In the chilly hours and minutes of uncertainty I want to be
In the warm hold of your lovin' mind
To feel you all around me and to take your hand along the sand
Ah but I may as well try to catch the wind.
Captain's log, Stardate 2329.8
We have arrived at Starbase 4 on orders from Star Fleet to rendezvous with the acclaimed Vulcan geobotanist T'lumina. We are to transport T'Lumina and her team to the planet Penthesilea, where they will conduct a series of trials, the outcome of which may determine the planet's suitability as a colony. I have instructed all senior crew members to attend a formal reception this evening in honour of our esteemed guest.
* * *
Kirk bounced through the door of the shared bathroom into his First Officer's quarters, resplendent in his full dress uniform, and he was looking forward to an interesting evening. Spock was as immaculate as ever and Kirk wondered, despite his own careful grooming, how it was that Spock always managed to make him feel scruffy.
"So, Mister Spock, are you excited at the prospect of meeting one of your fellow countrymen, and a renowned scientist to boot? I even hear on the grapevine that she is quite a looker?"
"Captain, as you are fully aware, Vulcans do not experience excitement, and the genetic origin and visual appearance of T'Lumina will not affect my appreciation of her work. However, I am anticipating a period of stimulating scientific discussion. It will also be a relief to enjoy the company of a person with a logical mind."
"Absolutely Mister Spock, of course, shall we... ?"
* * *
Captain's log, Stardate 2365.48
The Vulcan geobotanist T'Lumina and her team have been aboard the Enterprise for 14 days. Preparations for the planetside trials have been intense. Mr Spock has been working tirelessly but successfully with the team and has been offered the opportunity to join them in person on the planet's surface, to conduct the tests he has helped to develop. I have granted permission for Commander Spock to join the team for the whole of their two week sojourn on Penthesilea.
* * *
Captain's log, Stardate 2403.87
We are orbiting the planet Penthesilea, an uninhabited class M planet. Tomorrow, T'Lumina and her team will be transferred to the planet's surface. The small research team will establish a temporary science station to monitor the progress of the trials and gather data. Commander Spock will be accompanying the away team.
As this planet has an atmosphere and climate much like Earth, the crew have been granted shore leave in one of the more temperate regions away from the research location. Dr McCoy is organising the rotations. As First Officer Spock is fully engaged with the science team, I have decided to remain on the Enterprise.
* * *
Captain's log, Stardate 2442.19
The trails being conducted by the planetside research team have been successful, and T'Lumina is preparing to remain on the planet for an extended period with a view to establishing a permanent colony. We have beamed down supplies to allow for the establishment of a more permanent outpost.
Captain's log, supplemental
This afternoon, I received an unexpected request from Commander Spock. I need time to consider the potential ramifications before I make my response.
* * *
It was not unusual for James T. Kirk to stand on the small viewing deck, gazing meditatively into space. Although the small deck was not exclusive, it was custom and practice that it be used by the command team only. Dr McCoy knew this was somewhere the Captain would regularly come to cogitate a problem, or to ruminate on the events of a testing day - and the sight of the blue-green planet Penthesilea, turning beneath them against the coruscating blanket of stars, was both beautiful and hypnotic.
Some time later on his way back from the Officers rec room, McCoy was surprised to see his friend standing in the exact same spot, staring outwards, still seemingly deep in thought. He considered breaking Jim's reverie, but thinking better of it he walked on.
The following morning, McCoy spotted Kirk in the mess, apparently having breakfasted on black coffee and fresh air. As he approached the Captain with a light-hearted rebuke on his lips, Kirk stood and turned abruptly, leaving the mess without speaking. Frowning, the Doc made a mental note to keep a watchful eye. Although the recent weeks had been largely uneventful, First Officer Spock had been increasingly taken up with the design of the trials that were now being completed, and the Captain had therefore been without the support of his stalwart friend. McCoy had responsibility for the physical and mental wellbeing of all of the Ship's complement, currently numbering 432; but if he was honest, he only concerned himself with 431 of them. He never gave much mind to the wellbeing of Jim Kirk - not because he didn't care about his Captain and longtime friend, but because Spock made any such concern pretty much redundant. Whilst the hobgoblin was on the case, JTK was possibly the best looked-out for being in the universe.
Bones noted that, whilst the crew had all been taking advantage of the beautiful and temperate planet, Kirk had remained on board for R&R. This in itself struck him as odd, as Penthesilea offered multiple opportunities for some of the pastimes Kirk usually relished: climbing, walking and swimming. McCoy made a mental note to check in with Kirk later - a chat over a glass or three of brandy was long overdue.
Distracted by the routine of the day, McCoy had pretty much forgotten his concern... until he passed the small viewing deck once again and saw the Captain silhouetted against the backdrop of stars, still staring out. Kirk appeared momentarily to be turning to leave - only then to smash an angry fist into the bulkhead, a picture of rage and frustration, before returning once again to his original position, fingers knotted in frustration through blond locks. This time McCoy approached, determined to find out what was troubling his friend.
"A credit for your thoughts, Jim."
Kirk remained unmoving, and when he responded, the hurt in his voice cut McCoy to the quick.
"A credit for them? ... Bones, you have no idea! These thoughts are worth more than that, perhaps even a whole career."
McCoy studied his friend, realising with a shock just how tired the man looked. Pinching the bridge of his nose, hand on the bulkhead, Kirk looked a picture of exhausted desolation. A lost soul. McCoy tried to keep his tone light, as Jim Kirk was not a man who responded well to nannying. "Jim, you look like crap, how about a night cap before you turn in?"
Kirk turned and met his friend's eyes, his hazel irises dull, not a spark of the trademark twinkle. "No, honestly, thank you Bones - I think I will skip it if you don't mind. I will turn in shortly."
With that he turned back to his position, staring out, and the conversation was closed.
* * *
Kirk sat in the command chair, the end of the shift approaching, the relief crew already starting to appear. The feeling in the pit of his stomach was sickening, like a lead weight, an iron fist curling in his guts. Once freed from the duty and the attendant distraction of bridge command, his mind immediately reverted to the same circular turmoil of thought that he had been dwelling on since the arrival of Spock's request. He was angry - angry with himself, angry with Spock, angry with the universe. He sought temporary distraction in the rec room and was greeted warmly by a number of crew members, but he soon found truth in the adage that there is no place lonelier than a crowded room. His quarters offered no solace, only the memories of more agreeable times. Never had he been so unable to reconcile his thoughts. It was only a matter of time before he stood on the small viewing deck once again, wrestling with ideas that would not be ordered. He knew the right thing to do - his moral compass never failed him, but this one time, the right thing was also the last thing he wanted to do.
James T. Kirk, youngest man to captain a star ship, victor ludorum, the man who did not believe in the no-win scenario. Suddenly, the growing weariness of the past weeks seemed to overwhelm him, encasing him in a thick fug of lassitude. He could not continue in this manner - he knew he needed to return to his cabin and to try to sleep, but his unquiet mind had made sleep difficult to attain, and when it came it left him without respite or relief. Whatever the outcome, there had to be resolution.
Kirk sensed a familiar presence at his side, a presence that had been increasingly absent since the arrival of T'Lumina. For a while, neither man spoke. Kirk continued to stare ahead, trying to find the right words, knowing he should initiate the necessary conversation - but all the while wanting to stop time to prevent the inevitable outcome.
"Do ever think about... us, our working relationship, our... friendship?"
"I have thought about it a lot these past weeks, Spock."
Everything Kirk had faced in his life he had faced with decisive action, but now he was too much of a coward to ask a simple question and face the answer. Spock's voice was quiet, barely audible even to Kirk.
"Captain... Jim, I sense you are in some distress. I wish to understand the cause, I wish to help."
The cause... Kirk almost laughed. Spock was the cause! His next question came as if from nowhere.
"Spock, do consider yourself to be heterosexual?"
If Spock was surprised by the question he did not show it.
"I have never found the need to categorise myself in that way, Captain. Both heterosexual and homosexual relationships are accepted on Vulcan. Until recently, I had never considered undertaking sexual congress with another. You above all men know that for a Vulcan the mating imperative is on a 7 year cycle – however, that does not preclude me from initiating an act of sexual union, or responding to the invitation from another if I so choose. As I said, until recently I have not felt moved to do so. My parents logically bonded me with a female - as on Earth, heterosexual relationships are more commonly chosen and are logically more practical for the continuance of a family line. However, there are also many who choose a completely asexual lifestyle, preferring companionship that is based on a more cerebral level. On Vulcan it is not considered logical to categorise people into rigid groups."
"I see - so Vulcans do not feel the need for regular sexual release?"
"Speaking for myself, I find I can usually dispel such need with focused displacement activity, such as working in the lab or engaging in a social activity, playing complex exercises on the Vulcan harp or a chess match with a challenging opponent. I can also usually meditate through such urges. On occasion however when the need has bested my control, I have resorted to masturbation."
"You say, until recently? So you have found someone with whom you wish to have a sexual relationship?"
"Yes... I believe so, but I have yet to make my inclination known. Jim, please - you are my greatest, perhaps only real friend. Share with me that which is troubling you so greatly."
"Spock, I am sorry. I do not deserve to be called friend by you, I wish I did. I should be glad for you, that you have found someone who attracts you, stimulates you - but damn it Spock, I AM JEALOUS! I have missed you, felt your absence as keen as a knife wound. When I received your request for shore leave, it was the straw that broke the camel's back. While you were in the lab or working on the planet's surface I could kid myself it was a temporary situation, that you would soon return and that our friendship would resume as it had been... but that request for shore leave made me realise it would not, could not be as it was. In all the time we have worked together you have rarely requested or taken shore leave. I realise that this request signals a significant change in your plans, and your confirmation that you desire to initiate an intimate relationship confirms what I had surmised. I know you well enough to know that you would not undertake such a step lightly. T'Lumina is an attractive and intelligent woman, I can see she is more than a worthy match for you, intellectually, socially, culturally... and I hate myself that I am selfishly putting my own needs first, that I cannot be glad for you. How many times have I disappeared on shore leave to find solace in the arms of a woman, or taken advantage of any opportunity for female comfort during missions? What sort of man am I? I did not give a thought to your feelings! I just accepted that when I had found my release, I would return to the ship and we would pick up where we left off - you at my side, your company after dinner, your conversation when I needed it and your silent companionship when I did not. Damn it Spock, most married couples spend less time together than we do. I have loved women and bedded women, and I have even come close to marrying a couple of women... and yet looking back, when I have moved on I have not missed any of them as much as I have missed you these last few weeks! I have hardly slept, I have hardly eaten, I have behaved like a lovesick teenager, something I did not damn well do when I was a damn teenager."
A huge sense of relief overwhelmed Kirk, his angry rant had provided a catharsis to the pent up emotion he had carried with him during Spock's absence. He waited for his friend's response, hoping that having spoken out he would have the fortitude to bear whatever his friend had to say.
"Jim, do you trust me?"
"What? Of course, with my life... always."
"Then trust me now. Beam down to the planet with me."
Kirk stared at his friend, unable to comprehend what Spock had suggested. Spock's eyes met his in a level, unwavering gaze. Kirk nodded, realising he owed his friend at least that.
He walked through the corridors to the transporter room, barely cognisant of the crew he passed. He noted Spock's rather unorthodox and decidedly uncharacteristic clothing; loose cotton trousers and shirt - bloody hell, even in mufti the man still looked elegant. As they reached the transporter room, Kirk spotted two duffle bags on the pad. Clearly Spock was not planning to return in a hurry. Spock gave the co-ordinates to the duty crewman, and the officers stepped on to the pad.
* * *