Kelly pulled the torn cotton shirt away from Nick's torso as gently as he could, but Nick couldn't disguise the shudder that ran through him, couldn't silence the sharp intake of breath as he cringed.
The shirt was a write-off, shredded all along one side and covered in blood. Despite years of training and practice, Kelly was still nervous about what he was about to uncover.
Thankfully the wounds, numerous as they may have been, were mostly superficial. They'd been forced to retreat while infiltrating an insurgent camp, and in the cluster-fuck Nick had lost an argument with a coil of razor wire. The blades had wreaked havoc on his ribs. Nick, of course, had brushed it off until they made it back to base and Kelly and the rest of the camp's medical team had seen to everyone else. The more serious injuries were in the hands of the doctors, and Kelly had done everything he could for everyone else before ordering Nick to lay the fuck down. He'd refused to go to the medical facility, so Kelly had brought his bag and suture kit to Nick's rack.
Kelly smiled fondly at Nick now, keeping his tone light as he cleaned the clotted, coagulated blood off of Nick's fair skin and held the smaller wounds shut with butterfly bandages. A few of the gashes were deeper than he'd initially realised though, and would require stitches.
"You know, if you want to spend more time alone with me, all you have to do is ask," Kelly joked, trying to distract Nick as he prepared a lidocaine injection. Nick huffed out a soft laugh before grunting in pain.
"Would you just shut up and do your damned job?" Nick muttered, but he was smiling up at Kelly. His green eyes were dark with pain, but he could still manage to crack jokes. Kelly rolled his eyes. He'd have preferred to stick his tongue out or make a rude gesture, but he wasn't in any mood to lick his face-mask and his hands were busy.
Once Kelly was certain the anaesthetic had set in, he got to work. The largest gash required six stitches, and there were a few other smaller ones that only required a couple each. Kelly didn't concern himself too much about aesthetics, Nick's torso was already a mess of scar tissue weaving in and out of his ink, and Kelly sometimes thought it made him look even more interesting and intimidating. And Nick didn't seem to care one way or the other.
One last pass of the disinfectant cloth, and Kelly carefully applied antibiotic ointment and covered the whole thing up with some gauze. Nick groaned at the pressure and started to sit up. Kelly smacked him lightly in the sternum and glared down over his mask.
"Can't you fucking stay still for ten minutes? At least wait 'til you're not frozen anymore before you run off again." He pulled his gloves off and tossed them away before pulling down his mask and finally sticking his tongue out at Nick. He rummaged through his bag until he found some heavy painkillers and thrust two of them at Nick. Nick looked like he was about to argue, but Kelly raised an eyebrow and frowned. That was all it took for Nick to swallow them dry without complaint.
"You have terrible bedside manner, you know that?" Nick murmured fondly, reaching out to ruffle Kelly's hair as he gave up and lay down again.
Kelly shrugged and laughed. "One of the many reasons I'm your damned SARC instead of working in a nice quiet hospital somewhere. Somewhere urban, somewhere I wouldn't keep finding sand in my ass-crack."
Nick frowned. "You'd be so bored, babe."
"I'd be helping people," Kelly said, sighing. He knew Nick was right though. He needed to be outside, needed to be moving. Becoming a medic attached to a team of batshit crazy Marines had satisfied his urge to be a caretaker along with indulging his lack of impulse control and need for adrenaline all at once.
"You are helping people," Nick argued emphatically. He was nearly back to his old self, the discomfort of the cuts on his side forgotten. "Not just us, either." Nick's face went soft, green eyes glittering. "How many other medics here would have stopped for that little girl we saw the other day? Or that grandfather with the infected leg?"
Kelly shrugged it off. "We're here to help protect the innocent locals, aren't we?"
Nick looked as though he was about to argue, but his lids fluttered shut heavily and he grumbled. "You're a good person, Kels. One of the best."
Kelly smiled gently, patting Nick's shoulder as he nodded off. "Yeah, and you're stoned. Relax, let the dilaudid do its work." He pulled the sheet up over Nick's chest, running one hand fondly through his reddish curls before impulsively leaning down and brushing his lips across Nick's clammy forehead. Nick mumbled something incoherent as his body went lax with sleep. Kelly grinned fondly at him one last time before closing the door and letting him rest.