No Way To Be In Heaven
Epilogue - Obviously, It's Heaven

The stars streaked by in the observation lounge, showering the room with a kaleidoscopic lightshow. Leonard could hear the chink of glasses and the not-quite muted murmur of a million different private conversations around him, but they were little more than background noise, an abstract accompaniment to the brilliant play of starlight on every surface. He made his way to his favorite table, right up against the floor-to-ceiling transparent panel, where he could watch the lights stretch into forever, sat down, and began to listen for the dip in conversation that always took place whenever - there. A door swished open somewhere to his right, and the murmur shifted slightly, creating a rolling effect as a path of conversations paused and resumed.

The conversations settled back into something like their former pattern, though they seemed a little quieter now, less boisterous than they had been just a moment ago. A warm, strong hand squeezed Leonard's shoulder before the chair to his right scraped loudly against the titanium floor. All conversation in a three meter radius turned to groans of dismay as hands slapped ears all over the room. "Oh. Oops."

Leonard snatched the chair away from the other warm, strong hand and put it down a good foot away from the tabletop, snarling all the while. "Were you raised in a damn barn?! You don't just drag it across the floor like-"

"In fact, I was raised in a damn barn, Bones, and I'm the captain, so I can drag any chair aboard this vessel any-"

"Do it again, and you'd better believe that I'm gonna complain to Starfleet Command that you think you can just do whatever you want to Starfleet prop-"

"Hey, I saved The United Federation of Planets while on academic suspension. I think I can do what I want to Starfleet property!"

Leonard could feel the stupid, sentimental smile spreading all over his face like goo, and knew couldn't keep up the pretense of grouchiness any longer. "Yeah, well, that's only because I refused to get into this death trap alone."

Jim's smile was bright enough to outshine the warp-distorted starfire on the other side of the observation panel. "Of course not. How else were you going to be invincible?"

"I think that's your department, Jim. You're the only guy I know that can get marooned on a damn ice planet, get his ass kicked by a crazed Vulcan-"

"And a batshit insane Romulan," Jim said with a grin.

"-and a... batshit... insane...Romulan, and still come out on top."

Jim shrugged and looked away, genuine modesty coloring his cheeks. "I had help, you know."

"Sure, but nothing went right until you sat down in that seat." Leonard touched Jim's shoulder gently and waited until he had Jim's full attention. "Sometimes, I really do think you're invincible, you know."

Jim's eyes were on Leonard, but his attention was somewhere else, somewhere inside. It was a look Leonard had seen many times since their discovery of Jim's... origins. There was no shaking Jim from whatever it was he was contemplating, either Jim would return to the world of the living when he was ready, and no sooner. So Leonard sat back and watched the lights play across the wintery planes of Jim's face, and waited.

Finally, Jim seemed to shift without moving a muscle. "I've been wondering about that for a while, now," he said quietly. "But you know what? It isn't about being... invincible, or strong, or achieving destiny or any of that."


Jim shook his head as a slow, wistful smile played across his face. "No. If I were invincible, I'd be someone's nameless slave somewhere, and the man my mother carried in her womb would either be captaining this ship, or he'd be floating in whatever was left of the Federation once Earth went the way of Vulcan because if I'm invincible, then he's invincible." Jim shook his head more vigorously and sat forward. "No. This is about integrity, Bones. Whatever the good people of Riverside might have believed about the son of George Kirk, one thing is sure he refused to back down when he was put against the wall."

Leonard cocked his head, confused. "But I thought he died while committing a crime...?"

Jim shrugged. "I have no idea. The cops were never very clear about that I think they held it against me that I was involved in the Holister scam. But I'm not talking about that man's death hell, I'm still not sure if he was really the... original, for lack of a better term." Jim scowled briefly, before visibly dismissing the thought out of hand. "I'm talking about my birth. Bones, I signed that paperwork because I didn't know what had gone on before I still don't really know, and I doubt I ever will. I was ignorant and terrified, and I agreed to their terms. But I think that the first Jim Kirk knew more than they thought rumor has it he was a pretty smart guy, after all. He put his foot down, and whether it was one year ago or ten, it cost him his life. But it was a choice he made with his eyes open." Jim snorted. "His Kobayashi Maru was a hell of a lot more valid than mine."

Leonard shrugged, confused as ever. "So... you're the right man to be the captain of the Enterprise because... you inherited your own sense of integrity?"

Jim shook his head again. "I'm the right man to be the captain of the Enterprise because I have the skills to do the job, and because Starfleet Command believes I earned it and I'm not gonna argue with that assessment. But I believe in the things I say, the things I do, the things I've been asked to stand for, and I believe in this crew. And that's why we always come out on top." He reached for the bottle of Saurian brandy that sat on the table, awaiting his arrival, and poured two shots. "To us," Jim said with a grin. Jim lifted his glass and took a swig, then looked at Leonard curiously when he realized that he was drinking alone.

"You know what? I don't really care why you're a good man, Jim Kirk. You are, and that's what matters to me." Leonard reached for the bottle and refilled Jim's shotglass. "That, and that you're always here with me."

Jim chuckled. "Of course I am. You know the drill."

"Yeah." Leonard leaned forward and brushed his lips against Jim's cheek, breathing in the scent of him, before leaning back in his seat like a proper off-duty officer. He raised his glass and waited for Jim to do the same. "To Thursdays."


Chapter 5

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