beta-read by Hypatia Kosh

A Friendship Rare and Well Done

by Farfalla; rated PG for language
blueberrysnail @ yahoo.com


"Hungry?" Uhura asked, lifting her eyebrows at Chekov's plate.

"Just a leetle," Chekov joked back. He placed the overflowing disc on the table in front of him and sat down. Mashed potatoes, beef stew, greens seasoned with bacon fat, and a turkey leg tried helplessly to fit within its small borders. M'Ress and Uhura eyed his plate with amused and indulgent expressions. Spock, the fourth person at their table in the mess hall, merely nodded in greeting and returned his attention to his kashi and apricots.

Chekov tore into his food with the enthusiasm of a starving dog. As he swallowed a mouthful of his beef stew, he regarded the meals of his dinner companions. Uhura was halfway through a large sandwich. M'Ress was lapping milk out of a martini glass. A half-finished bowl of smelts languished in front of her.

He looked again at Spock's virtuous plate. "Mr. Spock," he asked. "How do you do it?"

"How do I do what, Ensign?"

"Eat that stuff! Look at that," he said to the women, "all vegetables, grains... have you ever eaten meat at all?"

"Once," Spock informed him. "I do not plan on repeating the experience."

"Do you not like meat, Commander Spock?" M'Ress asked. She was a recent addition to the crew, coming on after the V'ger incident as a communications officer at the beginning of their second mission.

"Vulcans do not believe in consuming the flesh of other animals," Spock explained. "To us, the body of another is not ours to take as our own food."

M'Ress eyed him suspiciously. "Our bodies are incapable of digesting anything else." Her species, the Caitians, were carnivores like the Earth cats they resembled.

"Then it is only logical for you to eat what your bodies have evolved to digest," Spock answered. "However, my body is perfectly capable of sustaining healthy life on a totally vegetarian diet, and since I follow the ways of my father's species, I prefer to do so."

"I could newer give this up," Chekov said lovingly to his turkey leg as it approached his mouth.

"Does Lady Amanda eat meat?" asked Uhura, curious about Spock's human mother.

"My mother consumes meat when she is on Earth visiting family," said Spock, "but she has grown accustomed to life without it and indeed no longer requires it in her diet."

"It can be very healthy," Uhura pointed out. "For humans, I mean," she hastily added before M'Ress's tail could start twitching.

"As long as one is careful to consume the eight essential amino acids that humans are incapable of producing," said Spock, "plant foods can provide all the nutrients that a human body needs. Certain combinations of Earth foods have been culturally associated to ensure a diet that is complete and nutritional, for example, tofu and rice, or corn and beans."

"I don't know about zat," said Chekov, "but I don't feel full unless I've had some meat."

"Perhaps you would feel differently if you had grown up on Vulcan," said Spock.

Chekov looked horrified at the idea.

M'Ress still looked slightly uncomfortable, so Uhura tactfully changed the subject. "Mr. Spock, why isn't the captain here? Didn't his bridge shift end for dinnertime?"

"Admiral Kirk is feeling unwell," Spock told her. "He is at Sickbay, or possibly resting in bed by now."

"What's the matter?" Uhura asked in soft alarm.

"It is not serious," Spock reassured her. "He simply has not been able to breathe through his nose for the last two days."

"Probably just a cold," she said, nodding.

//

"Twenty-third century and we still can't cure the common cold," Admiral Kirk bitched from the bed.

"It is impossible to cure because there is no 'common' cold," Spock pointed out. "What you humans call a 'cold' is in reality any of a number of minor viruses, all displaying the same symptoms, which are merely the normal immune response to such invaders."

"Mm," grunted Jim. "I know." He sighed, and fiddled with his blanket. "I feel like hell."

"Your metaphor is appropriate," Spock observed after putting his hand gently on Jim's fevered forehead.

Jim's mouth twitched into a smirk at the pun, then relaxed it into a smile. Even though Spock wasn't deliberately melding with him right now, the touch of his hand near the meld-points still brought a little brush of pleasant affection.

"I guess you've got to go back out there soon," Jim commented. "You've got the bridge for a while. Bones wants me to stay in here for the next forty-eight hours. Can you believe it?"

"I agree with the doctor's orders," said Spock, "unusual as that is. This virus can be quickly expelled from your body if you are rested, but if not, it could develop into something more serious. Since we are merely bringing supplies to colonies at the moment, you can spare the time and ensure a quick recovery."

Jim made a growling noise in frustration. "Not you, too." He sighed loudly. "I have things to do out there."

"Nevertheless, the doctor has decreed that you rest." Spock started poking into the bookcase. "Shall I get you something to read before I leave?"

Jim told him to pick out an antique book of sea-faring mysteries, printed on real paper and bound in leather. Spock placed the book in his hands and left the room, and Jim began to read.

//

"I can't take this any more."

"You have less than a day left of quarantine," Spock pointed out as he reshelved Jim's latest read books.

"I should be out there being useful," Jim grumbled. "Where's that medicine?"

Spock came to the bedside holding the pills Dr. McCoy had prescribed. "I see you are in need of more water," he noted, giving Jim the pills and taking the empty carafe from the bedside table.

"I've been drinking all day. Flush it out, my mother says." Jim sighed. "I feel like a water balloon, between this and the chicken soup. Endless chicken soup!"

"From what I have heard, the ship's chicken soup is not up to standard," Spock sympathized.

"You heard right, Spock. Too much salt, not enough flavor..." Jim shifted restlessly on the pillow. "You know what I wish I was eating, Spock? What would really make me feel better?"

"I do not," Spock asked, with interest. He filled the carafe from the sink in the bathroom.

"A steak. A big, 16-ounce steak, cooked medium rare, with a helping of my mother's corn pudding on the side." Jim sighed. "Not that the synthesizer steak would even come close."

Spock placed the full carafe of water next to Jim and poured him half a glass. "You will be back on the bridge tomorrow, according to Dr. McCoy."

"Thanks," said Jim about the water. "Yeah, well, that's true. I'm sorry for complaining. I'm just having a bad day." He smiled weakly at Spock, who was on his way back to the door. He was needed on the bridge again, in the absence of the captain.

"Pleasant dreams, Jim," Spock said softly as he left.

//

"Signal confirmed from planet Valencia II," said Lt. Uhura. "Mr. Spock, they're asking if we're ready to beam down their supplies."

"Are all of the goods assembled in the transporter room?" Spock asked.

"Transporter room confirms food and pharmaceuticals all accounted for," Uhura answered promptly. "And their payment is confirmed in the computer's memory bank."

"Commence beam-down of planetary supplies," said Spock. He pressed a few buttons on his armchair computer and went back to the recipe pages he had been reading.

Corn pudding, it turned out, was not actually pudding. It was a sweet, sticky, caramelized mush infused with whole corn kernels. During the moments of the bridge duty when his attention was not needed, Spock had been researching the exact procedure by which one prepared corn pudding. And not any corn pudding--he sought to deduce by regional and temporal clues exactly which recipe was the favorite of Jim's mother.

He had no doubt of his ability to uncover an approximation to the formula for Dr. Kirk's beloved hotdish.

"Mr. Spock," Uhura broke into his reading. "Transporter room reports a successful beam-down, and Valencia II confirms they have received their supplies."

"Thank you, Miss Uhura."

"Sir!" she called suddenly with confusion. "Transporter room reports an incoming package--they say it's for you, sir! Three ears of yellow corn and a--a sixteen-ounce Porterhouse steak. Blood raw."

The bridge fell silent. Chekov froze at his station. Spock and raw meat tended not to go into the same thought.

"Thank you, Miss Uhura," was all Spock said, not looking up from his reading.

Chekov turned around for a moment. "Mr. Spock," he began, unsure of what to say next. "I do not understand?"

"It is for the captain," Spock said tersely.

"That's.... wery nice of you," Chekov replied clumsily.

"How is he feeling?" Uhura asked, attempting to fulfill her perennial role as a banisher of awkwardness.

"He is recovering," said Spock.

When his shift was long over and he was no longer needed on the bridge, Spock turned the helm over to Lt. Sulu and made his way to the transporter room to collect the commodities he had specially ordered. He gathered the corn ears, still in their husks, in the crook of one arm. The steak he regarded for a moment with stoic distaste, then picked up by its plastic wrapping between his thumb and forefinger. He tried not to think about the animal whose carcass he now held a piece of. Ah, well, Kaiidth, it was already dead.

He should have known he would run into McCoy in the hallway. The doctor fell into step next to him, his arms resting casually behind his back. "Well, well, well, Spock," he chuckled smugly. "What'cha got there?"

"Terran corn," Spock answered, "and a portion of a dead cow."

"I can see that," said McCoy. "Might I ask why you're wandering through the hallway looking like you're headed for the Indiana state fair? I thought you didn't like meat."

"I do not," Spock answered. "This is for Jim."

"Ahh," McCoy nodded. "He finally got sick of chicken soup?"

"He expressed displeasure with the taste of the synthesized soup."

"One of these days they'll figure out a better recipe." McCoy rubbed his eyes wearily. "What'cha gonna do with the corn?"

"Jim spoke to me of a dish called 'corn pudding' that his mother made when he was a child."

"Corn pudding? You mean, you're actually gonna cook?"

"Yes, I will follow the recipe," said Spock.

McCoy snickered. "Spock cooking. I don't want to miss this."

"Do you doubt my abilities to adhere to the formula, Doctor? It is really no different from any other process that induces a chemical change, for example, adding hydrochloric acid to sodium hydroxide to produce sodium chloride and water."

"Point taken," said McCoy. "Just make sure you don't put too much of that sodium chloride in that pudding."

"I shall be careful," Spock assured him.

McCoy followed him into the Rec Room kitchen anyway.

//

Jim rubbed his eyes sleepily before opening them at the sound of Spock's voice. "Spock? What time is it?"

"It is 2300, and your quarantine will be over when you awaken tomorrow morning."

As Jim grew more awake, he realized that a delicious smell was filling his nose. "Hey! I can smell again! What's that? It smells like...." His eyes widened in amazement as he looked toward Spock and saw that he was carrying a food tray.

On the tray was a heaping bowl of corn pudding, and a beautifully-cooked Porterhouse steak, cooked medium rare.

//

"I veel newer understand Mr. Spock," said Chekov, setting up a checkerboard in one of the rec rooms.

"What is it this time, the steak thing?" Uhura was counting checkers. Yep, they were all there.

"Yes! He's alvays talking about how humans and Wulcans can surwiwe vithout meat," Chekov said, "and then today, he buys a steak for the keptin!"

"Admiral Kirk needed a little cheering up," Uhura reminded him gently.

"But Spock doesn't believe in eating meat," Chekov said lamely. "Vy didn't that bother him?"

"It probably did." Uhura stacked her checkers on her side of the board, then handed Chekov his half.

"Then vy did he do it?"

"Because he loves him."