Title: A Sea Of Summer Air
Author: wendelah1
Rating: PG-13, for language
Characters: Star Trek XI: Kirk, McCoy, Chapel, implied Spock/Uhura
Summary: "Captain, this is a classic example of the short-comings of the universal translator, which is why I have been recommending that a skilled linguist be assigned to all away missions involving first contact situations."

This was written for prompt #27, the text of which contains a spoiler for the story, so I've chosen to place it at the end.







There was something in the air. It wasn't just the unusual music he kept listening for in the background, though its melodies and rhythms seemed particularly designed for--distraction. It wasn't the approving, even flirtatious glances he kept receiving from the inhabitants of this planet. Heck, he knew he was a good looking guy, and sure, he was used to getting more than his share of attention. But he needed to stay focused on the negotiations. This was not an ordinary first contact situation. The Lyrians had a vaccine the Enterprise needed and it was vital that he obtain it.

"What is that music I keep hearing? It has a very compelling sound, Dr. Andover," Kirk found himself asking.

"Yes, it does. That is a hymn by one of our finest composers, Captain Kirk, composed for the religious festival that we are in the midst of celebrating. We call it our Festival of Interbeing." The Lyrian physician beamed. At least that was what Kirk thought he had said. The universal translator was great but sometimes he wondered if they were losing a lot of the nuance. Unless he acquiesced to Uhura's assertion that their best, irreplaceable linguist should be assigned to every away mission, the universal translator was what they had to work with.

"I hope that our presence isn't having a disruptive effect on the normal progression of your Festival, Magistrate Isay," he said, turning to the handsome, imposing Lyrian female sitting to the right of him at the conference table. Probably a female. She did have nice breasts although that wasn't always a sure thing.

"Not at all, I assure you. We would be happy for you to join us in the celebration, while we continue our discussion on your desire to acquire our vaccine for the Eluvian influenza. My scientists have informed me that without extensive testing, there is no way to ensure that it would even be effective in humans, let alone the other alien races serving on your vessel. We do want to help you, Captain. But I am at a loss as to how to proceed."

"My Chief Medical Officer has a plan. Doctor." Kirk prompted.

McCoy cleared his throat. "It's not really my plan. Well, with the assistance of Science Officer Spock, Lieutenant Chapel has come up with a computer simulation that we think will help predict, as best we can without actually administering it, whether the vaccine will work in humans. Since humans are by far the largest group on the Enterprise, giving the vaccine to them should provide the remainder of the crew with what we call herd immunity. But we need a sample of the vaccine in order to analyze its genetic structure to input into the program," McCoy explained.

"You are a trained exogeneticist then, Lt. Chapel?" Dr.Andover said, clearly impressed.

"No, I'm not actually. I'm a medical practitioner, like Dr. McCoy, in a related discipline. I practice as a Registered Nurse. However, because my undergraduate degree is in biochemistry, while I was working on my Master's Degree in Nursing, I did work for Roger Korby, a medical archeologist on my world. I learned all of the standard computer genetics protocols during my stint in his lab."

"We were very lucky to have Lieutenant Chapel assigned to the Enterprise during its maiden voyage under Captain Pike," Kirk added. "Even luckier that she agreed to stay after I took over the helm." He smiled at Chapel, who looked pleased at the compliment.

"You must tell me more about your work aboard the Enterprise, after evening sacrament, perhaps? I am most interested to hear of your Registered Nursing." Magistrate Isay raised her hand. Across the room, a dozen young Lyrians wearing crimson robes began bringing in trays of steaming food, plates piled high with what Kirk supposed was some sort of fruit, and large flasks filled with ruby colored liquid. "You are invited to join with us in celebration. This evening's festivities include feasting, followed by dancing in our outdoor pavilion, then back indoors for final sacrament. Although anyone energetic or--anxious enough--to want to continue outdoors is welcome to do so, of course. I prefer to conclude the day in my own bed." She chuckled. "We would be most honored by your joining with us," she added cordially.

And dishonored by our refusal, Kirk supposed. "Of course, we would be pleased to join with you during this special evening." His assent was rewarded with a glorious, toothy, green-tinted smile from the Magistrate.

What harm could come from a good meal and dancing under the stars?


*****


"Captain, this is a classic example of the short-comings of the universal translator, which is why I been recommending that a skilled linguist be assigned to all away missions involving first contact situations."

Kirk interrupted. "Your point is taken, Uhura. Now, what exactly have we gotten ourselves into here, and more importantly, how do we get out of it without jeopardizing the negotiations for the vaccine?"

He loved how she turned his title into two words when she was pissed at him. "Cap Tain." She kept her cool so admirably, too. He really did have the best crew in the fleet. "This culture is matrilineal and polyamorous," Uhura continued. "This is their biennial religious festival, celebrating what the universal translator calls 'interbeing' since there is no word in Earth Standard for uniting in mind, body and spirit with the known world."

Kirk was starting to have an uneasy feeling about this. He probably should have been at that mandatory presentation he'd made the rest of the crew attend. What was the name of it? "Species Diversity and You: A Sexual Safety Presentation." Fuck. He forced his attention back to Uhura.

"Every two years, the Lyrians reform their family groupings, which they call kingroups, sometimes adding, sometimes subtracting members. There is no stigma attached to this. Children stay with their mothers, although fathers always have access. They see families like branches on a tree, just as we do, except their tree branches are a little bit bigger and the trunk is more like the entire planet," Uhura continued.

He was now having a very bad feeling about this. "Go on, but get to the point, please." Uhura pursed her mouth and glared. Kirk held his hands up in mock surrender.

"This sacrament that you agreed to participate in tonight was a sort of bonding ceremony that linked you, Lieutenant Chapel and Dr. McCoy to the planet and its inhabitants. You're now married, to each other and to the Lyrian people. Well, at least until the next festival period," she amended.

Kirk knew Uhura had to love this. Damn. He was going to have to assign a linguist to the away teams.

"But all we did was eat dinner and go outside and dance," Kirk objected.

"You drank from the ceremonial cup, ate the marriage cake and danced in the circle of interbeing. That is the Lyrian marriage ceremony, I'm afraid. Normally, the Lyrians spend the next three weeks--bonding--with their new partners in special, temporary festival dwellings," Uhura said cheerfully.

"Three weeks?" Kirk squeaked. He couldn't help it. His voice was starting to sound a little bit whiny, even to himself. He'd had perhaps a glass or two less than Bones of the festival wine. Chapel was only one who'd kept herself relatively sober. She had eaten a lot of the special cake, though. It was very good cake, too, tasting of currents and cinnamon, Kirk thought. Maybe some ginger, too. Do aliens have ginger?

"Captain?" Yeah, Nyota definitely sounded amused by this turn of events. Well, he would do his duty.

"Okay, so who do I have to have sex with to fulfill the married to the planet thing, the bonding, whatever?" The Lyrians were attractive in their way, the green teeth, blue skin, and prominent forehead ridges notwithstanding.

"Actually, Captain, the Magistrate took you at your word. When she asked you if you were bonded, you told her you were married to the Enterprise, that no one person could ever come between you and your duty to the ship and its crew." Uhura smiled sweetly.

"So, wait. No to the hot alien sex this trip?" So what was the catch, then? Why had the three of them been gently herded into that room? He waited impatiently, while she conferred again with the Lyrians.

"Okay. Here's the bottom line. Since you told Magistrate Isay that you were in effect already married to the entire crew, you have merely renewed your vows to them. You've all been excused from the three week stay. Three days in the Huktttht will suffice."

At his confusion, Uhura clarified. "That's the name for the temporary festival dwelling. Like a honeymoon suite except they build it themselves, usually in their backyards. I think they're putting you up in a hotel or something."

"I can't believe this. I violated the prime directive of first contact situations." Kirk blurted out.

At this, Spock, who had up until this point remained silent, decided to interject.

"I do not believe the Prime Directive to be relevant in this situation, Captain. The Lyrians are space-faring, and on a comparable level of technology with much of the Federation."

"Not that prime directive, Mr. Spock," Kirk said ruefully. "This one is much more down to earth. So to speak. Never drink from the ceremonial cup until you are sure what's in it and what it means when you do. Ditto for the special cake." He groaned. "You're going to have to go with me back to the--how did you say that--huk tit--?" Kirk stumbled.

"Huktttht," Uhura prompted.

"That's what I said, isn't it?" Kirk said defensively. "Anyway. You have to help me tell them. Bones and Nurse Chapel will never believe this is on the level. They'll think..."

"I know what they'll think," Uhura said dismissively. Spock raised an eyebrow.

*****

"Now, hold on, Uhura, this can't be right," McCoy objected. "All we did was eat dinner, drink a little wine, have some cake for dessert, join hands and dance around in a circle."

Chapel looked amused. "A little wine? Dr. McCoy, you're plastered."

Huh. Maybe she'd had more wine than he thought. She didn't seem all that broken up about the prospect of being married to the planet of Lyra and spending her shore leave with her crotchety boss and her off-limits captain. Could it be that she secretly had a thing for Bones? Nah. He'd bet good money she was still crushing on Spock, who was still joined at the hip with Uhura.

"Captain, unless you have anything further for us to do here, I believe our time will be better spent back at the Enterprise. My absence and yours has left Commander Scott on the bridge." Spock inclined his head.

"Okay. Okay." He knew Scotty hated command. "Uhura could stay and keep us company. We might need a translator," Kirk said hopefully.

"No, she couldn't," Uhura said firmly.

"What about the negotiations?" Kirk asked plaintively.

"That has already been concluded," Spock reassured him. "Supplies have been sent, the analysis is done and the vaccinations have already begun, under the direction of Dr. Chandra." Spock hesitated. "However inadvertent it might have been, your participation in this important festival has created a nearly unbreakable bond with the people of Lyra. You are as family now. And family..."

"Takes care of its own." Kirk finished. "Right. Since we will be stuck here for the next three days anyway, see if you can get permission for the crew to have some shore leave. Just make sure they don't eat the cake."

"Or drink the wine," McCoy added sardonically.

"Or dance, Captain. Don't forget, no dancing," Chapel added helpfully.

Uhura was not done. "One last thing, Captain. The Lyrians were--concerned--that you had an odd number for the--bonding. Do you want me to send for Yeoman Rand, to even things out a bit? I'm sure she'd be happy to join you."

"God, no. We'll be fine," Kirk said hastily. Maybe a little too hastily. But frankly, the fewer people who knew about this clusterfuck the better. He was already going to have to fudge his log to avoid an official inquiry.

"Okay. We'll see you in three days. Just let us know when you're ready to beam aboard." Uhura then turned to speak to Chapel. "I'm sorry, Christine. I hate to leave you alone with these two. Maybe you can get some shopping in at least?"

"Hey. I think Bones and I can manage to keep Nurse Chapel happy and amused for a couple of days," Kirk said indignantly. Bones nodded in agreement. Nurse Chapel just rolled her eyes.

*****

"It's a nice room. It's bright, there's plenty of space, a large bed." It was a very large bed and very prominently placed, too. Kirk winced.

"There's only one bed." McCoy was quick to point out.

"And a couch," Kirk rejoined.

"One couch." Bones was not happy.

"I'll take the floor," Kirk said quickly. "Wow. Is that a hot tub in the middle of the room? Well, there must be a shower or something, somewhere. . ."

"No, just a toilet, a bidet and a double sink, Captain. There are also no robes, just huge fluffy towels, scented soaps and massage oils," Chapel said wistfully.

"Hey, don't worry, we aren't prisoners here, we're guests. We can come and go as we please. We'll figure out a bathing schedule. This place is decorated like an expensive Nevada bordello," Kirk mused.

"How would you know?" Both McCoy and Chapel asked, looking first at Kirk, then each other.

"I wouldn't. Books, you know. I read a lot," Kirk explained unnecessarily. He was happy to note that Chapel was smiling a little. Bones still looked pissed off though.

"It's okay. I'll use the bathroom sink, you guys can have the tub." Chapel smiled again.

"We guys will not. Like Jim said. I mean, the Captain said. We'll all take turns. Or something." Bones was lying on the couch, with his arms crossed over his chest. He was frowning again.

"I've been thinking. . ." Kirk began.

"Really? Have you? That would be a first, for this away mission at least," McCoy snapped.

He probably deserved that.

"Since we are all going to be spending the next three days together, off-duty, and are, in the eyes of the Lyrians anyway, married to each other, I suggest we leave off the rank and serial number stuff. Lieutenant Chapel, please call me Jim. What name would you like to be called?"

"Okay...Jim. That sounds strange." She said it hesitantly. "You may call me Christine or Chrissie, if you like. Chrissie is my nickname, what friends at home call me."

"Good. That's good. How about you, Bo--I mean Dr. McCoy?" Kirk corrected himself. He never had asked McCoy if it was okay to call him that nickname. Maybe he found it insulting? Maybe it was time to clear that up.

"Jim. You know what you're going to call me, no matter what I say." McCoy said sarcastically. "Chrissie, you may call me Len. My ex-wife called me Leonard, so don't ever call me that. I'll try to be less of an ass-hole, for the next three days at least." He said this a little bit sheepishly.

"I wonder how this works for meals," Kirk questioned. "Is there room service?"

As if on cue, there was a hesitant knock on the door, the rattle of a tray being set down on the floor, and footsteps. Kirk brought in the tray, laden with fruit, cheese, more of the spice cake (he groaned) and of course, more wine.

"I guess this is our bedtime snack." Why was it that everything that came out his mouth sounded like a double-entendre now? "Maybe we've all had enough of that wine for now."

"Oh, I don't know about that, Jim. I think maybe a little more wine is just what the situation calls for." Chrissie said, plopping herself down on the floor, next to the couch, and picking up a glass. Bones was still for a moment, and then sat up.

"I think you are right, Chrissie. More wine it is. Jim? Are you going to join us?"

Kirk sighed, giving in. He sat down next to Chrissie, and reached out for a glass of wine. As he did so, his thigh made contact with hers and his hand brushed his friend's fingertips, just for an instant. The contact was brief but still it was enough to be arousing, at least to him. He was in a room alone with two very attractive people, a cake that he would swear had aphrodisiacal properties and a whole shitload of alcohol. And a hot tub. This was going to be a true test of his leadership ability because he was not going to fuck this up by fucking this up. He knew he could easily seduce Bones and Chrissie into fulfilling his threesome fantasies. Hell, if he was honest with himself, he wanted to, badly. He hadn't been with anyone he actually cared about since he assumed command of the Enterprise.

He tried to sound properly apologetic. "I'm sorry about this mess I've gotten us into. I should have realized that I was in over my head. Damned universal translator."

Bones scowled. "Yeah, you should be sorry. You are an arrogant sob, I'll give you that. You didn't even ask us if we were willing to go along with this scheme of yours and Uhura's. You just assumed we would. It's a good thing I like you both because there is no way I could survive three days on this sexual merry-go-round of a planet, alone in this room, with nothing to do but get drunk and think about the last time I got laid. In the meantime, we are just going to have to make the best of things. Pass the cake. You want some more, Chrissie?"

"Yes, please. I love this cake." She licked her fingers, one by one.

Jim looked worried. "Do you think there is anything in the cake that would be affecting our libido?"

Bones pulled out his tricorder. "Lots of carbs, simple sugars, spice, ginger. I guess not. You're just horny, Jim. Same as we are."

Chrissie took her fingers out of her mouth, for which Jim was grateful. "I have to admit this is not how I expected to spend my wedding night: sleeping alone in a bed, with my boss on the couch, and our captain on the floor next to him. Do you think we are in violation of any regs being here?" She sounded so worried that Jim elected not to tell her the truth. What was the point?

"Oh, probably," Bones said airily. "Jimbo here will fix it in his official log or something. We can count on Spock's discretion. Uhura may be many things but she isn't a gossip."

Jim decided changing the subject was a good idea. "So, you've never been married, then, Chrissie? Ever get close?"

She shrugged. "I was engaged but I broke it off four years ago. My fiancé disapproved of my decision to enter the academy. There hasn't been anyone serious since. What about you, Len? Do you think you'll ever remarry?"

Bones snorted. "Not likely. You've both already heard my sad tale of marital woe. I'm like Jim, I guess, married to the Enterprise. Besides, who'd have me? Where would I meet anyone anyway?"

Jim objected. "Hey, now. I think you are underestimating your appeal. You are a fine figure of a man."

"He's hot," Chapel agreed. "There are plenty of crew members who might be interested if you'd just leave your room occasionally, Len."

"Really?" Bones brightened at the thought. Then he sighed. "Doesn't matter. They're all my patients. I can't even think about getting it on with someone I might have to treat. I have to maintain professional distance. So do you, Chrissie. Even you understand, Jim. You know the minute you assumed command you started thinking about the crew differently."

"Well, maybe not at that very minute, as I was a little preoccupied with saving the planet, but yeah. It did make a difference, " Jim conceded. "I need the crew to trust me, to trust my ability to command. Sex would just screw everything up. Uh, sorry," he said ruefully.

"Of course, you'd already slept with half our class by then," Bones pointed out. He had settled Chrissie between his legs and was rubbing her neck, Jim noted. "Watch, now he's going to deny it. But I was there, sharing his goddamned room." Chrissie's head was lolling forward now, as Bones rubbed slow circles in her hair. Jim thought about telling them to get a room but he guessed that joke might fall flat.

"That feels great. You have wonderful hands, Len." She struggled to sit back up. "So, what about you, Jim? Have you ever thought about marriage, kids, family?"

Jim was even more worried about divulging personal information to his crew than he was about sleeping with them. The less they knew the better off they'd all be. Shit. He'd started this round, too.

He'd just keep it simple. "Sure. I've thought about it, though mainly in the negative. I just don't see how this lifestyle is very compatible with raising a family. And I don't think I'm very well suited to monogamy." Jim confessed.

"That's an understatement." Bones muttered. Jim shrugged.

"What were your parents going to do? They were both in Starfleet. Did you ever ask your mother that, Jim?"

Chapel's question was a fair one but that didn't mean he felt like answering it. "No. I never did ask her." It seemed beside the point. His mother played the hand she was dealt. They all did.

There was an uncomfortable silence.

Jim decided enough was enough. "Now that I've thoroughly depressed you both, maybe it's time we hit the sack. It's been a long day, what with the negotiating, the feasting, the cake eating and the wine drinking. Chris, why don't you throw me one of the blankets off the bed and a pillow. Bones, you're like a furnace when you sleep, maybe you could make do with just the sheet."

"Were you always this bossy?" Chapel didn't sound amused.

"Hey! We have a full day of bonding ahead of us tomorrow. Uhura had a good suggestion. We're going to go shopping." Women liked to shop. Heck, he liked to shop.

Bones groaned. "God, no. You two can go without me. That can be my private time for the bathtub."

Jim decided to leave it up to Christine. "If it's okay with Chris, it's okay with me." This only made Bones angrier.

"Jesus, Jim. You're like a goddamned camp counselor. Your cheerfulness is grating and your attempts to micro-manage this fiasco are pissing me off. Give it a rest. If it's all right with you, I'm going to take a piss." He stomped off to the john.

"He loves me, really he does." Damn. This was getting more fucked up by the minute and he wasn't even getting laid.

Chapel looked thoughtful. "I'm sure he does, but he's right about one thing, Jim. You are not in charge here. I know you're afraid that if you don't try to control everything that it will all fall apart, but you have to stop. You know you've already decided that this little three day vacation of ours is going to be completely platonic, again without asking us. What if we feel differently?" She stood up, looking far more sober than he felt. "You know, I think I'm going to get some air. It's a nice night for a walk." She hesitated, a range of emotions passing over her face. Then she held out her hand to him. "Come on. Let's give Len a chance to cool off."

So he was wrong to have gone along with the Lyrian marriage deal without consulting his prospective spouses about the arrangement. This he could accept. Now she was telling him he was wrong for trying to keep things from getting even worse. He was convinced it was a stupid move to have sex with his best friend, even hot threesome sex. Suddenly he thought about the pivotal moment of his life, the one that had set him on the path that had led him to the Academy, then to the Captain's chair on the Enterprise. If Nyota had gone home with him, instead of blowing him off, if he hadn't gotten into the fight with Cupcake, if he hadn't met Captain Pike, how differently would it have all played out? He didn't want to think about this too hard as the implications were disturbing. Who would believe that the fate of this universe turned on whether or not Jim Kirk got lucky at a bar in Iowa. If having sex with Uhura would have resulted in the destruction of Earth, what sort of a catastrophe would hitting it with Christine create? Or Bones? Or both? War with the Klingon Empire? A new plague, perhaps? Drawstring pants coming back into style?

Celibacy was starting to look like an attractive, even a necessary option. But how could he explain any of this to his new husband and wife without sounding like a megalomaniacal crackpot? Bones, Christine. We can't have sex because the fate of the universe revolves around the fate of my dick.

Shit. He was a megalomaniacal crackpot.

Talk about a no-win scenario. Well, James Kirk didn't believe in no-win scenarios. He extended his arm and let her pull him to his feet. "Sure, Chris, let's go for that walk. You can keep telling me how I'm doing it all wrong, too. After all, you are my wife now." Kirk smirked.

"You are incorrigible, aren't you? And my name isn't Chris. It's Christine or Chrissie, thank you very much." She sounded like she was trying to stay mad but he wasn't buying it.

"Okay, Chris. Come on. Let's go find ourselves an all night market. They must have something resembling beer on this planet."


He didn't know what was going to happen next. Maybe nothing more than sharing a Lyrian six pack and having some laughs. Bonding. He knew Bones had told very few people about his divorce since he'd joined Starfleet, let alone shared any details. He'd had no idea Bones and Chapel were this close. But it made sense. They'd worked together closely, under highly stressful conditions. They spoke the same language.


His evening stroll with Chris had only confirmed what he had begun to suspect: forget about Spock. Nurse Chapel had it bad for Bones. After an hour or so of listening to her praise his medical skills and his exemplary character and make excuses for his current ill temper, he decided to ask the obvious.

"Have you told him how you feel?" Jim prodded gently.

She looked surprised, resigned, and then defiant, all in about three seconds flat. "Of course not. We have a great professional relationship, he's my superior officer, and besides, we've become friends. I don't want to do anything that would jeopardize that." She hesitated briefly. "Anyway, Jim, the only person he ever talks about with any affection, besides his daughter, of course, is you."

Jim was surprised. Was Christine implying Bones was interested in him? That seemed so unlikely, though he admitted it would explain why Bones might be pissed off at being stuck in a room for three days with two people he was obviously having feelings for, without being able to do anything about it.

Okay. So if Jim was attracted to Chrissie, as it was becoming clear he was, since she was smart, gorgeous and liked giving him a hard time, and she was hot for Bones, and Bones was crushing on him, and probably Chrissie, too, all they needed was Janice Rand down here and they were well on their way to an impromptu production of Midsummer's Night Dream. Uhuru would make a dynamite Queen Titania.

Well, nice fantasy. But this was Starfleet, not Shakespeare, and no one was going to end up with anyone at the end of this performance. Soon enough, the three days would be over, they would go back to the Enterprise and things would get back to normal.

He really did not need to know that Bones was thinking about him that way. Sex was fine, as long as it was casual. Jim was naturally inquisitive and that had extended into the sexual area as well. He had experimented enough that he considered his bi-curiosity satisfied. He just could not see himself in a long-term relationship with anyone, male or female.

Suddenly it hit him. "You think that this group marriage scenario is a way to change things between you and Bones. That's why you're not mad at me. Not really mad at me," he amended when she gave him a look. She looked sexy when she was doing that thing with her eyes. "You think if you can just get with him, he'll see the error of his ways and fall for you!" He ended triumphantly.

"NO. Well, maybe, a little bit," she conceded. "But that isn't the only reason. You see, I've had these fantasies about the three of us. . ."

Insert brief sexual fantasy here: He pictured Christine on one side. . . et cetera. It was going to be a long three days.


******


Even waking up with a stiff neck from sleeping on the floor did nothing to alter Kirk's good mood. Talking with Bones and Chris had been relaxing and fun, especially after knocking back the third bottle of that ginger beer, or whatever the drink really was. It tasted just like the ginger beer he remembered from childhood, but with a definite kick. Bones' stories about his residency were priceless and Kirk had no idea what dirty minds the nursing staff of the Enterprise had.

The shopping trip was a success, too. Though they got off to a late start, due to sleeping in after talking most of the night, they managed to do quite a bit of damage. Christine got a red silk caftan-like dress to wear to the upcoming reception and an undergarment that resembled a swimsuit to wear underneath that she thought would work for the hot tub later. With or without undergarments, Jim was looking forward to a soak in the tub. Or maybe he could get Bones to massage his neck later. He had contacted the ship to have Yeoman Rand send down dress uniforms and boots and some other essentials for him and Bones, so they wouldn't completely disgrace the Federation.

The afternoon reception at the Magistrate's residence was less formal than Kirk had expected, with the guests including numerous small children who seemed to be related to her. Grandchildren? Nieces and nephews, perhaps? The loose Lyrian family structure was confusing him. Her home was a series of compounds, small one and two story dwellings centered around a large central courtyard, with what he supposed was the Huttuk in the center. Lyrian families stayed close, it seemed.

"Captain Kirk!" Magistrate Isay waved him over. "I'd like you to meet my bond-mate, Ritan Merth."

After introductions and some small talk, Merth excused himself to mingle.

"Captain, I was wondering who were the other members of your kingroup aboard the Enterprise?" The Magistrate bent down to whisper to one of the small children, who nodded and then ran off. This gave Kirk a moment to try to compose an answer that wouldn't unnecessarily involve other members of the crew, or lying to her Eminence. The deception was difficult enough when it involved just the three of them.

Luckily, the Magistrate didn't bother to wait for his answer. "The reason I asked is because I was wondering if you wanted to bring any of your other bond-mates down from your ship to complete your personal circle?"

Or not so lucky.

Personal circle? What could that be? It sounded innocent enough except so had eating the cake and drinking the wine. More circle dancing? Or something else altogether? Where was Uhura when he needed her? This place was a cultural landmine.

Maybe he could plead fatigue, beg off from this part of the festival? It was at least worth a try.

"Magistrate. If you don't mind, is it possible that we could be excused from doing the personal circle? We were up late--bonding--last night and I don't know if we'll feel up for the party tonight. I'm kind of feeling like I want get back to our Huk Tut and just crash." The damned hot tub was sounding like a better and better idea, unfortunately. The Magistrate must be having problems with her translator, too, because her face looked puzzled.

"To crash is slang for going right to sleep," Kirk explained.

"I'm sorry, Captain. I'm afraid I've made a mistake. I assumed the reason you asked for shore leave for your crew was so that you could include them in your personal circle tonight. I've already made arrangements to open up all of the adjoining rooms to your sleeping quarters. Lieutenant Uhura thought that an agreeable idea." The Magistrate looked troubled.

Kirk forced a smile. "No need to be concerned, Magistrate, I think that will work out fine. We'll be happy to have the crew that's on shore leave with us tonight for our, uh, personal circle. But I had better collect my better halves so that we can go make sure the crew is getting settled in." He craned his head, looking for Bones and Christine, and then winced. Maybe he had a pinched nerve? Christine would roll with the punches but he could bet Bones would not be happy at the prospect of another night without much sleep.

The Magistrate smiled happily. "Before you go, I wonder if I may ask you a personal question."

"Ask away," Kirk replied.

"Is the bond-mate arrangement you have with your ship's crew a common one on your world?"

Kirk didn't know how to answer that question. Though the arrangement was not exactly what the Magistrate thought, relationships with people on a starship were close, sometimes even too close. In many ways, they were like a family, a big, extended, sometimes contentious family. He knew he would do pretty much whatever it took to keep his crew and ship safe. Maybe they were more like the Lyrians than he had originally thought.

"I don't know," he said finally. "I do know that what we have on the Enterprise feels very special and that I would do whatever it took to keep it that way. Extended families are common, even marriage to multiple partners is not unheard of on Earth, with its many cultures." He smiled. "There was a woman I met back in Starfleet Academy, named Hunter. She was something--beautiful, charismatic, a brilliant physicist. She always wore this feather in her hair, I never found out what it meant. She was in what she called a partnership marriage with two other people, both physicists, I believe. We were lovers for a brief time. I think she was giving me a try-out, to be honest. Like many of my classmates, she was on one of the ships that we lost trying to defend Vulcan," he added soberly.

"Such a tragic loss, it is unimaginable. Still, this is not the festival for grieving for what we have lost. We are celebrating the gifts we have been given, the present we have chosen, and the future which is yet to be. Go now; be with your friends and lovers."

"Good night and thank you."

Kirk threaded his way through the crowd until he spotted Bones and Christine, sitting outside on a bench, underneath a blossoming tree. He had seen many like them as he, Bones and Christine walked the avenues of Lyre's capital city. He reached up and touched one of the delicate pink blossoms, watching the petals floating gently down.

"What a strange thing! To be alive beneath cherry blossoms," he quoted, wondering if the Lyrians timed the festival to the tree's cycle.

"What is it, Jim? I don't recognize the reference." McCoy looked curious.

Jim felt embarrassed. "It's nothing really. Just a poem, a very old one by a Japanese poet, Issa. A haiku. We should get back to our hotel. Uhura has sent us a little surprise. It seems we're hosting a party tonight. But before we go, Bones, do you think you could work on my neck? I think I got threw something out of alignment last night sleeping on the floor."

"Now I suppose you are going to expect me to give up my comfy couch," Bones chided gently, as he kneaded Jim's muscles.

"Ah, yeah, right there," Jim moaned. "Don't worry about that, Bones. Something tells me that none of us are going to get much sleep tonight."

By the time they arrived back at Hotel Huck Tuck, the party was already in full swing. As the Magistrate had promised, their room had somehow been transformed into a much grander space, with a number of large doorways opening into hallways that led to other rooms, which presumably were for--sleeping. They had brought in more furniture, including a large table laden with comestibles, including that damned cake and more of the ceremonial wine. The bed was gone, as were their few personal belongings and....wait. What did they do with the hot tub? That had plumbing attached, pipes and stuff, right?

Someone had brought in a portable music player, and he could hear the peculiar, oddly seductive harmonics of the Lyrian musical scale begin to work on his brain. A group of people were clustered in one part of the room, where one of the engineering staff, Virginia Lopez, was teaching some kind of folk dance. A couple of people had brought down string instruments and were attempting, not very successfully, to tune them to the Lyrian scale.

"Shuffle slide, shuffle step. Kick and kick. Jump forward, jump back. You're doing great, people," Lopez encouraged.

"Who is in charge down here at Party Central?" Kirk wondered. Oops. He said that out loud.

"That would be me, Captain, although technically, since we are on shore leave and you are on your honeymoon. . ." Spock replied, coming up from behind.

"Shssh. Jesus, Spock. Could you say it any louder? As you just pointed out, we are on shore leave, so why don't you call me Jim?" Kirk looked around to see if anyone else was within earshot. "Who's on the bridge?" he added, as an afterthought.

Spock raised an eyebrow. "Lieutenant Xavier Pereira is in command, the third shift is on duty, the first shift is on the planet and the second shift. . ."

"Pereira? Huh. Fine, then. It sounds like everything is under control." What could go wrong? All Pereira needed to do was keep the ship in orbit for three days. Three nights and two days now. "Where is Nyota?" Kirk said innocently.

"Lieutenant Uhura is over in that corner with a group playing some kind of Earth game that involves standing on a mat, spinning a dial and reaching for circles of various colors. Since there are a limited number of circles, the player must at times maneuver precariously to reach the desired position. She is very--flexible," Spock said thoughtfully.

Now it was Kirk's turn to raise an eyebrow. "Uh, yes, she is. Hey, Bones, Chrissie. How's it going?"

McCoy didn't stop for pleasantries. "Has everyone on planet already received the vaccine?" he demanded of Spock.

"Yes, Doctor. There have been no severe reactions reported to date, with mild fever, muscular aches and headache the most common side effects. Your computer model was quite precise, Lieutenant Chapel," Spock added.

"That's good to hear. Now we'll just have to see what kind of efficacy we get. If we are lucky, it'll be enough to avert disaster--this time." Bones ran his hands through his hair and frowned.

"I'm sure it'll be fine, Len," Chapel said soothingly. "The computer model. . ."

"God dammit, Christine. You know better than to make assumptions based on computer models. People aren't computers, present company accepted, of course, Commander Spock," McCoy said sarcastically. Seeing the look on his friends' faces, McCoy shook his head. "I'm sorry, Christine, Spock. I'm being a jack-ass--again. We're off duty; even if we weren't, neither of you did anything to deserve that sort of response," he said slowly. "I guess I'm not feeling very relaxed yet."

"Apology accepted, although I am quite accustomed to such outbursts, most especially from you, Dr. McCoy," Spock replied. "I am going to join Uhura in the game corner." He inclined his head and left their circle.

"You're awfully quiet, Jim," Bones inquired.

"Yeah. I know." Jim smiled slightly.

"Are we ever going to talk about this?" Christine wondered.

"Probably not. There's nothing to talk about anyway. It's not a valid marriage if there wasn't consent, not that that would matter if it came to a courts-martial," Jim said matter-of-factly. "It might just mean a slap on the wrist, but I can't take that chance for any of us. There are people in Starfleet waiting for me to fail, you know. Even I wonder sometimes if I really deserved the jump in rank. The one thing we have in our defense is that we didn't go ahead and do something stupid. The Enterprise is too important to me, to all of us, to do anything that would put the ship or its crew at risk." You are important to me, too, he didn't say.

"Of course, you're right," Christine said quietly. Bones said nothing.

"Anyway, who needs love and intimacy when you can play Twister and learn to line dance." Jim grinned, grabbing his friends around their shoulders. "Group hug?" They embraced then pulled apart when Jim started laughing. "I still can't figure out what they did with that hot tub."

Christine looked at him quizzically. "It's right where it always was, Jim, back in our room."

"I thought this was our room. We have another room, too?" Jim said stupidly. Clearly, he needed to cut back on the ceremonial wine. He brightened. "I want to get into that tub now. I'm still sore from sleeping on the floor last night."

"I think there are already people in that tub." Bones warned. "The bed is full, too. We've got crew down here stacked up like sardines. You should tell the Lyrians to send in more blankets and pillows at least."

"There are people in my tub," Jim said in mock horror. "Well, they are just going to have to move over then, aren't they? Come on, you two, let's go join the party."

And so they did.






A soft Sea washed around the House
A Sea of Summer Air
And rose and fell the magic Planks
That sailed without a care --
For Captain was the Butterfly
For Helmsman was the Bee
And an entire universe
For the delighted crew.

Emily Dickinson



What a strange thing!
to be alive
beneath cherry blossoms.

Issa, translation by Robert Hass, from The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson and Issa.



"Species Diversity and You: A Sexual Safety Presentation." by [personal profile] grey_bard

Prompt 27: The Entropy Effect
Kirk
Group marriage - So, in The Entropy Effect, Kirk's ex-girlfriend - the awesome Captain Hunter - is part of a group marriage involving several men and women. She was part of this marriage at the time they were dating, and her group proposed to Kirk on several occasions at which time he turned them down because he was unready for commitment. An act that Kirk says in the novel that he deeply regrets. Oh, if only they would propose to him again! Clearly the group marriage variety of poly is appealing to Kirk. Interesting. Anything involving Kirk, group marriage and Reboot, please. Gen, het, slash or some combination of the above! And any appearance by Captain Hunter and Co. would be cool too.
Reboot


Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] idunnoh for beta, and to the [livejournal.com profile] ficfinishing community on Live Journal, especially member [livejournal.com profile] riverotter1951 for encouraging me to complete this story.
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