DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Johanna Cantor and is copyright (c) 1977 by Johanna Cantor. This story is Rated NC-17. Originally printed in The Best of Pon Farr #3.
There Are Worse Things
by Johanna Cantor
"Whoof!" Kirk depressed the hold button on the log recorder as he let out a long sigh of relief. That had been the hardest entry he'd ever had to struggle through. But the worst was over now, and he went on more easily. "The Taurean women are settled in the passenger quarters. The male crewmembers have not fully recovered from the effects of the Lura-mag. And the use of the transporter to restore Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, Ensign Carver and myself to our former body patterns seems to have been entirely effective. Computer, note, Mr. Scott's report to be appended. Note special commendations for Lt. Uhura, Security Officer Davidson--"
A stack of tapes hit the deck. Kirk whirled at the noise from that station. Other crewmen fumbled tapes, but never Spock. Spock stood still, looking equally astonished. But he pulled himself together, apologized, and stooped to pick up the scattered tapes.
Kirk turned back to resume his log entry. But he couldn't dispel a feeling of uneasiness. From time to time he turned to watch his first officer and finally caught him resting his forehead on his hand. Spock straightened immediately, but Kirk had seen enough. "Mr. Sulu, take the con. Mr. Spock, come with me, please." Kirk waited until the turbolift doors had shut before ordering, "Sickbay."
Spock looked at him in surprise. Then the dizziness struck again and he grabbed the turbolift rail. The left stopped and the doors snapped open, but Spock remained rigid, holding hard. Kirk froze the doors. "Are you in pain?" he demanded.
"No. I feel--" Spock stopped, his eyes widening. An expression of terror crossed his face. Kirk grabbed his arm and hurried him into sickbay.
McCoy took one look, put a hand on Spock's other elbow, and steered him to a diagnostic bed. Spock lay back without argument and closed his eyes.
Kirk left the room in obedience to a signal from McCoy, but he couldn't leave the area. Instead, he paced savagely up and down the length of the corridor. Spock was never ill. He'd been returned to the body patterns of the day they'd beamed down, just like the three humans. He'd been all right then. Hallucinating, of course, from the siren song of the Lura-mag. But all right. He'd be all right now. He'd have to be all right. McCoy would--
The door opened. "Come in, Jim." Kirk followed the doctor quickly. "I'll be back as soon as I get these readings." McCoy sounded grave. "You just relax."
"Doctor." Spock spoke flatly, without opening his eyes. Kirk sensed that he was struggling to maintain his calm. "May I have a tranquilizer?"
McCoy's eyes widened, but he hesitated only fractionally. "Of course." He crossed quickly to a cabinet, selected a vial, and inserted it as he returned. "This should help."
"How soon will it take effect?"
"About four minutes. Just take it easy." McCoy caught Kirk's eye, nodded meaningfully at the chair next to Spock's bed, and left. Kirk sat.
Spock remained motionless, eyes closed. Kirk waited out the minutes until he was sure the drug was assimilated. "Spock, what's wrong? Do you know?"
"I think so. However, I would prefer to wait for the doctor's diagnosis."
"All right. Relax." Spock closed his eyes again. Kirk gripped his hands together. The minutes stretched unbearably.
Finally McCoy was back. Spock opened his eyes at the step and regarded him calmly. "Jim, would you mind--" McCoy began delicately.
"It is all right, Doctor. It is the pon farr, is it not?"
"That's impossible!" Kirk cried.
"No." Spock was matter-of-fact. "I believe the hallucinations caused by the Lura-mag started the process. When we were returned to our former selves, it continued. It is now quite advanced." Spock sat up and swung his legs off the bed. "Thank you, Doctor."
"Hold it, Spock. We've got to decide what to do."
"There is nothing to be done, Doctor. The process is well advanced, and will continue to its end. I will put my affairs in order and--"
"No!" Kirk almost shouted and Spock winced. But he retained his calm. "There is no alternative, Captain. The process is irreversible. And I have no bondmate who owes me duty--"
"Precisely," Kirk interrupted eagerly. "And that means we don't have to get you to any one person." Spock stared at him, shocked, but Kirk stood his ground. "Any woman will do."
"Can I help, Doctor?"
Spock winced again at the gentle voice, then turned his face away. Kirk swore. Here was a complication they didn't need. Damn Christine. This couldn't be her duty shift, or she'd have been here from the start. He moved to shield Spock from her sightline as McCoy took her elbow and propelled her to the door. When the door closed, the Vulcan relaxed fractionally.
This, Kirk thought, was going to be difficult in the extreme. "Gentlemen, shall we adjourn to more private surroundings?" Damn again. Why did his vocabulary always turn Gothic under stress? "Your quarters, Mr. Spock?"
Spock climbed off the bed with unusual haste, sparked by the building pressure. Kirk and McCoy exchanged a worried glance, then flanked him as he strode to the turbolift. No one spoke, but now all three of them were infected with Spock's desperation for the privacy of his own quarters. They almost made it.
"Jim!" The lovely, imperious voice was eager. "Are you off duty? I've been practicing that serve, and--"
Halted, Kirk summoned a smile. "I'm sorry, Theela. I've got to--"
"Oh," she interrupted, pouting. "Well, perhaps later?" Kirk automatically turned to shield Spock as she moved closer, but the Vulcan gave an audible gasp at her approach. "Mr. Spock!" Theela cried in concern and reached toward him. "What is it?"
"Do not touch me!" Spock cried. "Jim!" Kirk grabbed his arms.
"Let's get out of here, Bones. Bring her," he ordered. He pushed Spock to his quarters and into the inner cabin. "Theela, wait here, would you please?"
"Of course. But--"
"Later." He followed Spock in and activated the door. Kirk waited for a moment but, when Spock showed no signs of easing, he broke the Vulcan's grip and guided him to the rest chair.
"Do you want another hypo?"
"Okay. Take it easy." Again Kirk waited. But now hope was rising in him. They'd found a solution. Spock would accept it. He'd make him accept it. He'd make Spock see the logic of it. And then Spock would be all right. "Does it hurt?" he asked gently.
"No. But I feel strange."
"Naturally. Never mind. You'll be better afterwards."
"It's Theela, isn't it?"
"Is there anyone else?"
Kirk grabbed the Vulcan's shoulders, shaking him hard. It was cruel, but at least Spock's eyes opened and focused on his captain's face. "Listen to me, Spock. You're going to do what you have to do. Then you'll be all right."
"I have no bondmate. No woman owes me that duty."
"Then we will find one who will help you for friendship. Any of the command crew, Spock. I'll--"
"All right then. Theela. I'm sure she will help you."
"I cannot. Not with a stranger."
"You can't do anything else, Spock. There's no alternative. You must. Otherwise you'll die."
"There are things worse than death."
"Agreed. But sex isn't one of them." Hope lightened Kirk's voice. Spock was considering the possibility, debating it. He refused to be discouraged by the shaken head.
"It is not our way, Captain."
"I know that, Spock. And I know it won't be easy for you. But it is the logical choice. You need help. And Theela can help you."
For the first time Spock met Kirk's eyes squarely. "She helped you, the last two nights."
Kirk held his gaze. "That is true. And it doesn't matter."
Suddenly Spock grunted and turned away. Kirk gripped his arm again, helping him wait it out. "I do not understand," Spock complained, gasping. "I have never understood how such an intimate--"
"It's not as intimate for us as it is for you. I have no claim on Theela, nor she on me."
"You cannot ask her--"
"I'm sure McCoy already has. Shall we see if she agrees?" He crossed to the door without giving Spock a chance to reply.
Theela stood as the door opened and swept past Kirk. Spock rose as she entered, holding himself stiffly at attention, and she faced him squarely. "It seems the harm we Taurean women did you has not yet ended. The responsibility is mine, and I wish to help you."
"You do not know--"
"Yes. I know Dr. McCoy has explained the entire matter to me. And I wish to help you."
"That's settled then," Kirk cut in. "Thank you, Theela."
"No," Spock protested. "You do not understand. You cannot understand what happens to us at this time. It is--"
"The plak tow? Dr. McCoy explained it to me. I do not believe you could hurt me, for I am stronger. And Dr. McCoy has promised to remain within call. So I do not fear it."
Spock was silent, still unwilling, but immobilized.
"Do you wish to be within me now?" Theela asked gently.
Spock quivered. "No. It is not time."
"Do you need to meld with me?"
She hesitated, studying him. "I think you would prefer that I left now, would you not? Dr. McCoy has explained that you are a very private person, even at a time of need. So I will go until you call me." She left the room, followed by McCoy. Kirk watched her go.
Spock did not speak, so finally Kirk said, "Well, that's settled."
"Captain, no, it is not possible."
"To mate with a stranger." Spock was repeating himself almost like an automaton, but Kirk fought his impatience. The Vulcan looked ill. "Spock, when the time comes, you will go into the plak tow, won't you?"
"Then you won't even know that she is a stranger, much less care." The brutality had the desired effect. Spock stopped arguing. After a moment, Kirk went to him, guided him to the bed, and crossed to the intercom to call McCoy. The doctor re-entered before Kirk reached the switch and crossed to examine Spock.
"Can you help him, Bones?"
McCoy examined his readings. "Yes. I'd guess it will take another few hours. I'll give him something to make him sleep. Will you program a channel to Theela? She's in cabin--"
"I know." Kirk gave the order then went to Spock.
"Is he in pain?"
"No," Spock murmured.
"I didn't ask you. Bones? Besides the tension, I mean."
"Do you know where the testicles are on a Vulcan, Jim?"
"Here." McCoy indicated two areas in the small of Spock's back. "The spermatic ducts run all the way down." He indicated the direction and Spock flinched, even though the fingers were not touching him. "All these tissues become erectile at the time," McCoy went on. "So when a Vulcan gets a hard-on," he concluded inelegantly, "he gets it all the way up."
Kirk swallowed at the suddenly vivid image. "I'm sorry I asked."
McCoy grimaced. "I'm going to stay with Theela, if you'll stay with Spock."
"Yes," said Kirk, accompanying him to the door. "If he'll let me," he said in a lower tone.
"I don't think he should be alone."
"Right. Buzz me if you need me."
Spock lay still, but as Kirk tiptoed to him, he said, "Captain?"
"Captain, the madness. You have seen it."
"Yes. What's worrying you, Spock?"
"Dr. McCoy said he would be within call. Will you also stay close?"
Stay *with* him? Kirk thought. "During the--" A denial fairly sprang to his lips. But he caught himself, forcing himself to take a deep breath. Damn it, even at this stage the Vulcan's terror was infectious.
"Are you sure, Spock?" he asked gently.
Spock was staring at the tightly clasped hands. He spoke tonelessly, like a child reciting a lesson. "The mating drive in Vulcans is closely linked to the aggressive instinct. Once the male has entered plak tow, and is no longer in control of his responses..." The facade crumbled. "Jim, I could kill her!"
"No." Kirk got to him fast, gripping his shoulders hard. "No." He made his voice sound authoritative. "There is nothing to be afraid of. We'll be there. Both of us. You can count on it."
"Until I come to myself?"
"Yes. I promise."
Spock's eyes closed; he slept. Kirk pulled over a reader and punched an order.
Spock slept on. McCoy came to check him every half hour and assured Kirk that the process was continuing normally as far as he could tell. Occasionally Spock writhed, trying, Kirk knew, to ease the increasing pressure in his back. Once he cried out. But the touch of his captain's hand on his shoulder quieted him and he slept on.
Kirk jumped, then smiled. "I didn't know you were awake. How do you feel?" Spock shrugged ruefully, and Kirk put a hand on his shoulder again. But this time the Vulcan pulled away from him.
"Do not touch me, please."
"All right." Kirk paused to collect himself, somewhat shocked by the implication. Spock groaned and apologized.
"Do you want Dr. McCoy?"
"No. There is nothing he can do."
"Another sedative might help."
"No. It is almost time."
"Do you want Theela?"
"No!" Spock swallowed hard and grabbed the bedframe. Kirk bit down his protest and studied the Vulcan. His need to maintain control was almost palpable. Carefully Kirk rose and reached to activate the library tie-in. Soon a lytherette was sounding softly in the room.
Kirk knew the mathematical theories behind the Vulcan fugues. But the actual sounds tended to set his teeth on edge, so far were they from human scales. But Spock concentrated on the counterpoint and held on. Kirk sat down, trying to control his own agitation. The tension was infectious.
Suddenly Spock gasped and writhed.
"Is it time?"
"Spock, you're prolonging this. I'm going to call Theela."
"No, please. I -- oh!" Spock set his teeth against the cry. "I am sorry, Captain. I have almost no control."
"Spock, is something wrong? It didn't bother you this much before."
"It is more advanced than--" Spock broke off, panting, then apologized again.
"But you went into the blood fever almost as soon as -- oh, ho! You do need Theela, don't you?"
"No. Oh! Forgive me. I--"
"Spock, will you stop apologizing for what you can't help? I'm going to call Theela."
Spock shook his head. But he was panting again. Kirk could stand no more. He dived for the switch, then paced across the room and back. Spock was silent now, jaw set.
Theela burst in, followed by McCoy. "Is it time?" she asked.
"Almost. Don't be afraid, Theela. Dr. McCoy and I will--"
"I'm not afraid!" She swept past him and knelt by the bed, putting her hand on the Vulcan's forehead. He shuddered.
"You need me now," she told him. "Meld with me."
"I must. I-- Oh!"
Swiftly Theela stripped and got into the bed, pressing her soft flesh against the Vulcan. Spock moaned again and reached for her face. She took the hand and fondled it with her lips, but Spock jerked it back angrily.
"He needs to touch your face," Kirk explained quickly.
"All right." Theela lay still as Spock placed his fingers. Then she screamed.
Both humans rushed to her. Unheeding, she rolled over, pulling the Vulcan on top of her. She guided him in, then cried out as he cried out at the feel of the soft sanctuary. She ran her fingers along the swollen tissues in his back and pushed her thigh between Spock's legs. Spock shuddered and his eyes rolled upward.
Theela increased the pressure of her hands and legs in growing desperation. Spock whimpered, holding rigid. Suddenly a high-pitched cry broke from him. His head arched back, then he gave a low growl. Theela writhed like a mad thing. The Vulcan growled and arched back again and again. The he fell forward, lying limp across her. And Captain James T. Kirk walked blindly into the head, to be thoroughly sick.
He remained there until he was sure he could control himself. When he emerged, the couple in the bed had not moved. McCoy was taking readings. "You okay, Jim?" he asked.
"Yes. Sorry, Bones. You all right?"
"Yep. Fine." McCoy's voice was too tight, but Kirk didn't challenge him.
"How are they?"
"No baseline, Jim. Just have to see."
Theela stirred and opened her eyes. They widened in remembered terror for a moment, but as Kirk and McCoy went to her, she smiled at them.
"Yes. How is Mr. Spock?"
"He'll be much better now. Thanks to you."
"Is the meld broken?" McCoy asked her.
"Yes. I lost touch when I felt him faint."
"How do you feel?"
"All right." Her smile faded. "It's terrible, what they go through, isn't it?" She lay back, her face sagging in fatigue.
"Here, let me make you more comfortable," Kirk exclaimed.
"I'm all right. And he needs to rest now. Is there a blanket? It's cold here."
"I don't think the meld is broken," McCoy commented. But there was little they could do, beyond urging Theela to rest.
"What now, Bones?"
"Well, that'll be up to Spock. There is a drug that will begin to reverse the process immediately, but we'll see--"
Spock moaned and stirred and took several deep breaths. The men waited. His eyes opened and he stared blankly for a moment. Then realization returned.
Spock sprang out of the bed with a howl of terror. His legs gave under him but he scrambled backwards. Kirk caught him as he fell, eased him to the floor, and held him tight. "Spock! It's all right. It's all right!"
"Yes. Now just take it easy. Bones, throw me that blanket." He wrapped the shuddering Vulcan and embraced him hard.
"Let's get him back to bed." McCoy reached to help Spock rise, but Spock recoiled from the rumpled bed. Theela was vacating it. "No! Please--"
"Easy. Let the restchair down, Bones."
"Right." They eased Spock into the chair and tucked the blanket closely around him. He still trembled. "Spock, I have some Farinotol. Do you want it?"
"Yes. Yes!" The hypo hissed and Spock fell back. McCoy monitored him for a few minutes then nodded, set his equipment down, put his arm around Theela and wordlessly escorted her from the room. Kirk sat, feeling utterly drained.
Spock turned to study him. "Jim, I'm sorry--"
"Sh. Don't talk. Just rest. You'll be okay now."
Minutes later, McCoy was back, followed by Dr. M'Benga. They examined Spock and administered another hypo. M'Benga stripped the bed, then the three of them carried Spock over to it and settled him. He thanked them weakly.
"How's Theela?" Kirk asked.
"Fine. I gave her a sedative. Darah's with her."
The doctors monitored Spock closely for another hour, administered several more injections. Spock was silent, but it was not his usual calm. Kirk sensed it was taking all his fortitude to endure the reversal. Tentatively, he reached out for Spock's hand. His was clutched, hard. But slowly the grip loosened and finally Spock fell asleep.
"That's done it," McCoy whispered a few minutes later.
"Yes," M'Benga agreed. "You get some rest, Doctor. I'll take over here."
"Right. Thank you. Jim?"
"I'm all right, Bones. You get some rest. I'll stay."
"Okay. Take it easy. He'll be all right."
Kirk nodded and he and M'Benga settled down to wait. M'Benga monitored conscientiously. All readings were returning to normal, he said. Eventually, Kirk too dozed off.
Kirk jerked awake as Spock removed his hand. He studied the Vulcan carefully. "You look better," he observed. "Feel better?"
"Yes." Spock lay quietly while M'Benga took a reading. "Captain?"
"Thank you. And -- would you leave me now?"
"Yes. I am grateful. But I need--"
"Of course you do. Anything you want?"
"No." Spock shivered and pulled the blanket tightly around him.
"I'll be in my quarters."
"Understood." Spock shivered again. Kirk got a second blanket, threw it over him and waited. Spock was silent. Kirk gave him a gentle pat then left. M'Benga crossed to the intercom.
A few minutes later McCoy entered the captain's quarters. Kirk was at the work table, his head buried in his hands. He straightened as the doctor approached.
"M'Benga says Spock's in good shape," he told McCoy. "How about you?"
"Will you check Spock?"
"No. M'Benga knows more about it than I do. And he can be more scientific, just now."
"Have you seen Theela?"
"Yes. She'd like to see you."
"I told her not to expect you today. Said you'd be too busy."
Kirk snorted. McCoy studied him for a moment, then moved to the cabinet and reached unerringly for the liquor supply. Not the right occasion for brandy, really -- ah. He poured out two generous glasses of scotch and set one in front of the captain. Kirk did not touch it.
"A toast, Jim. Here's to friendship."
Kirk smiled and made himself pick up the glass. "To friendship," he echoed and they sipped together.