"Ow!" But the painkillers in the shot were already starting to work, even before the hypo left her skin.
Tonia Barrows hadn't been in Starfleet for very long, but right now she was finding it hard to believe she'd ever have a day on the job that was worse than today. The mission had been a disaster. It was a miracle that more of the lives on the landing party had not been lost; two crewmen were dead, and the rest of the away team had beamed back in various stages of wincing injury. Tonia herself had been relatively unharmed by the viciousness of the aliens, bearing only a large scraping gash across her back. But the command team--
Tonia was trying not to think about the awful crunching sound made by Captain Kirk's arm when he'd been shoved against that wall. He was such a good man and a fair captain; the crew's heart always hurt when he was hurt. But at least Kirk's injuries were easily fixed. During the past couple of hours in Sickbay, she'd watched him get patched up and put into a sling. It was a relief to be reassured that at least most of the disaster would be temporary.
Most. All--now, that was not a certain thing.
Under thick eyelashes, she let her glance turn to Commander Spock, then swallowed with discomfort. He lay on the biobed, bleary and drifting in and out of reality, such a far away image from the picture of noble competence he usually provided on the bridge. Kirk sat unmoving at his side, looking glum and devoted. McCoy bustled around the room with one of his nurses, tending to Spock's considerable injuries. Tonia clung to the sight of Leonard as a comfort; he was so kind. She would be here for him when the work was done, if he had time; it would help to heal this dreadful depression that was threatening to infect her mind.
A commotion at the door distracted her from the nail-biting scene to her right. Lieutenant Sulu and Yeoman Mears deposited a thrashing crewman into Nurse Chapel's capable arms. Luckily, she was ready with a hypo, but she could only get a bit of it into the struggling man. Realizing it would be too difficult to subdue him with a hypo alone, the nurse instructed Sulu to help her move the man into a bed with restraining straps.
When the bustle had died down, Tonia saw that it was Kevin Riley. *Oh, for the love of God, somebody beam me into the bathroom.* But she didn't have the strength to get up and hide, not now, not today.
"How did he get like this?" Chapel asked Sulu with a motherly frown. Mears was leaning on him, panting, clearly exhausted.
"He was in the transporter room when the away team got back," Sulu explained quietly. "Some of the crew didn't take it well, both the captain and Mr. Spock being kicked around so badly down there. Chekov broke out the vodka, and there was some, uh, trouble."
"Riley and Chekov got in a fistfight over whether or not the Prime Directive was a good idea," Mears piped up helpfully. "He was drunk enough to blame the entire Starfleet Command for--oh dear." She had turned to Spock's biobed in an attempt to gesture to his injuries to illustrate her point, but when she actually laid eyes directly on him, she was too disturbed to continue her thought.
"Where's Chekov now?" Chapel asked gently, trying to distract her.
"He's in his quarters, cleaning up a nosebleed," said Sulu. "You gonna be okay with him?" He cocked his head at Riley.
"I've seen worse," Chapel said wearily. "Thank you. Thank you both."
Tonia must have fallen asleep for a few minutes from her painkillers, because by the time she was aware of her surroundings again, Riley was awake. He reclined in his biobed, sullen in his bonds and still intoxicated. He was regarding her with an unfriendly expression.
"Why are you in here?" he asked suddenly.
"They whipped my back," Tonia said uncomfortably. She shifted around in her biobed.
"I slugged Chekov," Riley told her.
"I know. I heard Sulu telling the nurse when you came in."
There was a predictably awkward pause. Thinking she was done dealing with Riley, Tonia turned her head to continue watching Leonard work.
"Your boyfriend's really old." Riley's words bluntly cut into her reverie.
Tonia signed uncomfortably. "Kevin--"
"*Really* old," Riley repeated. "You know how old he is? McCoy's so old, that--"
"Kevin, please stop." She held up one hand, eyes darting around uneasily. Luckily, it didn't look like Leonard had heard. If too many thoughts about their age difference crossed his mind, he might start having doubts about the pleasures they undeniably enjoyed together.
"What? You're afraid of the truth?" Riley leered. "Are you really that much of a slut, that you--"
"Stop it." *Nurse Chapel, save me...*
"I bet he plays those weird games you're into," Riley continued. "You're not very picky, are you, Tonia. Don't you have any standards at all?"
"Yes, and you don't fit them," Tonia found herself snapping.
"Oh, so I've got to be a moldy old man with bags under his eyes big enough to fit grapes in--"
"You're being mean," Tonia whined. "*I* find him attractive, and he's much nicer to me than you were."
"Oh, I bet he's *very* nice," Riley sneered. "Tell me, Tonia, do you guys play 'doctor'? Is that one of your little games? Why can't you ever be in a normal--"
"The age difference is older than you are!"
"Kevin, listen to me." Tonia knew he was drunk, but she was deeply upset and couldn't help making her point. It was as much for herself as for Riley's benefit. "Dr. McCoy is a wonderful, kind, caring, gentle man. He's considerate of my feelings and is genuinely concerned that I'm having a good time when we're together. He's interesting, he's warm, he's funny, and as for his age, I happen to *like* the way he looks." She paused. "And the games... I'm sorry you couldn't be that open with me. We genuinely enjoy ourselves. And I feel like we all need to do that, since we could all fucking die any fucking second!"
She collapsed on her pillow. Chapel appeared as if by magic by her side with a drink of water, which she took meekly and gratefully. As she drank, she noticed Chapel re-sedating Riley. He was still drunk beyond reason and it wouldn't help Dr. McCoy's efforts in resuscitating Spock if he were to be distracted by a torrent of verbal abuse.
"Thank you," Tonia called to her wearily.
Chapel smiled sadly. "I'm sorry he said all those things."
"It's okay," Tonia took another sip of water. "If I couldn't defend us to Kevin, how could I defend us to myself?"
Chapel patted her on the back of the shoulder. "You're good for Len," she said. "He's much less grouchy when he's been with you."
"Lord knows he couldn't be more," Tonia smirked.