This is my New Year's gift to you: the Happy Ending!

Chapter 49

When McCoy walked in on them his heart sped into a flutter. He should have known that the Vulcan would leave his bed rest in his quarters to sit with the Captain. For a moment, seeing them, he thought of turning around, but then he heard the words,

"I'm glad you're alright, dear friend."

That warm voice, I thought I would never hear it again.

He knew he should leave, but stood rooted to the spot. Spock's straight back was turned to McCoy, looking stoic as ever, but the warmth in his voice was like a blast of heat to McCoy.

"I have you to thank for that, Jim, and I will forever be grateful."

McCoy had already started taking a step back, thinking he might come in again in two minutes and with more fanfare, when Kirk saw him.

Spock rose from his chair.

"Sid-down, Spock," the Doctor groused, approaching the bed. "Don't make me tell Nurse Chapel that you're giving me a hard time. The both of you. I'm a Doctor, not a miracle worker."

Spock nevertheless stayed standing.

"I will return to my quarters. Contrary to your doubts about my self-care, I am aware of my need for rest."

"And coming here, exhausting yourself, to see if Jim's alright was all part of the therapy, then, Spock?" McCoy said, but somehow the sting he had intended did not make it into his voice.

Spock stared at him for a second, then simply said:

"Indeed, Doctor."

He nodded to both, and left.

Kirk stared at the door while the McCoy waved his medical sensor over his chest. McCoy was grateful for that and lost himself in his readings, until Kirk startled him.

"Will I live, Doctor?" Jim said, smiling up at him.

McCoy felt the old anger flare up. Here was this man, smiling, after all that he had been through. He was so thin, so worn-out, much, much worse than any of the men who had stayed behind. What are you smiling about, Jim! McCoy took a deep breath. Sure, it had all ended well. They were alive and safe - all but Johnson. And Jim was determined to get better, to move on. He was responding well to the heart operation and with another week of therapy and medication and a few months of cardiac work, he should be right again. His lungs were clear, and in the next few days they would start regenerating his lost fingers and toes. Now, that had been a shock... He was even conquering his distaste for food at record pace, turning his previous experience with starvation into an asset, employing what had worked and avoiding the pitfalls he had conquered, back then. When he was thirteen.

This man. What this man has gone through.

McCoy's next breath stuck in his throat.

"Hey-" Kirk said, laying his hand gently on McCoy's forearm.

"Don't start, please," the Doctor whispered.

"Bones-"

"No, no! Listen. What I did was unforgivable. I couldn't... support you. I couldn't... believe. I thought the worst of you, Jim."

"Possibly some that was correct," Kirk said mildly. "I am arrogant, foolish, stubborn-"

"Not just that-" McCoy started, then stopped.

"And I did need to get out of there, Bones," Kirk continued softly. "I saw it coming. I had to prevent it at any, at all cost, not just the starvation, but also having to witness it again. You have to forgive me, forgive yourself. Can you?"

His hand, the thumb-finger claw the Miners' Doctor had given him, already fell away.

"You're tired, you should rest," McCoy said.

"They were not normal times, Bones. We weren't ourselves."

McCoy nodded.

"Hey," Kirk said sleepily. "You haven't answered my question."

McCoy sighed.

"Yes," he said. "You'll live."