McCoy, Chekov. PG. 1,326 words.
"So you lost one today."
This Is Growing Up
With triage completed and the ship mostly stabilized--he'd overheard Jim and Mr. Scott saying something about keeping the shields powered up to hold the ship together, and chose to believe that the expression was somehow figurative--McCoy turned to human inventory. He set the rest of his staff to check on the crew, looking for unreported traumas, whether physical or otherwise.
For his sins, he assigned himself the officers. He was Chief Medical, and couldn't reasonably delegate them to anyone else.
Jim was easily cleared from the list--he was as indestructible and inexhaustible as ever, and if he did show any signs of damage later on, he would inevitably be surrounded by people who could rush him in for help. Spock accepted a scan with equanimity, of course; it was only goddamned logical to ascertain the state of his health. Most of the other officers were likewise cooperative, and McCoy dispensed a few analgesics, a few sedatives, and--to get Mr. Scott out of his sickbay--one package of genuine non-replicated cookies.
It was well into Gamma shift by the time he got down to the stragglers on his list. He checked the bridge and the mess and then gave up and asked. "Computer, locate Ensign Chekov."
Transporter Bay. That made absolutely no sense--Chekov was off-shift, for one thing, and the transporter bay wasn't being staffed during this shift in any case. They hadn't the power to send anyone anywhere and no one out to be picked up; they were traveling with just their impulse engines, back toward Earth, or, more likely, rendezvous with a Starfleet ship recalled from the Laurentian System and capable of helping them back.
The transporter bay was, in fact, one of the few places on the ship where a person might have a reasonable expectation of being alone right now. McCoy glanced down at the ensign's file--yes, this was the one who was all of seventeen years old. Great.
He almost didn't see the kid when he walked in; Chekov was sitting on the floor, curled up small and staring at the pads. One control console was powered up, and it was replaying, over and over, the telemetry from the beam-up of the Vulcan elders. McCoy watched a couple of loops--the little green dot that was Spock's mother falling away into the nothingness of the expanding gravity well--and then shut it off and walked around to where Chekov was sitting, watching, like she might only be delayed in transit.
He raised one finger and ran it from side to side in the kid's field of vision until Chekov started to track it, then looked up with a flush that might be anger or embarrassment on his cheeks. Before Chekov could say anything, McCoy sat down on the floor facing him and said, "So you lost one today."
Chekov flinched, shrugged, and nodded, going pale as the red faded from his face. "Scott says I am lucky to get any out at all. He says, do not think of it. I am only a navigator, not a beaming specialist."
And only seventeen, but Chekov had probably heard that one enough. McCoy figured being patted on the head and told he did a great job, considering, was not what he needed now.
"A navigator and a command officer," McCoy said, nodding in the general direction of Chekov's yellow shirt. "You're a warfighter, if it comes down to it, as far as Starfleet is concerned."
Chekov shrugged again, nodding, looking down at his shirt himself.
"Did Starfleet teach you how to face an enemy and order them fired upon? Did they teach you how to kill people?"
That got McCoy a glare, but that was a good solid sign of life right there, so he'd take it. "I can do my duty, Doctor--"
McCoy nodded sharply. "That's what I'm saying. You didn't kill anyone today. You didn't even see a fellow officer killed, or a friend. You probably have some idea how to cope with that, but not this. You lost someone. You tried to save her and you couldn't--you had her under your hands and she still slipped away from you."
Chekov's glance slipped down to McCoy's blue shirt, McCoy's hands, and then came back to his eyes. "Yes. That is--yes. Do doctors--did they teach you how to--to cope?"
McCoy glanced toward the console, now dark. "We'd start with a post mortem, and I can see you've done that--you've reviewed the records, and gone over it with Scott, right? You know to the millimeter what went wrong, and how you could have done it right, if you'd had twelve hours to think about it instead of three seconds."
Chekov nodded, the mulish look creeping back in. Telling him it wasn't his fault wasn't going to cut any ice, no matter how McCoy phrased it. Chekov wasn't ready to hear it as professional commiseration. McCoy shrugged.
"There's not much more you can do. If you're lucky and you're good, as a doctor, you heal someone first. You snatch one back, and for a little while you think you're a god. You think you can save them all."
Chekov's glance went past him, and a sad smile tugged at his lips for a second--the kid had gotten Jim and Sulu back when no one else could have, when they'd been falling like rocks and the gravity was increasing every second. McCoy's first hadn't been anything like that dramatic, but he still remembered how it had felt to see his patient walk away healed--the pure, sweet rush of it that lasted for days after.
"You only got a few minutes of that part," McCoy said gently. "Most of us get more. Maybe weeks before the fall, maybe a lot longer than that. But then you lose one, and it changes you. After that, you're not a god anymore. But you are a man."
Chekov ducked his head and wiped his nose, and McCoy turned his head away, busying himself with the supplies he'd brought to give the--the man a moment to collect himself.
When their eyes met again, McCoy was holding his flask, uncapped. He tilted it toward Chekov and said, "I'll bet you already know how to drink like one, don't you?"
Chekov snorted and reached for the flask, and then his face turned entirely serious. He raised the drink toward the nearest transporter pad, and spoke softly in Russian for a minute, too low for McCoy or the translator to pick up. Then Chekov knocked back most of the contents of the flask in one go; by the time he lowered it his cheeks were pink again, and his eyes were already going glassy by the time McCoy took it back and finished it off.
He offered Chekov a hand up, and Chekov leaned warmly against him as they headed silently out of the transporter bay. McCoy already knew the way to the ensigns' quarters, and as it turned out Chekov was still perfectly well up to in-ship navigation. They didn't run into any trouble until Chekov stopped in his own corridor, grabbing a handful of McCoy's shirt.
"What about the captain? Captain Kirk, I mean," Chekov said, blinking at McCoy.
"Jim's fine," McCoy said firmly, reaching down to loosen Chekov's grip, but Chekov shook his curly head and persevered.
"He killed, I think--but he--has he lost? Is he..."
McCoy snorted, shaking his head as he tallied it, not for the first time. "Jim didn't lose a single soul as captain, and he saved a goddamned planet, to say nothing of Captain Pike. I guess for now he's still a god."
"Long may he reign," Chekov murmured, and then he let go of McCoy and turned away. McCoy watched him walk the rest of the way alone, with his shoulders straight and his steps very nearly steady.