toastfic: (scruffy bones)
[personal profile] toastfic
Title: "Chickamauga"
Author: Toast/[livejournal.com profile] toastedtea
Pairing: Kirk/McCoy pre-slash, with mention of Spock/Uhura
Rating: PG-13 to a light R for language and a bit of blood.
Length: ~4,600 words
Disclaimer: Not mine. Alas.

A/N: Whopping big thanks to [livejournal.com profile] danielmedic for checking over my medical neep, and to [livejournal.com profile] ayalesca and [livejournal.com profile] blcwriter for support, encouragement and generally being awesome first readers. Other notes appear at the end of the story to prevent spoilers.


When the rumbling and shaking finally stopped, Jim found himself sprawled face down on the floor of the cave. Sand was everywhere; in his hair, his clothes, his eyes. He sat up gingerly, feeling bruised and battered flesh protest. "Jesus," he said around a mouthful of dirt. "The next time Spock and Uhura invite us on a field trip, remind me to say no."

There was no answer. Frowning, Jim turned his head to look about, but the collapse had sealed the mouth of the cave, leaving him in blank, impenetrable darkness. "McCoy?" Still no answer, and that worried him; normally, it was all he could do to get McCoy to shut up. "Come on, Bones, talk to me."

Nothing. Jim cursed under his breath and fumbled around in the dark for his flashlight. His communicator was gone as well, lost in the mad scramble to get out of the way of the falling rocks. He'd look for it after he found the flashlight.

Off to Jim's right came a spluttering cough, and the sound of shifting gravel. A voice, thin and shaky, said, "Damn, that hurt."

"Bones!"

"I'm right here, Jim. There's no need to shout."

"Right where, Bones? I can't see my nose in front of my face."

"Well, thank God for that. I was beginning to think I'd gone blind."

Jim moved toward the sound of McCoy's voice, carefully feeling his way through the chaotic jumble of rocks littering his path until his hands encountered the heavy sole of a hiking boot. "Gotcha," he said. "Do you still have your flashlight?"

"My--oh! Yeah. Yeah, it's right--no. No, it's not. Damn. Where the hell--? Hah!"

Sudden bright light flared in Jim's face, momentarily blinding him. He grabbed McCoy's hand and gently pried the flashlight out of his trembling fingers. "I've got it, Bones," Jim said, low and soothing. "You just take it easy."

"Okay," McCoy said. His face was chalk pale beneath its coating of dirt and blood. More dirt and blood matted his hair, and his eyes were hazy and unfocused. Had to be a concussion, Jim figured, which was not entirely unexpected given all the large, heavy rocks that had rained down on them like the wrath of god when the roof collapsed.

Jim shone the flashlight in the direction of what had once been the cave entrance and was met with a daunting pile of boulders.

"That looks bad," McCoy said.

"Yeah," Jim agreed. "It does." He turned back to look at McCoy. "Does your communicator work?"

McCoy started to shake his head, winced, and thought better of it. "Nothing but static," he said. "Spock said the composition of the rocks, it's--there's interference, and--" He broke off and ground the heels of his palms against his eyelids in frustration. "God, Jim, why can't I think?"

"You had a big-ass rock fall on your head," Jim said. "I'm surprised you can still talk."

"Right. Explains the headache and the nausea. Make sure you don't let me fall asleep."

"I know what to do with a concussion victim," Jim said. "Just sit still and don't move. I'm going to look for our gear."

McCoy caught his arm as he rose. "Jim. Spock and Uhura, do you think--?"

"They're fine," Jim said, and surprised himself by meaning it. "They were outside when the temblor hit. All they have to do is call the Enterprise and tell Scotty to get his ass down here with a search and rescue team. We'll be back on the ship before you know it."

"You sure?" McCoy asked in a small, timid voice that scared Jim more than all the blood and the babbling.

"Yeah, Bones. I'm sure." Jim squeezed McCoy's hand briefly, then disengaged McCoy's fingers from their white-knuckled grip on his sleeve. "I need to find the first aid kit," he said. "I'll be right back, okay?"

"Okay."

Jim found McCoy's backpack about half a meter from McCoy. It had fared slightly better than its owner and was crammed full of enough wilderness survival gear to keep them going for the better part of a week. He laughed quietly to himself; only Bones would pack this much equipment for a simple day hike.

It was just as well that he had. Jim had left his own considerably lighter daypack near the cave mouth when they stepped inside for a closer look at the petroglyphs, where it was now undoubtedly squashed flat and buried under several tons of stone and earth.

Note to self, Jim thought as he found emergency rations, water, first aid kit and, holy mother of pearl, a goddamn medical tricorder in McCoy's bag. Never, but never mock McCoy's paranoia again.

"Hey, Bones," he said, hefting the tricorder in the air. "I found your security blanket. Tell me, do you sleep with it on your pillow at night, or does it have its own special bed?"

McCoy scowled. It wasn't his full-bore, 'die in a fire' scowl, but anything was preferable to that hollow, terrified look of earlier. "No, I keep it on my bedside table between the photos of Robert E. Lee and Albert Schweitzer," he said, his tone dry as dust. "It's a perfectly reasonable thing to have on a trip like this."

"Whatever you say, Bones." Jim settled on the ground beside McCoy, propping the flashlight against the wall of the cave before reaching for the first aid kit and popping it open. "You sound clearer. How do you feel?"

"Like somebody dropped half a mountain on my head." McCoy glanced in Jim's direction, saw the medical kit and frowned. "Just what the hell do you think you're doing?"

"Trying to find some antiseptic wipes so I can clean up that gash on your scalp."

"Don't bother."

Jim stared. "Bones. That's basic first aid. You should know this."

"Of course I do, you jackass, that's not the point." McCoy's voice was low and whiskey rough. "Look. Any blow to the head hard enough to split the scalp and cause loss of consciousness has a good chance of fracturing the skull. You don't want to mess around with that. Best thing to do is to cover it with a bandage and then leave it the hell alone until help arrives."

"You're the doctor," Jim said.

He set the wipes aside and pulled out a small stack of gauze pads and a roll of bandage instead. McCoy sucked in a sharp breath as Jim gently pressed a pad against his still-bleeding scalp. Jim added two more atop the first, just to be safe, then tied a length of bandage around McCoy's head to hold them in place. "That should do it," he said. "Anything else?"

"Yeah. Check behind my ears."

"For what? Cabbages?"

"Cute. No, bruising over the mastoid process. Just--go easy, will ya? I've got a real bitch of a headache."

"I'll be gentle as a lamb," Jim promised.

He was as good as his word and held McCoy's face as though he was made of spun glass, turning him first one way and then the other in the uncertain beam of the flashlight. The skin behind McCoy's left ear showed nothing more insidious than a thin coating of sweat and dirt. Cabbages, Jim thought, and smiled as a decades-old memory of his mother armed with a determined washcloth came bubbling to the surface.

There was dirt behind the right as well, along with sticky, half-dried blood and a large purpling bruise that seemed to grow bigger as he watched. "There's, uh, there's a crescent-shaped bruise in the hollow behind your right ear." Jim swallowed, hard. "That's bad, isn't it."

"Yeah, Jim. That's bad." McCoy took a deep, steadying breath. "Okay. I'm just gonna spit this out while I'm still lucid: you're the closest thing to kin I have left, and I trust you to do right by me when the time comes."

"That's what I like about you, Bones, your sunny optimism."

McCoy grabbed Jim's wrist and held fast, his fingers ice cold against Jim's skin. "Shut up, Jim," he snapped. "For once in your goddamned life, just shut up and listen."

Jim shut up.

"Now, Starfleet's gonna want some goddamned gaudy funeral, and that's fine. Funerals are for the living. What I want is for you to scatter my ashes at Chickamauga after. Can you do that?"

"Yeah, Bones," Jim whispered. "I can do that."

McCoy relaxed fractionally. "Good man. Oh, and if a handful of ashes just happens to find its way into my mother's rose garden, well, that'd be fine, too. My ex gutted the house after the divorce, but even she knew better than to touch Mama's flowers. Besides, bone meal's good for roses."

That startled a laugh from him. "Jesus, Leonard. Thought about this a lot?"

McCoy shrugged. "Always knew I'd die out in the black, no harm in being prepared. Just didn't think it would be from a goddamned bump to the head."

"How long?" Jim asked softly.

McCoy shrugged again. He seemed strangely calm about the prospect of dying, or maybe it was just that he'd worried about it for so long that the reality of it actually happening held no real fear. "Could be minutes," he said. "Could be hours. Depends on the severity of the fracture. But when it starts, I'll go downhill fast."

"Would the tricorder be able to tell for sure?"

"Sure, if it still works."

"Hang on." Jim picked up the tricorder, pointed it at McCoy's head and pressed the BEGIN SCAN button. The device made a series of loud, prolonged squawks before spitting out its diagnosis along with a thin curl of smoke. "Congratulations, Doctor. You're six weeks pregnant."

McCoy snorted. "That would be a no, then."

Jim put down the tricorder. "Hey, you never know," he said. "The chief engineer of the NX-series Enterprise got knocked up without his knowledge. It's in all the history books. He was a Southerner, too. Think there's a connection?"

McCoy rolled his eyes in exasperation. "Oh, for the love of--. Look. Commander Tucker took part in an alien mating ritual without fully comprehending what he was getting into. The closest I've come to sex in recent memory is watching you jog through the ship in those ratty Academy sweats you refuse to get rid of."

There was a long, awkward moment in which Jim stared at McCoy, eyebrows up and mouth open in an 'o' of surprise, while McCoy closed his eyes and muttered fuck under his breath.

Jim recovered first. "Hey," he said, and bumped McCoy's shoulder lightly with his own. "I happen to like those sweats. They're comfortable."

"They're obscene."

"So, they have a few holes. So what?"

"A few? You look like you were mauled by a--fuck, no, not a cheese grater, where the hell did that come from? A moth, it's a type of moth. Big, fuzzy, white--help me out here, Jim."

"An Andorian ice moth?"

"That's it! An Andorian ice moth, you look like you were--wait. Looked. Look? Shit." McCoy frowned, blinking rapidly. "I can't--what the hell were we talking about again?"

"You were mocking my gym clothes." When McCoy did not immediately answer, Jim reached down and took hold of his hand. "Bones? C'mon, talk to me."

The hazy, diffuse look was back in McCoy's eyes. "I don't feel so good, Jimmy."

"I know you don't, but you've got to hang in there, okay? Bones? You still with me?" Jim clutched McCoy's hand tight. He wanted McCoy to complain, to bitch that Jim was squeezing too hard, and would crush his fine surgeon's fingers if he didn't let go.

McCoy said nothing. His eyes were closed and his chin lolled against his chest, looking for all the world as if he had simply nodded off after a long day.

Jim fumbled for the pulse-point in McCoy's wrist but his hands were trembling, his whole body was trembling. "No," he said. "No, you are not going to die. We're on vacation, you asshole! You can't die while we're on vacation, that's just--that's just stupid."

Jim had an irrational urge to grab McCoy's shoulders and shake him until he woke up, but knew it would do more harm that good. Instead, he held McCoy's hand and leaned forward until their foreheads touched. "Stay with me, Bones," he whispered. "Please. You have to stay with me."

The flashlight spluttered and went out.

The sound of his own ragged breathing rang loud in his ears. He had no idea how long he sat there, blind and helpless, McCoy's lax hand grasped between his own. The air grew hot and heavy in his lungs, and there was an odd smell, like spent matches; Jim wondered, with a strange sort of detachment, if he was beginning to suffocate. He hadn't considered that before, that they would run out of oxygen before the rescue team could reach them, sure that the cave entrance hadn't been sealed that tight. It wasn't how Jim had thought he would go out, but then, no one ever expected to die in an accident while on shore leave.

Except, perhaps, for Bones. Jim huffed a small laugh at that, his breath stirring McCoy's dark bangs ... bangs that he shouldn't be able to see. The burning, sulfurous smell grew stronger, and he looked over his shoulder to see the rock to the right of the collapsed entrance glow bright red, begin to bubble and hiss and melt away.

Jim turned back to McCoy, his heart beating wildly in his chest. "They're coming, Bones," he said. "You hear me? They're coming, just like I said."

The wall gave way, and a lumpy, wriggling ball of living stone tumbled into the cave. It fetched up on the ground near Jim's feet and let out a noise like a steam valve releasing. The translator affixed to its back squeaked out, "I found them! Mr. Spock, I found them!"

"That you did, Mr. Naraht," Jim said, giving what he hoped was the young Horta's head a grateful pat. "Good job."

More voices sounded inside the narrow tunnel Naraht had eaten through the mountainside. "Captain Kirk!" "Doctor McCoy!"

"I need a medical team in here, now!" Jim shouted.

Spock appeared in the tunnel's mouth, looking dirty and disheveled but otherwise whole. "They are right behind me, Captain."

True to Spock's word, the next person to crawl through the tunnel was Dr. M'Benga, with Nurse Chapel hard on his heels. M'Benga pulled out his tricorder and crouched in the dirt at McCoy's side. "How long has he been unconscious?" M'Benga demanded.

"I'm not sure," Jim said. "A few minutes. Ten at most. Will he be all right?"

M'Benga said nothing, just looked pointedly at Chapel who nodded and put a warm hand on Jim's shoulder. "I need you to come with me, Captain," she said gently. "Dr. M'Benga will take good care of Dr. McCoy."

He was being managed, and he knew it. But as much as he wanted to stay with McCoy, Jim had sense enough to realize that he would only be a hindrance to the medical team. He let go of McCoy's hand reluctantly and allowed Chapel to draw him up off the ground and over to the other side of the cave where she handed him off to Spock. "See that he reports directly to sickbay," she said.

"Understood," Spock said. He looked at Jim. "Captain?"

Jim spared one final glance to the back of the cave, where M'Benga and the emergency response team were easing McCoy into a prone position on a backboard prior to moving him to a stretcher. "Let's go," he said roughly.

#



The transporter locked on immediately after Jim and Spock emerged from the tunnel, beaming them both from the planet's surface directly to the main medical bay. Jim blinked against the harsh, bright lights, his eyes watering. A nurse took his arm, led him to a biobed and made him lie down while the moon-faced Denobulan doctor whose name Jim could never remember ran a scanner over him from head to toe. Spock hovered nearby, hands clasped behind his back, waiting.

"Spock, how's Nyota?" Jim asked. "She wasn't hurt in the earthquake, was she?"

"She suffered a dislocated knee but is otherwise well," Spock assured him. "She is resting in our quarters."

Jim thought of Bones lying unconscious in the dirt and felt his throat grow tight. "She's your wife, Spock. You should be with her, not me."

"As first officer, my duty is to the ship until such a time as you are medically cleared to resume command."

"And on that note...." Jim turned his head and looked hopefully at the doctor.

"Well, your pulse rate and blood pressure are elevated," she said with that preternatural cheerfulness all Denobulans seemed to have. "Otherwise? Bumps and bruises. You'll be stiff and sore once the endorphins wear off, but it's nothing a hot shower and a good night's sleep won't fix."

Jim pushed himself up on his elbows. "When can I return to duty?"

"Twenty-four hours, Captain, and not a moment sooner. I'll get you a little something to help with the aches in the meantime, won't take a minute," she said, and bustled off before Jim could so much as utter a word of protest.

The high-pitched whine of a transporter beam filled the air. Light swirled, flared, and coalesced into the forms of M'Benga, Chapel, and a handful of blue-shirted EMS personnel, all clustered in a tight knot around a gurney. Jim caught a brief glimpse of McCoy's bloodstained face as they rushed by on their way to the OR in the back of the medical bay. Then they were gone almost as quickly as they'd arrived.

Jim was off the biobed and halfway across the room before his brain caught up with his feet. The Denobulan doctor--Vessa, her name was Vessa--was suddenly there in front of him, resolutely blocking his path with a hand in the center of his chest. "No, Captain," she said, and there was steel in her voice beneath the sympathy. "I'm sorry, but you cannot follow them in."

Spock moved to stand next to her. "Your desire to remain at Dr. McCoy's side is understandable," he said, "but your presence would be a distraction to the surgical staff."

"He's in the very best of hands, Captain," Vessa added. "There's nothing you can do for him here. I will call you every hour on the hour with an update if you promise me to return to your quarters and rest."

He was being managed again, and it infuriated him. This was McCoy, it was Bones, and it was on the tip of Jim's tongue to simply order them out of his way. At the same time, he knew his behavior was irrational at best, and that Vessa would have him forcibly removed from sickbay if he didn't calm down. Hell, Spock would probably nerve-pinch him into unconsciousness if he deemed it necessary.

Jim balled his shaking hands into fists and pressed them tight against his thighs, feeling helpless and lost and completely fucking useless. "Every hour," he gritted out.

"You have my word on it," Vessa said. She held up a hypospray and arched one brow ridge. "May I?"

Jim nodded and tilted his head to the side to give her access to his neck. "There," she said as the spray hissed coolly against his skin. "That may make you a little drowsy, but it'll take the edge off of your aches and pains. And believe me, Captain, you will be feeling them once all the epinephrine in your system wears off."

"Duly noted," Jim said and headed for the door, Spock trailing silently in his wake.

He made it all the way to the turbolift before the drugs kicked in.

His knees buckled as the world went spinning sideways. Spock caught him before he could hit the floor and half-dragged, half-carried Jim out of the lift and down the corridor. Then somehow they were in Jim's quarters and the bed was rising up to meet him like a long lost love. His last clear recollection was of a blanket being settled across his shoulders and the sound of Spock's calm voice instructing the computer to dim the lights.

#



Jim woke to the sound of his terminal chiming softly.

There was a small puddle of drool on the pillow under his cheek, he was gritty and grimy and hurt all over. For one long, bewildered moment he couldn't remember what day it was or how he'd wound up feeling like he'd just gone ten rounds with a pissed-off Klingon, something that hadn't happened since he boarded a shuttle in Riverside, Iowa all those years ago and left a life of binge drinking and bar fights far behind. Then his brain came fully online and he remembered the hike, the cave-in, McCoy lying pale and still and covered in blood.... "Bones," he said. "Oh, God, Bones," and all but threw himself out of bed to stagger across the room to his desk.

His terminal held five messages from Dr. Vessa, each sent exactly one hour apart. Jim ignored the first four and opened the most recent.

TO: Cpt. J.T. Kirk
FROM: Dr. T. Vessa
SUB: Hourly status report
-------------------
Moved from recovery to main sickbay. Sleeping naturally.

Jim closed his eyes and just breathed deep for a moment. The message didn't tell him how badly McCoy had been hurt, if there had been any permanent neurological damage, or what McCoy's long-term prognosis was. It didn't matter. He had what he needed to know: Bones was alive.

The timestamp on the last message showed it had been sent fifteen minutes ago. So, out of recovery, but only just. Jim looked at his hands on either side of the terminal, at the dirt under his nails, the dried blood flaking on his fingers. He needed a shower and a change of clothes before heading down to Medical, otherwise Vessa--or M'Benga, or Chapel, or whoever else was still on duty in the middle of ship's night--would simply chase him right back out again.

Jim headed for the shower. The hot water helped clear his head of residual fogginess, and there was something oddly satisfying about watching all the sand and dirt go swirling down the drain. It also helped loosen stiff muscles and ease some of the soreness from his rock-battered back. There was a particularly tender bruise on his left shoulder blade that hurt like hell when he moved his arm, plus several more scattered across his back, bad enough that he was honestly surprised the medical scans hadn't turned up any evidence of chipped bone or bruising to his kidneys. Then again, he'd always been lucky.

He was still on medical leave for the better part of a day, so he left his uniform hanging in the closet and went for civilian clothes instead. His old Academy sweats had indeed seen better days, though they were nowhere near as tattered as McCoy had made them out to be--at least, not in Jim's opinion, anyway. They were loose and comfortable, the well-worn fabric soft against his tenderized skin.

The fact McCoy apparently found them sexy had no bearing on his choice at all. None.

#


Despite the lateness of the hour, the lights in the main medical bay were bright, save for a corner in the very back where a privacy curtain had been drawn around one of the biobeds.

Dr. Vessa appeared out of a doorway to Jim's right almost the moment he set foot in the room. "Captain," she said. "I wasn't expecting to see you up and about for at least another three hours."

"I have a quirky constitution," Jim said dryly. He jerked his chin toward the curtained-off bed. "What's the prognosis?"

"Excellent, all things considered," Vessa said. "Doctor McCoy suffered a basilar skull fracture courtesy of a rather large rock bouncing off the back of his head, with attendant intracranial swelling and bleeding. Fortunately, no major arteries or veins were damaged, and we were able to get him into surgery before any irreversible harm was done to his brain."

Fuck, Jim thought as a cold shiver crawled up and down his spine. He knew enough field medicine to understand what Vessa wasn't saying. Even with all their medical advances, brain injuries were dangerous, and the longer someone went without treatment, the less likely they were to survive. "He'll be okay, though," Jim said. "Full recovery and all that?"

"He'll be right as rain," Vessa said. Her smile was disconcertingly wide and steep. "Dr. M'Benga wants to keep him for observation for the next twenty-four hours, but he should be back on his feet and cleared for light duty within a week."

"Can I see him?"

Vessa's smile stretched improbably larger. "Of course."

#


The medical staff had washed away all the dirt and blood, but McCoy still looked too pale for Jim's comfort. A regen unit curved around the right side of his skull, humming softly as it encouraged bone to knit and veins to heal, the white plastic bright against McCoy's dark hair.

Jim reached down and covered McCoy's hand with his own. McCoy's eyelids fluttered at the touch, and then he was blinking fuzzily up at Jim. "Hey," he rasped.

"Hey, yourself," Jim said softly. "Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you."

"S'okay," McCoy said. "I've slept enough for a while."

He squeezed McCoy's hand hard. "You scared the shit out of me, Bones."

McCoy's mouth curved into a small, wry smile. "Now you know how I feel most of the time."

Jim stroked his thumb back and forth over the thin skin of McCoy's knuckles. "I think I'm starting to get the picture, yeah," he said, the words catching oddly in his throat. "You asked me to scatter your ashes at Chickamauga. For a while, I thought I'd actually have to do it."

"I can't remember all that much," McCoy admitted. "How'd they get us out?"

"Naraht," Jim said. "Apparently, even teenaged Hortas can eat through stone faster than humans can drill."

McCoy let out a low, rusty chuckle. "Well, don't that beat all. Bet his mama'll be proud."

"He'll be a hit at the Academy," Jim said. "How many first year cadets can say they rescued the captain and CMO of the Enterprise before they even started classes?"

McCoy opened his mouth, but whatever he was about to say was lost to a massive yawn. "Sorry. Guess I'm not slept out after all."

"Hey, don't apologize," Jim said. "I'd want to sleep for a month if our positions were reversed."

"Bullshit," McCoy said. "You'd be climbin' the damn walls an hour after you woke up and we both know it."

"Are you insinuating I'm a lousy patient, Bones?"

"Not insinuating a damned thing, Jim. You are a lousy patient."

Jim hesitated a moment, then reached out with his free hand and gently smoothed the bangs away from McCoy's tired eyes. "You should rest."

"Workin' on it," McCoy murmured. "Jim?"

"Yeah, Bones?"

"Stay a while?"

Jim tightened his grip on McCoy's hand. "I'm not going anywhere."

McCoy smiled sleepily and shifted his hand so that he could twine their fingers together. "Neither am I."

FIN.

----------------



Secondary Note: Naraht was borrowed from the novel Spock's World by Diane Duane. For those unfamiliar with TOS canon, the Hortas first appear in the original series episode "The Devil in the Dark". Since I'm not sure how those events would be affected by the changed timeline of the Reboot-verse, I very deliberately left any mention of dates out of this story.

For them as don't know, the place Bones wants to have his ashes scattered is Chickamauga Battlefield Park.
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