Summary: He hoped this would be over soon one way or the other, every time he breathed or twitched the arrow in his side sent new waves of pain radiating throughout his body.
Spoilers: General AOS
Disclaimer: The Star Trek franchise and its characters are property of Paramount.
Author's Notes: I'm not sure where this came from. I haven't felt like writing in a long time and the other day I just sat down and started going at it…and this is what came out of it. I guess the new movie loosened some plot bunnies. Although I am a doctor, I'm not that kind so I happily practice with my fictional degree. This is just shameless h/c. Feel free to leave a review!
I apologize for any mistakes, this was un-beta'd
"Why do we keep ending up in situations like this?" Dr. Leonard McCoy heaved out trying to catch his breath.
He hadn't had to run like this since completing the O-Course drills at the Academy. Sure he was a casual runner, but it's not like he was ever running for his life on the treadmills in the rec center on the ship.
"I wish I knew," Captain James T. Kirk was also bent over with his hands on his knees trying to regain control of his breathing.
"I'm too old for this shit," McCoy straightened up still breathing heavy.
Jim's reply was cut short by the sound of feet pounding through the forest. They held their breaths as the group of natives passed within meters of their hiding spot behind a large tree. Both of them had already ditched their colored uniform shirts leaving them in their less inconspicuous undershirts.
"I don't even know what we did wrong this time, the negotiations were going well for once," Jim cautiously peered around the tree.
"Well, fate couldn't let us ruin our record for consecutive 'away missions gone wrong' now could she?" McCoy used his arm to wipe the sweat from his forehead.
"I think they're gone, we need to meet up with the rest of the group at the LZ."
"Of course they confiscated our communicators and my med kit going into the talks this morning. For once, I don't see why we couldn't beam in and out."
"Lighten up Bones; this could be fun. " Kirk grinned as he clapped McCoy's shoulder.
"Yeah, fun my ass. Let's get out of here. God knows what disease-ridden insets or toxic plants are out here. Not to mention those angry, and armed might I add, Charkins trying to hunt us down."
"C'mon Bones, you've been bitching for weeks how you've been 'stuck in that God forsaken tin can' and now you're complaining about being out here, in some forest with fresh air," Jim was rather pleased at his imitation.
"This wasn't what I had in mind and you know it."
Exasperated with the doctor's displeasure, Jim peered around the tree again. They appeared to be alone; it was time to move.
"It looks like the coast is clear, we need to get back to the shuttle. That way," Jim pointed to somewhere on the other side of the tree.
McCoy didn't waste any time and took a few steps around the tree in their desired direction. Jim took one last scan of the area behind them, but something felt off. He felt like they were being watched but there was no one out there that he could see. There was a rustling of foliage some meters away followed by a soft whooshing sound. He didn't have time to process the noise before a blinding pain slammed into him, knocking him back against the tree.
Jim's gut wrenching cry had McCoy spinning around in milliseconds.
"Jim?" he sprinted back to the Captain.
He fumbled around the tree and came to a dead stop at the sight that awaited him. Jim's eyes were clinched shut and he was breathing in short gasps. Trained eyes quickly scanned for injury, resting on the feathers and shaft of an arrow jutting out of the Captain's flank. There was already a dark wet stain spreading from the wound onto the fabric of the undershirt.
"Damn it, Jim! Don't move!" McCoy was at Jim's side in an instance.
"Wasn't planning on it," Jim panted through clinched teeth.
The doctor reached behind Jim, "I've got you, we need to get you laying down," he tried to pull the Captain towards him.
McCoy's movements were halted by a cry of pain. After a few frantic seconds he saw more of the arrow shaft exiting Jim's back and then disappearing into the bark.
"Damn barbaric weapons! Who the in the hell uses bows and arrows? You're pinned to the tree."
"You have to take care of whoever did this," Jim puffed.
"Jim, I need to take care of you. This is serious."
"No, you need to neutralize the threat or we'll both be dead and it won't matter. Take my boot knife."
"Bones, you have to. Chances are that they're probably on their way to finish the job."
"Jim, I can't. You're asking me to k-"
"You're going to have to, I can't. It's them or us, Lt Commander McCoy," Jim's blue eyes were fierce with determination.
"I will not, Captain. As a doctor you cannot order me to kill another sentient being," he was nose to nose with Jim.
The rustling noise was growing closer, "Bones, you have to do this. There are soft spots underneath their arms and under their necks; everywhere else is scaly. I would do this if I could, Bones," Jim pleaded.
As much as he hated to admit it, but Jim was right, it wouldn't matter if he could help him if they were both dead. This was what he had to do to save Jim. McCoy didn't say anything, but reached down to Jim's boots and pulled out a combat knife from its sheath. It was warm from being enclosed in Jim's boot next to his calf. He tested the weight of the weapon in his hand before closing his fist around the grip. It was heavy and cumbersome compared to the laser scalpels that he was used to wielding. It would have to do. He would have to do.
Jim gave the doctor a nod of encouragement. He hoped this would be over soon one way or the other, every time he breathed or twitched the arrow in his side sent new waves of pain radiating throughout his body. He just wanted to sit down and close his eyes.
"Go hide in the bushes over there," Jim pointed, "and then wait for them to come to me. You'll have the upper hand with surprising them from behind. Aim for the soft spots. Hopefully there won't be that many."
"You're not going to be bait," McCoy spat.
"Damn it Bones, we don't have time for you to fight me on everything. Just do it."
"This is far from over," McCoy seethed stomping off into the bushes.
McCoy had barely made it into his hiding spot when a blue-scaled humanoid creature with big black eyes stepped into the small clearing with a complicated looking compound bow drawn and an arrow aimed at Jim. He, Jim assumed it was a he, made clicking noises with his mouth and drew the bow further back. Even without Uhura or a universal translator he got the gist of what was being said and it wasn't good.
There was a flash of black rushing in from the edge of his vision barreling full speed at the creature in front of him. He felt the arrow whiz past his head as it was released when the two collided and tumbled to the ground. McCoy and the creature were rolling around so fast and he was too dizzy from the pain and blood loss to focus on what was happening until the movement stopped. He could feel his blood turning into ice and his stomach starting to creep up into his throat.
McCoy felt the creature underneath him go limp after he had finished drawing the knife across its exposed throat. He hoped that they were similar enough to other humanoids and he'd be hitting something important and the creature would go down. There was no back up plan if this didn't work. McCoy let out a sigh of relief and pushed himself up, wiping the purple sludge that constituted its blood off on the bottom of his pants. He had done it; he had killed. Patients had died while under his care, it was understood that as much as he tried he couldn't save everyone, but their deaths were not deliberate and this one was. It didn't matter that his and Jim's life were at stake…Jim…he did this for his best friend, his dying best friend.
The realization that Jim was still pinned to the tree provided the shock that McCoy needed to snap him out of his thoughts and he bolted, "Jim!"
"I knew you could do it, Bones," Jim wheezed in relief. "Hopefully there won't be more."
"We'll talk about this later, right now I need to get you off the tree so we can get back to the shuttle," McCoy pressed his fingers to Jim's neck.
"Yeah, I don't feel so good," the injured man leaned his head back against the tree.
McCoy pursed his lips together. The pulse under his fingers was thready and all the color had drained from Jim's face. There was a fine sheen of sweat glistening on his forehead. Things were not good.
"Okay Jim, I'm going to have to slide you up the arrow some so I can get to the tree. This is going to hurt."
Jim smirked, "Me or you?"
"Very funny. You ready?"
McCoy didn't want to look Jim in the eye; this was going to be unpleasant. The Captain nodded, already bracing himself. McCoy put his hands on either side of Jim's flank, it didn't matter what the arrow had hit on its path through Jim if he couldn't separate him from the tree.
"Okay, nice and slow."
The pain was breathtaking as McCoy inched Jim down the arrow shaft. They stopped moving and Jim was panting hard. He had slid several inches away from the tree and McCoy had access to where the arrow was imbedded. It was the first time he got a good look at the blood-slicked arrow itself. The shaft was some sort of composite material, it was surprisingly strong and he hoped the knife would be able to cut through it since the arrowhead was too deep into the tree to try to pull it out.
"This should be good enough. I'm going to start cutting the arrow now."
Jim couldn't hold his groan back as McCoy began sawing at the arrow shaft with his boot knife. The pain from the vibrations was causing his vision to swim and he felt like he would black out from the agony at any moment.
"Stop," Jim gasped.
"I'm almost done, a few more seconds."
"Bones," Jim was hyperventilating.
"I know, just hang on. As soon as we're done we can get you back to the shuttle. There's a nice big med kit in there with analgesics with your name on them. If you're good, I might even let Chekov sneak you some ice cream in Sick Bay."
As soon as McCoy had severed the remaining bit of arrow all of Jim's weight pitched forward and they fell to the ground. McCoy managed to get under Jim to cushion his fall, but it still jarred the wound and made Jim cry out. He gently rolled his friend onto his uninjured side, and pulled apart the fabric around the arrow. The still leaking wound was as bad as he had expected, it was just under his ribs so he was certain that the large intestines were involved. A quick palpation of his abdomen confirmed that there was internal bleeding that required emergency surgery. He had to find help fast, there was nothing he could do here without his kit.
Jim's chest was heaving as he took quick shallow breaths.
"Jim," McCoy pressed his fingers to Jim's pulse, "you have to slow down your breathing. Breathe with me." He placed the younger man's hand on his chest and began breathing slowly. "C'mon, Jim."
Slowly the Captain began taking deeper and slower breaths, "I want to go home."
"I know, Jim. I promise I'll get you back to the Enterprise," he ran a hand soothingly through Jim's hair while clutching his hand to his chest even tighter. "You wouldn't happen to know how far we are away from the shuttle?"
He thinks he hears a puff of laughter when Jim replies that they're only a kilometer or two away from the clearing where the shuttle is waiting. They just need to make their way back to the road and follow it.
"You have to go find help. I don't think I can make it that far."
McCoy knew Jim was right, there was no way Jim was walking out of there and carrying him would end just as badly. His best chance was to get to the shuttle and call for a beam out. Jim was dying, and would certainly die if he didn't go get help, but it would mean leaving his best friend alone while he was dying. He had to go; it was Jim's only chance.
"I promise I'll hang on," Jim's assurance confirmed his gut feeling to go.
McCoy realized he was still holding Jim's hand to his chest and gave it a strong squeeze before setting it down, "I will come back, Jim. You'd better still be here."
With Jim's faint nod, he sprinted off.
He marked the trees he passed with small 'x's with the knife so he could find his way back on his return. The footpath they had been following was in sight so he turned sharply to his right to follow it through the forest. There hadn't been any natives around in a while, but that didn't mean they weren't still looking for him. With speed and agility that would've made his drill instructors proud, he quickly navigated over fallen trees and uneven terrain for the two-ish kilometers it took to get back to the shuttle.
He wanted to cry when he burst through the tree line to see the shuttle waiting patiently in the clearing. Several security crewmembers had formed a perimeter around the shuttle and were calling out to him, but they were left unacknowledged as he rushed into the open hatch and ripped the med kit off the bulkhead.
"Doctor McCoy, we have been waiting for your return," Spock turned around in the pilot's chair to face the doctor. "Where is the Captain?"
"I need you to come with me now. Jim's critical," McCoy was already rushing out of the shuttle with Spock trailing.
"Doctor McCoy, please expl-"
"I don't have time you green blooded hobgoblin! I had to leave him in the forest; he couldn't be moved. Those bastards took our communicators and my med kit. We couldn't call for help."
"Right then," Spock signaled for two crewmen from the security detail to follow them.
They followed McCoy's marks through the forest and back to the Captain. Jim was still lying on his side exactly where McCoy left him. Panic began to bubble in his gut when he dropped down to his knees by Jim. He was deathly still. A quick touch to Jim's neck confirmed that he still had a pulse and was breathing, albeit shallowly.
McCoy ripped open the med kit and grabbed the tricorder. The scans painted a nastier picture than the doctor had realized. Jim was in severe hypovolemic shock from the internal bleeding and the inevitable infection from ruptured organs was beginning to take hold. He was correct in assuming that the large intestine had been perforated and emergency surgery was needed. McCoy reached for a mask from the kit and sealed it against Jim's nose and mouth, activating the respirator function.
"What happened?" Spock took in the arrow going through Jim.
"The natives found us," McCoy said without glancing up from the hypospray cartridge he was loading. The Tri-Ox, and subsequent vasopressors and analgesics, were injected without the usual complaint from the patient. "We're going to need a beam out directly to Sick Bay. We don't have time to take him by shuttle," he was slicing Jim's shirt up the side and placing vascular stabilizers around the entry and exit wounds.
"Understood, Doctor McCoy, stand by."
"Damn it, Jim!" McCoy swore checking the readings from the tricorder again. "How long until a beam out?" he yelled over his shoulder.
"There's no time to start a line, it'll have to wait until were onboard," he placed one of his large hands on Jim's clammy brow.
"To use a human expression; take care of him, Doctor McCoy."
"I'll do my best," the doctor replied before he felt the unnerving tingle that preceded his molecules being pulled apart.
With a swirl of lights they were gone.
"We need to return to the shuttle immediately," Spock announced to the crewmen.
Chaos erupted in the Sick Bay upon the materialization of their CMO and Captain on the deck plating. M'Benga was called back on duty to help, nurses were sent to ready the OR, and corpsmen carried Jim into the surgical suite and laid him out on the table. McCoy hurriedly threw on scrubs over his clothes and ran his hands under the sterilizer. By the time he walked into the OR the rest of Jim's clothes had been cut off and had been slightly propped on his uninjured side by surgical towels.
"The sterile field is engaged, and two trauma lines are in with fluids wide open, Doctor McCoy," Nurse Chapel said while taping IV tubing to the Captain's arm.
McCoy nodded while snapping his gloves over his surgical gown, "I'll open when M'Benga gets here. His airway is stable so lets switch him over to the oxygen field and let's get four units cross-matched. Can we get him covered?"
A chorus of 'yes doctor' followed as the nurses carried out their orders. The silent biobed alarm that had been flashing was overridden at the new drop in vitals and began blaring loudly. More drugs were pushed and the alarm was silenced for the moment.
McCoy looked down at Jim's ashen face. To his surprise there were two slivers of blue focused on him.
"Jim? Can you hear me?" McCoy moved up to the head of the table. "You're safe now. You're on the Enterprise."
"…prise?" Jim whispered.
"Yeah, kid. I'm going to fix you up now."
"Prom…ise?" the biobed's ventilation function was compensating for his labored breathing.
"I haven't let you down yet have I?"
McCoy briefly looked up as M'Benga entered the OR ready, "Alright Jim, just rest. I got this. You're going to be as good as new."
The order to start the anesthetics was given and McCoy stayed in Jim's view until his eyes fluttered shut.
"Number four," McCoy outstretched his hand for the laser scalpel.
"Surgical report updated. Do you wish to review?"
The dark room was flooded with light as the computer terminal sprang to life. McCoy rubbed his eyes from the sudden assault of lights, he had been dictating in the dark of his office. He grumbled and pulled himself off his small couch and plopped in front of the screen.
"Lights seventy percent."
It was almost halfway through gamma and McCoy wanted nothing more than to pass out in his bed. He scoffed at himself. Like that was going to happen with Jim currently unconscious and in serious condition out in the bay. His trained eyes scanned over the tersely written medical file, and images flooded his brain as he read through his dictation.
The arrow shaft had been acting as the stopper in his grandmother's antique tub and when he pulled it out, all of the proverbial water drained out. He can still hear the sickening wet sound that the arrow made as he inched it out of his best friend's side. Things had been very 'touch and go' while he and M'Benga battled the blood loss from the damaged blood vessels and then trying to clean and contain the contents that had spilled into his abdomen from the perforated bowels.
A quick look at the biobed's readings confirmed that Jim was unconscious, and he was as stable as he could be after six-ish hours of surgery. A fever was already raging despite the antibiotics and antipyretics he was being given, and his blood pressure was still low from the blood loss.
"Doctor McCoy," he turned around to see Spock standing in his office door with his hands clasped behind his back.
"I was just finishing my action report. I'll send it to you when I'm done."
"Thank you, Doctor McCoy. I came here to on a more personal nature," Spock was standing as rigid as ever.
"I wish to inquire the condition of the Cap-, of Jim."
"You can go see him if you want. He's sedated for now," McCoy pointed out into the main bay.
"Was the surgical repair successful?"
Even though he just checked minutes ago, McCoy glanced at the monitor displaying information from the biobeds, "Yes it was. That damn arrow did quite a bit of damage, but M'Benga and I were able to repair it. It'll be a slow recovery for sure, gut wounds tend to be messy."
"I see, and how is he currently?"
"It's early yet, but things are about what I expected after what's happened. We're still trying to make sure his blood counts come back up, and it's becoming more evident that infection has set in."
"Thank you, Doctor McCoy. I will visit Jim once my shift is completed. The crew has been anxious for news."
"I'll let them know when they can come by, but for now Jim needs all the rest he can get."
Spock merely nodded and exited swiftly. McCoy took the First Officer's exit as a cue to stand up and stretch his tired muscles. He really was getting to old for all this. He wasn't a young twenty something who could stay up for days at a time during his residency anymore.
After grabbing his data pad and his now cold cup of coffee, he crossed Sick Bay and collapsed into the chair by the Captain's bedside. He grimaced after taking a drink of the truly atrocious replicator coffee; they really needed a real coffee maker.
This was the first time since the ordeal happened that he could sit and reflect on what had happened in the forest. Even though they managed to make it back to the ship and Jim was on the road to recovery, albeit a slow one, he still had killed a sentient being. He'd felt satisfaction as the creature went limp under his hands, and that's not what scared him the most. What scared him was that he would do it again to save Jim. Following Jim to the edges of the quadrants and saving him was what he was meant to do.
A groan quickly interrupted his musings. Setting his coffee cup down on a nearby cart, he saw sweat dotting Jim's wrinkled forehead. After a quick look at his vitals and pain indicators the doctor increased the dosage of the antipyretics and analgesics the Captain was receiving. It only took seconds for the pain lines to recede and Jim was resting comfortably again so McCoy settled back into the chair, ready for the upcoming vigil.
There were brief flashes of lucidity where he could catch glimpses of people talking to him or holding his hand. Several times he heard a sweet voice singing to him, and the song always ended with a cool compress to his fevered brow. Some times there was a lot of noise coming from several people and then other times there was silence, but he knew he wasn't alone. Throughout all of the haze, there was always a comforting presence hovering nearby or holding his hand. Bones. He repeatedly tried to claw his way back to awareness, but a rush of warmth would flood his body before he could surface. The familiar sensations of cycling back up were returning and he was determined to make it this time, it was just too damn hard; he groaned at the effort.
"Jim, are you with me?"
"I'm here, Jim."
McCoy didn't catch a garbled response from the Captain but he placed his hand on Jim's bare shoulder.
"I need you to open your eyes."
Jim's head was rolling around and his eyes were trying to open. He could do it this time.
"C'mon, Jim. You can do it."
With a groan, slivers of blue peeked through eyelashes. McCoy almost wept with relief.
"Are you with me now?" McCoy tightened his grip.
"mmhmmm," Jim wearily opened his eyes more, all he could see was blue.
"Are you hurting anywhere?"
"Okay, Jim, that's just the tube we had to put up your nose and into your stomach. We couldn't have you vomiting everywhere. You've been very sick, but I'll take it out when you're a little better. I'll give you something for the pain in a second. Are you nauseous at all?"
Jim shook his head, " 'mmm tired."
"I bet you are," McCoy snorted. "This is the first time you've really talked to me in five days. It's good to finally see you awake."
The Captain's eyes widened at the mention of the time he'd apparently been unconscious. Things must've been really bad.
"What happened?" he tried to sit up but the firm hand on his shoulder and a sharp pain in his gut kept him from raising more than an inch off the biobed.
"Just take it easy, Jim. You had one nasty case of peritonitis. Then of course it took a while to find an antibiotic that would take care of the infection without your damn immune system mucking things up. Your fever finally broke a little while ago."
"Peri-what?" Jim's forehead wrinkled.
"A really bad infection in your abdomen. Save the heavy thinking for later."
" 'm okay?"
"Yeah, kid, you're gonna be okay now," McCoy patted the shoulder under his hand.
"I'm sorry, Jim. I can't let you have anything yet."
Jim just wearily nodded. He wanted to talk more, but he was just too damn tired and a deep pain had settled into his side. McCoy saw this and began quietly tapping commands on the biobed's control panel to deliver a dose of the promised pain medication through his IV.
"Sleep, Jim. That's the best thing for you now. I'll even let you have visitors if you behave," he tapped the final button to send the drugs. He wasn't going to mention that most of the senior staff had been visiting him anyways, bribery always worked best.
McCoy was with a crewman who had burnt his hand on an ornery plasma conduit when Jim woke up again late the following day. He could see movement on the biobed out of the corner of his eye as he applied a burn gel to the wound.
"Next time try to remember that plasma and hands don't mix well."
"Don't have to tell me twice."
"Mmmhmmm," McCoy mumbled tersely. "Nurse Chapel will give you some analgesics and more gel to take with you for the next day, and if it's not better drop back by."
McCoy peeled off his gloves while walking over to Jim's biobed and tossed them into the biotrash chute. Jim appeared to be much more alert since the last time he woke up; the removal of the NG tube during the night did help him look less sickly. He tapped the biobed controls to raise the head several degrees.
"Hey Jim, how are you feeling?"
"Urgh, like crap."
"Yeah, that's to be expected for a little while. Any pain or nausea?"
"Is that all you ever ask?"
"Jim," McCoy retorted.
"No. I'm good, thanks to you."
"Well, it is my job to patch you back up."
"That too. I meant what happened in the forest."
That. McCoy pulled the chair over and sat down.
"You mean you, Captain James T. Kirk, want to willingly talk? This is a first." surprisingly he hadn't really thought about what he'd done since after Jim's surgery; he'd been too busy trying to control the raging infection and an overactive immune system.
"Bones, you're my best friend and I know it was hard."
"Yeah it was," McCoy folded his arms and leaned back.
"I wish you didn't have to. It's not something I ever wanted to ask you to do."
"Jim, I haven't really thought about it since we got back. I know I was furious with you for asking me to kill, but I know now it was the right thing to do to save you. It was the path I had to take to get you back to the Enterprise, and I would do it again. It's what I do, take care of you."
"Wow. I was expecting a lot more fight from you. You were pretty pissed."
"It's not something I was comfortable doing."
"Well that's a good thing. So you're okay?"
"So we're okay?"
"Is Georgia hot in the summer?"
"Good. What do I have to do to hold a staff meeting in here? Have I missed anything important? What's the status of the negotiations?"
"Very funny, Captain. I think it's safe to say that the Charkins won't be joining the Federation anytime soon."
"What a shame, they were scary. They could've been useful against the Klingons."
"Scary is putting it mildly, Jim."
"When can I get out of here?"
"A couple more days at least. You can't leave until you can eat. We're gonna have to slowly work your digestive system up to solid foods."
"This sucks, Bones."
"It could be worse, a lot worse. In fact, it was worse not too long ago."
"Yeah, being pinned to a tree by an arrow is a new one."
Jim had made it a lot longer than McCoy thought before the yawns started, "Get some rest Jim, you'll be back on your feet in no time."
"Please don't sedate me," Jim pleaded.
"I won't, I think you're body's got this under control."
"Finally no hypos for once," Jim sunk further into the thin mattress on the biobed. "Bones, am I naked under here?"
"It's not like you could get up and use the head yourself. Rest," McCoy was trying to hold in his smirk.
"Damn it, Bones!"