The pale light of the triple moons bathed the sandy beach in a vaguely pinkish glow, the orange-golden sands turning a delicate shade of apricot. A flock of native Rikka birds flew overhead, their shrill, seagull-like cries echoing loudly in the quiet of pre-dawn, the gentle lapping of ocean waves a soft accompaniment.
James T. Kirk, a native of Earth, and Spock, a Vulcan, sat in companionable silence on the soft sand, awaiting the rising of this planet's suns. How fortunate they were to find themselves alone to witness one of the best-loved attractions in Federation space. Many beings had visited Iagen Twelve, a human colony, simply for the privilege of seeing the yearly spectacular of the three moons, positioned in an almost perfect equilateral triangle, descend and be replaced by the trio of suns, aligned in a faultlessly straight, vertical line. Normally, places like this beach were packed with tourists and locals alike, all vying for the best vantage point. Certainly, Kirk remembered the crowds that had gathered the last time he was here.
Kirk had always wanted to return here and had hoped to convince Spock to accompany him on shore leave. Now, he sat with his friend at his side, and watched as the three suns emerged one by one from the very edge of the horizon as if expelled from the sea itself, each a shade or two brighter than the preceding one. The starship captain watched in awe, just as he had on his previous visit. After all his years in space, seeing wonder after miraculous wonder, his appreciation for views such as this had never diminished. If anything, he was even more impressed with this view than he had been last time, and that had been something special, his child eyes marvelling at nature's perfection, the incredible synchronisation of it all.
He glanced at his companion, a man known for his seeming indifference in the face of natural beauty, and caught the faintest flicker of interest in the dark eyes. "Beautiful, isn't it, Spock?" he remarked softly, not really expecting the Vulcan to reply.
"Indeed, Jim. The precise alignment of both the moons and the suns is quite... spectacular. A fascinating phenomenon."
Kirk smiled a little. "'Spectacular', Spock? I thought you might have said something like 'aesthetically pleasing'."
The corners of Spock's mouth twitched. "Even I, a Vulcan, can appreciate the rarity and uniqueness of such an occurrence. And it is, as you say... 'aesthetically pleasing'." The lips twitched up a little further.
Kirk laughed gently, the sound swallowed up by the sea. He saw a beautiful, sleek dolphin-like creature rise swiftly out of the water and dive back under, repeating the manoeuvre over and over until it swam too far away for human eyes to follow.
"I'm glad you got to see this, Spock. I think this was my favourite of all the places we visited when I was a child. We travelled quite a bit until I was about ten. Until I went to Tarsus." He looked away suddenly, sadly.
Spock, wanting this to be pleasant experience for them both, sought to change the subject. "Jim, now that the suns have risen, where shall we go next? I have not before been to Iagen Twelve, but I have heard there are many more fascinating things to see."
Kirk, unable to resist smirking at Spock's use of his favourite word, was grateful for the distraction. "So, you want me to play tour guide, huh?" The Vulcan nodded. "Well..." He paused, thinking deeply. There were no duties here, no commitments to Starfleet; they were free to do what they wished. "How about we have breakfast? There's a great little café just over there, at the end of the beach. When I was here last, they gave me the biggest, tastiest ice cream I've ever had. It's a wonder it stayed on the cone. Of course, my perception of size might have been a little off; I was only eight.
"After that, we can go for a walk. There's a whole maze of walking tracks that go through different parts of the nature reserve. Sam and I did a few of them but we didn't have nearly enough time to do them all." He looked sharply at Spock to see whether his suggestion met with approval.
The Vulcan nodded impassively. "As you wish." It was a standard Spock reply, neither giving nor denying approval, but Kirk recognised the gleam of curiosity in his eyes.
Spock's eyes were wide in surprise as Kirk shuffled carefully over to the café table the Vulcan was sitting at. He had a cone in each hand, upon which sat an impossible, Spock thought, number of scoops of ice cream in a variety of flavours.
Kirk caught Spock's astonished gaze. "Amazing, aren't they?"
"Quite improbable, I should think. I am certain that each of those confections is in direct violation of the laws of physics."
"Here," the human said between licks, handing the other ice cream to Spock. "I asked for every flavour they had. Enjoy."
"Thank you, Jim," the Vulcan replied, watching curiously as his friend licked at one flavour and then another, the tip of his nose getting in the way and ending up coated in ice cream.
Cautiously, lest his own nose suffer the same chilly fate, Spock stuck out his tongue and licked at a bright green scoop with just the tip. Suddenly surprised by the assault on his tongue of tangy lime flavour and coldness, he thrust the cone away from his face and raised both slanted brows, a violent shudder coursing through him.
The Vulcan gulped, trying to swallow the coolness away from his tongue, which felt numb. "Indeed," was all he managed to get out.
"I gather they don't have anything like ice cream on Vulcan." Spock shook his head. "Well, you'd better eat that before it melts. Try the blue flavour. I don't know what it is, but it's delicious!"
Choosing to take their walk in the heat of the three suns, allowing Spock to thaw out somewhat, they came across a market in the town square. There were stalls selling everything from home baked foods to apparel to livestock. A magician was entertaining a small gathering of onlookers with a routine of tricks, new and old.
Kirk pointed at the old man who had the crowd enthralled by making volunteers disappear. "That guy was there doing that trick when I was here last. I couldn't figure out how he did it." He turned to where he thought the Vulcan stood, waiting for a treatise on methods of illusion and an entire explanation of the workings of this particular trick. Instead, his friend was nowhere to be seen.
He searched through the audience, eventually finding Spock standing a few metres behind the magician, bent over, his head cocked to one side, watching the old man intently. Kirk stood next to the Vulcan, concerned about his behaviour. "Spock, what are you doing?"
Apparently unaware he was no longer alone, Spock stood up, startled. A puzzled expression replaced his surprise. "I am trying to ascertain the means by which this gentleman achieves the illusion of disappearance. I can detect no transporter devices, nor does there appear to be any kind of trapdoor or hidden exit. It is most fascinating."
"Spock, you have the curiosity of a cat." He chuckled lightly. "You're not supposed to work out how it's done. Of course, there's a logical explanation for it, but half the fun is thinking there's real magic involved."
"Quite illogical." As expected, his right eyebrow rose several millimetres.
Kirk was busy thinking of a rejoinder when a faint, insistent beeping intruded upon his thoughts. "Damn." He reached for his communicator, only to find he wasn't carrying one.
"Captain, I must end the meld; I believe Mister Scott is trying to reach us on the comm system."
Slowly, the market on Iagen Twelve faded out and Kirk found himself standing in a turbolift on the Enterprise. Spock was talking with the chief engineer.
"We'll have ye oot in no time, Mister Spock. Stand by."
"Standing by, Mister Scott." Spock turned to Kirk. "The problem has been resolved, Captain. Mister Scott has effected repairs and the turbolift should be functional shortly."
Just then, the lift began to move upwards from where it had been stuck – with both senior officers on board – between decks four and five.
The captain turned to Spock, his face depicting a combination of regret and mirth. "Well, Spock, it's a pity our shore leave was cancelled so early. I'm sure you would have found the wildlife fascinating."
The Vulcan knew he was falling into a trap and yet he couldn't seem to stop himself from answering. "Indeed, Captain. Perhaps, you will be able to show me another time."
Kirk grinned victoriously. "Of course, you know that we'll actually have to go there. I mean, the mind meld was great for remembering the beach and the sunrise and the ice cream, but Sam and I didn't do all the walks and my memory's sort of... hazy."
Spock sighed in defeat. How many times had Kirk managed to con him into accompanying him on shore leave? And yet, somehow he didn't really seem to mind....
"Y'know, Spock, that mind meld's a great way to pass time when you're stuck in a turbolift. I must remember to always travel with a Vulcan in case it ever happens again. Maybe next time we could go to Delma Four, or Arctus Prime...."
The Vulcan sighed again, raised both winged eyebrows, and stepped out onto the bridge with his captain, wondering what he had done to deserve such a friend.
Schooling his features into his usual decorous Vulcan mask, he found himself reflecting fondly on his friendship with Kirk and thinking, with more than a little curious anticipation, about his next shore leave.
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