Title: Alone In A Crowd (aka 5 Times They Thought They Were Alone and The 1 Time They Really Were)

Summary: They are never truly alone in a starship. It just feels like they are sometimes.

Warnings: smut, past Tarsus events, past violence, strong language, did I mention the smut?

Author's Notes: Gasp! Not specifically answering any prompt! I had to make stuff up! \o/ This is foraging into new ground. Help! Section III was inspired by blcwriter's wonderful "James and the Giant Ship/a. Thank you for your blessing!

Author's Notes 2: This is dedicated to inell who started my obsession with Kirk/McCoy and who had a really bad day one week. I wrote this for that day but sadly, I'm a slow writer! LOL. And as always, to iceiwynd, whose first prompt got me started in writing STXI.

I. Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu

It was a relief, for once, not to be in front of navigation and to be heading towards the recently neglected botany laboratory. Hours of "maintaining standard orbit, sir" to acting captain Spock was getting on his nerves. Not that Spock had been demanding it. The commander had been grim; still and silent as a statue as he waited (as did probably the rest of the ship) for word from their Away team who had gone communicator silent on stupid unexplored shit colored class M planet for the past thirteen hours. It felt like the bridge brightened, the vacuum dissipated when the harried voice of their wayward captain came on at last, asking for Scotty to beam all six of them back up.

Granted early release from his shift because he had stayed for nearly two, Sulu hurried towards the botany lab, eager to be doing something after being unable to do anything for so long. He eagerly punched in his access code and the door slid open silently to let him in.

When Captain Kirk first found out about Sulu's interest, he'd expanded the lab for him. There was no botanist onboard interested in maintaining some of the more docile plant life they found. At least, not until Sulu.

Sulu smiled and rubbed in passing one velvety leaf of a plant pretty close to the Arecarceae family as he walked by the rows of samples that filled the lab from floor to ceiling. The large lab was kept humid, around the temperature of Earth's Tropics of Cancer and everything was left to grow wild and bushy. Sulu was already sweating by the time he went down the second row consisting of multicolored ferns and creeping (literally) vines. He stroked a thumb down one dwarf tree's trunk (it shivered under his hand) and as he started to make his way into the third row, he heard a mutter from the back, six more rows down from where Sulu's unofficial worktable was.

Narrowing his eyes, Sulu crouched by the middle of the third row and pushed aside one broad leaf with a finger. He saw the two shadows writhing upright over his worktable. Before Sulu could shout at them (damn it, this wasn't the first time he caught Ensign Jebbs and Rune in here), two moans floated over decidedly male and not Jebbs and Rune.

"…do that again and I swear to God, I'll lock you in a Jeffries tube…"

Sulu's eyes widened. Dr. McCoy? No way…

There was no answering reply, nothing coherent that is. Just another groan and the sound of a table jittering, empty plant bins rattling and shit, Sulu knew why.

It was a rhythmic thumping, tapping hard against the wall it was against and there was another groan, so heady, breathy and thick that even Sulu felt something stirring between his legs. Sulu swallowed hard and he rested a hand on the row of purple and red vegetation he was hiding behind.

"…feel so good…" McCoy half growled, winded, but he also sounded smug. He still had his uniform top on but the other didn't and it was a blur of glistening damp skin as the doctor gripped the other by the hips and thrusted up.

There was a groan from McCoy that rippled like fingers grazing his spine and the rattling renewed with almost manic pace.

"So good. So fucking tight," McCoy panted. "It's like crawling into you. You like that? Me climbing into you? Maybe fuck you so hard, you'll be feeling me for a week? Taste me in your mouth?"

There was a whimper, a cross of pain and want. The table rattling grew until it was almost non-stop. The shadow hunched over McCoy bucked, head thrown back when one jolt nearly lifted him off the table, almost hitting the wall until the doctor slipped a hand behind his lover's neck to cushion any blow.

Sulu's mouth went dry, his palms sticky and his trousers shrank around him because shit, he really shouldn't be here, the lab smelling a spicy mix of alien flowers, sweat and sex.

McCoy made a sound deep in his throat that Sulu never heard from him before as McCoy jerked, almost like he was jumping, his face pressed into the throat of the other.

"God." McCoy made it sound like a curse. He reached up, grabbed the other by the hair and pulled him down for a kiss that was more a flash of combating teeth than chaste. "Can't get enough of you, Jim."

Sulu's knees buckled and he nearly knocked into the pink fern from Kalos VI. Shit!

There was a quiet keen, the sounds of fabric being tugged and the wet sounds of…well…Sulu felt his face flush and even here, he could smell the musky scent of completion. He didn't need to be a Vulcan to smell that.

The noise by his worktable thankfully silenced. He could hear the soft twin gasping that took its place. Sulu dared to peer through the wide fronds again. The two shadows merged for a moment, heads resting so close together that Sulu could feel his face flushing. McCoy was still the only one clear all the way in the back. He could see the doctor, with a shaky hand, cupping the shadow in front of him, leaning in to kiss not just the mouth, but also the eyes, the nose, the brow. The shadow, still silent, raised a hand as well and did the same.

"I still think you're crazy," McCoy muttered.

If there was any doubt before, there was none now when Jim Kirk laughed in the same breathless way he sounded after they had escaped the black hole that became Nero's gravesite.

"Come on," Kirk whispered. He sounded winded, just as winded as when he first contacted the Enterprise after so long.

"You have to admit," Kirk continued. "You talking dirty with that drawl of yours, not letting me say anything? It's kinda hot." Kirk hummed and he interrupted himself when he dipped his head and—

"Dammit, Jim," McCoy grumbled but there was no real heat in it. He settled a hand on his throat. "That's going to leave a mark! You couldn't have at least put it somewhere below my collar?"

"Nope," Kirk quipped, did it to the other side and McCoy yelped again. The doctor growled and Kirk yipped—yes, yipped—and the table hopped on its four legs.

"Again?" Kirk sounded amazed, pleased and so fucking smug at the same time.

McCoy's voice was deep and gravelly when he replied, "Yes, again, dammit. And if you bite me on the neck again, you bratty vampire, I'm gonna…" A series of snaps forwards and a pot skipped and dropped as the table trembled. Kirk moaned.

Sulu gulped. Oh, great, he had to see McCoy tomorrow for his inoculation. How was he going to see the doctor after this? Or the captain?

There were glimpses of Kirk now, flushed, eyes closed, forehead resting against McCoy's. The pace seemed less frantic now, the table sounded subdued but Kirk still arched his back, his neck stretched in a long graceful line, a dancer's line, and McCoy buried his face over Kirk's throat.

"Thirteen hours, you bastard," McCoy sounded muffled, but Sulu could still hear the crack in his voice, harsh yet unsteady. Kirk rested his hands on McCoy's hair, carded through a mess of sweaty locks. "Thirteen hours and nothing! I thought…"

Kirk lowered his head and kissed McCoy's left temple and Sulu looked away because watching this really felt like he was intruding.

There was a choked sound that made Sulu turn back.

"You better make sure you always come back to me, you son of a bitch." McCoy never moved from Kirk's throat. His hands skimmed Kirk's bare back. "Don't you ever…"

Kirk shushed him and kissed his other temple. His fingers felt strands of dark hair like he was running them through water.

There was a sigh.

"And stop playing with my hair, you bastard. I'm a fucking doctor, not a girl."

There were chuckles, Kirk mimicking "fucking doctor" and McCoy shutting him up with a sharp snap of his hips that made Kirk mewl and another plant bin shattered on the floor. Pretty soon, a pace returned not as brutal as before, not as gentle, but in a rhythm that felt like mutual agreement.

Sulu backed away, nearly bumping into the Dentenra violets on the first row. Somehow, he managed to slip out of the lab just as Kirk hoarsely cried out McCoy's name with a name only Kirk was ever allowed to use.

Leaning against the shut door, Sulu gulped and he tugged at his collar because damn, maybe he's keeping the lab too hot after all. He used the wall comm, let Sickbay know he was getting his inoculation nownownowfuckingrightnow, because there was no way he could sit there tomorrow, staring at McCoy and what were sure to be colorful bruises on his neck. He also set a Maintenance warning on the lab so no one else walked in and put a command in it, allowing it only to be opened from the inside.

Then, as an afterthought, Sulu commed Chekov and invited him to dinner at his quarters tonight because why the hell not?

II. Nurse Christine Chapel

Sickbay was dim, empty and quiet by the time she returned from her rounds of vaccinating every member of the engineering department. It took less time than she thought. Engineers never stood still in one place because a pop of steam, a trill, a metallic clang and they would all scurry off like a bunch of startled rabbits.

But darling Gaila and Mr. Scott had devised a plan that consisted of digestible and non-toxic boriumite trackers, a round of drinks from Mess and a map of Engineering downloaded into her tricorder. In under two hours, like tracking the nearly extinct antelope, Christine was able to find every red-shirt engineer pretending to be busy. They were all babies. Even Mr. Scott, who tried to disappear during her hunt, not realizing Gaila had slipped him a boriumite tracker in his tuna fish sandwich that morning.

Christine sighed deeply as she set her tricorder down and debated sharing the idea with her CMO because starship captains were just as difficult during vaccination times. She smirked as she made her way to a workstation to put her report in. She glanced over as she was about to activate a light to check if Doctor McCoy was in his office, catching up on paperwork like he had planned. She froze.

Apparently, the doctor had also thought she wouldn't be back so soon because the walls of his office were only partially clouded, a light mist that was still clear enough to see McCoy stooped over his desk, his body over Captain Kirk's, his mouth…

Christine blushed and goodness, there was a heat that fluttered in her chest as she watched McCoy take their captain completely in his mouth, his hands on the captain's bare hips to keep Kirk from thrusting up or sliding off the desk.

Kirk's head was thrown back, hanging upside down off the edge of the desk, his eyes squeezed shut, his hands fisted on McCoy's hair. His mouth, even from here, looked flushed, swollen and opened in a small "O" and Christine could only imagine the sounds that must be coming out of it.

Whatever Kirk was saying seemed to have spurred McCoy on because she could vaguely see the doctor's right hand worming underneath Kirk and Kirk suddenly convulsed, his body nearly falling completely off the desk, his hands now frantic as he reached for McCoy's shoulders. Kirk twisted, his mouth opening and closing and Christine found herself leaning against a biobed in the dark corner of Sickbay, riveted at the sight of the doctor devouring (there was no other way to describe it) the captain with his mouth and his hand.

At some point, it looked like Kirk might actually roll off the desk and join the clutter of PADDs and data chips on the floor, but McCoy pinned him to the desk with his left hand on his pelvis.

There was a muffled sound that broke through the thick glass walls of the CMO's office. Kirk shuddered and went limp on the desk, his hands no longer trying to reach for McCoy, his eyes dazed towards the ceiling.

Christine breathed heavily, a hand to her throat and God, her knees couldn't hold her up. Her eyes crinkled when Kirk shakily sat up to watch McCoy tug up his trousers for him. The doctor did it carefully, straightening the waistband, smoothing out the gold uniform that had rode up before. Kirk reached over, wiped something from the corner of McCoy's mouth and McCoy gave him such a smile, Christine's breath caught. Her eyes burned because it looked what she knew must surely had been on her face every morning she saw her beautiful Roger. Then, the captain reached over, brushed McCoy's bangs back into place and Christine just knew she didn't need to see Kirk's expression to know it was the same.

Smiling to herself, with an ache in her throat, Christine slipped out of Sickbay. She'd comm the doctor later to let him know she was done. Christine could wait thirty minutes on the observation deck first, remembering the one she used to smile like that for.

III. Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott

It was a travesty, Scotty thought as he stomped his way towards the shuttle bay area with his kit. He was so sure two Kings was the best hand and had foolishly agreed with Keenser to take his ante of shuttle maintenance duty.

How was he supposed to know the wee bugger had two pairs?

Travesty. And on Remembrance Day of all days.

The shuttle bay was empty, save for the dozen or so gleaming shuttlecrafts that greeted him like gems. Scotty relaxed a little because it wasn't his darlings' fault. Daddy Scott shouldn't have gambled with that no good, stinker Keenser. Better if Scotty did the overhauls himself anyway. Last time, someone left fingerprints all over the Galileo. Fingerprints! Ach, his men were all hooligans! Fingerprints! They probably didn't wipe their feet before entering, either!

Scotty steered for the medical shuttlecraft first as he wanted more time cleaning that lady and running her diagnostics. Medical was far too important to have her insides go all dodgey on them when they needed her the most.

The shuttle was huddled at the far end of the bay, on the second level, hidden amongst the row of transport shuttlecrafts. Scotty hummed to himself as he climbed the catwalks and as he approached, he noticed its door was open. He made a face. One of the lads had better not be napping in them again. He opened his mouth to holler to see what fool skipped the Remembrance ceremonies and used the shuttle as his bedwhen he heard the familiar throaty chuckle of one Captain James T. Kirk.

"I should have known you'd find me." Another chuckle and Kirk could be heard moving inside the shuttle. "Even back in the Academy, you always did." Kirk didn't sound annoyed though.

Scotty's eyebrow arched when he heard Doctor McCoy retort. He ducked into the neighboring shuttle and poked his head through a porthole.

The door was open, left agape in its loading position and wide enough to reveal Jim Kirk sitting on the floor, his back up against the emergency biobed by the bulkhead. Doctor McCoy sat cross-legged a few feet away.

Scotty grimaced. Kirk still looked as worn as he did during the ceremonies as he read Starfleet's statement on the USS Kelvin. At least it solved the mystery on where those two went off to while the rest of the crew was milling about in the memorial service.

"You don't have to stay," Kirk said, his voice heavy. He accepted the bottle of brandy McCoy passed over and took a very long drink.

"Go easy," McCoy rumbled. "I'm not carrying your inebriated ass back down to your quarters."

Kirk chuckled when he lowered the bottle and handed it off to McCoy. "You could carry it back to your quarters," he teased.

Scotty blinked.

McCoy looked at the bottle clutched in his fist by its neck, then at Kirk. He scoffed, took a swig, and then crossed the shuttle to crouch by him.

"I could," McCoy said throatily, "but who'll carry my drunken ass back?" McCoy balanced on the balls of his feet, rocked forward and kissed Kirk on the lips.

Bloody hell!

Scotty's mouth dropped open and he frantically pressed his nose to the glass. Kirk lifted up a hand and cupped McCoy's jaw as the kiss deepened. The two curled closer together, leaning back into the bulkhead, their heads tilting, adjusting, greedy hands sweeping up on arms and shoulders and backs like…like…they've done this many, many times before.


Scotty patted his uniform. Bloody thing had no pockets! What was Starfleet thinking? His communicator was useless, no holo-camera and his tricorder was only loaded with engineering diagnostics systems, no video. All useless!

The two finally parted but their hands lingered on each other. Scotty's shoulders slumped and he had to contend with just peering back out the porthole, into the other shuttle.

Kirk and McCoy rested their foreheads together and while it was hard to hear from where he was, Scotty could see they were breathing hard.

The doctor nipped Kirk's lower lip, his hands slipping underneath the gold uniform. Kirk arched into McCoy's hands as he ran his hands over McCoy's back, drifting lower to cup his ass. McCoy growled into Kirk's mouth before his fingers threaded through the short strands of hair, giving them a tug to ease Kirk's head back so McCoy could attack the stretch of throat offered to him. Kirk hissed and closed his eyes, mouth partially opened.

Scotty wiped the condensation that seemed to be forming on the porthole with his sleeve.

Kirk mumbled something unintelligibly and McCoy snorted as the two straightened. The doctor lifted up a hand and brushed a knuckle across Kirk's cheekbone. McCoy said something to Kirk, something that bowed their captain's back, dropped his head lower and soon, Kirk's forehead rested on McCoy's left shoulder.

There was a lump in Scotty's throat and he thought distantly to himself that he ought to give himself shuttle duty the next three times for being such a nyaff for considering a holo-recording.

"There's nothing wrong with doing something more than remembering today," McCoy said, a little louder as they parted with clear reluctance.

Kirk snorted and he slumped back on the bulkhead and pulled one knee close to his chest.

"Today's a day to remember the dead, Bones."

McCoy took a swig of brandy before he repositioned himself to sit next to Kirk. He handed back the bottle and watched Kirk drink before he cleared his throat.

"Nothing wrong with grieving the dead, Jim." McCoy reached out and rubbed the thigh closest to him.

"I just think we should also celebrate the living." McCoy settled a hand, palm down, on the open mouth of the bottle before Kirk could lift it up again.

"I know your father died on this day," McCoy said somberly, "but don't forget you also live on this day."

It was like a punch to Scotty's gut. Ah, that's right. The name George Kirk was forever paired with words like "heroic sacrifice" and "USS Kelvin" and "tragedy". By the time he was in the Academy, the legend of George Kirk giving his life to save his shipmates and his newborn son had become vernacular for heroism.

Kirk tilted his head up towards the ceiling with a tired look that ached to witness. Scotty swallowed, brushed a finger across his eye and sniffed.

"Just doesn't feel right to," Kirk muttered and with a tug, yanked the bottle free from McCoy's restraining grip and brought it to his lips.

Scotty's mouth twisted. Ah laddie, he thought with a sinking feeling in his belly. The captain was right. It would feel disrespectful. Scotty peered out through the porthole. His insides knotted. Yet it was so bloody unfair though. Truly it was.

"Well, at least eat the damn cupcake," McCoy grumbled. The doctor reached out of sight and held up a plate and a lopsided pastry with white frosting piled high on top. It sat in the dead center of the plate. Scotty's brows knitted. "You know how much trouble I went through to get the damn thing?"

Kirk chuckled. "Please don't tell me you made this, honey."

"Fuck you," McCoy shot back. "I got Mess to do it but I gave them the recipe. It's an old family recipe."

"Looks it," Kirk remarked dryly.

Scotty clamped a hand over his mouth before a giggle could break free.

"Are you going to eat it or not?" McCoy looked like he wasn't sure if he wanted to hold it or throw it.

Kirk reached for it, then hesitated. He dropped his hand and slowly shook his head.

"Jim." McCoy's voice softened. "It's just a cupcake, okay? I promise you, there's no huge cake or surprise party out there waiting to attack you. I said I would keep it to myself when I found out and while I don't agree, I did. No one else has figured it out...yet. Just you, me and the best damn red velvet cupcake you'll ever have." McCoy exhaled slowly.

"I know I've told you this many times before but some good did come out of this," McCoy murmured. When Kirk looked up, McCoy lightly slapped Kirk on the back of his head. "You." McCoy moved the plate closer to Kirk, who looked at it as if it was a Klingon Warbird. "If you don't feel right about celebrating that, fine. At least help me celebrate it."

Kirk glanced over at McCoy and aye, Scotty sniffed, not because of the little lost look on his captain's face but because his lads probably didn't dust in these shuttles as well. Fucking lazy bastards. Scotty sniffed again. Hooligans. All of them.

"No candle?" Kirk finally said with a crooked smile. He chuckled, surprised, when sure enough, the doctor brandished an old-fashioned combustion container made out of what looked like wax with an old cotton wick. McCoy smirked, stuck it on top of the thick frosting and pulled out a magnesium flint the Academy used to give them for survival training. Uh oh…

Before Scotty could decide whether to reveal himself or not, Doctor McCoy lit the wick and a tiny flame popped up merrily to dance on top of the cupcake. Kirk chuckled and took a deep breath to blow out the candle.

"Make a wish—" McCoy began.

Just before the shuttle's CO2 fire suppression system came on inside the craft, blasting the pair with a hefty dose of wet, white carbodytrates. The doctor yelped. The candle was snuffed out and white CO2 compound smoked and billowed out of their shuttle and soon, they were lost in a fog.

Scotty swore as he darted out of his shuttle, raced to the end of the catwalk and shut down the bay's fire alarms before they began to wail throughout the ship. He rested his hands on his knees, gasping as he crouched by the computer.

"Christ," Scotty managed as he wiped his forehead with the back of a sleeve. "You would think the good doctor have remembered the shuttles' preliminary failsafe systems." Ach, his poor babies!

Far away, in the medical shuttle, he could hear Kirk laughing his ass off. McCoy was saying something, probably arguing in his defense but pretty soon, he was laughing as well and then, Kirk was howling.

A smile quirked at the side of Scotty's mouth.

Well, it was only CO2.

Scotty saluted to the shuttle and climbed down the catwalks to the main level. He could still hear the two laughing and it was with a smile on his face that Scotty sealed the shuttle bay off for cleaning. He patted the thick door before trotting off to find something that could handle dust and take out CO2 stains.

IV. Commander Spock

His footsteps slowed on the deck before they economically pivoted around and reentered the turbolift.

"Computer, deck five."

It would be impractical to visit Nyota at such hour.

Beta shift had been physically tiring despite the fact that there was no physical activity, such as running, involved. (When the captain was on away teams, there was a seventy three percent chance running would be required.)

The dealing with what humans would call "final arrangements" for the colonists of the Feltan moon mining base was time consuming. The two other starships had finally arrived to commence the repairing of the base and assist with transporting the dead.

The turbolift slowed to his deck and Spock slipped out. He stopped though at the turn that would lead him to the corridor that would eventually place him in front of his quarters. There was an irrational need to return the turbolift to Nyota's deck. He blamed his human half.

Spock understood grief, had tasted it with his own…mother and for his people, but to witness it on one of the survivors when she wailed to the captain that the Enterprise was too late was…disconcerting.

Crops planted on moons sometimes failed due to their fragile environments. But well thought out agricultural plans would have prepared for the possibility of losing part of their food supply.

To lose all of them within hours was catastrophic.

The Enterprise was the closest starship but even at maximum warp, it took them three weeks, by which then exactly one third of the colonists had perished, the other two-thirds barely conscious enough to answer their hails.

A third of that remainder perished despite Doctor McCoy's care.

Spock allowed himself the indulgence of a sigh.

Humans were simply far too fragile, in constant need of nourishment, of stable atmospheres, of consistent emotions. They fought for survivaldespite poor odds, insisting on the improbable ("We need to get there now, Mr. Spock. Just make sure Scotty makes it happen!"). They often grieved what was lost, often failing to see what still remained. The captain was a mute stature of barely contained fury the three weeks it took to reach the Feltan colony. It was admirable how he was about to rein in his temper from lashing out as it commonly happened with humans. Spock had hoped once they reached Feltan, the captain would return to a state everyone on the Bridge was accustomed to.

He did not.

Doctor McCoy had been brusque with everyone as well while he held vigil for those too weak to eat anymore. McCoy fell back to isolation when one by one, their bodies failed. McCoy had not been present on the bridge for a very long time during and after (though often Spock wondered on the efficacy of a CMO's presence on the bridge) yet the captain had not commented on this new absence nor had he tried to call the doctor on his comm. Kirk only looked weary every time a junior medic delivered the daily reports and kept to himself as well in his own quarters, echoing the doctor.

Spock held his hands behind his back. As First Officer, it was prudent to ensure the structure of the command crew remained sound for the benefit of the ship. This included, under Starfleet and Spock's interpretations, the captain and his CMO. As his friend, Spock found Jim's silence to be of a concern. And if he was to meditate on it, Doctor McCoy's as well. Silence doubled had illogically made the days seem longer. He often checked the ship's chronometers to be sure they were still functioning.

Footsteps more sure now, Spock steered for the quarters next to his, making a minor adjustment to his stride's direction. Speaking with the captain would be best, Spock determined, as he was more in familiar terms with Doctor McCoy since the Academy. Captain Kirk, once aware of the tenuous situation of the doctor's mental state, may succeed, in what the humans called, "cheering him up". And with a task at hand, Jim might emerge from his own odd mood as well. It was a practical decision.

As he turned the corner, Spock paused. The aforementioned doctor was approaching the captain's quarters just as the captain stepped out of it. They intersected a meter away from the door.

The two stared at each other. Hidden behind a corner (it would be rude to interrupt what clearly looked like an emotionally urgent meeting), Spock wondered why the two humans did not speak.

Jim opened his mouth but nothing came out. He cleared his throat and tried again.


Doctor McCoy rubbed the back of his neck with a hand. He kept his eyes on the captain before echoing with a gruff, "Hey. I was…I was coming to see you."

For some reason, Jim found it humorous. His mouth curved to a small smile. "Yeah? I was coming to see you. We must have read each other's minds."

Spock's eyebrow rose. Odd. He was not aware of them having any telepathic abilities.

"I uh…" McCoy appeared uncomfortable. "How are you doing, Jim?"

His captain, for whatever reason that escaped Spock, sighed.

"I was going to ask you the same question, Bones." Jim stepped closer, mere centimeters apart. He checked every direction. The hallways were empty in the start of gamma shift. He did not see Spock, otherwise, there would have been hesitation when Jim raised two fingers up and gingerly touched McCoy's lower lip.

Spock tilted his head. Human hands did not have the same sensory areas as Vulcans and yet Jim exhaled slowly as if his hands did.

McCoy stood there, neither shocked nor angry, staring at Jim and allowing the touch before he slipped a hand around Jim's neck and pulled him to his body. Jim pressed his face over McCoy's shoulder.

"I'm sorry," McCoy rasped. He closed his eyes and bowed his head to rest his chin against the side of Jim's face.

"I wanted to save them for you, Jim." McCoy sighed. "No, I…I wanted to save them but I wanted to save them for you, as well. Dammit Jim, I'm sorry."

At McCoy's strange words, Jim's arms lifted and wrapped around McCoy's middle. They stayed there for a moment, then dropped. The two men parted and both checked their surroundings. Spock slipped back a step into the shadows. The dim lighting of Gamma shift proved useful.

"It's not Tarsus IV, Bones." Jim rubbed a hand over his face and he staggered until he was leaning on the bulkhead.

McCoy mirrored him. He prodded Jim lightly with his left elbow.

"That's what I'd been trying to tell you for three weeks, asshole." McCoy copied Jim, one hand scrubbing an unshaven face. "But I guess…Ah hell, when we got there, all I could see was…all I could see was your face on those kids. I just…" McCoy made a fist and struck the bulkhead he was resting against.

Jim closed his eyes. "I never should have told you about that, Bones."

McCoy grunted. "Like I wouldn't have noticed your screwy behavior after that presentation on Tarsus in class? Jim, you know how many times I had to drag you to Medical to get your stomach pum—" McCoy stopped when Jim turned his head slightly towards him. McCoy pushed off the wall and paced in front of Jim.

"Bones," Jim said quietly. "Let's just get some sleep. We'll grab some breakfast tomorrow, inspect the colony and make sure it never happens again."

"I don't think breakfast is a good idea," McCoy confessed as he stopped in front of Jim. "Haven't been able to stomach even coffee lately."

Jim shrugged. "Same here."

"Still?" McCoy drew closer until he stood close enough to tuck a leg between Jim's, an arm outstretched by Jim's right, the other reaching in.

"You lost weight," McCoy whispered as he cupped Jim's face.

Jim shrugged again and said something too low for even Spock to hear. But McCoy heard and his hand turned to brush knuckles against Jim's jaw. McCoy leaned in and brushed his lips across Jim's brow.

"Yeah," McCoy said, his voice was whisper soft but its ragged edge was gone. "Sleep and breakfast sounds pretty damn good. Come on."

The two men straightened, as if they were never close enough for their exhales to mingle. They walked, apart, but their strides unconsciously matching, both stopping by the captain's quarters. The door opened and McCoy slipped in.

But not before Jim gave McCoy a light swat on his buttocks when he passed; that earned him a growled "Dammit, Jim."

The door shut behind them just as McCoy spun around and approached Jim with a look Spock could only call predatory.

Spock stared at the shut door for a few minutes. He made a mental note on Tarsus and thought about the touches they shared that he had enjoyed with Nyota. Something stirred in his chest and if Spock dared, he would have smiled.

Instead, Spock turned back around for the turbolift.

Perhaps Nyota had not retired yet and would welcome some company.

V. Lieutenant Nyota Uhura

After the third time of dreaming seeing the arrow slice through Jim Kirk, Nyota woke up screaming.

Nyota sat up, a hand to her mouth to stifle her gasp. Luckily, as a bridge officer, she enjoyed private quarters but for once, she wished she had asked Spock to stay the night. Spock would never offer, never to be so bold to invite himself into her quarters but oh, she really wished he did.

It still felt like Kirk was clutching her right hand. His hand had been dry, his grip strong as he dragged her out from the melee, his left hand fisted around the communicator close to his mouth. In his own classic way, Kirk summarized the treaty meetings.

"It's all gone to shit."

The three tribes forbade transport beaming near the sacred site so safety past the blocking shield was far away, too far away. Kirk, though, just grabbed her hand, told her this was the absolute last time he was letting her down planetside ever to translate even a fucking tattoo and hauled her out of there just as the three factions began fighting. First, it was just among themselves until someone decided it was the Federation's fault too and they began attacking the ten man team.

They lost two men by the time they finally reached the beam site. Kirk gave her a smirk just as Scotty rattled out for them to stay still when she saw the arrows arcing downward towards them like dark rain. Nyota froze, Kirk shoved her behind him and just as the beam took them, she felt Kirk's hand spasm in her grip, the bloody arrow point suddenly jutting out of his back and she couldn't help it; she screamed.

The diplomatic team arrived back on the Enterprise to an explosion of activity, Kirk completing his jerk back right off the platform and went tumbling, crashing, bleeding by Doctor McCoy's feet and her screaming.

That was ten hours ago.

Nyota sniffled. She flexed her right hand but she could still feel those fingers stiffening at the arrow's impact. Her face still felt hot from Kirk's blood splatter even though Spock had taken her aside and cleaned the blood off her face himself.

McCoy said the surgery went fine. But he wouldn't volunteer anything else.

Nyota wiped at her eyes and wished she could call her grandmother but Goddess only knows what time it was on Earth. She clutched her blanket to her chest and realized she wasn't going to get back to sleep if all she could remember of Kirk was the blood on her face, the arrow sticking out of his back.

Sickbay was eerie when it was dimmed. There were no other patients in, only Christine on duty, out checking the adjacent ward for anyone walking in. So Nyota knew who must be behind the privacy screen pulled tightly around the last pair of biobeds.

Nyota hesitated. Her right hand trembled and she held it still with her left, but that reminded her too much of before so she let go. She edged closer to the screen, to peer in between the gap the two ends made when she heard a groan.

Someone shushed.

Nyota peeked in between the two ends of the curtain and swallowed back a gasp.

Doctor McCoy was sitting slouched on his side, legs stretched out on a biobed, still in his uniform, his face haggard and turned downwards as if asleep. But every so often, his head moved in response to the body curled towards him, face pressed into his stomach, hands weakly twisted around the hem of McCoy's blue tunic.

McCoy's face was hooded from view as was Jim Kirk's but Nyota saw McCoy's hand tremble as he brushed fingers through Kirk's hair, smoothing down the bangs that stuck out in all directions.

There was another sound and Kirk shifted. His bandaged chest gleamed white like an accusation and Nyota flinched.

"Try not to move so much," McCoy hushed, his hand still stroking the back of Kirk's head. "Try to get some sleep."

There was something like a hiccupmuffled against McCoy's uniform. Kirk's legs folded, shoulders hunched.

McCoy's shoulders slumped, rounded as if he was using his body to shield Kirk.

"I wish I could give you something for the pain," McCoy whispered. His voice faltered. "The arrow had something. I—We nearly lost you when I tried to give you a painkiller after the surgery." McCoy turned further towards Kirk until their legs almost intertwined.

"Try and sleep," McCoy whispered. "Whatever it was, it'll clear in the morning. It'll be better in the morning, I swear."

Kirk fidgeted against McCoy, burrowing weakly into the doctor, his hands lost between their bodies.

Nyota blinked hard as she watched McCoy rub Kirk's back, his raspy voice low and endless by Kirk's ear. She couldn't hear what the doctor was saying but then again, she doubted the doctor knew either. She watched for a few more minutes and started to leave when she saw Kirk shiver. McCoy grew quiet, his head cocked as if listening. Kirk shivered. His breathing hitched.

"I'll get you another blanket," McCoy promised and started to ease out from under Kirk.

Kirk jerked and a choking sound halted McCoy. The doctor twisted back around to him.

"Don't move!" Despite the low voice, there was a hint of panic in McCoy's voice as he settled a hand under Kirk's jaw. "Jim…Sh…it's okay. I'm just going to get you a blanket, but you have to let go of me first."

Nyota still couldn't see the captain clearly but a light thatch of hair pressed closer to McCoy, pale fingers lost in folds of blue.

"Jim…" McCoy breathed out and he ran a hand through the blonde hair. Another sound that made the corners of Nyota's eyes burn and McCoy stretched back out again and gingerly pulled Kirk closer, his arms folding around trembling shoulders.

"I'm not a blanket, Jim," McCoy muttered, but still, he rested his head on top of Kirk's.

Nyota bit her lower lip but when Kirk shivered again and when McCoy huddled closer, she twisted around and left Sickbay.

It only took a few minutes to get what she needed. Nyota quietly rolled the cart to the privacy screen, still pulled tight around the two beds. She took a deep breath before parting the curtain.

McCoy's head jerked up when Nyota slipped between the two ends. His eyes narrowed, but he said nothing, tracking her as she set the cart of food, a stack of PADDs and pitcher of ice water by their biobed within arm's reach. Nyota hugged the blanket to her chest when she faced McCoy, who sat up on an elbow, still looking like he was debating if he should throw her out by the ear or not.

Hazel eyes drifted to what she held and widened a fraction. Nyota took it as permission but she still approached the bed with a lump in her throat.

When McCoy said nothing as she stood by the bed, Nyota flipped the blanket out and draped it carefully over the one already covering Kirk. She took care to straighten out the thick material, tucked it under his feet, around his legs but hesitated when she reached his torso. She swallowed at the sight of the bandages.

"He'll be okay."

Hoarse, barely audible, it sounded like a vow, a promise and the tightness around her chest eased. Nyota smiled tentatively at the doctor and the eyes that studied her warmed a degree.

Kirk mumbled, his face tilting away from McCoy's tunic. His hands sleepily fumbled for the blankets to bring them closer.

"Oh, now you let go, you asshole," McCoy grumbled.

Nyota snickered and a smile, small but sincere, quirked towards her. She nodded to the cart and tugged the blanket higher to Kirk's chin. Nyota patted the blanket over Kirk's arm.

"Thanks," she whispered.

"Does 'his mea' I can 'all you Nyota now?" Kirk slurred. Nyota started.

McCoy rolled his eyes and dipped his head to Kirk's ear. "You should be sleeping," McCoy scolded in a soft voice.

A glazed blue eye peeled open and glared blearily at him.

"Who 'an s'eep with you 'apping away in my ear?" Kirk mumbled.

McCoy growled but the hand on top of Kirk's head was light. Nyota shook her head and she turned to leave.

"'ight…Nyota," Kirk called out faintly with a hint of that farm boy in Iowa she met almost four years ago.

"Uhura," Nyota countered and winked at McCoy when Kirk sighed loudly, at least as loud as he could be, lost under the mound of blankets. McCoy nodded at her, his eyes and smile bright, grateful, as Nyota left their private little corner. She paused when she spied Spock hovering by the Sickbay doors, hands behind him as always.

"What are you doing here?" Nyota whispered. She didn't dare look at the beds behind her. "The captain is going to be okay." Echoing McCoy, Nyota suddenly realized she believed him.

Dark eyes that looked flat to everyone else studied her. To Nyota's surprise, there was a faint green tinge on his cheeks.

"You weren't in your quarters," Spock told her. He considered the Sickbay. "I postulated given the circumstances of this morning, you might be here to inquire on the captain's health."

Nyota stared. She bit back a smile when Spock pretended to be 'fascinated' by the empty biobed to his left.

"Your logic was sound," Nyota said as evenly as she could. She bit the inside of her cheek because Goddess, there was an inexplicable urge to stroke his elegant ears.

Spock favored her with a very high eyebrow that made Nyota wonder if he heard her thoughts, but Spock merely tipped his head and turned to leave.

Nyota gave the curtained off area one more look before following. At Spock's back though, when he slowed to let Nyota catch up, Nyota did smile.

I. Alone

Deltron was the closest to Earth they had encountered so far, nine months out in the black. Starfleet granted an unheard of two week shore leave on the Federation trade planet for the Enterprise. Bones suspected it was their way of making up for the fact that they fouled up their intelligence on the treaty parties and nearly got their star captain killed. But Deltron's current season reminded him of spring in Georgia and the sight of Jim being able to walk unassisted, bare feet wiggling on the blue-green grass was enough to make him swallow his complaints.

The dawn sunlight that crept in from the round window of their cabin was hot against him. Bones idly traced its bright path on Jim's bare skin, reveling on how warm the healing flesh felt after feeling bloodless and cool for so long.

"Stop that," Jim mumbled, but he didn't move from his current position: his ear planted over Bones's heart, his exhales lightly skimming over his nipple. Both torture and pleasure. Typical Jim Kirk.

"Stop what?" Bones asked as he let his fingers wander up Jim's side, faltering at the bone-white line that branded the sternum. Despite Bones's care, the point of entry was marked by a thick and twisted looking X, its mate marking the arrow's exit in between Jim's shoulders, curled around his upper vertebrae. The poison in the arrow had made it so that the scar would never go away. Bones pulled back his hand but Jim captured it and pressed Bones's hand flat against the mark on his chest.

Despite lying under a window all morning, the scar still felt cool, flat and so unnatural on Jim's body. Bile rose and he yanked his hand back, nearly striking Jim on the chin in the process.

"Shit, sorry," Bones sighed.

Jim laced his fingers with the hand that pulled away.

"I'm fine, Bones," Jim said, barely audible, still drowsy despite having slept ten hours before. Jim pressed a light kiss on his nipple, licked a spot where he could feel Bones's heartbeat against his tongue. Bones groaned deep in his throat as Jim stretched up to meet his mouth. The kiss tasted of the broth Bones made him drink the night before. Solids were still iffy and chewing currently tired Jim too easily.

As the kiss deepened, Jim shuffled until he was lying across Bones, his lax genitals brushing his groin a velvety invitation to touch. Jim rocked against Bones, his hands curled around his biceps. Bones rubbed the back of Jim's calves with the sole of a foot, his own cock stiff, leaking as he ground his erection into the inside of Jim's hip. He was careful not to hold Jim too tightly.

Jim shuddered against him but never came. After a pause, he rolled onto his back. Jim blinked at the ceiling, chest heaving.

"Dammit," Jim wheezed.

"Dizzy?" Bones asked quietly and debated getting his tricorder out. He did last night after tasting Jim's cock after so long. Jim nearly punched him when he caught Bones trying to scan him, only to end up needing Bones to help ease him back down on their bed.

Jim's upper lip curled in self-disgust. He set his mouth before he sank deeper into the bed and exhaled a long breath.

Bones leaned over to the side of the bed and grabbed his medical kit from the floor. Jim wouldn't meet his eyes while Bones adjusted his hypospray. He stared blankly out the tiny window as he exposed his neck to Bones like an offered sacrifice.

"It's only been a week since…" Bones couldn't finish and when done, the hypospray rattled in the kit when he tried to put it back in. "Jim, you need to build your strength back up. You got to—"

"Give it time," Jim interrupted tersely. The corner of his right eye twitched. "I know." He gave a short, humorless laugh. "One fucking arrow…"

"It wasn't just one fucking arrow!" Bones snapped. Jim started and turned back to Bones, staring but Bones couldn't stop the words from spilling and shit, he should have gotten piss drunk last night while Jim slept to get it out of his system. Bones sat up.

"That shit they soaked the arrow in was hell to get rid of once it infected your lung!" Bones woke up one night to find that Jim had stopped breathing in his arms. "Nothing we did got rid of it completely!" It kept reappearing like an old Earth cancer, getting more and more resistant to the antitoxin Bones made. If Spock hadn't beamed down to that damn, filthy planet and melded with one of the bastards…

Bones calmed because it felt like shouting made time speed up, time he didn't want to lose with Jim. Jim watched him from the bed, still too pale, too thin, too not-Jim for Bones's liking.

"We're not on the ship right now," Bones said, subdued because he was tired, so fucking tired of staying up every night because he needed to watch Jim breathe. "Today, tomorrow, for the next ten days, you're not the captain and I'm not the doctor—You know what I mean," Bones added when Jim scoffed.

Jim's skin felt too cool when Bones splayed both hands across his chest. The heartbeat under his palms beat faintly like a caught bird and Bones's eyes pricked at the corners. He gave his head a harsh shake, to rip out the feeling of ice in his gut when he had woken up late one night and felt Jim struggling to breathe and failing. Bones bent his head and lightly pressed his lips to Jim's mouth.

"Here, you're just Jim and I'm…" Bones gave Jim an eye roll. "And I'm just Bones. Okay?" Bones blinked rapidly when Jim mouthed "Bones", his eyes half-mast, yet so blue, it was like falling into the open sky.

"It wasn't just one fucking arrow, Jim." Bones rested his forehead on his hands flat on Jim's chest. "For once in your life, will you just admit it wasn't just one arrow and let me take care of you?"

"Okay," Jim said quietly over his hair. "It wasn't just one arrow." He ran a hand up and down Bones's back. "But I'm here. You fixed me."

Bones settled back on the bed and wrapped himself around Jim. He kissed the bony part of Jim's left shoulder.

"You fixed me," Jim repeated. He covered Bones's hand with both of his when Bones fidgeted.

"Damn right, I fixed you," Bones said gruffly. Not being able to was not an option. Ever. He could barely get the words out of his constricted throat. "So don't waste my hard work by undoing it, you ungrateful bastard." He kissed the top of Jim's head, his ear, his jaw, let Jim curl around him and repositioned his head back over Bones's heart. Jim had insisted he slept better that way. Fucking sap.

The sunlight through the window moved, like a lover's touch trailing down their legs and tangled sheets. Bones laid there, his hands going up and down Jim's back, a fingertip mapping the ridges of Jim's spine, curving to his ass and long legs. Jim murmured something and half-heartedly tried to return the favor, but like days before, Jim was still too tired, too bone-deep lethargic and the languid touches simply petered off to loose grips around his arms and sleepy nuzzles to Bones's throat.

Bones studied the table by the cabin's kitchen area across from the bed. It was filled with a colorful array of boxes and bottles dropped off by the crew as they took their turns with shore leave, leaving their gifts with their "Say hi to the captain" as their parting.

Sulu and Chekov came together (Jim, for some reason when Bones told him, had crowed "I knew it!"). They dropped off a bag of what Chekov claimed tasted like Turkish delight, but the way 'Russians make it'. Sulu left Bones a bottle of pink, cloudy liquid he swore tasted like plum sake.

Scotty came by the next day, suspiciously inebriated, disturbingly elated when he saw Bones open the door. The engineer hollered over his shoulder to Keenser not to fucking drink it all, shook Bones's hand vigorously and hiccupped that they were "fine, fine lads". He then thrust a bottle the size of Keenser's head and declared (with a belch), it was the best damn piss water he'd ever tasted.

Bones hoped that was a compliment.

Nurse Chapel stopped by today to give him a new supply of Jim's medication and a box of cookies from the market close by. Uhura, or Nyota (it annoyed the hell out of Jim when Bones was allowed to call her Nyota) gave him a ribbon wrapped box of tiny cakes she'd discovered when it was her turn on shore leave. But what surprised Bones was Spock, showing up with some local wine made with Deltron fruit blossoms. It was tied with the biggest, most heinous pink bow he had ever seen. (Spock insisted the bow was the merchant's idea - not his.) Spock told Bones he thought they (they, everyone kept saying that) would find it 'interesting'.

Lips pursed, Bones studied the pile of boxes and wondered when did everyone get so obsessed with getting souvenirs and why give it to him, or them, as everyone kept referring to him and Jim—

Bones's eyes widened. "Oh, fuck me," he breathed.

"Okay, but you'll have to do all the work," Jim yawned by his throat. He wiggled against Bones (killing Bones just a little each time) and raised his eyes up towards Bones.

Bones swallowed and met Jim's questioning look.

"I think they know, Jim."

Jim's brows furrowed slowly, then, they rose. "Oh."

With a lump in his throat, Bones nodded.

Jim tucked his head under Bones's chin. "Okay," Jim said sleepily.

"Okay?" Bones felt Jim fidgeting in silent demand and he dutifully wrapped his arms around Jim a little tighter. He felt a sigh warm and soft against his throat. The corners of his mouth tugged up.

"So I guess they know," Bones drawled.

Jim nodded and relaxed against him as he sank back into sleep.

Bones held Jim, stared at the table and realized that there was a lot to deal with when they had to beam back aboard the Enterprise. There were bound to be questions but so far, it didn't look like they were going to be forging through any problems. Bones smirked at the gaudy bows on some of the boxes. No, no problems.

A quiet exhale and a muttered "Go back to sleep, Bones" made him look away. Bones gave himself a mental shake. He stroked the last of the tension he could feel on Jim's back, feeling muscles turned boneless as they melted into him. Bones smiled to himself as he rested his chin on Jim's hair. They'd deal with it later but for now, this time was their time alone.

With that, Bones took a deep breath and sank into sleep with Jim's weight on him, their heartbeats beating in unison, the sun basking warm and full of life against their bodies.

The End