The next 15 days had been fairly uneventful. Cadet Uhura, who insisted he call her by Nyota, visited him 8 more times with her stay lasting for an average of 3.9 hours. While his efficiency dropped by 7.3% due to the distraction of conversation, he found her company pleasant.
Their conversations never seemed to stray far from Nyota's experiences in Starfleet or Spock's times on Earth, but they were comfortable. She asked about his mother a few times, and Spock would supply small stories of when he was younger. Why he had spoken of her the first day was a surprise to himself, as she was a topic he never brought up himself.
On the 16th day, Spock made plans to return to the VSA. Uhura would not be there that day, and he suppressed any disappointment he may or may not feel. Spock was walking from the common area of his home towards the front door when he noticed a difference in the decor. It takes him 0.34 seconds to realize the change. His mother had hung Kirk's painting in the foyer. He hesitated before walking past it.
"Oh, Spock," his mother called from behind him, causing him to stop and turn. "Do you have any free time today?"
"I am able to rearrange my schedule if need be," he said with a small nod.
"Good," she said, smiling brightly. "I was wondering if you could go back down to the artist market for me."
Spock raised an eyebrow. He had rather hoped to keep his distance from the noisy bazaar. "For what purpose?"
"I was thinking last night," she started, and Spock wondered why humans always seemed unable to answer simple questions simply. "Your father and I will be celebrating our twenty-fifth anniversary soon, and yes I know I will really be the only one celebrating but anyway, I thought it would be a lovely present to get a family portrait."
Spock looked at her slightly surprised. "We have many recent holo-images."
"Oh yes, I know, but holo-images can be so… dull. They're so common. Paintings are far more vibrant."
He cannot help but speculate if this fascination with art and it's supposed 'life' is a human trait, or if that artist somehow spoke and convinced his mother to believe the same ideas he had tried to convince Spock.
"I would like you to go find out how we can get one. I know you and your father would never agree to actually pose for a portrait for a long period of time, but if it could somehow be done with a very brief sitting, I'm sure I could convince Sarek to at least sit for a short time without complaining how inconvenient it is."
Spock frowned slightly. "Vulcans do not complain."
She gave him a knowing smile. "Oh believe me, they do."
He held back from further argument. "Is there a specific artist you want to paint it or shall I find one?" he asked, although he was sure he knew the answer. He decided to be optimistic and assume he was wrong.
"Why don't you speak to the young man who made the painting I bought? James Kirk, I believe his name was."
Spock had been prepared to stop himself from wincing. "The man we spoke with at the stall?"
"Yes. Blond hair, blue eyes. Very handsome."
He hesitated. That artist had been very imposing and did not seem to recognize personal space. However, if it was his mother's wish, he knew he could not deny her. "Very well. I will go this afternoon."
"Thank you, Spock," she said, wearing the small smile she usually did when she managed to convince either her husband or son to do something for her that was not particularly logical.
He nodded before leaving the house to return to the VSA.
Spock continued his research as planned, but ceased early to give himself enough time to speak to Kirk and return home at his regular time. Before going to the bazaar, Spock found a quiet room in the VSA and meditated in an effort to prevent him from being affected so strongly by the crowd of aliens again.
Once he arrived, he noted he was not addressed as often as he had been when he was with his mother. Perhaps the vendors knew that, being Vulcan, he could not be easily persuaded into buying anything.
Spock made his way to the stall that had contained the blue-eyed artist, but there appeared to be no one currently there. He did not think it wise to leave one's wares unattended. A Vulcan would not steal, of course, but there were many aliens here not known for logical thinking. Soon however, a woman walked out from behind a thick curtain that separated the back into a storage area. He walked forward to the tall blonde who smelled faintly of turpentine. "Excuse me," he said.
"Yes?" she asked. She looked up at him from the counter where she had been writing price tags and suddenly blushed brightly. "Y-yes?" she said again more meekly.
He studied her a moment. "Are you ill? You appear to be flushed."
Her face turned even redder and she quickly shook her head. "No, no. I'm fine. Is… is there something I can do for you?"
"I am looking for another artist who operated this stall 16 days ago," he said.
She glanced around the stall as if to suddenly find him. "Many artists work here. Do you know their name?"
"His name was James T. Kirk."
"Oh, Jim? He's actually a few stalls down." She waved down the street. "The one with the tan burlap over it."
Spock nodded. "Thank you," he said and retreated out of the stall away from the peculiar blonde.
He walked past five stalls until he came to one with burlap casting it in a permeable shadow. He could see two figures obscured by the course canvas. Although the ambient noise made it difficult to hear them perfectly, he could still understand their conversation.
"Tell me you punched that guy's lights out."
"Ouch! Shit, Bones, what the hell are you using? Acid?"
"It's alcohol. What else would I be usin'?"
"Jesus, you don't sell that to be drank, do you?"
"Sure. Scotty buys this all the time."
"Scotty doesn't count. He'd drink motor oil if he had nothing else."
"Probably. So what did they want this time?"
Deciding he had unintentionally invaded their privacy long enough, Spock pulled back the burlap and looked into the tiny stall. It was full of unstable-looking shelves with bottles of what Spock assumed were alcohol.
Spock looked to the back of the stall to see the artist he had been seeking. He was sitting on a step stool with an unshaven man standing next to him. Kirk seemed to have acquired a black eye that was swollen and a split lip since the last time Spock saw him. They appeared to be very recent. Kirk smiled widely despite his injuries.
"Jesus, Jim. Don't scare away my customers," the older man snapped as he put down a damp rag with traces of red blood next to a bottle of alcohol he most likely had been using as disinfectant.
"What are you talking about, Bones? I help draw customers in. And he's a Vulcan; I can't scare a Vulcan."
'Bones' seemed to look at Spock for the first time. He scowled. "What the hell's a Vulcan doing in my shop?" he asked, although Spock was unsure to who the question was directed.
"If you are worried about customers being repelled from your business, Mr. Kirk is not the one doing it," Spock commented dryly.
Kirk laughed brightly and hit Bones on the back with his hand. "He's got you there."
The man glared. "What do you want?" he demanded. "Either buy something or leave."
"I have come to request a meeting with Mr. Kirk," Spock explained as he stepped into the stall to allow the flaps of the burlap to fall closed again.
Kirk, who had picked up the rag and was gingerly dabbed at his lip that had begun to bleed again from his laughing, looked up in surprise. "What? Really?"
Spock nodded. "I have come here to request your services."
Jim smirked. "My services, huh?"
"As an artist," Spock added, suppressing annoyance. He should have known to specify, given humans' tendency to take things sexually.
"Why the hell would you want Jim to draw for you?" the liquor vendor asked.
Kirk looked up at him in annoyance. "Thanks, Bones. I can always count on you to scare away /my/ customers."
Bones snorted and turned back to place the bourbon bottle in with what could be assumed to be his private stash.
Kirk stood and dabbed his lip before giving Spock a subdued smile to prevent his lip from splitting again; the mild smile was oddly disconcerting, as it did not brighten his face as a full smile did. Kirk tossed the rag to the other man. "Thanks. Still on for tomorrow night?"
"Yeah. Sure. Whatever," the man grumbled.
Curiously, the negative tone did not seem to deter Kirk, who snorted in amusement and turned to Spock. "Come on," Kirk said as he lightly grabbed his clothed elbow, causing Spock to stiffen, and led him to the street. "Let's leave Bones to his booming business." Once they were out of the burlap, he let go and they walked back to the stall.
"Thanks, Christine," he said with a smile to the blonde.
She nodded to Kirk before giving Spock a shy blushing smile as she went to the back section once again.
"Lady's man," Kirk said, causing Spock to turn to him with an eyebrow raised. He chuckled as he went back to the counter. He took a few long moments rummaging around as if he had forgotten Spock was there. He finally stood and looked to Spock. "So, uh, what was it that you wanted to buy again?"
"I came to request your artistic services," Spock corrected.
A large grin grew on the man's face. "You want me to paint you?"
Spock stopped himself from blushing from the man's obvious delight. "In a sense. I came to commission a family portrait."
"Aww," Kirk said, though it was difficult to determine if he was truly disappointed because he was still smiling. "Well, I'll take what I can get. How about dinner?"
Spock's brows furrowed. "Clarify."
"To discuss the commission," Kirk explained with amusement. "Someplace a bit more informal and personal. I don't want to talk about something like that here." He gestured to the stall. "Need a place that's a bit more... intimate."
Spock hesitated before nodding. "Very well. Are you available to go now?"
Kirk grinned widely, his lip close to spitting again. "Now's perfect," he said before excusing himself and going to the back to tell the other artist he was leaving.
Spock had initially had a suspicion that Kirk wanted to bring him into a more casual setting for purposes other than business, however his expression seemed sincere. Spock remembered his mother claiming Kirk was not serious in his flirtatious nature; it was merely his way of interacting with customers. By his mother's positive reaction, Spock supposed this method of conversing with humans was effective. It was not going to work on a Vulcan.
Author's Note: Thanks to bigkitty-chan again for being my beta! I find Capel's hopeless crush on Spock so amusing. Thanks to everyone who reviewed. Glad to see some people are still forgiving enough to read this even after months of stagnation. Cheers!