Breaking Stride

by DeepBlueSomewhere


Summary: One-Shot, set just after "Make it Home". Jim is trying his best to get over his captivity and torture at the hands of escaped Marakan convicts, but these things are never as easy as they sound. Of course, having an allergic reaction to a simple allergy shot doesn't help much either.


AN: I've been writing obsessively lately, and I wanted to give you all something to chew on while you wait for me to post the next chapter of "Perfect Strangers." This takes place immediately after "Make it Home", so if you haven't read that one first, you may want to. Enjoy!


It started with an itching in his throat, like maybe he'd swallowed wrong or was about to come down with some kind of flu. Being James T. Kirk, Jim ignored this unusual little warning sign because hey, it was just a little tickle, right? There was no need to blow it out of proportion.

It had been three weeks since the final documents had been signed and reports filed to wrap up the fiasco aboard the Arabeth. Even Bones had finally stopped watching him like he was about to keel over at any moment. After a certain number of physical exams and tricorder readings, the doctor had been forced to accept the fact that his best friend wasn't hiding anything from him and was indeed going to survive.

That didn't mean the incident had completely released Jim. Nights like tonight, he'd find himself drifting into a cool, comfortable sleep, only to shoot awake within minutes, clutching wildly at his now-healed hand in the throes of sleep-induced delirium. It had been a very long time since he'd had nightmares bad enough to keep him awake at night, but as was becoming painfully obvious, it took no more than a nudge to send him spiraling back into old patterns. No matter how much he would like to think that he past was buried, the fact remained that it had not been buried very deeply. It lingered close to the surface, and sometimes the slightest scratch could unearth things he wished could be long forgotten.

There was a short list of places the captain usually went on nights like tonight. If he was feeling talkative, the first place was Bones. No matter how tired or grumpy the doctor was, or what he was in the middle of doing, there was nothing he wouldn't drop at a word from Jim. Tonight was one of those rare evenings when Jim might have actually sought out his best friend's company, considering they both got busy to the point of distraction half the time and rarely saw each other lately without effort, but they'd worked the same shift that day, which meant the Doctor was probably asleep. Jim was also hesitant to let his friend in on the fact that he was having trouble sleeping again, a topic of heated contention since the early days of their friendship. Jim couldn't help being unable to sleep; Bones couldn't help worrying about it.

So the next logical place to go was the ship's gym. There weren't many things that could clear Jim's mind like running. Something about the rhythmic movement and getting his heart pumping and his blood flowing made his mind slow down, and half the time that was all he really needed. Once he hit his stride and settled into the sound of whirring fans and motors and the soft thump thump thump of his shoes on the belt, he could run for days. At least, it had felt that way once.

He'd been running for just under forty minutes now, and his T-shirt was soaked in sweat. There was an ache in his bones and muscles that he couldn't really write off to the exercise, and a pounding in his head that usually only showed up when he tried to exercise when he had a headache.

Slowing down, the machine automatically matched his stride as Jim tried to figure out why his body wasn't cooperating. He'd run four miles the day before and he'd barely noticed the aftereffects. Slowing down didn't seem to be helping either.

Catching his breath made him cough a little, and he wondered if maybe that irritating little catch in his throat might be behind this.

Sighing, he spoke to the ship's AI. "Computer, locate Doctor McCoy."

"Doctor McCoy is in Crew Quarters, Delta Sector, room 218."

As Jim had calculated, the Doctor was off his shift and probably dead asleep. His chances to make it in and out of medical without unnecessary fuss were looking good. Besides, now if Bones found out that Jim hadn't been feeling well, he could defend himself with the fact that he had actually sought out treatment instead of ignoring it as he usually did until it exploded into full-meltdown status.

The lone nurse on duty—it was nearing the end of delta shift, after all—looked shocked to see him.

"Captain." The nurse acknowledged as Jim walked in. "What can I do for you, sir?"

"At ease, Matheson." Jim grinned, because he really didn't want anyone getting the idea that he needed any serious medical treatment. "I've been having some allergies on the ship over the past day or so—sore throat, and so on—so I dropped in for a quick fix."

Matheson frowned as he turned to his tray. "Funny, you're the fourth person in today. The engineering crew mentioned something about some kind of fungus in the vents, but I never thought it would be enough to bring anyone in for treatment."

"Fungus?" Jim frowned, wondering why no-one had seen fit to inform him about this yet.

"Yeah, something they found while they were cleaning. I only know because one of the engineers stopped in for an allergy hypo about an hour ago."

"I'll go down and check on it later." Jim frowned.

"Here." The nurse held up a hypospray.

Jim grimaced, but obligingly pulled down his collar to allow the unpleasant tingle to sink into his skin.

"Thank you, Matheson." Jim sighed as he straightened his shirt. "Enjoy your night."

The nurse waved as Jim left, absently rubbing his sore neck. He was astonished he'd managed a trip to Medical with so little complication. He was sure that had a lot to do with Bones being off-duty. He reminded himself to employ that technique more often.

Kirk considered heading straight down to the Engineering deck to demand an explanation for being kept out of the loop, but he stopped himself. Scotty's department was scheduled to do a bi-weekly sweep of the ship air vents, and he needed to relinquish control and let them do their job. If they found anything serious, he had faith that they would follow protocol and come to him to address the matter.

With this theory in place, he headed back to the gym, intent on resuming his run. He was considering how proud McCoy would be that he had managed to wrestle down his tendencies to try to be everywhere at once and manage every little detail, when it first hit him. The dizziness came in a sharp, breathtaking wave that made him weave on his feet and pause, unsure if he could take another step without landing on his face.

It passed slowly, leaving him to wonder what he had just experienced as he carefully resumed walking. He was immeasurably relived that due to the general low traffic in the corridor and the lateness of the hour, none of his crew members had been around to witness his moment of weakness.

He had almost made it back to the gym when it came again. This time it completely upended his sense of equilibrium and he toppled to the floor, breathless. There was a heaviness in his chest that he couldn't account for, and breathing was becoming difficult.

Once again, the dizziness eventually faded away, but the shortness of breath was not as kind.

What the hell is wrong with me? Still half-kneeling on the floor, Jim's mind raced as he tried to come up with a logical explanation for these symptoms, seemingly from out of the blue. His hands trembled slightly where they rested against the paneled floor, holding him up.

It had to be the hypospray. He'd heard of others who insisted that allergy treatments made them tired. He probably just needed to get some sleep. With this theory firmly in place, he pulled himself unsteadily to his feet. If he could make it to his quarters, the dizziness would probably go away.

Trying to calm his racing heart and uneven breathing, he headed back towards the turbolift. A nagging, warning voice in the back of his mind was whispering to him that this feeling was anything but normal, especially as his chest began to feel heavy and constricted. He clutched at his shirt miserably as he hit the doors to the turbolift. If this was what an allergy shot made him feel like, he was fairly certain he would rather just deal with the sore throat next time.

Can't be normal. His mind insisted as the doors opened at Crew Quarters, Alpha Sector.

He could see his door. Some stubborn part of his reasoning insisted that if he could reach the privacy of his own room, he could get this under control. Unfortunately, even this short distance looked like it was going to be all but impossible to cross. He stumbled forward out of the lift, but as soon as his supporting hand left the wall he was pitching forward.

He managed to get one arm under himself awkwardly as he fell, half-rolling onto his side in an attempt to relieve some of the crushing pressure that seemed to have wrapped around his ribcage. A thin sheen of sweat had broken out on his forehead and his breaths were getting shallower and shallower.

Something is seriously wrong with me. The realization finally came. Gasping for breath, he half-crawled towards his door. There was a communicator inside; he could get to Bones.

Black spots were dancing in his field of vision when he finally made it to the door. Grinding his teeth against the now-full-blown nausea, he hauled himself up against the doorjamb by sheer force of will. It felt like he was walking through water, and trying to breathe it too. Jim reached for the manual numeric pad beside the frame; he didn't think he had the presence of mind to speak the command code for the door to open. His fingers shook as he keyed in the code; the small light flashed red. He'd entered it wrong. Half sobbing, half gasping, he steadied himself as much as he could and tried again.

After two more shaky attempts, the door slid open and he collapsed into the safety of his own quarters. If he'd held out any hope that his malady would miraculously ease once he made it in, he was sadly disappointed.

Where was his communicator? Unable to remember, he stumbled instead towards the console on the adjoining wall. Both Spock and Bones had insisted it be installed in case of emergency when he had first assumed captaincy, and he was thanking the stars for their forethought now.

Slumping against the wall, almost hyperventilating with the effort it was taking to draw breath, he stared up at the console blearily. There was a button to medical on it somewhere, but he couldn't remember. Everything seemed so far away.

He had to get to Bones. Bones would fix it. Bones was nearby, just a hallway or two away.

"Crew Quarters," He gasped to the AI, hoping the computer would be able to interpret his slurred words, "Two one eight…"

A soft beeping sound told him the computer was processing his request.

Drained, he let himself slide down against the cool panels. He groaned softly, trying to expand his lungs, draw some air. Anything to ease the horrible sensation of being unable to breathe. He knew he was on the verge of a panic attack; once his mind really caught up with the full-shutdown mode of his body it was bound to happen. The second he tried to breathe and couldn't—it would be over for him.

His lungs hitched; the end was coming.

"Yeah, Jim?" A groggy voice crackled over the speakers.

Jim gasped; he couldn't speak. His vision was fading in and out. What little sight he had left was filled with wildly flashing spots and glimpses of light from the still-open door.

"Jim, answer me." Bones demanded.

Bones. The simple word refused to be said. All he could manage was another pained groan. Iron bands were closing around his lungs. He was gasping wildly for air.

The speaker clicked, and Jim's heart nearly stopped. The doctor probably thought the connection had been a mistake.

No, Bones. Jim's panicked mind screamed out. I need you…

That was it, then. He was about to suffocate, and he'd been within arm's reach of help. He didn't have the strength to reach the wall console again.

His chest seized up again, and he thought for a brief moment that he had just drawn his last breath. Jim tried to quell the spike of panic; he couldn't let himself die this way, gasping for air on the floor of his own room. Slowly—too slowly—his lungs expanded once more, letting him try again to take in as much air as he could through shallow, panicked gasps. He was dripping with sweat now, shaking like a leaf.

Without warning, his stomach surged. He barely managed to turn his head before his stomach was violently bringing up what little he had consumed at mess that night. The combination of seizing stomach muscles and lungs that wouldn't cooperate left him gasping and hyperventilating. He could feel tears running down his face.

Pathetic. He told himself, even as he sobbed for breath, trying as hard as he could not to suffocate on his own mess. He couldn't stop heaving.

Somewhere far away and distant, he thought he heard the sound of footsteps, the touch of hands pulling his aching body up and relieving some of that terrible building pressure on his airways.

"Jim!" A voice called through the dancing lights and pounding sound in his ears.

"Bones..." Kirk groaned, wincing inwardly at how damn pathetic that sounded. He turned and heaved again.

Large, cool hands were on his face, his neck, his forehead. Even dead, Jim would have recognized them.

More voices tried and failed to cut through the haze of pain and shadows. There was the sound of a communicator, a rustle of fabric, and the hiss of a hypo. If it had been used on him, he was too far gone to feel it.

"Medical, where are you?" Hearing must have been coming back, because Jim could hear McCoy snapping into a communicator. Sight came slowly with it; his friend was half-kneeled on the floor, arms wrapped tightly around Jim. "You're okay, Jimmy." He crooned softly when he caught Jim's confused gaze. "You're okay." The doctor's eyes were lined with worry, his hair and uniform a rumpled mess. Jim knew he must have woken him up, and he felt a surge of guilt.

"Sorry, Bones…" He slurred softly.

"Sorry? What the hell are you sorry for?" The medical officer's chuckle had the ring of desperation to it as he tightened his arms around the captain, one cool hand supporting his head. "Almost dying again?"

Jim sighed, his whole body relaxing as breath came easier. He'd never realized how much he took for granted something as simple as breathing.

"I almost didn't make it to you this time, Jim." Leonard sighed softly, leaning in to press his lips to the top of Kirk's head. His emergency medical kit was laying in the doorway, tipped on its side as its contents spilled out on the floor.

Again, Jim realized how much he must have scared his friend.

He wanted to apologize, wanted to thank Bones for saving him for the hundredth time, but the doctor seemed content to sit there rocking him gently and words just wouldn't come. And then there were more footsteps, and shadows in the doorway. McCoy directed the medics inside.

Jim couldn't protest as he was lifted onto the obligatory stretcher. He was at the point where he knew that if he had a few minutes to catch his breath, he could probably walk down to medical himself. Bones' hypospray was working wonders in his body, relaxing coiled muscles and quelling the sickening nausea. At this point, however, he simply wasn't going to argue.

He grimaced a little, mortified at his own humiliating display as the doctor gently wiped the sweat and vomit from his face.

"How're you feeling?" McCoy looked into his eyes, another hypo in hand, clearly unwilling to believe that one shot had been able to work such a miraculous change in the captain.

"I'm okay, Bones." Jim mumbled, and it was true. He was feeling almost back to normal, besides being soaked in his own sweat and exhausted to the point of passing out. His head was pounding too, but he knew that was just the aftermath of his panic.

"I'll be the judge of that." The doctor tried to smile; it was a wry, worried expression that failed miserably and vanished almost as quickly as it had come. "Drink." He lifted a glass of water to Jim's lips, and the captain swallowed his pride as he drank greedily. The cool water felt amazing as it trickled down his tortured throat.

When Kirk had drained the cup, Bones gestured to the two medics. "Let's go."

Jim let his eyes slip shut as he was carted back down to medical. The ride was short, but the motion of the lift and the lights flashing overhead through his eyelids definitely brought back some of the nausea. When he opened his eyes again, he was in sick bay and Bones was hovering over him.

"Tell me what happened, Jim." The doctor was working on another hypospray.

"I don't know." The captain swallowed, trying to cleanse his scratchy throat and find the energy to articulate. "One minute I was down here for an allergy shot, and the next thing I knew I was—well, you know how I was."

"Allergy shot?" McCoy frowned, and then picked up the tricorder he had only just set down. He studied it for a moment, ran it briefly over the base of Jim's neck, and then swore to himself.

"You've got to be kidding me."

"What?" Kirk wasn't sure he liked the doctor's tone.

"Who was on duty down here when you came down?" Bones demanded.

"Uh, Matheson, I think." Jim frowned. "Are you going to tell me what's going on?"

McCoy was swearing softly under his breath as he abandoned the hypo he'd been preparing and picked up a new one. "Idiot gave you treatment without looking up your file, is what I'm guessing."

"How is that a problem?" Jim tried to talk from behind closed eyes; the lights of medbay were obnoxiously bright.

"You of all people should know." McCoy scoffed. Another hypo. "You're allergic to half the medical treatments in the galaxy, remember?"


"So you're saying… I just had an allergic reaction? To an allergy medication?"

"That's what I'm saying."

Jim sighed heavily. "Just my luck."

McCoy was already on his communicator, demanding that the offending nurse be hauled out of bed and back into medical for a dressing-down.

"Don't go too hard on him, Bones." Jim cracked his eyes open to ask. "I didn't think of it either."

"It's not your job to think of it." McCoy snapped, still on residual emotion from his call. "Matheson is a professional, on a federation starship, and he goes by protocol if he wants to keep his job. If you'd been any more stubborn or if I'd been any less paranoid, you probably wouldn't be alive right now."

McCoy was right, and Jim had no argument to offer. After a moment of watching the doctor stew in silence, he nudged his arm to bring him back to the present. "So, can I go back to my quarters now?"

Leonard looked miffed. "Well, it seems that your reaction has been countered and your condition is stable, but if you know what's good for you, you'll stick around here for the night."

"We both know that I have no idea what's good for me." Jim grinned.

"Ain't that the truth."

They were interrupted when Matheson entered sick bay, accompanied by two security officers and looking about as half-awake and alarmed as Bones had half an hour ago.

"My office." McCoy snapped. He didn't wait for the younger man to follow.

The nurse sent a panicked look at the bed where Jim lay. "I'm so sorry, Captain. I had no idea—"

"I know." Jim tried to be reassuring. "It's okay. Don't let him give you too much flack about it."

Swallowing, the unfortunate man followed McCoy into his office.

Sighing, Jim let his eyes slide shut again. He wished the doctor would go easy on the man, but had a feeling that he wouldn't.

In the meantime Jim was determined not to spend another night in medical if he could help it, but he was drained past the point of exhaustion now. Having confirmation that his body was done rebelling against him didn't hurt, either.

He was out like a light before he could come up with a good reason for staying awake.


He awoke to the odd sensation of floating. He realized he was still on the stretcher, and that it was moving. The lights above disappeared, and he recognized the ceiling of his own quarters.

Voices to the left and right faded in and back out, and he was being lifted gently onto his own bed.

"I can walk, you know." He mumbled sleepily as McCoy's face came into is line of vision.

"Sometimes I have to wonder." Leonard smiled. He looked exhausted, but most of the tension seemed to have drained out of his shoulders. Jim was glad to see it.

The doctor finished tucking Jim under the blankets like he was a sick child, and then sighed heavily.

"Sorry for almost dying again." Jim laughed tiredly into his pillow, wanting nothing more than to pass out for a couple of days.

"Your nine lives are running short, kid." The doctor smiled. "And so are mine. You've given me enough heart attacks to kill me three or four times."

"I thought we'd reached nine a while ago."

"We probably did."

Sighing sleepily, Jim lethargically patted the pillow by his head.

"Come on, old roomie. There's room for two."

The doctor looked skeptical. "Well, maybe for just a minute. I need to go finish up some paperwork before I can sign out for the night." He grumbled excuses even as he climbed on top of the blankets.

"Captain's orders." Jim mumbled into his pillow, turning onto his stomach and throwing one arm over McCoy's chest to keep him there.

"You're such a little kid."


"Shut up." Bones harrumphed. "Go to sleep."

"Well, I was working on that. But you were being so noisy."

"Hey, I'm not the noisy one here. It's not my fault I've got to babysit you to get you to sleep. Now shush."

Jim didn't hear anything after that.


He woke up late the next morning in exactly the same position he'd fallen asleep in. Bones was exactly where he'd left him, too. His head was lolling back off the pillow, mouth open as he snored softly. He looked ridiculous.

Jim grinned at the sight, and lifted his sore arm off the doctor. He felt a little guilty that he'd kept Bones awake and miserable for most of the night, especially considering how little rest either of them got as it was.

He remembered countless nights they'd spent this way back at the academy. McCoy had taken it upon himself at some point to ensure that Jim learned to get a full night's rest, and often remained with him stubbornly through the night—after a full day of studying and classes and training, it wasn't unusual for them both to pass out on a couch or bed or even on the floor. He wondered now, as he'd wondered many times before, how Bones had ever managed to get this close to him.

Lifting one hand, Jim gently poked the snoring medical officer in the side of the head.

The effect was instantaneous, and McCoy started awake at the touch. "Wha—?"

"Morning." Jim grinned devilishly.

Bones scowled at him, rubbing his neck. "And to think, you didn't even buy me dinner first."

Jim blinked. "I thought that was my line."

"Maybe I picked it up." The doctor smiled. "How're you feeling?"


"Wasn't your fault." Shifting uncomfortably, the doctor sighed. "Though maybe it is your fault you have such an uncomfortable bed."

"Didn't expect to be sharing it with anyone." Jim smirked, trying and failing to dodge the backhanded slap the doctor sent his way.

"So are you going to tell me why you were awake last night?"

Jim sobered instantly. "Wasn't on my schedule, no."

"Jim." Leonard sighed, a touch of exasperation creeping into his voice. "I thought we weren't going to play this game anymore."

As usual, Kirk's first line of defense warned him to make a joke, change the subject—something. But after remembering what he'd put the doctor through last night, he knew he owed it to him to be honest.

"Been having a little trouble sleeping since what happened." He admitted quietly, hating how weak that sounded.

"It's not surprising. Heck, I've been having trouble sleeping."

Jim looked up in surprise.

Bones gave him a look. "Come on, it's not like I'm invincible either."

Jim smiled softly. "Yeah, that's true." He flexed his hand automatically; it was becoming a habit he needed to break. "Just keep remembering."

"You're safe." Leonard replied seriously. "You made it out, and you're not going to have any permanent damage. It might be easier if you can learn to focus on details like that."

The captain nodded. There was no need to go into all the gritty details; Bones knew what had happened. He'd treated his wounds and spent hours healing the gaping hole in Jim's hand where he'd been repeatedly stabbed. He knew about the events of both weeks ago and years ago. He had learned all too well what set Jim off and what it usually took to cool him down. He knew, or at least had an idea, of what Jim dreamed about at night.

"I'll get through it." He glanced at the medical officer. "I've done it before. Just a little harder to shake the memories than I thought it would be."

"I know." Leonard's eyes were soft. "But you're a fighter, kid. I know you'll be alright." He smiled a little. "And for the times that you're not... well, that's why I'm here."

Jim smiled back. "You're such a softy, Bones."

"You're the little sissy who needs a teddy bear to sleep at night."

"You just called yourself a teddy bear."

Jim managed to get the pillow over his head before Leonard attacked him.




All angst and fluff, I know. I couldn't help myself. :]