Disclaimer: I have loved them all my life, and they are not mine.
Warning: This chapter contains medical descriptions of injuries, though not as severe as Chapter 1. I'm trying for no gratuitous gore, but be prepared.
The People He Sees
The second officer he treats isn't Jim, which surprises him a bit. Jim's ability to get himself into trouble is second only to his ability to get himself out again. Given the number of times he's surreptitiously helped patch the rebellious cadet back together again, McCoy had expected to see him in the medical bay within a week of their cruise starting. Three weeks is quite possibly a record for him.
Then again, Jim's stuck on the bridge, and that's designed to be the second safest place on the ship in a firefight. So even if he is to blame for this—which he probably isn't, but the bitterness brought on by a new flood of casualties makes reasoning difficult—even if Jim's to blame, he's unlikely to wind up down in sickbay.
It's the red-shirts, the engineers and security details and communications gurus who make up the largest part of the flood. Though there are plenty of unlucky people in all colors, the poor saps in technical support are the ones rushing into places other people are rushing out of. They're the ones trying to contain fires, directing evacuations, sticking their hands in shorted-out bits of mechanical goo-gah, crawling through giant metal machines and generally trying to make sure the ship stays space-worthy for everyone else.
Which means it really shouldn't be much of a surprise that he ends up seeing their newly-minted chief engineer. Thankfully it's towards the end of the rush. Most of his patients are stabilized, and he's got good people working on the ones who aren't, gaining him a few free minutes to see to the last trickle of wounded.
He should know the man's name. They've been introduced, but Jim's idea of introductions aren't always conducive to memory, and he doesn't have time to dredge around in his mind for the moniker. "Can I help you, engineer?"
The man turns toward him with a start. His red tunic is lavishly coated with soot and grime, but he smiles hesitantly anyway. "Seem to have run into a slight bit o' trouble, doc."
The man's walking and talking, which makes him a low-priority patient, but McCoy forces himself to calm down and do a more thorough exam. They're not rushing now. Nobody's going to die if he focuses his attention for a few minutes on a young man who's also been promoted far faster than he should be. "What seems to be the problem?"
"Well… I'm thinkin' maybe you should see for yourself." The man has an accent, a soft brogue that may be Scottish. McCoy's never been terribly good at accents.
Just like he's never been terribly good at holding his temper. "What the hell is this?"
The engineer looks down at the wad of cotton and clotted blood that he's holding out, chagrin clouding his smile. "My hand. I hope. Leastways it was."
"Good God, man, what'd you do?" McCoy isn't even sure where to start unwrapping the "bandage", if the filthy rag can even be called that. Tugging gently at what seems to be an end earns a wince of pain from the engineer.
"When the Klingons hit us broadside the first time, we lost a couple of power converters. Blew up rather spectacularly. I dare say this ship does everything spectacularly." The engineer draws in a sharp, ragged breath, his good hand clenching against his thigh as McCoy continues to tug futilely at the mass of fabric. "Anyway, the captain was callin' down for more power, so I decided to crawl into the—"
"I'm a doctor, not an engineer. Unless you want your prognosis and treatment in an incomprehensible mangling of Latin and Greek—"
"Right." The young man stares off into the distance for a moment, his expression perplexed. Apparently it's difficult translating from engineer to normal human. "Well, I suppose you could say I stuck my hand in a bit of engine that wasn't supposed to be moving."
"And it moved?"
"No, sir. I make sure of things like that. I'm not losin' any of these toddlers to stupid mistakes, not on my watch—ah!"
A strip of the bandage comes lose, a fresh trickle of blood trailing down the engineer's arm. McCoy would love to hit him with a hypo of something, at least pain medication if not an anticoagulant, but it's too risky when he can't tell what condition the man's appendage is in. "So what happened then?"
"I hadn't counted on the cap'n ordering the whole ship t' move. Cut my hand up pretty bad."
"You said this was when we were first hit? That was…" It takes Bone's a moment to find his watch, then another moment to determine that it's telling him the real time. "Jesus, that was over two and a half hours ago!"
"I know." The engineer shrugs, carefully not moving the hand that McCoy is still unwrapping.
"You know? That's it? Who knows what could have happened in that time! If you'd hit an artery, you could have bled out! There could be nerve damage, and God knows what kind of infection already setting in, or—"
"I couldn't leave." The man's voice is infuriatingly calm, his accent softening the words even more than his tone.
"No one's irreplaceable, man."
"I am. For now. Least when the captain's makin' unreasonable demands. Oh, God, is that—"
Bone. White bone shows through a fresh torrent of blood as the bandage finally comes loose, revealing the extent of the damage. The engineer's face pales and he sways.
"Easy, there. Nurse! We need a table—fine, we need a chair, at least, pronto! Easy, son. What's your name?"
"Scott, sir. Montgomery Scott. Scotty, t' me friends." Scotty's accent is thicker than before, harsher, but his breathing and color stabilize as he sits down and looks away from the injury.
"Well, Scotty, let's see exactly how much damage you've done to yourself."
The worst laceration is jagged and deep, cutting diagonally across the engineer's hand from just below his right index finger to the fleshy pad of his palm. Bone shows through in several spots, and the bleeding is slower than it should be due to minor burns along the length of the injury but still steady.
McCoy sighs in relief. "Looks nasty, but I think I'll be able to patch it up."
The engineer looks over at him, carefully keeping his eyes above the injury and focused on McCoy's face. "Good as new?"
"Depends. If you're just going to go shove it into a bloody damned machine and not come get it looked at for hours—"
"Doc, I couldn't leave." Scotty's eyes are fierce, the hint of joviality that had colored his tone throughout the rest of their conversation missing. "My boys, they don' know what they're doin' yet. Hell, I didn' know what I was doin' half the time, tryin' to figure out how to do what the captain's bellowin' down he needs done. I wasn't gonna leave them, and it wasn' bleedin' that badly. Then."
McCoy looks down at the wound, setting to work with a sterilization pack, already imagining in his mind's eye how to reconnect nerves and ligaments and close the gash without impeding flexibility of the hand too much. It would have been better if he'd seen the injury when it was fresher. The tissue would have been more responsive, the chance of infection would have been less, and he hates again the fact that he's got to worry about infection in space. Damned mutating viruses and damned alien viruses and damn being on a ship that's crewed by children.
"I find it hard to believe that your 'boys' really couldn't function on their own for a few hours."
"They could function for hours, but not when we're in the middle of a rollin' spacefight with things gettin' destroyed every few seconds. Their average age's twenty-two and a half. Most of 'em are somewhere between twenty-two and twenty-four. Survivors of the Narada. People who were lucky enough to be sick that day. Kids who've been graduated way faster'n they should've been."
McCoy looks up at the man in shock. Twenty-two? Really? "You've got to have some older people."
"Oh, I do. One's sixty-eight, one's fifty-nine. Hate to follow my orders, the both of them. Doesn' help that they're married and think they were born knowin' everything about engineerin' that there ever was to know."
"Why didn't Starfleet—"
Scotty smiles, somehow making the expression grim. "Because we're short on people. Same as your section. Or do you usually prefer havin' toddlers as your support staff?"
"They're not toddlers. They're good—" He stops himself before he says kids. Much as he doesn't want to admit it, Scotty's right. His section has a slightly older mean age, but that's just because of the demands of medical school. The Enterprise is working on a skeleton crew of raw cadets graduated way too quickly. Between the Narada and the Klingons, Starfleet lost more people than she could afford to, and she didn't care where she made up the extra bodies. That's the only reason Jim's sitting up on the bridge, safe and sound and somehow managing to annoy the hell out of Klingons when they're supposed to be well away from the neutral zone.
If it came down to it, he would probably try to keep working with an injury like Scotty's. The medical team is still reeling from the loss of too many people, including her proper commander, and the appointment of too many new recruits who aren't quite sure of their places yet isn't helping matters. He's needed. If he does his job right, he won't be indispensable for long, but right now…
He, at least, would have been smart enough not to use a filthy engineer's rag to staunch the bleeding. Maybe he needs to give all senior officers a refresher course in emergency first aid.
"So? What's your diagnosis, doc? Or have I only earned the telepathic version?" The grin's back on Scotty's face, a teasing note to his tone.
Bones sighs, giving a slight smile back. Perhaps against his better judgment, he likes this forthright kid. "You'll make it. I should be able to restore nerve and ligament function. You'll have a longer recuperative period than if you'd come down here immediately, but if you follow doctor's orders you should get full use of the hand back."
"Good." The relief that flows through the man's body is obvious, a sudden loosening of muscles that hadn't even appeared to be tense. "I'd hate t' have t' use my teeth as a replacement hand."
Wrapping a clean, sterile, non-stick pressure bandage around the wound, Bones pats Scotty on the shoulder. "Why don't you just sit here for a minute. I'm going to make rounds again, make sure everyone's stable, and as soon as I'm satisfied with that I'll be back to get you prepped for surgery."
"Sounds good." The engineer stretches out, still avoiding looking at his injured hand. Within a few seconds his eyes are closed, a light snore emanating from his open mouth.
Kids. They have kids leading kids, and Jim asking them to do the impossible for him.
Shaking his head, McCoy works his way carefully around the room, checking on his staff as well as on their patients. Some he dismisses, sending them to their quarters with or without sedatives. Some he compliments. Nobody needs chastising—after the first few times he yelled during the crisis, everyone had been very careful about their work.
By the time he gets back to the engineer, the man already has two visitors. The alien that had followed him from the Arctic wasteland hunkers sadly on the floor, one arm resting on Scotty's leg. The look on its rocky face might be reproach, but McCoy is still learning how to read the thing's expressions and wouldn't be willing to bet money on it. Jim crouches awkwardly on Scotty's other side, trying to reach eye level with the seated man, and both he and the engineer are laughing at something one of them said.
"Jim. Good of you to join us." McCoy looks his friend up and down. There's no obvious sign of injury on him. "I trust you're not hiding something from me."
"No. I'm fine, Bones." There's a note of melancholy in Jim's voice as his eyes flick over the still-active medical bay.
It goes a long way towards erasing the blame McCoy wants to saddle him with—not quite all the way, but a long way. Jim's still a kid himself, and at least he's recognizing what he's done.
"I'm actually here about commendations and awards. As well as training and discharges, if anyone needs those. But I'm hoping to mainly stick with the commendations and awards." He rises from his crouch, slapping Scotty on the back.
Perhaps a little too forcefully, as the engineer winces and reaches up to rub at the spot with his good hand.
Jim doesn't even seem to notice. "Get him patched up, Bones. He's the best damn engineer I've ever heard of. We need him."
"Yes, sir. Though I suppose if he was the worst engineer, I should just let him sit and bleed there."
"That's not what I meant." Kirk hesitates, glancing around. "We'll talk later, Bones. I'll explain what happened. Until then, good work, get some rest, and decide what dress uniform you want to wear when you get your medal."
"What medal? For what? Jim, Starfleet isn't going to like it if you—"
The captain's already gone, cocky grin and fiery will scampering off with a wave. Sick bay seems somehow quieter with him gone, though that's not possibly right.
Scotty looks at the door for a moment, one hand absently patting the rocky head of his companion. "Doc, have you ever wondered—"
"Whatever you're going to try to figure out about Jim, my best suggestion would just be to let it go. Easier on everyone's psyche that way."
"Well, I was goin' to ask if you've ever thought about rewirin' some of these lights for more efficiency and better disaster-proofin', but we can talk about the captain if you want to."
McCoy can't tell from Scotty's grin whether he's joking or serious.
After a moment's hesitation he decides it doesn't matter. He's got surgery to do, a med bay to run, crewmembers to worry about, and Jim to possibly ream out later. For now, he'll just take whatever comfort he can from the engineer's near-constant good humor. Jim really doesn't know how lucky he was to get the crew that he did, but McCoy intends to make sure he figures it out.
He might even invite the engineer to drink with them later. Not for the whole night—not for the late night, when he'll drink and remember everything he's seen today and psychoanalyze himself and Jim and the whole crazy bloody madcap world they've somehow found themselves in. But for the start, when they're celebrating surviving. When Jim's somewhere between mad cheer, unrelieved energy, and bitter regret—for that part, Scotty will fit right in.
(And if, somehow, the engineer ends up staying later… Bones has a gut feeling that he might just fit right in.)