For once, McCoy didn’t mind the fizzy, light-infused beam of the transporter. Rather like dissolving into a glass of sparkling wine, he thought as their molecules were rearranged and reconstituted far away from Platonius. They were home. Safe. Their bodies surely and permanently their own again. The Platonians would be left to stagnate in isolation. No further ships would visit them, the effects of kironide would disappear into the deepest levels of classification, and Alexander, as soon as he was able to be dropped off, would no doubt enjoy, or suffer, extensive debriefing at Starfleet Command before he would be allowed to start a new life somewhere else in the Federation.
Noting the way Kirk was subtly guarding his left arm, he marched both of his superior officers to sickbay before even letting them change out of their ridiculous outfits. Neither Kirk nor Spock had escaped injury. In addition to being terrorized and humiliated, the mere movement of their bodies against their will, as if they had been no more than dolls, had strained muscles and joints. Spock’s injuries were minor, mostly strains and sprains in joints the Platonians had damaged in their ignorance of slight differences between Vulcan and human biomechanics.
Kirk, on the other hand, sported a broken collar bone and torn shoulder ligaments from some especially enthusiastic twisting. He perched on the biobed with the stiff restlessness McCoy had come to associate with him burying things he’d rather not think about, his eyes alternating from fixing for too long on Spock’s face to avoiding looking at him entirely. Spock, for his part, had brushed up against the captain “accidentally on purpose” at least five times since they’d returned to the Enterprise. It didn’t take an idiot to know the two of them needed some time to process what had happened to them.
“Spock,” McCoy said as soon as he was done adjusting the Captain’s sling, “Take the Captain back to his quarters and see that he stays there. He needs to rest, not,” and here he turned to Kirk directly, “spend all night mooning about on the bridge.”
Spock nodded understanding and followed the Captain out of sickbay.
McCoy’s next couple of hours were occupied with giving Alexander a thorough physical and settling him into his own quarters, then writing up a report for Starfleet about him and the rest of the Platonians unusual physiology. He had to revise it several times until he was satisfied that he had made it clear that while the Platonians should be avoided at all costs, Alexander was, despite his effective immortality, no threat to anyone. He had left the dwarf in the care of Scotty, who was apparently introducing him to “the best bits” of Doctor Who.
He almost ran into Spock on his way out of sickbay. The Vulcan looked as impeccably tidy as always, but McCoy spotted the faint worry lines around his eyes. “The Captain is asleep in his quarters. As you should be.”
McCoy gestured Spock back toward his office. “I wanted to write my report while everything was still fresh.” He busied himself unnecessarily rearranging a few pieces of equipment on a shelf. “What about you? Are you all right?” It was a stupid question, really, but it needed asking anyway.
Spock tapped his chin with steepled hands. “No,” he said. He considered a moment further before continuing. “Though I do not believe I am unfit for duty. Losing control of myself, my actions--they could have made me kill Jim, or you, and I could not have stopped them. Such an assault is not easily forgotten.”
“Tell me about it,” McCoy murmured dryly, half to himself. “I was the lucky one this time.” He glanced down at the floor, pressing his lips together into a frown. His decision had been made hours ago, while he watched his friends suffering at the hands of the Platonians, helpless to protect them. Spock took his moment of silence for dismissal and turned toward the door.
“Spock, hold up a minute,” McCoy said. “Say, ah...I was thinking. I’m not feeling as set in my ways as I was a few weeks ago. I mean, if the offer still stands.”
Per usual, Spock’s eyebrow marked his surprise even as he schooled the rest of his face to stillness. He crossed the room to a chair, sat, and gestured McCoy to a seat across the table. McCoy rummaged in a cabinet and pulled out a decanter of bourbon and two shot glasses, set all on the table, and sat. “Alcohol does not affect me,” Spock reminded him.
“I’m your doctor, you think I don’t know that?” He opened the decanter and filled each glass, leaving them on the table between them. “Maybe they’re both for me.”
Spock rested his clasped hands on the table, wearing his best neutral expression.
He continued, “So. I know that mental self-defense is useless against telekinesis, but the three of us do seem to be targeted for manipulation of more than one kind. And now that I’m not dying anymore…”
Spock nodded understanding. “When we last discussed this issue, did you already know about the xenopolycythemia?”
“I suspected. I knew something was seriously wrong, but I was waiting on test results.”
Spock was silent for a little longer than the normal conversational pause. McCoy had just begun to try to think of something to say when he finally spoke. “There is something I wanted to tell you when you were ill, back on Yonada, but as we had agreed that certain subjects were to be avoided, I felt it inappropriate. Do you remember when Dr. Van Gelder requested that I meld my mind with his?”
“Not a day I’d likely forget.” McCoy took a swig of bourbon.
“My explanation for my reluctance on that day, while technically truthful, was incomplete. Vulcan culture does hold close its rituals and secrets, this much is true, but I had more pressing reasons to hesitate.”
He looked away to a spot just over McCoy’s left shoulder, then continued. “When I was a child, I wished to study to become a healer. Vulcan children select their chosen discipline quite young, and at the completion of my basic training in the control of my emotions, I expressed this desire to my instructor. She discouraged my interest, she said because my kar-selan waves, the base pattern and rhythm on which higher thought is superimposed, were several milliseconds off Vulcan normal. She informed me that patients would find my touch distasteful. I now realize my instructor’s objections were racially motivated, but at the time, I was deeply ashamed. I held my mind aloof from then on, never sharing my thoughts even with my own parents.”
McCoy sipped at the second bourbon, hoping his surprise was not too evident on his face. Spock admitting to an emotion. Granted, he was talking about a long time ago.
The expression on Spock’s face could almost be interpreted as wry. “As it happens, I had, at the time of Van Gelder’s request, participated in a full meld only once, and that with a chaperone, when I was bonded to T’Pring.”
McCoy put his glass down a little harder than he intended. It made an audible thunk on the table. “Wait, weren’t you about seven?”
“Precisely. I was seven-point two-three years old.”
McCoy was well aware that he was, among Kirk, Spock, and himself, the adult in the room, but this revelation took him by surprise. “So you were winging it?”
McCoy finished his second bourbon. “That sounds like the kind of reckless stunt Kirk would pull.”
Spock rested his gaze pointedly on the empty glasses. “If you wish to act upon your prior request in the near future, kindly refrain from consuming any additional alcohol.”
McCoy contemplated his shot glass, then carefully and deliberately collected both glasses in one hand, the decanter in the other, and set them on a shelf out of sight. His hands almost didn’t shake as he did so.
Spock continued his story. “My point, though, is something you said to me later, when we returned Dr. Van Gelder to Tantalus along with the new rehab colony staff. I remarked that Van Gelder was still not well. You said, and I quote, ‘No, but he is better, and sometimes that’s all we get to do, patch them up and pass them on.’ I was never quite sure you meant to say, ‘we’, but I valued the connotation that I, in my own fashion, had served as a fellow healer in your eyes.”
McCoy shook his head slightly. “My memory’s not as sharp as yours. I’m afraid I don’t remember that conversation. But for what it’s worth, I’ve watched you, and you’re a damn good healer when the situation calls for it. Even if you are making it up as you go.”
After a short, but awkward silence, Spock shifted forward in his seat slightly. “Shall we begin?”
“Are you sure you’re up to this right now?” McCoy wasn’t sure he was, even with two shots of liquid courage sloshing around inside him.
“I am not inclined to seek solitude at the moment.”
“So, brain judo it is.”
“Indeed. The first technique we will practice is producing a mental shield. This will not only slow any attacker but will also be useful to you when you treat patients with telepathic ability, especially if they are too injured or ill to maintain their own…”