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"sealed by a fragile touch"

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Jun. 8th, 2009 | 08:00 pm
mood: bouncy

Title: sealed by a fragile touch [1/2]
Fandom: Star Trek XI.
Characters: everyone, with focus on Kirk and McCoy.
Word Count: 6317
Rating: 12
Summary: “He’s not leaving Bones behind on some godforsaken desert planet with nothing but the dead for company.” Time moves on, wherever you are, but the question is, how fast? Kirk/Bones.
Warnings: some language
Notes: written for this prompt on st_xi_kink (I love you, anon! :D). *facepalm* Wonderful. Another fandom. And the second part should be up soon.

sealed by a fragile touch

Jim can hardly see through the sandstorm, even though he’s got a hand shielding his eyes and some damn ineffective desert protection fabric swathed around his neck. Standing at the shuttlecraft door, ushering Nurse Chapel inside with her semi-conscious patient, he feels sand grains churn against his spine with every movement he makes – how the stuff got inside his uniform he’s got no idea, but it’s just pissing him off at the moment, because this is a fucked up enough mission as it is.

He pulls his communicator open and holds it so close to his mouth he’s practically kissing it. “Bones!” he yells, and he can barely hear himself over the scream of the winds. “Bones, where the hell are you?”

We’re nearly there, Jim!” comes the faint answer, and the doctor sounds flustered and out of breath. “But N’h’ana’s broken both her legs, and I lost Ensign Michaels in the sand. Damnit, Jim, I can’t see a thing!

Jim glances back into the shuttle: they’re all there—the researchers, the medical team, and a sandy-looking Spock—except one particular doctor and his scientist charge. Spock’s watching Jim with an eyebrow-tilt that is practically screaming at him, We need to go now! He curses inside his head. “Any chance you could hurry it up?” he yells.

Not really, Jim, no!

Jim fights the urge to kick the shuttle behind him, because that’s really not going to help anything.

“Captain!” He turns, and Spock’s suddenly crouched behind him in the shuttle’s entryway. “Captain, the EM field is rapidly expanding. Within minutes it will render the shuttle’s engines useless and we will be trapped on the surface. We must leave now.”

“No, Spock, we’re not—”

“Captain,” Spock interrupts firmly, and Jim thinks he might see the faintest trace of regret flicker through the Vulcan’s eyes. “It is regrettable, but if the doctor—”

“Get back inside, Spock,” Jim orders, and he snaps the words out, because he’s not leaving Bones behind on some godforsaken desert planet with nothing but the dead for company. “Prep the engines. Be ready to leave as soon as they get here.”

“Captain—”

But Jim’s turned away, because he’s not listening. “Bones!” he yells into the communicator, sand whipping at his cheeks. “Bones, please tell me you’re nearly here.”

Jim, I don’t know where ‘here’ is! The tricorder’s stopped—

And then there’s nothing but silence through the bite and snap of the sandy winds, and, fuck, Jim knows what that means. “Bones!” he yells, but there’s no response – and, all of a sudden, he feels sick.

“Captain,” Spock calls through the howl of the wind, “if the field has reached Doctor McCoy then we must leave.”

“No,” Jim says, and it’s more of a mutter than a call, and he takes a lurching step out into the sandstorm, before he feels the dig of fingers into his shoulder and—

§§§

Jim comes to in Sickbay with an ache in his head and in shoulder, but he’s tucked away in a corner propped up on a chair, because the beds are all taken. It’s not quite carnage in here, but it’s close enough – the medical staff have got their hands full with the injured research team, and Jim can see a splashes of orange blood on Starfleet medical uniforms.

Shit, he thinks, and wonders why he’s in Sickbay instead of the bridge – he’s a captain, not a doctor. He rubs at his shoulder absently, because he swears he’s got a bruise that he doesn’t—

Bones.

He surges to his feet, and collars the nearest distracted-looking medic. “Where’s Doctor McCoy?” he snaps.

And the medic might be harassed with three hyposprays in her hands, but there’s still that sickening flash of sympathy in her violet eyes. “He didn’t make it back, Captain,” she answers, and pushes past him.

Jim feels like he’s just been punched.

He forces himself to move – out of the Sickbay, down the corridors, and he’s nearly running by the time he reaches the turbolift. He slips inside and sends it hurtling off to the bridge, and forces himself to calm. Panicking isn’t going to help anyone, and he knows that, even if he feels like he might be falling apart inside.

—a grumble from beside him as the alarm goes off, and Jim feels the sheets being dragged from around his waist as Bones bunches them over his head to block out the noise: he laughs, and switches the alarm off, and drags Bones out of bed by his ankles, the doctor protesting all the while—

Bones hadn’t wanted to go, he knows that, but they’d needed more than one medic after the accident.

The turbolift comes to a halt, and he’s on the bridge. He’d expected it to be frantic and noisy, mirroring the mess that’s inside his head, but it’s just a little above quiet, with tension and fear threaded through the air. It focuses him. He’s glad for that, he supposes, to a certain extent, because it forces him to forget Bones with bedhair and a laughing smirk.

“Report,” he raps out. There’s a moment of silence, in which Jim can just feel his crew’s surprise. He takes his seat, and turns a sharp gaze to Spock. “Report, Mr Spock,” Jim repeats, and there’s something in his voice that just dares him to make a comment.

Spock’s features are as impassive as ever. “The experimental generator has expanded the time dilation field to encompass the entire planet,” he answers succinctly, “but it is holding in the lower atmosphere. We are at a safe range, and are scanning the planet for survivors. Sensors sweeps are able to penetrate the field, but with diminished results. There appears to be no remaining activated technology left on the planet’s surface.”

Jim can feel his fingers trembling against the command chair’s armrests. “The research team?” he asks.

“All accounted for,” Spock answers. “Twenty-one were rescued and are lodged aboard Enterprise. Nine are reported dead, seven of whom were not recovered from the surface.” The Vulcan pauses, and Jim knows what’s coming next. “In addition,” Spock continues, and his voice is softer, “sensors have failed to detect the presence of Ensign Anthony Michaels on the planet’s surface, and he did not return with the away team. It can be safely assumed that he is dead.”

Jim feels his spine straighten. “And Doctor McCoy?”

Spock doesn’t answer, but the view of the planet on the viewscreen changes, and Jim is left looking at a single, faint, barely-discernable human lifesign on the southern hemisphere of the planet. The blue pulse flickers intermittently, and the readings are hazy and vague and fluctuate every five seconds, but it’s there.

Jim tries not to let the staggering relief show on his face, breaking through the numbness that’s engulfed him since he left Sickbay, because ten people have lost their lives already, and he shouldn’t be so ecstatic that one man has made it through.

“Doctor McCoy appears to have survived,” Spock answers neutrally, “but we have no way of extracting him without resulting in more fatalities. The transporters are incapacitated due to the electromagnetic interference of the time dilation field, and a shuttle would lose engines once it reaches the lower atmosphere.” Spock pauses, and there is silence on the bridge, because the brass back on Earth might not know, but Jim’s relationship with Bones is essentially an open secret among his crew. “Captain,” Spock says, “it is unlikely we will be able to recover Doctor McCoy.”

And the mind-shattering numbness is back in Jim’s gut.

§§§

The sandstorm cleared a week ago, after raging for three days, and a week ago Bones buried N’h’ana and Tony Michaels. The graves are probably far too shallow to survive the next storm, but considering he was working with his hands and what was left of his medical kit, he did the best he could. He didn’t know the names of the seven other bodies he found in the remnants of the research station—and he would look it up on their medical records, but those were stashed on the padd that’s now only really useful for digging their graves, which he thinks probably qualifies as irony—but he buried them, too, in a pitiful row.

He’s a doctor, so he’s always been used to the dead – they don’t bother him. But now, here, on this lifeless world, it feels as if the very air is dead, and that scares Bones.

Sifting through the research station’s food supplies—they were stocked up to feed thirty for another month, so he figures he’s got plenty—Bones tells himself not to be so melodramatic. “Damnit man, you’re a doctor,” he tells himself under his breath. “Act like it.”

They had a well sunk into the bedrock underneath the research station, and after he cleaned the sand out of the mechanism, Bones cranks it open. The water’s cold and clean, and he figures he’ll be okay. He doesn’t know how long he’ll be down here—he might not be a temporal physicist, but he knows that his time is moving differently to Jim’s—or how long it’ll take for them to get him out, so he may as well get comfortable, even if the EM radiation that’s an unfortunate side effect of the uncontrollable time dilation experiment has completely destroyed all of his Starfleet equipment. He’s on his own, and the experiment whirs away to itself in the bowels of the research facility, protected by steel walls four inches thick.

He’d go and smash the damn thing to pieces if he could. But he can’t. He accepts that pretty quickly, after awkwardly binding his own smashed knuckles.

The planet’s ancestral name was Scoropa, he read in one of the pen-and-paper journals left behind by the research team. The natives—who were wiped out thousands of years ago by a freak meteor—worshipped their twin suns as twin gods, one male, one female. They called them the Nameless Ones. All Bones knows about the Nameless Ones is that they make the sands very, very hot.

He spends his days indoors, trying to make sense of the temporal physics which is detailed in the journals he keeps on finding, and then at night he takes a blanket and goes and lies outside on the cooling sands, and looks up at the sky.

Bones holds his useless communicator in his hand, and watches the brightness of the stars and the occasional trail of a comet, and waits for Jim’s voice.

§§§

Scotty’s working on something to do with the transporters, Jim knows, with the help of a large mug of caffeine and Spock, and he’ll figure it out, because he’s Scotty and he always does, but that doesn’t stop the leaden weight that’s made itself known in Jim’s gut.

It’s a one to thirty ratio, he thinks numbly. One hour for us, thirty hours for Bones.

It’s been a little over twelve hours since they finished extracting the research team, and that’s a figure Jim can’t stop thinking about. The math seems to do itself in his head. Twelve hours for me; three hundred and sixty for Bones. Fifteen days. He’s been down there fifteen days.

They’re still in orbit of the planet, and Jim can see its barren smear out of the window of their quarters. It’s not helping his concentration, either, because he can do nothing. Oh, he can give the orders: tell Spock and Scotty to figure something out to get Bones back; tell Chekov to work out the differences between time here and time there; tell Uhura to send off a message to Starfleet about what’s happened, and request an alternative ship to come and pick up the research team while Enterprise stays to try and recover her CMO; tell Bones’ replacement in Sickbay to make the researchers comfortable— But he feels so very useless. He can’t let his crew know that, though, so he’s retreated to his and Bones’ quarters to hide from them.

The door chime sounds, and Jim sighs, because apparently they haven’t listened. “Come in,” he says, and straightens from his slouched, un-Captainly position in his favourite armchair.

Light spills in from the hallway, and Uhura steps inside. “Captain,” she says, and pads over to where he’s sitting. Her boots make oddly little noise against the carpet, and Jim indicates the seat opposite him. He wishes he could stop being ‘Captain’, and be ‘Jim’, or even just ‘Kirk’. “I received word from Starfleet,” Uhura says, breaking in on his thoughts. “They’re redirecting the Valiant to come and retrieve the research team. They’ll be here in thirty-five hours.”

Thirty-five times thirty. One thousand and fifty. Almost forty-four days. Almost a month and a half.

“Understood,” Jim says automatically.

Uhura doesn’t move, although, really, she’s said her piece. “Captain,” she says softly, “are you—”

“I’m fine,” he interrupts, and forces a smile that he thinks might look halfway genuine. “Spock and Scotty are on it. They’ll figure it out. He’ll be fine.” He nods to himself. “He’ll be fine,” he repeats, and it’s as if he says it enough it’ll be true.

There’s something like understanding in Uhura’s eyes, and she tentatively reaches out and touches his knee. “If you need to talk,” she offers.

He won’t fall apart. “Thank you, Uhura,” he says, tone wavering between friendly and icily civil.

She offers him a smile, and stands, and leaves him alone in their quarters.

Jim doesn’t go to bed that night, merely falls asleep in his chair and wakes the next morning with an ache in his back.

§§§

With nothing to record his log as CMO, Bones mimics the research team before him. He found spare notebooks in a cupboard one day, bound with some tough plant that grows around the rocky outcrop about a kilometre from the research station, and a box of pens alongside it. He’s kept journals before—as a kid, and during his first year at Starfleet before Jim managed to accidentally shove said journal (kept on a security-locked padd, of course) into the laundry chute one day—and this is oddly like that, but written by hand.

The entries blur into each other: records of food and water and puzzling over the time dilation experiment that he hears when the nights are quiet, growling away underneath the ever-shifting sands.

On his forty-sixth day, after a sandstorm that lasted three days, the entry simply reads: Buried N’h’ana and Michaels again.

Bones knows the area around him pretty well by now, even if the sand does tend to throw it into different relief once in a while. There’s the outcrop of withered trees that look, to his human eyes, as if they should be dead, but they thrive and grow and when the wind is in the right direction it wafts the faintest scent of cinnamon back along to the research station. There’s the dry riverbed that carves a valley through the sand. There’s the ground that slopes to a pinnacle topped with stone, and then drops away in a sandy cliff-face. Bones goes and sits at the top of that cliff-face, once in a while, when the clinical austerity of the research station is too much for him.

The suns once called the Nameless Ones beat down on him, scorching his skin and bleaching his hair, and he sits and reads the journals. Sweat stains his clothes—clothes which belong to those who are dead, because the sandstorm that trapped him here did a number on his uniform, and anyway, it’s too hot in those dark colours—and he frowns over the spidery handwriting in the diary.

His vision blurs, and he wipes a hand across his eyes.

“Damnit,” he croaks, his voice hoarse from misuse, “I’m a doctor, not a temporal physicist.”

He glances up to the sky, and wonders if Enterprise is still up there. By his reckoning, he’s been down here nearly sixty days, and when he’d spoken to the scientists while evacuating them from the research station they said the time dilation effect would be negligible – an hour becoming an hour and a half, little beyond that. The research team didn’t bring enough fuel for their generator to make it last much longer than that.

Which draws him to a conclusion he doesn’t want to make.

“Jim?” he asks, his voice still that same hoarse croak, and the wind seems to laugh as it plays with his hair and the pages of the journal in his lap. The suns beat down on him, and he squints against their blinding light. He gets no response.

He fumbles in the satchel that’s over his shoulder—something else that belonged to someone who’s now dead and gone, and he thinks it might in fact be N’h’ana’s, which just brings to mind the half-mummified, half-putrefied bodies he stumbled across when he ventured out after the last sandstorm—and pulls out his own journal, and the edges of the stiff cover are curling and split. He carries this with him everywhere, along with pens, three flasks of water and a handful of ration bars.

Bones folds the journal open to the next blank page, and writes: #61.

The wind flicks his blond-streaked hair into his eyes, and his fingers clench around the pen as the nib stutters across the archaic paper.

Damnit, Jim. Have you left me?

He leaves it at that.

§§§

Jim waves the last of the research team off aboard the Valiant at the transporter, and he forces himself to paste on a smile for them. “Good luck,” the head researcher says with sympathy in his three eyes, and Scotty sends the last six of them over to Captain Bates.

The transporter doesn’t look quite as pristine as it did when Jim took command of the ship. Over the past forty-eight hours Scotty and Spock have essentially eviscerated it: there are wires and circuitry exposed all around the pads, the control panel has been ripped open, and spare parts and extra generators are scattered across the floor and the corridor outside. They’d had to clear a path for those of the research team still injured to be helped through.

Jim crosses to Spock, who’s still crouched beside the control panel, scanner in his hands. “Any progress?” he asks, aiming for neutrality but probably missing.

Spock doesn’t answer, up to his elbows in circuitry and doing something probably important. It’s Scotty who speaks. “Some, Captain,” he answers distractedly. “The problem’s nae so much in gettin’ the lock – that just takes a wee bit longer than usual. It’s more keepin’ it. Time’s progressing so fast on the planet’s surface that McCoy’s movements throw the computer right off. We’ll have tae get him when he’s sleepin’.”

“How long until you’ll be able to bring him back?” Jim asks, and he hates the way his voice is so very emotionless.

Scotty exchanges a glance with Spock, and the Vulcan rises to his feet. “Captain,” he begins, “the power requirements are exceedingly large. Mr Scott and I are in the process of providing additional links between the transporter platform and Enterprise’s power grid, but this is likely to be insufficient. We have attempted to utilise as many portable power sources as Enterprise carries, but according to our calculations we are still lacking.”

“We’ve commed Starfleet,” Scotty takes over, “and the Columbia’s been sent to bring us what we need. She’ll be here... soon.”

Jim isn’t fooled by Scotty’s vague wording. “When’s ‘soon’?” he demands.

The engineer and the Vulcan exchange another significant glance. Jim is starting to get tired of those.

“Three days, Captain,” Spock says. “They are already on their way.”

“Three days is too long,” Jim snaps. “You’ve gutted the damn thing: can’t you try now?”

Scotty’s shaking his head. “Not a good idea, Captain. If we succeed, we’re fine and dandy. If we don’t, which is far more likely, considerin’ the strain it’d put on the ship’s systems, McCoy’d be atoms in the planet’s atmosphere and Enterprise’d lose power, possibly permanently. We’d eventually be drawn into the planet’s gravitational pull. Which would be bad.”

“Yes, thank you, Scotty, I know that,” Jim answers snidely, and he knows he’s just taking his frustrations out on his Chief Engineer.

Scotty holds up his hands and says nothing more.

Jim forces himself to breathe. Three days is better than Bones dead, he tells himself. It’s just three days. You can cope with three days. He deliberately doesn’t think what three days means to Bones. “Fine,” he answers shortly. “Keep me updated.”

Spock nods in his Vulcan way and returns to the armful of circuitry he left behind. Scotty’s bright eyes are oddly full of sympathy, but he merely leans over the console and starts reeling off readings to his Vulcan workmate.

Jim leaves, and pads through the corridors, and goes to their quarters. He’s barely slept these past two days – their bed is pristine, the sheets crisp and smooth, and when Jim’s kicked off the bridge by a worried Uhura or an irate Spock (irate in so much as his voice is ever-so-slightly tenser than usual), and goes and sits in the same chair and dozes fitfully for half an hour or so before going to the gym and running until he nearly collapses.

It’s not healthy, he knows, and Bones is probably getting far more sleep than he is, but he doesn’t care.

Jim goes to that same chair and lets himself sink into it. He stares out of the window for a moment, just long enough for the yellow-brown barren smudge of the planet below to come into view, and then he reaches out and snags the computer unit that’s sitting on the coffee table. He flicks it on, and with a few flashes of his fingers accesses Enterprise’s sensors.

The flickering blue orb of lifesigns that is Leonard McCoy pulses on his screen, moving to and fro far too fast. There are times when the indicator doesn’t move for a few minutes, and there are times when it fairly zips across the screen. Sleeping, Jim thinks to the former, and, Running, to the latter. Bones always did like to run.

Jim sits there with the computer screen propped on his knees, half-curled up in the chair, and watches Bones’ movements for a good hour and a half before he slips into sleep, and even then he’s still got his fingertips resting against the screen.

§§§

Sulu has the night shift, and he sits in the command chair, absently staring at the viewscreen. They’re on the far side of the planet from McCoy’s location at the moment, he knows, and he just watches the dance of space and world. It would be beautiful, if not for the fact that their CMO and friend is trapped down there.

“Lieutenant.”

Sulu stirs. “Chekov?” he asks, because there’s something subdued in his friend’s voice.

Chekov glances back up at him. “Ze ship’s sensors have been accessed remotely from ze Captain’s quarters,” he says softly. “Ze readings for Doctor McCoy’s location are being viewed.”

Sulu nods, and feels his gut twist, because the Captain might be fairly good at hiding what he’s feeling, but his crew’s not stupid. “Let him look,” he says softly. “He deserves that much.”

Chekov nods, and turns back to his console. “Hikaru,” the young Ensign says after a moment, and gazes out of the viewscreen, “do you think we will retrieve ze doctor from ze planet before—” He cuts himself off there, but Sulu knows what he means, because everyone knows the effect of the time dilation experiment by now: one hour on Enterprise, thirty hours on the planet’s surface. It’s been over two months for McCoy already, and there is no one else down there. Such total isolation isn’t healthy for the human psyche, and he doesn’t need to be a doctor to know that.

Sulu thinks of the Captain’s quietness, and gazes out at the arid world beneath them. “I hope so,” he answers, and the nightshift is so very quiet until the chime comes at oh eight hundred for them to be relieved.

§§§

The months pass slowly, and every minute seems like an age.

Bones wanders further and further away from the research station, spending days at a time wandering the sands with a rucksack full of water and ration packs. He sleeps on the sand at night, re-reads the scientists’ journals, and writes in his own. His entries become long and rambling, especially when they’re penned in the middle of the day under the full glare of the blazing suns. Sometimes he talks to Jim in a voice that’s cracked and dusty. Otherwise, he’s silent. He never finds anything much, though, just oceans and oceans of sand, with his footprints the only indication that anyone’s ever been there.

He navigates by the Nameless Ones, now, and he doesn’t even think of them as twin suns.

His skin is deep brown, now, and his hair has bleached to a light blond. Sometimes he catches a glance of himself in a mirror or polished worksurface in the research station when he shelters there from the sandstorms, and he doesn’t look like Leonard McCoy anymore. Hell, he can scarcely remember what Leonard McCoy looks like.

#146, he writes one night, sitting alone at the long dining table in the research station. Visited N’h’ana and Michaels today. They didn’t say anything, which isn’t surprising. Sat under the trees and read T’Pel’s journal. Still don’t quite understand all the ramifications of the Qu’i’ndell Principle, but I think I’m getting there. I’d’ve liked to meet T’Pel, I think. She writes like she loves her subject, which is something unusual for a Vulcan. Except there was only one Vulcan in this research team, I remember Jim saying, and I buried one when I first got here. Third degree burns all over the face. Third grave from the right. Visited her, too.

He pauses, pen hovering above the journal pages. He’s on his third one now, and he still carries the previous two around in his satchel. It was once N’h’ana’s, he’s discovered – it has her name in her native tongue embroidered on the inside flap, and there were books—proper old-fashioned books with binding and ink—on that language on one of the researchers’ shelves. He’s read some of those, too, but he never was much of a linguist.

Language, he thinks, and bends back over the journal.

I wonder how Spock and Uhura are doing, he continues, and his letters are uniform and neat. Worst-kept secret on Enterprise, those two. Apart from me and Jim, of course, because Jim never could keep his big mouth shut. Not that that’s a bad thing, sometimes. Wonder what he’d say to this. Wonder if he thinks about me. Doubt it. Pretty enough to snag anyone this side of the Sol system – one grumpy doctor doesn’t make much difference.

Bones pauses, and unstoppers a canteen of water. His fingers tremble as he takes a drink.

It must be a couple of months for them, now, he writes. T’Pel wrote that that was the maximum difference that could be created within the dilation field: an hour up there, two down here. Nearly five months now. Two and a half for them? It’s something to do with Cu’haq’s Constants. Not enough fuel, anyway – not until the damn machine managed to tap itself into the thermal energy of the planet’s core. This is why we don’t let advanced scientific experiments be monitored/run by AIs.

The thrum of the time dilation device hums in the background. It always does when he stays at the research station. It’s why he prefers to sleep outdoors.

The pen hovers above the paper. Miss you, Jim, you cocky bastard. Love you, even if I never did say it.

It’s what he writes every night.

§§§

Bones dreams, sometimes.

It’s Earth, sometimes, and lush grass and Starfleet Academy under two feet of snow. His ex-wife makes an appearance, from time to time: their wedding day, once, and he woke from that dream dry-eyed and bitter, even though there was no one to be bitter to. His journal entry that day was particularly vitriolic, he thinks, and the Nameless Ones seemed to be hotter than usual. Sometimes he dreams of sex, and it’s always faceless and nameless and just a tangle of sweaty limbs with his own. But it’s not Jim. Jim himself would probably be offended if he knew Bones wasn’t dreaming about sex with him, but Bones thinks it’s better that way. He wakes from the sex feeling empty and used and so very alone; when he dreams about Jim—laughing with Jim, drinking with Jim, lying in Jim’s arms when neither of them have morning shifts and doing nothing but being with each other—he wakes full of love and heartbreak. He prefers the love and heartbreak.

There are times when he closes his eyes to sleep, and when he opens them he’s standing woozily on Enterprise’s transporter platform, satchel of journals at his side, and Jim’s there and he kisses Bones in front of the entire command crew – Scotty wolf-whistles, of course, and Spock merely raises an eyebrow; Uhura looks worryingly like a proud mother, Sulu smirks, and Chekov’s cheeks flush bright red. But then Jim breaks the kiss and steps away from Bones, that familiar Jim-smile still scrawled across his lips, and they just slip away into darkness – and Bones wakes with nothing but the memories.

Those dreams are common. He hates the nights he has them.

He curls up in the sand like some wild animal, and tries to forget the world.

§§§

Jim leans against the wall of the turbolift, trying to ignore the way his knees desperately want to give way beneath him. He’s given up sleeping, now, because it’s been nearly seven days—seven days for me; a hundred and sixty-eight hours for me; five thousand and forty hours for Bones; two hundred and ten days for Bones; seven fucking months for Bones—and the sleep brings nothing but restlessness and bad dreams. He’s just gone from hanging around the transporter room for ten hours to pulling an eight hour shift on the bridge, and now he’s going back to the transporter room, because he can’t just stop.

Their bed is still unruffled, and it’s been seven days.

The turbolift doors hiss open quietly, and Jim steps out. There’s a few crewmen in the corridor, and he nods to them absently, barely noticing the way their eyes follow him, full of worry and concern for their Captain. Jim doesn’t quite know how he manages it to the transporter room without collapsing, but he does, and then does collapse into one of the chairs.

Scotty glances up at him from where he’s wrapped around the generator Columbia delivered thirty-six hours ago, and the engineer frowns. “Not meanin’ tae be rude, Captain,” he begins, “but y’look like hell. Have y’slept?”

Jim smiles at that. “No less than you have, Scotty,” he answers pointedly, because there are dark circles under the engineer’s eyes and Jim knows he’s barely left this room for the past few days. The transporter has been virtually completely rewired, and there are generators scattered all over the place – not to mention what looks suspiciously like a half-eaten plate of haggis.

Scotty echoes the Captain’s smile. “Y’have me there, sir,” he answers, and bends back down to the generator.

Jim watches Scotty work for a while, and then clears his throat. “How much longer?” he asks.

Scotty takes a circuit board out from between his teeth. “Six hours for the raw circuitry,” he answers. “And then I’ll need Mr Spock for another two for programming.”

“Eight hours,” Jim echoes. Eight hours is two hundred and forty hours is ten days. Ten days.

“Aye, Captain,” Scotty says, and dives back into the generator. He resurfaces a moment later, wiring looped around his neck. “And, if I may, I’d suggest y’go to your quarters and get some sleep, sir. You’re wiped out. I’ll comm you as soon as we’re ready.”

Jim doesn’t want to nod, but his head seems to do it for him.

He barely makes it to their quarters in time. He collapses onto the couch and sleeps, and it’s not a fitful sleep this time – it’s a dead-to-the-world, dreamless sleep that wraps him up in exhaustion and refuses to let him go.

§§§

After two hundred and four days, Bones stops eating.

It’s not a conscious thing, not really. After a night spent sleeping fitfully beside the walls of the research station, with the faintest of breezes dusting sand across his limbs and into his hair, he wakes with a strange sort of resolve. He finds his rucksack and all the canteens he can: as much water as he can, he carries, but he packs no food. He slings N’h’ana’s satchel over his head, fills it with his two full journals and one that’s just had a few pages scribbled on, throws in a handful of pens, adds T’Pel’s journal, picks a direction, and just walks.

He drinks whenever he feels thirsty, and discards canteens as he goes, because he’s never in all his wanderings found another spring on this godforsaken rock – the one at the research station was drilled into the earth with mining equipment, and there isn’t really any of that lying around.

After eight days, he’s running out of water, his feet are blistered and he’s ferociously sunburnt.

The Nameless Ones rage overhead, like he’s defying them by not seeking shelter.

On the two hundred and thirteenth day, when it’s a little past midday and the blasting heat is beginning to cool, just a little, Bones’ legs give way. He topples to the sand, and doesn’t get up again. The one remaining canteen of water slides out of the loose rucksack that’s hanging from his thin shoulders and rests against his cheek. He pants into the sand, but his mouth is dry.

Bones isn’t getting any further than this.

His head is curiously empty.

He thinks he should write this down, because that’s all he’s done for the past seven months – think something, write it down, go to sleep. He’s about to go to sleep.

Some part of him—some part that’s not exhausted by the heat and the dehydration and the crippling loneliness—is muttering to itself about emaciation and salt levels and homeostasis, but he can’t bring himself to care. He doesn’t want to die, but at the same time he really does.

The last thing he wrote in his journal simply read: Why?

Bones lets his head fall down into the searing sand, and his fingers scratch weak dents into the grains. He wonders if he should’ve given up this quickly – but then he thinks, Seven fucking months, and he doesn’t think about it quite so much.

Damnit, Jim. The words drift hazily through his mind, but he’s not even sure he can remember who ‘Jim’ is.

He closes his eyes, and lets the darkness take him.

§§§

“Scotty,” Jim says, and he scrubs a hand through his damp hair. Spock woke him half an hour ago to tell him the transporter would be ready in ‘approximately twenty-eight minutes’, and immediately thereafter informed him that he was ‘malodorous’. Jim should probably be more serious right now, but he’s showered and rested with in a clean uniform, Spock has the bridge, and he’s getting Bones back, no matter what. He has reasons to be happy. He claps a hand on his Chief Engineer’s shoulder. “How’re we doing?”

The engineer doesn’t even look at him. He just mutters something absently, shrugs Jim’s hand off, and his long fingers flicker across the console in front of him.

Jim’s not used to being ignored, and that’s not just the captaincy speaking. “Scotty?”

Scotty smacks four keys in sharp combination, and turns to look up at Jim. “Sir, there’s a problem,” he says perfunctorily, and Jim’s heart skips a beat. “McCoy hasn’t moved for the past half an hour.”

“I thought you said him moving was the bad thing, Scotty,” Jim says, “not him staying still.” And he says it with a joke in his voice, because this can’t be good.

“Half an hour up here is fifteen hours down there,” Scotty answers, “and he’s not at the research station. We’ve had to divert power to the transporter in order to get through the time dilation field, so sensors are kinda off, but from what Spock tells me, he’s just lyin’ in open ground. And there are two suns out there. His lifesigns are all over the place.”

Jim feels his stomach lurch. “But he’s still alive?”

“Just,” Scotty answers, and it’s right at that point that there’s clatter from the corridor and a medical team shoves their way into the confined space, complete with a whole array of medical equipment and a fucking stretcher.

Jim forces a ragged breath. “Beam him up, Scotty,” he orders, and his voice is tight and tense and controlled. “Right now.”

“Aye, Captain,” Scotty says, and there is a flicker of fingers across a console and a swirl of light on the transporter pad and—

The medical team are on their broken boss in seconds, and they work efficiently and swiftly. Jim barely gets a look at Bones—because it is Bones, despite the brown hair stained blond by the sun and the damn well near emaciated body—before they sweep him away to Sickbay in a whirl of dehydrated and critical and Doctor McCoy, can you hear me? A bleached leather satchel is thrust into his hands, and Jim can do nothing but stand there in silence, with a curl of failure and grief and nopleaseno twisting in his stomach.

to be continued

next: [Bones is pronounced severely malnourished and dehydrated, and a note is put in his medical record about possibility of skin cancer due to excessive prolonged exposure to UV radiation.]

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Comments {136}

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Denorios

from: denorios
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 07:18 pm (UTC)
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*squeaks*

But...but...Bones? Meep.

I'm sorry, you wanted a coherent response, but ummm, wow and meep is about the best I can come up with right now!

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 07:43 pm (UTC)
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Wow and meep is fair enough! *hugs* Thanks for commenting!

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- (Anonymous) - expand

Kate

from: acetamide
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 07:20 pm (UTC)
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asdaghsdgfjhsgjshshfjhagskdahga

HOW SOON IS SOON? PLEASE LET IT BE VERY, VERY, VERY SOON INDEED.

Bones Bones Bones oh it's going to break Jim's heart when he reads those journals. I'm not even sure what to say to you because this is absolutely fantastic and Kirk is just so Kirk and and and UHURA too being awesome. I'm sorry, I fail at decent feedback.

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 07:44 pm (UTC)
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Soon is... soon? Mostly written?

Kirk is just so Kirk and and and UHURA too
THANK YOU! I get paranoid that I fail at characterisation. :D

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Inell

from: inell
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 07:25 pm (UTC)
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Oh goodness. I think I forgot to breathe about halfway through this and I didn't take another breath until I finished. This is just amazing, and I'll wait patiently (or try to) for the next part.

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 07:46 pm (UTC)
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Amazing? :D Thank you! And breathe now, please? *hugs*

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curiousbelle

from: curiousbelle
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 07:27 pm (UTC)
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more. please?????

this is sooooo tragic. and sad. and beautiful.

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 07:47 pm (UTC)
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:( I'm sorry - but thank you! And there will be more... soon? :D

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Tour Guide Barbie

from: kinderjedi
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 07:30 pm (UTC)
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Poor Bones.

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 07:47 pm (UTC)
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I know. *hugs Bones*

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lifebehindadesk

from: lifebehindadesk
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 07:36 pm (UTC)
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Oh my gosh, I can't WAIT for the next one!!!!

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 07:49 pm (UTC)
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:D Thanks, I think!

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agent s of the dork brigade

from: comically_so
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 07:38 pm (UTC)
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Oh, this is AMAZING. Can't wait for part two!!

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 07:49 pm (UTC)
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*blushes* Thank you!

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from: kira_bouviea
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 07:41 pm (UTC)
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Okay, no! Bones! Kirk!

This was fucking fabulous!

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 07:50 pm (UTC)
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This was fucking fabulous!
Really? *vbg* Thank you!

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The Libran Iniquity

from: tli
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 07:42 pm (UTC)
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That was amazing. Really need part two now, though!

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 07:51 pm (UTC)
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*goes to write* And thank you!

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this is not a thalia

from: thalialunacy
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 07:46 pm (UTC)
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OH MY GOD. :clutches heart:

Brilliant. I loathe you and love you all at once.

<3

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 07:52 pm (UTC)
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*hugs* It'll be soon? Also, that icon is gorgeous. Thank you!

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tourdefierce

from: tourdefierce
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 07:57 pm (UTC)
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GUH.

THIS IS SO GOOD I CAN NOT HELP BUT CAPSLOCK YOU RIGHT NOW.

MORE. NOW.

Because your Bones is... amazing and your Kirk is even more so.

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 08:00 pm (UTC)
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*is awed by capslock*

Because your Bones is... amazing and your Kirk is even more so.
... I'm beginning to feel less paranoid about my characterisation. :D Thank you!

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k

from: acquiescence_
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 08:08 pm (UTC)
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Goodness this is just heartbreaking and intense, and I really need to read the rest of this now.

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 08:12 pm (UTC)
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heartbreaking and intense
What I was going for sadist that I am. :D And I'll try to post as soon as I can.

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saraocallaghan

from: saraocallaghan
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 08:08 pm (UTC)
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BONES!!!! NO!!!! You cant leave Jim! Even if you cant really remember who he is.

Awesome, awesome fic! Just....awesome! Apologies for the babbling, but I have much love for this.

Moar please?

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 08:13 pm (UTC)
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Babble away - you should see me commenting on fics. :D

Moar soon? :D *hugs*

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CS

from: ayaneva
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 08:11 pm (UTC)
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OMG I thought for sure you were going to end it with them beaming Bones up but Bones is dead and it's too late. And then I was all ready to cry and feel depressed for the rest of the evening. :(


Can't wait for the rest!

At least Bones isn't dead so far.

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 08:14 pm (UTC)
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... I'm not that mean! And I couldn't kill Bones! That's just harsh. I think. Probably. Thanks for commenting! *hugs*

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Celestial Navigator

from: wook77
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 08:22 pm (UTC)
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Oh god I literally need part 2. Like there is this overriding need for the next part.

You have me so sucked into this story. I have nothing to say other than oh my god.

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 08:25 pm (UTC)
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... I'm on it? And thank you! *blushes* *hugs*

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Doctor Leonard McCoy

from: first_donoharm
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 08:25 pm (UTC)
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I'm in a Starbucks, crying because of this.

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 08:26 pm (UTC)
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*hugs* *offers tissues* At least there's comfort food nearby? There always is in my Starbucks.

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jedibuttercup

from: jedibuttercup
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 08:55 pm (UTC)
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AUGH. More?

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 08:57 pm (UTC)
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I'll try? :D

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vala3

from: vala3
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 08:58 pm (UTC)
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OMG! Love this story. So full of anguish. Poor Bones, feeling so abandoned and alone. I can't wait for the next post...soon please please. (Picked up this story on a friends lj. Long time ST fan and expecially Bones. Would love to friend you if I knew how. New to lj.

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 09:03 pm (UTC)
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OMG! Love this story. So full of anguish.
:D Thank you, even if there is much angst.

And friending? Um, I'm bad at giving direction. It should be an option at the very top of the page, I think.

Also, does the guy in your icon play Carson Beckett on SG:A? I swear I know him...

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Dala

from: the_dala
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 09:03 pm (UTC)
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Oh my god this is excellent. Gah! SO GOOD!

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 09:04 pm (UTC)
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:D Thank you! *vbg*

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from: aimeeuth
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 09:14 pm (UTC)
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NO. :( more please.
This is fantastic, by the way. absolutely heart-wrenching.

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 09:16 pm (UTC)
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This is fantastic, by the way. absolutely heart-wrenching.
Thank you. :D

And more soon?

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the archaeologist's lackey

from: windrose
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 09:14 pm (UTC)
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This is beautiful and heartbreaking, and I dearly hope Part 2 is coming soon because poor Bones! And poor Jim! *squishes them both*

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 09:17 pm (UTC)
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*joins you in squishing them* *then goes to write* Thank you, and I'll try and post soon? :D

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mutant master of scintillating sarcasm

from: ignipes
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 09:14 pm (UTC)
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Oh my god oh my god oh my god OH MY GOD. This is so incredible and tense and awesome and I love every word of it and BONES NEEDS TO BE OKAY, DAMN IT.

*bites fingernails with worry*

Your descriptions of the planet and McCoy's deteriorating state of mind are amazing.

I am really, really looking forward to the next part.

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 09:19 pm (UTC)
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BONES NEEDS TO BE OKAY, DAMN IT.
Bones is too awesome to not be okay! Well. I hope. :D

Your descriptions of the planet and McCoy's deteriorating state of mind are amazing.
Those were my favourite bits to write - even if poor Bonesy is going a bit cracked down there on his own.

Thank you. :D

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csi_chic_jayme

from: csi_chic_jayme
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 09:24 pm (UTC)
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Wow...poor Bones. I can't wait for Jim to read the journals that he kept and of course to see Bones better. Looking forward to the next part.

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 09:27 pm (UTC)
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The journals are pretty damn angsty, aren't they? Poor Bones. :( Thank you!

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from: anonymous
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 11:28 pm (UTC)
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I need another fandom like I need a hole in my head. Loved the fic. Looking forward to part 2

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Jun. 9th, 2009 09:05 am (UTC)
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That is my feeling also. But it seems I've got one. *facepalm* Thank you!

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Falcon

from: falconoflight
date: Jun. 8th, 2009 11:36 pm (UTC)
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make it better please! it hurts my heart along with jim's

Falcon

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Jun. 9th, 2009 09:06 am (UTC)
link

*hugs* I'll try, I think! :D Thank you!

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