It’s with only half a mind that Jim goes through on his plan, lets McCoy run the scanner over his arm and just waits out his comments. “Will do.” Although a massage does sound good, with the joint a little stiff after hours in the chair.
McCoy’s being too stubborn, Kirk decides though, when the doctor is through with it all. And he doesn’t need to be a doctor to tell that his friend’s irritability is up a notch, or that sitting in sickbay with the lights on 20% isn’t normal. It may be a low blow, to raise his voice back to a perfectly normal volume, and he nearly does hesitate for a moment. “I’ll be in the rec room for a bit. Are you gonna come up, too?”
Only Kirk would have the audacity to say something like that to someone as irritable as him. Likewise, only McCoy would have the courage to shoot back at his superior without any fear. “Would you like a complete physical examination?” Bitter sarcasm, of course, but he bites back on his words once he realizes that his own voice is starting to set off a chain reaction in his head.
Groaning, he slowly slips back into his chair and decides to give the ‘question’ another go. “I’ve decided you’re enjoying this. I won’t entertain the thought,” he throws out lamely, quickly deciding against looking at his microscope again. And internally, he’s questioning why Jim is still here. No, he doesn’t hate the captain—he’ll always be by his side—but if he’s here to torture him, the answer is no.
"But it vasn’t anyone else. It vas me. I did hev control! I meneged not to shoot ze Keptain end if I hed been stronger and regained control sooner none of zis vould hev heppened! Is my fault." The sentence ends with a shuddering sob. “Is all my fault."
It’s selfish to be focused on his own needs right now. On his own terror. He isn’t safe and he probably won’t ever be safe again. He wants to be held. Like a child. Like a pitiful lost child. This is what Khan has reduced him to.
You aren’t in real danger, he tries to convince himself, you’re safe. You’re in the medbay where you have been a hundred times and there is a doctor right here. You’re safe. This is irrational. You’re okay now. Khan is dead. Khan is dead.
Pity says Chekov’s torn, he’s innocent, he can’t be suffering because it’s just wrong. So the innocent get hurt every day, people get what they don’t deserve and being fair never has anything to do with it; none of that’s your fault, move on. At least you’re still alive.
McCoy stands there and listens to the monitors, to the silence between each heart beat… No, he’d never say any of that to him.
Kirk’s expression is grim when he arrives at the transporter room. After multiple attempts at hailing Norway, there was no response. Sensors also indicated that there was no life on board, but the life support systems were functioning.
Mulling over these facts, he didn’t speak at all until he and his landing party were beamed onto the ship.
This isn’t the first seemingly abandoned ship they’d boarded, but it doesn’t make the situation any less tense.
"Tricorders out, phasers on stun." His orders are clipped, his strides tense as he descends Norway’s transporter platform.
"Our ship scanners say that there is no life on this ship, but I am not so sure. Fan out and scan for any life signs. Do not touch anything unless it is necessary—we do not know what we are dealing with."
Gesturing for a security officer to follow him with a tricorder, he headed toward the bridge, leaving Bones and the others to go elsewhere.
McCoy takes his phaser, sets it to stun and doesn’t argue with the captain’s orders. Everyone splits up and he moves out of the transporter room with one security officer.
Emotionally speaking, that is. Chekov is a little more than surprised, but he’s in no state, mental or physical, to express that, so he just lies there for what seems like an eternity, trying to draw forth words to answer with as McCoy’s eyes bore into his spine.
Is there a single word to describe his present state? Maybe in Russian, maybe, some word that became obscure hundreds of years ago, because it is a more specific language than English. But Pavel does not know that word and he can’t reach for a dictionary, so he says, after another moment of hesitation, “Terrible. It vas terrible.”
McCoy stands beside Chekov and remembers the ensign from eighteen years ago. Twenty-two, hardly old enough to drink but old enough to die a million light years away from home. But he was spirited, unafraid and people seemed to brighten up when he was around. Today, they hardly seem like the same person.
"Unless you’d rather go sight-seeing, but I don’t wanna miss the sights in that café."
"Say no more, I’m right behind you."
A few hours! The thought is laughable. I’ll never be fit for duty. I’m a murderer. I killed those people. If it weren’t for me, Spock wouldn’t be dead. We wouldn’t have been in that battle and he wouldn’t have had to die. And the cadets—children!—they are dead because of me. The feeling is too much to bear, but he’s forty, not four, and he can’t break down in front of McCoy. Chekov is thankful that he’s already lying with his back to the doctor.
"Ze side of my head. It really hurts, and in ze ear canal, too."
Pavel tries to control his thoughts, tries impossibly hard, but the screaming and wailing from the station is still echoing back and forth in the confines of his skull. The cracking as Khan shattered each individual joint in the resident botanist’s hand. The mucous trail that the larva left on his cheek. His mind chooses to fixate on that. The helplessness, the terror, is too much. It’s all too much.
Chekov desperately wants to retreat to his temporary quarters. Now. But hot wet blood is still trickling from his inner ear and his head feels like it is being crumpled up like a piece of paper, so he can’t leave. Even if he was physically alright, he couldn’t leave. He doesn’t trust himself alone. This is what he’s done to you. Khan may be dead, but you’re warped permanently. Pavel has the impulse to adjust his pillow and wrap his arms around it in a pathetic simulation of contact with an actual human body, but he refrains, promising himself that McCoy will be gone before too long, which, unfortunately, is equally as frightening as being this vulnerable around him.
The way that thing crawled into his head and out of his ear, it isn’t a surprise. The exams showed the path the larva took and the damage that was inflicted in its wake, but the body should be able to heal all of that naturally. There weren’t any signs of damage to his brain, either, and all chances of infection were taken care of. Everything should be okay. "Completely normal considering what you had to go through. Try giving it a little time. Then we’ll see how you’re doing."
After that, though, McCoy doesn’t leave. He’s still standing there at the bedside, eyes and attention unwavering like he knows something. No, feels something. He knows by a glance that Chekov’s not all right. He knows just looking at the back of the man’s head, the way he’s lying on his stomach with his head over the pillow, that he’s hurt. Guilty. Maybe thinking that it took decades to make those people who they were, but only seconds to kill them. And with Terrell dead, all of that heavy burden, it’s all on him and him alone. Survivor’s guilt.
It’s quiet and the only sounds come from running life support systems and the breathing of sleeping patients. McCoy thinks about saying, ‘If you need anything else, let me know.' He doesn't. “How are you feeling? Emotionally speaking, that is.”
To not know who or what was killing off people never settled well with Kirk and there was always a certain amount of pressure and stress for him to solve the mystery as quickly as possible.
This stress often made him miss certain details, which was why he often had Spock and Bones at his side. Second opinions and a few extra pairs of eyes always helped.
And then, as if he was reading his mind, Bones himself called up to the bridge. Amid all the tension, Kirk allowed himself a small smile at the sound of his friend’s voice.
"I was just about to call you, doctor. You will beam into Norway with me an a small security detail. We should be within contact range with her in ten minutes. I’ll give you more details in the transporter room. Kirk out.”
Leaning away from his comm, Kirk set his eyes on the view screen again, wondering just what sort of threat they were dealing with. Without further communication with Norway, there was no telling just what sort of preparation was necessary for the visit. Kirk’s brow creased. He hated mysteries.
McCoy doesn’t know anything about the situation, but he’ll hear about it soon enough. Leaving M’Benga in charge of everything in his absence, he takes his tricorder and medkit then briskly walks out to the transporter room.
❣ An unpopular opinion
✗ A ship I can’t stand
✾Why I chose the character