Leonard had lost track of Jim in all the preparations and ceremonial crap and when he found him, he almost wished he hadn’t. Jim looked a wreck. So much so that Leonard was worried about him, seriously worried, not his ordinary worry.

Jim leaned against glass, his gaze rather vacant, his color a cross between too pale and too blotchy. If Leonard could measure stress levels, Jim’s would be off the charts.

“There you are,” he said in the gentle tone he used when talking to particularly infirm patients. Jim was not that and yet, it seemed appropriate.

Jim gave him the old Academy try with a ghost of a smile, but it was almost sickeningly ghastly. “Here I am.”

“You okay?”

“Have you ever faced the complete death of all your dreams and fantasies, Bones?”

He hesitated. “I’m not really sure.”

“If you had, you’d know.”

Leonard moved closer. “Is that what you have done?”

Jim didn’t respond, just gave him a rather vacant stare.

Leonard glanced in the direction he’d come from. “They’re…getting ready to start. They’re expecting you.”

Jim nodded. “I know. And I’m making myself move. I am. It’s just…when there was hope there was…now it’s nothing.”

“Jim…”

Jim straightened suddenly, quickly. His color was still way too weird and his smile almost just as ghastly, but he would have been convincing to anyone who didn’t know him as well as Leonard did. He looked pretty good in his dress uniform, even with his off appearance. 

“Bones, I’m going to ask you for a really strange favor.”

“Anything.”

“Help me walk out there. I don’t think I can make it without assistance.”

Leonard linked his arm with Jim’s as though it was the most natural thing in the world and they walked out together, standing with the others as they observed Spock and Uhura standing in front of a high priestess. Leonard saw Spock glance quite briefly in Jim’s direction, but Jim didn’t look his way, not at all, just looked straight ahead.

Later, when it was all over, Jim looked at Leonard. “Well. That’s over. Where’s Scotty? I need the biggest damn drink I think I’ve ever had.”

“Yeah,” Leonard agreed. “Me too.”

And they found Scotty and with him was Keenser and Jaylah. Leonard was only a little surprised when Jaylah came to Jim and hugged him with a softly whispered, “James T.”

Jim squeezed her back and then with smile firmly in place, declared, “Let’s go party.”

They had just turned the corner when Jim bumped into a blonde woman coming the other way. For a moment they both pivoted and then stood upright.

“Carol,” Jim exclaimed.

“Jim!” She glanced at the others, smiling brightly. “Hello everyone.”

“This is a great surprise,” Jim said. “We haven’t seen you since you

“Stupidly left the Enterprise just after the first year of the five-year mission.” She laughed. “Yes, I know.”

“What are you doing here?”

“I’ve got a science symposium here. And you’re here…” Her brows furrowed in confusion, then cleared. “Oh. Yes. Of course. The bonding. Sorry I missed it.”

“It was very nice,” Jim said, convincingly. “We’re going for a celebratory drink. Care to join us? You know Bones, Scotty, and Keenser. And this is Jaylah.”

Carol smiled. “How do you do. And I’d love to join you.” Her smile got brighter still as she hooked her arm through Jim’s and Jim’s smile brightened too.

Leonard wasn’t sure that was a good idea, but considering everything, he couldn’t really fault Jim for going there. Not at all. So he fell into step with the others and lent his support. As always.