Title: The Unreal City
Fandom: Star Trek TOS
Pairing: Kirk/Spock, Kirk/OMC
Genre: slash, adventure
Rating: PG – NC-17, PG for this part
Warnings: None for this part
Summary: When the landing party gets lost in the fog of a hostile planet, Kirk and Spock are struggling to get back together in many respects. Contains sea-monsters, mythological allusions, a space version of Venice and epic angst - see for yourself.
A/N: Story is set mid-season 2 with references to Amok Time and Who mourns for Adonais. Also many thanks to my lovely betas Teh and Shiny!
2. La Città
When the night fell, McCoy and Spock were still roaming the city’s alleyways, seeking for their captain with increasing despair.
McCoy had to move slowly, his whole body was aching. Only a shot from his remaining stock of hyposprays had made him fit to walk at all, after the attack of the sea-creature had left him with bruised rips and a strained ankle as well as chafed knees and elbows. He was more than grateful that he hadn’t suffered more serious injuries. “I hate this place”, he murmured to himself as he followed Spock deeper into the maze of foggy streets.
The sun had set half an hour ago and only scattered gaslight and torches illuminated the city. I guess it’s only a matter of time until one of us falls into one of these damned canals – and that’s probably going to be me. McCoy frowned and took even more care to move as far from the edge of the water as possible
“Let us take this way, Doctor,” said Spock. “According to my estimations it should be the shortest route towards the city center.”
McCoy nodded and they turned into one of the wider streets. It didn’t follow a canal, a fact that McCoy was very glad about.
Since the creature’s attack and their subsequent arrival he had had two brief exchanges with Spock, the first one about the whereabouts of the captain and the second later on, when they had decided to find out more about the city. A fisherman told them that the city was called La Città and Spock had asked him if he had seen a man in a gold shirt, dressed in similar style as they were. “His name is James T. Kirk and he might be looking for us.”
The fisherman had shaken his head and went back to mending his nets. “I’m sorry, Signor, I haven’t seen this man. Maybe you should try around St. Mark’s – most foreigners go there.”
“So where can we find this St Mark’s?” McCoy had asked, getting impatient with the fisher’s slow talk and long pauses.
“Simply follow the grand canal – or, if you don’t have a boat, one of the bigger streets to the south – you won’t miss it.”
Afterwards they had pursued their search along the next alley leading vaguely in a southern direction.
‘The Grand Canal’, ‘St. Mark’s’ – La Città had apparently been constructed after the image of Terran Venice – although the alien nature of the city was still apparent at every corner.
“Do you think he’s really here?” McCoy asked Spock after they had discovered a sign reading ‘To St Mark’s Square’ and followed the direction it was pointing.
“Well, there is a certain chance.” Spock’s voice and facial expression were unreadable.
“Let’s just pray that he stayed away from the water and didn’t encounter one of these sea monsters…”
Spock had not answered, but quickened his pace and McCoy had observed how the Vulcan’s hand wandered towards the handle of his phaser. He’s far more worried about the captain than he’d ever be willing to admit. Oh Jim, I hope you haven’t done anything stupid!
Now, half an hour later, they were walking along the narrow street in silence with tired legs and low hopes. McCoy didn’t like the expression on Spock’s face. He was sure that Spock was very unwell – that he was afraid – far more afraid than he should be in a situation like this. It was not the first occasion they had lost contact to the Enterprise, but it was certainly the first time that Spock had reacted like this.
If I only knew what’s wrong with him. He hasn’t been the same ever since we returned from Vulcan. I’ve never seen him so… nervous. Maybe there were some traces of the pon-farr experience that his mind had been unable to process? But the psychological checkup two weeks ago had shown nothing unusual. However, McCoy was a physician not a shrink and he had little experience with the Vulcan psyche – and Spock being a half-Vulcan didn’t make things easier. It might be best to just ask him if he wants to tell me what’s wrong – as a friend, not a physician – as soon as we get out of here.
Thanks to the persisting fog, McCoy was barely able to see Spock’s back, although the Vulcan was walking only a few feet in front of him. The illuminated windows to the left and right and the gas-lamps on the walls appeared as floating will o’ the wisps, hovering freely in the misty air.
“Slow down, Mr. Spock! I don’t want you to get lost, too!”
The Vulcan obeyed and reduced his speed. When they arrived at another crossroad and found themselves in front of an intersection between four alleyways and two narrow canals, he stopped abruptly.
McCoy almost bumped into him. “Damnit Spock, can’t you…?”
The Vulcan shook his head and put a finger in front of his lips. “Silence!”
McCoy shut his mouth in an instant. “What is it?” he finally whispered.
“Look!” Spock pointed towards the intersection. “Do you notice anything?”
McCoy looked around. The location was illuminated by a handful of torches and a brighter gaslight on the southern end. Fog billowed in front of the high buildings with their steep staircases and narrow windows and a small catlike animal was licking its paws on the deserted porch of the house to the right. Except for the fog the scenery appeared peaceful; McCoy was unable to make out any potential threats.
“I can’t see anything unusual,” he said.
“That is precisely what I mean. Nobody is here,” said Spock. “All the inhabitants retreated into their houses fifteen minutes ago. We are the only humanoid beings still on the streets.”
McCoy took a quick look over his shoulders. But there was nothing except for the darkness of the deserted alley. “Do you have any idea why?” he asked.
The Vulcan shook his head. “There was no panic,” he said. “Otherwise we would have noticed it.” He took out the tricorder for a general reading. “Except for us and the inhabitants within the buildings I can see no larger life form within the standard radius. This is very strange.”
McCoy frowned. “It’s getting colder,” he said, hugging himself. “Maybe they all went inside because they didn’t like the weather? Or it’s just dinner time?”
Spock shrugged his shoulders. “I do not think so. It is very improbable that all humanoid beings should have dinner at the same time. Moreover, there is not a single beggar to be seen. Logic dictates that there must be another reason.”
“Some local rites maybe? Something religious? A political order?” McCoy thought about the Red Hour on Beta III and shivered.
Spock didn’t reply - McCoy hadn’t expected him to - and continued to fumble with the settings of his tricorder. McCoy sighed and took a few steps towards the front of the next row of houses. Except for the slight smell of the fog (a damp foul aroma reminding him of the swampier parts of Georgia) and the obvious fact that the place was devoid of humans there was still nothing extraordinary to be seen. He turned around to address Spock, who was already halfway hidden in the fog, and froze.
There was a shadow, right in the corner of his eye. It was moving. Moving very fast – McCoy jumped, grabbing his phaser – and it was gone.
He took a quick look around, but there was only the fog and the brownish brick-wall of the house behind him. Damn, I’m getting far too twitchy. He rubbed his forehead and put the phaser away.
“Spock, I think we should… Spock?!”
The Vulcan was gone.
No reply. What the hell? This is getting worse by the minute. McCoy moved very slowly until he stood with his back to the wall, before he called out again – this time more softly. God knows what’s lurking within this pea-soup.
“Spock? Where are you?”
Still no answer. Cold sweat broke out on McCoy’s forehead. Oh crap! He’d never walk away on his own without telling me – something must have happened to him.
And then the shadows were moving again. McCoy span around, pointing his phaser, but once again there was only fog. He took a deep breath and tried to force down the panic, which was starting to rise in his throat. I must stay calm, I can’t risk to lose it, I have to find the others. Damnit Leonard, this is just fog, not the end of the world!
His fingers clenched around the hilt of his phaser as he took two very careful steps to the left, his back constantly to the wall as he scanned the wafts of mist in front of him. Nothing… But wait, what was that? He narrowed his eyes and stared at the spot right next to the entrance of the large grayish building, which dominated the northern side of the square. There, right below the flickering torch – something was moving.
McCoy held his breath and raised his phaser. Whatever it was – right now it appeared as a floating, amorphous conglomeration of shadows – it was growing fast. Very fast.
It was the sea-creature all over again. The thing was sitting in the middle of the square, water dripping from its pitch-black scaly flanks. It was huge, with a mass of tentacles around its head, glowing orange eyes and a enormous barrel-like body, supported by four short, trunk-like limbs – on which it moved forward with surprising speed.
I have to run! McCoy struggled to overcome the icy fear that paralyzed his body and made him stand and stare like a deer in the headlights. The sea-creature roared and then the world was full of whipping black tentacles and the stench was unbearable. One tentacle scourged the air right in front of McCoy’s face; he could feel the cold blast of air, while drops of stinky water flew from the creature’s slimy skin and moistened his face. That was enough. His paralysis broke and he managed to turn on the spot and run, he didn’t even realize that he dropped his phaser, as he dashed towards the next alleyway, away, just away from this place, from the creature and its swarming tentacle-face.
McCoy didn’t pay attention to where he was running as he was sprinting along the street, across a bridge into another fog-filled alleyway. His breath was burning and his sides hurt like hell, but he couldn’t stop, he had to get away from this cosmic horror, taken straight from his worst nightmares. His ankle had started hurting again and he was sure that his ribs were complaining as well, but the fear numbed his body and his mind, there was nothing to do but run.
Something – no, someone – was crossing the road. McCoy saw him too late, couldn’t slow down in time and crashed right into the other person.
Pain was soaring through his body, but at least he didn’t black out this time. As he sat up again, his head, his leg, damn, everything, was hurting, but as he threw a hectic look across his shoulder, the monster had vanished. Only then he turned around - and stared in disbelief at the man he just brought to the ground.
The Vulcan mumbled something inarticulate and rubbed his temples. A large greenish bruise was forming on his right cheekbone. That’s where I must have hit him with my head, McCoy thought, damn, he has a skull as hard as a rock, judging from the headache he gave me! Spock finally looked up, his dark eyes were clouded and his voice sounded strange as he spoke.
“Doctor McCoy? Is that you?”
“Of course it’s me. What did you expect? Santa Clause? Or perhaps a Romulan Starship commander?”
“I… I think I saw the Captain.” Spock’s voice still didn’t sound right and there was an eerie expression in his eyes that McCoy had never seen before. He’s looking right through me – as if he’s dreaming. Only then did he realize the content of Spock’s words.
“The Captain? You saw Jim? Where is he?”
“I do not know,” Spock answered. “He was… there, right in front of me. He smiled and then… he… he simply disappeared.”
McCoy’s eyes went wide. “He just… smiled? He didn’t talk to you or tell you where the hell he has been?”
“He was… there. I saw him.” Spock’s voice still had this far away sound.
By now McCoy had recovered enough for his medical common sense to set in. “Wait a second,” he said and lifted his hand to the Vulcan’s head. “I think I have to check you for concussion first, before we talk about the Captain. This sounds to me like you’re hallucinating.”
Nevertheless he took a look around first, but neither Jim nor the sea-monster seemed inclined to pay them a visit. His impromptu examination showed no sign of concussion. Except for the bruise on his face and some scrapes on the heels of his hands, where he had supported himself when he fell down, Spock had suffered no injuries. Still his pupils were larger than usual and his gaze was clouded.
“Can you see me?” McCoy asked and waved his hand in front of the Vulcan’s face.
“Of course I can,” said Spock and sighed. “Doctor, I do not think anything is wrong with me. We have to look for the Captain.”
Spock freed himself from McCoy’s grip and stood up. He looked around for a moment, but then he hesitated, massaging his temples.
The Vulcan shook his head and then rubbed his eyes. “I was so certain I saw him,” he muttered under his breath, “but it seems that I cannot trust my eyes.”
When he turned to face McCoy, his eyes were clear and the strange dilation of his pupils was gone. “I must be experiencing hallucinations,” he said. “Tell me, Doctor, did you witness something out of the ordinary as well?”
McCoy thought of the sea-creature. It felt so real. And it smelt very real, too. Damn, that thing even dripped its jizz on me – I don’t think hallucinations are capable of that. “Well, there was this creature from the water again,” he said slowly. “But it didn’t feel very hallucinatory to me.”
“Neither did the appearance of the Captain,” said Spock, “but I am certain it was not him. It is illogical for him to appear and subsequently disappear without an explanation or indeed, any attempt to… to talk to me.”
“This place is getting stranger by the second,” said McCoy and sighed. “What do you think we’re supposed to do next? Heading to the city center in the hope of finding Jim there?”
“I cannot think of an alternative,” said Spock. “Let us go.”
* * *
“Excuse me, Signor Kirk, where did you say you were from?”
Careful… The Federation had only contacted the northern hemisphere, in the south it was certainly safer to stick to the Prime Directive for once.
“From… the north,” Kirk answered. “I have traveled with my friends and lost them. None of us has ever been to the south before.” He had no idea if the merchant, who had introduced himself as Luca Vivarini, believed him.
“So your home is very far away,” Vivarini said slowly. “I see. Well, I hope you’ll have a pleasant sojourn in La Città, Signor. I doubt that you have ever seen a city like her before.”
Kirk shook his head. “It is very impressive,” he said. “I admire your people’s imagination. How did you manage to build a city on water?”
Venier, the other merchant, shrugged. “La Città didn’t always look like this,” he said. “Although we have always lived near the water and built our houses and palaces on the islands in the bay. All these buildings you see around here, however, were only erected when the Liberator arrived.”
Venier’s eyes went wide in surprise. “Eleutherios. Don’t tell me you haven’t heard of him?”
Kirk presumed this meant this ‘Liberator’ ruled the city. It wasn’t the first time he had heard of a strange entity controlling an alien planet. And he couldn’t help it; he had to think of the cult of Vaal on Gamma Trianguli VI and of Landru, the computer-turned-dictator they had encountered on Beta III.
Therefore he felt he was treading familiar ground when he replied. “I have never heard of the Liberator, but I’d like to know more about him. Is he in charge of the city?”
“It depends,” said Vivarini, the merchant who had spoken first. “He certainly thinks he is, but he cannot do much without the consent of the Signoria, the people’s representatives. La Città is a republic, as you must know.”
Now this is interesting… I just wish I knew more about ancient Venice. And I wonder how they got to adapt these structures – maybe this ‘Liberator’ has come from Earth? Kirk needed more information, so he opted for the way that had always worked best for him – the direct approach, speaking with the nearest person in charge. “Is it possible to speak to the Liberator? Does he receive visitors by any chance?”
“You must come from very far away,” said Vivarini and chuckled. “No, the Liberator does not receive visitors. Of course not. Were you really thinking everybody could just walk up to him and bother him with his concerns?” He shook his head, still laughing. “You have to wait for months before you are received in front of the Signoria and if you really want to see the Liberator within the Palazzo Ducale – well: it’s impossible if you haven’t been born in La Città, the Liberator receives only proper citizens.”
Well, thank you Mr. Vivarini, that’s just what I wanted to hear. Kirk could hardly suppress a smile. The Palazzo Ducale then. I’m sure once I find this palace, I can think of a way to get inside. “Well, I’d like to see this Palazzo at least from the outside,” Kirk continued. “Is that possible? And can you tell me how to get there?”
Vivarini shook his head and smiled. “It’s right over there!” He pointed towards the large white building on the left. “How could you not know that? I think you…” He wanted to continue, but his colleague, Venier, interrupted him. “We have to go,” he said and cast a short glance towards the sky. “It’s about time!” Vivarini followed his gaze and nodded quickly. “I completely forgot about the time, Il Vento is already approaching. Excuse us, Signor Kirk!”
They both raised their hats and bowed, and before Kirk was able to reply they had already hurried away.
What the hell was that about? He shook his head and was just about to seek out another passerby for an interview when he noticed that the square was emptying rapidly. Everyone was hurrying towards the smaller streets, how strange.
“Excuse me, what’s going on here?”
One of the passersby quickly looked over his shoulder. “Hurry up, Signor!” he shouted. “The Wind is drawing near!”
The Wind? What wind? Now that he was thinking about it, Kirk could feel a chilly draft that hadn’t been there before, but this was neither what he’d call a proper wind, nor did it appear to be in any way threatening. On the contrary, now that the sun was about to set, the fog had lifted and the air appeared fresher and less humid. Kirk couldn’t make out poisonous smells and he remembered clearly that the readings from the Enterprise hadn’t shown any hazardous ingredients in the planet’s atmosphere - although he dearly wished for Spock with his tricorder for additional tests.
Let’s hope that this is just local superstition and I won’t drop dead for staying outside. However, as he now found himself in the middle of the almost-deserted square, he did feel rather uncomfortable and decided to head for the shelter of the near alleyways. Maybe I’ll find a way to approach the palace from behind? I should try it now, as everybody seems far too busy running away.
Nevertheless he grabbed his phaser and took a careful look around. Still, there was nothing unusual to be seen. He followed a small cobbled street, which lead into the general direction of the Palazzo’s rear, all the time casting wary glances to the left and right.
As the wind increased the breeze became definitively too chilly for Kirk’s comfort, despite the temperature-regulating material of his uniform. He grimaced and quickened his pace in the vain hope of warming up. Fortunately, the temperature stopped dropping again after a moment and the wind remained at the level of minor annoyance. Kirk walked on, carefully scanning the buildings on his right side for a way that might lead him inside the Palazzo. No luck so far, the residential houses and storefronts didn’t look very promising.
He heard a noise behind him, flinched and spun around in an instant, aiming his phaser.
But there was nothing but the empty alleyway. Kirk shook his head, rubbed his eyes with his left hand, but didn’t lower the phaser. Then he looked again – still, nothing. However, there was a strange smell in the air, something he hadn’t noticed before. It was very faint, but distinctively there, a scent reminiscent of swampy marshland and decaying vegetation. Kirk shrugged and walked on – but there was that noise again. It sounded like footsteps. As he turned around, he saw someone standing in the middle of the street – a tall, dark-haired figure with pale greenish skin and pointed ears – Spock!
Somewhere, deep in Kirk’s chest, something was aching. Then a wave of relief washed through him and he could help but smile.
“Spock! Where on earth have you been? And where is Bones, is he…”
As soon as he spoke the words he felt another gust of wind – and then, in the blink of an eye, Spock was gone.
No answer. Kirk frantically turned his head, looked around, but the street was as empty as it had been moments ago.
I must have imagined him, he can’t have been here. He sighed and rubbed his eyes. This wasn’t good. Actually this was very bad and bode ill for his psychological condition. I have to talk to him – I can’t avoid it any longer. As soon as I find him and Bones and we get back to the ship. The ship… He pulled out the communicator and checked it once again for signals, but it was still dead, a mute piece of metal and plastic. The sight of the useless object didn’t help to improve his mood. The comm was the only thing connecting him to his ship, to his life. Without the Enterprise he was completely on his own.
He had never liked to be alone.
Oh damn, stop it! This leads to nowhere. He shook his head and tried to concentrate on the matter at hand – in this case an empty alleyway, which was, once again, slowly filling with fog.
And then Spock appeared again, out of nowhere.
Kirk stopped abruptly and stared. The Vulcan was standing at arm’s length in front of him, Kirk could discern every detail in his face, the sharp lines of his cheekbones, the curve of his lips, the dark glint of his eyes – he only needed to stretch out his hand to…
Spock was gone.
Well, that’s it, I’m losing my mind.
He closed his eyes for a second and when he opened them, Spock was still nowhere to be seen. It’s bothering me more than I thought. I have to do something!
Of course, there was the tiny problem that before he’d have any chance to talk to Spock and ease up things between the two of them, he had to find him and Bones first, had to re-establish contact to the Enterprise and get the transporter working again. Therefore, he had to find the so-called Liberator or whoever was in charge of this planet first, and then he had to hope that his plan (if you could call it a plan at all) worked out.
When Kirk finally gained sight of the Palazzo Ducale’s marble walls, the fog was fully back and the strange smell had vanished.
* * *
Paradoxically, the streets were full of people once it had gotten foggy again. Even though the sun had long set, the alleys and small squares were bustling with life. Meanwhile McCoy and Spock had come to the conclusion that it was time to inquire about more information and thus, when they came across the next tavern, they decided that it might be better to ask around here first, before they continued to St Mark’s.
“Mr. Spock? Don’t you think you should do something about your… erm.. ears before we enter there?”
So far their few contacts with the locals hadn’t lasted long enough for anyone to notice the Vulcan’s more prominent features. Spock cast him a long glance, which probably meant “I really hate you” in an understated Vulcan way.
McCoy shrugged. “It’s not me, who’ll get strange looks,” he said and went straight ahead into the tavern. Spock said nothing, but McCoy watched him tear away a stripe of fabric from his uniform tunic, using it as an impromptu headband to conceal his ears and eyebrows.
The inside of tavern didn’t differ from all the other bars McCoy had visited on various planets around the galaxy: Dark, smoky and stuffed with people while the smell of cheap alcohol penetrated the air. I doubt they’re selling any decent bourbon here…
No one was paying them much attention when they entered the venue and quietly made their way to a vacant table in the corner room.
“So what now? Do you happen to have any money?” McCoy asked Spock after they had been sitting for a while.
The Vulcan shook his head “I doubt they will credit sticks,” he said. “We will have to remain sober and content ourselves with silent observation.”
“You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” McCoy snarled as he cast a jealous glance at the glasses that were just being served at the neighbor table – their content looked close enough to whisky to make him regret his lack of local currency. “There I was, thinking we could have a drink and talk to the locals. For what other reason did we come into this damned tavern?”
“I do not feel the need for alcoholic intoxication you seem to experience.” Spock raised an eyebrow in a way McCoy had come to interpret as the equivalent of a smug smile.
McCoy didn’t reply but he gave Spock an angry look before he focused once again on the happenings in the room.
People were sitting around the little tables and talking, some more quietly and some less. A few were standing in front of the bar, drinking a strange greenish beverage that was served in tall, heavily decorated glasses. McCoy sighed. If we stay longer than this night, we have to come up with something to solve our money problems – I don’t want to starve or, worse, being forced to eat sliced sea-monster.
A man at the table to their left seemed to have noticed his longing looks and bent over towards him. “You look thirsty, my friend.”
McCoy forced himself to smile as he frantically searched his brain for a plausible back-story. We can’t arouse too much attention, Prime Directive and everything…
He set for a frustrated sigh. “My friend and I just arrived,” he said “and apparently we behaved extraordinarily stupid, as we managed to get mugged on our very first day in La Città.”
Considering the ragged state of their uniforms, this didn’t sound too far-fetched – at least he hoped so. The man on the neighbor table nodded with what appeared to be genuine concern. As far as McCoy could say, he was pretty drunk already.
“You have to stay away from the alleyways in the east end,” he said. His voice was slurred. “They’re a cruel lot over there, robbing you before you’re able to say your name.”
“Yes, I guess we’ve realized our errors by now.” McCoy gave Spock, who had paid close attention to their conversation, a wink. “My friend here has told me so a dozen times already.”
Spock understood and answered with a solemn nod. “He is right. We have learnt from our mistakes and are eager to continue our explorations in the more refined parts of the city.”
“I’m so sorry,” the drunk man said. “You really must be out of luck!”
Yeah, you don’t say…!
“This really isn’t how we’ve imagined our first day in the city,” McCoy said. He looked the man over as inconspicuously as possible. He was in his late twenties or early thirties with a handsome pale face and unruly dark hair, with a pathetic little beard on the tip of his chin. His clothes were of good quality and he didn’t seem like the usual type of drunkard you encounter in a seedy bar.
“My name’s Guido Bellini, by the way,” the man said when he noticed McCoy’s inquiring look. “And I think it’s time for me to buy you and your friend a drink.”
Now that’s what I’d call progress. McCoy smiled - this time it was genuine - and held out his hand. “I’m Leonard McCoy and this is my friend Spock. Thank you very much for your offer.”
“No trouble at all.” Bellini had already called the waitress “What’s your poison my friends?”
Ten minutes later McCoy was happily drinking something Bellini had called l’acqua fuoco, but which tasted enough like whiskey for his mood to improve a lot. Spock was holding a glass of water, despite Bellini’s apparent disbelief. “I’ve never seen a man who was not drinking,” he had said – and McCoy had kindly refrained from telling him that Spock was not exactly what you could call human… Well, if you looked at it closely the people in La Città weren’t either, but they clearly were neither Vulcan nor did they know about the planet’s existence –it was certainly safer not to mention alien races at all. There were other subjects, though, and more interesting ones.
The city was ruled by a kind of senate, called the Signoria, consisting of representatives of the city’s leading families, together with a man known as Eleutherios or the Liberator, who seemed to hold the executive authority. The main industries were fishing and trade – La Città maintained commercial relations to a number of other cities, all situated on the coast of the ocean known as the Grey Sea. Everything bore a striking resemblance to Terran Venice.
“I would like to receive further information about the Liberator,” said Spock, who had been silent for a while. “What is his exact…” he got interrupted when a drunk patron stumbled between their tables and roughly hit Bellini on the shoulder.
“He, Guido Bellini! Found some nice little friends, who fit your rat-infested hole of a family home?”
Bellini jumped to his feet, anger blazing in his eyes.
“Stop it, Vivarini,” he hissed, although, due to extensive drunken swaying, his threatening pose turned out rather ineffectual. It was still enough. Vivarini cursed and tried to punch him in the face. Bellini dodged the blow, shifted into a better position and hit back. His punch hit the other man, who had not been paying enough attention, straight in the stomach. Vivarini grunted, swore again and leapt for Bellini – they were in the middle of a brutal fistfight, before McCoy or Spock could do anything to stop him.
McCoy looked at the Vulcan. “Shouldn’t we do something?” he whispered.
Spock shook his head. “I think it is better if we do not interfere. The other patrons are watching as well and we are supposed to remain inconspicuous.”
Meanwhile the fight had risen to new heights and two others men had joined in. No one was paying attention to the strangers in the blue uniforms. From what McCoy could make out from the other patrons’ shouts and cheers, the brawl seemed to be part of a family feud. There were quite a few Vivarini and Bellini present, who had started to support the contestants – verbally and physically.
Fists were flying, drunken men were shouting and McCoy cringed at the sound of the hard punches, images of fractured bones, hematoma and strained and swollen joints too clearly in front of his inner eye. He groaned as he saw one of the Vivarini throwing a pottery mug against Guido Bellini’s head. The young man froze, his eyes rolled upward and he fell down unconsciously. If that’s not a concussion – or worse – my name’s not Leonard McCoy!
The fight stopped immediately. Thank God! Someone might have stepped on him! A girl made her way through the crowd, shouting obscenities as she pushed men out of her way.
“Jacopo Vivarini, you bastard! What have you done to my brother?” She knelt down next to the unconscious man, shook her head and looked up, her eyes wide in terror. “He’s not moving. And he’s bleeding! We need a doctor, is there a doctor here?”
I think that’s my cue. McCoy had already risen from his seat and was halfway through the room. Before the girl had time to ask a second time, he had sat down next to the injured Bellini and was feeling his pulse.
“He’s not dead, Miss,” he said to the girl, who was still horrified and attempted to push him away from her brother’s body. “My name’s McCoy and I’m a doctor, don’t worry, you’re brother’s going to be alright.”
At least he hoped so. But Bellini’s pulse and breath were normal. From what he could tell right now it might be nothing more serious than a concussion – but he could never be too careful. McCoy fumbled in his bag for his scanner and a hypospray when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned around and saw Spock who was quietly shaking his head. Oh yeah, the Prime Directive, too many people looking on, I can’t use my things here, damn!
He turned towards the girl. “I don’t think your brother is too badly hurt, but I’m unable to check up on him properly in here. Is there some quieter place we can bring him?”
The girl nodded. “We live nearby, if we can carry him to our house without him getting any worse?”
“I’m sure we can manage that.” McCoy turned around “Spock? We need your help!”
The throng of onlookers was slowly dissolving. The man who had thrown the mug mumbled a half-hearted apology before edging away. The girl ignored him – apparently this was not the first time her brother had gotten into a fight with the Vivarini. Within a few minutes almost all of the former onlookers had returned to their tables and after a short discussion with some of the other Bellinis McCoy and Spock were left alone with the girl and her brother, who just in this moment opened his eyes.
“What… what happened?” he managed to mumble, before he moaned in pain and tried to raise a hand to his temple.
“Don’t move,” said McCoy and took the chance to check Bellini’s eyes – his pupils were of equal size, reflexes and sensitivity to light appeared normal – that was a good sign. “How do you feel?” he asked his patient “Any signs of dizziness, feeling sick?”
“I don’t think so,” Bellini said weakly. “It’s just that my head really hurts!”
“Do you think you can get up?” When Bellini attempted to move, McCoy watched him closely – he dearly wished to be able to use his instruments. He sighed and came to a decision. “If you feel like you are able to get up, try it – but slowly! I think we can risk to take you to your home without a stretcher.”
Even though Bellini managed to get on his feet eventually, McCoy and Spock supported him from both sides, when they left the tavern.
“It’s just two streets away from here,” Bellini said, his voice still rather slurred. His sister nodded. “Don’t worry, we’re almost there.” She hesitated and then offered McCoy a shy smile “By the way, my name is Julia Bellini” she said. “As you might have noticed, I’m Guido’s sister.”
“Nice to meet you,” said McCoy. “As I think I’ve already said, I’m Leonard McCoy, and this here is Mr. Spock. I’m sure we’ll fix your brother up in no time.”
* * *
- to be continued -