Author's note: This vignette is dedicated to Roisin Fraser and Yersinia, who wanted to know a little more about the wedding Captain Picard mentioned in the TNG episode "Sarek." It's set in the same universe as Unspoken Truth and Any Other Lifetime, and may be read as a companion piece to the wedding flashback scene in chapter 4 of Any Other Lifetime. As always, deepest thanks to beta readers Morgan Stuart and Claire Gabriel.

Copyright © 2000 Kathleen Dailey. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be archived, reproduced, or distributed in any format without prior written permission from the author. This is an amateur nonprofit work, and is not intended to infringe on copyrights held by Paramount Pictures or any other lawful holder.


Epithalamion

Kathleen Dailey

We're going to stick close together today. Me, Nyota, and Saavik, that's the deal. And nothing's going to separate us, not Starfleet protocol or Sarek's political agenda. We're officially in the wedding party--that's all been arranged. And afterwards, at the reception or banquet or levee or whatever the Vulcans call it, we're going to make sure we sit at the same table even if we have to shuffle somebody's precious little placecards all to hell. We've already agreed to leave at the same time and head back to Ny's place for brandy and a post-mortem--

Post-mortem. Bad choice of words on a friend's wedding-day, and anyway it isn't as if we haven't already analyzed the thing up, down, and sideways, picking away till we're sick of talking about it. But then we always end up going at it again--it's like a toothache, you just have to keep prodding it while you're waiting in the dentist's office, even if that doesn't accomplish a damn thing except make it hurt worse.

Saavik keeps trying to look on the bright side. How well-matched they are. So many interests in common. Companionship. Trust. Affection, even, though you couldn't prove it by me. Well, Saavik would see it that way, wouldn't she? She's the only one of us who was happily married. She was widowed way too young, but at least all her memories are good ones--and she was lucky enough to be married to the right person, the person she was really meant to be with, which is more than you can say for Ny or for me.

Or for Spock.

* * *

At least I don't have to go to Vulcan this time and roast myself in my jacket like a Kaferian yam.

Not that I wouldn't have if Spock had asked me to. That's what friends are for, and if they'd decided to do it the traditional way I'd've been right there, smack dab in the hottest circle of Hell, maxed out on Triox and with backup replicator codes for Maker's Mark and Mentha spicata in my pocket. But thanks to the bride-to-be's philosophical convictions and the fact that Spock's seriously pissed at Sarek, we only have to go as far as the Vulcan embassy, just the other side of the park. Saavik wanted to order a groundcar for us, but Ny and me, we told her no. San Francisco in September is a damn sight friendlier to folks our age than Shi'Kahr in midsummer, and the walk'll do us good. Saavik worries about us too much. That vulcanoid metabolism--I guess to her we must seem about a hundred years older than we really are.

I'm a little nervous, I admit it. Not because I'm afraid anything'll go wrong, exactly. Lightning wouldn't even think of striking twice, not when Ambassador Spock and Ambassador Sarek are micromanaging the weather system. But this wedding has taken on a life of its own over the last few months, and it isn't just about two nice folks deciding to tie the knot any more.

This Cardassian thing that's got Spock and Sarek so upset with each other--I have to say I can see both sides of it. And sometimes I wonder whether either one of them would be so stubborn if it wasn't the other guy he was up against. Anybody else and they'd be trying harder to find a compromise, to figure out a way to do what was best for the Bajorans and the Federation and the unaligned worlds stuck in the middle. But these are two powerful men we're talking about, and between them they've managed to make everybody in the Federation line up on one side or the other. It isn't pretty, and it's damned dangerous. If I was the praetor of Romulus or the chancellor of Qo'noS, I'd be rubbing my hands together and just waiting to seize the moment. Lucky for all of us those folks have got their own problems right now.

This wedding is supposed to make things better.

Just take a look at the guest list. Vulcan weddings are usually private family affairs. But there were five hundred names on the list the last time I counted, and they've been making a lot of additions. More like a Federation Council meeting than a wedding. Hell, you could probably use Sarek's seating chart in training sims for baby diplomats at the Interstellar Service Institute. Too bad there's no tapes of him and Spock negotiating the arrangements--I'd give something to watch those two in action on opposite sides of a bargaining table. Good thing Spock's fiancée was around to act as tie-breaker. And peacemaker. Otherwise we wouldn't be going to a wedding at all today--they probably would've just eloped or something, although I can't quite picture Spock risking his dignity to climb a ladder to her bedroom.

Not to her bedroom.

* * *

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against Spock's bride-to-be. Fact is, I like her. She's a smart cookie. We've spoken at some of the same conferences, served on the same committees, sat on the same editorial boards. As Vulcan scientists go, she's a lot more flexible than some and a lot less arrogant than most. I don't think she's got much of a sense of humor, but Saavik says you can't always tell about Vulcans, sometimes their wit goes over everybody else's head. I don't think she's very warmhearted, either, but Nyota says anyone who can play the flute like that must be able to feel things pretty deeply. I'll just have to take their word for it, since I'm not allowed to talk to Spock about the woman he's marrying.

Oh, I know why he's been avoiding me. Nothing to do with making wedding preparations or tying up those negotiations on Andor. Nope, he's had plenty of time to go off to Vulcan with Saavik to visit her son. Plenty of time to have dinner with Ny whenever he wants to. Plenty of time to fly himself all the way to Kaferia just so he could meet Pardek for a stopover on neutral ground. I'm the only one he can't make time for these days, and I know damn well why.

Thing is, I've been good. I've kept my trap shut for years, ever since the refusion. I admit that I did try once or twice to talk to him about his memories--our memories by then--and one memory in particular. He shot me down every time. "The past is the past, Leonard. Let it be." He never raised his voice, naturally. But he had--still has--a way of letting you know when he's good and ticked at you for daring to violate his private space. Well, considering that he'd moved his private space lock, stock, and barrel into my private space without so much as a by-your-leave, I was tempted to give him a piece of my mind, so to speak. But I managed to exercise some Vulcan self-restraint. I zipped my lip. I was willing to keep it zipped, too, right up until six months ago, when he announced at a reception for one of his diplomatic colleagues that he was getting married.

Clever, eh? Him making the news public like that, I mean. It sure isn't the Vulcan Way. Sarek, who was lording it over the reception as usual, must have been having shitfits. But Spock probably figured Admiral McCoy, the old reprobate, wouldn't dare do anything stupid while he was tarted up in his fancy dress uniform and his medals. In front of all those Fleet and Federation honchos milling around to offer their good wishes. With the bride-to-be attached to her intended's side all night, looking just as cool and smooth and graceful as a Terran ice sculpture.

Hell, he was right. Like I said, I like the woman, and I wasn't about to embarrass her. The fact that Spock was making the second biggest mistake of his life really had nothing to do with her, except that she was the one he was making it with. Anyway, I waited there with the rest of the folks to congratulate the happy couple. But the minute I came into Spock's line of sight, I could practically feel him slamming down those Vulcan shields, like he was steeling himself for confrontation or worse. The reaction was so obvious and so reflexive that I actually felt sorry for the poor bastard. I gave him my best shiteating grin, I bowed like a gent to the lady, and then I served 'em both a giant-sized helping of the doc's patented blend of Tupelo honey and cornpone. I'm good at that. It's been part of my act for so long that I don't even have to think about what I'm saying or how I'm saying it--it just drawls out of its own accord. Spock was on to me as soon as I opened my mouth, of course. But his fiancée was a new audience. She'd never seen this side of me at any scientific conference. She looked--well, if not charmed, exactly, then at least bemused, which was enough to get all three of us through those few minutes. Just before I turned away so the next folks in line could gush--and no, I didn't kiss the lady's hand, hell, I have some respect for other people's cultural taboos regardless of what everybody thinks--I met Spock's eyes and we had ourselves a little dialogue.

Thank you, he said with a look.

Just you wait, I answered back.

I haven't had a private word with him since.

* * *

It's about companionship, Saavik says. It's about having somebody to come home to after a lifetime of having nobody. It's about sharing meals and trips and work and stories. It's about sharing a bed, too, but I bet that hasn't occurred to Saavik. Like any kid, she probably can't imagine a parent doing it, even though this kid's been married herself and her foster father's a healthy man in the middle of his life. I bet she thinks they'll sleep in separate rooms with thermal fields and insulated socks to keep 'em warm.

Which reminds me. If Spock ever lets me speak to him alone again, I've got to ask him if he wants off the medication now that he's getting married. He can't just stop taking it, he's got to taper down gradually, and he'll need medical supervision. Not a conversation I look forward to having. But as long as I don't make an ass out of myself by saying the wrong thing--like mentioning the name of the person I'm not allowed to mention in his presence, although if it wasn't for that person I never would've searched the Rigelian medical databases in the first place--we'll probably be okay. I know Spock is grateful for the respite he's been given all these years. But I also know that Vulcan marriages aren't much like any other species', and maybe the pon farr isn't so awful when you're not fighting it and you're bound to somebody who actually cares about your well-being.

And I sure as hell hope she cares, because there'll be no getting out of this one. A bond to be broken only by death or challenge to the death. Not much wiggle room there. I've heard that some Vulcan couples were able to dissolve the bonding link by mutual agreement. I'm damn sure that's pure fantasy. It would take a healer who was way, way up there in the mind-discipline hierarchy to break a bond. And who knows whether anybody would be willing to do it even if they could? Nope, this is for keeps. Forever. Eternity. Till the rivers run dry, the mountains crumble, the stars fall, and death do us part.

What the hell can we do? Kidnap him, for god's sake? Drug him? Stow him away in stasis on a Barolian freighter, and ship him in a cargo crate across the Line to Romulus?

* * *

Me and Nyota and Saavik, we share a secret. It's an old secret, and we've kept it safe and sound for years. I know how I found out the secret--it wasn't like I had a choice, it was delivered prepaid with the katra consignment. And I know how Saavik found out, but that story's not mine to tell and I wouldn't tell it even if it was. As to how Nyota found out--well, with Ny there's no such thing as "finding out" or "discovering" or "detecting." When it comes to her friends and how we feel and what's going on in our lives and hearts, there's only "knowing." She knows the damnedest things before anybody else does--sometimes before the friend himself--and she's always right. Always.

Can't go any further than that. Not without breaking confidences and trusts. Leave it at this: we're sticking together today because we share a secret about Spock and somebody else--somebody who flashed like a comet across our lives a long, long time ago, and who's never been forgotten. Because we all care about Spock and we want what's best for him, and we're pretty sure we know what that is and he doesn't. And because in our different ways and for our different reasons we're all hopeless romantics, which makes our judgment unreliable as hell.

Maybe Jim could've made a difference today. Spock would listen to him when he wouldn't listen to anybody else. Jim probably would have said just the right thing to make him see--really see--what that old Vulcan platitude means: There are always possibilities. Thing is, for Jim that saying was the literal truth. Damn, but there was never a time when he wasn't willing to take a chance on life and love, to risk everything--

Not going to think about that now, no sir. Ny and Saavik'll be here in a minute, and for their sake the old doc's going to put on his best bright eyes and bushy tail. God knows we'll probably all be blubbering soon enough.

* * *

What a great smell. Roses and camellias, yellow and white, arranged real pretty on the stage or dais or whatever and other places around the hall. And none of that cloying Vulcan incense or those nasty jangly little bells to bring back bad memories. Just lots of nice flowers and a chamber group playing Mozart. Very damned tasteful.

Spock and his fiancée seem pretty relaxed, considering. They're just lining up behind the rest of us so they can make their entrance last of all. None of that "can't see the bride before the wedding" stuff for Vulcans, I guess.

One of Sarek's diplomatic minions is organizing us, or maybe she's one of Spock's. Anyway, her job is to make sure we go down the aisle in the right order and with the right spacing between us. I don't pretend to know what kind of a point the happy couple is trying to make by having so many people in the wedding party. All I know is it looks like they've come from all over everywhere, and they're all dressed in their homeworlds' traditional Sunday best--feathers, metals, webs, aura fields, tonewear. Our Starfleet uniforms look downright drab in comparison.

The kids in the Starfleet honor guard are supposed to go in first. Twenty-four downy chicks--ensigns and jaygees impressed as hell by the spectacle and trying to pretend this is the kind of thing they do every day. Everybody else looks happy, too. Maybe a big wedding wasn't such a bad idea after all. Folks whose governments are feuding because of the Cardassian mess are actually getting along, pairing up real nice for the procession. Course, nobody's talking much to the Klingons, and as far as I can tell Spock's friend Senator Pardek is being left pretty severely alone. No surprise there. The Federation doesn't have formal diplomatic relations with Romulus any more, and Spock probably had to call in a lot of favors just to get him a visa. Bet it gets right up Sarek's nose that his son's included a Romulan in the wedding party.

He's not a bad guy, Pardek. Not the sharpest scalpel in the tray, but I think he's got a good heart. I've met him a few times offworld, and we even had a glass of ale together once on Kaferia. And he's been a damn good friend to Spock--

Oh, what the hell. If it's okay with Ny and Saavik, I'll ask him if he wants to sit with us at the reception. What's Starfleet going to do, can us? If I know those herberts at Command, they'll turn it into a prop op and say the whole thing was their idea. Outreach across the quadrants, blah blah blah.

Ah, there's our cue. Good old Mendelssohn. Damned if Spock and his lady don't look like Vulcan royalty in those clan robes.

I sure hope somebody's taking pictures.

* * *


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© 2002 Kathleen Dailey. All rights reserved.