The Kiss By: Carol Johnson and M. C. Pehrson
The Enterprise had just left dry dock with the last of her replacement crew safely aboard. Captain James T. Kirk sat in his command chair as the ship attained warp speed. With a mundane patrol ahead, he drummed his fingers on the arm of the chair. The atmosphere on the bridge was so quiet that his thoughts drifted to the social event planned for that evening. All but one of his senior officers had acknowledged the invitation.
Standing, he approached the science station and stopped right behind Lt. Commander Spock. The Vulcan was intently peering into his sensor hood as he ran routine calibrations. Quietly Kirk said, "Mister Spock, at twenty hundred hours there will be a party to welcome our new Chief Medical Officer and other new crew members. I expect all my senior staff to attend."
His first officer straightened up and faced him with a typically impassive expression. "Sir, under Captain Pike, attendance at social functions was strictly voluntary."
Kirk placed his curled hands on his hips. "I am not Captain Pike. Social events help promote a good working relationship...at least among humans. And you are working among humans, Mister Spock."
Spock cocked a brow and coolly responded, "Then as you wish, sir. I will be there."
"Good." Kirk turned and headed back to his command chair. Though he had not been ship's captain for long, he wondered if he would ever get used to the Vulcan's detached attitude. He had already met the new doctor after McCoy came aboard last night. They hit it off immediately, sharing tales of fleet experiences and romantic escapades over glasses of Saurian brandy. Unlike the Vulcan, McCoy wore his emotions on his sleeve and could be passionate to a fault. Kirk pictured the talkative doctor with brandy in hand, toe to toe with the humorless Spock. Those two were sure to clash.
At precisely twenty hundred hours, Spock entered Rec Room Four and found the party already well attended. Helping himself to a glass of Altair water, he gravitated to a quiet corner. Human social gatherings always made him uncomfortable. Their conversation was full of innuendos and idioms that he tended to interpret literally, much to their amusement. Feeling very much an outsider, he kept to his solitary place and observed the humans as they interacted.
Suddenly the captain and Doctor Leonard McCoy entered the rec room. Spock watched them head to the beverage table and choose intoxicating drinks. Then a server blocked his view and came toward him, carrying a tray of sliced chocolate cake. Confections contained sucrose which his body would convert to alcohol, but he knew how much he could safely ingest and therefore accepted a small piece. He was savoring its palate-pleasing characteristics when his attention fell upon a pair of shipmates. Nyota Uhura and Elizabeth Palmer stood by the hors d'oeuvres table, sipping red wine and holding a casual conversation. Palmer turned her head and saw him. Much to his chagrin, the pair headed his way.
Across the room, McCoy was also taking note of his surroundings as he downed his second glass of brandy. His gaze landed on Spock, now surrounded by three very attractive women. The ladies seemed so enamored by the tall, lean alien that McCoy muttered, "I don't get it."
At his side, the captain turned to him in puzzlement. "Get what?"
"Why women are so attracted to Vulcans."
Kirk chuckled. "Spock's actually half human."
"So I've heard." But McCoy could scarcely believe it. "I got turned around last night and had to ask him for directions. Not a very friendly fellow-cold as they come. What would a woman see in him?"
"I don't know, doc. Maybe it's those rakish ears."
McCoy smiled. "Or the challenge."
Kirk signaled to his second-in-command. "Mister Spock, come on over."
Bearing a glass of Altair water, Spock compliantly joined them and nodded a greeting. "Captain. And Doctor McCoy...I assume that you found your way to sickbay."
"Yes, I found it," McCoy responded testily. So the Vulcan had a big mouth to go with those big ears. "Well, Mister Spock, did you secure a date for Saturday night?"
He seemed perplexed. "A date. Doctor, are you referring to a calendar day or the edible fruit of a palm tree?"
McCoy nearly choked on the last of his brandy. Reaching for the table behind him, he poured another shot before offering the bottle to the clueless commander. "Here, why don't you put down that water and have a real man's drink."
Raising his free hand, Spock demurred. "No, thank-you. I prefer to keep my mind clear at all times. It is not logical to consume a substance that corrupts one's mental processes." Yet strangely, at that very moment, he felt that his mental processes were slightly impaired. And there was a light-headed sensation as well.
Kirk grinned. "Really, Spock. That's why we humans drink liquor. So we can stop thinking and unwind."
"Most illogical." Spock eyes passed between the two humans and settled on Kirk. Though it hinted of emotion, he truly missed his former captain. Pike's reserved, thoughtful manner was so unlike this bewildering man. "Sir, I grant that relaxation does involve mental repose, but that is not likely to be achieved by introducing a foreign chemical."
McCoy elbowed Kirk. "Forget it, Jim. This pointy-eared hobgoblin will never understand the meaning of fun."
That, Spock understood, but he did not allow the doctor's derogatory words to get the best of him. "The definition of fun is someone or something that is amusing or enjoyable. An enjoyable experience or person. An enjoyable or amusing time. Shall I continue, Doctor?"
McCoy huffed. "You know what I meant. What are you, a walking dictionary?"
Spock stiffened, his hands visibly clenching as he said, "I see no need to stand here and be insulted." And turning sharply, he strode away.
McCoy smirked. "Was it something I said?"
Kirk gave him a pat on the back. "Doc, you were a bit hard on him, but I think he'll get over it."
Retreating to his former position, Spock attempted to bring his rioting emotions under control. He had come dangerously close to striking the doctor and did not understand why. Seeking to distract himself, he glanced over at Uhura. The Communications officer was now conversing with a new nurse named Chapel.
The server came up to him and offered more cake. Since Spock had found the chocolate particularly pleasing, he accepted another small piece, and as he consumed it, his attention returned to Uhura and her aesthetically pleasing features. It was not the first time he had noticed her. Their duty stations on the bridge were in close proximity, so he was already aware of her high intelligence and strong personality. However, choosing to live as a Vulcan, he had never permitted himself to act upon his underlying attraction toward the lieutenant. But now, quite suddenly, he experienced a need to speak with her in private.
As he awaited an opportunity, Spock's mind became increasingly fixated on Uhura, and he fell prey to urges that he did not entirely comprehend. Feeling overheated, he drank another glass of Altair water, then looked back in the lieutenant's direction. For the first time that evening, she was alone.
Purposefully he walked over. She turned her face toward him and neither spoke a word. Then the unexpected happen. Gazing into her luminous brown eyes, he leaned ever closer until his lips brushed her cheek. Uhura gasped. Her hand flew to the spot where his lips had touched.
Coming to himself, Spock took an unsteady step backwards. He quickly averted his eyes and stammered, "Lieutenant....I...I should not...that is, I did not intend..." But he could not seem to collect his thoughts. Raising a hand to his temple, he swayed a bit before managing to steady himself. Then he rapidly exited the room and made his way to the nearest turbolift.
At his quarters, Spock's head began to pound unmercifully. Still feeling hot and increasingly nauseous, he removed his uniform tunic and undershirt, and placed them neatly on the back of his chair. Then he lay flat on the bed, closed his eyes, and attempted to control the discomfort through Vulcan techniques. Though not fully successful, he eventually fell asleep.
Early next morning, Spock awoke with his head still throbbing and his stomach unsettled. After stretching his body in the ritualistic manner of his people, he showered and partially dressed before slipping into his meditation robe. But that most basic of disciplines eluded him, for his thoughts kept straying again and again to the kiss. What could have caused such an embarrassing lapse? The amount of sugar he ingested could not account for it or the unpleasant symptoms that continued to plague him.
Giving up the fruitless effort, he rose, hung his robe in the closet, and donned his blue uniform tunic. Then he headed for sickbay to consult Doctor M'Benga.
Nurse Chapel intercepted him as he entered. "Commander, can I help you?"
"I wish to see Doctor M'Benga," he explained.
"Oh, M'Benga just left, but Doctor McCoy is on his way."
McCoy. Spock repressed a grimace of displeasure. "No...no, I will return later." He was about to depart when Chapel reached out and touched his forearm. He quickly placed his hands behind his back.
"Mister Spock," she said with concern, "you really don't look well. The doctor will be here any moment."
"No," he objected, "please...I am functional." At the sound of approaching footsteps, he turned his aching head and came face to face with the Chief Medical Officer.
McCoy offered a sardonic grin. "Well, well, if it isn't our logical second-in-command. To what do I owe this pleasure?"
Spock considered retreating, but rejected the purely emotional response. However personally distasteful he found McCoy, the man was a Starfleet physician. "I have not felt well," he admitted, "since last night's gathering."
McCoy's manner changed to one of mild professional interest. "You do seem a little peaked. What are your symptoms?"
Hoping for more privacy, Spock glanced at the nurse, but apparently she was there to stay. "Headache, nausea...and..."
"...And some disturbance of my mental processes."
The doctor slipped into an annoying grin. "My good man, what you are describing is a classic hangover. Was that really water you were drinking, or vodka?" Spock opened his mouth to protest, but McCoy continued. "Never mind, of course it was water." He pointed to a tilting examination table. "Alright, Spock. Strip off your tunic and lie down."
Spock followed the doctor's instructions and lay stiffly in his black T-shirt as Chapel rotated the padded table to a horizontal position. McCoy looked him over, set the diagnostic controls for Vulcan normal, and then scrutinized the monitor above the bed. There was an immediate red flag.
Spock reared onto his elbows, sending an intense shaft of pain through his head. "I beg your pardon?"
"Apparently there was a rare type of chocolate in that cake. On Earth, Criollo is considered a delicacy, but it's been known to trigger an allergic reaction in non-humans."
Spock lay back limply. He thought it better to remain silent than admit to ignorance regarding the matter.
"Not to worry, my Vulcan friend." McCoy picked up a hypo from the small rolling stand next to him, adjusted its settings, and abruptly jabbed Spock's outer bicep.
Caught off-guard, Spock reared a second time. "Doctor, do you not consult your patients before administering treatment?"
"I am the Chief Medical Officer here. I simply injected you with Camellanaxolin. It's a hangover remedy that works differently from Counternol."
"For an allergic reaction?"
"Trust me, it will relieve every one of those ugly symptoms."
Chapel gently returned the table to its near-vertical position. Spock stood, and as he slipped into his uniform tunic, could already feel his stomach settling and his headache lessening in ferocity. It would seem that the doctor's antidote was actually taking effect.
McCoy smiled. "Better?"
Spock scarcely heard, for his mind was already moving on to other matters. Deep in thought, he gave the doctor an absent nod and headed for the bridge.
"A thank-you would be the normal response!" McCoy yelled after him before muttering, "Ungrateful Vulcan."
That evening, Spock left his quarters on deck five and walked over to Lieutenant Uhura's door. There he stopped and drew a slow, deep breath. The unpleasant task could no longer be delayed. However difficult, he must apologize for his unbecoming behavior at the party. Reminding himself that Vulcans do not experience apprehension, he raised his index finger and pressed the door buzzer.
There was a faint sound from within. The door swooshed open, revealing his wide-eyed shipmate dressed in a becoming orange and blue caftan.
"Mister Spock," she said.
His heart raced as he cleared his throat. "Lieutenant, I need to speak with you."
A charming but uncertain smile spread over her ebony face. "By all means, please come in."
Spock took a tentative step into her cabin and found it much like the owner. African influence, with every detail as attractive and orderly as the officer herself.
Turning to her, he spoke the words that he had carefully prepared all day. "Lieutenant, I apologize for...touching your cheek...in such an intimate manner. It was not proper conduct for an officer or a gentleman. According to Doctor McCoy, I had suffered a negative reaction to a rare form of cacao in the celebratory cake. I assure you, it will never happen again."
Uhura's graceful fingers settled on his upper arm, but he did not retreat from her as he had from Nurse Chapel. "Mister Spock," she softly said, "I was not offended by the kiss. Startled, yes, but I thought it was very sweet of you. I want you to know that I haven't told anyone...and I promise I never will."
Somewhat relieved, he answered, "I appreciate that, Lieutenant. But it may have been witnessed by others."
Though she withdrew her hand, Uhura's gaze never left him. "Oh, I wouldn't be concerned. Shipboard gossip spreads fast, and I would have heard something by now." She paused. "Mister Spock, whenever you wish, you may call me Nyota."
Her invitation was strangely moving, but thinking it inadvisable, he chose a less casual form of address. "Thank-you, Miss Uhura. I will take my leave."
"'Bye, Mister Spock," she said with a flash of very white teeth.
He exited her quarters. For a moment he stood outside the closed door, the image of her kindly smile lingering in his mind. No one else aboard ship made him feel so welcome. At last he turned and started back to his own cabin with the intention of playing his lyrette. As he walked down the corridor, he caught himself wondering how Uhura's melodious voice would harmonize with the Vulcan instrument.