Cadet Spock looked up impassively. He put the last stitch into the edge of the senior class emblem and buried the little knot tidily in the underside of the fabric. He held the tunic up. The emblem was sewn impeccably into place and the whole thing looked as irritatingly perfect as if it had come directly from ship's stores.
"Uniform Maintenance is for any cadet who wishes to graduate from Starfleet Academy," Spock corrected patiently.
"It is not really so difficult." Spock retrieved the crumpled shirt from the floor. The senior emblem patch flapped over the breast, held on only by a couple of poorly applied threads. It was puckered where it did attach and seemed, perhaps, just a smidgen lopsided. The needle and thread still dangled from the fabric.
Taking a short blade from his utility kit, Spock cut the attempts at stitching. He rethreaded the needle and deftly made a dense knot in one end of the thread.
Spock centered the patch over the stenciled outline and smoothed it into place. He expounded as he worked. "One simply prepares one's project, chooses a place at which to begin, and works one's way around the edges, taking care to conceal the work and effort involved. Properly executed, it should appear that there was no artificial design or interference, but that all has fallen into place naturally."
Spock inserted the needle into the breast of the shirt and pulled it though the patch. He put in a number of small, tight stitches in rapid succession as he spoke. "To sew it in place, one works in small steps applying uniform tension to each stitch and easing off in between. The final product will be stronger and more secure of you use a backstitch technique, working first forward, then slightly backward, then forward again. It is more time-consuming, but the result will be much more durable."
Spock walked over to Jim's bunk and handed the project back. Jim screwed up his face but took it back to try again.
"Where did you learn to sew?" Jim grumbled.
Spock answered as he watched Jim's clumsy efforts, "From the Starfleet Basic Training Manual, page 274 to 279, as you should have. I found the instructions more than adequate. Sewing is a logical step in the development of civilization. Over 97 percent of all civilized races have developed it intuitively, in one form or another."
Even after three years, Spock was still largely an enigma, and yet Jim thought he knew a Vulcan dig when he heard one. Jim regarded him balefully, but the Vulcan's face was as cool as ever. The distraction was, however, a mistake.
"Ow!" Jim stabbed his finger with the needle and his hand jerked back in surprise. A large dollop of blood welled up and began to drip down.
Spock grabbed the bleeding finger and sucked it into his mouth. Jim stared at him dumbfounded.
But then Spock drew the blade of his tongue around the finger and Jim had no time to think of anything else. The alien tissue rasped as it raked over the sensitive palmar surface. From somewhere slippery saliva, thicker than a human's would have been, swirled around and Jim's brain dissolved in a whirl of pleasure. Spock sucked once with his lips. Jim's addled brain could not think of it anyway but as a kiss.
Spock let loose and Jim stared between his finger and Spock's mouth in absolute bewilderment.
Spock said coolly, "You should seal the puncture immediately. Starfleet uniform fabric is rather unforgiving of hemoglobin based stains--a rather odd oversight in the manufacture, I must say--and a stain would count significantly against your marks." Spock folded his hands in his lap demurely.
Kirk blinked. "Oh, right." He found a tube of Dermabond and plastered the area, taking his time, hoping the butterflies in his stomach would be gone when he was done.
He came back, sat on the bed and just stared at Spock who had watched him through all of this.
"Spock, what are you planning to do after graduation?" he asked, his mind still tumbling a mile a minute.
"I have applied for both command track and science positions. Of course, I have no foreknowledge of what posting I will be offered."
"Yes," Kirk pressed, "but as a Vulcan you have the option of serving on an all-Vulcan ship. Will you take it?"
"I think not. For one thing, as a hybrid, if I were to accept such an assignment, it would no longer be an all-Vulcan ship. For another, there is a certain illogic to joining Starfleet and then so quickly choosing to limit one's exposure to the many varieties of the universe."
"So, you will be getting a general deep space posting--like me?"
Jim rubbed his chin. "I have some connections. I put in for the Chawla. I think I could pull some more strings and get you posted with me. Interested?"
"That would be acceptable," Spock said.
"Acceptable?" Kirk queried.
"Yes," Spock said flatly. He picked the tunic off the bed and handed it back to Jim. "But you will not be posted anywhere unless you receive adequate marks for completion of Uniform Maintenance."
Jim stared at the shirt on his lap as if momentarily confused as what to do.
"Small steps, uniform tension, slack off in between. Move forward, then back just a little, then forward again. I am certain the final result will be satisfactory, but try to hide your work--make it appear that it was not carefully planned and painstakingly orchestrated." Spock raised an eyebrow and tilted just the corner of his mouth in the closest thing Jim had ever seen him achieve to a smile.