"I’m not looking for anything serious, just a husband." Carol’s laugh rang out in the nearly empty mess, as she sat at a table with Uhura and Chekov. The captain was trying not to eavesdrop, but he couldn’t help it as he sat a few tables away by himself. Though it had been Uhura who had spoken, he had the feeling it wasn’t her relationship with Spock that was being talked about.
“It is a noble thing, to search for a husband who is your equal,” Chekov said.
“But back then, there wouldn’t be equality between a husband and wife, and it was quite serious business husband-hunting. Mothers would do just about anything that didn’t cause disgrace to the family to snag a husband for their daughters.” There was a pause in the conversation. “I think I would have preferred to be a spinster. Did you know spinsters weren’t necessarily shunned? They were mistresses of their craft and made quite a tidy sum with their wares.”
“You seem to know a lot about Old Earth traditions when it comes to that,?” Uhura said.
“I’m quite a fan of classic literature. My...father, he may have been very encouraging in my study of the sciences, but my mother is a professor of classical literature, ranging from Jane Austen to Neil Gaiman. I’ve always been very well-read.”
“Oh, you are a fan of Neil Gaiman?” Chekov asked, his voice brightening. “Do you have a favorite work of his?”
The conversation shifted then and Kirk tuned them out. Not that he wasn’t a fan of literature himself, but he hadn’t been asked to be a part of the conversation and really, it would appear pathetic if he listened in solely just to find a gift to give Carol for her birthday. Most of the members of his crew got a cake and a drink at the bar from him, but he wanted to do something special for her. He still felt guilty for what happened on the USS Vengeance, bringing him aboard and leading to Marcus’s death, but she never blamed him. He was grateful for that.
He jerked his head to look at the trio and saw Carol smiling over at him. “Yeah?” he asked.
“You don’t have to sit alone. You’re a fan of the Discworld series, correct?” Kirk nodded. They had chatted about the intricacies of that fictional world from time to time. “I could use your help convincing Pavel it’s worth reading. I just don’t know where to start. There’s no real order, after all.”
He grinned at her and then picked up his tray of food and joined them, launching into a list of his favorite books in the series. He’d always preferred fantasy and science fiction series from the twentieth century, and it was nice to share that knowledge with more than just Carol. By the time Chekov and Uhura excused themselves to do other things, he had the feeling Chekov would just jump in and read whatever fancied him while Uhura would go through his favorite order.
His food was done and so was hers, but they lingered a moment in companionable silence. “Thank you for inviting me over,” he said.
“Oh, it was my pleasure. We’ve had good conversations about literature in the past, and I thought you’d like to join my impromptu book club today.”
“Is this going to be a regular thing?” he asked, tilting his head slightly.
“I hope so,” she said.
“Well, if it is, I’d like to join in again. It’s good to keep company that has an interest in literature.”
“Of course, Captain,” she said.
“You know, you can call me Kirk, at least,” he said with a smile. “I mean...”
“No, no, I understand,” she said, her smile getting wider. “I’ll let you know when we have our next meeting, Kirk.” She stood up and took her tray to dump her trash, and he watched her walk away, knowing exactly what to get her for her birthday now: his physical copy of The Colour of Magic that he had kept safe since he was a child. It was old and the pages were brittle now, but it would be something she’d treasure, he thought.