DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of M. L. "Steve" Barnes and is copyright (c) 1977 by M. L. "Steve" Barnes. Rated PG. Reprinted from More Trek Tales, 1977. Rated R.
M. L. "Steve" Barnes
McCoy to Tonia Barrows: "You'd have whole armies of Don Juans to fight off -- and me, too."
"Is that a promise, Doctor?"
. . . . . "Shore Leave"
* * *
Yeoman Tonia Barrows paused outside sick bay to flip her dark hair out of her face. She ceremoniously crossed the first two fingers of her left hand and then hid the hand in the folds of her short tunic skirt. With her shoulders squared in proper military fashion, she entered the sick bay door.
She was in luck. Leonard McCoy was alone.
"Doctor McCoy," she said crisply. "I've been assigned to Medical Records and I've brought those tapes you requested. I could have tied them into your viewer by the computer but I wanted to deliver them personally."
She halted her words at the look on his face. "Is there anything wrong, Doctor?"
"No ... ah ... no. I was just surprised to see you here."
"You mean after having spent your shore leave with me last week? I recuperate rapidly, Doctor." Her tone changed and her eyes sparkled beneath thick lashes.
"No. That is ... well, yes, I guess that's it, all right." His face suddenly folded into his most engaging smile. "Maybe that is what I mean, after all."
"When we beamed back aboard and I didn't see you again -- and I thought I might -- I went out of my way to make myself visible. But you seem to be avoiding me, Doctor." She moved a step nearer to him. She did not violate the propriety of her uniform by flirting; she merely lowered her voice and asked very softly, "Did I do something on leave that displeased you?"
McCoy's smile dissolved and she thought once again how transparent the stern, professional mask he usually wore really was. She could read every emotion he'd ever felt toward her on that marvelously mobile face. The sight gave her a warm and excited, yet tender, feeling.
"Don't ever think that, Princess," he said so low she almost missed the endearment.
"Then why...?" Tonia began, but Captain Kirk was walking through the door and they moved apart, flustered. McCoy took the tapes from her hand and gravely dismissed her. Tonia searched his eyes for a momert, then turned and left.
James Kirk watched the yeoman leave sick bay. He knew as well as at least ten other people, that McCoy and Barrows had spent their entire shore leave together. It was not his place to comment on it, however.
"Bones," the Captain said. "Spock just called from the planet's surface. He's aborting the mission. Seems Carmichael is suddenly not feeling well. It may be nothing, but I'm heading for the transporter room right now."
"I'll get my kit and go with you." McCoy picked up his medikit and his tricorder and the two headed for the turbolift.
"Did they find anything of interest on Gemini Two?" McCoy asked as the lift worked its way to the proper level.
"No mineral or geological deposits of any value. Spock seemed to think it might be an ideal place for a Federation colony. It has a moderate climate -- never falls below forty-five at night or rises about seventy-five or eighty during the day. Plenty or rainfall and good soil. But now I'm not so sure we can recommend it for colonization."
The Doctor glanced quickly at Kirk's face. There were rare faint creases in the Captain's forehead. "Why? Do you think Carmichael's illness is connected with the planet?"
The turbolift doors opened and they stepped out.
"I've no way of knowing, Bones, but it isn't like Spock to abort a mission without a reason."
* * *
"Landing party ready to beam up, Captain."
First Officer Spock flipped his communicator shut and waited for the transporter to lift them from the surface of Gemini Two. Their research here was nearly complete and he had not needed to discontinue the necessary work much before the deadline. It had appeared to be a routine mission -- making readings, collecting a specimen or two of the only life form, a blue, lizard-like creature, and scanning for ore deposits. Yet one of his men, Geologist Sam Carmichael, had suddenly complained of feeling sick and, after one look at his face, there was no doubt in the Vulcan's mind that the man was genuinely ill. The First Officer had experienced a vague uneasiness ever since.
Now he gazed at the cool, peaceful landscape one last time and no one would have realized his deep concern by looking at that calm, still face. And no one would have known the illogical thought he firmly repressed. Yet for a fleeting instant Spock was aware of it--
( "I wish we had never come here." )
* * *
Kirk and McCoy waited while Spock held the landing party under the decontamination beam. The high intensity light bathed their figures in white-hot glare. Any agent harmful to human life on the surface of their bodies or clothing would be sterilized under the powerful illumination. Then it was finished, and Spock, Sulu, Asweela, and Carmichael stepped off the transporter platform. Carmichael was pale and a little unsteady but did not seem seriously ill. McCoy stepped to his elbow and began to take a medical scan.
Kirk interrogated Spock. "Spock, what happened down there that made you think it necessary to abort? Did Carmichael become ill after touching or examining something?"
"No, Captain, it was nothing like that." The Vulcan hesitated. "I'm not certain I can verbally justify my actions. But at the time I saw no reason to take further risks."
Kirk looked at his First Officer for a long minute. "That's not a very logical explanation, Mister Spock," he said quietly.
McCoy had been listening as he took Carmichael's readings.
"Intuition, Spock?" he wanted to know. "I thought you didn't believe in it."
The Vulcan swallowed and sighed. "I may be forced to evaluate the concept, Doctor," he said thoughtfully.
"Well," Kirk asked, "Was there my indication that there was something on the planet's surface that might be harmful to us?"
"Nothing showed up in the preliminary sweet I made with the scanners, Captain. However, there are always dangers. The sensors can only be adjusted to a certain sensitivity. I..."
Kirk waved him to silence.
"I know, Spock, I know. You did the right thing and I'm sure you observed the usual precautions. And after all, that's what this ship's all about - exploring where there is risk. I'm just puzzled as to what might have happened."
Carmichael had taken a few deep breaths, had moved about the room as if trying his legs. His appearance had improved and he seemed better. "I think I was just unsettled from the transporter trip, Captain," he told Kirk.
"I know what you're talking about," McCoy said wryly, "After we've checked you over in sick bay I may have something to settle that 'space sickness.'"
Spock's eyebrow shot up. "Spare us your potions, Doctor. The cure is frequently worse than the ailment."
"Not this 'cure', Spock," McCoy grinned. "It's bottled and bonded and over ten years old." He waved for Carmichael to accompany him and gave a broad wink.
"I think..." the geologist began when suddenly his knees buckled. He was on the verge of losing consciousness and unable to speak further.
McCoy hurried to his side to take more readings. He signaled for Sulu to help steady the reeling scientist. "Jim," he said grimly, "I don't like the way these tricorder readings look. This doesn't look like ordinary transporter disorientatfon to me. Let's get him to sick bay at once." He and Sulu escorted the faltering geologist from the room.
Kirk watched the three men leave and concern began to furrow his brow.
"Better hurry with your report, Spock, and see what an in-depth analysis shows. Did you bring any specimens aboard?"
Spock indicated the closed case Ensign Asweela carried.
"Small, reptilian creatures, Captain. I had them placed in sealed atmosphere containers."
"Good. Put them in the isolation chamber and use the waldoes to conduct your examination. I don't want any chance of further contamination. And see that the landing party gets a thorough check up in sick bay."
"Yes, sir." Spock gave a precipitative flick of his index finger and Asweela followed him from the room.
Kirk remained in the transporter area for a moment, deep in thought. He walked to the intercom. "Helm, this is the Captain. Set course for the other planet in this system, but notify the survey team they will have to stand by for further clearance."
"Dr. Gerris is going to be disappointed, Captain," Uhura's voice replied softly. "May I offer him an explanation?"
Kirk hesitated. "No, no problem here. Just tell him it's a precautionary procedure. Kirk out." Then he headed for the bridge.
Half an hour later Kirk's bridge intercom signaled him from the arm of the command chair. He opened the channel to have McCoy say, "Jim, I'm going to need more lab personnel in order to run a complete analysis on Carmichael's symptoms."
"How's he doing, Bones?"
"Not responding well at all. I've started some blood tests but I'll need additional technicians to run rapid growth cultures for me."
"I'll have Chekov run the personnel roster through the computer. One moment." He signaled the young Russian to the computer station. Within seconds the ensign had a tape for him.
"I've got your extra staff here, Bones," Kirk said. "I'll notify Jessup, Singh and Barrows that they're to work an emergency shift."
"Fine. I'll be waiting." There was a pause. "Did you say Barrows?"
"Yes, Doctor. Tonia Barrows. I believe you're acquainted with her." Kirk could not resist the barb. "Her alternative training lists 'lab technician grade six' so I'm sure she's qualified."
"She's only a yeoman, Jim."
"The computer information indicates she's on the promotion list, Bones. Her training qualifies her for an ensign's rating. She's just marking time until she can move up to the rank. Any problem?"
There was a short silence. Finally McCoy's voice answered, sounding very off-hand. "No. No problem. Sick Bay out."
Kirk listened to the disconnect signal, a slight smile on his face. Then the reality of their situation came back and he frowned. It was an expression that he found he was becoming accustomed to.
* * *
In sick bay McCoy took a second to absorb the jolt Tonia's name had given him. While one portion of his mind carefully monitored the deterioration of his ailing patient, another less disciplined part drifted backwards into reflection...
His marriage to Linda had been an emotional sleigh ride. It had been heaven and hell, evenly mixed. And he had come out of it exhausted, drained of all feeling - anger or passion.
Star Fleet had been a god-send. It had taken him away from Earth, from memories of Linda and laughing little Joanna, the cherished child of a storm-ridden marriage who was no longer his -- and from what Linda had intimated, may never have been his. It didn't matter to McCoy for he could not have loved the little girl any more if he had been certain of her parentage. It was with a wrench that he gave her up to avoid the long court battle and the scars it might inflict on her.
Star Fleet had also gotten him away from the ordinary dull routine he'd fallen into. It was challenging and different and for a while it was enough.
Somewhere in the back of his mind was the knowledge that there was more to life than duty and serving mankind, but he found that searching for that part of himself had only brought pain so he found it easier to deny it.
And being a doctor aboard a ship put him in an awkward position; it was difficult to maintain a professional attitude when you were sleeping with your patient.
Gradually he'd retreated behind a kindly, fatherly image that few people took time to penetrate. McCoy refused to notice that it set him apart from the rest of the crew. His patients did not think about his feelings, his problems, his loneliness. They came to him to tell him theirs.
He had observed the same reaction in Tonia that first day on the shore leave planet. She had bean chatting aimlessly about the vision of Don Juan she had conjured up and how she wished she could dress the part. He had made some passing remark that if she did she'd have legions of lovers -- himself included.
It had been meant as a harmless gallantry, but somehow the wistful note crept in. He'd been aware of Tonia Barrows as a lovely young woman for some time and he was not made of iron like Spock.
Tonia had caught the inflection in his voice, had turned and seen something in his eyes. For the first time she had looked at him as a man, not her doctor. And from the light on her face he knew the image was not a displeasing one.
The two days they'd spent together had a dream-like quality for McCoy. To have this gentle, beautiful creature close to him, genuinely interested and warmly responsive was a delight to his love-parched soul. They had laughed and played and gone swimming and made love in the golden sunlight. And perhaps because it was a place where wishes were granted and perhaps for a deeper reason that he did not care to admit, McCoy found himself in love with Tonia.
Too soon they had to return to the ship. The idyll was too quickly banished, the passion too abruptly excised. Back aboard the ship he could not endure the memory of those hours. Because of the differences in their ages, her obvious appeal for younger men, he felt he had no right to expect their relationship to continue. Since even the sight of her caused him a bittersweet pain, he avoided her -- and prayed that she stayed healthy and out of sick bay. Then he'd looked up today and there she was, coming through the door to his domain...
McCoy shook off the memories impatiently and went to check on Carmichael's condition for the fifth time that day.
* * *
Later that day McCoy stopped at the lab to check on the results of the cultures he had ordered. "Who's doing the CDA report?" he asked Dr. Finesilver, head of the Enterprise's complete lab complex.
"Barrows, Finesilver replied and at McCoy's sharp look, "I know she's new to our lab, but she's more than qualified and she asked for the job. She's good, Doc."
McCoy nodded and tried to put away thoughts of the contamination danger with which CDA technicians had to deal. It was a job that must be done and if Tonia was qualified... Still he found it hard to dismiss his concern.
He picked up a surgical mask and entered the passageway that linked the outer and inner labs.
Tonia was just coming through the outer chamber door, stripping off her lab coat, mask and gloves. She tossed them into the disposal and grinned and waved to him. Then she went to wash her hands. He joined her as she finished.
"We should have the results from the computer readings in a few minutes, Doctor," she said.
"Did you have to volunteer for Communicable Disease Analysis?" he asked abruptly.
She leaned back against the lab table and studied him. "Someone had to do it, Doctor, and it is my field. I specialized in it."
He sighed. "It figures. Just ... be careful."
Her nose wrinkled in a grin. "Naturally."
He stared at her, into the large luminous eyes, at the flawless mouth, the perfectly formed nose. "What's a girl like you doing out here on a starship, anyway, facing danger, living the military life?"
"Doctor, it can get very boring on Earth these days," she said with an impish smile. He watched the dimple form at the corner of her mouth; she would, of course, be the type to have dimples.
"After all," Tonia went on, "I'll only be young once. Shouldn't I have a taste of adventure before I get old?"
"Which won't be for a long, long time," McCoy said wryly, drowning in the warm browns and golds of her eyes. He pulled his thoughts back to her words. "No -- I just meant you're the kind of girl I think should be loved and protected and held..."
"Any volunteers, Doctor?" she asked softly.
There was a silence, his eyes darkened. "Don't tempt me, Tonia." His voice was husky. "It's difficult enough to keep from touching you."
She stared at him in amazement. "But why shouldn't you touch me, Leonard? Why can't we...?"
"Tonia ... Yeoman Barrows." He almost managed to put them back on an impersonal basis with her rank. "What happened down there on the planet was ... wonderful beyond belief. I'm having trouble accepting the fact that it even happened. But that was shore leave and this is the ship and I don't expect you to go on pretending."
"Pretending?" Her voice slid up the scale. "Doctor McCoy, I was never further from make-believe in my life!" She stopped, her eyes searching his still face. "Or is that what you were doing -- pretending?" Tears glittered in the hazel eyes. "I thought it meant more to you than that."
Compassion trapped him. He reached out and caught both her hands in his. "It was the most wonderful two days of my life," he said softly. "Believe that ... please."
"Then why? I mean I don't intend to make your life complicated. I'm not going to do ridiculous things, childish things to embarrass you. I don't see why it must end."
He released her hands slowly.
"Tonia, you gave this ship's aging surgeon two of the best days he's ever had. Can't you leave it at that?"
She stepped back. Her eyes were brilliant with anger. "Leonard McCoy, you're unbelievable! Even Spock is silly putty compared to you -- you're the most stubborn man I've ever met!" She turned, gestured blindly at the print-out station. "The report should be finished by now." And ran from the lab, almost colliding with Jim Kirk as he came through the door.
The Captain looked over his shoulder at Barrow's retreat and then turned beck to study McCoy's expression.
"Having trouble maintaining your professional detachment, Bones?" he asked amused.
"With Tonia Barrows -- yes." The words were grim.
Kirk glanced once more after the girl. "I see," he murmured. "Then why fight it?"
"Jim, I'm almost old enough to be her father!"
"Come on, Bones. That's an excuse you're fond of invoking. It doesn't hold water with me." He paused, considered, then continued in a milder tone. "I know the divorce was tough -- and losing your daughter Joanna. And I know there have been one or two others since that left scars. But you can't just retreat into a shell. You've got to go on living. And young, pretty, female complications are a part of living."
McCoy turned away, bent over the viewer as if to study the print-out. "I haven't time for complications," he growled.
Kirk gazed at his friend's back, his expression softened. "Bones..." he began gently.
"Jim, we're in trouble!" The surgeon straightened from the view screen and Kirk moved quickly to his side. "It's what I've been afraid of," he told the Captain.
"What have you found?"
"We're dealing with a virus. No wonder Spock's scan didn't pick it up -- it's so minute that ordinary tests wouldn't reveal its presence ... and it's airborne."
"Airborne, Bones? Then..." Kirk waited, his voice indicating that every nerve was at attention.
McCoy nodded slowly. "Yes, Jim. There's very little chance that the entire ship hasn't been exposed. The decontam light can't penetrate tissue and our survey crew probably brought it back in their bloodstreams or respiratory systems."
Kirk stood very still, said nothing for a moment. Then, "How's Carmichael?"
"Not good. I had a hunch we were dealing with a disease so I've had him on antibiotics, but so far he hasn't responded to treatment."
"What can we do to whip this thing before it spreads further?" Kirk demanded.
McCoy gave him one of his most worried looks and then glanced away. "Nothing, Jim, until us can learn more about the disease. Oh, we can seal off portions of the ship, I can treat with antibiotics, but until we know more about the organism's pattern of survival, we're pretty helpless. I'm sorry." He walked to the intercom. "McCoy to bio lab. Is Commander Spock there?"
"Spock here." The reply was instantaneous.
"Have you finished your examination of the lizards, Spock?"
"Yes, Doctor. I was about to contact you. The lung tissue contains rest quantities of a minuscule and unknown virus. The disease apparently uses the reptilian lung tissue as an incubation area without any harm to the lizards. I presume that Dr. Carmichael was exposed while collecting rock samples near their habitat."
McCoy cut off the speaker. "That's where it came from, Jim. The whole planet is full of those lizards, according to Spock's report."
"What have Carmichael's symptoms been, other than the disorientation we saw in the transporter room?"
McCoy sighed. "Well, he's growing very weak. His pulse is slow and erratic, muscle tone is severely affected -- he's hardly able to stand at all now. If his heart and lung activity fall any further we'll lose him. It seems to be a very rapidly progressing, terribly debilitating disease, Jim."
"Bones, you've got to get this thing under control. My whole crew may be in danger!""
"Jim, I know that, but I just haven't been able to find anything that's effective against it." He turned as the intercom buzzed at his elbow. Christine Chapel's voice came over the speaker.
"Doctor McCoy, I'm glad I located you. You'd better return to sick bay at once. Mister Sulu and Ensign Asweela are both here. I'm ... afraid they have the same illness as Dr. Carmichael."
McCoy's eyes met Kirk's in a long moment of concern. "I'll be right there, Miss Chapel," he said finally. His face had become set in deeply carved lines.
Kirk found himself wanting to offer comfort to his friend, but he merely said quietly, "Do the best you can, Bones,"
* * *
Tonia Barrows headed for her quarters after leaving the lab. It was her meal period but she had no appetite. The exchange with Leonard had left her unsettled and tense. She decided to go to her room and use the next hour to compose herself.
She shared her quarters with two other female crew members but they were on duty so she had the two small rooms to herself. She increased the cabin's illumination only slightly to better enjoy her privacy. She fiddled with the things on her dresser, looked at herself in the mirror. She began to posture and pose, studying herself at all angles.
"Maybe you have warts or something," she told her reflection. But it was no good. She knew the truth but not what she could do about it. McCoy wasn't running from her because of her looks or actions -- he was hiding from himself.
She flung herself down on the bed, sitting on one hip, fingers idly touching the soft spread. Once she had touched him like that as she bent over his supine figure. And he had smiled tenderly up at her. Her hair had made a screen around them as she bent to kiss his lips.
Tonia gradually slipped down to rest her cheek on the coverlet, her eyes closed. The memory of those sunlit days was still fresh in her mind. She had gone into them not so much inexperienced as unaware. She had come out them fully awakened to the deeply passionate feelings she was capable of. If only she could recapture those feelings and hold onto them forever...
He had a way of laughing that she could not resist. First his eyes sparkled with a delighted gleam and then his mouth stretched into a warm, genuine grin. The rest of his face followed, folding itself into the happy lines as if very familiar with the expression.
And he had a habit of pursing his mouth, lower lip protruding when he was considering a course of action, and his triangular shaped eyebrows were as active as Spock's flared ones. All these things she came to learn as she watched the revealing play of emotions across his face. Most of all, he had a heart-melting tenderness about him that made her feel cherished and indulged.
The first time they'd made love, she had found herself nervous. The image of herself, a yeoman, and the ship's doctor was uppermost in her mind. He was healer, advisor, and father-confessor, all in one to her, and she felt like a little girl about to be seduced by a dear, much-loved relative.
All that changed abruptly. Now that he knew she found him attractive, his blood was heated. There was a warm urgency about him that melted all her resistance, made her yield immediately to his imperative maleness.
His mouth was gentle, but insistent, his hands knowledgeable on her body. His skilled touch raised such a fire in her blood that she found herself aching with longing to complete the act. She was surprised to discover herself reaching down to guide him into her eager body. At the moment of penetration he paused to kiss her once more and those remarkable blue eyes found their way into her soul.
"I need you," he murmured. "Do you know how much I need you, Tonia?"
"Yes," she had whispered back. "Oh, please, yes." And she felt the welcome thrust and her own wild response to the hot turgid feel of him. He was in no hurry, however, to free them from the joy of their joining and he was a practiced, gentle lover. She was inexorably swept with him to that final, heart-stopping moment when the pleasure and pain of yearning grew so intermixed the mind could not separate them. And then in an explosion of golden sparks against her closed eyelids it was over for her and she felt his release rush into her.
They rested, still joined by his diminished yet continuing desire, until once again the irresistible fire rose in their blood and they found yet more enjoyment in slaking it.
During those two days they had found many ways to enjoy each other -- they had laughed a lot and played and told jokes and talked. Later she realized she had done most of the talking. He had listened quietly, his incredible blue eyes searching her face, a tender smile on his mouth.
She liked to watch him talk, though, when she could manage it. He had a funny, off-hand way of speaking from the corner or his mouth and of hiding his words beneath a lop-sided grin. She had laughingly used the words, "Princess of the Blood Royale" earlier, referring to herself in the costume she'd found, and he had come to use the name Princess for her. It became a term of endearment between them.
She found herself repeatedly touching his cheeks, his hair, his mouth, stroking the black shining hair on his arms, hugging his warmth and vibrancy to her. There had not been enough time to learn all of this man and suddenly she knew she wanted to know everything about him.
And he cared for her -- she knew that with the certainty that comes to a woman who has made love to a man. He could not have pretended the depth of those feelings and still be the man, the compassionate doctor she knew. It was with a shock that Tonia realized that perhaps she loved him and then the Enterprise signaled the end of their leave. And things had changed between them as soon as they beamed aboard...
Tonia's breathing had slowed into the respiration of sleep, but from beneath her eyelids a tear rolled to stain the scarlet cover of the bed.
* * *
Twelve hours later, Tonia Barrows watched as Leonard McCoy pulled the cover of a sick bay bed over the face of Sam Carmichael. His eyes above his sterile mask were so filled with pain that she could hardly bear to look at him. She picked up the tray filled with blood specimens and stepped hastily into the outer room. The specially installed isolation door whooshed shut behind her and she removed her mask to lean against the wall.
Tears stung her eyelids but she blinked them away. There was no way she could help Sam Carmichael now, and apparently not Leonard McCoy either.
The Doctor came out of the room slowly, removing the mask. His face looked drawn and tired and his eyes were bloodshot. They were alone for the moment and she set the tray down to go and stand near him.
"Leonard," she said softly. "Why don't you get some rest? The labs are doing all they can and you've said there's no medication that will affect the disease."
He scarcely seemed to hear her. "There has to be something that will kill it. There has to be! I may have overlooked it. We've got five cases, not counting Spock who seems immune. Sulu seems to be holding his own, but Asweela is going the same way as Sam did. I've got to find out what will kill that thing!" And he walked away from her to blindly throw himself down behind his desk and begin reviewing his tapes once more. It was the third time she'd seen him do that in less than ten hours.
Kirk walked into sick bay just then and he seemed charged with impatience.
"How's it going, Bones?" he asked, making an effort to disguise his anxiety.
McCoy sat back, rubbed his eyes, "I don't know, Jim," he said quietly. "Maybe I'd better give up the practice of medicine. Maybe Spock's right and I achieve my cures through luck."
"Captain," Tonia interrupted. "Don't let him talk like that. He's done everything a human could do..."
Kirk ignored her. "Come on, Bones," he said. "It's not like you to give up."
McCoy rose, stepped around the corner and came back with a cup of water. He stood, drinking and staring tiredly at the Captain.
"I just can't seem to find anything that works, Jim." He made a futile gesture with his free hand. "I've exhausted the ship's medical stores looking for an answer. Nothing works. And another thing -- Spock is free of the virus. Why? I haven't the faintest idea. Even if he'd developed a mild case there would be signs, traces of antibodies in his blood. In fact I'd thought about using antibodies from him to treat the rest of them, but he just doesn't have the disease -- and I don't know why."
"Get him back in here and find out."
"Jim..." McCoy waved a hand helplessly. "Spock's been more than helpful. He's submitted to a dozen different tests, allowed me to draw blood every time I see him."
"Draw more blood. Run more tests." Kirk's voice was grim. "Use your medical skill, Doctor! The answer must be something in the difference of his body to ours. You've said as much. He's in Star Fleet to serve -- let him serve! But get me a healthy ship!"
McCoy blinked. When Kirk spoke in that manner, there was only one way to respond. He nodded slowly and depressed the intercom button. Tonia could not gauge his thoughts by his controlled face.
"Mister Spock, report to sick bay on the double." He leaned back and looked quietly at Kirk. "Will that be all, Captain?" he asked. "Or have you more suggestions on how I should run my department? If not, I'll have to ask you to clear the area -- I'm going to be very busy for awhile."
Kirk's face altered. Tonia could see that the captain regretted his harsh tone. "Bones, I..." he began, but at that moment the Vulcan came through the door and he was left alone. He hesitated as if uncertain of his next action and then he quietly left sick bay.
Spock came to stand before the doctor. "Is there any way I may be of help, Doctor McCoy?" he asked.
The surgeon glared at him. "Why don't you have the virus, Spock?" he asked, his words sharp. The Vulcan made no reply, having none to offer.
"Why have you escaped when others haven't?" McCoy demanded. Tonia felt sorry for the torment she sensed behind his words. "There have been three new cases since yesterday and Asweela is already on the critical list. All the survey team has it, yet you're walking around free of the disease." He sighed. "In fact I can't even find a sign of the virus in your lungs or bloodstream at all."
"Perhaps my Vulcan blood, Doctor," the Vulcan offered helpfully.
McCoy glowered at him. "That's not the answer, Spock. You've human elements in your blood and one would expect them to be affected, but I find no evidence of it." He walked to the autoclave, withdrew a syringe. "Roll up your sleeve, Mister Spock."
"Again, Doctor McCoy?" the Vulcan asked and Tonia sensed exasperation below his eternal calm.
"Again, Spock. And again and again, if that's what it takes. And those are direct orders from the Captain." He swivelled to glare at Tonia. "Hang around, yeoman, you can prepare slides of Mister Spock's blood if you wait."
"But, sir, what good..." She stopped when she saw his tension. "Yes, sir." She went to Spock's side to await the samples.
Spock watched, splendidly above further protest. But he could not resist a verbal barb. "At this rate, Doctor," the Vulcan said caustically, "there will be no need for a cure. You will have enough of my blood to transfuse the entire ship." With those parting words he hastily left sick bay having seen the gathering thunderclouds on McCoy's brow.
"I just can't figure out why he's immune," McCoy said as he stared after the retreating Science Officer.
"All I can say is "wheew', I'm glad he's gone," Tonia muttered under her breath. "Working next to him is like being in a blast furnace."
McCoy's head snapped around. "What was that, yeoman?"
She grew flustered. "I'm sorry, sir. It just slipped out. I meant no disrespect. It's just that Mister Spock's body temperature..."
McCoy reached out and grabbed her arm. "Wait a minute," he said slowly. "Wait ... a ... minute!"
She stared at him uncertain of his sanity, but his sudden grin reassured her. "Really, Doctor," she said gently. "Strong arm tactics aren't necessary. I've already volunteered to follow you anywhere -- several times."
"No, Tonia, don't you see? You just said something. Probably the most important thing that's been said on this ship in the last two days!" He released her arm and touched her cheek softly. "What would I ever do without you, Princess?" he asked, and then he was across the room, punching buttons on his link to the computer.
"The computer," McCoy told her briskly, "has all the data we've collected so far on the disease -- it should supply us with the answer -- if we know the right questions to ask. And thanks to you, Tonia, I do now!" He bent over the speaker. "Computer, average mean temperature on Gemini Two."
"Working," said the impersonal female voice. "Average mean temperature on Gemini Two is sixty-one point three degrees Fahrenheit. Centigrade readings are..."
"Stop," McCoy commanded tensely. "Computer, now give results of elevated temperature inflicted on virus presently contaminating ship's crew."
"Information now available," said the mechanical voice, "indicates that virus would be terminated at higher temperature."
McCoy looked up at Tonia, crossed his fingers and bent once more to the speaker. "Computer, at what temperature is the virus terminated?"
"One hundred degrees Fahrenheit. Centigrade..."
"Stop!" McCoy shouted the order this time. He flipped the switch to off and hurtled across the room. He hit the intercom button a smart slap with his palm. "McCoy to bridge. Jim, I've got the answer!"
"Kirk here. What have you found, Bones?"
"Heat, Jim! Heat! Spock's body heat -- any heat over one hundred one degrees! We've got our cure!"
There was a pause. "That's great, Bones, but how do you intend to use the information?"
McCoy rubbed his chin as he mapped out the plan of action. "First I want you to order the ship's life support systems to raise the temperature over the entire ship to one hundred two degrees. That should eliminate the airborne contaminates. In the meantime I'm going to work on a shot that should give our patients a slight fever. I think it will work, Jim." He paused and for the first time in hours, grinned. "I'd stake may reputation as a doctor on it."
Kirk sounded pleased as he replied, "No need, Bones. I'll take your word for it."
McCoy began at once to sort through his medical journals and supplies, searching for the proper mixture to give the afflicted crew members a harmless fever.
Tonia knew he had forgotten her, but she wanted to share in his private triumph. "May I be of help, Leonard?" she asked at last.
He glanced up, startled to see her still in the room. "Yes, of course, Tonia. Take the cultures we've been developing of the virus into the control lab and expose them to the properly elevated heat. I need confirmation on my theory. Bring me the results as soon as you have them." His head went back down, behind a heavy load of medical tapes and she left sick bay, relieved that at long last his silent agony appeared to be over.
* * *
The heat was intolerable. Conditioned to the usual temperature of seventy degrees, the Enterprise's crew rapidly began to grow irritable and disorganized as the thermometer continued to climb. At one hundred two degrees where it finally hovered and stopped, even the walls felt hot. It was tiring to stand for any length of time and uncomfortable to sit on the polyvinyl seats. Quarrels broke out and personnel began to slyly discard unnecessary clothing. Shirts were doffed down in engineering whenever Scotty was absent and, all over the ship, female crew members began to surreptitiously remove their waist high sheer tights.
Kirk walked from the turbo lift to sick bay, wiping sweat from his brow. He passed an attractive blonde crew member who quickly ducked into a convenient doorway when she spotted him. He had a brief glimpse of bare feet.
Such was the state of his mind that he scarcely gave it a thought. "Yeoman, you're out of uniform," he said absently as he entered sick bay.
The doctor was working alone, tinkering with liquids and powders. He had filled a syringe and placed it on a tray before him as he worked.
"How long is this heat going to be necessary, McCoy?" Kirk asked plaintively. "The entire crew is down in efficiency as the heat gets to them. I had to send Jarvits to her quarters with what looks like heat prostration."
"Have her see me as soon as I'm done here," McCoy said. "As for the heat, I think another four hours ought to be sufficient." He picked up the syringe and waved it under Kirk's nose. "I think this will do it, Jim. I think this is what will kill the virus without harming the patients."
Kirk tried to concentrate on the instrument. His vision blurred as he watched McCoy try and replace the protective cap over the end of the hypo.
The cap slipped from McCoy's tired fingers and bounced on the deck. It was so tiny that it vanished immediately. The doctor groaned and got down on his knees to search for it.
Kirk reeled above him groggily. "Here, Bones," he offered. "Let me help." Laboriously the Captain joined his ship's surgeon in the unglamourous position. For several moments their sweat-stung eyes raked the deck to no avail.
"Bones," Kirk began as they looked. "About the way I spoke to you the last time I was in sick bay..."
"Forget it, Jim. You're the Captain -- you've a right to expect top efficiency from all departments. Besides, you and Tonia have been more help to me than I can say."
"I've been meaning to ask you," Kirk said with an effort. "Yeoman Barrows is a lovely young woman -- how long are you going to hold out?"
"Look, Jim..." McCoy sounded exasperated. "I've had a whole crew threatened with a serious virus, an uncertain cure for the disease, and a ship that's about as comfortable as hades to work it!" His voice had begun to rise until he nas nearly shouting. "I've got enough trouble without having to avoid sleeping with someone as beautiful as Tonia!"
"Well, nobody said you had to avoid it, did they?" Kirk shouted back.
They mere inches apart, faces flushed. A drop of sweat rolled off Kirk's nose and spattered on the deck.
McCoy stared at the damp spot reflectively. His expression softened. "No -- I guess nobody did," he said slowly. "I just felt it was something that no one would approve of -- a young woman like Tonia and an older man -- and the man her doctor to boot."
Kirk settled back to sit on one hip. "Bones, did anyone ever tell you -- you can be a pompous prude at times?"
McCoy nodded sheepishly. "I guess I am at that." He grinned and chuckled. Kirk gave a snort. Laughter bubbled up between them, became giggles in the dizzying effect of the heat, left them shaking helpless with mirth.
Finally their hilarity ran its course. They got to their feet, a little embarrassed over their lapse of dignity. "I'll take your opinion about the yeoman under advisement, Captain," McCoy said solemnly. "Now clear out of here while I treat my patients."
McCoy waited a moment after Kirk had left, his soberness of the past few days returned. He walked to the computer speaker and depressed a button.
"Ship's medical log, Leonard McCoy reporting -- have at this time determined that the best agent to induce a mild fever is a five cc mixture of coriphene and droxide, but the exact dosage is unknown. Since the safety margin may be a critical factor I have decided to inject myself with a trial shot of the mixture to test its risk." He paused, thought for a moment, then flipped the switch to off.
He looked up at a slight sound. Tonia stood in the doorway, her face pale and her eyes enormous.
"You can't," she whispered. "You mustn't take the risk."
"Tonia..." He broke off, changed his tone to a more professional one. "Have you the results of the virus's exposure to heat?"
She nodded wordlessly.
She swallowed, managed to get the words out. "Your theory is correct, Doctor. At one hundred degrees the virus exhibited increased morbidity. At one hundred one degrees the cultures were sterile. Leonard, please..."
"Tonia, I have to. We haven't time to find another guinea pig. These men are dying."
She came to his side, caught his hand. "Use me, then. I'm strong and healthy. Let me volunteer!"
He untangled their hands, tenderly brushed a lock of hair from her face. "You'd do that to spare me?" There was a note of wonder in the question.
"No volunteers, yeoman," he said gently. "And that's an order." He turned to pick up the hypo. "Besides, according to my calculations the reaction should be minor and of short duration." He smiled at her. "Don't worry." And the hypo hissed in the silence.
For a second nothing happened. Tonia watched him anxiously and he gave her a ghost of a smile for reassurance, then without warning his eyes slid upwards under his lids and he dropped to the deck as if phasered.
Tonia gave a sharp cry, knelt over him, felt for his pulse. She could find none, yet his body seemed to be burning with fever. She scrambled to her feet and pressed the intercom button. "Captain Kirk, it's Doctor McCoy! Medical team to sick bay -- emergency!"
She dropped to her knees beside McCoy, gathered him in her arms, began to rock gently, crying as she did so.
"You crazy, stubborn, wonderful man," she sobbed. "I've only just found you and already I've lost you twice!" Her hair swept forward to brush his face and her tears splashed freely on his pale skin.
McCoy's eyelids fluttered, opened. He stirred in her arms and she straightened to stare at him, pure joy beginning to flood her features.
The vivid blue of his eyes met hers with reassuring frankness.
"I'm all right, Princess," he murmured to comfort her. "It's okay. I'm all right." He closed his hands around hers.
Sick bay was rapidly filling with excited people. Kirk raced in at the double, followed by a medical team. They all halted, nonplused as McCoy got slowly to his feet with help from Tonia.
"Just a scare, Jim," the doctor waved it off.
"It was not a scare," Tonia said firmly. "It was near suicide. Captain, he injected himself with the fever inducer!"
"Bones..." Kirk was more than irritated. "Bones, when are you ever going to learn?"
"Well, it worked, Jim. That's all that matters. I'd say my temperature is returning to normal already. All we have to do is reduce the dosage -- say by one-tenth of a milligram -- and it will do the trick. Just what the doctor ordered." He made a placating wave of his hand and grinned.
Kirk was not to be humored. He glared. "The medical team will take over from here on out, Doctor," he said sternly. "You're to be confined to your quarters until you've fully recuperated. I want you to stop driving yourself." He glanced at Tonia and added, "Relax a little."
The yeoman was not unreceptive to his wishes. She slipped an arm under McCoy's shoulders.
"I'll see that he follows your orders, Captain," she said very seriously.
McCoy opened his mouth to protest, saw the futility of it and closed it again. He waved Tonia towards the door and together they left sick bay.
* * *
In McCoy's quarters, Tonia removed her arm from around the doctor and pressed herself against him.
"You frightened me so," she whispered. "Don't ever leave me again."
Hesitantly his hand came up to stroke her hair and then slipped under her chin to tip her face to his.
"You were crying over me," he said in gentle amazement. "Back there, in sick bay.:
"And it wasn't the first time," she reminded him. "When I thought the knight had killed you on shore leave it was as if someone had taken the sun out of my life."
He set her back from him and gazed into her face.
"But think of what you're giving up, Tonia," he pleaded with her. "I've seen how the younger men notice you. And I thought you and DeSalle ... that is to say ... uh ..."
"...were deeply involved with each other before shore leave? Yes, Doctor, we were. Were we getting serious about each other? Perhaps. Are we still seeing each other? No, Doctor -- and do you know why? Because I've found a wonderful, kind yet passionate southern gentleman who's too damn stubborn to believe someone could love him!"
She stopped as a sudden radiance illumined his face.
"And if you'll give me time I hope to prove my love," she finished gently.
McCoy's eyes were suddenly restless as if uneasy with the thought.
"Love, Tonia?" he asked. "Well, maybe you shouldn't commit yourself. I don't know about that."
"Shouldn't we give ourselves a chance to find out?" she asked. "And speaking of finding out -- are you ever going to make love to me again or do you have another medical emergency planned so you can avoid me?"
He actually looked embarrassed. She grinned as he fidgeted.
"Uh, well now ... we couldn't ... I mean, it's too hot... That is... I don't think we'd be able to..."
"Leonard McCoy! That's only an excuse! Too hot! You're too nice for your own good, Doctor. Why don't you just accept the fact -- you're a very sexy man."
He relaxed a little, surrendered at last to her persuasion. He gave her his famous grin as a peace offering. He rocked on his toes a trifle.
"Would you care to discuss that further -- and at great length?"
"Just give me a chance!" She was in his arms in an instant.
Her lips were soft on his, moving, promising. Her body pressed to his, molded itself to his hardening outline. The sensation was as sweet as he had remembered it.
"See," she murmured against his ear as they walked arm in arm to the sleeping alcove. "I told you it wasn't too hot."