The familiar beeping of biosensors was the first thing Jim noticed. That was immediately followed by the muddled sounds of voices and equipment blending together into a subdued cacophony. That led to the uncomfortable realization that he was in sickbay, and that the slight pressure on his neck was probably Bones, the old-fashioned quack he pretended to be, checking his pulse.
"Ah, Jim, welcome back to the land of the living."
Jim hadn't even opened his eyes and he could already see the smug I-Told-You-So look on McCoy's face. His brain felt fuzzy, everything ached, and the last thing he needed was a sanctimonious dressing down from his best friend, now his CMO. He still wasn't used to that. He'd barely had a day and a half to adjust to the idea as the Enterprise limped back towards Earth. And really, Jim had spent most of his time in Engineering, trying to help increase power to the –
"SHIT!" Jim's eyes popped open as the memory flooded back – the experiment on the impulse engines, the sudden instability in the damaged power conduit, and the explosion that had sent him and Lieutenant Chen flying over the safety railing. "Lieutenant Chen! Is he okay? Is everyone okay?" He struggled to sit up, only to have his efforts met with a screeching alarm and Bones gently but firmly pushing him back down on the biobed.
"Dammit, Jim, lie back and relax! Chen's fine, but you're going to mess up all the work I've done for the past three hours if you don't hold still." There was a clear note of consternation in Bones' otherwise annoyed command, and that was enough to make Jim stop struggling. Well, that, plus the sudden throbbing pain in his knee.
"Ow… fuck, okay," he gasped, then gritted his teeth as the pain started registering in other parts of his body. "Ow."
"You probably deserve some of that," Bones said as he ran the tricorder probe over Jim's torso. "I told you to stop mucking around in Engineering and leave that to the folks who know what they're doing."
"They need every available hand down there, and I do have some experience with basic engineering work" Jim argued weakly, but wilted as Bones raised a critical eyebrow at him. Sure, he had the facts to win this debate, but at that moment, he just didn't have the energy to argue. "Fine, you were right."
"I usually am. And now that we've got that settled, why the hell didn't you come down to sickbay sooner?" Bones folded his arms across his chest and gave Jim a pointed look.
"Sooner?" Jim choked out in disbelief. "What the hell are you talking about? The conduit blew up, and next thing I know, I'm here."
Bones took a step closer, narrowing his eyes. "Oh, we'll talk about that, too. No, hot shot, I mean the fact that you've got injuries that are over forty-eight hours old that you didn't bother to report."
"I… I wasn't injured, Bones. The ship is in worse shape, and I had work to do." Jim glanced around, noting with relief that a privacy screen had been secured around the biobed.
"Not injured, huh?" Bones glared at him, held up his hands, and began counting on his splayed fingers as he recited: "Mild concussion, spinal trauma, bruised spleen, broken fingers, torn ACL –" He switched hands. "– tracheal damage, frostbite, cracked ribs –"
"Okay, okay, okay!" Jim held up his hands in surrender. "So I'm a bit sore! You've patched me up – let me get back to work."
At that, Bones actually chuckled. "Oh, you're not going anywhere, kid."
With a sigh, Bones' expression suddenly became apologetic. "You know how… well… half of sickbay got blown up in the initial skirmish with that damned Romulan monstrosity, right?
Getting a funny feeling in his stomach that had nothing to do with a bruised spleen, Jim nodded.
"And you know that we've had a lot of patients to treat, right?"
Jim didn't like where this seemed to be going. "Get to the goddamned point, Bones."
Bones blew out an exasperated breath. "A lot of our equipment got destroyed, Jim. And a lot of our supplies that didn't get destroyed have been spent. Proper cartilage and ligament repair… isn't going to happen until we get back to Earth. And if your knee wasn't already damaged before you did an explosion-propelled swan-dive almost fifteen feet down to the floor of Engineering, well, it's a mess now."
Jim couldn't help himself. He groaned.
"Listen, Jim," Bones said with a sympathetic grimace, "I've stabilized it, and once we can get the right equipment, it'll heal perfectly. Same thing with your fingers – you smashed the knuckles, and I'll guess you were busy beating up Romulans when you did it. The ligaments in your forearm and wrist need repair, too."
"So give me a pair of old-fashioned crutches and let me get back down to Engineering!"
A look of wrenching sympathy washed over McCoy's face. "I can't do that, Jim, and you know it."
Jim settled his head back against the too-flat pillow and stared at the ceiling helplessly. "At least let me out of sickbay."
For a moment, Bones said nothing, then he grunted in acquiescence. "Okay. But only because you'll drive me nuts if you stay here."
"I knew you'd come around," Jim said, already beginning a mental checklist of things he could work on, even if crawling around the bowels of Engineering was out.
He must have been too transparent, because Bones scowled at him. "Don't even think about it, Acting Captain. I'm ordering you off duty - and don't you try that look on me; you already know it doesn't work. You're staying in your quarters and resting, got it?"
The disappointment at being ordered off duty congealed into something heavier. "I… uh…" Jim gritted his teeth and shook his head. "Can't."
Bones frowned. "What do you mean, 'can't'?"
"Fuck it, Bones; I'm not even supposed to be on board!" He didn't even bother trying to hide the train wreck of emotions that finally seemed to be catching up with him. Too exhausted, too sore, too much... "I wasn't assigned quarters."
"Then where have you been sleeping?"
"I… I haven't."
"You mean you haven't had down-time in…" It took a fraction of a second for Bones to figure it out, and his eyes went wide. "Jesus Christ, Jim! Why didn't you say something?"
He glanced back at McCoy. "When have I had time, Bones?"
"What about Pike's quarters? He's going to be in sickbay for the duration of the trip, and as Acting Captain, you should be able to use those quarters for now."
Jim just shook his head and looked aside miserably. He'd been trying not to think about it, and until now, he'd been busy enough to keep it at the back of his mind. That luxury was gone. "I assigned Sarek and the rest of the Vulcan High Council to Pike's quarters." His words came out low and rough. "It was the biggest room, and I wanted to keep them together – they need each other right now. The remaining quarters we have are filled with the other survivors we were able to pick up from Vulcan. We're at maximum capacity." His voice dropped even lower. "And I only wish we were more crowded."
Bones shook his head sadly. "I'm sorry, Jim. I didn't even think about it. None of us have had the time to think." He reached out a hand and rested it on Jim's shoulder – the one that didn't ache quite as much as the other. "Let me run a few more scans, and I'll help you down to my quarters. You can stay there."
Jim looked up hopefully. "Are you sure?"
At that, Bones actually rolled his eyes, and for a split second, things were almost normal. "I put up with you living in my dorm room for the past two years. Why should this be any different?"
As promised, Bones discharged Jim from sickbay as soon as he'd run through a few basic scans and seemed satisfied that Jim wasn't going to fall apart if he sneezed too hard. Sickbay didn't even have a pair of crutches available; Bones had grumbled that under his care with the right equipment, nobody should ever need them, but the truth was that they'd probably been in one of the equipment storage bays that had depressurized on deck six, and were now compacted into oblivion in a black hole along with everything else that had been orbiting Vulcan. He'd staunchly refused to go by stretcher, so with the aid of a broken pole doubling as a cane and a little déjà vu-inducing assistance from Bones, Jim made his way down the corridor. He managed a smile for the few crew members who met him with concerned and inquisitive looks behind their formal salutes. Oh, he hated the looks of concern, but he couldn't help but feel a bit better at how naturally the salutes seemed to come.
Still, he was relieved to get to Bones' quarters where nobody else could see him in his injured state, and if he was forced to admit it, even more relieved to lie down again. Moving had hurt. Bones dug up a pair of boxer shorts and a tank top so Jim could be more comfortable while he rested. He'd needed Bones' help to change his clothes, and that was what finally drove home the fact that he'd really been injured.
Changing his clothes had allowed him to finally see the thick bandages around his knee, the ugly bruising on his abdomen, and the other bruises and gashes all over his legs that not even a tissue regenerator could fade completely. More things he hadn't let himself notice until now. His stomach was sore, and it hurt to sit up. His left shoulder and elbow ached miserably – Just strained ligaments, Jim, Bones had told him flatly, but there's nothing I can do to fix it right now. His right forearm throbbed - You snapped a couple of tendons when you went over the railing in Engineering. They said you actually hung on for a second before you fell. All in all, though, it could have been a lot worse, so for that, Jim decided not to complain too much.
Bones bustled around the room, barking instructions as he grabbed some odds and ends. "I'm leaving you that cane, but if you use it to get out of bed for any reason other than a run to the bathroom, so help me, I'll have you back in sickbay before you can blink."
"I'm not going anywhere, Bones."
"You'd better believe it," he said with satisfaction as he set a cup of water on the nightstand within easy reach. "Keep hydrated. Sleep first, but drink some water when you wake up."
Bones shot him a quick glare, then grabbed his med kit. "I just got off a rest rotation when they dragged you into sickbay, so I've got to go back. If you need anything, just comm me."
"I'll be fine."
Bones snorted. "Is that a medical assessment, Captain?"
"Come on, Bones. Seriously."
"I am being serious, Jim." He gave Jim a stern look that he'd only used like that once, then turned his attention to something he was manipulating on his desk that Jim couldn't quite see. "You're the Captain right now, and I'm your CMO. That also makes me your personal physician." He glanced up and sly grin tugged the corner of his mouth. "Which means you're not fine unless I say you're fine."
"But I'm fine, right?" Jim waggled his eyebrows.
Bones rolled his eyes melodramatically. "Unbelievable. How you can save the goddamned planet and still act like a hyper-hormonal teenager…"
"Multi-talented, I guess."
"At collecting multiple injuries." Bones finished what he was doing and strode over to the bedside, hypospray in hand.
Instinctively, Jim ducked. "Hey, what's that?"
"Painkiller, you paranoid daredevil. Now hold still." He reached out and pressed the hypospray against Jim's neck, a little less viciously than the last time he'd done that. It still hurt though.
"Damn, those sting. You know, I'm going to develop a phobia of those because of… whoa, what was in that?"
"Just a painkiller, Jim." Bones folded his arms over his chest in satisfaction, waving the hypospray a bit too happily. "Which happens to have a secondary effect as a sedative."
"I hate you… you…" The room started to blur slightly, softening at the edges.
Bones' triumphant grin softened a little bit too, and he reached out and smoothed Jim's hair. "No you don't. Someone's gotta take care of you when you can't or won't take care of yourself."
"But you've done a good job of taking care of everyone else this time, Jim. You should be proud. I am. Now rest."
"Nrrrgh…" Jim wanted to say something, but the sudden relief from the pain as well as the pull of the sedative lulled him towards the oblivion that he wanted more than he'd realized. The last thing he felt before darkness took him was Bones' hand on his cheek.
The first coherent thought Jim had upon waking was that his Chief Medical Officer would soon receive the additional title of Captain's Personal Pain-in-the-Ass if Jim had any say in the matter. He checked the chrono, noting that he'd been asleep for almost eight hours. Next to the glass of water on the nightstand, there was a small bottle of pills with a hand-written note:
I should be back before you need them, but if the pain gets too bad, take no more than one of these every four hours. And I swear they're not sedatives.
There was also a PADD on the nightstand, which meant that in the very least, he could check the crew's reports. Maybe he couldn't be in Engineering, but he could damned sure keep up with the events around the ship and possibly stay involved with logistics and repair decisions. Maybe Bones would even release him for limited duty on the bridge if he promised not to move around too much. Maybe…
He glanced down. And groaned. Maybe he'd worry about the ship's business after he took care of a very uncomfortable case of morning wood.
Sitting up took some struggle. The pillows were a bit flat, and his bruised and sore abdomen just didn't seem to want to hold him upright. A minute later, breathing hard and wincing, he was propped up enough to reach himself easily. He reached into his boxer shorts – Bones' boxer shorts… damn – and wrapped his fingers around himself. While it felt like immense relief to his cock, as soon as he squeezed, the tendons in his forearm complained. Gritting his teeth, he gave himself a good, firm stroke… and almost cried out as his shoulder and elbow began to throb with renewed soreness.
"You have got to be kidding me," he groaned aloud. "Come on, Kirk," he grumbled to himself. "There's no way you've gotten yourself to the point where you can't even jerk off."
A minute later, panting and grunting in discomfort bordering on pain, there was sweat breaking out on his forehead and his cock was actually harder. Sometimes, the universe was unfair in a way that couldn't be put into words. "Fuck me –"
And then the universe threw a curve ball as the door slid open and Bones ran into the room. "Jim! Are you okay? The monitor sensors started –" He stopped cold. Mouth fell open. And then, to Jim's complete embarrassment and utter dismay, he started chuckling. Laughing. Bending over double with barely contained mirth.
"Bones, for fuck's sake, will you stop that?"
Removing his knuckle from his teeth, which he'd probably bitten to keep his laughter down, Bones looked at Jim with something between amusement and sympathy. "Sorry, Jim… I just… you're still a patient, so I set some basic sensors to monitor you. You know… heart rate, blood pressure, endorphin levels… things that would indicate whether you're in pain or not." He was unable to suppress a snort. "Same sorts of symptoms you'd get from –"
"Oh for the love of Klingons, stop laughing! You set biosensors on me and didn't even bother to mention it? Can't a man get any privacy?"
Bones took a couple of deep breaths, trying to rein in his amusement, and mostly succeeding. "As if you haven't wanked off in our dorm room more times than I can count."
Jim's shoulders slumped – which also hurt. "This is different, Bones. I can't… I can't even…" He gestured towards his tented boxer shorts in humiliated defeat.
"Well I'll be damned," Bones said; his jaw had gone a bit slack with mock amazement. "Mark the calendar, because today is the day Jim Kirk can't get himself off."
"Bones! Goddammit, this isn't funny!"
The sheen of amusement in Bones' eyes faded into a gentler sort of consideration, even though the reddish flush he had from laughing was still there. "You're right, it's not. Sorry, Jim."
"That's better," Jim said, trying to display at least a farce of dignity. "Now will you please leave so I can try to take care of this little – large problem, very large problem – in privacy?"
A pained smile of sympathy ghosted across McCoy's face. "Jim, I told you, you can't overstress yourself. Tendons and ligaments and cartilage –"
"– are delicate things," he finished with a disapproving scowl.
"So what the hell am I supposed to do?"
Bones shook his head, that sympathetic smile returning. "Come 'ere."
Before Jim could quite register what was happening, Bones had sat down on the edge of the narrow bed, and was maneuvering him by the shoulders.
"Hey, wait, what are you doing?"
The smile turned into a smirk. "I believe I'd call this 'lending a helping hand.'"
Jim tried to twist out of his grasp, which only caused him to wince in pain. "Ouch! What the hell? Bones, you said… the last time I… okay, stop. Bones, you completely shot me down the last two times I tried to get into your bed. No, three times."
"Well, you're already in my bed, Jim."
"That's not the point! I'm not going to have some sort of sympathy fuck because –"
And Bones started laughing again, but before Jim could feel even more insulted, Bones put a hand on his cheek. After a couple of stubborn seconds, Jim finally looked up and met his eyes.
"Jim, I don't do sympathy fucks. You know me well enough to know that. If this were pure sympathy for the amount of discomfort you're in, I would either hypo you with a standard treatment for priapism, or dose you with a sedative until your large problem shrinks a bit on its own."
Jim blinked. This made no sense. "Did I hit my head harder than I thought?" Jim mused aloud. "Don't get me wrong - I like this idea, but the one time anything ever happened between us, we were both drunk, and the next morning, you dumped me off your bed, onto the floor, and told me, and I quote, that I was 'too immature' and you didn't like 'entertaining juvenile delinquents' in your bed."
For a long moment, Bones just looked at Jim with an unreadable expression on his face.
"Quiet for a moment, Jim."
Jim squirmed uncomfortably. "Why?"
"Because I want to remember this."
He frowned. "What the… remember what?"
"Remember the moment when I realized that you have grown up."
Something in Jim's chest clenched with an odd, warm sensation. He tried to say something, but all he managed was a choked squeak. Bones smiled.
"Jim, you may be an asshole sometimes, but you're the asshole who saved the planet, almost dying several times in the process, and after all that, you still kept putting everyone else first." His smile took on a slightly harder edge. "Of course, it seems that I'm going to need to lecture you more than occasionally about taking care of yourself, but for now, I'm your CMO, so that's my job."
Jim swallowed past the dry sensation in his throat. "Oh, so is this your job now, too?" He tilted his head down towards his lap.
"Nah," Bones said with a grin. "Just a personal favor."
"The finest bastard," he shot back lightly as he grabbed the bottle of pills and the glass of water from the nightstand. "First, take one of these. It's not as effective as a hypospray, and it takes longer to kick in, but… our supplies really are running low. The stuff I used earlier that knocked you out wasn't my first choice."
"I see," Jim said, popping the pill and chasing it with a few sips of water.
Bones nodded his approval. "Now come here."
Moving slowly, and feeling a bit uncertain and really, really awkward about this, Jim slid down a few inches towards the foot of the bed. It's not that he hadn't thought about this plenty of times, under better circumstances, and it wasn't that he didn't want it… it was that he'd expected it would never happen. And if it had happened, by some miracle of fate... well, the fact he was little more than an invalid at the moment was not how he'd envisioned this little fantasy of his.
Still, he had to admit that Bones' hands felt strong and warm against his bare shoulders. Bones had maneuvered himself around the head of the bed, and once Jim was settled between his legs, resting against Bones' chest, it felt comfortable and right.
"Jim, are you okay?"
"Yeah, why?" Jim was startled to hear his own voice shake.
"You're shivering," Bones said softly, just behind his ear. "You're not nervous or anything, are you?"
Jim almost let himself protest that assertion with every scrap of indignant denial he could muster, but then he realized it was true. For all the wild sex he'd ever had, and the many partners he'd had it with, it had been years since he'd been vulnerable in front of someone who mattered like Bones did. And fuck, right now, he was pretty damned vulnerable. But still, he swallowed that thought down and said, "I'm fine, Bones. Better than fine."
A low chuckle vibrated Bones' chest behind Jim's back. "You are fine, you egotistical little brat. Now, let's see if we can take care of some things here."
In the next heartbeat, Jim felt his waistband being tugged as fingers searched and pushed their way into his boxer shorts. Bones' boxer shorts<, Jim's brain filled in. The thought and the sensation made him gasp slightly, then again as he felt the first ghosting of fingers across his foreskin. Automatically, he tensed up, which he immediately regretted. "Ow…"
The hand quickly withdrew from his boxers, and settled firmly across his stomach, warm and soothing. "Jim, you need to relax. I want to do this, and I think you want it too, but not if you're going to damage yourself, got it? Because the other option is a hypospray, and I know how much you love those."
"Fuck," Jim breathed. "It's kinda hard to relax when… you know."
"Put your whole weight against me. Relax everything." The hand on his stomach rubbed gentle circles. "I've got ya, kid."
Taking a deep breath, Jim made a concerted and conscientious effort to lean all his weight against Bones' chest, resisting the instinct to try to hold his own weight. He let his head rest against Bones' shoulder, somewhat surprised to notice how solid and muscled it was. An unfamiliar sense of security seemed to wash over him, and he felt himself relaxing to the core. It felt… really good. Especially after everything he'd been through. After everything they'd all been through. But the whole time, Jim had felt like it had been him against everything and everyone, thrown out there with no support, nobody to back him up. Now, someone was supporting him, literally, and it was the most amazing sensation in the universe.
And then warm, confident fingers wrapped around his cock, and he realized that that was the most amazing sensation in the universe.
With the first stroke, he let out a gasp, shifting slightly. Around him, Bones adjusted his posture, bringing his left leg up to hook over Jim's good leg, bracing them both. The hand on his cock was firm as it began stroking an agonizingly slow rhythm. After only a dozen or so strokes, Jim couldn't help himself. "Bones… faster," he whined, too desperate to even hate himself for sounding so wanton.
"Oh no, Jim," Bones whispered in his ear. "Not yet." Jim could almost hear the smile in his voice. Devious smile.
A second later, Bones released his grip on Jim's cock, eliciting a groan of dismay, which quickly became a gasp of surprise when that amazingly warm hand cupped his balls, rolling them around gently, and then two fingers reached further back and…
Another low chuckle from Bones shook them both. "What Jim?"
Those two fingers were pressing against his perineum, massaging and manipulating, and Jim hadn't realized it was possible to be so sensitive that way, right there, so fucking sensitive. Maybe because he was already insanely aroused and hard as a goddamned dilithium rod. Maybe because it was Bones. Maybe... maybe Jim just didn't give a damn why anymore. He let his head roll back as he groaned.
Bones hummed lightly in his ear. "Hasn't anyone ever given you a prostate massage this way?"
"This once… one girl… tried… but she didn't… have your expert… knowledge… of anatomy… fuck!"
"No, no fucking today, Jim. Maybe once I've finished patching you up though. How does that sound?"
Jim would have groaned again if he hadn't already been panting like an animal in heat. Bones was still pressing his fingers just so against his perineum, rolling back and forth, while the palm of his hand continued to manipulate his balls in time to what his fingers were doing. Every so often, Jim felt his cock brush against Bones' wrist, like a malicious tease. Jim wasn't even sure if Bones knew he was doing that.
"Dammit, Bones," he breathed, leaning his head further back against Bones' shoulder. He forced himself to open his eyes, and could see Bones looking down at him, eyes dark and heavily lidded. The realization that Bones was just as turned on by this as he was made Jim's stomach jump, causing another wave of arousal to pulse through him. "Damn."
"How're you doing there, Jim?" Bones practically purred, and Jim was sure it was the most obscenely sexual noise he'd ever heard in his life.
"Nnnngh!" Jim tried to take a couple of steady breaths so he could speak clearly, but it wasn't going to happen. "Fuck… Bones… goddamned tease."
"Tease? Like this?" One finger reached further back and just barely brushed over Jim's hole, while the others never stopped rubbing over the perineum.
Jim couldn't help himself – his whole body jolted with the sensation, wracking his joints and abdomen with pain. "Ouch – shit." It came out as a weak moan.
"Shit, Jim! Sorry, here… here." He wrapped an arm around Jim's chest, holding him gently but firmly in place. "You don't like being touched there?"
"It's fine… 's fine, Bones. Just…" He breathed heavily for a moment, torn between the amazing sensations from Bones' talented hand and the aches tormenting his body. "I like it. Just surprised me. Warn a guy, okay?"
"Okay," Bones agreed. Agreed easily. Too easily.
Jim blinked. "Bones?"
"So now I'm going to run my fingers over that tempting little hole of yours," Bones said, just before those fingers probed backwards again, teasing mercilessly.
A soft chuckle resonated against Jim's ear. "If you like this enough, maybe once we've patched you back up, I'll do some other things to this hole."
One finger just barely pushed against the ring of muscle, and Jim felt a shiver pulse through his groin. He gasped, but managed not to move, sagging against Bones, panting. "Evil, evil man."
"No, I'm not. Well maybe, just a little bit." He let out a contented sigh as he toyed with Jim's entrance, teasing lightly, probably relishing the shiver that Jim couldn't control each time he pressed in, just barely. It was maddening.
"Ah, enough of that already?"
"No, just need –"
"But really," Bones continued, talking right over him, "without lube, I shouldn't play with that too much." The fingers moved back to his perineum, pressing, massaging, and generally tormenting his prostate through that thin, sensitive bit of flesh. "Besides, you seemed to like this, too."
Jim wanted to snap back with a proper retort at the tease, but he couldn't speak. Instead, he whimpered. Bit his lip. Let his head roll back. He shivered and tried desperately not to squirm. "Bones, are you fucking incapable of giving a guy a normal hand-job?"
Another rumbling chuckle. "But what fun would that be?"
"Wait, are you begging me?" He sounded far too pleased with that prospect, but at that point, Jim didn't give a flying fuck.
"Yes, goddammit, I think I'm going to spontaneously combust if you don't – aaaaaaah!"
Jim wasn't sure if he was gasping with the overwhelming sensation or sighing with relief, but Bones had wrapped his hand firmly around his cock and had given it a sure, determined stroke and it was enough to reduce Jim's brain to an incoherent mess.
"Gaaah, yes… good. Good." Needing to grasp something, to keep himself grounded if nothing else, Jim flailed out with his better arm, found Bones' knee and weakly dug his fingers into it. "Keep going," he breathed.
"Mmmhmmm…" Bones hummed softly, not breaking rhythm.
Jim let his eyes fall closed and tilted his head even further back, feeling Bones' breath on his cheek, as hot as the hand on his cock. There was nothing but the steady, confident rhythm of his breath mingling with Bones', keeping awkward time with the motion of that hand… that maddening, incredible, talented, torturous hand. Bones' chest was solid behind his back, strong arm firm across his chest, shoulder steady under his head. Solid and steady as Jim started to feel himself shake with the orgasm that was building up.
"Bones," he gasped. "I'm… I'm close…"
"Then what are ya waiting for, Jim?" The grip on his cock tightened just the slightest bit, and that was all it took to wring his orgasm out of him, relief and sensation overwhelming him as he rode out the waves of it, letting the world dissolve into a fuzzy red haze.
Seconds or minutes later, he wasn't sure, he was roused by the beeping of a comm unit.
"Sickbay to Doctor McCoy."
Behind him, Bones let out a pitiful groan. "Shit…" He reached over to the nightstand, careful not to disrupt Jim, grabbed the communicator, and flipped it open. "McCoy here."
"Doctor, you never called back in with Acting Captain Kirk's status. What caused the alarm?"
Jim felt a flush of embarrassment and tried to shrink away, but Bones held him firmly, running a hand across his chest.
"Kirk was experiencing some discomfort because of his injuries. Tendons and ligaments tightening up from holding still for too long. I helped him stretch a bit, and he seems to be doing better."
Jim squeezed his eyes shut and tried not to groan.
"Shall I note in the medical log that you've taken care of the problem?"
Jim swore he heard an undertone in that question, and it was nearly enough to make him choke.
Bones didn't seem to notice, and answered smoothly. "Yes, Nurse Chapel."
"Good to know, Doctor. Also, your shift is technically over… if you want to continue to tend to the Captain's needs."
That time, Jim felt Bones' breath hitch. There had been a definite, unmistakable undertone in Chapel's voice, and Jim was painfully certain that she suspected something. And worse, Bones seemed too stunned to answer.
"Oh for God's sake!" Jim mumbled before he turned his head towards the comm unit in Bones' hand. "Hi, Nurse Chapel? Lovely to hear from you. Doctor McCoy has done his usual excellent job of taking care of things. If you need him back in sickbay, I'll send him right along."
"Captain," she began respectfully, "there's no need. It really is the end of his shift. As exhausted as he looked for the last two hours, he ought to be in bed anyway, but just try telling him that."
"Oh, don't worry, I will. Kirk out." He reached over and flipped the comm shut, then craned his neck around to look at Bones, grinning to hide his own embarrassment. "You heard the lady! You need to be in bed."
"Cheeky son of a bitch," Bones grumbled.
Then Jim frowned. "Wait, Bones - what about you? I mean... you... uh... took care of me, so -"
Bones snorted. "Chapel's call kinda killed the mood for me, kid. But even if it hadn't, don't worry about me for tonight. There's always next time."
Jim nodded vaguely as the implication sent a shiver through his stomach, and he couldn't believe Bones seemed to be indicating that this... well... was more than a one-time favor. Then practicality intruded on his thoughts. "Uh, Bones? We can't really sleep like this, can we? And you only have one bed in here. Maybe I should –"
"There's a couch…" Bones said slowly, "but… I think I'm comfortable right here." He gave Jim a light squeeze with his arm. "But if you're going to sleep in my bed, kid, you're not going to do it in dirty, sticky boxer shorts."
Laughing lightly, Jim let Bones help him up and get him changed again. Minutes later, they were tucked onto the small bed, and Jim was relishing the sleepy warmth that was seeping through him, enfolding him like a thick quilt. For the first time in days, he felt himself slipping towards a natural sleep.
"Jim?" Bones' voice, rough and almost-asleep, pulled Jim back from his own drowsy haze, just a bit.
"You owe me."
"I saved Earth," Jim teased back. "Don't I get bonus points for that?"
"Yep. That makes up for me sneaking you aboard." Bones snaked an arm out and wrapped it around Jim's waist. "So now you owe me again."
Jim felt himself smiling. He knew that tomorrow, he'd somehow manage to throw himself back into his work. He'd once again find himself in the midst of a ship that was still in crisis, where every sentient being was mourning a loss greater than they'd ever known before, and where the sobering knowledge that they could have lost so much more hung over them like the hammer that hadn't quite fallen. That pain had been thankfully punctuated by brief but precious moments of normalcy – a joke between friends, a supportive clap on the shoulder, a moment of bonding between people who were otherwise alone… so alone.
But for the moment, he wasn't alone. For now, he could pretend things were okay. For just that moment, the horrors of their situation had faded from his consciousness, and he could let himself sleep peacefully, with the precious illusion of happiness that Bones had granted him.
Or maybe it wasn't an illusion. Not really.
"Yeah, Bones. I owe you."
He fell asleep with Bones' arm draped over his waist, and a smile still touching his lips.