This might just be the whumpiest I ever did whump. Apparently I'm extra mean when I have too much coffee. Pure hurt and not a huge amount of comfort. It is an attempt to answer the question of how far McCoy would go to keep Jim alive. Some people might object to the decision he makes here, but while I'm playing in nu!Trek land, I'm drawing from tos!McCoy. He'd get it.
There were a lot of people in the universe who wanted to see Captain James T. Kirk dead. Leonard McCoy never thought he would be one of them.
The thought had been fleeting a week ago – a moment of weakness induced by exhaustion and fear. Now it returned with frightening frequency and as much as it felt like a betrayal, like he was giving up, it had lodged itself in his mind and refused to let go.
He wanted Jim to die.
The body strapped down to the bed besides him didn't even look like his friend any more. Thin and sickly pale, his eyes were glazed and entirely without recognition as they rolled over McCoy's face restlessly.
It would have been easier if they could have let him sleep. If McCoy could have sedated him through it all he could have withstood the pain he knew Jim was fighting.
But the parasite that was destroying Jim from the inside out was as telepathically destructive as it was physiologically malicious. On the few occasions Jim had lost consciousness, either due to pain or exhaustion, his condition had taken an instant turn for the worse. His heart had stopped three times now and each time McCoy dragged him screaming back to life he was a little bit weaker, a little bit more vulnerable to its attacks.
So instead of being able to give Jim the respite of unconsciousness, McCoy had strapped him down and plugged IVs into his veins – one keeping him hydrated, another to provide whatever drug McCoy hoped might cure him, and the final one dosing him with enough stimulants to keep him awake and fighting. Awake and in agony.
They'd moved him into his own private room hours after admitting him, not because he was the captain and got any special treatment, but because his screaming had scared the other patients.
That was what they were dealing with. A monster, barely the size of a pea, whose insidious attack left Jim screaming for so long that his throat had begun to bleed.
Nineteen days ago, Jim had been full of the joys of spring; bouncing from department to department, a smile and a word of encouragement for everyone and a languid contentment emanating from every pore. The crew had never seen their captain so happy. It was infectious. McCoy had teased him for it because that is what the two of them did, but in truth it had warmed him.
How could he not be happy when Jim was?
A year had officially passed into their five-year mission and Jim had finally accepted the fact that this wasn't going to be taken away from him. He'd confessed to McCoy, his cheeks flushed with alcohol and satisfaction, that he finally felt that he wasn't feeling his way in the dark. He knew what he was doing and had experience to bolster him. He wasn't just the boy captain who had been dealt a lucky hand.
The survey of the Class M planet Chekov had christened Delphi had been something of a celebration for all the crew.
A beautiful planet with lush greenery and no sign of intelligent life, a botanist's dream, and the chance for Jim to stretch his legs on a world that wasn't filled with blood-thirsty savages, antagonistic war criminals or pompous Starfleet Admirals.
The survey had been completed to Spock's exacting standards and signed off without a single hitch. The crew had returned none the wiser that Jim had picked up a hitchhiker. Not until he'd coughed up a mouthful of blood in Spock's face over chess that night and collapsed into the first of several seizures.
For three days McCoy had been at a loss as to their cause. A pathogen, a poison, he'd investigated them all, ruling them out as Jim sobbed and screamed from his position on the bed.
It had been Spock who suggested that the captain's malady might be psychic in nature, and Spock, whose mind meld was still an insane risk in McCoy's opinion, who had located the parasite. The damn thing had showed up on none of McCoy's sensors and responded to none of the traditional treatments.
When McCoy had attempted to cut the monster out of Jim's gut, it had retaliated with such a ruthless determination to live that Jim had almost bled to death in McCoy's arms.
For the first time, McCoy had no answers. He had no knowledge of how to combat a sentient being who used Jim's own body to defend itself even as it murdered him. How did you wage a war with no collateral damage? Even Jim would claim that as impossible. What hope did McCoy have?
Jim had not slept in two weeks. He had not eaten or had a drink in longer. He was alive only because McCoy had hooked him up to machines that forced his body to function. Tracheal intubation meant that McCoy could ventilate Jim's lungs mechanically as well as reduce the risk of the parasite causing asphyxia. He was hooked up to a catheter and there were intravenous cannulas in the crooks of both elbows. It was practically medieval medicine, but this way McCoy could attempt to wrestle control of Jim's body away from him. He could keep Jim like this as long as he needed to. Until the parasite succeeded in destroying his mind and won it's battle for control, or McCoy found a way to save him.
He couldn't imagine how terrifying it must be for Jim to be that helpless.
"It is a most distressing dilemma." McCot didn't look up. He knew Spock had been standing at the foot of Jim's bed for almost as long as he'd been sat there.
Never would he have expected to have anything in common with the green blooded hobgoblin Jim had so quickly named friend, yet they had both suffered the agony of losing him once and knew they could not do so again. "We will find a way of removing the parasite from Jim's body."
"I know." McCoy said hollowly. The best minds in the universe were all working on the problem. A solution was only inevitable.
"The question is merely how long we chose to let him suffer." Spock circled the bed and brushed his finger across Jim's cheek. It came away damp. Jim had been in a near constant state of tears for days now. That thing had reduced the bravest man he knew to a pitiful collection of skin and bones who could do no more to express his agony than weep.
If he loved Jim as much as he thought he did, he would be kind. He would unhook the IVs that forced his continued consciousness and let him sleep. The parasite moved fast. It would be over quickly.
"It's not a question." McCoy wanted so desperately to take Jim's hand, but Jim's skin bruised at the slightest touch and McCoy's fingerprints were already etched deep into his flesh. "Saving him might be the most selfish thing I've ever done, but I'll do it anyway."
Spock nodded. He looked as exhausted as McCoy felt. His hair was messy and his uniform rumpled. When they had lost Jim to Khan, Spock had broken. Jim's return to life had pieced him back together, but the fracture lines were still clear to see. McCoy feared that in losing Jim, he would lose Spock too.
"I will return to the labs." He announced. "Please notify me of any changes."
McCoy said he would, knowing that there would be none.
"Just hang in there, Jim." McCoy begged. "Please. We can't lose you."
Jim said nothing, his eyes fixed on the ceiling and his mouth twisted in a silent scream.
Another four days passed. McCoy did not sleep. If Jim was not allowed to rest, neither was he. What was the point of having access to all those drugs if he couldn't keep himself functional with them? He took the same cocktail he gave Jim and ignored the way his hands shook.
Spock had attempted a second mind meld after his time in the lab had garnered no results. Jim had cringed away from him, frightened and weak. Spock had returned in a daze so overwhelming McCoy had called Uhura down to pull him back to reality.
McCoy started to face the fact that they were being beaten. After all he'd lived through, Jim Kirk was going to lose to a being smaller enough to crush between his fingers.
There was nothing at all in Jim's eyes. No spark of life, nothing. His pupils reacted to the light, but if Jim was still with them, there was no sign of him at all.
Exhausted beyond the point of coherency, numb to anything but the sight of Jim's empty blue eyes, McCoy finally reached the inevitable conclusion.
He wasn't as strong as Jim.
Not even close.
He couldn't do it any longer. He didn't even know who he was trying to save any more, nor did he know who exactly he intended to release.
His hands trembling, unaware of anything in the room besides Jim, he reached out and unhooked the steady stream of drugs keeping Jim conscious.
It took several long minutes, but eventually Jim's eyes drifted shut.
Carefully McCoy unhooked each and every piece of medical equipment he had forced on Jim. It took nearly half an hour. His hands shook and he was so scared of hurting Jim more, even as his heart rate slowed and slowed on the monitor.
Eventually, Jim was no longer confined. McCoy pulled the sheets height, covering his thin, bruised body and taking one of his hands.
Jim stopped breathing and McCoy's heart broke.
In true Jim fashion, he couldn't even die properly.
His heartbeat slowly dwindled away to nothing, his body finally relaxing after three weeks of torture, and just as McCoy was about to whisper his last words to his best friend, Jim jerked over onto his side and vomited blood all over the floor.
McCoy was momentarily transfixed, and then he saw it. The tiny, squirming little bug that flickered iridescent as it squirmed on the blood spattered floor of sickbay.
He didn't hesitate and only wished the squelch had been more satisfying when he crushed it under his boot heel.
Jim healed. He was Jim. Within a week of McCoy releasing him from medical, he'd done what he did with every other horrible thing he'd faced in his life and rammed the whole experience deep down inside his head, never to see the light of day again.
McCoy didn't heal. He drank.
In fact he took himself off duty for a week and only sobered up when he was finally due back on shift.
When he saw Jim, he grumbled and complained and fussed as usual and if Jim noticed anything wrong with him he didn't say.
And that was okay, because what was there to say? Did he tell his best friend that he had essentially tried to kill him? Did he admit that there were days now when he hated Jim as much as he loved him? Did he confess to giving up on Jim, on not believing him capable of defying any odds, beating any enemy?
Of course he didn't.
And that, it turned out, was okay as well.
He might not have been as strong as Jim was, but he was just as good at lying.