Whiskey in the Jar
by J. Rosemary Moss
McCoy cautiously opened one eye, groaning a little from the effort. His vision was surprisingly steady, however, considering his hangover, so he opened the other eye as well. That earned him a decent view of the wall he was facing. So far so good—he might even be able to ease himself to a sitting position.
He took a deep breath and rolled over onto his back. That hurt more than he expected. Why had he and Scotty insisted on polishing off that jug of whiskey? It wasn't even good whiskey. Apart from the holiday—and the traditional associations of whiskey with said holiday—there really was no excuse.
Well, no point in worrying about it now. He started to push himself up. That effort required all the concentration he could muster, so he wasn't prepared when a voice from the other side of the room interrupted him.
"I see you are awake, Doctor."
McCoy nearly jumped out of his skin. "Spock!"
He turned his head and, sure enough, that green-blooded, walking-talking computer was seated just a few feet away. McCoy forced himself to take another deep breath.
"Spock," he repeated, "what the hell are you doing in my quarters?"
"The captain was uncertain of your ability to walk here safely," Spock replied calmly. "He requested that I see you to your bed and then that I return to make certain that your inebriation caused you no harm."
McCoy had to choke back a grin. "Oh he did, did he?" he asked. Not very subtle, Jim, he added to himself. But Spock wasn't likely to understand that the good captain was trying his utmost to throw the two men together.
"Well," McCoy continued, finally achieving a seated state, "I'm not much worse for the wear. As soon as I, ah, empty out my stomach, I'll be fine."
"Indeed," Spock said, not quite disguising his distaste at the idea of the doctor hurling his guts out.
The Vulcan stood up to take his leave, but then seemed to think better of it. He sat down again, causing McCoy to raise his eyebrows at him.
"What is it, Mr. Spock?"
"I wonder, Doctor, if you would explain certain behaviors of an inebriated human."
McCoy cringed at that—last night was something of a blur. God only knows what he had gotten up to. "Of any human, or of a particular human?" he asked.
Spock considered that. "Your behavior, in particular, Doctor—although I have noticed similar behavior in other inebriated humans."
McCoy cringed again—what the hell had he done last night?—but he managed to swing his legs over the edge of his bunk. There. At least he was sitting up completely and facing Spock now.
He gave the Vulcan a wry smile. "That depends on my behavior. But go ahead—try me."
"I am, naturally, curious as to what drives you to such inebriation to begin with—"
McCoy rolled his eyes as he cut him off. "Spock, it was St. Patrick's day! Everyone's supposed to get drunk."
Spock cocked his head at him. "I am aware of the historical, religious and cultural significance of the holiday," he assured McCoy. "But I admit that I am perplexed as to why inebriation is required in order to observe any of those aspects of—"
McCoy held his hand up, cutting him off again. The last thing he needed during a hangover was a Vulcan's dissertation on an old earth celebration. "Let's just skip to the behavior. What exactly did I do?"
"You professed your undying devotion to me, Doctor, in words that—in my judgment—a human would normally reserve for his mate."
"Oh God," McCoy muttered, burying his face in his hands.
"Of course," the Vulcan continued, oblivious to his distress, "I have also observed that Mr. Scott, when inebriated, expresses his love for various members of the crew." He paused and raised one eyebrow at McCoy. "Is such a declaration, then, to be expected of an inebriated human? Is it, in fact, a cultural trait?"
McCoy felt a sudden surge in his stomach. "Hold that thought," he said, pushing himself up with surprising energy. Somehow he managed to flee into his lavatory just in time to spew out a good portion of what he had consumed last night.
Once his stomach was empty, he rinsed out his mouth and then stared into the mirror. Now that was romantic, he told himself. Nothing sets the mood like letting your love interest listen to you hurl…
Of course, there was an easy way out of this mess. All he had to do was assure Spock that a declaration of love didn't mean anything when it came from a drunken human. Well, nothing beyond friendship and a general feeling of good will toward the whole damn universe.
McCoy sighed. That would be the easy way out. But it was also the coward's way out. And he wasn't so much of a coward that he couldn't face the Vulcan with the truth. He owed the son of a bitch that much.
He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair, trying to make himself appear as presentable as possible. He frowned at the mirror when he was done, dissatisfied with the results of his efforts. But there wasn't much to be done about that.
He took a seat opposite of Spock as he came out of the lavatory. The Vulcan regarded him critically as he waited for an answer to his inquiry. McCoy sighed—best get it over with.
"Individual humans behave differently when they're drunk," he began. "Scotty's a happy drunk—the kind who tells everyone how much he loves them. I—I can be a happy drunk too, but I—well, I wouldn't say that to just anyone. It's easier for me to, uh, 'profess my undying devotion' when I'm inebriated. I'm too much of a coward when I'm sober."
There, he'd said it. And he'd even managed to look Spock in the eye as he dragged the words out.
Spock lifted his eyebrow again. "Am I to understand, Dr. McCoy, that you regard me as a potential mate?"
Every part of McCoy's brain was screaming at him to retreat. But it was too late for that now. It was, ironically, only logical to proceed.
"Yes, Mr. Spock," he managed. "Apparently, you haven't noticed—but I'm deeply in love with you."
Spock inhaled sharply at that—or, at least, McCoy told himself that he did. Maybe he had just imagined it. At any event, there was a long moment of silence.
"A mate should not be chosen on the basis of emotion," Spock said at length.
McCoy shut his eyes and sighed. Well, that was that. All he could do now was accept the rejection with as much grace as he could manage.
"There are, however, certain indications that we are not entirely unsuited," Spock continued, causing McCoy's eyes to fly back open. "It would be illogical not to explore the potential—"
For several minutes, McCoy didn't hear another word the Vulcan said. He didn't need to. Spock wasn't expressing his undying devotion—but he wasn't rejecting him either. That was good enough for now.
"And therefore, I think it would be best if we arranged our schedules so that we can spend more time discussing the matter," Spock concluded. "Is that acceptable to you, Doctor?"
Discussing the matter? What McCoy had in mind was much more than a discussion. But Spock might not be ready for that—best not to frighten him off. "Yes, more than acceptable," he assured him.
"Then I'll consider it settled," Spock said. He arose to take his leave, just as if nothing out of the ordinary had taken place between them. But, at the last minute, he turned back to McCoy. "It would be best, Doctor, if you were to remain sober during our discussion over dinner tonight."
Dinner? He had agreed to dinner? Things were going even better than he had dared hope. "I'll confine myself to one mint julep," McCoy promised.
Spock frowned. "Considering the seriousness of this matter, a period of abstinence would be logical—"
"Compromise is also logical, isn't it Mr. Spock?" McCoy asked.
Spock's frown deepened. "At times," he said cautiously.
"Then I'll have that one drink," McCoy insisted. "Remember, Mr. Spock, it was because of my drinking that we're having this conversation in the first place."
The barest hint of a smile crossed the Vulcan's lips. "All the same, Doctor, I will find it easier to interpret your declarations when you are sober. And I would prefer that you remember them."
McCoy grinned. "Touché," he said. "I won't drink to excess again—not while we're sorting this out. Agreed?"
Spock nodded. "Agreed." He stared at McCoy for a moment, but then he turned and left without a backward glance.
McCoy rolled his eyes at that as he put his hands behind his head. Don't smother me with romantic glances, he thought to himself. Still, he couldn't complain. He had never expected to stand a chance with Spock.
He took a moment to grin to himself. He wasn't a superstitious man (except, of course, when superstitions served to annoy the Vulcan.) But considering how well things had gone in the wake of St. Patrick's day—well, McCoy was willing to believe that he'd just experienced some good, old-fashioned Irish luck.