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Having favorites was illogical. 

Spock knew this was so, and yet he heard about the practice often from his shipmates.  This was not surprising given that eighty-three-point-seven percent of the Enterprise crew complement were Human, and therefore cared little for logic.  Humans had an exhaustive list of favorites that could go on indefinitely, everything from foods and colors to articles of clothing and even days of the week.  Spock understood little about favorites; he saw no benefit in desiring one thing to the exclusion of all others.  It seemed limiting and quite insensible.

Having preference was logical. 

Preferences allowed one to rationally pair the most efficient, compatible, and orderly variables together to allow an economical use of time and resources.  It was logical to desire operating in an environment which supported these things.  Spock understood and approved the practice of having preferences.

For example: Spock preferred mornings in comparison to most other daytime intervals.  And every day he woke exactly one hour and fifty-seven minutes before his shift to complete all preparatory rituals for the day.  Doctor McCoy described this custom as 'unholy communion at ungodly hours'.  It was clear to Spock that, like most Humans, McCoy hated mornings.

Consequently, breakfast was a meal Spock always ate alone.  And if he had been asked to predict the likelihood of this solitude changing, he would have estimated a threshold no higher than thirteen-point-one percent.

To say Spock was surprised, then, to see James T. Kirk stumble into the mess hall at 0632 one morning would not have been an entirely accurate statement.  But that was only because Vulcans were never surprised.

Kirk looked vaguely as though his sleeping alcove had challenged him to a battle and emerged victorious.  Spock had never seen him appear so disorderly.  The Human stalked across the mess hall entryway, came within six inches of walking into the food processor, and stabbed his finger at the control console in such a way that Spock was certain he must have damaged it.  Two mugs of what Spock presumed to be caffeine appeared on his captain’s tray, followed by a plate of toast, Risian fruit, and an unidentified protein.

Kirk picked up his tray and began to make his way over to Spock's table, somehow manoeuvring around nearby furniture with his eyes closed.  As he drew near, Spock readied himself to catch the man if he tripped over an unseen protruding table leg or possibly over his own two feet.  But caution was unnecessary and a moment later Kirk lowered himself into the seat opposite Spock with a jarring clatter of cutlery and a slight slopping of darkly brewed liquid. 

Spock preferred mornings.  But looking at his captain’s dishevelled appearance, he highly doubted that Kirk did.  The Human was normally very neatly pressed and polished and one would expect his current unkempt state to make him seem slovenly and inadequate.  But Spock realized with some puzzlement this was not the case.  Kirk's untidiness left him as attractive as ever, perhaps even more so than usual.  This was not logical, but then so little about Kirk was.

It would be irritating, were Spock more inclined to admit to irritation. 

"Morning, Spock," Kirk greeted through an impressive yawn.  "Mind if I join you?"

Spock assumed this was a rhetorical question since it would have been extremely discourteous to reply in the negative, thus forcing his captain to vacate the seat he already occupied.

"I have no objections," Spock said, and meant it.  Though the company was unusual, his friend was in no way unwelcome.

A curious thing, friends.  Once, years ago, Spock had not understood the significance of friends.  But he knew now that having friends was much like having preferences.  Friends were a known compatible variable with whom one might be more effective, successful and accomplished; achieving more together than they would alone.  Friends were preferred persons who shared interests and kinship. 

Spock was satisfied with this definition of friendship.

"Thanks," Kirk said.  He snatched up one of his mugs and drained half the contents in a single swallow.  The Human pointed a proprietary piece of toast at Spock’s breakfast, then promptly took a bite from his gesturing food product.  "What's that?"

Spock looked down at his own breakfast tray.  "It is a collection of sweetened grains designed to adequately meet all my nutritional needs until midday meal."

"Wow, that sounds boring," Kirk said, blinking tiredly at his toast with new appreciation.  Spock could not see the logic in this.  His grain was clearly far superior to Kirk's toast and therefore a much more suitable food to have a preference for.

"I fail to understand the link between entertainment and nutritional value," Spock said.

"Which makes sense if you eat that every morning," Kirk said, shoveling three forkfuls of protein into his mouth in quick succession.  Spock was certain this speed of ingestion could not be healthy.

"Is there a reason you are consuming your food so urgently?"

"Nah," Kirk said.  "I always eat like this in the morning.  Actually, this is me going slow."  He finished the rest of his first cup of coffee, beginning to look marginally more aware.

"I see," Spock said, though he certainly did not.  "It is curious to see you awake at this hour.  I had understood you found mornings unappealing." 

"Mmm," Kirk said.  "Couldn’t sleep.  Haven’t had much luck for the past week.  It’s starting to catch up with me."

"Are you unwell, Jim?" Spock asked, suppressing an immediate and instinctive urge to reach out and examine his friend.  In the last four months and six days, Spock had noted a nine-point-seven percent increase in his desire to initiate physical contact with Kirk.  It was a most inconvenient impulse.  This, too, would have been irritating and unwelcome, were Spock not a Vulcan and therefore immune to such inconveniences.  "If you are ill, surely it is logical to seek out Doctor McCoy at the first available opportunity."

"Oh?" Kirk said.  "Logical, is it?  Should I remind you of that the next time you may or may not need medical attention?"  He examined Spock with pointed amusement.

"That is an inaccurate comparison," Spock said stiffly.

"Is it?"  Kirk wrinkled his nose skeptically.  Spock chose to find it not at all charming.

"It is.  As a Vulcan I am fully cognizant of my own physiological status at all times.  Excepting critical injury, medical examination is often superfluous and unnecessary."

"Don’t let Bones hear you say that or you’ll end up due for your annual physical six months early.  Besides, he’s the CMO.  It’s his duty to determine whether or not there’s a medical issue at hand."

"If one is in adequate health according to one’s own assessment, there seems little need to -"

"See, Spock, you just made my point for me," Kirk interrupted, spreading his hands in what Spock recognized as an equivalent shrug.  "Logic has absolutely nothing to do with preserving your dignity when it comes to Leonard McCoy.  I’d rather suffer a little in my solitude than suffer a lot with the good doctor's hyposprays."

Spock silently acknowledged the validity of this argument.

"Doctor McCoy does have a particular talent for intimidation.  One wonders why he pursued a career in medicine when he might have been equally as effective in security."

Kirk laughed, a wide smile lighting up his face.  Spock allowed the left corner of his own lip to curl just slightly.

"I don't think I could have said it better myself!" Kirk said.  "Did I ever tell you how Bones and I met?  You think he hates space travel now; you should have seen him when I first signed on.  I've never been so worried about someone simultaneously throwing up on me and - oh hell."

Spock turned to face the direction Kirk was staring and noticed with some alarm the doctor in question standing in the open mess hall doorway.  A scowl darkened McCoy's perpetually cantankerous face and he had the look of someone who had donned a uniform in a hurry.  Not unlike Kirk.

"You!" The doctor snapped, pointing at Kirk.

"He should've been out for at least another hour," Kirk groaned, rising.  He shot Spock a crooked looking smile.  "Time to pay the piper I guess.  I love the smell of medical lectures in the morning, don’t you?"

"You were supposed to report to me before you went to sleep," McCoy scolded, rapidly approaching while Kirk shuffled his tray together in clear preparations to flee. "And I knew there was no chance you’d com' me in the morning after ‘forgetting’.  I had to set an alarm to alert me when you left your quarters!  You can be a real pain in my ass, you know that?"

"You set an alarm to tell you when I left my quarters?" Kirk asked, incredulous.  "I’ve reduced you to stalking now, Bones?  I'm shocked and appalled.  Should I be worried?"

"Only if it gets you into sickbay faster."

"Bones, it’s really too early for this," Kirk sighed, and then he was up and striding away, waving absentmindedly over his shoulder.  "Later, Spock.  Enjoy your breakfast."

"Sickbay!  Now!" McCoy ordered, following, and they disappeared into the corridor while Spock stared after them, dutifully continuing to consume his grain.

Quite a peculiar morning, Spock decided.  Less refreshing and productive than normal, but somehow more interesting for all that.

Spock stepped onto the bridge sixty-one minutes later and discovered he was not the first to arrive for alpha shift.  Kirk was already seated in the center seat.  Spock interpreted the man's disgruntled expression to mean that McCoy had eventually succeeded in bullying him into sickbay.  And then likely the doctor had proceeded to commit assault via hypospray.

Spock quietly relieved the gamma shift science officer and situated himself at his station.

"Captain," he greeted.  "Is all well?"

"Good morning, Mr. Spock," Kirk murmured, head down as he scanned through a quarterly report.  "Never better.  Thank you."

Nothing more was forthcoming.  Now more curious than ever, Spock suppressed any impulse to ask further questions.  He was sure that a more appropriate time for discussion would present itself.

But the day passed without such a moment, as did the next, and the next.  By the end of the week Spock had long since determined his conjectures could be nothing but unwanted, and he resolved to keep his distance from the rising tension between captain and CMO. 

Dinner at week’s end was a simple affair, essentially the same as every other evening meal for every other day of the week.  The only thing to distinguish it from the rest of Spock’s schedule was that he was eating this one in the recreation room and spending it in the company of Lieutenant Uhura.  She had spent the last hour describing recent shipboard events and 'catching him up'.

It was a scenario similar to many of their dinners.  Uhura had once explained to him her desire to ‘plug him in’ to the Human element of the ship, the communication lines of the crew more colloquially known as 'gossip'.  Spock allowed it because she left him little recourse and ignored all his efforts of escape.  Most of the tedious melodrama of his shipmates Spock filed away to be discarded from memory at the earliest opportunity, but one in particular did manage to catch his attention .

"I beg your pardon?" he interrupted politely.

"Oh – which?" she asked, tilting her head in a manner he had always found unfailingly attractive when they’d been romantically involved, and which he now merely appreciated as beautiful.

"The captain," he prompted, glancing around for a moment to confirm the man was too far away to overhear him.  He was.  Kirk was seated at a table nearly halfway across the room, oddly still, and Spock could make out thin lines of exhaustion marking his visage.  Even as Spock watched, McCoy arrived at the table, carrying two drinks and looking an odd combination of mellow and aggravated.  It was a state Spock had generally begun to associate with the doctor.  The man always seemed most at ease in the midst of an argument.

Spock regained his immediate focus, tuning into Uhura’s words in time to hear, "…very odd lately.  No one can pinpoint what’s wrong with him, except maybe McCoy and he's not talking."

"Please specify your reasons for assuming there is something wrong with the captain."

"Well, not wrong.  But not right, either.  Mira - Lieutenant Hartwick down in Engineering - was flirting up a storm with him yesterday and he barely even noticed.  And Kirk, not noticing a pretty girl throwing herself at him?  Like I said: not wrong, but not right."

"I see," Spock said, and briefly entertained the notion that he appeared only to use that phrase when it was patently untrue.

Familiar voices raised with emotion from the other side of the room, with just enough volume to become intermittently clear to Spock's sensitive hearing.

" – give me the headache from hell, McCoy," Kirk was saying.  "I’m telling you, I don’t need them."

"It doesn’t work like that, Jim.  Your symptoms are only -" a chair scraping loudly momentarily drowned the discussion out, "- hoping they'll go away.  They won't.  Stop being such a baby."

Kirk growled something too indistinct to make out and Spock reviewed the short snippet of conversation with some concern.  Was there something seriously wrong with his captain and friend?  One might assume so, from McCoy’s words, but the doctor was prone to both overreaction and theatricality, and also their public venue would suggest nothing requiring a great deal of confidentiality.

"Spock," Uhura said, nudging the tips of his fingers with her glass.  He turned back to her, blinking.


She studied him for a moment and then glanced in the same direction he'd been caught staring a moment ago.  Spock could not read her expression.

"Nothing," she said at last, but there was a smile on her face which did not match the tone of her voice.  "Ready for a little practice?"

Practice had been the second item on their agenda.  Spock nodded swiftly and reached for the lyre idling untouched at his feet.  He began to tune it but hadn’t done more than rework the first few strings when he was interrupted by a voice he realized he'd been unconsciously waiting for.

"Spock!" Kirk called and when Spock looked up it was to behold the Human sporting a jovial grin.  It did not quite succeed in camouflaging the exhaustion ringing his eyes or the exasperation creasing his brow.  McCoy followed swiftly behind him with no smile to mask his own annoyance, and Spock watched the doctor close his mouth on whatever remark he’d been about to make.  As Kirk’s smile shielded fatigue, so it seemed Spock was being used as another manner of shield.  He found he did not mind.

"Jim," he acknowledged.

"And Uhura," Kirk said, waving at her.  She nodded at him, half true warmth, half reticence.  Their relationship had been on precarious ground almost from the beginning, but things had improved as Kirk settled into his role as captain, his flirtatious overtures successfully curtailed by his rank. 

"What are you two doing in this neck of the woods?" Kirk asked as he sidled up nearby.

"We have been discussing a musical duet and were about to commence in practice for the evening."

Kirk’s eyes dropped to Spock’s lyre and his expression softened into genuine cheer and pleasure.  The difference was striking. "That sounds great.  Did you have something in mind or were you just going to wing it?"

"We have not decided," Spock said, adjusting the instrument and continuing to tune it under the appreciative eye of his captain.  "Though there is a Vulcan song I had thought to attempt which I believe would suit both our ideal range."

"Lucky Uhura speaks Vulcan as fluently as she does Standard," Kirk said brightly, turning his smile in Uhura’s direction.  She grinned back.  Spock hit a sour chord with his left hand which he quickly corrected, lowering his gaze to watch his movements more carefully.

"More fluently, maybe," Uhura said, and Kirk laughed.  Beside them, McCoy grumbled unhappily, obviously eager to continue whatever conversation had been neatly cut off.  Kirk ignored him, although a tick in the muscles of his jaw spoke to Spock of hidden irritation.  Spock found himself illogically wishing to soothe his friend's frustration.  He floated his fingers over the strings of the instrument, exuding a mellow warble of sound until all was once again calm in Kirk's face.

"We only started talking about this last week," Uhura informed the others, watching Spock with a speculative look in her eye that he could not interpret.  "And Spock only mentioned the song earlier today; I don’t even know the words.  He was just about to give me a quick rundown."

"Play it then, Spock," Kirk urged, dropping into a chair at the nearest table and leaning forward eagerly.  All hidden tension transmuted quickly into lively interest.  "I’d like to hear it."

Spock hesitated.  The melody was a familiar one but it had been some time since he’d played it for an audience.  No doubt his skill would be distinctly lacking.  The song also had a first and second variation.  The first was older and more readily in his mind as he looked at his friend, but the second variation was modernized and less contentious.  The lyrics mattered little either way as he would only play the instrumentation.

"I believe I would prefer to review the song before performing it in a public venue -"

"Aw, come on, Spock," Kirk cajoled, reaching forward to touch the very top of the lyre with a reverent hand.  Spock watched him do so carefully, lest he disrupt one of the tuned strings - though he did nothing when his friend did indeed nudge the central string out of alignment.  Spock waited until Kirk glanced away to replace it swiftly.

"Play it?" Kirk requested, so sincere in his desire that Spock scattered his hand over the strings without thought, bringing up the resonant beginnings of the first variation chorus line almost without realizing he had done so.  "Please?"

Persuasion was one of those unfortunate Human traits which Kirk had a particular talent for and Spock had never cultivated.  Consequently, he had little armor against this when it was used against him.  Or possibly he was simply vulnerable to a shamefully strong desire to fulfill Kirk's every wish.

Spock reasoned this was only natural.  Kirk was Captain, after all.

Reluctant, but willing if the playing of it would sooth his captain’s weariness, Spock began the first variation.  His efforts were not perfect and the lack of vocal accompaniment left the piece feeling hollow.  But it was adequately rendered, and neither Kirk nor Uhura were familiar enough to notice the small errors in his performance.  Spock did not pause in the fifth verse when Doctor McCoy attempted to nudge Kirk lightly in the shoulder, saying just loudly enough for Spock to hear, "Jim, we should really go take a look at your -"

"Not now, Bones," Kirk said quietly, his eyes fixed on Spock.

"Now you’re just being childish -"

"Not now, Bones!" Kirk hissed quietly, some of his pleasure in the music bleeding away with this interruption.  Spock plucked the lower string harder than he ought to have, the result of which was a deeply resonant vibration which drew up the sagging corner of Kirk’s mouth until the annoyance drifted away into memory.

Looking thoroughly put-upon and unwilling to admit defeat, McCoy sat next to Kirk and crossed his arms in a small and ultimately futile show of anger.  Spock resolved to play the song twice through, and at the end of the second rendition even McCoy looked less harried than he had.  Kirk appeared thoroughly content, and Spock only realized they had acquired a small audience when a wave of soft applause overtook the room.  Spock solemnly bowed his head in gratitude.

"That’s lovely, Spock," Uhura said, having listening as raptly as the captain, and Spock turned to her in pleased acknowledgement.  "I think a duet would sound beautiful."

Spock waited to see if Kirk would add anything, but Kirk only grinned at him in genuine pleasure and shrugged.

"Doctor?" Spock asked as McCoy opened his mouth to begin what would undoubtedly be another uninvited lecture.  "Do you have anything to add?"

"What?" McCoy blurted, his thought process visibly derailing.  "No.  I – dammit Spock, you know I’m as tone deaf as they come."

"I am aware," Spock said neutrally.  "One could not mistake you for being melodic.  Though you do frequently make a great deal of noise."

"Why, you -"

"I think it’s time I turned in," Kirk interrupted, getting to his feet with a smile hidden behind his hand.  Spock followed suit and McCoy was up moments later, scowling.  Uhura rose more slowly, looking between the three of them with private amusement.

"I’ll go with you," McCoy announced, but Kirk shook his head, starting to look strained and mulish.

"I believe I will return to my quarters as well," Spock found himself saying.  "In the interests of efficiency I can accompany the captain in your stead, Doctor."

"You’ll - what?  Now wait -"

"There you go, Bones, you old worrywart," Kirk interrupted.  He looked at Spock with eyes full of gratitude.  "Spock’ll see I get in safe and sound.  You can let someone else play mother hen for a while."

"But -" McCoy protested.

"Leaving now," Kirk announced, waving Spock ahead of him gallantly.  Spock cradled his lyre securely and stepped in front without a word.  "Night, Bones.  Uhura."

"Night," Uhura echoed.

"Goodnight, Nyota," Spock nodded to her, confirming that his early departure was acceptable to her; her smile seemed to indicate no objection.  "Doctor McCoy," he finished, carefully not looking at McCoy’s fuming face as he and the captain made their exit.  Though it was not logical, and was in fact impossible, he thought he could physically feel the doctor's gaze boring into his back, thwarted anger chasing them out into the corridor.

"Thanks, Spock," Kirk said, once the doors had swished closed behind them.  He rubbed at the back of his neck, stretching it from side to side until an uncomfortable crack filled the air.  Spock could not understand the unfortunate habit his Human shipmates had of overextending their limbs to realign bones.  The resulting sounds always failed to inspire any sort of confidence.

"I’ve been trying to shake him for the last hour," Kirk continued, moving down the corridor while Spock adjusted his usual lengthy pace to synch with the Human’s slower one.  "I love the man, but once he gets it into his head that I need something, he can’t let it go.  It turns into a point of pride or something."

"I am familiar with Doctor McCoy’s particular brand of obstinacy," Spock said.

"At least I don’t have to suffer it alone," Kirk said dryly.  "You don’t really have to babysit me, by the way.  I can make it back to my quarters without help.  I’m a real, live starship captain, in case you hadn’t heard."

"I had not intended to ‘babysit’ you.  I was planning to return to my own quarters at approximately this hour and there seemed no logical reason we should not travel together."

"And it pissed Bones off."

"An unanticipated benefit," Spock said.  "But not a motivation, I assure you."

"Sure it wasn’t," Kirk smirked.

By the time they reached their respective quarters in comfortable silence Kirk was looking pleasantly tired instead of fatigued.  Spock had spent the time reviewing a growing list of questions which were becoming rather more urgent the longer they went unanswered.  Spock was particularly concerned after overhearing the conversation between Kirk and McCoy earlier.

"Goodnight Spock," his friend and captain said with a yawn.

Spock nodded, watching as Kirk turned away and palmed the access panel to his quarters.  "Are you free tomorrow night, Jim?  If our schedules permit it, perhaps a game of chess?"

"I always have time for you, Spock," Kirk said with a lazy smile, eyes half-lidded and sleepy.  Spock blinked, a thin flush of heat working its way up his collar.  He stifled it as quickly as possible.

"And for chess," Kirk noted after a stretched moment of tension.  He disappeared without another word into his cabin.

It took Spock exactly thirteen-point-two seconds to move away from the door, that heady smile meant solely for his eyes burned heavily into his thoughts.

They missed chess the following evening owing to a yellow alert on beta shift that escalated quickly into a red alert.  The Enterprise crew performed admirably and crisis was averted, but all hands remained busy for a time.  Spock’s concern did not abate as he observed Kirk's exhaustion climbing with no relief in sight.  Faint lines of pain - a migraine, Spock judged - etched their way deeper and deeper into his captain's face as the days wore on.

A week of relative calm passed.  Spock had two off-duty days, one of which he dedicated solely to cataloging the progress of his four concurrent experiments in the science lab.  He terminated one experiment when it encountered a cascade error and spent an hour constructing a new algorithm to compensate.  At the end of the second day he joined Uhura for another session of practice.

"I've been looking at the lyrics you sent me," she said, as Spock ran a chord on the lyre's strings.

"Did you encounter any difficulty?" Spock asked.  "It is an old composition.  Some of the syllabic phrasing is traditional rather than modern."

"No difficulty," she said, with a certain weight to her voice.  Spock looked up.  "It's a beautiful song; oddly poetic for old Vulcan.  One of the word choices was interesting.  I had to go back through my reference text to find the Golic translation."

"Ah," Spock said, and looked down again.  Of course she would have noticed; he should have anticipated that.  But playing the first variation had been a spontaneous decision, one which made less sense without Kirk there to tempt him into imprudent choices.  The second variation, modernized, would have eliminated the pre-Surak elements.  Golic translation would have been unnecessary.

"Did you choose this song because of him?" Uhura asked, low and serious.

Spock tuned and then re-tuned the third string; there was a small notch of wear on the upper portion and it required precise positioning.  It affected the string's resonance by a factor of one-point-six percent.  He should consider replacing it soon.

"Spock?" Uhura asked.

"I did not," Spock said.  "I believed this song would suit both our respective talents.  However, the variation choice may have been somewhat - impulsive."

"Oh, Spock," she sighed, and Spock set his attention to tuning and then re-tuning the first string, which also seemed to require precise positioning.  "Are you going to tell him?"

"There is little to tell," Spock said.  "It is only a song."

"About t'hy'la," Uhura said, almost gently, and Spock wiped all possible reaction from his countenance.  As he had said, it was only a song.  It was simply that this song was revealing in ways Spock had not quite anticipated before.

"Not in the second variation," he said.

Uhura rolled her eyes pointedly.  Spock ignored her.

"You played the first variation for a reason," Uhura said.  "Must be a favorite of yours."

"Favorites are illogical," Spock said automatically.  "I played the first variation because it was most readily familiar to me."

"I wonder why that is," she said, and it was not a question.  "And that's the only reason?"

"It was logical," Spock said.

"Wow, that's what you're going with?" Uhura sighing loudly. "You're as bad as he is."

"Who?" Spock asked.  "Bad at what?"

"If you have to ask, I can't tell you," Uhura said.  "If it were anyone else, Spock.  But not you."

"I do not understand," he said.

"We're doing the first variation," she said.

"That seems rather -"

"We're doing it," she said, and would hear no argument otherwise.  Spock practiced it with her with only a portion of his attention.  The larger part of his mind was busy analyzing how readily his instincts had escaped his control when under the influence of Kirk's pleading eyes.  Logical or not, he should not have chosen the first variation. 

Yes, persuasion was a tool the Human used remarkably well and with gifted accuracy.  Spock should find some way to weaponize it for the benefit of the ship.

Another week passed and McCoy made two appearances while Spock was present during alpha shift.  Both times were memorable in that they marked two of only seven occasions where Spock had observed the captain fail to make the CMO welcome on the bridge.

"Doctor," Kirk said, sitting stiffly in the center seat with one leg crossed precisely over the other.

"Captain," McCoy said sardonically.  Spock watched the bridge crew exchange puzzled glances, Sulu and Chekov at helm and navigation looking particularly alarmed.

"Something I can help you with?" Kirk asked, picking up and scrolling through the personnel review list with his full attention.  Spock had watched him mark that document complete fifty-seven minutes ago.

"I might ask you the same thing," McCoy said.  Spock could see from his vantage point Kirk clench one hand into a fist.  He wondered critically how the doctor could fail to respect the captain's silence in this matter.

"And you'd get the same answer as yesterday," Kirk said.  "I'm fine.  Go back to haunting sickbay and scaring all your nurses."

"I only scare the new ones, these days," McCoy said.

"That's because the rest of them know you're a soft touch," Kirk said, and the entire bridge relaxed as the man smiled faintly, frustration washing away in the wake of the Human's normal good humor.  "Bones, stop worrying.  It's just a damn headache.  And that goes for the rest of you listening in, too.  I'm fine."

The crew quickly turned away, immediately finding something to busy themselves with.  McCoy grumbled to himself but subsided with petulantly crossed arms.  Kirk glanced behind him, locking eyes with Spock and grinning brightly as the Vulcan failed to respond to this social cue and belatedly duck away.

"Careful, Spock, you and the good doctor are starting to resemble one another," Kirk said.

"Captain, there is no need to be insulting," Spock said.  "And that is patently untrue."

Kirk laughed, his first during alpha shift for two days, and Spock observed improved morale increasing crew efficiency by twenty-one percent for the rest of the afternoon.

When beta shift arrived, Kirk ambled over with light steps and laid a hand on his first officer's shoulder.  Spock allowed this without complaint.

"Chess tonight?" Kirk asked.

Spock had two time-sensitive experiments that should not be left unattended for the evening, one of which would self-terminate if he failed to advance it to the next stage.  But he didn't hesitate to say: "Of course."

It was Kirk’s turn to provide the setting for their chess game.  Eighty-two days after beginning their deep-space mission, both Spock and Kirk had grown weary of attempting chess in the busy environment of the recreation room.  Games had slowly migrated to their quarters; first Kirk’s, then Spock’s.  The Vulcan found it unexpectedly pleasing to invite Kirk into his personal quarters.  They were as much a home as he had anywhere, and Kirk inevitably left his scent and presence behind for hours after visiting.  This was something which Spock had learned to value; he had even discovered if he engaged meditation within one hour of Kirk leaving, he could achieve a meditative state that was eighteen percent more efficient than a typical trance. 

Still, there were advantages to Kirk providing the venue half the time.  The captain's chairs provided more plush physical support, and twice now Spock had been given the opportunity to watch Kirk slip into first and then second stage sleep when their game ran overly long.  The Human was beautiful in repose and Spock had watched him contentedly for a total of thirty-six minutes while he slept.  Spock had been immeasurably pleased to be so easily trusted.

Now, as Spock passed his hand over the door chime to Kirk's quarters, he allowed himself a moment to remember those occasions fondly.  Possibly he might have another opportunity this evening.  Kirk's exhaustion had not improved as the week went on, and  the invitation to play chess had been unexpected.

After waiting twelve seconds without response, Spock activated the door chime again.


Spock entered as the door swept open and then shut behind him, clasping his hands loosely behind his back. 

"Jim," he acknowledged.  He observed the Human comfortably ensconced behind his desk, the surface of which was covered with data pads and unfinished reports.

"You’re early," Kirk said mildly, a faint note of accusation in his voice.  He did not look up, his face cast in shadow; the room lights were dim.

Spock paused, aware of the unusual and unpleasant sensation of feeling unwelcome with his friend.

"I am not," he corrected after a moment.  "If I am disturbing you, however, I shall leave and return at a later time."

"No!" Kirk said, contrition softening the sharpness of his response.  "No.  I’m sorry; that was out of line.  You’re right on time.  I guess I just lost track of things."

"Ah," Spock said, unsure whether this required a response from him.  It seemed not as Kirk continued his work, seemingly oblivious to Spock standing in the entryway.

"Are you certain you wish me to remain?" Spock asked, when Kirk still had not extended an invitation for him to sit.  "I have no objection to returning at a more convenient time for you."

Kirk sighed, drumming his fingers once across the face of his data pad restlessly.  "Don’t mind me, Spock, I’m just grouchy tonight."  He looked up, the light reflecting across his face.  "Have a seat."

But Spock could not move, transfixed as he was by the picture of Kirk framed by a golden spill of light and shadow, his blue eyes magnified by lenses sitting perched on the bridge of his nose.

Glasses.  His captain wore glasses.  Spock could not understand why the sight of them on the Human’s face twisted his insides so suddenly with the urge to (touch? cradle? stroke?) - do something entirely inappropriate.  He had seen glasses adorn the faces of many beings, not solely Humans, and it had never affected him in this way before.

He had not moved or spoken; there was nothing in his posture or countenance that should have given him away.  Yet he saw Kirk’s face shift just slightly and knew that his surprise had been seen.  He chastised himself for his lack of control.

"I was unaware you required corrective lenses to maintain optimal visual acuity," Spock said, when he judged he could speak unhindered.

"Just for reading," Kirk said, and Spock watched him pluck the glasses from his face, examining them in the low light.  "And playing chess.  Oh, and diplomatic treaty signings.  Senior staff meetings.  Eating meals.  Listening to music.  Walking.  Talking.  Sleeping, too, if McCoy had his way."

Spock began to understand the source of Kirk's pain and McCoy's ire in the last weeks.

"I presume you object to their necessity?"

The way Kirk was eyeing the glasses in marked distaste was curious.  Spock could not fathom how they might be considered distasteful; quite the opposite.  He rather thought it a good thing Kirk had not taken to wearing them during alpha shift or Spock suspected he would have been rather shamefully distracted while on duty.

"To be honest, I’ve been avoiding them like the plague.  They’re hell to get used to, and I really don’t want to get used to them.  Bones insists." Spock watched as he slipped them back on, hooking them over his ears and pushing them up the bridge of his nose with one finger.  The sight caused a cascade somewhere in the region of Spock’s chest that caught him off guard.

"While I might question Doctor McCoy’s methods, his medical opinion is usually beyond reproach."

"And he’s not wrong this time, but I'm going to leave him hanging for a few more days," Kirk said with a faint grin.  "So don’t tell him they work, all right?"

"It is highly unlikely I would have occasion to discuss with Doctor McCoy the effectiveness of your optical prescription," Spock said.  Considering the tension over the last weeks, it would be quite illogical to put himself in the path of the doctor's wrath, which is where he would inevitably find himself if he began questioning McCoy about the captain.

Kirk squinted at him. "I’m going to take that as agreement."

"As it was intended."

Kirk breathed out a laugh, gesturing him into the seat opposite.  Spock sat and glanced at the data pads currently occupying what would normally be their ideal space for a chess match.

"Just give me a few minutes to finish these requisition requests," Kirk said.  "I should have done them this morning, but I got sidetracked."  He shuffled two data pads together and deposited a third on top.  If there was an order to this chaos, Spock could not see it.  He watched Kirk rub distractedly at his temple, disordering his hair until it stood at odd angles on one side of his face while the other remained neat.  Spock diverted the portion of his mind which immediately found this attractive.

"If you have other work you wish to complete we can delay our game until a more convenient interval," Spock said as companionable quiet settled between them.  For one so often in motion, Kirk could be a surprisingly restful individual to spend time with.  "You do not appear entirely at your best, Jim."

"Headache," the Human said succinctly, tapping the sides of his glasses with an index finger.  "My body doesn’t like these things any more than I do.  Too bad it doesn’t like any of the other options, either.  McCoy tried something that involved a lot of lights and instructions that didn’t make any sense, so I suppose it’s no surprise it didn’t work.  Still, these things are going to be a real pain until I get used to them."

"If I may ask, when did you discover the difficulty?"

"Oh, I’ve always been near-sighted.  My mistake was mentioning it in passing to Bones, which spawned an all-out war of biblical proportions." Kirk sniffed in irritation, which Spock took to mean he had lost that particular battle of wills.

"I finally bargained him down to reading glasses, but he’s pretty pissed," Kirk said.  "I think he’s got me signed up for voluntary vaccinations for the next three months." 

Kirk flashed him a smile that Spock had last seen while he held his lyre in the brief moments before his instincts had betrayed him.  He steeled himself to resist whatever Kirk tried to persuade him with next.

"You know, if you really wanted to help, you could -"

"In my association with Doctor McCoy I have discovered it is often best to maintain a neutral position between him and one he considers a patient.  To do otherwise would be to place my immediate health at great risk."

Kirk studied him for a moment in skeptical silence.  "I thought Vulcans didn’t feel fear."

"We do not."

"Not true from where I’m sitting," Kirk informed him, leaning forward to smile over the rim of his glasses.  Spock tried to examine how it could be possible that a small immaterial item could partially obscure Kirk's features and yet somehow render them even more attractive.  His captain really did not require other methods to increase his beauty, and that he should manage it with so little effort was fascinating.  And would have been irritating if Spock had not reminded himself that Vulcans did not experience irritation.

"I assure you, Jim," he said, putting these thoughts aside to be analyzed later.  "My actions are motivated by logic, not emotion." 

"Right," Kirk said.

"Logically, one of us must remain free at all times of the good doctor’s clutches in order to effect rescue efforts.  If we are both incapacitated, escape is impossible."

Kirk laughed and Spock was satisfied.

"I believe you require rest at this time, Jim," Spock said, once the laughter had faded.  "Our game would utilize more concentration than is advisable in light of your current discomfort."

"No, no," Kirk assured him, rubbing at the back of his neck absently.  "I find chess relaxing, really.  We haven't played in a while; I’ve been looking forward to it."

"Nevertheless, you -"

"Stay, Spock," Kirk implored.  "Just for a while, even if it’s only to talk.  Please?"

Spock sat again, unwilling to deny that soft spoken ‘please’, nor the eyes which gazed at him so fondly, magnified by refractive lenses.

"Did Doctor McCoy not provide you with something for the pain?" Spock asked.

"He did, but it knocks me out cold.  Low-grade muscle relaxant, laced with a sedative.  Wily bastard thinks I don’t sleep as much as I should.  Whatever gave him that idea?"

"What, indeed?" Spock asked, well aware of his captain’s poor sleeping habits.  "One would assume your exhaustion allows for restful sleep?"

"Sometimes," Kirk said.  "Sometimes I get my thoughts in a rut and I can't get them out of it.  But I hate taking the sedative.  I always wake up groggy."

"Perhaps an alternative pharmacological combination?"

"That's always a toss-up," Kirk said.  "I'm allergic to, well, everything.  So Bones always has to be careful with anything he gives me."

"I see.  Perhaps I could offer a temporary solution?"


"Vulcans are highly sensitive to pressure points.  Though my familiarity lies with Vulcan physiology, we are not exceedingly dissimilar.  I may be able to alleviate your headache by alternately stimulating and releasing nerve clusters along your neck and shoulders."

Kirk smiled, the same affectionate smile that normally graced his features.  Spock had already begun to rise with anticipation tingling through his fingers when the Human said simply, "No."

Spock blinked, halfway suspended between standing and crouching.  "Jim?"

"No, thank you, Spock," Kirk told him, still smiling gently.  "I appreciate the offer.  But I don’t think that’s a good idea."

"…I fail to understand your reasoning," Spock said, without reseating himself.  He wondered at the confusion and disappointment he felt following Kirk’s rejection; he had no cause to be confused, of course, nor to demand explanations.  That did not prevent Spock from feeling oddly dissatisfied by his response.  Had he done something to impair Kirk's trust in his proficiency, his capacity to assist?

"Just talk with me for a bit, Spock," Kirk said coaxingly, and Spock realized with displeasure the man was trying to persuade him again.  "If you don't mind.  Talking helps me settle."

"Then perhaps you should send for McCoy," Spock said, only half in jest.  This rejoinder was strangely sharper than he had meant for it to be.  "I am certain he would oblige you."

"Well," Kirk said, the smile slipping off his face at last.  Spock was both vindicated and shamed to see it go.  "I suppose he would."

Spock reordered his thoughts, realizing he had allowed emotion to influence his responses to his friend.  This was not a matter of pride or trust; Kirk should be at liberty to accept or decline Spock's assistance for no reason other than he did not wish it.  Spock disgraced them both with his poor behavior.

"I apologize," Spock said lowly, looking away and settling back in his chair slowly. "Of course we may talk, Jim.  I am pleased to be of any assistance."

"It's not that I don't trust you," Kirk said, eerily as if he could read the thoughts in Spock's mind.  The Vulcan wondered with some alarm if he might be projecting and swiftly checked his shields for instability.  He relaxed after finding all was well.

"No explanation is needed," Spock assured the man, and meant it this time.  "I wish only for your well being, Jim."

Kirk regarded him for some time, longer than seemed necessary for Spock's uninspired words.  The Vulcan gazed calmly back, returned to a state of serenity.  Spock was here to support his friend and he knew he must not allow his own desires, however numerous, to cloud his purpose.

"My wellbeing," Kirk said, quietly, almost to himself.

"Of course," Spock said.

Kirk smiled again, but it was neither gentle nor amused this time.  Spock observed it's mocking edge with some wariness.

"You don't know what you're signing up for," Kirk said.


"I should have let you do it," Kirk said.  "It would have been a less painful way to breach this."

"I beg your pardon?"

"I'd love for you to touch me, Spock," Kirk said, with honestly and what might have been resentment.  "I always do.  You do it so rarely.  And every time you do I have to be so careful not to let on too strongly, you know?  Because you're a touch telepath, and I never wanted to push things or ruin things, and I always knew this was better left unspoken."

Kirk peered at him through his glasses, a look on his face that seemed to express resignation and fury and relief in equal parts.  Spock did not stare because that would have been an expression of shock.  He did, however, run Kirk's words through several equations and permutations and yet still found himself unable to puzzle their meaning.

"I do not understand," Spock said.

"Yes, you do," Kirk corrected.  "It's why you're happy to come here and listen to me talk, but you'd rather put your hands on me, and I'd rather let you.  But I'm tired, Spock, and I'm in pain."

"I don't -"

"I want you too much to let you touch me," Kirk said.  "If you touch me tonight I wouldn't want you to stop.  And unlike you, my friend, my control is finite."

Spock absorbed this with amazement, reordering his thoughts to take in this new reality.  Many months he had spent analyzing and categorizing and ignoring his growing attraction to his captain, because he had predicated his actions on the premise Kirk could not possibly share it. 

It seemed he had been wrong.

"I find I often have little control where you are concerned, Jim," Spock said haltingly.

The edge of anger in Kirk softened into affection once more.

"Sorry, Spock.  I know that's difficult for you.  Your calm is something I really appreciate and I know I disrupt that."

"That is not your fault," Spock said.  "It is something I allow.  It is something I have welcomed."

"Never thought you'd admit that," Kirk said.  "I'm glad we can talk about this, at least.  Who would've thought a headache would - well, anyway.  We’ve been dancing around this whole thing for a while now, Spock, and I need you to know I’m okay with that.  I’m sure there’s any number of reasons you might want to avoid jumping into bed with me, and I respect that.  This doesn't have to change anything." 

"On the contrary," Spock corrected, nursing a private and growing joy.  "This changes everything."

"Spock -"

"You are operating under a misassumption," Spock said.

Kirk eyed him carefully, all good humor and gentleness replaced with wary confusion.

"What assumption?" Kirk asked.

"To dance requires a partner.  If I have been dancing with you around this topic, it was through no choice of my own.  One must know the music to properly dance to it."


"Why would you assume I recognized your desire for me?" Spock said, and even the thought of it was exhilarating, that the longing he felt could be shared, magnified.  "I barely recognized my own."

"What?" Kirk repeated.

"The first variation song was not my first indication, nor my last.  It was only my most obvious," Spock said, and took an illogical satisfaction in watching Kirk's mounting confusion.  Let the Human be confused for once; Spock had spent enough days in that state, it seemed only justice that Kirk should experience it too.

"Spock, I don't -"

"You saw my desire for what it was," Spock said, felt the discomfiture try to dilate blood vessels in his cheeks, his ears.  He suppressed the blush automatically.  "But I did not see yours.  In failing to notice it's presence, I assumed it was not there.  You assumed I saw, and in seeing chose to ignore it."

Kirk stared at him, and Spock wondered if that was how he'd looked some minutes ago as his universe realigned itself around him, reductionist assumptions being replaced by a newer, more valid first principle.

As a scientist, Spock was more than disappointed in his poor methodology.  Were this one of his lab experiments, the order of research-hypothesize-experiment-and-conclude would never have made it past the first phase, terminating in infancy before it could grow into its potential.  How completely inefficient and illogical he'd been.

"But how can you not have known?" Kirk asked.  "I was obvious.  The whole crew's been talking about it; even I've heard about it.  You had to have known!  Uhura tells you everything."

"Nyota has great interest in listening, a fine quality for a communications officer, and one easily satisfied aboard a ship with more than four-hundred crewmates.  She would never repeat something she thought might be harmful.  She never spoke of this to me, so we must assume this fell somewhat under that parameter."

"You've got to be kidding me," Kirk said, staring.

"I would not.  I had no understanding my attraction was mutual.  To my knowledge, your sexual and romantic history has been exclusive to humanoids of female gender.  You have never once indicated that you would accept a relationship with another male."

"I’ve never indicated I’d reject one, either," Kirk said.  "And if we’re going to start down that road, you've only ever dated one person I know of it, and she's a woman.  But then every time we played chess you looked at me like I was full course dinner and you'd been starving your whole life.  So.  I assumed."

"I did not," Spock insisted, and on reflection was appalled to realize Kirk might not be wrong.

"Yes, you did."

"I -"

"So," Kirk interrupted, with a gleam of something like wariness and something like anticipation lighting up his tired features.  "If I have no objections, and you have no objections - are there actually any objections?  I mean, is there a reason we should not be proving our lack of objections right now by?"

"You are still exhausted," Spock said with genuine regret.

"Well, you did offer to help me with that," Kirk said, coaxingly, and reached out boldly to trail his fingers down the left sleeve of Spock’s casual black evening wear.  Spock shivered just slightly at the faint feel of cool Human heat seeping through cloth and settling into his bones.  "And I can think of better ways to deal with a tension headache then pressure points."

"Specify," Spock managed, moving closer to accommodate Kirk's hand sliding up his arm to his shoulder, and then to brush against his cheek.  Kirk smiled at him, the lines of exhaustion melting from his face as though absorbed in the sudden unexpected richness of joy Spock could feel echoing between them.  Across the bridge of Kirk's nose, his glasses picked up the blue of his eyes and magnified their brilliance a hundred fold.  Spock was entranced.

"There's an old Earth belief that sex has phenomenal healing powers," Kirk said with a devilish look  "And after a few weeks from hell, I think I’m ready to be healed.  What do you say, Spock?  Want to play doctor with me?" Kirk wiggled his eyebrows in a ridiculous lascivious manner and Spock tried and failed not to find this endearing.

"It is inadvisable to imitate medical professionals when Doctor McCoy is onboard.  He may take offense."

Kirk laughed merrily and lunged forward, scattering all manner of data pads off the desk.  Spock could not be bothered picking them up. 

The kiss was incendiary, the slight burn of stubble new and thrilling.  Spock felt Kirk's hands on his shoulders, found himself clinging to Kirk in turn, nipping at his lips, his tongue.  Kirk gave equally as much as he was given, wet heat teasing at Spock until he forced the Human still with a touch, plundering a mouth eagerly offered. 

Kirk panted for air, breaking free so he could heave up.  The rest of the data pads scattered as Kirk slid himself on hands and knees overtop the desk until he could comfortably cradle Spock’s face in both his clutching, bruising hands.  Spock gasped into his mouth, the pressure, the heat of lust hitting him like a kick to the gut.  He felt vaguely shamed not to have more control but the thought was a passing echo, drowned quickly in passion.  Shame became pleasure.  Spock reached out and dragged Kirk entirely from the desk to straddle him in the chair.  Kirk, always willing to roll with change, laughed his agreement and used this new leverage to close the distance between them.

"Your bed," Spock managed, even that brief parting settling like fire at the base of his spine.  "Should we not…?"

"No," Kirk moaned.  "Here.  Now."

Spock had no objections; it was unlikely either of them would last long enough to make it there.

Spock slipped one hand between them, tracing a heavy path down Kirk's chest to clasp the bony edge of his hip and dig a thumb into the hollow there.  Kirk shuddered with ticklish sensation and retaliated, seizing Spock's hair in both hands, pulling back to expose his neck, devouring his mouth.  The Human teased a thumb across the temporal meld points.  His thoughts flickered just past Spock's awareness and an involuntary moan escaped.  In that moment his desire for Kirk's mind was almost as great as his desire for the man's body.

Spock rotated his hand to trace blindly between Kirk's legs but they were so close he left sparks of sensation on both of them as he struggled to open their pants.  Kirk ground down into him and Spock cupped him through cloth, the damp, hard heat of him.  They both gasped into the kiss.  Kirk had no shame, rutting into his grip while Spock stroked him in counterpoint, dragging him closer so Kirk's thighs had to spread wide to accommodate him.  Spock lost himself in the Human's pleasure and it was breathless minutes later that he felt Kirk climbing a pinnacle and was reminded of the heavy ache in his own body.  He took his hand away.

Kirk moaned a breathy protest and Spock shushed him, obliging both their desires as he finally fumbled their pants open and took both their erections in hand.  The heat was close and sticky and it didn't take long to work up enough slick to find a new rhythm, quick and thunderous to match Spock's racing heart.

"God, Spock," Kirk panted, releasing the kiss to bury his face in Spock's shoulder, turning into his neck.  Spock could feel him suckle briefly at the skin there, pressure and a hint of tongue.  "That’s good - that’s perfect - right there -"

"Jim," Spock whispered.

Breath was suddenly short.  Kirk's words stuttered into a series of hitching gasps as wet heat spilled between them and Spock felt teeth sinking sudden and hard into the side of his neck.  The lust was tidal and slammed over him without warning, as though there were a direct line between Spock's neck and his cock.  Climax crashed into him urgently and then swept him away without mercy.

The world was hazy and indistinct when Spock blinked back into himself three minutes and seven seconds later.  Orgasm had wiped out most of his immediate awareness, but gradually he brought his mind back into alignment with his body.  A parasympathetic biochemical response was relaxing tension from his muscles and nerves, and a gentle lassitude was spreading.  It was immensely gratifying and pleasurable.

"Mmm," Kirk murmured in agreement and Spock realized that this time he truly was projecting.  He belatedly strengthened his psionic shields.

Kirk lipped sluggishly against what Spock could already feel coming up as an exceptional bruise on his neck.  Now that their hormone levels were falling back into homeostatic parameters, Spock could feel the throb of blood in the bruise keeping time with his heart.  He took a moment to be grateful the new uniform designs could accommodate high-neck undershirt options. 

Spock slid his hands up behind Kirk to support his shoulders.  The Human leaned back against the pressure, resting their foreheads together a moment as he moved, then pulling away entirely.  Spock looked up to see Kirk smiling dazedly down at him.  His glasses were hanging from one ear, foggy and smudged.  Spock had forgotten their existence in the mad scramble of their pleasure, but he was reminded again how striking they'd appeared on his friend's face.

"We're idiots," Kirk said with fond amusement.  "We could have been doing this a long time ago."

"Indeed," Spock murmured, freeing one hand to card it through honeyed brown hair.  "But in each thing their place."  And he plucked up the trailing arm of the glasses to tuck them back around Kirk's other ear, pushing them up lightly so they could sit properly against the bridge of his nose.  "And in each place a thing."

Kirk smiled crookedly and leaned forward to kiss him again.

"I can't believe it," Kirk murmured into his mouth.  "How did I miss that?  How did you miss that?  We might never have known if not for McCoy and his stupid glasses."

"I understand your distaste for them," Spock said, pushing Kirk back so he might have another look at the Human's open, sated countenance.  "But I do not share it.  You are beautiful, Jim, and this does not take away from that.  On the contrary; it enhances it."

"It's not vanity.  I just hate change.  And what, no name calling?  No 'geek', no 'four-eyes'?"

"What is a 'geek'?  And you do not have four eyes," Spock said, puzzled.  "You have two."

"No, that's - never mind," Kirk said with a laugh.  "Nothing can make me like them, but if you like them I'll call it good.  Poor Bones; he's been trying all month to make them stick.  He should have just recruited you to the cause, would have worked out much faster for him."

"It is a rare instance in which I am in full agreement with Doctor McCoy," Spock mused.  "How are you feeling, Jim?  I hope our activities have proven beneficial."

"I think the old Earthers had the right idea," Kirk said brightly.  "Sex is a pretty effective healing technique."

"Your headache has resolved?" Spock asked.  The combined scent of their passion and climax was heavy in his nose.  As his body cooled, Spock began to wish acutely for cleanliness; they would need to shower soon.  And possibly to disinfect this chair and the table.  Spock had never had sex on or around anything but a bed previously and he wondered now at the wisdom of such action.  Surely cleanup would be more problematic in this case?  Kirk always seemed to inspire a particular lack of control; it seemed fitting that their first encounter would be reduced to instincts and impulse and little else.

"I wouldn't say resolved," Kirk answered.  "But definitely better.  We should market this technique to McCoy; can you imagine the look on his face?  Maybe let's give it another go, though.  It's not quite gone, and they say practice makes perfect."

"I doubt this was the activity in mind when that idiom was first adopted," Spock said.

"I think you give my species too much credit," Kirk said.  Unmindful of his partial nudity and debauched appearance, Kirk levered off Spock and slithered nimbly down to his feet.  He took a moment to stretch and glance ruefully down at his ruined clothing before he gallantly held out a hand to Spock in invitation.  Spock accepted it easily.

"Shower?" Kirk asked, then grinned slyly.  "Then round two?  Not necessarily in that order."

"Do you believe repeat applications of this technique will provide a more effective cure to your ailment?" Spock asked.

"Won't know until we try," Kirk said cheerfully.

"On one condition," Spock said.

"Seriously?  What condition?"

"That when you do 'market this' to Doctor McCoy, you leave me out of the discussion."

"Right, that's fair and easy," Kirk said.  "Since we're not actually going to tell him."

"The doctor is quite perceptive.  I suspect if you continue to look as refreshed in future as you do in this moment, he will become quite suspicious."

"We’re not telling McCoy anything about this," Kirk said firmly.

"Surely as the Enterprise chief medical officer he has a right to know the success rate of this new medical innovation."

"Spock!  We’re not telling McCoy!"

"A pity.  I am certain the look on the good doctor’s face would have been worth preserving for posterity."


They did not perfect the technique on the second attempt, either, but for the third attempt Spock made Kirk keep the glasses on.  The glasses, and nothing else.  That round was a rousing success.  And marked the beginnings of Spock's new favorite fantasy.

Having a favorite anything was illogical, and a favorite fantasy even more so.  But Spock would allow himself this one point of illogic, because he had discovered he had a favorite person.  And Kirk wasn't long in showing him the feeling was entirely mutual.