I don't own Star Trek. T for language. Spoilers for Star Trek Into Darkness.
When he awakes, Pike is there.
Pike isn't there the first time he awakes; the first time he awakes, Bones is there, looking somewhat haggard and acting anything but. Spock is there, as well, back straight and rigid, hands clasped behind his back all too formal. He and Kirk share a look that says so much and, at the same time, says nothing at all. They do not discuss what happened two weeks ago, not there, not now. But in their unspoken words lies a promise and neither of them are too sure what it means.
Pike is not there the second time he awakes; the second time he awakes, briefly, hours later, the room is dark, and he is alone. He stares at the ceiling and wonders for a moment if he is back in the radiation chamber, he wonders if he's waking up in the sickbay on the Enterprise after a mission gone horribly wrong. He contemplates the damage but realizes he cannot feel his ship's gentle hum, he can't hear her work and breathe and soar through the vacuum. He realizes that that particular hum had been absent when he was in the radiation chamber.
Pike is there the third time he awakes.
A nurse is bustling by the side of his bed, tapping at a PADD that mirrors the screen above him. She's pretty in a delicate way, young, new. She says something to him and he turns his head slightly to hear better, about to ask where Bones is, and he sees his dead mentor sitting against the far wall.
A pang; Kirk blinks rapidly, but Pike does not leave. He is just as he is remembered, Starfleet uniform clean, a bit rumpled, cane held loosely in his grasp. He inclines his head towards Kirk and offers a slight smile. It's not a grim smile, not exactly. It's faint but genuine and there and Kirk's brow crinkles and he wants Pike to sidle up to his side and bend down and whisper, "You did good, kid," or something to ensure that everything he did mattered in the end, that he didn't fuck up too badly, but Pike doesn't move and tears are stinging in his eyes and the nurse asks him a question again, her voice concerned, hand lingering nervously over the call button, but he snaps back to attention.
When he turns back, Pike is gone.
Pike is not there the fourth time he awakes; he is not there the fifth, sixth, or seventh time. Kirk takes to sleeping a lot. Some of it unaided, some of it the cause of one of the many hyposprays administered by Dr. McCoy. He doesn't mind; he's often tired. The eighth time he awakens hardly counts, it's barely more than the flutter of eyelids and a sigh, but in the brief moment his eyes are open, he swears he sees Pike standing by his bedside, expression being one of acute grief. Upon awakening a ninth time, Kirk believes himself to have been dreaming, or, at least, that's what he tries to convince himself.
The tenth time he awakes, Pike isn't there: Khan is.
He permits himself a moment to drift in the dreamy post-sleep stage before opening his eyes. His gaze immediately goes to the visitor sitting in the chair pulled right up to the edge of the bed and he feels his heart drop right out of his body because the person who sits by him is Khan.
The face is unmistakable, with its sharp angles and hollows and heavy shadows and intensely blue eyes. Khan meets his gaze and his lips curl slowly upwards into a parody of a smile. There is no trace of joy in his expression, only malice with a sickening indulgence. "Captain," he says, drawing out the word mockingly, his voice as smooth as an oil slick and his smile deepens and Kirk can't breathe. Kirk can't breathe. Kirk can't breathe.
His breaths come in violent, wheezing gasps but he can't get enough air and people start to pour into the room and he wants to yell, wants to scream at them to just get out, can't they see that they're gonna be killed if they stay? Someone is holding him against the thin mattress and it's Khan, hands strong and digging into his shoulders, his face close and shouting at him and Kirk is faintly aware that someone is screaming, and oh, it's him, but he still can't breathe, and the room is fading.
When he comes to (for an eleventh time) he immediately vomits, but he hasn't been allowed solid food yet and the only thing that comes up is acrid bile that burns and he's crying, he's apologizing and then Bones is there, holding him by the shoulders gently, not as Khan had forced him into the mattress.
"Jim, Jim," he says, "it's alright, I'm here, you're safe, you're alright." Kirk pulls his friend close and presses his face into the softness of his uniform and he cries, he sobs, because oh, God. And McCoy holds him as he cries, he holds him as close as possible because Jim had been dead, he had been on his table in a body bag and the image still haunted him at night. They were all haunted; they would all be haunted.
"What happened, Jim?" McCoy asks after he's calmed down a bit, after his breathing has slowed. "What did you see?"
Kirk pulls back, eyes red and swollen, his face tear tracked. He hiccups and sniffs and wipes his mouth and he looks back at Bones and says, voice rough, he says, "Khan." And McCoy's heart gives out at his broken friend and he says, "Jim, it's alright, the bastard is good as dead, he's never coming near you, or any of us, ever again." And Kirk wants to shout I know! but he doesn't, he just sniffs again and nods and rubs his eyes and McCoy gives him a light sedative to help him sleep and stop the nightmares.
When he awakens for a twelfth time, Spock is there.
The Vulcan is sitting in a chair by the bed, not too close, intently studying whatever's written on his PADD. His face is lit by the gentle glow of the screen and Kirk watches him for a moment through half-lidded eyes, the shadow of a smile on his lips.
"Hey, Spock," he says finally, wincing at the sound of his own voice.
Spock's head snaps up and he dims the screen of the PADD and puts it aside. "Hello, Captain."
Is that…apprehension, that's staining his features? Kirk frowns, scrutinizing his friend's (friend's) face. He likes to think he knows Spock's nuanced expressions well, and definitely detects wariness and a bit of caution there, too.
"How are you feeling?"
Kirk thinks for a moment. "Not much, really," he admits, and it's true; he's pretty sure he's still doped up on pain meds to stave away whatever it feels like to have your body rebuild itself, cell by cell. He's heard it should probably be pretty painful.
Dying hurt; he remembers dying, he remembers feeling himself die, feeling the actual life leave his body, right when he entered up the chamber until he could hold his arm to the glass no longer. Dying hurt. He had felt his body tear itself apart, he had felt his organs fail, he had felt himself stop breathing. Being dead didn't really hurt. Being alive now, doesn't hurt, at least not physically. He figures he has Khan's superblood to thank for that—
Oh. Khan. His. His blood is running through his veins, right now. That's how blood transfusions work, right? The other person's blood never really leaves? Was it a transfusion, or a serum, or something else? He has Khan's DNA inside him. He literally has a piece of Khan inside of him. Oh, God.
Spock is there, closer now—how'd he get there so fast?—a hand loosely on his shoulder. Kirk focuses on the physical contact and uses it to ground him. He closes his eyes and actively tries to slow his breathing. He wills the panic to subside. Khan is dead, he tells himself. Or. Well. Close enough.
When Jim is calm(er), Spock resumes his seat at arm's length. "I fear Dr. McCoy may start prohibiting me from visiting," he muses.
Kirk snorts. "You can't help if I freak out on you. Besides, I'm sure Bones won't find out about one almost-panic attack. I won't tell if you don't." He winks and offers Spock a half-smirk but his friend's expression is just even more troubled. Kirk frowns. "What are you hiding, Spock." He's demanding, even in a hospital bed, recovering from a panic attack.
"Captain," he starts, word choice deliberate. "Do you recall our last meeting?"
Kirk furrows his brow. "That was, uh, the one with Uhura and Scotty, right? Scotty tried to smuggle food in but Bones caught him?" He almost smiles at the memory.
Spock looks as uncomfortable as a Vulcan can get. Kirk frowns. He opens his mouth to ask a question but it slowly, excruciatingly, dawns on him.
"Fuck," he whispers. "Oh, fuck."
"I thought you were fucking Khan! Oh, fuck, oh Jesus Fuck."
"Captain, I must insist you try to calm yourself if you do not wish to alert Dr. McCoy. He has a certain penchant for hyposprays, if I am correct."
Kirk looks at him. Oh. Fantastic. A Vulcan making a joke. He groans and rubs his face, pressing his fists against his eyes. "God." God. "Is this how it's going to be? I'm going to go crazy, now? Seeing things that aren't there? God, fuck."
"Occasional visual and even auditory hallucinations are common and to be expected following a particularly traumatic event or near-death experience. It is logical to surmise that you are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Captain."
"I see Pike," Kirk gasps. "I see him when no one's there. I keep waiting for him to say something, anything, but he never does. Is that normal, Spock? Is that to be expected?" Kirk looks right at him. His hands are trembling and he doesn't notice. Spock does.
His voice is low. "Captain," he says. "Jim. If you were not suffering in some way after what happened aboard the USS Enterprise and the USS Vengeance, that would be abnormal and very much a cause for concern."
Kirk looks him over. "You don't look too emotionally compromised." His voice shakes.
Spock fights the urge to roll his eyes. "Captain, I have spent my entire life learning to control my emotions, so my emotions do not control me. To say I am unaffected by these past events is false; I am very much affected, still. Jim, if you recall, I watched you die." His eyes are dark and serious and Jim searches them openly but doesn't say anything. Spock continues. "Though you are not dead, and are in stable condition, I still recall those moments by the radiation chamber vividly; I had not been so emotionally touched since I had lost my mother and my planet; I had thought I would never feel emotions that strongly again, and yet you proved me wrong."
Kirk blinks. "I have a habit of proving people wrong. It's one of my hobbies."
"It appears that would be true."
Kirk gives a breathy chuckle and runs a hand through his hair. "I'm." He swallows. "We. We're gonna be okay. We're gonna be okay." He looks up.
Kirk knows he's dreaming and is rather fine with that.
He's sitting on the floor, somewhere in Engineering, aboard the Enterprise. His ship is humming along happily; he can feel her underneath him, stable structured and there. A deconstructed something is in pieces, splayed out in front of him, and he's doing something he knows best: he's tinkering. He had taken whatever it was apart, and now he's gonna put it together into something completely different.
He feels a hand brush his shoulder and he pushes his goggles to his hairline and he looks up. Pike is above him, surveying the pieces strewn about. "What's this mess?" he gestures, faux-annoyance in his tone, brow creased. "Whatever it is, you better clean it up."
Kirk swallows around the knot in his throat. "Yes, sir."
Pike looks at him, shifting his weight, adjusting his grip on his cane. "She's yours, you know. No need to 'yes, sir,' me, Captain." A grin.
Kirk's face lights up, his smile wide. "No, sir."
Pike rolls his eyes and shakes his head slightly. "Never change, kid." He takes a few steps away before turning back. "Kirk?"
"You did good." A nod. "You did good, kid. Take care of her, for me, alright?"
Kirk feels tears stinging behind his eyes but he's smiling so wide, he doesn't care. "Yeah," his voice breaks. "Yeah, of course."
Pike nods again, giving the whole space a cursory look around. He steps through the opens doors that close with a whoosh and then he's gone.
The thirteenth time Kirk wakes up, Bones is there. Pike is not there. Khan is not there.
Bones is frowning. What else is new.
"You sure as hell sleep a lot for someone who's been sleeping for two weeks."
Kirk half-shrugs. Whatever. It's totally true. But he's feeling good, he's feeling alert. He tells Bones as much.
"Oh, yeah? You wanna try going for a walk today, then? PT is gonna be a bitch, you know, you should try moving as soon as possible." Kirk detects a certain amount of glee in Bones' voice. God, he thinks. PT is going to suck.
"Hey. You feelin' okay, kid?"
"What? Yeah. I feel great. I feel great." He throws the covers aside and smirks. "I'll race you. Last one back to the bed buys drinks for the whole crew."
"Damn it, Jim, you can barely stand."
"What? Are you afraid you're gonna lose?"
An exasperated sigh. Kirk grins.
A/N: Thank you so much for reading! Feedback is appreciated!