DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Kelthammer and is copyright (c) 2002 by Kelthammer. This story is Rated G.
Chapel bit down on a sigh as she looked at her tray.
Behind her, Uhura poked her spine. Sharply. "It's supposed to look like a turkey. Be grateful they managed that."
"If this is a turkey, I'm guilty of some kind of crime." The nurse stepped back and showed her friend the idiotic display: a fully-proportional lump of questionable matter, shaped into all appropriate lines and slopes that made the brain say: "Turkey, roasted with mashed potatoes" only the fake bird was slightly larger than a Cornish Hen.
"Crime?" Uhura repeated.
"I don't believe in eating baby animals," Chapel told her.
"What about the Flying Fish Roe sushi rolls you're addicted to?"
"Oh, for-- Nyota, that doesn't count! If it did I wouldn't eat eggs for breakfast!"
"I don't see the attraction." Uhura shuddered.
"It could be worse."
"Mr. Scott told me back in the Mirror Dimension, the food menus hadn't changed since Imperial Rome."
Uhura frowned. "I missed that. Not that I was going for The Grande Tour. How is that bad?"
"Well, they had options like Unborn Squid Sauce, and--"
"Christine, shut up. Shut up right now."
They carried their trays to their usual table, which was where The Big Three were sitting at and, as usual, engaged in some kind of debate/fight/altercation/pontification/what have you.
"Remember when Charlie was here?" Uhura whispered. "It was really awful, but he was able to make real turkeys for us."
"I know, I know..."
"Okay..." Jim Kirk had an uncharacteristically troubled frown on his face. "I'm open to suggestions, Bones. Any suggestions."
McCoy looked up from his breakfast (he was back on the Screwball Shift) with a puzzled frown. "Haven't you ever shopped for a little boy before?" He didn't want to mention David, or Sam's two tiny sons that didn't survive Deneva.
Jim was not happy. "Bones, this is the future High Teer of Capella! I can't ... just give him something that any Federation boy would take!"
"Um." McCoy conceeded there was a point to that. He poked around his hash browns with the air of a fortune teller attempting to read the future through tea leaves.
Spock looked from one man to the other, and had the great good sense not to participate in the exchange. Children were out of his intellectual, emotional, and physcial league. Besides. They unnerved him.
The doctor drummed his fingers on the table.
So did Jim.
"You lived there for months, Bones. And you managed not to get in trouble. Can't you contribute a notion?"
"Whaddaya mean, 'managed not to get in trouble?'" McCoy demanded. "As if I can compete!"
Kirk didn't feel like discussing his habit of headbutting really different cultures. "I'm just..." Jim lifted his hands in exasperation. "Trying to figure out a birthday present! We should go in this together!"
"Dividing the pain, huh?"
"If you like," Jim shot back.
"Hmph and double hmph." McCoy looked down at his tray and apparently found a solution in his fake-fried potato slivers. "Well, he's likely to be swamped with tiny warrior toys anyway. So we can cheerfully leave that out. How about something that'll challenge his little mind?"
"He's two years old!" Jim objected. "Just how challenged does he need to be??"
McCoy paused and gave Jim a long, level look across the table. It suddenly became painfully clear that Jim had absolutely no knowledge about children.
"If you want to know that answer," the doctor drawled, "just give a two year old human child a screwdriver. I guarantee, you will be amazed at the resultant carnage. Joanna had the commands to the electigames figured out on my computer and I never knew about it. She had her crib carefully taken apart and the plates off every door's knob she could reach. And that's just a human child, Jim. I'm not even going to repeat what Amanda said Spock did at that age. It'd curl your hair beyond the point of control."
Jim snorted while Spock tried not to look alarmed at the knowledge that McCoy had spoken to his mother in private.
"Okay." Jim poked at his fruit cubes. "Suggestions."
"Something relatively harmless, like a telescope or a lens ... let's make sure Eleen knows about thick glass and strong sunlight and its effect on insects, plants, and flammable objects."
"Great." Jim washed his hands of the situation. "You can set it up."
"Me?? Aren't you gonna contribute??"
"I'll pay for the costs. You can just get everything together."
"Lord, Jim. Are you one of those people who'd pay a hundred credits so somebody else can set up your Christmas tree?" McCoy blinked at his captain's face. "Well." He coughed. "That's fine if you're that way."
"It is, and I am," Jim said in no-nonsense tones. He chugged down his tea and got to his feet. "I'm due on the Bridge. I'll see you all later."
The doors swished shut, and McCoy looked at Spock. "Due at the Bridge in about thirty minutes. At least I know how to get some supplemental income next week." He shook his head. "Captain Congeniality needs to work on his homemakers's skills for sure."
Spock cocked his head to one side curiously. "Not to detract, but have you and the Regent managed to come to an agreement over the ... parentage of the High Teer?"
"Oh." McCoy grinned. "Pretty much. I told her that she was free to find another husband since I couldn't be a proper one to her."
"A wise decision." Spock found the entire experience murky. "But you are still considered the father?"
"Yep." McCoy shrugged his shoulders. "First a daughter, then a son, now your life is well begun..."
Spock elevated his eyebrow. "And if the reverse happens?"
"Your life is misery from hereafter."
"Is that not a ... chauvinistic attitude?"
"Why are you complaining? I thought Vulcan was a Matriarchy."
"I was not complaining..."
"Are you saying Vulcan is chauvinistic?"
"Not that I'm surprised to hear that, but your admitting it--"
Nyota and Christine had been valiantly trying to stay ignorant of all this while poking through their meals.
Nyota spooned up a white mass. "Are mashed potatoes supposed to be fluffy?" Not that she cared, but it would sound-screen the rising quarrel.
"Well, no. They should have at least a few lumps in them." Christine tried to sound knowledgeable. "But these were never mashed. They were dehydrated, so they're fluffy."
"Second-grade mashed potatoes," Uhura muttered. "Cheap Imitations. The Budget Special from Wrigley's."
"Almost as good, but much much cheaper," Christine agreed.
"You know, I don't think Wrigley's food is all that good," Nyota commented.
"It's not," McCoy chipped in. He had his eyes closed and was leaning back, arms folded at rest. "Scotty and I were actually sober when we were down there. Put the whole planet in a different light."
"Only one of the reasons why you don't want to go back," Christine teased.
"Swabbing the outer primary hull being another one," McCoy muttered.
"The captain's got to get over that before long." Uhura felt honor-bound to be optimistic.
"He's just mad because he didn't get personally involved in the trouble we were in."
Spock lifted an eyebrow to that, but so far seemed content to listen silently.
"One telescope -- no, make it a magnifying glass. Small, portable, less awkward, and he can't use it to club his friends over the head with." McCoy opened one eye and wrote down an invisible shopping list in the air with his finger. "Hmnn ... since Jim's paying for this, and he can probably write it off as a Federation Gesture of Diplomacy ... let's make it Sublight Delivery, extra fees including..."
"Are you going to budget that down to the femtosecond?" Chapel wondered, deeply amused.
"I would, but not without the aid of machinary. My thoughts don't move that fast."
"Agreed." Spock had found an opening.
"Besides, the concept of linear time is too confining." McCoy jumped at the chance to start up with Spock.
"As I have long suspected, Doctor." Spock wasted no time picking up the gauntlet.
"And overly meticulous," McCoy plunged onward.
"It pleases me no end, Doctor, to see my suppositions about your mental faculties have been proven correct."
Chapel wrenched her gaze to Uhura. "All right. What started it this time?" she whispered.
"You'd have to go back about a solar week; Spock found out Leonard is an avid Dvorak fan," Nyota whispered back.
"Dvorak. Antonin Dvorak. East-European composer about, oh, four hundred years ago."
Chapel frowned. "This started with music?"
"With Dvorak," Uhura explained patiently. "Antonin Dvorak."
Chapel pondered, slowly and cautiously, but she didn't get it. "I'm not musically grounded, Nyota. What's the punchline?"
Uhura was not the type to be mean and snicker at her friend's ignorance. She chuckled instead. "Dvorak rewrote musical history with his emphasis on intuition over intelligence in composition."
"Ah ... the dread 'I' word. Not to be confused with the other dread 'I' word."
"In a nutshell."
"...if you enjoy the serenity of mindless repetition..." McCoy was saying to Spock.
The women looked at each other.
"I'm through," Nyota said.
They dumped their trays and strolled casually out of the Mess Hall. Behind them, Spock was drawing a correlation between one-dimensional thinking (McCoy) and the dependance of an utterly primitive culture on Gregorian Chants (medival era). He was also sliding in acerbic comments about surgery being the realm of barbers, and bonesetting, the duty of the local blacksmith.
Nyota wanted to be well on the other side of the ship when Leonard countered with the inevitable argument of minors' scales and mathematical imagination, which translated to "comprehension" in forty Federation languages.
* * *
Sulu was his usual sunny self in the hallway, or maybe it was the presence of the monstrous potted plant cradled in his arms. Chapel nearly walked into the swaying, willow-like branch tips before she knew it. Something magenta bobbed before her eyes and she quickly stepped backwards. "Oh!"
"Sorry, Christine," Sulu apologized, and wrestled the pot (it was as wide as an antique barrel) to another position. The purple blob was an orchid-like flower, and it swung like a lead weight with the slender branch that supported it. "I thought I could get this to Horta' without much trouble."
"What is that?" Uhura wondered. "It looks like that thing that ate the Ambassador's dog last year!"
"Chihuahuas are not dogs," Chapel scorned. "Chihuahuas were bred for portable protein among the ruling class Aztecs. The plant was just doing what came naturally."
"It's been fed," Sulu broke in. "I gave it one of those sculpted chickens from the Mess Hall."
"They're supposed to be dwarf turkeys." Chapel craned to see over a spastically-curled cluster of leaves.
"Anyway, d'you think Gertrude would like a friend?" Sulu wobbled under his burden.
"Let me." Uhura took the weight with ease, and, as Sulu gaped at her she showed off just a little by putting the pot on her head like a hat.
"Lieutenant Strongarm," Sulu admired.
Uhura snorted scathingly. "And you call yourself a dancer? Where were you when they passed out water glasses and told the class to walk without spilling?"
"I think you mean Pavel," Sulu commented. "And he always refused to do that what-you-call-it, Russian folk dance. I think it was because only the women had the water glasses on their heads."
Chapel tuned them out and fingered the purple flower. It reminded her of the orchids they sold at Jefferson's Monticello to support the upkeep. Unlike the orchids, these were meant to attract small flying rodents that supplied a handy source of protein. Appalling as it might be to those who did not live on Cestus II, it cut down on the incidences of Cestian Rabies.
"Uh oh. Stay alert, people," Uhura suddenly muttered through the sides of her mouth.
Experts at subterfuge, everyone all pretended amazing interest in the plant as the unmistakeable sound of officer boot heels clicked their way.
"Possibly you should reconsider your intake."
"Six cups of coffee is how I got through med school, Mr. Spock. I couldn't have developed the neural regenerator at the age of 26 without caffeine."
"If six cups got you through medical school, you must realize that your dependancy has escalated to six cups a day."
"I meant six cups a day! That's what people mean when they say, 'X amount'!"
"And the side effects thereof. Or are you not aware that your beverage makes you tense and irritable?"
"Coffee does not make me tense and irritable!" McCoy barked. "Coffee makes me tense and HAPPY! I LOVE it! It's when I don't have any that I start clawing the bulkheads and chewing the potted plants!"
Sulu instinctively clutched his plant closer. Uhura poked him sternly. "Don't you be chewing the scenery," she admonished him.
"Hum ... maybe the doc would like some of those coffee beans my cousins keep sending," Sulu murmured. "Christine, what do you think?"
"I did my Christmas shopping eleven months ago. Right in the New Year's price reduction," Christine informed him with the serenity that can only come with being perfect.
"I hate you," Sulu said with utter clarity.
"So you're giving Leonard coffee beans that are eleven months old?" Uhura wondered.
"Goodness, no. They've been dipped in bittersweet chocolate and sprinkled with powdered sugar."
"My GOD, Christine, what did he ever do to you?"
"If I was trying to kill him, I wouldn't go for his heart. The man doesn't have any major organs. Just ask M'Benga."
"They're gone." Sulu craned around his plant. "All that acting, and they weren't even heading down our corridor."
"I'm cheated," Uhura said.
"I'll tell you what. We'll stage something ridiculous and plant ourselves in the corridor -- just for their entertainment purposes."
"Do you think they'd fall for it?"
"I doubt the captain would -- Dr. McCoy gave him a Virginia Ham last year for his acting ... but I bet Mr. Spock would."
"But that would be playing to an unappreciative audience."
"Oh, come on, now!" Sulu protested, wounded. "He gets my astrophysics jokes."
"Which sets him apart from the crew." Nyota was exasperated, and she even put her hands on her hips to prove it. "Hikaru, for the last time, spatial formulae are not amusing!"
"Sure they are. Remember the old RPI cheer?"
"Don't start on--"
Too late, Sulu was already off.
"X to the Y, DY, DX, X to the XDX! Cosine, secant, tangent sine, three-point-oh-four-one-five-nine--"
Uhura, solely in the interest of preserving sanity aboard the starship Enterprise, clapped her hand over his mouth.
Christine giggled through her fingers. "How about something less highbrow?"
"Math is not highbrow!" Sulu looked like Christine had just knifed him in the back. "Math is life!"
"For the subdivided brain," Uhura muttered. She removed her hand warily and by bad luck, brushed it on one of the razor edges of the plant. "Ow!"
"Oops." Sulu blinked at the angry red smear on her palm. "Better trot down to Sickbay and get that taken care of. The allin compounds are pretty bad."
"Lovely. Good thing Angela's filling in for me today."
* * *
McCoy blinked at her palm once, and twice when he got the low-down. "A plant bit you?" he repeated.
"Not technically. But it's a hostile plant," Uhura growled. Pain of any kind made her want to get hostile herself.
"What kind of hostile?" He ran the scanner over her hand and blinked a third time. "Yikes. Is this a Cestian Batcatcher by any chance?"
"Yes. Hikaru is going to put the little monster in Horticulture. Can't you do something about that?"
"Who, me? Lieutenant, I am still at war with our Helmsman over those Anasazi-Pinto beans he insists on crossbreeding. Besides, there's nothing little about a Batcatcher. Just ask Ambassador Urch." He shuddered and prepared a hypo. "Creepy little dog," he said under his breath. "I can't believe she made me examine the stomach contents of a plant! Plants don't have stomachs, they--"
Christine poked her head through the doorway. "Dr. McCoy, you'll never believe this."
"Believe what, Nurse?" McCoy asked warily.
"I just got an antique book on the life of a country doctor WAY back in the 1950's ... he knew an OB named ... Robert Luikart Chamberlain!"
McCoy gaped, then burst into gales of laughter.
"And he used forceps!" Chapel added, between gasps.
"Stop!" McCoy giggled, then clutched his sides. "That's just too rich."
Uhura blinked. "I don't get it."
Chapel sighed, wiping her face. "I'm sorry, Ny. It doesn't translate well."
"Kwelli." McCoy waved at the just-arrived AMO. "Can you take over for me? A shot of the Blue Stuff for our Lieutenant..." He vanished into Chapel's makeshift office, still hunched over.
"The things I miss out on," M'Benga said to the room. "Okay, Blue Stuff coming up."
"Aren't you supposed to call a drug by its official name?" Uhura asked uneasily. She stared at the hypo in his hand.
"Supposed to? No, not really. Not if we know what we mean, and we do." M'Benga gave her a wink. "So what happened to warrant the Blue Stuff? Roll in a patch of poison ivy?"
"No, Sulu's stupid Batcatcher slashed me. He says it was an accident, but was it really, when you're talking about a plant designed for mayhem?"
"I don't know, you're the linguistics expert." M'Benga grinned. "We could always try it on somebody else ... stage a controlled experiment."
Uhura pretended to give that serious thought. "That sounds good. Who has been annoying you lately? Leonard?"
"I'm afraid the experiment wouldn't work with Leonard. He doesn't have major organs," Kwelli shot back as he fiddled with his personal tric.
"That's the second time I've heard that today -- what do you mean?"
"Well, Sickbay humor. The captain tends to get banged up a lot, as you might have noticed. Usually pretty badly, but he powerhouses himself through the situation, then crawls in here, gasping and bleeding and burned and smelling like alien dirtballs, and we stitch him up..."
"Yes, I couldn't help but notice."
"Well, he's had serious health issues so many times because of damage to this organ or that, it started getting old ... and the joke started that the captain is one major organ."
Uhura pondered that. "And Leonard has no major organs because he doesn't get hurt like that?"
"Nobody gets hurt like the captain. As for Leonard... Oh, once in a while, he gets really screwed up ... but it's the exception rather than the rule."
"Hmn ... I wonder why."
"Dynamics?" Christine suggested. She had reappeared from her office -- McCoy was still sending occasional chuckles from the tiny room. "We've been trying to figure that out for some time. It's a never-dull topic at the weekend poker games in Sickbay's Lounge."
"We have lots of never-dull topics," M'Benga said in aside to Nyota. "It's partly because we never get to finish a single game."
"Why is that?" Nyota wondered innocently.
"Engineering," M'Benga told her.
"What does Mr. Scott's department have to do with your card games?"
"His drills, Lieutenant. His drills. In peacetime, he is a man to be feared. DeSalle was in here just the other day with most of his fingerprints blown off from a live chipboard gone bad. It's a hazard when you're trying frantically to replace the entire Impulse Logistics while your Superior Officer is standing behind you screaming, 'go faster!'"
"Or, Gae fasta." Chapel corrected. "None of us know what a crappit-headed fashing is, but we sure don't want to know."
"Well, it's just his fingerprints." Uhura tried not to be shaken at the mental image M'Benga had just conjured.
"Are you joking?" M'Benga wanted to know. "Do you know how hard it is to pick up small objects with fingers rendered slick as glass?"
Uhura snorted. "Next time, tell DeSalle to rub his nose. The oil makes a great sticker."
M'Benga gave her a long, level look under his eyebrows. "You are just determined to ruin what glorious fantasies I have of you." He stepped aside as Christine departed down the hallway.
"Honey, I do a lot worse than rub my nose for oil."
"I know, I know..." M'Benga had his hands over his eyes.
"Kwelli ... can you explain something to me?"
"Sure, if I can. What is it?"
"Well, Dr. McCoy and Nurse Chapel were just splitting their sides about an OB physician who lived in the 20th century."
"And?" M'Benga prompted.
"His name was Robert Luikart Chamberlain. And he used forceps."
M'Benga's mouth fell open, and he roared with laughter.
"Well?" Uhura demanded, starting to get impatient after some long minutes of this treatment.
"I ... I'm sorry, Ny. But that doesn't ... I don't know how to explain it to you..." M'Benga stopped for breath, and wiped the tears off his face. "Oh, my. I hope they didn't make that up."
* * *
Dinner was uneventful. At least, that was how McCoy saw it. He pulled a tray out of the wall, did a double take at its contents, and nodded to Christine and Nyota as he passed their table.
"Hikaru's purple peas," Christine was saying.
"Hikaru's purple pod peas," Uhura answered.
"Hikaru's purple podded peas, picked."
"Purple patch of -- no, patch of purple podded peas, picked promptly."
"Hyper Hikaru promptly picks a primo patch of purple podded peas..."
McCoy smiled and put his tray down next to Spock. The Vulcan had an untouched tray of salad and was reading from a portable monitor.
"Hip-Hyper?" Christine was wondering.
"Nahhh. That's too much like hyped."
"Probably pro-purple puce."
"Mmmmmaybe. Let's work that in later."
Spock, unable to bear it any longer, looked up from his reading with a distinct expression.
"Lookin' pained there, Spock." McCoy was thoroughly enjoying the game.
"Doctor, it is examples as such that makes one forget alliteration is in actuality an art form of Early English."
"Shush, Spock. They've just promoted Sulu to Happy Hyper Hikaru." McCoy lifted a warning finger. "Don't you want to contribute?"
"I bet you're good at this. You're just splendid at everything else." McCoy's face was as bright and innocent of mischief as imagination could create.
"Prompt PM picking," Christine had amended.
"Oooh, ooh -- Happy Hyper Helmsman, Hikaru, promptly picks purple podded peas in the PM..." Nyota stalled out, thinking hard.
"It's a test of language comprehension," McCoy tried again.
"Pest-probing," Nyota said. "Somewhere, he's probing for pests."
Spock had looked up from his computer again. "I believe I encountered this form under Dylan Thomas."
"Aha. Got struck by the 'fish-freezing waves' in A Child's Christmas in Wales?"
"It should have been Cymry." Spock was never one to fail to nitpick.
"Spock, you can find things that rhyme with Wales. But with Cymry, forget it."
"Does not 'hooray' rhyme with Cymry?"
"Well, maybe that does, but how often can you exercise good language skills with the two in context -- woa, woa, woa!" McCoy abruptly flipped his hands in the air. "Forget I said that! Forget I said that!"
"Forget you said what, Doctor? You are making just as much sense as usual." Spock's tone of voice left no argument as to what Spock was really saying.
"Aha! I knew you'd learn sarcasm someday!" McCoy was delighted. "Wait'll I tell Jim! Hooray indeed!"
"Doctor, please return from off your tangent and explain why I must forget your comment on language skills."
"Um ... what were we talking about? I've forgotten."
Spock almost exhaled through his nose as the CMO vaulted gracefully out of his chair to Dr. Voss.
"Hey, Voss! Did you hear about Christine's new book? It has an OB from 1950 named Robert Luikart Chamberlain!"
Voss blinked. "Did he use forceps?"
"Yep! Guess which ones?"
Voss chuckled. He was not the type to laugh. "That's funny."
Uhura gritted her teeth. "If I don't get this explained to me soon, Christine, I'm going to stuff you in a photon torpedo."
"I'm sorry, Nyota, but it really doesn't--"
"Translate well. I know..."
"Pro-puce peppers with the peas. How's that?"
Spock watched McCoy stab his fork into the main course. "I thought you were primarily carnivorous, Doctor."
"I'm a top-of-the-food-chain predator with omnivorous influences, if you must be particular. And speaking of, just because I prefer grasseaters to grass, does not mean I am without values." The doctor shoved his fake turkey aside and went for his potatoes. "Just how long are we going to get this stuff in the replicators?"
"Until you run out. As a vegetarian, I am not included in your pronoun."
"Careful, Spock. There are obviates that apply to you."
"...picked the peas, but plucked the peppers!"
"Ye-hah! You're a genius, Ny!"
"Are you going to explain that forceps joke to me?"
"Maybe later. First you have to help me work in 'participle'."
"How about, 'Madam, you are a dangling participle?'"
"Cute, but don't go Samuel Johnson on me, honey. Or I'll start calling you a semicolon."
Jim Kirk came up to the table of his officers with his own tray. "Why the long face, Bones?"
"Probably the flagrant misuse of forceps," McCoy shot back.
"Luikart or Chamberler?" Jim wondered.
McCoy laughed. "How do you know about forceps?"
"We used them on the farm."
"To do what? Deliver ears of corn?"
"No, my dear doctor. The farm animals."
Chapel stopped and smiled sheepishly at Nyota, who had heard the conversation. "Sorry," she apologized. "It's just that we kind of like to keep our jokes to ourselves."
"I can see why. They're very bizarre."
The women paused to listen. McCoy was telling Kirk that forceps were ridiculous for mammals that lacked shoulderblades, and hadn't he heard of the Grey Method for breech births? At the part where the doctor was telling Jim to "just grab whatever comes out and start spinning," Spock was pushing his tray even further than it already was and looking ill.
"You spin goats?" Sulu had chosen that moment to pass by.
"Shush, Hikaru. I'm not talking to you."
"You're still mad at my cross-breeding, huh?"
"Please tell me," Spock queried. "I would be curious to know what would get the doctor's censure."
"Well, I don't think you can join my side. He's mad at me because I'm crossing Anasazi beans with pintos."
"Pintos are not red, Sulu! Pintos are ... pinto in color! That's why they're called pinto!"
"What if I called them Appaloosas?"
"Already taken, and those beans are yellow!"
"You can't name them unless you've bred them into a genetic reliability! You know that! You tryin' to tell me you got five years to kill?"
"Piebald peas," Nyota whispered. Kirk, who had not been around for the beginning of their debate, looked askance. Just as quickly, the alliterative game was forgotten as McCoy, Spock and Sulu began a polite but strained war of legumes. Kirk was heard to say afterwards that there was no reason why anyone should ask him why he seemed so comfortable with fighting Klingons -- it was simple compared to what his Department Heads could get into on their own power.
It was, as Spock said later in a letter home to his mother, not the best example of the Enterprise during peacetime.