By Alone Dreaming
Rating: M or R for descriptive sickness, sexual references, disturbing imagery, extreme language, inflamatory topics, poorly informed opinions, and a lot more.
Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek. If I did, this would not be posted under fan fiction
Warning: Probably the crudest story I have written to date. See above. It pretty much covers it. This is limited to almost shameless Jim whumping and consequential recovery. Really, there's not much of a plot.
Dedicated: To Potterwatch and JCassie241 for giving me ideas. Thanks.
Author's Note: This is a direct sequel to Five to One and is fairly crude, even to my mind, so be warned. It deals with part of the recovery process for the crew and for Jim Kirk. All and any spelling/grammar errors can be blamed on this marvelous website because I used their ABC check this time. Hopefully, it is not so bad. So, read and enjoy.
Something tickling the inside of his throat awakens him and he coughs a bit to rid himself of it. When that does not help-- actually, it exacerbates the situation-- he swallows only to find that his mouth is gravel dry. His tongue has a rock like consistency and the roof of his mouth is papery. It's an irritating state of affairs, one that he usually associates with being a little too friendly with the bottle, even though he knows he hasn't gotten drunk in two and a half months. No, this is actual, for real, possibly deadly, severe dehydration that he's enjoying and it fucking sucks for many reasons beyond the fact that his throat itches. He swallows air again and it hits his stomach hard, painfully and reminds him that desert mouth and throat are not the only things he's contending with. The air spreads into his stomach and sends him into such agony that he's curling into a ball in order to escape it. His knees touch his middle, making things worse, but he's out of energy to move more. Pressure is bad, he decides with an audible groan, pressure is very bad. His insides already have rearranged themselves, pressing against his skin in an attempt to escape into the big wide world and no matter how many times he reminds them that they won't survive long without his protection, they keep at it. Something is displacing them, he knows, forcing their impossible evacuation, shoving them away from where they fit. So when his other knee touches his middle, it hurts not because his stomach's sore but because he's literally just touched his stomach and flattened it further. His mind's blank for appropriate words so he decides that fuck sums up everything and repeats it over and over and over again, a profanity laden litany in his brain.
Someone is a good Samaritan and pulls his legs down, straitening him back out on a silky surface. If he wasn't slowly exploding, he would've been more pleased with the feeling of clean cloth on his body. It's been so long since he's felt something smooth and new touching him and even the typically rough material of the stretcher is heavenly. Anything would be when compared to the dirty rock floor he's spent the last seventy plus days curled up on. His skin, prickling and strangely numb towards his extremities, savors it as a gentle companion. Another pleasure, a cushion under his head, would never be taken for granted again. How strange it had been to not have a pillow; he never noticed before how difficult it was to sleep without one. It crackles as his head twitches back and forth but it gives him support and separates him from the hard floor. He won't just take it over nothing-- he'll take it with pleasure. If he never gets another pillow, it would be fine just to keep the thin, allergen free thing that's holding him now. He'll never turn his nose up to the pathetic objects Starfleet claims are standard cushions again.
There's a bug whizzing over his head which makes him nervous. The bugs here are bad news if they decide to bite; he's been stung once and once was all he needed to know that he never wanted to be stung again. When it happened, he did not swell up as per usual but instead found himself paranoid, delusional and unable to understand his surroundings. He'd relived some of his worst memories in vivid color as though the abuse was occurring to him right at the moment. Rationality-- not what Spock considered it to be, so full of logic and bullshit processing, but being able to reason and understand-- fled him and left him in a cold miserable place. In that time, the panda bit him more than once, the guards beat him in order to stop his shouts and he reenacted the most horrible things that ever happened to him, guest starring his own twisted mind. Coming to afterwards was just as bad because he felt weak, jittery and disturbed. Of course, the physical maladies did not help much either. He knows that he does not want that to happen again and when the buzzing comes close to his face, he tries to lift his arm to bat the beast away. Hit it before it can sting you and you are safe, he reminds himself as his body protests movement and his middle tries to erupt. He doubts he'll survive a mental beating in his condition.
The bug departs not because he smashes it but on its own accord and something grasps his hand. He gasps, frightened that the panda may have turned carnivorous while he lay feverishly dreaming of his crew finally saving him, and tries to tug it away. His fingers are nice, he likes them where they are and he doubts that the facility he's being held it is able to reattach limbs. Bones could, he thinks as the thing holds on hard-- or maybe he's not really pulling that well-- but Bones is not here and neither is his beautiful medical technology. Would he still be able to captain with one arm? He doesn't know which makes him a little bit frantic and gives him enough strength to yank his fingers free. He rolls to the side, slowly, and his stomach touches the ground. It thrusts him into a stupor where there are little bits of Jim Kirk everywhere, drifting and screaming and begging for someone, anyone, to give him a goddamn hypo. The buzzing bug comes back, clearly trying to decide which piece of him will be the tastiest and settles on a section of his neck. It makes a weird hiss-click sound and he awaits for the torment to worsen. A second passes, then another and his body starts to reassemble itself. A full minute goes by and the next thing he knows, he's whole and not seeing Tarsus or his step father or lightning storms. In fact, he feels almost okay, his midsection a minor discomfort and all his little hurts distant memories. The bug, silent this time, stings him again and his chest loosens-- he had not realized how tight it was before-- so that he can breath more comfortably. What a friendly little bastard, he thinks. Why hadn't this one stung him in the first place? It would've been nice. Another pinch in his neck doesn't do much and neither does the fourth but that's okay. He's thankful for the little bit he's been given and even peels open his eyes so he can see his savior.
It's not a bug. No, hovering over him is a person-- a human person-- who looks angry, frightened, determined, frantic and dismayed all at once with his face wrinkled and his eyebrows dipped down. There's another person next to him, blond, equally concerned, and blue eyed. She's handing the person things in rapid succession and he's using them even faster. A mask is fixed onto Kirk's face, which is annoying, and a penlight-- fucking penlight from hell, who uses fucking penlights anymore, goddamn it-- flickers across his eyes. The person leans in closer, a little relief adding to his expression, and Kirk recognizes him.
"Bones," he acknowledges into the mask and is sure that it sounds more like a mutilated cat trying to meow. Could it really be Bones? Or is it all a trick? He remembers walking across the bridge, being let free, but he also remembers hallucinating his life on the wall. It's so hard for him to separate reality from dreams anymore that he's wondering if maybe he was stung by another bug earlier and this is just a cruel trick. There's no way to be certain if previous bug stinging is an experience to go by. Previously he'd actually thought he'd been in the given situations, actually moved with fake people and touched fake things and received fake wounds. Oh God, if this could be real, how relieved he would be to know that his friend is here, now, fixing whatever is wrong with him with Christine Chapel, best goddamn nurse in the world because it's only the best on the Enterprise, at his side. But he cannot be certain about anything. His throat itches and he coughs, unstoppably, dragging in sickly wheezes and getting a bit lightheaded. At least, this sting, if it is that, does not cause him as much pain. He doesn't hurt really at all.
Bones slows his actions and looks at him, really, truly looks at him and his entire expression relaxes. It's still worried, upset, and everything but now, the relief is predominate. He lets his hand stop for a moment on Kirk's upper arm and squeezes. Is it just Kirk, or are his eyes filled with tears? He speaks and it comes out fairly warbled but Kirk can understand it. This is not a memory like the bug gave him before. This is something fully unique, something he's never heard before. These are not inflections he's used to from his friend, not emotions he could apply to Leonard McCoy on his own.
"We've got you, now," Bones says. "It'll be okay, kid. It's all going to be okay."
He's not sure he agrees but he doesn't voice that. He focuses on the fingers, rough pads touching his arm, and realizes that they are warm. He can even feel a pulse thrumming in them, a steady thump, thump, thump. It's reassuring and he's tempted to think that this has actually happened, that he's going home to his Enterprise and his people. His vision sputters suddenly, greying, blackening then coming back into focus and by then, Chapel's switched sides, no longer next to McCoy but on her own side of his body. Her smile wavers, twists and Christine Chapel, the bitch from hell, the snot, the robot nurse, the girl who resists him-- not like Uhura does but just to prove that he's as sexy as he thinks he is and yes, there are women who won't ever give in-- at every turn, holds his numb hand and cries. It's silent tears, not really sad but, like Bones's face, a mixture of so many things at once that he can't decipher what it means. He's not sure he wants to-- he's baffled by the reaction because Christine Chapel doesn't cry about anything. Kill a puppy, kick a baby, chop off limbs, have people pass; Chapel's immovable, steady and cold. And now, she's crying like somebody informed her there's no such thing as Santa Claus or that God's actually a joke made up by the Corporation of Society. He must be out of his mind; it's the only explanation.
He drifts a bit because no one engages him beyond her and Bones. Bones is busy once more with his tricorder and Christine is silently rubbing his hand. He cannot feel her kneading it, but he's watching her so he knows it's happening. His hearing's gotten a bit better with passing time and he's aware of shuffling feet on the floor and of low voices. In the corners of his eyes, he imagines flashes of uniforms but has decided it's all part of the elaborate hoax in his mind. He'll take it though, just as he did the memories, because it's better than seeing an annoyed animal and grey prison walls. It's zen like, soothing and, honestly, almost what his heart desires. In his perfect world, he'd be sitting in the Captain's chair and exploring distant space as he was all those weeks ago. Being an invalid at the mercy of medical personnel with only the vaguest sensation that the rest of the crew is near certainly isn't that but it's close enough. If he's dying-- and there's no denying it if he's been stung again-- then he can happily pass this way. He doesn't want to because he wants the actuality of everyone instead of his mind's eye but at least he's not dying alone.
Spock appears-- he was wondering when the Vulcan would show up in a half-hearted, hazy manner-- next to Bones, as unmoved as always. His long, pale hands hover over Kirk's stomach and his eyebrows arch. McCoy looks away from Kirk for just a moment and their gazes meet. Silent communication is happening there, not the usual bitter fighting, but honest to God-- and he wouldn't've believed it if he hadn't seen it for himself-- actual, relevant wordless conversation. He did not think either of them were capable of it, as Bones is prickly as a pineapple and Spock, while he claims to be neutral, has the most passive aggressive attitude Kirk's ever seen. This is further proof that he's not seeing anything real, that this has come from his body's slow descent into death. They are both his friends, his good, true, loyal friends, but they will never be friends themselves. There's no place of relation for them, no way that they can set aside their differences and accept each other. McCoy can't stand Spock's ability to trump emotions with logic and Spock finds McCoy too volatile. Theirs is an epic, unending battle until judgement day.
"How is the Captain's status, Doctor?" Spock says aloud. His hand actually comes to rest on Kirk's stomach and sends a ripple of discomfort flowing through him. He squirms, Spock raises his hand away and McCoy's fingers wrap about Kirk's shoulders.
"I need to get him into surgery immediately," is Bones's response. "How much longer?"
"Clearance is... slow going," Spock informs him. "The current government is double checking the treaty once more and determining whether or not it was broken when the Captain was returned. There is some question about us having crossed into neutral territory." His eyes are again on Kirk's stomach. "How much longer can he wait?"
Bones runs a shaky hand down his face and his eyes are red-rimmed with exhaustion and tears. "Spock, I'll be plain with you. He's dying. I'm not sure if I could save him if I got him into surgery right here, right now. Even if I could go back in time and do it a couple of days ago, a week ago, I'm not sure it would've make a shit of a difference." His breath goes in shuddering and comes out choking.
"I do not understand," the Vulcan says though Kirk has a suspicion that he understands fine and is only saying it to pry out more information. After all, even in his semi-delirious state, Kirk knows what this means. Bones is an elite surgeon, a damn good doctor and a fine diagnostician. If he thinks that this is the end for Kirk, then it's the end. Too bad, he thinks, his eyes half-mast as he observes them. It would've been nice to have sex one more time before he died, or to call his mom and say that he loved her, or to respond to Sam's letter, lying in his inbox for months, or to tell Chapel that he really did think she was beautiful, not just sexy or to beat Spock at Chess or-- there were so many other ors. But everyone has regrets when they die, he concludes. His greatest one is that he's going out like a bit of a pussy, lying in a holding cell, dying from a bug bite, dehydration, lack of nutrients and general abuse. He would've preferred epic battle or something ludicrous like tribbles. Too many people have died due to neglect as prisoners of war. He doesn't want to be one of them.
"The tricorder keeps saying he's pregnant," Bones's voice cracks as he talks. And he scowls internally because he's not fucking pregnant. He couldn't be. The last bit of sex he had was with a girl who was human and that was months ago. The panda never violated him, the guards hadn't touched him and unless the bricks he slept on somehow inseminated him, he knows he can't be pregnant. "Obviously not true," Bones continues and he thinks, damn straight. "All it can pick up is something growing inside of him. It's right-- there's something growing in his stomach or intestines which is pushing all of his other organs out of the way. It's literally crushing him from the inside out, sucking all the nutrients out of his system, draining him. I don't think it's sentient or humanoid. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say it was a plant but," and he suddenly stops and ducks his head. "Goddamn it."
"I see," Spock says in that tone that means quite a bit more. Chapel's stroking his forehead and he lets himself focus on her, how she isn't pretty when she cries but that's okay, and how he wishes she wasn't crying. He'd rather see her as she normally is, unmade up, her hair pulled into a messy bun, a PADD in her hand as she swoops from bed to bed. He likes her that way, not like this, not mourning. Honestly, he finds it all to be uncomfortable because he hates being fussed over and mourning for the loss of him is definitely a form of fussing when he's still alive, hearing and seeing everything that's occurring. "You will be back in your sick bay within thirty minutes, Doctor." And Spock's gone again, leaving him in the company of one very upset doctor and a weepy nurse. He wishes the Vulcan would return because he's the only one who seems remotely the same. Even with the strange eye talk he had with Bones, he's more Spock-like than Chapel is Chapel-like or Bones is Bones-like. He's actually reassuring in his detachment from the situation because he's almost real. It must've been a slightly different bug that got him but the same basic concept. Instead of torturing him with the past, this bug's poison tortures him by warping what he thinks he knows into something else. He's not sure what's worse.
His eyes close and he lies in limbo, jostled only by Chapel's petting and McCoy's occasional shifting of his person. At some point, he's not really tracking time anymore, he's moved so that he's partially propped up. This is not pleasant-- it makes his stomach feel doubly tight and he trembles with half-present pain-- but that does not seem to matter to whoever's holding him. He wants to lie flat again so his last minutes, hours, whatever he has left, will at least be within reach of a mattress and pillow, even if they are a hallucination. The body he's pressed against is thin, almost bony, and too warm to be considered pleasant. It makes him acutely aware of how he can't feel his hands-- because he's trying to use them to get away-- and how his heart's doing a strange pattering in his chest-- beat, beat, pause, flutter, beat-- and that despite the fact that he really, really hates this, it's helping him take in air. His arm flops like a half-dead fish on a dock and then stops obeying his commands all together. His last comfort's been taken from him; he'd hoped, foolishly, that he'd at least be allowed a bed to die on. But he must've been too bad of a person to deserve even that; he never really thought on the idea of just desserts, that in the end, you pay for all your crimes. It's resting heavy on him at this point, calling out to him and saying, "This is for every fight you started for no reason, every item you stole, every car you crashed, every girl whose heart you broke, every person you betrayed." Maybe he should've been Catholic; he's heard confession prevents this sort of bullshit.
It's all interrupted by something creeping up his gullet. He tries to swallow it but even that basic reflex is not functioning properly. It continues it's ascent with slow and calculated movements, simultaneously strangling the air from his lungs and sitting on his heart. His heart's uneven staccato turns into a sort of drunken tap dance where the dancer is a wino monkey who's never grasped the biped idea. Then, the substance has enough and spews out of his mouth, onto him, onto the person holding him and probably anyone in the general vicinity. He doesn't have to be a doctor or even awake to know that whatever just happened was bad because it gets very loud around him just after the incident occurs. Everything tumbles about, words, bodies, emotions, sensations. Some of them brush against him, some of them don't; it's difficult to figure out what exactly each of the things are and he's lost the will to work at it. Any second now, he's going to come to in his box, with his animal roommate and pass on painfully into whatever exists after death. He's rather hopeful that it's a big, blank nothing so that he can actually get some rest. Maybe that's pessimistic, or depressed, but he can admit it's what he wants. God, heaven, angels, eternal paradise can suck it; he wants to sleep.
Focus on me, Captain.
He knows it's Spock reaching out to him which also informs him that this is the hallucination's last ditch attempt to keep him interested. If you don't play with the delusion, sometimes the delusion goes away. Feeding into it is what makes it stronger and more sincere. But this voice is pretty damn compelling and the only thing he's thought might be real in this fantasy is Spock. He wavers, teetering on the edge of a cliff which promises departure from where ever he is. Could it hurt to turn and speak? It's a valid question and he's willing to entertain it, as exhausted as he's become. Actual logical process is almost gone and what better to bounce ideas off than a Vulcan, even if it's just a Vulcan constructed out of his mind. He doesn't have much left to lose-- sanity's pretty much kissed him goodbye and life is seconds away from ending.
Fuck off, he replies. Come back to what? Prison? Pain? Christ, Spock, that's hardly logical.
You have been liberated, Captain. I am only requesting that you hold on to life.
Huh? he says. What do you mean 'liberated'?
We have secured your freedom. We only await for permission to be transported back to the Enterprise. It is but seconds away.
Wow. He's genuinely surprised and allows that to flow over the bond and at the same time, is completely incredulous. Too bad none of this is real.
Jim, my friend-- and those words confirm once and for all that this is just another branch of the hallucination-- this is not a figment of your mind. It is I, Spock, here with Doctor McCoy and Nurse Chapel and seven other members of the Enterprise crew. How can I convince you of this?
You can't, he tells fake Spock honestly. Sorry.
And he let's himself fall over the cliff, into the safety of rest, sleep and nothing. If someone catches him before he hits the bottom, he doesn't feel it.
The next chapter will be up once I have a moment to edit it thoroughly. It's not quite to my liking yet. It should be no later than Wednesday.