Summary: Leonard is on a week's vacation from the clinic while he works on his final exams. He gets a call from the clinic telling him that Jim Kirk is in the hospital, and he better come in.
Genre: Hurt/comfort, Friendshi[
Author's Note: I think school may have eaten my beta readers, but special thanks go out to Alotua and Larxenthefirefly for their help with this chapter. This is the longest chapter of this fic so far, and I am inclined to consider this one my favorite. I certainly look forward to hearing what everyone thinks.
Live long. Live well. Write. Read. Dream.
"I don't need to pay a therapist to give me crap. I have a roommate that does it for free."
Leonard McCoy rubbed his eyes wearily as he stood up from the desk chair. He'd been staring at the screen of his dorm room's computer for three hours and needed a break. Working in the hospital was one thing – Leonard had grown accustomed to that from years of being a surgeon. The thing he had trouble getting used to was being back in school and all of the homework and exams that went with it.
"Damn Finals," he muttered, as he stepped into his small kitchen and punched in a code on his synthesizer. A few seconds later, a window rolled up on the machine, displaying a steaming cup of coffee, which Leonard eagerly withdrew. He blew on the hot liquid as he made his way back into the other room, pulling out his chair. Just as he was about to sit down, the comm. link in his room buzzed. Leonard set his coffee cup on the desk, frowning. He had set the comm. to its Do Not Disturb setting, since he was studying for Finals, and very few people would have been able to get through to buzz him. He walked over to the small box on his wall next to the door and hit a button, muttering into the speaker, "McCoy."
"Dr. McCoy, this is Jackson."
Leonard groaned. If Redne had called in to say he couldn't work today and Leonard had to go in and do his job for him, it better be because the other doctor was the one on the table. If he found out that Redne had taken off to be with O'Shal, who was on vacation that week, Leonard was going to make sure that Redne needed emergency care.
Pressing the button again, he asked, "What shift needs covered, Jackson?"
"Um…" In the background, Leonard could hear a biobed siren going off. "No shif—"
"What's going on?" It hadn't been right of him to assume. In his head, sure; he was entitled to his own thoughts, just like everyone else, but Leonard shouldn't have just jumped to a conclusion with Jackson. The sound of the siren rang in his ears, even when his side of the comm. was activated and he couldn't hear it through the speaker.
"The med. transport just brought in James Kirk, sir," Jackson said, and he sounded a little worried. Of course, Jackson knew that Leonard was Jim's doctor. The last major fiasco with Nurse O'Shal, when she nearly tore off Jackson's arm for asking Doctor Redne a question, had caused the intern to bond with Leonard. Of course, he had told the kid to come to him if he needed to ask a question, since he really didn't want Jackson to get flayed alive by one of his coworkers just for doing his job, but it had led to Jackson becoming something of a personal assistant to Leonard. Although he was there as an intern to do work, when he went in on the days that Leonard also worked, he went to see him immediately and received all of his duties from the cantankerous doctor. One of the good things about it was that Leonard knew the potential that Jackson had, and he was glad he was able to point the kid in the right direction, rather than relying on the lazy dispositions of the other doctors to force the kid to do all of the work and likely make him into either a quitter or a very bitter man.
Leonard was unfortunately well-acquainted with someone of the latter sort. He tended to avoid the company of mirrors for such a reason.
But Jackson knew from working closely with Leonard that when Jim Kirk was brought in, Leonard was the one that saw to him. After the time that Doctor Redne had nearly killed the young man by giving him a sedative he was deathly allergic to, Leonard made sure that no other doctor saw to his needs. Jackson also knew that Leonard was rather fond of Jim, though he would expressly deny this if it was brought up to him. The kid was an annoyance who had a habit of getting himself into trouble, often the kind that involved robotic policeman and too much alcohol.
"What's the situation?"
If the kid was drunk again… though Jackson sounded worried, and while he was a caring young man with less confidence than Leonard thought healthy, he did not often sound so concerned.
"They've taken him into surgery, sir. He's… not well."
Not well. Ho ambiguous, which was concerning in and of itself.
"Who's working on him? Have they given him anything, yet?"
The hesitation caused Leonard's blood pressure to skyrocket. If Redne was in there—
"I gave him a sedative, sir. I read through his file some weeks ago, like you suggested I should. I made sure he wasn't allergic to it. No one is working on him, yet, sir, but I'm in his room. I think— please come quickly, sir."
"I'll be there as soon as I can, Jackson."
Leonard McCoy didn't even shut off the lights in his dorm room. He simply bolted out of his dorm room and down the street, headed for the hospital.
Jackson had been trying not to get Leonard worked up over the comm. When Leonard arrived, he immediately went into Jim's room, to find the kid battered and bloody on the biobed. He looked like someone ran him over with a speeder.
It actually wasn't all that far from the truth.
"He ran out in front of a car?"
"That's what the med. transport said," Jackson said, following Leonard back into the room where Jim was. "They talked to someone who had been there when it happened. Someone was driving down the street and James just ran out in front of them."
It always intrigued Leonard that Jackson referred to Jim as James. He noticed that the kid did that with a lot of patients, though. Those in a higher rank than he, like Leonard, were referred to by their title (Doctor, Missus, Mister, or Admiral and the like), and patients were referred to by their full first names, which wasn't as distant as calling them by their last name, but not informal and on a friendly basis like a nickname would be.
Leonard wondered what Jim would say if he heard Jackson calling him James.
"That doesn't sound like Jim." And it didn't – the Jim that Leonard knew would never run out in front of a car for no reason. Even drunk off his ass, he was more likely to start a fight than to commit near-suicide (though one could argue that starting a brawl with some of Jim's previous opponents was just that). Still, there had to be more to the story.
Leonard sighed as he walked back into the room where Jim was laying. Jackson was a smart kid. After he had spoken to Leonard on the comm., he had set up a stasis field around Jim's abdomen, to freeze the internal bleeding which was what required him to have emergency surgery. That gave Leonard time to go over all of Jim's injuries before he opened him up to deal with the worst problem.
He was in for a long night…
The vehicle that hit Jim had been tearing down the road. Whatever reason the kid had run out in front of it, he was lucky to be alive – damn fucking lucky. When the car struck him, it broke both of his legs and shattered his left kneecap. The entire left side of his body was nothing but one giant bruise, except for the side of his face, which had been nothing but blood and glass fragments when Leonard arrived. His head had been cracked open on the windshield, and Leonard didn't know how he hadn't lost his left eye. He hated to think of the possibility that Jim either wouldn't wake up, or that he would wake up and not be the same person, or not be a person at all, anymore – not really.
Leonard ran a hand down his face and resisted the urge to shudder. "Jackson, I need you to get the dermal regenerator. I want you to work on Jim's head."
"Yes, sir." Jackson left the room quickly to fetch the machine, and Leonard walked up and placed a hand on his patient's head.
The surgery lasted six hours. Jackson spent the time using the dermal and ossein regenerators to seal up Jim's skull and then fix the broken and shattered bones of his legs. The left leg itself had taken three hours, as the young man had needed to use a machine that allowed him to move each shattered bone fragment into the proper place before he could use the ossein regenerator to seal the fragments together and speed up the regeneration process.
Unfortunately, the ossein regenerator was not nearly as effective as the dermal regenerator, and Jim had been heavily injured. He would be out of commission for a few weeks, at least, before he would even be able to think of taking any classes that required physical exertion.
Knowing Jim, getting him to even sit still was going to be a problem.
The surgery actually hadn't been nearly as difficult as Leonard had thought it would be. There had been some severe internal damage from the impact of the vehicle, but once Leonard had managed to find the damaged arteries and pinched them off, fixing them hadn't been a large problem. Leonard had been a surgeon for many years, too, so he was quite accustomed to that type of work. Considering how badly Jim was injured, he was very glad.
"Doctor McCoy?" Leonard looked up from where he had been standing next to Jim's biobed to find Jackson looking at him from the threshold of the room. "Did you need me for anything else, sir?"
"No, Jackson, you can go home. Get some sleep." He glanced back up at the younger man and tried for a smile. It came out more as a grimace, but the intention was there. "And thank you for your help today. I appreciate you calling me."
"Yes, sir." Jackson left the room and Leonard heard his steady footsteps as he walked down the hall. The kid would leave slowly, just in case Leonard changed his mind about needing him – he always did that.
You're a good kid, Jackson.
Leonard sighed as he looked down at the biobed. Surgery always made patients look so damn pale, and Leonard hated that look on Jim. The kid's face was white, his lips a dull fleshy color. Lying in a bed with sheets too damn white, even for a doctor who had been in the profession for as long as McCoy, the kid looked too damn close to dead for comfort. Leonard rubbed a hand down his face. The surgery hadn't been that hard, no – Leonard had had many other, more difficult jobs to perform – but that didn't mean it hadn't still been close. How Jim hadn't been killed when he was hit by the car, Leonard would never know.
But he did intend to find out what the dumb shit had been thinking when he'd run out in front of a speeding car. He just hoped that when Jim woke up, he was capable of telling him.
Leonard could have gone back to his dorm room and gone to bed, or gotten back to studying for his exams, but the idea of leaving Jim lying alone in the hospital bed bothered him. He didn't know why – the two weren't friends. Jim was just Leonard's patient because none of the other doctors could be trusted to properly care for the boy. That was all.
He pulled a chair over to the side of the bed and sat down in it, running a hand over his face.
The moment that the pain hit him, the world went from white to gray. That dulled the pain in his head for reasons that he wasn't quite sure of, but he was grateful for it. Groaning, he blinked his burning eyes at the gray world, trying to find something familiar in a place he was sure he knew, but he felt foggy and slow, and couldn't quite comprehend what was going on around him.
What had happened? Hadn't he been at a bar? Yeah, there was a beautiful Caitian bartender working that third bar he'd stopped at. She had made it clear that she wasn't interested in anything sexual, but she'd had a good sense of humor and Jim never passed up a chance to flirt with someone who was perfect at giving it right back to him. It helped, of course, that her laugh was a grumbling purr that made him want to melt into a puddle all over his stool. He'd hung around in the bar, talking to her, for a few hours before he had to leave. She'd been good company and Jim had enjoyed talking to her – of course, no one would believe him if he said he planned to return to that bar to see her again, for nothing more than conversation.
But he needed to get back to the dorms before curfew, so he'd walked outside. And that's when that car had come speeding down the road…
A point of pressure on his shoulder caused Jim's thoughts to dissipate. He blinked, confused, and then looked to his left. There was a hand on his shoulder, pressing against the skin. He followed the arm up to the face of a man with brown hair and green eyes and an oddly worried expression.
"Jim?" the man asked. There was some dark stubble on his face and it looked a little like the man hadn't been sleeping well. The bags under his eyes were pronounced and only served to further enhance his worried expression. Jim blinked when he noticed the man had on scrubs. Ah. He was in a hospital.
And this man above him – why was he so worried? Jim was obviously alive or he wouldn't be taking note of the things around him, and his head wouldn't be screaming in pain. Jim tried to take stock of the situation. His head ached, but that was nothing to be overly concerned about – he'd had far worse headaches before. His left side was a little sore and the skin pulled uncomfortably when he tried to move. Jim pulled his legs up so he could swing them over the side of the bed and sit up… except his movements didn't happen. He lifted his leg again, or tried to, but nothing happened, and he felt his breath quicken and something within his chest give an uncomfortable twinge. He couldn't move his legs…
The pressure against his shoulder came again and Jim opened his eyes. Had he fallen asleep?
"Jim. Talk to me, please?"
He looked up at the doctor above him. Why did everything have to be so fuzzy in his brain? He still felt like part of him was back at that bar, talking to Hrar'ith, the pretty brown Caitian bartender.
Of course, he wasn't at the bar anymore. He was in a hospital. He hated hospitals. And he was being touched by a doctor. He hated doctors. Well, not all doctors… wasn't there one…?
The synapses in his brain apparently chose that moment to properly fire. Jim closed his eyes and mentally shook himself, reining in his wild thoughts, which leapt in simultaneous directions toward Hrar'ith and his doctor and his motionless legs and a starship that would never be his and the Kobiyashi Maru test, which he would never even be able to take, because they wouldn't let him stay—
"Jim?" The doctor's voice cut off his wild thoughts and Jim was grateful, because right now, he didn't want to think about it. He didn't want to think about everything he wanted being everything that he couldn't have.
"Bones," he murmured instead, and opened his eyes to see a look of relief pass over the doctor's face. The man was a little paler than normal, with black bags under his eyes and a growing beard on his face. "You need to shave."
Bones laughed then, though it sounded slightly strangled by a note of hysteria that made Jim frown. He turned his head and looked around. There was a privacy curtain pulled up around his bed. That didn't happen very often.
"I should kick your ass for scaring the hell out of me," Bones growled at him. "I thought you were brain dead."
"Sorry to disappoint." Jim flicked his eyes back up to the doctor. "How long have I been here?" Bones' expression dropped back to unpleasant and he looked away. Jim couldn't deal with the silence right now – he needed Bones to talk to him. He needed a distraction, because as long as he had a distraction, he was able to forget the truth. "Bones?"
"Six days, Jim," Bones said, fingers gripping the bed sheets tight. "I was startin' t' wonder if ya were gonna wake up a' all, ya dumb shit."
Jim took the opportunity offered him like a tom cat took a stray in heat. He gave the doctor one of his biggest smiles, baring his teeth in a grin that had set off more than one Admiral. "You know your accent flares up when you're pissed?"
"Goddamnit, Jim!" the doctor yelled, throwing his hands up in the air. "What the hell were ya thinkin', runnin' out in front o' a car?"
At this, Jim's face went red in a deep blush and he looked away quickly.
Surprised by the abrupt and unexpected change, Leonard studied his patient for a moment. "Jim."
"I don't want to talk about it." He seemed to shrink down into the biobed. "It's stupid." So stupid. So unbelievably fucked up and it'll never stop being stupid and I'll never stop wishing I hadn't cared what had happened—
"I'm glad you realize that in hindsight, but you're still going to talk about it! So either tell me, or you can tell the campus psychologist."
"Psychologist?" Jim stared at Leonard, aghast. "What the hell, Bones? Why in the fuck would I need to talk to a psychologist?" Don't say it, don't say it, don't say that it's ruined it's all ruined just let me forget forget forget forget—
"You ran out in front of a car, you goddamned stupid fuck!"
"Because there was a stroller sitting in the middle of the road!" Jim screamed, spit flying from his mouth at the force of it. He'd had a good reason – he had! "I am not suicidal! I haven't been suicidal for years, so you can just—shit." He didn't have to look at Bones' face to know he said too much. He threw his arms up over his face and just begged to disappear.
"Please just leave me alone," Jim whispered. He would take his wild and pain-filled thoughts about loss and losing everything all over again – he could handle that. It was the memories he couldn't take. He didn't want to talk about convertibles or driving off cliffs or child psychologists who didn't see fist-sized bruises or Frank or wishing wishing wishing for someone to come save him and knowing no one would never come.
There was a long few minutes of silence, and then a soft, weary sigh. A touch against his arm made Jim flinch slightly, and the hand retreated, but Leonard's voice came softly. "There was a stroller?"
Jim considered not answering, but this was a much safer topic. It was a topic where, really, he hadn't done anything wrong. He had just made a mistake in judgment – a bad command decision. His last bad command decision.
He'd been an idiot.
"I came out of the bar and there was a car speeding down the road, and there were so many people, but they jumped out of the way. And then there was a stroller in the middle of the road, but no one was pulling it out of the way, and the car was going to hit it, so I ran out to push it out of the way…"
"And the car hit you instead?"
"Hit the stroller, too," Jim muttered. He lowered his hands, looking dejected and completely embarrassed and so ready to simply give up on everything. "I wasn't fast enough to push it out of the way. Stupid."
Leonard swallowed around a thick throat, feeling as though his stomach had just dropped through the floor and was taking everything else with it. "And the baby…" Maybe it wasn't the right question. He should talk to a police officer – one of the people who had covered the scene. He shouldn't be burdening Jim with remembering the incident, especially if, like it seemed already, the kid was determined to blame himself for something that was in no way his fault.
Jim started laughing and Bones reached out to grab his wrist, ready for a movement of panic or hysteria or complete madness, but Jim just laughed until he couldn't breathe and then he wheezed between chuckles, tears leaking from his eyes, as he looked up but seemed to stare past McCoy. "See, that's why it's so stupid. The stroller was empty."
You have got to be…
"Someone had just left it in the middle of the road. There wasn't anything in it – not even a blanket. And I ran out in the road and pushed it out of the way for nothing. And I'm stuck in this hospital and I'm never gonna be able to finish Starfleet or become a starship Captain, all for some fucking empty… empty stroller."
The tears were coming faster now and Jim's voice was harder to understand behind his attempts to hide his sobs, and Leonard understood the disgust at having been put in the hospital for thinking something other than was the case, although Jim's intentions had been right and he had made a decision that few would – a foolish, but incredibly brave decision. What Leonard didn't understand was the rest of what his patient was saying.
"Why won't you finish Starfleet?" Or become a Captain? That doesn't make any sense.
Jim sobbed once, loudly, and the sound hurt Leonard to hear. Worse still was the look that Jim gave Leonard – a plaintive look more sincere than any Leonard had received from the young man before. It was a look that begged Leonard to make something better, even knowing that the request was futile, the action impossible.
"I can't feel my legs."
And, of course, that explained it. Paralyzed from the waist down, Jim wouldn't be able to walk, to finish the classes required for the Command Program, to perform the duties of a Starship Captain. Paralyzed from the waist down, Jim's career, his life's plans and wishes, were over.
Leonard placed a hand upon Jim's head, the gentle touch calling the young man's attention as Leonard leaned down so that his eyes locked with Jim's and he was certain the young man was paying attention. Those blue eyes severed him, but he did not break his gaze.
"When the car hit you, both of your legs were broken." He felt the cadet shuddering underneath his hand but made no mention of it. "Your left knee cap was shattered completely." A few tears leaked from those radioactive-blue eyes, rolling down the young man's cheeks like the retreating tails of sorrow personified. "My assistant used a bone regenerator on your legs to heal them, but the damage was significant. So once he was finished, we placed a stasis field around them to make sure you didn't injure yourself as you slept."
Leonard felt the utter stillness of the young man beneath him, saw the hope and disbelief and fear burning in eyes that would surely glow in the dark, and some part of him hurt for a young man who could fear and hope so deeply that it appeared to tear him in two.
Then Jim lifted his head to look down his body, and his eyes caught sight of the translucent blue stasis field that held his legs in place and he laughed. He laughed until he cried again, this time in relief, and McCoy had to sedate him before he suffocated on the emotion.
"Your roommate's not gonna hate me for staying with you, is he?" Jim asked, as Leonard pushed the wheelchair down the second floor corridor of his building.
"I don't have a roommate," Leonard said, slapping the back of Jim's hand as the kid tried to reach for the wheels of the chair again. "Stop."
"Why can't I push myself?" Jim whined, looking back at Leonard with a puppy dog expression that he had to know by now didn't work on the doctor.
"Because I am not chasing you down the hill again when you decide to be an idiot and test the aerodynamic capabilities of your wheelchair, you dumb shit."
"Aw, come on, Bones. It was fun."
Leonard didn't even bother correcting the kid on his name. A year into their Starfleet careers and the kid still hadn't given up that ridiculous nickname for it, Leonard was pretty sure any attempts to stop it at this point would be futile.
"You're an idiot, Jim."
"Best you've ever met." He glanced at the door Leonard stopped at, watching as the doctor slid his keycard into the slot and the lock clicked open. "So… no roommate. How did that work?"
"I'm training to be a ship surgeon—"
"Which makes no sense, by the way – you being afraid of space and all."
Leonard ignored him, kicking the door open and wheeling Jim inside. "Because I have to work at the hospital while suffering the same amount of classes as everyone else, a roommate could be a distraction, so I don't have to have one." He kicked the door shut behind him and wheeled Jim over to the bed.
"Oh, hey." Jim glanced around the room and saw that there was only one bed in the dorm. "Um… Bones? I'm not sleeping with you, am I?"
"What's the matter, Jim? I thought you'd like that."
"Yeah… see, you're kind of not my type."
"Oh really?" Bones asked, raising an eyebrow at Jim as he walked past him to pull back the covers on the bed. "And what about me makes me not your type, Jim?"
"You smell like hospital."
Tsking, Leonard shook his head. "You're missing out, Jim. Surgeons are very good with their hands."
"Um…" Leonard grinned at the expression on Jim's face, clearly displaying the fact that the kid had no idea what to do. Leonard clapped him lightly on the shoulder, careful not to cause him harm. "Relax, Jim. I'm teasing." He grabbed the kid's arm and helped him out of the chair. "Come on, in you go."
"I'm not tired, Bones."
"You will be, Jim – trust me."
"You're gonna hypo me again, aren't you."
Leonard laid the kid down and pulled the covers up to his chin, patting his chest lightly. "Of course not. What would give you that idea?"
"You smell like hospital." Leonard laughed.
Jim watched as the doctor moved around the dorm room, pulling blankets and a spare pillow out of a closet and moving over to the couch. He frowned.
"Bones, I— I didn't mean to steal your bed from you. This is fair to you."
"Relax, kid." Leonard glanced over at the worried young man trying to push himself off of the bed. "And if you roll onto the floor, I really will hypospray you, right in the ass." Jim went very still.
"I offered to let you stay with me so that I can keep an eye on you. I can't stay around the hospital all day long and I don't trust the other doctors not to kill you when I'm not there. This is the easiest solution. You can sleep, and I can study for Finals."
"Shut up, Jim. I've already sent in the proper paperwork and I'm not wasting my time changing it, so just go to sleep."
The couch made up, Leonard walked over to the desk to find his computer in sleep mode and the cup of coffee from a week ago ice cold on his desk. He hadn't been back to the dorm since Jackson called him to come in because Jim had been hit by a car. He took the coffee cup into the kitchen and dumped it out in the sink, returning a few moments with a fresh one and a reluctance to sit down and study for Finals.
Leonard glanced over at Jim to find the young man's eyes were closed and he was dozing. He'd had a good feeling the kid wouldn't last long. Nearly catapulting himself from the wheelchair rolling down that damn hill had taken a lot out of him. Leonard laughed. Had he been in the wheelchair, he might have damn near pissed himself, but once he'd caught up to and stopped Jim, the kid had roared with laughter and whooped loudly, begging for another go.
It had been all Leonard could do to resist slapping the kid across the back of the head.
Seeing the young man asleep on the bed put Leonard at ease and he pulled out his desk chair and sat down, waking his computer up and finding the files he needed.
He was halfway through an incredibly boring and incorrect argument about Benadryl being an obsolete drug when he heard a mumble from the bed. Turning his attention from the article, he looked over at the young man wrapped in blankets.
"What's that, Jim?"
"'zis make us roommates?" the tired man slurred, blue eyes squinted to try and catch sight of the doctor in the room.
"I suppose it does." He watched as the blue eyes slipped closed and his roommate's breathing evened out until it was clear he was fast asleep. Leonard couldn't help but smile softly.