It's not everyday that a person receives a personal message from Dr. Leonard McCoy, Chief Medical Officer of the Starship Enterprise, with the offer of a potential job. Dr. Geoffrey M'Benga has no false modesty; his resume is impressive, for his age, and his scores are impeccable. Still, the bulk of his experience so far has been done planet-side, barring a few mandatory trial-runs on a scientific vessel. To go from that, to being the secondary ranking doctor on the 'fleet's flagship... It boggles the mind.
He doesn't say so, of course. If Dr. McCoy wants to make strange personnel choices – choices that include him! - M'Benga isn't going to object. He replies to all of McCoy's messages with enthusiastic, polite responses, gives careful warnings to his employers on the space station, and arranges to meet with McCoy on Deep Space V in three weeks when the Enterprise stops there for an official interview.
Personnel changes are often done less formally than this – frequently without meeting in person at all - but for the role of one's potential replacement it makes sense to be selective.
McCoy is amiable enough, and the questions are probing but standard: Where do you see yourself after this? Why are you a doctor? Why do you want this position? What are your qualifications, did the papers miss anything?
And then he asks, “Are you certain, after this, that you want a position on the Enterprise?”
“Sir, I would be honored,” M'Benga replies.
Around the end of the impromptu-interview, McCoy asks casually, “You did your interning on Vulcan, right?”
“Yes, that's right. It was a very rewarding - ”
“So,” McCoy interrupts. “What do you know about how Vulcans, er. Go about,” he waves a hand vaguely.
M'Benga blinks. “Go about...?”
“Go about, you know.” McCoy peers at him intently, and suddenly his eyes look disconcertingly blue. “Picking mates. That sort of thing.”
M'Benga blinks rapidly, certain he's misheard.
When it's clear that McCoy isn't going to clarify, he says, “I – Um, I'm not really supposed to talk about that. It's part of the Silences.”
For some reason, McCoy seems pleased. The man is practically – no, literally – bouncing on his heels. “So you know,” is what he chooses to take from this statement.
“Yes, but I can't talk about it,” M'Benga repeats. “The Vulcans have us take this vow - “
“Uh-huh,” McCoy nods, and M'Benga has a bad, bad feeling that the man isn't listening at all. “Great. Great. This has been very helpful, thank you, Doctor. I'll get back to you about that transfer, shall I?”
“I,” says M'Benga helplessly, and watches as the man leaves.
He has a strange certainty about that posting on the Enterprise, suddenly – but he's not so sure what to think about it.
Word comes more swiftly than he would have expected; M'Benga has, indeed, been moved for transfer onto the Enterprise. He signifies his acceptance of the post immediately.
He takes the post several weeks later. He's flattered to find himself greeted, upon beam-up, by the captain himself. “A pleasure to meet you, Doctor,” Kirk says.
“It's an honor, Sir. I wasn't expecting you.”
“Oh, I thought it would be a good idea to meet the man I'd be dealing with next time Bones here gets himself shot.”
M'Benga smiles nervously, because, what? Next to Kirk, McCoy scowls at the Captain. “As though I'm the danger-magnet,” he mutters darkly.
The third man in the room – aside from the red-shirted transporter technician – is a Vulcan. M'Benga raises his hand in the ta'al almost automatically.
“Dif-tor heh smusma.”
Peering at him curiously, the man – presumably Commander Spock – raises his own hand. “Sochya eh dif.”
M'Benga flushes a little. He doesn't want to seem like he's showing off; the response was, truly, habitual. He turns back to the others, and...
McCoy is grinning hugely, eyes glittering. He's teetering back and forth on his toes, hands clasped behind his back. Kirk's lips are pursed, but he seems like he's trying not to grin.
“Oh, he can stay,” he would swear Kirk mutters.
M'Benga's first day is normal enough. He's shown around the ship and familiarized with protocol; one medical area isn't too different from the next. His second day of duty is normal enough, too, and he mostly interacts with the nurses.
The third day is when it gets weird.
“So,” prompts McCoy. “I have some questions.”
Aren't you supposed to be off duty? M'Benga wants to ask. But, well, doctors keep weird hours, and he can't fault the man for wanting to observe fresh blood. He keeps silent.
“How do you get around the Vulcan aversion to touch in physicals?”
That's – random, but, okay. “Well, wearing gloves of course is necessary, and it's expected to announce your intentions every time you're about to touch a different spot – barring emergency situations, of course. It gives them some warning to reinforce their telepathic shields, if they want to.”
McCoy nods. And, this is fine, of course McCoy would probably to ask some questions about the Commander, but -
“So, what are those 'Silences' you mentioned?”
“Just what they sound like,” he replies curtly.
“Aw, Geoffrey, I wouldn't tell,” McCoy drawls.
“I'm sorry, Sir, I really can't say.”
“...Alright, then, we can get back to that,” which, no. “Well, what can you talk about?”
“You're going to need to be a little more specific, Sir.”
“Well, can you talk about telepathy? Vulcan marriage bonds? Vulcan puberty?”
“I,” M'Benga says, and stops.
...Okay. Apparently McCoy is very, very interested in Vulcan... sexuality. Because that's normal. And why on earth does McCoy want to know anything about Vulcan puberty? That can't have relevance to his job. Perturbed now, M'Benga leans back. “...All of that is under the Silences,” he says, lying through his teeth.
McCoy looks disappointed. “...Well, I'm sure we can find something,” he begins.
“Dr. M'Benga?” A nurse calls. He's escorting a grumbling scientist who's waving around a bloodied hand.
“It's just a flesh-wound,” the scientist assures.
“Your bone is showing.”
Blinking, the scientist peers closer. Then, going pale, she turns to the side and is promptly sick on the floor.
Dr. M'Benga sighs in relief. “Duty calls,” he says.
M'Benga should know better, than to think that will be the end of it.
McCoy proves strangely tenacious, though he does change course once he realizes that M'Benga is firm about keeping the Silences. “Tell me,” he might ask, “do Vulcans frequently go off-world? Is that just a cultural thing, or is there a biological reason they don't?” or even, “tell me more about this logic thing, how'd you put up with that? Didn't it drive you mad? Do you ever find it – contradictory?”
“I found it refreshing, actually,” M'Benga replies.
“You're a weird one,” says the obsessed man who is now his CMO.
McCoy eyes him for a moment. Then, he asks slowly, “Say, why'd you choose Vulcan, anyway?”
“It was an interesting environment. Not many people go there. And the Vulcans are some of the best teachers in the Federation.”
“So it doesn't have anything to do with the... the people?”
M'Benga looks at him blankly. “Like I said, they're some of the best teachers in - “
“No, no, I mean – there wasn't a, uh, specific someone, any specific reason you went.”
M'Benga gapes. Sputters.
“I – I'm not sure what you mean to imply, Sir...”
“Right, right.” McCoy winks at him. “Forget I mentioned it.”
M'Benga fully plans to.
With bleach, if necessary.
“Hey, Geoff,” says McCoy a few days later. And the day after that. And the day after that. The unfortunate man wonders how he's been 'honored' with a nickname. “Another quick question...”
M'Benga always forces a smile.
He wonders why McCoy has so many strange questions on Vulcans. If he's writing a paper, he would just say so; and these questions can't all pertain to the job.
About two weeks after M'Benga comes aboard, Commander Spock enters Sickbay with a data padd looking for Dr. McCoy. “Your list of requisitions is, as usual, not in accordance with regulations Doctor.”
“To hell with regulations,” McCoy snaps. “We need those supplies, or do you expect us to patch up people with air and hope the next time you fly us into a dogfight?”
“I do not conduct the flying on this vessel,” Spock replies, unperturbed. “Nor do I expect we will encounter, or fight, any canines in space. If you have any objections to the supplies allotted to you - “
“Which I do - “
“You may submit a protest to that effect.”
“Like that will go anywhere. I'd just be submitting a protest to you!”
“Are you implying that I would not consider the matter with due significance?”
“If you gave it 'due significance', you wouldn't have denied my requisitions in the first place.”
“I said I would consider it – not that I would accept your argument.” Spock ignores the human's sputtering. “In any case, the proper forms of documentation must be submitted before such considerations can be made.”
“You just like making me work,” McCoy accuses.
“If I thought I could encourage you to be productive, Doctor, I would consider myself a 'miracle-worker',” Spock says dryly. “As it stands, I will be satisfied if you revise your request by 1800 hours.”
McCoy harrumphs as Spock drops the padd on a table.
M'Benga is slightly stunned by the blatant insubordination he's just witnessed, but neither McCoy nor Spock seem tense. The Commander leaves without commenting on the fact at all, and if anything, the CMO seems to be grinning a little.
“Damn Vulcan,” McCoy mutters at the exit, almost fondly.
And it clicks.
M'Benga stares mutely as McCoy picks up the padd, half-humming to himself, and walks back to his office. The door swooshes closed behind him.
There's no use. He can't deny it.
The only conclusion M'Benga can draw, based on all McCoy's questions about Vulcans, is that the man is enamored with Commander Spock.
Someone should really tell him that pigtail-pulling stops being cute when you're eight.
“The report you asked for... Sir...”
M'Benga trails off.
Despite the man's somewhat frazzled personality, McCoy is very tidy about his workplace. The scattering of data padds and genuine books strewn around his desk are therefore baffling; more strange still is the recognizable Vulcan script visible on nearly every surface.
McCoy is currently holding a relatively old text – something that has sat a century or two, perhaps, M'Benga judges. It's hard to tell, with Vulcan paper. And who knows where the man has gotten his hands on a old Vulcan book, when the Vulcans have preferred data for over a thousand years.
Much less one with the title of...
M'Benga peers closer, and... yup. No mistaking it. McCoy has, inconceivably, gotten his hands on legitimate pre-Surakian literature, newly reprinted for the modern reader. In the case of the volume the doctor is holding, this genre could also be helpfully categorized as 'erotica'.
M'Benga counts slowly to ten in his head.
“Hey, Geoff, I'll take that,” says McCoy cheerfully, setting aside his alien smut. He takes the data padd from M'Benga. “Good, we'll get done sooner than I thought.” He sets down the text, still reading it, to crack his knuckles. M'Benga can't help but think, Vulcans would find that appalling...
He looks up. McCoy is peering at him.
“Can you read Vulcan?” McCoy asks hopefully.
Sometimes, it occurs to M'Benga that maybe he should say something to the captain – or even Mr. Spock himself – about the doctor's obsession. McCoy has had M'Benga take over Commander Spock's primary-care and physicals right from the start, which is sensible. They consult frequently, of course, which is also sensible; McCoy is more accustomed to Spock's hybrid quirks, after all.
But when McCoy pops into the Commander's first physical since his arrival and asks, “Can I watch?”, M'Benga wants to smack him.
“That... that's also covered in the Silences, Sir.”
“Of course it is,” McCoy grumbles. “Why would it not be?” He waves M'Benga away, and thankfully doesn't call the physician out on his blatant lie. M'Benga just wants to get back to work, please. “Alright, don't let me hold you up, lord knows it's been pouring down bullfrogs around here since that flu's been going around...”
“Oh, sure,” M'Benga agrees weakly, not even trying to translate.
“I'll just be stepping out for a bit.”
The nod is much more enthusiastic this time.
He lets himself relax somewhat with McCoy gone. Despite McCoy's words there are presently no patients in Sickbay – though there has been a near-constant circulation of crewmen all morning, stopping by for minor things like fever-reducers and headache-hypos. It's nice to have some time to his thoughts. And without McCoy's thoughts, more importantly.
When Commander Spock enters a few minutes later, he is almost resigned to the misery.
“Is Doctor McCoy present?”
This is it. He has to do it. The commander deserves to know what's happening. M'Benga licks his lips.
Then, his eyes travel. He looks first into the commander's dark, russet eyes, lowering almost too swiftly over his lanky body. He doesn't quite understand the appeal. Vulcans have always seemed hard and narrow-featured, but there is something...
He tries, and he can almost picture it. His throat feels dry. His eyes drift lower -
M'Benga flinches. He feels his skin heat with embarrassment. “...He... he's not present, Sir. He'll be back soon.”
“I see. I will return in an hour.”
This ship's going to kill him.
M'Benga looks forward to his first shore-leave since coming aboard, which most people find a little strange, since he's elected to stay on-ship for the entire duration. More importantly, though, McCoy will not be on the ship, and that's practically the definition of relaxation right there.
But when the day comes for crewmembers to beam down to the planet, he enters Sickbay to see McCoy still there.
“What are you going?” M'Benga asks, watching as McCoy rushes around manically, apparently trying to upload the last of some files and simultaneously pack a bag.
“I have a date with a Vulcan,” he declares, gesturing to a computer console. “And I'm going to be late. Dr. Selkin. It'll be good experience, I think.”
On the computer console is the captured image of a graying, elderly Vulcan man – and M'Benga is familiar enough with Vulcans to guess that this particular one is at least one-hundred fifty years old, if not older.
“See you,” McCoy calls cheerfully, and M'Benga waves one hand in faint farewell as the doctor fairly bounces out the door.
M'Benga slinks down to the recreation room after shift and curls around a mug of coffee, radiating misery. Two ensigns from engineering pause to peer at him.
“Something wrong, Doc?”
“My superior officer is a pervert,” he mourns.
They nod in commiseration and sit down. “I think Scotty sneaks pictures of the nacelles into his bunk,” says Ensign Mensla.
M'Benga takes a long pull of coffee. Sadly, it fails to drown him.
“Hey, Geoffrey, I was wondering...”
“Let me guess,” says M'Benga. “You have a question on Vulcan... anatomy.”
“Why, I do. How did you know?”
“A lucky guess.”
He tries to get used to it. He really does. Alright, so, probably the only reason he's on the Enterprise is because McCoy is a stalker and wants a Vulcan-expert around to pester. (If Spock ever vanishes, M'Benga knows who to finger as the kidnapper, is all he's saying). But, it could be worse. The rest of his colleagues are pleasant enough. The entire crew, in fact, is wonderful. And he's on the Enterprise. M'Benga keeps telling him this fact. In fact, he tells himself this fact every single night, sometimes repeatedly, like a mantra.
“You are on the Enteprise,” he tells the wild-eyed man in the mirror. “The Enterprise. You are on the Enterprise. Some people would kill for this position. Some people would kill Dr. McCoy for his position. You are not going to kill Dr. McCoy, because you have morals, but you are still very, very fortunate to be here, aren't you? Yes you are.”
...So maybe he's not doing so good. Alright. He's in an adjustment period.
Among the many crewmembers and colleagues he respects is Captain Kirk, who has never given him any reason to think the man anything less than the kind, determined leader of 'fleet legend. He exudes a friendly, charming charisma, so when Kirk comes down to Sickbay one day, M'Benga asks, “Looking for Dr. McCoy, Sir?” with complete amicability.
“No, actually. I had a question for you.”
“Yes.” Captain Kirk smiles. “It has to do with Vulcans.”
“...Oh,” M'Benga whispers.
Kirk leans in. “Is there any reason the lower back of a Vulcan might be... sensitive?”
Dear god. Why.
“...Yes,” is what he says aloud.
“...And that reason would be...?”
M'Benga suppresses a sigh, and stares straight ahead so he doesn't have to see Kirk's reaction when he says, “Because the chenesi are located there.”
There's an almost thoughtful pause.
“Well, that's good to know,” says Kirk, and M'Benga cringes. “Thanks.”
“Sure... sure. Anytime, Sir.”
The captain nods at him, then exits. M'Benga looks after Kirk's back, dismayed and bewildered by the whole exchange.
Then, slow horror overtakes his features.
Oh, sweet Surak, he thinks prayerfully. ... Don't let it be a threesome.
Kirk does not approach M'Benga again, but he is apparently a well-known figure in Sickbay. He gets on well with Dr. McCoy, which M'Benga would not expect of a rival.
He tries not to think about this too hard.
M'Benga himself is becoming a familiar sight in the lower decks. Especially the areas around the alleged location of the Enterprise's secret still, which, of course, most assuredly Does Not Exist. He knows better than to gossip about his reasons for becoming quietly, morosely distracted, but no one seems to mind. Also, it's nice to get out and talk to people.
(“The nacelles,” insists Ensign Mensla. “And I swear he slept in that broken turboshaft by the engines last night - “
“I don't need to know. Really. Please.”)
Although, some of the things he hears could go without being said. For example, what are tribbles? M'Benga has no idea, but people snicker about how Spock is overly-fond of them and Kirk has found them in 'inappropriate places' and that's just a mental image he doesn't need, thanks.
He's fairly certain that nothing is occurring between McCoy and the Commander; he's less certain, though, about Spock and Kirk. M'Benga has become accustomed to discussing sexual practices with any number of blank, steely-gazed Vulcans, but sometimes his thoughts are occupied with this one, in particular, an image of the man pale and bare and splayed out in the night. There must be something there, he thinks feverishly, to warrant all the interest...
Then the Commander accidentally makes another ensign cry, looking faintly bewildered by the response, and he thinks: nope.
Besides, McCoy is crazy.
During Spock's second physical since M'Benga joins the Enterprise, they adjourn to the private room off of Sickbay in deference to both Vulcan standards of privacy and the need for a higher temperature which will make scans of the desert-native officer more useful. Strangely, though, Spock stops M'Benga before he can really begin.
“May I ask a question?” Spock asks from his perch on one of the biobeds.
“Sure,” says M'Benga wearily. “Why not. Everyone else does.”
Spock blinks at him, hesitates, then plainly decides to continue. “It is a somewhat delicate matter, concerning,” he lowers his voice, “pon far...”
M'Benga slams his tricorder on the table. “Oh, that's it!”
M'Benga jabs a finger at the Vulcan. “You! I thought you, at least, were innocent in this – some sort of, of victim, even, that you didn't know, but you're just as bad as the others – you – you - “
The door swooshes open. McCoy steps half-inside, looking nonplussed. “I heard shouting; something the matter?”
“Pervert,” M'Benga hisses, waving his hand.
“I am somewhat concerned for the Doctor's mental state,” Spock informs the CMO.
“My mental state!” M'Benga shouts. “MY mental state!”
McCoy blinks rapidly. Behind him, Captain Kirk suddenly appears.
“Something wrong?” he asks warily.
“Good. Good. Because I have words for you, too.” He jabs a finger at Kirk, who looks mildly alarmed.
“Are... you alright, Geoff?” asks McCoy.
“No I am not alright!” M'Benga roars. “I've had it up to here, listening to you discuss your – your Vulcan fetish, and, and geriatric experiences - “
Kirk falls onto a biobed, cackling. “Bones, you dog!”
“I don't know what he's talking about!”
“Don't act innocent! You've been asking questions for weeks, Vulcans this and Vulcans that – Vulcan anatomy and, and sexual practices - “
Kirk bursts into laughter. “Oh, my god, Bones - “
McCoy flushes red. “Damn it, man, what do you think - “
“If you want to sleep with the Commander so bad, do something already and leave me out of it!” M'Benga bursts.
McCoy gapes at him.
Kirk slides to the floor with a thump, howling.
“...I believe there has been a misunderstanding,” says Spock, barely audible over the sound of Kirk's amusement.
“I'm a doctor, not some sexual deviant!” McCoy sputters. “You thought I've been, what, stalking one of my patients - “
“Then why were you reading The Consummate Witness in the original Vulcan?”
“Doctor,” says Spock, scandalized.
“You said you couldn't read that!”
“I wasn't going to translate your porn.”
“Bones,” Kirk gasps. “Bones. I'm sorry, Bones, he's my new favorite Doctor.”
Spock looks disgusted with all of them.
“And you asked me about sex when we first met, it was practically the first thing you talked about - “
“Because I needed to see if you knew about it!” McCoy shouts right back. “So we can have someone qualified on hand the next time this idiot goes and tries to die on us because of some crazy Vulcan taboo!”
“Really, Doctor,” Spock says. “I have 6.71 more years until - “
“For all I know, you're hiding more than that,” McCoy snaps. “And you're a hybrid, anyway. Whose mother is a randy human. If you had one of those damn cycles every three months, I wouldn't be surprised.”
Spock looks like he isn't quite sure how to react to someone calling his mother 'randy'. M'Benga doesn't blame him.
“ - I – pon far? Is that what this whole mess is about?”
“That's what I've been trying to say!” McCoy throws his hands into the air, face still flushed. “I just didn't want to mention it, make it seem like that was the only reason we transferred you - “
“Better that than because you wanted advice for one of your conquests,” M'Benga hisses.
McCoy turns brick-red.
“But – but wait, you did it, too!” M'Benga accuses. He points furiously at Kirk. “You asked about the chenesi - “
Spock's eyebrows rise in affront.
“I kicked him in the back while we were sparring,” Kirk wheezes, red-faced. He's clutching his stomach, looking physically pained from the force of his laughter. “Just – I was wondering why he kept twitching - “
“ - and I didn't expect... it wasn't anything personal.” The captain's shoulders are shaking as he struggles to compose himself. “Oh. Oh, my god. Spock, can I give someone a commendation for making my day?”
“I suspect not, Sir.”
Kirk bursts into another round of snickering.
Spock sighs quietly.
“Geriatric – Vulcan - fetish - “ McCoy mutters, looking faintly ill.
The last of his hysteria fading, M'Benga looks around, realizing just exactly the situation he's landed himself in. He's accused his commanding officer of sexual malpractice, harassment, and stalking, and all in front of the captain and first-officer. Neither of whom look precisely upset, but...
The door opens, and a male nurse looks in. “Doctor, is something holding you... up...”
He trails off as he surveys the scene; Kirk, still on the floor, flushed; McCoy, pale and irritable by the wall; Spock, shirtless and eyebrow ticked, on the biobed; and M'Benga himself, mortified.
“...No,” says the last, grateful for an escape. “I... I think we're done here.”
As he follows the nurse, he thinks he hears the man mutter, “Fucking knew it.”
To the merit of the Captain, the man only bursts into laughter at the sight of M'Benga for the next three days, and thereafter mostly contains himself. Spock, for his part, seems to have a preference to pretend the whole encounter never happened; M'Benga can definitely accept that.
McCoy drags him aside to say – in a somewhat loud voice – that he is not 'into' hobgoblins, thank you, period, and they are also never to speak of this again.
And for god's sake, M'Benga can deal with Spock's 'special problems' from now on, because McCoy has washed his hands of the whole thing.
M'Benga is just glad to know that he can stop worrying about his role in McCoy's sexual pursuits, and go back to imagining Commander Spock as perfectly sexless. The latter belief is probably his own fantasy and evidence of wistful thinking, but perhaps if he can convince himself of its truth he can stop imagining the science officer in such indecent contexts.
Although, he never did a straight answer on whether or not Kirk and Spock are...
Nope. No. Not thinking about it.
He sighs. At least this whole mess is over.
As he's leaving Sickbay, an open computer console catches his eye. Nurse Chapel has left her station running, and on the screen is an – interesting – display of familiar, vibrantly green alien genitalia.
“Geoffrey!” M'Benga whips his head around as Chapel bustles into the room. She doesn't seem to notice the look of dawning horror on his face. “I'm so glad you're still here. You see,” she begins, “I just had this one question...”