1. The disagreeable physical after-effects of drunkenness, such as a headache, usually felt several hours after cessation of drinking alcohol.
2. Any aftermath of or lingering effect from an emotional experience.
It was a Vulcan practice, following sleep, to allow the mind to wake fully before engaging the body – it had long been part of Spock’s morning routine. On this morning, however, his body seemed to race onward, stirring before his mind could quite catch up. He was acutely aware of a dull pounding in his head and, as his spine curved and his knees rose up towards his chest, his muscles ached with each involuntary movement. Before he dared open his eyes, he attempted to order his mind so that he might assimilate the events that had led to his present state.
There had been a party, he recalled, for Ensign Chekov’s birthday. There had been alcohol. Worse still, there had been alcohol laced with chocolate. And then; Jim...His body shivered, as if reminding him he was not yet in control, and he clasped at the thin bedsheets, pulling them closer for warmth, for comfort, as the memory returned...
“Go on, Mr. Spock – ye cannae drink to the lad’s good health with herbal tea! Have a wee drink with us...I thought alcohol didnae have much effect on Vulcans anyway?”
Scotty looked at him expectantly as they stood side by side at the makeshift bar the crew had taken great pains to construct earlier that day. The eighteenth anniversary of Chekov’s birth had presented the crew’s first opportunity for celebration during their time aboard the Enterprise. It was apparently considered something of a milestone for humans and, from experience, Spock knew how much importance the species placed on such events. Perhaps, Spock had reasoned, the acceptance of said beverage would therefore be appropriate under the circumstances. He felt that the notion of indulging his human impulses for once was somewhat appealing.
In fact, at that moment he realised that since the destruction of his home planet; the death of his mother, his decision to remain in Starfleet and the continuation of his working relationship with Jim Kirk, that he often felt compelled to indulge his more human inclinations. He found himself frequently taking small, calculated risks that had the propensity to provoke in him an emotional response. He was conscious of the disturbing, overwhelming desire to feel that he had spent much of his life trying to subdue. Except, he’d realised with surprise, it no longer disturbed him to such a great extent.
He decided, therefore, to accept the engineer’s offer of an alcohol drink. This small gesture of acceptance could satisfy in him that human need and would go some way towards showing the group that he was not simply a pointy eared kill-joy, as Dr. McCoy was frequently so keen to declare. In any case, he rationalized, alcohol had little effect on his faculties and, as he had completed his duties for the day and was ahead of schedule with his additional efficiency reports and his personal science log, he would not be required to partake in any challenging cerebral activities until the start of Beta shift the next day, therefore the risk he took in was negligible.
Before he could answer Scotty directly, Spock’s cogitation was disrupted when he caught sight of the captain’s approach; he watched as those gathered nearby greeted him with a warmth Spock had yet to encounter. Jim responded with a friendly smile but, having heard Scotty’s words, made his way to the vacant spot beside his first officer. “Go on, Spock; just this once.” He said quietly, laying a hand on Spock’s shoulder. “As the ship's most senior officers, you and I have a duty to set a good example to the crew by drinking responsibly.”
By way of support, Scotty nodded enthusiastically at this statement.
Spock raised a customary eyebrow and, aware that Jim had, by now, learned to read him well enough to know when he was employing humor, retorted, “I hardly believe that indulging in intoxicants can be construed as setting a good example, captain, even by your standards.”
“In that case,” Jim replied in a pronounced authoritative tone, “consider it an order, Mr. Spock.”
“Such an order, Captain, would breech Starfleet’s Code of Diversity; a fact of which you are surely aware.” Spock turned his head toward Jim as he spoke, intensely aware of the cool hand still resting on his shoulder and the contradictory warmth he felt flowing from it.
“Is that so? Well,” Jim’s voice was solemn but his face betrayed him as he continued “thank you for the warning, Commander. Now, what’ll it be?”
He had chosen a Terran chocolate liqueur, he now recalled, still attempting to lie still so as not to exacerbate his symptoms. Spock struggled to examine the reasoning behind his choice of beverage the previous night and found that hindsight proved useful. The logic behind his decision had been, he now saw, exceptionally flawed. At the time, he had taken into account that he found alcohol to be generally unpalatable and so, not wishing to drink something he found unpleasant, opted for the one drink on offer that he had tried once before (it had been a seemingly odd choice of graduation gift from Captain Pike – “I’ve heard that chocolate has an...interesting effect on Vulcans.” He’d said with a wry smile. “Enjoy yourself, Spock. You deserve it.”) and had found the taste pleasant and the intoxicating effect mild. What he failed to consider was that when he had tried the drink previously it had been in a single 30 millilitre serving. He had failed to take into account the amplified effect that several measure of the Terran liqueur would have on his ability to reason, and therefore on his ability to recognize that continued consumption (four measures – perhaps five?) was decidedly unwise.
He had also neglected to consider the dual effect of inebriation that an alcoholic drink laced with 75% cocoa would have on his half human-half Vulcan physiology. It was clear to him now that the effects were twice as powerful as they would have been on either species alone. While Mr. Scott had been correct in his assertion that the effect of alcohol on Vulcans was indeed minimal, Spock was, his body now reminded him with some degree of vehemence, physiologically just seventy-three percent Vulcan. The other twenty-seven percent seemed now to comprise wholly of the parts of human anatomy that contributed to the absorption and retention of alcohol.
Spock opened his eyes, blinking rapidly in an attempt to adjust to the artificial light. He was aware that all was not as it should be, though he was unsure yet as to why. Another shiver ran through Spock’s body and he closed his eyes, winced, and again attempted to collect the rest of his memories from the night before
The experience of the liqueur was somewhat pleasing – he enjoyed the bitter-sweet taste on his tongue and the warm, tingling sensation it sent flowing up from his stomach, through his chest and down his arms where it lingered satisfyingly in his fingertips. Accepting the drink had, in itself, seemed to buy him a moment of camaraderie with his colleagues that he found, in spite of himself, he’d also enjoyed. He had not, however, been so taken with the brief feeling of inclusion that he’d accepted their invitation to continue the party in the recreation room until the wee, small hours. Much to his surprise, Jim, had also declined their invitation.
“Stay with me, Spock, for another drink?” his Captain had asked of him, cool hand laid once again on Spock’s shoulder; the same conflicting warmth radiated from it, but was tinged with...something he was unable to identify. “I feel too melancholy to drink alone.”
Jim’s words had been uttered in a light-hearted fashion through lips upturned in a smile, but his expression betrayed something else; something almost vulnerable. It was a look Spock recognised from his extended study of humans - one he had, for reasons he had long ceased to examine, felt more empathy toward than distaste for. Accordingly, Spock had complied with his Captain’s request.
They sat on opposite sides of a table in the near deserted officer's mess hall and Spock contemplated that, in their 287 days aboard the Enterprise, he and Jim had been spending increasingly more time together when off-duty. The older version of Spock they’d both encountered during, and after, the Narada incident had told his younger self that this was how it should be - “...a friendship that will define you both...” he had said, emotion alarmingly plain on his face, hinting at the depth of the relationship he’d been able to share with his version of Jim Kirk. Although no stranger to self doubt, Spock felt it peculiar to question what were essentially his own words of wisdom when they were spoken with such conviction. He had, therefore, made a concerted effort with Jim from the commencement of their five year mission. Illogical as it was, he felt he had to prove himself to his new Captain; that he had to, by whatever means necessary, make reparations for his part in the tumultuous start to their working relationship. With all that had happened, and all that he’d lost, he was unwilling to deny himself the chance of having such a friendship. Spock felt certain that his older self would have – must have – said as much to Jim. How else could he to explicate Jim’s interest in spending time with him outside of their scheduled working hours?
Spock sipped on his liqueur and felt the growing familiarity of its warmth travelling through his body. He watched Jim stare at his brandy glass, swirling its contents in a circular motion and felt unusually compelled to speak. “May I enquire as to the reason for your melancholia, Jim?”
Jim shook his head. "You wouldn't understand, you have Uhura...I'm just not the relationship type, y'know?"
Spock remained silent; the mention of Nyota had taken him by surprise. He had never spoken to Jim about the mutual decision he and Uhura had made to end their brief relationship soon after the mission had begun, simply because he had never been asked. If Jim had remained unaware of their break-up, Spock was sure he would have at least alluded to Uhura during one of the meals they’d shared or chess games they’d played. Before he could make it clear that he was no longer involved with the Lieutenant, however, Jim continued, "but, like Bones told me, I need to rein it in now that I'm Captain."
Jim laid the glass down and raised his eyes to meet Spock’s before resting his elbows on the table’s surface, hands clasped together so that they formed a cradle in which to rest his chin. He sighed exaggeratedly. The gesture seemed overwhelmingly human to Spock and, while undoubtedly inelegant, he found something about it...appealing. Jarred by this feeling, Spock concentrated on regaining the control he felt slipping and repeated part of what Jim had said, the meaning of which he did not understand.
“Rein it in?”
"Yeah. What he meant by that was 'stop sleeping around'," Jim told him, breaking eye contact to reach for his glass. “It’s apparently unprofessional to be both a ship’s Captain and its resident ‘manwhore‘, as he so charmingly put it.”
Spock had smiled inwardly at hearing the customary coarseness of the Dr. McCoy’s chosen terminology, and felt surprised and a little uneasy at the fondness he’d felt for the Doctor because of it. Jim did indeed have something of a reputation at the Academy. He was a demonstrable flirt – in the way that, in Spock's experience, only Humans and Orians could be - and frequently used his charm to obtain whatever he desired. Spock realised that he was himself not impervious to the effects of such behaviour. He took the opportunity to deliberate the extent to which Jim may have used this particular talent during their time on the ship and concluded that he could recount at least eleven occasions during which Jim may have manipulated him using this well-honed facet of his personality. Y et, he found that this notion did - curiously - not cause him concern. He watched with interest as Jim propelled himself back in his seat and shrugged his shoulders.
"But,” Jim started again, before Spock could respond. “Like I said, you have Uhura...I don't expect you, of all people, to understand. I guess I’m just getting frustrated...I'm venting. I'm sorry."
Spock took another moment to consider his response. He did not ‘have’ Uhura and felt mildly irritated that Jim held such an assumption. Before he could correct him, however, Jim continued to speak. "What I need is a friend with benefits kinda set up, y’know? Simple, no ties..."
"The relationship Lt. Uhura and I shared ceased eight-point-two months ago." Spock blurted out, cutting Jim off, suddenly keen to establish the fact before further inferences were made.
"Oh...I didn't know." Spock noted that Jim had seemed more bemused than surprised by his interjection.
"And why would you?" Spock felt his body tense; his grip on the small liqueur glass tightened. He had no desire to discuss his previous relationship with Nyota with anyone, Jim least of all, and felt uncomfortable with the direction in which the conversation may be heading.
Jim smiled at him from across the table. "Then I guess you do know what I'm talking about."
He was grateful that Jim had decided not to enquire further about the cessation of the relationship and attempted to let his irritation go. He had inferred from what little had been said that Jim was bemoaning his own lack of an intimate relationship. Spock took another sip of his drink, eager for the return of his previously tranquil disposition, and replied, "Not exactly, Captain."
"Not exactly, Jim.” Spock considered the friends with benefits set up Jim had mentioned. It was not a term he had encountered before and although he was capable of making inferences, to do so without further data would be unscientific and, therefore, un-Vulcan. “I am unfamiliar with the kind of friend to which you refer."
"You mean you've never heard of friends with benefits?" Jim raised one eyebrow at this. Spock wondered if he was being intentionally mocked.
"No, I have not. What kind of benefits would you require?" Spock asked, as he began to speculate on the meaning behind the peculiar human expression Jim had used. The word ‘friendship’ by definition seemed to imply having the benefit of a friend. To require further benefits appeared, to Spock, unreasonable – but fittingly human. The look Jim wore then was one that Spock had seen before and recognised as mischievous – the man never did make things like this easy for his Vulcan shipmate.
Spock remained silent for a moment, eyebrow slightly raised in question. This was often a successful method in persuading humans, in particular the Captain and Dr. McCoy, to elaborate upon their use of an idiom that he found inadequate or illogical. "I do not know; if I did, I would not be asking the question."
"Okay," Jim started and leaned forward across the table, towards Spock. His voice was lowered as though he were about the share a secret. "You and I are friends, right?"
Though phrased as a question, Spock was certain that this was, in fact, more of an assertion; a statement accompanied by the expectation of agreement. It was an illogical use of rhetoric he’d noticed was often applied by humans speaking in Standard, encompassing their inherent desire for reassurance. Nevertheless, Spock had been somewhat taken aback by Jim’s words; disarmed. Whether this was because Jim - his Captain, a man whom he had grown to respect - considered him a friend or simply because, at that moment, he realised he had never before been referred to as ‘friends’ with anyone, he was unsure. After a brief pause to assemble his thoughts, he agreed, "Yes."
"Well, what if we were to remain friends but also have...an arrangement."
Spock felt himself leaning toward Jim and mimicking his hushed tone. He was intrigued by Jim’s as-yet mysterious proposition. “What kind of arrangement?"
Jim let out a small chuckle and glanced at the mostly empty tables around them. The query seemed to both amuse him and make him uncomfortable. "Come on, Spock, you know what I mean."
Spock’s curiosity had been aroused by Jim’s continued evasion of a topic he himself had risen. "I assure you that I do not, Jim, or I would refrain from asking you such questions."
"Okay then,” Jim’s smile disappeared for a moment; he took a quick sip of his drink. “I'll spell it out for you."
Spock had felt, then, that it was his turn to be mischievous. "As I have generally no trouble in spelling Terran words, such a detailed elaboration will not be necessary."
Jim pursed his lips, ostensibly in acknowledgement of Spock’s own brand of sarcasm, before replying. "Then I'll just explain, shall I?"
“Please do.” Although Spock doubted he’d ever admit it outwardly, he enjoyed this kind of banter with humans – Jim, in particular. A sadistic part of him enjoyed the reaction he could elicit by forcing them to articulate the true meaning behind their words. He’d become aware at an early age, from his Mother’s speech patterns and the Terran literature she shared with him, that humans were likely to utilise allegory and metaphor rather than simply stating what they meant. It was a trait he found infuriating and endearing in equal measure.
Jim leaned further forward before continuing; his voice remained hushed and an errant smile - one Spock had seen several times before, when Jim was employing his persuasive charm - played on his lips. “Like I said, we’re two friends; single, sexually active, attracted to one another but not necessarily requiring a relationship in the traditional sense - basically, friends with an arrangement to have no-strings sex when they feel like it.”
Spock raised an eyebrow as he pondered this for a moment. That such emotional beings would willingly eschew that which was held in such esteem – the notion of romantic love - in favour of baser urges was new and untested information. He sought clarification. “So, despite the nature of the relationship going beyond that of the traditional Platonic friendship, there is no requirement by either party for further emotional attachment than that which already exists.”
Jim sat back in seat, appearing to relax, and finished his drink. Spock had taken a moment to look at the man – he found he could indeed appreciate Jim on a purely aesthetic level - and considered what he had just said – “...attracted to one another...” . This seemed to imply that he, too, was physically attracted to Spock. This was something he had not previously considered, but he found that the knowledge at that moment, coupled with the effect chocolate liqueur he continued to drink, sent a small thrill through his body.
“It would indeed seem to proffer a logical solution to a problem invariably faced by unitary, sexually mature adults when on long-term away missions such as ours.” Spock, again, considered not just his own experience of human emotion from coming into contact with the species, but the effect his human genes had on his own emotions. He was unable to control his feelings to the extent he wished. What if, upon entering such a relationship, he was unable to quell the desire for further emotional attachment? It seemed almost to be a challenge. And if Jim could manage it – such an emotionally charged being – then, surely, Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek, could, too?
“Well, I’m glad you think so, Commander Spock.” Jim sat back in his seat and looked to Spock to be exceedingly pleased with himself.
Spock sipped on his drink as he continued to consider this arrangement. His reasoning was sound – it would be a fitting test of his abilities, his values as a Vulcan. He regarded Jim intently, watched the light dance in his blue eyes, the ever present upward curve of his mouth in that which was most forbidden – a smile. He felt excitement at the thought of having cause to smile himself and, aware of his weakened defences, made a feeble attempt to push the feeling it away. There was just one further clarification to be made – was Jim in fact asking him to engage in this ‘friends with benefits’ relationship or had he simply been explaining the concept to Spock, employing the terms ‘you’, ‘I’ and ‘we’ by way of example?
He had found that he feared the answer – the possibility of rejection – should he seek this clarification. Instead, emboldened by the effects of the liqueur; by the possibilities, he inclined his head and said simply, “I accept.”
“Come again?” Jim, it seemed, sought clarification himself.
“I accept your proposal that we become ‘friends with benefits’. It is indeed an arrangement that would be both practical and agreeable.”
“Practical and agreeable,” Jim repeated, slowly. His smile had gone – though he was not frowning – and his eyes were fixed on Spock’s.
“Indeed.” Spock said calmly, realising that Jim seemed a little surprised by his answer. The possibility of rejection still existed, he knew, but if Jim had not been seeking to engage him in said arrangement, now would surely be the time to elucidate. Keen to preserve his equanimity, Spock finished his own drink and thought of a way in which he might establish Jim’s true intent.
The Vulcan slowly laid a hand flat on the table between them, shifted towards the edge of his seat and took a deep, calming breath. “May I get you another drink, Jim?”
Although it took a moment for him to answer - and for his smile to return - Jim had, indeed, accepted.
As Spock attempted again to blink awake, mind catching up with body, he took in the unfamiliar surroundings and sat up, slowly, reaching a hand to touch his aching temple.
“Well, good morning, Commander Spock.” Towel wrapped around his waist, Jim appeared in Spock’s peripheral vision, droplets of water running rivulets down his chest, hair water-dark and dishevelled. “I wasn’t sure of the correct modus operandi for waking a sleeping Vulcan...you seemed pretty out of it.”
Spock simply looked up at Jim, further floods of memory rushing back to him, still somewhat indistinct but, suddenly, undeniable. He realised that the regret he felt was for having consumed too much of the chocolate liqueur and nothing else.
“I was just about to get some coffee,” Jim approached, small smile turning his lips upwards as he spoke. “Want some?”