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A Question of Science

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"All right, my turn!" Kirk said. He pushed the captain's chair from side to side as he said, "I'm going to New Vulcan and I'm bringing an assload of arachnids, a bushel of Bre'elian bonnets, a copious amount of Chekov, my dick, elephantitis, a fanatic case of Francophilia, greedy green goblin blood, a hat, an iota of indiscretion, and... a jelly-filled juniper tree." He beamed and looked around the bridge. "Okay, who's next!"

There were no takers, as there hadn't been for close to an hour.

"Guess it's my turn again! I'm getting so good at this game! Okay, I'm going to New Vulcan and I'm bringing an assload --"

"Captain, we're entering New Vulcan's orbit," Sulu said urgently. "Repeat: we are in New Vulcan's orbit."

"Well, we've still got some time before we beam --"

"Captain, are you really going to beam down dressed like that?" Uhura asked.

"What's wrong with what I'm wearing?"

"Well. It's New Vulcan."

Kirk wasn't sure what that meant, but it was Uhura, so she probably knew what she was talking about. "Thanks, Uhura. I'll go put on something else. Is this too casual, you think -- should I class it up a little? Tone it down? How potent is this sex bomb?"

Uhura considered him for a moment and answered, "I think you should ask Spock."

"Good idea. Chekov, you have the con!"

Kirk leaped out of his chair and into the turbolift. Once the doors had closed, there was a moment of silence before the bridge crew burst into applause for Sulu and Uhura's lifesaving performances.

*

Kirk knocked impatiently at Spock's door until it slid open. He entered, stood in front of Spock's desk, and motioned at his clothes. "How's this look? Uhura said I might want to change. What's wrong with it?"

"I believe this counts as a diplomatic mission, in which case Starfleet dress code requires you to wear the basic uniform, unless the planet's atmosphere --"

"No shit, Spock, but this shirt's like a day old, I think I wore it..." Kirk pulled the shirt near his armpit close and sniffed. "Tuesday? Smells a little like that sandwich I had at lunch. I think it was roast beef."

Spock glanced down at his half-eaten meal and wondered what he had found appetizing about it moments before.

"Whatever, we don't have time to change anyway." Kirk slipped his hands in his pockets and rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet. "We're in New Vulcan's orbit. Should be beaming down whenever your buddies acknowledge us. Speaking of which -- come on! Let's go to the bridge! Bring your fruit, let's go."

"You are extremely agitated," Spock noted. "Yet not unpleasantly so."

"You're saying I'm pleasant, huh?" Kirk asked with a smirk.

"Your fits of agitation frequently accompany mortal peril or the various bureaucratic frustrations you may encounter on a daily basis." Spock paused and considered Kirk again, who was grinning and loving the attention. "Your current behavior stems from neither of those things and, therefore, does not resemble your usual agitated state."

"Come on, come to the bridge," Kirk whined. "Quicker we're there, quicker we can hail them, quicker we can say hi to your dad and see what he's up to, right? And then we can see our old friend Silek. And then all that free food at the Academy tomorrow night! And booze. Bones and I were promised hooch as far as the eye can see."

"I wish to inquire how much you and the doctor plan on drinking at that function." Spock stood up, straightened his shirt, and led Kirk out of the room towards the turbolift. "With that information, I may begin formulating strategies for excusing us with minimal impact to our reputations and that of the Enterprise."

"Depends on how boring they are, doesn't it?"

"The function is hosted by the Science Academy; there will be individuals there in your areas of interest."

"You're in my area of interest." The doors opened onto the bridge and Spock glanced to the main screen, which was filled with his father's face. "Heeeey, lookie here, it's Papa Spock," Kirk said under his breath to Spock. "Good afternoon, Ambassador Sarek!"

"Welcome, Captain Kirk. I trust your journey here was uneventful."

"Boy, you know it! When should we beam down? Also, my communications officer sent a message to a man named Silek in your city, but we didn't get a response. Do you know anything about that?"

"Silek chooses to minimize his exposure to electronic communication; I will send verbal word that he is to expect you sometime today."

"Thanks, sir, you're a pal."

Sarek still didn't blink. "I have transmitted the coordinates to your staff; you and Commander Spock may beam down when you please. I also invite your crew to take advantage of the planet's facilities during your stay in our orbit."

"We'll be down in two shakes, Ambassador, and thanks for your gracious hospitality. Kirk out!"

The viewscreen switched off and Kirk walked around the bridge railing to the captain's chair. He pressed the intercom button and shouted into the speaker, "Hey! Bones! Pack up the little black bag and your little black dress; we're beaming down to the planet."

"Now hold on a minute, Jim," Bones's rasped through the intercom. "You want me to beam down, with you and Spock presumably, to a colony of unfeeling desert-dwellers and listen to them talk about physics and bullshit for the next 48 hours?"

"I bet his dad's got a sweet couch for you to nap on," Kirk replied. Kirk looked over his shoulder at Spock, who still wouldn't give him the satisfaction of a blush or anything resembling embarrassment. "Then Spock and I are going to see that buddy of ours and you can have fun torturing the Academy people! Imagine a roomful of people cringing every time you flash those pearly teeth, huh?"

"Oh, and then you leave me alone with Spock's father while you two carouse around the planet, is that it? Count me out, Jim; I'll be at the dinner and drinks tomorrow night, but I hope you two have fun not using facial expressions."

"Suit yourself! I'll get you something pretty from the gift shop. Kirk out." Kirk turned off the intercom, took the long way to the turbolift in order to drag Spock along, and gave his final instructions to the bridge crew. 

"Permission to speak freely," Spock said once the doors of the turbolift had closed.

"Spock, you don't need to ask."

"I merely wished to express my disbelief at your refering to an Ambassador's home as having 'a sweet couch'."

"Aw, Spock." Kirk threw an arm around Spock's shoulders and held him tight for a short moment. "It'll be fine."

"Particularly when that Ambassador is my father." Spock looked over at Kirk and added, "I am still unable to comprehend why your are this excited at the prospect of visiting New Vulcan. You have never expressed this much interest in the colony before."

"Haven't I?"

"Not in such an openly joyful manner."

Kirk began to whistle an unfamiliar, upbeat tune and looked at Spock only once more to give him a smirk. 

*

"Captain, why did you wish to consult Silek?" Sarek asked far too soon into their conversation at his house. Kirk and Spock sat in adjacent chairs, Sarek across from them and totally unreadable. Kirk had to remember Sarek's face the next time he thought Spock was stonewalling him because the son had nothing on the father when it came to emoting less than a dishrag. "I only ask because he is our most gifted matchmaker; I can think of no logical reason for you to seek him."

Kirk swallowed and tried to come up with something to say besides what his brain kept screaming: oh fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck FUCK. 'Silek' hadn't mentioned the fucking career change.

To make matters worse -- oh so so very worse -- Sarek looked pointedly (well, as pointedly as one could while still being completely disaffected) at Spock, who, yes, returned that blank expression of his.

"Uh, well. Silek's a friend. Old friend. Knew him on Earth."

"Indeed."

"Yep. He knew my dad, too." Kirk bit the insides of his mouth, mentally apologized to his father, and concentrated on the conversation again.

"Then I will not keep you any longer. I hope I will have the pleasure of conversing with you again at the Academy's dinner and reception tomorrow."

"We'll be there with bells on, along with my Chief Medical Officer; you remember him, right? He can't wait to talk to somereal scientists. Says he feels left out because what he does is so practical -- it doesn't have any of that theoretical thrill, you know?"

"I will keep that in mind when introducing him to the Academy's faculty. Good afternoon to you both."

*

They were at the outskirts of New Vulcan's capital city when Spock finally said the magic word: "Matchmaker."

"I know, right?" Kirk replied.

"Jim, my father thinks you are engaging his services for me."

"So let him think that. Better than the truth. 'Ha, no, Spock's way into the illogical, non-procreative but totally hot sex we've been having on the ship for the past two years; we're just going to see this matchmaker because he's actually an alternate reality version of your son. Surprise!'"

"You make a convincing argument."

*

Kirk and Spock approached the house Sarek had given them directions to. It stood out in its own way: Ambassador Spock was the only person they had seen outside, sitting on his shady porch with a PADD while the rest of the city was off being logical indoors. Kirk had barely experienced the original Vulcan, but Spock had told him about the thin atmosphere making the land way too hot and dry. New Vulcan, though, was a little more Earth-like: cooler, and it had some actual greenery. He'd call it an upgrade, but not loud enough for anyone to hear him.

"We're looking for Silek!" Kirk called out, his hands cupped around his mouth.

"Jim, do you--"

"Joke, Spock." Kirk jogged the distance to the porch where Ambassador Spock was standing, waiting for him. 

*

As Spock watched Kirk jog away, his own pace slowed so he could observe his alternate self interacting with Kirk. It took only a few seconds for waves of emotions to well up inside his mind. He saw Kirk's emotions, the overwhelming excitement and joy in his face and body as Ambassador Spock greet him with a smile. Spock's own feelings -- jealousy, disappointment, envy, inadequacy, anger -- were eventually quieted.

Until Kirk laughed and reached out to wrap one arm around Ambassador Spock, and Ambassador Spock returned the gesture with both arms. They were embracing.

*

The day and evening with Ambassador Spock were a blur of conversation. Kirk and his counterpart laughed too much, exchanged too many stories, and attempted to engage Spock when possible.

"Wait, look, I got Spock to tell a joke -- this is the act we're going to take on the road when we retire from Starfleet," Kirk said. He sat up straight and looked at Spock manically. "Why did the chicken cross the road?"

Spock tightened his lips and waited several seconds before he answered, "Insufficient data."

Kirk fell off his chair laughing.

Eventually, Spock rose from his chair and announced, "I do not wish to be rude, but I am reminded of some matters I must discuss with my father."

"Do you now?" Kirk asked with a smirk. "Like what? Tell him yes, my eyes are naturally this blue -- it's called cornflower blue on Earth."

Spock's eyes rested on Kirk for a moment and Kirk noticed the slight shift of the corner of his mouth upwards.

"I hope you will be able to dine here," Ambassador Spock said. "I have become quite good at cooking. Jim, I hope you will assist me."

"You need a hobby," Kirk laughed. "You'll be back, right?"

"I will not be long," Spock replied. He bowed his head slightly and left. Kirk watched him retreat out the door, down the porch steps, and back towards the main street of the city. Once he was out of sight, Kirk turned back to Ambassador Spock and grinned.

"So when we were over at Sarek's, he mentioned you were a matchmaker now?"

"Indeed, though perhaps not in the traditional sense. Reconstructing Vulcan's population has entailed a great deal of reorganizing the social order -- doing away with it, in most cases."

"So this guy may be a sewage worker but he counts astrophysics as one of his hobbies, that sort of thing?" Kirk asked.

"Generally, that is the idea." 

"I know you're fucking great at it -- you kept me and Spock together, didn't you? And that's been great."

"Has it?"

"Well -- yeah," Kirk laughed.

"You have bonded, then?"

Kirk raised his eyebrows and replied slowly, "I guess? We're close, yeah."

Ambassador Spock raised an eyebrow in that completely Spock way and explained, "I speak of the permanent mental bond forged between two people. There is a formal ceremony, but the bond can be created during a mind meld. I infer from your ignorance that you have not done this."

"Actually," Kirk said, now avoiding Ambassador Spock's eyes, "We haven't melded." He sat up suddenly and said defensively, "It's -- that's cheating. It's not what humans do in relationships."

"He is not completely human -- he certainly was not raised as a human."

"I know that but -- look, he doesn't need to know what's going on in my head. The shit that comes out of my mouth is bad enough and you're saying we can make like, a wind tunnel so he'd have to hear that all the time until he murders me? We're working just fine the way we are."

"It is a Vulcan custom," Ambassador Spock said calmly. "One that we are trained to anticipate. He has mental control to keep your thoughts at bay. It would only bring a greater intimacy --"

"Why are you bringing this up?" Kirk asked.

It was Ambassador Spock's turn to hesitate. At last he said, "I am betrothed. The ceremony will take place within the next 40 days."

"Holy shit." 

"Jim," Ambassador Spock began. Kirk thought he saw Ambassador Spock's hand lift as if to touch his shoulder, but the movement was so slight he might have imagined it. "This will be where you and I, and my counterpart, separate."

Kirk's mouth dried almost instantly and he had to consciously force his mouth closed. "You -- we won't see each other anymore? Or communicate or anything? This is it?"

"Jim, I am concerned for your timeline. Certain matters have corrected themselves, such as your crew on the Enterprise and your captaincy. For the most part, your friendships and relationships are also similar. You cannot allow me to interfere in the unfolding of your destiny more than I already have." Ambassador Spock looked away from Kirk for a moment and said, "On a more selfish note -- I must begin to adjust to life in this reality, as it is clear now I will never leave it."

"Okay," Kirk replied, "That... makes sense." He swallowed the lump in his throat and added with false cheer, "I'm glad you're getting married! What's she like? Is it a she?"

"She is a Starfleet officer," Ambassador Spock said. "Her husband was recently killed."

"A widow -- nice," Kirk said hesitantly. "So if she's in Starfleet -- are you enlisting again? Or are you going to stay here? And -- do what you do?"

"Yes, Jim. I will remain on the planet and raise our child while --"

"Wait!" Kirk shrieked and gripped Ambassador Spock's forearm. "What?"

"Yes?"

"Oh. She's a widow. Not yours?"

"No, it is not my biological child. Our arrangement will allow her to pursue her career with Starfleet while I will provide her child with a permanent home and, I hope, a fair paternal figure."

"You're going to be the best dad ever." Kirk tried to avoid Ambassador Spock's glance and added, "If you stay alive for more than 15 minutes after the kid's born, you're already better than mine!" Kirk cleared his throat and said, "That was awkward. I'm sorry. It's just -- I can see why you want us out of your way, with the kid and family and everything."

"Not out of my way -- simply on your own way. Have you never considered it for yourself?" 

"Uh, no. Not more specifically than, 'if I ever have a kid, I won't--', you know?"

"I do not speak only of families, Jim," Ambassador Spock said. "I note from your communications that you rely on me greatly as a supplement to your relationship with my counterpart -- one that, due to prolonged exposure, understands humans more than he does. I ask you not to do my counterpart the disservice of believing him completely emotionless."

"Oh believe me," Kirk replied, "I know he feels. In finding out that he feels, I got to find out how the Enterprise's console feels pressed into my kidneys."

"Jim, you deliberately misunderstand me."

"And for fuck's sake, we've been together two years, I know he -- no, no -- I'm not going to fight with you about you in the last conversation I'm going to have with you, okay?"

"The last I will say on the subject," Ambassador Spock said, this time a hand firmly on Kirk's forearm. "You were too busy greeting me to notice him earlier today, and the myriad of emotions he could not hide -- all negative, because you shared with me what you did not with him."

"He's jealous? Of you?"

"Let us begin to prepare our meal -- he said he would return shortly."

*

The next evening, Spock greet Ambassador Spock and invited him to sit as he dressed for the function at the Academy. "Jim has returned to the ship to fetch Dr. McCoy and his dress uniform," Spock informed him. "I expect he will also engage in several attempts to press his uniform and arrive at the function, late, with the appearance of a first year cadet during winter exams."

"You must teach him to use the steamer," Ambassador Spock replied.

Spock looked up from his belt, his hands tightening around each end. He had addressed Ambassador Spock in Standard English, of course, but Ambassador Spock had replied in Vulcan. Domestic Vulcan.

"Did your mother speak Vulcan?" Spock asked in the same language. 

"As well as a human could hope."

Spock swallowed the lump in his throat and replied, "As did mine. She interspersed hers with Standard endearments."

"Ah," Ambassador Spock said. "My mother did not. The James Kirk I knew enjoyed that, however -- English endearments. Memorably, he explained the nuances of the term 'baby' to me. I did not hear the end of it for quite some time."

"Strange we should have parallel, yet strikingly different incidents in our histories," Spock said, but chose not to elaborate.

Spock believed he could identify Ambassador Spock's expression as one of pity. His next comment confirmed it: "I regret you did not have more time with her."

"As do I." Spock glanced down at his belt and finally adjusted it, centering the buckle precisely. He went to the closet, pulled out his jacket, and examined it on its hanger for any defects.

"I wish to inform you, as I have informed Jim, that I will be married before the end of the next lunar month," Ambassador Spock said. Spock turned around and kept his expression blank. "I also informed Jim that we would be ending our communications from that point, barring the most dire emergencies."

That was unexpected, unlike the relief that followed.

"I offer you my congratulations and my sincere hope your bonding will be successful."

Ambassador Spock nodded in return. "I will take my leave of you for the foreseeable future tomorrow. Before that, I would like to offer the opportunity to discuss what you wish. You worry, as I do, of the timeline and the effects our interactions have on its outcome. However, I may warn you of things I had hoped to be avoided -- anything you wish to ask."

"I planned on asking this before you offered," Spock began. "At our first meeting, you mentioned the friendship between myself and Jim. Would you mind explaining to me how close you were to the James Kirk you knew?"

Without hesitation, Ambassador Spock replied, "As close as it is possible for two people to be. We shared everything."

"Everything," Spock repeated.

"We did not marry openly for security reasons; however, we were bonded. I did not marry until he was presumed dead. Decades after."

"I have concluded," Spock began as he pulled on his jacket and adjusted his shirt sleeves, "That as I have lived only 28.8 of my expected 157.5 years, to bond with the first individual who has seriously had me consider the option would be illogical at best, and devastating at worst, particularly on the professional, tactical, and exploratory levels which the effects of such choices can be measured."

"That is logical," Ambassador Spock said. "Yet you appear unsettled."

Spock slipped a cufflink through a buttonhole as he stared at Ambassador Spock. "How may I correct that?"

"The uncertainty or the appearance of it?" Spock looked to his other cufflink and Ambassador Spock took that as a cue to continue. "As you have concluded not to bond with Jim based on logic and science, perhaps you should approach the possibility in the same manner."

"You suggest I should experiment on Jim... as I would on micro organisms."

"A theoretical sketch of the situation and the application of the scientific method would hardly make Jim a lab animal."

"Yes it would," Spock replied. He failed at concealing the edge of defensiveness in his voice. He slipped on his jacket and said, "I have finished dressing and will leave for the Academy promptly. I have no more questions for you. Good evening, Ambassador."

*

On any other night of his life, Kirk would have killed -- okay, maybe maimed -- no, probably just punched or lightly slapped -- for this chance: a night at the Vulcan Science Academy when he could speak about his specialty and the niggles in any of his minor projects on the ship.

Except that when he entered, there was only Spock. Kirk walked into the atrium of the new Academy building and immediately saw Spock stand out from the crowd. His dress uniform was royal blue, so dark it was almost black yet blue enough to give Kirk the illusion he could drown in its richness. It elongated his frame and outlined his surprisingly broad shoulders. He had more medals on his chest than Kirk. Every inch of the uniform was crisp and unwrinkled and Spock held his arms at his sides, his eyes scanning the room until they rested on Kirk.

Kirk made his way over and ignored anyone who greet him. His thoughts were multiplying and crowding his brain, creating a static that had Kirk's face flushed. He suddenly saw Spock in his element: professional, determined, attractive beyond belief, and there was an amused quirk of an eyebrow -- the high collar of Kirk's uniform jacket was suddenly too tight and trapping too much heat. 

He wanted to reach Spock, grab him by the arms, and tell him he loved him -- or something similar, anyway, if not exactly that. It was one of those moments in which that word wasn't quite enough for the overpowering push of everything in his mind. Quite enough? It would never be enough; saying it, whispering it, singing it, shouting it with an amplifier at his throat from the top of a mountain down towards a city-sized stadium filled with everyone he had ever and would ever meet couldn't be enough.

"Jim, are you all right?" Spock asked. He must have noticed, Kirk thought when Spock closed the distance between them with two quick, long strides that didn't ruffle a single hair on his head.

"Yes," Kirk replied. He wondered when his voice had become so quiet.

He couldn't say it. He loved him and was at least 93% sure that it was mutual (the intensity of his own feeling prevented him from declaring it a full 100%), but saying it -- no, he couldn't say it.

Spock seemed to evaluate him for another several seconds and then asked, "Should I have my father introduce you to the linguistics specialist of the Academy's faculty?"

"In a minute," Kirk said. "Just realized I don't have a drink yet."

Kirk stepped away from him and headed to the bar. From there, he watched Sarek lead his son to a group of Vulcans and introduce him. Kirk leaned on the bar and felt the fury in his brain ebb. It was just Spock in his dress uniform. Just another night, just another function.

*

"I am surprised we are able to walk to my counterpart's residence," Spock announced several hours later. "Particularly, that I am not required to carry either of you."

"Didn't feel like a drinking night," Kirk replied.

"Speak for yourself," McCoy said. "Sure did feel like one, but Vulcan gin should be added to the Federation list of substances lethal to humanoid life."

They looked at Spock for a reaction. When Spock noticed, he answered, "I apologize; my silence was implicit agreement."

"Wow," McCoy said. "So how's the matchmaker been? Is it making you reconsider your own career choices, Spock?"

"Absolutely not. It is completely illogical to suppose significant, long-lasting relationships may be machinated through arbitrary points of comparison. I disagree with the Vulcan custom of arranged marriages, and with my counterpart's...venture."

"I might regret saying this," McCoy began, "But I agree with you."

"How do Vulcans find love, then?" Kirk asked. "When it's not arranged, I mean."

"In every case I have heard of -- serendipitously."

"But how's that logical?"

"I believe the logic is in remaining open to the idea that attraction may strike at any given moment, rather than attempting to exert control over the uncontrollable."

"If that came from anyone else, Spock, I'd call it romantic," McCoy remarked.

Again, Spock didn't answer. Kirk and McCoy glanced at him again, and again he replied, "Yes, I agree with you. If I were another individual and had made such a statement, you would declare it 'romantic'. However, since I have said it, you are taken aback and unsure of how to interpret me based on this additional data."

"Getting the last word with you is so new," McCoy said. "I could get used to it."

"You shouldn't," Kirk said. "He'll be back to normal before you know it."

"Do you find abnormalities in my behavior tonight?" Spock asked Kirk.

"I don't know," he answered. "You're not as combative. It's late, though. We won't hold it against you."

"Both of you are abnormal," McCoy said. "Jim, you haven't said the word 'fuck' in fifteen minutes, and Spock's rhapsodizing about love. Maybe that Vulcan gin's better than I thought."

"I've heard it's not polite to have sex while staying in someone's house," Kirk began, "But I might have to pretend I didn't know that just to shut you up, Bones."

"You mean I'll have to lie in the room next to you and pretend I can't hear the river of obscenities followed by something that sounds like an asthma attack in Vulcan? Yeah, never done that before."

"Doctor, I believe the viewscreen in your quarters, as well as your PADDs, provide ample entertainment options; it is hardly our responsibility that some curious force draws your attention to our activities. Perhaps it is a sign of your shifting proclivities from prolonged exposure to our private relationship."

"Did I get all that? Did he just call me gay?" McCoy asked Kirk.

"Did he ever," Kirk laughed.

*

"As they materialized on the Enterprise the next day, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy were terrified when the lights in the room dimmed and slowly returned to normal.

"Fuck Jim, fuck, I can't feel my liver!" McCoy yelled.

"Spock, check on his liver," Kirk said distractedly as he ran to the console and paged engineering. "Scotty! What the hell was that?"

"Captain, did you happen to beam back a whale with you? The three of you have blown out our dilithium!"

"The fuck do you mean -- hold on, we're coming down."

"I saw my atoms flash before my eyes," McCoy said.

"That is to be expected, Doctor," Spock replied calmly.

Once in the engineering deck, they found Scotty shrieking at the dilithium crystals until Kirk grabbed him by the arms and shook him a little.

"Now. What's the problem?"

"What's the problem?" Scotty asked. "A Constitution-class starship requires 30 kilos of dilithium for full functioning capabilities; possibly, maybe, if you're lucky, it could run basic life support including food synthesizers on half that -- you sirs have just blown us out to 19 kilos."

Kirk glanced around the room and saw Scotty's staff paging every department on the ship, calling for a shut down of all their non-essential systems.

"Right -- can we hail New Vulcan and see if they have any we can borrow?" Kirk asked. "How much do we need to get back to full capacity and to compensate for the reboot of these systems?"

"Double what we have."

"Double?"

"I'd settle for 15 more kilos in a pinch, which this fucking is."

"Fuck, Scotty," Kirk groaned as a realization dawned on him, "New Vulcan is totally devoid of dilithium."

"Indeed; we would be taking directly from their survey ships, as New Vulcan does not yet have full starship capabilities of the Enterprise's class. Even then, I am certain the limited capabilities of those ships would not provide you with even 10 kilograms. It would also leave the planet without spacecraft," Spock added.

Kirk walked over to the intercom on the wall. "Kirk to the bridge -- Uhura?"

"Yes, Captain -- can we have an update on the situation?"

"Yeah -- we'll be running only essential systems due to a problem with the dilithium. Uhura, we need dilithium fast, so make that announcement and then find me the closest sources in this quadrant, okay?" He flicked off the intercom and turned to Spock. "Your damn counterpart had to find a planet in the fucking remotest corner of the Beta quadrant for your new colony, didn't he?"

Scotty looked puzzled and shook what he had heard out of his head. "Here are our options, let me know if I miss any --" Kirk began.

"They all involve crawling along to whatever destination on only our impulse engines," Scotty interrupted. "If Uhura's lucky enough to find a starship willing to share some of its dilithium, which is unlikely if they're anything like me, it'd take them days to get out here at warp 6 so they don't burn out that dilithium -- that's if they leave immediately, which theywon't. There are no dilithium-mining planets within seven light-days of New Vulcan and -- did I mention how we can only afford to use our sublight-speed-traveling impulse engines?"

"Captain, Uhura here," the intercom announced.

"Yup, talk to me," Kirk replied.

"Captain, there are no Federation starships in this quadrant, nor will there be for close to a month. I've contacted Starbase 12 and they can have a shuttle meet us three-fourths of the way there with the dilithium. Sulu says it'll take us three weeks on our impulse engines."

"Three weeks?" Kirk screamed. "Three fucking weeks? Bridge, stand by, and thanks." He switched off the intercom and looked to everyone. "Three. Weeks."

"Three weeks in space, running only essential functions," McCoy groaned.

"No experiments in the labs," Spock realized. "The risk of power depletion is too great to allow our continuing experiment on the dilithium isotope that could fuel our journey to the starbase."

"No creative meals," Scotty added.

"Okay, shut up, all of you. I'm going to go take care of the meal situation for these next three weeks -- brace yourselves, because it's going to be ugly and probably disgusting." Kirk ran a hand through his hair and added, "We'll be fine. It'll be like a vacation -- like shore leave. But without the fun."

"Captain, I suggest taking several moments to compose your thoughts on the matter before announcing your estimation of the situation." Spock paused and clarified, "For the sake of crew morale, I would not open with that."

*

The situation was this: as all non-essential systems were taken offline for power conservation, there was nothing for close to three hundred and fifty people on the ship to do for most of each day except catch up on their reading, work out in the gym, stroll along the corridors, and have possibly dangerous amounts of sex in their quarters.

McCoy, smug for close to a minute because his department was highest priority, began to regret his calling when he suddenly became the most popular person on the ship, that distributor of birth control and healer of creatively attained sprains.

The bridge staff was put on half-duty, as there was a sudden influx of occupation-starved staff that wanted to gain some experience working there, which they were granted.

"This is just like the Academy!" Kirk laughed in his quarters. It was 1100 hours and he had just woken up and, to his greater surprise, Spock was still there, also half-asleep.

"How so?" Spock asked groggily.

"You know -- okay, maybe you don't know." He turned on his side and put an arm around Spock's torso. "Get out of class on Thursday, head to lunch, see some striking, hm. Redhead, for the purposes of this nostalgia. Talk, laugh, share some fries, make eyes at each other, oh yeah I have class now, yeah, but maybe we can meet up after for dinner? Same thing there -- funny running into you! Oh man, I'm so excited, class was canceled tomorrow -- right, you're in Orson's history of who-gives-a-fuck class, shame he's so sick all the time --"

"He had advanced irreparable liver failure," Spock said.

"And he's in a better place now, like I was that Friday he cancelled his class," Kirk replied. "Hey, do you want to come over? Oh, sure, that'll be great. Yeah, we can watch some holovids, just hang out, next thing you know: sex! And waking up like this, and there's no class on Friday, so you spend the whole day together. Then Friday goes by and you wake up Saturday, and Sunday -- it's the classic three-day date. You never had that?"

"More relevantly, I do not have the poor taste of bringing it up in such detail while on one of those dates," Spock replied.

"Tell me about one of yours."

Spock looked to be considering whether he would answer or just get up and shower. Interestingly, Kirk noted, he sat up and leaned over to Kirk's side of the bed. "First of all, PADDs were forbidden."

"I'm thinking that wasn't your call."

"But one that I came to appreciate."

"And then?"

Spock leaned in until his mouth was centimeters from Kirk's, and then he exhaled softly the word, "Breakfast."

"Shut up and do me, bad breath and all."

*

The excitement of spending twelve hours per day in bed, five hours in the gym, four hours on the bridge, and three hours not doing much of anything, wore off after about a week.

The gym was the most exciting place on the ship as Kirk began offering combat lessons to anyone who wanted them. This involved affectionately humiliating someone young, adorable, and proud like Chekov in demonstrating some moves for the next planet-side landing party brawl, or Spock showing up and the two men being carted off to McCoy after a demonstration.

"Funny how I keep running into you," Kirk said as McCoy tended to his ribs.

"Indeed. With our limited occupations, our paths of travel intersect on a more frequent basis than when we had regular hours," Spock replied. He bit his lip when one of McCoy's staff set his shoulder back in place and looked at Kirk indifferently.

"Nice shoes," Kirk said. "Wanna --"

"Don't you dare," McCoy interrupted. "There are people here."

"I was going to ask if he wanted to see some holovids in my room. You're welcome to watch."

"We're not allowed holovids, Jim."

"It's a metaphor," Kirk grinned. "You can still watch, though."

"Oh how I wish I was back in Georgia," McCoy sang off-key, "Or maybe dead in a mine. Maybe dead of Antarian measles, or --"

"You know just how to cheer a guy up," Kirk replied. He jumped off the biobed and groaned. "Fuck, why didn't you warn me."

"I live to watch you suffer!" McCoy said cheerily. "Off to my next patient. Try and avoid aggravating your muscle sprains for at least two hours, okay? Modern medicine is good, but not if you keep fucking with the process." He paused and added, "Literally. Good god damn, do you two need your jobs back."

*

Kirk was the first to snap. Spock entered Kirk's quarters to find him at his desk, surrounded in PADDs. "Depleting your PADDs' power banks hardly seems logical, Jim, when they are our only form of --"

"I need to look over all the ship's manuals to see what the fuck we can do to re-energize the crystals."

"Jim, there is nothing on board the ship capable of doing that -- there is nothing in our knowledge of science capable of doing that."

"That's bullshit, we just haven't found it yet."

"Precisely, but we do not have sufficient energy to experiment. Even if you should find a way to recrystallize them, it would have to be purely theoretical --"

"Tell me something I don't know, Spock."

"The continent on which I was born was called Na'nam."

"Actually, I did know that. I've read your file, and I've picked up a book on your home planet before -- in a manner of speaking. Try again."

"Our word for snow is izh."

Kirk turned off all the PADDs and rubbed his hands along his jawline. "Think I'm going to grow a beard."

"I will shower and retire to my own quarters for a time."

"Okay, yeah, go for it. I'll be here, growing my beard and trying not to blow up the ship."

*

Spock was back in his quarters and considered slipping on his meditation robes for a moment, but his body refused. His mind was too active, demanding the rigors of duty and research, opportunities for which were severely limited until they met the shuttle.

Of course, the past 12 days of leisure had not been entirely wasteful. They had been extremely enjoyable -- which brought his mind back to something he had not considered for several days, and that was Ambassador Spock. Ambassador Spock and his talk of bonding, families, Jim, everything.

Several days ago, it had been unthinkable. Yet now there was nothing to do, few theoretical questions that he felt like exploring as much as that particular one, especially considering the excessively co-habitative state of their relationship since they left New Vulcan.

Spock picked up his PADD, opened a new audio log, and began to speak.

*

Stardate 2261.140. This is the private log of First Officer Spock.

At the behest of my alternate reality counterpart, now a matchmaker on New Vulcan, I will endeavor to catalogue here my personal requirements of a long-term romantic partnership, as qualified by my experiences with the matter until the present stardate. A formal representation may follow.

I should begin by listing my primary sources of data. These sources are my observations of the relationship of my parents; my past relationship with Nyota Uhura; and my current relationship with James Kirk. They are not particularly ranked and are the most significant connections I have to this topic.

I must also note as a secondary source the relationship between my counterpart, Ambassador Spock, and the James Kirk of his alternate reality. Additional information on their relationship was revealed to me during my recent visit to New Vulcan. Obviously, as I did not directly observe their interactions and know my counterpart to express himself with less than Vulcan restraint (particularly with regard to the matter of James Kirk), his interpretations of that relationship will hold less weight than my primary sources.

Long-term relationships of this nature have shown to exist on the following levels: physical, intellectual, emotional, and social. The social level is subdivided into the private and public sphere, as seen in the dual nature of a familial unit and its co-existence both as a private entity and one under public scrutiny. I have devised these categories based upon my life on Vulcan as part of my own familial unit (and the intense scrutiny brought upon us for my mother's heritage), while the former three categories made themselves apparent in my own relationships as well as in observing the relationship between my parents.

I should clarify at this point that my query is this: will Jim Kirk prove to be a worthy individual with whom to form a bond? (Note: I deliberately use the word 'bond' in the sense of the permanent mental bond forged during a marriage ceremony.) 

I must correct that query, as a review of it suggests unkindness towards Jim. It would take much more time than I have available to detail the ways in which he is an excellent friend, captain, companion, and sentient being. His human traits have brought me clarity in more areas than I may ever be able to understand fully. As I say this, I begin to wonder why I must explore this at all -- I wonder if Ambassador Spock was correct and, indeed, this is completely unnecessary because I feel (yes, feel, not know) that the chances of finding another individual like James Kirk is an unprovable impossibility. Yet for my logical self, which I must live with alongside my emotional self, I must advance further until it is satisfied with my conclusions.

I bring my attention back to the four categories I stated earlier. I will not cover Jim's compatibility with me on the intellectual or physical levels; we complement each other excellently in both these areas. Therefore, I will focus on the status of our relationship on the emotional and social levels, and begin with the social, as it is more easily quantified and examined.

The social level may also be defined according to the status of dependents: namely, children. Jim informed me that, in addition to my counterpart's impending marriage, he will become a father shortly after the ceremony (which we will not be attending, due to an assignment that sends us to the Gamma quadrant of our home system once we have replenished our dilithium stores). This did not lead to a conversation between myself and Jim and our potential future status as parents in a familial unit. 

One may argue that it is my emotional investment in this particular relationship that causes me to believe Jim would be nothing but the most doting, caring, and supportive of parents. I cite now his overall character and the lengths to which he must be driven in order to speak a cruel word; the extraordinary loyalty that he has shown every staff member of the Enterprise; the fact that he has, in fact, offered himself several times to captors rather than see a single innocent bystander or crew member injured.

I must adjust my query again, as I find that my hesitation in committing myself fully to this relationship lies in the doubts I hold of my own abilities to communicate on the emotional level. I recall all too clearly the only argument my parents had while I lived on Vulcan (an argument they repeated too frequently, in my opinion): my mother demanding of my father more human-like behavior, and my father acquiescing but never enough. "How could the tapping of fingers together match a kiss?" was a question she frequently asked. It could not, he admitted, but it was the custom and anything more would draw unwanted attention to our already remarked-on household.

The same situation, which briefly presented itself with Nyota, frequently presents itself with Jim. Nyota, with all her patience and dedication to studying languages and cultures, would not transfer that patience to the personal sphere and a relationship with me. Jim has consistently seen my Vulcan upbringing as a challenge and, unlike Nyota, has never openly wished me different from what I am. However, my primary concern is that, with the passage of time, he will react as my mother did: he will stay with me, care for me before all others, but long for more I could not provide. 

This is the point on which the social and emotional levels converge, as my mother made clear during my childhood and adolescence: showing emotions is the only way for humans to prove their existence. Actions, even small ones such as a clasping of hands or kiss, are more valuable than a spoken reassurance of the represented action. Jim has registered few complaints during our relationship to this date, and they have stemmed from the misunderstanding that I am less invested than he (this initial log should demonstrate otherwise). He continues to refuse a mind meld because actions have more significance with humans than words or telepathic connections (ironically, he cites it as cheating and disapproves of it). I revise my query to consider this question: could I adequately provide for this man's needs?

*

Spock noticed knocking on his door and switched modes on his PADD immediately. "Come in," Spock called, and when Kirk entered he added, "I apologize, I did not hear you. Why did you not enter?"

"You're in your room," Kirk explained. "So. You know. Here you are. And I heard your labiodental flaps from outside -- didn't want to interrupt whatever you were doing."

"Please interrupt me," Spock replied. "You know you are free to."

"I won't," he answered. "Anyway, come on! Delta shift! Let's burn some midnight oil, baby."

Spock rose and they walked to the turbolift quietly so as not to disturb those sleeping. In the turbolift, Kirk nudged him with his elbow.

"I called you 'baby' and you didn't even flinch. What's with that?" he asked. "I've got to get more creative when it comes to annoying you."

"I am used to the term," Spock said. Kirk raised his eyebrows and suppressed some amusement. Spock matched it with a curve of the corner of his mouth and told him, "My mother spoke Vulcan tolerably well, but it was obviously not her primary language. She would frequently use Earth terms alongside Vulcan ones; that particular term was one of her favorites."

"How'd she explain it to you?" he asked.

"I believe you are aware of Vulcan's use of particles."

"Sure; a few languages on Earth use them, too, ancient ones especially."

"She called it a 'particle of affection'."

There was a long pause and Spock attempted to interpret Kirk's reaction: widened eyes, furrowed eyebrows, the tip of his tongue emerging from the side of his mouth, momentarily halted respiration. Kirk slowly reached over to the turbolift's controls and stopped its movement. He looked at Spock and said, "I would kiss you right now, but you know how creepy the night shift gets about trying to find people fooling around on camera. So I'm just going to stand here and tell you that is the fucking cutest thing I have ever heard in my entire fucking life." He pressed the button again and the turbolift resumed its journey to the bridge. "And baby -- just so you know -- I'm never going to stop calling you that."

*

"I love our date nights," Kirk murmured into his glass of whiskey.

"You keep calling them that..." McCoy poured himself another measure and swirled it around the glass as he considered possible threats. Soon, he shrugged and said, "Fuck it, they are date nights, aren't they?"

"Yup. Know what I hate?"

"Hm?"

"The power of suggestion."

McCoy raised an eyebrow. "I never would have gotten that, not with a million guesses."

"It's Spock -- the older model, not mine. Ever since he was all... you know... I'm getting married! I'm having a kid! Suddenly everyone's doing that."

"I'm not. I already did. Who's everyone?"

"Well." Kirk slouched in his chair and looked to the ceiling of McCoy's quarters for answers. "Oh! That lieutenant in botany. You know. Richards... or Ricardo... whatever, he just proposed to his girlfriend on the Talbot. And Chekov's getting serious with a girl down in operations."

"Serious by our standards or Chekov's standards? Is he asking you for her hand or did he just get to second base?" McCoy asked.

"Handholding in public," Kirk said. "Hell, even I'm not there yet."

"Ha," McCoy laughed. "You'd hold hands in public en route to a handjob and arrest."

"Bones! I'm -- no, you're totally right."

"Especially when your boyfriend has got those interesting hands of his..."

"Damn, holding hands with him would be a handjob in public, wouldn't it? This needs to happen. Remind me."

"Sorry, Spock!" McCoy announced to the universe.

"How'd you know, Bones," Kirk said, "That Mrs. McCoy was the one for you?"

"She wasn't, remember? Divorce? Enlisting? Weekly whiskey-filled debriefing sessions with you?"

"Yeah, but... whatever, I just wanna know. You know, what made you think she could be it."

"Easy," McCoy replied. "She was pregnant."

"Leonard fucking McCoy! You dog!"

"No regrets. Got Joey out of it, didn't I?"

"Fuck yeah, you did." They clinked their glasses and Kirk polished off what was left in his glass. "Bartender, one more, if you please, then cut me off."

"Sure, sure. What were we talking about?"

"There's a version of Spock out there, the ancient one, that's getting married for the second time."

"Interesting."

"And that's not counting the five thousand years he was fucking bonded, or whatever Vulcans do, to his version of me."

"Wait a second," McCoy interrupted. "Just wait a goddamn minute. Have you -- you've been talking to this time traveling Vulcan -- he's been talking to you about what you did in that other timeline? This whole goddamn time?"

"Well. Yeah. You had a moratorium on me and Spock and our relationship issues for the longest time, so I figured --"

"He's been interfering with the prime directive and you've been letting him?"

"I don't think he's technically a member of Starfleet any --"

McCoy leaned over and punched Kirk in the shoulder hard enough to make him yell. 

"Don't give me your semantic crap, Jim! And has Spock been indulging himself with a little peek into the future, too?"

"The fuck does it matter? It's an alternate timeline! It's never going to happen!"

"The hell it isn't! You jackass! This is like being a hundred pages into a story and skipping to the end! Dammit, Jim! You should have told me what you talked about. I thought it was Vulcan nonsense for Spock, or you running to the grandpa you never had to tell him what you did in space this week, but this is -- did you even think about how this will affect you?"

"It hasn't, Bones. Nothing's changed! I'm still the same devil-may-care roguishly charming starship captain I've always been," Kirk replied with a faltering grin.

McCoy tapped his fingers impatiently and then asked, "Would you have started fucking Spock if it wasn't for the other him?"

Kirk swallowed and didn't answer. "Irrelevant," he eventually replied.

"Relevant. Jim, you can't --"

"You're right, I can't anymore, anyway," Kirk snapped. "Old Spock is getting married, having his family, so we're never speaking again, he says. He knows what he's done."

"About goddamn time." McCoy rubbed his face with both hands and groaned. He lowered them back into his lap and glanced at Kirk, who refused to make eye contact for more than a split-second at a time. "I forget stubbornness, especially with you, is at work. You know drinking this much the night before you have Alpha shift is going to make you unbearable tomorrow, but you do it anyway." McCoy groaned again and added, "At least, it would if we weren't in this fucking limbo."

Kirk examined his glass and said, apropos of nothing, "Spock knows there's, like, an eighty percent chance I'm going to die before him, but he still likes me."

"Likes you? Are you twelve? I've gotta tell you -- no one on this ship has put up with you these past three years just because they like you. For him to put up with you as much as he does -- I think you need to upgrade to something beyond 'like'."

"That's what I meant before," Kirk replied. His tone was almost gentle as he explained. "See, it isn't enough that we've saved each other's lives a thousand times -- that's part of the job requirement. It's also not enough that we can talk about our lab projects for hours. What made you think 'yeah, let's give this a try, we'll aim towards forever and see how long it goes'?"

"Mostly the pregnant thing. Can't lie about it. Don't get Spock pregnant."

"Not even a little?"

"I will straight up murder you, Jim, you hear me?"

"Sure sure. Good night, Bones."

"Jim! I'm not kidding! I'll hypospray you sterile if I have to!" The door slid shut behind Kirk, and McCoy poured himself a final glass of whiskey, muttering "dammit" a few times under his breath between sips.

*

Kirk entered his quarters and there was Spock, already in his shorts and undershirt, PADD in hand. Usually whiskey made him easy going, but Kirk had to thank McCoy for the fucking downer of a conversation. Kirk yanked off his boot and looked up quickly when he thought he saw Spock's eyes dart to him. Of course, that hopping-on-one-leg style of boot removal, startled exchange of looks, and whiskey led to Kirk falling flat on his back and his head narrowly missing the corner of his desk.

Spock was over him in a moment and looking down. "Do you ever actually debrief with the doctor during your meetings?"

"Not like we do during ours," Kirk replied from the floor. He tilted his head and said, "Speaking of briefs, I can see --"

"Thank you, Jim." He extended a hand and helped Kirk up. "Do you need my help?"

"The day I can't walk to my fucking bed after three drinks with Bones, you have the right to phaser me into the next dimension, okay?"

"Do you have a preference as to which one?" Spock asked as he resumed his position on the bed.

"Up to you, buddy, it won't matter is the point." Kirk sat on the edge of the bed, pulled off his other boot, and threw it across the room. He pulled his shirt off and said, "So I talked to Scotty today. He told me something interesting."

"Indeed?"

"He told me," Kirk began slowly as he undid his belt and slipped out of his pants, "That your directory, the one that holds your personal logs? Has suddenly jumped from holding about 20 hours of recordings from the past three years -- which is shocking, really, unless you talk faster than light in your logs and why can't your tongue power any warp core but mine -- to almost 35 hours in a week."

Spock put the PADD down and Kirk, in identical shorts and shirt, turned on the bed to face him. "So I know you're bored like the rest of us, but. I have to ask. What have you talked to your PADD about for 15 hours that you haven't been able to tell me? Something I should be worried about?"

"Worried, no," Spock replied. His hands rested on the bed at either side of his legs and Kirk saw Spock's eyes probing and evaluating his face. "Our last encounter with my counterpart brought many questions to the forefront of my mind concerning our relationship."

"You, too!" Kirk said. He quickly scrambled to the top of the bed where the mattress met the headboard and mimicked Spock's sitting position, legs stretched out but with his arms crossed over his chest. "How did we not talk about this -- right, because of that whole fucking dilithium thing, and the whole fucking because of dilithium thing. What did he tell you? Besides the facts, I mean."

"I know what I have been told and deliberated," Spock said. "Would you mind telling me what he shared with you and your conclusions?"

"Well, I don't have a lot of conclusions yet," Kirk said. "He told me you were jealous when I hugged him --"

"He embraced you," Spock corrected. "You merely extended an arm to him and he crossed a very definite boundary with full awareness of how I would react. I believe he was provoking me."

"He just wanted to cop a feel -- wouldn't you? Come on, look at this." Kirk grinned and was glad Spock, at least, looked away -- it was the closest he got to an eye roll and sigh. "Anyway, what else. The wife, the kid -- yeah, he yelled at me for not melding with you and asked if we had talked about bonding."

Kirk didn't speak for a moment, but he saw Spock nod from his periphery. He said after another hesitation, "Melding freaked me out the first time. I really couldn't control what was happening to me, and old Spock was too compromised to control the emotional transference -- I'm not kidding, I almost cried afterwards and you know how often I fucking cry. I saw too much, a lot I didn't want to see." Kirk looked over and asked, "Is it really that important to you?"

"You are important to me." Spock cleared his throat and said, "As for what I dictated to my PADD -- I was evaluating our relationship."

"Okay..."

"Our almost equal emotional hesitancies have made us a very functional team for operating the ship. I would not go so far as to suggest a bond would have caused us to falter or made us better at our duties, but the emotional investment that comes with such a bond would have compromised us at a critical --"

*

Spock glanced over and saw Kirk breathing deeply and steadily. Usually he would not wake Kirk up, but the situation warranted it. He nudged Kirk in the shoulder, and then in a still-sensitive rib.

"Fuck, ow, that still hurts," Kirk groaned. "Sorry, sorry, I didn't mean to, I blame the whiskey." Kirk sat up straighter and rubbed his eyes. "So tell me what we're going to do. What have we concluded?"

"I believe we should be able to compromise," Spock said. "You have previously mentioned to me that I do not show my affection as openly as I could."

"I haven't said that in a long time," Kirk replied. "I've gotten way better at reading you. Actually, I just assume that everything you do is screaming either 'fuck you' or 'love me' in Vulcan." Spock glanced at Kirk, who was staring at him expectantly. "Sorry, that was really funny and I was hoping you'd laugh. Like, with teeth and all. What do your teeth looklike?"

"Very similar to yours. Your canines are more pronounced than mine, while mine are very pronounced for a Vulcan. I also believe there is greater variety in the length of your top row --"

"You've measured my teeth?" Kirk asked.

"You flash them quite frequently in my presence. I did not have a choice in the matter."

Happily, Kirk grinned and flashed his teeth much more obnoxiously in Spock's face than he had in some time.

"The doctor shared his better whiskey with you tonight," Spock commented.

"That's a new level of intimacy, right? Evaluating whiskey quality based on my breath?" Kirk toned down the grin and said, "Next time we're fucking, like, not a quickie before shift or anything, but really into it -- let's meld, okay? I trust you not to make me hyperventilate and cry for days. Maybe." Kirk cleared his throat and said, "Though I should warn you -- be prepared for what's in my head."

"Can it be more disturbing than what emerges from your mouth?"

"That's what I said!" Kirk shrieked. "I'm not even fucking kidding you, word for word, I told him!" Spock allowed himself a smile and that made Kirk grin again. "Seriously, though, I mean -- don't get scared of how much I like you. This, with the grinning and fucking you senseless and playing with your ears, it's. It's a lot worse in my head." He paused and added, "And I think there's like, a whole lobe dedicated to you in your dress uniform at the Academy that other night, I mean, if we never fuck again, that is my --"

"Captain! Sorry, Captain, it's Scotty!" the intercom in the wall yelled. "Come in, Captain!"

They scrambled out of bed and Kirk answered.

"Captain! The Farragut is 20 minutes away with ten kilos of dilithium!"

"Holy shit, Scotty that's --"

"And it's carrying five from each the Intrepid and Excalibur, and ten more from the Defiant -- it might be just enough to put us in warp to Starbase 12 for the full load they have for us."

"Scotty, brace yourself. When I see you, I'm going to kiss you. Long and hard, with a lot of tongue." He flipped the switch momentarily and Spock raised an eyebrow at Kirk. "Hope you don't mind." He flipped the switch on again and switched to the bridge channel. "Kirk to bridge, who's the communications officer whose children I'm going to bear right here? I'm seriously about to shit you a dilithium necklace."

"It won't be necessary, Captain," Uhura replied warily.

"I'll be up on the bridge with Spock in a few minutes -- call ahead to Starbase 12 and find out how much alcohol they have for immediate purchase and shipment." He flicked off the intercom again and scrambled for his pants, then ran to Spock and pulled him in for a deep kiss. "Prepping for Scotty, you understand, right?"

They dressed and their conversation was mostly forgotten, seeming like something out of the dream world they had inhabited for the past two weeks. Kirk and Spock ran out the door and to the turbolift, discussing heatedly what to do with the extra dilithium they would have after their stop at Starbase 12.