In Vino Veritas


Pat Foley

Starfleet officers are supposed to dictate a final log entry before retiring. Keeping a journal updated had been a mariner's tradition back to the days of wind powered sailing ships, and one of the first duties taught at the Academy.

Vulcans are supposed to meditate. Meditation allowed for the orderly categorizing of events, the proper laying down of memories and the reinforcement of Vulcan precepts.

In deference to his dual nature, Spock generally did both, where duty allowed. Reviewing his behavior regarding the Vulcan disciplines was entirely necessary for a half Vulcan living in close quarters with an encroaching and temptingly encompassing humanity. A necessity when it seemed many of his shipmates seemed determined to sway him to human behavioral standards. It was what his father had always warned him against, that too close association with humans would erode his control. Spock could only assume he spoke from experience.

There had to be some reason why his father had married a human woman.

Being half Human, he often had much to regret in his behavior, and much to strive to for the future. Try as he would, he still had great difficulty adhering to the strict Vulcan way. And living with humans, who seemed to try so hard to get everyone to join them in their views made it all the more difficult. It was, in some respects a charming trait in humans, but it didn't make it easy for a lone Vulcan.

And this night, the first night back on the ship after the crew's sojourn on Omicron Ceti Three, he had far more to regret than usual. Even now, the memory of what he had shared with Leila, however illicit by Vulcan standards, was bittersweet.

But regrettable though it might be, his behavior was not unprecedented. He had been tempted before in his Starfleet career. By emotion. Even by women. And had at times succumbed.

No. What continually invaded the orderly discipline of his meditation trance, and taxed his Vulcan disciplines to the utmost, was the memory of the taunts Kirk had thrown at him, when he had sought to destroy the spores. Even knowing why Kirk had done it, and in spite of Kirk's subsequent apology, Spock couldn't seem to successfully separate the memory from the emotions he had felt then. Even recalling it broke him out of meditation trance, and bathed him in emotional distress. He could not get through the short-term memory and lay the mental tracks down for the long term recall into a logical pattern in his mind. When he tried, Kirk's voice came back to him, caustic, penetrating though all his Vulcan control. Exactly as Kirk had intended, but even in retrospect, he could not bear it.

You belong in a circus, Spock. Not a starship.

He winced, all Vulcan controls aside. Kirk's voice continued inexorably in his head.

Right next to the dog faced boy!

His quarters were suddenly too small, too close. And in spite of the oxygen enriched atmosphere of the Enterprise, at least compared to Vulcan, too airless. He couldn't catch his breath. He found himself charging out of the door, pacing rapidly down the corridor.

"Whoa!" a familiar voice said, and he was suddenly aware of the picture he was making, rushing unseeing through the corridor. "Where's the fire?" McCoy drawled. He was sauntering along, a flask of Saurian brandy in his hand.

Self conscious before McCoy's discerning eyes, he drew himself up into some semblance of his Vulcan control. "Were there a fire, Doctor, you would certainly be hearing a red alert."

"A figurative fire, Commander."

Spock marshaled his pace back to a more sedate stroll. "There is nothing."

"Oh, really?" McCoy gave him a sideways glance as he fell into step at his side. "You were sure heading off somewhere in a hurry."

"I might ask where you were heading, Doctor," Spock said, seeking to distract him. "It is well past your watch, and humans do require regular rest periods. Is there some illness among the crew?"

"You might say so. Lots of restless sleepers tonight. Everyone's having second thoughts about what happened on that planet. It's fertile ground for a shrink. I get at least one confession wherever I go. And I dispense a little medicine where necessary." He raised the flask and swirled the amber contents within.

Spock said nothing to that, not up to his usual jibes about alcohol.

"Like your surprising admission on the bridge today," McCoy continued. "You said you were happy for the first time. Though you didn't look too happy tearing down the corridor just now."

"I was merely going to--" Spock's mind went a virtual unaccustomed blank as he struggled to come up with a suitable fictitious errand.

McCoy ignored the pregnant pause, caught up in his own thoughts. "Look at it this way. At least you were happy. That's a positive emotion. Mostly what I'm hearing tonight are far less pleasant confessions. It may bruise your Vulcan ego a bit to admit you can feel happiness, but I can't see it's so bad. In fact, I'd say what you experienced does your character credit. You experienced love. Maybe at heart Vulcans aren't quite the warrior race they claim to be. Or maybe you got the best of both human and Vulcan. It beats the lot of shame-faced confessions I've been hearing in the opposite vein. Most people, all things considered, didn't have an ultimately pleasant experience on that planet. Perfect, perfect health aside."

"The Enterprise has an exceptional crew," Spock said, a trace uneasily. "I'm surprised there is that much to confess."

"Exceptional or not, they're only human. And I'm sure even you're familiar with that old saying: In vino veritas." Seeing Spock staring at him, wooden, apparently dumbfounded, McCoy raised a brow and clarified. "That's Latin. I thought for sure that you knew Latin. It means--"

Spock had recovered himself. "I'm well aware of what it means."

"Well, when people's inhibitions get erased, as it did with those spores, their real thoughts come out," McCoy said. "For some, like you, they expressed love. But for others, well, the polite manners, and politically correct behavior, and all the self control people have to practice when they're cooped up cheek by jowl in a tin can starship with a bunch of shipmates they have to get along with suddenly went by the wayside. When they let loose, they couldn't help saying exactly what they felt. What they'd been thinking for months. Or years. Some of it good. Some good but inappropriate. Some bad. Some real bad. I'm guilty of that myself. I was perfectly happy when it was just me and a mint julep, but I threatened to put old Sandival in hospital for trying to reassign me to some non-medical position. Having my own misdeeds, I can be perfectly understanding of those of others."

Spock was silent, thinking of Jim, fresh from recovering from the spores, choosing what to say to bring him out of the state himself. How much had been chosen, and how much had been unconsciously, surreptitiously felt. McCoy, that great believer in the subconscious, would probably say all of it.

Squatting on a mushroom instead of passing himself off as a man.

He shivered. McCoy, caught up in his explanation, and distracted by having partaken of a little too much 'medicine' himself, didn't notice.

"So you see, Spock, don't take your little slip so much to heart. Loving a girl is not the worst thing even a Vulcan could have done. And it's not as if you're the only one who slipped. A lot – maybe most – of your fellow crewmembers are feeling pretty small and sorry tonight."

But Spock had his own pressing interests far beyond the misdeeds of the crew. Painful as it was, he had to know. To hear it once more. To be sure. "This – this in vino vertitas -- in your opinion as a psychiatrist it is characteristic of humans? As a human psychiatrist."

"Well, yeah. Sure." McCoy blinked. "It's a classic human behavior, when relieved of inhibitions. Do what you really want. Say what you really mean."

Spock closed his eyes, briefly, in pain.

McCoy entirely misinterpreted the cause. "So you let yourself go a bit. You had just cause. And you're human, too. We all went back to our roots, expressed our true feelings--"

"Doctor, please excuse me" Spock said abruptly, turning on his heel and disappearing up a Jeffires tube, where McCoy wouldn't care to follow, and where, if he further lost his countenance, no one but the Enterprise's unfeeling machinery would be witness.

He found his way back to his quarters by a roundabout route. With the door shut behind him, he dropped to his knees before the meditation flame, even more anxious for the relief of pure logic that the Vulcan disciplines could bring. But all his efforts failed.

"I know Jim," he said to his empty quarters. "I know him. He does not truly think that."

But McCoy was seldom wrong, when it came to human behavior.

He gave up the futile attempt to objectify the events into the strict logical patterns which would be incapable of rousing emotion within him. Giving into his human side in a rare lapse of discipline, he flung himself on his bunk. But haunted by the mocking words which his own meditation efforts had brought back to his mind with ringing clarity, he could not sleep. Nor could he bear the memory.

He surged to his feet and went to his storage closet. Alcohol alone, per se, did not work on a Vulcan's metabolism. But in a cubby he had a flask of something he had acquired in a bar on Regulus as a birthday present for his Captain, who was particularly fond of it. And that was designed for Vulcanoid lifeforms.

Romulan Ale.

Taking a social drink before with Kirk and McCoy, he had discovered that something within it had a curious dulling effect on Vulcan thought processes.

His hand shook a little as he poured. He could imagine what his father would say at this lapse into human behavioral patterns. Perhaps Sarek had been right about the dangerous effects of human association. He had never before taken alcohol "medicinally", as McCoy would characterize this.

But he still poured out a glass and drank. He managed to get half of the glass down before he choked on the burning pain he felt as the unfamiliar alcohol went down. After a moment, the drug hit his bloodstream. The memory of the events of Omicron Ceti Three was still with him, still painful. But the pain was blurred around the edges, partially anesthetized. And he found that now, if he could not meditate it away, he could at least ignore the pain enough to sleep.

"In Vino Veritas," he said, raising the glass in acknowledgement of his own too human behavior and downing the rest of the drink. And then the glass slipped from his fingers. It had been a long, emotionally stressful day. He staggered to his bunk and stumbled into it. As his eyes closed, he blinked at the meditation flame, winking at him from across the room, the fire idol standing as if in mocking guard of the disciplines he had failed to achieve. But somehow, it no longer mattered that he couldn't focus on them. The voice of his father, the voice of his Captain, retreated from his memory under the effects of the drug as all his attempted Vulcan controls had failed to do for him.

His eyes drifted shut and he slept like a drunken sailor, or at least as a very confused Vulcan/human hybrid. One torn from his roots and tossed in seas of emotion far more treacherous than the void of space, while the fire idol's flames of pure logic flickered and gleamed off the glass rolling gently on the floor.

But at least for this night, he slept without dreams.

In Vino Veritas


Pat Foley

March 2009