Epilogue

McCoy had lost track of the days, easily done when living in a glorified tin can and when every shift was the same. But now he was trying hard to remember and he couldn't. He did know it had been too long. Too many nights of waking up in a cold sweat, his heart racing, feeling the urge to vomit. He disentangled his legs from the sweat soaked sheets and stumbled to his tiny en-suite bathroom. He asked for the lights at 60% and they turned on instantly, bright enough to see clearly, not too bright as to hurt his eyes. He gripped the sink with both hands and stared at himself grimly in the mirror.

Sill a mess, he berated himself. He was unshaven, for a few days now, and his sweat-soaked hair was stuck up in all directions. His body was still too thin from the three week coma and he knew no amount of work in the gym was going to help until he started eating properly again. Some things had healed without a mark, the bruising to his face and his split lip had healed before he'd woken up. The phaser burn on his shoulder was gone completely, he barely remembered getting it and would have forgotten all about it except he'd read about it in his medical report. The deep black bruising on his too visible ribs had faded to a pale greenish yellow. Soon all that would be left of the ordeal would be the barely noticeable scars around the edges of the skin grafts and even they would fade over time. It would get to a point where all traces of the ordeal were gone, so why did it still feel as raw as though it happened yesterday?

Suddenly furious with himself he clenched his fist and sent it crashing into the mirror. The pain of the impact was momentarily satisfying, sending shockwaves up his arm. The mirror shattered and the broken shards slipped into the sink, tiny slivers embedding themselves into his knuckles. He gazed back at what was left, enough to see his left eye, tired looking, frown-lined forehead and messy hair, then nothing but battleship grey wall until the bottom where it had managed to cling to the wall enough to reflect his slim, almost malnourished looking waist back at him.

He heard a noise in the other room and it made him jump. He cursed knowing who it would be. He pulled some of the larger pieces of mirror from his knuckles and dabbed the blood off with a towel before stepping back into his room to find Kirk and Spock stood in his bedroom staring at the crumpled sheets. Spock was dressed in uniform as always, looking as neat as ever. Kirk had clearly only just woken up himself and had thrown on an old academy tee shirt and pair of sweat pants. He was surreptitiously clutching a bottle of brandy down by his side. They both looked up as he appeared in the room and he could feel them studying him.

"Do neither of you have a concept of privacy?" McCoy growled, wishing he wasn't stood in just his boxers, bruised and scarred torso on show for all to see.

"I heard a noise that roused me from my meditation." Spock explained. "I was concerned that you might be hurt."

"Right!" McCoy rolled his eyes, "And so your first thought, instead of coming over here to see for yourself was to wake Jim? And Jim's first thought was 'better bring booze'?"

"That about sums it up." Jim replied at the same time as Spock said, "Your hand is bleeding."

McCoy looked down at his hand, thin trails of blood were running from some of the larger cuts and down between his fingers. He retrieved the hand towel and wrapped it round his knuckles.

"I'm fine," he insisted, "I just want to go back to sleep. You should too, you have a shift tomorrow."

"Actually, I don't." Kirk said, "Because I'm the captain and can make these decisions. Spock can cover for me on the bridge while I take a personal day to look after a friend who is clearly not fine." He waved the bottle of brandy at him and then went into the living area. "You coming or you gonna make me drink all this by myself?" He called out from the other room. McCoy could hear a clinking sound as Kirk retrieved a pair of glass tumblers from McCoy's whiskey cupboard.

Spock stayed in the bedroom and raised an eyebrow at McCoy. McCoy sighed heavily and then grabbed a plain black tee shirt from a drawer, slipped it on and followed his captain into the living room, with Spock on his heels.

Kirk was already on the small two-seater and was pouring the brandy into the glasses he'd found. Spock took the desk chair and McCoy collapsed down onto the sofa beside his captain. He sat slumped and picked at his broken knuckles. When Kirk picked up a glass and offered it, he took it but rested it on his knee instead of drinking.

"Still having nightmares?" Kirk asked, giving him a concerned look.

"How do you know I'm having nightmares?" McCoy asked.

"The captain and I have been concerned for you for some time." Spock explained in his calming tone that refused to betray any signs of concern at all. "You have been visibly fatigued, you are not eating adequately, you are even more emotionally volatile than usual and perhaps most worryingly you have made no mention of wishing to return to your post as CMO."

McCoy huffed, "I just need a bit more time is all."

"Are you still in pain Doctor?"

"No. Well, yes. But it's not that." He could feel both pairs of eyes boring into him, so he held out his hand, the uninjured one. As he was holding the glass it was even more obvious that his hand was shaking significantly, the movement causing the amber liquid to slosh up the sides. "How can I be a surgeon if I can't stop my hands from shaking?" He hated the sound of defeat in his voice. Disgusted with himself he downed the measure of alcohol and placed the glass back on the coffee table before folding his arms across his chest, his gaze fixed to his feet.

"Is that still from the stimulants you used?" Kirk asked, upset that until now he hadn't noticed. Then a thought crossed his face that horrified him, "You're not still using them are you?"

"What? No! I mean, I can't say the thought hasn't crossed my mind but no." He shrugged, "There are studies that show it's a potential permanent side-effect, although it's more common in long-term users. It could be that every time I close my eyes I see my hands covered in blood and brain matter. I keep having dreams of bashing that Klingon's skull in but then I look closer and it's you, or Spock, or Chekov. I'm supposed to fix people but in the end I lost track of how many people I killed. I'm not really sure how to reconcile who I thought I was with who I am now." He sighed again, loudly, and covered his face with his hands. When he took them away again he looked at Kirk, "I'm not sure I'm fit to be a doctor anymore."

"Kirk reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Bones, I've got no problem reconciling who you were with who you are, because you haven't changed a bit. You're the person I trust with my life, have done since the day I met you. You always put your patients, and this crew first and sometimes I ask too much of you but you do it anyway because you don't know how not to put your life and soul into everything you do."

"Doctor," Spoke added, "If you hadn't done what you did, there is a 94.4% probability that we would have been either transferred into the hands of the Romulans or killed. And I believe my calculations to be optimistic at best. So already we are at the tally of having saved six people. Now if you consider the possibility that one of us could have broken under torture and revealed Federation secrets, then it is likely that you have saved a great many others who will never who how close they came to being in danger. It is illogical to wonder what you would have done differently, as what has been done is done, however were you able to replay the scenario, would you have made different decisions?"

McCoy shook his head, "No, I'd do the same thing. But I still don't like where it leaves me. Starfleet are asking when I expect to be back and…"

"You leave Starfleet to me Bones." Kirk said, "you take all the time you need, if they want you back sooner they can suck it! We'll manage. But you will be back Bones, because I know you, you're too stubborn to quit. But you need to let us look after you every once in a while. Deal?" He poured another round of brandy and handed the glass back to McCoy.

McCoy looked at the offered drink, and at his two friends. Slowly, he accepted the glass and clinked it with Kirk's, giving the man a weary smile, "Deal."

The End


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