Admiral James T. Kirk practically jumped down from the transporter platform.
Kyle, at the console, said, "You look happy, Admiral, good outcome?"
Kirk grinned at him. "The best, Mr Kyle. Merenia III, along with it’s technology, valuable mineral deposits, and useful strategic location is now the newest member of the United Federation of Planets. Thanks in no small part to Mister Spock here." He gestured widely to the Enterprise’s first officer, who was stepping down with a great deal more care. He looked, Kyle thought, a little flushed.
"That’s great news, sir, congratulations."
"Yep, turns out our Commander Spock has all the makings of a fine diplomat." He patted his first officer enthusiastically on the back, and Spock swayed at the unexpected contact.
"The Admiral exaggerates as usual." Spock said unsteadily.
Kyle said loyally, "I’m sure he doesn’t, sir."
"Thank you, Mister Kyle. Come on, Spock," Kirk tugged the Vulcan’s arm. "I want to get to the bridge before we clock off."
They left as quickly as they’d come, leaving Kyle to wonder how much alcohol had been consumed at the diplomatic reception.
Spock was aware that Jim was talking. He was also aware that he wasn’t giving his commanding officer the usual full measure of his attention. He was thinking about the reception. More than one person had complimented the Admiral on the outcome. Expressed enthusiasm for his role in it. Admired his dress uniform. It was – irksome. Jim was his, and their obvious attentions had been unwelcome.
He looked at his bondmate. Jim was so handsome. And smart. And brave. And kind. There were not words enough in Vulcan or standard to describe the positive qualities of his bondmate. He was incredibly lucky. He wondered why the turbolift was so warm. He wanted more people to know that Jim was his. There were no longer any regulations against their relationship. The crew wouldn’t mind. He couldn’t remember why they had agreed to keep it a secret. He forced himself to try and concentrate on what Jim was saying.
"Hey Jabilo!" McCoy hailed M’Benga with enthusiasm. "Better than the usual diplomatic shindig, isn’t it? Having fun?"
M’Benga didn’t look happy. "Len, I think I missed something. Where's Commander Spock?"
McCoy frowned. "Went back to the Enterprise with Jim, why?"
"Did he seem okay?"
"Yeah. Bit quiet, but okay."
"This Merenian punch they’ve been serving all day. It has the same effect on the human body as a mildly alcoholic beverage would."
"Yeah, I know, Jab, we scanned it. I think that’s what’s made the party such a success. Everyone’s mildly tipsy. But you’d have to drink buckets of the stuff to get properly drunk, or the Admiral wouldn’t have let us near it."
"How much did Spock have?"
"Erm. Well he’s been here all day and they’re not serving anything else, so a fair bit, I’d think. But it’s basically harmless."
"For humans, yes. But I was just chatting to one of the servers. She said that the plant that the drink is made from is renowned for it’s incredibly bitter taste. It’s like a rite of passage with Merenian kids to try and eat it raw. It would be like us trying to eat raw chilli, or lemon, or something. So they sweeten it. With an awful lot of something called bethanien. So that it just tastes slightly bitter."
McCoy said slowly, "And this bethanien?"
"I just got hold of a sample. The chemical composition is slightly different, but I’m fairly certain that it’s effect on the Vulcan system would be like - "
McCoy said, "Sugar."
"Yep. Basically, as far as Spock’s system would be concerned, it's sucrose. Really concentrated sucrose. It would metabolise pretty slowly, but - "
"Jab, are you telling me that Spock either is, or is about to be, really, really drunk?"
"That’s my guess, yes."
McCoy hesitated for barely a second. "Right, let’s get to back to the ship. You go to sickbay, try and synthesise something to neutralise it. I’ll find Spock, try and get him to his quarters before he does anything stupid."
"Are you kidding? Spock’s drunk. I wouldn’t miss this for anything."
As the turbolift slowed to the bridge, Kirk glanced over at his first officer in concern. Spock had been awfully quiet, and now there was a noticeable flush on his cheeks. But then he was probably tired now it was all over. He’d worked harder than anyone to make this mission a success. Met all the Merenian demands, however unreasonable, put the Federation’s case with care and skill, worked with the diplomats on both sides. It felt like he’d watched Spock do nothing else for weeks.
And in that time he’d been so absorbed they’d barely seen each other. Even on duty, let alone in the privacy of their quarters. And he was free to admit himself that he’d missed his bondmate. Very much. As the turbolift doors opened he vowed to make this a very quick trip to the bridge. At the very least, he wanted to get this dammed dress uniform off as soon as possible. He looked over skeleton bridge crew to the man in the centre seat.
The Scotsman stood with a grin. "Hello Admiral, I hear all went well."
"Indeed, Mister Scott. The newest member of the United Federation of Planets is very happy with life, as am I."
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Spock approach the empty science station and walk into the chair, before turning it and sitting in it with exaggerated care. Kirk frowned to himself.
Uhura said, "Admiral, I’ve got command on the line for you."
"On screen, Commander."
The face of Admiral Elizabeth Waters filled the screen and Kirk smiled in genuine pleasure. Waters had earned her commission the same way he had – working her way up through the ranks and successfully captaining a starship for many years. She was smart and sensible. He liked her.
She smiled, "Hello Admiral Kirk. It is my delightful duty to contact you today to express the thanks of a grateful Federation Council to you and your crew."
Kirk smiled back. "Well, it’s always a pleasure to speak to you, Liz, but even more so if you’re calling to tell us how brilliant we are."
She laughed. "Don’t get used to it. And the party is still going on, I see. Looking dashing there, Admiral."
Kirk laughed in turn. "Everyone’s worked very hard. It’s only fair we get a chance to cut loose."
He became aware that Spock had come to stand at his shoulder. Close enough that he could feel his body heat. He took an almost infinitesimal step to one side.
He said, "You remember my first officer, Commander Spock?"
She smiled brightly at him. "I do indeed. The Federation Council has heard great things about your work on this, Commander, and thanks you for your service."
Beside him, Spock said, in a tone so glacial that Kirk turned to stare at him, "Thank you, Admiral Waters, but we would like to retire for the day now."
The Admiral’s smile slipped as she stared at Spock. Kirk said, with forced cheer, "Well, we can’t be talking to you all day Liz, we’ve got a party to recover from."
Her smile returned. "I won’t keep you then, Jim. In fact, I’ll authorise you to take a whole extra half day to get your report to me."
He said lightly, "Oh lucky me, I might actually get a chance to sleep." Spock’s hand had drifted to Jim’s lower back and was holding him possessively, fortunately, out of Admiral Waters’ view. Kirk held himself in place so it stayed that way.
"As I said earlier, don’t get used to it, but well-deserved on this occasion. I look forward to hearing from you tomorrow, Jim."
Spock’s hand was beginning to move lower. Kirk said quickly, "Thanks, Liz, take care of yourself, I’ll be in touch."
She nodded, and her image disappeared from the viewscreen.
He was aware of the bridge crew trying very hard not to stare as he turned on his first officer, and in a sotto voce tone that nevertheless carried across the bridge, said, "What the hell was that? I know it’s been a tough few weeks, but your diplomatic skills just – ran out?" He met Spock’s eyes, and a sudden frisson of alarm travelled down his spine.
Spock was – smiling at him. Not the biggest smile he’d ever seen, but by Vulcan standards it was nearly a grin. He said, uncertainly, "Spock - are you okay?"
The smile grew warmer. "Jim, the Admiral was correct."
"About what?" Something was definitely wrong.
"You do look very handsome." From Jim’s left at the navigation station, there was an odd choking noise, as Chekov failed in his pretence of not listening. Sulu shot him a warning look.
Spock stepped forward, back into Jim’s personal space, and lifted his hands to Kirk’s shoulders.
Jim said, very quietly, "Spock, I think we should go, right now, and -"
"Indeed we should, my ashayam." From Kirk’s left, there was a small "Aw" from Uhura’s station.
But he didn’t have time to worry about that, because the look on Spock’s face was one he loved, all open affection and vulnerability, but in the wrong damn place, and experience told Jim exactly where this was going, and he had less than a second to decide on his reaction. Observe propriety, and reject him, in front of all of their friends, their crew. Or let Spock kiss him. On the bridge. And hope to God that command didn’t get to hear about it.
And maybe it was the alcohol, or the fact that every single person currently on the bridge was original Enterprise personnel, or the fact that he hadn’t kissed his bondmate in over a fortnight, but as Spock’s strong arms slipped around him with surprising speed, and he was pulled into a fierce embrace, he allowed his own hands to slip around Spock’s shoulders, and didn’t resist the feel of Spock’s lips against his, the warmth of his body, the blaze of fierce joy that lit their connection. My ashayam. My love.
Behind him, the turbolift doors opened, and McCoy’s voice said, "Spock, I need you to -"
There was a silence, then: "Never mind."
Gently, Kirk eased Spock away from him. Spock was looking at him like he’d hung the stars. He didn’t dare look around. McCoy’s amused voice said, "Jim. There was sugar in the Merenian punch. Spock's inebriated."
Kirk turned to level a stare at his oldest friend. "Oh really, Doctor, do you think?"
There was suppressed laughter around the bridge. Kirk caught Uhura’s eye, and she smiled at him fondly. He said, to the bridge at large, "I’m sure when Commander Spock is sober, he’d prefer you all to pretend that didn’t just happen."
There was a round of amused, muttered, "Aye, sirs."
He sighed, and took his unresisting bondmate by the hand. "Come on. Let’s get you somewhere you can’t get us court-martialled. Mr Scott, the conn is yours. And you ," he pointed at Bones on the way past, "were supposed to have cleared that damn punch."
As the turbolift closed behind them, and Spock’s hands began to slip around Kirk’s waist, McCoy called, "M’Benga’s working on an antidote now."
He didn’t hear a reply. He looked around at the smiling bridge crew, and shrugged. "Oops."
Scotty said, "Aye, well, it’s not like we didnae know."
Uhura threw him a look. "You only knew because I told you."
Chekov said with certainty, "I have known for many years."
Sulu frowned. "Because I told you."
"I am wery sensitive to atmosphere."
Uhura said, "I think it’s lovely. If anyone deserves to be happy, it’s the Admiral and Commander Spock."
This garnered nods from around the bridge. Scotty said, on a sigh, "Aye, I’ll agree with ye there, lass."
Sulu said, hesitantly, "Out of interest, how long have they been – together?"
All eyes slid to McCoy, who looked uncomfortable, said, "It’s not really our business -" He tailed off under their stares. "Look, I know nothing happened on the first five-year mission, and that’s all I'm saying."
Uhura said, "Really ?’
Sulu said, "Oh. I’d’ve lost that bet."
Even Scotty looked sceptical.
McCoy stared around. "What? You all thought there was something going on?"
"Well, they were always so - ," Uhura waved a vague hand, "- close . You know. So together. Joined at the hip. That’s why I was so surprised when Mister Spock went to Vulcan. Afterwards."
McCoy sighed. "For what it’s worth, that came as a shock to Jim too."
Uhura said, "Oh."
McCoy added quickly, "But as you see," he gestured to the spot where Jim and Spock had recently been standing, "All’s well that ends well. Except they were trying to keep it a bit quiet. Until this mission is over, anyway."
Scotty said firmly, "No-one here’ll be blabberin’."
There were murmurs of agreement all round.
McCoy said, "Well, I'll get back to sickbay. See how M'Benga's coming along with that antidote."
As he moved to the turbolift, Uhura said quietly, "I wouldn't imagine there's a great rush on that, Doctor. The Admiral didn't seem - too upset."
McCoy considered. "I suppose - I mean, it'll probably wear off on it's own by tomorrow."
She twinkled at him affectionately.
McCoy said, "Actually, I might just go back to the reception. Try some more of that punch myself."
Uhura smiled. "That's the spirit, Doctor."
He offered his arm with a grin. "Can I tempt you, Commander?"
She glanced at the chrono, then returned his grin as she stood and took his arm. "Why Doctor, I thought you'd never ask."