Disclaimer: No, I don't. Because if I did, I'd try to find a way to make a certain Romulan take it all back. So there.



Jim Kirk was beginning to learn how very much it took to – perturb? upset? – disturb his First Officer. Perhaps it was good that he'd experienced, early on, that it was possible to do so, and what happened when something did. Somehow, that seemed to keep them all from mocking Spock too much or taking advantage of Vulcan equanimity.

And it was definitely hilarious to see the Enterprise crew tiptoeing around him at first as though he were liable to explode at any moment.

When new personnel were brought onboard, they had the tendency for a few weeks to stand really stiffly around Spock, talk all formal, and try to hide their fidgeting. But, after a few days, you always could tell the ones that the crew found less than impressive: They would be told the story. They gulped a lot. It was awesome.

Sooner or later, though, whether they decided to actually like the Vulcan or not, they all came to rely on the Zen-Spockness. On frustrating missions, Spock was cool and collected, and they all drew on that strong reserve. Nothing moved him. In fact, Jim had never seen anybody with the ability to stand so still for so long. The guy even looked comfortable about it.

Spock usually displayed curiosity, nothing more.

Eventually Jim realized that Uhura was right: Spock wasn't simply hiding his reaction to things, they just genuinely didn't get to him the way they would to anybody else. Jim supposed that if something did bother Spock, the Vulcan filed it away while he got on with the business at hand, and then sorted through it all later in meditation.

But now Kirk was on his way to Spock's quarters. He didn't want to go. Well, that wasn't exactly true: He knew that, as his commanding officer, he should go talk to him - wanted the guy to know he was concerned; but he was kinda nervous - if he was totally honest, maybe even just a little bit scared.

This certainly wasn't a feeling he'd expected to have to deal with today. He was prepared to deal with something else entirely: They had finally had an evening off at a Starbase.

Still, here he was.

They had called at the base to transfer some personnel; and get supplies, including certain specialized equipment for the Science Section. Obviously, Spock had been looking forward to this, and there was a lighter-than-usual something in his non-expression that made Jim ask impulsively, "Hey, Spock, I know you don't usually do the shoreleave thing, but several of us are going to go to the base lounge after shift. You wanna go?"

And Spock had actually accepted. (His eyes hadn't even slid toward Uhura, first.)

So, a few hours later, the group had shoved a couple of the small bar tables together, and were getting ready to enjoy themselves. Even Uhura had assigned a relief for a while – something she rarely did in dock – and joined them. Scotty, Chekov and Sulu had arrived first, and grabbed a good spot where they had the waitresses' attention and could take in the view. Perfect.

Then Spock had gone up to the bar to get something particular for Uhura, and Kirk took advantage of his absence to slip into the empty seat next to her. The evening was looking good – Jim had managed to make her laugh. And it was a good laugh, a real one, with her head thrown back enough to make the end of her ponytail flip, and show the length of her neck. She teased him back and they talked for few minutes before her eyes strayed, as they inevitably did, to look for Spock.

The Vulcan was talking to someone at another table - another scientist, presumably. His body was angled toward their own table, and as Uhura sought him, his eyes rose to meet hers. (How did they do that? Kirk wondered, bemused.) Spock gave the slightest of not-quite-a-nods and returned to his conversation.

Uhura was smiling, relaxed. She leaned over and said something to McCoy, who gave her one of his trademark wry grins and laughed. Jim grinned, too. Definitely a good night.

He knew he was lucky to have this crew: They respected him on the Bridge, and treated him as an equal when they were all off duty.

He realized that, given a choice, there were very few people he would prefer to spend time with.

Spock was on his way back, gracefully weaving between tables growing noisier and more crowded by the minute. Avoiding physical contact with other lifeforms was a pretty handy habit to have developed, Jim decided - and Spock made it look effortless. He managed to give lots of room to all of them without being offensively obvious about it.

Nevertheless, one big ugly guy, scruffy-looking, thrust his arm out and said something to the Vulcan as he passed; Spock dodged him neatly and kept walking.

The guy said something louder, meaner; Spock ignored him completely.

By the time Spock was almost back to their table, the big guy was up, following him, hurling - what? Insults?

Spock placed Uhura's drink on the table, two fingers quickly brushing the back of her hand as he turned to face the belligerent alien. His body language was as controlled as ever, his face as calm.

Uhura picked up her drink, took a sip. She was no longer relaxed, but she was doing a good job faking it. Apparently, Jim thought, she wasn't to get involved.

"For the comfort of the other patrons of this establishment," Spock said to the alien, quietly, "lower your voice."

The guy was now close enough for the rest of them to hear; Jim was already rising to his feet by the time he registered the taunting words. "'Seven years' passes quickly, yes?" The man's voice made the poisonous sibilants writhe. "Especially so far from the others of your species."

Spock advanced by one small step. It was clear he was not going to let this being accost the table. His voice was just a bit softer, just a bit deeper. If you were smart – and it was obvious this guy wasn't – you'd realize that that, maybe, was a voice bordering on the dangerous. "I suggest you return to your companions."

The burly man lunged forward, clearly intent on getting to Spock.

The other members of the Enterprise crew stood up: The table was still between most of them and their First Officer, but it was plain that, no matter what, they had his back.

The other was half-hissing, half-snarling. "Do you sense their cries across Space?" Burning eyes half-mad were locked on Spock. "Did you - then? Wherever you were, surely you didn't miss that?"

Spock had turned to stone. The alien managed to close the gap between them, then, and was right at Spock's side. "Tell me, Vulcan," he spat, twisting lips mere inches from one elegantly pointed ear, "do your dead scream, too?"

To Kirk and Uhura - to the two who were closest to Spock, and close enough to realize what they were seeing - the tiniest twinge of a muscle to one side of his mouth was as clear as a laser beacon: Spock was profoundly shocked. His eyes opened just a little wider; they grew blacker, deeper, bleak; then shuttered. He didn't breathe - and as the silence stretched, the stranger began to stumble backwards; one step, two.

Fleeing, he scuttled back to his table and sank into a chair, trying to make himself small.

Spock stood without moving for one more eternal second, then slowly turned. His empty eyes flicked over the people standing awkwardly around the table, resting on Uhura for a moment. His eyes closed, for the space of a heartbeat, and reopened looking into hers. He blinked. Glancing around at them again, he lowered his chin stiffly just a fraction of an inch, then turned away. A moment later he was gone.

Jim was sure Uhura would follow him. Perhaps she thought she would, too: She remained on her feet while the others reached behind themselves and collected their chairs. She gazed at the drink Spock had brought for her; with one finger she pushed it back to where he had set it down. Then she was standing in front of her chair - She was sitting.

No one spoke. Still standing at Uhura's side, Jim found he was reluctant to take the seat left empty by Spock's departure.

Uhura picked up her drink.

The din of the bar crashed against the wall of silence that had seemed to surround them.

"Well, now," Scotty said, and fisted his glass. In the next instant, McCoy muttered something to Sulu, and Jim went round to reclaim the chair he had abandoned. Time abruptly returned to normal.

The next hour or two passed more-or-less pleasantly. It certainly could have been worse. Still, once she finished the drink she'd been nursing, Uhura looked around the table and rose, favoring them all with a slight smile. "Thank you, gentlemen," she said.

Before she could slip away, Jim stood as well. "Miss Uhura," he said, "at least let me see you home."

"Of course, Captain."

The two said their good nights, and as they made their way out, Jim found himself suddenly weary. In the corridor, Uhura took his arm, and Jim allowed himself to think, just for a second, that Spock could not possibly know what a lucky bastard he truly was.

Then, memory hit: Spock. Damn.

So now he was on his way to Spock's quarters. He had stopped first at his own, to change, and then at the Bridge, because, well, he was the Captain… Then his grown-up mind kicked in and told him to get on with it, before the night grew much later: It was time. He didn't want to go. Well, that wasn't exactly true – As a superior officer, he knew he should; as a friend, he wanted to, to let Spock know he cared; but as irrational as he knew it was, Jim couldn't help it: He was nervous.