Title: The Dilemma of the Disappearing Dessert
Author: Farfalla the Butterfly-Kitten
Email: blueberrysnail (at) yahoo.com
Website: Farfalla's Kirk/Spock happyplace
Characters: K/S, Mc, and McCoy's fambly
Rating: G
Beta: Hypatia Kosh and Gamin Davis
Summary: While visiting McCoy's daughter's vacation home in Colorado, Spock's gift for Kirk turns up missing.
Based on Gamin's "chocolate" challenge on KirkSpockFriendsForever and originally appearing in Side by Side #14.

The Dilemma of the Disappearing Dessert

"My gran'pappy says y'never smile. How come y'never smile?" The little girl's Southern accent was much thicker than Dr. McCoy's, and her words came rapid-fire.

Spock found the variation in dialect fascinating, and that was the main reason he allowed Annabelle Swift to accompany him while he unpacked his suitcase in the den of Joanna McCoy Swift's mountain vacation home. David Swift, the other half of Joanna's twins, was there as well, his sister's silent shadow. He was the shy one.

"I am a Vulcan," explained Spock. "We do not believe in displaying our emotions. Only the most select of circumstances warrant an outward expression, such as a smile."

"I bet you'd smile if you had a puppy," Annabelle retorted, with the logic of childhood on her side. "Momma bought us a puppy. He's sleepin' in the kitchen. Want me to go get 'im?"

"If he is sleeping, perhaps he would not appreciate being disturbed," Spock said quickly. His usually methodical unpacking had already slowed slightly due to Annabelle's squeaky barrage of questions, and he had no desire to see it further hindered by the presence of the small, hyper canine he was only too relieved to hear was finally napping.

"You ever had a puppy, Mr. Spock?"

"No, I did not," Spock answered, putting folded Vulcan robes in a dresser. "My childhood pet was a sehlat."

"What's that?" Annabelle asked before he could continue.

He tried his best not to be exasperated. "Similar to your earth bear, with fangs like a sabre-toothed tiger. We called him I-Chaya."

"Our puppy's name is Benny," said Annabelle.

Spock remained silent as he moved several pairs of pants from his suitcase into the dresser with the robes. David and Annabelle continued to watch him with huge blue eyes as he unpacked his shirts, then his socks, and then some toothpaste and other toiletries.

The last thing to come out of his bag was a small plastic pouch trimmed in brown and gold and tied with a piece of gold ribbon. "What's in that?" Annabelle asked.

"Chocolate-covered espresso beans," Spock answered. "I brought them for Jim as a 'vacation treat'."

"Beans?" said David, startling the other two with the first word he'd spoken in thirty minutes.

Spock opened his mouth to explain about roasting and flavoring, but Annabelle beat him to the punch. "It's a present," she whispered loudly to David, and that seemed to satisfy him. It seemed very illogical to Spock, but he welcomed the pause in conversation.

Joanna McCoy Swift appeared in the doorway, her sleeves rolled up and her arms covered in mechanic's grease. "Hey, Mr. Spock! I'm sorry we had to stick you and Jim on the fold-out bed--with Daddy stayin' in the trundle off Annabelle and David's bunk, there ain't anyplace else I can offer y'all."

"We will be quite comfortable with the accommodations," said Spock, "and we appreciate your generous invitation. Jim loves nature, and we both welcome the opportunity to rid ourselves of Starfleet Academy bureaucracy for a few weeks."

"Well, we're happy to have you," said Joanna. "You two are my daddy's best friends." She looked around the room. "Annabelle showed you where to put your things?"

"She has instructed me to place my things in this drawer."

"Oh, good. Jim can have the other one," said Joanna. "We keep those in here specially for guests, but most of the time it's just a den. Books, board games, vids..."

"It is not an inconvenience to relinquish the room to us?"

"Oh, who wants to be inside during weather like this?" Joanna smiled broadly. "And these are the longest days of the year."

"Logical," said Spock pleasantly. He liked Mrs. Swift.

"When you're all done, come on down to the kitchen and I'll fix you a sandwich, Daddy and Jim should be 'bout through with theirs."

"Thank you."

Mrs. Swift disappeared down the stairs.

Spock was nearly finished with his things. He opened one of his drawers at random and placed the bag of chocolate-covered coffee beans inside, to keep them safe and hidden until it was time to please Jim with his little surprise. The two children waited patiently at the doorway, and then led him downstairs and into the kitchen.

"Spock, what'd you bring, your entire wardrobe?" McCoy called raucously as the Vulcan appeared in the kitchen. "Why does it always take him forever to unpack?" he asked Jim.

Jim Kirk wiped sesame seeds from his lips. "He has to re-fold everything before it goes into the dresser. That's how he keeps himself looking so crisp when we're sitting here in T-shirts."

"You have not even begun to unpack, Jim," Spock reminded him. "Your so-called 'T-shirts' will all bear resemblance to so many prunes, if you are not careful."

Mrs. Swift, smiling broadly at their repartee, approached Spock with a full plate. "Roasted red peppers on homemade bread," she told him proudly. "No meat at all. See? I remembered this time."

"Thank you," said Spock graciously. "I appreciate your consideration." He took the plate and sat down next to his friends. The puppy, Benny, was still snoozing in a patch of sunlight pouring through the window in the corner.

After lunch, Jim and Spock decided to take their first short hike while McCoy played with his twin grandchildren. They took large bottles of water and umbrellas and headed off into the green and tawny mountainside.

The Rocky Mountain afternoon rain had mercy on them for being newcomers, and decided to play coy that day. They were treated to three hours of uninterrupted sunshine, and explored the rocks and wildflowers and spruce trees of the slopes above Vail.

Even the return trip was enjoyable. The picturesque cottages outside of town peeked through the trees to greet them as they trudged over the trail.

Kirk touched Spock's arm suddenly. "Look!"

"If I am not mistaken, that is a magpie."

"Aren't they striking? Looks almost like a hybrid between a skunk and a raven."

The magpie was joined by a friend, and both flew away. "They are scavengers," Spock commented, "and Dr. McCoy's daughter says they will eat the deceased insects from her vehicles."

"I'm really hungry," Kirk commented. "What time did Eli say he was starting the cookout?"

"I believe he said five-thirty."

"What time is it now?


"I can't make it till then. I burned up that ham sandwich a long time ago."

"Jim, if you insist on unnecessary exertions of energy--"

"Hey, don't tell me you weren't having fun."

"I stated the extra activities were unnecessary. I did not say they were not enjoyable," said Spock. "And, if you prefer, you may wait for me on this log while I go back to the house to retrieve a special surprise 'snack' that I have brought for you."

"Really, Spock?" Kirk smiled warmly. "You don't have to do that. I'll go back with you and you can give it to me back there."

"But then you would not be able to consume it outside, here in this pleasurable natural setting."

"Are you sure?"

"I will return in a few minutes."

"Thank you." Kirk sat down on the log and soaked up the sunlight.

Spock crossed the last hill to the house, thinking to himself with satisfaction that as long as Jim would stubbornly seize upon the hardest of the short trails to start a vacation, he would be there to offer some form of soothing at the end of the day.

Everybody was outside enjoying the day in one form or other, so Spock made it back to the den uninterrupted from his mission. He quickly bounded up the stairs and opened the drawer into which he'd unpacked. But the fancy plastic pouch was nowhere to be found.

He checked all the drawers again and then peered behind the stacks of books around the room. Nothing. Under the fold-out bed, there were several pairs of shoes (both his and Jim's) and one dog chew-toy, but no candies.

His mind on the state of Jim's stomach foremost and the mystery only second, he hurried downstairs and into the kitchen to grab a substitute.

Kirk's face reflected the long beams of the afternoon sunlight as he turned to watch Spock's rapid approach. "What's my surprise?"

Spock held up a pear. "I apologize, Jim."

"A pear? Why the apology?" Kirk accepted the pear and mauled it with a hearty bite.

"This was not my original present," Spock explained, settling onto the log beside him. "The gift I brought for you has vanished."

"Vanished? Where did you put it?"

"I placed it on a pile of clothes in one of the dresser drawers in the den," said Spock, "but it is not to be found in the den at all now."

"How... mysterious!" Kirk exclaimed. Then he added, "What was it?"

"Chocolate-covered espresso beans," Spock answered.

"Thanks." Kirk smiled wistfully. With a small voice, he added, "Dark or milk?"


"My favorite." He let out a small sigh and finished off the pear.

"I know."

"Well?" Kirk wiped off his hands on his jeans. "Do you have any theories, Mr. Spock?"

"There was a dog chewing toy underneath our bed," Spock informed him. "It was not present before the unfolding of the bed at our arrival."

"Ah, so you think Benny took my chocolates?"

"It is a likely possibility," said Spock. "Also, Mrs. Swift's two young children watched me unpack my suitcase. Although I do not accuse them of having absconded with the delicacies..."

"...I was a kid once; I know what you're getting at." Kirk smirked.

They headed back to the house together so Kirk could finally unpack. As he put away his shirts and jeans, Spock went through his own clothing again in a more careful search.

Kirk placed the last of his tee-shirts into the other dresser. "You're absolutely sure you brought it?"

"My memory is clear," Spock replied. "The children watched me handle it and even asked me what it was."

"I guess we should go ask Joanna if she's seen them eating anything chocolate this afternoon."

They walked down the stairs to the kitchen. "Was the pear sufficient to control your hunger until the next meal?" asked Spock.

"Yeah, I just needed something to cut the pangs," said Kirk. "I think I may have a glass of milk now, though." Happily, there was a full bottle of milk in the refrigerator, and Kirk poured himself a generous glassful.

The bay windows in the back of the kitchen looked out on a vegetable garden, and Joanna McCoy Swift was kneeling in it next to a wicker basket. Kirk brought his glass of milk outside, and Spock followed him.

"Hey, guys!" Joanna's face brightened when she saw them coming from the house. She tucked a wayward lock of her hair back up into her wide-brimmed gardening hat. "Was the hike fun?"

"Yes, we had a great time," said Kirk, smiling back at her.

"You've got a milk mustache," Joanna pointed out gleefully.

Spock was studying the contents of the garden. "When were these string beans planted?" he asked, brow furrowed. "If you have only been at this dwelling since the start of your vacation, they have grown to harvestable maturity with remarkable alacrity."

"I thought y'all'd be interested in these," said Joanna, nodding knowingly, "'specially since y'all work up in space. These are space colony peas, like they grow up in space stations. They're the fastest growing legume mankind has ever cultivated. Barely need three weeks, and you've got yourself a whole mess 'a peas."

"Are they part of dinner?" Kirk asked, his mind still on his stomach.

"Yeah, that's what this basket's for." She waved the half-full container around by the handle. "Me and the kids planted 'em as soon as we got here. Figured they'd be a good li'l crop for kids to start out on--you know how impatient they can be at that age."

"A logical selection," said Spock.

He was unsure how to broach the subject of the missing chocolates without offending Joanna, so he was relieved when Kirk spoke up instead, "Have you noticed Annabelle and David eating any candy this afternoon?"

"Daddy gave them some caramels earlier," answered Joanna. "Why?"

"Spock brought some special chocolates as a treat for me to eat after our hike," Kirk explained, "and when he went back to the den to get them for me, he couldn't find them."

"Are you sure you brought 'em? I once spent a whole vacation lookin' for one 'a my swimsuits that I'd left at home the whole time."

"I unpacked them in front of the children," said Spock. "They would remember the package. They were curious about it, in fact."

"Well, you can ask 'em later if they know anything about it," said Joanna, resuming her harvest. "Eli'll be startin' dinner in an hour or so, and my little ones never miss watchin' him get the grill ready."

Spock wanted to spend a little while studying the wildflowers growing in the meadows around the house, so Kirk went back inside the house and passed the time drinking another glass of milk and flipping through a number of the lovely books of photography sitting on the Swifts' coffee table.

He'd gotten all the way through Faces of the American Civil War and was halfway done perusing A Day in the Rockies when he looked up and noticed Spock standing in the doorway, looking regal as usual even with flecks of grass across his pants. "Mr. Swift has set up his outdoor grill," said the Vulcan.

"Good, I can't wait!" Kirk stood and replaced the books, then rubbed his hands together. He followed Spock back outside into the garden.

McCoy and his grandchildren were playing fetch with the puppy as Joanna and Eli unwrapped packages of meat and vegetables destined for the barbecue. "Looks like summer," Kirk commented at the heartwarming scene.

Benny barked loudly, announcing Kirk and Spock's arrival to his family. He leapt into the air, his lower limbs twisting away from the upper ones, and his tongue hung out of his mouth with glee. He was so distracted that he forgot to chase the Frisbee, and it landed next to him on the grass.

Kirk let the puppy tackle him, a paw on each knee, and scratched its head playfully. He hoped if convinced the vibrant little animal that the new people loved him, it wouldn't bother Spock, who was already edging away towards McCoy warily.

"Who's a good boy?" he asked Benny in a nearly-incomprehensible baby-talk. "Did you eat my chocolate-covered espresso beans? No, you didn't." But he wondered, all the same.

McCoy and Spock watched the children chase each other around. "Aren't they the cutest things y'ever saw," McCoy mumbled, his face broken into a wide crinkling smile.

"They are energetic and intelligent," replied Spock.

"I suppose that's the Vulcan version of 'cute'," McCoy griped affectionately.

"Is David usually silent, or is he merely bashful at the presence of newcomers?"

"Nah, it's not you," McCoy reassured him. "He's always been like that. Annabelle seems to talk enough for both of 'em, though."

"You have been with them the entire afternoon?"

"Past couple hours, yeah.... wish I got to see 'em more. They grow up so fast, at this age."

"Did they enter the den in which Jim and I will be sleeping?"

"Not when I was with 'em, why?"

"I brought, as a surprise treat for Jim, a plastic sack of dark chocolate-covered espresso beans," Spock explained.

"Ooh, he'll like that."

"Unfortunately, they are no longer in my dresser. I placed them there before lunchtime and upon returning from our midday hike, I discovered their absence."

McCoy furrowed his brow. "Strange," he said.

"Since the children showed a special interest in them when I removed them from my suitcase, I would like to ask them if they know anything about the disappearance."

"Well, now, I'm sure they didn't--"

"All the same, Doctor, I cannot discount the possibility without first asking them."

McCoy frowned. "Well, go ahead, but *I* didn't see them eating any chocolates."

Spock approached the twins, who were standing under an aspen tree watching their parents put hot dogs, long slices of zucchini, and hot dog buns on the open grill. "Hey, Mr. Spock," Annabelle called, waving her hand frenetically. David waved too, but didn't say anything. He was playing with a yellow yoyo.

"Did you have a pleasant afternoon with your grandfather?"

"Yeah, I loooove my grandpappy!" Annabelle squealed, hugging herself and swiveling from side to side. David threw the yoyo out and reeled it back in again. "He gave us that," Annabelle added, pointing at the toy.

"He also gave you some candy, is that correct?"

"Uh-huh." Annabelle nodded. "Caramels and somethin' that was s'posed to taste like strawberry but didn't."

"Terran artificial fruit flavorings rarely resemble the tastes they claim to imitate," Spock agreed. He paused, then asked, "Did you eat anything else?"

"We ate lunch," Annabelle volunteered. "I like tuna. Do you like tuna?"

"Vulcans do not eat meat."

"Tuna's not a meat, it's a fish," Annabelle corrected him.

"Forgive me," said Spock. "What I meant to say is that Vulcans do not consume animal flesh. Fish are animals. Do you understand?"

"Yeah." Annabelle chewed her lip for a second, watching David play with the yoyo. "I don't like turkey. Can I be a Vulcan?"

Spock paused for a second to process the completely illogical train of thought, then informed her gently, "You are a Human."

"Momma says you're half-Human. Does that mean you could eat meat half the time if you wanted to?"

"I was not raised eating meat and therefore it has never had any appeal for me," Spock answered. "Annabelle, I must ask you. Did you or David eat any of Jim's chocolate-covered coffee beans?"

"No," said Annabelle.

"Are you certain?"

"I swear!" said Annabelle vehemently.

"David?" Spock turned to the silent little boy. David merely shook his head, and fired off the yoyo again.

The sound of footsteps crunching the grass behind Spock heralded Kirk's approach. "Having any luck?" Kirk murmured, out of earshot of the children.

Spock began to walk with him back toward the barbecue grill. "Both children deny eating the chocolates. I cannot believe one of the adults, either Dr. McCoy or his daughter and her husband, would have stolen food from a guest. Therefore, either the children are lying, or--"

"Or the dog is the culprit," Kirk finished for him. "I dunno. I like these kids, and I don't think they would lie. I vote for the puppy, cute little fellow though he might be."

A commotion by the grill drew their attention. Joanna was cussing loudly and creatively at a package of hot dog buns that had spilled out all over the grass. "Oh, sorry," she added sheepishly when she noticed Kirk and Spock watching her. "Landed right in the mud. Oh, well, guess there's plenty more."

Benny pounced on the spilled bread and began gobbling it up. "At least they won't go to waste," Kirk commented.

"This batch of zucchini's done," Eli called from the grill. "Where's the other platter?" Joanna turned her attention away from the dog and the buns and rushed over to him with a large dish.

Before long, the dog wasn't the only one eating. Everyone was seated around the large patio table, enjoying the delicious flavor of grilled hot dogs (or, in Spock's case, zucchini wedge on a toasted hot dog bun) and fresh garden greens. Kirk complimented the peas Joanna had picked that afternoon. "Well, like I said, it's really the kids' project, so say thanks, y'all!"

"Thank you, Jim," said Annabelle, grinning. David just grinned.

For a while, the table's occupants became too consumed with consuming and conversation ceased. Then, as dinner's end drew near, talk of the day's activities began once again. Joanna and Eli had been pleased to have a few hours to themselves, now that granddaddy was here to watch the twins. Kirk waxed eloquent about their hike, and then McCoy and Annabelle talked about how they'd spent the afternoon.

Kirk looked towards Spock and noticed that he was listening intently to Annabelle's prattling. His expression, though subtle due to his heritage, was recognizable to Jim as the same Spock would have worn while investigating a problem on board the Enterprise. He could also tell that Spock was still highly skeptical of the children's innocence in the matter of the chocolate beans.

Several times, Spock asked the little girl to repeat her statements, and Kirk could sense McCoy getting restless. "And you are certain you were in the garden until half past three?" Spock persisted.

"That's enough, Spock," McCoy grumbled. "Now, I don't know what happened to your chocolate coffee beans, but I'm tellin' you, if Annabelle says she didn't eat 'em, then she didn't eat 'em! 'Sides, I was with 'em most of the day. When would they have had the chance?"

"That is what I am trying to ascertain, Doctor," said Spock coldly, "and I see no reason to take the young person's statement at face value merely on your assurance alone. Children of her age--"

McCoy banged his fist down upon the table. "Spock, you're our guest here. You're insulting my daughter's family and you're embarrassing me! Stop worryin' about the damn candy! Dog probably got into 'em." As if to illustrate his theory, Benny the puppy suddenly began retching violently on the grass beside the table. "See? Chocolate's bad for dogs. It's already givin' him problems."

Joanna sprang up from the table towards the dog, but Eli stopped her with one arm. "I'll take care of it, Jo," he told his wife, and carried Benny off behind the house where his graphic indisposition wouldn't create a foul mood at the table. The children watched wide-eyed and nervously.

"He'll be all right," Kirk reassured them. Annabelle smiled at him, but didn't say anything. She picked up a green bean and used it to paint pictures in the ketchup on her plate.

Spock and McCoy didn't do anything to fill the silence either, instead choosing to regard each other with silent discomfort as they waited for Eli's return.

Joanna's husband soon came trudging back from behind the house. "Is Benny okay?" Annabelle was quick to ask.

"Yeah, he'll be fine," Eli answered. "Nothin' big. Just lost his breakfast. Already prancing around like nothin' happened. That'll learn him to eat four hot dog buns in a row."

"Poor li'l thing," Joanna murmured in sympathy.

"He didn't lose his breakfast," Annabelle protested. "That was his dinner! He had kibbles for breakfast."

"It's... just an expression, Annabelle," Kirk explained. She blinked back at him with big blue, confused eyes.

"Mr. Swift," Spock asked, "when your dog was ill, did you notice anything resembling chocolate--"

"SPOCK!" shouted McCoy.

"It's all right, Daddy." Joanna patted him on the arm and bit her lip. "I've got homemade ice cream if anybody wants."

"Meee!!!!" Annabelle whooped. David started bouncing up and down in his chair.

"The children have a lot of energy," Spock started, but Kirk stopped him with a hand on the Vulcan's arm.

"Wait and see how late they stay up tonight," Kirk suggested in a low voice. "Then you'll have something to go on. In the meantime, don't worry about it. Enjoy your vacation!" He knew, though, that having something to think about was important to Spock, and since there weren't any professional problems to occupy his mind at the moment, this insignificant candy crisis had served that purpose. He turned to McCoy. "Bones, I'm sorry about him. He--"

McCoy held up his hand. "S'alright. I should be used to him by now. I've been up since five in the morning; maybe it's worn my patience." He pushed his chair backwards and stood up. "I'll be right back."

"Kids." Kirk leaned forward on his elbows. "Did your grandfather ever tell you about the time we had to solve the mystery of who ate a whole shipment of grain on Starbase K-7?"

The children listened with rapt attention as he told them about the tribbles, the Klingons, and the quadro--

"Triticale," Spock contributed.

"Thank you," said Kirk, continuing.

Joanna came back with a tub of homemade ice cream and a bag of cherries. McCoy came back just in time to be served, and he leaned over to Spock as he sat down. "Benny didn't eat the chocolates."

"Excuse me, Doctor?"

"I ran my medical tricorder over his, uh, his..." He trailed off. "Anyway. No chocolate there, or any trace of anything caffeinated. Looks like he didn't get into your stuff."

"Thank you, Doctor." Spock gave McCoy what only his closest friends would have known was a warm expression. Kirk relaxed in his chair; his friends had stopped growling at each other for now. He smiled at Spock as Joanna finished serving, and then everybody dug into the ice cream.

After dinner as they helped Joanna clear the plates from the table for Eli to wash, and then the adults congregated on the back porch to chit-chat over drinks. The children, bored for the evening with big people, went inside to play for a bit before bedtime.

Spock managed to get his mind off the mystery for long enough to absorb himself in the conversation while the sun slipped over the horizon, dragging the daylight with it. He admitted to himself that as much as any unsolved puzzle itched at his own mind, having a relaxing vacation unsullied by problems was more important to his Jim's welfare than any candy-coated comestibles.

Joanna went inside for a moment to check on the children, and didn't return for a good twenty minutes. When she reappeared, she explained the delay: "Annabelle and David fell asleep in front of their board game, so I put 'em both to bed. Benny's up with 'em."

"He been out?" Eli asked.

"Mm-hmm." Joanna settled down into her seat, arranging her dress around her, and refilled her wine glass.

Kirk cast his eyes in Spock's direction. "They fell asleep," he said under his breath.

"Indeed. In that case, I am completely at a disadvantage. Evidence has deprived me of both my theories."

"Maybe they ran away on their own," Kirk joked. Then, when Spock opened his mouth to utter the predictable one-word answer, Kirk reached out with a strategic hand and stuffed a piece of fruit into the Vulcan's mouth. "Here, have a cherry."

The hike that afternoon had been vigorous, not to mention all the hassle involved with traveling that morning, so it wasn't more than a few minutes longer before the Swifts' guests decided to turn in for the night. Praising Eli's cooking and Joanna's ice cream once again, the three Starfleet officers headed upstairs, McCoy for the trundle in the twins' room, and Kirk and Spock for their fold-out bed in the den.

Spock fell asleep quickly, but Kirk lay awake in the starlit room, his eyelids not even heavy. He tried not to disturb Spock by tossing and turning, but as the minutes ticked on into an hour, he grew more and more uncomfortable. He wondered why, after a day of exertion and good cooking, rest fled his grasp.

Then, suddenly, he remembered something he must have heard earlier in the day--visitors from sea level required time to acclimate to the nearly ten thousand foot elevation in this part of the country, and one symptom of mild altitude sickness from the thin air was insomnia. He didn't understand the scientific connection behind thin oxygen and sleepless nights, but he did remember the rest of the conversation--the way to get to sleep was to drink water.

He tried to slip out of bed lightly so as to not wake the somnolent man beside him, but a Vulcan, even in sleep, is aware of his surroundings. "Jim?" asked a low voice, muffled by the bedclothes.

"I can't sleep," Kirk muttered. "I think it's the elevation."

*Mumble*..."water"....*mumble*..."sufficient..." came the reply.

"Yeah, that's what I figured." Kirk got out of bed and started to make his way down the dark hallway to the bathroom, then realized that Spock was padding along behind him. "Spock! I'm sorry I woke you up."

"I can easily return to my rest in a few minutes," Spock said amiably. "I will keep you company."

"Thanks. You want some water?"

Kirk filled both of the water glasses in the bathroom from the sink, and handed one to Spock. It was too late at night for conversation, so they simply leaned against the wall and relaxed together. In the void of external stimulus, Spock's mind returned to the quandary of the missing chocolates. The contents of the dog's stomach had proven to be chocolate-free. Annabelle had insisted they hadn't eaten the beans, and indeed, it was most likely true--both children had fallen asleep at a natural and healthy hour.

"The children are cute, aren't they?" Kirk commented after draining his glass. "Especially Annabelle, taking everything so literally. Did you hear her correcting her father about the dog losing his breakfast? 'He didn't lose his breakfast, he had kibbles for breakfast!'" Then he paused, because sensed a change in Spock's demeanor. The Vulcan's face had frozen, but his mind was running double-speed. "What's the matter?"

"She thinks and speaks literally," said Spock. "I asked her repeatedly if she ate the chocolate-covered beans, and she insisted that she had not. But I do not believe I asked her if she and her brother took the beans."

Kirk's mouth dropped open slightly. "You--mean--"

"Annabelle and David could very well likely have taken the beans and done something with them other than eating them," Spock answered. "Perhaps they placed them in what they thought was a safe place to keep them from the dog. I never asked them if they knew specifically where the beans were."

Kirk chuckled, shaking his head. "Good grief. We really did need this vacation, didn't we?"

"I will question young Annabelle again in the morning. For now, if you are sufficiently hydrated, we shall return to bed."

Kirk nodded, his face spread into a pleased smile.

The next morning, everyone gathered around the breakfast table and marveled at the wonderful smell issuing from the waffle iron. "Can I have strawberries, Momma?" Annabelle asked as Joanna placed a fresh, crispy, golden waffle on her plate.

"We don't have any, Annabelle, but there's still a whole bowl of cherries leftover from yesterday," said her mother.

"But they're not ~gloopy~," Annabelle whined. "The strawberries go in the little squares."

"She's talking about syrup with fruit chunks," Eli explained to their guests.

"You can put maple syrup in the little squares," Kirk suggested.

"Ooh! I want maple syrup." Apparently, that idea had satisfied Annabelle.

"Annabelle, I have a question for you," said Spock in a voice almost too officious for breakfast.

McCoy shot Kirk a look. "This is about coffee beans, isn't it?"

"Give him a chance, Bones," said Kirk. "We thought of something last night."

Annabelle looked up at Spock with big, blinking eyes. David did, too.

"Annabelle, did you take the bag of chocolate-covered espresso beans I brought with me?"

Biting her lip, Annabelle nodded. The adults in the room flew into a pandemonium. "Annabelle!" hissed Joanna. "You told Mr. Spock yesterday that you didn't. What're you goin' and tellin' lies for?"

Bones merely gaped.

"She did not lie, Mrs. Swift," Spock corrected. "Yesterday, I only asked if she had eaten the beans. Last night, I realized that she could have taken them without eating them, and due to her literal mind, she still would have answered 'no' to my question quite truthfully."

Joanna shut her mouth and looked thoughtful. Then she looked at Eli.

"Annabelle," Kirk gently asked the little girl, who was beginning to look overwhelmed at the excitement she'd caused, "what did you do with the beans?"

"We planted them in the garden," said David. Everybody turned to look at him in surprise. "So there'd be more."

"You said they were a present for Jim so we figured it would be a better present if everybody could have some," Annabelle explained. "They'll be ready by the time you leave--it was supposed to be a surprise..." She rolled her eyes at the silly grownups.

Everybody looked at Kirk and Spock to see their reaction. "That was... very sweet of you both," Kirk said, wide-eyed and amused.

"Logical," Spock commented, "but I'm afraid, factually erroneous."

"Huh?" His words had grown too big for the little ones.

"You can't plant coffee beans once they've been roasted and covered in chocolate," said McCoy. "They're just a snack. You can't take scrambled eggs and hatch a chicken out of 'em, right?"

"No," Annabelle said, giggling.

"It was a nice thought, guys, but you shouldn't mess with other people's things," Joanna admonished them. "Now, nobody's got any chocolate beans."

"I beg to differ, beautiful daughter o' mine," said McCoy. Smiling, he removed a plastic package from his pocket.

"Bones! When did you--"

"Early this morning," McCoy explained, tossing the beans over to Kirk. "I took a little morning hike into Vail and found these in a tourist shop. Figured it was the only way to shut him up."

"Mmm.... dark chocolate," Kirk murmured, sniffing the bag. "I can smell the coffee, too. Thank you, Bones, I really appreciate this. And Spock--thank you, too. I know you tried."

"Best laid plans, Jim," said Spock amiably.

"Now there's beans for all of us!" Annabelle squealed happily, before someone began to lecture her about young people and caffeine.

Summer 2004, Vail, CO

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