the thought.

Jim grimaced at himself in the mirror as he shaved. Which, by the way? Real mirrors and real shaving cream and real razors were awesome. Jim was never going to take them for granted ever again. Ever.

After his dream, Jim had a hyper-awareness of his friend that was new and not entirely unwelcome. All the little things that he had known about Bones seemed to stand out in stark relief: his gentleness with his patients, his determination to save people’s lives, his cool head in a crisis.

How he was always there for Jim.

It hadn’t ever sunk in before, but on some level he knew that most Chief Medical Officers did not spend most of their time on the bridge with their Captains when there weren’t patients to take care of. The old patterns of their life together—how they shared most of their meals together, most of their time off-duty spent companionably playing chess games or just sharing a table in a Rec Room with their PADDs—they all added up to a shared life that Jim had only partially been aware of. Or rather, had never allowed himself to be fully aware of.

Even with this new epiphany, life continued shipboard with something approaching normalcy once he was on duty once more. There were missions and adventures and world-saving.

And if Bones had any clue about Jim’s shift in regard for him, he made no sign of it.

~

They were on a pretty typical exploration mission when Jim almost died. It was pretty embarrassing, really, because it wasn't mad Romulans, angry Klingons, battle, any of that.

He had an allergic reaction to a flower.

Jim didn’t even smell it, he just stepped on it, it released some spores, and—he wasn’t able to breathe.

His vision was flickering in and out, but Bones was there, expression grim as he demanded an emergency transport to Sickbay, “Now, goddammit, now!”

“Bones, listen—“ His throat was constricted, but if this was it, he had to let him know. “I lo—“

“Shut up, Jim, I’m trying to save your life.” Bones’s voice was angry, furious, and though Jim knew that anger wasn’t aimed at him, he was nonetheless disappointed that he couldn’t finish what seemed to be the most important thing that Jim had ever wanted to say to him.

I love you, Bones.

~

When he woke up, the first thing Jim saw was Bones, and he had to smile. His CMO was sitting slumped in a chair near his biobed, head falling on his shoulder as he dozed lightly. He knew that, however long it had been, that Bones wouldn’t have left his side once, because that’s the kind of man he was.

Jim closed his eyes again, dozing in and out, and what may have been minutes or hours later they both woke up at the same time, eyes meeting.

“Hey, you,” Jim said. He had to work to not slur his words together; his throat and tongue felt thick, like he’d swallowed an entire cotton plant, seeds, sticks, and all. “How’re ya feelin, Bones?”

“Try to stay quiet, will ya,” Bones muttered. “That damn pollen did a number on your windpipes—I damn near had to do an emergency tracheotomy while we were still on the surface just to get you some oxygen. Here, drink this.” He retrieved something from one of the dispensers nearby—a cup with a straw—and Jim sucked a thick, cooling liquid that felt like heaven down his throat. “I think the pollen might’ve had some hallucinogenic properties too—you kept babbling when you were in and out of consciousness.”

“Great.” Jim aimed to make a snorting sound, but it came out closer to a shallow wheeze. “Learn anything interesting?”

Bones’s expression grew even darker at that, and he didn’t meet Jim’s eyes as he answered. “Yeah, well. I thought you were—over some things, Jim.” He handed Jim another cup, this one plain water this time. “Drink that until it’s all gone.”

“Whazzat mean?” Jim sucked at the straw obediently. The water seemed flat and tasteless, almost abrasive after the earlier medicine, but he drank it anyway.

“You kept trying to say you loved somebody. That—that Éomer guy of yours, I’m assuming.” Bones’s back was to him, so Jim couldn’t see his face. His heart started beating faster—which was of course reflected by the biobed. “Dammit, Jim, keep your heart rate down! Jesus, if he still has that affect on you—“

“That’s not it,” Jim said quickly. “Him, I mean. You.”

Bones stared at him, and Jim knew this wasn’t coming out right, but—

“You’re the one I love, Bones. I wanted you to know that before I—“ He broke off, because Bones looked…disappointed. “Bones?”

“I should’ve known,” his CMO muttered, mostly to himself. “The PTSD. Oldest story in the book.” Bones scrubbed his hands over his eyes. “Look, Jim, whatever you’re feeling, it’s not real, okay? It’s the damn post-traumatic stress disorder. I can guaran-fucking-tee you that you are not in love with me.”

“No, Bones, it is not some ‘damn post-traumatic stress disorder,’” Jim said angrily. “I. Love. You. Okay? I just didn’t know that that’s what it is!”

Bones flushed a darker red at that. He stared at the ceiling, slapping his hands to his thighs in a classic God give me patience! expression. “Well that’s the problem, then, isn’t it?” he said in furious mockery. “How could you not know?”

“I don’t know!” Jim said this louder than he meant to—almost shouting it really, at least as much as his abused throat would allow him. “I don’t know, okay? But now I do, and I get it, I do—“

“Get what?”

“Get this! You, me, our—thing,” Jim waved a hand vaguely.

“Our ‘thing,’” Bones echoed, unimpressed.

“Yeah, our thing.” Jim exhaled roughly. “You were why I came back, Bones. Okay? Not the only reason, but a lot of it. I’ve never known anyone like you. You’re—I need you, okay? I might want other people, like I wanted the Enterprise, but I need you. So.”

His throat hurt like hell after this tirade, and he was wheezing roughly. “Dammit, Jim,” Bones muttered, putting together a hypo. He applied it with unaccustomed gentleness, and Jim felt the abrasive pain start to dissipate.

“Say something, Bones,” Jim said.

The other man was silent.

This did not bode well. Bones was not the silent type.

“Bones?”

His CMO shook his head, but when he finally looked at Jim his eyes were wide, dark, and—shining with moisture. “Dammit, Jim, do you have any idea—?!”

Jim didn’t have any idea, nor would he, because that was when Bones kissed him.

His mouth was warm, was the first thing that penetrated Jim’s brain. He tasted like coffee and stims—he’d been working God only knew how many hours. The slight stubble on his chin scratched Jim’s skin pleasantly. And he was shaking.

Oh.

It all came together then: Bones’s anger, his own frustration and bewilderment. I’m a fucking idiot, he thought. Very gently, he asked the question he very much wanted an answer to, just then.

“How long, Bones?”

The other man didn’t meet his eyes. “Since our first shuttle sim test,” he muttered. He looked up then, hazel eyes bright. “You?”

“Since our first shuttle ride together, I think,” Jim answered immediately. “I just—I didn’t know that’s what it was, Bones. But I think—I think I started to learn in Arda. Éomer was so much like you, and he wanted me, and—“ He broke off, embarassed suddenly. “You know me, Bones—I’m slow sometimes.”

“Yeah, slow,” the other man echoed. “Graduated in three years, Captain at twenty-five. You ride the little yellow hoverbus, alright.”

Their heads were close together. Jim pulled Bones’s bottom lip between his teeth playfully. “I’m tired, Bones,” he muttered—and he was. Tired, sore, relieved. “Rest with me a while?”

Bones made an assenting noise, pulling a curtain around the biobed for privacy, then lying down next to him. Jim shifted as much as he could; they didn’t make these things to hold two comfortably. Bones fit his head into the hollow of Jim’s arm, near the scar from the Morannon. When he saw Jim looking at it, he asked, “You’re never gonna let me take care of that, are ya?”

Jim shook his head. “No, Bones, it’s a reminder—something I want to keep.” He kissed the top of the man’s head. “Besides, you should like it. If I hadn’t gone to Arda, I might not have realized how much I—how much I loved you.” He said the last few words quietly.

Bones gave him a small smile, then kissed the scar. “Well, then,” he said, “I guess it’s worth keeping.”

“Yeah, yeah it is.” Jim felt himself falling ever closer to sleep. “Bones,” he murmured, “you’re gonna be here when I wake, right?”

“Yeah, kid,” Bones said. “I will. I’ll be right here. Always.”

“That’s good,” Jim said. “That’s good.”

Next

Comments

( 19 comments — Add your .02 )
suddenlyswept
Oct. 20th, 2010 06:03 pm (UTC)
please please tell me there really are little yellow hoverbuses in the future! :D
ginny305
Oct. 22nd, 2010 04:08 am (UTC)
I don't know what happened. Went back to link this to a friend and I meant to read just the first part while finishing up the last third of Star Trek (2009). Now it's after midnight and I've read it through. I really enjoyed this, from start to finish. I could hear their voices throughout all of this. I'm not sure I'll be able to watch LotR the same way again, after this.
caitri
Oct. 22nd, 2010 04:11 am (UTC)
*beam* Well, my work is done. ;)

Also, uh, check out the epilogue if you haven't. And there's same-verse PWPs in my masterlist.
ginny305
Oct. 22nd, 2010 04:27 am (UTC)
I did about two minutes after my first comment and felt like an idiot for not noticing the link. I'd like to blame a cat and changing rooms, but really it was just me not seeing the link to the next part. Once I clicked on the startrekbb tag, I realized just how obtuse I'd been.
I'll definitely check out the masterlist. Just, maybe tomorrow. I don't think I've ever been so glad I took the dvd player out of my room as I have right now or I'd be watching RotK now instead of sometime tomorrow. And grinning madly when I think of Kirk being just out of sight.
caitri
Oct. 22nd, 2010 04:32 am (UTC)
Hahaha nice!!! *grinning like a happy idiot*
hyde_the_body
Mar. 18th, 2011 05:24 am (UTC)
Forgot to mention this, but this fic has created my new OT3. So much love for this fic, it's amazing!!! I weep with fangirlish joy!!!
caitri
Mar. 22nd, 2011 04:58 pm (UTC)
*G* Glad you liked it!!!

Our of curiosity is the OTP Jim/Eomer/Lothiriel or Jim/Eomer/Bones???
hyde_the_body
Mar. 22nd, 2011 05:01 pm (UTC)
...I didn't even think about the second one. Damn. Daaaaamn, that is hot. Okay, I meant the first, but now I've changed my mind. Jim/Eomer/Bones. All the way.

*nosebleed*
caitri
Mar. 22nd, 2011 05:54 pm (UTC)
I think that Eomer and Bones would be freaked out, but that Jim would think this is the best plan ever.
hyde_the_body
Mar. 22nd, 2011 06:01 pm (UTC)
Agreed. Jim would probably have to get the both of them a little bit inebriated first to loosen up.

...

Damn, not I want to write a Bones/Jim/Eomer fic. Which I don't have time for right now. I can't afford another fic on the go. I draw the line at 6 WIPs. This is so your fault, in a totally awesome way.
caitri
Mar. 22nd, 2011 06:06 pm (UTC)
Now, see, I disagree. I think the world NEEDS more Jim/Eomer porn and it needs it NOW.
hyde_the_body
Mar. 22nd, 2011 06:18 pm (UTC)
D: It does, but I can't satisfy the universe's demands just right now. I can start writing this in about a week, but not much sooner. Though I do feel pressured, because how can I be expected to write Jim/Eomer porn as good as yours?
caitri
Mar. 22nd, 2011 06:22 pm (UTC)
A nice person would say, there there, don't worry about it.

Unfortunately I'm not nice. THE UNIVERSE NEEDS MORE JIM/EOMER. JOIN US! THE DARK SIDE HAS COOKIES, AND THEY ARE FULL OF FUDGE AND ESPRESSO!!!!!!!!!!!
hyde_the_body
Mar. 22nd, 2011 07:29 pm (UTC)
OMG THE NOMS!!!! *sobs* I'll get right to work, as long as the dark side starts baking.
caitri
Mar. 22nd, 2011 09:56 pm (UTC)
ON IT!
hyde_the_body
Mar. 22nd, 2011 10:15 pm (UTC)
XD I'm in the middle of a chapter for something else, but I should be done that in about an hour, then I can get started on the porn.
caitri
Mar. 23rd, 2011 02:04 am (UTC)
Will Bake For Porn
hyde_the_body
Mar. 23rd, 2011 10:08 pm (UTC)
Is currently rewatching LotR
So as to ensure the most accurate portrayal of Eomer's awesome as possible.
caitri
Mar. 23rd, 2011 10:48 pm (UTC)
Re: Is currently rewatching LotR
*EEEEEEEEEE*
( 19 comments — Add your .02 )

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