Original story by C Petterson and S Sizemore
rewritten by Cheryl Petterson

(Standard Year 2246)

Go to Part Two

Return to Valjiir Stories

Return to Valjiir Continum

(Dedicated to Simon, Theodore, and Alvin)

To hear the original song, click here

Dr. Leonard McCoy answered the com to hear a chillingly cheerful, “Good morning, this is the faith healer from Deck Four. Is there anything I can do for you today?”

It was enough to make his blood boil. The Enterprise was in orbit around Beta Arachne III, supplying a research station and collecting samples to take back to Starbase 15. Ruth Valley had taken it upon herself to get involved with a minor medical situation and had thrown the entire schedule off. He was busy, too busy for this kind of nonsense. He didn’t intend to put up with it.

“Valley, get down here!” he barked. “I want to talk to you.”

“Yes, sir. Not about business, I take it?”

“Just get your insubordinate little – self to my office, young lady!” He clicked off the com before she could acknowledge.


Ruth Valley turned away from the com just as Sulu’s head emerged through the top of his tunic. He was half-grinning, but his eyes were serious. “What did you do, Spike?”

“What did I…” She stopped herself. “Oh yeah, you don’t know.” She sighed, her arms going up behind her head to twist her hair into its usual neat bun. “There was an accident planestside while beaming down the supplies. One of the research team fell and broke his neck. I was there, and he would’ve been paralyzed, so…” A scowl took over her features. “McCoy called me a faith healer. Again.”

Sulu looked away and went to the dresser to begin combing his hair. Ruth didn’t mind his avoiding the subject. One got used to people being uncomfortable with keheils. Uncomfortable she didn’t mind. McCoy’s rudeness she did.

“Still, provoking him won’t help,” he told her.

She shrugged. “He started it.”

“He outranks you, Ensign.”

“Not medically he doesn’t,” she answered belligerently.

Sulu stepped to her and kissed her cheek. “Okay, but it’s still his department.”

Her scowl deepened and she gave him a nudge toward the door.

“If you’re gonna take his side…”

He grinned at her. “I’m just trying to save you some aggravation.”

She grinned back, all teeth. “I live for aggravation.”

It was his turn to shrug. “See you later, Spike.”

Shalom, Roy.”


“Reporting as ordered, Dr. McCoy,” Ruth said as she stood at attention, eyes forward, before McCoy’s desk. She briefly considered burning a couple of holes in the bulkhead just behind his head, but decided against it. Pyrokenesis wasn’t one of her strong suits. And starships were valuable property. McCoy might consider it a threat, anyway. Which it wasn’t. Really.

“Ensign Valley,” McCoy began as he stood up from his chair. “I do not appreciate your intrusion into the medical decisions of this ship. I am the chief officer and it’s my responsibility and decision as to what sort of care is given here. Now I’m not asking, I’m telling you to keep your voodoo to yourself. Is that clear?”

Ruth was bristling. “Doctor,” she began frostily, “I was, as I’ve told you, ordered to function in my medical capacity. By an admiral. Who just happens to be the Surgeon General. He happens also to outrank you. And speaking of, next to a keheil, you are a rank amateur. Doctor.”

“Don’t you take that tone with me, young lady,” McCoy demanded. “I gave you an order…”

“Stuff it!” Ruth snapped. “I know my duty and I’ll do it whether you like it or not!”

“Not in my…”

“Yes, in your Sickbay and anywhere else my duty requires.. Is that clear?”


“Listen, Doctor, I have no wish to replace you. My kind of healing is very hard on my system. I have no intention of curing every bruise and hangnail that comes in here. I work in emergencies only, so just take your insecurity and work your own voodoo!”

With that, she stormed out of the office, leaving McCoy flushed and furious.


"Jim, something’s got to be done about that girl.”

Captain James Kirk sighed and turned slightly in the con to face McCoy. “Bones, I realize she’s a little insubordinate…”

“A little? She’s downright uppity! She’s got no respect for me or my authority…”

“She’s got no respect for any authority. But I called the Surgeon General. She does have orders to put in time in Sickbay.”

“She could be gracious about it, now, couldn’t she?”

“Doctor,” Spock interjected as he stepped from the Science Station, “while Miss Valley is exuberant and given to disrespectful displays, I have found her to be an excellent…”

“Who asked you?” McCoy snapped. “Jim, it’s my responsibility and I don’t know how her – healing, or whatever she calls it works, and…”

Keheils are recognized throughout the Federation as…” Spock began.

“I said who asked you!” McCoy retorted angrily. Spock’s eyebrow rose. Kirk frowned.

“Doctor, just because you’re upset with Miss Valley, and who isn’t, doesn’t give you the right to take it out on Spock,” he reprimanded. McCoy scowled.

“This was a private conversation, Captain,” he said. “It’s none of his business.”

“On the contrary, Doctor,” Spock put in mildly. “As the medical department is within the jurisdiction of Sciences, and as I am Chief of that section, this matter is very much my concern.”

“Sickbay is my section, Spock,” McCoy stated.

“And a part of mine, Doctor,” Spock reiterated.

“Spock,” Kirk suggested softly, “stay out of it.”

“Miss Valley is a superlative officer, Captain.”

“So you say.” Kirk frowned again. “Bones, you’ll just have to get used to her.”

“Get used to some – faith healer?!” McCoy protested. “I’d sooner…”

“Anyone can get used to anything, given enough time and a little understanding,” Kirk said sternly.

“Indeed,” Spock agreed. “I have even gotten used to you, Doctor.” With that, Spock returned to the Science Station. Kirk hid a smile.

“Make the best of it Bones. It can’t be helped.”

McCoy scowled again and left the Bridge.


Lieutenant Mulvaney of Personnel flinched under the snapping violet eyes of the tall ensign who was holding out a dietary card for her to examine. Mulvaney took it gingerly and scanned it while the young woman began angrily tapping her foot.

“This had better be a joke,” the Ensign said in a voice full of menace.

Mulvaney swallowed uneasily. She was a shy woman, good with details but not terribly good at dealing with people. She mostly worked with inventory, and had never dealt with or even seen an Antari before. The unexpected appearance of – she rechecked the card – Ensign Valley in her small office had disconcerted her.

“Well?” the – Ensign Valley demanded as she started pacing.

“Uh…” Mulvaney began, and the big purple eyes swung on her again. Keep calm, she told herself. She’s an ensign, you’re a lieutenant, this is your department, she’s awfully big, isn’t she? “Dr. McCoy ordered this change,” she explained.


“There’s nothing I can do. You’ll have to see - ”

“That figures,” Valley snapped. She snatched her card from the scanner and was out the door before Mulvaney could react.

After she was gone, Mulvaney looked carefully around, sighed happily, and went gratefully back to updating inventory.


McCoy had been prepared for Valley’s complaint. He was not, however, prepared for the manner of that complaint; a whirlwind that burst in on him screeching, “McCoy!” loud enough to wake the dead. Still, he was used to the unexpected and managed to turn calmly and ask, “What can I do for you, Ensign?”

“It’s what you’ve already done, you…” She stopped short of whatever insult she’d been about to hurl. “How do you expect me to work without coffee?”

“I didn’t know it had anything to do with your work,” he replied. “Caffeine is not fuel, Ensign.”

“What have I ever done to you? Why are you abusing me?”

“This isn’t personal, Ensign.”

“The hell it isn’t!”

“A couple of cups a day will be fine,” he told her, ignoring her anger, “but no more guzzling the stuff. I’ve been watching you…”

“I’ve noticed,” she interrupted sarcastically.

“And I checked your medical records,” he continued. “You require protein. Anything else is poisonous to your system.”

“Nonsense. It’s just hot water with ground-up beans in it.”

“It’s not protein. It’s a drug, one that you don’t need, and since I’m in charge of the health of this crew, I’ve decided that it’s one you’re not going to get.”

“Over your dead body, witch doctor,” Ruth snarled. “I happen to know a lot more than you do about what my body can tolerate. You’re just being vindictive.”




“I know what I need…”

“In a couple of days you’ll feel fine.”

“I feel fine now. But you won’t if you don’t…”

“I’m not going to put up with any insubordination from you, young woman.”

“Then how about please?” she asked, suddenly calm. “I have a rotten temper. I’m sorry I shouted. Can we discuss this reasonably?”

“There’s nothing to discuss.”

“It’s only coffee.”

“Two cups, no more.”

“I can’t function on two cups!”

“You don’t think you can, but you’ll manage. Now run along. I’ve got more important things to do.”

“I’ll tell you what,” she wheedled. “I’ll give it up if you will.”

“I don’t have to give it up.”

“Five cups?”

“No bargaining. You’ll thank me for this.”

“Ha! Please – will you listen to me? I’m begging a witch doctor!”

“Get out.”




“I don’t know why they sent an engineer to head a landing party,” Daphne Gollub complained as she and Jock Thompson stepped off the transporter platform.

“One, because the former head decided to pull off a miracle, eat a cow and sleep for a day and half,” Jock replied. “Two, it keeps all you scientists from gossiping the decade away. As it is, we’re a day behind schedule.” He went to the console and called the Bridge. “Landing party back on board, all personnel accounted for,” he reported.

“Acknowledged,” Uhura’s voice said from the com.

“It’s a research station,” Daffy continued. “A chemical research station. It was interesting. And you just hustled us through with no thought of the…”

“We were just there to deliver supplies and collect their data,” he interrupted. “You got an extra day as it was. Now I have work to do. Go away.”

“See you for dinner?

“Will you go away now if I say yes?




“He can’t do this to me,” Ruth groaned as she clutched the nearly empty cup to her. It was the first of the day. The prospect of having only one other was bleak indeed. It was going to be the longest day of her life.

Sulu patted her arm. “It’s not that bad, Spike. Doc could have made you cut it out entirely.”

She looked up at his concerned face. “Even he isn’t that sadistic.”

“It’s a bad habit,” he offered apologetically, intended as comfort.

“I know. But it’s the only bad habit I’ve got.” He chuckled. “It is,” she insisted. “And I cherish it. Besides, I need it to live.”

“No one needs it to live,” he returned.

“Bets?” Ruth countered, glancing meaningfully at Sulu’s own ever-present cup. He followed her gaze, then shrugged.

“Okay, so some of us need it to live.”

“He doesn’t make Humans have only two cups a day,” she grumbled.

“Maybe Stores complained that you were consuming too much,” Sulu offered. “There are four hundred and twenty-nine more of us to think about.”

“Four hundred and twenty-seven,” she countered. “Neither Spock nor Gyp- Sakura drink it. I checked.” She again glanced at his cup. “Of course, you take up at least their shares.”

“Did you really check?” he asked, pointedly ignoring her last sentence.

She sighed. “I know, it was a feeble joke. But what do you expect from someone in my debilitated condition?”

She watched as he smiled, got up, and crossed the mess hall to the replicator. He returned with his cup once again full of hot, black liquid. He placed it down in front of her. “For you,” he said gallantly.

Ruth stared at it, then favored him with her most dazzling smile. He leaned down. “How’s Doc gonna know?” he whispered conspiratorially.

She stood up, grasping his head and kissed him thoroughly.

“Good, she’s driving me crazy,” Jock Thompson remarked as he came up, sitting down in what had been Ruth’s seat.

“How can anyone tell?” Ruth remarked. “You’re always a raving maniac.”

“I wasn’t before I met you,” Jock returned. “Was I, Sulu?”

Sulu remained politically silent.

“Anyway,” Jock went on, “it’s your fault.”

Ruth was gulping coffee and didn’t answer until the cup was drained. Then her reply was, “I’ve got duty. Thanks, Roy.” She handed him back his cup.

“You’re most welcome,” Sulu responded, smiling.

“See you later,” Jock called as she headed toward the door to the corridor.

“Only if you’ve got coffee,” she called back. Sulu chuckled as Jock turned to him, shaking his head.

“All her fault,” he repeated.

“Why do you pick on her, Jock?” Sulu wanted to know as he once again crossed the mess to refill his cup.

“She loves it.”

"Does she?”

“You’d know, wouldn’t you?”

Sulu shrugged, sitting down. “Never tried picking,” he admitted.

“And she praises your imagination.”

“She’s some woman, Jock,”

Jock smiled. “I know. Really special. But then, all empaths are.”

Sulu leaned forward over the table. “You know about that?” he asked seriously.

“It’s no secret.”

“No, I mean…” Sulu paused. “About her empathy. What it’s like.”

“Yeah,” Jock returned. “Her first week here I burnt my hand tinkering with a jammed phaser. She healed it.”

“Well?” Sulu prompted after a pause.

“Well what?”

“What’s it like?”

“A kick. Better than picking.” Jock grinned.

Sulu punched his shoulder. “Thompson!” he growled.

“Okay, ease up,” Jock said, rubbing the bruise. “Why are you so nervous?”

“I’m not nervous, I’m curious, that’s all.”

Jock stared for a moment. “Whatever you say,” he said finally. Then, “what’s it like?” He was silent for several seconds, then smiled wistfully. “Total. She gets inside you, she feels all you are, becomes all you are. It’s the most complete surrender… she’s everywhere inside you and she knows everything there is to you. There’s no private place, no separate self. She seeks out every injury and heals it, then eases out and you’re you again. But she knows. It’s…” He paused, shaking his head. “…indescribable.” He laughed. “She re-grew my tonsils. She said the only thing she couldn’t heal was something she didn’t have, like antennae or a tail or a man’s…”

“I get the idea, Jock,” Sulu broke in. He clutched at his coffee cup. “Thanks.”

“You okay?” Jock asked.

Sulu grinned. “Sure.”

“I’ve got to go, you sure?”

“Sure I’m sure. See you, Jock.”

Jock walked away and Sulu sat for several minutes before abruptly draining his cup and leaving the mess.


“Landing party aboard, Captain,” Uhura reported. “Arachne Station confirmed supply inventory complete.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant.” Kirk addressed the helm crew. “Set course for next assignment, leave orbit when ready. Mr. Walking Bear, proceed at warp factor one.” That done, he made a routine log entry noting the Arachne mission, then found that Yeoman Rand was by his side holding a statboard, a number of data tapes, an ear piece – and looking very apologetic. He was supposed to be preparing a text for an Academy course, and he had asked Rand to remind him to work on it during his free moments. He sighed, frowning. Why does she have to be so damned efficient? “Thank you, Yeoman.”

“Yes, sir. Sorry, sir.”

He had thought the work would be tedious, but with the comfortable sounds of normal Bridge activity as a soothing background, he began to find his research and note-taking nearly enjoyable. Several hours passed without his really noticing.

“Captain?” Uhura’s voice said, and he realized that she’d said it twice. He looked up.

“What is it, Lieutenant?”

“Message from Arachne Station. It’s on high-priority.”

Kirk set down his notes. “On audio, Lieutenant.”

“Aye, sir.”

“Arachne Station to Enterprise,” came the voice of Teresa Bolton, chief of the research team.

“This is Captain Kirk, go ahead, Arachne,” Kirk replied.

“Captain, we’ve got a plague here,” she began.

“Did one of my people bring it down?” Kirk broke in.

“No, sir. It’s quite local. It breaks out once or twice a year. Fairly mild, but very communicable. We were just concerned your people brought it aboard the Enterprise.”

“We’ve had no illness here, Doctor,” Kirk said, “but thank you for the information. We’ll put it on file.”

“Well, we wanted to warn you. Bolton out.”

Kirk sighed, as annoyed at the interruption as he had been at Janice’s reminder, and went back to work.


Ruth was sitting cross-legged on her bed, strumming her guitar, only half listening to one of Jock’s tirades when he did something totally unexpected. He fainted. And that was not like Jock at all.

Ruth set aside her guitar and went to investigate, muttering, “Thompson, if this is just a ploy to get me to actually listen to your ravings, and I’m falling for it, I’m going to – oh, dear,” she interrupted herself. Jock was definitely not faking it. He was pale, his breathing quick and shallow. Did you get so involved with whatever you were complaining about that you forgot to breathe and ran out of oxygen? she thought. She couldn’t tell unless she got inside him, and McCoy wouldn’t like that. “And to hell with McCoy,” she muttered – then abruptly changed her mind and went to the com and called Sickbay.

Jock was still out when McCoy arrived a few minutes later. His first words startled and angered her. “All right, Valley, what did you do to him?”

“What did I…” she began indignantly. “Great, I follow an order, try to be cooperative and what do I get? Abuse. I do not need this aggravation.”

McCoy grunted a half-hearted “sorry.” Ruth glared at him.

“So what’s wrong with him?”

McCoy finished running the med scan over Jock’s prone form, studied the read out, then stood. “I don’t know,” he replied.


“But I’m getting him to Sickbay where I can find out,” McCoy finished tersely.

“Good. I’ll come with you.”

McCoy eyed her suspiciously. “Why do I think you’re pulling something, Valley?” he asked.

Because you’re a paranoid fool I suppose. Ruth thought, but restrained herself from saying anything out loud other than, “Let’s go.”


Ruth folded her arms and tried not to grin when Jock woke up, seeming perfectly fine. He looked around as much as he could from a horizontal position, then sat up and asked, “How did I get here?”

“On an anti-grav stretcher,” Ruth said.

“I meant…”

“You passed out in your quarters, and Ensign Valley called me,” Dr. McCoy explained with a scowl at Ruth.

Jock gave her a surprised look. “Something you couldn’t handle, Valley?” Ruth shrugged. Jack started to sit up. “I don’t remember… I feel fine.”

McCoy placed his hand gently on Jock’s chest, pushing him back down. “You let me be the judge of that,” he said.

Jock glanced questioningly at Ruth. “He’s an egomaniac,” she replied sweetly.

“Valley, get out of here,” McCoy ordered.

“With pleasure,” she returned and headed for the door.

“Me, too, Doctor?” Jock asked.

McCoy checked the readings one more time. “I can’t find anything wrong with you,” he sighed, and stared critically at the lieutenant for a moment. Then he sighed again. “I want you to report back here if you have even one vaguely dizzy spell,” he said. “Or hiccups. Or excess gas. Or anything. You understand me, Lieutenant?”

“Yes, sir.” Jock sat up, hopping off the Sickbay bed. “Valley, wait for me!”

She paused at the door long enough for him to join her.

“Now where was I?”

“Who was listening?” Ruth replied flippantly.

“And that’s another thing. You never listen.”

“Yes, Jock.”

“Do you think I talk just to hear my own voice?”

“No, Jock.”

“I tell you these things for your own good, y’know.”

“Of course, Jock.” They got onto the turbolift and Ruth said, “Deck five.”

“We live on Deck four,” Jock pointed out.

Her smile was blinding. “I know, But Sulu doesn’t.”


“You know, I think I’m about half in love with you,” Ruth told Sulu.

She was watching him transplanting a terrestius manus. He didn’t look up as he replied, “Oh? Which half?”

“The half that cares,” she told him seriously, then explained, “I like you more than anybody I’ve ever known. You’re very likeable.” She saw him blush.

He gave a self-deprecating shrug and asked, “You’re not planning on turning this into a platonic relationship, are you?”

“Goddess forbid!” He rewarded her with a sunshine smile. She grinned back. “How’d you get to be a botanist?”

He blinked at the change of subject, an almost perfect imitation of Spock’s shocked expression. “My family’s always had gardens,” he said. "How’d you get to be a marine biologist?’

“I had a crush on a cetacean.”

“I see – I think – and I’m not going to ask.”

“I thought you liked…” Ruth stopped herself, then went on airily. “Also, there was some research of my father’s I wanted to finish. I sort of gave it up when I discovered computers.”

“Leaving a dolphin with a broken heart, no doubt.” He held up the plant that was wriggling its finger-like stems. “Done.” He handed it to her. “For you.”

Ruth leaned across the plant to kiss him. It hissed and she glared at it, “Don’t argue with me, young woman,” she told it sternly. “You can’t push me around like your mother does with Janice.” Sulu laughed. “Well, you have to be firm. I think I’ll call her Victoria.” She forestalled his question. “Whether or not it's female.”

“Firm,” he agreed.

“Jock fainted,” she said suddenly.

“What’s wrong with him? Run out of oxygen?”

Ruth shrugged, but her eyes were sparkling. “That’s what I said,” she returned. “McCoy doesn’t know either. At least, he didn’t a couple of hours ago. Jock says he’s all right.”

“But you’re worried.” Sulu turned from her, going to the sink to wash his hands and rinse off the repotting tools.

“I don’t trust McCoy. He’s a good witch doctor, but still…”

“He thinks you’re the witch doctor,” Sulu nodded.

“Faith healer,” she corrected. “Which I am, sort of. I mean if you’re talking about laying-on-of-hands with no visible means of cure, but he doesn’t believe I can do it, much less do it well.”

“And you can.”

“So far.”

“I hope I never have occasion to find out.” He smiled, but Ruth sensed the uneasiness. “I never was good at being faithful.”


Kirk was still working on the text notes when Yeoman Rand reminded him it was past time he ate dinner. He nodded at her, and she stood quietly next to the con until he actually got up, then took the statboard from him. Efficient, even if sometimes annoying, he reminded himself, and went to the mess hall. McCoy was already there, and Kirk got a tray and joined him.

“Good evening, Doctor,” he said cheerfully. McCoy glanced up.

“Oh. Hello, Jim,” he replied distractedly.

“Something bothering you besides Ruth Valley?” Jim asked.

“Who? Oh, her. No – I mean, yes.” McCoy grinned, shaking his head. “Sorry, Jim, I guess I’m a little preoccupied. Lieutenant Thompson fainted for no reason I can fathom. I’ve got the lab running tests, but…”

“We got a call from Arachne,” Kirk broke in, “about an outbreak of a mild plague. Dr. Bolton was concerned that we may have carried it aboard. Maybe we did.”

“Did you get the details?” McCoy asked.

“No. At the time, no one had reported sick. I’m sure you could contact the Station.”

“But she did say it was mild?” Kirk nodded, and McCoy sighed. “I feel better already. At least I’ve got something to go on.”

“What about Miss Valley?” Kirk put in. McCoy frowned.

“What about her?”

Kirk bit his tongue. “Nothing, Bones. Nothing.”


Spock had considered joining the Captain and Dr. McCoy, but upon overhearing the last exchange, thought better of the idea. He instead went in search of Miss Valley.


“May I speak with you, Miss Valley?”

Ruth looked up, startled at the phrasing Spock used. Usually, it was simply, ‘Miss Valley’. The question and his tone held more than his usual professional briskness. She smiled warmly, careful to keep if from being too warm, and invited him to have a seat. As he did, she noticed that he noticed her coffee cup. She shrugged. “Yes, sir, I know it’s a bad habit but it’s essentially harmless and relatively inexpensive and please don’t tell Dr. McCoy.”

“Dr. McCoy is precisely why I wish to speak with you, Miss Valley.”

Ruth grew immediately suspicious. “Yeah? What did he say I did?” Spock’s eyebrows lowered and she hastily added, “Sir.” The eyebrows resumed their normal position. She found it endearing but carefully kept from telling him so.

“Dr. McCoy has not spoken to me as your superior regarding your behavior, nor filed any specific complaints with my office.”

“You’re hedging, Boss.”

“Yes,” he acknowledged. “I believe you find his antagonism distressing.”

“Distressing, no,” she replied. “Annoying…” His frown returned. “All right, distressing. Does he know how well known, how admired the name McCoy is in the medical profession? He’s the miracle worker, the man who can cure a rainy day. He’s pulled off some things that amaze even us keheils. Does he know how much we appreciate his kind of medicine? It saves us a lot of pain. He’s the best magician around, even if he is a grumpy son-of-a… I mean, excuse me, sir, begging your pardon.”

Spock ignored her sudden embarrassment. She found herself wondering if she was trying to impress him by being circumspect or if she was just plain being respectful to a senior officer. And if she was, did that mean she was cultivating another bad habit? Better not be, Valley, she admonished herself. Next thing you know, you’ll be letting people give you orders.

“Is that why the captain calls him ‘Bones’?” she went on abruptly.

“I’m afraid I don’t understand your meaning, Miss Valley,” Spock returned.

“Because he rattles them better than anyone else in the business?”

Spock took the opportunity to return the conversation to its previous heading. “I believe Dr. McCoy finds such comments from you as distressing as you find his antagonism.”

“But I’m only joking.” One eyebrow rose. Ruth flushed. “Well, he started it.”

“Childish behavior by either party will not solve the current dilemma,” Spock said sternly. “For the good of the Science Department, and this ship, it must be settled.”

Ruth sighed. “I know, Mr. Spock. It’s just that he’s so hostile… Hell, he started out hostile. That part’s not my fault. And I don’t understand it. I once read something he wrote about an encounter with an empath he called “Gem.” What he said about her was understanding. It was awed, yes, but not full of words like faith healing and voodoo. In fact, it was so compassionate and gentle I’m not sure it could have been written by the same man who harasses me.”

“Perhaps you should not consider it harassment.”

“He won’t let me have coffee.”

Spock glanced at her cup. “The crew seems to be helping you avoid Dr. McCoy’s restriction,” he pointed out. “And the doctor is correct in that caffeine is not a substance native to or necessary for Antari survival.”

“I’m half Human.”

“Or Human survival. Any physiological dependency is impossible in a keheil, and psychological dependency can easily be conquered by one of your skills.”

“I should have known you’d be on his side,” she grumbled.

He sighed. “In this instance, yes. However, I agree that he is hostile towards you.”

“Yeah.” She looked up at him. “Why me and not the Gem person? Did she have something I don’t? Looks, talent, brains, wit, charm?”

“The only advantage I can think of which Gem might have possessed, Miss Valley, is that she was mute,” Spock answered dryly.

I love you too, Boss. Ruth bit her tongue to keep from saying it and managed, in a tone that was more curious than sarcastic, “Oh?”

“Indeed. And,” Spock continued, “our encounter with Gem was under circumstances that brought out Dr. McCoy’s more chivalrous and protective reactions. He is a Human governed by emotions.”

“So I should play helpless, pretty butterfly…?” Ruth began furiously.

“Miss Valley, that is precisely what he believes.”


“He sees you as childish and selfish. His compassion for Gem came, I believe, from the fact that she could not help but heal, despite all her fears. You, on the other hand, have a career in Starfleet. You taught, and not medicine, at Alterra University. You have an active and somewhat hectic social life. In short, you are not a dedicated healer.”

Ruth blinked in wounded surprise. “Not dedicated?” she said, and her voice became harsher. “Not dedicated?! What the hell – who the hell does he – goddess, does he think the sh’nal was some sort of damn joke?! It hurts, damn it, it’s the toughest thing any keheil will ever go through! Does he think I don’t have any fears? I never know whether or not what I do will work, and if I’m wrong, it’s not just the innocent patient who suffers! If they die, I die! Does he think that’s flippant or casual or childish?! Where the hell does he get off saying…!”

“Miss Valley, if you will calm yourself…”

“Well, damn it, I have to heal, too! Did his precious Gem have a goddess that doesn’t let you chicken out?”

“He does not understand. That is his flaw, I think. And the source of his hostility.”

“So I have to explain myself to every jerk who thinks I’m not living up to his standards? What am I supposed to do, find a trail of blood and follow it?”

“You are to do nothing but continue to be yourself. It might be advantageous for you to try to explain your training to Dr. McCoy; he is the Chief Medical Officer on this ship, not ‘every jerk.’” Spock took a deep breath. “But be that as it may. The good doctor, will, in time, realize the foolishness of his position regardless. He is emotional, but he is also not unintelligent. You are, as I have told him, a superlative officer. I am confident you retain that quality in all other areas of your life.”

Ruth blinked again, this time in delight. “Why, thank you, Mr. Spock.”

Spock nodded.


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