– Breaking Point –
A large portion of mashed potato had been molded into the shape of a heart. Steam curled up from it and twisted its way towards Jim's nose.
All Jim could do was stare at the food on his plate. He blinked. Of course - it was St. Valentine's Day and this was the special menu in the officers' mess. He wasn't too sure how romantic a mushy yellow potato heart really was, but if the galley chef thought it was fitting, who was he to comment? When he'd finished studying his food, he scanned the room for a free seat.
Everyone was sitting with someone. Only Spock sat alone. He was facing away from Jim and was poking his potato heart delicately with a spoon. Two ensigns deep in conversation walked past Jim towards him, but when they drew close to Spock, one of them fell silent. She gestured towards Spock's pointy ears. They quickly turned around on their heels and pulled up a few seats at an already overcrowded table. Everyone moved up without a complaint.
Jim shook his head. Gripping his tray firmly, he danced and weaved his way around chairs and tables. But before he could reach Spock, someone else got there first. Uhura placed her tray down next to Spock's and seated herself. Well, it was Valentine's Day. He'd leave the couple alone. Before long he'd found somewhere else to sit.
He sat with his back to Spock and Uhura, so he couldn't see them, but all around he noticed there seemed to be a large number of couples.
Ensign Li and Lieutenant Popovic? Well, he'd never have guessed, but the way Li was trailing her hand across his thigh was very suggestive. They laughed and left the mess, meals only half-finished. The heart on Jim's plate was still untouched. He took a large spoon and squashed it flat.
"Hi, Captain." A tray appeared next to Jim's as Sulu joined him.
"Keptin." Chekov nodded, sitting as well.
"Well, I'm overwhelmed now. Two Valentine dates at once!" Jim winked at them.
"Oh no," Sulu replied. "It's not a date unless you give us a bouquet of flowers each."
"Or some chocolates," Chekov added.
"So who have you given your exotic alien flowers to today, Sulu?" Jim asked.
"No one yet, but I'm working on it. Whoever doesn't have a date by the end of the day has to drink three liters of water and then spend the night locked up in the brig."
Chekov, wearing a solemn expression, put his knife and fork down and turned to face Jim. "And they won't be allowed to use the toilet."
Jim realized his mouth was hanging open, but he was unable to do anything about it.
"Says who?" he managed eventually.
"Um, everyone. Didn't you know?" Sulu said, and looked at Chekov sideways, but the young ensign simply shrugged his shoulders.
His crew had kept this all very quiet from him. He sighed.
Chekov prodded his food in a listless manner. "You're going to stop it, aren't you?"
Kirk considered the situation. The stakes were ultimately quite harmless. The worst that could happen would be that a crewmember might piss himself in the cell.
"No. I suppose there are far worse things crews could get up to during a deep space voyage," he said finally.
Chekov and Sulu each let out the breath they'd been holding.
The corners of Sulu's lips curved up into a lopsided smirk. "So, do you have a date?"
Jim tossed his spoon up into the air, catching it as it somersaulted back towards his plate and shoveled some mashed potato onto it. "Not yet, but I suppose I'd better make sure it's not me in that cell, eh? Not very captainly behavior, being locked in the brig."
Chekov and Sulu exchanged surprised grins. And that was that. Now that he was part of the game, he'd have to do something. Obviously he wouldn't do anything drastic such as launch himself into a relationship with a crewmember. That would be inappropriate. But he'd at least make sure he gave away a Valentine's card and a small gift.
After the meal, he took a stroll through the Enterprise. He briefly considered if there was any way for him to write and submit a Valentine's card to the ship's main computer. It might be possible; he could ask Spock for help, since he was an expert at computers.
Two mechanics walked past him deep in conversation.
"… so going to be Ensign Li …"
"No way! I bet it'll be that guy-oh, what's his name? …"
Jim reconsidered the digital Valentine's card. Man, he was desperate if he was considering asking the Enterprise out on a date. Who on Earth could he give a gift to on this ship who'd see it as a gesture of friendship, or even just as a joke?
He stopped by sickbay. "Hey Bones, didn't see you in the officers' mess. Weren't you hungry?"
"Oh, I was there. Until I saw those stupid yellow hearts."
"They were mashed potatoes."
"Jim, I've managed to block out every Valentine's Day so far since my divorce, and a bit of hunger isn't going to stop me from doing the same this year, too."
This inspired a wry chuckle from Jim and he nodded. "Well. Good luck with that."
As he left sickbay, he smiled and shook his head. Bones was definitely off limits, even for a friendly card. What had he been thinking anyway? Obviously he wasn't doing enough work if he had time to worry about the Valentine's Day problem. He set off for the bridge, changing from lunch-time to captain mode, despite not having solved the Valentine's problem of who on board he could give a gift to.
It was late when he left the bridge and headed for his quarters. As he turned a corner he spotted Nurse Chapel walking arm in arm with a red-shirt from security.
His mind supplied him with a picture of himself squirming in the brig with a full bladder. Right, enough was enough, time to get Valentine's Day over and done with!
Half an hour later he was standing outside Spock's quarters. Uhura was on shift. She'd turned up and taken her place at Communications just as he'd left the bridge. He didn't know why, he'd been sure she wasn't due to work gamma shift, but he hadn't questioned it. She was by far one of the most professional members of his bridge crew, and he trusted she'd worked out the change to the roster with Spock.
He still felt a bit odd, though, holding a box of luxury chocolates and a Valentine's card for Spock, but what the hell. He knew that with Spock the worst that would happen was that he'd raise an eyebrow and tell him he was illogical. There'd be no chance for awkwardness, as that was an illogical emotion. So as he pressed the door chime, he found he couldn't suppress a grin.
The door hissed open.
"Hey Spock! I know it's late, sorry about that. Pulled a double shift. Before I head off to bed and it officially becomes 'tomorrow,' I wanted to give you a Valentine's gift."
He handed over the chocolates to Spock, who looked at them with an expression that was even more nondescript than usual. Every muscle in his face seemed to be under his direct control.
Ok, maybe he'd been wrong. Standing opposite an ice carved statue was awkward as hell; maybe the brig would have been better.
"Well, I'll be off. See you tomorrow!" Jim said, already shifting his weight to one leg, ready to hurry the hell back to his own quarters.
Spock looked up then and their eyes met. Spock's were like black holes, as they took in everything, but let nothing back out. It sent a shiver down Jim's spine.
"Thank you," Spock said stiffly.
Jim rushed to his quarters. He'd completed his mission. Successfully. Well, sort of. As soon as he'd settled down on his bed, with a report from engineering and a mug of hot chocolate, someone rang his door chime. Tossing the report onto his blanket, he swung his feet over the edge of his bed and strode to the door. If it was Scotty asking for feedback already, then-
It was Spock, holding the luxury chocolates and an unlabelled bottle in his hands.
"Hey, Spock, what's up?"
"I thought it would only be courteous to present a gift in return. I hope you will excuse the fact that I did not have one prepared for you."
Jim eyed the bottle, rather worried. Was it perfume, some kind of oil?
"A bottle of Mr. Scott's whisky," Spock said.
Jim relaxed. It was an unusual Valentine's present, certainly, but quite appropriate for a single starship captain.
He flashed Spock the widest grin in his arsenal. "Thanks a lot!"
"I thought we could share the chocolates and the beverage now?" Spock said.
Jim tried to examine his face, but there was nothing there to study; it was just as controlled and unreadable as earlier.
"Sounds good to me. I'll just grab us some glasses."
He stepped aside to allow the Vulcan entry, and retrieved two glasses from his shelf. When he returned, Spock had taken a seat. He reached for the glasses in Jim's hands, took them, and poured them each a large measure of whisky. Jim's eyes went wide, but he sat down opposite Spock and raised his glass for a toast. Spock's frigid mask was making him shuffle around on his seat, trying to find a comfortable position.
"Cheers." It was all he could think to say.
Spock downed the whole drink in one go as if it were water. Jim gasped.
At least that earned him a reaction from Spock, who raised an eyebrow at Jim before reaching for the chocolates. He opened the box and studied them as if they were particularly interesting specimens of igneous rock from an alien world.
"I'd recommend the raspberry flavored one," Jim said and pointed at a praline covered with a dusting of pink icing sugar. "I think I'll try one of those white ones, though."
He popped one into his mouth. All the while his eyes didn't leave Spock's face. The longer he looked at it, the more he couldn't help but feel something was wrong. He probably never should have given Spock that present.
"You don't want to have one?" Jim asked, unsure if Spock enjoyed sweets.
"Do you have any napkins?"
"Yeah, I'm sure I do somewhere; let me have a look."
Just like Spock to be worried about getting chocolate stains on his uniform, he reflected and couldn't hold back a grin. When he'd found the napkin and handed it to his guest, instead of placing it on his lap, Spock used it to pick up the raspberry praline with the same deliberate movements he employed when he manipulated the controls at his science station.
"Taste good?" Jim asked, as he took another confection with his bare fingers. He washed it down with a sip of whisky. After the first one, Spock took another raspberry one and straight after that he chose a dark chocolate. He ate five in total, then closed his eyes and flopped back into the chair.
Jim was out of his seat in an instant. "Spock! Are you okay?"
Jim sat down next to him. "Are you feeling ill? Should I call Bones?"
He thought he saw Spock snarl, but maybe he was just imagining it.
"I do not require the services of a physician." He raised an eyebrow as he sat up again to take another chocolate, this time without the napkin. "Yet."
Jim's eyebrows shot up his forehead. Spock poured them both some more of Scotty's poison and once again, drank his in one go. Jim wanted to ask him what was wrong, but the question died on his tongue. It was a redundant query. His home had been destroyed by Nero. This didn't seem like Spock's usual way of coping, though. Although, now that he thought about it, he wasn't sure what the alien's 'usual' way was. But this just didn't seem like Spock.
They drank and ate chocolate in silence for a while longer.
He didn't turn his head to look at Jim.
"Hey," Jim tried slightly louder, "you know you can always come to me, and we can hang out and drink whenever you want. Whatever I can do to help, my door's always open for you."
The cold mask Spock had been wearing earlier had melted away, but the softness of his features and the vulnerability of him sitting here, drinking away his sorrows, caused Jim's hairs to stand on end.
Spock turned to face him and Jim found himself staring into his eyes. They were as dark as interstellar space and just as mysterious. He reached for his glass, as he needed to do something about the dryness in his mouth. Had it finally all become too much for his inscrutable First Officer to bear? When he looked back, he realized that Spock's lips were actually quivering. Could you hug a Vulcan? He didn't particularly feel like tempting fate.
"Lieutenant Uhura…" Spock began.
However, Spock didn't finish his sentence, instead opting for another chocolate. They were very good ones, Jim knew, and took another himself.
"You were talking about your girlfriend?" Jim said. He still found it hard to believe Spock had managed to get with her.
"She is not my 'girlfriend' anymore."
Spock spoke the word 'girlfriend' as if it were a word in an alien language that he didn't speak, foreign in a sense deeper than diction. Jim fumbled with his glass. He'd never been any good at comforting people.
"This afternoon. Apparently my inability to grasp the full meaning of Valentine's Day was inexcusable."
Jim reached out a hand and patted him on the shoulder, then removed it again. "This day has been the downfall of many men, believe me. I'm sure it will all be okay again in the morning. You've just had an argument, that's all. It happens."
The longest relationship he'd been in had been in third grade, and most of his interactions with his 'girlfriend' had involved them sitting on the school steps together, stubbornly not talking to one another. He had, however, been on plenty of promising dates just after Valentine's Day, when suddenly all the girls who'd shot him down the previous week with excuses about needing to wash their Tribble's underwear or some such nonsense were inexplicably free for dinner. A week later they all had to iron and fold their pets' underwear again, though.
"No, Jim," Spock said, "Our relationship is over."
"You don't have to answer me, but if you want to talk, I'm here to listen. Do you want to tell me what happened?"
Spock was silent for a while, his shoulders slumped.
"I am not… I was not able to share my emotions."
Jim looked down at his feet. His heart was aching for Spock, but he could understand Uhura's position. Spock did give off that vibe of probably being the universe's most awkward lover. And if on top of that he couldn't even give her the emotional security she needed, by telling her those simple words 'I love you'-well, it was hard to blame her. But damnit, she could have tried harder. Spock needed her; that much was clear.
"What about that mind meld stuff you can do? Can't you show her your emotions that way?"
Now it was Spock's eyebrows that shot up. "That is a very private question you ask."
"Sorry, I didn't realize."
Spock was silent for a while, before he finally spoke again. "A Vulcan mind-meld is an advanced psionic technique to be used between two Vulcans only. I do not know if I could ever meld with a human. The risks involved would be unacceptable."
Oh Spock, you can. I know you can meld with humans; if only you knew what I knew, Jim thought. He poured them more to drink and offered Spock another chocolate. "Well, I know where Bones' quarters are if we need a hangover cure before the next shift, so 'cheers'! Let's see if we can't finish this bottle."
Spock popped another chocolate into his mouth.
Two hours saw them finish the bottle and the original box of chocolates. Now they were on a hunt for more alcohol and chocolates in Jim's quarters.
"Tell me, Spock," Jim said, with his arm around Spock's shoulder for support, "Why we lookin' for chocolates again?"
"They are 'ssential."
"'ssential, are they? Well, we need to find some then, eh? Where would you hide chocolates if you were trying to hide chocolates from yerself?"
"What would be the purpose of s-such an undertaking?"
Jim stumbled and had to hold onto Spock so as not to fall over. "Underwhat?"
"Hiding chocolates from yourself."
"Why would I do that? What're you talking 'bout, Spock?" Jim said and let go of him.
He fell gracelessly to the floor where he was joined by his drinking buddy moments later.
Spock lifted his head slightly off the floor. "I see chocolates."
"Under your bed."
Jim rolled over so that he was looking in the same direction as Spock. He realized he was drooling on the floor of his quarters, but there was no way to prevent that.
"There's alcohol, too. Spock, you're genius, you know that, don't you? I love you, man."
He reached under the bed and when he withdrew his hands, one was holding a bottle of something florescent green labeled 'ZØRG' and the other a bar of chocolate.
"Help me up. Can' stand on my own," Jim said.
Spock crawled closer and put his arms around him. They lay there like that for a while. Somehow they didn't seem to be getting any closer to being in an upright position.
"Maybe we should jus' try an' sit up for now. On the count of three. One, two, three!"
They managed to sit up halfway, but their coordination was so appalling they fell back into a pile on the floor. Great, Jim thought, now Spock can see me drooling up close.
"The logical thing to do," Spock said, "the logical thing… would be to remain where we are."
"I don' think we have much choice," Jim replied.
It was hard to focus on Spock's face; they were too close and he was too drunk.
"You know, Spock," he said, "You're great. You're a great guy and if 'hura doesn't know it, she doesn' deserve you."
"I do not blame Nyota. She ha' to leave me. Was going… I believe she may have required psy… psychi-atch… help. Might have needed help had she stayed with me."
"Need my officers on bridge and ment'ly healthy - 's a fact."
"She was the only one, only human 'part from my mother… who…."
"Hey, Spock. Stay with me. I don't wanna be drunk on my own."
"Now I am on my own. 'mongst humans who do not…."
"Oooh, here's some chocolate. Was under my big head all the time! Happy Valentine's Day, Spock!"
He pawed at the wrapper ineffectually until Spock took the bar off him. But Spock just stared at it longingly.
"Here, lemme." Jim took the bar, and shoved it halfway, wrapper and all, into Spock's mouth.
Eventually he spat it out.
"You got chocolate drool all over your lips," Jim pointed out.
Jim reached up with his hand and stabbed Spock's mouth with his fingers as he tried to wipe the saliva away. Spock inhaled sharply.
"Sorry," Jim said hastily and withdrew his hand as if smacked.
"Are you propositioning me?"
And then Spock's wet lips were covering his. He could taste chocolate. He jerked his hands up to push himself away, but the gesture was misunderstood, as Spock moaned into his mouth and drew him closer with strong arms.
"Jim," Spock whispered, when he pulled away from the kiss.
"Um," he replied. His heart beat furiously in his chest, making him feel queasy. "So drunk. I don' feel good."
Spock pulled him closer, so his forehead was resting under Spock's chin. When Jim closed his eyes, it felt like his whole body was turning around and around and around again. Shit, this was not doing good things to his stomach. It wasn't fun trying to keep it under control, but he could do this. He'd done it plenty of times before.
Eventually the spinning in his head stopped as sleep came.
"Jim, wake up."
Someone was shaking him. His eyes felt caked up with gunk and the taste in his mouth was disgusting. "Urgh. Computer. What time?"
"It is 04:23 hours."
Jim forced his eyes open. Yup, that gray thing up there, that was a ceiling alright, while the surface he was lying on exuded a certain floor-like quality—it was about as comfortable as a granite mattress.
"We have approximately 3.5 hours before the start of alpha shift," Spock said.
It was a strain, but Jim craned his neck back. "How're you feeling?"
Although Spock had managed to pull himself off the floor into a sitting position, his straight back leaning against the bed, he didn't look his usual calm self.
"I seem to be suffering some after effects from the chocolate."
"Huh? The chocolate?"
Spock reached out with his hand and touched the side of Jim's face. When he pulled back, he held his fingers out for Jim to inspect. They were covered in chocolate.
"Alcohol does not affect Vulcans; however, chocolate has an intoxicating effect upon us."
Twisting his head from side to side, Jim looked around his room. It was a mess. The floor to his right was sticky and to his left there was a half-eaten bar of chocolate on the floor.
The ceiling was tidy though. "So, uh, how much do you remember?"
"I do not believe my memory was affected by the chocolate."
A heavy silence settled between them. Then Jim turned back to Spock, his lips curled into a small grin. "You know, that's the first Valentine's Day kiss I've ever had."
Because Spock didn't reply to that, he continued, "I stand by everything I said."
And when Spock still remained stubbornly silent, he sat up. They were now sitting shoulder to shoulder, leaning against his bed.
"Don't forget, any time you need a drink, or… chocolate, as it turns out, feel free to come by."
"You know, Spock, we might both feel like shit right now, but we had a good time, right? And it took your thoughts off things, which is what getting drunk is all about." Jim got up, stumbled, and was forced to sit down on his bed to stop himself from being introduced to the hard floor again.
"I'm probably still a tiny bit drunk. I think I'll let Bones sleep a bit longer, but I'll definitely need something before the start of alpha shift."
He reached out with his hand to help Spock up.
"I can stand on my own."
"Suit yourself. I'm going to the bathroom to clean up and change into some PJs. My clothes are covered in chocolate."
Once he'd returned from the bathroom, he found Spock hadn't moved an inch.
"I am afraid my mental faculties have been impaired. I find myself incapable of making any logical decision. When I try to think through eventualities and calculate probabilities, I lose track of them before I can come to any satisfactory conclusions..."
"That didn't stop you from functioning last night."
"But now I have enough self-restraint restored to recognize my thoughts are not logical."
"You'd truly hate being human."
Jim held out his hand once more. "Will you trust my choices until you can think straight again? Can't promise they'll be logical, but considering I don't calculate any probabilities in my head, I don't do a half-bad job of thinking, right?"
Spock nodded. "I trust you."
He seized Jim's hand and allowed himself be hauled up.
"I can't let you go back to your quarters like this. What if you get stuck at the junction of corridor 7 and 18b and can't decide which way to your quarters carries the least risk of a crewmember seeing you in this state?"
Jim rummaged in his wardrobe and pulled out another set of pajamas.
"Here, change into these and go clean yourself up in the bathroom."
He flung himself onto the bed. Mmmmh, so much comfier than the floor.
"I've set an alarm," he said once Spock reappeared, wearing his pajamas, "but for now we should get a bit more sleep. Just try not to hog the cover too much. I know you're stronger than I am."
Spock carefully walked around the chocolate on the floor before climbing into bed next to him.
The pillow really was only made for one person, but Jim didn't mind. He missed curling up close to a warm body.
"It's nice not to sleep alone for a change," Jim sighed. "And Spock, just follow my lead. Just talk about what's on your mind without worrying too much about the consequences. I'm your friend."
"I do not worry."
Jim laughed. "Of course you normally don't. You have your logic after all. But when you were sitting on the floor unable to move because you were unsure what to do - that's what worrying feels like."
He turned so he could look at Spock and suddenly he found they were in the same position they had been in last night when Spock had kissed him. Jim licked his lips unconsciously at the memory.
"Upon reviewing my memories from last night, I owe you an apology. I mistook your actions-."
Jim cut him off. "It's ok, no need to apologize. Obviously I have a fair bit to learn about Vulcans. It doesn't help that your people are so private as to appear completely mysterious to me."
"Not just to you."
Jim swallowed. Ah yes. The reason they got drunk in the first place: Uhura.
"When I was sixteen, I was madly in love with this girl, Zoe," Jim said. "We'd grown up together and were best friends. She was my rock, as cheesy as it may sound. Now I was never one of those boys who had to work up courage to talk to a girl. Actually, I was too brave for my own good. It hit me how much she meant to me, so I asked her out. She shot me down. No surprise there, as in the past I'd also asked out a few of her best friends. But one day she asked me if my offer of a holoflick and cheeseburger still stood. Of course it did, I said."
He smiled fondly at the memory. "We had a great time and I couldn't believe my luck. It was a dream come true. But the next day she was distant- said she'd had fun but just couldn't be with 'someone like me'. I was devastated. I refused to go to school for over a week. In the end I got over her, of course. She was no different from all the others. No one got me, not even my best friend."
It was rather warm beneath the blanket with the two of them in bed together, so he pulled the cover down a bit.
"Did you ever find anyone who understood you?" Spock asked.
"I don't know," he replied.
You, he thought.
His memories of the meeting he'd had with Spock's future self surfaced in his mind as if to back up that thought.
And here he was, lying in bed with Spock, halfway between being drunk and having a hangover, and he'd just told him how he never lacked the courage to just ask someone out. Yet now he was hesitating to tell Spock what a great friend he was or could be or… whatever.
Man up, he needs a friend right now, can't you see that? Not just a friend, he needs a best buddy, a 'best friend forever'.
"No, I tell a lie."
One of Spock's eyebrows shot up. Jim looked away, his eyes searching for anything to focus on but Spock's face.
"You," he finally said. "I know in many ways we are completely different, but I think I get you. And I feel you understand me."
He was startled when he felt Spock's hand squeeze his. Their palms touched as he twisted his hand to return the gesture. Somewhere from deep in his stomach, a surge of contentment welled up and engulfed him.
They fell asleep like that, fingers entwined.
Best Valentine's Day ever.