A/N: I started this fic after one of my many theatrical viewings of the new Star Trek movie. My exposure to Star Trek is very minimal, especially the original show and characters. I hope I have the characters right, as they are based solely on the 2009 movie. Constructive criticism is of course welcome, reviews greatly desired!

Breathe

Captain James Kirk grimaced as he examined his bruised neck in the bathroom mirror in his quarters aboard the USS Enterprise. They had cropped up within the last few hours, providing testament to the three pairs of hands that had recently tried to kill him. Luckily no one had seen them yet-he'd let himself sleep for four hours once things had settled down, but he couldn't afford to give his battered body any more rest.

With Captain Pike still in medical bay and the Enterprise at least a couple weeks away from arriving safely at Earth, he was needed on the bridge. This left him with the dilemma of how to cover up his neck without actually drawing attention to it. As it was, he was having a difficult (and painful) time even swallowing, which would make eating interesting. Briefly he thought about going to Dr. McCoy, or "Bones" as Jim fondly called him, who was now the chief medical officer on the ship. Bones could give him a hypospray injection, as he seemed to have one for everything. But under the circumstances, Jim decided a little pain wasn't something to make a big deal about. He'd be able to manage it on his own. McCoy had enough to deal with.

Jim sifted through the clothes in the small closet. Finally, he came upon a thin black turtleneck that would wear well under the yellow Starfleet shirt and hide every discoloration on his neck. With the reputation he held with his fellow officers, he knew they'd think he was merely covering up a hickey, and hence, aside from giving him looks ranging from amusement to disapproval, would say nothing. Perfect.

Pulling on the turtleneck, he winced as the fabric clutched his neck. He pulled at it uncomfortably, feeling like couldn't breathe. Suddenly, he wanted to take it off and leave his neck open and free, but he'd have to get used to it, because he didn't want anyone to see the dark and angry bruises he sported.

Once he was fully dressed, he headed straight up to the bridge, foregoing a stop for breakfast since he couldn't even swallow his own saliva. As he walked onto the bridge, he forced himself to keep his hands away from his neck, still uncomfortable with the close quarters his turtleneck was keeping. As suspected, a few of the officers smirked at the sight of the shirt. Uhura rolled her eyes, a frown deepening on her face. Spock gave away nothing.

"I trust we're all well rested," he said to everyone, wincing internally, and perhaps a little more externally than he'd admit, at the sound of his hoarse voice. Everyone looked over at him in bewilderment but he ignored them all as he took his seat in the captain's chair.

"Yes, Captain," Uhura eventually replied. Before turning in himself, Kirk had ordered everyone on the bridge to retire for a minimum of four hours for much needed rest. He was unsurprised they'd all come back as quickly as they could, and now the officers who had briefly stepped in for them were sleeping in their quarters.

Beside him, Spock was looking at him analytically, his eyebrow slightly lifted. "Are you all right, Captain?"

Jim didn't even look over. "I'm fine, thank you, Spock." His raspy voice disallowed the adamant resolution to the discussion he'd been going for. Spock nodded once, his face showing the slightest hint of suspicion, but he said nothing.

The captain had a feeling it wouldn't be the only time he was asked.


Kirk had been on the bridge for an hour, and Spock knew the captain wasn't wearing the turtleneck simply to hide the results of an encounter with a woman. The other officers on the bridge, who had seemed to assume the same thing he had when they first saw Kirk, appeared to know better now as well. The few times Kirk spoke, his voice barely came out above a whisper; the captain had now been completely silent for almost forty minutes.

Without the warp core, the Enterprise's position in the solar system put them at two and a half weeks from Earth going at their current speed. No other galaxy-class ships were near enough to come to their assistance, so Starfleet had dispatched some smaller ships to come out and assist. They would begin arriving in just under two hours.

No one wondered anymore whether Kirk had a future with Starfleet-after the events of the last day, no one would dare expel, or even suspend, the young captain. Spock intended to withdraw his complaint anyway. Kirk had proved himself, in spite of his impulsiveness and disregard for authority, and Spock, in spite of his own self, found himself respecting and even liking Jim. The guilt over their encounter yesterday had been creeping through, as well.

"Captain," Chekhov called from the front of the bridge. "It's time for the twelve-hour check-in with Starfleet."

"Given our speed and trajectory, we're right on course," Sulu replied, providing the information to be relayed to Starfleet, who wanted to know everything that was happening aboard the Enterprise in the two weeks it'd take them to reach Earth.

"Should I open a channel to them, Sir?" Chekhov wanted to know.

Spock looked down at Kirk, who was holding his head. "Yes, open a channel, Chekhov," the captain whispered, raising his head immediately when he realized people were looking at him. He looked defeated now at the sound of his voice. "Sulu, relay the information, would you?"

When the report had been given, Kirk slumped down in his chair, one hand at his temple.

"Are you sure you are all right, Jim?" Spock asked quietly from his stance next to the chair. He knew the answer he would receive, however, and before Jim had a chance to give it, Spock reached down and pulled the fabric from Jim's turtleneck down off of his neck. The captain reached his arms up in an attempt to stop the Vulcan, but quickly gave it up as he realized the game was up.

Spock's eyes widened just slightly as he took in what he saw. There was no point in asking the cause-everyone on the bridge had seen Spock nearly strangle Kirk; they all knew that was why Kirk sounded like he did, and he knew it had caused the hideously dark bruises all along Jim's neck.

"How are you able to breathe?"

"Not well," Kirk admitted, to Spock's surprise.

The Vulcan reached down to his comm. "Dr. McCoy to the bridge," he said with enough urgency to make the doctor hurry and, although this was not his intention, get the attention of every officer on the bridge. And when Kirk didn't resist the call for medical attention, Spock really knew something was wrong.


Despite the pandemonium going on in sickbay, which Bones was now in charge of, the Acting CMO responded immediately to the page to the bridge. Unfortunately he didn't have a full staff but did have a fair share of injured people, both major and minor. Assistance would arrive shortly, for which he was relieved. As he walked to the lift that would take him onto the bridge, he couldn't help but wonder what crisis was happening now.

As he stepped onto the bridge, Bones was surprised by the tense silence in the room. All the officers were staring unabashedly at the captain's chair; Bones whipped his head towards it to see Spock standing over the captain, who was slumped in his chair, stroking his neck.

Spock noticed him immediately as Bones headed their way. "Doctor, thank you for coming so quickly. The captain does not appear to be well."

"What's wrong?" Bones asked as he pulled out his medical tricorder. He frowned as Jim slowly pulled down the turtleneck to reveal his neck. "My God," he muttered, taking in the dark blue, purple and black bruises that covered Jim's neck almost from ear to ear. He kneeled down for a closer look, noting the abrasions and redness on the skin.

"The captain has said he isn't breathing well," Spock added.

"Does it just feel like you can't breathe, or are you having a hard time actually breathing?" Bones asked Jim, observing the captain's pale face.

"I can't tell," Jim said in a whisper, his voice scratchy and rough.

"Any headache or lightheadedness?"

"Yeah, both."

"Anything else I should know about? And don't even think about not telling me."

"Uh," Jim hesitated for a second, then shriveled under the glare he received. "I can't swallow-at all."

Bones nodded, suspecting the diagnosis even before he scanned his patient with the tricorder. He already knew he'd have to take his friend down to sickbay. Jim had surprised him by cooperating, and the doctor hoped he would continue to do so when he found out. As he read the results from the scanner, Bones' eyes widened and he looked back at Jim, grabbing his chin and peering at his lips, which were turning a soft shade of blue.

"Dammit, Jim, you should have come to me about this last night," Bones yelled. "I'm taking you to sickbay." Jim just nodded, worrying the doctor further. From behind the captain's chair, he could see Uhura shifting uncomfortably, looking concerned.

"Is it serious?" Spock inquired.

Bones glared at him. "Yes, it's serious. His larynx is damaged, and it's causing his airway to narrow. Look, he's starting to turn to blue because he hasn't been taking in enough oxygen." He shifted his gaze towards his comm. "McCoy to sickbay-bring a stretcher to the bridge now," he snapped into it

Here Jim finally stopped cooperating. "I don't need carried down to sickbay, Bones," he protested quietly, rising up out of his chair. Almost instantly he went limp and fell forward; Bones caught him halfway down.

"Oh, my God!" Uhura exclaimed as the doctor eased the unconscious captain to the floor. "What's happening to him?"

"He has stood up too quickly," Spock observed.

"He would have passed out soon anyway," Bones snapped, scanning Jim once more. "He's hypoxic." He grabbed Jim's hand and looked at his fingernails-the blue at their tips was becoming more noticeable as it darkened and spread. "And he's just getting worse. Unfortunately, all I brought with me was my tricorder-I don't have anything to treat him with until we're down in sickbay."

Two orderlies and a nurse showed up with a stretcher shortly thereafter. They rushed over, pushing their way through the other officers on the bridge, who had all gathered around in concern.

"Doctor?" the nurse asked as they moved Jim onto the stretcher.

"Strangulation injury," Bones replied with a pointed glare at Spock. "Damaged larynx, marked edema resulting in a narrowed airway and hypoxia. Dyspnea and dysphagia." Bones listed off the captain's condition as they rushed the stretcher back towards the lift. Spock accompanied them, pushing the stretcher from Jim's other side, right across from Bones. As the door to the lift closed, Bones saw the anxious, stunned faces of the other officers from the bridge staring after them.

TBC