Someone recently contacted me and asked for my permission to translate this story into Spanish! I'm so honored and completely utterly flattered about it! Once I get more details on it, I'll let you guys know (if you want to try reading it in Spanish, of course). Also, I've gotten quite a few requests to put this story on Archive of Our Own (or something like that?). I've looked at it and as soon as I get the time in the summer, I'll try to figure out how to post it on the website and let you guys know by my next chapter or something when I've done it. I do have a question though: should I post it up as one story with multiple chapters or as a ridiculously long series?

By the way, the reason why some of you couldn't review my chapter last time was because I had deleted and replaced the original chapter and Fanfiction wouldn't let you guys review the same chapter twice. Sorry about that. I hope you can still put in a review for the last chapter this time around too.

So I got a lot of amazing ideas for this chapter, most of which I read when I was already halfway through this chapter, so I apologize to not be able to incorporate some of your ideas into this one. However! I don't really have anything planned for the next one (I'll let you know the prompt at the end of this chapter), so I hope you all will help me out again! Thanks, you guys!

Anyway, as always, please read and review!

Disclaimer: I do not own any Star Trek franchise.


Truth or Dare

It started with a dare. It was just a normal day on the Bridge. For once, there were no missions and no one was trying to kill or maim them. The Enterprise was just drifting lazily in space while they waited for Pike's instructions, and Jim was getting bored out of his freaking mind.

He started to spin around on his chair, sighing. As much as he wanted to bother his crew for entertainment, he wasn't quite sure that they would allow it. There was a set quota to how much shenanigans Jim could get into before he was punished like a three-year-old child, and Jim was pretty sure that he had already reached it. Like yesterday.

Sighing again, Jim rotated in his seat until Spock finally turned to him. "Captain, would you like to go down to Engineering to aid Mr. Scott?" asked Spock, a tinge of exasperation in his words.

"Bones banned me from Engineering, remember?" sighed Jim. "And Scotty's terrified of Bones, so he won't let me near him anymore. I have just one teensy accident and I'm forbidden."

"Your 'teensy' accident landed you in Sickbay for two days, Kirk," retorted Uhura. "I still don't understand how you managed to blow up a shuttle doing repairs."

"For the last time, it wasn't my fault! Scotty was experimenting!"

Sulu chuckled. "Well, if you're so bored, then why don't we play a little game of truth or dare?"

"Really? That's a really boring game."

"Only because there's nothing that you won't dare to do," smiled Uhura.

"I can't deny that," grinned Jim.

"Then how about we change it up a bit?" offered Sulu. "We can ask any question that we want and you have to answer them, Kirk. Truthfully."

Jim thought about it. He was fairly certain that his crew wasn't going to ask him anything relating to the dark parts of his past, but it was just in his nature to be cautious when it came to the truth. Lying had always protected him; the truth always ended badly.

As he glanced at the expectant and slightly excited expressions around him, Jim could only smile, his body relaxing minutely. "Fire away."

"How many girls did you really sleep with in the Academy?" Sulu asked, grinning.

"A lot. Next?"

"Keptin, you hawe to be truthful!" protested Chekov.

"I am! I don't have an exact number. I don't even know if I remember half of those nights." Jim paused. "You know, I'm still pretty amazed that I didn't get kicked out of the Academy with all the shit I pulled."

"As am I," muttered Spock.

"I totally heard that, Spock!"

Spock quickly switched gears. "Other than your role in building the Enterprise, what else have you achieved academically?"

Jim winced. "Ah. Can I not answer that?"

"You promised, Keptin!

"This never leaves this Bridge, do you understand? And no one tell Bones! I have a reputation to uphold."

"Just answer the damn question, Kirk!" Uhura said, her tone light and amused.

"There may be a few published papers here and there under a pseudonym of Tiberius Kirkland. There's a couple in mathematical theory, one in the exploring the prospects for detecting gravitational waves from stellar-mass compact objects spiraling into intermediate-mass black holes with ground-based observatories, and a few others here and there. Uh. There's also one a few of Surak's philosophies."

"You serious? You did a paper on Vulcan history?" gaped Uhura. Even she hadn't done that yet. She was going to do a dissertation in the same area, but the Nero fiasco happened and she found herself being placed on the Enterprise before she had the chance to.

"Yeah. It took me forever. Pre-reform Vulcan language is utterly confusing."

"Seriously, how many languages do you actually know?!" she demanded.

At that, Jim just smirked at her. "Probably more than you."

Sulu hissed, "Oh, someone call McCoy. Kirk is going to get his ass handed to him."

Chekov shook his head vigorously. "No no. Ze Keptin isn't called a genius for nothing!"

Uhura stood, placing her hands on her hips. "I don't believe you, Kirk. You know what? I'm changing this game up. I have a dare for you."

Jim leaned forward, excitement sparkling in his bright blue eyes. "Interesting. What are the parameters of this dare?"

"I dare you to find a language that I'm not fluent in. But! You have to be fluent in it as well."

"So, a battle of languages? You're on. What are the stakes?"

"You're such a degenerate gambler. This isn't a bet, Kirk. It's just a dare."

"Why not up the ante? You scared?"

Uhura rolled her eyes. "You remember the last time you bet against me, Kirk? You lost like a hundred credits. No, this is just a simple dare. Bragging rights to whoever wins."

"Nope, not good enough for me. If I win, I get to call you 'Nyota'. Deal?"

Uhura laughed. "You're still trying for that?"


"Fine, but if I win, I get to call you Tiberius or any variant of it."

"What?" Jim made a face. "That's awful!"

"She's going to call you 'Ty Ty'," snickered Sulu.

"You shut your mouth," Jim shot back, horrified. "Don't give her any ideas!"

"Sounds like you're sure that you're going to lose," Uhura injected smoothly.

"Of course not." The smugness was back on Jim's face. He glanced at Chekov and winked at him. "This is going to be fun, isn't it?" he said in Russian.

"Nope," smiled Uhura, as she turned back to her console. "I understand and speak all Russian dialects."

Jim switched languages. "How about this one?"

"Klingon? Please. Bring something new to the table."

"What are you working on, Uhura?" Jim almost bit his tongue speaking in Tamarian.

"Nothing that you should concern yourself with, Captain," Uhura shot back in the same tongue.

Jim was about to speak something new when he heard the turbolift open behind him. He turned around to see McCoy standing there with a grouchy look on his face.

"Bones!" Jim exclaimed happily.

McCoy frowned. "What's got you so happy?"

"I've been given a dare."

"That does not surprise me."

"What are you doing up here anyway, Bones? Did you get bored too?"

McCoy rolled his eyes, an action that the entire crew of the Enterprise seemed to have mastered just for Jim. "I'm not you, Jim. I'm here to talk to the hobgoblin. But Scotty did say that he needed to see you down in Engineering. He said that there's something off in a section of Engineering. Not exactly sure what he said though."

Instantly, Jim was in his 'Captain' mode. "Why didn't he comm me directly?" frowned Jim, standing.

Bones shrugged. "I passed him on my way up. His hands are full with wires and whatnot." He turned to glance at Uhura. "Nyota, Chapel needs your help with translating a script."

Jim grinned. "Why don't you join me, Uhura? We're going in the same direction anyway and we can continue this little thing we have going on."

Uhura completely disregarded the double innuendo and swept her hair back as she walked past Jim, her stance haughty. But Jim caught the small smile on her face and knew that she was enjoying their little game as much as he was.

He had to jog the last few steps to the turbolift to catch up to her.

"See you in a bit, guys. Don't scratch my girl while I'm gone, Spock. You have the conn." Jim flashed them all a winning smile as the turbolift's doors closed.

As soon as Jim and Uhura were gone, the rest of the crew returned to their duties and the chatter went back down to a low murmur.

None of them noticed the discrepancy among the stars before them, but the following explosions certainly caught their attention.

By then, it was far too late.

Jim leaned casually against the wall of the turbolift, glancing at Uhura who was standing a good foot away from him. She was looking directly straight ahead, purposefully ignoring him. On the outside, it always seemed as though she was thoroughly annoyed at Jim and wanted nothing to do with him. She treated him with eye rolls and snapped back with her sharp tongue. He retorted and bantered back; his words were always full of innuendos and were crude as they were crass.

By all accounts, their relationship was icy and prickly, but there was a deeper understanding between them that most – other than their close friends – could not comprehend.

Long ago, back in the Academy, Uhura truly had disliked Kirk, thinking him as a rude womanizer who thought with his genitals. He was always a whirlwind of everything that was wrong with men. His smiles and bright blue eyes enthralled people; he knew it and used it to his advantage. She had always seen him sleeping through classes, if he had even bothered to show up, and appeared to exams at least five minutes late. Genius was never something that she would have equated with him and she never respected him, thinking that he was just skirting on by with his father's reputation.

And then she was thrown into the chaotic mess that was Nero. She saw the brilliance that he always hid. She saw his deep compassion and desire to protect everything with his own hands, even if it cost him his life. The reputation that Kirk had spent so much effort forming and maintaining was nothing like who he truly was. There was so much depth, pain, and genius within this one man that Uhura found herself being endlessly surprised. More importantly, she found herself forming a tight bond with him – one that went beyond friendship. They weren't lovers and they never would be – there were no such feelings between them and Jim would never hurt either Spock or her by actually putting any moves on her. They were like bickering siblings that would go to the ends of the earth for the other.

Sometimes, Uhura wondered if Kirk purposefully needled her, looking for their fights. She had a feeling that it reminded him of a time lost with his own biological brother, but she didn't dare to ask. He had only ever mentioned Sam once or twice in the years that they had known each other, and each time, there was a faraway look in his pained blue eyes that made her own heart ache for him.

So she continued to fight with him, cutting through his masks with her sarcasm and wit. In turn, she could see him drop his numerous guards to fully enjoy their banter. And that was worth all the exasperation and disbelief that she had ever gotten from the man.

"You realize I'm going to win this bet, Uhura," grinned Jim, speaking in Cardassian.

She gave him her best smile. "I'd like to see you try," she replied in the same tongue.

Jim switched to Jaradan. "I'm surprised that Spock didn't argue against this."

"I'm sure he is as curious as the rest of the crew."

Swedish. "Got to keep all of you guessing."

"Why? Is there a point to it all?"

Ferengi. "It's fun," Jim shrugged.

Uhura still could not understand why Jim hid his intelligence and she probably never would. She suspected that no one ever would – not after all that he had gone through.

"You're ridiculous," she said, her tone light and joking.

Jim smiled at her. "You love me for it."

"Out of languages already? You can do better than that, Kirk."

"I'm just getting started." Jim's eyes glittered with unspoken anticipation.

Uhura felt a small rush of satisfaction to be considered such an exciting challenge to Kirk, but she quickly quelled it, not wanting it to show in her body language that she knew he would be able to read. There was no need to inflate his ego any further, was there?

"Where did you even learn all these languages anyway?" she asked curiously.

"A few from traveling around and…"

Jim never got to finish his sentence.

A sudden explosion rocked both of them off their feet, sending them tumbling down to the ground. The lights in the turbolift flickered briefly before shutting off completely as it came to a grinding halt.

Another blast went off close to them, and like limp dolls being tossed around in a rough play, they were thrown painfully and heavily against the wall.

That last explosion was particularly damaging. Sounds of the pieces of the turbolift breaking and cracking echoed ominously in their ears.

Jim pushed himself onto his elbows, trying to gather his bearings. Adrenaline rushed through his veins. Some fucking bastard had hurt his beautiful girl. Whoever they were, they were so going to pay, but anger could only do so much when his body was screaming out in pain.

Worry filled him as he quickly checked on Uhura. She was lying on her back, dazed. Her delicate body was frozen, as if she was afraid to even move a finger, and her right leg was bent wrong. There was no doubt in Jim's mind that it was broken, but it wasn't as horrible as it could be. At least she was still slightly coherent, though she was probably in shock.

The turbolift shuddered again and plummeted down a few decks, making Jim and Uhura hold on for their dear lives. It slammed to a stop, unhinging whatever had come loose in the explosion.

Jim's eyes widened as he saw a thin metal pole come apart from its foundation and crash down towards Uhura.

There was no time to think; his body reacted before his brain could even catch up to it.

Using all the strength he had, he lunged himself towards her. Bodily, he shoved her as hard as he could. He heard a loud thud as her head crashed against the wall, but before the concern could even settle in, his entire world was filled with such agony that his vision actually whited out. It ripped an ear-splitting scream from him, which only caused him more pain, like lightning striking his tortured body.

He tried desperately to regulate his breathing – to minimize the damage, but as he shakily reached towards his lower abdomen near his right side, he knew that nothing he did would change the outcome. For the first time in a while, he couldn't use his 'mind over matter' trick. The damage was too severe.

His searching hand came into contact with a solid, metal pole about an inch in diameter that had penetrated him from his back and was protruding a few inches from his stomach.

Blood dripped slowly from between his fingers.

He was in deep, deep trouble. He was definitely going to get scolded by Bones.

That is, if they managed to get out in time.

He didn't want to move, but through this whole time, Uhura had barely even flinched. Through the ordeal, she had lost consciousness and Jim was afraid that she wasn't breathing and he had pushed her a little bit too hard.

Agonizingly, he crawled forward, almost biting through his lip as every movement sent shocks of burning, ripping pain through him. By the time he pulled himself forward the few inches to the left of Uhura, he was on the verge of blacking out. Sweat covered his entire brow and he could barely catch his breath. There was almost no strength left in his body, but he still reached forward with a bloody hand to check her pulse. It was steady and strong.

He let the relief wash over him as he critiqued her for any injuries. There was a steady stream of blood from a scratch on her left forehead, but it looked worse than it actually was. Head wounds always bled more – Jim would know. He peeled back her eyelid with a trembling hand and studied her pupils. It reacted to the very dim lighting around them, albeit slowly, which meant that she had a slight concussion. Nothing too serious, but enough to knock her out.

Satisfied, he shifted, pushing himself upwards to a seated position. A groan was inadvertently released from his lips as he breathed through the pain. By raising his body, he could slow the bleeding – hopefully enough so that his crew could come save them.

But first…

Numbly and slowly, he pulled his communicator out and pressed it.

There was a slight crackle before he heard the other line connect.


A rush of relief ran through Jim along with a determination and cheekiness that he was ever so famous for. "Didn't I tell you to not scratch my girl while I was gone? What the hell happened?!"

But Jim knew that he wasn't going to like what he was going to hear even before the answer.

Goddamn it.

If even boring days ended up like this, Jim was never going to be let out of his room again.

As soon as the turbolift closed, McCoy turned back to Spock, rolling his eyes. "You better find him a mission soon or we're going to have a repeat of what happened last week in Engineering," he said.

Spock raised an eyebrow. "Is that what you came to speak to me about?"

"He's getting antsy, hobgoblin, which means that he's going to do something stupid soon."

"What would you like me to do about it? We cannot simply park at the nearest planet and beam down for exploration."

"Yeah, I thought we made it a rule that Kirk's not allowed to beam off ship anymore?" Sulu added.

"How about ve hawe another math competition?" suggested Chekov.

McCoy shook his head. "And have him bitch about us destroying his reputation for another two weeks? No thanks."

"Then, what do you suggest, Doctor?"

"I've already used up my resources. You guys are up next."

The explosion took them all by surprise, but shaking the ground beneath them and making them wobble for a brief second. A loud screeching reached them. None of them could place it or where the sound originated from.

"What the hell was that?" snapped McCoy.

"It seemed like it was a localized internal explosion. Mr. Sulu, determine whether it was one born from one of Mr. Scott's experiments or an external threat," Spock barked out. "And locate our Captain, please."

Sulu was already working before Spock even spoke.

"Mr. Chekov, find out the extent of damage."

"Yes, sir!"

There was a small beeping noise and Spock automatically picked up his comm without even looking at it. "Spock," he spoke into it.

Jim's breathless voice came filtering through. "Didn't I tell you to not scratch my girl while I was gone? What the hell happened?!"

"The bomb was placed in a back section of Engineering, close to the turbolift. Definitely an external threat," Sulu answered dutifully. "But it looks like damage is minimal."

"But our main veapons are momentarily offline," Chekov said.

"Turbolift is also offline," Jim added, lightheartedly.

"How did you know, Keptin?"

There was no answer to that. McCoy groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose. "You're stuck in the goddamn turbolift, aren't you, Jim?"


Spock spoke into the communicator. "Are you and Nyota safe?"

"Uhura was knocked out, but from what I can see, she's fine. How are our shields faring?"

No one noticed Jim purposefully deflecting from his own condition. The attack was at the forefront of everyone's mind.

"The shields are weakened, but holding," Sulu reported. And then panic seeped into his tone. "Wait! Incoming photon attack! Brace yourselves!"

The Enterprise rocked heavily as she took a direct hit.

Jim's strangled cry was hidden under the sudden sound of Klaxons blaring overhead, sending them into a world of red lights.

The entire turbolift had shifted a few feet down again, tilting dangerously and jarring Jim against the wall. His hands scrambled to brace himself, but as he saw Uhura sliding away from him, he lunged for her, biting back the scream as his entire world minimized to his pain and his need to protect Uhura.

They both tumbled backwards, slamming against the opposite wall. Jim forgot how to breathe when the pole shifted within him; he hunched over, groaning loudly as he rode out the waves of fire. As he did, he glanced leftwards at Uhura down beside him. She was uninjured, but still unconscious.

With such effort, Jim pushed himself back upwards, one hand curled around Uhura's outstretched wrist, as if to reassure himself of her presence, and the other clinging onto his communicator like it was his last lifeline.

His vision was flickering, his breathing was shallow, and it pained him to even lift a finger, but he was getting number and number as time went on by. Logically, Jim knew that it was a bad sign that he was slowly losing feeling, but his girl was still in danger, and if he ever wanted any medical aid, he would have to take care of the situation upstairs first.

Clumsy fingers dialed for Spock, but there was no answer. Jim had to believe that it was just because Spock was preoccupied with dealing with the threat instead of being physically incapable of answering, which meant Scotty, Chekov, and Sulu would all be too busy to pick up their communicators as well.

He had only one other person he could call then. He just hoped that Bones would answer.

The photon attack had barely affect Spock and he quickly moved around to sit down in Jim's chair, immediately taking command. "Mr. Sulu, damage report!" Spock said loudly.

"Shields are holding steady, but we're still sitting ducks without anything to strike back with."

"Who is even attacking us?! I don't see anyone!" snapped McCoy. His brown eyes scanned the skies before them, only to stop when his communicator started ringing. "McCoy," he growled into the device.

"Bones…" came Jim's weak, breathy voice.

"Jim? Are you alright?"

Jim didn't get a chance to reply.

At that moment, Chekov swung around, something akin to worry in his eyes. "Commander, someone is hailing us."

"On screen," Spock commanded.

Seconds later, a distorted black-and-white figure appeared before them. "Greetings, Enterprise. This is the pirate ship Macbeth. As our vocation implies, we want your goods."

"Federation does not negotiate with terrorists."

"We aren't exactly terrorists, Mr. Spock."

"Why target the Enterprise? Surely, you must know that you cannot escape from threatening and attacking the Starfleet flagship."

"We happened to have someone onboard. It made things a little easier."

"We have superior weapons than you."

"That are currently offline," the pirate retorted, "Besides, how can you attack us if you can't even see us? We stole a cloaking device off a Klingon ship awhile back. It has been extremely useful, as you can imagine. Now, we will give you an hour to meet our demands. Otherwise, we'll blow you out of the sky. We wouldn't want that, would we?"

"And what are your demands?"

"First, we'd like your stores of lithium dioxide. All of it, just so we can make sure that you don't come after us when we leave. Oh, and our Captain has an issue with yours, so send Kirk over as well. We'll treat him well."

Snickers could be heard in the background, and it only made the Enterprise's crew angrier.

"We'd also like all your photon torpedo tubes. That's it for now. We know how to contact you if we come up with something new. Toodaloo!"

They hung up as abruptly as they called.

"Those guys are fucking annoying bastards," Jim's voice crackled over on McCoy's communicator.

He had been surprisingly quiet for the entire conversation. Going by how he had called in to someone else, he had been disconnected somehow.

"You're telling me," snorted McCoy. "What's the plan, Jim?"

Bones could barely hear it, but Jim's breathing was harsh and controlled, like he was desperately trying to block something out. Bones felt a pit start to grow in his stomach.

"First of all, someone call Scotty. Get the weapons back online. We'll need them."

"What's the point if they're cloaked?" asked Sulu as Spock called Scotty and relayed Jim's command to him.

"Look for what's not there." There was a tiredness and weakness to Jim's words, but the crew attributed to the static of the communicator.

Spock almost frowned. "I do not understand you, Captain," he said just as McCoy growled, "Damn it, Jim, I'm a doctor, not an illusionist. Can't make something appear if it's not there!"

Jim made a frustrated noise before he spoke again. "Chekov, you know what I'm talking about, right? We've discussed this before."

Sure enough, as Spock glanced up to look at the teenager, the already scouring Navigator had sat up and was frantically pointing at something in the distance. "Zhere! Zhere!"

"Explain, Mr. Chekov," Spock demanded.

"Cloaking shields the ships from sight, right?" Jim started, explaining before Chekov had the chance to speak. "But it's not perfect. There's going to be slight distortion between the ship and its background."

"See zhere?!" exclaimed Chekov, "Ze stars do not align vith each other. You can see ze shape of ze ship!"

"Oh! I see it!" Sulu said at the same time that Spock noticed what Chekov was saying.

"You guys find it?" asked Jim.

"Yes, Captain," replied Spock.

"Scotty have things fixed? He should have been working on them from the start since he was probably in the vicinity."

"One moment, Jim." Spock raised his communicator and dialed for Scotty again. "Mr. Scott, are we all set?"

"Ach! Give me a couple o' minutes! I'll 'ave it ready in…" Clanking sounds and angry Gaelic swearing, until finally, "We're all set! She's all good ta go."

"Captain, Mr. Scott says that he's fixed the weapons."

"Great. Hail the pirates and give them the ultimatum that if they don't surrender, we will fire on them."

"What will be the point of that, Captain? I am sure they will have shields that our weapons cannot penetrate."

"Think about it, Spock. If they had the weaponry to shoot us out of the sky, then why haven't they shot at us yet? Why did they attack us internally instead of externally? It's because they know that they have inferior weaponry. They're bluffing, and they're banking on us believing it."

"Upon what basis are you making these assumptions?" Spock didn't sound as if he was rejecting Jim's idea; it seemed more like Spock was simply curious on how Jim came to this conclusion.

"I know a bluff when I see one. Trust me. Give the ultimatum. They'll fold in two minutes, tops."

Sulu turned and looked at Spock. "Can't hurt to try, right? Kirk's a crazy son of a bitch, but he's almost always right."

Spock didn't argue. "Hail the pirate vessel, Mr. Sulu."

"Yes, sir!"

Seconds later, Spock was staring at a fuzzy screen with a humanoid figure before him. "I am Commander Spock of starship Enterprise. I hereby demand your full and complete surrender or we will be forced to decimate you."

"Can you?" sneered the pirate captain. "We are cloaked and we are primed to attack you once more. You can't do anything to us if you can find us."

"Fire one photon at their vessel, Sulu," Jim commanded over the comms, loud enough so that the enemy could hear. "Let's show them that we aren't to be taken lightly."

Sulu smirked and aimed. "Yes, sir!"

A loud explosion could be heard over the screen, followed by immediate panic by the pirate crew.

"What the hell?! You said that the cloaking was foolproof!" shouted someone in the background.

"It is! We shouldn't have been found!"

"Do not underestimate the Enterprise," Spock said coolly. "We are the Starfleet flagship for a reason. Now, our weaponry, despite your efforts, is still online and functional. I estimate that your vessel cannot withstand another attack. If you do not surrender, we will be forced to use our full power to bring you down."

"There will be no mercy," Jim added, his voice so cold and venomous that it sent shivers down everyone's spine. "Leave now and we may let you live."

Perhaps it was Jim's tone or the fact that the pirates were smarter than Jim had gave them credit for, but the screen unexpectedly zipped black almost immediately following the threats and a few minutes later, Chekov couldn't find a single trace of their vessel.

"I zink zey hawe left, sir," he said cautiously.

"Mr. Sulu, Mr. Chekov, get us out of here," Spock commanded.

McCoy frowned. "I really thought they were going to try to fight us. That seemed a bit too easy."

"That is true, but we should be glad for a peaceful resolution."

"You still have to figure out who their inside man is."

"Why does it seem like we keep having people sneak on our ship?" asked Sulu. "How does that happen so many times? It's ridiculous!"

Instantly, McCoy stilled. "Jim always says that there's no such thing as coincidences. You think we have a breach in our security?"

"It certainly seems possible," said Spock. "I will look into it."

"Before you guys do, get someone to fix the goddamn turbolift and get me and Uhura out," Jim said.

All looked sheepish, as if they had forgotten that Jim and Uhura were trapped.

Spock reached over and took the communicator from McCoy. "Understood."

"And uh..." There was a slight pause that never boded well for anyone. "Make sure that Bones is on hand?" Jim finished off weakly.

Alarm rang through them all and Spock's grip on the communicator tightened. "Jim, is everything alright? Are you and Nyota unharmed?" The Vulcan cursed himself for not asking that the first time around. In Jim's mind, 'safe' did not necessarily equate to 'uninjured', and Spock should have caught that.

"I uh...wouldn't say 'unharmed', per se."

McCoy wrenched the communicator away from Spock. "Dammit, Jim! What aren't you telling us?"

"I'm pretty sure that Uhura has a concussion and her right leg is broken. She's out right now, but she's fine."

"Don't even try to deflect, Jim. What about you?"

There was a weary sigh on the other end. "Just get us out. As fast as you can."

"Jim! What aren't you telling us?!"

"Even if I told you, how's that going to help me?" Jim snapped back, but the bite in his words weren't as sharp as they could be. His voice was getting weaker by the second. "Can't exactly help me if I'm stuck in the fucking turbolift, can ya?"

"Is it bad?"

"You don't want to know." Jim took a shuddering breath. "Bones. Just get us out, fast."

There was hidden desperation in his words that made Bones and the rest of the crew feel their faces bleach of all color.

"Alright, you got it. Hang in there, Jimbo, you hear me?"

Jim's chuckled was weak. "Yeah. I gotcha, Bones." He hung up immediately, not leaving any chance for Bones to inquire any further.

McCoy swung around to look for Spock, panic and worry written all over his face.

Spock was already in motion, dialing up Scotty. "Mr. Scott, I need you and all available hands to repair the turbolift. Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura are trapped within it. They are injured." Spock paused. "It is safe to assume that Jim is wounded badly seeing how Nyota only sustained minor injuries."

If Uhura was relatively unhurt, then that only meant that Jim had protected her at the expense of his own health. And if Jim was unwilling to tell them about his injuries? That did not bode well for him at all.

"Understood, Commander." Scotty was uncharacteristically somber and serious. No traces of his usual jolly self could be heard – it showed how dire the situation was.

Jim had just saved the Enterprise and her crew from the pirates.

Now it was their turn to save him.

The all-clear was signaled by the red Klaxons turning off, plunging Jim back into the darkness. He let out a sigh of relief and leaned his head back against the wall as he let the now silent communicator drop to the floor.

Closing his eyes, he felt the adrenaline leave his veins as fast as his blood, sending flashes of red, hot burning pain washing through him. He could barely breathe. With each inhalation, his diaphragm contracted and flattened; each exhalation expanded. Both made his tender and wounded muscles press against and away from the pole.

It was agony on steroids.

A groan echoed in the turbolift, but it didn't come from Jim.

Uhura stirred a little, making soft noises of discomfort as she rose to consciousness.

"Uhura?" murmured Jim, no longer having the strength to do anything but lean limply against the lift. Even his hand was weak around her wrist.

She shifted and slowly sat up, clutching her head and hissing in pain. She let out a little yelp when her broken leg finally registered. Tears sprang to her eyes and she bit her lip, holding back whimpers.

"Breathe through the pain, Uhura. You're going to be alright," Jim said softly.

Uhura turned to look for her friend. "Kirk?" Her eyes had yet to adjust to the darkness, but she could still make out Jim's figure inches away from her.

Jim gave her a small, strained smile. "That's my name, don't wear it out."

She rolled her eyes, noting that Jim's was glazed over with pain. "What happened?"

"Pirates, but it's been handled. Don't worry." His voice hitched at the end and he didn't quite manage to conceal his hiss.

"Kirk?" she questioned again, leaning forward to get a better look at Jim.

Jim was slightly tilted away from her, his right shoulder pressed against the wall heavily. He was slumped over, hunching protectively over his right stomach. His face was pale; sweat was drenching his clothes and it made his hair cling to his forehead. Uhura could hear his stuttering and barely controlled breathing.

"Are you alright?"

There was a pause before Jim answered. Uhura wasn't sure if it was because he had to gather himself first or if he was trying to figure out a way to deflect like usual. "Define 'alright'."

"Damn it, Kirk. You're hurt, aren't you?"

"You are too, Uhura. That leg alright?"

"It's painful, but it's not the worst I've had. I can handle it."

"Same here."

"What…?" She broke off the second she saw the metal pole jutting out from Jim's stomach. She gasped, unable to hold it back. "Oh my God…Kirk!"

"Shh…" Jim whispered. "Nothing we can do until we get out."

She could see blood slowly pooling around him and instantly, her nurturing instincts kicked in. "We still have to get that bleeding under control. Do you still have that knife in your boot?"

Jim nodded weakly, swallowing harshly.

She inched forward, crying out as it jostled her leg. It took her a couple of seconds before she could work through the pain enough to function. She reached for Jim's right leg and pulled out his boot knife.

She raised the blade to cut through the bottom hem of her uniform dress, but Jim spoke up, stopping her.

"Use…" He swallowed hard. "Use my shirt."

"It'll hurt you if I do. It's easier to just use my clothes."

"I might be dying here, and you want to flash those long legs of yours in my face? Isn't this pole torture enough?" Jim joked.

"I thought you'd jump at any chance to check me out?" Uhura returned.

"Not if I can't move and touch."

Normally, Uhura would have slapped him playfully for that response, but she settled for a disgusted snort instead. "You lecher. Just this one time, I'll allow it."

She raised the knife to bring down on her clothes, but Jim's clammy hand grasped hers.

"I can handle the pain. You don't know who's going to come save us first. Can't…" Jim broke off to gather his breath. "Can't have you being all indecent and distracting for those who's supposed to save my life."

Finally, Uhura understood what Jim was trying to prevent. It was true that her dress was already fairly short. She would need a lot of fabric to go around the pole; she may end up not having enough to cover herself with.

Even while he was so injured, Jim was trying to protect something as inane as her virtue. It just blew her mind.

"Don't be stupid, Kirk," was all she could say, and she proceeded to cut through her red uniform.

By the time she finished ripping strips of fabric off, the dress was barely long enough to cover her upper thighs. She felt slightly exposed, but it was worth it if it prevented Jim from needless pain. There was already going to be so much in his imminent future.

"This is going to hurt," she warned.

Jim nodded, giving her permission, and she moved forward. Using the training that McCoy had taught her regarding binding injuries to prevent the most blood loss, Uhura slowly wrapped the cloth like a tight bandage around the rod. Jim couldn't help his body's natural response to become taut and tense with the pain, nor could he bite back the moans.

When Uhura finally tied off the last knot, Jim was already on the verge of passing out. There was absolutely nothing left in him and all he wanted to do was succumb to the darkness. He was about to slide down like a limp rag doll, but suddenly, Uhura was scooting up next to him.

She was the support that Jim needed to stay upright, otherwise, he was going to hurt himself further. Gently, Uhura started to run her fingers through his hair in the manner that she knew he loved – it was something that she had always seen McCoy do for Jim whenever their blonde friend was injured or sick.

Uhura could feel Jim trembling beside her and her heart ached because she couldn't do any more to help him ease the pain. Without really thinking about it, Uhura started singing softly in her native tongue:

"Malaika, nakupenda Malaika,

Malaika, nakupenda Malaika,

Nami nifanyeje, kijana mwenzio,

Nashindwa na mali sina, we,

Ningekuoa Malaika,

Nashindwa na mali sina, we,

Ningekuoa Malaika

Beneath her fingers, she could feel Jim fading away and she only held him tighter, as if it was going to be enough to keep him with her.

"Hmm…" he murmured, barely clinging on to the edge of his consciousness. "'s nice…What…what language…is that?"

Uhura's lips tugged upwards slightly. "You lost our dare, Kirk."

There was no response. She looked down and saw Kirk fast asleep on her shoulder. The lines of pain had loosened somewhat, making him seem younger, and all she wanted to do was comfort him like a younger brother. Tightening her grip on him, she resumed singing:

"Kidege, hukuwaza kidege,

Nami nifanyeje, kijana mwenzio,

Nashindwa na mali sina, we,

Ningekuoa Malaika,

Nashindwa na mali sina, we,

Ningekuoa, Malaika."

"Pesa zasumbua roho yangu,

Pesa zasumbua roho yangu,

Nami nifanyeje, kijana mwenzio,

Ningekuoa Malaika,

Nashndwa na mali sina, we,

Ningekuoa Malaika."

She wasn't sure how long she kept singing. By the time Scotty and his men managed to dig through all the collapsed debris and get the turbolift working again, Uhura's voice was already hoarse and all she knew was that Jim was still breathing when Scotty and a couple of others gently lifted him out.

Jim was handed off to Nurse Chapel and several other Medical officers. Uhura didn't see McCoy – he was probably still stuck on the Bridge and had to wait for the turbolift to work again – but she had no doubt that he was going to race to Jim's side the second he was able to.

That thought alone was enough for Uhura to know that Jim was going to be in good hands.

So there was only one thing left to do.

She let go.

McCoy rubbed a tired hand over his scruffy face before checking on Jim's vitals again. His pulse and heartbeat were steady; the insufferable man was well on his way to recovery. It was taking Jim a while to wake up though, probably because of all the blood that Jim had lost. A quart more and nothing McCoy did could have saved Jim.

When Scotty and his men found Jim and Uhura, Uhura's beautiful voice had become raspy and the two of them were lying in a small pool of Jim's blood. The pole should have acted as a plug, preventing rapid blood loss that would have meant an imminent death, but somewhere in the chaos, it got dislodged from Jim's back and gradually, Jim started bleeding out.

From what Scotty said, the two probably ping-ponged from wall to wall as the turbolift fell and was rocked by all the explosions – the impact themselves weren't as harmful as the repeated action of being thrown back and forth.

McCoy had no doubt that Jim – the man whose reaction time was faster than a Vulcan's – had gotten so severely injured by protecting Uhura, not that he would ever tell her. All she could remember was that she was talking to Jim one second, and the next, it was a blurry haze filled with pain. She never saw when or how Jim got hurt; she only knew when Jim couldn't hold himself up anymore.

Her injuries weren't too bad. McCoy had her leg set in minutes and the bone regenerator had it fixed in an hour, but he still kept her overnight for observation because of her concussion. She was out of Sickbay by the next day, completely cleared for duty.

Jim, on the other hand, had to go through a surgery, several blood donations, and a couple of hours under the dermal regenerator. It took a total of two days.

Overall, Jim definitely had worse injuries, but it still didn't ease the worry that had settled in McCoy's gut. That feeling wouldn't disappear until he could see Jim up and about, laughing and being brilliant and annoying all at once.

"How's he doing?" Uhura asked quietly, seemingly out of nowhere.

Leonard almost jumped, but he recovered quickly. "He's going to be fine. As soon as he wakes up and I check him over one last time, he should be able to return to duty."

She shifted uneasily, her feet shuffling a bit. "I've been thinking about what happened in the turbolift quite a bit. There're still a few gaps and I was wondering if you could help me fill them in."

"Why not ask the hobgoblin?"

"Spock's busy helping Scotty with the repairs, and honestly, I just wanted to come down here and check on Kirk too. Don't tell him I said that."

McCoy snorted. "Of course not. I know the act you put up around each other. It's more amusing than anything to watch. I ain't gonna change that."

"So, is it true that Kirk talked Spock into tricking the pirates to leave?"

"Yeah, if you'd believe it. Don't even know how he made all those connections that funny little head of his."

"And he did it while a pole was sticking through him? He didn't call the Bridge for help, did he?"

"The first words out of that damn rascal's mouth were 'what the hell happened?'. He was more worried about the Enterprise than his own health."

"You'd think he'd learn by now that we are not fine with that."

"I can kind of see where his train of thought led though. Scotty had to fix the weapons and Spock had to focus on the immediate threat. Jim would never have mentioned his injuries if there were other dangers floating around. We couldn't exactly get to him until the threat was cleared either."

McCoy glanced at Uhura with an appreciative look. "Good job with the bandages, by the way. You probably saved his life."

She fell silent for a couple of seconds. "He saved mine."

"What do you mean?"

"The pole. You know that he could've easily dodged it, even if he was concussed. We've seen him do things like that before. And yet, here he is, lying in Sickbay with another scar. He protected me, didn't he? That's why he got hurt."

There was so much guilt in her face and words that it made McCoy squirm uneasily.

"First of all, he won't have a scar. I'm a much better doctor than that, thank you very much. Second, you were concussed. Do you really think Jim would've let you get hurt when you couldn't even move? Besides, his brain was probably a bit rattled when the whole fiasco happened. The idiot didn't think things through like he usually does and just acted. It's his own idiocy that got him hurt."

"That's a bit harsh, isn't it?" murmured Jim.

Instantly, the two snapped around to look at Jim who was staring blearily at them. His blue eyes were still a bit unfocused, but they were clearing up with each passing second.

"You're an idiot, end of story," returned McCoy, crossing his arms in a gruff manner, but his relief was evident on his expressions.

"That's nothing new. Ow, ow, ow…" he muttered as he sat up, rubbing his newly healed abdomen.

"Take it easy. It'll be sore for a couple of days, but you should be fine."

"How's the ship? Scotty have her fixed?"

"Yeah. The hobgoblin said that repairs should be finished by the end of the day."

"And the pirates?"

"Gone. Your face scared them off."

"That's a bit off-putting. You're just jealous that I'm more ruggedly handsome than you, Bones," Jim teased.

McCoy chuckled and ruffled Jim's hair. "Glad to see you're feeling better. I gotta go check up on some other patients, but I'll back soon with some food."

Jim grimaced, but before he even had the chance to whine about eating the crap healthy food that Bones always brought him while he was in the SickBay, he was silenced by a glare.

"No complaints, you hear? Otherwise, I'll hypospray your ass to unconsciousness and feed you through tubes."

"Ouch," winced Uhura as McCoy strutted off, "That sounds a bit harsh."

"He'll actually do it too," Jim said, already throwing back the covers and testing his feet on the ground. "Which is why I'm not sticking around for that to happen again." He smiled up at Uhura. "Can you grab my clothes?"

"You really shouldn't be getting out of bed, Kirk," she said, hesitating.

"If you don't, I'm just going to walk out of here in this flimsy gown and tell everyone that you're the one who stripped me down."

Uhura rolled her eyes and moved to the closet, taking out Jim's clothes and handing them to him. "Like people will actually believe you."

Jim just gave her an amused glitter in his bright, blue eyes. "Asante, rafiki yangu," (Thank you, my friend) and proceeded to throw on his uniform in record time.

Uhura's jaw dropped open. "No, there's no way! You said that you didn't recognize it in the turbolift!"

Jim chuckled and strode out of the SickBay with Uhura tight on his heels. "I was bleeding out. Forgive me if my mind wasn't exactly all that clear. I didn't recognize the language at the time."

"Wait, so you know Swahili?"

They rounded a corner. "Not exactly? I mean, I'm not completely fluent in it, but I know enough to get by."

"If you weren't coherent, how did you even figure out that it was Swahili in the end?"

"I could hear you singing in my mind even when I was out. I'm not exactly how far gone I was, but that was the only thing I could still hear. What was it, by the way?"

"What, the song?"

"Yeah? It was…" Jim fought for the right word. He didn't know how he could describe how safe he felt, enveloped in her arms and words. It wasn't something he was familiar with. "Warm."

Uhura smiled gently. "It's a lullaby that my grandmother used to sing to me every time I was upset or hurt."

"It was lovely, Uhura. Thank you for that."

"And thank you for saving me."

The mood instantly switched with Jim's amused snort. "I did no such thing. But you do realize that that means our dare is still on, right?"

"You're a glutton for trouble, you know that?"

"Of course I am, but that's what makes life interesting, don't you think?"Jim responded. His blue eyes sparkled brightly as he gave her a simple greeting, slipping into a different language easily. "How are you doing today, Uhura?"

Uhura's eyes narrowed and came to a stop right outside of the mess hall. "You made that up. That's not a real language."

"I know I'm a genius and that I would totally do something like making up an entire language on the spot, but for once, I'm not bullshitting you. It's a legitimate language," smirked Jim.

"I don't believe you."

Jim grinned as he saw Sulu and Chekov exit the mess. They waved, clearly pleased to see their friend well enough to wander around and bicker with Uhura.

"Fine then, I'll prove it." He reached out and snagged Sulu, almost jerking him out of stride to bring him into their conversation. "How are you doing today, Sulu?" Jim asked, purposefully using the same exact phrase that he said to Uhura so she would recognize it.

A light lit up in Sulu's originally puzzled face and excitement settled in. Instantly, he chattered back, his tongue rolling over the syllables like it was his first language. "I am doing well, my friend. And how are you?"

Jim's smile grew wider. "I am doing splendidly." Then he switched to Standard, smirking at Uhura. "I'm just proving a point to Uhura. See? Legitimate language. Even Sulu speaks it!"

Uhura threw up her hands in the air, exasperated and frustrated. "Unbelievable. No. I'm not dealing with this. You're pulling my leg. Whatever this is that you have going on with Sulu? I'm going to find out. Just you wait!"

In a huff, Uhura stormed off, her black ponytail swaying behind her vigorously with her angry steps.

Jim just doubled over with laughter, leaning on a confused and slightly worried Sulu.

"Uh...Kirk, what just happened? Is she going to kill us in our sleep?" Sulu asked nervously.

"That's definitely possible," chuckled Jim. "She's just sore that I won the dare."

There was a pause. Jim could almost hear all the dots connecting in Sulu's mind.

Sulu raised an eyebrow at Jim as he crossed his arms. "What are you going to do when she finds out that you stumped her with Elvish from Lord of the Rings? It's not even a real language!"

"Hey! I never said that it was a 'real' language, just that it was a 'legitimate' one. I didn't technically lie."

"She's going to castrate you."

Jim's bright laughter echoed down the hallway. The ingenious idiot knew better than to taunt Uhura (she could be terrifying if she wanted to be), but Jim couldn't help himself. It wasn't every day that he managed to render the linguist speechless, and he was going to savor every last moment.

He grinned broadly at Sulu. "Totally worth it."

End Notes:

The lullaby is called "Malaika" ("Angel") and here's the translation. I found it on Wikipedia, so no credits to me either. But I listened to it and it was really interesting. For the purposes of this story, just imagine Uhura singing it really softly and gently, you know, like a lullaby?

Malaika, nakupenda Malaika
Angel, I love you angel
Malaika, nakupenda Malaika
Angel, I love you angel
Nami nifanyeje, kijana mwenzio
and I, what should I do, your young friend
Nashindwa na mali sina, we,
I am defeated by the bride price that I don't have
Ningekuoa Malaika
I would marry you, angel
Nashindwa na mali sina, we,
I am defeated by the bride price that I don't have
Ningekuoa Malaika
I would marry you, angel

Kidege, hukuwaza kidege
Little bird, I think of you little bird
Nami nifanyeje, kijana mwenzio
and I, what should I do, your young friend
Nashindwa na mali sina, we,
I am defeated by the bride price that I don't have
Ningekuoa Malaika
I would marry you, angel
Nashindwa na mali sina, we,
I am defeated by the bride price that I don't have
Ningekuoa, Malaika
I would marry you, angel

Pesa zasumbua roho yangu
The money (which I do not have) depresses my soul
Pesa zasumbua roho yangu
the money (which I do not have) depresses my soul
Nami nifanyeje, kijana mwenzio
and I, what should I do, your young friend
Ningekuoa Malaika
I would marry you, angel
Nashndwa na mali sina, we
I am defeated by the bride price that I don't have
Ningekuoa Malaika
I would marry you, angel

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this chapter! I'm almost done with my first year of grad school, so I should have more time to write in the summer. I do have an internship lined up though, so don't know how much time I have and I'm also a slow writer. But I'll keep updating this story whenever the inspiration hits. For now, I'm thinking of just putting this story as "complete" and working more so on my other story (Rules of a Good Man) and finish that, but I will continue to write more chapters for this story, I promise! I definitely just need some more ideas that I'm not already using in my other story. Will it bother you guys if I put this story as "complete"? Also, if I post on Archive of Our Own, so I post this story as a single one, like I've done here, or should I do it as a legitimate series of one-shots? Let me know? Thanks!

By the way, a lot of requests, I had already planned out in the Rules of a Good Man, so I'm getting sort of jumbled up with all these ideas in my head. Got to get it out and straightened out or I'm gonna go nuts. But for the next chapter, I do want to bring in Joanna. Specifically, I want to Jim to get hurt protecting McCoy's little girl, but how that's done and where? Well, that's up to you guys. :)

I guess that's my little spiel. Thank you for reading this chapter and please review! And if any of you have ideas, please send them my way! I'm excited to write them out!