This story was inspired by Hy's question of "Why is it always cats?" Well, this time, dear, it isn't ;-)

STAR TREK: THE GUINEA PIGTURE

by Farfalla. Dedicated to Peter and North.

blueberrysnail @ yahoo.com

Jimmy burrowed deeper into his nest of hay, trying to shut out the lonely world. He and the exotic hybrid called Spock had never been separated for this long, not since they were first bought together as cage-mates. He could tell just by sniffing that Spock wasn't even in the house, and it made him angry and frightened. Would he ever return?

The humans had said he was being taken to someplace called Gol--Golly--"Golly-Gosh Pet Salon"--to be professionally groomed. What did he need that for? Jimmy groomed him when he needed it, which they both understood was unusual for their species and somehow special. Was Jimmy suddenly not good enough for him? He didn't understand any of it.

The little human who hadn't gone to the salon pushed a juicy, fresh piece of red pepper in between the cage bars. Jimmy crawled over to it and ate it joylessly.

Eventually, Jimmy got bored with sulking and went to the far end of the cage to stare at the newest addition to the household. The little human was petting the strange animal and it made funny clicking noises in return. It was much larger than the cavies and was covered in a shiny orange shell.

Jimmy wondered if the new beast would be his only company, if Spock never returned. He decided not to think about it and began grooming himself, since Spock wasn't there to do it.

The big front door opened and closed. "Christine!" called one of the bigger humans. "We're back!"

The little human bounced up from the floor and ran towards her parents. "I finished setting up the computer," she told them. "It was so easy!"

"You'll have to show me later how it works. Here, come put Spock away. He looks much better now, doesn't he?"

Jimmy hurried up to the bars and pressed his nose through. Spock was back! He could smell him again. But something was wrong with the smell...

When Christine lifted Spock out of the traveling cage, Jimmy froze in surprise. Spock's long, dark, messy fur had been clipped and styled and now shone like water. And when Christine opened the cage door and put Spock inside, he realized that Spock didn't smell like home anymore.

Frightened inside, but never one to back down just from fear, Jimmy inched closer as the little human shut the cage door. His nose was twitching and he tried to smell Spock's nose in greeting. Spock, however, had other plans. He backed away slightly and made no friendly movements.

"Spock?" Jimmy tried. "What was it like?"

"I have been groomed in a manner suitable for my hybrid breed," said Spock loftily.

"I'm glad to have you back," said Jimmy, confused by Spock's strange attitude. "Red pepper?"

Spock took the tiniest bite without saying thank you, and then went off to the farthest corner possible to rest.

Jimmy waddled to the water dish, utterly confused.

Hours later, Jimmy had grown accustomed to, if not happy with, his overtures toward Spock being rejected. He no longer approached him for huddling, and he certainly didn't need to be groomed. But there was nobody else to talk to. The humans were all upstairs watching baseball and the strange new orange beast hadn't said anything yet.

Spock was staring at Orange, trying to figure it out.

Jimmy crawled up next to him. "What do you think it is?"

"I do not have sufficient information to formulate a hypothesis," said Spock.

"It has a shell. The turtles in the tank had shells." There were no more turtles in the tank. Christine's parents had not replaced them when they died.

"This is not a turtle. It does not swim in water, and it is much bigger," Spock explained. "In addition, it does not possess legs."

"What about that... tail? Is that a tail?"

"I do not know. It requires further investigation."

Well, at least Spock was speaking to him. That was something. He took a deep breath and sadly inhaled the *wrong* scent, reminding him that Spock was still not back to normal.

Just as he settled into his hay-burrow for the night, he heard Christine's parents tell her she needed to be in bed soon. "Just a minute, Mom!" she called back. "I'm just going to plug in the speakers. I forgot to before."

All Jimmy heard was 'speaker' and his ears were covered by hay and fur--so what he heard instead of 'speaker' was 'V'ger.' He decided that must be the animal's name, and that Christine was feeding it before she went to sleep. She was a good owner. She wasn't the one who took Spock away and made him smell funny and act unfriendly.

Jimmy awoke in the middle of the night to the unnerving feeling of the cage bars shaking and vibrating. He poked his head up out of the hay to see what was going on. To his complete surprise and horror, the cage door was now half-open and Spock was slipping away into the vastness of the human world outside.

Jimmy scrambled out of the hay and rushed to the open door, watching. He could see quite well in the moonlit room, and his little heart was pounding in his chest.

Spock loped across the room to the spot on the floor where V'Ger, with all its mysterious tentacles and appendages, sat like a reposing diva.

Jimmy watched in concerned fascination as Spock approached V'Ger and tried to sniff noses with it. He was trying to make friends! Jimmy dashed out of the cage without a thought. What if V'Ger didn't want to be friends? What if it attacked Spock? It was much, much larger than a guinea pig.

Spock may not have been much fun, or very forthcoming with affection, lately, but Jimmy that his life would lose its meaning if Spock got hurt and died.

Spock nudged his nose against one of V'Ger's appendages, a flat, rounded circle attached to it by a thin tail. As it moved, a loud buzzing sound filled the room and a brilliant light emanated from V'Ger's face. Spock, inches away, panicked and dashed back toward the cage as quickly as he could. Jimmy helped him inside and somehow shut the door without even knowing how he did it.

Spock was unable to speak for a few minutes, surprised into stupefaction by the computer waking up from sleep mode. Jimmy did not leave his side, and began grooming him. Golly-Gosh Pet Salon be damned--grooming Spock was *his right*.

"Spock?" Jimmy tried to get him to speak. He had to know that his cage-mate would be all right. What had V'Ger done to him?

Upon hearing Jimmy's voice, Spock seemed to wake up. "Jim?"

"What happened? What did V'Ger do to you?"

Spock burrowed slowly into the hay beneath him. "V'Ger has knowledge that spans the universe. And yet, with all its pure logic, V'Ger is barren. Cold. No beauty. I should've... known..." He started to fall asleep, weak from his running around and the day's excitement.

"Known? Known what? Spock!" Jimmy would have gone to get some food, or at least water out of the dish, but he didn't want to leave Spock's side.

Spock's eyes opened again, and this time, he looked directly into Jimmy's. "This simple feeling..." He huddled close to Jimmy. "...is beyond V'Ger's comprehension. No meaning, no hope."

"Simple feeling?" Jimmy answered the huddle by huddling closer himself.

Spock replied by sniffing Jimmy's nose. Jimmy's heart flooded with relief. He had thought this pleasure lost to him forever.

"Oh, Spock," he murmured, "why were you so cold when you came home?"

"I met other exotic hybrid cavies at the salon," Spock explained. "I thought I should act as they did."

"I like you better as yourself."

"I like being myself much better as well."

They sniffed noses again and went to sleep in the same pile of hay.

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