A/N: Hello! Glad to meet you all! This story takes place immediately after the movie, shortly into their first voyage, and (for those who've read Foster's novelization) gives a different setting and circumstance to Spock's query about the Kobayashi Maru. This is a single chapter short.

Rules of Conduct

Kirk placed his breakfast tray on the table, nearly missing the edge as his attention was now fully upon the couple across the room. When he first entered the cafeteria, Uhura had been alone, but something about her manner was anticipatory: an occasional glance at the clock, an occasional glance at the door, her attention returning to her food only after this brief cycle was completed. By the time the replicator was finished with Kirk's omelet, he noted her transitory smile and its subsequent eclipse as his first officer took the seat opposite her.

The couple chatted quietly for about 10 minutes, never touching, with no more than the most appropriate and benign eye contact, voices modulated to normal conversation. No one, other than Kirk (or Scotty, had he been there), would have guessed that they were witnessing anything other than a professional relationship. Uhura stood, inclining her head in a polite 'goodbye', and Spock stood in deference to human social norms.

There! Kirk thought, at last: an almost imperceptible brush of his fingers as she rounded the table to dispose of her tray, while Spock's gaze lingered briefly on the point of contact. He doubted anyone else in the room would have noticed the exchange, as subtle as it was, but he was certain that, for a Vulcan, it was a display of deep affection. Gathering himself and his tray, he moved to sit in Uhura's now-vacant seat.

"I don't get it'" he said, shaking his head.

Spock looked at him quizzically. "Good morning, Captain. To what are you referring?"

Kirk smiled and gestured with his fork toward the door. "I mean, what's the attraction? How does this thing work?"

"Thing, sir? Again, to what are you…" Kirk rolled his eyes in an expression that even Spock could not misinterpret. "Ah, I see." He did a furtive check of the room, calculating the distance of errant ears to their conversation and deemed their situation sufficiently private. "You are referring to my relationship with Lieutenant Uhura."

Kirk nodded, his mouth full of omelet. "Exactly," he muttered.

"I am somewhat at a loss as to why you are not able to fathom the reasons behind the attraction," Spock went on. "Nyota told me that you were quite relentless in your pursuit of her when you first entered Starfleet…"

"No, no, no…" Kirk waved his fork in a dismissive motion. "I'm not talking about what attracts you to her! That much is obvious!"

Spock raised an eyebrow. "So, to clarify: you do not understand why Nyota chose me over someone like … you, perhaps?"

"Well—yeah!" he replied, choosing to ignore the subtle upturn of his companion's features as they rearranged themselves subtly into the Vulcan equivalent of 'smug'.

"I would think that question would be best answered by her, not me." Spock replied.

"Oh c'mon. You know what would happen if I asked her…"

"I could hypothesize a number of responses, all of which would argue that the matter was 'none of your business'."

Kirk grinned. "Right. So, that's why I'm asking you." He set down his fork and gestured with his open hand, connecting an arc between them. "Spock, you and I have been through a big near-death experience together: fist fights, phasers, red matter... We should be able to talk about this stuff, you know, man to man."

Spock steepled his fingers beneath his chin, considering his companion's request. "It is part of the human experience, I suppose, to share such information with one's compatriots, and since I am attempting to understand that element of my genetic make-up, for her sake…" He folded his hands in front of him and took a breath: "Shall I begin with physical attributes? She finds many of them quite pleasing."

"Stop! Stop, stop!" Jim pleaded, holding up a hand. "That's not what I meant!"

"Then, perhaps it is the more recondite part of our relationship that concerns you, which, by definition, would be difficult to explain."

"Exactly," agreed Kirk. "But try." He shifted a bit, noting his first officer's entry into a more contemplative state. "Look, I don't mean this as an insult to you, Spock, but I … I'm having a hard time understanding how a woman who seems so deeply passionate could be drawn to …"

"…a dispassionate Vulcan?" Spock finished. His eyes seemed darker now, as if witnessing an old pain. "I believe that my parents' marriage has already proved that an attraction between two seemingly diverse individuals is, indeed, possible."

God. Damn. Kirk felt like a blundering idiot. "Geezus, Spock. I'm sorry. I never meant to cast aspersions on …"

"I realize that," Spock replied quietly. "Had I not, your query would have likely elicited a stronger response."

Kirk involuntarily touched one of the many injuries he had sustained recently, and grinned. "Yeah, I know." He waved his hand, banishing the topic from the table. "You know what? Forget I asked about that. I was really just trying to get to know you better, to establish a good bond between captain and first officer." He shoved his chair back, folding his arms across his chest. "Okay, pretend I'm in the hot seat now. Ask me anything."

"You believe that such an exchange would be beneficial to our working relationship?"

"Absolutely! C'mon, Spock. You're a curious guy. Hell, all science officers are! What have you been dying to know about me?"

Spock looked down at his hands, considering a number of questions. "How did you defeat the Kobayashi Maru test?" he said, after a pause.

Kirk smiled. "I slept with Uhura's roommate."

"I fail to see what one event has to do with the other…" Spock trailed off as he mentally made the connection. "Ah… I understand. The Orion woman, Gaila. She was the encoding specialist involved in program security."

"Exactly. Don't blame her, though, she talks in her sleep…" A slow smile emerged as Kirk made his own connection. "So you know who Uhura's roommate was at the academy," he said, relishing the discovery and its implications.

Spock's response came after a careful pause. "Yes."

"So, does this mean that you were involved with Uhura when you were an instructor and she was a student? Because most professors don't know and don't care who's rooming with whom, unless of course said professor is fraternizing with one of the roommates and does not want the other roommate to find out…"

"That conclusion is the result of an incomplete arc of logic…"

"You mean a leap of logic…" Kirk supplied, his smile broadening.

"Yes, that is the colloquial phrase," Spock cleared his throat and went on. "She could have imparted that information to me at any time after graduation, so it does not necessarily imply..."

Kirk leaned forward, cupping his ear for effect: "You know, I hear you rationalizing and redirecting, but what I don't hear is a flat denial, which leads me to the logical conclusion that you, Professor Spock, acted in direct violation of… hell, all kinds of Starfleet Academy protocol!" He smiled, taking note of his companion's subtle yet clearly present state of discomfiture.

Spock made another surreptitious sweep of the room before leaning forward and lowering his voice: "Jim. If this matter were made known to the officials at Starfleet Academy, it could at the very least tarnish her academic record, which I assure you, is entirely her own achievement. And at the very worst it could mean…"

Had he been in a more vindictive state of mind, he might have let his first officer go on entertaining all of the dire consequences, but Kirk decided the poor man had suffered enough. "Spock! Stop! This is me, remember? The guy who can't seem to follow the rules? I'm not gonna turn you in now!" He leaned back in his chair. "Besides, it's water under the bridge now that you're both officers. At least, I – um—assume it's okay …" He trailed off, looking as though he were trying to recall pages of protocol that he had likely never read.

"Starfleet Rules of Conduct: Article 215, Subsection 10," began Spock, who had clearly studied the pages in question. "Fraternizing amongst crew members aboard a starship is permitted, provided it does not compromise their work. Determination of any negative impact upon fulfillment of duty is entirely at the discretion…"

"…of their commanding officer! Yeah!" Kirk slapped the table, obviously thrilled over this new responsibility. "Do you know what this means, Spock? I am not only the captain of this ship, I am also the captain of your 'ship. Get it? Relation-ship?" He grinned broadly, proud of his impromptu bon mot, while his companion looked as though he was employing the full extent his Vulcan indoctrination in an effort to prevent himself from rolling his eyes. "Just think," Kirk went on happily, "the next time you argue with me over unimportant matters like procedure, regulations…hell, anything! I can just say 'article 214' or maybe just '214'…"

"215," Spock corrected.

Kirk waved his hand. "Yeah, whatever. I could just say the magic number, invoking my secret power, and you'll cave!"

Spock sat quietly for a beat, digesting this latest development. "I find it difficult to believe that you would resort to what would be labeled in the vernacular as 'blackmail."

Kirk laughed. "Spock. I'm kidding you. It's a joke." He paused as if waiting for some indication of amusement from Spock, but none was forthcoming. "Believe it or not," he continued, "I appreciate your opinion, even if it isn't what I want to hear. Besides, I'm beginning to think that we actually do have a fair amount of common ground between us."

"What leads you to this conclusion?"

"I may have broken a number of rules at the Academy, but you broke a biggie, my friend. You risked your reputation, your career, and your future, all for a reason that your Vulcan elders would deem completely illogical."

"I wouldn't say that the reason was entirely illogical, there are many facets of my relationship with Nyota that fit within the dictates of sensibility, such as…"

"That's not what I'm talking about, and you know it! Not only did you defy your revered protocol for her, but your first concern, when you finally admitted it to me, was for her, not yourself." He leaned back in his chair and smiled. "Why, that's downright romantic, Spock! And quite extraordinary, wouldn't you say?"

Spock took in a breath as if to rejoin, but then let it go. His posture relaxed, ever so slightly, and his expression changed to one of serenity. Kirk noticed this, and felt an odd pang of envy.

"You know, Spock?" he continued, his tone softening. "Your parents must have been pretty extraordinary too, pursuing a relationship that both humans and Vulcans would have difficulty understanding."

Spock nodded somberly. "Even I had difficulty understanding it, and was never convinced of my father's explanations until…" he paused, catching himself in a sigh. "After my mother's death, Sarek confessed to me that he married her because he loved her. Now, I…I find myself hoping that she knew of this, that he had told her…"

Kirk folded his hands in front of him, leaning into the table. "Spock. I'm sure she knew. Even if your father never said the words, she must have known. I may not be an expert on Vulcan mating rituals, but I do know enough to say that he risked bucking years of tradition and the dictates of his own culture to be with her."

"…as did she," Spock added quietly.

"Yes, as did she," Kirk agreed. "It couldn't have been easy for either one of them, but somehow, they made it work." He looked directly at his companion, who had, indeed (albeit inadvertently) answered his original question. "Like I said—truly extraordinary."

Spock inclined his head. "Thank you, Jim."

Shrugging it off, Kirk rubbed at his chin contemplatively. "You know," he mused. "I'll bet all that self-sacrifice is a real turn-on to most women. Maybe I should consider that tack on the pretty new ensign in Engineering."

Spock raised an eyebrow. "Of course, you're also aware of subsection 11 of Article 215, regarding liaisons between captain and crew?" He straightened in his chair, and very nearly, but not quite, smiled. "Since it would be an obvious conflict of interest for the captain to decide whether or not a relationship impacts his or her own job performance, that determination is to be made by the first officer."

Kirk laughed, his hands held high in a gesture of surrender. "Okay, okay! So we both have the power! I guess that puts us at a friendly impasse."

Both men rose, collecting their trays and methodically disposing of them. As they walked into the corridor, Spock slowed his gait a bit and mused: "Actually, as you and I are both well aware, the Chief Medical Officer can invoke his privilege of removing either one of us from duty at any time if he believes that our actions are in any way emotionally compromised."

Kirk made a show of slapping his hand to his forehead. "Oh man. You're right!" He lowered his voice to a conspiratorial level: "We have to start being nicer to Bones…"

Spock nodded, resuming his pace. "Indeed."

The End.