Disclaimer: Star Trek is the property of Paramount Viacom. This story is copyright © 2006 T'Kuht. Rated PG.
The Devil Went Down to Georgia
It wouldn't have galled him so much if he hadn't been in the middle of a story. There he was on the trail of the biggest cougar his twelve year old eyes had ever seen on his grandpappy's north Georgia farm when all of a sudden the dissident wail of the Vulcan lyre pierced the raconteur's spell.
He stumbled in the story and the attentive young female ensigns snapped out of their reverie. Their attention was stolen and with polite smiles moved en masse to sit at the master's feet. Spock paid no heed to their dewy eyes or dreamy expressions. He played for the sake of playing.
Jim Kirk slid the fresh coffee across the table as he sat back down. "Thought you were gonna tell the girls about the time you fell in the septic tank the time you were chasing that possum when you were a kid."
"It was a cougar not a possum," McCoy grouched. "I was till Mr. Music started up. Look at them… You'd think he was a crooner at a sock hop."
"A who at a what?" Kirk asked.
"Oh nothing. I bet if I went over and did a full striptease no one would even notice!" Bones insisted.
"Oh they'd notice, all right, but comedy nights are Fridays and this is Tuesday," Kirk grinned into his coffee.
"Shut the hell up… sir," McCoy bitched.
They sat for a while quietly enjoying the show. Kirk just couldn't help himself anymore and started laughing so hard he had tears in his eyes.
"What's so funny?" McCoy asked with a smile. He needed a good laugh.
Kirk spluttered, "You… I've seen those legs."
Bones was indignant, "Oh, you think it's so damned funny. Spock's got something you've not got and one day what you've got'll wear out too."
Kirk tried to sober up. McCoy was right, even if he was a little irrational. Spock had 'it' all right whatever 'it' was and contrary to the Vulcan's insistence he did know how to use it. Jim leaned in, "Watch this, he'll let out one of those half-assed smiles of his and they'll really go loopy. He does that to Uhura on the bridge and she screws her board up every time."
Sure enough partway through the song Spock rewarded his attentive -- mostly female --audience with a curious brow and slightly upturned lips. It set off giggles through the lot.
"If I could just bottle that we'd be rich. I've just got to find out what 'that' is," McCoy declared.
"Why don't you ask the expert," Kirk suggested.
"Who? Spock's no help."
"No, your head nurse. Not only is she the best biochem on board, she's also goofy for him," Kirk reminded. "Ask her what sends her, maybe you'll figure it out."
"Yeah but Chris comes to her senses every once in a while."
"Likes your possum story eh?"
"Cougar, it was a cougar, real killer, might have had rabies!" he insisted and then decided, "I'm going to bed."
* * *
Sickbay was quiet. Leonard McCoy flipped the last playing card at the trash can and watched his 52nd attempt fail. Christine Chapel nearly slid and fell on the pile as she crossed the room to put the last report of the shift on his desk.
She wasn't pleased. McCoy didn't move to pick the cards up so she started kicking them closer to the wall out of the way.
"Chris, what's he got that I've not?"
"Who?" she asked.
"Oh," she replied, "I don't know. Why?"
McCoy explained about the rec room incident. She folded her arms across her chest as she listened, "Stole your thunder eh? Well, one, music hath charms as they say, two, he exudes charisma in his sleep, and three, that story about you and the possum is a little stale."
"Cougar, god dammit!" he pounded, "Okay so he's charming and plays that oversized ukulele. Is that all?"
Christine shrugged and noted she was officially off duty, "He's different. He doesn't always play the lyre. Sometimes he plays chess or just talks. When he does play, it's an event. You talk all the time. He also doesn't demand attention. Did he announce he was going to play or just start and everyone gather around him?"
"Just played," McCoy recalled with a frown. "But it was like he was the Pied Piper of Hamlin."
"And you were the rat?" Christine added. "I know, it's an odd sensation but I've felt it, like being drawn to him when he starts to play."
It made Bones think, "Yeah I should do something different. Maybe that striptease idea wasn't so bad after all."
Chapel shook her head seriously as she started to leave, "Won't work. Comedy night is on Friday, this is Wednesday." She didn't start laughing till she was two doors down.
* * *
Spock was clueless but there it was in black and white on his cabin monitor at breakfast the next morning:
CHALLENGE, Saturday Rec Room 3, 1900 hours, Spock bring your lyre, BE THERE OR BE SQUARE!!!
By 0800 the news of the notice had spread through the ship like wildfire, mainly because no one was certain what it was all about. But to a bored crew, it didn't matter, tote boards gave Spock a 3-1 advantage in whatever it was and the identity of the challenger was paying at a high 10-1.
Come Saturday night, every security camera in Rec Room 3 was set to provide a 360 and full audio to every viewer and speaker on the ship. Even the bridge viewscreen went to a split effect so they could watch and see where they were going at the same time.
Spock appeared in standard uniform at 1855 to cheers from the packed room. Scotty'd set up a staging area.
"Mr. Scott, do you know what this is about?"
Scotty grinned, "I hae nae Scooby but it's great for the trade." That helped a lot and Spock took one of the seats on the stage area with his lyre. He sat watching the crew and they watched him, waiting.
Finally he spoke, "I do not know why I am here."
A familiar voice from the back spoke, "Cause I challenged you that's why."
The crowd parted to let Leonard McCoy squeeze through with a large black case. He sat down on the other seat and unsnapped it, "You ain't the only one on board who strings."
Much to everyone's astonishment he pulled out a well thumbed highly polished banjo. "Son, we're gonna have a little contest to see who can pluck better," McCoy winked.
Spock was taken aback and pointed out, "Dr. McCoy while the American banjo and the Vulcan lyre do share certain characteristics they are hardly equals."
"You chicken?" McCoy accused.
Spock shook his head, "No, I am not. I am Vulcan."
"Then just hang on and see if you can keep up," he said and with a deliberate flourish picked nine notes that to anyone familiar with American music recognized the challenge for dueling banjo pickers.
Spock turned the reverb off on the lyre and returned the challenge. Soon the pace of the song increased and although Spock's fingers were nimble it was difficult to keep up considering he had to translate the song in his head to Vulcan notes before it ever came out of the instrument.
McCoy was no slacker though. He was good, and he knew it. But the clencher for him was the raised eyebrow of astonishment from his opponent. The lyre and banjo's voices met in a strange mix that actually worked and turned the competition into a duet. The song came to its raucous conclusion amid shouts of encore and bravo.
Spock bowed his head in McCoy's direction to signify his defeat. The doctor was winded from the excitement, "That was pretty damned good. Know any more banjo numbers?"
Spock thought a moment, "I know this."
He plucked out the first twelve notes of Dixie and McCoy whooped out, "Amen!"
The two traded off songs for the next two hours when the challenge concert mutually ended in a tie. McCoy found he was now the object of new admirers who hung on his every word.
He was saying to them as Kirk and Chapel lined up to collect their winnings for knowing the mystery challenger, "Have I told you ladies about the time I fell in the septic tank on the trail of a bear?"
"Thought it was a possum?" Kirk commented and Chapel laughed, "I thought it was a cougar."
Commander Spock noted the large amount of money being handed over to the Captain and the nurse, "Are there not regulations against betting Captain?"
"Nope. There are regulations against gambling but we put our money on a sure thing. Someone else just didn't think we knew what we were talking about and that is a mere difference of opinion, not gambling," Kirk explained.
Chapel shook her head, "If you gentlemen will excuse me, I'm not dressed warm enough for the amount of snow blowing around here."
They watched her leave and Spock asked, "What was Dr. McCoy's purpose in challenging me to a musical duel?"
Kirk sighed and put a brotherly hand on Spock's back as they left, "Spock, you'll never understand this, but sometimes a man's just gotta prove he's still cock of the walk."