"Eat some food, Spock," McCoy urged as he glared at the occupant of the table near, but not too near, him and Jim Kirk in the mess hall.
"I am very busy, Doctor." Spock sounded distracted, which he was. He was more interested in what his hands were doing than in the prospects of food, even though they were seated in the mess hall albeit not together.
"You gotta eat!" McCoy insisted.
"I am not hungry."
"Not hungry?!" McCoy echoed, suspiciously.
"No, Doctor, I am not," Spock insisted. "Please, I am trying to concentrate on my project."
McCoy frowned. Spock's malaise to food was puzzling. "Are you sick?" McCoy demanded.
"No, Doctor," Spock said with much patience. "I am not ill."
"Are you sure? Maybe you're in need of a physical!"
"I am not due for a physical."
"I'll be the judge of that! You're acting damn peculiar, that's all I can say!" McCoy turned to Kirk and watched him shoveling food into his mouth. "Well, aren't you going to do something?!"
"I am, Bones. I am eating my lunch. I suggest that you do the same, before you have to go back on duty."
"About the Vulcan, damn it! Are you gonna do anything about Spock?!"
Kirk glanced at Spock. "He's not disturbing the peace. Seems like he's being perfectly quiet." Kirk shot McCoy a look. "Which is more than what you're doing."
"He's gotta eat!" McCoy looked over at Spock and addressed him. "Maybe instead of a physical, you need a physic! A good dose of castor oil will get you up and moving again!" McCoy's eyes blazed. "That would take the lethargy out of anybody! You can't beat country cures, and you're about to find out the reason why. Get your track shoes on, Vulcan! You're about to need them!"
"Leave him alone, Bones," Kirk muttered.
"I still say that the old-fashioned castor oil cure would get him all ready for Spring. At least, it might get that stupid look off his face and give him something else to think about. He looks like he's dreaming about elves and pixies and the fairies that live at the bottom of the hill. He'll forget all about them when that castor oil shoots through his system. Then he'll find that he's either a track star or a laundry maid. There's no in between when it comes to castor oil."
The joke registered with Kirk who gave McCoy a slapdash grin. But just that quickly, Kirk returned to his food.
Great! McCoy wouldn't be getting any help out of Kirk. The Captain was acting like he hadn't seen food for a month and was wanting to clean his plate in record time. The children that had been starving in China for centuries wouldn't be getting any food from Kirk's leftovers today.
McCoy turned back to Spock. “What the hell are you doing over there, Vulcan?!” he growled. "You seem pretty intent."
“I am celebrating Spring, Doctor,” Spock answered absently as he intently studied the objects lying scattered all around his hands on the table before him. A nearby vase filled halfway with water was his sole other companion. The flowers that had once been in the vase now lay decimated and disgraced, no longer objects of beauty. Headless stems were tossed in a haphazard pile to one side, while all that remained of their decapitated heads was a stack of yellow petals.
Spock seemed to be engrossed in his activities, but all that McCoy could see was a mess.
"Celebrating Spring, eh?"
“Hear that, Jim?” McCoy hissed as he leaned over the table so Spock couldn't hear. “Celebrating Spring! How's that? By acting addle-pated?! What’s next? Showing up wearing a tutu on the bridge? Spouting poetry when addressed? Communing with the gods and goddesses of Ancient Greece? Prancing and leaping around the Enterprise like he's part of some Bohemian dance troupe on a tour of college campuses?!" McCoy's eyes blazed again. "I tell you, Jim, he's crazier than Hell on a good day! He's gone ape shit!”
“Hmm.” Kirk was more interested in his chicken teriyaki over rice with an orange and spinach salad on the side. Almond cookies and a crab Rangoon awaited Kirk as an ending to his Chinese luncheon. Two egg rolls and crunchy string beans had already been devoured. He was very smug about all of the vegetables he was ingesting. After all, he was trying to eat healthy. McCoy might disagree.
McCoy continued on his monologue about Spock. “First, he doesn’t sit with us. And now he’s over there muttering to himself and shredding flowers apart. What’s going on? He's your friend. Explain him."
Kirk finally looked up. "He's your friend, too."
"Well, yeah, okay. If it'll move this conversation along, I'll agree," McCoy conceded. "The Vulcan's my friend, too." He leaned closer to confide in Kirk. "But I'm not too sure what his opinion of me is, though. Who knows what's going on in that strange mind of his?"
"I believe that you're safe to turn your back on him," Kirk joked. "You could probably even take a nap around him with the knowledge that he won't murder you in your sleep."
"Jim! I know better than that. He's saved my life a few times."
"Yeah, I know. And you've saved his life. I'm just messing with you," Kirk said with a grin as he speared an orange segment with some spinach. "Eat your lunch before it gets cold. Stop worrying. Spock is fine."
Kirk knew, or thought that he knew, more than McCoy realized in that department. But McCoy could be blind to things that were so obvious to other people. For one thing, even though Spock baited McCoy terribly, he respected McCoy's opinion and even admired the doctor for his integrity, perseverance, and dedication. If Spock did not consider McCoy an intellectual equal, he would not debate him so vigorously. Spock would simply leave McCoy alone to flounder in his stupidity. Kirk knew that. Why didn't McCoy?
And Kirk also knew that Spock was surely not immune to McCoy's playful side. And when McCoy started flirting, everyone melted. Why, the man could charm bark off a tree or cause the sun to shine on an otherwise cloudy day with those flirty, come-hither eyes of his. Or enchant the heart of an emotionally constipated Vulcan. Spock surely had a soft spot deep within him somewhere for someone whose actions ranged wildly over a plethora of emotional reactions. McCoy was entertaining, if nothing else. But Kirk sensed that the emotion between those guys ran deeper than McCoy realized.
"But, come on, Jim, what do you think is going on over there? What's so damn enthralling?"
“What do you care, Bones, if he’s quiet and not bothering you?” Kirk asked reasonably. "After all, you're bothering him, and he's not objecting. So why are you so hot and bothered?"
“It just ain’t natural,” McCoy stated with a dark countenance. "It's not natural, at all."
"Eat your food, Bones. And leave me to mine. That's an order."
McCoy reluctantly complied, and Kirk reveled in the soothing quiet. McCoy realized that he'd pushed Kirk about as far as he could.
Conversations from other tables in the mess hall penetrated, but Kirk and McCoy's table was blessedly silent.
McCoy shifted his attention to a table where Chapel and Uhura sat deep in conversation and girlish laughter. It was good to see them so relaxed. The women were actually younger looking and quite beautiful when caught unawares like that. McCoy began fantasying about their backgrounds and futures. His mind, thankfully, was off Spock.
All might have gone on as usual. This shift of crew would have finished their meal and gone on with their duties. The discussion between McCoy and Kirk would've been forgotten in time.
But something happened, something to make that meal memorable.
Spock froze for a moment as if he didn't quite believe what was about to happen. Then he pulled off the last flower petal.
“He loves me!” Spock crowed.
McCoy was so deep in thought that he did not notice. It was lucky that McCoy didn’t see the smile that Spock shot his way or hear his exclamation.
But Kirk did. He dropped his fork and stared at the gleeful Spock who was bathing McCoy with Vulcan sunshine. Kirk had never realized that Spock could grin like that. It made the Vulcan look stupid. But the cause for it was far worse. For the only person whom Spock could see was McCoy.
Of course, Kirk thought with twinkling eyes and a spreading grin. It was all so obvious!
"What the hell struck you?" McCoy wanted to know, aware of his dining companion again. "If I hadn't seen you drop your fork, I would've figured that you swallowed it. Why do you have that shit eating look on your face?"
"Nothing, nothing," Kirk mumbled through his laughter as he fought to regain the fork to his hand.
McCoy's skepticism deepened along with his scowl. "I suppose you're celebrating Spring, too? Are you catching the same malady as the Vulcan? Although in your case, that might be a blessing. A little time away from the feed trough would do you a world of good," McCoy muttered. "I can't get him to eat, and I can't get you to stop. Surely, somewhere between the two of you, there's got to be a happy medium with this eating thing."
"Doctor," Spock said cheerfully as he slid into the chair beside McCoy and startled McCoy. Spock slid his arm along the top of McCoy's chair and leaned toward McCoy's plate. That really startled McCoy as he stared up at the grinning Vulcan looming over him.
What the hell?!
Then it got worse.
McCoy felt a sudden surge of awareness as Spock's body hovered so close to his. What the hell was going on now?! But he was so taken by Spock's proximity that he could not even voice a protest.
Spock took McCoy's silence for encouragement, so he pressed a little closer. "What delightful morsel are you eating for your luncheon? It looks positively yummy!"
"Look again. It's a pork chop. You're a vegetarian. Remember? That means that you eat no meat, in case you've forgotten."
Spock gave McCoy a flirty look. "Perhaps it is time that I consider becoming an omnivore. You know, like you," Spock noted, as if it was the most appealing coincidence that could've occurred.
"It would upset your system by changing your eating habits so radically, Spock. Ingesting meat is a terrible tax on your system if you are not used to eating it."
"Oh, Doctor, how quaint! Could I not live on the edge for a change?" Spock asked with a hearty chuckle and pressed his shoulder against McCoy's as he leaned toward him.
McCoy stiffened and drew back. What the hell had just happened?! When Spock pressed against him, it was like an electrical shock had passed through his body. Hell, it was more like a whole transformer had fallen on him. But that didn't make sense. He had touched Spock before, and Spock had touched him.
But never like this, McCoy realized. Never like this.
McCoy could not let Spock see how much Spock's nearness had affected him. "If you get a bellyache while living on this new edge of yours," McCoy muttered, "don't come whining to me in pain."
"Oh, Doctor, how droll! Do you not know my new motto? Try anything once." Then he winked, actually winked at McCoy with a sly smile. "Twice if you like it."
McCoy stared at Spock as if the happy Vulcan was an alien lifeform. "Have you been getting some sort of narcotic high from those yellow flower petals you've been shredding?! What the hell is going on with you anyway, Spock?!"
"Oh, if you only knew, Bones," Kirk said, laughing and trying not to choke. "If you only knew!" He held up his hand in surrender. "I can't take it anymore! I can't take it! I gotta get outa here!" Still laughing, he pushed back his chair and stumbled away from the table.
"What the hell struck him?!" McCoy wanted to know. "Is your craziness contagious?!"
"Maybe he wanted to leave us alone," Spock answered as he absently picked an orange segment from Kirk's salad, popped it into his mouth, and leisurely chewed the food while giving McCoy soft, suggestive looks.
"Why the hell would he want to do that?! And why in the hell are you eating from Jim's plate?! That's not advisable! And it's unsanitary! Don't eat with your fingers!"
"I am not afraid of eating after Jim," Spock explained as he hooked a pinch of rice and red pepper from Kirk's deserted dinner. "Besides, I am already infected with a seasonal disease that I once feared, but I now welcome most wholeheartedly. You should, too."
"You're crazier than bat shit, did you know that?!"
"I believe that you will change your opinion, if you will only allow me to explain, Doctor."
"I don't know. You're acting pretty goofy. What's happened to you anyway?"
"It is Spring, Doctor, and the flowers do not lie. I had to wait a long time to learn that, but they do not lie."
"If you say so," McCoy said slowly, thinking that it was probably best to humor the odd acting man who was sitting so closely to him now.
"If you will allow me to explain."
"Go ahead. I'm listening. Lunch is ruined anyway."
"No, Doctor, not now," Spock said, suddenly serious. But his eyes still twinkled softly and his mouth, that exquisite mouth, still curved in a slight smile. "Tonight. My quarters. I will explain about the flowers then. And other rites of Spring," he added mysteriously.
What the hell, McCoy thought. Why not? Maybe he could learn what was going on, what had everyone acting so goofy today. Maybe it was caused by Spring's arrival, after all.
"Alright, Spock, it's a date," McCoy mumbled, then saw the added spark of interest as Spock's eyes flashed with new happiness.
Why did McCoy have the sneaking hunch that he'd called their appointment the right thing?