Author's notes: I just couldn't stay away… I missed this fandom too much. I've been away too long working on other stories. The Hurt!Jim Community brought me back, though, and I wanted to write something while I continue to write for other fandoms.

I will work on Stained eventually… I'm working on some other projects right now. I haven't forgotten, though! I'm on a hiatus from it, as I've been for awhile now.

Title: Tinting the Edges

Relationships: Crew/Jim friendship.

Summary: Jim's always going to get hurt. He knew that when he signed up for this. And he can always tell how bad a situation is the second he wakes up in sickbay.

Words: 1233

It really doesn't matter how out of it he is. The moment Jim wakes up in sickbay, he can immediately figure out how things are going to happen around him.

Sometimes, his eyes open and things seem too bright, simply golden around the edges. The white light creeps in and surrounds him, and soon he's in the middle of laughter and dumb jokes and shouts of "You're so stupid, kid!" It's so loud, and his head is killing him, about to split open from the roaring chatter of his friends. They erupt in happiness and joy while he sits there in muted pain. But Jim doesn't care, because that means he's alive. He's alive, and happy, and safe, with friends all around him who care about him.

He's hurt, but only in an "Oh, I guess I hit my head doing something stupid and heroic!" way. One day, Bones was frustrated enough to once title the phenomenon a "justified hangover," and they all laughed, with Scotty pouring the alcohol and clinking glasses with someone else. He did well, completing and accomplishing whatever his task was successfully, even if he came out a little worse for the wear.

When this happens, his head hurts, and he laughs with them even though it leaves him even more sore than when he started. He'll fall asleep soon, either because Bones hid a hypospray behind his back without Jim noticing or because he's just that tired, hurt or weak.

He'll be good as new with some sleep, a shift off, and maybe with a few days of loving care (ha!) courtesy of his favorite doctor.

Other times, things aren't so rosy. He'll wake up little by little, darkness slipping and widening into a gray dimness that leads to a much calmer sickbay. There's an odd sort of weight on his arm that he'll later realize was someone holding his hand. Things are too quiet, and instead of humor and relief, he finds himself seeing a worried face or two checking his pulse and not really meeting his eyes.

Things hurt more, and it's definitely no hangover. Even though it's dulled (Bones usually puts him on the good stuff), the pain is definitely there and he couldn't ignore it if he wanted to. He aches from head to toe, but the raw white pain is always there, gently poking him with its fat fingers.

He's not scared, but Bones is. Bones isn't yelling at him now. Bones won't yell until he's all better, but until then, the physician is quietly concerned. Jim's not stupid; he can tell that the lights are dimmed and the room is empty for a reason.

It's because he's really hurt or sick this time, maybe even close to death. It's there; he's having trouble breathing, or he can feel his consciousness slip away without his knowledge, waking up hours later without realizing he fell asleep. Or he can't focus; the room is spinning and he keeps throwing up because of the nausea. He can tell that things are rough, that his luck just might run out. It's just one of those things he can sense. It's one or more things that give it away.

Somewhere along the way, he screwed up. Whatever his plan was, it didn't work the way he meant it to. Sometimes that means he did what he was supposed to do in a very unconventional way. Other times, it means that he failed, and will need to fix things later. Like the way his broken body is failing him now.

McCoy is at his wits end. His eyes are glazed over with fear and sadness, mostly because he knows that there's a lot more at stake than his captain's life. They've been best friends since their academy days, and they both know that having each other nearby is what gives their jobs so much meaning.

Jim knows that Bones is frightened when he stops acting like Bones. He's too gentle when he's sticking a hypo into Jim's neck, and he's speaking so softly that he can hardly hear the good doctor give his diagnosis, however grim it might be. He hears McCoy's accent slip into his worried mutterings, and he speaks to Jim without looking him in the eyes. Knowing that he might not be able to save his best friend isn't okay with him; it's really hurting, and Jim knows that Bones is in the same amount of pain emotionally that he is physically.

Sometimes, he sees Spock, and while they both know that the Vulcan probably doesn't really need to be there, he cares for his friend somewhere deep inside and is worried for his safety. Jim sees it in his eyes, which are oddly expressive. He sees worry and caring and compassion and relief, and it's all of those reasons that he knows that the Enterprise will be in good hands if something should happen to him. Spock is smart and trustworthy and everything he could ask for in a first officer. He's a perfect foil when they're working, but in these situations, when Jim's seriously injured, Spock's the quiet support he needs to pull himself together and heal.

He gets visitors sometimes, if he's not contagious, unconscious, or too far gone. Uhura won't hold back; even if it really wasn't his fault this time, she'll tell him he's stupid. He knows it's her way of saying how worried she is, so he lets it slide. He doesn't need a translator to figure her out. Sulu and Chekov try to make him laugh, but they never stay long because he really isn't up to joking around in response. The thought that he's not as strong as he pretends to be frightens them, even if they never say it. Scotty tries to distract him with a bunch engineering mumbo jumbo. They usually geek out a bit together over that kind of stuff, but the jargon makes his head hurt and his chief engineer gets a bit flighty and uncomfortable when his normally animated captain doesn't respond the way he normally would.

But they're there. They come. They'd have a problem if he was gone, emotionally or otherwise. He's needed somewhere, and people care about him.

That thought alone is more than enough to keep Jim going.

Bones will figure things out, and although it'll take time and medication he's probably allergic to, the pain will go away and he'll be back to normal. He'll have some scars, but he still has his crew and his ship and things will be okay. It just takes a little longer, and the consequences are often more lasting than he wants. He'll have to hide his scars, pretend to be invincible again. And his crew won't mention that they saw the crack in his mask, that they saw him at his weakest.

Jim's had his share of concussions. He's been on his deathbed multiple times. He ends up in sickbay more than he should, whether it's to share a drink and a chat with his best friend or receive emergency medical attention.

He's always going to get hurt. He knew that when he signed up for this. And he can always tell how bad a situation is the second he wakes up in sickbay. But there's always someone there watching out for him—a friend, a teammate, and that means the world to him.

Author's notes: Reviews are love. :-) I hope this one-shot keeps some of you satisfied until Stained is updated.

-Marty :-D