"I want it to be somewhere special, somewhere he hasn't been before, you know?" Jim was gesturing with his chicken-wing as he spoke. "I mean Valentine's didn't go at all the way I'd hoped last year, but that was just one day. This is our first vacation together, a full week of shore-leave, it needs to make a good impression."
Bones rolled his eyes as he dug his fork into his mashed potatoes, "Go to Washington, it's full of museums, which I'm sure the hobgoblin will just love. Joanna went on a school trip a couple of months ago, said the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum was the best thing she's ever seen."
Jim gave him a look, "Joanna's ten, Bones, I don't think she's exactly the best gauge for what Spock might find interesting." Bones just shrugged and shoved a forkful of potatoes into his mouth as Jim continued on, "Besides, he's been to Washington before. Apparently he spent quite a bit of time at the aerospace museum on a trip there as a kid."
"Has he ever been to the British Isles, laddy?"
Giving it a moment of thought, Jim nodded as he looked over at Scotty, "Yes, he's mentioned a trip to London I'm certain."
"But never up ta Scotland?"
"No, not that I can recall actually," Jim seemed to be giving this idea some more thought. "Is there much to do on vacation there, this time of year?"
"Well it's certainly not the warmest time of year in January, but there's always plenty to do in Glasgow, and it's easy enough to get to Edin'burra or Stirling. Nyota and I are staying at the Grand Central Hotel in city center, I booked a package that includes their Rabbie Burns Supper."
"What's that?" Jim asked, his furrowed brow making it clear he'd never heard of it before.
"A fine, 500-year-old Scots tradition, and a grand party as well," Scotty grinned, clearly looking forward to his trip.
"Hmm, Spock does really enjoy history. I think I might have to look into that..."
"I've got our trip all booked."
Spock was confused by the item in his hands, Jim could tell by the particular quirk of his eyebrow. "And this item has something to do with it?"
"Well, I know you can get cold easily, and I thought it was a way for you to both stay warm and get in the spirit of things."
Spock's gaze returned to the bright red, tartan, earflap hat. There was a red pompom on top, and the long ties hung down, ending in fluffy tassels. "I see.... No, actually, I do not. Where is it we are going for our leave?"
"Scotland!" Jim declared excitedly. "I got us a package at this awesome hotel Scotty and Uhura are staying at. It includes a traditional dinner that's held this time of year, and is actually more of a party. There's a poem that's read at the dinner apparently, and then it's followed by this dance with Celtic music and dances that they've been doing for hundreds of years. I looked it up on the ship's computer, it looks like a great time, and history! I know you're into all that stuff."
He considered Jim's words for a few moments, just long enough to start making Jim nervous, before finally replying, "It could be a fascinating opportunity for anthropological study of the traditions our eccentric engineer originated from."
Jim was taking that as Spock-speak for 'I'm warming up to the idea.' "Great! I sent a file to your comm station with some other ideas about what we can do while we're there. They have museums, castles, pubs! All kinds of things really."
"I shall have a look-" Spock was interrupted by the hat's sudden removal from his hands.
They both looked down to see Tiberius happily chewing on one of the tassels. He looked up at them curiously. "Merow?"
"Tiberius will be accompanying us on this trip, of course," Spock said, as he carefully disentangled the tassel from Tiberius' hold.
"Oh.... Well, I was thinking we might leave him with Bones. I'm sure he won't like being cooped up in a hotel room all week."
It was amazing how Spock could give the kind of look with just an eyebrow that Jim had to use his whole face to express, "We will not be leaving Tiberius to the dubious mercies of our acerbic doctor. He will be coming with us."
Jim knew how to pick his battles, and he could see this clearly wasn't one worth fighting. "Alright, fine, I'll adjust our booking with the hotel to include Tiberius." Jim supposed they could always just close the cat in the bathroom when they wanted to carry out some more personal anthropological studies.
They stepped out of the spaceport into a brisk wind and Spock adjusted his overcoat a bit tighter about himself. Jim had to suppress a smile as he glanced at his first officer, a fluffy red scarf Jim had gotten to match the hat was wrapped snugly about his face and neck, the hat pulled down to protect his ears. The strap of Tiberius' carrier crossed his body, helping hold the overcoat close. Frankly Jim thought that he looked completely adorable, not that Spock would thank him for saying so, and not that Jim would ever think about voicing such a thought in the first place.
Spock looked over at him, the wind quickly bringing a green tinged flush to what little of his cheeks was visible above the scarf. "How far away is our hotel?"
"Not far by hover car, there, I see the stand over that way," Jim pointed out a queue of taxis waiting further down the curb.
They started off toward the queue, and despite his various past protestations that Vulcans did not in fact engage in such an illogical activity, Jim was certain he heard a sigh under the sound of the wind. It was alright, Spock was often dubious of his plans, but he knew this one would work out just as his others often had.
They'd decided to have a quiet first day in the city. Jim and Spock had gotten settled in their room, set up Tiberius' things and then spent the remainder of the afternoon walking about the city center, ducking in and out of shops. Spock had kept the hat and scarf on while they were out, even though Jim was pretty sure Spock found them slightly embarrassing, not that he'd ever admit to having such an emotion. Jim still thought they were cute, not an adjective one oft got the chance to apply to Spock, so he wasn't about to change the situation. For that matter, there were plenty of opportunities for Spock to get a different hat or scarf in the shops they'd been in, and he hadn't, so he couldn't have been that embarrassed, or at least the hat and scarf were doing their jobs well enough to keep the Vulcan content.
After dinner in the hotel restaurant they'd retired back to their room. While Jim puttered about with the entertainment system, exploring the options for both viewing and games, Spock sat at the end of the bed, the data sheets Jim had printed off for their various planned activities around him. It was the first opportunity Jim had given him to do so, having insisted he wanted to make all of the arrangements for them himself. A small stack of sheets to one side were the ones Spock had sorted out for the various museums, such as the historic Kelvingrove, but the one he currently held in his hand seemed to defy comprehension.
"A wild haggis hunt?"
Jim looked over with a grin, "Yeah, I booked that one for Wednesday. It's an all-day thing, and we'll get lunch at this great looking little pub in the town of Inversnaid, within the Loch Lomond park where the hunt takes place."
Spock contemplated that answer for a moment before he responded in what was, for him, a regretful tone, "Jim, I believe you may have been taken advantage of."
A frown creased Jim's brow, "What do you mean?"
"This data sheet speaks of traveling through the wilderness of the parkland in search of 'the elusive wild haggis'. I researched this province before we departed for our trip, and as a historic delicacy the haggis was often mentioned in my readings. I find myself compelled to inform you that it is not in fact a wild creature. That is a myth perpetuated by the locals for their amusement at the expense of outsiders, and is..." he trailed off as Jim's laughter interrupted him. It was certainly not the reaction he had expected to his revelation that Jim had signed them up to a service that was clearly run by duplicitous individuals. "Jim...?"
Trying to rein in his laughter, Jim grinned at Spock. "I'm sorry, you just sounded so sincere and regretful. I'm well aware haggis is made from sheep and other ingredients, or in the case of the vegetarian version I made sure they were serving at the Burns Night Supper before I booked us in it, lentils."
Spock was having a hard time hiding his confusion now, "Then why have you knowingly signed us up for this hunt?"
"It's a gimmick, Spock. They don't really expect anyone to believe they're going out to catch a 'haggis', it's a scenic tour and it's to add some colour to the theme and commentary. I thought that one looked more fun than a lot of the others, the creators at least clearly have a sense of humour."
"I believe I am already beginning to understand where Mr. Scott's particular form of humour derives from now." From his tone Jim couldn't be sure if that was a good thing, but at least he didn't think Jim had been fooled into hunting a mythological creature anymore.
"I also picked that one because I know it's got plenty of things we'll both enjoy. History and nature studies for you, and in the afternoon the tour switches to horseback. I've said before that I'd like to take you riding, and this seemed like a perfect chance."
"Hmm, perhaps a promising endeavour after-all."
Jim grinned once more, "That's the spirit. Now come over here and help me pick out a movie, otherwise I'll subject you to wherever my whims take me."
"Surak forbid..." With that Spock got up and walked over to the entertainment console to the soundtrack of Jim's laughter.
The week passed quickly. Jim loved museums as much as the next man, maybe even just a little bit more given his fascination with things like hardbound books, but he'd expected to get tired of them by the end of their second day. It turned out he'd expected wrong.
They'd done the Kelvingrove Gallery in the morning, then out to Stirling Castle, the first day. Jim had been eager to explore every room and exhibit with boyish enthusiasm. The next day it was out to Edinburgh for their castle and the Scottish Provincial Museum. That's when he thought he might start getting a bit bored, but with the calming of his own enthusiasm it left him more receptive to Spock's quiet, but intense, fascination. If Monday had been a day for 'oooing' and 'ahhing', then Tuesday had been a day for deep and thoughtful discussion, and debates over the finer points of historic battles and events, something they'd both enjoyed deeply.
Then Wednesday dawned, and Jim was pleased to see it was a bright and clear day. It meant the wind would probably be a bit stronger than the last couple of days, especially when they were up in the hills, and the temperature would certainly be colder, but the views on their 'wild haggis hunt' should be all the better for it.
The tour bus in the morning was warm and comfortable, and their guide was a cheerful young woman, who interspersed the factual information about their route with entertaining anecdotes about both notable and not so notable people that had lived and travelled through the area over the centuries. She'd gotten more than a few laughs from the tourists, and even a small quirk of Spock's lips at one point, which Jim thought was quite the accomplishment.
A delicious lunch was followed by a short bus ride to the stables where they were all assigned horses. Jim got a spirited young colt because of his experience, though he made sure Spock got a more sedate and reliable gelding. He wanted Spock to enjoy his first trail ride after all.
Which brought them to where they were now, standing along the bank of Loch Lomond late in the afternoon. They'd ridden through the hills, and the group had come to a stop along a stretch of shore so that those whom wanted to could get down and have a look around. Jim was standing at the edge of the grass, holding the reins of both his horse and Spock's as he looked out over the loch.
Spock was a short distance off, looking at one of the many plants that had caught his attention on their excursion, climbing about on some rocks. Jim looked over at him, only to realise that in his studying of the plant, Spock had positioned himself on some rather precarious rocks.
"Spock, watch where you're stepping, that doesn't look too-" Before Jim could even finish getting the words out, one of the rocks gave way, and a section of the pile slid into the loch, taking Spock with it.
"Spock!" Jim dropped the reins and ran over to the shore edge to find a wet and bedraggled looking Spock sitting dazed in the shallow water. "Oh Spock, isn't this sort of thing usually my trick?" He reached down to offer the Vulcan a hand in getting up.
Spock looked up, blinking to regain his focus, before reaching out and taking Jim's hand. "Indeed," he said, sounding far from impressed. He let Jim pull him up and help him back onto shore. Wet from head to toe with the icy water, it was clear his clothes weren't doing as well against the wind, and a chill was rapidly setting in.
"Fortunately we're not far from the stable. We'll get back as quick as we can, and see if they have some towels to help dry you off," Jim said, herding Spock towards the waiting horses.
"A l-logical idea," Spock said through the shivering that was beginning to set in.
"Definitely a quick ride," was Jim's verdict as he helped Spock back on his horse, then quickly got on his own. This wasn't how he'd hoped for their excursion to end, but at least Spock was uninjured, and the rest he could make up for when they got back to their hotel.
Getting back to the hotel, they made straight for their room. They'd gotten the worst of the wet dried off of Spock, but the Vulcan had gotten quite a chill before they made it to the stable, and even now Jim thought his skin wasn't quite back to its normal heat.
"A hot shower, that's really the thing for you, I think."
"I cannot fault the sense in that idea, though I must confess a desire to simply lie down as well. I find myself particularly fatigued," Spock said, as they walked up the hall towards their room.
"Shower first, and then we can lounge on the bed together until we decide to go for dinner. Tiberius will no doubt settle himself in your lap, which can only help warm you up," Jim said with certainty.
Spock nodded his agreement, and when they reached their room, Jim ushered Spock right into the en suite. Once the door was closed, Jim stepped over to the closet and begun stripping off his gloves and coat. He paused as he moved to remove his boots, surprised at having been uninterrupted so far. "Tiberius? You still sleeping, boy?" he straightened back up and stepped further into the room, a frown crossing his brow at no sign of the cat.
The room had clearly been cleaned while they were out, the bed was made, the towels Jim had left over the chair from his morning shower were gone, but still Jim found no sign of Tiberius. "Tiberius, come out from wherever you're hiding, will you?" He started looking under the bed, then the rest of the furniture. It was as he was becoming certain that the cat was not in their room that the en suite door opened and Spock stepped out wearing only a towel.
Spock quirked a brow at Jim's look of consternation, "Is something amiss?"
"I think the maid accidentally let Tiberius out when they were cleaning the room, he's not in here." Jim couldn't help the concern in his voice; it was an awfully large hotel for one small cat to go missing in.
"I will get dressed immediately so that we can go look for him," Spock said and went straight over to the closet to begin dressing.
"With any luck, someone's found him and they just aren't sure where to return him to. We should check with the front desk first."
"A sensible idea, though the notion of luck has nothing to do with it. I will also lower my mental shields somewhat, it is possible I will sense his familiar presence when he is nearby." He pulled a black shirt on, leaving his dark hair in disarray. He quickly ran his fingers through his hair, pushing it into a semblance of its normal perfect order, as he toed on his shoes and then they were out the door.
Jim and Spock were nearly to the front desk when Spock stopped suddenly, his gaze turning towards a restaurant seating area off the lobby. "Spock, did you find him?" Jim asked curiously.
Spock's only response was a distracted nod as he started off towards the tables. They were halfway there when Jim spotted Tiberius. He was curled up in the lap of an older Vulcan who was looking out the windows of the restaurant into the transport hub the hotel was built around. The man turned to look at them as they approached, a faint smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
"Spock!" Jim couldn't help his surprise, "Uh, I mean, Ambassador Selek, I wasn't expecting to see you here." He glanced at his Spock, knowing his slip was really rather obvious.
Ambassador Spock gave a small chuckle, "You may relax, Jim, my counterpart and I are already acquainted."
Jim narrowed his eyes, "But you said..."
"I implied. You made your own assumptions, and who was I to enlighten you when it would serve to help put you on the path needed to defeat Nero?" There was clear amusement in the old man's eyes. He was the most emotional Vulcan Jim had ever met, even if he'd still seem stoic to most humans by their standards.
Jim turned on his Spock, "And why didn't you ever say anything?"
"...The topic never came up," Spock said, seeming to lack any better excuse.
Still looking a bit disgruntled, but letting the topic go for now, Jim turned back to the ambassador. "So not that I'm not happy to see you, old man, but what are you doing here, and why do you have Spock's cat?"
He ran a wizened hand over Tiberius' head, "So this is Tiberius then? I suppose that explains his behavior."
Spock quirked a brow at the ambassador, "And what behavior might that have been?"
"I was just sitting here, enjoying the view, when he claimed my lap rather adamantly. I had thought perhaps the hotel simply had some particularly friendly cats to greet their visitors, instead I expect he sensed something familiar about me when lacking his normal companions." That faint smile was back again.
"Tiberius slipped out of our room while the maid was in, apparently. Glad he found you, and not someone less trustworthy," Jim smiled, "Now as for why you're here?"
"Ah, yes. I was attending a conference in London. When I mentioned my plans to attend it to Mr. Scott, in our monthly correspondence two weeks ago, he suggested I spend the remainder of my week once the conference was done here with himself and you. I thought it an opportunity too unique to pass upon." He gave Tiberius' ears a final rub as the cat got up and hopped off his lap, strolling over to his 'normal' Spock.
Jim was almost certain he heard Spock mutter 'traitor' as he picked Tiberius up.
"We should have dinner together tonight, since you're here and world-ending paradoxes apparently won't ensue." Jim was pretty sure the look he was getting branded him a 'traitor' as well.
"I had been planning to meet Mr. Scott and Ms. Uhura at this establishment later for dinner, when they returned from their sightseeing. I see no reason why the five of us cannot eat together instead," the ambassador shot an amused glance at his younger counterpart, "unless you have other plans?"
"No, we don't," Jim didn't give Spock even a moment to suggest otherwise. "We'll meet you back down here around 1800 hours?"
He nodded, "I shall look forward to it. Until later then, gentlemen."
"See you later, old man," Jim grinned cheerfully as he and Spock turned to head back to their room with Tiberius. When Jim was certain they were well out of earshot of the ambassador, he shot an amused look at Spock, "Jealousy is a new expression on you."
"I am unaware as to what you mean," Spock kept his eyes straight ahead, his back and shoulders stiff.
"Uh huh, well, hypothetically speaking then, if you were to find yourself experiencing jealousy it's not needed. My interests lie in only one place, regardless of how many timelines there may be in the multiverse. Besides," Jim grinned, "he's old."
While Spock didn't laugh as a human might at those words, or even smile, the way his shoulders relaxed, and he allowed himself to walk just that bit closer beside Jim told him they'd had their intended effect. And at that knowledge, a grin lit Jim's face the whole way back to their room.
The rest of the week passed in a blur. With old Spock there, the couples decided to do many of their remaining activities together so as to include him as well. There were plays to see, exhibits to visit, even an excellent pipe and drum band that they encountered busking one afternoon by pure chance. Before they knew it the last night of their trip, and the Burns Night Supper and Ceilidh, was upon them.
The dinner was delicious, and the main course had started with the traditional 'Address To A Haggis'. The hotel's master of ceremonies stood at the main table, while each of the smaller tables were invited to have one member join him in the address and the slicing open of the haggis at the end. Of course Scotty was their representative, and he stood and spoke the words with the rest with such an easy turn of phrase that clearly it was a poem he was well familiar with.
Jim figured Scotty had to have been well versed in it to even understand half of what he was saying, the old Scots English so far removed from modern Standard that Jim wasn't even sure what half of it meant. He gave up trying at 'Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve', just letting the cadence of the words wash over him, but seriously what did 'jaups in luggies' even mean? As he glanced around the table he could all but see both Spocks cataloging each word away in their minds for later study. Uhura just smiled as she listened, seeming all the world as though she understood every word, and maybe she did. She was a linguist after all, and had been with Scotty nearly as long as Jim had been with Spock. It was entirely possible she was already familiar with the poet this night celebrated.
The haggis was served round, with sides of mashed neeps'n'tatties, as well as some other assorted vegetables. Jim found the haggis surprisingly tasty, considering what it was made of, particularly when he mixed it with a bite of his mashed potatoes. Both Spocks dubbed the flavour of their vegetarian haggis to be 'fascinating', and from there they moved on to equally delightful courses of dessert, or as the Scots were calling it 'pudding', cheese, and finally coffee with some crisp biscuits for dunking.
The coffee course brought with it a series of both serious and humorous speeches, which Scotty informed the group were all very important in a traditional Burns Supper. When they were done, the master of ceremonies declared that it was time to officially start the ceilidh. Servers cleared away the contents of the tables as a bar opened along one side of the room and a band began to play on a platform at the far end, which overlooked a large dance floor.
The musicians were playing an eclectic mix of fiddle, drums, guitars and harp, and the music was both lively and enthralling. Jim insisted, of course, that they get up to join in the first dance, and was both pleased and amused to see the concentration on Spock's face as the band's singer explained the steps for all for the novices before they started.
There was never a truly quiet moment during the ceilidh as the entertainment moved from one thing to the next. Step dances were intermixed with performances of Burns' poetry, and even renditions of some of his songs. Jim was proved right in his suspicions of Uhura's prior knowledge as she took a turn singing a song written by Burns, with all of the appropriate accent of a native, to Jim's untrained ears anyway.
Later into the night, the band called for the guests to take turns coming up and singing or playing a piece that was traditional to their own homelands. Uhura threaded her way through the crowd, over to where Spock and Jim were resting at a table after a particularly vigorous dance.
"Spock..." Uhura looked at him tentatively.
"Nyota," he nodded back to her, quirking an inquiring brow.
"I thought perhaps.... Would you like to perform a piece with me? I know you like to keep our rehearsals private mostly, but I don't think we could ask for a more receptive audience, really," she gestured at the crowd around them.
As Spock hesitated uncertainly, Jim laid a hand on his forearm where it rested on the table. "Go on. It's not often I get to hear you play, and she has a point about the audience," he tilted his head towards the front of the room where people were listening enthusiastically to a young woman singing a Norwegian folk tune.
"I do not have my ka'athyra with me," Spock looked up at the band, "but the harp would make a satisfactory replacement."
Jim smiled encouragingly, "That's the spirit!"
Spock got up and allowed himself to be lead by Uhura around to the stage, where they beckoned the harp player aside to speak quietly with her. When the young woman finished her song, the musicians rearranged the front of the stage so that a chair sat off to the side by the microphone. Spock took his seat, while Uhura stepped up to the microphone.
"This is a piece composed in the Vulcan tradition, it's entitled 'Vuhlkansu Pula'tusa'. We hope you enjoy," she nodded to the crowd and waited as Spock closed his eyes and began to softly finger a melody on the harp.
The music was soft and sad as it spun through the air, and when Uhura began to sing her part it only added to the atmosphere building in the room. Undoubtedly there were very few present who could understand fluent Vulcan, but you didn't need to understand the words to feel the emotion they invoked. Jim had heard this piece only once before. He knew it was one Spock and Uhura had written together, and he was both surprised and pleased it was the one Spock had chosen to play.
Jim was certain there were many teary eyes in the room as the piece approached his favourite part. As it neared the end, the piece moved into a major key and the melody ended instead on a hopeful note. His internal musing was interrupted by a soft voice beside him.
"I have often thought our music was the one place we allowed ourselves to admit our emotions publicly. Within the logical form and structure of the notes it was safe to express those things we keep inside."
Jim hadn't noticed the ambassador sit down beside him during the song, but he turned to him now. "Spock wrote that with Uhura for the first anniversary of Vulcan's loss. He said the tragedy of the losses should never be forgotten, but that the promise of the future shouldn't be lost in the tragedy either."
The ambassador smiled enigmatically, "I believe my counterpart has already learned some of the lessons it took me a great many more years to understand. I truly look forward to seeing the men you both shall become."
Jim felt a faint flush stain his cheeks and was grateful for the dim lighting, "Don't flatter me, old man, it'll go to my head."
He chuckled softly, "I say only what is true."
Shaking his head with a wry smile, Jim got up and met Spock part way between the stage and where they'd been sitting, "That was beautiful. The two of you never cease to amaze me." Spock tilted his head in acknowledgment and appreciation of the compliment, and they walked off to the bar to get something to drink.
It wasn't long before the evening drew to a close. Jim and Spock stood together by the windows as most of the other guests gathered in a circle on the dance floor. The band began playing and the strains of 'Auld Lang Syne' filled the room.
"Tomorrow it's back to the Enterprise," Jim looked at Spock. "I know the trip has had its ups and downs, but I hope you've enjoyed yourself."
"I must admit to having had my doubts when you proposed this trip, but it has been...exceedingly agreeable." As the wind whistled by the window next to them, he continued with a raised brow, "But perhaps next time you might select somewhere with an average temperature a few degrees warmer."
Jim laughed and leaned his shoulder against Spock's as the song drew to a close.
"Fir auld lang syne, ma dear,
fir auld lang syne,
wil tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
fir auld lang syne."