A/N: Written for Whumptober Day 7 - Isolation, which is really tomorrow, but I wanted to get this up now so enjoy!
Nothingness had become Jim's world.
There was a door. It had no lock to pick. The space between its edge and the wall was barely wide enough to fit a fingernail into. It had a slot, though. That opened. Once a day – Jim guessed it was once a day – it opened, letting in a beam of light and a tray of food and a single hand. He had ignored it at first, but by the tenth time the slot opened, it was all he could not to grab that hand and hold it tight, desperate for a single touch, a single spoken word, something. Anything.
He paced. Did pushups. Sit-ups. Jumping jacks. Hell, he'd even meditated, before focusing on his breathing, the only sound he could hear, brought just as much insanity as letting his mind wander. He itched for a book to read, for a PADD to draw on, for some goddamn paperwork to fill out. He just wanted to do something.
He'd stopped imagining sunlit fields after the seventh time the slot opened. Couldn't even imagine the brightly lit corridors of the Enterprise. It was more torture than relief.
He only stopped moving when he couldn't breathe and his legs gave out beneath him. Then he just laid where he fell, vaguely hoping he didn't knock his head against the toilet on the way down, but honestly he wouldn't really be able to tell the difference. He just faded in and out of consciousness, lungs and muscles burning, and let his dreams kill the time. Or maybe they were hallucinations. Or both.
He could never tell.
Jim closed his eyes – or maybe he opened them – and let out a sigh of relief. "Mom."
It was pointless looking for her, but he still tried, and he thought maybe he saw the vague outline of her crouching beside him. "How are you, Jim?"
His voice was a croak, mangled by alternating periods of silence and screaming at the top of his lungs just to hear something. "Peachy."
She chuckled, the sound echoing in the stone room. "Jokes? Now? Really?"
"Bones calls it my favorite defense mechanism. Like he's one to talk."
Her fingers brushed over his hair, the faintest ghost of a touch, and he leaned into it with a shiver of longing. "You're scaring me, sweetheart."
"I know," he whispered. "It was my birthday, wasn't it? The fourth time the slot opened."
It had opened twenty times. Sixteen days since he was supposed to call her. Prove he was alive. Prove he hadn't died the same way Dad had.
Her voice was a fading breath. It always ended like this. With the people he loved slipping from his grasp.
"Come home, Jim. Please."
He knew he closed his eyes this time because he pushed out a tear. It splashed to the floor, its impact loud as a gunshot. "I want to, Mom. I really… really want to."
I just. Can't.
Light poured across his face. He flinched, pain searing his eyes even through closed eyelids, but he scrambled towards it, reaching, praying, hoping.
His hands found a tray. Brushed tantalizingly against a hand. Clung to the barest hint of skin-on-skin contact.
The hand left. The light vanished. The flap shut with a resounding bang.
Jim slumped back, too exhausted to cry, wringing his hands together as if that could prolong the heartbeat of touch.
Slot opening number twenty-one.
Still no sign of rescue.
Ignoring the food, he fell back to the ground and tried to return to visions of his mother.