Masquerade
Prologue
la-russophile
» Fandom: Star Trek
» Rating: M
» Classification(s): Humor, Romance, Action/Adventure
» Warnings: Violence, Language, Sexual Situations
» Pairing(s): Spock/Kirk
» Summary: While enjoying shore leave on a planet gone mad with a wild global festival, Spock and Kirk find themselves unwitting opponents in a strange game of hunter and hunted.

IMPORTANT: T'Pring is Spock's canon Vulcan betrothed. No, seriously, episode "Amok Time" in TOS's second season.


Prologue


"Now, you kids stay safe while Dad's out! Remember, the green drinks are usually okay but the blue fizzy kinds are definitely not, and if anyone hands you something purple-"

"Captain," Lt. Uhura interrupted for the sixth time. "I'll be personally briefing all crewmembers, a briefing that your departure is delaying considerably. Please, go."

The Kirk on the screen smiled brightly back at her annoyed scowl. "Throttle back, Lieutenant, I've already given Spock the conn. Just trying to impart some of my hard-won wisdom! Knowing you you've never been to the human settlements of Thiephan, and the Double-N O can be a pretty crazy place- just ask the good doctor. By the end of our last Academy spring break he had a full-body sunburn, Kardassian flu and this super-cute tattoo of a butterfly on his-"

From over Uhura's shoulder, the good doctor in question smacked his hand down on the comm. "Shut up, Jim. Just try not to choke on the caviar and maybe we'll save you a seat at the bar."

Inside the slighty-too-warm transporter room, Jim made a face and pulled at the tight collar of his tuxedo. Some things never went out of style, a lamentable fact for every Human male. "Y'know, I'm pretty sure Admiral Pike invited all of you. Why am I going all alone to this thing? I need a date. C'mon, Uhura, you'll love it. Foreign dignitaries up the wazoo."

McCoy and Uhura rolled their eyes in near perfect sync, exasperated faces projected onto the thin white plastic of the bulkhead. "Stop whining and leave," the doctor ordered. "Make pointless smalltalk with enough O-7s and maybe their manners will rub off on you."

Jim sighed dramatically, then suddenly brightened again. "Hey, Bones, you could give the senior crew a tour of les vieux quartiers!I wonder if that little café we used to eat at is still there..."

"I'm a doctor, not a tour guide!"

"But Bones, remember Toomas? Remember Kiryl? Remember Kiryl's gigantic-?"

"Captain, please," Uhura snapped.

Kirk rocked back on his heels, lips moving into an unconscious pout. "Well, what about my first officer? Spock, man, you there? Be my date? I promise not to try for anything past second base."

"He's meeting someone at the Vulcan embassy. He'll join us at our hotel tomorrow morning," Uhura informed him frostily. "So it is in fact Mr. Chekhov who has the conn. Mr. Chekhov?"

From somewhere beyond her, the Russian navigation officer obediently chirped, "Mr. Scott, energize!"

"Dun' mind if ah do." After all, every second the captain dawdled was another second the Scot was not drinking himself into happy, happy oblivion.

"Hey!" Kirk objected as his form dissolved into swirling motes of light.

Uhura slapped the comm off and said to room at large, "Briefing, now."

As they all stood to follow, Chekhov asked curiously, "Ze 'Double-N O'?"

Sulu shrugged as they fell in step together. "New New Orleans. It's what the cadets used to call it on campus. I've never been here myself, it's supposed to get kinda rowdy- especially at this time of year."

They joined McCoy and Uhura in the elevator and entered the buzzing auditorium one step behind them, taking seats in the first row as the lieutenant ascended to the dais. The dull roar of several hundred excited crewmembers slowly faded as she took her place behind the podium and called up her notes. Sulu glanced to his right and had to swallow a (manly) giggle; Chekhov was practically vibrating in his chair, eyes sparkling and biting his lip to contain a gleeful grin. He caught Sulu's eye and the smile burst out anyway. Then Uhura began the briefing with a sharp, "Attention, please!", and they both turned to listen.

The first portion of her brief was a generalized overview of the planet's ethnic makeup, cultural taboos, exchange rate, and crime statistics. They were told what neighborhoods to avoid, which foods were poisonous, and exactly what degree of public drunken idiocy would get them court-martialed. She went on to recite verbatim all twelve pages of the Starfleet regulations that governed crew actions while on-planet. She reminded them that, as the Starfleet base on planet was completely filled, some of them had been housed in private hotels and that their assigned rooms and transpo details could be accessed from their PADDs.

"Can't wait to see what claptrap old barn they've stuck command in," Bones grumped to Scotty, who had snuck in during the poisonous foods portion of the lecture. Scotty nodded.

"The las' time ah was on shore leave, ah could see the stars through the roof. And some thieving little skunnah stole me left socks. Jus' the left ones, mind you. Wha's with tha'?"

"Winding down," Uhura continued, "I want to address the specific native holiday for which the Enterprise and her sister ships Excelsior and Repulse will be present and of which we will all be conscientious, respectful observers," she added with menacing emphasis."Isn't that right, crew?"

Variations of, "Yes, Lieutenant," rang out from the assembled.

She nodded primly. "Good. The native inhabitants base much of their cultural holidays on the life of one man, the founder of the world's major religion. They celebrate his birth, death, and in seventy-two hours they begin a long period of mourning and contrition in honor of his winter exile into the mountains.

"Before this, they will hold a three-day-long harvest festival. Due to heavy human settlement in the area and this festival's circumstantial similarities to the human 'Fat Tuesday'", the celebration has become heavily colored with Mardi Gras and carneval symbolism. Celebrators generally wear costumes and masks, and the city hosts extensive parade and other interactive performing arts spectacles, in which you are welcome to participate— as long as your conduct does not reflect poorly on Starfleet.

"In the decades since the planet entered the Federation the number of tourists has spiked dramatically every year at this point, and the festival is now attended by millions, with representatives from all Federation planets and protectorates. Thiephan is considered a neutral zone, and interspecies hostilities are not tolerated." She looked pointedly out at them. "Is that understood?"

"Yes, Lieutenant," they dutifully chimed.

"In conclusion..." She stared balefully out at the crowd of eager faces, and gave a heavy sigh. "Please do not drink anything blue, or purple. Green is fine. Dismi-"

The rest of the word was swallowed in shouts and cheers, as all eight hundred-odd crewmembers of the USS Enterprise jumped to their feet and began flooding the exits in their haste to gather their kits and reach the shuttles.

The command team made their way to the lifts at a more sedate pace, and were dropping from the serene silence of space into the fiery atmosphere of Thiephan less than twenty minutes later.

"There are quite a few people on the runway," Sulu commented as they walked through the skyway to the main body of the terminal.

"Most of zem seem to be vearing feazers," Chekhov observed. "Or nozzing. Zere is more of ze nozzing zan ze feazers."

Three male heads turned. "Huh? Where?"

"Boys," Uhura said testily. "Let's get our kits to the hotel before we start worrying about ogling, shall we?"

The terminal was loud and crowded with crewmembers from all three Starships. The Enterprise team battled their way through it until they reached the slipstream of people heading for the doors and sunlight. They were swept up in the tide, and only McCoy's tight grip on Chekhov and Chekhov's tighter grip on Sulu kept them together. They were plunged into the lobby, and from there into bedlam.

They hit a wall of intense dusty heat and noise, a dense cacophony made of wild trumpet blasts, laughter, the roar of engines and the thunder of a hundred conflicting drum beats. The colors were eye-searing and the costumes mind-boggling, the air scented with ocean and incense and the sweet, earthy smell of overripe fruit. Barely feet from them, someone set off a firework that exploded in a tower of blue sparks, adding gunpowder to the mix. The air wavered above the pavement, turning the chaotic scene mirage-like.

At that moment, a troupe of native female dancers appeared to be passing by. Their chests were studded with jewel-bright petals, or perhaps scales, which grew more numerous towards their waists before flowing outwards in wide skirts. They interwove and swirled around each other in constantly changing constellations of movement, dancing like flowers, or fish, like galaxies coalescing and exploding. The spectators clapped, stomped, and hollered over the heavy thudding heartbeat of the music. The team might have joined them, but Uhura shook her head resolutely and led them in an epic battle through the thronging crowds and marching bands to reach the transport depot across the street.

The buses themselves were horribly overpacked and moved at an excruciatingly slow pace through the congested streets. They stopped twice for parades, and once for a group of tumblers. A few ensigns that had made it onto the transpo with them hung out the open windows, blowing kisses and whistling at the revelers.

By the time they reached their lodgings, it was past the planet's noon. Entering the small inn was another shock; the deafening street noise and muggy heat vanished, replaced by the low burble of placid emerald fountains and climate control set blissfully cold. Despite McCoy's dire predictions, to Sulu the place looked… nice. It was done in the native style, which meant there wasn't a straight line in sight, but it still looked flash.

A crowd of greeters and porters swarmed them then, cooing welcome and lovingly layering beads and leis over their necks. "Enjoy your stay," one said softly, kissing his cheek with a smile. She pressed a slim plastic glass of something lime-colored into his hand before whirling away towards the next guest. Sulu lifted it to his lips but paused as the fumes made his eyes sting.

Chekhov, predictably, tossed it back immediately. He gasped and shuddered, and regarded the empty glass with an awed "Yo mayo! I want another, miss!"

"Help yourself," an attendant tittered, gesturing towards the fountains. Chekhov's eyes widened gleefully as Sulu's widened in horror. A man could go swimming in those things!

"As… as much as we wan'?" Scotty asked her tremulously.

She bowed. "Of course. Please see our other branches for different varieties."

"... ah'm going t'get so drunk," the Scotsman said, with something like religious fervor in his voice.

Bones clapped him on the shoulder, the sheen of beatific tears in his eyes. "We all are, Scotty. We all are."


At that moment, Spock was receiving a different sort of epiphany from a self he was still hesitant to claim as his own.

"Spock. I trust you are well?"

"I am. And you are also well?

"I find myself in good health and better spirits."

The elder and the younger regarded one another, a certain cool welcome on one part and odd good cheer from the other. When his alternate self failed to fill the growing silence after their salutations, the younger Spock delicately cleared his throat. "Elder, your hail represents a significant outlier in our normal pattern of communication. I must conclude that you have contacted me to discuss a specific topic, and not for our usual social dialogue."

The lined face on the screen beamed at him, though he could not pinpoint the change in expression that made it so. "I always wish to hear news of you and the Enterprise, Spock, but you have surmised correctly." The older Vulcan leaned forward in his seat, a small movement. "I have learned that the Enterprise will be docking on the planet Thiephan for shore leave."

"That is correct. Does it represent a problem?"

"You are aware that T'Pring is an aide to the ambassador there?"

A non-Vulcan would have missed the slight arch of Spock's brow. "I am. It is our good fortune, as her position allowed her to escape the- destruction. Of Vulcan."

The old man inclined his head, somber once more. "Indeed. Spock, I believe it would be beneficial for you to renew your acquaintance with her during this leave period."

"It was my intention to visit her, yes," said Spock, somewhat guardedly.

The elder now shook his head, almost imperceptibly. "Spock. If your physiology is developing at the rate that mine once did, you are very near your first fever. You have at best but months."

Spock sat perfectly still. He had been of course abstractly aware that he was rapidly approaching the age where pon farr and its consequences would manifest, but hearing it expressed in terms of months held disturbing implications. The rigors of the fever meant a period of indefinite leave from Starfleet, perhaps even the resignation of his current commission. A more sobering reality was the almost certain pregnancy of his partner, and he would not leave a child fatherless and its mother without aid. Pon farr... it potentially represented the end of everything he now strove for.

It was a possibility he found himself loath to contemplate.

"I have heard your warning and will meditate on it," he stated calmly, after a brief pause.

It was his elder's turn to raise a brow. "I have not given a warning, Spock, only information. And now I will give advise: you must either cultivate a deeper relationship with T'Pring, or find another, and quickly. You have not attempted a bond with anyone else." It was not a question.

"I have not," he acquiesced. "It seemed illogical, as I am betrothed." A fact that he had not shared with anyone on the ship, save Lt. Uhura. She had not been pleased by the revelation.

The other Vulcan sighed. "If you choose another, you will find it difficult, I am afraid. There was only one candidate I found suitable. Perhaps it is our partly human natures."

Spock regarded the elder, with his open gaze and friendly air. "I must confess that I find it… unsettling that you have superior knowledge of my mental and physiological systems than I do."

"Spock? Unsettled?" The corner of the older Vulcan's mouth was suddenly crooked.

He very nearly frowned. "Tell me, Elder, how is it that I become so emotional in the future?"

The older Vulcan's eyes twinkled merrily in his otherwise solemn face. "Three words, dear Spock: James Tiberius Kirk."


Standing in line at the fanciest buffet he'd ever seen, Jim felt a tickle and quickly averted his face from the quail eggs. "Ah-CHOO!"

"… budete zdarove," said the ancient Russian admiral he'd just sneezed on.

Jim smiled uneasily. "Sorry about that, sir. Can I get you some canapés?"


It was discomfiting to realize they exerted such influence on each other, even in a parallel universe. Spock considered the matter as he signed off the comm and rose to begin the long trek to the lifts and ultimately the surface.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that the course of Spock's life was irrevocably altered by his meeting James Kirk. The man was... fascinating. A force of nature. He burned with energy, enthusiasm and purpose, living with a verve and vibrancy Spock had been wholly unaccustomed to. Behind those quick eyes and smart mouth lay a mind both unique and nigh incomprehensionable in its dynamism, a joy to observe in motion. His manic brain deduced outcomes so rapidly it bordered on precognition, his towering ego reshaping the world in its image.

James was irritating. Infuriating. Stubborn. Arrogant.

He was also brilliant. Kind. Selfless. Brave.

He was, to Spock…

… and there the Vulcan reached a mental impasse. He did not consider himself the captain's friend; he and the captain did not fit into any category of friendship that Spock could name. A suitable label would perhaps be that of friendly rivals, for there was a strong element of competition and even blatant antagonism in their relationship. They orbited each other like twin stars, each pulling and fighting the pull of the other.

The captain and Dr. McCoy were friends. They told each other bawdy jokes and drank close-to-toxic moonshine together from the still in Engineering Scotty thought Spock didn't know about. The two were confidants. They shared a treasured past history.

He and the captain, as previously stated, were not friends. They fought. They argued endlessly. Occasionally, they played chess. The games tended to evolve into intense philosophical discussion or heated political debate and go on for most of their off-shift hours, and so Spock tried to keep them as infrequent as possible. The fact that they played at least twice a week was testament to James's matchless skills of persuasion. The two spent hours catching up on the captain's paperwork, because for some reason it never seemed to get properly done, James had told him with a wide grin, unless Spock was there to 'crack the whip'. James followed him everywhere: into the hydroponics labs, onto the sparring holodecks, through the replicator lines and from their adjoining quarters every start of shift. Hardly any of his waking hours were spent apart from his captain, and it had been a bit alarming to realize that he did not find this particularly bothersome.

To be forced to leave the Enterprise... and leave her captain?

"Mr. Spock, we're ready."

His reverie interrupted, Spock's gaze rose and met those of the ensign manning the last shuttle planetside. "Proceed."

There was no point in thinking on it anymore. Spock fastened his restraints and banished all but a faint wisp of melancholia from his mind.


LOTSA Author Note:

I've taken liberties with ranks and order of command, due to an imperfect understanding of the mechanisms and an unwillingness to ask my navy dad who gets the conn when. :-)

Chekov versus Chekhov: a single K- that is how this character's name is spelled, in canon and in fancanon. I accept this, but I don't like it. The only place I can express my preference for the real thing is here, in my own fic. AND SO I WILL! FFFFUUUUUUUUUUUU

Extra ship names taken from this beautiful piece of fanwork: http:/ www .asdb. net/ asdb/ docs/ sotsf/ SOTSF1 .pdf

… I have to admit something else. I am really, really considering making this a pon farr fic. Too much?