Doctor McCoy stepped out of the taxi flyer and approached the large estate on the edge of Shikahr. He wore a simple Vulcan tunic and slacks and might have been mistaken for a local had it not been for the lack of pointed ears. That and the wide smile he offered Amanda when she let him in.
“Leonard!” she cried happily, taking his hand and leading him to a chair in the sitting room. “I’m so glad you could come! Let me get you something to drink.”
As she went to get it, he called after her. “Tea will be fine, Amanda. And if you don’t mind my saying so, I was a little surprised when Sarek asked me to come. It’s not every day I get summoned by the Ambassador himself.” He accepted the drink as she sat down beside him.
“I’m afraid I can’t help you there,” she said, “Although I suspect it has something to do with Spock.”
She spoke without worry or accusation.
But McCoy’s eyes opened wider in alarm. “Spock? He’s ok, isn’t he?” Doctors weren’t generally called unless there was a problem after all.
She smiled again and patted his hand. “He’s fine, just fine,” she assured him.
He looked around suspiciously. “Can I see him?”
She smiled again and drank some of her tea. “Perhaps,” was all she said.
McCoy was about to ask something more when Sarek suddenly appeared in the doorway. How such a large man could move so quietly, he would never know. The doctor started to stand to greet him, but Sarek waved him back to his seat.
“Stay,” he said, taking a seat of his own. “I will sit with you.”
They sat in silence for some time. Sarek almost regretted calling for the doctor. It was not his intention to discuss any personal issues on Spock’s behalf, but if Spock could see his friend here, perhaps he would make use of the opportunity. Whether Spock would emerge from the bedroom at all was another question indeed.
The doctor shifted uncomfortably in his chair and sipped at his tea. This evening was becoming more mysterious by the moment and he wondered if he was supposed to guess at his purpose here. Finally Sarek broke the silence.
“I trust your research is going well?” he asked.
“Indeed it is,” the doctor answered, although he suspected that Sarek had other things on his mind. “The Academy medical facilities are exceptional.”
Sarek nodded. “Will you be staying on Vulcan much longer?”
Where was this conversation going anyway? McCoy thought. “I’m considering it,” he answered. “I don’t often get the opportunity to work with colleagues or resources of this caliber.”
Sarek seemed pleased with that answer, as pleased as a Vulcan could look in any case. But McCoy’s unease increased when the silence returned to the room again. He glanced at Amanda hopefully.
She smiled and put her cup down on the nearby side table. “Do you like the Vulcan attire, Doctor?” she asked just to have something to say.
He glanced at his outfit, glad to be talking at least. “Well,” he said, “it does help with the heat somehow. And it’s comfortable.” He really didn’t know what else to say about it and hoped that the entire evening wouldn’t be so awkward.
His rescue came when Spock suddenly appeared in the doorway. When did Vulcans get so quiet? McCoy wondered irritably even as he thanked his lucky stars that the mystery may soon be solved.
“Well, hiya, Spock,” the doctor greeted him as he stood. “Where’s Saavik?”
Spock regarded everyone in the room curiously before answering. “She is—as you humans say—freshening up. She will join us shortly.”
“Will you be staying for dinner, Doctor?” Amanda asked as she also stood.
“I would like that, very much,” he said and meant it. Amanda smiled and excused herself as she left to make preparations.
Sarek also rose. “My duties take me elsewhere also,” he said, inclining his head to them as he left the room.
McCoy shook his head as he watched him go. “I’d really like to know what’s going on around here!” he declared.
Spock raised an eyebrow at him. “My father did not say?” he asked in surprise.
“Nothing of substance,” McCoy admitted then looked at the Vulcan with concern. “Is something wrong, Spock?”
Spock regarded him silently for such a long time that McCoy was afraid he would clam up too. But finally Spock sighed .
“Come,” he said, leading the way into the garden.
Shade structures and planting arrangements made the garden somewhat cooler than most outdoor areas on Vulcan, for which McCoy was eternally grateful. They followed the path that looped and forked around Amanda’s much loved plants, but both were silent. Finally Spock stopped in front of the fountain that bubbled incessantly even in Vulcan’s heat.
“I have a medical issue I wish to discuss with you,” he said, but at the doctor’s worried look he quickly added. “It is not dangerous....merely...inconvenient.”
“I can’t help you if you don’t tell me,” McCoy said in response.
Spock closed his eyes a moment in a way that McCoy recognized as the Vulcan trying to find words to discuss something he’d rather not talk about. Finally Spock opened his eyes again, seemingly resigned to the discussion.
“Are you aware of the joining?” he asked.
The doctor shook his head. “I don’t remember everything from your mind, Spock,” he answered. “You’ve got to admit, there’s a lot in there.”
Spock sat down on the stone bench facing the fountain. McCoy sat next to him as the Vulcan began to explain.
“The joining is a time of intense physical attraction following a bonding. It usually correlates with the first pon farr, but it can be initiated at any time.”
“You mean a honeymoon?” McCoy asked incredulously.
Spock smiled slightly. “A crude analogy,” he said, “But yes, a honeymoon, but made much more intense by the mental bond.”
McCoy smiled widely. “So what’s the problem?”
Spock sighed and stood again. McCoy noticed that he seemed almost jumpy, which was always concerning in a Vulcan.
“The intensity has not yet abated,” Spock admitted slowly. “Even now it is an effort not to go to her.” He appeared to almost shiver and McCoy stood in case he needed assistance.
“It’s a natural thing to want to be together,” McCoy said awkwardly.
“Indeed,” Spock answered as he turned to face him again. “But in a short time we shall return to our assigned duties on different ships, and what we want will not be possible.”
The doctor rubbed at his chin. “I see how that might be a distraction,” he said.
“You have a talent for understatement,” Spock said. “In any case, the situation would not be tenable for either of us.” He gripped his hands together as Sarek often did but only to stop a sudden tremor.
“The mental bond that mated Vulcans share is usually a comfort during a separation,” he explained. “However, in this condition, a separation would be a torture.”
McCoy took a step nearer the Vulcan. “Spock,” he said, “I won’t pretend to understand how most of this works. Wouldn’t a Vulcan healer...”
“No,” Spock interrupted, “a Vulcan healer would not understand our dual natures. I trust that you will have less of an issue understanding this complication.”
It was McCoy’s turn to raise an eyebrow. “You think it’s your human and Romulan halves that are inhibiting the normal flow of things?”
“Precisely,” Spock agreed, looking relieved.
“Well,” McCoy said, “I don’t think I’ve ever been asked to make an anti-love potion, but I’ll give it a shot. In the meantime,” he added, “you two should extend your leave. My miracles don’t come at quite the speed of Scotty’s.”
McCoy became aware of someone nearby and turned to see Saavik quickly walking up the path. Spock relaxed visibly and went to meet her, holding her face in his hands and kissing her shamelessly in the doctor’s presence.
“I see what you mean,” McCoy murmured quietly, intrigued by the unlikely sight. The Vulcans returned to stand with him, holding tightly to each other’s hand.
“Are you sure you want me to eliminate this?” he asked them.
“Not eliminate, Doctor,” Saavik answered, “just regulate to its proper place.” As she spoke, her hand slipped out of Spock’s and moved around his broad waist. The doctor noted that Spock allowed it.
“I’m sorry,” McCoy said, looking from one to the other, “but it would help me if I knew what the proper place is exactly. Vulcan mating practices aren’t exactly common knowledge.”
Spock’s arm had slipped around Saavik’s waist as well and his lips briefly brushed her temple. She trembled visibly but answered the doctor evenly.
“How often do you couple, Doctor?” she asked, the question so unexpected that McCoy took a step back.
“Well...I...” he stammered, “whenever I want to, I suppose...”
“As it is with Vulcans,” Spock said. This new openness around such topics still disturbed him, but he continued anyway. “The pon farr is a time when we must mate. There is nothing to prevent it at any other time.”
“Well, sure,” McCoy said hesitantly, “I did know that, actually. But how does the joining fit in to all of this? Isn’t it similar to the pon farr?”
Spock’s arm had moved up to Saavik’s shoulders and his hand absently stroked her hair. Her hand had slipped inside his tunic, massaging his chest. Uh,oh, McCoy thought, hoping they wouldn’t start joining or something right here.
“They are only outwardly similar,” Spock answered, closing his eyes briefly as the touch distracted him. “In pon farr there is a need, in the joining, a desire.” He smiled a little. “Perhaps there is a reason that the two are traditionally accomplished together.”
“So there’s no loss of control in a joining?” McCoy asked tentatively. He couldn’t get past the roving hands in front of him. They sure seemed on the verge of losing control.
“There is not,” Spock answered, capturing Saavik’s hand from his chest and holding it tightly. “However, the minds are tightly focused on the one desire, at the exclusion of all others.” Saavik’s other hand had found the nape of his neck and he sucked in his breath as he closed his eyes again.
“I can see how that might be a problem on duty,” McCoy observed.
“Indeed,” they both said together.
McCoy pursed his lips. “Well,” he said at last. “I’ll run some tests—hormone levels and all that—but this may just have to run its course.” He eyed them decisively. “In the meantime, you two should get back to...what you were doing....or I might learn more about Vulcan mating practices than I need to know!”
Spock and Saavik didn’t appear at dinner time and no one seemed particularly surprised by that development. In fact, no places had been set for them at the table and the conversation decisively avoided the absent family members. McCoy was beginning to feel uncomfortable again but he was determined to talk about something anyway.
“Is that stir fry?” he asked as Amanda brought a steaming platter to the table. “I didn’t know Vulcans did stir fry!”
Amanda smiled. “Indeed they do,” she said, “after a fashion. I have also adapted many Earth recipes to Vulcan methods of preparation.”
The doctor tasted the food and looked up in surprise. “What is that?” he asked, pointing at an unknown item. “It tastes like meat!”
“It is a taik luk,” Sarek answered. “A type of fungus similar to your mushroom. The flavor has been enhanced with various sauces and herbs.”
“I guess you don’t need meat when you have that,” the doctor observed, putting some more in his mouth. The others also began to eat and that damnable silence returned again.
The sudden ringing of the door chime made them all startle, and Amanda rose to answer it. From the entryway McCoy could hear her excited greeting and a familiar voice answering. Presently Amanda returned with their visitor.
“Jim!” McCoy called. “Whatcha doing here?”
Kirk took in the domestic scene and the doctor’s outfit. “I might ask the same thing,” he said, eyeing him closely. “Going native, Bones?”
“When in Rome,” McCoy shrugged, then looked pointedly at his friend. “Leave’s not over already is it?”
“Nothing like that,” he answered. “But there have been...developments.” He glanced around expectantly. “Where’s Spock and Saavik?”
There was a deafening silence as Sarek put down his utensils.
“They are in the bedchamber,” Sarek intoned in a way that indicated the answer should be enough. But then at Kirk’s wide eyed response he added. “They shall not be disturbed.”
“He means to mind your own business, Jim,” the doctor translated helpfully in a stage whisper.
Kirk could only stare but was soon rescued by Amanda setting a place for him at the table. He sank into the chair gratefully and looked with interest at the food on the plate.
“Vulcans stir fry?” he asked.
Amanda and McCoy both laughed, lightening the mood considerably. He looked around the table as everyone began to eat again and took a heaping bite of his own dinner, his eyes widening in surprise at the meaty taste.
“They’re mushrooms,” McCoy said in answer to his unspoken question. “Sort of.”
The captain nodded and regarded McCoy closely, wondering again at his presence here and the conspicuous absence of his Vulcan friend. Well, not absent really, Kirk thought, Just...what?. Did that mean what he thought it meant? It was hard to tell sometimes with Vulcan evasiveness.
“So you said there’s been some sort of developments?” McCoy asked, changing the subject. “They didn’t bump you down to lieutenant for failing to get the Derilian agreement, did they?”
Kirk laughed lightly. “No,” he said, “but we’ll be going back to Derilia sooner than we thought.” He looked across the table. “And I’ve been authorized to ask Sarek to accompany us. And Spock and Saavik too, if they can postpone their previous assignments.”
Sarek stopped eating and looked up with interest. He had been following developments on the planet and had not been surprised when Kirk had been unable to secure an agreement with the often illogical Derilians. It would be an interesting task to be involved in the negotiations.
“I would be honored to accompany you,” Sarek said. “However my son and his wife are currently...unavailable.”
Kirk didn’t hide his confusion. What the hell did that mean? He cleared his throat and addressed the Vulcan again.
“Would I be permitted to at least ask them?” he inquired, looking around again.
“I’ll do that, Jim,” McCoy interjected, flashing Kirk a warning not to press the issue with Sarek. The captain stared at him with open confusion, wondering what the doctor knew that he didn’t. He really didn’t like mysteries one bit.
“Ok, Bones,” he said slowly. He had grown used to having both his friends to bounce ideas off of, but lately he was feeling rather left out of their confidences.
They continued with their meal, engaging in pleasant small-talk and catching up on what they had been doing on leave. Kirk glanced more than once at the door, half expecting Spock or Saavik to appear there. Where had Sarek said they were? he wondered. The bedchamber? They couldn’t stay in there forever, could they?
“Captain Kirk,” Sarek said, breaking into his thoughts. “If you have the time I would like to discuss the situation on Derilia. “
“Of course, Ambassador,” Kirk said. As he stood to follow Sarek to his office, he shot McCoy a look that said he expected answers—and soon.
McCoy sighed as he stood to help Amanda clear the table. He wasn’t about to betray Spock’s confidence, even to his friend. Maybe this joining thing would clear up soon and the issue would resolve itself. He was so lost in thought that he nearly collided with Amanda in the kitchen.
“Leonard,” she cried, laughing. “Please! Sit. You’re my guest!”
“I don’t mind helping, Amanda,” he said as put the dishes on the counter. “In fact, I was hoping to talk to you.”
She put down her things also and directed him to the small breakfast nook in the corner of the kitchen. The area was quiet and very private, but he still hesitated.
Amanda sat across from him and searched his face as she laid her hands on his. “Is it about Spock?” she asked simply.
He looked up sharply but she laughed and patted his hands. “Logically,” she said, her eyes sparkling at the word, “That is why you’re here. Sarek does worry when he’s not Vulcan enough.”
McCoy relaxed a little. “Can I ask you a personal question?” he asked.
Amanda smiled again, spreading out her hands. “Of course,” she laughed. “But as the Vulcans say, I have the right to reserve an answer.”
McCoy smiled but hesitated again.“When you married Sarek,” he began, “did you...I mean...as a human...”
“Did we have a joining?” she finished for him. “Of course! It is the natural order of things.” She smiled to herself, remembering. “Although my comparative human frailty made it a rather extended affair.”
The doctor considered that with interest as Amanda continued.
“Are you concerned that Spock’s human genes may have some effect on his joining?”
McCoy looked away. “Well, I can’t really discuss...”
“Leonard!” Amanda scolded. “I have already considered the issue myself.” She got up to put the kettle on but continued talking. “I don’t know how Romulan mating practices compare to Vulcans’, but Spock is neither fully Vulcan nor as young as Saavik.”
“There’s a lot a factors, for sure,” McCoy agreed, wondering if the age difference might have more bearing than the different genes. He looked up at Amanda. “There’s quite a gap between the ages of you and Sarek as well,” he said pointedly.
“Yes there is,” she agreed as she filled their cups with spiced tea. “As you say, there are many factors. But does it really matter? The joining will end when it ends. It is not a permanent condition.”
McCoy took a sip of his tea. “Spock and Saavik are...concerned.” he admitted.
Amanda’s eyes opened wide at that but she let him continue.
“Well,” he hedged, “you can imagine how it might interfere with their official duties...”
She laughed lightly. “The solution is simple enough.”
He smiled in a response. “Well yeah, I’ve already suggested they extend their leave,” he said. “But the captain really wants them on this mission.”
“It’s not up to the captain, is it?” she asked
He grinned ruefully. “No, I guess not,” he said. “But I did promise to ask them.”
Amanda smiled at him. “Then you should ask,” she said, “but you know what the answer will be. The joining is a powerful motivation. I’m surprised they were able to speak with you...coherently.”
“Well...barely,” McCoy admitted, remembering the strangely amorous Vulcans. “Can I ask another personal question?” She smiled her response.
“Is the lack of inhibitions a normal aspect of a joining?”
She sipped her tea, her eyes sparkling. “No,” she answered. “The joining is a private affair. There is typically no interaction with others until it is complete.” She eyed him over her cup. “Do you find their behavior shocking, Leonard?”
He set his cup on the table. “Well, yeah, a little,” he admitted. “I’m not used to seeing them act like love-struck teenagers.”
Amanda laughed. “Attitudes on Vulcan are changing,” she said. “But I suspect their mixed heritage is the cause in this case. Since you brought Spock back to us, he has been more inclined to embrace his human half.”
McCoy furrowed his brow. “I hope my mind didn’t rub off on his too much,” he said.
“That wouldn’t be an altogether bad thing,” she said, patting his hand. “Besides, the Spock and Saavik you know will be back soon enough.”
He glanced at her uncertainly. “I suppose so,” he said, absently twirling his cup between his hands. “I guess I’d better be getting on,” he said. “Jim’s liable to come out of that office and start asking questions.”
She patted his shoulder as she took his cup from him. “Don’t worry, Leonard,” she said. “The captain won’t get past me.”
He smiled at her tenacity. “Call me when they make an appearance,” he said. “I should have their test results by then...and maybe some answers.”
“Of course,” she smiled as she walked with him to the front door. “And don’t worry. Spock and Saavik are just fine.”
He thanked her and bid her goodnight as he wandered out into the muggy Vulcan night. Here on the edge of the city the stars were particularly glorious and he felt an unusual desire to fly among them again.
Really? He thought to himself. Maybe Spock’s mind has rubbed off on me.
As he hailed a flyer, he thought about his unlikely entanglement with Vulcan and this family in particular. He wanted to share Amanda’s calm about the situation, but the disconcerting behavior of his friends still unsettled him. He hoped the tests would show something simple enough to correct or Spock and Saavik would just have to enjoy an extended honeymoon.
He smiled. It didn’t sound so bad to be Vulcan after all.