When Jim notices the shadows moving through the trees around them, he becomes more alert to everything. It’s the first sign of life that they’ve come across, and it seems too organized to be a coincidence. At that moment, he knows without a doubt that they’ve been brought to this place deliberately, which confirms the suspicions he’s been having since acknowledging Weller abandoned them. There are a lot of shadows, but it’s too difficult to figure out what’s lurking in the trees or how many there are. He steps in front of Bones instinctively and reaches for his phaser. He might not know how many there are, but he can see them coming closer. “Stay behind me,” he warns firmly, listening to the harsh sound of Bones’ breathing behind him. They’ve been walking for hours since the storm ended without taking any breaks because they want out of this valley, and he knows that neither of them is in any shape for a physical confrontation. He’ll still fight, of course, because whoever this is will have to get through him to get to Bones.
“That ain’t gonna help anything, Jim. I can hear them behind me,” Bones drawls, voice quivering just enough for Jim to know he’s worried. “Can you tell what they are yet?”
“No.” Jim tightens his grip on his phaser as he scans the small clearing they’re currently trapped in. Trees are all around them, the sky overhead is still gray after the recent storm, and the forest is too dense to for him to see any route for escape if they try to run for it. He growls under his breath when he can’t find any way to get out of this. “Can you see anything?”
“Too many damn trees.” Bones shifts closer, his fingers reaching out to grip Jim’s elbow. “Don’t do anything stupid, you hear me? If they wanted us dead, we’d already be lying on the ground.”
“There are worse things than death, Bones,” Jim whispers, grinding his teeth together when he thinks about the various ways Bones might be tortured. If they make it back to the Enterprise alive, he’s never going to let Bones come planetside again. Spock could easily give him the correct percentage, but Jim knows it’s got to be close to like 70% of landing parties ending up in dangerous situations any time he finally manages to convince Bones to beam down with them.
Before Bones can answer, a familiar voice speaks from the shadows. “Put down the phaser, Captain.”
Jim tenses immediately. “Lieutenant Weller,” he says sharply. It’s not only a trap, it’s betrayal by one of his own damn officers.
“Too scared to face him fairly, are you, Weller?” Bones challenges, the worried tone replaced by a brusque anger. Jim feels his fingers tighten their grip on his elbow.
“What would the Federation know about fair, Doctor?” Weller steps out into the clearing, his weapon aimed at Bones instead of Jim. “If you so much as move, Captain, he’ll pray for death because it would be a release from the pain he’ll experience. My associates enjoy playing with humans, and I think McCoy would make an excellent toy.”
“If you think you can threaten me to get him to do what you want, you’re crazy.” Bones is pressed against Jim’s back, so he can feel the tremor that follows the warning. “The Federation doesn’t negotiate with terrorists.”
Weller smirks at Bones, and Jim feels sick to his stomach as he thinks about that man touching Bones, hurting him, making him beg to die. The dislike between them has been there from day one, and now it’s become something twisted and dangerous instead of somewhat amusing like he’s considered it before. “Don’t look at him,” he snaps, moving so that he’s more directly between Weller and Bones. “Enough of the posturing. Tell me what you want.”
“I told you not to move, Captain.” Weller looks at him with cold eyes that are scarily emotionless. “Drop your weapon and surrender. My associates have plans for the hero of the Federation; you’re going to help them get everything they want. We’ll find out whether the Federation will negotiate with terrorists when their golden boy is at risk. And you’ll do everything you’re told unless you want to watch McCoy broken into so many pieces he’ll never be put back together again.”
“Jim, don’t listen to him. I can take care of myself,” Bones says quietly. “You can’t do it.”
Jim hates the smug look on Weller’s face when he glances between the two of them, and he really wants to go punch it off. Not only has he been betrayed by an officer, but he’s put his best friend into danger. Best friend. Right. Somehow, Jim isn’t so sure that he’d feel this angry and scared if it were Spock being threatened, friendship or not. And Weller knows, somehow, which is even more frustrating. He’s a Starfleet Captain, though, and that training has to take priority over his personal feelings. Bones is right. He can’t do it. Not by choice.
“We aren’t going to surrender,” he says simply. Before Weller can react, Jim shoves Bones backwards hard enough to knock him to the ground and out of the way of danger while he changes the setting on his phaser and raises it, aiming it at Weller. He feels a sense of satisfaction when he watches Weller disintegrate that he knows will probably disgust him later if he manages to get out of this alive, but, right now, he’s just relieved that the man can’t follow through on his threats. The air is suddenly filled with the sound of piercing shrieks and shapes rushing towards them. Jim turns to look at Bones, making eye contact briefly before there’s a pain in the back of his head and everything goes dark.