Title: The Pursuit of Truth, III of III
Characters: Spock, McCoy, Kirk, various
Rating: T just to be on the safe side
Warnings: Spoilers for Plato's Stepchildren and mentions of all the baggage that episode entailed
Word Count: 4509 (this part)
Summary: Long long long overdue Haiti charity fic for raebb4ever, with the prompt A fanfic that focuses on the aftermath of the episode "Plato's Stepchildren," specifically on Spock trying to cope with his emotional violation and his near uncontrollable anger over Parmen's actions towards Kirk. Having McCoy be included would be a nice bonus. Bonding and emotional healing, yay! I would like specific interaction between Kirk and Spock.
It is another forty-seven minutes, fifteen seconds before Jim finally begins to stir; McCoy's potion was meant to keep him unconscious long enough for his body to adjust from the attack and then somewhat groggy for another few hours afterward to prevent a relapse.
The sight of someone usually so vibrantly alive lying still – so very still! – upon the crimson Sickbay pillow is discomfiting in the extreme, and yet he is grateful to have the time to reconstruct a flimsy mental shield. The captain may possibly need his aid when he awakens, and he will not risk causing further damage than that which he already has.
Granted, James Kirk appears to be the only human alive who can quite easily dissolve any barrier he erects, but at least the semblance of one may protect them both for a short time.
The shield is barely in place before the pale face on the pillow twitches, the golden head tossing to one side as a mumbled sigh escapes. In a very human slip, his lips quirk in unaccountable fondness; it is a standing joke in the entire Medical division that James T. Kirk hates doctors and Sickbay so much that he fights them all every step of the way, sneaking out of the ward the instant he can stand unassisted or battling whatever medication he's been given, tooth and nail.
He watches silently, for he knows better than to trust his voice at the moment, as the captain fights his way out from under the neural inhibitor McCoy administered an hour ago. Finally the gold-green eyes open, but they are cloudy, the color of Arcturian moss now; a sure sign that he is still quite groggy from the medication.
Still, they apparently are lucid enough to rove slowly around the room before returning to fasten on his face as he stands beside the bed, looking down at its occupant.
Jim smiles slightly, and slowly, painfully, reaches up a trembling hand to pinch the bridge of his nose. "What hit me, a shuttlecraft?" is the muffled greeting voiced around the clenched fingers, and again he marvels at the human tendency to relieve tension with poor humor.
He does not bother to answer, for he knows the captain does not expect him to, and in a moment the human's hand flops limply back to the thermal blanket that is pulled up to his chest. Jim closes his eyes tightly for a moment and then re-opens them with a grimace. "Bones must have me on the good stuff," he murmurs. "I can barely move a muscle."
"Given the now-unpredictable effects of the kironide being filtered from your blood, I would say that is the wisest course of action, Captain," he replies, quite pleased that his voice is entirely expressionless; he has succeeded somewhat in regaining control.
Hazel eyes squint up at him in silence for eight-point-five seconds. Then the captain sighs, head relaxing lifelessly into the pillow. "Spock, will you sit down?"
"I should prefer to –"
He has never been able to refuse that look, though he cannot explain the phenomenon any more than he can resist the too-large eyes and beseeching countenance, and so with a tolerant nod he seats himself on the chair next to the bio-bed.
Jim huffs a tired chuckle. "On the bed, Mister. I can't even turn my head to see you, that's how much meds Bones has in my system right now."
He raises an eyebrow, for the situation will no doubt end up to be highly awkward, but it is not logical to carry out a conversation where one cannot even see the conversant's eyes.
Therefore, he perches on the edge of the bed next to the captain's legs, and receives a weary smile as thanks for his concession. For a moment they sit there silently, simply looking at each other. He can see now more visible signs of the captain's utter exhaustion, and reproaches himself for not calling the man on his self-care deprivation before the crisis of earlier took place. He has been so distraught himself that he has been avoiding the captain for that very reason; he was and is in no condition to speak with the only man aboard who can slip past any defense he puts up.
Today's incident is the result of those actions, and now he regrets not making at least a small effort to improve the captain's state of well-being. The human's eyes, so usually sparkling with mischief, are dulled, and not just from the medication. That one unruly curl that gives its owner such trouble in the mornings, he knows from experience with their shared bathroom accommodations, has long since flopped limply over the lined forehead, and he has rarely seen the man look as utterly drained as he does right now.
He suddenly realizes he has been intensely studying his commanding officer's features, and that said commander is looking up at him with combined amusement and concern.
"I take it," Jim says slowly, as if the very effort of speaking is taxing to his strength, "that since Bones has to know I'm awake from these monitors and he hasn't come in here to chase you away, he thinks we need to do some heart-to-heart-ing?"
He attempts to summon up the energy to feign ignorance at the idiom, but has not the strength to do so. Truth is all he can cling to now, and what must be done must be done; that is only logical. "I believe the doctor is more concerned with my state of mind than yours, Captain," he replies honestly. "In two more days the kironide will be removed from your system completely, and in the meantime he has implemented measures to ensure that you can rest comfortably, without fearing its uncontrollable effects."
"Problem solved, then, eh?" A slightly bitter laugh falls from the pale lips, and his eyes flick back from the over-bed monitors to the face below. "Somehow I don't think it's that simple, Spock."
He raises an eyebrow in a wordless question, and Kirk's pinched features soften. "Don't look at me like that," the captain whispers. "I know you don't want to talk about it, but if I know Bones he won't let us out of here until we do."
"I believe his exact words were, 'if you come out of there in the next two hours, I will jump you with a hypo of Rigellian Black Plague,' or something to that effect."
The statement has the desired result, for the human laughs, his fingers twitching restlessly against the blanket. "And how long have you been here, Commander?" Kirk inquires, eyes lighting up with mischief to accompany the playful usage of his title.
"Fifty-eight minutes, sixteen-point-three seconds."
"Mm," is the expressive reply, and he is pleased to see the captain shift his head on the pillow; obviously the drug is still keeping his neural impulses to a minimum but it is not paralyzing. "So you're stuck with me for another hour."
"One hour, one minute and ten seconds, sir."
"Yes, yes." A pale hand rises an inch off the covers in a weak wave, and he forces down an inexcusable desire to grasp it, lend his own strength to it. Control. Control. "We might as well begin at the beginning, then," Jim is saying, and he wrenches his attention back to the subject at hand.
"Affirmative. Doctor McCoy has explained the events that transpired in the Officers' Mess an hour ago," he answers, reciting mechanically what had happened directly before and afterwards. "I regret…that my attempt to offer aid only complicated matters, Captain."
Jim looks incredulously at him, and then sighs, his eyes turning that shade of golden green that usually indicates affection and amusement. "It wasn't your fault. I was…" the man trails off, face flushing slightly with obvious embarrassment. Finally, though, the captain looks back at him. "I was terrified, Spock," is the tense whisper, and he feels an answering tightness in the vicinity of his lungs. "And," Jim continues, and his skin prickles with the feeling that the human is speaking of something entirely different from the incident in the Mess, "you know Vulcan philosophy states that fear is the most dangerous of all emotions."
That the captain is well-read on Vulcan philosophy does not surprise him, for he already knows Kirk has studied many such pieces of his culture in an effort to find mutual topics of interest. What does surprise him, however, is that Jim has so efficiently driven to the heart of the matter.
"Dangerous because it usually leads to anger, which is the second most dangerous of all the passions," the captain adds softly, and he nearly jumps out of his skin when he feels the slight brush of fingertips across his sleeve – no telepathic contact, for Jim never touches his skin without warning him by either verbal or body language, but contact nonetheless.
"Spock," the man reproves gently.
"Jim," he amends, though the retreat into formality would be of reassurance in such uncertain waters as these. "I…do not know…" he hesitates, unable – no, not unwilling, simply ignorant – to put any of this…madness, into words.
The captain does not seem to mind, only nods understandingly. "I felt your anger," the human says quietly, and he closes his eyes in shame. "In the Mess, I knew immediately what it was. I've never felt anything so…intense, in all my life."
"I ask pardon, Captain; I had not intended –"
He opens his eyes again at the slightly exasperated tone. "Captain?"
"Shut up and let me finish?"
Kirk smiles at him, a real smile this time, and continues. "I wasn't asking for you to apologize, Spock; you know you never have to apologize for anything with me."
This is true; Jim made it clear long ago that he would never ask more of the Vulcan than he could give, and would never require Spock change himself to being more or less human – or Vulcan – than he was. You must be who you are, the captain had said earnestly, and if you ever change part of that then you don't have to apologize for it. That acceptance, unconditional and unswerving, was one of the many qualities that seemed to act as a magnet between them; he could not explain his attachment to this man in so short a time as they had served together, nor did he wish to destroy the beauty of what existed by attempting to explain it rationally.
Jim watches him as he remembers all this, and their eyes meet again, giving his shattered control a bit more courage than before. Besides, if he can discuss this with McCoy then surely he can discuss it with Jim. "Captain, I cannot explain my unaccountable anger toward Parmen and the Platonians," he admits with great reluctance, though it is relieving to be able to simply state the facts. "I yet feel great anger toward them, and am unable to fully master it or control it as I must."
"Maybe," Jim replies after a short pause, and again the fingers gently brush back and forth against his sleeve, a soothing and comforting gesture, "maybe it's because anger's just the result, Spock, not the problem."
He blinks, for that has never occurred to him, unaccustomed as he is to recognizing emotions of any kind. "Sir?"
"Anger is just a result of a stimulus, Spock, that's a principle of psychology."
Responses and stimuli are scientific variables; those he can certainly comprehend. His eyes must betray his interest, for Jim's light up as they watch him.
"You're a scientist, Science Officer," Kirk quips with a small grin, "so you should know that reactions are a natural occurrence to the appropriate stimuli. You can't change a reaction unless you change the stimuli or the conditions of an experiment."
"That is…eminently logical," he agrees slowly.
"So what you're feeling is perfectly logical," Kirk adds with a slow shrug of what are probably sore shoulders. "Anger is a response to the stimulus you were provided with. The result isn't the problem, Spock."
"Then what is?" he asks, not caring if his utter helplessness filters through the words. "What then is the reason for my inability to control this…primal rage toward those who committed the offense?"
"Have you considered the possibility that maybe, since the root of your anger isn't a logical thing, that you can't use logical methods to solve it?" Kirk asks gently, and the lull of the words softens their horrifying implications. "The root of your anger is another human emotion, Spock; and because it is, don't you think maybe you'll have to use human methods to fix this?"
He has gone quite still, for every instinct screams against what is being suggested, however gently, and yet somewhere deep inside he knows the captain is correct – he usually is, in these matters.
"There are several things that can trigger anger, Spock," Kirk begins, and he wonders anew at the patience this man has always taken to help him at least understand, if not comprehend, the incomprehensible where humanity is concerned. The fingers still suddenly on his arm, a warm pressure against the sleeve of his uniform. "One of them is fear. But…love can trigger both of those. And that's your real problem, isn't it? Don't answer that, you don't have to," the man adds quickly when he would have instinctively denied any such thing – the very idea is both horrifying and terribly alluring. "But you've forgotten that I saw into your mind for a minute there before McCoy knocked me out. You don't have to agree with me, you don't have to even accept it – but just remember you can't hide Truth in a mind-contact."
He closes his eyes to conceal whatever this too-perceptive individual is sure to read from them, for the captain is entirely correct in all particulars. He is nearly as aghast at the idea that his uncontrolled anger and desire to protect is only part of the problem, as he is to find that the solution only indicates that there is a much deeper problem at the heart of the matter.
And the worst of it is the fact that he cannot, logically, find a way to deny the facts – nor can he find a reason to reject the regard he has for this man as in any way harmful to his training as a Vulcan, other than these infrequent lapses in control.
Again, he is torn between what he knows somehow to be right, and what every cell in his brain is screaming is terribly wrong. It is a battle that never ends, and he will never be able to reconcile both sides to a balanced equation, not with radical factors such as his regard for James Kirk to upset the scale at every turn.
The minutes pass, and he says nothing, makes no move, remains perfectly still in an effort to reconcile himself to finding a suitable solution. The conclusion is inescapable; the Captain is correct. His anger is the result of a more potent problem, and one that cannot be solved in a logical and rational manner. Some other method must be instigated.
He looks up finally, and is shocked to see Kirk's eyes glimmering slightly with what must be emotion as the man watches him closely. He has not even the time to voice his concern when the answer comes.
"I'm so sorry," the captain breathes, and slowly reaches up to massage his left temple – a sure sign of an approaching headache.
He raises an eyebrow, completely mystified as to why the human is in such distress and feels the need to apologize for an unknown offense.
"Spock, I'm so sorry that you have to do this all the time," Kirk elaborates, his voice more steady after a swallow. "It can't possibly be easy for you to deal with us day after day, to find a happy medium between Vulcan and human under normal circumstances; and when something like what they did to you happens, I can't imagine how hard it is to swing the scales back into balance."
His brows knit as the words resonate slowly within him, for it never occurred to him that anyone would ever realize how difficult every moment of his life was; attempting to be human enough to satisfy his friends – yes, friends – but remaining Vulcan enough to not shame his heritage. This man again has somehow wormed his way past all his carefully-constructed barriers to hit the weakest point of his shield.
And somehow, he is more pleased than alarmed at the idea.
"The result…is quite worth the effort, Jim," he manages to say with perfect equanimity, for that too is Truth. "Even with such annoying setbacks as the events of three days ago," he adds, and sees a spark of humor remove the last traces of sympathetic grief from the human's expression.
"I thought Vulcans didn't feel annoyance?" Kirk asks with a grin, and the grip on his sleeve tightens for a moment.
He allows a small sigh to escape through his nose, knowing it will both amaze the human and lift his clearly despondent spirits. "They supposedly do not feel anger as well, Captain; obviously there is a faulty variable in those conclusions," he answers ruefully, and the room fills with delighted laughter.
Satisfied, he relaxes slightly, and for a few minutes they relapse into a more comfortable silence. But there is still a problem to be solved, a solution to be found, and so after steeling his resolve and his mental shields he looks back to his captain, only to find that the human's eyes are already upon him.
"Go ahead, Spock," Kirk encourages quietly.
"May I inquire, captain, as to the human method of…releasing anger?" There, it is out, and though the idea of asking for such advice is equal parts abhorrent and daring it must be asked if a conclusion is to be reached.
"Mm. That's…not an easy one to answer," is the thoughtful reply. "Are you wanting the usual reaction, or mine personally, or…?"
"Both," he decides, for he must have all data in order to properly make an analysis.
"Well, there are various methods…it depends on the individual," Kirk muses. "Some people take anger and stress out on others either physically or by snapping at them; I have that second problem, you and McCoy know that."
He acknowledges the rueful confession with only a nod, neither condemning nor excusing, and the captain continues.
"Sometimes you just have to punch something, a wall or a punching bag or a pillow. The most common solution for a civilian would be to just go get drunk somewhere and start a fight."
"That would accomplish nothing."
"Except to blow off enough steam that you don't take your anger out on the people you love," is the quiet rejoinder, and he ponders that piece of information for a moment. He has frequently been disgusted at the value humans place upon such frivolous and crude activities, but now the actions do make a sort of distorted sense to his mind.
"None of these methods are sensible for a Starfleet officer, however," he is compelled to point out, and the faint smile in the hazel eyes lets him know Kirk never intended them as serious suggestions. "How then do you deal with your human emotion, Captain?"
The captain's lined forehead furrows even more in concentration, and he watches the flickering of thought-patterns show through in the expressive eyes before him for a full minute. Then something illuminates them from deep inside, and to his surprise Jim does not speak at first, but slowly holds up a hand, palm outward and all five fingers spread.
It takes a moment and some gentle, silent coaxing (and strengthening of his mental shields in preparation), but he finally reaches out to mirror the gesture – having no idea what the captain intends but knowing Jim would never do anything he thought might be harmful to his well-being. He is not disappointed in his trust, and is relieved to find that the human bypasses the more sensitive fingertips, careful to not touch them, and closes the gap in a tight grasp, fingers now interlocked with his and palms pressed together as they had been in the Mess ninety minutes and twelve seconds ago.
He keeps the lightest of finger-pressure upon the back of the human's hand, not wishing to disturb or be disturbed by the thoughts whirling through the intricately multifarious mind that is Captain James T. Kirk, and only gains a hazy sense of and Kirk's faint worry that he is carrying this lesson too far, making it too personal.
Far from it; if anyone can aid him in understanding it is this man, and he knows it; and to refuse expert aid is illogical. He gives an encouraging nudge, and Jim smiles. "You were trying to help me in the Officers' Mess, Spock," the human says quietly, squeezing their hands together with a careful gentleness. "Do the same thing now – push as hard as you can against my grip."
Mystified, he raises an incredulous eyebrow, and Kirk's sandy brows knit in mock sternness. "Do it, Mr. Spock. And don't stop until I tell you to."
"Captain, my strength is three times that of a human. If I should hurt you –"
"As you wish," he acquiesces, with well-founded reluctance, and applies forward pressure.
The captain grunts, and he is surprised at the strength of the force that meets his despite the neural inhibitor the human has been dosed with; he presses harder, and their hands move several inches back toward the pillow. Jim redoubles his efforts, straining visibly to push against his hand, but he can sense enough from the contact to know to not stop.
Finally his knuckles and the back of Kirk's hand brush against the crisp coolness of the pillow, and he releases the pressure instantly. The captain melts back into the soft cushion, breathing hard and sweating a little, but sighs in an expression of contentment that he is entirely at a loss to understand.
"Captain, I do not see the purpose of your actions."
Kirk smiles, and the entire room seems to brighten in the glow that this small human seems to carry around with him at all times. "You asked me how I deal with my human emotions, Spock. You know what I do?"
"If I did, I would not have –"
"Spock!" The tone is filled with exasperation, and he falls silent to only listen.
The captain grins up at him, and holds up his hand again. He hesitantly repeats the action of earlier, applying gentle forward pressure and feeling the smaller human bones give way to his demands and be forced backward.
Suddenly Kirk stops the movement, stilling his hand in mid-air, and when he speaks his voice is sober, gentle, and thrumming with an undercurrent of respect and awe that is reinforced by the skin contact.
"Spock, when I have to deal with something like what happened on Platonius, I do one thing," comes the quiet answer, and he leans forward to listen earnestly. Jim's eyes lighten with a welcome smile. "I look over at you on the Bridge or wherever we are, and I know that whatever happens, I'll always have someone stronger than I am to share it with me."
Trustaffectionwarmthloyalty... He yanks his hand away as if it has been burned, as an uncontrolled burst of emotional energy floods through the contact – not unpleasant, but unexpected – and then Jim gives him a look of deep apology. He is still speechless from the conversation and the contact, and so can say nothing to counter his friend as the human continues, somewhat shyly.
"Haven't you ever wondered about how I seem to still enjoy losing to you in chess or sparring or whatever? Why I don't mind when people try to intimidate me and I have to have my Vulcan shadow scare them off?"
"I…had assumed it was merely another facet of the illogicality of human nature," he manages, and is surprised to find his voice steady.
The human laughs, a short sharp sound of amusement. "No, Spock. It's because I would rather lose to you and know you're there to lose to, to know I don't have to be the stronger or smarter or more experienced one all the time, and that it's okay to be the weaker one, the one that loses."
Such a sentiment makes no logical sense, and he cannot comprehend it; but it does seem to fit with the captain's behaviors.
"Then," he muses slowly, attempting to connect the links into a comprehensible chain of rationality, "you deal with your human emotion by finding someone stronger than you are to take…comfort in?"
"Comfort, reassurance, the knowledge that the world's not ending and we can do this, whatever you want to call it – yes, Spock." Kirk's eyes glint softly. "You know that in physics, the more points of contact that are made, the greater the force that can be exerted upon them, and the same thing applies with people. Burdens shared are only half as hard to handle, and if one person has to take more than his share of the weight…"
"If that one is the stronger, then that is only logical," he finishes with a curt nod of understanding.
When the captain speaks again a moment later, his tone is light and teasing, but the expression upon his face is sincere and full of open concern. "So tell me, Science Officer, what extrapolations can you make from that discussion of methodology that'll enable you to deal with your…emotional shortcomings?"
And it makes absolute sense now, a complete and reasonable chain of Truth – shown to him by, of all beings, a human.
His father would be horrified. He is honored.
"I believe the logical conclusion, Jim," he replies quietly, and extends his hand for the third time, "would be that I must find someone who is emotionally stronger than I and ask for his assistance."
Cool fingers interlock with his and squeeze slightly.
"Then you solved your own problem a half-hour ago; didn't you, Commander?"
He relaxes the tension in his jaw, knowing that it will give the illusion of a small smile to this incredibly complex human, who deserves at least that much from him now. "So it would seem, Jim."
For two-point-five seconds, only the soft chirping of the monitor over Kirk's tousled head fills the room, and yet the silence is pleasant, not at all awkward as it has been the last three days.
"Aww…" The moment is spoiled by a very tired, and therefore very thick, Southern drawl from behind them.
Five seconds later, Leonard McCoy flees the room, cackling his head off and ducking the kironide-propelled pillow that hurtles after him with enough force to knock him off his feet.