Author's Note: I am ignoring the fact that Christine Chapel was reduced to a stupid one-liner meant to establish what a *womanizer wow so sexy* nu!Jim is supposed to be. (NO.) As in, like, totally ignoring it. She's on the ship. She's Head Nurse. And now she's working planetside with McCoy to get Jim's stupid noble ass healthy again.
So. Nurse Chapel everyone. *throws confetti and mutters about the patriarchy*
Other than that, should concur with canon. Set immediately after the "Jim wakes up from a two week coma" part but before the "boldly going" part of STID. Please please please alert me to any typos/discrepancies/any other problems. Thank you for reading!
Gratuitous swearing ahead. This is Jim, after all.
There were tests, and hypos, and sedatives, and procedures, and more tests, and stern-faced nurses telling him to "sit back down right this minute, Captain Kirk, what would Doctor McCoy say?" and speaking of Doctor McCoy…
Bones was in full-on overprotective mega-doctor mode, which meant his considerable temper came out in full, unrestrained Southern glory. He barked orders and glared at all of Jim's test results like they had personally offended him, and put together a diet that was more or less, "what Spock eats, but even less fun."
Spock visited every day at exactly 1800 hours, but despite Jim's pleas, hadn't given him any information on what was happening with the 'Fleet besides a vague, "I will take care of it, Captain." Bones, the bastard, had enthusiastically agreed with that idea, and had forbidden Jim to even glance at any official reports until he was deemed fully recovered, now shut the hell up and let me get a blood sample, Jim. So he had no idea if he was even still an officer, let alone if he still had the Enterprise, and it was driving him crazy.
And yeah, maybe he'd like to be distracted. Maybe the memories of his body burning from the inside and his heart giving out and Spock's desperate, tear-streaked face were kind of freaking him out a little. Maybe the only things he could see when he closed his eyes were the misaligned warp core and his ship falling, caught in Earth's gravity without power, carrying with it every member of his crew. His family.
God, he was starting to sound as fucked up as Khan.
He just wanted out, damn it. So he could fix his ship, see his friends, make sure he still had a job…
So Jim decided to bust out.
It was, admittedly, not one of his better plans. In fact, the whole "planning" part didn't go far beyond "get to the door and go from there."
And that was proving to be more of a problem than Jim had anticipated.
His legs trembled beneath him, and Jim grit his teeth, leaning heavily on the biobed for support. Standing was hard. Fuck, breathing was hard. Why hadn't he ever appreciated leg muscle before? Or functioning lungs? Fucking radiation. Deep breaths, he coached himself. Okay, now take a step-
Something clattered to the floor, and the machine next to his bed screamed.
Jim cursed and stumbled, slipping on the corner of a sheet. Arms flailing, he crashed to the ground, nailing himself right in the nose on the bedframe on the way down.
"Motherfuckin' cocksuckin' whore-"
Apparently he hadn't yet regained his usual grace and captainly swagger.
Jim was aware of the door to his room slamming open, but it still came as a surprise when white-sleeved arms began pulling at him, yanking him back onto the bed. His face was wet. Shit.
"Um," he said, but none of the doctors or nurses swarming around paid him any attention. "Guys? I'm okay."
"Why's he bleeding?!"
"Flat-lined outta nowhere-"
"God, it's a relapse, something's wrong-"
Jim winced. Oops. "Nope, nothing's wrong, I'm fine, promise-"
Then Bones was there, his face as white as his uniform, shoving a tricorder in Jim's face and barking out orders for more tests and hypos and a million other things Jim didn't understand. Frustrated, he grabbed at his friend's wrist and yelled his name. The doctor stopped yelling and looked at him with so much fear in his eyes that Jim felt guilt hit like a punch to the gut. Damn it.
"Bones, I'm okay!" he said quickly. "I'm okay, I swear, I'm fine. Just hit my head, that's all."
Bones stared at him blankly, still looking a little gray. "You…"
"Sorry. I, uh, was trying to get out of bed, and I guess I pulled something loose. No big deal, right? I'm okay."
It took about five more seconds for his words to sink in, but when they did, Bones wrenched his arm away and hurled his tricorder to the floor. Ignoring the stares from his staff, he stomped to the other side of the room and leaned against the wall, breathing hard. The medical team glanced at each other uneasily, and Jim held his breath. The tension was almost unbearable. Finally Bones seemed to regain his control, and his eyes snapped open.
"Chris. Clean him up. Everyone else, false alarm."
Everyone stayed frozen for a long moment, but when Bones snarled, "Now!" they began scurrying from the room, shooting alternately worried and pissed glances over to Jim.
That really could have gone better.
After everyone had filed out, Christine made her way to a sink at the counter, glancing over her shoulder at the very still, very quiet Doctor McCoy.
"Heh," said Jim, trying to fill the silence. "Guess I do need those physical therapy sessions after all."
The doctor clenched his fists and looked at the ceiling for a brief moment, and Jim shifted, trying to get a look at his face-
Shit. Oh shit. Bones was crying.
Fuck, Jim thought, heart clenching painfully. I am a complete dick.
The doctor said nothing, just palmed the door open with shaking hands (and fuck, that was bad. He hadn't been kidding when he said Bones had the steadiest hands on the ship.)
And then he walked out of Sickbay.
"You are an idiot, Jim Kirk," said Christine quietly. Her hands trembled a little as they roughly wiped his face with a damp towel. Jim jerked in surprise and looked at her, only to see that she was on the verge of tears as well. "Just cut him a break, would you? As if he didn't lose it enough the first time you died on us."
"You came to us in a body bag, Captain," she snapped, and Jim winced. "We've had close calls with you before, but it's never been this close."
Jim stayed silent, unsure what to say. He felt a little nauseous. After a while, Christine's hands became gentler, and as she ran the dermal regenerator over the cut on his face, she began to speak again.
"I know you don't mean it," she said quietly. He glanced up, and found her eyes watching him softly. "And everyone on the ship is grateful for what you did. We love you, Captain, you know that. But that's exactly why we need your recovery to go smoothly. You scared the shit out of all of us, Len especially. He literally brought you back to life, and he's scared to all hell that you'll check out on us again if he slips up. So just…try, okay?"
With that, she settled him back into bed and left, slapping the light control on the way out and leaving him alone in the dark.
Well. He'd had better days.
"You are, on occasion," Spock reflected absently, "a rather careless person, Jim."
Jim looked up at him across the chessboard. The lights were turned down low, as most of the off-duty hospital personal had left for the night. Spock had stayed longer than usual, allowing their game to play itself out rather than packing up after an hour. At least he was visiting regularly now- the first two weeks Jim had been awake, he'd only seen his XO once. He knew Spock was probably running himself into the ground with work, but every time he'd brought it up, he was politely brushed off.
"So you heard," he muttered. Spock cocked an eyebrow and captured one of Jim's bishops. Jim swore.
"That you attempted to leave Sickbay without medical clearance, set off an alarm declaring yourself deceased to every medical officer in the area, and angered Doctor McCoy to the point where he has locked himself in his office with a bottle of Saurian brandy and refused to go off duty? Yes, Captain. I heard."
Jim groaned and squeezed his eyes shut. "That bad?"
"It was a matter of time," said Spock quietly. He moved the portable table to the side and leaned forward a little, eyes dark and glimmering in the dim light. Jim sensed a Serious Talk coming, and steeled himself for a lecture.
"I already got the 'stay in bed, be a good boy,' talk from Chapel," he said, trying to keep the annoyance out of his tone. So he'd slipped up. Spock could hardly complain. He'd broken out of Sickbay enough times himself.
"That is not the issue. I expect you to comply with the demands of the medical crew from now on, as it is imperative to your health, and also your only option, as you cannot stand unassisted."
"Well," said Jim, a little sulkily, "now that we've cleared up that I'm not a total irresponsible asshole-"
"You stated that you wished to know more about the circumstances outside of Sickbay."
"Oh," said Jim, brightening. "Yeah! I mean-"
"They are not good."
Jim deflated a little. To be honest, he didn't know what he'd expected. Marcus' military-deathship-of-doom had killed a whole lot of people, and the Enterprise had barely managed to limp in to spaceport. He knew he had lost crewmembers- his first losses since he'd earned the captaincy last year- and the admiralty was still pissed at him about the whole Nibiru situation (although compared to the whole Marcus/Harrison/Khan/whatever situation, breaking the Prime Directive seemed pretty tame.) He knew things were bad.
But hearing that from Spock, who could spout out miniscule chances for survival and still pull a last-minute save out of his ass during a crisis, was not encouraging.
"I will not trouble you with details from Starfleet just yet-"
Jim bristled. "For God's sake, Spock-"
"As I agree with the doctor's assessment that it will unnecessarily impair your recovery-"
"Not knowing what the hell is going on with my ship is impairing my recovery-"
"Raising your stress levels-"
"I don't give a shit about my 'stress levels' right now, I need answers! I'm fine-"
"I watched you die, Jim," Spock snapped, ice cold. Jim shut up. Spock took a moment to steady himself, and when he continued, he was a little calmer.
"That was along the lines of what I intended to tell you. You inquired after the state of your friends. Doctor McCoy, as well as the majority of the bridge crew…including myself…have been…"
"Screwed up?" Jim guessed. He was starting to see where this was going.
"Unstable," Spock corrected, "since the incident. It was…particularly difficult for Doctor McCoy. He worked for hours without rest to make sure Khan's blood properly healed the radiation poisoning, and was convinced that when you woke you would have irreparable brain damage despite his efforts. It was a…tense….two weeks."
One of the only positives to come out of the Khan debacle was that Spock was considerably more open with him. Jim guessed that he'd sort of given up on the "I am Vulcan and feel nothing" attitude after losing it outside the radiation chamber, and he was glad- Spock's breakdown meant they would be functioning better than ever, both as a command team and as friends. He just wished it hadn't come at such a cost.
He never wanted to see Spock look that broken ever again.
"Jim, when I look at you, I am still partially convinced that what I am seeing is not real. That I will at any moment wake up with a defeated crew, a destroyed ship, and a dead captain. Losing you again would be catastrophic for all of us." He settled back in his chair, looking a little uncomfortable. Jim kept his face open and encouraging- he knew emotional talks were still hard for Spock, admission of friendship notwithstanding. Spock took a breath and continued.
"I believe the doctor's protective instincts merely stem from that fear. Therefore, it would be best if you indulged him, even if you believe you are fit to return to duty. Which, incidentally, you are obviously not."
"So you're saying I should sit tight and tough it out in Sickbay for as long as Bones wants me here? For everyone's sake?"
"That would be preferable, yes."
Jim blew a frustrated breath out between his teeth. "I don't like it," he said. "Sitting here. I…hell, Spock, all I can fucking think about is that chamber." Even as he said the words, panic rushed to the forefront of his mind, and he grit his teeth against the heightening anxiety.
He'd told Bones that he barely remembered those moments before his 'death,' but it wasn't true. He remembered every second in sparkling high definition, from the spiraling fear and desperation in his gut to the stark terror written all over Spock's face. His hand pressed against Spock's through the glass, wanting just one more second of contact with the outside world, with a friend…a sense of this is unfair, why now, I'm too damn young for this…remembering his father's sacrifice. Always in his shadow.
Jim's breath caught and, appallingly, tears sprang to his eyes. No. He would not have a fucking breakdown over nothing in front of his first officer, that was not happening…
But when he chanced a glance up at his friend, Spock's eyes were soft. He gently laid two fingers on Jim's wrist and, almost immediately, feelings of protectioncomfortsafetyfriendship swept over him in a soft wave. Jim felt his breathing slow and his heart rate settle, and he stared at Spock in wonder. This felt nothing like the mind meld he had experienced on Delta Vega. That had been wild, intense, almost unsettling. This was…comfortable. Solid and steadying. Kind of like Spock, actually.
"What was that?" he whispered once he'd calmed down, and Spock's face actually went a little green. Blushing. Spock was blushing.
Jim was pretty sure he should find that hilarious, but he was too warm and content to do anything other than blink. The Vulcan shifted nervously and withdrew his hand.
"I…established a small mental link, to calm your anxiety. I apologize if I overstepped my bounds."
"Nah. You're good. Felt nice," Jim muttered, feeling sleep began to creep up on him. Another side effect from the stupid radiation- he slept all. The fucking. Time.
Spock knew when to take an opportunity. He stood quickly, still a little flushed, and said, "You appear to be fatigued, Captain. I will see you tomorrow, and we can continue our game."
Jim nodded, struggling to keep his eyes open. "Yeah. Okay. Hey Spock? You look like shit. You should catch some sleep sometime this week."
"I could not," said Spock after a long moment. His eyes were unreadable. "Even if I had the time. Good night, Cap…Jim."
Old Spock (or Spock Prime, the Ambassador, whatever the hell his Spock called the old dude) came to visit a couple days later, which was kind of weird and also kind of sweet, considering he lived several days away on New Vulcan. Jim knew the old man had been incredibly close to the Jim Kirk of his timeline, but the depth of his affection still sometimes caught him off guard.
"Jim," he said warmly, taking the seat next to his bed. "It is immensely gratifying to see you alive."
"That's what they tell me," said Jim, grinning. He liked Old Spock. He was like regular Spock, but more fun and less pissy about rules and emotional control.
Also, whenever he talked to Jim, his entire face lit up in a way that was both a boost to his ego and really, really humbling. He had no idea what his other self had done to earn so much love and respect from a guy as awesome as Spock, but he sure as fuck wasn't on his way there any time soon.
Then thought about Khan's bloody, beaten body and Spock's gentle touch on his wrist.
Okay, so maybe they were on the right track.
They chatted for a while about the colony, their missions, how the crew was doing-Spock made a dry comment about Sulu's plant obsession that had Jim in stitches- but eventually, of course, the conversation came around to their most recent clusterfuck.
"When I received that transmission mentioning Khan, I confess I was concerned."
"Wait," said Jim, frowning. "Did this happen in your timeline? Khan, Marcus' shit, everything?"
Spock's eyes went a little distant. Jim got the feeling the memories he was reliving were unpleasant. "Yes…and no. Events transpired differently in my universe. If you can believe it, circumstances actually improved this time around."
"….I'm trying to picture a way that this could have gone worse, and I'm just not seeing it," Jim said.
"We did not have access to Khan's blood," Spock confessed. Jim thought about that, and suddenly felt sick.
"Is that how other me-?"
"No," Spock said quickly. "No, in my universe, you were on the bridge when the warp core was compromised. Someone…else made the sacrifice."
But who…oh. Oh, shit.
This is what you would have done.
…Okay, but the whole dying thing? Spock had obviously not stayed dead. Probably some super-secret Vulcan voodoo. Like Pon Farr, but with less sex. Jim thought about asking- knowing his crew, it was sure to be a good story. But the old man kind of looked like he was done talking about it, so Jim decided to let it drop.
"Hey, listen," he said, awkwardly changing the subject. "Could I ask for some advice?"
"Certainly, Jim," said Spock, looking a little startled. "Though I must remind you that there is much I cannot tell you."
"This isn't so much 'future' stuff as it is…'fixing up stupid shit Jim did' stuff," Jim said.
Abruptly Spock began to cough, and Jim was like, ninety percent sure he was covering a laugh. Which was both awesome and really weird, so he let it slide without comment.
When the old guy emerged from his 'coughing' fit, he grinned a little and said, "I will do my best, Jim. I do have experience in that particular area."
Jim wondered if that was an insult. Ah, whatever. He decided to get right to the point.
"I…I tried to break out of Sickbay earlier this week, just because I've been bored out of my mind, but I messed up and set off some alarms and basically every member of the medical staff thought I was dead again for a good thirty seconds and now Bones won't talk to me," Jim said in a rush.
Old Spock looked at him for a while, utterly unsurprised, and sighed tolerantly. "I presume you would like advice on how to mollify him?"
Jim nodded. "I know you and him probably weren't that close, but-"
"On the contrary," Spock said, shocking Jim into silence. "The doctor and I shared a very…unique, if rather aggressive relationship. I considered him among my closest friends, and it was him I trusted with my katra."
Spock considered. "It is not important. Not anymore, if my hypothesis is correct."
"Um…okay," Jim said, and decided just to go with it. Old Spock had almost two hundred years of freaky weird shit under his belt, so it was probably in his best interests to listen to the guy. "But seriously. My universe's Spock and Bones can hardly even sit in a room together."
A slight smirk twitched on Spock's lips. "Nothing much has changed, then. I assure you a good portion of it is an act."
"Quite. Our debates were rather legendary among the original Enterprise crew. In fact, Leonard was still arguing with me on his deathbed; his last words were, 'Just admit I won, you pointy-eared computer.'"
Jim couldn't help the giggle that escaped, although the idea of Bones dying at any point in the future ever was just a little too upsetting to think about for too long. "Did you? Admit he won?"
"I did," said Spock fondly. "It seemed his due. He was smiling, in the end, and that was well worth the concession."
Jim swallowed back the lump that had appeared in his throat. Spock seemed to catch his train of thought. "Do not worry, Jim," he said. "This is, of course, a very different universe, but in my timeline the doctor lived to an age far beyond the norm for a human. It was not surprising; he was always too stubborn a man to give in to death easily. I suspect your Leonard McCoy has a similar tenacity."
"Damn right he does," said Jim, grinning. "Though that's not helping me any right now." He considered. There was an- almost nostalgic air coming from the old Vulcan. He wondered…
"Did you…do you miss us? Them, I mean. The Enterprise crew? I know we must have been a while ago for you, but…"
"There is nothing I miss more than my years with the Enterprise," Spock said, and there was so much sadness in his eyes that Jim's heart broke a little. "Her crew was the greatest collection of individuals I would ever meet, and they were my friends."
He stopped talking for a moment and gave Jim a very serious, weighted look.
"Never underestimate what you have, Jim. And do not give up the Enterprise before you are ready."
Jim swallowed. "Yeah, I won't. I'll keep her safe as long as they let me."
Spock's eyes warmed. "I expect nothing less."
Sometimes his unwavering faith was disconcerting, but Jim had to admit that in that moment, it felt pretty good.
Spock rose smoothly from his seat and offered Jim a small, but very genuine, smile. "I apologize for leaving so soon," he said, "but I had hoped to speak with your first officer before returning to New Vulcan. I suspect he is currently confined to his office, completing thirteen separate tasks at once and operating on far less sleep than he requires."
Jim grinned at him. "At least you're self-aware."
Spock quirked an eyebrow. "Live long and prosper, Jim."
"Peace and long life. Tell him to get some sleep, okay? He didn't look good."
"I will make an attempt. I recall being somewhat stubborn in my younger years."
'In your younger years'. Yeah right. Jim rolled his eyes. Then he recalled his earlier question.
"Hey! Any ideas on how to get Bones to stop hating me?" Spock turned at his question and gave him a skeptical look.
"Friendship or not, how useful do you really believe my advice would be in placating the good doctor?" Spock asked, raising a brow incredulously. With that, he held up his hand his usual salute and walked with an annoying amount of dignity out of Sickbay.
…Okay, so that was fair. Back to square one.
Jim ended up just winging it, as usual. He bribed one of the nurses into telling him when Bones was checking in on him (because he knew his friend, and he knew that not even the bitchiest of moods could suppress his mother hen instincts for long) and forced himself to stay awake, idly playing with one of the chess pieces from the board Spock had left behind and planning out new strategies to beat the Vulcan. He had a particular fondness for the baffled, irritated expression Spock always wore when he won.
He was in the middle of his third mental game when his door finally swished open, revealing an unmistakable figure in white. (And that was another problem with Bones not speaking to him- he hadn't been able to mock him about the hilariously awful planetside medical uniforms. Yet.)
"Thought you'd be asleep," Bones said gruffly. He walked to the monitor beside Jim's biobed and began punching in a series of complicated-looking commands with unnecessary force. Jim winced. He'd kinda hoped that an intervention wouldn't be needed, that Bones had gotten over it. No such luck.
"I waited up," Jim said, and the silence that stretched between them was more awkward than any Jim could remember. Things weren't usually like this with him and Bones- their friendship was comfortable, one of the few constants he knew he could fall back on. Stable. Safe.
"Bones, I'm sorry," he said, getting right to the point, because hell if he hadn't learned not to waste time. "That was selfish and stupid of me."
"Which part?" Bones asked flatly. He scanned the results of whatever-the-hell-medical-shit-he-was-doing, and his lips thinned. "The part where you tried to move without help before you were ready and busted up your face, or the part where you messed up your monitor and scared the living shit out of all of us?"
Jim winced. "Both. I know I'm a bad patient."
Bones looked up at him coolly and crossed his arms. "Thank you for that incredibly obvious statement, Captain."
God, they were at 'Captain' now? He really was pissed. Jim decided to go for honesty, because, you know, desperate measures.
"Listen, Bones," he said. "I…I can't have you mad at me. Not right now. I'm- it's not good. It hasn't been for a while. Even before the…well. Everything's pretty fucked, and I really…I don't think I'm coping." Eloquently put, Jim.
"That didn't make any sense," Bones said dully, face still eerily blank. Jim shrugged and crossed his arms over his chest, feeling strangely anxious.
"Yeah. I…yeah. I'm not making much sense these days."
Bones look at him for a long time, and finally his expression crumpled. He walked over and collapsed in the chair by Jim's bed, rubbing his face wearily.
"Do you know how hard it is to stay mad at you?" he muttered, defeated, and Jim grinned weakly.
"Part of my irresistible charm, I guess."
"You're a fucking idiot, Jim," Bones snapped, but his words were undermined by the gentle hand that ruffled through his hair and slipped down to squeeze his shoulder. Jim was reminded suddenly of Sam- there had been a time (before Frank) where Sam would ruffle his hair like that, would tease and grin and poke at him like an older brother was supposed to. Jim leaned into Bones' touch, thanking every deity he could think of that the doctor had chosen him to puke on in that shuttlecraft on the way to San Francisco.
"We should talk about it," Bones said eventually, and Jim nodded.
"Tomorrow," he said firmly. "We've got time." Plenty of it. I'm not going anywhere.
"Yeah," said Bones shakily. His hand was tight on Jim's arm, a little desperate. "Yeah, okay."
"I'm here, you know," Jim said softly. The doctor nodded, keeping his gaze on the floor. Jim gently removed Bones' hand from his shoulder and gripped it tight, waiting for the doctor to meet his eyes. "And…well, I can't promise anything. But I heard from my doctor that I'm a pretty stubborn son of a bitch, so I'll do my best to stick around for a while."
"You'd better," Bones breathed, clutching his hand so tightly it hurt. "I don't know how many times I'm gonna be able to bring you back, Jim. I'm a doctor, not a miracle worker."
"Sources say you're both," Jim replied honestly, and Bones actually flushed and went a little teary.
Things were getting mushy, so Jim couldn't help but add, "On another note, Old Spock says you and Pointy are gonna be best buds in the future."
There was the grouchy face he loved so much. "Yep. You two were epic bros in his time, bitching across the universe-"
"Oh my God, shut up-"
"Boldly sassing where no one had sassed before-"
"I swear to God, Jim Kirk, I will sedate you into next week-"
"I know! I'm stuck here for at least another week, I can make us all friendship bracelets!"
The answering slap to the skull was totally worth it.