The cell Jim is unceremoniously tossed into is dark, cold, and something somewhere is dripping. It’s made of dark stones, but the ceiling is some sort of thatch that lets in a patchwork of light to stripe the grimy floor. Jim just barely manages to keep his feet beneath him.
He turns to see the Koans dragging Bones in behind him. He’s completely supported between two of them, his head flopping around like a ragdoll. Half of his face is covered in blood. The Koans tense, and Jim realizes they mean to toss Bones inside.
“Hey,” Jim says. “Wait, don’t –”
They ignore him and throw Bones into the cell the same way they had thrown Jim. But Bones is still limp and out cold and bleeding everywhere, and so where Jim managed to catch himself, Bones just falls.
Jim leaps forward and manages to catch McCoy before his head hits the floor. He’s squatting there, holding onto McCoy’s upper half in an awkward hold and an icy sort of fury simmering in his stomach, and looks up to tell their jailors exactly what he thinks of them and their treatment of an injured captive, but the heavy wooden door swings shut right in his face before he can. Still, Jim mutters beneath his breath, “Assholes.”
Bones doesn’t say anything, but based on his bleeding head and continued unconsciousness he probably agrees. Jim shifts, tipping back so he’s no longer squatting and is now sitting flat on the floor. As gently as he can, he lays McCoy flat on the floor. He’s especially cautious settling Bones’s head down on the rough stone.
“Bones? Bones,” he says then, and gives him a small shake. Bones doesn’t even twitch. Jim taps his cheek lightly. “Come on. Rise and shine. Time to wake up.”
Jim feels something like fear start to stick in his throat. For as long as Jim has known the man, McCoy has had the ability to fall asleep instantly and deeply in almost any situation, but at the barest call of his name or attempt at waking him was up and alert in minutes. Now, though. Now McCoy doesn’t move at all.
Jim gets a sudden and terrible thought that maybe Bones is dead, and that they just threw him into the cell with Jim to taunt him. His hands are shaking as he leans close to listen for Bones breath, to press his fingers against McCoy’s neck to try and find a pulse, and the relief that crashes down onto his shoulders when he finds both, though weaker than Jim might like, right where they should be.
Jim leans back slightly. He moves back to grab at McCoy’s medkit – they’d taken both of their communicators and McCoy’s tricorder but left all of the other first aid supplies - and dumps its contents out onto the floor. He contemplates the hypospray. Bones could probably use some sort of something, antibiotics or something else around those lines, but Jim can’t tell one cartridge from the other.
He pushes his fingers through McCoy’s hair, and it doesn’t take long to find the large lump on his head. Jim pokes at it a little, barely ghosting his fingers over the injury, not wanting to cause any pain. He wonders why he’s so concerned a moment later, when McCoy still fails to rouse himself. He digs through the pile of miscellaneous medical supplies, and finds a bandage. Jim wraps it around Bones’s head, and hopes that it’s enough to help, even if only a little.
Jim pulls off his command shirt so he’s in the black undershirt, and wads the gold uniform in an irreverent ball. Carefully, carefully he lifts McCoy’s head ever so slightly and slides the tunic beneath, forming a lumpy sort of pillow. It can’t be very comfortable, Jim thinks, sitting back and looking around the cell. Still, it’s better than the cold stone, isn’t it?
Bones doesn’t seem to be complaining. Jim wishes that he would.
“One of these days,” Jim says to McCoy. “One of these days, our mission is going to go according to plan.”
Today is not that day, apparently.
The planet they were surveying was called Tryla IV, inhabited by two main groups of peoples – Koans and Meccites. The Koans, it turned out, were hellbent on committing a full genocide against the Meccites, who worshiped a different deity than the Koans. As far as anyone could tell, that was the only discernible difference between the two.
They’d only been planetside for an hour when everything went to shit, and Jim and Bones found themselves separated from the rest of the landing party, walking along the river to try and find the rendezvous point. They’d been walking for nearly two hours when they’d heard a cry from the woods, and went to find one of the Meccites laying beaten and bruised in a clearing.
Neither of them, in good conscience, could leave the pitiful thing there. “Go make yourself useful,” Bones had said, pulling his tricorder out and starting to scan. “Get some water from the river, would you?”
Jim had gone to do just that, but when he returned to the clearing, it was to find Bones surrounded by four Koans. One of them, taller than the others and wielding a very long, very heavy looking club, was standing much too close to Mccoy for Jim’s comfort. None of them seemed to notice Jim’s approach.
“You will step away from the heretic,” said the Koan.
Sometimes Jim forgets what a crouching doctor, hidden badass McCoy could be. He was painfully reminded when McCoy just looked up at the Koan and said, “No.”
“You will leave this heretic to die,” repeated the Koan. He prodded McCoy on the shoulder with his club. “You will do as I say.”
McCoy looked first to the club that had just poked him, then up to its owner. Shit, Jim knew that look. He had to find his opening, and find it fast. McCoy got to his feet and stared down the Koan, never mind that McCoy was a full foot shorter than his adversary. “I won’t,” McCoy had said. The Koan hadn’t liked that, and before Jim could do anything, could even yell a warning, the Koan raised his club and smashed it over Bones’s head.
Jim didn’t particularly remember what happened after that – only that everything was tinged in red and that it ended with the both of them being dragged here and thrown in this room. His hands hurt, though, and his knuckles had blood on them that was not his own.
Now, Jim pushes himself to his feet, pressing his still bloody right knuckles against the palm of his left hand. He walks the cell, counting paces to get a measure of it. He walks the parameter, and tests the strength of the door. Every few seconds, he pauses to glance over at McCoy. It’s when Jim’s running his hands along what he’s decided is the south wall for the fourth time, searching for any sort of weakness, when there is a low groan from behind him. He whirls around and scrambles to McCoy’s side.
“Bones?” Jim says. “Bones, can you hear me?”
Bones opens one eye and still manages to glare. The first thing he says is, “Jim.” The second thing is, “What did you do?”
“I didn’t do anything!” Jim says. He thinks this is slightly unfair of Bones, but he lets it go because he’s so damn relieved to hear McCoy talking, even if his voice is only slightly above a croak.
“Then why,” Bones asks, opening his other eye. “Do I feel like a herd of horses have run over my head?”
“What do you remember?” Jim asks.
“We were by the river,” says Bones. He frowns. “There…was someone hurt?”
Jim nods. “A Meccite,” he says. “You wanted to treat him, and I was getting water when some Koans came by. You’ll find it’s actually something you did instead of something I did, because you wouldn’t leave when they ordered you.”
“Sounds like me,” McCoy mutters. “What then?”
“You got a club to the head for your troubles, Doctor,” says Jim. He lets a gust of air out through his nose. “You really had me worried for a minute there.”
Bones grunts slightly.
“You’re awake, though, you’re talking,” says Jim. He grins, and feels like maybe their little cell is just a bit brighter. Bones is bitching again. Everything was going to be fine. “That’s good. You’ll be okay. You just have a concussion or something.”
McCoy doesn’t look like it’s a particularly good thing. “Maybe,” he says. “Or I’m just having a lucid interval and have intracranial hemorrhaging.”
“Okay,” says Jim. “That sounds…less good.”
“Yeah, well,” says McCoy. “That’s one way of putting it. Bleeding brains are less good. I can’t believe they put you in charge of diplomatic missions.”
“I am an excellent diplomats,” says Jim. “But the bleeding brain thing. What happens if that’s going on?”
Bones swallows thickly, and when he talks again there’s a sort of detached tone to all of his words. “I’ll get confused. Might start forgetting things, words, people…everything, really. I could have a seizure, could…lot of things, really. Um. I’d lose consciousness again. If that happens, we’re done,” he says, and then pauses.
Jim takes the chance to ask, “What’s the timeframe here, Bones?”
“Could be seconds,” says Bones. Jim doesn’t like the sound of that. “Could be hours.”
“Right,” said Jim. “So what do I do to keep those things from happening?”
“There’s nothing you can do, except try to keep me awake as long as you can. It won’t much matter though,” says McCoy. “When I start goin’ downhill, I’m gonna go down fast. You can’t fix this one, Jim.”
“That’s a shitty answer,” says Jim.
“Sorry, kid,” says Bones. “I don’t have a better one for you. Listen, though. If I go out again, that’s it. Don’t bother tryin’ to drag me outta here, understand? If you get a chance, you take it. You leave me here and you go.”
“You know, maybe you’re right, maybe your brain is bleeding after all,” says Jim. “That’s really the only explanation if you think that I’d leave you behind.”
“I’m serious, Jim,” says McCoy. “If I’m unconscious again, don’t bother trying to –”
“Shut up,” says Jim. “And that’s an order.”
“My, my,” drawls McCoy. His words have been stretching longer and dipping more southern with every sentence. “What a wonderful bedside manner you have, sir.”
“My bedside is beautiful and wonderful and you’re lucky to have it,” says Jim. “I’m not leaving you behind. We’ll just have to keep you awake.”
“It might not be that easy,” says McCoy. “I’m hardly goin’ to be a stunnin’ conversationalist.”
Jim starts to answer, has a snappy retort about how it’ll be business as usual, but then glances at McCoy’s hands and his heart stutters. “Bones,” he says. “Bones, your hands are shaking.”
McCoy lifts one hand slightly from where it’s been resting on his stomach. “Oh,” he says. He drops his hand again, and closes his eyes, letting out a gust of air through his nose. Jim has seen Bones when he’s cold – he bitches and shivers and his teeth chatter, but his hands never shake. Before today, Jim had kind of thought that nothing could make McCoy’s hands shake. McCoy, though, closes his eyes and mutters, “So much for having the steadiest hands on the ship.”
“That’s not good, is it?” Jim asks. Bones doesn’t answer. “Bones?” Still nothing, so Jim raises his voice and ignores the edge of panic that is creeping in, and barks out, “Bones!”
McCoy’s eyes pop open. They are glassy and bloodshot and wild. His hands are still shaking, and of all the things wrong with McCoy just now, Jim can’t seem to deal with that. So he reaches forward and grips McCoy’s hands in his own. McCoy’s skin is clammy to the touch, and it makes Jim’s throat ache. “Bones, you have to stay awake,” says Jim. “You have to, remember? You told me to keep you awake.”
“I don’t,” McCoy starts to say, but stops, swallowing roughly. Jim can feel McCoy’s pulse, racing and thready. “I don’t feel so good, Jimmy.”
“I know,” says Jim. He doesn’t know what else to say. There is nothing – literally nothing – that he can do to make this better. It doesn’t seem fair, because Bones always figures out a way to make things okay again. Jim had died, even, and McCoy had figured out a way to fix it.
“My head hurts,” McCoy says. “What…why does…what happened? I can’t remember, I –”
“A local smashed you over the head with a club,” says Jim. McCoy shakes his head and blanches, his already pale face going white at the movement. Jim lets go of McCoy’s hands to steady his face. “Don’t move. You’re going to make it worse if you move.”
“M’head really hurts,” McCoy croaks. “Jim, why…what happened, I –”
Shit, Jim thinks. “Bones,” he says. McCoy’s eyes are darting, never fixing on a certain object for very long. “I just told you.”
McCoy’s frown deepens a little. “What?” he asked. He sounds suspicious through his slurring, like Jim was making it up just to have him on.
“You got smacked on the head a couple of times,” says Jim. His stomach takes up residence somewhere near his boots. “I just finished telling you about five seconds ago.”
“Didn’t,” McCoy says. “I’d ‘member, I’d, I would…will…Jim, what’s goin’ on, what’s…I don’t…my head.”
Jim sits back slightly, and then reaches out and wraps one of his hands around McCoy’s wrist so he can feel his pulse, constant and there. “I know,” he says again, settling cross legged next to McCoy. “But you’re going to be okay.”
McCoy’s eyes finally land on Jim, and stay there. “Jim,” he says. Jim waits for him to say something else, but he doesn’t. So Jim plasters on a sunny smile and talks instead.
“Yeah,” says Jim. “You’re going to be okay, you stubborn ass. Your head is way too hard to be cracked like this. Anyway, I guarantee, somewhere up there, Spock and everyone are scrambling to find us.”
“M’really tired,” Bones says, his words barely more than a breath out. His eyes flutter shut again.
“No!” Jim yells, squeezing McCoy’s wrist a little tighter. His eyes slide open, and Jim breathes out a sigh of relief. “You have to stay awake or you’ll…look, Chapel will kill me if I let you die, Bones, actually murder me. They’ll come for us anytime now, we just got to wait. Okay? Bones?”
Bones closes his eyes again. And this time, it doesn’t matter how many times Jim calls his name, he doesn’t wake up. Jim shakes him slightly, and pats at McCoy’s face. He doesn’t dare shake McCoy too hard, and won’t risk making everything worse by slapping him, and Jim finds himself at a loss. He can only sit, and hold onto Bones’s hand, and wait. He could try, he thinks, to find a way out. But to move McCoy might be to lose McCoy, and that is a risk Jim refuses to take. Jim will not lose Bones.
And yet, sitting in the cold and damp cell, Jim is fairly certain that’s exactly what’s happening.
(Eventually, the heavy wooden door will creak open and Jim will look up to find Spock standing there. They’ll beam back to the ship and Bones will disappear into a flurry of nurses and doctors waving scanners, and they’ll pull him away from Jim and behind a curtain. Jim will find himself stuck with a hypo filled with a sedative by his first officer, sneaky Vulcan that he is. And by the time Jim wakes up, Bones will have an impressive bruise down one side of his face and a significant portion of his hair shaved off, but his breathing will be strong and his pulse steady. He’ll wake up, and Jim will tell him in no uncertain terms that he is never leaving the ship again. Bones will raise his eyebrow and say that’s fine by him, and Jim will laugh, because McCoy will think that he was joking when he is perfectly serious.)
For now, Jim sits. Jim holds onto McCoy’s hand. And Jim waits.