It was cold.
The cell was constructed from some kind of metal composite that leeched heat from bone and numbed the skin. He curled in on himself, reverting to the fetal position in an attempt to keep warm. The pain in his gut burned and the numerous cuts, scrapes and burns prevented him from finding comfort. He had become impervious to the smell hanging in the air. He hadn't washed since his capture and the bucket of urine in the corner was nearly full.
The bars of the door rattled as further down the hallway of cells, another door opened. Fear clenched his belly. No more. He couldn't take more pain. But he would.
The primitive lock was released by the creature that made its way down the hallway. He was pulled from the cell amidst jolts of agony, screaming with the pain in his joints. The alien ignored his cries and dragged him down the sterile grey hallway to the room where he'd been taken every other day, for the endless days he had been trapped in this hell.
His wrists and ankles, already abraded, were shackled, spreading him across the table which was much like the cell, cold and unyielding. The pain in his stomach diminished, only to be replaced with the familiar burn at his shoulders and hips as muscles and tendons stretched beyond their boundaries.
There were no questions, no interrogations. Only pain and more pain. And loneliness. He was alone, solitary in his suffering, as long as he ignored the constant presence of the figure standing beside the table.
"Chek'ov." The guttural sounds were not filtered through the universal translator. They had taken his clothes, and his communicator, cutting off any ties to his life. They didn't speak in federation, but occasionally would say his name, before hitting or cutting him. Or before they....There were worse fates than a simple beating.
The familiar taloned claw came close to his shoulder, stroking lightly along the collar bone. Skin parted beneath the razor sharp nail.
He closed his eyes and wished himself away. It wasn't hard.
The days flew by faster when he imagined himself back on the cold steppes, numbed by the stiff breeze that undulated the long grasses. The days passed, clouds flying overhead at a rapid place, the landscape transforming before his eyes. Then, he would be returned to his cell and the bitter heat of pain.
The voice wasn't raspy, choking on the awkward syllables. The claws didn't pull at him.
He felt a warmth, not the burn of cold metal, or the flash of fire-hot pain, but a bone-deep warmth infusing his limbs. A hiss at his neck, slight pressure and the world spiralled into an abyss, where cold and heat were lost.
He was pulled from the darkness by voices, buzzing like insects about his head. His limbs were warm again, his torso pain free. But he couldn't move, restrained by the muzziness in his head and the utter exhaustion that pinned him to the mattress beneath him, as a butterfly on display.
"--doctor, not a diplomat, damn it. I told you this was a bad idea but--"
"--concur with the doctor. The ensign should not have been assigned--"
"--any effect from the imprisonment? What were the worst injuries from the --"
He thought he made a sound. Maybe a whimper. And he managed to open his eyes, revealing the blurred lines of the sickbay. With some effort he managed to focus on the figure leaning over the bed, running a whirring device by his face. A medical tricorder.
"Well, Mr. Chekov. You're awake. Don't try to sit up. I've just managed to set and fix all your ribs, and I'd prefer it if you didn't destroy my handiwork all at once, you hear?" The warmth in Doctor McCoy's voice offset the gruff words, and it was with a gentle hand that he tucked in the blanket which cocooned Chekov's limbs.
Chekov tried to speak, but no words emerged, only a hoarse croak. With deft competence, McCoy had a glass of water at his lips, tilting it as he supported his head. The water was glorious, sweeping away the ragged dust in his throat, cleansing and soothing as it passed over irritated flesh.
"Thank you, sir," he murmured, fatigued by the simple act of swallowing and having to rely on McCoy's hand to bring his head down to the pillow again.
"You just lie there and do nothing. Your body needs to heal and that won't happen with you gallivanting around. So don't move." With one last shake of his finger, he bustled off, only to be replaced by another figure: the Captain.
"You really had us worried." Hazel eyes roved over his face. A finger moved to trail gently over his cheek and forehead. "I wasn't sure if we would find you in time."
Chekov closed his eyes at the intimate touch, wanting it, yet fearing it, caught in the double bind of desire and disquiet. Captain Kirk cupped his cheek.
"I'm glad you're back with us. Get well, and when the doctor releases you, come to my quarters. You can sleep there." The kiss against his forehead was so insubstantial, he almost thought it wasn't there; only the mere hint of warm breath and soft skin marked its passing.
The sounds of sickbay surrounded him. The monitors beeped and flickered, their lights dancing up and down gently. The absence of pain startled him. He hadn't realized how bad it had been until the ache no longer throbbed within him. But the cracks in his mind and heart were still there, and he once again found solace in the steppes; the cold wind, the sea of grass and the brilliant clouds that swept the sky.