On the second morning of shore leave, Commander Spock was sitting at the top of a hill meditating so deeply that he failed to sense the approach of an enormous being from the far side of the hill. As the being snatched him into the air and carried him off, his eyes snapped open for a final, unsteady sight of Jim bathing nude in the lake at the hill's base. "Jim!" he shouted, but the being was already thundering back down the hill in the direction from which it had come, carrying him beyond earshot.
Spock struggled in the creature's grasp, trying to wrench himself free. It had cupped Spock's body in its hands as a human would a rodent, with a firm grip around his waist and another appendage limiting the movement of his limbs. Through what he assumed to be the creature's fingers, Spock caught fleeting glimpses of its body--five or six meters tall, composed of bulbous flesh of orange-yellow and covered with warts. He was reminded of a vegetable he had seen on Earth--a particularly ugly decorative gourd, if he was not mistaken. Perhaps a turban squash.
Forcing his head through two of the Gourd's fingers, Spock turned to face his captor. "Put me down," he commanded.
"Calm down, little one," boomed the Gourd in a tone of neither malice nor irony.
"You must release me," Spock shouted. "I am an officer of the Federation and must be returned to my camp site."
"You are an interesting little beast, with a most pleasing squeak," the Gourd continued. It used a few fingers to caress Spock's hair, like a human with a pet. "I came here searching for a bird, but you have no wings."
It was then that Spock realized that the creature could not understand him. To the Gourd, Spock's words sounded only like the squeaking of a mouse. He was too small to be heard properly.
To test his hypothesis, Spock called out one last time, "If you hear my words, tell me your name!"
"Shhh, little one," said the Gourd, still petting him. "You shall have a nice new home."
When Spock knew he would not be understood, he decided that his only logical action would be to try as hard as he could to escape. He put all his concentration into his struggles, but it was to no avail. The creature's hands were far too powerful for him, and he was eventually subdued by a firmer grip.
He estimated they'd now moved at least half a mile from the campsite he'd been sharing with Jim. If the Gourd was leaving any tracks for Jim to follow, it would take a day to cover the same ground the creature traveled in a single hour. If the Enterprise had been orbiting the planet at the time, Jim could have called for backup, sensors, transporters--something. But the silver lady had gone off and left them to their well-deserved shore leave of peace and privacy--and, apparently, alien abduction. By the time they returned the following week to collect their captain and first officer, Spock had no idea where he would be.
His biggest concern was that the creature would move him off-world. Enterprise sensors had not detected sentient life on this planet, which was one of the reasons it was considered suitable for shore leave. This meant either that the creature was just as alien to this planet as Spock himself was, or that it made its home deep underground. He fervently hoped it was the latter, because the former would mean undeniable difficulties in ever returning to his home on the ship.
Even if he was underground, of course, the ship's sensors would not be able to find him. He would have to trust solely in Jim's determination to find him alive. In this jewel he wanted to have undying confidence, but his logical side reminded him that no matter how much Jim wished himself to be invincible, the odds would be against them if the captain had to search every inch of the planet on foot.
Therefore, he either had to remain aboveground, or prevent the creature from taking him offworld. He decided to save his strength and stop struggling for now, so that he would be in fit condition to attempt escape whenever he was faced with a cavern or spaceship. He relaxed against the enormous fingers and tried to make himself as comfortable as possible.
After a few hours, the creature's pace seemed to be slowing. "Almost there," it said, probably to itself as it had not spoken directly to Spock since their initial quasi-conversation. Peeping between its fingers, Spock spied a large, crude doorway cut into a mountain face.
Underground it was to be, then, or at least within many layers of rock--underground, and not offworld. Spock was grimly pleased that the more fortunate of two unhappy prospects in his earlier hypothesis had proven true. He had better make good with his plans to escape before the creature carried him inside the mountain.
However, he was no better at slipping through the Gourd's fingers now than he had been four hours previous. It cupped its rough, warted hands tightly around its wriggling prey, and no amount of biting, kicking, or punching would shake its resolve. Spock even tried the Vulcan nerve-pinch, but the creature's hands were so calloused that he could never reach anything resembling a nerve.
"I'm not going to hurt you, little wingless bird," said the Gourd soothingly. "We're just going inside. Soon, you'll have a nice new home with plenty of good things to eat."
In order to open the door in the rock it required the use of one of its hands. It held the other tightly around Spock's waist as it wrenched open the door with a mighty heave. As it bounded through the doorway and down the gravelly path within, another escape plan formed in Spock's mind. Swallowing all his ideas of decency and cleanliness, not to mention pride, he voided his bladder into the creature's hand and then used the ensuing wetness to lubricate his way out of the creature's fist. He landed on the dusty pebbles and barely had time to shake himself off as he scampered up the slope back to the entrance, kicking bits of rock and sand behind him.
The creature was no fool, however, and quickly outpaced him to the door. It closed the door with a great, soulless bang just as Spock was nearing it, sending more dust clouds into the air and into Spock's face. He drew up the hood of his soiled meditation robe to protect his eyes, telling himself that it was the dust that was causing them to form tears.
He tried to hide in the shadows, but the creature soon found him again and was careful not to release its two-handed grip again until it had reached its destination. It was now clear to Spock that this was no mere home in a rock-face, but instead an entire underground village linked by tunnels. Once Jim had rescued him--which the Enterprise itself would now not be able to do, thanks to his location--he would set about updating starship sensor technology to accommodate underground pre-industrial civilizations. Because Jim would rescue him... right?
The creature entered a small room and hurried over to one corner. Spock heard clanking noises and then realized he was being thrust inside an opening. The creature's hands unfolded, and Spock immediately dashed back towards the opening. But Gourd withdrew its hands and clapped the door shut on poor Spock with the deftness of one who has owned many small animals.
As Spock watched through the metal bars of his cage, Gourd sat down with a weary yet happy sigh on a large pile of pillows nearby. "Home at last," it wheezed.
Spock paced his cage, taking note of every detail of his present situation.
He had been placed inside what resembled an enormous birdcage, made of metal bars too close together to slip through at his size. The floor of the cage was lined with clean rags, which, judging from their color, had once been pillows much like the ones upon which the creature now rested. In each corner there was something for the benefit of a pet--a dish in one corner for food, judging from the nutlike objects inside, a dish full of water in another, a ball for play, and a Spock-sized cushion resembling the creature's pillows.
"I know, I know, little bird without wings," said the creature when it noticed Spock peering into the food dish. "I need to feed you. Just let me rest a bit after my long journey."
Spock judged the nuts in his dish to be safe from their familiar smell, and sampled one carefully. Then he removed his robe, deciding that, as a pocket pet, he had no need for conventional modesty, and used the empty nutshell to spot-clean it with water from the water-dish. He left it to dry draped over the ball and sat down on the cushion.
Soon, after thoroughly washing its hands in a basin, the creature approached Spock's cage again. "I've brought you some new food," it informed him. It was able to push the fruit through the bars directly into the food dish without opening the cage door, dashing yet another plan for escape. Spock inspected the new offerings and found them to be fleshy berries in a variety of colors. With the nuts for protein and fat and the fruit for sugar and vitamins, he would apparently not starve here in captivity. And he was not particularly cold, even without his robe. He reasoned that he could make waste into the giant nutshells and then leave them in a far corner of the cage. Survival instincts thus taken care of, his mind was free to plot escape.
There seemed little possibility of that, however, because he didn't have anything with him that could cut through metal. He knew the creature would have to open the door from time to time to clean out his waste--or at least, he hoped that was on the agenda--but had doubts in his own ability to reach the door before the creature would snap it shut again.
His thoughts were interrupted by a great sighing coming from the creature. Looking across the room, Spock beheld the creature lounging once again against its cushions, this time with a large tankard in its grip. He guessed that it was drinking something with inebriating properties, because when it spoke, its tone had become florid and uneven.
"Little bird!" it called rapturously. "You are to be my gift for the Holiday of Good Thoughts." More of the tankard's contents disappeared down its throat. "My gift--my gift for Hazo, whom I love more dearly than any I have ever known."
Spock was intrigued by the creature's melancholy.
His curiosity did not remain unquenched for long. The creature continued to explain to Spock that while Hazo had been its best friend for years, no intimacy had ever taken place between them and that it doubted quite seriously that any ever would--"I am so big and ugly," it reminded Spock mournfully. "Hazo is a delight to look upon and would not return my affection with anything but generous but platonic kindness."
Spock listened to everything the creature said about this Hazo. There was a very real possibility that he would indeed be presented to the other being and he reasoned that previous knowledge about any potential captor would increase the odds of a successful escape.
The creature grew more and more drunk, and told story after story about its adventures with Hazo. Spock was reminded of his own Jim, and missed him deeply. Although Jim never would have been happy in captivity, Spock almost believed that he himself could have enjoyed the situation if Jim had been there with him to share the nuts and berries and cuddle up with him on the cushion.
The stories grew less and less coherent as Gourd drank itself into a lovestruck stupor, and Spock was eventually lulled to sleep.
He awoke and found his predicament unchanged. In the days that followed, he tried as hard as he could to get out of the cage, but every time he ran for the opening door the creature proved too quick for him. He finally realized that matters were beyond his control, and his mind filled with thoughts of Jim.
Was Jim, all alone on the planet, looking for him right now? Or had the Enterprise arrived to search the surface hills and meadows uselessly for Vulcan life-signs? For Jim to insist on staying behind to look for him if Starfleet called the Enterprise away again would be an illogical behavior that would break Jim's oath of command. Spock could not wish for or condone such an action. Jim's life was in the stars, and his duty was to the hundreds who called him Captain.
Spock would learn to be a wingless bird, stuck as he was in his underground cage within a cage, and try to enliven his soul with the years of memories he had left to treasure. At least these few short months since his return from Gol had given him more satisfaction as a living spirit than the entire balance of his life before his epiphany about human feelings had done.
He drew his meditation robe around him tightly as he slept, thinking of Jim's face. But he continued to take meticulous care of himself and meditated twice daily. The Vulcan disciplines would save him from the total ruin that the separation would have otherwise caused.
The Holiday of Good Thoughts arrived in due time, and Gourd bustled about the room for hours tidying up and preparing sumptuous dishes for itself and the honored guest on whom so much of its thoughts had focused. Spock sat on his cushion peeling berries, wondering if there was any point in actually trying to escape during his transfer from captor to captor, now that the Enterprise had most likely abandoned him for dead. Regular food, water, and shelter on an alien world could not be quickly dismissed.
There was a knock at the door, and Gourd's warted face flushed to a deep orange. "Hazo! Oh, I am faint... it has been so long." It rushed to the doorway and then composed itself with steady breathing. Spock pitied its lack of self-control and almost wished he could teach it Vulcan calming techniques.
Gourd opened the door and embraced its guest warmly. Spock could not see the other creature very well with Gourd in the way, but he could see enough of it to realize that it was of the same type as Gourd--orange and yellow, large, and covered in warts. "Cazo!" boomed Hazo. "Happy Holiday!"
"Oh, Happy Holiday to you, Hazo, Happy Holiday," said Gourd, or rather, Cazo. "Welcome back to the village! It has been so many days."
"I do not hope to leave again for a long while," said Hazo. It was carrying something in a sack. "I have brought for you a gift, Cazo, from my long journeys. Actually, from not too far off."
"I have a gift for you as well," said Cazo, stepping aside to reveal the caged Vulcan.
"Ah!" said Hazo, laughing heartily. "Well, now, behold our like minds. I, too, have a live present." And he stuck his hand inside the sack and pulled out--Jim Kirk.
"Jim!" Spock shouted, running to the side of the cage nearest him and holding onto the bars with both hands, as if he might pull them apart to let him through.
Jim whipped his head around when he heard Spock's voice and let out a peal of weak laughter. "Spock!" he cried with relief. "I've found you!"
"They do squeak a lot, don't they?" Cazo remarked. "I wonder what they are." It sneezed delicately into its hand.
"They look like wingless birds," Hazo replied. "Let us let them share the cage while we take our repast." And without another word, it opened the cage door and dumped Jim unceremoniously inside.
As the two creatures began to eat their festive supper, Spock inspected his companion. Jim was nude, as he had been when Spock had seen him last, bathing in the lake, but during the passing time his body had been marked with scratches and bruises and covered all over with dirt. Spock embraced him gently and led him to the cushion. "What happened to you?"
Jim didn't have the strength to respond until Spock gave him water, cupped in a fresh empty nutshell. "Spock..." He clutched Spock's wrist as tightly as he could in one hand.
Spock fed him the berry he had just finished peeling. Finally, Jim had gathered enough strength to explain. "I was bathing in the lake when it took you," he murmured. "I ran after you without taking the time to grab any food or clothing. I've been tracking the footsteps for days... running most of the way. I'd say I haven't slept, but I think I passed out in that big thing's sack for several hours."
"I will clean you," said Spock. He ran a hand fluidly over the line of Jim's body. Then he dipped a portion of rags in the water and carefully washed away a good amount of the dirt from Jim's skin. He made sure to be extra gentle with wounded areas, which were fortunately all surface scrapes. Then he fed him more berries, which, being simple sugars, quickly gave him strength, and some of the nuts as well.
"Why do they think we're birds?" Jim asked, looking more like himself now.
"Because they hear our voices as a high-pitched squeaking," Spock explained.
"Ah," said Jim, leaning back against Spock. "I've missed you so much. I can't believe we got cheated out of our shore leave."
"I am far too pleased to see you again to be concerned with shore leave," said Spock.
"I was frantic to find you, you know."
"You ran for days, barefoot and naked, to find me?" Spock asked, looking into his eyes.
"I'd do it again," Jim blurted out. "Just... stay found... please?" There was humor in his voice but pain in his eyes. He held Spock's face in his hands.
Spock continued cleaning him up, tenderly dabbing the wet cloth against Jim's inner thighs. Not surprisingly, Jim's penis stiffened at the contact. Spock took advantage of the physiological transformation to make sure that area was clean as well. He was gratified to see that it was undamaged by cuts or scrapes.
"Spock?" Jim asked. "Will you... lie on top of me, and rub against me?"
Spock eyed him critically. "Are you certain you have the strength for such activities?" Sometimes Jim overreached his own abilities.
"I just want to feel that you're there," Jim pleaded, his expression very boyishly cajoling.
"Very well," Spock agreed. He glanced over at their captors, who were devouring another course of the feast at the far corner of the room and thoroughly ignoring them. "Are you comfortable?"
Jim lay back against the cushion. "After the past few days, I think anything horizontal is comfortable," he quipped. The he held out his arms and engulfed Spock.
Beneath the open robe they pushed together, embracing and letting every inch of naked flesh touch naked flesh. They covered each other with kisses and quickly lay spent in a tangle of robe and limbs.
Jim's head lolled to the side as he lazily absorbed the pleasure of Spock's touch. "I think we've been noticed," he remarked.
Cazo and Hazo were watching them from the table. "They will breed," Hazo remarked, sneezing. "Excuse me."
"If each breeds," Cazo reminded Hazo. "We do not know that they will both bear young."
"That is true," said Hazo, "...my smart friend. I wonder if you would permit me to ask you if you would consider being my mate? My journey has taught me that I must not travel too far from you in future days."
Cazo knocked over a tankard in happy shock, then sneezed violently. "Yes! Yes, oh, Hazo, how I have yearned for this moment."
They stood, and embraced, but then both creatures sneezed before any further passion could be consummated. "Why do we sneeze?" Hazo asked.
"It is the birds," Cazo replied woefully. "We are allergic! I noticed a mild itching when it was just the one, but now that there are two, it has grown far worse."
"I have ruined your gift," Hazo said mournfully.
"No, we shall be each other's gifts, and let these birds go free," said Cazo. "Happy Holiday, Hazo."
"How smart you are again, my Cazo."
While Cazo cleared away the dishes, Hazo scooped Kirk and Spock up together in a single hand and carried them outside the underground village in his sack. He left them on the far side of the door in the rock on a soft patch of grass. "Farewell, little birds!" he called as he went to rejoin his new mate.
Kirk watched him leave. "The Enterprise should be looking for us right about now," he surmised. "This is just about when our leave was supposed to end."
"But we are days' journey from our communicators," Spock pointed out. "They would have to search the surface for human and Vulcan life signs."
"Hopefully, that's what they're doing now."
As he spoke, a transporter noise announced the materialization of a communicator at their feet. Kirk picked it up. "Kirk to Enterprise?"
"Enterprise, Scott here, Cap'n."
"I see you've found us," said Jim.
"Aye, and without your communicators, too," Scott replied. "We beamed down when you didn't answer and found your camp deserted. We've been searching the surface for an hour, but this is the first we've seen of ye."
"We were in a cave," Kirk explained.
"Ah, that would put a glitch in the sensors," said Scott, adding, "Are you all right, sir?"
"Yes. And would you mind beaming down an extra uniform?" Jim added delicately. "I'd rather not beam back to the ship like this."
"Understood. Scott out."
As the gold and black fabric shimmered into existence at their feet, Spock raised his eyebrow at his partner. "If I didn't know better, I would think you wanted the crew to think I forced you into a cave with no clothes on for days merely to service my physical demands."
"Now, why would they think that, Mr. Spock?" said Kirk innocently, pulling his pants on but leaving the underwear where it was on the ground.