A/N: I wrote this fic a little more than a year ago. It was my first toe into Star Trek fandom, and I still have a soft spot for this fic. Um.. This came from an LJ challenge about Tarsus IV, and I'm sorry but I can't remember which community now.

EDIT A/N: As it got pointed out to me, apparently my sharp sign (#) in the title didn't appear. Thank you, AnneMary, for commenting upon that. Apparently ff.n doesn't allow '#' signs in the title box, so I used an alternate method.

I set this in Reboot!verse, and I don't know why exactly, considering Bones has DeForest eyes and not Urban eyes, but whatever.

Warnings: The psychological and emotional effects of Tarsus IV. Angst.

Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek, for I am not Gene Roddenberry. It sucks.

~*Tarsus*~

2246-

The smell of rot permeated the air, red dust swirling across the landscape as the shuttlecrafts touched down next to the, once was, cornfield. The captain of the Federation ship, orbiting slowly above the planet, stepped beyond the rest of the cavalry and squinted; looking for the colonists he expected to see. Walking forward, signaling his crew to follow him, he peered down at the ditch that loomed before him. He staggered back, appalled, and his security team raised the phasers to neutralize the threat.

The captain waved them off, pulling his communicator out and opening it. Hailing the bridge, he stated: "Commander, this is the captain. Send additional members for our search and rescue mission. Also, procure our best security team and send the straight to me."

"Aye Captain." came the expected response.

As the security team beamed down, he turned to the other members of the landing party, all now gazing into the ditch in apparent disbelief.

Crossing himself subtly, the captain joined them in their stunned silence, and peered down at the gruesome sight.

The lifeless eyes of hundreds of colonists stared back at the Starfleet crew, silently mocking them for being so late to their rescue.

~*Tarsus*~

2260-

Frowning thoughtfully, the captain of the USS Enterprise nodded toward passing crewmembers, all of which hurriedly saluted him before resuming their business.

The captain sighed, eyebrows furrowing at each exuberant wave in his direction. It was weird, he supposed, because most of them were his classmates when he was still a cadet. Hell, some of them were older than him, and yet they were the ones who had to practically bow down to him.

Not that he wasn't happy to be the captain of the Enterprise, no, of course not: once he finally sucked it up and went to the academy it had been his dream. And yet, looking at all those faces, trying to be ebullient when most were still mourning loved ones, it seemed he was missing something. Whenever he turned around and saw ensigns older than himself, it always made him feel too young, too ignorant, too headstrong with not enough discipline.

Yet here he was, the youngest captain that Starfleet had ever seen. And he was good, not even the Admiralty could deny him that at the rate of his success missions. Yet they would always screw around with him and his ship, trying to make something break, preferably his mind. Yet he would always show them, always have the upper hand. Yet, even now, he still had doubts about himself; doubts that he was too messed up, too broken to be doing the Federation any good except for minimum wage labour.

However, it wasn't the appropriate time to think that particular thought process. That could wait until he was mostly smashed, head in Bones' lap, (whose fingers would inevitably run over his scalp, regardless of the 'Damnit Jim, you were just drunk and hallucinating!' that would follow like clockwork) and another drink waiting to be imbibed. Then the night would grow longer, his head heavier and heart lighter, and he would fall asleep, content. However, it wasn't the appropriate time to finish that particular thought process either.

Steadily gliding through the corridors, eyes never faltering from his intended pathway, submerged in his charcoal grey thoughts, he almost didn't hear the frantic noises headed in his direction.

Narrowly avoiding the oncoming bullet of redshirts passing his view, he turned on his heel as if to stride away. He stopped abruptly when one of the redshirts, an ensign by his uniform, stopped to catch his breath, voice wheezing out to his now stopped friend.

"John! Don't worry. Go on without me, I'll catch up to you later!" he panted, clutching his knees, slightly bent over himself.

His friend nodded, smiled, and ran off to catch up with the others.

James T. Kirk (Jim, Jimmy, 003618) looked over at his fallen comrade, who seemed dirtier than before, hair matted to his head and stomach distended in near starvation.

The boy seemed to notice his stunned gaze and hurriedly made to stand up, making an aborted attempt to move closer to his superior officer.

"Captain!" he called breathlessly, flushed in both exertion and embarrassment alike.

Jimmy gazed at him blankly for a moment, before abruptly turning and sprinting toward the maze that made up Engineering. "Come on Kevin!" he desperately yelled, turning his head slightly to the frightened boy, as he ran through the dusty cornfield, "We have to get moving again before we get caught!"

Jimmy didn't want to be 003618 again. Didn't want to be at the camp where all they did was work from dawn until dusk, (planting, cultivating, weeding; giving more attention than they would ever get) waking up the next morning and doing all of the same.

Jimmy didn't want to be James again. Didn't want to be manhandled by officials, ('James, you're quite a rascal, aren't you?' laughing) serving them lavish feasts when there were hoards of others fighting for scraps.

But they were coming. Everybody was chasing him and the ones he helped to free from their captivity. And he wouldn't be a traitor, not to Kevin, not to Janny. He wouldn't be a traitor even though all he could feel were the pains his stomach let out every time he stepped down on the compacted soil. So he ran, hoping the others would follow him, but instinctively knowing that they wouldn't, couldn't. So he ran.

~*Tarsus*~

Dr. Leonard H. McCoy, (McCoy, Leonard, 'Hey you! Yeah, the grumpy one!') Chief Medical Officer aboard the USS Enterprise was in his office idly glancing over the crew's medical files.

When did he get into this state? This state where he didn't wake up every morning feeling sick to his stomach, trying not to heave at the thought of the nothingness that surrounded him at every window. This state where he actually looked forward to doing his job, even though most of the day he spent doing nothing more than fixing burns, bruises, and the occasional bout of influenza (if he was lucky). This state where he was mostly content with his life, didn't have the urge to drink away his sorrows every time he saw a (happy, in love) couple with a child skipping ahead of them. This state where he found love, and with the grace and beauty of a wayward autumn leaf, it found him back. This state where everything was completely different, yet irrefutably the same.

Leonard (Bones) McCoy knew something bad would happen; it was as foreseeable as Spock and he getting into a heated debate over virtually nothing. He just didn't know when. Or to whom. And it would probably be on the next away mission, Jim clutching the crewmember he barely saved, bleeding from somewhere major and smiling triumphantly. Then Bones would grumble, fix him up, hypo him for being stupid, and never let him guess that when he saw all of the blood, he was afraid that it would be the last time.

Shaking his head of the bittersweet thoughts, he focused in on completing the buildup of "paperwork" (which should really be called PADD-work, but the 20th century slang seemed more appropriate for the plethora of it) he acquired in the past two weeks. Just as he was sending off the first batch of the mind-numbingly pointless incident reports of his stupid patients, his comm. system blinked to life, emitting a soft noise in mechanical greeting.

"McCoy here," he barked, opening the channel, secretly glad for the momentary distraction.

"Doctor," Spock's inflectionless voice started, a slight hitch in it that instantly alerted Bones that something was, at least, marginally wrong. "Doctor, there is an incident in Engineering that I have just been called down to. I believe that it would be best for you to come down, as my presence seems to be hindering the situation further."

The comm. line blinked closed and McCoy eyed it for a second, willing Spock to be even more evasive if he could. Quickly though, he marched away from his office, stopping only to grab his med kit and shout to Chapel that she was in charge, before he strode his way to the turbolift.

~*Tarsus*~

Stepping out of the hallway and into the cavern that made up the lifeblood of the Enterprise, McCoy encountered the situation he was both dreading and anticipating. Pausing, Dr. Leonard H. McCoy categorized the frightened, tear filled eyes of Ensign Pavel Chekov and the wary, (surprisingly) emotion filled ones of Commander Spock. He assessed the situation as clinically as treating a paper cut, turning to evaluate the situation they were staring at. A man, (the captain) his brain supplied, was crouching against the wall, rocking slowly back and forth, his eyes darting over the figures standing above him, and hands clenching (preparing for a fight). A psychotic break? Maybe. He was muttering senseless numbers and words, eyes glazed as if seeing something else entirely. But wait. His whispered peas were too lucid, making sense to McCoy's ears, to be a psychotic break. Leaning closer, Dr. Leonard H. McCoy paused to listen to the murmurs coming from the captain. Ascertained were: 'No, please no!' and 'Run! We have to go!' Then there was the shout that Dr. Leonard McCoy both hoped and feared he would hear. (A flashback then, and he knew exactly to what).

"Kevin run!" Jim shouted, clutching at the air, grabbing at a phantom.

Bones dropped his med kit and kneeled at his friend's level, making soothing sounds and gentle gestures that only backed Jim further into the wall, crunching his body up as if he could disappear the smaller he got.

Making a split-second decision that was uncommon in his everyday life, he yelled at Chekov: "Get Janice Rand and Kevin Riley down here by yesterday! And yes I mean you, Ensign!"

Ignoring the tears that ran unbidden down Chekov's cheeks as he ran to acquire the aforementioned personnel, Bones turned back to Jim.

Jim, who was crying silently, tears only emphasizing the look of utter terror that adorned his face (a Mardi Gras mask out of his worst nightmares). His hands were still clutching insistently at the air, as if giving his mind something completely inconsequential to focus on. He had absolutely no idea where he was, and Bones would do anything in his power to rectify the heart-wrenching situation he now faced.

"Hey Jim," he practically whispered, voice going soft as if singing Jo a lullaby, "Hey darlin' it's time for you to come home now. I know you're scared, and that's okay, but you need to open your eyes and come home."

Jim burrowed deeper in into himself as Bones moved cautiously forward. Eyes, once focused on the ground, now latched onto his with such intensity that Bones froze in his tracks.

"It's okay sweetheart," he soothes, moving back to his original position, "it's just me baby. It's just Bones. I won't do anything to hurt you darlin', I'll just sit right here and I'll just sit right here and talk to you, okay?"

An aborted movement in his peripheral vision caused him to look away from Jim for a moment, focusing on a deceptively calm Spock.

"Doctor," he started, once realizing he had most of McCoy's attention, "I do not believe that your methodology is helping the situation we are presently in."

Bones turned back to Jim, making shushing noises with his throat for a few seconds before replying.

"Spock," he said, not turning to look at the other man, "I've been in basically this same situation exactly three times before today. The first time I had no idea what to do and shook him out of it; he was jumpy around me for days after. The second and third time consisted mainly of guesswork, mostly using tactics to get people out of nervous breakdowns, but I got him out of it sooner rather than later, and mostly whole. This time I know what to do, so please let me do my job as a doctor, which can include impromptu psychological care, and make our captain functional again."

In a normal situation, the doctor's voice would have been raised to a shout and his hands would have been clenched in fists. However, his demeanor stayed calm and serene, and Spock backed away, tasking himself with the job of subterfuge to the various members walking through the corridor.

Bones rolled his shoulders back, subtly stretching out his neck. Turning back to Jim to give him his 100 percent attention, he stopped. Jim was leaning forward from his place on the wall, his hands now reaching out toward the blue-eyed man in front of him. Bones, slowly as not to frighten him, reached out into the void and gently took Jim's hands within his own. Tangling their fingers together and grasping softly, Bones let a relieved smile break out on his face.

"There we go darlin'. Now you're safe; you're here with me now and no one's ever gonna take ya away. You're with me and I love ya an' I'll protect ya from everything that wants to hurt ya, you hear?"

"Bones." Jim muttered, nodding his head in agreement with Bones' statement all the while. "Bones we need to hide, he'll come back and get us."

Bones looked down at Jim, finally making the move he had wanted to since the beginning, and pulled the terrified man to his chest.

"Bones." Jim whispered, voice pathetic with nerves, "Bones we have to leave now. We have to go or he'll catch us like he did Kevin and Janny."

"He's not gonna catch us sweetheart, He's not here. It's just you and me, an' Kevin and Janny'll be here in just a minute. You're safe here, okay darlin'?"

Jim nodded again, but the way his hand now clutched onto Bones' chest, he didn't entirely agree. Bones just smiled at him, running his newly freed fingers through the silky blond hair on the back of Jim's head. His hand came to rest softly at the back of his neck, tangling in the short hairs that resided there. Jim sighed, sagging slightly more into the hold that Bones had on him.

They stayed that way for a time. Jim, still scared, but instinctively knowing that Bones=safe. Bones, holding Jim with only the lightest touch, but wanting to use a death grip.

Light footsteps awakened the both of them from their respite, making Jim hold tighter to Bones in a nervous gesture. Bones glanced back, taking in the apprehensive faces of Janice Rand and Kevin Riley; a panting and disgruntled Chekov being dragged away by Spock; and then Spock himself who, just for a moment, looked back their way before promptly turning on his heel and departing.

"What's wrong?" Janice whispered, putting her hand soothingly on Riley's shoulder.

Jim looked up at the voice, eyes bulleting toward her as his mouth soundlessly worked out words.

"He's having a flashback and is asking about the two of you."

Janice nodded, wet eyes drifting to Jim's, smiling sweetly when his met hers.

"I'm not surprised," Riley whispered, smiling at Jim who had turned at his voice, "I know that for years afterwards I would have nightmares that felt so real I would wake up starving and attacking my parents. It mostly went away but now and then I'll hear something or smell something and I'll freeze for a second, fighting a memory that will never go away."

He paled, eyes distant and clouded over, lost in a phantom, before startling and turning his eyes back to Jim.

"Jimmy," he soothed, walking slowly towards Janice where she had Jim's hands in her grip, "Jimmy, it's Kevin-"

"And Janny," Janice interrupted, petting Jim's hand between her own.

"Janny?" Jim breathed, wonder evident in his face, "Kevin?" he continued, glancing between the two of them, mouth slightly open.

"Yeah Jim," Janice replied, voice relieved, "It's us."

"But you were gone. You guys got lost and I kept running because I was trying to find you and I knew that if I stopped I would get captured and I needed to find you two."

"Jim," Kevin started, kneeling in front of the shaking figure that kept both the doctor and Janice in a death grip, "Jim we were lost, but you found us, remember? And we all went to the cave by the cornfield and were picked up by the Starfleet crew a couple of days after? You remember, don't you?"

Jim nodded, slowly loosening his grip on his captives. "We were on the ship, and it was the biggest ship we had ever been on and then we went to Earth and were in the hospital for a month and spent all out time together. I helped you guys through your nightmares because I was the oldest and it was my job and my mom and Sam visited me everyday, but it never went away."

"No. It doesn't go away, and I don't think it ever will," Kevin said, rubbing Jim's shoulder as Jim started to stand up, "I don't think it will ever go away, but we can overcome it if we remember that it was all in the past and we're all safe here, now, on the Enterprise."

Jim laughed weakly, burying his face in Bones' chest. "Hey Bones," he whispered, turning from frightened to embarrassed in what seemed like a split-second.

"Hey yourself," Bones replied, finally tightening his grip around Jim's waist, "How are you doin' sweetheart?"

"I'm okay. Slightly mortified, but okay nonetheless… And don't call me sweetheart unless you want me to keep you in space for the next 15 years."

Janice and Riley, laughing at the sudden humour, (which was a total deflection, but Bones would allow it until they got to their quarters) slowly released their hold on the captain.

"Are you okay Jim?" Janice asked sweetly, tugging her skirt into its normal position.

"I'm fine Janny," he replied, smoothing down a wrinkle that she missed, "I'm sorry for taking you off of work for my stupid personal problem."

Bones tightened his arms on Jim's waist in disappointment and opened his mouth to say exactly what was on his mind about Jim's statement.

"It's not a 'stupid personal problem' James T. Kirk," Janice scolded, eyebrows furrowed and finger waggling in his direction, "It's a very rational problem that you obviously needed your friend's help in."

"Help that we were all too willing to provide," Riley added stoutly, crossing his arms in an only partial intimidating pose. "And if something like this happens again –to any of us—" he added at Jim's rapidly heating face, "I'll, personally, be insulted if neither of you gets me straight away… And I expect you both to be there if something happens to me."

Janice and Jim nodded, wide-eyed at the Kevin who apparently could take charge just as well as the rest of them.

He nodded decisively, turning away and leaving with a muttered, "I've got to get back to work."

Bones stood up after him, hauling Jim to his feet when it seemed he couldn't get up by himself. "Come on darlin'," he said, supporting most of Jim's weight, "Let's get you out of here and in a bed before you pass out."

Jim weakly wriggled his eyebrows at his words, all the while trying to kiss Janice's cheek in farewell.

"I'll see you around captain. With your schedule for the next month in my hands and waiting to be read and approved by you." She smirked, dodging his errant lips and taking off in record time.

Jim stood, looking after her for a minute before sighing and wearily placing his head on Bones' shoulder.

"I'm glad that they can at least pretend to act normally around me after that debacle," he breathed, his voice partially muffled by the fabric of Bones' medical tunic.

"It wasn't a debacle," Bones grumbled, pushing Jim to start moving through the, now, empty hallways, "It was a reasonable reaction to an outside stimulus that triggered a buried memory, causing a stress-related response to said stimulus. Hardly a debacle."

"You sound like Spock."

Bones turned to glare at him from where he was leaning against the turbolift wall, practically pushing him out when the doors opened.

"Come on asshole, let's go to bed," he snarked, keeping up the façade that Jim obviously needed.

Getting to the captain's room, Jim pressing in the code for the doors to open, Bones immediately went to take off his shoes, helping Jim out of his as well. He went to the closet, put them away, and grabbed sleep pants for the both of them, giving Jim the room he knew he needed after the intense episode. Turning back, he saw nothing for a second, panicked, and then looked down at the bed. The bed where Jim was sprawled out on, fully clothed, and fast asleep. Sighing, Bones went to the bed and started taking off Jim's clothes as gently as he could.

"Don't do that to me again sweetheart," he murmured, softly brushing every new piece of skin exposed, "I don't like to see you in pain, and it hurts me to see you so broken. I love you darlin' and I don't want you to be frightened ever again."

He paused, taking his clothes off, pulling down the covers, and rolling into bed beside Jim. He held Jim's back to his chest, hands gliding over his skin in relief that he was, mostly, okay. He kissed the back of Jim's neck and turned to set the alarm for the next morning. He was CMO and could get them both off of shift by saying they were sick. (Even if that meant more incident reports.)

"I love you darlin' and I won't ever leave you to face your fears alone," he whispered into Jim's ear, laying back and falling in a sort of drowsy wakefulness.

Jim's form turned slowly in Bones' arms, pressing his mouth against his doctor's own. "I love you too," he replied, smiling at the hazy eyes of his lover's. "I love you and I'll never let anything happen to you either."

"Good," Bones replied, peppering Jim's face with lazy pecks that Jim would normally never condone anywhere near his person, "Good. Now let's go to sleep. We'll talk more in the morning."

Jim nodded and put his head back down next to Bones'.

"Thank you," he breathed, knowing that Bones wasn't asleep, but would pretend he was for the sake of Jim's pride, "I don't know what I would do without you."