DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. This story is the creation and property of Joanne K. Seward and is copyright (c) 1992 by Joanne K. Seward. Originally published in Candlelight and Flames 2, a K/S zine edited by Anna Parrish and published by Bill Hupe and Peg Kennedy.
Matters for Discussion
Joanne K. Seward
Author's note--I am not a fan of slash fiction. I do believe that almost anything is possible between two beings as mentally attuned to each as Kirk and Spock are. At the same time, I strongly dislike and disbelieve in their relationship as portrayed by many K/Sers. This was my foray into writing a loving relationship for them. It is not graphic. All the same, it is not intended for the consumption of minors.
Spock sat at the side of Kirk's bed in Sickbay, as he had done innumerable times before. How many times, he wondered inconsequentially.
The lights were dimmed. Better for Jim, McCoy had said, although unconscious as he was, Spock could see little logic to the pronouncement. However, McCoy was the physician, not he. Through their many years together, Spock had come to respect the doctor's knowledge, and ability to 'put back the pieces', when the captain had, once again, thrown himself bodily into the fray.
Looking at Kirk's body, bathed in the warm rays which were intended to promote healing, it struck the Vulcan as singularly illogical for this man, his hair touched with gray, skin lightly lined, to once again be lying here, flat on his back, only that indomitable will holding him to life. Spock surveyed the visible injuries, then glanced at the limp hand resting on the thermal sheet covering the captain.
"Go ahead, Spock, I have him so drugged, he won't even notice you're touching him."
"Doctor?" Spock had been so deep in his contemplation of Kirk and his injuries, that he had not heard the physician's approach. "I do not understand."
"It's as plain as the nose on your face that you wanted to touch him, but were afraid to," McCoy explained.
Spock ignored the colloquialism, observing the physician's movements as he bustled around Kirk's bed.
McCoy avoided Spock's eyes, laying out some instruments then scanning the monitors over Kirk's head. He didn't wish to intrude on the Vulcan just now, sensing his vulnerability. It was always the same when Kirk was hurt. "Wonder if telepathy is catching?" he muttered, then in a more audible voice went on. "You know, it wouldn't hurt either of you if you were to hold his hand for a little while, Spock. It might filter through that someone is with him, but nothing more than that."
Spock glanced up, uncertain whether McCoy was reassuring him, or merely imparting information.
McCoy frowned as he made a slight adjustment to the time-release hypospray which had replaced the old-fashioned IV set-up, then eyed the Vulcan. Spock should probably be occupying one of the empty beds next to the captain; he'd been injured too, but McCoy knew better than to force the issue. "I'll be in my office if you need me."
Spock nodded, and the Human doctor ambled away, his posture showing signs of weariness now that the crisis was over. It was over, Spock knew, or McCoy would not have left Kirk's side.
Once again the Vulcan's eyes strayed to the sleeping features of his captain. Reassured, they traversed the contours of that beloved body, lightly shielded by the heat retaining fabric covering it. Kirk's body was more solid now, his face fuller than in former years, but despite that, he somehow looked small in the medibed, still vulnerable, causing Spock to wish to gather him up into Vulcan-strong arms, and shield him from the dangers which ever lurked around him.
McCoy's words had called to mind a memory. A painful memory of an event which had sent Spock fleeing to Vulcan and Kolinahr, and Kirk to a position he didn't want at Starfleet headquarters. It had nearly destroyed the lives of both men. He would not think about it, Spock determined. Resolutely the Vulcan banished the forbidden thoughts from his mind. Having done so, he reached out tentatively, and took the cold hand in his own, noting the clearly marked veins, where once there had been firm flesh.
Again, unbidden, memories of that episode flooded his logical Vulcan mind. Once, only once, on their last shoreleave prior to the end of the five year mission, had Spock and Kirk attempted to resolve the longing which each had tried to hide from the other. There had been rumors about their friendship for some time, no doubt spread by those who were envious of the close relationship between the Human captain and his Vulcan first officer, but they had been no more than that. Until that day...Reluctantly, Spock put the thoughts of that day back in the sealed compartment where they must reside, conscious of movement and voices around him. He prepared to release the beloved hand, aware that it would be long before he again dared to touch it.
"Don't let go, Spock. You're giving him a focal point, something to move toward."
Again McCoy's words jarred the Vulcan. He must be more fatigued than he'd realized, for the physician to approach him so closely without his awareness. Or, perhaps, it was just that over the years, Spock had grown accustomed to the aura of compassion which McCoy unknowingly exuded. Regardless, Spock retained his grip on Kirk's hand, feeling awkward, witnessed as he was by the medtechs and nurses swarming around the captain's bed.
"The drugs are beginning to wear off. Tell him you're here, and that everything is under control. It's what he needs to hear, then he'll sleep naturally."
As though controlled by that gruff, yet gentle voice, Spock did as the CMO instructed. Finally he released the limp hand, and followed the doctor into his office for what McCoy called a 'quick once over'.
The physician ran a scanner over the pale Vulcan, then without saying a word, went to the beverage dispenser and fixed Spock a cup of strong tea. "Would you like to talk about it?"
"Talk about what, Doctor?" Spock took a sip of the tea, realizing immediately that the doctor had added something to it, but swallowing all the same. If McCoy thought he needed whatever chemical was lurking in the innocuous looking mug Spock held, he was most likely correct. Another battle, fought for years, and finally won by the physician.
"Oh, various things. What happened down there...Jim...Why you looked like you'd give your pointy Vulcan ears to touch him..." McCoy shrugged. "Little things like that."
"There is nothing to talk about, Doctor. Captain Kirk is my commanding officer; I am concerned about his medical condition." And about whether the being whose life I hold above all others will continue to live, Spock thought. "As for what took place...I downloaded the contents of my tricorder while you were working on the captain. The information is already in the computer."
"Hmmmph," McCoy grunted. In a pig's eye. "Spock, it seems to me there are things you and Jim need to talk about, clear the air, as it were. Now I don't want to go scarin' you, the captain's gonna make it. He'll be fine after a few days rest, but you're both gettin' older, and one of these days, one of you isn't gonna make it. It'll probably be Jim, simply because Humans aren't as resistant to wear and tear as Vulcans, but all the same, it could be you."
Blue eyes bored into hooded dark ones. "If one of you were to die, without you two discussin' what I think you need to discuss, what's gonna happen? Maybe you would be able to work it out in that Vulcan way of yours, meditate it away, but think," McCoy paused, then repeated emphatically, "Think, Spock, about how Jim would deal with it." A monitor beeped, and McCoy's eyes flew to the indicators on the desk. "'Scuse me, I've got to go check on a patient."
Spock nodded absently, thinking about the only subject which remained verboten between himself and Jim Kirk. Was it possible McCoy knew? He hadn't been with them that time. Would Jim have told the physician? Spock wasn't certain. They had been apart for several years, and when the events surrounding V'ger's return to Earth brought them back together, an awkwardness had remained between the three men, one which had never been spoken of, or resolved.
Regardless, it seemed that McCoy must have some knowledge of that last shoreleave. If the captain hadn't spoken of it, perhaps McCoy had somehow deduced what had occurred. The doctor was highly skilled at discovering other people's problems. It was part of his job, and one at which he was most proficient.
Once again, Spock's memories of that leave drifted to the front of his consciousness. It had been summer on the planet where they took leave, and warm enough, even for a Vulcan, to walk around all day in nothing but shorts and lightweight shoes.
Kirk had received enough hints to know that he was going to be offered a promotion at the end of the five year mission. A promotion which it would be difficult, and perhaps impolitic, to turn down. And yet, Jim knew he had no aptitude for a desk job. He was too young, still one of the youngest starship commanders in the fleet, and he wasn't ready to leave his stars behind.
He and Spock had purposely gone to a planet where they could spend all their time alone on the long sandy beaches, talking and thinking, trying to discern a way for Kirk to turn down the proposed promotion, without appearing ungrateful.
Spock thought about that day, when two much younger men had walked along a shell-strewn shore, the Human with the waves lapping around his ankles, the Vulcan on the damp sand, avoiding the surf, and the chill it would impart. He'd worn an old sweatshirt belonging to Jim tied around his thin shoulders to fend off the breeze which rose at dusk, as the stars emerged to spangle the dark heavens.
A chill passed through Spock now, as he thought of that day which he normally relegated to a dark corner of his mind. McCoy was wrong, this was something neither he, nor Kirk, could or should ever speak of. It had taken years for the wounds to heal; he would not risk reopening them at this late date. Spock pushed himself to his feet. He would go and check on the captain, then return to his own quarters for a clean uniform. Jim would not require his presence for some time.
Quietly, the Vulcan passed through Sickbay, pausing only to note the readings on the panel over Kirk's head. He didn't wish to draw McCoy's attention, or any more of the doctor's disturbing comments. Spock had enough on his mind at the moment. He entered his quarters, taking comfort from the near-Vulcan heat, the dim lighting. He would meditate, clearing his mind of memories which would discomfit the captain as much as himself.
Meditation did not come easily that night though, and Spock of Vulcan found himself again contemplating those long ago events, wondering in a completely Human manner, what could have been. Finally, McCoy's voice at the door, when it came hours later, represented a reprieve, temporary though it might be.
"Well, Spock, looks like you belong in Sickbay next to the captain. You're a little green around the gills." McCoy's tasteless humor informed the Vulcan all was well with James Kirk. Without waiting for an invitation, the physician dropped into a chair. Spock gave the Vulcan equivalent of a shrug and sat as well. If McCoy intended to remain, it would take the full force of the Enterprise's tractor beams to move him before he chose to go.
"Vulcan's do not possess gills, Doctor McCoy, as you well know."
"Maybe not, but seriously, your color isn't good, and you have nearly as many circles under your eyes as I do."
Spock had no answer to that, and so attempted to change the subject. "What is the captain's condition?"
McCoy decided to go along, but just for the moment. It would be cruel to withhold the information Spock requested. "Jim's still sleeping, but it's a natural sleep. I expect him to wake up sometime in the next two or three hours, maybe a little sooner. He's gonna have to take it easy for a while; broken ribs and a punctured lung are no joke at his age." McCoy paused for a second, then plunged in. "Spock, I didn't come here to talk about the captain, I came to talk about you, and from the looks of you, it's time. Past time, in fact."
"Doctor, there is nothing I wish to discuss with you just now."
"Maybe not, but I meant what I said before. You and Jim have to acknowledge this whole business, talk about what happened on Gandrus Three."
"What do you know of Gandrus Three, Doctor?" Spock's voice was as cold as the vacuum of space.
"Not much, but I can guess. It was right after Gandrus Three that you decided to go back to Vulcan in a huff, and Jim did the only really stupid thing I can ever recall him doing." McCoy stopped, picturing a very new, very uncomfortable young admiral sitting across from him in his office at Starfleet medical, evading questions about his friend and former first officer, who'd left Earth without even a goodbye.
"You know, Spock, I didn't retire immediately when we returned from the five year mission. I took a position at 'fleet HQ where I could be near Jim. Mad as I was with him for accepting promotion, I wasn't mad enough to 'abandon' him. Not in his state. He was still on edge from the mission. Remember, ours was the first five year mission to return with the majority of the crew intact, but that doesn't mean it was a cakewalk." McCoy paused, remembering, then continued, his voice quiet, but insistent. "No way. Jim was exhausted, mentally and physically. But there was more to it than that. I didn't understand; maybe I didn't want to understand. I was tired too. Now it's different though, and I can see things I didn't then. You and Jim discovered that you were more than friends, didn't you, Spock?"
"What are you implying?" The Vulcan didn't know how to prevent McCoy from going on, nor was he certain he wished to. Perhaps the physician was correct, as he so often was in matters which Spock found impossible to quantify.
"You became lovers, Spock. You and Jim. Then, shocked at your actions, you took off, hell for leather for Vulcan, and Kolinahr, seeking total absence of emotion, while Jim flew like a frightened child into Nogura's clutches."
Spock sighed wearily. "What would you have me say, Doctor?"
"That I'm right, and you'd like to talk about it to a friend who cares about both of you." McCoy's eyes were warm and concerned, dual blue fires, drawing Spock away from the years of reticence.
"Your surmise is correct, Leonard, however..." Spock shook his head slowly.
"Tough to talk about, hunh?" McCoy took note of Spock's use of his given name. Usually that signified a relaxation of those damned Vulcan barriers. "Do you want me to go?"
"Yes..." Then as the doctor went to stand, "No...I am uncertain... It was--"
"Yeah, Spock, I know. Illogical." McCoy filled in wryly.
"Indeed...and yet, sometimes, I wonder."
"You know, I've never been to Gandrus. What's it like?"
Spock's voice was rich with suppressed humor as he replied. "That is a rather blatant attempt for information, is it not?"
McCoy chuckled. "Yeah, but it's been a long time since I've been able to fool you or Jim. Hardly worth the effort. Seriously, I think you need to talk about this. Like I said, I've suspected for years. Right after you left, Jim came to me for something to help him sleep. We talked a little, and from things he said, and things he didn't say, I thought maybe...But, well, you know...Jim had always attracted women, always been attracted to them, too. Like flowers and honeybees, they just always went together." McCoy shrugged.
"Indeed..." Spock pictured a younger Jim Kirk, always laughing and smiling, always with an attractive woman at his side when he so desired.
McCoy continued. "...Then I just didn't think about it anymore. It seemed so unlikely. Maybe I purposely put it out of my mind. But now, after all this time..." The physician became aware of Spock's abstracted stare and fell silent as well.
"Humans find Gandrus Three an attractive planet. In fact, Jim called it 'glorious'. It is warm, with long sandy shores reminiscent of the Caribbean islands of Earth. There are luxuriant woodlands within walking distance of the sea, and edible fruits growing plentifully. We hiked and swam. Jim was happy, relaxed. On the fourth day of our leave, he insisted on scaling a cliff, although we were not properly equipped for climbing--"
"Yeah, that sounds familiar."
Spock ignored the interruption. Having begun, he could not prevent thoughts of that day from filling his mind. "The captain slipped and fell--"
McCoy nodded. "That sounds familiar too."
"He was not seriously injured, but he was bruised and sore. We decided not to attempt to return to our hostelry until the following day..."
It was as though it were all happening again, this time with Spock as a spectator. He saw Kirk tumble from the rock wall and land with a jar on the outcropped ledge below. He had not fallen far, but he was bleeding, and Spock could tell his breathing was painful. Lost in the memory, Spock whispered, "Jim!"
Spock had scrambled down to his captain's side then, when he had assured himself that Kirk was essentially unharmed, clambered further down, to a small stream for water to bathe Kirk's wounds.
In his mind, Spock went through the motions of cleaning and bandaging the injuries. Meeting Kirk's eyes, he slowly came to the realization that Kirk's difficulty in breathing was due not only to damaged ribs. His hazel eyes had glowed with a soft golden light. Spock had seen that glow before, but always it had been directed at an attractive woman. This time it was aimed at him. And he was responding, even as he had seen women respond.
"I remember he had a bunch of bruises when he returned to the ship..." Bruises, and other easily identified marks, McCoy recalled. At the time, he'd assumed Kirk had, as usual, found himself a gorgeous, and willing partner. Now he knew better.
"We...we..." The Vulcan shook his head. Even now, some twenty years later, he couldn't say the words.
"You had sexual relations." McCoy said it gently, no hint of reproval in his tone.
"Yes." The monosyllable sounded as though it had been wrenched from the depths of the Vulcan's being. Those were the words he would have used, but in no way did they describe what had occurred.
Spock stood, turning away, unable to face the physician. As though it were yesterday, he could remember the feel of Kirk's mouth on his, smooth, cool hands moving over his body. Spock could recall their joining, the small sounds of pleasure Jim had uttered, as they touched each other in a way neither had known they desired. Perfect Vulcan memory filled Spock's nostrils with the clean scent of Kirk's skin, the perfume of the wildflowers growing nearby, the smell of the sun-heated stone on which they lay.
Until that day, those words had been fully explanatory to the Vulcan scientist. No longer. Nothing he had experienced before had matched the emotions which flowed through him at that time. Never again would those words pass his lips with so little comprehension. "We spent the next two days together, then it was time to return to the ship."
McCoy watched Spock carefully, noting the restrained gestures, expressive to those who knew him, as the Vulcan relived those days on Gandrus. Again Spock fell silent, and again the physician wondered just how these two, so obviously attuned to each other, could have let that relationship die. "What happened, Spock?" "When we returned to the ship, it was as though we had wakened from a dream, one which had appeared harmless, indeed joyful, but had in fact been a nightmare."
Again, McCoy could see it as though he'd been present; two men, sunburned, materializing on the transporter platform, returning from the idyllic tropical paradise to the everyday world of the Enterprise. Realization dawning in them both. Captain and first officer... Lovers? Unacceptable.
Spock, his Vulcan upbringing telling him that everything has its own place, that there are no intervening shades between black and white, would see only the illogic of two males loving in the manner set aside for male and female.
And Kirk, flaming heterosexual, shocked by the intensity of his feelings for the Vulcan, shaken to the core of his being; confused, suddenly aware that perhaps his self-image was not quite accurate, his very sense of self threatened.
"What's your opinion now, Spock?" McCoy knew the Vulcan had to think this thing through, get a handle on it. He had seen the way those dark eyes caressed Kirk down in Sickbay, and he didn't think a single thing had altered, in essence, since that long ago shore- leave on Gandrus Three.
"I do not know what to think, Doctor. What happened was illogical."
"Precisely. But. I have never been able to forget those days. Even at Gol, I held them deep within myself, never letting them go. It is shameful. And yet, when I look at Jim, when he is injured, and vulnerable, I wish nothing more than to touch him, hold him. Protect him."
McCoy nodded. He knew that last one well enough. Something about Jim Kirk wrung that desire from nearly everyone he encountered. "Spock, did it ever occur to you that there's enough unhappiness to go around in the universe? That maybe you should just take love where you find it?" "Doctor, you are a scientist. How can you condone this type of unnatural behavior?" "Love isn't unnatural, Spock, and as for its physical expression between you and Jim... Hell, I don't know."
McCoy lapsed into silence. The nature of homosexuality had never been determined, and maybe it never would be. Maybe it didn't matter. He only knew that these two needed each other. He had seen that look of longing on both their faces too many times.
"If it makes it seem any more logical, Spock, maybe you being Vulcan, and Jim being Human has something to do with it. Maybe there's some sort of overlapping of male and female characteristics..."
"You are hypothesizing that certain characteristics of a Vulcan male would be interpreted by a Human as female, and vice versa?" Spock looked interested by the theory.
Give him something evenly vaguely scientific to think about and it eases that overweening need for logic, McCoy mused.
Aloud he said, "Not hypothesizing, just throwing around possibilities. It could be a lot more basic than that. Maybe you and Jim simply fill some need in the other. What you have to decide, is what is truly important to you." McCoy studied the other man's thoughtful features, hopeful that he had done something to resolve the conflict Spock was experiencing.
Just then, Spock's deskcomm signaled, and the Vulcan crossed the room to answer it. Chapel's features appeared on the small screen.
"Doctor McCoy left word that he would be in your quarters, Mr. Spock."
"He is." Spock moved away, allowing the physician to take his place.
"What is it, Chris?"
"The captain is showing signs of waking, Leonard."
"Thanks. I'll be right down." McCoy pressed the stud, severing the connection, then turned to Spock. "Coming?"
"Indeed." The Vulcan sighed. This was not going to be easy. "It would appear that the captain and I have some things we need to discuss."