I've always loved the friendship between McCoy and Kirk, and I kind of feel like the good doctor got short-changed in the movie. So this is my interpretation of how Bones might deal with Jim's death.
I don't own any part of Star Trek.
Dr. McCoy allowed himself to enjoy a brief moment of exhilaration. The ship had righted itself, and stopped freefalling, and the comforting thrum of the engines could once again be felt beneath his feet. Scant seconds after that had happened, he was finally able to stabilize a young lieutenant who had sustained massive internal injuries after falling from a catwalk during the Enterprise's wild spiraling. The realization that his patient was going to live and somehow, miraculously, so was the entire crew, made him almost giddy with relief. Well, giddy for him, anyway.
His moment was interrupted by the beep of the intercom on the wall. "Dr. McCoy?"
It was Spock's voice.
"Doctor, your presence is needed in engineering."
There was something in Spock's voice. If he didn't know the Vulcan better, he would have thought it was a trace of emotion. But a medical team was already headed down there, responding to a report of multiple injuries. "Dr. M'Benga is on his way."
A pause. "Doctor, it needs to be you… It's Jim."
There it was, the emotion in Spock's voice. And though he didn't want to admit it, it sounded a lot like grief.
McCoy didn't waste a second asking for details. He grabbed his medikit and dashed for the door, shouting, "On my way," over his shoulder. Later he would realize that he knew, subconsciously, that Jim was gone from the moment Spock said, "It's Jim." But at this moment, he was still hoping against hope, that his intuition was wrong.
When he sprinted into engineering, he was met by a teary-eyed Scotty. The chief engineer didn't say a word, just pointed toward where Spock stood, stooped, staring at something.
McCoy ran over, dread welling inside him. He didn't see… where was…"Jim!" There, on the floor, behind a glass partition, lay the body of his best friend. It didn't take a physician to tell that the man behind the glass was dead. Jim's blue eyes, so vibrant in life, now stared unseeingly at the wall. "Oh, god. Jim," he murmured brokenly.
Jim's life, at least the years Leonard had been a part of, flashed before his eyes. Meeting Jim on the shuttle to the Academy, and becoming almost instant friends. Spending evenings at a local bar. Patching Jim up after he tried to pick up the wrong girl at that bar and got into a fight. Actually, that had happened more than once. Getting used to the nickname "Bones" that Jim had insisted on using for him. At first he had found it mildly irritating, but he eventually resigned himself to it. And now, he'd never be called Bones again. What he wouldn't give to see those blue eyes regain their spark, and to hear his friend's voice again. He was overwhelmed with grief, and he suddenly felt the loss so keenly that it was hard to breathe. His best friend was gone, and he hadn't even gotten the chance to say goodbye.
He felt anger suddenly edging out the grief. He turned on Spock. "Damn it, Spock! Why didn't you call me sooner? I could have done something to save him!" His voice was full of anger and despair.
The First Officer turned to look at the doctor, his normally passive face etched with sorrow. "If there had been anything you could have done, I would have called you, Doctor. There was no way to save him."
McCoy was unprepared for the grief he saw in Spock's eyes. Seeing it caused the anger to leave instantly, leaving behind just anguish. The Doctor sagged down to his knees, suddenly overcome. When he trusted himself to speak, he whispered, "What happened? Why is he in there?"
"He saved the ship," Spock answered. "He repaired the warp core. To do it, he had to go into this chamber, which was filled with radiation."
McCoy swallowed hard. "He gave his life to save us."
The two of them stood in silence for a moment. Finally, Spock straightened and turned. "Mr. Scott, please do your best to restore our transporter capabilities."
"What are you going to do?" McCoy asked.
"I am going to get Kahn."
Scotty had insisted that Jim's body be removed by a hazmat team after the compartment had been cleared of radiation. Leonard had just nodded, and headed up to sickbay to await the body of his best friend. He made into the turbolift alone, put his head in his hands, and cried like a baby.
The doctor took a moment to collect himself before entering sickbay. He had no doubt that his team would know that the worst had happened, the instant they saw his red eyes and tear-streaked face, but he needed to present a professional demeanor. Throwing himself into the role of doctor and medical examiner rather than friend, was the only way he was going to get through the autopsy he knew he would have to perform.
He thought he was ready as he could be when the captain's body was brought in. He was willing himself not to feel, to put his emotions aside until he could get through the awful task he had ahead of him. His job was not made any easier by the grief of the crew surrounding him, including the team that had brought Jim in. Some were openly weeping, others stood silently by in shocked disbelief. They had lost their captain, their leader, their friend.
Dr. McCoy took a deep breath, assumed a clinical manner, and unzipped the body bag. His professional façade crumbled almost instantly, and he was once again overwhelmed by a deep sense of personal loss as he looked at the still, lifeless body of the man he had come to regard as a younger brother. He wasn't ready for this. He would never be ready.
His legs felt like they might give out, so he shakily walked around the bio-bed and dropped into his chair. For a horrible moment he was certain he was going to lose it in front of his medical team and the other crew members who were standing around in various stages of grief. This was not the first time Jim had laid on a bed in McCoy's sickbay, looking like death. But there was always something the doctor could do, another avenue to take, a different procedure to try. There had never been a time when he felt completely helpless, because he had always had hope that the next thing he tried would save Jim's life- and up until now he had always been right.
But this, this situation was monumentally unfair. McCoy hadn't even had a chance to save Jim, was never even given the opportunity to use his years of medical experience to bring his best friend back from the brink of death. He didn't know how he was going to perform his medical duties when it was just too late.
Suddenly, Leonard's grief-filled reverie was interrupted by a soft purring sound coming from behind his left elbow. What the hell? He turned his head and saw the forgotten tribble. And there it was, in the form of a small life-form that looked like a furry throw pillow. The ray of hope he had thought it was too late to find, was right within his reach.
Well, there it is. This is as far as I had originally planned to take this story, just up to the point where McCoy realizes he might be able to use Kahn's blood to save Kirk. Which, by the way, I thought was an extremely contrived plot device. Kirk is in the middle of interrogating Kahn, and he suddenly stops and says, "Dr. McCoy, what are you doing to that tribble?" Really? Where did that come from? And then after the ship has been tossed around upside down and sideways, the tribble is still somehow still sitting right there, cooing away.
Anyway, I loved the movie as a whole, so that is really my only criticism.
I might decide to fill in the two weeks Jim was in a coma from McCoy's perspective also, if anyone has any interest in reading that.
If so, review and let me know. Thanks!