Grounded by Gryffens
Summary: Eight years ago, Kirk and Spock were pulled into a wormhole, vanishing utterly from known space. Now Bones has a chance to find out what really happened to his friends.
Categories: Fiction Characters: McCoy, Original Character(s)
Crossover Fandom: None
Genres: Kirk/Spock Slash
Other Languages: None
Specific movie: None
Story Type: Action/Plot, Angst, Established Relationship
Trope (OPTIONAL): None
Universe: ST:TOS Original Universe
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 1 Completed: Yes Word count: 5431 Read: 7988 Published: 12/22/2009 Updated: 12/22/2009
A Pair of Unusual Hostages by Gryffens
Leonard McCoy sat alone, the hum of the engines of the USS Light Fantastic the only sound that permeated ship’s night. McCoy preferred to do the dreaded paperwork alone, late at night. According to popular opinion this was just one more strategy the curmudgeonly doctor used to minimise all interactions with other people, and while McCoy admitted that they weren’t entirely wrong, it was mostly just because he didn’t sleep as much as he used to and hated being in his cabin when he had nothing to do.

It hadn’t been this way on the Enterprise. Then again, lots of things had been different then. McCoy sorted the files in auto-drive, his mind traversing equally well worn reminiscences. It had been eight years since that fateful incident that split the crew apart, flinging them all over the galaxy – quite literally in the case of Spock and the Captain.

Eight years ago, a shuttle containing Jim and Spock had been pulled off course, sucked inexorably into a wormhole that had suddenly appeared, swallowed all objects in the space around it and vanished. Scotty had done his desperate best, but nothing could bring them back out, nor track where they had gone. They could be on the other side of the universe, or crushed to the size of a mote of dust. Despondent, the crew had served out the last few months of their mission, returned to Earth and quietly dispersed. McCoy would have bet that if Kirk and Spock hadn’t gone missing the majority of crewmembers would have signed up for another five year voyage. Instead they were scattered throughout ships and departments, within and without Starfleet.

Uhura had gone into the diplomatic corps, her talent for languages serving her well. Sulu was First Officer on the USS Helmut, with Chekov serving alongside him as Science Officer. Scotty was testing out prototypes in interstellar space, his engineering team breaking warp records every month or so. Chapel was living on the frontier planet Delta Hydris, doing biochemical research on the plant life there. Just last month McCoy had read her paper on a new compound for preventing macular degeneration. Reading papers and following career changes was just about all the contact McCoy had with his former friends these days – Starships on deep space exploration missions didn’t leave a lot of bandwidth for personal messages in their infrequent subspace communications.

Now if that shuttle had contained just one or the other rather than the two of them McCoy bet the story would have been quite different. If Jim was in danger Spock would have done some incomprehensible calculations and reversed the wormhole, and Jim would never have rested until he saved Spock. As it was they were both gone, and while McCoy acknowledged that this raised their chance of surviving whatever life they found on the other side, he was sure that he would never see his friends again. That part of his life was over – and on first day of the new mission, as he introduced himself to his Commanding Officer as Doctor McCoy, he mourned the fact that there was nobody left who knew to call him Bones.

***

The next day found McCoy on the bridge. This wasn’t usual procedure for him anymore. Captain Fernandez had her own advisors and didn’t need McCoy to play conscience. Still, it was McCoy’s job to oversee the psychological wellbeing of the crew as well as the physical, and he liked to drop in occasionally just to make sure everything was running smoothly.

“Sir,” said the man at the comms, “I’m picking up a distress signal. Federation.”

This caused somewhat of a stir. They were far enough round the rim of the galaxy to be in totally unexplored space. No Federation vessel should ever have made it this far.

“What does it say?” Captain Fernandez said. The Captain was a stern woman in her early fifties with a mind like a rapier. She wasn’t as flashy as Kirk had been, and she suffered fools even less gladly, but she was a very effective Captain in times of crisis.

“It’s an automated signal, sir. Running it through the database now.” The computer beeped and the officer drew a sharp breath, shooting a disbelieving look at McCoy before turning back to the Captain. “Sir, this signal registers as being from the Galileo shuttle of the USS Enterprise.”

McCoy felt dizzy. Before his eyes it was like the bridge slowed as time became viscous and sticky, flowing past like tar. The Galileo. Enterprise. Jim and Spock. They were alive or they were dead, but in the next few moments (days, minutes, seconds?) he would finally know for sure. He nearly swayed as time abruptly sped up, but caught himself and instead barked out, “Well where’s it coming from, man? Space, a planet, what?”

“I’m not sure,” the officer stammered. “Definitely the next system... yes, the second planet of the system.”

“Sensors report oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere, planet capable of supporting human life,” the Science Officer called out next, superseding McCoy’s next request. He turned to the Captain expectantly and she didn’t disappoint.

“Plot course for the second planet, Lieutenant Julius,” Fernandez ordered. “Watabe, you have the conn. McCoy, with me,” she said, rising and walking towards the turbolift.

McCoy considered himself to be the epitome of patience when he waited for the doors to close before bursting out, “You have to let me go down to that planet.”

“I’m your Captain,” Fernandez said frostily. “I have to do nothing.” A staring competition ensued. McCoy was pretty sure that she wasn’t actually worried by his rudeness. Fernandez was tough, like any Starship captain had to be, but she wasn’t unfeeling. Sure enough, she soon said, “I don’t like you going down on an away mission to a potentially hostile planet. You’ve only been planetside half a dozen times since I’ve known you.”

“I’ll have you know that I went on exactly 83 away missions while I was serving with the Enterprise, and that’s not a small number by any standards. Just because I haven’t chosen to go doesn’t mean I can’t.” McCoy argued.

Fernandez regarded him silently. “They’re probably dead,” she said bluntly.

McCoy grimaced. The Captain didn’t mince words. “I know,” he said. “But after all this time, I need more than just probably. Besides, you didn’t know Jim Kirk!”

***

The second big surprise of the afternoon was the civilisation the sensors found on the planet. It showed signs of advanced technology, but the ratio of urban and rural areas was closer to that of a early agrarian society than that of Earth. In addition, there was a strange energy field that enveloped the entire planet, which the scientist proclaimed utterly innocuous while grudgingly admitting that they didn’t actually know what it was.

McCoy didn’t know how he felt about the presence of sentient beings on the planet. If they were friendly it greatly increased the chances of Jim and Spock’s survival, but he had met far too many unfriendly natives to be sanguine.

Finally, finally it was time to beam down. The transporter was set to the coordinates that the distress signal was broadcasting from. McCoy didn’t know if the next sight before his eyes would be his friends, or their bodies.

Skeletons, his mind helpfully supplied. Most likely condition after eight years. Of course, soil that was acidic enough would dissolve the calcium and destroy the bones, while a unoxygenated bog would leave them nearly totally preserved... stop it, Bones!

The transporter tech caught him by surprise, pulling the bars down in the midst of his musings. Sparks swam before his eyes and he blinked in surprise. Of all the things he had expected to see when he beamed down, this... thing was not one of them.

They were in a small clearing, surrounded on all sides by a thick and shadowy forest. Before the startled away team stood a twisted amalgamation of steel and living wood. Communication equipment obviously scavenged from the Galileo was intertwined with the gnarled wood of what looked to Bones’ space-faring eyes like an old oak tree. Bones could see several places where sinewy tendrils had pried into circuit boards, and up above he could see a glimpse of an old-fashioned satellite disc supported in the crown of the branches.

An ensign was the first to speak. “The tree seems to have almost totally overwhelmed the transmitter,” the scientist said, checking his tricorder. “It’s amazing it still works.”

“Too amazing to be coincidence, in my book,” Bones said. “See how the branches are holding the parts together? The tree is part of the array, and I’m betting it’s not just structural either. Plants carry electrical signals slower that metal, but if you’ve got no metal to work with you might just try something like this.” Out of the corner of his eye Bones could see something very like respect on Captain Fernandez’ face.

That’s right lady, I still got it. But there was more important matters at hand. Although this strange array implied that at least one of them had survived a short time after landing, there was no sign of his friends. In fact the only indication of activity was a faint but clear path that ran out of the clearing. It could be nothing more than an animal track, and even though he knew it was folly every cell in his body wanted to run down that path yelling his friends names.

“We’re moving out down that trail,” Fernandez ordered. “Security, to the front and rear.” Bones begrudgingly let the red-shirted officer take the lead, but followed quickly on his heels. For fifteen minutes they marched in silence, the soft sounds of alien life filling the air. Tricorder scans revealed no large animals in the vicinity but Bones kept his eyes peeled for anything that might be lying in wait on the path, remembering time he had spent in outback Australia during his Starfleet survival training. Last thing he wanted was to get bitten by this planet’s equivalent of a taipan.

Then, as they rounded a bend, there it was. A house, barely more than a cottage, surrounded by a garden of dark green grass. And there, out the front, was...

“Jim!” McCoy yelled, throwing caution to the winds.

“Bones?” the sound of his old nickname, pronounced incredulously in that achingly half-forgotten voice sent shivers down his spine. He had no memory of closing the space between them before he was wrapped in a fierce hug. Over Jim’s shoulder and through eyes half blurred with unshed tears he saw Spock step out of the cottage, his face as impassive as ever but his eyes dancing. Before he even let himself think about it he hugged Spock too, and if there was one image guaranteed to show Bones’ new shipmates that he wasn’t the man they thought they knew, the grumpy recluse hugging a Vulcan was it. Spock even condescended to pat Bones on the back before firmly disentangling him.

“A most predictable lack of decorum, Doctor,” Spock observed. “One can only conclude that the passage of time has failed to change the essentials of your personality.”

“I’m glad to see that time away from Starfleet hasn’t softened your backhanded compliments, you green blooded hobgoblin,” Bones laughed.

Spock quirked an eyebrow. “Compliments?” he said quizzically.

“Enough,” Jim said. “I’ve had eight years to recover from your last argument and it still hasn’t been enough.” Bones grinned unrepentantly. “Hadn’t you’d better introduce me to your Captain, Bones?” Jim prompted.

“Ah, yes. Captain James Kirk, may I introduce you to Captain Elizabeth Fernandez, of the USS Light Fantastic. Captain, this is Jim Kirk and Mr Spock, his first officer.”

“Captain,” Fernandez acknowledged. “Finding you alive is a pleasant surprise.”

“I’ll say. I’d invite you all inside but I’m afraid our house is rather small.”

“If I could come inside and debrief you, the rest of my party can beam back aboard for now. Excluding the good doctor of course.”

“That would be most satisfactory. My house is yours, ma’am,” Jim said, waving them inside.

Inside they were greeted with the same curious mix of metal and living plants that they found at the distress beacon. The place was surprisingly homey, the plants coaxed into subtle and aesthetically pleasing configurations so that the place looked more like a fairytale than a wilderness. A low table with four chairs sat in the centre of the room, which Bones supposed was the kitchen.

Jim gestured at the piles of cushions that rested on two of the chairs and Spock distributed them to the others, placing the excess neatly off to one side. Something about this exchange simultaneously reassured and disturbed at Bones. It was the same unspoken communication that he had seen so many times on the bridge of the Enterprise, but in this domestic setting it seemed... odd.

The four of them sat down at the table. The discussion was about to start when the third and final surprise for the day revealed itself.

A small boy, looking about seven or eight years old appeared in the doorway. He had a summer tan and skinned knees, and he wandered into the kitchen apparently unconcerned with the doings of the adults who sat there in sudden silence. He climbed up onto Kirk’s lap, pressing a soft kiss to Jim’s cheek.

“Hi Daddy,” he said, and through the fall of his light brown hair Bones could see the tip of one pointed, Vulcan ear.

***

“Hello, Steven,” Kirk said softly to the boy sitting in his lap. “Did you have a good day?”

“Yup,” the boy answered, apparently not inclined to share any further details. Bones managed to convince facial muscles that had been paralysed by shock that now would be a good time to stare in disbelief. Kirks answering glance silently pleaded that he hold of the interrogation for a few minutes. Bones reluctantly stayed silent.

“Well we’ve got very important visitors, so do you mind playing with T’Mara until dinner?” Jim asked.

Steven sighed. “Okay.” He hopped down and opened a back door which led to a garden full of flowers. Bones heard the delighted squeal of a female child before the door shut behind him.

If Bones thought he was speechless before, this took the cake. He wondered if Fernandez had noticed Steven’s ears, and if she had drawn the same (impossible, absurd) conclusion that he had. If he had had any doubt before, the Vulcan name of the girl in the garden had clinched it.

“Why don’t we start from the beginning, Captain Kirk, Mr Spock?” Fernandez said, pointedly not mentioning the child.

“All right,” Kirk nodded. “Eight years ago...”

“Precisely, at 1127 ships time, star date 2357.9,” Spock interjected.

“... Spock and I encountered a space-time anomaly which our shuttle’s sensor’s identified as a wormhole. Our shuttle was pulled into it; when we emerged on the other side most of our electronics weren’t working and we were on a heading which would take us into the atmosphere of this planet.”

Spock took over. “I managed to restore enough functionality that we were able to land safely. Once on the planet, we hiked out of the forest we had landed in and found ourselves greeted by a delegation of Kawari, which is the name that the people of this planet give to themselves.”

“Do the Kawari know that you are from another planet?” Fernandez asked.

“Yes,” Jim said calmly.

“Then you have broken the Prime Directive.”

“Indeed we have not, Captain,” Spock said. “The Kawari are warp capable. In previous generations there have even been attempts to colonise other planets. Their current lack of spaceships indicates a biological inability to go into space, not a technological one.”

“Biological?” Bones asked. “What sort of biology lets them get out into space then sends them packing a few years later?”

“Gentlemen, we are getting off topic,” Fernandez said sternly. “What happened when you met the delegation?”

“They welcomed us. When we explained that our ship had crashed, they offered us a home. Spock works for their global science organisation, working to combine some of the knowledge he has with the Kawari’s biotechnology. I’m basically a government consultant, helping out wherever they would like an outsider’s view on operational and command issues. And thus we made a life for ourselves,” Kirk finished succinctly. Fernandez scrutinised him coolly but didn’t immediately ask another question, so Bones jumped in.

“All right, Jim, we’ve been patient enough. I for one would like to know how you ended up with children, and I would especially like to know how you ended up with a pointy eared son when Spock is the only Vulcan within ten million light years,” Bones said.

“They’re Spock’s children too, Bones,” Jim said softly. “Spock’s, and mine, together.”

Silence, once again. Bones didn’t know how he had imagined a reunion with Jim and Spock would go (hadn’t let himself imagine, in those first, painful years) but at no point did he consider that they had somehow started a family together.

“How?” Fernandez finally asked.

“The Kawari reproduce artificially,” Spock said. “Generations ago, the disease which prevented them from exploring space struck the entire population sterile. Their scientists created a device which analyses the DNA of those who enter it, and produce an offspring whose genetic material is a combination of the parents. As many as four people can be sampled, or only one, and it matters little what the gender of the parents is, with a few exceptions regarding the sex of the child. Due to various cultural beliefs, the majority of these devices are placed within the forest, away from civilisation.”

Bones almost groaned. He could see where this was going.

“We didn’t know that on this planet what looks like a tree, isn’t always a tree,” Jim said. “In this case, the machine looked like two trees forming a low arch over the path. We walked straight through it on our way out of the forest, and as we came out the other side we heard a baby crying. It was Steven.” Jim smiled. “We didn’t know where he had come from – he was hanging in a cradle made of vines and he looked like a primitive sacrifice to the spirits of the forest. So we took him with us. I even teased Spock that he would fit in here better than I would, since it looked like the natives had pointed ears.”

“An assertion which we soon discovered was false. The Kawari were most apologetic and offered to foster Steven amongst one of their families, an offer which we declined,” Spock said.

“And the girl, uh, T’Mara?” Bones asked.

Jim shot an amused and affectionate look at Spock. “T’Mara was for us, because we wanted to, and because we thought it would be good for Steven to have a sibling. We’re going to be here for the rest of our lives, we thought we might as well.”

The way Jim phrased that caught Bones’ attention. Not ‘we thought we were going to be here’ but ‘we are going to’. Bones was suddenly gripped by the fear that despite the fact that his friends were sitting right there in front of him, this was only a reprieve, not a reunion. “And now that you have a chance to go back to Earth?” he asked, praying that the answer he heard would be the one he wanted to hear.

Jim’s face grew shadowed, and he did not speak. Spock was the one that eventually answered. “The generation of Kawari that were struck sterile were not the ones who could not go into space, doctor. It was their children that were incapable. The Kawari process which creates a living being instantly from genetic patterns is remarkable, but it can only occur within the unique energy field which surrounds this planet.”

“Yes, we detected it from orbit,” Fernandez said.

It was obvious to those who knew him that Spock was itching to get his hands on the data, but he decided to continue on. “The field is generated by the life forms on Kawari, and it also sustains them. Without it, the biological processes of the children of the machine will inevitably fail.”

“Basically, if we want to go back the only way to do it is to abandon our children,” Jim stated grimly. “Because if we take them into space, Steven and T’Mara will die.”

***

Night had fallen while they were talking, Jim and Spock explaining in more depth about the Kawari civilisation and culture. Steven came inside, T’Mara trailing after. She was four going on five, had long, curly hair and Bones’ heart quietly melted at the sight of her. His own Joanna was in first year of college but he couldn’t help thinking of her as a little girl. With a flash of insight, he realised that the conflict between space and family was hardly unique to his two friends, and was in fact something he himself knew intimately. If he hadn’t divorced Jocelyn he would never have gone into space, but an every second weekend custody agreement wasn’t enough to keep him on the ground.

Talks were suspended for dinner. The food technology seemed to be part replicators, part home style cooking. The vegetarian ingredients were marinated or rolled in spices rather than cooked, and there didn’t seem to be any meat. Spock informed them that in the interests of biodiversity the Kawari only ate meat a few times a year.

The children betrayed no shyness. Steven happily enthused to the newcomers about the hideout he and his friends were making in the wood, and T’Mara proudly recited her seven times tables for her proud parents and their guests.

“She’s got your brains, that’s for sure Spock,” Bones said. “Do you know how much Vulcan they each got?”

“A little less than twenty percent, Doctor,” Spock replied. “The device oversampled my human genetic inheritance in the interest of compatibility. The Vulcan genes manifest themselves mostly in the nervous system, and as you have noted, their intelligence.”

“Hey,” protested Jim. “I’m no slouch myself. Anyway, tell Bones about the emotional responses.”

“Oh yes, Spock, do tell,” Bones said. Spock shifted in annoyance at his tone, and Bones grinned inwardly. Needling the Vulcan had once been his favourite pastime and it seemed that he hadn’t lost the taste for it.

“The emotional centres of the brain are fifty percent Vulcan, fifty percent human in all respects; chemically, structurally and psychically. I have taught them Vulcan controls and the result is that they can apparently pick and chose from human emotional responses. They spend most of their time in a state of calm happiness. If troubled by a negative emotion they can will it away, and usually do. Incidentally, it also allows them to be accomplished liars.”

Bones choked with laughter at this pronouncement. Steven was protesting, a look of complete innocence on his face. Jim looked bemused at the drama unfolding.

“Sounds just about perfect,” Bones concluded. “But in that case Spock, why are you so cold-blooded? You’re half human, half Vulcan.”

“True,” Spock acknowledged. “But the Vulcan healers who guided my conception and childhood emphasised my Vulcan aspects at all the stages of my development. They reasoned that it would be better for me to be as close to one race as I could be, rather than forever being torn between two ways of life. It seems their logic was faulty.”

Bones was momentarily stumped. Eight years ago Spock would have defended the Vulcan’s as logically superior in almost every respect, and now he calmly pronounced them flawed. “Ironic, hey?” Bones said. “Maybe you’d have been better off if they’d left you alone.”

“I doubt being more human would have improved my childhood on Vulcan, however the children do seem to have reached a compromise which I lacked for most of my adult life.”

“Doesn’t matter,” said Jim. “We like him just the way he is.”

“Sure do,” piped in Steven.

Well that made sense, Bones supposed. Spock’s new perspective on Vulcan logic had come when he had found beings that accepted him unthinking, unquestioningly. Children growing up in a mixed race community accepted differences in external appearance as normal unless taught otherwise. Within the family group, isolated on a faraway planet Spock had been able to find a compromise that soothed the conflict that had raged within him.

“Daddy, can T’Mara and I be excused?”

“Yes, son,” Kirk said. “Why don’t you go play in your room?”

The children ran upstairs and insidious silence crept back in. Kirk was the first to break it this time. “I’m heading out to the woodpile. Bones, won’t you join me?”

“Of course,” he said. As they left he heard Captain Fernandez offer to help Spock with the dishes. Now that was another surreal note in a very long day.

They stopped by the neatly stacked woodpile but didn’t start collecting the wood just yet. Instead Kirk gestured for Bones to sit down on a log. He did so, staring at his old friend’s face in the grey light of evening.

He didn’t look too much older. The slight softening of his figure was counteracted by the worry lines that had disappeared from his face. Bones was painfully aware for a few seconds of his own numerous grey hairs, then shrugged it off. As if looks mattered when he could finally see his friend again. “It’s real good to see you again, Jim-boy,” Bones said. “So good I’m having a hard time saying it.”

“Bones, lost for words? Now that’s new,” Jim grinned.

“Hell, I don’t think I’ve had a real proper conversation since I ran Into Uhura on Starbase 26. She’s a diplomat you know...” and Bones trailed off because there would be time to talk about friends later. Now was for the more serious topics. “Jim, how on Earth or off it did you and Spock somehow make a family?”

“Why Bones, we told you. The device...”

“No, Jim,” Bones interrupted. “That’s how you got a kid. I’m talking about how you made a family. There’s a difference – I should know.”

Jim leant back. “You always did have a knack for asking the hard questions, Bones.”

“Not so hard, really. You usually had the answers, I just made you look for them. A good psychiatrist is devil’s advocate and guardian angel, and I am good at what I do.”

Jim sighed. “He loves me, Bones. Spock, I mean. He really, really loves me.”

Bones paused for a moment. “Well, hell, I could have told you that!”

Jim laughed. “I guess you did, a couple of times. Remember, ‘an emotional reaction to bring the house down’?”

Bones mood instantly darkened. “Jim, pon farr. It’s been eleven years...” he trailed off, realising what the answer must be.

“It happened five years ago – a little early as it turned out. That was part of what prompted us to... make, T’Mara. We’re bonded now, Bones. We were together before that, but now we’re as married as you can possibly be. And that’s why I can live without the Enterprise. Even if we didn’t have the kids, even if we could come back, there’s no going back. I’m sorry.”

“Yeah,” Bones said thickly. “It’s what I figured.”

The light had almost gone, and the first few stars were showing. Bones caught his friend looking at them, almost inhuman longing on his face. It was the same look Bones had seen hundreds of times on the observation deck of the Enterprise, only now instead of anticipation he saw only despair. Bones knew then that Kirk might be able to live without the Enterprise, given all he had gained, but that didn’t mean that he didn’t miss what he had lost.

“Every damn day, Bones,” Jim said, apparently reading his thoughts. “Every night I look at the stars and think of her, what she represented. I had her for five years, and that will have to be enough.”

Reluctantly, the two friends stood up, gathered the wood and went inside.

***

The USS Light Fantastic stayed for another two weeks. Captain Fernandez met with Kawari government, arranging for an exchange of ideas between the Kawari and the Federation. This far out, no commercial ship would be able to visit the planet, but judging by the ecstatic reactions of the scientists who examined the machine/plant hybrids a mission could be approved for a scientific vessel to explore the possibilities.

Captain Fernandez filed the paperwork authorising Kirk and Spock as official Starfleet representatives to the planet. Both of them avoided beaming up to the ship, knowing that it would only make their situation more painful. Before they knew it the time Fernandez had said they could spare was over, and they were standing outside their house with Bones and the Captain. Steven was holding Jim’s hand, his solemn face showing that he had picked up on the emotions running between the three men. T’Mara was cradled in Spock’s arms.

“Well Jim, Spock, this is it. Take care of yourself,” Bones said, not knowing what else to say.
“And the same to you, Doctor,” Spock replied, his voice richly emotional – well, emotional for Spock, anyway.

“Captain Fernandez, it’s been an honour,” Jim said, holding out a hand.

“Likewise,” she replied, shaking it. Jim was never one to envy others their good fortune, but Bones could tell that part of him saw in Fernandez all that he couldn’t have. “Mr Spock,” she said.

The Vulcan gave a salute. “Live long and prosper, Captain Fernandez.”

Jim looked at Bones, but words failed him for his own goodbye. “Children, say goodbye to Doctor McCoy.”

“Bye Uncle Bones,” they chorused. The look on Bones’ face was priceless.

“Hey, I didn’t know they were going to do that,” Jim said. Spock’s face was impassive, but Bones knew that didn’t mean a damn thing.

“Why you overgrown elf,” Bones exclaimed. “I don’t know whether to thank you or sock you one.”
“I beg you to chose the former, Doctor. The sight of me nerve pinching you would be most distressing to the children.” Fernandez started slightly. People did tend to be surprised when Spock made a joke, assuming they recognised it for what it was.

“I think I’ll go one better,” Bones said. “I think I’ll request a transfer to the research vessel that’s heading your way. What do you think of that?” The smile on Jim’s face said he thought that was like hearing that Christmas had come early – not that the Kawari celebrated Christmas.

“I think that’s an excellent idea, Doctor,” Fernandez interjected. “After all, your extensive medical knowledge will be very useful, especially if Starfleet follows my recommendation for the mission’s main goal.”

“And what goal would that be?” Kirk asked curiously.

“Why, solving the Kawari space travel problem of course. This civilisation is far to advanced for the Federation to leave its members stuck on one planet at the far end of the galaxy.”

All three men were shocked at this completely unexpected development. Before the full impact of the idea could be felt Fernandez had flipped open her communicator, grinning like Bones hadn’t seen in three years of working with her. “Two to beam up, Commander.”

As the transporter beam caught Bones in its inexorable pull, Bones heard T’Mara ask, “Daddy, what’s a nerve pinch?”

Bones smiled. His friends might one day be free of the planet they lived on, but they would never be free of those two rascals. And Bones would bet a crate of Saurian brandy that they didn’t mind a bit.
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