In A Cell Beside You

Author: Cheryl W.

Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek or any rights to the television show or movie, nor am I making any profit from this story.

Author's Notes: This update is much longer than any so far.

STSTSTSTSTST

Chapter 4: The Family You Choose

STSTSTSTSTST

When his communicator chirps for attention as he's crossing the Starfleet Academy quad, James Kirk shuffles his coffee cup into his other hand and pulls out the communicator, fully expecting it to be Bones confirming their plans for the night. He's about to answer with a taunt about who was going to walk away with a girl that night when the ID of his caller makes his smile fade. Just another official Starfleet missive.

"Cadet Kirk here," he answers in his best staid student tone.

"This is the Medical ward. We're looking to contact Leonard McCoy's next of kin," a woman's voice announces, a small question in her statement.

Kirk comes to an abrupt halt right there in the center of the quad, doesn't feel the shoulder check he gets from the group of cadets that pass him, only knows his heart's about to thud right out of his chest and his stomach's clenched with sick dread. Because he's not a fool, knows by the seemingly simple utterance of 'next of kin', to expect the worst. His voice is choked, an octave lower than it normally is as he forces himself to ask the question he truly doesn't want answered, "What's happened to McCoy?"

"Can you come to Medical, Mr. Kirk?"

Her evasiveness, it only makes Jim's heart race harder, makes his next words a breathless, "I'll be there in five minutes." Ending the call, he takes off at a run, terrified that, just like everyone else he ever dared to care about, Bones has up and left him.

STSTSTSTST

Bursting through the Medical emergency doors, Jim dodges through the patients and their companions and makes it to the receptionist's desk. "I'm James Kirk. Someone called me about Leonard McCoy?"

The receptionist drops her eyes from Kirk to search her computer. When her eyes again alight on Kirk, there aren't any helpful clues to Bones' condition in her expression as she professionally instructs, "Dr. Logan will come talk to you when he's available, so please take a seat in the waiting room."

But Jim can't move, feels immobile with fear. "Can you tell me what's happened to McCoy?" he's asking but the receptionist is already answering an incoming verbal communication.

Bitterly realizing that he has no choice but to wait for the doctor's appearance to get the bad news, he turns around, surveys the mayhem of the ER and finds a seat by the doors. And it's not reassuring, knowing nothing, left to fear the worst, to watch as the ER fills with others having a bad day.

Bowing his head, he puts a hand to the back of his neck, suddenly wishes he had never befriended Leonard McCoy. Because, if it was just going to end like this….it would have been better had he shunned Bones' companionship, bailed on Starfleet altogether and gone back to being what he was good at: a loner who took being a loser to new heights.

Because loners, especially deadbeat ones, they didn't lose people they cared about because they didn't let themselves care about anyone. Just stayed by themselves, stayed alone, stayed…safe.

And for all the times Leonard McCoy pointed out the hazards of space, none of it had scared Kirk. But this, what could happen, maybe what has happened, it's terrifying, will be more than he can handle, he knows that. And part of him wants to stand up, walk out, run out, to not know that he is alone again, not of his choice but by someone else's. Just like Sam's choice was to leave him, like his mother's, like his dad's. All of them gone.

He's not even aware that he's on his feet, has initiated his flight instinct, not until he finds that there's a tan, dark haired man in his late twenties wearing the Starfleet's medical uniform blocking his way, speaking to him.

"You're James Kirk, right? I think I've seen you with McCoy a time or two."

Swallowing hard, Kirk can only nod, his throat too dry, his mind too frozen to form a verbal reaction.

Taking that as agreement, the doctor imparts with intensity, "McCoy was trying to help an intern subdue a violent patient and things got…out of hand. He got knocked backwards and hit his head on the floor. He's not conscious and …we needed his next of kin to make a decision on his treatment."

Jim felt the room shift a little as a wave of lightheaded relief hits him. McCoy wasn't dead, is hurt, yes, but isn't gone, hasn't left him. Shaking his head to clear it, he stammers, his brain going a mile a minute, "McCoy…his mother's still living. I think I can reach her…."

Realizing that McCoy's friend has mistaken the situation, Dr. Logan interrupts, "You misunderstood me, Cadet Kirk. You're listed as Leonard's next of kin on his emergency contact form."

"I'm …what? Wait… he has family," Jim declares, wonders how things had gotten so screwed up on McCoy's medical form.

But Dr. Logan took the information on Leonard's form as gospel truth, knew McCoy didn't make decisions lightly, but he did tend to make them with his heart. "Maybe he does have family but he didn't elect to have them make his medical decisions for him," he carefully points out to Kirk.

It's almost more than Jim can process on top of everything else, has him running a hand through his hair. "Seriously, he made me his next of kin?" he directs to the doctor, needs to hear it again in the hopes it makes more sense the second, even third time around.

"Yes," Logan patiently confirms again. When he notices Kirk straightening his shoulders like the cadet's bracing against the weight just added to then, he knows Kirk's finally accepted the truth. "Come with me to a conference room," he bids and when Kirk paces him, he continues, "We need an approval from you before we can proceed with his treatment. The blow to his head has caused some swelling in his brain." Then he turns into a room and Kirk follows, finds that another doctor, whose dark skin hint at Middle East American descent and grey hair and lined face speak of experience, is already seated at the small table, his dark eyes down, scanning a PADD screen. "I've consulted with Dr. Bovell," Dr. Logan says in way of an introduction as he shuts the door and claims a seat like Kirk has.

Seated across from Dr. Bovell, Kirk doesn't recognize the man's face but his name…he's heard it before, from McCoy. And never in a complimentary vein.

Dr. Bovell doesn't bother meeting Kirk's eyes, continues to read and make the occasional keystroke on the PADD in his hand. So it's up to Dr. Logan to start the conference. Steadily holding Kirk's gaze, he outlines, "To relieve the swelling, we have two options. To treat it with medication, give it time to recede on its own or to perform surgery to alleviate the pressure."

Without looking up from his PADD, Dr. Bovell advises in a jaded tone, "There really is no debate. Surgery will solve the problem."

Dr. Logan reverts his gaze to his colleague, who doesn't give him the respect of meeting his eyes either. "You are overlooking the inherent risks to the surgery: stroke, blood clot, seizures, brain damage. I think the situation can resolve itself, given time."

Sighing in annoyance, Dr. Bovell finally graces Dr. Logan with his full attention. "Time is something McCoy doesn't have," he snaps to his co-worker before he levels his cold gaze on Kirk. "Cadet Kirk, it's pretty straightforward. Let me do the surgery or be the reason your friend's dead."

"Luc, there's no need for bluntness," Dr. Logan bristles.

"Kid needs guidance, I'm giving it to him," Dr. Bovell shoots back before he again deems to recognize Kirk's presence in the room. "We wait and the chances of brain damage or death increases hourly. No. Surgery's the only way to go here," he announces as he stands up and starts for the door, as if the decision has already been made.

"No surgery," Jim declares firmly. Before he raises his eyes to clash with Dr. Bovell's, hopes it isn't detectable to either doctor that he's terrified that he's making the wrong decision, that he's teetering on the edge of being violently sick at the consequences to Bones if he is.

"What?! Haven't you heard what I've told you?" Dr. Bovell bites out like he's dealing with an idiot. Sparing a look to his watch, he's not sure how a two second consort is pushing past five minutes.

"Yes, but I know what McCoy would do if it were his patient facing this choice. He believes in avoiding surgery, in using more non-invasive treatments," Jim explains levelly, his eyes lancing into Bovell's. He had heard McCoy's ranting enough to know his friend disapproved of surgeries taking the place of 'good old medicine'. But his eyes do traitorously slip to Dr. Logan, silently asking for the other doctor's support.

But Logan doesn't get the chance to speak before Bovell growls down at Kirk. "Oh, you hang on McCoy's every word, huh? Well, kid, your precious Dr. McCoy doesn't understand the risks that he puts his patients in with that type of cowardly mind set."

At the insult to McCoy, Kirk comes to his feet, stands toe to toe with the older doctor. "Is that right?" he scoffs with a goading smirk. "Well, McCoy's going to have his choice of the best starships in the fleet and you're going to be where you've always been….right here."

Bovell snorts. "Bit of hero worship you got going there. Let me tell you the truth, Cadet. McCoy belongs in a small clinic in some backwater little town treating mosquito bites. He's out of his league here," arms wide to indicate the hospital. "No way he gets assigned to a starship."

Instead of replying in anger like he knows Bovell wants him to, Kirk pulls on a cocky grin, "Want to make a wager on that, Bovell? Good news for me is, in four years when you need to pay up, I'll know right where to find you," he states, his finger pointing to the Medical facility's foundation under his feet.

"You cocky punk," Dr. Bovell thunders but whatever else he's about to say is cut off as Dr. Logan stands up, intercedes.

"Alright, everyone just calm down. We're all here to do what's best for Leonard," Dr. Logan peacemakes.

"Well I am," Kirk declares before spearing Dr. Bovell with a look of angry disgust. "But you're just looking for any excuse to cut someone up on your operating table, get another surgery under your belt, get one step closer to getting your grant," he spits, would not let McCoy's life be callously put in jeopardy by Bovell or anyone else.

Though Bovell can't hide his surprise at the cadet's knowledge of his aspirations, he quickly recovers, thinks to outmatch the kid with his next declaration. "Clearly you're emotionally compromised, cadet, incapable of making the right decision for McCoy." Dismissing Kirk, he turns to his fellow doctor and commands, "Logan, send McCoy to OR3," as he brushes past him.

But Kirk steps into Bovell path, blocking his escape from the room. "No way! McCoy isn't going to get turned into a vegetable because you want to fill a quota," he hisses, a deadly threat glittering in his eyes.

Grabbing Kirk by the uniform, Bovell jerks the younger man close. "Now you listen here, I'm a highly respected…."

"McCoy calls you a hack," Kirk cuts across Bovell's brag, doesn't bothering to break the doctor's hold on him, has always been as efficient a fighter with words as fists. Eyes flashing into Bovell's, he goads the man with another McCoy quote. "He says you should be a veterinarian, 'cause at least then, your patients can't sue you."

Suddenly Bovell strikes out, not with words but his fist, catches Kirk solidly on the jaw and sends the cadet crashing backwards.

In an eerie reenactment of McCoy's earlier mishap, Jim's head impacts with the table then Kirk crumples onto the conference room floor. Vaguely he hears shouting above him but it barely penetrates the ringing in his head as he lies there, unmoving, eyes blinking back the void. Numbly, he wonders who they will call if he ends up in the same predicament as McCoy, especially since he left his own 'Next of Kin' box blank on his medical form. 'Crap, if I need Dr. Bovell to save my life, I'm a dead man,' and he chokes back a snort because McCoy would be so pissed at him right now. Not only for letting himself get cold-cocked but for making an enemy of the one person he might need to save his stupid life.

But then the void gives up its claim on him and the lights in the room brighten. Moving against the cold floor, he slides his hands under him and starts to lever himself up. He jerks when a hand coils around his bicep.

"Whoa, it's Dr. Logan, just lie still a moment, let me look you over," the doctor orders, starting to press Kirk back to the floor.

But Kirk dislodges the doctor's hold and stubbornly sits up. And when Logan reaches out to inspect the bleeding wound on Kirk's head, he finds his wrist caught in the cadet's strong grip and the injured man's eyes piercing his with unqualified intensity.

"Tell me that idiot won't be laying a hand on McCoy?!" Kirk demands, will physically stop Bovell if he has to, regardless that his head's killing him and he's two seconds away from losing his lunch.

"You have my word," Dr. Logan vows, can see Kirk gauging the truthfulness of his statement. Knows he's passed the test when Kirk doesn't flinch away when he again steadies the man with a good grip on his shoulder. "Now let's get you patched up."

Reaching a hand out to snag onto the doctor's uniform, Kirk commands, "No, I want to see McCoy."

"Cadet, you're bleeding…."

"Either you take me to McCoy or I'll find him myself." Jim's ultimatum burns in his eyes as he uses the doctor as a ladder to gain his feet.

Logan sighs but knows a losing battle when he sees one. Wrapping his hand around Kirk's elbow, he steers the man from the room and down the hallway toward McCoy's room. Thinks he should have seen this obstinate, reckless flare of willpower coming from Kirk, shouldn't have expected any less from someone McCoy calls a 'stubborn idiot' with a warm affection Leonard doesn't bestow on anyone else.

And what's more, he's realizing just why McCoy picked Kirk to be his emergency contact. 'We should all be this lucky with our next of kin.'

STSTSTSTSTST

When McCoy wakes up, it takes him a few moments to recall why he's looking up at the hospital ceiling. Right, cantankerous Gorn, flailing legs, one of which nailed him in the chest, knocked the breath out of him and sent him flying and then…nothing until now. 'And now I'm' he began to theorize, turning his head to take in his surroundings, found a bed under him, a bandage around his head and….a familiar form slumped, head down, in the chair pulled up beside his bed.

Reaching out, he taps Jim's lax hand, is about to call out his friend's name when Kirk snaps upright and his eyes fly to him. "Bones!" the kid exclaims, smiling at him like he's the best thing he's seen all year.

But Leonard is far from happy at the sight of his friend. "Jim, what happened to you?!" he demands, starting to sit up, finger pointing accusingly at the bruises on his friend's jaw and forehead, and the blood marring Kirk's temple. "Why are you bleeding?!" his voice rising with his displeasure.

Kirk laughs out loud. Clearly Bones isn't suffering from any brain damage. Recognizing that his good humor is only making his friend's face cloud over with more frustrated anxiety, is egging McCoy on in his less-than-smart idea to sit up, Jim stands up, lays a hand on McCoy's shoulder and pushes his friend back into the mattress. "Easy. You're the guy in the hospital bed, Bones."

Kirk nearly sighs when McCoy takes advantage of his nearness to reach up and use his practiced hand to inspect the cut on his forehead. Gently, he snags Leonard's hand, pulls it away from his wound and settles it back onto the bed covers. "Bones, I'm fine. Tell me how you are?" his tone quiet and concerned.

"Pissed at whoever rearranged your face," McCoy gave in answer, the agitated crease in his forehead peeking out from under the bandage on his head.

But Jim can't let go of the tendrils of fear that's had a hold on him for the past two hours, not until McCoy tells him he can. Grabbing Leonard's shoulders, he peers intently down at his friend, nearly implores, "McCoy, I need a real answer here or I'm going to go grab Dr. Logan right now."

"No you're not," McCoy forbids, hands flying up to snag a killer grip on Kirk's cadet jacket. But the look in Kirk's eyes, he's never seen it before, isn't bravado or cockiness is ….fear. For him, for his wellbeing. 'Ah crap, kid, didn't mean to worry you.' And suddenly he knows he'd do just about anything to wipe away the vulnerability in Kirk's eyes. Assured Kirk isn't going to bolt for the door, he releases his hold on Jim's jacket, earnestly divulges, "Got one heck of a headache but I'm running on all cylinders."

Hanging his head in relief, Kirk sinks down onto McCoy's bed, nearly sits on McCoy's legs, would have if the doctor hadn't moved them as quickly as he did. "You scared the daylights out of me," Kirk confesses before he lances his friend with a stern reprimand. "Oh and when were you gonna tell me you put me down as your next of kin?! Thought you'd be the first guy to say I can't even take care of myself."

McCoy's too distracted by his friend's less than healthy state to gloat that he had pegged Kirk's response about the next of kin thing correctly. "Well, if you'd look in a mirror and see the horror show your face is, you wouldn't wonder why I'd say that. You're in a hospital and no one had the brainy idea to patch you up?!" his tone nearly at the decibel of shouting as he pushes himself upright again.

With care, Kirk presses McCoy back down to the bed for a second time, keeps his hand on his best friend's chest for preventative measures as he states, "I wouldn't let them." Then he pulls on a smirk. "See, my attending physician, he's very territorial. Would probably rip out any stitches someone else put in. He thinks he's God's gift to medicine…or my mother."

Leonard fights back a smirk, doesn't want to encourage Jim. "Can't help I'm the most competent doctor you know." And he's not touching the mother topic, though silently he heaps a few choice curse words on Winona Kirk, correction Winona Becker, for being an absentee mother to his friend. "So you going to tell me who damaged your pretty face or do I have to depend on gossip?" he drawls, knows that he'll get it out of Kirk one way or another, isn't above using his present weakness to wrangle it out of his best friend.

"Later, Bones. Right now I need to tell someone that you're awake," Jim deflects, knows that McCoy will go through the roof when he realizes who gave him the shiner. And his friend should at least have some color back in his face before his blood pressure hits Saturn. He's standing up, making progress for the door when Bones' muttering stops him.

"Surprised Dr. Frankenstein didn't want to cut my head open like a melon."

Though he's only treated to a view of Kirk's back, Leonard can see the sudden tension radiating off his friend and abruptly, he gets it. "He did, didn't he?!" voice rising with indignation. "That slimy rat." But then he makes another leap of logic that makes Bovell wanting to lobotomize him a trivial thing. "Get back here, Jim," he growls.

Starting forward again toward the door, Jim throws over his shoulder, "Bones, I really need to get…"

"Jim, so help me, you get back here right now or I'll red flag your physical!" Leonard threatens, which has Kirk swinging around, protesting, "You can't do that."
"Did he do that to you?" McCoy dangerously demands, eyes as serious and as lethal as Kirk's ever seen them. When Jim opens his mouth, seemingly ready to give a flippant answer, Leonard's control slips and his voice cracks with emotion. "Jim, the truth!"

It would be best for all parties if he lied, Kirk knows that. Though the gossip mill would get around to telling Bones the truth, his stall might at least give McCoy a few hours of rest before things hit the fan. But lying to Bones, it doesn't sit well with him, even if it would be for McCoy's sake. He offers a weak smile, "I refused to let him operate on you and then I might have quoted you…you know about him becoming a vet because animals couldn't sue him."

Leonard vehemently curses, because he knows exactly how the god-complex-manic Dr. Bovell would react to that slander. 'Yeah, the proof is on Kirk's face,' he bitterly realizes, knows each and every wound on Kirk is there because of him. Throwing back the covers, he's vowing vengeance as he struggles to sit up, get out of the bed, find Bovell and strangle him…right after he rearranges his face way worse than the other man did Kirk's.

Rushing to McCoy's side, Kirk blocks his friend's escape from the bed. Grabbing McCoy by the shoulders, he tries to wrestle him back to the mattress but McCoy's fighting him tooth and nail this time. "Bones, you're going nowhere!" he hisses through clenched teeth.

"Yes, I am. I'm gonna beat Bovell to within an inch of his life," McCoy rancorously vows, trying to push Kirk's restrictive hands from his shoulder.
"How, you can't stand up?" Kirk challenges which earns him a glare hot enough to make him hope he hasn't underestimated McCoy's current weakness. Bracketing his hands around McCoy's face, he meets his friend's rage hazed gaze. "He doesn't matter right now."
"The hell he doesn't. He attacked you!" McCoy growled but didn't have the heart to break Kirk's hold on him, to even blink from the unrelenting stare of his best friend.

"Because I provoked him," Jim stringently acknowledges as he drops his hands from McCoy's face.

"I don't care if you waved a red cape in front of him, he's going to pay for hurting you." Because someone getting hurt trying to protect him, Jim getting hurt in that endeavor is wholly unacceptable.

"Except, I'm fine," Jim points out as if it's a fact McCoy's blatantly ignoring.

"You're not fine, you're bleeding, you're bruised…" Looking into Kirk's eyes, he sputters, "For Pete sake man, you have a slight concussion."

"Nothing new, alright. Same old, same old. You know me, Bones, I get into fights monthly. And this will heal," his hand waving vaguely up to the bloody temple, "and I'll be alright…but right now I feel like crap." When McCoy opens his mouth to pounce on that confession, Kirk continues, "and I will continue to feel like crap until I know my best friend's Ok. Really ok. And you know how I'll know he's ok?" he drawls, smart aleck smirk emerging. "By him being a good little patient. So you're going to let a doctor torture you with hypos, tests, and if you're lucky, some yucky concoctions to gag down."

It is a crafty move and McCoy kinda hates him for it. Kirk's betting that his well-being ranks higher with him than his own. 'And the jerk's right.' Because he's already worried that Kirk's blood pressure flying off the charts will mix badly with his head trauma. But he's determined not to fold without getting something back in return. "How about we make ourselves a little deal?" he challenges, his southern twang coming out at the prospect of haggling over a compromise.

Warily, Jim asks, "What kind of deal?"

"I'll be a good little patient if you are. You get a scan done on that thick skull of yours and let someone stitch up your forehead," says it like it's not negotiable, because it's not. He won't budge on this and hopes Kirk recognizes that.

Silently Kirk curses because McCoy's sporting that 'come hell or high water' stubbornness that he wonders if all southerners have a claim on. But McCoy's got him on the ropes and the good doc knows it. "Yeah, ok. But you're overreacting. I'm fine."

"Sure, the blood's just for sympathy, right?" McCoy taunts.

Kirk answers with a cocky smile, "Some woman swoon into my arms at the sight of blood."

McCoy rolls his eyes only to slam them shut, groan and press his hand into his forehead in pain. Instantly he feels Kirk's hand come to rest on his chest and his friend's nearly panicked, "Crap, Bones, I should have called the doctor the instant you woke up. Hold on, hold on…."

Punching his finger into the 'call nurse' button, Jim worriedly studies McCoy, suddenly afraid all over again that his friend's going to up and leave him. And as much as he knows it's what he deserves, to be alone, it's the last thing he can bear, losing Bones. "Bones, just stay with me…stay with me."

And it's the catch in Jim Kirk's voice that breaks through McCoy's pain, has him dropping his hand and seeking out the sight of his best friend. And what's pouring off of Kirk makes his stomach clench, makes his own misery inconsequential. Because fear is a rarity in Kirk, but this down right vulnerability, this open terror, this dread and resignation and slipping away of hope, it's unbearable to Leonard.

"Where would I go, you dumb moron. I got my bones…and I got you. Can't afford to lose either," he grouses, prays Jim can read between the lines, knows that he's not going anywhere, that Kirk means too much to him to ever walk away from him, that the reckless jerk's like a little brother to him.

Then a nurse flies into the room and Kirk hops off the bed, retreats back against the wall so she has full access to McCoy. But McCoy's reply to her inquires on his pain level, if he knows his name, the date, is a stubborn command of "Take this bleeding idiot for a head scan and then have Nurse Chapel stitch him up." Then his eyes pin Kirk in place. "We have a deal, remember? You do the scan, you let Christine Chapel patch you up…and only Christine. She won't put up with any of your bravado bullcrap and then you park your butt in a bed until I say you can get up."

"Bones, you're a patient right now, not a doctor. That's part of our deal," Kirk counters, needs McCoy to focus on his own health, on getting better, on keeping his promise to not skip out on him. "So answer the pretty lady's questions and stop giving out orders." Then he forces himself to head for the door. "I'll pop back in later."

"After your head scan and the stitches are in…" McCoy calls after him.

But Kirk can hear the thread of worry in McCoy's tone, knows the doctor won't settle down and be a complacent patient until he has his word. Stopping at the door, he turns back, faces Bones. "I keep my promises, Bones."

McCoy's relief is evident as he lets himself sink back further in the bed, as the creases of pain and worry on his forehead ease. And it's a punch to Jim's gut, that McCoy trusts his word so emphatically, because no one ever has before. With a small smile he leaves the room, takes ten steps and then promptly sags against the nearest wall, wonders how he let this happen, how he let himself care about someone else and how long it will be until it all falls apart like it always does for him.

He doesn't know how long he stays like that, is startled out of his reverie when someone lightly touches his arm. Head snapping up, he sees that a beautiful blond nurse is at his side. "Well, hey," he pours on the charming smile, feels maybe what he told Bones about woman swooning into his arms at the sight of blood isn't all hogwash.

The nurse smirks and shakes her head. "Dr. McCoy wasn't lying about you. Now come on, there's a scan and stitches in your future," and she wraps her hand around his bicep and levers him off the wall. Complacently, he lets her lead him down the hallway, flirtatiously drawls, "So you must be Christine. From here on out, whenever I need stitches, you can do them instead of McCoy, how's that sound?"

"Like the quickest way to get me transferred and Dr. McCoy angry at you. Now, let's do more walking and less talking, Romeo," she instructs but there is an amused expression on her face that gives Jim hope that his chances with the beauty aren't totally shot.

STSTSTSTSTST

After his own head scan, Leonard's first reaction is relief at the sight of his visitor before a scowls takes up residence on his features. "Why isn't he in a bed?!" he demands of the nurse rolling him back into the room. "I want to speak to Nurse Chapel, now!"

"Easy, Bones. I got an all clear and see," Kirk pointed to the row of stiches in his forehead. "All stitched up. Good as new."

It's that moment that a frustrated Nurse Chapel nearly runs into the room and finds her prey. She lances Kirk with a reproving glare before she turns to McCoy. "I'm sorry Doctor, we were prepping him for admittance when he disappeared."

"Because I don't need to be admitted," Kirk insists but the room's other occupants act as if they can't hear him.

"It's Ok, Nurse. He'll behave from here on out," McCoy vouches, shooting Kirk a look of stern reprimand.

"If behaving you mean getting stripped and tucked into a hospital bed, no can do, Bones. I came here to make sure you were Ok, nothing else."

"Someone's going back on our deal, so I guess I can too," McCoy cantankerously announces as he starts to fling his covers off, makes as if to get up.

Leaning forward in his chair, Kirk puts his hand on McCoy's calf. "Whoa. Would you just stop with the emotional blackmail for two seconds and tell me how your tests turned out?"

But it's not McCoy who answers. "The swelling's gone and the concussion's minimal. You got lucky Doctor McCoy," Dr. Logan proclaims as he breezes into the room.

"Lucky?!" McCoy snorts contemptuously, pinning his fellow doctor with a baleful glare. "Why? Because my body healed or because Kirk was here to stop Bovell from preforming a lobotomy on me."

"Ok, listen McCoy, I was stridently against Bovell performing any procedures but he's ranking doctor on duty…." Logan defends.

"So you let Kirk do your job for you, go a round with Bovell?!" Leonard bit out. "Then you didn't even look Kirk over! What part of your Hippocratic oath says you let a kid bleed out on the hospital floor."

"Hey, I'm no kid and I was not bleeding out," Jim objects but no one's listening.

"I…" Logan stammers, hates that he was in the wrong and he and McCoy both know it.

"Get out," McCoy growls, has nothing over a grizzly bear at that moment.

But Logan's still hoping for a pardon. "McCoy, I didn't mean…."

"McCoy," Kirk interjects, his tone chastising, doesn't want McCoy to severe the friendship he apparently has with Logan.

But Leonard's past the point of being mollified by Logan. "Get out before I encourage Kirk to press charges against Bovell and you."

"Ok, ok. I guess I'll… I'll refer your case to another doctor," Logan dejectedly concedes before scampering out of the room.

"Bones, no need to be so harsh on the guy," Kirk admonishes lightly.

His comment earns him McCoy's furious attention. "No, who I should be mad at is you."

Pulling on a smirk, Kirk recants, "Now I didn't say that."

Aware that Nurse Chapel is still in the room, uncertain how to handle the recalcitrant patient Kirk, McCoy dismisses her with a "Nurse, can you give us a moment?" Doesn't remove his gaze from the door until he's certain Kirk will be the only one to hear his next words.

Left alone with McCoy, Kirk shifts in his chair, expects the chewing out of his life. He's wholly unprepared for Bones' quiet question.

"Do you know why I listed you as my emergency contact?" Leonard asks, certain that Kirk wouldn't figure out his reasons, that he will have to spell them out for him. And he was more than willing to do that.

Leaning back in the chair, Jim eyes don't leave McCoy's, knows his friend's question is a test of some sort, one he is bound to fail because, for the life of him, he has no clue why Bones would do what he did, would knowingly put his life in his hands. To his own surprise, his tone comes out accusatory, "No, I don't, because it makes absolutely no sense, Bones! You have family, people that honest-to-God care about you."

"Are you saying you don't care about me?" Leonard taunts but when it only earns him a small smirk but does nothing to lighten the look in Kirk's eyes, he realizes how serious his actions were to his friend. Dropping his mask of mirth, he solemnly holds his best friend's gaze. "Jim, I knew that, if I ever got into trouble…and you weren't already there in the thick of it with me, you'd be the one I would want to have my back."

Unmindfully of his stitched forehead, Kirk runs a hand down his face. "Bones, no one has ever thought I was a good guy to count on. No matter if it was to remember to bring the drinks or bail someone out of jail."

"Guess they don't know you the way I do," Leonard earnestly replies back, feels a little thrill of triumphant that Jim had, maybe unknowingly, let his guard down with him when he never had with anyone else.

But Kirk surges to his feet, darkly protests McCoy's declaration, "You think you know me!" He continues on, doesn't give McCoy a chance to make a rebuttal. "McCoy, you've gotten the wrong impression of who I am. You're my only true friend for a reason." Leaving unsaid it's because he's a selfish jerk and no one else would put up with him like Bones had.

"So no one else leaves you," McCoy's assumption is delivered with quiet, sorrowful conviction. Leonard feels something twist inside of him when Kirk flinches as his words reach him.

Stunned and off balance, Jim stammers, his voice choked and vulnerable, "What? I don't…." before his full array of defensives spark to life, dispatch angry indignation to cover anything else Bones' statement makes him feel. "Are you kidding me?! You're going to do a psychic eval on me?! You?!"

Gruffly Bones growls back, "It's not a psychic eval…." But his next words hold more worry than frustration. "It's a move of desperation. So you don't walk out of this room and never let me in again."

Jim gives a nervous laugh. "Walk out of this room, never let you in again..what are you talking about?" Wonders if someone saw him almost leave the ER waiting room, that Bones somehow knew he almost left him at the mercy of Bovell, all because he was terrified to lose someone again.

If Leonard needed proof that his fears were not unfounded, Kirk's reaction sealed it. Made him worry that Kirk would do exactly what he didn't want him to: rush the exit and cut him out of his life. Sternly he commands, "Then take a seat, you moron, before you pass out." Because psychic evals might not be his forte but watching over Jim's physical well-being was and he was far from pleased by his friend's sudden lack of color.

Without a denial of McCoy's prediction, Jim threw himself back down into the visitor's chair, but doesn't meet his friend's eyes, can't. Not when McCoy might read something in them that he doesn't want the other man to see.

And Jim Kirk shying away from a confrontation, it's a red flag, a banner sized one, makes McCoy's own blood pressure spike. 'Leave it to me to jump both feet into this and not know how to get out,' he chastises himself but knows he had had little other option, not unless he was OK with losing Kirk's friendship. 'Maybe I'll lose it anyway, as badly as I'm butchering this.' But that's a wholly unacceptable outcome to him, losing Jim's friendship. He needed it…just as badly as Jim needed his.

"I wasn't wrong," Leonard states defiantly, waits until Kirk's head rises, until his friend's blue eyes seek his. "Trusting my life to you."

But instead of gratitude, scorn etches into Kirk's features, "You have no idea how wrong you were!"

McCoy instantly counters his friend's protest, "Jim, I didn't get carved up because of you, because you stopped…."

"I walked out of the waiting room….on you," Kirk bluntly confesses, needs McCoy to stop looking at him through some rose colored glasses, to see the real James Kirk for once in his life.

McCoy's breath catches in his throat at his friend's declaration, but McCoy refuses to put much stock in it, not when the irrefutable proof that Kirk did no such thing is sitting at his side. "No, no you didn't," he counters with 100% conviction, which earns him a stark, wide eyed look of shock from Kirk. "Did you make it to the door? The parking lot? I know you, Jim. You wouldn't turn your back on me when I needed you."

And Bones' blind trust, it's more hurtful than Frank's name calling ever could be. "Dr. Logan stopped me, Bones. He stopped me," Kirk hoarsely says, welling eyes holding Leonard's, waiting for the warm gaze to frost over to hate. But to his astonishment, Leonard's warm regard heats to raw affection.

"Kid, I know you better than you know yourself. You might have been a skittery colt in the waiting room but you weren't going to leave me, not really," McCoy fondly praises his best friend. Smirking, with humor and affection and reprimand coiled together in his tone, he drawls, "And Dr. Bovell sure didn't tangle with a jittery colt….more like a stubborn jackass."

"Nice, insult your knight in shining armor," Kirk snorts but he's trying really hard not to jump up and give McCoy a bone crushing hug, because nobody, nobody has ever believed in him the way Bones has. Believed in him, not George Kirk's son, but just James T. Kirk. Pointing to his bruised face, he whines, "Maybe you're forgetting, but I got this defending you."

Leonard fights down a wince at the evidence of his friend's pain and tramples down his guilt, because neither is what Kirk needs from him. "Well, next time put a little effort into defending yourself. You're lucky you didn't need Bovell's lobotomizing skills. Course maybe that would do wonders for you…"

"You're an ungrateful jerk," Kirk laughingly volleys back to his best friend. "Course maybe he could strip my mind of one unholy event: The day I met this crabby doctor who threatened to throw up on me."

"Best day of your miserable life and don't you forget it," McCoy brazenly declares.

Caught off guard by just how true Bones' statement is, it takes Kirk a moment to pull on his cocky smile and make his smart aleck reply of "Wait? Who are you?"

And even as he playfully lobs a pillow at Jim, McCoy can't hold back a smile because sometimes the family members you treasure the most, are the one you get to pick for yourself.

STSTSTSTST

Tbc?

STSTSTSTST

Thanks so much for reading! I'm still struggling to get Bones & Kirk's voices down but I just love the friendship between these two men. Hope I at least got the strength of their friendship across.

I would like to write more in this series but I'm a bit backlogged on other in-process stories so I can't make any promises right now. But that doesn't mean I wouldn't love some encouragement if you would like another chapter to this series.

Have a great day!

Cheryl W.