by Satin Ragdoll

Christine Chapel shook her head sadly, and her fists clenched, "Stupid, blind bureaucrats. Can't see the forest for all of the trees, can they?"

McCoy smiled ruefully, "They never could, darlin'. They never could."

It was the last year of their first five-year mission. Lately they had been given scientific mission after scientific mission. Starfleet had decided they had one of the brightest scientific minds of the day on board, and they were going to use Mr. Spock's brilliance to the fullest.

The problem was a certain James T. Kirk was starting to feel used. Used and jealous.

McCoy and Chapel knew that he would never show it consciously; Spock was his best friend. He couldn't blame Spock, could he? And he didn't, at least on the surface. Underneath was a different story.

As a response, Jim had been starting to take more risks, trying to bring back the some of the sense of the first year. Starfleet didn't like it. They didn't like it at all. There had been a gradual change in the Federation during the past five years, and regulations were being adhered to stricter than ever. The Captain's "cowboy" antics were disapproved of in higher circles. It was a viscious circle.

McCoy poured himself a drink and took a sip. "It's about to get worse, Christine. I've heard they're going to offer Kirk the Admiralty."

Chapel's eyes widened, "Oh, no, Len! He's not going to take it, is he? It will be the biggest mistake of his life!"

Bones sighed, "I don't know. He's tired, he's so bone-tired he's haggard. He needs a serious vacation, but they're not going to offer him that. They're going to go for the hard-sell, use it as a sop to his pride. They want him out of the sky, Christine, and they're not going to stop until they succeed."

Christine shook her head, "Spock's going to be so hurt, not that he'll admit it. We both know what's been going on in the Captain's head. Any which way Spock goes, he's still going to come out the bad guy. Do you think we should tell him he's fixing to walk into a lose-lose?"

McCoy pinched the bridge of his nose, "I don't think he'd understand it. I'm worried about him, Chris. The pressure of continually suppressing his humanity has been building up for too long. This last bit might be enough to make him snap. I've tried to tell him, blast it! I've been trying to tell him for years!"

Chapel made a sour face, "Not that you were very tactful about it."

Bones leaned back to look at her, his southern drawl coming out, "That's just the way I am, darlin'. No use protesting my nature, now, is there?"

Chapel narrowed her eyes at him, "Low blow, Len. Low blow." She sighed, "I just hope both of them don't do something stupid. This is enough to blow their friendship wide open. Men. Why do they have to be so immature at times?"

Bones laughed softly, "As a man, I can't answer that one, Chris. As for those two, well. We both know what kind of babies they can be at times. I just hope they're mature enough to handle this."

Chapel held up her glass, "To maturity."

They clinked, and drank, and hoped their friends would survive their first real conflict with their friendship in tact.