|CATCHING THE OX
by K.V. Wylie
Love makes everything complicated.
"Night, Dawn, Day" by Elie Wiesel
Kirk met the Vulcan shuttle himself, his barely restrained apprehension and curiosity figuratively hitting McCoy like a wall the moment the latter stepped through the shuttle bay doors.
"Well?" Kirk asked.
"She wanted an explanation. I 'fessed up to the drug I gave you and apologized," McCoy said. "That's the end of it." He started for his quarters. Kirk dogged him, unsatisfied.
"And that couldn't be done from here?"
"It had to be done in person."
"So where's my first officer?"
"On Vulcan. Or on a shuttle on his way here. I don't know," McCoy said.
"This doesn't ring right, Bones. There was no reason Spock had to go. He didn't do anything wrong," Kirk said.
"Am I your Vulcan's keeper?" McCoy asked in exasperation as he went into his quarters, Kirk nearly tripping over his heels. The doctor looked longingly at his bed. He wanted to lie down and sleep for the next ten years.
"Bones," Kirk said softly.
McCoy dropped his duffle bag on the floor and sank down on the edge of his bed. "Spock did do something wrong. He rejected T'Pring."
"Wouldn't anybody after that?" Kirk pulled over a chair.
"Maybe," McCoy sighed. "Being in Starfleet screwed Spock over as far as having other marriage prospects, or so T'Pau told me. She had to figure out what to do with him. He couldn't stay unmarried because of, you know, next time."
The doctor quieted. Kirk waited a few moments, as long as he could, before saying, "And?"
"He got married and everything's fine and dandy."
"He got married?" Kirk stared at McCoy. McCoy eyed him curiously in return.
"You just said that being in Starfleet screwed him over," Kirk persisted.
"Apparently it's done the same to me too," McCoy said. "Jim, if you want more, please beat down his door instead." McCoy flopped back onto the bed, his hands over his face. "God, I'm tired."
He heard Kirk get up and make a few circles of frustration.
McCoy lifted one hand. Kirk stood near the bed.
"Leave it be, Jim. You can't fix this."
"How do you know?" Kirk asked, but, oddly, he abided by McCoy's wishes. He left McCoy alone and waited for Spock.
The Vulcan took a week to arrive. McCoy didn't know he would have all that time so he spent the week jumping at every sound. The Enterprise was entering orbit around Alpha Proxima II before Spock's shuttle docked, and then Mr. Hengist began murdering people, so it was a while before things settled down enough for Kirk to corner his Vulcan.
Whatever the gist of that conversation was, McCoy didn't know. All he could see was that Kirk had conceded defeat.
Spock decided only to speak to the doctor when necessary and then only about ship's business. McCoy avoided the bridge when he could and stopped having dinner in the officer's lounge.
Late one evening, McCoy was in his office in Sickbay, picking at a limp, reconstituted salad, when Kirk overrode the privacy setting and appeared in the doorway.
"There's a reason I locked the door," McCoy said in a half-hearted snipe.
Kirk sat in a chair as the door slid shut behind him. "Have you checked the bulletin boards lately?"
He was referring to the rumour mill that ran anonymously though not-so-underground on the ship's intranet. Kirk was always tuned into it, though not for the gossip, most of which he ignored. He was more interested in the general pulse of the ship.
McCoy sometimes checked the boards, but usually found them a waste of time. "Why?"
"Your name came up," Kirk said. "Bones, the way you and Spock have been acting lately," he paused. "I figured it out. Spock wouldn't talk so I tried to get information from Vulcan, but they're closed-mouthed. The most I got was T'Pau's aide confirming you had been admitted into the family. So then I went back to Spock and he confirmed it. Bones, why didn't you tell me?"
"Because you can't do anything about it."
"You two are my closest friends and yet neither one of you said anything," Kirk said.
"Spock didn't want to tell anybody," McCoy said. "What does it say on the board, besides how the flying hell did that happen?"
"People want to throw a party. Or maybe a wedding shower," Kirk said without humour. "How did it happen?"
The doctor pushed his salad away. Then, slowly, with no small measure of relief, told Kirk almost everything. The only part he left out was why T'Pau chose him instead of the captain. By the time he finished, the captain's brow was puckered and dour.
"There was no consideration for you in this," Kirk commented.
"I don't know that T'Pau saw it that way," McCoy said. "You don't know how close you came to being picked, Jim. What would you have done?"
"Probably the same," Kirk said. He pulled the salad over to him and ate a lettuce leaf. He seemed about to say something else, but didn't.
"What I'd like to know is how it got onto the bulletin board," McCoy said.
"Are you kidding?" Kirk asked grimly. He contemplated a fake radish, then pushed it aside and ate a fake carrot which happened to be the same colour as the radish. "If the two of you can't work together, it will affect the ship."
"Spock's the logical one to stay."
"Bones, I need you both. Go talk to him. He's hiding out in his quarters."
"He's probably just meditating."
"Hiding," Kirk corrected. "Uhura asked him if the two of you had a gift registry. She was teasing, but he took her seriously and said no. The next time I looked around, he was gone. He's strangely shy when it comes to things like sex."
"There's been no sex," McCoy retorted.
"Talk to him," Kirk said.
McCoy stood, and then abruptly sat down again. "Christine! No wonder she's been pulling shifts with M'Benga the last few days."
Chapel wasn't in Sickbay or in her quarters. McCoy left a message for her to contact him.
At Spock's door, he paused, one hand hovering over the buzzer. Then he dropped his hand and leaned back against the wall.
A turbolift opened at the end of the hall. He heard laughter, coming closer. Whirling back around, he buzzed.
Spock opened the door. He saw McCoy, several crewmen approaching from down the corridor, and stepped back quickly to allow the doctor to enter. McCoy jumped in and the door shut behind him.
He hadn't been in Spock's quarters before. The decorations startled him.
"Is this…Vulcan?" he asked. T'Pau's house had been minimally adorned, if adorned was even the right word.
"Doctor?" Spock asked, not understanding.
"The art." McCoy frowned at a picture on the wall as he recognized Ganesha, the god of intellect and wisdom, three hands uplifted and the fourth held palm-forward in welcome. "This is human."
A small figure of a dancing, warrior Krishna stood on a shelf between two bowls holding red and yellow powders. Shiva, the divine destroyer, his penis so erect it could have been taken for a handle, stood beside them. On the wall beyond was a cross with Christ drooping from the frame. Underneath it were a cloth-bound Quran, a Bible, and a Menorah, eight white candles on either side of a blue servant candle. None of the wicks had ever been lit.
Incense burned on the desk in a copper bowl. A Buddha, eyes closed, sat in endless meditation on a table by the bed. A brass Nataraja, dancing overseer of time and the universe, gazed out from behind a bookend. On the floor in the main room was a Vulcan firepot and meditation stone.
"Why do you have a shrine in here?" McCoy asked, puzzled and spooked.
"I do not," Spock said.
The doctor looked around again. The excess of idols belied a feeling of emptiness in the room.
"We've been outed on the bulletin board," he said.
"I am aware of it." The Vulcan was distant. The low lights in the room covered him in shadows. "As my spouse, all of this belongs to you."
McCoy was taken aback. "I didn't come here to case your stuff. Jim came to see me."
"The Captain has spoken to me as well."
"So you know that if we don't start getting along, one of us will have to go."
"I have already prepared my resignation."
"What?" McCoy sat down on the first available object, which was the edge of the meditation stone. It was that or the floor.
"You must be aware, doctor, that the price of my being in Starfleet has been high. Too high."
"And you didn't think about resigning before you got married? It might have saved you a trip to the altar."
"I do not see how," Spock said. "The Matriarch decided."
"And she never, ever changes her mind?" McCoy retorted. "You don't think you might have resigned your commission, hung around on Vulcan for a few years until the cloud of Starfleet hanging over you dissipated, and heard what she had to say then?"
It took Spock a few uncomfortable moments to say, "You do not understand Vulcan ways."
"You were too slow on the mark. And now you're married to a human and it's bugging the hell out of you. This tantrum of yours is unattractive. And unVulcan. Sapok, all Vulcan by the way, treats me better than you do."
"Sapok is not married to you."
"I suspect he would be a little more accepting."
"You do not know that. And I am not having a tantrum," Spock said.
"Then what is it? Embarrassment? A blow to your pride?"
"Vulcan pride has suffered," Spock said.
The doctor quieted, unable to dispute that.
"I will not return to Vulcan, regardless," Spock said. "Your theory that the Matriarch may change her mind is irrelevant."
"Then tell me," McCoy said.
The answer took a long time. "Our marriage contract does not include the clause concerning an heir."
The doctor dropped his gaze. He'd been slow on the mark too. "So it doesn't matter to the family line if you have a child. Because of your human blood? That's harsh. Honour should be more important than DNA."
"Starfleet service is not considered honourable. Either way…" he stopped.
McCoy used a guttural word he'd almost forgotten he knew.
"Why did you say yes to marrying?" Spock asked. "You are not bound by Vulcan code."
"I am because I interfered," McCoy said. "Jim should have died. By killing him in the challenge, you would have proven yourself Vulcan."
"I would have killed my friend."
McCoy looked over. He couldn't see the Vulcan's expression in the darkness, not that there would have been an expression, he supposed. "Spock," he said softly. "A Starship is once-in-a-lifetime. If you leave, you can't get back again. If you leave because of me, well, it would be high up on the list of things for which I wouldn't be able to forgive myself."
"I should stay so that you do not feel bad."
McCoy sighed. "Yes, you need to stay for my karma. The question is whether or not I stay."
"If you left, would that not affect my karma?"
McCoy was about to say, what do you know about karma, but it seemed an odd comment in the middle of all the meditating figures. "Spock, you don't need to decide now. You can resign anytime. Leave it for a while. We'll keep separate quarters. The marriage is our business, no one else's. Soon something new will come along to occupy the rumour mill."
There was a long pause. "I will agree to delay my decision, doctor," Spock said.
"There's one person who should be given the truth," McCoy said. "Christine." At the silence that greeted that remark, he added, "I'll tell her."
In the very early hours, McCoy walked into sickbay and startled the night staff. They offered congratulations, but he waved them off with, "Where's Nurse Chapel?"
She was in a lab attending to one of the dozen or so research projects that were always on the go. She paused, and then reluctantly put down her padd and stylus.
"Leonard, please accept my good wishes--"
"Chris," he interrupted. "Have a seat. I need to tell you something. And I need you to keep it to yourself."
He told her, and her expression changed from graciousness to concern. He finished by saying, "I should have spoken to you right away, but I've needed to recover from…shock. Plus I didn't think the news would get out."
Her lips tightened. "Leonard, my feelings towards Mr. Spock are professional, and I would never interfere. I came to terms long ago, long before he announced his marriage to T'Pring."
McCoy was remembering the plomeek soup. He caught the hurt in her eyes, but nodded as if he accepted her statement.
"And what of you?" she asked. "What if you meet someone? What if you fall in love?"
Not likely to happen, McCoy thought glumly. Out loud, he said, "I learned long ago to leave the future alone. No matter how hard you try, it will creep up behind you with something entirely unwanted."
Weeks went by. Slowly. Very little was said on the bulletin board about the Vulcan-Human marriage, though it would have been career suicide to say much considering that the ship's first officer held an A7 computer classification, could trace the source of any electronic posting, and had announced such in his own posting. That's not to say that whispered rumours didn't make the rounds. Speculations concerning Vulcan sexual practices ran especially high as it was a subject on which no one knew anything whatsoever. McCoy, for the first time in his life, found all conversation abruptly stopping whenever he entered a room. Every room. He took a lot of antacids and pretended not to notice. Spock had not-noticing down to an art. Wisely, Kirk kept whatever rumours reached his ears to himself. And as long as Kirk had no complaints, Starfleet, officially and unofficially, didn't care. Some bureaucrat notified Spock and McCoy that their military beneficiary pensions were now signed over, each to the other respectively, and that was the end of it.
Then, out of the blue, the Enterprise received diplomatic orders and returned to Vulcan. There was a conference - McCoy barely paid attention to these things - and the ship had been making pit stops to pick up stray Ambassadors here and there, but the trip to Vulcan made him anxious. Nothing good could come out of any visits to that planet.
The doctor was still tugging at his collar when he saw the Vulcan Ambassador and his wife emerge from the shuttlecraft. The Ambassador looked familiar, which McCoy wondered at. He'd met very few Vulcans in his life and knew for sure he'd never met this one. Yet something about the profile and the way the brows came over the eyes looked very familiar indeed.
He listened vaguely as Kirk and the Ambassador exchanged pleasantries. He was too busy trying to work out the curiosity. Then he saw the Ambassador's human wife and it hit him and he was thinking the name Sarek before it was spoken, and then he whirled around to Kirk but was too late to prevent the captain from saying to Spock, "Would you care to beam down and visit your parents?"
Spock, in an even flat tone that gave no hint of the ramrod-straight spine McCoy could sense even from five feet away, said merely, "Captain, Ambassador Sarek and his wife are my parents."
This isn't going to be good, McCoy thought. He waited, but neither Sarek nor Amanda took any special notice of him. Surely they knew, McCoy said to himself. I married your son, he said silently in their direction. But they went with the escort to their quarters without a second glance.
After they left, McCoy whispered to Spock behind Kirk's back, "Don't they know?"
"They have been informed, doctor," Spock said.
Kirk, trying to recover from his gaffe, latched onto the change of subject. "Are you talking about your marriage?"
"It is impolite to speak of personal family matters in public," Spock said to McCoy, still behind Kirk's back and forcing the captain to turn around if he wanted to take part in the conversation.
"You don't have to go to the reception tonight, Bones," Kirk said.
"I want to speak to the Lady Amanda," McCoy replied.
"Why?" Kirk asked worriedly.
"Just for my own interest," McCoy said. "I promise not to discuss any personal matters."
Kirk exchanged a look with Spock. However, McCoy stuck to his promise. Sarek and Amanda were polite, pleasant, and socially acceptable - Amanda rather more so than her husband - but they said nothing on the subject, so McCoy did the same. The only slip came when McCoy asked about Spock's childhood and Amanda answered him. Sarek quickly hurried her from the room.
Within two days, the Tellarite was murdered, Sarek had a heart attack, and Kirk was stabbed. McCoy was at his wit's end by the time Kirk forced his way back to the bridge in order to order Spock off of it.
In sickbay, McCoy prepared a hypo with the experimental Rigellian drug. He turned to face Spock who was lying placidly on a biobed. And hesitated.
"Leonard?" Spock asked.
McCoy didn't comment on the use of his first name, though he noted it. He set the hypo on a tray. "Spock, the risk…your father may die."
"He has consented."
"You may die."
"I surmise your skills are sufficient."
An actual compliment, McCoy thought wryly. "If I wanted to get out of the marriage, this would be the way to do it," he said, indicating the hypo. Then he sobered. "Spock, I've rarely performed heart surgery, and never on a Vulcan. This drug has side effects, probably more in your case as it's only been tested on Rigellians."
Spock propped himself on his elbows. "Are you refusing?"
"I'm saying I'm a little bit…scared," McCoy admitted. "Illogical, huh?"
"No, it is not," Spock said. He spoke impassively, with no special emphasis. He took the hypo and handed it to the doctor. "But it is illogical to delay."
When Kirk returned to sickbay later, McCoy was thoroughly haggard. Otherwise he would have picked up on how bad the captain looked.
Kirk walked into the recovery room where Spock, Sarek, and Amanda were talking. Sarek and Spock were propped up on biobeds, both looking as though they'd just weathered a typhoon, but they were talking casually. Amanda, hovering by Sarek's bed, smiled at the captain.
Kirk managed to give Spock an update before collapsing. McCoy strong-armed him into a biobed. Then the doctor did something that surprised even Kirk. He told everyone to shut up, including the Ambassador, and he meant it.
Kirk woke up later to find himself in a private room, McCoy drowsing in a chair at his side. "Bones," he said blearily. "That's not the way to endear yourself to your in-laws."
"Mine wasn't the only outburst in the room," McCoy retorted, stretching in the chair.
"Oh yeah. Amanda," Kirk said. "She said she was sick of logic, didn't she?"
"I'm with her," McCoy said. "How do you feel?"
"Like a Klingon Freighter full of hippos rolled over me. Then reversed and did it again. How's Sarek?"
"Pushing me to let him out of sickbay. I've refused. Spock's liver is working overtime, but I think that will settle once the drug is out of his system. M'Benga's performing the autopsy on your spy." McCoy checked the readings on the board over Kirk's head. "As for you, don't even bother to ask. You're staying here." He poured a cup of water out of a carafe and gave it to the captain. "If you're hungry, you can have clear broth or apple juice. Take your pick."
"Surprise me," Kirk grumbled.
McCoy settled back in his chair, legs stretched out in front of him. "Jim, what do you think of Spock's quarters?"
"Are you thinking of moving in?"
"Ha ha. Have you seen the figures?"
"He told me he collects them."
"They're from earth."
"Really? Well, his mother's from there. Maybe they have something to do with her." He took another sip of water before changing the subject. "Did you have to mind-meld?"
"No," McCoy said. "The purpose of that is to bring both sides together during the burning."
"Can you divorce?" Kirk's tone was odd. McCoy eyed him.
"Fidelity is not in our contract, so why would I? Anyone that wants him can have him."
Kirk didn't reply.
"Anyway, divorce is extremely rare on Vulcan. My life would have to be in peril from him and, even then, it's not a given," McCoy said.
"So you're stuck."
"It's not about me. It's about him," McCoy said. "My life hasn't changed. If I want to go out, I'll go. If I want to be with someone, then that's what I'll do. No one told me I had to sit around and brood. And I got a nice house out of the deal. Too bad it's on Vulcan."
"Jim, our notions of marriage don't apply here. It's not a romance. This is not a human marriage. This is a Vulcan one."
Pointedly, Kirk asked, "And Sarek and Amanda?"
"Have a human marriage," McCoy replied. "Sarek chose her; the family didn't. After Spock rejected T'Pring, Sarek refused to arrange another betrothal. I suspect he wanted to give Spock the same, the right to choose - from what I've heard, he's a bit illogical when it comes to his son - but T'Pau was alarmed. Nothing against Amanda, in fact it's a credit to her, but, because of the way he strong-armed her in, Sarek barely got her accepted. Then the family took another knock when T'Pring chose the challenge. Any further acts of dissent by Spock would have been too much. T'Pau would have been forced to disown Spock to save honour. She decided to arrange a traditional marriage quickly, but dared not take the risk that a Vulcan house would reject her offer."
"All very logical," Kirk said dubiously.
"At the heart of it, the Vulcan marriage tradition isn't logical."
"So that's it," Kirk said. "You're married, but it doesn't have to make any difference whatsoever. You do whatever you want, the same as before. It wouldn't be my choice. It becomes…nothing. It's like nothing happened."
A whistle from the intercom interrupted them. McCoy hit the switch. "Sickbay.
"Doctor, we've received a communication from Vulcan. Is the captain awake?" Uhura asked.
"Yes," Kirk called.
"Vulcan sends its regards," Uhura said. "They are sending an adjutant to step in for Ambassador Sarek during his recovery. The adjutant will take direction from the Ambassador, but will attend functions in his place. His shuttle will arrive at twenty-one fifty hours. Shall I acknowledge?"
"Yes, Captain, and, sir, speedy recovery."
"Thank you, Lieutenant."
She switched off.
"I should meet that shuttle. It's protocol," Kirk said.
"Bullshit," McCoy retorted.
|Story continues in Ox
Forgotten, Self Alone |
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