It’s not like Jim’s never had to run from an angry mob, but it’s never felt quite as hopeless at this before. On an alien planet, with his communicator shattered in to pieces, the transporter system scrambled by local radiation and an incoming storm, three of his security team captured and maybe killed, he’s alone, and he’s tiring.
The local alien population entertained their talks about the Federation for as long as it took to inform them that slavery was not permitted, and then they ended the conversation in a violent assault against which Jim’s team stood no chance. He tried to get the others out with him, but two had been struck down before he even had a chance to react and three more did what their training had prepared them to do.
They protected their Captain.
Jim’s not ready to cry, because the only thing worse than losing them is to let their sacrifice be in vain, but he hurts, all over, and he fucking hates himself for his part in it all. Maybe Spock would have been a better negotiator, or Uhura would have been able to communicate in a more sensitive way, or Sulu could have judged the situation differently.
They’ll never know. At least Jim knows the Enterprise will be well-managed in his absence.
He’s still running through a forest of red-leafed trees, the thick foliage about the only reason he hasn’t already been killed by flying projectiles but also obscuring his vision of the way forward. If he had time, he’d worry about finding himself suddenly at the edge of a cliff but when the ground suddenly falls out from beneath him, that turns out now to be why.
He’s in a net, caught in a trap that was presumably triggered by his weight and has hoisted him up into the air, high into those same trees. There’s a knife on his belt, the survival sort of multitool rather than a weapon, and he fumbles for it, unwilling to give up, but as he does, the first of the aliens following him -humanoid in a sense, blue-skinned, with three-jointed limbs and a long-loping gait- runs right past where he’s suspended above them.
And the others follow them, still whooping.
Well, that won’t keep them distracted forever. The net is thick, made of twisted vines the same colour as the trees, so at least he’s fairly camouflaged even considering his gold shirt, and he has to saw with his blade for some time before he even breaks through the first link.
The sun is setting. In the dark, Jim stands less chance of being detected, but arguably less chance of surviving, depending on the nature of the local wildlife. He hears echoes of that whooping sound occasionally, always from a different place, can only rely on his crew to find him before they do.
“Holy fuck!” he hisses, flinching back when he realises that what he had thought was an optical illusion created by the whorls in the trees is in fact a face, inches from his, peering at him through the holes in the net.
Their scans hadn’t revealed two native species on the planet, but they’ve been wrong before. And it explains why the ones chasing him hadn’t known about the trap.
“Hi,” he says, cautiously, doing his best to conceal his knife even as the frayed ends of the rope are eyed with curiosity. He really wishes his communicator wasn’t broken. The humanoid alien -much more humanoid than the others, with pinkish skin, dark hair and a mouth that doesn’t appear to contain three rows of serrated teeth- tilts their head as they observe him. Jim imagines he’s not what they had expected to catch.
He lays a hand on his own chest, though, is watched with green eyes as he says, “Jim.” And then he reaches out his hand to lay it on the netting between them, with an expectant look.
If he didn’t know better, he’d think the alien was arching an unimpressed brow at him. They do then reach for the net, though, and begin to untie the knots that hold it together. They go slowly, so Jim can find a handhold and foothold rather than falling out and onto the ground, many feet below.
And then they offer him one of those hands, as though to help him out and onto another neighbouring branch.
Jim takes it.
There’s a whole community in the trees, made up of this alien species. Jim isn’t sure why their scanners didn’t pick it up, can only imagine that it’s been done with such respect for the environment, so naturally fitting into the landscape, that it didn’t register as a settlement.
When he makes it back, it’s an improvement he’ll have to make.
And at first, he thinks that he has to be intensely careful, that this species is isolated from the other so hasn’t shared in their technological advancement and simple contact with them is likely to violate the prime directive and irreparably damage their society.
But he’s brought into the winding maze of paths through the trees, and he’s taken into a gathering of multiple aliens, all of whom wear the same kind of leafy clothing, that will camouflage them against the red and orange foliage. Three of them deposit dead animals vaguely resembling deer roughly on the ground, to general approval.
The alien who brought Jim just gestures to him with rueful resignation, and the rest of the aliens laugh.
Like Jim’s some sort of consolation prize, he realises. This is a collection of hunters, and they’re bringing in what they caught in their traps.
He’s still alive, which he hopes means they’re not going to eat him. Nobody is looking at him with hunger in their remarkably human eyes, and none of them seem wary or suspicious. There’s some curiosity there, and one reaches out to poke at his elbow before they’re batted away by the alien who brought him in.
The alien who looms rather protectively over him despite being only around Jim’s height, if a little broader. Instinctively, Jim keeps close, which seems to please him.
When they leave the hunter’s gathering, he’s brought back to a hollow in a tree, a sheltered space containing what appears to be a bed made out of moss; various gourd-like containers full of water; some packages wrapped in leaves.
Jim kind of feels like he might have wandered into a children’s story. After a cautious glance at his host, he explores, can’t take more than a few steps in any direction but looks and touches, learning all he can.
When he turns, he’s guided gently but firmly down to take a seat on the bed with an impatient sound.
“Hey, not on the first date, buddy-“ he begins, instinctively, blinks in surprise when he’s waved off with what is definitely an eye-roll. Is that a universal gesture?
The alien gathers up a few packages, and one container of water, and kneels before him, and-
“Oh.” Jim sags, because his wrist is cradled in a big, warm palm and he’s covered in cuts he hadn’t even noticed, from running through trees, his shirt torn all up the arms, and this alien is applying salve to them, one that cools the burning heat he hadn’t noticed before but is now all he can think about.
He looks at his other arm, for lack of any idea what else to do, sees the angriest of the cuts is a dark, red colour, not the shade of his own blood but some sort of residue left in the wound. The skin around it is pink and swollen, reacting angrily to whatever alien toxin threatens to take root.
The alien glances at it when he sees that it has Jim's attention, but doesn’t seem too concerned. He keeps working, quiet and calm, until every one of the cuts on Jim's arms is covered in a chalky, white salve. He assesses Jim’s pants and his boots, seems to deem them to have protected him, and then he reaches out to lift Jim's chin with one finger, to keep him still while he treats one last cut on his face, across his cheekbone.
His eyes are a greenish-brown hazel, intelligent and intent. Jim stares into them, can't look away, is a little breathless by the time warm fingers leave his skin and he has to reach out, just to take one of the hands that’s healed him.
“Thank you,” he says, as sincerely as he can manage, because this is insane and he has nobody and there’s no reason for this alien to trust him, let alone help him, but it earns him a softening of those eyes and a smile and then a touch of a finger to his chest.
“Jim,” the alien says, gruff and rumbling.
“Right!” Jim grins. They’re getting somewhere.
And then the alien points to his own chest and says- something. Something only vaguely approximated in Standard. Jim makes the attempt anyway, as best he can. “Bones.”
The alien -Bones, maybe- laughs, and with a rueful crease of his expression that says, as clearly as any words, close enough, nods.
They rejoin the community for dinner, their path lit by moonlight and some natural phosphorescence in the trees, Jim presented with a wooden bowl of what seems to be a meat and vegetable stew along with all the resident aliens. There’s no crockery, everyone drinking the broth from the bowl and picking out chunks with their fingers. He’s in no position to assess or very much care whether anything in it is going to make him sick. He has to eat, to keep his strength up and ingratiate himself to this population, just goes slowly at first.
They’re all sat around in branches, no clear structure except the one defined by nature, no authority figures that he can determine although nobody seems intent on causing trouble, regardless. If anyone seeks more food, they’re given it, passed up from where there’s a fire lit beneath a pot in a hollow in the ground. He’s warm, pressed against Bones’ side on a seat not quite wide enough for the two of them, and the alien chatter is comforting, somehow, in the lack of expectation it creates in him.
Nobody tries to talk to him, but they don’t avoid him either, and plenty of them make conversation with Bones, who eats most of what he’s been given and offers Jim what’s left, waiting for him to confirm he’s had enough before finishing it. When their bowls are collected, he wraps an arm around Jim, tucks him up against his side, regularly glances at him to confirm he’s alright.
They sleep side by side in that bed of moss, that night, and when Jim attempts to muffle his sobs, crying for the crew he’s lost, Bones holds him close until he falls asleep.
Jim learns how they capture animals for food, gets the first idea of what they forage for, impresses Bones with his knot-tying and animal skinning abilities and doesn’t have to explain how he knows those things.
He helps, too, because after a while it’s clear that Bones is the closest thing this civilisation has to a doctor, and his remedies are all natural, gathered from the forest around them.
When one of the spices in one of the meals leaves Jim deeply ill, vomiting for hours, Bones is there, comforting him, stroking his hair, bringing him water, testing every bowl of food he receives after that before handing it over.
One night, there’s a storm. Jim can feel it brewing all day, and everyone else is on edge, too, preparing as best they can. They fill containers with water, dole out dried meat -Bones confiscates Jim’s with a growled, “No,” which Jim’s a little ashamed to admit is the first Standard word he picked up purely from Jim’s reactions and context- and weave together sheets of leafy branches to cover the openings in their dwellings.
The rain hits suddenly, driving and heavy, and it’s only in that moment that Jim remembers that trees are traditionally the last place anybody wants to be in a storm, but this population has survived this long, and he refuses to believe they’re not aware of that fact.
He and Bones are across the settlement, tending to a sniffling and sickly child when the first thunderclap sounds, when the thick tree starts to sway in the wind. Bones’ hands are as steady as ever, whether he’s brewing tea from medicinal herbs, stroking hair back from the child’s face or steadying Jim as he struggles to find his footing on wet branches with rain in his face.
They stumble into Bones’ residence, soaked and dripping, manage between them to prop and fasten the sheet of branches in place so the driving wind is no longer whipping up the air around them. It’s pretty much dark, outside, but somebody’s been round and left them a potted plant, just a clay bowl filled with damp soil and a cluster of phosphorescent mushrooms that shroud the room in a mysterious glow.
It’s insane. Jim is shivering violently, and Bones’ hands are on him, ever the clinician, trying to warm him up but it’s not just the heat that drives Jim closer. It’s the coalescence of the previous days, or weeks, or months, he’s honestly lost track, of working with this kind, self-sufficient and selfless man, of living with him and being cared for and growing to care in return.
He’s seen other members of the community do it, knows Bones understands his intention when he twists out of his grasp to kiss him, just threads fingers in his wet hair and pulls him in to crush their mouths together, something in the air or in Jim’s mind that tells him he can’t wait any long for this, can’t risk missing this chance.
And Bones kisses him too, something fervent and frantic in his touch that tells Jim he’s not just undressing him for the sake of their health any more. They’ve become better at communicating, even with the barriers between them, but it’s always been less about words than gestures and touches and it’s still that way now.
Bones’ clothing is a sort of roughly-woven fabric, applied sparingly. Jim’s somehow salvaged his uniform through multiple washes, and he struggles out of the horrible wet cling of it, vowing to find a better alternative.
He’s slept beside Bones, both of them clothed, but it’s never been anything like this as they fall naked onto the bed, tangled together. They’ve bathed together too, so Jim knows that the mechanics of Bones’ species are slightly different, but close enough for them to manage. He rolls his hips to grind his rapidly rousing cock against Bones’ flat stomach, still kissing him, still tasting grass and herbs and rain, increasingly conscious of their mutual enjoyment.
Bones’ cock is not quite human, hot and hardening above heavy hanging balls, the tip almost pointed, the shaft thick at the base and-
“Oh, fuck me,” Jim says, as he explores, as he wraps his hand around the base and feels the telltale thickening of a knot. He’s not sure he’s prepared for that, but Bones is with him, cradles his face and meets his eyes and makes a soothing sound, promises without words to take care of him, to be gentle with him.
He rolls Jim onto his back and kisses him some more, reassures him with gentle touches, trails his lips across Jim’s jaw and presses them to his pulse point and lingers there, just feeling his heart pound. His cock is hot and slick where it juts against Jim’s hip, and he growls when Jim wraps a hand around it, thrusting into his grip. He’s so wet, dripping onto Jim’s fingers, just another of the little differences between them but certainly nothing to complain about.
Jim likes it, in fact, brings his fingers to his lips to lick them, moans at the burst of musky, salty flavour and then again when Bones’ tongue slides against his, seeking that same taste. His eyes are so dark when they meet Jim’s, and they both smile at each other, sweet and secret.
It’s difficult for Jim to express exactly what he wants, but he can take Bones’ hand and guide it back, push thick fingers against the tight, furled clutch of his hole, swallow the soft sound of surprise and flail an arm in search of the oil Bones keeps near the bed, for massages. He presses the small container carefully into Bones’ hand, dips his own fingers in the warm, pleasant-smelling fluid, and gets to work.
Bones growls, long and low, when he realises what Jim’s doing, moves to help, slicks a finger and eases it in, cautiously beside one of Jim’s until he makes a cracked, broken sound. He’s so ready, but his body is not accustomed to the intrusion, keeps defying his will and attempting to tighten when what he needs is to relax.
It’s much, much easier when Bones moves down, eases out, adds more slick to his fingers and then takes the head of Jim’s cock in his mouth before sliding them back in.
He runs warmer than Jim, and this highlights every degree of difference between them, the soft caress of his tongue -longer than Jim’s, and a little more pointed- drawing strangled sounds from Jim’s throat as he finds that vein of pleasure in being penetrated, rolls his hips down seeking more. He doesn’t want to come like this, wants to do it with Bones’ cock in him, scrabbles at broad shoulders with blunt fingernails when he can’t stand it a moment longer.
He draws Bones up, into his arms, kisses him, wraps his legs around a slim waist, and makes a pleading, mewling sound he can’t manage to be ashamed of.
And fuck, it feels good, and Jim has no expectations to worry about, no opinions to consider, can just savour the slide of hot, hard flesh into him, of being spread open around it, can pant and whine against Bones’ mouth, brushing against his in the closest thing they can manage to a kiss in the intensity of the moment.
It’s perfect, and Jim has no idea how he’s ever lived without it. He’s split open, vulnerable and exposed but warm and safe in strong arms, concerned eyes on him all the while even as he clenches tight around Bones’ cock and makes him groan emphatically. And through it all, Bones just slides deeper, stretching him one tiny fraction at a time and making Jim breathless with the relentless overwhelming sensation.
He’s big, and when he buries deep he only has to roll his hips a little to work the head of his cock against Jim’s prostate, catches it once and memorises the movement that makes Jim arch and keen with helpless, electric pleasure. He doesn’t let up, and soon Jim is clutching at him, clinging to him, nonsensically begging for more because it doesn’t matter what fucking words he says, Bones will understand.
Bones’ rhythm is building too, though, and stuttering, and with every shift he pushes the thick base of his cock against the resistance of Jim’s hole, threatens to make him part around it.
Jim wants that, more than he’s ever wanted anything. He hitches his hips up, pleads with his eyes, nods frantically until Bones hangs his head, ashamed and apologetic, and then pushes.
It’s a flash of white-hot agony, as he forces it through, but then the thickest part is in and Jim’s wrapped tight around it, and Bones can’t pull out again but he’s pressing right where Jim needs to come untouched for the first time in his life, to be shoved over that edge by the stretch of his hole and the relentless pressure inside him. He shudders and moans and spurts between them, so hard it’s almost painful, driven into aftershocks almost as jarring as the rolling climax itself by the thick pulses of come inside him, by Bones’ own growling sound of desperate relief, the hitches of his hips that force Jim to take him just a fraction deeper.
They catch their breath together, Jim nosing at Bones’ face until he meets his gaze and trying to tell him with the affection in his eyes and his sated smile that he’s not hurt him, that he’s exactly what Jim needs.
It’s a while before Bones nods, but he does, and Jim kisses him, doesn’t care if his grin is wide enough to split his face, only wants Bones to know he’s happy, there, with him, even if neither of them have figured out how to say the words.
Still tangled in Bones’ arms, his back against a broad chest, Bones still inside him, keeping him full, Jim listens to the driving rain, and he thinks of the Enterprise, and all her crew, wonders whether they’re still searching for him.
For the first time, as he reaches back over a shoulder to draw Bones into a sleepy, uncoordinated kiss, he doesn’t mind if they’re not.