Never Again

Title: Never Again Author: Kelthammer Series: TOS Pairing: S/Mc, humor Rating: PG ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Jim didn't have anything more complicated on his mind than finishing up a mound or two of paperwork before going down on leave. As the latest mission had been wholly humdrum, this was one time McCoy wouldn't fuss at him for overworking. Anyway, if Scotty wanted to use the ENTERPRISE as a test site for the new propulsion model, he needed the captain's signature. Spock was the last person Kirk expected to see walk into the doorway. "Captain," Spock began diffidently. "Yes, Mr. Spock? Is there something I can help you with?" "I noticed a slight error in my leave placing." Spock produced the wafer in question, but as Jim didn't possess electric retinae, he had no way of reading its contents. "An error?" Jim repeated. He knew that was a mistake; what was good manners to a human (showing they had heard you) was an insult to a Vulcan (pretending lack of comprehension). "What sort of error would that be?" "I have been placed with Dr. McCoy at the soldierhostel." Jim considered that. Spock had a point. Besides the obvious--those two got along about as well as peppercorns did in vanilla ice cream-- the hostel was supposed to situate roommates of a "compatible agenda". In other words, similar study and research schedules with no distruptive activities on the opposing side. FACTS ARE THAT FOLLOWS: * Spock labored under the constant belief (wrongly and without evidence) that Dr. McCoy existed to get intoxicated when he had nothing else to do. * Dr. McCoy's "intoxication" was, at a ratio of 9:10, drinking a few sips of alcohol that he never permitted himself while on duty, about to go on duty, or with Klingons within 56,000,000 light years. * What Spock believed was McCoy's "intoxication" was nothing more than McCoy kicking back and relaxing. When he relaxed, he drawled. No power on the Galactic Rim could convince Spock that drawl was not a slur brought on by drink. * Vulcans were psychologically unprepared to deal with any kind of mood alterant. They tended to assume the worst. Spock firmly believed that one should never change their personality for any reason--that the person the world saw was the same person in private. This had lead to more than one unfortunate incident with McCoy offering to surgically remove the large tree branch that had gotten lodged up Spock's lower orifice. * Spock and McCoy were viciously serious researchers. Neither tolerated the least interruption for any excuse. Chapel was the only person on the ship brave enough to approach the "Leonard's Den" during project-analysis. How she could do it and still have an intact psyche was a matter of marvel. Even Sarek, the "Adamantium Ambassador" was cowed when the doctor raised a sufficient ire. Even worse, Amanda had told Jim that Spock had been unbearable in his college years; his parents had finally given him the upstairs floor and moved downstairs into Sarek's private office during weekends. * After the Psi 2000 virus affected the ship, the cure was found to have its own affect on Vulcanoids. Spock was found later in his cabin, singing along to what Vulcans claimed to be "orthodox" music. It was common knowledge that McCoy found earplugs before he entered Spock's cabin with an alterant. It was also common knowledge that the humans who had overheard Spock's musical activity checked themselves into Sickbay afterwards for peculiar migraines--captain included. * Jim was very fond of Spock. About as close as friends could get. But he'd learned from previous experience that rooming with him would be a severe test of that friendship. When it came to boundaries, Spock was as skilled as a watermelon. It was amazing to Jim that his father was a diplomat. These things--and many more--ran through Jim's mind at warp speed. "Perhaps you can rectify the error with the hostel." He offered mildly, as if it was of no consequence that doom loomed on the horizon for the entire Life Sciences Division. "Negative." Spock said flatly. Jim held his breath. "Well, its only a matter of days," he tried again. He paused as Spock's pupils abruptly constricted. "Bones probably won't leave the room anyway. That leaves you the research facilities." He tried his best charming smile. "I don't see what you're so worried about, Mr. Spock--" "I am not "worried," Captain." "--after all, you can simply pull one of your study marathons and finish your work in record time. You can beam back to the ship as soon as we're back to breathable oxygen, and finish up in here." Spock's reply was silence. Lots of silence. An accusing kind of silence that implied he had really expected a lot more from Jim. "Sir." The Vulcan said stiffly, and left the cabin. Jim exhaled, thinking that he should debark and finish up his own paperwork...on the planet. ADVERTISEMENT Jim neatly stacked his paperwork and beamed down in short order. Despite the attractions of the rather posh citydock, he really had no desire to do anything more than catch up on his Field Requirements. Work first, THEN play. Only once had Jim mixed his priorities up, and had narrowly escaped matrimony. Once bitten, forever wise. His evening--and the evening after--passed pleasantly; being a captain, he had a suite to himself, while everyone else (poor lackeys) had to share at least some space. His quarters might adjoin the First Officer's while on ship, but it was better for their friendship's health if they spent SOME time apart. Several inches of "yes" and "no" being checked in, Jim decided he was up to a reward. With a self-satisfied smile he dumped the completed forms in a transmail slot and went to the bathroom. His bathroom. A bathroom he didn't have to share with anyone, and that included hydrophobic Vulcans. If there had been such a setting, Jim would have set the controls to "clambake." He was somewhat surprised to emerge from the bathroom to find his CMO sitting in the foyer of his suite, tapping duty wafers together like mad castanets. "Well, good evening, Bones. How did you get in?" "The door was unlocked." McCoy blinked at him. "Oh." Jim mentally frowned at himself. Well, so much for asking a stupid question. "I didn't expect you before our dinner tomorrow. How's the research?" "FINE if you don't think about crazed Vulcans." McCoy snarled, his demeanor sliding from NORMAL to SOMEWHAT ALARMING in one fell swoop. "Jim, did you assign us this on purpose? Did you?" "Bones, I didn't do a thing. Honest. Blame the computer." "I did. He says the odds were infinitestimal! Stupid machines--and stupider walking ones! How many times do I have to tell that point- eared menace to nonlinear society that *I* am a Universal Inconstant?" McCoy raised his hands in the air, remarkably like a preacher out of a really bad trivid. "How am I supposed to finish my paper on spelelogical bacteriostatics when I've got a Vulcan referencing cross-indexes on the very same data banks I need to use? DID I MENTION I am a mere mortal and canNOT leap over tall buildings of synthecubes with a single glance? And I NEED HARD COPIES!! The--" Jim held up his hand, both a command and a plea. "You're researching speleo..." "Speleological bacteriostatics." McCoy supplied. Jim thought back, and thought back some more. "And Spock is researching..." "Gypsum flowers." "Gypsum flowers." "Gypsum flowers." There was a tiny pause. "Why?" Jim tried. "Something to do with his stupid calcium carbonate aragonite clusters." "His what?" Jim instantly regretted asking. McCoy sighed and rolled his eyes. "Calcium carbonate aragonite clusters. They only form in unique caves where there's too much calcite in the solution limestone to absorb the aragonite--" "Bones, I passed Geology, thanks, but why would our staid First Officer be interested in cave minerals?" McCoy shrugged again as if Jim had asked (again) a really obvious question. "Apparantly he found out there hasn't been 200 research papers written on the subject, so he's contributing?" The sour features relaxed slightly as another thought hit him. "And there's a lot of cave biology on Vulcan. Not like ours, you know. Most of Terra's is all to do with karst limestone, and Vulcan's is all lava tubes, but there's probably a few things in common, like the troglyodyte species, and the bacteriostatics..." "And the gypsum." "And the gypsum." Jim's head began to hurt. It was probably the orgy of hot water, he told himself. "So Spock is...uh, hogging the database on caverns while you're trying to get information on bacteriostatics." "And moonmilk." Jim paused. "Bones, I think I missed THAT one on my Geology exam. What the devil is moonmilk?" "Well, it's technically MONmilk. M-O-N. It means "gnome's milk", and people in Europe were harvesting it to salve wounds with back in the bad old days. But "Mon" the word for "gnome" got misunderstood and they started calling it moonmilk. Frankly, I don't see why anyone would call it milk at all. Its whitish stuff, but that's all it has in common. And if you've ever milked a Guernsey or a yak, you wouldn't even call it that." Jim's mouth had fallen open. It took a great deal of willpower to close it. "Why wouldn't I if I'd ever milked a Guernsey?" "They give yellow milk." Jim shuddered. "And a yak?" "Pink." Jim was aware of static in his brain. "Bones how long have you been without sleep?" "Uh..." "If you have to think about it, that means you have to shave off about 14 extra hours to keep from alarming me," Jim said sternly. "Now I'm already alarmed. Let me guess: you've been hovering over your terminal for--two days--in hopes Spock will take a three-second break and then you can grab the datacore?" "Mnph." McCoy glowered. "I thought so. When are you going to learn? Spock can go without sleep for days." "He's not supposed to!" McCoy barked, slamming his fist on the table. "I checked into that bushwa!! His mother said he can't go without four days before the acid builds up in his brain!" "And you made the mistake of pointing that out, didn't you?" Jim rubbed his forehead. "And he reminded you he was semi off-duty. And not bound to your commands." "Crazy Vulcan." McCoy groused. "He's still mad over those stupid mangoes." "Stu--" Jim stopped himself. He could do it, he thought. He had the willpower to overcome most obstacles. "All right. Let's ignore the mangoes. I'll call Spock and tell him he needs to share some time. A few hours would be enough for you to download all the data you need, right?" "No." Jim stopped. McCoy waited, his stare frigid and immobile. It was remarkably like the look Spock had given him when faced with sharing quarters with the doctor. "Why wouldn't it be enough?" "I can't download forty wafers' worth of superfluous data in the hopes of finding a few pieces of useful stuff! It's like tracking a flow chart, Jim! Just the moonmilk alone means I have to look up moonmilk, monmilk, gnome's milk, and cave-borne antibiotics! Not to mention folklore, history, and linguistics!" "Maybe Spock will be done soon," Jim offered. "HAH!" McCoy sputtered. "Jim, are you SURE you passed Geo?? D'you know how THOROUGH Spock is?? He's going to be indexing aragonite, calcium-based gemstones, cave minerals, gypsum, gypsum flowers, the uses of gypsum, the uses of calcium carbonate aragonite, the uselessness of pure aragonite in industry, Cal-carb-aragonite as a secret ingredient in the iron smelting process, and the illegal harvesting of aragonites as collector's show pieces!!" "I'm amazed you said that all without taking a breath, Bones." Bones was breathing now. Hard. Again he fixed Jim with a gimlet gaze. "Jim, I once shared a project with Spock," he announced in soft, very soft tones. "Really? I didn't know that. What was it on?" "The rare and trainable human ability to focus underwater. Halfway through the research, Spock found out I could do that." "Why would you want to focus underwater?" "It narrows the pupil and increases visibility by 50%." "That's amazing." "Not if you're a coastal swamp rat who needs every edge he can get to avoid being eaten by alligators, cougars, and 40-foot pythons!" McCoy shouted. "That gubberturshed scombroid stuck me in a blessed tank and wound up making notes about ME halfway through the research!!" The crystal chandelier above them chimed softly under the force of the doctor's roar. "Why didn't you just say no?" Jim asked without thinking. McCoy stopped. Gave Jim "that look" for the third time in five minutes. "Well." Jim coughed. "He can be persuasive." "It was my own fault. I agreed we could have a rational discussion." "And?" "And he out-rationaled me." Jim was now rubbing the back of his neck. "That's too bad." "Even worse, he wound up getting the majority of the credit. And that's REALLY the heart of the matter, Jim! Every time I ask him to shove his skinny Vulcan butt over and let me take a turn at the computer he reminds me we haven't toured the VSU over that stupid paper!" McCoy shuddered. "There's no way I'm sitting in a tank in front of a college of Vulcans." "I feel the same way." Jim said with feeling. "Actually, I hear that's one of the most common themes in anxiety-based dreams." "It is. And no, I didn't research THAT topic." "I'll tell you what, I'll just call Spock and tell him to give you the day at the computer. How would that be?" "Jim, I'll overlook your next two physicals." McCoy said gratefully. "I'm not sure that's a grand gesture." "Sure it is. I have to give you twice the number of physcials anyway, because you never show up on time." "Oh." Jim cleared his throat. "Well, go on and I'll get on the beam to Spock." McCoy jumped up and was gone before Jim could finish talking. "...but I really think you should get some rest first..." Somewhat rattled, Jim checked the lock on his door and made the neccessary call to Spock. Well. The truth was, he tried. The fact is, he was forced to place a recorded message on Spock's terminal. Spock for whatever reason, was not answering which meant he was either not around, or, perversely he had decided to grab a few minutes' rest while McCoy was running hellforleather for his captain's help. Jim strongly suspected the latter, even though there wasn't a shred of proof. It was circumstantial evidence, to wit, Spock was always so PROPER that Jim couldn't shake the mental image of him playing the perpetual straight man and shooting off one-liners while smirking on the other side of his face. Forget salvaging his evening. McCoy had utterly ruined it with his panicked petition. Jim's one grand accomplishment was going to HIS computer and looking up "gubberturshed scombroid." It only re- enforced an earlier observation, which was Georgian doctors had the linguistic skill of a mad Russian with the suave style of a Frenchman, and the vocabularic grasp of...well, a Vulcan. "Simple country doctor, INdeed," Jim muttered at the computer screen. "The next time I want to call my First Officer a buck- toothed mackerel, I know how to do it and in what way." Annoyance colored his resolve as he went back to his paperwork. He hated working with prodigies. Spock was bad enough, but McCoy was every bit as much one as Spock, and Jim was a prodigy too, so you had a prodigy looking out for two other prodigies, who were both older than him by some significant years... Jim could smell trouble brewing. Major trouble. McCoy's culture made a career out of not caring if they lost their wars or not; they would never go quietly or without speaking their piece. And they'd gone through no less than FIVE regional wars to prove that particular point. Spock, if he was feeling particularly Vulcan, would be able to understand that hardheaded POV. Vulcans were very good at being hardheaded themselves. Spock was a prodigy in computers, language, science and in possession of a eidictic memory. McCoy was a prodigy in medicine, and everything under the sun that related TO medicine. Jim had learned the hard way that led to A LOT of diverse topics. And as to memory, McCoy could give anybody a run for their credits; anyone who could recall, verbatim, the alternate names of Redjack was someone you didn't play poker with. Of course, McCoy and Spock were also the victims of paternal intimidation and a good bit of emotional abuse on the part of their fathers. Jim was always sure he NEVER let his knowledge of that slip up. If he so much as implied his two best friends had anything in common, they would call a truce long enough to kick him out of the nearest airlock. Jim called for a dinner, and put his feet up while he ate it. With a ridiculous sense of ceremony he popped in the last of Scotty's required specs for the fuel prototype (hoping again that he hadn't accidentally agreed to blow up his ship), and ordered a frosted glass of mixed rum. His comm bleeped over the rum and dessert. With an expression he would NEVER let Spock see, he picked it up. "Yes, Mr. Spock?" There was a pause. "You knew I was calling, Captain?" "Of course I did. Eventually. It's been--" He looked at his chrono. "three hours. I take it you and Dr. McCoy have reached some sort of compromise?" Another pause. Jim could feel "that look" over the commlink. "Dr. McCoy and I are attempting to accommodate each other," Spock admitted. "We are leaving to eat dinner and discuss our particular needs with the database." "You're under truce?" Jim asked, shocked. "I mean, that's good, Spock. Very good. I'm pleased. Where are you eating?" For the love of the Great Bird, Jim could never explain why he asked such an inane question. "An Italian resturaunt down the street. I am told it gives appreciable vegetarian cuisine." "Well, that's good," Jim agreed. "And Dr. McCoy says he is ordering cibreo." "Cibreo." "Yes." "What's cibreo?" "I have no idea. It being Dr. McCoy's choice of sustenance, I have my doubts as to its health benefits." A warning prickle walked up Jim's neck. "Uhm, well, I hope the two of you behave." Another demon loomed up and briefly possessed Jim's mouth. "Spock, earlier today, Bones made a strange comment about...well, about how you might be harboring some annoyance over a subject that involves mangoes." Spock's side of the line grew positively frigid. "Did he." "Well, I could have easily misunderstood him. You know how he is when his accent gets thick." "Despite the limitations of his less than admirable education, the good doctor usually DOES know what he is saying." Spock continued his Arctic tones. "Whether or not his words are relevent to any subject, is another matter." "I see." "Captain, I will be leaving now. I trust you understand I am making all due effort to achieving an amicable arrangement with the database." "Certainly, Spock." "Spock out." Jim released his breath, slowly, and went to his computer. "Define cibreo, please." "Working," the computer said. "cibreo. A Provencial Florence dish consisting of sauteed artichokes, chicken livers, and cockscombs." "And what?" "Sauteed artichokes, chicken livers, and cockscombs." "People EAT those things?" Jim demanded. "Extrapolation required." Jim shuddered. "Gods." He muttered. "Better Bones than me." "Please rephrase." "No, thanks. Ignore that, computer." Jim stood, and resolutely turned his back to the thing. He needed to finish up a few more inches of hardcopy before he turned in for the night. He resisted, with his considerable captain's willpower, contemplating the reaction of Spock when he was faced with his dinner companion's choice of dinner. Jim was surprised to hear the door buzzer pulling him out of a sound sleep--he was even more surprised to realize he had been asleep at all. A third glance was the time; in civilian terms (which the pro- military Kirk household never deigned to use), it was precisely 3am. He'd slept for five hours? No wonder he felt wide awake and refreshed. With the energy rush that accompanied most bipolar manics, Jim yanked on a robe and punched the door button. Spock stood in the doorway, hands folded neatly behind his back. That, however, was not what riveted Jim's attention. "May I come in, captain?" "Spock, is that YOUR blood?" Spock looked pained. Not a difficult feat. "I regret to inform you I misjudged the cultural mores of this base, captain. It would perhaps be in the best interests of the ship if I went to you instead of the Base hospital." "But...where's Bones?" Jim demanded, shutting the door electronically and all adrenaline on GO. "He was with you, wasn't he? Is he all right? What's going on?" "Captain, Dr. McCoy is...unharmed." It was the way Spock said that, that made Jim pause in the middle of yanking the field kit out of the complimentary medicine cabinet. "Dr. McCoy is unharmed" had come out of Spock's purple- bruised mouth the way a small boy would have said, "We played spin the bottle and I won the Gorn." "Spock, what the hell happened?" "I am not certain of the circumstances that led up to my altercation with a large mob of virulent heterosexuals. The group had seen us enter the resturant and therefore, should not have been surprised to see us leave together--" "You mean you and Bones?" Jim pulled out several plasers until he found one marked VULCANOID/GENERIC. That should do for the basic dermos. "Yes, captain." Spock sat neatly and...painfully, with as much sorry dignity that any Vulcan in an intolerable situation could manage. "When we left the group accosted us and used a terminology that I was unfamiliar with; their accents were strictly Canopian Terran." "Canopian Terran?" Jim froze. Terrans had first established a small colony not long after the second Centaurian, and the colonists had been politically rather liberal until a succession of crop failures, bizarre storms and a once-in-a-lifetime erupting volcano wiped out most of the farming currency. The Terrans had absorbed into the Canopian culture in order to survive. Canopians were vaugely Vulcanoid-Humanoid, and were perversely proud of being the most narrow-minded, obstinate, argumentative people under the Federation Flag. They were the only race barred from Klingon Peace Treaties, as per direct request of Emperor Khalog II. Canopians, actually, were the only outside race that had *any* records of intermarriage with Tellarites. A liberal Canopian made Lt. Boma (of the infamous Galileo 7 mishap) look like a slouching, indolent hotbed of celibacy and anarchy. "You and Bones were seen together in a public place, and they thought you were...a couple." Jim guessed. Spock's eyes widened even as his nostrils sewed shut with a fastidious intake of breath. "Don't look that way, Spock. That happens a lot to anybody who walks down the street with another member of the same sex. Canopians assume the worst, prepare for the worst, and hope for the worst. Even Sam held that philosophy, and if *he* said it, it *must* be true." "I assure you, I and the doctor have had no interests with each other beyond trying to function in a professional manner." Spock said in a voice colder than Vulcan's solitary and lonely icecap (which was about one square mile of prehistoric ice buried under 20,000 hectacres of a sand dune the size of Carlsbad Caverns). "Well, I take it the two of you were...accosted." "I was." Spock said just as stiffly. "Dr. McCoy was unharmed, as I believe I said you." Jim stopped, slowly pulling the plaser off Spock's crusted eyebrow. "Captain, I believe the affected area needs to be cleaned first. It prevents the growth of skin over contaminated tissue." Jim sighed and picked up a swab. "So, what DID happen, Spock? No, let me guess. You were going to take the fall for the lynch mob and protect the good doctor? He hates it when you do that. But I agree with your reasoning. He isn't as strong as you--most people aren't--" "Captain..." "--and he's the CMO; practically a civilian, although he makes as bad a civilian as he does a soldier--" "Captain..." Spock's voice was strained. "Yes?" "Dr. McCoy was able to reduce the tension in the crowd and we were able to depart." "WHy isn't he with you?" "I told him I would meet him at our quarters. Rather than inflate his concerns I thought it best to detour and get assistance here." Jim slowly pulled the sticky wipe off Spock's forehead. "Spock, you're trying to tell me you're sparing Bones' feelings? Don't you mean, you don't want to put up with his huffing and puffing and obnoxious over-protection?" Spock's pupils dilated. It was so out of character that it made Jim wonder. His mouth was opening to ask about it when Spock was on his feet, tugging his blue shirt back in place. "With your permission, captain, I believe this will curtail the doctor's excessive concerns." The door was closing but Jim had no time to ponder this was the first time Spock had ever hightailed it out of his cabin that fast. His comm was now shrilling. "Hello, Bones. Spock just left. I presume he's on his way over." *How'd you know it was me? Never mind. How's he doing?* "Pretty good...considering he was clobbered by a gang of Canopians." *Canopians? That's what he told you?* "Aren't they Canopians?" *Welllll...yes an' no, Jim. I mean, they have Canopian membership and all that, and they're born Canopians, but actually they're Ulster County Irishmen. Clan Lewis, actually. Distaff side split apart by the Troubles." "I can see what Spock means by your defusing the situation." Jim plopped down with the remains of the field kit in his lap. "What happened, did you turn out to be related?" *Are you kidding? The Lewis on MY side might've been Ulstermen, but that ends there. The McCoys married into the Andrew Lewis clan that was established in the 17th century when Andrew moved to America and started hangin' out with the Stuart Clan from Scotland. The Stuarts are vaguely related to me in some way I don't understand--* "You're kidding," Jim said in mild wonder. McCoy hadn't even heard. *Anyway, once I started talkin' to 'em in their lingo, they stopped thinking about beating us up. Of course, Spock's getting clocked was his own fault. He was all set to protect lil' ol' me from the Big nasty mean crowd.* "Well, he had your interests in mind, I'm sure." Jim murmured. *So I pulled a few jokes and we went back to the tavern and Spock went off in a huff. Which is damn rude, if you ask me. Defusing a mob like that and Spock made me look bad by stalking out like that. But I told them it was just good Vulcan manners and he had a religious dispension to be in his house of worship before 3am. They fell for it, thank God. You just don't want to risk getting rednecks mad.* Jim felt a headache coming on. "What in the world did you DO to get the mob in a better mood?" "Convinced them we weren't gay, of course." "And just HOW did you do that? I'm not doubting you, Bones, it's just that...well, I'm a little sleepy." *I just sang the song, of course."* Bones said as if that explained everything and Jim really was groggy if he hadn't thought of that. "What song, Bones? Erin go Bragh?" *That's not a song, Jim." McCoy snorted. "Are you SURE you're Irish* "Well, I'm Irish somewhere...but--" Jim shook his head violently. "Bones, WHAT song are you talking about?" *Not Irish, of course.* "You sang a song titled 'No Irish' to prove that you weren't gay." *Jim, it was great. I wish Scotty had been there, he would have died laughing.* "Bones--" *Hold on, Jim.* There was a popping sound in the background. *Jim, sorry to bother you. Spock's back. Have a good night's sleep. I'll talk to ya tomorrow.* "Wait!" Jim bellowed. But it was too late. "Wait, wait, wait!!" He stopped, staring in disbelief at the dead comm. "Like I'm going to get a wink of sleep NOW," he muttered under his breath. "Bones, I'm going to kill you." Despite the utterly bizarre night, Jim dropped right back to sleep again. At least, until his comm bleeped. "Yes?" He snarled before thinking about who it could be on the other side. *Jim, do we have any real nitre in the storeroom?* Jim blinked slowly. "Bones, I thought you were researching in the memory banks." *I am. Still am. But do we have any real nitre in the storeroom?* "Uhhhhhhh..." Jim tried to think. Hard. "Bones, what does this have to do with cave antibacterias?" A long-suffering sigh was his reward. *Jim, I thought you said you passed Geology.* "I did." *Wellll, bat guano, which is high in phosphates due to the chitin in the devoured insects, causes a chemical reaction upon ordinary limestone that hosts the saltpetre bacterium. While ordinarily not used for medical reasons, it does have some intriguing properties all its own--* "Rampaging impotence and a complete lack of interest in the opposite sex being but two?" Jim cut in sarcastically. *Try, complete lack of interest in any kind of sex at all--what? No, not that, Spock.* McCoy mumbled something in the background. *Jim, its a simple question I was asking you. Please don't distract me. I can keep up with your mental gymnastics, being a whitewater rafter since childhood, but its giving Spock a headache. His head's been through enough abuse for one night, hasn't it?* Jim sighed. "Bones, I know that there SHOULD be some nitre in the stores especially for the use of the science labs. What are you intending to do?" *Make some rocket candy. You wouldn't believe how much godawful processed, toxic white sugar is on this base. They're practically swimming in the stuff! I think you'd do less damage to your liver if you drank a barrel of rum and chased it down with a crock of garlic cucumbers.* Jim shuddered. "Rocket candy as in potassium nitrate and sugar. The last time I made that I almost blew the top off the old silo." *Well at least you didn't try to eat it.* McCoy offered. *Can you score me some potassium derivitive?* "What, no wood ashes?" Jim asked snidely. "Seems a waste to manufacture everything else from scratch but have to import some lye." *No trees on the base, Jim.* McCoy said without rancor. He was one of those strange people who was less cranky the more tired he got. *You need trees to make woodashes, specifically hardwood deciduous--* "I know, I know--look, who made the cannon and beat the Gorn with it anyway?" Jim snapped. "I don't know where you'd find any potassium, unless you were in a Beta Niobian spice cabinet!" *Oh, hey, there's a thought!* McCoy clearly turned his head, muffling his voice: "Jim says a Beta Niobian spice cabinet would have it!" "Well I didn't say that, actually, but--" Jim was getting exasperated. "Look, Bones, when you called earlier, you mentioned a song..." *I told you, Jim. It's the 'Not Irish,* McCoy said as if that explained everything, and Jim would get it once he got some rest. "Bones, what the devil is the 'Not Irish' song?" *Oh, come on, you've heard it!* "I guarantee you, I haven't." *Your mother would NOT be proud.* "Wouldn't be the first time. Out with it." *Wha?* "SING IT, MCCOY!" Jim roared. He was very good at roaring. McCoy snorted. *OK, fine...but I know you've heard it. It goes: God loves the Irish Unless of course you're gay If you are you won't be marching on St. Patty's Day You can be a bum, bucket of scum Sure and that's ok But you can't be Irish if you're gay.* Jim's jaw hit the floor as the full mental spectacle of the CMO of HIS ship, singing a ribald tune to divert the bloodthirsty tendencies of Orthodox Canopians off himself and a battered Vulcan, hit him. *We don't allow no Peter Pan the wearing o' the green And when we say 'Up the Irish' That isn't what we mean-- *--Spock, cut it out!* McCoy barked. Jim would have given a lot to know how the Vulcan was dealing with this serenade. *Oh, God loves the Irish, as long as men are men! Except of course, for leprechauns, we've never been sure o' them--* "Uh, Bones, never mind. Never...mind." Jim was rubbing his forehead, unsure if laughter or tears was the appropriate response to this. Bones had an unexpectedly good singing voice, probably due to a lifetime of enforced choir in acoustically augmented churches. *Sure you don't want to hear the part about lesbians?* McCoy wondered. *I think that's the best part.* "Ahh, some other time." Jim said quickly. "You and Spock need to get back to your work. I'll..." His brain froze out. "Look, just call me if anything else comes up." And he knew they would, he thought grimly. But for now, the control of the comm was his, and he turned it off with deep satisfaction. Jim finally identified the strange sensation in the back of his conscience as guilt. And something else vaguely disturbing, although Jim didn't know why the thought of Sopck and McCoy mixing dangerous chemicals together would be a cause for alarm. By this time, it was almost dawn. A lovely synthetic sunrise was beginning to shade an irritating pink through the window. Jim finally caved in to his better paranoia and picked up his communicator. "Bones, this is Jim." No answer. "Bones?" Jim frowned and tapped his piece, then followed procedure and widened the band. The answering chirp rippled through the air. *Hi, Jim. You're up early.* "I'm up late, for your information. What are you doing on the 700 band? Aren't you still on the base?" *On it? Well no, not precisely...Spock, for God's sake, hold still.* Jim heard a murmuring in the background. *Like hell you will,* McCoy snapped back. *I made sure the restraints were Vulcan-grade! Once was enough! What do you mean, 'what once?' Are you tryin' to tell me your perfect Vulcan memory can't recall your perfect Vulcan reflex-reaction when I slapped you out of the healing trance Last month?* (baritone murmur) *Don't get smart with me, Spock, you're not good at it! It was down in the calcium-carbide channel on Niobe I, and you knocked me into a hot spring!* (officious-sounding murmur). *Spock, you pea- green vegetative state! Big deal if it was 27-point-three-three minutes PAST the Fleet definition of 'last month!' ROUND NUMBERS! D'you hear me? ROUND NUMBERS ARE THE HUMAN WAY OF LIFE! IT--oh, sorry, Jim, I forgot you were there.* "That's all right, so did I." Jim admitted. "What are the two of you up to?" *I'm up to my usual height, plus the 30,000 feet higher altitude of the magnetically weakened orbit of the hospital satellite. Spock got a faceful of rocket candy fumes and I'm making sure there's no buildup of blood gases.* McCoy giggled. It was a strange sound over the comm. Probably because Jim hardly ever heard the doctor giggle. He wasn't the sort to giggle. An occasional smirk, yes, but a giggle required something of an innocent streak McCoy was usually lacking in. "How did Spock get a faceful of rocket candy fumes?" Jim wondered. *D'you want to talk to him?* McCoy asked hopefully. "No, no, this saves me the offical report." Jim smiled as he spoke. *Damn. Ok, we were mixing and SPOCK, of the perfect Vulcan memory, either had a convenient mental block about the effects of sucrose upon the Vulcan brain, or he was just flat-footed ignorant. So far I haven't gotten a straight answer on that...guess what? Superior hybrids are effected just as much as honorary full-blooded Vulcans.* (Disgusted mumble in the background). *Well, aren't you an honorary real Vulcan? God knows, you deny your mother as much as you can...God, I'm glad those restraints are working.* "Bones, you sound a little...strange." Jim blinked rapidly, trying to both absorb this information he was getting, and trying to picture it. *That's because I inhaled some of the zincoshine.* "Zincoshine?" *I thought you were an engineer once...zincoshine. You know, powdered zinc and moonshine. Corn liquor.* "I KNOW what moonshine is, Bones! But why use it?" "Corn liquor has a higher sugar content. That's why it has such a kick. You just can't get the same results from rye or spelt or wheat, although Scotty has a fairly tolerable heather-honey-mead distillate but that takes forever to make, and you have to count on a good bloom harvest with mild winters. Mild winters aren't all that common up in the Glasgow region--* "Uh, Bones, I meant...not that that wasn't fascinating...why were you mixing zincoshine and rocket candy?" *Well we weren't mixing them TOGETHER!* "I...I'm glad to hear that. Was this some kind of experiment with propellants?" *Nah, just comparin' the two methods on efficiency. The zincoshine won by a nose--so long as there's a lot of zinc around, but we can manufacture that pretty easy along any seacoast. On the other hand, the rocket candy is fine for low-grade propellants where there's already mercury contamination, plus it makes a lot of pretty pink sparks. I had to make a ton of the stuff for my daughter's Sweet Sixteen, and you want to talk about a busy day--* "Bones, I thought hard liquors were kept in government storage until the Base had a sponsored holiday." *Well, usually.* McCoy said cautiously. "So how did you get the moonshine?" *The door to the warehouse was unlocked.* This sounded familiar to Jim, somehow. He didn't know why, but that familiarity disturbed him. *You don't think I could get through a LOCKED door, do you?* "No, that does sound ridiculous," Jim laughed at himself. "Well, I take it the two of you are recuperating?" *I'm doing just fine. Spock will be fine in about an hour. But I'm going to have the nurse take his restraints off about five minutes after I take off running.* (mumbling) *Oh, right like Vulcans find revenge illogical. What about vengeance? Doesn't that have its place?* Jim hurridly shut off the communicator. Now that he had verified Spock and Bones were alive (at least for the moment), he was going to get some sleep. Jim had, by effort, managed to put his two best friends out of his mind. He had work to do. After breakfast. Base had a fair to tolerable cuisine, but Jim turned down the offer of fried potato hash-planks with bright yellow ketchup. Something far more basic would do him better than anything complicated. Jim didn't spend his rare offship days doing anything complicated. Complications were for days that involved wormholes, or crazed omnipresent deities. Or Klingons trying to learn dentistry. That kind of stuff. Jim's computer bleeped right in the middle of a plate of corn pudding and a glass of whole milk that Dr. McCoy definitely would not want to know about. "Kirk here," he swallowed before snapping the relay on. *Jim? It's Sharhn.* The Rigellian's almond-shaped face popped into view. Not just the commander of the entire base and the 2 parsecs surrounding, but an old school instructor and close friend. "Sharhn! I thought you were too busy for social calls!" *Well, we can visit for a game of cards tonight if you want--I'm been meaning to add to my bank account.* "Oh, you think so? Listen. My First Officer has taught me a thing or two about variable odds that you might have troubles with." *Um...Jim, speaking of First Officers...would you happen to know where he is?* Jim's heart slammed into PANIC mode. "What do you mean? Is he missing?" *No, no, not really. It's just that we have an odd little mystery on our hands. Either a few items were stolen from the base storeroom, or the paperwork hasn't caught up with the acquisition, or a few things have just gone missing or misfiled. Two men in Fleet uniform were seen nearby the Transpad last night, which doesn't prove anything, but one was allegedly a Vulcan." "Allegedly? You mean they couldn't tell?" Jim automatically stalled for time in an effort to think. Fast. *Look, it probably doesn't mean anything. Our files aren't Fleet grade, you know. There's a good chance somebody legally acquired someof our stuff, and the computer hasn't read it yet.* "Does that happen a lot?" Jim wondered cautiously. *Enough that I shouldn't discount the possibility.* Sharhn laughed self-consciously and ran his hands through his white hair. *This is silly. We're just a little nervous about the way our security is run, you know.* " could anyone get into your stores anyway? Don't you have standard security?" *We're supposed to, but truth to tell Jim, the goods were misplaced, or if they were stolen, the doors must have been unlocked last night, because there's no sign of forcing the seals.* "Nuh..." Jim cleared his throat. "You mean somebody could have just walked in?" He managed to keep his voice nice and even. Professional. His mother would have been proud. *Crazy, huh?* Sharhn chuckled. *Anyway, it probably doesn't mean anything, but if anything comes your way, as of this date, don't feel embarassed about telling me. Even if it sounds silly.* "No problem, Sharhn." Jim kept the smile on his face until after the screen was dark. Then he dove for his communicator, in search of one certain First Officer, and one particular "the door was unlocked" Medical Officer. *** Finding Bones and Spock turned out to be impossible. Jim was frustrated, but not all that surprised. He had learned long ago that if, for some unfathomable reason, his senior officers chose to actually work in tandem, they were a formidable foe indeed. Jim didn't even want to contemplate their plotting against him--he knew he'd lose. Trying to record what had happened since they beamed down was impossible. The fourth time Jim tried to dictate "moonmilk, rocket candy, and alien homophobes," he gave up and slapped the computer off. After the worst of his funk subsided, he remebered again McCoy's cryptic, "the door was unlocked" remarks, and vowed to at least figure out what THAT was all about. Several hours later, after a pleasant dinner with Chief Engineer Scott (where both men assuaged their fears that the latest "improvement" to the ship wasn't going to be the latest Daystrom fiasco), Jim returned to find his computer had recorded a message from the CMO: Bones was requesting no less than 1.25 meters of ship-grade, clothweave stainless steel. Now what the hell. Jim plunked down and warily returned the call. He was a little afraid of what he might find. "Spock here," was the response on the other side. "Spock? Where's Bones?" "He is enjoying the dubious benefits of a water shower." Spock answered, in that annoyed Vulcan-voice he used when a human in his presence so much as guzzled two ounces more of water than was absolutely needed for survival. Jim chuckled despite himself. "Well, I've approved the request for the steel-cloth. Not that I have much choice...I have a terrible feeling the two of you would find it anyway." "Captain," Spock protested, "The steel-cloth is solely Dr. McCoy's project." "I beg your pardon...but what the devil is he going to use it for?" "He said he would stitch "noodling gloves" with the metal fiber. My computer contains no reference...what would steel gloves have in common with pasta?" "You mean he isn't telling you?" Jim was astonished. "He seems to feel that too much information would cause undue alarm." Spock was still sounding vaguely scandalized. "Captain, nothing in my psychiatric evaluations have ever indicated I am irrational. In fact, I argue that there is no concept such as "too much information." I would appreciate it if you could explain this to him." "Spock, I'm really not sure what noodling gloves are," Jim admitted slowly. "I would venture to assume they are involved with some level of risk. Dr. McCoy did mutter a comment about "payback" for the inconvenience I put him through on Vulcan." "Well, Spock, I'm not Dr. McCoy, but you swore you only needed him to 'take a look' at your mother." "The odds of her contracting a virus that has been officially extinct for 7,000 years are outside the boundaries of reason, captain." "Yes, but he went through a lot of trouble to find the cure and adapt it to the human vector. Not that he isn't pleased, I'm sure he was thrilled to stand before VSU and accept his adoption into the Order of the Phoenix." "He was not thrilled." Spock stated emphatically. "Theoretically he was thrilled. You can't expect a gown man prone to stage fright to act happy in front of 33,000 Vulcans." "His phobia could be a severe detriment to his career." Spock insisted--for a Vulcan, he truly sounded sour. "It already is, Mr. Spock. He could have made Commodore fifteen years ago if he wasn't constantly writing those rude letters to High Medical Admiral Waabnongkwe." "That is illogical." "So what's your point, Spock?" Jim was enjoying himself. Spock was silent for a long time, thinking. "Captain, I would be less apprehensive of the future if I could find a reference to "noodling gloves." "Well, I can't blame you there. I'll see if I can find something." "Thank you, captain." "By the way, Spock, perhaps you could help me with something." "Yes?" "How is it Bones keeps popping up magically behind locked doors?" Spock paused. His face stiffened. "I assure you, captain, there is no "magic" involved. Spock out." "SPOCK!" Too late. Jim stared at the black screen. "Unbelievable." He muttered to it. His hazel eyes narrowed. Something was going on around here... Well, first thing was first. "Computer, search for reference to "noodling...with regards to Terran culture, Old Appalachian, Southern region." That, he'd bet, was Spock's flaw. A grand researcher, but he just couldn't seem to comprehend Bones was from a whole-different planet within a planet, coming from Georgia. The computer complied. Jim read the data. His jaw dropped. He saw the pictures. His eyes bugged. He read the last of the data. When he came to the part about "catfish weighing up to 112 pounds," and, "missing digits common casualties of hand-fishing," he turned the computer off. For a long time he sat with his chin in one hand, trying to absorb the fact that Bones was planning--no, plotting--what would be the most hellish vacation of Spock's short life. He could warn Spock. Then again, Spock hadn't been all that forthcoming with him about that "door was unlocked" schtick. "I'm not saying a damn thing," Jim said aloud. It made him feel better. Why is it, he wondered, his two best friends absolutely refused to bury the hatchet? Even when they were working together, there was an odd level of tension and competition. Well--Spock was the most obvious about it, rubbing in his racial superiority whenever Bones was within 40 feet--but it looked like he'd crossed his little Vulcan line, because Bones was getting ready to teach him a thing or two about his mother's people. "Oh, God." Jim said to the walls. "Why can't they get along? WHy do they have to fight all the time?" Years later, he would laugh at himself for his naivity.