Nyota blinked and looked again.
And took a step closer to the table and looked again.
"Sir?" They appeared to be... candy. They also appeared to be miniatures of the Captain and First Officer.
Animated ones. "What do you think?" Kirk repeated, not looking away from the Caramel Kirk, about 4 inches tall, standing with his arms crossed over his chest on the table.
"They're very..." As she paused, the Caramel Kirk touched the arm of the Spearmint Spock. Spock looked up from a tiny spearmint tricorder calmly as Kirk said something to him. Then, as she watched, her lips parted in surprise, he raised one tiny spearmint eyebrow. "...lifelike," she finished truthfully, groping for the back of the chair across the table to sit in without tearing her eyes away from their miniature conversation (which she couldn't hear--she supposed their voices were on a high frequency or something).
Kirk frowned. "More or less, yes. Unfortunately, the accuracy of their imitation of us isn't the issue."
"I'm sorry, sir." She blushed. Of course that wasn't what he was asking. "What is the issue?"
He pointed to a large, flat, open box, and a pair of cellophane wrappers. "They won't go back in the box."
"They won't go back in the box?" She was being incredibly slow today. Kirk's tiny caramel hand was on Spock's striped spearmint sleeve. He was leaning forward earnestly, and saying something that looked important.
"At least," he amended, "I can't communicate with them, and they don't seem to want to go back." Spearmint Spock put his tricorder down with a long-suffering look and evidently began explaining something. Nyota stared. "I'm sure," the larger Captain Kirk was continuing, "that *you*'ll have no difficulty. Spock will be in to analyze them as soon as he's done with some tests he's running in the lab, but it would be nice if you could have them shut in the box by then."
"Excuse me, sir. Did you try just *putting* them in the box?"
The Captain, standing at the door, pursed his lips for a moment, absentmindedly wiping his hands on his trousers. "Let me put it this way, Lieutenant. I wouldn't recommend it. See what progress you can make, won't you?" The door hissed shut behind him.
Nyota had determined that she couldn't hear much of anything when Caramel Kirk and Spearmint Spock spoke, and they didn't pay any attention to her except when she moved to pick up Spearmint Spock, and Kirk dragged him away in a panic and interposed his own small, glistening, golden-brown body.
The color wasn't *too* far off, probably, she reflected. Unfortunately the uniform was part of the caramel. ...She could try writing something, but she didn't have a flimsy or a padd or a stylus. (And could she write that small?) Her best option was probably the computer, but she'd have to move them to an input area for it to analyze the wavelengths of their speech, and she'd no idea how she was to do *that.*
She was just starting to wonder what was in the rest of the box when, with a crisp rustling sound, another piece of cellophane flew up into the air and a little Sulu, with some effort, hauled himself out of a dent in the molded-plastic liner of the box. He was made of something dark brown and faintly translucent--she thought it might have been the soybean candy he'd once given her and Chekov to eat with his traditional Japanese tea. She wrinkled her nose at the thought. Nasty stuff. She wasn't be any means curious enough (or heartless enough) to try to find out.
Soybean (?) Sulu knelt immediately, though, peering anxiously into the next dent. First he pulled out another piece of cellophane; then he dragged out by the hand a very disgruntled Chekov, who shook some white hair out of his eyes, put his hands on his orange hips, and said something she couldn't hear. Probably something about the Russian invention of cellophane, or possibly of candy corn.
Nyota just hoped they jumped down off the box before any more got out so she could put the lid on it--or before the temptation to find out what kind of candy she would be made out of overcame her good sense.
Caramel Kirk and Spearmint Spock were well over a foot and a half away, examining the table top in some detail ("Made of *plastic*?" She imagined the scandalized Caramel Kirk demanding, and the Spearmint Spock would reply repressively, "So it would seem.") and hadn't seen Chekov and Sulu yet. As she watched, Kirk seemed to lose patience with what they were doing, and got up to explore closer to the edge of the table. Nyota was quick to put her hand in the way so he couldn't fall off--no telling whether he would act like normal caramel on impact with the floor, but she didn't want to clean him out of the carpet or to deal with suicidal spearmint.
Finally, after darting to either side and discovering he couldn't get past or around her hand, Caramel Kirk gave up, and she looked back at the box.
Evidently the clothes *weren't* part of the candy, or not exactly.
By rights, it should have been sort of gross. But you couldn't help looking.
She put the lid on the box with her mouth still hanging open, and nudged a piece of (unfortunately transparent) cellophane closer to the preoccupied Sulu and Chekov with her forefinger. Hopefully they would be finished before Spock came back.
And hopefully they would come apart again.
Candy Corn Chekov was still adjusting his tunic when the real (er... non-candy) Mr. Spock walked into the room. "Lieutenant Uhura," he nodded.
"Mr. Spock." She stood up, but kept one eye on Soybean (?) Sulu, who was looking at Chekov anxiously.
"Have you made any progress in communicating with the life-forms?"
"Not really, sir. I believe they speak, but their voices are at a very high frequency. The computer might be able to analyze it, or perhaps we could communicate with them by writing."
Spock nodded. "Thank you, Lieutenant. Your suggestions will be taken into account. I am sorry that so much of your off-duty time has been spent in this activity."
"I trust your time was not wasted--that it was interesting?"
They had finally spotted Caramel Kirk and Spearmint Spock, and Soybean (?) Sulu clapped one hand onto Candy Corn Chekov's shoulder in excitement, a gesture that she had seen, and given an innocent interpretation, any number of times. "Yes, sir," Nyota said fervently, "*fascinating.*"
Almost 20:00 hours: the exact middle of Beta shift. No one would be asleep yet. Nyota walked very, very quickly to Sulu's quarters.
"Why didn't you *say* anything, Hikaru?" She demanded.
"I'm sorry?" He looked up blankly from the computer screen.
"Why didn't you say anything?"
Sulu rubbed his eyes. "Have I missed something?"
She eyed his uniform and his hair, which were immaculate. "Today, probably; but I suppose that depends on how you define 'you.'"
"Now I *know* I've missed something." He spun the chair around to face her. "Out with it, Nyota!"
She stalked closer and sat down on his bed. "Why didn't you tell me?" She repeated, in a hissing whisper, though of course no one could hear. And before he could ask again: "You know! You and Chekov."
Now *that* was interesting. In a matter of seconds, while his eyes widened and he seemed to sway a little and slump back in his chair, Sulu's face exhibited an alarming array of possible colors, from pale pallor to deep flush. "Tell you what?" He said guardedly.
She did her best imitation of Spearmint Spock.
"I don't have anything to tell you," Sulu repeated stubbornly.
"You're awfully upset about what I just said for someone who doesn't have anything to tell me," she prodded.
"Well, I don't know what you *think* there is to tell," he said. "But I can assure you there's nothing, which isn't to say I don't want there to be anything." Ah-hah. Suspiciously: "Who have you been talking to?"
"No one," Nyota said soothingly, "I don't think anyone knows. I've just been..." ahem "...watching." He looked even more alarmed by that possibility. She was starting to think she should've started with Chekov. No, they'd probably be on the fourth or fifth drink of "wodka" with a lot of sniffling (if her suspicion was correct), but not much information changing hands. "No one else noticed," she said lamely.
"Thank goodness for that," he muttered, rubbing his temples, and not sounding at all thankful.
"I'm sorry I brought it up," she said repentantly, "It's just..."
"Boredom?" He wondered, "Or sheer malice?"
"...It's just I misinterpreted things," Nyota continued doggedly, "I'm sorry, Hikaru. I thought there was, well, you know, something going on. A bit *more* of something. --Are you sure it's not mutual?" Candy Corn Chekov had looked pretty enthusiastic to her. You could almost've heard him panting, and he *had* been the last to get dressed. If he'd had his way, tugging on Soybean Sulu like he'd been, they would've still been under the cellophane when the larger Spock walked in. She'd been considering intervening, if she could've figured out how without touching them.
"What are you saying?" Sulu asked with a sharp glance.
"Nothing," she replied slowly, "except that you should consider it, if you haven't. It didn't occur to me before that it was just..."
"Me?" He said sarcastically.
She stifled a sigh. "Well, yes." She was going to have to really bend over backwards to cheer him up if she wanted to leave in time to talk to Chekov tonight, too; and that was a must if she didn't want to have to deal with Sulu sulking all day tomorrow. "Have you?"
"Thought about it? Of course I've thought about it. Have I said anything? Of course I *haven't.* Are you nuts, Nyota?"
"Probably," she muttered, glancing at the chrono in the corner of the computer display.
A more well-thought-out approach, and fewer scruples, were necessary when approaching Chekov, if she wanted this to work out. Nyota banished a momentary unease. If she screwed everything up, they'd get over it. Men Sulu's and Chekov's ages were only hindered from anything by embarrassment or modesty when it would be inconvenient for her, anyway.
"Enter," he called.
"Pavel," she said sweetly when the door had closed behind her, "have you noticed Hikaru acting strangely lately?"
"Hikaru?" He repeated, looking at her immediately, to her hidden satisfaction. She widened her eyes artistically. Overdoing it? Probably not. Too much subtlety was always a danger with them. "Strangely? In vhat vay?"
"Oh, *you* know," she said. "Just--maybe a little preoccupied. Thoughtful. Maybe sad."
He was immediately alarmed. "Do you zink he is upset about somefink?"
"I don't know," she frowned, "not upset exactly. Quiet. Has he seemed quiet to you?"
"Quiet? I--I don't--vell, perhaps..."
"Or not even as if he doesn't *talk,* but as if he didn't *want* to talk," Nyota pressed, "because he's already thinking about something else. Something that makes him sad. Something--hopeless." As she'd anticipated, he was looking pensive and preoccupied himself by the time she finished. Perhaps even a bit troubled.
"Hopeless, eh?" He murmured.
"So you *don't* know what's wrong with him," she said in a tone of disappointment.
"No. No--I had no idea."
"That's too bad," Nyota sighed. "I thought if anyone would, you would, close as you and Hikaru are."
"Oh, but ve're--"
"He'd tell you things he wouldn't tell anyone," she said firmly. "You're by far his closest friend. In fact, I can't *imagine* why he would need to keep something like this from you... to keep something this important from your best friend..." No response, but a glance showed her Chekov seated, bent over his knees with his elbows resting on them, and a glum expression on his face. "Unless!" She said loudly, to be sure she had his attention.
He jumped as if kicked. "Vhat? Unless vhat?"
"No," she said slowly, shaking her head. "No, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said anything." Then she waited through five absolutely frantic *vhat*s, some pleading, and a few wrathful threats before she cracked. "Well," she said reluctantly then. "It's just. Just today, he seemed so... so... the way he was looking at you." She shook her head. "I don't know, Pavel, it's probably nothing."
"No! Tell me, Nyota, now you *haf* to tell me!"
"I thought I'd never seen him look at you that way before. Then I realized that he looks at you that way every day. And then that, plus the way he's been acting. Well. Are you sure there's nothing between you? I'd completely understand, Pavel," she said earnestly, leaning forward in his chair to touch his knee. "Have you had a fight?"
"No! No fight," he said, bewildered. "Between us--I. I must fink about zis."
Sulu was not sulking on the bridge the next day. He and Pavel between them had nearly enough animation to cover Captain Kirk's pensive silences. When he stopped to break for lunch, she asked him whether they'd made any progress with "...that problem."
"Oh yes," he said, summoning her a smile, "Thank you very much, Uhura, you were a great help. Spock was able to deal with it very easily."
"Do we know where they came from, sir?"
He smiled a little, "We have our suspicions. Don't worry about it." And that seemed to be all she was going to get out of him. When Spock left the bridge during the Captain's lunch and Sulu got up to take the center chair, she could get little more information out of him.
"You seem happy," she said, hovering over his shoulder.
"Happy? What makes you say that?" He asked smugly, with a grin so large it barely fit between the edges of his face.
"Call it women's intuition," she advised him, rolling her eyes. A stroll to the front of the bridge confirmed her guess that Chekov was staring at the viewscreen with a silly smile, not working, but she couldn't discover anything else, at least, not by asking.
At the end of shift, Mr. Spock and the Captain came together to speak with her at her station, quietly. "You were correct that they spoke at a very high frequency, Lieutenant," Spock confirmed. "It was fairly simple to communicate with them based on that premise."
"How long did it take, Mr. Spock?" She asked.
Spock, standing with his back to the bulkhead and facing both her and the Captain, raised one eyebrow when he responded. "Long enough to conjecture," he said, "That the behavior of the creatures was not, after all, strictly based on our own. However, it seems that I was incorrect."
Following his gaze, Nyota and the Captain both turned to look over their shoulders. Chekov was bending over Sulu at his station with a slightly different silly smile on his face and perhaps a few centimeters separating them. As they watched, Sulu closed the gap deliberately and kissed Chekov.
And kissed him.
And kissed him. Nyota's eyebrows were rising of their own will.
Kirk turned back to Spock. His eyebrows weren't precisely in their normal locations either. "Well," he said. "This seems to be a new development. I think we'll leave them to it. Mr. Spock, those papers you mentioned? Lieutenant." He nodded to Uhura, perhaps a shade more respectfully than she would have expected, and left the bridge with Spock at his side.