Hello lovelies! Long time no see! I've been working my butt off on this story, which is why it's been a while since I've posted, but finally it is complete! I'm a bit nervous about this one, as it's probably the most angst-filled thing I've ever written in my life. It will be in two parts, with the second part coming later this weekend. Enjoy!

Also, this story was written as heavy friendship within the trio, but it is pretty open-ended in allowance for any ships.

Warnings: Some language and description of terminal illness. If that is a trigger, please read with caution.

Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek. I am also no medical expert, so bear with me.

"Welcome back to the world of the living."

The world was warm, soft, fuzzy—but that was probably the morphine talking. Jim Kirk blinked away as much as he could, eventually focusing on Bones' back. "How long was I out?" he tried, but it came out more like "Ho'long z'out?"

"About four hours." It must have been a doctor's gift, to be able to translate medication-induced mumbling. "You passed out in the middle of a sentence, just after you and Spock got all buddy-buddy with the gratitude and all that. Spock was not as amused as I was."

"Damn," Jim said. He tried sitting up, but soon learned that it was impossible: every muscle in his arms shook violently with the effort. Giving up on that, he turned his head to the side. "Sorry, Bones. I'd wanted to talk to you more. Didn't think I'd be asleep so long."

"Yeah, well, it's a hell of a lot better than two weeks," Bones said dryly. He set an instrument down on the side table and glanced backward at Jim. "I'd cut back on the morphine, but I'm not sure even you are ready for that yet. Plus, you need the rest."

"I've been sleeping for two weeks," Jim whined.

"Yes, but your body is still fighting and recovering," Bones insisted. "It's not every day you get injected with super-human blood and rise from the dead. Your body is still adjusting."

"About that," Jim said, squinting. Already some of the medication was wearing off, and while he was grateful for the slightly more stable world, the lights of the hospital burned through his brain. "How'd you come up with a transfusion, of all things? How'd you know it would work?"

"It was a bit of a shot in the dark," Bones admitted gruffly. Now he moved away from Jim's bed across the room. "We'd tested the blood on that tribble, remember?"

The memory was vague—it had been two weeks ago, after all—but it registered. "Yeah, but it didn't do anything."

"Not until hours later," Bones corrected. He opened up a closet door where extra medical supplies were kept while he spoke. "Just as you were brought up to me, the tribble miraculously came back to life. That's how we knew the blood worked."

Then he ducked out of the closet, holding a small, clear, aquarium-like container with holes punched in the sides. Inside, cooing, was the tribble.

"I thought we could keep this here," Bones said, "as a kind of testament to your survival, y'know?" He gripped it awkwardly against his chest, like a treasure he couldn't bear to lose, then placed it on one of the tables at the end of the room. "We can look at this tribble, and see it alive and healthy, and…well, know that you'll be alright."

Jim looked at it for a moment, watched it breathe. This thing, this tiny little creature, really was a reflection of his own survival. Bones stared at him uneasily, as if waiting for approval. Finally Jim smiled, the first truly wide grin in two weeks. "I never knew you were so sentimental, Bones," he said. The doctor's face hardened and he opened his mouth to make a comeback, but Jim managed a small, hoarse laugh. "I love it."

Then Bones relaxed, his shoulders falling slightly and his gaze softening. "Yeah, okay, let's get you some more drugs before you get too mushy."

In truth, Jim was beginning to feel the effects of the receding morphine, and it was a testament to Bones' skill that he noticed the little signs of discomfort, but Jim Kirk was not one to give up.

"I'm fine, I promise," Jim said.

"Sure, Jim," Bones said wryly, and slowly Jim felt the renewed cold seeping into his veins.

"Spock's gonna be so pissed when'ee sees…" But he was out cold. The last thing he saw was the steady rise and fall of the tribble's fur as it breathed in and out.

The next time Jim woke, he was alert. He opened his eyes wide, adjusting to the dim lighting of the room.

"I am sorry, Captain; I did not intend to wake you."

Jim looked sharply to the side. Spock was halfway between standing and sitting, hovered above a nearby chair. The chair was now in the no-man's land between the wall and Jim's bed; Spock must have moved it closer.

"No worries, Spock," Jim said, resting his head back to the pillow. "What's up?"

"If you are referring to the nature of my visit," Spock said, sitting, "I was simply ensuring that you remain in good health while Doctor McCoy sleeps."

"Shit, what time is it?" Jim asked, swiveling his head in an attempt to find a clock.

Spock, of course, replied promptly. "It is nearly four hours after midnight."

Jim blinked a few times, then swallowed thickly. His sleeping schedule was really screwed up.

Instead of responding, Jim nodded to Spock's chair. "So you do this a lot? Midnight vigil and all that?"

Spock paused, clearly missing the teasing in Jim's voice, and said quietly, "Yes, quite often."

Jim quieted too, and the stillness between them grew weighty, but not uncomfortable.

Finally Spock broke the silence. "Jim, your actions leading up to your death—"

"Spock," Jim said, holding up a hand.

"We thought you were dead—"

Jim's voice cracked with disuse as he raised it. "Spock, I'd…I'd rather not remember all of that now." He hesitated. "I know I'll have to remember it, but I'd rather not. Not now."

The Vulcan nodded. "Understood. Are you ready for more medication?"

"No, no," Jim said, scrunching up his face. "I'm awake now, and you're here, and…I don't want to leave you here alone again. I just need something to keep my mind off of all of the doom and gloom."

Spock considered this, cocking his head slightly. "What would you suggest?"

Jim thought for a moment, working through the sluggishness of his mind. Then a smile tugged up the corner of his mouth. "How do you feel about chess?"

The chess was slow-going at first—partly due to the fact that Jim could barely hold his arm up to move the pieces, partly because he had a bad habit of falling asleep halfway through games—but, with Spock's assistance and Jim's steadily improving health, the routine became daily.

"What's the point of chess?" Bones would grumble to himself if he ever stumbled upon a game. "If the King's so important, why can he only move one space at a time?"

"Just because he's a king doesn't mean he's all powerful, Bones," Jim would quip.

Bones would adjust the IV in the Captain's arm, muttering something about the relevance of drinking games.

One day, Jim won.

"Checkmate," he said triumphantly, his arm flopping back to the bed. He was now sitting completely up in bed, able to stay awake for as much as six hours at a time. Though dark circles were still deep under his eyes, his face had regained much of its healthy color.

Spock peered analytically at the chess pieces, eyes searching for a solution. The longer the silence stretched, the bigger Jim's smile became.

"There's nowhere else you can go, Mr. Spock," he said gleefully. "The fate of the game has been decided!"

He let out a whoop of triumphant laughter, and somewhere in the adjoining room Bones' voice called out in annoyance, "For the love of God."

"It appears, Captain, that you are correct," Spock said finally. "It was a valiantly-played game."

"I told you I'd win sometime," Jim continued. He looked up as Spock stood. "Care for a re-match?"

The Vulcan quietly gathered the pieces. "I am afraid I only have time for one game today, Captain. I, unfortunately, have other duties to attend to."

Jim rolled his eyes. "Sore loser, much?"

Spock paused, the chess board clutched under one arm as he looked long and hard at Jim. Jim's smile fell as he saw the hint of vulnerability in his First Officer's eyes. "I would be glad to see you win, Captain, as many times as you are able; but, regrettably, that will have to wait."

As the Vulcan turned to head out the door, Jim idly chewed his lip. Then, even though Spock couldn't see him, he motioned to the wall. "You've never said anything about Bones' tribble. I would have thought you'd have something snarky to say about it."

Spock paused, barely angling his head. Then: "No, Jim. In fact, I've become quite fond of it."

A week and a half after waking up, all hell broke loose.

It started innocently; Jim was sitting up in bed around midday, reading an old novel on a PADD as sunlight streamed through the windows. He could hear Bones occasionally moving around in the room next door, sometimes accompanied by the soft strains of news reports. For once, the hospital was peaceful.

Then, too fast for Jim to comprehend, the words on his PADD blurred, and all went black.

When he came to his senses, he knew something had gone wrong. The light in the room was no longer a lazy-Sunday-afternoon gold, but a near-sunset pink, indicating at least an hour and a half of time passage, and the ceiling tiles spun above him.


"Bones," he managed to croak out. The PADD that had been balanced on his legs clattered to the floor.

Blessed with a doctor's hearing, or perhaps just extreme intuition, Bones flew out from the side room and grabbed a trash bin just in time for Jim to violently empty the contents of his stomach.

"Kid—" Bones started, brow furrowed, but before he could say anything else, Jim was back over the side of the bed, the second bout culminating in fierce gagging.

To make all matters worse, the Enterprise First Officer chose that moment to enter the room.

"Doctor McCoy—" he began, concern rising in his tone.

"Bones," Jim repeated, loudly sucking in air. "I don't know what happened. I was just sitting here reading, and I passed out of nowhere, and…" The nausea swelled again, and he attempted to quell it with another breath.

Spock interjected sharply, urgently. "Doctor, diagnosis?"

Bones waved him off sloppily with one hand, resting the other against Jim's shoulder. "He's having a panic attack. Nothing serious; I'm surprised it hasn't happened sooner…"

"No, Bones!" Jim insisted. "Trust me, I know a panic attack when I feel one, and this was something else."

Considering this, Bones paused. Then, seemingly unconvinced, he crossed his arms. "You said you just passed out? For how long?"

"At least an hour," Jim replied. "You know me, Bones. I wouldn't even say anything unless I knew something was up."

There was truth in that statement, and Bones knew it. Finally he conceded, turning around to grab his tricorder. Jim reclined back against the pillows once more. Every part of his body, it seemed, trembled. He fought back the post-vomiting weakness as Spock took a seat across the room and Bones began waving his tricorder around.

The room was still for a few moments, and Jim was about to make a joke about the solemnity of the situation when Spock cleared his throat.


"Yes, what is it?" Bones' brow was furrowed much too deeply for his own good, Jim thought.

"I was simply observing the tribble you brought in last week," Spock continued, his voice so precisely level it could have cut steel. "It appears…it appears that the tribble has died."

"What do you mean, it died?" Jim was saying, rambling. "It can't just die; it was perfectly healthy…"

Spock stared straight ahead. The world was collapsing much too quickly.

"Jim…" Bones' face had taken on a dangerously ashen pallor. He waved the tricorder over the Captain's body again and again, the blood draining out of his face with every pass. "Jim, something's gone wrong…"

"Not now, Bones," Jim said, waving him away. "I want to know why that tribble died—"

"Jim," Bones insisted, finally withdrawing his arm. "Your cells; they've begun to deteriorate."

That gave Jim pause. Spock stood.

"Doctor, are you suggesting…"

"Khan's blood has stopped working," Bones muttered to himself. "It's not protecting him against the radiation…"

"What does that mean?" Jim said cautiously.

Bones ignored him. "The tribble…" The doctor practically sprinted across the room to Spock and wasted no time ripping the lid off of the cage. His expression grew darker and darker the more he brandished around the tricorder.

"The blood stopped working." He repeated the mantra to himself, each syllable the falling of a hammer. "Effects reversed…no longer sustained life…"

"I'm…I'm dying, then?" Jim said quietly. The heart monitor sped up slightly at his words. "Is that what this means?"

Bones measured his words carefully before speaking. "It means that we're going to have to find some way to—"

"I'm dying," Jim continued, voice rising. "Bones, please…" The heart monitor screamed now.

"Okay, now you're having a panic attack," Bones said matter-of-factly, reverting naturally back to the steady-handed doctor. "Calm down. It'll be alright."

"It won't be, though; that's the thing!" Jim's voice broke. "You can't fix this, Bones; you know as well as I do!"

Bones marched around the biobed and selected a hypo. The out-of-control screeches of the heart monitor rang through the room. "This is just a sedative; it will put you under for a few hours so you can calm down."

As he approached Jim with the hypo, the Captain cringed away violently. "I can't sleep, Bones, if I don't know how much time I have—"

Bones looked up from under his eyebrows. "Mr. Spock."

The Vulcan walked over smoothly, wordlessly. He pressed a hand against Jim's shoulder, effectively pinning the writhing man to the bed.

"Bones!" Jim yelled, panic and desperation striking in his voice. "Please!"

The doctor plunged the hypo into his neck, and the effect was instantaneous in the weaker man.

Still, Jim fought. He cursed, he thrashed, he stubbornly refused to let his eyes close.

"Just let go, kid," Bones said softly. "Just let go."

And, eventually, Jim had no choice. His movements grew sluggish, he slumped in his bed. Then, with one final struggle, his eyes rolled up in his head and the sedative dragged him under.

"Jesus," Bones said wearily. Within a second of Jim losing consciousness, his hands, the steadiest hands on the ship, began shaking so uncontrollably that he was forced to set the hypo down. He covered his face in his hands and sat heavily. "Jesus," he repeated, but this time his voice was higher, cracking, the beginnings of a sob.

"Doctor?" Spock said levelly. "The Captain—Jim—there is nothing you can do?"

Bones was mute, and the question left a jagged wound in the silence.

Part two coming soon. Let me know how I'm doing-it's always a joy to hear from readers!

Thank you for reading!

Till next time,