evening_bat: Bat in flight, silhouetted against the moon. (Default)
[personal profile] evening_bat
Title: Upon A Star
Author: [personal profile] evening_bat
Pairing: Kirk/McCoy
Word Count: ~ 3100
Warnings: Nope!
Summary: Sometimes dreams can blind us to happiness. (AU)
Notes: For [livejournal.com profile] writer_klmeri's prompt over on [livejournal.com profile] jim_and_bones's Memorial Day Flash Fic challenge. I, uh, sort of fail at flash fic but I am so happy to have finally gotten a chance to write again that I do not care. :D


Upon A Star

Ever since he'd been just a kid, Jim had known what he wanted out of life. He wanted the stars. Earth wasn't big enough to hold his dreams, he wanted off. Humanity had taken her first shaky steps out into the universe and Jim would have given anything to be out there with the explorers poking at the known boundaries. Earth was a nice enough planet but there was so much more out there to find and Jim was desperate to see it. Too bad that no one else seemed to have gotten the memo.

Oh, the asteroid mining company had taken care of Jim and his brother after the accident that had claimed their parents. The boys had been handed over to a reputable facility, tuition and boarding fees paid in full, with a token of gratitude and empty assurances that their sacrifice was appreciated. Sam had thanked them by graduating with honours and accepting an administrative position. Jim had let them pay for the course that earned him his mechanic's ticket then taken a position at the orbital shipbuilding yard. It seemed like an auspicious first step, perched out on the edges of safety, suspended amongst the stars Jim dreamed of visiting. But it had been over three years and the closest Jim had gotten to flying out on those outbound ships was EVA work on their shining hulls.

Still, for all the day to day dangers of working at the shipyards, it was a shuttle crash on a scheduled Earth rotation that brought Jim's plans crashing down around his ears.

* * *

Jim hadn't been thrilled about being traded back down to Earth to begin with. He'd far rather have stayed up at the yards. He was working on upgrading his qualifications - everybody knew that your chances of getting picked out the crowd of applicants increased with the number of trades in which you were rated - and he'd had some sweet deals in progress on the station's thriving black market. Jim knew he was more than good enough to earn himself a spot on an exploration vessel but having a few extra credits to your name never hurt. But try telling that to the quartermaster, busy having fits because Jim had missed his last two rounds of mandatory leave.

Jim had muttered curses at the man all the way down to the shuttle. He started cursing much more loudly when the first signs of mechanical failure began to make the transition to atmosphere a far bumpier ride than usual. He had plenty of company, what with how most of the shuttle's passengers were part of the yard's tech crew. They knew what a bad sign those rolling shudders were. When the pilots gave up fighting with the shuttle and started yelling mayday calls into the comm, Jim abandoned cursing in favour of struggling out of his seat. There were override panels at the back of the cabin and if ever there was a time for creative rewiring, this was it.

He wasn't the only one with that idea. When Jim finally got his feet under him, he saw that Mitchell had also untangled himself from his safety belt and was clinging to the back of his seat. He gestured at the flashing panels and Jim nodded acknowledgement as they made their way aft, clutching at seats and steadying hands to keep their balance. Mitchell was kind of a a blowhard but he was almost as good as Jim and frankly, the shuttle could use all the help it could get.

"You take the engines," Jim shouted at Mitchell as he dropped to his knees next to the first panel, "I'll reroute the electronics!"

A quick glance was enough to confirm that they were in deep, deep trouble. Jim and Mitchell exchanged grim glances before bending to their respective tasks. They had no hope of saving the shuttle but if they were lucky, they'd be able to keep her flying long enough to give her passengers and crew a fighting chance of surviving the crash. Jim hastily patched systems together, cutting power to the fried circuits and shunting it through the still-functioning pathways. He was relieved to see readings flickering to yellow as he worked. The engines' rumble steadied as Mitchell played his own tricks with the fuel intakes and Jim spared a moment to wonder if they'd done enough.

The sudden violent jolt that knocked Jim face first into the open panel suggested not.

* * *

Jim groaned when he opened his eyes to painfully bright light.

"Turn it off!" he slurred, flailing a hand to try and block it out.

Someone caught his hand in a gentle grip just as Jim realized how much everything hurt.

"None of that now," a gruff voice told him. "You made a pretty good attempt at turning it off permanently. Now stay still and don't undo all my hard work."

Jim blinked, fighting to bring the blurry figure hovering over him into focus. Turned out, it was well worth the effort.

"Nice face to wake up to," he groggily informed the dark-haired man at his bedside.

That earned him a raised eyebrow and a rusty chuckle. "And here I was, thinking of upping your dose of painkillers."

"Some things are better than meds," Jim told him earnestly, fumbling at the hand that held his, trying to shift his grip.

"Okay then. He's definitely had enough already," he heard as he drifted back into sleep, to the backdrop of faint giggling.

* * *

Jim missed the drugs almost immediately upon waking again. He was hurting like hell and the terse message from company management wasn't lifting his spirits any. Multiple broken bones and a pair of emergency surgeries meant that Jim would be spending the next six months or more Earthside on medically-restricted duty, which was a huge setback. Even worse was the news that despite Jim's best efforts, the shuttle crash had killed 27. Including Gary Mitchell.

* * *

So it turned out that Jim had apparently made some kind of hospital history by flirting with the legendarily cranky Dr. McCoy while still under the effects of anesthetic. After a bit of charming, the nurses were only too happy to share gossip and their gleeful recounting of McCoy's embarrassed blustering made Jim smile for the first time since the company communique. Jim figured there was no reason he should mess with a good thing so he kept flirting with the grumpy doctor even after he sobered up. McCoy rolled his eyes and grumbled at him but didn't otherwise object so Jim saw no reason to give it up. It made for a welcome distraction and really, it wasn't like it was any hardship. McCoy was gorgeous and had a heart of solid gold underneath all the bad temper.

Oddly enough, McCoy seemed as alone in the world as Jim was. He put in more hours at the hospital than seemed possible but always had time to stop in at yell at a patient.

"Did you want to break your entire left side all over again? Regen treatments only do so much!"

"I know you love your face, kid. But if you fall and break it on the sink while trying to stare at yourself, I'm not putting that cheekbone back together."

"You think you might listen to the nurses next time? You've got them wrapped around your little finger but we'd all like it if we didn't have to pick you back up off the floor every time we walk in."

"Damn it, Jim! If I promise to come back and tell you a bedtime story, will you stay the hell in bed?"

Okay, so maybe Jim got shouted at more than the rest of McCoy's patients but he also got that promised bedtime story. It seemed a fair trade.

* * *

It hadn't taken Jim long to figure out that McCoy had taken a personal interest in his care but it wasn't until he was getting ready to transfer out to the company dorms that he acted on it. He was looking at a boring six months dirtside, McCoy didn't have anything remotely resembling a life and they got along well enough that they ought to be able to help each other out. Remembering all the time McCoy had willingly spent at his bedside, Jim didn't think he'd be too hard to convince.

"So, Doc," he started casually as he sorted out the items that he'd accumulated during his stay. "Now that they're cutting me loose, you think I'd be up to a nice dinner out? Be a nice change from the food in here."

"Shouldn't be a problem," McCoy replied from his position in the doorway. "As long as you take it easy for a while. Nothing too adventurous just yet."

Jim couldn't have asked for a better opening. He smiled at McCoy, slow and warm. "Well maybe you ought to come with me," he suggested. "Make sure I don't overdo it."

McCoy looked briefly startled before shaking his head ruefully. "You don't strike me as the type who ever worries about overdoing it," he commented. "And I don't date patients, kid. Sorry."

Well, damn, Jim thought as he stared at the now-empty doorway. So much for that idea.

* * *

Jim lasted a week at the dorms before boredom and loneliness got the better of him. Work was out of the question; he was still on medical leave. He hadn't had time to make any connections at the dorms yet, beyond a few people who'd heard about the wild shuttle ride and wanted details. Going out to the bars would net him some willing company for the night but he wasn't really feeling up to putting on the usual performance. For once in his life, Jim wanted a friendly face more than another quick fuck and there was only one place in town he knew that he might get that.

He walked into the hospital under his own power this time. He brought coffee and chocolates for the nurses and a note for Dr. McCoy.

I know you don't date patients. But do your ethics allow for coffee and conversation with a friend? I could use some of either.

* * *

"Jim!" the waitress greeted him cheerfully as he lead McCoy into his favourite cafe. "Who's your friend?"

Jim, far too pleased with life to contain himself, promptly responded, "This is the man who saved my bones!"

McCoy flushed crimson and started spluttering about dramatics, the wide-eyed waitress promptly demanded details and Jim decided that he needed to make McCoy make that face as often as possible.

* * *

Jim had meant to keep things platonic, he really had. But he wasn't complaining that weeks of casual meetings at cafes eventually turned into lengthy dinners and then to nights in Bones' bed. Jim needed something to keep him occupied and Bones needed a keeper. The few times it occurred to him to wonder who'd take up the job when he left, he squashed the thought. Jim had plans and they didn't include being stuck here on Earth any longer than necessary, even if it meant leaving behind the best friend with benefits he'd ever had.

He caught Bones looking at him sometimes, like he was holding something back. Jim didn't think about that either.

* * *

"You've never thought of going out there?" Jim asked one afternoon. "Not ever?"

Bones hesitated before answering. "Not ever again."

* * *

Bones, it seemed, had a grudge against the universe. Or at least, all the parts of it that existed outside of Earth's atmosphere. Hell, he wasn't too keen on most of the things in Earth's atmosphere, either. An offhand suggestion that they hop a shuttle and check out Europe on a mutual long weekend resulted in a tirade the likes of which Jim had never heard from Bones before.

"So, no space, no shuttles, no flying?" Jim checked, rubbing one ear in mild exasperation.

"Hell, no," Bones replied vehemently. "If I can't get there on two feet or four wheels, I'm not going."

"Your loss," Jim said with a shrug. "I can't wait to get up there again."

Jim resolutely kept his eyes on the nighttime sky when Bones sighed quietly beside him.

"Yeah, Jim. I know."

* * *

"How can you not want to know what's out there?" Jim asked quietly one night, Bones' hand warm in his as they stared up at the stars.

"Got everything I need down here," Bones answered softly.

"Everything?" Jim persisted.

Bones' grip on his fingers tightened. "Maybe not everything," he admitted. "But I got used to living with just enough a long time ago."

* * *

Six months came and went faster than Jim had ever thought they could. Bones saw him off when he left and Jim made sure to kiss him a thorough goodbye in appreciation. Just being in the spaceport left the poor guy faintly green. Jim, on the other hand, couldn't be happier. Being back on the station was fantastic and Jim slipped back into the familiar rhythms more easily than he'd hoped. It only took a few weeks to get himself sorted out and his applications back on track.

Plans aside, one of the first things he'd done after his arrival was send a message back to Bones. He knew Bones hadn't really expected him to keep in touch but from the speed of his reply, it was a pleasant surprise. Jim got his own surprise when he realized how much he looked forward to Bones' frequent messages. They weren't an effective substitute for the man himself but they were better than nothing.

Missing people wasn't something Jim had thought he did but missing Bones was apparently a weirdly persistent feeling. Jim wasn't quite sure what to make of this development . . . but maybe he wouldn't wait until the quartermaster hunted him down to take his next round of required leave.

* * *

"Is there anything that would make you change your mind?" Jim breathed against Bones' ear one night, curled up behind him in nest of blankets.

Bones shivered and shook his head. "It'd take a really goddamn good reason for me to even think about it. Haven't found one yet."

Jim sighed and dropped a kiss on his bare shoulder.

"Sometimes I wish I would," Bones whispered.

* * *

A lesser man might have been jealous that Bones' chances of getting out into space were much better than Jim's. Jim scanned the postings regularly and he knew just how easily a doctor with Bones' skills and qualifications could find a position for himself.

Instead of making Jim angry, it made him wonder. Just how good of a reason would Bones need to uproot himself? Maybe he just needed some help to find one.

Then again, maybe Jim needed to find his own reason.

* * *

When he was younger, Jim had never understood his mother's choice to stay Earthbound. She loved his father, he'd been told, and a mining engineer had to stay where the work was, no matter how longingly his wife looked at the stars. Jim had inherited her love for space and he'd never found anything that made him think twice about leaving everything behind to get out there.

These days, he found himself understanding his mother far better than ever before.

* * *

So what would you think of me taking a position Earthside for a while? Jim wrote to Bones a few months later. There's a guy down at the planetside docks who can train me up on that missing certification I told you about.

I think you're a pain in the ass but I could handle having you hanging around for a while, Bones replied.

* * *

It was six weeks into Jim's ground posting that Sam contacted him outside of their usual birthdays/anniversaries/holidays routine.

"I have good news and bad news," he started and Jim's heart flipped in his chest at the expression on Sam's face.

"Okay, hit me," Jim said.

"The good news is, I think you may have just gotten your ticket," Sam told him.

"What? Are you serious?" Jim demanded. "No, wait. What's the bad news?"

"The bad news is that it involves a posting to the ass-end of nowhere with no guarantee about what ride you'll catch on the way out," Sam said reluctantly. "It's not the best career path in the world, I know. But it'll get you out into space, Jim."

Jim stared at the screen in shock, mind working furiously over what he'd just heard. Opportunities like this had come up before but Jim had never had the chance to take one. Twice, he'd been missing a certification and last time, he'd been laid up on Earth after the shuttle crash. Who knew how long he'd have to wait for something like this to come around again?

A few years ago, he'd have leapt at the chance. Sure, it meant taking a miserable job in a rustbucket of an outpost and at least a few years of hoping that the ship that eventually picked you up would be an improvement on the hellhole you were leaving. It would have also meant the stars and once upon a time, that would have been more than enough for Jim.

"Jim?" Sam prompted.

On the screen, Sam was waiting for an answer. In the kitchen, Bones was muttering at the tv screen because Bones always bitched at the newscast. He'd be sipping at a coffee because he was a hopeless addict and gearing up for another round of arguments about what they were not having for dinner tonight, goddamn it, Jim.

Jim shook his head slowly. "Sam - I - thanks. It's great of you to let me know but I'll have to pass on this one."

Sam looked startled but pleased and Jim wondered how much it had cost his brother to make this call. "Really? Not the answer I was expecting."

"Yeah, really," Jim said.

Jim wasn't sure he'd found a good enough reason just yet but he was pretty sure he was on the right track.


Fin

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