"Help yourself to a drink, Spock," said Jim, waving his friend into the kitchen. "I'll go up and get changed."
Spock waited until he heard Kirk's footsteps disappear upstairs before allowing himself to release the muted moan he'd been suppressing for most of the afternoon. He walked stiffly to the refrigerator unit to retrieve the Vulcan t'lak juice Jim had ordered in especially for him, then moved to the cupboard where he knew the glasses were kept.
He had agreed willingly to join Jim on a rare Earth shore leave, staying at Kirk's home in Iowa. He had even thought horse riding had been a fascinating idea when Jim had suggested it, until Rocket the horse got spooked by the horse-eared man trying to climb onto her, fired her thrusters and took off mid-mount, depositing Spock heavily on his rump.
Spock had thanked the ancient Vulcan gods that he had been alone at the time - he had no desire to be fussed over, and was seated somewhat unsteadily, and painfully, in his saddle when Jim emerged from the stables astride his own horse.
Now, satisfied that Kirk was still occupied upstairs, Spock took the chance to rub his bruised anatomy, certain that he would somehow have to avoid sitting down for at least the rest of their leave. At the very least, he anticipated a sizeable bruise. Sometimes, he felt an almost unVulcan envy at his friend's more generously cushioned physique.
Spock finished pouring his drink and leaned gingerly against the bench, eyeing the hardwood dining chairs with an inward grimace. He began considering how he could hide his discomfort from Jim when a chime sounded throughout the house, indicating an incoming call. Spock started to move to answer it, but Kirk came thumping down the stairs and Spock, satisfied that he no longer had to attempt to move at top speed, leaned back to finish his juice.
A few minutes later, Kirk emerged, only half-changed, in the kitchen doorway. "Spock, that was Bones. He'll be here soon. He said--Spock, why are you looking at me like that?"
"Jim, what are you wearing?"
Kirk followed Spock's gaze down to his fluorescent orange tights. "Oh," he said, starting to flush. "And they have a run in them, too..."
"They're my riding tights."
"Tights... for men?"
"No. Tights for women."
"Will you stop saying that, Spock!" He was starting to bristle under his friend's scrutiny. "They don't make men's tights like this."
"Certainly not in that colour, I would think."
"It was all they had in my size. Anyway," he said, waving his hand impatiently, "it's a trick my dad taught me."
"Your father wore tights, too?"
"Yes, and I think you should, as well."
A Vulcan eyebrow quirked.
"Look, Spock, I know you're sore after this afternoon."
Spock stiffened. He had been so certain Jim hadn't seen him fall.
"Riding chafes your legs something terrible, no matter what kind of pants you wear. Unless," said Jim, not noticing the way Spock suddenly relaxed, "you wear tights underneath. They pinch in places they weren't meant to pinch, but they stop the chafing."
"I see," Spock lied.
"How about this: I'll go back up and finish changing, then we'll head into town and get us both some tights before we go out riding again."
Spock wasn't sure his backside could take another ride on Rocket, but while he contemplated the futility of telling Jim he'd prefer to do something else without arousing his friend's suspicion, Kirk had disappeared upstairs.
"Anything I can help you fellas with?"
Kirk caught Spock's expression and replied, "No, thank you. I think we can find what we need." He flashed the young lady his patented I-know-I'm-sexy grin and took off confidently down the nearest aisle.
Spock regarded the woman curiously, mentally listed her as number 821 on the "Women Who Have Succumbed to the Kirk Charm" list, and strode dutifully after his captain.
"Doesn't look like there's too much to choose from, Spock. But, as long as they save your backside a little pain..."
"What's wrong with your backside, Spock?" a voice drawled from behind them. "Don't tell me you've become a pain in your own ass for once."
Spock turned to give McCoy a dark stare. The doctor's attention had strayed from Spock, however, to the pile of women's tights on the floor. "Wellllll... is there something the two of you want to tell me?" He picked up a packet. "Somehow, I had never thought I'd see that skinny Vulcan butt in fishnets."
"Not fishnets, Bones," said Jim, snatching the pack from McCoy's hands and throwing it back on the shelf. "Tights. For riding. I'm trying to save his backside further pain."
Spock, already uncomfortable with the direction of the conversation, noticed the young shop assistant stacking shelves nearby. "Gentlemen, do you think we could possibly steer this conversation away from the topic of my gluteus maximus?"
McCoy hooted. "Let me tell you something, you pointy eared elf. That" - he pointed at Spock's backside - "is no maximus. And no pair of women's tights is gonna save it from a good case of rider's rash."
Spock thought he heard a tiny giggle from the direction of the young woman and illogically wished that he carried his communicator so that Mr Scott could beam him up to the safety of the *Enterprise*.
"You'd be surprised, Bones," said Jim, sensing his Vulcan friend's discomfort and trying to divert McCoy from another round of Spock-teasing. He picked up a pair of "Tall" and another of "Extra Tall" tights in a shade of lime green. "They take a bit of explaining to your friends," he said, ignoring McCoy's snort, "but I guarantee they'll prevent the chafing."
The doctor snorted again. "That's a Kirk promise, is it?"
"Right. I'll put it in the same pile with 'I promise I'll be careful' and 'I promise to take it easy'."
Jim shrugged. "I keep the important promises."
Spock, relieved that the conversation had finally moved away from his anatomy, started to pick up the packets from the floor, arranging them tidily on the high shelf. He still had not thought of a way to tell Jim that he thought he was singularly ill-suited to horse riding and realised he now had more reason to conceal his earlier mishap with McCoy present. He eventually decided it was only logical to confront the issue when it arose.
McCoy, who had picked up some items of his own to purchase, accompanied Kirk and Spock to the front counter, where the lovely shop assistant had just finished serving another customer. She smiled broadly at them. Kirk grinned at her again and placed the two pairs of tights on the counter. Spock stood stoicly behind him and studied the wall with a concentrated fascination. McCoy, always an avid admirer of the female species, applied the same appreciation to the girl. She glanced at the packets, then frowned. "Did you mean to pick up two different sizes, sir?"
"Oh, they're not... both for... me," said Kirk, trailing off uncharacteristically.
"Yeah. One pair's for ol' lanky legs here," supplied McCoy helpfully.
Spock hunched his shoulders a little so he could hide more of himself behind his friend.
"They're for riding," explained Kirk.
"Oh," said the girl, still not entirely sure she understood. Or even wanted to. She gave a little nervous laugh.
The rest of the transaction was completed in silence and both Kirk and Spock were glad when they finally stepped out into the late afternoon sun.
Jim looked apologetic. "I'm sorry about that, Spock. I had no idea McCoy'd show up in the store like that. I hope you weren't too embarrassed."
"Embarrassment is a human response, Captain."
"Of course, Mr Spock." It was an old game. He grinned at the infinitesimal curl of Spock's lips and they shared a moment of mutual affection.
McCoy emerged from the store a minute later, a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.
Jim leaned over and whispered in his ear, "At least he never saw you fall off that horse."