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An Expression of Love
Kirk found McCoy in the line for the public transporter, an hour before the deadline for all personnel to return to ship.
"You're early for once," Kirk jibed.
McCoy just smiled. "Eager to get back," he said.
"Oh, that's right." Kirk remembered the attachment that had formed between McCoy and a certain Yeoman Barrows after their adventure on the Shore Leave planet.
That had been two months ago. Now they were returning from 12 hours liberty at Starbase 11. Bones' fling had lasted long enough to be called a relationship, and Kirk was happy for him.
"So, what's in the bag?" Kirk asked. Apparently Bones had done some shopping.
"Oh, just a little something. I'll show it to you when I get on board."
"Mm?" Kirk's first thought was that it was something alcoholic. Bones always seemed to know where to find the best stuff.
"I'm hoping she likes it."
"Ohhh," Kirk said. "Not Kentucky's finest, then."
"Kentucky? Ha! What good ever came out of Kentucky?"
"You old grouch, Bones. Now, what do you say we pull rank and beam up from the administrative section?"
"I'd say that's a capital idea, Jim."
The two friends quit the line.
"So this is it," Bones said, placing his package on the desk in his quarters.
"What did you get her?"
"Hmm." Kirk tilted his head and considered. "I don't think it's chocolate or flowers. Otherwise you wouldn't have spent so long getting it."
"Nope, not chocolate or flowers."
"You kept asking me if we were going to make our scheduled stopover here, so you must have planned it in advance."
"It looks a bit heavy, so it isn't lingerie, as if that couldn't be replicated anyway. It's probably something special. Something you had made just for her."
"You're pretty warm, Jim."
"Now, what do I know about Tonia Barrows? She's very open-minded and loves role-playing games. In fact, I hear she's known as a sex kitten, though I don't know where I might have heard that. Is it custom bondage gear?"
"Completely off the mark, Jim." McCoy laughed, and took his special burden out of the bag.
"A butterfly in glass?"
"Not just any butterfly. It's a monarch butterfly."
"It's a beautiful specimen," Kirk said admiringly.
"Tonia's from Monterey, California, Jim. The monarch butterfly is very important there. Every year they hold a monarch festival. All the children in the town dress up like butterflies and parade through the streets. Tonia told me all about it once. She tells me she's homesick sometimes, and the monarch butterfly reminds her of home."
Kirk smiled in happiness and put his hands on Bones' shoulders. "That's so thoughtful of you, Bones. Good luck. I know she'll like it, knowing it's from you."
"Thank you, Jim, though it doesn't make me less nervous. I've got butterflies in my stomach, in fact," he joked.
"Oh, well, we haven't been very serious up till now. We've always said we didn't owe each other anything. I got her this," and he ran his hand lightly across the glass case, "because I want her to know I've been thinking of her and she means a lot to me, and I hope she feels the same way too."
Kirk felt something fluttering in his chest as well. He was a complete sucker for stories of love. He impulsively gave McCoy a peck on the cheek. "Well, good luck to you." He was about to leave but he noticed the case again. "This is a sort of specimen case, right? I wonder if Spock would like a look at it."
"You're welcome to bring him over here, Jim. Just make sure he leaves. He's not spoiling my good mood today!"
"Done and done, Bones. I'm sure he'll tell us all about science history. In a bit."
Kirk left McCoy's quarters and trotted off to find Spock.
Kirk wondered on his way to Spock (who, he found out after a quick call, was in science lab 2) if he shouldn't have bought his own special gift for Spock while he was on shore leave. There was, he considered, just as much potential for misunderstanding as not, but he hoped that Spock would know he meant it as a sincere expression of affection and nothing more.
Spock had explained to him not long after they had started serving together that he was asexual and any conventional physical relationship between them was impossible. Kirk was resigned to the situation, but still hopeful. What he did have out of Spock was his loyalty, his support, and most importantly, his friendship.
With that thought, Kirk let himself into the science department laboratory.
"So what am I being 'dragged' to see, again?"
"I haven't told you yet. You'll see. It's a present for someone else, but I thought you might like a look at it."
"I'm sure you don't, but you'll see soon enough."
"Then I shall be patient until that time."
Kirk grinned. "Do you ever stop talking?"
"I can be silent if I choose."
They arrived at McCoy's door and went in. Spock as predicted went straight for the glass case, but he did not look at all pleased once he got a closer look.
"Is this real?" the Vulcan asked.
"Why, yes, Mr. Spock, that is a real monarch butterfly," McCoy replied.
Spock stood up straight and addressed him sternly. "You mean to say that what you have here is an insect that was collected and killed so that you could display it as some sort of trophy. How perfectly Byzantine, but not unexpected, Doctor."
"Now hold on, Spock," Kirk said, strangely embarrassed by Spock's negative reaction. "Haven't you ever seen a specimen case before?"
"Yes. It was a common and perhaps important practice in the early days of entomology. But to kill any creature, even an insect, wastefully, is wrong."
"Wrong! You're awfully casual in throwing around those moral judgments, Spock!" McCoy was furious. "Who decided that? You?"
"Bones, Bones," Kirk said, trying to mollify his friend before a full-blown battle broke out. "Spock's just talking from his relative place of cultural values."
"Sh, Spock, don't make this worse." Kirk took Spock by the arm and starting dragging him out of the room. "I'm really sorry!" Kirk mouthed to McCoy before they were both out the door.
"Now what was that all about?" Kirk demanded, once they were out in the hallway.
"I was simply stating the facts." Spock replied adamantly.
"Don't you have an ounce of sensitivity, Spock? That's a gift for Tonia--it's very important to him!"
"Ah. I believe I can report that her upcoming promotion has been approved, to Petty Officer Second Class." Spock paused, seeing that he had not given the correct response. "Ah, I understand. You indicated last month that there was a sexual relationship between Doctor McCoy and Ms. Barrows, so--"
"Am I incorrect?"
"You don't get it at all, do you?"
Spock blinked. "'Get' what?"
Kirk sighed. "Come with me."
Spock followed him to the portside porthole on the officer's deck. The view of the stars always calmed Kirk in some way, reminded him what it was all for. Kirk beckoned Spock to stand by him at the porthole.
"Spock, why are you in Starfleet?"
Spock began to give his oft-recited answer, "Starfleet affords me the best opportunity to put my scientific training into use."
"I know about that, but why Starfleet? Why not the Vulcan Science Service? As I understand it, they do more thorough planetary and stellar surveys than we do." Kirk turned to face Spock. "Aren't you here for the one thing you can never get in the VSS--a taste of beings and cultures entirely alien to you? Oh, sure, they go on archeological expeditions to planets that were inhabited millions of years ago. But in Starfleet, you learn about living cultures, interact with living aliens. Right? And not only that, but you live among humans, every day, right here on this ship."
"That is true."
"But if that's true," and here Kirk emphasized his point by grabbing Spock's closest shoulder, "then why do you resist understanding the humans around you?"
Spock's face became shuttered, but a quiver was in his voice. "I'm not like you," he said quietly. "I cannot be."
Kirk bit the inside of his cheeks in frustration. "I didn't mean to rehash an old argument. I just think you could be a little more . . ." he waved a hand, "thoughtful, that's all."
"Should I abandon my own 'relative cultural values' for the sake of the majority on this ship?"
"Of course not! No! What you just did in there was stomp all over his feelings. Don't you understand that? It's not what you said, it's where and when you chose to say it. Believe me, Spock, I do sympathize with your position. But you just caused an argument where there was no need for one. Didn't Surak have something to say about that?"
Spock bent his head guiltily.
"Spock, Bones is in love. It may not be something you understand," Kirk winked at his companion, "but love is something I would consider myself an expert on. So please, take this opportunity to learn from me. I'm sure you're dying of curiousity."
"I am not certain I would want to know why anyone would give a dead insect mounted on a pin as an expression of love."
"Well, that's the thing. Bones has very special reasons for giving that to her. It's personal. Just like anything that happens between two people." He looked at Spock hopefully.
Spock nodded. "I cannot argue with that, Jim. Perhaps you will tell me more about this--"
Spock raised an eyebrow. "--Somewhere private."