The captain of the Enterprise sprawled in lazy abandon before the cabin's fireplace, reaching up to make a move on the chess board set up on a low table before the hearth. McCoy relaxed comfortably in a well upholstered easy chair, peacefully reading. Rain pattered on the roof, splashed against the window panes.
McCoy raised his head in delight. "Just hear that."
"Ummm," Kirk agreed absently. "Wonderful."
But the cabin's sole Vulcan occupant found the sounds neither familiar nor soothing. The pounding rain seemed ominous to him, as if all the water in the world were coming down in deluged torrents,
as if the forces of nature were set against the relatively fragile cabin walls. He could see the trees moving through the flimsy glass windows, branches swaying in the wind. He'd lived in San Francisco during his cadet years, but the Starfleet dormitories were far more sturdily constructed and insulated than this cabin. He was unfamiliar with being so …close…to this phenomenon. Except for landing parties and survival school trials when it was considered one of the hazards of the trade. That didn't lessen his discomfort now.
He fidgeted uneasily, unable to concentrate on the chess game he and his captain were engaged in, listening in vain for signs that the rain was lessening. But it only drummed harder, although that
seemed impossible. Wind drove a heavy gust against the cabin, causing the fire to flare up. Rain was being driven even down the capless chimney to hiss against the flue.
Spock flinched inwardly, but Jim, intent upon his move, didn't seem to notice or mind the howl of the wind or the slashing storm, and McCoy only glanced up appreciatively as a new gust seemed intent on loosening the shingles. The wind blowing across the chimney vent sent down an odd caterwauling.
"Nothing like the sound of rain on the roof, eh Jim?" McCoy asked happily. "That's something I sure miss on the Enterprise."
"I play the simulated rainstorm now and again when I'm sleeping," Kirk agreed, eyes narrowed as he made a decisive move, "but it's just not the same. It is a pleasure to hear the real thing. I hope it rains all night. That would just about make this leave perfect. A nice memory to take back with us. There," he sat back from the board with satisfaction. "See if you can logic your way out of that, Commander."
Spock shuddered at the thought that someone would actually choose to be tormented by a full night of this racket. He thought longingly of Vulcan storms. The steady swish of sand picked up by the wind was far more restful to one's sensibilities than this constant tapping/drumming/pounding/thundering/howling.
Startled, he looked into hazel eyes.
"It's your move."
He glanced at the board, reaching out a distracted hand. A crack of thunder startled him so that his fingers, reaching for his bishop, brushed against his queen. He stared at the board. By the rules of
the game, he now had to move that piece. There was no move he could make that wasn't ultimately disastrous. He shook his head slightly in frustration with his carelessness and tipped over the queen, signaling concession.
Kirk's eyes widened. "You're giving up so soon? I thought it would take me another half dozen moves to defeat you." His captain grinned to lessen the sting.
"I know when I am …out-maneuvered," Spock admitted. The thunder cracked again, and a rush of wind and rain battered the cabin, seeming to find every chink in the thin walls to piece through. Itbrought the odor of ozone and wet leaves in among them, and added to the humid chill. He shivered, feeling out-maneuvered in more than chess. Perhaps it had been a mistake for him, a Vulcan, to come on this shore leave. He was not human, and at the moment was feeling particularly alien and out of his element.
"Are you cold?" Kirk asked, his sharp eyes missing nothing, in spite of his relaxed attitude. "Come sit down here by the fire."
McCoy looked up from his book to eye the Vulcan. "Here, Spock, take this." He tossed an afghan down by his Captain.
"Negative, I am--"
"Now, don't you go catching pneumonia on me," McCoy warned. "For the next day at least, I'm a tourist, not a doctor. My medical scanner went on vacation too."
"But I'm still your captain, and that's an order," Kirk countered mildly. "Now, Mr. Spock."
Spock yielded to the inevitable and came down from his chair to a cushion on the hearth, where Kirk was loading a few more logs on the fire. Kirk threw the afghan at him and Spock drew it across his shoulders. He hadn't actually been cold, but the extra warmth of the blanket was lulling. The roar and crackle of the flames so near effectively countered the sound of the rain. And across from him, Kirk's smile almost rivaled the warmth of the flames. "Better now?"
Spock nodded, surprised to admit that it was so. "Yes, Captain."
"I'm on vacation, too, Spock."
"Yet I believe you just gave me an order. Captain." He raised a brow in emphasis.
More of that sunny smile, that vanquished even the sound of renewed thunder. "Did I now? I'd never give orders to a man on vacation."
"Aren't you having a good time, Spock?" McCoy asked, tossing aside his book. "Who wants a drink before bed?"
"A hot toddy, Bones," Kirk suggested. "Something to warm our resident Vulcan against all these deluges."
It came to Spock that what seemed a deluge to a Vulcan was a mere summer storm to his Terran friends. But he wrinkled his nose in alarm as McCoy dug a bottle out from his bag. "I don't care for--"
"I'll just give you hot tea and lemon, Spock, without the alcohol." McCoy plied the kettle, and brought the steaming drinks to the hearth. "To shoreleaves," McCoy said, raising his glass.
"To friends," Kirk said.
They both turned to Spock expectantly. He hesitated, then held out his mug of lemoned tea. "To rain."
"Hear, hear," Kirk said, looking surprised.
"I didn't think you had it in you to like rain, Spock," McCoy teased. "Desert bred cat that you are."
Outside the wind howled in parody, but this time Spock was armored against it. "Rain has its …benefits, Doctor." Spock replied."Even Vulcans can appreciate rain. And ...suitable companions." In gratitude for the warming blaze of the fire, the draping weight of the afghan on his shoulders, the hot beverage in his hand and the expectant smiles of his friends, he raised his glass again and drank to the rain, his shipmates and all its – their – beneficial effects. And his friends joined him.
"I always knew it," Kirk said, with a smile. "Now you get to come with us every time."
Spock drew a deep breath and admitted to himself that alien as he was in these surroundings, and in spite of the sound of the renewed deluge outside, he was more at home, at peace, with these two than anywhere else. "I would not miss it... for the world."
And the three shipmates clinked their glasses in tribute.