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An entire minute passes, and Jim looks over at Bones. Bones glances right back. Scotty’s staring down at the transporter console—he doesn’t seem to have noticed anything out of the ordinary yet. He must be too busy with his beloved machines. Jim’s certainly seen the personnel problem. It’s very rare that he makes it to the transporter room before Spock, and much rarer that Spock is actually late. He can only assume Spock discovered some last minute business that absolutely had to be taken care of, yet wasn’t important enough to call his captain for. If another minute passes in Spock’s absence, they’ll have to leave without him. The Mrennenimians may not yet have transporter technology of their own, so they don’t know just how instantaneous the process should be, but it would still be immensely rude to keep them waiting. When he’s representing Starfleet, Jim needs to put his best foot forward, which usually includes his first officer. Bones is a bonus and should prove quite useful, given that half the Mrennenimians’ foods are supposed to be deadly to humans.

The doors swish open, and Spock walks in with twenty seconds to spare. As he approaches the platform, he holds out each hand, one to Jim and one to Bones. They tentatively take the items offered to them: thick, brightly coloured bracelets. Spock withdraws his hands to cross behind his back and says, “Please wear these.”

Jim draws it up to his face to get a better look. The material seems to be several strands of interwoven plastic. He asks, “What is this?”

At virtually the same time, Bones asks, “Are these friendship bracelets?”

Jim’s head snaps up. Spock doesn’t answer. His mouth is in that thin line that suggests he won’t answer. Around a growing grin, Jim prods, “Spock...?”

“A detail I discovered late in the initial report,” Spock answers. “The people of Mrennenimus II determine a person’s merits by their amount of...”

When Spock trails off, Bones fills in, “Friends.”

Spock corrects, “Associates. Items such as these, typically handmade but Synthesized in this instance, are a way to mark their... associates.”

Jim interprets: “Friends.”

Spock rolls on, “I believe our landing party will be better received should we abide by these customs, Captain.”

“Agreed, Commander.”

Bones is snickering. Spock is deliberately not looking at him. Spock comes to join them on the transporter pad. Scotty, grinning just as hard as Jim is, doesn’t need to be told. He starts working the controls. Jim tells Spock, “Thank you. I happen to consider you my best friend too.”

Bones splutters, “Hey!” as the transporter beam claims his molecules.