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Fic: Empty Chairs at Empty Tables
kirk awesome
geekpenguin wrote in startrekfic
Title: Empty Chairs at Empty Tables
Author: Geekpenguin
Rating: PG13
Pairing: Kirk/McCoy friendship. Slash if you squint sideways and are so inclined.
Setting: Star Trek XI (spoilers for the film)
Notes: Takes place after the events of my fic Silence but involved different characters and is fine on its own.
Disclaimer: Neither the Star Trek characters nor Les Miserables belong to me


There's a grief that can't be spoken.
There's a pain goes on and on.
Empty chairs at empty tables
Now my friends are dead and gone.

Here they talked of revolution.
Here it was they lit the flame.
Here they sang about `tomorrow'
And tomorrow never came.


By his standards, the nearly empty building could hardly be considered a bar anymore. A bar had a certain kind of atmosphere: yelling at friends and rivals alike, dancing between tables, fighting over pretty girls, fucking in dark corners. Too much alcohol, adrenaline, sweat, blood, noise and life all pulsing together to form the world that James Kirk thrived in. He’d spent nearly every weekend of his Academy career in this bar, and a great number of the week nights as well. There are many perks involved with being the Midwest’s only genius repeat offender; the ability to ace classes with minimal sleep and a high blood alcohol concentration being one of his favorites among them.


He motions for another drink from his seat at the bar, the fallen comrades of the newest shot standing in a carefully constructed glass pyramid before him. He’d never built one of these before. He’d always ended up in a bloodied mess on the floor or a sweat drenched embrace along the back wall long before he’d have time to consume even half the drinks he had tonight, and neither activity lent itself well to the delicate process of stacking shot glasses on the wooden bar. There was no one to fight with now, however. This was a cadet bar, a place frequented only by students of the Academy or local youths lusting after them. He is one of only a handful of surviving cadets, and the only one among them who really reveled in the thrill and savagery of the Academy’s night life. And so tonight, a few scarce days before he leaves the Academy for good, the newly appointed Captain of the starship Enterprise drinks alone, building pyramids from empty glasses in an empty bar.


Melancholy does not suit Kirk. Even he admits it is one emotion that he doesn’t wear well. It chafes his very soul, abrasive and offensive to a man who has always sworn there is no such thing as a no win situation. He still swears it, even as the hand placing the newly emptied glass onto his construction trembles. He refuses to believe that any of them have really lost. There were sacrifices, losses to be sure, but in the end they had survived. The Academy had survived. And, he is drunk enough to admit to himself, everyone he truly cared for had made it out alive. It was an unpleasant truth, but a truth nonetheless. It tore at him that so many he had drunk and celebrated life with would never sit beside him in the bar again, how many empty chairs laid scattered among empty tables around him. But it didn’t break him. His ship, his crew, had survived, and he had to take wins where he could get them. The Enterprise had survived. And so would he.


Eventually. There were still losses in other ways that he cannot yet come to terms with. For now he only carries on, drinking in the ghost of a bar, waiting for his ship to depart. He glances at the clock and calls out to the bartender again, changing his order to two beers. It was getting tiresome, only drinking alone. The first few days on world had been occupied with meetings, ceremonies, funerals, and Spock. While he didn’t regret arranging the forced reunion between Uhura and her equally stubborn counterpart, mostly because James Kirk is not in the habit of regretting almost anything, at moments like this he does miss simply having the pointy ear bastard near by. The mind meld had left him both with the elder Vulcan’s grief and a new, nearly uncanny, ability of reading the younger version; a fact Kirk was sure Spock the younger not only realized, but was less than appreciative of.


The door to the bar bangs open with an unnecessarily dramatic shove and Kirk smirks into his beer. There were people he enjoyed being around even more than Spock. Luckily for Kirk, they were, with the right approach, just as susceptible to his manipulations.


“Where is he?”


Even in his civilian clothing Bones makes for a rather impressive figure when he’s in full Doctor Mode. Becoming Chief Medical Officer of a starship had only served to make the man more confident in his position of authority whenever illness, injury, or Kirk being reckless was concerned. McCoy scanned the room quickly, his expression of concern swiftly morphing to one of irritation as he catches on and marches to Kirk’s position at the bar.  


“Jim, there damn well better be someone dying in this bar.”


“Can’t imagine what would give you that idea, Bones. Place’s been deserted since we got back. Beer?” Kirk is all innocence and confidence in the face of the seething older man, holding out the chilled glass bottle as though McCoy had come for the express purpose of drinking with him.


“I believe,” the older man replies coolly, ignore both the beer and Kirk’s attempt at a winning smile, “That your exact words were ‘Oh shit, there’s blood everywhere. I think I killed him, Bones.’ That, just possibly, may have given an impression of a medical emergency.”


“I said that? Shit.” He knows his grin makes his attempt at an innocent shrug worthless, but Kirk doesn’t particularly care. The expression on the other mans face is priceless. “You know me when I’m drinking, Bones. I can’t be held responsible for what comes outta my mouth. Why, this one time back in Iowa, I was out with this girl. Now she had this nice, nice, ass and…”


“Jim.” McCoy cuts him off, using his ‘shut the fuck up before I sedate you by force again’ voice that only serves to make Kirk grin more. “We’re going back to space in five days. I’m still picking out the new members of my medical team. I don’t have time for teenage pranks.”


“You know Bones, you make it sound like you don’t like me or something.”


“I don’t like you.” He growls, glaring at the younger man.


“At the moment.” The doctor amends after a sufficient pause, shaking his head at Kirk’s triumphant laugh.


“C’mon, stop being such a crotchety old man. I’m here, you’re here, the beer’s here. Drink.” Kirk flourishes the drink, managing to seem magnanimous as he places it on the counter before the stool next to him.

“You’re gonna be the death of me one day, kid.” McCoy grumbles even as he takes his seat. The first sip of the beer is accompanied by a glare in Kirks direction.


Kirks smile falters somewhat at that, shifting into something more bitter than the doctor is accustomed to seeing. He shrugs and turns to face the bar, cupping his hands around his barely touched beer.


“Don’t worry. Think there’s been enough of that going around to last us for a while.” He offers Bones an attempt at a rueful chuckle, but he can’t force the sound out properly.


“Damn it, Jim.” McCoy sighs. “Is that what you’ve been doing all week? Brooding?”


Kirk shrugs, rolling his beer between his hands as a form of distraction from the conversation he’s having. He hadn’t intended for their talk to get serious this quickly. With the emptiness of the bar pressing down on him from all sides, however, he finds it hard to think about anything else for long.


“Not brooding. Just…just thinking.” He smirks slightly, not needing to look at Bones to know what he’s thinking. “I know, I know. Me thinking. Galaxy really much be coming to an end.”


“And drinking.” Bones points out, his nod to the glass pyramid just visible from the corner of Kirk’s eyes.


“Well, yeah. Makes the thinking go down easier. Really hurts my head with out it.” They share an empty laugh at a hollow joke before lapsing into silence, the weight of an Academy’s worth of ghosts hanging around them.


“He lived to see me become Captain, you know.” Kirk starts again without warning after the bar tender has delivered their second round of beers. “My father, that is. In the other,” he waves a hand helplessly, his drunken state not allowing him to form proper word for that other reality they would never know. “you know. Thing.”


“I’m sure he was proud.”


“Yeah. That’s what he told me, anyway.” Kirk doesn’t mention who by name or give any real details about the events of time travel and alternate realities because he doesn’t need to. Bones had been briefed, along with the rest of the new officers of the Enterprise, on what had happened upon their arrival to Earth.


“It’s just…” Kirk scratches the back of his neck with one hand. He was never much for talking about his emotions. He’s been drinking alone in a haunted bar too long to not get it out, however, and there really isn’t anyone except Bones he could imagine even starting this conversation with. “I’ve been wondering what kinda son I was. I mean I know what I was like with my mom, but…did I appreciate him? That he was there? Did I just take it for granted and yell? Did I tell him I hated him…” He sighs, hanging his head down and running the hand on his neck up to tangle in his hair. “That’d sound like me, wouldn’t it? Getting pissed off because he was telling me what to do, storming off and cursing him. Shit.”


“Jim...” Bones is out of his depth here, and Kirk can hear it in his voice.


“Nah, just…just let me finish, okay? You know how much I love hearing myself talk.” He glances at McCoy with a half successful self deprecating smile for the other man’s benefit. “I promise it’s not all ‘woe is me’ bullshit.” He takes a long drink from the beer, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand after.


“Then I started thinking about everyone else. You know, all the,” He waves a hand to showcase the empty bar, “everyone who aren’t here anymore, but lived in the other place. All the things they were going to do, places they were gonna see. Marriages, kids. How many of ‘em already had kids that should have grown up with them, but won’t anymore. I mean it was easy, on the Enterprise, to be happy. We survived, we won. The Federation’ll live on. But…it won’t, Bones. You see? Not really. It won’t be the world it was supposed to be because of what happened. Nothing ever will be like it should.”


They drink in silence for a few minutes, Kirk once more brooding over his beer as McCoy watches him.


“I’m a doctor, not a philosopher. But still, Jim, I think you’re looking at this the wrong way.”


“Oh yeah?”


“Yes. You’re assuming there’s some great master plan to the Universe, like what should be and what we’ve got are two different things. Things worked out badly, I’ll give you that. A large number of damn fine people died that wouldn’t have without what happened. But who’s to say that makes this life any better or worse than what would have been otherwise. We can’t compare the two, Jim, just can’t be done.”


They drink again as James mulls this information over, framing it into his own world view. Bones starts a moment later when Kirk lets out a sudden laugh


“So…basically,” Kirk begins slowly, turning to look at the other man with an amused expression, “what you’re saying is this life, and any other alternate ones, are just random events of chance with no higher power guiding them, and that we have no way to measure them against one another, or in fact against any kind of standard, to figure out whether things are good or bad in them? It’s all just relative? And that’s supposed to make me feel better about our timeline getting fucked sideways.”


The bartender looks at them strangely as he brings the next round to them. McCoy only shrugs, cocking at eyebrow at Kirk.


“Well, do you feel better?”


 “Oddly, yeah. A little bit, actually.”


“Well good, maybe now you’ll stop moping like teenage girl.”


“Thanks Bones, that’s sweet. Glad to know you’ve got my back.”


“Bah.” Bones shakes his head as Kirk laughs. “And for the record, Jim, I’m sure no matter what a pain in the ass you most certainly were, your father knew you loved him and was very proud. I mean hell,” Bones takes a long drink and glances away, “even I’m proud of you.”




“Hate to disappoint your ego, Jim, but I’m not saying it again. Ever.”


“You ever have any kids, Bones?” Kirks asks a moment later, after they’ve both taken another pull from their drinks. Bones looks at him skeptically and Kirk knows the man has figured out he’s going to be teased in some way.


“With that old harpy? We’d have to have had sex even once after the vows in order to have kids.” The doctor’s eyes narrow slightly at Kirk. “Why?”


Kirk lightly bites his bottom lip, fighting against the smirk trying to form against his will.


“Well, I was just wondering, what with you being so damn proud of me and all.” Bones rolls his eyes. He’s obviously already regretting that little confession. “Bones?”




“Will you be my new Daddy?”


Kirk bursts out into loud laughter as Bones spits his mouth full of beer onto the bar, sputtering and cursing at the idiot boy. He can’t breathe for several minutes, resting his head against the bar as he warps his arms around his stomach and truly laughs for the first time since before they had left the Academy under Captain Pike.


“Damn kids,” Bones mutter, glaring at Kirk despite the smile pulling at his own lips, “Ridiculous, ungrateful brat. Don’t know why I bother putting up with this crap.” 


“That…” Kirk manages to wheeze eventually, turning his head to look up at Bones from his resting place on the bar, “is Captain Ridiculous Ungrateful Brat, Doctor. And what would you ever do without me?”


“Live a long, happy, peaceful life, no doubt, Captain.”




“Damn it, Jim. You’d be a lot closer to tolerable without that damn mouth of yours.”


Kirk opens his mouth to reply and Bones shakes his head, cutting him off before he has the chance to say a word.


“Don’t even start. Last thing I need’s to hear about the many talents of your damned mouth. Why don’t you get back to tell me about how you managed to screw things up with the girl back in Iowa.”


Kirks head comes off the bar immediately as he perks up, his favorite subject of his own exploits finally being requested rather than forced on an only partially willing audience.


“Well, I think I already mentioned her ass.”


“It might have come up.”


“Good, because it was really just the nicest one I’ve ever seen…”


The Doctor never brings up the fact he really does have work to do for the rest of the night, both men satisfied to spend the next few hours in the far more important pursuit of enjoying their beers in a deserted bar that seems far less empty with the other in it.



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Nope. Not slash at all. Sometimes a person just needs someone to bullshit with. Someone who knows you and tolerates you anyway because deep down they may really like you but are lothe to admit it even to themselves. Under torture no less.

Nice story.

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