This is based on an absolutely wonderful piece of artwork by seiko_assasin on deviantART, called Too Close Jimmy Boy. You can find a link to it in my profile. I must give a million thanks to her for allowing me to use the artwork as inspiration, and, of course, I am dedicating this fic to her!
Beguile is the best beta a girl could ask for.
"What the hell did you do this time, Jim?"
It is not that it is surprising to find James T. Kirk bleeding. If that were the case, Leonard McCoy would have lost his sanity years ago when he first made acquaintance with the young man and his propensity for physical trauma. Nor is is unusual to find Captain James T. Kirk bleeding, for sending the young man into outer space only thrust him into more inevitable stories where his blood serves as punctuation.
So when the captain emerges from the shuttlecraft bleeding from a wound on his arm and walking with a hitch in his step, McCoy hides his accustomed concern with a guise of annoyance.
But there is a certain glaze to the captain's normally vibrant eyes and telltale strain in the set of his jaw that speak volumes to McCoy. They tell him that the kid is obviously hiding more injury than he is showing outright.
"Not now, Bones," Kirk snaps, holding up a hand to push McCoy away as the doctor steps forward with his tricorder.
"Shut up," McCoy fires back, his eyes fixed on the scanner to avoid Kirk's petulant expression.
He knows better than to try and pry the answers from the captain, but it does not take a medical degree to tell him that, in the Jim Kirk book of captaincy, 'diplomatic endeavor' usually translates to 'see how long it takes before it all goes to shit and the alien kicks his ass.'
The only outward injury McCoy can detect is the vicious wound on Kirk's right arm. The majority of the sleeve of his uniform is missing, tapering in a ragged edge, and a primitive bandage, obviously assembled in haste, encircles his arm from below the elbow to his bicep. Its purpose is aesthetic at best, however, as it is already stained dark with blood, and Kirk has the limb curled to his abdomen awkwardly.
"You must've really pissed them off," McCoy snaps, unable to contain his sardonic tone.
"What can I say. I'm a fighter," Kirk hesitates as his breath hitches, "not a diplomat."
"You're thick-headed is what you are."
Kirk makes an attempt to move away and McCoy shoulders him back into position. "Stop it."
"Bones, they're going to attack us."
McCoy's eyes flick up to meet the captain's, though he manages to keep his expression neutral only through a steeled nerve. His gut goes cold, and the lines on the captain's face more than detail the severity of the situation, but McCoy knows his job more than he cares about Kirk's at the moment.
"Your arm is about to fall off," he adds when Kirk threatens him with narrowed eyes, "Spock can handle this, Jim."
The sounds of a red alert reverberate throughout the ship, and the Enterprise trembles beneath their feet as if from a large and distant sound.
Kirk sidesteps, his expression dark and serious. "Bones, let me get to the bridge, and that's an order."
"Let me take a look at your arm, and that's an order." McCoy replaces his tricorder and stands with his arms akimbo. "I've got that authority, remember. Don't make me use it."
Kirk shoulders his way past McCoy and makes an attempt at a dignified escape, but injury has made his knees week and his gait unsteady. McCoy sidles next to him, supporting him on his good arm just as the younger man begins his unfortunate descent to the floor. Kirk hangs his head with a curse.
"Jim . . ."
"Walk with me, Bones."
"Dammit, Jim!" McCoy hisses.
"No, Bones. I'm not losing her." He motions with his free arm to the empty space around them, to the walls of the Enterprise. "You come with me, or I go without you."
McCoy knows there is no arguing with Jim when he is like this, short of stabbing a sedative into his neck. The red alert blares on, a constant tempo in time with his beating heart, and the ship trembles again. The scream of twisting metal echoes from a distant corridor, and McCoy forces his attention to stay focused on the captain.
The journey from the shuttle dock to the bridge will take considerable time, and time is something that the Enterprise and her captain simply do not have.
Kirk tries to take the lead while McCoy tries to hold him back, two opposing forces that will never be in equilibrium. Their trek through the halls, through the organized chaos of a ship in red alert, is slow and laborious for the intermittent trembling of the vessel beneath their feet. Every injury to the Enterprise seems to drag her captain down further, and he curses between his teeth at the sound of every distant explosion.
They have yet to reach the halfway point when the Enterprise lurches as if in her death throes, and the sickening sounds of destruction rampage through their hall as the ship begins to break apart. Every light along the corridor explodes in unison, and the hallway is bathed in pristine white that fades into an inky semi-darkness. The floor seems to drop several inches with a force that rattles McCoy's teeth, and he loses his footing. The captain, already unsteady beside him, carries away from him with a groan of surprise, the murmur of a sentence dying on his lips.
McCoy will never forget that agonizing feeling as Jim slips from between his fingers.
He has a very distinct memory from medical school, of a night of childish hilarity when he helped to egg a house. Were it not for the mysterious ways of human recollection, the thought would have no purpose in his mind. The sound of the projectiles as they expelled their contents when their fragile exteriors could no longer support them echoes as a dull and liquid-like sound in his ears.
It is the same sound he hears as inertia slams Jim's head against the wall.
McCoy can detect a plume of blood blossoming across the darkened surface before the force of the lurching ship throws him to his knees. Jim falls without a sound, and the ceiling collapses around him as everything belches sparks and oily smoke. McCoy screams something, but a close explosion down the hall steals his words and throws them into the chaos.
It is amazing how, even after thousands of years, the human race is still unable to decipher the secrets of adrenaline. Of how a simple hormone, hearkening back through millennia into the dark and clouded origins of human history, can drive the body beyond the limits of normal biological endurance. Of course, the chemical pathways are well documented, but the fact that Leonard McCoy can cross a debris-riddled hallway in three great steps and lift a slab of heavy metal off the body of his captain before his brain can even register that he is moving is a testament to the mysteries of the human body that three thousand years of science has yet to understand.
He grapples the debris with both hands and lifts it, throwing it aside as if it were weightless. His muscles burn with a pain he can not feel, because there is a more powerful agony raging in his chest, writhing there like a living entity. It has been years since anyone, anything, has affected him more than James Tiberius Kirk, and not since he took his wedding vows has he felt so much fidelity for one person. That oath ended in tragedy. He is determined to make sure that this one does not.
Kirk is curled in the corner where the wall meets the floor, his injured arm jammed beneath him and the remainder of his limbs twisted in a macabre way that, for a moment, does not seem physically possible. He looks broken, a disillusioned impression of how a body should appear. He groans and attempts to force himself upright, but it seems that his brain is cut off from his body. His limbs rattle uselessly under his weight and he plummets, utterly still, to the floor again.
McCoy drops to his knees beside Kirk, a hand on the younger man's back, and bellows his name.
The space around them tilts violently as another impact threatens to send the ship rolling. McCoy throws out one arm against the bloodied surface of the wall to keep himself from collapsing, but his hand can not find purchase on the slick area, and he collides unceremoniously with Kirk in a conjoined heap on the floor. Wire and tubing and remnants of the ship's innards rain down on them, and McCoy spits foul pieces of metallic debris from his mouth as he forces himself to a sitting position. He can feel something hot and sticky against his face and dares to bring his hand to it—it is blood, Jim's blood, running down his cheek.
It takes the sound of Kirk coughing to jar McCoy from his momentary paralysis. The body at his side makes a dissociated sound, halfway between a moan and a coherent word, and Kirk's limbs tremble of their own accord. The sensation of movement sends a shiver straight through to McCoy's core. There is blood trickling from the corner of Kirk's mouth, and McCoy catches a curse in his throat as he sees it.
McCoy wraps one arm around Kirk's shoulders, lifts him from the floor, and leans together with him against the wall. The ship starts trembling again, and he reacts out of instinct to pull the injured man closer because he can think of nothing else to do. Determined, McCoy attempts to get to his feet with the captain, but fails, slipping on a floor that is thick with dust and debris and covered in blood.
"Help me out here, Jim."
Kirk's eyes swirl reflexively in the direction of the voice, but they are frighteningly vacant and distant. He seems to look at McCoy without really focusing on him before his head snaps back as he loses the strength to support himself. McCoy's arms reach out instinctively, clawing at Kirk's uniform to simply keep him upright.
"Jim." Only years of medical training can force his voice to remain level. "Jim, I need you to stay awake for me."
Kirk slumps, but McCoy can see his lips moving, attempting to form a word though his throat lacks the strength to make it. The doctor can read his lips. Kirk mouthes the doctor's epithet, Bones, before consciousness leaves his body like a heavy weight from his chest, and he falls completely still.
A massive explosion rips the ship apart perhaps only a few decks below them. The floor beneath McCoy's feet trembles, and he can feel it reverberate through his bones, and he finds that, despite the thousands of other people on in danger on the Enterprise, he can only bring himself to focus on Jim Kirk.
His hand supports the side of Kirk's face, and he traces an abrasion across the younger man's cheek.
"Jim." He moves his hand to the captain's shoulder, squeezing tightly because he can not bring himself to shake the man. "Dammit, don't do this!"
He knows that should not panic, because if there is one constant in this universe, it is that Jim Kirk, regardless of his body's intentions, will always find a way to survive. But the way the Jim feels now, limp and cold and hollow in his arms, sucks all the rationality from his body in a way he never thought possible.
He forces his hand to release Kirk's shoulder and slams it against the comm panel just above his head. How fate conspired to make them land within arms reach of it he will never comprehend, but he lunges at the buttons as if they are the last link to his sanity.
"Spock, you need to get us the hell outta here!"
The ship rattles and more debris rains down. McCoy cannot see for the smoke and the dust, but something large and metallic sweeps past his head, and he lunges away with Jim, pulling the latter close against his chest as another piece of the ceiling collides with the floor only inches from them both.
"--Attack--" and the communicator lapses into static.
"We've got a problem here, dammit!" He does not care whether or not his voice carries to the communicator or if the device is still functional. His scream is one of an inward frustration, of the futility of the situation, and the finality of death he can not control.
"Jim's hurt something fierce and you need to get us out of here before they blow the ship apart!"
Reverting to his native Southern drawl is something his does reflexively in times of stress. He can not hear the difference, but it adds a frightful, foreign edge to his voice.
The ship shudders again, and Jim makes a thready moan in his arms. His head lolls and all McCoy can see are the whites of his eyes before his entire body falls still again.
"Dammit, Spock! Now!"
McCoy hears a frantic ghost of a scream echo down the ruined corridor, and it is only after the communications panel vanishes amid a shower of sparks that he recognizes the voice as his own.
Medical bay is overwhelmed with the wounded and absent the presence of its Chief Medical Officer, but it is possible to detect the arrival of the latter to his post for the simple reason that Leonard McCoy is yelling and cursing loud enough to cut through the chaotic din.
The doors slide open to reveal a horrific sight, one that, for a moment, freezes all movement in the room.
Doctor McCoy is covered in blood, but none of it is his.
He is holding the crumpled and limp form of Captain Kirk, draped in his arms, and the latter is barely recognizable for the terrible injury at his hairline and the profuse amount of blood that is responsible for the stains on McCoy's clothing.
There are no extra hands to help him, for every member of his staff is currently engaged in triage and critical care. As much as the doctor wants to will it differently, there are injured men and women on the ship other than the dying man in his arms.
Nurse Chapel skitters past him, a hypospray and several bottles clutched in her hands. She looks at him, and her eyes go wide for only a moment. She is suddenly barking orders in a voice McCoy has never heard her use before. She all but throws the contents of her arms across the room to another nurse, and McCoy could kiss her for her ability to remain so stoic when he feels his powers of emotional restraint have suddenly become obsolete.
She looks at the captain, and says, in that neutral way of hers, "take him to the surgery room, doctor."
McCoy promptly ignores her attempt to help with the captain, because he could carry Jim forever if necessary. The young man feels weightless in his arms. But the suffocating weight of apprehension, one that he fears will never be lifted, falls heavy on his heart. It is this inward struggle that he must fight alone, and one he does not know if he has the strength to win.
To Be Continued