The Greater Good (Kirk/McCoy NC-17) 6/6

  • Aug. 16th, 2011 at 5:14 AM
emiliglia: (au!kirk/mccoy)
Master Post & Mix - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5


He's covering the ER when an eight year old girl is brought in by her hysterical parents.

“She hit a rock on her bike,” the mother, who is slightly calmer, explains to Leonard as nurses take the little girl from her father's arms to put her on a gurney. “She flew over the handlebars, landed right on her head. She was wearing her helmet, I don't understand...”

From the abrasions Leonard sees on the girl's forehead, he bets she wasn't wearing it correctly and had it halfway back on her head instead. She's unconscious, her pupils unresponsive to Leonard's penlight.

He looks at Christine. “Get her an MRI. Pull someone out of it if you have to; I'll be up in a minute.” Leonard grabs the admission forms from another nurse, checking for, and not seeing any, patient allergies. “Does she go by Francesca?” Leonard asks, which seems to surprise the parents.

“She prefers to be called Frankie,” the father responds.

There's nothing further he can say to them, not able to give false hope or make any promises. Leonard had even learned his first year that saying you'll do the best you can is just as bad since, if the patient dies, most loved ones don't believe that you tried enough.

The technician is already getting images back when Leonard gets up to the MRI, and what he sees isn't good at all. “There's bleeding in the cerebral cortex of the frontal lobe. It could be diffuse axonal injury.” Leonard runs a hand over his face as Christine swears and looks closer at the monitor. “We need to get her into surgery. Page me with the OR you get her into. I have to get consent from the parents.”

She hit her head about an hour ago, Leonard thinks, running down the three flights of stairs to the waiting room. That's fives hours to get a response before she's officially in a coma, and if it really is diffuse axonal injury, there's a less than ten percent chance she'll ever wake up.

The parents spot him before he sees them, intersecting his path in the waiting room. There's a nurse waiting with the proper paperwork. Christine must have called ahead while waiting for the tech to get Frankie out of the MRI. “Mr. and Mrs. Parker,” Leonard begins, making a point to sound calm and authoritative. “Your daughter has traumatic brain injury and is going to need surgery. This might sound drastic, but I recommend a decompressive craniectomy. Her brain is swelling, and removing a part of the skull will allow it to expand without being squeezed and causing more damage.”

“Can we talk to her?” Mr. Parker is either in denial or doesn't realize how poorly his daughter had already been when she came in.

“She's still non-responsive,” Leonard replies carefully. “If she were conscious when you brought her in, there might have been other options, but I think this is her best chance.”

“I took Frankie to the park last week,” the father begins, guilt all over his face. “She was running around, looked back for a moment, wasn't paying attention to the other kids playing around her. One of them was pushing the tire swing, trying to get it to flip over the bar it was hanging from. I saw it hit her in the face.”

“John...”

Mr. Parker faces his wife, his eyes wet. “She was on the ground for a minute, but when I got to her, her eyes were open. She asked if we could go home.”

Leonard wants to berate the man for not including this information earlier. If she'd gotten a concussion last week, the damage Leonard saw makes more sense. He probably wouldn't even have wasted valuable time on an MRI.

The wife, though, looks like she's going to be handling that once Leonard leaves. She takes the consent forms, signing quickly in all the blank spots that have been highlighted for initials or a full signature. “Do whatever it takes,” she says.

“Yes, ma'am,” Leonard responds, his pager beeping with a message from Christine that they're in operating room four.

Leonard watches Christine order the nurses around and the anesthesiologist work as he scrubs in, and he could almost kiss Christine when he notices all of his tools and monitors are set up exactly as he likes them and Otis Redding is playing quietly in the background. Catching light in his periphery, Leonard looks up to see that it's coming from the observation room, and amongst the gaggle of med students, Leonard's eyes land right on Jim, who gives a small wave.

He looks at Christine, eyebrow raised, and even though he can't see her mouth, Leonard can tell that she's smiling deviously.

The absolute last thing Leonard needs is for Jim to watch a little girl die on his table.

Frankie's head is already shaved and prepped, Leonard grabs the drill to start a hole in her frontal bone before switching to the saw to cut away the bone flap. He can see from the contusions and lacerations, though, that it isn't going to be enough. He'll be able to keep the pressure from increasing so much that she has an infarction and dies, but is that really better than being in a coma for the rest of her life?

“Call Doctor Boyce,” he addresses one of the scrub nurses, and she brings the phone over to him, dialing it and holding it to his ear as Leonard continues to suction blood away.

“This is Boyce.”

Do whatever it takes.

“It's McCoy. I have an eight year old girl with TBI that lost consciousness on impact, and we haven't been able to get a response from her. I want to graft cells from her hippocampus onto the cerebral cortex of the frontal lobe.”

Leonard can hear Boyce's sharp intake of breath. “There could be long-term affects on her memory-”

“Or she could be dead,” Leonard interrupts. He knows the risks and doesn't need Boyce listing them over the phone. “I know it's not the same thing, but the technique has been used with skin cells for years now.”

Boyce takes too long to think about it, in Leonard's opinion. “Make sure the parents understand exactly what you want to do before getting consent. It's never been done before, be clear with them on that, and, Jesus Christ, but if it works? You better be prepared to run trials and get the technique published.”

“Yes, sir,” Leonard replies.

+

The thing of it is that it actually works.

Frankie's in a coma for a week, but during that time, the electrical activity in the damaged frontal lobe increases until, one day, she wakes up. There's some amnesia, but it seems focused around the accident itself as short- and long-term memory tests run by Doctor Dehner, one of the hospital's psychiatrists, show a perfectly normal range of recall.

It's two o'clock in the afternoon when Leonard gets off shift only to find himself being dragged by Jim to a nearby bar, and it looks like almost everyone Leonard knows in the Bay Area is there: Sulu and Chekov, Spock and Uhura, and from the hospital there's Christine, M'Benga, Boyce, and Puri.

Boyce buys everyone a round, lifting his drink in a toast, “To the McCoy Neural Graft Technique.”

Leonard feels his face grow warm as everyone repeats the sentiment and drinks.

Jim leans in close, and Leonard can feel his breath on his ear. “And you thought you could only do one thing.”

“Now it's your turn, Jim,” Leonard responds, and he's feeling bold with his breakthrough, so he continues at the confused look he gets from Jim. “Stop... hovering. Stop acting like you want to change your direction and just do it.” Jim looks like he wants to run away, but he doesn't, which is such a small thing but is a huge step in its own right. “I wouldn't have gotten here without you.”

Jim laughs anxiously, scratching at a beard that's no longer there, but it's a habit he hasn't been able to break yet. “Maybe I should get joint naming rights on that technique, then. Or at least a line in the acknowledgments when you get it published.”

“I think I can manage that,” Leonard replies, actually smiling.

There's a loud pop that startles both of them, their attention drawn to Sulu; he's holding a foaming bottle of champagne and waving Leonard over to the bar.

He accepts a glass of champagne, but he's at a complete loss for words as to where to begin in addressing all of his friends and co-workers around him. Leonard simply raises his glass and says, “To the future.”

It gets a response as enthusiastic with whistling and applause as any speech he could've attempted to make, and when he looks across the room at Jim, he sees Jim raising his own glass and mouthing the words back at Leonard before drinking the champagne.

+

Leonard thinks he may have made a mistake.

Both he and Jim had the day off, which is such a rare occurrence that Leonard, in an unusually good mood, suggested that they do something.

“Like what?” Jim asks, holding his coffee like a lifeline as he's focused on the Sunday crossword.

“I don't know,” Leonard says. His days off used to mean going to the lab, so he's not quite sure what to do with himself. “Whatever you want to do.”

Which is how he finds himself at the start of the sidewalk for the Golden Gate Bridge, Jim ahead of him, trying to ease Leonard's anxiety as Leonard focuses on the sign with a whole bunch of warnings on it. “Goddamn it, Jim, all it would take is a wind gust of forty miles an hour or a bicyclist not paying attention to knock us off our feet to fall twenty stories into the bay. Do you realize how fast you'd be going when you hit the water?”

Jim, though, looks more amused than concerned. He certainly doesn't look deterred. “Seventy five miles per hour, give or take. Come on, Bones, you're the one that said we could do whatever I wanted, and it's not even two miles round-trip. Just... don't look down.”

Don't look down, he says, like it's the easiest thing in the world. Leonard's already feeling vertigo and he isn't even standing on the suspended part yet. He squeezes his eyes shut, willing the nausea away. “People travel to San Francisco just to kill themselves on this bridge, you know.”

He senses the air in front of him moving before he feels Jim's fingers wrapping around his, pulling Leonard's arm forward and forcing the rest of him to follow. Leonard's eyes snap open at his part-step, part-fall to glare at Jim, who's looking at him so earnestly and hopefully that Leonard tightens his grip on Jim's hand before taking the next step by his own choice, as well as the one after that.

Leonard catches Jim watching the boats go by, his expression not exactly wistful but there is some sort of longing there. “Do you miss it?”

“Close quarters with four thousand people? Not so much. Being at sea, though... All the different people that have crossed it with all their different motivations, it's kind of amazing to think about.” Jim smiles nostalgically. “I'd sit on the deck before reveille, and with the sunlight reflecting off the water... The view was incredible.”

“It really is,” Leonard says, watching Jim, and he feels his face immediately start to burn at his slip of the tongue, but if Jim notices, he doesn't say anything.

They cross the bridge in comfortable conversation, stopping in the middle for Jim to look his fill even as Leonard is adamant about keeping his eyes on the ground directly below his feet only, and when they reach the Marin County end, Leonard actually finds himself disappointed that Jim gets them a cab for his benefit for the way back.

“Should I tell him to take us to Coit Tower?” Jim asks, his expression playful.

“Don't even think about it,” Leonard threatens, and he can vaguely sense the grip of panic crawling up his spine, stiffening his posture, and Jim seems to notice as he puts an arm across Leonard's shoulders to soothe tense muscles.

“And yet you can handle being in a bird on a regular basis.”

“Doing something for my job is not the same as willingly doing it on my own,” Leonard rationalizes. The slightly rough feeling of the callouses on Jim's fingers against the back of his neck is only partially relaxing as Leonard has to remind himself that he can't just pull Jim into his lap to feel him even closer, and the proximity of the cab driver isn't even part of the reason why.

He knows Jim isn't just going to wake up one morning and be magically better, but the casually touching that Jim's started incorporating recently feels, to Leonard, like both a blessing and a curse, even as the psychology trained part of him thinks that it's Jim testing his limits, proving to himself that he can try and connect without dissolving into a panic attack.

People aren't Jim's problem, and he needs to understand that.

Leonard leans forward and tells the cabbie to take them to Fisherman's Wharf instead.

+

Leonard's heard of runner's high, but he thinks surgeon's high has to be a category all in its own. He had implanted a deep brain stimulation system in a dystonia patient, and the procedure went well although if it helps or not won't be known until the anesthesia wears off.

He goes to the cafeteria for lunch, finding Chekov sitting by himself and sipping at a Coke while pointedly staring at his watch every few seconds. Leonard grabs his sandwich and an iced tea before joining him.

Chekov looks up at him suspiciously. “Are you whistling?”

“I can whistle,” Leonard says defensively. “Am I not allowed to whistle?”

“The universe is backwards when you're in a good mood and I'm the one sulking.” Chekov sighs dramatically, and Leonard knows that Chekov wants him to ask what's wrong, but he also knows, from his vast experience of dealing with the ups and downs of Chekov's relationship with Sulu, that Chekov will talk on his own. “Hikaru seems to have stood on me.”

Leonard's eyebrows draw together as Chekov clearly doesn't mean literally. “Stood on you?”

“We were supposed to meet twenty minutes ago, and he still hasn't come.”

“So you mean he stood you up?” Chekov glares at him, and Leonard can't believe that Chapel told him that Leonard's the one the nurses are afraid of. He raises his hands placatingly, not wanting to be on the receiving end of a tirade about correcting Chekov's English. “I'm sure he's on a flight and will be here as soon as he can.”

Before Chekov has the opportunity to start worrying about something having possibly gone wrong, Sulu, Jim, and a woman that Leonard doesn't know with curly, red hair and dressed in an orange jumpsuit enter the cafeteria. Chekov's unvoiced fears are washed away only to be replaced by irritation when the woman kisses both men on the cheek before crossing the room to a table where similarly dressed men and women are sitting. Leonard recognizes them as Scott, the head mechanic whose people work on the ambulance fleet and the choppers, and Leonard begins to wonder if something actually had happened.

“Is everything okay?”

“You should've seen this guy,” Sulu says, clapping Jim on the back and then sitting next to his boyfriend. “One of the skids came loose, but instead of trying to reattach it in-flight so we can land, Jim's hanging out the cabin to get it off completely and then removes the other one. Gaila had to make sure there wasn't too much damage done by landing on a bare belly.”

Jim sits and shrugs like it's no big deal. “Would've been more landing on one skid.”

“I'm still buying you lunch,” Sulu responds, jumping back out of his seat to do just that.

Leonard feels nauseated just from thinking about what had happened. He recalls the flight with the crosswinds, how he'd thought that was bad, and how Jim had kept it together during but had disappeared after.

Right now, though, he seems okay – more concerned about Leonard, for some reason, based on the look Jim is currently giving him. “I had a harness on, so don't think I have a desire to die in a moment of glory or... whatever.”

“I'm thinking I would've been throwing up on my shoes,” Leonard clarifies, and Jim appears to believe him as he no longer looks like he's afraid of Leonard yelling at him.

Instead, he laughs lightly, visibly relaxing. “Yeah, they sent some poor intern with us, and your boss met us on the roof to get the patient. He was disappointed, to say the least, on how he reacted under pressure and made him stay to clean it all up.”

Leonard's about to tell Jim that the whole reason he took the job at this hospital was because of Boyce's reputation for not mollycoddling when his cell phone rings; he pulls it out of his lab coat pocket, frowning when he sees the screen showing the ID of someone he only talks to on Christmas and birthdays.

There's a sense of dread in the pit of Leonard's stomach as he answers. “Mom? Is everything okay?” He has to turn his face away so he can't seek both Jim and Chekov's suddenly peaked curiosity.

“Your grandfather's dead; please come home, Leo.” She hangs up before Leonard can tell her no or I can't.

“Bones?” Jim asks, hesitantly. “Is everything all right?”

“My grandfather's dead,” Leonard responds, his voice sounding distant to his own ears. “My mom wants me to go to Atlanta.” He knows he has to go, for his mother's sake and his own. Jim's been trying to get him to move beyond his past, and what does he have left besides some sense of closure with his family now that the man who all but drove him out of Georgia is dead? “I need to tell Boyce I'm taking some time off.”

“Wait, you're actually going?” Jim takes the plate of burger and fries from one of Sulu's hands when he returns, but before Sulu can ask what he'd missed, Chekov drags him to another table to give them the illusion of privacy.

“Yes, Jim, I'm going.” Saying it out loud affirms it, erasing any hesitation about facing his mother as well as the rest of his family. It feels like the right thing to do, so Jim's reaction surprises him.

Anger flares in Jim's eyes. “What the hell, Bones? Why? Why should you go to the funeral of the man who'd blamed you for his son's, your father's, death? To make sure the man's actually dead?”

“Maybe because it's my family, and my mom needs me! You're the one who kept saying I needed to move on, Jim, and not going isn't going to help that. This is me moving on.” He eyes Jim warily, but Jim just closes his mouth and looks away.

Leonard's still holding his phone like he's going to get another call saying it had all been a big joke, but it doesn't ring. Leonard knows he has to go back, but he also knows that he can't do it alone. “Come with me,” he says on an impulse.

And Jim, that beautiful, selfless bastard, agrees.

+

The flight's only bearable because Jim flirts with the flight attendant to get them more drinks.

“How the hell did you manage when you moved across the entire country?” Jim asks, handing over a tiny bourbon that makes Leonard curse the airline's two drink maximum rule as he doubts the bottle even constitutes half of a drink.

“I drove,” Leonard growls through clenched teeth, closing his eyes once the drink is gone and barely making an effort to not dig his fingernails into the armrest; he really doesn't give a goddamn if he's freaking out the woman sitting to Leonard's right, next to the window, but Leonard wonders if maybe he could switch seats with Jim to be on the aisle.

It's not being on the airplane itself that's getting to Leonard, but the fact that he hasn't been to Atlanta in over five years, and he doesn't want to have to admit to Jim that he didn't keep in better touch with his mother because he hadn't wanted to hear her disappointment that he still wasn't doing well.

Especially now that everything feels like it's changing for the better, it's making it seem like even more time has passed since he's seen her or had a conversation that didn't make them sound like casual acquaintances.

Leonard only opens his eyes when he feels Jim's right hand being placed on top of his left, rubbing soothing circles as Jim talks about his law classes and how well Jan and Gary had done on their first Civil Procedure exam.

Once they've landed, Jim doesn't question Leonard's decision to stay in one of the airport's hotels instead of renting a car and driving out to his childhood home. He hadn't spoken to his mother since she called to tell him the other day, but Leonard knows the offer is there. The house, though, became more like a museum after his father died – Leonard bets his old bedroom went back to the way it had been before he moved out for med school, after he'd gotten married and his mother finally accepted the fact that Leonard didn't actually live with them anymore, even just for the summers.

It's just too many memories, and he has no idea how his mother tolerates living everyday among them. All those ghosts... And Leonard is one of them, because he had thought that his mother had been so poisoned by his grandfather's version of events surrounding David McCoy's death that she only believed that Leonard was guilty, responsible for ending his own father's, her husband's, life as if he'd done it with his bare hands.

Maybe now, though, Leonard will have the opportunity to change that.

He's so distracted checking into the hotel that he'd forgotten to ask for a room with two beds until he steps into it and sees that there's only one. Jim's putting his bag down as Leonard lingers by the door. “I, um... I'll go back downstairs and get this squared away.”

Jim bodily pulls him out of the doorway and into the room, all but shoving him onto the bed. “It's fine, Bones; just get some sleep. The funeral is at four, and you don't want to show up looking like you took the red eye in.”

Leonard partially suspects that Jim may have been talking to his mother behind his back, but he doesn't actually want to know. It's not even seven in the morning in Atlanta, which means it feels like some ungodly hour to Leonard, and he doesn't want to find out what time he thinks it is by doing the subtraction or looking at his watch.

Instead he does what Jim had told him to do, and Leonard falls asleep easier than he would have expected himself to.

+

It's strangely surreal when Leonard wakes up facing the wrong skyline and then sits up to see Jim staring at himself in the mirror, tying a quick four in hand knot and making sure it's centered at the collar of his white shirt.

Leonard recalls the last time he'd been in Atlanta and saw Jim dressed in uniform. It hadn't been the right time for them to meet, he realizes now. Jim had been the bright spot that Leonard had latched onto, desperate for something good.

He also believes, though, that if they hadn't met then, neither of them would've gotten to where they are now.

“We have to leave in an hour,” Jim says, noticing Leonard as their eyes meet through the mirror. He looks anxious, smoothing his hands over his coat that's still in the garment bag in the closet, and Leonard can't puzzle out why Jim's adopted the nerves Leonard had during the long flight.

He nods wordlessly, rubbing his eyes as he goes into the bathroom, strips quickly, and stumbles into the shower. It helps wake him up a little more, and when Leonard comes back out in his underwear with a towel draped across his shoulders, Jim's wearing his full dress blues, cap tucked under his arm. He looks so good, the dark material of the uniform enhancing the brightness of his eyes, that Leonard has no idea how he's going to be able to get through tonight.

He'd thought that the problem would be facing his family again, but it seems like it's actually going to be pointedly ignoring the running mental image of getting Jim out of that uniform one layer at a time.

Leonard towel dries and combs his hair, putting on the suit he'd brought until all he has left to put on is his own tie, but he can't get his fingers through the motions. He frowns at his hands, feeling ridiculous that he can't get it right, and then Jim's stepping in close, taking the ends of the tie from Leonard to make a perfect half-Windsor, his eyes not leaving Leonard's as he does it. His earlier nervousness seems to have completely vanished. Jim tightens the knot, his right hand lingering on Leonard's neck just above the line of his collar.

Leonard feels like he can't breathe; he's never liked ties nor all the damn buttons that need to be fastened in order to wear one correctly, but he knows that not quite the reasoning at the moment with Jim just mere inches in front of him. He opens his mouth to suggest that they should call a cab to get going, but Leonard can smell that Jim's just brushed his teeth, and then he can taste it, can feel that Jim's lips are warm and pliant as they melt into each other. Leonard hears a soft thud that must be Jim's cap falling to the floor as both of Jim's hands move to the back of Leonard's head, twining in his hair to pull them even closer together.

His thoughts are all yes and finally with the background urge to pull back and ask Jim are you sure? because there's no way he can accept this as a momentary impulse or an instance of physical comfort to only have to go back to dancing around each other. Leonard puts one hand on Jim's chest – not to push him away, but to ground himself in that he's there with Jim's pins and ribbons pressing into Leonard's hand – and the other goes to the back of Jim's neck, and Jim responds by moving even closer, opening his mouth wider with a sound emanating from the back of his throat (or had it been from Leonard's?) that resembled a sigh.

But they don't have time for this, now. Later, Leonard thinks, and it makes him smile against Jim's mouth.

“We really need to leave,” he says, not able to pull completely away. His and Jim's noses brush against each other as Jim's hands move to the side of Leonard's head, his thumbs tracing Leonard's eyebrows as he presses kisses against the corners of Leonard's mouth like Jim's trying to memorize – or perhaps recall – the feel of his face. “Jim?”

“Maybe it'd be better if I don't go,” Jim replies, nuzzling against the nape of Leonard's neck but unable to press a kiss against it as the damn shirt collar is in the way.

Leonard moves his arms into an embrace, holding him tight as he feels Jim's hands resting at the small of his back. “Who else am I going to make snarky comments to recounting all the family drama?”

“You mean there's others with better gossip about them than you?” Jim jests, twisting his torso away when Leonard pokes him in the side but not actually leaving Leonard's arms. “I mean, seriously, Bones, it's like a living soap opera with your dad, then the divorce, and you disappear to San Francisco for several years only to come back with a hot boyfriend...” Jim trails off, his body tensing in Leonard's arms; he's obviously uncomfortable with the presumption he'd just made.

“Who looks pretty damn good in a uniform and is going to be the best lawyer in the Bay Area if not the entire West Coast in a few years,” Leonard continues, not wanting Jim to feel awkward about having just referred to himself as Leonard's boyfriend when they haven't exactly talked about what they are, but it's not like he can get away with introducing Jim as his roommate, not at this point. Not that he wants to.

Leonard presses a kiss to Jim's temple, feeling him relax. “Now, come on; we have to give my cousin Ginny some reprieve from everyone talking about her botched plastic surgery.”

“Just a second,” Jim says, untangling himself from Leonard to place another lingering kiss on his lips. Jim pulls away, his eyes bright and hopeful but hesitant, watching Leonard like he's expecting to see doubt or regret, but Leonard doesn't feel either of those things. For once, he's optimistic. “Okay, we can go now.”


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