DARKNESS AND SILENCE
“It’ll be like a vacation,” he announced winningly, blue eyes sparkling as he’d leaned against a clean, sterile biobed. One he had been a guest on only two days prior. Bones had done his very best to look unimpressed, his eyes narrowing pointedly at where Jim’s grubby hands were splayed over the hard, and microlined biosensitive surface. Jim followed his gaze and as soon as he realized exactly what he was doing he released the bed with a satisfying speed. The problem was that the momentum of stepping away from the molested biobed failed to carry the man right out of his sickbay. Bones glanced subtly to his left, eyeing the nearest station that held the emergency hyposprays, and that finally knocked a little of the self-satisfied smirk from Jim’s lips.
“A vacation,” Bones parroted back, drier then the Sahara.
“Come on Bones,” Jim needled, moving right into his space and practically herding him to his office at the other side of sickbay. Bones allowed it, but only because it was Jim. Also, he refused to acknowledge the indulgent smile his nurses shared when they thought he couldn’t see. “A few days off ship on a nice planet where the friendly aliens will cook, and clean and let you play outside,” Bones flopped (slid gracefully) into his chair and narrowed his eyes even more.
“You and I both know I won’t get a chance to ‘play outside,’” he crossed his arms argumentatively and watched carefully as Jim gingerly sat himself into his regular spot across from the desk. Jim caught him looking and gave a slight nod to say that he was okay. Bones had expected him to be a bit sore today, considering that only two days before he had been a visitor with a few broken bones, torn muscles, and the threat of permanent nerve damage to his left hand due to an encounter with a safe planets local wildlife.
Damned training missions with damned away teams that weren’t expecting anything to go wrong and had too many inexperienced officers to…he cut off his thoughts and gave Jim one more look before letting it go. It was done, nobody had died and Jim was fine with the exception of some residual soreness. Still, if Bones had been there then there would have been no way that animal would have gotten a hold of the boy.
Not a damned chance.
“They’re nice people Bones,” Jim tried a different tact.
“I have better things to do with my time then teach a bunch of witchdoctors how to use their brand new, Starfleet issued, hypo sprays,” he groused.
“See, I could have sworn that it was you I had a conversation with just last week about how these ‘backwater planets would benefit from having a little more training in preventative medicine’ so that they didn’t have to wait on the fleets med ships to come into orbit every other month to dole out vaccinations.” The bastard quirked an eyebrow, a habit he’d picked up only after he began hanging out with the green blooded goblin, and eyed him knowingly.
“You’re not winning me over here Captain,” Bones snorted and pulled a PADD closer to him, plugging in a few items he’d need to requisition for their next layover at a supply station.
“Wasn’t aware I had to win you over Doctor,” Jim’s shoulders relaxed a fraction and he sank more naturally into his seat.
“M’Benga did the last run,” Jim was quick to counter.
“M’Benga likes teaching people how to jab each other in the neck,” Bones felt the need to point out, rolling his eyes at the very thought of it.
“You know if I didn’t know you any better I’d say you were being a snob,” Jim still had that satisfied grin on his face, blue eyes dancing, and even if Bones hadn’t known he would give in to the request the moment the insufferable man had stepped into his sickbay, he would have then just to keep the kid smiling.
He was a damned push over in his old age.
“And if I didn’t know you any better I’d say you want me off your ship for a few days.”
“Touché,” Jim’s grin grew into a soft smile, one that held an undercurrent of concern. “You worked through the last two shore leaves Bones, a few days dirtside’ll be good for you.” Bones sighed at the point, knew it was true, and was slightly disgruntled that the kid knew him well enough to know when he needed a break. Still-
“I’ll be working down there too,” he pointed out, pushing the data padd away and leaning back in his chair.
“Yep. With kids. Plus, it’ll only be half days, because the Drueen’s don’t believe in a nine to five lifestyle.”
“You have to do a lot rearranging to get this assignment?” He asked and Jim’s eyes flicked quickly down to Bone’s chest before meeting his eyes again and shrugged innocently.
“Nah,” the kid announced, not completely lying, but downplaying his efforts enough that Bones was touched by the thought behind it.
“What’ll you be doing while I’m off having a ‘vacation’ for the sake of Starfleet diplomacy?” he asked, giving in and saying thank you all at once. Jim seemed to relax even more into his chair. The kid was more of a mother hen than Bones ever had the chance of being, and that was the truth.
“The blue shirts want to investigate some expanding nebula a few systems over. Close enough for a shuttle to reach in a few days if necessary, otherwise we’ll rendezvous at the end of the rotation.”
“Oh joy, a forced vacation with a pleasant couple of hours spent locked in a miniature tin can to wrap the experience up with.”
“Look on the bright side Bones,” Jim pushed up from his seat, trying to hide his stiffness out of habit. “You won’t be alone.”
He wouldn’t be alone. Bones frowned at the phrase. He’d expected a nurse or two to come with him, which was standard practice for missions like these, but that comment meant that Jim was probably sending other people along as well. Probably geologists if his memory of this planets mountain formations rang true.
“Damn it Jim!” He called after the retreating man, more because it was expected than any real ire, “I’m a doctor, not a babysitter!”
He was met with the smug swoosh of his office door closing.
He forced away the small grin that threatened and went back to work.
He’d parked himself in the back of the shuttle, mainly because Chekov was also there, unsuccessfully trying to hide a hangover and flirt with Nurse Adiron. It was better entertainment value than sitting up front with a near mute lieutenant and nothing better to do than stare out at the vacuum of space. Plus it was always endearing to see the little Russian try so hard to impress the ladies. At least Adiron, ten year’s the boys senior, was being a sweetheart about it and joking back gamely. Jesus to be so damn young; he remembered what it was like, in bits and flashes and mostly with a deep seated urge to forget. He huffed out a near silent sigh at the thought and shifted in his seat, belatedly remembering to pretend to tired when Chekov looked over at him with slight concern. He scowled at the kid for good measure, only for the kid to grin slightly and turn back to his conversation, satisfied that Bones was simply grumpy due to a ‘hangover’ of his own. Considering he drank three times as much as the kid the evening before the condition was expected. He had even held off on shaving just to help cater to the look (regulations be damned, this was his ‘vacation’). Truth was, he felt like he did every day, which was one hundred percent fine and than some.
The subtle vibrations of the shuttle increased around him for a moment, shaking right into his bones before dissipating back to normal and he shifted in his seat again, this time with real unease. Three days of giving vaccinations, distributing tissues, and being surrounded by children had chased away the tension that built up with being trapped on the ship for too long, but one hour on this shuttle with increasing bouts of abnormal vibrations was bringing it right back.
He looked around to see if anyone else had noticed, well aware that he was more sensitive then the average individual when it came to his surroundings. Chekov was no longer trying to flirt with his nurse, a thoughtful look on his face as he stared up front. Bones followed the look, to see the pilot look over her shoulder and calmly seeking him out. When there eyes met the woman nodded for him to join her.
The unease he’d felt since stepping onto the shuttle increased ten fold. He heard Chekov stumble to his feet behind him, no doubt to invite himself along on this little impromptu tête-à-tête. Bones resisted the urge to snap at the kid to sit down again until he knew what the problem was, seeing as it would do nothing but hurt the boy’s feelings. Once a bridge crew member, always a bridge crew member. If anyone understood how difficult it could be to remain on the sidelines when you were normally so deep in the action you couldn’t see below your nose it was Bones.
He nodded at the Drueen ambassador and Lieutenant Riot, his liaison for this trip, as he passed by. He noted the concern the betazoid officer was trying to disguise, and finally reached the front of the relatively small vehicle. He tried not to loom over the woman who was checking her controls much more frequently than was necessary for a cattle run.
“There a problem Lieutenant?” he asked softly, resisting the urge to grab Chekov and shove him a few feet away when the boy popped up practically under his arm.
“There might be sir,” she uttered softly, keeping her words to their little group for now. “You’ve noticed the tremors?”
“Yes,” he answered bluntly and saw Chekov nod from his peripheral.
“They began about fifteen minutes ago sir. Preflight checks indicated no mechanical problems and scanners indicated that we were passing close enough to a gravity well that it could cause them, but now I don’t think that’s the case sir.”
“What is it than?” He glared down at the readings on the console, seeing that she was indeed on top of things here and nothing looked amiss.
“I don’t know sir,” she was distinctly unsettled by this answer. “But the vibrations are increasing in frequency and strength,” and just to prove her right the ship shuddered around them, hard enough that the rest of the passengers were finally figuring out that something was wrong.
“Dat is not good,” Chekov muttered to himself and literally squeezed in front of Bones to get at the console. The Lieutenant shifted aside slightly to give the boy better access but kept her own gaze locked on her controls, the consummate professional.
“We anywhere near a port we can pull into?” She was shaking her head before he’d even finished the question.
“No sir. The Drueen’s home planet is the only port in this system and we’re too far out to risk the trip back now,” she didn’t add that it would be a stupid risk to try and negotiate re-entry through the atmosphere if the shuttle was really malfunctioning. Damn it. “The Enterprise is the best option sir.”
“How far out are they?”
“Nineteen minutes at maximum warp sir.” The shuttle shook again, and this time when it stopped it was clear that they were no longer on course.
“Patch me through,” he ordered and looked over his shoulder to see that the six people behind him were now paying very close attention. He held up a hand to let them know he’d tell them what was happening in a moment, and turned forward again as Jim’s jovial voice filled the front half of the small ship.
“This is Captain Kirk,” he declared with a little bit of smug thrown into his title for good measure.
“Captain,” Bones said seriously and watched the image of his friend flip from easy going to sharp professionalism in an instant. “We may have a problem,” he announced. Jim looked off screen and nodded to someone, no doubt Sulu, already giving silent orders to pull their ship around and head towards Bones and his crew without hesitation.
“A big problem,” Chekov muttered, his eyes going wide and Bones looked at him sharply, his body tensing, and blood beginning to sing with adrenalin.
“Report!” Jim snapped and Chekov stood sharply, his normal enthusiasm absent.
“All scans before launch indicated systems were normal sir,” he announced, tossing quick glance at Lieutenant D’Amande as if to reassure her she’d done nothing wrong. “However, I have refocused the biomolecular scanners back onto our shuttle and they have come back positive for Aloyonuclaric acid sir. It appears to have been placed on the starboard side, near the stabilizers,” he trailed off and the three of them looked out the shuttles window to the stomach twisting churning of the stars as they spun through space.
“There’s no way initial scans would have missed that,” Jim said calmly, his eyes flashing darkly.
“No sir. It must have been attached in a time release box just before launch,” D’Amande announced, and swallowed thickly. “Or it could have just eaten through the box to get at our hull.” This was the bitch of it. Aloyonuclaric acid could eat through just about any alloy, Starfleet shuttle craft included. It moved slowly, hence their stalled awareness that the stabilizer was being demolished, but it would get through it given enough time. This one had had time. Bones wondered who the attackers intended target was: Starfleet or the Drueen ambassador.
Not that it mattered at all right now.
“How much time before it exposes the shuttle to vacuum?” The Captain demanded and at this Chekov shook his head despairingly.
“I don’t know for certain Captain. If it has already eaten through the stabilizer, it could be minutes or an hour before it affects our atmosphere.”
There was a click, a whir, and everything in the shuttle shut off simultaneously. Including communications.
There were a few startled gasps. Chekov swore. D’Amande gripped the council to stop herself from floating out of the seat and Bones- Bones got angry.
“Damn Space shuttles and their damned malfunctions!” Bones growled low and deep as he grabbed the pilot seats back with one hand, tucked his foot under it for extra stability, and grabbed onto Chekov with the other hand as the kid was trying to anchor himself (not very successfully) and search for any functioning systems at the same time.
Bones’ vision adapted immediately and he looked behind him to see people groping around blindly for purchase, and resisted the urge to snarl in frustration and building fear.
“Riot!” He called through the din of people trying to figure out what the hell was going on as they floated in the black. The little light provided by the distant stars didn’t do enough for them to see by. “The emergency flash light is two feet from you at your three O’clock.” The man blinked in the dark, trying to see even as he groped in the ordered direction. He grabbed it, flipped it on and waved the beam around the place.
“Okay listen up people,” he squinted as the beam came to point at him, disrupting his keen eyes adaptability in the dark. He scowled and the light moved off to his side instantly. Another emergency flashlight was located and turned on. “As you can see: the shuttle’s broken. At the moment we think it’s due to an acidic agent that is eating through the hull. The enterprise is about fifteen minutes away and heading toward us as we speak, so what I need you to do is remain calm and help each other get to the back of the shuttle. Lieutenants Riot and D’Amande will assist everyone into their emergency spacesuits and then we’re going to sit tight until they come and beam us out of here.”
His eyes were drawn to a spark near a com unit on the starboard wall and he quickly looked back to the group.
“Let’s go!” he snapped, impatient that they weren’t already half way there. D’Amande floated out of her seat and moved to grip the handles in the shuttles ceiling, giving him a grim look as she passed. He turned back to Chekov, seeing the fear the kid was bravely shoving aside.
“Anything else I need to know?” he asked, and the kid shrugged helplessly.
“Systems are completely dead Doctor. If the acid has reached the internal circuits-”
“It means it’s already eaten through the shuttles outer layers and through the protected sheathing for the systems, I get it,” he cut the kid off, who looked grimmer by the second and nodded tightly. What that meant, was that there was only one thin wall left to penetrate, and it would probably happen before Jim got to them.
“I will work on trying to boost navigation system with auxiliary power-” the kid started up in earnest, determination etched across his face and Bones gently squeezed the shoulder he was already holding on to.
“No, I’ll work on that, you go get suited up.” Chekov looked like he wanted to protest, and then remembered who he was speaking with and mutely nodded instead. Still, he gave Bones a worried look that had him rolling his eyes on reflex. “I’ll come suit up as soon as everyone else is done and out of the way,” turning away from the instantly relieved look on the ensigns face, he scowled at the dead console and knew there was a slim chance of being able to reconnect auxiliary power to the life support. Still, he pulled himself down to the underside of the console and, foregoing a search for tools, ripped the metal paneling away with his bare hands. He’d figure out an explanation for that accomplishment after they were out of this mess.
Three minutes later he was no closer to fixing anything in this damn bucket of bolts and his sensitive hearing was beginning to pick up on a faint crackling hiss of acid on metal. If that wasn’t what danger sounded like than he didn’t know what was.
“Sir, everyone is suited up sir,” Lieutenant D’Amande announced just as he was pulling himself out from the unit to go and do exactly that.
“Good,” he grunted and turned. He was met with both Chekov and D’Amande, and could see the rest of his little party watching them silently from the other side of the ship. They were all suited up, as promised, but it was apparent that somewhere along the line they had misunderstood his orders.
“What the hell is this?” he demanded, glaring briefly at a wide eyed Chekov who had yet to don his helmet, and a pilot who had yet to don anything other then her issued uniform. Folded over one arm was the thin space suit she should have been wearing. “I gave the order for everyone to suit up Lieutenant.”
“Yes sir,” she paused, her eye twitched, and then she barreled on. “One of the suits seem to have been sabotaged sir, it has a long tear through its back and its atmosphere cylinder was emptied,” she held the suit in her arms out at him, “this is yours sir.” She didn’t even blink.
He stared at her good and hard, noted the clenched jaw, and was so completely awed by her courage that he literally couldn’t say anything for a few moments. Right here, standing before him, was the reason he had enlisted in the fleet.
When they got out of this he was giving her the finest bottle of bourbon from his stash.
“Put the suit on Lieutenant,” he ordered softly and turned to Chekov, whom he suspected had argued to be the one to sacrifice his self but had lost due to seniority. “And get that damn helmet in place Ensign.”
“Sir, with all due respect you are the ranking officer onboard this craft and the CMO of Enterprise. You need to suit up sir,” she countered his order sharply, and he turned back to her.
“I know my place Lieutenant D’Amande,” he stared into her lavender eyes, “and that wasn’t a request. Get that damn suit on,” he reached out and squeezed her shoulder, “and get ready to keep these people calm until the Enterprise gets here.” He looked between the two. “I’ll fare better then either of you here so don’t worry about me.” She still hesitated. The hiss of the acid that nobody else could here burned into his ears and he flipped from Bones to Commander in an instant.
“Now!” He barked, and she didn’t hesitate a moment longer, falling into place as he expected and began pushing her legs through the suit. Chekov helped her, and in moments the two were buckling their helmets into place, but not before Bones noticed the slight redness around the boy’s eyes.
When they were finished he saw two suited beings float up to join them, emergency sealant clutched readily in their hands and he nodded at them to take place by the wall that would be breaching very soon.
“I doubt the exposure will be explosive, but I want everyone to be locked down securely just in case. If I see a single one of you getting sucked out we are going to have words when this is all over, understand?” he asked loudly, glaring at everyone equally. A few nodded back, the rest seemed to be frozen in place.
“Enterprise will be here in about twelve minutes, and they may be in transporting range sooner then that. Sit tight and don’t do anything stupid that could damage their rescue efforts. Lieutenant D’Amande is in charge. Understood!” He snapped to make sure they knew he meant business. He heard the muffled ‘yesirs’ through their supposedly sound proofed helmets. He took a deep breath and nodded, before turning back to the two in front of him.
“Under no circumstances is anyone to approach me once we’re exposed to vacuum,” he held up a hand to stall the protest he saw in both their eyes. “I mean it,” he dropped his voice lower. “Panic will make a man do crazy things, and I will not be responsible for hurting anyone.” He swallowed here, knowing that this was the real reason he hated space, wrapped up in all it’s simplistic, emotional glory. “You do not approach me, even if I’m not moving. Got it?” They nodded, Chekov a bit jerky under the helmet. “If Enterprise keeps her course I should be okay, but in the event that I’m not-”
He cut off sharply as the first of the acid dissolved a hole into the hull and the hiss of their air escaping was loud in the darkness. He whipped around, watching as the two manning the sealant guns pounced on the hole and closed it. They all waited tensely, looking for the next hole that would leak more of their…more of his precious atmosphere. He moved back towards the pilot seat and sat down, giving Chekov a look that clearly meant he wasn’t allowed to follow, and turned his back on their actions.
He heard the next hiss less then thirty seconds later, sealed as quickly as it came.
The Enterprise wasn’t going to make it in time.
Jim sat still as a stone in The Chair, glaring at the view screen with such determination that she was almost convinced the man could physically propel them to the endangered shuttle sooner. It was painful to watch and she turned back to her communications after a brief glance towards Spock.
The message for help had come in almost seventeen minutes ago. They had done everything they could to get there as fast as possible. Ideally they would have already beamed the crew and ambassador to the Enterprise, but it looked like today wasn’t going to be their day.
“Scotty?” Captain Kirk barked out into the silent bridge. She tried communicating with the lost shuttle again with no success.
“No sign yet Captain!” the thick brogue cut through the bridge, clearly upset. She could hear him working rapidly at transporter controls, the slide and tap of stiff, experienced fingers coaxing the machine into getting any kind of reading on the missing crew.
“Understood,” The Captain bit out, the worry and frustration evident even as he remained calm and still. When they had lost communications with the shuttle, they had also lost their ability to track it. Scotty refused to attempt a transport without a definite lock, but until they could get one- her console beeped, she looked down and felt the warmth of relief flood through her.
“Sir! We’re in communication range,” she announced even as she was patching through to the generic commbadges every Starfleet officer wore.
“Shuttle Spectrum, this is the Enterprise. What’s your status?” The Captain was out of his chair, all motion after such long stillness.
“-eed emergency beam to sickbay Captain! Beam McCoy to sickbay NOW NOW NOW!” a woman’s voice cut sharply across the line.
“Beaming him to sickbay!” Scotty overlapped her message and the Captain was already halfway to the transport before looking over at Spock.
“You have the bridge Spock,” he announced just as the doors shut. It was only moments before Scotty announced that everyone had been beamed safely aboard, that the immediate emergency was over.
“Maintain the shuttle in tractor until we can properly examine it for hazards and inform Starfleet of our status,” her partner ordered as calmly as ever. She looked over to see him also headed toward the transporter, only the speed of his step belying his urgency. “Mr. Sulu, you have the bridge.”
And now the bridge was flooded with a different kind of urgency as they waited for word on their CMO.
“How long was he subjected to full vacuum?!” were the words that greeted Jim as he barged through the sickbay doors, and his stomach just dropped as the meaning of the question hit home.
“About six minutes,” Lieutenant D’Amande declared loud enough to be heard over the rush of medical personnel swarming the biobed on the far side of the bay. Jim had been speeding towards his friend, but at those words he physically stopped dead in his tracks.
Oh no. Bones.
He felt an overwhelming urge to collapse right where he stood.
He knew what exposure to space could lead to, hell it was pretty much the first thing Bones had ever told him. But he’d also taken the courses at the academy. The Academy never shirked on what they believed were important details.
After ten seconds a human (and a majority of the sentient beings known to Starfleet) will experience impaired judgment and lose their sight.
“Increase oxygen flow two liters, and I need a more accurate time frame then that!” One of the Doctors, Jim had no idea who, snapped.
“It was six minutes Doctor,” Chekov’s unmistakable accent declared, sounding hollow in the air and Jim forced himself to take a step closer, finally noticing the two crewmembers still dressed from foot to shoulders in atmosphere suites off to the side. They were ridiculously pale under the infirmaries lights. They looked haunted. Scotty must have just grabbed everyone around Bones and transported them to sickbay so he wouldn’t waste time with differentiating between signatures.
“That’s impossible!” Someone snapped and Jim took another step closer, not sure if he could force himself to look at Bones like this. Not like this.
In space the absence of air pressure pretty much reverses the body’s ability exchange gas, dumping oxygen out of the blood and accelerating hypoxia. The mouth and nostrils would cool to near freezing.
“Impossible or not we need that hyperbaric chamber prepped yesterday!”
“It’ll be here in thirty seconds!”
“Don’t know what good it’ll do-”
“Keep him on the bed and somebody cut his uniform off before the damn thing suffocates him!”
“I don’t even know where to touch him- I don’t know-”
“Just hold him damn it!”
A high pitched keening pierced the air and a few of the medical staff literally froze, staring down at the bed that Jim still couldn’t see properly. He caught a flash of bluish, bloated flesh before they pressed in again. It didn’t look human.
Jim’s legs became shaky.
A strong hand gripped his elbow firmly, holding him up. He didn’t have to look to know it was Spock. He’d never been so glad to see the half-vulcan.
After ten seconds of full exposure convulsions and cyanosis would kick in, turning the skin blue. Without atmospheric pressure water in the body would boil, evaporating within the flesh and swelling it to twice its normal size. Without intervention, without administering pressurized oxygen in the first ninety seconds, the blood pressure would drop to the point that the blood would begin to boil and the heart would stop.
There were no recorded instances of anyone surviving longer then a hundred and twelve seconds of full exposure to space.
“There is no way he is still alive if he was actually exposed for six minutes. No way!” Someone insisted after apparently reading his mind, and Jim felt the first glimmer of hope, because if Bones wasn’t dead yet…
“We’ll discuss probabilities later. Cyanosis is visibly retreating.”
“The chambers ready,” a harassed tech announced and Jim flinched, looking to his left to see the large, coffin like structure that had been wheeled into the room and parked practically right beside him. The keening came back, and this time it was a lot louder, flowing right down his spine in a way that Jim knew he’d be having nightmares over for weeks.
“Let’s move him now,” the order came and as one they began to shift. Jim was stuck in place fighting with himself over whether to move forward and check on Bones, or move back and give them space, when there was a startled cry and then three people who surround Bone’s head seemed to topple over simultaneously. It cleared the way enough that Jim could see his friends face, bloated and unrecognizable, morphed into a grotesque monster and, sunk deep in a pit on the side, a dark, bloody eye gazed out at him. Unseeing and wild. Then the entire head lifted off the moving biobed.
“He’s fighting us” came the incredulous response as they hurriedly stood back up and reached for him. Two more beings went crashing away, this time from the vicinity of his legs.
“Dr. McCoy? Dr. McCoy you need to calm down sir. We’re trying to help you. If you can hear us you need to calm down” a confident, commanding voice ordered. M’Benga. Bones clearly took orders just as well when he was near dead as he did when he was fine, which was to say not at all. The high keening changed pitch, turning into a snarl that deepened as the seconds passed.
The hand on his elbow tightened when he made to move forward, to get closer to Bones, and he would glare at Spock for suddenly blocking him instead of steadying him but he didn’t want to spare a moment to take his eyes from the direction of his friend.
“Signs of cyanosis have completely disappeared. Am I reading this thing right?” An alarmed man asked.
“Yes,” was the hurried response. “Dr. McCoy we need to get you into the hyperbaric chamber to help decompressurize your body at an acceptable speed. You need to stop fighting us,” the woman pleaded.
“Off!” the growling was replaced with a weakly grunted order, but an order all the same. The medical staff rightly ignored it.
“His vitals are stabilizing; his swelling is showing signs of decreasing. What is going on here? He should not be recovering like this,” a doctor breathed out.
“We should still get him into the chamber, we can properly monitor him from there-”
“OFF!” the command was nowhere near as pitiful as it had been moments ago and this time Spock didn’t stop Jim from stepping forward as the group collectively cried out and Bones rolled right off the table, pushing through their desperate, helping hands. “Don’t touch!” He growled and Jim felt sick as he pushed between two people to see his friend, swollen up like a giant marshmallow, his thighs as large as his torso should be, stomach distended like a balloon and his face a lumpy, flushed ball of flesh. Completely unrecognizable, except for the birth mark on his right hip that was just as stretched and bloated as the rest of him.
Bones viciously flailed at the hands that tried to help him, one massive paw connecting with a nurse and they both cried out in pain and shock.
“Don’t touch,” he gasped, and attempted to crab walk away from the group and only flopped about. When they tried to surround him again he swung out and grabbed the nearest object he could find: the portable biobed he had been on. Without hesitation he threw it between himself and the rest of the group, taking two more of them out in the process.
“I believe Doctor McCoy does not wish to be touched,” Spock announced, his tone indicating that they had better accept his observation as an order immediately or there would be hell to pay later. The medical staff heeded his words and made no more attempts to approach their CMO as he writhed on the floor.
“Bones?” Jim crouched down to his level, and dark, blood shot eyes gazed wildly in his direction. “Bones, its Jim. You’re on the Enterprise but your hurt. We need to take care of you,” he practically begged the man, but Bones snarled and finally managed to scramble away from him, from them all. He didn’t stop until he hit a wall, and then he curled up against it and hid his face in his hands.
“Don’t touch me,” he repeated, his voice cracking. “G’me a minute,” he slurred, voice thick and forced.
“Okay Bones, okay. I’ll be right here as soon as you need me,” Jim said softly, Spock standing at his back and Bones nodded jerkily, his shoulders hitching and his breath loud in the silent sickbay.
Dr. M’Benga moved to crouch beside Jim, a medical tricorder pointed steadily at Bones and even without looking Jim could tell the man was confused as fuck.
Well, join the party he thought sharply.
Bones rocked back and forth a moment, took a deep, shuddering breath, and let out a scream that could be heard half way back to earth, until falling utterly silent. Jim was going to need a dermal regenerator treatment after this because his nails had be cutting the palm of his hands he was clenching them so tight.
“He shouldn’t be alive Captain,” M’Benga said softly, looking between the tricorder and the would be patient. “The probability of his surviving even two full minutes out there as exposed as he was is literally zero percent.”
“Unless Dr. McCoy is not as human as we have been led to believe,” Spock cut in. Jim stiffened, resisted the urge to get up close and personal with his second in command and tell him exactly what he thought of that logic. Except that he couldn’t, not here, while he literally watched as Bones’ flesh shrank back to the shape it should be. Normal, human white, tanned skin was in place of something that had literally been blue and bloated and disgustingly deformed only minutes before. He couldn’t argue it when his CMO should have been dead three times over.
“Let’s clear everyone away,” he said instead, looking pointedly at M’Benga and seeing the understanding in the mans eyes as he stood to make sure people understood that this was a private, medical matter and that it was not to be discussed outside of the individuals within this room. Ever.
Chekov appeared kneeling beside him, silent and wide eyed as he stared and stared at Bones. Jim thought about pointing out that it was rude to stare at a commanding officer who was huddled in front of you, naked as a jay bird, but he understood the need and therefore let it go. For now.
It was another few minutes of long silence and hitching breaths before Bones finally, slowly, moved his hands away from his face and slightly uncurled his completely healthy looking body.
“Jim?” he asked, the strength of his voice earlier had been completely wiped away now, replaced by a tired, wary man. Jim could relate.
“Right here Bones,” he reassured instantly, and swallowed thickly when his friend’s eyes roamed in his direction but didn’t settle. “You okay?” His voice may have cracked, but that was only because his throat was dryer then the sun.
Bones barked out a humorless laugh. “I’ve had better days,” his voice was soft and rough, like he was just waking up from a deep sleep. He rubbed at his eyes and blinked, still unfocused, and then looked in the general direction of Ensign Chekov. “You okay kid?”
“Da, I am okay,” his shaking voice didn’t really inspire confidence.
“I have procured a set of clothing for you,” Spock announced, stepping forward and holding the items out towards the doctor. Bones looked up towards the Vulcan’s face and slowly reached a hand out. A normal, non bloated, non blue, steady hand which missed grabbing the proffered items by half a foot. Bones sighed and Spock lowered his arm to his side.
“You are still blind,” he stated.
“It’ll pass,” Bones shrugged and Jim finally broke out of whatever haze he’d fallen into while watching his friend heal from deadly wounds right in front of him.
“It’ll pass?” He asked quietly, and Bones closed his eyes and dropped his head back against the wall. “Is this something you know for sure? Something you’ve experienced before?” He bit out and was relieved beyond belief when his friend shook his head, because thinking that the man had gone through something like that twice made something in his chest twist painfully.
“Never experienced that before,” Bones muttered, rolling his shoulders to hide a shudder. “Was pretty much the reason I hated the idea of going into space though. Never want to experience it again. Sanity.” The last word was mumbled, almost incomprehensible but Jim understood it, as did Spock.
“Jesus Christ Bones,” Jim was scared shitless, and let the anger that burned inside come to the forefront. “Are you even human?” He regretted the harshness of the words instantly, his concern for his friend trying to push through when Bones didn’t even blink at the accusation, just looked up and met his eyes. Jim didn’t know what to think of the emotions being locked behind the dark gaze. At least they weren’t bloodshot anymore.
“Yes,” he growled out darkly. “I’m human.”
“Good,” Jim reigned in his emotions, aware that the medical staff were close enough to eavesdrop if they wished. “Cause that would have been a bitch to change in your personnel file.”
It was a long moment before Bones snorted, took a deep breath and thunked his head against the wall. Jim thought about telling him to be careful, but considering what the man had just healed himself of he figured the admonishment would be overkill. The relief in the action though, that was something Jim was going to have to lock away to remember in the future. That relief, so willingly shown, told a very important story about his friend.
“Perhaps we should move to Dr. McCoy’s office for further discussion,” Spock ordered more then suggested and then stepped forward boldly and offered his hand to Bones. Jim couldn’t help holding his breath while they waited in a long moment of silence, before Bones reached out and allowed the Vulcan to pull him to his feet.
“At least let me put on a damn pair of pants first,” he growled, doing a good job of sounding as normal as possible.
“You’ve got nothing to be ashamed of Bones,” Kirk smirked at him and grinned as he scowled back even as he snatched the once again offered clothes from the half Vulcan.
“Doesn’t mean I don’t want to keep an air of mystery Captain,” he drawled as he focused on shoving his legs through the garment, his balance still clearly affected. No one offered to help; they knew better.
“I don’t think you have a problem there Bones,” Jim said softly, shifting back to the seriousness of the situation, trying to mask the hurt that Bones hadn’t trusted him with this. Trying to remember that there must be reasons, good reasons, and when Bones looked back at him, the shadows and pain in his eyes, the history that Jim had always been aware of (and so, so naive about) lurking, he knew that whatever reasoning the man had, it was real.
Bones held his eyes a moment, and then nodded before walking through his sickbay, medical personnel parting as he passed. Jim and Spock followed and Chekov made a strangled little sound that Bones heard, even from across the room. He looked over his shirtless shoulder at the kid, rolled his eyes and nodded his head in exasperated invitation. Chekov wasted no time catching up to his leaders and practically bounced through the door into Bones’ office.
“Unbelievable,” Bones muttered tiredly, and in that moment Kirk knew, no matter what, things were going to work out just fine.