“I knew I wouldn’t die because the two of you were with me. I’ve always known…I’ll die alone.”
It had seemed like a good idea at the time, a necessary one even given recent events. McCoy just didn’t expect to get a death sentence while performing a simple physical check. Setting the scanner down he quickly went to his office door and made sure it was locked tightly. When he was positive no one could walk in unannounced McCoy reset and re-calibrated the scanner. Then he ran it again.
The results came back the same.
Dropping the scanner McCoy pulled out another one from his desk and tried again. For the third time the results came back the same, forcing him to accept reality. He had xenopolycythemia. There was no cure. He had a year to live if he was lucky.
McCoy collapsed against the top of his desk, burying his face in his arms. His breathing was heavy as he fought the urge to cry. As he listened to his breathing he began to wonder how he hadn’t noticed this before. The laboured breathing he had put down to not enough exercise. The fatigue and slight weakness in his legs he had brushed off as just being too old to run around sickbay pulling double shifts anymore. Rationally he knew it wouldn’t have mattered even if he had put the symptoms together earlier. Early detection didn’t change the prognosis for this. Still he thought he should have known what was happening with his own body, he was a doctor.
McCoy curled his hands into fists and slammed them against the desk. Yes, he was a doctor, dammit, and he had patients to look after. This was no time to wallow in self-pity.
Getting up he left his office and went down to the main area of sickbay, stopping at the isolation ward. Quietly he looked in and nodded as he saw that the vitals were all still in the green, good. McCoy couldn’t hold back a smile as he looked down as the occupant of the bed. Jim was curled up on his side, sleeping like a baby now that the fever had finally broken. Spock was beside him slumped in a chair with his head on the bio-bed, his fingers intertwined with Jim’s. McCoy shook his head. The Vulcan had finally worked himself to exhaustion after three intense days in the labs struggling for a new cure when Jim had been diagnosed with Vegan choriomeningitis and there would be no way to get the needed medical supplies to treat him in time. McCoy couldn’t deny that Spock had done it though, had pulled out that last minute save and that Jim was safe now and healing.
Going to a cupboard McCoy pulled out an extra blanket, draping it over Spock. He always said the temperature in sickbay was tolerable, which was Vulcan code for ‘as comfortable as standing in a meat locker’; McCoy didn’t want him getting chilled. Then he turned his attention back to Jim, brushing a stray lock of hair away from his face. It had been a close call this time. McCoy shuddered as he remembered that the time before this couldn’t even be called close. Of how Jim had been brought to him in a bag, utterly still and growing cold; only being saved because of a benevolent superman and some quick thinking. McCoy sighed because he knew that unlike Jim he wasn’t favoured by the universe. There would be no superhuman blood, no scientific breakthrough at the eleventh hour that would save him. But what made it worse was that he knew he couldn’t tell them about his disease now. This brush with death was too fresh. If he put Jim under too much stress he could relapse; and Spock would make himself sick with worry if he knew, no matter how much he claimed that Vulcans did not worry.
McCoy couldn’t tell them he was dying. He loved them too much to hurt them.