If you go out in the woods today
You're sure of a big surprise.
If you go out in the woods today
You'd better go in disguise.
For ev'ry bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain, because
Today's the day the teddy bears have their picnic.
The old Fortress that Amanda called home might have been the site of innumerable battles and conflicts in ancient history, but for the past few millenniums it had been a relatively peaceful place, given the clan that called it home. But today, the sun had barely climbed over the desert sands before the crash and clatter of workman descended upon the courtyard, accompanied by the sound of myriad voices. Amanda winced at a particularly unVulcan crash, and muttered to whatever deity might be listening, "Please help get us through this day."
She'd forgotten her Vulcan husband had excellent hearing, even across the room.
"Amanda? I don't understand. You are hardly lacking in help. But if you require additional --"
"Oh, I wasn't talking to you," Amanda admitted. "Just muttering a silent prayer to the gods. Do you think they can be listeningall the way from Earth? Through all this racket?"
"The gods of dinner parties."
"Those are a set a deities of whom I am unfamiliar."
"Trust me, they're intimately familiar to every human woman from the time she sends out the first invitation."
Sarek paused in his dressing and looked at her. "Intimately?"
"Don't be blasphemous. Hopefully they'll take pity and not visit any major disasters on us before, during or until the last guest leaves the party this evening." She winced at another crash. "Though from the sound of that, it's unlikely. Sarek, please tell me what they are doing out there. I'm afraid to look."
Sarek flicked a brow and crossing the room, stepped out onto the balcony. "They are merely unloading materials."
"For what? A new house?"
"It appears to be some sort of lighting system," he said, narrowing his eyes to see the writing on the containers.
"Lighting system? That's a lot of noise for the few fairy lights I usually have strung up in the courtyard and the formal gardens. Amanda joined Sarek on the balcony, peering around him as if reluctant to see it too openly. "Oh, no! That woman is unbelievable. That's enough to light Manhattan! We're not going to do surgery out there! I've got to go down there and try to explain this. God give me the strength to deal with my 'help."
"I have never heard you invoke such deities before."
"I was probably sparing your Vulcan sensibilities. I have wished for a dinner party god before. There isn't one, but there should be," she said. "Of course there's always Santa Rita. Patron Saint of Impossible Cases. A dinner party ought to qualify. Short of a treaty conference, I've known few events more in need of miraculous intervention."
"Why should you request supernatural aid for a routine social event?" Sarek asked, his brow creasing.
She stared at him. "Two hundred guests, all diplomats and politicos? You call that routine?"
Sarek shrugged. "We have given myriad such parties before."
"We? What is this we business?" Amanda wagged her head at him. "Having a dinner party is something like having a baby. The husband is there at the conception. He'd darn well better be there at the birth. But in between he's not much use. Except for moral support that is. And telling me how illogical I am is not what I call moral--"
"Argument by analogy is invalid," Sarek countered in amusement. "Your reasoning is flawed."
"Perhaps. But I am still right."
"It is true that I leave such doings, parties, that is, to your expertise. But they have all gone exceedingly well."
"Shh!" She looked up at the ceiling. "He didn't mean it!" She shook her head at him. "You don't even have any salt to throw over your shoulder."
Sarek stared up at the ceiling, then back down at her. "Why should I throw -- ? And to whom were you speaking? Given you acknowledge there is no deity--"
"I'm not proud," Amanda confessed. "In lieu of a god for dinner parties, any will do in his stead. I'm feeling somewhat desperate at the moment."
"My wife you are being entirely illogical."
"Yes, in that useful as one might be to women in my position, there isn't a deity or religion so dedicated. Given that, I'm thinking of starting one. Necessity, you know is the mother of invention. Of course, in keeping with the subject matter, it would have to be a cut throat religion, requiring suitable rites. Human sacrifice is, of course, di rigueur at almost any political party. So that's a given."
"Human –" Sarek's brows flew to his bangs.
"But I'm sure a god of this caliber would require something above the usual social knife work. And humans being in short supply, perhaps they'd take a security guard as sacrifice instead? We have those in plenty, and they seem so willing to put their life on the line for the cause." She looked up at her husband innocently. "Do you think Sascek would mind?"
"I rather think he would," Sarek said dryly.
"I suppose I'll just have to worry then."
"I see no cause for…. worry."
"Spoken like a man. I never knew one that ever worried about a party."
"I am not a man, but a Vulcan," Sarek said equably. "It is illogical to bear undue concern about an event which is well in hand."
As if in answer, outside there came a particularly resounding crash, and a chorus of Vulcan voices raised in argument.
Amanda hands had flung to cover her ears at the noise. Even Sarek flinched. Now she drew them away and pushed back her hair. . "Take a good look at who you married here, bub. Logic is not my specialty."
Sarek was shaking his head to clear the ringing from his own ears. "But such parties are. You do them exceedingly well."
"If we discount what is happening outside," she said.
"This is not the normal state of preparations."
"I know. Well, perhaps there is a god and he'll take pity on me. Even sans a Vulcan sacrifice."
"Did I never mention, my wife, that in truly ancient Vulcan history, prior to even Pre-Reform, those of Surak's clan were considered to be of deistic heritage?"
Amanda rolled her eyes at this hither-to unknown fact. "Why am I not surprised?"
"Indeed. There are several legends which--"
"Spare me," she forestalled him. "You do realize that delusions of godhood is all your ego has ever lacked, my husband."
Sarek shrugged, not denying the assertion. "Another inherited trait. I will ignore the pejorative nature of your statement and simply assert that if you wish, you may consider your prayers…heard. And in lieu of a traditional benediction," Sarek bent his head down to hers, but his lips had only just brushed hers when she heard the unmistakable sound of the outer suite door being opened. She had hung a door harp on that portal for that very purpose. "Elf alert!" she murmured and drew quickly back.
There was a tap at the door, and at Amanda's permission, T'Jar entered, as innocent and sparkling as the new day. "Good morning, my lady."
"Good morning, T'Jar."
"Senet is in the downstairs hall, my lord," T'Jar told Sarek, "and says that there have been two requests to meet with you before the morning Council session. And the Matriarch has also requested you meet with her before morning scheduling since you will be occupied this evening."
"Duty calls," Amanda murmured. Seeing a frustrated line drawn between her husband's brows, she added, "I'll walk down with you."
"I fail to understand, Amanda," Sarek said, as they descended the long staircase, leaving T'Jar busy on her morning chores, "why you insist on being so …circumspect…around the staff. I have explained--"
"Yes, you did. But the last staff member who ended up jealous of your attentions threw me off the roof," Amanda said. "So much for your assertion that personal attendants don't notice or care about such things."
"That was an exceptional situation."
"I'll say. But let's try to keep our private lives private, my husband. It's little enough for me to ask, isn't it?"
"It was considerably easier to accomplish when our private lives were private. Amanda, surely you do not expect T'Jar to hold T'Lean's views?"
"No, not really. Though it never ceases to amaze me, the many women who line up to throw themselves at your feet." She gave him a look. "Someday, you must tell me how you do it."
Sarek was undrawn. "You are attempting to change the subject. And I will not."
"Look, I think I've been an awfully good sport up till now."
"You've put up with my moods for twenty years, so I'll give you those six months of vrie carte blanche."
Sarek raised a brow at that. "Indeed."
"But I barely get over that before you throw me into the deep end of the pool, work wise. And then T'Pau recognizes me and gives me all these clan responsibilities, not to mention letting loose a deluge of clan retainers, one of whom dangles me off a building."
"From which I rescued you," Sarek pointed out.
"You do get points for that, true. I can hardly complain about the ending. But you must admit it has been a taxing six months."
"And even home isn't private any more. I've let us be invaded by all these …attendants. I've put up with cooks and council scribes and scullery maids and guards. I've given in and let T'Jar maintain our suite. I have even had to argue over who makes my own bed. And I barely won that argument, and only by unfair means."
"I pulled rank. Being a clan leader is good for something," Amanda said, to her husband's amusement. "But besting T'Jar is one thing, T'Rueth quite another. I'm used to doing these parties a certain way. But she has taken over this event with the force of a juggernaut. And getting around her is considerably more difficult than getting around T'Jar. So things are feeling a little crowded around here, you know?"
"Given how large a building the Fortress is," Sarek admitted. "It does seem unduly populated," he winced at a particularly piercing screech of metal, "of late. What are they doing out there now?"
"I suppose it's my turn to look, but I really don't want to. Perhaps it is our enemies constructing the Vulcan equivalent of a Trojan Horse. Can you instruct the guards not to let in any wooden horses? Or lematya? Or whatever the Vulcan equivalent would be?"
"Vulcan hardly has enough wood for such an endeavor. And I hardly consider any of our guests as enemies, Amanda."
"Most of the guest list are hardly friends," she countered. "This isn't a Teddy Bear picnic we're hosting. Though I confess I am afraid to go out in the woods today. Or at least afraid to see what the Teddy Bears are up to out there."
"Amanda, now you have truly lost me."
"Never mind. You know these parties are important. Despite the social pretensions, a lot of work gets done. When I had control of these events I knew how to handle things. But now--"
"But you have had help for parties before," Sarek pointed out.
"Yes, of course I did. I can't cook and serve 200 people. I hired catering firms. Terran catering firms." She joined Sarek at the dining table in the main hall, where two places were set at the huge table. She unfolded her napkin and took a sip of freshly squeezed orange juice, cut with water exactly as she liked it. It didn't soothe her mood. She'd discovered there was such a thing as too much efficiency. "You sit down with them, plan the menu and the usual sort of preparations and then they come and do it. It's nerve-wracking but nothing like this. I suggested to T'Rueth we do this the usual way, but she was -- well, the Vulcan equivalent of horrified. Her Vulcan pride was offended – and don't tell me there is no such thing. I am dealing with turf wars, my husband. She was insistent that this was part of her duties and she didn't want them jobbed out. How could I refuse her?"
"I have never known T'Rueth to lack competence," Sarek commented. "And I can only believe that your present staff – controlled, logical Vulcan attendants must certainly be efficient--" A particularly jarring crash made them both wince.
"Yes, it's filling me with confidence. It's like a juggernaut let loose. She's determined that she'll outdo any present or future contenders. I had no idea she'd take my suggestion of the usual catering firms as an invasion force. "
"Other than the present …noise….do you have any specific concerns?"
"She keeps 'doing research'. And changing things."
"These preparations do seem to me somewhat in excess of prior events. Are you concerned she is unequal to the task?"
"Going too overboard is more the danger. She's thoroughly enjoying herself. It's me that never knows what to expect next. I keep having to rein her in. And now I've got to talk to her about those lights." Amanda drew a strengthening breath and a sip of fortifying tea. "And I had better do it now, before they get too far ahead. Wish me luck."
"I will wish you--"
"Say it and you're dead," Amanda threatened him, only half in jest.
All innocence, Sarek just raised his brows, and striving to ignore another resounding crash, went back to his breakfast.
To be continued
Teddy Bear Picnic, words by Jimmy Kennedy, music by John K. Bratton 1907