Fandom: Star Trek XI
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Twice Shy: Part Two
Sometimes, being a wolf is simpler than being a human. The wolf's thoughts are simpler, quieter, run more easily and are less likely to get all tangled up in emotion. The wolf has simpler needs; food and sleep and pack will do him just fine, though he's been used to being a solitary animal for so long that having a pack is still new and exciting, even if it's mostly made up of humans who can't run very fast.
Bones the man still finds Spock disconcerting and Chekov ridiculously young, Sulu a little too cocky, and is reluctant to admit how much Uhura is becoming a sister to him. Bones the wolf has nothing but love for Chekov's boundless enthusiasm and Sulu's devil-may-care attitude. Bones the wolf recognizes Uhura as his pack-sister, and Spock, by extension, as family. Spending time with his wolf is much easier than spending time as a man.
Uhura calls him on it about a month after the Lerantian affair.
"So is Kirk still asking you questions?" she asks, as she wraps her hands at the beginning of their training session.
"When does Jim not ask me questions?" he answers back, distracted by his own preparations.
"True," she says, laughing. "What I meant was is he still asking you questions about my sex life?"
Bones is fairly certain he blushes at that. "He seems to be having some trouble with the concept of mating for life," he admits. Christ, now he sounds like Spock.
He has to retract that thought, though, when Spock joins the conversation. "He has admitted to me that he finds the idea of a lifelong bond quite fascinating, if only in the abstract."
"Yeah, that's Jim," Bones sighs. "Loves 'em and leaves 'em, and can't even contemplate anything else."
"Is that why you've been spending so much time with your wolf lately?" Uhura asks, turning to face him head on, and Bones suddenly realizes that the entire conversation has been a pretext to let her ask this question. Damn it, he just does not see this woman coming. At all.
"Yes," he snaps, because hell, she'll know if he lies, so what's the fucking point anyway?
She seems a little taken aback by his honesty, but rolls with it. "Did he say something to you? Do I need to find him and tear him a new one?"
"No," he says, tiredly. "He was just Jim. Can we get on with it?"
So they get on with it, and the next time they're planetside overnight, Uhura scratches at his door in the evening and they go out for a glorious run under a red half-moon.
"C'mon, you've got to admit it is strange," Jim says. "How can you be that dependant on another person?"
"Jim, would you give it a rest, for the love of God?" He's going to end up punching Jim if he keeps up with the questions.
"I'm just curious," Jim shrugs. "And you're spending a lot of time with them, aren't you? I thought you didn't like Spock?"
Today Jim smells like that little redhead from Engineering, what's her name, Nia? Either he didn't have time to shower this morning or they had a quickie somewhere during lunch. It's driving him insane. "Maybe I like spending time with them because they don't ask me idiotic questions about other people's personal lives, you know," he snaps, then sighs and lets his head fall back onto his office chair.
"Hey, there's no need to get snippy," Jim replies. He looks like he's considering whether putting his feet up onto Bones's desk will result in spontaneous amputation. With the mood Bones is in, he hopes Jim doesn't test his patience anymore than he's already doing, asking dumb questions about things that aren't any of his business if he's not actually interested in seeing them through, and sitting there stinking of someone else to boot.
Jim lifts a foot and Bones glares at him and growls a little, and Jim clearly reconsiders, throwing his legs over the arm of the chair instead, sitting sideways and all squished up. He looks ridiculous, but they've had a rough day, which is the reason they're hiding out in Bones's office in the first place.
"Look, let me explain it to you using only small words," Bones says. "Some people, who are obviously not you, think that having sex with one person many times is better than having sex with many people once."
Jim looks startled. "I wasn't talking about sex," he says. "I mean, I can't really understand that part either, but I was thinking about how hard it must be to just… bond yourself to someone like that." He shrugs.
Well. Interesting. "I know you're commitmentphobic, Jim, but…"
"Christ, Bones," Jim says, and he's looking annoyed, now. "You don't have a really high opinion of me, do you?" He lets out a breath that's half a laugh, half a sigh. "Not that you don't have good reason. What I meant is, there's nobody I would trust like that." He looks briefly pensive, then amends: "Almost nobody."
"Oh," Bones says, nearly entirely lost for words.
"It says in the literature that werewolves can smell their mate," Jim continues, "but Spock is not a werewolf, is he? So how did he know? It just seems… risky."
He's getting rather uncomfortably close to Bones's personal life, here, and Bones tries hard not to fidget. "For that, I think you need to ask Spock," he replies after a while. "Or Uhura, but she's more likely to rip your balls off and stuff them down your throat if you go about it the wrong way."
Jim pretend-shivers, then grins at him, raising his whiskey in a half-assed toast. Bones finds a smile to send back, before knocking back the rest of his whiskey. He's going to need some serious inebriation to deal with Jim after the conversation they've just had.
He knows the answer to Jim's question, of course; he'd asked. He'd figured that knowing couldn't hurt – and he'd been wrong. Knowing hurts like hell.
According to Spock, he had just known, straight away. He hadn't said a word about the logic of it or the lack thereof, which told Bones that he was absolutely serious. He doesn't know if it's because Spock is Vulcan or if he's just singularly unlucky, but what he's got in the end is Jim sitting across from him, sharing his whiskey, asking dumb questions about happily ever after, with no idea that he's Bones's answer to every single one of them.
He's always known he couldn't keep it a secret forever. Truth will out, after all, and Jim has always been bound to find out sooner or later.
It's a dingy prison cell – not that prison cells are ever anything other than dingy – on a backwater planet known to its inhabitants as D'hena. None of them are rightly sure what they did to rouse the ire of the local government; it had been a fact-finding mission, more of a goodwill embassy than actual trade negotiations: D'hena is allied with the more prosperous and industrialized Lgort, which has just developed its first warp drives, which means that while D'henan society itself is pre-warp, they're about to hit the rest of the galaxy along with the Lgertans. Introducing themselves to the D'hena had seemed like a good way to show respect to the sovereignty of their civilization.
What little there is of it.
Kirk is screaming from down the hall. Bones has seen him walk on a broken ankle with nary a whimper; seen him smile and walk around patting the crew on the back with a ruptured kidney; has seen him joke around while nearly bleeding to death from a broken bottle to the abdomen. He's never seen the man voluntarily take a painkiller – Kirk doesn't believe in them, anymore than he does in no-win situations – and he's the sort of stoic patient that is impossible to treat because he'll deny his symptoms until he's blue in the face.
Sulu is staring at him, cradling his obviously broken arm to his chest, his face pale, while Spock seems to be poking at the bars to their cell. The trouble is, they'd taken their communicators, and the attack had been timed – it happened almost straight after they'd last checked in with the Enterprise. Unless they get themselves out of this one, nobody is coming for them for at least four hours.
"Doctor McCoy," Spock says softly, just when Bones is about to snap at him, ask him what the hell he's doing, can't he hear that Jim is in pain? "I believe that between the two of us, we may manage to bend the bottom of the door out of shape enough for you to slip through."
It's no fucking choice at all, is what it is.
The bars are made of that tough metal alloy that seems to be the reason for the D'hena-Lgertan alliance, but they bend under their hands, and then, surprisingly, splinter and break. "I have a hunch these backwoods people are about to get dumped from their trade alliance," Bones mutters, holding back his curses as a splinter works its way into the pad of his thumb.
"It seems likely that when the Lgertans get access to superior Federation materials, they will discontinue their metals trade with the D'hena," Spock agrees.
"These people are going to need to learn how to farm," Bones grumbles, as another bar breaks under his hands. He finds the thought somewhat satisfying, and it helps to distract him from the noises Jim is making. Whatever they're doing to him, they seem to be taking a break, because Jim is drawing in agonizing, shaking breaths, and Bones just hopes they can make the damn hole big enough before the bastards start in on him again.
Spock's hands are scored green by the time they've managed to break off a large enough section of the door, but that ceases to matter when Jim starts screaming again. He doesn't think about clothes, just shifts and then worms his way underneath the broken bars. The jagged edges tear at his fur but he barely feels it, and then he's running down the hall toward the scent of his mate's – Jim's – blood, intent on tearing whoever is hurting him apart.
He hasn't known many werewolves and Uhura is the first he's trained with regularly, but she's from a wolf family. She'd told him once that while all wolves are ferocious in a fight, most of them have different strengths: Uhura is ridiculously quick on her feet -almost to the point where she seems psychically able to anticipate where the next blow is coming from - some are strong, and others are quick to heal. Bones, according to Uhura, is the quickest shifter she's ever seen. Shifting from one form to the other takes almost no effort and little thought, and they've been working with that in their training, something he is grateful for as he bounds into the room, jumps and locks his jaws around the arm of the man standing over Jim, who is bound to a chair in the centre of the room.
There are five men in there, and while he does have the element of surprise on his side, he doesn't expect them to be slow. He lets momentum propel him forward, jaws still clenched around the man's arm and feels bone splinter under his teeth.
The man can't keep his balance with eighty pounds of wolf bearing down on him. Bones lets go of his arm as soon as the man hits the ground and uses his back paws to claw at his legs, tearing through fabric and skin with frightening ease. He's lucky, the man who is the quickest to recover his wits is also the man nearest to him, and a good lunge has his jaws closing on the man's hand as it raises his pistol. A shot goes off but it doesn't even come close to hitting him, and he crunches down, crushing the phalanges in the man's hand easily until he's whimpering in pain.
There's a sound behind him, someone unsnapping a holster and Bones lets go of the man's hand, shifts, then snaps up the man's dropped pistol and fires two shots, getting the third man in the thigh and abdomen.
He was never a great shot, but the man is down, so it will do.
He shifts back to take the fourth one out, lunging out of the way of the shots that were fired at his human body, one of them scoring his flank but it's a graze. He lunges again, putting all his weight into crashing the guy into the wall. It works; he can hear a dull thud when the guard’s head hits the brick, and then the fifth man turns on his heel and runs.
He hates to do it, but he knows that if the man gets out of the building they'll be swarmed with more men with pistols than he can handle, so he gives chase, until he's close enough. He shifts as he lunges for the guy, using his forearm to choke the man until he loses consciousness.
He leaves him in the middle of the floor, shifts back and runs back the way he came, needing to see if Jim is okay, because he left him with four maimed men, but none of them were dead, and you only need to lift an arm to shoot a gun.
He gets there just in time to prevent precisely that from happening, though with the way the man's arm is shaking he couldn't have hit the broad side of a barn. He shifts back so that he can pound his head into the floor, once, knocking him out cold.
He breathes out slowly when he's sure as can be that everybody is down for the count, before turning to Jim, looking him over. He's got a sluggishly bleeding wound in his stomach and multiple lacerations all over his chest, bruises just beginning to bloom across his ribs from where he's been beaten. There is what looks like an old-style car battery on the floor at his feet, with wires coiled around it… Goddamn.
There is a knife at the belt of one of the men he took out, next to the keys to the damn cell, and Bones picks both up, before kneeling at Jim's feet to cut through his bindings. He's suddenly acutely aware of the fact that he's naked and Jim is only wearing underwear, and he makes the mistake of looking up into Jim's face while sawing through the rope binding his left foot.
Jim is staring at him, looking pale and shocked. He's bitten through his lip at some point in the past hour and it's bleeding freely down his chin, but he pays it no mind, his mouth open in an "o" of surprise and… dismay?
They can't do this now, they have to get out of here, so when the ropes finally snap, he stands up, cuts through the ties that are binding Jim's hands behind his back and asks gruffly, "Can you walk?"
"Yes," Jim says, but he makes no move to stand up, and when Bones offers a hand to help him up, he leans on it much more than he should.
"Goddamnit, Jim, don't be an idiot," he says, looking down at Jim's feet. He can't see what's wrong, but clearly there's something, because Jim is swaying.
"I can walk," Jim replies and takes a step, then promptly loses his balance and falls back into Bones's chest with a pained gasp.
"I can see that," Bones answers, putting his arm under Jim's and leaning down, picking him up with his other arm under his knees. "Unfortunately, we need to get out of here fast, so we have no time for this. Any idea what they did with our comms?"
Jim stares up into his face, still looking shocked and hurt and fucking vulnerable, which is just wrong. "They're…" his voice breaks and he has to swallow and try again. "Anteroom."
Two of their comms have been smashed, but they only need one to call the Enterprise. Jim manages to reach out a hand and snag one up, and then they make their way down the hallway to where Spock and Sulu are waiting.
Scotty beams them directly up into sickbay, and McCoy draws stares, walking around naked, carrying the half-naked Captain, who is also fading fast, his adrenaline crashing and the endorphins kicking in for real.
Bones is almost ridiculously relieved when he deposits him on a bio-bed and hyposprays him with a sedative. He's not looking forward to the inevitable conversation about secrets that they need to have and is glad to postpone it.
"Well, sir, cat's out of the bag, then?" Chapel asks when he turns around, handing him a pair of scrub pants and a medical tricorder.
"More or less," he answers wearily, pulling on the pants.
"I am certain the Captain must be grateful for the rescue," Spock interjects from across the room. Uhura has come up to sit next to him, holding his wrist while Dr. M'Benga runs a dermal regenerator over his hands.
"I wouldn't bank on it, Spock," Bones replies.
"He should be thankful your abilities allowed you to get us out of the situation," Spock reiterates. "Anything else would not be logical."
Bones sighs and turns around to figure out what those bastards did to his Jim. "Not all things are, Spock," he says, quietly, but he knows he'll be heard all the same.
He heals much faster in wolf form than as a human, so that is his excuse for shifting and curling up to sleep. He has no excuse, however, for choosing to do this at the bottom of Kirk's bio-bed, half on top of the other man's legs.
He's pretty sure he wouldn't condone it if it was someone else, but he can't help it; it took three hours to put Jim back together, and Jim is his best friend but it is entirely possible that this will remain true only for as long as Jim is still asleep.
So he takes comfort while he can still get it, because he isn't sure he can get Jim to forgive him for this one.
He jolts awake a while later, when a foot under him starts twitching, and when he opens his eyes the first thing he sees is the blue of Kirk's, peeking out from beneath his eyelids.
"Christ," Jim breathes, just staring at him, with a slightly awed look on his face.
He stares back, then flattens his ears and puts his head down on Jim's knee, feeling sad and ruffled, still wanting to be close even if Jim maybe does not want him.
"Oh, damn it, Bones," Jim says, "you do not get to give me that look while actually a canine. There's just no way that's fair."
The wolf doesn't want to shift. He's comfortable here, and Jim hasn't kicked him out of bed yet, and he knows he did something bad, something that is going to mean some shouting and it would be much easier to do it like this. He doesn't have all these complicated emotions this way. He just wants to stay near, that's all. He puts a foreleg over his snout and looks at Jim again, sorry, so sorry, begging not to be pushed away.
"… Goddamn," Jim finally says and reaches down a hand to touch him. There's a quick stroke over his head and a small scratch behind his ear, and the wolf leans into it, happy, until Jim snatches his hand away like he's been burned.
"No," Jim says, and now he sounds stern and awake and smells… angry. "We're not doing it like this. Change."
There's enough of a tone of command in his voice that the wolf can tell there's no begging off. He concentrates, shifts, and ends up sitting at the bottom of the bed, legs drawn up lotus-style, head hanging down. His more complex emotions hit him in a rush and he passes a hand over his face, rubbing at his eyes, forgetting about the tender new skin on his palms where his hands had been cut by the prison bars.
Jim doesn't notice his hiss; he's too busy looking awed. "How does that work, then?" he asks, gesturing, and Bones suddenly realizes he's asking about the scrub pants. Great.
"Shifting with clothes takes mental focus," he says. "When you're shifting fast, sometimes they're too much of a bother."
"Right," Jim answers, and then just… keeps staring.
"I'm sorry," Bones offers, once the silence has stretched until it's uncomfortable and heavy and laden with things he doesn't even begin to know how to say. Apologizing is easy.
"You should've told me," Jim replies, softly.
"When?" he snaps. "How?"
"Oh, don't give me that," Jim answers. His voice is sharp but still low, and somehow not getting shouted at hurts more. "You should have told me years ago, but if you want me to choose a moment? How about in your office, after the Lerantian mission, when I told you I needed to know what my crew can do, because I'd just found out about Uhura?"
He looks away, the back of his neck burning with shame and regret, because Jim, Goddamn him, is right, and he knows it.
"Even if I look past you keeping this from me for years, Bones, that doesn't explain the past few months." Jim actually sounds hurt, and it's all he can do not to just slink away in defeat because he never wanted to make him sound like that, ever.
"It doesn't…" Bones starts, but Jim seems to be putting the puzzle together retroactively now and he isn't listening.
"For fuck's sake, you've been practicing with them; that's why you're in their sessions, not because you're a doctor. Does Chekov know? Hell, does Sulu know? Did everybody except for me know what you are?"
And now his voice is rising, in incredulity rather than anger, his eyes wide and his hands fisted in the sheets of the bed.
"Jim," Bones starts, but Jim isn't having any of it.
"Get the fuck out."
"Jim," he tries again.
"Get the fuck away from me!"
And there's the shouting he'd been expecting.
He slides off the bed without saying anything else and pads away, into his office. It's his sickbay, so Jim can't kick him out, but he doesn't want Bones near him and Bones can hardly blame him.
He falls down into his desk chair, his knees giving out, and after a moment's thought, gets out the bottle of whiskey he keeps in the bottom drawer, pouring three fingers into a glass and taking a slow sip.
He can still hear Jim, all his senses focused on the main area of sickbay, where the other man is breathing in great, hitching gulps of air, the sheets rustling as he evidently lies down again. He can't stop himself from listening until Jim has managed to slow his breathing, until he's just lying there, awake and probably thinking, and Bones feels like the right bastard he probably is for having been told to get away and still managing to invade his best friend's – his mate's – privacy.
He can't do this anymore. Not like this.
He draws a PADD towards him and calls up a blank page, taking a deep breath before beginning to write out his reassignment request.
It doesn't take long. He cites personal reasons and ends on a note of praise by stating that Jim and his command style have nothing to do with the aforementioned reasons. A blatant lie, of course, but a white one at least. Less than ten minutes to make a decision that will change his life in ways that he can't predict, will take him away from everything that has come to represent home to him in the past year, will…
He puts his head into his hands and tries to breathe steadily. It has to be done; he cannot keep going like nothing has happened, not after this.
He's sitting like that, still, when he hears a tiny hitch of a breath from the other room's occupant and then some rapid rustling, followed by footsteps. He looks up to find Jim standing in his doorway, wrapped in a blanket, wearing an inscrutable expression.
"I was thinking," Jim says, after a while where they just stare at each other, "about how this explains some things about you. Like, how I haven't ever been able to sneak up on you, or how you could always get me home at the end of the night, even if you must have carried me across the park…" he trails off, and an uncertain expression flits across his features, but he's Captain James T. Kirk after all and "uncertain" isn't in his vocabulary.
"And then I remembered asking you all those questions about Uhura and Spock and the mating thing and I thought of Jocelyn and…"
"She wasn't my mate," Bones says before he can even think about it – but of all the things he could lie to Jim about, that is not one of them, even if Jim thinking that would have been easier, much easier.
"What?" Jim asks, looking a little taken aback. "I thought… you said werewolves mate for life?"
"They do once they've met their mate," Bones says gently, and then frowns when Jim leans up against the doorjamb. Jim leans on things an awful lot, but he looks like he's about to pass out, there. "Come in and sit down before you fall down," he says, shaking his head.
"Only if you share the alcohol," Jim says tiredly, but he's already over the threshold, making his way to the visitor's - his - chair.
Bones shrugs. He shouldn't, but sometimes rules are for breaking. He pours a little less for Jim than he does for himself, though; the other man has just spent nine hours healing, after all, no need to shock his system.
"When I met Jocelyn," he finally says when Jim has sat down, hands wrapped around his glass like it somehow warms him that way, too, "I hadn't met my mate. I didn't even believe the legend that a werewolf could scent their mate, much less in mating for life." He shrugs. "I loved her, and she left me, but she wasn't my mate."
Jim thinks about that and Bones barely resists the need to hold his breath. There's a lot of ways this could go wrong, right here, if Jim asks the wrong questions, the ones Bones can't answer without giving himself away.
"So… you haven't…" Jim flounders, rolls his eyes and shakes his head. "How do I even ask a question like that?"
"I'm not mated, if that's what you're asking," Bones replies, amused despite the tension pulling tight in his stomach.
Jim snorts. "That just sounds weird," he says. "So what, one day you'll just catch a whiff of someone and that's it? You'll know?" He takes a sip of whiskey, leaning back in the chair, like he's going to get more comfortable.
"More or less," he answers, hoping Jim won't call him on his evasiveness.
Fortunately, Jim seems to interpret it as Bones not exactly being thrilled about the prospect, because he chuckles into his glass, shaking his head and muttering, "Lucky you."
"Right," Bones sighs, immensely relieved, because it looks like they're past the danger now.
They sit in silence, sipping their whiskey before Jim suddenly speaks up. "I'm still mad at you, you know." He leans forward onto the desk, looking at Bones intently. "You should have told me."
He doesn't look mad, though; he looks hurt, and Bones can't meet his eyes. "I know," he says, but doesn't get to say anything else, because in this position, Jim can see the screen of the PADD Bones had been working on.
"What the hell is that?" he asks, and now he sounds angry, pulling the PADD towards him before Bones can react. Bones can see when Jim gets it, because his eyes widen, and then he bites down on his bottom lip, the way he only does when he's furious. "Oh no you don't," he mutters and stabs at the screen with a finger. "Request fucking denied."
Bones doesn't have to see it to know that his reassignment request has been summarily deleted, but his eyes still stay on the screen when Jim tosses the PADD onto the table, because hell if he can meet Jim's gaze now.
"If you want to leave, Bones," Jim says, low and furious, "you can just fucking ask me. Do you want to leave?" There's an odd note in his voice and Bones suddenly realizes that Jim isn't asking whether he wants to leave Starfleet, or leave the Enterprise. What Jim is asking is, 'do you want to leave me?' and the answer to that one is simple.
"No," he snaps out, because if he isn't grouchy about this, he'll reveal too much. "No, I don't. Dammit, Jim, I'm a doctor, not a fucking astronaut. Do you think I'd be in space if it wasn't for you?"
Jim looks taken aback. "You joined Starfleet," he shoots back.
"They have plenty of research facilities on the ground," Bones growls at him. "Two year tour of duty and I would have been able to transfer to the research division. Instead I'm on a five year exploratory mission of space, with you." He's cutting too close to the heart of the matter here, and if he doesn't back off, Jim is going to either figure it out or start asking questions for real.
Jim, however, does what Jim tends to do when faced with high emotion: laughs it off. He just happens to do it by snorting, shaking his head and saying offhandedly, "Right. I love you too, Bones."
It's a good thing he's looking down and not at Bones when he says it.
When he can breathe again, Bones does the only thing he can do. "Fuck off, Jim. And go back to sleep, you cretin, you're supposed to be healing."
"I can't sleep in the bio-beds," Jim whines, but he stands up, sways on his feet and almost falls down. Bones shoots out of his chair and catches him, before he has to treat him for concussion on top of everything else, then sighs and picks him up.
Jim lets him, curls into him, in fact, and when Bones reaches the bed he was sleeping on, he is loath to let him go. "Weren't you supposed to be sleeping, too?" Jim asks, when he's settled, evidently tired because his eyes are only a sliver of blue beneath his lashes.
"I'll sleep on the cot in the office," Bones says, turning away. He's barely gone two steps when Jim speaks up again.
"It was nice to wake up with you on my feet, y'know." He sounds tentative, like he wants to offer but doesn't know how, and Bones is abruptly too damn tired and achy to question it. He shifts into his wolf and jumps up, arranging himself across Jim's legs and closing his eyes, though he doesn't fall asleep straight away. He waits instead, until Jim's eyes fall shut and his breathing evens out, and only then lets sleep take him.
The uneven rhythm they settle into is nothing like the easy camaraderie they'd had from the moment they met. Jim doesn't have faith in him anymore, that much is obvious.
Oh, he trusts Bones just fine to do his job. Jim's never doubted his abilities as a doctor, and he wouldn't start now; Bones is still as much a member of the command staff as he ever was.
It's their friendship that has changed. Jim is... difficult to have a relationship with at the best of times, but Bones had never truly realized how much Jim trusted him until Jim doesn't trust him anymore.
Their balance is suddenly a lot more delicate than it ever was before, and Bones has never been much for tactful personal interactions, not since his divorce; after Jocelyn he figured that he'd better be himself, unfailingly, unflinchingly, because he clearly sucked at negotiating relationships.
Jim has always been supportive of this and laughed at his little idiosyncrasies, except that Bones is apparently very good at fooling himself, and Jim feels foolish by extension. He's put forth every aspect of his human side, letting his human paranoia and human weaknesses show without restraint, but he'd kept back an enormous part of himself when he hid the wolf and Jim feels deceived. He's a doctor, not a psychotherapist, but it doesn't take a psychotherapist to tell him just where he went wrong.
They make a good show of it, of course; Jim is clearly used to that, and it breaks his heart more than a little to be putting him through it, again. They've got most of the crew fooled, Bones thinks, except for the few who train with him regularly. Uhura can't figure out which of them she's angrier at - Bones for not telling Jim, or Jim for shutting Bones out; it would actually be funny to watch if the situation wasn't so difficult. Spock treads carefully somewhere in the middle; he's undeniably a part of the pack but his friendship with Jim, which will allegedly become legendary, is just beginning to blossom, and he's very careful about what he says – not that this makes a great change. Chekov and Sulu stay out of it, which is understandable, but Bones catches them looking with certain… irreverence, which tells him they have their own opinions, for all that they're staunchly keeping them to themselves.
It's strained and uncomfortable because they're all tiptoeing around each other, so of course the only thing that could possibly make it better is a crisis of the sort they need to deal with immediately, before it gets out of hand.
It's humans, this time, which makes it somehow worse, because they cannot balance the ruthlessness of the colonists of Titania against their alien-ness; they're people, just like most of the crew of the Enterprise, and their follies are unquestionably human.
They'd been delivering medical supplies; basic inoculations and hyposprays, nothing very fancy, just the sort of thing every colony needs. Except the inhabitants of Titania weren't happy with what they got, and they were willing to go to extreme lengths to get what they wanted instead.
They’ve taken twenty-eight crewmembers hostage, cutting them off from communications and transport facilities by keeping them in a lead-lined basement, and it's that element of preparation that really makes Jim's blood boil. And since they are human, they know what to ask for and what to avoid; they know how to force them to negotiate because, damn them, they've probably read the fucking Starfleet Manual.
What they want is the captain, alone and unarmed; they'll release the hostages if they can get Kirk, and if they have Kirk, they'll have the Enterprise. It's that simple.
They've been given forty-three minutes before the first hostage gets executed – forty-three minutes because that's the time until sundown, and McCoy briefly wonders how he found himself living in some sort of a bizarre spaghetti Western.
Kirk is determined, of course, to give himself up, because that's how these things work; the captain gives himself up and then the crew rescues the captain. It's Spock who suggests that perhaps the captain could have a dog.
Bones can pass for a Siberian Husky if he carries himself the right way and doesn't snarl, and the basic idea is that if he's established as Kirk's dog, he'll have the run of the place; he'll be able to report back to the Enterprise and help them plan their rescue.
What neither of them expects is for the manager of the colony to sneer at him. "Who's the mongrel, Captain?" he asks, and Jim bristles.
"It's just my dog. He has a will of his own," he says. "Let the crew you have taken hostage go."
The exchange of hostages is tense but it works, and once the last ensign is out of the way, Jim submits his phaser and his communicator. It's when Bones attempts to dog his heels to his cell that it all goes to shit.
"I don't know how you deal with mongrels in Starfleet, Captain Kirk," the manager scoffs, "but this is what we do on Titania."
He's a damn quick draw, quick enough that Bones can't evade the damn bullet aimed at his head, and the last thing he hears before the world goes dark is Jim, shouting: "NO!"
Masterpost || One || Two || Three || Epilogue
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Masterpost || One || Two || Three || Epilogue