|SEEKING THE OX
by K.V. Wylie
"A mind all logic is like a knife all blade. It makes the hand bleed that uses it."
McCoy was holding his breath. Things never ended this neatly. Newton's reaction for every action, the balance of karma, whatever it was called, was the way it went. Somehow, somewhere, the other shoe had to drop.
Yet life on the Enterprise went on. Artificially induced days and nights turned their rotations. Spock was Spock, though the fight with Kirk had quieted him somewhat. He was a shade or two off, but nothing else. His hormones were back at their extremely low level, if they even existed any more. He moved with his same quiet grace.
Kirk continued on his path, shaking off the effects of a drug-induced coma and a homicidal first officer as easily as if it were all a speck of dust.
Yet McCoy felt uneasy. So when an official transmission came from Vulcan, he was ironically relieved. Finding that it had come from T'Pau justified his faith that the universe was always one rat's ass away from flattening him.
"I have no idea what it's about," Kirk said, standing in the doorway to McCoy's office. He'd brought the message down himself. It was that unusual. "Your eyes only. I'm not allowed to see it. May I remind you, McCoy, whose ship you're on?" Kirk asked, but the teasing was masked by concern.
"What did Spock say?" McCoy asked, looking at the tape as if it contained plague. Kirk had to actually put it on the desk before him.
"He said nothing," Kirk said. "He's got to be curious."
After a few minutes, he added, "Bones."
"All right." McCoy put the tape into the reader. Kirk would have left, but the doctor gestured him in.
The captain perched on the edge of the desk as McCoy angled the viewer so that they could both see it. The tape started, briefly displayed the Vulcan Planetary Seal, and then demanded voice recognition.
"Leonard McCoy," the doctor said.
A stern Vulcan male appeared on the screen. "I am Sapok, adjutant to V'ell en T'Pau. You are directed to appear before Her Regent. A ship will rendezvous with U.S.S. Enterprise on Stardate 3373.4. Bring any personal items you require for your comfort. Transmission ends."
The screen darkened. Both men stared at it.
"What the hell was that?" McCoy said.
"I don't like it," Kirk said. "I'll take this starship back to Vulcan before I let you go back there alone."
"If you go in with guns blazing, T'Pau might get the idea that you read the message too," McCoy pointed out.
"She can hardly expect that my Chief Medical Officer would go AWOL onto a Vulcan ship and I wouldn't get the gist of it," Kirk said. "You're not going alone, McCoy. She's probably pissed off because you faked my death and snubbed ten thousand years of tradition."
"That would make someone cranky," McCoy said. "Jim, I've broken a code and I have to face that on my own two feet."
"You broke it on my behalf."
"And Spock's," McCoy said. "I need to have my pride in front of T'Pau. I need to go alone."
But when the ship came, McCoy found Spock in the docking bay beside him. The Vulcan had a duffle bag.
"What is this?" McCoy asked.
"I have also been summoned," Spock said.
"You might have mentioned that during the last two days while I've been worrying about this," McCoy said brusquely. "Do you know what it's about?"
"I know no more than you do."
The pilot was a formidable Vulcan. Spock silenced and remained so. McCoy sat in the back of the craft and gazed out a portal, his mind imagining punishments and sentences, both extreme and ludicrous. By the time they docked he was weary, but they were given no time to rest. He and Spock were met by two flyers and whisked in different directions. Spock's flyer bore his family symbol. McCoy's was unmarked and fast.
The flyer landed in a vast yard behind an austere, sandstone house. Night was falling and McCoy's path to the door was lit by one of Vulcan's moons. He would have appreciated the scenery if he had any idea where he was or who or what was meeting him.
The door opened at his approach and Sapok stood there.
"Leonard McCoy," McCoy said, and added quickly, "Doctor Leonard McCoy."
"This way, Doctor, please." Sapok gestured down a hallway.
"Whose house am I in?" McCoy asked.
"You are in the home of V'ell en T'Pau," Sapok replied. "Her Regent requested that a room be prepared for you. She awaits your company at second light tomorrow morning."
"Oh," McCoy said. "What time would that be exactly?"
"An aide will attend you," Sapok said. He opened a door. "Doctor."
The door swished shut the moment McCoy stepped into the room. He was alone.
He sank into a chair, letting his bag drop to the floor at his feet. Second light is when? he wondered. There was no chronometer in the room, nothing to give him any indication of the time except perhaps the window.
He got up and turned off the polarized screens. The window faced the back. Moonlight flooded into the room.
A bed stood in the corner. Chairs and small shelves occupied most of the rest of the area. A desk and vid-monitor sat near another doorway. He glanced through it and found the refresher.
McCoy checked the vid. News feeds were running and a communication service was available. One of the channels allowed a Starfleet connection. He tried the door. It opened at his approach. He was neither isolated nor imprisoned. In fact, the suite was rather nice.
Which explained why, ten seconds after using the refresher and getting into bed, he was fast asleep.
A chime at the door awakened him. A woman came in with a tray as he sat up groggily.
"Doctor," she said as she set the tray on a table beside him.
"What time is it?"
"It is first light." She withdrew before he could ask who she was.
"First light. How helpful," he mumbled. However, he couldn't fault the service. The tray was filled with various fruits, toasts, and teas.
He ate slowly but nervously, his ears twitching to hear any sound in the house around him. Afterwards he showered and dressed in civilian clothes. He would face T'Pau not behind a Starfleet uniform but as himself.
Sapok came for him when the sun was midway up the horizon. "Doctor, attend."
McCoy followed him down another hall and into a side yard of desert sand and benches. T'Pau was sitting on one of the benches, waiting for him with a shrouded look.
"Doctor," she said.
"Ma'am," he replied.
"You may sit."
McCoy took a bench against the wall of the house so that he wouldn't have to look at both her and the sun at the same time. Sapok moved behind T'Pau and stood.
She had dropped the formal thee and thou, McCoy noticed. He wondered if that was good or bad.
"The room is nice. Thank you," McCoy said.
T'Pau continued studying him. McCoy returned her gaze.
"Doctor Leonard H. McCoy, born of Earth, Legion of Honour, Academy of Medicine Medal of Distinction, University of Danula Nebula Award twice." Without skipping a beat, T'Pau added, "Explain to me why Kirk lives."
McCoy blinked. "Uh, are we talking about the Kal-if-fee?"
T'Pau didn't answer.
McCoy mentally sighed. Of course. What else would this be about?
"I gave Captain Kirk a drug that simulated death."
"I am aware of your deception," T'Pau said. "Explain why."
"Captain Kirk didn't have to die. Spock only had to believe that he had. I chose the drug because it allowed both men to survive, it allowed a Vulcan to win the challenge, and it prevented T'Pring from being rejected by a non-Vulcan."
"Your request was made when it was apparent that Kirk would lose," T'Pau pointed out. "T'Pring was not a factor at that point. Also false was your belief that Vulcan pride would suffer if Spock lost."
"Maybe I did it to save the captain's backside," McCoy admitted. "I know it was deceptive and maybe it wasn't logical. I just…I didn't want Spock to have to live knowing he'd killed someone he held dear."
He abruptly shut up, realizing he'd accused Spock of emotionalism. Sapok looked down at the ground.
"Our traditions have meanings that are not always logical," T'Pau said. "Your world has ways I do not understand, but I abided by them when I was there."
McCoy nodded. "I am sorry."
"Do you speak the truth, McCoy?"
He stood. "Yes, ma'am."
"And if similar circumstances should come up again?"
"I doubt they would. Captain Kirk will not be taking on any more challenges. And I've been reading about Vulcan customs, as much of them as I'm able to get information on," McCoy said.
"I know of your recent requests to the Vulcan Consulate," T'Pau said. "You did not answer my question. If similar circumstances should come up again, what will you do?"
Reluctantly and warily, he said, "I will respect your traditions."
McCoy waited. Finally T'Pau nodded.
Sapok looked up and said, "Doctor, please sit."
McCoy did so slowly.
"I have considered Spock's position," T'Pau said. "His father will not speak, so the responsibility now becomes mine. His future must be determined."
"Is that why he was brought here too?" McCoy asked.
"He awaits me at my sister-kin's house. He awaits you as well."
McCoy frowned, feeling something coming. The universe's other shoe. Something stabbed his chest and he discovered he was holding his breath. "Why is he waiting for me, ma'am?"
"He is waiting to be married to you."
McCoy's vision skewered. T'Pau was suddenly down a tunnel. The sun pounded his head.
He grabbed the rough stone edges of the bench beneath him and said, "He's waiting for what?"
"You may refuse," T'Pau said. "However Spock will not be betrothed to a Vulcan. He won the challenge, yet rejected the woman he had promised to accept. His human blood is a slight difficulty, but his entry into Starfleet service has deemed him undesirable to other family houses. You are in Starfleet service so that consideration is not a factor to you. I would assume that human blood presents no difficulty for you."
"You're also assuming that Spock's going to be ok with this."
"If he is Vulcan, he will submit."
McCoy gaped at her. She was so steady. T'Pau had just, so to speak, dropped a battleship on his ass, and yet she sat there as if she'd only asked him what he was doing about lunch.
"But I can say no," McCoy said, looking for a little ground to cling to.
"You may, though you have just promised to respect our traditions."
That's low, McCoy thought. He'd walked into it though. He'd stood there all sincere and repentant and walked into a pit. The old battleaxe.
Some small bit of grim humour remained. He would love to see Spock's face when this news was delivered to him.
Then another thought occurred to him. "Ma'am, I don't know if I'm allowed to talk about this or not-"
"About Pon Farr. I'm sure I've seen the smallest bit of it, and even that was, well-"
"If you marry Spock, he will have the choice of seeking a surrogate," T'Pau said.
"He doesn't have that option now?"
"Unmarried men may not. They are expected to marry, but a mate who is physically unable to bear the burden of the Plak-Tow is not required to do so. You need only give permission for a surrogate, and Spock will survive his Time."
"I understand," McCoy said softly. It was a cheat, but a good one. No other Vulcan would have Spock, but T'Pau had found a way for him to marry under the traditions and live.
"May I ask, why me?" McCoy said.
"Spock has established a relationship with you and with Kirk, evidenced by his bringing you to his wedding. Kirk is not desirable because, true or not, he has a reputation of numerous dealings with women, and he accepted T'Pring's challenge out of pride and without understanding the consequences. You are suitable. Your decision to intervene was based in compassion. While illogical, I cannot fault it. You then returned here to accept responsibility. Your background reveals a previous relationship with another male."
"How-?" McCoy started before managing to stop himself. "That was a rather thorough check."
"You will be given dual-citizenship and rights under Vulcan law, and become part of a respected Family House. What is your answer?"
"I would appreciate a moment to think." McCoy loosened his hold on the bench. "Does it matter what I say? The choice is Spock's. He's an adult and he can marry who he wants if he decides not to follow tradition."
Sapok looked appalled somehow. T'Pau's look hardened.
"A Vulcan would not marry off-world," she said.
McCoy thought of ten different retorts he could make, and then remembered that he was speaking to his future something-or-other-in-law.
"I accept," he said, which appalled him as well.
T'Pau glanced at Sapok. He nodded once and went into the house.
"Now what happens?" McCoy asked worriedly.
"We have tea," T'Pau said, "and I will explain Vulcan social customs to you."
Her explanation took almost the rest of the day. A crash course in Vulcan etiquette was not an easy thing to bear. McCoy withstood it, deciding that there would be some sort of ceremony and he didn't want to embarrass himself. He didn't want to embarrass Spock either. He figured the humiliation of being married off to a human male was bad enough.
McCoy was finally given a break when the daylight started to wane. He was returned to his room where a meal had been set out for him. A little while later when the first moon was rising, Sapok came to his door.
"Are you coming in or am I going somewhere else now?" McCoy asked tiredly.
Sapok entered the room and set a case down on a shelf. "V'ell en T'Pau requests that you wear this to the joining tomorrow."
McCoy opened the case. Inside was a deep blue coloured robe. Complex symbols crossed over the chest and around each sleeve.
"It's beautiful," McCoy said.
"This robe is from V'ell en T'Pau. The Regent's sister kin will each bring a gift for you tomorrow."
McCoy tried to remember if there was something he was supposed to do in return or if the subject of wedding gifts had even come up. "On Earth, we send thank you cards. What do I do here?"
"The same," Sapok said. "You acknowledge either in person or in a personal message."
McCoy carefully folded the robe and returned it to the case. "This is, of course, if Spock says yes." He glanced at Sapok. "He doesn't have much choice, does he?"
To McCoy's surprise, Sapok said, "No, he does not."
"If this next question is out of line, you'll have to forgive me, but Spock has human blood. From his mother?"
"Was Spock's father forced?"
"No," Sapok said. "While engaged in diplomatic duties on Earth, Ambassador Sarek requested a human woman as his wife."
Ambassador, McCoy noted. "What's her name?"
"The Lady Amanda."
"Have you met her?" McCoy asked.
Sapok inclined his head once. "She is acceptable."
"Will Spock's parents be at the joining?"
"They have been informed, but I believe Ambassador Sarek's duties may prevent their attendance."
Spock's parents hadn't shown up for the debacle with T'Pring. The blitzkrieg of rules McCoy had been inundated with today had shown one thing pretty clearly – a Vulcan's duty to his family trumped everything else. Sarek should have been there.
"V'ell en T'Pau has instructed me to," Sapok paused, "Keep you company. Is this the correct human term?"
"Yeah," McCoy managed a smile. "But if you have other things on the ball, that's ok."
He watched Sapok manoeuvre through the slang. It was almost as much fun as when he did it to Spock.
"It is satisfactory to remain with you," Sapok said at last. "Do you have a preference of activities?"
"We could go for a walk," McCoy suggested. He felt too jumpy to sit inside.
Sapok gestured towards the hallway.
They went out a door into a courtyard and then through a gate to a street. There were no flyers out, but quite a few Vulcans. Apparently an evening stroll was a logical form of recreation.
Sapok was interesting. They talked about Earth (Sapok was curious about oceans) and Shakespeare (they'd seen many of the same plays). McCoy found out that Sapok was married and had three grown children. He was related to Spock in some convoluted way through several series of cousins and marriages.
They returned to the house when the moons were high overhead. At the door to his room, McCoy said, "Thank you. I appreciated your company."
"As I did yours, Doctor," Sapok said.
The moment he was gone, McCoy was left alone with his thoughts. He considered calling Jim, but wasn't sure what he could say that wouldn't cause the captain to come charging in.
He got into bed. A restless hour later, he pulled a chair over to a window and looked out, his head propped on one hand.
He was somehow drowsing in that position when Sapok came for him the next morning.
"Don't you ever get to go home?" McCoy asked.
"I have been to my home and returned," Sapok said. His manner with McCoy was easier now. McCoy was sure he detected a trace of humour.
"Am I getting married today?"
"Yes, Leonard. K'or Spock will be in attendance at second light."
"Were you there when he was told of, uh, his impending nuptials?"
"I delivered the Regent's request," Sapok said.
"How did he take it?"
"K'or Spock is a Vulcan," Sapok replied. "With your permission, I will assist with the belt to your robe. It must be tied in the proper way."
"Let me get cleaned up first," McCoy said. He took a quick sonic shower and put on some light clothing, then the robe. Sapok tied the belt and took McCoy to a room that looked part living room, part office.
T'Pau sat behind a desk. On sofas before her were two elderly Vulcan women.
McCoy bowed to them. They were introduced as T'Pau's sister kin. Then Spock came in.
He didn't say anything to McCoy. His bearing was ghastly and silent. McCoy had never seen him so rigid.
Sapok retrieved two boxes from a table behind them and opened one to reveal a silver ring. He presented the box to McCoy. "A gift for your wedding, Leonard McCoy, and a welcome."
"I accept it with honour," McCoy said.
Sapok opened the other box. Inside was a fire pot decorated with green gems. "A gift for your wedding, and recognition."
"I receive it with honour." McCoy glanced at Spock. The latter was staring at a spot on a wall.
"Come before me," T'Pau said. McCoy moved in front of her desk. Spock did the same, his attention still on the wall.
"Marriage is a contract," T'Pau said. "In your union, two demands of the common contract will not apply, those concerning children and the location of the family home. Those demands have been removed from your agreement."
She picked up a document from her desk and began reading in formal Vulcan. Sapok moved beside McCoy and quietly repeated her words in Standard.
A blur of panic went over McCoy. His ears filled and he took several rough breaths as T'Pau said something about family honour and personal conduct. Afterwards, McCoy would barely remember signing, and he had no idea how he ended up alone in the garden with Spock.
A small breeze lifted a corner of his robe. He leaned into it gratefully before sitting on a bench. Spock stood several feet away, looking over the desert beyond the back wall.
"I can hardly believe this happened," McCoy said.
Spock didn't answer.
"I don't know T'Pau came up with it. I wouldn't have thought of it myself."
"Spock," McCoy said. Very slowly, Spock turned.
"I don't know what I can do," McCoy said. "I don't know how any of this will work or what you'll need, but I promise to try and do all that I can."
Spock's cool look unnerved the doctor.
"I'm surprised she didn't choose Jim, McCoy said. "I can't imagine what he's going to say when he hears about this."
"There is no need to inform the captain," Spock said.
McCoy frowned. "Why not?"
"Nothing has changed between us. This union will not interfere with any intimate contacts that you or I have now. My next…time will not involve you. There will be a surrogate."
"Don't get pissy with me. This wasn't my idea," McCoy said.
"You could have refused. Your human concern is misplaced."
"Fine. And you might remember something before you open your mouth again. I haven't actually agreed yet to a surrogate. Your life is still waiting on my say-so."
"There is no need to be illogical."
"And there's no need to be an asshole." McCoy got up and went into the house. It took him a moment to figure out the way to his room and he had almost made it there when Sapok came down the hallway from the other end.
"May I assist you?" Sapok asked. He had several data tapes in his hand and was clearly on his way to do something.
"The honeymoon's over," McCoy said. He went into his room. To his surprise, Sapok came to the doorway. "I don't want to make you late to wherever you have to go," McCoy added.
"A delay will not impede my duties, Leonard," Sapok said.
"Not to be an ungrateful houseguest, but I need to get back to my work on the Enterprise."
"I will schedule a shuttle," Sapok said. "You should take your leave of V'ell en T'Pau."
"Thank you," McCoy said. "You've been good to me, Sapok."
"Your presence has been agreeable," Sapok said. He left, and McCoy began packing.
|Story continues in Catching
the Ox |
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