"Bones! Bones, Bones, Bones, Bones, Bones!" Leonard McCoy swore under his breath as a whirlwind known as Captain James T. Kirk spun into his Medbay, his chanting increasing in volume to overcome the high-pitched whine of the instrument in McCoy's hand. Only his uncommonly steady hands saved him from making a mess of Ensign Dawson's arm.

"Jim, what did I tell you about barging in here when I'm working on something?"

"Don't!" the captain responded cheerfully. Leonard scowled.

"Have you been drinking?!"

"What? No!"

"Good god, man, why not?! That's the problem right there. You're starting to sound . . . perky. Bourbon's in the back of the sedative cabinet. Take it into my office and get a start while I finish up with the Ensign here."

"Ok Bones!" Leonard watched while his best friend and his best bourbon disappeared together into the back office, before turning back to the unfortunate Ensign Dawson. He surveyed his handiwork briefly, before flipping the switch to turn on the antique 20th-century tattoo machine that had belonged to his father. The man in the chair whimpered and Leonard sneered in disgust. Sure, rapidly injecting ink beneath the skin using multiple hypodermic needles wasn't exactly the most comfortable way to create skin art, but Dawson's wimpiness was embarrassing. Three hundred years ago 15-year-old girls used to do this for fun! Of course, in Dawson's case, the proximity of the tattoo to an open wound might have something to do with the man's pain tolerance.

"Now, Ensign. Care to enlighten me on exactly why you chose today of all days to sass that particular superior officer?"

"Today, sir? I was just having a bad day. Why was today worse than usual?" Leonard peered at the man's pale face.

"You really don't know, do you? Learn to gossip, man! It might save your life. Today is the day that the good Lieutenant Sulu received word that his family back on earth have sold him in marriage to the family of a particularly psychotic Russian navigator to end a centuries-old feud."

"Why would that be a problem, sir? I thought Lieutenant Sulu and Lieutenant Chekov were already together, sir."

"They are. They Chekovs paid a bride price." Dawson turned green.

"So when I . ."

"Let's just say it was not the best time to call into question an officer's manhood, especially when said officer is your superior and makes a habit of carrying around a sword. You're lucky you didn't lose the arm."

Leonard pulled back and looked over the arm in question. A long deep gash ran down the forearm, held together with primitive stitches. Stupidity injuries didn't deserve the dermal regenerator. A line of tattooed calligraphic text ran the length of the injury, a black arrow indicating the area of future scarring.

"Read this aloud for me Ensign," McCoy instructed.

"I got this by being stupid," Dawson read obediently.

"Now, you think that'll be enough to remind you not to do it again?"

"Yes, sir! Thank you sir!"

"Good. Now get the hell out of my Medbay." Dawson exited at a run, and McCoy busied himself cleaning the tattoo gun carefully and returning it to storage before heading for his office. Hopefully Jim hadn't finished off the bourbon yet. Leonard had a feeling he'd need it by the time the kid got around to explaining whatever had had him so excited earlier.


Jim hadn't finished the bourbon, although it was a near-thing, so Leonard could be forgiven for being so focused on the rapidly depleted bottle that he almost missed the brown ball of vibrating fuzz on the captain's shoulder. Almost.

"Jim? What the hell is that?" Jim plucked the creature from his shoulder and held it out to Leonard.

"Bones, this is Hannibal. Hannibal, Bones," Jim made the introductions. Bones scowled. Hannibal purred.

"I didn't ask what its name was, I asked 'what is it?'"

"Oh. It's a tribble!"

"A tribble?"

"Yup! There was this trader down on the starbase that had them. Get this, Bones, Klingons are scared to death of tribbles!" Jim cackled with delight. Leonard reached over and picked up Hannibal by a flap of fur. The creature hung limp and continued to purr.

"Klingons are scared of this? Does it have invisible nasty, big, pointy teeth?" Jim giggled. Leonard reflected that maybe, just maybe, his best friend was a little bit mad.

"But seriously, Bones, this trader - Cyrano Jones - he had a couple he was selling as pets, and I was just walking by but then I noticed these two Klingons had noticed him, and Bones! They cringed. And then they crossed to walk on the other side of the corridor! And I figured any creature that can scare a Klingon is a worthy . . . what d'you call 'em? Not a pet - like a companion animal - sorcerers had them . . ."

"A familiar?"

"Yeah! That's it. Any creature that can scare a Klingon is a worthy familiar for Captain James T. Kirk." Jim plucked Hannibal out of Leonard's fingers and planted him back on his shoulder. "It'll be like Sulu and his sword. Everywhere I go, Hannibal will be with me, glaring at my enemies."

Leonard sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose with his fingers.

"Jim. Sulu's sword is sharp and deadly. It's intimidating. That thing," Leonard pointed an accusing finger at Jim's shoulder, "is a fuzzball! A cute, purring fuzzball."

"A cute purring fuzzball that scares Klingons."

"They won't know that." Jim grinned.

"But that's the point Bones. They won't know that. They won't know what he's for. They'll drive themselves crazy trying to figure it out. I bet it'll be like that fairy tale, you know, where everyone's too scared to tell the Emperor he's naked. I bet you the only person who even mentions Hannibal tomorrow will be Spock. Everyone else will pretend he's not even there until they can figure out how they're supposed to react. It'll be good, you'll see. Keep everyone on their toes." Leonard sighed.

"I don't think it's a good sign that some of that actually made sense. So you're going to carry around a purring fuzzball as your familiar partly because it scares Klingons, but mostly just to mess with everyone's head?" Jim nodded enthusiastically.


"How do you plan on keeping Spock from calling you on it?" Jim waved him off.

"I'll just point out to him that it's illogical to pre-judge a creature without all the relevant facts. That'll send him into a frenzy of tribble-research and get him out of my hair." Jim reached up and scratched Hannibal's back? head? and was rewarded with a soft cooing sound. Leonard finished off the bourbon bottle and wondered how he had never noticed his life going crazy until it got there.

Jim was right though. He performed all his duties with Hannibal perched on his shoulder, and no one said a word. Not even Spock, who was trying not to purr.