Jim slowly opened his eyes, wondering where he was. And why his head hurt so much. Was he home? No. This wasn't his room. He had no idea where he was.
He shifted enough to look over more of the room where he was laying, seeing the back of a man several feet away. The man was tall, with broad shoulders and thick, dark hair. Jim thought he should know who he was. Larry? Leroy? Leonard. Yes. Leonard.
He cleared his throat softly, wondering about the dryness of it and his mouth. "Uhmm…. Leonard?" The man did not seem to have heard. He tried again. "Leonard?" Still no response. Leonard was… a doctor. Maybe he wasn't supposed to use the doctor's first name. Maybe that's why he hadn't responded. "Dr. McCoy?" Jim said a little louder.
"Jim," the tall man said when he turned to face the bed. He approached, his smile plastered over his concern. What had Jim done to make the doctor angry? "How are you feeling, kid?"
"I don't really know," Jim admitted, looking past the doctor. "Why are there pink elephants in my room?"
"There aren't," the doctor assured him in a warm voice. It didn't sound patronizing like Jim had come to expect. It sounded like the doctor knew Jim would understand what he was told. "It's the medicine."
"Medicine?" Jim repeated, distracted by a particularly bright pink elephant that was crossing his room, a gold crown perched between oversized ears. Big ears. That meant they were African elephants. They were very orderly as they paraded through. The babies were pale pink, like a lady's slipper that had just bloomed. The larger ones, the ones that were no doubt the females, were several shades darker, closer to the color of his mom's camellia. The largest, the male elephants, were deeper pink nearly purple, like the crocuses his mom always said herald the arrival of spring, even if they end up buried in snow. "Huh?" he said when the doctor said his name in that sharp way adults do to express their frustration.
"Have you been listening to me?" the doctor asked, studying him with worried eyes.
"Mostly. I had… have Seyp fever. The medicine gives me hallucinations. There aren't any elephants in here," Jim repeated, relieved when the doctor nodded. "When's Mom coming?"
"Your mom?" the doctor asked. Jim could see that the question worried him. Had his mom yelled at him? Jim hoped not. This doctor seemed awfully nice. And he thought all of his memories of him were…comfortable.
"Yeah. Any time I'm in the hospital, she comes," Jim said, looking around the room. It wasn't anything like the other hospital rooms he had been in, the elephants non-withstanding.
"Do you know where you are, Jim?" Dr. McCoy asked gently.
"The hospital?" Jim responded, no longer so sure. The Doctor seemed concerned by his answer.
"Yes. But where?" the Doctor asked in the same gently coaxing tone.
"Iowa?" Jim guessed. But in truth he wasn't sure. Dr. McCoy didn't talk like anyone he knew in Iowa. He talked like some of the people in his holovids did.
"What is your whole name?" the doctor asked.
"James Tiberius Kirk," Jim responded. "You are Dr. Leonard McCoy, right?"
"I am. How do you know me?" Dr. McCoy asked.
"Uhmm… I don't know. I just do. And that I can trust you," Jim said hopefully. He was certain he was right but what if he wasn't? What if this doctor wasn't what he seemed to be?
"You can trust me, kid. We are friends," the doctor promised.
"Okay," Jim said with a nod. "Is Mom on her way?"
"I'm not sure. I'm going to go check with her and see. Will you be okay if I leave you alone for a few minutes?"
"Yeah," Jim agreed with a nod. "I'm thirsty."
"I know, Jim. I can let you have a little water. Is it okay if I send a nurse in with it?"
"Uh huh. Can she bring me something to read?" Jim asked softly.
"Of course. What do you like best?"
"Space adventures, please. Ones that end happily."
"Of course," the Doctor said, one of his warm hands over Jim's. "I won't be long.
"Okay," Jim said. "And the elephants won't step on me. Right?"
"They won't. They know to steer clear of your bed."
Jim nodded at that, watching the parade as Dr. McCoy left, promising the nurse would be right in with some water.
Leonard asked Christine to take the Captain a small cup of water, explaining that he seemed to be hallucinating and to mostly agree with anything he said, at least for now. And use his first name rather than his rank. Christine looked a little worried by his instructions but nodded and did as he asked.
Dr. McCoy went into his office and secured his door. Mentally crossing his fingers, he dialed Jim's mom, sighing in relief when she answered.
"Leonard," she said in surprise. She was dressed in a dark blue tee shirt, her hair wet, her face freshly scrubbed. "What's wrong?"
"Jim's okay, Mrs. Kirk. Well. Mostly he's okay," Leonard said, sighing in frustration at himself. "He's come down with Seyp fever."
"Oh dear," Winona said. "How long has he had it?"
"He's in the third day. He finally woke up a few minutes ago," Leonard told her.
"And there are elephants in the room," Winona said knowingly, some of the worry ebbing from her expression.
"Yes. Pink ones," Leonard agreed. "How old was he when he had it last?"
"Uhmm… eight," she said with a frown of concentration. "Sam was eleven. Thankfully I didn't catch it."
"Eight," Leonard repeated, considering that information.
"What is it, Leonard?" Winona asked. She could see there was something troubling the doctor.
"I think he thinks he's still eight," Leonard explained.
"Oh," Winona said. "Is he asking for me?"
"Yes. He knows his own name. And he knows who I am. But he thinks he's in a hospital in Iowa."
"Oh dear. If I could get to you, it would take me at least a week," Winona said, biting her lower lip in concentration, a habit he recognized as passed down from mother to son. "His reversion is only temporary, right?"
"I hope so," McCoy said before he could stop himself. "Yes. I'm sure it is. I'm going to check all the records of the fever I can find and see if there is any history of this happening."
"Can't Spock reach him? Surely he can remind Jim who he really is," Winona said.
"Spock is in isolation in their quarters. He's never had Seyp fever. If he contracts for the first time as an adult, it could kill him."
"Oh dear. How many of the crew have it?" she asked, knowing it raced through tight quarters faster than the latest gossip.
"Just over 25% right now. We think we have it contained. Everyone who has had it has been inoculated against it recurring. There are only 34 crew who haven't had it or would be vulnerable to it. Like Spock."
"And Jim refused to leave his post so he came down with it," Winona said with a shake of her head.
"Yes. We had to keep him and Spock apart so Spock couldn't stop him from working triple shifts. And Jim's allergic to the vaccine. We thought he had escaped it until I found him passed out in the bathroom right off the bridge."
"Are you all right, Leonard?" she asked, studying him across the distance.
"Yes ma'am. I'm immune to it. Hearty southern stock, I guess," he said with a tired smile.
"I'm also immune," she said. "I wished I had passed those genes onto Jim and Sam."
"I'm sure Jim will be fine, Mrs. Kirk. Would you be willing to talk to him? Tell him you are out on assignment and you can't get back?"
"Of course. I'll stand by so I can talk to him just as soon as you tell him," she agreed with a nod.
"Thank you. I should contact you again in just a few minutes."
"I'll be here," Winona agreed, disappearing as Leonard closed the connection.
Before he left his office, he contacted Spock. "Hey," he said when Spock responded.
"Leonard," Spock said, studying him. "What has happened?"
"Jim's awake," Leonard told him.
"Yet something is amiss," Spock guessed, his voice even and betraying none of the rising tide of panic. One of the many feelings he began to experience only after he fell in love with his Captain.
"He thinks he's eight. I contacted Winona and she confirmed he was eight the last time he had it."
"He has reverted to his childhood," Spock said, trying out the words for himself. They were no less frightening in his own voice.
"He has," Leonard agreed. "He knows me. But he thinks he's in Iowa. He's waiting for his mom to come to the hospital. Like she always does."
"I see," Spock said, considering Leonard's words, turning them over in his mind to try and absorb them.
"Can you reach him?" Leonard asked hopefully.
"As you instructed, I have not tried," Spock said. "I will, however, do so now."
"Just be careful. You might frighten him," Leonard said gently.
"As I am aware," Spock replied, closing his eyes. It was only seconds later that he opened them to look at Leonard, his anxiety apparent. "Our pathways have been… closed off."
Leonard nodded. He wasn't surprised. "They didn't exist when he was eight. He's functioning as though he is still."
"We are bonded," Spock said, unable to comprehend his inability to reach Jim. "His condition should not alter our connection."
"His mind is that of his eight year old self, Spock. It can't understand the idea of bonding or melding," Bones said. "Listen. Winona is standing by to tell Jim she can't come to the hospital. When they are done, I'm going to contact you. See if Jim knows you."
"When may I visit him?" Spock asked, the defeat in his voice tearing at McCoy's heart. Almost anyone but Jim would have missed it but Leonard heard it and could not stand it.
"We'll put you in a sterile suit tomorrow if we have to. Not today. It will be too much for you both."
Spock nodded although everything in him wanted to argue. "You will contact me after Winona has spoken with him?"
"I will. While you're waiting, you'll be researching reversion as a result of the fever, right?"
"I will," Spock agreed, already keying in the information.
"You'll both be fine," Leonard promised.
"Thank you, Leonard," Spock said, his words conveying much more than simple gratitude.
Leonard went back over to Jim's room, finding him laughing softly at the antics in the book Christine had given him.
"Hi," Jim said when he looked up.
"Hey," Leonard responded. "I contacted your mom. She wants to talk to you."
Jim frowned at that. "She's not coming."
"That's what she wants to talk to you about," Leonard said with a nod. "Here."
Jim accepted the portable vid-comm, turning it on. "Hey Mom."
"Hey baby," Winona said with a bright smile. "How are you feeling?"
Jim shrugged. "My head hurts. And I'm thirsty."
"I know, baby. Dr. McCoy will be able to help you with that."
"Are you coming here, Mom?" Jim asked hopefully.
"I can't, baby. I'm away on assignment. It would take me a week to get to you."
"Oh," Jim said, his bottom lip quivering. "You always come."
"I know. And I'd give anything to be there with you. But I can't," Winona said, her own blue eyes clouding up. "Leonard is going to take really good care of you. He knows all the best things to do for your fever."
"You can't come?" Jim asked, a slow tear tracing down his cheek.
"None of that, baby," Winona said warmly but firmly. "You know when I'm out on assignment, I can't always get back. Even when I wish I could."
"I know," Jim said, sniffing and swiping his cheeks with his pajama sleeve. "I'll be good, I promise."
"Of course you will, baby. I never doubted that. I'll come see you just as soon as I can. But it probably won't be until next month some time."
Jim nodded, staring at Winona. "And you're not mad at me, right?"
"Oh baby," Winona said, shaking her head. "Of course not. I love you. But I'm way too far away to come see you right now."
"Kay," Jim said. "Can you tell the doctor all the things I like to eat? And the medicines I can't have?"
"I already did. Leonard has all the lists. He'll make sure you get plenty of orange soda."
"And graham crackers."
"Yes, baby. As many graham crackers as you want," Winona assured him. "And you know the elephants aren't real, right sweetheart?"
"I know you can't see them," Jim hedged.
"All right," Winona conceded. "But you aren't going to worry about them stepping on you. Because they won't."
"Dr. McCoy promised me that too," Jim agreed. "Does Sam have the fever too?"
"No baby. But he can't come to see you right now."
"Cause he'd get it too," Jim said.
"Yes he would," Winona confirmed. "Do you need anything else, darling?"
"No. I miss you."
"I miss you too. And I'll come see you just as soon as I can."
"Okay. I love you, Mom," Jim said, trying for all the world to sound brave but not entirely succeeding.
"I love you, too. And you can call me any time you want. You know that, right?"
"Uh huh," Jim said, nodding. "Bye."
"Bye baby. Love you most."
"Love you more," Jim returned, watching until the very last second. He stared at the blank screen before looking up at the Doctor who was patiently waiting. He extended the comm to the Doctor who accepted it to turn it on.
"Someone else wants to speak to you, Jim," Leonard said, turning the comm to show Jim Spock. "Do recognize him?"
Jim nodded enthusiastically, taking the comm. "This is Spock. He's my bestest friend."
"Hi Jim," Spock said in some relief. "How are you feeling?"
"I'm okay. Mom can't come."
"I know, love. Leonard told me. I know you miss her."
"I do. I miss you too. Can you come play with me?" Jim asked hopefully.
"I cannot," Spock said in regret. "I am not immune to the fever."
"Oh. If you got it, it would be bad."
"Very bad," Spock agreed, watching Jim yawn. "You need go back to sleep for a little while."
"Not yet. Five more minutes?" Jim requested.
"All right. Then you'll need to sleep for a while. So you can recover from the fever."
"I will," Jim promised, scooting further down in the bed, still staring at Spock. "Can you read to me? I'll fall asleep faster."
"Of course, love. Close your eyes and I'll read you Green Eggs and Ham."
"You hate that book," Jim said, sleep already coming over him.
"It is one of your favorites," Spock replied, almost smiling at Jim's softened expression.
"I am Sam. Sam I am," Jim quoted to get Spock started. Spock took the hint and recited the familiar verses to Jim who very quickly fell asleep.
Leonard gently pried the comm from Jim's arms, checking with Spock.
"I am… all right," Spock decided.
"Okay. How do you think he knows you?"
"I have no idea. Best friend is one description he often uses for us both."
"True. But he doesn't recognize me as a friend. Only a doctor."
"Some part of him knows you are a friend, Leonard. Otherwise he would not be so comfortable with you," Spock reminded him.
"There is that," Leonard agreed, taking a deep breath.
"You need to sleep. I know that it has been three days."
"Yeah. Now that Jim is physically out of danger, I'll sleep for a while," Leonard agreed. "Did you find anything useful yet?"
"Not as of yet. I will continue to search."
"You need to sleep too," Leonard reminded him. "I'm not the only one who has been awake for more than 72 hours."
Spock nodded at that, assuring the doctor before they signed off that he would get some sleep.