Since the Starfleet-issued uniforms didn't contain one single fragment of green, crew members across the ship were busily trading ribbons, socks, hair accessories, and jewelry to make sure that nobody suffered the penalty for going without green on this most Irish of holidays. They all, quite naturally, wanted to avoid being pinched.
All except Mr. Spock.
It wasn't that he wanted to be pinched *in general*, of course. Pinching hurt, and it also involved a certain amount of undesirable physical contact, which he did not wish to share with most of his fellow shipmates. It also indicated a small measure of defeat in this meaningless holiday game, and he did have some modicum of pride--however human that trait might be.
He wanted to be pinched by a very specific person--and by him alone: his best friend, Captain James T. Kirk.
Spock had the whole thing worked out in his mind. It flowed elegantly--a perfectly logical system. First, Jim would notice that Spock wasn't wearing green, as was the rule on St. Patrick's Day. Then, he would pinch him, and then they would continue to touch, and it would grow more intimate, and over a matter of months--or years, if necessary--they would get married and have childr--
Well, maybe it didn't have to go that far. Spock was perfectly aware of all the imponderables in his plan.
Yet he continued with it staunchly forward, and left his cabin wearing not a lick of green. He strode down the hallways proudly, trying not to distract himself with fantasies of what Jim's pinch would feel like.
On his way to the bridge, he met Nurse Chapel coming from another direction. "Good morning, Mr. Spock," she said to him pleasantly.
"Good morning, Nurse."
"Spock!" she exclaimed, nearly interrupting him. "You forgot to wear green!"
"I did not for--"
"Here, let me help you. You don't want Dr. McCoy to see you like that, do you? He'll be insufferably smug all day if he catches you so pinchably... ungreen." She took a ribbon from her pocket and reached for Spock's wrist. "I brought these for my nurses in case of emergency, but you're just in need as they are."
"That is quite all right, Nurse," Spock tried feebly, but Christine was persistent. He let her tie the ribbon around his wrist, but he continued to think. Then an idea occurred to him. "It will impede the alacrity of my typing." He knew his excuse was lame, but it was the best that came to mind. "I must have facility of my wrists while at my station."
"Well, put it on wherever it's most comfortable," Christine advised him as she continued down the hallway, "but don't forget to tie it somewhere."
Spock hurried away from her and dropped the green ribbon into a hallway recycler once she was out of sight. He hoped he hadn't hurt her feelings too much with his reticence, but he certainly had no wish to explain his plan to her! It was humiliating enough not to be able to speak his feelings to *Jim* directly--let alone speak of them to a third party.
He remembered her warning about Dr. McCoy, and bit his lip. Hopefully, the doctor would be otherwise occupied all day, and wouldn't notice Spock's apparent lack of participation in St. Patrick's Day. He waited for the turbolift that would take him to the bridge, where he knew he would see Kirk for the first time that day.
The doors opened after a few moments. As if summoned by Spock's fears, McCoy stood inside sporting an obscene grin and a goofy green bowtie. "Morning, Spock!" he called cheerfully.
"Hello, Doctor," said Spock to the wall behind McCoy's head. He stepped on board the turbolift without making eye contact. The lift doors closed, locking Spock into his temporary prison.
"Did you forget what day it was?"
Spock rattled off the stardate flatly.
"I meant on Earth, and you knew that." McCoy was turning up the smug. "You're not wearing green. Last time I checked, that meant you deserve to be--!"
The doors opened, and Spock stepped out onto the bridge just out of reach of McCoy's claw-shaped hand. It pinched vainly at the air and McCoy grimaced.
Kirk turned around in his chair to watch them arrive, and noticed McCoy's reaction. "What's the matter, Bones?"
"I was trying to pinch him," McCoy grumbled good-naturedly. "He forgot to wear green."
Kirk looked at Spock with fond, indulgent eyes, then back at McCoy. "That's okay, Bones, it's our custom, not his. Consider him... excused from pinching."
No! That wasn't part of the plan. Spock's mind raced frantically. Luckily, Kirk turned his attention back to the yeoman he'd been dictating to and gave Spock more time to rethink his plan.
As Spock logged into his station, it occurred to him that perhaps Jim meant only to save him from the unwelcome pinch of his adversary--McCoy--because it was likely to cause him more pain than anyone else's would. In that case, Jim might still be willing to pinch him himself. Clinging to that optimistic hypothesis, he sank into his chair with relief and focused his scope on the stars.
He had immersed himself in his task to such a great degree that he did not notice the communications officer studying him with her wickedly flashing eyes. Uhura stole quite a few glances over at him during the course of the morning, at the end of which she decided quite definitively that Spock was, in fact, not wearing a speck of green. Unless it was on his underclothing, and she would have bet her OWN satin green undies that his were no such amusing shades.
It was almost time for lunch, and the mess hall beckoned--and so did the holiday. Her hot-chocolate eyes narrowed craftily as she followed Spock into the lift.
"Ouch!" How had Uhura been able to sneak up on him like that? "Miss Uhura?"
"I don't see you wearing any green," she purred. "Unless there's something we can't see."
"I am a Vulcan," he answered icily. "My skin is green."
"That doesn't count--that's not any fun! You don't even have to try!"
You have no idea, Lieutenant, he thought to himself with a sigh.
The doors opened and Spock walked toward the mess hall, rubbing his sore thigh. Uhura apparently did not know her own strength.
Spock helped himself to a heaping plate of cabbage--forgoing the corned beef, of course, since he was vegetarian--and sat in the corner where he hoped he would not be bothered. But barely had he been there a minute when a plate of food and a mug of milk appeared on the table opposite him. He looked up and saw Dr. McCoy.
"I love this holiday," McCoy commented, digging into his plate of corned beef and cabbage. "Hey," he added, suddenly noticing--"you still aren't wearing anything green. I'm surprised Nurse Chapel hasn't attacked you with her emergency ribbons yet. She's got them all over my nursing staff."
"...taking away all my fun," McCoy groused. "I've barely gotten to pinch anyone this morning. Lucky for me, you're still being a damned stubborn Vulcan!" He grinned triumphantly, and reached across the table for Spock's arm.
Spock instinctively jerked his arm away.
Christine Chapel, who had been watching the whole encounter, walked over with her hand in her pocket. "Here, Spock," she said, tying a green ribbon loosely around his arm. "I told you he'd get you if you weren't careful!" She gave him a warm smile, and McCoy a roll of her eyes, as she walked away.
"So that's that," McCoy muttered. "Well, I guess I'll take this back to my office and get some work done." He picked up his tray and left Spock blissfully alone.
Spock had cleared his plate of vegetative matter and was ingesting some sugared berries when Kirk finally appeared. "Those any good?" the captain asked, pointing at Spock's plate.
"They are flavorful," Spock answered, gazing meaningfully into Jim's eyes. He wondered when Jim would say something about St. Patrick's Day, the way everyone else had.
"They look almost like the bush we had behind our house back in Iowa," Jim said wistfully. "Can I try one of yours so I don't waste a whole bowl if I don't like them?"
Spock speared a berry with his fork and tried to give it to Jim, but Jim didn't offer his hand--he only opened his mouth and leaned his head forward. Spock hesitated. Jim wanted to be fed? He was flattered, and slightly nervous. No, he wasn't! He was a Vulcan. Absolutely. One hundred percent.... of his Vulcan half.
He decided he liked the idea for whatever illogical reason, and guided the fork into Jim's mouth.
"Mmm," Jim murmured appreciatively. "Sweet." Then, just as Spock was busy controlling a Class-A Swoon, Jim looked down to Spock's arm. "Ah, I see you've added some green to your ensemble," he commented. "You'll be safe from the menace of pinching for the rest of the day." His eyes twinkled.
Spock looked down at his arm. "Indeed." Damn that Nurse! He had forgotten to remove the ribbon after McCoy's departure, and he didn't want to raise Jim's suspicions by removing it now.
Spock had to visit the science lab on his way back to the bridge, so he said goodbye to Jim after a few minutes and left the mess hall. As he walked the halls, he removed the second ribbon from his arm and snuck it into his waistband, where it could be hidden by his shirt. He didn't want to risk getting pinched again by someone from the set equaling everybody but Jim, but this way he could hide the green when Jim was around.
No sooner had he finished hiding the ribbon than he was accosted by Mr. Chekov and Mr. Riley. Having experienced the awesome horror of Riley's Irish pride before, during the epidemic of the Psi-2000 virus, he attempted to escape into the nearest conference room.
But the young, spry crewmen were too fast for him. "Hey! He's not vearing green!" Chekov exclaimed.
"Get him!" Riley snorted through his giggles.
Spock found himself besieged by the pinching hands of young men. "Cease your molestation, gentlemen," he ordered them in his most commanding tone.
"But you're not celebrating!" Riley whined. Spock found him exceedingly irritating. He wondered if Riley had been drinking, but decided from the lack of alcohol-smell that he was probably just euphoric.
"I am a Vulcan."
"That's okay, Chekov's Russian and he's still wearing green!"
"My green sash was handcrafted in my grandmother's shop in Leningrad!" Chekov announced proudly.
"I am, indeed, wearing green," Spock said, showing them the ace in his sleeve, or, as it were, the green ribbon in his waistband.
"Oh," said Chekov lamely.
"Gee, I'm sorry, Mr. Spock!" Riley said sheepishly. "I guess we were pretty disrespectful, huh."
"I will overlook the matter," said Spock, eager to get away. Oh, if only Jim had been the sole individual to notice his lack of green apparel! This plan was becoming far too complicated.
Never! Nothing was too complicated for a Vulcan, nor a scientist in Starfleet.
Spock gritted his teeth and walked into the science lab, where he was promptly besieged by the pinching hands of two squealing female techs.
The rest of the day lurched intolerably forward, a dizzying cycle of pinching and conniving. Spock lost the ribbon when Uhura snatched it out of his waistband, ignoring Sulu's comment about dirty pool, and had to endure a nightmare of casual human contact for the next several hours. When Kirk dragged him off to his cabin at the end of the shift for a game of chess and a quiet dinner, he was nearly catatonic from the experience.
"Are you all right, Spock?" Kirk asked with concern as he led the glassy-eyed Vulcan into his quarters. "You... look a little shaken up... for a Vulcan, I mean."
"I am... adequately well," Spock attempted feebly. "This holiday of St. Patrick's Day is not among my favorite human rituals."
"Ah," Kirk said wisely, nodding. "The pinching. Yes, Mr. Spock, I heard about you losing your ribbon."
"To have so much physical contact with unfamiliar and unwelcome minds is quite painful," Spock explained.
"I apologize for that, on behalf of the crew. They should have been more understanding. I... tried to protect you, for what it's worth." Kirk looked up at Spock. "I hope it helped that at least, *I* never pestered you like that."
"It did not," Spock uttered before he had realized the words were out loud. Then, realizing Kirk was troubled, and had most likely misunderstood his meaning, he added hastily, "I do not find your touch unwelcome."
"Well." Kirk smiled. "I'm flattered. But at least you now know what to expect if you go without wearing green on St. Patrick's Day." He wrinkled his brow. "This isn't your first year among humans--whatever possessed you to go greenless today? You can't have just forgotten--that's not like you."
Spock tried to think of a clever, face-saving answer, but his mind only offered up one option--the truth. "I thought that you would pinch me."
"You thought--!" Kirk blinked in astonishment. "Spock, if you wanted me to pinch you, why didn't you just... ask?"
"Because I did not know, and still do not know, what your response to that request would be."
"Yes, you do, silly." Kirk grinned. "Well, now that I know you want me to, I might as well point out that you're still not wearing green--so I guess you deserve quite a pinch."
Spock would have smiled--had he been human.
Kirk inspected Spock's body with mock solemnity, one hand to his chin and the other in the shape of a claw. "Let me see.... what is... the optimum place... for such... a penalty?"
"Be gentle," Spock said in a voice tinged with quiet thrill.
"Always!" Kirk reassured him as he drew closer. He hooked a small part of Spock's upper arm between the fingers of his "claw" and pressed them together. Then, still holding on to Spock with the pinch, he closed the distance between their bodies and tilted his head upwards.
"May I taste the berries, Spock?" Jim whispered.
The kiss was wet and clumsy, but beautiful with the promise of potential--like an unshaped mass of clay just flung onto a potter's wheel. When they broke out of it, Jim exhaled heavily. "Mmm. Sweet."
"You honor me," Spock replied.
Jim looked him over. "You're finally celebrating," he commented.
Spock rose his eyebrow. "Oh?"
"You're flushed--you're green as a... as a shamrock." Jim winked.
"In that case, happy St. Patrick's Day, Jim."
"Happy St. Patrick's Day, Spock!"