The Close Call
Of Men and Moments
Montgomery was focusing intently on a panel that was out of adjustment when he felt a tap on the back of his head. "What in the name of all…" he began, turning around. But when he saw who it was, his annoyed look vanished, and a grin flashed in its place. "Why, Doctor McCoy, what brings you down here?"
Doctor McCoy, who was not only the Doctor on the USS Enterprise but also Montgomery's secret best friend, sat down and smiled back. "Does a doctor need a reason to visit his friend, Scotty?"
"Well…" Montgomery pretended to be thinking about this. "That's a matter for some consideration, laddie…"
"Oh, stop it or I'll leave."
Montgomery laughed and sat down opposite the Doctor.
"Do you have a moment, Scotty?"
"Five, and they're all yours, Doctor."
"Thank you, but I only need one. I just have a question for you."
"But I thought you said you didn't need a reason to visit me?"
"I don't. That doesn't mean I never have one."
Montgomery found this rather confusing, but he didn't say so. "Carry on, Doctor."
"Well, I was just wondering… you didn't by any chance say anything to Jim that would make him suspect our friendship, did you?"
Montgomery was taken aback. By "Jim," Doctor McCoy meant James Kirk, the former captain of the Enterprise who was now an admiral. Technically, James Kirk wasn't supposed to be in command now, he had managed to get command because of a dire, interstellar emergency and had managed to keep it somehow. James Kirk had always been quite good at getting away with things.
He was also a bit jealous, and thought that he was Doctor McCoy's best friend. Doctor McCoy was afraid that if James Kirk knew the truth (that Montgomery was actually the Doctor's best friend), he would go crazy or something equally unpleasant. Therefore, Montgomery was quite shocked that the Doctor would think that he would ever say anything to suggest their friendship to the admiral.
"Of course not, Doctor." His voice was rather indignant. "How could you even think I'd ever do a thing like that?"
"Well, sorry. It's just that he's been looking rather suspiciously at me lately, and keeps asking where I've been. I thought maybe he suspected something."
"Well, I'm quite careful. I never even mention you to him." Montgomery looked at his watch. "Well, it's been two minutes, and you said you only needed one, so I think I'll be…" he turned back to the panel, but Doctor McCoy caught him by the sleeve and pulled him back.
"I said one moment. There's a difference between minutes and moments."
"What's the difference?"
"A minute is sixty seconds. For gosh sakes, Scotty, everybody knows that."
"Of course I know that, but then what's a moment?"
"A moment is a period of time."
"Short enough for what?"
"Short enough for me."
Montgomery's eyes widened. "You mean they've really built the definition of a moment around you, Doctor? I'm astonished!" He got up and began pacing the chamber. "I just can't believe it… I've been your friend all this time, never knowing what an incredible honor has been mine…" he turned and faced Doctor McCoy with his pleasant face beaming and grasped his hand. "The honor of being the best friend of the man around whom the definition of a moment is built."
Doctor McCoy growled and shook Montgomery's hand away. "You know what I mean. Now sit down and stop being absurd."
Montgomery grinned and sat back down. "I think it's been longer than a moment though, Doctor."
"That's beside the point. What have you been saying to Jim?"
"On my honor, nothing, Doctor! I swear on the Enterprise that I'd never think of breathing a word to him."
The Doctor looked closely at him, then began rubbing his fingers on his knees thoughtfully. "Something's made him suspicious. I just know it."
"I'll be more careful than ever, Doctor. Cross my heart." Montgomery solemnly crossed his finger over his chest."
"You think this is some kind of game, don't you? Do you know what could happen if Jim ever finds…"
"I know, I know. He'll get severely depressed."
"He'll get severely depressed!" As if he hadn't heard Montgomery's words, the Doctor stood up and began pacing around Montgomery in circles.
"I said I'd be careful." Montgomery watched the Doctor walk around in circles. He watched him walk around in circles so long that his head began to spin. "Doctor, you're making me dizzy."
"Sorry." Stopping in front of Montgomery and looking down at him, the Doctor said seriously, "Just see that you're very careful."
"I will be."
With a last nod, the Doctor turned to leave. Montgomery jumped up. "Can't you stay just another minute, Doctor McCoy?"
"I'm afraid not, Scotty. I have to get back to sick bay. But I'll come down later and we'll have a nice talk."
"Alright." Montgomery cheered up at once at the thought. "I'll see you in a moment, Doctor."
"Well, you said it was short enough for you, so…"
Montgomery ducked to avoid whatever it was that Doctor McCoy threw at him (it turned out to be a bolt remover), and laughed.
No sooner had Doctor McCoy disappeared down the hall, than James Kirk came in at the opposite side of the chamber. "Mr. Scott, may I speak with you for a moment?"
"Certainly, sir." Now that he knew all about moments, he thought, he was quite ready to agree to such a proposition. "No longer though, I've a panel to readjust."
Kirk gave him a bit of a strange look, but said nothing. Sitting down on the box that had so recently been occupied by Montgomery's best friend Doctor McCoy, Kirk looked at Montgomery steadily. "Mr. Scott, what is this?"
To Montgomery's inexpressible horror, Kirk held up a letter that Doctor McCoy had written to Montgomery during their recent three-year separation.
Kirk was looking at Montgomery with a patiently waiting expression on his face. Montgomery cleared his throat. Then he cleared his throat again.
"Just a moment sir."
Kirk nodded obligingly, and Montgomery leaned forward and squinted at the object, thinking quickly. Though he could not read Doctor McCoy's handwriting, he knew that Kirk could. And if Kirk realized that the letter was from the Doctor - all would be lost.
Montgomery straightened up and smiled, hoping fervently that he didn't look too nervous. "Ah, yes. It appears to be a letter, sir."
"I see. Mr. Scott, is this letter yours?"
"Just a moment, sir." Leaning forward again, Montgomery made a great pretense of examining the greeting in the letter, though he knew it by heart. Dear Scotty, I have been doing pretty well, but I sure miss you. Sitting up again, Montgomery said, "Ah, yes sir. It is."
"Who is it from?"
Montgomery thought about this carefully. "Who is the letter from?"
"This letter, sir?"
"Yes, yes, this letter."
"Oh, this letter! Well, if I'd known you were talking about this letter, I'd have answered you right away. It's from my best friend, sir."
Kirk continued staring at him. "And why does your best friend sign himself 'Doctor L. McCoy?'"
"I don't know, sir."
Turning the letter to face himself, Kirk looked at it, then turned to look at Montgomery again. "This letter isn't from Bones, is it?"
"Bones. Doctor McCoy."
"Doctor McCoy who, sir?"
"You know Doctor McCoy who. Doctor Leonard 'Bones' McCoy, ships' surgeon of the USS Enterprise."
"This USS Enterprise?"
"Of course this USS Enterprise! What other USS Enterprise would I mean?"
"Well, I don't know, sir, I just thought perhaps there was another USS Enterprise you meant."
There was a moment of silence. Then Kirk asked, "Well? Is it?"
"Is what what, sir?"
"Mr. Scott, I am trying to ask you if this letter in my hand, belonging to you and signed Doctor L. McCoy in Doctor Leonard McCoy's handwriting is from Doctor Leonard McCoy, ships' surgeon aboard this ship where we now sit, namely the USS Enterprises, now is it or isn't it?"
Montgomery thought about this. "Could you repeat the question? I'm not sure I remember the beginning of it."
"Ah!" was Kirk's only response. He stood up and jabbed the letter in Montgomery's face. "Who wrote you this letter?"
"My best friend."
"Who is your best friend?"
"Why, the man who wrote that letter, sir."
"What's his name?"
"Ahhhh!" was Kirk's inexplicable response again. He handed the letter to Montgomery and paced to the other side of the room, with his hands behind his back.
"I think it's been longer than a moment, sir."
"I think it's been longer than a moment."
"What does that have to do with this conversation?"
"Well, you said you needed to speak with me for a moment."
"Do you know how long a moment is, sir?" Ordinarily the fact that Kirk had lied would be rather shocking to Montgomery, who never lied himself, but this was overshadowed by the fact that Kirk seemed to know what a moment was.
"Of course. It's short enough for Doctor McCoy. Everyone knows that."
"Oh." Montgomery felt rather taken aback by this. He thought the Doctor had only been joking - he had been, right?
"So, is it?"
Jerking his head up, Montgomery asked innocently, "Is what what, sir?"
Kirk's eyes went steely, and he walked so close that he could have touched Montgomery's nose with his own. He opened his mouth quite forcefully to speak, then stopped. He closed his mouth, furrowed his brows, and looked at Montgomery with a rather lost expression. "Now I don't remember what we were talking about."
A rather brilliant idea hit Montgomery at the moment. He would be able to get out of this whole thing without telling one lie. "Good. Now, if you have a moment, sir, I believe I would like to ask you a question."
"Certainly, Scotty, what is it?"
"WHAT WERE YOU DOING WITH MY PRIVATE PROPERTY?" Montgomery yelled, with as much threatening as he could muster in his usually mild voice.
Kirk seemed taken aback by this rather sudden outburst. "I beg your pardon?"
"You come in here with my private letter, and think you can just go waving it around in my face asking me private questions and then have the audacity to detain me from my work for a whole moment! I demand to see the commander of Starfleet! I'll have you reported, sir! I'll tell them you…"
Kirk quickly and nervously reached out and patted Montgomery on the shoulder. "Now, now, Scotty, don't get upset. I just found it laying on the floor and couldn't help picking it up and having a look. I was going to give it right back to you. You've got it now, no harm done, right?"
Montgomery made a great show of thinking it over, all the while laughing inside at Kirk's overly anxious face. If Montgomery really wanted to, he knew he could easily have Kirk removed from command - he knew enough about all Kirk's questionable activities that he'd gotten away with. Of course, he didn't really want to. Thankfully for Kirk.
"Well? Scotty? You forgive me, right?"
"Just a moment, Admiral, I'm thinking."
Kirk kept looking worriedly at him, and at last Montgomery decided that was enough. "I suppose I shall forgive you. Just see to it that you do no more snooping through my private letters."
Relief and gratitude spread over Kirk's face. He appeared to have completely forgotten about the reason he'd come down a moment before. "Thank you, Mr. Scott. I will certainly not do so again."
He left engineering much subdued, and Montgomery waved good-naturedly at him. "Goodbye, Admiral Kirk. Do visit again."
"I will, I will." And Kirk stumbled quickly out, as if he were afraid that Montgomery would come running after him to report him to Starfleet. As soon as James Kirk was out of hearing range, Montgomery indulged in a long, loud laugh, which seemed to startle the other crewmen in the chamber.
Several moments later (which was about three hours), Montgomery felt a tap on the back of his head again. He jumped up and turned to see who it was. As he'd suspected, it was his best friend Doctor McCoy.
"Well, Scotty, how has your day been?" asked the Doctor, sitting down.
Montgomery smiled to himself. "It's been pretty good, Doctor. Yours?"
"Pretty good, pretty good. You know, a strange thing happened a few moments ago… I walked past Jim in the halls, and he was so quiet and subdued I hardly knew him. I asked what was the matter, and he mumbled that it was nothing. Then he hasn't asked me once where I've been. Do you know what got into him?"
Montgomery shook his head. "I wouldn't know, Doctor." But again, he smiled inwardly. All was safe for the time being.
"I know you're busy here, Scotty, but I was going to tell you a funny story. Do you have a moment?"
Grinning, Montgomery nodded. "Five, Doctor, and they're all yours."