Chapter 5 - My Ally

McCoy hated the new "performance evaluation" forms that Spock had created. The idea behind them was nice enough, but why did he have to type all his impressions in a damn form? Weren't medical record forms tedious enough? He'd always just been able to plug his impressions in the "comments" section of the crewman's Starfleet record, and that had been the end of it. Now he was expected to grade people on things like "teamwork and cooperation", "punctuality", and "initiative". Initiative? REALLY?

He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. Three down, forty-nine to go. Christ. Maybe he should have just let Spock kill him that night in Jim's office.

"Oh, um... I'm sorry." McCoy looked up, and was surprised to see Lieutenant Uhura standing in the doorway, a data-pad clutched tightly in one hand.

Leonard smiled. He'd had little interaction with her since the takeover, but he'd been pleased that she seemed to have adjusted well to the new regime. He liked her, and he didn't like the idea of Spock being forced to imprison her. "Can I help you, Lieutenant?" he asked.

"Well... I..." She glanced nervously behind her, then looked back at him. "You look busy, so... I can come back later."

"No, no, come in, please," he said, shoving the datapad aside. "Save me from these goddamn evals!"

She laughed and stepped inside. "I'm only half way through mine," she said.

"You're doing a lot better than I am. What can I do for you, Miss Uhura?"

The smile died on her lips, and she glanced at the door. "Can I lock this, Doctor?"

He frowned slightly, and pressed a few keys on the control panel at the edge of his desk. "That's max security - not even Spock could get in here unless I let him in. Have a seat."

She looked relieved, and took a seat opposite his desk. "I... I wanted to bring this to you because... well, I know you care about Captain Spock, and I'm hoping you can talk to him. I didn't... I was afraid to tell him myself, but..."

"Uhura, what is it? You're starting to scare me a little."

She sighed, and looked down at the data pad and pressed a few keys. "I'm committing treason by showing you this," she said. "But..." Her jaw clenched, and she turned the document to face him.

Leonard felt his stomach take a leap when he saw the official Starfleet Command Confidentiality seal. It was addressed directly to Uhura, Communications Department Head. "It has come to our attention that missions are not being completed according to the regulations of this unit, blah blah, Captain Spock no longer functioning in the spirit of blah blah blah Starfleet Command hereby orders the termination of Captain Spock and any who claim loyalty to him as necessary, as soon as this can conveniently be arranged. Commendations, monetary compensation, and potential rank advancement will be discussed upon completion. Respond within forty-eight hours to acknowledge receipt of this directive."

Leonard felt cold. He didn't move at all for several seconds - not until he heard Uhura call out, "Sir?" in a louder than usual tone of voice. It was then that he realized he hadn't taken a breath since he'd read the word "termination", and that his hands were shaking. He gave the pad back to her without speaking. Uhura scowled. "Shit, I knew it! You haven't received this, have you?" Leonard shook his head, already knowing where she was going with the question. Hell, he'd been there for several seconds already. "They know you're loyal to him," she said.

McCoy nodded an acknowledgment of the fact, and she swore again. "Have-" Leonard's voice cracked. "Have you acknowledged that message?" he asked softly.

"No, sir, not yet."

"Do it." She opened her mouth to protest, but he cut her off. "Do it, Lieutenant. Don't give them a reason to kill you." She pressed a few keys on the data pad, and let out a heavy sigh. "Thank you," he said. "And don't feel bad about sending that, Nyota." She looked up at him, and he tried to give her an approximation of a smile. "You brought this to me for a reason - I think you really believe in what the captain's trying to do, and you want to help. We need them to trust you, so we have access to these kinds of transmissions."

She gave him a half-hearted smile. "You're right, of course, I didn't-"

"It's all right," he said, mind racing now. The initial shock was gone, and survival mode had been switched on full force. "Can you tell who else received those?"

"Yes, sir," she said, leaning forward. "Every department head got one. Me, Scotty, Leslie and Sulu's replacement, Thornton. And..." She sighed again, and glanced toward the door as if she expected it to open. "They sent one to Thelorin, too."

"The Delta shift Science team leader?"

"That's right, sir."

"Fuck! What about M'Benga?"

Uhura shook her head. "I didn't see a transmission to him. Maybe they aren't quite sure about you yet? Or maybe they're not sure about him?"

Leonard clenched his fists. "Fuck! When did you get this?"

"Three hours ago," she replied. "I... I'm sorry I didn't come sooner, but, I..."

He waved a dismissive hand. "It's not the lightest decision in the world to disobey Starfleet Command, Nyota," he said. "But... you did the right thing. Thank you. I'll make sure Spock knows about your loyalty. Now, go on, get back to your station. Just... come to me if anyone approaches you to..." He couldn't seem to make himself form the words "collaborate on my and the captain's murder". "Dammit!"

"I understand, sir," she said. "I'll keep you informed."

Leonard unlocked the door and saw her to the threshold. "And just try not to agitate it too much," he said, for the benefit of anyone listening outside.

"I'll keep it in mind, Doctor, thanks," she said with her usual bright smile.

He watched her walk away, feeling his heart sink slowly to his boots. He glanced back at his waiting data-pad and its aggravating load of pending performance evaluations, feeling like he could have cried if he wasn't so damned furious and terrified. He checked his blade, making sure that the latch on his holster wasn't clasped and he could pull the knife out easily, and left the Sickbay. At least, if Uhura's report was correct, he didn't have to fear within the confines of the medical offices. But in the halls, it might be a different story.

McCoy made his way to the bridge, putting on the most unapproachable manner he could - glaring at all who approached him, fists clenched as if he were going on a tear. As usually happened when he was in one of his moods, the crew skittered away from him. That was nice. At least it meant that the general crew wasn't out to get him.

McCoy stepped onto the bridge, nodded pleasantly to Spock's men, and came to stand beside the captain's chair. Spock glanced up briefly, but the doctor didn’t want to arouse suspicions, so he tried to keep his expression casual. After a second, Spock turned back to his status reports. Leonard smiled at Moreau, who stood across from him on the captain's left, and the smile she returned was genuine and sweet, uncluttered by the hint of jealousy he used to see when Jim was in command.

In addition to her new position as head of the Science department, Marlena had been kept on as Captain's woman As far as McCoy knew, they never slept together – in fact, Marlena had been assigned separate, secure quarters on the officer’s deck. Still, Spock had chosen to keep her as his woman so that he could be sure the only person with regular access to his food and drink programming was someone completely trustworthy. He’d also done it because (as he’d told Leonard one evening) it was not logical to remove her from his protection when the ship’s atmosphere was so volatile. She had shown loyalty to Spock during the takeover, and he would repay her with this new, modified position – a captain’s level of protection, without the usual requirement of being available for his sexual needs. As far as Leonard knew, she was happy with the arrangement – she’d certainly lost the defensive, angry scowl that used to cloud her face whenever she wasn’t smiling to please Jim.

Leonard’s chest rose and fell in a silent sigh. Even after so many months, it was still odd to stand on the bridge and not have Jim sitting in that central chair, with Spock standing on the other side glaring in annoyance at Leonard’s latest quip. McCoy shook the thought aside and looked around casually at the rest of the bridge crew. Mr. Leslie was at the tactical center, hunched over his console, shoulders tensed, nervously running his hand through his sandy blond hair every few seconds. Uhura was equally preoccupied, but she glanced at him with concern once or twice. Thornton sat ramrod straight, staring out at the viewscreen like some kind of bronzed statue, his broad shoulders barely moving - dark brown hands completely still on the console keys.

Spock looked up again, and gave Leonard a mildly puzzled look. "You have not been in the habit of visiting the bridge unnecessarily since I assumed command," he said. "As I did not send for you, Doctor, I must assume you have some business here."

"Well, as a matter of fact, I do, sir," Leonard replied, speaking slowly, but thinking fast. The first thing that came to mind, oddly enough, was the mountain of paperwork he'd left on his desk. "I was working on my performance evaluations, and I have a few questions about some of the parameters. I've been thinking about maybe making a few adjustments?"

Spock frowned slightly. "Surely that is something that can be handled in your evening report."

McCoy made a supreme effort, and held onto his patience. "Well, it could," he said, hoping he didn't sound strained. "But I'd like to go over it with you now, if you don't mind." He turned, and (as casually as possible) brushed a hand against Spock's. He'd learned in his long dealing with Vulcans that even if Spock weren't trying, the touch telepath would be able to feel McCoy's agitation right away. Spock looked sharply at him, but the doctor simply smiled and said, "If you're busy, Captain, we can discuss it at the end of Alpha shift?"

Spock seemed to consider it. "The bridge does not currently require my presence to function efficiently," he said thoughtfully. "I will discuss these proposed changes with you now." He stood. "Thornton, you have the conn. Contact me if there is trouble."

"Aye, Captain." The man glanced at him. "If..."

"Yes?" Spock asked, almost looking surprised.

"If you have time later, sir, I'd like to speak with you as well. Regarding a... personal matter."

Spock's brow furrowed, but he nodded. "It will be arranged."

Thornton looked relieved, and his smile reached his dark brown eyes. "Thank you, sir."

Spock nodded, and Leonard followed him toward the Turbolift. As they passed Tactical, Lieutenant Leslie reached out and touched McCoy's arm. The doctor forced himself not to cringe, and looked down at the young man. "Doctor, I, um... I've been feeling... um... nauseous recently, and... uh... yeah. Could I come by your office later today?"

"Certainly, son, you do that," Leonard said warmly. Then, for authenticity's sake, he said, "Bring me a list of everything you've eaten in the last two days. We might find the cause there."

"Yes, Doctor, thank you."

McCoy glanced at Uhura, who had a half-smile on her face, and followed Spock into the turbolift. The captain's men stood in front of them, and McCoy wished there were about ten more of them. "Deck five," he said, gripping the handle nearest him.

"Well?" Spock said, once the lift was in motion. "Do you intend to tell me the meaning of this interruption, Doctor?"

"Spock, we have a serious problem on our hands," he said. "As your doctor, I'd recommend adding two or three more men to your daily security detail. Maybe four." Spock's two men turned to look at him almost in unison, with not-exact-glares on their faces. "No offense, gentlemen," McCoy said, edging back by a fraction of an inch. "But..." He looked at Spock and felt his stomach tightening again. He spoke softly, trying to keep a tremor out of his voice. "Command has issued a termination order against you and your supporters." Spock's eyes widened. "It was sent to Thelorin, and to all the department heads except..." He gritted his teeth. "Except me."

Spock's eyes narrowed again, and he looked straight ahead. The Vulcan guards pulled out their weapons without being told. "Lieutenant Uhura did not report to me regarding any unusual transmissions to Starfleet Command. Could she have-"

McCoy shook his head. "I don't think so, sir. Uhura's the one who showed me the transmission from Starfleet, and she investigated who else received copies without being asked. In fact, I have a feeling we don't need to worry about Thornton and Leslie, either. Seems they wanted to tell us something, and I don't think they'd do that if they planned to try to kill you."

"An excellent point," Spock replied. "That leaves Mr. Scott and Ms. Thelorin, both of whom have the technical knowledge to send a transmission undetected, even by Lieutenant Uhura."

"That's true. If-"


Spock and McCoy both crouched instinctively at the sudden shout from Selek guard. McCoy drew his dagger, grateful that Spock trusted him enough to allow him to go about armed again, but bitterly regretting the fact that he hadn't taken Spock's lead and started carrying a phaser with him as well. A second later, there was phaser-burn on the side of the now-open turbolift doors. "Shit!" he hissed. Spock's men ducked, and fired back.

Sokan said something to Selek in Vulcan and stopped firing, while Selek let out a barrage of shots. Sokan grabbed McCoy by the arm and pulled him out of the turbolift. Spock was hard on their heels, having understood Sokan's apparent command to "cover" them. Despite the fact that he wasn't too pleased about being pulled along like a rag doll, McCoy was relieved to be out of the turbolift. Whoever was behind this couldn't have picked a better place to mount an attack. Shooting fish in a barrel would have been harder than killing Spock in a turbolift if they hadn't already been on alert.

They stood against a bulkhead, safe for the moment. Selek glanced at them, and prepared to join them when another phaser blast hit him, and he faded into nothing. "Fuck!" McCoy growled. Spock and Sokan stared at the empty space where Selek had been, and Spock's hand tightened around his phaser.

"Captain Spock!" The doctor glared at the lyrical voice of the night-shift science officer. Dammit, what the hell was she even doing awake? Yes, Command communications had alarms that overrode every silencer that could be put on personal consoles, but most people just tapped "accept" and rolled over. Damned efficient scientist bitch. "There are five of us here, and now only three of you," Thelorin said. "I grieve with thee." McCoy tensed, and glanced from Spock to Sokan. He could see that both Vulcans were seething at her use of the phrase that was reserved only for family members. "Surrender, Spock, and perhaps I will be able to convince Starfleet Command to show lenience."

Spock and Sokan ignored her. Spock checked the charge on his weapon, and Sokan seemed to be testing the weight of his blade in his hand. After a moment, they heard the sweet, overly-pleasant voice of the Delta-shift science officer again.

"I will take your silence as a 'no', then. Well, no matter. What about you, Doctor? Your skills will still be much needed aboard this vessel when I am captain. I may be able to speak on your behalf if you come quickly. In fact, if you kill him for me, I am certain that Starfleet Command will consider it worthy of reinstating you to your proper status as a loyal member of the Fleet." McCoy wanted to curse her, but he controlled himself, and kept silent, as his companions had done. "Come, Doctor, no response? I'm sure serving me will be more appealing than playing Captain's woman to a cold-hearted half-breed."

There was laughter - probably from the men she'd gotten to help her. McCoy scowled, infuriated by her audacity. A moment later, though, he was smiling broadly. Whoever her allies were, they couldn't be security personnel. No trained Starfleet Security officer would laugh at a joke in the middle of battle - especially not in a battle against Vulcans. Leonard could already see Sokan and Spock giving each other meaningful looks. Thelorin's men had unwittingly given away their positions to the sound-sensitive Vulcans.

Spock rested a hand on McCoy's shoulder and pressed down. McCoy nodded at the silent command - stay here. A moment later, Spock nodded to Sokan, and they moved swiftly into the hallway. Phasers flared, and McCoy heard a few surprised shouts. When the sounds of phaser fire died down, he could still hear the female voice, swearing like the proverbial pirate. McCoy smiled and looked at his companions, crouched against the wall on the other side of the hallway. He couldn't resist giving them a "thumbs-up", despite the fact that they probably would have thought it illogical to congratulate one another while some of the enemy still lived.

"I can't hear you anymore, Lieutenant," McCoy called out, intentionally leaving off the "commander" portion of her title. "Maybe if you ask real nice our Captain will allow you to spend the rest of your life in the First Level brig."

There was no answer. Leonard could hear her making muttered commands, but not the details. Spock and Sokan seemed to understand. They checked their weapons, and Spock pulled out his dagger so that he had a weapon in each hand. McCoy gripped his weapon tighter and glanced around them. Their position wasn't exactly ideal. The turbolift had closed and gone off somewhere - not a threat in itself, but if enemies came out of it, they were dead in the water. Several tense, silent moments followed. Then, when McCoy thought he might just die from the suspense alone, all hell broke loose.

The battle was fierce and swift. Men charged at them from the hall. McCoy fought with a controlled ferocity, focusing his battle-heightened senses on slashing at anything that wasn't Spock or Sokan, and dodging phaser beams. He could tell he was taking hits, but he didn't feel them yet - adrenaline was pumping fast throughout his body, helping him power through the pain.

At some point, after all phaser fire ceased and there were only blades flashing, McCoy realized that they were losing. Men in red, gold and blue seemed to be coming from everywhere. He saw two more Vulcans join the fray, but it wasn't enough. They were still outnumbered, and slowly, McCoy could feel himself being pushed further and further back. He struggled to keep from getting backed into any corners, and he fought like a wild thing, making his cuts deep, and aiming for arteries whenever possible. Still, he knew things were not going as well as they should. When he heard the hiss of the turbolift, his heart sank, and it was just dogged stubbornness that kept him fighting tooth and nail when he knew that now, all was definitely lost.

A young engineer, who'd seemed completely contented with the new regime, dropped to the floor at McCoy's feet, a green-stained dagger slipping from his lifeless fingers. McCoy looked up in time to see one of the Gamma-shift science team members charging at him. He braced himself, but before they connected, the woman disappeared in a flash of red. McCoy gasped and looked in the direction the shot had come from. He smiled, his relief intense enough to cause a shudder, at the sight of Lieutenant Leslie, who was already taking aim with his phaser again. Six more crewmembers piled out of the turbolift, phasers drawn and at the ready - Thornton among them.

McCoy went back to the fight with renewed vigor. Soon, though, someone tugged at his sleeve. It was Mr. Scott. McCoy tensed, but Scotty didn't draw weapon on him. "The captain's been hurt, Doctor," Scotty said pulling him down and out of the fray.

McCoy felt his stomach lurch. "How bad?"

"Bad," the engineer answered grimly. Leonard let Scotty lead him away from the main battle, which was already starting to die down. They stayed low, weaving between fighters on the outskirts of the fray, until they arrived at a quiet corner where four Vulcans and two Humans knelt in an outward-facing half circle against one wall. Each had their weapons drawn and at the ready. The Human in the center moved aside so that McCoy could see Spock, lying unconscious on the floor, battered and bloodied from head to foot. Sokan knelt beside Spock, chest bare, holding his own shirt against Spock's middle to try to stem the blood flow from what must have been the deepest of Spock's many wounds. The captain had been practically shredded - his golden tunic was barely in tact, and there were multiple gashes on his legs as well.

McCoy felt sick with fear and rage, but he let his training as a Starfleet medical officer take over. "We've got to get him to Sickbay now," he snapped.

"We'll clean up here," Scotty said. "These men will get you and Spock down there."

Len nodded. "Go," he told the guards. They hesitated, and he scowled. "Now, I'll follow you down. Sokan, keep that pressure there, just like you're doing." They moved immediately, two of them carefully lifting Spock, while Sokan did as he was instructed. When they were on their way down the hall, Leonard turned to Scotty and said, "If Thelorin's alive, try and keep her that way. Take as many prisoners as you can." Scotty's face registered surprise, but he nodded and didn't argue. "Thank you, Scotty," Leonard said, clapping the man on the shoulder with his bloodied hand. "If... when Spock recovers, I know he'll be more than grateful for your loyalty."

Scott nodded. "It's a nasty business, Doctor. Good luck to you."

"Same to you." McCoy turned and left the battle, running full speed to Sickbay. "I'll sure as hell need it," he muttered.

He caught up with the group before they reached Sickbay, and directed traffic once they were inside. Chapel and the rest of his staff were horrified by the state of the Captain, and of their CMO. "Doctor, what happened?!"

"What the hell do you think happened?" he snapped.

"You're wounded!" Chapel cried, unphased by his fury.

Leonard looked down at himself, finally noticing the shreds in his own shirt, and the many patches of dark, red fluid staining his tunic. He looked up before the reality of his own injuries could overpower the adrenaline rush that was still pumping through him. "Can't worry about it now," he said. "Spock-"

"Sir, Doctor M'Benga can-"

"No!" he snapped. "I'll do it!"

Chapel stopped arguing with him, and assisted him in surgery, after first putting a hasty dressing on McCoy's arms to keep him from bleeding into Spock's wounds. During the operation, McCoy was focused, sharp, and almost calm. He'd left Sokan to handle securing the room, and concentrated only on keeping Spock alive. He wasn't sure how long it took, but it seemed like hours. Once Leonard had tended to the most dangerous wounds - the two deep gashes in Spock's stomach - he felt only slightly more relieved. There seemed to be no end to the other wounds that needed to be addressed. Some were deep and bleeding heavily, but no others had gone through any vital organs or tendons. Many more were shallow, as if he'd been grazed, but managed to turn or evade serious injury in some other way.

When, at last, all but the shallowest cuts had been cleaned, dressed and sealed, McCoy felt his hands and arms beginning to shake. He could suddenly feel searing pain in his arms, legs and chest. He stepped back from the operating table quickly, handing his sealing tool to Chapel. "Take this, and ask M'Benga to fi-"

He wasn't sure if he'd finished the sentence or not. Chapel was nodding, then, suddenly, she looked alarmed, and a moment later, McCoy seemed to have forgotten how to stand up straight. He wondered briefly if the floor would hurt when he crashed into it. Fortunately, the room went dark before he had to find out.

McCoy opened his eyes to see Geoffrey M'Benga standing over him, frowning up at the bioreadings. When he noticed McCoy watching him, his frown deepened. "Good morning, you goddamn idiot," he snapped. "What the hell were you doing performing surgery in the state you were in? You're damned lucky either one of you is alive! I ought to-"

"Geoff, I don't need-"

"The hell you don't!" M'Benga shouted, pointing a well-manicured brown finger in Leonard's face. "You're a bull-headed, arrogant, ridiculous ass! I almost ripped Chapel a new one for not getting me right away, but I know you probably threatened her life for even suggesting it! You make me sick, you know that, McCoy? If the Fleet weren't already gunning for your blood, I'd make a formal request to have you removed!"

M'Benga glared and huffed, while a slow smile spread across Leonard's face. He sat up slowly, gingerly, still grinning at the other doctor's perilous scowl. "I've missed having you on Alpha, Geoff," he said, trying to shake off the feeling of light-headedness that started as soon as he was fully upright. "Maybe I should demote you so I can have you around to yell at me all the time."

The other doctor glared, but could only keep it up for a few seconds before he started to laugh. "I hate you, Leonard H. McCoy," he said, still chuckling. "And if you demote me, I'll kill you myself."

Leonard smiled - he didn't quite have the energy to laugh, but he didn't want to show it. "I don't doubt it," he said.

M'Benga adjusted a few dials on Len's biobed, and studied the readings. "The day staff's gone soft," he said, making a note in his datapadd. "They're cringing more than usual around me. Though I see you've broken them of the habit of denying pain meds to patients."

Bones shrugged. "I hate hearing all that wailing. Besides, it doesn't exactly fit with Spock's new vision." The reminder of exactly why he was in a biobed depressed him momentarily, and he shook his head. He looked down, noting that his left arm was completely wrapped in heavy gauze, from shoulder to wrist. His right arm had three separate bandages, and there were a few now-dressed cuts on his chest. He couldn't count the number of bruises visible on his bare torso, and he didn't bother to check his legs – no doubt there were cuts and bruises there, too. Leonard looked back up at Geoff. "How's the captain?"

"Alive," M'Benga said shortly. "Which is pretty damned amazing, considering the doctor who operated on him was half dead himself." The glare on his friend's face seemed to dare Leonard to say anything. Leonard merely shrugged, not willing to give M'Benga a reason to go on another tirade just yet. The younger doctor seemed satisfied - his expression lightened just the tiniest bit. "Captain Spock is stable for now, Leonard," he said, somehow managing to sound more gentle, while still working an edge of "I'm still pissed at you" into his voice. "I'm still monitoring him closely. He hasn't regained consciousness yet."

Len nodded. "What about security?"

"I managed to get that great hulk, Sokan, to let me treat Spock, but he refuses to get any rest. He'll be all right for another twelve hours or so without treatment, but after that he won't be able to stay alert, even with that magnificent Vulcan physiology working for him." He grimaced. "Damned if I'm going to get my arm broken trying to give him a tranquilizer, though."

Leonard shook his head. "I wouldn't risk it myself."

Finished with his notes, Geoff stood for a moment beside Leonard's bed. "I didn't see Selek," he said quietly. "Did he-"

"He was the first to die," McCoy said, growing somber at the memory.

Geoff lowered his head for a second, then looked back at Leonard. "I'm sorry. He was a good officer - one of the first Spock brought with him, I think." McCoy nodded. "Well, Sokan's posted at Spock's door, and we've got a rotation of four trustworthy officers taking turns as second guard."

"Good," McCoy said, relieved.

"We've also got two guards stationed at your door around the clock, and someone's been assigned to protect the captain's woman until Spock gets back on his feet."

"Good to know," Bones replied. "How did you find out what was happening, anyway?"

Geoff rolled his eyes. "Rocket science, McCoy. I made someone tell me why we had over twenty knife injuries flooding our Sickbay."

Leonard magnanimously decided to ignore the quip. "What about Thelorin? Did we-"

"Captured," he answered. "She's been patched up and sent to the brig along with whatever survivors were left. First level, for now, but we're waiting for Spock to regain consciousness before we decide what to do with her. It was damned hard keeping the Vulcans from ripping her apart, but when Commander Scott told them you'd said to keep her alive, they backed off." M'Benga tilted his head and studied him. "Your words weigh a lot these days, old friend."

McCoy snorted. "Right. I only repeated what Spock would have ordered. Personally, I'd like to send the bitch to hell myself!" Leonard recalled Thelorin's derisive comments, and the many wounds on Spock's body, and he felt his blood begin to boil. "Geoff, what about-"

"No," M'Benga said, moving away from the biobed. "That's enough questions for now. You need to rest."

"Dammit, I-"

"Don't make me sedate you, Doctor, because I will make it hurt like hell before you pass out." M'Benga turned away and went to the medical replicator. McCoy kept quiet, knowing M'Benga would make good on his threat, even against the CMO. "Drink this," he said, thrusting a vitamin complex into Leonard's good hand. "Then rest, and if you've still got questions in a few hours, you can ask me then."

"Yes, sir," Leonard said with a wry smile. M'Benga rolled his eyes and stalked off without further words. Leonard drank the vitamin crap, vowing for the nth time in his career to find out if Scotty could figure out a way to make it taste like bourbon. If he had questions? He had a million questions. How was Spock really doing? How many of the crew had been convinced to revolt? What had happened to the loyal crew who'd stood by their captain? How long was he expected to lay around in this damned bio-bed?

The answer to the last question, he figured he could find out on his own. He pulled over the computer terminal, wincing when his left arm moved slightly in the process, and accessed is own medical record. Hm. The reason his arm hurt even though he knew he'd been given pain relief was because he had a seven inch cut down his arm, just below the shoulder, right down to the center of his forearm. It was deep at the first contact point, but got shallower as it went down, so he'd been spared any joint damage. He had confidence in M'Benga's work, and he knew he wouldn't have any permanent nerve damage. He was able to wiggle his fingers already, despite the fact that he knew he'd taxed himself horribly by ignoring himself and working on Spock. There were, of course, the three other gashes on his right arm, as well as a fairly deep cut on his back, near his left shoulder. Somehow, he'd gotten phaser burn on his right shoulder, and couldn't even remember when in the fight he'd gotten it. He confirmed that there were several bruises on his legs, and one fairly deep gash on his right leg. He had minor scrapes and cuts pretty much everywhere on his chest and back, and there was tenderness along his cheek where that bastard Morrison had clipped him before he'd managed to shove the knife home.

Leonard might have been overwhelmed by the extent of the damages to himself if he hadn't seen the wreck that was Spock's body at the end of the fight. He decided to review the captain's record next, but somewhere between closing his own file, and pressing the "next" key, he fell asleep.

The moment he was cleared for duty, McCoy took over the care of Captain Spock. M'Benga was almost ecstatic when he shoved the file into McCoy's hand. "He's your headache now, thank God. He's a hundred times worse than you are, and you are a huge pain in my ass!"

Leonard prepared himself to deal with a tempermental, angry patient, and approached Spock's private room with trepidation. But to Leonard's surprise, Spock had been calm, cooperative, and as openly pleasant as a Vulcan could be to Leonard during the first visit. McCoy had healed much more quickly than Spock, of course, since he hadn't received any injuries to his vital organs. Leonard still experienced some pain, and he had to be careful about infection, but Spock was forced to stay in Sickbay for a full three weeks after McCoy was cleared to leave his biobed. Spock took the long wait in his stride, McCoy thought, and didn't seem to be behaving at all like the "god damned primadonna" M'Benga swore he was.

When Spock was truly stable, and McCoy thought he could handle it, he began letting visitors in to see the captain for brief periods. The first (and longest) visit he allowed was from Scotty. For his valor during the battle, as well as for his experience and the fact that he was next after the deposed Sulu in the chain of command, Spock officially appointed Scotty the title of First Officer right there in sick-bay number 10. Spock placed Scotty in temporary command of the ship, and spoke for quite some time about the way he wanted the ship to be run while he was incapacitated. Mr. Scott, who looked about as pleased as McCoy had ever seen him look at the news of the promotion, promised to uphold the captain's new principles, and said that he would give a full report of his doings to Spock every day.

Spock also received visits from Moreau, and later, from Leslie and Thornton. Both men seemed intensely relieved that Spock believed they'd had nothing to do with the attack. McCoy vouched for them as well, since Spock had already been unconscious by the time they'd arrived to save the day.

A few days after the business of setting temporary command into motion had been taken care of, and there were no further duties that required the captain's particular attention, Spock's mood darkened. According to the nurses, when McCoy was away from Sickbay, Spock rarely said a single word, and when he did, it was usually angry. He snapped at the staff and threatened their careers or their freedom if they so much as looked at him the wrong way. The nurses and orderlies began to fear checking in on him, and McCoy found himself spending most of his time working with Spock, to the exclusion of other patients in Sickbay.

It was not unusual for a captain to receive the undivided attention of the CMO when he happened to occupy one of the medical beds. In fact, it was almost routine, and the staff was neither surprised, nor the least bit upset, when McCoy transferred all his cases to other doctors on the day shift and devoted his full attention to Spock. When Spock was resting, Leonard even spent a some time working on those damned performance evaluations, hoping that seeing this would please the captain. In the evenings, after his shift was over, Leonard spent the first several hours of the night as he had before the battle - sitting quietly beside Spock, enjoying the Vulcan's silent company - without the caffeine or the alcohol this time. They'd save that for when Spock had fully recovered.

The shock of the attack, the kill order, and the simple fact that it had come hard on the heels of Sulu's assassination attempt, all weighed heavily on McCoy. Now, more than ever, he wished he could convince Jim to help them. They weren't doing missions anymore - just cartography and basic running operations. Before long, other ships would be enlisted to return the Enterprise to a "proper" mode of leadership. They'd be banned from Starbases, or worse yet, welcomed by them with open arms and a hidden Imperial attack force. They needed help, and they needed it fast.

McCoy knew it would be dangerous to broach the subject again, but he knew he had to try. He waited until Spock had recovered enough to leave Sickbay, though the captain was still under close watch, and still experiencing some pain from his abdominal wounds. Despite the fact that Spock could no longer leave his quarters without at least four guards accompanying him, he seemed to be in a much better mood once he could get back to some form of active duty, and rest in his own quarters. Leonard decided it would be safe enough (as safe as it would ever be) to make his request.

He started the conversation over drinks, just before their nightly chess game. Leonard decided there wasn't exactly a gentle way to bring up the topic, but he tried to be as diplomatic as possible. "Spock? Do you think it would be all right for me to visit Ji- er… the prisoner?"

Spock looked at him sharply, narrowing his eyes. "No," he snapped.

Leonard cleared his throat, not to be defeated so soon. "It's been months now, and I'm sure he hasn't had a proper check-up in all that time. I'd like to-"

"I have given you access to his food-intake records, and to my guards' reports. There is no need for you to visit him."


"NO!" Spock shouted, slamming his drink down, heedless of the hot liquid splashing onto the table between them. "You will not go, I will not allow it! I am wounded, but I am not blind, McCoy! You don't wish to check up on him, you wish to enlist his help, I know you do."

Leonard clutched the arms of his chair tightly, but tried not to make it too obvious that he was nervous in the face of Spock's anger. "Spock I just-"

"Do you deny it?" Spock asked darkly.

McCoy clenched his fists together, knowing that there was no point in lying about it – in fact, it might just be dangerous - but wanting to lie all the same. "No, sir," he said at last. "I don't deny it. But Spock, if you could just see how together-"

Spock raised his hand, his scowl fierce enough to make Leonard stop speaking. "No more, McCoy," he said sharply. "I strictly forbid you to visit Third Level for any reason. Unless there is another medical emergency, and I am in need of your expertise, I will not allow it. My allies aboard this ship have shown themselves to be more numerous than my enemies. I will not crawl to him for assistance now."

Leonard set his own drink down, and leaned a little closer to Spock despite his nervousness. "Spock," he said softly. "At least try to see it my way. It isn't just the ship you have to contend with, it's the entire fleet. They may listen to reason if you give them logical answers, but if the both of you worked together, I know you could make this work."

Spock's eyes narrowed and his fists clenched. "I can make this work without him. Is your confidence in my abilities so weak that you-"

"No, Spock, it's not that at all, I just if-"

"James Kirk is dead, Doctor. Accept it! You have been loyal to me in every respect. Be loyal to me in this also."

McCoy sighed and lowered his head. "All right, Captain."

"Thank you," Spock replied. "I am… aware that this is… difficult for you, considering your prior relationship with him," he said slowly, clearly uncomfortable bringing up such a personal topic. "I believe you should know that I am all the more grateful for your dedication to me during this period."

Leonard nodded, and managed a slight smile. "Thank you, Spock, I appreciate you telling me that. It's… it's a stressful time for all of us, and I'm sorry I upset you. I won't bring it up again." Spock seemed pleased by that. His posture lost the attitude of furious tension, and he leaned back slowly in his chair. Leonard found a cloth to clean up the spilled drink, after which the two men began their chess game as if nothing had happened. The doctor was glad for that, at least - it gave him a respite to think and come up with a plan. He had no intention of mentioning Jim to Spock again, but he'd far from given up. Spock might not understand - might not want to see it - but McCoy knew exactly what needed to happen. Whether the captain saw it that way or not, McCoy was loyal to Spock, and he would prove it. He would do what was best for Spock, one way or another.

Leonard rubbed a damp hand against the leg of his pants and took a deep, measured breath. He walked casually to the restricted turbolift and stood in front of the retinal scanner, praying that he was still cleared. If he wasn't... His stomach churned and he shut off that train of thought. He'd worry about what life in the brig would be like if it came down to that.

McCoy let out a sigh of relief when the system chimed its acceptance, and the computer gave him access to the turbolift. He waited for the doors to close to give the short command - "Three".

The trip seemed to take hours, though it could only have been a few seconds. He fiddled with the strap of his medical kit - his rational mind's last ditch attempt to force him to reconsider. A moment later, he was walking briskly down the halls toward Jim's cell. He smiled pleasantly at Sotek's stern glare. "Okay, you can release it now," he said brightly.

"We were not notified of your visit, Doctor," Ska'an said.

"Oh, no?" Leonard pretended to look surprised. "Kirk's long overdue for a checkup. Captain Spock may have forgotten to note it - he's had his share of stress lately."

"Vulcans do not-"

"Oh I'm sure you don't, Sotek," Leonard said brusquely. "But Captain Spock gave me orders to run this checkup. He doesn't want an incident like last time, and neither do I. Regular health maintenance is required, and that includes medical checkups." The guards looked at one another, still hesitating. Leonard felt that a call to Spock was imminent, and the thought made his insides twist. "Listen," he said, with what he hoped looked like a smug smile. "If you'd like to check with Captain Spock, by all means, do. But he's in with Dr. M'Benga right now, and that usually puts him in a foul mood. I'd really like to just get in here, run a few scans and get back out without bothering him about this." The men glanced at one another again, but the rumors of Spock's behavior while in Sickbay must have reached them because a moment later, the forcefield dropped. McCoy struggled to keep from looking relieved. He nodded and smiled again, stepping casually inside. "Thanks, gentlemen," he said. "I'll be out shortly."

He turned away from them, only breathing again once the forcefield closed behind him. He couldn't help but smile at the sight of Jim. The younger man was seated on his cot, leaning against the bulkhead. He'd just looked up from a hand-held computer interface, and McCoy just managed to catch the ghost of a smile lighting his face before Jim remembered that he was supposed to be angry. He frowned and tossed the interface onto the cot. "What do you want?"

"You look good," Leonard replied, ignoring the question. "l can see you've been keeping your fitness up."

Jim snorted and rolled his eyes, while the doctor moved closer and pulled out his medical scanner. McCoy ran the scan and nodded. His findings matched what he could see in Jim already. Spock had kept him to the diet Leonard had prescribed, and Jim had definitely been working out. Aside from the fact that his skin was paler than usual, Jim had none of the usual negative signs of long imprisonment. "So," Jim asked. "Am I cleared to sit here for another six months?"

"You're as fit as any prisoner could be," the doctor answered, with false brightness. "Of course there isn't much to do in here but exercise, is there?"

Jim scowled. "Are you done? You've seen I'm healthy, now don't you have something you can be doing for your captain?"

"Dammit, Jim, I didn't come here to-" he broke off and glanced nervously toward the forcefield. "Can't you see I'm trying to help you?" he hissed. "I'm not here for any goddamn physical."

Jim crossed his arms across his chest, still scowling. "Then why are you here, Doctor?"

McCoy looked toward the field again, before saying softly, "Starfleet put a kill order out on Spock."

Jim's eyes widened. "Really?" Leonard nodded. At first, Jim seemed only shocked. They, a slow smile spread across his face. "That's wonderful! Serves the bastard right!"

Leonard frowned, enraged by Jim's sudden glee. "What the hell's wrong with you, Jim," he snapped, still speaking softly. "That doesn't make a damn bit of sense, and if you thought for a second, you'd know that!" Kirk glared, but the doctor spoke quickly. "What do you think is going to happen if someone succeeds in deposing Spock?" he asked. "You think they're gonna come trooping down here and give you a ticker-tape parade and a ten-man escort back to the bridge so you can take back your command?" Jim scowled, but didn't answer. "If they find you at all and you don't starve to death first, they'll kill you right after they finish with me."

Jim looked sharply at him. "Why would they kill you?"

"Starfleet knows I've been loyal to Spock," Leonard said. "I wasn't named in the termination order, but suffice it to say I may as well have been."

"Dammit!" Jim growled, standing and grabbing him by the arms. "God dammit, Bones, why didn't you report him when he started to defy Starfleet Command? Now-"

Leonard sighed. "I couldn't, you know that."

Jim shook his head. "The Fleet could have protected you if he-"

"It's not that, Jim. I..."

Jim frowned and tightened his grip on McCoy's arms. "You what?"

McCoy swallowed, deciding against saying that he'd come to regard Spock as a close friend - closer than he'd been before the takeover. Instead, looking at the dangerous gleam in Jim's eyes, he said, "I… I really think he can pull this off. Most of the senior crewmembers are backing him, and a lot of the changes he's making really are for the better. He can do it, but he needs you, Jim. He needs your charisma and your relationship with the other captains in the fleet."

Jim pursed his lips. "Did Spock send you here?"

"No, of course not," Leonard cried. "He'd kill me if he found out I was here."

"Then what the hell makes you think he'll accept my help even if I wanted to give it?"

"He will," Leonard said eagerly. "You're great with words, Jim. He'll do it if you just talk to him! Will you at least think about helping us?"

Jim's eyes narrowed, and his grip on Leonard's arms tightened ever so slightly. "Oh, it's 'us' now, is it?"

Leonard shook his head nervously. "It... I just meant-"

Jim scowled and shoved him roughly away. "I already told you-"

"Jim, would you just lis-"

"No, damn you, I don't want to hear it! If you're with him now, then be with him and leave me the hell alone!"

McCoy frowned. "Wait, are… are you talking about being with him? With him? As in... that's-"

"That's what?" he snapped. "Not an unreasonable assumption?"

McCoy glared, fists clenching tightly, absolutely furious. "If that's what you want to think, that's your own fucking business, Jim," he said in a low voice. "Even though you attacked me when I tried to give you a way out of here."


"And even though you were safe in your little hiding place when half the Science team was gunning for my blood!" Jim frowned slightly, and Leonard jabbed an accusing finger at him. "You think you're the only one in this situation with a fucking cross to bear, you selfish son of a bitch? I miss you every fucking day! And every FUCKING DAY I have to go on patching people up, and trying to keep a knife out of my back, and I can't even mention your name, and the only person I can talk to about anything doesn't show his goddam fucking emotions unless it's to yell at me to stop trying to ask about you and now you want to accuse me of fucking him??" Jim frowned and started to speak, but Leonard was too hurt and angry to care. "FUCK you, Jim! Fuck you and whatever the fuck you're going through. I risked everything to come down here and God only knows why when you obviously don't give a flying fuck about me or you or anything anymore, but-"


"-I'm done!" he yelled. "I am fucking done. We're on the verge of something huge here, and if we survive, you'll be along for the ride whether you help or not. And if we don't... well if we don't, the three of us will be dead and it won't matter then, will it?" He stopped, breathing hard, waiting for Jim to say something. Kirk was silent, jaw set, hard eyes watching Bones carefully, but without any expression Leonard could readily read. McCoy scowled and turned away, taking a step toward the door. He paused and turned his head slightly, speaking softly now, voice rough from his tirade. "I won't be back, Jim."

There was no answer. Leonard swallowed a sigh and moved toward the forcefield again. He'd made it about two steps when he heard Jim's soft voice. "Bones. Wait." McCoy stopped and forced himself to take his time before turning around. Jim looked about as close to sheepish as Len had ever seen him look. "I'm... I'm an asshole, okay? Come back." Len came closer to Jim, but his arms were crossed tightly over his chest, and he still glared fiercely. Jim drew closer to him, holding his arms out in a "give me a chance" gesture. "Bones, I'm stir crazy, alright? I'm going insane with nothing to do. Without anyone... without you to talk to. Is that what you want to hear?" McCoy shrugged, still frowning. Jim lowered his head slightly, still looking at Leonard with remorse in his eyes. "And I... I probably shouldn't have said what I did about you and Spock."


"All right, I shouldn't have said it." Jim smiled and moved a little closer, resting his hand on Leonard's shoulder. "C'mon, Bones. Let's not leave it like we did the last time. Who knows when you'll be able to come back, right?"

Bones nodded, feeling his fury abate just a little. "I just think-"

"I know," Jim said. "And you're probably right. But I... you know I just... I couldn't stand the idea of crawling to Spock - it made me sick to think about it."

"I know, but Jim, it-"

"I'll talk to him, Bones," Jim said.

McCoy couldn't hold back the broad smile that lit his face, even though he still wanted to be mad at Jim. "Really?"

Jim nodded seriously. "I really will." He looked around the barren cell. "I can't live like this anymore. If helping with this insane plan is what it takes to have some kind of a decent life, then I don't have much of a choice, do I?"

Leonard smiled and edged forward, pleased when Jim opened his arms and wrapped him into a tight embrace. "I'm so relieved, Jim," he said. "You weren't the only one going crazy. I've missed you so-" McCoy froze suddenly, feeling Jim's hands sink lower on his body. He chuckled, but as much as he wanted to, they didn't have time to get frisky. "Jim, we ca-" Before he could say another word, Jim shoved him back roughly. Stunned, McCoy staggered back, barely managing to keep from falling. "Jim-"

"Shut up," Jim hissed, brandishing a dagger. McCoy didn't have to check to know it was his - he'd chosen the blade design personally and he knew it like he knew his own face - but he put a hand to his side reflexively all the same. He felt the blood draining from his face and a chill swept over him. Why hadn't he disarmed himself before coming down here? Could his anxiety about disobeying Spock have made him forget such basic protocol?

Jim motioned with the blade. "Get them to lower the forcefield," he said softly.

Leonard didn't move. "Jim, do you want to get me killed?" he whispered.

Jim sprang at him, grasping his arm in a painful grip and twisting it behind him. "Don't make me hurt you, Bones," he whispered in Leonard's ear. "I don't want to."

Jim shoved Leonard toward the forcefield, and it was all the doctor could do to bite back the 'yeah right' that came to his lips. He moved slowly toward the field, mind racing, trying to figure out how to escape this situation without being killed. McCoy stopped short when he heard an alarmed cry from outside the field.


"Lower the field!"

McCoy froze, heart suddenly pounding hard. He shuddered and tried to edge back, realizing in that instant that there might be something worse than being knifed to death by the man he loved. The forcefield dropped in the next second and Spock stormed in. He looked immediately at the doctor and actually snarled. McCoy staggered backward, jumping when he bumped into Jim behind him.

Jim shoved Leonard aside and advanced on Spock. "Deal with me," he snapped.

Spock glared. "I will. When the time is right." Jim lunged at Spock, but the captain managed to dodge his attack. A fight ensued, but McCoy knew it wouldn't last long. Jim had taken care of himself, maintaining his strength despite his confinement, but even the strongest of humans was no match for a Vulcan - not even one who had recently recovered from a harsh battle and near-fatal knife wounds. It would only be a matter of time before Spock finished Jim, and then it would be McCoy's turn.

Leonard edged toward the combatants, not sure if he should try to stop the fight, or if he would even survive the attempt. Spock had disarmed himself, as all officers were supposed to do before entering a cell, but he was still a deadly force, holding his own against Jim and Leonard's dagger.

Within seconds, Sotek and Ska'an rushed in to help. Jim was disarmed within seconds, and Ska'an held his hands behind him, while Sotek raised the confiscated dagger. "No!" Spock shouted, grasping Sotek's arm before he could bring down the blade. "Just hold him!"

"What the hell happened to you, Spock," Jim cried, spitting blood onto the gray floor. "When did you get so weak?"

Spock turned away from Jim without answering and stalked slowly toward Leonard, hands clenched tightly into fists. McCoy backed away, breaths coming in quick, shallow gasps. "Did I not expressly forbid you to come here?" Spock asked, his voice practically vibrating with rage.

Leonard tried to speak, but a hesitant croak was all that came out. With startling speed, Spock rushed at him and smacked him hard across the face, sending him reeling. Leonard landed on his back, inches from the bulkhead, and before he could get up, Spock was there. The captain brought down another blow, this time with his closed fist. Leonard edged back, but there was nowhere to go. "Spock, I-" Spock cut him off with another harsh blow to his face. Leonard gave up trying to talk, and focused on surviving. He shielded his head as Spock struck again and again. The Vulcan's powerful fists sent shock waves of pain through his arms, aggravating his still-sensitive knife wounds, and setting his fingertips tingling.

Leonard began to fear that Spock would break his arms from the sheer force of his blows, and he struggled to scramble away. With a growl, Spock grabbed him by the hair and forced him to his feet. Leonard caught sight of Jim watching them - teeth bared in a furious grimace, straining against the immovable Vulcan guards. Spock gripped the doctor by his collar, drawing his attention back forcefully, and slammed him back against the bulkhead. "Why have you come here, McCoy?"

Leonard swallowed, and spoke in a quavering voice. "Spock, please, I just wanted-"

"I TRUSTED you!" Spock shouted. Leonard felt a twisting in his gut at the true hurt he could see in Spock's eyes despite his outrage. "I trusted you, despite all reason! There were those who thought I was a fool not to kill you, but I have protected you because I thought you were loyal!"

"Spock, I-"

"But now," he shouted, hands shaking in his fury. "Now I see that you have merely lain in wait until the time came to betray me!"

Leonard shook his head, his own body trembling. "No, Spock, no, I didn't, I-" Spock's scowl deepened, and suddenly, his hand closed around Leonard's throat, cutting off his air supply. McCoy's eyes widened and he gripped Spock's fingers, but was powerless to pry them away.

"Stop!" Jim's voice, tight with a sound the doctor had rarely ever heard from him - fear. "Stop, stop it, damn you! STOP!" Jim's voice grew more frantic, but Spock only tightened his grip. Leonard already felt the dizziness. Soon he would lose consciousness, and- "Spock, stop, god damn you, you're killing him! You're on some kind of fucking peace crusade, aren't you? What's it going to look like when you bring McCoy's dead body up there with you, huh? Put that logical Vulcan brain to work and THINK!"

Leonard sucked in a heaving breath, feeling his head clear almost immediately. Spock's hand was still firmly holding his neck, just loosely enough for McCoy to breathe. "What did you tell him?" Spock asked, still gazing at McCoy with malice in his eyes.

Leonard tried to answer, but he couldn't seem to speak - could only suck in air, as if his body was afraid it might be denied again at any moment. It was with a shock of pure terror that McCoy became aware of Spock's other hand, reaching for his face, fingers spread in the same way he'd seen the Vulcan use with their prisoners. Leonard cringed and couldn't stop the undignified whimper that escaped his throat. "No, Spock, please. Don't-"

"I will have your thoughts."

Leonard pressed himself back hard against the wall, raising a trembling hand in self defense, but not daring to touch Spock. "Please," he whispered. "Don't do this to me, Spock, please. Just ask me what you want, I'll tell you anything! I'll tell you the full truth, I swear, please!" He could feel his panic rising, breath quickening, body shaking uncontrollably.

Spock stood still, hand hovering in front of Leonard's face, chest heaving. McCoy held his gaze, meeting Spock's smoldering eyes with a silent plea. Finally, Spock growled and slammed his fist against the wall beside McCoy's head, hard enough to dent the bulkhead. When he spoke again, his voice was low and dangerous. "Are you in collusion with Kirk to wrest control of this ship from me?"

"No, sir," he said, hearing Jim's disparaging snort at the same time.

"Then you came here to expose my weaknesses to him?"

"No," he cried. "I haven't told him anything about-"

"How much of my plans have you told him?"

"I... n-not much."

Spock's grip tightened on his shirt. "How much?"

Leonard swallowed hard, his throat sore and raw from yelling at Jim, then being nearly choked to death. He shuddered. "I t-told him that you were making changes to the way things work on the ship, but not what the changes were. And I... I told him about the k-kill order, but-" He could feel Spock tensing, and he started to breathe rapidly again. "B-but I only told him because I wanted him to see that you are making a difference! Starfleet Command wouldn't have put the order out if you weren't a threat to them, and I... I just thought this would give us a fighting chance, but..." He could feel his eyes starting to sting, and he swallowed hard against the tremor he could hear in his own voice. "I l-let my guard down, and..."

"And he took the weapon you foolishly brought into the brig with you," Spock said.

"Spock, please, I-"

"Enough! You are in violation of a direct order, and I will have you confined in the brig until-"

"Spock." Spock paused, but refused to turn around at the sound of Jim's calm voice. "Captain," Jim said, emphasizing the word, but saying it without the slightest hint of sarcasm. "Bones is right. He's right, and we can't keep trying to deny it. You can't do this alone, and I can't take it in this... cage anymore. Give him a break. Just... let the disobedience pass this one time, and I..." He hesitated, but only for a second. "I'll serve you. If you want my help getting the other captains on your side before Starfleet Command orders them to tear the Enterprise apart, I'll give it to you."

Spock's eyes widened slightly, but McCoy didn't even dare to hope that this would work - that Jim would really convince Spock to let him off the hook, or that he would really help them get the Fleet on their side. Spock wasn't so trusting, either. He scowled almost immediately, and turned to face Jim, still gripping McCoy's tunic tightly, pressing him against the wall. "How can you expect me to trust you?" Spock asked. "You turned a knife on McCoy, yet suddenly you seem so concerned with saving him? What assurance do I have that you would not simply turn on me the moment you were free?"

"Don't free me, then," Jim said. "Use the wristband, keep a guard on me, whatever you want. I took the knife because I wanted to get the hell out of here, but I never would have hurt Bones, and I don't want to see him locked up when he..." He glanced at the doctor, before looking at Spock again. "He's trying to help us, Spock. Until now, I've had my head too far up my own ass to see it, and I'm guessing you've been no better. But Bones knows both of us better than we do ourselves, and you know that. He's right. If we're going to save this ship, we need to work together, whether we like it or not. Don't punish him for pointing it out."

Spock was still. McCoy wished he could see the man's face - get some kind of clue about what he was thinking. The room was silent except for the breathing of the three former friends. The tension continued to build, until Leonard thought he would scream. Finally, Spock said, "Ska'an. Clear the path to the officers' quarters. Sotek - hold him here until I send for you." He turned as Ska'an hurried out of the room, and glared at the doctor. "You. Come with me."

He let McCoy go, turned and walked out of the cell. Leonard stood still for a moment, taking shallow breaths, limbs still shaking. He glanced at Jim, still held firmly by Sotek. His former captain gave him a slight smile, and the barest hint of a nod in Spock's direction, as if to say "get going". McCoy did just that, not exactly liking the prospect of what would happen if Spock had to ask him to follow twice. He forced himself to put one foot in front of the other and walk after Spock.

The captain kept up a quick pace, and even though they were about the same height, the attack and Leonard's own nervousness made keeping up with Spock a struggle. McCoy stepped into the turbolift after Spock, despite a strong instinctive desire not to enclose himself in a tiny tube with a man who had nearly killed him not five minutes before. He stood slightly farther from Spock than he usually did.

Now that he was not in a near-blind state of panic, he noticed a dark green stain on the forearm of Spock's tunic. Jim had managed to get in two slashes before the fight had ended. A glance at the Vulcan probably should have told him that now was not the best time to talk, but Leonard couldn't help himself. He cleared his throat. "May I take a look at that, sir?"

Spock looked sharply at him, and Leonard pointed at his arm. The captain looked down, and his eyebrow lifted – almost as if he hadn't noticed the cuts before. He pursed his lips, but slowly extended his arm to McCoy. Leonard edged closer and gently pulled back the ripped tunic. He prided himself on cleaning, sealing and bandaging the wound without his hands making a single nervous tremor. When he was done, Spock moved his arm back to his side and looked back at the turbolift doors.

"Spock, I'm-"

"Are you going to apologize to me, Doctor?" Spock asked in a low voice.

"I... w-well..." He was flustered now, not sure what kind of answer he could give that wouldn't serve to re-ignite Spock's anger.

Spock turned to him, his eyes still dark, but without the fury Leonard had seen before. "It is not logical for you to apologize for actions that you clearly do not regret," he said. "Or is it that you now regret what you did?"

"I..." McCoy paused, wanting to choose his words carefully. "I regret that my actions were seen as a betrayal. I believe in what you're doing, Captain. I want you... I want us to succeed, and... I'm sorry I disobeyed you, but I didn't see any other way of getting the two of you to talk to each other."

Spock stared at the turbolift doors without speaking for a few moments. When they arrived at the transfer point, and the doors opened onto the already emptied hall, he turned to Leonard. "You may be right," he said. "Jim may be the key to gaining the support of the other starship captains, and ensuring the success of my plans." His eyes narrowed slightly, squelching the blossoming hope that he might be coming around to McCoy's way of thinking. "However," he said softly. "If you are wrong, and he uses this as an opportunity to regain control of the ship..." He paused and turned away again, chest rising and falling in a silent sigh. "Then, Doctor, to use a figurative human colloquialism, your hands will be stained with my blood."

He stepped out of the turbolift and walked away without a second glance at the doctor. McCoy didn't have the heart to find the slightest amusement, or even annoyance, at Spock's stubborn refusal to just use a "colloquial" phrase without giving it an introduction. He looked down at his own hands, half expecting to see a change in them already. Dammit, Jim. Don't let us down.

Chapter 4
Chapter 6

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