Disclaimer: I don't own Star Trek or any of the characters in this story.
Parts of a Whole
"That is the stupidest thing I've heard you say today." Bones pauses. "No, scratch that; that is the stupidest thing I've heard you say this week – and that's saying something."
Jim sighs, but he doesn't let his spirits be dampened for long. The night is young, the ship's in dock, and the crew is ready for some fun: the possibilities are endless.
"Come on, Bones, it'll be fun!"
Bones 'Hah!'s and makes a disgruntled face. "That's what you said the last time you took your merry men out for the day, and look what happened then. Would you like me to explain in detail just how much fun it was to treat the rash on Sulu's-"
"The keyword being 'merry,' Bones, not grumpy old pessimists like you." Jim bounces a little on the balls of his feet. This is going to be awesome, he can feel it. He hasn't done something this fun since his second year at the Academy, when he and Bones met that cute little thing with the short skirt and the drinking game. "Besides, if we do get hurt, who'll patch us up if you don't come along?"
Bones grunts and mutters something about being better off that way, but Jim smacks him on the shoulder and walks off to find Spock. This is going to be great, he just knows it will.
Bones doesn't talk to him until he meets them in the transporter room that evening, and then it's just a "Shut up, Jim," when Jim tries to tease him, but he beams down with them anyway.
And by the next morning, when Jim is holding his good hand up to the cut on Scotty's head and holding his broken one out for Bones to fix, boy, is he glad Bones went.
For Sulu's twenty-fourth birthday, Jim gives him two days of leave on Earth. Jim doesn't ask where he goes the first day, but Sulu returns slightly inebriated, splattered with mud, and sporting a brand new sword on his utility belt.
The next day, Sulu takes them out to celebrate.
He rents four hovercycles and leads them down to the beach, Chekov settled comfortably behind him. Spock, Jim notices with interest, rides with Uhura, who handles her cycle very, very nicely, long legs and long arms poised gracefully over the machine, which Jim definitely does not notice with interest, especially when Spock looks over at him with a raised eyebrow and what, on a human, Jim would say to be a smirk.
They spend most of the day swimming and playing beach volleyball (a game which Chekov is adamant the Russians invented in 1835), and after a few hours, Sulu instructs them in the art of building dribble castles.
When they're tired and sunburned and mildly dehydrated, Sulu packs them back up and escorts them to an antique movie theater his parents used to take him to when he was a kid. The movie itself is pretty terrible, with a scary monster that isn't scary (or, at least, not compared to the actual monsters that Kirk's encountered), a plot that doesn't make any sense, and technology that Scotty provides a long and loud running commentary on. But there's popcorn and some sugary drink that's supposed to taste like lemonade but doesn't, and even Spock admits it was 'a pleasant experience'.
Finally, when the movie's long over and the night's getting late, they head back to the Enterprise. Kirk walks Sulu to his quarters and thanks him on the way. Sulu grins.
"Bet you charmed a lot of girls with that," Jim says, remembering how Sulu said he'd done that for his last six birthdays.
"Not really, sir," replies Sulu quietly. "I've never taken anyone with me before."
He walks into his room, but turns before the door closes. "We should do that again next year, sir."
"Keep him talking, Jim," Bones says before the comm cuts out. He sounds very serious over the earpiece, and Jim can't help but wish that the doctor were here instead of several thousand feet away on the Enterprise, unable to do anything but wait until Jim hikes the two miles back to the field so they can beam him up.
Right. Keep him talking. Jim hitches his arms a little, shaking the kid hanging limply against his back. Chekov groans and tightens his arms around Jim's neck.
"Well, this'll be something to write home about," Jim says after a moment. "Not every day you take down a Draxxan cloud viper by yourself."
Chekov's hands grip the front of Jim's shirt, and for a moment, Jim is scared he's going to puke, but the kid just raises his head a bit.
"Well sir," he said, and the slurring does not help his already-thick accent. "It's not every day you get bitten by one, either."
Jim chuckles, but it's forced. He is very acutely aware that Chekov is not getting any better, and, at the rate he is walking, it will still take him a good twenty minutes to reach the demagnetized clearing he beamed down to.
He picks up the pace. "Oh, trust me, chicks dig scars and snake bites. Bet by the time you get out of the sick bay, you'll have your own fan club."
This time, it's Chekov who chuckles, though it comes out more like a cough muffled against Jim's neck. "I do not think so, sir. I'm too young for them."
Chekov, Jim thinks, is quite a bit heavier than he looks. Jim's arms are aching, and he's going to have one hell of a backache come tomorrow. If he makes it in time.
"I don't know, Chekov, I heard Lieutenant Bessette was very impressed with the way you calculated the position of that Klingon escape pod last week."
"The lieutenant is seven years, two months, and thirteen days older than me, sir." There's a pause, and Jim hears Chekov suck in a ragged breath. "Or so I heard."
Jim is just about to launch into some teasing about how looking up officers' personal information for fun could be considered a violation of regulation 114, subsection 2, but just then Chekov coughs again, long and hard, and Jim turns his head to see several small drops of blood splatter on his shoulder.
Chekov's head lolls against Jim's shoulder, and Jim curses under his breath and picks up the pace a bit more. Just over fifteen minutes now, if he can keep it up. And if there aren't any more Draxxan cloud vipers around. And if the poison doesn't kill the kid before then.
Fuck, fuck, fuck.
Jim hitches his arms again. A part of his brain that's not consumed with hurry hurry hurry wonders if he'll ever get any feeling back in his fingers.
Chekov moans and mutters something in Russian.
"So if not Bessette, then who is it? Come one, Chekov, there's gotta be someone."
Chekov gasps in pain. His hands clutch at Jim's shirt. His fingernails dig into Jim's skin.
"Keiser? Rand? Uhura?" Jim wonders whether it's the poison or the pain that's making Chekov's hands shake like that. "Or maybe it's a hot Russian girl from back home, huh?"
Chekov buries his face against the crook of Jim's neck. It feels wet, but Jim can't tell if it's blood or tears or both.
"N-no girlfriend, sir. I di-didn't know many people then."
Ten minutes. Just ten more minutes, if Chekov can just hold on.
"Then?" If Jim just keeps him talking, keeps him awake like Bones said, he can make it. He has to make it.
Chekov has another coughing fit, and it takes a good three minutes for him to recover his breath.
"Before the Enterprise, sir." Between the stuttering and the slurring, it's almost impossible to understand him, but Jim manages. Five or six minutes. They can make it. They can make it.
Chekov wheezes and continues. "I was moved from grades too fast, and – yobany stos! - when I moved to the Academy, I was not yet...I was younger."
Chekov slumps forward again. He's wheezing with every breath, and it doesn't sound good. But he's still breathing. They can make it.
"That was before," Chekov says, right next to Jim's ear. His hands slacken their hold on Jim's shirt.
Jim starts running as soon as the clearing comes into view in the distance, ribs and legs and lungs be damned, because Chekov is still breathing.
And, in the end, they make it.
"It's a sled."
"I see that." Jim gazes at the contraption with something between concern and awed excitement. "But why is there a rocket on it? I thought they stopped making those things a century ago."
Scotty grins. Sometimes when Scotty smiles like that, Jim remembers this one time his mother took him on a trip to Mexico. There were some mummies he'd seen there with that exact same expression.
They had not seemed nearly so creepy, at the time.
"It's a rocket-powered sled, captain."
Jim remains unconvinced, but the thought of McCoy sitting snugly in the cabin and watching them with a pair of binoculars - and a whole lot of glee – makes him take another step towards the sled.
Scotty's grin widens.
"It's perfectly safe; I designed it myself on Delta Vega."
Jim sighs. Maybe he's been spending too much time around McCoy lately, but he's not going to be able to finish his paperwork tonight if he's recovering from a concussion, and he has that meeting with the ambassador in two days, for which he'd rather not have any broken bones...
"Aww, come on, Captain. You don't mistrust the engineering, do you?" The grin is gone, replaced by a half-suspicious frown. "It'll be fun – and it's my first shore leave since leaving that god-forsaken planet, and I need to see her in action to fix her up better for Keenser."
Before he can tell himself not to, Jim flings himself forward and straps his legs to the sled.
If he can trust the man to fix the Enterprise, he can trust him to jerry-rig a sled.
Yes. Yes, he can.
Scotty's grin returns full-force, and he toggles a button on his remote control.
"Thanks, Captain!" he yells, laughing, though Jim barely hears it over the sound of the rocket.
Yeah, sure, anytime, Jim thinks.
He sees her go down, hit on the head by a falling beam, but he's not close enough to shove her out of the way – or do anything but yell and fail to warn her.
Though he will later say he kept himself calm and collected throughout the mission, Jim starts panicking after Uhura reaches the four-minute mark without waking up.
"Come on, you can do this, Lieutenant. Wake up. Wake up." Jim squeezes her hand and feels for her pulse again. It's there, and strong, but she's still unconscious. "If you don't wake up right now, I'll call you Nyota."
"In front of Spock."
Uhura's eyelids flutter ever so minutely. Jim feels a sudden spike of hope rush through him.
"And I'll tell him about that time you got infected with that pollen and tried to-"
Uhura blinks, moans, and blinks again.
"Oh thank God," Jim says, silently vowing to never, ever mention the pollen thing when she's conscious. "How're you doin', Lieutenant?"
Uhura takes a deep breath and covers her eyes with her hand. "Captain?"
"You got knocked out during the last quake, when you were translating the command codes." Kirk moves aside her hand and shines his penlight at her eyes. Her pupils are huge. Oh, Bones is not going to be happy. "Think you can finish it?"
Uhura uses his knee as leverage and sits up. She wobbles, but steadies in a minute.
"You all right?"
Uhura nods her head, opens her mouth to say something, and vomits all over his boots.
Jim pats her back and makes sure her hair is safe. "Take your time, Lieutenant, there's no rush."
He means it – until he finishes speaking, and the bunker suddenly starts shaking again. It doesn't last as long as the last time, but the floor trembles and the roof makes several troubling creaking sounds.
"Okay, maybe you should hurry it up a bit. Can you stand?"
Uhura turns to him, eyes all confusion. "Captain? What – what happened?"
Jim puts one arm around her arm and the other around her waist and hoists her up to her feet as gently as he can. It's a testament to her mental state that she doesn't immediately break his fingers.
"You got knocked out in the earthquake. We need to translate these tablets to get the door open. Can you manage?"
Uhura rests her hand against the table and nods, and Kirk leaves her to see if he can't rewire the door controls, or at least pry the damn thing open with a detached ceiling beam.
When he comes back to Uhura with a broken bar and an even more broken index finger and not even one dent in the door to show for it, Uhura hasn't moved.
"I-I can't concentrate, sir. The symbols look familiar, but I just can't think how..."
The ground shakes again, harder this time, and Jim has to grab Uhura with both hands to keep her from falling.
"Okay." They can do this. They'll make it in time. "Okay, we'll just – they've got to be similar to something you studied before, right? So try and think of any writing that had a similar shape."
Uhura frowns. "I don't-"
"Just the shape." There's a rumble somewhere, deep underneath their feet, and Jim swears under his breath. They don't have time. "Think, Lieutenant."
"It's...similar to Yridian, in a way, but there's something...off...I'm trying, but I don't-I can't tell what it means."
The crack in the ceiling splits a bit more, and a shower of dust rains down on them. Kirk raps his hand against the nearest tablet and winces when it jars his finger.
"Right. Well – it's obviously a control center, and Yelvin said the command code for the door was written on one of these, so maybe they're in sets – letters or numbers?"
Uhura starts to shake her head vehemently, but stops mid-shake and rests her head on her hand. Jim makes sure he's out of vomit range and pats her on the back.
"No, this is more like...like concepts, or ideas of – wait! This one – I've seen it before, somewhere, I can't remember. The xenolinguistics club, maybe, but I just can't..."
"Cuneiform...we did a section on it two semesters ago. There was Yridian, Ancient Yridian, Proto-Romulan, Ancient Denobulan, Seventeenth-century-"
"Denobulan!" Uhura lifts her head, though the movement seems to make her dizzy, and drags one of the tablets closer. "The Denobulan symbol for pathway was – god, I can't – wait – it was like this, a square with eight circles in the corner, but if you combine that with the Ancient Yridian for 'gateway,' you put four circles on the outside and end up with 'door." Finger shaking, she points to a line of symbols next to the one she just described. "It's this one. It has to be."
Kirk grabs the tablet with one hand and wraps the other around her waist, half-dragging her to the door with him, and not a moment too soon. As soon as they're out the door and up the steps, the earth starts trembling again, and this time the bunker collapses in on itself.
Kirk grins. "Good job, Lieutenant."
Uhura smiles, hugs him, and promptly throws up on his shoulder.
"Pardon me if I am mistaken, Captain, but did you not say you wished to run this ship 'like any other captain in the Federation?"
Jim tilts the chair back, taps the armrest, and smiles. "And?"
"And I am not aware of any other captain in the Federation who makes it a point of opening the day by announcing his crew members' birthdays, sir."
"Come on, Spock, think of it as a way to-"
"And I believe it might be damaging to crew morale to hear the first officer referred to as "The grand poobah of the science department."
Jim sighs and wishes he had a pair of magic red slippers right now. Then he could just say 'I want to go somewhere good and happy and not completely soul-sucking' and bam, just like that, be in the sickbay. With bourbon. And a cute nurse who doesn't mind playing 'doctor.' Though the slippers wouldn't really match the uniform. And Spock would probably come up with some regulation concerning the proper wearing of uniforms while on duty.
"Furthermore, many of the crew aboard this ship, myself included, consider their date of birth private information and would prefer not to have it broadcast over the intercom with the suggestion to 'give the old boy a good slap on the back today."
Now, if Spock were wearing sequined red slippers and ankle socks, he would probably give a mighty Vulcan sniff and carry them off with aplomb.
"I'll take your suggestions into consideration, Mr. Spock. Anything else?"
"Two more things. One, it is highly improper for a captain to ask his subordinate if she 'got her boyfriend a really good gift this year' in a sexually suggestive tone."
Jim sighed again. Teasing Uhura had been irresistible, but the tongue-lashing and the cold shoulder she'd given him had more than taken the fun out of it.
"Yes, I apologized to the lieutenant, Spock. Twice." And probably a few more times before the day was out, if Bones got word of it. "The second thing?"
Spock sniffed, and his eyebrow arched up automatically. His face seems slightly greener, and if Jim didn't know better, he'd almost call it blushing.
"As you are well aware, today is my birthday."
"Though we do not consider it so momentous an occasion as humans, it is customary, on Vulcan, to take a meal with one's...family. However, as my father is not in the immediate area, and as Lieutenant Uhura has taken it upon herself to celebrate, which I can hardly refuse, I find it necessary to make certain allowances. So if you and Dr. McCoy would accept our invitation to dine in our quarters tonight, I would be gratified."
Jim blinks, pinches himself, and blinks again. Spock eyes him warily. And then his eyebrow arches up even further.
"And if you thought it advisable to bring Mr. Scott, Mr. Sulu, and Mr. Chekov, along with the alcohol they have bought me as a present, I would not object."
Spock turns and walks off before Jim can say anything, but Jim's already going over the possibilities.
Forget the ruby slippers. Party in Spock's room?
Jim feels hotter than he ever has, but he can't stop himself from shivering. His head is throbbing so much his eyes hurt even though he can't open them, and his arms and legs are aching and way too heavy for him to move.
"We're almost there, Cap'n," Scotty says from somewhere at his feet. The stretcher jolts suddenly, and the spike of pain through his stomach makes him throw up in his throat a little, but he manages to keep it down. He's not sure he could move his head if he needed to.
"The shuttle is in sight," Spock says somewhere near his head, so softly that Jim can barely hear it, but so loudly that it makes his head thrum.
Jim thinks he blacks out, because the next thing he hears is Bones' voice as the doctor eases him down to the shuttle floor.
"I've got him, I've got him, is he – Hey, Jim, I've got you, we're going home." There's the sound of cloth being ripped apart, and Jim feels the cold air as it hits his now-exposed flesh. It makes him feel like his skin's crawling.
"Good God, Jim, what'd they do to you?" he hears Bones mutter under his breath.
And then Bones pokes at some of the broken skin on his stomach, and Kirk moans because it is excruciating. It feels worse than when the priest was torturing him, like his stomach is tied up in knots and getting poked with red-hot iron. His teeth grind together and he tastes blood in his mouth, his hands fist against the stretcher and the nails that haven't been cut for too long – four days and eighteen hours, if the priest hadn't been lying – bite into his palms.
"Hold still, damn it!"
I'm not moving, Kirk wants to say, but can't bring himself to unclench his teeth long enough. And then, when the shuttle goes into a nosedive and he slides several feet down the floor towards the cockpit, he realizes Bones wasn't talking to him.
"I'll get us out of here," Sulu says from several yards away. He sounds determined.
"I will adjust navigation equations to account for the magnetic field, as possible," Chekov says in a strained voice as the floor shuttle starts shaking violently. "Mr. Scott, the engines are-"
Then Bones touches Jim's stomach again, and grips something, and Jim's nerves are on fire and there's molten lead running up and down his throat. Jim whimpers.
The next minute or two are a blur. Jim can hear Sulu swearing at the controls, Scotty swearing at the engines, Chekov swearing at his padd, Uhura yelling through her comm in that funny language the aliens spoke, and McCoy cursing violently at whoever packed his kit and didn't pack the sedative. It's loud and jumbled and hilarious, and Jim would be laughing if there weren't drowning on his own blood.
And then there's a low, calm voice that says "If I can be of service, doctor," and a movement next to Jim's head, and then the feeling of long, cool fingers ghosting over his neck and probing, oh so gently, to find the right nerves. And then the floor stops shaking and the others stop swearing, and Uhura says in a voice of relief, "They're letting us go."
And as Spock's fingers pinch that area right between his jugular and his shoulder blade, Jim stops fighting and lets himself go. He'll chew them out later for rescuing him in the first place – and they'll probably kill him out of exasperation – but for now, he's good and safe.
His friends have got his back. He doesn't need more of a guarantee than that.