Title: Doctor’s Reckoning
Fandom: Star Trek TOS
Characters: Kirk, Spock, McCoy
Summary: When the Enterprise’s CMO is in a bad mood, no one voluntarily comes near him except for the bravest of the brave.
A/N: Triumvirate fluff to pass the time.
Dr. Leonard McCoy grudgingly gives credit where credit is due: Vulcans have exceptional reflexes. In dismay, he watches the pH electrode he had thrown at one such Vulcan’s head bounce along the floor in precisely the spot where the target had stood before a neat side-step removed him from the path of the projectile.
“I knew it,” the doctor grumps to the officer’s back. “You have eyes in the back of your head.”
Spock glances over his shoulder at McCoy, imperturbable as ever. “Of course not, Doctor.”
He points at the electrode. “Then how do you explain that?”
The Vulcan only chides him, “You should not waste supplies.”
Leonard rolls his eyes and faces the lab counter. “You should make yourself useful instead of pestering me.” He draws closer to the counter, adding in a mutter, “By god, what was I thinking to agree to this?”
Spock answers for him, “The choice was logical. You require a laboratory to work in, and Science has the availability.” Following a slight pause, Spock wants to know, “Should I leave?”
“Of course not,” Leonard is quick to reply, faintly alarmed that Spock has mistaken his complaint as an indication of unwelcome. “It’s your lab after all. I only meant…” He falters. “Meant don’t just stand there. That makes me uncomfortable.”
Spock pivots away from his computer station, locking his hands behind his back, and approaches McCoy at a sedate pace.
With an internal sigh, Leonard turns back to his experiment once again. Should he admit his inattention for the task at hand is the result of a limited understanding of it? When Spock had pulled him away from his oversight of the Sickbay repairs and presented him with an assignment, the Vulcan had made the work sound intriguing, tantalizing even. Yet now that Leonard thinks back, the project’s description was sinuous, in a way deceptive, mayhap to obscure the crux of the problem—a notion so bizarre that it would only sound plausible to a dazzled, highly inquisitive mind.
Therefore, after an hour of struggling to formulate a feasible test plan, Leonard feels stuck, as though caught up in trying to prove a claim as unrealistic as ‘the cow jumped over the moon’. Like the child making his first efforts at testing the validity of such a tall tale, he has started to pick away at the fantasy of it: How could it be physically possible to jump that far? How long would it take? Who let the cow into space?
In other words, this experiment is clearly beyond his analytical capabilities. Yet as a doctor and a scientist, McCoy finds himself unable to accept defeat. And Spock is hardly helping matters, now perfectly positioned to watch the proceedings from over Leonard’s shoulder, his expression one of mild interest which could mean anything from expecting McCoy to make a major scientific breakthrough to waiting on him to cause the lab equipment to catch fire.
So telling Spock that he cannot tackle the proposed problem? Never, decides McCoy.
“I should check in with the technicians,” the doctor remarks while reaching for a photometer.
“Mr. Scott regularly reports on the progress of the restoration,” Spock offers in an assuring manner.
“Well, engineering genius or not, Scotty doesn’t have familiarity with our medical machines, Spock.”
“The Bularians do.”
McCoy’s temper, having simmered on low for some time, merely needs a spark to ignite, and the aforementioned race is the perfect fuel. He shoves the handheld photometer aside, rounding on his surveyor. “The Bularians—precisely whom we have to thank for having to rebuild the med bay in the first place!”
Spock leans back ever-so-slightly at the outburst in the same moment a door in the far wall slides open, spilling extra light into the room. “Doctor, I believe the Bularian leader apologized.”
Leonard grinds his back teeth, but before he can spit out his opinion of that all too brief apology—the nerve of those warriors!—the newcomer to the laboratory lends his: “Accidents happen, Bones.”
McCoy transfers his glare to the highest-ranking officer of the ship, unwilling to be placated. “If we were in the middle of nowhere when they destroyed the ‘Bay, you wouldn’t be so forgiving, Captain.”
Jim Kirk stills his forward momentum into the lab without halting the sweeping assessment he makes of the current situation; then resuming his stride, the man chooses to occupy a stool adjacent to McCoy and Spock. After crossing one leg over the other and locking his fingers around his knee, the look Kirk offers McCoy is primarily tolerant amusement.
“Fair enough,” the man states. “We were fortunate to be docked here. You don’t have to worry about a lack of facilities to treat patients, and having access to additional resources on the starbase, I can worry less about the setback to our schedule, not to mention how to budget for extensive repairs.” His gaze hardens, then. “But, McCoy, trust me—I thoroughly expressed my displeasure to Colonel Pakr for placing the Enterprise at risk.”
Spock adds, “The fault lies with the Colonel, who failed to notify Starbase Command of his pursuit of a renegade. While he may be willing to take responsibility for the collateral damage, Pakr has been duly informed he must undergo a formal hearing at Headquarters to address his disregard for the law.”
Kirk and Spock stare at Leonard as though they expect that announcement to relieve some of his frustration. He puts his back to both men. “If someone had died, that commander would be under arrest for manslaughter.”
“He’s aware of that,” Jim says softly. “Assisting in the repair of Sickbay is his attempt at reparation.”
“I know, Jim, but—”
“Bones, our duty is to be the better man. Someone else will take care of deciding the punishment. Let that be enough.”
Spock echoes, “I must agree with the Captain.”
Swallowing disappointment, McCoy focuses on telling the scientific tricorder he picks up what it will be measuring. When the silence in the lab stretches on too long, he points out, not looking up, “I’ve got work to do.”
Jim’s response, oddly enough, is “Why don’t we take a break? I hear there’s a festival on the base.” At McCoy’s frown, he adds more dryly, “Unfortunate circumstances aside, most of my crewmen seem to appreciate our extended shore leave.”
Leonard’s frown deepens. “Why would I leave the Enterprise?”
Kirk’s gaze sharpens. “That doesn’t sound like you.”
Leonard harrumphs, stealing a glance at his friend. But for some reason, Kirk is preoccupied, his gaze locked beyond McCoy, on Spock.
Leonard has long ago figured out there is nothing subtle about the way Jim and Spock communicate. Suppressing an urge to roll his eyes, he complains, “Stop that. I’m not deranged, possessed, or an imposter. I can be agreeable to staying aboard this tin can when the occasion calls for it.”
“Spock and I never thought otherwise.” Jim bridges the distance between them by laying a hand on the forearm Leonard has braced against the counter, giving it a brief squeeze. “Even so, a respite will do you good.” Standing up, the man waves away the importance of whatever task Leonard is in the middle of, coaxing, “C’mon, Bones.”
Spock moves to stand on Kirk’s left side, a tacit show of agreement.
Leonard is almost flabbergasted. “Spock, what about the experiment?”
“As there appears to be some difficulty in outlining an approach for it, Doctor, perhaps the theory I proposed is unsuitable to pursue.”
He opens his mouth, only to shut it a second later.
Jim ask curiously, “What was the theory?”
“A particularly… abstract application of the medico-sciences,” the Vulcan replies, uncharacteristically vague for someone known to be straightforward.
While Jim makes a thoughtful noise, Leonard sputters, having realized why Spock is hedging. “Wait a damn minute. Are you saying you didn’t think the theory could be tested? Then why the hell am I in your lab!”
Jim chokes even as he soothes, “Easy, Bones.”
Spock directs his response to Kirk. “Mr. Scott informed me that Dr. McCoy’s presence in the construction zone was negatively impacting the performance of the technicians. I thought it prudent to remove him from the area.”
Kirk grins, clapping a hand on the Vulcan’s shoulder. “Excellent work, Mr. Spock.”
McCoy is going to punch them. He just can’t decide which one to hit first. He hears himself make a high-pitched sound; were he a tea-kettle, no doubt steam would be curling out of his ears. The audacity of these two!
Jim’s other hand almost lazily latches onto the doctor’s upper arm. “No reason for us to linger here, gentlemen. Shall we take the transporter or the connector bridge?”
After a futile effort at digging in his heels, McCoy has to allow Kirk to steer him toward the laboratory exit, albeit like a reluctant puppy. “No transporters,” he says in warning, “unless you can find one that will shoot Spock all the way back to Vulcan.”
“Would you care to visit my homeworld, Dr. McCoy?” Spock inquires politely.
Jim bursts out laughing.
Leonard snaps his eyes closed, just for a moment. “Should have given the right cross to the hobgoblin first.”
“He means to say,” Jim interprets, “that he’ll have to take you up on that offer another time, Mr. Spock.”
“Jim!” Leonard cries, aghast.
Spock blinks placidly. “Very well.”
Deaf to further protests, Kirk leads his officers into the corridor and beyond.
“Lovely,” remarks the man, although Leonard cannot pinpoint exactly what his companion approves of. Afterwards, Kirk twists around to grin at McCoy, offering up one of the beer steins he had purchased at a food stall.
Leonard takes the stein and immediately hands it to the Vulcan beside him.
Moving farther into the starbase’s main plaza, Kirk sets a quick clip through the crowd flowing around them, every so often gesturing at a densely packed catwalk high above their heads or a line of colorfully dressed entertainers leaning against terraces to wave their fans invitingly at strangers. One such entertainer appears alongside them briefly then vanishes after assessing McCoy’s scowl. When a stall owner stops them to share a display of fans and other various trinkets, Jim admires the wares with an intensity that belies the gentle shake of his head. He beckons Spock and McCoy to follow him into the middle of the thoroughfare once more.
“Here,” Jim says a short while later, drawing to stop at a bench that isn’t fully occupied. “Wait for me.” He heads back along the way they had come, eventually disappearing from sight.
Crossing his arms over his chest, McCoy purses his mouth. “I bet Jim went back to haggle for a fan.”
Spock raises an eyebrow. “The environmental controls appear to be functioning properly, therefore a fan would serve no purpose.”
Leonard gestures at the people milling around clutching the object in question. “It’s not useful, Spock. It’s decorative.”
“No, you don’t,” Leonard retorts, “but don’t sweat it,” then chuckles to himself.
With a hint of long-suffering, the Vulcan rejoins, “Doctor, as you are well-aware Vulcans do not sweat.”
Leonard forgets in that second how irritable he has been feeling and flashes a grin at his companion. “I made a joke.”
Spock’s unmoved expression implies that the humor is lost on him.
Kirk returns looking pleased with himself. Before either Spock or McCoy can comment on the small folded fan in his hand, he presses it into Leonard’s palm. “Let’s move on,” he says, already turning away to lead the pair along the thoroughfare again.
Leonard huffs, gives the fan to Spock, and hurries after the quick-footed Kirk, his mouth determinedly resuming an unhappy line.
Some time—and several un-asked-for presents—later, McCoy puts his foot down quite literally and refuses to take another step.
“No,” he insists when Jim looks innocently from him to a table of clay statuettes and back again. “You don’t need that.”
“But,” Jim begins.
“Neither do I.” Leonard indicates their silent third. “Neither does Spock.”
Arms bearing all of Kirk’s gifts to McCoy, Spock states, “Dr. McCoy is correct.”
Jim’s mouth quirks. “That is a sentiment I don’t hear from you very often, Mr. Spock.”
“In dire circumstances, Captain, practicality must precede pride.”
“How’s this for practicality? The next thing you force on me,” Leonard threatens Jim, “I’ll toss in a recycler.”
Kirk straightens up, then, laying a hand over his heart with exaggerated affront. “You wouldn’t,” he challenges. “My gifts are precious.”
McCoy narrows his eyes. “Try me.”
“Well,” Jim says, his shoulders relaxing all of a sudden, “you have a new target, don’t you?”
Leonard demands, “What does that mean?”
Jim reaches out, places one hand solidly on the doctor’s shoulder. “Why should the Bularians bear the brunt of your fury, Bones?”
“Well I don’t know, Jim,” he drawls tightly. “Maybe because they boarded the Enterprise like a bunch of bandits? Because they destroyed Sickbay down to the last hypospray? Opened fire in a medical ward?”
The good humor in Kirk’s face is incongruent with the steel in his eyes. “All legitimate reasons to be angry, McCoy—but, tell me, what has anger gained you in the past week?”
“Don’t try counseling me, Captain.”
“Oh, I’m not. I’m simply reminding you that while you can be angry with me, in the presence of others I need you to exercise more control.”
Leonard stares. “Did you bring me out here to lecture me?”
Kirk sighs. “Of course not.” He looks away, then back at McCoy. “I had hoped not to have this conversation with you at all.” He pauses, starts again, “Bones…”
“You’re afraid,” Leonard realizes. “Of what?” A thought makes him snort. “Not of squaring off with the Bularians, surely?”
But Kirk doesn’t laugh, instead looks pained. “Please, try not to.”
Leonard couldn’t be more astonished. “Do you think I would…?” He jerks his head around to stare at Spock. “And you too?”
“Doctor,” Spock speaks carefully, “perhaps you do not realize the extent to which your actions have disturbed the Bularians.”
“All right, I’ll admit I might have breathed down their necks a bit while they were patching up the holes but—”
Jim starts to choke. “Bones, in Bularian society only the Supreme Commander of the militia is allowed to berate comrades or subordinates for disobedient or unlawful behavior.”
This is news to Leonard. “What?”
“In other words,” Jim goes on to explain gravely, “they think they’ve angered one of the leaders of our federation.”
Now Leonard chokes. “A-A what? Me? That’s, why, that’s—” Absurd!
“Quite an appalling thought,” supplies Spock. “Also, from the Bularians’ perspective, unimpeded expression of your disapproval implies you outrank Jim, who has mistakenly not made his ire over recent events known with the frequency or intensity which you have.”
Jim levels Spock with a nonplussed look.
Leonard sucks in a lungful of air, saying in a rush, “My god—I’m sorry, I didn’t know.”
Jim studies him, then. “So what do you say? Could you possibly ease up a little?”
McCoy pulls away from Kirk, rubbing at his bottom lip. The thought that he has been scaring the pants off the very devils who upturned his med bay is somewhat gratifying. But he also sees Jim’s point—and relents. “I suppose I could let them finish the repairs without my supervision.”
The relief in Kirk’s face is evident.
Leonard tacks on the condition, “If, once the construction is completed, you allow me to make the final goodbye to that Bularian colonel.”
Jim stares hard at the doctor for a moment, then nods his assent.
McCoy rocks back on his heels, indulging in one quick bounce. “Aren’t you going to ask why?”
“Absolutely not,” his captain informs him in a firm tone. “I prefer to be able to plead ignorance to my superiors.”
Leonard huffs and smiles the tiniest bit. He looks at Spock. “What about you? No burning desire to know my plan?”
“Doctor,” the Vulcan remarks with calm, “it is not my prerogative to guide you through the matters of diplomacy.” He adds after a short pause, “Though I suspect you may have argued your way out of that particular course requirement for a Starfleet officer.”
Jim isn’t quite able to hide a smile. “Are we done here?”
McCoy eyes his companions from head to toe before nodding agreeably. “We’re done.” He points at Spock. “Give me back my presents.”
Spock cocks his head. “I assumed ownership had been transferred.”
Leonard puffs up. “Why, you green-blooded—”
“Gentleman, please,” interrupts Kirk good-naturedly. “There is but one solution: we must backtrack and buy a second of each.”
Spock and McCoy stare at the man. Then Leonard looks around, slowly taking in the crowded market stalls, the dizzying colors, questionable smells, and overbearing noise of a celebration for which he has not yet determined a central theme other than chaotic fun. Leonard almost declares that he would rather share his gifts with Spock instead of partaking of more of the surrounding madness when he notices Kirk’s eyes are positively glowing at the prospect of a second shopping venture. Heaven forbid, Jim is actually enjoying himself at this festival.
McCoy huffs. He groans. He concedes, “I guess we can.”
“Doctor,” Spock murmurs in a subdued tone as Kirk spins away to prop his fists on his hips and survey the future ahead of them.
Leonard takes his half of the burden from the Vulcan’s arms, using the opportunity to lean in and whisper, “Time for another lesson in child-rearing, Spock. This is why both parents should take their offspring to festive events. One to restrain; another to keep track.”
After a moment of disbelief, Spock says, “We should have chosen the impossible experiment.”
Jim’s head swivels around, his expression curious as he tries to seek out the reason why Leonard is laughing hard enough to cry.
Spock’s exhale is stronger than usual. “Shall we proceed, Captain?”
With a dimpled grin, Kirk leads the charge back into the fray.
Note: Bularians are mentioned in TNG, episode “Journey’s End”. Since next to nothing is known about their race, I wielded some artistic license.