Enterprise High

being a high school AU of ST: XI

with many hijinks

and much angst

x

Chapter Forty-Eight: Balance of Terror

x

Kirk was utterly furious for a full half second. His view of T'Pring was tinged with red. He hated her and Spock and the stupid garden and everything and he couldn't believe this could happen to him. I would, he thought bitterly, fall in love with a half-alien only to learn that he's fucking engaged to be fucking married to another alien and—!

The rage went out of him like a balloon losing air. He sighed.

T'Pring, who had been watching him closely, whirled angrily on Spock—well, as much as a Vulcan could whirl angrily. "You have not told him?" she demanded.

Spock straightened, a slightly queasy expression on his face. "No," he said slowly. "I have not."

T'Pring raised her head so that she was looking down her nose scornfully at Spock. "Mr. Kirk," she said, not taking her eyes off of Spock. "May I have a word in private with you?"

"Uh," said Kirk. "Sure..."

T'Pring turned on her heel and swept away. Kirk glanced at Spock, who was apparently frozen to the spot. Kirk shrugged to himself and followed her.

T'Pring led Kirk all the way through the west garden, around the corner of the Embassy, and to a little clearing surrounded by Seuss-like trees that held a fountain and a few benches. She settled grandly on one of the benches and gestured for Kirk to sit down beside her, which he did, bemused.

"First," said T'Pring, clasping her hands together in her lap and fixing Kirk with an utterly unblinking stare, "I feel the need to remind you that Vulcans do not often interfere with the business or relationships of other Vulcans. This is a rare instance of such interference, and I would like to apologize to you for any awkwardness or offense you feel."

She fell silent and stared at him. Kirk stared back until he realized a reply was necessitated. "Oh, um, yeah, thanks, no, it's fine," he stammered.

"Good," said T'Pring crisply. "Second, I would ask that you do not report to Spock what I am going to tell you." She looked at him expectantly again.

Kirk went for honesty. "I really don't think I can promise that," he said. "I mean, obviously, if you tell me anything he shouldn't know, I won't discuss it. But if he already, uh, I guess, knows what you're going to talk to me about, then..." He trailed off.

T'Pring tilted her head at him. "You would not be a very good composer of confidentiality agreements," she said.

Kirk laughed, surprised. When he looked at T'Pring again, he could have sworn she was smiling. But next second she was solemn again. "I understand," she said. "Mr. Kirk, what I want you to understand is that it is my business what happens to my..." T'Pring hesitated, then used the Standard word. "... to my fiancé. Who he consults with, who he befriends, who he becomes interested in. These standards may not be familiar to your culture. It does not matter. Spock and I are Vulcan. We were bound in a deeply sacred Vulcan ceremony. We have not been unbound, and until we are, his business is mine." She tilted her head. "As such, my business is his. I have tried to discuss this with him, but Spock-understandably, I think-does not wish to grow too close to me once more."

Kirk looked at T'Pring's hands, folded gently over the box pleats in the center of her gown. They were small and perfectly manicured, closed in a form undoubtedly devised to best display the garish rings Vulcans wore on formal occasions. But her left pointer finger tapped occasionally on the purple stone set in a gold ring that covered her middle knuckle.

"I don't know anything about Vulcan engagements," Kirk admitted. "Or, honestly, all that much about Vulcan culture. I mean, I can tell a lot from Spock-at least, I think I can-but..." He shrugged. "Vulcans are very different from Terrans, but in ways that really surprise me." He sighed. "What exactly did you want to tell me?"

T'Pring blinked. "I mainly wanted to inform you of our engagement," she said. "It would be unfair for you not to know." Her voice grew icy. "I assume I do not need to clarify my intentions. As I have said, since Spock is my fiancée, his business is mine, and mine his. My actions are not to interfere, but to inform. I care about him. He cares about you. Thus, I care about you as well."

This was difficult. Kirk wasn't the best at diplomacy. He was sharp as a particle knife in most instances, but Vulcans, thus far, had all but confounded him. If he were being honest with himself, the majority of what he had attained from this discussion was that he suspected T'Pring of having emotions.

"Thank you," he said simply, "for your consideration. I think-" Kirk tried to place a polite emphasis on this "-that I understand what you are saying."

"That is all I can expect," said T'Pring, and Kirk was offended for a moment, until he realized that what she really meant was that she could not-or would not-simply come out and say exactly what she wanted to communicate, and thus she did not necessarily assume that Kirk would get what she was saying. Kirk wondered if this was the Vulcan way, or simply T'Pring's chosen method. But he did not want to ask.

"I also wish to ascertain your intentions towards Spock," said T'Pring smoothly.

"W-what?"

"What are your intentions towards Spock?" said T'Pring again.

Kirk's mind chose that moment to flash through an extremely large and vivid database of his more scandalous intentions towards Spock. "Um."

T'Pring nodded sagely. "Ah."

"I-" Kirk started to protest. Then he sighed, his head dropping. He felt like he had disappointed T'Pring, somehow. "I'm sorry."

When he looked back up, there were kind crinkles around T'Pring's black eyes. "Do not be sorry," she said, her voice gentler than it had been yet. "These are, I believe, the best of intentions." She added sweetly, "And if you hurt him in any way, I will kill you slowly."

x

Spock paced. He felt awful, and he paced more.

T'Ryne, a philosopher from the last century, had spoken on the ethics of disclosure. Spock closed his eyes and pictured a paragraph from her most famous essay. Within the banns of our society-for our society is constrained by banns-there are rules as strong as natural laws. One is that a Vulcan must not interfere in the affairs of those she is not bonded to. The betrothed, the spouse, the family-adopted or biological-until a degree removed five times: these are the basic webs of Vulcan entanglement. So what banns embody the relationship between a woman and her spouse's sexual partner, a man and his sixth cousin, a matriarch and her great-great-great-great-great grandson?

That was the problem, though. T'Ryne's ideas about extra-bonded communication were never fully accepted by Vulcan society, and Spock knew for a fact that T'Pring's father followed the philosophy of T'Ryne's intellectual opposite, Sarenel.

It was an awful cycle. What would T'Pring say to Kirk? What did she feel she was allowed to say-or even allowed to imply? What, of her implications and statements, would Kirk understand? Most importantly-Spock swallowed-would Kirk be disappointed in him?

He stopped pacing. That was what he was afraid of. Spock let the fear of it wash over him: Kirk, looking at him with sad eyes, sighing that Spock had fallen short of his expectations.

Worse still, Spock had had plenty of opportunity to tell Kirk. When he had told Kirk about his past, about his youth as the wrong sex, he had discussed his relationship with T'Pring in detail-but not quite enough detail. It was not as if Vulcans were not allowed to disclose marital status to outsiders. Certainly it was forbidden to describe Vulcan ceremonies and mating behaviors, especially pon farr, to non-Vulcans. But the betrothal itself, even a brief description of the psychic bonding that occurred... this could be discussed with friends of sufficient closeness.

The question then became, Why? Spock clenched his fists and focused on his traitor mind. Why had he not told Kirk? He remembered the emotional turmoil of that night-but he also remembered that he had not even considered mentioning the betrothal to Kirk. It did not seem to be... related... to the tale he wished to convey. His was a story about sex and gender and youthful fear and confusion and pain. His tale was not meant to complicate, but clarify.

Spock sighed. He felt slightly better. He had not meant to deceive Kirk, not really. He had simply not wished to trouble him more. Admittedly-and Spock knew this, and it pained him-admittedly he should have told Kirk later, or even before, about his connection to T'Pring. And yet it was not a solid thing between them.

This was the other problem, the other complication that he did not know how to handle. It was not unheard of for Vulcans to break their bond. Most bonded Vulcans spent their lives together. They developed a connection in their youth, were bonded, attended the same schools and even worked in the same places. Then when the bloodlust came upon them, they consummated their sacred marriage. They made a new family together. For those Vulcans whose bonds were not as strong, the separation was obvious, the bond dissolved at or before pon farr by mutual agreement and accord.

But Spock and T'Pring did not even have that. They were as friendly with each other as Vulcans would be, but they did not seek each other out, and more importantly, Spock had no idea how to talk to T'Pring. She was the perfect Vulcan woman-the model of everything Spock himself should have been. Smart as a t'lengu, skilled, competent, attractive, and even a little charismatic. And here he was, only half a Vulcan in the first place, lumped into the wrong body, awkward in a way other Vulcans would not accept, intelligent yet only for his own gain, full of past mistakes and future troubles, and worst of all, falling in love with a human...

The old despair began to well up in him. He did not fit. He would never fit. He would never be a proper Vulcan, would never be acclaimed by his people, would never even be accepted by them. To save himself, he had cast himself out, and yet he still survived on the edges, a representative of Vulcan society to others but not to himself-

No. Spock stopped that line of thought. He had a strength now that he did not have before. He was Vulcan, and he was Terran: not neither, but both in one, and stronger for it.

Spock closed his eyes. His blood was redder and cooler than Vulcan blood, and like a human, he could hear it pounding in his chest when he closed his eyes in silence. He touched the rib over his heart and breathed in the garden scent. The ethics of this disclosure were clear. He was in the wrong. He should have told Kirk. He should have not jeopardize their relationship. He should learn to talk with T'Pring. He should learn better what it was to live with feet on either shifting side of the interplanetary line. He should continue on being himself, for that was all he could ever be, and while he breathed air, while he pumped blood, he ought to appreciate that.

It was a mercy that Kirk chose that moment to emerge from the trees. There was no sign of T'Pring; Kirk did not look as if he expected her to appear. He was smiling a little, and obviously thoughtful. Spock watched him walk forward, and before Kirk could speak, Spock said, "Jim, I should have told you."

Kirk nodded. "Yeah," he said. "You should have." There was a little sadness in his voice, but it was not disappointment. But Spock was not sure what it was.

"This is a breach that I cannot heal myself. If you can forgive me, please tell me," Spock said quietly. He looked up through his lashes at Kirk, not knowing what a picture he made.

Kirk stared at him for a bit, then burst into laughter. "Are you kidding?" Kirk wheezed. "Of course I forgive you! I mean, okay, I was a little pissed there for a while, but-god, it's like a sitcom. Love interest turns out to be engaged!" Kirk kept laughing.

Spock, meanwhile, had a very quiet aneurysm, because gods above-had Kirk just said love interest?

Apparently, Kirk did not realize the magnitude of what he had said. His laughter trailed off after a while, and eventually he was just watching Spock, a slightly stupid smile on his face. Spock was watching him back, trying to control his breathing and his emotions and his head and also other things. He probably looked very focused.

"Are you okay?" Kirk finally asked, a little line of concern appearing between his brows.

"Yes," said Spock steadily, even though for once his life his intellect was totally failing him. He had no idea what to do. Kirk was acting just the same as always, like nothing was wrong at all. Like the world hadn't just flipped completely inside out.

"Well..." said Kirk slowly, still looking at Spock worriedly, "want to go study?"

"Um," Spock said. He blanched. Had he ever said um in his life? "Yes."

"Okay," said Kirk. He turned on his heel and headed for the entrance to the Embassy.

Spock took a last moment to calm himself before following. Gods above, what to do?

x

Kirk could be unbelievably slow at times, or lightning fast at others. He picked up on long, complicated strings of numbers and Greek letters and could calculate in his head as well as a computer. He wasn't the best at languages, but literary interpretation came easily. Sometimes diplomacy failed him; other times he was smooth as a criminal. He considered himself the definition of hit or miss.

So he put it down to a bad day when Spock started acting all strange and Kirk couldn't figure out why. Not only was he more flummoxed than he would have liked to admit by what T'Pring had told him, but now Spock was staring at him like he'd seen a ghost and walking around all hunched. Kirk felt like a total idiot.

Worse still, when Kirk started feeling dumb, it caused him to actually be dumb. They sat at Spock's dining room table working on physics, and Kirk kept having to look up really basic equations and concepts. He actually found himself unable to remember the eight types of matter at one point, having gotten stymied on number five, dark energy. He put his head in his hands. The review file was eighty-three pages long and he was only on page twelve.

"What is wrong, Jim?" Spock asked. He said it like he thought his voice was a hammer and Kirk was glass. Kirk hated himself.

"I'm an idiot," snapped Kirk. He was suddenly in a foul mood. Spock's face was too tragic for him to deal with. God, Spock never looked like that. He never looked so... lost. Kirk felt a warm rage in his throat. He didn't want to be around Spock. He hated how Spock made him feel, how uncomfortable he was around Spock, prickly and desperate. He started piling his datapads into his bag and putting away his other things.

"Are you leaving?" said Spock, an awful, sad note in his voice.

"Yes," said Kirk shortly. He shoved his PADD into his backpack, stood up, and slung it over his shoulder. "Sorry. I have to go."

Spock just nodded and hunched his shoulders. Kirk almost growled aloud. He stalked out of the kitchen and towards the entrance to the apartment.

Kirk was almost at the door when Spock was next to him. Kirk had not even heard him come up. Like a sweet cat, Spock's shoulder pressed up against Kirk. He looked, very seriously, straight into Kirk's eyes, and said, "Do not worry. We will all be... okay."

Kirk didn't know what to say to that. Some of the storming within him died down, but he was still buzzed and irritated. Even so, the expression on Spock's face had changed. It was reassuring, understanding. Kirk did not know that nobody else, not even Sarek, could have seen that, could have seen and understood the microexpressions formed by the smallest curve of Spock's lip, the slightest tilt of an eyebrow.

Impulsively, Kirk reached out and hugged him. It was brief, warm, just a press of their bodies together, a little uncomfortable where Spock's shoulder was still angled into Kirk's chest. But in that short moment, Kirk felt Spock's hot blood against his chest, smelled his clean hair and sch'ola-scented skin. Spock was such a distinct thing, a package of glorious differences that Kirk wanted to unwrap and examine at his leisure, intimately and sweetly.

But Kirk had packed his things, and even with the hug, there was not a moment to be broken. The air around them was empty, and there was sadness in the very corners of Spock's eyes. Kirk had to smile, terse and blue. And then he had to leave.

And then as he was walking out of the front doors of the Embassy, he thought to himself, sitcom; he thought to himself, love interest.

"Holy fucking shit," Kirk said, and promptly ran into a wall.

x

The gathering at Uhura's house had long since broken up when Spock's face flashed across Uhura's phone. She was cuddled under her covers, reading a really terrible sci-fi novel, eating Nutella with a popsicle stick, and avoiding all the homework she had to do, so she answered after powering down her reader. "Yo."

"Greetings, Nyota," said Spock, speaking a lot faster than usual. "I am very sorry to disturb you at this time, but may I consult with you about a personal matter of some importance?"

"For sure," said Nyota, sitting up and putting the Nutella on her nightstand. She didn't want a repeat of the Broken Lid Incident; she had liked those sheets. "What's up?"

"I think Jim is in love with me," Spock said in a rush.

Uhura paused in the middle of licking the popsicle stick clean. "I'll be right over."

x

When Bones answered his phone, the first thing he heard was Kirk shrieking.

"Dammit, Jim!" Bones hissed, holding the phone away from his ear. "What the fuck! Ow! Calm down!"

"I can't!" Kirk wailed. "Everything is ruined forever! Spock knows! I am the single stupidest person on the planet! I am going to die alone and unloved!"

"Christ in the ketchup," Bones muttered. He had been stretched on his couch at home, reading the Odyssey for English class, but now he stumbled into his room and pulled his boots on. "I'm comin' over. Don't do anythin' else stupid." He hung up on Kirk's anguished wails, shaking his head. "That boy wouldn't survive a day in the wild," he told the floor as he tied his laces.

x

"Okay," said Uhura, trying to speak slowly and clearly and also not imply that she found Spock to be alarmingly obtuse about this whole thing. "So. Let me just get this straight."

She and Spock were sitting on his bed, I-Chaya laying between them and drooling on Spock's leg. Spock was petting the sehlat a little frantically and trying, quite obviously, not to be utterly panicked. Uhura felt a headache building in her left temple. She wasn't a damn marriage counselor, and she really felt like she had been involved in way too many aspects of these boys' relationship. Males, she decided, even half-Vulcan males, had the emotional maturity of seven-year-olds, and were just as needy.

"You didn't tell Jim you were engaged to T'Pring." She glared at Spock. "For that matter, mister, you didn't tell me you were engaged to T'Pring. Is it a national secret or something? Is this a Vulcan cultural thing I'm not getting, or did you just fuck up?"

Spock stared at his knees. "I fucked up," he said quietly.

Uhura snorted. Spock stared at her. She couldn't help it and started cackling. "I'm sorry, I just-you never curse, and it's kind of funny when you do."

Spock scowled at her. "Nyota, this is serious!"

Uhura sobered. "Okay. Yes, it is serious. I'm sorry. So, you didn't tell Jim about your engagement, and then it came out in kind of a terrible way, but-you think Jim reacted well to it?"

"Well enough, I suppose," said Spock. "I-I cannot understand emotions very well. Jim's reactions are confusing."

Uhura tilted her head at him. "I thought that you were better at understanding him than most."

Spock scowled. "For me, it is about fifty percent to fifty percent. There are times in which I know him to the bottom of his soul, and others in which he is as blank to me as unpainted paper. Now it is as if he is speaking fluently in another language. I hear him, I see his lips move, but I do not understand."

They hashed through Kirk's statement. Uhura thought it likely that Kirk, who bullshitted all the time, had probably just not realized what he'd said aloud. Spock did not think that Kirk would do something so careless, which made Uhura cackle.

"Are you kidding?" she said between guffaws. "Jim Kirk is a total fucking idiot! He's one of the smartest people I know, but-you've seen the batshit stuff he gets up to! I mean, the first time you met him, he threw himself in front of a full-throttle hovercar."

This was an excellent point. Spock thought.

"Then if he did not mean to say it," he said slowly, "it is better that he not know he said it."

Uhura frowned.

"Perhaps he will not recognize what he has done, and we can continue on normally." Spock was nodding to himself.

"Wait, no," Uhura said, "but don't you want to-um, you know-make out and shit?"

"I do not want to jeopardize our relationship," said Spock firmly.

Uhura waved her arms around. "Oh my God, Spock! You can't just deny yourself into a relationship! If you act like this hasn't happened, then, spoilers, you can't make out! You should use this as an opportunity!"

But Spock was shaking his head. "No, I do not want to begin our relationship on unsure footing," he said. "I will not mention this to Jim. Undoubtedly, he has no idea what he said."

x

"I have no idea why I said that," Kirk was moaning when Bones finally tramped into his room. Winona had let him in wordlessly and pointed a thumb over her shoulder at Kirk's room, from which agonized wailing could be heard. "I am an idiot. I'm the stupidest person on the planet. I don't deserve to live!" He started beating his fists on his pillow.

"Good lord," Bones muttered. He picked up the cup on Kirk's nightstand, checked its contents, grinned, and threw it on Kirk.

"What the fuck!" Kirk spluttered and wiped frantically at his face. Bones bent over, wheezing from laughter.

"I'm sorry, Jim, I just had t' snap you outta it." He grinned evilly. "Aren't you used t' that kinda thing by now?"

"Oh my god, Bones, gross," muttered Kirk, pulling his duvet over his head to dry himself off. "No, you asshole, I am not used to that."

Bones sat down at Kirk's wobbly desk chair. "So what'd you do this time?"

Kirk explained the situation, complete with grand reenactments. (His bookcase played Spock. "Remarkable likeness," Bones commented.) Bones was frowning and stroking his chin thoughtfully by the end of it. Kirk eyed him.

"Do you have a beard?" he said acidly, but Bones ignored him.

"Seems t' me that you oughta talk t' him about it," Bones said reasonably. "I know your general stance is 'fuck first, ask questions later,' but you two have this weird, stable rapport goin'. You should get on that." He grinned lecherously. "In more ways than one."

Kirk threw his pillow at him. "Perv. But really, he looked like he was totally freaked out. I don't think he likes me."

Bones snorted loudly enough to blow the eardrums out of a mouse. "Are you kiddin' me? He's just as in love with you as you are with him!"

Kirk rolled his eyes. "Whatever. That is not true. He was all weird and trembly when I left and he said something about us being okay and I think it was just him saying, like, 'Listen, I forgive you for liking me, we can be friends in spite of this.'"

Bones clawed at his face. "No! God, Jim! He likes you back, that's probably what he was tryin' to say!"

Kirk's mind was made up. "I know him, okay? That's not what his reaction was. Fuck, I can't possibly talk to him about this again-he's already concluded it. No, never mind-that was dumb of me, really dumb, but it's over."

Bones's face started twitching.

x

March drizzled into April. Heavy blankets of fog laid themselves across the waters every morning, until one Monday, when the Bay woke up to bright sun and folded, finally dry umbrellas.

Most of Enterprise High dragged itself into school early that day, glaring resentfully at the sun. As luck would so brilliantly have it, that Monday was the first day of Advanced Placement testing, and nobody had any time at all to enjoy the gorgeous weather.

Exhausted test-takers filed into the waiting room outside the testing chamber like they were on a death march, cheerful sun mocking their trek inside. Chapel noticed a pile of student in a black jacket, reeking of pot and coffee, collapsed against a pillar outside the testing room. She poked it hesitantly with her toe. "Hello?" she said, worried. "Are you alive?"

"No," Sulu moaned. "I've passed on. Tell College Board to stop sending me emails."

"In your wildest dreams," sighed Chapel, sliding down the pillar to sit next to him. "Where's Pavel? Isn't he generally three hours early for these types of things?"

"In the bathroom," said Sulu. He pulled a chocolate bar out of his pocket and consumed it in two bites. "He drank so much coffee I think his bladder is going to burst."

"Oh, Jesus," said Chapel, trying to imagine the already-hyper Chekov on that much caffeine. "How have you survived?"

"It's been tough," said Sulu.

Scotty came in equipped with ten sandwiches in a mini-fridge in his bag and was so busy rereading his textbooks that he tripped over Sulu's sprawled body. Uhura only looked alert because she'd gotten an expresso shot (even though those were definitely illegal) and also had some espresso. Spock looked perfectly normal except for the fact that his clothes were on backwards and his generally alert expression was actually, if you looked closely, utterly glazed. Bones wouldn't (or, perhaps, couldn't) speak and almost punched someone who ran into his coffee. Kirk literally crawled through the door.

The first test of the day was Physics I, followed by Physics II that afternoon. Physics I was required for entrance to Starfleet, and Physics II looked good as well, so almost that was taking the first test would stay for the second. The proctor, a blond, white Terran who taught freshmen, escorted them in, grinning in a manner totally incongruous to the atmosphere. "He's probably all happy about the sun or some shit," Kirk muttered darkly to Bones, who merely grunted.

The students filed into their alphabetically ordered seats and picked up their styli. Slowly they filled out their demographic data, addresses, and personal information on large, AP-standard PADDs. Spock felt a pang when he entered his encryption key, which, as was standard, flashed once on the screen and was gone. His father's encryption key, writ in ambassadorial purple, glowed briefly in his mind.

Even for the smartest in the class, the test was grueling. Kirk went into shutdown mode, and felt as if he were coming out of a coma when the fourth hour was up and the PADD he was still checking answers on abruptly switched screens and sent his data. There was a little shriek from somewhere behind him-apparently someone hadn't been done. Kirk looked around and saw Bones, very quietly, break his stylus in two.

They all went to Dynamo's, a little way down Ghreywack, for lunch. Dynamo's was normally a rousing place, but the students who filed in talked almost none, and what they did say was in tearful whispers. By a quarter to one, everyone had their Physics II study guides out. "Lambs to the slaughter," Gaila sighed as they filed out at one on the dot. By one thirty, the cycle of pain had begun again.

So the weeks went. Physics, chemistry, English language and literature, math, environmental science, music, biology, social history, political history, art history, science history, governments, culture, various languages and their literature counterparts, economics, statistics, psychology, sociology, art, computing science, engineering, agriculture, logic, and rhetoric. The list endless, the scheduling complicated, the tantrums frequent, the students pushed on, driven by success, money, fame, pride, and parents. The new hovercar, almost complete, lay forgotten in its garage for two full weeks, collecting dust. Scotty didn't look over the plans for a full week, Sulu didn't have time for his flight simulator, and Spock lost his worry in studies.

The sun shone not on all on the glorious final Friday of testing, but nobody cared. As the students streamed, for the last time, out of the testing room that had been their prison, somebody set off a confetti bomb. Laughing and clutching each other, Kirk and Chapel, with Sulu and Chekov following closely, dragged themselves out of the crowd hurrying to their cars.

Sulu pulled the PADD he had been taking notes on, set it gently on the ground, and stomped on it. Kirk flinched. He didn't have quite enough money to do the same, even though he completely understood the sentiment. Chapel and Chekov laughed as Sulu leapt around on the pieces.

"You know what's totally unfair about all of this?" Chapel reflected as Sulu gathered up the pieces of his PADD and conveyed them to a nearby garbage can. "I don't even have a dress yet. I'm going to have to go shopping tonight. I can't possibly go tomorrow morning!"

Sulu pouted. "I wanted to get a dress too, but I really don't have time."

It took Kirk a while to figure out that they were talking about prom. "Oh my god," he burst out, "is that tomorrow?"

Sulu, Chekov, and Chapel stared at him. "Yes," said Chekov, very slowly and emphatically.

"Fuck," said Kirk, "I need clothes too!"

x

Which was how all eight members of the hoverclub, plus Gaila, ended up at the mall that evening.

Nobody was sure why Spock was there, or who had asked him to come. They were all too pleased that he had actually decided to go shopping to question his motivations. "Obviously," he had said acidly to Scotty's question about his own anticipated purchases, "I already own formal garments. Thus, there is no need for me to purchase formal garments."

"Jayse, no need t' get twisted knickers," Scotty snapped back. "Ah'm in your boat as well—already got m'kilt for th' shindig."

That was a bit of a lie on Scotty's part, it turned out. He already had his kilt, but he was looking for proper shoes to go with it and dragged them to four different shoe shops.

Kirk didn't really have anything formal enough for prom, but he also couldn't afford something from the mall. All of the money he made at Gothos went to Winona, who distributed wealth as needed. He kept very little for himself, mainly just pocket change to spend eating and boozing, and on little things, like a t-shirt from the bargain bin at Harto. He figured he could cobble together an outfit with Aurelan when he got home. He smiled to himself. Most of his money had gone towards Aurelan's prenatal care. She was fit to bust, due in a month.

The girls all bought dresses (Gaila's outrageously low-cut), as did Sulu, Pavel purchased something furry and apparently both formal and Russian in origin that made Sulu swoon at him, Bones found a tux rental, and Scotty got shoes. As he and Spock were the only ones without shopping bags, they found themselves tasked with getting Sulu's and Chapel's cars from the auto-lot down the street.

"Did you go to prom last year?" Kirk asked, wondering what prom at this school was like. Prom at his school in Iowa had been a small affair accented mainly by crepe paper, which one of his friends had called "disappointingly 1900s."

"Yes," said Spock distractedly, typing the recall number on the auto-lot's user panel. The parking machine whirred and creaked and they watched as the two cars were shuffled towards them. "The prom committee is staffed by very capable people. The crepe paper is quite enchantingly hung."

Kirk scowled. "What about the music? And why don't they have it at a hotel instead of in the gym?"

Spock looked over at Kirk, his brow raised. "Jim, I do not know," he said, as if this should be obvious.

The auto-lot returned Spock's cash chip and expelled the cars. Kirk thought of something as he was unlocking Chapel's Subaru.

"Hey, all those dates you went on—are you going to prom with any of them?" Kirk asked, looking over the hood of the car at Spock.

"I am going to prom with our group," said Spock slowly. They had already discussed this over pretzels while waiting for Chekov to decide on eye makeup.

"No, but, like, are you meeting up with anyone there?" Kirk clarified. He hoped he didn't sound as desperate as he was.

"I suppose I shall greet people I know when I see them..." Spock said, obviously confused. He gave Kirk one last look and shut the door of Sulu's car. Kirk sighed and buckled himself in. That was the problem with crushing on Vulcans. They had absolutely no idea when you were fishing for info, not to mention flirting. Kirk suspected that he could actually shake his ass at Spock while wearing a g-string and singing "Come Love Me Now" and Spock would just think it was a weird human thing and give him the Eyebrow. Hm. Kirk watched Spock in the rearview mirror, considering. Maybe that was a good idea, even so.

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