A/N: Well, here it is, the last chapter. It's so heartwarming to get the emails from where this story has been reviewed/favorited/alerted and I can't thank all of you enough for riding along. I would like to continue Jim's recovery and the implications from everything in a sequel (which has been started); I feel like there's still more to be said here but I had to get this out instead of waiting for a complete picture. Enjoy!
Every so often Jim's lungs would stutter and the biobed would automatically take over. The doctor's grip would tighten on his friend's hand until his body got the message and resumed breathing for itself again. McCoy looked at the hand underneath his. The numbing iciness that he'd felt days ago had been replaced by a searing heat as its owner's body burned with a fever. You're so close now.
"Doctor McCoy," Spock was at the door.
"I have been unable to delay the admiralty any longer, they have ordered you to be debriefed."
"Now?" McCoy rose up angrily out of the chair, bringing Jim's hand with him.
"Doctor Boyce was keeping them apprised of the Captain's condition, and they know that he's been taken off life support and is improving. They were most adamant about not facing another delay now that he's on the mend."
"Spock, does he look like he's 'on the mend'?"
"Not at the moment, but they feel that he is stable enough for your presence to not be needed."
"Dammit, man! I can't leave him yet!"
"I am aware, Doctor McCoy, and I tried to explain the seriousness of his condition."
The gears in McCoy's head began churning. He knew he was waiting to be questioned, but their sudden insistence was concerning. Doctor Boyce was keeping them apprised of the Captain's condition. It hit him; he knew exactly why they wanted to talk to him so quickly.
"They know the transfusion worked?"
"Presumably so, Doctor. I had talked to Doctor Boyce about altering the records, but it would've been a monumental task to adjust the ship's records. The declaration of death of the Captain was a significant event and triggered an automatic alert to command."
McCoy pinched the bridge of his nose, "Do they know where the plasma came from?"
"I am uncertain."
"Alright, can you sit with him?" McCoy set Jim's hand back down on the bed.
"Of course, Doctor McCoy."
"Comm me if anything changes. I don't care if I'm in the middle of the Spanish Inquisition."
The doctor was fuming and didn't bother to acknowledge the rest of the senior command crew that was still waiting in the waiting room as he stormed down the hall.
He straightened his rumpled dress uniform before slamming his hand on the ID scanner. The door hissed opened, leading him to a panel of five very cross looking admirals seated behind a u-shaped table. He took a deep breath and stood at attention behind the lone chair on the in the center of the 'u'.
"Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy reporting as ordered sirs."
"Be seated," a terse reply came from the end.
McCoy took a good look at the officers as he sat down. In the center was the new head of Starfleet, Admiral Komack, and to his right was the Surgeon General, Admiral Donaldson. Shit. He was going to get it from both Command and Medical. He didn't even bother looking at the others after that.
"Before we start, I would like to commend you for your efforts as Chief Medical Officer during the recent engagement with the U.S.S. Vengeance," Komack started.
"Thank you, sir," McCoy stated tersely, already on edge.
"Now, we've already heard testimony from First Officer Spock and the rest of the bridge crew. All that remains of the senior command to be questioned is Captain Kirk and you. We've been lenient towards the situation you both are in, but we need answers now."
"I understand, sir."
"We'll begin with the Enterprise's deployment under Admiral Marcus's orders."
McCoy swallowed the lump in his throat and began recapping his involvement from the moment he was issued his new orders. The admirals only interjected to ask for clarification, but remained silent other wise. No doubt they weren't getting any new information after debriefing the senior command crew and reviewing all of the transmissions saved in the ship's computers.
"That agrees with what we know so far," the admiral at the end stopped McCoy's testimony as he was recounting the stabilization issues in Sickbay as the ship was plummeting.
McCoy nodded and took a drink of water from the glass in front of him.
"Now, we know that the ship's logs recorded Captain's Kirk time of death but we hear from Doctor Boyce that he is in critical condition, but very much alive."
"Yes, sir," McCoy wasn't going to offer anything.
"Elaborate," bellowed a thick Irish accent as Donaldson spoke for the first time.
"Uh, the Captain was brought to Sickbay per standard procedure—"
"Where you upset?" Donaldson glared past his glasses at McCoy.
"Yes sir, the Captain and I were friends. I immediately ordered for Kirk to be placed into a cryotube."
"Why, McCoy? He was clinically dead, and had been dead for several minutes."
"It occurred to me to transfuse plasma to restart his cell regeneration," this was as painful as pulling hen's teeth.
"How did it 'occur to you'?" the Surgeon General was digging, they knew something.
"I—" he hesitated
"Need I remind you that you are under oath, Doctor McCoy?" an admiral at the other end interjected.
"No sir, I am aware," a bead of sweat rolled down his neck.
"We alredy know about Khan and his 'powers'. We've talked to the wife of the man responsible for the attack in London. It's curious that his daughter was on death's doorstep and is suddenly alive and well after his act."
McCoy was stunned. This has been used before? At least there's no sense lying about it.
"Now, McCoy, how did it occur to you to transfuse the Captain?" Donaldson took back control of the questioning.
"A tribble I had been testing Khan's blood on came back to life," he'd said it, there was no turning back now.
"Khan's blood?" the admirals sat up straighter.
"Yes sir. I'd noticed he had some extraordinarily fast cell regeneration when I was testing his blood after coming aboard the ship."
"How did they end up in a tribble?"
"A hunch, sir, I wanted to see if it would do anything."
"A lucky hunch," the Surgeon General made notes on his data pad.
"Yes sir, I really didn't expect anything to come of it."
"Okay, so now I'm assuming you put Kirk in stasis to preserve him?"
"Yes sir, Commander Spock was in pursuit of Khan and I let the Bridge know that he could save the Captain."
"Where did you get the cryotube from?" Komack asked this time.
"Uh, we took someone else out of one to put Kirk inside."
"What did you do with them?"
"They've been in a coma and have since been put back in stasis."
"Okay, back to Kirk. Did you see Khan when he was apprehended?"
"Yes sir, he was brought to Sickbay unconscious and under heavy guard."
"Did you assess him?"
"Briefly, his wounds were not life threatening. We extracted the plasma shortly after he arrived."
"You took three units?" the Surgeon General looked at his data pad.
"A guess, sir."
The admirals didn't comment but they wrote something down on their data pads.
"What next?" Komack asked.
"Emergency medical support arrived and began transferring the wounded off the ship."
"You went with Kirk?"
"I did, sir."
"You left Sickbay during a crisis?" Donaldson pulled off his glasses.
"Everything was under control. The critical patients were being evacuated and medical teams were supplementing our own staff. As the Captain's personal physician, I was responsible for him," McCoy was defensive of his decision.
"As the Captain's friend…"
"I also happen to be his friend, but at that moment I was his doctor," McCoy snapped at the insinuation.
"Would you have done this for any other crewmember? Even a lowly galley tech?"
"Yes, sir," he said without hesitation.
Donaldson kept pushing, "Was Doctor Boyce in agreement with your treatment plan?"
"Not at first, but he agreed nonetheless and we put the Captain on ECMO and began the transfusion."
"Did you know that it would work?"
"No sir, I did not."
"Did you do any further testing on the plasma before giving it to Kirk?"
"Only the preliminary safety screens from the extractor."
"So you transfused a dead man with plasma from a genetically modified human without thoroughly testing it?" Komack was turning red.
"There wasn't time."
"He was in stasis, Doctor, why wasn't there time?"
"There were too many unknowns and the quicker the better."
"Could you have rushed things because you were emotionally compromised?" a middle admiral asked.
"It's possible, but I did it. I brought him back," McCoy rose up knocking his chair over.
"Sit down, McCoy."
"Yes sir, I apologize sirs. It's been a long week and a half," he quickly reigned in his temper and returned the chair to its upright position.
"Have you done any testing on the plasma since transfusing it?"
"No sir, taking care of Kirk has been a full time job."
"How is he currently?" Donaldson's eyes softened a tiny bit.
"He's off life support but he's gone septic. His chances for a full recovery are still good though."
"I've familiarized myself with his records. Your quick thinking was pretty impressive."
"Thank you sir."
"We're going to confer with each other and resume at 1600 hours. Report back then."
Just like that, the questioning was over. He stood to attention and was dismissed for the time being. He all but ran to the bathroom and locked himself in a stall. He closed the toilet lid and sat down with his head in his hands. That had been brutal and it had taken everything in him to keep from exploding all over the admirals. They had dissected every single decision he'd made and flayed their flaws open before him. Did I do the right thing here? He just sat there in the bathroom, telling himself that Jim was alive, until it was time to reconvene.
"Lieutenant Commander McCoy, we've heard your testimony and at this time we will not be seeking punitive measures. Despite the glaring ethical issues with your administration of Khan's plasma to Captain Kirk, you did the best with what you could in a bad situation."
"Thank you, sirs," he breathed a sigh of relief.
"I would like to caution you to letting your emotions cloud your judgment. You may adamantly deny anything, but it's obvious that you were deeply affected by Kirk's passing."
"Do you have any questions?" Komack asked.
As a matter of fact, he did. "What's to become of Khan and Kirk? Do you plan to experiment on them?"
"No, McCoy, we do not. We do not condone unethical experimentation and any mention of the true cause of Kirk's recovery will be redacted from official record for their protection. Officially he was in arrest for a recoverable amount of time. Starfleet lost sight of its true mission and we're not going to revert back to the ideals from Marcus's reign. I'm not denying the implications of a super serum that can bring back the dead, but it is not up to us, or you, to play God."
They were going to sweep everything under the rug. As much as it sucked, this was the best thing they could've done.
"Thank you, sirs."
"Please keep us apprised of the Captain's condition, we need to speak to him as soon as he's able. Dismissed."
"That was a fucking nightmare," McCoy plopped down in the chair at Jim's bedside and unzipped his stiff dress jacket.
There was no response from the man on the bed, just rhythmic breathing and the beeps from the biomonitors.
"You should be happy to know that you're not going to be turned into a lab rat. Though it would be super convenient to keep you out of harm's way."
McCoy tabbed through the latest updates in Jim's chart on his data pad. His antibiotics had been switched but his fever was still raging, but the good news was that the latest neural scans showed more brain activity.
"You're getting there, Jim. Just keep hanging on," McCoy squeezed Jim's pliant hand.
A soft groan reached the doctor's ears.
"Jim?" he perked up.
There was another groan and Jim's brow was wrinkled. McCoy saw an increase in his heart rate.
"Can you hear me? I'm here, Jim."
McCoy combed back some sweaty hair from his forehead. Whatever that had been bothering the Captain was gone and the wrinkles unfurrowed themselves.
"I believe he his in pain, Doctor," Spock was in the doorway.
"You keep creeping up on me like that."
"I apologize, it has been unintentional. How was your debriefing?"
"It was pretty awful. They knew about Khan's blood. Apparently he used it to coerce the guy in the London bombing."
"That is unfortunate."
"That's putting it mildly, Spock. They weren't too happy that it was an impromptu treatment, but they're not going to do anything about it."
"I expected that much with the state of chaos Starfleet has been thrown into with recent events."
"You said Jim was in pain?"
"Yes, I confess that I tried to initiate contact with him and the pain was overwhelming. I was unable to continue."
"You did what?" the doctor snapped.
"I wished to ascertain his mental status and alleviate any fears he could be experiencing. My intentions were benign."
"I know, Spock, I'm just tired. I know you meant well," McCoy turned in his chair and started tapping new drug orders on the IV control screen. "That should take care of things."
"The crew is going out for alcoholic beverages and I am to use any force necessary to get you to accompany me."
"Are you trying to be funny, Spock?"
"No, Doctor. I was left with explicit instructions from Nyota and I do not want to anger her."
"I hear ya there, Spock," McCoy chuckled; it was clear who wore the pants in that relationship.
"It has been a stressful night and day, Jim would want you to take care of yourself."
"I'm already going, you don't have to guilt trip me," McCoy pushed himself tiredly to his feet.
A delicious aroma of finely brewed coffee wafted under his nose. He inhaled the scent deeply, letting it seep into all of his organs. There was a steady drilling in his head wrenching him to consciousness; he was hung over. He took in his surroundings; he was on the cot in Jim's hospital room. The proverbial wheel in his mind tried to start turning to recall what had happened but he was drawing a blank.
"You can sure put away your liquor, Doctor McCoy," a voice called out to him.
He forced his eyes to focus on the blurry figure in the bedside chair. It slowly morphed into the chief engineer.
"What happened?" McCoy cautiously rose up and scrubbed his face.
"Ya tried to drink everyone under the table. I think only Jim could've gone toe to toe with ya."
He felt terrible, "Why am I here?"
"Ya wouldn't shut up about not going to your apartment. Not to worry, laddie, a cute nurse came in earlier and said you could use the staff showers."
He tried to nod but it only intensified the drilling in his head. The delicious smelling coffee that had awoken him was thrust under his nose.
"I could kiss you now, Scotty."
"Ehh, please don't sir. I got that cute nurse's comm signal earlier and I was hopin' to take her to dinner."
McCoy responded by gulping down the piping hot liquid. After caffeinated, he looked up at the biomonitors. Jim was still running a fever, but it wasn't quite so severe.
"He's almost back to us," the engineer saw the doctor assessing the patient.
"I'll keep watch today."
McCoy stifled a groaned as he pulled himself to his feet, he was too old to be drinking like that. After a quick shower and a change of clothes from his duffle, he downloaded the list of patients to his data pad and set off to work. At some point when he'd stopped back by Jim's room, Nurse Bauer had slammed a hypo into his neck and the drilling in his head finally dissipated. She'd said that nurses on the floor with him were complaining of his grouchiness and were attempting to spike his fifth cup of coffee.
Two false alarms later, another groan and a hand twitch, he'd finally given up hope that Jim would wake up and had left for his apartment after talking to Carol who'd taken Scotty's place at Jim's side.
It was two more days of false alarms and constant vigils from the senior crew before McCoy was finally certain that Jim was going to wake up. The crewmembers had taken up reading from an old paperback novel; brought down from his quarters on the ship, in an effort to soothe his apparent nightmares.
His fever had broken during the middle of the night leaving him soaked with sweat. He'd been mumbling the entire night and would turn his head in the direction of whoever was speaking to him, but he had yet to open his eyes.
McCoy had been tracking his brain waves and had been hovering nearby for the past hour, he'd even stopped the automatic dosing of analgesics to help Jim cycle all the way up this time. Boyce was beaming as he informed McCoy that he'd do rounds later so that they could have some much needed time together.
The senior crew was on standby in the waiting room and Spock was called in as Jim began another round of mumbling and twitching. He tabbed the control panel to raise the head of the biobed for the Captain's impending return to consciousness.
Of course Jim would open his eyes while he was turned away to the biomonitors. He saw Jim's vitals spike and heard a gasp coming from the bed; he quickly turned around. His hands clenched around the tricorder they were holding. Looking frantically at him was a pair of electric blue eyes. He could've cried right then and there at the sight of his best friend looking back at him.
He fumbled for the right words, but they wouldn't come after all this time, "Oh don't be so melodramatic, you were barely dead."
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