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Snow Ball was a total brat.


Jim Kirk still could not get over how different two tribbles could be. When he had first encountered the purring balls of fluff, they had, frankly, all looked and acted alike, especially when a 100,000 of them were dropping out of a cargo hatch and onto his head. But now that Spock had two of them as pets, Jim could see that tribbles, like humans, had personalities.


D.B. (or Dust Bunny), Spock’s first white tribble, was adventurous and loving. He (or she or it; Jim still wasn’t sure, and since the critter was sterile and had no visible genitals, it didn’t matter) could wiggle out of any confinement and turn up virtually anywhere on the ship. D.B. had been fished out of the swimming pool, hauled out of the women’s locker room (sexless animal or not, Jim still had his suspicions about that little escapade), picked out of a punch bowl at a diplomatic reception (good thing the Andorian Ambassador had a sense of humor and a love of animals), and rescued just before he rolled into a photon torpedo tube. D.B. also had an uncanny ability to find Spock wherever he was, rolling into a room and purring like Scotty’s engines until Spock picked him up and petted him, even if it was in the middle of a staff meeting or on one memorable occasion, right in the middle of a fire fight with a Klingon ship. (Actually, that had worked out rather well. The sight of the ship’s Science Officer fearlessly holding a tribble had made the Klingon commander sue for peace immediately). However, if Spock wasn’t around, D.B. would happily curl up on any available lap.


S.B. (Snow Ball), on the other hand, like people well enough, but he was far more autonomous than D.B.; he would let people hold and pet him, but he usually wanted to be on the floor exploring.  S.B. also tended to stay in Jim or Spock’s quarters, moving between the two cabins with ease. For the longest time, Jim hadn’t been able to figure out just how the tribbles managed to get into presumably locked rooms, until the morning he had seen S.B. turn himself into a furry pancake and slide right under a crack at the bottom of Jim’s door.


 Except for Jim’s quarters, S.B. did not wander around the ship. However, his bad habit more than made up for it. S.B. was a kleptomaniac.


He stole everything that wasn’t red-hot or nailed down. He stole items he shouldn’t have been able to drag, like Jim’s full-dress uniform tunic, and (Jim still blushed at this memory) Jim’s favorite vibrator. S.B. had a stash of socks that would have made a foot fetishist proud. He stole styluses, medals of valor, towels, and Jim’s reading glasses. He had hiding places all over Jim and Spock’s quarters, and he wasn’t sharing.  Every time Jim burrowed in the back of his closet, he found something he hadn’t known he was missing, hoarded there by S.B.


Tonight was no exception. At the sound of the soft trilling, Jim looked up from his reports just in time to see S.B. rolling across the room towards the door, proudly dragging—oh God, no—Jim’s favorite pair of red satin briefs, the ones he only wore on very special occasions, like Valentine’s Day.


Alarmed, Jim jumped up and ran for the door, but S.B. was faster. Before Jim could reach him, the little fur ball had slid under the door, briefs sliding with him.


The shrieks of laughter in the corridor indicated that at least three female yeomen had happened by at just the wrong time.


 


Spock was worried. Worry was not an emotion he usually indulged in; it was highly illogical and completely unproductive. When there was a problem, Spock looked for a way to solve it. If it could not be solved, Spock looked for an alternative course of action. So far, this strategy had served him well. But it did nothing for his current dilemma.


For the past seven months, Spock had been involved in a romantic relationship with Jim Kirk. That was not a problem; Spock had loved Jim Kirk for years (as he admitted to himself at 3 a.m. when no one was looking). At the outset of their relationship, Spock had been concerned that since he had almost no experience in romance, he might not be able to satisfy Jim’s need for such, not to mention Jim’s sexual appetites, which were impressive indeed. However (Spock would have blushed if anyone else had known this) that worry turned out to be completely unnecessary. Jim was a tender, thorough teacher in the ways of passion and his tutelage, coupled with Spock’s long-repressed desire, had ensured that their love life was quite satisfying to them both. Their working relationship was also going well. A few people on board knew of their involvement, and a few more suspected, but no one seemed to mind, and their attention to duty had not flagged, nor had Jim’s ability to give Spock orders or Spock’s ability to give Jim excellent advice.


So everything was going well—or so Spock had thought. But for the last several days, Spock became more and more convinced that there was something wrong. Jim seemed distracted, almost nervous around Spock. He disappeared into his quarters frequently, and Spock often heard him pacing during the night. Worst of all, two nights ago, Spock had walked into his quarters and found Jim there. Instead of being glad to see him (and Spock had been very glad to see Jim), Jim had blushed, mumbled an excuse, and almost run out of Spock’s cabin. Spock had tried once or twice to ask Jim if anything was wrong, but Jim put him off with a quip and a fast retreat. Spock was worried, and worse, he was afraid. It had taken him so long to work up the nerve to approach Jim. He had truly thought they would be together for a long time, perhaps even bond someday. Spock had been trying to get up enough courage to discuss bonding with Jim. He could think of no one more perfect to become his bond mate than Jim, and he knew that his parents, especially his mother, would welcome Jim into the clan. But now, after seven months, Jim was showing all the signs of someone who wanted to get out of a relationship. Spock truly did not know what to do. He decided he had to talk to the only person who might be able to help him figure out Jim’s mindset.


 


“Spock, I’m not Dear Abby,” Bones said in total exasperation. “Furthermore, I’ve spent a good deal of time in the last five months trying to ignore the fact that the two of you are canoodling, and now you’re trying to pollute my mind with mental images I don’t want.”


Spock made a mental note to look up that word later. For now, he concentrated to convincing McCoy to help him. “Doctor, I realize that this is not within the normal purview of your duties,” he said, “but…”


“You can say that again.”


“Why would I say it again?” Spock was puzzled. “Did you not hear me the first time?”


McCoy snorted. “Never mind. Just don’t look to me for relationship advice.”


“Leonard.” McCoy was startled; Spock almost never called him by his first name. “Leonard, if I knew anyone else I could trust, I would ask that person. But you are Jim’s friend; you understand him in ways that I do not, and I know that you will be both honest and helpful. Please.”


“Oh, Hell.” McCoy felt like a total heel. “All right, Spock. Don’t give me those puppy dog eyes.” He waved a hand as Spock opened his mouth.  “Never mind.” He pointed to a chair. “All right. Tell Uncle Bones your problem.”


Spock sat down and explained his observations over the past week. McCoy thought for a moment then shook his head.


“I don’t know what’s going on, but I don’t think it’s what you believe,” he said finally. “Look, Spock. I’m not going to swell your Vulcan head, but I will tell you that every time Jim and I are together, he goes on about you as if you invented the warp drive and devils-food cake, all on the same day.  I don’t know if he’s told you he loves you—and I don’t want any lurid details!—but I think he does love you, and I can’t imagine that he’s suddenly gone off you. I think you need to go directly to him and ask him what’s wrong. If he has changed his mind about your relationship, I know him well enough to know he’ll be honest about it. And frankly, Spock, there’s nothing worse than uncertainty.”


Spock rose. “Thank you, Leonard. Your advice has been most helpful.” With a quick nod, he was gone. McCoy sighed and pulled out his favorite bottle of sippin’ whiskey.


“Lonely hearts advisor to a Vulcan,” he said to himself as he poured two fingers into a glass. “Who would have thunk it?”


 


Spock stood outside Jim’s door until he felt like a stalker. This will never do. The task must be performed.  There is no logic in delay. He took a deep breath and hit the buzzer.


“Come in.”


Spock walked into Jim’s cabin with the air of someone walking to the scaffold. He didn’t even say hello.


“I need to speak with you,” Spock said. His heart ached, but he couldn’t stand Jim’s distracted mood anymore. If Jim was tired of him, better that Spock know now, before his heart was any more involved. Who am I deluding? Spock thought helplessly. My heart is already gone; Jim has it in his keeping.


Jim looked up. “Spock!” He rose from his seat. “I’m glad you’re here. Come in.” Jim was actually somewhat taken aback. Spock was the soul of courtesy; he never swept into Jim’s quarters and arbitrarily demanded to talk to him. Something must be wrong. Jim suddenly felt cold. Oh, God. I wonder…is he tired of me? Is he here to break it off?


Spock sat down abruptly, still determined to get this over with as quickly as possible.


“Jim, over the past few days, I have noticed that you are…avoiding me.” The very words made his throat ache and gave Spock a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. “I know that humans often have a difficult time ending a romantic relationship; however, I…”


“Spock!” Jim was beside him at once, reaching for his hand. “No, please. I thought—I thought we were happy. Why do you want to break it off?”


Spock looked down at their clasped hands, trying to understand the messages he was receiving, messages that seemed to run counter to Jim’s earlier behavior. “Jim, I do not want to break it off, as you put it.” He looked up, his gaze caught, as it so often was, in the golden light of Jim’s eyes. “I thought…I believed that your distraction, your inattention, indicated that you wished to terminate the relationship but were unsure how to do it, afraid perhaps that you would injure my feelings.” Spock forced himself to go on. “I do not wish to bind you if you do not wish to be bound,” he said quietly.


“Oh, Spock,” Jim replied, moved. “That’s not it at all.” He lifted the hand he still held to his lips, brushing a tender kiss over Spock’s knuckles. “I certainly do not want to end our relationship. If I’ve been distracted lately, I’m sorry. You’re right about one thing; you are the cause of my distraction, but not because I wanted to break up. I…I want to ask you a question, and I’m not sure how to do it.” He gave Spock a rueful smile. “I had a…prop that I planned to use to help me ask it, but I can’t find it, so I’ve been dithering like an idiot instead of just coming out and saying what I want to say. I’m sorry, Spock; I should have known that you would wonder what the Hell was the matter with me.” Jim squeezed Spock’s hand and smiled slightly. “Frankly, I sometimes wonder myself, at least where relationships are concerned.”


Spock felt a tiny flicker of hope moving into the empty space in his soul. “Jim, what was it you wanted to ask me?”


Jim tried to make his brain and mouth work together. “I…well, I”….come on, damn it, it’s not that hard…


Kirk looked down and then looked again, still not sure he was actually seeing what his eyes told him he saw. There was S.B. scooting across the floor with his usual efficiency, pushing a small gold ring before him, looking for all the world like a 19th century little boy playing with a hoop.


“Snow Ball, you little brat.” Jim swooped down and picked up the ring. He turned to Spock, relief in his eyes.


“Love, I wasn’t distracted because I was trying to dump you,” he said. He looked down at the ring in his hand, suddenly shy. “I…I wanted to give you this, to ask you if you would—marry me, bond with me, commit to me, run off to Planet Vegas, Hell, whatever you want. I’ve been avoiding you because I was trying to tear both our quarters apart on the sly, looking for this ring. I guess I should have performed a shakedown on S.B. instead.” He sat down next to Spock, the ring still clutched in his hand.


“Plus, I’ll be honest; I was nervous. I’ve never asked anyone to marry me before; I never wanted to. I’m not going to pretend I haven’t had my share of relationships; you know that as well as anyone. But you’re different; what I feel for you is so far beyond…” Jim stopped, unable to put it all into words. “I want you with me every day, every night; I want you for the rest of my life.”


Spock simply stared at him. Jim couldn’t read him at all.


“I’ll get down on my knees if you want,” Jim said softly. “Whatever it takes to convince you, I’ll do it, gladly.” He stretched out and opened his hand. The ring glinted on his palm.


“Spock, will you have me? Will you spend your life with me?”


“Jim,” Spock breathed, “do you mean it?”


“Would I be fighting a tribble over a gold ring if I didn’t?” Jim grinned. He sobered, laying the ring aside for the moment. “I know it’s a big decision, and maybe…maybe you don’t want a human mate; maybe you want to go home eventually and have a family. Look, Spock, if you want to someday go back to Vulcan and bond with a Vulcan female, I’ll understand, and I won’t ask more than you can give. I’ll take whatever time we can have together…”


“Oh, Jim!” The rest of Kirk’s self-sacrificing speech was cut off by a Vulcan squeezing the breath out of him.


“Is that a yes?” Jim laughed, euphoria making his heart soar.


Spock answered him, but not in words.


“That’s a definite yes, then?” Jim managed to tear his lips away from Spock’s long enough to ask.


“That is a complete yes,” Spock confirmed happily.


“Good.” Jim picked up the ring he had left lying on his desk. “Here, love. Wear it in good health.”


Spock looked at the gold band. “There is writing inside.”


“Yep.” Jim was proud of the idea. “After all, there are a lot of gold rings in the galaxy; I wanted this one to be yours.”


Vulcan eyes could easy make out the letters engraved inside—Spock: t’hy’la.


 


Much, much later:


 


“Jim.”


“Yes, love?”


“We are out of lubricant.”


“We can’t be; I just got a fresh tube. It’s in the nightstand.”


“No, it is not.”


Snow Ball!”


 


Spock spent nearly two hours the next day bathing, drying, and combing two very sticky tribbles. He also resolved to find a tribble-proof lock for the nightstand drawer.


 

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