A Barkeep's Tale

A Barkeep's Tale

Author: Acidqueen

Series: TOS - AU

Pairing: Spock/McCoy

Rating: PG

Summary: Once and for always.

Disclaimer: Paramount/Viacom own Star Trek, I own my brain. No infringement intended, no money being made. All original content (c) Acidqueen 2003.

Author's Note: Written for the ninth wave of the SpockMcCoyHaven. Challenge is given at the end of the story.

Archive: SpockMcCoyDen, my own website at http://www.syredronning.de/ , ASCEM, all others ask, please.

Acknowledgement: Thanks to the wonderful Hypatia :) All remaining errors are mine.

I've been a barkeeper for the better of twenty years, and I know my customers. No matter if human or alien, there's always something in them that I can connect to after a while, anticipating their wishes. It's my profession, after all. And I'm proud of my good guesses; they're half the reason why my restaurant survived the latest economic depression.

But sometimes someone surprises me - like the doctor did. He'd been a customer for a while already, coming in for some of his lunch breaks and an occasional after-work drink. Nothing extraordinary on first glance, you know, when he was sitting in the dark corner almost at the end of the bar. He was just the kind of hardworking guy you'd expect to have wife and kids at home, a good fellow you'd drink a beer with and borrow a gardening tool from. He didn't tell much about his job, but I knew he was working in a medical research department nearby and couldn't stand the canteen food day after day. Well, at my place, he obviously found what he wanted - steak and potatoes, meatloaf, shepherd's pie and other hearty, solid meals, which he happily devoured without adding as much as one gram of weight on his ribs.

At least, he ordered that until the day the Vulcan came here for the first time.

At first, I didn't know what to think about the young man in a Starfleet Academy uniform, who sat down at the very end of my bar and ordered an Altair water. Vulcans usually don't go into bars. Especially not into mine. And very especially not dressed that way, in stark contrast to the more casual attire of my other customers.

I spent the better part of the evening trying to chat with him, before I understood I had to ask for his motives right away. He told me that someone had suggested this kind of surrounding to be "well-suited for observing typical human behavior". I looked around, thinking that there were lots of better places for that in this city than this ramshackle establishment - and besides, I would've preferred he sees better sides of humanity than some of my guests were showing off. After all, a bartender doesn't pay the bills by serving teetotalers, as my former boss used to say. But the guy seemed harmless enough, and as long as people didn't go so far as to stop eating and drinking next to him, I didn't mind his presence.

Fortunately, most of my customers just ignored the silent observer. Most, but not the doctor, who unexpectedly found himself with a seat neighbor the next time he came for his lunch. I could see that his first instinct was to take another seat, leaving one bar stool free between them, but then he shrugged and sat down at his usual place. It didn't take them long to start talking. And it took even less time until they had their first debate, which went on until the doctor's pork cutlet got cold.

Over the following weeks their debates continued, and everyone could see that their philosophies ran deep, though not exactly in the same channels. The doctor, for all his unhappy experiences and losses (and I could tell he had a few) was still a soulful humanist with a neverending hope that mankind would grow up a bit further; the Vulcan, on the other hand, was the voice of rationality and logic, eying the world rather unemotionally (although I managed to catch a sparkle of humor in his eyes more than once). But somewhere, for all their differences, they found common ground, built by their intrinsic curiosity and the deep respect they developed for each other. And it didn't take long until the doctor gave other guests well-deserved snubs if they were stupid enough to insult Vulcans with him nearby.

While the friendship grew closer, beer and whisky were replaced with Altair water; rare steak changed to well-done before changing to chicken, then to fish; fish, in the end, vanished to be replaced by fully vegetarian meals. Shaking my head, I placed them down in front of the doctor. Man should not live on plants alone, I believe, and he'd always loved his steak. But then, he loved his discussion partner even more, I found out, when they didn't only leave my bar side by side, but began arriving together too.

And then, all of a sudden, they didn't come here anymore. It happens, I know, with life moving on for everyone, but I couldn't help wondering how their relationship would turn out. At least I wondered for some time; then their story dropped out of my mind, replaced by other plays that filled my little place, other people who sat at my bar to chat and meet and part, small events in the big rollercoaster of existence…

So I was more than surprised when today, after all these years, the door opened and the doctor stepped in. Older and even slimmer, but with a relaxed smile on his face. He went straight to the bar and sat down, waiting with his greeting for a split second to see if I remembered him. My hand went straight to the Altair water. "The usual poison, doctor?" I asked, and he laughed.

I didn't have to ask for his story; he told me anyway. He had joined Starfleet to be closer to his Vulcan lover and they'd gone into space together. I listened to the flow of his stories while I half-heartily prepared drinks for other guests, eager to get back to him. It's not often that I hear about happy endings; I'm far more used to the painful ones.

I gave him one more water, then placed a meal in front of another guest. The doctor eyed it intensely, and I hastily apologized for the offending smell of grilled meat, offering him a vegetarian plate. Ever so slowly he moved the glass to the side, out of the way, then leaned over the top of the bar with a conspiring smile and whispered in my ear. And with a content sigh my universe shifted back into balance as I passed on his order to the kitchen: one Titan plate, with the steak rare.

Good to see I still know my profession.