Uhura presses the cloth a little harder against the the bloody spot on McCoy's head and frowns. According to the tricorder, his vitals are stable, and she knows that head wounds bleed a lot. Still, it's hard to believe that so much bleeding for so long can be a good thing.
“Hey.” She shakes his shoulder gently, then a bit harder. “Wake up.”
McCoy's eyelids flicker.
“Wha' happened? Where are we?”
“'We're on a shuttle. Someone shot us, remember?” The shuttle had flown off course, its systems badly damaged, but there had been no sign of their attacker since the initial shot. “Sulu's up front, trying to get the navigational array online.”
“We got air?” McCoy asks sleepily.
“Yeah. Enough for a few more hours anyway. Is this kind of memory loss normal?”
She'd had this same conversation with McCoy at least twice in the past hour. McCoy doesn't answer her, so she shakes him again. When there's no response, she climbs over him, planting her knees on either side of his torso so that she can lean directly over his face. She'd be embarrassed if she weren't so scared.
“Hey. I need you to tell me if this kind of memory loss is normal.”
McCoy's eyes flicker open.
“Jus' a concussion,” he says.
“I don't like the way your words are slurred.”
McCoy smiles faintly.
“Dammit woman, I'm a doctor. I know what I'm talking about.” That sounds more like him. She smiles, and he asks, “Why're you on top of me?”
“You wouldn't wake up.”
She looks away even though she doubts he can see her flush in the deep red emergency lights. Maybe it hadn't been a logical response, but it had seemed like the right thing to do. She moves back to her position on the floor and rests McCoy's head against her thigh. There's no medical necessity, she knows, but human touch is the only treatment she can provide right now.
“What should I do for you?” she asks.
“Jus' keep me awake.”
“Is there something in the med kit?”
McCoy shakes his head, then winces.
“Jus' ask me questions.”
“Okay. Name, rank, date of birth?”
“Dammit, woman, I'm injured, not mentally handicapped.”
Uhura almost laughs at how irritated he looks but thinks better of it.
“Answer the question.”
“Leonard McCoy, Chief Medical Officer, U.S.S. Enterprise. May 13, 2227. That good enough for you? Now ask me something interesting.”
Uhura pauses for a moment, thinking. Earlier, before McCoy had begun slipping in and out of consciousness, she had been remembering her senior trip to the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia. White plains of salt spread out for kilometers around her, the even white landscape marred with rills and cracks like the surface of the moon. It was desolate but oddly beautiful.
“What's the most beautiful place you've ever been?” she asks.
“Ireland,” he says, and she pictures a rough gray sea dashing against impossibly high cliffs. Then he adds, “It was a staircase.”
She reaches for the tricorder. His eyes are closed, and what he said didn't make any sense.
“Found it when I was hiking. Great big staircase, cut out of rock. Couldn't see where it went, just the sky above it.”
Uhura smiles. She would like to see a place like that.
“Why were you there?”
Maybe he had taken a trip with Kirk and gone out hiking while the other man slept off his hangover. Or maybe it was a family vacation, and he had struck off on his own. She bet he'd liked to explore when he was a child, though he'd probably deny it now.
The silence stretches, and she's about to shake him when he says, “I was detoxing.”
“Oh.” She doesn't quite know what to say. She didn't know many people as solid and strong as McCoy; it was hard to picture him addicted and out of control. “I didn't know you'd had a problem,” she adds because it seems better than her monosyllabic response.
“Right after the divorce. Wasn't a good time in my life. But I couldn't leave Jo with a father like that.”
His voice is gruff, and Uhura wishes she could tell him not to be embarrassed. She admires him actually, not for the drinking but for the recovery from it. Even though she and Spock had parted amicably, his absence still left odd holes in her life, even a year later. If they had been married, or had a child, she couldn't imagine how lost she would feel. It seems unfair to talk about such personal things now though, when he's injured and not fully in control of himself.
“What was at the top of the stairs?” she asks to change the subject.
“Dunno. Didn't wanna know. I just liked looking up at all that blue sky and possibility. Made me feel like things were going to get better.”
“That's beautiful, Leonard.”
She thinks it might be the first time she's called him by his first name. McCoy snorts, and Uhura thinks she can see him blush, though it might just be the emergency lights.
“Don't usually talk about this stuff, you know.” He opens his eyes for the first time in a long time. “You're an easy woman to talk to.”
Now it's Uhura's turn to snort.
“Not everyone would say that.”
“ 'Magine a lot of people are afraid of an intelligent woman like you,” he says. The words drift off and his eyes flicker shut again. Uhura shakes him, gently this time.
“Always meant to go back there someday. See what's up there,” he murmurs. His head lolls to the side, and Uhura can see she's about to fall asleep.
“Hey.” She rattles his shoulder, being careful not to jar his head. “Keep your eyes open, okay? I'll make you a deal. If we get off this shuttle, you have to take me to Ireland and we'll find out what's at the top of that staircase together.”
“It's a deal.”
The Enterprise beams them aboard when they have one minute and thirty-six seconds of oxygen remaining.
“You owe me a trip to Ireland,” Uhura says as the med team wheels McCoy away.
“Wouldn't miss it for the world, darlin.'”
His smile is the last thing she sees before he disappears around the corner.