Denial Ain't Just a River

A/N: This is my first ST!Reboot fic, and my first fic in a longlong time, so I figured I'd start with a nice, easy Sick!Jim. What finally delurked me was discovering that TOS Kirk had, at one point in his youth, a disease called "vegan choriomeningitis." Honestly, the opportunity was just too good to pass up.

This is just Kirk/McCoy friendship, but I *could* be persuaded to make it into something more . . .

Disclaimer: I own nothing, except maybe my dreams, and even those are of licensed characters.

All mistakes are mine, and kind and constructive reviews are appreciated. Rated, to be safe, for language and very briefly implied child abuse.


It wasn't that Jim Kirk hated doctors; he wouldn't have made it through the Academy without Bones and his trusty medkit, and he knew that. And it wasn't even that he hated hypos, for all the fuss he made about them. He wasn't that juvenile.

What it boiled down to was, Jim Kirk hated weakness. To him, the only thing worse than feeling weakness was showing it, and now that he was a starship captain, that had never been truer. He didn't like to think about why this was so, why he felt so compelled to hide his vulnerability under the thick cover of cocky certainty. Doing so would take him to places he promised himself he would never again go, like his dark bedroom in Iowa, or the warehouse on Tarsus IV. It didn't take a genius to realize that 'ignoring' wasn't the same as 'coping,' but hell, everyone gets by the best they can, and he was no exception.

So when Jim Kirk woke up feeling like he'd just been fed through the waste compactor, his first thought was, "Avoid a tricorder at all costs." This was followed closely by, "Take a shower, drink coffee, get to the Bridge, and don't let Bones come anywhere near you." Jim was good at compartmentalizing, disturbingly good, especially when it involved physical pain; years of bar brawls fought before he had a doctor waiting in the wings had taught him to deal with, and even relish, a little soreness. If he could set his own dislocated shoulder while bleeding freely from at least three places on his face—now that had been a night to remember—he could work through whatever bug was in his system without the aid of Bones and his hypos.

He didn't have a choice, really, or so Jim told himself as he cleaned up and dressed, avoiding the mirror. Now wasn't the moment for him to prove that he was all too human, as if there ever was one, especially with his seemingly invulnerable First Officer breathing down his neck. Their most recent away mission had been a veritable disaster—no casualties, but it was damn near close, thanks to a gaping misjudgment on his part—and the last thing he wanted or needed was his crew's already shaky confidence in him to be damaged further by watching him fold under the weight of what was likely a common cold. As captain, he had to be superhuman; though none of them would admit to it, it's what everyone expected.

Groaning, Jim told himself he would sneak down to Sickbay during delta shift, when Bones would be safely asleep in his quarters and he could charm a painkiller from one of the younger nurses without a full body inspection. Though, depending on the nurse, he might want one of those . . .

But fuck, did laughing make his head hurt.

He kept the lights in his room at 20%, just enough for him to avoid taking a header over his desk, but dark enough to allow him to open his eyes without knives boring into his brain. The cups of extra strong replicator coffee he was downing were already clearing his head, but Jim knew the bright, noisy Bridge would still be an unpleasant experience. Steeling himself, he massaged his stiff neck through the material of his gold command shirt, straightened his posture, and opened the door.

Three days later, and Jim was still steeling himself every time he left his quarters.

To his unending displeasure, the cold hadn't let up, even after the remedies supplied by one particularly helpful redheaded nurse; unlike Bones and Chapel, she hadn't been completely immune to the old Kirk charm. But for now, he was a shivery mass of aches and pains, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to hide his condition under the watchful eyes of his crew. Jim knew he looked as bad as he felt, the bags under his eyes getting darker as the rest of his skin grew paler, but so far Spock had merely given him 'the eyebrow' and not directly confronted him. And God knew Spock would be the first to call him out on any aberrant behavior. Loudly. For everyone to hear. For sure, he and the Vulcan had reached a tentative truce in the first months of their mission, and he even dared to think of them as friends now, but their conversations still lacked an element of subtlety because, of course, dancing around a point wasn't logical.

So at least Jim knew his discomfort wasn't affecting his leadership yet, but considering the fact that he hadn't been able to look up from his PADD for the last 30 minutes for fear that the lights and the movement would make him dry heave, that probably wouldn't last for much longer. But hey, at least he wouldn't actually vomit all over himself, considering he'd given precedence to sleeping over eating for the past few days. It's the little things, really.

Jim sighed as he checked his watch; they had to have fallen into some sort of warp or black hole or "singularity" that had made time slow to a stop, because this was shaping up to be the longest shift on record. Made even longer by the knowledge that he had a showdown with Bones waiting on the other side. He knew his friend suspected something wasn't right after Jim had begged off their weekly whiskey chat the evening before without a good excuse handy, and the older man had strong-armed him into meeting him for dinner tonight. A dinner that will inevitably go to shit five minutes in, when Jim orders hot broth instead of a steak dinner because it's all he can imagine tolerating, and Bones whips out a tricorder from God knows where and goes at him. The night will end with him hypo'd up to his eyeballs in Sickbay, with gossip flying around about how the mighty Captain Kirk was completely incapacitated by the sniffles, and possibly with Spock twirling in The Chair, mad with glee . . . though that may just be the fever talking.

No way he lets any of that happen—especially the twirling—no matter how alluring the thought of pain-free unconsciousness is.

He'd have to head Bones off at the pass, so to speak. Get him in his office, alone. Admit to something that wouldn't raise the doctor's hackles, since he knew the man wouldn't accept complete denial. Agree to take some medicine, with the promise of resting in his quarters (which he truthfully planned on doing, because his body hadn't left him much of a choice). And then stay out of the man's sight until this stupid thing passed.

What's a little diplomatic strategy between friends?

The Bridge was quiet, so he gave the conn to Spock with the excuse of needing to get some paperwork done, trying not to read any glee into the prompt response. The room spun when he stood and his skull gave a particularly violent throb, but Jim didn't look up to see if anyone had noticed, nor did he particularly care at this moment; he just needed to get out while his legs still held him.

The quiet of the turbolift was soothing after the constant bustle of the bridge, and, resting his clammy forehead against the cool metal wall, he was tempted to stop it mid-ride to give himself some time to regroup. But the faster he got this over with, the sooner he would be in bed, in the dark, hopefully with a sedative running through his system. Jim braced himself, mentally and physically, as the lift stopped, and stepped out toward Sickbay.