|slightly different skies
||[May. 20th, 2009|12:25 pm]
Title: slightly different skies
Spoilers: Why do I even have this in the header anymore?
Summary: The astrometrics lab seems like an unlikely place for a heart-to-heart.
Notes: For chaya, who wanted the one where Kirk is adjusting (badly) to his new university life. Instead she got, um, this. XD
It surprises McCoy to find Jim in the astrometrics lab, but not nearly as much as it does that Jim appears to be completely, one-hundred-percent sober, even though it's legitimately after five o'clock and usually when Jim disappears for more than twelve hours it's because he's been in a fight or drinking or both.
"Jim?" McCoy calls from the entrance – Jim is standing by one of the computers, typing furiously, oblivious to the world.
"Just a sec," Jim calls back. "And close the door."
McCoy looks around for a girl, but he doesn't find one, so he lets the door fall closed behind him. The lights are on but dimmed, and there isn't anything projected onto the dome. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"I said gimme a sec," says Jim, and the lights fade down; within seconds there's a sky projected onto the dome. It's not Earth – that much is obvious, the plane of the Milky Way is all wrong and last time McCoy checked, the Earth didn't have three moons – but he doesn't know where it is, either.
Jim turns around and leans back, perching on the edge of the desk. "Gliese 581 d, better known as Temperance," he says. "Fourth star out from Gliese 581, an M-type, in the constellation of Libra." He looks at the dome for a minute and then says, "I think the calibrations are a little off."
"Are you sober?" asks McCoy, because it's either that or questioning whether he's sober, and he's got an exam too damn early tomorrow to call that into doubt.
"Unfortunately," Jim replies easily. "Oh, look, I think Gliese 581 c is rising."
"I appreciate that you're having fun misusing Starfleet Academy equipment for your own amusement, but I've got to get this simulation done tonight so I can move on to xenoanatomy." McCoy raises an eyebrow, and Jim steps away from the computer with a flourish.
"She's all yours." But he doesn't leave even as McCoy begins programming, just paces around the dome, watching the equations on the viewscreen.
"You dropped a minus sign," he calls after a few minutes. McCoy checks and yeah, apparently he did. He fixes it, and three seconds later Jim adds, "And you need to use the squiggly ds for partial derivatives, or it'll give you an error when you try to run it."
McCoy turns around. "Jim, when's the last time you actually went to astrometrics and didn't sleep through it?"
Jim frowns. "It's on my list of things to do before I graduate."
"The how the hell do you know all this?"
Jim looks surprised. "My mom's Science Officer on the Russell – she started off in Astrometrics. Didn't I tell you?"
McCoy raises his eyebrows. "You've never talked about your parents. Ever."
Jim looks away, a vaguely unsettled set to his shoulders. "Really?"
"That one time you got really drunk you said Frank was an asshole, but since you then passed out you failed to elaborate on things like who the hell Frank is."
"Oh." And now Jim really does look uncomfortable, and he's not meeting McCoy's eyes.
"Look, you don't have to talk if you don't want to – I'm just in here to do a simulation. Besides, it's not like I'm a bundle of monologues myself."
"My stepdad," says Jim abruptly. "Frank's my stepdad. My brother's name is Sam – George Samuel – and he married a girl named Melissa about three years ago. They've got a daughter," Jim adds. "Kaylee. She's adorable."
McCoy stares at him. Jim ignores him. "My mom's name is Winona, and she met my dad on the Kelvin, where he was the Acting Science Officer for the delta-shift. She's the one who sent me the program for the Gliese sky - that's what she'd do when I was a kid, when she was off-planet for my birthday, send me a copy of the sky that she could see." He looks over his shoulder at McCoy. "Enough talking for you?"
McCoy has no idea what to say, and it's a mercy when Jim points to one of the equations on the viewscreen and says, "You skipped a step in the proton-proton chain."
So he turns back to his computer and fixes it, reminding himself that Jim may be obnoxious, but he is also in this particular case pretty helpful. "You want to tell me what all this is about?" he asks casually.
"What, two buddies can't just shoot the breeze and chat?" asks Jim.
"We've shot the breeze before," McCoy says. "It usually involves drinking, women, or both. This? Involves neither."
Jim smirks. "Maybe I've seen the error of my ways. Maybe I'm completely reformed now. Maybe I'll even go to church on Sunday."
"And maybe pigs are flying out of my ass," retorts McCoy.
"Now, Doctor McCoy," says Jim, "that would be against all empirical evidence."
McCoy rolls his eyes, and switches away from the simulator program, entering the medical record database. Jim frowns. "What are you doing?" he demands suddenly.
"Checking for recent concussions, or a history of being dropped on your head as a child," says McCoy, as he calls up the records. "That's the only reason I can think of that - " He cuts himself off. "Jim," he says slowly. "You could've said it was your birthday."
"Oh, Christ," groans Jim. "I swear to God, if you make a fuss I'll punch you in the face."
"Why the hell aren't you out there getting shitfaced?" demands McCoy.
"Not – today," says Jim. "Can we just talk about something else? Like how much you suck at astrometrics? Because that's pretty impressive."
"Or," suggests McCoy, "you could stop being distracting and actually help me with this."
Jim look at him, then shrugs. "Okay. Lay it on me. What's the problem, exactly?"
"Well, I've got a star of initial mass of thirty solar masses, and I need to determine the event horizon of the black hole it'll make after it goes supernova. How the hell I'm supposed to do that - "
"No, it's easy," says Jim, walking over to join McCoy at the computer. "Just – okay, scrap everything you've already got, this'll go faster if we just start over."
And it's true – the same simulation that would've taken McCoy three hours and probably a half a bottle of bourbon takes the two of them an hour and a half completely sober. Jim is surprisingly patient and a surprisingly good tutor, not that he would ever admit it or think of it in those terms.
And McCoy can understand it, a little – every year, July 13th, he makes sure to have a surgery or an exam or something so that he doesn't have time to think about his father, makes sure to schedule a dinner with a colleague or something so he doesn't have to deal with the sudden overwhelming crush of being alone for more than five minutes. And Jim being Jim, there's no way he'll ask for company, since any vulnerability that isn't a concussion is a deadly weakness, so McCoy figures why the hell not?
"Well," he says, as he saves the final version of the simulation, "now you can quiz me on Andorian cardiovascular processes, since you obviously have no intention of getting any of your own work done."
"How about the Andorian reproductive system instead?" says Jim, even cracking a smile.
"I'll be sure to ask you for practical experience when we get to that unit," says McCoy, slinging an arm around his shoulder. "Come on."