Title: Friend or Foe (2/3)
Summary: Sequel to The Right-Hand Man. Whatever did happen to that pirate?
Previous Parts: 1
The Doctor of War
“What’s the matter with you, Jim? I, at least, had hopes for your sanity!” But none for the pirate.
Jim pulls on his left boot. “Oh, Bones, you can’t be that angry—”
“CAN’T I! SPOCK!”
Spock cracks open an eye from his meditation position. “Doctor, please. You are disrupting my—”
“GODDAMN YOU BOTH!” Leonard only increases his volume. (Wouldn’t Captain Noreh be proud?)
Spock unfolds his arms and rises with a natural-born grace—one that Leonard secretly envies and takes a moment to appreciate (even amidst a conniption fit). Suddenly, Spock has that glint in his eye and Leonard wonders if maybe his envy isn’t so secret after all. That darkens his scowl even more.
“Leonard,” Spock’s got that slight stress in his voice that indicates placating. “If you will only allow us to discuss the matter sensibly, perhaps we can delineate the reasons for Jim’s… actions.” With these words, Spock turns to observe his Captain, who is busy tying a new kind of knot that his new buddy—Leonard thinks sourly—has shown him.
“Jim! Quite fiddling with that blasted string! We’re talking to you.”
Kirk drops the laces with a sigh. “Okay, maybe it wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever had—”
“Oh Lord! I swear to God—”
“Doctor, it is more accurate to say that you swear in the name of your God. Quite frequently.”
Leonard makes a sound like a boiling kettle. Jim bounces up from the bed and grabs Spock’s arm, muttering something about now you’ve done it, he’s about to blow.
Spock opens his mouth to ask, presumably, about Leonard’s imminent detonation when Bones launches himself on both of the retreating men with “Oh NO, you don’t!”
There is a general onslaught of tumbling, grappling, and possible hair-pulling when Jim pins McCoy to the floor by sitting on him and Spock has scrambled (gracefully as he can, with that hand latched onto his tunic) out of harm’s way.
Jim says so smugly “I win” that Leonard’s red vision goes even redder and so—inevitably—he bites on the nearest piece of Jim’s flesh that he can. Kirk pitches off of him with a howl.
“Ow, ow. My finger! You BIT me!”
Shit. Leonard rolls over and tugs Jim’s hand away from his mouth and examines the wound. If it can be called that… there’s only a red indentation of teeth marks. “God, you baby.” He throws the offending hand back at Jim and flops on the floor. Seriously, he’s too damned old to be tussling like an adolescent. They’re both too old. His back aches in five different places.
Spock asks, from a far corner, if both Jim and Leonard are unhurt. His tone indicates that if they aren’t, he does not plan to do much about it. (He’s a Vulcan with the two most childish Humans in the galaxy.)
Leonard cannot help himself. Somehow this situation has gone from bad to hysterical and he’s choking on gasping laughter. When Jim peers down into his face with no small amount of concern, Leonard decides to pull him in for a kiss. Then it’s a matter of detaching the Captain after that, which takes a good (enjoyable) five minutes.
Leonard gasps, “Why did I ever decide to forgive you, Jimmy?”
“I don’t recall that you had a choice, Bones,” he answers with a lazy grin. “Who can resist the allure of a Starfleet Captain?” Kirk hitches a thumb in Spock’s direction. “Not even a Vulcan can!”
McCoy manages to sit up as their Vulcan passes by him. He automatically grabs a handful of Spock’s trousers. “Where are you going?”
Spock looks down at them both with dark, gleaming eyes. “The Captain has just insulted my race. I thought that, perhaps, a demonstration of superior Vulcan—”
Bones rolls his eyes.
“—intellect is necessary. I am—as I believe your Human idiom says—leaving you to the wolf.”
McCoy grins, tugs on the fabric in his hands. “It’s wolves, Spock. Plural—wolves.”
“Doctor, release my uniform.”
It takes only a quick eyebrow raise at Jim to indicate wanna help? and then they’ve got the Vulcan toppling into two sets of arms. “No can do, Spock.” Jim announces. “We need you right here—with the wolves.”
Leonard conveniently forgets why he was irate for the next hour or so.
Doctor McCoy remembers on his next shift why he should be pissed at Jim, because he finds Captain Noreh dancing an obscene (embarrassing) victory jig in front of the brig. The captive Orions are glaring back at the Valissan with tight mouths.
“What, in the name of all that’s Holy, are you doing?”
Noreh pauses with his leg in mid-air and somehow swivels to face the doctor. “I am demoralizing these Orion pigs.” Leonard has discovered that Noreh takes great pleasure in referring to his enemies as “Human-raised livestock—perfect, no?” Next he’ll be labeling the Federation as a flock of dumb sheep. Which isn’t necessarily slander… McCoy doesn’t finish that (traitorous but true) thought.
“Well, demoralize ’em on someone else’s watch. I am required to check these pigs over for the medical section of the debriefing.”
Bringing his foot down with a small, ominous boom, Noreh bares his rows of teeth. The silent Valissan crew who’ve been shadowing the walls (McCoy hasn’t noticed until now) step up behind their leader.
Len’s got his hands in the air in an instant, in surrender. “Look, Captain, you are a guest on this ship—a welcome guest,” Noreh snorts his appreciation, “but still a guest, nonetheless. Let me do my job—and you can go back to your… performance, alright?”
“I will permit this interlude.”
McCoy mumbles a reply that he’s wise enough not to say coherently or loudly.
“Jim, when I see you next…”
That threat, at least, he can pleasingly voice; he does so in a thick Southern drawl that has one particularly demented Valissan space pirate hooting in delight.
“I miss Christine,” Leonard announces as he plops down in the nearest chair in the Captain’s quarters. (Why does he always end up here? Right, he sleeps with the Captain now.)
“The Enterprise’s medical facilities are competently staffed; we do not require another fully licensed physician such as Dr. Chapel.”
“Ever logical, you green-blooded hobgoblin. Doesn’t that get old?”
“Old? Perhaps you can clarify your meaning, Doctor.”
“Never mind,” he says with severe depression. Spock is not yet convinced of McCoy’s anguish; he merely raises an eyebrow. “What I’m saying is… I miss Christine ’cause she was the only sane person to ever grace the Enterprise! Besides myself, of course.”
Spock makes no comment.
Leonard gets to the point. “Jim’s a fool and we’re fools too, for letting him be foolish.”
“We do not ‘let’ the Captain, Doctor.”
“You mean we don’t have a say in any of his crazy ideas.”
“On the contrary, we often temper his impulsive actions.”
This makes Leonard smile, because damned if it isn’t true. Jim needs them—he won’t forget that.
McCoy sits up from his slump. “I should have never agreed to tell Kirk about the Valissans’ ‘request for transport.'”
Spock comes to stand beside his knee, solid and practical as ever. “I recall that you were not given the opportunity to choose. Should you have denied their demand for boarding the Enterprise, it may have escalated into a difficult—and dangerous—situation for our crew.”
“They didn’t really threaten me, Spock.”
The Vulcan’s eyes are serious, then. “Did they not harm you in the past?”
“Yes…” McCoy trails off, refuses to rub at the sudden tinge in his back.
“Then you are aware of their vicious nature, despite the front they present.”
“…You don’t like them, do you, Spock?”
“I am wary of any species that commits an act of violence without provocation.” I dislike them for hurting you, he means and Leonard hears that well enough beneath the actual words.
“Yeah, well. Jim is enamored of Noreh.”
Spock’s voice holds an imperceptible lilt that contains vestiges of amusement from his human-half. “The Captain is also adept at masking his true feelings. While I do not doubt that he takes illogical joy in this ‘pirate hunting,’ I also know that he has spoken with Captain Noreh pertaining to your treatment—of the past and of the future.”
McCoy has no words because Spock just admitted that Jim has played his protector to a band of sharp-toothed, slightly uncivilized rogues. He imagines Jim waving them into a conference room for an ‘admirable talk’ and then turning a shark’s smile on them all. (They’ve never faced a man like James T. Kirk.) If it sends a shiver up his spine, he cannot say whether it’s in fear or delight.
(And if it warms the cockles of his heart, he lets the ember smolder just below the surface.)
Slowly he reaches out with his fingertips; Spock never hesitates to return the kiss. It’s a thank you and I love you in one simple gesture.
Maybe the Vulcans are on to something after all.
Armed with new knowledge, Doctor McCoy corners Captain Noreh as he comes out of the mess hall. McCoy grins, bouncing on the balls of his feet, and says, “Accompany me, good Captain. I have need of your Almighty wisdom.”
“Ah, of course, Doctor.” A hand slaps his shoulder much too hard, but he pays it no mind.
McCoy matches his stride to Noreh’s and they pace down the corridor. Behind his back, Leonard surreptiously checks a hypospray and slips it up his sleeve. He’s all smiles, which seems to please the Valissan captain.
“We were wondering, you know, since we have a stake in your… presence aboard our vessel—”
Noreh turns on him, grinning. “Do you enjoy working your way to a point?”
McCoy raises his eyebrow. “Why are you here, Noreh? What is it that we’re going to provide you besides transport, food, and pleasant hospitality?”
“Ah. Very good,” he says as if approving of a student’s response. “I appreciate a direct man, McCoy. For this alone, I may answer your questions.”
McCoy replies, “Oh I think you will.” And stabs a hypo full of sedative right into the Valissan arterial vein that runs around the top of the left shoulder (he double-checked that).
The pirate has a tight grip on his wrist—only for a moment—and begins to waver on his feet. He utters (again), “V-very good” before collapsing in an undignified heap.
McCoy presses the wall-comm for Security. He then meets the gaze of the Captain and First Officer, who’ve been waiting around the corridor turn. Leonard reports, “One Valissan, served just how you like it.”
Jim barks out a laugh and squeezes McCoy’s arm, smiling. “Excellent work, Bones. Shall we prepare the interrogation room?”
Captain Noreh’s grumpiness upon awakening to shackles is predictable. But he falls short of their expectations spectacularly by blinking open his one eye and bursting into laughter.
Spock, who is playing interrogator, acknowledges this response with his usual calm façade. “I fail to understand the humor of your situation, Sir.”
Guess Vulcan training comes is handy after all, McCoy thinks as he watches from the sidelines. Never’ll tell Spock that, though.
“I find your gall quite funny, First Officer Spock.”
The Vulcan’s eyebrow goes up. “Indeed, it appears so. May I inquire why?”
“You are pirates at heart, you prove such to me.” He raises his shackled wrists and shakes them, chuckling at the clank-clank.
“We are military-trained. It is necessary to understand how to effectively disarm and disable an enemy in battle.”
“Yes, yes! Battle! Tell me, you Vulcan, what is it we battle for, hmmm? What will I get if I am victor?” Noreh relaxes into his seat. “KIRK!” he hollers. “Kirk, tell me what my prize will be!”
“Jim,” McCoy whispers. “Just let him talk. He’s captured, and he knows it.”
Jim relaxes under McCoy’s hand. “I’ll give Spock ten minutes before I’m going in there—crazy space pirate or not.”
“Alright.” There is not much McCoy can effectively argue about at this point. He turns his attention back to the on-going banter of questions. Noreh seems intent on talking in circles, Spock just as smoothly straightens them into lines. Both are sharp, and both are relentless.
McCoy feels a headache forming behind his eyes after listening to them for a full three minutes. Kirk looks a little pained too.
“I think Spock could use another ten or so,” Leonard suggests. Jim nods too quickly and heads for the door.
“How about we check on our Security Chief… see how he’s faring with the other captives.”
The door slides shut and there is the refreshing sound of quiet.
Jim and Leonard love Spock dearly, for all his Vulcan heart, but it is times like these when they are relieved to remove themselves from the line of fire. A Vulcan will debate a man to death (to say nothing of stamina), and then his corpse, no doubt. Even Leonard knows when to throw in the towel, but he has a sneaking—and happy—suspicion that Captain Noreh does not.
“Of all the absurd— What does he expect us to do about it?“
“I noted in multiple insistences during my conversation with the Valissan Captain that his thought process is highly illogical.” In other words, Spock is saying that he hasn’t a clue why the pirate thinks they will help his situation.
Jim looks pensive, as if he is almost considering this cause. “Bones, the man is disowned of his livelihood.”
“Yeah… AS A PIRATE! I’d say that’s cause for celebration, Jim.”
“Lord, you can’t be serious! The man tortures people and steals supplies from subsidized colonies!”
“Well, I know how I would feel if Starfleet had stripped me of my ability to be a Captain.”
“Not the same thing.”
“I agree with the Doctor, Jim. Noreh is notorious for his unlawful—and unethical—escapades. As I recall informing you, we are harboring a criminal of the Federation, in violation of Reg—“
McCoy wants to throw his hands up in the air at them both. Instead, he turns on his heel and marches out of the Captain’s ready-room. Let them argue over this ridiculous thing. He’s got a word or two for that crazy Valissan.
Doctor McCoy shoves Security out of the room with a “He’s chained to the chair, I’ll be fine. Now get!”
“How magnanimous of you to visit me during my unmerited incarceration, McCoy.” There is a glittering eye fixed on him.
“We’ve got business to discuss, you and me. Now,” he pulls out a chair opposite of Noreh, “tell me exactly why we—Starfleet officers sworn to justice—should help a lunatic scoundrel like yourself.”
“Simple. I am Valissan. It is my destiny to sail the sea of space and strike fear into the hearts of lawful men like yourself.”
Leonard doesn’t accuse You’ve been researching Terran history! because Noreh would either confirm that he is just that damned quixotic, or Leonard might incidentally inspire more insanity in the Valissan’s habits. Last thing he needs is a space pirate in leather AND spurs.
“I don’t see the connection here. If anything, you are arguing my case.”
For once, the Captain is silent. Then he says, in a normal voice (still deep and slightly creepy), “The crew I brought with me are the last of those loyal to my leadership. The other—“ he pauses to spit an indelicate word, “mutinied with the High Regent of our Piracy Guild and stole my ship.” He unfolds his fists flat, the chains making a soft chink against the steel table. “I am still a Captain, McCoy, but what good is a Captain without his ship? With no fellow Valissans who say his name in reverence and awe? They no longer speak of me; I am stricken from the only world I know as a soul is wrenched from the body in Death. My existence is purpose-less.”
Leonard really wants to put his head down and weep hysterical tears. Coming here was a bad idea; he actually feels sorry for this man—one who knowingly ordered his whipping with an uncaring wave of his hand. Is Leonard truly this messed up—to sympathize with the enemy? To feel anything but hate for the enemy?
He is stuck between a rock and a hard place—his Hippocratic oath. Jim is right, of course, because this Valissan suffers as much as Admiral Kirk did bound to the Earth. His nature is denied. On the other hand, McCoy realizes that to allow a mad-man back into a business that harms others…
“Well, Doctor, what words have you for me?”
Leonard looks Noreh in the eye and says, “We can help you, but we won’t—unless you agree to our terms first.”
Now Noreh eyes him warily. “And what terms are those?”
Suddenly, Noreh isn’t all that intimidating to Len. He’s vulnerable and in need. McCoy leans back, smiles genuinely for the first time since the start of his day. “We’re going to rearrange how you conduct your pirate business, Captain.”
McCoy is far from a heartless man, but he plans to win this particular war.
Note: If I persist in writing in this particular pirate-landen universe of mine, I am going to need a name for it. My brain is stumped. Any suggestions?
Last part… One Ship of Surprise