First of 24 parts:
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After logically assessing the situation from every angle, Spock was forced to conclude that he needed a vacation. The notion was inescapable; he was fatigued, distracted, irritated by trifles. Worse, he couldn't concentrate. It was most disquieting. He'd be on the bridge, and find that he'd long since lost the thread of his thought and had spent minutes merely listening to the beeps of the equipment. Or suddenly his attention would shift from his instruments to the murmur between two consulting colleagues, becoming so intently focused on their conversation (which typically was routine enough) that it seemed he had joined them. The effect was odd and intrusive.
More embarrassing was when someone else (almost invariably Nyota) noticed his lapse. Usually, she would speak his name softly, and he'd come to himself with a start. If he looked her way (a reaction he was striving to overcome), he'd find her watching him earnestly, sympathetic pain evident in her gentle features. Discreet as she attempted to be, her mute concern only made the matter more humiliating.
Therefore, a vacation was in order. He'd never taken a vacation; he'd never before seen the need. But clearly the time had arrived to... extend himself.
Unsure of the protocol (as he'd never been in a romantic relationship before, either), he broached the subject over a quiet evening meal in Nyota's quarters. At this young phase in their relationship, they tended to prefer meals with just the two of them—although if Spock were entirely honest, avoiding the discord of the mess hall would have an enduring appeal.
Seeing no benefit in delaying the discussion, he brought up the subject between bites of salad. "I have come to the conclusion that a vacation is in order."
Nyota's fork froze in midair. "Really." He couldn't tell if she was confused or merely startled. "This is sudden."
"You disapprove," he speculated. He had hoped that she would not oppose him, but her strained reaction suggested misgivings.
"By no means," she said quickly. "I'm just a little surprised. The Enterprise has only been underway for a month."
Forty-one days, Spock mentally corrected, but was too wise to interrupt.
"Doesn't it seem a little early for you to... I don't know— abandon our mission?"
Spock stiffened at the implied criticism. "I do not intend to 'abandon our mission,' Nyota. But I can no longer ignore the fact that I have been performing at subpar levels."
"You've had more than enough on your mind lately to affect your work," Nyota replied. The fact that she didn't refute him confirmed to Spock that his concerns were valid.
Reassured in his course of action, he continued his justifications. "My operational readiness has deteriorated. My usual stress-reduction methods are proving to be insufficient. Therefore, I have concluded that the best way to regain my previous efficiency is to remove myself entirely from the situation. Or, as a human might say, try a 'change of pace.'"
Nyota looked slightly sad, although he didn't understand why. "I should have known you'd have worked this out thoroughly." She sighed. "All right, a vacation it is. Where would you like for us to go?"
Spock froze. He had not foreseen this development, although logic informed him that he should have been prepared. Gently, he said, "I did not consider that we would go anywhere."
"You want to go by yourself?" She set her fork wholly aside. Spock reconsidered his tactics; perhaps bringing up the discussion over dinner had been a miscalculation. Neither of them was making much progress.
"The thought distresses you," he ventured.
"No! It's just that, I'd have thought..." She fiddled with the edge of her plate. "I thought you'd want me to go with you."
Spock reached across the tiny table to touch her wrist. He'd found tactile contact to be effective means of soothing her. "Nyota, this is not an endeavor in which you assist me. I seek to... re-center myself. I find myself drifting, unfocused. Even attending fully to this conversation is difficult for me. I must have a sustained period of time with no competing calls on my attention, nothing to distract me from the object at hand." He stroked her wrist lightly with his thumb. "Do you understand?"
"Yes." Nyota made a game effort to smile, but he could see the unhappiness pouring out of her, feel it through the wrist that pulsed lightly under his fingertips.
"But you don't approve."
"It's not for me to approve or not. That's up to the captain. But I don't like it."
"Do not humans take vacations with routine frequency?"
"It's not that. It's just... I don't think you should be alone at this time."
Spock considered. "If I were human, I should consider your analysis accurate. But I am not. I am... different."
"Vive la différence," Nyota said softly. She drew a finger across the part of his hand that was in reach. "All right. I'll take your word that being alone right now won't harm you."
"I assure you, it is the best course of action. I have become weak in body and mind. To recover, I must take prompt and vigorous action."
"Weak in body and mind?" Nyota half laughed. "Spock, you're the strongest person I know."
"I find that debatable."
"I don't. Spock, consider all that you've done, how far you've come—"
"Circumstances do not excuse poor performance. An objective assessment of my abilities would reveal me to be substantially impaired. Meditation is unavailing, and I find the execution of my duties insufficient to fully engage my attention."
Nyota's smile grew. "Only you would find the position of First Officer on a starship insufficient to engage your attention."
She rose, her eyes glimmering in a way that often signaled a mood of playfulness. She crowded onto the chair beside him, draping her legs across his lap, and traced a fingertip around his ear. He shivered from the contact, startling himself; was his physical control so eroded? But she only smiled.
"I think, my dear commander..." She lightly kissed his ear, "that we need to find some activity that will more fully engage your attention."
Spock felt his defenses crumbling as she nibbled his earlobe. "This... activity is not meant to be a substitute for my vacation, is it?"
Her tongue flicked against his ear, making him shudder. "Consider it an inducement to return."
He turned to face her. "I will always return to you, Nyota."
She pulled him in for a kiss. "You'd better."
Her distraction proved to be fully engaging. Later in the evening they found their half-eaten salads to be completely unsalvageable.