Captain Kirk looked up as Dr. McCoy walked into the captain's quarters and gestured at the chair across from him. "Have a seat, Bones," he said, resting his hands on the table between them.
McCoy sat down and looked slightly warily at Kirk. "What's this about, Jim? Usually if you want to talk to me, you just drop by; I don't think I've been summoned to the captain's quarters since my first week on the Enterprise."
Kirk looked solemnly at McCoy, his usual charming smile nowhere in evidence. "This talk is off the record, Doctor, but it's not unofficial. I'm not making any entries in the official log or in your personnel file, but I do want you to listen carefully and take what I'm saying to heart. And I am speaking as the Captain right now, not as your friend Jim."
McCoy sat up straighter. "Let's have it, then."
"I was approached by a delegation of Bridge personnel. Several Bridge officers came to me and asked me to review the security tapes from certain incidents. They didn't want to say anything more than that, but when I pushed them, they told me that on most occasions when Spock was in command, your attitude towards him undermined morale on the Bridge and hindered everyone's ability to fulfill their duties."
McCoy opened his mouth to speak, but Kirk held up a hand, silencing him. He continued, "I have reviewed the tapes of what transpired on the Bridge while I was stuck out of phase while we were in Tholian space. I've also reviewed the tapes for when the Enterprise tried to divert the asteroid from the Amerind planet and for the time when Uhura, Chekov, and I were kidnapped by the Providers of Triskelion."
Kirk looked sternly at McCoy. "In all three cases, I am forced to agree with the delegation. Your behavior towards Spock was a detriment to the effective functioning of the Bridge crew and to the accomplishment of our mission. Depending on the incident, your attitude varied from subtly insubordinate to grossly insubordinate, and during the Tholian incident, Spock would have been within his rights to have had you thrown in the brig."
McCoy slammed his hand on the table. "Blast that pointy-eared computer, anyway! I never expected him to run crying to you."
"Control yourself, Doctor!" Kirk snapped. "Spock was not a member of the delegation that approached me, and he has never once complained to me about your behavior. But he should have! Given what I saw on those tapes, he certainly should have."
Kirk's face and tone softened, and he leaned forward. "Bones," he said softly. "I know, better than anyone, that the captain of a ship isn't infallible and that he needs advisers who aren't afraid to speak their minds. I have that, in you and Spock, and I'm more grateful than I can say that the two of you will speak your minds. But you give me respect that you don't give Spock when he's in command. You give me the benefit of the doubt, sure that my heart is in the right place and I'm doing the best I can, and you don't give that to Spock." Kirk held out a hand. "Don't you see, Bones, you can't serve as official gadfly unless that underlying respect and trust are there."
McCoy looked at Kirk. "I do respect Spock, but how can I trust that his heart's in the right place when he doesn't have a heart?"
Kirk sat back and his tone hardened. "That's enough Vulcan-bashing, Doctor. This conversation is currently off the record, but if you don't mend your ways, we'll have another conversation that will be on the record. Do I make myself clear?"
McCoy sighed. "I'm sorry. I don't know, myself, why he gets to me so much. I just ... he's so cold when you're missing or kidnapped or presumed dead; it's as if he only has a heart when you're around."
Kirk sighed in exasperation. "Of course he is."
"Huh?" McCoy looked skeptically at Kirk. "You sound like it makes sense for him to be an iceberg when you're in trouble."
"Tell me, Doctor," Kirk said, "When I'm on your operating table, do you weep and wail and moan that your friend is injured, or do you push your emotions to one side so that you can concentrate on your surgery?"
McCoy blinked. "I weep and wail and moan before and after, but during surgery, I have to clamp down on my feelings so I can do my job. Any medical professional has to learn how to do that, or they can't be very effective."
Kirk smiled. "So you do exactly what Spock does. When circumstances force you to devote your full attention to your duty, you shut down your emotions in order to clear your mind for your work."
McCoy held up a hand. "Just a minute there! I do that during surgery, but I don't do it all the time!"
"No, not all the time," Kirk said. "Just when the chips are down and you have to concentrate extra hard."
"That's right," McCoy said, thinking he'd won.
Kirk leaned forward. "But don't you see, Bones, when I'm kidnapped or missing or presumed dead, that's exactly like surgery for Spock. When Spock is in the center chair because I'm in trouble, he has to concentrate all of his faculties on getting the ship out of trouble or getting me out of trouble, maybe both. He can't afford distractions then. He certainly can't afford to have some sort of emotional breakdown because you've goaded him into getting in touch with his feelings at an entirely inappropriate time!"
"I know, Jim." McCoy sighed. "I know. I don't know why I keep picking at him when you're in trouble."
Kirk picked up a stylus and tapped it on the table. "I know why."
"Yeah? Okay, I gotta hear this. Why do you think I pick at Spock when we're both worried about you?"
"Because you're using his emotional control to manage your feelings. You turn worry into anger and aim it at Spock, not because you're mad at him, but because you know he can take it."
"Poppycock," McCoy scoffed. "I don't do that."
"You do. You don't just rely on Spock's emotional control, you need it. You want it."
McCoy looked genuinely confused. "That's a damfool idea if ever I heard one. Why would I want that pointy-eared computer to suppress his feelings?"
Kirk leaned forward and spoke softly but intensely. "Because, Doctor, if he expressed his feelings normally, he'd put you in the brig. And if he expressed them with the intensity with which you express yours, he'd wring your neck. You only dare to talk to him the way you do BECAUSE you know that you can count on his emotional control."
McCoy blinked. "I ... oh, hell. I guess I do. I can throw anything I want at him, because it won't affect him."
Kirk sighed and shook his head. "It won't visibly affect him. I think no one except Spock knows how much it might affect him underneath." He paused a moment to let that sink in, then said, "And suppose something you say does affect him. Suppose it's the last straw someday? Do you want Spock functioning at less than full capacity when I'm in trouble? Are you willing to win your battle with Spock but lose me or lose the ship? Is it okay if we all die, as long as you get the last word?"
McCoy looked stricken. "Jim, you must know I'd never ..."
"Not on purpose, no. But I think I'm hearing that your behavior hasn't been completely under your control. You aren't sure, yourself, why you do what you do, and you haven't been considering the potential consequences."
McCoy looked angry. "Okay, I get it, Jim. I'll rein it in."
"I'm not sure that you do get it, Doctor! Remember how all of this started. A delegation of Bridge personnel said that you were undermining the morale and efficiency of every officer on the Bridge during crucial moments. Even if you don't believe that your words affect Spock, it does affect the rest of the Bridge crew to hear you railing at Spock and expressing lack of confidence in him."
McCoy deflated. "Okay, I guess I can believe that. Even if I don't think I'll ever get through to Spock, I don't want to throw off Sulu's piloting or Chekov's navigation or rant so loud that Uhura can't hear messages." He paused and thought for a moment. "I, I'm sorry. This isn't just lip service; I really will try to mend my ways."
Kirk nodded. "I'm glad to hear it." He slumped slightly, clearly taking the command persona down a notch. "So, are we good, Bones? Still friends?"
McCoy rubbed the back of his neck. "Yeah, Jim, we're still friends. It's my fault; I'm ... I'm sorry I made you put on your Captain's hat."
"The one you owe an apology to is Spock," Kirk said, then laughed at the alarm on McCoy's face. "But luckily for you, he's a Vulcan, and apologies are probably as illogical as gratitude. What Spock will need you to do is not to apologize but to behave differently in the future."
"If it gets me out of apologizing to Spock, I'll be good as gold!"
Kirk smiled. "So, you're lucky he's a Vulcan, then."
"Now, I wouldn't go that far."
Kirk looked at McCoy and waited.
"Not that I was bashing Vulcans! I don't do that anymore."
Kirk smiled more broadly and plucked a decanter from the shelf behind him. "And THAT will get you a glass of Saurian brandy."
1. Like most of my stories, this one takes place during the first five-year mission.
2. I've always thought that someone needed to do this to McCoy. By the power vested in me as an author of fan fiction, I hereby do it. :-D
3. This is, of course, TOS, since AOS Spock does NOT have TOS Spock's emotional control. (But then, watching your planet blow up would undermine anyone's controls.)
4. The minor characters' feelings and reactions are usually short-changed in TOS, but it seems to me that once Scotty, Uhura, Sulu, and Chekov had watched enough of these Spock-McCoy confrontations, SOMEone would have gone to talk to Kirk about it. (In my headcanon, Scotty leads the delegation, but the others are present.)
5. You know I don't own Star Trek, because if I did, things would be sooooo different!
6. Thanks for reading!