Aw, Hell

Title: Aw, Hell

Author: Nemo the Everbeing

Summary: In answer to the Ninth Wave Challenge: write a story
relating to Spock and McCoy's first meeting. McCoy's first day on
the Enterprise doesn't go nearly as well as he'd hoped.

Rating: PG-13 for some pre-slashy thoughts

Disclaimer: Don't own them.

* * * *

His first day on the Enterprise started innocently enough. Then
again, they usually did. He had come aboard, dropped his
possessions off at his cabin, and then made a beeline for sickbay.

And when he got there, he felt like he was home. Not only was it
well-equipped (best equipped medical facility he'd ever seen, if he
was honest), but the staff was friendly, and, most importantly, it
was *his* Sickbay. Climbing the damn chain of command was
apparently good for something.

He had wanted to go over the medical histories of the crew, to see
if there were any he should keep an eye on, of course, but things
had a way of turning out differently than he'd expected.

Starting with the Tamorian Flu.

Seemed to Leonard McCoy that this ship had gone to hell in a hand
basket without a CMO around to keep an eye on things. How else
would an entire crew start showing symptoms of an epidemic days in
the making?

Jim Kirk had been apologetic about the suddenness with which the
ship's woes knocked on McCoy's door, but his old friend had also
been emphatic: the entire crew needed to be checked and inoculated
before anything went any further. Apparently he was sore about the
two incidents of projectile vomiting on his bridge.

McCoy pinched the bridge of his nose. At least, he thought, he was
getting a chance to meet the crew.

The hours dragged on as McCoy started with yeomen and worked his way
up. A lot of friendly faces passed his way, most of which, he knew,
he wouldn't remember the next day. Still, he made a concerted
effort to at least try to get some of the names.

Not that there weren't certain people of interest.

McCoy had, thus far, found himself quite fond of his head nurse,
Christine Chapel. Severe, retiring lady, she had a sort of down-to-
earth quality that McCoy liked, especially if she was going to be
the one handing him tools at a critical moment. More than that,
though, she seemed to have had troubles. The slight lines on her
face and the distance in her eyes told him as much.

It was comforting to know that he wasn't the only one who joined
Starfleet as a means of escape.

Then, there was the Chief Engineer. Absolutely wonderful fellow.
The kind of man who could talk you into the ground, but he could
also drink you into the ground, and you had to give him props for
that. Especially McCoy, who definitely enjoyed a glass of good
bourbon, appreciated that aspect of Montgomery Scott.

He glanced at his list. He was down to the most senior of officers:
the bridge crew. McCoy shrugged. Never one to stand on ceremony,
he supposed that the best thing to do was walk right up to the
bridge and collect them. After years of dealing with command
officers, he knew that it was probably the only way to get them to
sickbay. Damn fools were absolutely in love with those stations of

Of course, first, he'd actually have to be able to get his legs to
stand up again. McCoy rubbed his forehead and then placed his hands
on his desk, ready to heave himself up.

"What a day," he groaned. "Nurse Chapel," he murmured, hearing her
stop outside the door, "go on, get something to eat. You've earned

"It's Christine, Doctor," she stated, and he smiled at the fact
that, unlike the droves of flighty ensigns he'd checked and sent on
their way, she wasn't in the least bit flirting with him when she
told him that. Just establishing a good working relationship. Oh,
yes, things were going to work between them just fine. "Are you
sure you can handle the rest by yourself?" she asked.

He looked up, smiling at her. "It's Leonard, and yeah, I'm sure."

"You should eat something, too."

McCoy shrugged. "I've got some more work to do. I'll get some food
after." He waved a hand. "You go on."

She did.

And once she was gone, McCoy's stomach grumbled loudly, reminding
him that she was right and he had yet to eat that day. He frowned
at it disapprovingly, silently commanding it to cut it out. After
all, it wasn't like he could forego examining the most important
people on the whole damn ship.

Plus, McCoy wanted to run a few more tests on this Tamorian Flu. It
was showing some anomalous symptoms that made him suspicious. It
would do no good if he inoculated the entire crew against the
Tamorian Flu, and it turned out to be another virus altogether.
Some CMO he'd seem.

He knew that shouldn't be a concern at the moment, but, truth be
told, he was a little intimidated by being *the* CMO of Starfleet's
flagship. That was a lot to live up to, and if he wasn't careful,
he was afraid that people would start thinking that he got the job
simply because he was an old friend of the Captain.

That idea made whatever was left in his stomach churn, which, in
turn, caused it to gurgle again.

McCoy sighed in frustration.

At least the tests he had conducted thus far on the virus were
corroborating his hunch. The standard strain of Tamorian Flu didn't
tend to spread as quickly as it had here, and the incubation period
was often far longer in the standard virus. Something was
definitely wrong with this bug, and if he wasn't careful, it would
get out of control.

Maybe it was something on the sub-atomic level . . .

It was then that Leonard McCoy heard the first, distinctive thud
outside the sickbay doors. He raised his head, wondering if someone
had dropped something.

That noise, however, was quickly followed by another.

And another.

Getting up, curiosity getting the better of him, McCoy walked out
into the hall, and was immediately greeted by a horrifying sight:
people were simply dropping in their tracks.

One by one, the people all around him simply collapsed. Others ran
to assist, but they, too, fell only seconds later.

McCoy hurried to the nearest body, which happened to be Ensign
Withers of security, a young man who McCoy remembered from his
checkup an hour earlier. The boy had told McCoy he liked to play
bridge in his spare time. At the time, McCoy had grinned at the
rather odd hobby for a security man.

McCoy's medical tricorder was running over the bridge-playing ensign
before he even thought about doing it. He intently stared at the
results, only to feel his heart lurch in his chest.

It was the so-called `Tamorian Flu', which he had inoculated Withers
against little over an hour ago.

The damn strain was mutating right in front of his eyes.

McCoy shook his head. He had inoculated and cured the entire crew.
This sort of extreme reaction shouldn't be remotely possible, and
yet, simultaneously, every supposedly defeated virus changed itself
subtly and attacked.

McCoy's mind began to whirl at the implications such a coordinated
attack could imply: some outside force could have instigated this
blitz to take out the entire crew of the Enterprise without damaging
the ship, or even raising an alarm. Somehow, McCoy had remained
unaffected. Perhaps it was because he'd only come on board so

The other possibility, he thought, was that this was naturally
occurring, which meant that this phage was not only a very subtle
chameleon, but had adapted to take out an entire population in one
go. It was the perfect space faring virus.

And as he regarded the limp bodies in the hallway, McCoy suddenly
wished he *weren't* the CMO. This was too damn big for him. Over
four hundred souls on this ship, and all of them counting on him.
All falling into inexplicable comas with only Leonard McCoy standing
between them and death.

As he stood, almost shaking, he couldn't help but gasp out, "I'm a
doctor, not a messiah!" And, he added silently, just a country
doctor at that. This was some sort of alien virus, and he was up a
creek without a paddle.

McCoy shook himself angrily. He *was* the CMO of this ship, and
dammit, Starfleet had to have put him there for a reason. He might
just be a doctor, but he was a damn fine doctor at that. If this
was some alien virus, he'd have to cure it. If it was an attack,
he'd have to foil it. If he really was the only thing standing
between his crew and death, then he better plant his feet and get
ready for one hell of a fight.

And, like most fights, this one needed to start where things were
most vital: the bridge. He needed to get to Jim Kirk and he needed
to get to him now. Up he stood and rushed to the turbolift, which
contained several unconscious crew members of its own.

It felt like an eternity to get to the bridge, and even longer for
the damn doors to open once he was there.

But once they opened, he honestly wished that they hadn't.

McCoy didn't have time to appreciate his first visit to that
hallowed place. He didn't even see the spectacle most civilians
dreamed about. All he could see was the sea of unfamiliar people,
slumped over their consoles. Kirk himself had fallen out of his
chair and now lay in a graceless jumble on the floor.

McCoy was on the move, going from body to body. A young Asian man
at the helm seemed to have landed badly, so McCoy stopped to
straighten him out a bit. Another young man at navigation was
currently drooling on his console. Unsure if such an activity could
harm the equipment, McCoy shifted him to the floor and used his
sleeve to wipe up the mess.

Then, staring at the readouts, McCoy thought back to half-remembered
emergency simulations at the Academy. Hell, he'd thought that the
possibilities of him actually having to work this ship were so slim
as to be laughable.

It didn't seem so funny now that it was happening.

McCoy ran through the emergency procedures in his head. If he
remembered correctly, which was currently debatable, then the first
thing he needed to do was make sure they weren't about to run the
ship into anything. He peered at the readings on the navigation

And realized he didn't have the slightest idea what any of them

He crossed over to the Asian officer's chair, as well, only to find
the same problem there.

"Dammit," he growled, "I don't have the first clue how to—"

And suddenly, a hand grabbed Leonard McCoy from behind, spinning him
around with force that could not possibly be human. McCoy lost his
footing and fell to the ground, yelping and scrabbling frantically
at his belt for anything that could be used as a weapon.

Coming up with nothing but an empty hypo (he decided that if he
couldn't inject his attacker, he could at least hit him with the
damn thing), McCoy looked up.

And his breath got lost somewhere between his lungs and his mouth.

He had never seen an alien before.

The man was close enough to human to be very disconcerting. In
fact, McCoy surmised that if he were to squint very hard, it would
be difficult to tell the difference. It was there, though. The
undertones of this man's flesh weren't rosy, but the green of copper-
based blood. The ears, instead of round, swept up to graceful
points, much as the eyebrows also slanted up instead of down at
their ends. McCoy's first thought was that Starfleet had never told
him how incredibly attractive Vulcans were.

For this man was, indeed, a Vulcan. Even having never seen one in
the flesh, McCoy would stake his license on it. But more than that,
this was a Vulcan in a Starfleet uniform. Why the hell had no one
told McCoy that there was a Vulcan on board? Wasn't that something
of which the CMO should be informed?

Tone as glacial as his expression, the as-yet unnamed Vulcan lifted
a phaser and leveled it at him, demanding, "Identify yourself."

Starfleet had also neglected to mention to him just how intimidating
Vulcans could be.

"I . . . I'm . . . Leonard. . ." Remembering himself, McCoy
straightened as much as he could while sprawled on the floor and
snapped out, "Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy, Chief Medical

It might have been his imagination, but for a second he could have
sworn that the Vulcan looked incredulous. However, McCoy took it as
a good sign when the phaser was lowered. "Our last Chief Medical
Officer was a full commander," the Vulcan sniffed.

McCoy gaped at the man for a second. They were in the middle of a
crisis, and he had the temerity to . . . attractive or no, this
Vulcan just threw down the gauntlet and insulted the wrong
man. "Hate to point it out, *Sir*," McCoy drawled, "but your last
CMO was also pushing ninety. I'd hope to hell that I'm a full
commander by that time, too."

Once again, the Vulcan gave his prone form that almost-disdainful
glance. "That remains to be seen," he said.

McCoy stood up. "And who the hell are you to be criticizing me?" he

"Commander Spock, First Officer."

"Interesting color for a first officer to wear," McCoy stated,
suspicion roused. Was the Vulcan lying to him? *Could* Vulcans lie?

The Vulcan stiffened, and McCoy guessed that he had managed to
insult the man. "I am also the science officer."

McCoy would have to ask how *that* happened after the crisis was
past. He, at least, had his priorities straight. "Well, Mister
First Science Officer, or whatever the hell you actually are," all
right, his priorities did allow for a little ribbing, "would you
kindly do your job and check on the ship instead of standing here
insulting me?"

Still looking at him like he was some sort of intruder, the Vulcan
called Spock (did the man even have a last name?) moved around McCoy
to inspect the consoles. Finally, he keyed in a few commands.

"What was that?" McCoy asked.

"A distress signal," Spock responded. "I find myself wondering why
you hadn't already sent one."

"Believe me, if I knew how, I would have."

"Our last doctor was also competent enough to at least perform basic
bridge duties."

McCoy nearly growled, "And I remind you again of his age . . ."

"I believe it is actually expected of Starfleet cadets to know such
a thing. One assumes that, being a graduate of Starfleet Medical,
you received similar training."

"Well, I was lousy at those courses!" McCoy exploded. "I can't
imagine there wasn't at least one course you struggled with at the
Academy. Say, interspecies relations."

The snobbish Vulcan sniffed. "I received top marks on my final
exam, though I fail to see why my academic achievements should
concern you."

"If you got top marks, then you have no excuse for being such a
colossal pain in my ass!"

"Perhaps it is because I highly doubt you are who you claim to be.
I saw no transfer papers in our daily report."

If McCoy could feel any more shock than he had been, he was quite
sure he would have. As it was, with his shock levels all but maxed
out, all he could manage was mute fury. What a first day! He
finally found someone who seemed momentarily fascinating, only to
discover that he had a stick up his ass the size and shape of the
Eagle Nebula.

McCoy didn't know what galled him more: the fact that this man was
challenging his very being as a Starfleet officer, or that he still
found Spock damned attractive in spite of it.

Forcing thoughts like that out of his head, McCoy snapped, "Why you
son of a—"

"And such insubordinate behavior is giving your case no support."

"Listen," McCoy spat, "I am Chief Medical Officer. That means that,
if the situation warrants it, I'm not only your superior officer,
but Jim's, too. Or did you forget your chain of command, Mister

That shot told, and also seemed to help his so-called `case'. The
Vulcan's expression got even icier as he stated, "Then I shall
endeavor to make sure the situation never warrants it."

"Don't you dare—"

Suddenly, the entire ship shuddered, sending both of them crashing
into one another. McCoy felt arms wrap instinctually around him as
they tumbled to the ground, and found himself wondering at the heat
of the Vulcan's grasp. Was the man cold on this ship? Did he get
special dispensation from the captain to up the temperature in his
quarters? What sort of effect would that difference have on—?

He needed to separate himself from this damn Vulcan before the man
read his thoughts and had even more ammunition to fire at McCoy.

Spock apparently had the same idea, because they both rolled away
from one another simultaneously, and McCoy pushed himself to his
hands and knees. "What the hell was that?" he demanded. "Did you
stop the ship?"

"That, doctor, felt like an asteroid collision. It is something
over which I have little control."

"Well you better get some damn control before we're all blown to
Kingdom Come."

Spock shot him a look of profound distaste. "Would you please
refrain from using obscure colloquialisms, Doctor? I find it most

McCoy grinned. "You're on a ship full of humans, Sir. It's
therefore my duty as CMO to make sure that you can work well with
your fellow crew members, keep morale up. Consider my `obscure
colloquialisms' to be my very own way of preventing culture shock,"
McCoy smiled sweetly, "Sir."

For a second, it almost looked like the Vulcan was going to be
angry. Then, his face grew stony and he demanded, "Are you going to
behave so adversarially toward me for the rest of our mission?"

"Now, Mister Spock, that all depends on you. If you don't start
fights, I certainly won't finish them."

"Your views require challenging."

"Then, challenge away. Just know that, unlike most people who see
the Vulcan ears and roll over, I'm not going to give in. If you
enter into a debate with me, expect to be met and matched."

Spock almost snorted. "Met, I would easily believe. Matched,
however . . ."

"Try me."

When Spock briefly glanced over his shoulder at the human doctor,
his eyes were almost glittering with anticipation, and McCoy
realized that the man was actually enjoying this. He couldn't help
but wonder how few people had the gumption to stand up to Spock and
fight back. "I certainly shall," the Vulcan informed him.

Suddenly feeling rather uncomfortable as he realized that this
argument was edging into borderline flirtation, McCoy crossed his
arms over his chest and said gruffly, "Right, then. Asteroids. Are
we in some sort of field?"

"Most likely we have entered the asteroid belt in the solar system
we are currently surveying."

McCoy followed Spock to the helm, where the Vulcan sat, eyes
flicking over the readouts. "Then let's get the hell out of it," he

Spock began to manipulate the controls. "That, Doctor, is precisely
what I am attempting to do."

McCoy shut his mouth and watched.

Minutes passed, and McCoy felt the tension build. His mind was
wandering to places it oughtn't. Places, he was sure, the Vulcan
would find most unwelcome, such as his current mute admiration of
the man's rather remarkable ears. They reminded McCoy of stories
he'd read as a child: Tolkien and Beagle stowed quietly under his
schoolbooks where his mother couldn't find them. This man seemed to
be fantasy personified.

Speaking of fantasy . . .

Oh, McCoy, he thought, that's not a place your mind should be
going. Not with this man and certainly not with the crew all in
comas on your first day.

That thought galvanized him, and McCoy began to stride purposefully
around the bridge, taking detailed scans and tissue samples from the
unconscious crew members. A flu which induced coma either meant
that the virus was inflicting extreme damage to the body, which,
according to his readings, didn't seem to be the case, or it was
directly affecting the brain.

He ran his medical tricorder around Jim's head, frowning. It was
there, all right. Some sort of cross-breed between meningitis and
Tamorian flu? No, that was far too unlikely. So, how the hell was
it affecting the brain?

"Dammit," he growled.

"Problem, Doctor?" Spock asked, rising and moving to navigation.

"You could say that," McCoy grunted, and went back to staring hard
at the data, as if enough angry scrutiny would force the cause of
these comas to manifest itself.

The data remained the same.

"We are clear of the asteroid belt," Spock stated, "and are now in
orbit around the sixth planet."

"Why the sixth?"

"It was closest. I assumed that you would require my assistance to
find a cure for this disease."

"Are you questioning my medical abilities, Sir?"

"Being that I currently have no evidence to support the idea that
you have any `medical abilities' whatsoever, I believe that to be
the most logical course of action."

"Oh, I'm sorry," McCoy drawled, "did they make you a medical
officer, too? Should I be calling you Commander, Science Officer,
First Officer, or M. D.? I'm just an old country doctor, and all
your titles are gettin' me a mite confused."

Spock glared at him and all but snatched the medical tricorder from
his hands, ignoring the human's squawk of protest. McCoy glared at
him, but to no avail. The Vulcan was completely focused on his
readings. "Fascinating," he finally commented.

That was what he had to say about the virus bringing down their
entire crew?! Angrily, McCoy snapped, "Ain't it just? Now, are you
going to stand there ooing and ahing over my data, or do you plan to
help me do something about it?"

Spock arched both eyebrows at him. "Your reaction is completely
illogical, doctor. I was merely commenting on the interesting
characteristics of this particular virus, most notably its ability
to disguise itself as other, less damaging entities of similar
genetic makeup. It functions much as the chameleon of your own

"Can we skip through the natural history lesson and get back to
saving the day?"

"It was an attempt to turn you onto a new perspective on the

"Well, turn me on after we've saved the crew."

All right, that was possibly not the best choice of words he could
have made.

Apparently Spock agreed with that assessment, because his eyes
rocketed upward.

As McCoy turned beet red in embarrassment, he tried to
explain, "That didn't come out the way I meant it."

"That much I had gathered." Spock turned and moved for the
turbolift. "I suggest, doctor, that we continue this conversation
in Sickbay."

McCoy moved after him, muttering under his breath, "Hell."

Seemed to him that he hit bottom and just kept on digging.

The ride to Sickbay was one long awkward silence. Or, at least it
was awkward for McCoy. The Vulcan still seemed unfazed by their
continued not-quite-flirtation, and it was confusing McCoy
horribly. Most of the time, if this sort of thing happened to him
(which it usually didn't), both parties were equally shocked and
could laugh it off, but with Spock so damn unresponsive McCoy found
himself completely lost as to how to handle the situation. It was
just confounding.

They jostled to a halt and McCoy had never been more thrilled to
hear the distinctive whoosh of doors in his entire life. He moved
into the hallway a little too quickly and to Sickbay with much more
than his common stroll. He needed to put some distance between
himself and Spock if he even hoped to concentrate on the present

Spock immediately proceeded to a computer terminal, while McCoy
moved off toward the lab with his tissue samples.

The computer's analysis was slow going, as expected, and McCoy tried
to busy himself by taking his own readings. Perhaps if he could
pinpoint exactly what was different about him that had allowed for
his continued consciousness, he could figure out an antidote.

As he compared his and Jim's readings on his tricorder, he frowned.
There had to be something here, but damned if he knew—

Spock straightened.

"Spock?" McCoy called out, "you find something?"

"Indeed, Doctor. I ran your identity through the computer, and have
determined that you are who you say you are."

McCoy stared at the Vulcan in disbelief. "You didn't—what in the
name of God made you doubt it?"

"The suspicious circumstances warranted an investigation of all
possibilities, especially when evidence as to the cause of this
virus did not point to a natural or unnatural source conclusively."

McCoy's ire, which had been at a quiet simmer for a good long while,
finally boiled over in full. He was dimly aware that his
gesticulating had become both larger and more emphatic as he all but
shouted, "And so of course it's my fault! Why you green-blooded,
pointy-eared robot, I've been working my tail off to help you find a
cure, and all this while, you thought I was responsible! Believe
me, if I had been, I would have made sure that I took you out
first! It would have saved me a colossal headache!"

Furiously, he turned back to the computer and prayed for results.
How he could have possibly thought this arrogant, self-assured
Vulcan to be attractive was a goddamn mystery. Why, there wasn't
one thing—

"I apologize for my suspicion, Doctor," Spock said in a tone that
was somehow softer and more human than any he'd used thus far. "It
seemed logical at the time to suspect you. However, I failed to
take into account the level of stress you must currently be under.
To inform you of my identity check on you was therefore tactless and

McCoy kept his back to the Vulcan for some seconds, not wanting him
to see the rapid play of shock, amazement and then a slow and quiet
smile moving across his face. It was better not to ruin the moment,
or show just how pleased he really was.

All right, there were a few things about the Vulcan that were more
than acceptable.

When he felt he had sufficient control of himself, McCoy turned and
nodded tersely. "Apology accepted, Mister Spock." Feeling too open
at the moment, and certain undeniable pulls between them far too
close to the surface, McCoy added, "But if you do it again, I'll
call you in for a complete physical every week for the next two

Spock's eyebrows kicked up. "I would consider that an extreme

"I'm in an extreme kind of mood."

Suddenly, the computer beeped at him, and McCoy felt more than heard
Spock move up to peer at the screen over his shoulder.

"Well I'll be goddamned," McCoy breathed. "It was in the food."
Then, he turned sharply toward Spock. "Where did you get it?"

"I believe," Spock said, "that we refueled last at Starbase 5. It
is likely that we replentished our supplies of base nutrients there."

McCoy nodded, already allowing his mind to move on to the next
obvious question. "I haven't eaten yet, but why hasn't it affected

"One assumes that it is incompatible with my physiology," the Vulcan
stated with infinite calm.

McCoy snorted. "Well, *this* one doesn't assume a damn thing. Hold

Spock almost frowned, but complied with McCoy curt order. The
doctor felt better now. There were no delicate moments or worrisome
interchanges. There was just him, a virus, and a patient he was
trying to save. He was finally on his home turf.

His tricorder turned to Spock and readings began to come back.
McCoy grimaced. He'd expected as much, but it didn't mean he liked
the results. "It's there, all right," he murmured. "Just getting
confused in the environment."

"Then we have time."

"Not damn much of it, if its rate of mutation is any indicator!
This thing is going to adapt and its going to take you down fast and

"We shall deal with that eventuality when and if it comes," Spock
told McCoy. There was a distinctive edge to his voice.

The doctor wondered if this was a privacy issue. He stated, "We'll
deal with it before then, thank you all the same. I can't lose
you." Realizing how that had sounded, he amended, "The ship can't
afford it."

Spock, after a second's hesitation, sat in the chair next to
McCoy's. "I must point out, Doctor, that curing me will be
impossible without a cure."

"That was some incredible logic, Spock. Did you think of that all
by yourself?"

Spock lifted an eyebrow at the human. "I take it by your response
that you do not have a cure."

"Dammit, Spock—"

"Nor, it seems, an idea for where to start looking."

McCoy slumped and dug the heels of his hands into his aching
forehead. "You know, this really wasn't how I was planning on
spending my first day here."


"I was hoping for a nice round of completely unnecessary physicals,
and as I was letting the crew know just how amazingly healthy they
were, I might actually have time to get to know them."

"You appear to be `getting to know' me," Spock commented gently.

McCoy snorted. "Spock, the day I actually get to know you will be
the day hell freezes over."

The Vulcan didn't seem to have a response to that, and so remained
immobile and silent.

McCoy didn't even have the energy to consider the wording of his
last statement. He'd pretty much resigned himself to constant
Freudian slips while in this man's presence.

After a protracted silence, McCoy continued, "No, Spock, I have no
idea how to cure this damned virus."

Silently, Spock peered at the results. At last, he asked, "So, you
are resigned to let this phage run its course on the ship?"

Oh, that was too horrible to imagine. Just too damn—and Spock had
actually assumed that he would . . .

McCoy's head snapped up and he growled, "I damn well am not! Move
over and let me at that screen."

Spock lifted a single eyebrow but did as McCoy ordered, watching
serenely as the doctor glared furiously at the monitor. There had
to be a way to beat this thing. Every virus had a weakness, and
he'd be jiggered if he didn't figure out the key to this one.

"Start with the basics," he muttered. "Affects?"


McCoy paused for the second it took to glare at Spock. "And *why*
are they in comas?"

Spock watched him expectantly.

McCoy told him, "Nerve damage. This virus has properties in common
with meningitis."

"So, perhaps a cure for meningitis—"

McCoy shook his head. "I thought about that, but this *isn't*
meningitis, so the antibodies would be different."

Spock took a turn staring at the readings intently. "Could we
synthesize antibodies?"

McCoy tapped a finger against his lips thoughtfully. "I could, but
I'm worried about the rate of mutation. If we could slow that down,
then, sure, my antibodies would work. If we can't, though, it'll
just mutate and come back stronger than ever."

"What does the virus require to mutate, Doctor?"

McCoy shrugged. "Your usual: darkness, moisture, warmth . . ." he
trailed off, the gears in his head suddenly chugging away madly.
Eyes wide, he turned to his Vulcan companion, "Spock, if we could
lower everyone's body temperature enough . . ." then, he
growled. "Dammit, the two of us couldn't get around to everyone
with the antibodies before they freeze to death!"

Spock seemed to almost be excited at that point, though, and asked
sharply, "Could your antibodies be aerosolized?"

McCoy understood immediately. "We get them into the air and then
get them into the ventilation system . . . Spock, this could work!
If we can synthesize the antibodies small enough that they can
permeate the skin while in the air . . ." he crowed, grasping the
Vulcan's wrist impulsively.

Spock glanced down at his appendage, and McCoy immediately retracted
his hand. "Sorry," he muttered.

"That's quite all right. I have become accustomed to human
emotionalism over the years."

It was a mark of McCoy's excitement that he didn't even respond to
the bait. He was too busy at his computer, punching in orders. As
much as he distrusted technology, he had to admit that there were
moments when he was desperately thankful for the speed and accuracy
of a computer's processing power.

Finally, he nodded. "That should do it. We'll have to give things
about a half hour, and hopefully the computer will have worked up
antibodies for this virus of ours."

Spock was sitting very still, though.

McCoy looked to him sharply. "Spock?" he snapped.

"Doctor," Spock managed, swallowing hard and nearly grimacing. "I
believe that the virus is mutating."

McCoy shot to his feet. "Hell," he breathed. If that thing managed
to mutate so that his antibodies couldn't affect it, Spock was going
to be defenseless. "We can't wait half an hour."

"Doctor, without the antibodies—"

"I'll get them, Spock," McCoy stated, meaning it more than he'd
meant most things in his life. "I'll get `em in time, but we have
to drop the temperature *now*."

Spock could manage a tight nod, but little else. "I would suggest,"
he gasped, his voice and breathing ragged, "that you put on an
environmental suit."

McCoy nodded and hurried to the EV locker that he'd noticed tucked
into a corner of sickbay. Snagging a suit, he ran back to the
Vulcan, not wanting to leave his side.

The suit itself was a little too big, but would do in a pinch. He
kept his helmet and gloves off for the time being, and slid an arm
under Spock's. Hefting the man as best he could (and marveling that
such a slightly built being could be so all-fired *heavy*), he
pulled Spock to his feet. "Come on," he muttered, "stay awake at
least until you can modify the environmental controls."

Spock shot him an unreadable look. "Doctor McCoy," he
stated, "should we survive this, I shall take it upon myself to give
you a refresher course on the operations of this ship."

Voice strained under his burden, McCoy managed, "Much obliged."

"It is, of course, for the good of this ship, as your current
ineptitude would most assuredly get us all killed."

"You keep talking like that, and I'm going to drop you where you

"That would be a more effective threat, Doctor, if it did not seem
so probable already. Perhaps I will add an exercise regimen to your
refresher courses."

Furious, McCoy snapped, "And perhaps I'll add a diet to yours."

"That, Doctor, would be most illogical, as I am at the optimum
weight for a Vulcan of my age and height."

"It was—never mind. Just put one foot in front of the other and
I'll be happy."

"Really, Doctor?"

"No. Shut up."

So, they made their way to the turbolift inch by inch, counting in
steps. When, at last, they moved into the lift, McCoy found them
both practically collapsing against the wall as he grasped for a
handle. Apparently, Spock had the same idea, because both their
hands closed over it at the same time.

Spock looked at him, cocked an eyebrow, and said, "Environmental."

The lift began to move, but neither of them had enough energy to
move their hands. McCoy thought it was maddening, this almost
holding hands. He glanced up, only to find their gazes brushing,
then locking. Spock looked almost puzzled, and then, purposefully

McCoy's stomach leaped up and started dancing madly in abject
terror. `He knows,' McCoy thought, `oh, my sweet Jesus, he knows.
The man's a touch-telepath! How couldn't he? Oh, Lord, just let
the lift swallow me right now.'

McCoy attempted to scowl. He attempted to glare. Hell, he
attempted to come up with any words, no matter how pathetic or
randomly chosen, to fill this void and break the moment.

Instead, feeling like a prize idiot, all he could manage was to look
down. Unfortunately, his eyes chose to stare at the Vulcan's mouth,
which, if anything, worsened the situation.

He looked back up, and Spock was still blank, studying the doctor

McCoy opened his mouth and took a shuddering breath, then, finding
himself dry as the dust, he unconsciously licked his lips.

And Spock's attention was caught by that movement. McCoy, who had
thought that his eyes couldn't possibly get any bigger, wondered if
they were about to fall out and go rolling across the floor.

For a second, Spock moved ever-so-slightly forward. For a second,
McCoy was damn sure that the man was going to kiss him. For a
second, McCoy felt that this was a fine option.

And then, the lift stopped.

They both stared at each other, the moment gone with nothing left
but a goodly amount of shock and embarrassment. McCoy, groping for
words, finally managed an, "Aw, hell."

Spock was a bit more articulate, if also more evasive. "It
appears," he said, and McCoy thought his voice had dropped about
half an octave, "that we have reached environmental."

Environmental? Environmental what? What did McCoy want with
environmental? Wasn't Spock about to—

Environmental! The plague! The need to stop said virus rushed back
into the turbolift, and McCoy berated himself for forgetting, and
for having a damnably poor sense of timing.

Moving to support the Vulcan once more, McCoy staggered out of the
turbolift, desperately glad that the door to the environmental
controls was the first one on their left. By some miracle, the door
slid immediately open to admit them, and McCoy had to move only one
ensign before they could get at the console itself.

Immediately, Spock dropped into the chair in front of the panel of
buttons and began programming. McCoy tried to keep up, but
eventually went back to moving the unfortunate young woman on the
floor to a more comfortable position.

And then, the computer's androgynous voice rang out, "Twenty seconds
to heat purge."

McCoy turned to see Spock practically dragging himself to another
computer terminal. The doctor hurried up beside him, supporting the
Vulcan the rest of the way. As he watched Spock work at this
keyboard, McCoy began to realize that the instructions seemed

"You're ordering the computer to replicate my antibodies and vent
them," he realized.

"I am quite aware of that fact," Spock stated in tense irritation,
the pain of the illness tingeing his tone ever so slightly.

"Spock, those antibodies aren't ready yet!" McCoy snapped, getting
to his point.

The Vulcan glanced up at him, his face drawn and haggard. "Then,
Doctor, might I suggest that you take this seat and encourage the
computer to work with more dispatch. Time is of the essence. I
have tied this console into the sickbay lab terminal, so even you
shall be able to control it."

McCoy scowled at Spock and snapped, "Budge up, Spock. Let me at
those damn controls."

Spock, however, didn't move.


"I . . ." Spock managed, before pitching over the console in a coma.

"Spock!" McCoy yelped, dashing to the man's side, already knowing
what he was going to encounter. The virus had mutated, making it a
completely different creature than that which was currently
affecting the rest of the crew.

"Specified antibodies synthesized," the computer stated. Then,
after a pause, "Heat venting in progress."

McCoy frantically drew a sample of blood from Spock, dashing through
the door. He had to get to the sickbay and come up with antibodies
for this new virus, too, or the irritating, attracting Vulcan was
most certainly going to die. He wished he could remain with Spock
while he did it, but tied into his computer or no, that console
simply didn't have the equipment he would need for this procedure.

So, McCoy dashed into the turbolift once more, bouncing impatiently
on the balls of his feet for the entire ride. When the lift reached
his deck at last, McCoy dashed out, dodging unconscious crewmen and
shivering as he moved to his blessedly familiar doors. They were
far less inviting, though, now that the temperature was noticeably
dropping. He'd have to pick up his helmet and gloves from sickbay
while he was at it.

Once he reached the lab, McCoy was a blur of busy energy, dashing
from console to console, inputting Spock's virus, ordering the
computer to work up antibodies for that, and then comparing and
contrasting the two strains with his own eyes. Yes, there were
differences, he noted, but hopefully none so great that they
couldn't be overcome in time. It had to be the factor of the blood,
he thought. Vulcanoid copper-based blood was definitely the major
factor that would affect this virus. At least, McCoy hoped that it
was the case. If the differences were in Vulcan's highly advanced
nerve cells, then he was going to get completely lost. Alien
physiology had never been his strong point.

It was a terrible wait, even though McCoy busied himself pulling on
his gloves and helmet to protect his freezing face and fingers. He
pitied all the pour souls he'd exposed to this sort of cold, even if
it was to save their lives.

Especially Spock, with his desert-dweller body temperature. The
hypothermia would get to him fastest . . .

"Dammit," he growled, staring at the humming computer. "Work!"

By then, he could feel the cold even through the suit, and his Petri
dishes were solidifying with delicate laces of ice.

"God almighty," McCoy breathed, his voice echoing hollowly in the
confines of the helmet, "work, please."

He should have known that it did no good pleading with an inanimate
piece of equipment. The computer hummed, but did not respond.

So, he took to pacing. Back and forth, staring hard at each and
every new piece of equipment, trying to memorize its uses and
functions. Anything to keep him busy.

*Beep* went his lab console, and McCoy tore to the machine, staring
at the results. Without hesitation, he jammed a hypospray capsule
into the appointed slot and heard it fill. Then, he typed in the
order to begin the distribution of the human antibody through the
ventilation system. Thankfully, Spock had made that task extremely
easy, and it only required a final confirmation from McCoy to

From there it was a mad dash back to environmental, where Spock
still lay across the computer terminal. Trying to focus beyond the
fear, McCoy laid him out on the floor, the man's ashen pallor
worrying him. McCoy pressed the hypospray to Spock's neck, pumping
the antibodies directly into his bloodstream, and then pressing his
fingers to the spot, searching for a pulse, only to realize that he
couldn't feel it through the gloves.

Cursing the gloves and his haste, which made him forget his
tricorder, McCoy jerked the offending piece of EV suit off his hand,
gasping as the extreme cold hit him hard. He groped at Spock's
chilled skin and found his heart to be beating in a slow, thready

The Vulcan was in shock and had at least a moderate case of
hypothermia to go along with it. Neither of those eventualities was
good, and together they were potentially deadly. Spock had to get
warm, and he had to do it fast.

McCoy knew what he had to do. The temperature must be brought up,
before it did more damage than good. McCoy pulled himself to his
feet and moved purposefully to the computer console.

The environmental controls weren't nearly as foreign as the
navigational station, but they were still bad enough. McCoy ripped
off his helmet and barked, "Computer, how in hell do I restore the

"That operation must be performed through environmental controls."

"I'm at the damn controls! What do I do now?"

Thank God for helpful software, McCoy thought, as the computer,
after some angry coaxing, began to lead him through the task step by
step. He painstakingly sought out the correct buttons and toggles,
having to scan the console for each new and unfamiliar mechanism.
It had taken Spock about thirty seconds to input all of this. McCoy
had already passed five minutes hunting and pecking at the console.

And then, triumphantly, he punched in the command to bring the
temperature back up.

Nothing happened.

McCoy felt his stomach drop and his mind work frantically. What had
he missed? He'd done everything the computer had ordered him to
do. He ran his hands over the console desperately, shocked at how
blue the ends of his fingers had become.

"Temperature restoration in progress," the computer suddenly
enunciated. "Please stand by."

McCoy let out a frantic whoop of joy and surged to his feet.

Then, he glanced down at Spock.

Those five minutes of work hadn't done him any good. His skin was a
pale sea-foam green, and his lips were barely purple.

McCoy's next action was instinctual. He skinned out of the EV suit,
shaking with the cold now that he was fully exposed, and fell to his
knees next to the unconscious Vulcan, grasping him and pulling him
close. It was best, he reminded himself. Transfer of body heat was
the fastest way to bring someone's temperature back up.

He was hit, suddenly, by how tired he was. The cold wasn't nearly
as bad when he closed his eyes, he thought blearily. Medical
thoughts of hypothermia seemed to flit in and out of his mind, none
tangible enough to lay hold of and focus on.

Just a short nap, then. He needed to lie down to keep Spock close,
anyway . . .

* * * *

"Bones? Bones!"

McCoy's eyes opened blearily, only to realize that he was lying on
the ground, wrapped securely around the First Officer, with the
captain standing over them both.

"It was the hypothermia!" he blurted.

Kirk nodded, discreetly not mentioning their rather precarious
position. Spock, however, stirred and did so for him. "Doctor,
would you mind getting up? I find that you have disrupted
circulation to one of my legs."

Embarrassed as all hell, McCoy pulled himself to his feet.

"Bones," Kirk said in a cross tone, "the strangest thing happened.
One minute, I'm feeling a little under the weather, and the next I'm
waking up on the floor of the bridge. Any explanations?"

"A plague," McCoy said. At the captain's shocked look, he filled in
all the details, with frequent corrections and interjections from
the now fully-recovered Spock, who was back to irritating McCoy with
a vengeance. Both of them, however, left out certain aspects of the
day, most notably their near-kiss on the turbolift. Apparently,
even Vulcan honestly only went so far.

At last, Kirk nodded slowly, satisfied with the explanation, if
still a bit mystified that so much had happened so quickly, and even
a bit disappointed that he had missed out on the action. However,
he seemed to shake that off, and slowly a grin spread across his
face. Apparently, Jim Kirk found something about this damnable
situation very funny. "Seems that you had a busy first day," he

"Jim, if I didn't think that your understatement was deliberate, I'd
smack you upside the head." Spock started, and McCoy added,
grinning devilishly, "Superior officer be damned."

Kirk threw back his head and laughed at the image that conjured
up. "Welcome to the Enterprise, Doctor McCoy."

He managed a wan smile. "Thanks, Jim."

Kirk shook his head. "An interstellar plague on your first
day . . . get some rest, Bones. It looks like you and Spock were
the only ones who didn't get it the first time around."

And Kirk, who seemed to shake off the horrors of the day like a duck
with water, moved out of the environmental control room. The young
lady who had been in there with them seemed to have already woken
and left.

Which just left him and Spock.

"Listen—" McCoy started, but was quickly cut off.

"Doctor," Spock said, "the next time you attempt to sleep with me, I
would prefer to be conscious."

And, with perfect serenity, Spock turned and walked out of the room.

It was going to be a damn interesting five years.

* * * *

* * *

* *


The end