Ensign Vimal was anxious for promotion. He never enjoyed the task of laundry when he was a civilian, and no assignment from Starfleet could make him like it. There were other ensigns aboard this ship…and they didn’t have to do the laundry. But here he was, with the newest ensigns of the USS Enterprise, waiting for the yeomen to arrive with that day’s collection of laundry. On the schedule for standard duty uniform cleaning were the alpha shift’s bridge personnel. The pressure was double today.
Not because the captain’s clothing was in the collection that day.
It was because Commander Spock’s uniforms were to be laundered that day.
That Vulcan was as particular about the state of his laundry – washed and unwashed – as he was about everything else in his life aboard this ship. Each piece of clothing had to be properly cared for. If the garment required, it was to be folded properly. If the garment did not require folding, it was to be pressed and hanged properly. Whoever had the misfortune of being on this laundry rotation hated that they enlisted when they got to the Vulcan’s clothing. Everyone just wished that the anal-retentive Vulcan would do his own laundry all the time in the ship’s Laundromat, where everyone laundered their own civilian clothing. It would certainly raise the morale of the lowly laundry ensigns, and lessen their stress.
Vimal looked up as Yeoman Rand entered the laundry-room, her arms loaded with a rather impressively large container overflowing with clothing. “That’s way more than normal, isn’t it?” He came forward to help her with the heaping pile.
Rand sighed. “Well, this is what happens when James Kirk decides to change his shirt every five minutes—” She held one up that had a rather spectacular rip right across the middle of the chest. “—or ruins it every other five.”
Vimal chuckled. “Get out of here, Rand. We’ll take it from here.” He shouted down toward the other end of the room. “Flannan, I’m going to need help today!”
A faint reply sounded. “Alpha bridge crew day?”
“Yep!” he replied.
“Be right there!”
A moment later, Flannan appeared at Vimal’s side. His smile wore off when he noticed who was right behind her. It was one of the newest transfers. And this one was a winner. She was one of those cadets that – before the destruction of Vulcan – would never have passed at the Academy. However, because a majority of cadets lost their lives at Vuclan, the Academy didn’t exactly consider the exam scores of its younger cadets. They just needed personnel at the time. Once their recruiting level rose again, the scores would probably carry a little more weight like they used to before they lost so many cadets. This boy was one of the exceptions.
Taking a deep breath, he leaned close to Flannan and asked, “Do you think he could separate the colors, at least? We never tried that approach.”
“Maybe?” She turned to her trainee. “Can you start us off by separating the science blues from the command golds and all the reds?” They both tried to hold back their flinch as he nodded at them.
His name was Wesley Sienna, and he had yet to do his job correctly.
Vimal desperately hoped that today – the day that Commander Spock’s wrath was at risk – would be the exception.
Nyota Uhura was usually the first on the bridge for alpha shift. Mainly because the communications officer on third shift for some reason left the station less than clean…every single time. The other reason was that it gave her some sort of sick pleasure to see everyone struggle to wake up for their shift while she was already both mentally and physically present on the bridge. She liked to see everyone trickle in to relieve gamma shift and begin alpha shift.
“—wish we were still in bed, too, but you can’t hide there forever because you have nothing suitable to wear for duty.”
Nyota whipped her head to face the direction from which the captain’s voice came. She wondered just who he could possibly have seduced last night that he would blatantly say something like that to in public…on the bridge no less. And from the sound of things, he’d either hidden or ruined the other person’s uniforms!
Her thin eyebrows came together at that thought. Why would Kirk ruin someone’s uniforms? She had thought that he’d grown up a little since they’d left Earth for their first mission, but apparently not. Apparently, if you slept with Kirk, you were then obligated to deal with the ‘walk of shame’ back to your own quarters!
“I think you’d look wonderful in purple, but—” Nyota looked closer at the captain and noticed that he was not speaking into the standard communicator. Instead he was using a private device…very similar to her communications earpiece. It went directly into his ear so that only he could hear the person on the other end of the conversation. He wanted privacy. “Then, you don’t have to wear it, sweetheart. Just—listen, just wear the black undershirt. You look good in black.” He waited, listening to the response as he perched himself on his center chair, relieving the lieutenant from gamma shift. “Okay, you’re right, you might look too good in the black. So, it’s either purple and look a little funny to everyone or the black and look really good to everyone. Either way, everyone’s going to be looking at you.” Then, he laughed. “You’re not usually this indecisive. Just pick something and report for duty. Consider that an order.”
He touched the ear-device and then turned directly to the turbolift as it opened to reveal Pavel Chekov…Nyota gasped at the sight. Kirk swiveled his chair, looking too pleased about that feature, and gave her a look that was both complete seriousness and complete silliness. “Something wrong, Lieutenant?”
Then she realized just what looked so…off about him today. It wasn’t the ear-piece at all. “Are you aware that you’re wearing the wrong shirt today?”
He smiled tightly at her, raising the sleeve of his shirt to show his rank stripes. “Captain.” Then, he looked at his sleeve. It wasn’t exactly the same color as hers, but it was certainly not the normal and eye-catching gold it should be. “Yes, it does seem a little different today, doesn’t it?” He shrugged indifferently then turned his chair back to face the forward viewscreen, just as Chekov relieved the previous crewmember of the position.
“Keptin,” ventured the youngest member of the Bridge. “I am sorry for not following regulation in my uniform today.”
Kirk tilted his head to one side. “Oh, I don’t know, Chekov, I think red might be your color.”
Chekov blushed as red as his shirt. “I hate it,” he said through clenched teeth. He turned to face his console. “It must be mistake. I do not wear red shirt.”
“Neither do I,” came a voice from the newly opened turbolift. Everyone on the bridge turned to see Hikaru Sulu also sporting a red shirt. He looked furious about it. “I like my yellow shirts. Then, my uniforms get delivered today and the only thing in them is red. And it isn’t even the real red. It’s this…weird red.” He sat down at his station so forcefully that his chair rocked for several seconds. He fumed at his console, angrily pushing buttons and adjusting various dials.
Kirk clicked his tongue. “Now, Sulu, don’t go breaking my ship just because you’re in a color you don’t like.”
“I hate red.”
Chekov leaned toward Sulu. “Me too.”
Sulu finally noticed that he wasn’t the only one dealing with the red shirt problem. “They did it to you, too? Really?” Then he turned to look at Kirk. Then, he noticed. “Yours too?”
Kirk looked at his own shirt. “I think mine looks more like a burnt orange, actually. What do you think, Nyota?” He caught the venomous look she gave him. “Sorry. Uhura, what do you think?”
“I think this whole thing is—” She heard something coming in at her station. “Captain, Admiral Pike wishes to speak to you.”
Kirk grinned for a moment more and then got himself under control and looking completely professional. “On screen, Lieutenant.” The forward viewscreen lost its image of space to be filled with the larger than life version of Admiral Pike. “Admiral, what can we do for you?”
“Jim, I was just comming to say—” Then, he noticed. “Why are you in red?”
“You mean the dark orange? Well, there seems to have been a problem with our ship’s laundry service.”
The older man’s expression began to lose some relaxation. “They were newly installed on your last stopover at Starbase…12?”
“I think it was Starbase 9, actually.”
“Whatever, Jim. It wasn’t that long ago. Are you telling me that someone managed to break them in three weeks?”
Without replying to the admiral, Kirk hit a certain command on his chair console. “Hey, Scotty?”
“I need you to look into why everyone’s shirts are the wrong color, okay?”
There was a moment’s hesitation. “But, everyone down here is fine. We’re all normal and red.”
Kirk sighed before he began to growl. “Yeah, well, command and sciences aren’t supposed to be orange-red and purple last I knew. Unless I missed a memo about uniform appearance and style in the last few days.” He looked to Pike.
Pike didn’t miss a beat. “Nope. If you missed it, I did too, son.”
The pause on Scotty’s end was much longer this time. “I’ll look into it, sir. Scott out.”
Pike studied the oddly redder bridge in front of him. “You know...It might be the personnel in the laundry room. Were there any other problems before?”
Kirk opened the question to the whole bridge. “Anyone have any laundry complaints since our last transfers arrived? The admiral wants to know. Don’t be embarrassed.”
No one wanted to speak first. Then, finally, Uhura broke the silence. “One of my bras was missing an underwire when it was returned to me last week.”
“Okay,” Kirk encouraged. “So far we have one damaged bra.” Turning his back to Pike, Kirk mouthed to Uhura, “nice.” Then, he turned around again. “Anyone else?”
“Well…” came the reluctant response from Sulu. “A stripe was barely still attached to one of my sleeves a little while ago. I had to take it to Quartermaster Saayid to fix it.”
Kirk was about to encourage them for more confessions when the turbolift opened behind them all. Everyone turned but they did not need to. There was only one member of the bridge that had yet to report for duty. “Three point two days previous when I was preparing for alpha bridge duty I discovered that one of my socks was without a mate. This sock continues to be without that mate. It is disconcerting.”
Kirk turned to Pike. “In other words, Spock’s lost a sock and is annoyed that it’s still missing.”
But Pike wasn’t paying attention. “Commander Spock…are you…Are you wearing purple?”
It wasn’t Spock that responded to the question, but Kirk. And he did so with a loud bark of a laugh. “He was experiencing more indecision between two outfits than someone with butterflies picking out their clothes for a first date.”
No one paid attention to Spock asking about what butterflies had to do with clothing and dates. Instead, everyone’s attention was to Admiral Pike and his understanding smirk. “And he went with purple in the end?”
When Pike looked at Spock, everyone looked at Spock. The Vulcan simply raised one eyebrow before he quipped, “Obviously.”
“He thought it was the least eye-catching.”
It was in that moment that Uhura figured it out. She stifled a gasp and quickly turned to face her console as the pieces came together. It certainly explained why Spock seemed to appear occasionally with at least one lock of his short hair out of place, why there was a slightly greener tinge to his face when Kirk was at his station and said something quietly to him, why he was spending much more time with Kirk than anyone else on the ship. More time than could be considered professional. How long or about how much could they be discussing ship’s business? They weren’t! They were sleeping together! And from the sound of it, they had been for a while now. After all, Kirk didn’t call any of his one-night stands “sweetheart,” and if he did it certainly wasn’t anywhere anyone else in the crew could hear him. He’d called Spock that pet name – granted, on a private comm device – on the bridge.
She snuck a glance back toward the center chair. The distance between the captain and first officer was nothing unusual. They typically were that close to each other physically. Their inflection was not different in their voices. Not even their body language was different. With her revelation, Nyota realized that their relationship had been staring her in the face this whole time. She had simply chosen not to see it.
But she did see Spock shyly turning his gaze to the deck, trying to hide the ghost of a smile he very rarely displayed. And she also saw Kirk’s fond expression as he watched Spock fight his blush. She allowed herself the full smile that Spock never would in public.
“—not my business, Kirk. Just figure this out soon. I’d start with your quartermaster. In the meantime, I’ll put in an order for some replacement uniforms for your crew. They’ll be waiting for you at the next Starbase you’re scheduled at which to stop. In the meantime, get used to the red shirts.” He reached out to end the call, but then remembered why he’d called in the first place. “Oh, and son? Happy birthday.” Kirk managed to give his mentor a sincere and grateful smile. Pike returned it with one of his own, and then he terminated the call on his end.
Without waiting for anything else to happen, or before anything happened that could possibly distract him, Kirk slapped a control on his chair’s console. “Kirk to Saayid.”
Doctor McCoy hated doing all the paperwork that came with being the Chief Medical Officer aboard the Federation Flagship. And people wondered why he wasn’t terribly far from his whiskey…or bourbon…or ale…or the occasional mint julep when he felt like indulging a bit more than usual. It was because he knew far more about everyone’s personal life on the ship than even the worst gossip.
He knew that Lieutenant Sanderson of Engineering was more likely to die from her incurable genetically inherited disease than most disasters that happened in that department. He knew that Ensign Monaek’s very life depended on regular infusions to treat his inherited hemophilia, a condition that he was terrified to inform anyone about for fear of being forbidden on away missions. He knew that Lieutenant Commander Cawley was dealing very poorly with his father’s long stay in the hospital which finally ended in the man’s death. The young Lieutenant Commander was in McCoy’s office for weekly counseling sessions.
There were some things that required official documentation in the medical records. On the other hand, there were some cases in which documentation was just an unnecessary invasion of privacy from which no one benefited. Sometimes, McCoy liked those times.
It meant less paperwork.
Just as he finished the report of Ensign Monaek’s last infusion, Nurse Chapel peeked her head into his office. “Doctor?” He looked up. “Ensign Sienna’s here to see you.”
“Sienna?” He didn’t recognize the name. He must be new. Chapel handed him a padd. He looked at it for only a second. He needed one thing: the patient’s name. Ensign Wesley Sienna. He called beyond his doorway. “Well, come in, kid.”
The ensign that came into his office was young…very young. Not as young as Pavel Chekov still looked, but still quite young. In fact, he looked scared. He couldn’t stand people that were afraid of doctors. It made his job that much more awkward!
He sighed. “So what’s your complaint?”
Wesley shifted his weight on his feet before he quietly spoke. “Doctor McCoy, can this—can this not be in my medical record?”
McCoy tilted his head. “That depends on what it is.”
Wesley cleared his throat. “I—It’s a little embarrassing if what I suspect is right…and it’s even more embarrassing if I’m wrong.”
McCoy studied him closely. “I’m listening, ensign.”
“I…I think I know how – or why – I probably ruined everyone’s uniforms…”
That made him smile. “Well, mine’s perfectly fine.” Then, he realized that his attempt to relax his young patient fell terribly flat. “But you did do a number on the uniforms of the alpha bridge crew, including our perfectionist first officer.” He sighed in his own way of an apology. “What’s your theory, Sienna?”
Wesley slowly lowered himself into the chair on the other side of McCoy’s desk. Then, he began to speak.
“I still hate red,” grumbled Chekov as he viciously stabbed his fork into his stroganoff. He shoved some of it into his mouth and then spoke.
“Please, don’t do that!” snapped Sulu, as he ripped apart his karei no netsuke. He was so angry about his red shirt that he decided against his normal and graceful eating habits. Instead, he was taking after Chekov by viciously tearing apart his fish.
“Vhat?” growled the young Russian around another mouthful of food.
“Talk with your mouth full! It’s disgusting!”
“Not to mention that no one can really understand you,” interjected Kirk. He was sipping his coffee, just trying to ignore the fact that his sleeve was a dark orange. While he’d started off the day in a decent and joking mood about the whole scenario, the amusement had long since worn off and he was as miserable and annoyed as his fellow gold-shirts at the table.
To his right, Spock was calmly eating his dinner. He had said very little all shift, and had said even less since. Kirk suspected it was the Vulcan’s attempt to be unnoticed while wearing a purple shirt. He wondered if Spock realized that he’d been on the receiving end of more people that day than on any other day. Who knew all it took was a different colored shirt for everyone to notice Spock a little more?
“You know, normally, I would tell you, Jim, that I’d restrict your diet card with what you’ve decided to eat for dinner today!” drawled McCoy as he set his own dinner down to the captain’s left. He settled himself in his place. “But considering the unusual day it seems that everyone’s been having, I think I’ll let you have your guilty pleasure.”
“Aww, thanks, Bones. But there’s no guilt whatsoever in my dining choices.” Just for spite, he took the largest bite he could out of his burger, not even bothering to wipe off the sauce that dribbled down his chin from the monstrous action. He finally grinned when he saw McCoy unable to hold back the disgusted expression. Unfortunately, this made him almost choke on his burger.
“Serves you right, kiddo!”
Kirk managed to wash down his burger with a generous amount of his coffee before he could draw in a full breath again. “You’re supposed to be nice to me, doctor. It is my birthday, after all.”
“Oh, really? Didn’t notice. Sorry, Jim. Didn’t think you liked to celebrate anyways.” McCoy suddenly realized what he’d said. “I’m sorry, Jim. That was—”
“It’s okay, Bones. I—Pike’s just been trying the last couple years to get me to find the good in my birthday and for a little while I thought he’d almost succeeded.” Jim gave his friend a half smile. “Almost.”
McCoy clapped him on the back, then squeezed the nearest shoulder. “There’s still time.” Then, he caught sight of something. “Spock, what in the name of fuzzy Georgia peaches are you eating?”
For only a moment, Spock seemed surprised that McCoy spoke to him. A moment later, though, he answered. “It is quinoa accompanied by artichokes, tomatoes, lemon juice, a variety of herbs and kalamata olives.”
He grimaced as he watched Spock eat it. “Looks like caviar.”
Spock studied his dinner for only a second. “There is very little resemblance between this type of sustenance and salt-cured fish eggs. Quinoa is particularly high in protein. Its other benefits include a high source of dietary fiber, magnes—”
“I know the benefits of quinoa!”
“—ium, iron, and phosphorus. For those reasons, it would seem illogical for you to disapprove of my consumption of it.”
McCoy’s face was almost the color of Jim’s shirt. “I didn’t say I didn’t approve, Spock. I was making an observation.”
“It was a very poor one, doctor.”
Before his best friend could reach around him to strangle the Vulcan, Kirk turned to fully face the doctor and blocked Spock from the other man’s field of vision. “While I think it looks a little on the unappealing side, too, I have a feeling that you need to tell me something, doctor.”
It took a few seconds until McCoy managed to settle himself from the short-temper-induced shaking. He finally calmed down. “I have to talk to you, Jim. It’s about one of your crewmen.”
“Now?” At the doctor’s nod, Kirk turned to look at Chekov and Sulu. “Guys, would…would you mind?” With an understanding nod, the men picked up their dishes and relocated to another table, where Nyota Uhura and seated across from one Montgomery Scott and the diminutive Keenser. They made an odd group. Kirk turned his attention back to Bones. “What’s up?”
Bones slid out of his seat next to Kirk, and repositioned himself to be directly across from the captain. “A certain Ensign Sienna arrived in my office today with a theory about how this whole laundry disaster occurred.”
“I take it that he’s actually in the laundry department?”
“Yeah, and here’s the thing. He was training to be a ship’s cook with particular emphasis on xenocultural cuisine. Mainly around as a yeoman until you have diplomats aboard and need to extend some hospitality in the form of that person’s or people’s native foods.” He let the information sink in before continuing. “Jim, that boy wasn’t meant for the laundry room.”
Kirk was unfazed, which he made obvious by his slow, relishing bite into his burger. “We all have to start somewhere.”
“You didn’t. You went from cadet to captain practically overnight. No working up the ranks for you.”
There was the cocky grin he knew so well. “I’m the remarkable exception.”
McCoy swigged his lemon water. “Remarkable, my ass.” Then, he turned serious again. “Jim, he came to me and asked to have his vision tested.”
Jim looked at him with slight confusion. McCoy wasn’t surprised at all when Spock spoke up. “His theory was that he is colorblind.”
The doctor nodded. “Bingo, Spock. To be more specific, he’s got deuteranopia…at least I think that’s the one. I’d have to test him a little more to figure out if it’s that or protanopia.”
“What’s that mean?”
Spock beat McCoy to the answer, but not in a way that was easy enough for Kirk to understand while he was enjoying a delicious, juicy, and satisfying burger. “Deuteranopia is an absence of green cones, or L cones. Protanopia, however, is an absence of red cones.”
“In other words, Jim, Ensign Sienna can’t tell the difference all too well between reds and yellows.” He looked pointedly at Jim’s orange-red shirt.
Finally, Jim understood. “So it was just an accident.”
McCoy nodded. “Kid didn’t even know he was colorblind until he started getting screamed at by Saayid for ruining the uniforms.”
Jim hung his head. “How come we didn’t know that?”
“If the ensign did not know himself that he suffered from colorblindness, then how could anyone else know of it?” Spock asked Jim quietly.
“Exactly.” McCoy looked at the guilty expression on Jim’s face. “Don’t beat yourself up. I’ll guarantee you, the kid feels worse about it.”
“How do I help him with it?”
“Well for one thing, get him out of laundry, or we’ll all be dressed in bizarre colors!” He smiled but managed to hold in his laughter when Jim glared at him. “Just do for him what command did for you, Jim. Make him the exception.” He nodded to the Vulcan’s food. “And have some of Spock’s caviar—”
“—so you don’t induce a heart attack before you turn thirty-five.”
Jim stuck his tongue out at his best friend.
“The doctor is correct, Jim.” Spock scooped some of his dinner from the bowl and transferred it onto Kirk’s plate. “You do not properly take care of yourself.” Jim glared at Spock. “Please.”
Reluctantly, Kirk picked up a spoon and piled it high with the quinoa before shoving it into his mouth. “Happy?” he growled at McCoy around the food, though the word was barely understandable.
“Not really, but it’ll do for today.” He shook his head. “Just talk to the boy, Jim. He’s already guilty enough about the whole thing.”
Wesley Sienna leaned heavily against the door to his quarters. His shoulders sagged in relief as his tension began to lessen. He’d survived a one-on-one conversation with the captain. He was slightly confused as to why he’d been summoned for a conference. They didn’t even discuss the uniform catastrophe! Instead, the captain had asked about his hobbies and other talents. They’d ended up talking about reading and favorite foods and how to eat healthier. It was a very…bizarre conversation, the purpose for which he did not understand.
He doubted that Doctor McCoy told the captain his secret. Then again, it was common knowledge how close the chief medical officer and the captain were. But, if the doctor had mentioned something to the captain, wouldn’t one of the first topics of conversation been about the color that the captain was wearing?
The subject had never come up.
Wesley noticed his comm. console was blinking at him. It indicated that he had a waiting message. He went to his small desk and activated it. It was not a visual message. It was all text.
The captain had promoted him. He was to serve the ship’s cook, Wei Takumi, as his personal yeoman and assistant in the galley.
Wesley’s jaw fell open in surprise. He was leaving the laundry. He was going to be a cook after all.
“I know you like the feeling of being completely warm when we do this, sweetheart, but you have no idea how hot it is for me to keep the covers on the whole time,” panted Jim’s voice within the Vulcan’s mindscape.
Spock relaxed his fingers from the psi-points of the human’s face, and withdrew from their mindmeld. He tenderly cupped his lover’s cheek for a moment, before running his sensitive fingers through the golden bronze hair of the human above him. The human who was cradled by the Vulcan’s legs, stubbornly keeping them physically joined after their mental joining was ended. With only the most delicate pressure hinting at what he wanted, Spock coaxed Kirk’s head down to his own to meet their lips in a sated kiss. “And yet there is still a nine eight point seven nine six likelihood that you will manage to discard the bedding during our coitus.”
Jim smirked at Spock as he pulled himself from his lover, eliciting a breathy groan from the male beneath him. “Only you could say a word like that and make it sound more awesome than the word ever should.” Spock raised one eyebrow at the comment. Before he could announce the illogic of the opinion Kirk had just expressed, he kissed that raised slanted eyebrow, then moved to the tip of the pointed ear. “And it’s just one thing I love about you.”
“Jim,” Spock sighed.
“I know. You’re getting cold, aren’t you?” His answer came as Spock tried and failed to hide a shiver. Jim chuckled to himself. “Hang on. I’ll put the covers back on.” But he took his time getting to them by kissing a path from Spock’s lips, down to his navel, to his knees, and lastly to his feet, all the while purposely ignoring sensitive areas while also giving plenty of attention to others.
“Jim, please,” Spock gasped. “Do not tease.”
“Who said I was teasing? Maybe I’m promising.”
Spock actually sighed aloud. “You are insatiable.”
Jim pressed his lips to the outer arch of Spock’s foot, lingering there as he felt another chuckle start. “And you are always so demanding,” he countered. “But I don’t complain about it.”
“Jim, it would be wise of you to use some alacrity in returning to bed with the covers in order as soon as possible.”
With a huge and devilish smile, Jim got out of the bed and began to put the covers back in order that he’d managed to either kick, or throw, or simply allow to fall off the bed from the enthusiastic lovemaking he’d just had. He knew a promise for ‘round two’ when he heard it from Spock. However, even his insatiable eagerness was delayed as he noticed a bit of color struggling to escape from under the mattress. When he realized what it was, Jim burst out laughing.
“I fail to comprehend the cause of your amusement at this time. Is there something humorous in my chilled state?”
Still laughing, Jim responded. “No, sweetheart, but—” He gave a hard yank and pulled the colorful object free. “Look what I found!” He climbed back onto the bed, dragging the covers lazily behind him with one hand, as he concealed the freed object in his other hand behind his back. He lowered himself to rest on Spock’s body again, clumsily adjusting the covers over them both.
“If you would reveal it to me, I would be able to see what you have—” His voice abruptly stopped as Jim held the object in his line of vision. His eyes widened as they darted from Jim to the colored item in his hand and back. “Jim!”
Jim’s expression was that of the conquering hero. “I found your missing sock!”
And without another word, Spock took Jim’s face between both of his hands and kissed him.