Honestly, although Bones and Spock seemed to strongly disagree with it, his plan was brilliant. Proof of this was the fact that they were now standing in front of the force field panel control, safely protected by an electronically shut steel door. Jim refrained himself from sticking out his tongue at his crewmates. It would not have been worthy of the great (and modest, of course) captain he was. The Ponantian who had led their way was now on the floor, silenced and knocked out by a well-administered nerve-pinch. It really is very useful, Jim thought. He couldn't hide the deep admiration he felt for his first officer. Without him, they wouldn't have left their cells in the first place. Spock really had to show him how to do that nerve-pinch-thing…
Spock's voice cut off his inner thoughts.
"Captain, I am disabling the force field. We should be able to communicate with the Enterprise from here. There must be a frequency Lieutenant Uhura will pick up. I do not doubt that she will locate and contact us in a short while."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, sir, that Lieutenant Uhura is obviously watching for all frequencies coming from Ponantis."
The tone meant 'my girlfriend is more than qualified for her job, don't you dare say the contrary' – and Jim didn't intend to disagree. Of course, Uhura was monitoring all frequencies from the planet. Of course, the woman was efficiency personified, he knew it better than anyone.
"I'll open a channel then", Jim answered, "but there are risks that the Ponantians may spot it and locate us. Be ready to fire."
Spock nodded curtly.
"Kirk to Enterprise. Come in. This is the captain speaking. Come in, Enterprise. Come…"
Wow. Uhura wasn't just efficient, she was brilliant.
And dangerous, but that was another problem for another time. No wonder those two ended up together, Jim thought while Spock was taping away on the panel to free the city from the force field.
"Uhura, you are amazing. Tell Scotty to lock on these coordinates and to beam us up immediately."
"How many people, sir?" she asked with consumes professionalism, but there was a small crack in her voice.
"The three of us, lieutenant. Your boyfriend needs medical care, but he'll be all right."
"I need medical care too", Bones mumbled before sneezing again. "See?"
Jim chuckled. They didn't care about discretion anymore.
"Yeah, but it's less urgent than Spock's shoulder, I guess. Bless you, by the way."
"I am fully functional, Captain, and…"
"Yeah, I know, you're all right because you're Vulcan and Vulcans are invulnerable and all", the CMO cut him off. "Your right arm is completely paralyzed, but you're fully functional. Right. Sure."
The Vulcan didn't bite back, which was surprising. Normally, when McCoy talked, he immediately contradicted him – and vice-versa. On the other side of the line, Uhura huffed. Jim interpreted the sigh as half-amused, half-relieved.
"They didn't kill one another, Captain?"
"Surprisingly enough, they didn't. They even managed to act almost civilly with one another. I can hardly believe it myself."
Jim expected a protest from one of the interested parties, but nothing came. A comfortable silence fell upon them. It was clear that something had happened the day before between those two, and Jim was curious to know what.
… But for now, they needed to get back to the ship.
One day out of the Enterprise and he already missed her. Sometimes it frightened him to see how quickly he had become accustomed to ruling the ship, as if he was meant for it.
He suddenly felt the familiar tingling sensation and the Ponantian building disappeared.
Ten seconds later, the three of them were safe aboard the ship and Scotty was welcoming them with his usual enthusiasm. McCoy let out three very loud sneezes and immediately yelled orders to the medical team Uhura had efficiently summoned in the transporter room:
"Nurse Chapel, prepare an antiseptic hypo – the one on the second shelf in the pharmacy, labelled "XS21". Don't get it wrong, it's the only that's fit for Vulcans, I've done the mixing myself. I'll also need material to clean a wound, and some anti-venom. I'm sorry, Spock", Bones added, turning towards the Vulcan. "I'll have to use it on you, but I'm afraid you it will make you nauseous. In my defence, I hadn't exactly planned that charming little trip all around Ponantis, and the fact that you'd have to fight a venomous panther. Jim, come with me too, I want to have a quick check on you. Sickbay, everyone!"
Jim knew protesting was useless but he had something more important to do right now.
"I'll be in sickbay in half an hour, Bones, I promise. But you know – strike when the iron is hot, and all. I need a discussion with our Ponantian friends. As soon as I'm finished with them, I swear you can fill me up with antihistamine."
"You all right, Captain?" Scotty seemed a bit worried. Kirk offered him a reassuring smile.
"Perfectly all right. Bones's just being a bit paranoiac, that's all…"
"I'm right here, Jim, you know?"
"Orders, Captain?" Scotty asked.
"Tell Sulu to hail the Ponantians on screen, I'll have a nice little chat with them. I'm sure they'll be positively delighted to hear from me."
The three of them walked together to the elevator. Spock was looking at Bones as if a second and maybe a third head had appeared on his neck.
"You have made an antiseptic fit for Vulcans?" he asked slowly.
"What?" McCoy was still inspecting the first officer's shoulder with suspiciousness, as they walked. "Oh, yes, because you'd have a strong reaction to what I give to humans – there is a chemical component your species is badly allergic to."
"Spock, when it became obvious that healing my first officer was going to be much more problematic than anticipated because of his mixed heritage, of course I got prepared for it! I told you I'm not as stupid as you think. Deck five," he added as he walked into the elevator.
The Vulcan opened his mouth, but no sound came. Jim chuckled. Bones was about to say something, but a violent coughing fit prevented him to do so.
"Doctor, I believe that you should retire in your quarters, heal yourself and rest."
"To be honest, Spock, I didn't intend to run a marathon."
"He's right, Bones. You deal with Spock's problem, you check whatever you want with me and you go to bed."
"Yes, Mum. But if you're not in sickbay in half an hour, I'll come and fetch you on the bridge, and, believe me, you don't want me to hypo you in front of the crew."
The CMO and his patient left the elevator and the captain went on his way to the bridge.
The negotiations with the Ponantians lasted eight minutes and seventeen seconds: the time for Jim to threaten them with a formal complaint about how then had illegally imprisoned three official Federation representatives. The leader apologized profusely, promise to sign the peace treaty with the Glosians and ended up begging Jim to be magnanimous.
When the young captain arrived in sickbay right on time, the adrenaline rush was wearing off. Despite his recent 'diplomatic' success, Jim felt drained and a bit under the weather. He sat on a chair with a sigh. The relaxant the Ponantians had administered him still made him nauseous, he had chills and felt light-headed…
He had obviously dozed off, because he suddenly jumped awake when he felt the sharp sting of a hypo in his neck.
"Ouch! Bones, what…"
"Hey, calm down! While you were asleep, I patched up your first officer. He's as good as new."
Kirk looked as the Vulcan, whose shoulder was wrapped in a bandage and who seemed, indeed, in far better condition. He was standing near the door, hands clasped in his back, waiting for orders. Bones' tricorder was now whirling over the captain's sensitive head.
"As for you, Jimmy boy, you're all right too, your allergy wasn't really bad, compared to what it could have been. I mean, I know you and it's a miracle you're out of it with nothing more than a headache and a nausea. However, …"
Bones looked at the screen and bit his lips, obviously torn between amusement and embarrassment, maybe even guilt. Jim understood suddenly.
"Don't tell me you passed me your cold? Bones, If I'm sick, I swear I…"
"You what, Captain? I told you you were going to regret your 'logical cuddling' one way or another. What happened to 'I'm all right with it'? What happened to 'Bones, don't be jealous, I love you'?" Now Bones was being sarcastic, and Jim couldn't help but blush. God, he had said that – he really had said that to his best friend. He hadn't heard the end of it. "I told you that sharing body heat wasn't a good idea, but you didn't listen. It's no one's fault but your own."
Jim sighed loudly. He had deserved it.
"Okay, Spock, get out of here before we contaminate you!"
"I am immune to human viruses, Captain," was the polite answer.
"Of course you are, with that green-ice water you call blood," McCoy chuckled. But instead of uttering the usual stream of complaints about the incoherence of Vulcan anatomy, the physician gave Spock a pat on the forearm – a gesture he would certainly not have done two days ago.
"Doctor, the fact that my blood is not the same colour as yours pleases me no end. I believe that red is too… passionate for my species."
They both looked at the Vulcan in disbelief. Two days ago, Spock would certainly not have answered that.
"God, Spock, humour and self-mockery in the same sentence?" McCoy sneered, hand on his chest as if he was deeply shocked. "I don't know if I will ever recover from it."
Jim's heart expanded in his chest. Their first diplomatic mission, which seemed desperate two hours ago, had succeeded in ways he (and probably his superiors) couldn't have imagined. They had all managed to get out of the trap safe, if not entirely sound. And – more important – he didn't know what was going on between his first officer and his chief medical officer, yet it suspiciously looked like trust, and maybe even friendship.
He certainly wasn't going to complain. A cold was a small price to pay after all.