Title: Speak Through
Warnings: Some language, torture (though not detailed, more of a mention)
Summary: Jim has been taken hostage by a race of hostile aliens. Though his rescue goes off cleanly, and he begins to heal, the damage to his throat is sever enough to prevent speech. The chances are good that the damage is temporary….but the thought is on everyone's mind. What if it's not?
I've lost track of time. I've lost track of everything.
My arms…..hurt. My back. My head. My throat. More then anything, my throat hurts. Burns. I can't….can't breath right. It's hard, like breathing through a straw. Sitting up helps, so I lay with my upper body propped against one steel wall, even though it makes my back and ribs scream in protest.
Footsteps. I'm used to them by now, light footsteps, like a dancer. These people are truly beautiful. They move like water, and they look like birds.
They are sadistic and cruel. They cause pain because they can, hate humans because they see us as weak.
We were supposed to negotiate with them. I was not supposed to be the thing being negotiated for.
"Food." Says a voice, soft and piping, like music. "Captain."
I'm not hungry. I can't say so.
Even if I was, swallowing is nearly impossible. The door opens, and one of them comes in. Tall-taller then me (not hard), but towering even over Spock. Beautiful white feathers everywhere, and those wings- six, seven foot wings, folded against his back. Claws where fingernails should be and talons for thumbs-I know, I know so well what those talons can do, ripping through flesh and dancing dangerously close to the eye, could blind you, could kill you. A beak for a mouth, and eyes that are huge, expressive. Always purple. They all have violet eyes.
I shake my head at him. Like every other time I've said no, he ignores me. He-she? I can't tell- it no longer matters.
"Eat. You must eat, or you will die." He/she says, and if I could laugh, I would. I turn my head, and the creature sets the tray on the floor. "They will be displeased, if you die so soon, so easily."
Easily. I only wish it could be. I feel the cough before it explodes from my chest, ripping out of the narrow tube that is suddenly my throat. I double over, hacking, struggling to inhale, to stay conscious. Falling asleep, falling unconscious- that is when they like to come the most. When they like to wake you from it with a sharp jolt of agony, laughing and chatter in their own language when you jerk awake with a silent cry and lurching away from the claw, or weapon.
Can't pass out. Can't be vulnerable, here, like that.
Wheezing, I watch the creature watch me in fascination. They hate how weak we are but love how fragile; they want to destroy humans, rule us, own us, but we entertain them.
It's waiting, I realize, for me too loose the battle.
It's waiting for me to pass out.
Like a vulture, like a hyena. Quiet and patient and as it gets harder and harder to inhale, I know why.
Because I won't win.
My vision blurrs, dims, and the coughing won't stop, the pain won't stop, and all the stubborn will in the galaxy can't stop what happens next, no matter how hard I fight it.
They are not light, not a dancer's footsteps. They are quiet steps, quick, but not like theirs. I lift my head but it's hard; it feels like a heavy, lead weight. Voices that I know, and my eyes won't focus on the door but there is a presence that is familiar, somehow, something safe and comforting about it.
"Jim." Hisses the voice I know. "Aw, Jim, what did they do to you?"
I try to bring the face into focus, try to see the person it is that is so familiar to me. The chirp of a medical tricorder and concerned blue eyes bring it to light.
I'm looking at Bones.
He can't be here. I open my mouth to say, and the words catch painfully. I start to cough, and feel his hands on my shoulders.
He can't be here. He should be gone, with the ship, running far and fast. Away from me and away from here. He's in danger here. They're in danger, here. The ship- the crew-
"Easy, Jim, we're getting you out of here. You're safe, we're safe, just take it easy."
Not safe. Not safe, in danger and then he's moving me and pain spikes through my body. I cry out but no sound comes, and he's shushing me gently.
"Doctor, I suggest you hurry." Says another voice, Spock's voice, from the doorway. "We have attracted attention."
"He's……damn. Spock, it's bad, I can't-"
And the familiar hiss of a hypospray. I fight. I fight the darkness hard, because if I am gone they will come for Bones instead, Spock instead, the ship, my ship, my crew.
"Jim, come on, we're getting you out of here." The voice insists, Bones's voice insists, gentle and sorrowful.
There is no getting out, I want to say, but I can't say anything, so instead I push him, push him away. He shouldn't be here, they shouldn't be here, dangerous here-
The darkness threatens the edge of my vision. I can't pass out. Dangerous.
"Let it come, Jim, it's okay." Bones's hand on my shoulder, in my hair, petting. It's nice. His hand is warm, and I'm so cold, and he's gentle. It's been a long time since I've felt a touch that gentle.
"He's pretty out of it, Spock, he's fighting the sedative-"
"Then let me. Watch the door, please."
Rustle of movement. From the doorway, Bones- "Oh, hell-"
"Indeed." Spock's voice, close now. "Jim. I apologize."
A flare of discomfort in the place where shoulder meets neck, and I no longer have a say in sleeping.
"Captain's log: First Officer Spock in command.
What was intended to be a routine diplomatic mission to a recently discovered planet has quickly turned into a rescue operation.
The people are called Avios, and they are quite beautiful. Like their name suggests, they are very bird-like in appearance and life-style, preferring homes in the massive trees- the smallest being fifteen feet tall-of their planet. They themselves are tall and slender, with feathers that range from pure white to very green, some hybrid offspring boasting duel-colored plumage. They have claws upon both hands and feet, and six inch talons where their thumbs and largest toe would be. Clothing is optional, and not entirely necessary, as they appear to be sexless. Although, I assume they have their own way of discerning their genders.
They are a highly intelligent and artistic people, enjoying music, dance, art, and literature. They are curious, interested in development. They are also highly aggressive, with a deep-seated hatred of anything they perceive as 'weak'. For all their beauty and delicate appearance, the Avios are easily as strong as my own race, impossibly fast, tenacious, and recover swiftly from injury.
They heard us out, gave us food and drink, welcome us into their homes, and seemed very willing to cooperate with us. It was an enjoyable atmosphere, and perhaps if we had not…..
…..we did not notice the captain's absence until it was time to return to the Enterprise. The landing party consisted of myself, Doctor McCoy, Captain Kirk, security officers Garravik and Franklin, Ensign Chekov, helmsman Sulu, and Lieutenant Uhura. A large number of people, we were ordered to stay in pairs at the least. Disobeying his own orders, the Captain began to explore the nearby wooded area with two of the Avios, leaving Doctor McCoy and I. Moments later, he was gone.
They also took Chekov, Uhura, and Sulu in the resulting confrontation.
Garravik and Franklin were safely returned to the ship; doctor McCoy and myself remained on the planet, in communication with Engineer Scott, in command in our absence. Without hours, the later three were returned to us, badly hurt; reporting that the Captain had negotiated their freedom in return for a test of his own strength. That is what the Avios wanted. They do not wish peace, or cooperation.
They wish only entertainment for themselves by seeing how long humans will last before finally breaking. They wish humans tortured for their pleasure and killed. They see them as weak and frail, something to be destroyed.
It has been two weeks, and four days since we beamed aboard the Enterprise with our wounded landing party and without our Captain.
It has been two days and fifty-four minutes since Doctor McCoy and I found and rescued him from the Avios' holding cell.
The captain's wounds are grievous. Sever trauma to the face and head. Open, untreated wounds on his back, badly infected. Multiple broken bones, a dislocated shoulder. Massive blood loss, some internal damage. The worst seemed to be centered on his throat, however. His throat is swollen and badly bruised, and there seems to be some heavy tissue damage. It should-it will- heal in time. Until that time, our Captain is incapable of speech. Until he regains the ability, I am in command. Only until then."
The soft sound of human life just outside the doors wakes me first, and I jerk to alertness, don't open my eyes, don't move. I'm not there anymore. There is a soft bed under me, not a hard metal cot, and pillows, and a blanket draped over my body. I can't move; I'm strapped down. I'm not there, so why am I strapped down?
I stop, breathe, listen, lay still.
Whistle-squeal, asthmatic hiss, clicks, burst of laughter from somewhere outside my reality. Asthmatic hiss.
Doors. Automatic doors.
Automatic doors on what?
Whistle-squeal, piercing, harsh in the quiet. A voice, low, rumbling words I can't make out. A woman's voice answering.
Doors. The only doors that sound like that-
-are on starships.
It wasn't a dream.
I open my eyes.
I'm staring at the sterile white ceiling of my Enterprise. My arms are strapped to my sides in safety restraints, and my pulse speeds up, seeing it. What did I do? I have two pillows under my head, two blankets on me, and the temperature in the room is above ship-normal, almost to Spock's preferred temperature. I open my mouth to call for Bones-
-and pain rips through me. I start to cough, each one sending ripping agony down my throat to my entire body. I can't stop, I can't breathe. I push myself up on an elbow, gagging, and that hurts, too.
Running footsteps, and then McCoy's hand is on my back, lifting me, supporting me. He rubs gently, supports my head and offers me water, which I gratefully accept.
"Sips." He says, voice low and near my ear. "Little sips, Jim."
When I stop coughing, he laughs me back down, his machines beeping and whistling and sounding off all the dozens of little alerts that mean your stubborn, bull headed patient has tried something too strenuous too fast, doctor. Only, this time, I didn't.
I only tried to speak.
Panting, I look up at Bones, who is looking back down with concern in his eyes.
"Jim," He says, softly, "don't do that again. You've taken some serious damage to your throat. It'll heal, but it's going to take time."
I can't…..speak? I touch my throat tentatively, and notice the bandage on my hand. McCoy begins a rundown on just what the Avios did to me, and with each injury he lists, I remember the action taken to cause it. The claws ripping through my flesh, the clamps methodically breaking every. last. finger, the good old fashioned kicks when all else failed- and the thing they stuffed down my throat, something hot and squirming, that burned it's way down and was regurgitated later to hurt just as badly coming back up. A living creature, a worm with too many legs, as long as my hand.
And Bones says it will heal?
I turn my head and eyes from him, and he catches my chin in a firm, unyielding grip.
"Don't." He says, so feircly that my eyes widen. "Do not run away from me to find your Captain's mask, Jim Kirk."
Captain's mask? Only Bones would call it that. Only Bones would snarl at me for doing my job, for trying to gather myself and put away the pain and the cold, chilling fear.
I squeeze his hand once, fiercely. He seems satisfied, and his gaze softens. "Spock and I fought our way in." He says, reading the question in my eyes. He knows me well enough that I don't need words, not with Bones. "Spock found out where they were holding you with that mind-hoodoo he does. We got you out, back to the Enterprise, and we ran like rabbits with the hounds on our furry bunny butts."
I grin crookedly; he's trying. 'Spock'? I mouth, and he jerks a thumb towards the hall.
"On the bridge, doing your job for you, you lazy brat." He gives my arm a gentle smack. "I plan on keeping you down here for at least another two weeks-"
"And don't argue with me, Jim, you're hurt, you almost died, damn it."
And suddenly I'm less amused that he seems able to read my mind and more striken at what I see in his eyes.
Bones was scared for me.
"Damn it, Jim." He raps, sitting down abruptly. "You were bad. You'd lost too damn much blood. Your ribs were almost crushed. I nearly lost you twice just getting you out of there, and then-" He presses a hand to his mouth, a gesture that is more mine then his. "Then even when I got you up here, it was close. And Jim, you kept- you kept fighting us. I had to strap you down-" He motions to the restraints, now loose from me. "-and you still fought. You kept reopening injuries. You stubborn, self-sacrificing fool."
And then he's hugging me, once, quick and hard, and I tentatively bring my arms up, too until he lets go.
I'm sorry, Bones.
He searches my face, sees it. And I am sorry, but I'd do it again. I'd put myself in the place of my men, my friends, my family any chance you gave me. Bones would say it's selfish.
Maybe it is, I don't know.
But I'm sorry, and he sees it, and he also sees that it doesn't change anything.
"Aw, Jim." He says softly, standing slowly. "You scared me, you idiot. I don't like thinking I won't be able to put you back together. I don't like knowing one day-"
That hasn't happened yet. So like what I've said before, once before, to a pretty yeoman on a paradise world. You won't let it happen, Bones, you'll put humpty dumpty back together. Always do. Always will. You and Spock, you'll keep me together.
"Stop looking at me like that, damn it, I'm not a miracle worker!" But his hands are gentle as he removes the final restraint and uses his hands to confirm his medical readings. He's always been old-fashioned that way, but I think now he's doing it just to give us both comfort. He needs to know I'm here, and real, and alive; I need to know it, too. His touch sooths me, relaxes me. My Bones is here, and I'm on my Enterprise, and I am safe and healing and warm.
I am safe and healing, Bones. You saved me.
"Oh, get that snaky look off your face. Sir."
Ow! Bones, roughness with the hypo….is not…nessic….
For the fourth time, my world fades to black. This time, I don't fight the sleep. I am very tired.
And I am safe.