Boys Night Out

By Linda

Rating: PG

Genres: challenge

Keywords: Soval

This story has been read by 1487 people.
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Disclaimer: No filthy lucre changed hands

Keywords: Soval, Trip Tucker, Vulcan/Human relations  

Acknowledgements: Thank you to WarpGirl for plot point organization editing. Thank you to JusTrip'in for grammar editing and general editing. 

Challenge from Dinah: I would like to challenge Linda to write a Soval and Trip story. They can be trapped somewhere, sequestered for some reason or just spending some quality time together -- your choice. I would like to see Soval explain Vulcan women to one very emotional Human. Do Vulcan men have trouble understanding Vulcan women? Does Soval understand T'Pol? What does Soval really think of Trip -- and of Trip being together with T'Pol? 

Story summary: Trip and Soval discuss women when they go off together for a boy's night out.  

Story background: The setting is after the Romulan War with the Federation in its infancy.  Trip is working in Starfleet Engineering Research and Development.  T'Pol is heading a Federation committee for planning scientific expeditions.  Trip and T'Pol have been married several years and have two children.  Soval is a cousin of T"Pol's father and Soval is now married to his second wife.     


The man who was the Chief Vulcan Ambassador to the Terran System, alternate representative from Vulcan to the Federation High Council, and Chairman of the Federation Subcommittee on Monetary Standardization, had awakened in the middle of the night in a restless state.  He slipped out of bed, wrapped a robe around himself, and went to the window.  At the window, he pulled the robe tighter across his body and cinched it.  His long fingers rigidly flexed on the robe cord were the only part of his body that showed nervousness.  They were triggering memories which he had repressed ruthlessly - the searing pain of hardware probing his mind as blue faces studied him with the calm demeanor of professional torturers.  What more could they get from him than the truth he had already given?   The memories were attached to emotions he would rather not relive, so he skillfully slid the memory back down into its hiding place via an image of pushing it off a cliff on Vulcan and letting gravity take it down. 

Then straightening his hands and moving just the left one, Soval pushed aside the room-darkening curtain.  The Earth's waxing moon bathed him in soft eerie light.  For an orb much smaller than Vulcan's companion planet T'khut, it had an amazing presence in the sky overhead.  Like its subtle effect on Humans, the Moon's reflected light cast shadows on his psyche.  His thoughts drifted over the fact that the moon ruled Earth's tides and also the tides of Human women's bodies with their 28 day cycle.  The length of the cycle of the Human woman matched that of the Moon's orbital period, and it was a proven fact that the ovulation cycles of Human women synchronized if they lived in close proximity to each other.  Even Vulcan women who were a long time on Earth felt the Moon's pull as it tried to match their alien cycles to itself and the Human women.   Vulcan medical scientists were studying this phenomenon alongside Human colleagues.  Soval was fascinated by this knowledge which seemed one of nature's ways of drawing two different species together.   It helped confirm that his choice of mate for his second marriage was not totally illogical. 

Soval let the curtain drop and slowly retraced his steps to the bed. He moved around to his side of it and shucked out of his robe, letting it drop onto a bedside chair.  Then he picked up the comforter so he could slide under it and lay his head back on the pillow.  The bed warmed his body and he realized that standing at the window had chilled him.  Without thinking about it, he shifted his body so that he felt Amanda's warmth and his mouth relaxed into an almost human smile.  He loved this Human woman from the depth of his very Vulcan soul.  

Amanda.  Not T'Amanda, as T'Pau wanted him to call her.  A Vulcan male's mate should have a Vulcan name, T'Pau had insisted ... especially the wife of a Vulcan ambassador.   But Amanda had said "No way" to T'Amanda, so Soval had said "No way" to T'Pau.  Very few people had ever dared to say "No way" to T'Pau ... and gotten away with it.

Amanda.  The sound of her name flowed through Soval like a mantra for meditation.  It had been a politically astute move to marry her after a couple years of clandestine assignations in which they discovered a strong compatibility underneath the irresistible sexual attraction.   This marriage had astounded many humans, especially the ones who considered him an unrepentant Vulcan snob.  But his marriage to former MACO Amanda Cole had improved most of his political relationships, although a few Humans took the attitude that "they have been taking our resources for a hundred years, and now they are taking our women."  Well, some people you just could not find common ground with.  Best to ignore them and be considered a snobbish Vulcan.     

As Soval closed his eyes he thought again about those Vulcan women who had been many years on Earth and their changing cycles.  T'Khut, Vulcan's sister planet, was so close to Vulcan that if the planet had had large oceans, the tides would have been huge.  T'Khut could not be said to orbit Vulcan so much as the two planets circled each other as two Humans dancing a waltz circled each other.    The pull of the planets on each other caused massive volcanism on both.  Over the eons, pressure and release of magma in the crust of both worlds had a cyclical nature that affected all life on the planet Vulcan. 

During the time that mammals were evolving on Vulcan, the volcanic cycle stabilized in a seven year pattern.  Magma chambers bloated and under extreme pressure spewed ash and bombs out of  volcanoes  into the thin atmosphere all at the same time.  The sky of Vulcan blanketed with ash darkened for months, retarding photosynthesis.  Plants experienced a die back.   Animals which fed on plants fought over a diminished food supply and their numbers decreased.  Animals which fed on other animals feasted for a short period, then also died off.   The year of the volcanoes became a Vulcan global winter.  This was followed by a year of weak sun during while the ash slowly dissipated from the atmosphere and tentatively plants began to grow back.  Among the reduced animal populations, some species hung on, though other species completely vanished, unable to adapt to the seven year pattern which was establishing itself.  

By the third year after the eruptions, the sun was strong and plant life flourished.  So the animals that were left bred profusely.  When the seventh year returned and the bloated planet's crust spit forth once again, the young animals born in the third year after the last eruptions were old enough to survive the next eruptions and dark year.  As the seven year geologic cycle settled into a continuous pattern over millions of years, mammals, especially, adapted their breeding cycle to it.  And the effect of the seven year cycle on the developing physiology and culture of Vulcan's humanoids was profound.  The carrying capacity of the planet was low, especially before humanoids had advanced technology and scientific farming methods.  So it was best for population control if Vulcans did not have children every year.   

There came a time when humanoids entered a period of rapid technological development which enabled them to build shelters and store food that smoothed out the cycle of feast and famine.  Yet the biological cycles continued in their established pattern.  But the cycle of individual couples started to vary from each other, like the Human women whose cycles remained at 28 days but did not necessarily match the full moon for ovulation or match each other if they did not live in the same household.  Perhaps for Vulcans, this diffusion in timing was a good thing because if all Vulcan was in a mating frenzy, this would be the perfect time for aliens to attack the planet.   Even with this diffusion, there were times when a large percentage of the Vulcan population was distracted. Soval instinctively felt, as most Vulcans did, the need to keep aliens ignorant of certain aspects of Vulcan biology and the cultural rites based upon it.  These thoughts were in Soval's mind as he at last closed his eyes. 

Amanda turned in her sleep, snuggling against him, waking him enough to prevent him from slipping into a nightmare of primordial Vulcan fears of overpopulation and starvation.  He pulled her head against his chest and breathed in the scent of her hair, tangling his long fingers in its silky softness.   Her cycle peaked every month and called to his maleness, arousing him so that he was eager to respond.  The arousal was much gentler than the ripping pull of the seven year cycle...which gripped him even here on Earth.  But this Human monthly peak was pleasant for both of them.  

Soval fell asleep breathing in the scent of Amanda's hair. 


 Life cannot be one-hundred percent planned, to a Vulcan's absolute chagrin.  To Soval's way of thinking, the fact that there are no absolutes puts into question the complete orderliness of the universe.  Lack of orderliness is why Vulcans must concede that certain institutions are necessary ... such as the newly created Federation of Planets and-Surak's katra remain calm-Starfleet.  

 Starfleet was where Amanda had served during her MACO days.  Even though these days were long passed and she had entered Soval's world of interplanetary diplomacy, she maintained her contacts and her loyalties.  Since moving on to get her university degree in political science and having the ear of the Vulcan ambassador to Earth, messages arrived almost daily for her with requests from various levels of Starfleet and her old MACO superiors for preferential treatment, through the backdoor, so to speak, of the Vulcan embassy.  These she treated with tact and usually was able to make the connections that were desired.  But there was one request that she put to the top of the list for personal reasons - a ceremony dedicating the new MACO memorial at Starfleet Academy, to which she had been invited.  This unfortunately came at an inopportune time, as her mother was very ill and wanted Amanda at her bedside.  Amanda informed her former commander that she, herself, was unable to make the event but she would arrange a VIP stand-in.

So Amanda left to visit her mother for a few days, but Soval had some important meetings at the embassy and had to stay in San Francisco.  He sent his best wishes along to Amanda's mother and half listened to Amanda's parting instructions on various things like the watering schedule for their household plants.  And in a manner that seemed almost like pouting, he told her that he was going to miss her and that she should come back as soon as possible to her lonely spouse.

The evening of the fourth day without Amanda, Captain Tucker's invitation to a boy's night out was a welcome distraction for Soval.  Captain Tucker had stated that he was "in the dog house again" and wanted some advice on Vulcan women.  T'Pol was away for a month on Betazed for a Federation science conference.   Since Betazed had just recently joined the Federation, a great effort was being made to bring them on board with everything from the unified monetary currency to cooperation in matters of defense, trade agreements, and scientific exploration.  So T'Pol was busy and not likely to be calling her husband and interrupt a serious discussion between men.  And Amanda's calls were in the morning, so the two men were assured enough time for a long undisturbed talk.  They could stay out all night if they wanted to, a rare freedom for males of either of their species. 

The Vulcan Ambassador to the Terran System leaned back, resting his head on the soft Terran leather of his office chair. He felt mildly indisposed and he was missing Amanda despite the angsty phone call earlier in the day.  He swung the chair around to face the window overlooking the skyline of San Francisco, facing east.  He had always preferred cityscapes to empty vistas stretching to the horizon - any horizon, be it desert or worse, ocean.  And ocean it would have been if he had gotten an office on the west side of the building. The constant movement of the water, the changing colors from deep blue to slate blue-grey to stirred-up, near-shore beige-green, the unsettledness of motion and color disturbed his digestive system.  The humans coined it 'Earths Revenge', after something called 'Montezuma's Revenge' which had something to do with Human digestive disturbance from eating unfamiliar food.  They also called his digestive unease 'sea sickness - Vulcan style' and smirked that Vulcans could get sea sick starring at completely calm, or almost calm, water.   

Soval rested his hand on his fluttering belly and focused his thoughts back on Starfleet.   He had, just four days ago, in his alternate roll of Vulcan Representative to the Federation Council, signed the two-thousand fifty-three padd-screen-page charter which made Starfleet the nucleus of the Federation's multi-purpose space fleet. Nice of the Humans to offer it.  Well, sarcasm aside, no other Federation world had offered their own system's defense fleet; he would give the Humans the prize for generosity there.  In fact, he grudgingly had to admit that the Humans were as generous as diarrhea compared to his own people's constipated sharing.  Though he could hardly find fault with his people's conservative attitudes after thousands of years of hoarding to survive on a planet of limited resources.

Now THAT was an unfortunate analogy, for it reminded him of his unsettled GI tract, again.  Bother; it also reminded him of his dinner date with Captain Tucker.  Perhaps in addition to the personal stuff, they could discuss the merging of Andorian, Vulcan, and Tellarite spare part technology for Terran ships which was the problem that Captain Tucker was immersed in at this time.  Spare parts were to be the first of the other federated worlds' contributions to the new Starfleet shipyard being built on Mars called Utopia Planitia.  

But underlying his unsettled stomach was not Starfleet, perse, but the phone call he had received today from Amanda.  She had asked how his week was going and he had told her in detail.  

Then she had asked, "Is that all you did?" 

 Well wasn't the litany of events he had recited enough for any busy ambassador?  Apparently not.  

"Did you forget?" she asked.

"Forget what?"

"You forgot.  I knew it."

"Forget what?" he repeated.

But the line went dead.  She had disconnected, and it seemed (no need to apply much Vulcan logic here), that he was in the dog house.  Again.

Soval sat in his office, a bit lonely, a bit confused, and frustrated with Amanda's call, but anticipating his boy's night out.  He pushed aside the padds that held the day's paperwork and repressed Amanda's  phone conversation with Vulcan efficiency.   This was not the end of it, he very well knew, but there was nothing he could do about it at the moment.  

 So to prepare for this evening, he mentally composed a list of questions on the behavior of Human women that he wished to present to Captain Tucker in exchange for the questions Tucker said he had for Soval on Vulcan women.  He reviewed the last three things he had done which had made Amanda bristle.  Three should be enough to analyze with Tucker, if they had time after Tucker's questions had been dealt with.  Then he stood up, his aging body protesting the change in position.  He stretched, then turned and strode over the sound-muffling thick carpet to his office window.  He stood there for several minutes before he heard the soft rap on his office door.  Recognizing the person from the pattern and intensity of the knock, he said "Enter, Captain Tucker" without turning from the window. 

"Eve'nin, Ambassador. How'd your work day go?  I see you're enjoying the weather, if only from inside your office.  It was beautiful outside today, wasn't it?"  Captain Tucker's voice was pleasant, friendly, and contained an eagerness that told Soval his Human companion was looking forward to their evening out.  

 "It WAS a perfect day," replied Soval. "Though if this sort of weather were greeting a sunset on Vulcan, it would be considered rather cold.  On Vulcan, people would wonder if the end of the world was upon them with such a weak sun.  My People might be concerned that perhaps their planet had been pulled from its orbit by an unseen attractor and was now retreating from its star."

"Well that's an unhappy thought.  I'd have thought that after forty years that you would be acclimated to Earth's weather? Try to relax, Sir.  We're about to enjoy a boys-night out."  

Captain Tucker ran a finger along the edge of Soval's rare Vulcan hardwood desk and walked around it to join him at the window. 

Soval stood ramrod straight, arms folded against the semi-formal robe of muted colors, and continued to stare out his office window as he spoke.    

"I am relaxed." 

Captain Tucker sighed.  "Hey, except for the fading light, you would not even know it was sunset, facing this direction.  There is a lovely sunset over the Pacific tonight.  Why don't we go watch it on the other side of the embassy?"

"What?  From a storage room?  Most of the rooms on that side do not have windows, anyway."  

A flicker of a smile returned to Captain Tucker's face.  "Of course."

"Well, Captain Tucker, shall we go?  It will take me only a moment to change," Soval said, turning abruptly and heading for the small wash and changing room that was attached to every senior staff office on this floor of the embassy.  

Captain Tucker - 'Trip', to his friends, including Soval in less formal venues, strolled slowly around the office while Soval changed.  This room shouted formality and serious conferences - not a personal touch anywhere, unless you considered the holographic images of Vulcan landscapes to be personal touches.  Were these to make a Vulcan less homesick or to intrigue a Human visitor?  Trip could feel the heat of that world just by gazing into them.  He and T'Pol had spent the children's first years on her world, desiring that in early childhood, their offspring develop a strong Vulcan constitution: heart, lungs, musculature and bone density, which the environment would impose on them.  Trip's own bone density had become stronger, and his lungs expanded a bit to deal with the thin air.  He even felt cold when they first returned to Earth to care for his aging parents and take positions offered to them by the Federation.  He and T'Pol had been concerned about his father's deteriorating health, since his parents were the only grandparents the children had left.   And the children were with their grandparents right now, leaving Trip free for an adult evening. 

Soval emerged from the changing room in a colorful Hawaiian shirt and blue jeans.  Both Trip's eyebrows shot up, as the only other time Trip had seen this outfit was when he had given it to Soval as a gift to wear to the luau he and T'Pol had hosted.   While not exactly what one would wear to blend in at a city bar and grill, Trip doubted that Soval had acquired many other articles of Human clothing.

"'Shall we?" Soval gestured to the door of his office that led to the corridor.

Trip nodded and followed.


Soval and Trip walked away from the embassy section of San Francisco, toward the water front.  It was mostly a downhill stroll with an onshore breeze pleasantly cool to Trip but a bit chilling to Soval.

 "I know a bar and grill that serves great chili.  It has both the vegetarian and carnivorous variety.  I've seen a few Vulcans patronizing the place," said Trip. 

"Any place you recommend," Soval answered. Then he paused in mid stride to consider something.  "Although many people from my home world may by this time have made so bold as to openly to sample a taste of Human culture..."  Soval then removed a knit cap from a pocket and pull it on, sharply stretching it over his ears and down over his forehead covering the upward taper of his eyebrows.  "...Tonight I do not wish to draw attention to my ethnicity as we are having a Human-style outing.   Lead on." 

Trip bit his lip to repress a laugh and remained silent about Soval's futile attempt to conceal his ethnicity, considering his very Vulcan walk and mannerisms.  

They turned down a narrow side street lined with some garish bar signs and entered one establishment.    Captain Tucker lead the way to one of the dimly lit booths near the back of the place, about as far away from the bar as they could get with its row of bar stools occupied by Humans engaged in loud talk and laughter.  Their little alcove against the back wall was a better place for private conversation.  They slid into the booth across from each other. 

Soval sat with his shoulders squared, his legs together and his feet directly under his knees.  He checked his knit cap for ear coverage, then laced his fingers together and placed his hands on the laminated pine table top and looked expectantly at Trip.  

Trip leaned against the back of the booth, his legs spread, and slid his feet forward until his back was comfortable. 

"Relax, Ambassador, we will be spending a couple of hours here.  We can take our time getting our thoughts together.   This isn't a formal interrogation.  And it's not a meditation session with set postures.  Let's order something to eat and a beer to go with it." 

"This is the proper procedure for a human male bonding ritual?"  asked Soval as he struggled to imitate Trip's posture as he surveyed his surroundings. 

"It is," Trip nodded, allowing himself a small grin.  "But it is very informal.  The informality is supposed to create an environment within which confidences can be shared."

"Oh, like one centers oneself before meditation."

"Uh, something like that.  Different technique, similar goal."

A young woman approached their table. "You gents like to order now?"

"Yes," Trip said.  "Two beers, and do you have those two kinds of chili today?"

"We do."

"A bowl of each then."

"Anything else?"

"That will do it for now.  Thanks," Trip said smiling up at the girl.

Soval looked the server over, taking in the fact that she was probably in her twenties - still a child by Vulcan standards.  She wore a tight blouse that molded itself to her breasts.  He looked away quickly in an attempt not to make his perusal obvious before he spoke to her.

"Young woman, are you old enough to be serving alcoholic beverages?"

The server stiffened and said "You sound like my father.  But yes, I DO have a bar tender's license.  Would you like to see that and my driver's license, Sir?"

"That will not be necessary.  I believe you.  But if I were your father, considering your full mammary gland development, I would have cause for concern for your safety in a place like this." 

Trip put his elbow on the table and his forehead against his hand while the server smiled sweetly and said "But you are NOT my father, are you, Sir?  Anything else?"

"That'll be all, thank you," mumbled Trip.

Trip waited for the woman to walk off.  "Soval, you're gonna get us kicked out of here.  She's probably gonna go speak to her boss about that lecherous older guy."

Soval put on his blank look of utter innocence perfected at embassy gatherings and with a touch of defensiveness quipped "Not her father, no, not by several Human generations long past.  But no great-granddaughter of mine..."

"Soval, we are not at one of your embassy parties and she is not one of your staff."

"Obviously."

Trying to restore the evening, Trip abruptly changed the subject. "How are things going with your committee to standardize currency within the Federation?"

"I thought we were going to talk about our mates and what they perceive to be our latest transgressions."

"So you want to skip the boring discussion of monetary policy?  I just thought I'd open the conversation on a neutral topic."

 "I do not consider the subject of interplanetary currency boring, and the committee members are far from neutral about it."

Trip sighed.  "My mistake. Perhaps it would be better just to get right down to it."

"Right." Said Soval with a curt nod.

They lapsed into silence as the server came back with their beers and chili.  After she left, Soval frowned at his bowl.

"I think this is the meat one."

They shoved their bowls across the table, exchanging them, and taking up their spoons, made a tentative taste.

"Ummm," said Trip.

"Tolerable," said Soval. 

Trip took a sip of his beer, frowning slightly, so Soval watching him, did likewise.

"Is this not 'ummm' also?"

Trip grinned.  "It is quite adequate" and raising his glass, "Cheers."

"Ah, Cheers," said Soval, also raising his glass.  Then more softly he said "I learned that from Admiral Forrest." 

Trip noticed a subtle trace of sadness cross Soval's face.

"To absent friends," said Trip raising his glass again before taking sip.

"Tadek-adir-tor t'hai'lu," answered Soval in his native language, paying honor to one of the most poignant losses in his life. 

They returned to their chili, eating in silence as was one of the few Vulcan customs that T'Pol had insisted on with her Human husband, and was second nature to Trip now.  Soval's attempt to imitate Trip's slouch became less stiff.  He set his empty bowl aside and studied his beer glass, turning it slowly in both hands.  Then he studied the rough boards of the walls in this bar-and-grill and the posters advertizing various alcoholic beverages decorating the walls at intervals.  Then his eyes wandered to the fake rafters overhead, from which hung ancient national banners.   Why, he wondered, did Humans try to simulate environments of a past, and embarrassingly less-civilized, era?   

Trip took a sip of his beer and restarted their conversation. "I was wondering, since you grew up on Vulcan and your first wife was Vulcan and since you have spent so many years on earth around Human woman and are now married to a Human woman..."

"Yes, Captain?" 

"Please call me Trip, at least in this situation we are in here."

"Trip.  Yes,"

"Where was I?"

"You have just stated my qualifications to answer whatever questions you may have."

"Uh, yes, . . .So, you have known both Vulcan and Human women intimately.  Are there really many differences between them?  I mean, like what they want from their mates.  In general.  I mean, do they expect us to read their minds?  Well I know we CAN read their minds sort of, when they let us ... because of the bond.  But do they, I mean, Vulcan women - how angry do they usually get when you forget a birthday or an anniversary or something?"

"That is more than one question, Trip.  And Vulcans do not forget important dates.  But birthdays and anniversaries are not important dates.  To Vulcans, at least.  Which, at times, has also put me in this so-called "dog house" where you say you currently reside."

"You too?"  Trip looked both surprised and pleased that he had company in the dog house. "Okay, guess I understand that about Vulcans not making a big deal out of certain types of dates, but a Vulcan who knows that these things are important to a Human....and gets mad when a guy forgets his niece's birthday...and then argues that once the date has passed it is too late to send a card and gets mad when you do...because she sees it as illogical to send a belated card  because that would only highlight the fact that you missed it...even though she must realize that belated cards are a human custom because they sell such cards.  Humans have belated cards because they are allowed second chances.  Humans are allowed to make things right.  But Vulcans are not allowed to do this?"

Soval took a deep breath which was almost a sigh.  "Not in general.  Vulcans do not see a need to make things right or apologize.  The event was missed.  So move on.  But that is a moot point for as you say, Vulcans do not celebrate birthdays."  

Soval was trying to make sense of what Trip wanted, for he did agree with T'Pol that once the time to act had passed, there was nothing further to be done. 

 "If the proper time has passed, a Vulcan just represses the incident and moves on.  But humans do not always give second chances either. Earlier today in a phone call, Amanda did not give ME a second chance to make it up. So where is this second chance that you say Humans give?"

Trip looked at Soval with concern.  "What did you do?"

"It was not what I did. I took no action that could hurt her.  Therefore I must conclude it is something I did not do," said Soval, tipping his beer glass toward him and staring into it.  

"Well, what is it that you didn't do."  

"Good question.  I do not know.  So you see we Vulcans do not always read minds either."

"Maybe we can figure out what it was you didn't do by logical deduction."  Trip put his elbows on the table, leaning toward Soval conspiratorially.  

"That may be difficult.  The number of things I did not do would seem to greatly outnumber the things I have done, even after living the better part of a Vulcan lifetime.  I can possibly remember all the things I have done and list them - though it would take quite some time to do.  I cannot list all the things I could have done or might possibly still do in the years I have left as they are almost infinite." 

Trip scratched his head.  "Well, let's not give up without a little consideration of the problem.  While the things you could possibly do are almost infinite, the thing that you should have done must fall into a group of things that Amanda might expect you to do.  Okay, in the past two weeks, were there any special events like birthdays, anniversaries, local concerts, dinners, parties that you might have missed?  Does she keep a calendar and have you had a look at it?"

"I do not search through her possessions.  That would be impolite."

"Well, does she keep a calendar posted someplace in your residence?  Does she leave any notes around for you?"

Soval did not answer right away.  He moved the fat orange jar with the plastic webbing that contained a lit candle, so that it sat under his chin.  The server had just gone around lighting them on each table.  Cupping the jar between the long fingers of both his hands, it warmed them and warmed his face.  The flickering light threw into shadow, the lines on his forehead between the tapering eyebrows.  The light also picked up the boId primary color pattern of his shirt.  The contrast between facial features and the incongruity of the shirt emphasized Soval's alien-ness, Trip thought, and he wondered if he was getting through to the man.  Then a crease developed between Soval's eyebrows at their base and he spoke. 

 "Yes.  There was something circled on the calendar pinned to the refrigerator.  And by the way, I find it illogical to keep one's date list on the appliance in which one keeps one's food.  Yesterday was  the day that the MACOs memorial to those lost in the Expanse was to be dedicated.  It is the anniversary of the day the Expanse collapsed.  I did not forget.  I deemed it more important to ask after the health of her mother and wait until she returned so we could lay the wreath together as we planned...   Oh, I think she did say something about where the wreath was to be picked up...after she told me to water the plants.  I DID water the plants."

"But did you explain that you wanted to wait until she returned to do the wreath together, Soval?"

"No.  That is something that I did not think needed saying."

"Soval, Soval, Soval," Trip said while shaking his head. "With Human women, it always needs saying."

"Noted."

The two men seemed to settle into a companionable silence, sipping their beers while they stared at the table or off into the distance.  When they finished their beers, the server replaced them with fresh mugs.  The candles on the tables in the bar seemed to grow brighter as outside the windows in the front of the bar, darkness hardened into complete blackness.  The lights inside the bar were kept low, giving a bit of privacy to each table, where conversation centered around the flickering candles in each of the cave-like booths.   The loud conversations continued at the bar, whose population turned over much quicker than the population in the booths.  The door to the place seemed in constant motion, closing with a 'womp' noise which even Soval learned to ignore as the night progressed.   

Soval looked up at Trip, suddenly focusing sharply on the younger man. "Women are like a species you finally think you understand and then something happens that throws all your logic out the window.  Amanda was mad about something I did not do.  T'Pol was mad about something you proposed to do or actually did.  Human or Vulcan, the nature of the opposite gender can be more of a mystery than the nature of a different species."

Trip looked up in surprise.  "Ya really think so?  Funny, I was thinking the same thing." 

"I do think so."  And Soval took another long pull on his beer, then burped slightly.  "I will elaborate on this by first explaining about Vulcan nature.  Like all humanoid women, for the majority of our species existence, during pregnancy or encumbered by very young children, Vulcan women have looked to their mates for protection from predators and the supplying of food.  There are harsh environments on earth but there are also environments that are lush and where life is easy.  In contrast, all environments on Vulcan are harsh.  Perhaps that is why we are a more violent and physically tough species and why our cultures are mostly more proscriptive than many Human cultures.   We would not have survived otherwise."  

Soval leaned on the table and lowered his voice as if passing secrets, widening his eyes as if trying to focus them.  "But Vulcan females are very duty bound in a way other humanoid women are not.  You must already know that there is a time once in every seven years when Vulcan males become stripped of their logic and become completely unable to function in any way accept in the performance of the mating act.  If not for Vulcan women, throughout our existence as a species, the Vulcan males would all have died.  But our species did not die out thanks to the women.  Vulcan females have had to meet the needs of their males, often with much bruising and loss of dignity.  They endure brutality where normally they experienced gentle touching from their mates.  They endure post mating lack of memory of the act on the part of the male.  Women protect their mates at the time of their complete helplessness called the Pon Farr.  There are no second chances with the Pon Farr.  The male is either helped or he dies.  The men protect the women at all other times and there may be second chances to find food if one source fails.  But for the male in Pon Farr, there is no second chance.  So Vulcan women are not used to having or giving second chances.   Perhaps that is why T'Pol does not easily accept the concept of a second chance to make amends for a missed birthday." 

Trip sighed, but looked away as the server again brought fresh beer glasses and removed the empty ones.  He looked at Soval.  "That is a hell of a jump from violent sex to a missed birthday.  I guess I will just let the card issue drop and write all the birthdays on a calendar or something.  So everything we need to know about Vulcan behavior comes from this quirk in biology?  This explains why men like Koss could be, well frankly, complete bastards?"

Soval frowned, then raised an eyebrow.   "In essence, yes.  It is the...core.  But no, it is not all; our culture is complex like all sentient humanoid cultures are."   His responses were slower in coming and much less crisp.    

"To elaborate, assigning a mate at an early age gives males a sense of security, that they will be taken care of at their time of helplessness - the time when their culture, their dignity, their logic is stripped away from them.  But it also gives males a great sense of entitlement when they undergo this bonding so young.  And gives females a sense of power tightly wrapped in duty.  That is what you were up against with Koss.  To threaten to take away she-who-has-been-promised-to-you is perceived as not only as the grossest form of insult in our culture but as a blatant threat against your life.  That is how a Vulcan male see it.  And Vulcan females see default in their duty to act as proscribed, as a neglectful act that endangers the life of their mate. 

Soval smacked his lips after the last sip of beer.  "Did our underage server change brands on us?  This brew now seems...adequate."

Trip grinned.  "I don't think so."

"Where was I?"  asked Soval.  "Oh yes. Of course these days we do have options.  There are the selfless priestesses who serve males who either cannot physically reach their mates in their time of need or whose mates have died recently or whose mates are ill or pregnant.  But we have a very ancient culture which is necessarily rigid because it is based in this unique biology of ours.  So T'Pol's dilemma was not an easy one when she found she preferred you to Koss.   You could not have known the deep reasons behind her vacillation toward you.  She was up against the very heart and soul of Vulcan culture, the very philosophy which gave her life meaning."  

The shadows of Soval's cheekbones were sharp on the other side of the flickering candle in the orange jar, and his long fingers curled around his beer glass, gave Trip a visual sense of a very ancient cultural truth.  Soval's demeanor had the ring of sincerity and the granting of admission to cultural depths not easily revealed by Vulcans to outsiders.  Trip felt he was no longer an outsider.  He nodded.

"I think I am beginning to understand, which lets me make peace with aspects of her behavior I once thought would drive me crazy.  You know I left Enterprise to put distance between me and T'Pol.  But it was no good.  Distance couldn't separate us."

Soval tilted his head slightly as he responded, long fingers playing with his beer glass.  The thought grazed his mind that he had consumed a bit more of the amber liquid than he had intended and it was making him feel a bit fuzzy. "That was because of the bond.  Once bound, Vulcan couples are hard to separate.  It can be done, but...it sometimes results in death for one or both.  That is why Vulcans do not take war lightly.  When soldiers die away from home, the mate on Vulcan can go into deep distress when the bond is severed."

"I didn't know that." Trip looked up in surprise.  "So when you were so down on Jon for us not rescuing the crew of the Seleya..."

"Exactly."  

Conversation died away into companionable silence for a few moments while they sipped their beer.   Despite the often repeated aphorism that Vulcans are not affected by alcohol, Trip noted that the sharp edge had disappeared from Soval's speech.   A server walked toward them, saw the intensity of their expressions and the half filled glasses, then retreated to check other tables.  

Trip spoke into the silence.  "Do Vulcan men really understand Vulcan women?  Human men don't often seem to understand Human women."   

Soval searched Trip's face as if to find more to the question.   He repeated Trip's question, musingly.  "Do Vulcan men understand Vulcan women?"  He searched for a coherent response.  "They understand that Vulcan men owe their very lives to Vulcan women - a debt that renews itself every seven years.  Beyond that, I am not sure.   And now a few Vulcan men owe that debt to a Human women.  Men like myself.  Vulcan men might very well envy Human males because they do not have this crippling dependency and complete loss of control periodically throughout their adult lives.  Vulcan men often look down with shame upon the loss of control during the Pon Farr, so they consequently look down at Human emotional display as a kind of Pon Farr which does not end."  

"I never looked at it that way," said Trip .  "I do see why you Vulcans have tried to keep it secret, seeing how you are ashamed to lose control.  But we Humans maintain control of our emotions most of the time.  Expressing emotion does not mean we are out of control."

"I have learned that.  So has T'Pol, and so have many Vulcans. But there are many Vulcans who will never learn that.  Of course fortunately for themselves and for Humans, most of them will never leave the home world.  We have our own...Vulcan Primers."

Trip practically chocked on his last sip of beer.  "Vulcan Primers?  Well, in a backhanded way, that shows we are more alike than different.  Similar faults.  Okay, I see that YOU must have learned that Humans are not out of control very often, or your marriage to a Human would not have lasted this long or even occurred in the first place. Despite the occasional misunderstandings, which are common even in same species couples, both you as a friend and T'Pol as my wife do respect and understand that expressing emotion is not a bad thing.  T'Pol was your mentee.  Do you understand her?"    

Soval tilted his head, trying to organize his thoughts.  "I thought I understood her.  We are, after all, closely related and therefore somewhat responsible for each other.  We both had childhoods learning the same clan mores.  We were both from the armed services before we were in the diplomatic service.  She surprised me, though, in her choice to stay on Enterprise.  Yet we both had an obvious affinity for humans.  At the time I assigned her to Enterprise I thought her acceptance of the assignment demonstrated tolerance for Humans.  Little did I suspect I was throwing her into a life-altering experience.  Ah, but she was more like me than I expected, even with us being cousins.  It took Admiral Forest's death for me to understand the affinity I had so carefully hidden.  If I could not see it clearly in myself, how was I to see it in her?   It took being as disgusted with my own people as I sometimes was exasperated with Humans, to understand how much I respected Humans and to face the unfounded fears I had of them and for them.  It freed me to see that I could fall in love with Amanda and to see that you and T'Pol could feel the same way.  In that sense, I understand T'Pol. " 

"Admiral Forrest did that for you?  He made you conscious of feelings you were, perhaps, repressing?"

"Yes, I think that is one way of looking at it.  The Admiral, I now realize too late, was the closest...friend...that I ever had."

Tri p blinked, absorbing the frankness of his companion.  He felt mellow enough to open up a little too, broach subjects he normally tended to hold back on. "As Jon has been to me.  As I feel you and I might become, because T'Pol encouraged me to spend time with you.  You seem to accept T'Pol and me now, together.  When we met, I thought you didn't like me much.  Was I wrong?  Or when did that change?"     

Soval laid his hands flat on the table and spoke with Vulcan frankness.  "I had always seen great promise in you.  But humans like you made me uneasy with their amazing talents and what I perceived as naiveté about the nature of the universe.  I feared that the Human rapid progress in technology would put Humans out among aliens who would exploit them or destroy them.  Like an overly protective parent, I found it hard to let go of my fears.  It took an act of self sacrifice and the loss of a person I deeply respected, for me to see clearly what was right in front of my eyes all the time."

Soval glanced down.  He lifted his hands from the table, turning them to gaze at his palms.  He felt a belch building and repressed it.  He seemed a bit embarrassed, but he then looked straight at Trip with calm eyes.  "I think that is all I have to say tonight."

Trip sighed.  "Me too.  Shall we call it a night?"

"Yes.  Let us do so," Soval said very quietly, his posture of slightly slumping over the table no longer an affectation.    He felt mellow - not quite the focused peace that followed a successful meditation, but a soft tiredness in which his thoughts seem to drift rather than line up logically.  It was not an unpleasant sensation.    

Trip signaled their server who brought the bill.  Both men slapped down bills which would more than cover the food and drink.  Soval called for an embassy car on his communicator.  When they left the bar, the air was more chill in the street but neither commented on that.  They walked together, weaving a bit, up the narrow street and onto a wider one to wait for the car.   The light of the waning moon drew Soval's attention upward.  The orb seemed to swim a little in the sky and Soval's thoughts drifted back to the concept of cycles, just as they had when he had last studied the moon.   Cycles waxed and waned, synchronized and drifted apart - like people adapting to their native worlds, and then living on someone else's world and adapting to that.   Would boys night out become a pattern, a cycle, too?    He would not mind if it did.  They may not solve the problems they set out to talk about, but the companionship - was agreeable.

 The car arrived for them.  They sat silently in the back seat, content in each other's company, and despite the occasional misunderstanding, secure in the love of their spouses.        


End note: In one of the TOS episodes, Spock had said something about his father's people not having the same problem with alcohol that Humans had.  Some writers have interpreted that as meaning Vulcans do not get inebriated when consuming alcohol.  I interpret it as meaning they had not brewed and vinted much themselves before contact with other cultures that did so, and that for ethical reasons they did not drink to excess as much as other cultures - at least in post Surak times.  I do not take the position that Vulcans cannot be affected by alcohol.   

 

 


Comments:

Bina

:) This went quite well. You kept all characters in order.  Any chance you would be willing to write a Soval and Amanda centered story?  You could email it to binawalburn@yahoo.com. (hint, hint) :)

I am quite impressed with the story.  Do you have a webpage or link that has other stories on it?  If you have written stories for non Trek shows, I would be happy to read them as well.

Bina

 

Dinah

Thank you for a VERY satisfying answer to my challenge!  I'm absolutely amazed by the way you wove everything together:  the Seleya, the importance of a mate at pon farr, the important place women have in Vulcan culture, etc.  It's the perfect story about male bonding -- two guys trying to figure out what makes women tick and ultimately accepting the fact that it will always be one of the great unexplained mysteries of the universe.  These two men are so very different, but yet you did a nice job of showing the common problems and concerns which beset all species.

Soval has really become quite the adventuresome guy.  I'm not sure how much of this can be attributed to Amanda and how much to Trip.  At least Amanda apparently lets him wear Hawaiian shirts.  I wonder what the Vulcan High Council would think of Soval:  wild clothes, chili and beer, guy talk with an overly emotional Human?

I apologize for my delay in commenting.  "Boys Night Out" really is excellent.  Thank you for giving all of us such a beautifully written story!

Silverbullet

Soval in Jeans and a loud shirt plus in  his cups. Boggles the mind. He is soooo serious on screen.

Really liked this very much. But you do write well don't you.

SB

Mary

Linda: This is a terrific insight into two very perplexed men deperate to understand their female partner. That is often difficult with same species, throw in different species and well, confusion reigns supreme. You did this with tact and humour and innocense. The result was amazing, a stroll through the mind. Your insight into the whys  well thought out and plausible. A fun read.

snowman

I really enjoyed this deeper look into Vulcan culture and I hope you are going to do a sequel that shows if this talk enlightened either man into their women. I also want to see what a Vulcan hangover is like. :D

Asso

Soval is garish, in many ways, all of them good.;)
Eh, when you write about Soval, you are inarrivable, Linda.:p

Linda

Leisurely?  LOL, Alelou, you mean rambling, meandering...yes it is that!  Trying to set a mood rather than do tight, fast action.  And as the night progresses, drinking mellows out our two heroes and it is harder for them to put their thoughts together but at the same time drink loosens their usually somewhat guarded personalities.  Well, that was what I was aiming for anyway. ;)    

Aikiweezie

Loved it beginning to end! 

Alelou

It's a very leisurely story, but the analysis of male/female and Vulcan/Human differences is fascinating.  I enjoyed it.  I also really enjoy the thought of Soval in a loud shirt.  :p

Misplaced

Fun and thoughtful things you introduced in the story:

"But if I were your father, considering your full mammary gland development, I would have cause for concern for your safety in a place like this."  BWAHAHAHAHA!!

"Okay, guess I understand that about Vulcans not making a big deal out of certain types of dates, but a Vulcan who knows that these things are important to a Human....and gets mad when a guy forgets his niece's birthday...and then argues that once the date has passed it is too late to send a card and gets mad when you do...because she sees it as illogical to send a belated card  because that would only highlight the fact that you missed it...even though she must realize that belated cards are a human custom because they sell such cards.  Humans have belated cards because they are allowed second chances.  Humans are allowed to make things right.  But Vulcans are not allowed to do this?"  Exactly what I think T'Pol would feel about the matter!  LOL!!

But this was awesome:

"To elaborate, assigning a mate at an early age gives males a sense of security, that they will be taken care of at their time of helplessness - the time when their culture, their dignity, their logic is stripped away from them.  But it also gives males a great sense of entitlement when they undergo this bonding so young.  And gives females a sense of power tightly wrapped in duty.  That is what you were up against with Koss.  To threaten to take away she-who-has-been-promised-to-you is perceived as not only as the grossest form of insult in our culture but as a blatant threat against your life.  That is how a Vulcan male see it."

I like this very much.  It makes the koli-fee more interesting.  "Take my intended, you are taking my life"... makes sense that there would be a battle to the death then.  Very nice.

WarpGirl

It's up!:D And it's a grand slam! Woo hoo! And you're welcome, but folks I didn nothing really. This is all brilliance by the lovely Linda.

pdsldl

Boys night out and Soval in jeans and a  Hawaiian shirt   Some pixture that brings to mind.  Liked your take on Vulcan males, Pon Farr, and how they see their mates.

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