Spock realized it wasn

't his cabin even before he opened his eyes.

The pervasive chill in the air brushed against his skin like frostbitten fingers, raising tiny goose-bumps on his naked torso, and the scent in the room was different; there wasn t a trace of the incense he used to counteract the acerbic undertones of recycled air. And yet, the hard contour of the bunk that he was lying on was identical to his own. Lifting a weary eyelid, one bleary eye attempted to focus on the wall opposite the bed. Even in the shadowy half-light, no crimson drapery or Vulcan weapons greeted his gaze, but the recognizable bulkheads meant he was on the Enterprise.

He sat up quickly and regretted it. A nauseating dizziness enveloped him, compounding the dull ache that throbbed in his temples. Adding to his wretchedness, he became cognizant that his tongue felt pasty and his breath tasted stale. He couldn't recall the last time he had felt so miserable, which in itself was perplexing.

Looking down, he noticed that a warm blanket had been draped over his lower body, covering his state of undress. This too was most unusual; he never slept in only his briefs. Glancing into the adjoining office area, he could see his formal uniform lying on the floor, abandoned haphazardly, accompanied by his boots and black T-shirt. And alongside, equally disbursed without care, were another pair of pants and a lime-green jacket of unmistakable rank.

Almost on cue, the washroom door opened and Kirk greeted his bewilderment with nothing more than a smile and a crisp white towel tied around his waist. Minuscule droplets of water glistened on his smooth chest and even from three meters away, Spock could detect the fragrance of the citrus and Bergamot cologne that Kirk favored.

Kirk stretched drowsily, flexing his back, then leaned against the doorframe with his arms casually crossed. "Finally awake, I see."

"Captain " Spock began earnestly, but finished with a labored groan. The sudden agonizing pounding in his head effectively cut off the dozen or so questions that required answers.

"I was wondering if you'd wake up with a hang-over," Kirk said, unable to hide a mischievous grin. "I didn t know if Vulcans experienced the misery of overindulging in alcohol."


"Don't you remember?"

Spock took a moment to compose his thoughts. "The reception."

"And the dance afterwards. The Mhonacons are wonderful hosts. It was a hell of a celebration."

Disjointed bits and pieces of the previous night's events flashed across Spock s mind. He struggled to fill in the disturbing, extensive gaps in his memory. "A formal banquet dignitaries. Numerous toasts to congratulate the new treaty." The effort required to speak only increased his lightheadedness, and it took all of his control to remain sitting upright.

"Perhaps too many for someone who doesn't usually drink. You were an amazingly good sport about it, considering how often our glasses were filled. It's well known that the Mhonacons equate hospitality with getting their guests rip roaring drunk. But now you do look a little green about the gills "

"Gills, Captain?" He was unfamiliar with the expression: perhaps yet another oddity in Human language that had escaped his attention; they were almost too numerous to keep track of. Kirk s only reply was a soft chuckle. Then he turned and disappeared into the washroom, returning a moment later with a large glass of water and something clutched in his other hand. He crossed the room and offered both to Spock. "Take these detox pills. You ll feel better in few minutes."

Spock slowly swung his legs over the side of the bed and took the remedy appreciatively, all while keeping the blanket securely over his lap. He swallowed the pills, drained the entire glass to rehydrate, then asked, "How many alcoholic drinks did I consume?"

"Hummm... let's see: an aperitif, champagne, wine with dinner, liqueur after dinner and a post-dinner brandy. And then, of course, you had another drink at the dance..."

Spock s left eyebrow inched upward until it could go no higher. "Indeed?"

Kirk chuckled again. Apparently he was enjoying Spock s predicament to the fullest. "You knocked back more last night than you've drunk in the entire time you ve been aboard. Any particular reason?"

"The Mhonacons take a refusal to drink as an insult. They are, unfortunately, most insistent in this regard."

"True. A large part of their economy is based on the production and export of spirits and wine; they are very proud of their vintages. But if it's any consolation, rest assured no one walked away from the table sober. But why didn't you bow out early? You could have returned to the ship after dinner."

Spock pondered the question. It would be unfitting to admit that of late, he wanted to be by Kirk s side whenever possible; each moment apart only reminded Spock of his self-imposed isolation and the growing loneliness he felt when not in Jim's company. He was also reluctant to disclose that he had thought he could handle the alcohol he had consumed and still remain in control. Obviously, he had underestimated his body's ability to metabolize the toxins that had accumulated in his bloodstream.

"My duty was to remain until the festivities were concluded." Spock paused, then added an addendum in an attempt to defend his actions. "Staying and consuming libations seemed logical at the time "

"It always does," Kirk said, grimacing good-naturedly. "It's only in the morning that one lives to regrets it. But thanks for sticking around; I appreciate it." Kirk stifled a laugh and added, "Who knows what kind of trouble I would have gotten into without you there."

Spock glanced up; there was one question that superseded all others. "With all due respect, Jim, why do I find myself in your bed and out of uniform?"

"You don t remember that either?" Kirk remained silent for a long, drawn out moment, staring intently at Spock.

"Regrettably, I do not."

Spock could almost see the wheels turning in Kirk's head, but it was coupled with hesitancy to speak, which was peculiar. The uneasy silence grew until Spock finally dared to break it. "Is there a reason for your reticence? Did I speak or act in any manner that was inappropriate?"

"No," Kirk said, despite the fact that a mischievous glint appeared in his eyes, "Not unless you consider a long physics lecture recited to another guest who was so drunk he wouldn't know his own name inappropriate?"

Spock exhaled heavily. He wasn t sure if Kirk was teasing or not. "Is there anything else I should be aware of? I still do not know why we are having this conversation while I am in my superior officer's bed."

Kirk rubbed his chin. "That is going to be a bit difficult to explain."

Crossing the short distance between them, Kirk pushed the bottom of the tangled blanket to the side, then sat on the edge of the bunk. He turned to Spock, his hazel eyes searching the Vulcan's face until he finally made direct eye contact. "You...I mean we, did something last night something I immensely enjoyed " Kirk swallowed hard. "Are you sure you don't remember?"

"My last clear recollection is observing the gyrations of the dancers in the ballroom. After that, there is a black void of time until I awoke here."

"I see " Kirk paused for a moment, then reached over and took hold of Spock s hand. "What would you say if I told you that we took our friendship to the next level?"

Spock gazed down at Kirk's hand, which continued to grasp his. The human's skin felt cold, but the way in which Kirk held it almost tenderly demonstrated only warm affection. It was not the first time they had touched, but there was an uncharacteristic energy radiating from Kirk that seem to short-circuit Spock s ability to read telepathic clues; he could not discern what Kirk was thinking. It was either that, or the toxins in Spock's system were clouding his thought processes and had impaired his judgment.

"Next level?" Spock was surprised that the tone of his voice betrayed his growing tension and he hoped Kirk hadn't noticed.

"Let me put it this way; what if I told you that you're here because we slept together last night?"

Spock glanced up, his eyes riveted to Kirk s face. "Specify slept."

The corners of Kirk s lips turned up fractionally, in almost an embarrassed smile. "Well, not much actual sleeping went on, if that answers your question. Spock would you be shocked or upset if I said that we had sex together?"

A flash of surprise registered in Spock's eyes, he could feel it, but he struggled inwardly to keep his face neutral. It took a moment for him to collect himself, to formulate an answer that would put Jim at ease. "If I were capable of that emotion, I would I find it less shocking than becoming inebriated at an official affair of state."

Kirk instantly relaxed and released the breath he had been holding. "So having an affair while drunk is fine, but being drunk at an affair is not?" He chuckled softly, obviously amused by Vulcan propriety.

Spock considered a number of answers, all equally complicated and protracted. Under the circumstances, he chose to be succinct. "Essentially correct."

"Well, then, I wish you had gotten inebriated at the last Christmas party. It might have saved me from making a fool of myself with Helen Noel. But I realize that unusual situations occur when alcohol is involved, when someone's inhibitions are compromised, so I will understand if you want to end this now, as if it never happened. We don t have to speak of it again, if that's what you want."

Unable to suppress a frown, Spock replied, "You assume that I need to be intoxicated to be intimate with you, which discredits me and dishonors you. You also presume that I am not willing to pursue a personal relationship beyond friendship now that I am lucid. Neither is the case."

"You mean...It wasn t the effect of the booze!?"

"With or without alcohol, I have always desired you and regardless of the circumstances, I am gratified that we have ultimately reached the next level. " Spock paused, then added more softly, "Do you find that shocking, Jim?"

Kirk s face brightened and he broke out in a huge smile. "Shocking? Hell yes! But I couldn't be happier!" Lifting Spock s hand to his lips, he turned it over and kissed the palm. He lingered for a moment, planting smaller kisses along Spock s fingers. The tactile sensations activated a part of Spock's brain that triggered flashes of pleasure. The hair on the back of his neck tingled, his throat constricted, and he found it increasingly difficult to breathe. His lungs struggled for air.

Kirk finally stopped his ministrations and looked up. There was a newfound glimmer in his eyes that, in all probability, mirrored the luminous brightness in his own. "Then why don t we pick up where we left off, Spock? We're not expected on duty for another two hours, more than enough time for you to grab a shower and crawl into bed with me that is, if you're feeling up to it "

"I have never felt better," Spock replied truthfully, lightly squeezing Kirk s hand in consent before withdrawing it. "If you will give me a moment."
Standing up, Spock proceeded to the washroom. A few minutes later, Kirk could hear the water running in the shower stall.

Kirk stretched out languidly on the bed and smiled to himself; he hoped that Spock would forgive his deception when he finally confessed. Nothing had happened between Spock and him last night. They had returned from the party and retired to Kirk s cabin to share a pot of strong coffee. But before the replicator had delivered the goods, Spock had passed out cold, and Kirk had been too exhausted to try to haul an unconscious Vulcan to his own cabin. Instead, he had removed Spock's uniform so he would be more comfortable and placed him in bed. Then Kirk had slept in a chair. It had all been completely innocent.

For months Kirk had desperately wanted to make love to Spock, but had never figured out a way to broach the subject. When Spock couldn't remember what had happened last night, it was the perfect excuse to test the waters and see if he was receptive to the idea of becoming Kirk's lover. He wasn't sure what he would have done if Spock had declined or if he had been offended. Carpe Diem, Kirk mused; he had simply seized the moment, as he done so often in the past and hadn't thought that far ahead. There were certainly benefits for not believing in the no-win scenario. Kirk consoled himself with the fact that he hadn't actually lied - he had only bent the truth a little. He had simply asked questions - what ifs . While one could argue that in itself was deceiving, surely no one could blame him for his intentions. And in a few moments, his white fib would become the truth anyway. He couldn t be more thrilled at the turn of events.

In the washroom, Spock stretched languidly while the water cascaded over his body and smiled to himself; he hoped that Jim would forgive his deception when he finally confessed. Once the detox pills had taken full effect, which coincided with Kirk s reaching for his hand, he had been able to recall the entire night's events, including the fact that Kirk had slept in a chair. It had all been completely innocent.

For months Spock had desperately wanted to make love to Jim, but had never been able to figure out a way to broach the subject. He couldn't help admiring Kirk's skill with words and the what if game he had played. That Kirk had desired him enough to formulate such an unconventional strategy was beyond comprehension, but he gratefully accepted the method of seduction nevertheless. Spock consoled himself with the fact that he hadn t actually lied to Jim; he had simply not divulged the entire truth once he had remembered it. And in a few moments, his pretense would become reality. He couldn t be more satisfied at the turn of events.

While honesty had its virtues, on rare occasions, duplicity had its merits as well. Spock had never completely understood the writings of Machiavelli from a social perspective, but he finally had to admit to himself that from time to time the end justified the means . It was a lesson that he would never forget.

The End