The bass pounds through the air, shaking Jim's insides as he squeezes his way through the crowd to the bar.
"You got any Romulan ale?" he shouts at the bartender.
The bartender frowns, glares, shakes his head.
Jim shrugs. "Whatever's on tap, then," he shouts. It's a health risk, depending on the planet, but fuck it, he's on shore leave. He trades a credit chip for his drink and then turns his back on the bar to survey the room. An Andorian girl on the dance floor looks right at him and smiles, slow and sure.
Jim smiles back and takes a sip of his drink (and tries not to cough; it's spicy) before he makes his way toward her. It's gonna be a good night.
"Jim," McCoy shouts, leaning on the buzzer beside Jim's door. "Are you done fucking preening yet? Leave's half over and there are bars full of drinks I haven't sampled!"
There's no response. "Probably in the shower," McCoy mutters to himself. He glares at the door for a second, then looks at his chronometer and goes back to glaring at the door. "Fuck it," he says finally, punching in his medical override on the lock. If it was any cabin except Jim's, he'd probably regret abusing his power, but he regrets none of his asshole tendencies as they relate to Jim.
The shower's not running as he steps inside. There aren't clothes all over the bed and floor. It's quiet.
"Jim?" McCoy steps inside, letting the door swoop shut behind him. "Where the fuck did you--"
There's an arm just visible from behind Jim's couch, stretched out on the floor, palm up, fingers curling slightly upward. McCoy chokes on his words and rushes over to it.
"Jim!" he shouts when he sees Jim's prone body. His eyes are shut and his mouth is hanging open on a gasp. His skin is ashy. McCoy slaps at Jim's cheeks. "Can you hear me? Jim!"
There's no pulse to be found at Jim's neck or his wrist, still stretched out on the carpet. McCoy doesn't remember making the call to Sickbay and is shocked when Chapel rushes in with an anti-grav stretcher and medkit. Chapel doesn't speak, just hauls McCoy out of her way and leaves him sitting on his ass on the floor as she whips out a tricorder. "Looks like cardiac arrest," she says. "Giving him five cc's of cordrazine."
The hiss of the hypo in Jim's neck revives McCoy as if it were his own system thrumming with stimulants. He crawls forward, coming up beside Chapel. "Status," he barks.
She hands him the tricorder. "It's still scanning for foreign substances." She grabs Jim's wrist and frowns. "No response. I'm charging the paddles," she says, ripping open Jim's shirt to expose his chest. It's as pale and grey as the rest of him.
McCoy puts down the tricorder, one eye on the screen, and moves into position as they wait for the paddles to charge. "Why are you the only responder?"
"Sickbay's empty except for me and M'Benga," she says, "and he was setting a bone for Lt. Straker when the call came in. Since it was you calling, I figured I could handle it." She hands him the paddles.
"Clear," he says, and lays them on Jim's chest. The charge jolts his body, but except for a minor electrical spike, his heart doesn't respond. "Shit. Once more. Clear." The second charge does nothing, either.
McCoy throws the paddles down and starts administering mouth-to-mouth.
"His lungs are inflating," Chapel says. "No blockage in his windpipe."
The tricorder beeps; the scan is finished. Chapel seizes it, because McCoy has started manual chest compressions.
"Doctor," she says faintly.
"What?" He doesn't pause in his compressions. There are rivulets of sweat running from his temples already. The room is unbearably hot.
"There are traces of a triticale-type grain in his system."
McCoy grabs the tricorder from her. "Take over."
She does, and he looks at the scan results. Jim ate something hours ago with triticale grain in it. McCoy once witnessed his reaction to a single grain of the stuff that had ended up in his oatmeal at the Academy: in less than a minute, his throat closed up completely. At that point, McCoy had been making him carry an epi-pen with him everywhere, and they managed to treat him on the spot before he passed out in the middle of the cafeteria. McCoy looks over at Jim's desk, where there's a stash of epi-pens in the top drawer on the right.
"Stop," he says hoarsely. Chapel is breathing into Jim's mouth, inflating his lungs, about three hours too late. She sits up.
"There's no way--he--I'm calling it," he chokes out.
Chapel looks down at Jim; her eyes well up. "Okay," she whispers, closing Jim's mouth gently and running her thumb over his cheekbone. "Okay."
Spock is away from the ship; he took advantage of a week's shore leave at Rigel II to take a shuttle to nearby New Vulcan and visit his father. This means McCoy has to report to Scotty, which means first he has to find Scotty.
The entire senior staff of the ship is in the same dockside bar, predictably, and McCoy takes it as a sign, calling them all back to the ship at once. The conference room smells like smoke and alcohol when they're all gathered in there; Scotty is blinking a lot, Chekov looks ready for bed, Sulu beamed up with his drink still in hand, and Uhura is wearing a sparkly top that would be distracting in better circumstances.
McCoy rubs at his eyes, feeling like he might break under the force of their stares. He feels Chapel's hand on his shoulder, light and warm, and takes a deep breath. "The captain--Jim had an allergy attack. I found him in his quarters."
"Oh my god," says Uhura. "He's not--"
"I was too late to save him." McCoy puts his hand over his face again.
Everyone is silent for a long time.
"The crew has four days left of shore leave," Sulu says finally, avoiding everything else that's looming in the room. "Do we recall them? Are we going to be able to track everyone down for early reboarding?"
"How will they react to having no captain?" Chekov adds.
The seriousness of the situation is sobering Scotty up. "Spock isn't due back from New Vulcan for another three days, either," he says. "I don't fancy him having to come looking for us, wherever we've gone. And it's a two-day trip for him even if we recall him." He looks around the room and finally fixes his gaze on McCoy. "I say we wait till he comes back; he's best equipped to deal with it, anyway."
They can manage without a captain for a few days in spacedock; it seems like the least messy way to deal with things. "All right," McCoy says. "I'll use the time to track down the paperwork I need to fill out. Let's keep this information inside this room until Spock comes back."
The group breaks up solemnly; McCoy commandeers Chapel again to take Jim's body down to the morgue. There's no one on duty down there; they put him in an empty unit in the back of the room, sliding the door shut and then staring at it for a while.
The Andorian--Talla--is friendly, her body touching Jim's from stomach to thighs as they dance. Her antennae wave in counterpoint to the music.
"Are you from around here?" she asks him.
"In galactic terms, pretty close," Jim says, and she laughs, grinding up against him.
"I bet you're from Earth."
"Maybe." He licks his way up the side of her neck and feels her shudder, her antennae twitching.
"What brings you all the way out here, Earther?"
Jim is mouthing at her earlobe. "I'm the captain of a starship," he says, because that line always works.
She's digging her fingernails into his biceps, her antennae waving lazily with no heed for the bass still pounding through the dance floor. "All that time in space. Must get lonely."
"You have no idea," says Jim, his fingers ghosting down her bare back. She arches against him.
"How do you Earthers ask someone if they want to fuck?" Talla pants.
"You're on the right track," Jim grins.
She smiles back, languid and inviting, and then someone bumps into Jim from behind.
McCoy is taking the turbolift down to Engineering when it suddenly stops at the residence deck. Sulu steps inside.
"Have you seen Chekov?" he asks, moving to stand about a foot away from McCoy.
"I haven't seen him all day."
"Maybe Scotty knows where he is," McCoy says as the door opens on Engineering.
"That's what I was thinking," says Sulu as they walk out onto the deserted deck.
Chekov and Scotty are both there, in one of Scotty's labs, surrounded by liquor bottles and bits of wiring. Chekov looks up from a PADD.
Sulu looks around. "You've been here since last night, haven't you?" he says.
Chekov shrugs a shoulder. "I came down for a drink with Scotty. Never left."
McCoy can understand, at least until Scotty pops up from behind a computer terminal and draws McCoy's attention to something behind him.
"What the fuck is that?" he demands, pointing.
"Jesus Christ!" Sulu says.
Chekov turns, blinking, to see what they're pointing at. "Oh," he says. "It is the captain."
The face is, at least. The chest is spewing wires and blinking lights. "What did you do?" McCoy shouts.
"Stop shouting," Scotty says, "it's a bloody android."
That doesn't seem like a good reason to stop shouting. "Why?" McCoy demands.
Chekov takes it upon himself to explain. "We drank for three hours and then we came up with this idea. It is a robotic Captain Kirk."
Sulu steps closer, staring at it. "It's wearing boxer shorts."
"To protect its modesty."
McCoy tamps down on the desire to mention that the real Jim Kirk had no modesty to speak of, because to voice that would imply endorsement of this idea, and also probably reveal his lack of emotional and mental stability right now. "How did you manage to make a realistic-looking android in a day?" he asks instead, because he really, morbidly, would like to know.
Chekov blushes and Scotty cackles. "It's a SensiDroid XE," he says.
McCoy goggles. "Why would you use a sex toy to make a fake Jim?"
"No," says Sulu, who is now looking over Chekov's shoulder at whatever he's working on, "it makes sense. These things have customizable faces, don't they? You just reprogrammed the facial features to match the captain's?"
"I guess," says McCoy to the ceiling, "my next question is where you got a male sex robot so quickly. Did you go planetside and buy one?"
"No," says Scotty, "those things are bloody expensive. It used to belong to Petty Officer Sharma; it was her personal item when she came aboard, the kinky bitch." He looks admiring. "When she took up with Lt. Giotto, he made her pitch it, so she stuck it in storage down here. Since then it's been the Engineering mascot, of sorts." Off the look on McCoy's face, he adds, "It's lovely for pranks."
"But now it is going to a greater cause," Chekov declares, typing something. "We are reprogramming it with a homebrew based on the Engineering computer AI."
"Nearly finished the base personality, too," says Scotty.
"I'm not sure how to react to this," says Sulu, echoing McCoy's thoughts.
"I'm going back to Sickbay," McCoy says, and Sulu follows him into the turbolift.
"It's a grief thing," Sulu says, once they're several decks away.
"We should leave them to it."
"It can't do any harm, right?"
They stare at the turbolift doors in silence.
Eleven hours later, Scotty and Chekov hail everyone to Engineering. In the turbolift, McCoy and Sulu try to brace Chapel and Uhura for what they're likely to see.
"It's a weird coping mechanism," Sulu says. "Just go along with it."
"Oh god, please don't humour them," McCoy says, pinching the bridge of his nose.
Chekov meets them at the turbolift doors, leading them proudly into the lab (which has been cleared of liquor bottles).
"Hi, Bones!" Jim says.
McCoy blinks as his brain has a tiny fit. It's not Jim, he tells himself, it's the fucking robot. They've dressed it in Jim's uniform, and it's sitting on a counter smiling at them.
"What the fuck," Uhura says faintly. "What the fuck."
The robot winks at her and hops off the counter. Scotty emerges from the back of the lab. "Isn't he fantastic?"
"How did you even...." Sulu trails off, apparently not willing to finish his sentence.
"Programmed him with everything we knew about the captain," Scotty says. "He's bloody vicious at poker."
"Me?" the robot says. "I wouldn't go that far. I must just be lucky."
"I think I might be sick," says Chapel.
Sulu steps forward, reaching out a hand toward the robot's face. The robot looks at it, blinking, and then raises an eyebrow at Sulu. "He's just like the captain." Sulu's voice is full of wonder.
"No shit, Sherlock," the robot says.
"Needs more data to properly fool a person, though," says Scotty.
"We were hoping you could help with that," Chekov adds.
Everyone is silent, staring at the robot.
"What?" it asks, crossing its arms. "Something on my face?"
"Okay," says Sulu.
"We must have all lost our fucking minds," says Uhura.
"Wait," says McCoy. "We're not doing what I think we're doing. Are we?"
"What do you think we're doing, Bones?" the robot asks. It sounds like it's teasing him. The fucker.
"I didn't think it would turn out this good," is all Sulu can say. "I could swear it's Jim."
"I am Jim," says the robot.
Jim stumbles forward at the shove to his back, catching Talla around the waist before she falls.
"Excuse me," says a large, blue man. "That's my girl you've got your hands all over."
Jim looks from the big Andorian guy to Talla, who is blushing navy. "Oops," he says, letting her go, "my bad." Then he grins. "Threesome?"
The punch to the face is probably a 'no', given that the guy isn't a Klingon.
The first test that Jimbot (as he's quickly become known) goes through is an encounter with an ensign in the corridor.
"Captain," the ensign says, stopping to salute.
They've hacked the security feed to watch the exchange from a PADD around the corner, and they hold their collective breath as Jimbot returns the salute easily. "As you were, Ensign."
Everyone sighs and sags against the bulkhead as the ensign goes on her way.
Jimbot walks back around the corner to join them. "What the hell is wrong with all of you?" he says.
"Nothing, Captain," says Chekov, powering down the PADD.
Jimbot shakes his head. "You all need to take more time off. Work is screwing with your heads."
The second test is Jim's yeoman. Jimbot is hanging around Sickbay, harassing McCoy (he doesn't know why he let that be programmed in), when Rand strolls briskly in. McCoy whips around, nearly dropping a tray of hyposprays. "I thought you were on leave," he says.
"I don't do shore leave," Rand says dismissively. "Captain!" She zeroes in on him. "Since you're on the ship, let's go over next week's schedule."
McCoy swears silently and considers hiding. Jimbot waves Rand over to the biobed he's sitting on. "Lay it on me, Yeoman," he says. He nods attentively as she rattles through his to-do list and then signs eight things for her, in a perfect facsimile of Jim's signature. He looks thoughtfully at her ass as she leaves Sickbay.
"I'm going to forget all of that in the next ten minutes," he observes.
Computers have a perfect memory, but McCoy still goes into his office to find his emergency bourbon.
Chapel finds him in there an hour later, bypassing the door lock he set against Jimbot's entry.
"Can't a man have some privacy?" he bitches.
"No," she says, sitting in the chair across the desk. She steals away the PADD he was working on. "This is a list of the captain's allergies," she says after a moment.
McCoy looks at the wall behind her. "Can't have the robot giving the game away by eating something Jim's allergic to," he says. "Some of his allergies are public record; if he eats peanuts and survives, the crew will know he's not himself."
He looks back at Chapel, who's still reading the PADD. "You left off triticale," she says.
McCoy feigns surprise, probably badly. "Did I? Must have forgotten it. Give me that." He grabs the PADD back.
She steals his bourbon before she leaves the office. "This is going in the recycler," she announces over his protests.
Jimbot's third, and hardest, test is Spock, who arrives back at the ship on schedule, one day before the end of the Enterprise's shore leave.
"Hey," Jimbot says as he and McCoy meet Spock at the shuttle bays. "How's your dad?"
"He is in good health, Captain," Spock answers, hoisting his duffel bag of clothes onto his shoulder. They walk as a group to the turbolift while McCoy wishes fervently for a drink. "I trust the ship has been quiet this week?"
"Not a thing going on," Jimbot says, and claps Spock on the shoulder. "It gets so boring without you, Spock."
Spock raises an eyebrow at him, but it seems to be the typical reaction to Jim opening his mouth, so McCoy starts breathing again.
And then, six hours later, Spock appears at the door of McCoy's office as if from nowhere.
"Doctor," he says.
McCoy jumps. "Fuck! Make some noise when you walk, would you?"
"I see no need," Spock answers, sitting down in the empty chair. "I wish to speak with you about the captain."
McCoy's hand is on the handle of the drawer where he keeps the bourbon before he remembers Chapel stole it. "Something wrong?" he says.
"I believe so. I asked him an hour ago if he wished to play chess and he gave me a strange look. He then claimed that he does not know how to play."
McCoy stares. "You two play chess?"
Spock inclines his head. "Approximately once a week, although ship's business pre-empts it quite frequently. I would believe him to be playing a joke on me but he seemed quite sincere. He is normally not so good a liar when his life is not endangered."
McCoy's palms go clammy. He had no idea they played chess. He had no idea Jim played chess. Jimbot isn't programmed for it. "I don't know what he's up to," McCoy says. "I guess it must be his idea of a joke."
Spock stares at him for a minute. "Doctor, you are lying to me."
"What? No, I'm not!"
"Your pupils have dilated and your respiration has increased by five percent. You are lying. What is wrong with the captain?" Spock's tone is flinty, and his gaze is pinning McCoy to his chair.
Fucking hobgoblin. McCoy breaks and tells him everything.
Spock is silent for several seconds after he finishes speaking. Then he says, "Jim is dead." He sounds unsure.
It's the first time McCoy's heard anyone say it out loud, and it hurts to hear. "He's dead," he says hoarsely.
Spock blinks and looks down. Then he stands quickly. "I must go."
McCoy is rooted to his seat for a minute, unable to move, and then springs out of his chair to follow Spock. Spock is gone, so McCoy takes a turbolift straight to the morgue. Spock already has Jim's drawer open and is staring down at his face, shivering in the cold atmosphere.
McCoy joins him, staring down at his best friend. "Things got a little bit crazy," he says finally.
Spock runs a finger over Jim's marble-cold cheek. "I have several things to add to the android's programming," he says after a while.
It's tough to decide whether to keep sending Jim on missions, given that he's a trouble magnet and injuries will now expose circuitry instead of organs. Six people in the universe know that Jim Kirk is dead, and now that they've secretly gotten rid of the body, they plan to keep it that way.
"I'm trying to figure out if you take more stupid risks now that Jim's a weak target, but I'm honestly not sure if the number's really increased," McCoy says to Spock as he runs a dermal regenerator over a phaser wound in his arm.
Spock gives him a look that says, 'fuck off', but he's in too much pain to speak. McCoy appreciates this.
Jim wanders into Sickbay. "How's Spock?" he asks, coming to join them.
McCoy shuts off the regenerator. "One less hole, now," he says. "Back to the correct number, except for that extra one in his head."
"You need to stop the overprotective act," Jim tells Spock. "Your life is as valuable as mine."
Spock flexes his arm, testing it, and then puts his shirt back on, frowning at the hole burned in the sleeve. "Your concern is acknowledged, Captain."
"At least it's not as bad as that time on Deneva," McCoy says. "With the neural parasite."
Jim looks at him blankly. "Deneva? We've never been there."
McCoy and Spock look at each other. "Forgot that one," says McCoy.
"You're touched in the head," Jim says, walking out of Sickbay with Spock.
Jim picks himself up off the floor as the Andorians leave the bar, shaking his head. That guy really rang his bell, but Jim got a few good shots in. He might need to go to another bar, though, judging by the way people are staying clear of him now. A good fight will do that.
Then an Orion girl appears in front of him.
"Hello there, handsome," she purrs, running a hand down his chest and grabbing a handful of his shirt.
Jim loves Orions.
"Hey, baby," he greets her, checking her out. She smiles back wickedly, enjoying the attention. "Come here often?"
"No," she says, "but I'd like to come here. Or maybe in a hotel somewhere."
Jim puts his hands over her hips. "Want a drink first?"
"Sure, if you're buying."
"What's your name?"
They grab a table. She sits in the chair next to him and runs her foot up and down the inside of his calf. "So what do you do?"
"I'm the captain of a starship," Jim says nonchalantly.
She perks up. "Really? That is so sexy."
He's feeling drunk, on booze and her pheromones, and he says, "Gets lonely, though. There's no one to fuck when you're captain of a starship."
Navaar leans in and kisses him, slowly, thoroughly. "We'll fix that," she says. "I'm going to the bathroom and then we're going to get out of here."
"Yes, ma'am," he says.
"This is some good shit, Bones," Jim says, leaning back in his desk chair and holding up his glass. He sounds drunk. Spock explained it to McCoy once: Jim can't get drunk, can't get tired, but he thinks he can; he knows that drinking alcohol should make him drunk and so he thinks he's drunk. He knows that staying up for two days during a crisis should exhaust him and so he sleeps (powers down) for twelve straight hours as soon as he hits his bed again. It's a miracle of modern goddamn science, McCoy thinks.
McCoy is sitting with his feet up on the other side of the desk, ignoring his own drink and staring into space. "How would you know if it's good or not?" he asks dully.
"I'll have you know that I can appreciate good alcohol," Jim shoots back. "You're getting as bad as Scotty with his scotch snobbery."
McCoy ignores him. "Ever feel like a fraud?" he asks.
"Every day that I wake up as captain of a starship," Jim says authoritatively.
McCoy can't help it; he laughs at the irony, laughs and laughs and has to put down his drink before he drops it all over the floor.
"Fuck you, Bones," Jim says amiably, the perfect fraud.
McCoy hiccups, sitting back upright and knocking back the rest of his drink before he can think again, go into hysterics again. He pours himself another one. "I'm givin' a toast," he says, his voice a drawl after too much bourbon.
Jim sits up and accepts the refill. "What are we toasting?"
McCoy looks thoughtfully into his glass before he raises it to Jim's. "To lost friends," he says.
Their glasses clink.
In a corner of the bar, outside the swirl of lights, three Orions sit around a table.
"Look at that human man," one of the females, Navaar, says, pointing at the dance floor.
The other female, Maras, turns to look. "He's cute."
"For a human," adds the male, Flith, picking up his drink again.
"I recognize him," Navaar says after a moment, staring. Then she hits the table with her palm. "I know! He's from Starfleet."
"How do you know?" Maras asks.
"Gaila knew him. She told me about what they got up to and when I didn't believe he was human, she sent me a holo."
Flith snorts. "Gaila always did like slumming."
"You watch your mouth," Navaar snarls, twisting his ear. He whimpers. "She was my favourite sister and a paragon of the Syndicate."
"Yes, ma'am," he says, and she lets go of his ear.
"Ooh," Maras says, "Your Starfleet boy is getting the shit kicked out of him."
They watch as an Andorian male punches the human; his head snaps to an unnatural angle, making Navaar wince and Flith laugh. Then his head rotates back to its correct orientation.
Maras sits up. "That was odd."
"Very odd," says Navaar.
Flith has started playing with Navaar's hair; he drops his hand. "What's odd?"
"That blow should have killed him, you idiot. He's not really human."
The Starfleet boy punches the Andorian, sending him flying.
"Definitely not human," Navaar and Maras say in unison.
"What is he, then?" Flith asks absently.
"I think," says Navaar, "that he's an android."
Maras laughs. "Starfleet employs androids, now? What next?"
"I don't know," Navaar says, knocking back the rest of her drink, "but I think the Syndicate would appreciate the information." She stands up, adjusts her top to better display her cleavage, and walks onto the dance floor.
He's lying in the road (the road, the goddamn road, this is not okay at all) and there are lights spinning above his head and the word 'concussion' is going off like an alarm clock in the back of his head and he really wishes it would stop. Jim's fairly certain it's dark out, but it won't be for long because that is definitely lighter sky to the east. And fuck, he can still taste the booze on his tongue and what he really hopes isn't lipstick on the side of his mouth.
In short, he's a wreck. A huge damn wreck, lying in the road, just waiting to be run over by someone similarly drunk but with more access to a vehicle. And then boom, you're dead, afterlife away and all that. If there's an afterlife. But there probably is, because he'll probably go out swearing like a goddamn sailor and they probably sit up there in afterlife town not letting people in because they swear too much. There's probably a whole list of Things You Can't Do When You're Dead. Swearing, drinking, hairstyles from over a hundred years ago. Forgetting to call back in the morning, and oh, did he mention swearing? Girls who can kick your ass. Can't do them. Guys who work for you. The really hot nurse who has a thing for your scarily monogamous first officer.
And now Jim's making a list of People He Can't Do While Alive, which is a really good sign that he needs to shut the fuck up inside his brain and do something productive like passing out or standing up and staggering home. The stars are starting to slow down overhead, which means he can try sitting up again, because god forbid he actually be in any less pain than he's in right now. So he sits up and watches them speed up again, and he doesn't see the vehicle coming but he hears it stopping right in front of him.
Things happen very fast all of a sudden. Someone's speaking very loudly, or maybe that's just him, and then there are about six faces wavering in front of him and someone's asking how he is and he's pretty sure it's Sulu's voice, although that seems to be Uhura's face.
"I'm drunk," says Jim, because it's kind of an important thing to tell this person who sounds like Sulu and looks like a six-headed Uhura, now that he thinks about it. "Extremely drunk."
"It's kicking in already," all six faces say at once, and then Jim's head starts hurting like hell and there the stars go again, fuck that hurts like a bitch.
"There was an Orion," Jim remembers out loud.
"Fuck," says Uhura times six, and then there are more voices and someone sounds angry and someone sounds concerned and they're all misunderstanding.
"No, it's okay, I did this myself," he says - or tries to. What he actually ends up with is some incoherent mumble that stumbles and staggers just like he might, and then something stabs his neck. And he should probably mention that, or object to it, except hello, it seems like a really good time to take a nap. On the street.
And then the world is still spinning and there are still a bunch of fucking painful stars spinning around his head, except there are also lots of blinding lights and the six-headed Uhura monster is gone. There is a duplicate Bones standing next to the original, and both of them are waving a clipboard menacingly. Jim smiles and contemplates falling into a coma just to fuck with him, except then he sees the rest of his bridge crew loitering across the room and they're really good at guilt-tripping him by their existence. That would be pretty fucking cold. Sometimes it's hard to remember that he has friends now, a whole shipful of people who cross wormholes and investigate dangerous situations and have dance parties just because he's Captain James T. Kirk.
"Oh, look, he's finally awake," say both Bones. Boneses?
"Didn't know you had a brother," Jim says, and smiles his widest.
"Awake but not lucid. What happened?" That's Sulu. Again. Doesn't anyone respect the sanctity of shore leave anymore?
"They got him," says Chekov. "His programming is swiss cheese."
He doesn't know what that means but it sounds bad. "Who did what to me?"
"Later," say the Boneses. "This might hurt some." Then he jabs something into Jim's neck and it's sleepy time again.
And then it's like there's fire in his head and his chest and he can't get a breath and his hands are shaking and his head is aching and -
"Bones, what the hell did you give me?" Last thing he remembers is Bones standing over him. He doesn't remember the cables hooked up to his chest or the neon lights above his head. But they're there now, all right.
"I'm sorry," Bones says, which is weird, because Bones doesn't apologize idly. "We had to delete the virus the Orions infected you with. Scotty says the process shouldn't leave any lasting damage."
"Wasn't I drunk last night?" Jim asks, bleary.
"No, Jim." Bones gets all quiet, which is how Jim knows something's gone terribly wrong. "It's just the goddamn programming."