The author in no way owns the Star Trek franchise or in any way has claim to the characters and entities that are part of it. All original plots, storylines, and characters contained within this work are, however, property of the author, Naelle Annenburg. Use of any of these is acceptable only if the author releases permission.

Note: this story contains sexual content.

"Present Dangers"

The entire point of a 'skeleton crew' was to make it possible for as many crewmen as possible to be off-ship at a certain time. Only the most necessary positions were accounted for: medical officer, transport, engineer, helmsman, and security. Montgomery Scott was never going to surrender his engines to anyone else if he could help it, so it was only natural that he was still on the ship while the majority of the crew was down planetside living it up at some two day 'ball'. He wasn't sure who was handling the helm, and the security teams never stuck around too much (which, he supposed, might've been due to the danger inherent in their position).

It was a surprise to see Leonard McCoy on the duty roster. Usually, the captain dragged him along wherever he could, no matter what the doctor had to say about it. But whatever the reason, he was still on the ship now.

Montgomery sipped his coffee, glancing about the empty mess. It never did sit too well with him, honestly, being all alone on the ship. Okay, not alone – he knew that there were about two dozen crewmen still aboard. But the chances he'd bump into one of them were almost negligibly low, and he wasn't one to seek them out himself.

The replicator must've been glitching a bit, though. The coffee had a metallic taste to it. Not that he wasn't used to that; being an engineer meant you got your hands dirty, and there were times when no matter what you did, you weren't getting somethingoff your fingers. As long as it wasn't toxic, he wasn't going to take issue with it. And besides, after subsisting on protein nibs and replicated espresso that tasted more like brewed charcoal, he could handle pretty much anything.

There really was no point in drinking all alone in the mess, though. And besides, the captain had ordered a test on the transporter while he was gone. No time like the present, he supposed.

As he exited the mess, his attention was immediately drawn to a grumpy-looking helmsman coming his way. His golden shirt was pristine, save for a light dusting of orange pollen on the right sleeve. Didn't seem to be bothering him any, so Scotty shrugged it off, smiling genially at the younger man.

"G'morning, Lieutenant Sulu," he offered. Sulu met his eyes, and a forced smile took his face. Ah, so it was that kind of morning. "Ah, come off it, laddie. Less than 36 hours now until everythin's back to normal."

A snort escaped the younger man. "Right," he muttered. Montgomery raised an eyebrow. "Sorry. I just got a letter from base. Whoever first said long distance relationships don't work should've been taken more seriously. I'm adrift in free space, if you know what I mean."

Ah. He did know. All too well. "It's not the end of the world, Laddie," he said firmly, and immediately regretted his choice of words. He saw Sulu's eyes darken a moment too, and he cleared his throat in the suddenly uncomfortable silence. "Metaphorically speakin', I mean."

"Yeah," Sulu managed, the word sounding stiff. Montgomery wanted to hit himself repeatedly with an old-fashioned wrench. The closest would be in engineering, and it probably wouldn't help the situation any. He took another swallow of coffee, listening for the faint hum of the engines and the electrical buzzing that signified home, and with as much effort as he could muster he flashed the helmsman another awkward smile.

"You'd like some coffee, then?" he offered, stepping backwards into the mess. Sulu nodded, following him in and making his way to the replicator. The engineer returned to his previously occupied table, carefully not drumming his fingers on the surface.

The good thing about replicated coffee was that it maintained its heat for a much longer time that traditional brewers. He'd been nursing this mug for the better part of an hour, and the half he still had left was as piping hot as the one Sulu was undoubtedly getting and doctoring up himself.

He'd had Sulu pegged for the tea type when they first met. The man's hobby was botany – botany, for Pete's sake! And all right, maybe he was going a bit off his nationality, too, but that wasn't strictly a conscious part of his reasoning. Besides, green tea was supposed to be healthy, and Sulu was nothing if not healthy. Of course, he'd realized about three days after he met him that the tea thing was complete bollocks and nothing more. Turned out Sulu had plenty of hobbies. Botany was just up for circulation that month.

"Is it gonna be awkward if I sit by you?" the man asked, suddenly standing across from him. Montgomery cocked his head. How long had he been there? It must not have been too long, especially since Sulu immediately clarified his inquiry. "This is a very empty room. Plenty of empty tables. Are we gonna sit together and socialize or pretend we're each alone?"

Montgomery gestured for him to sit at his table, swallowing the last of his coffee. "I'll get a refill while ye settle in there," he explained, crossing the room. With any luck, the replicator wouldn't glitch this time. He gave the order for strong coffee, squinting at the dust around the edges of two buttons. When the replicator finished, he swirled the liquid, sniffed it, and took a long sip.

Still metallic.

He shrugged, taking the cup back to his seat. Sulu was scrunching up his face at his own drink. "Yours too?" Montgomery asked. The helmsman nodded. "I'll get on fixin' the replicators after I run that transporter test the captain asked for. Hope ye can deal with it until then."

Sulu shrugged, knocking back another mouthful. "At least it's not decaf," he observed. "And it's not like anyone drinks it for the taste. Transporter test?"

"I'd normally add a little somethin' extra back home," the engineer admitted, smiling. "Testing magnetic inhibitor stress and shield penetration bypass codes. Commander Spock told me spiking my coffee's against regulations."

Sulu set his coffee down, the corner of his mouth quirking upward. "Shield penetration bypass codes? Captain's reaching," he said easily. "And you know, if you're all about following regulations maybe you shouldn't be making your own moonshine."

Montgomery took another sip of his coffee. "Don't know what ye're talkin' about, Lieutenant," he smirked. "And I'll have ye know, I've got it almost figured out."

"The moonshine or the codes?" Sulu deadpanned. The engineer would've laughed, but the door was opening. He glanced up to see who he was going to have to warn about the coffee, and before he could even register who was there, Sulu was jumping to his feet. "Computer, sound red al—"

A particle weapon discharged, and the helmsman dropped. Montgomery stood, searching for anything he could use to defend himself—but it was too late. Even as he dove to avoid the discharge, he knew he was going to be hit. With his last conscious thought, he prayed the weapon was set to stun.

He awoke to an unceremonious slap in the face. The ground was cold below his legs and lower back, and he was propped up against the side of a bench. He opened his eyes, the world slowly coming into focus around him, and found the doctor and a security member kneeling beside him. McCoy looked even grumpier than usual, and as his surroundings became clear, Montgomery couldn't help but blink in confusion.

"We're in the brig?" he asked. McCoy nodded. He tried to sit up further, but the doctor's warm hand on his shoulder kept him down. He cast his eyes to the doorway, force field firmly intact. "Guess it is rational, if we're stayin' alive. Everyone here?"

McCoy's lip thinned. "Ensign Jamison didn't make it. He's dead," he said. Then he jerked his chin towards his shoulder. "We're missing two of the security team. Not holding out a lot of hope for them, either. Sulu's still out, but he's stable. It's a bit crowded in here, though. Cell's only built for four people."

Montgomery glanced around. Sixteen, not including himself. "Not much I can do about that, Doctor."

McCoy shook his head. "Didn't expect you could," he grumbled. "You realize you're the highest ranking person here, right, Second officer?"

Oh. So he was. Not that it particularly mattered. McCoy's hand left his shoulder, and he managed to sit up, craning his neck to check their guard. It seemed to be just one individual, and if he had to venture a guess, he'd say it was female. It was difficult to tell, though; he'd never seen the species before.

Whoever this was had a definite orange tone to their skin, and the texture didn't look too different from the peel of a tangerine. It—she, probably—was long and slender, hips flaring out just slightly. Her hands were at rest at her sides: three fingers and a thumb on each, the tips nearly white. No nails. And she didn't have hair; atop her head protruded some sort of stalk, almost resembling a large bean sprout. He had the strangest feeling of déjà vu, and the stalk twisted and…beeped.

The guard turned to face them, eyes wide and dark. "What do you hope to accomplish by examining me through a force field?" she asked, voice unexpectedly gentle. He started. "I do not appreciate being scrutinized, and I am more than capable of euthanizing you should I wish. It would be wise for you to keep your eyes where they belong."

She turned her back to them again, making her way to the guard post once more, pulling a weapon out of a holster located about where the left scapula would be on a human. Montgomery turned his attention back to Dr. McCoy immediately.

"At least they're not Klingon," he offered. The doctor rolled his eyes. "What've we got on us?"

McCoy raised an eyebrow. "I have one used hypo. None of us has any weapons, no communicators, no tools – whatever you're thinking isn't gonna work, Commander."

Montgomery shifted to his feet with a grunt. "I'll need the hypo," he murmured. "Help me move Sulu; he's in the way."

The doctor still looked skeptical, but he got up too, gripping Sulu by the elbow and relocating him in the middle of the cell. One of the security team moved to pull the helmsman onto the bench Montgomery had been leaning against earlier. Satisfied, the engineer pressed his ear to the side of the cell, tapping carefully against the bulkhead.

"What're you planning, Scotty?" McCoy asked, gruff voice now laced with curiosity. Montgomery held up one finger, tapping lower. McCoy settled in next to him, resting his forearm on his knee and drawing out the used hypo with his other hand, twisting it between his fingers. Finally, the right sound met his ear, and he carefully measured around the area.

Not like he had a pen. He grimaced, brought his finger to his mouth, and bit the knuckle as hard as he could. McCoy's displeased sound met his free ear, but he went ahead with it, squeezing around the injury until a droplet of blood was sliding down his finger. He dipped his little finger on his right hand into it and smudged the fluid onto the wall, tapping occasionally to make certain he was still tracing the correct area. After he outlined it completely, he drew his bleeding knuckle into his mouth.

"You realize I don't have anything to fix that, right?" McCoy drawled, irritation obvious in his tone. Montgomery nodded, running his tongue over the laceration.

"After losin' one finger completely, a cut like this doesn't hurt a lick," he said mildly, watching McCoy blink in surprise. He held up his right hand, wiggling the middle finger. "Prosthetic. Lost the real one doin' emergency repairs on the first ship I served on."

"Didn't know," McCoy said neutrally. He handed him the hypo. "You plannin' on tellin' me what you're doing?"

Montgomery snapped the hypo with one jerk, carefully pulling out the primary injector. "I'd prefer t'be doin' this with a full set of tools," he offered. "Help me get this prosthetic off. You can always put a new one on me later."

The doctor sighed. "You're crazy. You know that, right?"

And that was the last conversation they had for some time. It was almost a shame, being without his finger again. He'd almost forgotten it wasn't real. His mind flashed back to the accident. He'd been trying to realign the primary injector cables in the middle of a conflict with a Klingon battle cruiser, and they'd outright exploded. Dr. Sworovski had done a beautiful job fixing all his other fingers, all things considered. A week later, he'd gotten the prosthetic, and that was that. It had to be in his medical file somewhere, but it wasn't relevant to his work.

He finished realigning the pumps from the prosthetic and reached for the hypo again. This time, he tried to draw out a small, pointed implement from just under the control wiring. It neatly sliced through his fingertip as he tried to remove it, and he cursed lightly. It took two more tries before he could get it out, and he immediately fixed it onto the empty base of one cylinder.

Experimentally, he pressed the second joint of his prosthetic, watching the point push forward. When he straightened it, the point retracted.

"Perfect," he murmured. McCoy was flushed red.

"Perfect, my ass," he growled out. "Your hands are almost a lost cause!"

He looked over his hands, and yes, it wasn't a pretty sight. They were bloody, his calluses stained red and the place his prosthetic once was not so much resembling a stump as a mass of flesh ready to start bleeding anew. It was ugly and painful, but that didn't matter.

"I have work to do," he told the doctor. "Ye can lecture me later."

This was quickly becoming one of those times Montgomery wished Starfleet hadn't insisted on the inside of their ships being as durable as the outside. Normally, it was damn useful, if anything. Phaser battles could be fought and won in hallways. The wiring wasn't going to be in danger when the ship was going through rough territory. Everything was absolutely fireproof, regardless of its location. And it was damn near impossible to cut through a wall with anything short of a plasma torch. It didn't precisely help that the brig was reinforced; the only access panel was the one he had outlined. He had to cut into it with a reconfigured prosthetic topped off with what was essentially a razor.

It might've been easier to break the laws of physics than to finish this.

Either way, he began.

Two hours later, he had very nearly cut a centimeter long line in the wall. About forty minutes in, Sulu had awoken and nearly thrown a fit when he realized exactly what Montgomery was using to cut the wall. He'd managed to quiet down quickly enough, but his eyes hardly left the work in progress.

Montgomery's hands had progressed past the state of trembling with exhaustion straight on into spasming. It wasn't anything surprising; with the pressure he had to exert to even knick the surface, he should have been a lot worse. Nevertheless, it was becoming overwhelming to continue, and when he accidentally dropped the prosthetic mid-stroke, he knew he had to take a break.

Sulu was there immediately, confirming how to operate it and how to proceed with the cutting. No sooner had Montgomery finished explaining than McCoy was pulling him away, gently taking his hands by the wrists. He did his best not to flinch.

"There are limits to what you can do to yourself safely, Scotty," he grumbled, but it sounded soft somehow. He turned his hands over in his hands, touching them gently, testing. His ring finger ran over what remained of Montgomery's missing digit, and the engineer would be lying if he said it didn't send a spark of something down his back. The doctor wrapped both his hands – his smooth, uncallused hands – around Montgomery's right one, methodically pressing into the muscle and shifting the bones gently. The pain started to fade.

Montgomery looked up at McCoy's face as he worked. He was an attractive man, to say the least, even with the scraggly stubble he obviously hadn't gotten around to shaving off before the ship had been overrun. And he wasn't in denial – he wanted him. He wanted that doctor. And he wanted him in the worst ways.

Blimey, he wanted him in everyway. He wanted him for everything from breakfast to shore leave to dinner to a good romp in the sheets. Hell, he even wanted him when he was shouting at the captain for his latest intergalactic faux paus.

It wasn't the time to be thinking about that, though, even if the man was anything other than straight. Meanwhile, oblivious to Montgomery's internal ramblings, the doctor had moved onto his left hand, frowning at the myriad of scars, stains, misalignments – well. Let it never be said engineers had it easy. A part of the Scott wanted to pull his hand away from the other man.

"Jesus," McCoy muttered, working at the tight muscle beneath his fingers. Montgomery watched his hands work, unable to meet the man's eyes. His fingers were so certain of what they were doing – pressing and circling and relieving tension that had been there for years. Was this a doctor or a masseuse?

"Please refrain from performing pornographic acts in front of me or I will be forced to eliminate you," the mild voice of their guard called over. Montgomery blinked, glancing about the cell. Most everyone was seated, trying to pretend Sulu wasn't doing anything unusual. The only two individuals doing anything together were the doctor and himself. He pointed to himself, brows knitting in confusion. "Yes, you two. Desist mating immediately. You will maintain a distance of approximately one body length and you will neither touch nor speak with one another. Am I understood?"

The doctor's eyebrows surged towards his scalp, but he released Montgomery's hand nonetheless. "We're not 'mating'," he growled. "I'm a doctor, not a fetishist."

The distinct sounds of their guard approaching had Montgomery's blood thinning rapidly. He forced himself away from the doctor hastily. The alien stood directly across the field. "You had both hands wrapped around one of your mate's," she said slowly, her hands coming atop her head in what Montgomery assumed was some meaningful gesture in her own culture. "Is this not how your species defines 'mating'?"

"Not so much," McCoy grumbled, an odd shade of pink barely visible on his cheeks. "And trust me, we would not be 'mating' here."

Something in Montgomery's chest twinged, but he found himself nodding in agreement. "Aye, we wouldn't," he said, eyes on the floor. This seemed to satisfy the alien, and she walked back to her post.

For a long time, the only sounds were the shifting of the cell's inhabitants and the occasional ping of Sulu's work against the wall. Every so often, Montgomery would glance over to measure the progress. Sulu's hands were shaky when he finished, but there was nothing to be done. The engineer took his place.

The opening was small – an L-shape bent backwards to reveal the circuitry under it, barely the size of his pinky nail. The wiring was secure, tightly coiled, and monotone.

Thank God he knew what he was doing.

With a deep breath, he steadied the prosthetic, aimed, and severed one of the wires. A bolt of electricity jumped out as the blade connected, traveling up his arm and through his chest. He could feel every muscle in his body tensing, even after the shock ended.

Almost immediately, an alarm sounded. McCoy's cursing could probably have been heard all the way to the mess, and their guard – their poised, confident, subdued orange guard – nearly fell over her chair. Montgomery scooted away from the opened panel, getting to his knees and rising up to his feet with a grunt, tossing his prosthetic to Sulu as nonchalantly as possible. The guard approached, hands on her neck. Aw, hell, not all species kept their organs in the same place, he remembered. Her coloration was slowly darkening.

"What is this sound?" she asked, tone only seeming sweeter than before. Her eyes fixed on Montgomery. "You. What meaning does this sound have?"

The engineer cleared his throat. "There's an error with the reactor," he answered, reminding himself to fix the wall later. His chest ached, and he rubbed a pectoral muscle absently. "I'm going to have to fix it."

"You will not," she admonished. "You will merely explain to my crewmates how to rectify the problem ourselves."

"I will not!" he argued, hands on his waist. "Ye either let me fix my engines or this ship's not gettin' ye more than a couple light years without life support comin' offline. Which would you rather have?"

Her skin got even darker, and as far as Montgomery could tell, that was not a good sign. "You are not in a position to be making ultimatums," she said, icy-sweet. "And I sincerely doubt you would be willing to perish rather than give instructions regarding your engines."

Montgomery raised an eyebrow, then shrugged, turning his back and walking to the bench he'd been leaning up against earlier and sitting. "Your call."

She turned and walked away just as abruptly, her soft footsteps clipped and short. The ringing of the alarm reverberated in his ears and chest, filling him with churning waves of adrenalin. This sound, he knew, was the sound of responsibility. It was people waiting for his sign, his advice, his steady hands making things right. It was the protests of every law of physics he'd been charged to break and the distinct satisfaction that came with the knowledge that his work on his engines had saved the day. This sound was people depending on him to get them out of whatever they were into.

McCoy groaned. "Infernal racket," he grumbled. "It had to be this alarm."

And it wasn't that Montgomery's ego had inflated any, but the distinct feeling of deflation immediately settled into his stomach. Of course the doctor wouldn't see the alarm as any more meaningful than him. It was just a mechanical device, just as he was a mechanic. It was irritating and loud, echoing through the small quarters and forcing a measure of responsibility on all of them. He had made them agree by simply witnessing his actions not to give up the game. They had to endure it because they couldn't do anything about it.

They didn't have the authority.

The captain's choice of the chief engineer as second officer had come as a shock to everyone – but especially to Montgomery himself. What did he bring to the ship, aside from expertise in warp drive mechanics and an insight into repair work? The rest of the command staff was young, fit, and charismatic. Taking charge of a situation was instinctual for them – Sulu certainly hadn't hesitated in taking over the work puncturing the wall earlier, despite barely having been apprised of the situation. Sulu was the one encouraging silence in the others, knuckles brandished in a way that clearly informed them of the consequences of speaking out. McCoy was the same way; if he hadn't given Montgomery his covert approval, the others would have already tried something else.

Montgomery still wondered if it was some sort of prank. It wouldn't be unlike the younger man. The obvious choice would've been Sulu – it was obvious that man was going to have his own ship someday. If not Sulu, then McCoy. For all the man's reservations about being in space in the first place (Montgomery could recall at least four drunken shore leaves in which the doctor had declared that this was the last time he was going back into 'that godforsaken nothingness' before being bodily dragged back to the hotel by the captain), he was a good leader with good instincts. And he was decisive, unlike the Engineer who usually spent half his breakfast trying to decide what to eat.

The alarm's auto-timer kicked in just about then, as intended, and a second layer of noise interspersed itself with the first. The message was clear: fix the ship or you're all going to die. The stalk on their guard's head wilted with a pathetic 'neep!', and she was on her feet again, striding gracefully to the force field.

"Instruct us on engine repair," she cooed, although Montgomery was certain it was meant to be threatening. He shook his head, hoping the meaning would translate. "I am serious. You will instruct us on engine repair immediately."

"I'd fix 'em if you'd let me," he shrugged. "Besides, I like that shade of orange. Reminds me of a mango."

And quite suddenly, she had a phaser aimed directly at his head. He raised an eyebrow. "Force field. It'd bounce back at ye, Lassie," he reminded her. "Unless you'd rather let it down, I mean."

She touched one hand to her stomach and turned around, holstering the phaser and leaving Montgomery with the distinct impression he'd just been flipped off. He glanced around the room, noticing a look of amusement on Sulu's face and one of disgruntled disbelief on McCoy's. Montgomery leaned forward, freezing as his arm pressed into his chest and a sharp pain shot through the muscle.

Damned electrical shocks. He leaned back again, rubbing it in the hopes it would ease the ache and hating how easily the skin under his hand moved.

That was another thing the entire command crew had on him: they were all absurdly attractive. It wasn't that looks were particularly important to him, but he'd caught himself wishing every so often that he could be a little more pleasing to look at. There were rumors about the captain having modeled before Starfleet, and even if he hadn't he'd probably had offers. Spock was tall, slender, and well-proportioned. Even Ensign Chekov had hair the envy of all the female staff. Meanwhile, Montgomery Scott, chief engineer and second officer, was balding in his thirties. He was calloused and hard in all the places his lovers wanted him soft, and soft in all the places lovers wanted him firm. He was pale as they came, even on a starship, and disproportionately muscled.

He removed his hand from his chest, pushing it into his thinning hair instead. "Beauty is on the inside" – that ridiculous mantra groups had been pushing down people's throats for centuries – if that was the case, he was obviously an example of perfect matching. He wasn't particularly charitable or gentle. He was awkward, socially inept, and tended to just agree with the majority. He did favors for friends, but they were friends. And it wasn't like he had a lot going personality-wise; his hobbies (if you could call them that) involved nothing more than alcohol, sandwiches, and tool alteration.

"You will all back away from the door."

The thought was slammed out of his mind by the oh-so-sugary voice of their tangerine-hued guard. His crewmates shuffled to obey, raised eyebrows and groans abound. Montgomery caught McCoy's eye: no encouragement of recognition. Just resignation. Sulu seemed the same way, rubbing his head and flinching at the light. The frantic tones of the alarm resurfaced (when had he tuned them out?), four layers urgently calling for someone – anyone – to at least try to repair the godforsaken engines before the ship diverted all power into life support. It sent a bolt up Montgomery's spine. Years of training and working on starships had taught him not to take that alarm lightly, and knowing he'd set it off for a reason wasn't making it any easier on him. Every last molecule in his body was telling him to run to the engine room top speed and save his bairn. He met the eyes of the alien one more time, noting that she'd taken down the force field. The phaser was pointed directly at his head.

"Make your decision," she hummed. The stalk on her head shuddered pitifully. Looking about the room, at all the resigned faces and slumped postures, Montgomery couldn't help but feel he already had.

"Good luck fixing her on your own," he said, resting his arms on his thighs and staring at her. Her skin tone grew lighter, and she aimed the phaser above his head, firing an unmistakable warning shot. He felt his hair stand on end, heard the ringing of the alarm more clearly, could make out every little tremor her stalk made and every miniscule change in the saturation of her orange skin. He clasped his hands together between his knees. "That was my final decision, Lassie. Sorry if it left ye wantin'."

The phaser lowered again, pointed directly between his eyes. In his peripheral vision, he saw Sulu tense, separated from him by two security officers and still clutching the modified prosthetic. The fifth and final layer of the alarm – the computer warning in Standard about the impending power diversion – mixed with the other tones, and the guard's skin paled to the color of a ripe persimmon. Her stalk quivered one final time, and then she lowered the weapon.

"You will accompany me to the engine room," she conceded, turning around and exiting the cell, one hand on the panel controlling the force field. "You will do so immediately."

He nodded, glancing about the cell. Only Sulu's expression had changed – the man seemed relieved. The pilot actually trusted him on this, and something about that seemed terrifically unfair to Montgomery. There was only so much he could do. If he failed…

He got to his feet slowly, shoulders stiff and chest aching with every step he took out the cell door. She reactivated the force field as soon as he was clear, pointing her phaser between his shoulder blades. Hell, he wasn't going to resist here. There was no point. He was bollocks at espionage and couldn't make it through an empty room without finding something to knock over. He started toward the engine rooms.

He was no Charles Tucker, and he damned well was no Henry Archer. And he definitely was no combination thereof. But this was his ship. This was his home. And he'd defend it however necessary.

When he arrived in the engine room, he found an inordinate number of the orange-skinned aliens there, frantically trying to read the screens all around. They all had essentially the same build; the only difference he found was the coloration of their stalks. Perhaps his guard wasn't female after all. All attention shifted to him, and the only sound in the room for a long moment was the blaring of the alarm. His guard pushed him forward, message clear. He made his way to his station, punching in his identification code.

Now it was a question of how well he could do this without audio feedback. And how well he could explain the situation without alerting the wrong people as to what was happening.

He quickly disabled his speakers, overriding the computer's warning before it could be given, and ordered contact be established with the captain's communicator. He fiddled with a few buttons and switches while he waited for the light to indicate Kirk had picked up. It was thankfully quick. He turned to his captors.

"When ye boarded our ship, did ye beam aboard or did ye dock?" he asked, hoping Kirk would stay on the line. The indicator light stayed lit, and one of the aliens raised an eyebrow. "If I'm gonna save the ship, I need to know what ye might've damaged."

"We beamed onto your transport pad," the closest informed him, tone low and almost seductive. The voices these aliens had! "We would like to leave orbit before your captain realizes anything is amiss. Repair your engines."

"I cannae do it from here," he said, eying the indicator light. Still on. Good. "Our transporter's always been a wee bit troublesome. When ye arrived, it misplaced somethin' you were carrying into the dilithium reserves. I need to beam it out."

He received no response immediately, but then finally, his guard spoke again. "Very well. Skeek and I will accompany you to the transport pad."

"Weapons at the ready?" he asked. "How appropriate."

He used his elbow to end the communication, hoisting himself out of his chair and heading straight for the turbolift. Two of the aliens accompanied him this time, the new one – Skeek – quickening her (or his) pace to match Montgomery's. "How much longer is this alarm going to continue?" she asked, rubbing her neck. From the top of her head, her stalk warbled miserably. "If it is going to take much longer, I don't know that I'll be capable of resisting violence against you."

"Not much longer," he reassured her. They arrived on the proper floor, and he led the way to the transport pad. "Ye might want to stand back a bit. Beaming things out of the reserves can be a wee bit dangerous."

They obeyed, eyes fixed on him. He carefully locked the transporter on the captain's signal – as well as the eight other crewmembers surrounding him – and as quickly as he could, pulled the controls to rematerialize them.

Not everyone had completely rematerialized when Captain Kirk shot the two orange aliens, both of whom had been aiming their own phasers at Montgomery. One of the security members with him flinched visibly as the alarm met his ears, but everyone else seemed unfazed, focused on the two fallen aliens. Kirk looked at Montgomery, expression surprisingly serious.

"What else do I need to know?" he asked. Montgomery took a deep breath, his back tense and chest painful.

"Most of 'em seem to be in Engineering. Maybe twenty. I tripped the alarm," he said, hands awkward on the transport controls. "Three casualties. Jamison's confirmed dead. The rest of the crew is in the brig right now."

Kirk considered this for a moment. "Okay," he murmured, voice maybe a little softer than Montgomery had ever heard it. "We'll take care of the ones in Engineering. Go get everyone out of the brig. See if you can't find out what happened to the crewmates you can't account for." He paused, glancing at the aliens and back to Montgomery. "Good job, Scotty."

Official reports had to be filed before Enterprise was cleared for breaking orbit, and while Montgomery's had been surprisingly simple (no casualties from his department, and his statement had been taken first), it was still a waiting game as McCoy filed autopsy reports, biological scans of their captors, and his own statement. Sulu was busy, too, giving his account of the takeover and receiving a rather unfair amount of hand massages from Ensign Chekov and Lieutenant Uhura. And, of course, the captain had briefed Starfleet command no fewer than seven times (although the Engineering grapevine put the number at closer to sixteen), and they still weren't moving again.

Montgomery found himself at the transporter the day after the attack, running through diagnostics and testing the shield bypass codes the captain had adamantly insisted would work. So far, the only result had been one of the nicks on his hand reopening. Not particularly surprising, that. He adjusted the particle density-to-speed of dematerialization ratio once more.

McCoy would begin work on a new prosthetic for him as soon as he finished the last autopsy – Jamison, one of his nurses. That had to be a hard job. If Montgomery knew the doctor (and he liked to think he knew him reasonably well), he'd be spending his off hours with a bottle of bourbon. Montgomery tried to imagine having to perform impartial, objective series of tests on anyone he knew—impossible. He couldn't even manage that with a single engine component. It'd be torture to be expected to do so for a friend and colleague.

McCoy was a much stronger man than him.

The readjustment didn't change anything; still no bypass on shielding. Bollocks. Waste of time. But he persevered, knowing that the captain expected him to devote all the attention he could to this little pet project of his. Despite the protests coming from his chest, he manually adjusted a transfusion cylinder. The tension in his muscles was getting almost too uncomfortable, almost as bad as it'd been right after he'd received the shock. This time, though, he didn't have life-or-death decisions, blaring alarms, or rushes of adrenalin to distract him. Maybe he'd have to get it checked out when he went to have his prosthetic replaced.

"How's it going, Scotty?" he heard a weary voice ask. He glanced up from his work, eyes locking with the captain's. The man didn't seem too run down, all things considered, but it could be hard to tell with the man. Kirk was the kind of man who spent his free time in the gym (probably trying to burn off sexual frustration between shore leaves), stayed up well past understandable curfews with the science journals he was convinced no one knew he read, and spent multiple shifts on the bridge after getting a good portion of his blood beaten into colorful, painful looking bruises by adversaries and sparring partners alike. A few wrinkles on his shirt (maybe from slouching too long over a PADD) and tired eyes – that was the only evidence that he was at all tired this time. His shoulders were strong and his back ramrod straight, a hand on his hip and the other clutching a mug of what Montgomery assumed had to be some very strong, inadvisably caffeinated espresso. He was smiling. "Have you had any luck on those bypass codes?"

Montgomery leaned back, turning to face him and resting one hand on his knee. "No, not yet," he replied easily. "Maybe if you give me a couple dozen years, Captain, I'd have something for you."

The man chuckled. "It'd only take you a half-dozen, I bet. That's why you're my chief engineer."

"Flattery? I thought that was below you, Captain," he joked, scratching his ear. Kirk stilled. "What?"

"Sorry. I read the report you gave, but…" he gestured in the general vicinity of Montgomery's right shoulder. "You're really missing a finger. Looks a bit…well, it's not what I expected. Looks kind of badass, even if you can't flip people off anymore."

Montgomery caught himself chuckling, and something told him that was the captain's goal in the first place. The other man grinned for a moment before taking a sip of his coffee. He grimaced.

"Ah," Montgomery muttered, rubbing at his sore chest. "Yeah, the replicator's been adding copper to the coffee. I'll fix it when I'm done here. Been a bit busy lately, you know. Repairs, bypass testing, hostile alien takeovers, the like. Maybe it'll be done by Gamma shift."

The captain nodded, still frowning at his coffee. "Whenever you've got the time," he said absently. The engineer turned back to the panel, trying to rotate the port just a few more millimeters. The captain wasn't leaving. He seemed to be just watching the engineer work. Montgomery glanced up expectantly. What, was this going to become one of a hundred items on his to-do list? Was the replicator going to be bumped up to his number one priority? "By the way, you're being awarded a commendation for valor."

Montgomery did not sputter, but it was a close thing. He caught himself with a rather unhinged jaw, though, staring up at the captain. He knew his expression had to be as undignified as they got, but the captain had seen him freezing cold, dripping wet, and panicking with every fiber of his being on more than one occasion, so it wasn't a problem. He doubted if he even had any dignity left. "Sorry, but what the hell are you talkin' about?"

Kirk raised an eyebrow, that familiar smirk finally reappearing on his face. "You're serious? You really didn't expect that?" he asked. Montgomery knew it had to be rhetorical, but he nodded anyway. The smirk widened. "You were recommended by three separate crewmembers for this commendation. Can't say I'm surprised – you saved the ship and everyone on it. Just as I would expect from my third-in-command."

Montgomery shook his head, mute. 'As he would expect'? The man was proud of him, acting like he'd done something significant. Yes, he was proud of his work – it had been labor-intensive, painful, and destructive, yes, but it had worked. But somehow, having someone else proud of him for it – for doing his job – was almost embarrassing. He didn't know how to handle this.

The captain seemed content, though. "This is going to be your first commendation, right?" he asked. Again, Montgomery shook his head. Kirk raised an eyebrow. "Really? What was the first?"

"Same incident that took me finger off," he finally managed to say. "I'll tell you about it sometime. Doesn't matter, though. Komack retroactively denounced it. Said the captain of my first ship gave 'em out like beads at Mardi Gras. Stung a bit, but there's nothing I can do about it."

"Fuck Komack," Kirk said flippantly. "You deserved it more than he deserves any of his medals. I promise he won't take away this one."

Montgomery wasn't sure how to react, so he just nodded. "Okay," he said. There was definitely going to be another awkward silence, so he reached up to retest the transporter. Still nothing. Kirk snorted.

"You can stop now," he told him. "Take a break. Eat a sandwich, patch up your hands – maybe stop by sickbay. Bones finished up with Jamison an hour ago and he wants to keep working his shift. Might as well give him something to do. He won't let me stick around, but I think he wants something to distract him. Maybe you could go hound him about a cool new prosthetic?"

Unfortunately, Montgomery wasn't given an opportunity to respond to that. The captain's communicator sounded off, and with a cheery wave and another gulp of his coffee, the man was off, probably facing another inquiry from Starfleet base. He waited awkwardly for a moment, almost praying someone would come down the hall to serve as a distraction – but no.

The last thing Montgomery imagined the doctor wanting at this moment was an engineer bothering him for something that was already one of his priorities, but he'd been wrong before. And the captain did know him quite well. The Scott spared one final glance at the ever rebellious transporter before stretching his shoulders, circling his stiff neck, and hauled himself to his feet, cursing inwardly at the uncomfortable pull in his chest. Maybe he could have McCoy look at it now, rather than later. He turned, walking towards sickbay.

It was predictably empty, the doctor having easily deterred all visitors with either his demeanor or the eternally overly bright lighting he seemed to prefer. The rumors of the doctor's temper weren't to be discounted either; he recalled passing two uncomfortable-looking security members on his way. He glanced about for Chapel or Roberts or Ksh'vaneri, to no avail.

McCoy himself was seated at his desk, forehead resting in his hands, shoulders limp. For a long, uncomfortable moment, Montgomery wondered if he'd walked in on the man crying and considered leaving before he was noticed. Then he shifted, bringing one hand down to pick up a stylus, scribbling on the PADD between his elbows. Without looking up, the man spoke. "I take it Jim sent you down here to badger me, Scotty," he muttered, setting the stylus down again. "I don't need a distraction, and your prosthetic will be done by Wednesday. Is that all?"

Well. That wasn't the reaction he'd hoped for – but it had been the one he expected. The captain was probably right that McCoy wanted a distraction, but Montgomery wasn't exactly the best at providing them. And he and the doctor weren't close. There were parts of the other man he knew only the captain could reach, and even he probably couldn't do anything for him now. McCoy glanced up at him when he didn't reply, eyebrows arching and frown contracting. "What?"

Montgomery swallowed. "Replicators are adding copper to a few things – coffee. Maple syrup. Macaroni," he said, shrugging his shoulders. "I can run a diagnostic to see if it's affecting your synthesizer. They run on the same program."

The other man groaned. "Just what I need – a synthesizer malfunction. Why does nothing on this ship work? It's the fleet's flagship. God damn it!"

Great – he'd stressed him out even more. This was a terrible idea. He wasn't Jim Kirk – he couldn't do a thing for the doctor. Nevertheless, he approached the synthesizer, opening the main panel. McCoy shoved away from his desk, shuffling over to him."

Montgomery keyed in the access code, more self-conscious about his missing digit than he'd been in years. The test screen lit up, waiting obediently for his orders. The doctor's breath puffed against his neck, and for a long moment, he struggled to recall the proper diagnostic code. He hadn't been close enough to hear someone's breathing in longer than he could remember, let alone close enough to feel it. His mind slowly came back to him, and he entered the code with steady fingers. The program initiated.

"How long is it going to take?" McCoy grumbled, and Montgomery came ridiculously close to shivering. His voice when he was irritated was gravelly and low, and that hit on part of his subconscious he liked to think he had better control over.

"Seven minutes," he heard himself answer. He grunted as he eased his chest back with his shoulders as he came up on his knees. McCoy's eyes narrowed, and he knew he wasn't getting out of this easily. He kept his mouth shut, trying to ignore the aches shooting out of his muscles. And then, somehow, the doctor's expression changed to one of concern and abrupt realization.

"You came here because you were hurt," he said, voice betraying him. "And I tried to—why didn't you say something? God damn it, man!"

What could anyone say to that? The man's brows were furrowed – annoyance? Anger? Disappointment? It was hard to tell. But his frown was simple. It was an expression he could recognize on anyone, from Chekov to Keenser: guilt. Self-reproach. The doctor was looking at him like he'd failed him, somehow, or like he'd committed some great crime. Like he'd broken his oath to do no harm.

"The captain did tell me to come down here and distract you," he admitted, at a loss for any other response. McCoy's lips quirked slightly, and Montgomery took that as a small victory. "I wouldn't mind a painkiller, though."

McCoy stood, propping his hands on his hips. "Take off your shirt and pick a biobed," he ordered, and Montgomery's mouth was suddenly drier than it should've been. He stared up at the doctor, watching one eyebrow rise. "I can't give you a painkiller until I know what kind of injury it is. Shirt off."

Montgomery hoisted himself up, glancing about the empty room. It could be worse. McCoy was a doctor, so he'd probably seen worse than him—but he'd also probably seen way better. And if he really had roomed with the captain all through academy, he'd probably seen some of the best. He walked slowly to the most secluded biobed (not that any of them were actually that secluded; sickbay was built for efficiency, not privacy), fumbled with the hem of his uniform top, and slowly drew it over his head, flinching as his muscles whined in protest.

If McCoy had any opinions on Montgomery's fleshy torso, he kept them to himself, pulling on a pair of gloves. He didn't say a word at first as he moved to palpate the engineer's chest, simply pressing and judging, occasionally scanning an area with a tricorder. No reason this had to be awkward.

"So," the doctor murmured. "Congratulations on the commendation."

Montgomery blinked. "You heard about it?" he asked, trying to remain as still as possible, even as the other man's hands got closer and closer to his nipple. When McCoy nodded, he shook his head. "Makes no sense. I was doing my job. Whoever nominated me for that commendation was obviously making a joke."

The pressure on his chest intensified, and he flinched. McCoy's lips were twisted into a frown. "I definitely wasn't."

It took a moment for that statement to make any sense, and in the four seconds or so it took to process, Montgomery managed to regain control of his body, which had been leaning too close to the doctor to be considered 'innocent'. When he did understand it, his mind whited out, throwing him into a dizzy sort of haze. "You nominated me for…?"

"Damn right," the man growled, moving to the left side of Montgomery's chest. The engineer's heart rate had skyrocketed in the last thirty seconds, and now the doctor was in just the right place to feel it for himself. Maybe he could play it off as a reaction to the pain or the shock of finding out McCoy was the one who had even suggested he deserved something like a commendation. The doctor picked up his tricorder again, but he didn't actually look at it. Instead, he stared directly into Montgomery's eyes. "What you did was medically reprehensible. You could have caused yourself permanent damage, scarring, paralysis, or any number of ridiculous things when you cut through that damn wiring. You nearly got yourself killed when you refused to help Miss Mandarin Orange repair the engines. If your plan had gone wrong, the Enterprise could be halfway to God knows where by now. And you didn't even so much as discuss it with the rest of us. By all accounts, you should be nominated for a long stay in an asylum somewhere."

"Not gonna argue with you there," Montgomery muttered, glancing towards the doctor.

"But," McCoy said, as if he hadn't been interrupted, fingers digging into him in a way that should have been painful, "the fact is that what you did was brilliant. And it saved the ship. If you hadn't been there, this ship would probably be halfway to Klingon territory by now, and I bet anything we'd all be dead or enslaved."

Montgomery shook his head, staying as focused as he could with Leonard McCoy's knuckles brushing over his nipples. The man's hands were just so damn smooth; it would take a man of greater fortitude than him to be immune to that. And since when had he been sensitive there? Blimey, the man brought out the strangest things in the engineer. "I don't know about that. Sulu definitely would've come up with something."

"How?" McCoy asked, hands stilling. The engineer struggled to stay motionless, even as the heat slowly coalesced in his groin. "We were in the brig. We didn't have an idea of what those aliens were or what they wanted. We were outnumbered and trapped. Even Sulu couldn't have done anything."

"You don't know that," Montgomery protested, hoping to any deity that might be listening that McCoy wouldn't notice his nearly priaptic erection. The doctor scowled again.

"I damn well knew it. So did Sulu," he growled, planting his feet more firmly and crossing his arms. Montgomery's breath caught in his throat. "When I recommended you for a commendation, the paperwork was already being filled out. I was the second one to do it, right after Sulu. You get—"

The doctor stopped speaking abruptly, eyes lighting on the noticeable bulge in Montgomery's pants. Enough blood rerouted itself from the area to flush into the engineer's cheeks, and that realization was almost as horrifying as being caught like this. He knew he must've looked like some sort of overgrown boil – some overly sexualized, disgusting, crimson and cream-colored mess that even the boldest of men would shrink away from. He couldn't even bring himself to speak.

"Should I let you take care of that?" McCoy asked, tone neither gentle nor confrontational. It was bland and distant. The engineer shook his head, and McCoy sighed. "I understand, Scotty. This happens with some medical procedures. It's nothing new to me, and you don't have to be embarrassed. If your chest is that sensitive-"

"My chest isn't normally sensitive," Montgomery heard himself say in a rush. "You just have really nice hands."

McCoy froze again, and Montgomery wondered briefly if it was possible to literally die of embarrassment. The blood prickled in his face until he was certain he was nearly purple. The doctor bit his lip.

"Scotty, are you attracted to me?" he inquired, the question sounding more curious than angry. Montgomery ducked his head. "I promise I won't be offended either way. Are you attracted to me?"

The engineer looked up miserably. "Yes," he nearly whined. That goddamned erection wouldn't go away, even with complete humiliation fighting with it the whole way. And now the doctor knew why. He forced himself to look up at the other man. He had a contemplative look on his face – like he was trying to reason through some decision already made for him. Then, out of nowhere, the other man leaned forward and pressed his lips against Montgomery's neck.

"If I know Jim, we've got about five minutes before he comes bounding in here to get my mind off things," he murmured against the skin there, sending a shudder down Montgomery's spine. How was this happening? "Try to be quiet."

Montgomery didn't even get a moment to process the situation before McCoy was sliding down onto his knees and brusquely opening the fastenings of the engineer's slacks. He spent a good second or two examining the cock he pulled from Montgomery's briefs before running his tongue under the head. The Scot's mind went white, hands groping for purchase anywhere he could – the biobed, the other man's scalp, the wall – and then McCoy was taking him into his mouth, that warm tongue sliding against spots Montgomery hadn't known could set him off.

He couldn't last long, not when foreplay had technically begun back in the brig with that damning hand massage, and all it took to set him off was the vision of the other man pressing the heel of his hand against his own slacks, right at the base of his cock. Montgomery muffled a long groan into his hands, eyes shutting instinctively as he shot off in eight distinct jerks, feeling the suction and work of the muscle against the tip of his cock as the man swallowed everything. When at last it was over and he could open his eyes again, he found himself staring at the doctor's swollen lips, almost shaking when he noticed the tiniest droplet of cum trailing out of his mouth.

"Uh," he articulated, hardly able to concentrate on anything beyond how gently McCoy was slipping him back into his briefs and slacks. Then the man was standing again, and Montgomery had a moment to take in the rather obvious bulge in McCoy's own pants before he was being kissed gently. When the man pulled back after a few long seconds, Montgomery managed to stammer out, "Not complainin',Doctor, but where did that come from?"

McCoy quirked his lips into the tiniest (and smuggest) smile Montgomery had seen in his life, and having served with Captain Kirk, that was no small feat. "I've been thinking we need to have coffee sometime. Or drinks. Whole reason I stayed behind this time around was to see if I couldn't get some of your focus on me. Your goddamned diagnostic done yet?"

"What?" Montgomery asked, and it was only then he heard the measured, mechanical beeping of the test screen. This was all so damn surreal. "I can check the results in a second. How long have you-? I mean. I'm really not that pretty."

The doctor turned to rustle through a drawer next to him. "Four years with Jocelyn and three with Jim would teach anyone that traditionally 'pretty' people have a lot of problems," he replied nonchalantly, as if he hadn't just had Montgomery's dick in his mouth. He looked so painfully hard, still tenting his slacks. "With you, what you see is what you get. And I like what I see. Really so hard to believe?"

McCoy turned back, pushing a hypo into Montgomery's neck. Immediately, some of the pain ebbed. "A little. Thanks," he replied, mind running on autopilot. The doctor pressed a second hypo against his own arm, though whatever he was doing it for was beyond the engineer. He cleared his throat. "You said something about coffee?"

"Whenever you fix the Goddamn replicators," McCoy agreed. He turned to retrieve the man's uniform top, handing it to him. "And let me know when my synthesizer isn't malfunctioning anymore. What do you want, Jim?"

Montgomery looked up, and sure enough the captain was at the doorway, poking his head in almost comically. The man sauntered in, his trademark smirk on his lips. "If you're interested, I've got some confiscated Andorian Ale. Good vintage, too. Best medicine I know. How you doing, Scotty?"

Montgomery tugged his shirts back on quickly. "Much better, Captain," he answered, standing carefully and moving towards the synthesizer. "I bet I'll have that replicator and synthesizer malfunction fixed before morning."

"That's my engineer!" Kirk said, slinging an arm over McCoy's shoulders. "Good luck with the work, Scotty. I'm gonna have to take Bones here for a little while, though. See you!"

With that, the captain and the protesting doctor were suddenly out the door, leaving Montgomery alone with the misbehaving synthesizer. "Blimey," he managed. And then he returned to work.