LOVE OR MANGOES
(dedicated to the worshippers of the Anacardiacea Tree. We are indeed an
Warm orange sunlight beat upon the airy hotel room. The soft tropical
breeze brushed chestnut brown hair across the sturdy forehead, and peaceful,
happy blue eyes crinkled up as he contemplated his quarry.
The doctor smiled, serenely, peacefully, as one hand lifted up a plump,
peach-colored oval. A flick of his thumbnail sent the short stem flying
across the room, and a thinbladed knife ran gently down the length of the
fruit. Sap the color of the Centaurian sun beaded at
the incision, and very slowly, began to slide downward to the bottom.
As Spock watched, only now remembering to breathe, Dr. McCoy lifted the
mango above his head and began to suck on the escaping juice.
Spock, according to his oft-exasperated mother, didn't enjoy his curiosity
so much as he abhorred a mystery. The fact that Amanda Grayson might
possibly be right never occured to Spock as he crossed the bustling square
that marked one of the largest markets on Alpha
Natives and aliens mingled freely here, many of the natives descendants of
Terra's early space explorers. The polyglot permitted him a rare freedom as
people who saw him, politely moved to give him space. It was rare for an
unknown species to be on this planet. Warm and mostly tropical, it was
popular to visit, but not
very popular to live in, unless one was willing to spend one-fith of the
year enduring extreme jungle heat. Even Vulcans, who preferred their
atmosphere dry, found the steaming summers oppressive (and the thirty-foot
aquatic, very carnivorous reptiles were a decided blow against the tourist
But some humans loved it. And that included the newly appointed Medical
Admiral Phillip "Bones" Boyce, formerly of the USS ENTERPRISE.
At the designated resturant, he saw the waiter lift one hand, and gesture.
Nodding to the man, he let his gaze travel, and found the human he was
Dr. Boyce had aged gracefully since leaving space. White as milk-dilithium,
his hair parted to the left in a sweep and his skin had darkened to a
healthy brown. The light blue eyes were usually crinkled in some kind of
jaded irony that he claimed was the right of humans--and one of the emotions
Vulcans were actually comfortable with. He smiled at Spock and made a point
of looking him up and down.
"You look very well, Spock." He rumbled. "Filled out some, even. And you
look more mature. Bones must be taking good care of you."
Spock was pleased to be given a favorable review. Compared to his youthful
persona of occasional fits of uncontrollable emotion, he far preferred the
person he was now. True adulthood was when one could master those immmature
On the other hand, he was not certain Dr. McCoy should be given credit for
his new emotional stability.
Some reaction must have flickered across his face, for Boyce chuckled. "Sit
down, please. It wasn't hard to figure out your rather opaque message."
Spock hesitated. Suddenly, he did not know how to describe the issue.
Spock was accustomed to distant and efficient family physicians. Leaving
Vulcan for Starfleet, he had found the medical branch to be populated with
amazingly talkative humans, who had inexplicable desires to ask the oddest
questions. Drs. Boyce and Piper had always been efficient physicians,
capable in their abilities, thorough and never amiss in their duties. But
Dr. McCoy was all that as well. If there was a defining difference, it was
that the older men...
Boyce and Piper had never once broached Spock on his dignity, his heiritage,
his actions, his motives, his thinking. They had never quarreled with him
for the apparant sake of the argument, and they had never taken delight in
Convinced Starfleet had made an unusual error in judgement, Spock had risked
his developing friendship with Jim Kirk and questioned McCoy's place on the
Jim had merely smiled, shrugged, and said, "Look, Bones is one of my oldest
friends, its true. You don't know humans very well and that's also true.
But I didn't ask him for this post. Boyce AND Piper did. And they were
pretty firm about it. Maybe you should ask them."
Spock had left the cabin in a turmoil of questions. Partly he was upset to
think that the captain would think he unfamiliar with the human race--Spock
felt nothing could be further from the truth. He was half human, after all.
Granted they were an illogical, chaotic species, but he UNDERSTOOD them.
Or so he thought. And yet Jim felt he had reason to believe otherwise..!
The second issue was McCoy had been SPECIFICALLY requested for, by two very
highly accredited physicians. Boyce AND Piper both. While this was not
unheard of in Fleet, it was not an average occurance.
His last action before retirement offship was for Dr. Boyce to offer Spock
the Vulcan Greeting, and quietly promise: "If you ever need any advice, or
just someone to listen to you, I'll be there for it. Don't forget."
Spock was now taking him up on that offer.
McCoy had drawn the beamdown number at the same time as Spock. Not
surprising that--they both had an agenda later on that night at the
Centaurian Food and Drink Convention (Starfleet's ever optimistic attempts
to create palatable food, as Scott once snarled). For some reason, Spock
had assumed they would remain together that day. After all, they were
sharing the same suite, the same business, and the same amount of time on
"Doctor," Spock repeated (patiently). "Are you listening to me?"
"Hmn?" McCoy's glassy expression wasn't improving. If anything, Spock
thought it was getting worse. "Hey, those are mangoes over there. Did you
know that the mangoes are ripe?"
"Yes, Admiral Boyce said so." Spock began. There was no reaction.
"Doctor, are you listening to me?"
"I'll check ya later." McCoy began walking away.
"Doctor, we are supposed to stay together."
"That is not..." Spock realized he was wasting his breath. And carrying
McCoy to the hotel might not be labor-effective. "Where are you headed?"
Spock, a touch-telepath, found his skills at avoiding contact hard pressed
as he followed McCoy's dark brown head through a crowd of brightly dressed
Centaurians. High speed maneuvers were not conducive to one's privacy.
McCoy stopped at a stall where several hard green, egg-sized objects were
being sliced and served on recyclable plates. That gave Spock time to catch
"Here. Have one." McCoy offered just as Spock was opening his mouth for
some kind off scathing comment about responsibility. "Salt and chili.
Spock looked, and felt it was in his best interests to "go along" with
whatever McCoy was up to. At least the doctor wouldn't do anything to
poison him. Purposefully.
The flavor of the green fruit was sour--sour enough to shock the tongue.
Being Vulcan, Spock had no idea WHAT it was like to humans, who were far
more sensitive. But the doctor was eating with a placid expression.
Placidity on McCoy was not a familiar sight. Spock felt justified in
staring. Even more so when it became apparant that McCoy either had no
awareness or no concern that he was now an audience.
"God, I love this place." The doctor announced to no one in particular.
"I'll take five pounds."
With a large smile Spock could not fathom, the vendor produced a paper sack
of ripe fruit. McCoy turned over an exhorbiant fee without a protest and
pulled the sack to his chest.
"Ok, let's go. We're due at the hotel, aren't we?"
"Yes we are." Spock snapped.
McCoy was normally hypersensitive to any emotions in Spock--real or
imagined. The fact that he did not notice did not escape the Vulcan.
At the hotel, the tender offered to take McCoy's burden from him.
"Nah, it's ok."
"Are you sure, sir?"
"Mangoes." McCoy said as if that explained everything.
The native grinned.
McCoy grinned back.
Spock had no idea what was going on.
"Have fun." The tender appeared certain of the doctor's chances.
"How can I not?" So was McCoy.
Exasperated, Spock spent only enough time in the suite to arrange his dress
uniform and call Boyce. McCoy was busy digging in his back of treasure and
not doing anything to air out his own uniform. Viciously, Spock did not
Boyce chuckled softly and leaned his chin in his hands. "We had our reasons
for electing Len. Truthfully, it was because both you and Jim were serving
together. Starfleet keeps its eyes on its brightest rising stars, you know.
And the two of you ARE brilliant. Amazingly so." The doctor paused,
picking up a spoon and stirring his drink with it. "There's a risk with
brilliance. Its easy to overstep, overreach,
go too far. Now, CMOs are trained, practically from birth, to spot such
actions before they happen, and prevent any unfortunate personality
complexes. We could see there was a danger with Jim Kirk. Oh, it was quite
obvious. He's quick to think, and just as quick to jump in hot water
without thinking. There was speculation that you might offer the grounding
voice of reason...but we soon dismissed that. Reason can only go so far,
especially with Jim Kirk. The man can justify anything.
"That left the heart. Len was the only man who fit the description. I've
known him for years, back when he was a kid in his mid-20's developing that
neural grafting technique that revolutionized medicine as we all know it.
He was younger than either of us, and hardly a labrat. He's had his
experience with different planets,
different cultures, and he's got an unsung career in
diplomacy--don't give me that eyebrow, Spock. He's sharp. Sharp as
horseradish. The thing is, he gets a huge kick out of dummying down his IQ
around people who take themselves a little too seriously. Out comes the
Southern Sorghum. He plays up to a stereotype and it
tickles him no end when people like YOU fall for it!"
Spock was discomfited. Boyce was openly smiling at him.
No, Spock was appalled. Because if Boyce was correct, he had been
submitting to an inaccurate point of view.
And Boyce was still talking. "I know what you're complaining about. He's
rude, he's irreverent, he's offended your dignity and he's squabbled right
and left. Well, Spock, that's why we wanted him on the Enterprise. If
anything can increase the odds of the starship coming back despite the high
body count, its somebody who carries absolutely NO reverence to anybody
or anything. Leonard's one and only sense of the sacred is in his
profession. Other than that, you aren't going to find it."
"You are saying it is in his job profile to question?" Spock asked a bit
"I'm saying Mark and I sat him down and told him exactly what needed to be
done. And we ESPECIALLY made sure he knew how to deal with you. Not that
you mean to, Spock, but a lot of people on ship don't understand you. Len's
secondary job, besides keeping Jim from going all-photons, is to break the
Communications Barrier between yourself and the crew. Have you noticed any
positive results from your fights?"
Spock had to think. To wit, research his memory with a question he had
never been asked. Startled by a sudden insight, it occurred to him that
there WERE positive results from their fights. For one, Spock always won
them. And for reasons that made no logic. If McCoy had chosen to persue
the point, he would very well have
carried it to another level, but he would abruptly stop once Spock said
exactly what McCoy WANTED him to say.
"And we thought the two of you might get along."
Spock's ruminations were derailed at this minor bombshell.
Boyce began laughing, and had to set his drink down before he spilled it.
"I'm serious." The old man protested. "You want facts? I'll give you
facts. Planet M113. Did Jim Kirk notice Len wasn't acting himself? No, it
was you. If anything, we were a little PO'd at Golden Boy. He didn't
*listen* to his CMO nearly enough during that little fiasco. He wasn't even
paying attention to what the alien was saying while it was wearing Len's
visage." Boyce sobered, making him look much older. "Jim's got a hard
streak to him, Spock. He's had a hell of a life, and he's young to have
gone through the nightmares he has. It's fossillized his thinking in a lot
of areas. In your report, I didn't catch any prejudice or racial contempt
to the M113 native. I sure did in Jim's though. Like I said, you and Len
have a lot in common. And most of that is in your hesitancy to act
violently. If the two of you work together on being Jim's team, you can
only improve him as a human being."
Spock was silent a long time as he sipped his Altair water. Boyce let him
sit and think.
"I will consider your words, Phillip." Spock said finally.
"That's all I ask, son."
Spock nodded. "You are...suggesting...that I try to learn more about Dr.
McCoy outside the boundaries of duty."
Spock hadn't a clue as to how to mmanage that.
"Perhaps," Spock ventured doubtfully, "The banquet will be a good place to
"I doubt it." Boyce chuckled. "The mangoes are in season."
"I do not understand the reference."
Boyce snickered. "Let's put it this way: It's easy to be celibate when the
mangoes are in season."
Spock was beginning to think the matter of mangoes needed serious research.
"Doctor, we will have to attend the banquet in less than an hour."
"We are supposed to EAT at a banquet, doctor."
"It is not advised to fill up on fruit beforehand."
"It's not?" McCoy asked languidly, still eating.
Spock gave up. He went to the library.
Mangoes, he soon learned, were related to the cashew and poison ivy of
Terra; family Anacardiacae. Improperly ripened it tasted like something
called turpentine, but when properly so, the powers of description failed.
What it did to humans was worthy of several dozens of pages of data; Spock
found the phrase, "orgasmic" to dominate the topic. "Transcendental."
followed a close second. Spock found it typical that humans would prefer a
sexual description over a mental one.
The Vulcan looked up from his computer. Across the room, McCoy was lying
bonelessly in a pool of bright sunshine, under the dappled shade of the
potted trees, slowly peeling, slicing, and eating his sixth mango of the
morning. Spock studied the human suspiciously.
McCoy's expression was, for lack of a better word, beatific. Instead of
gulping his food as humans were wont to do when the plate pleased them, he
was eating as slowly as possible.
Spock's eyes narrowed. McCoy had lifted the last triangle of gleaming
yellow-orange flesh between his thumb and his knife, and was slowly lowering
it between his lips. Instead of chewing, he crushed the meat between his
tongue and palate, sucking what juices were squeezed out. Very slowly, his
throat worked in a long,
It took exactly five minutes for the doctor to eat a mango slice less than
three inches long.
When it was gone, McCoy remained unmoving, eyes glazed. Spock had no idea
if he was looking at a transcendental state, or a sated one. He was certain
of one thing: his expression would not be approved of on Vulcan, especially
in a public place.
Hands covered with gleaming juice, McCoy, without a shred of
self-consciousness, began licking the sap off his palms.
Spock was openly staring.
Palms done, McCoy started on the fingers. One by one. Sucking on them,
alternately gently, then quite hard.
Discomfited in a very large way, Spock wrenched his gaze from the computer
and went straight to his room to change.
After a shower.