by K.V. Wylie

The note was all Vulcan - concise, directly to the point, and bare of explanation.

"The captain and I are going to Vulcan."

The note popped up in Dr. McCoy's personal messages folder along with an advertisement for Klingon Tribble Be-Gone. He received the note before he knew Spock had left.

"What the hell...?" McCoy said to no one, and jumped when Christine Chapel's voice sounded behind him.

"Someone was going to do that eventually, Len."

"Go to Vulcan?"

Christine tapped his computer screen. "Make a repellent. Even since the big Tribble outbreak on Hypolaxis, the Klingons will pay anything to get rid of those little animals. I heard their last Prime Minister died in his mistress's bed from Tribble asphyxiation."

"It wasn't the tribbles that did it," McCoy said distractedly.

"That's what Scotty told me."

"Before or after his evening scotch?"

Christine sighed at him. As she was leaving the room, McCoy asked, "Did Spock and Jim sign out on your shift?"

She nodded. "A shuttle picked them up at oh three hundred. Scotty has the con. The captain didn't look well. Neither do you, actually."

"I'm fine."

"It takes a long time for body tissue to get rid of Cordrazine."

Turning his back on her, he muttered, "Excuse me, you're talking to a doctor."

He heard something about nurses having the patience of saints before the door closed. The truth was he didn't feel good, but it had nothing to do with the Cordrazine.

Had he said something to make Spock leave? He didn't think Spock would hold anything he'd said in the delirium of the overdose against him. Was it after? Something during the confusion on the street when he'd tried to rush to Edith Keeler, but had been held back by Kirk's ferocious grip? Or afterwards, when Spock was trying to explain while people screamed and sirens burst against his eardrums...and Kirk was turned away in silent anguish?

The day before the defective hypospray went off in McCoy's hand, there'd been a singular development. Tensions had been escalating between he and Spock for some months, for reasons McCoy hadn't wanted to examine too closely. He'd been uneasy around the Vulcan, and had had some curious thoughts, usually late at night when he was alone in his cabin and trying to sleep. Conversations with Spock would stay logged in his brain. Images of those graceful ears or arched eyebrows would dance in front of McCoy's eyes.

Physical arousal accompanied the unwanted thoughts. Normally, McCoy would masturbate, but doing so with Spock in his head was more than he could handle. Fantasies about men were one thing, but fantasies concerning that irritating Vulcan were far beyond McCoy's comfort zone.

The results were restless nights and annoyance with every word coming out of that Vulcan's mouth. McCoy and Spock's nitpicking arguments became so bad that even Kirk headed for cover at the first sign of a storm cloud.

The events on Organia brought things to a head, in a couple of ways. After Ayelborne put his foot down with Kor and Kirk, and turned into a ball of light, he made one final stop before becoming completely disembodied. In Sickway, where McCoy and Spock had cleared a room with their tirade, Ayelborne popped up between them and groused, "Enough is enough! You've given everyone on the higher planes migraines with your incessant arguing. Work it out or, by the gods, I'll make you both lice on the backside of a Rigellian Hoar-Butt."

He popped away, leaving two stunned-into-silence men behind. From what they knew of the Organians, it wasn't an empty threat.

After a long time, McCoy whispered, "Do you think it's safe to speak now?"

UnVulcanly, Spock asked, "Do you feel lucky?"

McCoy stared at him. "Was that an idiom?"

"What did you call me?"

"Om. Om! IdiOM!" McCoy emphasized. "Not--"

"Sssh," Spock told him. "It would be logical for us to understand why we have so many...discussions."

McCoy sat down glumly. "I suppose you have a theory."

"I do. Our debates are a symptom of emotional disturbance."

"Spock, are you saying we're nuts?"


"Insane. If that's the best theory you have, then I sure hope we like being lice."

Spock shook his head. "I am not speaking of insanity." But he seemed unwilling to go on.

After a couple of minutes, McCoy glanced up. "Do you think he's still listening to us?"

"I am sure our personal concerns are insignificant to the Organians," Spock said. "It's the emotions."

"As you're so fond of telling me, Vulcans don't have emotions."

"They do," Spock said softly. "The basis of Vulcan culture is control. There are appropriate times and places for the release of emotions; otherwise, they are to be managed."

"We debate because we, as in both of us, are having trouble controlling our emotions?"

Spock clasped his hands behind his back and assumed a formal stance. "Doctor, I think about you."

McCoy's stomach did a flip-flop. "When you're thinking about me, you're not thinking about, say, sending me out a torpedo chute without a space suit, are you?"

"I did once." He paused. "Twice."

McCoy edged his chair away from Spock. "And the other times?"

"Doctor, I have no wish to harm you."

"But these other thoughts didn't involve my, uh, demise, did they?"

"No," Spock said. He gave McCoy an unreadable look. "Now it is your turn."

"I think about..." McCoy shifted. "Look, I've been burned already."


"I'm leery about answering, all right?"

"No, it is not all right. Tell me."

McCoy looked away and said, "I think about you."

"Do you think about me at night when you are trying to rest?"

The Vulcan's low voice sent a throb through McCoy. In frustration, he said, "How the hell did this happen?"

Spock pulled up a chair beside him and sat down. "Emotional disturbance," he concluded, with the voice of a beleaguered scientist who has finally proven his point.

"Damn Organians."

"I disagree with the sentiment."

"Of course. You always disagree with me. It's been the story of my life on this ship."

"We could change the pattern. Change the basis of our relationship."

"Are you saying there's a logical way to proceed?" McCoy asked humorlessly. "Do you think we can sit here and dissect everything down into little psycho-theoretical chunks?"

"We could change how we interact."

"Spock, I'm tired. Come to the point."

"As you wish," Spock said, and put his hand on McCoy's groin.
McCoy jumped and slammed his knee hard under his desk. In real pain, he said, "For heaven's sakes, warn someone when you're going to do that."

"Do you wish me to leave?"

"No," McCoy swallowed. "I don't know how it is for Vulcans, but humans need some lead in."

"Should I touch your ankle first?" Spock asked, not expecting an answer. "These considerations are much easier on Vulcan."

"Do people just jump into bed there?"

"Jump?" Spock echoed. "I meant, once we have decided on a course of action, we engage on it."

"Just like that?"

"Just like that."

"I, uh, can see the benefits of that."

Spock stroked McCoy's fingers. "Leonard, let us take each other to bed."

Which they did.

The accident with the hypospray came the next day, and then everything with the Guardian. Too much had happened too quickly, and now McCoy couldn't even get hold of Spock to talk
to him about it.

And what was Spock doing on Vulcan with the captain?

McCoy went to the bridge. Despite having command, Scotty wasn't there and McCoy had to track him through the lairs of engineering. He found the Scotsman happily wedged between an access hatch and a toolbox the size of a shuttle. McCoy could just see the top of Scotty's head.

"Is something wrong?" McCoy asked. There seemed to be a lot of equipment lying in pieces on the floor.

"Nae, Leonard. Just giving my wee bairns a spank and a tickle." So saying, Scotty picked up a crescent wrench bigger than his arm and proceeded up the hatch.

"I wanted to ask you something," McCoy said, having to shout over the sounds of metallic banging which had followed Scotty's ascent.

"Go ahead then," Scotty replied.

McCoy paused as a crewman walked by. "It's private."


"It's private!"

"I didnae hear ye."

The crewman stuck his head up beside Scotty's legs and yelled, "DR. MCCOY SAYS IT'S PRIVATE!" At the shout, three other crew members popped their heads around the corridor to see what was going on.

"Tell him to come on up!"

The crewman turned to McCoy. "He says to--"

"I heard him," McCoy said quickly. He scaled the toolbox, eyed the cramped interior of the tube, and had second thoughts, however there were too many people still within earshot. Taking a breath, he crawled in and inched up.

It was a horrible squeeze. The tube was meant for one-person access, and Scotty had his wrench in there as well. McCoy's nose ended up a bare half inch from the other man's. Other parts were pressed tighter than clamshells.

"What dae ye want, Leonard?" Scotty asked casually, his attention on some wiring.

McCoy glanced around. "I don't know why we don't turn this tube into crew quarters. I could put a nice ottoman over there."

"Hold this," Scotty said, and handed him a bolt. "Don't drop it."

"Drop it? A mosquito couldn't get between us," McCoy mumbled. "When Spock and Jim left, did they say anything to you?"

"Aye. They said goodbye."

"Nothing else? Did they say when they'd be coming back?"

Scotty shifted to reach a knob. The action pulled McCoy's elbow along with him. "No, Leonard."

"I just wondered if Spock might have said anything."

"About what? Och, be careful! Don't touch that cable."

"What one?" McCoy could see cables out of the corner of his eye, but didn't have enough room to turn his head for a better look.

Scotty gave him a wire. "Don't let this touch the green cable."

"Green one? What green one? I see an orange one."

"Do ye still have that bolt?"

"It's somewhere..." McCoy tried to look down without moving the hand holding the cable.

"I see it." Scotty fished down between them. "Is that all ye want to ask?"

McCoy held his breath until Scotty found his bolt. "I guess so."

The Scotsman flashed him a look. "Leonard, I've known ye for many years now. Suppose ye tell me what this is all about?"

"We're not in the best position for this," McCoy said miserably, hoping but unable to tell if the cable he was holding was still away from the green or orange one.

Scotty relieved him of the wires. "Och, ye stubborn man."

"Spock and know," McCoy said. "Though we didn't get as close as--" He tried to move his leg and couldn't. "--as this!"

"The two of you did what?"

McCoy whispered in Scotty's ear, feeling horribly awkward.

"You don't say!" Scotty said. "Congratulations."


"Ye have been alone a long time, Leonard."

McCoy eyed him. "And this doesn't surprise you at all?"

Scotty tried to shrug. "Nae. If that's what ye like, then that's what ye like. So, what's the problem?"

"The problem is that he took off with the captain without saying anything to me."

"I see," Scotty said. "But Leonard, there's naught goin' on between them. The captain has a fair way with the lassies. Would ye hand me my socket driver? It's on my belt at the back."

McCoy braced one hand on Scotty's shoulder while groping  cautiously with the other. "What does it feel like?"

"It's a mite smaller than what you're holding right now."

"Sorry." McCoy said. "Is it this?"

"No. Leonard, it's on my belt," he emphasized.

McCoy managed to locate and shimmy the tool into Scotty's hand.

As Scotty replaced a panel, he said, "Leonard, doan ye worry. If something were to be between Mr. Spock and the captain, it would have happened by now." He let the crescent wrench slide out of the shaft, which freed up some room between them.

"When I was in earth's past in the Mission house, I saw Jim and Spock's room. There were two beds, but one was covered with machinery and wires."

"That would be a begging sight," Scotty said in sympathy. "Did ye ask Mr. Spock about it?"

"I didn't have a chance, and now they've taken off together."

"Ye could send a message. They would likely be at Ambassador Sarek's."

"No," McCoy told him. "I will not demean myself by being clingy." To prove his point, he let go of Scotty's shoulder, and abruptly dropped two feet down the shaft.

Wincing, he probed his back where it felt as though he'd lost several layers of skin.

Scotty looked down. "While you're there, would ye hand me my--?"

"No!" McCoy retorted, though the effect was muffled by his face being in the Scotchman's stomach. "Suck in so I can get out."

Scotty obliged. After McCoy cleared the rest of the shaft, he stood slowly and said, "I'm putting you on a diet."

"Och, this is what I get for being supportive."

McCoy looked up at him. "Sorry. Thank you, Scotty, but it doesn't help. I saw their room. He should have said something before he left."

"Aye," Scotty agreed.

McCoy left him to his repairs and returned to Sickbay where, over the next weeks, he became known as Doc Crankypants. No messages came from Vulcan and McCoy now believed one night was all Spock had wanted. Even Christine, who was not normally impressed by his moods, left him alone.

It was the evening of the ship's annual masquerade when the captain and first officer returned. The masquerade celebrated the anniversary of the first contact between Earthlings and Vulcans. Because of that, many crewmembers dressed as Vulcans, complete with pointed ears, folk costume, and masks.

The party had taken Spock aback the first time he'd seen it. Vulcans didn't celebrate such events, and Kirk had had to practically order Spock to attend. The other costumes were so vivid that the evening turned into a game of Find-The-Real-Vulcan. The winner was rumoured, though never confirmed, to be Uhura who had left the party smiling like a cat with feathers in her mouth.

The party was well underway by the time McCoy heard that Spock was back. He was at the bar drinking replicated alcohol when Scotty, in full kilt and half in the bag himself, came up to him and said, "Mr. Spock's here, Leonard."

McCoy looked around at the plethora of masked 'Vulcans'. "How can you tell?"

"He just spoke to me. The captain's on the bridge."

"And is he going back up there?" McCoy muttered.

"Nae. Mr. Spock's here looking for ye, so he told me," Scotty replied. "He has a black mask with feathers."

"That narrows it down," McCoy sighed, as a line of people in similar headgear went by him. "Anyway, I don't give a flying Ferengi's ass if he is here."

"Stubborn," Scotty warned as he downed a glass. Then he scowled and asked loudly, "Whose Still is this concoction from? Lieutenant Braden? My grandmother was making better when ye were still at yer mother's teat." He burrowed into the crowd in search of the now-hiding Lieutenant.

McCoy leaned against the wall, nursing his drink. Most of the crew had chosen to dress as Vulcans again this year, and the lines of pointed ears going by were unsettling when he was trying to avoid a certain pointy-eared someone.

The doctor was getting ready to sneak out when a Vulcan in a blue shirt and black eye mask touched his arm and said, "Leonard."

McCoy yanked his arm free. "Stay away from me," he said angrily.

"I only wanted to ask you what you thought of this," said the Vulcan. He lifted up his mask to reveal a surprised Sulu.

"I'm sorry. I thought you were someone else." McCoy glanced at the container in Sulu's hand. "What's that?"

"Tribble Be-Gone," Sulu said. "Chekov wants me to go in on a shipment with him. He says there's money in it. Do you think this stuff really works?"

"The Klingons haven't discovered anything yet that works, and they've been quite diligent." McCoy pressed the spray top. Blue, highly-perfumed foam splattered out.

He took an involuntary step backwards. "I can tell you that the smell alone would keep me away."

"It is strong," Sulu agreed. "The weird thing is, the crew have been buying them like crazy from Chekov."

"Our crew?" McCoy blinked. "But there aren't any tribbles on board ship."

"I know. I don't understand it. That's why I thought I'd ask you."

McCoy took the container, gingerly avoiding the spray button. "I'll take it to the lab and see what's in it."

"Thanks, doc," Sulu said. "By the way, who did you think I was?"


"When I first came up to you, and you told me to leave you alone."

McCoy shook his head. "No one."

"Are you and Commander Spock having another of your famous feuds?" Sulu asked.

"No," McCoy said quickly, hoping the Organians weren't listening in. "Absolutely not. I haven't even seen him this evening, and I don't care to. Not that there's any problem, because there isn't. I'm just extremely busy and I need to go do...something."

"Uh huh," Sulu said with a roll of his eyes. "Did you know there's a rumour going around about you and him?"

McCoy was generally up on all ship's gossip, and he eyed Sulu as if he thought the latter was playing a joke on him. "I've heard nothing, because there's, uh, nothing to talk about except that he's, well, really annoying."

"Chekov heard it from Yeoman Chang whose roommate's cousin is dating one of the engineering techs." Sulu lowered his voice. "The rumour is that you and Mr. Spock are sleeping together."

McCoy threatened Sulu with the Tribble Be-Gone. "He's been on Vulcan. I've been here. It's not physically possible. And which tech is spreading this--?"

Sulu stepped back quickly, though McCoy's he-doth-protest-too-much-protest had clinched it for him. "I'm just letting you in on the grapevine. There was a pool going as to who would get the Vulcan nuggets. The captain was the heavy favorite."

"My God." McCoy stared at him. "People were betting? And no one gave me a chance to go in?"

"As if we'd let you put money down now," Sulu said. "If I see Mr. Spock, do you want me to tell him where you are?"

"If you see that Vulcan, you can tell him to avoid Sickbay or he might end up with a large scanner up his chassis."

Sulu lowered his mask to hide a smile, and returned to the festivities.

"Of all the..." McCoy muttered. He looked for his drink which appeared to have wandered off. A few minutes later, a sleek-looking Vulcan with petite, pointed ears came up to him.

"I lost ten credits because of you."

McCoy took a deep breath. "Look, whoever you are--"

Uhura lifted her mask. "Sulu just confirmed that you got the Vulcan booty. I had ten credits on the captain."

"Sulu!" McCoy yelled angrily.

"Leonard, it was already going around the ship," Uhura said. "Sulu didn't start it. Anyway, he says that you and Mr. Spock are having a fight. Are you ok? Do you want to talk about it?"

In a dangerously low voice, McCoy said, "When have I ever, in all the time you've known me, asked for any help whatsoever with personal concerns? Hmm?"

"We love you, and we all know now."

"We?" McCoy echoed.

"Christine and the bridge crew and Dr. M'Benga..."

"Geoff knows too?"

Uhura patted his arm. "We're happy for you, except that none of us bet on you in the pool."

"Why don't you go find Spock and be happy for him for a while?" McCoy studied her. "Why is your tongue blue?"

"I'm not telling," Uhura said, with a mischievous grin. "If I see Mr. Spock, I'll tell him that you--"

"Don't even go there," McCoy cut in.

"Yeah, yeah," she murmured, and gave him a kiss on the cheek before slipping back into the party.

"...damn...pain in the..." he mumbled as he tried to make his way through the throng.

A tall, thin Vulcan grabbed his sleeve.

"If you don't want to undergo a very invasive medical procedure, you will release my arm," McCoy said.

"It's me, Len." Christine lifted up her mask. "I just wanted to give you and Mr. Spock my best."

Guilt washed over McCoy. Christine had deep feelings for Spock, and having heard the news through the grapevine, rather than from him, was unfair.

"I'm sorry, Chris," McCoy tried, but she interrupted him with a hug.

"You're a caring and decent man, Len. Don't let him forget it. I know that, at the moment, the two of you are going through a bad patch..."

McCoy eyed her uncertainly. "What, exactly, have you heard? And why are your fingers blue?"

"No reason," she said hurriedly, putting her hands behind her back. "Chekov told me that you and Mr. Spock were having problems in the--" She dropped her voice. "Bedroom."

McCoy felt the beginnings of a monster migraine. "Chris, I haven't spoken to Spock since he left six weeks ago. I don't mean that to sound as though I'm deliberately not speaking to him. I just haven't seen him."

"But you are angry with him. You've been upset since he left."

He couldn't deny that, especially to someone who worked with him every day. "Don't worry about me, and will you tell Chekov to shut up?"

"It's not just him, Len. Everybody's talking about you." She pulled her mask back down and rejoined the celebration, leaving McCoy wishing he could hide on a distant planet for the next ten years.

He tried to leave once more, but another Vulcan stepped in his path.

This one was short.

McCoy tried to make out the features behind the feathered eye-piece. "Chekov?"

The navigator removed his mask glumly. "What gave it away?"

McCoy grabbed his collar. "Do you know what I'm willing to do to you right now, even if it means losing my rank? And why is the skin around your mouth blue?"

Chekov jerked away with real trepidation. The doctor might be slender, but he wasn't a weakling. "I just want to wish you and Mr. Spock well."

"Stuff it," McCoy retorted. "I heard what you've been saying about me, about having problems in the bedroom..."

"No, Ensign Connors said that, but she heard it from someone in Engineering. I've been telling people I didn't think it was true," Chekov said. "You can ask Dr. M'Benga. He was there. Anyway, he said erectile dysfunction is very treatable."

The headache began pounding at McCoy's temples. "This is the most embarrassed I've ever been in my life."

"Mr. Spock shouldn't be mad at you about it. But don't tell him I said that. He's my commanding officer."

"He's not...I'M not..." McCoy spluttered. "For God's sakes, everything works fine! I fathered a daughter, didn't I???"

At the outburst, party-goers around them silenced and looked over.

"Yes, you ALL heard me!" McCoy told them.

A voice at the back asked, "So it's Mr. Spock who can't raise the tentpole?"

McCoy turned back to Chekov. "Why the hell is your mouth blue?"

"N-no reason," Chekov stuttered, and vamoosed back into the crowd.

The glare on McCoy's face gave him an unimpeded aisle to the door. Everyone moved aside.

Once in the hall, he debated going to his quarters, decided that Spock would only look for him there, and went to one of the less-used labs in the rear of Sickbay.

Spock found him as he was running an analysis on the Tribble Be-Gone. After removing his mask, Spock stood uncertainly in the doorway. "Leonard, I've been looking for you all evening. I heard some distressing talk."

McCoy turned his back on the Vulcan and bent over an electron microscope.

"Are you angry with me?" Spock asked.

"I was six weeks ago, but it's gotten much worse since then."

"Why?" Spock asked.

"Why?" McCoy whirled around. "WHY? You have to ask? You're the damn mind-reader."

"That's not strictly true," Spock tried.

"Leave me alone, Spock."

"Leonard, I thought we were partners."

"Partners? YOU took off with Jim, doing God knows what."

"I took him to Vulcan. I left you a note."

"Some note. And you took him to Vulcan, because...?"

The fury behind the low, tightly-clipped words literally threw Spock off-balance. Putting his back against the wall, he said carefully, "Jim was grieving over Edith Keeler. Vulcan can be," he paused. "Peaceful."

"Especially with you there to make it so."

"Such was my intention when I accompanied him."

"Spare me the details of where and how often you relaxed him."

The concept of double-meaning was still new to Spock. It took him a minute to work through what the doctor had said.

"You think that the captain and I have engaged in sexual activity? Leonard, no. I have committed myself solely to you."

"You failed to mention that tiny detail before you left," McCoy retorted. "I have a reason why it's hard for me to believe you."

"Which is?"

"In Miss Keeler's Mission, you and Jim shared a room."


"Spock, I saw the room. There were two beds and one was covered with junk." McCoy crossed his arms defensively over his chest. "Where did you sleep?"

"On the second bed."

"Where did the captain sleep?"

"On the second bed."

"You see where I'm going on this?"

The microscope beeped. The doctor turned his attention to it, which put his back to the Vulcan.

Spock took a few steps towards McCoy. "Leonard, I understand. The appearance is bad."

"It was quite the appearance...the sight of that room and then the two of you taking off to Vulcan together. It hurt, Spock."

"I did not mean to hurt you, and I apologize. Leonard, you are not second choice to the captain, nor are he and I intimate. We never have been. We did not share the bed in the Mission. We took turns."

McCoy didn't answer.

"Leonard," Spock tried again. "For me, there is only you." He closed the distance between them, but McCoy still wouldn't look at him. "You told me that you had been 'burned'. I have been also, though for a different reason. When I entered Starfleet, I served under Captain Christopher Pike. I served under him for eleven standard years."

Quietly, McCoy asked, "Where you and he--?"

"No. You are the second male I have been with, but the first was a Vulcan, and it was..." Spock fished for a word. "Exploration." He paused. "Captain Pike grew very tired near the end. He felt too deeply. In the eleventh year that I knew him, he took a woman and married her. She was a crew member. She died under his command. It was her death or the death of many others. Captain Pike resigned. He could not return to a command, and I was not able to help him."

McCoy finally looked over. "That poor man."

"Jim is much like him. When Miss Keeler died, I could not stand by again and do nothing."

McCoy laid his hand on Spock's. "I wish I'd known."

"You are correct, Leonard. I should have left a better note," Spock said. "Now I have something to ask you. At the masquerade, I overheard some talk."

"Talk? It's a wonder the hulls haven't melted down there. What did you hear?"

Spock looked pained. "I am unable to perform adequate sexual functions, and you and Mr. Scott were intimate in an access tube."

McCoy's eyebrows lifted. "Me and Scotty? Holy shit, Spock.  No! I admit I was in a tube with him because I wanted to talk to him without all his people listening."

"The two of you were in a tube together?"

"I guess the appearance of that is pretty bad as well."

Spock's eyes sparkled humorously. "Leonard, stay out of access tubes."


"I need to ask you something else. Why do so many of the crew have blue marks on their skin?"

"Have you heard of Tribble Be-Gone?" McCoy gave the container to Spock who looked at it dubiously.

"I saw an advertisement. We do not have any tribbles on board."

"That's not why the crew's buying them. I ran a spectrum on the ingredients. It contains glycerin, wheat protein, blue dye, starch to make it sticky, and a few lesser chemicals that make it smell like flowers. And--" McCoy couldn't keep from smiling. "Testosterone. It's chock full of it."

Spock squirted out a small dab of the foam and rubbed it between his fingers. "It tingles."

"Put it on the right spot and it'll make you horny as hell."

Their eyes met.

Spock spoke first. "The blue dye is a concern."

"It would fade in a day or two, and if the dye was in a place we'd normally keep covered up..." McCoy watched an intrigued Vulcan eyebrow slowly rise.

"Perhaps you and I should go somewhere more private," Spock suggested. He kissed the doctor, then picked up the Tribble Be-Gone and led McCoy out the door.

Spock was late reporting to the bridge the next morning. Kirk went looking for him and found him and McCoy in the latter's office.

"You are planning on working today, aren't you, Spock?" Kirk asked. It was the first time the Vulcan had not been punctual and, after hearing the latest ship's gossip, Kirk was having a hard time keeping a straight face.

"I will attend to my duties right away," Spock said.

"Before you do, would you care to tell me why you're late?"

"Medical reasons," McCoy said.

"I bet," Kirk said. "If either of you are interested, the winner has been declared in the pool."

"What pool?" McCoy asked innocently.

"As if you aren't the worst offender for shipboard gambling, Bones," Kirk told him. "You know which pool." He eyed the hedging men before him.

At last, McCoy asked, "Who won?"

"Admiral Nogura." Kirk had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing at the expression that went across the doctor's face. Even the Vulcan cool ruffled.

"Nogura bet on me?" McCoy asked, stunned.

"It's the first time I've ever seen the Old Man so happy," Kirk said. "He called this morning, wanting his money. It paid out thirty to one."

McCoy buried his face in his hands. "Nogura knows? Dear God, that means soon the whole Fleet will know."

Unable to stop himself, Kirk started to laugh. When he was able to catch his breath, he said, "I'm happy for you both, especially if it means the two of you will be fighting less." He favoured them each with a captain's glare. "You are going to be fighting less?"

"Absolutely," Spock said as McCoy chimed in with, "Of course."

Then, warmly, Kirk said, "I do mean it. You have my support.And Spock, I'd appreciate it if you'd report to the bridge sometime before the morning's out."

"Yes, Captain."

Kirk turned to the door, but paused and turned back with a curious look. "By the way, why do you both have blue tongues?"

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