This was written for the summer of 2009 Happyfest with the prompt Spock/McCoy snark.

Instinct

Cousin Shelley



"I told you not to grab it." McCoy ran the sensor over Spock's hand. "I told you, but do you ever listen to me? No, you don't listen to me. You grabbed the god damn thing anyway. And who has to pick up the pieces? Me, that's who. It doesn't matter that I'm behind on the crew's physicals, and that I have to spend far too much time trying to come up with ways to trick Jim in here so I don't have to pull medical rank, oh no, that doesn't matter to you, because you have to go and GRAB dangerous things like a damned fool."

Spock stared straight ahead, but one eyebrow raised and his lids lowered almost imperceptibly. Imperceptibly to anyone but McCoy, perhaps. He noticed, because that was the reaction he'd been hoping for. For Spock, narrowed eyes and a raised eyebrow were the equivalent of McCoy shouting at the top of his lungs and stomping once or twice.

"Doctor," he said, with that tone that McCoy recognized as oh-so-human annoyance, "I did not grab it, as you keep insisting. I used the data at my disposal to determine that the likelihood the animal was dangerous was less than 4.738 percent. Based on --"

"Here's a bulletin--you were wrong. And I told you that, all without the benefit of your logical, computing brain and fancy calculations."

"I am the ship's Science Officer, as you well know. I also need not remind you that our duty is exploration."

"And I'm so shocked that you did anyway. This is gonna sting."

"I merely wished to learn more about the species since I was presented with a unique opportunity to do so. The readings suggested that it was dying or in a comatose state--"

"Hibernating, I believe is the word, Spock. And when you wake up a hibernating animal, not only do you piss it off, but you remind it that it hasn't eaten in weeks. Instinct takes over. You're just lucky that your green blood didn't appeal to its sensitive little palate, or this would be much worse." And much worse, McCoy thought, is an understatement. With that creature's speed and ability to chew through flesh and bone, if it had latched onto Spock anywhere else--his chest or his head--it could have done irreparable damage. As it was, after just a second or so with the animal attacking Spock's hand, McCoy had to regenerate missing bone.

The animal, something Spock had called a zygothracite, was about the size of a Chihuahua. It looked pretty harmless all rolled into a ball. But then Spock went to touch it and the thing turned out to be all mouth and pointy teeth. And it had managed to practically shred Spock's hand, nearly severing his ring finger, in the second it took for everyone to realize Spock was in danger. Kirk had pulled his phaser to stun it, but it released Spock on its own and ran away, shaking its head and making a noise that resembled a dry cough.

"It was gagging," McCoy had pointed out to Jim, quite cheerfully, after reporting that he could repair Spock's hand, no poisons had been injected into his system, and that he was in no real danger. The captain had frowned at him, of course, in that way Jim had of frowning disapprovingly even though you could see glee in his eyes. But McCoy, as he was sure he didn't need to point out to Spock, was the ship's doctor. He knew what medicine was needed, when. And after some tense moments of worry, they all needed a moment of levity. Even at Spock's expense.

Especially at Spock's expense, McCoy thought. Keep the green-blooded hard-head on his toes. Besides, he knew Spock secretly liked getting a rise out of McCoy, even if it took the form of a little ribbing. Or a lecture.

"Next time, you need to set your calculations aside for just a minute and at least consider that maybe, just maybe, Spock, a little human instinct might trump all your logic once in a while." He started sealing the skin on Spock's palm.

"Have you ever considered, doctor, that logic and human instincts are not that different, save one thing?"

McCoy stopped. "I think we should do a brain scan."

"I am quite well. I'm merely suggesting that while I use facts and logic to calculate the risk in doing something, you use similar human ideals to come to a conclusion about whether or not something presents a risk. The results are not always the same, but we reach our hypotheses in a similar fashion, generally."

McCoy continued fusing the skin. "That does make a sort of sense. You said they're similar, save one thing. So the way they're different is simply the things we use to come to the conclusions?"

"No, the main difference is that instinct is illogical and inherently flawed, even when it leads you to the correct conclusion."

Now McCoy's eyebrow went up, especially since Spock's had gone down. Spock looked at McCoy in an almost boyishly innocent way now, as if he'd just explained a simple concept like why a ball rolls downhill and not uphill.

McCoy mumbled to himself, far below the level of the whine made by the laser he was using on Spock's hand. "Pointy-eared, son-of-a-"

"I have exceptional hearing, doctor."

"Yes, I know. I have an exceptional memory."

"I fail to understand what my lineage or the shape of--"

"You fail exceptionally to understand a lot of things, Spock, but I'm a doctor, not a computer, so I'm not sure I can explain them in a way that will properly interface with your brain." But he gave it a damned good try. McCoy waved his hands as he spoke, and Spock sat calmly, now and then using simple declarative sentences to counter McCoy's less well-structured pronouncements. McCoy finished his rant about cold, calculating logic and computers and how Spock was half human and why didn't he show it some of the time, and while he was at it, why didn't he stick a zygothracite in a place where no sun in any solar system could ever possibly shine.

***

"Spock says you, how did he put it, encouraged him to 'commit an act that was not only distasteful but anatomically improbable,' among other things. He then marveled aloud at the illogic of your suggesting that he do something that would only require more of your medical services, and put you further behind schedule with crew physicals after you had just chewed him out for that very thing." Kirk put his feet up on McCoy's desk and sniffed the liquor McCoy had poured for him.

"Sip that, or it does funny things to your ability to form words." McCoy sat on his bed, long legs stretched out in front of him. He took a delicate sip from his own glass to demonstrate. Then he shook his head. "We got into a discussion about intuition and instinct." McCoy gave him a few highlights of the "discussion" they'd had after he'd repaired Spock's hand.

Spock had been perplexed by McCoy's assertion that he absolutely knew that touching that animal had been a bad idea. McCoy explained that he could just feel it. And when he'd done his very best to explain to Spock in all the ways he knew how about how it had been a gut feeling, and all the calculations and odds and percentages in the world didn't matter when he knew, Spock had grasped at straws, McCoy said, clearly because he was losing the argument.

Spock had hoisted up both eyebrows and said, "But you're a doctor, not a precognitive."

McCoy fought a smile. "I told him to stick that impossibly toothy zygo-whateveritwas up his pointy-eared ass. And it would have been so much more satisfying if he had repeated that to you verbatim."

Kirk laughed then, and took a sip. He made a sound much like the poor, startled animal had when it realized it didn't like the taste of Vulcan. "You apparently said, or by his report, yelled many other things at him. And I'm guessing it was the most fun either of you have had in weeks."

McCoy jingled the ice in his glass. "What if that thing had been poisonous, Jim? He didn't know all that much about it, that's why he wanted to pick the damned thing up. Anything could have happened."

"So you expressed your concern by yelling at him, just like you do every time. You rant and rave about emotions and logic and what an inconvenience it is to have to patch him up. You and I both know it was because he got hurt, and it scared you."

McCoy raised his eyebrow and emptied his glass, forgetting to sip.

"Bones, he knows that's why you do it, too. Even if he would never tell you."

"Yeah, I know." McCoy stood and refilled both their glasses. He grinned broadly. "He doesn't have to tell me. I have exceptional instincts. Just ask him."