"I would like a double order of hash browns, please, with onions and plomeek." Spock folded his hands on the table. "And a glass of cold water."
As the waitress walked away with their order, McCoy took the silverware out of his napkin and grumbled, "Hash browns with plomeek? You're halfway across the galaxy from home--"
"--And that is precisely why I have ordered my native vegetable," Spock said pointedly, eyeing the interior of the diner with suspicion.
"You should try something a little more native Southern! We didn't come here so you could pretend we're still orbiting Vulcan."
"No, Leonard," said Spock, "I believe we came here as an excuse to avoid your ex-wife."
McCoy glared at him, but only because it was true. "She isn't happy about Joanna letting me give her away," he commented.
"But you are happy, and Joanna herself is happy, and that is more important than the opinion of your ex-wife," said Spock. "Tomorrow is not, after all, Jocelyn's wedding, it is your daughter's."
McCoy's face spread into a smile and his eyes grew sentimental. "She looks like a princess in that dress. Can't believe she's getting married... Seems like last week she was wearin' that kind of thing to play dress-up in." He would have continued, but he noticed that Spock appeared to be distracted. Should have known I'd exceeded his emotion limit by at least three seconds, he thought to himself.
"1,437,004,800," said Spock.
"1,437,004,800," Spock repeated. "This establishment claims that patrons have the choice of ordering their hash browns 1,437,004,800 different ways."
"So what, Spock? It's just an advertising gimmick."
"On Vulcan, we have a very high regard for truth in advertising."
"Well, wait a minute, Spock! How do you know it's not true?" McCoy picked up the little plastic sign from which his companion was reading. "Says here you can get your hash browns as a single, a double, or scattered, and with... onions, cheese, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, chili, ham, bacon bits, curry, baby shrimp, tofu, and, for some godawful reason, plomeek. When you multiply them together that's a lot of different possible combinations."
"I calculate 12,288 possible hash brown combinations, counting, of course," Spock added, "the option of enjoying them unadulterated."
"How'dya figure that? What's wrong with their number?"
"I do not know," Spock admitted, scribbling furiously on his napkin with a writing implement he might well have pulled out of his ear, for all Leonard knew.
"I thought you could do everything in your head," McCoy drawled in a poking tone of voice.
"I can," Spock answered brightly. He turned the napkin around and slid it across the table to McCoy. "I wanted to show you my computations."
"Ah, I see," said McCoy dryly. "Thank you." He looked down at the napkin and read across it:
"I don't get it."
"Each hash brown topping has the potential of either being requested or not requested," Spock explained. "For example, I could have ordered my hash browns with tomatoes, but I chose not to. Two possible outcomes. Multiply this by the twelve toppings, triple because of the 'single, double, scattered' option, and the result is 12,288, as I said previously."
McCoy blinked a few times, digesting this. "Makes sense to me. So, in other words, there aren't 1,437,004,800 different ways to order your hash browns."
"No, not by any means of approximation." Spock continued to look thoughtful.
"So where'd they get that number, then? They just pull it out of thin air?" McCoy looked slightly disturbed at the prospect of finding out that his beloved Waffle House had been intentionally lying to customers for hundreds of years. Not, of course, that the number of hash brown combos was important.... no, sir, not when the coffee was hot and the pork chops tender.
"I believe they made the same error that you did just now," Spock theorized. "Apparently, they tripled twelve factorial, or twelve times eleven times--"
"Yes, I know what's a factorial."
"...instead of tripling the twelfth power of two, as they should have. The problem with their version of the computation," Spock explained, "is that their way counts, for example, 'mushrooms and cheese' as a separate option from 'cheese and mushrooms', which is clearly--"
"--Don't say it!--"
The waitress, who had just appeared at the table bearing a tray of hot food, didn't seem at all surprised to hear that word issue from a Vulcan's mouth. "Here ya go," she said automatically as she deposited their plates on the table--grits smothered in everything for McCoy, with a side of cinnamon apples, and Spock's plomeek-infested hash browns.
McCoy eyed the plate of golden and purple suspiciously as he tore into his grits. "Does that actually taste any good?"
"I would not have ordered it if--"
"Right, I knew that." He took a swig of his coffee.
"Would you like to try some?"
In the time McCoy took to waver with indecision, Spock scooped up some of the food with his own fork and held it across the table towards McCoy's mouth. Once it came too close to eye suspiciously without growing painfully cross-eyed, he accepted the forkful and chewed thoughtfully.
"That's not bad," he said after swallowing, surprised. "I guess you know what you're doing. Still seems like pretty strange fusion food to me, but...."
"The tastes of two worlds coming together to produce an unexpectedly pleasing combination," said Spock, catching McCoy's eyes across the table.
McCoy smiled, a shiver running through his body, and he attacked the rest of his grits with gusto.