A/N: Again, I cannot satisfactorily express my gratitude to all of the readers, be they reviewers or not. Your encouragement is so very gratifying, and I hope that this chapter is good enough repayment. It's a bit shorter than I intended, but the end of May is an incredibly busy time for me and I again figured that a little taste was better than nothing. I do have a few things to address before I launch into this, though.
About medical accuracy: I never claimed that this story would be medically accurate, and I do not hold a medical degree. My knowledge of medicine is limited to basic first aid and treating concussions. If I've committed any grave errors in my portrayal of this situation, please tell me, but as this is not a hospital drama, I don't think that minor slip-ups and omissions that most readers won't notice are anything to worry about.
About description: I strongly believe that description can never be too excessive; it is imposible to paint too vivid of a picture. I thrive on both writing and reading long expositions of imagery, be it sensual or emotional. I've aways had a very expansive vocabulary and I love to put it to good use. I feel that it doesn't tell the reader how to interpret the story, but instead better elucidates the experience. Long, intricate description is very much my style, and this story is something of a step down from the level found in my comfort zone. I appeciate the constructive criticism, but the amount of description is one thing I will not budge on; it's what makes me the writer I am. Now, without further ado...
Garden Variety: Chapter Three
James T. Kirk never did anything halfway, conscious or unconscious. McCoy recalled from previous injuries that he had always been what medical personnel sardonically referred to as a bleeder, but he certainly didn't expect his patient to nearly bleed out on the table. Much to his surprise, after paring through thin layers of muscle and tissue, he found that the infected organ was far nearer to rupturing than he had previously estimated. He thanked his lucky stars that they were fortunate enough to have performed the surgery just in time, but he couldn't help but be astonished at the captain's remarkable ability to maintain a relatively impressive level of composure throughout the ordeal, considering the unbearable pain he must have experienced. He knew full well that Jim was the excessively proud owner of great stamina, but lesser injuries had brought strong men to him howling. However, the aforementioned luck spiraled rapidly out of sight when he permitted the assisting nurse to close up and she nicked an artery in the process.
"Shit!" he growled, ignoring her profuse apologies to focus his energies on sewing miniscule, finite stitches into the spurting tissue. When he finished his painstaking work and began to stitch up the reddened incision, Nurse Chapel fairly trembled in anticipation of the reparations of her cataclysmic slip. While the majority of modern surgeons preferred staples and superglue to conventional stitches, his humble country credentials caused him to favor the former, and he had no desire to repeat the catastrophic events of a post-bar-fight patch up in which Jim went into anaphylactic shock due to his previously dormant allergy to surgical glue.
Pulling back, he surveyed his handiwork, frowning in dissatisfaction at the neat row of black stitches. His sutures were as always methodical and precise, but they certainly could have been better, had his gloved hands not been so liberally saturated in thick, slippery blood. The healing pad with which he wrapped the wound was already dotted with fresh scarlet from his fingertips. A cursory survey of his patient's gray, inert face found him astonished that the subject was indeed the Jim he knew and occasionally hated; he often became so engrossed in surgeries that he was likely to overlook that he was in fact cutting into a comrade.
"Put him in post-op and start a full transfusion," he directed Nurse Chapel, who nodded and quickly went about transporting the unusually lifeless captain. He couldn't help but partake in a soft, private chuckle at the delicate female hands placed upon his friend's chest and hips in the process of maneuvering him onto a bio-bed, choking back a boisterous guffaw when she leaned over him and her ample chest contacted unintentionally with his sleeping face. Oh, if only Jim were awake to enjoy it.
He divested himself of his bloody surgical gown before retreating to his tiny office, cramped with mounting, disorganized stacks of Federation medical paperwork and playing host to numerous cleverly hidden bottles of vintage alcohol. He collapsed gratefully into the cushioned swivel chair and propped his booted feet on the cluttered desk, scrubbing a hand across his exhausted face. Surgery was a cumbersome, tiring activity, but even more so when performed on a close friend and colleague.
"Computer, prepare to enter the following in the medical record of James Kirk," he addressed the empty room.
"Affirmative, doctor," the coolly feminine, automated voice of the ship's computer answered in a monosybillic tone that resonated from the barren walls of the cramped chamber. "Beginning recording."
"July 21st, 1420 hours. Patient was admitted to sickbay exhibiting symptoms of severe abdominal pain, moderate fever, nausea, and vomiting. Diagnosis was affirmed as appendicitis and an appendectomy was performed. Complications included an accidental nicked artery and excessive blood loss, which was later replenished by transfusion. Patient suffers from a moderate post-op fever and is being treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics and a mild sedative. Conclude entry."
"Entry concluded, doctor," the placid, serene voice responded.
He reached in the direction of the touch-screen panel above his desk and keyed in a confidential code, scanning the methodical array of vital signs labeled by each individual patient that bled onto the screen. His analysis of the captain's information proved that he remained blissfully asleep, but as grateful as McCoy was for the temporarily reprieving calm of sickbay (he wasn't sure he could handle a whiny Jim Kirk at the moment), he frowned and physically navigated deeper into the computer system for a more in-depth examination of Jim's vitals.
The captain's heart rate was low due to his state of sedated slumber, but much to McCoy's displeasure, his pulse raced at a rate fifteen beats well above what was considered the acceptable standard for such circumstances. Propping his chin upon the heel of his hand in distress, he closed his eyes with a long-suffering sigh and considered the infinite medical maladies that could contribute to an unhealthily elevated heart rate: high blood pressure, preexisting infection, difficulty breathing, allergic reaction (considering the source, it wasn't too far-fetched), stress…
Guilt nestled uncomfortably within him like a parasite when the answer illuminated itself- even unconscious and drugged to the gills, Jim never did anything the easy way, and therefore it made utterly plausible sense to assume that his subconscious was pressured by stress to the precipice of underlying panic. He had fallen asleep (or rather careened headlong into oblivion) tricked and goaded into what he perceived as a life-or-death procedure in perhaps the place he abhorred the most, accompanied only by his academy roommate and a pretty girl. Jim was so frequently characterized by stubborn, larger-than-life bravado that McCoy found it troublesomely easy to overlook the passionate, turbulent emotions and formidable convictions that truly composed his character. The glimpses of the thoughtful, good-humored man beneath the bold, shamelessly wicked exterior were so privileged in their dispensation that he often underestimated his friend's few crippling fears.
Curiosity struck him, and he felt compelled to sift through what would certainly be Jim's dissertation-length medical history in search of why he suffered from such a deep, dark doubt of modern medicinal abilities, but before he could pull up the file, a strong, solid knock resonated upon the closed door.
Locking the computer back down, he rose and opened the door.
He was greeted by the placid, emotionless face of the starship's first officer, his features impassive and calm as though they were etched into cold marble. "Doctor McCoy," Spock said softly to accommodate the few sleeping patients across the expansive chamber, his voice smooth and dark, concentrated eyes frighteningly level with the doctor's own.
"Commander," he answered in return, itching to avert his eyes. He had badgered Jim innumerable times as to his decision to offer Spock the ranking of first officer, and each query was met with the typical affirmation of the captain's complete trust in the almost chillingly calm, rational Vulcan. He had no doubt whatsoever in the extra-terrestrial's ability to successfully govern the ship in Jim's absence, but the pointy-eared hobgoblin's excessively peaceful demeanor and undeniable, detached logic unsettled him.
"How did the meeting with the ambassador go?" he questioned politely, not so much for his own knowledge as it was something to mentally squirrel away and later notify (and by notify he meant perhaps even use to pacify) Jim.
"The diplomatic summit went as pleasantly as possible and the ambassador has returned to his planet. I will neglect to bore you with the political details," Spock responded coolly, eyes trained faithfully and undeniably eerily upon McCoy's. "How is the captain?"
"Stable," McCoy supplied, leading Spock across the medical bay in the direction of Jim's bed. "He bled too much during the surgery and his fever and heart rate are higher than ideal, but he should be fine, barring complications."
Spock's eyebrows creased into a dramatic, mildly humorous "V" as McCoy pulled back the heavy privacy curtain surrounding Jim's bed. Jim would be outraged should lesser-ranking members of the crew glimpse him incapacitated, and thankfully Nurse Chapel had the blessed foresight to eliminate such a potentially embarrassing outcome. He made a mental note to commend her for her considerate discretion.
He hadn't made his rounds since the surgery, and he was secretly thankful that Spock had interrupted him from his reverie, for he had a dangerous tendency to become excessively engrossed in work. The Jim Kirk lying limply beneath the papery sheets seemed utterly smaller than his vigorous, robust counterpart, skin ashy from blood loss and eyes rimmed by dark, unhealthy circles. His pronounced brow was pulled into a slight frown despite the calming influence of the sedatives, and the hand encumbered by an intravenous port was unconsciously fisted within the military-issue sheets.
"I must admit that my knowledge of medicine is unfortunately limited to Vulcan anatomy, but may I ask why his heart rate is so elevated?" Spock questioned, frowning at the captain analytically.
"I think he's subconsciously stressed," McCoy said, observing his patient with equal diligence. Oh, how Jim would hate this uncomfortable scrutiny, were he awake. "He fell asleep unhappy and in pain, and he's probably still in pain despite the drugs. He doesn't like being anywhere near Sickbay, either."
"Perhaps there is something either of us can do to ease his conscience?" Spock suggested.
"I'm not sure how awake he is- probably laying there playing possum," McCoy began in jest, quickly sobering at the humorless, quizzical look upon his companion's impassive face. "Anyway, I don't have time to do it myself right now, but it's entirely possible that, if you just sit here with him, he'll recognize you and his pulse could come down."
Spock appeared skeptical, but he moved to drag a hard-backed chair from the corner of the small cubicle and proceeded to lower himself into it. "I shall never understand the expanses of human mysticism," he mused aloud. "It is preposterous to believe that one could be sentient of another's presence while sedated and unconscious."
"I've seen stranger things," McCoy affirmed, keying a code into the small panel mounted into the foot of the bed and typing dosages into the digital record. "You might try touching him to let him know you're here, as pissed as he'll be when he wakes up."
Spock gazed tentatively upon the inert captain before hesitantly laying long fingers well suited for piano-playing upon the lax arm limp atop the bedsheets. "Is this suitable?" he questioned, applying a gentle, comforting pressure to Jim's arm.
"Sure," McCoy responded without looking up. He wasn't concerned as to any potential harm befalling Jim because of a bruising grip from Spock, and even if the situation were so, the captain was so antagonistic that he could most likely pick a fight (and win, at that) in his sleep. "I have some charting to do, but keep an eye on him for me. He should wake up in an hour or two."
"I will be vigilant," Spock promised soberly as McCoy sauntered across the room in search of another patient.
And so, there was nothing to do but wait.
When he woke, it was less an awakening than it was laboriously clawing himself from the shadowy, abysmal depths of oblivion. He was surfacing through a thick atmosphere of fog, consciousness riddled with a murky miasma of cobwebs as he struggled to knife through treacle-thick confusion. He wanted nothing more than to sink back into the untroubled lapse of conscious thought, but a wheedling, distant part of him slowly chipped at his dormant rationalism, which was so often disregarded, to rouse him from the chasm-esque void.
His mental footing precariously established, he seized the moment to take inventory and assess the surrounding environment as any self-respecting captain would in an unfamiliar situation. He lay supine on an uncomfortable bed with a pillow too firm for his taste, the chilly air processed and scented faintly of antiseptic and disinfectant. A soft hand was wrapped firmly around his forearm, and he relaxed marginally when it became clear that the hand was intended to provide reassuring pressure rather than to restrain. He felt hot and sick, smoldering heat rolling across him in nauseating waves that served only to draw attention to the throbbing ache in his belly.
"Jim, I know you're in there. Rise and shine, sleeping beauty."
He didn't believe that he could contend with McCoy at the moment. It took considerable mental dexterity to keep up with the doctor's biting wit, and he wanted nothing more than to melt back into the welcoming embrace of oblivion if only to escape the nagging. His head swam with hazy confusion and a muddled recollection of events blurred around the edges, a dull ache beginning to throb behind his eyes.
His eyes were suddenly forced open and met with a blinding lit of painful intensity, causing him to turn his head away with a hoarse growl of displeasure as his eyes watered and stung. In any other circumstance, he would have sworn colorfully and come up swinging, but his tongue was torpid and his limbs sluggishly lax.
"That did it," McCoy beamed with an excessive amount of pride, twirling a thin penlight between his fingers where he perched on the side of the bed.
He closed his eyes briefly, willing his head to stop spinning. Whatever drugs McCoy had coursing through his bloodstream were downright psychedelic, but he remembered what had happened with surprisingly vivid clarity. "Did you get it?" he questioned roughly, sinking bonelessly into the tough pillow.
"Sure did," McCoy affirmed far too cheerfully, raising his thin sleep shirt to peel away the healing pad and examine his incision. The touch of the doctor's cool, calloused fingers was unwelcome and greeted by a hiss, but he sighed in relief when the cooling salve that saturated the fibers of the gauze was replaced upon the tender skin. "It was an ugly bastard, too. You are now the proud owner of an appendix in a jar. Want to see it?"
"No thanks," he said, becoming suddenly aware of the long-forgotten hand upon his arm when its owner shifted position. He rolled his head on the pillow and was astonished to find Spock at his side, impeccably groomed as per usual and meeting his curious, stoned gaze eerily level dark eyes. The Vulcan's hand remained immobile upon his arm, blessedly cool and comforting upon fevered skin. He decided that he felt poorly enough to suffer the minimal indignity… for now.
"How are you feeling?" McCoy questioned, tapping the bedside monitor and analyzing the readout as the vivid screen flared to life. He captured the captain's wrist and focused on his antique watch, counting the beats methodically. Jim couldn't help but chuckle at the display; his friend was so damnably old-fashioned.
"Like hell," he rasped petulantly, tearing his arm away and casually laying it across his abdomen in a show of pitiable melodrama. He consciously forced his eyes to keep from drooping; he was so tired. "Are you sure you didn't mess anything up in there?"
"Well, I didn't," McCoy insisted, toying with the dosages specified upon the monitor.
His heart skipped a beat. "So you just let someone root around in my insides and they messed something up? Oh, god, I'll probably never have sex again because you let them take out-"
"Don't get your panties in a twist," McCoy insisted crossly. "Nothing major happened, you just lost a little more blood than I'd like. You'll be fine if you quit worrying."
"Yes, mom," he responded peevishly, eyes fluttering closed against his will. The rolling, consistent heat of his fever and the enticing undertow of the drugs conspired to pull him under.
"I know you're getting better if you're back to griping as usual," McCoy said wryly. "Spock here is lucky that he only had to baby-sit you until you woke up, because you're a whiny bitch when you're sick."
A drowsy smile curved up his lips. "And you're always such a ray of sunshine."
"Get some sleep. I want you to eat something when you wake up," McCoy insisted.
He didn't think his stomach could handle food at the moment, let alone when he next graced the medical staff with his charming presence, but he didn't need to be told twice. He quickly dropped into the pleasant, heavy oblivion that had been tugging at him since he awoke, lulled to sleep by Spock's even, inquisitive voice directed at the doctor and the consistent pulse of the heart monitor.
A/N: So, how was it? I have one more chapter in mind until this is over: it involves a healthy dose of Kirk/Chapel, but I think Spock's contribution to this story is over. I have another Star Trek fic planned after this that is highly similar to my Supernatural fic, Darkly Dreaming Bedlam, in its heavy themes of intense description. The summary is this: Jim Kirk has always been utterly, wholly, absolutely terrified of dying. I need to finish this first, and I hope to have the final chapter up by the week's end (perhaps sooner), but you're not getting rid of me that soon ;). I'd love to hear what you think of this chapter- thanks for reading!