Jim rubs his temples, black spots flooding his vision like spilt old Terran ink.
“Can you repeat that, Spock?’ He asks his first officer from his spot, where he’s been rooted beside Bones’ bedside for four weeks.
“Of course.” The Vulcan’s voice is as empathetic as it may ever be. “I was just eluding to one of the Vulcan Science Academy’s projects, taken from 21st Century Terra military experiments. I believe it might help in Leonard’s case.”
Jim looks from his first officer’s face to Bones. He’s never seen such a blank expression on his husband’s face, even in sleep, even while treating Jim in the medbay, he’s never looked so vacant. Out of every terrifying thing Jim’s seen and done, it’s this that will haunt him, he knows. It’s unnatural. Which is why he’ll do anything to make it stop.
“Your answer should probably be given only when you hear the risks inherent in the procedure, Jim.” Spock adds.
“If our situations were reversed, what do you think Bones would say right now, Spock?”
He sees Spock swallow, the bob of his adam’s apple, the narrowing of his eyes, before he nods, firmly and stands. “I will talk to Sarek about getting a PASIV.”
“I don’t like this.”
“You don’t like anything.”
“Dream sharing, kid? It’s not worth it.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I’ll never forgive you if something happens to you.”
“I have to try, Bones.”
He’s suspended in near sleep, head pressed against Bones’ pillow, his scent barely lingering and the pillow cool and soft to the touch. He took medication M’Benga pressed into his palm, a few yellow pills to help him shut off. He’s taken them before, in the hospital after Khan. But he had Bones then, to rub circles in the space between his shoulder blades, to kiss forehead when he bolted up in bed, sure his body was burning from the inside, trapped on the wrong side of the Warp Core’s glass containment. He can hear Bones as if they were tangled together, the way they might be in the early morning hours before a high level mission, each worried in their own ways.
Bones would disapprove of what Jim’s about to do, no doubt. Bones would yell, growl, grab Jim’s face between his gentle palms and beg him not to do it.
But Jim can’t leave Bones behind in his own mind.
Because Bones never left Jim behind. Not even in Jim’s own dreams.
They decide on a neutral planet, rampant with illegal activity, popular for the way it always manages to past Starfleet inspections.
The Vulcans manufacture the PASIV and research the data done with dreamsharing experimentation.
They do not, however, produce the drug somnacin.
Somnacin has been illegal for almost 300 years.
You can get it most places, sold on the Black market, dealt like old Terran drugs used to be, sold to addicted dream addicts who can’t fall asleep without the compounds surging through their system.
“It’s highly addictive.” Spock says as he handles a small vial.
Jim smiles sadly. “That’ll be the least of our worries.”
From what the VSA scientists reported and what Ellis, a stooped older lady who runs a dream den, they might need to go a few levels down for this. Whatever that being did to Bones, it locked him up tight. And this PASIV, this compound, might be the key to getting him back.
“A few levels down should do.” Ellis draws out a line from the PASIV and hooks it around her wrinkled hands.
“A few levels, as you say, will trap them in limbo.” Prisu, the Vulcan scientist says.
Ellis’ lips quirk “Haven’t you heard of the men who climbed out of limbo? They’ll be fine.”
“They are inexperienced. This will kill them.”
Ellis swings her head to Jim. “You gonna let this kill you, Kirk?”
Jim doesn’t say that he’s read enough on this to know that if they go far enough down, he’ll kick Spock out and lose himself down the levels until he finds Bones. He doesn’t care if he gets caught in Limbo. He just doesn’t want to leave Bones alone. He can’t.
“No, ma’am.” He says, realizing he’s hesitated for too long.
Spock tilts his head, question lingering between them when there’s a knock on the door.
Uhura files in, Scotty peering behind her, Chekov bouncing behind them and Sulu holding up the rear.
“What the hell are you guys doing here?” Jim asks, pushing past Prisu and Ellis, past Spock who doesn’t look surprised.
“Dream sharing.” Scotty breathes as he takes in the PASIV on the table between the two cots, the vials stacked beside it, the lines wrapped up in Ellis’ hands. “Can’t let you having all the fun?”
Uhura points a finger at Spock’s chest. “Spock Prime ratted you two out. Were you really going to do this without us?”
Risk. Will you risk your crew, Jim? For me? He hears Bones say. Bones who still lay prone in the bed nearest to the cot Jim was about to get on.
“I’d watch before you say something heroic and selfless there, Jimmy boy.” Scotty grins. “We can’t let you do this alone. Len’s our friend too.”
Ellis sighs. “We’re going to need a bigger PASIV.”
There’s no logic in dreams.
It’s bizarre that the VSA would study it so intensely. But after the dream sharing trails of 2015, it makes sense that the Federation backed away from it, afraid of what dream sharing could do to an already broken world. Dream sharing, was the hobby of rich businessman, a revenge tatic for shrewd people who wanted to steal secrets from one another, a mind crime of the most intimate order.
The Vuicans were the only ones to claim it, but only for practical use.
But Jim can see why it’s so alluring, an enticing gamble for adrenaline junkies, criminals, anyone bored with commonplace thievery. This is the epitome of adventure. Unexplored territory.
“Final frontier, my ass.” Jim mutters as he twirls in the field.
He knows he’s dreaming and yet he doesn’t. He just feels…more invincible.
“Great, that’s all we need.” A voice behind him says around a–affectionate?–sigh.
Jim whips around, wind striking his face like a slap, to see Chris Pike.
Pike rolls his eyes. “Formality, Jim, really?”
“How’re you here?”
“No one ever taught you about projections, I gather.”
Jim shakes his head.
“We’re in McCoy’s head. You’re dreaming his dream. Somehow,” Pike opens his arms to the expanse of fields around them. “He’s dreamed me in.”
“Do you know where he is?”
Pike smiles sadly. “That would be too easy.”
“Could you at least point me in the right direction?”Jim says
“I’m afraid not, kiddo.”
“Then what the hell can you do?” Jim is suddenly angry. Very fucking angry. This is a dream. He’s in a fucking dream trying to find his husband who may be dying and he’s talking to his projection of his dead mentor. Fuck fuck fuck.
“James T. Kirk, I swear if you went another level down without us!”
Pike grins. “You’re crew is looking for you.”
Jim walks past the field, toward a clearing. The packed dirt turns into the gravel of a farmhouse drive way.
His team are at the edge of the driveway, looking up at the sky. It’s blue, cloudless.
“You looking for me?” Jim rubs a hand down his face.
“We thought you got lost.” Sulu claps his shoulder.
“Lookie what I can do!” Scotty says and flicks his wrist, a flask appears.
Uhura bats it away. “We have more important things to do.”
Scotty stares down at the flask and blinks. “Aye.”
Spock turns to JIm and looks at him like a parent might look at another when dealing with their small brood of children. Long suffering.
JIm wants to say thank you. Or you can leave now. Or please don’t leave me until I find Bones.
Instead, he turns on his heel with one glance toward where Pike was and then toward the house.
“Hey! Keptin, where are you going?” Chekov is the first to catch up with him.
“I have a feeling.”
“I wish we were going on more than a feeling.” Uhura says.
Jim falls back into step with her and links arms. “Do you trust me?”
She laughs. “God help me.”
He nods. “I can find Bones. And that house? It was his childhood home. It’s the best place to start.”
And so they take the steps up the porch, Jim trying to ignore the way his stomach twists as they open the door, knowing that they’re grossly unprepared but also that there’s nothing else they can do.
Bones might never forgive him for risking himself. But Jim would never forgive himself for letting Bones go.