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From Pluto With Love

Jim held up his data PADD in the air for Spock to see. “Look, Spock!”

One of Spock’s eyebrows lifted in the air as he directed his gaze towards the image on the data PADD. Before his face was a picture: a perfectly ordinary picture of the Earth’s moon. The image was taken before mankind had settled permanently on the moon, before the sights of Tycho City and New Berlin had become visible features from the Earth’s surface, before Lake Armstrong had become an engineered landmark. There had to be hundreds of thousands of photos in the Starfleet database of the very image Jim had chosen to show him. “Yes?”

The slightly bored fashion in which his bondmate responded did nothing to dim Jim’s enthusiasm. “It’s the Man in the Moon!”

Spock’s eyebrow arched a little bit higher. “Jim, there are many geographical details in this photo: the Sea of Tranquility, the Grimaldi crater, and Mt. Huygens, to name a few. But so far as I am aware, there is no lunar feature named “The Man in the Moon.” ”

Jim rolled his eyes a little at his literal minded bondmate, even as he smiled. “Well of course there’s not a real feature like that, but you can see him, can’t you?”

Spock tilted the angle of the data PADD, taking a better look at the image, since this seemed to be yet another topic that Jim insisted upon discussing despite the fact that it was completely illogical. “No.”

For the first time Jim’s smile faltered. “Really?”

“I do not see any resemblance to a human face in the lunar surface.”

“Well, what about a rabbit?” Jim asked quickly. “In Japan people see a rabbit making rice cakes with a mortar and pestle.”

From his end of the sofa in their quarters, Spock shook his head slightly.

“A set of handprints?” Jim asked, undeterred. “According to Indian mythology, Astangi Mata, the mother of all living things, sent her twins into the sky to be with the sun and the moon. Her handprints were left on the moon as she said farewell.”

Spock shook his head again.

“How about a banyan tree?” Jim asked, determined to find a shape that Spock might recognize. “Native Hawaiians believed that a woman named Hina used the tree to make cloth for the gods.”

“I am afraid Vulcans do not have the same gift to perceive pareidolia that humans possess.”

The corners of Jim’s lips pulled downwards into a mild frown. “Para-what?”

“Pareidolia: a type of illusion or misperception involving a vague or obscure stimulus being perceived as something clear and distinct. As a part of its functioning, the human brain must be able to quickly process unfamiliar visual stimuli in order to determine which details are important. Seeing faces and figures in the lunar surface is merely a consequence of the human brain’s tendency to match stored information with new stimuli.”

Jim tugged thoughtfully on his lips. “So you really can’t see the Man in the Moon?”

“No,” Spock answered simply. “The Vulcan brain does not process, store, and access visual stimuli in the same methods as the human brain.”

Jim stretched back into the sofa, picking his feet up from the floor and depositing them in his bondmate’s lap. He sighed softly, setting the data PADD face down on his chest. “That’s too bad.”

Spock set aside a data PADD that he had been holding in his own hands. The report he had been reading could wait. He turned his attention to giving Jim a foot massage.

“Why do you feel this way?” Spock asked out of mild curiosity. Until that moment he had never seen any disadvantage in the manner in which Vulcan brains processed information. In many ways, including information access and retrieval, Vulcan brains were superior to their human equivalents. For example, an eidetic memory, while an uncommon mental trait for humans, was so commonplace amongst Vulcans that it was actually considered unusual if an individual Vulcan lacked the mental ability.

“It’s just that things like the Man in the Moon…the face on Mars…those things created a sense of wonder in humanity when people saw them. It created curiosity, inspired us to reach for the stars and to learn more about these amazing things that we saw every night in the heavens. Would humans have been so driven to explore beyond the Earth if they hadn’t imagined they could see rabbits and hands and trees where none existed?” Jim stared up at the ceiling of their quarters, pondering out loud in a heartfelt manner. “I mean, if there had been no Man in the Moon, I might never have met you, Spock. All those nights when I was kid on the farm, staring up at the stars from between the corn rows, dreaming that I could talk to the Man in the Moon…that’s when I fell in love with astronomy and space exploration. No Man in the Moon, no urge to go to the Academy, no us.”

One of Spock’s eyebrows lifted upwards again. His hands left Jim’s feet and picked up the data PADD that he had set aside earlier. His fingers furiously tapped against the surface for a few moments. Finally he held the PADD out towards his bondmate.

“What’s this?” Jim asked, intrigued.

“A statement on my opinion regarding the functioning of the human brain, t’hy’la.”

Jim took the data PADD. Spock had selected an image of Pluto and had placed some text around the image. The picture was old, the resolution somewhat poor, but Jim still recognized the famous photo. It was one of the very first images humanity had ever had of Pluto up close, taken by the New Horizons probe in the early 21st century. It showed the creamy brown and red surface of Pluto with its varying bright and dark features. The most prominent bright feature was a region that looked like a Valentine’s Day heart.

Above the image of Pluto were written the words I am grateful that humans are capable of pareidolia.

Jim smiled warmly as he saw Spock’s name on the picture. His bondmate had put his signature just to the right of the image of Pluto’s heart.

“Ditto,” Jim said, leaning in for a kiss.

Spock returned the kiss softly.

Jim gave his bondmate a quizzical look. "One thing though...if Vulcans can't see things like the Man on the Moon, or you know...hearts...what made you pick that picture of Pluto?"

Spock placed another kiss on Jim's red lips. "Just because I cannot see the heart on Pluto does not mean that I have never heard of the heart on Pluto, t'hy'la. And as Dr. McCoy has noted on many occasions, Vulcan ears are quite exceptional."

Jim blushed, even as he gave his bondmate a bright laugh. "That they are."

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