(I want to give a shout out to Kayleigh [McChekirkhan], who is awesome in so many ways. She helps encourage me, edits my work, and is a great friend.)
Author Notes: This can be read as Gen or Pre-slash. It is going to be three chapters. The medical condition that will be mentioned in this story is real, no matter how strange it may seem.
"We have achieved orbit around Alta-Terral." Hikaru Sulu informed the officers while at the controls of the Enterprise.
"Thank you, Mr. Sulu." The captain turned in his chair to survey the bridge.
"Well, Mr. Spock. I trust that you've already packed." Kirk smiled at his First Officer.
The captain put on his best chipper façade for everyone on the bridge. Spock did not look fooled, though it was difficult to determine from his habitually cool gaze. He had already observed that the captain's smile did not quite reach his eyes. Spock played along with the captain's jovial display for the sake of the crew.
"Yes, upon your request, captain." Spock replied.
"Good. Pack your mittens, because it's going to be cold down there."
"Mittens, captain?" Spock raised a perplexed eyebrow.
"They're an old fashioned Earth article of clothing. Nevermind. Has Bones said he's packed?"
"I can only speculate. When I asked the doctor, he objected strongly to my query."
Kirk sighed heavily. It was the first indication he had given of his uneasy state of mind.
"What did he say?"
"He stated that I should cease nagging him and that I should deal with my own business. He said it quite…colorfully." Spock's tone was neutral.
"I think he needs the break the most out of all of us. Don't take what he says to heart, Mr. Spock. He's overtired." Kirk entreated him.
Spock gave him a dubious look from over at his science station to which Jim gave a light smirk in response. The First Officer turned back to his scans of the planet. Kirk directed his gaze to his communications officer. Lieutenant Uhura gave him an expectant smile, awaiting his orders.
"Lieutenant, start sending the shore leave parties to the transporter room. And do give Dr. McCoy a short reminder." Kirk raised his eyebrows significantly.
"Understood. I'll tread carefully, sir." Uhura wore an amused expression. She started to relay the messages over the intercom.
"Mr. Spock, will you meet me down in the transporter room in 30 minutes?" Kirk stood and got into the turbolift.
Spock nodded. Jim gave him one last smile before the lift doors closed and he went on his way to the deck where his cabin was. There were some last minute errands he had to run.
They all met in the transporter room at the allotted time. They carried suitcases full of winter wear and leisurely items like books. Spock had to forgo bringing his lyre because of all the coats and pieces of winter clothing he had to fit into his travel sack. It was logical to be prepared, though that did not stop him from giving his musical instrument a parting glance before he left to meet the captain and the doctor for beam down.
McCoy had given them a small smile while they waited for Scotty to beam down several shore leave parties. It was taking longer than usual because of the different locations on the planet they were being dropped off on. There was a warmer side to Alta-Terral, and a constantly snowy and bitterly cold opposing hemisphere on the planet. The three senior officers were long overdue for shore leave, to the point that Starfleet was persuading the flagship crew to go on leave. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy had recently undergone gladiatorial fights on an uncharted planet in the FGC 892 system. The stress of the situation had worn on McCoy especially. When Starfleet heard of the situation, the admirals had been faintly appalled and thankful for Kirk's timely intervention in the affair.
Alta-Terral was well loved by the crew for its diversity of climate, and Starfleet had approved of their planet choice. Leave was granted and the Enterprise planned their trip via sub space radio. The senior officers were fond of the winter sport tourist areas on the cold hemisphere of the planet. It was rustic and traditional in an Earth sense. The old-time ski lodges and resorts attracted the nostalgic and the outdoorsmen. Kirk was both.
Naturally, McCoy had volunteered to go with him. When they found out that Spock was coming along, the captain had to rebook everything. McCoy had been startled when he heard of Spock's willingness to tag along. He chose to discuss it while they waited for Scotty to prepare the transporter.
"I have no idea how you got Spock to join us. What did you do, blackmail him?" McCoy asked Kirk.
"I am coming of my own volition." Spock frowned slightly at the doctor.
"Are you feeling alright? Normally, Jim would have to find some way to drag you away from work to go on leave." McCoy lifted a suspicious eyebrow.
"I am perfectly well, doctor. I am accompanying you both to ensure your safety. The extreme climate of the planet gives me cause to monitor the health and welfare of the ship's senior officers."
"So, you're coming to babysit us?" McCoy sounded unimpressed.
"Humans can be surprisingly fragile, doctor. You of all people should know how susceptible your species is to hypothermia." Spock replied curtly.
Scotty nodded to the captain to indicate that they were ready to be beamed down. They shuffled to the transporter pad. McCoy was dragging his feet, though due to weariness or to Spock's abrasive presence, it was hard to determine. McCoy harrumphed.
"Well, you aren't exactly indestructible either. You grew up on a desert planet. You sure you can handle the cold?"
Spock did not dignify the question with a response, instead he gave McCoy a look that was colder than the planet they were about to be beamed down to.
"Energize." Kirk prompted Scotty.
The captain was shooting faintly alarmed glances at his two friends. The argument of the doctor and the first officer was ended when their atoms scattered and reassembled on a public beaming pad. The three had materialized at a shuttle station. It was as warm as the ship had been, but the large metal structure did not seem like a place of leisure.
"We're going to take a shuttle? I thought we were going to beam right to the lodge." McCoy frowned.
"They don't allowing beaming at the lodge. It probably hurts the rustic atmosphere of the place to have people popping into existence. Just think of it like catching a train. I can guarantee that they still have trains on this planet." Kirk mused.
"Thank God it's a shuttle. I don't want to be rattled around in a train. They've already banned those old contraptions on Earth last year."
"Really?" Kirk looked momentarily put out.
"Don't worry, Jim. Like with anything, once they ban it, folks want it back."
Spock's lips curled into a slight smirk upon hearing the doctor. The captain led them both to the shuttle they were to board. The shuttle was small, and in a hover style. It was not made for high speeds, but it was sturdy. They paid and seated themselves. Kirk and McCoy sat in the back while Spock sat in front of them. The air in the shuttle was slightly chilly, though the station had not even opened its exit doors yet.
"I wish there were windows." Kirk remarked.
He looked up at the drab, gray colored metal that resembled a shuttlecraft. It was undoubtedly blocking the scenic view that was rumored to be on this planet. The terrain was fraught with mountain ranges and large lakes that were frozen solid, but still beautiful.
"The lack of insulation would allow the flow of cold air, captain." Spock reminded him.
"Like cracks in a log cabin."
Spock did not appear to immediately understand the reference, but he nodded.
Soon, the pilot arrived and they started off. The ride was cold and drafty and McCoy started to shiver. The doctor huddled closer than what was necessary to the captain. Kirk gave off more natural body heat than anyone McCoy knew. The captain did not appear to mind that McCoy was utilizing him as a human furnace. Spock remained unaffected. The science officer stared straight ahead while they moved and he was the first to stand when the shuttle stopped.
They arrived at the lodge. As they exited, they were subjected to the full force of a winter storm. McCoy had to stop himself from giving a startled squawk once they moved into the frigid air.
"It's like Alaska!"
Their fellow lodgers were also grumbling about the cold. They did not have long to absorb the sight in front of them. The land was cloaked with a thick layer of snow, like decadent icing on a cake. A tall structure loomed over them. The lodge stood three stories high; its dimensions were large. The siding was brick and wood. They all darted into the warmth inside, dragging their luggage. The cold made them move quickly, treading frost and snow onto the carpeting.
The interior of the lodge was furnished with faux animal fur, leather couches, and real wooden tables. The technology was severely lacking. There was little in the way of replicators or PADDs. Yet, the atmosphere was cozy and relaxed. They all looked around, drinking in the sight of their home for the next week. Kirk looked appreciative of all the small hospitable touches.
It was quite different from the ship where one could always hear crewmen working and the engines whirring. It was quiet in comparison.
Kirk took their key cards belonging to their room from the lodge host. The host gave them a friendly grin, only asking a few basic check-in questions for confirmation of their booking. McCoy looked startled when he saw the single room number they were given.
"We're all going to be in the same room?"
"It wasn't a cheap arrangement. I don't think it will be a problem if you and Spock refrain from being at each other's throats the entire time." Kirk raised his eyebrows at McCoy and the doctor gave a subtle eye roll in response.
Kirk handed them their key cards to the room and they went to drop off their luggage. There were actual stairs and an elevator available for the handicapped. Jim had been right, McCoy mused. It was very rustic. The nostalgia aspect had cost them a pretty penny, and Spock too no doubt. The Vulcan seemed too relaxed for someone who was supposed to be tagging along to monitor them. Perhaps Spock was beginning to enjoy the simple things in life. McCoy nearly snorted in response to his own thought. Imagine Spock enjoying anything.
When they went back into the lobby to mingle by the fireplace to warm up, they saw that a queue had begun to form near the kitchen doors of the lodge restaurant.
"Jim, I think they're giving out complimentary hot chocolate."
"Really?" Kirk looked bemused.
The welcoming gesture seemed highly unlikely. Businesses like these simply did not give away things for free.
"Hang on and let me go see."
The doctor vanished into the tiny crowd. The captain watched him get lost among the throng before he turned to the fireplace. The captain started to warm his hands near the flames, coming closer towards the heat. Spock stood unobtrusively by his side.
The lobby was quite welcoming. There were several game rooms, each with their own fireplace. Kirk, and Spock had chosen to be by the fireplace that was closest to the lodge entrance. The other lodgers had avoided it because of the cold drafts that blew through the area. They seated themselves on the wicker chairs near the hearth. The seats were not particularly comfortable, but they were handy.
When the doctor returned, he had three steaming mugs of hot chocolate in his hands.
"Go ahead and take it. It's hot!" The doctor was wincing slightly with his hands on the warm porcelain.
They quickly divested McCoy of the hot beverages.
"I can't believe they were just handing these out." The captain remarked, taking a swallow of the cocoa, "I hope they aren't going to tag it as a large expense on our bill."
"For heaven's sake, you're starting to sound as pessimistic as your First Officer." McCoy griped.
"He isn't pessimistic, and you know me better than that. I've just learned to look a gift horse in the mouth if it entails a nasty surprise."
"Well, it's free, so just enjoy the hot cocoa by the fire. Though, some of us might enjoy it more than others." McCoy glanced over at Spock, who was sipping from his cup as if it was still too hot.
"Problem, Mr. Spock?" Kirk asked.
"Indeed not, captain. I only wish to maintain sobriety this evening."
"Sobriety?" Kirk looked nonplussed.
"Chocolate is like alcohol to his Vulcan body, Jim." The doctor's mouth twitched into a slight smirk.
"Well, who would have known. Capable of getting drunk on a traditional child's treat, Spock? I have to say that your Vulcan quirks still have the element of surprise." Kirk said fondly.
"Try being his physician. Every time I think I know all there is to know about his anatomy he throws me another curveball. He comes out with that extra eyelid or his mating urges, or something to do with his touch telepathy. Next thing I know he'll tell me that those pointed ears of his are phaser proof or something." McCoy groused.
"Not that I am aware of, doctor." Spock raised an eyebrow.
Snickering softly, they continued to drink by the lodge fire. It reminded Jim so much of old Earth. He had read about scenarios like this in old literature or history books. People would hold social gatherings by a fire, sharing stories or simply reveling in the warmth of comradeship.
Kirk smiled fondly at his two officers and dearest friends. Perhaps Starfleet had the right idea by granting them leave. It seemed to bring his friends closer together every time.