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your hopes on fire

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So when your hopes on fire

But you know your desire

Don't hold a glass over the flame

Don't let your heart grow cold

I will call you by name

I will share your road

(Hopeless Wanderer, Mumford & Sons)

 

The Enterprise shudders, straining against the unrelenting tug of gravity. Stuck in the medbay, Bones can only hold on to a wall fixture and pray that whoever’s turn it is to work a miracle now, they come through and soon. His staff are screaming, terrified, and beyond the biobeds the cryo containers roll across the floor.

The ship finally levels off with a groan, rising steadily through Earth’s upper atmosphere, and Bones straightens. The medbay is anything but quiet—there are alarms ringing all over the place and Nurse Kormac hasn’t stopped screaming—but he takes a deep breath. Panic won’t help anyone right now, and he’s always been good in a crisis.

That’s why he’s the Chief Medical Officer, after all.

He’s got people to fix, lives to save, damnit. Bones ignores the strong urge to drink an entire bottle of whiskey and turns to survey the damage. “I want a full report on what’s been lost or broken in my hands in five minutes. Whoever’s not taking inventory, start getting the injured down here from the rest of the ship. And somebody turn off those damned alarms!” he barks out, moving to inspect the cryo containers. The last thing they need right now is another Khan waking up.

“Yes, Doctor!”

Bones huffs to himself, quickly checking over each ice-encrusted capsule. They’re all still sealed, thank God. No more genetically enhanced superhumans today. He gradually tunes out the bustle behind him—if something requires his direct attention his nurses will call for him—and takes a moment to breathe. He doesn’t know when he’ll have the chance to take another.

Sure enough, a panicked “Doctor!” comes right as the doors swoosh open. Bones stands, turns around—and freezes, because Nurse Walsh is pushing a gurney with a body bag on it, and they haven’t lost anyone since the Nerada incident, and he really doesn’t want to know whose face he’s gonna find under the black plastic. But he moves forward after only a second of hesitation, pointedly ignoring the sinking feeling as Scotty and Chekov and several other crew members follow Nurse Walsh into the room.

“What happened?” he asks, instead of the real question he wants the answer to, the who is it? that’s stuck in the back of his throat.

Scotty looks devastated, he notes absently. “Ah tried to stop him, Doctor, Ah swear it. Bu’ he knocked meh out, handcuffed meh to ah chair and by the time Ah woke up he was already in the core.”

Damn. Bones knows what happens to people who get exposed to that much radiation—it’s never pretty, dying of radiation poisoning—and he only knows one idiot stupid enough to actually go into the warp core.

Damnit Jim.

His hands shake as he reaches for the zipper, hands that have performed a thousand life-saving surgeries and never shook, hands that have dissected torpedoes and smacked sense into a fool hellbent on driving himself and Bones to an early grave.

The thought, one he’s had a hundred times before, hurts. It sticks in his chest, lodging right behind his heart and aching persistently. Bones unzips the bag and stares down at the pale face of his best friend. Jim’s body is still warm, radiation elevating his temperature past what it should be. For a second, he can trick himself into believing that Jim’s only unconscious, gravely injured but fixable, savable.

It doesn’t take long to bring him crashing back down to reality again, and Bones staggers over to his desk, sinks into a chair and blinks back tears from suddenly burning eyes. “Damnit Jim,” he swears again, this time aloud.

“Ah’m so sorry,” Scotty begins, hesitant.

Bones feels a sudden flash of anger, whips his head around to glare at the engineer. “Why the hell didn’t you call me?”

“There wasn’t anythin’ to be done, Doctor,” Scotty says.

Bones shakes his head, refuses to believe that. “I’m a doctor, damnit. It’s my job to fix people.”

The others stare at him, undoubtedly hearing the words he can’t bring himself to say.

I could’ve saved him.

Scotty shakes his head. “You couldn’t have, laddie. Wasn’t nothin’ could’ve saved him, not after that long in the core.”

“You don’t know that!” he barks fiercely, resorting to the only defensive measure left to him. Get angry, it prevents people from getting too close. Too bad it hadn’t ever worked on Jim. “If only I’d fucking been there,” he swears, collapsing in on himself.

Bones hears someone shift their weight, as if thinking about moving to comfort him, and growls. He doesn’t want to be around anyone right now. The thought of anyone touching him makes his stomach heave, and there’s suddenly a pounding headache building behind his eyes. He’s going to be miserable for days, he can just tell, and it has nothing to do with his best friend’s death.

Something jerks out of the corner of his eye, and Bones freezes.

The tribble.

The dead tribble.

The dead tribble he’d injected with Khan’s superblood.

The tribble that’s not dead anymore. It squeaks and wrinkles its tiny nose before sneezing violently, prickly body quivering. It’s alive, Bones marvels. And if it’s alive, that means the superblood is strong enough to regenerate dead cells and tissues.

The superblood is strong enough to bring Jim back.

He doesn’t have enough leftover from the experiments to do much of anything, but he knows where he can get some more. Hope coils in his gut, low and fervent and growing every second, and he shakily gets to his feet. “Nurse Walsh,” he calls.

“Doctor?”

“Open up one of the cryo tubes. Empty it out, but make sure our guest doesn’t wake up. We don’t need another incident.” Standing, Bones moves back to the gurney and starts examining Jim’s body—no, he’s not dead, not really—examining Jim.

Chekov blinks, an adorable pale-faced doe eyed look the ensign’s perfected over the years, and cocks his head. “Vhat are you doing?”

“We gotta get him on ice, preserve his body until I can get more of Khan’s blood,” Bones says briskly. Jim’s body is too warm, too warm by far, and brain damage has probably already started to set in. They need to work fast.

Nurse Walsh has a cryo tube ready and waiting by the time he wheels the gurney over, and they work together to haul Jim’s limp body inside. Bones holds his hand to the still-warm cheek one last time, takes a deep breath, and shuts the lid. The tube pressurizes instantly and fogs over with ice crystals, and he nods.

Nothing more to do for the moment.

“You, ah—you do know ve no longer have Khan in custody, da?” Chekov asks nervously.

Bones pauses, scowling down at the foggy image of his best friend behind the glass. Damn superhumans. Always screwing up his day. “Well, somebody has to get him back. Alive. I need his blood.”

“Why can’t you just use one of the others you got on ice there?” Scotty gestures at the seventy two full containers stretching the far length of the medbay.

He shakes his head, another growl bubbling in his throat that he has to force down with several thick swallows. “Their blood been frozen for who knows how long, we don’t know what kind of effects it might have. I know Khan’s blood works, and it’s been circulating through his veins for long enough that all the ice crystals will have completely dissolved.”

“But aren’t you gonna test it thoroughly ‘afore you put it in the captain?” Scotty’s eyebrows crinkle with confusion.

Bones huffs, moving to where Nurse Kormac is waving for his attention. Several of the communications staff were injured in the chase. He forcefully shoves Jim’s predicament out of his mind, knowing he can’t do anything more for his friend until he has more blood. “Will someone just bring me the damn superhuman?”

“I’ll tell Spock,” Scotty mutters mutinously, but opens up his comm. anyways.

Bones nods, throwing one last gruff remark over his shoulder. “Good. And tell the hobgoblin to hurry, damnit, I don’t wanna put this off any longer than I have to. Now get out of my medbay, I’ve got work to do.”

The onlookers evacuate the room reluctantly, muttering among themselves and looking sullen. But the dejection that had been present earlier is gone, hope flooding all of them the same way it has Bones himself. He’s going to bring Jim back, damnit. If it’s the last thing he does.

*****

Spock swooshes into the medbay an hour later, green blood dripping from a cut on his lip and his knuckles. He’s got Khan unconscious on another gurney and subdued in a pair of vacuum cuffs, Uhura just as battered behind him. “You have a way to bring Jim back?” Spock asks immediately, and Bones has to resist the urge to punch the Vulcan in his already bruised face.

They’ve never really gotten along.

“I have something that might bring him back. I don’t know yet,” he corrects waspishly. It feels good to correct Spock, even if the thought of this plan failing makes his heart constrict in his chest.

Spock nods. “I see. While your normal methods of testing medicines are more than sufficient, Doctor, I urge you to hurry on this occasion. The Enterprise needs her captain.”

“I’ll work as fast as I can,” Bones says. “But Jim’s not going anywhere at the moment and I wanna be sure I know what I’m putting in him and what it’s gonna do.”

“I understand. Thank you, Doctor,” Spock bows shallowly and strides back out of the medbay, doors swooshing closed behind him.

Bones scowls. “Thank me when he’s alive,” he mutters mutinously, hauling Khan’s unconscious form onto a biobed and inserting an IV to make sure he stays unconscious. The last thing he wants is another homicidal rampage from this superpowered maniac. “Someone get me a tray of empty hypos!”

Nurse Walsh appears almost instantly at his side, the requested tray in hand as well as several alcohol swabs. “I hope you know what you’re doing,” she murmurs.

“Me too,” Bones agrees with a thick swallow at the thought of Jim staying like he is—cold, dead, nothing but a memory and another of Star Fleet’s ‘honorable fallen.’ “Me too.”

The process of drawing blood is steady and familiar compared to the chaos of the past twenty four hours, and he relishes the simple motions despite knowing how important they are. He gets two syringes full of blood to start with, determined to figure more out about the regenerative capabilities of the cells before he goes putting them anywhere near his best friend’s body.

Sighing, Bones takes the syringes and sits down at his cluttered desk. He squeezes a few drops of blood onto a slide and slips it under the microscope, which focuses automatically. Absently petting the tribble that had started it all, he settles in for a long night of work. Because he’s got a problem, and now he has a foreseeable solution, and all he has left to do is connect the two.

Behind him, Nurse Walsh shakes her head fondly and moves to finish taking care of the minor injuries sustained by the rest of the crew.

*****

Five long hours later, Bones heaves a sigh and sits back in his chair. The simulation results are blurring before his eyes, letters blurring together into an indistinguishable mess, and he knows he should stop for the night but can’t quite bring himself to.

Jim needs him.

He stands, cracks his back with a satisfyingly loud pop, and moves to get a cup of coffee from the carafe always in his office. The Enterprise had docked at Starfleet Command two hours ago, and all but a small skeleton crew were now planetside. Truthfully, he’s grateful for the reprieve—all the injured had been transported to San Francisco General or one of the surrounding hospitals—as it allows him to focus entirely on creating a serum for Jim.

The medbay is never too quiet for him, especially at this hour. Quiet means there’s no life-threatening emergency at hand, a mental association that’s playing tricks on his brain at the moment.

Sighing, Bones drinks deeply from his cup and settles back in his chair. He’s still got hours of work to do before he’ll even be close to a working serum, and he doesn’t necessarily want to rush this.

He doubts there’ll be a second opportunity to bring Jim back from the dead.

He can’t afford to fuck this up. Not this time.

Petting the tribble at his side comfortingly, Bones leans back in the chair and takes a moment to let his brain relax. Unerringly, his thoughts turn to Jim.

James I’m-utterly-incapable-of-taking-anything-you-say-seriously Kirk.

The very best friend Bones has ever had, and the one man he would do anything for.

Through the (sometimes intolerably) long years of their friendship, Bones has picked up a few things about the kid. First—he’s got an issue with authority that’s larger than his libido. Second—well, there aren’t many things larger than his libido. Third—once he decides he’s in your corner, he’s there. Unequivocally. Forever.

Bones has seen it play out a thousand times, different people and different settings, and never once has it ended well. People just don’t understand—the death of his father had left Jim with deep-seated abandonment issues (his mother and Tarsus IV hadn’t helped), meaning he latched onto anyone who showed the slightest inclination to stick around. And then when they inevitably failed to measure up to the same exacting standards that Jim held himself, he felt betrayed.

He’s probably the only one who’s managed to last this long, and that took a miracle and two dozen nights of letting the man crash on his couch when he was too drunk to remember the way back to his own damn quarters. He hasn’t failed the kid yet, and he doesn’t intend to start now, damn it.

He won’t fail Jim.

(A voice in the back of his head murmurs that he can’t, that his world will go dark without Jim fucking Kirk to revolve around, that without the smarmy bastard he won’t last long.)

He’s not allowed to fail Jim, not after everything the idiot’s done for him.

Reenergized, Bones rolls his shoulders and puts his eyes to the microscope again. He can do this. The simulations are running at a consistent 72% success rate. Not quite good enough for him to hit Jim with a transfusion of superblood, but they tell Bones he’s close.

Success is within his sights. He can do this.

*****

Bones falls asleep at the lab table, slumped over and cheek smushed against a thick stack of papers. The last thing he remembers is the simulator flashing a 99.9% success rate at him, the feeling of euphoric success as he realizes that he’s done it.

Gingerly, he tries to stand and winces as he realizes that his back has cramped up, an unfortunate side effect after he slept on one too many tables at the Academy. He rolls his shoulders and tries to convince his muscles to relax—there’s work to be done! Lifesaving work!—while ignoring the headache pounding behind his eyelids.

When this is over, he’s taking Jim to a spa and making the man pay for him to have a massage. It’s the least Jim can do, after this mess.

Bones finally makes it to his feet, moving cautiously across the medbay to where Nurse Walsh had set up the transfusion supplies next to Khan’s handcuffed but comatose form. The drugs are working, thankfully—Khan hadn’t so much as twitched the entire night—so he doesn’t hesitate to stick a needle in the man’s arm and begin drawing blood. Two full IV bags later, and Bones hopes he’s got enough.

“I need a medical team to the medbay of the Enterprise ASAP,” he calls into his comm., setting the IV bags in a sterile bin by an empty biobed and moving to gather anything else he might need. Alcohol swabs, a clean needle and several hypos in case of emergency are easily stored in the bin as well, and Bones moves the latest in a long line of portable defibrillators as close as it can get without being in the way. He’s not taking any chances, not this time.

The cryo casing cracks open just as easily as it did before, which is to say not at all. Bones barely gets the tube maneuvered next to the bed and the lid off before the medical team arrives, four highly skilled nurses he’s worked with on occasion in the past.

“I’m assuming you’ve heard by now?” he asks gruffly, staring down at Jim’s frozen form and debating the best way to get him out of the casing.

One of the nurses, a pretty young brunette, bobs her head. “Yes, Doctor. A transfusion of the fugitive John Harrison’s blood may revive Captain Kirk. The rumors have been flying all over the base all morning.”

“I’m sure they are,” Bones grumbles, but holds his tongue against saying anything further. He doesn’t need to alienate these people, they’re here to help him. “Alright. Get him on the bed and then get that dethawed popsicle back where he belongs, he’s making me nervous.”

The nurses all turn as one to look at the bed Bones points out, the one with the second superhuman to be popped out of the box. He gets a smattering of nods and one or two “yes Doctor’s” before they move, working seamlessly together to transfer Jim’s body to the bed much easier than he could’ve done on his own. Bones isn’t jealous, nope. He’s just regretting sleeping on the table last night, is all.

He waits impatiently for Jim to thaw a little, watching with intent eyes as the nurses seal the cryo container again. It closes with a hiss and the crackle of fogging glass. Gesturing at the far end of the medbay where the rest of the capsules lie, he lets the nurses move the container out of the way. If he never has to deal with these damn superhumans again he’ll be fucking ecstatic. The whole business is just too damn messy for his tastes.

Bones slips the needle into the brachial vein on the first try, because despite his best friend being a frozen corpse he can find a vein to tap in his sleep. The fact that there currently isn’t blood pumping through Jim’s veins is just semantics. He hangs the first blood bag from a stand and adjusts the flow rate with shaking hands.

“Do you really think this’ll work?” one of the nurses asks from just over his shoulder, making Bones jump. He hadn’t even heard her move.

Swearing, he clutches his suddenly pounding heart and leans against the bed. “Jesus, don’t sneak up on people like that. Didn’t your momma ever tell you it was rude?”

“She mighta mentioned it, yeah,” the girl replies with a saucy grin. One of her coworkers, the brunette from before, shakes her head fondly and mutters something about going after all the doctors.

Bones shakes his head, mentally wondering where the hell Nurse Walsh had gotten off to and if he could get her back any time soon. She knows how to best work around him, and most importantly had learned when she needed to leave him the hell alone. Or Nurse Chapel. God, he misses that woman.

Even if she is much, much happier several planets away from Jim Kirk.

The girl shakes her head. “So, the blood. You think it’ll work?”

“It’ll work,” he says confidently.

“How do you know?”

Sighing, the girl’s coworkers finally intervene. “Just let it alone, Chrissy,” one of them says sharply, and the others nod in various levels of agreement.

She huffs, looking sullen. “Fine. I was just asking.”

Bones, in the meantime, has returned his attention to Jim. He hooks the scanners up with the ease of long practice and tunes them to Jim’s vitals—the vitals that aren’t present at the moment but will be, they will be damnit because he can’t fail in this too. Sparing a brief moment for the nurses, he tells them to find something to do because they’re in for a couple extra hours of waiting. He feels bad for keeping them so long, but it’s Jim. If something goes wrong, Bones wants to know that he’s not the only one around to deal with it.

Then he drags his chair from the desk to Jim’s bedside, takes his best friend’s free hand, and settles in to wait.

*****

He wakes to the incessant blare of alarms.

Jerking upright, Bones frowns at the shrieking scanners and then the nurses rushing about his medbay, wondering when the hell he’d fallen asleep and why they hadn’t woken him sooner. He was in the middle of an operation, damnit—you don’t let the attending physician fall asleep during a blood transfusion, that’s how people die!—and now there’s no blood left to transfuse into Jim’s system and he doesn’t know how long Jim’s been ‘alive’ for. And—he takes a closer look at the bed’s displays—and now Jim’s dying. Again.

Oh.

So that’s what the scanners are freaking out about.

“Get me another bag of blood, STAT!” Bones commands, reaching for the defibrillator he’d put on the cart just in case and spreading gel on the paddles. Two of the nurses rush over to draw more blood from Khan’s body, the others pulling Jim’s uniform open so his chest is bared to the open air. Bones fiddles with the defibrillator briefly before the brunette nurse takes over.

“Charging to 150,” she says.

Bones nods. “Clear!” he calls out, holding the paddles down firmly and tensing as Jim’s body convulses under them. He waits with bated breath, watching the scanners for any sign of a heartbeat. “Nothing. Again!” he commands.

“Charging to 200.”

“Clear!” He shocks Jim again, holding his breath and mentally praying for the idiot to pull through this one. He’s not losing Jim again, he’s not. There’s a brief hiccup on the EKG monitor, then it flatlines again. “One more time. Come on, Jim.”

“Charging to 250.”

“Clear!”

Bones watches the EKG monitor hiccup again and then start reading normally, rising and falling and rising again. He heaves a breath of relief, setting the used paddles down and taking a moment to be grateful for Jim’s ridiculous karmic luck. “Give him the third bag of blood,” he tells the nurses wearily.

They switch out the IV and the alarms stop blaring almost immediately.

Bones groans, moving back over to Khan’s side. “Is that how you play the game, you bastard?” he asks the unconscious man grouchily. “We need a continuous supply of your blood to keep him alive?”

There’s no answer, but then Bones doesn’t really want one. He draws another hypo of superblood—thank god the man is staying unconscious for the foreseeable forever or Bones’ conscience might start to feel guilty about taking this much blood—and moves back over to his workstation. Clearly, there’s something that he missed the first two times around.

*****

So as it turns out, it’s not the blood that has super amazing regenerative powers. Not exactly.

It’s a protein in the blood.

“Damn,” Bones swears to himself, finally pulling back from his microscope. “Can’t believe I missed that.”

“Missed what?” one of the nurses asks curiously, moving around the biobeds to stare over his shoulder.

Bones shifts uncomfortably in his chair. He’s never liked people hovering over him, not even Jim. “There’s a mutation of the seventeenth chromosome, it makes a protein that’s essentially the equivalent of telomerase on steroids.”

“Meaning?”

“Meaning,” he huffs. “That Khan’s cells can divide at an unparalleled rate without worrying about DNA disintegration. That’s how they survive so long. When a cell dies, another immediately takes its place. These guys are essentially immortal.”

The nurse frowns, glancing at Bones’ display screens and then off to the side. “Are you sure about that?”

“What do you mean?” Bones follows her line of sight, immediately seeing what’s caught her eye. “Damn.”

The tribble that’s been sitting in a box on his desk for the past few days, keeping Bones company while he works, is dead.

*****

Bones keeps Jim in the Enterprise’s medbay for another three days, feeding him a constant supply of Khan’s blood while he works at finding another solution.

He isn’t losing Jim again, damnit. He couldn’t take it if the idiot died a second time because Bones himself was too focused on his goal and overlooked crucial details.

So he starts from scratch, working with the blood he’s already drawn and analyzing every aspect of it. He isn’t leaving anything out this time, starting on the atomic level and working his way up from there. By the time he’s done, he’ll know everything there is to know about what makes Khan and his crew superhuman—or, as the man had claimed, ‘genetically superior in every possible way’—and how to stop them in the case of another incident like this one.

Because he’s best friends with Jim Kirk, the universe’s luckiest punching bag. And as much as he loathes the idea of anyone letting another homicidal superhuman out of the freezer, even by accident, his Hippocratic oath and moral conscience demand he value all life. Which means he can’t vote to have them all destroyed and sleep peacefully at night.

Which sucks, because Bones really doesn’t ever want to see them or their portable freezers ever again. Call it a side effect of them killing his best friend. And then potentially crippling him for life.

When this is over, Bones is going on shore leave and disappearing to all points nowhere, maybe with Jim in tow. The idiot deserves a vacation, after all, and he’ll need time to recover.

Jim’ll also be lucky if he makes it out of Bones’ sight for more than five minutes for the next two months. He’s an overprotective sunovabitch when he needs to be. Nearly dying is due cause, in his book. He doesn’t make friends easily—something about the gruff exterior and the alcoholism tends to drive people away—and those he has he doesn’t let go. He’s kind of like Jim in that regard, except the only standards he generally holds friends to are common sense, not getting themselves killed, maimed or blown up, and letting him drink as much alcohol as he wants.

Huh. It’s a miracle he and Jim have lasted this long, he reflects pensively. It probably says something about him—or Jim, he doesn’t really know (or care) which—that he’ll let a self-destructive idiot like Jim Kirk get that close, especially after everything with Joanna.

And God help him, but he doesn’t regret it. That probably says something about him too.

Eventually, he isolates the DNA strand that codes for the mutated protein, a relatively short piece in comparison to some others he’s worked with, and tries to grow it in a petri dish.

Unsurprisingly, it fails.

Bones keeps at it, working day and night around the clock and grabbing an hour or two of sleep when his eyelids are too tired to hold themselves open. He barely eats, hardly takes a break to do anything but get more coffee, and eventually he comes up with something that’ll solve the latest of a long line of problems he’s mentally stamped ‘Property of Jim Kirk.’

It’s with no small amount of glee that Bones finally shuts Khan away in his cryo container, calls for a pair of nurses and helps them move Jim to a secure room in Starfleet Command, and finally gets a solid eight hours of sleep. (On the couch in Jim’s room, yes, but it counts. Bones isn’t going anywhere until Jim is safely out of danger and relaxing on a beach somewhere in south Florida.)

He does kind of miss the tribble, though.

(Not that he’d admit it to anyone. It would ruin his image as the grumpy doctor who likes to stab people with hypos when they misbehave.)

*****

He’s there when Jim wakes up, naturally. The Enterprise produces a surprising amount of paperwork on her voyages, and this time the ensuing piles threatened to swamp Bones even before he spent a week working single-mindedly on saving Jim’s life. He spends his time waiting for the idiot to wake up by swimming through piles and piles of medical reports, inventory orders, and memos. His hand aches almost constantly, but Bones pushes through the pain in order to get caught up on everything.

Spock drops by every four hours like clockwork, staying for only a few minutes to ensure Jim’s condition hasn’t changed. After the third time the Vulcan appears in the doorway Bones gives up on being grouchy to him, grudgingly pushing a chair over and inviting him inside. Spock refuses, of course—he cites some Starfleet regulation and the need to finish his own paperwork, but Bones isn’t about to call bullshit on him just yet—but he continues to visit, anxiously waiting for Jim to wake up.

If he were going to be honest with himself, Bones thinks they all are. That’s the kind of loyalty Jim Kirk inspires in his crew and, peripherally, the rest of Starfleet. He’s the son of a hero, a legend in his own right, and this miraculous recovery isn’t going to do anything to lessen that reputation.

Bones just wishes he could say Jim wouldn’t use it to gain even more favor with the ladies.

“Nmmurgh. Bones?” Jim croaks suddenly from the bed, coughing and looking around the room wildly.

“Yeah. Yeah, kid, I’m here.” Bones lurches off of the couch, nearly tripping over one of the errant stacks of paperwork surrounding him, and hurries to Jim’s side. “How you feeling?”

“Like I got hit by a shuttle. What happened?” Jim stares up at him, eyes wide and blue, impossibly blue.

Bones chuckles weakly, feeling like he could collapse from relief. “Radiation poisoning.”

“Ah,” Jim says.

“Yeah, ah. You died, Jim.”

Jim’s face flushes red with embarrassment, hands twisting together sheepishly on top of the blanket covering him. “Thought I remembered something like that. Hurt.”

“I bet it did. What the hell were you thinking, going into a warp core?” he demands.

Jim shrugs, a jerky movement hindered by the fact that he clearly hasn’t regained full control of his limbs yet. “I had to, Bones. There wasn’t any other way.”

“And if there hadn’t been some superblood just waiting to be used to revive you?” he growls, irritated. Same old Jim Kirk, thinking of others first and himself last. It was like he was physically incapable of thinking of himself as someone of value, as someone who mattered. “Do you even know how many people have been mourning you, would have mourned you?”

“So they missed me, huh?” Jim asks with a flirtatious grin.

Bones rolls his eyes, determined not to let the carelessness get to him. “I see your ego made it back in one piece. How about the rest of you? Everything feel like it’s in the right place? No extra limbs, no shooting pains anywhere?”

“Naw, I feel great. Like I could run a marathon, not that I would.” Jim slowly sits up, stretching out his arms and shoulders and then cracking the kinks out of his neck.

“Good. It was a hell of a ride, trying to bring you back.”

Jim grins at him, all easy grace and joy at being alive. “I’m sure you were great, Bones. You always come through when it matters.”

Bones has to resist the strong urge to stab his best friend with a hypo. Luckily, he’s got a lot of practice ignoring said urge, and the only sign of his annoyance is a slight twitch of his hands. “And what if I hadn’t this time, huh?”

“Then I’d still be dead, and it wouldn’t really have mattered now would it?”

“Yeah, you’d be dead and I’d be down a best friend, the ship would be down a captain and somebody’d have to sedate Spock before he killed the entire command staff,” Bones says angrily, striding across the room to grab the bottle of protein pills he’d synthesized and pouring two out onto his palm. “Here, take these.”

“What, no drink to go with ‘em?” Jim teases, but he does swallow the pills without further protest. The face he makes afterwards is probably going to go down as one of Bones’ best memories. “Eurgh! What the hell did you give me?”

Bones growls, pressing the bottle into Jim’s hand. “Protein supplements. The radiation from the warp core damaged your cells beyond belief, and no amount of superblood  is gonna change that. I had to make up a compound from the same protein that gave Khan his super-healing ability and modify it to fit your DNA.”

“English, Bones,” Jim complains, studying the bottle blearily.

He huffs. “You need to take two pills every eight hours, like clockwork. No complaints, or I’ll come find you every eight hours and make sure you take them myself.”

“Wait, every eight hours for how long?” Jim asks worriedly.

He turns away, puts his hands on the window to steady himself, mask crumbling. It’s just too much to deal with right now. Jim was dead and now he isn’t, and that goes against every bit of training he’s ever had. Bones knows he occasionally works miracles, but nothing like this.

Bones,” Jim calls. “How long.”

“The rest of your life.”

Jim squawks, looking scandalized, as Bones reluctantly turns around to face him. “What?

“I’m serious, Jim. Without ‘em, you’ll be deader than a doornail inside of a day. And I’d prefer not to have to revive you again anytime soon, thanks. Once is more than enough,” Bones says gruffly.

Jim frowns at him brows crinkling. “I can at least still drink, right?”

“Yes, you can still drink. And all those other bad habits you think I don’t know about, like skipping meals and making idiotic decisions that put your life in danger.” Bones shakes his head. “Honestly, I don’t know how you’ve survived this long.”

“I had a great best friend watching over me,” Jim says.

Bones huffs, moves back to the couch and picks up the folder he’d been halfway through when Jim woke up. “Don’t you pull any of that flattery crap on me, I’ll stick you with a hypo so fast your head’ll spin. Now lie back down.”

Sure you will, Bones,” Jim teases, starting to slide from the bed.

He looks up from the file, pins Jim with a dark glower that belies how exhausted he is. “You’ve been dead for a week, Kirk. Don’t test me.”

“Aww, you were really worried about me weren’t you?”

“Yes.” Bones says. “Now lie back down before I handcuff you to the bed myself.” He ignores the part of him that whispers he’ll probably have to later on anyways.

“Ooh, kinky,” Jim mutters sarcastically, but he does lean back in the medical bed and pull the covers back over his legs so Bones lets it slide. This time.

“Shut up, you idiot. And get some rest,” Bones commands, flipping through the file and reaching for the pen he’d dropped earlier. “I’ll still be here when you wake up.”

Silence falls for a brief time in the hospital room as Jim (for once) does as commanded, lying back against the pillows and letting his eyes flutter shut. Bones gets through another file and a half before Jim speaks up again. “Hey Bones?”

“Mmm.”

“Thanks for bringing me back. I never doubted you for a second.”

Bones resists the urge to snap that Jim was dead, that he was beyond thinking and doubting because that was it. Instead, he sighs and considers making Jim finish half of his paperwork when the idiot wakes up again. “Go to sleep, you idiot.”

“Yeah, but I’m your idiot.”

It’s only once Jim’s breathing levels off and the bed’s scanners report that he’s soundly asleep that Bones lets a small smile cross onto his face. “Yeah, you are at that, kid.”