rynne: (nu!k/s love)
[personal profile] rynne

Chapter One

The wind blew chill air across the ocean, a breeze infused with a thick saltwater scent. Spock shivered, and wondered that his peers had told him autumn was San Francisco's warm season. He did not feel warm even in the daytime, much less standing on a beach at night.

He turned back toward the fire, around which were seated Spock's roommate, Joshua Fleming, and several of his friends. Fleming -- who had insisted on being called "Josh" -- had been consistently inviting Spock to social events for the past three point two weeks. Finally, in an effort to both be sociable and stem the insistent requests, Spock had agreed. Now, however, he recalled why he had turned away all previous invitations. He had no interest in imbibing copious amounts of alcohol and telling stories with little purpose than to make the others laugh.

He could not simply return to Starfleet Academy yet. Ocean Beach was far enough away from the Academy as to require a vehicle, and while Spock could simply walk back, he was not familiar with this area of San Francisco. He did not apprehend becoming lost, but neither did he wish to walk for seven point six miles through strange streets in the cold night. He deemed it better to simply wait until Fleming and his cohorts were ready to return, at which point he would also protect them from their overindulgence and pilot the vehicle himself.

Still, Spock also did not wish to stand and wait. He moved closer until he stood at Fleming's shoulder. Fleming, bent over with snorting laughter, eventually noticed him. "Sssspock," he slurred, throwing his arm out in a wide gesture. "Y'should come sit. Have a drink! C'mon, guys, make room."

Before the others could shift themselves, Spock replied, "That is unnecessary. I simply wished to inform you, Fleming, that I am interested in exploring the nocturnal shoreline, and intend to take a walk. I shall return within one hour, at which point I believe it wise to return to the Academy."

Exaggerated groans met his words, but Spock was not influenced by the inebriated protests. He would explore the beach, and then he would return and collect the drunken cadets, and then he would not agree to any more of Fleming's invitations, no matter how "lame" Fleming pronounced him. In any case, he did not see the insult in a simple fact of physical disability, and did not understand why humans persisted in using it as such.

He found himself listening intently to the crash and roar of the waves as he strode away, a sound that had startled and unsettled him when he had first heard it within a week of arriving on Earth. Vulcan had no moon, and T'Khut was not close enough to exert tidal forces on what few, and small, oceans Vulcan did have. His initial impression, before he had dismissed it as fanciful, had been that the water sounded angry.

Now, however, Spock found the crash of water strangely soothing. The roar that had unsettled him was caused by nothing more malevolent than Earth's moon exerting gravitational force on the waters that covered so much of the planet's surface. Furthermore, the sound was regular. The fanciful image it currently evoked, and which he often had to dismiss, was of the sound of the tides as the planet's heartbeat.

He walked just along the edge of the intertidal zone, where the damp sand was firmer but the water at low tide could not reach him. The heels of his boots sank into the sand, and wet granules clung to them. Spock resolved to return along the dry sand, which should scour away the damp deposits.

The moon rose nearly full, illuminating the beach well enough for Spock to see even as the fire retreated into the distance. The water gleamed an uneven silver, constantly broken by the movement of the waves. Every so often Spock had to detour around a deposit of kelp, the briny smell strong enough to make him wrinkle his nose in distaste. The clean ocean air was far less overwhelming than the concentration of it found in the knotty kelp.

Soon he came upon a cluster of rocks jutting out into the water, no taller than his chest and perhaps six meters from end to end. Spock had intended to move around them, for he did not fancy climbing around with uncertain footholds in such dim light, but then he noticed something crumpled on top of the pile. It was small and thin and did not seem to be moving, not even in the steady motions of breathing, but it was unexpected and therefore intriguing. And he had intended to explore.

Carefully, Spock placed his hands along the top edge and, upon finding a stable foothold, hoisted himself to the top of the rocks. The stone was damp and seemed spackled with algae, and deep holes covered the surface in small tide pools. Spock glanced into one, but it was too dark for him to see more than the slight weaving of plants and a few bright shells.

He instead turned his attention to the crumpled -- skin? He bent over it and decided that it did seem to be skin of some sort; neither the shape nor the colors were consistent with ordinary human clothing. The skin was light, perhaps yellow or white dotted with darker spots of black and gray. Spock reached out to touch it, and noted that while thin, it seemed quite strong, and was covered in short fur.

Spock looked at it, considering. He spread it out, and decided that the size and coloring seemed consistent with what he knew of the Terran sea mammal Phoca vitulina, commonly called the harbor seal. He had seen a few of the specimens reclining on rocky outcroppings such as this when familiarizing himself with the area surrounding Starfleet Academy. He was unsure if the species molted, but the skin seemed remarkably intact.


Spock's head jerked up at the shout, and he looked down to see a human male, perhaps a few years younger than himself, standing with his hands on his hips, glaring up at Spock.

"Pardon?" Spock said, turning away from the skin. The human immediately moved forward to grab the edge and swing himself over, landing easily and steadily on bare feet. He snatched the skin away before Spock could make a further move.

"This is mine," the human said, protectively tucking it behind him. He took a few steps away from Spock, balancing on the uneven surface without even looking.

"Your pardon," Spock replied carefully. The human was claiming a discarded seal skin? "I was unaware. It had been left unattended."

"I didn't think anyone was out here," the human replied defensively, and, perhaps, accusingly.

Spock considered the young man in front of him. He stood approximately two inches shorter than Spock, a more precise height difficult to determine due to the darkness and uneven footing. His hair and eyes were light, and he wore a white short-sleeved shirt and jeans with the cuffs rolled up to the top of his shins. The denim below his knees clung wetly to his legs, as if he had been standing in the ocean.

"Several...acquaintances and I came to see the beach at night," Spock finally replied. "I did not care for their current mode of discourse, and resolved to take a walk, at which point I discovered your...property."

The human snorted. "The guys getting drunk over there?" he asked, waving his arm in the direction of the fire. Spock nodded, and the human shook his head. "I hate the drunk ones. They always forget to clean up their cans and bottles."

"I will make certain there is no litter when we leave," Spock offered, and was mildly surprised when the human tilted his head slightly and favored him with a slow smile.

"That'd be great," the human replied. He plopped down onto the rocks, crossing his legs and resting the sealskin in his lap. Spock looked at the jutting rocks, damp with sea spray and covered in loose pebbles, and chose to remain standing. "What were you doing with them, anyway? You don't seem the type to get drunk on the beach. You're Vulcan, right?"

"Indeed," Spock affirmed. "I was unaware that alcohol was to be the primary attraction tonight. One of those imbibing is my roommate. He was very...persistent in his invitations, and in his insistence that I 'socialize.'"

The human grinned again. "In other words, he nagged you until you gave in. Well, as long as you're not here to screw up the beach."

Spock waited, but there did not seem to be a consequence following his statement. "That is not my intention," he agreed. "If I may inquire, why are you here? And why do you possess the skin of a seal, and leave it unattended?"

"Hey, I thought it'd be safe here, and that no one was around," the human snapped, leaning forward and placing his hands on his knees. "Most people don't actually hang out on the beach at midnight."

Spock raised an eyebrow. "So why are you?"

The human's posture relaxed slightly and he shrugged. "Mostly because most people don't hang out on the beach at midnight," he replied easily, flashing another smile. "The beach is nice when it's not so crowded. I like it when there are people around, but I also like it when I can have the beach practically to myself."

Spock thought he understood the hint. "In that case, I will leave you to your solitude," he said. He was still curious about the human and the skin, but if the human would not answer, it would be rude to press.

"Oh, you're not so bad to talk to," the human said, still smiling. He smiled so often -- Spock had never seen anyone so expressive. "What's your name?"

"Spock," Spock replied, deciding not to offer his full name, unpronounceable to most humans. "I am a cadet at Starfleet Academy."

The human stiffened, then relaxed. "Starfleet, huh?" he said quietly, looking down into his lap. When he raised his eyes again, they gleamed in the moonlight. "Well, Spock, it's nice to meet you. I'm Jim."

Spock waited for the rest of his name, because he knew that humans typically possessed family names by which they identified themselves, but Jim did not continue. "Do you have a surname?" Spock asked.

"Do you?" Jim returned, one corner of his mouth twitching up, barely discernible in the darkness.

"S'chn T'gai Spock," Spock replied, challenging.

Jim laughed. "Yeah, I can't pronounce that," he admitted cheerfully. He then smoothly stood up, feet finding purchase on the rock with no stumbling, the sealskin clasped tightly in his hand. "Well, it's nice to meet you, Mr. Spock. Maybe we'll see each other again."

He jumped off the edge on the far side of the rock before Spock could even say goodbye. Perplexed by Jim's strange behavior, Spock turned away. It was time he returned to his companions anyway, and made certain they cleaned up their litter and did not manage to kill themselves.


"Cadet Spock," Admiral Archer said upon once again finding him in the library. "I admire your work ethic, but there is such a thing as working too much. Go outside. Get some sunshine."

Spock stood at attention, his hands tucked behind his back. "Sir, with respect, Vulcans--"

"Benefit from a change of pace as much as anyone else," Archer interrupted, eyes sharp. "And I think you'll find that you don't need books or classrooms to learn something. Go outside. In fact, get off campus altogether. I don't want to hear about you being around until at least dinnertime."

Considering it was still three hours before noon, and humans might consider sixteen hundred hours to be an early dinnertime, that left Spock at least seven to find a way to occupy himself outside of Starfleet Academy. He was unsure what to do with it, but saluted Archer anyway.

The elderly admiral had taken it upon himself to "watch out" for Starfleet's first Vulcan cadet, as he had put it. Spock had disclaimed the necessity of being looked after, but the admiral had insisted. "In memory of an old friend," Archer had said with a small smile. Spock had had no choice but to accede.

Spock was unused to having two days without scheduled classes, and usually spent his "weekend" in the library. When practicable, he brought materials back to his room and studied there, but Fleming often had guests, and even when he did not, he preferred to study with background noise he tried to call music. Spock did not feel it to be a conducive learning environment, and rarely spent time in his room when not sleeping. Even meditation thus far he preferred to engage in while at the quiet library, or some other deserted corner of the campus.

Spock considered his options. Admiral Archer's instructions had been imprecise, and Spock could interpret them as simply an order to remove himself from the campus, whereupon he was free to resume his studying. However, Spock's experience with humans led him to believe that one could not take every statement as a literal expression of their intentions. His own mother was more direct than humans on Earth seemed to be, but even she was apt to instruct through implication.

While Spock was inclined to take the admiral's order literally, he recognized part of this impulse as pique from being ordered to desist in his chosen activity. Pique was not a valid reason for not complying with the spirit as well as the letter of the order. Admiral Archer had seemed to wish that Spock not spend the day working; therefore, he should not simply take his padd and resume working at the nearest Marin County public library.

Earth had much to occupy his interest outside of academics. The planet contained an abundance of both flora and fauna, much of it growing free beneath the gentler warmth of Sol. Eridani's harsher heat drove much of Vulcan's life underground. Rarely was such biodiversity as Spock had observed on Earth readily seen on Vulcan.

Spock could have chosen to walk through one of the many parks in the area, as he had before when he had first arrived on the planet. He found, however, that his greatest interest today was not in Earth's vibrant plantlife. He thought, as he had many times in the weeks since his midnight meeting with Jim on Ocean Beach, that there was something about the ocean that drew his attention, and not least because of strange humans claiming sealskins. If nothing else, he welcomed the familiarity of sand, even paired as it was with the deep unknown of the ocean.

Spock thus arrived at Baker Beach, the closest to Starfleet Academy, still clad in his cadet uniform, though he had left behind his padd. The beach was far more crowded during the day, inundated with the laughter of human children, the hum of conversations blending into each other, and the cries of seabirds. Several people, who all seemed to wear only the minimum their society required for decency, glanced at him as he walked past in full uniform, but Spock ignored them. The day was perhaps warm by their standards, but by his own, the heavier material was welcome.

He traveled on, observing with interest such human childhood rituals as building sandcastles. It seemed a perplexing practice, for such castles were inevitably demolished -- if not by the approaching water, then by the children themselves, who inexplicably laughed as they knocked over their own work, only to begin again.

Perhaps three hundred meters from his entry point, Spock observed a game between older human adolescents involving a net, a white ball, and much diving onto the sand. One human, who played with his back to Spock, seemed familiar, but only when he turned to run after the ball did Spock recognize him. It was Jim, his hair a burnished gold in the sunlight and his eyes a deep blue. The smile on his face broadened when he saw Spock.

"Spock!" Jim called, grabbing the ball and jogging over to meet Spock as his companions turned to watch. "Nice to see you again. You here to study?" he asked, raising an eyebrow at Spock's uniform.

"Negative," Spock replied, looking over Jim's shoulder to his friends. "I simply did not see a reason to change clothing."

Jim ignored his friends' impatient calls and gestures. "That's going to be a problem," he said. His tone was serious, but his eyes gleamed. "The beach is a no-formality zone, and that uniform is pretty much the essence of formality."

"Is this a rule?" Spock asked, quirking an eyebrow, quite sure it was nothing so...formal.

But Jim grinned and nodded vociferously. "Oh yes. It is, in fact, so established a rule that this beach is actually a nude beach. The people who want to go completely au naturale stay to the north side, usually. We're pretty lenient about the clothing over here, but I don't know that we can countenance a full uniform."

"Have you a remedy to suggest?" Spock asked. Casual public nudity baffled him, even for humans. He had no intention of going naked on the beach, but he was not opposed to continuing conversation with Jim.

Jim paused, looking him up and down. Then, "Lose the shoes," he said decisively. "I'll let you keep the jacket and pants, but you can't wear boots on a beach."

Spock debated complying, but sand retained heat well, and his discomfort would primarily come from the incompleteness of his uniform. Now that he had met Jim again, who remained intriguing, Spock did not wish to chase him away through excessive formality.

He bent down and began to remove his shoes.

When he straightened, boots held together in one hand, he was struck by Jim's bright grin and outstretched hand.

"Great!" Jim announced. "Now come play volleyball with us. My team's a player short, so this is perfect. Have you ever played volleyball before?"

Spock eyed the net, and the other players. "I have not," he replied. "But should you not ask your companions first if I would be welcome?"

Jim waved off his concern. "Oh, they won't mind," he said. "Come on, I'll introduce you." And when Spock did not move, Jim reached out and took his wrist, tugging it lightly before letting go. "Come on!"

Spock went. The contact had been too brief, and his mental shields still established, for him to have gotten much mental feedback from Jim, but the only thing he had felt was welcome.

"Okay, this is Sean, Samantha, Jenny, and Doug." Each waved as Jim said his or her name. They, too, bore welcoming smiles, but Samantha and Doug's seemed to have the edge of a smirk. They, along with Jenny, appeared to be on the team opposing Jim, if Spock interpreted their positions relative to the net correctly.

Jim noticed the smirks, and sent one back to them before turning to Spock. "Okay, we play pretty casually here, but there are some basic rules. You score points by driving the ball into the sand on their side of the net, but within the bounds. They're going to try to reach the ball before that happens and send it back over here to do the same to us. You can't touch the net, go out of bounds, or hit the ball twice consecutively. We also can't hit the ball more than three times between the three of us before sending it over the net. You got it?"

"Your explanation is sufficient," Spock replied, "though I believe I would prefer to observe the game in play before undertaking to play myself."

Jim tilted his head. "We can let the other team serve," he offered. "You don't have to go after the ball right away when it's on our side, but if you can see a play, you can make it."

Spock considered it, then nodded. "An agreeable course of action," he said, and watched as Jim threw the ball to Jenny, who stepped just outside of the crudely-drawn lines of the 'court.' She held one arm out straight, the ball balanced on her hand, then tossed it up and hit it across the net. Jim reached it before it could hit the sand, tossing it up and slightly to the side, whereupon Sean moved forward and hit it back across the net.

Spock observed three return volleys before he made his move, beginning to understand why Jim wished him to play. As Samantha set up a shot for Doug, Spock moved forward to stand beside Jim. The ball launched over the net, and Jim glanced at him out of the corner of his eye before running up and tossing the ball in Spock's direction. Spock jumped, and, calculating the angle and force in the split-second he had before the ball reached his hand, he hit it across the net and neatly into an unprotected corner of sand.

Jim met Spock's eyes as the other team groaned loudly. Spock was not adept at reading the expression in human eyes, but even he could see the warmth in Jim's. Warmth for Spock, whom he barely knew, but still welcomed into a game with established friends.

Spock was quite satisfied to continue playing.

When the other team had finally begged off further play, claiming the need to find something else to "boost their egos," Jim plopped down in the sand and motioned for Spock to join him. When Spock simply stood there, seeing no reason to get sand on and possibly in his uniform, Jim heaved a sigh and let himself fall backward until he was lying down.

"Just sit down, Spock," Jim complained. "The sand won't bite, and I can't talk to you when you're all the way up there."

Gingerly, taking care to position himself so the sand could not shift into his clothing, Spock sat down beside Jim.

He did not understand why Jim wished to speak to him. Why, after one brief, perplexing initial meeting, Jim had so enthusiastically enlisted his time and effort in a human game, and why he still wished Spock's company even after the game's end and his own friends began to leave.

But Spock also did not want to, as his mother would say, "look a gift horse in the mouth."

"You were pretty awesome, for never having played before," Jim complimented from his supine position.

Spock inclined his head. "It is not excessively complicated," he said. "The intricacies of working in a team combined with the physics and geometry of scoring a point made this volleyball...a diverting use of my time."

Jim grinned, then rolled onto his side. "Play any other sports?"

"I do not," Spock replied. "I am versed in Vulcan martial arts, but I have only been on Earth for three point two months. I have spent most of that time on academics."

Jim sat up. "Really? Have you seen much of Earth at all?"

"Negative. I have familiarized myself with some areas of San Francisco, but have not found it necessary to leave the city, particularly when my primary focus has been my coursework."

Jim shook his head. "There's more to life than coursework, and more to learn than what school can teach you. Have you spent much time on Earth before now?" At Spock's negative, a determined look passed over Jim's face. "I'm going to show you more of this planet. San Francisco's great, but most of the best things on Earth can't be found in any city."

"That is not necessary," Spock protested, though he was struck by Jim's unwitting echo of Admiral Archer's admonishment.

"It is," Jim insisted, and stood up. Spock got to his feet as well, his still-bare toes sinking into the sand. "If you want to succeed in Starfleet, you have to be open to new things, new people, new experiences. That's why you joined, right? I can't imagine a Vulcan joining specifically for the military aspects."

"You are correct," Spock replied, startled. "I joined Starfleet specifically for the opportunity to explore and make new discoveries."

"Well, you can start right now," Jim said, his hands on his hips. Then he tilted his head and smiled. "But first, let me buy you lunch."

Bemused but controlling his expression, wondering if he could even begin to understand this strange human, Spock agreed.


Because the place Jim wanted to show Spock was apparently outside the city limits, and Jim did not currently have access to a private vehicle, they made plans to meet the next weekend. Or rather, Jim made plans, and Spock acquiesced. He had no objections beyond the secrecy, but Jim seemed to wish to make it a "surprise." Spock did not see the point of surprises, but Jim had insisted.

It had occurred to Spock that they were still near strangers, and he had agreed to go with Jim to an undisclosed location for an undisclosed period of time. While he was confident in his ability to subdue, if necessary, a single human, Spock was not naive. He could not assume that Jim had his best wishes in mind.

But whenever Spock thought to cancel their outing -- or, for lack of contact information, simply refuse to go with Jim when he arrived to pick Spock up -- he could not bring himself to make that decision. He told himself that Jim had only exhibited friendliness, and he had sensed no malicious plans during their brief touch, but that was only partly the reason he showed up at the Academy gates when Jim arrived.

He trusted Jim, despite their brief acquaintance. Something inside him prodded him to trust Jim, and while ordinarily Spock would not rely on a nebulous confidence, he could find no reason to distrust Jim. So when Jim's car stopped, Spock opened the door and slid inside, pulling the door shut after him. Jim smiled a greeting at him, and he felt inexplicably assured.

"Am I now to be told our destination?" Spock asked dryly as Jim started to drive.

"Nope." Jim glanced sidelong at him. "I debated making you wear a blindfold, but eventually I decided that you should get to see the scenic route."

"I would not have worn a blindfold."

Jim glanced at him again, a smile pulling up the corner of his mouth. "Oh, I think I might have convinced you."

Disturbed, Spock realized he was correct. Spock had shown himself to be...willing to be convinced, when it came to Jim.

How had this happened? They had barely spoken, and already Spock felt more comfortable with Jim than he had with most of his own people.

"Why are you doing this?" he asked. He had not quite meant to voice his thoughts, but he would not retract them. He truly wanted to know.

"I told you," Jim replied, "you should see more of Earth--"

Spock shook his head. "Perhaps I should," he said, "but why appoint yourself to rectify a gap in my experience? Jim, we are not friends."

"Aren't we?" Jim shrugged, even as he merged into traffic across the Golden Gate Bridge. "Spock, have you ever just...wanted to know someone?"

You, Spock thought but did not say. The impulse toward knowing Jim was almost instinctual. Part of Spock distrusted it, and part of Spock fought against his distrust.

When Spock remained silent, Jim continued, "You were different, that night on the beach when we first met. You're the first Vulcan in Starfleet, Spock. I've never met anyone who stepped so far out of his comfort zone."

Spock felt a strange pang of disappointment. "I was a novelty?"

Jim briefly turned his face to look at Spock full on, catching his eye. "You say that like it's a bad thing," he said, holding Spock's gaze for a moment before he turned his attention back to the road. "Didn't you tell me last time that you wanted to make new discoveries?"

He had not anticipated being the discovery himself -- but now he realized that being himself a novelty was the inevitable other half of new discovery, at least when it came to meeting new civilizations. He would be new, someone about whom others learned even as he learned himself.

For all his life, Spock had been a novelty as an experiment, the first Vulcan-human hybrid -- and according to many on Vulcan, a failed experiment. But Jim did not know that Spock was half-human. He saw only Spock, and wanted to know more about him...even if his interest had initially been piqued by the novelty.

And Jim, too, was a novelty to Spock. "I have never met anyone like you," he offered in return, and knew that Jim understood him when Jim turned to look at him again, his eyes light.

"Besides," Jim added, "you participated too. You didn't have to play volleyball with me, or agree to come on this trip."

"That is true," Spock agreed quietly.

He would have much to meditate on later, he thought.

They continued to drive for fifty-eight minutes, sometimes in companionable silence, sometimes speaking. Jim told Spock about his travels up and down the California coast -- his mother was from the Bay Area, and he and his family still spent much time there, particularly as Jim was now a student at Stanford. But Jim described his youth traveling with his family along the coast, his mother and aunts and uncles teaching him and his brother the standard Terran academic curriculum, as well as some other subjects on which Jim did not elucidate.

"I think it gave me a bit of wanderlust," Jim commented at the end of his description. "I've never really felt settled in one place. I'll probably finish the degree at Stanford, but I don't know where I'll go after that."

He did not mention his father, and Spock did not ask. He did not think he would have been answered.

The landscape had gradually changed as they drove further south. The urban cityscape of the greater San Francisco metropolitan area gave way to green fields, and then, gradually, to trees. Many trees.

Finally Jim said, as they turned toward what could only be a forest, "Welcome to Big Basin Redwood State Park, California's oldest state park. We don't have time to do my favorite trail, that takes a couple days, but you can't live in Northern California without seeing the redwoods."

Vulcan had very few forests, most in the few temperate regions around the poles. The most Spock had seen before were larger groves of trees at oases, but none of those stretched out in front of him further than he could see.

Many of the trees on the Academy campus were turning shades of yellow, orange, and red. Redwoods, as Spock recalled, were coniferous evergreens, as the sea of green spreading in front of him proved. Cast against a backdrop blue sky, the colors mixed pleasingly, bright blue blending into a deep green. Earth was such a vivid planet, painted in colors that did not seem quite natural to Spock, though of course they were.

"The trail I was planning is about three and a half miles," Jim said cheerfully as they parked and left the car. "I brought lunch, and there are several places we can sit and eat. It's a pretty easy walk, but it's got some amazing sights. Have you ever seen a waterfall?"

"Not one of any stature," Spock replied, looking up at the redwoods. They towered tall enough that Spock could not estimate their height with any accuracy. "Vulcan is not completely bereft of water, or of moving water. It is simply not available in such...abundance."

Jim nodded. "I think a lot of humans take the water on Earth for granted," he said. "When they finally hit the Industrial Revolution, reckless and widespread pollution started happening. It was only in the last century that they got their mess all cleaned up. We only have the barest idea of everything we lost thanks to our ancestors' lack of foresight."

Spock noted the pronouns Jim used. Did he mean to dissociate himself from humans in this regard? "They?" he asked. They started on the trail, and Spock found himself continually looking around him and up. Sunlight through the trees dappled the ground in spots of brightness, shifting as tree branches moved with the breeze.

"What, it's not like I was alive then," Jim replied, smiling a little when Spock looked at him. "I don't know how much most people on Earth think about the life in the ocean that's been choked out along the path to 'progress'--" and Spock could hear the contempt infused in that word, "--but I think that everyone will learn at some point what we lost."

"The ocean means a great deal to you," Spock observed. He moved slightly off the trail, reaching out to touch the bark of a tree so wide his arms would barely curve if they tried to reach around it. Patches of moss covered the bark just above his hand, and he could see small insects moving amid the wood.

Jim was silent for a moment, and Spock turned to look back at him. He stood in a patch of sunlight. His hair gleamed, but his face was half in shadow.

"I've always felt connected to the sea," Jim finally replied. "Some people are just like that. In the days before space flight, sailors could spend most of their lives at sea, only stepping ashore for brief periods before the sea called them back home."

"The sea called them?"

Jim looked at him, his eyes serious and deep. "Haven't you heard its voice?" he asked. "It may not call to everyone with the same strength, but it does call."

Jim walked along the dusty trails of an old forest, his head bowed, and for a moment Spock perceived nothing but a curious dissonance: Jim did not belong here. He stood out -- his hair, his eyes, even the way he moved, striding forward as if expecting the way to open in front of him, as if he could set himself against the enormous trees and win. Perhaps Jim enjoyed this place, but Spock thought he would never be more than a visitor.

Spock suddenly wanted very much to see Jim in his element. The beach was close, he thought, but even then there was something in the way Jim stood upon the sand. There was something missing, and Spock wanted to know what it was.

Three tenths of a mile past the campground, they came upon a tree with an inverted 'v' at its base. Jim raised an eyebrow, and said, "Go ahead. Look inside."

Spock moved forward, ducking his head and coming to stand at the center of the tree. A tree that was hollow, but, Spock realized, still alive. He put his hand against the bark and could feel the life. In the absence of sentience he could feel no telepathic impressions, but the sense of life remained.

"Nature is extraordinary," Spock commented to Jim as he exited the tree, and Jim inclined his head in agreement.

Already Spock could hear the roar of falling water, and another tenth of a mile saw them to a waterfall, the pool surrounded by dense ferns. Jim turned them toward a picnic table several meters away, blending in as well as its structure permitted. "I thought this would be a good place to eat lunch," he said, and pulled a container out of his backpack.

He had brought a kind of grain salad -- "Orzo," Jim said -- as well as two apples. Spock took his salad as it was, but noticed that Jim added what appeared to be salmon to his. The food was not Spock's typical fare, but he enjoyed it, and the variety.

"I've always wanted to swim in that pool," Jim commented between bites of his apple. "I like swimming under waterfalls. It's not really deep enough, though, and the park service doesn't encourage people wading in."

"Swimming beneath a waterfall?" Spock repeated dubiously. Surely the feel of water inexorably pounding down on one was not a pleasant feeling.

Jim smiled. "I'll have to show you sometime. Water can give a pretty good massage, you know."

"As it happens, I do not. I cannot swim."

Jim blinked at him. "Really? Huh. I guess I can see that. Not much call for it on Vulcan, I suppose. But surely Starfleet teaches you to swim?"

"I am only in my first term as a cadet," Spock replied, looking at the rough wood of the table. It was inexplicably difficult to relate any deficiency, even one that could be remedied. "Starfleet will require me to pass a swimming test prior to graduation, but the timetable of when I may do so is at my discretion."

"Hmm." Jim propped his chin up with one hand. "Do you have a teacher?"

Slowly, Spock shook his head. He could see where Jim's thoughts were heading, and was unsure if he should anticipate or protest the coming idea. "It had not yet seemed a priority."

Jim set both hands down on the table and nodded decisively. Then, as Spock expected, he said, "I'll teach you."

Anticipation won out. Perhaps he would later protest upon evaluating Jim as a teacher, but his initial reaction was, undeniably, anticipation.

Chapter Two
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