The Morning After It was oh-six-hundred in the busily cacophonous officer's mess, clanking plates and boisterous conversations all around the room, making Kirk and Spock wish they hadn't stayed up quite so late the night before. Ah, but the times for quiet companionship and contemplation were fairly few and far between on a ship charged with saving the galaxy on a near daily basis. No regrets then, as the two friends silently grappled with their breakfasts; a heaping, steaming plate of ham and eggs for Kirk, and a faintly noxious smelling fruit salad for Spock. All eyes turned to the main entrance, as a fresh faced and grinning Dr. McCoy strolled in with a pretty lady lieutenant on each arm, seemingly completely unaffected by his own all-nighter. Reluctantly releasing his escorts, and tossing off a conspirational wink to Chief Engineer Scott--who was ardently chatting up a clearly disinterested Dr. Helen Noel in a far corner--McCoy selected his traditional chicken-fried steak and black coffee from the nearby replicator and hauled it across to where his two friends were sitting. "Morning, Bones. Have you recovered from the drubbing I gave you last night?", asked Kirk, a tad too sweetly. McCoy looked to an almost smirking Spock for support as the two intoned in perfect unison, "His next move should have been the rook!" A chuckling Kirk lost no time in responding, "Yeah, yeah, I've heard THAT before, gentlemen." McCoy's annoyed expression abruptly turned to one of concern, around a mouthful of country gravy, as he said, "Say, Jim. I hear there's quite a little spat going on between certain members of the crew." "Let me guess, Bones.", holding up a hand to forestall the rest of McCoy's announcement, Kirk hastily inquired, "Is this about those rumors that the three of us are gay lovers?" "Yeah, but that's not all.", the Doctor replied with a worried frown. "There are quite a lot of people who don't see us that way who are really getting agitated. They're saying that fictionalizing the ship's three senior officers as gay, when they're plainly not is just creepy, and that someone should put a stop to it!" "And meanwhile, the protractors of the rumors do not at all appreciate being called 'creepy'.", added the Science Officer in a tone which clearly implied his complete inability to comprehend such resentment. "Well, from where I'M sitting, it IS creepy.", concluded Kirk, sopping up a last bit of runny eggs with his toast. "But it has never been Starfleet's policy to dignify these types of willful slanderings with either a confirmation, or a denial." "Things ARE escalating to a point where it is becoming distracting to the efficient operation of the ship in general.", Spock pointed out, with the triumphant air of a man who had just played his 'trump card'. "Besides, can you imagine how embarrassing all this must be to legitimately gay crewmen, like, Mr. Sulu?" "Spock, Bones, I don't honestly think we can get our 'fantasy authors' to stop, regardless of how much we don't like it.", said a rapidly wearying Kirk. "Their right to the free exchange of ideas would seem to outgun our right to the integrity of our characters." "Don't let THEM hear you say that, Jim. Next they'll be screeching about 'gay slurs' because they'll claim you're saying that our being not gay would constitute a 'lack of integrity!", drawled McCoy as he wiped his mouth, then dropping the embossed napkin on his empty plate. "You're right, Bones. The whole thing IS quite hopeless, isn't it?", pronounced Kirk as he stood up from the table and straightened his uniform jacket. "What a universe we live in!" Without further comment, the trio of friends headed for the bridge, looking forward to sinking their teeth into some new calamity that was of REAL cosmic consequence.