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Chapter 1 of Only Good For Legends

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Deputy Police Chief Murray Johnson is a thin, almost gangly man; his body looks more suited to a teenage human boy than to someone in his early fifties. His eyes are watery and there is a surprising amount of nose hair that protrudes from each nostril, like a misplaced mustache. He is not looking up, but rather down at the PADD on his desk.

"So, Detective..." Johnson trails off, his lips twitching as he tries to pronounce the first name. Finally, he settles on, "Spock? That right?"

"Yes," Spock replies, leaning back in the guest chair. He wants to sit up straight, but he's been here, looking at Johnson not looking at him, for almost fifteen minutes and it's clear that Johnson wants him to be nervous. Spock smiles, instead. "Don't worry about my first name; a lot of humans can't manage it."

"Oh." After a moment, Johnson continues. "So, you're here from IntraPlanet Disputes Division, San Francisco.”

“Yes.”

Johnson nods absently, as though distracted from the questioning. But Spock has been a police officer for five years, has been a homicide detective at IDD for three, and he knows exactly what it looks like when someone’s going for the throat. He keeps himself relaxed when Johnson continues, “From what I can read between the lines here, looks like you got in some hot water and they wanted to either fire you or kill you. Instead they gave you to us." He sets the PADD down and mirrors Spock's slouch; his smile is not amused. "Lucky, lucky us."

Spock doesn’t respond.

"And you're Vulcan, right?" Johnson actually cranes his neck to look at Spock's ears, although they're hidden; Spock hasn't worn his hair in the traditional style since he was a child. "If I didn't know better I think you were just being trendy with the way you do your eyebrows. I didn't think they allowed non-natives into the Force. How'd you manage that?"

"My mother is Amanda Grayson, a human," Spock says; he doesn't expect the Chief to know her, but it’s harder than he thought to break the habit. The first time he admitted to her that he'd used her name to gain access to privileged information, she took him out to dinner. "I’m a citizen of both Earth and Vulcan, although I haven't been there for about twelve years."

Twelve years, one month, seventeen days.

Johnson nods again, although this time it’s genuine disinterest. He leans forward, elbows on the desk. "All right, so, I want to give you a little introduction to how things go around here. Midwest General Division isn't quite as high-voltage as IDD, but we're running a hell of a lot shorter-staffed, so you'll be working just as hard. You'll be on night shift, eight to four, responding to incidents; you're a Detective, we might as well use all your valuable training to figure out who put laxatives in the Tillerman's well or what kind of broken bottle was used in the latest bar fight." He sounds irritable, but it doesn't seem to have anything to do with Spock himself; Spock is beginning to believe that this may be the man's baseline character. "I can't afford to partner you with anyone; we're going to need you feet on ground. But I'll have McKabe show you the ropes and get you settled for the first few shifts; he's Monitoring Officer, he knows Iowa better than anyone. Have you met him yet?"

At last, a direct question. "No," Spock says, "Though I have read his file."

"Of course," Johnson sighs, "I'll bet you read all of our files."

Human affrontery with attention to detail has always baffled Spock. He hates paperwork, but he's learned to be good at it; frequently crimes are so large, so all-encompassing, that their traces can be found only in the barest hints at the margins of the documents. "You would win that bet," he says. "I wondered if you could cast any illumination on Officer McKabe's character, since I am eager to question him directly but I don’t care to offend him."

This is an exaggeration; he does not care very much if he offends anyone. He’s in Iowa because he has to be, because he cannot work for IDD until people stop recognizing him , and this is the closest he can be to San Francisco while staying on the Force. In the meantime, he’ll do his job to the best of his ability, but he’s not willing to waste energy making friends with these people.

Johnson, who had made to stand up and escort Spock from his office, sits down again. His expression is wary. "What kind of illumination were you looking to get?"

Spock shrugs again."Nothing serious. Just interesting patterns. For example, I noticed that in the past five years, McKabe has arrested the same man in almost every theft case he is given. Seeing that McKabe's territory covers the Riverside Shipyards, it seems that the offender in question must be someone of interest to Starfleet. Yet there are only three convictions for this offender on file, none of which have anything to do with the shipyards or theft. It’s as though McKabe has a personal grudge against this person, which given his relationship, seems unlikely."

Johnson, who has looked steadly more amused throughout Spock's explanation, breaks out into a grin. "Aw, hell. You're talking about Jim Kirk, right?"

*

McKabe resembles Johnson to a remarkable degree - "Cousins," he explains - though his nose is broken, and is muscular where his cousin is wiry. He is also hostile, which he masks with forced joviality.

"So what can I tell the great detective about our hometown boy?" he asks, hands clenched on the driving controls of his vehicle. They are sweeping the Plains; from about 50,000 kilometers up, the Midwest is a soft blanket of lights, masked occasionally by clouds. The radio gives periodic updates, but no serious reports have come in yet. But it's early, just turned midnight.

"I was curious as to why you would continually arrest him for crimes that you cannot prove he committed," Spock says. "It seems--"

"Illogical?" McKabe supplies.

Spock pauses. "Like a waste of time," he says.

"That's Jimmy all right. Biggest waste of time on the planet." There is something savage under McKabe's tone. "I used to think he’d be something - first time I met him, he was twelve years old and had just driven his stepdad’s antique auto off Riverside Quarry. Clawed his way up from the cliffside and asked me if there was a problem."

The incident is in the records. "You married his mother a year after that, correct? I assume after she had divorced the stepfather who owned the antique."

McKabe’s knuckles are white on the controls, but he chuckles easily enough. "And she divorced me two years after that. I really thought--" McKabe seemed to wrench himself out of his introspection. "Well, this is the only way we get to talk to each other now, in between the arrest and the booking."

"It seems like an extreme way to have a family chat."

"You've never met Jim," McKabe says. “Although trust me, if you’re taking a night beat? You will.”

"I look forward to it."

"Really? Well, wouldn't want to have you waiting on something like that." McKabe starts their descent, a trifle too abruptly. Spock flexes his hands on his thighs in an effort not to clutch at the safety straps; they are going at close to 400 kilometers an hour, and if there’s a crash it won’t matter what he is holding onto. "We'll stop by his hangout for a visit. I'm due for my coffee and donut anyway."

*

The Liftoff is a bar, or more accurately a dive, given the number of antiquated vehicles and bikes outside. There are an unusually large number of Starfleet cadets coming in and out, laughing and talking too loudly, proud in their new uniforms. "Is this a pickup point for recruits?" Spock asks as they get out of the vehicle.

McKabe looks sour. "Sure is."

Spock follows McKabe inside. They pass a few Starfleet officers who are standing just inside the door; a captain, by his insignia, looks surprised to see them. "Problem, officers?"

McKabe hesitates. "No sir, just meeting up with someone for a quiet drink."

Just then, there's the sound of breaking glass and the loud, pounding music is suddenly cut off. "I think you may have missed that part of the evening’s entertainment,” the captain says.

All three of them push through the doors and into a brawl; a cadet has just shoved a young man in a leather jacket away from her, into the waiting arms of several much larger cadets. The man is bloodied and laughing, clearly affected by drink and endorphins, although his reflexes are still good; he eels out of the grip of one cadet just in time to allow another to punch the first in the face.

McKabe simply stands there, scowling. "Is this not the correct time to intercede?" Spock asks.

McKabe gives him a look, but blares the riot horn at his belt; everyone is brought up short, the cadets looking abashed, the man with the leather jacket looking cheerful. "McKabe!" he calls. "Man, it's been too long!"

The captain, standing at Spock's shoulder, moves forward. "What the hell is going on here?"

"Well, you see," explains the man in the leather jacket, "I made advances toward this lovely young woman, who is majoring in xenolinguistics, and these fine upstanding gentlemen took great offense," he waves at the four male cadets, who are glaring at him over and around the shoulders of their fellow classmates who have belatedly come to restrain them. "Apparently they thought I was going to buy them drinks."

"Jesus, I can't take these kids anywhere," the captain says, low, before turning to Spock. "Officer, do you want to arrest any of my cadets? Or all of them?" He sounds perfectly willing to cooperate.

"I believe we will have to question the five cadets participating in this particular altercation," Spock says, gesturing to them. "However, I do not anticipate arresting anyone else, though I do note that none of them came to assist in any way."

"I’m noting that, too," the captain says, and turns to the crowd, his voice loud and commanding. "The rest of you, outside. Now." He reaches out to shake Spock's hand. "I'm Captain Pike," he says, "If you have--"

Clenching his teeth, Spock tries to hear Pike's words over the rush of information as he touches Pike's hand. Sore shoulder/fifty-three next month/I hope eyebrow-sculpting isn't coming back into fashion/why did I bother coming here anyway/tired/early morning -- he releases Pike's hand as soon as is polite and nods, furious that he can't recall what Pike said during those few seconds.

Fortunately, Pike doesn't seem to notice anything. "--but I want to know if you need to hold any of them longer than overnight. And if there's any problem with questioning, give me a call and I'll ensure full cooperation."

"Thank you very much, Captain," Spock says. "I will keep you informed. My name is Detective Spock."

"A pleasure. So, oh-eight-hundred is when we're shipping out. I'll be available until then." And he turns on his heel, following the last of the recruits.

Spock takes a moment to collect himself. He was spoiled in San Fransisco; high-fiving has been the local greeting for centuries, and such brief contact is usually not enough to cause anything more than momentary disorientation. But Iowans shake hands, and Spock still can't decide if he should risk the appearance of rudeness every time he meets someone, or risk the greater problem of possibly admitting later that he is a touch-telepath.

McKabe is watching him, looking annoyed. "You wanted to meet Jimmy?" he snaps, gesturing to the man in the leather jacket, who has slumped against the bar and is joking with a concerned-looking bartender. "There he is."

Spock watches Jim Kirk closely for a few moments. He is prodding carefully at his face, accepting the gauze that the bartender is offering him and sticking some pieces up his nose. He seems relaxed, almost happy. "In view of your history with Kirk," Spock says to McKabe, "Perhaps it would be prudent if I interviewed him, while you took statements from the cadets."

McKabe opens his mouth to say something that he will no doubt regret; Spock simply walks away, toward the bar.

"Citizen Kirk," he says, sliding onto the stool next to him. "I am Detective Spock, and I wish to ask you a few questions."

"Detective Spock," Kirk says, giving a bright and entirely insincere grin, "I would be happy to answer any questions you have for me." He stands up from the stool and abruptly, his legs give out from underneath him. "Just as soon as the floor stops spinning," he amends.

Spock pulls Kirk carefully to his feet. "Is there a doctor here?" he asks the bartender, who looks nervous.

"Uh," he says. "That guy, I think? He mentioned it earlier."

The man that the bartender indicates is hunched over a tall nearly-empty glass in the corner of the bar; the fight and its aftermath have evidently not distracted him from drinking it.

"Have him assist me," Spock orders, and drags Kirk to a booth, away from both the cadets and the exit.

"Wow, nice to meet you, too," Kirk says as he slides into the booth. Spock sits down next to him, and begins cataloguing his injuries. Broken nose, black eye, bloodied knuckles, and the way he winces indicates that he has several bruised ribs.

Asking if he's all right is a ridiculous question, so Spock simply waits until the belligerent-looking man at the bar, still clutching his drink, stumbles over and drops into the booth seat across from them. "What do you want?" he demands, before he takes a good look at Kirk. “You dragged me away from my stool so I could tell you this boy’s an idiot?”


”I wanted to ask if he was—“

“He’s fine. Nothing a bed and some painkillers won’t cure. He takes a punch pretty well,” the doctor observes, draining the rest of his glass. “But if you want my expert medical opinion, you’re going to have to buy me another drink.”

Spock reconsiders the wisdom of allowing the man to examine Kirk. “Doctor—“

"McCoy," the man mutters, scrabbling at his belt and pulling out a scanner. "And if you're about to say something insulting about how I shouldn't be looking over anyone while I'm tanked, I'd agree with you, but it's not looking like you'll get any better offers." He peers at the tricorder in his other hand. "He's fine," McCoy admits. "Just stupid."

"You know, I'm sitting right here," Kirk points out, reaching up to touch his nose again. McCoy bats it away.

"Don't touch that, unless you want a splinter of bone to slide up and pierce your brain in less than three seconds."

Kirk freezes. "Can that really happen?"

"No," Spock says.

"First time for everything," McCoy cautions.

”Did you witness the altercation?”

“If by witness the altercation you mean did I see the fight, sure. This kid hit on some skirt and got his ass handed to him by four of her valiant knights. Imagine my delight in knowing that I’ll be sharing dorm rooms with the likes of these children.”

Dr. McCoy is not wearing a uniform; his statement seems odd, but not pertinent to the question at hand. “Do you recall who threw the first punch?”

“The big one who looks like an ogre,” Dr. McCoy says. “Although I’d say this kid had it coming.”

“I did,” Kirk admits, leaning against the wall.

Spock turns to Kirk. “Is there anything you wish to add or modify?"

"Just that I could've taken care of it if you hadn't come busting in," Kirk says.

"Oh, please," scoffs Dr. McCoy, "They would've had you flat on the nearest table taking turns smashing your face in. Four against one ain’t good odds."

Kirk pouts. "You're very cynical, Doctor."

"Comes with the territory."

Kirk makes a face, then turns his attention to Spock. "So what were you and McKabe doing here, anyway? There's no way you were responding to a call; I'd barely gotten warmed up before you dumped cold water all over us."

Spock ignores the analogy, which is more suited to sex than to violence. "McKabe agreed to spend our shift break here, so that I might meet you."

"Little old me? I'm flattered and intrigued." Kirk looks neither; he looks drunk and bored.

"I wished to further understand your character, since your arrest record offers few insights as to why you're--"

"The way I am?" Kirk shrugs. "Call it little-orphan-itis. No strong parental figures in my life. Are you sure you're not a reporter? This feels like an interview."

"My apologies if I have made you uncomfortable."

"Apology accepted." Kirk shrugs again. "I guess there's a reluctance to bring the son of George Kirk - beloved native son, long may he be remembered - up on charges." Kirk's words come easily, but Spock detects bitterness, sour failure, under those words. "Looks bad in the news. Besides," he adds, and the bitterness is sharper now, "They can never prove I was involved."

"Fortunately, I have all the proof I need for the present time," Spock says. "James Kirk, I am arresting you for drunk and disorderly conduct. You will please come with me."

"Wait just a damn minute," slurs the doctor, swaying only slightly. "I'm not letting you take him just because you think he's a spoiled brat who needs to be taught a lesson."

"Thank you," says Kirk. It sounds remarkably genuine.

"I quite understand your objections, Doctor," Spock says, sounding as Vulcan as he knows how. "However, in light of the recent altercation, it seems clear that Citizen Kirk is--"

"To hell with your citizen --" Dr. McCoy snaps, prodding Spock's chest with one finger. "I want to know what authority you think you've got to arrest a man who was just having a quiet drink when a bunch of thugs came and played whack-a-mole with his head."

"Hey, I got a few punches in," Kirk protested.

"Your face looks like a dead armadillo," McCoy scoffs.

"If you harbor any concerns about Citizen Kirk's night that he will spend in the holding cell," Spock says, "I can assure you that he will have company."

"Yeah? You going to sing him lullabies the whole night?" McCoy demands.

"No," Spock says, "Doctor McCoy, I am placing you under arrest for drunk and disorderly conduct."

"Wait - hold on!" McCoy hiccups. "I'll cop to being drunk, but to hell if I'm being disorderly."

"If you prefer, I could make the charge practicing medicine while compromised; however in view of the fact that that is a felony punishable by three years in prison, whereas a drunk and disorderly arrest will result merely in your spending an evening in a jail cell, I thought it might be preferable."

McCoy blinks a few times. "All right. I think."

As they slide out of the booth, McKabe comes up; the cadets are slinking out the doors, looking by turns ashamed and smug. The female cadet, a slender human with long hair and very pretty eyes, turns back at the door, as if wanting to help; but she, too, leaves.

"Jim, you stupid shit," McKabe sighs.

"I know, you're so disappointed in me. I think we'll save the spanking for later, though, Dad," Jim says, twisting the last word like a Cardassian knife.

Kirk passes out - or falls asleep - on the way to the precinct; Spock can hear McCoy muttering and occasionally shoving the other man back to his side. He wakes up just enough to wave at everyone cheerfully as they walk through to the holding cell, and sprawls on a bench, stretching out, comfortable. "Hey Doc," he says, ignoring Spock and McKabe on the other side of the forcefield, "You know any good drinking songs?"

"I'm from the South, kid," Dr. McCoy says. "I know all of them."

"I'll admit, Officer," Spock says as he and McKabe leave the drunk tank, fleeing the opening bars of a truly terrible song about someone named Edwina, "I can see the appeal of arresting James Kirk. I'm no longer surprised you do it so often."

McKabe almost smiles; it looks painful. "Problem is you always have to let him go the next morning," he says. "And there's an old saying; if you're the one who caged up a tiger yesterday, you better not be the one who lets him out tomorrow."

"From what I know of extinct Terran creatures, it would seem that there would be no one who should let out a tiger. I understand they were quite fierce."

"You haven't seen Jim with a hangover," says McKabe. "All right, it's four a.m.; I'm calling it a night."

Spock stays at the station; he can get in his four hours of sleep this afternoon, and he's curious to know what it is that Kirk will actually do once he's released. There seems to be a pattern which he at the time found curious but which now makes sense - Kirk would be arrested, released, and then arrested again within a week of the first arrest. The second arrest almost always involved a charge of vandalism to McKabe's car. One arrest warrant cited the disappearance of exactly one half the car - the back half - and its subsequent reappearance on the roof of the police station. In all cases, the charges were never substantiated.

But this time, it's Spock who arrested Kirk, and Spock who will release him. He's almost impatient to find out what will happen next.

At about six a.m., a cadet comes marching into the station - the female who had participated in the altercation. "I'd like to speak to someone about making bail for someone who was arrested last night," she says. "I don't know his name, but he was arrested at the Liftoff Bar a few hours ago."

Spock raises an eyebrow. "You are one of the cadets who beat him up," he observes mildly.

"What? No -" she looks appalled and almost nauseated at the suggestion. "I don't even know how to fight. I just shoved him off me when he landed on top of me."

"My mistake. I must have come in at an inopportune time."

She sets her jaw. "May I speak with him?"

There's no reason that she shouldn't. Spock leads her down to the drunk tank, where Kirk and Dr. McCoy are still singing. They have yet to agree on what they are singing, or which key they are singing in.

"Citizen Kirk," Spock says, pitching his voice to override the disharmonious noise, "You have a visitor."

Kirk blinks a few times, but he stands up steadily enough; he is evidently sober, which makes his singing both more baffling and less forgivable. "Hey," he says, surprised but smiling. "Uhura, right? Nice seeing you again."

Uhura looks incredibly uncomfortable. "I'm - I just wanted to - I'm sorry about last night, and I'm going to arrange bail for you. You're free to go."

Spock bites back a smile and says nothing. Kirk, on the other hand, has no such compunction.

"You're bailing me out? Why, Miss No-First-Name Uhura, that is awfully generous of you!" The smile he wears is now entirely calculated to offend. "But you see, I'm not actually being arrested for anything other than having a good time, which apparently is illegal in the great state of Iowa - trust me, I've been getting in trouble for it for years - and I've been free to go since about three o'clock this morning. Isn't that right, Officer Spock?"

"Detective Spock," Spock corrects him. "I have not seen any of your BA scans." It is not a lie; Officer Curie has been telling him every half hour.

Smirking, Kirk steps up to the BA scanner situated right next to the forcefield, and breathes into it. "Alcohol Level," the computer drones, "Zero point zero four seven."

"I mean, I can't fly a shuttlecraft right now," he says, stepping through the dropped forcefield, "But I'm probably safe to walk out of here."

Dr. McCoy, who is still slouched on the bench, seems to notice Uhura for the first time. "Oh, Hell," he slurs, "When do we have to be at the shipyard?"

Uhura, who had been glaring at Kirk (who was glaring at Spock), blinked and peered more closely at Dr. McCoy. "Are you a recruit?" she says doubtfully.

"Well, not by choice," Dr. McCoy says, heaving himself to his feet. "You could say I've been press-ganged."

Her jaw still clenched, Uhura seems to make a decision. "Fine. I'll take him with me. I'll bail him out."

"So sorry I couldn't be your damsel in distress," Kirk sneers; his face is unpleasant like that, and he walks out, calling over his shoulder, “Thanks for the hospitality, Detective Spock. Be seeing you.”

"What a piece of baktag," Uhura mutters.

Spock smiles, surprised. "I'm sure his mother would be surprised to learn that," he observes as they make their way back to his desk, to complete the paperwork.

She looks suddenly dismayed. "Oh, no. You speak Klingon?"

"Only the swear words," he admits.

This time, Uhura laughs; her earrings catch the light. "About ninety percent of Klingon is swear words," she says. He hands her a PADD with the standard release form and formal acknowledgement of custody. "So," she says, clearing her throat, "Can I ask, are you a Vulcan?"

There is a taboo in Earth culture against asking anyone about their bloodline; it stems from ancient intraplanetary conflict, and has made humans curiously circumspect in their questioning of Spock's own heritage, even when they are staring at his ears and eyebrows in blatant curiousity. Uhura is one of the first people to ask him so directly, and without a preliminary disclaimer of giving offense.

"My father was Vulcan. My mother is human."

Uhura stops filling out the forms - her expression is one of surprise. "But - there's only one woman who's ever married - oh my God, are you Amanda Grayson's son?" Her voice climbs the register to end on a startlingly high note; Spock nods but is afraid that the answer will cause her voice to climb even further.

It does. "Oh my God!" She reaches for Spock's hand before she flinches away. "I'm sorry - I was about to touch you, that's so rude," she says - gushes, really, her eyes shining with enthusiasm. "It's just - your mother's work on the Universal Translator, it's amazing. She's the reason I'm studying xenolinguistics. It's just... really incredible to meet you."

Spock blinks, unsure how to respond. She is the first human who has avoided touching him - the kindness of the gesture is curiously affecting. “Thank you,” he says. “I hope you will be able to take a class with her, while you are at Starfleet."

Uhura leans back in her chair, but her excitement is no less tangible. "Oh - I don't know. I mean, I hope to meet her, but I'm not sure if I'll get to take a class with her; they’re probably wait-listed for five years in advance. It'd be amazing, obviously." She ducks her head, tucking some hair behind her ear. "Sorry. I'm sure you get tired of people talking about her."

"As strange as we both may find it," he tells her, "There aren't many humans who are suitably appreciative of my mother's genius."

"So you're a mama's boy?" The phrase's judgemental implications are contradicted by her tone and smile. She is flirting with him, Spock realizes belatedly. Badly, which is perhaps why he didn't notice it before.

"Indeed," he agrees. "I'd be happy to arrange a meeting between the two of you. I visit San Francisco quite frequently."

Uhura blushes, and she finishes the form hastily. "I - um, I'd like that. The next time you're in San Fransisco." She pauses. "Even if your mom can't come along."

As Uhura leaves a few minutes later, half-supporting a very glum Dr. McCoy, Spock carefully tucks the frequency card that Uhura gave him. Perhaps this rotation won't be so dreary, after all.

*

An hour later, Spock feels he may have to revise that conjecture.

"Vids show no one in the lot," says Officer Curie. She is young, no more than twenty, and has a cold. "I swear -" she pauses to sneeze - "There's no way someone came in and messed with your vee."

"And yet my vehicle's antigrav unit has been disabled," Spock replies.

Officer Curie sneezes again. "Probably Kirk, then," she says, from behind a tissue.

Spock is inclined to agree.

However, the morning is mild, and his new apartment is no more than seven kilometers away from the station. He signs out and goes back to his now-useless vehicle, pulling out his jacket and hat, and starts walking down the road.

He is utterly unsurprised when Kirk pulls up alongside him a half hour later. "What seems to be the trouble, Detective? Flat tire?"

Kirk is on a vintage motorcycle, without a helmet or a visible forcefield. "You know exactly what the trouble is, Citizen," Spock says. "I would ask you to give me a ride, but it doesn't look like your bike can accommodate a second passenger."

Kirk looks a bit disgruntled. "Uh. No, it can’t," he says.

Spock touches the brim of his hat and starts walking again. He can hear the quiet hum of the bike behind him.

"So aren't you going to try to find out what happened? To your vee, I mean."

Spock keeps walking. "You assume that I don't already know what happened to it, Citizen," he says. "You somehow managed to install a subroutine in the department's security vids, and erased all digital evidence of your presence in the lot; you then disabled my vehicle's antigrav unit and, although I am not an expert on ground-based vees, I suspect you stole several key pieces of machinery that will make it very difficult for me to get it repaired."

"That's a very interesting hypothesis," Kirk says brightly.

"I understand why Officer McKabe arrests you so often, since it is his only legal method of revenging himself on you," Spock says. "But I am curious as to why you continually indulge in these counterattacks. The efforts you go through do not seem to yield anything other than temporary inconvenience."

"Maybe I like yielding temporary inconvenience," Kirk replies. He sounds bored; Spock reflects that a young man with his parentage and intelligence must have already gotten many speeches regarding his potential.

“Perhaps,” he says, and lets the subject drop.

"So," Kirk says after a few moments, "You're new."

"To this area, certainly."

"Where are you from?"

Spock glances at Kirk, who is watching the road more carefully than he needs to. "I am most recently from San Francisco, where I worked as a Detective to the the Interplanetary Disputes Division.”

“Wow. All the way from IDD,” Kirk says, pronouncing it like a word rather than the initials. “What’d you do to get stuck here?”

“I arrested a diplomat for murder without regard to his rank within the Federation, and refused to release him upon the request of my superior officer, his superior officer, or ultimately the President. The political ramifications necessitated that I either be fired or transferred somewhere inconspicuous until such time as the trial is concluded."

“Is he guilty?”

It’s a surprising question, coming from someone who’s considered a petty criminal. “Yes. Though that ultimately does not factor into the matter.”

“So this is punishment?” Kirk looks amused, but tightly. There is a curious pride that Iowans possess.

“Would you prefer me to state that I wish to be here?” Spock asks. “I cannot oblige you; I never lie.”

This time the bike really does wobble into his path, and he braces himself against Kirk and the bike rather than be forced off the road. The leather jacket is warm against his palm, the metal hot. Kirk’s eyes are very clear, a pale blue that is rare in humans. “Never?” is what Kirk says, instead of an apology.

“Never,” Spock confirms. Of all the Vulcan habits he’s tried to break, it is the one that cannot be shaken; truth follows him like a hungry dog.

“So what was the real reason you arrested me last night?” Kirk asks, still leaning his bike into Spock’s body.

“I assume you mean by ‘the real reason’ some other reason than that you broke the law.” Spock says, and Kirk’s eye-roll seems to indicate the affirmative. “In that case: because you wanted me to.”

Kirk looks startled, and he twitches out of Spock’s hands, kickstarting his bike. “Uh. If you call WJ Repair, they’ll fix your vee. No charge.” And he’s gone, dust stumbling upwards in his wake along the flat stretch of road.

*

Spock's apartment is comfortable, though it appears a little empty; although he’d brought all his possessions with him to Iowa, his apartment in San Francisco had been considerably smaller, mementos and books and pictures pushing against each other. He can’t quite enjoy the extra room here, yet – it feels too much like waste brought on by plenty. Iowa can afford to be generous with space; it has so little else.

He sleeps for a few hours and communicates with the repair shop once he wakes up, and is informed that someone will pick him up in a few minutes to “take a look at the wounded.”

“Thank you,” Spock says.

“Sure thing,” the woman says, and signs off without further acknowledgement.

He is picked up by a woman driving a replica of a Model T Ford, outfitted with modern antigrav and forcefields instead of windshields; when she hollers, “Climb in, Detective,” he recognizes her as the same woman who spoke to him on comm. He also deduces that she’s heard about him already; probably from Kirk.

“Yeah, Jimmy called me a few hours ago. I think this is the first time he’s ever suffered vandal’s remorse,” she says, swinging the automobile around in a tight circle – there are no stabilizers – and back onto the road.

“Are you implying that you believe James Kirk may have been responsible for what has happened to my vehicle?”

The woman grinned, eyes on the road. “He said you were funny.”

The damage is, as Spock had predicted, not serious but difficult to repair; they end up towing the car back to the repair shop, where the woman offers the use of "a loaner."

"I'm unfamiliar with this term," Spock says.

"A car to drive. In the meantime. While yours gets fixed." The woman speaks slowly, as though talking to a small child. Spock cannot find it in himself to take umbrage, however; her eyes are kind. "Take the T-bird, Jimmy swears she won't break down anymore."

Spock turns to where the woman is gesturing; another antique automobile, with genuine rubber wheels, bakes in the sun. "I'm afraid I have never been trained in the operation of one of those," Spock says.

"Shame. All right, we've got a vee in the back; it's old, but it shouldn't pack too many surprises. I'll comm you when yours is ready."

"Thank you." Spock hesitates. "If I may ask, what is your name?"

The woman, who had already begun working, twists to look at him. "Oh, Detective, I'm sure you know already."

Spock suspects he does, but, "I merely ask for corroboration."

She smiles. "Winona Turbino. Before that, I was Winona McKabe. Before that, I was Winona Westlake. Before that, I was Winona Kirk."

"And before that?" Spock asks.

She’s disappeared again under the hood of the vehicle, but her voice carries. "Hell, Detective, even I'm not really sure."

*

Spock begins his first shift alone that evening; the "loaner" doesn’t seem to operate at altitudes over 100 meters above the ground. Spock is forced to use the roadways when responding to various complaints; he arrives late to another bar brawl, and has to take a statement from someone who’s lost four teeth and part of an ear.

At about oh-two-hundred, he gets a call. “Report in, a couple of kids are skinny-dipping in LaPolnza’s pond, he wants someone to get them out.”

“Can’t he get them out himself?” Spock asks. It’s been a long night, full of people who think of police officers as chaperones or mediators or just another set of fists. He doesn’t want to play fisherman, too.

“He’s a hundred and two, so no, he can’t.” Curie gives him the location without further elaboration, but she does say “Sorry,” before signing out.

He finds the pond in question with minimal difficulty, and he finds the two criminals with even less. The moon is full tonight, and he can clearly see a young woman and young man, laughing and splashing together. Although they must have heard his approach, they don’t acknowledge his presence, and for a moment he simply waits on the shoreline.

They are near the middle of the pond, and clearly it is fairly deep; only their heads and shoulders are visible. But Spock doesn’t need to see skin to know that they’re naked; the way they swim and brush against each other, laughing and talking in low voices, tells its own story.

“You just gonna watch, or are you coming in?” the man shouts, and Spock realizes that his vehicle might be doomed to spend the next year in and out of Mrs. Turbino’s repair shop.

“Citizen Kirk, please come toward the shore. And you, madam,” he adds. “I’m not sure what your name is, but I’d like you to come here.”

“Why? If we stay out here, you can’t arrest us. But if we do what you say, you can arrest us. You can understand if I say thanks but no thanks, right?”

“Declining to cooperate is unfortunately not an option,” Spock says, and the woman starts swimming toward him, eeling away from Kirk’s flailing hands.

When she comes toward the shoreline, however, she seems to hesitate. “Uh. Could you maybe hand me my clothes?” she asks. “I’d like to not get arrested naked.”

Spock hands her a Starfleet cadet uniform, keeping his eyes averted. After a moment, the sounds of cloth rustling cease and she says, “Okay.” The uniform is now wet from her skin, but she seems more comfortable, if still embarrassed.

“Thank you very much for your cooperation,” Spock says. “Please do not swim naked – or fully clothed – in this pond again.”

“So, you’re not going to arrest me?” She sounds equal part incredulous and grateful.

“I believe that this is your first offense, therefore I see no reason not to simply give you a warning. Would you care to give me your name?”

“Cadet Marcia O’Reilly,” she says, almost cheerful now that she’s not worried about arrest.

“Thank you. I would recommend you go back to your barracks for the evening, so that you may make your morning shuttle tomorrow.”

“Thanks,” she says, then seems to remember. “Uh – I guess I’ll wait for Jimmy?” the woman says, glancing over her shoulder. “I don’t want him to think I just abandoned him or something. He’s a really sweet guy. I mean. For a townie.”

“I will assure Citizen Kirk of your desire to stay, Cadet,” Spock says. “But since I do have to arrest Kirk for failure to comply with a police investigation, I will have to arrest everyone who can be implicated. Which means that you, despite the fact that you have cooperated, will be charged, processed, and spend at least twenty-four hours in jail. None of which will reflect well on your Academy record.”

This has the expected effect; the woman vanishes, leaving Kirk – still treading water in the middle of the pond – to yell at him again. “It’s a lot easier when they don’t know the rules, isn't it, Detective?”

“I assure you, Citizen, everything I told her was the truth.”

“What investigation am I a part of, exactly?”

“The investigation into what happened to my vehicle,” Spock says. There is a dock that extends out into the pond; he walks down it, toward the dim shape of Kirk.

“Come on, man, you can’t take a joke?”

“No. Besides,” Spock adds, “I have more than enough evidence to actually obtain a conviction. Which would make me something of a celebrity in Iowa, considering your record. So you would do well to comply with my requests.”

“I guess I shouldn’t stand in the way of something like that,” Kirk mutters. He hauls himself out of the water and onto the dock in one movement and stands there, naked and dripping, a smirk on his face.

“Thank you,” Spock says. “Where are your clothes?”

“Don’t need ‘em,” Kirk says.

“You wish to be arrested naked,” Spock says, just to be clear.

“Yep.”

Spock considers. Either Kirk honestly doesn’t care if he’s arrested naked, or he thinks this will make Spock blanch at making the arrest.


Or it’s another test. Spock has been passing them so far – he doesn’t think Kirk would have arranged to have his car repaired otherwise.

“Citizen Kirk,” he says, “I am placing you under house arrest for the next twelve hours. If you would care to follow my vehicle on your own back to your home, your cooperation would be most appreciated.”

Kirk frowns, flicks water out of his eyes. “You want me to drive myself home and stay there for twelve hours.” He says it in the same tone of voice that Spock had used to clarify whether or not Kirk wanted to be arrested without clothes on.

“Correct,” Spock says. “You may drive naked if you prefer, but although the temperature is quite pleasant, I believe you would find the wind chill would—“

He’s interrupted by the snorting laugh Kirk gives, something that sounds almost involuntary. “All right, all right,” he says, waving a hand at Spock, “You win. Let me find my pants, I think she threw them…” he pads down the dock toward the shore. Spock follows.

“The owner of this property does not approve of your trespass,” he says. “It would be advisable either to refrain from using this particular spot, or to secure his permission beforehand.”

“Oh, Hank’s fine with it,” Kirk says, dismissive. He bends down and retrieves what looks like an undershirt. He slides it on and continues his search. Spock concentrates his parameters on the other side of the dock; from what he can gather, Kirk and his paramour had taken off their clothes with both haste and enthusiasm, so they could have fallen anywhere. “It’s Hank’s son who probably got his panties in a bunch. Installed a whole bunch of sensors a few months ago to ‘protect his father’s interests.’ I haven’t gotten around to disabling them yet.”

“I would prefer that you not mention any crimes you plan on committing,” Spock advises. “I’ve discovered a boot.”

“Awesome.” Kirk comes over to take it; he’s found his pants, and has folded his leather jacket carefully on the dock’s railing. He catches Spock’s eye. “What?”

Spock shrugs. “Merely wondering if you had found your briefs as well, or if you had simply opted to put your pants on without first locating them.”

“Well, Detective,” Kirk says, “There’s one way to find out.” He steps a few inches closer; he is much better at flirting than Nyota was.

Spock raises his eyebrow. Kirk is full of surprises. “Your other boot is in the bush behind you.”

*

Mrs. Turbino does not comm him; instead, three days later, Kirk is waiting with his vehicle outside the precinct. Dawn is still an hour away, but the lights of the parking lot make him easy to spot.

"Hey, Detective," Kirk says, leaning against the hood of the vehicle. "She's all fixed up and ready for action."

Spock approaches. "Please tell your mother I appreciate her assistance."

"What about me? I helped," Kirk says; his tone is light, but Spock looks at his face and sees something almost - it is difficult for Spock to be certain what it is he sees.

"Indeed; however, since you were the one who damaged my vehicle in the first place, it more or less cancels your contribution."

Kirk's face is now blank of expression. "Gonna arrest me?"

Spock shrugs. "I don't see the point, frankly," he says, opening the door to his vehicle. It smells different; Mrs. Turbino must have cleaned it using something other than the usual dispel field.

“I thought you said you had enough to insure a conviction.”

“I do. But I never filed a complaint, nor do I intend to. Some crimes are defined by the injured party, and since I am not injured, I declined to define it.”

"That's not police officer thinking," Kirk comments, straightening up. He runs a hand down the hood of the vehicle.

"Perhaps not. But I've found that to sacrifice one's judgment for another's results in events that no one is responsible for."

Kirk laughs. "I'm sure that means something, but I don't have any idea what."

"Good night, Citizen Kirk," Spock says.

"Jim. Call me Jim."

"Only if I do not have to arrest you again."

"No promises, Detective."

*

Nyota laughs when he tells her the story of his vehicle's damage and repair. "And his mom fixed it for him? That's priceless."

"We're good for something," Amanda teases, smiling slyly from behind her glass of wine. "The future belongs to spry old ladies who spoil their sons."

Spock has already begun regretting his promise to introduce them; but his mother was, if possible, even more eager to meet Nyota. "There aren't a lot of humans interested in the Project," she'd said, "And if she's any kind of xenolinguist, I'm probably going to end up blackmailing or bribing her into it anyway. This way, she gets the illusion of choice."

But now, at dinner, Spock understands that her mother's motives have as much to do with matchmaking as anything else. She’s opened an expensive bottle of wine, and ordered food from a restaurant, rather than the replicator; and the glances she throws at Spock are very pointed.

"How do you like Starfleet?" he asks Nyota.

She coughs, and looks surprised. "Uh, it's - it's really great. I'm sorry," she adds, "I just didn't expect that kind of question from you. You know, about liking something."

Amanda laughs. "Spock isn't exactly your typical Vulcan."

"Oh - I'm sorry, I didn’t -" Nyota trails off, and Spock can tell she's embarrassed, worried. “I know – as much as anybody knows about what happened. To your father, I mean. But I guess I don’t really know much about you.”

"Ah," Spock says. His mother hides her smile behind her glass of wine. "What would you like to know?"

"Um. Have you lived here long? On Earth, I mean?" She cringes slightly, fighting that human instinct to never ask intrusive questions, but if she is joining Starfleet she should learn quickly how to get over it.

Spock sets down his glass. "Since I was twelve years old. After the death of my father, my mother and I moved here, and my mother continued work on the Universal Translator Project."

"So you're... was it difficult? To adjust?"


His mother continues to say nothing; Spock shrugs carefully. "It was challenging. I went from rigidly structured classes and classmates who teased me for my human eyes, to open-air 'dialoguing' with teachers and classmates who teased me for my Vulcan ears. The result is someone who can recognize a joke, but always expects them to be at his expense. Also," he adds, because Nyota is showing signs of distress at this description of his childhood - a childhood which was quite pleasant, just perhaps lonely, "I have terrible difficulty making jokes, myself."

"You do just fine," Amanda says, "Although please don't try any more of the chicken who crossed the road ones."

"I haven't done that for years," Spock protests, smiling, "And you did tell me some of them were funny."

"Human mothers always think their children are funny. And handsome, and talented," Amanda says. "Fortunately, you've gotten independent confirmation of most of those virtues."

"I would hardly call being attractive a virtue in and of itself; it is an ancient human superstition that beauty denotes goodness."

"You were saying," Amanda says firmly, to Nyota, "That you are enjoying Starfleet Academy?"

Nyota looks somewhat relieved; Spock wonders if his obvious affection for his mother has made her uncomfortable. He has never introduced someone he was interested in, romantically, to his mother, and it’s more difficult to keep track of people’s reactions than it usually is. "Yes, yes, I do. It's not as... overwhelming as I thought it would be, academically."

"That's code for boring if I ever heard it," Amanda comments.

Nyota looks caught between ashamed and amused. "It's not that, it's just - Starfleet has a lot of preliminary course requirements--"

"That can be waived with the authorization of a supervising professor, I believe." Amanda takes another sip from her glass. "I think I could arrange that, if you're willing."

"What?" Nyota's fork is frozen halfway to her mouth; her eyes are very wide.

Amanda leans forward, smiling. "I need more students to act as my dogsbodies here on Earth while I'm making modifications to the Universal Translator. As you know, my late husband and I developed a great deal of it, but with the new alliances and planetary agreements being formed every day, we need the Translator to be smarter, more flexible. Would you be willing to work directly with me, in exchange for skipping over some of those preliminary classes that aren't as 'overwhelming' as you'd expected?"

"I - yes, I would be." Nyota has put down her fork; too excited, clearly, to continue eating.

“And you were worried I’d embarrass you,” Amanda chides Spock, who smiles.

Later that evening, after Nyota has left with a hug to Amanda and a shy touch of fingertips to Spock, Amanda raises an eyebrow at her son. "I hope you don't mind that I just poached your girlfriend," she says.

"She is not my girlfriend," Spock tells her. “This is the first time I have seen Nyota since meeting her.”

"And you've talked on the comm how many times?"

"A great many," he admits.

"You like her?" Amanda sits down on the couch, and Spock sits next to her; she reaches out and clasps his hand in her gloved one, a gesture as familiar to him as the way she fusses with the collar of his shirt.

"I do. Very much. She is one of the few people I know who is curious about me, rather than curious about my job or my... past. It is gratifying to be the subject of interest."

"Oh, she's interested all right," Amanda teases. "So - tell me about Iowa. Are you really doing okay out there all on your own?"

"Okay has variable meanings, Mother," he points out.

She sighs. "Spock."

"I am as well as can be expected. The Midwest is not as dull as I'd feared; though it is more difficult to make--"

"Friends?"

"That's never been a concern," he points out.

"Well, maybe it should be. Although this James Kirk character sounds interesting. What's he like?"

"Like an overgrown k'kloada," Spock says, and Amanda laughs.

"Yes, but I remember how much you loved yours, when you were growing up. You couldn't go to sleep unless they were snuggled in next to you.”

"I doubt sleeping with James Kirk would have such a soothing effect," he says.

Amanda laughs again. "Probably not. God only knows what he'd try to dismantle," and Spock has to pretend to be very offended while he goes to make them tea.

*

Spock adjusts more easily than he would have predicted. Johnson was right - there is less to do here, but there are far fewer officers to do it, and everyone works to their capacity, even when responding to what McKabe calls "cats-up-trees and kids-these-days."

He ends up picking up extra shifts on occasion, though he fills his off-hours admirably well, with visits to San Francisco that become more regular and less involved with his mother, although he does mention to Nyota that he believes her to feel far more strongly about Amanda than she does about him. "Well, she's an awful tease," Nyota replies, curled up next to him on the bland hotel couch. "Keeps promising to teach me Tamarian, but I have a feeling she's just leading me on."

"That must be truly terrible for you," Spock says, smiling, and puts her glass of wine on the table before reaching out to touch her hand. "I can assure you, I have no such intentions not to follow through."

"Why, Detective, I think you just made a joke," she murmurs against his mouth.

Kirk becomes a regular part of his duties; he arrests him three times in five weeks, twice more for drunk and disorderly, and once for a crime he has trouble believing even exists.

"No, really," Kirk explains cheerfully, as Spock cuffs him, "Cow-tipping is a very serious crime. Not to be taken lightly."

"I shall take your word for it," Spock says. There are a number of tire and anti-grav tracks in the dirt, indications of several vehicles that took off in some haste recently; but when Spock responded to the call, he found only Kirk and his motorcycle.

"Kind of ironic, don't you think?" Kirk shifts his shoulders, leaning against the side of Spock's vehicle as though they were having a chat. Spock climbs over the fence and turns on his searchlight. "What are you looking for?" he hears Kirk yell.

"One person unassisted," Spock calls back, "Could not exert enough force to knock over a fully-grown bovine, even if you were capable of approaching one undetected. Therefore, either you brought machinery to accomplish this, or you were accompanied by a person or persons unknown."

"Machinery, farm animals, and a person or persons unknown," Kirk shouts, "You make Iowa sound so exotic!"

As Spock suspects, there is no machinery, although the cows are understandably disturbed by his presence and he has to move quickly to avoid them. As he comes back toward the fence, he sees Kirk leaning against the fence and laughing as though he can't get enough oxygen to breathe.

There is a human tendency, to laugh when one sees another person laughing even when one has no idea why - he has never before felt this impulse before now, but he finds himself smiling. Kirk takes a few deep breaths, still laughing, and when he looks up at Spock his eyes are squinted, laughlines fanning out.

"I've never seen anybody outside a rodeo clown move that fast, Detective," he says. "Better jump the fence before Bo comes after you." He gestures to a large bull coming toward him at speed.

Spock does so, and only then notices - "You appear to have escaped from your handcuffs," he observes.

Kirk tosses them to Spock. "I'll let you know when I feel like being tied up, deal?" He slides into the passenger seat of Spock's vehicle.

Spock attempts, on their way back to Riverside, to convince Kirk to refrain from further petty misdemeanors, in view of the fact that they only hinder any potential he can realize.

"Any potential I could realize probably vanished around my third arrest, Detective," Kirk remarks.

"Nevertheless, it is incumbent upon you to--"

"Why do you talk like that, anyway?" Kirk interrupts. "Like you're reading from a computer manual."

He doesn’t seem to be curious, but it’s a fair enough question. "A result of growing up on Vulcan," Spock tells him. "My mother taught me to use contractions, and when speaking to humans that I wish to put at ease, I can sound human. However, unless I am thinking conciously about it, I tend to use the speech patterns of my childhood."

"Wow. You're a Vulcan?" Kirk reaches out before Spock can duck away, tucks a strand of Spock's hair behind his ears. "Huh. I guess I should've figured that out." He withdraws his hand after a moment.

"I am half Vulcan. My mother is human."

"No way, you're Amanda Grayson's kid? That's pretty cool," Kirk says. Spock turns, startled; Kirk was staring at his ear, but he blinks, smiles lazily. "She's pretty amazing. Big shoes to fill, though, the inventor of the Universal Translator and all. Makes sense you didn't try going into the diplomatic corps. Did you get quizzed in different languages at the dinner table growing up?"

"Yes," Spock admits.

"Moms are all alike," Kirk sighs. "So, if you're only half Vulcan, is it still physically painful for you to say 'yeah' instead of 'affirmative'? Or did you get the ability to talk casual from your mom? Not that I've ever seen that in action. Say 'yup,' right now. Just for me."

"I have noticed no physical discomfort, although it is occasionally - challenging - to remember how to speak in order to set human beings at their ease. As I said, it is not how I was raised."

"Why don't you ever try doing it with me?" Kirk asks. “Talking ‘human’?”

"You are always at your ease," Spock points out. “Also I do not think of you as someone I need to fool.”

"Thanks. I think." After a moment, he adds, "Wow, dirty talk must be a challenge."

*

"So really, dirty talk. What do you say?" Kirk asks the next time they meet, a few days later.

Spock is at a local restaurant, eating a late lunch. He enjoys the eateries in the Midwest; most of them are slick, polished affairs with sashimi and Cardassian sunflower soup jockeying for position, but there are a few of the ancient diners scattering the landscape, with vintage plastic seats and non-replicated beef hamburgers (an Iowa speciality). Spock has become very fond of chicken wings.

Kirk has slid into the chair opposite him; he looks cheerful.

Spock swallows his mouthful and replies, "I don't know."

"What do you mean, you don't know - you've never talked dirty to a girl?"

"No."

"Ever talked dirty to a guy?"

"No," Spock says.

"Ever talked dirty to a noncorporeal being?" Kirk’s eyebrows waggle bizarrely. “Let me tell you, that’s an experience you don't ever forget.”

Spock is saved by the waitress who comes up, smiling at Kirk. "Jimmy, you want a milkshake and a burger?" she asks, filling up the coffee mug that he holds up for her.

"That would be wonderful, Edna. Thank you so much," Kirk beams, and says to Spock, "You should get one of their famous chocolate milkshakes. They're amazing, like sucking ice cream through a straw."

"No, thank you," he says. "I have to go on duty tonight, and chocolate is... not metabolized by Vulcans in quite the same way as it is by humans."

"What, it makes you drunk?" Kirk says, sounding delighted.

"And horny," Spock agrees, and watches Kirk choke on his coffee with a degree of satisfaction.

The next morning, Curie dumps a large package at Spock's desk. "Delivery," she says, sniffling.

Spock examines the box; plain brown packaging covering something that rattles. He has accumulated a wide range of enemies in his few years on the IDD, but he doesn't believe any of them are aware of his new assignment; nor does he believe that anything harmful could have gotten through the sensornet that surrounds the precinct. Carefully, he opens the package.

The box within is red, tied with a ridiculous pink bow; on the top is the name of a galaxy-wide famous Risan chocolatier. His mother often buys a small selection of them, no more than four to a box, parcelling them out over a month or more.

The box in front of him is almost twenty centimeters cubed. The card is blank.

*

"Oh, my God." Nyota's eyes widen as she takes the box from him. "Did some big shot you arrested try to bribe you or something?” She smiles, so plainly she is teasing; Spock allows himself to smile back.

"It was a gift, but not in exchange for any professional action on my part," he says.

"Somebody gave you ten thousand credits worth of chocolates?" Her gaze sharpens. "And did this somebody know that as a half-Vulcan, chocolate has an intoxicating effect on you?"

"Not only an intoxicating effect," he tells her. "I was wondering if you had that bottle of Cardassian fire-tea still."

"Detective, I think you have designs on my virtue," she says.

He returns to Iowa the next morning feeling slightly hung-over, but unable to regret it; Nyota had laughed as they made love, broad smile pressed against his mouth, and that feeling of affection and warmth and desire is enough to clear his head — for the most part.

He comes into the precinct that evening to find it full of officers who should be off-duty at this time of night. "What's happened?" he asks Curie.

She looks wide-eyed and a little afraid. "There's been a break-in at the Shipyards. A shuttlecraft's gone missing. From the new ship."

The new ship - constellation-class, outfitted for deep-space missions. Spock has picked up whispers about it, and of course its profile defines Riverside for the moment, sleek and beautiful, even three years away from completion.

Johnson comes up; he looks angry, or possibly constipated. "Have you found Kirk?" he demands.

"No," Spock says, "Though I was unaware that I was expected to."

"Something like this happens? You round up the usual suspects. Go find him, bring him here. Make sure he hasn't got a shuttlecraft in the back of the barn."

"Understood, Chief," Spock says, and leaves approximately thirty-five seconds after he arrived.

The Kirk homestead is an impressive acreage, in the family for seven generations. Mrs. Turbino does not live there anymore; Kirk mentioned as much once when they were driving to the precinct. "I fight the ghosts off all by myself these days," Kirk said, his forehead pressed against the window.

Kirk is an unlikely farmer, and in fact he rents the land out to others, acting as a kind of 23rd-century baron. Examining Kirk's assets, Spock found that he charges almost nothing for use of land, instead putting into each contract a percentage of vegetables and slaughtered livestock as they become available. Earth, in recent centuries, has become a far less commercialized planet, but even so, Kirk's self-inflicted poverty is puzzling.

He pulls up to the house, an ancient wooden construction with a wrap-around porch. There are several chairs placed at haphazard angles, and a hammock strung up in the front yard. There are no lights within, and there do not seem to be any curtains drawn; Kirk is most probably not at home.

Spock gets out of his vehicle and walks up the path, which is surprisingly well-kept, up the steps to the porch, and peers through the deepening gloom for some kind of communicator or ident-badge. There is nothing; only a small half-sphere. Spock touches it, and a bell reverberates from inside the house, but is followed by more silence.

He weighs his options. If Kirk is not at home, the next place to look for him is at the Liftoff, or at the other bars where he is known to frequent (and be arrested in). But instead, Spock drifts over to one of the chairs on the porch, curious now that he has made a closer examination. Instead of four legs planted on the ground, or one column coming from the center of the chair and spreading out into four or five feet, this chair has four legs, the right and left legs joined from front to back by two curved pieces of wood. Intrigued, Spock pushes at it gently; as conjectured, it rocks slowly back and forth, stable on a lateral axis. There is a table next to it, with a coffee cup, and a book, carelessly left face-down and open. Spock picks it up.

"Out of the dark we came," is the first sentence he notices, "Into the dark we go. Like a storm-driven bird at night we fly out of the Nowhere; for a moment our wings are seen in the light of the fire, and, lo! We are gone again into the Nowhere." The book is very, very old. He puts it down carefully, shut, remembering the page.

He sits down, careful not to overbalance; he has never seen a chair that moved like this before. The rocking motion is difficult when he sits up straight; he pushes with his feet and gets smacked in the back of his head by the back of the chair. He leans back, using the arms for balance, and tries again.

It is remarkably soothing, particularly for his head which has resumed its throbbing. He pushes himself back and forth, careful to not overbalance; his center of gravity feels different, more malleable. He watches the sun sink down over the fields and wonders if sitting here has helped Kirk - if he could have somehow turned out worse, without these moments of peace.

He hears the hum of Kirk's motorcycle grow steadily louder, the gleam of a single light cutting through the new darkness. If he has stolen a shuttlecraft, he does not have it with him.

The bike stops next to Spock's vehicle, and Spock can just make out the silouhette of Kirk, examining the vehicle for long moments before he turns off his bike and gets off.

"Detective?" Kirk calls.

"I am here," Spock answers, loath to get up. He is very comfortable, and Kirk may be more amenable to answering questions if he does not feel threatened.

Kirk does something with the keys in his hand, and the lights to the house come on, dimly. Kirk pauses at the bottom step of the porch. "You're in my chair."

"My apologies," Spock says, and attempts to get up. It's more difficult than he expected, and the back of the chair hits his head again.

Kirk snorts, climbing the stairs and approaching him. "Stay where you are, I don't want to add assault of a police officer to my list of crimes and misdemeanors." He walks behind Spock and circles the chair on the other side of the table, sitting down easily.

"These are interesting," Spock says, gesturing to the chairs. "I believe I have read about them in literature, but I have never before sat in one."

"No rocking chairs on Vulcan? Or San Francisco?" Kirk kicks his feet up on the porch railing, leaning back almost to the point where he would certainly tip over.

"If there were, I was unaware of them."

“Bet you never thought you’d have so many new experiences, stuck out here," Kirk says, staring out into the fields. They are almost invisible; the dark hasn't decended so completely to allow for the illumination of stars, but it is still dark enough to prevent much to be seen beyond the reach of the porch lights.

"I am here at the request of my superior," Spock says. "He would like me to bring you in for questioning regarding a stolen shuttlecraft."

Kirk chuckles, a surprised kick of exhaled air. "From the Enterprise?"

"Yes."

"You guys know that the security there is a joke, right? I mean, you can drive in and out whenever you feel like it. Not that I would ever do that." Kirk’s language and his facial expression are at odds; the words seem genuine, but he is smiling, sly; clearly he would and has done it.

"I fail to see--"

"It's not a challenge," Kirk points out. “Stealing a shuttlecraft would be easy.”

"It would be disruptive, pointless, and as you say, easy. Which does seem to fit your modus operandi,” Spock says.

"Harsh words, Detective. Although I like the Latin, it makes it sound less insulting.” He sighs deeply, and turns to look Spock in the eye. “I did not have anything to do with the missing shuttlecraft. Scout's honor." He puts his hand over his heart as he says it, though his expression makes it clear that he does not expect to be believed.

There is no reason to. A petty criminal who likes to be caught, Kirk is the prime suspect in any crime that fits these parameters. That he has never been convicted or even formally charged for any of them means, to the police force, only that he is too smart for his own good.

The idea that Kirk may simply be innocent is such a novel one to Spock, he wonders how many others would consider it blasphemous.

"So, should we go?" Kirk says. He looks very tired, and very young. "I'm sure there are new thumbscrews McKabe wants to try out on me."

"That will not be necessary," Spock says. He edges himself carefully off the chair, for once not injuring himself. "However, I will have to find the culprit, since we have eliminated you as a suspect. I closed your book, to prevent further damage to its spine; you had it open to page 117."

"Wait. What?" Kirk leans forward, though Spock notes that he unconsciously adjusts his body so as not to be hit by the chair. "That's it? I tell you I didn't do it and you just go on your merry way?"

"Yes," Spock says, simply. "Though I will be making inquiries as to how you managed to afford that box of chocolates."

Kirk leans back again, grinning. "I have no idea what you're talking about, Detective."

*

The culprit is a young Starfleet officer, it turns out, who was protesting his recent Academy censure for, as he put it, "Explaining facts very slowly to idiots who can't understand the basics of metaphasic physics." Spock is congratulated for his arrest, although he can see little to be proud of; the engineering student did nothing to conceal his trail or his location, and indeed had somehow managed to take the shuttlecraft into the main lecture hall at the Academy before Spock catches up with him.

Starfleet takes Montgomery Scott in hand before Spock does much more than cuff him; there are murmurs of relocation and a stern letter in his permanent file, ignoring Spock's suggestions of a formal trial. But Starfleet has a habit of taking Spock's arrests from him, and this time he simply curls his hands into fists, watching faceless officers walk Scott away.

Captain Pike comms him before he can make the trip back to the Midwest. "I heard you were in town," he says, "Care to stop by?"

Spock, faced with a crime that didn't technically occur and a city he is suddenly tired of, accepts reluctantly. They meet in Pike's office, a cramped room with a beautiful view of the defunct Golden Gate Bridge.

"So," Pike says, once they are settled in comfortable armchairs and Pike has poured them both something amber and alcoholic, "Wanted to thank you for handling my cadets a couple of months ago. And I wanted to ask how that kid was doing, the one they were punching like they thought candy was gonna come out."

Spock smiles at the analogy. "His name is James Kirk - and he is fine. He has a reputation for being mistaken for a pinata." He pauses at the expression on Pike's face. "Captain?"

"James Kirk? Is he related to George Kirk?" Pike's interest is sharp and obvious.

"His son, I believe."

"Holy shit," Pike says, and tosses back the contents of his glass. Spock follows suit; it will not affect him to the same degree, and it seems rude to abstain now. "That mouthy little shit is the son of George Kirk?"

"Yes," Spock repeats.

"My God. Of course, now that I think about it, makes sense. Kirk was from Iowa, they built the new shipyard there because of him." Pike seems almost to be talking to himself. "But he's, what, 22 now? Was the Kelvin really 22 years ago? Jesus, I'm old." He glances at Spock and smiles, self-deprecating. "I wrote my thesis on the Kelvin, that whole battle that we never really got to the bottom of. I always wondered about his family; his wife was a brilliant engineer, but she quit Starfleet right after the Kelvin, did contract work only, and neither of his sons ever enlisted. Which was... disappointing."

"I am unfamiliar with the psychology of George Kirk," Spock says, "But based on what I know of Starfleet and its ideal officers, it seems unlikely that his youngest son would have been seen as--"

"Ideal?" Pike supplies, and Spock nods. "Probably not. But that's part of the problem right there. We've got a hell of a lot of officers who are good at taking orders, but these days there aren't a lot of people able to give them. In five years we're going to have problems."

“If you wish to recruit someone who will not follow orders,” Spock says, “I could not recommend anyone more than Jim Kirk.”

Pike laughs, and gets up to pour them another drink.

Spock ends up staying at his mother’s house, rather than facing the long ride back to Iowa. His mother is not in San Francisco at the moment; she is instead on the Starfleet flagship, demonstrating the Universal Translator’s improved functionality to a skeptical crew. Spock lets himself in and wanders the rooms, ending up in her library.

The books are mostly from Earth, ones that his mother has carried from house to house her entire life, children’s books from her youth or from Spock’s, old novels and histories. Most people have their libraries stored in the home computer, and Amanda Grayson does have a formidable digital collection, but these are the books that Spock sees her read again and again, hands running over the dry pages.

When they lived on Vulcan, his mother’s library room had been her domain; Sarek never stepped foot in it, as far as Spock can remember. It was where she went when they had argued, or when she sent messages to her family. Spock was the only other member of the household permitted, and he still remembers climbing onto her lap, being allowed to touch the pages that his mother read aloud.

Spock sits in her favorite chair and watches the blinking lights of San Francisco.

*

Three weeks later, he is cuffing Kirk and one of his friends for drag-racing. They are chatting amiably enough; Spock has given up on expecting a conviction on any of the misdemeanors that he arrests Kirk for, but there is a pleasant sort of ritual here.

"So hey, there's an actual, authorized race happening next Saturday. Maybe you'd want to come with me, see for yourself what all the excitement is about," Kirk says.

Spock frowns, trying to remember if he has plans with Nyota. He's fairly certain he does; a Klingon opera, he seems to remember. "I'm afraid that won't be possible," he says.

"Why not? I promise I'll have made bail by then."

Spock smiles in spite of himself. "No - I won't be here. I am taking Cadet Uhura to the opera in San Francisco."

"Uhura? Wait, the cadet with the legs and the hair? You're taking her out?"

"Yes," Spock says, surprised at Kirk's surprise. He's staring at Spock with a gaping mouth. "Are you all right?"

"Fine. Great, no, opera sounds good. Wow, I didn't figure you liked opera, but... I guess it makes sense."

Spock puts Kirk into the back of his vehicle, and the ride down to the precinct is very quiet.

*

Spock ends up back in San Francisco even before that; he is required to provide testimony for Ambassador Imbelk's trial. Spock has tried not to follow the diplomatic proceedings, the complicated negotiations that IDD and the Federation have undergone to move the murder trial forward. It has been easy to forget that Iowa is a punishment, a corner to stand in for his transgressions.

But he is reminded when he enters the testimony room, two rows of attorneys and diplomats and Imbelk himself, all glaring at him as though he were the accused. Spock is the only person alive in the universe who wishes this trial to happen.

"State your name for the record," the prosecuting attorney orders, staring down at the PADD in front of him. Spock, who has not been invited to sit, takes a seat at the head of the table.

"Detective Spock," he says.

Another attorney, sitting to the right of the Ambassador, leans forward. "You are here under orders to discuss your conduct in the matter of Ambassador Imbelk's incarceration. Do you have anything to say before we proceed?"

"No," Spock says.

"Very well. Detective, in your actions perpetrated six months ago, you repeatedly ignored or countered direct orders from your superiors, refused to cooperate with every branch of IDD or the Federation's security forces, and even refused to comply with the President's command to release the Ambassador into custody of his own planet's police force. We require explanation for your behavior."

The room is very silent, aside from the slight wheeze of an Aldebarn diplomat sitting a few seats away. Ambassador Imbelk stares at him, expressionless.

"The Ambassador's home planet has made its policy very clear, namely that any member of their planet will neither be detained nor prosecuted for crimes against races other than themselves. This very stance is the reason that the Ambassador's planet has not yet joined the Federation, as it shows a basic disdain for--"

"Please refrain from unasked-for opinion," says another lawyer from the Ambassador's team. Spock glances at the prosecutor; but he is silent, his chin resting on his chest as he listens to the examination.

Spock continues. "The Ambassador, when I arrested him, informed me at great length that he could kill whomever he wished, and made repeated threats against myself, several of my colleagues, and the President."

"Yet none of this was recorded," the prosecutor says.

"As you are no doubt aware, the Ambassador's vocal chords eminate at a frequency that renders them inaudible to every current recording technology within the limits of the Federation. This is one reason that the Ambassador was present on Earth, despite the... reservations harbored by the Federation; we simply could not communicate with them via teletransmission, and they took insult at written correspondence."

The prosecutor looks disgusted, and Spock folds his hands in his lap. He can feel his case slipping away from him, running through his fingers like blood.

*

“You came! That is so sweet. Harry, I would like to get this gentleman a drink. Today, I am twenty-three years old, and today, I will buy this upstanding member of the constabulary a beverage. What has chocolate in it?”

Harry, for his part, leans over the bar and addresses Spock directly, ignoring Kirk’s enthusiastic perusal of the drinks menu. “I didn’t really want to call,” he confides, “It’s his birthday and all? But, you know. He won’t leave, he can’t drive, and he’s threatened to break my comm system if I call his mother to give him a ride home. He said you’d—“

“Yes, thank you,” Spock finishes. He sits on the barstool next to Kirk and waits until Kirk's eyes drift up from the menu. “Happy birthday,” he says after a moment.

“It is a happy birthday to me. Or was. I think it's after midnight, so it's now an unbirthday. Still happy, though. There was quite a party here earlier. I think we broke a table.”

“Two tables,” Harry corrects from down the bar. He’s smiling as he says it. “And a chair. I already put it on your tab.”

“You’re a fine example of humanity,” Kirk tells Harry. “And I don’t mean that in an offensive way. Like, nonhumans are great. I’m just saying that if there was some contest of awesome humans, you would definitely be near the top of the list.”

“How much alcohol have you consumed?” Spock asks. There is only one half-empty glass in front of him, which smells like synthehol.

Kirk's face screws up in a parody of deep thought. “Well, twenty-three shots, earlier. That's traditional. This current state I find myself in is due primarily to that.”

“And none of your friends remained to help you home?” It seems unkind to have left him like this.

“Well, see, they’re all assholes,” Kirk explains, and puts his head on the bar.

"I'm not sure I--"

“I’m very sleepy,” he complains, loudly, and starts to snore.

Harry, still at the other end of the bar, makes eye contact with him. After assuring himself that Kirk won’t slide off the barstool, he gets up to join him.

“He yelled at everybody until they left,” Harry says. “I’m not really sure – something set him off, about half an hour ago he basically told everyone to fuck off and leave him alone. At which point I figure it’s time for him to fuck off, too, only he wouldn’t let me call anybody but you.”

Spock frowns, more baffled than ever. “Fascinating,” he says. “And you’re certain you don’t know what happened?”

“All I know is Tracy Devereaux, who’s been giving Kirk a birthday treat, if you know what I mean, every year since they were both fifteen, made her offer tonight and he flipped out." Harry made an incredulous noise, as if unable to fathom Kirk's folly. "But then, Kirk’s been off his game for a while now. We figure he’s got the hots for some cadet, trying to cure him of his manwhoring.” Harry snorts. “We’ll see how that goes.”

From his seat, Kirk manages to lift his head and fix them both with a bleary glare. “True love is worth waiting for, Harry. I am disappointed in you. You’re off the short list of Humanity's Awesome 100.”

“Like I said,” Harry tells Spock, “He needs to go.”

Spock convinces Kirk to get up off the stool and out the door, though Kirk balks at getting into Spock’s vehicle. “Jesus, this is such an uncool ride, man,” he protests. Spock folds him into the passenger seat anyway. He gets in and reaches over Kirk’s prone form to attach the safety belt, and feels a brush against his chest. He blinks and focuses on Kirk’s face, which is very close. His breath smells of alcohol, and his hand is fisted in Spock’s shirt.

“Spock, have you ever been in love?” He doesn’t seem aware of it when Spock gently takes his wrists and puts them at his side.

“I am unclear as to your definition of the concept,” Spock answers, attaching Kirk’s belt and his own, and steering the vehicle toward Kirk’s home.

“I mean, like your cadet. Are you in love with her?”

“I care about her a great deal. We share similar interests; she is very intelligent and a very considerate person.”

Kirk laughs; it sounds terrible. “Not to mention she’s hot. That’s important.”

“I do not put the same premium on aesthetics that most humans do,” Spock says. “But yes, she conforms to the ideals of human beauty.”

“So you’re in love with her. That’s good. You guys will have amazing babies. So adorable and with pointy ears and they’ll speak seven thousand languages.” Kirk seems to fall asleep for the rest of the ride, but he wakes up when Spock pulls into his driveway.

For long moments he doesn't speak, or move; he stares at the front porch of his house as though listening to something.

"We have arrived at your home," Spock prompts.

"Yeah," Kirk says, very quietly. He fumbles at his seatbelt and, as it slides across his waist, asks, "Do you want to come in?" He winces after he says it, and Spock wonders if he managed to have a brawl as part of his birthday festivities.

"I am still on duty," he starts to say, and Kirk cuts him off.

"Right. Right! Very true, you are. So - and I'm good, you know, I'm not going to choke on my own vomit or anything." He manages to get the door open. "Thanks, though," he says, and Spock waits until he's through the front door before completing his shift.

*

The next morning, he stops by the farm to assure himself that Kirk has not, in fact, choked on his own vomit. The cat in the backseat, which has been asleep for most of the car ride, now wakes up and protests the sudden silence.

Spock turns in his seat to make sure it is only vocalizing and is not in genuine pain. It blinks at him and sticks a grey paw through the front, as though reaching out for him. Terran pets, bred for so many centuries to be companions, are remarkably affectionate even in the face of unimaginable cruelty; although Spock remembers reading a great deal about the aloof nature of cats, this one seems eager to make friends with everyone it meets.

He gets out of the car, and after a moment's consideration takes the cage with him. The vehicle may become uncomfortably warm while he ascertains Kirk's condition. He climbs the steps and presses the doorbell, listening to the chime in the house and the quiet complaints coming from inside the cage.

Kirk opens the door, wearing—“You are wearing an apron,” Spock observes. It has daisies on it.

Kirk blinks. “Hi, yourself,” he says. “What’d I do this time?”

“I’m not here to arrest you,” Spock says.

“Neat.” Kirk looks genuinely pleased.

"I am here to ask if you are suffering any ill effects of your behavior last night."

Immediately Kirk looks nervous. "Why? What did I do? Are you sure you're not here to arrest me?"

"Quite sure. I picked you up from the Liftoff and brought you home, since you were too inebriated to drive yourself."

"Oh." Kirk's face clears. "Oh, so that's why I can't find my bike. No, I'm good." He notices the cat, and grins. "Did you bring me a present?"

Spock suppresses the flash of guilt. "No. I am taking it to the shelter; it was retrieved from an... unfortunate situation last night."

"Stuck up a tree?" Kirk guesses.

"Set on fire," Spock says.

Kirk scowls, and crouches down to peer into the cage. “Who did it?” he asks, sticking a finger through the bars. The casual tone of his voice would fool no one, and for a moment, Spock is tempted to tell him; the idea of Kirk's rough sense of justice working over the two troubled young men who had laughed as Spock had arrested them is appealing. But he doesn't.

There is a long silence; Spock tries to determine, based on the stains and marks on Kirk’s apron, what he was making. He’s decided that it’s some kind of pastry when Kirk says, “Come on in.”

Spock complies, and Kirk shuts the door behind them. “Should I take it out of the cage?” Spock asks, setting the cage in the hallway. “It’s very young, and as I mentioned, likely quite traumatized.”

“It’s a cat,” Kirk replies unhelpfully, and unlatches the cage himself. The cat steps out, curling its body around Kirk’s hand, making little chirruping noises that sound happy. Clearly whatever trauma it’s suffered has not impacted its general disposition. “Does he have a name?”

“I don’t think so,” Spock says. Kirk picks the cat up and cradles him in his arms; the cat’s eyes close, and it starts to purr. “I believe it likes you.”

“Yeah, well, cats are shitty character references,” Kirk replies, but he looks pleased. “What do you want to call him?”

“Naming him would imply that I wanted to keep him.”

Kirk looks up, peering at Spock's face. "He can stay here for a while. There are mice in the barn, he'll have a wild time." He pauses. "But he'll need a name."

Spock thinks about it, reaches out to stroke a finger over the cat’s head. The purring gets louder. “Watson,” he says.

“Oh man, does that make me Moriarty?” Kirk says, grinning, and Spock smiles back.

“You think very highly of yourself. And... I believe your muffins are burning,” he adds, smelling the beginning of smoke.

“Shit!” Kirk dumps the newly-christened Watson into Spock’s arms and dashes down the hallway. Spock follows and watches as Kirk pulls out two trays of slightly overdone but not ruined blueberry muffins out of the oven. “Close,” Kirk says, “Thanks.”

“I was unaware that you knew how to bake,” Spock says.

“Sure. Mom loves to, she taught me and my brother. Growing up, it was the only time we got to see her.” Kirk slides two other pans into the oven and sets a timer. “It’s a good way to get out of your head, just thinking about what to do next.”

“You enjoy the rules of baking?” Spock asks, settling onto a stool. Watson is still purring, although he seems very interested in the muffins.

“I know, shocking,” Kirk says, busy cleaning something at the sink.

“Not entirely,” Spock replies, scratching the cat behind the ears. “You only ignore laws you think are unreasonable or unnecessary. I have never arrested you for anything that was not a waste of my time and yours.”

Kirk twists around, hands still in the sink; his gaze is appraising. “That’s an interesting observation.”

“You are an interesting person,” Spock says. “I think about you a great deal.”

“Really.”

“Yes.”

Kirk turns back to the sink. “What do you think about me?” he asks, after a moment.

“I think that you’ve wasted most of your life,” Spock says, “But I can’t think of a single institution that would be suitable for you.”

“You really don’t lie, do you,” Kirk says, voice pitched low enough so that most humans wouldn’t be able to hear. It probably isn’t something that requires a response. “So you think I should, what? Start a cult? Join a theater company? Enlist in Starfleet?”

He would be good at any of those things. With his energy, the twist he can give to his words, he’d have followers lining up in a matter of days. He would do well on the stage, too; his smile and his body would attract audiences, but he could keep their attention long afterward. Starfleet is more difficult to imagine, but the red cadet’s uniform could probably fit him, with minimal adjustment.

“Something that doesn’t make you bored enough to get arrested every other week,” Spock suggests.

“Aw, Detective, I thought those special moments together meant as much to you as they do to me,” Kirk says. He takes the muffin trays with the overcooked muffins and carefully turns them over; the muffins fall out onto the countertop. Spock reaches out for one, grabbing it before Kirk can slap his hand away.

“They mean a great deal. I consider you a friend. Which is why arresting arresting you is becoming a difficulty.”

“So you’re asking me to stop getting arrested because it’s bugging you,” Kirk says. "Just so I'm clear."

Spock takes a bite of the muffin, ignoring Watson’s paws batting at his hands and chin. “These are excellent,” he says.

Kirk looks reluctantly pleased by that – Spock has never met anyone who is immune to sincere praise. “Are you saying I should open a bakery?”

“I am simply saying,” Spock says, wondering how he got into this conversation from the front door, “That so far in my experience, you are good at everything you do. I can understand that the fear of failure for the first time may be daunting--”

"Hey, I'm not afraid--"

"However, I think it would be well worth the effort to make an attempt at something more challenging than bakery and petty crime." He stands up, and places Watson carefully on the floor. "I am... grateful that you are taking charge of this cat. I think you can provide it with a suitably comfortable environment."

Kirk is still looking at him - examining him, it seems - a frown creasing his face. "Yeah," he says, absently. "You want some muffins for the road?"

"Yes, thank you."

*

And after that, he doesn’t see Kirk for two and a half months. There are no reports of misconduct, no noise complaints, nothing. Spock doesn’t mention it to anyone in the precinct, but there is still gossip. Curie thinks he’s joined a shatterock band; McKabe thinks he’s joined the Swedish Mafia.

The truth is both duller and more surprising; he’s gotten a steady job. Spock sees Kirk next not because he is arresting him, but because he is liasing with the Chief Engineer at the Shipyards about the increased security measures they are undertaking after Montgomery Scott’s joyride a few months ago. Spock is leaving after spending almost three hours being patronized, and runs into Kirk.

“Hey, Detective,” Kirk says. He has a hardhat and is holding a Starfleet PADD; the engineer's jumper he's wearing says "Kirk" on the lapel.

“Hello,” Spock says. He’s not sure what else to say – or rather, how to frame the questions that he wants to ask.

“Yes,” Kirk answers anyway, “I work here. Got a job here a couple of months ago. No, I didn’t have any previous experience. My mother was a pretty compelling reference, though.” He pauses for a moment, tilts his head as though listening to something. “They did end up giving me a security pass; they were pretty impressed when I pointed out a few improvements they could make to their subspace comms, make them less vulnerable to attack.”

They drift towards his vehicle; people pass occasionally, hailing Kirk with a smile or a wave. Spock remains silent.

Kirk shrugs, responding to nothing at all. “Yeah, I’ve been dabbling in subspace communication technology for a while. You know how it is, you get interested in something and you end up learning all about it.”

Spock continues to say nothing.

Kirk nods earnestly. “You know, it’s interesting, having a steady job. I have an alarm clock now.”

Spock can’t hide his smile at that, the note of pride in Kirk’s voice.

“I mean, I keep throwing it across the room, so I spend most of my evenings repairing it again. But still.” They arrive at Spock’s vehicle; Kirk leans against the hood, taking his hat off and scrubbing his hand through his hair. “So how’s it been going? You taking up crosswords with all the spare time you’ve got not arresting me?”

“I occupy myself,” Spock replies, dry.

“How’s, uh. How's your cadet?”

Spock frowns, lost. “Pardon?”

“Cadet Uhura? You were dating her?”

“I am still dating her." She just came for a weekend visit to his apartment in Iowa; they spent most of their time in bed, sleeping, eating, working, and making love in roughly equal measures. "She is finishing her second year at the Academy next month."

“That’s good. You been seeing her a lot?”

The sharp interest in Kirk's eye sets off an alarm in Spock's mind. “I wasn’t aware that your interest in her was anything but transitory,” he says.

“Well,” Kirk says.

“I have been seeing her a great deal. I believe she is looking forward to my transfer back to San Francisco more than I am.”

Kirk looks over; it’s the first time in several minutes that he’s made eye contact. “You’re moving back to Frisco?”

“Very likely. It’s been almost a year since I was transferred here, and although the case that brought about my… present circumstances has not proceeded in the manner I would have preferred, I believe the political fallout may have been contained. But I have not yet made a formal request.”

“Oh,” Kirk says. “Um. Let me know, when you’re going. I’ll get you a going-away present or something.”

Spock drives back to the precinct and makes his report on the Shipyard’s security measures to Johnson. He processes some paperwork, follows up on some calls, and at the end of his shift he’s aware that he’s spent the whole time thinking about what Kirk would give him.

*

The Midwest has a remarkably low rate of felony crimes, but it is not free of them; he solves the occasional murder or sexual assault, and remembers all over again that humans, like every species, have too many ways to express their hatred, their blind rage. He thought for many years, young and sheltered and probably a little bit stupid, that Vulcans were different, that because their emotions were so much more violent than humans', that humans would be more peaceful. But Earth has roughly twice the homicide rate of Vulcan; perhaps there is something to be said for meditation and repression and all that stifling self-control.

He has long ago stopped wishing for people to think before they acted; now he simply wants to handcuff everyone he meets until he can be sure that they present no threat to themselves or others. It is a futile wish; a policeman's wish. His first captain once said that if cops had their way, everyone would spend their days sitting at a table with their hands clearly visible, no sudden moves.

In the spring, he is given and solves two murder cases in quick succession. The first is a depressing but straightforward uxoricide; the husband confesses, sobbing, that he suspected her of being unfaithful. There was no evidence that she had been. The case is closed within eighteen hours of the murder.

The second, however, takes almost a week to solve, though it too, in the end, comes down to family - a father killed by his eldest son. The son does not confess, but he shows no surprise when Spock comes to the door of his home and arrests him. The evidence is undeniable, even without a confession, though the son does not offer any motive.

Spock begins his patrol shift after the paperwork is complete and the suspect has been safely incarcerated; he has been on-duty for twelve hours, and has not slept in thirty, but he doesn't feel tired. He allows himself the luxury of anger, however, his foot perhaps too heavy on the gas, and he disengages the forcescreen and lets the wind rattle through the vehicle as he makes a low sweep over the shipyards before spiralling out over the plains.

The son's eyes had been flat, staring at him blankly over the interview table, and Spock remembers his own brother’s dull brown eyes, standing over their father's body. Strange how so many different people on so many different planets could see the same solutions to their problems.

The evening is quiet – Spock is disappointed, since he would have enjoyed breaking up a few fights at the bar or dealing with belligerent students or even Kirk, confounding and compelling in equally frustrating measures – and at oh-four-hundred hours he is circling back toward the precinct when the comm beeps. "Precinct to Spock, we've got a noise complaint over at the Kirk residence," Curie tells him.

Of course.

All the lights are on at the house, and truly terrible music is being blared out through speakers; he can hear it clearly from over two miles away, and from the driveway it is deafening. As expected, Kirk is sitting on the porch, as though waiting for him. What is a surprise is the man sitting next to him, the doctor who had shared a jail cell with him all that time ago. "Doctor McCoy," Spock says, climbing the stairs.

"Detective," McCoy acknowledges, drinking something clear from a tall glass. Kirk has slouched down in his rocking chair, eyes closed and hands twitching in time to the music. "To what do we owe the pleasure?"

"There has been a complaint lodged against the playing of your... music, I suppose you would call it," Spock tells him, and this statement opens Kirk's eyes, to glare at him.

"What's your problem with classical music?"

Spock doesn't attempt to control his expression. "This," he says, "Hardly qualifies as classical music."

Kirk laughs, his glare melting to amusement and probably affection. “The musical stylings of Lynyrd Skynrd have been performed for almost three hundred years, Spock.”

“Point to the kid,” McCoy notes.

Spock says, "Longevity does not denote quality."

McCoy chuckles. "Point to the detective."

"Well, what would you consider classical?" Kirk demands.

"That is not the question at hand," Spock says. "I am here merely to request that you lower the volume."

Kirk doesn't say anything, though he does hit a button on his keychain; the music’s volume fades from deafening to almost inaudible. McCoy, who seemed unperturbed by the noise, now seems uncomfortable in the silence. "I'll just get some more penicillin," he mutters, rattling his now-empty glass.

Kirk watches him go, a frown creasing between his eyebrows. “’M trying to drown his sorrows,” he explains as the screen door slams shut and McCoy’s footsteps recede down the hall. “His divorce just became final, and he’s a little—“ Kirk makes see-sawing motions with his hands.

“You think bad music and alcohol will help to mend a broken heart?”

“It always works for me,” Kirk says. “Well, usually it always works for me.”

Spock changes the subject. "I was unaware that you had continued your association with the doctor after your initial meeting," he says, leaning against the porch rail. It is now five minutes after four a.m., and he has done his job. He is reluctant to go back to his apartment and watch the sun rise from the solitude of his balcony.

"Bones? I like him,” Kirk says. “Not romantically,” he adds, “I think he’s already starting to pine after some girl at the Academy, even though he won’t say. But he’s a good guy. Wants to do the right thing all the time. Kind of reminds me of you.”

“Except for the fact that I don’t practice medicine,” Spock says. “Nor have I ever been married. And our personalities are different, and our upbringing. In fact, I’m at a loss to understand what similarities we might share.”

“You both like me, even though you have no idea why?” Kirk supplies, then tilts the bottle of beer back to swallow the last drops. "You want a drink?" he says, standing. He sways only slightly.

"Yes," Spock says, and Kirk blinks in surprise.

"Really?"

"Really. I am off-duty, and it will not impair me to any extent, since my physiology does not process alcohol the way a fully human body does."

"We’ll see about that." Kirk's grin grows sly.

They arrive in the kitchen to see McCoy wrestling with a pitcher of liquid, green leaves floating on its surface. He sees them watching, and nods his head over to the counter. "There's a glass over there, Detective. You might actually appreciate the beauty of a mint julep on an evening such as this. Jim's hopeless."

"Forget it, Bones," Kirk says, wandering over to something that looks like a replicator - Spock realizes that it is in fact a fridger, ancient and scarred. "The detective here is half-Vulcan. Alcohol doesn't work on him."

"Really?" McCoy says, sounding startled.

"Really. His mom's Amanda Grayson," Kirk says, sounding oddly boastful.

McCoy blinks. "Wait. Your mother! I met her, Amanda Grayson." He snaps his fingers as though trying to recall. "A month or so ago. Real peach."

"It's fortunate that you did not realize the family connection at the time, Doctor," Spock says, seating himself at the high table in the middle of the kitchen. Kirk was taking various supplies out of the fridger and a few cupboards. Whatever he is making, it looks elaborate.

"Why's that?" McCoy demands.

"I can't imagine you'd want to inform a woman you found attractive that you were once arrested by her son."

Kirk pauses. "Bullshit," he says to McCoy.

McCoy blushes, which always gives away more than any verbal response. McCoy's is, "I don't find her attractive! I mean - well. Sure, she's very nice to look at. But I wasn't - not that I wouldn't--"

Kirk laughs. "Bones, you dog. I thought you were panting after some 20-year-old supergenius or something." He slaps him on the shoulder. "Go for it. I'm sure her son will give his blessing?"

Spock smiles. "My mother is more than capable of handling any suitors without interference from me. I am sure if McCoy were found... suitable, she would make him aware of her interest."

"What, are you saying I'm not good enough for her?" McCoy sulks.

"I thought you didn't find her attractive," Kirk says.

“That was very clearly a lie,” Spock says.

“I think you may be right, Detective.”

"I'm going out front. Please don't follow me," McCoy says, and takes the pitcher with him.

"You really think he's got the hots for your mom?" Kirk says, voice lowered only fractionally once McCoy has left.

"His voice changed pitch and cadence when he mentioned her name, and he was unable to repress a momentary smile when he recalled meeting her. Yes, I think he may be interested her in a romantic or sexual context."

"Please don't say 'sexual context' when talking about your own mom,” Kirk says, although he’s grinning. “It's kind of weird."

"You are the one who asked," Spock points out. "What are you making?"

"Something that your half-human, half-Vulcan body will process," Kirk grins. "One part vodka, one part chocolate firebrandt, one part British Isles cream, and three parts chocolate milk. Add a few ice cubes, and some Risian chocolate, and you've got yourself a drink that'll have quite the intoxicating effect on any half-human half-Vulcan."

Spock has to accept the glass that is offered to him. "When I was young," he says, "I used to melt chocolate and combine it with various human alcoholic beverages in an attempt to get drunk. I was usually unsuccessful. But this is not a combination that I have tried before."

Kirk holds up his glass, a toast. "Well, then. To the undiscovered country," he says, and drinks half the glass at once.

Spock takes a more moderate swallow. It is, like most of the events tonight, surprising; pleasant and harsh at the same time, the chocolate coating the alcohol and both of them burning down his throat. But he takes another drink, and another.

A few hours later, they are watching the sun rise from the back porch; McCoy's snores from the front yard's hammock are faintly audible. Spock has to admit that the drinks Kirk made for him so conscientously are delicious, even with such an unappealing name.

"Why are they called mudslides?" he asks.

Kirk shrugs, comfortable and sprawling. The back porch is deeper than the front, and instead of rocking chairs, there is a long, lumpy couch. At some point Spock toed off his shoes and curled up on one side, his legs crossed under him; he feels very young, sitting here, though his twenty-fifth birthday passed a few weeks ago.

"I'm sure there's a reason," Kirk says. "But it's been lost to the mists of time. Took me forever to find that recipe."

It is a still morning, a few clouds stretched over the sky, but the birds have already begun their salutations. Iowa has a smell, this time of day - it is a combination of the evaporating dew, the dirt, and something that he is in no rush to categorize. He takes deep breaths.

"I think I'm going to bed," Kirk says after more minutes have passed. "And I don't think you should go anywhere."

Spock turns to look at Kirk, who is leaning forward slightly on the couch. "I agree," he says. He's had five mudslides, and he knows that just getting up from this couch will be difficult. "Do you have a guest room?"

Kirk pauses, thinking about it. "Yeah. Sure. Come on." He gets up with minimal difficulty and offers a hand to Spock.

"Thank you, no." Spock levers himself up unassisted, but notices Kirk's expression of confusion and dismay. "Vulcans are touch-telepaths," he explains. "When I touch someone, I can sense their feelings, sometimes thoughts."

"Oh," Kirk says, and licks his lower lip. "Do you - have you ever touched me? I can't believe I wouldn't remember, but--"

For some reason Kirk is tense, and Spock feels oddly relieved to say, "No. I am careful; it would be invasive of me to do something like that to someone who wasn’t aware."

"Well," Kirk says, then seems to run out of words. "Come on, guest room's this way."

They walk through the kitchen, setting their glasses on the table and climbing the stairs. Kirk opens the door to a room that, like the living room on the ground floor, has an air of neglect about it. McCoy's overnight bag is placed in one corner, and the bedspread is turned down in a cheerful parody of hotel rooms.

But the noticable thing about the room is that it is about half the size of its floorplan; all along one wall, almost two meters deep, are boxes, mostly in half-meter-cubed size, stacked neatly on top of each other. If there is a window in that wall, it is completely blocked.

"What are they?" he asks Kirk, who has not come past the doorway.

Kirk shrugs. "Books, mostly. My father collected old cars and old books. When Mom left, she took the cars. Left the books. They were starting to get a little moldy in the basement, so I shifted them up here until I could figure out what to do with them."

Books. Thousands of them, if Spock's spatial sense was accurate. "And you have simply kept them in these boxes? What books are they?"

"Mom packed them up when I was a baby," Kirk says, possibly sensing Spock's disapproval. “So I don’t really know.”

"Jim," Spock says, very slowly; it is important to convey this. "Books are not merely repositories of knowledge. They have their own history, their own stories. Books must be seen, touched, read and loved. A book can offer solace in a way that a PADD or a reading console cannot. A thousand years after humans first created the printed word, bound and whole, we have never replaced it. This," he says, gesturing to the stacks, "Is a travesty."

It is possible that he's had too much intoxicant. But his point stands. The bed, he finds, is very soft, the sheets flannel and decorated with small yellow flowers. He pulls off his shirt and slides between the sheets.

Kirk has not moved from his position, but he is watching Spock very closely. "So what, I should install a shelf that runs around every room in the house? Put them all up and out of the way?”

Spock yawns. "Don't be absurd. You need a library." He closes his eyes, and doesn't hear Kirk close the door.