A week went by and Spock was fighting frustration. 36 individuals had approached him over this span of time inquiring about the ring. He had narrowed down his explanation to "I do not know" in order to keep his interactions brief.
"You are popular with the ladies recently," Chekov commented as he sat beside him for lunch. The ‘picnic’ table just outside their dorms was the perfect spot on a warm sunny day. Spock enjoyed the rays more than he'd admit to anyone. San Francisco was typically cloudy on most days.
"I would not phrase it so. They are displeased with me," Spock explained before taking a fork full of 'spring lettuce' mixed with chopped cucumber and green peppers. Spock still found the flavours odd compared to the ones his mother grew in her garden on Vulcan. The water and soil changed the resulting flavour quite effectively.
"Displeased? What is this about?" the young man asked, looking concerned as he laid out his lunch container.
"They inquire as to where I have purchased or acquired my ring. The reason being that they wish to have the same one, for it is identical to their romantic interest," Spock said. Spock found the whole situation quite immature, but he was still somewhat fascinated that so many women desired this one man. Or perhaps it was simply to fulfill their romantic fantasies. And those were only those that dared to ask. Spock could only estimate the actual numbers, but did not want to give into such a pointless endeavor.
"Then, you are saying that another man has the same ring as you?" Chekov began to eat his chickpea salad. "You have met him?"
"Yes," Spock said sharply. "Briefly."
"What is his name? What does he look like?" The man inquired, hand under his chin, looking at him with great interest and excitement. It was curious to the vulcan, how much gossip and idle conversation humans enjoyed. Perhaps he enjoyed it more than being briefly scorned and ignored by his peers back home. Spock thought back on the moment he'd met the man in question and when he'd returned his ring.
"He is a blond with hazel eyes. He wore a command track badge, and the women called him 'Jim'. I would approximate his height to be 5'10" and a weight of approximately 170 pounds-"
"Jim Kirk?!" Chekov gasped, standing over him now with his palms on the table. He was closer than Spock would prefer. "You are talking about Jim Kirk! He has the same ring as you?"
Spock quickly scanned the area with his eyes, something Chekov understood to be a warning that he was speaking quite loudly. He sat himself down, but fidgeted in his seat.
"Well does he?"
"I would not lie," Spock reminded. "Do you know him?"
"Know him? Spock I have told you about him a week ago. Do you not recall my heartbreak?" Chekov looked ready to pull out a bottle of vodka from his backpack despite the unlikely event that he would be carrying around such a thing in the middle of the academic day.
"Ah, James Kirk. Are they related?" Spock drank some water, filtering out the strange flavours of the earth salad.
"He is the same man. ‘Jim’ is a surname for ‘James’." Chekov waited for Spock to file that away into his human culture file cabinet. "And you have identical rings? But then, did Anna ask you as well?"
"No, she has not approached me on the matter."
"Good! Please do not tell her where you got it!"
"I have explained before, I did not purchase it. It was given to me by a cadet aboard the Enterprise. I did not see his face and so I cannot easily deduce the owner."
"But you could if you wanted to. Checking the ship's logs, no?"
"Why keep such a thing if it was given to you at random? I would think it was more important to you," Chekov took an angry bite of his sandwich.
"I did not care for it at first. I kept it in my pocket for the duration of the trip and when the time came to return the uniforms for recycling, I had forgotten its existence. But the object somehow made it back into my possession. I have worn it on my hand for approximately 3.4 months since,"
“That is both ominous and peculiar,” Pavel commented. Spock raised his brow and his friend just shook his head. “It is different." He sighed and changed demeanor to one of pleasantry. "Do not worry, Mr. Spock. They will give up eventually!"
At his dorm one evening, Nyota Uhura came to him. She was a beautiful dark skinned human who always adorned earrings. He'd counted 5 pairs in which she favoured.
"Mr. Spock, may I come in?" she asked politely. He gave a courteous nod and let her enter. He noticed she carried a festively wrapped box and made no effort to conceal it. "I have a favour to ask you."
"I will do my best to accommodate your request, but I what is it?"
"I've heard you've met Jim Kirk," she began with a little smirk. Spock could not contain the loud exhaled that may have sounded like a sigh. He had not expected Nyota to have an interest in Jim Kirk, his disappointment was clear.
"I do not know where one would purchase the ring he wears, nor do I know whom-" he recited, but Nyota giggled in good spirit, waving off his speech.
"No, no, no! I'm not interested in Kirk," she assured. Spock turned his attention back to her. "But my friend Gaila is." Spock sat on his single bed and offered Nyota the desk chair.
"I am sure you understand that I cannot divulge information I do not have. Thus, I assume your request has little to do with a ring, but more to do with the package you hold," Spock said, stippling his fingertips together.
"Bingo!" she smiled, Spock recalling this term to mean that he was correct. "I need you to deliver it to Kirk for her."
"Whatever for?" Spock raised a brow.
"Well, for one, it's for his birthday, secondly, he'll get the wrong impression if I do it, thirdly, Gaila's green and doesn't want to make the wrong impression by spraying him with pheromones on a first interaction," she replied, raising her delicate fingers to count them off.
"Your friend Gaila is an Orion? And she desires him for a mate?" Spock was unfamiliar with Orion courting rituals, but from what little he knew, her careful approach was uncommon, especially if the Orion desired a partner for one evening of intercourse.
"She left a note in the box for him to contact her with," Nyota added.
"And what if Kirk refuses the gift?"
"Well since it's not from you, he'll have to take it and contact Gaila to tell her himself," she shrugged.
"I do not believe he would go to such lengths."
"Actually I've heard he's quite the charmer, even when he's breaking hearts. Not too many guys would apologize and say sorry for turning them down. It's stressful and for that, I say he can't be all bad," she laughed. "You understand right?"
"I believe so..." Spock said, uncertain if he was lying or his recollection of romantic films were supplying him with some kind of empathy.
"So, will you do it?" she urged, standing up squarely in front of him. Spock glanced at the package on his desk, then back at Nyota. "I'll treat you to the bistro down the road next week if you do," she promised. He waited 5 seconds to feign contemplation.
"Very well," Spock agreed, feeling the tension in his shoulders release. Nyota clapped her hands together, smiling.
"Yes! Thank-you, Spock!"
It took some research to find the cadet's schedule. A quick breach of the Academy's security solved the trouble. It also piqued his interest that it had been so simple, thus he messaged the Academy to offer his services should they require a programmer. He feared no repercussions since he’d also found no tracing software in said security.
When he did look at the cadet's schedule, it perplexed him. Kirk had fit classes into his week from morning until evening. He routinely had a half hour lunch and supper break, but otherwise, from Monday through Friday, the man was booked. Spock did not intend to walk into his class times, nor was he particularly pleased with the notion that he might have to make a dorm room visit after hours. His own schedule conflicted with his as well. His week was just as occupied. He was Vulcan after-all. Vulcans were educated at a faster and more advanced rate than any species the Federation had ever encountered.
He debated for a moment if he should ask someone else to deliver the package, but he came up short when he realized how many people he knew well enough to trust with such a thing. Chekov would likely refuse. Mr. Sulu seemed trustworthy enough, but his closeness with Chekov would likely result in a similar result. Anyone else in the command track classes he was familiar with were women and were also unlikely to volunteer.
Decidedly, he would have to use his lunch hour to make the delivery. It was not the day of the cadet's birth, but he was told to deliver it promptly. Their scheduled classes were vastly distant from one another though. He could not hope to catch the man before he vanished into the crowd. He would need to ask his contacts to know where he usually ate his meals.
Chekov caught him in different locations all the time. Having been trying to avoid the man, he found himself being in the same place occasionally. He assumed that he didn't want to be predictable in light of his popularity. He ate with different people all the time. Except one, a medical cadet a decade older than most of the students, Leonard McCoy.
A medical cadet's schedule was equally as busy as their own. Another security bypass had gotten him the cadet's profile. No message from the school had replied to his message as of yet. Spock returned his attention to the task at hand. He had a guess as to how the two cadets chose a place to eat. The distance between their classes would be a good place to start. The school's lower atrium cafeteria in building B would be the most obvious location for their meeting tomorrow. McCoy had laboratory work in that building and Kirk had field training in the stadium next-door.
He put the gift into a shopping bag to avoid it attracting attention as he carried it from class to class. He had biological engineering in the same building as McCoy only 4 levels above. He was certain he could possibly track this cadet to find Kirk.
He made haste to leave the class and find his way down to the cafeteria, putting his pad away into his bag as he walked through the crowds. He arrived to a plethora of cadets all in red jackets or black shirts. Spock closed his eyes for a moment, finding his focus against the many surrounding him. When he opened them again, ready to seek out the blond or perhaps a glimpse of the square shouldered medic, his ears picked up one voice amongst the many. It was soft and polite, then apologetic. Spock turned his head, just to peak over his shoulder. There, just out of sight of the crowd was Jim and blond haired woman with blue eyes. It was Anna, Chekov's romantic interest.
"Jim, please, just one date," she urged, sounding somewhat tearful. Spock thought it rather pathetic. No. He had no right to judge her. He would not think so unkindly of someone he did not know. He would allow her the right to feel. She was human.
"Anna, if I dated you, I'd be yours completely," Jim confessed. "To explore the universe, I can't be… tied down. I've already made up my mind. I'm going to be a captain. I'll be in command of a ship of my own, hundreds of crewmen aboard her with adventure in their hearts."
"And none of that can have me by your side?" she breathed, her head hanging down.
"Your place will be your own, not because you followed mine." They were quiet, but neither seemed aware of his presence. Then finally, Jim had the last word. "I'm sorry, Anna."
The woman nodded to him before taking a brisk pace off down the hall. Spock estimated the odds that she was headed to the washrooms.
"Are you picking up pointers, Mr. Spock?" Jim asked, stepping into his personal space. Spock took a step back to better look him in the eye. He looked quite peeved.
"No, but I am impressed with your delicacy in regards to the situation," the Vulcan replied. He refrained from mentioning that he thought it overly poetic. Kirk's eyes shifted, the greens warming to hazel as he stared at him.
"I'll take that as a compliment," he smiled. His demeanour had changed so quickly. "I get that a lot so I've had time to rehearse."
"So I have heard," Spock admitted.
"Oh? Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear. Don't you know that?" he chuckled. Spock was not certain if he was being teased or scolded. It was likely both. "Anyway, were you here just to spy on my love life?"
"No, I had-"
"Jim, you ready to eat? Time's a wastin’!" came McCoy's southern drawl. Spock turned to see the cadet removing his jacket with some aggression.
"You betcha!" Jim chuckled, a playful boyish grin overtaking his face. Humans were so expressive with their emotions. This Jim Kirk seemed to master them for both his own self confidence and external expectations. He had gone from sympathetic, guarded, pleasant to jovial in under one minute. This came across as somewhat manipulative to Spock who knew only how to suppress himself. "Go get me a chicken sandwich and I'll be right there!"
"Making me pay again? You better watch yourself, kid," he threatened. Jim slapped his shoulder in camaraderie before the older cadet made his way to the line-up.
"Sorry, you were saying?" Jim's face returned to one of calm, but pleasant control.
"Oh! Uh- Let's take this into the staircase," Jim urged, bolting to the doors leading to an unused staircase without waiting to see if the Vulcan would follow. Spock did, glancing around himself and realizing that quite a few cadets had come in, some of which were the women seeking to romance the cadet. It was quiet in the staircase, but Jim was headed up to the roof.
"Mr. Kirk, you will be making your peer wait for you for lunch," Spock said as he made haste to keep up.
"Ha, better than Ben Finnegan taking my book bag and having me play 'monkey in the middle'!" Spock did not understand, but continued his ascent. The roof was vacant of cadets and the air was fresh. He would remember to come here to have lunch next time.
"So, you had something to tell me?" Kirk asked after inhaling the air here.
"Yes," Spock began, taking the bag off his shoulder and holding it out to him. Kirk looked at the bag in surprise, then flicked his gaze up to Spock's as he took the straps. He pulled them apart and looked inside to see the gift.
"Well then, you come bearing gifts now?" Kirk was teasing him again. "Am I supposed to deliver this to someone?"
"No, it is for your birthday," Spock clarified. Suddenly Kirk's face turned pink. He looked down in awe at the package inside the bag, the most honest look the Vulcan had yet to see on the man's face. Spock had not thought it would be such a surprise to receive gifts, but the human was unable to grasp an emotion to settle on.
"There is a letter inside," Spock informed.
"Oh? And uh… what does it say?" Kirk stammered.
"I believe I will leave it for you to discover," Spock replied, decidedly being discreet for the Orion woman. Suddenly as Kirk was searching for his words, Spock realised his error. "I am not the one who has purchased this gift. I am simply the 'gift bearer' as you have stated."
Kirk's face finally stilled into careful neutral.
"I was asked to give this to you from a friend of a friend. She wished to approach you more discreetly about her romantic intent," Spock explained further.
"I get it…" Kirk nodded, but kept his gaze down at the gift. "Do you- Do you know when my birthday is?"
"March 22," Spock replied too readily. Kirk got that smirk on his face again.
"Bingo!" Kirk closed the bag and held it in one hand. "You wasted your lunch hour just to deliver this? I didn't know you were so easily manipulated." He was stern now, the commanding presence that has appeared in the classroom to return his ring. He stood closer, tilting his head up in order to keep eye contact.
"It was a favour to a friend, Mr. Kirk," Spock defended.
"Oh? 'Mr. Kirk'? Why so formal?” He asked with a hollow chuckle. “Why don't you call me Jim like everyone else?"
Spock was admittedly confused, but said nothing. He wondered where any of this conversation was going.
Kirk stepped closer. Perhaps too close. He still smelled lightly of cologne and like last time, their cheeks brushed. This time, Spock stood very still as Kirk whispered in his ear. "Spock."
The way he'd said his name made his body frisson.
Kirk drew away, pressing the bag back to him. "Well then, gotta go." Spock just managed to catch the straps and held the bag in confusion.
"You are not accepting the gift? Is that not disrespectful?"
"Normally, you'd be right, because I'm a gentleman, but I'm sure you can handle it. Return to sender." Kirk turned back towards the door. Shocked by this turn of events, Spock felt compelled to question further.
"Have I said something of offence to you?" Spock tried again. The human gave a frustrated sigh and looked at him with vicious green eyes.
"Tell me, who told you to give that to me, and I'll reconsider accepting it," Kirk offered. Spock did not want to tell this man about Gaila or Uhura, but…
"Ms. Uhura has asked this of me because it is an Orion woman that wishes for you to know her true intentions," Spock informed, keeping Gaila's name in discretion.
"Uhura?" Kirk's lips twitched into a grin. "And this Orion woman wouldn't happen to be Gaila, now would it?" Spock said nothing. Kirk either knew one or both better than he'd assumed, or he was using the only knowledge he had of these women to get Spock to give him more.
"Maybe Uhura's the one giving this to me. What kind of Orion doesn't approach someone they deem attractive by just walking up to them? Especially Gaila," Kirk was shaking his head, as if Spock was being toyed with.
"Nyota would not- she does not desire you," he corrected.
"Oh, so it's 'Nyota' with her?" Spock realized his error.
"You should accept the gift." Spock's voice was firm now. He held out the bag. Kirk's eyes sparked as he stepped into his personal space again.
"Call me Captain and we'll be on our way," he challenged. Spock frowned, but accepted.
Kirk stood still, eyes fixed on his shoulder. He did not look pleased.
"Come on, we're gonna be late for class," he said, making his way back to the stairwell at a brisk pace. Spock stood there still holding the bag in a clenched hand. The Cadet was gone and Spock felt chilled alone on the rooftop.