mijan: (To Boldly Go...)
[personal profile] mijan
Title: “No Man’s Land
Authors: Gone_ashore and Mijan
Rating: R
Pairing: Kirk/McCoy
Word Count: 10,000 for part 2.
Warnings: Triggery. References to alien experimentation, graphic descriptions, mpreg.
Summary: Because even in the 23rd century, men don’t have babies. Gender lines have been blurred in so many ways, but not in this.

Notes: After this section, Gone_Ashore and I will both be caught up in posting, and the next section will be brand new story from both of us. Again, feel free to read on my journal or hers, here.

To Part 1


*********


Part Two

Day Thirty-One



Leonard looks up in surprise to see Jim standing in the doorway to his office. It’s only 0700, half an hour before he’s scheduled to arrive. Jim’s never been on time, let alone early, for a medical appointment in his life. But there’s no big mystery here; Jim looks rumpled and red-eyed, as if he’s been tossing and turning all night. “You’re early,” Leonard says. “But come on in.”

“Couldn’t sleep,” Jim tells him with a wry smile. “Thought I’d see if you’re here. We could get started early on those damn tests. The sooner you start, the sooner we can cut it out, right?”

Leonard winces at Jim’s casual description. “Abdominal surgery isn’t like slicing a grapefruit,” he says. “I can’t just grab a laser scalpel and start cutting, kid. It’s complicated, especially when we're looking at something that we've never seen before. That’s why we’re going to do the scans.”

“Whatever. As long as we’re both clear that it’s coming out today.” He punctuates the sentence with his that’s-an-order command glare.

Rather than arguing with him directly, Leonard deflects. “Never seen you so eager to cooperate in here,” he says gruffly. “Motherhood suits you.”

“Fuck off.”

Leonard pulls himself up heavily from behind his desk, which is covered with journal articles, a PADD he’s been jotting notes on, and the remnants of a late-night snack. He’s been up most of the night, except for a few hours when he crashed on the cot in the corner. He reviewed as much of the available literature as he could, starting with standard material on in-vitro fertilization, placental endocrinology, and gametic cell manipulation, then delving into the more obscure. Ectopic pregnancy in males had been a brief, unsuccessful fad in the late 2100s, eventually abandoned after none of the pregnancies survived to term, and several of the volunteers had suffered major complications. There's a lot of information, archaic but relevant, but until he knows more about the details of this particular case -- what those bastards did to Jim -- it's all a crap-shoot. He’s made a list of the tests and scans he’ll need from Jim this morning, and now they just need to begin. “All right, let’s go. This could take a while.”

“You’ve got an hour,” Jim informs him. “I’m on duty for alpha.” What Jim means is that he doesn’t want to be late, because then he’ll have to explain why, and the last thing he’ll want to do is admit to Spock that he was undergoing tests in Sickbay. Spock is notoriously observant and almost as protective as Leonard where his captain’s health is concerned. In fact, it was Spock’s quiet comm message to him a week ago that brought Jim’s stomach problems to his attention, before his visit to the Bridge.

Even so, Leonard’s not going to be rushed. “I’ll keep that in mind. But it’ll take as long as it takes.”

They return to Isolation Two, which has all the equipment he needs and the privacy Jim desperately wants. He’s had to enlist Christine’s help—he’ll need an assistant to help position some of the equipment--but she’s mature and discreet. Jim seems to take her presence in stride, greeting her with a nod and a quick, bland smile.

Jim’s quiet and cooperative as Leonard draws blood, but stalls when Leonard asks him to remove his uniform shirts. “Why? You let me stay dressed last night when I was on the scanner.”

“I’ll be doing a few different procedures, not just scanning. The clothes will be in the way.”

“So, I’ll take them off when we get to that part.”

“Don’t be stubborn. If I said I want you to take them off, then that’s what you need to do.”

It’s not a major issue, and Jim’s right that he can be fully clothed on the imaging scanner, but Leonard doesn’t want to give in on this point. Jim’s been making bids for control of the situation from the moment he walked in the door — coming early, trying to impose a time limit, and now making a scene about disrobing. It’s a familiar tactic, coming from Jim, but not something he can allow in his Sickbay. He needs to stop it now before it snowballs.

He’s aware that there’s another, more complicated dynamic at play. Jim never used to have a problem with undressing for an exam. For as long as Leonard’s known him, Jim’s had a physical confidence that makes him envious. Jim’s proud of his toned body and is all too aware of the effect his looks have on everyone around him. He smirks and jokes through his physicals, keeping up a light banter with the nurses and generally doing everything he can to annoy the doctor.

Leonard’s astute enough to recognize that Jim’s flirting is mostly a defense mechanism. He flirts when he’s nervous, teases and winks to draw attention away from his own discomfort. And he is uncomfortable; Jim’s had a medical phobia for as long as he’s known him. He hates Sickbay with a passion, hides his symptoms, denies that he needs treatment unless it’s brutally obvious, and argues about every procedure. Leonard’s immune to his whining and manipulations, which is the main reason he’s instructed his staff to let him be responsible for treating the captain. His word is law in Sickbay and he never makes idle threats, as Jim has discovered on more than one occasion.

But since Antos, Leonard can sense that things have changed. Jim's confidence is gone, leaving him with no defense mechanisms to cover his phobia. He seems introverted and wary, almost shy. Yesterday, during the physical part of the exam, Jim was so jumpy that he could barely lie still. And then he’d completely balked at the idea of a rectal, but wouldn’t explain why.

What the hell did they do to him on the planet? And why implant an embryo, of all things?

But now isn’t the time for questions; Leonard needs to send a clear message. Yesterday he insisted on going through with the rectal exam, and he doesn’t back down now about the clothes. Different people require different approaches in coping with difficult emotions. In Jim's case, the last thing he needs is to be coddled. It would only reinforce his insecurities and make the next time that much harder. “Thought you wanted to get out of here quickly,” he prods, and Jim scowls. “Stop wasting time and take your shirts off.”

“Fine,” Jim says, a muscle jumping in his jaw revealing just how not fine he feels with the request. Stripping the shirts off with a practiced motion, he drops them on the chair in a crumpled mess. Then he looks up at Leonard innocently—See? I’m cooperating!—and Leonard is suddenly ambushed by a memory of Jim in his quarters, shedding his clothes carelessly over his shoulder as he walks toward the bed.


“Fold your damn clothes, Jim,” he tells him, even as he’s entranced by Jim’s ease with his body and his casual sexuality.

Jim laughs. “Nobody’s stopping you from picking ‘em up. If that’s how you really want to spend the next few minutes.”

“Slob.”

“You love it.”

“Darlin’, you’ve got a lot to learn about what I love and what I don’t.”

Jim settles himself next to him on the bed. “So, show me. I’m a quick learner.”


Christine clucks at the captain and picks up the shirts, folding them neatly and placing them back on the chair.

Jim holds himself relatively still as Leonard conducts the first set of scans, mapping his pancreatic processes and his endocrine secretions. Jim keeps his eyes closed as if he’s resting, but his fingers tap out an impatient rhythm on the side of the bed.

The scanner follows the program that he ordered, and the preliminary results appear on the screen within seconds. Immersed in the data, he’s startled after a few minutes by the soft computerized announcement—Scan complete.

“All right, Christine, this set’s finished, let’s—“

“So we’re done?” Jim is already sitting up, jumping down from the bed and reaching for his clothes.

Leonard puts a hand on his arm, holding him back. “Hang on, Jim, we’re just getting started. Get back on the bed.”

“The scan’s finished. I need to be on the Bridge.”

Leonard sighs, making an effort to be patient. “Settle down. I told you, I’ve got a number of tests to run.”

“What for? You ran blood tests and you did another scan. What more do you need?”

“Cutting into the abdomen is tricky. I need to do a microangiography scan—get a clear image of all the tiny blood vessels in the area, see if I can ligate without complications.” The circulatory scan is crucial if he wants to be able to operate safely.

Clearly unhappy, Jim climbs back on the bed. His agitation is palpable, but it's completely understandable. From his point of view, there’s a foreign creature invading his body. All he can think about is removing it as soon as possible, and damn the consequences. But Leonard’s got to think about the repercussions and the recovery. He doesn’t want to leave his captain with a permanent reminder of the experience, like a compromised digestive system or worse.

Jim flinches visibly as Leonard injects him with the contrasting agent. “It’ll just allow the scanner to resolve the image better,” he explains. “When we finish here, I’ll have a perfect 3-D map of the blood vessels around the embryonic sac. It won’t hurt.”

Jim rolls his eyes. “I don’t care if it hurts.”

Leonard wants nothing more than to comfort him, to soothe the tension out of his muscles, to hold him until he relaxes. He could ask Christine to step out for a moment after they finish this part, but he doesn’t think Jim wants that. He hasn’t let Leonard touch him since he came back, hasn’t reached out at all. Ostensibly, he’s bounced back as quickly as he always does. On the Bridge or in the Rec Room, he jokes and flirts and flashes his usual confident smile. But he always finds an excuse not to be alone with Leonard.

Beautiful, high-resolution images begin flowing across the screen, the arteries in brilliant red and the veins in deep blue. Leonard adjusts the magnifinication so that the embryonic sac is clearly visible, then examines the capillaries branching off it.

And frowns. From yesterday’s scans, it had appeared that the sac's blood vessels were fused to the superior mesenteric artery. That would have been bad enough. Now, it's clear that isn't exactly correct, and the location couldn’t be more problematic. Hidden between the kidneys, the sac is right at the juncture of the SMA and the abdominal aorta in a complicated webbing of blood vessels and connective tissue. It means that any surgery to remove the sac is going to be dangerous and risky. One wrong incision, and Jim might be left with permanent intestinal or bowel troubles. Or he could bleed out on the table.

He puts these disturbing thoughts aside. He’ll study the images later and try to make a workable surgical plan. In the meantime, there’s one more procedure he has to conduct: the extraction of cells from the yolk sac for DNA testing.

He’s saved this test for last because it’s the most intrusive. Jim listens quietly, turning pale as Leonard explains what’s involved: first, he’ll activate a statis field over his chest and abdomen to ensure that Jim stays absolutely still. Using a microsurgical unit, he’ll insert a long, thin needle into the yolk sac, the cluster of cells which is providing nutrients and blood to the developing embryo--

“Enough!” Jim exclaims, his tone loud and belligerent. “I don’t want to hear it! Just do it, and stop talking about the fucking embryo and goddamn yolk sac and placenta! Just shut up!” He looks like he’d like nothing better than to put his hands over his ears and block out Leonard’s voice.

Christine purses her lips, fixing the captain with a disapproving look. She knows that Leonard doesn’t tolerate that kind of attitude from any crew member; for that matter, neither does Jim.

“Now look here,” Leonard says sternly, “If you don’t want to listen to my explanation that’s up to you, but--”

“No, I don’t want to know. I don’t care. Just get it over with!”

Gathering what’s left of his patience, he says, “Well, you get the gist. Just lie back, it’ll only take a minute.” He activates the stasis field along Jim’s torso, neutralizing the voluntary motor impulses and keeping him immobile. He disinfects the area about eight centimeters above Jim’s navel, right where the alien incision was. With Christine’s help, he starts to maneuver the equipment into place, and uses the microsurgical scope to position the extraction needle.

When he looks up, Jim’s face has gone an unhealthy shade of gray-green, and he's got his lower lip clenched with his teeth. He's staring miserably at the scope, a large mechanical device with a needle looming over his abdomen, and damn it, Leonard suddenly realizes that he’s an unfeeling moron.


Leonard is almost light-headed with relief when he sees Jim lying on the floor in the corner. He rushes over with the two medics, as the security guards fan out around them in the dimly lit chamber, weapons drawn.

“Jim!” he calls, his voice muffled and metallic as it’s filtered through the barrier of the pressure suit. They’re hundreds of meters underground, and Spock was concerned the increased air pressure might adversely affect the rescue team. The planet has an unusually dense atmosphere anyway, and even a shift of a few hundred meters in elevation increases the pressure drastically. So they’ve beamed in with these bulky, awkward suits, and he’s got to wear the damn helmet that makes him sound like a robot.

Jim is shaking his head, mumbling something, and trying awkwardly to squirm backwards. He’s naked, and—God, he looks terrible. Falling to his knees beside him, Leonard can immediately see that his right shoulder and knee are dislocated. His eyes are swollen and red, and tearing so badly that Jim can hardly keep them open. His lips are dry and cracked. He’s got five short, incised wounds on different parts of his body. They’re not actively bleeding, but they look painful. Strange-looking contusions are peppered over all areas of his exposed skin: hematomas with regular edges and semi-circular abrasions.

He looks so different from the vibrant, confident man who left only six days earlier.

“It’s me, Jim,” Leonard says. He tosses the medikit to one of the medics. “Abrams, get the tricorder out, give me vitals and a basic scan! Wang, get that stretcher ready.” Leonard strips off the unwieldy gloves—he told Spock he was being overly cautious, and how can he be a doctor when he can’t even use his fingers properly?—and begins his manual examination, trusting his senses and his experience to yield the most critical information. With all due respect to modern medical devices, he believes in the power of a healer’s touch.

He begins a methodical assessment, his hands resting momentarily on Jim’s forehead, throat, chest. Airway unobstructed, breathing adequate, pulse steady. He palpates the stomach, careful not to aggravate the incision. “Poor kid, look what they did to you…” Jim acts as if he didn’t hear him, just keeps repeating “Leave me alone, leave me alone.”

Abrams begins reading out Jim’s basic lifesigns: heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and blood gases. Not immediately dangerous, and he’s not in shock. “Jim, can you hear me?” Leonard says urgently. “You’re safe now. We’ve got you.”

Jim doesn’t respond to his words, which worries him. He’s shaking his head, moaning softly, trying to pull away from Leonard’s hands. He seems only semi-alert. Leonard lightly fingers the deep cuts on his chest and abdomen. The edges are swollen and angry-looking, as if a dermal stim device has been applied on the wrong setting, and not for long enough.

Jim flinches when he touches the cuts. That’s good, he thinks. At least he responds appropriately to pain. “Take your fucking hands off me, don’t touch me!” he says. His voice is cracked from dehydration.

Abrams leans over him, trying to catch his eye. “Captain Kirk! Please don’t move, you’re injured. We’ll take care of you, sir.”

“Get away, goddamn cowards…”

He doesn’t seem to understand that he’s being rescued. “Come on, Jim,” Leonard says, frustrated and more than a little worried. He slaps Jim’s cheek lightly. “I’m here! It’s McCoy. Listen to me, can't you hear—Aw, the hell with it,” he says, reaching up to undo the helmet seal. Maybe Jim just can’t recognize his voice through the filter, and Leonard can’t stand the damn suit anyway.

As he takes the helmet off, he can feel a painful pressure settling in his inner ears. He shakes his head and swallows, trying to make his ears pop, but the ache remains. Then the smell hits him: sweat, stale urine, and blood. The air is stuffy and too warm. It’s nauseating, and he hates to imagine what Jim must have felt, lying here for six days. A week ago, Jim was whole and healthy, grumbling at being woken up—and then groaning in need and pleasure as Leonard thrust into him, fast and hard. Now, he looks like a broken thing, cast aside and left for worthless. It's a gut-wrenching thought.

“Open your eyes, Jim, and look at me… We’re taking you back to the Enterprise. You’ll be there in just a few minutes.” The pain in his ears is distracting, but that’s irrelevant right now, because Jim needs to hear him and see him clearly. But Jim still doesn’t seem to understand, just twists away from his touch and moans.

“Scan results, Dr. McCoy.” Abrams hands him the tricorder.

Hydration and electrolyte levels dangerously low, no surprise there. Some kind of unidentified pathogen, probably the beginnings of infection from the cuts. Separated shoulder and knee joints, obviously.

Corneal damage… and tympanic perforation. Shit. Leonard grabs a light from the medikit and checks Jim’s eye responses: pupils restricted, like a bad case of photokeratitis. Jim cringes away from the light and tries to bat him away, but Abrams grabs his arm and holds it down. Leonard turns Jim’s head to one side and then the other, fingering the dried blood that coats the ear shells.

Can’t hear, can barely see… No wonder Jim’s panicking. Even if he's lucid, which he might actually be, he's got no way to understand what's happening to him.

He motions for the medics to bring the stretcher closer, and instructs them where to place their hands. Jim seems to realize he’s about to be moved, as his mumbles become a desperate pleading: “Don’t take me away, don’t move me, just leave me alone…” Abrams exchanges a worried glance with him; her expression is pained.

They lift him off the floor efficiently, placing him back down on the stretcher as gently as possible, but Jim howls with pain as the movement jars his injured joints. He kicks out furiously, eliciting a painful grunt from Wang as his left foot connects with the medic’s side. Wang grabs Jim’s ankle and straps it to the stretcher. Abrams quickly applies pressure to the deep cut on his left thigh, which has reopened and is leaking a streak of red. Jim hisses in pain.

Leonard can feel his throat tightening. Jim’s blinking and squinting, obviously trying to see what’s happening to him. Damn it, he can’t take him back like this, terrified and hurting, still convinced he’s in the clutches of those alien barbarians. Jim will need to be placed in a hyperbaric unit the minute they get back to the ship, which, given his current mental state, will certainly be frightening. If he fights it, he’ll have to be sedated, which isn’t optimal given his weakened condition. But talking to him doesn’t help and his eyes are next to useless, so—

God, I’m a fool.

Jim’s such a tactile person, almost needy in the way he constantly seeks out physical contact. Even when they first met, just off the shuttle, Leonard was startled to find himself on the receiving end of a hearty slap on the back as they parted ways. Even before they became involved, Jim touched him constantly—tapping his arm to get his attention, squeezing his shoulder to convey his affection. And, as Leonard’s discovered, Jim’s not big on emotional displays, but he’s in no hurry in bed. Unlike so many men who only have their eyes on the prize, Jim really seems to enjoy the exploring and stroking part, both before and after.

Reaching down, he clasps Jim’s hand. Jim tries to pull back, but Leonard squeezes his fingers and brings them up to his cheek. He’s suddenly aware of how stubbly his jaw is, as he’s let his personal grooming go to shit over the past week. Jim tenses, his mouth falling slightly open.

It’s me, Jim, Leonard pleads silently. Recognize me. I’m here to take you home.

Jim’s hand moves tentatively up, tracing the curvature of his ear—no, not the Vulcan—and letting his fingers run through his hair. “Bones,” he breathes. His voice catches, and he clenches his eyes shut.

Jim’s breath hitches, and he’s holding Leonard’s hand like a lifeline, but the terror has gone out of him. He knows that he's being rescued. Leonard wipes away the wetness under his eyes, wishing he could wipe away the entire experience so easily. He’s never seen Jim looking so broken, wrung out and exhausted.

“It’ll be all right,” he whispers, knowing that Jim can’t hear him, wondering if it’s an empty promise.



"Hold on, Christine." Leonard stands back from the scope and walks around to the head of the biobed, then crouches slightly so he's not hovering quite so high above Jim.

"I told you," Jim bites out, staring at the ceiling, "just get it over with already."

"Jim," he says, keeping his tone soft. He rests a hand on Jim's bicep and gives a light squeeze. When Jim finally looks at him, Leonard nods. "I know you went through hell down there, and that this can't be easy. But I wouldn't do any of this if it wasn't necessary. I'm not doing this to hurt you. I know it looks intimidating, but I promise, the needle is thin enough that you'll barely feel it. This isn't what they did to you. This is me, and you're not there, okay?"

Jim looks back up at the ceiling, and his expression is detached and haunted. "I know. Just do it."

"Jim," Leonard says again, and once again he waits until Jim makes eye contact. "You're not there."

Finally, slowly, Jim nods. "I know, Bones. I just don't like it." His voice is thin and cracked, but Leonard finally feels that he's been given actual patient consent for the first time since Jim walked through the door this morning.

"I know, kid." He gives Jim's arm another quick squeeze, then steps back. "Now let's get this over and done with."

Despite his insistence that this isn't there, the images flash through his head as he works, and from the bleak look on Jim’s face, he’s stuck back on Antos, too. So Leonard talks through it all, trying to keep Jim grounded in the here and now. “Okay, I'm activating the stasis field. All you'll feel is a bit of tingling. It's only temporary, Jim. I’ll let you up just as soon as I’m finished and then we’re done. You’re going straight from here to the mess to eat a decent breakfast, and don’t think I won’t know if you keep skipping meals.”

“I’m not hungry.”

“Eat anyway. If your stats don’t improve by this evening, I’m giving you a nutrient infusion." He double-checks his scanner screen to see that his equipment is perfectly aligned with his target. "All right, I need you to take a breath and hold it. This is the needle going in."

Jim doesn't move or blink as the needle sinks smoothly through his skin and into his body, and Leonard isn't sure if Jim is actually relaxed, or if he's completely zoned out. He keeps talking. "Just breathe normally, kid. This won't take long, then you're finished for the morning. I’ll have a readout of the embryo’s DNA makeup by this afternoon, and we’ll have some answers…” He says anything and everything that he can think of, even though Jim doesn’t respond to any of it. By the time he's done, only a few minutes later, it looks like Jim's mind is halfway across the quadrant.

Maybe it is.

He sends the cells off for DNA analysis while Jim shrugs back into his shirts. “Come back after your shift,” Leonard tells him. “I should have some answers by then.”

“Just get it out,” is all Jim says, and turns to leave.

Leonard stops him, reaching out to grasp his shoulder. It’s the first time he’s touched Jim as Bones—not as Dr. McCoy—since the rescue. He knows that he should probably wait until Jim’s ready, or until Jim instigates the contact himself, but Leonard can’t hold off anymore. Jim needs the physical comfort, and damn it, so does he.

He tugs on Jim’s shoulder until he turns around to face him. “I’ll get to the bottom of this, Jim. I’ll find a safe way to operate, I promise.”

Jim gives him a wan smile. “If you can’t, you’re fired.”

“Spock won’t let you fire me. He knows I’m the only one who can keep you in line.” He gives the shoulder a tentative squeeze. Jim doesn’t meet his eyes, but he doesn’t pull away, either. Leonard steps closer. He’s itching to wrap his arms around Jim, but he doesn’t want to push him too fast. “I’m so sorry, kid. I really am.”

“Don’t worry about it. I know you’re only doing your job.”

“I’m not sorry about that. I meant about what happened on Antos,” he says quietly. “It kills me to think of you going through that.”

“It wasn’t your fault.”

“I know. But I wish I could have prevented this.” He checked Jim out thoroughly when they brought him back from the planet, but at the time, he was scanning for injuries and infections. Foreign bacteria and viruses, not a tiny cluster of human cells that shouldn't have been there anyway. Obviously, he missed it. There was no reason to scan for something like this. It was unheard of. He couldn't have anticipated it. But goddammit, he should have! If he'd caught it when the embryo was smaller, just a few cells and a tiny sac attached to a mere string of a blood vessel, extracting it would have been easy. Now, the uterine sac is a mess of blood vessels and tissue fused to one of the most vital parts of Jim's circulatory system.

Jim slips out of his grip, the ends of his mouth twisting up in an approximation of a grin. “Yeah, life’s unfair. If I’m gonna be pregnant, at least I should have had some fun getting knocked up.” He slaps Leonard lightly on the back and leaves, striding away with his usual energy.


*********



“Simulation eleven. Outcome: sac removal successful. Damage to the superior mesenteric artery requiring placement of intra-arterial shunt. Circulatory and pancreatic function compromised, damn it!” Leonard sighs. “Computer, strike the last two words. End recording.”

It’s a mess. Removing the sac is easy enough, but no matter how Leonard changes the order and placement of the ligations, sealing off the blood vessels one by one, there are always complications. What should be a minor procedure—just clamp off the blood supply, remove the embryonic sac, and seal the blood vessels—fails miserably, time after time in simulations. Usually the complications aren’t life-threatening, but he doesn’t want to leave Jim with a compromised bowel or pancreas.

“Simulation twelve,” he announces, bringing up the 3-D map of blood vessels again. The problem seems to be the way the alien sac has fused onto the artery. Instead of sealing off obediently when he applies the microlaser, the blood vessels seem to rip off pieces of the arterial wall, and then it all falls apart, no matter how he shunts and grafts and redirects the blood flow. This time, he tries injecting the tissue with an angiogenesis inhibitor, preventing the growth of new arteries and veins and restricting the blood supply to the existing capillaries. At first, he’s hopeful as the surgery sim proceeds on course, but his lips curl downward as he watches a massive tear appear in the artery, and it all goes to shit.

“Christ,” he mutters. “Outcome: sac removed successfully, followed by massive hemorrhage of the abdominal aorta. End recording.” God damn it all to hell.

He’s been at this for over two hours, and still hasn’t found a surgical plan that gives him consistently good results. Some of the sims are successful, but most of them result in arterial damage, sometimes severe. The odds are bad.

He knows that Jim will be back in a few hours, wanting to hear the magical words “Let’s operate," but he needs more time. Jim isn't going to want to hear that, but there's not much he can do just yet. The embryonic sac is, after all, an alien implantation. He needs to run a chemical analysis, maybe take a microbiopsy. The embryo may be human—he hopes—but the sac is a biological mystery, an artificial organ, the product of alien bioengineering. Somehow, it’s growing within Jim’s body, sprouting a network of new arteries and veins, accommodating to the needs of the tiny embryo within.

The message indicator blinking at the bottom of the screen catches his attention. Genome map complete. He taps the screen, feeling a sense of foreboding. He prays that what he told Jim was right—that it’s a human embryo, and not some horrifying genetic hybrid.

His fears are unfounded, as it turns out. The DNA sequence is normal. All human, no anomalies. It’s a relief, although it raises technical questions—like how the hell did those aliens manage to get ahold of Jim’s genetic material, assuming it is, in fact, his.

Easy enough to check. “Computer, match DNA sequencing with reference sample from James Kirk.” While he waits, he runs simulation thirteen. The uterine sac is removed successfully, but a temporarily restricted blood flow in the bowel results in ischemic colitis. Not good.

He’s called into main Sickbay to deal with two engineering ensigns with chemical burns. By the time he gets back, carrying a steaming cup of coffee, the results are waiting.

Kirk, James T. Match to sample: 50.00%.

That means Jim has contributed half of the embryo’s genetic material. He’s not carrying a clone, at least, and the other half is human… which raises other questions. Antos II was a First Contact mission, so no other Federation vessels have been in the area before. The most probable source of human DNA, then, is someone else on the ship.

But that doesn’t make sense, because only Jim was held captive.

He runs the test anyway, because he needs to rule out all possibilities. “Computer, match DNA sequencing with reference samples from all other crewmembers. Correction: use reference samples from all fully human crewmembers.” No sense wasting time testing Spock or Keenser’s DNA. The cross-matching is going to take long enough as it is.

Scowling, he returns to the simulator. There’s got to be a way to do this without endangering Jim.


*********



As alpha shift draws to a close, Leonard stands up and stretches. His spine releases a satisfying crack, but he knows it’s only a temporary relief.

If there’s an easy answer, he hasn’t found it yet. The only thing he knows for sure is that he’s not going to operate tonight, and not tomorrow, either. And the longer he waits, the more tightly the alien sac will latch onto the arteries, making the operation even more risky, but he needs more time. He needs to devise a safer surgical plan. He needs to better understand the alien bioengineering of the sac and its twisted blood vessels.

Still, there’s something else going on here that Leonard doesn’t understand. The longer he ponders the results of the genome mapping, the more his thoughts are troubled by Jim’s joking remark as he left Sickbay that morning. Life’s unfair, he’d said. If I’m gonna be pregnant, at least I should have had some fun getting knocked up. At the time, he’d taken it as Jim putting on a brave face, laughing in the face of his fear.

Now, though, he thinks that Jim was simply being honest, and Leonard’s been an idiot for not recognizing his reactions for what they were. Jim’s seething with anger, self-loathing, and shame. He's evasive about what happened, and he avoids physical contact. Leonard remembers all too well the acrid smell of sweat, blood, and piss that permeated the underground chamber. Whatever the aliens did to Jim, it was brutal and invasive.

Leonard doesn't want to press him, but as his doctor, he needs more information, and he needs it now. Jim may prefer to push the experience down into the bottom of his psyche, but he's going to have to tell his story. Leonard’s pretty sure that he knows what he’ll say, because genetic material—sperm cells—can only be obtained in certain ways.

Jim walks in precisely at shift change, while Leonard’s busy briefing M’Benga on the clumsy ensigns. He waves Jim into his office, then tells Geoff, in a low voice, that he’d like to consult with him again later. M’Benga’s a chemist and an internist by training. He may be able to provide some insight, look at the problem from a different perspective. And Leonard really needs to be able to talk to someone about it, if only from the medical standpoint.

In his office, Jim is sitting at the side of his desk, his demeanor outwardly calm. He looks up as Leonard enters, and Leonard feels a pang at the hope in his eyes, the longing for assistance that he thinks the doctor will provide. Because he’s going to disappoint him, and this conversation isn’t going to be easy.

“Computer, lock doors to my access code,” Leonard says. He sits across from Jim, feeling a rolling tension in his gut.

“Let’s hear it,” Jim says. “I can see from your face that it’s bad, so just tell me.”

“It’s not bad, Jim. It’s complicated.”

Jim’s gaze hardens. “I don’t care how complicated it is. I told you, we’re taking it out today. I’m not sitting around with this thing inside me any longer. I can’t eat, I can’t concentrate, I feel like shit…

“I’ll give you something for that when we’re finished here. I can treat the symptoms, it’s just--”

“I don’t want you to treat the fucking symptoms, I want you to slice out the root cause!”

“It’s not going to happen today.”

“Yes, it is!” Jim insists. “I’ll make it an order if I have to.”

“For God’s sake, Jim,” he sputters in frustration, “you can’t order me to perform surgery if I think it’s too damn risky. Don’t you think I’ve been working on this all day? It’s not as simple as you think! I’ve done twenty surgical simulations today, and only four were successful. Thirty percent resulted in arterial damage to the superior mesenteric artery or the abdominal aorta, and forty percent would leave your circulatory system intact but compromise one of your organs, like the pancreas or the bowel.”

Jim shakes his head stubbornly. “That’s not gonna happen…” He only sounds half-convinced, but there's more than enough desperation to make up for it.

“And ten percent end in you bleeding out on the table! I can’t take that chance, not until I know more about the makeup of this organ."

"It's a... a fucking uterus, Bones. Haven't they been removing those things safely for centuries?"

"It's not a normal uterus, Jim!"

"No kidding, it's in a man."

Leonard clenches his hands into fists, clinging to the sensation of neatly trimmed fingernails biting into his palms. "Jim, the uterine sac is an artificially constructed organ, a product of alien bioengineering technology. I've got no basis of reference in any Terran medical record. The sac is connected directly to the largest artery in your body, and the web of blood vessels is a tangled mess. I need more tests, possibly a biopsy—“

“No more tests!” Jim pushes himself up from the chair and slams his fist down on the desk. “I’ll take my chances! You’re a good surgeon, better than any computerized sim. You won’t let me bleed out. You can fix this, I know you can! And anything would be better than living with this fucking alien parasite growing inside me, with its freakish big head and its goddamn tail!”

Leonard’s lips tighten. He’s not unsympathetic to Jim’s reaction, but he’s spent years giving patients information that they don’t want to hear, and he doesn’t believe in sugarcoating the facts. “Sit down, Jim. And you don’t make the medical decisions around here, I do.”

“I was the one who spent a week in that alien torture chamber, not you! And now you’re saying that it’s still not over, that I have to keep letting them do what they want to me? It’s my body!”

“And that’s exactly why I’m delaying the surgery! I know what these complications would mean to you, to your captaincy. You don’t know what you’re asking.” He softens his tone, reminding himself that Jim’s a victim of a terrible crime, and he has the right to be angry that Leonard can’t immediately fix it. “If something goes wrong during surgery, your life would never be the same, kid. I don’t want you to end up dependent on medication for the rest of your life or severely restricted in your activities. Or paralyzed. Or dead, for that matter.”

Scowling, Jim slumps back into the chair, rubbing a hand over his face. He might not want to hear it, but Leonard has to tell him.

“And it’s not an alien parasite. The uterine sac is artificial, but the embryo... genetically, it’s one hundred percent human. A healthy 31-day-old embryo, normal in every way—except for how it was implanted.”

Jim laughs weakly. “Guess the Antosians missed the part in the manual where the embryo is supposed to be implanted in a loving act between a man and a woman.”

“Jim, the embryo is normal, and it’s definitely yours.”

“So it’s a clone, then.”

“No. I didn’t say that. Your DNA accounts for exactly half of the embryo’s genetic makeup.”

“Oh.” Jim takes a deep breath and appears to digest this. “So, who’s the mother?”

“Let’s call it the other DNA contributor. But before I answer that,” he sighs, “I’d like to ask you to do something for me.”

Jim rolls his eyes. “Great. I can already tell that it’s going to be fun.”

“Not fun, but necessary. I need to hear from you exactly what happened on Antos II.”

Jim’s face shutters down, and the brittle mask is back. “Why?”

Leonard takes a breath, considering his words carefully. He doesn’t want to reveal too much of what he knows, not yet. “I need to understand this, Jim. I’m working blind here. You’ve got a human embryo growing inside you, which means they somehow managed to splice your genetic material with someone else’s. Because it's an exact 50/50 split, that means they took the genetic material from gametic cells... sperm cells, not regular cells. You said you remembered most of it, but you never talked about it. At least not to me.”

“Not to anyone,” he admits. “Not to Dr. Dehner, either. I don’t like to think about it.”

“I need you to do that now, Jim. For me. No one has to know but me. Anything you tell me will be confidential.”

Jim is silent for a long moment. “I don’t want you to know,” he says, finally. “If I tell you, you won’t be able to forget. You’ll be...” His sentence trails off, but Leonard can complete it in his mind. You’ll be disgusted. “You won’t want to touch me again.”

He sounds like a rape victim. The realization pierces him. “Jim, you don’t need to carry this alone,” he says softly. “Let me help.”

There’s another interminable pause, until at last Jim nods reluctantly. “All right. But not here, Bones. I can’t do it here.”


*********



Jim’s quarters are as neat and Spartan as always. Jim may be a slob about his laundry, but he’s disciplined about all the rest: his desk is clean except for a PADD and an old-fashioned clock in one corner. The few personal possessions he’s brought on board—his books, his Starfleet letter of commission, an assortment of alien artifacts that he’s been presented with as diplomatic gifts—are placed in an orderly row on the shelf above his desk. Leonard’s always felt that Jim’s room is too barren and impersonal, but when he brought it up with him once, Jim just shrugged. “I like the clean space,” he said. “It’s relaxing. Not like your quarters, with all your junk piled everywhere so you can’t even move.”

Leonard knew that his own quarters were relatively uncluttered, and he wondered at the remark. It wasn’t until the next day, lying on his bed staring around his room, that he understood what Jim had meant. Leonard doesn’t have junk. He doesn’t collect baubles and souvenirs, like so many of the crew, but he does travel with a large set of pictures and holos. Family pics, mostly. Memories of friends and relatives, some long dead, some still close, and others, like his four-year-old daughter Joanna, simply missing from his life.

It hit him, then, that Jim doesn’t seem to have much of a concept of family, at least not in the sense the Leonard thinks of it: your people, the ones who share your genes and your history, who know where you come from and accept you as part of that lineage. Jim seems to think of family as something to be overcome and put behind you. Given what little he knows of Jim’s childhood, he supposes his attitude makes sense.

Jim does seem to breathe easier once he’s inside his quarters, although he pauses uncertainly after he walks in, as if he doesn’t know where to put himself. “Let’s sit at your desk,” Leonard suggests. The only alternative is to sit on the bed, which seems to be the wrong setting for this conversation.

Jim clearly doesn’t want too much physical proximity. He places himself behind the desk, so that Leonard has no option but to sit across from him, with the wide table looming protectively between them. With his back to the wall, Jim looks like he’s bracing himself for attack.

“You really don’t want to hear this, Bones.”

“Maybe not, but I have to know. And I want you to get it off your chest, Jim. Just tell me what happened.”

“It’s not pleasant.”

“I’m a doctor. It’s not easy to shock me, don’t worry. Just tell me.”

“Okay.” Jim smiles once, briefly, but without any genuine warmth. “Don't say I didn't warn you.”

He begins by explaining how he was teamed with Murray, one of the two biologists on the landing party, on a brief reconnaissance jaunt prior to their planned contact with the natives. He describes Murray’s shout, just before he collapsed with his hand clapped to his neck. He grabbed for his phaser, but then a point on his own neck was suddenly stinging and burning.

“I blacked out. Next thing I knew, I was lying in a sort of turbolift, going down fast. I could see some of the Antosians around me, but mostly, all I knew was that my hands and feet were tied, my ears were killing me… and I was in deep shit.”

Leonard nods; this part of the story is in the captain's report, but he understands that he needs a safe place to start. Murray was later found unconscious but unharmed, their only clue as to what had happened to Jim.

“They left me alone for a long time,” Jim continues. “They took my clothes. My ears were ringing and my head was pounding. They gave me a bowl with water, like you’d leave for a dog. They came in once, just to observe me. I was chained, couldn’t rush at them. I had to just sit there.”

“You must have been scared.”

“Scared? You could say that. And angry. And... and just fucking freaked out, Bones. It was unnerving, like being an exhibit in a zoo… or a lab experiment. They were scientists, I think, or whatever the local equivalent was.” He shakes his head. “One minute we’re observing them, making our final preparations for first contact, and the next… the fucking tables are turned.”

“But they didn’t touch you that first day.”

“No, not right away. The first session was on the second day. They came into the room, four of them, and dragged me down the hallway into another room. There was a sort of raised steel platform there. They put me on it and strapped me down.” Jim’s eyes are averted, as if he can’t bear to make eye contact while he’s talking. “They started touching me everywhere, examining my skin up close, pulling at my hair, but not hurting me. I guess they’d never seen such smooth skin, or something. It was like that for a while, creepy as fuck, but not really awful. I thought, ‘I can handle this.’”

Jim’s trained to stay calm in the face of the unknown. More than once, Leonard’s been impressed by the way Jim keeps clear-headed under pressure. “I’m sure you tried,” he says.

“Yeah. Well, that stage didn’t last long. I guess they figured they’d played around enough, and it was time to see what the lab rat could do.” He makes a wry face. “They started with that light in my eyes. It was so fucking bright. They forced my eyelids open, and it blinded me for a few minutes, but I could still see well enough, during that session. My eyes didn’t get worse until later.”

Leonard nods. “Photokeratitis. Like a bad sunburn in your eyes. The symptoms usually show up after a delay.”

Jim hardly seems to be listening. “They had instruments… probes. Like they wanted to see inside.”

“Inside where?”

“Everywhere.” At Bones’ questioning eyebrow, Jim shrugs. “It doesn’t matter. Anyway, after they were done, they brought me back to the--”

“Back up, Jim. You said they had probes. What did they do with them?”

“I don’t really want to go into it.” Jim looks upset, but also embarrassed. “Just use your imagination, okay?”

“Don’t dance around it, kid. Just tell me where, exactly. Use simple words.”

Jim stares at the floor. “In every orifice, okay?” he says quietly. “In my ears, my nose, my mouth. In my dick. In my ass. They weren’t gentle.”

“I’m sure they weren’t, but I want you to describe what they did. Tell me, Jim.” He keeps his voice modulated and even, hoping to encourage him, even as he’s inwardly horrified. Endoscopy—examining the interior of the body’s organs and cavities—is usually done under anesthesia. That clearly wasn’t the case here.

“They stuck a tube down my throat. It made me gag… It hurt, I was choking, and it went in too far.” His voice cracks. “It felt like it went all the way into my chest. I couldn’t breathe.”

"If they were just starting to study you, they may have had no idea that it was your airway." From the information sent up by the landing party, he knows that the Antosian physiology lacks a mouth cavity. "Not that it's a damned excuse on their part."

But Jim just shakes his head, as if he only partially heard him, and continues. “They shoved a tube up my dick. No lube, no nothing. Made me piss all over myself. Then they flipped me over and pushed something up my ass. It burned and they kept it in, even though by then I was yelling… but they didn’t care. I don’t know what the hell they were looking for.”

“I’m not sure either,” he says, although he can make a good guess: exploring the anatomical structure and gathering tissue samples. It’s what he would do if he were examining a new form of life, although he’d use an imaging scanner and he’d never do such procedures on a creature that was fully conscious. He can understand the scientific rationale, even if he’s nauseated by the way it was done.

“There was more. They started twisting my arms and legs in all directions, like they wanted to test my joints. That was when the dislocations happened. I don’t think they expected them to pop out like that.”

Leonard nods. “That shoulder goes out all the time. I think I’ve had to reduce it six times since I’ve known you.”

“Yeah, I tried to tell them that.” He sighs. “Anyway, that was the first session. They took me back to the room and left me there for another day, I think. I slept through most of it. I was so tired…”

“That’s probably a good thing. You needed the rest.” Leonard knows that 'rest' is the wrong goddamned word for it, but what else can he say? At least Jim was able to retreat for a few hours.

“The second session was worse. I thought it would be more of the same, and I was ready for that, but it was different. I wasn’t strapped down this time. They injected me with something. Not with a hypo—a real needle.” His mouth quirks, and he glances up at Leonard with an embarrassed look. “You know me and hypos. Well, I thought I was going to pass out when they shoved that thing into my leg.” His smile fades. “And then I couldn’t move, not at all. I was awake, though. I could feel everything.”

“They gave you a paralytic,” Leonard growls, furious. Muscle paralysis without anesthesia—it’s barbaric, there’s no other word for it. "You could breathe, though, right?"

For a moment, Jim freezes, and then his hand makes a sudden, claw-like movement toward his own throat. He catches himself, and his hand falls away as he shakes his head. "I almost could, but not enough. I was about to pass out, and I was actually happy about that, but those bastards must have decided they didn't want their lab rat dying before they were done with me." He shudders and swallows a couple of times, as if he's trying not to be sick. "Next thing I knew, they were shoving another tube down my throat."

Leonard barely manages to keep himself calm. "Old-fashioned way of ventilating patients," he remarks with measured detachment to hide his anger. Even centuries ago, when it was the only technique available, they didn't do that to patients who were awake. "They intubated you to keep you alive."

Jim gives a rough laugh that sounds more like he's trying not to cry. "I guess they decided they couldn't experiment on a dead specimen. By the end of it, I wished they hadn't, Bones."

"Jim..."

But he shakes his head, and keeps going. "I could hardly see by this point. The light was too harsh and my eyes felt like they were full of sand, itching and tearing… so I mostly kept them closed, but that meant I couldn’t tell when they were going to do something.” Jim’s voice is rising. “I was completely helpless, couldn’t talk, couldn’t move, couldn’t see. And they were jabbing me with these instruments, over and over…”

“What do you mean, jabbing?”

“Poking holes in me.” He grabs a stylus off the desk and taps it down sharply in demonstration. “In my arms, my legs, my chest. More than a prick but not a cut. Just a hole, but it hurt. And I couldn’t see where they were going to do it next.”

“Biopsies.” That would certainly explain the strange bruises he saw on Jim’s skin.

“What?”

“That’s what they were doing. Taking biopsies of different tissue types. Getting samples for research.” He can’t help wincing in sympathy, thinking of the large-bore needle they must have used. Modern nanosurgical techniques used such tiny needles that they were virtually painless. Either these aliens didn’t have that technology, or they didn’t care whether they hurt their specimen.

“I guess. If you say so.”

“Do you remember if they took a biopsy from your testicles? A sperm sample?”

Jim's face flushes. “What do you think, Bones? They were thorough fucking researchers.”

Leonard waits, but Jim doesn’t seem to have anything more to say. “And what about the incisions, Jim?”

“What about them?”

“Tell me how that happened. Please.”

“Why is this so damn important to you? Just back off, okay? I’ve told you enough!”

From the location of the cuts, he can make a fair guess as to their purpose. The incision high on his right thigh would have been for a bone marrow sample. The one on his chest—cardiac muscle, or maybe lung tissue. The abdominal incision would have allowed access to any number of organs. And maybe Jim's right -- he's said enough. “I’m sorry, Jim. I can’t imagine what it was like for you to go through that—“

“Want me to help you imagine it, Bones?” An ugly, fake smile appears suddenly on his lips, and Leonard knows, with absolute certainty, that he's pushed too hard. “Make sure you’ve got all the gory details?"

"No, Jim, that’s not what I..."

"Yes," he says, with a furious glare. "Because this is essential fucking information, isn't it? Want to feel like you were right there with me?”

“That’s not what I meant--”

“Shut up! I’ll tell you, because apparently you’re dying to know what it was like. So imagine this. You’re paralyzed, and you’re half-blind. You’re naked. You can’t hear anything but the ringing in your ears. And you hurt all over, like somebody’s been jabbing you with a hypo, up and down your body. Your eyes sting and your shoulder aches and your ass is sore.” The words are tumbling out in an anguished rush. “And then you feel something cutting into your leg, deep and sharp, and your nerves are on fire but you can’t even scream. And there’s a needle pushing through the bone, and it hurts, Bones.” Jim swallows, then adds in a hoarse whisper, “It’s really, really bad.”

“I know, Jim,” he says, because there’s no other comfort he can give. “Believe me, I know.”

There’s a silence, and Leonard watches Jim drag himself back under control. Better for him to be mad at me than angry at himself, he thinks wearily. He needs the release.

Jim describes the third session in a voice so low that Leonard has to strain to hear him. “They came for me again, and God, I knew what was coming… but I couldn’t really fight them, not with my shoulder and knee hurting so badly. They drugged me with that fucking paralytic again.”

“That’s enough, kid. You don’t have to tell me anymore.”

Jim acts like he hasn't even heard him. “They didn't even wait to shove the tube down my throat that time. And then, I could feel them cutting me…" He makes a weak gesture, indicating the spot on his abdomen where Leonard had found the largest incision. "Going deeper and deeper. Poking around at things. I couldn't see. I couldn't move. Couldn't even let myself die even if I wanted to. And I wanted to. Fuck, by then, I just wanted it to end. But it didn't. It went on for so long this time, like they were cutting right through me until I finally passed out.”

Leonard doesn’t want to hear any more of this painful narrative. He’s heard enough, and Jim seems to be on the edge of a breakdown. He’s got to put a stop to it.

“All right, Jim. Don’t… don’t say anymore, okay?” Jim just nods, his eyes hollow.

“I’m sorry I had to put you through this, but I needed to know,” Leonard adds after a minute. And you needed to talk about it.

Jim's head twitches in what Leonard guesses was meant to be a shrug. He looks exhausted. “You said you’d tell me whose DNA it is. I want to know.”

“Oh…” Leonard takes a deep breath and exhales shakily. “Mine.”

What?” Jim's lethargy is quickly replaced by a look of shock. He shakes his head. “Are you sure? That can’t be right, Bones. You weren’t part of the landing party. You never even came in contact with the Antosians.”

“Think about it what you just told me, Jim. Figure it out.”

Jim just looks confused, so Leonard waits. After a short pause Jim draws in his breath sharply, and a blush rises in his cheeks. “Oh.”

“Right. Sperm can live in the body up to five days following intercourse.”

“You woke me up that morning…”

“Exactly.”

“Let me get this straight. They found your come in my ass, sucked mine out of my balls, put them together and made a baby.”

Leonard grimaces. “That’s a really crude description, kid. I figure it involved chromosome mapping and stem cell manipulation to create a cell that would work as an egg... but yeah, I think that’s what happened.”

Jim starts to laugh, a sound twisted with disbelief and incredulity. “So you’re telling me that I’m pregnant with our baby? You and me, we’re the parents?”

It sounds so ludicrous that Leonard has to laugh too, even though it is deeply not funny. But they both seem to need a break in the tension.

“Oh, man,” Jim gasps. “You’re the mother.”

Leonard shakes his head. “You’re the one carrying the baby, kid. I think that makes you the mom. I’m just the goddamn DNA contributor, remember?”

That makes Jim laugh even harder. He doubles over, gasping for breath, but after a minute Leonard realizes that he’s not laughing, he’s shaking.

Leonard moves around the desk and kneels beside him, feeling helpless in a way that he’s never felt. Jim isn’t crying, but he’s keening silently, face buried in his hands.

Leonard’s a surgeon and a healer, and he’s always been able to take care of Jim, no matter how much trouble he gets into or how badly he’s been hurt. But these aliens seem to have done something so sinister, so hurtful, that he doesn’t know where to begin. There are too many questions and no easy answers.

So he does the only thing he can think of. He wraps his arms around his captain, feeling the shudders wracking his body. “We’ll figure it out, Jim,” he says. “I promise.”


(To be continued…)

Date: 2011-04-28 06:37 am (UTC)
foxyfurs: (Default)
From: [personal profile] foxyfurs
Ohhh. Oh wow. Yep, very excited about how this plays out! Poor Jim. Poor *Bones!*

Excellent work!

Date: 2011-05-09 09:59 pm (UTC)
saharra_shadow: (Default)
From: [personal profile] saharra_shadow
Oh my. I don't like needles to begin with. I now like them less. Can our medical science exist within a time-warp so we can have the developments of centuries later now?

Poor Jim and Bones. Good story though. I'm thoroughly enjoying reading and looking forward to what happens next. Thinking more about the Harry Potter possible mpreg?

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