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The Pain of Command

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 Jim sighed before taking a long measure of Scotty's finest malt.

"You know, it's not your fault, Jim," said Bones.

"I know," the captain replied resignedly. "But try telling that to the parents of a fresh faced ensign straight out of the academy. First posting, first mission. She was so excited, Bones. Her face lit up the moment she stepped off that shuttle. She had her whole future ahead of her and now..."

Bones took the half empty glass from Jim's reluctant grasp and placed it on the desk. He turned the captain's chair away from him and began kneading the tension from his lover's shoulders. "If you are going to be captain of a federation starship, Jim, you have to learn to accept loss."

Jim snorted, thinking back to the cadets and crew members that died at the hands of Nero. Before he could comment Bones continued, "Damn it, Jim! This is different and you know it. You are captain now, no more play acting. This is the real deal and there will always be someone, some ensign, some lieutenant, or some other god damn crew member that is going to buy it out here no matter how hard you try to prevent it. You are going to have to learn to accept it because this crew needs you to. They can't have their captain fall apart. They are going to need you to be strong; someone they can look up to when they are falling apart. You are going to have to be their strength."

Jim took the glass back and shrugged himself free of Bones' grasp. "I know! Doesn't mean I have to like it though does it? Damn it, she was just a kid."

"Not much younger than you are. I don't think anyone who hasn't been up there can appreciate just how tough it is in that seat." He punctuated the air as though indicating Jim's place on the bridge. "Come on," he once again took the glass from his lover and said, "Lie down."

Jim did.

Bones lay down beside him and pulled him into a strong embrace. "I know it is going to be tough for you, Jim, but I am always going to be here for you. So no more drowning your sorrows in that brain numbing juice our chief engineer calls whiskey."

Jim laughed a little at that. He knew Bones was right; that it was his responsibility to be strong and unflappable. He wondered how Chris Pike had coped with it for all those years, how any captain coped with it. He suddenly thought of his father and his selfless act of courage. All the lives he saved, including his mothers' and his own.

As if reading his thoughts, Bones said, "You know he would be damn proud of you."

"How the hell do you do that?"

Bones laughed heartily. "You forget I know you well, Jim Boy - very well," he leered before kissing the back of Jim's neck.

Jim smiled for the first time that day. Bones was here beside him; he had a damn fine first officer and a damn fine crew. He knew then with utmost certainty that he would cope.

"Hmm, show me just how well then, Bones." And he did.