Further Study Needed
by J. Rosemary Moss
"Hey there," said a friendly voice.
Spock glanced up at the blue-eyed human who had just sauntered over to his table. The man was smiling affably as he set down a pint glass full of dark beer.
"You present the appearance of a man with a problem," the stranger continued.
The man seemed genuinely concerned. He did not appear to have another agenda, so Spock answered his question. "The humans in this bar seem intent on—on making inappropriate advances towards me."
The stranger cocked his head at that. "I see. So, you, ah, have your pick of partners. That doesn't sound like a problem to me. But I take it you don't want the attention?"
Spock struggled to process the human's question. True, he was in a popular bar where such overtures were, apparently, expected. He had already noticed several couples meeting for the first time, but nonetheless leaving together. But he had chosen an unobtrusive corner where he could sit quietly and merely observe the social interactions of the human patrons—he wished, after all, to maintain a comfortable distance.
Why was it then that so many humans, both male and female, insisted on (as one particularly blunt woman had put it) 'trying their luck on him?'
The blue-eyed man grinned at Spock's hesitation. "It's a yes or no question," he said encouragingly.
He spoke with an American accent, Spock noted—more specifically, a Southern drawl. He was not in uniform, but that did not mean that he was a civilian. Given the proximity of this establishment to the Starfleet base, its popularity and the slim civilian population in the area, there was a 61.4 chance that this man was in the service.
The man was still smiling at him, Spock realized, with a questioning look in his eyes.
"You are correct," Spock managed. "I did not come here to engage in human mating rituals. Therefore I do not wish the attention."
The human's grin only deepened. "Then you chose the wrong bar, my friend. But don't worry; as long as you appear to be absorbed in a conversation with me, no other human will come onto you."
"Are you 'coming onto me?'" Spock asked, suddenly suspicious.
"If I were, I'd be more direct about it," the human promised as he helped himself to the seat opposite him. "Instead of asking if you had a problem, I'd have asked you if you wanted to flirt."
Spock raised an eyebrow at him, surprised at the man's audacity. He had not, after all, invited the stranger to sit down. Still, Spock found that he did not wish to repulse him. On the contrary, he was intrigued. This might prove to be an invaluable opportunity to learn more about human rituals.
"You would have asked me if I wished to flirt?" he repeated.
The stranger nodded as he drank from his beer. "Yes," he answered, setting the pint glass down again. "It's a surprisingly effective line. You look the object of your interest straight in the eye, smile and say, 'Hi. Would you like to flirt?' Most of the women I've tried it on found it charming—and it saved a hell of a lot of time."
"Had I been the object of your interest, how would you have responded if I had answered in the affirmative?" Spock inquired, his curiosity piqued.
The man took another swallow from his beer. "If you'd said yes to wanting to flirt? Well, I'd have flashed you this very sexy grin"—he paused to demonstrate—"and then I would have said, 'Great. You first.'"
Spock blinked. The stranger was not classically handsome, but his 'sexy grin' was surprisingly compelling.
"And then you would have said how much you like blue eyes on a human," the man continued.
Spock wasn't certain, but he thought he detected a teasing quality to the man's voice. "But that is illogical," he objected. "Why should I be partial to one eye color?"
"Oh, it wouldn't have to be true," the stranger assured him, setting down his glass again. "First of all, I'd probably buy it. And even if I didn't, I'd like you better for lying to me about my looks."
"But that is—"
"Illogical?" the stranger supplied.
His grin grew even deeper. "So it's true about Vulcans and logic, I see. Well, yeah—you're right. But humans aren't very logical when it comes to their appearance."
He paused for another sip of his beer. "Now," he continued, "would you like to pretend to answer yes to my hypothetical question about flirting? It sounds like you need the practice."
Spock felt a faint blush creep into his cheeks. "It is unnecessary to practice a skill that I never intend to use."
"How do you know you'll never use it?" the stranger countered. "Even Vulcans can't predict the future, can they? So you never can tell just what skills will come in handy."
Spock frowned. He could not deny the logic of that statement. "That is true," he owned. "But I cannot lie merely to apply a compliment."
"So you don't care for my blue eyes?"
He was definitely teasing this time, Spock noted. "I said no such thing," he retorted. "I will admit that—that the color of your eyes seems to suit you. However, I am indifferent to such physical characteristics."
The stranger's eyes danced at that—apparently he found this situation quite amusing. "Well, in that case," he said, "you'd skip telling me how much you like my eyes and ask me about myself instead. Here, I'll go first to give you an idea. So tell me about yourself."
"That is not a specific question."
"Fine," the human said. "So what's your name? What do you do? I know by your uniform that you're a science or medical officer in Starfleet—and that in itself is unusual for a Vulcan. Serving in Starfleet, I mean. Now do you serve on a ship or at the base? Are you stationed here or just on leave?"
Spock cocked his head at the man. "Why would asking for such information be construed as flirting? Is it not common for any newly-met humans to ask such questions, even if there is no intention to bed each other?"
The human seemed to choke back a laugh at that. "First of all, flirting doesn't always lead to sex. I wish to hell it did—but no such luck. Of course, in this bar it probably does more often than not," he added with a wry smile.
"Second of all," the stranger continued, "everything depends on how you ask the questions—and how you respond. You have to be encouraging either way. And you have to make it clear that you're interested in what the object of your flirtation has to say."
He paused and gave Spock a thoughtful look. "I must admit that you've got that last part down. You appear to be hanging on my every word, sir. That'll take you far. Now just look equally interested as you answer my questions."
Spock took a deep breath as he formulated his answer. "I am called Mr. Spock," he said at length. "I am both first officer and science officer aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise. We are here to provide our crew with shore leave and to rendezvous with our new chief medical officer."
The blue eyes widened at that. For a long moment, the stranger didn't say anything. Then a slow smile spread across his face. "Indeed?" he asked at last. "So tell me, Mr. Spock, how does a Vulcan end up in Starfleet—and aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise, no less? I thought Vulcans preferred to stick tight with other Vulcans."
Spock stiffened. "Surely the scientific opportunities provided by the Enterprise are explanation enough? But I find that I am also a corrective presence aboard a ship full of irrational humans."
The stranger's eyebrows shot up at that—but then he favored Spock with another slow smile. "Touché," he said. "I deserved that, didn't I? But I can't help thinking that those irrational humans must occasionally act as a corrective to your logic."
"Certainly not," Spock insisted. "Logic requires no corrective."
"Is that so?" he asked. "Well, perhaps you'll meet a human one day who will convince you otherwise."
"The odds of that happening are quite low."
The stranger took another swallow of his beer. "Do you know something? I think I'll take on that mission myself. I'd like to make you see that logic sometimes does need correcting."
Now Spock's eyebrows shot up. "You seem intelligent enough to realize that you won't change my mind on this subject over the course of one conversation. Therefore, to complete your mission, you must be planning on seeing me again."
The stranger grinned. "That, Mr. Spock, is inevitable. I suspect we'll be working rather closely together for the next—oh, almost five years."
Spock stared at him. "Then you must be—"
The stranger held out his hand. "Dr. Leonard H. McCoy, new chief medical officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise, at your service."
"I see," Spock managed, shaking the doctor's hand as briefly as possible. He had learned to adapt himself somewhat to this human greeting, however distasteful he found such unnecessary contact. "Allow me to assure you, Doctor, that your personal mission is not likely to prove a success."
"We'll see about that," McCoy responded amiably. "Meanwhile, though, it's your turn. Ask me about myself."
"With what object? You have just introduced yourself—I know who you are, what you do and where you will be serving."
McCoy flashed him a patient smile this time. "So ask me where I'm from. And keep looking interested."
But Spock shook his head. "While it would no doubt prove interesting to learn more about your origins, it would be inappropriate to do so under the guise of flirting. I appreciate the information you've shared, but given that we are both serving aboard the same ship, the lesson must cease."
"Why would it be inappropriate?" the doctor asked, looking genuinely surprised. "No offense, Spock, but you need the practice. Besides, this flirting isn't real. And even if it was—well, do you mean to tell me that there are no shipboard romances aboard a vessel the size of the Enterprise?"
"Regrettably, they do exist," Spock assured him. "But I would not forgive such a human weakness in myself—nor even the appearance of it."
The doctor laughed. "Careful—don't let those pointy ears of yours go to your head. I've never heard it said that Vulcans have achieved perfection."
Spock gave him a sharp look at the reference to 'pointy ears'—but that gentle teasing in the doctor's voice made it impossible to take offense. "I have not said so either, Doctor. However, unlike humans, Vulcans control the emotions that lead to unsuitable pairings."
"Is that so?" McCoy asked, his eyes dancing again. "Well, I'll resist the urge to prove you wrong on that score too—I can only handle one life mission at a time."
He paused and stood up. "Well, where to now? I still have a few hours of freedom left before I have to report to Jim—uh, to Kirk, that is. There's a pub not far from here with traditional Irish music. Should we take a look?"
Spock raised his eyebrow again. He had not missed the fact that McCoy had casually referred to their captain as 'Jim.' So he and Jim were likely friends—that explained why Jim had gone to so much trouble to ensure that one Dr. Leonard H. McCoy became the new chief medical officer.
Fortunately, Spock knew that Jim would not have pulled strings to have McCoy brought aboard if the doctor was not fully qualified. For Jim, the needs of the Enterprise always came first—even before friendships.
Meanwhile, Spock was unsure how to react to the doctor's invitation. McCoy seemed to take it for granted that they should spend the next several hours together—despite the fact that they had only just met. Apparently, the doctor already considered the Vulcan both a shipmate and a friend.
"Was that a yes?" McCoy prompted, cocking his head at Spock. "Come on, I've got to start my campaign to teach you the limitations of logic."
Spock allowed the barest trace of a smile to cross his lips. "I believe the time I spend with you this evening, Doctor, will prove invaluable in furthering my study of humans. Therefore, to accept is only logical."
McCoy laughed. "That's the spirit," he said. Then he paused to shake his head at Spock. "It's going to be an interesting five years."
And that, thought Spock as stood up and pushed in his chair, was one statement on which he and the doctor could agree.