Disclaimer: I still love them, but I don't own them.
Warnings: There's some pretty graphic medical description of injuries given, but nothing that should be too traumatizing if you've come this far! There is also some romance in this.
Author's Notes: I just wanted to thank all of you who have reviewed so far! You guys are awesome, and make this totally worth it. To answer a few questions, there will definitely be at least two more parts to this, with the two officers I haven't featured yet each getting a chance to shine. There may also be a follow-up chapter to this one, resolving a few somewhat unresolved things, but my beta and I haven't quite decided yet.
The People He Sees
He loses his sixth patient because Jim can't keep the damn ship still.
Granted, they're in the middle of a firefight that's been going on for what feels like hours, but a head's up when they're going to be flung from one end of the room to the other would be nice. Maybe then he wouldn't be digging through a spattered pool of blood trying to repair a severed subclavian artery that had, a few seconds ago, only been a weakened subclavian.
"Doctor, that's five minutes with no heart beat. Neural impulses drastically reduced…" Christine shakes her head. "Absent. All neural activity has ceased. Call it?"
"Damn it. Damn it damn it damn it." McCoy continues to prod at the gaping wound in the tech's chest for a second more. It gives him a needed moment to regain his mental equilibrium, to vent his frustration through curses rather than by stabbing his instruments into the dead girl's chest or flinging them across the room. "Called. Time of death… whatever the hell time it is now. What else do we have?"
Stripping off his dirtied gloves and face mask, McCoy stalks over to Cath, surveying the room as he does. The medical bay is nearly at capacity. All but two or three beds are full. Covered stretchers line one wall, the dead shoved out of the way temporarily so they can help the living. Those who aren't too badly injured line the other walls, most huddled together. Some are coughing; some are crying; a handful are screaming, aching, terrified wails that have nothing to do with physical injury.
Not many, though. Not compared to last time things were this bad, when the Narada gutted their ship and their morale in less than a minute. The Enterprise has been through too much since then, her people too vigorously tested to break that easily.
Another shudder runs through the ship, a hideous grinding noise and shaking sensation that leaves him breathless. Gravity cuts out and then cuts back in, sending his people staggering, earning cries of pain from some of their patients.
"Damn it, Jim."
As if on cue the com system springs to life. The voice that comes through is ragged, choked, barely discernable through a wave of static. "Medical, zis is… bridge. Request…"
Bones doesn't waste any time punching up a connection. "Medical to bridge. Chekov, is that you? What the hell—"
"Doctor McCoy." Spock, of course, sounds perfectly cool and collected. "We have four men down with severe injuries and others wounded. Power to the turbolift seems to have been compromised. You'll have to use emergency access."
"Spock, I'm a little busy down here. If you didn't notice, you've gotten us blown to—"
"They need medical attention to be stable for transport. One of the injured is the captain." Spock's words are sharp, each word perfectly enunciated, nearly clipped. "Send whoever you think most fit."
The connection to the bridge cuts off abruptly, sharply, and McCoy looses a string of oaths concerning Vulcans and hybrids and bastard officers in general. Of course Jim's one of the injured. Of course he's got to decide whether to go there, where a doctor's needed, or stay here, where he's needed.
Both of the other doctors straighten from their positions over patients and look at him, listening intently for orders. They're on opposite ends of the room, and this isn't a conversation he wants to have at a shout.
It's not a conversation he should have. He's the CMO. It's his decision.
And much as he might regret it later, he can't send someone else up there. If Jim's going to die… if any of Jim's hand-picked officers that McCoy has gotten far too close to over the past year and a half are going to die… he wants to know he's done everything he possibly could to save them.
"Raya." He doesn't reach out to touch the woman, to squeeze her shoulder comfortingly. He can't, not when she's in surgical garb, though he wants to. "Trouble on the bridge. I'm taking two of our nurses, a kit and some stretchers. I'll be back as soon as I can. Keep things running here until then?"
The woman nods. Her onyx eyes have widened slightly, the fingers of her right hand spreading in a gesture of surprise or fear, but she doesn't voice any complaint.
It takes less than a minute to gather supplies and people. He doesn't take Christine or Cath, much as he wants to. They're both competent leaders, and he needs to leave his competent leaders behind if he's going.
Bones pauses for just a second at the door, a large part of him wanting to turn back, but a stronger need impels him forward.
He told Scotty once that the senior officers shouldn't be indispensable. Hopefully he's managed to make that true.
Getting to the bridge is like taking a walk through Hell. Smoke floats at the top of most corridors, the air filters working overtime to try to clear it and mainly just succeeding in blowing it around. Power to some sections is gone entirely, only the red emergency back-up lights providing enough illumination to see by.
The turbolift to the bridge is definitely down, the doors hanging open on a black pit. Trying to evacuate wounded through the emergency access system is going to be a nightmare, especially if they're as badly hurt as the damn Vulcan insinuated.
Finally crawling out onto the bridge, Bones finds himself frozen in place for a second by what he sees.
Half the consoles are dead—or worse, sparking, throwing up arcs of electricity, looking to ground themselves through some unlucky person. Black, cloying smoke fills the air, seeps into his lungs, causes tears to form in his eyes. Half the ceiling seems to have come down, crushing a handful of consoles and splitting the command chair into two battered sections. Only the emergency lights are working, casting a blood-red pall over everything, making it even harder to see.
Gary taps his ankle, and McCoy pulls himself together. Sliding forward on hands and knees, Bones tries to both stay below the smoke and identify his patients. They're not hard to find. Four inert bodies are laid out in a neat row at the back of the bridge, near the intact turbolift doors.
The first is one of Scotty's men. He doesn't recognize the boy, but that's not surprising given that his chest and face are covered in second and third degree burns. A quick scan indicates no life-signs, and Bones gestures for Gary to double-check his readings and do a manual check for pulses while he moves on to the next patient.
Jim's next, and the entire left side of his face is a sheet of blood. A deep scalp wound runs from two inches above his temple to below his ear, which is partially torn away. That's not the frightening part, though—not immediately. Subdural hematoma could certainly kill him, and a fractured skull never did anyone any good, but the more immediate problem is the shattered collarbone and first four ribs on his left side. Bone splinters riddle the captain's left lung, which is already mostly filled with blood.
McCoy takes a deep breath, which escapes as a gasping, hacking cough. He needs to be calm. Get people stable, get them strapped into stretchers, then figure out how the hell to get the stretchers off the bridge. Then go back down to medical, handle whatever crises have arisen there in his absence, spend a few hours in surgery, make sure all his people are all right.
Then, much later, find somewhere to drink and scream, because Jim's blood is all over his gloves and pooling on the floor and drowning Jim and quite probably smothering Jim's sharp mind.
McCoy's hands work well, work quickly despite the fact that he's biting down on a panic attack, and he's got the hypo ready before he's even consciously reached for it. He double-checks the medications and the dosage before administering it.
He can't wait and see if it works because there're two other people who need his attention. That's why he brought help.
It still hurts to pull himself away from Jim's side.
Stripping off his gloves and grabbing fresh ones, he hunkers down by his next patient, Uhura. She doesn't look too bad until he turns the scanner on her. She could almost be sleeping, head lolling gently to the side, hands resting palms-down on the floor.
But with the scanner he can trace second- and third-degree burns from her right hand through her arm, through her chest, through her abdomen, and down her right leg. He doesn't look up at the electricity still arcing from various consoles. He doesn't want to see it, pretty, bright, searing his eyes and leaving trails.
There's not really a good way to guess at the peripheral nerve damage caused by the electricity, though there's bound to be some. He spares the few seconds to look up the interactions between burn medication and neuroprotectants, making the best guess he can.
The last girl laid out is in a blue tunic, but he can't for the life of him remember whether she's one of his or one of Spock's. Either way, she's lucky. A compound fracture of the femur is nasty, and she's going to hate the rehab, but she's definitely going to make it to rehab.
The ship shudders again as another round of shots find their target. Debris patters down from the ceiling in a fine rain, and McCoy finds himself leaning protectively over the girl, eyes drawn to the action at the center of the bridge.
Spock doesn't pace. He stands perfectly still, hands clasped behind his back, eyes fixed on the view-screen. The image is fuzzy and jumpy, but Bones can still make out the Romulan ship that's been doing a damn fine job of tearing the Enterprise and her crew apart.
"Mr. Chekov, the targeting control—"
Chekov's voice comes from beneath his station. "Almost done, Mr. Spock, almost done."
Spock nods, though there's no possible way Chekov could see. "Mr. Sulu, you have the location that Lieutenant Uhura announced?"
"I do, sir." Sulu's voice is steady, though he holds his right arm awkwardly against his side.
"Done, sir!" Chekov crawls back into his chair, wiping sweat and blood from his eyes with his uniform sleeve. It's obvious from the condition of the fabric that it's not the first time he's done it.
"Lock all phaser banks on target, Mr. Chekov."
Sulu and Chekov exchange glances before both turn to look at their first officer, and Bones knows he's missing something.
It's Sulu who speaks, his question soft, tentative. "Are you sure, sir?"
For the first time Spock moves, looking back over his shoulder. His eyes are black pits, his skin reflecting the red light eerily, and McCoy shudders involuntarily. In the black smoke, in the bloody lighting, in the spark and wheeze of the injured ship, standing so eerily still, the Vulcan seems more god-of-war than paragon-of-logic.
Spock whispers the word, still looking at McCoy… or, rather, at the two people next to McCoy.
There's no sound as the Romulan ship disintegrates, fires exploding outward and vanishing as the vacuum of space placidly consumes the hard-won environment. Spock turns back to the viewscreen to watch, position barely changed.
Chekov and Sulu sag in their seats, more weariness than exhilaration in their postures. When the last flicker of flame dies down, Chekov turns to look at Spock, again wiping blood from his forehead. "Shall I announce wictory, sir?"
The Vulcan nods. "Contact Mr. Scott first and get a damage report. Then give a general announcement."
"Then get down to medical and get yourselves checked out. All of you." McCoy glares at the back of his first officer's head, hoping to make an impression. "I have no idea how the hell things got so messed up in here, but—"
"See to the patients you have, Doctor. Chekov and Sulu will be down for examination as soon as replacements can be found." Spock doesn't even deign to turn and look at McCoy. "Once it is certain the ship is in no danger, I shall be down as well."
"And we'll all be infinitely grateful that you managed to grace us with your presence." Bones bites out the words, helping to strap Uhura onto one of the stretchers. "If you pass out up here from smoke inhalation, I'll leave your green-blooded—"
"I will be careful, Doctor."
There's something off about the Vulcan, something wrong in the quiet way he's talking and the stiff way he's standing, but McCoy doesn't have time to figure out what. He's got two patients who are barely stable with him and who knows how many more down in sick bay. "You better be careful, Spock. Jim'll never forgive you if anything happens."
The Vulcan doesn't respond, which is an oddity, and McCoy wishes he had time to figure out what the hell is happening.
So many things to do later.
For now, it's better to let the doctor take over.
Getting their patients down to open, functioning corridors and turbolifts turns out not to be quite the problem he expected it to be. Gravity cuts out again for a good ten minutes, though the rest of the life support system seems to be doing fine. They've all been trained in how to work in low- and no-gravity environments, but it still takes a bit of work to remember how to move, especially with stretchers in tow. They make it down to sick bay without too many accidents, though, and certainly nothing dangerous.
Possibly because he yelled like the devil any time they came close to knocking Jim's head against something.
He doesn't get to help with further treatment of the injured officers because there're too many people in worse shape. Raya's handled the triage well, but there are simply too many wounded, not enough beds, and certainly not enough doctors. Bones goes through three emergency surgeries in the first hour, cursing every time gravity cuts out. He goes through five in the second hour, when at least the gravity is stable, and simply stops counting after that. He barely has time to change gowns between patients, leaving as much of the routine work to his nurses as he can manage. He doesn't ask how they're holding up, how they're managing to do their own work as well as everything the doctors need them to do.
They're his people, and they do what he's taught them to do. He'll reward them for it later. For now, their only repayment is the continued beating of a heart, the steady drawing of breaths that mean another life snatched away from death.
He doesn't know how long they work before he finally manages to sit down. He's done twelve surgeries. Nine of his patients are going to eventually walk away. One won't ever walk again, but she should make it.
The two he lost weren't due to any fault of his. There's no reason for it to hurt.
But if it didn't hurt, he wouldn't be who he is.
He closes his eyes, resting his head in his hands for a moment. He just needs a few seconds to regroup before finding out how Jim's doing, how Jim's officers are doing—
The scream that brings his head up is high-pitched, filled with agony, and he knows the woman's voice.
The cry stops as abruptly as it started, choked off to a brief whimper before fading entirely. It's not hard to trace where it came from, though. The worst of the crisis is over. Most of their patients, if not the exhausted medical staff, are coherent enough to look towards the sound.
Uhura sits very still on the table, breath coming in shallow, panting gasps. Sanri's already at her side, pulling up scans, but McCoy doesn't like the way he looks. Shaky, exhausted, swaying on his feet.
He pats the other doctor on the shoulder. "I've got this."
Sanri blinks up at him for a moment, bright blue eyes glazed. "Are you certain?"
"I'm certain. Go grab some sleep. We'll need people rested up for a relief team tonight." McCoy glances at the nearest clock, mind already focused on his patient's stats. "Well, tomorrow morning. In a few hours."
"Thank you." The sheer gratitude in the tall man's voice is nearly overwhelming.
"Get out of here." Bones doesn't watch the other doctor leave. Instead he tries to smile down at the woman on the bed.
Since she has her eyes squeezed tightly shut, it doesn't matter that his smile probably looks more like a grimace of exhaustion.
"Uhura? Can you talk to me?"
"Uh huh." The woman's voice is tight, though her muscles aren't. Possibly can't be, due to the damage caused by the electric flow.
For one panicked instant Bones can't remember whether he gave her mannitol and teramide to protect kidney function in the face of myoglobinemia from damaged muscle. The computer doesn't suffer from sleep deprivation, though, pulling up his entry from the bridge and reassuring him that he did everything right. "How are you feeling?"
Uhura's answer is quick, soft, and in a language he can't understand.
"I need you to—"
"It hurts." Her eyes open, fixing him with a furious glare.
"How badly? Scale of one to ten, one being mild discomfort, ten being the worst agony you can imagine."
Uhura considers, eyes closing again. "How about an eleven?"
"All right. Nurse, we need oxaliphine—"
Christine nods, appearing at his side as if by magic. Some of her blond hair has escaped its tight pony tail, frizzing out around her head, and dark patches etch the skin beneath her eyes. "Already calculating dosage, doctor."
Bones smiles gratefully at his head nurse, then turns back to his patient. "Before we give you pain medication, I need you to tell me what exactly hurts."
"Everything." Uhura opens her right eye, meeting his gaze directly. Her breathing is easier, slower. "My hands and feet especially, but pretty much everything."
That's not good. He tries to keep his concern off his face as he orders more precise scans. "All right. I'm going to do a more complete neurological work-up. As soon as I'm done we'll get you that pain medication, all right?"
"All right." Uhura nods, both eyes open now. A light sheen of sweat covers her skin, but the agony that had been etched into her face is fading.
"How's the pain now?"
"Still at an eleven." A brief smile flashes across the woman's face. "I'd appreciate you getting those tests done quickly."
"I will as soon as—nurse, what the hell are these?" McCoy points to a series of ten neurological scans that the computer helpfully displays for him. The first is from just after the Enterprise shipped out, a standard part of the physical exam.
The other nine are not. They span eight months, starting two weeks after their mission began. And though the authorization code on them is his, he's never seen them before.
Christine blushes bright red, something he's never seen before, mouth opening and then closing without any sound emerging.
"If you're talking about the neuro scans, I asked her to do them for me." It's hard to peg the emotion in Uhura's voice—chagrin, amusement, resignation? "I also asked her to keep things as discrete as possible."
McCoy sets to work on his current scan, trying to keep his frustration in check. "I suppose you also asked her to interpret them, even though that's not part of her job description."
"It wasn't a difficult interpretation, Doctor." Christine's apparently found her voice. "We knew exactly what we were looking for."
"Well, how about enlightening me?" Growling out the words, McCoy skewers his head nurse with a glare.
She's been working with him too long, though, as she seems completely unaffected by the look. "We were watching for subtle changes in—"
"I was mind melding with a telepath on a fairly regular basis." Uhura shrugs. "I wanted to ensure that there weren't any unexpected side effects."
"And you felt you couldn't ask me because—?"
"Because I didn't know you." The woman draws in a ragged breath, closing her eyes again. It takes her only a second to regain her equilibrium, though. "Because Christine and I had talked before, and I trusted her. Because there's a certain… delicacy to the situation—"
"I don't care if you're screwing the first officer. I don't care—"
"Telepathy is not considered a form of sexual intercourse, doctor. Through the mind meld I was able to hone my linguistic skills, among other… things." Gritting her teeth together, Uhura squirms on the bed, hands clenched into fists.
"Stop moving. You're going to interfere with the scan." McCoy bites down hard on his anger. He can understand, almost, the desire to keep the proof of their closeness as concealed as possible. There aren't strict rules against fraternization in Starfleet, but it's still not exactly encouraged, and Uhura and Spock have been relatively discrete about their relationship.
If it was a relationship. Jim's account of them kissing in the transporter room coupled with a handful of looks and touches were the only things he was basing the assumption on. The whole mind meld business could really be about business and linguistics. McCoy certainly wouldn't put it past the pointy-eared bastard to use something as exotic and fascinating as telepathy to teach languages.
The scan finally finishes, the computer pointing out all the variations in nerve function it found. "Part of the pain's due to the fact that you're fairly well baked on the right side of your body. The other part's peripheral nerve damage leading to neuropathy. Your body thinks it's registering pain even though there's no stimulus."
"You can fix it?" Uhura's tone is frightened, uncertain, something he's not used to hearing from her.
He smiles down at the younger officer, anger fizzling out. "We can fix it, but you're going to be out of commission for a while. There's muscle damage to your entire right side, and your liver really didn't appreciate being an electrical conductor. Thankfully there doesn't seem to be any cardiac involvement or central nervous system damage. So, basically, a long recovery, but most likely a full recovery."
"Good." Another sigh escapes as the woman's eyes drift closed. "Does that mean I can have that painkiller now?"
Bones gestures for Christine to proceed, waiting a few seconds for the medication to take effect. "What's the last thing you remember before you lost consciousness?"
"I didn't lose consciousness." Uhura's eyes open again, rage filling her face as she spits the words out. "I was rendered unconscious by my first officer."
"You were in agony." Spock's words are soft but startling. McCoy hadn't heard the Vulcan come up to them. "Your console was beyond repair. There was no need for you to—"
"We were fighting for our lives, Spock. We could have died there." Uhura struggles to sit up on her elbows, her right arm refusing to bear any weight, finally settling on just raising her head. "If I'm going to die, I'd like to be conscious for it. I'd like to be able to see what happens. I'd like to be able to say goodbye to people, you know, to my friends who are fighting beside me. I'd like to say goodbye to you."
The hurt in the woman's voice is impossible to miss, the stung betrayal in her eyes evidently finding its mark as the Vulcan drops his eyes. His left hand rubs at the wrist of his bandaged right hand. "There was not time—"
"And I may have been in agony." Uhura swallows, voice softening. "But I was handling it. I could have been useful. You taught me how to handle it. I've been using it here, and it works."
"Wait, what?" McCoy glares between the two… people. "Uhura, what exactly have you been doing?"
Spock raises his head, meeting McCoy's eyes. "There are Vulcan methods of coping with and handling immense pain. Lieutenant Uhura asked me to show them to her. Humans lack the mental discipline and aptitude to use them properly, though. The pain bleeds through. Their productivity is impaired—"
"Would you have done it to James?"
The bitterness in Uhura's question surprises McCoy. If it surprises Spock, he doesn't let it show.
"Would you have had the gall to do your little Vulcan neck pinch on your captain? I know Vulcan cultural history has some backwards ideas about women, but—"
"Vulcan cultural history has nothing to do with this." Spock turns his gaze back on the floor, avoiding the human's glare. "And speculation about how I would act with the captain is hardly relevant to this situation."
Uhura says something, again in a language McCoy can't understand. He's actually fairly certain human vocal chords shouldn't be able to make the sounds she is.
Spock replies in the same language, holding himself stiffly. His tone is perfectly neutral, perfectly calm, a harsh counterpoint to Uhura's emotional, almost lyrical retorts.
McCoy lets the conversation flow on above him, setting to work trying to derive the best medical regiment he can for his patient. Nerve damage is nothing to sneer at, even in this day and age. Choosing the right medications and the right doses is still as much art as it is science. Still, if he plays his cards right, he should be able to fix this.
Hopes he'll be able to fix this.
He doesn't notice the Vulcan leave. The conversation had become so much background chatter, the incomprehensible syllables fading from his awareness. It's only when Uhura tries to reach up with her right arm to wipe the tears off her face and instead succeeds in smacking herself in the forehead that he realizes they've stopped talking.
"Careful there." He gently moves the young woman's arm back down to lie at her side, carefully avoiding touching her bandaged, badly burned palm. He hesitates for a moment before reaching up to wipe the offending moisture from her face.
Uhura smiles, a sound that is part laughter and part sob escaping her lips. "I'm sorry. You've got to think I'm pathetic."
"No." McCoy shakes his head. Jim doesn't surround himself with pathetic people, and though Bones hasn't had much interaction with Uhura herself, what he has seen of the woman has impressed him. "You chased Spock away. That's always an impressive feat."
"I didn't…" Another laugh-sob comes from the young woman, and she sniffles. "He's stronger than me, he can multi-task on a level I'm physically incapable of, and he's a telepath. But I have to make him understand that I can still take care of myself. Even if it hurts like hell."
"If you're looking for relationship advice, you're really asking the wrong doctor." McCoy grabs a cloth and wipes again at his patient's tears before holding the material so she can blow her nose.
Uhura does, shaking her head and sniffling again afterwards. "Thanks. I hate this. I feel so pathetically weak."
"Having about thirty percent of your muscles flash-fried will do that to you." Bones smiles wryly, trying to be reassuring. "Don't worry. A few weeks of physical therapy, some well-placed cell growth stimulants, you won't even notice anything was wrong."
"How's everyone else doing?" With a final sniffle Uhura settles back down on the bed. "What about the Romulans?"
"Last update I had on Jim—on the captain said he was doing all right." He wasn't conscious, but he was alive and stable and despite how awful his head had looked his skull was actually relatively intact. Raya had also taken all the bone splinters out of his lung and done the best job she could of rebuilding his collarbone. "Chekov and Sulu checked out with relatively minor injuries—scalp lacerations, and Sulu banged his elbow up pretty bad. Casey will be joining you for rehabilitation thanks to a broken leg. Brent didn't make it."
"Brent was the engineer? Scotty's little kid?"
"Damn it. He's only been on the ship five weeks. That's not…" Uhura lifts her left hand to rub tiredly at her face. "And the Romulans?"
"We destroyed their ship. No survivors."
The look of horror that crosses Uhura's face certainly isn't the response Bones was expecting. "We what?"
"Destroyed their ship? Before they could destroy ours? I thought that's generally what you do in a space fight."
"That's not what our orders were. Who gave the command?" Her eyes track toward the med bay doors. "Oh, no. He didn't… siyo…"
"Oh no you don't. You are not standing up for at least another twenty-four hours, Lieutenant." McCoy leans over the bed and places a hand on both his patient's shoulders, surprised at the amount of force required to hold the suddenly agitated woman down. "Now, care to tell me what the hell is going on?"
"Our mission was to capture the ship, or at least a handful of survivors, at whatever cost." Uhura's left hand grips his arm tightly, her right grasping feebly at the fabric of his shirt before falling back down. "They were spies. They have some kind of contact within Starfleet—someone important, someone high-ranked. How do you think they were able to do so much damage? How do you think they knew where to aim to wreak that kind of havoc on the bridge?"
"They just about destroyed the Enterprise. We have forty-two confirmed dead, seventeen critical, twenty-one who will need to be discharged due to the severity of their injuries, ninety-five that we've had to treat for less severe injuries, and if there's a crewman around who doesn't have at least a bruise I don't know about him." Bones forces his hands to relax their hold on her shoulders. Trying to wrap his mind around the severity of the damage the crew has taken is difficult, and not something he's ready to do yet. "The ship's barely limping along as it is. We didn't have any choice. Starfleet will understand."
"I'm not so sure. You didn't hear their messages, Doctor. They're scared. They were very, very clear that no price was too big to pay for that ship. I gave him the coordinates so he'd know where not to shoot…" Uhura finally stops struggling, closing her eyes, a grimace of pain flashing across her face. "Will Scotty verify that the destruction of the Romulan vessel was necessary to save the ship?"
"I would be very surprised if he didn't." McCoy hasn't heard anything from the engineer since the battle started. The ship hasn't fallen apart, though, and those systems that had been compromised during the battle have been slowly coming back on-line. That most likely means Scotty's buried somewhere in the engines of the vessel, affecting emergency repairs and coming up with stop-gap measures to keep them space-worthy that Bones is very certain he doesn't want to know about.
"If Scotty verifies it… and the captain and Admiral Pike will be on Spock's side…" Uhura fixes him with a stricken gaze that makes her look far younger than he's used to seeing her. "They won't be able to do anything to him, right?"
"Between Jim, Pike and the pointy-eared bastard's I-am-smarter-than-you-illogical-humans stare?" Bones forces a chuckle, though the memory of Spock standing so still in that red light takes any true humor from the situation. "No jury in the universe'd be able to convict him. I'm sure of it."
"I think you're lying to me, but I appreciate the effort." A slight smile quirks the edges of Uhura's mouth. "Mungu… if I had known…"
"Would it have changed anything you had to say?" McCoy releases the woman, stepping back to monitor her stats.
Uhura considers the question for a moment before exhaling a long breath. "No. But I might have chosen a different language in which to do it."
"Why? What was wrong with the one you used?"
"We were speaking in Vulcan, Doctor." Uhura's smile turns sad. "It is a language he does not use lightly. And not one I use against him when he's already upset."
"I thought humans couldn't pronounce some of the Vulcan syllables." Bones frowns at the results of the blood scan and preps an additional hypo. Kidney function isn't critically impaired yet, but it's definitely taking a hit from the muscle breakdown products despite his preventative measures.
"We can pronounce most of them. There's a handful we can't, but it's possible to work around." Uhura turns her head helpfully when he bends down with the hypo. "The bigger problem is that our ears aren't sensitive enough to hear a lot of the nuances in their language. It's kind of like Chinese, only about a thousand times harder because we're physically incapable of hearing the differences. We can usually suss out main ideas, but holding a conversation in it would be downright embarrassing."
"Mind meld, Doctor. I can hear with his ears." Uhura's left hand toys with the sheet on the bed, her eyes looking away from his. "I can learn to differentiate the sounds that way, perfect the physical means of producing them. It's… fascinating."
"Uh huh. I bet." McCoy fights the urge to roll his eyes. Spock maybe, just maybe, could have delivered that line without making it obvious how deep their relationship went.
Actually, on second thought, no. Not even a Vulcan could manage that.
"I'm going to have one of my nurses come over as soon as possible and get you something to drink as well as something light to eat. You are under strict orders not to move from this bed until I give you permission. Understand?"
"Aye, sir." Uhura salutes rather lazily, using her stronger left hand. "And sir… about the neuro scans. If it was now, I would have trusted you. You can be discrete. You're a good man."
McCoy nods, blaming the salute and the slight slur to Uhura's words on the painkillers. He'd actually almost forgotten about the scans. He makes a mental note to hunt down Christine later and ream her out for misusing his authorization code—though he's got a feeling, or at least a hope, that she'll say something similar to Uhura.
They didn't know him then. They didn't trust him.
But now they do. They've been screamed at, cursed at, cajoled and verbally abused by him. They've seen him angry, terrified, drunk, and frustrated to the point where he wants to hit someone. And somehow, that's made him more likeable.
Starfleet officers. Crazy apparently just went with the territory.
The worst of the crisis is over, and most of their patients drift off to sleep as they dim the lights. The medical staff starts up a rotation, those who managed to sneak off and grab a few hours sleep relieving those who have been up and working for twelve long hours. McCoy takes his break in his office, lying with a blanket and a pillow on the floor, ready to respond in case of emergency.
It's not an emergency that wakes him, though, but rather the quiet thrumming of some kind of stringed musical instrument. The melody is haunting, the notes all tuned perfectly, and he recognizes the quiet voice singing along, though the words are yet again in a language he doesn't understand. Maybe Vulcan again. Maybe Swahili again.
He's not entirely sure he could tell the difference, anyway, and the emotion in the words doesn't need any translation.
He walks quietly toward the corner of the medical bay where Uhura's bed is, checking stats on a few of their more critical patients on the way. He's not surprised to find a handful of people awake, heads turned toward the music, awe and disbelief on their faces.
Neither Spock nor Uhura seem aware of the attention they're garnering. The Vulcan is bent over his instrument, eyes closed, fingers moving with steady, determined motions. Uhura watches him play, her left hand reaching over the side of the bed to rest on his knee. Tenderness and love shines from her face as she continues to sing, words flowing easily off her tongue.
Only when the song's done do Spock's eyes open. "A most unusual rendering of the lyrics, Lieutenant."
"But not unpleasant, Commander?"
McCoy clears his throat, suddenly feeling like an intruder in his own medical bay as Uhura's hand slides slowly down the Vulcan's knee.
"Doctor." Spock turns to look at him, face a mask of perfect, logical calm. "If we are disturbing anyone, I apologize. I will leave immediately."
A chorus of nos, more and encore answers the Vulcan's proclamation. Spock's brows draw together, a look a puzzled confusion sweeping over the Vulcan's face that brings a grin to McCoy's lips despite his best efforts.
"Much as your timing leaves a little bit to be desired…" Bones glances sharply at the clock, which reads a beautiful three thirty in the morning. "You seem to be pleasing the audience. One more song for the night. Then everyone sleeps. Perhaps if you ask nicely the musicians will give a repeat performance in the morning."
Spock turns back to Uhura, reaching out gently to touch her hair. "Are you capable of singing another, Nyota?"
"Commander, if you try babying me I will break your hand." The smile on Uhura's face is too filled with joy for the anger in her voice to be real.
And McCoy realizes, after a long moment of staring at Spock as he continues to stroke hair away from Uhura's face, that the Vulcan's smiling, too. It's a subtle expression, and one that seems almost… amused.
Angels and ministers of grace, they're teasing each other.
Bones walks away before anything more awkward can happen. He almost thinks he catches a quiet laugh from the Vulcan, though that could just be the late night and lack of sleep.
He definitely catches the first chords of the new song, and he finds to his shock that it's familiar. Uhura's voice comes in after only a few measures, caressing the English words just as she caressed the alien ones, offering them out to their listeners.
There's trouble behind them. There's probably more trouble ahead.
But listening to Uhura sing, listening to Spock play, Bones has a strange feeling that somehow, against the odds, everything's going to be all right.