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The First Officer of the Enterprise, stripped down to his regulations briefs, was lying flat on his stomach on a diagnostic bed in sickbay. He was cold, humiliated and utterly miserable; sensations quite unbecoming to a Vulcan, but he had perhaps some excuse.
An express order of Captain Kirk had delivered him to the mercy of the new Chief Medical Officer. As a result, for the last hour and sixteen minutes he had been subjected to such an unpleasant assortment of tests, scans, manipulations, prying and poking, that only a tight self-control had enabled him to preserve his dignity.
While he was enduring with aloof stoicism the palpations of the Doctor's hands, Spock concentrated on strengthening his mental shields against the onset of thoughts and emotions broadcast by the Human. He would have thought that the deep scans that the Doctor had run over his prone body had given him all the necessary information but, curiously, this physician seemed to rely not so much on sophisticated medical technology as on his own sense of touch, as if, like most Vulcans, he had a special tactile perception at the tip of his fingers.
Spock forced back a sigh as he pondered over the stroke of fate which had brought Doctor Leonard McCoy to the Enterprise a month ago, to replace Doctor Piper, who had just retired. Not that Spock had anything to say against McCoy's professionalism, on the contrary. He had heard crew members speak highly of his competence and his attentiveness to his patients. The problem was that since he had been assigned to the Enterprise and had discovered that there was a Vulcan in the ship's complement, the physician had developed an eager interest in Vulcans in general and for Spock in particular.
Since he had left his home planet to live and work among Humans, Spock had grown accustomed to being the focus of their curiosity. Moreover, because of his hybrid origin, the unique make-up of his physiology had aroused a great interest in the medical corporation. But Doctor McCoy's interest bordered on a curiosity that was almost pathological.
For the last two weeks he had, time and again, requested the Vulcan to come to sickbay at his earliest convenience. But, much to McCoy's growing exasperation, Spock had, with a skill born of long experience and by mean of subtle evasive actions, always eluded the Doctor's imperative summons.... until this morning.
During the first watch, an irate physician had arrived on the Bridge to lodge a complaint to the Captain against the First Officer who deliberately ignored his repeated requests to submit to a regular medical examination
Captain Kirk had, for some obscure reason, seemed amused. Spock recalled the way he had swivelled his command chair and looked up at him.
"What's that I hear, Mr Spock?" he had said with mock severity, "you deliberately ignore the Doctor's orders, you, who always go by the book? You duck out of your physical? Tut, tut, tut, Spock, you disappoint me."
Somewhat disconcerted by Kirk's flippant tone, the Vulcan had respectfully pointed out that the duty of an officer to his ship took precedence over personal matters.
"That's no excuse, Mr Spock!" the Doctor had said testily. "Don't tell me that in two weeks time, you could not spare an hour for your physical which, let me remind you, is an obligation for all Starfleet personnel."
"Precisely, Doctor," Spock had coolly replied. "If you would care to look into my medical file, you would realize that your request is unfounded. Before leaving the Enterprise a month ago, Doctor Piper gave me a complete medical examination with a clean bill of health. I fail to see the logic of undergoing, yet again, an examination, since I am not supposed to submit to the next one for another two months, as per Starfleet Regulations, Medical Section 2, Paragraph 14 - A C."
"Now, don't try that kind of back-talk with me, Mr Spock, because it won't work!" Doctor McCoy had retorted. "What Piper did is one thing, what I do is another. In case you hadn't noticed, I am the new C.M.O. on this ship and, as such, I am responsible for the physical condition of the crew, yours included, Mr Spock!"
"I am aware of that, Doctor." Spock stood stiff as a poker by his station. "But I find it most irrational to..."
"Gentlemen! Gentlemen, that's enough!" Kirk's command voice had left no room for argument. "Doctor, a piece of advice; better not tackle Spock on the subject of Starfleet Regulations, you would not win. As for you, Mr Spock, keep in mind that the Doctor's orders outrank any others on the ship, so let your relief take over for the rest of your shift. I want you to go with Doctor McCoy to sickbay, and, for Heavens' sake! get that damn physical over with. Dismissed... both of you!"
"Very well, sir."
With all the dignity that he could muster, Spock had joined McCoy at the turbolift and they had left the Bridge in a resounding silence. Which was why the Vulcan found himself the reluctant subject of the Doctor's assiduous attentions.
"Spock!... Mr Spock! My God, he has fallen asleep!" McCoy's voice pulled Spock out of his reflections. "Spock, can't you hear with those ears of yours?"
"There is nothing wrong with my hearing, Doctor," the Vulcan coldly said, "I merely keep my attention focused on matters more important than this examination."
"Do you, now? Well, let's see if that makes you pay attention." McCoy uttered under his breath. "I wish you were not so tense, it would make it easier for you and for me. Why don't you just relax?"
Spock breathed in and out slowly.
"That's better..." The Doctor's hands moved again on his back, probing here and there with gentle efficiency. "Does it hurt here?... and here?... tell me, Spock!"
"No, Doctor," Spock mumbled into his folded hands.
"Humph!..." McCoy grunted. "What about here?" The next instant a sharp jab under his right shoulder-blade caught Spock by surprise. A gasp of pain escaped him.
"Aha!..." There was satisfaction in the Doctor's voice. "That hurts, huh? I thought as much."
"It is your brutality which caught me unaware, Doctor."
"My brutality, as you call it, has nothing to do with it, Mr Spock!" the Doctor snapped. "For all you may say to the contrary, your back is in a poor shape, clearly the result of bending over that computer console for hours on end, not mentioning that hooded viewer that you peer into when you are standing. Bad habit that you have, Spock, very bad for your back. Oh yes, first thing I noticed when I first came to the Bridge; and that pretty girl sitting next to you... Lieutenant Uhura, she is just as bad, sitting sideways with her legs all a-twisted. Quite an eyeful for the Bridge crew, I am sure, but it's murder for her spinal column. Told her so! All right. I am finished. You can get dressed again."
McCoy stepped back as the Fist Officer turned over and sat up. "Can you manage?" he asked
"Thank you, Doctor, but I am not a cripple yet," Spock dryly remarked as he slipped down from the diagnostic table.
"Sure, but you are developing a marked tendency to getting round-shouldered, and it is high time that we did something about it. You don't want to end up like the hunchback of Notre Dame, do you?" McCoy turned on his heel and strode to the door, adding over his shoulder, "When you are ready, come to my office. We'll see about a prescription."
Left alone and thankful for the short respite, Spock took his time to dress and make himself presentable again. As he slipped on his black pants and undershirt, then his blue tunic, he could not help but wonder what the new Doctor held in store for him. He would probably come up with the kind of drugs which invariably made him sick. He had to deal much too often with that problem with the two former surgeons; considering the constancy of human mental process, the question would probably arise again.
McCoy was apparently an efficient and dedicated physician but he had much to learn about Spock's special medical requirements. Given his emotional and stubborn nature coupled with an irascible temper and a hasty tongue, that might prove to be a long and painful process. Kaiidth! Only time would tell!
Spock pulled up his boots, pulled down his tunic, smoothed down his black hair and presented himself to Doctor McCoy, once again the unflappable First Officer of the Enterprise.
The Doctor was sitting at his desk, his blue eyes scanning the screen of his computer. After a few moments, he sensed a presence and, looking up, saw the Vulcan officer standing quietly, hands folded behind his back, just inside the door.
"Oh, there you are. Sorry, Spock, didn't hear you. Come and sit down." He rubbed his eyes with a weary hand. "I was checking something in your medical file. As a matter of fact, and contrary to what you may think, I did brief myself before your physical. I studied your medical file, I looked into Boyce's and Piper's medical reports, I even searched the Computer Library for all the documentation I could find about Vulcan anatomy, physiology, etc... But I have to admit it, nothing could prepare me for what I found in your system... 'non-standard' in official jargon. You are quite a unique specimen, Mr Spock. Did you know that?" McCoy's bright blue eyes searched the Vulcan's impassive face.
"Yes, Doctor. So I have been told since I was born," Spock calmly replied.
"At least, it has not given you a swelled head," the Doctor dryly remarked. "But you are quite a challenge for us medical guys. What happens if you get hit by one of the millions of diseases knocking about the galaxy, or if some unknown bug plays havoc with your innards is anyone's guess. Frankly, I dread to think about it."
"Why should you, Doctor?" Spock arched an eyebrow. "As you can see, I have stayed alive this far."
"Yeah, so you have. Sheer luck, if you ask me. I tend to agree with your Doctor Boyce." At Spock's questioning look, McCoy chuckled. "You don't know what he said?" He ran his fingers on the keys and brought up the document on screen. "That's the conclusion of his report about you. 'In view of this anomalous system which entails careful investigation before every treatment, I can but recommend my successors to trust their instinct, hope for the best, play it by ear, not forgetting a prayer or two for good measure.'
"Play it by ear! Quite appropriate in your case, isn't it? "
McCoy's blue eyes sparkled with impish glee but, confronted by a chilly stare, his smile faded gradually.
"Oh well, I guess you heard it all before," he said.
"Indeed, and more than once," Spock dryly remarked, "but, given the human tendency to levity, that kind of asinine comment is to be expected. Now, Doctor, my time is limited, so I would appreciate it if you would proceed to the conclusion of this examination. You mentioned some prescription...?"
"Yes, I did," McCoy snapped, taken aback by the Vulcan's bluntness. "As it happens, I don't have time to waste either, Mr Spock. Suits me fine. Here goes. On the whole, you appear to be in good health, thank God, but much too thin for that tall frame of yours. Therefore, I recommend regular and nutritious meals. By the way, do you find the fare provided by the food processors to your liking? "
"I find it adequate and sufficient for my needs," Spock replied non-committedly.
"Which means that you don't much care for it," the Doctor translated. "I know, it's pretty awful, but there is not much I can do about it, at least until our next stop-over. In the meantime, I want you to eat a substantial breakfast every morning. A single glass of fruit juice is not enough, Spock."
"For a Vulcan it is quite sufficient, Doctor."
"No, Mr Spock. You will do me the favour of eating regular meals every day, or shall I make it an order?"
Spock maintained a frozen silence.
"Right! In the meantime..." The Doctor got to his feet and opened a drawer. "I am going to give you a shot of vitamins and muscle relaxant."
He programmed a hypodermic and noting that the Vulcan was eyeing the thing with some misgivings, he added, "Come on, Spock, it's nothing to be afraid of, it does not hurt, you know."
"I am not afraid of shots, Doctor, but I am allergic to your medications."
"Oh, that? I know, I have that list of Doctor Piper's somewhere... the drugs which disagree with your system. Don't worry, there is nothing wrong with this mixture. I checked." He pressed the shot in Spock's arm then sat back at his desk. "And now," he resumed, "the problem of your back. First of all, I prescribe a thirty minutes session of massage, every day, time at your convenience, of course."
"No!" The refusal was short and final.
"What do you mean, no?" McCoy protested. "A massage will ease your muscles, relax your back, and Nurse Jamal is an expert."
"It is out of the question, Doctor," Spock firmly said.
"Now, look here! Who is the Doctor, you or me?" McCoy flared up.
"I do not question your nurse's expertise but the fact that she is a Human. To be submitted for thirty minutes to the touch of an emotional person is more than a Vulcan can bear."
"Damn! Yes, of course. I should have thought of that! You are a touch telepath and a massage is not exactly the kind of therapy that... but, come to think of it! I touched you just now for your physical. How did you cope with that?" The good Doctor looked genuinely concerned.
"We have mental shields, Doctor. When the contact is relatively light and does not last too long, we can cope, as you say. Beyond that it can be quite... unpleasant."
"I see..." McCoy bit his lower lip, deep in thought. "Well," he finally decided, "so much for the massage. Let us see, now... I guess that you do your daily work-outs in the gym?"
"Of course. Usually with the Captain."
"Okay, then, you keep on with it, but on one condition: you take it easy. I want none of that out-and-out wrestling and throwing about, just now. On the other hand, I think that long restful sessions in the swimming pool are just what you need. Ah... I take it that Vulcans can swim?" McCoy shot a quizzical glance at Spock who replied levelly,
"This Vulcan does, Doctor."
"Perfect. Let us begin with ten lengths for a start, then you add a few more every day. You do that for a couple of weeks after which I'll examine your back and we'll decide what to do next. One more thing..." McCoy paused and peered at Spock who had suddenly changed colour. "Ah, something wrong, Mr Spock?" he enquired.
The Vulcan looked now extremely uncomfortable. Unable to reply, he scrambled to his feet and, a hand pressed to his mouth, made for the door.
"Oh no! Don't tell me that you are going to be sick!" The Doctor rushed after him. "Wait a minute! Let me..."
But Spock shook his head, looking desperate and mumbled, "I know the way!" before dashing into the nearest washroom and closing the door tightly behind him. McCoy hesitated a moment, then, judging that the First Officer would rather be left alone, went back to his office and plonked himself down in his chair.
"Damn!" he muttered crossly. "Looks like I got it all wrong; and I was sure this drug was okay." He checked again the make-up of the injection he had given Spock, compared it to Doctor Piper's list, and found no equivalence whatsoever. "Damn!" he repeated, drumming his fingers on the desk. "Looks like Boyce was right. I'll have to make a full analysis before every treatment. This is going to be fun!"
At that moment, the door opened revealing his patient, still white and shaken, but having regained some degree of Vulcan composure.
"Are you all right, Spock?" McCoy asked with concern.
"I am better."
"Look, Spock, I am really sorry. I don't understand, normally this shot should have been all right. I'll have to add it to that list of Piper's."
"That would seem logical, Doctor, and I would appreciate it if, in the future, you refrain from prescribing me a medication without first testing its suitability. Now, if that is all, I would like to retire to my quarters."
"Yes, of course." McCoy looked rather crestfallen. "Rest, complete diet, and a good night's sleep, that's what you need, Spock; Doctor's orders!"
His attempt at a joke fell flat. The Vulcan was leaving when a bright idea crossed the Doctor's mind.
"Wait, Spock! Let me give you some pills for..."
"No, Doctor, one bad experience is enough for now." With that, Spock made off, leaving a mortified C.M.O. staring at the closed door.
* * * * * * * *
Five minutes later, a cheerful voice drew him from his gloom.
"Hi, Bones! How are things? I have come to see if you still hold my poor Vulcan in your clutches."
McCoy gave a start and looked up to find Captain Kirk grinning at him from the doorway. "No, he's gone, Jim. He left about five minutes ago."
"Too bad, just missed him." Kirk came in and the door slid shut behind him. "I just finished my shift and I thought I would drop in to see how you two were getting on." Seeing McCoy pull a face he said sharply, "Everything all right, I hope."
"Sure! Everything's all right except that I gave Spock a shot that made him as sick as a cat!"
"Oh, yes, I did. Look at me, the clever physician! The very first treatment I give him, and there he goes throwing up in my washroom. Makes me wonder what I am going to do when he really falls ill. He is a case in himself, Jim, that's for sure."
"Don't I know it!" Kirk chuckled and sat opposite McCoy. "He is really special in every respect. Pike, my predecessor, warned me about him. I guess that Piper left some information or something?"
"He did. Piles of reports and recommendations. A fat lot of use when you are confronted with that crazy physiology for the first time!"
"Don't worry, Bones, Vulcans are tough; you'll just have to take it as a challenge. I am sure you'll do it fine."
"Why, thanks for the vote of confidence, Captain." The Doctor gave him a wistful smile. "Care for a drink? I feel I need one after my first Vulcan experience."
"I don't mind if I do. Thanks, Bones." As McCoy brought glasses and a bottle of brandy, Kirk told him, "Actually I came to ask you if you would join me for dinner. 7.30 in the mess, if it's okay?"
"7.30 suits me fine. Cheers!"
"Cheers!" Kirk took a sip then said, "I think I'll drop in on Spock and see if he would care to join us."
"I would not if I were you, Jim. After the shock treatment I gave him, I doubt he will feel like eating anything tonight. He must be sound asleep by now."
"Some Doctor that the Surgeon-General gave us!" the Captain laughed. "At Spock's very first medical, you manage to send him to bed as sick as a dog."
"As sick as a cat, Jim. You only have to take a look at his ears to see the difference."
"Bones! How can you?" and the two men dissolved into helpless laughter.
* * * * * * * *
Doctor McCoy's assumption was correct. Back in his quarters, the first thing that Spock did was to brew himself some of the Vulcan tea that his mother used to give him at home when he was out of sorts.
Then he prepared for bed and, after a short but necessary meditation, he got into bed and within seconds was fast asleep.
On the following morning, when the First Officer joined his shipmates for breakfast in the officers' mess, he looked his usual, impassible self.
To Kirk's enquiry about his health, he replied that he was fit. A noncommittal reply which did not entirely satisfy the Captain but he left it at that, and talked of something else.
When the Doctor came in and looked over the Vulcan's tray, he saw with satisfaction that the latter had heeded his recommendations. Spock had added to his usual fruit juice a bowl of canned fruit, a dish of muesli and a pot of tea.
"Good, very good, Spock," the Doctor approved. "I see that you have acquired some appetite at last. By the way, I hope you have not forgotten to do your swimming laps every day."
"My memory is unimpaired," he was told.
McCoy and Kirk exchanged a glance while Spock proceeded imperturbably with his breakfast, and no more was said on the subject. It was only later that the Doctor was to remember the looks of curiosity, even of admiration, that some of the junior officers were darting at the Vulcan.
Over the next few days, Doctor McCoy was kept busy with the daily routine of his department, from the crew's regular physicals to the odd ailments and occasional incidents which so often befall the personnel of a starship.
On the rare occasions that he went up to the Bridge, he noted with amusement the swift reaction of the Communication and Science officers who straightened up in their chairs as soon as he stepped out of the lift.
He did not have time to check the exercises in the pool, but knowing the Vulcan's conscientiousness, he assumed that Spock was following his prescription to the letter.
* * * * * * * *
It was a conversation he overheard quite by chance which gave the Doctor his first inkling that something was amiss. He was leaving the main ward after a routine visit to his patients, when he heard the sound of voices coming from the small galley of the sickbay.
He would not have paid attention if the mention of a particular name had not made him prick up his ears. They were talking about Spock. McCoy halted and eavesdropped without any qualms of conscience. As the Vulcan was currently under medical supervision, whatever the sickbay personnel had to say about him concerned the C.M.O.
A male voice, that of orderly Padovani, was loud and excited. Such terms as 'unbelievable', 'fantastic', and more of the same, were intriguing enough to make the Doctor raise both eyebrows. Without more ado, he entered the galley. There, some members of his staff were gathered for a coffee break, and, sure enough, young Padovani was holding forth to a captive audience.
At the sight of McCoy, Padovani stopped short and an awkward silence descended on the company; then someone proposed innocently,
"Oh, Doctor, would you care for coffee?" to which he replied,
McCoy perched himself on a stool and accepted the steaming mug that Nurse Barrow handed him. He took a cautious sip, then surveyed his subordinates with the hint of a twinkle in his eyes.
"I say, don't let me interrupt your conversation... please, go ahead." They exchanged furtive glances. "Well, what's the matter? Is it something I should know?" He looked pointedly at Christine Chapel, the Head Nurse, who blushed a delicate pink.
"Oh... ah... we were only talking about Mr Spock, Doctor," she admitted.
"Is that so?" McCoy drawled. "Well, what about him?"
"It's Padovani, sir," Medic Jansen volunteered. "He was telling us about Mr Spock's demonstration in the pool, and, frankly, I find it hard to believe, specially with a Vulcan, born on a desert planet... " He shrugged.
"Look here! If you don't believe me, why don't you go and see for yourself? I tell you it's true!" Padovani said hotly.
"Easy, son." McCoy held up a hand. "Don't get all worked up. Better tell me what this is all about... Go on."
"Well, sir," the orderly explained, "you must know that me and my team-mates go in training in the pool every morning before shift, in view of the water-polo challenge next month. It's been a week now that, when we arrive at the pool, we find Mr Spock already there and training all by himself."
"I know, he is following my prescription; regular exercises in water so as to develop the muscles of his back," McCoy stated.
"Your prescription?" The orderly stared at him wide-eyed. "With due respect, Doctor, from what I have seen, Mr Spock is the last person who needs to improve his muscles!" He looked at his colleagues for support then continued earnestly. "Frankly, sir, I have seldom seen anyone capable of swimming with as much drive and speed and endurance as the First Officer."
"Wait a minute! Let's get this straight, Padovani," the Doctor cut in sharply. "I have prescribed physiotherapy sessions in the pool but there never was any question of competition or anything of the kind."
"Oh no, sir, don't get me wrong. Mr Spock is not involved in our competition. Actually we asked him if he would join our water polo team, but he declined. Too bad because he is unbeatable. Why, only yesterday, two guys from Security, real crack swimmers, sir, they challenged him while he was doing his lengths. They were no match, Doctor, he left them way behind." Padovani laughed reminiscently. "You should come and watch him, sir. He is amazing."
"That's exactly what I am going to do, son. Seems to me that your Mr Spock is doing as he pleases with my prescription, and that needs to be looked into. What time did you say he is at the pool?"
"Usually between five and six, by the end of the night shift."
"That early? Hell! Does he never sleep? Never mind, tomorrow I'll go and see what he is up to. If there is something I can't stand, it's a patient who takes liberties with my orders." With that, McCoy set his empty mug down with a bang and marched to the door.
"Ah... Doctor?" A voice made him look round.
"Please, Doctor, don't be too hard on him," Nurse Chapel pleaded, a tiny smile on her lips.
"Don't worry, my dear," the Doctor snorted, "from what I have seen of that Vulcan, I am sure that he can give as much as he gets!"
As he left, he overheard Jansen saying amid the laughter, "The Doctor is right, Christine, Mr Spock can take care of himself, that's for sure."
And that was how, the next morning, the Doctor took the turbo-lift down to the gym deck. He was not in the best of moods for being up and around at this ungodly hour, but his professional integrity demanded that he go and see what game exactly the First Officer was playing at in that pool.
As he went through the silent halls of the gymnasium and made for the swimming complex, he assumed that, with the exception of the night shift, the crew was sensible enough to be still in bed. But when he pushed the door open, he was surprised to find all the lights on and about half a dozen crew-members, men and women, already gathered by the pool. The water-polo team, probably. They were all clad in trunks or swimsuits, and reclining on deckchairs or sitting on the curb, legs dangling and kicking swirls in the water. What's more, they were all watching something in the middle of the pool.
Good grief! thought McCoy, Looks like our Vulcan has got himself quite an audience.
The click of the Doctor's boots on the tiles drew their attention, and they looked round at the intruder in full uniform.
"Oh, it's you, Doctor!" said Padovani. looking surprised, "I didn't expect you so early."
"I said I would come, didn't I? Okay, where is Mr Spock? I guess that's him you are all gaping at." A ripple of laughter echoed under the vaulted ceiling.
"Sure, Doctor, and there he comes. Now, watch!" Padovani said excitedly.
The water polo team made room for McCoy, but as he looked down the length of the pool, all he could see at first was a swirl rippling the surface of the water and approaching rapidly. The next instant, something streaked past the onlookers and was gone, so fast that McCoy had barely time to get a glimpse of a slim, bronze body cleaving the blue waters with powerful strokes.
"Wow!" a young woman in a red swimsuit exclaimed. "Did you ever see anything like this?"
"Told you so," grunted a big, athletic-looking man. "I tried to best him, but I had to give up. Not a chance! You can't beat that Vulcan stamina."
McCoy, divided between concern and amazement, watched the swimmer flash past again with the insolent flowing ease of a porpoise and the regularity of a metronome.
"Are you sure it's a Vulcan and not a computerized aquatic android?" he wryly said, provoking guffaws.
"No, sir, it's Mr Spock all right. You can make sure when he comes out, and that should not be long now."
"How long has he been at it?"
"I should say about thirty minutes," the hefty man whom McCoy assumed to be from Security, looked at his mates for confirmation.
"More than that," objected a pretty brunette." Mr Spock was already here doing his lengths when I arrived about forty minutes ago."
"Do you mean to say that he has been keeping up that insane pace for forty minutes?" the Doctor exclaimed.
"Yes, Doctor, non-stop, with only two or three breaks to take a breath. I have been training at my own speed and he has overtaken me all the time." She grinned self-consciously.
"You see, Doctor, I was right," Padovani put in with a smug smile.
"So you were, and I am glad you told me. I can see that I'll have to see Mr Spock about that prescription," McCoy drily remarked.
Spock, meantime, had covered another two lengths of the pool, and was now swimming towards the steps, half-way down the hall.
"All right, people," the team leader called out briskly, "Mr Spock's time is over, let's get cracking!" The group which had been reinforced by several new arrivals took possession of the pool, diving and fooling about noisily. The Doctor left them at their game and walked along the curb with a determined stride.
And so, when a drenched First Officer climbed up the steps, he found on top of them, arms folded on his chest, a stern-looking Chief Medical Officer waiting for him. But it took more than a baleful glare to upset a Vulcan.
Spock slipped past McCoy with a nod and a polite 'Doctor!' of acknowledgement in order to retrieve the towel which he had left with his bathrobe on a deckchair, and he calmly set about towelling his damp hair.
The Doctor, piqued by the Vulcan's cool - Dammit, he is not even out of breath! - faced him and attacked. "Look here, Mr Spock!" he rasped. "What do you think you were doing?"
Spock stopped and blinked. "I beg your pardon?"
"You heard me. What were you doing in that pool?" McCoy jerked a thumb behind him. A pair of slanted eyebrows creeping up to his hairline betrayed the perplexity of the Vulcan.
"I was following your instructions, Doctor," he said evenly.
"The hell you were! Listen, Spock, I distinctly remember having prescribed relaxing exercises in water to ease and develop the muscles of your back, I did not ask you to train yourself for the Olympic Games."
Spock, then, deliberately dropped his towel on the chair and, drawing himself up to his full height, folded his hands behind his back. Standing at parade rest with nothing on but his black trunks, and dripping wet all over the tiled deck, did not seem to affect his dignity nor his argumentative predisposition.
"Doctor," he declared, "had you specified the period of time at which I had to perform these exercises, I would have conformed my pace accordingly. But you did not, therefore I logically assumed that the time factor did not come into account. Moreover, since I was to increase the number of laps every day, as per your instructions, the only way for me to do it in the allocated time was to quicken my pace; which is what I did with satisfactory results. I fail to see where the problem is."
"But, don't you understand, you stupid Vulcan?" McCoy shouted in exasperation, "It's a therapeutic session I ordered you to do in the pool, not a race against time. If you overtax yourself, then what's the use? All the benefit you should derive from it is lost, can't you see that? I want you to relax, to take it easy, I want you to enjoy it, dammit!"
"Oh?" Spock looked nonplussed, "Am I supposed to enjoy it, Doctor?"
"Ye Gods! Are you trying to be funny?" Meeting a blank stare, McCoy heaved a sigh. "Forget it. I guess that fun and enjoyment are beyond your comprehension, Mr Spock!"
"Indeed, these are human concepts, Doctor, quite extraneous to the Vulcan mind," Spock replied, deadpan. "Now, if you will excuse me, I must be in the gym in two point twelve minutes." He turned round and picked up his robe but the Doctor had more to say, which he did with a certain virulence.
"Wait a minute!" he shouted. "I am not yet finished with you... aaah!"
Spock whipped round but was too late to catch the Doctor as he tottered on the edge of the pool, arms flailing helplessly, and toppled over into the water, crashing against the handrail on his way down.
McCoy's yelp, followed by a resounding splash, had everyone turn round and stare, just in time to see Mr Spock dive head first after the Doctor, fast disappearing under the surface. When they arrived on the scene, Spock was coming up to the surface, supporting the unconscious man in his arms.
"Call sickbay! A nurse and a stretcher," he curtly ordered. "He has hurt himself in his fall."
Some crewmembers rushed to the intercom and raised the alarm, others helped Spock to support McCoy on to the stairs. With extreme caution, they lifted him up the steps and stretched him out on the deck, then moved aside to let orderly Padovani perform the revival.
Seconds later, the doors swung open and the night nurse marched in, a couple of stretcher-bearers in tow. Medical tricorder at the ready, she took charge at once and briskly ordered, "All right, make room, everybody... Oh, my God!" She changed colour when she saw the sorry figure of the Doctor lying on the deck in a pool of water. But her professionalism quickly took over. She beckoned the stretcher forward, Doctor McCoy was gently laid down, and while she adjusted her medi-scanner, she said, "Will someone kindly tell me what happened to Doctor McCoy?"
"Well," Padovani offered, "all we know is that he fell in."
"It is more than that, Mr Padovani," said a deep voice. Spock, who in the meantime had wrapped himself in his bathrobe, continued levelly. "Doctor McCoy was standing quite close to the edge of the pool, as I recall, and in the heat of our... er... conversation, he must have slipped, for he lost his balance and in his fall, hit the side of the stairs quite roughly. When I caught him up, only seconds later, he was unconscious. He must have hurt himself."
"He certainly has," Nurse Barrow stated, frowning at the tricorder readings, "badly enough but, so far as I can see, nothing that can't be mended in a few days, pending Doctor Sullivan's diagnosis." She straightened up. "All right, you two, take him to sickbay."
"Nurse," Spock quietly pointed out, "I think the Doctor is coming around.'
McCoy was indeed regaining consciousness. The nurse leaned over and gently said, "Doctor McCoy? It's Barrow here. Don't move, you have been hurt. Are you in pain?"
McCoy blinked and looked vaguely at the people gathered around him. "What am I doing here?... What happened?" he mumbled.
"You fell in the pool and hurt yourself. Don't you remember?"
"The pool?" He looked puzzled at first, then memory came back. "Yeah... I slipped... fell on something." He winced. "Damn painful... can't remember..."
"That's all right, just relax, Doctor." Nurse Barrow's voice was both soothing and firm. "We'll take you now to sickbay, then prepare you for surgery, and you will be fine."
"Surgery?" McCoy squeaked in alarm. "Don't tell me I have something broken!"
"Yes, I am afraid so." She gave him a heartening smile. "But Doctor Sullivan will take care of that. Don't worry, we'll look after you, Doctor."
"Spare me your bedside manner, Nurse," he rasped. "Better tell me... ouch!" he gasped in pain.
"That will teach you, Doctor. I told you to keep still," Barrow said with serenity, and took a hypo-spray out of her medical kit.
"Don't you dare!" he growled, a suspicious eye on the hypo.
"I am afraid I must, since you are unreasonable. Come on, Doctor, you should know better, don't you think?" she chided him.
In his frustration, McCoy looked for someone, something, anything on which to vent his anger, and found it. His eyes met the penetrating gaze of a pair of Vulcan eyes.
"Damn you, Spock! This is all your fault," he lashed out, then heard the hiss of an hypo-spray and felt the cold touch on his neck. Just before sinking into oblivion, McCoy had the time to see a strange emotion flicker in the dark eyes then vanish.
The next moment, he was whisked away to sickbay.
Mr Spock, his usual inscrutable self, went off to the training center, and the water-polo team was left to talk at leisure over the incident.
* * * * * * * *
The medical personnel of the Enterprise were to remember the next few days for a long, long time. Not so much for the fact that the C.M.O. was temporarily incapacitated, making it necessary for his staff to fill in for him, as for the realization which hit them when he came around after surgery: they soon found out that Doctor McCoy was as bad a patient as he was a first class physician.
Resignation and patience were absent from his vocabulary, when his own physical condition was concerned. Not that he was particularly demanding, or that he took advantage of his rank to claim preferential treatment; on the contrary. The problem was that he believed himself to be indispensable and his department to be incapable of functioning efficiently if he was not in charge all the time.
After the operation performed on his right hip and leg by Doctor Sullivan, the young intern on temporary assignment to the Enterprise, McCoy was made comfortable in a side ward of his own where he spent the first day half asleep with mild sedation and under the watchful care of his nurses.
All was peace and quiet in the wards.
But the next day Doctor McCoy was fully conscious when Nurse Chapel brought him his breakfast tray. Ignoring his post-operative fatigue, he asked her to give him a full report of the sickbay status. Knowing very well that he was not yet in a condition to resume his responsibilities, she blandly told him not to concern himself, everything was under control.
But Leonard McCoy had a gift for persuasion. Whether by sweet-talking or by arm-twisting, he usually got people to do as he wanted. Nurse Chapel, for all her professional misgivings, had to surrender. When, minutes later, Doctor Sullivan came in to check on his patient and found him deep in a briefing session, the panel lights above his head wavering ominously, the Doctor made no bones about his displeasure.
"Nurse," he chided, "don’t you know better than to let our patient get agitated? Look at these readings!"
"I am awfully sorry, Doctor, but..." Chapel shrugged helplessly.
"I expect it is not entirely your fault... As for you, Doctor McCoy - " Sullivan assumed a stern look - "will you kindly remember that, as long as you are in this ward under my care, you are a patient, not a doctor. Don't you think that you, of all people, should set a good example?"
"Okay, okay, Paul, don't fuss. I'll behave myself." McCoy leaned back wearily on his pillows and shut his eyes. Sullivan and Chapel exchanged a glance. "I've got to admit," McCoy resumed, "that you have acquired a commendable degree of authority over your patients, Doctor. Congratulations."
"I have had a good teacher, sir."
"The hell you have!" McCoy's blue eyes snapped open and glared at the young intern. "A piece of advice, son. Don't overdo it. Doctor's orders are all very well, but our authority is better accepted when tempered by, say... a certain degree of compassion. See what I mean?"
"Certainly, sir. That goes with the trade, doesn't it? How do you feel today? "
"Pretty good, given the damage. You did a good job in fixing my hip."
"Thank you, sir, but you know that it is up to you now not to do anything rash and risk undoing my repair," Sullivan retorted dryly.
"Right." McCoy suppressed a chuckle, "I'll try to be good. By the way, Miss Chapel told me that..."
Ten minutes of medical discussion ensued, after which Nurse Chapel came back with the medication for her patient.
As Paul Sullivan was about to leave, he announced, "Later to-day, if you are rested and promise to be reasonable, you will be allowed visitors."
"Ah?" McCoy's face brightened. "There is still someone who remembers me on this ship?"
"Plenty, Doctor. I have had to draw the line on a selected few. Tomorrow, if your condition improves as it should, then we shall see..." and, on that promise, Doctor Sullivan went off to the main ward.
While Christine Chapel was making McCoy comfortable, straightening pillows and bed covers, he fished for information.
"Do you know who is coming, who asked to see me?"
"The Captain, of course, very concerned about you, Doctor. He called many times. There will also be Lieutenant Uhura, and perhaps Mr Scott, but that's all you will be allowed to-day." She smiled reminiscently. "Mr Scott came yesterday, bringing a gift for you, a bottle of Saurian brandy, but Doctor Sullivan was adamant. 'Out of the question!' he said. 'Not for another two or three days, at least!'"
McCoy began to laugh, laughter which turned into a groan. The pain was still acute, he learned the hard way.
"Never mind, go on," he whispered at Chapel's look of concern.
"There is not much else, really. Yesterday, even before you were brought into surgery, the news was going around the ship, and calls started to come in asking about you."
"No... really?" McCoy looked doubtful.
"Really, Doctor." She smiled down at him. "You may not be aware of it, having come aboard only a month ago, but you are already quite popular with the crew."
"Well... that's good to know." He smiled back at her.
"Some people did not call but came personally, for instance, Captain Kirk, Mr Scott, and Mr Spock who even came twice. First while you were in surgery, and last night, after his shift. And again this morning. He did."
"Did he now?" The Doctor's face registered disbelief. "Funny, he is the last person I would expect to bother..." He stopped at the sight of a curious look appearing on Chapel's face.
"That's because you don't know him, Doctor," she remarked curtly, then, gathering her medical kit, she stalked out, leaving him staring after her.
* * * * * * * *
McCoy's first approved visitor was, of course, James T. Kirk.
"The Captain to see you, Doctor," Nurse Barrow announced brightly, drawing him from his drowsiness. "Fifteen minutes, no more, sir," she told Kirk as he walked in.
"Thank you, nurse... Hi, Bones! How are you doing?" he said cheerfully and took a seat beside the bed.
"Jim, good to see you." McCoy offered him a wan smile. "Beside the fact that I am bored to death, I am as well as can be expected, considering..."
"I know." Kirk nodded. "Sullivan told me that you had a narrow escape. A few more centimeters and you might have crushed your spine."
"Yeah, I was damn lucky, but that does not stop me from being mad when I think that after barely a month in my new assignment, I end up in my own sickbay with a broken hip. Isn't that rich? The C.M.O. laid up as a mere patient?"
"Look on the bright side, Bones. You have here a unique opportunity to test for yourself the efficiency of your staff."
"Well, that is not exactly my idea of running my department. It is under my responsibility, and look at me, stuck in this bed, completely useless. What happens if there is an emergency, if there are casualties?"
"You will have to let your assistants deal with it, Doctor, as I do with my officers when I am temporarily out of commission. I don't want to sound unfeeling, but you can see what it is like to be 'stuck' in sickbay while the crew has to cope with some critical situation."
"I do now," the Doctor acknowledged, "and I'll be more sympathetic next time I have you for my patient, Heaven forbid!"
"One never knows," Kirk shrugged unconcernedly, "space being so unpredictable and hazardous."
"I know, but do me at least the favour of abstaining from running into trouble while I am practically impotent."
"I'll do my best not to run into a Klingon or Romulan Armada for the time being," the Captain promised, then he said, watching the Doctor closely, "there is something which I don't understand, Bones. How in the Universe did you managed to fall fully dressed into the pool? So far as I know it is a first on the Enterprise."
"I managed nothing, Captain, it just happened!" McCoy retorted. "I went to the pool to check on that Vulcan of yours. It was reported to me that he was doing the prescribed laps much too fast for my liking. So I told him to slow down his pace, and that's when my boots slipped on those damn tiles, and before I knew it, I lost my balance and felt myself flying head over heels, and that's all I remember. Just a stupid accident."
"Are you sure? That’s not what I heard." Kirk set his trap and waited for the Doctor's reaction. It was immediate. McCoy might be out of order for the moment, but he certainly had all his wits about him.
"What do you mean? Of course I am sure! Who has anything to say about it?"
"Well, rumour has it that you hold Spock responsible for your fall," the Captain disclosed.
"What? but that's ridiculous! Who is spreading that yarn? Jim, listen, I slipped and fell over backwards. I am the one who knows what happened!"
"Of course, but the fact remains that some witnesses heard you tell Spock to his face that he was responsible. How do you explain that? Don't you remember?"
"I don't, Jim, that's the trouble - but that's impossible, Spock was nowhere near me when I fell." The good Doctor was aghast, and for the life of him could not understand why he had accused the Vulcan for something he had not done.
At that moment, Nurse Barrow entered, come to check the panel lights, and when he saw her, McCoy had a sudden flash of insight.
"Nurse, was that you who brought me in from the pool? It is still very vague in my mind, but I seem to recall seeing your face..."
"Yes, Doctor. I was on night duty that week, and if you don't mind my saying so, you were a sorry sight, as white as a sheet, and soaking wet into the bargain. Gave me quite a turn!"
"Tell me, it's important, did I speak then? Did I say anything? I can't remember."
"You said a lot, Doctor." Barrow, a jolly, comfortable woman, gave a rich chuckle. "So much that I was obliged to give you a shot."
Kirk and McCoy exchanged a significant look.
"Nurse," said the former, "what Doctor McCoy wants to know in particular is if you heard him speak to Mr Spock."
"Well, yes... he did." She hesitated, an odd expression on her face.
"Go on! What did I say?" McCoy urged her.
"Well, since you ask..." Barrow took in a deep breath. "You said 'Damm you, Spock, it's all your fault!'"
McCoy stared, slack-jawed, at Barrow, at Kirk, then back at the nurse.
"I said that? And you believed it? You took it at face value? Heaven help me!" he breathed.
"But, Doctor," she objected, "how could we know? The manner you said that to Mr Spock, added to the fact that you were seen quarrelling with him a moment earlier, all that led people to assume that..." The nurse fell silent, and looked confused.
"To assume what? That the accident was caused by Mr Spock unwittingly, or even perhaps deliberately?" the Captain said derisively. "Frankly I never expected my crew to be endowed with such an extravagant imagination. Consider, nurse. Beside the fact that to quarrel with a Vulcan is humanly impossible - you can shout at him, rave at him, insult him, but quarrel with him? As well try and quarrel with a block of ice! Beside that impossibility, can you, even in a brief moment of insanity, imagine our sober Science Officer pushing the Doctor into the pool?"
Nurse Barrow, now rather red in the face, replied with some diffidence, "When you put it that way, Captain, I must say the idea seems rather absurd."
"Grotesque, you mean, preposterous!" McCoy interjected with all the fire that he could muster. "I am glad that you admit that much, nurse, and let it be understood that whatever I say to Mr Spock is not open to comment from anyone. Gods! why can’t a man let off steam once in a while without a bunch of idiots jumping to the wrong conclusions!"
"Understood, Doctor. I'll pass the word and tell Padovani and his mates that they got it all wrong."
"Yes, you do that, and you send me Padovani, I'll give him a piece of my mind."
"Very well, sir, and if I may say so, I am glad it turns out that way. I did not care to hear some people speak ill of Mr Spock... Captain, your time for the visit is nearly over," Barrow reminded Kirk before withdrawing.
Once alone, the two men looked at each other.
"I still can't believe it," McCoy sighed. "The stupidity of some people! A good thing you brought that up, Jim, and we could settle the matter."
"To tell you the truth, I did it on purpose. Certain things being said about Spock which came to my knowledge got me concerned."
"I'm sorry about that. Does he know? I mean has he heard these rumours?"
"My dear Doctor, you will soon find out that there is little, if anything, going on aboard this ship which escapes our First Officer's notice," Kirk replied dryly.
"Damn! He fishes me out and saves me from drowning, and first thing I do is to accuse him in front of the crew. Has he said anything about it?"
"No, but don't forget that Spock is a Vulcan. He has his pride and he would rather die than reveal his feelings. At the moment, he is particularly unreadable, but don't worry, Bones, somehow I’ll find a way to let him know that your regrettable lapse was only 'the illogical reaction of an emotional human!' But I guess it's time for me to go." Kirk got to his feet and smiled down at the patient. "You take care of yourself, Bones, let us take care of the rest. I'll come back tomorrow." But, as if struck by a sudden thought, he broke into one of his impish grins. "Tell me before I go, and between you and me, did you actually shout at Spock?"
"Well... " McCoy looked a bit sheepish. "I did raise my voice once or twice; I may even have called him names too, but, Jim, frankly, he nearly drove me nuts. He was maddening, standing there dripping wet, imperturbable in his ridiculous trunks, and spouting logic and... I tell you, I lost my temper. I didn't mean to, but..."
"Join the club, my friend. We know exactly what it is like to be confronted to an argumentative Vulcan. But, so far as I know, no-one on this ship has ever dared insult Spock to his face, you are the only one."
"Oh, really?" The good Doctor broke into a happy smile. "You mean it's a first? Like my fall in the pool?"
"It is." Kirk returned his smile. "You certainly are one for innovation, Bones. I can't wait to see what next you will come up with, one of these days. See you tomorrow."
On that promise, the Captain left the ward with the satisfaction of having raised the Doctor's spirits and resolved a ticklish question. All he had to do now was to tackle his Vulcan officer.
On his way out he met Lieutenant Uhura quietly awaiting her turn in the C.M.O.'s office. "Ah, Lieutenant," he said. "Come in, Doctor McCoy is all yours."
"How is he, Captain?" she enquired anxiously.
"I can't say that he is a model of patience and resignation, but physically he's in a fairly good shape. I am sure that your sweet presence will do him a lot of good."
"I'll do my best." She laughed prettily then sobered down. "Sir, did you find out what exactly happened with Mr Spock?"
"I did, and it's just as we thought. A misunderstanding. The Doctor was not quite himself when he came round, and of course, he never meant that absurdity that it was the fault of Spock."
"I knew it!" she exclaimed, beaming. "In fact none of us on the Bridge believed it even for a moment. I am glad it's all clear now, it was so unfair for Mr Spock."
"Quite, and now it is up to you all to re-establish the truth."
"You can depend on us, Captain," Uhura assured him with fierce determination.
* * * * * * * *
As it happened, that same day after supper, Captain Kirk found the opportunity to broach the delicate subject of Doctor McCoy with Spock. It was actually the First Officer who brought it up while he was setting up the chess pieces for their game of chess.
"I heard that you paid a visit to sickbay, Captain," he said nonchalantly. "I trust that Doctor McCoy's condition is satisfactory?"
"Absolutely. He is as well as can be expected after that unfortunate accident, but of course he won't be able to fully resume his activities for some time."
"Of course," Spock said coolly, presenting Kirk with a choice of two pieces.
"Tell you what, Spock," Kirk said brightly as he selected one, "why don't you drop in tomorrow after your shift? I am sure that McCoy will be happy if you visit."
"I don't think that my presence is advisable at the moment, Captain," Spock said austerely.
"Why not? What makes you think that?" Kirk's pretence at ignorance was not very convincing.
"I appear to have caused offence, Captain. For some reason that I am unable to fathom, Doctor McCoy holds me responsible for his fall in the pool."
"Oh, that?" Kirk said airily. "Don't pay attention, there is nothing to it. As a matter of fact, he told me he never meant it."
"Indeed? Then why did he make this accusation?" The question was underlined with a sceptical eyebrow.
"He just wanted someone to blame, that's all. It's often the way with us Humans."
"Curious... until now, the Doctor has seemed capable of some discernment. Apparently I was mistaken."
"Well, nobody is perfect, Mr Spock."
"No indeed, Captain." On this disillusioned conclusion, the two officers focused their attention to the game, and no more was said on the subject.
* * * * * * * *
Three days later, Nurse Chapel, arms folded on her chest, was looking with disapproval into the C.M.O.'s office.
"Doctor, you are incorrigible! You promised to go straight to bed after your visit to the ward, and where do I find you? Here, working at your desk."
McCoy looked up from his computer screen with the air of a naughty boy caught in the act. "Oh... uh... I was not working, only checking something on my drugs index." He switched off the computer and skilfully swung his medical antigrav chair around his desk and on to the door.
"You could have done that from your bedside terminal," Chapel reminded him, stepping aside to let him pass.
"I know, my dear, but any pretext is good to grab a few more minutes of freedom."
"To hear you, Doctor," the nurse commented as they went back to his private ward, "one could think that you are held under house arrest. Are you so badly treated in your own sickbay?"
"On the contrary." McCoy steered his chair alongside his bed and stopped by medic Jansen who was waiting for him. "I have never been so pampered in my life." Together, Chapel and Jansen heaved him up onto the bed. "But there is such a thing as getting too much solicitude..." McCoy leaned against his pillows and grinned at them "...and I would give the moon for my freedom of movement."
"I am afraid that your cast must not be removed for another three or four days, according to Doctor Sullivan," Christine Chapel remarked.
"Doctor Sullivan is overcautious," McCoy declared. "Two days, no more, and I'll be rid of this straight-jacket."
"But, Doctor, it does not prevent you from going around in that chair," Jansen put in. "A good thing that Mr Scott fixed it for you."
"Yeah," McCoy had to admit. "It's a great help, but..."
"But the problem with you is that you like to think you are fully recovered, and as a result, you overestimate your strength. See... you have exhausted yourself again," Nurse Chapel told him severely.
"I am fine, Christine, just a bit tired, that's all. Now, if you two have nothing else to do but keep chiding me, you might as well go away and let me have some quiet and peace." And to make his point, the Doctor heaved a deep sigh and closed his eyes. The paramedic and the nurse exchanged a look.
"Very well," the latter said sweetly, "we'll leave you to your rest, Doctor, and I'll see to it that you are not to be disturbed, not even for your supper."
"Hey! Wait a minute!" McCoy reopened his eyes in alarm, but all he could see was the teasing smile of his head nurse before the door snapped shut.
He let his head fall back on the pillow and chuckled to himself. Since his accident, Chapel had taken to looking after him like a mother hen, and she had a tendency to overdo it but, this time, he had to acknowledge that she was right. He was truly bone-weary, having stayed up much too long, but then it was so good to be able to move at will about his domain, thanks to that antigrav chair. Even though he was only permitted short trips around sickbay, he felt somehow that he was no longer kept in the sidelines, but back in the midst of activity, back where he belonged.
And yet, there was some truth in Jim Kirk's assertion. Now that he was on the other side of the fence, it was from a different viewpoint, that of the patient, that he could judge the performance of his staff.
All things considered, he could hold himself lucky to have inherited from his predecessor a medical team as devoted and competent as this one.
They had adapted themselves to his ways without a hitch, and put up patiently with his occasional grumbling and grousing, more frequent now that he was imprisoned in that cast from waist to knee.
Oh well, two more days and he would be rid of it. A walking stick would be of some help and he would resume his duty, perhaps part time at first, and the whole business would be just a bad memory. In the meantime, McCoy thought drowsily, he had but to hope that nothing untoward happened to the ship and the crew, at least as long as the C.M.O. was incapacitated! Unlikely, Jim had said, since the Enterprise was cruising well away from the Neutral Zone. Nothing to worry about... everything under control...
But, as McCoy was slowly drifting off to sleep, a question which had been nagging at him for days surfaced again at the back of his mind. What about Spock? McCoy had not seen hide nor hair of the Vulcan since that morning in the ship's gymnasium. So far as he knew, Spock was doing his regular exercises in the pool, and at a reasonable pace now, which meant that he was carrying out the Doctor's orders to the letter. That at least was a good point.
But, contrary to the other officers who were regular visitors, Spock never came to see McCoy, and yet the Doctor knew from the nurses, or from the Captain, the he enquired frequently about the progress of the illustrious patient. Which proved that Spock was not indifferent to his state of health. Why then did he keep his distance? Was he nursing some grievance over McCoy's unfortunate outburst at the pool, and its unexpected consequences? But Vulcans were reputed for having no feelings, no emotions.
To the Doctor, Spock's enigmatic attitude was just incomprehensible.
When Jim Kirk had told him not to worry, for it took quite some time for Humans to understand Vulcans and vice-versa, McCoy had wryly replied that if Spock's mood was something like his crazy physiology, it promised to be fun.
Still, for all his irritation against that damn Vulcan, McCoy could not help but recall with some uneasiness the strange look that Spock had given him that day, and wonder what it meant. Perhaps... one day... if they ever... became better acquainted... On that wishful thought, the good Doctor finally fell asleep.
He was rudely awakened by a loud commotion next door. Running footsteps and shouting voices jerked him out of sleep. At once alert, he listened anxiously to the familiar sounds of a rescue team racing out to the scene of trouble. He noticed that there was no red alert blaring out, therefore it must be some incident internal to the ship.
Damn! here he was, stuck in his bed, completely useless. He forced himself to wait patiently and not call any of his staff. They knew what they were doing and had more pressing things to do than answer his questions.
But, just as McCoy was getting jittery with worry and frustration, the door whisked open, and in came Nurse Chapel whose professional cool was slightly marred by a frown of concern.
"What's up?... What happened?" McCoy snapped.
"An accident in Engineering, Doctor. I thought you should know. There was an explosion, that's all we were told."
"Just a few, with burns and concussion, and one with more severe injuries, it seems." She paused and looked at him sadly. "I regret to say it is Mr Scott, Doctor."
"Scotty?... my God!... you know how bad?"
"Not yet, but they should bring him in any moment now. We have everything in readiness and Doctor Sullivan is preparing for surgery."
"Good. Sullivan is perfectly qualified. Christine, I leave it to you all to take good care of Mr Scott."
"We will, Doctor. Oh... here they come. I must go now." Nurse Chapel turned to leave, but she paused in the doorway to let the rescue party race by, propelling an anti-grav stretcher. As they passed her, McCoy heard Chapel catch her breath then whisper, "Oh, my God!"
"What is it?" he shouted in alarm.
"It’s... It's Mr Spock, Doctor," she stammered, her blue eyes wide with shock. The next second her professional reflex took over, a faint flush coloured her cheekbones, and, with a murmured, "Excuse me," she left the room at a run, and McCoy in a state of bewilderment.
He was not the only one, for Paul Sullivan's voice could be heard, raised in disbelief. "What's the meaning of this? Where is Mr Scott?" he demanded sharply.
"I am afraid someone got mixed-up over the intercom, sir," explained an orderly. "Mr Scott is all right, just a slight concussion. It's Mr Spock who took most of the blast."
"I can't believe it! Is there something wrong with their hearing that they can't make the difference..." The voices receded, then Chapel was heard issuing a string of instructions to her nurses, and the commotion subsided as the door to the emergency ward was finally shut.
Stunned at first by this unexpected turn of events, McCoy leaned back on his pillows, his mind racing at warp speed. He knew that his staff had the situation well in hand, but they were dealing now with a Vulcan. Spock was no ordinary patient, he was no ordinary Vulcan either, that much was certain.
Could young Sullivan do it? He was good, McCoy himself had done his best to improve the intern's competence, but Sullivan had never operated on a Vulcan and had but a scant knowledge of Vulcan anatomy, much less of Spock's peculiar physiology. No, there were no two ways of dealing with the problem, McCoy grimly thought. Spock was his responsibility. He had not spent all that time over the past three weeks studying his anatomy for nothing. Now or never! This was the time to put his freshly acquired knowledge to the test. But there was not a moment to spare.
McCoy tried to sit up, but his movements were hampered by his cast, so he reached out and pulled the call button with enough vigour to galvanize his whole department.
Forced as he was to wait for help, he could but fret and curse under his breath. Damn Vulcan! What the Hell was he doing in Engineering, and just when something went bang? To cap it all, why did he have to get hurt at the worst possible time, when he, McCoy, was out of commission? That was sheer irresponsibility! The fact that the First Officer had dozens of good reasons to visit Engineering, or that random accidents did happen, even on starships as tightly run as the Enterprise, was neither here nor there. The very fact that Spock was a casualty at this very moment was, to the good Doctor, little short of provocation.
He was hitting the call button and fuming with frustration when at last the door swished open and orderly Padovani looked in.
"Did you call, sir?"
"I did, for the last ten minutes," McCoy snapped.
"Sorry, sir, but we have our hands full at the moment, what with that explosion in Engineering."
"I dare say. Come here and bring that chair along, son. Now you help me get into that contraption, and you'll have an extra pair of hands to depend on - "
"Uh... excuse me, sir, but where are you going?" Padovani asked hesitantly. "I don't know if Doctor Sullivan would approve..."
"Save your breath and do as you are told, Mr Padovani," McCoy grunted. "If Doctor Sullivan has anything to say, he can say it directly to me. Come on, lend me a hand!"
"Perhaps I should ask Nurse Chapel if you..."
"Never mind Nurse Chapel. I gave you an order, dammit! Help me get into that chair, now."
The only thing Padovani could do was comply, and so, with the assistance of the hefty young man, Doctor McCoy sat at last in the antigrav chair and made a beeline for the door.
"Hurry!" he urged. "Help me get to surgery. Have they started on Mr Spock yet?"
"Not yet, but they should any time now," Padovani replied, striding along by the Doctor's chair. "I saw Nurse Chapel bring in Mr Spock's special blood packs a minute ago."
"What is his condition, do you know?"
"From what I heard, sir, it's pretty bad. He has lost a lot of blood."
"Damn! I hope we'll have enough of his blood supply to last the operation," McCoy muttered grimly. "Okay, you'll have to help me with the sterilized gown, boots and the rest, son. I can't manage all by myself with that damn cast."
"Yes, sir... Uh, excuse me, but are you going to operate on Mr Spock?" There was perplexity in the orderly's voice.
"Of course! I am a patient at the moment, but that does not change the fact that I am still the Chief Surgeon in this department."
Padovani gulped and looked suitably abashed. "Of course, sir. I... I am sure I didn't mean to... " He broke off as a door hissed open and an agitated Captain Kirk, his face drawn with anxiety, strode through.
"Oh... There you are, McCoy." Kirk looked both surprised and relieved to see the Doctor up and about. "I just come from Engineering. How is Spock? What is the prognosis?"
"I don't know, Captain, and that's precisely what I mean to find out," McCoy replied, deftly manoeuvering his chair into the side room used by the medical personnel to prepare for surgery.
Kirk followed him in and stopped just inside the door. "What about his condition?" he insisted, looking from one man to the other.
"Well," the Doctor said grimly, donning a surgical gown with the orderly's help, "it seems to be serious, Jim. Spock has lost a great quantity of blood."
"No wonder. Scotty's machinery is spattered with it!" Kirk said bitterly. "He says it's a miracle that there were no more casualties."
"How is he?"
"Scotty? He's fine, just some bruises and a splitting headache. Real lucky, considering the damage. Spock took the full force, it seems. You can imagine how Scotty feels about it. He says he is responsible because he asked Spock to come down and check something in a power relay, but nobody is responsible... it's only sheer bad luck." The Captain paused, watching absentmindedly McCoy's preparations, and following his own line of thought. Then, his throat tight, he asked at last. "Do you know if Spock will live?"
"Sorry, Jim," McCoy said gently, "I can't tell yet, but you can be sure that I'll see to it that he does, to the best of my ability."
"You?" Kirk repeated, realizing at last that McCoy was being equipped with the complete surgeon's panoply. "You? You mean you are going to do the surgery... yourself?"
"Sure! Unless I hear to the contrary, I am still the ship's surgeon," McCoy retorted with a touch of asperity, then, to the orderly, "All right, I'll manage now. You go and tell Doctor Sullivan that I am coming. Hurry!"
"Yes, sir!" Padovani rushed out while McCoy finished drying his hands, and gave a side-long glance at Kirk.
"Problem, Captain? Don't you trust me?" He was getting annoyed with these questions over his abilities.
"Me? Of course I trust you, Bones, but that's not the point," Kirk protested. "No, the question is... can you do it? Look, you are yourself just recovering from an operation and still on the sick list. Look at yourself, you can hardly move about, handicapped by that cast... " Kirk sounded dubious.
"So what?" McCoy rejoined, nettled. "What does it matter so long as I can use my hands?" He held them up as he was slipping the thin surgical gloves on. "See? There is nothing wrong with my hands, and that's what matters for a surgeon."
"I know that, Bones, and I'd rather have you than anyone else operate on Spock, but can you do it in your present condition?"
"For Heaven's sake, Jim, stop worrying about me. I'll be fine, and the question is not so much whether I can do it as whether I must do it, and you know the answer as well as I do. It's my duty, Jim, I can't let young Sullivan do it alone, he has not enough experience. So let me do my job and stop fussing - "
Before the Captain could reply, Padovani burst in. "Doctor, please, they are ready. If you would come now."
"How is Mr Spock?" Kirk demanded.
"He is holding on, Captain. Doctor Sullivan says his condition is stabilized now, so surgery can begin."
McCoy was already heading to the operating room, but he paused at the door and looked round. He and the Captain exchanged a long meaningful look, then he moved his chair forward and the door slid shut behind him.
Kirk turned on his heel and went back to the Bridge, a prey to conflicting emotions.
* * * * * * * *
Doctor McCoy and Doctor Sullivan were now facing each other on either side of the medical bed which held the unconscious First Officer. As McCoy had expected, Paul Sullivan had willingly given him the lead, only too glad to be spared the responsibility of the operation. Sullivan was quite competent but he also knew his limitations. So it was left to McCoy to handle the surgery with the assistance of the young intern and of the nurses hovering around the diagnostic bed.
A glance at the medical panels and machinery monitoring Spock's vital signs gave him a precise account of his condition; internal bleeding, torn tissues, broken ribs... all this was pretty bad, but as he looked down at the patient, he was surprised there was no more internal damage for, between neck and waist, the Vulcan was a mess of blood and scorched flesh. What's more, Spock must have instinctively protected his face with his arms, for they were both lacerated and bleeding.
Okay, McCoy thought. Let's get started. He looked up and checked the bio-support system to which Spock was attached, and saw the emerald green packet already hanging from it. His eyes met and held those of Nurse Chapel who was standing by, pale-faced but composed. On his nod, she started the unit controls, and the transfusion was engaged.
With a quick glance around, the Doctor made eye contact with his staff, making sure that everyone was prepared, then, locking his gaze over his mask with the intern, he said quietly, "Ready, Paul? Then here we go... "
Nurse Barrow slapped a laser scalpel in his palm and, pushing aside all thoughts of anything other than Spock's singular physiology, Doctor McCoy began his first operation on a Vulcan.
* * * * * * * *
Three hours later, Captain Kirk was back in sickbay, trying to curb his worry while pacing the deck nervously. McCoy was still in surgery, but word had reached the Bridge, then gone around the ship, that it should not last much longer. Kirk had at once left the con to Lieutenant Sulu and come down, followed with all the wishes and hopes of the bridge crew.
A door opened and Chief Engineer Scott, still looking a bit out of sorts, walked in. "Ah, Captain, I knew I would find you here," he said. "Any news?"
"Not yet. Should not be long now." Kirk gave him an appraising look. "What about you, Scotty? Are you all right now?"
"Aye, Captain. Just a wee bit stiff and sore, that's all. Nothing compared to Mr Spock and some of my lads. I have just looked them up, back in the main ward. Two of them have got second degree burns, which means they'll have to stay in sickbay for a while, I suppose. But - " Scotty shook his head, looking grim - "what I can't stomach is what happened to Spock. If only I hadn't... "
He broke off and Kirk spun round. The two surgeons were coming out of the operation room. McCoy was sitting wearily in his anti-grav chair, pushed forward by an orderly, followed by Doctor Sullivan who stretched and let out a long breath. The two men were visibly tired, but there was about them an air of satisfaction, of achievement, which brought Kirk a surge of hope.
Pelted with questions, Doctor McCoy took his own sweet time to loosen the clasps of his gown and pull off his surgical gloves. Then he declared,
"Never seen anything like it! In all my career, this is the first time I have had to puzzle out a jigsaw with a living organism. Boyce was right, Jim, this is the most crazy physiology I ever had to patch up."
"Bones! for Heaven's sake, what happened? How is he?" the Captain demanded, out of patience.
"He is out of danger, for the time being."
"Which means that, excluding postoperative complications, your Vulcan is doing fine. We'll know for sure in a couple of days.
"So you have done it, Bones, you pulled him through," Kirk said softly.
"Yeah, but he will have to stay in the intensive care unit, under permanent surveillance, for a few more days. Who is taking the first shift, Paul?" McCoy asked Sullivan.
"Nurse Chapel, Doctor, and, knowing her, she will watch over Mr Spock like over the crown jewels."
"I am sure she will." McCoy grinned appreciatively, then addressing the Captain and the Engineer who were regarding him with fond admiration, "If you don't mind, gentlemen, I think I'll turn in now." He stifled a yawn. "I feel I have done enough for today, and frankly I long for my bed." McCoy set his chair in motion, then paused and said as an afterthought, "Have you any prescription, Doctor?" with a wink at the intern.
"Complete rest for the next twelve hours," Sullivan promptly replied. He nodded to the orderly. "You take care of Doctor McCoy, Mr Padovani, and see to it that he has everything he needs."
"Oh, and what about my dinner?" McCoy asked pointedly. "I know it must be rather late, but... "
"Mr Padovani, make sure that Doctor McCoy is served his meals as and when required," Sullivan specified imperturbably. "Good night, Doctor. I don't want to see you wandering around in that chair for another twelve hours." Then he added under his breath, "And thank you for coming to my rescue!"
"Well, that was quite an experience, and worth remembering, wasn't it?" McCoy gave him one of his lop-sided grins. "Okay, Paul, I leave you in charge, see you tomorrow."
The three men watched him sail off in his anti-grav chair, Padovani in tow, then Doctor Sullivan turned to Kirk.
"If you will excuse me, Captain, I must go and check on Mr Spock."
"Of course, Doctor, we must not keep you," Kirk said affably. "Good work!"
"Thank you, Captain, but to be honest, I did nothing more then assist Doctor McCoy," the intern specified with commendable modesty.
"But that also is important, Doctor," Montgommery Scott interjected. "I know from experience that a good assistant can make all the difference."
"Possibly, Mr Scott, but the surgery performed by Doctor McCoy was extraordinarily difficult, given the unique physiology of Mr Spock. There is no other surgeon that I know who could have done it with such precision, and hardly any hesitation, as Doctor McCoy. He really impressed me."
"That is praise indeed, specially coming from a confrere!" the Captain remarked, "but I agree with you, Doctor McCoy is a damn good physician, and we can hold ourselves lucky for the Surgeon-General's decision to have assigned him to the Enterprise. But let me not keep you from your duty, Doctor. Take good care of my First Officer."
"That we will, Captain," and Sullivan took himself off and headed to the I.C.U. while Kirk and Scott left sickbay considerably more light-hearted than when they had arrived.
In the corridor, Scotty shot a roguish look at the Captain.
"What would you say for a wee dram in my quarters, Captain?" he proposed. "This calls for a celebration, don't you think?"
"I would say that's a damn good idea, Scotty. Expect me in your cabin in ten minutes. I'll bring some supplies from my own stock, all right? But first... "
While Mr Scott set off down the corridor, Kirk went to the nearest wall communicator.
"Bridge? Kirk here. You can relax, Uhura, Mr Spock has been declared out of danger." Exclamations issued from the com device. "Yes, it's great news," Kirk went on, "but he must stay under intensive care for another couple of days, I am told. I rely on you to tell the others."
"Sure, Captain, we'll pass the word. It's wonderful! Was it Doctor Sullivan who did the operation?"
"No, Lieutenant, it was McCoy himself, with Sullivan's assistance. How did he manage, just out of surgery himself? I don't know, but he certainly got Mr Spock out of trouble... Oh, and, Lieutenant, at the change of shift, will you tell your relief that if I am needed, I'll be with Mr Scott. Yes, we are going to celebrate! You too? Very well, have a good time. Kirk out."
And that is how a countless number of toasts were drunk late into the night on the good ship Enterprise, in honour of the ship's surgeon who was sleeping the sleep of the just, and of the First Officer who was slowly recovering on life support, under the vigilant care of the head nurse.
* * * * * * * *
Once again, Captain Kirk hurried down to sickbay, called by a short message from the C.M.O. "Please, inform the Captain that his First Officer has finally condescended to snap out of his trance and come back to the land of the living."
Kirk smiled to himself and shook his head. By now, he was beginning to know his Chief surgeon fairly well. The phrasing of the message was a sure indication of the Doctor's mood, and Kirk wondered if the long wait for Spock to come out of his trance had not perhaps affected McCoy's temper.
Four days had passed since Spock's operation. Doctor McCoy, at last free from his bulky cast, was now back on line, if only on light duty, and he had gladly exchanged his anti-grav chair for a walking stick.
Thank God the explosion in Engineering was a thing of the past. The damage had long since been repaired by Scotty's expert crew, and the wounded were well on the way to recovery. Everything was back to normal on the Enterprise, except that Mr Spock had put himself into some kind of trance which had all the appearance of a deep coma.
To the growing concern and exasperation of McCoy, this situation had remained unchanged until this morning when the Vulcan had at last returned to consciousness. The Doctor knew, of course, from the archives logged in the sickbay computer, that Vulcans had a way of speeding and helping the healing process by going into a trance, but he had not expected Spock to remain in that state for almost three days. That was probably due to the gravity of his wounds, or perhaps to the fact that he was not a full Vulcan.
Whatever, Kirk thought with a sigh of relief as he strode into sickbay, Spock was now really out of the woods, and he would soon be where he belonged, on the Bridge, by his Captain's side.
Kirk was walking along the corridor leading to the wards when the sound of an altercation, filtering from one of the rooms, made him pause and put up his eyebrows. Voices, easily recognizable, were raised; one loud and angry, the other one deep, cool and perfectly controlled.
He asked a passing nurse, "That's Mr Spock's room, isn't it?"
"Oh yes, Captain," she said. "Yes, it is." Her tone and her expression spoke volumes.
"Ah... er... " Kirk permitted himself a wry smile. "Tell me, nurse, how long have they been at it?"
"Since Mr Spock recovered consciousness, sir, about ten minutes ago," Nurse Barrow replied, visibly torn between amusement and disapproval.
"Is that so?... tut, tut." The Captain kept a straight face. "Then perhaps I had better go and see what it's all about."
"Yes, Captain, I think you should," and she walked on.
Kirk paused in the doorway and took in the situation at a glance.
Spock, his chest and arms still swathed in bandages, was sitting up in bed, calm and relaxed, and regarding McCoy with detached curiosity. The latter, his arms crossed in a belligerent stance, was in the midst of a diatribe which was fast working to a climax.
It did not. Spock caught sight of Kirk and his expression changed almost imperceptibly.
"Captain?" he said in that rich, warm tone that he seemed to reserve only for his friend.
McCoy, deprived of his target, looked round. "Oh, that you, Captain! You've arrived just in time."
"So I see," Kirk said dryly. "Hello, Spock, good to see you back with us." Then, looking at McCoy, "What's the matter with you, Doctor? I must say that I am not impressed with your bedside manner."
"My bedside manner?" McCoy's temper flared. "What do you mean my bedside manner? And what about his manner, Captain?" He pointed an accusing finger at the imperturbable Vulcan. "You would think that he would have the decency to thank his physicians for keeping him alive. After all, it is not every man Jack who can stitch together that insane patchwork he has got for innards. But no! When at last he deigns to come round, in his own good time, after keeping the whole medical department in suspense for three days, what does he have the stiff-necked arrogance to do?"
Here the Doctor paused, as much for effect as to get his breath back.
"Yes?... go on, Bones!" Kirk prompted.
"Well, Captain, your First Officer has the nerve not only to blame me for not knowing the way to bring a Vulcan out of his trance, but also to quote some reference book no-one has ever heard of in medical circles."
"Really?...you did, Mr Spock?" Kirk asked, hazel eyes twinkling.
"I am afraid, Captain, that Doctor McCoy has misapprehended my meaning," Spock replied coolly. "I do not blame him for his ignorance. I know I cannot expect him to be well versed in all the intricacies of Vulcan physiology. I merely find it regrettable that he failed to consult the revised edition of the Stantor and Seker's Manual of Vulcan Biology, from page 21 to page 23, concerning the Vulcan healing trance and its treatment. Had the Doctor applied this method, my return to consciousness would have been considerably accelerated."
"I see... and what is that method, if I may ask?" The Captain looked inquiringly from Spock to McCoy who, much to his surprise, snorted with wicked glee.
"You may well ask, Jim! I must say that, as far as treatments go, this is one of the most unusual I have encountered in my career. Believe it or not, all you have to do is to deal your patient some mighty smacks on the jaw, and he pops out of his trance as fresh as a daisy. No kidding, Jim. You ask him if you don't believe me."
The Captain, taken aback, looked at the Vulcan who nodded affirmatively. "This is extraordinary!" he said," but I don't understand, Spock, why use such a violent procedure?"
"Because a healing trance takes us so deep inside our unconscious that only a great shock, such as a sharp physical blow, can pull us of it and bring us back to conscious levels," Spock explained.
"That's most unusual," Kirk commented, "but, come to think of it, what about you, Spock? You just said that McCoy did not know that method... or did he?" Something passed between the Doctor and the Vulcan, something very much like a look of defiance, then McCoy broke into a chuckle.
"As you can expect, Captain," he said, "it is not in my habit to strike my patients, but in the case of Mr Spock, given the kind of seizure he was getting into, I had to make an exception. Not only did it play havoc with the diagnostic lights, jumping up and down wildly, but all at once my medi-scan went berserk too. Then when Spock broke into violent spasms, I realised that something had to be done, fast, or he might hurt himself, or fall back into a coma, and of course a sedative was out of the question for that very same reason. And that's when I suddenly recalled an old method that simple country Doctors used in the past, to revive delicate females falling in a swoon." McCoy's blue eyes gleamed with mischief. "Know what I did, Jim? I landed our Vulcan here a couple of resounding wallops across the face, the like of which would have knocked out any normal being, but not him! On the contrary, he woke up as if nothing had happened, and here he is, safe and sound. A spectacular recovery, isn't it?"
The good Doctor grinned happily, visibly pleased with himself. His patient sat enwrapped in stiff dignity and abstained from comment, but the slight rise of an eyebrow expressed, better than words, what he thought of McCoy's vivid account.
"Really, Doctor." Kirk grinned, shaking his head. "You certainly have a gift for originality. I don't know what is the more remarkable - your unorthodox treatment for reviving Spock, or the fact that, although you never knew it, it was exactly what had to be done."
"It was the only thing to do, Captain," Spock noted quietly, "but what I find the most remarkable is for a Human as emotional and irrational as Doctor McCoy to have found the logical solution to the problem."
"Now, look here, Spock!" McCoy bristled.
"I mean no offence, Doctor, I only state a fact," Spock continued steadily. "I find it curious, however, that Doctor Piper left no reference to the healing trance treatment in my medical file. Are you sure it did not escape your notice?"
"Damn you, Spock! I told you there is no mention at all in your personal file, nor in the medical log concerning Vulcans, for that matter. I would surely not have missed something like that. But, never fear, next time I'll know exactly what to do, and I'll be only too glad to oblige."
"I don't doubt it, Doctor, but in the meantime, as I am perfectly recovered and fit for duty, you would oblige me by removing these surgical dressings. I am needed on the Bridge."
"Wait a minute, Mr Spock! Who makes the decisions here?" the Doctor flared up at once. "You are not going anywhere until I give you the all clear."
"Doctor, I assure you that I am fully functional. Vulcans have considerable reserves of stamina, and there is no need..."
"...and nothing, Spock! My decisions are final, whether you like it or not. First, you will do me the favour of eating a full breakfast. You need to put some weight on that skinny frame of yours. Then I'll run your physical, after which I shall decide if I can declare you fit for duty or not. Tomorrow, maybe, if you are reasonable."
"Captain... " Spock looked at Kirk, an appeal in his dark eyes.
"Sorry, Mr Spock, but there is nothing I can do." Kirk shrugged helplessly. "I know, we need you on the Bridge, but on matters of health, the Doctor's orders outrank those of the Captain."
A sigh, barely audible, escaped the Vulcan. "Yes, I know," he murmured.
"On the other hand," Kirk went on, unleashing his charm onto his medical officer. "we are not dealing here with the average human patient, but with a particularly resilient specimen of the Vulcanoid species. Therefore, our good Doctor could perhaps adapt his sickbay regulations to this particular case, and give me back my First Officer who is sorely missed on the Bridge."
The result was all that he could have hoped for. McCoy, who had a good sense of humour, gave in gracefully.
"All right, Jim. Point taken," he acknowledged. "I'll try and release your Vulcan as soon as possible, but only on light duty, mind you."
"This is great, Bones, thank you!" Kirk beamed at him. "And don't worry, we'll look after Spock and make sure he does not overtax himself."
"You had better, Captain, or it will be back to sickbay for him."
"We'll keep that in mind," Kirk promised. "I must be off now, duty calls. See you soon, Spock, and take care of yourself."
"Thank you, Captain" The faint gleamer of a smile passed swiftly over the Vulcan's face, and was gone.
Kirk acknowledged it with a nod then, turning on his heel, he went out, nearly colliding with Nurse Barrow who was carrying in a laden tray.
"Oh, sorry, nurse. Is that Mr Spock's breakfast?" he asked, eyeing the display. "I don't know if he will eat all that food, it's not his habit."
"Doctor's orders, Captain," Barrow primly replied.
"Oh, I see..." Kirk grinned, "but the question is, will he comply? That remains to be seen!"
"I could not say, Captain. I suppose it will be the occasion for another argument," she said with tolerance.
"Yes, probably. Thank you, nurse, carry on," and the Captain headed to the nearest turbolift, both amused and intrigued.
He had the impression that something interesting, some kind of love-hate relationship, was being established between his Vulcan officer and his new C.M.O. McCoy never missed a chance to take a dig at Spock who, in turn, was never short of a cutting comeback, delivered usually with devastating accuracy.
It was not a conflict, so to speak, more like a game, a challenge between the cool Vulcan and the emotional Doctor. Both seemed even to enjoy it, each in his own way.
Yes, Kirk thought, as he ordered the lift up to the Bridge, whatever it was, it promised to be interesting and worth watching. He would only have to make sure that this battle of wits did not get out of hand and eventually develop into some kind of resentment or even some hostility.
But, come to think of it, that was unlikely. Kirk felt that under McCoy's abrasive wit there was a good deal of understanding and compassion. As for Spock, his even temper and Vulcan self-control were unassailable. If, sometimes, it provoked in his Captain a surge of frustration, it was also a guarantee that Spock would never demean himself in picking up a quarrel, or even in being part of it.
Yes, Kirk smiled inwardly, the good Doctor would soon realise that he had a tough customer to deal with.
Copyright Nicole Comtet