“Permission to dock Shuttlecraft Armitage aboard the Enterprise,” Spock said solemnly over the radio.
“Permission granted,” Montgomery Scott answered. “Dock bay opening now.” He grinned, although he knew that neither Spock nor anyone else aboard the shuttle could see him. It was just good to have everyone back on board the Enterprise again. Like so many serving on the Starship, Scotty felt like the crew was his family. He was proud of them and was really eager to be able to see their familiar faces again and to hear all that they had to tell. In fact, he was feeling very expansive about the eminent reunion and announced, “Welcome home, Armitage!”
Spock gave the radio a rather dyspeptic look as if it had suddenly gone rogue. “Why, thank you, Mr. Scott,” he said, recovering quickly. “We look forward to be back aboard the Enterprise again ourselves. Amitage, out,” he said decisively and cut communication just in case Scotty wanted to wax poetically again. Sometimes Earthlings could be sentimentally sloppy, and Mr. Scott of Engineering was one of the worst offenders whom Spock knew personally.
The Enterprise loomed before them, and Spock aimed the shuttle toward the opening dock bay.
“Mr. Scott appears to be quite pleased with our return, Captain,” Spock remarked. “I would not be surprised if he has arranged a surprise party for our return, complete with a decorated cake, clever party hats, and even aggravating noise makers that seem to be heard from at the most inappropriate times.”
Behind him, Jim Kirk grinned. “Why, Mr. Spock. You surprise me. I might expect something pessimistic like that from Dr. McCoy, but not from a courtly gentleman such as yourself,” he said with good humor as he turned to the man sitting across from him. “Isn’t that right, Bones?”
“Hey, I’m courtly, too!” McCoy snapped, eyes flashing. “I just don’t go around showing it off all the time like SOME people seem to have to do! My mama raised me better than that! Something good has to come out of all of those birthday parties and teenage dances I was forced to attend! Why, there were times I thought that my whole life was just one regatta or cotillion after another!”
“And just look how it has all paid off,” Kirk agreed with an amiable smile. “You still can cut quite a handsome swath among the fairer sex, I expect.”
“Damn straight!” McCoy muttered. “I can hold my own among the best of them. Women don't know what hit them when Leonard McCoy appears on the scene. There's swooning everywhere.”
“Now if we just had a cotillion to attend,” Spock muttered under his breath as he expertly landed the Armitage.
McCoy stiffened with indignation as his eyes blazed at Spock’s back, and he partially raised himself from his seat. “What?! What?! What did you just say, Commander?!”
Spock wisely did not answer the question he had been asked. “Kindly remain seated until I have determined that it is safe for you to roam about at will, Doctor. You may still be injured, and I do not wish for that to happen.”
“Oh, well, thank you, Mr. Spock. That’s mighty considerate of you.”
“On the contrary. I do not wish to deter you whatsoever from your duties.”
“Thank you,” McCoy said suspiciously. “I think.”
Spock turned in the pilot’s chair and gave McCoy an exasperated look. “If anything happens to you that in any way could be construed as my fault, I am most certain that I would never hear the end of it as you would probably remind me of the fact on a daily basis. It is also my fervent belief that I would hear about it ad nauseam for the rest of my days and that you would include the complaint intact as you deliver a stirring elegy over my final resting place.”
“You should live so long, Vulcan!” McCoy snapped.
“Exactly, Doctor,” Spock said haughtily.
But Jim Kirk was laughing so hard that he could help neither one, not the Earthling who had used an idiom nor the Vulcan who had misunderstood its meaning.
“Gentlemen! Gentlemen!” Kirk begged as he pulled himself to his feet. “Shall we postpone this discussion until later as we gather together for dinner? In the meanwhile, let us go to our separate assigned areas and write our reports. Thank you for going with me," he said as he stepped out of the shuttle. "I appreciate all of your help and input.”
“For a minute there, I thought you were going to thank us for flying with you,” McCoy quipped. “You know, like you were a stewardess or something. But I guess that should be the Vulcan’s line, shouldn’t it?” He was looking back over his shoulder to make certain that Spock had heard the barb when he slipped.
Spock grabbed McCoy’s arm to steady him. “Be careful please, Doctor. I thought that I had made that abundantly clear a few moments ago.”
“Gee, had it been that long ago?!” McCoy growled. “I guess I had forgotten it already! That’s what happens, you know, when you get OLD!” And with that, he stomped away.
Spock stared after him. “What is his problem, Captain?”
“There’s several theories,” Kirk ruminated philosophically as he stared at McCoy’s departing figure, too.
“Perhaps he is in need of that castor oil which he always is threatening us with,” Spock conjectured.
Kirk gave him his sunniest, tight-lipped smile. “It would be poetic justice if that was the case now, wouldn’t it?
“I do not know how much poetry would be involved in such a scenario, but it would be appropriate if he would get a taste of his own medicine.”
Kirk blinked at what Spock had so innocently said. First he had taken the literal meaning of what Kirk had meant when Kirk had used the catchphrase ‘poetic justice.’ Then Spock had unknowingly used an idiom, ‘get a taste of his own medicine,’ and used it literally.
Kirk knew that McCoy would belabor both mix-ups from Spock, pointing out the errors. The only trouble was that McCoy would be trying to explain to a person who took everything literally. All that McCoy would get for his effort would be a lot of puzzlement from Spock and a lot of frustration for himself. Surely Kirk had learned from what he had seen his friends go through countless times.
And he had.
Kirk slapped Spock’s upper arm and laughed. “You’re a real hoot, Mr. Spock! Did you know that?! A real hoot!”
“I do not understand what you are meaning, Captain.”
“Don’t worry about it, Mr. Spock. You’ll save yourself a lot of confusion if you do. Besides, it’s not that important.”
Spock’s face cleared. “Alright. I will do that, Captain.”
“See you up on the bridge. I have a few things to check and then I will be right up there.”
Spock seemed pleased as he watched Kirk walk away. Such an intelligent man, Spock thought, and such a good captain. They were indeed lucky to have James T. Kirk on the Enterprise.
The turbolift door opened and Kirk stepped out of it.
“Captain on the bridge!” Chekov announced with a beaming face.
“That is unnecessary, Mr. Chekov,” Kirk remarked, but he was nonetheless pleased. He felt the same way about getting back with the bridge crew. He exchanged smiles with Uhura on his right.
“Welcome home, Captain,” Sulu greeted as he started to get out of the command chair.
“Stay seated, stay seated, Mr. Sulu. I am here on only a short visit at the moment. I’m not settled in, just checking to see that all is shipshape.”
“Steady and on course, Captain,” Sulu reported. “The comm will be ready for you when you make your official return, sir,” he reported with a smile.
“Good, good. I’ll let you get back to it then.”
“Yes, sir.” Sulu turned back to the viewing screen.
Kirk turned to his left and smiled. “Mr. Scott. You do get around, don’t you?”
“Aye, Captain. Just wanted to be up here if you unofficially checked in,” he said with a gentle smile. “I knew that you couldn’t stay away for long.”
Kirk’s grin deepened at his old friend. “You know me so well.”
“Aye, sir, as you know me,” Scotty agreed with the same satisfaction that Kirk was feeling.
“Everything went well while I was away?”
“Aye, sir, all is shipshape.”
“I knew I could count on you, Scotty. You’ve got a good head on your shoulders. I can always depend on you to know what is right.”
“Well, thank you, sir. I try to do my job the best that I am able.”
“I know you do. And how is our lady doing in the engine room?”
Scotty’s eyes sparkled with the same interest that Kirk was showing. “She’s purring right along, Captain. Just as pretty and perfect of a lady as she can be as she skims us along through the universe.”
“I may be down later, just to be nearer so I feel her heartbeat better. I have missed her touch.”
Scotty’s eyes twinkled. “I figured you would have, sir. I will have your spanner ready for you.”
“Spanner. Wrench. Whatever name we use for that magical tool we use to feel her pulse in our hands and thrill to its race up our arms, I can’t wait to have it in my hands again.”
“Aye, sir, you’ve got the heart of an engineer about you. That’s for sure now.”
Scotty was pleased as he watched Kirk move toward the turbolift. He and Kirk shared a love on an elementary level for the engines that drove the Enterprise. And each respected the other man’s unabashed love. Nobody else quite understood or appreciated this common tie between the two men, but it was just one of the many things that they liked about each other.
At dinner, Scotty had invited them to his quarters for a ‘wee drop of the dew’ as a welcome home treat. And they were all prompt at appearing at the appointed time.
“Aye, I haven’t forgotten you, either, Mr. Spock,” Scotty told him after he had served whiskey to Kirk and McCoy. “I brought a carafe of hot chocolate just for you. It has its own handle on the side so you can pour the hot liquid into this ceramic mug. I can be pouring a wee drop of Scottish heaven in your cup for you, also. I know that it won’t affect you, but the flavor would enhance the full-bodied tastiness of the cocoa. And it’ll grow hair on your chest, to be sure.”
“I had never aspired to do that, Mr. Scott, but I do appreciate the fact that you were thinking about me.”
“Hell, Scotty, he’s already got hair sprouting all over his chest! It's like lichen going crazy in a dark cave!” McCoy informed Scott. “If you stimulated his chest hair anymore, we’ll have to get a teeny, tiny lawnmower in here and spruce him up every couple of weeks or so. Probably have to use a weed eater to trim up the tricky sides, though. Too many curves and planes around his ribs. Maybe we’ll even have to hire some billy goats and turn them loose on him if his chest gets to harboring too dense of a thicket on it.”
“How droll, Doctor,” Spock said with a disdainful sniff. “And I suppose that your own chest is as clear as one belonging to a pubescent boy?”
“Let me drink enough of this whiskey and I just might work up the effort to show you,” McCoy snapped back.
“I believe that I can force myself to forego the pleasure of that display,” Spock replied haughtily. “But if you are so inclined to make a public spectacle of yourself, do not let the voice of reason deter you.”
“That’s what you’d like, isn’t it?! Me prancing around here in the altogether while you criticize every flaw that you find in my body! Well, let me tell you something, Mister! You first!”
“Well, Mr. Scott,” Kirk said with a smile to show that he held no rancor with Scotty, even though he was using his name and not a familiar nickname. “I expect that you had no idea that your nice evening would turn into a session of ‘you show me yours and I’ll show you mine,’ did you?”
Scotty looked nervous. “Are the lads gonna start undressing now? I don’t know if I can condone the likes of that kind of activity in my quarters.”
“Don’t worry about it, Scotty,” Kirk soothed with another smile. “They aren’t about to do anything like that.”
“Wanna bet?!” McCoy blurted out, slammed down his drink, and ripped his tunic and black T-shirt over his head. Or at least he tried, but the shirts got caught at his neck. Then he was fighting to pull his neck free and then his wrists. “There! What do you think about that?!” he dared the room.
Scotty looked befuddled, Kirk looked amused, and Spock simply looked. In fact he seemed to be complacently staring without moving. It passed through Kirk’s mind that if Spock didn’t blink before long, his eyeballs would be drying out, a condition that McCoy was constantly harping about to Spock.
But Kirk could tell that McCoy was not concerned with Spock’s eyeballs at the moment. In fact, he seemed more interested in how his half-naked state was affecting Spock. Kirk couldn’t quite put his finger on what had changed in the room, but something had. And it seemed to deal with Spock and McCoy.
“Oh, put your clothes back on, Bones,” Kirk directed. “Then we can get down to some serious drinking. Oh,” he said, pulling something out of his pocket. “I brought a chocolate bar for you so you could party, too, Mr. Spock.”
Spock’s attention was happily diverted from McCoy as McCoy yanked his shirts back down over his head.
“Thank you, Captain,” Spock said with a smile.
“Well, here’s something for you, too,” McCoy mumbled and handed Spock a small box.
Spock opened it. “Belgian dark chocolate. Thank you so much, Doctor!” His thanks were touchingly sincere.
“Well, I had them just lying around. And I thought that they should get eaten before they got old,” he mumbled. “Besides, I didn’t want you to be left out of the party, either, I suppose.”
Spock was genuinely touched by the thoughtfulness of his friends. “Thank you so much. It is a true bounty to have this much chocolate on hand at any one time. I shall ration it this evening so that I will have some to enjoy in the days ahead.”
“Lad, let me rid you of that false assumption before this evening gets much further,” Scotty said, leaning into Spock. “Now the other three of us are not gonna be giving up on this whiskey until the bottle is empty or we’re all drunk, whichever comes first. And it generally ends in a tossup with a lot of merrymaking from all hands. You donna want to be known as a party-pooper now, do you?”
“I assure you, Mr. Scott, that I do not intend to poop on your party or anywhere else in your quarters if I can so help it.”
“Aye, that’s good, that’s good.”
Behind them, McCoy muttered to Kirk, “He’s just gotta know what he’s saying. I don’t care what he claims. Nobody can be that innocent or that stupid when it comes to American slang. Nobody!”
Kirk got a happy look on his face, but took a sip of his whiskey so he didn’t have to answer.
After Scotty got his guests served and they were all relaxed, he asked what he had been wanting to know. “So what is the news?” For not only was this a social gathering of close friends, but also an unofficial meeting of the four top officers of the Enterprise.
“It was good to get together with Rob Arnold again,” Kirk said as he swirled the whiskey in his glass. “I hadn’t seen him since Academy days.”
“Yeah, me, neither,” McCoy agreed with a look of nostalgia on his face. “Rob was the best, you know? If he couldn’t think of something to do, it wasn’t worth doing.” He chuckled to himself. “Remember when he turned those snakes loose in the women’s dorm? They were harmless, but were ringers for the deadly fire snake from the Delta Quadrant. Rob’s excuse was that the women should be paying more attention in zoology class, and then they’d know that the snakes couldn’t hurt them.”
“Except for scaring them to death.” McCoy’s smile faded and he frowned into his drink. “Too bad what Rob told us about Jakey McMasters, though.”
“Yeah, that was hard,” Kirk agreed, and everyone could tell that it had been working on him ever since he had heard.
“What happened, if I may be so bold?” Scotty asked.
“He was another one of us,” Kirk answered. “Fun loving, cocksure, brilliant, ethical, talented, good-looking....”
“Modest,” McCoy murmured into his drink with a smirk.
“He was just as excited as I was to get a starship,” Kirk explained to Scotty. “He intended to be personally connected to her crew. They were his responsibility and he would take care of them. All good captains feel the same way, otherwise they shouldn’t be captains.” He took a healthy sip of his drink.
“Then things started going wrong,” McCoy said, picking up the narrative of the story. “There were several disasters. An explosion below decks killed several crewmen. A landing party was wiped out by natives. A psychotic ensign went berserk in sickbay and killed a doctor and a couple of other patients." He frowned. "I took that one personally myself.” He had to take a fortifying swig of his drink.
Kirk picked up the story again. “Jakey took it personally, as if he could’ve done something more to prevent all of those tragedies but didn’t. Some things are just gonna happen, no matter what.”
“Aye,” Scotty muttered. “Experience teaches you that. Plan for the worse and hope for the best. That is still a good motto to live by.”
“But what if you feel guilty about it?” Kirk whispered in a soft voice as he sat forward and stared at Scotty. “What if logic tells you that it isn’t your fault, but you still cannot forgive yourself?”
It was one of those subjects that doesn't get covered in school, because there really isn't an answer that fits everyone. Still, Kirk was seeking an answer. And everyone hoped that Scotty could tell Kirk something wise that would help him.
“Then you need to find a way and means to forgive yourself,” Scotty answered him earnestly. “Because a decent man would not be able to live with guilt like that plaguing him. And if there is one thing I know about you, Captain, it is that you are a decent man. Decent and kind and ethical. And something like this other could eat the heart right out of you.”
"Lay it on the line for me, Scotty, why don't you?" Kirk lisped with a lazy smile, but nonetheless there were hidden barbs in his words.
"Aye, Captain," the nervous Scotty agreed. "I'll not start lying to you now, and never will."
"A man who stands by the courage of his convictions," Kirk declared as he slapped Scotty on the shoulder. "That's what I love about you, you know. Your earnestness."
But Scotty seemed troubled.
"Relax!" Kirk ordered as he shook Scotty's shoulder. "Now, let's not be neglecting this fine bottle of whiskey any longer!"
Scotty looked relieved. "Aye, Captain, and that would be a shame now."
So the three men filled their glasses again while the fourth nibbled on his chocolate more frequently than he realized. But he trusted the three men with him to take care of him in case he overindulged, just as they trusted him with themselves. And the serious discussion about an old friend's downfall was soon replaced by other news.
But topics that are not solved are not so easily forgotten. They are simply shelved. And that is what happened with this one.