FOUR

Sometime later, McCoy came back to the house after getting a few things in ShiKahr, including a floppy, decidedly unVulcan, sunhat. He took it and his other purchases to his room to put away, finding his luggage waiting for him too.

He loved this space. The large window on the side of his bed was both tinted and shuddered to further cool the room. The wall behind his bed and the one across from it were painted a deep Prussian blue, a beautiful contrast to the room's dominant whites and light grays. His bedroom was large with two wide back chairs, and a small cushioned table that could also be a seat in the same gold. The large rug under his feet was an antique in more blues, silvers, and reds.

He stretched out his legs and settled back. He rested a whole second before Saavik and Spock signaled at the door and came in.

"There you two are!" he exclaimed. "I tried to find you earlier, but they said you couldn't be disturbed. I figured you were doing something with your research projects."

Saavik answered, "We were occupied, but not, however, for that reason." She looked to Spock at her side. McCoy realized later she let Spock alone be the one to tell him:

"Doctor, you will need to extend your trip or return to Vulcan in the near future."

McCoy sat upright. "Sarek?"

Spock shook his head. "No, my father continues to improve."

The doctor dropped back in his seat and grumbled. "Then why do I have to stick around here? Not to work on my tan if I want to survive it."

His old friend said, "To attend a betrothal ceremony."

McCoy shot to his feet, stunned, and then with a smile that dominated most of his face. Now he could see it, the way they stood with each other, the way Saavik looked up into Spock's face and he looked down into hers; the way their hands subtly played with each other. He felt like shouting so the entire Federation heard him. "It's about damned time."

"Yes, it is," Saavik answered simply.

The happiness swelled in his chest and he fought the lump in his throat. "You're finally making honest Vulcans of each other."

Spock merely flicked up one brow, but Saavik narrowed her eyes at him.

McCoy swallowed again. "I couldn't be happier for you two. I wish I knew a way to tell you how much."

"We know," Saavik answered softly and Spock made a point of tapping at his forehead in the same way McCoy had at the fal tor pan.

The doctor's grin found a way to grow bigger. "Good. Hey!" he shouted in the next second. "I can wear my new hat!" He snatched it up and plunked the floppy thing on his head.

"Or not," Saavik replied firmly.

The door signal chimed again and Sarek entered this time. He had changed from his sleeping robes to informal wear. Because you know what's coming, don't you? McCoy thought, and understood how Spock's father didn't want to be in his nightgown in this so special moment.

"You wished to speak with me?" the senior ambassador questioned.

"Yes, Father." Spock drew closer to him and held a hand out for Saavik. "You stated I should heed someone I respect regarding Saavik and I. However, you left before telling me your thoughts or giving your approval."

McCoy saw something he never expected to see: Sarek lowered his gaze to his folded hands as he collected himself at this news that he was a person his son respected. When he looked up again, the doctor got another surprise.

Because Sarek moved his gaze to Saavik. "What if I withhold my approval?"

"Father!" Spock jumped in as she stiffened, but she put a steadying hand on him, already claiming touches and moments with him as her own.

"The question is for me."

"It regards us both," he argued.

"Then allow me to answer for us." She never once looked away from Sarek, who remained expressionless. "If you refuse to give us your approval for one of several reasons you could state about me, I would discuss it with Spock. If he changes his decision, then I would withdraw. However, if he still wished to marry me, then we would do so without you. This holds true for anyone, such as Doctor McCoy or his other friends. I will marry Spock despite any objections if Spock will marry me."

A spark warmed Sarek's dark eyes. "As it should be."

McCoy elbowed Spock, now that he could breathe again, hoping his friend understood what just happened. Sarek made sure his son had a wife who wanted him for himself and for no other reason than that, as well as a mate who did not let someone stop her from being with him.

Sarek made the couple steps to Spock, once again the father who walked into this room with such hope. "My son, to answer your question, I told you two important points amidst other discussions on Tomed. The high regard I have for Saavik, as does the family and your friends, and how one day, you would understand why I said what I did to you. That day is today. I am pleased it has arrived at last."

Spock straightened to meet Sarek eye to eye. "QSkut'He tnIaSv, Father."

Sarek gave a bare nod to keep their gazes even. "w'QIeIb jHuonQ, my son." He looked back to Saavik. "And my daughter. It is said it matters not how your children arrive in your family. It matters only that they arrive. I would mark this case is an exemption. It is of great importance to me how you became – officially - my child."

"QSkut'He tnIaSv, Father," she repeated softly.

McCoy found himself looking away, feeling like he intruded, but he reminded himself that if that was true, they would have told him to leave. His original thought was to ask Spock later what the Vulcan words meant, but he decided against it. If he was meant to know, they'd tell him.

"May I suggest another tradition?" He walked over to Saavik as she watched him. He tucked her hair behind one ear. "It's a little out of order. You probably would take this out at the betrothal ceremony, but the truth is, you could have taken it out years ago."

He tenderly removed the solitary earring in her left earlobe, the sign that a Vulcan woman was unbonded. She had worn one since she was of marriable age. This earring was silver, and one of Spock's memories, buried in McCoy's head from carrying his katra, burst through with the moment when Spock first felt drawn to Saavik, watching the silvery earring dance in the light, and thought how the curve of her revealed ear was delicate, like the shell of a veren...

Saavik's head snapped around now, picking up on the memory because the doctor touched her. She went from him to Spock with her look, her lips parted.

McCoy thought of teasing her with an I told you so, but it would ruin the mood.

He took her hand and cupped it. "Here, it represents a great deal, but not wearing it means even more." He laid the earring in her palm and closed her fingers over it. He bent over her hand like he'd kiss it, but because everything was so significantly Vulcan, he left the importance of her hand to Spock.

She searched his face and he got a sense of thoughtfulness. He knew everything about how Spock felt about her, when it started, how deep it went from when his mind was also Spock's. How she truly never appreciated that, even questioned it, until now.

Saavik gave him a sense of what burned through her when she looked at Spock and how she had trusted that to McCoy on Tomed.

She took the earring from her hand and placed it in his, cupping his fingers over it like he had, then holding it between hers. "It is symbolic. Keep it for all you have kept close to you for the both of us."

McCoy didn't know what to say and the fact Spock didn't make a tongue-in-cheek comment on it spoke volumes.

Instead, Saavik went on to the older ambassador, "As we discuss traditions practiced out of order, Sarek, I must speak with you. It will not be wholly traditional as I have no family to represent me to you and Spock. Instead, I will do as I have always done: I will speak for myself. You know I intend it with no less respect."

"Hold on," McCoy caught himself saying. "Do I understand this right? The families meet to talk about if the bride and groom are right for each other?"

Saavik was obviously correct: she had no family to sit with Sarek and say why she was a good choice for Spock. Of course, she also had no family who would listen about why Spock was the right choice for her.

She was accurate on the other point too: Saavik spoke for herself. She needed no one else.

But…

McCoy cleared his throat. "I've seen people on Earth do that too, so I'm familiar with it. I could represent Saavik. I've known her a long time and know a lot about her." She frowned, and he didn't blame her. He horned in on something very special. "I'd be more of an official representative than… well, anything else. I'm thinking that you speak with Sarek," he told her, "and I'll talk with Spock."

Her dark eyes darted between his blue ones and she finally nodded, no doubt thinking this was less about Vulcan tradition and more about McCoy wanting to speak with Spock.

She was almost right.

"I shall be honored, ma'am," the doctor told her at her nod.

"You honor me, Doctor," she said formally.

Sarek swept a hand to the door to show she should precede him to the hallway where they could walk together to somewhere else in the house.

McCoy waited for the door to shut before he told Spock, "The funny thing is, I can't find the words to tell you how happy I feel right now, but I can tell you what Jim would say. He'd tell you he was glad and don't be like him. Don't ever think it means a choice between being with Saavik and your work. That's Jim and you know it. But you can have both, Spock. Your work and her. She's not only someone to be there for you, she's now one of the big reasons for you to do what you do. Don't cheat yourself by thinking you can't. You're not like me either. You won't screw it up. Be smarter than that."

He saw a light surge in Spock's eyes. "Thank you, Doctor. Leonard."

"You're welcome. And since I've put myself in the giving advice business, let me say something else. Marriage, love… they're like life itself. They're not meant to be easy. They're meant to be worth it."

Spock gave it serious consideration and the light only grew as he imagined his future with Saavik. "If you learned this in your own marriages—"

"I didn't learn it in my marriages. I learned it by seeing your parents'." McCoy clapped his hand on Spock's shoulder.

He finally let go and dropped back into his chair, folding his hands in a deliberate, Vulcan way. "So! As Saavik's official representative, why should I let you marry her? What do you bring to the table? I warn you: I'm tough to impress."


McCoy sat in front of the large screen at Spock's desk once more and waited while Sulu, Chekov, and Uhura popped into view. He clapped his hands and then rubbed them vigorously in excitement.

"You're going to get the official invitation," he started, "once they pick the date, but I wanted to tell you personally before that."

He read their expressions like signs eight feet high and knew their minds put together invitation and picked the date.

Sulu's grin grew like a sunrise. "This is serious?"

"Yep," McCoy answered.

"Well it's about time," Uhura added whose smile burst on her face.

"That's what I said."

Chekov leaned into the screen. "Vonderful! That is vonderful news!"

"The best," McCoy agreed. "It leads to other good news. I, my friends, win the pool."

"Vhat pool!" the Russian tried again.

Uhura grinned. "How did you supposedly do that?"

"I said it'd be before we all died. Pay up."

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