MUCH MORE THAN JUST A STOMACH ACHE

"Mr Spock, have you seen the captain?" Lieutenant Uhrura asked him as the Vulcan arrived on the bridge early one morning. She had herself come directly from the mess hall, where she had observed with some concern the captain's absence from breakfast, but thinking that he may have decided to partake of his first meal of the day in the privacy of his own quarters that morning she had been expecting to find him already at his post when she arrived. To her surprise the captain's chair remained empty however, and she had watched as one by one the remaining members of the alpha crew had started to filter in to take over their posts. Asking those who's just come off the night shift if any of them had seen the captain they'd all responded that they hadn't seen him since he'd handed over control of the Enterprise the evening before. She tried comming him, but received no response.

Despite the fact that she'd tried to reassure herself that everything would be alright, and that he'd probably just been waylaid whilst dealing with some official matter, she couldn't escape the nagging feeling she had that something was wrong. Something just didn't feel right – she hadn't voiced her concerns or shared her observations with anyone else, but something had seemed off with the captain for the past few days. He'd seemed irritable, and she'd noticed that he'd appeared to be avoiding the mess hall on more than one occasion. Captain Kirk loved his food – it wasn't like him to miss meals. She'd also thought he looked a little paler than usual, and had caught fleeting glimpses of him with a strange look in his eyes, almost always when he'd thought no one was looking – as though he were in pain – but he'd quickly composed himself again.

Finally Mr Sulu and Chekov had arrived, and assumed their position at the helm of the ship, but when there had still been no sign of the captain Uhura couldn't contain her worry any longer. He was never late for work. She'd never known him to be in the whole time she'd served with him. He was conscientious, and didn't tolerate tardiness from his crew, but if there was one thing which could be relied upon it was that he didn't ask anything of the men and woman who served under his command that he didn't also expect of himself. He always set a good example for them to follow.

Being one of the more senior members of the crew, Spock was one of the last to arrive. He looked at her, and frowned when she asked him this question.

"No Lieutenant." He responded, with a shake of his head. He hadn't been at breakfast either, and so hadn't been present to observe the captain's absence, although from the tone of her voice he could tell that she was concerned. He glanced over at the captain's chair, and taking note too that it was empty his frown deepened. He seemed more confused than concerned by what he observed however.

"Interesting." He remarked. It was the kind of matter-of-fact response that would have really got McCoy's back up had he been there – said without the slightest hint of emotion. "Have you tried contacting him?" He asked her.

"He's not answering." She glowered at him, and appeared somewhat offended by the fact that he could even consider that she wouldn't think to do this first. "Perhaps somebody ort to check on him?" She suggested, her dark eyes boring into the side of his head.

Spock turned his gaze back to her with a raised eyebrow and saw her still looking up at him expectantly. He didn't know why humans had to drop hints all the time, rather than just asking for what they wanted outright. It was a habit that seemed to annoy their own kind no end, and it didn't make any sense to him. It didn't seem very logical, and he could see how it might become waring over time to someone who didn't have a sound hold over their emotions. Life was a whole lot simpler, and everyone much happier, when they each knew where they stood.

On the other hand it really wasn't like the captain to be late for anything. His timekeeping was excellent, and it seemed only logical that someone should check on him – if only just to make sure that there wasn't something wrong.

When Spock reached the captain's quarters he knocked lightly on the door, but after receiving no response keyed in the emergency access code to gain entrance to the room. As soon as the doors opened he immediately sensed that something was wrong. The room was dark, and there was a strange smell and a general feeling of sickness in the air. It was also boiling - even Spock could feel the heat prickle his skin, and he was acclimatised to living on Vulcan, a planet whose atmosphere was several degrees hotter than the warmest continent on earth.

"Lights, eighty percent." He said, to enable him to see a little better, and as he stepped over the threshold he turned and noticed the captain still laid out in bed, evidently shivering. He appeared to be clutching his stomach.

He frowned. Whatever had caused Jim to be late for his shift he'd expected to at least find him out of bed. Seeing him now as he was only served to heighten his already growing anxiety, and to let him know that whatever was wrong was serious. For one thing, although unconscious, he looked pained, and the Vulcan knew that, ordinarily, his friend had an abnormally high pain threshold.

"Captain?" He asked him as he approached, and he observed as he got closer that the man's complexion was paper white. He also had a towel draped over his shoulder, and he guessed that he must have felt nauseas before falling asleep as there was a bucket on the floor beside his bed - although it was empty. His face was beaded with sweat. "Jim?" He asked his friend again gently so as not to startle him, but he received no response. He placed a hand to his forehead, feeling the heat of the fever which raged within the man.

"Room temperature, twenty degrees." He ordered the automated heating system, and he felt the temperature suddenly plummet. It wasn't cold, but compared to what it had been it started to feel distinctly chilly in the small room. One thing was for certain, and that was that the heat would have done the captain's fever very little good, he'd have done better turning on the air conditioning and covering himself over with a thin blanket if he was cold. As Spock watched him the cold sweat dried against his skin, and his eyes opened a crack.

"Spock?" He frowned as the figure of the Vulcan came into view, surprised to see him in his private quarters. There was only one reason his second in command would let himself in uninvited, and that was if something was wrong. "What are you doing in here?" He asked him. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and tried to sit up, but Spock thought he noticed him grimace and his hand appeared to grip his stomach a little more tightly. He propped himself up in the bed as best he could, but his movements were stiff and tentative.

"I was sent to check on you when you didn't report to the bridge for shift." He explained. "You didn't answer when I knocked on your door, so, naturally, assuming that there might be something wrong, I let myself in."

"What time is it?" Kirk asked him, running the hand which wasn't clutching his stomach over his sweaty face. Spock noticed that it was trembling slightly.

"It's a little after half past six sir." He told him.

"Half past six?" He frowned. "I should have been on the bridge half an hour ago!"

Kirk immediately struggled to sit up in a panic, trying to throw his legs over the edge of the bed to stand, but immediately doubled over with a pained cry. Spock leaped to his side, trying to wrestle him back into bed again. Eventually Kirk, too weak to fight back, gave up and let the Vulcan win. He lay back against his pillow moaning and clutching at his stomach, wanting to curl in on himself but trying not to, as experience the previous evening had taught him that it only made the pain worse.

"I have to get to the bridge Spock." He moaned. "I'm late!"

"Captain you won't be going anywhere today I'm afraid, unless perhaps to sickbay." Spock told him. "You're clearly far from well."

"I'm alright." Kirk protested. "Please don't fuss." His tone was sharp - far sharper than usual - but the Vulcan could sense that the captain's short temper was born of more than simple annoyance. The enormity of the pain he was in was evident by the fresh sheen of sweat upon his brow, and it didn't take long before his suspicions were confirmed. Suddenly Kirk doubled over again, trying to curl in on himself with a hiss of his agony, and a pathetic moan escaped him.

"Where does it hurt Jim?" The Vulcan asked him, with a surprising degree of tenderness and sympathy to his tone.

"My stomach." Kirk replied - finally resigning himself to the inevitable truth. He was sick, and seriously so. This was more than the usual run of the mill cold, or strange alien flu he was used to picking up now and again. Exploring space was risky, it exposed one to a whole range of alien germs and pathogens which the human race had never encountered before – those still without vaccine or any treatment for - but this was different. He'd felt slightly off the last few days. It had started with a mild stomach pain a few days ago, just below his belly button - nothing too serious but enough to put him off his food. He hadn't thought much of it, but the previous evening the dull ache had seemingly exploded, plunging him into a waking nightmare, consuming his body with white-hot pain and blinding him to anything aside from how much he was hurting. It felt as though something had ruptured inside his abdomen. He vaguely recalled having thoughts of going to sickbay, but he'd known that he wouldn't make it far enough. Instead he'd lay down in bed, and any thoughts of contacting McCoy had been lost in a blur of fevered hallucinations - he didn't know for how long he'd lay there before he'd finally fallen asleep.

"I felt nauseas before bed and it's been getting progressively worse all night." He explained.

He shivered, but it was impossible to tell whether it was due to pain or his high temperature. His skin still glistened, and the sweat clung in salty beads to his top lip, neck and forehead. Now that the captain was awake some of the colour had started to return to his face, but not much. Spock noticed that he was still deathly pale, with the exception of his lightly flushed cheeks.

Seeing the captain's distress he made a bee line for the com, reaching it before Kirk could do anything to stop him.

"Spock to sickbay." He said, hoping that it wouldn't take long for McCoy to pick up.

"McCoy here." He was relieved when the doctor answered him almost immediately.

"Doctor, I'm on deck five, in the captain's quarters. We need you down here." He said in his usual unaffected way, although the subtle change to the expression on his face when the doctor answered told Kirk that he was actually very deeply concerned. Surprisingly the one thing that annoyed the doctor most about the Vulcan Jim found strangely comforting under the circumstances. He knew that Spock was worried about him, but he did not voice those concerns, and seeing the Vulcan so calm helped him to remain calm too.

"Why? What is it Spock?" McCoy asked him.

"It's the captain. He's sick. Acute abdominal pain, seems serious." Spock explained.

"Right, I'm on my way." The doctor said, without seeming to need any further explanation. If Spock had deemed it necessary to contact him from the captain's private quarters, then that meant that Jim hadn't shown up for work that morning, and if that was the case then he knew things must be serious. "McCoy out."

Whilst they were waiting for him to arrive Spock encouraged Jim to relax back in the bed. He went to the bathroom and wet a washcloth in the sink before bringing it back and pressing it to his friend's forehead. The cold was welcome - it soothed the burning furnace of flesh beneath, and dampened the fever - but it made him shiver even more. He'd been delirious - he couldn't remember very much at all about the previous evening. Spock didn't question him, it seemed as though he was saving the inquisition for McCoy, but he looked down at the captain with barely concealed concern in his eyes.

It didn't take long for McCoy to arrive. Kirk knew that as captain of the Enterprise his health would be top priority, not to mention the fact that the chief medical officer was one of his closest and most trusted friends. He'd brought with him an emergency surgical kit, which Kirk noticed, alongside the small scanner, also held an assortment of hyposprays. He decided against asking what they contained, with abdominal pain as severe as he had he knew that McCoy wasn't going to let him get away with some vague description of a few nondescript symptoms, and he suspected that he'd find out what they contained soon enough. As soon as he saw Kirk lying in bed, the cold compress pressed to his forehead and Spock leaning over him as though standing guard, preventing him from moving, he knew that there was something seriously amiss.

"How do you feel Jim?" He asked him kindly as he approached. Looking down at him he started to catalogue the obvious signs of sickness - the pallor of his complexion, the sweat upon his brow, and the slight shiver which wracked his body and told him immediately that Jim had a fever. He was already running the small scanner through the air over his body, and the man knew that it would be pointless to lie - the results from the scan would betray any attempt at deception anyway. McCoy was an excellent physician. Jim had often suspected that all the technology he had at his disposal in sickbay was simply for show, and that the man could actually diagnose any disease or malady just by looking at a patient.

"What are your symptoms?" McCoy questioned him, also taking note of the fact that Jim appeared to be clutching his stomach, and he deduced that whatever the problem was it was probably abdominal in nature. He concentrated the scanner over this area, and observed Jim's position and the way he was holding himself, with a critical eye. The pain, which had started as just a dull ache, was now sharp and stabbing. It radiated out from his lower abdomen, spreading along his hip and down into his right flank. McCoy noticed that he seemed to be favouring his left side, trying to ease his discomfort.

"Well, at the moment, just the stomach pain." Kirk confessed.

"You have a temperature of 103." The doctor pointed out, and Kirk nodded in agreement. He couldn't deny the obvious presence of the fever. It was high-grade, not yet dangerously so, but heading that way. He was beginning to feel grateful that Spock had come along when he had.

"Any nausea?" The doctor asked him.

He nodded again.

"How about vomiting?" He pressed him.

"Last night sometime." Kirk further confessed. The seemingly endless tirade of questions was exhausting. He didn't really want to answer any of them but he knew that they were important and so he reluctantly complied. "Only a couple of times though." He was quick to point out, as if this made any difference. He didn't suppose that how many times really mattered when any nausea he'd felt was mild compared to the pain, which was rapidly becoming unbearable. He'd never felt anything akin to it in his life before.

McCoy looked at him gravely, before examining the readings from his scanner. He frowned.

"Let me have a little feel of your tummy Jim." He said, and when he received no protest he took that as a sign of no contest and bent down over him, gently lifting the captain's nightshirt a little. Pretty sure that he knew what the problem was, and only needing to carry out a physical examination to confirm his suspicions, he carefully pressed down on the right side of Jim's abdomen. The man's reaction was almost immediate and as he released the pressure he'd applied he let out a strangled cry, and folded over in pain.

McCoy sighed. This was not what he'd wanted to happen, but having seen the results of the scans it didn't come as any great surprise.

"I'm sorry Jim." He apologised for having to do that, but it had been the only way to confirm his suspicions. He reached out and placed a gentle hand on the man's arm, trying to role him back over onto his back. He was trying to curl up into a foetal position again but McCoy knew that putting any pressure on the affected right side of his abdomen would only make the pain worse.

"It's acute appendicitis Jim." He sighed. "I'm going to have to operate, but first I'm going to give you a hypospray to make you a bit more comfortable so we can move you."

"Operate?" Kirk groaned, sounding alarmed.

McCoy nodded.

"I'm afraid it may have ruptured." He explained as he prepared the hypospray of strong painkillers and a mild sedative. "There are signs of infection in your abdominal cavity. If this is the case we can't waste any time Jim. The appendix needs to come out as soon as possible."

He emptied the contents of the hypo into Jim's arm, and sat down on the edge of the bed to wait for the drugs to take effect. Despite the fact that the man had only complained of mild nausea before he was beginning to look rather green since the doctor had pressed down on his painful stomach, and he moved the bucket a little closer to the bed just to be on the safe side. Jim had been awake most of the night, writhing in silence, and what little rest he had managed to get had been broken by fevered hallucinations. The doctor was relieved that he didn't fight the sedative, and that in fact he seemed to welcome sleep when it came.

McCoy wasted no time in getting Jim into emergency surgery, and within an hour of his initial call from Spock he'd had him transferred to the operating theatre and was working to remove what remained of the ruptured appendix, and repair what he could of the damage done by the organ. Some of the inflammation had spread to the surrounding tissue, and Jim was in grave danger of developing peritonitis from the bacteria which had flooded his body when the infected organ had burst. The truth was that his illness would have spelt an almost certain death sentence as little as a century ago, and following the rupture and the resulting fever it would have been a particularly painful and long drawn out one at that. Even as little as five decades ago his condition would have been considered life threatening, but medical science had made such significant advances in the last fifty years. Antibiotcs were stronger now than they had ever been, and many more had now been developed to specifically target almost every strain of bacteria known to man. As a result McCoy was confident that they'd probably caught the condition early enough to have avoided that particular complication. If Spock hadn't come along when he had things could have been very different though. There was only a narrow window of opportunity for these drugs to prove effective against an infection as massive as Jim's.

He removed what remained of the damaged tissue, and then began the painstaking process of flushing out the abdominal cavity, before examining the repair work he'd done and closing the incision in Jim's stomach. McCoy surmised that the captain would probably be well enough to return to duty sometime the following week. If he'd let him know how he'd been feeling a few days ago when he first became sick he would probably have been able to do so after just a couple of days, and may have been able to avoid surgery altogether – they had drugs to treat appendicitis now – but he supposed they ort to be grateful that things could have been a lot worse. If left any longer the poison would have started to spread throughout the rest of his body, resulting in extensive internal damage and multiple organ failure. He could hardly bring himself to think about what might have happened if Spock hadn't found him when he had.

Fortunately the medical bay was relatively quiet that morning. There was only one other patient, admitted the day before with a mild fever of unknown origin. McCoy didn't think it was anything serious, but had thought it better to admit the man overnight for observation, rather than risk the chance of him spreading anything potentially infectious around the rest of the crew. The man's fever had finally broken sometime the previous evening however, and he was due to be released that afternoon. This left McCoy free to leave Christine in charge for a few hours, and she was quite capable of dealing with the steady stream of patients requiring simple vitamins and mild painkillers in his absence.

He sat with Jim until he came round from the anaesthetic. The fever still raged within him, and McCoy was worried that the delirium, coupled with the disorientating effects of the drugs in his system might cause him to pull out the IV line feeding vital fluids and antibiotics into a cannula in the back of his hand. For this reason he'd strapped him down, just until he became lucid enough to understand everything that was happening when it was explained to him. He'd already given him an injection of a drug to reverse the effects of the anaesthetic, but Jim seemed particularly slow and reluctant in coming round. McCoy wasn't too worried, but he kept a close eye on him all the same, as for half an hour he showed very little sign of responding to the medication or any external stimulation.

"Jim?" The doctor called his name as he shook him gently, rubbing his arms vigorously to try to rouse him when after the half hour had passed he was still unconscious and unresponsive. "Jim?"

It took him a couple of minutes of vigorous rubbing to stimulate him, and calling his name whilst his voice increased in volume before Jim finally groaned, and started to twitch. McCoy looked up at the screen above his bed and could see that his pain count was rising as consciousness began to return to him, as were his heartrate and blood pressure, indicating that he was in some distress. Despite this the doctor still breathed a sigh of relief – although not overly concerned it had still taken his friend longer to wake up than he would have ideally liked, and he would have been lying if he'd said he hadn't been worried.

"It's alright Jim, just try to relax." He did his best to reassure him as Jim cracked his eyes open and grimaced, finally registering his discomfort. He tried to move, and seemed alarmed by the restraints he felt around his wrists and ankles – McCoy had spared him the one around his torso so as to not put any unnecessary pressure on his stomach.

"Bones?" He asked him weakly, clearly confused. The doctor could tell by the look on his face that he was suffering from some degree of disorientation, which was not uncommon in patient's coming round from an anaesthetic – but he evidently wasn't sure as to where he was and what had happened.

"There's an IV in the back of your hand Jim." He explained to him. "The restraints are there to make sure you don't pull it out. I'm going to take them off you soon though. Are you in any pain?" He asked.

Jim seemed to relax a little once he realised the reason for the restraints, and he'd been reassured that he was safe and nothing untoward was happening for him to worry about, but as the anaesthetic continued to wear off his body began to betray him, showing signs that he was in a significant amount of pain - his heart rate continued to climb, his breathing was more laboured and shallow than usual, and fresh beads of sweat dotted his brow. He nodded.

McCoy immediately took a hypo from the instrument table beside the man's bed and injected him with a painkiller. He put his hand on his shoulder reassuringly and kept a close eye on the monitor, watching as his pain levels continued to rise steadily, even after the drugs had been administered, before finally dipping back down again after a few minutes as the medication finally began to take effect. The deep crease in Jim's forehead softened slightly, and he let out a deep sigh, almost as if in relief. McCoy then released the restraints from around his wrists and ankles.

"How's your stomach feeling Jim?" He asked him.

"Sore." The man answered him, looking up at his surgeon through tired and slightly sunken eyes. The surgery had obviously taken a lot out of his weakened body. He was pale, his lips almost the same ashen shade of white as his face, and there were dark and heavy circles around his eyes. McCoy noticed that even with the painkillers he still grimaced and rubbed at his tender abdomen instinctively. The hand with the IV came to rest lightly against his navel. "Very sore." He repeated, as if to emphasize just how much he was hurting. There was a sadness conveyed within the expression upon his face, suggestive of a man who was feeling somewhat sorry for himself.

"Yeah, well, appendicitis will do that to you." The doctor spoke matter-of-factly in his gruff southern drawl. "You had a pretty bad case of it to. I mean Jim, do you ever do things by half?" He asked him.

This provoked a small crooked smile from the captain, and his expression lifted a little. He didn't know what it was about his friend, but he always seemed to manage to cheer him up and put a smile on his face, even when he was trying to be serious – perhaps it was because even when he was trying to come across as stern with him he knew that in all reality the doctor had a heart of gold and didn't really mean it. He couldn't stay angry with anyone for too long – even Spock.

"I guess not." He responded with a tentative shrug of the shoulders. He couldn't move too much without pulling on his incision, and so the gesture came off looking more like an involuntary twitch. His eyes twinkled mischievously though as they met with his friends – who continued to feign displeasure. "So, how did it go?" He asked – referring to the surgery.

"Well," McCoy said, folding his arms across his chest in the way he always did when he was thinking, "the appendix had ruptured Jim." He explained. "I removed what remained of the damaged tissue but you've got one hell of an infection, and much of the inflammation had already spread to the surrounding area. You're going to need strong antibiotics to ward off the peritonitis, and I suspect you're still going to be in quite a bit of pain for the next few days, but you'll mend."

"Thanks Bones." Kirk managed a slightly broader smile as he was delivered the news that he was going to be alright. Appendicitis hadn't been pleasant, and would easily rank amongst some of the more painful experiences in his life, but it could have been worse. The doctor patted him reassuringly on the shoulder. He felt truly thankful for Bones, not only to have him as a friend, but also for the fact that he was such a brilliant doctor. He could always be relied upon in an emergency. It took a lot to shake him, he was cool in a crisis, and that equanimity easily rubbed off on those around him. Whenever he was in need of a surgeon – and there had already been a couple of other times throughout the course of his career – there was no one else he would rather have operating on him. He was quite prepared to believe that there was no better a physician in the whole of Starfleet.

"I have some discharge papers to sign Jim." McCoy told him, checking his patient's IV and making a few adjustments to the line now that he was awake. "It will take the anaesthetic a few hours to work its way out of your system so you can expect to feel pretty groggy until then. I suggest you try and get some sleep. Will you be alright?" He asked – he realised that he couldn't let his personal friendship with the captain interfere with his general duties. He still had a lot of work to do, there was a mountain of paper work for him to sift through and other patients for him to see to, but he couldn't deny that he didn't really want to leave his friend just yet. Although the initial surgery to remove the appendix had gone well there was still the continued threat from the infection to consider, and his fever was still dangerously high – Jim didn't seem to have noticed the wet wash cloth that had been applied to his forehead to try and bring it down. If that didn't work they may have to try flushing cold water through his veins, McCoy thought.

"Well, I don't have another appendix in there ready to burst." Kirk chuckled – and regretted it immediately. He winced.

"Easy there Jim." McCoy warned him. He put his hand on his shoulder to steady him.

"I'm alright." Jim reassured him, once the pain has passed. McCoy watched him visibly relax once again. The drugs he'd given him were doing their job and keeping the full extent of the pain at bay, but he was still evidently more uncomfortable than the doctor would have ideally liked. He couldn't give him anymore opiate derivatives for another couple of hours, but there were other, milder painkillers he could use to take a further edge off.

He took another hypospray from the table beside him, and examined it carefully for a moment, before injecting it into Jim's arm.

"What was that one for?" Jim asked.

"It's called acetaminophen." McCoy told him. "It's quite an old drug now, very rarely used, but we do still sometimes use it to treat mild pain. It just might help you feel a little more comfortable, and help with the fever."

"I don't need anymore painkillers Bones." He was quick to assure him - the doctor didn't think that he'd ever known a patient with a bigger aversion to drugs than Captain Kirk in his life. For someone who would willingly come to him for pills to help a headache, or mild muscular strain, he sure made it difficult for him when it came to the more serious stuff. "The pain is bearable now." He told him.

"That's just my point though!" McCoy suddenly snapped - he was tired, and growing increasingly frustrated and irritable. It was making it hard for him to keep a lid on his frayed temper – and it would help if Jim would cooperate with him a little more. "You shouldn't just be putting up with pain, you shouldn't be feeling any pain at all!" He told him. "I don't trust you Jim. Only you could leave something as potentially serious as appendicitis to fester for days, and wait for your appendix to actually burst before you inform me. Just because you have a high pain threshold that doesn't mean you have to exercise it at every opportunity, and make my job that much harder it ban it has to be."

"I'm sorry Bones." He apologised. "Really, I am, but I promise you I didn't know it was that serious. Perhaps because I do have a higher pain threshold it makes it harder for me to tell when something is relatively minor, and when it is something I probably really do need to see you about."

"Or you're just plain old pig-headed!" McCoy admonished him - he was probably one of the only people aboard the ship who could get away with speaking to the captain in this way, and he often took full advantage of it when he was displeased with him - but on this occasion even he had to admit that there may be some truth to his friend's reasoning.

"But you may have a point Jim." He mused, thinking it over. "Perhaps we should increase the frequency of your physical exam." He suggested, in passing – his thinking being that if they did so they might actually catch anything before it became an issue, or evolved into something potentially more serious for the future – but he could tell by the look on the captain's face that this had gone down like a Klingon at a Startfleet conference.

He noticed Jim's eyes begin to close.

"I'm tired Bones." He told him, his eyelids beginning to feel increasingly heavy. He was fighting to try to keep them open – but he seemed to be fighting a losing battle with exhaustion. McCoy had mixed in a small amount of sonambutril with the acetaminophen and he was obviously beginning to feel its effects.

"I mixed in a sedative with the second painkiller." McCoy explained, taking the cold compress away and checking the man's temperature with the back of his hand. He was still far too hot, and so he re-wet the wash cloth from a bowel of water beside thd bed and pressed it back in place again. He watched as the change in temperature caused Jim to shiver. With all the drugs sick bay had at their disposal, he'd found that this was still the best and most effective way of treating a fever. Sometimes the old ways really were the best. There could be no substitute for the body's own recuperative powers to heal itself – as physicians there job was simply to aid the healing process.

"You need rest, and to give your stomach chance to recover. Don't fight it Jim, just go with it." He told him. "I'll be back to check on you in a bit, and Nurse Chapel's going to be around to keep an eye on you. I won't be far away if you need me."

He didn't show it but there was something in his tone of voice that made it seem as though he was reluctant to leave him. Jim recognised this, but nodded, relaxing back into the bio-bed as best he could. Even with the painkillers in his system it was difficult for him to find a position where he was truly comfortable. Every movement tugged on his incision, and he was still suffering a significant amount of post-operative discomfort.

He watched McCoy go, and his last thought before he finally fell asleep again, was for how grateful he was for the fact that at least his stomach no longer hurt him anymore.

END