TMI_kiss-closeup

Failure Is Not An Option (2/?)

Title: Failure Is Not An Option
Rating: PG-13 (possibly R in later chapters)
Pairing/Character(s): Jim/Bones, Uhura/Spock, Pike, Chekov, Sulu, Scotty, Sulu, past Jocelynn/Bones
Length: 12,772 (WIP)
Warnings/Spoilers: AU Star Trek: 2009, with a dash of TOS and ENT; language, minor character death
Disclaimer: All characters, situations, quotes et al are properties of their respective owners and I am merely using them under Title 17 of the US Code, § 107, aka the Fair Use Doctrine, without intents to infringe upon or defame anyone's legal rights. It wouldn't be worth the cost to sue me anyway.  
Summary: It's 2028, over three years since NASA sent Orion 10 to orbit the Moon, repeating what Apollo 8 did in 1968. Nearly 56 years have passed since man last walked on the Moon and NASA's not planning on changing that any time soon. Aquarian Aerospace is determined to change that. This is the story of Jim Kirk and how his life has always been tangled up in the stars.


  

 

 

"There's nothing routine about flying to the Moon. I can vouch for that."
Jim Lovell in Apollo 13


The road to hell is a gradual one, unmarked and uninteresting until the very last. In his more philosophical moments, Jim alternatively thinks a pack of cigarettes, the Third Chechen War, and a twenty-two by twelve inch piece of insulating foam is the thing that set him off down this road. Sometimes he'll even go so far as to blame the Wright Brothers, but that one's a bit of a stretch and even he knows it, so mostly he just blames the foam.


Wednesday, 15 November, 2028 (L-244 days until launch)

"It is time. The ships are leaving for Valinor. Go now, before it is too late."

"I have made my choice."

Jim could hear the door opening, signalling the return of his roommate, but gave no sign he'd noticed, only burrowed deeper into the nest of pink-and-green blankets he'd made for himself in a futile attempt to keep warm. He half-hoped that, if unacknowledged, Bones would go away and let him finish watching his movie rather than drag him down for the physical that he'd managed to conveniently forget and reschedule three times already. He was tired anyway – he'd been in the sims all morning and most of last night – and nobody could be expected to take a physical when they were sleep deprived, could they? Or when it was this fucking cold.

"He is not coming back. Why do you linger here when there is no hope?"

His nefarious plan, however, didn't seem to be working. "Jim...?" he asked, almost tentatively, which was ridiculous, of course, because Bones didn't do tentative. He'd only known the man for a week-and-a-half, but already Jim knew this. Tentative men didn't spend their first words after waking up from an amobarbital-induced haze chewing out their wardens for talking to much. Tentative men didn't chew out famous news anchors when they came to interview them about the death of certain senator's sons, much less so during a live broadcast, either – but he had taken to pretending that he hadn't any idea the doctor's face had been in the news and less reputable tabloids for months now, as this seemed to make the doctor happy.

He liked trying to make the doctor happy. The man looked like he's not known anything close to happy – or even contentment – in ages. Jim's only managed it once so far, but he liked the doctor's laugh and wanted to hear it more often.

He tried not to analyse this last thought too closely. It could go nowhere good.

"There is still hope."

"Jim," Bones repeated, less questioning now and more annoyed.

Jim cautiously slid a hand out from under the blankets, showing he was still alive under them and stalling for a minute longer. It didn't work, though, because a moment later the doctor had marched over to the TV and flicked it off, right in the middle of the scene. "I'm beginning to think you've some sixth sense for interrupting just when things are getting interesting, Bones."

"Stop calling me that. And that movie has to be as old as you are."

"If I do, will you let me finish watching this before dragging me off to your torture chamber?" Or maybe sleep five or eight or ten hours first? 'Cause that would be just great too.

"It's a routine physical, you infant; nothing to whine about."

"So you say."

Bones moved the few inches from the TV to the foot of the bed. Grabbing the blankets there, "Hurry up," he tugged. "It's freezing."

Jim, having not realized his roommate was a sadist, hadn't thought to grab hold of the blankets before they were flung onto the floor. That being said, the noise of surprise he made was just that – a noise of surprise – and not an undignified squawk of horror, thank you very much.

"Brat."

Jumping off the bed and sliding his shoes onto his feet, Jim leered, "You're just upset I was dressed underneath. Well, I should warn you, Ma taught me never to put out on the first date, or," he said, tone going musing as he looked around quickly for where he'd sucked his jacked two hours earlier, having decided that leather and six or seven layers of paisley blankets just do not work together, no matter how cold it was. He found it on Bones' bed (which he'd stripped of several of its blankets, though the doctor seemed to have yet realized this) and quickly turned sleeves right side out before pulling it on. Already his teeth were clattering. Iowa was the fourth circle of hell on it's good days, but, when winter starts rolling around like this, it's almost unbearable. It's almost enough to make him dream of Texas. But only almost, "at least, not until you've sprung for dinner at some place nicer than you'd find in town. You do that on the first date, I'm all yours."

"Of course she did."

"Well, her actual words were more along the lines of you better not knock somebody up unless you damn well mean it, Jimmy, but it amounts to the same thing in the end, doesn't it?"

"Of course it does, Jimmy boy," Bones drawled, rolling his eyes and giving him a push towards the door.

"If I were to tell you I was perfectly healthy, you'd believe me, would you?"

"It's warmer downstairs."

Well, there was no faulting that argument. Still feeling rather put upon, "Lead on, but know I only go out of duress."

The laugh the doctor gave then was rather dark, but Jim took it as a win nonetheless. Even if it was too cold to bear thought out.


Tuesday, 12 March, 2019

The cars were zooming past him as he sat on the curb outside a gas station that had clearly seen better days, though the traffic in this part of Chicago wasn't so bad this time of day. He was staring down at the packet of cigarettes he'd just bought, feeling somewhat hollow inside. The man behind the counter had handed over the box without so much as looking at him funny, let alone carding him. Jim was barely sixteen and, while he didn't exactly look it, he looked young enough still to bear further scrutiny. He half-heartedly considered going back in and buying a case of beer, just to see if he could, but eventually decided against it. It was only a quarter to nine in the morning and, even if Chicago was a couple hundred times larger than anything in Iowa, it would probably be considered a little odd to be buying alcohol so early.

Jim took one last drag from his cigarette before flicking it out into the street in front of him, watching idly as it was ground into the pavement by the next passing car. He wondered if Ma had even realized he'd not come home last night. It didn't matter so much now – he'd graduated early, last semester, and there was no reason to be home 'cept for the fact he'd no reason to be anywhere else either.

Oh well. It was Sam's birthday tomorrow. He'd probably call and, if he did, he'd want to talk to Jim. She'd realize he was gone then.

He flipped the box over his his hand, somewhat bemused by the wording of the surgeon general's warning and wondered if such things ever actually got people to quit these things. Still, all the fun was gone if people were just going to let him buy packs without any hassle at all. He should probably toss them and find somewhere more exciting to hang until Ma noticed he's gone, since it's likely to be awhile. Hell, he should probably go home, but that would leave him at home, alone, with Ma, and that path never led to good things.

He stood and moved back over towards his motorcycle, momentarily surprised to see the car parked a the pump behind it – a black Audi A8, the new model that had only come out this year that cost well over half of what Ma made a year – and the man in the dress blues of an Air Force officer next to it.

(Looking back on it, Jim could never decide why he did it, but,) with the hand still holding the cigarette pack, he offered the officer a casual salute as he made his way back to the pumps.

Whatever the reason behind it, the salute caught the officer's attention, and, before Jim had even gotten back on the bike, the man asked if he could bum a cigarette. Considering the expense of the car and the silver eagles on his collar, Jim would have guessed the man could afford his own smokes, but shrugged and tossed the pack to the man anyway with a grunted, "Keep 'em, Colonel," and turned back towards his bike once more. He'd only have tossed them otherwise, and someone might as well get some use out of his mother's five-sixty.

The colonel, however, didn't see this as the end of conversation Jim had clearly intended it to be and asked, "Military brat?" as if it was actually appropriate, or even vaguely kosher, to ask such things of strangers half his age in inner-city gas stations. Part of him hoped that the man wasn't all as clean cut as he appeared to be with his immaculate uniform, perfectly trimmed hair (dark, greying at the temples), and earnest blue eyes. A kidnapping or the like would be exciting, would show Ma.

Jim knows this line of thought isn't exactly healthy, but he's how he deals. Ma's always been a little off since Dad died (or so he's been told; he's not in a position to know otherwise); then again, Jim suspects anyone who'd seen their husband killed on national television would be a little off afterwards. It gets worse when she's around him, 'cause he looks (again, so he's been told) so much like Dad. So he tries to stay away as much as possible. If she notices, she's never said anything about it.

"Could say that." Both his parents had served and Sam was down in Maxwell, at the Officer's College. Grampa Tiberius had been in the Air Force too, and so had his father and grandfather, way back to World War One, when planes were being used in warfare for the first time as part of the Army Air Service. Every Kirk man who'd served his nation in the last century had died for it. (Sam hadn't yet, not by this point, but he would before Jim's twentieth birthday. Such was the Kirk family curse, to die at the helm of their vessels. He has no proof, but he suspects that if he were able to go farther back than his grandfather's grandfather, he'd find more of the same, with death coming on sailing ships rather than in flying machines.) If that didn't make him a military brat, nothing did. "But why are you talking to me, man?"

"'Cause you look like a kid who has his head screwed on right, not the kind that I'd expect to find loitering in this part of Chicago during school hours."

"I don't need to explain myself to you." Then, for some reason, he went and did it anyway. (Looking back, he knew that it was because the colonel was at least talking to him, acknowledging his existence, when every other adult in his life saw him as a shadow of his father, a younger version of his brother. He would have talked to anybody, if only they didn't expect him to behave like the hero's son, the soldier's brother.) "I'm done with school."

"Dropped out?"

Vaguely insulted, "Graduated."

"You look awfully young for that."

"What can I say, I'm a prodigy or something." With a derisive snort, "A regular wunderkind."

"Well, wunderkind, I'm Christopher Pike."

"That supposed to mean something to me?"

"Only that I'd like to know your name in return."

"What's it matter? In about five seconds I'm going to hop on my bike and drive the hell away from here, and neither of us is going to remember this conversation after tomorrow." (This, it would turn out, would be a lie. This would end up being one of the most important conversations of his life, the one he'd start his autobiography off with, if he ever wrote one. Jim suspects that, for many of the people who would one day wind up working for Aquarian or its sister companies, Pike was be the star of many similar conversations.) "Find someone else to pander to in your old age."

"It's not pandering. You see, I know something about loose ends, about wanting to do something more with your life, and I think you do too. You've seen the worst the world has to offer, but I'm betting you've seen the best too, if maybe only in a dream, and you want nothing more than to see that dream become a reality and spread across the nations, throughout the stars. You feel like you were meant for something more – something better than anything you might find here, something special."

Captious out of habit, he could still feel his pulse quicken, his eyes widen at Colonel Pike's words, he turned towards his bike a third time, this time to hide his reaction. "You don't know jack shit about me." That didn't stop it from being true, though. For as long as he'd been alive, he'd been plagued by the idea of living without purpose, dying without meaning, and what he wanted more than anything was to be something – it mattered not what – to someone and remembered for it when he died. He knew not why, though he figured tales of his forefathers going down in blazes of glory had something to do with it. In was more than that though. It was deep and visceral and as part of him as the coding of his DNA.

But Ma had it in her head that Jim was going to be a lawyer. Lawyers were safe and respectable and rarely got blown up or shot at or killed. Sam may have run off and joined up without her knowledge, but Jim was still in her clutches and, because she was the one footing the bills, he was being shipped off in the fall to take pre-law at some New England school with too much ivy on its walls, with hardly any say in the matter whatsoever. She refused to even entertain the possibility that he wanted to fly, to see the stars like Dad had.

Jim's frown only deepened at the reminder as he turned back to the colonel and saw his determined expression. He could easily just hear Pike out and leave. Yes, that was what he would do, hear him out and leave.

"Don't I? Seems to me like I know a lot more than you would like. I also know the one place where you'd have any chance of being happy is in the service. En-"

"Enlist?" the idea was so obscene Jim found himself unable to hold his tongue. "You guys must be way down in your recruiting quota for the month."

But still the colonel continued, though the Audi's gas tank had to be long since full, though he had to know how poorly Jim was taking his suit. "You said there are people in your family who've served, so you know what the armed forces are, their importance – not just for peacekeeping, but to help make that world you've dreamed about come to pass. A smart kid like you could rise far and rise fast."

"We done?"

The colonel looked as if he was clearly anything but, but still nodded and pulled the nozzle out of the tank. "I'm done." Jim was on his bike and motoring out of the station in three second flat, but the roar of the engine couldn't block out Pike's parting shot, "There's a recruiting station in Pilsen, off Ashland. Tell the sergeant there I sent you."

It wasn't until he was on the 88, an hour outside of Chicago, that he realized that, throughout their conversation, Pike had not once touched the cigarettes he'd asked to borrow.

(Later, this would seem heavy and significant to Jim, though he'd never go so far as to call it fate or God or some other shit like that. But the fact he hadn't smoked stuck with him, forced him to think about what Pike had said, no matter that thinking about it made the reality of his current situation that much worse. He'd always sort of planned to bear Ma's plans until he turned eighteen and could go off and do his own thing, whatever it might be, but, before the month was over, he had succeeded in conning her into to letting him visit Sam over Easter.

(No sooner had he gotten off the plane at Dannelly Field before than he was begging his brother to help him sign up; he was enlisted by the end of the holiday and off to Lackland for basic training before the week was done.

(By the time anyone realized he'd only been sixteen, Jim was already flying B-2 Spirits over Chechnya and Sam's U-2 had been shot down in Talysh Mountains.)

 


 

Saturday, 18 November, 2028 (L-241 days) 

"Okay, Sistine, feel like taking this from the top?"

Christine Chapel sighed on the other end of the headset. "It's almost midnight, Jim. Don't you think you should start packing it up?"

"You're an hour behind, Sistine; it's already Saturday here. And just one more run. You'll be home and in bed before the sun comes up in Bozeman, I promise."

"Promises, promises, Jimmy."

Smiling broadly at the control panel above him, he could only laugh and say, "You know you love me. All the dials are reset on my end. You ready?"

"Just give me one sec. Need to pull up a new playlist."

Jim laughed again and leaned back in the seat of the lunar vehicle trainer. He liked Christine, he honestly did. She worked in Montana, at the marketing company that was a front for what would be their mission control, but they'd been getting together once or twice a week like this for years now so that he could have some one-on-one time in the simulators. She would pipe music into his headset – something that they definitely couldn't do during a normal sim – and they would tease each other about, oh, anything and everything. She was kinda like the big sister he never had, though they'd only met once in person, at a Fourth of July picnic two years back.

The music began to play and he could only shake his head. "You and your eighties hair bands, Sistine."

"No worse than you and your movie obsession. Setting the clock to 98:54:16 ground elapsed time. Simulation to start in thirty seconds." At nearly ninety-nine hours into the mission, the Enterprise would, if things went according to plan, be coming out of communications blackout after their first orbit.

"Mission clock set to 98:54:16 g.e.t. Showing twenty seconds to simulation start."

"Ten seconds... five... Enterprise, this is Bozeman. We're reading your telemetry. It's good to see you again."

"You too, Bozeman," Jim relaxed, hearing Journey dimly in the background and remembering... "You missed one hell of a show."

With an audible smirk, "We're reading you at a velocity of seven point one six three feet per second, at a distance from the moon of fifty-two point six nautical miles. Copy?"

"Bozeman, Enterprise, copy your readings. Request Go/No Go for lunar descent."

"You have Go for lunar descent, repeat, Go for lunar descent."

Jim, who'd been sitting in the seat of the LVT idly until this moment, shifted and tightened the straps on his harness. The LVT was an exact mock-up of the lunar decent vehicle that was being built by one of Aquarian's sister companies near Bozeman, designed to act and feel like the small craft they would use to go from the shuttle to the moon in every way. With the exception of gravity. Which meant that, while in space the lunar module's five man crew would sit in the craft much like one would do a car, on Earth one lay flat on one's back to operate the controls. Jim didn't much mind – it reminded him of the old Apollo sims – but it did give him a hell of a backache after a while. "Moving into lunar module now. Stand-by in thirty seconds for comm break."

"Preparing for shift to LDV frequencies in ten seconds. Standing by."

There was a moment when, as Jim pretended to shift his headset over from the shuttle comm system to that of the LVD that the only thing he heard was Steve Perry, almost half a century gone, crying out, someday, love will find you; break those chains that bind you, as he counted for the five, ten, fifteen beats necessary to simulate the comm blackout. And then, "Bozeman, this is Aquarius. Preparing to start lunar descent check-list."

"Copy Aquarius. Standing by." Then, with a snort of laughter, "So the LDV's Aquarius this time 'round?"

"If you can play eighties hair bands in sims, I can name the lunar module after sixties Broadway musicals. 'Sides, it worked for Thirteen... Uploading telemetry from Enterprise now..."


And so it went for nearly an hour, until Aquarius was preparing to undock from the command modulein the simulation. Again, if things went according to plan, Enterprise would be preparing to pass behind the moon again. Once on the dark side, the lunar lander would make its way down into the Shackleton Crater, located in the South Pole-Aitken Basin.

There were distinct benefits to settling the dark side, not the least of which were politically motivated, but it would also mean the only communication the ground crew would have with the outside world would be via the command module, and they'd experience a comm blackout each time Enterprise passed back around to the near side of the moon. Or when the shuttle, designed for orbital re-entry, made the long four day voyage back to Earth.

"...Aquarius, Bozeman. Looking good for separation. Enterprise CAPCOM confirms."

"Roger, Bozeman; Sulu's giving me the Go on this end. Hatches are being sealed... Cabin pressure is holding at five point two. Umbilicals have been detached." But, of course, there was no one to seal the doors, or give the green light from Enterprise, not even in the simulation. It was only him and Christine and her playlist, now piping Boston into the LVT louder than was really necessary, even at two am in a deserted training hanger. "Power and environmental holding."

"Copy that, Aquarius, our computers here are showing the same thing... Stand-by for communications blackout in two minutes... You boys have any parting words?"

"You wait until things cool down and we can get those comm satellites in orbit. It'll be like I never left, Sistine, just you see. You couldn't get rid of me if you tried. Standing by for blackout in ninety seconds."

There was silence for a moment, the playlist suddenly ending, and then, in a voice softer than he usually heard from Christine, "Jim...?"

"Yeah, Sistine?"

"What's the dark side like?"

Jim paused in his movements, breathing out a quiet, "Oh, Sissy..." before pulling his hand back from the switch he'd been about to flip and leaning back in his chair. His eyes drifted away from the navigation computer and towards the small, thick window that looked blackly out into the training hanger. The simulation was forgotten as he lost himself in memories.

"The first thing you notice is how bright it seems – no maria on the far side, not really, and not even the basins look that dark. Oh, there are are craters, and mountains, and rilles, but it all sort of looks like the world the first clear morning after this terrible blizzard that's left a foot or two of snow on the ground: If you look hard enough, you can see the remnants of all the violence underneath all the snow, but mostly its like this beautiful, untouched thing that wasn't real until you looked out your window.

"And it's this new world, Sissy, this brand new world that's just waiting for you to explore. You don't want to turn your head or blink for even a moment, 'cause it's all so perfect you think you might wake up if you do... And, at the same time, its all you can do to keep from reaching out your hand, 'cause, if you do, it'll be the face of God you touch, or as close as man will ever get to it in your lifetime, and you don't want to touch it, don't want to make it real, 'cause, if you do, it'll no longer be perfect, and you'll be inviting all the anger and the hatred and the sins that man had polluted the Earth with onto this virgin world...

"And so you just stand there, torn with indecision, looking down on this snow-covered Eden, unable to do anything but bask in the wonder of it all, Sissy; the wonder of what man has accomplished, and the wonder of what the universe has been able to do all on its own."

The silence dragged, lacking even Christine's playlist in the background, but it's not uncomfortable, only soaked in memories. Seven days, two hours, nine minutes – that was how long Orion 10 had remained in selenocentric orbit, and he hadn't been able to tear himself away from the window the entire time. Gary had laughed at him, told him he looked more excited than a kid in a candy shop – well, his exact words involved something about Vegas and a strip club, but Jim hadn't really been paying attention to him at the time and, really, who could blame him?

He finally turned back to the navigation computer and found that, as far as the sim was concerned, they were five minutes into communications blackout. Christine should have started playing the team that would be left behind in Enterprise and Aquarius should have been halfway through the undocking procedures by now. Jim mentally chewed himself out for allowing himself to get distracted like that and grabbed for the cue cards he kept, like any good pilot, in his flight suit pocket. Sure, it sometimes felt he could do all the damn checklists in his sleep, but it was better to be safe than sorry when you were two hundred thousand odd nautical miles from home.

Jim snorted. Better to be safe than sorry, was it? Mulhall would never believe him if he told her...

"Looks like we're going to have to roll back the clock Sistine. I-" he paused, patting his chest pocket and finding it empty, not full of (somewhat worn and pencil-annotated) cue cards. "Fuck it, where are they? I had the cards when we were doing the engine start-up sequence..." He shifted around in his seat, looking for where they might have fallen, but he's strapped in so he doesn't fall backwards and break something (most likely him) on the panels below and can't see anything.

"You mean the cards under your seat?"

"Yeah, thanks Bones. Would you mind-?" Jim paused as his mind catches up with his mouth, twisted about in his seat as best he could, and looked behind him. "Hey, Bones, what are you doing here?"

"Came to investigate why someone was blasting God-damn Boston at two o'clock in the fucking morning loud enough I could hear it all the way from the infirmary."

"Oh? What were you doing in the infirmary anyway?" From the way his hair was mussed, it might've been sleeping. Especially if he'd not stormed out here the moment Jim had switched the music to speakers.

"What was I doing in the infirmary?" Bones said in a curious way Jim can't quite put words to, but reminds him vaguely of images he once saw of the eruption of one of Io's active volcanoes, Surt. An explosion, they called it; an outburst. He'd looked out of place in the LVT until that moment (no, not out of place, but somewhat lost, like his whole world had been turned upside down, like he hadn't even looked after they'd kidnapped him and told him they were taking him to the moon. Maybe, just maybe, the idea of what they were doing had finally hit him), "What are you doing in this God-forsaken thing at two o'clock in fucking morning?"

Instinctively, Jim put his hand out to brush a bit of panelling that wasn't too covered by buttons and data read-outs, even as he kept an eye on Bones, should he decide to freak out. "There, there, Betsy, he doesn't mean it."

"Betsy? Good God man, do you give nicknames to everything?"

A bright, feminine laugh floated through the speakers as Jim offered, "Only the ones I like," and his most brilliant smile. It was probably utterly ridiculous given the angle, but Christine had ruined the moment and, anyway, Bones' tone didn't seem to be one of panic, so, whatever it was he'd seen, it wasn't anything to worry too much over, even if it remained a concern.

Into the mike he still wore, he pouted, "Shut up, Sistine," and began to extricate himself from the straps that held him. It was obvious the wasn't going to get any more sim work done tonight. This morning. What the fuck ever.

"Is this the new flight surgeon you've been talking about? I like him. Sounds like he'll be able to keep you in check, at least."

"I resent that, Sistine, I really do. But this is Bones. Fuck. I mean Dr. Leonard McCoy." Jim made a face at that. Who the hell named their kid Leonard in this day and age anyway? "Bones, Christine Chapel."

"I'm one of the CAPCOMs," Christine explained. "And it may not be two here yet, I'm turning in. We can cover the descent sequence some other time. Nice to meet you, Dr. McCoy, and thanks for the talk, Jim. Night."

"Night, Sistine." Jim cut the speakers quickly, 'cause dead air played at rock-and-roll decibels was not good for anyone's morning, and rolled out of his seat. Seeing the doctor was still eyeing the equipment around them uncertainly, he took pity on the man and, slinging an arm around his shoulders, pulled him out of the LVT. "I'll give you the run-down of all the systems tomorrow. I promise it's not so scary once you actually know what everything's for."

"That's not it," Bone's said, trying to pull out of Jim's grasp. The mock-up of the lunar descent vehicle didn't have quite enough room to do so successfully, but Jim let him go anyway. After all, the hatch was only large enough for one, even if it was designed for that one to be wearing a lunar excursion suit.

"Oh?"

"Well, maybe a little, but I think it's more than justified to be leery of flying in anythin' that's going to be strapped on top of a rocket."

"Bones, Bones, Bones – we're not going to be strapped on top of the Ares V, we're going to be strapped on the side of the external fuel tank, next to the rockets, and, honestly, NASA's launched fourteen of them so far – well, fifteen if you count the stage one test – and none of them have blown up yet. Not even the test flight."

"There's a first time for everything..."

"Well, isn't someone cranky when he stays up past his bedtime?"

"I was happily asleep until someone thought it would be a good idea to pay some forty-"

"Fifty."

"-fifty year old song at full volume in a place where other people have to live and work. At two in the damn morning."

"First, everyone loves "More than a Feeling." It's like the classic rock song.

"Second, you do have a perfectly good bed upstairs that you could be sleeping in, rather than the infirmary. I mean, granted, the beds upstairs are typical motel fare, but they're like eight times better than a chair. Especially any chairs we have here. Well, except the one in Pike's office, but he's a tad possessive about it and like knows if someone else has used it. Or, at least, been in his office. I've still not figured out how he organizes his bookshelves, and I've been here three years... So keep that in mind if you want to try to steal one of his books.

"Oh, and third? It was Sistine's music. She goes through phases – be glad you missed the summer of the top forty, though the month where it was nothing but Beethoven got a little trying. I mean, I like classical as much as the next person, but-"

"Jim, you talk too much," Bones snapped, veering towards the coffee maker, his scowl growing deeper than usual. Not that Jim really knew, having only helped kidnap the guy a fortnight ago, but still.

"Maybe... You alright man? You seem off. I mean, we may have kidnapped you, but we're not going to hold you prisoner or anything. If there are people you want to call or something, so long as you don't talk about the project, I can pull you up an outgoing line. Or I can take you into the city – it's my turn to go into the office on Monday and pretend that we work there, but you can tag along if you want. Get out of this place for an afternoon, you know. We can get you some new clothes or hit a bar or go up the T-38 or something."

"I- Wait," the doc sputtered, "What?"

"Things to do in Iowa City. It's not much, but it's a hell of a lot better than Riverside, believe you me. If you really want to go somewhere special, I can see about dragging you along to meet the stockholders. Hell, they'll probably wantto meet you anyway. But an afternoon in Iowa City isn't going to put us too behind in your training. I mean, you said the other day you'd almost finished the last of the books Pike got you, and you've already poked and prodded and scanned the hell out of us – which I could have done without, thank you oh so very much – and, if we get you started on the sims this week, we can probably get you in for scuba diving before Christmas." There was a place in Troy, Kansas the team used to keep up their training, but fitting an intro class for Bones around what they'd already planned for the others was going to be hard. Plus Pike had been talking about doing some deep sea diving as a group somewhere warm around New Years, so he wanted to make sure Bones knew the ropes before then, so he could join in the fun... Besides, they'd have to wait on the parachuting until February anyway if they wanted the weather to agree with them. Which it was best to do, seeing as how it'd be an intro class for that too.

"No, it's- I mean, what's wrong with my clothes?"

It didn't seem like what Bones had actually intended to say, but Jim shrugged and answered, "Besides the fact it looks like you've not bought anything new since you were in college? I thought you doctors were supposed to be all button-up shirts and ties."

"Says the man with orange shoelaces."

Jim looked down at his sneakers, then back up at Bones, who seemed to have forgotten the idea of sleep in a real bed in favour of trying to see how much coffee he could drink in one sitting. "The old ones broke. I needed new ones. The store had these, black, and white. And, really, why settle for boring?"

Bones poured himself more coffee.

Ah, hell, Jim decided and made himself some tea. Bones eyebrow seemed to twitch involuntarily when he saw. He seemed to be taking it as a personal offence that Jim hated the taste of coffee. Though it might've been the mug itself, which asked in bright green letters if the drinker knew where his towel was.

Shrugging again, "Seriously, though, what's wrong? You look like shit – not the it's the middle of the night, why am I still awake kind of shit either. It's the somebody just kicked my puppy, then ran it over with a steam roller kind of shit. I can understand if you don't want to talk to me about it, seeing as I kinda got forced on you, but, regardless of what you may think, I just want you to be happy-" And, fuck, he'd not meant to say that part out loud. Maybe he should go to bed if he was starting to get punch drunk. Or start drinking caffeinated teas.

But, really, was it so bad? He wanted all his friends to be happy, and Bones mightn't know it yet, but he was definitely a friend.

Still, if Bones noticed his slip, he didn't say anything, just stared (if possible) even more morosely into his coffee. After a moment, "I caught the tail end of your conversation with Christine..."

"Oh." He coloured a little. "Well, I tend to romanticize it a bit – the high untresspassed sanctity of space and all that."

"No, it's not it – though there was that – it's just," Bones was colouring too, though fuck if Jim knew why. It was curious. "I didn't- I hadn't- God, Jim, I didn't know you'd-"

"Hmm?" It took Jim a moment to realize what Bones was (or, rather, wasn't) saying, having been trying rather too hard to figure out why the doc might find the subject (whatever it was) embarrassing. He tried to keep the blush from spreading when he realized he'd been caught at it. "Oh? Oh! Yeah, I've been. Thought you knew. Was in the Air Force. Made it up to Colonel before they kicked me out; pretty sure they would have made it dishonourable and stripped me of rank if it wouldn't have caused a bigger mess in the papers. Took away my pension and VA benefits, though...

"But, yeah, they pulled me out of the war in the Caucasus when they started up the Constellation Program for astronaut training. Piloted Orion 3 and Orion 6. Got to command Orion 10 – first people in almost fifty-three years to orbit the moon. They didn't give us ticker tape like they did for Borman, Lovell, and Anders – they save those for sports teams these days – but they did give us medals and call us heroes. A month later I had a... disagreement with the NASA Administrator and, well..." He raised his hands. "Here I am."

 

Next: "It's too bad, but the way American people are, now that they have all this capability, instead of using it, they'll probably just piss it all away."


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