by K.V. Wylie

And how we'd wished to live in the sensual world,
You don't need words - just one kiss, then another,
Stepping out of the page into the sensual world...
--Kate Bush

"Do you ache?" Spock asked in a whisper.

Spock and McCoy were in the Vulcan's apartment in Vulcana Regar.  It was night time.  McCoy was just stepping out of the shower which he, like Spock before him, had taken with only indistinct illumination from a skylight overhead to see by. 

Spock hadn't turned on any lamps since they'd arrived twenty minutes ago and, until his three-word question, hadn't spoken either.  McCoy didn't know the layout of the apartment, other than the route from entrance to washroom.  The Vulcan's voice coming out of the darkness startled him badly.

"Do I ache?" McCoy repeated softly.  Then he realized he could feel something, a hunger he finally identified as coming from Spock.

Out loud, unsteadily, McCoy replied, "Yes, I'm aching.  I'm cold too.  It feels like influenza."  He wrapped his arms around himself.  If this was how Spock had felt on the ship, no wonder he'd gone to Gol.

He could just make out the Vulcan's form nearing him.  With a slight touch, Spock guided the doctor into another room.   The bedroom, McCoy discovered, when the Vulcan laid him down and covered his body with his own.

Spock kissed him, giving him hard, drawing kisses that tugged and pulled his skin.  He might end up bruised, but the Vulcan was starved and so McCoy did nothing to protect himself.  Spock moved like a seeking incubus...sucking, biting, and pressing McCoy into the mattress until the bed groaned.

Arousal prickled through McCoy.  He grabbed the Vulcan and bucked up, needing Spock to stay in one spot so he could rub against the scorching skin.  His penis hit Spock's, then slid off to the side.  He moaned in frustration before reaching down.  He found Spock's stiff organ and held it while he pushed his own against it again and again.

The Vulcan's cock pulsed in his hand, and began spurting ejaculate.

Spock stilled and asked, "...may I...?"

McCoy understood because he was still holding Spock's organ and it had stayed erect.  He replied by spreading his legs.

The Vulcan entered him so slowly that McCoy's thighs shook from trying to hold the position.  And McCoy was holding his breath for Spock felt much wider than he was.

When Spock was in as far as McCoy thought he could go, the Vulcan paused, then pushed a single millimeter more.

McCoy came, cramping around the intrusion, an edge of pain dancing on the pleasure.

Spock waited, motionless, until McCoy said, "...all right..."

The Vulcan took him slowly, in contrast to his earlier frenzy, speaking half-formed words in a language the doctor didn't know.  When they were ready, their crises came in a quiet wave.

Afterwards, Spock rolled beside McCoy and caressed him, silently and for a long time.  The doctor fell asleep to it.

When McCoy woke, it was still night.  Spock slept beside him, body coiled and ready to spring.  The Vulcan skin was hot as well, too hot to lie beside.  The doctor eased out of bed and went to a window.

Wind hammered the pane, pitching sand in violent bursts.  He didn't know much about Vulcan weather.  He assumed a storm was coming, or else this was one, sand being the planet's equivalent to rain.

McCoy pressed his forehead against the cool polymer.  In the space of one day, everything had changed.  Spock's simple declaration, "I need you," had propelled McCoy into this room, this moment, this place he was standing, a place he'd wanted for years without hope.

His heart thumped, reminding him to breathe.  McCoy drew in air and some sweat trickling down his lip, before turning to look at Spock.

Reality almost overwhelmed him.  He had been in bed with this man, this mysterious and beautiful Vulcan.  Had touched him, made love, gasped out his name.  McCoy wanted to call up everyone he knew and tell them, but he also wanted to keep it a secret, a joy he could hold onto that was his alone.

The doctor returned to the bed, sitting lightly on the edge of it.  The Vulcan was restless in his sleep; he'd already moved into the spot where McCoy had been, and was inching forward again.  Something was bothering Spock.  McCoy could feel it.

He blinked.  His telepathic ability was almost zilch.  He'd also felt the Vulcan's physical need for him earlier, though at the time, he'd been too occupied to wonder how.

Spock woke with a jump.  McCoy put his hand on him.

"It's just me.  Nightmare?"

The Vulcan relaxed under the doctor's touch.  "Vulcans do not dream."

"No?"  McCoy didn't know that.  "What's wrong?  You were sleeping as if waiting to be attacked."

"That will pass," Spock said.

"And I could feel it.  In me."

Spock turned on a small light, then took McCoy's hands in his.  "We are starting to meld.  I did not think it would begin without active intent on our part."

"I'm not complaining," McCoy assured him.  "I just wanted to know, which brings me to this other point regarding the way you sleep.  What, exactly, will pass?"

"When Vulcans first take a mate, there is a period of time during which we need to be in constant physical contact."  He met McCoy's eyes, who responded with a grin.

"Still not complaining," the doctor said.

The Vulcan smiled, a small smile that looked peculiar on his face.

"Humans say love," Spock said.  "Vulcans say k'rerl.  Need."

McCoy liked the sound of that word, for it came out like a growl.  He repeated it back, but Spock shook his head.

"The accent is on the second syllable."

"Say it," McCoy said.

Spock smiled again before leaning forward to kiss McCoy.

"Uh uh," McCoy managed.  "Say it."  But the Vulcan was drawing him down onto the bed, putting him back underneath him.

"Sp...ock!" the doctor gasped as Spock nuzzled his neck.

The Vulcan murmured a stream of Vulcan words as he moved down McCoy's body.

"" McCoy started, but abruptly shut up when Spock sucked his cock into his mouth.

When McCoy woke the second time, it was morning.  The wind outside had settled and the bed was empty beside him.  He found a robe in the closet, and was just putting it on when he noticed that the curtains had been torn off the window.

Violently.  The remains of the drapes lay in tatters on the floor.

McCoy glanced at the washroom.


Then he looked towards the door.

He couldn't hear anything.  Nor could he 'sense' anything was wrong.

So what was the deal with the drapes?

He went into the hall and glanced into a sub-bedroom which was beside the bigger suite.

Empty, but the curtains had been torn from the rod as well.

McCoy found the kitchen and a hallway which led to a balcony.  Finally, he came to the master room.  Spock was here, sitting on the floor and pouring a slow stream of water from a large bowl into a smaller one.

Approaching warily, he asked, "What are you doing?"

"A simple exercise," Spock said.  "It is my habit to meditate upon arising, but I was unable to do so this morning.  This is a drill I learned as a child.  It prepares the mind."

Seven bowls were lined up before the Vulcan.  When he had poured half of the water from the bowl in his hand into a smaller bowl on the floor, he set down the first dish, picked up the second, and repeated the action into a third.

When all of the bowls had water in them, Spock sat back and sighed.

"It's not gonna work, is it?" McCoy commented.

Spock shook his head.  "You are too near to me."

"I could leave," McCoy said, but the Vulcan answered quickly.

"I prefer your presence."

"Well, while we're sitting here being in each other's presence, would you mind telling me why you ripped all the coverings off the windows?"

"It is a sign of celebration, Leonard.  I am announcing that I have found my marrow.  My heart.  My mate."

McCoy eyed him.  "Spock, I have a feeling these Vulcan customs are going to keep biting me on the ass."

Spock wasn't sure what that meant.  The literal translation sounded a little horrifying, actually.  "Perhaps if you engaged in a similar human custom, you would feel better?"

"I don't think there's a human custom regarding what you do the day after you get laid.  Other than calling all your buddies to brag."  He sat down beside Spock.  "I don't mean that what we did was the same as getting lucky on a date.  Last night felt like a wedding night."

Spock stroked McCoy's cheek,  "We are not married by Vulcan standards, though I have declared serious intent by exposing the windows.  If I understand human traditions correctly, we are not married on your world either."

"That can be changed on my world by a couple of vows, however I'm concerned about what we need to do here.  How violent is it?"

"A union is recognized when witnessed by the matriarch of the family.  In my family, that person is T'Pau.  Normally, this happens when the male enters Pon Farr and lays with his wife within the mating arena on his family's land."

"Excuse me?  I am not going to bonk you in front of T'Pau."


"You know," McCoy made a motion in the direction of the bedrooms.

"It is how my father married my mother," Spock said.

"Tell me there's another way."

"There is no other way, Leonard, unless we wish to live unmarried.  I would prefer to declare you."  Spock stood, and extended a hand to McCoy.  "Let's have some breakfast, and continue this conversation later."

McCoy grumbled as he rose.  "We can talk to high heaven, but I'm old fashioned about certain things."

Spock cocked his head to the side.  "So am I."

They ate lightly.  Spock seemed too high strung to eat, and McCoy was still pondering the whole business with T'Pau.  Afterwards, when the Vulcan tried to lead the doctor back to the bedroom, McCoy balked.

"Without curtains?  Absolutely not.  Anybody could look in."

"No Vulcan would," Spock said.

"No way, Spock," McCoy stated.

The compromise was sex in the shower stall.

Afterwards, sore but happy, McCoy said, "Let's call Jim and tell him.  How much would the call be from here?"

"Do not worry about that," Spock said.  He'd dressed and was already at a comm unit.  McCoy pulled on some clothes and sat beside him.

Static from Vejur almost made the call impossible, and the connection did a brownout while Kirk's aide was transferring it.  When Kirk picked up, the interference made it look as if he had a halo.

"Spock, I thought you were returning to Gol," Kirk said.  He glanced at McCoy.  "Or did you take Bones with you?"

"He's not going to the mountain," McCoy said.

"The doctor changed my mind," Spock said.  Out of sight of the video transmitter, he put his hand on McCoy's thigh.

"I have to tell you I'm glad to hear it," Kirk admitted.  "Though I know it was important to you, Spock.  Anyway, I don't know if you have other plans, but Starfleet Academy could really use you.  Both of you."

"We're going to take some time for ourselves right now," McCoy said.  "Which brings me to why we called."

"Dr. McCoy and I are planning to marry," Spock said.

Quickly, McCoy interjected, "We haven't gotten that far, but we are going to live in sin."

Kirk was gaping at them.  "The bandwidth interference is worse than I thought.  Did you say you were getting married?"

"Yes," Spock replied.

"To who?"

"Jim," Spock said.  "To each other."

It took Kirk a moment.  Finally, he leaned back in his chair and laughed until he had to wipe his eyes.

"Jim?" McCoy asked.

"Good God...Spock, Bones...!" Kirk managed as he tried to catch his breath.

"We're not joking," the doctor said.

"I know," Kirk said.  "I can tell by the looks on your faces.  Five years with the two of you and, I swear, I did not see this coming.  Have you told anyone else?"

"Not yet," Spock said uncertainly.

"The two of you are going to set up one hell of an interesting household, that's for sure," Kirk mused.  "I hope I'm invited to the ceremony."

McCoy had a sudden vision of both T'Pau and Kirk witnessing the consummation in the arena, and went green.

"This is none of my business, but, when did the two of you decide to get together?" Kirk asked.  "Was it on the ship?  Because I sure as hell missed it."

"It is...recent," Spock said.

At his sober tone, Kirk stopped laughing.  "I can't think of a single person I could tell this to who would believe me."

"Uhura," McCoy said.

Kirk peered at them.  "Yes, I suppose she would," he said in an apologetic tone.

"Sulu, Scotty, Chekov, Christine.  They'd all believe you," McCoy said, "and they're all at your end.  Uhura teaches in the building next to yours.  She and Scotty should be back from their trip by now."

"I will let everyone know," Kirk said.  "And, congratulations.  When's the wedding day?"

"We're still working on that," McCoy answered.  "It might be years."  He said goodbye and ended the transmission quickly, just in case Spock already had a date in mind.

"You do not wish our acquaintances to celebrate with us?" Spock asked.

"Would that entail an orgy?  Because, in that case, no."

"Recognition by the matriarch is a private observance, with only T'Pau and a neutral witness present."


"Outside either family and not a close friend," Spock said.  "I thought the human wedding custom involved a celebration."

"With our clothes on," McCoy emphasized, and Spock found himself needing to overcome an urge to laugh.

"Of course, Leonard."

"Then, sure, I'm all for a party, as long as everybody's dressed, and no one that I know or will ever see again is the neutral witness.  And the party's the only part anyone's invited to."  McCoy paused as he thought of something.  "Spock, are you able to just show up at your parents' doorstep again?  When you went to Gol, your family buried you."

"T'Pau need only give permission for my return to the family.  I must also compensate my father for the cost of the funeral."

"It was a big, elaborate affair.  There was a parade," McCoy said.  "With elephants."

Spock stared at him.

McCoy grinned.  "Got you."  He gave the Vulcan a kiss before standing.  "I have an idea about your bowls of water.  C'mere."

They returned to the master room.  McCoy dumped all of the water back into the first bowl, then stacked them and carried them to a spot in front of a window.

He sat down and, as he lined the bowls back up again, said, "Earlier, when I said we could have a party as long as everyone was dressed, I got the feeling you found that funny."

Spock sat down on the other side of the bowls from McCoy.  "Perhaps," he said reluctantly.

"So you hid that from me?"

The Vulcan met the blue eyes.  "Am I being chastised?"

"Yes," McCoy said gently.  "About this exercise with the water, the Buddhists have something similar.  This sunbeam will be our altar."  He ran a hand through a shaft of sunlight, then moved the full bowl into it.

Blinking under the sudden, sparkling reflection off the water, Spock said, "An altar is a podium set higher than the floor."

"An altar is any holy spot.  In my faith, light is the source of creation," McCoy said.  "So it's holy."

He touched his forehead, neck, and chest.  Spock mirrored the actions as the doctor continued, "In this light are waves and photons, spinning and dancing in an ancient flight that began when the universe was born.  Each wave carries a message of how everything began, how the heavens opened, how the stars exploded, and when man drew his first breath."

His voice, low and resonating with the accent of earth, centered Spock.  The warmth of sun on Spock's back and the sound of the doctor's familiar voice were tangibles to focus on and draw towards.

So when McCoy reached for the first bowl, Spock simultaneously reached, and was not surprised at the synchronicity.

"Slowly," the doctor whispered.

Their hands touched on the rim, and poured together.

"The Buddha teaches that our thoughts must be only on the water and the movement of the bowls.  Nothing else," McCoy said.  "The first bowl is returned to the altar as an offering of light and water.  Now we lift the second bowl."

Which they did, their fingers almost interlaced.  As they were pouring the final bowl, McCoy paused, then said in surprise, "Our hearts...they're beating in the same rhythm!"

Spock had stilled, his fingers still entwined with McCoy's on the edge of the dish.

"I can hear you," McCoy added.  "Inside."

"Convergence," Spock half-said, half-thought.

"If I let go?" McCoy asked.

"Do so," the Vulcan told him.

McCoy pulled away, breaking physical contact with Spock.  "'re still there..." he said, awed with the discovery.

"We have joined," Spock said, delighted for it had happened easily.


Inside, between them, Spock replied, perhaps we have been preparing for this for years

McCoy didn't know how to make unspoken words.

you will learn Spock assured him.

The doctor closed his eyes and explored tentatively inward.  The Vulcan's presence was yielding, unthreatening, like a blanket of beautiful velvet within arm's reach.

don't be afraid, leonard

"I'm not."

Spock smiled.  McCoy didn't need to see it.  He could feel it.

always your choice, i will be careful with you

McCoy pressed against the 'thereness' of the Vulcan.  "K'rerl," he said.

accent on the second syllable, leonard

"Whatever," McCoy murmured.  "Loving you brings a different meaning of intimacy."  He was getting giddy off the link.  "After having this, how can any Vulcan stand to be alone?"

i do not know, i have never experienced this before

"You were betrothed before."

betrothed, but never allowed

"Allowed," McCoy echoed.  He opened his eyes and saw the Vulcan still sitting in the sunbeam across the row of bowls.  "You're allowed with me."

They moved the dishes out of the way and made love in the sunshine.

Wind hit McCoy as he and Spock stood outside T'Pau's door, waiting for entry.  McCoy had been buffeted by gusts every time he'd been at T'Pau's.  He was starting to think of the air currents as a presence of their own, an invisible flock of flapping wings preceding the matriarch.

The thought gave him a chill.

The door was answered by a teenage houseboy.  "The old lady has been waiting for you," he said in common street-colloquial.

McCoy, taken aback, asked, "She has?"

"She said that the human doctor would be back with a dead man.  The regular staff told her they couldn't be paid enough for that."  He gave McCoy an appraising look.  "The old lady has some idea about you."

"Which is?" Spock queried, but the young man only shook his head and led them to a room at the back of the house.

When they were alone, McCoy said to Spock, "I get the feeling we were expected."

"Indeed," Spock said softly.  "Expected, but only you were acknowledged."

"I didn't know you'd called her."

"I didn't."

Thoroughly spooked, McCoy quieted.

They were in a room the doctor hadn't seen before.  It felt part-greenhouse, part-museum.  Symmetrical rows of plants flanked large pillars, artwork gleamed from the walls, and chairs were grouped in the middle of the room.  Beside the largest chair, a small fire burned in a brazier.

Underneath the only window was a large, bare dais on which McCoy felt a sculpture should be sitting.  The raised platform bothered him, especially when he realized that all of the seats were angled towards it.

He opened his mouth to ask Spock about it, but the sound of movement behind him caused him to turn instead.

T'Pau was entering the room, braced with a cane and the shoulder of the houseboy.  The teenager led her to the big chair and helped her settle.  Then he took a spot behind her and stood guard.

"Good afternoon, Madam," McCoy said.

T'Pau nodded at him.

McCoy waited, but Spock remained externally and internally silent.  The doctor glanced at the Vulcan, then at T'Pau and the houseboy.  There was obviously some protocol, but he didn't know what it was.

T'Pau turned her attention towards her plants.  McCoy eyed her.  Were he and Spock supposed to stand around while she ignored them?

The doctor looked towards the houseboy, but the urchin was being all Vulcan.  He stood as immobile as the pillars.

Mentally sighing, McCoy fell into the military 'at-ease' stance, hands behind his back, while he watched T'Pau look over her ferns.

The elderly matriarch was an interesting study anyway.  McCoy didn't know her age, and suspected no one did.  There was a rumour she'd been around for Surak's funeral and perhaps his birth as well.  Everyone in Starfleet, including Steel-Fang Nogura, was afraid of her, and McCoy doubted  any Klingon would take her on either (due to persistent stories that those who crossed her met mysterious deaths).  The Romulans, who kept their stories to themselves, simply called her Dragon Bitch.

Yet she was, in appearance, no more than a frail, elderly woman who could no longer walk across a room without help.  Her face, deeply lined with age, resembled the faces of those ancient nuns from McCoy's childhood, the ones who were wheeled out once every few years to watch the current Pope's motorcade zip past their filmy eyes.

She startled McCoy's reverie by suddenly glancing at him with a raised eyebrow.  Uneasily, he wondered if she could read minds from a distance.

"That one," she said.

The words had been directed at the houseboy who reached into the rows of pots and extracted one.  He placed the plant in T'Pau's lap.

She stroked the dusky red leaves for a moment before pulling one off the stem.  She held it towards McCoy and asked, "Will thee take it?"

McCoy knew there were no innocent questions with T'Pau.  "What is it?" he asked.

"Pestach Corpun," she said.  "Highly regarded."

"As what?"

He saw amusement cross her dark eyes.  "As a marital aid."

McCoy's mind raced through possibilities.  Was it a stimulant?  Aphrodisiac?  Poison?  He remembered the houseboy's words at the door, that he'd be returning with a dead man.  Was there something in the plant that could kill him?  Or Spock?  If he accepted the leaf, was he agreeing to someone's murder?

"Do you mean marital aid as in 'this will get rid of that so-and-so I married'?" McCoy asked.

"Are thou married?" she said pointedly.
The doctor understood the loops of logic in the riddle.  "I'd have to be married in order to have a spouse to get rid of, wouldn't I?" he commented.  Over his shoulder to Spock, he added sarcastically, "And maybe I should thank you for all the help you're giving me."

"McCoy," T'Pau said sternly, "Spock, son of Sarek, was buried two summers ago."

"I see," McCoy said, because he was getting it now.  Spock was the ghost in the corner.  This explained why Spock was being annoyingly silent within the link.  T'Pau would pick up on any communication.

At last, McCoy stepped forward and took the red leaf.  It had an oily, scratchy feel and gave off an unpleasant smell.

"You've given me a marital aid," he mused.  The words sounded laughable.  "Though I'm not married."

Then he understood.  Meeting T'Pau's steady gaze, he said, "You're saying that I could get married.  But Spock's...buried."

"If thee chooses to marry, McCoy, I will see both of you, and both of you will be seen."

McCoy's eyes flicked to the teenager.  T'Pau followed the look.

"He is of sufficient age," T'Pau said, "and willing to witness the dead.  Thee must choose, McCoy.  Thee may leave this room now, with no hindrance."

The doctor regarded the leaf.  "Does this induce that Pon Farr madness?"

"Thee will not know what thee has not known before," T'Pau said, and McCoy felt as if she was humoring him, as if she didn't actually believe he would agree to the marriage under these Vulcan terms.

And he began wondering why.  If diddling your intended under the matriarch's eye was the norm here, why would she think he'd have any problem with it? 

"Our ways are old," T'Pau said.  "This tradition ensured the male was sufficient to father children."

"Which doesn't apply here," McCoy murmured.

"Also, that the female was able to withstand the male's fever."

The matriarch had never struck McCoy as a patient woman, yet she was giving him time to choose and she was answering his questions.

"My God, you approve," he managed, and belatedly realized he'd said it out loud.  He coughed, then added, "I mean, I choose to stay here and, uh, do this.  Just give me a minute to figure out how to work my...leaf."

A movement behind T'Pau's chair caught his eye.  The houseboy stuck his tongue out at McCoy, then touched the tip of it with his finger.

"...oh..." McCoy licked some of the plant's oil off his forefinger and grimaced at the swamp taste.  It was then that Spock's thoughts came at last into his.


He glanced over, then followed Spock's line of sight to the bare altar by the window.

McCoy's eyes opened in surprise, as if to say there?

Spock walked over to the dais and began to undress as casually as if he was in their bedroom.  McCoy's walk took longer.  He turned his back to T'Pau and the houseboy, and slowly unbuttoned his shirt.

Spock's hands came over his, stroking him as they undid the rest of the fastenings.

look only at me

"...that's a little difficult..." McCoy muttered softly.

McCoy's groin began to feel congested, which amazed him.  This morning, he had been absolutely sure he wouldn't be able to do this part of the Vulcan marriage ceremony.  He'd worried about it during the trip over.

Spock sucked the residue of the plant from McCoy's fingers, then kissed a line from the doctor's cheek to his chest.

It made McCoy very horny.


He went to glance behind him, but Spock stopped the gesture with a gentle motion.

think only of me

Spock opened the doctor's pants.  McCoy closed his eyes and tried to imagine that he and the Vulcan were alone in the middle of a desert a thousand miles from the nearest village.  No one could see them.  Overhead were only birds and clouds.

He felt Spock direct him onto the dais and, eyes still tightly shut, he let himself be led.  The sun burned red through his eyelids as he lay back and allowed the fiery weight of the Vulcan to bear down on him.

i need you to touch me, leonard

McCoy reached down, found the Vulcan's flank, and circled around it until Spock's pulsing genitalia was in his palm.  Spock groaned as the doctor began rubbing him.

The sound embarrassed McCoy and he froze.

touch me,  Spock pleaded, his lips tugging at McCoy's.

The doctor turned his face towards the window.  At least he could hide that part of him.  He continued stimulating Spock, using the fast, long strokes he'd learned as a teenager.  Despite being an only child, his parents' house was constantly full of family and friends.  There was always someone in the rooms, on the stairs, or laughing loudly in the kitchen.  He'd learned how to masturbate quickly in a washroom, groaning softly over the toilet while he ran the taps to cover what he was doing.

He pretended he was at his parents' house, the washroom door locked behind him.  Spock's hand on him was really his own.  He was sixteen, his cousins were all downstairs, water splashed loudly in the sink, and he had a few minutes before anyone would come looking for him.

His penis throbbed as he replayed the memory that was not much of a fantasy, but all he could dredge up at the moment.  There was no T'Pau, no houseboy, no raised platform in front of an audience of chairs.  He was in a washroom.  No one knew he was here.  No one knew what he was doing.

McCoy felt the burn of orgasm, close now, almost within his grasp.  Was it his?  Spock's?  It didn't matter.  One of them was going, and taking the other with him.

He came, his body involuntarily arcing up.  Spock cried out, shattering McCoy's forced illusion of being alone.  He finished ejaculating in wincing silence, his face turned as far away as possible.


McCoy jumped at T'Pau's sudden command, and his eyes flew open.  Above him, Spock stiffened.

The houseboy came up to them, a piece of satiny fabric in his hand.  He wiped it twice between Spock and McCoy, then returned to T'Pau and held it up in front of her.

"I saw, and both are capable," he said, his street accent making the pronouncement sound lewd.

She nodded.  The houseboy dropped the fabric into the brazier where it burned into ash.

Spock got up and began dressing.  McCoy followed suit hurriedly, catching his still-engorged organ in his trousers as he pulled them up.

"McCoy, son of David, and Spock, son of Sarek, stand before me," came T'Pau's impervious voice.

Spock went forward.  McCoy trailed after him, eyes on the carpet.

"Stand before me," T'Pau repeated.  McCoy, red and mortified, understood and raised his head until he could see her face.

T'Pau was all matriarch now, her earlier frailty and indulgence replaced by a sheet of steel will.  "McCoy, son of David, I welcome and recognize thee.  There is thine husband, to do with as thou will."

"Thank you," he managed.

She turned her attention to Spock.  "Spock, son of Sarek, I welcome and recognize thee.  Thee must make restitution unto thy father.  Do not delay."

Spock bowed his head in acceptance.

"There is thine husband, to do with as thou will," she finished.  "Thee have both been witnessed."

She rose and took the houseboy's shoulder.  McCoy, in the barest whisper, said to Spock, "Thank God, that's over."

T'Pau heard him and turned back.

Shit, McCoy thought.

But T'Pau was amused.  "McCoy, thee is the first human I have witnessed.  I find no shame in thee."

She left.  McCoy waited until he was sure he and Spock were alone before saying, "You owe me big time."  He glanced beside him, and paused at the puzzled expression on the Vulcan's face.  "Did you hear me?"

"You are the first human she has witnessed?" Spock asked.

McCoy shrugged before it hit him.  "Wait a minute.  You told me that your parents had done this and it was very important to you to continue the Vulcan custom!"

"Yes, I did," Spock said softly.

"Do you have some other grandmother in the family who performs marriage ceremonies?"

"No," Spock answered.  "Not while T'Pau lives."


"When I was growing up, my father was never pleased when I questioned Vulcan ways.  He wished me to be Vulcan.  All Vulcan," Spock said.  "Leonard, the marriage ceremony is one of the fundaments of our tradition.  Everything else, including logic, is secondary to family."

"Spock, if it helps, I can understand not wanting to do what we just did.  It was not easy."

"You can understand not wishing to be acknowledged as my husband?" Spock asked.


"In the arena, there are more witnesses.  What we did here was comfortable.  T'Pau relaxed the requirements to accommodate us.  I am sure she would have done the same for my father, yet..."  Spock quieted, clearly troubled.

"So, your parents aren't really married."

"The concept is somewhat more complicated than that."

"As this is the normal Vulcan way of getting hitched, I imagine it was your Human mother who said no," McCoy commented.  "Still, Spock, I can see her point of view."

"Yet, you came here, Leonard, and accepted the tradition," Spock said.  "Beyond this, my parents, unrecognized by T'Pau, had a child."

McCoy touched Spock's arm.  "I'm beginning to wish I'd put my foot down too, because then we wouldn't have come here today and found this out."

"Ignorance is better?" Spock replied.

"Sometimes," McCoy tried, though it had been a rhetorical query.  "We have to go and pay your father for the funeral.  Will you be ok?  I can do it for you."

"Perhaps," Spock said, surprising the doctor.  "I do not wish to confront my parents, however I cannot feign not knowing."

McCoy rubbed his forehead.  "I don't think I will ever understand this culture," he complained.  "You rip down all the curtains so that the neighbours can see us getting it on.  Then we're on stage for your grandmother.  Now you're upset because your mother didn't want to have sex in front of her in-laws.  For such a private people, it sure is difficult getting you to stay in the frigging bedroom."

It was McCoy's own fault that he took the seat next to the aquarium.  That left him wide open to be stared at by the aquarium's only inhabitant, a gigantic, unmoving fish.

He had come to Ambassador Sarek and Lady Amanda's house on his own.  They would have been expecting a visit, for T'Pau would have sent word of Spock's marriage before a day had elapsed.  That was the custom, or so Spock had said.

The custom actually involved he and Spock showing up together, but the Vulcan was in a state McCoy hadn't suspected he could get into, a kind of horrified-distress that made no sense to the doctor.  After all, Spock had only found out that his parents had kept their clothes on during their wedding.

"They're still married, right?" McCoy had asked earlier, at home.

"It is complicated," Spock had replied.

"Are you saying I'm not bright enough to understand?" the doctor had retorted, launching a long, futile argument that ended with McCoy threatening to declare Spock legally insane.  He'd meant it too.

While Spock was considering whether or not it was wise for him to answer, McCoy had stomped out of the apartment and caught a shuttle.  A couple of hours of riding, walking, and fuming had landed him at Sarek's house.

Beside the fish.

McCoy turned to look at it again, and was unhappily unsurprised to see that it was still watching him.

"What is this?" he asked, breaking a silence that had gone on almost as long as the fish.

"It is an Andorian species," Lady Amanda said, sounding grateful for the innocuous subject.  "A present for Sarek from the Andorian Consulate.  I'm told he's quite valuable.  I call him Flipper."

"Does he ever...move?"

"He's usually swimming all over the tank.  I've never seen him so quiet," she said.  "Tea?"

"Thank you."

Amanda poured him a cup, her distracted movements those of a hostess over-familiar with teapots and cream jugs.  Afterwards, she returned to her seat on the sofa beside Sarek.

Flipper watched the cup travel to McCoy's mouth with the intensity of a jaguar.

"What does he eat?" the doctor asked.

"Plants and kelp," Amanda replied.  "And the occasional spider."


"I don't give him spiders, of course," she said.  "He gets them on his own somehow.  We find the legs floating on top of the water."

The doctor perched on the far edge of his seat cushion.  "Spock and I went to see T'Pau yesterday."

"She informed us," Sarek said, speaking for the first time since McCoy's arrival.

"I've brought payment for your son's funeral."

"That is Spock's responsibility," Sarek told him, his voice crisp.  "Why has he not accompanied you here?"

McCoy sighed.  "Apparently it's complicated."  He set down his cup.  "I don't know your--"  About to say, 'feeling', he caught himself.  "Your opinion about Spock and me marrying.  I want to tell you that I love your son, even when I don't understand him.  Which may turn out to be much of the time," he finished in almost a grumble.

He saw sympathy in Amanda's eyes.

"When my husband and I were on the Enterprise," Amanda asked, "were you and Spock--"

"Wife," Sarek admonished.

The doctor thought it was a natural question, and answered.  "No, this is recent, since Spock returned from Gol."  He turned.

And jumped at the sight of the fish's eyes pressed close against the aquarium glass.

"When was Flipper fed last?" he inquired.

"This morning," Amanda said.

McCoy had to force himself to look away, though he could still feel the burn of the fish-stare.  "This is the first visit I've made since yesterday, though I spoke to my daughter, Joanna, earlier."

"Your daughter is also now our daughter," Amanda said.  "I hope she was pleased at your news."

"Very much," McCoy said.  "She wants to throw us a party, on Earth so that our friends can attend.  I hope you both will be able to be there as well."

Amanda glanced at her husband, as if mentally nudging him.

At last, Sarek said, "Why did my son not accompany you here?  Has he now decided against the marriage?"

"No," McCoy said.  "Unless he decided without telling me."

"Then he should be here with you.  That is the proper and respectful way," Sarek said.

"Yes, well, this is where we get into that part where I'm told it's complicated," McCoy said.

In the sternest Vulcan tone the doctor had ever heard, Sarek said, "Why is he not here?"

I am not getting into this.  I am not getting into this, McCoy thought.  Damn Vulcan customs.

"The thing is," he said.

And told them.

"Yesterday, after Spock and I did the...mumble...entire ceremony, T'Pau happened to mention that I was the first human she had witnessed.  I must have looked fairly pathetic, because I think she said it to be reassuring."

"Reassuring?  The Matriarch?" Amanda echoed, in a resigned voice.

"Spock counted up how many Vulcan-Human couples there are in his family and..." McCoy trailed off.  Sarek and Amanda had exchanged a quick look which McCoy had caught.  "The long and short of it is that it's none of my business," the doctor said.  "Absolutely not my business whatsoever.  And your son is very Vulcan.  I mean, he's excellent at it.  Top of his class.  And in a completely Vulcan way, he...didn't take it well."

"I see," Sarek said, his voice not quite as even as before.

"Anyway," McCoy said, "I hope you will come to the party.  It would mean a lot to have you both there."

Amanda opened her mouth, but Sarek said quickly, "Our schedule is quite full."

"Sarek," she said.

"Wife, we do not have time at present."

"We'll try to be there," Amanda said.  Sarek glanced at her, and she said, "Yes."  To the doctor, she asked, "It's protocol to ask what you wish us to call you.  Would Leonard be all right?"

"Leonard would be fine," McCoy said.

"Leonard, our son-in-law," she said, with a smile.

The next series of events happened in the literal space of one second.  McCoy heard a splash.  He saw Sarek and Amanda start to rise, felt a fierce pain in his ear and the weight of something huge and wet on his shoulder.  Then he was on the floor, struggling with something too slimy to get hold of.

McCoy saw Sarek's boots by his arm and suddenly he was free.  Another splash sounded as he vaulted to the other side of the room, holding his right ear.  When he turned, Sarek was by the aquarium, the front of his tunic soaked.  Amanda was in the middle of the room, staring wide-eyed at the fish.

And Flipper floated quietly in his tank as if nothing had happened.

"I am so sorry!" Amanda said.  "Leonard, you're bleeding.  Sarek!"

Sarek left the room, and returned a moment later with bandages and disinfectant.  It was actually he who patched McCoy up, using a gentle touch out of keeping with his otherwise cool exterior.

"I didn't know the fish could do that," Amanda said.  "I didn't know he had teeth!"

"He has fangs," McCoy mumbled, eyeing Flipper cautiously.

Flipper stared back placidly.

"I shall order netting for the top of the aquarium," Sarek said as he finished adjusting a bandage.

"Netting," McCoy said.  "Good idea.  Get some of that and an exorcist.  That fish is evil."

The Ambassador eyed him curiously.  "Evil?"

"As in possessed, demonic, 'the gates of hell opened and disgorged that fish' evil."

McCoy was willing to swear on a bible that he saw Sarek's mouth twitch.  "Leonard," he said, his voice almost warm, "Allow me to make reparation."

"The reparation is that you come to the party," McCoy said.

Sarek glanced back at Amanda, who smiled happily.

"We will attend," he said.  "T'Pau mentioned this quality."

"What quality?" McCoy asked.

Sarek mouth twitched again.  "Persistence."

The thump of bass from inside the hotel could be heard before Spock and McCoy stepped out of the hovercar.

"Is that from our party?" McCoy asked.  He was still adjusting his clothing.

Spock extracted the doctor's collar from where it had folded the wrong way down his neck.  "We would know if the music was from our party, if we had arrived here on time."

They exchanged an intimate smile.  They were late because they'd spent the afternoon making up after their last fight.

The Vulcan's hand accidentally brushed McCoy's right ear.  The doctor flinched.

"Forgive me, Leonard."

"It's all right.  It's the damn fish that did it."

"Your ear does look pointed."

"It does not.  Don't start that again," McCoy warned.  "Flipper tugged it hard, but it will go back to normal."

"So you say, Leonard."

They went into the building.  McCoy's daughter, Joanna, had chosen an upscale hotel in a major city in which to have the party celebrating her father's wedding.  Just down the road was a theatre and restaurant district, and as McCoy and Spock headed towards the hotel's front desk, they passed several elegantly-dressed couples on their way out to a show.

Even the hotel lobby boasted refinement, with plush red carpeting underneath and a huge chandelier sparkling overhead.

"This place is nice," McCoy said.  "I wonder what our suite is like?"

The desk attendant looked up.  "Good evening, gentlemen," he said.

"Hello," McCoy said.  "I'm Leonard McCoy and this is Spock--"  He reeled off a lengthy last name which the attendant knew better than to try to say back.

"Sirs, let me welcome you to the Schubert Arms.  Dr. McCoy, your lovely daughter was just here, inquiring if you and your husband had checked in.  If you will allow me, I'll have the porter take your luggage to your suite so that you may go right into the party."

"Thank you," McCoy said.  He and Spock signed the register.

"Your reception is in the Victor Borge Ballroom, to your left."  He gestured towards a hallway.

McCoy and Spock passed old-fashioned glass lifts and several real palm trees as they headed towards the indicated ballroom.  As they walked, the thumping music became louder.

"I really hope that's not coming from our bash," McCoy commented.

Spock noted the doctor's expression.  "We can ask the band to lower their speaker output," he said.

A sign at the first ballroom read, "The Lizt Glitz Ballroom.  Welcome 3000th Annual Federation Theological Conference Clergy Members."

The doors opened to disgorge several scantily-clad ministers in party hats.  The music almost deafened the Vulcan.  Upon seeing McCoy and Spock, one of the men clapped tankards of beer in their hands and cried, "Whoopee!  Come and get some girls before they're all gone."

Spock stood there, nonplussed.  McCoy grabbed him and pulled him down the hall.

"Stay away from the girls," the doctor kidded, relieved that the bone-jarring bass wasn't at his and Spock's party.  "Here we are," he added.  "The Victor Borge Ballroom."

They went in, and were immediately greeted with several cheers from the crowd.

"They're here!"

"Hey, Doc!  Congrats!"

"Everybody!  It's the newlyweds!"

Several people gathered around them.  Uhura pushed through, kissed McCoy and, without missing a beat, kissed Spock too.  "I'm so excited for you two!" she said happily.  "When the Admiral called me, I was surprised for half a second, then I thought, this makes perfect sense.  Scotty and I wish you both a long, wonderful life together."

"Thank you," McCoy said.  "Where is Scotty?  We want to wish the two of you the same in return."

"He was over with the accordion players earlier, trying to convince them to take up bagpipes," Uhura said.

"Have you set a date?" the doctor asked.

"He wanted to get married last week, but I want to include his family in Scotland.  I'll let you know when, Leonard.  Our family includes you two as well."

"Accordion players?" Spock echoed curiously.

"They came in here by mistake.  Actually, they're Polish Priests and were supposed to be playing for a group of Irish Priests next door," Uhura said.  "Your party was in the Lizt Ballroom, but Joanna saw the nicer furnishings in here and managed to get it switched.  We kept the accordion players when we discovered that they'd brought homemade cabbage rolls."  Mischievously, she added to McCoy, "Your daughter was such a hoot with them.  She had them playing Ferengi love ballads."

"Do you know where she is?" McCoy asked, as he attempted to peer through the mass of party-goers.  There were a lot of people in the ballroom.

Uhura pointed to the left.  "Perhaps by the fountain?  That's where the main tables are set up.  Or by the statue of Victor Borge near the stage?"

"We’ll look there," McCoy said.  He hugged her, took Spock's hand, and pressed left.

"There's the happy couple!" came a shout.  Hikaru Sulu and Janice Rand came up to them.

As Janice hugged McCoy, she whispered teasingly, "Doc, you sneaky man.  Eloping with the universe's most eligible Vulcan."

Vulcan ears picked up the whisper clearly.  McCoy felt Spock's embarrassment at the comment, and grinned.

"And he got top of the line in return," she added.

"Thank you," McCoy said graciously.

"Congratulations, Leonard, Mr. Spock," Sulu said to them both as he enthusiastically shook McCoy's hand.  "And a long life.  Mr. Spock, I was just asking your parents what the proper Vulcan sentiment was for newlyweds, and your father said there wasn't one."

"My parents are here?" Spock asked McCoy.

"Oh, did I forget to mention that I invited them?" McCoy said with an irreproachably innocent look.

Janice frowned.  "Doc, what happened to your ear?  It's pointed."

"No, it isn't," McCoy stated.

"Yes, it is," Sulu said.  "It looks as though you're halfway through converting to Vulcan."

"Don't start, or I'll tell my daughter not to let you have anything to drink," McCoy said, and Sulu chuckled.

"She's already been by twice with some great wine from the Greek band."

"Greek band?" Spock asked.

"They came in with the Orthodox minister.  They're supposed to be next door, but we're in their ballroom or something," Janice said.  "Your daughter is so funny.  She was telling us this joke about a parrot, a psychiatrist, and a trampoline."

Loud laughter from the front of the room interrupted her.

McCoy glanced at Spock and said, "I wonder what's going on?"  He and Spock left Janice and Sulu, and continued through the room.

"Is this your card?" came a voice ahead of them.  "How about this?"

McCoy saw Spock's eyebrow travel upwards, and followed the Vulcan's gaze to a man in a tuxedo standing in front of a knot of people.  The man held up a card out of a deck on a folding table in front of him.  "Is it the Jack?"

"No," said a stunningly-beautiful, stunningly-underclad woman on the arm of Pavel Chekov.  "I have a Ten of Hearts."

"My next choice," said the man.  "The Magnificent Mysterio will now do the ultimate feat.  Pulling a rabbit out of a hat."

He took the hat off his head and set it on the table.  "See?  No rabbit up my sleeves.  No rabbit down my pants.  And, Presto!"  Reaching in the hat, he extracted a hamster.  "Oops.  This is Humbert Humbert.  Anywhere there is a beautiful young woman, he shows up.  Here."  He handed the hamster to Chekov's date.  "Your name isn't Lolita, dear, is it?"

She rolled her eyes.

"Now we try again," Mysterio said.  "Hocus Pocus!"

Out came a canary, which flew up and landed on Chekov's head.

"Where is that rabbit?"  Mysterio made another attempt.  "Pocus-cadabra!"

A mouse.


A snake, which ended, with a now nervous canary, on Chekov.

"Walla Walla Washington!" Mysterio cried.  He pulled out a goldfish in a bag.  "What's that?" he said to the goldfish, holding the bag to his ear.  "He says that the rabbit went to Alabama to be baptized.  Goodness gracious, that's the last time I hire a Baptist rabbit.  Thank you, thank you," he said, even though there was no applause.

"He lied.  The animals were up his sleeves," Spock said to McCoy.  "I fail to see the 'magic'."

"So do we all," McCoy said back quietly.  "I hope he's supposed to be next door too."

"Doc!" Chekov came over with his date.  "Good wishes to you both."

"Thank you," Spock said, aware that McCoy had been rendered mute by Chekov's date's attire which was two strings and a feather.  The hamster and mouse were sitting quite contentedly on her breasts.

McCoy managed to pull his eyes up to the woman's eye-level.  "Aherm...thanks."

"I just said that, Leonard," Spock said.

"I know," McCoy shot back.

"This is Woo-Who."  Chekov introduced his date.

"Nice to meet you, Woo-Woo," McCoy said, looking at Chekov.

"Woo-Who," she corrected.

"Woo-Who and her sister do a baseball act at the Abbott and Costello Theatre down the street," Chekov said.  "Your daughter was hoping they could perform here tonight, but Woo-Who's sister is sick."

"I'm sorry to hear that," McCoy said, still looking at Chekov.

"Woo-What has a cold," Woo-Who said, sounding disappointed.  "You see, I'm Woo-Who, playing first base, and my sister, Woo-What, takes second base.  Our mom, Woo-I-Don't-Know, comes out to be on third.  Then we ask for a volunteer from the audience to be the shortstop."

"Please stop," McCoy said, feeling the throb of a headache.  "Forgive me, but, Pavel, do you know where my daughter is?"

"She was talking with Admiral Kirk by the big bar," Chekov said.

"Where's that?"

Chekov indicated behind him, then shook his head.  "No, that's the mini-bar."  Pointing in two other directions, he added, "Either that bar or that one."  He paused, then pointed at the fourth wall.  "Or that one."

"Oh Lord," McCoy mumbled.

He and Spock picked a direction and went that way.  Once out of earshot, Spock said mildly, "You deserve a headache, Leonard."

"I didn't mean to look.  Her breasts took me by surprise," McCoy protested.  "How did she keep those animals balanced like that?"

"I was referring to inviting my parents without telling me."

"You're going to have to face them sooner or later."

"Leonard, this is uncomfortable for me."

"And I was quite cozy sitting beside that demon fish.  Your father isn't happy that you married me, by the way."

"I'm sure that's not true," Spock said.

"Ok," McCoy shrugged.  "I'll live in denial about his opinion, and you live in denial about what your parents did or did not do at their wedding ceremony."

"We know exactly what they did not do at their wedding ceremony," Spock pointed out.  "Am I supposed to pretend?"

"Yup," McCoy replied, "and get good at it."

He was interrupted by the appearance of a mime.

"I suppose it's no good asking if you've seen someone," McCoy said to the mime, not really expecting an answer.

To his surprise, the mime barked gruffly, "I've been all over this room.  Who are you looking for?"

"A lady named Joanna McCoy," the doctor said.  "Dark hair, about this high."  He held his hand at chin level.  "She'd be the hostess."

"By the stage with the other mimes and the Vulcan."  He eyed Spock.  "The Vulcan looks like you.  Snootier though.  No tip from that one."

He moved on.  McCoy said, "Your father, I bet."

They found the stage, but the only ones left by it were Scotty and Uhura.

"Leonard!  Mr. Spock!" Scotty said with an exuberance which probably owed something to the large drink in his hand.  "Laddies, a Gaelic toast to ye both!"

His glass went up, and was neatly intervened by Uhura.  "Oh, Lassie," he said.

"Uh uh," she said.  "Leonard, you just missed your daughter."  To Spock, she said, "Lady Amanda and Joanna and some Buddhist mimes were doing that Walking Against The Wind routine, and they were good!"

Spock took a moment.  "My mother was doing what?"

"Your mother is wonderful," Uhura said.  "She rolled up her sleeves and got right in with the mimes.  Then she and Ambassador Sarek went to the buffet."  She gestured in that direction.  The gesture brought the glass near her nose.  She paused, sniffed again, took a sip, then gave Scotty an astonished look.  "This is apple juice."

"I told ye I wouldnae drink tonight," he said, with a grin in return.  "Leonard, what happened to yer ear?"

"Nothing," he sighed heavily.

As he dragged Spock towards the buffet, he heard Scotty whisper to Uhura, "It looks like a Vulcan hickey."

"Our random movement is illogical," Spock said.  "I believe we should stay in one place.  The odds are that eventually your daughter will find us."

"We have all night to do that.  First, your parents," McCoy said, rubbing self-consciously at his ear.  "Vulcan hickey," he muttered.

They saw Sarek and Amanda at a table with Admiral Kirk, two elderly nuns, and several men in dreadlocks.  One of the men was debating with Sarek.  The rest of the table were playing cards.

"Not Ya, mon," said the man talking to Sarek.  "Jah, mon.  The spirit of Jah."  He took a puff of a small, burning cylinder in his hand.  "The spirit of Jah leads us.  Nothing is accidental."

"Such a concept does not allow for free will," Sarek said.

"It does," the man said.  "Jah leads you, but it is your choice whether or not to do what He wants you to do."  He took another puff.

McCoy noticed that the smoke at the table was thick, and hesitated getting near to it.  However, Amanda caught sight of him.

"Spock, Leonard, our son in law, I was beginning to worry that we would miss you in this crowd."

Kirk stood up and grinned.  "Spock, Bones, you two are late for your own party."

"We've been here for a bit," McCoy said.  "The room's packed.  I still haven't found my daughter."

"Some of the herd should be next door," Kirk said, shooting a look at the Rastafarians and nuns.

"Bunch of sticks in the mud next door," muttered one of the nuns.

"The better party's in here, mon," said another of the men.  He laid his cards on the table and added, "Twenty-one."

The nuns glared at him as he took the credits that had been on the table between them.

Kirk found two chairs and pulled them over for Spock and McCoy.  Spock took the chair farthest from his parents.

"Ambassador," he said, in a carefully-neutral tone.  "Mother."

Kirk frowned.  He knew Spock well enough to pick up on 'invisible' Vulcan tension.  "Is everything all right?" he asked in concern.

"Fine," McCoy said.

Sarek raised an eyebrow.  Amanda looked uncomfortable.

"Then, let me tell you both that I'm sincerely happy for you," Kirk said to McCoy and Spock.  "And this is the best party I've been to in, well, I can't remember when.  Bones, your daughter is nothing like you.  She's fun."

"Thanks a lot," McCoy said, sounding exasperated.

"I was a little down when I arrived," Kirk started.  "I had a bad day."

"You were in a terrible mood," said one of the nuns.

Kirk glanced at the nun's cards, and said, "I'd stand on fifteen, if I were you."

She gave him an irate look as the men in dreadlocks guffawed.  She'd anted big.

"Joanna had you dancing Argelian Reels with her," Amanda said, and Kirk chuckled.

"I'll admit to one reel.  She was telling me stories about you, Bones," Kirk continued.  "I heard about the trip to the beach and the crab that caught your--"

"What game are we playing?" McCoy asked loudly.

"Blackjack," said one of the men.  He deal two cards to McCoy, then handed him the reefer he'd been smoking.  "Jah loves you.  Enjoy."

The heady, sweet smoke hit McCoy's nostrils.  He would never admit it to Spock, but he recognized the odor.  Noting the very mellow faces of the men at the table, he said to them, in a heartfelt tone, "Blessings to you all."

They winked conspiratorially back as he gave in to the temptation and handed the cigarette to Sarek.  "Would you please hold this while I check my cards?"

Startled, Sarek took the proffered object politely, perhaps not realizing what it was.  Amanda, not so unaware, put her hand over her mouth as she tried to compose her expression.

McCoy held up his cards so that Spock could see them.  "This is the only time I'll ever say this to you.  What are the odds?"

Spock took a second longer than he should have.  "Take a card."

McCoy eyed him.  Kirk did as well.  Then, simultaneously, both of them noticed an ashtray.

Their eyes met.

"Do you want to trade chairs?" McCoy asked Spock.  The ashtray he and Kirk had noticed held two smoking reefers.

And it was directly under Spock's nose.

"Do you desire to trade seating apparatus or to change locations?" Spock asked, wondering why his tongue felt fuzzy.

"Never mind," McCoy said.  He took a card and won the pot.

As he shuffled, he asked, "What happened today, Jim?  You said you had a bad day."

"It was nothing," Kirk said.

"It was the magazine article," said the nun who had interrupted him before.

"Magazine article?" Sarek asked, his tone sounding a little hoarse.  Then he blinked, wondering why he'd given in to idle curiosity.

"You're living with that woman," said the other nun to Kirk.  "You're living in sin.  That's why you're no longer on the list."

"Do I know you?" he retorted.

"What list?" McCoy asked.

Kirk opened his mouth, but the first nun cut in.

"Every year, Warp and Crafts Magazine publishes the Ten Sexiest Starfleet Bachelor's list.  And he--"  She pointed at Kirk, "is no longer a bachelor because he took up with some woman."

"She is not some woman," Kirk protested.  "And are you even allowed to read that magazine?"

"We may be nuns, but we're not dead," the second nun said.  "And that magazine has some lovely needlepoint patterns.  Now be quiet, Mr. Kirk, and show some respect to your elders.  Anyway," she turned back to McCoy.  "He's in a snit because of it."

"That is not the reason--"

"But that nice man at the door told you that you're still on Hunk Gay Man's Ten Best Bare Chests list," the first nun finished.  She slapped down her cards and said, "Blackjack."

As he watched his credits slide into the nun's bag, McCoy commented to Kirk, "These women are serious."

"It all goes to orphans," one of the nuns told him.  With a stern look at the pot, she added, "So you can ante better than that, Mr. Half-Vulcan."

Rising to the challenge, McCoy said, "That is a fish bite.  Don't take me on, or I'll let my husband play.  He'll clean your clock."

The nun snorted.  "Are you sure?"

After a look beside him, McCoy realized what she meant.  Spock was definitely leaning sideways.  On the doctor's other side, Sarek was doing no better.

Kirk moved the ashtray away from Spock until it was between the nuns.  They gave him a disdainful glance.

"We work in a high school, Mr. Kirk.  That stuff ceased to bother us years ago."

"We'll see," Kirk said pleasantly, which any Klingon knew was one of his more dangerous tones.

The nuns were unfazed.

When Uhura and Scotty wandered by the table half an hour later, the nuns were still unfazed.  Everybody else was nearly on the floor.  And broke.

"Ambassador?" Uhura said softly to Sarek, who seemed to be in the closest proximity to flat on the ground.

"My son in law is a doctor," Sarek told her proudly.

"Yes, he is," she said, as Scotty helped Sarek back upright.

The nuns rose, clicking their tongues disapprovingly.  "Such a sorry state," one said to Uhura, indicating the people at the table.

As they left with their bulging bags of credits, the other said to Kirk, "I suggest you go to confession."

"Stop bothering me for a date," he said.  "I told you before--"

"Jim," Scotty said.  "They're gone."

"Hell," Kirk sighed heavily.  "Those two cleaned us out."  He closed his eyes and laid his head on the shoulder of one of the Rastafarians.

The other men in dreadlocks were arguing quietly about the last deal.  Amanda was eating a large bowl of potato chips and giving her husband those long-suffering looks wives often give their husbands after watching them do stupid things year after year.  Spock was asleep against McCoy who was staring at his cards as if he still couldn't believe that he'd been dumb enough to take a card on nineteen.  And Sarek was starting to weave into unconsciousness.

Uhura and Scotty exchanged a look, and Uhura said, "I think we need help."

The Greek band helped carry everyone to their respective suites, except for McCoy who wouldn't budge from his cards.  By the time McCoy got to their room, Spock was beginning to recover.

Rubbing his sore temples, Spock said, "Leonard, what did I inhale?"

"It's better that you don't know," McCoy answered.  He sat on the bed beside Spock and said, "I finally found Joanna and got to thank her for the wonderful party."

"Wonderful?" Spock repeated in disbelief.

"It was," the doctor smiled.  "We had our friends, family, great food, a lovely ballroom, and you got past that thing with your parents.  And in the morning, I hope you remember that you got past it."

Spock gave him as much of a severe look as he could muster.

"Your father said he was pleased that I was his son in law," McCoy said.

Taking a breath, Spock asked, "Leonard, did I actually tell my mother, in front of the entire table, that I loved her?"


Spock gave him a look of horror.

"That's not so bad," McCoy said.

"Leonard, I am a Vulcan."

"Oh Spock, let it go.  Besides, after you said it, Jim did as well, and so did two men at the next table.  Come here."  McCoy laid back and patted the spot next to him.

Spock lay down more carefully.  From his point of view, gravity was still not entirely back to the place it should be.

McCoy gathered his Vulcan to him and took over massaging Spock's forehead.  Then, relaxed and happy, he added, "You're going to have to get used to that phrase, because I'll be saying it to you a lot."


"Listen," McCoy said.  Within their link, he said, i love you

There was a pause during which McCoy felt a mental swirl of warmth.  Then came Spock's response.

i love you too

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