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Co-Author: Gena


One tribble is left behind on the Enterprise.


Originally published in the print fanzine Beyond Dreams 1 (1999).

"Lonnnely, I'm sooo lonnnely, I need somebodeee and something to eeeat." Cahanta trilled mournfully as she scrunched her mottled, furry body along the corridor. Like the rest of her race she had six short little legs. Legs so short they were completely hidden by her fur, and they ended in tiny suction cup like feet. With legs and feet like this, she needed time and great perseverance for her to get anywhere. Usually, it was unnecessary for her to move far, since she was born in a crowd and soon produced companions on her own while a multitude of others around her were doing the same. There were always loving mates within reach, and, on her home planet, food was close by, since she could eat just about anything.

Cahanta had no idea where everyone had disappeared to. It was such a short time ago that she had companions just everywhere. Now they were all gone. The only thing she knew for certain was that if she didn't get some lovin' vibrations and a little sustenance soon, she and the eight little fur balls inside her were going to expire.

Desperation gave her strength as she reached a door marked Uhura, N., Lt., and Cahanta began awkwardly suctioning herself upward into sensor range. The door whooshed open, Cahanta released the suction and her furry little body tumbled into the room. One whiff of the perfumed air told her there wasn't so much as a birdseed lying around. So much for sustenance. However, although faint, there were some good, loving vibrations floating around the room. She couldn't tell if they were the leftovers of the room's lawful occupant or one of her own kind also longing for companionship. Whichever it might be, the feelings were enough to prompt a further investigation.

Several minutes later, Cahanta saw him, or perhaps her. It didn't matter which and it was rather hard to tell. Pure white, with fur that looked as soft as a newborn ball, the object of her instant affections sat regally atop a round gold box upon the dresser. Cahanta trilled excitedly, but received no response. Great, she thought, in my condition I have to find someone who wants to play hard to get.

It took her a laborious half-hour, but Cahanta finally managed, in a combination of tiny leaps, minute suction steps and scrunches, to make her way to the top of the dresser. Pausing a moment to rest, Cahanta feasted her eyes on the fluffy perfection of her newborn love. Wouldn't her litter mates be jealous of the mate she'd bagged? If she ever saw them again, that is. Again loneliness assailed her.

Ooching closer, Cahanta began the mating dance of her species. Her soon-to-be-mate couldn't know it, of course, but she was widely considered the best mating-dance dancer of her considerable number of brothers and sisters. Unfortunately, what Cahanta didn't realize was that she was energetically shaking her booty for was an expensive, but alas, non-living powder puff. After displaying most of her very best, most seductive moves, she nestled confidently against this unusually attractive fur-ball. Almost immediately she was bouncing helplessly with tiny eruptions of tribble sneezes.

* * * * *

Upon entering his quarters, with Spock hard on his heels as usual, James Kirk went straight to his desk, dropped the tapes he carried into the "in" box and started to sit in his chair. At the last second, he paused, twisted around to check the seat, then gratefully eased his butt onto the cushioned surface.

"Jim, I assure you that every last tribble has been removed from this ship," Spock patiently re-re-reassured, mentally noting to himself that this was the third time in the past hour that Kirk had taken this fast becoming automatic precaution. "I would remind you, in any case, that even if you were to sit on one, you would come to no harm. Tribbles have no teeth."

They had just returned from setting the great wheels of bureaucracy in motion to replace the poisoned grain. Kirk had been informed that the tribbles had been bequeathed to the Klingons, which had pleased him right down to his toes. He still couldn’t believe they were all gone, but everyone kept assuring him that they were just that, all gone.

Increasingly, more than anything else right now, Kirk wanted to relax and unwind. He needed…he needed some good loving from the best lover he had ever known. But could he talk him into it this time of day? They still had a few hours of their duty shift ahead of them.

"Hmmm," Kirk hummed, eyeing Spock speculatively. Opening their link he sent warm and willing, as well as hopeful, feelings to his mate. "But you do."

"Is that an invitation to take a bite out of your derriere?" Spock’s body suddenly changed from gracefully efficient to gracefully sexy, as he moved toward Kirk's side of the desk.

Smiling with appreciative seductiveness, Kirk slipped out of the chair and into his mate's arms. "Well, maybe not a bite. But," one finger came up to trace the firm lips that never ceased to amaze him with their sensual softness. "I wouldn't object if you happened to be in the mood to nibble a little."

Instead of pointing out the inappropriate time and the minor detail of their still being on duty, Spock realized that what only he could offer his mate was needed badly and needed now, not later tonight. Immediately Spock began maneuvering the two of them toward the beckoning expanse of the double bed on the other side of the screen. Along the way, he contented himself with nibbling the succulent lips, smooth throat and intriguing rounded ears. The appetizers, one might say, to whet his appetite while he got around to disrobing the main course.

Despite his fast growing lust, Kirk still had the presence of mind, upon reaching the bed, to yank back the covers and check under both pillows for interloping furry distractions. Spock sighed in exasperation and tumbled his paranoid lover onto the bed, following him down and pinning him right where Kirk wanted to be. "I assure you once again, Jim, there are no more tribbles on the Enterprise."

* * * * *

That was a giant waste of time, Cahanta decided as she tumbled out of the quarters of Uhura, N., Lt., and began waddling along the corridor. The object of her now completely terminated affections obviously must be comatose. There was no other possible explanation for his/her failure to respond. As for her own reactions to him/her, even if there had been a good response, Cahanta doubted that she would have stayed. All that sneezing just wasn’t worth it.

Unfortunately, Cahanta had used up a lot of energy, and now she was even hungrier and lonelier. She felt the fur balls stir weakly inside her, doubling her determination to find them the nourishment they needed. She'd search behind every door if that's what it took. Beginning with the one she had just reached. Gamely making her way up into sensor range, Cahanta allowed herself to fall into another private domain, this time of one Chapel, C., Nurse.

Once again, her highly developed nourishment senses told her there wasn't a crumb lying around this fussy, frilly domain. No sign, scent or vibration of a potential mate either. Wanting to be sure before continuing her exhausting search, Cahanta smoozed a little further into the room. That's when she spotted him...her...whatever. Just peaking out from under the bottom edge of the ugly bedcovering sat one of the fattest, fluffiest, and surely the pinkest Tribble she had ever seen. This tribble obviously had some source of food, and Cahanta’ hunger was desperate enough for both food and affection for her to overlook even the outlandish coloring. She trilled an excited greeting and bobbed an abbreviated version of the mating dance.

Silence.

Nooot another ooone, Cahanta thought with disgust. It was beginning to look as if she were the only live wire Tribble aboard, and she wasn't going to be either alive or strong enough to make like a wire for much longer at this rate. Maybe if she got a little closer...

Moving several wriggles closer revealed the problem. The object of her attentions was not overly fat, fluffy, or comatose. It was ignoring her because this tribble was actually two tribbles snuggled up side by side in conjugal bliss. Two bright pink tribbles? They were shaped very oddly, too. Long instead of round. They also each had a weird, hard ‘thing’ making them slant by holding one end of them up in the air. It was probably just as well they were mated, Cahanta decided as she beat a hasty retreat. They'd keep the mutation to themselves that way.

Weaker, nearly desperate, Cahanta once again resumed her endless quest down the corridor to the next unlocked door.

* * * * *

McCoy watched Kirk stride through the doors of the officers' mess. The captain was coming a after his dinner a little later than usual. He normally made a beeline from bridge to mess. However, judging from the loose stride and the contented glow that Kirk was obviously unaware he was sporting, the command team had detoured by their quarters for a quickie. Now Kirk was ready to satisfy his other appetite. Not that McCoy disapproved. Indeedy no. If he'd been writing Kirk a prescription to counteract the stress of dealing with Barris and company and the tribbles, a roll in the hay with that overgrown elf would have been just what the doctor would have ordered.

When Kirk had collected his tray and turned to look for a seat, McCoy motioned him over. Kirk settled across from the doctor and began checking over his dinner selections. Everything, including his coffee, came in for its share of poking, prodding and/or stirring.

McCoy’s curiosity could be held off for just so long. "Problem, Jim?"

"Just checking." Kirk sliced off a respectable morsel of steak and forked it into his mouth. As he enjoyed the succulent, lightly garlic flavor of the synthetic meat juices, he purred to himself, There’s just no doubt about it. Great sex is the perfect way to put an edge on a man's hunger.

"Just checking for what?" McCoy eyed his partially consumed food uneasily as he wondered this out loud. Had he just consumed something potentially nauseating?

"Tribbles," Kirk mumbled around the half-chewed bite. "Or parts thereof."

McCoy made a face. "What a disgusting thought."

Kirk grimaced in agreement and scooped up a mouthful of baked potato and sour cream.

"Don’t tell me you don’t trust that ever-lovin’ elf of yours when he says they’re all gone, "McCoy teased.

"Of course I trust Spock. But there were about a billion of those things around here and they managed to get into just about everywhere. This is a big ship. It would have been easy to miss one or two. And that’s all it seems to take."

McCoy opened his mouth to quote the exact number Spock had recited, but reluctantly closed it again when he realized he didn’t remember that number. Instead he insisted, "Yeah, well, Spock knew how many there were, and you can bet he was counting them as Scotty beamed 'em over to the Klingons. Mr. Efficiency, that's our First Officer." After he took his next bite of food, a sudden thought made McCoy glare at Kirk. He didn’t even wait to swallow, but threatened with a full mouth. "I’ll deny I said that, so don’t get gabby!"

Kirk grinned as he half-assed promised with a shrug, but what he was actually thinking of was how efficiently Spock had just dealt with him. "I trust all of you, Bones. It’s just that. . .well, I've got this feeling that we haven't heard the last of our affectionate furry friends."

McCoy felt a shiver of dread crawl up his spine. Kirk's "feelings" had the revolting habit of being disgustingly accurate. Hopefully, in this one case at least, a hope bolstered mostly by his faith in their resident Vulcan, a Kirkian hunch would prove to be wrong. Surely the man couldn’t be right all the rime.

* * * * *

Cahanta dragged herself to the door of Scott, M., Lt. Comm., C.E. As she inched up the smooth surface until the doors parted and she could drop inside, she wondered if she had the strength for any more exploring. There had to be someone on this ship who kept food in their quarters. Cahanta sniffed hopefully, then warbled ecstatically.

Eureka! Somewhere in this room was food! She wasn't sure what it was exactly - wheat, butter, a little heavy on the sugar - but at this point she didn't care. She could digest almost anything. There, only a few meters away, sat a metal box that her senses told her contained the sustenance she so desperately craved. Ravenous hunger now gave her strength, and she crossed the intervening space in what would surely have been a speed record for her race if there had been anyone around to clock her.

That same desperate strength allowed her to pry the tight fitting lid off the tin to reveal her prize - rows and rows of golden bars, each with criss-crossed fork marks running in a uniform pattern down their length. Briefly she paused to wonder what it was she was about to consume but she threw caution to the solar winds as her belly full of fur balls spurred her on. With a triumphant trill, Cahanta fell into the half-full tin.

* * * * *

Strolling along the peacefully empty service corridor, Kirk nearly jumped out of his skin as suddenly his chief engineer came sliding out of an access tube feet first to land squarely in front of him.

"I thought you were off duty, Mr. Scott," Kirk semi-squeaked after collecting his wits and some breath.

"Oh, aye, Captain, Ah am." Kirk watched as the off-duty officer moved a few steps further along the corridor. The Scot stopped in front of a panel, keyed open its electronic lock, opened the panel and peered inside before closing the door and re-engaging the lock.

"What are you doing there, Mr. Scott?" Kirk had followed along as the engineer moved onto the next panel.

"Just checking, sir," Scott muttered as he repeated the process with the panel.

Realizing he'd already had this conversation once tonight, albeit from a reverse direction, Kirk nevertheless asked the next logical question. "Checking for what?"

"For tribbles, sir," Scotty explained, once again moving a few feet along the corridor, this time stopping in front of a Jeffries tube.

"You don't really think you missed any, do you, Scotty?" Kirk was horrified to find that his respected engineer apparently shared his fear that one or more of the furry intruders could have been overlooked. On this subject he didn’t need someone whose opinion he respected agreeing with him.

Scotty finally turned his full attention to the captain. He tried to smile reassuringly. "No, no, Captain. Ah'm sure we're rid of the lot of them. Still...Ah wouldna want to have missed one and have a batch of the little hair balls gummin' up the works at a crucial moment. If ye ken mah meanin', sir."

Kirk understood all too well. "Carry on, Mr. Scott," he ordered as he continued on his own way. Kirk’s hunch was making his neck hairs quiver and crawl more than ever. As he walked, his eyes kept moving, peeled for the tiniest sign of a tribble re-infestation.

* * * * *

Replete at last, Cahanta burped delicately, checked for any overlooked crumbs, then climbed out of the empty tin. Hunger abated, energy restored, she was now free to concentrate on obtaining a little affection. Her fur balls were comfortably nourished for the time being, but they could not continue their development until she received some loving vibrations.

This positive emotion did not necessarily have to come from one of her own species, but the more enthusiastic as well as the more sexy the feelings were, the bigger and stronger her little fur balls would be when they were born. But now she was sensing that, for some reason, the beings on this ship were not projecting the most positive emotions toward her kind. So, just to be safe, she would stick to tribble loving.

Now a tribble with a vital mission, Cahanta wiggled around until she faced the door, intent on continuing her search. That’s when she saw him. Something told her this one was a male. Maybe it was the darker color, the longer coarser fur, the utter immobility as he adhered to some leather material half way up the wall. A thrill of anticipation coursed through Cahanta as she began making her way across the room. This one wasn't going to ignore her, not if she had to sit on him all day.

* * * * *

Kirk rapped softly on the doorframe of Spock's open office door.

"Jim," Spock greeted, looking up from his review of the latest completed stage of a long-running experiment.

"Just thought I'd see if you were planning an all-nighter in here, or..." Kirk paused to smile and pose with subtle seductiveness against the wall, "...if I might be able to coax you away." He had been passing by and couldn’t resist the impulse to find out if Spock would take advantage of their earlier lovemaking to work all night, although this was something he seldom did anymore.

"I estimate a further thirty-six minutes work, after which," Spock’s voice deepened suggestively, "I will be free until first shift tomorrow." He didn’t even bother to consider how, before Kirk, he would have worked on through the night. These days he had better things to do with his off duty time. Idly he marveled at his ability to respond sexually to his mate no matter how often Jim indicated he was wanted. After all those years of nearly complete celibacy he had assumed his sexual drive was a low one. Fortunately, he had been mistaken.

Kirk straightened happily. Apparently Spock considered their earlier quickie an appetizer rather than the day’s main course. "Then I'll just finish tucking in the ship for the night and meet you in our cabin in thirty-six minutes."

* * * * *

Cahanta's definition of sitting on him all day turned out to be about fifteen minutes, due to her total frustration at the strange male's failure to offer so much as a twitter in response to her overtures. She might have tried longer if it hadn’t been for her two recent failures. This time she gave up quickly on another no-go. Too disgruntled to inch her way back down the wall, Cahanta dug in to the coarse hair of her would-be lover and launched them both at the carpet, planning on landing on him, which she did. On him and his leather perch and fancy shiny clip. Although she had found food, which was very important, companionship was every bit as vital to a tribble as food. Fast approaching despondency, Cahanta left behind the burgled quarters of Scott, M., and continued her single-minded search along the corridor.

* * * * *

Setting a half dozen of his assistants to continue the tribble search with several dire warnings as to thoroughness, Scotty declared himself officially off duty and strode toward his cabin. What with tribbles and Klingons, and the residue of soreness left over from the fight in the bar, it had been a long day. Scotty was looking forward to a dram of his preferred stock and a half dozen bars of his horded shortbread cookies, then a nice long evening curled up with his technical journals.

Barely three steps into the room, Scotty realized that some blackguard had stolen into his quarters and robbed him. There on his cabinet, in its place of honor, sat his cherished square tartan colored tin, its lid lying cockeyed against the side. He hurried over, but, as he feared, his coveted shortbread was gone. Not even a tiny crumb remained to attest to the precious treat that had once been sealed within the shiny chest.

"Tha' bastard licked it clean," Scotty lamented, picking up the ravaged box and cradling it close to his chest. "What kind of mon would invade another mon's hearth and home and take his shortbread wieout so much as a by yer leave?"

Then he remembered the even more valuable treasures stored in this cabin. He hurriedly set the tin aside and knelt, keying open the locked compartment with trembling hands. The door slid open to reveal his untouched alcoholic stash. He sank to the floor in relief, visually counting the shining bottles.

"Now what fool would take mah shortbread and leave these darlin's undisturbed?" he asked the empty room. With blinding suddenness his clenching insides gave him the answer with nauseating certainty. A tribble! He scanned his room and nearly had a stroke when he saw his irreplaceable antique sporran lying on the carpet. Snatching up the precious object, the Scot checked for damage. Although he found none, his anger was not soothed.

"Ye bloody wee beastie, ye’ve gone too far," he growled. "Ah’ll find ye if Ah hae to tear mah cabin apart."

* * * * *

At the next unlocked cabin, Cahanta knew as soon as she fell through the door that she had found a motherload. Although the quarters were empty of people, her food senses began screaming a chocolate alert and her body fairly throbbed with the thick residue of someone's good times.

Despite her bellyful of shortbread, Cahanta chose to seek out the chocolate first and leave the hunt for the source of those loving feelings for later. She would have more energy for the mating dance, she rationalized, once she had had a little more nourishment.

Following her highly developed senses, she scrunched around the darkened cabin, finally reaching her goal in the form of a thick, ornate box under the bed. Determinedly she worked against the lid until her furry body trembled. She paused to rest, then ooched around all four sides of the box, testing its strength against her determination every few steps. She was so pre-occupied that she didn't notice when light began to filter into her hiding place. Nor was the conversation of other beings enough to penetrate her concentration.

Nothing could distract her from getting that chocolate into her belly...until...suddenly the strongest wave of positive sexual emanations it had ever been her good fortune to encounter swept over her, leaving her quaking in its wake. And it was coming from directly above her!

Abandoning the chocolate, Cahanta bee-lined out into the light, spinning around and immediately climbing up the end of the bed. She stopped dead when she spied the homeliest Tribble she had ever seen in her short life. Why, his fur was so sparse, she could actually see his hide through it! The foolhardy lackwit clearly wasn’t thinking because not only was he nestled between two long, strong looking legs where he could squeezed uncomfortably if that huge creature ever stood up, but he was clinging just beneath a tall, hard-looking green pole that was sticking straight up and wavering in all directions. It could fall at any moment.

But at least this sparsely haired tribble wasn’t comatose like those others. No sir! This one was trembling and bouncing around excitedly, showing much more life than any of the weird looking tribbles she had encountered so far this entire day. Maybe it was time to find out if it was true that the ugliest tribbles really were the best lovers. With lust in her heart, in fact throughout her entire body, Cahanta began her mating dance. Baldy quivered back at her, exciting her almost unbearably. She forgot that threatening, swaying green pole and sidled up to snuggle against and to wiggle into an embrace around the warmest, most fragrant tribble she had ever encountered.

The affection he was exuding was more than sufficient to bring her next three litters of furballs to maturity without any further affection from anyone. He was magnificent. Cahanta vowed never to lose track of this bald tribble. She would be his for life.

* * * * *

"Mmmmmm," Spock moaned inarticulately. He was sprawled spread-eagled on the bed with his eager lover half on, half beside him, his senses approaching overload from the dual stimulation of moist human lips suckling a nipple and a cool human hand slowly working its way down his thrilled tummy and finally doing delicious things to his swollen penis.

"If," Kirk murmured against the tiny peak, pausing to tease it maddeningly with the tip of his tongue. Spock loved to have his sensitive nipples played with and chewed on. "If you took that sound up a few octaves.…" Several more teasing licks and nibbles before he continued, "...you'd sound just like a happy tribble."

"Jim, there are no..." Spock began, but lost his train of thought when sharp teeth closed around his neglected nipple and the fingers slipped around and in between the super-sensitive ridges adorning his cockhead and then squeezed. He had no idea what Jim was doing, or even how he was doing it. But at the same time the human was sucking on his chest, driving him crazy playing with the double ridges that had enchanted his mate since his first glimpse of them, Kirk was also managing to do something new and quite pleasing to his testicles. With the small corner of his mind that he could spare, Spock decided it was as though Jim were squeezing the lightly with the fur mitt they used occasionally. Such multiple dexterity!

"Bet I can make you do it," Kirk threatened, letting his hand drift lower. "All I have to do is squeeze your.…" For a few seconds after his fingers closed around the much furrier and larger handful than he had ever found there before, Kirk froze in utter shock. Which was exactly how long it took for Cahanta, who had fallen completely in love, not to mention into lust, to begin shrilling and struggling in irate frustration at being separated from the most wonderful tribble she knew she would ever find.

"What the hell!" Kirk glared at the furry handful he had lifted away from Spock's family jewels.

Spock opened his eyes, both his heart and his cock sinking as he beheld the tribble gripped in Kirk's hand and the dual realization flooded through him. Jim is right. A tribble was overlooked. And that is the explanation for the feeling of the fur glove. Dare I allow Jim to realize that I found the tribble’s attentions pleasant? He is inclined to be possessive of me. Perhaps I would be wise not to bring that fact to his notice if I can avoid it.

To Spock’s relief, Kirk’s mind was on another track completely."‘ I can assure you, Jim, there are no longer any tribbles on the Enterprise,'" Kirk quoted with elaborate sarcasm dripping from every pore.

"But, but," Spock stammered. His logic, seriously handicapped by the hormones that still flooded his system, was attempting to engage, to switch gears and keep up with everything going on.

"Just get your butt dressed," Kirk demanded, keeping a wary eye on the tribble where he had dropped it on the side of the bed he had just vacated. Kirk noted its immediate waddling, rocking movement toward Spock’s groin as he angrily pulled on his own clothing.

Decently covered, Kirk again grabbed up the tribble, whose determination to reach Spock’s balls had become unmistakable, and stalked over to the intercom.

Shaking himself free of his horrified fascination with the single-minded tribble, the stunned Vulcan swiftly struggled into his own clothes.

"Kirk to McCoy," the captain snapped, once again dropping the tribble, this time onto the cluttered surface of his desk.

"McCoy here."

"Meet me in sickbay," he ordered, and switched lines before the doctor had a chance to acknowledge. "Kirk to Scott."

Nearly a minute passed before a harried sounding Scott answered. "Scott here, Captain. Sorry ‘bout the delay, but there’s a…."

"Tribble in my cabin." Both men spoke together.

"Another one?" Once again their words matched.

"You found a tribble in your cabin, Mr. Scott?" The horrifying possibilities marching through Kirk’s head.

"Not exactly, sir, just signs that one of the greedy little beasties has been here."

"Never mind, Mr. Scott. Just meet me in sickbay."

"Aye, sir," Scott was acknowledging as Spock quietly joined Kirk in the office.

Kirk cut the connection and turned to scoop up the tribble. To his surprise, the tribble had made her way off his desk and was rapidly, was with more speed than tribbles usually show, making her way toward the bed. Now that "Baldy" had furnished sufficient affection, her furballs needed only a bit more nourishment to be out and on their own. And nothing beat chocolate.

"Jim, it is only one tribble," Spock tried to soothe his agitated love. Becoming the immaculate first officer again had restored most of his calm and ability to think.

"That's all Uhura had, too," Kirk snapped, pointing out to Spock the weakness of that particular defense. He started moving swiftly toward the tribble. Its unusual speed and the even more definite direction the tribble was taking suddenly penetrated Spock’s rapidly recovering senses. He gripped Kirk’s upper arm, halting his progress.

"Jim, it seems to have a definite destination in mind. I have noted tribbles prefer to be in close contact with each other. Let us see where it is going. There may be more of them."

MORE! The very thought made Kirk stand quietly beside Spock and watch the tribble. Suddenly, with a sinking feeling gripping his gut, Kirk knew exactly where that tribble was going and worse, why the tribble was going there. That damn little thief had its sights set on his forbidden box of super-expensive, super-delicious chocolates. He had just removed them from his safe and stashed them under their bed for times when Spock got slept out and went to work an hour or two early.

As the tribble disappeared under the bed, Spock immediately folded his agile body down to where he could see under there. He saw no other tribbles. Only the one who had interrupted their love making, now trying to open an obviously expensive, five-pound box of chocolate delicacies. Palming the tribble he handed it back up to Kirk. After ridding his hand of their unwelcome guest, Spock then, with the exaggerated care usually given a ticking bomb, Spock retrieved the chocolates and rose to his feet.

"If there are more tribbles on board, Jim, these will attract them like little else of which I can think. Perhaps if you were to keep them in your safe?" Spock watched with satisfaction as deep color slowly flooded his mate’s face. Spock wondered just what would be the wisest use he could make of his knowledge of Kirk’s guilty secret. Kirk’s appetite was a never-ending battle, which called for any devious means Spock could think of to assist his mate to control it. McCoy was ruthless and Kirk hated salads, especially without dressing. Spock hated them in sympathy for himself, because Kirk became grouchy and hard to handle when McCoy insisted on them.

Kirk wished he were back arguing with the Klingons and making decisions about poisoned wheat. Obviously, explanations were useless. What could he say? He was sneaking chocolates. McCoy would kill him if he ever found out. Spock wouldn’t squeal on him, but there was no way that crafty Vulcan wouldn’t find a way to make him pay and pay big, for those forbidden calories.

Telling himself he was not only the captain, he was an adult and should be able to eat chocolates if he wanted to did only one thing for him. It reminded Kirk that there was important business right at hand to be attended to. Kirk fell back onto one of the three things he did best, give orders. Leading the way out the door, he snapped, "Let's go, Mr. Spock."

* * * * *

Four men stood around the table in sickbay, staring down at the tribble. "It ate every last crumb o’ mah dear old mum’s shortbread," Scott lamented, "and knocked mah sporran right off the wall. It’s a sacrilege, thot's whot it is."

"Is it pregnant, Bones?" Kirk ignored his chief engineer's ethnic outrage for the time being.

McCoy ran a scanner over the furry body. "Yup," he announced. "Eight little bouncing tribbles coming along fine. "Kirk gave the doctor a sour look, which McCoy ignored. After all, her pregnancy wasn’t his fault. "You know, though, with all those rich shortbread cookies in her belly and, by the way, those cookies are in there, so this is definitely the tribble that got into Scotty’s quarters. As I was saying, with all that food, I'm surprised they aren't further along than they are,"

"Since it's no given birth yet, Ah say we space the wee beastie." Scotty obviously was no longer feeling so horrified at the idea of feeding the tribble to an endless vacuum.

Spock, feeling guilty for having overlooked this pregnant lady in the tribble hunt earlier, had remained unobtrusive. Now he immediately protested such treatment for his tribble "lover," a thought he quickly squashed before it could darken his ears. "Mr. Scott, that would be unnecessarily cruel." He reached out and gently stroked the soft creamy-colored fur. The tribble began a contented cooing at the touch. This big whatever it was smelled like her beloved bald tribble. Spock picked her up and held her in his arms.

"Then what are we going to do with it?" Kirk demanded. "Pretty soon there's going to be eight more. All of them pregnant and all of them hungry. I hate to seem cruel to animals, but I think Scotty has the right idea. We're going to have to.…"

"Jim, wait."

Three pairs of eyes turned to Spock who stood cradling the tribble in his arms, a distracted look on his face.

"Spock?" Kirk prompted after the silence had become extended.

"Jim, I am receiving certain emanations which were not previously apparent...." Spock broke off talking to concentrate.

"What kind of emanations?"

"I am not.…" As ever, Spock was loath to offer a conclusion without sufficient data, even if it would get his ass out of hot water. "May I have your permission to perform a shallow meld with her?"

"You want to meld with a tribble? Have you lost your mind?" McCoy half laughed and half protested.

"Indeed not, doctor, It is just that the emanations I am receiving suggest the possibility that this creature has more intelligence than we were led to believe by Mr. Jones."

"You mean they might be sentient beings?" Kirk was horrified as he remembered the fate of his ship's furry infestation. He could see the same thought reflected on Scotty and McCoy's faces.

"Perhaps they are, Jim. Remember the Horta."

"Oh God. Go ahead," see if you can find her mind." Kirk stifled his moan. He just hoped the tribbles, if they were sentient, would prove to be as forgiving as Mama Horta had been.

Guessing at which end was the head, Spock gently pressed his fingers into the soft fur in various sections and finally got close enough to reach out toward the mind he had sensed. Several minutes later, he emerged from the meld, although no one other than Kirk was aware of it. Everyone else was concentrating so hard on Spock and the tribble, they never noticed the slightly startled look on Kirk’s face as Spock suddenly activated their link and rather desperately started mentally communicating with his mate.

Jim, she does have a fairly coherent memory of her activities since we beamed the others over to the Klingons. Kirk could sense Spock’s embarrassment and had to give him a good swift mental nudge to get him to bring forth the reason for it. She mistakenly thought my…testicles were a bald tribble. She is in love with…what she thinks they are, and can’t wait to find them again. She also wanted your chocolates to bring her pregnancy to completion. A strong wave of humiliation washed through Spock and flooded Kirk’s mind. Jim! I…the embarrassment! McCoy! I cannot give a full report.

Kirk knew he would one day find this particular tribble episode hilarious, quite probably teasing his Vulcan about it unmercifully. But this would be only between the two of them. Then his ever-agile mind realized he had perfect protection from paying "full" price (read that "catching hell" from McCoy or Spock) for his chocolate binge. Although no doubt he would have to share them; Spock had quite a chocolate sweet tooth of his own. Quickly he sent back, I won’t tell if you won’t tell or be mad at me. Deal?

Spock quickly returned, Deal, and began his report to all of them on what the tribble had conveyed to him. Spock’s audience listened with increasing astonishment to the report of Cahanta's adventures. A quick, seemingly casual glance at Kirk as Spock reached the part where she had entered their quarters had Kirk reacting immediately.

"Wait a minute, Spock. She fell in love with a powder puff, a pair of pink fuzzy slippers, Scotty's sporran, and ah, finished up in our room? And yet you're trying to tell us you believe it's sentient?"

"He said sentient, Jim," McCoy laughed. "He didn't mention bright."

"You think this is funny, Bones? Remember what you helped do to a whole bunch of what now may turn out to be an intelligent race," Kirk’s sense of humor surfaced and he immediately sent his thought to Spock. The tribble did, after all, show damn good taste in its fourth choice of mate.

Returning an annoyed mental growl, Spock concluded his report. "I do not know if I would go so far as to declare them an intelligent race, but I do feel I have sensed enough cognitive ability to warrant further investigation."

"Then we better see if we can get those tribbles back before the Klingons vaporize them." Kirk strode over to the intercom and paged the bridge.

"Bridge. DeSalle here."

"Lieutenant, are the Klingons still in sensor range?"

"Yes, sir. They’re on course for the neutral zone," DeSalle reported. "I was about to call you, sir. They've dropped out of warp. In fact, they don't seem to be making much headway at all."

"Alter course to intercept them. Warp 4," Kirk ordered. "I'm on my way."

"Ah better be seein’ t’ mah engines." The Scott heard "warp 4" and hastily headed for engineering.

"Let's go, Spock." Kirk had taken only two steps toward the door when he stopped. "Where do you think you're going with that?" He pointed at the tribble that Spock still cradled gently.

"She requires positive emanations if she and her babies are to thrive, Jim,"

"Not from you, she doesn't." Kirk plucked the tribble from Spock's arms and shoved it at McCoy.

"What's the matter, Jim, jealous?" McCoy thought he was teasing. He didn’t realize he was right on target.

Not deigning to dignify the all too true quip with a reply, Kirk snagged Spock’s arm and "assisted" out of sickbay. He wasn't about to share Spock's testicles or even his positive emanations with anyone! Even something as insignificant as a tribble. Especially if the fool thing could actually think.

Breathing a sigh of relief that he had not previously blurted out unnecessary truths, Spock followed quietly beside Kirk. Perhaps the truth of his actually enjoying the tribble’s efforts could remain forever…wherever it was now.

* * * * *

Meanwhile, on the Klingon ship things were not exactly coming up roses for Captain Koloth. In fact, the state of his command at the moment bore closer resemblance to a dung heap, and the situation was getting worse by the moment.

His ship was dead in space, its engines shut down and rapidly growing cold. He'd had no other choice but to order the chief engineer to shut them down. When the horde of tribbles had materialized so unexpectedly in his engine room, (and he had a damned good idea where they had come from—curse Kirk to the lowest reaches of Earther hell!) his startled men had retreated. Believing the ship was being invaded, the men had promptly sealed and locked the doors!

If he didn't think of something soon to get rid of the vermin (short of blowing up his own engine room), he was going to have a mutiny on his hands. And, of course, there waiting in the wings stood Kritch, his obnoxious second in command, more than eager to take over his ship.

"Captain."

Koloth turned a baleful eye on his science officer. If this fool doesn’t have some good news, he better keep his trap shut! the captain snarled to himself.

"Sensors show the Enterprise, sir. On an intercept course, and doing warp 4." The science officer reported this reluctantly. It never paid to be the bearer of bad news in the Klingon Empire, and sometimes it paid even less than usual. Using the pretext of checking on the Federation ship, he moved a little further out of his captain’s reach.

Definitely not good news. "What does that slime devil Kirk want now?" Koloth demanded of the bridge at large. "Put up our shields and power up the weapons. If that Earther thinks he's going to visit another plague on this ship, I'll blow it right back down his throat."

* * * * *

"Shields, Captain?" Sulu asked as they came up on the stationary battle cruiser.

"You might consider what we did to Captain Koloth," Kirk suggested mildly.

"Shields," Sulu concluded and swung back to his board.

Kirk depressed the intercom stud. "Scotty, is that cargo hold ready."

"Aye, sir," came the tinny response. "Sealed up tighter than mah old maiden.… Aye, sir."

"Then get down to cargo transport," Kirk ordered. He cut the connection and swung toward the science station. "Anything yet, Spock?"

Spock straightened from his viewer. "The tribbles are still aboard, Captain. Sensors show a mass reading in the cruiser's engine room. I would estimate that there are approximately 473 more tribbles aboard the cruiser than we beamed onto it."

Kirk sat back, stroking his chin as he considered the facts. "So, Koloth hasn't figured out how to get rid of them yet," he speculated. "He's probably mad enough to chew dilithium. Perhaps it won't be too difficult to convince him to give up his uninvited guests. Uhura, open hailing frequencies."

"Captain Koloth, sir," Uhura confirmed as the Klingon's image came up on the screen.

Kirk sat, apparently relaxed in his chair, and offered the other commander his falsest smile. "My dear Captain Koloth," he greeted sweetly.

"My dear Captain Kirk," Koloth replied through clenched teeth.

"I've intercepted you because I've just discovered that in my absence, some of my officers have played a harmless little joke on you."

"Harmless!" Koloth echoed then swiftly curbed further words he would have loved to snarl at the infuriating Earther. There was no sense telling Kirk more than he could find out with those damned Federation sensors.

"I'm glad you agree, Captain," Kirk continued jovially while Koloth ground his teeth till they ached. "A joke's a joke, I'm sure you'll agree, but cruelty to animals is something else entirely," Kirk went on, not making clear which party he considered abuser and which the abusee. "If you'll lower your shields, I'll have the tribbles beamed off your ship and returned to where they belong."

Koloth gaped. Did Kirk really think him mad enough to drop his shields? He signaled his officer on communications to cut the audio then snapped. "Science Officer, why didn’t you suggest beaming those…things ourselves."

"We can’t, sir. Transporter power comes from the engines, sir, and we can't restart them from the bridge."

Kirk well and truly had him by the short and curlies, Koloth realized. He signaled the line back open.

"Captain Koloth, if you and your men have become so fond of the tribbles that you'd rather keep them, we'll just be on our way," Kirk added before Koloth had a chance to speak. "Mr. Chekov, plot course for…."

"No!" Koloth shouted, then continued more calmly. "I agree with you. It would be unfair to force all those...tribbles to exist outside their...natural habitat. I do assume you intend to really return them to their home?" He tried to ask this as if he really gave a rat's ass if Kirk planned on taking care of them or was going to make fricassee out of them.

"But of course, Captain," Kirk’s smile and voice were positively oily with assurance.

With no other viable alternative, Koloth ordered his weapons officer to lower their shields. In a matter of minutes, the transfer was complete, and the tribbles were safely sealed away in the specially prepared and provisioned cargo department.

"Captain Koloth," Kirk said, relaxing (for real) into his chair. "It's been a...pleasure." (A definite lie.) At his subtle signal Uhura cut the connection and Kirk dropped the act, leaning forward in gleeful urgency. "Mr. Sulu, get us the hell out of here before Captain Koloth has time to wonder why I’ve suddenly become so gracious."

"Heading, Captain?" Sulu asked, hands poised over his controls.

"Space Station K7, Lieutenant. We'll let Mr. Jones deal with our passengers." Kirk was pleased with that decision, and then he happened to remember how many new tribbles Spock estimated had been born aboard the Klingon ship. "Oh, and Mr. Sulu…." Sulu turned toward Kirk expectantly.

"Warp 8."

*****

Inside the cargo hold:

Once again among many hundreds of her own kind, Cahanta promptly gave birth to her eight little hair balls, and then set out to find her beloved Baldy. At first she was confident, but as the hours went by her trills and calls became more and more wistful and plaintive. Where could he be? She just couldn’t give up, she wanted him so. She trilled again and again as she wiggled and tip-toed her way through the large cargo hold.

*****

Several Months Later:

"Spock, I think your friends at the VSA must have blown a logic circuit," McCoy accused as he joined the command team at their usual table in the officers' mess.

"I have no friends at the VSA," Spock corrected automatically. "And if you are referring to their preliminary report on the tribbles.…"

"I am! Can you believe it, Jim, all a tribble ever thinks about is eating and fucking, and those Vulcan geniuses classified it as sentient."

"Pre-sentient," Spock amended with emphasis. "It is difficult in some cases to determine sentience. At one point in their development, securing nourishment and propagating the species were also the only concerns of the human race."

"And the Vulcans," McCoy was quick to point out.

"I don't really care if they develop into budding Organians," Kirk cut in to stop the beginning duel. "Just as long as they don't do it on my ship."

"Jim, after all this time, I can assure you there are no…."

An imperious hand cut off the rest of what his two dinner companions might have to say. An equally imperious glare backed up by a voice to match informed them, "Gentlemen, I don't want to hear it!"

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