People Will Talk A comfortable silence reigned in the captain's softly lighted quarters. It was just passed the start of the third shift, but the two men seated at the utilitarian desk, having long ago set aside the rapidly cooling remnants of their uninteresting dinners, were completely oblivious of the late hour--nor would they have cared if they had realized. Between them towered a massive, intricately carved glass 3-D chess set, one of the captain's most prized possessions as it had been given to him by the other man in the room, in commemoration of their having served together on the ship for twenty-five legendary years. A small, tight smile was beginning to play around the captain's mouth as he contemplated the multi-tiered board, causing the Vulcan across the table from him to cringe inwardly. Surak help us all, thought the not quite visibly worried science officer. He's having another one of his 'human inspirations'. As expected, the captain's next move was sudden, dramatic and game-changing. When he had completed his unorthodox disruption of his friend's meticulously planned strategy, he sat back in his chair, grinning openly now, to savor the unique mixture of ill-concealed surprise and vexation which was quickly spreading over the Vulcan's normally impassive visage. "Captain…", the taller man began hesitantly, his apparent dread of the forthcoming discussion more than evident in his tone. "Spock, we're off duty. Call me Jim", said the captain, pointlessly engaging in the same rote response he had so often used since the 'ancient' beginnings of their friendship. "Jim", Spock, looking uncomfortable, began again. "I feel it is my duty to report some frankly disturbing rumors which are circulating among a small segment of the crew." "Rumors? Such as…?", prompted the captain, tensing slightly at the sight of Spock's obvious concern. "Rumors such as that you and I, and in some cases, Dr. McCoy, are…gay lovers.", Spock blurted, vainly trying not to look as if he had just regurgitated a mouthful of fresh, warm Klingon gagh. "How many crewmen are participating in this rumor/", asked the captain, relaxing now that the subject of Spock's report had been revealed. "Two percent of the crew is actively propagating this rumor, and another four to six percent are showing varying degrees of interest in it.", offered the Vulcan, apparently somewhat reassured by the equanimity with which Jim was receiving the news. "And would these be gay crewmen by any chance?", Jim speculated aloud, knowing that his friend would have an immediate and accurate answer. "Surprisingly, no.", continued Spock, now in his most clinical voice. "Seemingly, the overwhelming majority of this group is composed of heterosexual females." "Well, it must certainly take an outrageously non-traditional mindset to imagine that either of US is gay!", and a fair amount of willful perversion too, the captain finished silently. "What would you suggest?" "Do you wish me to take disciplinary action against the offending crew members?", was the Vulcan's noncommittal response. After a few moments consideration, Jim chose his next words carefully. "Spock, there are four-hundred and fifty men and women aboard this ship…representing every possible outlook on life that can have been thought of. We can't just begin punishing them for having ideas we aren't necessarily comfortable with, or even for discussing those ideas openly among themselves." "We are the commanders of the finest ship in the fleet.", Jim went on, "larger than life. People are going to speculate about us, and some of those speculations are going to be downright weird." "But don't you find it illogical to allow these wanton misperceptions about people in our positions to persist among our subordinates?", protested Spock weakly, poking one last time at the dying embers of an argument he knew he could not win. "Trying to stop these stories is bound to make us look worse than simply ignoring them will, Spock. Nothing they can make up will ever have any real bearing on who we actually are." The Vulcan nodded his understanding as Jim finished with a flourish, "Bottom line, my friend: It's the nature of the beast; people will talk!" Further rumination on the subject was abandoned as the door chime sounded softly and the portal hissed open to reveal a pleasantly smiling Dr. McCoy, carrying a tray bearing a large crystal decanter of Saurian brandy and three shimmering goblets. "Evening, gents." the newcomer spoke with an affable southern drawl. "Play the winner?"