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Balance

Chapter Text

I was uncertain how it first came to my attention, since I was not ordinarily in the habit of gazing at that particular part of the Captain’s anatomy. That we were in the midst of a deadly, protracted engagement with a Romulan Bird of Prey made it all the more extraordinary.

“Debris on our scanners.” It appeared we had scored a direct hit.

I had come to learn in the 163 solar days since Captain Kirk had taken command of the Enterprise, that he had an exceptional and intuitive mind. As now, he refused to accept the danger was over until he had been furnished with irrefutable proof. “Analysis, quickly,” he demanded.

“Same as before. Except...” I glanced up at him, “one metal-cased object.”

“Helm, hard over! Phasers, fire point-blank. Phasers, fire!” The Captain walked across the forward section of the bridge, his voice calm as he gave the order to destroy the booby-trap. He had an ability to control his emotion in such situations as well as any Vulcan, a feat I had come to respect.

It was in that moment that I noticed he had an erection.

Given there were no obvious sexual stimuli in his vicinity that I was able to discern, while keeping my main focus on the confrontation, I calculated a 0.64% chance of an outside agent being responsible for the Captain’s condition. Despite this low probability, logic dictated that I investigate whether other human male bridge crew were similarly afflicted. Our present battlefield situation demanded peak performance and such physical distractions had the potential to prove fatal to all on board.

A cursory visual examination was rendered more straightforward than would otherwise be possible, when all personnel were thrown from their positions by the detonation of the device. I was able to determine from this investigation that the Captain was the only male affected and given his successful tactics thus far, I concluded that his command ability appeared entirely unimpaired.

Having ascertained that injuries among the crew were minor and did not require immediate attention, I stepped over to the Captain’s chair to await further orders. This move provided me with the opportunity to observe that the erection was still in evidence. My highly tuned olfactics also detected a change in his natural scent – an added musk.

Unlike my human colleagues, I would have found it a simple matter to continue to focus on the red alert situation while simultaneously deliberating what was the likely cause of the Captain’s current state of arousal, as Vulcan brains are exceedingly efficient and fully capable of working on a multitude of problems concurrently. Indeed, I could have done this with no detectable decrease in the performance of my duty. However, I judged the matter to be an inexplicable and temporary aberration and closed the subject in order to give one hundred percent of my capacity to the Captain and the current situation.

The episode would have remained consigned to long-term memory storage had it not been reactivated by an incident twenty four days later at what remained of the Earth Observation Outpost on Cestus III.

Both the Enterprise and landing party were under an unprovoked, heavy and sustained attack from an unknown alien source. From the ground, the Captain was directing the defense of the ship as well as our own defense.

Leaping into a crater to join the Captain as the barrage continued, I realized something was amiss when I detected a high-pitched whine emanating from the device I held.

“They've locked onto my tricorder!” I threw it as far as I was capable and we both ducked, huddling from the ensuing explosion. “Very ingenious. They fed back my impulses, and built up an overload.”

“We'll see how ingenious they are,” the Captain countered. “Here. Give me a hand with this grenade launcher.”

After helping to stabilize the weapon which had fortuitously survived the bombardment, I observed the unmistakable sign of arousal.

My curiosity was now piqued. Perhaps I could turn these puzzling circumstances into an intellectual pursuit from which I would derive benefit. Conducting research had the potential to lead me to an increased understanding of humans generally and this highly complex human in particular.

It took three solar days of meetings, briefings and the completing of reports concerning the destruction of the Cestus III outpost and this first contact with two new alien species, before I had sufficient time to devote to my private research.

In the privacy of my quarters, I analyzed the two events to identify what patterns, if any, existed between them. The data overwhelmingly pointed to a connection centered on the elements of risk and danger.

Having studied Human anatomy and physiology in my life-sciences classes at the StarFleet Academy, I already understood how hazardous conditions frequently induce a release of epinephrine. Further investigation indicated a surge of adrenaline is generally accompanied by an increase in endorphin activity, a compound responsible for feelings of well being as well as pain relief in humans. The latter, I concluded, could prove useful should the hazard be severe enough to lead to injury.

I reflected on the data I had so far gathered, yet could discern no logical connection between the circumstances the Captain had been in and the physiological reaction such as he had evinced. Further research was required, to which I diligently applied myself.

I located additional data that demonstrated a statistically significant association between adrenaline-charged peril and sexual arousal in 14.8% of human males. While he was not unique in this, neither did this condition occur consistently across the species.

I had yet to reach the heart of the matter. I cross-matched the studies I had found thus far in order to eliminate common references, and focused instead on those that were unique, following them up until I found what I was looking for: a number of early psychological studies linking sexual arousal to both fear and aggression. It appeared that the physiology of the adrenaline-fed autonomic arousal brought about by conditions of aggression or fear were found to be similar to those found in sexual arousal. Logical, since both required the body to prepare for strenuous physical activity.

For a percentage of men in the study, the physical conditions experienced were so similar that one frequently led to another. In addition, there was an almost perfect correlation between these men and those who deliberately sought situations that would provide them with the ‘adrenaline rush’.

Commanding a starship would certainly place the Captain frequently in such circumstances. I found it surprising that he had risen to such a rank without this matter ever being discovered during psych evaluations, since it had the potential to impair his judgment and potentially put the ship at risk. I resolved to watch closely for any sign that he was deliberately putting himself at further risk.

I did not have to wait long.

18 days later, the Enterprise was en route to Starbase 9 for resupplies when the ship was pulled into the gravitational field of an uncharted black hole. Using all our warp capability we tore away but were slingshot back in time and space to 20th century Earth.

In order to retrieve incriminating evidence of our existence that violated the Prime Directive as well as potentially disrupting the correct temporal sequence, thus creating a new timeline, there had been a necessity to visit an airbase.

While on the base, the Captain had put himself in grave danger by attempting to fight with three armed station security personnel who subsequently overpowered him. It would have taken but one to have overstepped his mark, and Jim could have lost his life. The notion caused me to experience a physiological reaction, that was unpleasant, but which I immediately quelled.

This put me on my guard and I observed the Captain closely over the following months, and found my concern regarding his risk-taking was justified. Repeatedly he put himself in a place of danger and, as I was frequently with him on such occasions, I was provided with the opportunity to employ my olfactory chemoreceptors to confirm these situations were often accompanied by a state of arousal. It fortunately rarely manifested in any visible sign, leading me to believe it was not obvious to other crewmen. I was certain from his behavior that he had no knowledge of my awareness.

With enough evidence gathered, it was logical that as First Officer, I bring my concern to the Captain’s attention. I reflected on the approach that would maximize the potential to bring about change. I was not sanguine, having frequently witnessed Doctor McCoy’s unsuccessful attempts to persuade him to alter certain patterns of his behavior, such as his eating habits.

I had come to regard the Captain as a friend and we had taken to playing chess regularly, frequently in his cabin or mine. Perhaps an informal discussion over a game would be less likely put him in the defensive position which so often occurred with the doctor. The raising of awareness might be sufficient to cause him to reflect and acknowledge the veracity of my observations, leading to change.

“It has been my observation, Jim, that at times you appear to take unnecessary risks.”

There had been no preamble, nor any prior discussion that would likely prompt such a remark and he did not disguise his surprise at the sudden introduction of the subject. I had anticipated he may have attempted to prevaricate by requesting a definition of and debating the word, ‘unnecessary’. However he was more direct.

“Name me one time,” he challenged.

I had also prepared for him to take the discussion in this direction, which would likely lead to him rationalizing every incident I used as evidence.

“Providing you with examples would merely pitch my judgment against yours. I will cite logic and probability; you will likely counter that it has been your intuition which has kept you safe thus far. The result would therefore be a stalemate.”

“You mean an exercise in futility?” he suggested.

“I believe I just said that.”

He smiled broadly. “So, Mr. Spock, are you saying you don’t consider my intuition useful or effective?”

“On the contrary, Captain, I believe it has saved your life – and The Enterprise – on frequent occasions. However, it is not an exact science. The possibility for error…”

“…has so far not been an issue,” he interrupted mildly.

A more direct approach was required. “I am aware that some Humans deliberately put themselves in danger in order to experience an adrenaline rush.”

“Are you calling me a ‘thrill seeker’, Commander?” he asked, looking genuinely amused.

Was he truly so unaware of his own nature? I wondered.

“Spock,” he said, his tone changing to a more serious note. “The risks I take are calculated ones. I assure you I would never deliberately put myself or my ship in jeopardy. Besides, something like that would’ve shown up on my psych profile and I never would have gotten a command.” He smiled again. “Now quit mother-henning me.”

I understood he was ending the subject. I did not wish him to have any ill feeling regarding me so I responded in a slightly offended tone, “I fail to see any similarity between myself and a maternal fowl, Captain.”

He laughed and then proceeded to check-mate me in 24 moves. My game was most certainly off.

As his subordinate and also as his friend, I could do no more than raise my concerns. Since I had no intention of bringing the matter to the doctor’s attention and Jim clearly had no intention of altering his command style, it was logical to say no more on the subject.

During that period of increased observation, having noted the conditions which frequently led to the Captain’s arousal in dangerous circumstances, it was perhaps inevitable that I was unable to avoid noticing when it occurred under other circumstances.

I have, on occasion, heard the Captain referred to as a ‘ladies man’ and I, personally, have witnessed his affinity with them. While he made it a rule not to fraternize with his crew, he appeared to regard any attractive and available female passenger as ‘fair game’. The same was true at official functions he was required to attend. In those circumstances, having become attuned to the Captain’s ‘scent’, where numbers provided him with a choice and when he was so inclined, I was able to predict with a high degree of accuracy, which woman he would select.

Despite his regular successes, having spoken to him of it on one occasion over chess, I understand none of Jim’s liaisons resulted in a relationship serious enough for him to consider a marriage proposal. As I overheard one of my lab tech’s remark to a colleague, Captain Kirk is married to his ship.

One night in my quarters an insight came to me in a flash. Since Jim was aroused by both the promise of a sexual encounter and danger, it was logical that should he have access to the former on a regular basis, he would find no need to seek the latter.

The person to provide him with the necessary sexual distraction would have to be someone on board, and of command grade. However, with no females who fit the description, I considered the males, since Jim once indicated, while inebriated on shore leave, that he had occasionally found males attractive, but had never acted upon that attraction. I immediately discounted Mr. Scott, since their relationship was purely professional. Much closer to Jim was Doctor McCoy, but although their friendship was a close one, it was more of an avuncular relationship.

Having eliminated everyone else on the crew, logically, that left only me.

While we were temperamentally well-suited and I was not averse to taking on such a liaison if it would ensure the Captain’s continued well-being and safety, I was already betrothed to another. Thus I was, as McCoy would no doubt have put it, back at square one.

*

I will never be certain whether the timing was purely coincidental. 6 days after this insight, I detected an alteration to the balance of my hormones, though I initially – and almost disastrously – discounted the reason, since my Pon Farr had been due ten years earlier, and I believed my Human blood had spared me. The bond with T’Pring was weak, yet eventually I was able to sense her summons. Illogically, I fought it for days – this was not a time, however, of logic.

Eventually, my inconsistent and erratic behavior came to the Captain’s attention and I was forced to accept the reality of my situation. Although a matter to be dealt with in private, I had no choice but to enlist his assistance to return me to Vulcan.

“Well, there's no need to be embarrassed about it, Spock. It happens to the birds and the bees.”

How could I make him comprehend? Anger rose within me, but I was able to control it so that no outward manifestation was visible. “The birds and the bees are not Vulcans, Captain. If they were – if any creature as proudly logical as us were to have their logic ripped from them as this time does to us...”

I asked him if he had ever considered how Vulcans choose their mates. His flippant answer demonstrated that he had yet to understand that there were but two choices left to me: to reach Vulcan in time or succumb to a fatal madness.

“You humans have no conception. It strips our minds from us. It brings a madness which rips away our veneer of civilization. It is the Pon Farr – the time of mating.” For a Vulcan, this time of such profound loss of control is undignified and base, rendering the male of our species into little more than a savage, rutting animal. So alien to me to speak aloud of such matters, I had to force the words from my lips.

I attempted to help him understand with analogous examples with which he would be familiar. It was not that Jim was so unworldly that his mind could not conceive – he had encountered in his own lifetime hundreds, if not thousands, of alien species, with all the diversity that implied. The issue was that what I was describing was so far removed from any point of reference he had with specific regard to the Vulcan people, that he continued to struggle with the concept. "But you're not a fish, Mr. Spock. You're..."

"No. Nor am I a man. I am a Vulcan. I had hoped I would be spared this, but the ancient drives are too strong. Eventually, they catch up with us, and we are driven by forces we cannot control...to return home and take a wife, or die.”

Just as I reached a point of complete exasperation, the Captain finally understood the full import of my predicament. “I haven't heard a word you've said, and...I'll get you to Vulcan, somehow.” That Jim was prepared to keep this matter confidential caused an overwhelming sense of both relief and gratitude to rise within me.

After he left, still seated at my desk, I rested my head on my folded arms, feeling utterly enervated by the exchange. And I was filled with shame.

The depth of our friendship had become such, that he was willing to risk his career for me. However, I was unable to comprehend the significance of his sacrifice at that time.

With the ship on course for Vulcan, the lessening of the physical – and therefore the psychic – distance between me and my people furnished me with some modicum of control. But it was not complete, and the irony that it was my Captain who was witness to my own occasional physical arousal was, at the time, lost on me.

I have only vague memories of the events on Vulcan. The fever of Pon Farr rapidly advanced to the all-consuming fires of plak tow; hotter than The Forge, it attempted to cleave every shred of civilization from my being. Though it should not have been possible, I cared sufficiently about Jim to find sanity long enough to appeal to T’Pau in an attempt to prevent him once again placing his life in danger. I was overruled. This time, a death was assured – it was to be either his or mine. Across the bond, I sensed T’Pring mocking me and I was overcome with rage and insanity.

Clarity did not return until I found myself staring at the face of my Captain, his neck cradled in the ahn woon that I still held. I found myself in shock. How ironic that such a state temporarily drove all Pon Farr-induced emotion from me, as I was entirely unable to contend with what I had just done.

“Live long and prosper, Spock.”

All I could feel was utter emptiness, a profound sense of loss. “I shall do neither. I have killed my Captain...and my friend.”

The emotions that had plagued me for the past 9 days took me from despair to elation when I discovered Jim yet lived. My loss of control was regrettable, not least because McCoy witnessed it and would likely reference it at every opportunity. The thought…irritated me.

My attention was diverted from this concern with a message from the bridge. T’Pau had evidently placed a retrospective request for the Enterprise to divert to Vulcan, and Komack – no doubt reluctantly – agreed to it. I was gratified as the captain would not now formally face charges for failing to follow orders. Knowing the Admiral, it was likely, however, that there would be some form of repercussion.

On the bridge, I sensed the curiosity of the crew who had seen T’Pring and were clearly baffled as to why I had not remained with her, at least for a time as is customary after a wedding, before rejoining my ship. I was relieved that none overtly asked me about it. Their professionalism and discretion was most welcome, yet nevertheless I experienced a degree of embarrassment – an emotion with which I was all too familiar from my conversations with the Captain prior to our diversion.

Shortly after I had taken my seat at my station, new orders came in. Too late for the Altair inauguration, it had been decided we should break orbit from Vulcan immediately and proceed to Sector 08 to carry out star-mapping for an unspecified period. En route, we were to make a brief visit to the Alpha Honorus system to carry out a geological survey of a planet. The R&R that was planned following the inauguration was therefore canceled. Everyone knew the orders for what they were, and on the Enterprise, news travels fast.

Thirteen minutes later, McCoy arrived on the bridge and stood beside the Captain. “I hear we have exciting times ahead, Jim – Komack exacting his pound of flesh.”

I recognized the reference and acknowledged it was likely the truth, and that I alone was responsible for the Captain and crew being penalized. It was not logical to feel a sense of guilt, yet I did.

“Let it go, Bones,” the Captain said quietly.

“Jim, this crew needs a rest. We’ve gone from one crisis to another without a break. After Altair we were scheduled R&R…”

“Bones!” Although his voice was barely above a whisper, there was an edge to it giving a clear warning. “I said that’s enough. If you want to discuss this, we can do it in your office later.”

“I’m just saying what everyone is thinking!”

Having gotten in the last word, McCoy quickly retreated and I heard Jim’s footsteps approach. He leaned down, his mouth level with my ear. “I’m sorry about that Spock, he was out of line.” His voice was so quiet it was unlikely any other of the bridge crew could hear. “Although I have to say, that was one of his tamer rants,” he added.

“Nevertheless Captain,” I responded equally quietly, not looking up, “what he says is factually accurate, we are overdue a period of R&R; it is likely you are being punished…”

“Spock,” Jim cut in and gently spinning my chair counterclockwise to face him, waited until I looked directly at him. “If I could go back and change anything, I wouldn’t.”

Standing up, he casually leaned against my station to face the centre of the bridge and folded his arms. In a louder voice than before he said, “Well Mr. Spock this will undoubtedly be an exciting time for the science department. After our diversion to the Honorus system, are there any ‘fascinating’ stars or celestial bodies in that sector you’d recommend we visit?”

I understood this was the Captain’s way of publically making his position clear on the matter. It gave me a positive feeling that I identified as gratitude.

“I will call a meeting of my department heads to gather data and will report back to you with suggestions, Sir.”

“So, Mr. Spock, what can you tell me about our first stop?” There was some unnamed emotion that sprang from the thought that the Captain simply assumed I would have the knowledge he sought; and indeed I did not let him down.

“Sir, Honorus is a trinary star system. Alpha Honorus has one class M planet in its orbit: Alfa 177. The planet is reported as having an unusual geological make-up according to a recent scanner survey carried out by the Potemkin. I welcome an opportunity to investigate the native ores further and to gather some specimens.”

“And so you shall in five days,” the Captain said, smiling.