Summary: A year after the events of Equilibrium, Joanna McCoy discovers something familiar among the tolik trees of Vulcan.
Category: Star Trek TOS
Word Count: 2,000
She’d seen few things in her life as beautiful as a tolik orchard in bloom.
It wasn’t what a person expected on Vulcan. Not that she had much previous experience, of course. Joanna had only been once before—in ShiKahr, when she’d been reunited with her daddy after those awful three months when everyone had thought him dead. Those were good memories, full of joy and laughter and tears, but she pushed them away now because they were also full of anger, and she was never sure how to balance it all. That anyone in the universe had treated him so badly—had treated any of the people she’d met in ShiKahr with so very little decency or respect, but especially him—filled her with a kind of rage that was usually foreign to her, and it had been the long work of a year to process and learn to move beyond that emotion. Its memory was still uneasy though, and so she purposefully turned her thoughts instead to the good that had ultimately come from it all—more time with her daddy (she’d seen him twice in the past year), and now this opportunity for a year’s medical residency in Vulcana Regar.
She was excited and scared in equal measure.
Joanna hugged her arms around herself and looked for her companions. Her daddy had fallen behind with Salin, the quiet, handsome young Vulcan who’d been his friend during their time in captivity on Charen. The two were engaged in some kind of whispered debate—about what she had no idea, but it was quite the serious topic, if she read McCoy’s expression correctly. She had no personal experience with Vulcans to speak of, and hadn’t noticed anything at all in Salin’s behavior or expression outside of the ordinary Vulcan calm. Her daddy, though, had taken one look when they’d arrived last night and had been convinced that something was up. Apparently, he had chosen this moment to try and pry it out. Whatever else it was, though, it was none of her business and Joanna turned her attention away, searching until she caught sight of T’Kirin, their hostess. Salin’s mother had drifted away and was busy pinching back blossoms from the low-hanging bows of several trees off the path. Convinced that she was on her own for the next few minutes at least, Joanna drifted on along the path, sinking back into her own thoughts.
No, this wasn’t what she had expected at all, but she was glad to see it. ShiKahr had been everything that she had imagined and expected of Vulcan—hot dry air, sandy soil, russet tones, large tall building complexes, and experts. Medical experts, scientific experts, and ambassadors around every corner. It was … both impressive and utterly intimidating. She had almost turned down this residency offer on the strength of that intimidation alone, but her daddy had reminded her that Vulcana Regar was not ShiKahr, and that maybe she’d want to get all the facts before she made her decision. And so here they were—getting the facts.
Already these new surroundings put her at ease, and she laughed at her own foolishness. How could an entire planet be all the same? Earth wasn’t, and the very existence of this orchard on the shores of the Voroth Sea showed her that Vulcan wasn’t either. The blossoms crowding the trees around her were large—magnolia-large, almost—and white with a purple hue. No red or orange at all. The scent was … intoxicating. Spicy like chili peppers and cinnamon all at once, with the hint of salt and brine when the wind blew in from the sea. The air was still hot—they were on Vulcan, after all—but the Voroth took away the dry crackle from the air, and the tendency to shock herself painfully every time she touched something. Joanna laughed silently. Growing up in Georgia, she had never thought to be glad for humidity. The soil was not the rich brown of Earth, but neither was it the grainy brown of ShiKahr. The cry of sea birds punctuated the background silence. The whole atmosphere was … in motion, alive, rather than the quiet calm that had hung over ShiKahr during her visit.
It settled her nerves somewhat. Vulcana Regar would not be like this little slice of rural Vulcan either, of course—it was the largest city on Vulcan, a port and merchant city, and would have an atmosphere all its own. She would see it tomorrow when they went up with Salin’s family and have time to form real, true impressions then. In the meantime, though, this reminder that not all of Vulcan was the same was doing wonders for her confidence. Joanna could feel herself relax, and breathed deeply again, tasting the heady alien air and letting a small but growing tendril of excitement wash over her.
She was intelligent and adaptable. She was also her father’s daughter—dedicated to medicine and ready to search out opportunities to both use it and improve it. This was an amazing opportunity, and she would be a fool to reject it without a good, solid—
Joanna turned the corner and stumbled to a stop, clapping one hand over her mouth to stifle a gasp that was equal parts confusion and wonder.
For a moment she thought she must be seeing things … but no. There were one, two … five of them, settled in a well-cleared area among the other trees, all heavy with growing fruit. The dark of the soil around their trunks caught her eye—deep, rich, almost black. A quick survey of the surrounding tolik trees revealed nothing but the usual Vulcan loam. Wherever it had come from, this new soil was definitely not native to this spot …
“Well, would ya look at that.” Her daddy’s voice sounded softly behind her, touched with almost as much wonder as she was feeling. McCoy’s arm dropped gently over Joanna’s shoulders. She relaxed against him, remembering well that a year ago she had thought she’d never have the chance again.
“Your gift was quite well received, Doctor.” Salin stepped past them, into the shadow cast by the little group of trees. “My mother tends them daily, and I believe my father quite prefers their fruit to tolik. In any form.” The tone was dry, layered with subtlety. Joanna wasn’t entirely certain of the fullness of Salin’s statement—was she imagining it, or did she detect some sort of wry humor regarding Suvol’s dislike of tolik fruit?—but she was discovering quickly that one learned to pay attention to the small details if one had any hope of communicating properly with a Vulcan.
It was … a revelation, on a number of levels. Humans were not, in her experience, always terribly detail-oriented …
Right now, though, she had other things on her mind. “You sent these?” She looked up at McCoy. He nodded, but his expression was still one of dumb surprise.
“I did. Salin’s mama and daddy sent me a message on the Enterprise after we’d been rescued, thanking me for what I’d done for him. I … appreciated their thinking of me, at a time when they had just learned that their own son was still alive, and I wanted to find some way to let them know.”
“I believe they understood regardless, Doctor. You were most vocal in your efforts.”
McCoy cast a quick, irritated glance toward Salin and continued as if the young Vulcan hadn’t spoken. “Since I knew T’Kirin kept an orchard, and given that Vulcans are vegetarian, I wondered if they’d be interested in some peach trees. Something new for the dinner table, and all. O’course, I had no idea whether they’d even grow on Vulcan, but you remember Glen Ferris?”
Joanna nodded. “Your college roommate, right?” She’d met the man a few times—never more than in passing, but it was enough for her to recall a mental image of a tall, gangly man with a wide grin and a bushy, prematurely gray beard.
“Right. When he left med school our second year, he went into plant husbandry and research. He’s head of a facility in Alabama now. I contacted him to see what he thought. He said they’d been developing some new strains of our fruit trees to grow on other planets, and a special soil to support them.” Ah. The mystery of the dark, rich soil was explained, then. It was most definitely not native to Vulcan. “He got back to me about a month later, said he’d been in contact with T’Kirin and that she wanted to give it a try. I footed the bill to get seven out here for them.”
“Two did not survive.” Salin folded his hands behind his back and regarded the remaining five. “However, these are doing quite well.”
“Quite well?” McCoy moved away from Joanna toward the nearest peach tree, shaking his head. “I’m … stunned. These trees have been here for less than a year! And they’re all producing! Glen seemed to think it would be two to three years before that happened.”
Salin offered a minute Vulcan shrug. “The stasis in which they arrived, according to my mother, greatly reduced the stress on the trees from their journey. I do not know what further she has done since they were planted—however, she devotes much time to them, and you see the results.”
“I sure do,” McCoy breathed. He chose a larger peach from one of the trees, snapped it off, sniffed it, and took a large bite. Joanna giggled softly as he closed his eyes, savoring. “Just like home.” He opened his eyes and held it out to Joanna. “Want a bite, darlin’?” She flickered a glance toward Salin, wondering what a Vulcan would think of passing food between them, but he seemed indifferent. She took the peach from McCoy and bit from the opposite side. The flavor exploded, sweet and rich, and she quickly swiped away juice from her chin.
These were … very good peaches. Apparently, the trees were doing more than just surviving here, so far away from Georgia. They were flourishing.
“I do hope they’re not turning into too much trouble, though, if your mama’s spending as much time on them as you say,” McCoy was saying. “I’m glad they were well received, but—”
Salin’s gaze, half impatience and half exasperation all buried until the cool of Vulcan calm, cut him short. “I can quite assure you, Doctor, that my mother prefers these trees above all others in this orchard. I suggest you do not repeat such an illogical statement in her presence.”
McCoy snorted. “Is it logical to have preferences?”
The Vulcan shook his head, including Joanna in his gaze. “Human ideas regarding my people are quite incomprehensible. Preferences are not emotion. They simply are. It would, in fact, be quite illogical to deny that they exist.” One eyebrow rose fractionally. “Doctor.”
Her daddy laughed, apparently getting the joke. If it was a joke. Joanna wasn’t sure, but … but she had the time to find out if she wanted it, didn’t she? It was suddenly more challenging than intimidating, the thought of learning to communicate with Vulcans on their terms, day in and day out. Humans were not always detail-oriented. But she was, and she could be in this matter, too. She had never thought of herself as important in the grand scheme of interplanetary relations, and she never would be—but couldn’t she offer some contribution toward that understanding, on a small level?
Her daddy had—still was, thank goodness—and she was definitely his daughter.
Joanna took another bite, wiping away the juice before Salin could see, reveling in the familiar taste on this world so many light years away from home—both the peach’s home and hers. If Georgia peach trees could thrive under the hot, alien Vulcan sun, why couldn’t she?