DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc and Viacom. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2022 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG-13.
In Vino Veritas
Chapel found herself fidgeting during the last of the paper sessions at the conference. Science was awesome but they'd been at this all day with a really short lunch break, and she was so ready for some decent food and the bar—not necessarily in that order.
She glanced at Spock who appeared rapt. Even during the most boring presentations, he appeared that way. It was so diplomatic of him—or maybe just a byproduct of a Vulcan upbringing. Never show them how bored you really are?
But as soon as the question and answer period was over, he was standing and urging her up too.
"What's the rush?"
"There are a limited number of two-being tables in the restaurant. I would like to secure one."
"You scoped out the restaurant?"
"I did. It is wearing: this much interaction and..."
"Pretending to give a shit about lame topics?"
"I was going to say active listening."
"So you don't just want to be alone with me?" She said it with a laugh so he'd know she knew the answer to that.
He ignored the question and continued his speed-walk to the restaurant, managing to get the last of the two-tops.
"What can I get you?" the server asked after handing them a hand-written list of the night's specialties. "Our wine is galaxy famous."
Well, if he wasn't going to drink, neither was she. There was plenty of time for that later when he no doubt went to bed right after dinner and a glass of warm milk. "Fruit juice maybe?"
"We have a very special combination. Enhances conversation."
She laughed and shook her head. "Nothing intoxicating."
"It is non-alcoholic."
"Fine, yeah, that sounds great. For him, too." He seemed too busy studying the menu to contradict her. Then again, he generally opted for fruit juice or water, so how off mark could she go?
She eyed the large communal tables that had been set up in the middle of the room. There were two- and four-tops set around them for those who wanted quiet conversation, but already there was laughter coming from the big tables.
"You can join them if you wish. I do not require your company." He didn't even look up from the menu.
Shit, maybe she should? But then he looked up and there was something in his eyes that said he hadn't really meant that. "I think eating with my friend is a better idea."
He nodded but muttered something too low for her to hear.
"Nothing. I am, as I said, worn from the interaction."
She wanted to follow up, but the server showed up with their drinks and took their order. Once he was gone, she sipped the drink gingerly. "Oh, wow, this is actually really good. It's like pomegranate and ginger and lime had a baby."
"That makes no sense."
"It does too. You're just too cranky to appreciate it."
"Perhaps." He took a sip. "This is enjoyable."
"Told you." She leaned back. "It was nice of the captain to let us come to this."
"It will enhance our effectiveness."
She rolled her eyes at him. "Not all of those sessions will."
"And, yes, it was generous of him."
"As I said." She took another sip of her drink. Just enough of every flavor: sweet, tart, the fiery bite like ginger, a hint of bitterness. "I wonder if they'll give me the recipe for this. So yummy."
Spock nodded as he took a long sip. "I doubt they will share their secrets. My mother keeps her recipes closely held."
"Your mom sounds fun."
"She is a unique character." He almost seemed to smile.
The server brought their meals and also set a pitcher of the juice down. "It's going to get crazy in here. I may not make it back to you anytime soon for refills."
"That is most considerate of you," Spock said with what sounded like extreme sincerity.
"You enjoy." And he was gone, already heading to one of the communal tables.
There were some cute guys at the table, one of them looking at her. She smiled in a way that could mean anything and turned back to Spock.
"I said you could join them."
"I don't actually need your permission to do that." She poured herself more juice and topped his off too. Then tried her steak, which was delicious. She had no idea if it was really meat or not and didn't care if it tasted this good. "Mmm, I was so hungry. How's yours?"
Spock nodded tightly as he tried his vegetarian pasta and sipped more juice. "It is satisfactory."
"I did not say you needed my permission. You will do as you wish—interact with whomever you wish." He sounded like a little kid almost, blurting out something he'd held on to. Then he muttered something again.
"What are you saying?"
"You will no doubt sleep with whomever you wish, from that table, as soon as you are done performing your altruistic act of eating with me."
"I have noticed several of the men looking over at you."
"Yeah because I'm hot." Wait, did she just say that out loud? For fuck's sake.
"And you are with me. So please turn down the heat." He blinked rapidly. "Why would I say this?"
"Out loud you mean? Or at all?"
"Either. I am indeed exhausted." He drained half his drink and went back to eating. The vigor with which he was stabbing his pasta contradicted the whole exhausted thing.
She finished her glass and poured them both more juice. "Are you jealous?"
"I am." He had his glass in his hand but slowly put it down. "The server said this would 'enhance communication.'"
"Indeed." He met her eyes. "The most logical thing would be for us both to return to our rooms and avoid speaking to anyone until this wears off."
"I don't think that would be the most logical thing. I think that would be the least scary thing. For you, anyway." She leaned back. "I pretty much say what I think."
He pushed his chair out. "Then I will go and—"
She slammed her hand down on his. "Don't."
Their eyes met. His were helpless.
"Christine, please. Honesty may not be beneficial in the long run."
"How do you know?" But she let go of his hand. "Fine. Go. And you're right. I'll find someone here and sleep with him and it'll mean nothing. And the whole time I'll be thinking about how you and I could have actually talked with no walls." She frowned. "And I bet I'll tell him that too. That I'm thinking of someone else. Probably right after he comes and before I do and then he'll leave in a fucking huff and I'll be unsatisfied because of this goddamned juice." She took a breath. "Whoa. Okay, that was overly intense."
Spock studied her, still poised halfway between leaving and going. "I wish to stay."
"I fear the consequences."
"No harm, no foul, Spock. We're under the influence. Nothing can be held against either of us."
"That is not how life works. We will both remember."
"Maybe not? Maybe it has a handy-dandy memory eraser as it wears off."
"I think not." But he settled back into his chair. And poured them both more juice.
"In for a penny, in for a pound?"
"My mother says that."
"Tell me about her." That was safe, right?
"I fear she believes I do not love her sufficiently."
Or maybe not.
"It is perhaps why Michael took so much of her from me."
"Who the hell is Michael?"
He actually leaned forward, put his finger to his lips, and said, "Shhhhhh. Another secret sibling."
He nodded so earnestly she knew the juice hadn't taken them from honesty to wish-fulfillment.
"Any other secret siblings?"
"None that I am aware of."
"So you have two secret brothers."
"Michael is female."
"Are you making this up?"
He took a sip of his drink and shook his head.
"Weird name for a girl."
"Do not blame my parents. She was adopted when her parents died."
"Okay, let's forget the siblings."
"Yes, we must. Secret siblings should be off limits for our conversational exploitations." Then he frowned. "Unless you have any?"
"Nope, no secret siblings. Secret lovers on the other hand." Oh crap. No, no, no.
His eyebrow went way, way, way up. "Explain."
She tried to do it in as few—utterly honest—words as possible. "Professor. Mentor. Lover. Shhhh. Not supposed to sleep with advisor." Oh man, she wanted to tell him more. How frustrating it was with Roger. How she'd run away from him. How much it sucked to find your guy in bed with not just one but two of your fellow post-docs. "He's out of the picture now. Unless you count the occasional call."
"I see." He studied her. "Do you love him?"
"Yeah." This time the truth came out broken. "But he's only going to hurt me."
"I am sorry. I feel that way about T'Pring at times."
"She loves you. It's so obvious. She put her career on the line for you."
"I do not know that I would have done the same for her." He suddenly looked massively uncomfortable. "I mean..."
"I think you said exactly what you meant. Do you not love her?"
"I care deeply."
"Can you say the word love? Do you love anyone?"
"I love my mother. I love my siblings. I love the captain—in a mentor/protégé type of way."
"But you only care deeply for T'Pring?"
She poured them more juice. "Who else have you cared deeply for—romantically, I mean?"
He looked extremely annoyed as he said, "There was a young scientist. Leila. I might have loved her if we had had more time."
"On the other hand, she was like T'Pring. She wanted me to be more human than I was. T'Pring wants the Vulcan, no matter how much she tries to accommodate my unfortunate humanity."
"Those are your words, not hers."
"Yes. But true nonetheless. You, however, love both sides of me."
"Hey, I never said I loved you."
She tried to bite back the answer, tried so hard she started to cough. "Yes. Fine, yeah, I do. Asshole." She leaned in. "Do you love me?" He hadn't included her in the list. Then again he had also changed the subject...clever boy.
"I am unsure." His eyes met hers in the most intense way.
"Do you want me?"
"Yes." That he answered fast and easily.
"Do you like me?"
"I do. So much." He leaned in. "Do you like me?"
"Yes. I wish I didn't. I wish I didn't see a future with you."
"There is no future with me. I will marry T'Pring."
"Well, maybe we could kiss a few more times in front of her..."
He actually smiled. "That might accomplish your goal."
"My goal. Not our goal."
"I am afraid so. No matter what I feel for you, Christine—and I imagine this...accord between us will only grow—I wish to embrace my Vulcan, not my human half. I wish to marry a Vulcan."
"Oh, wow. Honesty fucking hurts."
"I am sorry. I would give anything not to hurt you."
"Well, it serves me right. You wanted to go to our rooms and keep our mouths shut. Maybe you were right."
He reached out and took her hand. "No, I think this is important. You said there were no feelings between us and I agreed and we were both lying. To protect the other but still lies. It may be preferable to know that there are feelings—strong feelings—between us. Feelings we will choose to ignore."
"Right. Better. Sure."
He looked down and let go of her hand. "Will this make it too difficult to remain friends."
"No. It won't." She went back to eating.
"You have no more questions?"
"I do. I have hundreds. But...I doubt I'd ask you if I weren't on this juice so they can wait—or not—for some other day, when we're both in control of our truths."
"Our truths. Not the truths."
She nodded. "Because the truth is that when you kissed me, it turned into something real. It wasn't acting. Not on my part and not on yours." She pushed her plate away. "But our truth is that it was nothing but a ruse."
"Do you want to kiss me right now?"
"I generally want to kiss you."
She laughed. "That's maybe the nicest thing you could say." She got up slowly—fortunately the meal was included with the conference. No need to wait to pay. "I'm going back to my room."
He rose too. "I will come with you. To my room, I mean. But I will walk there with you. I am...concerned that I might give overly honest feedback to certain presenters if they stop me to talk. I know you will prevent that."
"But who'll prevent me. I bet we were bored by the same people."
"I will. I will always protect you."
The server came over. "I hope you enjoyed your meal."
"The food was acceptable. It was, however, irresponsible of you to serve us the juice without informing us of the possible repercussions." Spock was at his most stern.
The server just laughed. "Listen, sweetheart. It's not truth serum. If you have things you want to say, they come out. If not, no power in this galaxy is going to pull them out. So if you shared stuff, it was because you wanted to."
They had no answer for that.
"Have a nice evening, you two."
Spock urged her out of the restaurant and followed her to the lift. "That was disconcerting information."
"Yep. Wayyyyy easier to blame it on the juice than on ourselves."
Their rooms were on the same floor so they stopped in front of hers, leaning against the wall next to the door.
Spock touched her hair gently. "This color. Is it natural?"
"No. Do you like it? "
"Very much." He took a deep breath. "I want nothing more than to come in."
"I want that too. But..." She leaned in and he met her, pulling her in for a hug. "You don't cheat on your girlfriends, right?"
"I have only had the one. But no, I do not intend to." He eased back and tipped her chin up. "But I want to. So badly."
"I'm glad you won't. And I'm not glad." She backed to her door and palmed the door open. "I'm going to disable my comms. I'm afraid of who I might call and what I might say."
"An excellent idea. I will do the same." He seemed poised to go but then leaned in slightly. "We must not be awkward around each other after this, Christine. I would miss your companionship greatly. It is essential to me."
"To me, too. We have nothing to be awkward about." She escaped into her room while that was still true and disabled the communicator.
But not before ordering a double rye from the lounge. Sleep came more quickly than she expected.
The next morning, she found Spock in line for the breakfast buffet. He let her cut in but they didn't talk other than to say, "Good morning."
"We said it should not be awkward," he said very softly.
"What we said and what it is may be two different things—at least for a while." She smiled gently at him, then pointed at the poster with the day's schedule on it. Some of the offerings even looked interesting. "But hey, we'll always have science."