This tale of friendship is dedicated to my two friends, Beth and Killa. Beth, because she couldn't stop thinking about the story once I told her the premise. And Killa, because "Twenty Questions" resembled an ee cummings poem before she entered with her red editor's pen. It was like third grade all over again!
Thanks also to everyone who sent me e-mail regarding my first story, "Namesake." Your kind response and encouragement is responsible, in part, for this story. After reading it, I hope you're not sorry you wrote the first time.
* * *
. . .
"Evening, Spock... come on in. I'm almost done with this report."
. . .
"Shall I set up the chess board, Captain?"
"Go ahead. No, wait a minute... let's play something else tonight."
"This report has kind of left me drained. I don't know if I could achieve the level of concentration necessary for one of our chess games. Let me think a minute..."
"Jim, I will play any game with you but poker."
. . .
"If you are about to suggest fizz bin-"
"No, not fizz bin."
"Jim, why are you looking at me like that?"
"Because, Mr. Spock, I've got the perfect game. Twenty Questions!"
"Twenty questions? Dr. McCoy mentioned this game the other evening, while you were attempting to coerce the results of the crew psychological evaluations from him."
"Probably why I'm thinking of it now."
"As I recall, Dr. McCoy refused to play this game with you. While I do not, as a rule, place much stock in McCoy's judgment, I feel it would be wise to follow his example in this instance."
"McCoy's a chicken shit."
"Yesterday you referred to him as a mother hen. Is there perhaps some genetic factor present of which I am unaware?"
"You know what I'm talking about Spock. Besides, you wouldn't want to be a chicken shit too! That would make you and Bones practically related!"
"Is this what you consider to be a persuasive argument?"
"Come on, Spock...it'll be fun!"
"Before I agree, I wish to ascertain the nature-"
"Spock, it's just what it sounds like."
"We are obviously not communicating."
"I ask you twenty questions."
"You answer them."
"These rules appear to be somewhat incomplete."
"Do you want to play?"
"May I first see a list of these twenty questions?"
"There is no list."
"Then what is the origin of these questions?"
"If I refuse to play, how close do you estimate the relation between McCoy and myself to be?
"At least kissing cousins."
"That is most disconcerting."
"So you'll play?!"
"I am not certain."
"Just say yes."
"This is great! You won't regret it."
"I already regret it."
"Okay... let's see... We'll start with a nice, easy one. When was the last time you had sex? Meaning with a partner."
"...I do not wish to answer this question."
"You have to!"
"I do not."
"You agreed to play the game."
"When I agreed, I was unaware of the nature of the questions you would be asking."
"Spock, I just said 'twenty questions', I never specified what I would be asking."
"Being the questionee, I appear to be at a distinct disadvantage."
"You're looking at this all wrong."
"Well, the questions asked can be as revealing as the answers given."
"I find that highly unlikely... Jim, why are you going to the intercom?"
"I'm gonna call Bones. I don't think he has any idea that the two of you are related."
"Very well, I will answer your question.... Five point three months ago."
"Five point three months ago? We were on a diplomatic mission to Berengaria... No, wait a minute, we were on shore leave on Gamma Delta 4... Spock, you never left the ship! Who were you with?"
"I will not answer that question."
"You have to answer-"
"I will not answer questions about a person other than myself."
"Hmm.... Okay, that's fair enough."
"You now have eighteen more questions."
"No, I have nineteen."
"Jim, you have already asked two questions."
"Yes, but you refused to answer one of them."
"I thought we were playing 'twenty questions' not 'twenty answers'."
"Have you ever played this game before?"
"You know I have not."
"Well, then stop trying to tell me the rules! I played this all the time when I was a kid. You can only count a question if it was answered. Okay, now that we got that straight, question number nineteen."
. . .
"How many women have you...had intercourse with?"
"Yes. Why does this surprise you?"
"I don't know. I can think of two right off the bat: Leila and Zarabeth. Then there's also the possibility of the Romulan Commander..."
. . . "...and of course there are always the 'dark horse' contenders."
"Yeah, 'in the running, but not likely to win'."
"Who would you consider the 'dark horse' contenders to be?"
"Christine Chapel and Droxine."
"Hey, maybe we should play Hot and Cold instead!"
"How does one play hot and cold?"
"I make statements and you tell me if I'm getting warmer or cooler depending on how close I am to the truth."
"Jim, I did not think that one could possibly find a more undignified game than twenty questions until you just described the rules for hot and cold."
"No chance, huh?"
"All right, next question. Of all the creative variations humans bring to sex, which one do you like the most?"
"Come on Spock, you said you've had twelve partners."
"I merely wish to understand what you consider to be human variations."
"Well, fellatio, cunnilingus, sodomy..."
"You are remiss if you think these acts are purely human deviations."
"Vulcans give blow jobs?"
"I did not say that."
"Spock, this is like pulling teeth. I think you know what I mean. Anything you've done with a partner that wouldn't fall under the category of typical Vulcan sexuality."
"That is quite a different question."
"Well, it's still only counting as one."
"Vulcans don't kiss?"
"It is not Vulcan norm, no."
"You know, I hadn't even thought about kissing. Damn, that's a good answer Spock."
"Do I receive more points for a good answer?"
"You don't get points at all."
"Then how do you ascertain who has won this game?"
"You don't win twenty questions."
"Then what is the point?"
"It's an exchange of ideas and knowledge."
"Thus far the exchange appears to be very one-sided."
"Then you're not listening to the questions."
"I assure you, I am."
"No, Spock. You're not really listening. Next question. What sort of woman turns you on?"
"I am not certain I can answer this question."
"Why not? Isn't there a certain type of woman that you're generally attracted to?"
"Well, let's talk about someone specific then: Zarabeth."
"I told you I would not answer questions about anyone other than myself."
"This isn't about her Spock, it's about you. What was so different about her?"
"I believe the real issue is what was so different about me."
"Spock. You said you slept with twelve women, right? I'm assuming that you weren't out of your mind during all your encounters-no, don't interrupt me-so, it's fair to assume that you can appreciate and feel an attraction for a woman outside of pon farr or spores or time displacement or whatever. So, we're back to my original question. What was so different about Zarabeth?"
"I recognized her loneliness and..."
"And...she was wearing very little."
"Ha ha! That's great!"
"Jim, may I ask whether all of your questions will be sexual in nature?"
"I'm not sure yet. Depends on how good your answers are."
"Will 'good' answers satisfy your curiosity or increase it?"
"That's for me to know and you to find out. Which brings me to my next question. You don't have to answer this one if you don't want to. There's something I always wondered about... when you were going through pon farr, did you have a constant erection?"
"What do you define as constant?"
"Spock, you're doing it again. You understand what my real question is. Don't answer it if you don't want to, but let's not play semantics."
"You are attempting to understand exactly what my level of discomfort was?"
"In the initial stages of pon farr, I experienced frequent erections, but they were followed by periods of de tumescence which decreased in duration as the condition progressed."
"So by the end, you were in a constant state of arousal."
"It was most uncomfortable."
"Why are you thanking me?"
"For giving me an honest answer. Okay, next question. Oh, don't groan, you're doing just fine. Let's see... Do you ever masturbate?"
"If you mean in the human fashion of self- manipulation, no."
"There is a meditation process whereby one is able to relieve sexual tension."
"That's incredible. You can achieve release without ever touching yourself?"
"Sounds interesting, Spock, but I'll bet it's not as much fun."
"I really wouldn't know, Jim."
"Yes, indeed. Hey wait a minute, did you count my statement about you being able to achieve release without touching yourself as a question?"
"But it was really clarifying a previous question as opposed to asking a whole new one. Okay, forget it, we'll count it as a new question. Put your eyebrow down, I'm just trying to keep an accurate count here."
"Of course. Jim, when does the 'fun' begin?"
"You're not having fun yet?"
"I am not."
"Too bad. I'm having a ball! Next question. Have the people you've had sex with all been women?"
"They have all been female, but they have not all been women."
"This is driving me nuts, Spock. Who have you been sleeping with?"
"I will not answer-"
"-any questions about a person other than yourself. I know, I know. I think I have more questions now than when we started this game."
"Then perhaps we should stop."
"Not on your life. Ready for another question?
"I'm sure one will be forthcoming whether I am ready or not."
"You're catching on. Why don't you accept a command of your own?"
. . .
"Spock? What's the matter?"
"I was momentarily taken aback by the direction of your question. I was prepared for an inquiry along the lines of 'Is it green'?"
"Aw, come on Spock. I mean, really!"
"Would you please repeat your last question?"
"Why don't you accept your own command? God knows they've offered it to you enough times. You're certainly qualified. And yet, here you are..."
"...by your side. As I always have been, and always shall be."
. . .
"Jim, forgive me. I should not have mentioned-"
"No, it's okay. I'm just touched you remembered."
"She was a most remarkable woman."
"Yes, she was. Spock, let me ask you... what do you think of me and my indiscretions? Do you think any less of me because of them?"
"I must admit that at times I am baffled by the frequency of your... activities, but I do not think any less of you. It is a part of who you are."
"One of my most charming qualities, huh?"
"I would not go that far."
"No, I guess you wouldn't."
"I will admit that there are times when I am envious of-"
"You're envious of my sexual encounters?"
"You did not allow me to finish, Jim. I was about to say that I am envious of your ability to connect with others. That which I find most difficult is apparently effortless for you."
"But Spock, that's part of who you are. Sometimes I wish I had your discretion."
"Sure. Then I could go around banging some mystery woman on the ship during shoreleave and my captain would never know about it! Damnit, Spock, who was she?"
"Why are you so preoccupied with this question, Jim?"
"Because it happened on my ship! Right under my nose and I didn't even know about it!... Will you give me a hint?"
"Are you sure you never played this game before?"
"By the way, we're not counting that as a question either."
"As you wish."
"Okay, next question. Is it green?"
"Its degree of pigmentation is directly proportional to the density of subdermal vascular distribution."
"I'm glad we cleared that up. Next question. Have you heard the, ah... rumors?"
"The rumors, Spock."
"Yes, Captain, I have. But despite these rumors I am still reasonably certain that Doctor McCoy received his medical degree from an accredited university, and not through some Tellarite correspondence course."
"Cute, Spock. So...I guess you have heard them."
"I do not listen to rumors, Jim."
"With those ears?! You listen to everything."
"Yes, indeed. ...Do they bother you?"
"No, they do not."
. . .
"Then these rumors do not bother you either, Jim?"
"No, they don't."
"Then I, too, am gratified."
. . .
"Spock, when the transporter malfunctioned during the ion storm, and my mirror counterpart wound up on the Enterprise... how did you know he wasn't me?"
"His behavior was completely aberrant."
"Be more specific."
"He was undisciplined, and irrational."
"How did you know it wasn't just me reacting to a drug, or a virus, or some other stimulus?"
"Jim, I have a feeling you are asking me questions to which you already know the answers."
"I have a pretty good theory of how you knew, but I'm not certain."
"Did my counterpart-"
"Did your counterpart what, Spock?"
"-approach you in a sexual manner?"
"Yes. I just wasn't sure if mine did the same. What did he do, exactly?"
"He attempted to kiss me."
"Is that all?"
"That alone was enough, I assure you."
"Yes, but was that all he did?"
"Okay, relax. I won't pursue this question any further. I just want you to know that I'm sorry."
"Why should you be sorry, Jim? He wasn't you."
"Nevertheless, I'm sorry."
"...I, too, am sorry for my counterpart's transgressions."
"Thanks, Spock. Hopefully we won't have a transporter malfunction like that one again."
"Hey! Speaking of the transporter, if I were to check the logs for five point three months ago, would I find anyone listed who was beamed aboard and didn't really belong here?"
"Your fixation on this issue is bordering on unhealthy, Jim."
"I just hate a mystery, Spock."
"Unfortunately, the incident in question is destined to remain so."
"Do you love this mystery woman, Spock?"
"Have you ever been in love? I mean, really in love?"
. . .
"This person you are-or were-in love with... did you ever tell them?"
. . .
"No, I did not."
"Are you... do you... Spock, is it me?"
"The previous question was your twentieth. The game is now over."
"You have used up your twenty questions."
"Bullshit! If you counted that as my twenty-first question, then you miscounted!"
"I've been keeping a very accurate count."
"Oh? How have you been doing this?"
"Well... with my fingers!"
"I see. Am I to understand that you have been keeping an accurate count of twenty questions with only ten fingers? Or have you been employing your toes as well?"
"Stop trying to make me feel ridiculous!"
"I do not have to try very hard."
"Okay, smartass. Let's review the questions. We'll count them together."
"As you wish. Number one: 'When was the last time you had sex?' And the qualifier, 'Meaning with a partner.' "
"Well, I know how literal you can be sometimes. I didn't want a false answer. Go on."
"Number two: 'Who were you with?' "
"Wait a minute, we agreed that didn't count because you didn't answer!"
"You did not allow me to finish. Yes, we agreed that this question would not be counted. Alternate question number two: 'How many women have you had intercourse with?' Which I, of course, did answer."
"Yes, you did."
"Question number three: 'Really?' "
"No Jim, I'm quite certain the question was 'really' and not 'what'."
"You can't be serious!"
"You asked me, 'Really?' to which I replied 'Yes.'
As I recall, this is a question with a forthcoming answer, and therefore can be counted."
"That's not fair, Spock..."
"They were your rules, Jim."
"It's still not fair!"
"Petulance is unbecoming."
"If you knew I had exceeded my limit, then why the hell didn't you stop me before I asked the question?"
"It is late. Perhaps we can finish this discussion in the morning."
"Stop trying to avoid the issue!"
"Jim, I have answered twenty questions this evening, of a rather prurient nature, I might add, that I would normally have avoided altogether."
"Then why not answer one more?"
"Forget the rules Spock! This is the most important question of all."
"Then perhaps you should have asked it first."
"Would you have answered it if it had been my first question?"
"So I've been told."
"You know something? No answer is kind of an answer in itself."
"Jim, if believing so brings you some measure of comfort, then you have my permission to draw any conclusion you wish."
"No matter how delusional it might be."
"You are redundant."
"This is like talking to a wall... just forget I asked the question at all."
"Look, if I was brave enough to ask, you could at least give me the courtesy of a response! Especially when I think we both know the answer."
. . .
"Spock, I'll ask you one last time. Do you love me or not?"
. . .
"Fine, I get the picture. See you at breakfast."
. . .
"Yes? Wait a minute. Yes, I'll see you at breakfast? Or yes, you love me?"
"You asked me only one question."
"Good night, Jim."
"Wait, wait, what'd I say?"
"Spock! Sleep well?! How am I supposed to sleep well now? Wait, don't leave. Spock, wait a minute, what the hell did I say...?"