Pairing(s): Um, Spock/Uhura gets a mention!
Summary: COMM 3259 was on her required course list. She didn't expect to end up sitting next to the older guy who was always hanging around Jim Kirk on campus.
Notes/Warnings: Non-English words are all totally made up. If you have any advice on rewriting medical terminology to sound more accurate, please drop me a line. I'm writing this for the characters, but I'd like the medicine to sound as accurate as possible. This has been un-beted, so feel free to shower me with constructive criticism, as all mistakes are my own.
Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek. (Otherwise my stories would be canon, I tell you.)
Advanced Non-Human Physiology and Medicine for Translation was on her required course list because no matter how well she could negotiate basic trade agreements and peace treaties, it would all fall apart if she couldn't help translate, "liver," in a medical emergency
She wasn't expecting to end up sitting next to the older guy who was always hanging around Jim Kirk on campus.
She hadn't spoken to him yet, but he had rolled his eyes sympathetically in her direction the last time Kirk had tried to flirt with her. Then he'd dragged Kirk off on some pretense. So he probably wasn't a terrible person.
"Uhura, right?" He asked, pulling out the PADD for the course. "Leonard McCoy." he introduced himself when she nodded.
"Nice to meet you," she said, noting his slight drawl. Southern United States, definitely. Carolinas? She'd have to get him to talk a little more. "So what are you doing in a communications course?" she asked. He couldn't be in the track, or she would have seen him in one of her other classes.
He grunted. "Well, I already know most humanoid body structures, but only in English Standard. I figured learning it in some other languages couldn't hurt." He paused, then added, "and I didn't want to take the equivalent medical track course with a bunch of teenagers."
Oh, so he must be a doctor. No wonder he was Kirk's friend, the command cadet was a bruises-and-lacerations magnet. And he obviously didn't belong with the medical cadets. He must have earned his degree somewhere else and decided to come to Starfleet later.
And Georgia. Uhura would put money down if someone asked her.
"That makes sense," Uhura agreed, and then the professor walked in, so they ended the conversation.
Over the next few weeks, Uhura learned that McCoy was taking an extremely unusual mix of classes. Many of the doctors and nurses of Starfleet enlisted without any training, and they took their medical classes and standard Starfleet training together, over a 6-8 year program. Some came straight from their medical programs, and were put on accelerated courses to fill in gaps and train for space while getting practice at the clinic. But McCoy obviously came to Starfleet as an experienced surgeon.
Not that he ever said that, but when he casually mentioned that he tested out of most of the Starfleet medical classes and he got called out of class - by a yeoman! - on an emergency at Starfleet Academy Hospital...well, Uhura was no fool.
He even had a solid background in non-Human physiology and medical procedures, which was surprising considered he hadn't even been to the moon. But as one of the head doctors in the main hospital in Atlanta (she was right!) he was one of the few people who had to deal with any interstellar traveller who fell ill in between Orlando and Norfolk.
And when she finally figured out all the classes he was taking, she could tell he was being preened for a Chief Medical Officer post on a ship.
Not that he seemed to realize it. He seemed firmly convinced that he could figure out a way to somehow serve in Starfleet with a minimum of space travel. Nyota stopped trying to gently convince him otherwise.
Somehow, despite his irrational friendship with Kirk, he seemed like a fully competent, intelligent human being. She brought it up once before class.
"He's not as bad as that, once you get to know him."
She raised an eyebrow, and he laughed.
"So maybe he is. But the kid has a a lot of heart. And he is going to make captain one day, you know."
She didn't have his confidence, but Professor Chalt'k entered before she could push the point.
A few classes after their midterm, Kirk bounced into the room as they started walking out.
"Bones! You're never going to believe - oh, hey." Kirk's grin grew wider, and he leaned over her desk.
Kirk's eyes widened, and he grabbed McCoy's arm. "Bones, did you find out her first name? Are you holding back from me?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about," McCoy drawled, pulling his hand back and gathered his PADD. "I'll see you on Thursday, Uhura."
"Bye!" Kirk added brightly as he was pulled from the room.
Uhura mused on the change in body language later. In class, McCoy was concentrated and determined, taking furious notes. He didn't volunteer information, but he was definitely on top of the material. Most of the other students in the class were xenolinguistics, and it wasn't that they didn't take their jobs seriously, they just didn't take it as seriously. It makes unfortunate sense, when you think about it. If a linguist screwed up a translation it could be really bad. But most of them were trained to translate for interplanetary discourse and negotiations, not medical problems. And there was a certain distance that was maintainable as someone who dealt primarily with words and symbols. If a doctor made a mistake, someone died under his hands.
But when Kirk walked in, she could see the tension leaving McCoy's shoulders, the smile playing at the corner of his lips. At the same time, his voice became more gruff and exasperated, and his drawl more pronounced. He enjoyed spending time with Kirk, she guessed, which was a good enough reason to hang out with anyone. It certainly was the only reason she could figure out that she kept agreeing to go to bars with Gaila, despite how truly embarrassing the experience could get.
There were two different practical exams in the class. The first was just a conversation, with a one cadet describing different diseases to another, and the second cadet had to accurately translate the symptons. Uhura was paired with Cadet Spire, who was just taking this course as a refresher after a few years out on a ship, although he still struggled to suppress his native accent when speaking in alien languages. They finished fairly quickly, recording their entire conversation for the professor.
Uhura snuck a glance at McCoy, who had his brow furrowed in thought. He was working with Cadet Lissidini, who was fairly good at ferreting out nuances in feeling when he translated. But McCoy was struggling, and Uhura leaned forward slightly to listen.
"Shallow respiration, stomach pain," he muttered.
"Chel auendei" Lissidini corrected. He wasn't allowed to translate until the exercise was done, only explain in the chosen language.
McCoy waved his hand, "Stomach equivalent," he argued, then paused. "What kind of pain, sharp or throbbing? Um, Tchi chel ek tknway chel?" His accent was truly atrocious, but he was careful in pronouncing the stresses right.
Lissidini blinked, and checked his PADD. Uhura and Spire exchanged looked at each other. They had translated symptoms, sure, but they hadn't exactly kept asking questions after the answers became obvious.
"Tchi chel?" he hazarded, scrolling through his half of the assignment.
"Listen, so far it sounds like a potassium overdose, if you really are a Meldisian, but if it's sharp pain you might have been stabbed in the gut, so-"
"Cadet McCoy, this is more of a translation exercise than a chance for you to diagnose a patient." Professor Luten said gently.
"With all due respect, ma'am, it's all well and good to be able to translate symptoms, but it's all useless if I can't diagnose the disease."
Luten smiled. "Noted, Cadet. Can you tell me the symptoms in Standard?"
He rattled them off easily, and Professor Luten told him to get to work describing diseases in Braalian for Lissidini.
The second practical was much harder. Two Starfleet docotors came to the room, and each student was given a time to come for the exam. One doctor would pretend to have a disease, and the student would have to translate for the other one, who would administer a fake hypo as a cure. Cadest were graded on quality, accuracy and speed of the translations.
A group of students sat around the hallway in front of the classroom, exchanging notes and reviewing a few tricky muscular bundles.
McCoy had his PADD set up to recite random internal organs of Bgztllians while McCoy marked them on a generic skeletal chart. Uhura sat down next to him.
"Don't forget not to diagnose," she said, half-teasingly.
"Don't remind me," he groaned.
She smiled. "Think you remember everything?"
He grimaced. "I was treating a Tellarite yesterday, and I had to yell at him for ten minutes just to get him to stop telling me about his chest pain and all I could think was, gnifflo means heart in Andorian, xlbran in Orion."
"Lengil in Tellarite." Uhura mused.
"He spoke Standard well enough to insult me for twenty minutes after I treated him, which I am to understand is a compliment."
Uhura laughed. Much as he complained about the class, other species, other cultures, space in general, and anything else not from the southeastern United States, he picked up anything and everything he could to help him with his patients. He obviously cared a lot more than he let on. She wondered idly what he was like as a doctor - was he as attentive as he was in class? Gruff like he was with Kirk?
The practical itself wasn't so bad. She performed excellently on all the translations, expect when she skimmed over a few words while translating the Carggite symptoms. The doctors both stopped the test after that one, and explained that she had to assume the doctor didn't have any knowledge of the language at all, and she had to assume that she didn't understand which symptoms were important or not. That meant she had to translate everything and she had to translate it exactly.
Which she knew, intellectually, but in many translation situations, nuance and feeling were just as important as the actual words. Here, she could refer to body language if she felt it was important (some groups reacted to pain differently - a Vulcan was unlikely to accidentally indicate which area was damaged, unlike a Human, who will gesture differently) but she had to separate it from her official translation. So it was just a matter of adjusting her automatic responses in different situations. No problem.
She waited the extra minutes for McCoy to finish, and he came out chatting about something at the hospital with one of the doctors, PADD tucked under his arm.
"So, how was it?"
"Didn't kill any fake patients, but I managed to blank out on Standard word for humerus and stood there circumlocuting like a first-year med student."
And then she laughed because he was started to talk like a linguistic, a whole semester of being surrounded by them.
After that were two more classes and a final that doesn't count as much as the practicals anyway, and she wondered if she will see him again like this, like friends, instead of in the Jim Kirk context.
And they did see each other a few times during their last year, until they're both in the Kobayashi Maru three times with Kirk. The first time she knows that McCoy can't figure out half the instrument panel in front of him. She tried to help, making wild gestures behind Kirk's back, but by the second time had figured out that it doesn't matter anyway. He's more comfortable with the instrument panel, though, yelling information at Jim as it it's going to help anything. After the test, he pated Kirk on the shoulder as Kirk stared at the blank screen.
Before the third try they exchange eye-rolls, but two days later they are uncomfortably on different sides of the angry debate in the Tereshkova Auditorium. And less than two weeks later they're sitting in the mess hall in a damaged, cracked ship, scrolling through a PADD together and reading the unofficial list of Starfleet casualties.
"I was supposed to be on the Farragut, you know." She said, when they both paused at, "Commander Helen Luten".
He didn't answer, because there was really nothing to say.
They kept scrolling through the names.
So some part of her wasn't surprised at all when McCoy dropped down next to her on the lawn one day, after they make it back to Earth, and told her gruffly that Jim's getting the Enterprise and wants to know if she'd like a ride. She took a moment to muse over the idea of serving on a ship under Kirk. Captain Kirk. Huh.
"Well, I don't know, I can't get on just any ship. I mean, what's the CMO like? It's important that the he can name off the location of the liver-equivalent in at least six different Federation members before he can really be trusted to run a medical bay."
McCoy raised an eyebrow.
"Or at least say liver in Cardassian."
"If I say heknlt enough times, will you sign onto the ship?"
Uhura wondered what Spock's plans were for the future. They had been avoiding the topic for too long. "I'll think about it," she promised, and stood up, brushing the grass from her skirt. "And congratulations on your first deep-space assignment."
He groaned dramatically, and she laughed as she walked away, tilting her head into the sunshine.