Spock's head turned sharply towards the big cage by the window. Ever since he and Kirk had entered the presidential palace of the small human colony on Cassiopeia 4, each glance into a corner had revealed some previously unnoticed form of animal life. The president was an even more enthusiastic collector of pets than the tabloids reported.
But a parrot with a Vulcan vocabulary was completely unexpected.
With an effort, Spock returned his gaze to the richly clad man who had been conversing with them from a throne-like armchair. "Your Excellency, we are honored by your invitation to a state dinner..." he began.
"T'hy'la!!!" shouted the parrot again, louder this time. Kirk stared at the cage with a bemused look, and Spock studiously tried to look away.
He took a deep breath. "...But in fact we are on this planet only to purchase a supply of dilithium from the mining colony..."
"Grrr! T'hy'la! T'hy'la!!"
Spock summoned all his Vulcan control and continued. "Our mission has allowed us time for this short audience with you, to pay our respects, but I am afraid that a longer meeting would put us badly behind schedule."
The bird let out a full-throated yell. "Aaaaaaaa!! T'hy'la! Aaaaaa! Grrrr! Aaa! Aaa! T'hy'la!!"
The half-Vulcan first officer closed his eyes for a moment. His own unspoken feelings for James Kirk were stress enough, without his attention being repeatedly drawn back to them by, of all things, a parrot. It did not seem fair that a caged bird they had never met before should have the right to shout out the endearment that Spock longed to say to his captain.
Captain Kirk gestured to the cage with an intrigued smile on his face. "What an interesting creature," he commented.
The president laughed. "Noisy, isn't he? I must be no good at teaching manners. I've had him since he was a gawky little chick eating mush out of a syringe-- got him from one of the best bird breeders in all of Cassiopeia-- and he's never kept his mouth shut a minute."
As if to prove the point, the parrot gave voice again, louder than ever before. "T'HY'LA!"
Spock winced as if the name of something sacred were being taken in vain.
"What does that word mean, anyhow?" said Kirk, smiling at the parrot, who growled back at him.
"Oh, I'm sure it doesn't mean anything," laughed the president. "He made it up. You see, he's known how to say "Hi, lovey" for years. Then, recently, it struck his fancy to leave off the last syllable sometimes, and add a little clicking sound at the beginning... and the result was his new favorite noise. Parrots do that sort of thing."
Spock tensed yet further in illogical fury. Not only could a parrot use the word, but a parrot could use it for fun, simply because he liked the sound, without making even the most rudimentary connection to its significance. And Spock, who knew every nuance of the word's meaning, history, phonology and etymology, and longed to make it part of his everyday speech with the man he loved, was forbidden that pleasure.
A sudden, defiant urge rose up in him. Perhaps he could not whisper the word sweetly into Jim Kirk's ear between kisses, or shout it in his arms, but he would not deny himself completely any more. He would say the word; say what it meant.
"T'hy'la," he uttered, making sudden, deep eye contact with his captain. "A most startling coincidence. That particular sound has a meaning in my native language."
"Oh really!" said the president, smiling in delight. "How fascinating. What is it?"
Still holding Jim's eyes, Spock called forth all his courage. "It signifies a soulmate, a person with whom one shares a closer relationship than any other. Such a person may be a friend, a brother, or a lover. But in the strongest such relationships, all three emotions are felt: love as for a friend, love as for a family member, and love as for a spouse. It is the deepest connection that one of my people can experience."
There was a solemn silence, as Spock, Kirk and the Cassiopeian president all considered the meaning of the word. The statesman could not take his eyes from these two unusual officers who stood there gazing at each other. Spock could not take his eyes from Kirk. And Kirk, to Spock's amazement and joy, did not take his eyes away from Spock.
"Thank you, Your Excellency, for the audience," the captain murmured, steering Spock toward the door. "We must return to our mission, but we heartily appreciate your kindness and hospitality."
They were holding hands before they even got out the door, and once they were in the hall, they melted together in a passionate and grateful kiss.
"Jim... Have you wanted this as long as I have?"
"I've loved you for years. I thought you might feel the same way, but I wasn't about to take the risk-- until you told me, right there in front of the president and his parrot. T'hy'la-- what a beautiful word. I'm going to say it to you every chance I get."
In the kisses that followed, the rest of the world disappeared.
But when Kirk and Spock finally gained enough composure to pull apart from each other and leave for the mining colony, they couldn't help hearing the joyous cry that came from the room behind them, seeming to wish them well in the future they were beginning with each other.
"Aaaaa! Aaaaa! T'hy'la!!!"
Note: There really is a parrot who came up with the word "t'hy'la" on his own. He belongs to my mom, and if you have Quicktime, you can hear him at http://saavant.tripod.com/thyla.htm .
Thanks to Farfalla for getting me to write this.
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