Spock had a habit of dining in a corner of the mess with Lieutenant Uhura; he found it interesting to watch the interactions of the crew, and typically they were left alone. Usually they spent solitary and quiet meals at the little corner table, which he liked and she didn’t mind. The present hour was early, so there wasn’t much of a crowd yet and the lieutenant hadn’t yet joined him. There were some crewman milling about, and a few yeomen, and Doctor Leonard McCoy, who looked no less prickly and unpleasant for the morning than any other time of day.
When the doors opened again, Captain Kirk strode in, looking drowsy and yet utterly content. He spotted the doctor, trotted over with an easy grin on his lips, and with no sign of shame or second thought, he plucked the apple from McCoy’s tray and proceeded to eat it. The doctor scowled and said something that made Kirk laugh and clap his shoulder. Still eating the apple, the captain strolled to the replicator, bringing his own tray to sit at the table with McCoy.
Spock had almost been too busy watching this interaction to realize that he wasn’t the only one who noticed it. A few of the crewmen muttered to one another, their gazes flicking occasionally to the captain and doctor, and a couple of yeomen broke out into giggles at their words.
It was then that Uhura joined him, and though she shook her head at the giggling and gossiping crew, he saw she smiled a smile that he knew as one of suppressed amusement. Spock pondered that for an instant, his gaze drawn by movement - McCoy growled something and stalked back toward the replicators, apparently to get himself another apple. The same action was watched in hushed wonder by the now-seated crewmembers - one snickered and another slapped the offender’s shoulder, which made the whole table break into laughter most self-defeatingly. Kirk looked quite pleased with himself - Spock was merely bemused.
A quizzical light in his eyes, he turned to Uhura. "I do not understand," he said. "What precisely do they find so amusing?"
Uhura rolled her eyes, though she still smiled. "Rumors."
Spock frowned slightly. "Rumors?"
She nodded and cast a glance over her shoulder at the table McCoy and Kirk shared. "Half the crew is in a guessing game about those two." Her smile widened when she only received a blank look. "Wondering if they’re just good friends or if it’s more than that," she added.
The explanation did nothing to alleviate Spock’s confusion. "Why is it of any concern to the crew what the nature of their relationship is?"
Uhura laughed as picked up her silverware. "I guess it’s not, really," she replied. "But it’s popular because it is a little hard to tell either way... and humans sometimes have a tendency to be nosy."
"Most puzzling." Uhura laughed again and agreed, while Spock watched McCoy return to his seat. He was carrying an orange. That detail had him frowning again in thought.
As Spock had long ago concluded, humans were all but indecipherable to him. Leonard McCoy and James T. Kirk were two of the most staunchly emotional and illogical beings he’d managed to come across, so Spock was ready to file it away as more human oddities that were simply beyond him. Yet despite himself, his natural curiosity had awoken.
Now that Spock was aware of the rumors, he wondered how he had never before heard them. The ship’s crew buzzed with it like overactive insects, scurrying from person to person and passing each tidbit along like some precious pollen. It was probably, he concluded, because his focus was on his job, not on the maybe-maybe not love affair between the captain and chief medical officer.
Still, it was curious that when he asked the computer for the captain’s location, it told him Kirk was in Doctor McCoy’s office. Spock arched an eyebrow, but directed the turbolift toward sickbay. Typically it was the last place Spock would visit casually, but he needed to consult the captain about their new orders from Starfleet.
The moment he stepped into sickbay, Spock was greeted by a commotion. A loud one. Kirk burst from McCoy’s office, cackling. He was also missing his uniform shirt, though where it had gone remained a mystery for all of 3.65 seconds. McCoy stormed out after Kirk, red-faced and shouting. "Dammit Jim, how many times’ve I told you?" He threw a golden uniform shirt at the laughing captain. It wrapped around his head like an absurd turban, briefly muffling his laughter before he tore it away from his face.
"Aw, Bones." The grin on Kirk’s face belied the whine in his voice; he was obviously enjoying the audience of stunned nurses and orderlies. "Once?"
"No, Jim!" McCoy all but stomped his foot in emphasis. "Get the hell out if you don’t have any business, christ!"
Kirk grinned and straightened his posture, his chest filling the black undershirt. "Sorry to disappoint you, ol’ sawbones," he said, "But I’m just James Tiberius Kirk."
"Shut up and get out of my sight," the doctor grumbled. Kirk shrugged, folded the uniform shirt, and slung it over his shoulder, and made his nonchalant exit with a wink at a blonde nurse.
The blond nurse, Chapel, and two of her fellows would swear the captain had put a sway in his steps for McCoy’s benefit. Most witnesses would tell how the good doctor had checked out Kirk’s ass. Spock, however, was frozen in place and wondered what in the universe he had just witnessed. It was the doctor’s growling drawl that snatched him back to the present.
"And what do you want?" Spock turned a blank gaze upon McCoy and had a rare moment of complete forgetfulness. Then he realized.
He had come to sickbay to speak with Kirk. Kirk had just left.
If he were human, he might have cursed in annoyance. Instead he tilted his head and replied in an even tone, "Nothing, doctor." He left sickbay to a chief surgeon muttering below his breath about green-blooded hobgoblins.
The next morning at breakfast, Spock once more witnessed the odd exchange between captain and doctor. McCoy arrived first and put together a tray, including an apple. Kirk came in late and stole the apple from his tray as he made his way to the replicator for his own breakfast. McCoy scowled and cursed and, yet again, replaced the apple with an orange.
His bewilderment apparently showed, because Uhura gave him a look and asked what was wrong. "I do not understand - do they do that every morning?"
She twisted in her seat to look at the pair - McCoy looked sour and Kirk pleased as they started in on their breakfast, soon joined by Chekov and Sulu. "Well, I thought they always ate together, even at the academy," she replied. Turning back in her chair, she smiled and shrugged.
Spock shook his head. "The past two mornings, Doctor McCoy arrived first and got his meal - including an apple - from the replicator. Then the captain arrives, steals the apple from the doctor’s tray as he is walking up to get his own meal. The doctor always appears understandably agitated by this, and yet both times he replaced the apple with an orange instead." The Vulcan was frowning at the doctor’s back as though such an illogical action were a personal affront. "If he prefers oranges, why not get one in the first place? It would save time and perhaps discourage the captain from stealing from his tray. ...Have I said something humorous?" This last he added upon noticing the wide grin and laughing eyes that Uhura regarded him with.
But she shook her head. "I can’t tell you why. Maybe he gets the apple for Kirk to steal."
Spock now stared at her. "Why should he do that? It is completely--"
"Illogical?" Uhura guessed. She bit one of her slender fingers the way she did when she was trying not to laugh.
"As well as ridiculous."
She really did laugh that time, warmth in the sound. "We’re all a little ridiculous sometimes, Spock," she said. "And don’t raise that eyebrow at me, Mr. Spock, I’m sure Vulcans aren’t exempt either."
"...Perhaps not," Spock conceded. "Still, it is a most puzzling routine which serves no discernable purpose."
"Probably it has some little significance just to them," Uhura replied with another shrug. "Inside joke or something. I suppose the only way you’d know for sure is if you asked them."
Here he stared at her again. "I do not believe that course of action would prove any more enlightening than continued observation."
She laughed again and Spock suspected he was being laughed at now. "Oh?"
He raised his eyebrows. "Indeed," he replied. "The doctor is not overly fond of me, and the captain... Sometimes it is difficult to be certain when he is serious."
Uhura smiled into her juice as she drank. "I think you underestimate them, but I can see what you mean. Kirk seems like he’d encourage the rumors, anyway."
Spock tilted his head, digesting that. "Why would he seek to perpetrate falsehoods about himself?"
"Well, unless they aren’t false," she replied. That light of laughter was back in her eyes. "But either way, he’d probably think it was funny."
Spock shook his head. "The human concept of humor is more strange than I have thought." Uhura muffled continued laughter with a loose fist.
Their mission had turned out in completely the wrong way, so it mystified Spock why the captain and doctor looked cheerful and pleased when he arrived on the bridge. Again, most things surrounding Kirk, McCoy, and their motives for anything were beyond Spock, so he chose not to trouble himself over it. It was easier to attribute it to their relief at being rescued from certain death at the hands of warlike people led by a Klingon.
He approached the captain’s chair, on McCoy’s other side, in time for Kirk to double over in laughter. An eyebrow raised, Spock opened his mouth to ask the captain something about his report on the mission, yet something else came out instead. "May I inquire as to what is so amusing?" He at least presumed it was not the doctor’s frustrated burst of Look, I’m a doctor, not an escalator! down on the planet, which Kirk had thought amusing enough to chuckle over for the next day or so that they were stuck in the region’s highlands.
At the question, both of them laughed. "Well," Kirk said, "you know the baby - how the woman kept saying the baby was McCoy’s?"
"Yes. Since undoubtedly she was close to end of term when we arrived, I assume such a statement was from a cultural viewpoint, rather than a factual and biological one."
That made McCoy snort and Kirk grin, though Spock was unsure why. "Yeah, well. Did you hear what she’s going to name him?" Kirk asked.
Spock looked between them, lifting an eyebrow. "I did not."
Here the pair tried inexplicably to hold in their grins and looked like they might explode as a result. "She’s going to name her son Leonard James," he replied. Spock gazed at the positively glowing pair and earned himself another snort of laughter. "Nice name, huh? What do you think?"
"I think the two of you are going to be insufferably pleased with yourselves for the next several days," Spock replied. His tone was curt and his gaze bland.
The two practically howled with mirth - Spock was content to leave them to it and return to his post at the science station.
This was perhaps the most frustrating study that Spock had ever undertaken. (And just when had his thorough disinterest in silly rumors turned into a full-fledged study?) All the various ways that humans could treat and interact with their friends and significant others notwithstanding, as individuals McCoy and Kirk continued to elude him in their motivations and actions.
Over and over he witnessed odd exchanges, dialogue that may or may not have been suggestive, their overall and complete ease with one another, the knowing glances that they shared... At least sixteen more times he observed the inexplicable morning ritual involving stolen apples being replaced with oranges, eight times that he was aware of they appeared to have slept in one another’s quarters - quite simply they were rarely out of each other’s company or contact if they could help it.
Again he found himself confessing his bafflement to Uhura, and again she seemed to find it all very amusing. Spock was somewhat at a loss as to why, until she said, "So what you mean is, not even a Vulcan scientist can figure out what’s between those two?"
Spock blinked at her. "In this case, that appears to be true," he said. Surely that wasn’t the source of her amusement.
"And it’s driving you crazy," she pronounced. She was smiling in the way he’d learned meant she was teasing him.
He lifted an eyebrow. "I am quite sane," he replied.
Uhura laughed. "Yes, of course," she said. "As sane as the gossiping crewmembers - I hear they’re taking bets now."
"Taking... bets? Upon what are they wagering?"
"The outcome," Uhura replied. Spock suspected that she was enjoying both answering his questions and leaving him with even more. Still, he considered her answer.
"I do not know that either side is the safer wager," he said at length.
"And is that the conclusion of your study?" she asked, dark eyes lit up in laughter again.
Spock did not hesitate one moment. "The conclusion of my study is that James T. Kirk and Doctor Leonard McCoy are beyond the understanding of something so effortlessly simple and streamlined as logic," he replied, "and that any relationship they have, platonic or not, is rife with emotional, irrational, inexplicable details, routines, dialogues, and habits."
Uhura let her head fall back as she laughed. "I think you’ll find your conclusion duplicated many times over." Her bright eyes and smile said to Spock that she was having entirely too much fun with this.
"I refuse to comment on the barest notion of making a scientific fact based upon those two." He made this point with a nod, took a sip of his tea, and watched as Kirk slunk over to the doctor and slipped an arm around his shoulders--only to receive an elbowing and a muttered curse, all of which made the captain laugh with an inordinate amount of delight.
Spock shook his head. Completely illogical.