Leonard didn’t notice anything at first. Riding high on the fact that Jim wasn’t dead, when he went to file a report and found the computer had flagged passages in his dictation for manual review, he simply shrugged off the instances of ellipses as pauses he didn’t remember taking. It was to be expected really; it wasn’t like he had any practice describing magic elixirs made of augment super-blood.
Eating lunch with Nyota the next day he blinked and found her staring. Leaning forwards across the table, she looked on the verge of waving a hand in front of his face, frowning slightly as she said, “Earth to Len?”
He flushed in embarrassment, lowering the spoon that had been hovering over his soup. “Sorry,” What had she been saying? “Caught me woolgathering for a moment there.” Her face moved into a sympathetic expression; he’d been getting that a lot lately, since he’d pulled Jim back from death. In truth, he hadn’t actually been thinking about anything, but he shoved that aside and focused on her story. Quickly lost in conversation, he forgot the slip before the meal was over.
There had been an odd moment on the tram to Starfleet Medical that afternoon, when he suddenly realised it was his stop rather than the previous one he’d expected to see. Sleep: he needed more sleep, now that Jim was stable. Promising himself a night off, soon, he took a moment to enjoy the late September sunshine between the tramway and the building. There was still a faint hint of smoke and dust in the air, a constant reminder of the exclusion zone around the waterfront and the ongoing work to remove the hulk of the Vengeance; to find remains in the wrecked buildings. Shivering, despite the mild weather, he hurried into the hermetically managed medical facility and its comforting non-scent of scrubbed air and antiseptic.
Anticipation of seeing Jim put a spring in Leonard’s step and he caught himself softly whistling, whistling while he waited for the lift. It put a spark of guilt in his belly given what so many others had lost, but he’d worked too hard for too many days to dwell on it.
Jim was sitting up in bed when Leonard arrived, still a little too pale, but a glance at the vital monitor confirmed that the captain was only continuing to improve. Dropping into the bedside chair with a grunt, he braced himself as his friend smiled winningly and pre-emptively replied, “No.”
“Bones,” Jim had the gall to feign hurt as he protested, “I didn’t say anything.”
“You didn’t need to. I know that smile.” Jabbing a thumb back over his shoulder at the monitor, Leonard growled, “You died, Jim. You can stay in the hospital a few more days until we’re ready to release you.” He was never sure what to expect when he opened the door to Jim’s private room. In the five days since the captain had startled awake after a coma his mood had shifted from relief so deep it was tinged with elation at having saved the ship and most of his crew, to mute horror at the death toll being reported on the ground in San Francisco. This Jim, with a familiar smile and wheedling to be released, was the most he could have hoped for, exasperating though it was.
“Aw, come on!” Youngest captain in the fleet and James Kirk could pout like a child when he wanted to.
“Don’t be an…” infant caught in Leonard’s throat as the world suddenly tilted. Somehow, he was fuzzily aware that this was an unexpected development, but didn’t seem to be able to get his mouth to finish the sentence. Or say anything, for that matter.
The pout faded from Jim’s face as Leonard trailed off and turned ashen from the neckline of his odd white uniform to the roots of his dark hair. Jim had never seen the other man appear so pale; pulling himself up, even as he had to rely on the cushions behind him, he carefully asked, “Bones?”
With a small, choked noise, Leonard tipped sideways and tumbled off the chair, landing heavily on the floor with a resounding smack.
When there was no reply, Jim pulled back the blanket and tried to step out of the bed, following Leonard to the floor when his legs didn’t quite hold him. Cursing, the captain propped himself up and crawled closer.
Leonard was sprawled on the floor where he’d landed, a slight twitching in his limbs that was more alarming than a welcome sign of life.
Scrabbling a hand back towards the bed, Jim stretched for the call button and Leonard suddenly managed a modicum of coordination and made a grab for him with a weak cry of, “No!”
Freezing in surprise, Jim looked from his friend to the bed and the device just out of reach. “Bones, you’re on the floor.” This was absurd; he amended, “We’re on the floor!”
“Call Philip Boyce.” It was hard to get the words out, what with the way the room was spinning. Closing his eyes for a moment, Leonard concentrated on what was important, gasping at what seemed like rarified air to be able to say, “Tell him S-O-S.”
“He’ll know what it means.” Oh, god, he was going to vomit. Huffing quick breaths through his nose in an effort to keep his lunch where it was, Leonard nevertheless managed to get out, “Boyce, Jim. No one else.”
Boyce? The name was vaguely familiar, but Jim couldn’t put a face to it from memory. If the bed was far, the nightstand where his comm was seemed further. Quickly patting down Leonard revealed a comm in his pocket and Jim dipped his hand inside to retrieve the device. That the man didn’t growl some comment about getting fresh with him only sent another prickle of fear through the captain.
The connection was made almost immediately, an American accent briskly replying, “Boyce?”
“It’s Jim Kirk.” Stumbling over a greeting as he realised he didn’t know Boyce’s rank, he continued, “I’m with Leonard McCoy. He’s collapsed in my room; said to tell you S-O-S.”
A muffled curse, then what sounded like a door being closed in the background, before Boyce gruffly addressed him again, “Have you called anyone else?”
“No.” Jim floundered, categorically unsure what he should be doing, “He said not to, but he doesn’t look good.”
Breathing? Jim’s eyebrows just about hit his hairline as a frisson of concern turned to real fear. He grabbed his friend by the elbow, noting how the doctor’s breaths were coming fast and shallow. “Yeah, but like he could throw up.”
There was a clattering from the comm, as if it had been set down on a desk and the owner was doing something in the background. “I’ll be there soon. Tell the computer to put a privacy lock on the door. If anyone knocks, just holler, ‘manual evacuation of fecal impaction’.”
That took Jim a second to parse, then he yelped, “You want me to tell them Bones is digging shit out of my ass?”
“Precisely. It’s disgusting enough they’ll leave you alone.” The comm channel closed with a snap.
Regarding the device in disbelief for a moment, Jim set it down and crawled closer to Leonard, running a hand over the other man’s shoulder until slightly unfocused hazel eyes met his own. Swallowing down a spike of fear, he softly said, “Bones?” The older man’s gaze only seemed to sluggishly track, so Jim kept up a gentle stroking of the doctor’s shoulder as he asked, “Hey? You with me?”
Leonard wet his lips, tongue seeming to get stuck for a moment before he swallowed convulsively and seemed to return more to the present. With a groan, he shifted into a more comfortable position on the floor and muttered, “Dammit.”
“What’s an SOS, Bones?”
Instead of answering, Leonard’s eyes flickered closed and he seemed to be trying to keep from passing out. Worrying his own lip with his teeth, Jim slid his hand up from the doctor’s shoulder and on to his forehead, pushing back disheveled brown hair. Unsure how to offer comfort, Jim forced himself to try to stay calm and wait. As Leonard’s breaths trailed into gasping pants, it wasn’t easy.
The door finally beeped as the privacy lock gave in to an override code. Sprawled on the floor, Jim blinked up at the older man who had just entered: it wasn’t the orderly or young doctor he had expected. This Boyce was tall, with fading blonde hair, blue eyes, and captain’s stripes apparent on his sleeves.
Immediately down to business, the older man first cast an eye over Jim, before turning his attention to Leonard. Waving a hand scanner, he asked, “Any preceding symptoms?”
“I’ve had some absence seizures.” Leonard considered what he could remember and fear prickled the back of his neck. “At least four over the last two days.” Defensively, he added, “I hadn’t realized until now.” The simple effort of speaking seemed to make it even harder to breathe.
“Okay.” Boyce suddenly looked very tired, in a way that made a spark of fear settle deep in Jim’s gut. Scrubbing a hand through his hair, he seemed to consider their surroundings for a moment before he announced, “Congratulations, Kirk, you’re getting discharged early.”
“No.” Forcing open eyes that had slipped closed, Leonard looked ready to argue further despite barely being able to roll over.
“McCoy, the only way you’re getting out of here unnoticed is on your own two feet, which means we need a decoy. Kirk is it.”
“He’s not ready.”
“No, but he’s not unready either.” Boyce scrubbed a hand through his thinning hair again, “I don’t like it either, but it’s the best we can do.” Moving quickly across the room, he retrieved a wheelchair that had been parked unobtrusively against the window. Putting on the brakes, he reached down and gripped Jim around the chest, grunting with effort as he pulled the younger man into the chair.
“Come on, McCoy,” Bending down, he attempted the same with the younger doctor. This time it was Leonard who let out a long groan as he was drawn upright, legs shaking and weak. Hand fisted in the back of Leonard’s waistband to keep him in some approximation of upright next to the wheelchair, he flipped open his comm with the other hand, “Boyce to medical transfer: I’d like to do a discharge by transport for the patient and two physicians in this room. Please use the location from my records designated as Home 2. I’ll also send a list of supplies for the same location.” Anyone else would probably be questioned, but with captain’s stripes and ‘fleet hierarchies at their disposal there was a simple acknowledgement before the room faded out.