Title: Mark of the Beast (4/?)
Fandom: Star Trek AOS
Summary: The Enterprise falls into yet another ill-timed scheme. A terrible choice must be made—and honored.
Previous Parts: 1 | 2 | 3
Or read at AO3
It occurred to me, with what I have planned for this fic, ya’ll not only need this second update today, but you need time to absorb the implications of what’s happening. So enjoy. And ponder.
The Reality of One’s Making
Spock guides Leonard down the dais, helps him to the floor. They settle on their knees, one on either side of the prone body. Leonard’s troubled, pained eyes search Spock’s. Finally, he speaks. “What are we going to do?”
The Vulcan stays silent for a moment. When he replies, it is without much inflection in his voice. “I do not know.”
McCoy hunches his shoulders and digs his hand into the Captain’s shirt. “Jim,” he pleas. “Jim, come back. Please. Why can’t you come back? Why can’t you—”
Why can’t you—Jim—
His name, accompanied by a sharp sting, causes Jim Kirk’s eyes to snap open. When his vision goes from blurry to focused—there is a terrible pounding in his head—he sees Leonard McCoy leaning over him. “Bones?”
“For Christ’s sake, Jim, are you okay?”
He manages a disoriented huh? Jim barely makes out a tricorder from the corner of his eye as it sweeps down the side of his face, beeping softly.
Jim turns his back to the doctor. He’s not sure what to say. Apparently, Bones does not have that problem.
“How do you feel? Dizzy?”
“Headache,” he mumbles.
“Right. What else?” Leonard faces away from a minute to say, “Spock, they have water in here? Jim needs something.”
Spock, Kirk thinks. Spock and Bones. Here? What’s going on? What’s—
Shit. He’s dead.
“No, you aren’t. Trust me, I would know, I’m a doctor, Jim.”
“Bones, I—wait. Where are we?” Suddenly, it’s very important that he sit up. Leonard does not fuss at him, merely wraps an arm around his back to help Kirk move upright. His head hurts less once he’s vertical (at least, partially vertical). Jim asks, “Where’s Karla?”
Bones has that worried look in his eyes that he gets when he isn’t sure about how effective a treatment will be on a patient. The doctor does not answer immediately, which only spurs Jim to keep asking, “Where’s Yuise? Is she okay? Did you get her to the ship, Bones?”
Spock arrives with the glass of water, so McCoy does not complete what he wants to say. Kirk looks to the Vulcan for an explanation. He forgoes intimacy. “Mr. Spock,” the Captain says, “our current location.”
“The Enterprise, Captain. Deck 43—”
Jim barely hears the rest. He sees the sterile gleaming silver of starship metal, looks at the insignia over the door of the Briefing Room. No. His hands tremble. This makes no sense. How can I be here?
“Jim,” Bones has his attention again. “You hit your head.”
“Yes, you clumsy fool! Your big head which—Thank God—is as hard as a rock.”
“But I—Bones! We were on the planet and the Basilisk…”
“The Basilisk, Captain?” Spock interrupts. He pulls a PADD from off of a chair. Jim is on the floor, propped up by Doctor McCoy, and much too close to the long conference table for comfort. (How did he hit his head?) “We are enroute to Starbase 9 to acquire the Federation-appointed—”
“Karla Yuise, yes. She was on the planet with us!”
“Captain, we do not have orders pertaining to a… Karla Yuise. The Andorian secretary to the ambassador has offered—”
“NO!” Jim struggles to get up, but suddenly both his CMO and First Officer are not helping him; they are holding him down. He commands them to release him.
“Damn it, Jim! You’ve got a concussion. Just sit tight until Chapel and the gurney gets here!”
Kirk reaches for Bones’ shirt, fisting his hand into it. “Listen to me. It’s the Basilisk. He’s screwing with us, Bones. He’s making us see things… think things… that aren’t real!”
Leonard grabs his fist, pulls it off of his shirt and twines his fingers through Jim’s. “Easy, Jimmy. You’re hallucinating from the concussion.”
“I’m not.” He looks at Spock and repeats his denial. “It was too vivid. I don’t know why, but I died—I decided to die. And then I was you, Spock; I was you, going after the Basilisk.” He says to Bones, “And I was you too. I felt your pain, Bones. I felt—”
He stops. Looks at Bones’ hand holding his. “Where’s your ring?”
“Your Mama’s ring. You always—” He jerks, then, tries to pull his hand away from Leonard’s.
“You think we’re not real, Jim?” Leonard holds up their joined hands. “Not even this, me touching you?”
Jim swallows. “Maybe.”
McCoy looks to Spock. The Vulcan slowly reaches out to touch the side of Jim’s face. “Will you allow me?”
“Yes, Spock. Of course.” Please, he doesn’t say. Please be Spock.
Spock arranges his fingers at the meld-points along the Captain’s cheekbones. “My mind to your mind.”
My thoughts to your—
The ritual words are crushed in a rush of black; both Bones and Spock crumble away and reform into a familiar, terrible face.
Jim’s eyes are blown wide. He cannot seem to speak or cry out.
James Tiberius, the Basilisk whispers; he leans in solicitously, smiling with Bones’ soft look beneath sharp Vulcan eyebrows.
What is real?
Are you real? Are you… an illusion?
Jim doesn’t know, but he is very much afraid of the answer. He wakes up, then, slumped over in a chair with his head resting on Karla Yuise’s bedside. A shadow stirs to his right. Jim tries to suppress his body’s automatic jerk.
Bones says, “Sorry for waking ya, Jim-boy. Spock’s still standing guard outside. Wanna join him?”
When Kirk does not reply, Leonard adds quietly, “I need to change her bandages, Jim.” So the Captain nods his head okay, but as he stiffly moves towards the door, his mind is exhausted (upset) and uncertain.
He is praying, Oh God, please. Not again.