11: Life Happens

Spock conscientiously set an alarm to rouse himself in time to return to work by 1500, having received the captain’s permission to skip his 1300 duty hour as well as the 1100. He hoped to work for 2 hours straight to make up for one of the missed hours; the other he would do later in the evening either today or tomorrow. It all depended on how much focus he could regain by meditation. He had also purchased a salad on his way back to his quarters, which he now sat down to eat.

His communicator beeped before he had finished his first bite.

“Spock here.”

“Spock! Are you all right?” Uhura asked, sounding distressed. “You didn’t come back at your usual time so the captain went looking for you, but then he had a lunch meeting—”

“I am fine, Nyota,” Spock interrupted. “The captain did find me. I will return to my duty station at 1500.”

“Spock… I’m so sorry,” she started anew, her tone low and contrite. “I shouldn’t have blown up at you last night, especially when it was so late….”

“If you believe the lateness of the hour is what affected me this morning, then you are mistaken. And there is no need to apologize, Nyota — your arguments were valid and logical. I thank you for bringing them to my attention.”

“Oh?”

“In fact I was contemplating the various pieces of evidence regarding your accusation that I have become obsessed with Dr. McCoy and… lost track of the time.”

“Another proof of my obsession,” he mentally counted before continuing.

“After compiling at least sixteen of them, I am forced to conclude that your observations are correct. I have been… acting irrationally — on impulse, as it were — when it came to matters regarding him, although I was not conscious of it at the time. For that, it is I who must apologize to you.”

There was a pause on the other end, during which Spock could hear the distant clattering of dishes. Uhura was probably calling from somewhere near the cafeteria since it was her lunch hour.

“I… I see,” she finally began, “so… I was right. You are in love with him.”

“That is a premature assumption,” Spock hurried to say. “Obsession does not necessarily equate with love. It may be an intense fascination — such as one might develop for a specific field of study, which will be satisfied as soon as an adequate investigation of it has been concluded. Or the circumstances of our being stranded together on Altamid may have formed a strong bond between us, which may dissipate over time. In any case, it would be incautious to assume that attraction is tantamount to love.”

Spock could hear her swallow before she said, “But you are attracted to him.”

He had not considered in advance how that word would affect her, but he could not deny the truth now.

“Yes,” he stated, closing his eyes as he did so.

There was another long moment of silence in which Spock thought he could hear her sniff — perhaps muffled into a handkerchief.

“I understand,” she said at last, her voice steeled and steady. “I assume you’re going to tell him?”

“That… I have not yet decided,” he admitted. “I have not had adequate time to consider the matter any further.”

Uhura took in a deep breath before saying, “You should, Spock. You really should. I think he would be… pleasantly surprised.”

“I will… take that under advisement,” Spock replied, sensing grief and sorrow frothing in his usually placid pool of emotions. He knew Uhura was letting him go, giving him permission, as best she could. “You know I have always respected your opinion, Nyota… in all matters.”

“I know,” she said gently.

“I fear… I do not know how to sufficiently express my regret.”

“It’s all right, Spock… these things happen. I just want you to… promise me… that you’ll take care of yourself.”

“I will,” he answered, “as I also wish of you.”

There was a definite sniff before she said, “Goodbye, Spock.”

“Goodbye, Nyota.”

Spock discovered he no longer had any appetite for the salad, but he forced himself to eat it anyway. It was the least he could do to honor Uhura’s wishes.

***

Focusing on the flame in front of him was proving difficult. Not only was Spock distracted by the turmoil in his heart from the finality of his breakup with Uhura, but he was also struggling (and failing) to ignore the question she had posed to him. Realizing that it was illogical to ignore the matter when it was so obviously demanding his attention, he decided to deal with it instead.

“Should I or should I not inform Leonard of my… attraction to him?” he mulled. “Nyota suggested that he might be ‘pleasantly surprised.’ I suppose it is a pleasant thing to know that one is liked… admired… respected… regardless of the circumstances. I had attempted to communicate as much with my gift, but this would be… another thing altogether.”

Spock thought he felt his heartrate increase, but he only concentrated harder on the issue at hand.

“There is no evidence that the doctor is attracted to other males, let alone one from another species. Nyota seems to think he has some sort of… fascination with me, but that is no doubt due to our very different personalities. He experiences emotions very deeply — even more so than other Humans — so the fact that I can control mine must seem an enigma to him… like a puzzle, to be solved. Perhaps that is why he has always been so bent on provoking an emotional response from me…. He may hold me in some regard as the science and first officer, but that would be strictly professional… and platonic, of course. So the probability that he might return my affections is… virtually zero.”

Spock was unsure why his chest felt as though it were being compressed or why there was a stinging sensation in his sinuses. Chalking it up to the combined effects of lack of sleep and intense concentration taking their toll on him, he drew in a deep breath to counteract the symptoms and forged on.

“Is there any benefit to such an admission? I suppose it may encourage him to know that he is capable of inspiring such sentiments… perhaps boost his confidence, which Jim is concerned has sustained long-term damage. Does Nyota also share Jim’s concerns for Leonard? She is very perceptive, so it is not beyond the realm of possibility that she has intuited his lack of confidence — why he has not formed any romantic attachments in… eight years, if Jim’s calculations are correct. And for a man of such deep emotions, loneliness and sadness must feel that much greater,” Spock realized. “It is no wonder that he is so fond of alcohol! For Humans it numbs the mind and dulls the senses, an effective way to blunt the effects of emotional pain… even though it solves nothing.”

The bare idea of McCoy being in so much pain formed a hollow ache deep within Spock. Struggling to maintain control, he focused back on the candle’s flame, corralling his stray thoughts.

“So then Nyota’s recommendation to share this information with him may be because it is precisely ‘what the doctor ordered’ as far as proving to him that other individuals can and do find him desirable — and not solely for his economic status, since he should realize that such things would not influence my judgment in the least. It would solve the dilemma Jim has of providing evidence to Leonard that he is lovable regardless of his wealth. Of all the people who might express an interest in him, I would be the most unbiased and therefore the most credible. Even if, perhaps, I may be the least… welcome.”

The stinging in Spock’s sinuses increased, causing his eyes to water, so he pinched the bridge of his nose to stimulate blood flow and ease his muscle tension.

“Given our history of factious quarrels, he would no doubt be extremely surprised to receive such a confession. Would it cause him to feel awkward around me? Would it decrease his work efficiency while around me… or might he refuse to be in my presence unless absolutely necessary? If he requests to be segregated… of course I will comply. It would be unfair to him to affect his performance in an adverse way, even in the slightest.”

He countered the increasing pressure behind his eyes by stimulating the nerve bundles in his temples.

“I must also assure him, if I do inform him of my attraction to him, that I do not expect him to reciprocate — that I have merely stated it as a matter of fact. Perhaps he would find it of psychological interest…. I should record my observations to see how my feelings may change over time, and he would be able to provide valuable insights from a Human perspective. Assuming, of course, that he does not demand that I keep my distance. Although if he does, it would at least decrease the occasions on which we would engage in our customary verbal sparring. Nyota seems to be under the impression that I enjoy it as a challenge, but she is mistaken; it is only the result of proving logic to be superior to blind emotions that I value. However, I have always been concerned that our arguing may appear unprofessional to our crewmates. If such encounters were to subside, it would be beneficial to all of the crew, showing by example that we are each capable of overcoming our differences for the greater good. And I… I should be relieved to be spared from such a frivolous waste of time.”

Logic dictated that this was true, even if the prospect of no longer having those repartees did not bring any sense of relief or satisfaction to Spock at the moment.

“Not that Leonard has ever been malicious in his teasing,” he thought, defending the doctor without consciously choosing to do so. “I never allowed his words to hurt me, of course, but… he has never said anything cruel or untrue simply for the sake of being hurtful — unlike my fellow students on Vulcan. While they attempted to illicit emotional responses from me as proof that I was inferior to them, for Leonard it seems to be… more a matter of amusement… or entertainment. It’s a challenge, of sorts, to break down my self-discipline. Any weakness I might display would be considered a type of conquest, I suppose. But often his accusations are no more than a statement of fact, and even his favorite epithet for me, ‘green-blooded hobgoblin,’ is more amusing than disparaging.”

Spock had overheard that particular phrase when McCoy had first muttered it; his hypersensitive ears had picked it up from across the bridge. However, he had had to look up what a “hobgoblin” was much later, after the chaos of that devastating battle had settled and he had mourned the loss of his mother, his home planet, and most of its inhabitants for a while. What he had found on the subject had left him mildly confused — in some cases the hobgoblin was a helpful creature, performing household chores while its human host family slept, but it was also described as capricious and mischievous, neither of which (Spock was quite certain) were apt descriptors of himself. He had concluded that the only similarity between him and the legendary being was their pointed ears and, having been referred to as “devil” and “demon” for the same feature, all in all he was not offended by the doctor’s chosen appellation.

“At any rate, it would be better for discipline and morale if we could avoid such confrontations altogether,” Spock thought firmly, quashing any wistfulness over the loss of hearing McCoy’s colorful and creative tirades. “Is it possible that an admission of my affection for him might lead to an actual improvement in our work relationship? Could it perhaps lessen some of his irritability toward me to realize that I bear no ill will toward him but rather quite the opposite? Even if he does not welcome or encourage my attraction to him, there is a good chance that knowing of it may ease the tension between our differing temperaments — a significant benefit to consider in deciding whether to inform him or not.

“So then, what might some of the disadvantages be? If he wishes to maintain a distance from me, that would be… a personal loss, but for myself only; for crew discipline it would be a benefit. Any discomfort Leonard might feel, I would do all in my power to alleviate. I could, perhaps, enlist the captain’s aid in allaying any concerns Leonard might have… although it is likely that Leonard would go to Jim himself, considering their close friendship. Yes, indubitably, if I inform Leonard, he would inform the captain in turn. Which is as it should be, since Jim is the commanding officer of us both.”

A telltale warm flush crept up Spock’s cheeks for the second time today.

“It is not something to be embarrassed about,” Spock thought furiously, “regardless of how much Jim will most assuredly tease me about it. He is not malicious in his humor, either. After some time has passed with no new developments, his attention will be drawn elsewhere… with perhaps only the occasional gibe as the opportunity presents itself. That is nothing I cannot withstand. And Leonard himself is too kind and compassionate to use my attraction for him to inflict pain. Even though he is not particularly fond of me, he was concerned for my physical wellbeing as much as he would have been for any other crew member. In addition, his own experience — losing his wife’s affections while he still loved her — would make him more sympathetic than most others. I have nothing to fear in that regard.”

Spock caught himself and abruptly sat upright.

“I should not fear anything at all! Fear is only a… debilitating emotion if one allows it to be. Even if Leonard were to callously mock me for my helpless attraction to him (though he would never), I should not fear it. Even if Jim were to broadcast it to the entire crew and make a spectacle out of me (which I doubt), I should not fear it. No, of course — with so many potential benefits, it is clear that I must inform Leonard and… ‘let the chips fall where they may.’”

However, Spock’s body chose that moment to rebel against him in full force. His heart thumped louder than ever before, his flush spread to conquer most of his upper body, and his hands — in spite of being steepled together — began to tremble.

“Why am I reacting this way? Is it embarrassment? But it feels more like anxiety… fear. Why should I fear telling him the truth? The outcome — his response — is clear. There is no logical reason to fear it or anything else. He will be surprised, possibly flattered, and perhaps there will be some awkwardness for a while. But eventually he should grow accustomed to the concept and, finding that I will never do anything to make him uncomfortable, he should move beyond it. In fact if it works well in restoring his confidence, he may even become receptive to dating the women Jim wishes to introduce to him.”

A sudden surge of heat engulfed Spock, momentarily overwhelming his senses. When he grew calm enough to assess himself, he discovered that his emotions had grown so turbulent as to throw off his tightly held control. And at the surface of that roiling sea was the throbbing, pulsing green fury that he had sensed often in others but never to such an extent in himself before: ENVY-JEALOUSY-ENVY-RAGE.

He had barely begun to contain that maelstrom when his alarm notified him to report for duty.

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