“You’re looking kinda green around the gills, Spock.”
“That would be due to my Vulcan blood, doctor.”
“No, I mean you’re growing gills.”
At first, Spock thinks, surely McCoy is joking. But the assumption quickly fades when he sees the look on McCoy’s face. He touches the side of his neck and his fingers come away slightly slimy. He looks at his hand and see scales.
There’s the usual panic whenever unexplainable phenomena occur. He winds up in the isolation ward with Chapel, who is in full hazmat gear and is carrying a bottle of water with a spray top. She spritzes him occasionally and that helps with the itchy, dry skin, but it doesn’t stop the slow progression of the disease. If it is a disease.
It takes only a week for his legs to fuse together, skin growing first dry, then rough, the scaly. He forgoes pants and mourns the fact he can no longer wear his favorite boots with the little black heel. His feet flatten and shift into flowing fins. The scales are smooth to the touch now, and match the pale green scales on the back of his hands. Thankfully his upper body remains relatively the same, but now he’s heaving trouble breathing.
McCoy discovers the diseases isn’t communicable and then spends four sleepless nights in his room, along with Scotty and Chekov, and together the four of them build a tank that Spock can submerge himself in. At least he won’t suffocate in the meantime. It takes days for them to get the salinity right and meanwhile Spock is sluggish and tired all the time. Sulu transplants some seaweed and rocks into the tank and Spock tells him it’s illogical, but secretly he feels better anyway.
After the tank is complete McCoy refuses to leave, even though Spock is fine for the time being. Spock curls his tail up to his body and watches as McCoy eventually passes out, slumped against the glass. The glass is warmer where his body is, and Spock presses against it. He thinks he can feel McCoy’s dreams through the glass, but they are muddied by the water. Fuzzy and disjointed. Like passing through a haze.
Work on a cure is slow. Or perhaps a cure will never come. Spock has trouble parsing McCoy’s increasingly vague updates. He finds himself growing isolated. Alone. He can’t even work, because he can’t bring the electronics into the tank with him.
He calls McCoy in and demands to be let out.
He touches his hand to the glass as McCoy lists all the reasons that he shouldn’t be out and about. Spock neatly negates them all and finally McCoy stops and sighs. Spock thinks he’s smiling.
“Got something for you.”
It’s a breathing device.
He still has to be fully submerged once every four hours, and he needs to use a wheelchair to get around, but now he’s free. He tries to go to his quarters but McCoy stops him.
“Oh no, no more slacking. You’re fit for duty.”
McCoy wheels him, protesting, to the turbolift. He’s shocked to find that ramps have been installed along the way. And on the bridge Jim’s chair is gone, and in its place is a sunken wading pool.
“Sulu and Chekov already love it,” Jim tells him with a grin. “They’ve been competing to see who can get the most ridiculous swimwear past dress code.”
Spock looks over to where Sulu is at the helm in a command-gold bikini and Chekov is wearing three pairs of Bermuda shorts, one pair on his legs and another on each arm. He’s fairly certain none of that meets dress code, but he says nothing. He’s too thankful.
He feels McCoy standing by his workstation. When he looks up, McCoy is smiling.
“I’ll get back to work on that cure.”
“Take your time, Doctor,” Spock says, his voice accented now with the sound of popping bubbles. “There is no urgency.”
He curls his tail up to his body and gets to work mapping the stars.