Bones knew he was being irritable — more so than usual — but he had to tend to the rest of the crew before he could rest himself. For most of them he simply ordered bed rest; the captain had set up a rotating skeleton crew for their short journey back to Starbase Six. But Bones also had to make damn sure that a certain green-blooded Vulcan checked out all right after being in a minimum life-support environment for almost an hour. Nurse Chapel was running tests on him in the back room — herself nearly dropping from exhaustion but insisting she was capable of this task — while Bones finished up the last of the crewmen, some suffering minor injuries from their bumpy ride.

Done at last, Bones took a deep breath to steady himself before walking through the doorway. He was pleased to hear the steady beeping and see the low but acceptable levels of the readouts for a Vulcan. Chapel put away her medical tricorder as he approached.

“He’s in stable condition, Doctor. Oxygen levels returning to normal.”

“Good. You can go take a load off your feet, Nurse. You’ve certainly earned it today.”

“Thank you, Doctor.” She hesitated at the doorway, turning around as though to say something, but apparently thought better of it and left instead.

Bones was finding it difficult to focus on the readouts, his exhausted mind ready to shut down, but he forced himself to assess Spock’s vital statistics.

“Well, it does seem you’re not much worse for wear. Although I still think I could have survived just as well as you did.”

“Doctor, given the more robust nature of my Vulcan physiology,” Spock began as he sat up, inciting an actual growl from the doctor.

“‘More robust’ my ass! Just more stubborn and… and….” The next words eluded Bones for a moment. “Dammit! You only survived out of sheer cussedness, that’s what! And you’re damn lucky we found you floatin’ like a piece of… of… flotsam on our way out, you insufferable, miserable, pointy-eared fool!”

Bones felt the ship tilt beneath him and grabbed the biobed to steady himself, then found Spock eyeing him with one brow raised in what might have been described as an exasperated expression. For a Vulcan.

“What? Can’t hardly think with this stupid ship lurching around all the time!”

“I felt no such motion, Doctor. Perhaps you should follow your own advice and take some rest.”

“I’ll get some rest when this is all over! And that’s not until I make damn sure your vitals have stabilized!”

Spock’s features grew grave as he reminded, “I believe you have already made that assessment. As did Nurse Chapel.”

“What? Oh… right. Well, what’re you waiting for? Go on, get out of here! But you’re not to return to duty for the duration of our trip to Starbase 6, is that clear?”

“Perfectly, Doctor.” Spock slowly stood up from the bed while Bones put away some of the instruments that had been left out. Spock noted that the doctor had paused to think about where to put the dermal regenerator — something he would have done without hesitation or even conscious thought ordinarily — then grabbed the edge of the desk as he tipped sideways, gripping it tightly to support his weight.

“Doctor, are you all right?”

“I’m fine! I’m fine…. Damn stimulants,” he sighed.

“Do you require assistance to return to your quarters?”

“No, dammit!” Bones heaved himself up and careened the short distance to the middle biobed. “I’m going to stay here just in case some idiot needs patching up before we get to the Starbase.”

Despite his brusque words, Bones did not try to shake him off when Spock assisted him to get up onto the biobed. The beeping started automatically, showing his vital readouts to be erratic and perilously low. Ignoring them, Bones tied himself down with the waist restraint before lying back with another sigh.

Spock left the back room but returned quickly with two blankets, one of which he spread over Bones.

“Wha—What are you doin’?” Bones demanded, though his tone was more tired than irate.

“Ensuring that you do not lose body heat, Doctor. You will need it to recover.”

So saying, Spock sat on the biobed he had been on earlier and threw the other blanket over his own body.

“And whaddaya think you’re doing now?” Bones asked, perplexed. “I said you could go back to your quarters.”

“I am staying here to assist you in case you have not sufficiently recovered by the time your next patient arrives. My more robust Vulcan physiology will enable me to recover more rapidly, and — if I am not permitted to return to duty, regardless — I may as well be useful here.”

“Hmph. Well, you still botched the acetylcholine test,” Bones mumbled, turning onto his side with his back to Spock.

A look of what might have been irritated forbearance crossed Spock’s face. The shuttlecraft had barely had enough power for life-support and shields by the time he had attempted that test — a fact the doctor knew well enough — but Spock thought perhaps this was not the time to point it out. He lay back, assuming the Human was already asleep.

“I did wish you luck, you know,” came Bones’ muffled voice.

“Indeed?” Spock responded in mild surprise. “Then perhaps that is how I made it back alive, after all.”

“Oh, shut up.”

A few seconds later, Spock could tell from the slowed pulse rate that Bones was deep asleep. Spock found himself illogically grateful for his emotional and passionate friend — even more than he was for his own survival — and wondered for a brief moment if the doctor’s wish for his wellbeing might have possibly affected that outcome.

Lulled by the sounds of the two biobeds, oddly in sync with one beat from Bones for every five beats of his own, Spock discontinued his musings over such irrational notions and joined him in sleep.

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