There was a cool hand on the back of Jim's neck. The floor beneath him was also blissfully cool, but it held none of the comfort he needed. The hand lightly squeezed, reassuring him. It moved to his back, gently rubbing circles while a voice spoke close to his ear. He couldn't make out the words.

The ground vibrated with what could only be the footsteps of half a dozen crew members. The voice moved from his ear to bark orders at them.

Jim grimaced. It had to be Bones. What was he saying? Everything was garbled. Jim was content to drift between worlds, and Bones was yelling-

Strong arms worked their way under his form and lifted him. He flailed when the ground fell away, arms reaching. His hands found a shirt and clung to it. When he opened his eyes to see what was happening, light blinded him and he buried him head into the crook of Bones' shoulder as if he were a child. If you can't see them, they can't see you. Wasn't that the rule?

Jim felt a breeze on his legs as they spun around and began moving. Bones continued to speak above him. Coherent thought must have been returning, because he understood most of what the man was saying.

" You're burning up… told the damn nurse to keep an eye… need a fresh gown and a fever reducer… sick of hypos by now, but it's for your own good, kid."

The world spun as they took another sharp turn. There was the familiar sound of the transporter doors opening and closing, the whirring that accompanied their journey, and then a hiss and the bustling of sick bay.

"Ensign, get the hell over here!" Bones snapped. "Where's Chapel anyway?"

A bed rose up under Jim, but the sheets felt like they'd been refrigerated. He jerked, lashing out with his leg. Someone grabbed his ankle and pinned it to the bed. He tried to sit up to see who, but his ribs hurt something fierce. He fell back to the bed with a groan. A hand brushed his forehead.

"Bones-" he rasped. It felt like he'd swallowed a sheet of sandpaper.

"Quiet, Jim. Try not to move." The annoyance in Bones' tone was laced with concern.

The whirring of a tricorder near Jim's ear made him instinctively jerk back. Everything was happening too fast.

Someone tugged at the ties on his gown and pulled it away, leaving him naked. Again. Why the hell didn't someone just take photos and put them on the monitor? He turned toward Bones and tried to curl into a ball, but his shivering body would only allow so much movement. His knees wouldn't reach his chest. Among the droning voices around him, there was the sound of a privacy curtain being yanked around the bed.

"Nurse Chapel. Towel." The order was terse. Jim could imagine Bones using the same abrupt tone in surgery. Laser. Regenerator. Hypo.

A towel – a heated towel, by God – gently dried his skin, being especially careful over his broken ribs. The grumbling that accompanied such affection would have made Jim smile if he'd had the strength.

"I'm a doctor, not a damn babysitter. Can't keep an eye on you all the time." Hands cautiously arranged him so that he was on his back once more. Jim could practically feel Bones eying his expression for any signs of discomfort.

Honestly, though? He could barely stay awake. Pain was worlds away.

Bones finished toweling him off with a firm wipe of his hairline. If this had been an everyday situation, Jim would have cracked a joke about Bones' backwards way of doing things.

Come on, Bones, he would have said with a wink, Everyone knows you start with the head and work your way down.

The privacy curtain was yanked back and then forward with a harsh metal-on-metal scrape. Footsteps approached the bed. "The fresh gown, doctor. I also retrieved the fever reducer, pain killer, and sedative you ordered."

Sedative? That was just mean. He wasn't hurting anybody.

"Good," Bones gruffly answered. "At least someone knows what they're doing around here. Let's start with the gown. I'll sit up him up."

Hands grabbed his shoulders, and before Jim knew it, his head was lolling forward.

"Remind me… not to pick a fight with you," he slurred. A drop of drool escaped his mouth, trailing down his chest. How very dignified.

"You back with us, kid?"

The gown was pulled over his head and Jim couldn't help but notice that it resembled an oversized bib. Bones guided his head to the pillow before swiftly sliding an arm under his knees and lifting his lower half. Chapel must have straightened out the gown underneath him in a hurry, because they were securing the side ties with practiced efficiency before Jim could even muster a proper response.

"Warm," he mumbled.

"I'm not surprised," was the dry response. "A fever accompanied by delirium would throw off your body's ability to regulate temperature. First you're hot, then cold. Swinging back and forth like a damn pendulum."

Yeah. A pendulum. Use whatever simile you want. Just make it stop.

"Nurse. Hypo."

Wait a second. "No sedative, Bones," he slurred, trying to move away. His head hurt when he turned it, the flare of pain causing him to sharply inhale. Damn. He was having one hell of a day. Everything was too bright and cold and painful and-

"Keep still." Hands firmly cradled his head and brought it back to its original position. Jim felt the edge of the bandage near his eye being lifted and clenched his jaw in anticipation of more pain.

None came.

He breathed a sigh of relief just before a hypo pressed against his neck and compressed.

Ouch.

"It's just a fever reducer, kid."

"Can someone-" Jim swallowed a yawn. "Can someone turn down the lights? I'd like to open my eyes without burning my retinas."

Bones grunted. "Section A lights, 50%." He checked Jim's pupils for the proper reaction, lifting the lids one at a time. Jim was only too happy to allow them to fall shut when he was done. "For someone who was delirious only minutes ago, you seem to be quickly regaining your lucidity."

"You flatter me."

Jim cracked his eyes just in time to see Bones grimly administer another hypo.

"Bones!"

"That was the pain killer."

"You might have at least asked if I'm in pain first." The more control Jim lost, the crankier he felt. Being completely at the mercy of his CMO and best friend does not a happy Captain make. Not that he didn't trust Bones, but being helpless just felt so… helpless.

"I can read the pain lines all over your face, kid. Or have you forgotten that I do this for a living?"

"What, stab people when they least expect it?"

"This last hypo is a sedative so you don't venture off again." Bones ignored his temperament and readied the third hypo by double-checking the contents. Probably didn't want to see Jim fight off another anaphylactic attack, no matter how difficult he was being. "By the time you wake up, the fever should be gone and so should your headache."

"Uh, let's not rush into this, Bones." Jim looked around for backup, but the only person nearby was nurse Chapel. No doubt she'd side with Bones. "Listen, I'm feeling much better. No hallucinations, no blurry vision. Have you ever heard me sound so coherent?"

"Don't be an infant," Bones said, but it was with less enthusiasm than usual. He sounded tired. He'd probably been caring for other injured crew members all night.

Jim tried to move his head away again. He didn't want to be sedated. Why was that so difficult to understand?

"What's the extent of damage to the ship? Who attacked us?"

Bones aimed for his neck with the hypo. "All of that will be waiting for you when you wake up."

"No-" In a move of desperation, Jim scooted back too far. His ribs flared even before his momentum carried him off the bed. There was a crack as his head hit the floor and a distant curse from Bones. All Jim could see were hurried feet walking around the bed.

"You idiot."

Uh-oh. Bones sounded pissed.

"This is exactly why you need a sedative. Can't go two seconds without pulling some stunt that makes your injuries worse."

Jim would've pointed out that he hadn't meant to fall off the bed, if only he could pull in a breath. He clenched his eyes shut, pathetically gasping for air.

Bones knelt and ran a tricorder over his prone form. Though he didn't seem satisfied with the readings, they weren't enough to stop him from working two arms under Jim. He grunted with effort as he lifted him back onto the bed. Though he was as gentle as possible while setting him down, the bed might have been made of solid rock for how it pressed against his ribs.

Okay, perhaps it might be time to rethink his objection to the sedative. The pain killer he'd been given only minutes earlier wasn't doing much to lessen his agony.

So when Bones deftly administered the hypo with a sneaky flick of his wrist, Jim couldn't find the words to complain. He welcomed the sudden muscle weakness and the way his eyelids began to droop.

And when he heard the further orders to Nurse Chapel, "Put the kid in soft restraints for now. I'll put a stasis field around his injured ankle," all Jim felt was a surge of gratitude. Bones only wanted him back on his feet as quickly as possible.

No one could fault the good doctor for that.


Author's Note 05/25/13:

Hey guys! SO, I haven't seen the new movie yet. Hopefully I'll see it today. Then I'll be off like a shot at the typewriter. I do miss Bones.