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Story Notes:  I do not own Star Trek, or any recognizable characters, locations, etc.  They all belong to Gene Roddenberry, CBS, and Paramount Pictures.  My playing with the characters is not intended as disrespect for the characters or the actors that give them life. 

This story follows "Acts of Mercy," - which follows "Intake Monitors" - but could likely stand on its own well enough.  Certain points in the following story refer to the previous several times.  Enjoy, everyone!  ~ RK

Jim Kirk was certain that he was not losing his mind this early in this five-year mission!  It was only a few months so far.  But for the last two days, whenever he was in the fresher unit - at least that's what Spock always called it, though Jim still called it the bathroom, despite the long lecture he'd once received from his first officer about how the term was inaccurate, considering the room did not contain an actual bath in which one would submerge oneself for relaxation and then bathing in lukewarm to long cold water - Jim could have sworn that he'd been hearing this really odd and muffled high-pitched sound.  It actually freaked him out.  He still got nervous every time he showered, or cleaned his teeth, or even got anywhere remotely close to the toilet. 

Could this be some sort of embarrassing mental condition?  He briefly entertained the notion to go to Bones about this.  Knowing his doctor friend, McCoy would most likely tease him mercilessly for being afraid of his bathroom for a ridiculously long time before jamming a hypo into his neck and sending him on his way. 

But what if he gave him a medical order that relieved him of command?

With his mouth set in a firm line, Jim yanked on his gold command shirt and left his quarters, deciding that there was no way he was going to tell Bones about the weird sounds he'd been hearing in his bathroom.  Absolutely not.  Besides, if Spock hadn't brought up the topic, that had to mean that Jim was the only one between the two of them hearing it and the only conclusion to hearing noises that no one else could hear?  Insanity. 

He wasn't insane.  He was many other things for sure, but he was not insane.

It wasn't until he stopped at the door to the turbolift and signaled for it that he realized he'd had someone walking next to him the whole time...who'd also stopped at the door with him.  He glanced to his right and saw blue.  He let his eyes wander up and he saw greenish-tinted skin.  Then higher to see pointed ears.  Finally he shifted his eyes to the side a little to look directly at the dark brown eyes just underneath slanted Vulcan eyebrows. 

"Are you well, Captain?" 

"Yeah," he sighed.  Jim looked away.  Then, before he even realized he'd done it, he blurted out a question.  "What would you say if I told you that I'm pretty sure I'm hearing really weird noises in our bathroom?"  As he realized what exactly he'd said to Spock, Jim's eyes widened and he quickly turned his head and gaze to the closed doors, wishing there would be some sort of transporter malfunction that would make him disappear.   Just as he was wondering what would happen if that did happen, the lift doors opened.  He almost fled into it, but then thought it was pointless since they were both going to the same place anyway. 

They both stood in the lift for a long moment.  He knew Spock was staring at him, most likely trying to analyze his mental state at that very moment.  His suspicion was confirmed by the delayed but pleasant beep that signaled the button for their destination was pressed several agonizingly long seconds after the two of them simply standing in there.  The lift began to move. 

He was prepared for a very long and awkward ride up to the bridge.  How could he have just...blurted something like that out?  When Spock was his personal dietician a while back, he'd professed that one of his chief duties as first officer was to ensure the mental, emotional, and physical health of his commanding officer.  Jim was almost certain that Spock was wondering if he was mentally compromised by his ‘hearing noises' question.  He was certain that if positions were reversed and Spock had asked him that, well, Jim would be running to Sickbay announcing to M'Benga and Bones that his Vulcan first officer's lost his oh-so-logical brain! 

"Are you suggesting that you are, in fact, hearing unusual sounds?" 

Jim was getting antsy.  He shifted on his feet as he testily responded.  "Let's hypothetically say that yes, I've heard weird stuff in the bathroom, and it wasn't anything from me!" 

"In that case, I believe, Captain," said the even voice of his turbolift companion, "that I would recommend that you report to Sickbay as soon as possible and have Doctor McCoy check your hearing.  It may also be wise to check for any other type of head traumas, mental stability, or-" 

"I get it, Spock," Kirk growled.  "You think I'm insane, right?"

Kirk was dreading the inevitable response.

Doctor Jabilo Geoffrey M'Benga was quite laid back for a Starfleet medical officer, especially when compared to Doctor Leonard Horatio McCoy's mannerisms.  After having finally met the chief medical officer of the USS Enterprise, M'Benga was no longer surprised that the ship's first officer was reluctant to visit Sickbay for any reason other than injuries from participation in a landing party.  McCoy, though certainly a skilled doctor, has as much friendliness towards patients as a Klingon on the cusp of adulthood.  He was under the impression that McCoy secretly relished in wielding his hypos like medieval weaponry, and then proceed to stab them into patients just to see the grimaces. 

M'Benga's approach was much gentler.  He favored the distraction method.  Keep the patient's mind occupied on something else while extracting blood or when injecting medications or vaccinations.  Give them as much information about a procedure if time allowed him to do so. 

Not McCoy.  Oh no.  McCoy didn't really get to telling someone what was wrong with them before he'd jammed a sedative into the patient, and before they were even flat on the biobed, he was nearly prepped for surgery if the situation required it.  He couldn't fault his fellow doctor, though, for a lack of dedication and enthusiasm. 

However, it was a small mercy that he was able to convince his new captain to allow him to transfer to the ship with his personal yeoman.  She was fantastic!  She got every form, every scrap of information, every memo sent all on time.  She was the most efficient yeoman he'd ever worked with and he was not about to transfer to a constitutional class starship without her.  Maybe between the two of them, he'd be able to secretly whip the Medical Department on this ship into shape. 

"Doctor M'Benga," called his yeoman as she entered his office.  He always programmed his office doors to admit her without a required access code.  It was just easier that way.  "I've taken stock of the blood bank on board and we need to boost the numbers for several types in storage."

He put down his stylus next to the PADD on which he was making a few notations on which crewmembers managed to escape physicals when they came aboard this ship.  He was certainly sending it to McCoy later.  He looked at her and gave her his attention.  "Such as?" 

His yeoman was a relatively attractive young woman.  She wore the red uniform, which actually confused M'Benga considering she was designated in the sciences...which wore blue.  Oh well.  She had healthy red hair, which she wore loosely in stead of tied back in any fashion, in defiance of her red uniform no doubt.  She had thin stormy colored eyes that seemed to give away that she was always thinking.  M'Benga thought that even Spock would approve of her, except for maybe the non-regulation hairstyle, but no one's perfect. 

"We're certainly going to need more O-type blood, both positive and negative.  I've made specific notation on all the other types."  She held out another PADD towards M'Benga, who took it and looked at it, his eyebrows climbing higher on his forehead as he looked at the notes. 

"Might as well take some blood from the list of crewmembers still in need of physicals.  Get both things done at once."  He set down that PADD and then began making a note on the one he'd set aside earlier.  He'd already been working on a memo to Doctor McCoy.  He'd just tack on this last bit about the blood bank and then send it along. 

"We also need to replenish the T-negative blood for Mister Spock," she said. 

"Yes," he replied, "I noticed."  Suddenly, his PADD flickered and went dark.  He groaned.  Once again, something else that went wrong.  He'd been given this by the chief engineer, a certain Montgomery Scott, with plenty of assurances that it was fully charged and ready to go and last for about three months.  It didn't even last three weeks.  If this was a pick-on-the-new-crewmember joke or something, M'Benga was not amused in the slightest.  He was, however, a little bit peeved.  With a soft sigh, he folded his hands together on the desk, put his now dead PADD again, and looked at his yeoman. 

"Tonia, would you mind telling Doctor McCoy about the crew that still needs physicals and the blood bank supply concerns.  Seems I can't do a memo right now." 

She shook her head, and reached over to pick up her PADD again.  Without a word, she left his office.  M'Benga just let his head drift onto his hands in a contained display of frustration. 


It wasn't that Doctor Leonard McCoy disliked his position.  Chief Medical Officer was definitely a nice place to be on a ship like this.  It was probably the only position on the ship that could effectively silence arguments between the top two commanding officers in the place - the captain and the first officer.  Did he think Jim was a little crazy for wanting the guy who'd pretty much killed him as his first officer?  Yes.  But did he also think that Spock sometimes was the perfect person to scare the stupidity out of Jim when he got any kind of reckless idea in his head?  Yes.  It used to be his job to talk Jim out of his idiotic plans and ideas.  But he couldn't really do that all the way down in Sickbay, now, could he?  Sure, he could monitor the captain from his desk, his quarters, or really anywhere so long as he had the right equipment on hand.  But it would be incredibly impractical for him to go running up to the Bridge with a magic hypo to get all delusions of godhood out of Jim's mind when he felt like going in and doing whatever reckless idea he thought was best. 

Impractical.  He snorted to himself.  He was even starting to think like that pointy-eared computer up there.  Not that he would ever tell a soul on this ship, or even in all of Starfleet, that. 

He pressed a button on his console at his desk and began to speak.  "Medical Log, Stardate-"

"It doesn't matter, right now, Doctor." 

McCoy huffed, dropped his shoulders, and turned his head to glare at the offender who dared to interrupt his log entry when all of a sudden he understood what it must be like to be James T. Kirk. 

Standing at the side of his desk was a woman that was far more attractive than most of the women on this ship, probably only excluding Lieutenant Nyota Uhura.  She was average height, her red uniformed body was slim but with enough feminine curves to tempt any man, and loose red hair...red hair.  He would never admit it, but McCoy sometimes had a particular fondness for red hair.  She looked at him with storm cloud blue-grey eyes.  Lastly, he glanced at her mouth.  Shining pearl-smooth, coral-red lips.  Was this what Jim went through every time someone attractive came near him?  He was envious of his best friend. 

"And why doesn't it matter, uh..."  He realized something important.  "Miss...uh..."  He had no idea what her name was. 

"Yeoman Tonia Barrows, Doctor McCoy."

Then, before he could stop himself, he felt himself start to smile.  "Yeoman Tonia Barrows," he tested, his smile growing as he fleetingly thought that the name was lovely.  Apparently the idea that women in secretarial or clerical positions were stereotypically gorgeous had survived centuries.  Not that he was complaining at that moment.  He looked at her bright lips and wondered what they tasted like. He watched her lips move for several seconds, before he realized there was a voice going along with it.

"-need more for the blood bank.  Also, Doctor M'Benga wants Mister Spock to come down as soon as possible to boost his own supply of T-negative blood for himself."  Then he saw that she was holding a PADD out towards him and he instantly felt like an idiot.  The illusion and daydream was shattered.  Of course she was here on business.  And she mentioned Doctor M'Benga.  Inwardly groaning he realized that this must be the yeoman that transferred with the new doctor to the ship. 

As he accepted the PADD from her, his fingers brushed hers and he felt a little sick.  Why did this attractive woman have to work in his department?  Life could never be fair, could it?  He stared at the information on the PADD in front of him, but comprehended absolutely none of it.  Damn those anti-fraternization regulations that Starfleet came up with!  He wondered if there were loopholes to any of them.  Again, he no longer wondered why Jim transferred Yeoman Rand as soon as he could.  It was convenient that she'd accidentally almost killed him with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which gave Jim the grounds to transfer her.  It worked out, though, apparently.  Last he'd heard, Janice Rand was quite content with her Starbase posting. 

That didn't help him.  Rumor had it in the medical staff that M'Benga's yeoman was the most efficient medical yeoman in...ever.  You couldn't transfer someone who was doing their job wonderfully!  He glanced back at her, then stared back at the PADD.  No.  Life wasn't fair.  But he knew one thing.  He had to get away from this woman before he made a fool of himself.  He didn't care what it was. 

"Well, I better go get Spock, then," he announced, putting down the PADD and getting up. 

"I could save you the trouble and send him a request to report to Sickbay," she offered, moving to stand right in front of him. 

McCoy was sure that if his life was a cartoon he would have made that screeching noise that accompanied a character that stopped running in a single instant before behind overtaken by their own dust cloud.  He looked at her, met her eyes, then quickly averted them before he cleared his throat.  "Haven't...uh...I like to tell him personally."

Then, she did the worst thing she could do at that moment.  She laughed.  "I would think he'd tell you that coming to tell him to go to Sickbay was an inefficient use of your time."

Then, he glared right at her.  "Well, I'll be inefficient if I want to!  I like picking on the hobgoblin!  I like to see him fidget!"  With a frown and a throaty growl he forced his way past her and out of his Sickbay office, mumbling to himself loudly enough for anyone to hear if they were close enough, "I know he plays chess with the captain.  Is that an inefficient use of his time?" 

Tonia was still laughing as he left, turning to watch his entire retreat.  What a first encounter with Doctor McCoy.  Standing in the second doorway of the office was the head nurse, Christine Chapel.  "Is he like that with everyone?" she asked. 

The blonde nurse shook her head, failing to hide her own grin.  "No." 

Tonia smiled at the closed door through which McCoy had fled. 

Jim was wondering why it was taking so long for Spock to answer the damn question.  That must mean it was worse than he'd thought.  Spock thought he wasn't just insane, but was probably trying to figure out a way to tell his captain that he thought he was completely bat-shit crazy, incapable of command at the present time, and should be removed from duty.  But knowing Spock, he was probably trying to determine how to word it in such a way that would spare his fragile human feelings.

Finally, Spock answered him. 

"However, I must point out that I am reluctant to also go to Sickbay."  Jim mentally reeled.  Was Spock implying what he thought he was?  As he tried to get his mouth to work, Spock continued.  "I am in perfect health and do not need my hearing nor mental faculties examined.  Yet, I must admit that I, too, have been hearing strange sounds in the fresher unit."

Jim was unable to repress the relieved grin.  "Really?" 

Spock nodded.  "I was unwilling to inquire if you have heard it at the risk of sounding, as you phrased it, insane."  Jim began to chuckle to himself.  He wasn't crazy!  "May I suggest that rather than partaking in chess after alpha shift we use our time and effort in an attempt to locate the source of the sounds which we've both been hearing?"

"You want us to find what's making the noises later?"

Spock tilted his head.  "I believe I have just said that, Captain."

Just then, the door to the turbolift opened and in came Leonard McCoy.  The sight of the doctor on the lift right as alpha shift was about to begin was not unusual.  The other two men in the lift were used to him thinking he was part of the Bridge crew.  Jim thought that his best friend simply liked to remind people around the ship that he existed, didn't hide in Sickbay all the time, and like everyone craved a little social interaction once in a while.  If he accomplished this with a little beginning-of-shift chit-chat, what was the harm?  Not even Spock seemed to mind.

But usually McCoy wore a scowl on his face, as though ready to act the part of the Grim Reaper to prowl around the Bridge frightening everyone into thinking that he'd personally drag them to Sickbay and torture them with vaccines for illnesses they didn't have if everyone didn't do what Jim ordered them.  Jim looked at his best friend and noticed something...odd.

"Bones, you're smiling." 

That earned him an eye-roll.  "How observant, Jim."  Then, he sighed and the smile vanished.  "I have a personal problem."

Spock focused then on the new occupant of the lift.  "Then I would tell you to return to Sickbay and have it examined."

The doctor focused his wrath on the first officer.  "Was that a joke or something?"  When Spock's expression did not change, he frowned and then looked back to Jim, who was actually giggling!  "Knock it off, kid!"  He was the only person besides possibly Admiral Pike that Kirk allowed to call him ‘kid.'  "I'm not kidding!  This is serious." 

"It's got to be serious," Jim agreed, trying to speak without laughing a little.  "You never smile!  Even when you're drunk you don't smile!" 

"Jim!" McCoy roared in the turbolift. 

"Captain," interrupted Spock.  "Doctor, please lower your tones.  Your voice in particular, doctor, can be painful to the ears." 

"Only hurts you because yours are pointed!"

"Vulcans have superior hearing abilities to humans.  Whether my ears are pointed or not has no relevancy to my range of hearing."

"I'm the doctor around here, Spock!" the other man snapped.

"Would it kill you two to get along?  And Pike wonders why I asked for M'Benga," said Kirk, effectively stopping the two from continuing.  "Now both of you shut up.  Bones, your voice might hurt Spock's fragile ears-"

"I assure you, Captain, that my ears are not-"

"But you know what?" Jim continued, deliberately raising his voice as he gripped both men by the shoulder.  "Your yelling at each other like kids vying for the most attention hurts my head.  So both of you shut up."  He noticed with surprise that both of them did.  Then, with his charming but completely fake smile he looked at the other human.  "Now, Bones, what's got you in such an unusually cheery mood?"

Bones sighed and rolled his eyes, jarring his shoulder out of his friend's grasp. 

"Captain, it would seem that the doctor is either planning to force you to...guess what is causing his ‘cheery mood' until you are correct, or he will simply choose not to speak of it.  In either case, knowing the illogical tendencies of the doctor-"  Both the captain and first officer noticed that the doctor now turned towards Spock with a look of outrage.  "-it would be fruitless for you to force it from him."

Bones licked his lips before pointing a finger at Spock.  "Despite that insult you slipped in, I'm going to tell you now that M'Benga wants to see you as soon as possible.  I was going to let him surprise you.  But since you basically just told Jim to leave me alone, there you go."

"For what reason am I required?"

"He wants you to donate more blood for yourself in case you get hurt out there one day."  Spock nodded, looking comfortable with the request when it came even indirectly from M'Benga.  "How come you always threw a fit when I'd ask you to Sickbay?"

"I did not ‘throw a fit.'  I do not find your conduct comfortable towards me in Sickbay."

Bones tilted his head in mock offense.  "Aw, do I make you nervous, Spock?"

As the lift door opened to admit them all on the Bridge, Jim wasn't sure who exactly was rescued by their arrival - Spock or McCoy.  However, what he did notice was a loud conversation near the helm station.  The officer sitting in the command chair from gamma shift rose when he noticed the captain's arrival. 

"I svear I heard it yesterday," said the sickeningly young but brilliant Pavel Chekov.  "A veird yip noise." 

Jim froze in his step.  So did Spock.  Bones had kept on walking right up to the group that was conversing.  Slowly, Jim turned his head just enough to look at Spock from the corner of his eyes.  He was half relieved to see that Spock was also looking at him.  They were definitely thinking the same thing.

 "I thought I heard it in the Botany Lab last night.  Thought it was one of the plants at first, because some of them make little noises when they get too dry like they were last night, but I checked them all.  Not a peep from any of them."  Obviously, Hikaru Sulu had been entertaining himself with his other hobby besides fencing recently. 

Nyota Uhura nodded at Sulu, staring at him intently.  "I was hoping I wasn't the only one who heard it!  I mean, I thought it could have been that I was hearing transmissions in my sleep, but-"

"Keptin!" announced Chekov.

Everyone turned to look at Kirk and Spock with welcoming expressions.  "Status report, all stations," he said, hoping to distract everyone from the discussion of the weird noises.  He settled himself in the chair - his chair - flinging one leg up and over the other as he relaxed, listening to everyone tell him what was going on that didn't involve random freak noises.  He and Spock would definitely be looking into this later. 

After everyone gave their reports and Kirk established in his very captainy voice on where they should be heading, Bones leaned on one of the arms of his command chair.  "Jim, I gotta talk to you about some regulations."


Bones nodded seriously. 

"Bones," he said, lowering his voice so only the doctor could hear him.  He was not in the mood for this conversation, and, unlike his first officer, he had no issue with lying.  "I'm really not the best person to ask about regs.  We both know I kind of make them up as I go until Spock corrects me."

Suddenly, it was as though the Vulcan had materialized on the other side of the chair.  "Perhaps I could be of assistance, Captain."

Jim whipped his head around to look at Spock.  He offered a tight smile.  "Uh...sure."  Then, he turned back to McCoy.  "So, Bones, what's on your mind about the Laws as set forth by Starfleet?" 

McCoy was about to retort that as the captain, Jim should really learn them himself, but decided what he wanted to know was far more important.  "I need to know what exactly is the policy on fraternization among the crew."

The look on not only Jim's and Spock's faces, but the matching expressions sent his way by Chekov and Sulu, were enough to nearly make him blush.  How loud had he said that?  Thankfully, one of the commanding officers had some tact.  "Eyes on your stations, gentlemen," ordered Spock to Sulu and Chekov, who obediently turned back to their instruments.  Whether they chose to eavesdrop was a whole different thing.

"Bones," said Jim, the delighted and roguish smile brightening his face.  The conversation had become much more interesting.  "You sly bastard, who're you looking to charm with those southern manners?"

"I've never seen Doctor McCoy leave Sickbay so fast unless the captain was hurt on a mission," said Nurse Chapel. 

Yeoman Tonia Barrows actually felt a little bit sad that she'd practically frightened Doctor McCoy out of his own office.  "I didn't mean to make him leave."  Weren't men supposed to enjoy the sound of a woman laughing?  Oh!  Maybe he thought she was laughing at him.  She grimaced. 

"He's more jittery than he lets on," Chapel said, softly.  "He pretends not to care about anything but really he does."

"He didn't think I was making fun of him, did he?"  If anything she was learning not to assume anything about anyone's character on this ship.  She thought she was being nice and friendly to him. 

"He may have taken it to mean that you were criticizing him and his work method."

Apparently she wasn't being nice and friendly.

Nurse Chapel came over to her.  "But," she said conspiratorially, "he always likes when people do his paperwork for him.  He hates writing out medical reports."

"Are you trying to get me to do his work?"  This was not an idea of which she liked the sound.  She looked at Chapel from the tops of her eyes.

"It would be a good apology for making him run away and then make him even more inefficient, as you put it, by chasing him away from his work."  Chapel began to smile at one corner of her mouth.  "Cleaning his desk wouldn't hurt either."

"Is that an order or a guilt trip?"

Without a reply at first, Chapel spun around and began back into the main area of the Sickbay.  "A little of both.  But I have to sterilize some things in here, so the office is all yours."  It was at the doorway that she stopped and looked back at Barrows.  "And from the way he was smiling at you, he probably thinks you're cute."  Then, Chapel was gone. 

Once she was alone in McCoy's office, Tonia allowed herself to smile just a little.  After a moment of wondering what going on a date with the supposedly grouchy Chief Medical Officer would be like, she looked down at the man's desk.  What a disaster.  She began to tidy up the desk a little, getting the stack of PADDs organized, finding their matching styluses, and arranging things in order of due dates.  Lastly, she caught sight of a glass on the desk.  It looked like an old style drinking glass.  If the amber liquid barely coating the bottom of it was any indication, it was something the doctor had been drinking recently.  She picked up the glass and sniffed it.  She wasn't much of a drinker herself, preferring the mixed cocktails over anything straight up, but she definitely knew this smell.  It seemed that Doctor McCoy was fond of whiskey. 

Then, she noticed something gleaming just enough in a darker corner underneath the desk.  She sat in the chair at the desk in order to easier lean down to retrieve it.  What she discovered was the source of the whiskey in the glass.  There was the bottle.  When she put it back down in its spot, she heard it hit the floor with an odd wet type of sound. 

Then, she saw it.  There was a trail of water under the desk.  A puddle of some sort.  Well, that could not be normal.  Tonia got down on the ground and dipped her fingertip in the puddle hesitantly, hoping it wasn't anything like a dangerous chemical.  She sniffed the liquid on her finger.  No odor to it.  With even more hesitation, she touched the tip of her tongue to her finger.  No taste either.  She waited for several moments for a sort of reaction before determining, upon a lack of reaction, that it was not poisonous.  The only thing she could conclude was that this liquid must be water.

She studied the mysterious puddle under the desk, and then realized that the source of it was not underneath the desk.  It kept going along the wall.  Then, she followed the trail of liquid.  How did Doctor McCoy not notice this?  She followed the water all the way to the far wall which seemed to be the source.  Was there a waterline behind this wall? 

Well, there was only one person who would know that answer.  Tonia stood up and went to the wall comm. channel.  "Yeoman Barrows to Montgomery Scott."

There was only a moment's delay.  "Aye?  Scott here!"

"I've discovered what I'm pretty sure is a water leak in Doctor McCoy's office.  Is it possible to have someone in your department come and look at it, maybe even repair-"

"If I could spare someone, I would, lassie, but ye're the..."  The engineer halted abruptly for a moment.  He may have been checking other data or he was mentally recalling data.  "...twelfth complaint like this since last night.  I've got everyone I can spare working on this.  I'll mark ye down on the list here, and we'll get to Sickbay when we can." 

Tonia was cut off by the chief engineer disconnecting the channel.  She figured that she had no other choice as much as she was not really looking forward to doing it.  She pressed the wall channel again.  "Sickbay to Bridge."

McCoy rolled his eyes and then glared at Kirk.  "It's not like I have anyone in mind!" he protested.  "I just want to know what exactly the regs are on this situation, you know...in case..."

Jim's smile got wider.  "In case a nice girl just right for you comes along in my crew?" 

Then, the doctor stunned Kirk when he began to blush.  "Well, there's no harm in being prepared for the occurrence, Jim." 

"Except for the fact that there are some serious anti-fraternization regs, my good doctor," Jim replied quickly with a quietly serious tone.  Out of the corner of his eye he saw Spock look at him strangely.  He didn't let his first officer offer anything to the conversation for a moment, nor did he allow McCoy to interrupt.  "One of them is that officers cannot date a subordinate.  You couldn't date that lovely Nurse Chapel, for example."  The name produced no response from his friend.  Hmm, not her then.  Who else?  "And you also can't date someone in the same general area over whom you have rank in any way."  There it was, a tiny flicker of interest that took place in the twitch of McCoy's eye.  "Which means you can't take anyone in the entire medical department - not even of yeoman grade - out for dinner with the intention of a hot dessert of the sexy kind afterwards."  There it was again.  His doctor friend was starting to blush more.  "Not even our newest addition to your staff."  And now McCoy was definitely blushing. 

Bingo.  "And that includes Yeoman Barrows."

That received a heated glare in response.  Jim smiled in victory.  McCoy tried to walk away from him by leaving in front of the chair.  Jim stopped him as he clapped a supportive hand on his friend's shoulder.  McCoy had no hypos with which to threaten him.  "Don't be mad, Bones.  You just have to find someone in any department but medical.  I can't date anyone on this ship.  Everyone's my subordinate.  I don't want to be accused of favoritism, now do I?" 

At that moment, Spock straightened just a little for some reason where he stood beside his chair.  Jim looked directly over at Spock, his grip loosening on his friend.  Behind Spock, Jim also noticed that Uhura had swiveled her chair to face them, the expression on her face tightly guarded.  Hmm, a reaction from both Spock and Uhura.  Jim wondered if he'd hit a nerve somewhere in there.  He saw Uhura's eyes flick quickly to Spock.  Then, as his own eyes drifted to see Spock, who had carefully averted his eyes and was staring at the floor almost guiltily, if the Vulcan had ever been accused of favoritism towards someone...his girlfriend, perhaps?  Too bad she still hated the very air he breathed, and that he'd only gotten into Spock's good graces after taking care of him when he was puking his guts out.  He secretly hoped to never see that again.  Spock reduced to that level of pathetic and helpless made Jim cringe.  It was something that just did not work in any way. 

"Thanks," McCoy said, while looking slightly disturbed, "for clearing that up, Jim."  Then, he began to leave again.  Jim didn't stop him either.

"Doctor, please remain for a moment, as I believe you will find the information helpful," said Spock.  In that moment, everyone else's attention was focused on the first officer.  Most notably, Jim looked at him with surprise, McCoy with a hint of hopelessness, and Uhura with suspicious curiosity.  "The captain's statements are inaccurate."

"What?" Jim asked, completely surprised.

Spock, however, was not paying attention to anyone else.  He was clearly addressing Doctor McCoy.  "The regulations which were recited quite succinctly by the captain are now inaccurate because they no longer exist."

"What?" Jim exploded, his expression outraged.  He'd made sure he'd learned them all after he'd been given the Enterprise.  There was no way Spock was serious. 

To Jim's horror and shock, Spock was just barely hinting at a smile - very similar to that which he'd worn when Jim had sampled that plomeek soup when Spock was his dietician - with a small upturning at the corners of the Vulcan's lips as he continued to speak.  "There are no longer regulations which prohibit one crewmember from courting another."

From where he was looking at Spock, Jim saw a clear expression of shock and...on a normal person he would have said heartbreak on a certain communications officer's face which was turned right at Spock, but he was certain that Uhura would never let that particular expression out in the open.  Then, his brain pieced it together.  It was heartbreak.  Spock and Uhura must have separated if her expression was anything to go by.  And from that very same expression, Jim would wager several of his bound books that Spock had been the one to do the leaving. 

McCoy's voice brought Jim back to the moment.  "Are you telling me that there are no regulations against romance?"

"I am." 

Then, McCoy surprised everyone looking at him as his face slowly grew into a rather lovely smile. 

However, that brief moment did not last as a voice interrupted from over the communications console on Jim's chair.  "Sickbay to Bridge."

Jim touched the answer call and responded.  "Kirk here.  What's going on?  Actually, who is this?"

"Yeoman Barrows, sir," was the answer.  Jim had only a second to flash a knowing look at his best friend, who was focused on the feminine voice closely and obviously, before she was speaking again.  "I'm calling on behalf of the chief engineer."

"What is he - sick?" piped up McCoy, taking a step closer.

"Doctor McCoy?" 

"Yeah, what's wrong with him?" the doctor asked, thinking he was going to be consulted on the Scottish man's unknown illness. 

"Oh!  I'm so glad you're there!" she said, the relief clear in her tone.  "I was still here and noticed that there was this trail of water on the floor, and I think one of our lines might be leaking."

Jim took the silence of McCoy's confusion to answer her.  "Call Scotty." 

He was about to disconnect when she spoke louder just long enough to get his attention.  "I did, sir, and he said this is happening all over the ship.  He told me that he'll get to us eventually.  In the meantime, we need to keep it contained.  I could use some help." 

Jim resisted the urge to sigh.  "Can't anyone from Engineering get there?"

"Apparently not, sir."  She sounded frustrated. 

Jim was shocked at himself to be looking at Spock for help.  His first officer met his eyes and then, as though he'd gotten permission silently from his captain, spoke.  "At what rate of speed is the water flow?"

"I'm sorry?"

Spock tightened his lips for a moment before rephrasing.  "Is there a continuous increase in the amount of water invading the room to which you refer?" 

There was a pause.  "Yes, sir."

"Is the rate of increase in water volume rapid or slow?" 

"I don't really notice it too much.  It isn't like a dam's just broken and it's pouring in here.  But it's simply concerning and I thought that-"

"Then, I would advise you to take measures to delay the increase of water as best you can and as expediently as possible until someone is able to arrive in order to assist you."  Jim tried to hold back the smile at Spock's all business tone.  When it was directed at him, it was not nearly as amusing, but towards a yeoman worrying about a leaky pipe...he could almost find it comical. 

Before Spock could almost call the poor new yeoman stupid for not having the common sense to - as Bones would say in field emergencies - "put pressure on the damn wound," he thought he should have mercy on the poor woman.  "Will you have everything in control until I can pretty much get you some help?" 

"Yes, sir." 

He smiled a little.  "Okay.  You keep Sickbay together down there, then."  He disconnected.  He began speaking to McCoy, while he shared a glance with Spock.  "You know, Bones, you sure know how to pick-" 

But it seemed that McCoy had already left the Bridge.

When McCoy managed to reach Sickbay, he was greeted with a sight that would have delighted most men, but in his slightly shy and guilty state was thoroughly embarrassed to discover - especially finding himself frozen in midstride staring.  Not even when he was married had he been treated to such a...tempting sight.  Bent over the table on the far wall, reaching towards the back of the shelf on which he kept actual towels - her face most assuredly not facing him - was Yeoman Barrows.  The short skirt of the uniform for women crewmembers, which McCoy had thought was incredibly inappropriate and could almost be considered anti-women though now he was silently thanking whoever designed those uniforms, was leaving nothing to his imagination. 

He didn't even realize that he'd swallowed audibly until she moved, turning her head to look at him over her shoulder, then speaking.  "Doctor, how long have you been standing there peeking at me?" 

McCoy straightened his posture indignantly, giving himself just enough additional time to come up with a response.  What he came up with was, "My dear girl, when I peek it's in the line of duty." 

She smiled at him, and then flicked her eyes to the slow-growing puddle on the floor.  "Then, in the line of duty, come over here and fix this leak in your office, doctor." 

McCoy offered a grin to her that he'd seen Kirk throw at females during shore leave and all through their academy days.  "I perform surgery on people all the time.  Water lines can't be too different from veins and arteries."  He puffed out his chest like a strutting rooster as he approached the puddle.  He could conquer this.

Only three minutes later, his attempts made the leak worse and McCoy found himself on the intercom with Scotty.  The engineer had tried valiantly for another five minutes on walking McCoy through a general procedure that would temporarily block the leak until he could get there.  However, McCoy quickly grew frustrated.  "I'm a doctor, not an engineer!" 

"I'm trying to explain to ye how to be at least a bad engineer, but ye seem too dimwitted to understand me!"

"I'm not dimwitted, Scotty!  Just tell me what I'm supposed to do!" 

"Since engineerin' methods are doin' nothin' for ye, just do what doctors.  Patch up the wound any way ye can!  I'll be there as soon as I can."  Before McCoy could respond, Scotty had disconnected. 

McCoy punched the wall console, and then turned to find two people staring at him.  One redhead and one blonde were looking at him curiously and nervously.  Despite his momentary defeat, McCoy once again puffed out his chest.  "Nurse Chapel," he said with a nod to the blonde, before repeating the gesture to the redhead with a muttered, "Yeoman Barrows."  Then, he seemed to get motivated.  "Prepare for surgery."

None of them noticed that another member of the medical staff had watched the last several minutes of their activities from the doorway. 

"Based on that smile, I'd say that Bones is trying to get himself a girlfriend," said Jim with a roguish smile towards Spock. 

"A smile indicates the doctor's desire for a mate?"

Jim looked at Spock with an expression remarkably similar to the Vulcan's single arched eyebrow.  Then, he smiled brightly.  "A mate, Spock?"  He quietly began to laugh.  "Just because a human likes someone doesn't mean they want to go proposing marriage or anything right away." 

"I am uncertain as to your meaning."

Jim stopped laughing, but he was still smiling.  "We don't always mate with - well - our...uh...I guess I'd say permanent mate?"  When Spock showed zero understanding, Jim stopped smiling.  "I mean, some people sleep with-"  He corrected himself at Spock's expression.  "-have, um, intercourse with a whole lot of different people before they decide which one they want to stay with for the rest of their lives." 

At the scoffing sound of Uhura's snort, Jim frowned, knowing full-well that her reaction stemmed from his widespread reputation from the Academy days.  However, Jim's momentary gloomy mood was interrupted by Spock's voice.

"Does this not increase the odds of encountering dissatisfaction in one's personal life?"

"Let me guess, Spock, Vulcans don't do things that way."

Spock shook his head once.  "Indeed not.  Vulcan children are selected for each other at the age of seven by an agreement between both children's parents or guardians." 

Jim couldn't help but notice that this fact seemed to surprise even Uhura.  "You mean, like, an arranged marriage?"

"Not precisely.  A weak telepathic link is formed between the two children at the time of their arrangement.  It is less than a marriage, but more than a betrothal.  The full bonding takes place at the onset of...the proper time."

Jim looked at Spock curiously.  He did not fail to notice that Uhura's expression was growing more and more surprised with each word that the Vulcan spoke.  "So, hold on," Jim said, before Spock could continue.  "Are you saying that you are marri-er-bonded to some Vulcan woman?"

For a moment, Spock's gaze fell to the deck, but what he was thinking no one but the Vulcan could know.  "I had been selected for a woman named T'Pring when I was seven years of age.  However, she was among the many that had perished in the destruction of my planet." 

At that moment, Jim only had eyes for Spock.  He was overwhelmed with compassion for his first officer.  "Spock, were you...close with T'-her?"  He didn't want to try to pronounce the name, just in case he would offend the Vulcan. 

Spock looked up and met Kirk's eyes.  "I was not."

"And, what now, then?  Will they pick another girl for you?"

Spock shook his head.  "I do not believe so.  I am a half-breed, and, as many hybrids in existence, I am most likely sterile and incapable of reproduction.  It would therefore be considered a waste to pair me with a wife when she could give another a child in order to aid in the effort to repopulate the Vulcan race."

Spock stopped suddenly and looked again at the floor.  Jim reached out and rested his hand on the Vulcan's arm.  Spock looked at the contact with a serious and contemplative expression.  "Spock," he said, gently and quietly so that only his first officer could hear him.  "Are you sure that you're sterile?"  At Spock's reserved but surprised expression, he knew that the question had never been answered, possibly never even considered.  Then, Jim leaned towards Spock a little bit and spoke quietly.  "I don't mean to pry, Spock.  I'm sorry." 

Spock shook his head, his gaze still riveted on the contact between them.  "You did not pry.  I offered the information voluntarily.  You have nothing for which to apologize."  Then, Spock looked up and directly met Kirk's eyes, his expression thoughtful. 

A beeping on the captain's chair interrupted thee quiet moment.  Jim let go of Spock's arm and touched the arm to answer.  "Kirk here."

There was a sigh before words.  "M'Benga here down in Sickbay.  I think someone should come down here as soon as possible."

Jim rolled his eyes.  "Scotty will get there when he can, so tell Bones-"

"He's started to ‘perform surgery on the pipe' down here, Captain."

Spock looked at Kirk with barely concealed alarm.  Jim managed to hold back a laugh, but could not hold back the smile.  "And he's made it worse, didn't he?"

"Uh-huh," said M'Benga.  "Water's coming a bit faster now, and while I find it a little funny to see him, the blonde nurse-"

"Nurse Christine Chapel," supplied Spock at Jim's arm. 

"Yeah, Chapel, and Tonia over here trying to help him, there's no way this could end well." 

Jim sighed.  "Alright, fine.  I'll come and save Bones from his valiant effort to impress a girl."

"Captain, I do not think-"

"Shut up, Jim!" came the angry reply from quite a distance from the voice pickup in Sickbay.  "Just get down here, now!"

Jim couldn't help it.  He burst out laughing.  "Alright, fine!  I'm coming!  Kirk out."  He disconnected  then looked to Spock with a an open-mouthed grin.  "Would you mind taking the con, Spock?"

Spock stiffened beside the chair.  "I...Captain, I believe that it would be wise for me to accompany you."

Jim had already jumped up from his chair and had taken several steps to the turbolift when that statement made him pause and look at his first officer over his shoulder, turning just enough.  "Why?"

"Scientific expertise may be required."

"And I'm not good enough?"

Spock took a moment before replying.  "There is a reason, sir, why you were in the command track of Starfleet and not the sciences."

Jim sputtered for only an instant, before his lips thinned into a straight line and he snapped, "Sulu, take the con."  He wasted no time storming towards the turbolift.  By the time the doors slid open and he was standing inside, Spock had joined him.  Jim stabbed his finger into the button for Deck Seven almost before the doors slid shut again. 

Spock was unfamiliar with acknowledging his own emotions, but he was aware when they were raging in those around him.  While in the turbolift with Kirk, he was painfully aware of a suffocating tension emanating from the human.  The cause of the tension was not one he could accurately label.  However, he suspected that it was somehow connected to himself.  "Captain, if I have-"

"I'd really appreciate it, Commander, if you would keep your opinions of how unsuitable for command I am to yourself instead of announcing it to the crew in the middle of the bridge."

"Captain, I did not-"

"You basically told them I'm an idiot when it comes to science.  I'm not, you know.  I helped Bones write one of his reports when he was stuck in the infirmaries at the Academy and didn't have time to gather the research he needed for his-"

"I did not intend to imply that you were unintelligent in scientific matters, only that you possess greater skill in command than in science."

There was a long silence between them.  Then, finally, Kirk spoke in a hushed tone.  "I don't understand you, Spock." 

Spock turned to gaze at his captain, who was standing statuesque beside him, staring straight ahead.  "What do you not understand of me?"

"Everything."  Jim worked his jaw in an effort to try to control his unexpected anger.  "I've been trying so hard to get along with you.  I know when Bones made you my personal dietician or whatever you want to call it, you couldn't have been more...unhappy." 

"Vulcans do not get un-"

"Shut up.  I've seen you unhappy.  I know its there."  Spock closed his mouth and waited in the brief silence for the human to continue.  "I thought we were doing better.  I thought...I mean, I took care of you when you were sick.  If we can't call ourselves friends after something like that, then..."  Jim sighed heavily.  The turbolift stopped with a gentle announcement of the deck number at which it stopped before the doors hissed open.  Jim forced a tight-lipped smile on his face.  "Nevermind, Spock," he said as he forced himself to smile, even if just a little.  "Let's go see what sort of mess Bones got himself into."

Without looking back, Kirk left the turbolift and a troubled Vulcan in his wake.  It took only another moment for Spock to follow his captain, but it was enough to leave him one step behind the human. 

M'Benga actually looked relieved when the captain and first officer arrived in Sickbay.  All he did, though, was gesture with his head towards the group at the offending leak.  Kirk and Spock followed the gesture and observed McCoy, Barrows, and Chapel gathered around the opened wall with various surgical equipment spread out near them.  M'Benga looked at Spock.  "Not a very logical bunch are they?"

If M'Benga had not been studying on Vulcan for so long, he would not have been able to recognize a Vulcan smile like the one Spock was currently displaying.  The human smiled back at him, as Spock responded.  "In my limited experience with him, Doctor McCoy has always behaved most illogically."  He looked back at the scene before them all.  "However, he has managed to exhibit a greater level of illogic in his current actions in attempting to operate on a piece of machinery - in this case, a waterline - as though it were alive."

M'Benga let out a delighted guffaw.  "Completely illogical!" he agreed.  He did not miss the glare they received from McCoy across the room or the strange look shot at them by the captain in that moment. 

"Well, maybe it wouldn't be so illogical if someone who actually knew what to do in the situation would actually help!  That'd be logical, wouldn't it?" barked McCoy. 

Jim smiled at his best friend as he walked over with zero percent urgency.  "Let me see, Bones."  He crouched down to peer into the lovely opened wall.  There were strange little puncture marks all along the thin pipe.  It almost looked like something had either stabbed it repeatedly with something small and pointed, or a small creature had spent a great deal of time gnawing on it!  "Well, it's...definitely weird."

"Yeah, kid, I can't tell you where it came from!"

"Okay, so..."  Kirk looked at Bones with mock-seriousness.  "What should we do?"  Bones just glared at him.  Jim clicked his tongue on the roof of his moth before turning to the two women.  "Ladies, any ideas?"  They looked at him helplessly. 

From above his head, there came a certain unemotional voice.  "The priority, Captain, is to prevent the escaping water from spreading until someone from the engineering section can attend to it."

Jim smiled and tilted his head all the way back to see Spock standing bent over him like he bent over to stare into his science scanner on the bridge.  Spock looked down at him.  "Aptly put, Commander."  If he had to guess, Jim would say that, even inverted as his view was, Spock looked pleased at the compliment.  "Suggestions?  Because I have a plan."

"Oh, god, Jim," mumbled McCoy. 

Ignoring him, Jim continued to detail his plan, gesturing enthusiastically.  "We make a funnel!  With a hose attached right at the end there.  And then we could make it trail over there and to a big enough bucket or something to hold the water that's leaking-"

"Hang on a minute, Jim!  Are you saying you're going to leave my wall wide open for anything to come wandering into my sickbay?  Let the cobwebs grow and the spiders and other bugs come to overtake the place?"

"No, Bones, I'm just saying that this is a good temporary solution, don't you think?"  He knew that his eyes were shining brightly at his best friend in his excitement at his plan.  "At least until Scotty gets here, don't you think?"  He began to smile. 

"No, I think it's one of your most-"

"If you were about to say the phrase ‘illogical ideas,' then I would agree with you."  When Jim turned around to face Spock, it wasn't Spock that he saw, but rather he was face to face with...a mutilated bottle? 

"What is that, Spock?"

"While you were detailing your-"  Spock shifted and looked away from Jim as he said, "-inventive plan, I conducted a quick and accurate experiment." 

Jim managed to flick his eyebrow up in a decent imitation of the Vulcan before him.  "Oh really, Spock?" 

"Affirmative."  He held the former bottle out to Jim, who took it. 

"You're telling me that a bottle with the top cut off is going to work better than my funnel idea?"  He said, looking at it skeptically. 

Spock looked at him with a blank expression that Kirk took as complete seriousness.  "I am." 

"Are you insane?" questioned McCoy.  "That thing would overflow before tomorrow!"

"I think that you will find that it will do no such thing, doctor," countered Spock, but lacking the usual harshness.  "I have calculated the time between several drops of water, which was exactly five seconds.  I have acquired and altered this bottle to enable it to contain one point five liters of liquid, or, when converted, fifty point seven two one liquid ounces. Doctor M'Benga provided me with what he referred to as a ‘shot glass,' which I was informed can contain one liquid ounce."  Jim looked at Spock and nodded encouragingly, an anticipatory grin on his face.  He still regarded the bottle before him as Spock continued speaking.  "I had then calculated that it would take approximately twelve minutes for a dripping faucet to fill the shot glass at a rate of three seconds between each drop.  Therefore, with the water dripping at a rate of one drop every five seconds, the container that you hold, Captain, will not fill with water for another ten hours and fourteen minutes." 

"Are you serious?" McCoy asked, with a delighted expression. 

"It is certainly enough for a very long sleep cycle, the duration of over one work shift, or - more importantly - the time that should be required before Mister Scott or a member of the engineering staff could arrive to assist and repair the leak in the pipe." 

Jim's expression looked immensely satisfied.  He looked at Spock with an approving smile, and ignoring the protestation of McCoy, shoved the bottle under the dripping pipe and then watched it for a moment.  Then, he turned to McCoy with a satisfied grin.  "Seems you made this seem worse than it is, Bones.  We'll all be fine for at least ten hours!" 

"Ten hours and fourteen minutes."

Jim looked at Spock and flashed a bright smile at him.  "Thanks."  He looked at Bones again.  "You think you can calm down during that time?"

Bones glared at him before mumbling a, "fine." 

Jim nodded, and then patted his best friend on the cheek in a sarcastic and semi-affectionate way.  "In that case, Bones, I'm going to head back to work."  Then, he left the sickbay with an extra spring in his step. 

Spock gazed levelly at Doctor M'Benga.  "If any other incidents occur, or if the situation changes, inform me at once."

M'Benga nodded in understanding.  Then, Spock left the Sickbay.

"Captain," called Spock to him from down the corridor. 

Jim turned toward Spock just before the door of his quarters.  "Yeah?"

"Was I mistaken in my interpretation of your comment to Doctor McCoy?"

Then, Jim turned to fully face Spock.  "No, not really.  I am going to get back to work, but first I think I need a shower.  You have the con." 

"Are you certain that bathing is wise considering the situation with the waterlines?"

Jim smacked Spock on the upper arm, laughing.  "If I want a shower during my shift, I'm going to have a shower.  And I promise to use sonics instead of water.  So, there you go, no risk involved!" 

"You should not do so while you are on duty." 

Jim opened the door to his quarters, and just before it closed between them, he smiled at his first officer.  "Captain's privilege."  Then, the door closed, leaving Spock in the hallway. 

Jim stripped out of his clothing as he crossed his quarters, leaving a trail towards the fresher unit.  He was naked long before he'd reached for the sonic setting on the shower.  However, when he did turn it on...he heard something strange.  It was a weird yipping noise.  The same one he could have sworn he'd heard before.  The one that Spock had agreed to have heard as well. 

Jim deactivated the sonics and stood still.  Nothing.

Then, he decided on an impromptu experiment.  He turned on the water setting.  The noise that resulted was not the same.  In fact, it was louder and seemingly more desperate. 

He shut off the water.  The sound stopped. 

Then, just to make sure, he turned on the water again. 

The sound this time was borderline hysterical. 

Jim shut it off again and then bolted to the other door in the bathroom.  The one that was between this room and his first officer's quarters.  Suddenly, he was aware of his nudity at the blast of heat that wrapped around his body.  He was grateful that Spock was a good officer and was currently in his position on the bridge by now and had not detoured into his quarters.  If he had, he probably would have dropped over in a faint at Jim's naked mad dash into his quarters...Then again, Vulcans probably don't faint, but it didn't stop Jim from imagining it. 

He looked around and finally saw what it was he needed - Spock's tricorder.  He snatched it from the bedside table and returned to the bathroom.  He hurriedly took a reading from the sink...nothing unusual there.  It made no difference if the water was on, the sonics were on, or if it wasn't doing anything.  It was fine.  Then, just because, he took a reading on the toilet...Nothing.  With a glare that declared war, Jim stalked, still naked, back to the shower unit.  He took a reading. 

According to the tricorder, somewhere behind the wall was a life-form!

It seemed that Kirk had chosen to simply ‘get out of work early,' since there was only really thirty minutes left of alpha shift at the time.  Spock was about to leave the Bridge when the comm. unit on the captain's chair signaled.  He touched the control and spoke, "Commander Spock, here."

"Commander."  It was the Chief Engineer.  "There are too many waterline issues bein' reported for us to handle right now.  It's all over the ship!  We have to get to the nearest station or somethin' so that we can get some assistance in the repairs."

"Have you discovered what the underlying cause is in the waterline damage?"

"No, sir," grumbled Scotty. 

"I see," said Spock.  He quietly thought for a moment before responding.  "In that case, I will inform the captain of the situation and your request to divert for repairs.  I will then notify you as to his decision." 

"Aye, that'd do it."

Spock disconnected from Scotty.  Then, after a moment's hesitation, he reactivated the console.  "Commander Spock to Captain Kirk."  He waited.  There was no response.  "Captain, please come in."  He tried once more before he disconnected, stood, announced that Hikaru Sulu was in command for the time being, and then departed the Bridge in search of Captain Kirk. 

Having grown accustomed to the long bathing period his captain sometimes required, Spock decided to first check the fresher for the human.  He entered his own quarters first.  It would have been completely tactless to signal for entrance outside of Kirk's door.  It may have been quicker to go directly to Kirk's door and see if he answered, but there was a previous occasion on which he had done just that and had been greeted with the sweating, glistening and shirtless body of the young captain with a towel draped over his neck and shoulders.  Kirk had just returned from the gymnasium.  It had taken a great deal of control for Spock to maintain professionalism and act as though Kirk's lack of attire was anything but normal.  Instead, to get through the conversation, Spock had diverted his attention to Kirk's knees.  It was better than anything higher.  He only managed to restrain himself from admonishing Kirk for failing to be in proper uniform, or delaying the conversation in order to dress, or just simply not answer the door signal when he knew he was indecent! 

It was because he would rather not have a repeat of such an occasion, that Spock decided to check the fresher from the safety of his own quarters. 

The fresher was unlocked and permitted his entrance immediately.  As soon as he entered the small room, the destruction caught his attention.  The shower unit was damaged.  Not only was it damaged, it was vandalized.  Spock could only conclude that the culprit was his commanding officer.  A piece of the wall panel near the bottom of the shower unit had been removed.  No, cut away!  Spock approached it and hesitantly touched his finger to the edge of the cut away section of the wall.  It had been removed by a phaser set to a power higher than stun, but much lower than kill.  Spock, though he would never admit to doing so, sighed.  Kirk had evidently phasered a section of their shower wall off. 

Feeling that this was something he could not ignore, Spock stood and walked through the other doorway that led into the captain's quarters.

Only to find himself frozen in mid-step as he came around the divider that separated the sleeping area from the work area of the captain's quarters. 

Kirk's back was to him in his seat at his desk.  He was on a call with a very old, and yet very well-respected Admiral of Starfleet, whom Spock instantly recognized.  They appeared to have only recently started their conversation.  Spock found himself an intruder and an eavesdropper.

"-might belong to you, sir," Kirk was saying.  Spock saw him shift a little, as though he were bringing something into the visual area of the communication. 

The Admiral's face transformed into something akin to shock and longing.  "Planchet?"  Whatever Kirk had shifted into the console's view, emitted a loud little howl.  It took Spock a moment to realize that what Kirk must be holding was in fact a small dog. 

"After ‘The Three Musketeers' character, Planchet?" 

"Very good," responded the very aged Admiral Archer, his head tilting in the affirmative. 

Spock looked around the sleeping area of his captain only to discover that most surfaces were lined with actual bound books.  Paper and ink.  He did not know this of his captain.  Kirk was an avid reader, it seemed.  Spock looked back at Kirk with this knowledge and wondered why the human would not have made that fact a little more common knowledge. 

"Well, Admiral," said Kirk, with a tone that clearly gave away his smile, even though Spock could not see it.  "This little pup of yours seems to have chewed up a whole bunch of my waterlines!"  The dog barked.  Kirk then spoke in a voice that seemed strange to use in Spock's opinion.  "Were you angry at someone?  I think you were.  I think you were angry."  The dog barked again. 

Then, Spock saw the old Admiral smile indulgently.  "He probably knew that a certain Montgomery Scott was assigned to your ship."

Kirk let out a short bark of his own - but of laughter.  "Yeah, getting revenge?  It wouldn't surprise me, sir." 

Admiral Archer looked down and then back up at Kirk.  "Captain, would you be able to divert back to Earth and return him to me?"

"I - uh - I don't see why we couldn't.  Even if we have a really important assignment, I'm sure you'd be able to convince the brass over there of the importance of our return...sir."  He added the last almost too late. 

Archer nodded.  "I want Planchet back.  Been waiting for him to ‘reappear' like that engineer of yours said he would for far too long."  Then, the Admiral smiled at Kirk.  "Although I must admit I find it...ironic, I suppose, that one of my beagles is once again aboard an Enterprise vessel." 

"I guess even science decided that it wouldn't really be an Enterprise without a resident beagle, then." 

The aged Admiral and the young Captain shared a laugh before the former grew serious again.  "I do want Planchet back, Captain Kirk, other assignment or not.  So, I'm ordering you to reroute back home.  I don't care what they say at headquarters.  If they give you problems, you have them get in touch with me, you understand?" 

"I understand, sir.  We'll return back immediately." 

"Good."  Admiral Archer turned to disconnect, but then said one final thing.  "And Captain, take care of my dog."  As he disconnected, Planchet howled from Kirk's lap, then escaped from Kirk and landed on the floor.  However, the beagle still wanted to play.  It practically leaped over to Kirk's leg, clenched the material of a pant leg in his jaws and roughly shook its head side to side, playfully growling.  Kirk reached down and scratched the dog's head near its ear, but it did very little to calm it. 

As Spock remained standing where he was and watching, he suddenly realized that the beagle became aware of his presence.  The dog began barking and then bounded towards him, barking enthusiastically.  Spock stared down at the dog for a moment, until it leaned back on its back legs and flattened the front of its body to the floor.  The dog angled its head up at Spock and stared at him.  The tail began to wag quickly.  Then, the beagle howled. 


Spock looked up and saw Kirk still in his chair, but that he'd turned it to face the dog.  From the expression on his face, he was clearly not expecting his first officer to be in his quarters.  "Captain, I apologize for my intrusion.  I was-"

"Introducing yourself to our little stowaway?"

Spock swallowed.  Planchet howled again.  "I...suppose so, sir."

Kirk laughed quietly and stood from the chair.  At his motion, the beagle dashed to Kirk and instantly began to beg for attention.  "It's Jim, Spock." 

Spock's attention however was on the beagle.  Finally accustomed to the idea of the dog in the room, he crouched to a level closer to the floor.  This drew the attention of the beagle again, who abandoned Jim and came running right to Spock.  Spock did not have much experience with dogs, but he tried to adapt how he'd behaved with his own childhood pet in order to touch and stroke the head of the beagle before him. 

Spock realized that Jim had come to sit cross-legged on the floor three feet away from him.  Planchet caught sight of the human and with a hyper intensity jumped at Jim.  Jim began to pet the dog using the exact same motions that Spock had just performed, but Spock noticed that where his own actions were more certain, Jim's were far more hesitant.  Then, he realized why.  "You have never had animal companionship."

Jim shook his head with a half smile.  "That obvious, huh?"

"If I had not had the company of an animal when I was a child, I would not have been capable of recognizing your handling as inexperienced." 

Jim was still petting Planchet when the statement registered.  When it did, his blue eyes darted to meet Spock's eyes.  "Wait, you had a pet when you were a kid?"

"I did."  As though he understood, Planchet went back to the more animal savvy of the two and demanded some attention from Spock, little contented yips throughout Spock's petting and scratching.  "Her name was I-Chaya." 

"Was she a dog?"

"No," Spock said, moving to scratch behind Planchet's ears.  "She was a sehlat."  Planchet flopped over on one side and stretched his neck, encouraging Spock to continue the scratching. 

"What's that?"

"A large creature that was domesticated on Vulcan in families of higher status."  He paused.  "I imagine they are as endangered, or perhaps even more endangered than Vulcans themselves."

Jim paled.  "I'm sorry, Spock, I didn't mean to-"

"It is simply an estimate."

"-bring up bad memories."

Spock looked at Jim's miserable expression at that moment.  "You did not.  On the contrary, my memories of I-Chaya are those of which I am quite fond."  The beagle was growing almost lethargic under his touch.  It was a familiar image that filled him with nostalgia.  Suddenly, he began to speak of personal memories.  "She was a faithful companion until her death.  She was very old, Captain.  She belonged to my father long before she grew attached to me and I to her."

"How-"  Jim stopped the question as though afraid to ask it.

"Did she die?" Spock finished.  Jim nodded.  Spock understood why he had hesitated to finish the question.  "As I have said, she was very old.  By the time I had reached the age of twelve, she had also grown very ill.  She had difficulty walking or tending to her own needs.  I spoke to my father of her physically diminishing state, and - being unpracticed in the discipline myself - asked that my father perform the mindmeld on her.  He did so, and through it learned that I-Chaya was in great pain.  So much so that even walking hurt her.  While in the mindmeld, my father asked her permission to release her from her pain.  She consented.  My father then performed tal-shaya on her.  I was not permitted to watch this."

Jim had listened to every word carefully.  "What is tel-sheya?"

Spock appreciated the attempt at the Vulcan term, despite the less than perfect pronunciation, since he knew what Jim was trying to ask.  "Tal-shaya," he said, stressing the pronunciation, "is a merciful form of execution." 

"Oh."  It was awkwardly quiet for a long while, with the only sound being the contented noises of the beagle on the floor.  "You're right, though.  I never had a pet."  Jim looked at Spock.  "Do you want to watch him until we give him back to Archer?"

Spock met the gaze and clearly considered not only the question bt the man before him.  When he found what he was looking for, he finally answered.  "I have had a...pet once, and could not now deprive you of that experience and interaction."  Spock nudged Planchet just enough for the dog to realize that he wanted him to go to Jim, which he did happily, planting his front paws on the human's chest and swiping its tongue all over Jim's face.  Jim could not help but smile.  "I-Chaya was a faithful companion.  She comforted me when I could seek it from no other."

When Jim turned to look at Spock, he knew that he understood what he'd truly attempted to convey.  Jim's expression grew serious.  "Thanks, Spock."

With a nod, Spock stood carefully and entered his own quarters through the shared fresher unit.  As the door closed he heard the quiet chuckling of a human, and the happy panting of a beagle.

It was only several hours later, as he settled himself in the shower to repair the phasered wall piece, surrounded by various tools which he'd...borrowed...from the Engineering Department, that Spock listened to the activity taking place on the other side of the door to Jim's quarters.  He heard Jim laughing fully as the frantic pattering of dog feet ran through the room beyond the door.  He must be throwing something and have the dog get it and bring it back only to repeat the whole process.  Spock remembered when his mother used to laugh and smile over the strangest and simplest things.  It had always baffled him as a child.  He had once observed to his father that, "Humans smile and laugh with so little provocation, do they not, Father?"

Sarek had looked down at his young son with an odd glow in his eyes.  "They do indeed, Spock.  But it is their smile and laughter that adds to their beauty."

Spock had not understood when he was young, but as he heard once more Jim laughing on the other side of the door - and knowing it was impossible to do so without a smile - he finally understood what his father meant.

Chapter End Notes:

Story Note: I simply could not get the idea of inserting Yeoman Barrows in here out of my head...Can we tell I've recently watched "Shore Leave?"  Yeah...

Thank you for reading.  I hope you all enjoyed it!  Let me know what you think (but no flames, please, thanks).  I'd love to hear from readers.  ~ RK

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