Notes: For those who don't follow A Temporary Madness and therefore may not have heard: my first novel is getting published in February!
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Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek 2009, and I make no profit from this work.
To Feel The Feeling
The blood is cooling on his wrists. It doesn't steam, but it feels like it does, the way it's congealing. It's a dark, lumpy rust by the time he manages to get to the sonics; he picks it off idly and feels the...well, feels the feeling coming back.
He doesn't feel when he works - but that's not quite true. He feels when he's shouting at whatever jumped-up idiot has been skipping his exercise regimes lately; he feels when the engineering department send down their fifth electrical burn of the day. He feels when Ensign Monroe suffers her next plasma burn in the labs, and he feels when he tells her for the umpteenth time that she should transfer to security. She's the only person who'd be better off in a red shirt.
He doesn't feel when there's blood.
Classroom simulations don't account for this. The first time this comes up is third year in the Academy. Until then, surgery is all sterilisers, laser scalpels, gloves, masks, stasis fields, atmospheric recyclers, pressure shields. Surgery isn't, until third year - until active service - performed in the ship's corridors under attack, with unstable flooring and emergency lighting. It doesn't involve using bandages and manual bracing mechanisms on the stretchers.
Neither version involves feelings, not until it's over.
So when Jim touches his elbow, wary and hesitant, it takes him a moment to respond. When he does, it's to let everything back in; he sags, and Jim's hand lands on his back. He does this rubbing thing with his fingertips; started in second year when Starfleet Medical started throwing the flight procedural training at them, and Bones had been sitting in their dorm room every day and night tearing his hair out and wondering if it was too late to persuade Joss to take him back. She could even keep seeing that West Coast doctor she'd left him for, he wouldn't have minded anymore.
"Come on, Bones."
He lets Jim lead him out of the bay. It's still heaving; when the doctors stand down, the nurses step up, and that's the way it's always been. He's only ever needed one, maybe two nurses to assist in a complex emergency surgery, but once the patient is zipped up and in one relatively stable piece, their jobs really begin. And there are a lot of patients tonight.
"It's oh-four-hundred," Jim says, though Bones isn't aware of having asked. "You've been on shift for eighteen hours. It's time to stand down."
"Five minutes, Jim. Five minutes, and he wouldn't have made it."
"Stand down," Jim insists, but his voice doesn't rise. For all that Jim's a loudmouth, cocky, arrogant, stupid son of a bitch...he knows how to be a friend, too. Sometimes.
The corridors are still sickly red; the emergency lights are still up. The turbolift is non-functional; Jim takes him down the access ladders that snake behind engineering, and if it takes three quarters of an hour to get back to the officers' corridor, Bones isn't too bothered. His hands are clean. There's no blood flaking under his nails.
The rest of it...he's been a doctor too long for the rest of it. Jim is still new enough to being a responsible adult - to being an officer - for death to bother him. It doesn't bother Bones like this. He knows when he can and when he can't save someone; after Dad, he can't lose anyone that would do quite that much to him. Sure, he cares, but...this ship is huge. None of his patients tonight were known to him personally. He'd never even heard of that last one, and he's sure he'd remember a face like that. He was ugly before the Klingons took exception to him.
The death doesn't bother him; he doesn't lie awake at night wondering if he could have done more. The injuries can be disgusting, sure, but medical school drums that out of a man, never mind Starfleet. And if the military offers one thing, it's that you don't get nights of psychopathic drug addicts in the emergency room in sink cities. His patients are probably all stronger than him, but they know how to take a goddamn order.
Plus military men are all terrified of hypos.
It's not the death. It's not the blood and guts. It's not the rampant hyped-up emotion everywhere, because the Enterprise doesn't allow for it in the grip of a true crisis.
He bothers himself.
"Go on," Jim delivers him right into his quarters with that rubbing hand between his shoulders again. The air is slightly warmer than usual; the sheets, when he sits on the edge of the bed, are dryer-fresh. Jim shrugs in explanation and says, "I had the yeomen sort things. I knew you'd be wasted."
Bones offers him a smile. It's genuinely amusing, and kind of touching, to think of Jim Kirk taking time out of being a cocky hero to tell a yeoman to change his sheets. And that he can feel it again chases the shadows away a little more.
He doesn't like the blank sterility of his own mind when he works, even though he knows - he knows - that that's why he is where he is today. Any doctor is someone just a little unusual; any doctor with the military is something even stranger. Most of the 'Fleet medics burn out by the age of thirty. Bones is still going, and he knows why, but he doesn't have to like it.
"Bones," Jim pushes, then drops to his knees and fumbles at the catches on his boots. "I'm serious, man. Go to sleep."
"Gimme a minute, Jim," he mutters, and rubs his hands over his face. The suppressor has worn off; the rasp of his own stubble is somehow comforting.
"Hey," Jim gets his boots off, and squeezes his knee. "You okay?"
"Yeah," he says. "I'm just tired."
"No shit," Jim agrees amiably. "You need anything?"
"Depends if you can take a secret to your grave or not," Bones mutters. The silence is unnerving, and too much like that empty white-noise in the surgical unit, when his brain doesn't allow for anything that isn't focus-focus-focus. He doesn't need to focus now; he needs to sleep, and he needs to dream dreams that have some feeling to them.
He needs to feel, damnit.
"Depends on the secret."
"Sneak into Spock's room and bump up the thermostat?"
Jim blinks at him. "Why?"
"I can hear the fan through the wall." It had been the best discovery of his life on this ship, with its empty silence and yawning space beyond the hull. He hadn't liked the idea of being next door to the hobgoblin, until that first night when the fan kicked in. The hum was like the air-con units at the Academy, or the old-fashioned ventilator in his momma's house in Georgia.
He'd slept like a baby that first night, never mind the darkness, and it had never changed.
"Bones," Jim peels him out of his tunic without asking permission and stuffs it in the laundry chute. "You're the weirdest man I've ever met."
Bones doesn't dignify that with an answer; he sheds his pants without a care for Jim in the room - he's seen it all anyway - and collapses into those dryer-warm sheets. They feel ridiculously soft. They feel, and when he groans, it's like everything just bleeds out of him.
"You're down until fifteen hundred," Jim says somewhere off in the darkness; Bones doesn't open his eyes. "Seriously, Bones. I'll tag you if I have to."
Bones grunts; he wants to sleep. After a moment, Jim ruffles his hair in a move that would be normally obnoxious, but somehow right now feels kind of nice, and then the cabin doors hiss and he's gone.
For the moment. He'll be back, and Bones floats on the edge of sleep with that knowledge, content and calm and finally human again.
The fan kicks in next door.