The three friends settled around the table in briefing room five.
"Okay, let's see what we've got," McCoy said with relish as he picked up his copy of the latest issue of The Free Enterprise, the ship's newspaper.
Spock scanned the enclosed list of questions rapidly, raised one eyebrow, and pushed back from the table. "I do not believe that this endeavor is worth my time. Captain, if you will excuse me."
"No," Kirk said firmly. "I told Dawkins that we'd answer the questionnaire for the next issue. It's a good idea. The senior officers need to find ways to connect more personally with the crew."
"And you believe that this," Spock indicated the paper before him in disdain, "will accomplish that purpose? The questions are inane."
"'What color is your hair?'" McCoy read. "That's not inane. Pretty innocuous, if you ask me. Brown." He picked up one of the three styluses and wrote.
"Blonde," Kirk said as he made the notation.
Spock looked at his captain askance. "Blonde?" he questioned. "I do not believe so."
"Blonde," Kirk said firmly. "Or dark blonde, if you insist."
"Your hair color is light brown."
Kirk raked one hand through his strands. "On what planet?" he challenged--but with a grin. "It used to be blonde. Okay, for accuracy's sake, I'll put down 'light brown with blonde highlights.' Will that satisfy you?"
"Affirmative. The blonde highlights are especially apparent under sunlight. My own hair color, of course, is black."
"No, it isn't," Kirk instantly disagreed.
"Captain, the people from my clan have had black hair for several hundred years."
"Have you looked in a mirror lately? You've got dark brown hair with auburn highlights."
Spock looked up from the questionnaire to gaze at his captain. There was the hint of a smile about his lips. "Indeed?"
Kirk nodded once. "Definitely. Especially on the bridge. Or under sunlight when we're on a planet."
"I don't know about that," McCoy drawled from where, forgotten, he had been diligently answering questions. "Spock's hair always seems black to me."
"If the captain says that I have dark brown hair with auburn highlights, then I will of course defer to his judgment." Spock made the notation, then read aloud, "'What is the color of your eyes?'"
"I think," McCoy put in, "the editors of the paper are afraid some of the scrubs won't even recognize us if they come above decks. Why don't they just run pictures?"
"I don't think you're getting into the spirit of the thing, Bones. Brown."
"No, they're not!" the CMO instantly averred. "My eyes are blue."
"Everybody knows that, Bones," Kirk said patiently. "They're so blue you could trip over the color. I meant my eyes. They're brown."
"Incorrect," said Spock. "They are hazel."
"No, no," McCoy disagreed. "They're green."
"Only in sunlight. Or when the lights on the bridge strike the captain at a certain angle. Otherwise, they are hazel."
"Strike the captain?" Kirk asked. "I don't like the sound of that."
"I was speaking somewhat fancifully, sir. You know that I would never entertain such an--"
"Oh, for God's sake, let's just get on with it. 'If you were an animal, what animal would you be?'" McCoy quoted. "See, Spock, now we're getting into the meat of it."
Spock spared him a speaking glance that made no impact on the doctor whatsoever. "I fail to understand how speculation of this sort can produce any positive results." Kirk shifted in his chair. "However, since the captain desires it, I will give the matter some thought."
"It's not meant to be taken too seriously," McCoy said kindly. "Something just off the top of your head." The CMO's gaze flew to the Vulcan's ordered locks, then back down to match his--brown--eyes.
A dead silence reigned over the room while Spock acquired a glazed look for his urgent cogitations.
"A horse," Kirk said suddenly. "I think Spock would look great as a horse."
"An equine, Captain?" Spock asked, somewhat abashed.
Kirk nodded. He raised his hands and framed the image of Spock in them, tilting his head back and forth as if he could see the imagined steed take form right there in briefing room five. "Black as coal. A stallion with lots of fire. The sunlight's glinting off your flowing mane and tail, and you're rearing up to...."
He trailed off uncomfortably, then glanced from one to the other of his friends. Finally his gaze sought the surface of the table.
"You were saying, Captain?" Spock inquired.
"Ah, I guess we're supposed to come up with our own animals, aren't we?"
"But I am interested in your flight of fancy."
"It wasn't serious."
"Nevertheless, I am complimented by your words. What animal do you suppose the doctor would be?" The first officer nodded towards McCoy, who squirmed.
"Oh, no, you don't," McCoy commanded. "I'm not a possum or a gerbil or a flea."
"Bones," Kirk chided, "I wouldn't have. I was going to say you reminded me of a good hunting dog."
McCoy's nose wrinkled. "A dog?"
"'Cause you're so loyal. 'Cause you never give up. Once you're on the scent, you'd bay until you couldn't bay any more."
McCoy looked pleased, if a little confused, over these observations. "Uh, thanks. I think. I'm not planning on baying at any moon anytime soon."
Suddenly Spock picked up his stylus and wrote.
"Come up with something good, Spock?" McCoy asked, craning his neck to see.
"I believe so. I believe I would be an adequate Sandburg subterranean mite, such as those found in the deserts of Sandburg IV."
"I see what you mean," Kirk agreed. "They're a very small population, they stay buried most of their lives, but every once in a while one of them finds its way to the surface and is exposed to sunlight."
"Indeed. Where they blossom into a small, unobtrusive plant."
Kirk smiled at the innocent face of his much-valued first officer. "You forgot to add that the plant is highly symbolic to the natives of Sandburg IV. Transformed subterranean mites are central to their mythology and even current literature."
"You don't say?" McCoy contributed without a clue.
"I think Spock would make a splendid subterranean mite," the captain nodded. "But I'm not sure most of the crew would be familiar with such an animal, and the purpose, after all, is to connect with them. Something else?"
Kirk caught his first officer's gaze across the table. Spock's look was soft and perhaps a bit wistful. McCoy watched them looking at each other.
"I believe," Spock said slowly, "that you are an eagle. You soar high. The sunlight would glow on your spread wings as you command all that you see."
A break while both captain and first officer breathed in unison. Then, "I am a horse. McCoy is a hunting dog."
In silence, the styluses moved as each man wrote.
Spock returned his instrument to the table, picked up the paper and read aloud, "'How tall are you?'" He took a deep breath and did not look at his captain. "I believe, gentlemen, that this exercise in futility has reached its nadir. There cannot be any sense in continuing." He stood. "Captain, if you do not have anything else planned at this time, would you be interested in accompanying me to my cabin to view some artwork I recently purchased? There are some renditions of the Vulcan Forge that might be of special interest to you."
"Sure, Spock, I'd be happy to go take a look at your etchings." Kirk abandoned the questionnaire without a second glance. "Bones, tell Dawkins that I changed my mind, okay? This wasn't such a good idea after all. Come on, Spock."
Later, much later, Kirk tightened his grip around his beloved and whispered in a pointed year, "Five feet nine and a quarter. But only in your sunlight."