James Kirk, captain of the United Starship Enterprise, was alone—blissfully alone. He had to admit to himself that despite the deep love he felt for both his first officer and his chief medic, it was nice to have a quiet evening in his quarters without any pressure to converse or pamper.
Telling the ship’s computer to dim the lights to half their normal strength, he removed his standard duty mustard-colored shirt and tossed it across the room onto the foot of his bed. He stopped at his personal synthesizer for a moment to procure a small glass of Saurian brandy, then resumed his costume change before settling in for the evening. Once he had stripped off his boots and traded his tight uniform pants for a fresh pair of black sweats, he padded on bare feet to the shaving mirror above his wardrobe.
Looking stellar again, Captain, he thought, grimacing at the bags under his eyes. How can a simple day of patrol be more draining than a triple shift on red alert? He combed his hair back into alignment, grunted at his exhausted reflection, and downed the rest of the brandy.
It was still too warm in his cabin, even in just his sweats and undershirt; knowing he would be alone all night, Kirk stepped over to his desk and directed the computer to knock the temperature down to one most Humans would find acceptable. Twenty-one degrees shouldn’t have felt like a cool-off, but he and McCoy had long ago agreed that since Spock had to put up with Humans at every turn, and since they all stayed in the captain’s quarters most frequently, they would see what happened if they set the interior at a tropical twenty-five in the interest of making their Vulcan feel more at home.
Of course, they were both well aware that with his physiology, Spock dealt with any and all environmental settings better than they could; although McCoy hated to admit it, green blood and a lower core temperature did have their advantages. But the captain and the CMO had nonetheless been curious how Spock would react to a cabin that not only housed his partners but also simulated the conditions of his home world as closely as the two Humans could tolerate.
Spock had clearly felt their gesture the first evening they’d returned from their shifts after making the decision. The captain and the doctor had let him enter first, and they’d ended up standing behind him in the hall a few extra moments as he stopped just inside the door and absorbed the heat. He never acknowledged the change verbally, but he had been considerably more affectionate than usual toward Kirk and McCoy that night, lavishing both of them with attentions they hadn’t dreamed a Vulcan would be uninhibited enough to bestow.
Kirk’s lips turned up in a wistful smile as he recalled that night, simultaneously savoring the feel of cool air streaming across his shoulders. As glorious as it had become to bask in his cabin’s arid conditions with his soul mates (the heat having been a long-term acquired taste), it was also rather refreshing to lean back with his feet on the desk and enjoy some non-Starfleet literature in cool, crisp peace. On his monitor, he called up the novel he had neglected for several weeks, and requested that the computer play an assortment of calm orchestral Earth music and acoustic Vulcan melodies as he read.
Some ninety minutes of relaxing abandon had elapsed when his communicator chirped.
“Computer, cut music,” he sighed. “Kirk here,” he said once he’d flipped open the communicator, hoping it wasn’t an emergency call.
“You sound rather relaxed, Jim,” came McCoy’s voice with its typical amusement. “I sure hope you’re not actually enjoying your alone time.”
“How could I, without my two best officers?” Kirk chuckled. “Everything okay? Are you having fun?” The telltale hubbub of post-lecture socializing in the background seemed to indicate as much, though Kirk was certain Spock would deny it up and down.
“Oh, sure,” McCoy said dismissively, and around a glass of champagne by the sound of it. “But I think our time would have been better spent on board the ship.”
“That bad? I thought they actually had some useful new tech this time.” Kirk rose from his desk and synthesized a fresh glass of brandy.
“As we have found in the past, Captain,” Spock’s baritone cut in, “Starfleet’s definition of ‘new’ continues to lag behind the intergalactic average. Regrettably, the doctor is correct; there seems to have been little reason for us to attend this symposium after all.”
“Now wait a minute, Spock,” McCoy said, his voice faint—apparently Spock had plucked the communicator out of his grasp. “Do you say ‘regrettable’ because they called us here for the same old boring hogwash, or because I was right?”
The captain had no doubt McCoy was trying to wrestle the communicator back from his counterpart. He smiled, enjoying his officers’ banter just as much over the comm as he did in person. He could see their expressions without even needing to be there.
“Both, Doctor,” Spock said, obviously maintaining his hold on the device.
Kirk leaned against the partition between his office and bedroom, grinning like a voyeuristic fool at the unexpected pleasure of listening to those two magnificent voices without having to speak himself.
“My apologies, Captain,” Spock added. “Your medical officer is currently inflicting his Southern charm upon me with his steady, compassionate hands.”
“You sarcastic alien! You don’t think Jim can tell when you’re being a complete pain in the ass?”
Kirk laughed more heartily this time, one leg reflexively bending at the knee and balancing him against the wall. “Now gentlemen, play nice. Has the Federation taught you nothing about diplomacy?”
“Indeed, it would seem not, in the Doctor’s case.” Spock’s dry humor never failed to entertain.
“Behave yourselves, boys,” Kirk said. “And try not to have too much fun without me tonight.” He said it jokingly, but abruptly wished they were returning rather than staying overnight on the station. His gut clenched in a mild cramp without warning.
Spock seemed to have sensed the shift in his demeanor—as usual. “Jim,” he said after a beat, his voice quieter and the background noise diminished, “I can assure you we will not. I do not relish the thought of enduring Leonard’s snores all night without the familiar ambient hum of the Enterprise to drown them out.”
The sound of a dull smack came through the communicator.
“Ow,” was Spock’s emotionless answer.
Kirk tried to smile, but ended up holding his arm against his stomach in silent distress. A few drops of brandy spilled from his glass. Don’t be so melodramatic, he told himself to no avail.
“I miss you both,” he said aloud, throwing his scruples to the wind. All three of them waited, believing he would say more, but as it turned out he wasn’t sure how to continue. He hesitated, mouth hanging open, and took notice for the first time in weeks of the ever-present engine drone Spock had just mentioned.
The relative silence was at last broken by McCoy. “We miss you, too, hon.”
The captain sighed; it was bittersweet admitting to himself that although he sometimes thought he would like to recapture his more cavalier bachelor days, he had truly come to depend on McCoy and Spock for emotional and physical security. He took a large draught of his brandy, attempting to ground himself by focusing on the warm numbness it dispersed through his throat and into his nerves.
“You might remind the captain,” Spock said from somewhere behind McCoy, judging by the volume, “that we will see him in a mere thirteen hours, at the conclusion of the morning sessions.”
“Of course,” Kirk said, playing off the sober moment by adding a little giggle and a dash of pep to his tone. “Enjoy your extremely enlightening conference, gentlemen.”
“You can bet your sweet, sculpted patootie we will,” McCoy said. “Now get some rest; doctor’s orders.”
“Acknowledged.” He couldn’t stop himself from grinning again. “Kirk out.”
Strange, Kirk thought, how his quarters could go from luxurious to lonely in the span of a five-minute conversation. He ordered the music to resume, finished his brandy, and turned off his monitor. There was no point trying to keep reading; a melancholy air had seeped into his consciousness and he considered a brief stroll before turning in. He slipped on a pair of faded gold sandals and wandered into the corridor, music still playing in the cabin.
Strange, too, he thought, how quickly he could forget that his ship was being manned by a skeleton crew, thanks to the poorly-scheduled simultaneous training sessions that seemed to have taken half the crew and every officer but himself and Scotty off-ship. The uncharacteristically empty saucer heightened his feelings of isolation in addition to refueling his ever-present irritation with the bureaucracy.
After meandering several times around the circumference of the officers’ level, Kirk paused at his favorite viewport to stare out at the stars. It didn’t take long for his trained eyes to discern the general region of the void that held the starbase harboring his better halves; his gaze sifted through the blackness in an attempt to pinpoint it. Unfortunately, as the Enterprise bided her time without her full complement, her patrol of the system’s perimeter had taken her just far enough away from the sector in question that its vessels and docks were indistinct to the Human eye against the vast backdrop of stars.
Distracting thoughts of Spock and McCoy necking in their guest stateroom without him filtered unbidden into Kirk’s mind; perhaps the only disadvantage of their polyamorous triangle was this occasional separation that inevitably left one of them alone and dwelling on all the things he was missing out on. He took a deep breath and flattened his troublingly idle hand against his thigh, which he had unconsciously elevated by planting his foot on the protruding baseboard. The tingling sensation of his fingertips worrying themselves against his leg only exacerbated his vague jealousy—and his unexpected arousal. At last deciding that it would do him no good to keep brooding over the view, Kirk resumed his promenade.
A few minutes later, when the door to his quarters opened and a soothing Vulcan lute solo floated to his ears, Kirk felt a sense of relief overpower him, welcoming him back to the haven he and his two best crewmen shared. But as the door slid closed behind him, he was discomforted by a foreign sensation: although it was the same temperature as the corridor, it was cold in his cabin.
Shaking his head in fond frustration, he climbed under his empty covers and stretched his limbs out in every direction, still unwilling to miss this rare opportunity at having purchase over the entire bed.
Even so, before sleep claimed him, he murmured, “Computer, lights out. Temperature to twenty-five.”