"Ride with me?" Captain Kirk invited with a smile and an outstretched hand. His other hand rested, gently but confidently holding the reins, against the neck of the peculiar alien beast.
Spock was still standing beside his own steed, stroking the soft wooly fur that hung from its body in fluffy clumps. "This creature resembles your Earth llama. It provides everything for the natives of this planet: milk, fiber for textiles--"
"And transportation," Kirk interrupted. "If you don't hurry up and mount the thing, we're going to miss the best part of the day. Tell me about it while we ride!" He trotted his animal in circles around Spock's as he waited.
Spock patted the animal's head a few more times before finally climbing onto its back. He didn't exactly look at home there, but he tried to imitate his captain as they began their saunter across the plain.
At first, Spock peppered the ride with trivia about the planet that he'd picked up from local brochures and the Enterprise computer. Soon, though, he fell silent, content to ride alongside his dearest friend and silently admire the way the golden sun dripped its light across Jim's twinkling eyes and enthusiastic smile.
Jim, as usual, was too distracted by his own equestrian euphoria to notice Spock's longing glances. His attention was focused on the path ahead, and on ensuring that his skill and planning would bring Spock the most pleasant ride possible.
After an hour or so, Jim's slightly sore thighs reminded him that it was probably time to take a rest. Besides, the brownies Uhura had baked for them were burning a hole in his pocket. "I think it's time to rest," he commented, tugging the reins on his alien llama slightly but assertively. "Hungry? Lieutenant Uhura packed us a snack."
Spock followed his lead and managed to convince his animal to stop, and the two men dismounted in a patch of sweet-smelling ground cover. "I do require food," Spock answered, retrieving a small bundle from his pack, "and the lieutenant gave me something to bring along as well."
"What have you got? I've got two homemade brownies... with nuts, from the looks of it."
"I have stalks of celery with peanut butter inside the central cavity." Spock held them out for display.
Jim chuckled. "She knows us pretty well. Too bad she couldn't come down here with us."
Spock didn't agree--he was quite content to be away from the ship, alone with Jim, but he didn't say anything. He didn't want to seem--greedy. Instead, he just munched his celery and looked out across the moor.
The two men ate their snacks, as did the beasts they'd ridden--apparently, the llama creatures liked to eat the sweet-smelling grass. They grazed heartily, tugging out whole clumps of tiny plants at once and leaving behind bare patches of soil.
Jim licked the last bit of chocolate off his fingers and stretched. Then he happened to look upwards and noticed something above them, in branches of a large tree. "Is that a nest?"
"It would appear to be one," Spock concurred.
"I want to have a look."
It occurred to Spock that Jim probably just wanted an excuse to climb the tree, as it was the type that lifelong tree-climbers find very tempting. The trunk was pockmarked with galls and twisted forks that would all provide very easy foothold. "I'll watch you in case you fall," Spock said, mostly to reassure himself.
With huffing, puffing, and scraped hands, Jim made his way to the top of the tree. But when he got as high as he could safely rise, something distracted him completely from anything as inconsequential as a bird's nest.
Something was written in the grass--or rather, in the bare patches of soil left behind by the grazing llamas.
"SPOCK LOVES JIM."
"Those llamas--are they... are they sentient?" Jim shouted down from the top of the tree.
"No." Spock shook his head, puzzled.
Jim hurried down the tree. "Spock," he exclaimed as his feet hit the grass. "Look. Look what they've--well, your llama, anyway--look what it's eaten out of the grass."
Spock turned to behold the shockingly insightful trio of words. His lips fell open slightly and he froze for an instant.
"I... briefly initiated contact when I was stroking its neck and ears before we rode," Spock murmured without facing Jim. "I only wanted to ensure that the animal was benign and therefore safe to ride." He stared out into the distance, trying to remind himself that embarrassment was an emotion and that terrible lightheaded feeling was hopefully just the result of a deadly spider bite.
"Spock," Jim said in a voice warm with sunlight and chocolate. "My llama must be illiterate, or he'd be munching out almost the same message."
Spock turned slightly, feeling like he was in a waking dream. Jim was walking towards him. "She," he croaked out.
"Yours is a mare," Spock mumbled.
"That's nice," said Jim. "Now my next question is, can you say it yourself?"
Spock looked away again. "It is difficult."
"I understand," Jim said lightly, approaching Spock, slowly entering personal space he'd not often breached. "Those words can very often be difficult the first time. The llama found them tasty, and you know what? So do I. Very tasty. And someday, I hope you'll find them tasty, too." He was now very, very close to Spock. Close enough to reach out, pull him closer, and kiss him.
Which he did.
"I do love you," Jim added as he pulled away.
"I am grateful," Spock said, with all of his heart behind it.
"I'm also grateful," said Jim. "I'm grateful you didn't need the llama to do your kissing for you, too!"