No Way To Be In Heaven
It took Jim the entire weekend to convince Bones that he wasn't crazy or hallucinating, and that Jim wasn't a ghost or a changeling. Even so, the good doctor stuck to Jim's ass like he hadn't done since they first signed up for Starfleet. Two years of convincing the man that Jim was, indeed, going to stick around for the long haul, all down the drain thanks to some weird coincidence in a civilian hospital. Thanks, ever so much, San Fran Gen.
Jim's internal clock woke him a little earlier than usual come Monday morning. He went through his usual morning routine a little more quietly than usual, left Bones a note, set his personal coffee maker to brew a fresh pot for right around Bones' usual waking time, and ran out of their dorm before he could be dragged into another huggle session. It wasn't that Jim resented his friend's constant need for reassurance, but Bones wasn't the one teaching an early morning class.
Once class was thoroughly underway, though, it was easy enough to forget Bones' neverending panic while Jim was struggling to keep some mouthbreather from breaking another classmate's neck on a sticky, sweat soaked wrestling mat. As long as Jim didn't think about his communicator in his locker, or the fact that Bones was probably leaving his thousandth message, things felt normal, right.
"Kirk!" Thompson, the Advanced Hand-to-Hand instructor, stood near the gym's main entrance, hands on hips. The Commandant of Students stood next to Thompson, gazing at Jim with that same infuriatingly mild expression that he always wore when they were about to have an unpleasant conversation. Between them were a man and a woman in civilian business wear. The woman was fidgeting. Jim wrinkled his nose and waved his acknowledgment to the group, before turning to give some last minute instructions to MouthBreather. "Now, Kirk," was Thompson's gravely answer.
Jim frowned deeply, but he trotted over. "Is there a problem, sir?" He spared the barest of glances at the three visitors before turning his full attention to Thompson. The two strangers were staring at Jim as if he had two heads, and Jim could feel their eyes boring into the side of his (very singular) head.
"Ask Captain Pike," was all Thompson said, before stomping back to the sweating tangle of cadets.
Jim pursed his lips at the man's retreating back and swallowed down a choice curse, but he turned his attention to the Commandant. "Captain?"
Pike smiled tightly and gestured at the door. "There's a bench out there, I think we can all get comfortable on..."
"Okaaaay..." Jim followed Pike out into the bright sun and plopped himself on the bench just outside the gym proper. He noticed that neither Pike nor the strangers sat next to him. Instead, they crowded around him, as if he were a specimen on display. Jim shifted and wiped the sweat from his brow. "Is anyone going to tell me what's going on?"
Rather than answer Jim, Pike turned to the two strangers. "I told you, he's right here and he's fine."
"That might be," the woman answered, "but we still have an investigation to run."
"And I have a class to assist," Jim said testily. "Can I get back to it?"
"No," both strangers said. They glanced at each other, before the man continued. "I'm Sergeant Wilkes, and this is Detective Brown. We're with the San Francisco Police Department, and we're investigating a homicide." The man paused dramatically. "I'd like to ask for the record, what is your name?"
Jim blinked in confusion, but he saw no reason not to answer the man's question. "James Kirk."
The cops exchanged a look before the woman, Brown, asked another question. "Would you be willing to provide some proof of that fact?"
"How would I do that?"
"Just answer the question."
"Detective," Pike said smoothly. "I'm sure Cadet Kirk would be willing to provide you with anything you need, provided you disclose to him the nature of your investigation."
"We'd just need a DNA sample, some fingerprints," the sergeant said smoothly. "We'd just like to confirm Kirk's identity."
Jim stood up abruptly. "Why? If you people believe I've done something, I think I have the right to know what it is. And if you want to confirm my identity for some other reason, I'm sure you can tell me what that is."
The officers exchanged yet another wordless glance. "Mr. K-"
"Lieutenant Kirk," Jim said, bristling.
The man's nostrils flared, but he didn't argue. "Lieutenant Kirk. We have reason to believe that James Kirk was killed three nights ago in an attempted robbery."
Pike erupted in rage. "That's outrag-"
But Jim wasn't listening to Captain Pike, or anything else, for that matter. Jim lowered himself to the bench, dazed. What the fuck had Bones really seen Thursday night? Obviously, the man hadn't just dreamed up some horrible nightmare to torture himself with - and now, with police confirmation that the body was identified as Jim Kirk, it became painfully clear to Jim that something... strange was afoot. "It's fine," he said hoarsely. "What do you need?"
"It isn't fine," Pike said in a strangled voice. "The good people at San Francisco's Finest are perfectly aware of the principles upon which Federation law is based, and that they must present a warrant before making such a request of anyone. They also know that Starfleet will come down on San Francisco PD like a megaton of antimatter if they try to get around the rights of any Starfleet Cadet - especially one with a service record like Lieutenant Kirk's." The Commendant's voice brooked no argument.
"That's fine," Detective Brown said calmly. "In the meantime, I'd suggest that Starfleet Academy exercise its right to verify the identity of any of their cadets - especially one with as many stab wounds as the body of the late James Kirk." Wilkes cringed slightly, but he didn't undermine his partner's words.
Pike just looked at the woman blandly. "I'm sure you can find your way back off campus. It's that way, toward the bridge." He jutted his jaw at the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. "Good day, Detective. Sergeant." Then he turned his back on the cops and looked down at Jim. "You alright?"
Jim nodded and peeked around Pike to watch the retreating backs of the officers. "Think they'll be back with that warrant?"
Pike frowned and shrugged. "Possibly. Unless they can get their answers some other way... Honestly, I wouldn't worry about them, Jim. They can't handle something like properly identifying a body, so I doubt they'll be able to convince a judge to issue a warrant." Pike smiled. "Worried we'll find out you're an imposter?"
Jim's laughter gusted out of him with a little too much force. "Believe you me, sir, I'm the same Jim Kirk you sweetalked into this gig in Riverside."
Pike nodded and gripped Jim's shoulder firmly. "I know that."
There was no way in hell Jim was going to concentrate on anything else in any class, so Jim cut out and returned to the dormitories. It was early when Jim got back to his room - very early. He keyed in his combination, and was surprised by the sight that greeted him when the door opened. Commander Beatty was standing in the middle of the room, trying to be heard over the hysterical crying coming from Jim's bunk. In the bunk was Bones and a small, blond woman whose face was buried in the crook of Bones' neck. " -he get out then? The window? There'd be some proof. And how do you explain all his recorded comings and goings over the weekend? Or this morning?"
"I know what I saw," Bones said roughly. He clung to the woman as tightly as she clung to him, rocking her while she wailed incoherently.
Jim stepped into the room. "What happened, Commander?"
Beatty, Bones, and the woman all jumped. The woman recovered first, jumping to her feet to throw herself at Jim. "Oh God, Jimmy!"
"Ma?! What-" Jim cut himself off. Of course. San Francisco PD had notified next of kin. "It's okay. I don't know what's going on, but it's okay. I'm okay."
"Jim..." Bones was on his feet by then, wringing his hands, and looking just as terrified of Jim as he had when he'd shown up in the middle of that fateful night. "The prints. The dental records. They all match..."
Jim glanced at Commander Beatty before narrowing his eyes at Bones. Not now...
"It's a mistake," Winona said firmly, stroking Jim's face with both hands. "A mother knows her children. This is my son." She turned to Bones. "Besides, Beatty can confirm Jim's comings and goings." Bones scowled a little more, and she set her jaw, stubborn and defiant. "Hell, he just did." She looked back at Jim. "It's a mistake," she whispered fiercely. Jim smiled gently and wondered who she was trying to convince.
"Nonetheless, ma'am, you asked me to come identify the body with you. I... I think we should go." Bones looked hesitantly at Jim. "If only to confirm for the police what we can obviously see..."
"But there's nothing to identify," Beatty said. "He's standing right here."
"No," Jim said sharply. "No, I want to see this. I think we should see it."
"For what?" Winona pulled Jim in close. "There's no need. Beatty's right."
Jim smiled at her. "Alright, Ma." He could see Bones getting ready to protest, but he shot him another look, and Bones backed down. Jim lead her out to the hall, down the stairs and out of the baracks, speaking softly and soothingly, until she willingly released him and went on her way. Beatty left easily, though he did shake Jim's hand - apparently, the news had shaken him just as much as anyone else who'd had the misfortune of hearing of Jim's untimely demise.
When Jim went back inside, Bones was practically on top of him. "I'm telling you, Jim-"
"I know what you're telling me, and I'm telling you, I'm alive and well, and you've been eating raw onions."
But Bones wouldn't be put off by the joking insult. "Jim, that man... that man was my best friend. I saw him. I saw the life bleed out of him, and you can't just expect me not to-"
"Snap out of it, McCoy!" Bones clamped his mouth shut, startled. Jim felt bad. "Bones. Look... maybe you and I should go view this body. I... SFPD approached me today." Jim wearily explained why he'd returned from class so early, including Brown's veiled threats and Pike's interpretation of Jim's trampled rights. "Maybe I can just give them a sample, so they can see that I'm alive."
Bones looked skeptical. "And what if that doesn't disprove the identity of the body I saw?"
Jim sighed. "Then I guess we'll have a really bizarre mystery on our hands?"
Jim squirmed in the back of the cab, trying to figure out how to keep the door latch from digging in his arm, but it was damn near impossible to do with Bones squeezed so tightly against his other side. Still, Jim couldn't bring himself to ask Bones to scoot over a little - the closer they got to the hospital, the more he could feel the fine tremor in Bones' arm and leg, though he appeared to be sitting perfectly still. So Jim just shifted his own arm and leg, and hoped the bruise he was sure was forming would be gone by morning again.
When the cab turned onto Potrero Avenue, Jim's own nervousness began to rachet up, millimeter by scant millimeter, until he was no longer pressed against the door at all, but practically had Bones pinned under him on the seat. There was no complaint about the shift in position until the cab stopped in front of the hospital, and that was only because Jim refused to climb out under his own power at first.
The fare was paid, and the cab took off leisurely, leaving Jim and Bones alone with their fears. Jim understood perfectly well why Bones was standing on the sidewalk, staring up at the giant conglomeration of Pre-warp Terran and Post Federation Andorian architecture - he'd made it perfectly clear over the past three nights that Jim's death was impossibly real to him, despite the fact that it was Jim who he was trying his damnedest to convince. What Jim didn't quite understand was his own fear. It had nothing to do with the possibility of seeing a man that might bear an unusually strong resemblance to himself - hell, the dude could be wearing his face, right down to crescent shaped scar on his chin, and that wouldn't bother Jim, not really. All he knew was that he didn't want to be anywhere near the hospital - in fact, it occurred to him blindly that for the past three years that he'd been enrolled at the Academy, he'd actually gone out of his way to avoid a quarter mile radius of the area.
They approached the main hospital doors side by side, and went through the automatic sliding doors together, but Jim's steps faltered as they approached the information booth. The lobby was painted in pale greens and blues, and accented in soft pinks and warm beige accents, but it might as well have been a sterile, cold storage locker for all the warmth and welcome Jim felt upon entering the room.
Jim swallowed down his reservations and forced himself to stand next to Bones as the good doctor made his inquiries about... Jim Kirk. Jim shuddered twice, once upon hearing Bones ask about his own dead body, and again when the woman gave Jim a look full of misplaced sympathy over a shudder she didn't understand. She then gave them detailed instructions about... something - or Jim assumed they were detailed instructions, because she certainly seemed to have a lot to say on the topic. But he heard none of it. Jim couldn't take his eyes off the bas relief built into the wall behind the information desk. It was a detailed tryptich that featured the San Francisco Bay Area during three major historical points - at the beginning of the metropolitanization of the city, during the political tumult of the Youth Revolutionary movement, and at the groundbreaking ceremony of Starfleet Academy. Beautiful line work, but it was a typical piece of governmentally commissioned artwork; it showed just enough propaganda to justify its price to the bigwigs who'd ordered it, but was mild enough that the constituents who'd actually paid for the piece with their taxes would simply think it was pretty. Normally, it wasn't the kind of thing that would make Jim look twice, much less have his attention so completely as to drown out the whole rest of the world. But normally, it also wasn't the kind of thing that would make his hackles rise, that would make every last hair on his body stand straight up.
"You coming?" Jim started, his attention ripped from the wall sculpture to see Bones had already moved away from the information desk, deeper into the bowels of the hospital. Jim glanced down at the woman behind the desk, and saw her watching him with that same misplaced concern. She offered him a sad little smile. It only made Jim more nervous. He edged away from her, stealing little glances at her sad face, until Bones took him by the arm and gave it a squeeze. "Come on," Bones said in his ear, and lead him away.
They walked through the halls in silence. People stood in the halls, away from open doorways, speaking in hushed tones to men and women in lab coats and scrubs. Other people huddled together in communal seating areas and laughed nervously at each other. Still others hugged the walls and cried, some quietly, some loudly, most in between. Jim cringed at the sight of each and every person he passed, man or woman, child or adult, Earther or not, though he still couldn't fathom why.
Jim's skin began to crawl as they turned a corner and paused in a vestibule for three turbolifts. He jumped every time a new person wedged themselves into the already fairly crowded waiting area, and actually yelped when a pair of small children darted between his legs. Bones sidled in closer, as if the heat of his body would give Jim much needed strength. Jim just shuddered harder. "Let's go," he bit off sharply.
"Go where?" Bones' voice was soft, gentle. It seeped into the cracks in Jim's psyche and burned him from the inside out.
"Away." It took a second for Jim to realize that the demonic growl that filled the hall had come from his own throat, and that was only because it was burning. He swallowed, trying to soothe the rough edged ache in his throat, and shook his head. "Anywhere. Out." The growl came again of its own freewill.
Two sets of doors opened, and the crowd rushed toward the lift in the center, with the flashing 'up' light. Bones placed fingertips to the inside crook of Jim's elbow and gentle urged him towards the lift to the far right, which flashed its 'down' light. "Come on, Jim. It's almost over. Just two floors down, and we can view the body, and get this straightened out. It's alright."Jim dug his heels in while Bones spoke softly in his ear, but he allowed himself to be guided into the lift.