Scotty's relieved voice filled the cramped confines of Dr. McCoy's office. "We've got him, Doctor. A few bumps and bruises, but otherwise safe and sound."
McCoy shut his eyes and slumped against the wall, putting aside the mask of brusque professionalism for exactly three seconds in favor of being a relieved friend. "Send a couple ensigns to bring him down, Scotty. I'll page Spock."
His fingers were on the big, red button at lightning speed. "Spock, you there? It's McCoy."
"You and I both know that is not the proper procedure for contacting the bridge, Doctor," Spock snapped.
Ordinarily, McCoy would have sent back a sharp retort of his own, but he understood Spock well enough to know that he only lost control of his temper when in a state of extreme emotional turmoil. Jim being missing on a hostile planet for over sixteen hours certainly qualified.
"Well, forgive me for wanting to tell you the good news as soon as possible - we got him, Spock. He's on his way to sick bay now."
There were a few moments of silence from the other end. "Mr. Chekov can man the helm. I will be down as soon as I verify everything here is under control." A sharp click indicated that he'd signed off.
McCoy glanced heavenward and sighed. "You know, you and I haven't always been on the best of terms," he said to the unidentified deity living in the ceiling, "But what did I ever do to you to deserve a best friend who's always running headlong into danger and a lovesick Vulcan who won't face simple facts?"
The intercom buzzed - Scotty again. "He's on his way down, Doctor. You'll want to have a bed ready, I think."
McCoy briskly began preparing one of the cots, taking his own comfort from the familiarity of the task. "Mess, mess, mess," he muttered, "And who's here to clean it up? Me. I should ask them to give me an extra salary in custodial."
Then the doors of sick bay whooshed open, and there was nothing in his mind but directing the two frightened looking security officers how best to deposit their captain onto the cot.
"Don't look so frightened," he admonished, though privately agreeing with the sentiment, "He'll be fine. Back to your duties - I'll see that he gets patched up."
Jim sent him a weak smile, which seemed on the verge of turning into a grimace. "I see you still have that bedside manner I know and love."
"Oh, shut up," McCoy said, applying some numbing salve to the three nasty-looking gashes running across the front of Jim's shirt. "You get in a fight with a werewolf down there?"
"Yep, that was it," Jim laughed, then appeared to think the better of it. "Whole tribe of werewolves not too keen on 'arrogant foreign interference.' "
"No use in telling you that going to meet with their leader by yourself was a damn fool thing to do, I suppose?" McCoy inquired. He jabbed a hypo into Jim's arm and was pleased to see the lines of pain on his face recede a bit.
Jim had barely gotten out the phrase, "None at all," when Spock burst into the room. McCoy watched in shock as Spock crossed to the bed and began, "Captain, I..." before looking away, face burning with shame.
Jim winced and grabbed Spock's hand, which lay unresponsively in his. "I'm okay, Spock. Promise. Didn't mean to worry you."
Spock nodded sharply. His voice was hollow when he said, "I had every faith in your ability to return to us, Captain. I am happy to see that it was not misplaced."
Only McCoy noticed the slight twitch of the fingers of his other hand, as if they wanted to do something, but were being held back by that damned Vulcan self-control.
Three minutes of observing their tango of staring, then avoiding each other's gaze was quite enough. "That's it? That's all we get? You," he jabbed a finger in Spock's direction, " Have been raging around the bridge for half a day, yelling at anyone who entered your path that if they didn't get your Captain back to you immediately, you'd have them working a desk job for the next fifty years."
"And as for you..." His rapid-fire accusations now accosted Jim. "You nearly died! I know it's a matter of course for someone with your unparalleled ability for taking stupid risks, but to most people, that would be a serious chance to consider some things!"
"Bones," Jim hissed, sending him a what the hell do you think you're doing? glare that would have made nearly anyone else back off immediately.
"I have had just about enough of you two dancing around each other," Bones declared. In three strides, he was at Jim's bedside and coaxing him up. "Come on, up you get. That hypo I gave you should have you feeling no pain."
Jim obliged, though he looked less than thrilled about it.
"Doctor, I really don't know what you mean to accomplish with this...theatrical display," Spock observed, looking distinctly apprehensive. "Surely the best thing for the Captain now is rest. I should go."
"What you should do, Mr. Spock..." McCoy chose to finish the sentence in a more polite way than he had originally intended, "Is forget about your Vulcan DNA for a second and give the man a damn hug."
"A...hug, Doctor?" The tone of Spock's voice made it clear that McCoy had just suggested something alien and vaguely unpleasant to him. "I...do not know if I have ever administered such a drastic measure."
"Well, it goes something like this, Mr. Spock." Before either of the men could protest further, McCoy forcibly grabbed Spock's arms and wrapped them around Kirk's torso. He then grabbed Kirk's hands and placed them on either side of Spock's ribcage.
"There. Stay like that for at least five minutes. Doctor's orders." He nodded and went to begin the paperwork on Jim's chart.
Though he had half expected them to spring apart immediately, McCoy was pleased to note that they stayed in position. After a couple minutes, Kirk even tightened his grip and shifted so that his head was resting on Spock's shoulder.
"I...am glad that you are all right, Captain," Spock said quietly, still embracing Jim as stiffly as McCoy remembers being when his mother made him take waltzing lessons. "...Jim."
"Me, too, Spock." Jim let out what to McCoy's ears was a relieved sigh.
Me three, McCoy thought to himself, turning his attention back to his paperwork with a private smile. Phase 1 Complete. Now I just need to find some mistletoe...