The door swooshed open to admit Captain Kirk into his first officer's quarters. As always, he was struck by the heat of the room that was still much hotter than the human-norm seventy-two degrees of the rest of the ship, even after Spock had turned it down to accommodate his friend. There was a faint aroma of Vulcan incense wafting vaguely from the direction of the glowing fire-pot in the sleeping area, a scent that was soothing, relaxing and would forever remind him of Spock.
The Vulcan was walking towards the head, his hands held out in front of him. "I will be with you momentarily, Jim. I'm afraid I am in need of a brief shower. Please make yourself comfortable."
As Spock turned to speak, Kirk thought he had seen smears of emerald green on the Vulcan's palms and a flicker of concern emerged as the thought that Spock had hurt himself touched his mind. But the Vulcan had not seemed concerned and he was not foolish enough to leave a serious injury untreated, despite his regular complaints about McCoy's ministrations.
Deciding to save his worry until he'd had a closer look at Spock, Kirk wandered away from the Spartan living quarters to where the heady smell originated. This area of Spock's quarters was the most Vulcan. It seemed several degrees hotter here than in the grey, functional living area and there was a closeness in the air. The fire-pot beast bathed the area in a soft, orange-red glow and the heavy red drapes seemed to enclose the room as the scarlet skies blanketed Vulcan.
The captain had visited here many times since he had befriended his shy first officer, the two men often choosing to play their regular chess games in one or other of their quarters. The first time he had come here, he had discovered that, not only did the Vulcan possess a rare and beautiful traditional harp from his homeworld, but that he played it with such skill and tenderness that Kirk wondered how anyone could ever have thought Spock emotionless.
An oddity, Kirk thought, was the collection of dangerous-looking weapons hanging on the curtain-clad walls. It somehow seemed incongruous that someone from a race of peaceful, non-violent people should possess such an array of blades in a variety of sizes and shapes. Spock was the gentlest, most courteous, civilised man he knew, yet this bed chamber was permeated with the smells and images of an ancient, primitive Vulcan, a place where violence and vengeance ruled. Not like Spock at all.
Just then, the Vulcan returned from the bathroom, his slightly damp hair a sign that he had indulged in a real water shower. He was dressed in an informal Vulcan robe in shades of green and blue, the thick fabric looking warm and comfortable. Kirk was inwardly pleased that his friend felt secure enough in their friendship to relax to such an extent. It had been a long time into their mission before he had ever seen Spock in anything other than his uniform. He let his pleasure show in an easy smile and was rewarded with an answering twinkle in the Vulcan's eyes.
Taking advantage of the casual atmosphere, Kirk felt bold enough to ask his friend about the strange Vulcan weapons. "Ah, Spock..." he began, still unsure of whether he was entering into a taboo subject.
Spock, noting the hesitancy and the curious frown, said, "You are wondering about the traditional Vulcan weapons." His lips curled a little at the corners. "I am surprised you have not asked before now."
Sensing that the Vulcan was not insulted, the captain let out the breath he was unaware he had been holding. "Well, yes. I've always thought.... It seems strange to me that you would keep a whole bunch of knives and other weapons when you're so devoted to peace."
"Surely, you know that it has not always been our way to live in peace." Kirk nodded. "These weapons belong to our past, that time when our ancestors fought for land, power, wealth, and allowed their emotions to rule them." His captain had sat down on the bed and he joined him. "To a contemporary Vulcan, such as myself, they are a reminder that the life we live today did not come easily, nor without great cost. They remind us of the danger of letting one's emotions control them. They remind us that freed emotions take lives."
Seeing that Kirk understood, yet was still curious, he stood and lifted a tall shaft out from one corner. "This is a li-woon, a lance. Ancient warriors carried these while riding the Vulcan equivalent of the Terran horse. Armies of riders would storm villages, sweeping through quickly, killing anyone in their path and taking what they wished." He sighed, returning the weapon to its original place. "I feel no pride in the knowledge that my own clan conquered many others in this manner."
Reaching up high on the wall, Spock took down a short dagger. "This is a lipitah. Its compact size means that it is easily concealed within one's clothing. Many high-ranking clansmen were assassinated with this, as the killer was able to hide the weapon until the moment of murder."
Replacing the lipitah, the Vulcan collected two more knives. "Our word for knife is lipau. This one is called lipau mu'yor, which translates as 'night blade' – so named because it was only ever used in the dark. It was considered unlucky for the knife to be seen in daylight and it was always sheathed completely until long after sunset. Even the sharpening of the blades was performed at night, a most illogical venture considering the darkness of the Vulcan night."
He placed the lipau mu'yor on the bed and handed the other knife to Kirk. The human was intrigued with the intricate carved patterns on the handle and the vicious points and curves of the blade. "This one is called lipau t'dor, or 'knife of honour'. Its primary use was in vengeance killing." He pointed to the unusual blade. "As you can imagine, a death by this knife was both messy and unpleasant."
As Spock had shown Kirk the ancient weapons, the human had formed a vivid picture of what life was like for Spock's ancestors. The present-day Vulcans were not proud of their history but they also made no attempt to hide it away and forget it. And, obviously, some elements of their past heritage remained with them – Kirk still felt a burning sensation when he remembered the slash on his chest caused by the lirpa during their visit to Vulcan.
Spock put the two knives back on the wall and Kirk found his eyes wandering over to a shiny blade sitting on a tray next to Spock's bed. "Spock, what's that knife?" The blade was quite small, but sharp, and the handle was even more beautifully carved than that of the lipau t'dor. Seeing that the Vulcan was still occupied, trying to replace a knife on a recalcitrant hook, Kirk stood up and went to have a better look. The knife had a very sharp point and was covered in green stains. Suddenly, he remembered the green on Spock's hands when he had first come in.
"Spock, has this knife been used? Did you cut...." The Vulcan was now standing beside him, a look of puzzlement etched in his features. Kirk grabbed Spock's hands and held them out, palms up. They were spotless, the smooth skin tinted the faintest olive from the blood vessels beneath.
"Jim?" Spock was concerned at his friend's abrupt actions.
For answer, the human lifted the knife, quite clearly showing the blood-coloured stains.
"Ah," breathed Spock, understanding at last. He took the knife from Kirk's hands. "This knife is the most important of all. It is used to cut the khaf-savas." At Kirk's confused look, he added, "Would you like me to show you how it is used?"
"Um..." the captain muttered, uncertainly. Was it possible his gentle, civilised friend had more of the ancient Vulcan warrior in him than he had originally suspected?
Kirk stood transfixed as Spock reached down to get something out of a cupboard. When the Vulcan stood up, he had in his hand two large green fruits. "Khaf-savas," he announced. "Blood-fruit."
The captain felt an illogical relief and could instantly see from where the fruit's name had come. When Spock cut one open, a thick, emerald juice squirted out, leaving a messy residue on the knife. The Vulcan offered two cut halves to Kirk.
The taste was nearly indescribable. Kirk's mouth was assaulted with sensations of spicy heat, liquid sweetness and a bitter, almost sour, aftertaste. "This is delicious!" he managed to say after several bites, the juice beginning to trickle out one corner of his mouth. "I had no idea Vulcan had anything like this."
Spock picked up a damp cloth from the tray where the knife had been and handed it to Kirk. "It is a rare delicacy. As you know, the Vulcan climate is not generally suited to growing juice-producing fruits. The tree from which this fruit comes is found only in the coolest regions of Vulcan and, even there, the harvesting season is short."
"Wow. How did you manage to get some? I bet these don't come cheaply."
"Indeed." Spock smiled a little ruefully. "Ambassadorial privileges remain in place even to this day. My father acquires a shipment of them each growing season. Mother always sends a parcel so that I do not have to live entirely off 'that reconstituted excuse for real food', as she puts it." Watching his friend messily consume the fruit he asked, "Would you care for another, Jim?"
Remembering the value and rarity of the fruit, Kirk replied, "Only if you have one to spare. I don't want to deprive you of something you only get once a year."
"It is my pleasure to share them with a friend. Here," he said as he handed the ornamental knife and another of the delectable fruits to the human. "You can cut your own khaf-savas."
Kirk licked his lips with anticipation. The blood-fruit was the most delicious food he had ever tasted and, knowing the health-conscious Vulcans, it was good for him too. Bones would be pleased. Holding the knife steadily in his right hand, he carved through the soft skin and rich centre, the thick, aromatic juice suddenly spurting out and covering his face. He quickly looked up at Spock through green, syrupy lashes. "Don't you dare laugh!"
"Laugh, captain? It would never occur to me." The expression was indignant, but the voice was light with humour and the elegant eyebrow was raised.
Kirk wiped ineffectually at the green mess on his face, mock-grouching about messy Vulcan foods. He glanced at the barely concealed humour on his first officer's face. "You were teasing me." Spock looked innocent. "You were quite content to let me think this knife was a weapon, covered in real blood. You know, one day others will cotton on to the fact that you're not as innocent as you make out."
Again, the indignant eyebrow. "Really, Captain!"
The next night, they shared a batch of real chocolate-chip cookies baked by Kirk's mother. There was no sticky mess, no juice and no knives. Just crumbs.
And a relaxed, easy camaraderie that went with being best friends.
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